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A journey indeed!

Barbara
Gloudon

Friday, December 14, 2018

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On Wednesday evening of this week a group of distinguished guests gathered at the Jamaica Pegasus hotel in Kingston to witness the launch of a book which captures a slice of Jamaican history. The publication in question goes by the title My Political Journey , authored by the P J Patterson, Jamaica's sixth prime minister.

In some circles, politicians are not looked on with kindly eyes. Jamaicans are known to “beat up them gum” about their views of politicians — local and international — past and present. Talking politics and politicians is a favourite pastime from roadside to veranda corner. Whatever you feel about our represented officials, we must acknowledge their part in our journey as a nation.

Former Prime Minister Patterson has been involved in Jamaican politics from the 1960s and has had a front-row seat at many of the changes the country has gone through from pre-Independence to the present era.

The launch occasion brought together a wide range of individuals, including some former prime ministers and other Caribbean leaders in politics and academia, who spoke of their interactions with Patterson from his early years on the Mona Campus of The University of the West Indies to his work with the international community.

Prime Minister of Barbados Mia Mottley has been a dedicated colleague of Patterson throughout the years as they have carried the “Caricom flag” in their respective political careers. Mottley spoke with great humour about the mannerisms which Patterson has exhibited over the many years of their friendship – the looking over the glasses; the tilt of his head; and his slow, careful speech pattern. When asked about his tendency to be quiet or slow to speak, he once said: “It is harder to be misquoted if you are silent.”

Despite that statement, Patterson is well known for his words of wisdom. This has resulted in the high regard in which he is held by other world leaders. Sir Hilary Beckles, vice chancellor of The University of the West Indies, delivered a video presentation highlighting some of the working relationships Patterson has had over the years with leaders of many countries in the world.

Mike Fennell reported of being contacted by an African leader to seek Patterson's intervention in a “sticky” matter. At the time, Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe was threatening to pull out of the Commonwealth of Nations and it was felt no one other than Patterson would be able to dampen down the rising tensions.

Politics is not an easy road. They aren't joking when they refer to it as the “cut and thrust”. It was revealed that, at one point, Patterson contemplated stepping away from politics. He was told then that over his years, many people had invested their time and effort in him and that it would be wrong to simply walk away when things get rough. Patterson realised that he had more to give and regained the desire to do his best for those who had placed their hopes in him.

The launch also included another side to Patterson's career – his involvement in Jamaican music. At one point in time, he managed world-renowned band The Skatalites. Noted saxophonist Dean Fraser entertained the gathering in tribute to Patterson's contribution to Jamaica's musical history.

Copies of the book were handed out to the major universities as well as to the head boy of Calabar High School, Patterson's alma mater. The evening proved to be a thought-provoking walk through the years of Patterson's long career. The book, produced by the University Press, would make a good gift for scholars and historians.

Barbara Gloudon is a journalist, playwright and commentator. Send comments to the Observer or gloudonb@gmail.com.

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