Delano Franklyn | Michael Manley, Edward Seaga and $2,000 note | Comment
The government, led by Prime Minister Andrew Holness, recently made a deliberate political decision to print a $2,000 note bearing the images, side by side, of former prime ministers Michael Manley and Edward Seaga.
No matter how the Honorable Nigel Clarke, Minister for Finance and Public Services, who made the announcement in Parliament, tries to spin it, the main purpose of combining the two images is to continue the relentless campaign to try to popularize the unpopular. The campaign is specifically aimed at capturing the imagination of the younger generation who may not be aware of the political activism of the two men.
Michael Manley won national elections in 1972, 1976 and 1989. He lost in 1980 to Mr. Seaga. He did not contest the 1983 elections because the Jamaica Labor Party (JLP) failed to honor an agreement that no election would be called until the voters list was properly updated to include new potential voters.
Mr. Seaga’s victory in the 1980 elections had two main features, hitherto foreign to Jamaican politics. First, it was, and to date, the most violent campaign and election the country has ever seen. Of 800 people killed that year, 600 were killed as a result of election-related violence. Second, the election campaign saw the involvement of international forces, particularly the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), who were determined to oust Manley from power.
Mr Seaga lost national elections in 1976, 1989, 1993, 1997 and 2002, much to the chagrin of young Turks of the JLP era who subsequently campaigned for him to step down from the JLP leadership. and that he be replaced by former Prime Minister Bruce Golding.
Every poll conducted by respected pollsters, and in particular Carl Stone’s revered polls, has had Michael Manley “donkey length” ahead of Mr Seaga when it comes to who the Jamaican people most loved and admired.
Michael Manley died on March 6, 1997 and, in a Stone poll conducted in the gleaner from March 17, 1997, it showed that 67.9% of Jamaicans thought he should be made a national hero.
In the December 2000 Stone Organization poll, when asked which prime minister had done the most to improve the lot of the people, 54% answered Manley.
Michael Manley’s popularity has been captured yet again in a poll in the gleaner of March 16, 2006, nine years after his death, which showed that 49% of people said that of the six prime ministers so far, he was the best. Michael Manley edged his nearest rival by 34%.
All of these polls were taken when Mr Seaga was still very active in national politics, as leader of the JLP and leader of the opposition. As Mr Seaga lost election after election, the people were still in deep admiration for Michael Manley.
CAMPAIGN TO DISCREDIT MANLEY
After Mr. Seaga retired from active politics, he spent most of his years promoting the myth that Michael Manley destroyed Jamaica and that he, Seaga, was the country’s savior in 1980 when he won the election, and pulled the country off the path it had embarked on under Manley.
If Manley destroyed the country and saved it, why was he so often rejected by the people at the polls? He won only one national election, out of the six in which he took part. If Manley destroyed the country and he saved it, why did Manley beat him in every national poll, when compared? If Manley destroyed the country and saved it, why on earth would the government want to put both on the same dollar bill? Is the idea to save Manley?
The planned printing of the $2,000 bill with Manley and Seaga appearing side by side is a brazen attempt by the current administration, led by its mentee, our Prime Minister, to present the two gentlemen as equals, while in the spirit of the Jamaican people, they are unequal.
The JLP, over the years, has tried to position Mr. Seaga as the best economic director the country has ever had. When examined, however, this argument falls flat.
Listen to Timothy Ashby, then director of the Mexico and Caribbean Basin Bureau of the United States Department of Commerce, assess Mr. Seaga after his election defeat in 1989. Ashby said: “Despite a billion (dollars) in United States and the close friendship of the (Ronald) Regan administration, Edward Seaga failed to transform the Jamaican economy for more than eight years in office….GDP per capita remained unchanged from to 1980 when foreign debt had more than doubled, leaving Jamaica one of the most indebted countries per capita. The Jamaican dollar had fallen 300% against the US dollar… Nearly a quarter of the Jamaican workforce remained unemployed.
This assessment of Mr. Seaga’s economic performance during his tenure as Prime Minister from 1980 to 1989 should be viewed in the context of Mr. Manley’s tenure as Prime Minister from 1972 to 1980. Manley, he was constantly challenged by local and international forces that opposed him and his policies, moreover, he also had to go through the oil crisis of 1973, the world recession of 1973 to 1975 and the second oil crisis from 1979.
Michael Manley’s support, then and now, grew out of his politics of humanity which led to the awakening of people’s awareness locally. This resulted in the introduction of a series of programs that have improved the quality of life for our people, many of whom now hold important positions in Jamaica.
Like Mr. Seaga, Manley was a nationalist, but he was also a regionalist, which Mr. Seaga does not appear to have been. Mr. Manley, along with other political leaders such as Errol Barrow of Barbados, Forbes Burnham of Guyana, Vere Bird of Antigua and Barbuda and Eric Williams of Trinidad and Tobago, was an enthusiastic and active supporter of the regional national movement. Manley was also easily recognizable on the world stage as a spokesperson for third-word issues.
Mr Manley’s huge support locally, regionally and internationally, compared to Mr Seaga’s low turnout in all three categories, has forced his ardent supporters in government to try to find ways to keep Mr Seaga at the center of national attention. His appearance with Manley on the banknote is another such attempt.
Those who would like to list what they consider to be Mr. Seaga’s overall accomplishments are free to do so. Those who think it should be on a banknote are also free to do so. I would say to them, feel free to put Mr. Seaga on the $2,000 bill, but please leave Mr. Manley on the $1,000 bill. That’s where he’s been for years.
The attempt to use Manley’s image, to try to promote another’s, in a situation where he and the other were poles apart, is not only a disservice and disrespect to two men, but it is also a slap in the face to people here and abroad who are not in favor of this move by the government.
– Delano Franklyn is a lawyer and former Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. Send your comments to [email protected]