A few milestones in 2013

Michael Burke

Thursday, January 03, 2013

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A Happy New Year to everyone! In the year just ended, we in Jamaica passed a major milestone — our 50th anniversary of political independence. In this year, both major political parties will be celebrating anniversaries. The ruling People's National Party will be 75 years old in September. The Opposition Jamaica Labour Party will be 70 years old in July. The Bustamante Industrial Trade Union will also be celebrating its 75th anniversary this year.

More importantly, this year is also 75 years since the riots of 1938, which brought forth our political parties, universal adult suffrage and self-government, which later led to our political independence. So this year 2013 is an important milestone for the process that brought about political independence, the ferment of 1938.

The Holy Rosary Roman Catholic Church, at 75 Windward Road (opposite the community of Bowerbank and Doncaster), will be celebrating 100 years in August. I imagine that most of the celebration will take place in October, which is the month of the Rosary. And the last of the buildings constructed at Jamaica College during the tenure of Archdeacon William Simms as headmaster, the old Assembly Hall will be 100 years old this year. The earlier buildings such as the Simms and Scotland Buildings at JC were erected in the 1880s.

For those who are enthusiasts of British Royalty, Queen Elizabeth paid her first visit to Jamaica in November 1953, sixty years ago this year. Come November 22, 2013, it will be 50 years since the assassination of United States president John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the only Roman Catholic ever to hold that office. There has been considerable speculation as to how different the world might have been had Kennedy lived. Would there have been a Vietnam war? Would Richard Nixon have become US President? Would there have been the Watergate affair?

This year will be 25 years since Hurricane Gilbert hit Jamaica. It was a devastating hurricane, the likes of which Jamaica had not seen in 37 years, the previous hurricane being Hurricane Charlie in 1951. It could well have been a forerunner to the closure of the banana trade, as Jamaica took a long time to resuscitate its banana industry.

To protect Jamaica from hurricanes, the Roman Catholic Church dedicated Jamaica to Our Lady of the Assumption in 1953. (Roman Catholics believe that the Blessed Virgin Mary was assumed body and soul into heaven). From 1969 onwards, almost every year there has been a pilgrimage to Our Lady of Assumption Church in Morant Bay, St Thomas. In the year 1988, the pilgrimage was cancelled as the church was under repairs. Some Roman Catholics believe that this was why we had Hurricane Gilbert that year, but I do not share that view, as God does not operate in that way.

Twenty years ago this year, Pope John Paul II paid Jamaica a visit, the first ever pontiff to do so. In this country with its rabid anti-Roman Catholic culture, there was a great hue and cry about the Pope's visit, mainly from Rastafarians and Seventh-Day Adventists. While Pope John Paul spoke at Norman Manley Airport upon his arrival, there was an interruption of the Radio Jamaica broadcast by someone who said that the Pope was not wanted here. It sounded like a well-known radio personality, but that person denied culpability.

All sorts of evil would be visited on us, according to Rastafarians, and the first major motor vehicle accident after the Pope's visit was attributed to his having been here. The Pope visited Jamaica between August 9 and 11, 1993, and the next major accident was on September 1, 1993 on the highway to Montego Bay, where a trailer jack-knifed and resulted in several deaths.

In recent times Father Richard Holung wrote in his Sunday Gleaner column about the hatred that Seventh-Day Adventists have for Roman Catholics. There have been many denials of any hatred from Adventists since that article was published. What about the meetings organised by David Mould in 1990? Older Jamaicans should remember Mould's full-page advertisements in the Gleaner entitled "In search of the anti-Christ". As a result, on the radio call-in programmes, the Roman Catholic Church was a hot topic. What about the utterances when the Pope came here in 1993? Do the older Adventists think everyone has forgotten all of that?

In 1973, there was an attempt to have a second daily newspaper. The Daily News had its debut 40 years ago this year (1973) and it closed in 1983 (30 years ago this year). The Jamaica Record opened up in 1988 (25 years ago this year) and closed four years after in 1992. A few months later in 1992, we saw the birth of the Jamaica Herald as a daily paper for the first five years of its existence, then as a weekly. Twenty years ago in 1993 the Jamaica Observer was established, first as a weekly and then as a daily. I have been a newspaper columnist for 25 years this year, 15 of which I will have spent at this newspaper come April.





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