Jamaica at 55 : Former sugar workers not feeling Independence

July 31, 2017
Edna Daley, a former sugar worker in Duckensfield in St Thomas.
Samuel Coulson in Duckensfield in St Thomas.
Sugar workers' barracks in Duckensfield in St Thomas.

As the country makes the final preparations for the 55th celebration of Jamaica's independence from the British Empire, the old sugar workers from eastern St Thomas are finding it rather difficult to join in the festivities.

Their survival has been so dependent, as it has been before August 6, 1962, on the sugar plantation, which, in recent vintage, has been showing signs of not being able to bear the brunt of their burdens.

With unemployment rampant in this section of one of Jamaica's most impoverished parishes, some residents feel Jamaica would be far better off if economic independence carried with it economic development.

Edna Daley, a 75-year-old blind woman, said the folding of key plantations in the area has caused much pain.

In 2015, Seprod Limited outsourced the farming operations of its Golden Grove Sugar Company, leaving hundreds out of work. This followed a mass redundancy in 2009. But before, in the 1960s, the sugar plantation, Jamaica Sugar at the time, provided work for people in the area.

"In those days things were a little easier. I started working there when I was 17 in the fields, and yuh could get a little money to buy your food," Daley said from her verandah in the barracks in Duckenfield.




"In those days, you just go to them and seh, 'Mi a beg you likkle work', and dem seh, 'Which day you can come?' and you start work."

"Now, if you a wait on them to get work, you might dead for hungry."

Her next door neighbour, Samuel Coulson, agreed.

"When you check it, things were far easier dem time deh. Now, workers a go all them bed without food and dem sumn deh, and dem a work."

He said he thought Independence for Jamaica would have brought more work to the area.

"We had Eastern Banana in the 1990s and a lot of people used to benefit from that, 'cause people were able to buy bed and televisions and some basic things that they couldn't normally afford ," Coulson said. "But from them gone, everything get backward."

Coulson, who was made redundant in 2009, said he sells bag juice now to keep himself afloat.

"Right now, I am not getting a pension, so a di few shillings mi get from selling bag juice mek mi nuh six feet under right now," Coulson said.

Though not old enough at the time to grasp what life was like before Jamaica gained independence, her neighbour, Lambert Gordon, believes he and the people of eastern St Thomas would be far more advanced if Jamaica were still under British rule.

"Mi believe dem woulda probably mek we get a all year round job 'cause this seasonal, and when crop done, most of us sit down," the 53-year-old said.

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