Political Scientist and Lecturer in the Department of Government at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, Professor Rupert Lewis says Jamaica’s stellar achievements in sports and culture continue to serve as notable examples of the country’s success since its Independence from Britain in 1962.
Professor Rupert Lewis
Jamaica, on August 6, will celebrate its 48th year of Independence, including observing its many achievements since it relinquished its dependence on Britain to administrate its own affairs.
Professor Lewis argues that Jamaica’s most important attainments can be seen in the areas of cultural and athletic development.
“Jamaica has had a revolution in cultural development, which is characterised by the global impact of our music and by the confidence that the population has in what it creates, whether that is in music or to a lesser extent, in the fine arts, in painting, in literature,” he says.
“There’s no doubt that Jamaica has more than come of age in the sphere of culture and that’s probably the area that brings us together more than any other area, and it cuts across class,” he tells JIS News.
The Professor says connected to culture is the country’s development in track athletics, which now sees Jamaica poised as a global powerhouse in the sprint area of athletics. “We could say that culture and sports constitute a main area that’s positive,” he states.
Professor Lewis notes that Jamaica’s achievements since 1962 can be put in three main categories – sports and culture, political responsibility and higher expectations in the standard of living.
“The economic development of a middle class since the 1940s and 50s, the development of urbanisation, higher standards of living for sectors of the population, notwithstanding the enormous poverty that Jamaica experiences (are all areas of development),” the Professor says.
He explains that the standards that today’s population expect to live by, are very different from the standards of the colonial period.
“Nobody goes around barefooted and boasting about it, this is a place in which modern standards and expectations exist. There has therefore been a qualitative rise in expectations.so it’s a different quality of expectation from the previous generation,” he notes.
Professor Lewis, however, argues that the economic base on which those expectations can be realised needs to be developed.
He tells JIS News that political responsibility has also been a significant achievement for Jamaica since 1962. “What independence means is that you take responsibility for yourself. We have taken political responsibility for our destiny and in taking that political responsibility, whatever pluses or minuses of that situation, we have full blame or credit for that,” he says.
Professor Lewis acknowledges that the act of independence itself, continues to be a significant achievement for Jamaica and Jamaicans, as it meant a break from British colonial rule.
“We have to appreciate what slavery meant and people have a general understanding of what that meant, in terms of the lack of freedom, forced labour, but very often people don’t have an understanding of what colonialism meant,” he says.
Professor Lewis explains that colonialism meant British, white rule, it meant the plantation system and it meant impoverished living for many Jamaicans.
“The bulk of the Jamaican population was agrarian, working on sugar estates, banana estates, some held small plots of land and they tried to do their best with those small plots of land,” he notes.
“It was by no means the condition of existence that many Jamaicans today would want to find him or herself in, which is why there was a revolt throughout the Caribbean in the 1930s,” he says. The Political Scientist adds that the revolt that particularly affected Jamaica was the Revolt of 1938.
“Our forbearers protested those conditions, and out of that situation we had the emergence of our trade union movement, our political parties and a movement of nationalism,” he informs.
Professor Lewis argues that despite the many criticisms in regard to the movement of nationalism and what it has achieved since independence, there is no doubt that the majority of the Jamaican people did not want to continue under British rule.
In February 1962, a new Constitution was approved by the Legislature and the then Premier, Norman Manley called general elections.
Alexander Bustamente was elected in April 1962 and became the first Prime Minister of independent Jamaica. On August 6, 1962, Jamaica became an independent nation and a member of the British Commonwealth.
Independence meant that a Constitution, symbols, emblems, an army, Jamaican currency and passports had to be developed for the country.
As an Independent nation, Jamaica assigns Ambassadors overseas who represent the country. They sign treaties on behalf of Jamaica and become members of various international organisations. This is important as it gives Jamaica equal rights on various issues relating to international trade, policies and treaties.