Michael Manley

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The Rt. Hon. Michael Manley
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First Term:1972 to 1980
Second Term:1989 to 1992
Predecessor:Hugh Shearer
Successors:Edward Seaga, Percival Patterson
Date of Birth:December 10, 1924
Place of Birth:Jamaica
Political Party:People's National Party

Michael Norman Manley (December 10, 1924March 6, 1997) was the fifth Prime Minister of Jamaica (1972 - 1980, 1989 - 1992).

Son of Prime Minister Norman Manley, Michael inherited the leadership of the Jamacian People's National Party upon his father's death in 1969.

Manley soundly beat the unpopular incumbent Prime Minister Hugh Shearer in the election of 1972 after running on a platform of promising to curb Jamaica's worsening poverty situtation.

An ardent socialist, Manley instituted a series of harsh economic reforms that yielded mixed success. Though he was a light-skinned Jamaican from an elite family, he was able to maintain a close relationship with the country's black majority, and projected a public image of being a casual, friendly leader. Unlike his father, who had a reputation for being uptight and businesslike, the younger Manley rarely wore suits, and often mingled with the people.

Manley was also a close friend of Cuban leader Fidel Castro, and helped improve relations between the two island nations.

Manley was also one of the leaders who helped create Jamaica's infamous political culture of violence. To ensure public support and electoral success, Manley's People's National Party (PNP) actively supported and funded many of Jamaica's vicious street gangs. Manley was not alone in these actions however, and Jamaica's other party, the Jamaican Labour Party (the street gangs of whom at one point shot reggae star Bob Marley during a bout of political violence after Marley performed at a pro-Manley concert), under the leadership of Edward Seaga was also an active participant in the move to politicize Jamaican street violence. The violent political culture, however, was not their invention. It had its roots in conflicts between the parties as early as the 1940s. It cannot be denied, nonetheless, that Manley and Seaga did a great deal to exacerbate it.

The inevitable result of these actions came in the 1980 elections. Rival gangs armed by the two parties fought viciously to ensure victory for their respective political masters. As a result, the elections were extremely corrupt, with widespread voter intimidation, riots, and gunplay. Around 800 Jamaicans were killed in the chaos.

Edward Seaga emerged the victor and became Jamaica's next Prime Minister. As Leader of the Opposition Manley became an outspoken critic of the new conservative administration, especially Seaga's warm relationship with American President Ronald Reagan. After Seaga committed Jamaican troops to Reagan's invasion of Grenada in 1983, he called a snap election two years early. Manley led his party in a boycott of the elections, and the Jamaica Labour Party won all seats in parliament against only marginal opposition in six of the sixty electoral constituencies.

During his period of opposition in the 1980s, Manley travelled extensively, speaking to audiences around the world. He taught a graduate seminar, and gave a series of public lectures, at Columbia University in New York.

In 1986 Manley travelled to Britain and visited Birmingham. He attended a number of venues including the Afro Caribbean Resource Centre in Winson Green and Digbeth Civic Hall, the mainly-black audiences turned out en masse to hear Manley speak. Throughout his stay in Birmingham, photographer Pogus Caesar documented Manley's visit and took dozens of images, many of which have never been published.

By 1989 Manley had softened his hard-line socialist rhetoric, explictly advocating a role for private enterprise, and in the election of that year he campaigned on a more moderate platform. Seaga's administration had fallen out of favor, and the PNP was soundly re-elected.

Manley's second term was short and largely uneventful. In 1992, citing health reasons he stepped down as Prime Minister and PNP leader. His Deputy Prime Minister, Percival Patterson, assumed both offices.

Manley also wrote seven books, including the award-winning A History of West Indies Cricket, in which he discussed the links between cricket and West Indian nationalism.

Michael Manley died on March 6, 1997, the same day as another controversial Caribbean socialist, Cheddi Jagan of Guyana.

Preceded by:
Hugh Shearer
Prime Minister of Jamaica
Succeeded by:
Edward Seaga
Preceded by:
Edward Seaga
Prime Minister of Jamaica
Succeeded by:
Percival Patterson

Template:End box References: Pogus Caesar. Photographs of Michael Manley 1986 Birmingham, United Kingdom. http://www.oomgallery.net


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