HANOVER, Jamaica: Hundreds of students and residents converged at the birthplace of National Hero, Sir Alexander Bustamante in Blenheim, Hanover last Thursday (February 24) to commemorate the 127th anniversary of his birth.
The civic ceremony, which featured tributes in song, speech, drama and dance from students and cultural groups, was a poignant homage to Sir Alexander, described by the London Times in the 1950s 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, Audley Shaw, who gave the main address at the function, said 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 recognizing 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,” said Shaw.
Shaw 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,” said Shaw. “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.”
It was this vision to serve and the calling to protect the rights of workers which 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 and Chief Minister, 1953 to 1955. He was named a National Hero in 1969.
“Bustamante’s entire life demonstrated that one man can make a difference,” Shaw told the gathering. “He was a giant of a man and I urge you to believe, as he did, in the future of Jamaica.”
Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Dr. Christopher Tufton, said 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 said. (JIS)