MARCUS Mosiah Garvey’s lingering criminal record appeared to be one of the reasons Jamaica’s National Heroes were not directly recognised by United States President Barack Obama on his recent visit to Jamaica, the Jamaica Observer understands.
In his last official event, Obama, who visited Jamaica between April 8 and 9, laid a wreath at the shrine of Jamaican victims of World Wars I and II, and recognised two surviving ex-servicemen at National Heroes Park.
But information reaching the Sunday Observer is that the initial plan was for Obama to hail the memory of Jamaica’s six National Heroes and one Heroine with a floral arrangement.
However, the long-standing history of Garvey’s criminal record surfaced and in order to save the Obama administration from the embarrassment of honouring a convicted man, the switch was made to those who fell in the brutal wars.
The Jamaica Government has been vocal in seeking to get Garvey’s record expunged, but there appears to be little urgency on the part of the US, although an aide to Obama during talks with Jamaica’s Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller and seven of her Cabinet ministers, said the US would “look into” the matter.
Under US law, Obama does not have the power, nor authority, to expunge criminal records of individuals or even grant clemency for crimes committed under State law.
He can grant a pardon, but a pardon would not work in Garvey’s case, as he would have had to be alive, admit that he did something wrong, then apply to the US President for that pardon.
The US Supreme Court handles the expunging of records, based upon applications filed.
After a trial that was seen as biased and flawed, Garvey was convicted of mail fraud in the USA in 1923, and sentenced to five years in prison. He began his sentence on February 8, 1925 in the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary, after failing in his efforts to have the matter dismissed on appeal two years after the trial ended.
Interestingly, the last of the 61 persons to be pardoned by Obama so far was Miles Thomas Wilson of Ohio, in December 2013. He was given three years’ probation for mail fraud on July 15, 1981.
Garvey, Jamaica’s first National Hero, was a publisher, journalist and Pan-Africanist.
The St Ann-born Garvey died in London on June 10, 1940, at the age of 52.