Alexander Clarke in the parish of Westmoreland, he took the name
Bustamante from an Iberian sea captain who befriended him in his
early life. After acquiring some wealth on the American stock
exchange, he returned to Jamaica in 1932 and in 1938 lead the
resistance to the colonial government.
Bustamante began to make his presence felt in Jamaica, the country
was still a crown colony. Under this system, the Governor had,
at all times, the right to veto, which he very often exercised
against the wishes of the majority.
was quick to realize that the social and economic ills that such
a system engendered had to be countered by mobilization of the
and working conditions were poor in the 1920's and 1930's. Failing
harvests and the lay-off of workers resulted in an influx of unemployed
from the countryside into the city. This mass migration did little
to alleviate the already tremendous unemployment problem.
first impressed his name on the society by a series of letters
to Jamaica’s newspaper, the Gleaner and occasionally to
British newspapers calling attention to the social and economic
problems of the poor and underprivileged in Jamaica.
years 1937 and 1938 brought the outbreak of widespread discontent
and social unrest. In advocating the cause of the masses, Bustamante
became the undisputed champion of the working class. He also confronted
the power of the colonial Governor, declaring, "Long live
the King! But Denham must go."
the troublous days of 1938 the security forces were everywhere
eyeball to eyeball with Bustamante and the workers. Labour unrest
continued on and off.
September 8, 1940, Bustamante was detained at Up Park Camp for
alleged violation of the Defense of the Realm Act. He was released
seventeen month he later.
his release, he formed the Bustamante Industrial Trade Union and
the Jamaica Labour Party in 1943. He was the first Premier of
Jamaica (1944-1954) and Prime Minister at independence in 1962.
first general election under Universal Adult Suffrage came in
1944 and the JLP won 22 of the 32 seats.
Bustamante was an aggressive, outspoken young man who understood
the dynamics of labor relations. A charismatic and impressive
speaker who criticized the prevailing political system and its
attendant social problems.
is Jamaica’s first Chief Minister, a position he held until
1954, being knighted that same year by the queen.
August 6, 1962 Jamaica was granted full independence. At the first
session of Parliament, Bustamante received the Instruments of
Independence from the queen’s representative, Princess Margaret.
1962 Sir Alexander Bustamante became Jamaica’s first Prime
retired from active politics in 1967. He died on August 6, 1977
at the age of 93.
time in Jamaica’s history drastic changes were heralded,
not by bloodshed but by peaceful negotiations.