Monday, October 3, 2011
Bruce Golding’s graceful exit
Jamaica Observer column | Monday 3 October 2011 (Amended)
by Jean Lowrie-Chin
Last Sunday Bruce Golding decided to step down from the most powerful position in the land, with no significant nudge and no serious illness; he stuck with his decision despite the urging of the JLP executive.
It is said that power meant little to him, because his priority was to resolve issues towards the country’s social and economic well-being. At the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding with members of Jamaica’s public service in July, he thanked individuals from both sides of the political fence who had come together to assist in bringing that crucial matter to resolution, taking no personal credit.
Soon after came the divestment of the Government-owned sugar interests to the Chinese-owned Complant, and word from the EAC that guidelines governing campaign financing would shortly be finalised. Members of the security forces intimated that never before had they felt so unrestricted in their crime-fighting efforts. Members of the diplomatic corps remarked on this knowledgeable and articulate prime minister.
A young reporter commented after the resignation, “I hope they have someone who can represent Jamaica, the way Mr Golding did when he went abroad. Those folks at the UN were very impressed with his address. He made little Jamaica very proud that day.”
He was referring to Mr Golding’s address to the United Nations High-Level Plenary on Millenium Development Goals (MGDs) held last September. In his comprehensive yet succinct presentation, Bruce Golding showed his firm grasp of global, hemispheric and regional issues.
“Real achievement in the reduction or elimination of poverty is to be measured not by the number of people kept out of poverty by fiscal cash transfers but by the number that escape poverty without the need for such programmes,” said the prime minister. “The Millennium goals must, therefore, be seen as a development imperative, not merely as statistical targets.”
Bruce Golding harked back to the global sea-change that was 9/11: “This is not the only setback we have suffered since the adoption of the MDGs. The increasing impact of climate change and the costs associated with measures we have had to adopt to counter international terrorism have constrained our progress toward attainment of these goals.”
The prime minister did not shy away from the incidents in Western Kingston that had wracked Jamaica only four months before: “I raise an issue that escaped specific attention in defining the Millennium goals. Crime and violence are proving increasingly to be an obstacle to the attainment of these goals. It is not just a law-enforcement issue... Its links with the large international network of organized crime makes it a matter of global, not just domestic, concern.”
In its latest issue, The Economist says of Bruce Golding, “Sometimes almost despite himself, he has been Jamaica’s most successful leader in decades… His government restructured the country’s debt and reached an agreement with the IMF, shoring up the economy amid the global financial turmoil. Jamaica is the only English-speaking Caribbean island where tourist numbers have kept on growing.” Referring to the Dudus Coke extradition drama, they commented, “When the government finally moved against Mr Coke in May 2010, arresting and extraditing him, the confrontation left 73 dead. But it has been followed by a fall of more than 40% in the murder rate.”
When family, friends and well-wishers gathered at that little church in Old Harbour last Wednesday to say farewell to the mother of Orrette Bruce Golding, we discerned the mettle from which this career politician was formed. Mrs Enid Golding was a well-qualified teacher, a historian who co-wrote a high-school history book with her brother Rupert Bent Sr, regarded as the first of its kind in Jamaica. She was a woman of great faith and in his amusing and stirring tribute, the PM said, “We were not sent to church – we were taken.”
Bruce Golding’s daughter, Sherene Golding Campbell reflected on her grandmother’s kindness and wisdom: “She told us to be busy, and to be busy with a purpose,” she said. The tributes of the beautiful great grandchildren, niece Blossom Ormsby and the PM’s accomplished brothers, revealed a family founded by two stalwart Jamaicans and held together by a passion for righteousness in all aspects of their lives. Mrs Golding and her late husband, JLP MP and Speaker of the House Tacius Golding had been married for 52 years, and made family their first responsibility.
We harked back to TV commercials for the JLP election campaign of 2002 when Bruce Golding’s wife Lorna and daughter Sherene told us about his support and affirmation of family. “See this kitchen cabinet?” gestured Sherene. “Pops installed it for me.”
Believe it or not, Bruce Golding is reserved almost to the point of shyness, which has been misinterpreted by some as aloofness. But those who know him, know that this is a deeply caring human being. I remember meeting the mother of 2008 Digicel Rising Stars winner Cameal Davis of Denham Town who said Mr Golding had enthusiastically supported his constituent’s efforts, donating phone credit so she could vote multiple times!
And so, as I said to Lorna Golding last Sunday evening, Jamaica hasn’t truly understood this man who loves her so passionately, that indeed he has dedicated his life to her development. Staff members at Gordon House say there is no politician that has used their library so avidly, ever since he entered that place at the age of 24, still the youngest Jamaican ever to have been elected to a parliamentary seat.
As the aspirants to Jamaica House make their feelings known, I cast my mind back to that balmy November evening when my friends Bruce Golding and Beverley Anderson Manley sat with us to celebrate our company’s 30th anniversary. Beverley glanced at Bruce’s shoes and humorously observed their size. Yes indeed, those are big shoes to fill. Golding’s successor will do well to lean on this statesman (hardly yet an elder) for wisdom and guidance.