Dr. Peter Phillips, MP
This year’s celebration of National Heroes Day coincides with the 80th anniversary of the 1938 Labour Rebellion.
In that year, two of our national heroes, The Rt. Excellent Norman Manley and The Rt. Excellent Sir Alexander Bustamante provided the leadership for the Jamaican people, which helped win social, and political rights that were denied for a century following emancipation.
These included ultimately, the right to vote, the rights of workers, and ALL the other rights such as freedom of speech, and association which are today enshrined in our Constitutional Charter of Rights.
One of the most important of these rights was the right of workers to organize through their Trade Unions.
This provided the foundation to win many more significant rights and benefits for our workers in subsequent decades.
Today, many of these hard-won rights, and benefits are at risk. Both Bustamante, and Norman Manley would have vigorously protested today’s widespread practice, of calling full-time workers independent contractors, thus depriving them of many of their benefits such as pension rights, maternity rights, and sick leave, among others, which were won over the years through the collective bargaining process.
So, as we recognize, and celebrate the achievements of our national heroes, let us commit ourselves to ensure that the gains secured for the workers are protected.
We also must remember that effective nationhood and nation building must be inclusive of all Jamaicans. Progress and Prosperity must include everyone, most importantly our workers. We must remember too, the importance of volunteerism in Nation Building.
All across the country it is the ordinary Jamaican continuing to give service in their neighborhood watch, their youth club, their citizens’ associations, and community centers or helping the indigent, and the elderly that keep our nation together. They are the ones who ensure that as best as possible, we don’t leave any Jamaican behind in our quest for progress.
We urgently need a renewal of that spirit of volunteerism that expanded educational opportunities for our people and which provided the foundation for the community building efforts of Jamaica Welfare in the 1930s.
Ideally, each and every Jamaican should be a part of their own community development process and should be a beneficiary of the progress of the nation.
Fortunately, there are thousands of our ordinary Jamaican citizens whose daily contribution to nation building makes them national heroes and heroines in their own right. We would do well to emulate these Jamaicans who continue to give voluntary service every day.
National Heroes Day also provides us with the opportunity to honour our heroes of the past by emulating their commitment and fixity of purpose to build a better Jamaica.
So in honouring our national heroes, let us summon up:
- The strength of Daddy Sharpe,
- The bravery of Nanny,
- The determination of Paul Bogle,
- The empathy of Bustamante,
- The vision of Garvey, and
- The integrity of Norman Manley,
Let us all use today, to revive our spirits to build a progressive Jamaica that offers an opportunity to all our people.
May our reflections on this Heroes Day call us to this action.
God Bless you, and God Bless Jamaica.