Friday 4 December, 2020

DK Duncan hailed as a man for the people

Dr DK Duncan

Dr DK Duncan

Dr Donald Keith (DK) Duncan was remembered as being passionate about equal rights and justice, by family members, friends and those with whom he was associated in the various national positions he held, at his official funeral service at Mona Chapel, University of the West Indies (UWI) on Sunday.

Duncan died in mid-September after having been hospitalised with COVID-19-related complications.

The service, which was streamed live on social media, had tributes both in-person and on videos  from his granddaughter, Nia Scott; friend and People’s National Party (PNP) colleague, Arnold Bertram; friend Dr Anthony Bogues, Earl Jarrett on behalf of the Electoral Commission of Jamaica (ECJ); brother Hugh and son Keith on behalf of DK’s children.

There were also tributes in songs. ASHE Performing Arts Company joined Duncan’s grandchildren to do reggae legend, Bob Marley’s ‘Three Little Bird’ before delighting the gathering with another reggae superstar, Peter Tosh’s ‘Creation’ and a medley of choruses to close the service.

Ernie Smith (File photo)

Reggae stalwart, Ernie Smith, also performed ‘Misread The Book’, ‘Hail The Man’ and “There Is A Place Up There For People Like You’, as well as gospel favourite, ‘It Is Well With My Soul’.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness was represented by Minister of Labour and Social Security, Karl Samuda, while Leader of Opposition, Dr Peter Phillips, was represented by the Chairman of the PNP, Fitz Jackson.

Samuda read the first lesson, Jackson the second, and Duncan’s daughter, Khia Josina, the third.

A video documentary was shown on the life of Duncan from his humble beginnings in Rollington Town, Kingston before being sent to St Mary to stay with an aunt, where he excelled academically to gain access to Jamaica College (JC) on a government scholarship.

Duncan once again excelled in academics, as well as extra-curricular activities, at JC, including sports, in which he played cricket and hockey. He won the cricket trophy for JC in 1958 while performing as an opening batsman and a bowler.

The video also charted Duncan’s political life in Jamaica after returning from McGill University in Canada, where he had gone on a government scholarship. He had gained government scholarship in three different disciplines, but chose dentistry.

Duncan was named Minister of Mobilisation and Human Resource in 1977 by then Prime Minister, Michael Manley. The ministry’s portfolio involved getting the average Jamaicans into the political process, while also administering the implementation of some of the government’s social programmes.

Granddaughter Scott, in her poetic tribute, talked about the three parts of life - mind, body and spirit - and praised Duncan for his class in humanity while standing for equality and being a catalyst for change.

Bertram, in a video presentation, said Duncan had a commanding presence on the campaign trail and a passion to stand against injustice in sharing and caring for the people. Bertram also said Duncan had a keenness of mind that separated him from his peers.

According to Bertram, Duncan faced many prejudices while being a JC, which was then an institution for the upper class. He said Duncan prevailed by being academically astute.

In another video presentation, Bogues, a renowned author, also said Duncan was passionate about attaching his aspirations to the ordinary man and women, and being the engine of social change. Bogues said Duncan entered politics at a time when black Jamaicans would be pushed to the back, and along with Manley, enabled them to be “somebody”.

Bogues said at his last encounter with Duncan earlier this year, they talked about penning a book about the controversial period of the 1970s, during which the ideology of the PNP was a strict form of democratic socialism, and that of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) being capitalism.

Earl Jarrett (File photo)

According to Jarrett, Duncan, while serving on the ECJ, understood and embraced improving the electoral process in Jamaica by ensuring that the body was truthful to the mandate in the management of resource and recommendations to Parliament.

He said while Duncan served the interest of the PNP, it would not be at all cost, as he wanted to protect the history of the ECJ.

Brother Hugh said Duncan, being the eldest, blazed a trail for his four siblings - Ken, Lloyd, Victor and himself. He said Duncan was a relentless warrior for equal rights, who never left the family members behind, even in his pursuit for nation-building.

Keith Duncan (File photo) 

Son Keith described his father as a beautiful human being who gave his life for the people and the country, while also being a family man.

Keith said his father's humanitarian journey started while at McGill University, where he met Keith’s mother, Joan, and they got immersed in the black power movement in Canada, which got them arrested multiple times.

Keith said his father continued the fight for equality and justice for all after returning to Jamaica by choosing the PNP, where he served with empathy for the ordinary and marginalised Jamaicans.

“My father was a key figure and driver under Michael Manley(’s leadership) in social reforms in Jamaica,” said Duncan.

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