Clean Slate: Mar­cus Gar­vey’s Crim­i­nal Record Be­ing Ex­punged

The Star (St. Lucia) - - REGIONAL - Source: Caribbean360

Ape­ti­tion call­ing on the US gov­ern­ment to clear the name of Ja­maican Na­tional Hero Mar­cus Gar­vey failed to get the re­quired sup­port, but the Ja­maica gov­ern­ment plans to clean up his crim­i­nal record at home, along with the records of two other he­roes and a noted free­dom fighter.

Gar­vey, along with fel­low na­tional he­roes Sa­muel Sharpe and Paul Bogle and Ma­roon Chief, Tacky will have their records ex­punged.

Min­is­ter of Cul­ture, Gen­der, En­ter­tain­ment and Sport Olivia Grange an­nounced yes­ter­day that Cabi­net had ap­proved draft­ing in­struc­tions for leg­is­la­tion to make that pos­si­ble.

Gar­vey had been charged for con­tempt of court and con­victed in 1929 for crit­i­ciz­ing Ja­maica’s le­gal sys­tem, which he re­port­edly de­scribed as “op­pres­sive”, while call­ing for laws to “pun­ish judges who acted un­fairly”. He was fined £100 and sen­tenced to three months’ im­pris­on­ment.

Sharpe and Bogle were con­victed and hanged for their roles in the 1831/32 Christ­mas and 1865 Mo­rant Bay re­bel­lions re­spec­tively, while Tacky was im­pli­cated in the 1760 St. Mary slave re­volt.

Grange cited the “widely held” view that the events for which the four were im­pli­cated were not crim­i­nal acts of re­bel­lion or trea­son, but rather “acts of lib­er­a­tion with abun­dant moral jus­ti­fi­ca­tion”.

“Con­se­quently, our he­roes ought not to have the stain of crim­i­nal con­vic­tion ac­com­pa­ny­ing their role as na­tional he­roes. This Gov­ern­ment is of the view… that our he­roes should be par­doned by the State as a means of blunt­ing the edge of the sword of in­jus­tice and as a sym­bolic recog­ni­tion of their strug­gle,” she said.

Con­se­quently, Grange said the ad­min­is­tra­tion ac­knowl­edged that a statu­tory par­don/ex­punge­ment, which orig­i­nates in Par­lia­ment’s “supreme” leg­isla­tive power, is re­quired to “to­tally ab­solve them of any crim­i­nal wrong­do­ing”, in keep­ing with Sec­tion 90 of the Con­sti­tu­tion.

“A statu­tory par­don would have the ef­fect of say­ing that our Na­tional He­roes did not com­mit any crim­i­nal of­fence, as the acts can­not be con­strued as crim­i­nal in the first place,” the Min­is­ter ex­plained.

Grange ar­gued that in light of global lob­bies to ex­punge Gar­vey’s crim­i­nal record in the United States, in par­tic­u­lar, Ja­maica had an op­por­tu­nity to make a “de­fin­i­tive state­ment” to the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity by pass­ing the pro­posed Bill.

“When this leg­is­la­tion is tabled in Par­lia­ment, gen­er­a­tions to come will look back on that act as a defin­ing mo­ment,” she said.

An on­line pe­ti­tion that opened on Au­gust 29 to get US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama to par­don Gar­vey of his mail fraud con­vic­tion on the ba­sis of wrong­ful con­vic­tion, failed late last month af­ter it could not at­tract the re­quired 100,000 sig­na­tures to get a re­sponse from the White House.

By the time it closed on Septem­ber 28, it had only re­ceived 26,115 sig­na­tures.

Gar­vey, a pro­po­nent of the Black Na­tion­al­ism and Pan-African­ism move­ments, founded the Univer­sal Ne­gro Im­prove­ment As­so­ci­a­tion (UNIA) in Ja­maica in 1914 and then moved two years later to New York where the or­ga­ni­za­tion thrived. He spoke across the US and urged African-Amer­i­cans to be proud of their race and re­turn to Africa, their an­ces­tral home­land.

To fa­cil­i­tate that re­turn to Africa, Gar­vey founded the Black Star Line in 1919, to pro­vide trans­porta­tion to Africa, and the Ne­gro Fac­to­ries Cor­po­ra­tion to en­cour­age black eco­nomic in­de­pen­dence. Three years later, he was ar­rested for mail fraud in con­nec­tion with the sale of stock in the Black Star Line, which had by then failed.

Gar­vey’s re­mains were brought back to Ja­maica and he was named Ja­maica’s first na­tional hero af­ter be­ing posthu­mously con­ferred with the Or­der of the Na­tional Hero in 1969 at the in­sis­tence of Ed­ward Seaga, who was then min­is­ter of fi­nance in Prime Min­is­ter Hugh Shearer’s Cabi­net.

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