IN PURSUIT OF OUR HON. JAMES ALEXANDER GEORGE SMITH MCCARTNEY’S LEGACY; – WHO WILL CARRY THE BATON? IS IT YOU?
In recognition of the upcoming National Hero’s Day on May 28,2018, this week my article is about the legacy of our only named national hero – the late Hon. JAGS McCartney.
Thanks to all of the family members, close friends and Dr. Carl Mills’ commentary that provided with me such invaluable information. I know there is so much more and so in the words of a friend of mine, TCIG or an organization should commission and document a detailed study on the life of Hon. JAGS McCartney.
The late Hon. JAGS McCartney was born on the island of Grand Turk on June 30, 1945 to Sally Taylor McCartney and Harvey McCartney, a barrister from Jamaica. JAGS was the founder of the People’s Democratic Movement (PDM) and became our first Chief Minister in 1976 at the age of 31. Unfortunately, on May 9, 1980, he died in a plane crash over New Jersey leaving behind his wife Dorothy and very young children(4, 3 and 2 years old). However, he also left an incredible legacy like no other.
This article will summarize his legacy in four categories namely, Justice (J), Altruistic (A), Getting Things Done (G) and Sacrifice (S)
JAGS was not afraid as he was a bold man advocating equal rights for the people of TCI. He not only spoke about the injustices against Turks and Caicos Islanders but he also took action to ensure that the injustices were addressed.
For instance, the TCI had three military bases, two navy bases in Grand Turk and one coast guard base in South Caicos. However, TCIG was not getting paid directly for this but rather the UK was being paid for this. JAGS fought to ensure that the monies were paid directly to TCIG and consequently TCIG received an annual amount of $1.2million dollars from the USA.
JAGS along with others ensure that the workers for the Public Works Dept. in Salt Cay got the same pay as the workers in Grand Turk. In Salt Cay, they were getting$5.25 a day but after becoming the Chief Minister, his government increased the rate to$9 a day to be on par with the workers in Grand Turk.
JAGS fought for the rights of a lady in South Caicos who almost lost her home to her employer due to her indebtedness to the employer. JAGS met with the employer and demanded that the matter be dealt with differently and in the end the lady was able to retain her home.
In the early years, a common phrase was used “back of the buoy” representing a separation between the Turks Islands and the Caicos Islands. Because of connotations and stigma associated with the statement,JAGS along with others remove the buoy.
JAGS was altruistic in that he always put others ahead of him. He was close with everyone in TCI and because of this, his decisions were based on what was best for TCI and not on the political persuasion of individuals. He did not go into politics to enrich himself. This was evident by the fact that he did not accept salary for a while in his early tenure as Chief Minister but allowed the money to remain in treasury to be used for other purposes.
GETTING THINGS DONE
JAGS got things done and this is one great quality of a leader. Before JAGS became the chief minister, all of the departments in Government were headed by Englishmen. By the time JAGS’ term was over, most of the departments were headed by locals.This was achieved by his government identifying the areas of need and in turn provided scholarships to TCIslanders (no matter who they were) so that when they return home they can occupied the top positions in the TCI.
Under the PDM government, JAGS was in the negotiation process with the United Kingdom to make Turks and Caicos an independent country by June 1982. In fact,The UK and the TCIG had already agreed a settlement amount. He didn’t just talk the talk, he walked the talk.
JAGS and his government also made a huge effort to ensure that TCI got a quality international airline which was South East Airlines carrying 70 passengers with a duration of 2 hours between Florida and TCI which was a significant improvement over the previous airline, Mackey Airline that only had 44 seats and took 4 hours.
JAGS sacrificed his family time working countless hours to ensure that there was a better Turks and Caicos Islands.He also sacrificed his family belongings (money, food, clothing and whatever he had) so that others who were in a less fortunate position were able to get help. JAGS took many risks to help the Turks and Caicos Islands including standing as a surety for many.
JAGS was truly one of a kind. He challenged governors and the status quo. He empowered our people. He was sincere and never lost touch with the electorate. He listened to the concerns of the people and even allowed them to present ideas to him. He strived to achieve the promises he made to the people of TCI. JAGS was able to achieve a lot for the people of TCI even before he became the Chief Minister. JAGS was also a negotiator and had a positive impact on people. Who will be bold enough to continue with his legacy and carry the Baton? I believed some individuals subsequent to JAGS carried the baton but they dropped the baton due to either selfish gains, greed, lack of vision, no focus, or partisan politics. However, I know that there are other individuals (known and unknown) in TCI that have the capability of carrying the baton to the finish line without dropping it. Is it You?