Book by John Maxwell
How to Make Our Own News: A Primer for Environmentalist and Journalists
* * * * *
Mr Seaga Departs
By John Maxwell
On his departure from Parliament after a
record 46 years, 43 of them as MP for West Kingston, Mr Edward
Seaga expressed regret that the country remained divided
between the haves and the have nots and that there had been
few if any gains in the areas of governance, justice, education
and the economy. He thought both parties should share the blame
for this lack of progress.
Over the last 46 years it has been Mr
Seaga’s thesis that the People’s National Party has
been the principal obstacle to progress in this country.
To admit now that the JLP may have to share some of the
blame is a monumental concession.
I have known Mr Seaga since 1958. We met at
one of the weekly soirees then given by Vicky
Noonan, the artist wife of US Consul for Public Affairs, Tom
Noonan. A few months later, after the Federal Elections we had a
public brawl in print, over the meaning of the results,
with me, perhaps unkindly, terming Seaga’s analysis
I have never been forgiven for that. Mr Seaga
values his enemies and I am, for him, perhaps the oldest
and most pestilential.
We collided again in 1962, shortly before
Independence, when with Sir Alexander Bustamante in tow, he
demanded that the Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation fire me
because of a commentary I in which belittled the British
government’s farewell gifts to Jamaica: after 300 years
“enough cash to run the government for 11 days and Up Park
Camp, which they cannot take away” Bustamante and Seaga
intimidated Mr L.A Henriques, chairman of the JBC Board,
who agreed that I should be dismissed. The rest of the Board,
including Douglas Fletcher, O.T.Fairclough and Henry Fowler,
decided that the Chairman was wrong and had exceeded his
authority anyway, and I was reinstated. The Chairman
A few weeks later Mr Seaga as Minister
responsible for Broadcasting, dismissed the entire Board. The
new Board in turn, dismissed me and began the process of
destroying Norman Manley’s dream of a radio station which
would be the prime exemplar of the nascent Jamaican culture.
(The process was completed by Mr Patterson in 1997.)
On Independence Day 1962, Mr Seaga did
something which I cannot forget or forgive. When he saw Norman
Manley, Leader of the Opposition, Father of Jamaican
Independence in the “Royal Box” at the Stadium he asked the
security people: “What is that man doing here?”
Sir Alexander Bustamante quickly put him in
his place and invited Manley to sit with him.
That was the start of a relentless
polarisation of Jamaican politics which subverted community
solidarity and the national consensus which had been building
since 1938 and accelerated in Norman Manley's government of 1955
to 1962. It is this polarisation – or tribalisation – which
in my opinion, is responsible for most of the lack of progress
Mr Seaga now laments.
Seaga’s special wrath was reserved for
Norman Manley. At the re-interment of Marcus Garvey’s body on
the first National Heroes’ Day, Seaga received some scattered
boos from a section of the crowd. His reaction was to threaten
Manley and the PNP with “Blood for Blood and Fire
for Fire” a quote from Paul Bogle from which he
carefully omitted Bogle’s last line – “skin for skin
and colour for colour”. Seaga threatened to bring his people
from West Kingston to chase the PNP from the streets. It
led me to write an editorial in Public Opinion entitled
“Sieg Heil, Heil Seaga”.
In 1986 when he was Prime Minister, Seaga
threatened to resign to allow the PNP to win the elections and then
to chase them off the streets.
Seaga is famous for his sulks. In 1971 when
he was Minister of Finance, he sequestered himself ,
incommunicado, in Vale Royal because of aa dispute between
himself and fellow ministers Robert Lightbourne and Wilton Hill.
When the JLP lost the 1972 general elections and the 1974
municipal elections, he complained that it was because his
advice had not been taken. After the 1974 debacle he
announced he would be taking leave to write some books.
The sabbatical did not last long. His obvious lack of support
for Shearer quickly led to the demand from the monied backers of
the party that Shearer should resign.
At a meeting at Victoria Park (now St.
William Grant Park) Seaga had a Gethsamane moment : in a
dramatic performance he pleaded before heaven that “this
Cup could should pass from me”. Despite this he
proceeded shortly to make it impossible for his rivals to remain
within the JLP, disposing of Wilton Hill, Robert Lightbourne,
Ronald Irvine, Ian Ramsay and Frank Phipps, to name only some of
the most prominent before the Gang of Five and other divertissements.
In the 1976 elections Seaga caused an
international scandal by disclosing the Government’s
secret negotiating position with the IMF. He quoted documents
the government said had been taken from the Cabinet room by a
Minister and leaked to Seaga by a Permanent Secretary. In
1979, Trinidad’s Prime Minister, Eric Williams,
berated him for his lack of patriotism in urging the IMF and
World Bank not to lend Jamaica money.
Seaga had denounced the PNP as
Communist and prophesied dire consequences for Jamaica if they
were to win the 1980 general elections. Unfortunately for
him, he was soon compelled to go before his American
backers, the Rockefeller Committee, to confess that there were
no Communists in the PNP.
His American backers fell away, as chronicled
in Timothy Ashby’s 1989 Heritage Foundation pamphlet in
which Ashby asked whether Seaga was a 'statesman or a political
conman'. Ashby raised other questions, including about how
USAID money had been spent in Jamaica. Ashby had been the
Heritage Foundation’s liaison with Seaga.
Seaga has made some horrendous gaffes,:
In 1976 he became notorious for publicising an alleged
‘prophecy’ of Marcus Garvey’s about “when the Four
Sevens clash” i.e., that dreadful things would happen on
7/7/77. The day passed uneventfully.
In 1980 he grandly ordered the Cuban
Ambassador out of Jamaica, getting headlines around the
world. Seaga then crawled to the Cubans, asking them would they
please leave their doctors in Jamaica? They were a vital
part of the health delivery system, he said.
In 1995, faced with a popular rebellion in
Tivoli Gardens, Seaga presented the Commissioner of Police
with a list of aliases of about 20 'outlaws' resident in Tivoli
who he expected the police to scrape up. If the police were
unable to deal with these men, Mr. Seaga promised or threatened
to put a price on their heads!
Seaga treasures his enemies. There is a
poignant story in Friday’s Gleaner by Heather
Robinson who relates how, on Seaga’s orders, she was prevented
from working in her government job for two years and
turned to catering to survive.
I am a special target of Mr Seaga. Having got
me out of the JBC in 1962 he was determined to shut me up as
Editor of Public Opinion. Between himself and Victor
Grant, the Attorney General, there was a sedulous search for
ways to silence me. One of my contributors, Bill Carr, was
threatened with deportation and I was threatened with prison or
worse. Bustamante publicly told me I should be shot,
“but only in the leg”. (Joke!!!)
Finally, the government attacked in force.
Civil servants were barred from having Public Opinion newspaper
in their possession. Government departments and any entities in
receipt of any Government funds were forbidden to advertise in Public
Opinion or to buy printing from its parent, City Printery
Ltd. These entities included the University and the Jamaica
Agricultural Society, from which City Printery had recently won
In one of the most shameful episodes in the
history of the Jamaican press, the Press Association said that
it could not agree that the government’s behaviour was a
threat to freedom of the Press. The Government, like any
business, had a right to decide how to spent its money!
When I complained to the Inter American Press
Association then meeting in Montego Bay, they said they
saw no reason to interfere. IAPA’s famous interventions on
behalf of freedom of the Press clearly did not include attacks
on Press Freedom from the Right.
There was a farcical debate in Parliament in
which the de facto Prime Minister, Donald Sangster, defended his
Had I remained at Public Opinion it
would have meant shutdown of City Printery and the pauperisation
of forty families. I didn’t feel the struggle was worth that.
I went to England where I worked with the BBC for the next five
I returned to Jamaica in 1970, at the
invitation of Norman Manley who wanted me to write his
biography. Sadly, before I arrived, Manley died. I came anyway,
on a month’s holiday Michael Manley one day said to me
that the PNP could find no one willing to run as PNP candidate
in West Kingston. People were too afraid.
I said, offhand, that if he still couldn’t
find anyone by the time the election was imminent, I would run.
About a year later, when I was still the only black editor
in the World Service Newsroom, I got a call about three
o’clock in the morning.
“Come” said Michael Manley, “we need
I hadn’t the foggiest idea what he was
talking about, but he soon put me wise. He said that the PNP
knew (as I did) that it could not win in West Kingston. My
presence on the ticket was simply to prevent Seaga being
declared elected on nomination day. I decided that it was the
least I could do for the memory of Norman Manley and the Jamaica
he represented. In the unlikely event that I won I could not
have taken my seat anyway because on Election Day, February 29,
1972, I was not qualified to be a member of parliament.
Seaga regarded my running in West Kingston as
a personal insult. In the 70s, when I was doing the Public
Eye talk show , platoons of Tivoli people were
organised to ring up and say outrageous thing after having
carefully identified their party loyalties. I used the
broadcast delay switch to cut them off before their expletives
were broadcast. Seaga’s story then was that I was simply
denying freedom of speech to labourites. After the 1980
elections when I was trying to discover my National Housing
Trust status I tried to get my personal file from the JBC.
There was a note in the filing cabinet that the file had been
sent to Jamaica House and never returned.
Another file sent to Jamaica House produced
happier results. As Chairman of the Natural Resources
Conservation Authority I fought successfully for the
authority to declare the entire island of Jamaica a
protected watershed. The PNP for two years did nothing
about it. Mr Seaga, as Prime Minister, must by some means
have come across some NRCA files and realised that the
resolution needed only a ministerial signature to become
effective. He signed the order and Jamaica became a
Protected Watershed in 1981.
So between us, Seaga and I have
accomplished at least one good thing for this country.
I really wish we all could have done more together.
Whoever leads the parties now, the paranoia level is bound to go
down and the national solidarity level may go up. Some
things will change.
Copyright © 2005 John Maxwell COMMON SENSE #
* * *
* * *
Life on Mars
By Tracy K. Smith
Tracy K. Smith, author of Life on Mars has been selected as the winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. In its review of the book, Publishers Weekly noted the collection's "lyric brilliance" and "political impulses [that] never falter." A New York Times review stated, "Smith is quick to suggest that the important thing is not to discover whether or not we're alone in the universe; it's to accept—or at least endure—the universe's mystery. . . . Religion, science, art: we turn to them for answers, but the questions persist, especially in times of grief. Smith's pairing of the philosophically minded poems in the book’s first section with the long elegy for her father in the second is brilliant." Life on Mars follows Smith's 2007 collection, Duende, which won the James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets, the only award for poetry in the United States given to support a poet's second book, and the first Essence Literary Award for poetry, which recognizes the literary achievements of African Americans. The Body’s Question (2003) was her first published collection. Smith said Life on Mars, published by small Minnesota press Graywolf, was inspired in part by her father, who was an engineer on the Hubble space telescope and died in 2008.
* * *
The Gardens of Democracy: A New American Story
of Citizenship, the Economy, and the Role of Government
By Eric Liu and Nick Hanauer
American democracy is informed by the 18th century’s most cutting edge thinking on society, economics, and government. We’ve learned some things in the intervening 230 years about self interest, social behaviors, and how the world works. Now, authors Eric Liu and Nick Hanauer argue that some fundamental assumptions about citizenship, society, economics, and government need updating. For many years the dominant metaphor for understanding markets and government has been the machine. Liu and Hanauer view democracy not as a machine, but as a garden. A successful garden functions according to the inexorable tendencies of nature, but it also requires goals, regular tending, and an understanding of connected ecosystems. The latest ideas from science, social science, and economics—the cutting-edge ideas of today—generate these simple but revolutionary ideas: (The economy is not an efficient machine. It’s an effective garden that need tending. Freedom is responsibility. Government should be about the big what and the little how. True self interest is mutual interest. We’re all better off when we’re all better off. The model of citizenship depends on contagious behavior, hence positive behavior begets positive behavior
* * *
The White Masters of the
The World and Africa, 1965
By W. E. B. Du Bois
W. E. B. Du Bois’
Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization
* * *
Ancient African Nations
* * * * *
If you like this page consider making a donation
* * * * *
Negro Digest /
Browse all issues
* * * * *
The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan
The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll
Only a Pawn in Their Game
Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for
* * *
The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg
Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804
January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of
* * * * *
* * *
(Books, DVDs, Music, and more)
update 2 May 2012