Fri | Oct 23, 2020

Recognising contributions of Hugh Shearer and PJ Patterson in anti-apartheid movement

Published:Friday | September 25, 2020 | 12:07 AM

THE EDITOR, Madam:

I truly appreciated your editorial on Patsy Robertson in The Gleaner of Saturday, September 5. The contribution that Patsy made to the Commonwealth Secretariat, the United Nations, the anti-apartheid movement and to Jamaica was well described.

However, in rightly highlighting that PM Michael Manley gave “vigorous support to the liberation movement that exposed apartheid....” the editorial missed to point out that Jamaica was publicly opposed to apartheid from as early as 1957 (Wills O. Isaacs was then minister of foreign trade), leading the trade embargo against South Africa. This was followed shortly by then Foreign Minister (later Prime Minister) Hugh Shearer’s maiden speech at the UN in 1962, and again, his speech in 1963 calling for the declaration of an International Year of Human Rights, and the removal of the apartheid system in South Africa.

Shearer’s Stance

Below are a few paragraphs from Shearer’s 1963 speech.

“11. I now turn to the problem of colonialism. Jamaica reaffirms its unswerving opposition to colonialism in all its forms. We are concerned to see the continent of Africa rid of it. We join our colleagues, the indigenous people of Africa, in their determination that the people of Angola and Mozambique should be liberated from European domination as quickly as possible.

12. On the subject of apartheid and the policies of the government of South Africa our stand is well known. Jamaica was among the first of the countries to impose an embargo on South African trade. We make it known once more that we abhor the reprehensible policy which has become the religion of the government of that country. We deeply regret that the policy of the opposition party does not differ appreciably from that of Dr Verwoerd.

13. My Government has taken all measures necessary, internally and externally, to comply in the fullest terms possible with the provisions of General Assembly Resolution 1761 (XVII) of 6 November 1962, and will cooperate with our friends in Africa to the best of our ability to see the shame of apartheid removed from the continent which gave us the majority of our ancestors.

14. Nevertheless, we believe that South Africa’s future must be redemption, not destruction, not even self-destruction, and we doubt whether the nation can be redeemed from outside. So I appeal to the liberal elements within that country to abandon their support of the suicidal policies of their government, and to show to the world that a group exists which is willing to accord the native African his just rights and is, therefore, a group whose efforts well-intentioned outsiders can support.

15. We, the United Nations, cannot allow ourselves to confess that the problem of apartheid defeats us. If a solution through one approach is delayed, then other avenues must be tried. I appeal to those nations without whose support the South African government could not long continue its suicidal policy, to abandon their support, and so bring the government and its followers to their senses.”

Shearer was the early fighter. But after Michael Manley came PM P.J. Patterson, who was also at the forefront of this struggle, and, indeed ,received the Order of the Companions of O. R. Tambo, reserved for citizens outside of South Africa who have contributed to the struggle against racism and the fight for justice, equality and democracy.

Yes, PM Michael Manley contributed to the anti-apartheid movement, but PM Hugh Shearer preceded him in this struggle and PM P.J. Patterson followed, and it is imperative that their contributions are also highlighted.

CHARLIE JOHNSTON