September 18, 2020 | By Colin O Jarrett |
Former Cabinet Minister and General Secretary of the People’s National Party, PNP, Jamaica Dr Donald Keith (DK) Duncan died on Thursday September 17, 2020 at the University Hospital of the West Indies, Jamaica.
The 80-year-old Dentist was recovering in hospital after being admitted last month after testing positive for COVID-19.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness acknowledged Duncan’s stature in Jamaican politics, underscoring that he was a force to be reckoned with. He said Dr Duncan was a passionate man who played a key role in shaping the politics of Jamaica during his time.
Former Prime Minister P.J. Patterson hailed his late Comrade whose contributions to the PNP he described as “substantial and legendary”.
“His commitment to political and social change through service is the hallmark of his long and impactful political career. His unyielding commitment was to the upliftment of the masses, to elevate and inspire Jamaica’s underprivileged and marginalised people with whom he had an abiding affinity,” Patterson said in a statement on Thursday evening.
Dr Duncan, who was a dentist in Brown’s Town for many years, was the PNP Campaign Manager for St Ann North Western constituency local government elections. He later served as Campaign Manager in the general elections of 1967 and 1972.
As a graduate of the prestigious McGill University in Canada, Dr Duncan had been among a group of bright, driven radicals of that era who wanted to transform Jamaica through socialism to serve the masses, the majority of whom were black and underprivileged. The political party was the vehicle to accomplish the mission in a fiercely ideological era where the forces of communism and capitalism converged.
Duncan gained an enviable reputation for being a political strategist and executioner and is credited with helping to develop the PNP’s electioneering strategy that propelled Michael Manley into power in 1972. He was appointed Minister of National Mobilization and Human Resource in 1977.
One of Jamaica’s radical and influential politicians represented the constituencies of St Andrew East Central between 1976 and 1980 and Hanover Eastern between 2007 and 2016.
“He was very analytical. He was one of the first persons to use scientific data. He would try and get information from the ground to know what was going on in order to plan. In other words, he didn’t start planning from his head,” Paul Burke, former PNP general secretary, said on Thursday.
Duncan succeeded Ken Chin-Onn as PNP general secretary in 1974. It was a post he held until 1981, shortly after the PNP lost the 1980 election in a landslide victory.
Burke described the defeat of the PNP in 1980 when Duncan was general secretary of the party as an “electoral defeat as well as a military defeat”.
In the 1990s, Duncan and Golding forged the New Beginning Movement, which then blossomed into the National Democratic Movement.
Burke contends that Duncan left the PNP because it had veered too much to the centre of political ideology.
“He wanted good for Jamaica, and he felt that somehow, elements inside the PNP and JLP who were disenchanted could come together in the NDM, could come together and create a new and different society,” Mr Burke said.
Duncan’s family, many of whose careers span politics and businesses, described the late political stalwart as a “deeply caring” man who “lived with a generosity of heart”.
The family, including JMMB execs Donna Duncan and Keith Duncan, said: “DK, husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, brother, uncle, and our bona fide friend was a giant for us. He had a special relationship with his four brothers.”
He leaves behind wife Dr Beverley Manley-Duncan, Children Imani Duncan-Price, Patricia Duncan-Sutherland, Keith Duncan, head of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica, Donna Duncan-Scott, Dr Josina Duncan and David Duncan, relatives and a host of friends locally, globally and internationally.
May his soul rest in peace.
Contributed by HE Prof Colin O Jarrett