When Jamaica gained independence in 1962, the idea of self-government was realized and guided by the Jamaican Constitution of 1962. This very important piece of legislation was the result of the hard work of many individuals; in fact, it was drafted by sixteen (16) men and one (1) woman who were members of a Joint Independence Constitution Committee. However, the foundation to the constitution which affords all citizens equal rights, responsibilities and liberties was laid long before its drafting. In an article entitled, “The Architects of the Jamaican Constitution 1962” Marcus Garvey was named as one of three National Heroes, the other two being Norman Manley and Alexander Bustamante, who helped to shape the foundation of the political landscape in Jamaica. This is understandable, as he made a significant impact on politics in Jamaica. One of his most notable achievements in this field was his forming of the first political party in the island, the Peoples Political Party (PPP), in 1929.
However, it can be argued that Garvey’s most notable achievement to the political landscape was his ideology of self-government. Self government refers to a government of a former colony that comprises its citizens. When Garvey returned to Jamaica in 1927, it is documented that he had not intended to get involved in local politics. However, when he observed the inequality in the political system of colonial rule, he ventured to bring about a change. The first step was to create a political party so that persons who shared his ideology could come together and help in changing the political scenery. The PPP was formed with the aim to bring about a “better Jamaica under a happier populace”. Essentially, what Garvey was saying was that if citizens had a say in the governing of the country, it would make them more comfortable and as a result, the country would be better off. Forming the PPP fostered a sense of nationalism which aided the push for self-governance. His bold step to form the party served as a catalyst to the formation of other political parties, including the two major parties, the Jamaica Labour Party and the People’s National Party which were formed in the 1930s. It is this very action which eventually led to Jamaica gaining independence and being governed by her own.
Attaining self-government was a priority for Garvey. This was evident when the manifesto for his party was published. The first point on the manifesto read, “Representation to the Imperial Parliament for a larger modicum of self-government.” So, he saw that it was important for Jamaicans to have more say in how they were governed and have more representation in the Government. He reiterated his view through his newspapers The New Jamaican and The Blackman where he continually rallied Jamaicans to take an active role in politics, and more specifically, political reform. Garvey always urged national self-determination and comradeship which were vital to realizing self-governance.
So, we Jamaicans are truly indebted to our National Heroes for the privileges we now enjoy, and some take for granted. Garvey sowed the seed, and Manley and Bustamante nurtured this seed to maturity.