PNP says Holness ignorant of 'significance of Manley's contribution'
Then Prime Minister Michael Manley greeting school children during the 1970s. (Photo: JIS)
The Opposition People's National Party (PNP) has slammed Prime Minister Andrew Holness for what it says is his “attempt to revise Jamaica's history and in the process, sully the name of one of his predecessors - Prime Minister and former President of the party, Michael Manley”.
“Prime Minister Holness reveals a profound ignorance of the significance of Michael Manley's contribution to the development of modern Jamaica, in particular, his promulgation of a raft of social legislation and policies which uplifted the under-served poor Jamaicans,” said the PNP in a statement issued Sunday by the party’s general secretary, Julian Robinson.
Robinson added that Manley campaigned to permanently sever the vestiges of Jamaica’s colonial heritage.
His statement was in response to comments Holness made last Thursday as he addressed the launch of the Jamaica Labour Party’s (JLP) Education Fund scholarships. The prime minister opened a can of worms when he stated that the country was still paying for ideological missteps of the Manley administrations of the 1970s. Manley’s PNP held state power from 1972 to 1980.
According to Holness, the post-independence gains made by JLP administrations of the 1960s were wasted by “The misadventure of the PNP which diverted us from the path of economic growth, selling the people of Jamaica false hope and unrealistic dreams”.
“We had a flirtation with ideologies that were foreign to us and did not serve us well. With all the social problems that needed to be addressed, had we stayed the economic course and ensured that our economy was aligned to the opportunities that were created by the industrial transformations that were taking place, Jamaica would be a better place today,” the prime minster stated.
Holness pointed to the economic successes of Singapore and South Korea, noting that they were previously worse off than Jamaica but did well because they were not distracted.
In outlining the contribution made by Manley to nation building, Robinson noted that the actions by the PNP administration of the 1970s levelled the playing field for thousands of marginalised Jamaicans, including Holness himself.
“The social legislation and farsighted policies in areas such as workers' rights; employee share ownership and participation; housing financed through the creation of the National Housing Trust (NHT); bauxite mining and the introduction of the levy; foreign exchange liberalisation; the advocacy for a new world economic order; and the fight against apartheid and oppression, were signal achievements of the former prime minister who championed the cause of third-world democracies and placed Jamaica's name at the forefront of the fight for economic liberation and social justice,” Robinson stated.
He said the PNP was disappointed at what he called Holness' “shallow and partisan analysis of the Manley years." That analysis, according to the PNP general secretary “lacked substance, proper historical context and vital details”. He said it was devoid of evidence and the rigour that should attend any attempt to analyse the impact of this period on the Jamaican society.
“In fact, he breached a convention in Jamaica, where prime ministers cease attacking (their) predecessors, once they have retired from public office,” Robinson noted.
He said “The PNP reaffirms its pride in the results of Manley's policies on today's Jamaica, as they have given status to children, women, workers and the masses of the Jamaican people, descendants of slaves, dispossessed in every material area of economic survival. It is for these reasons that the party remains committed to solving the land settlement deprivations, which has existed since the former slaves were banished to the hillside of Jamaica in 1838 for their existence”.
According to the PNP, Holness’ attack on Manley was motivated by his need to provide an excuse for his dismal performance in the office with a raft of broken promises, including poverty to prosperity, and a reduction in murder and crime, among others.
Manley, who held office from 1972 to 1980 and again from 1989 to 1992 when ill health forced him to step aside, died on March 6, 1997 at age 72.