Government officials as well as other dignitaries on May 23 placed wreaths on the shrine of National Hero, the Rt. Excellent Samuel Sharpe at National Heroes Park in Kingston.
The refurbishing of the park, which is the final resting place of many of Jamaica’s national heroes, prime ministers, and cultural leaders, is the national project for Labour Day 2012.
The wreath laying ceremony, which preceded the workday, was to commemorate the martyrdom of the National Hero, who was hanged on May 23, 1832, for his role in the 1831 Christmas Rebellion, which was instrumental in bringing about the abolition of slavery. A similar ceremony was held this morning at Sam Shape Square in Montego Bay.
Wreaths were laid by Minister of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change, Hon. Robert Pickersgill, who represented the Prime Minister; Minister of Youth and Culture, Hon. Lisa Hanna; Minister of Local Government and Community Development, Hon. Noel Arscott; Student at Calabar High School, Giovanni Nembhard, and Member of Parliament for St. Catherine Central, Olivia Grange, who represented the Leader of the Opposition.
In an interview with JIS News, Miss Hanna said it was a proud moment for her to honour the role that Sam Sharpe played in the freedom of Jamaicans.
“In 1831 when he took the decision that slaves were not to work on Christmas day unless they were paid, that spread across the 250 plantations across the country. He really fought for workers’ rights and as a result he was hanged on May 23. We work because of Sam Sharpe and we felt that certainly, in this 50th Jubilee year, we needed to pay him the respect that he deserves,” Miss Hanna said.
Minister Arscott, for his part, noted that the first celebration of Labour Day in 1972 was a significant milestone, when the late former Prime Minister, Hon. Michael Manley, re-energised the Jamaican people to show what could be achieved through voluntarism.
“Certainly, Jamaica will once again be called upon to make sacrifices but we know that if we work together we shall overcome,” Mr. Arscott said.
Ms. Grange, in her remarks, said Jamaicans must ensure that they work in their respective communities not just on Labour Day but throughout the year “to make our communities stronger and to make our voices heard.”
Meanwhile, Executive Director of the Jamaica National Heritage Trust (JNHT), which is overseeing the refurbishing work, Laleta Davis-Mattis, told JIS News that focus will be placed on repairing the shrines.
She informed that work got underway on Monday (May 21), “because we recognised that so much could not have been done in a day. It has to be a sustainable process as some of the monuments are damaged and actually need restorative work."
“So, we are washing with specialised chemicals and some of the storyboards around, the ink had gone from them so we are restoring those as well,” she said.
Mrs. Davis-Mattis told JIS News that over time, the JNHT will be working with the Ministry of Local Government and Community Development to improve the facility. She noted that the park “has the potential to be a very beautiful space and I think we owe it to the Jamaicans to make sure that this space is a representative of what it is supposed to be.'
Other activities include the planting of trees, installing of park benches, landscaping, rehabilitation of the walkways and enhancement of the entrance.
The National Heroes Park is the largest remaining open space in Kingston. It was formerly named George VI Memorial Park in memory of the George VI King of England, who died in 1952 and was renamed after Independence in honour of the nation’s National Heroes.
Work on the park is being done in collaboration with the JNHT, the Jamaica Defence Force, Ministry of Labour and Social Security and the Ministry of Local Government and Community Development.
Labour Day 2012 is being celebrated under the theme: ‘Step forward…Make Jamaica Beautiful,’ with focus to be placed on the cleaning up of communities and public spaces.
By Latonya Linton, JIS Reporter