Current Affairs

Current Affairs



Phillips says 1972-1980 highpoint of social change in Jamaica
Observer Reporter
Thursday, December 13, 2001


PETER Phillips, the minister of national security and a vice-president of the ruling People's National Party (PNP) said Monday that Jamaica has been indelibly changed because of the work of former prime minister, Michael Manley.

Phillips told a symposium at the Kingston and St Andrew Parish Library that all of Manley's strivings and missions in his long career spanning more than 50 years, could essentially be judged by what occurred in the eight years of the PNP government between 1972 and 1980.

He added that although Manley's second administration, which began in 1989, also had merit, 1972-1980 was "probably the highpoint of the 20th Century Jamaican experience of social change".
Said Phillips: "It was the highpoint because of the range of social change that was undertaken and the extent of the political and social mobilisation, and the quality of the social and cultural liberation experienced by the broad mass of Jamaican people."

The two main elements of Michael Manley's legacy, he said, were his commitment to equality and social justice and the idea of Jamaican nationhood.

Phillips said achievements in the eight-year period included:

* free education;
* the 'revolution of housing' and the creation of the National Housing Trust;
* land reform through land lease;
* the bauxite levy and the Industrial Disputes Act;
* the National Youth Service; and
* Sugar workers co-operatives.

He said that the changes carried out were revolutionary concepts because Jamaica, up to then, despite political independence, still had the basic scars of plantation society.
"Prior to the changes, there was a back door and front door society in almost every area of social existence," Phillips said.

The PNP vice-president said that Michael Manley had equally revolutionary ideas in the area of nationhood and believed that Jamaica could play an activist role in the international system. Up until then, he said, the notion was that as a small country, Jamaica should remain quiet.

According to Phillips, Manley's vision of nationhood was embodied in his confrontation of bauxite multinationals, extending assistance to "our brothers and sisters suffering under apartheid in South Africa, South/South dialogue and relations with Cuba".

Another panelist, Danny Roberts, vice-president of the National Workers Union, an affiliate of the PNP, described Manley as the politician of change. He said that he translated his political thought into action by carrying through a series of democratic socialist experiments. These experiments, Roberts said, included: national control of the 'commanding heights' of the economy; increased economic self-reliance, a non-aligned foreign policy and popular mobilisation.

Manley's grandson, Drum Manley-Drummond, said that the equality that his "grandpa" talked about in the 1970s had come a long way but could go further in terms of how "we value each other and every individual in the society".