Hundreds of students and residents from western Jamaica and other parts of the island, converged at the birthplace of National Hero, the Right Excellent Sir Alexander Bustamante in Blenheim, Hanover on Thursday (February 24), to commemorate 127th anniversary of his birth.
The civic ceremony, which featured tributes in song, speech, drama and dance from students and cultural groups, was a fitting homage to the man, described by the London Times in the 1950’s as a man who possessed “a limitless store of common sense, shrewd intelligence, a daring imagination and tremendous physical capacity.”
Minister of Finance and the Public Service, Hon. Audley Shaw, who gave the main address at the function, said that the celebrations afforded the opportunity for all Jamaicans to recommit to the principles held dear by the National Hero and to keep his spirit alive.
“These principles – courage, duty, loyalty, service, justice – all undergirded by an uncommon love for ordinary Jamaicans, were evident in Sir Alexander’s sense of calling to serve the Jamaican people right through his career as a social activist, trade unionist and national leader. In recognising the greatness of this regular man, who was driven by a calling to bring a better life to the poorest Jamaicans, we find great inspiration,” he stated.
He noted that Sir Alexander was an icon of social justice and was seen as Jamaica’s Gandhi, a leader who was willing to put his life on the line for what he believed. “Bustamante could not ignore the call to service; he refused to sit on the sidelines. He believed in Jamaica and he believed in Jamaicans. He had a vision of a better Jamaica … and he convinced those without hope to believe in that vision too,” Minister Shaw observed.
It was this vision to serve and calling to protect the rights of workers, that led Sir Alexander to become Bustamante Industrial Trade Union (BITU) founder and leader for 24 years; Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) founder and leader for 19 years; and Jamaica’s first Prime Minister from 1962 to 1967, having won the first general elections under Universal Adult Suffrage by a landslide victory.
He was also Mayor of Kingston 1947 to1948; Chief Minister 1953 to 1955, and National Hero in 1969.
“Bustamante’s entire life demonstrated that one man can make a difference. He was a giant of a man and I urged you to believe, as he did, in the future of Jamaica,” Minister Shaw urged the gathering.
Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Dr. Christopher Tufton, in his remarks, said that Sir Alexander was a “people person,” who fought for the betterment of the working class.
“Bustamante consistently spoke out about the plight of the people and wrote various letters to the daily newspapers and spared no words in his advocacy for sound reform for justice on behalf of the masses.
“On behalf of the people of Jamaica, long live the efforts and the memories of Sir Alexander Bustamante,” Dr. Tufton stated.
CONTACT: GLENIS ROSE
JIS REGIONAL OFFICE