Enid Bennett hailed as servant of the people

Sunday, January 21, 2018

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KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) — Late former State Minister, Enid Maude Bennett, was eulogised by several of the nation’s leaders yesterday, as a true champion of the people, who dedicated her life to the service of others.

One after the other, in the charming St Helen’s Catholic Church in Linstead, where the Official Funeral Service was held, the leaders voiced their admiration and respect for the trailblazing politician, who served as Member of Parliament of 30 continuous years until her retirement in 1997, setting a record as a female legislator in the House of Representatives.

They recalled her commitment to the people of Central St Catherine and later St Catherine West Central, whom she represented and hailed the foundation Bennett laid for females to enter politics as well as the wise counsel she provided.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness, in his tribute, said Bennett did the very best for as many people as she could.

“Hers was a life of true and remarkable service. In fact, I recall that her campaign slogan was always ‘I promise to serve’. Her stellar work, particularly as one of Jamaica’s pioneering female politicians in representational politics, in legislative affairs and as a minister, all embodied her commitment to public service,” he said.

He noted that while Bennett as one of short stature, she had a big heart for people as well as for principles, and was loyal and courageous.

“She was caring, filled with good counsel. Personally, I would have benefitted from her counsel in difficult times and I am certain many in this church could attest to that,” he said.

Minister of Health and current Member of Parliament for West Central St Catherine, Dr Christopher Tufton, spoke of Bennett’s love for her constituents, whom she described as “most beautiful, peaceful and hardworking”.

He said she was a “quiet giant” and someone “not easily dispatched” in the face of formidable challenges.

Tufton informed that Bennett was instrumental in securing funds to build schools such as Tacius Golding and Bog Walk High and Lucky Valley Primary.

“She was instrumental in establishing community centres in Buxton Town and Point Hill, improving the West Central St Catherine road network and bringing electricity to several communities in the constituency,” he noted further.

National Security Minister Robert Montague remembered Bennett as “stern, sweet and tender,” while Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport Minister, Olivia Grange, hailed her for paving the way for more women to enter politics, thereby shattering the proverbial glass ceiling.

“It says to young women that Jamaica will see a brighter future when you get involved,” she said.

Former Prime Minister Bruce Golding, said Bennett was a “noble lady, beautiful inside as she was outside…giving so much of her life to improving the life of others.”

In her tribute, former Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, said she had great admiration for the dignity and fortitude of Bennett, who was a “voice of the voiceless.”

Opposition Leader, Dr Peter Phillips, in a tribute read by Mayor of Spanish Town, Norman Scott, remembered Bennett as committed and dedicated to people.

Entering politics at a young age, the record-breaking Enid Bennett was elected as councillor for the Sligoville division in the St Catherine Parish Council, before replacing Roy McNeill as Member of Parliament for St Catherine Central in 1967, when he moved to St Catherine Eastern.

She won seven consecutive general elections – two in St Catherine Central and five more in St Catherine West Central.

In 1978, she was elected as Deputy Leader of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) replacing current Speaker of the House of Representatives, Pearnel Charles. She was the only female Deputy Leader of the party.

Bennett served as Minister of State in the Ministry of Local Government between 1980 and 1982, and Minister of State in the Ministry of Labour and Social Security between 1982 and 1989.

She was awarded the country's fourth-highest honour, the Order of Jamaica, in 2012.

Bennett died on December 22, 2017 at age 86 after a brief illness.

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