Building the new Jamaica


Monday, December 11, 2017

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The following is an edited version of a message delivered to St Andrew Scots Kirk United:

I came to you as a stranger and was warmly welcomed by the church. I hope that what I say will not move you to get rid of me. Before you ask that visitors and those who are coming too often and overstaying their welcome to be identified, I share a short message with you.

Recently I spoke at a function where I challenged my colleagues in the legal profession on their responsibility to this land we love. I reminded them that the life that God gives to each of us is not for our own glory, it is for service to others in our different ways. I pointed to the media reports of relentless murder and allegations of corruption that are destroying the nation, and submitted we should accept these challenges as a call to each of us for service to build a new Jamaica.

Looking around the city of Kingston, where Scots Kirk has been serving for over 200 years, we still see derelict humanity despite the best efforts of the church. Too many of our brothers and sisters have been left behind on the road to Independence. A few misguided ones see crime and corruption as the way out of their misery.

You may well ask what is accountable for this persistent poverty? Before Independence, in 1962, Jamaica was ruled by the British for over 300 years with 10 generations of slavery in those years. Great Britain became extremely rich from slave labour on the plantations. The Church of England has apologised for slavery, but the British have not; they offer us a prison.

A Sunday Herald story in April 2013 'Time for Scots to say sorry for slavery' said, despite the fortunes made from stolen lives, they were quick to demand compensation when slavery ended — Glasgow got 400,000 pounds (hundreds of millions in modern terms). Thirty per cent of Jamaica's plantations were run by Scots. The enslaved people, our ancestors, got nothing. They were cast out penniless and not knowing the way back home to restore their dignity as human beings. Jamaica's call for reparation is in the demand for repairing the damage to the people who still live in social and economic inequality.

The Jamaica National Council on Reparation has been doing much to honour the memory of those who served in the struggle for freedom, some with their lives. What remains is to compel those who profited from slavery to make amends for the horrors they inflicted on others. Beside the apology, Great Britain and Jamaica must together institute a binding programme of compensation for the victims of slavery, whether it be by goods, services, or financial support to build the new Jamaica.

The Bible gives directions for the way forward in the glorious hope for a new Jamaica: Isaiah 58: 9-12.

What the prophet is saying to each of us: Call on the Lord and He will guide you continually; cut out personal vanity and finger-pointing at each other. Look after the hungry and afflicted souls; then you and those with you are repairers of the breach will raise up the foundations of many generations. This is the challenge to the offender and the victim for the birth of a new Jamaica where all can live in dignity, peace and security. Can the church carry this message to save the body and soul of the nation?

Frank Phipps, QC, is an attorney-at-law. Send comments to the Observer or




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