Friday, December 13, 2013

In Mandela, the seeds of a new world

by Jean Lowrie-Chin | Jamaica Observer column | 9 Dec 2013
One of the best responses to Nelson Mandela’s passing was a comment on social media from Jamaican MP Julian Robinson: “My tribute to Madiba is to live a life honouring his legacy of peace, reconciliation and a commitment to uplifting the lives of all peoples.”  Actually, this is the job description of an honest politician, but whenever I use these two words together, I am told that it is an oxymoron.  However, Nelson Mandela proved that such politicians do exist – he was one. 

As we hear the numerous tributes from leaders here and abroad, we wonder how many will listen to themselves, will take the time to ponder the nice words, perhaps written by others. In those tributes recounting the courage and magnanimity of Mandela, are the seeds of the world that every human being deserves to have.  “Real leaders must be ready to sacrifice all for the freedom of their people,” said the great Madiba.  If we use this as a yardstick to measure our political representatives, then we need to look at the people they say are their constituents.

No one is asking any of our leaders to spend 27 years in jail protesting against injustice by an evil regime.  Our national heroes have already sacrificed their lives and braved the authorities to win us basic rights.  What we are asking of today’s leaders, is to win for every Jamaican the right to enjoy a safe and just society.  
MP Dr Dayton Campbell takes a stand
I am heartened by the position taken by Member of Parliament Dr Dayton Campbell, as he called for penalties for those musicians who incite violence: “What good comes to Jamaica by singing about murdering people & gun slinging & killing informers?” he wrote in social media. “People wake up.”  Why on earth would anyone describe such dangerous lyrics as ‘freedom of speech’?  As the Senior Supt Steve McGregor pointed out in a radio interview last week, “Step up! ...You need to say what side you fall on – people must take responsibility.”

We are saying to our leaders, let us see the Mandela in you.  Let us see the unflinching courage, the perseverance, the passion to free our people from crime and illiteracy.  Let us see the Mandela in our teachers, who will insist on the highest professional standards and have no fear of evaluation or certification because they know how good they are. 

Let us see the Mandela in our church leaders, who will take Christian activism beyond the walls of their churches into communities, like Dr Henley Morgan who preaches, teaches, and provides employment for inner city residents.  Let us see the Mandela in our public servants, so that they will not push around paper on their desks, but will read them and act on them, so that plans can go forward and employment can be created. Let us wake up the Mandela in our spirits – so his great life can continue in our raised consciousness, so we can refuse to accept the status quo, be ready to forgive, promote harmony, and nurture others to do likewise.

Jamaica - anti-apartheid leader
Big thanks to the media for sharing so much of Nelson Mandela’s history. I remember going to the National Stadium with colleague Janet Mowatt to listen to Mr Mandela in July 1991.  We were overwhelmed to see this great man in person and to hear him express his love for Jamaica, the little country that stood in the forefront of the international struggle against apartheid. 

Indeed, South African artist Thembani Hastings Mqhayi who had a hand in the design of his country’s flag, said it was inspired by that of Jamaica. 
International icon Nelson Mandela (left) greets then Prime Minister Michael Manley on his arrival in Jamaica, July 1991, after his release from prison.

In an address at a special meeting of the General Assembly of the UN in October 1978 to observe International Anti-Apartheid Year Michael Manley, then Prime Minister of Jamaica shared Jamaica’s history of active opposition to apartheid: “In 1921 Garvey petitioned the League of Nations about the rights of Black people throughout the world. It is both pointed and ironic that in 1928 Garvey petitioned the League of Nations again, contending that South Africa was unfit to exercise the responsibilities of a mandatory Power in South West Africa. His catalogue of South Africa`s racist crimes in 1928 could stand, virtually without amendment, as a definitive submission to the Security Council 50 years later.”

Mr Manley continued: “We in Jamaica are proud that our Government in the 1950s, under the leadership of another national hero, Norman Manley, joined the Republic of India, led by the immortal Nehru, as the first States in history to ban all trade with South Africa as a mark of common protest and indignation.”

In the person of PM Manley, Jamaica one of the most vigorous participants in the formulation  of The Gleneagles Agreement, which was unanimously approved in 1977, by the Commonwealth of Nations at a meeting at Gleneagles, Auchterarder, Scotland. The Commonwealth Presidents and Prime Ministers agreed, as part of their support for the international campaign against apartheid, to discourage contact and competition between their sportsmen and sporting organisations, teams or individuals from South Africa. 

A PROComm experience
In the early 80s, the organisers of a squash tournament sent our company, PROComm the names of participants for a press release we were preparing for the sponsor, Ting, then owned by Guinness Jamaica Limited. We promptly went to the UN office here to check if they had played in South Africa, and found out that two of them did. Our client thanked us and said that under no circumstances should those individuals be allowed to participate, despite the murmurs of some less enlightened folks.

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