JIS News

The Jamaican Senate paid tribute to the life and works of the late Vice-Chancellor Emeritus of the University of the West Indies, (UWI), the Hon. Professor Ralston “Rex” Nettleford O.M., during its sitting on Friday (February 5) at Gordon House, Kingston.
Professor Nettleford died at the George Washington Hospital, Washington D.C. on Tuesday (February 2), hours before he turned 77, while on a visit to the United States.
The Minister of National Security, Senator Dwight Nelson, said that the Professor was his mentor, adding that he was grateful for the contributions he made in the area of trade union education.
“He was passionate that workers should find fulfilment, and he was convinced and transmitted the conviction that even the simplest, most ordinary worker, should achieve some form of educational qualification,” he said.
The Minister, who is a trade unionist, also shared that some 40 years ago when he first joined the movement, he was under the guidance of Professor Nettleford who was then Director of the Trade Union Education Institute at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona.
“It was from his teachings and his guidance that I grew up in the trade union movement, culminating where I am today,” he said.
Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Youth, Sport and Culture, Senator Warren Newby, described Professor Nettleford as “a leading voice for culture and research into things indigenous to the Caribbean,” as he expressed sadness at his passing.
Government Senator, Dennis Meadows, said that Trelawny stood proud to identify with two of its great sons who died recently- Professor Rex Nettleford and renowned Jamaican artist, Albert Huie, who died on Friday (January 29) in Baltimore, Maryland in the U.S. at age 89.
“Both gentlemen have left a legacy of eloquence, excellence and, more importantly, a legacy of national and cultural identity; legacies I believe that we should seek to inherit, particularly our young people,” he said.
President of the Senate, the Hon Oswald Harding, also offered condolences at the passing of Albert Huie, whom he recognised as a great painter, and Professor Nettleford.
He noted that he was associated with the Professor at the UWI, and described him as a man of many paths.
“Yes, he was an intellectual, but I recognised or knew him better in the field of art,” he said.
Senator Harding said that one of the Professor’s greatest influences, in terms of culture, was the fact that almost every school now has a dance group or troupe , through Nettleford’s efforts to bring dance to a cultural high.
Opposition Senator, K. D. Knight, who said that he knew the Professor very well, shared that he was “deeply saddened” when he learnt of his death.
“I regarded Professor Nettleford as a true intellectual, and I think that is a view shared not only in Jamaica, but within the Caribbean, and in the wider international community,” he said.
Opposition Senator, K.D. Knight, noted that Professor Nettleford was a patriotic Jamaican who loved Jamaica and the Jamaican people, and who transcended partisan politics.
He said that the Professor felt that whatever talents he had belonged to the Jamaican people, and would share those talents, not through any political allegiance to any party, “even though going to the polls, he might very well vote for a certain party, but that was never evident in how he operated within the society.”
Senator Knight recalled when the Professor used to make commentaries on then Jamaica Broadcasting Commission (JBC) TV.
“He was deeply analytical of the issues of the day but, perhaps even beyond that, and more importantly, was the fact that he was fearless in offering solutions to the problems, based upon his own analysis, and that is something that we don’t see a lot of,” he said.
Also sharing fond memories of Professor Nettleford, was Opposition Senator Sandrea Falconer, who pointed out that he was not only her tutor, but she also considered him a friend.
He had a unique way of describing people’s behaviour that was “spot on and would have your cracking up,” she said.
“His comment, ‘a Butu in a Benz is still a Butu’, has become a widely used phrase in all facets of Jamaican life. But, my personal favourite is ‘not every stone is a diamond in the rough, some a dem a rock stone’,” she recalled.
She said that having been born in very humble circumstances in Trelawny, Professor Nettleford “blazed a trail” from Jamaica to the rest of the world.
Senator Falconer noted further that the Professor’s contribution to the academic world has impressed many.
“His work in education, cultural advancement, and Caribbean integration, will never be forgotten. I will never forget his humour and humility and also his encouragement to me,” she added.