The Hon. Hopeton Caven OJ, OD,
Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller ON, MP
October 23, 2015
- Members of the Clergy
- Members of the family
- Most Hon. PJ Patterson
- Members of the Cabinet
- The Most Hon. Mrs. Hugh Shearer
- Members of the Senate
- Members of Parliament
- Members of the Trade Union Movement
- Ladies and gentlemen
We meet in the tranquillity of these gardens to reflect on the life and work of someone who had a greater impact on our nation and society than his often quiet manner would suggest.
Someone whose many moments of deep contemplation might have sometimes been mistaken for shyness, which our friend Hopeton Caven was not.
With sufficient provocation, the serenity of his silence could suddenly be broken and he would take charge of a conversation in a minute.
At that moment there would be no doubt about his brilliance, his forthright manner and his abundant reservoir of common sense.
The Hon. Hopeton Caven OJ, CD, was a pioneer in the representation of workers and a distinguished son of Jamaica whose strong belief in his country propelled him to a life of public service.
The Trades Union Congress provided the vehicle through which Hopeton Caven gave a lifetime of dedicated service to the cause of the Jamaican workers.
He was first a volunteer since 1949, an organiser since the 1950s, and later the TUC’s General Secretary then President.
His trade union activism also included tremendous service a founding member, director and trustee of the Joint Trade Union Research and Development Centre.
Hopeton Caven was a nationalist who had great confidence in the ability of the Jamaican people to chart a successful path of political self-determination and economic independence.
He used his position as the Jamaican representative of the Jamaica Progressive League in the 1970s to advance the interests of Jamaican workers and families.
He was always concerned about the poor and most vulnerable among us.
The Honourable Hopeton Caven OJ, CD, was a cornerstone of the Trade Union Movement.
He demonstrated that one could be political without being partisan.
He was a man of the highest integrity who bravely threw his hat in the ring of representational politics in 1967 in the tough working class constituency of South West St. Andrew, which I have had the honour of representing since 1976.
He lost in his bid to represent that constituency in Parliament, but gave great service as my mentor, advisor, strategist and confidante in what was then the strongest JLP constituency in all of Jamaica.
My victory then was due in part to Hopeton’s vast knowledge and organisational skills, which he imparted freely.
I know the joy he felt at seeing his mentee successfully completing the journey he embarked on in South West St. Andrew.
He was also my mentor, advisor and friend who helped to guide my early political career.
Perhaps, when he gave me my first job at the TUC he was unwittingly preparing me for the position of Minister of Labour.
He did take his seat in the Parliament as a Senator between the years of 1972-1980 and contributed to the passage of ground-breaking labour legislation of that era such as:
- The Labour Relations & Industrial Disputes Act
- The Employment Termination Redundancy Payment Act
- Equal Pay for Equal Work
- Maternity Leave Act and the
- National Minimum Wage Act.
He was a tireless campaigner for workers’ rights as a Member of the Minimum Wage Advisory Commission.
He promoted Pension Schemes for workers and represented the cause of women workers in key manufacturing enterprises such as the garment and cigar making sectors.
Hopeton Caven believed that Trade Unionists should not only be concerned with bread and butter issues, but should participate in national life and influence policies to advance the best interest of the working people.
He was a bridge between the founding fathers of the modern Trade Union Movement and the current generation of leaders.
He was the carrier of the torch, lighting the path for better and brighter life for the working people of Jamaica.
As a Member of the Board of the National Housing Trust he championed the case of inner city housing to lift our people from slum-like conditions, instilling a sense of dignity through proud home ownership.
My mentor and friend was a man of great courage, flamboyant, and a master chef.
He was a courageous individual, fiercely independent, proud never exhibiting a sense of entitlement.
He was a charmer, charismatic, humorous and a practical joker at times.
He was an avid sports fan even though I am not sure he played any during his lifetime.
Hopeton lived a full life, loved life and lived his fully. He lived it HIS way.
Jamaica has lost an excellent nation builder, the Trade Union Movement has lost a giant, an architect of justice, a fighter for rights and a better life for all. I have lost a mentor, a friend and a comrade.
Today we give God thanks for Hopeton and remain ever grateful that his gentle hands touched our lives in very profound and special ways.
I pray that the Almighty will give strength to his daughters Nicola and Stacie, his sons Richard and Wade, his grandchildren and other relatives.
I can hear Hopeton bidding us now, saying like the unknown writer:
Don’t grieve too much for me, for now I’m free
I’m following the path, my Creator laid for me
I could not stay another day
To laugh, to love, to work or play,
If my parting has left a void
Then fill it with remembered joy
A friendship shared, a laugh, a kiss
Yes, these things, I too will miss.
Walk good my friend and may the light of the Saviour shine graciously on you for all eternity.