Posts Tagged ‘Jamaican Prime Minister Manley’

In my memoir, A Jamaican’s Journey to Time and Patience, I reflect on my personal odyssey to discover and fulfill God’s call in my life, heal family wounds, and share Christ’s message of redeeming grace and love. Set against the historical background of 470 years of Spanish and British rule (1492-1962) over Jamaica, the memoir portrays my family whose African, Chinese, and European roots merged in Jamaica during the 1800s, then scattered across the globe in the 1900s. This post is second in a series that will reflect on my Jamaican heritage and how it has shaped my Christian journey.


In 1961 when I was dating my high school sweetheart and future wife, Joetta Chung, I visited her when she spent a week with her aunt, Thelma Manley, the ex-wife of Michael Manley who became the fourth prime minister of Jamaica in 1972.

At one point during the day, Joetta and I were alone in the living room when Thelma’s four-year-old son, Joseph, came in the room and caught us kissing. He looked at us intently for a few seconds, then said, “You biting her? Bite her again.” Joetta and I cracked up laughing.

That evening, Michael and Thelma took Joetta and me to dinner. Michael drove us outside the Kingston limits to the small community of Ferry where we dined at the Ye Olde Ferry Inn.

They seemed to take pleasure in entertaining us in conversation, stories, and questions, probably seeing us as two innocent, starry-eyed young lovers. I found Michael to be charming, charismatic, and very much interested in learning about me—my travels, experience living in Hong Kong, recent conversion to Jesus Christ, and my growing interest in studying for the Christian ministry.

And it was a pleasure for me to meet and dine with Michael, the son of Jamaica’s national hero Norman Manley who served as the island’s chief minister from 1955 to 1959, as premier from 1959 to 1962, and who was instrumental in helping Jamaica achieve independence from Britain.

Michael also would go on to twice serve as prime minister of Jamaica from March 2, 1972 to November 1, 1980, and from February 10, 1989 to March 30, 1992.

Since leaving Jamaica in 1969, I’ve followed the course of the Jamaican nation through various highs and lows. And although I have become a naturalized U.S. citizen holding dual Jamaican and U.S. citizenship, I follow the history and courses of both nations, especially in how each nation chooses its leaders.

In a year in which Jamaica elected its first female prime minister and celebrates its fiftieth anniversary, and U.S. is about to go to the polls to decide whether to reelect its first black president or elect its first Mormon president, my thoughts turn to what the Bible has to say about the qualities of a good leader, especially one who leads a nation.

A good leader:

•     Focuses on obeying God more than achieving results at any cost, and sees beyond temporary setbacks and reversals—Exodus 6:9-12

•     Involves others in leadership, and leads by delegating responsibilities—Deuteronomy 1:9-13; I Chronicles 13:1

•     Possesses the inner qualities of wisdom, understanding, and experience; is fair to the lowly and the great alike, never favoring those who are rich—Deuteronomy 1:13-18

•     Takes responsibilities when wrong—I Chronicles 21:8

•     Does not sacrifice the spiritual wellbeing of his or her children in order to serve the people—I King 1:6

•     Puts the best interest and welfare of the people above his or her own personal ambitions—I Kings 12:15-19

•     Leads and serves by example—Nehemiah 3:1

•     Chooses associates who have integrity and reverence—Nehemiah 7:2

•     Is accountable in how she or he leads, especially in dealing with the poor—Isaiah 3:14

•     Is a true servant to others, and is not above any job—Matthew 20:27; Luke 22:24-27

•     Is well-respected, wise, spiritually mature, filled with the Holy Spirit—Acts 6:3

•     Works hard—Proverbs 12:24

•     Doesn’t penalize people for having integrity—Proverbs 17:26

•     Listens before answering—Proverbs 18:13

•     Is open to new ideas—Proverbs 18:15

•     Listens to both sides of an issue—Proverbs 18:17

•     Stands up under pressure—Proverbs 24:10

•     Stands up under praise—Proverbs 27:21

As leaders—whether of a household, community, job, corporation, local government, or of a nation—these are the qualities that God requires of us.

I don’t know how many of these qualities Michael Manley possessed. Those who were closest to him would be better judges. And, certainly, God is the ultimate judge. Michael was loved by many, hated by others. He brought in many positive reforms in the island, and he had some failures, most notably his experiment is democratic socialism.

But I believe that the following video clips will give you an insight into the kind of man, leader, husband, and father that he was. I hope that you’ll take the time to watch these clips and learn about him and Jamaica under his leadership.

Blood and Fire: Jamaica Political History, Part 1 of 4

Blood and Fire: Jamaica Political History, Part 2 of 4

Blood and Fire: Jamaica Political History, Part 3 of 4

Blood and Fire: Jamaica Political History, Part 4 of 4

Daughter, Rachel Manley, reflects on her last days with her father.

Click here for a 1977 in-depth interview with Michael Manley on his visit to New York City.

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