April 3, 2009
That lizard story from yesterday really bothered me. See the letter I penned below.
P.S. Here is the published version of the letter.
What is joke to you is death to me. I suppose this might be what the lizard would think, if we were able to deduce the animal’s state of mind while it was under direct attack: by stones, slingshots, and physical pursuit.
I read Robert Lalah’s article with a feeling of bemusement and sadness, much like my response to the episode with the snake on the wharf several months ago. In this case, we have several adult men who have set aside whatever it was that they were doing to single-mindedly search out and attempt to destroy a creature that they share a habitat with.
And many will greet this account as a joke – the hijinks of groups of men – while upholding the core aspect of story – that they were entirely right to be trying to kill this creature.
The fact of the matter is, this kind of irrational fear of reptiles is cultivated and reproduced in our society in ways that are disastrous for everyone. Our educational and cultural institutions have done absolutely nothing to dispel these ridiculous ideas of reptiles as “nasty” and fearsome creatures. And so children – and as we see – adults have come to learn that it is entirely acceptable to engage in killing sprees of snakes, alligators, snails, lizards, frogs, etc.
That a lizard of that size exists in that particular place is a good thing, and tells us something about what it takes to sustain populations of indigenous wildlife. Persons interested in preservation of wildlife habitats in Jamaica should immediately follow up on this story. The irony of course, is that people do come to Jamaica all the time to study these creatures, and end up creating knowledge that we didn’t even know was in our backyard, because we have been so busy ridiculing and exterminating them.
We have yet to learn and internalize that all of these creatures are essential to managing our environment. They eat the mosquitoes, flies, and other pests that would otherwise feed on us and on the plant life that we treasure. The absence of these creatures actually makes our lives more unpleasant. I came to this understanding in a really visceral way by experiencing the garden of someone who lives in Kingston, and who takes great pains to collect lizards from all over the country. Why? Because their active presence around means that he doesn’t have to use pesticides on his plants or to deter mosquitoes away from his guests. The evidence is in the lushness and comfort of his garden, which is admired – lizards and all – and envied by all who visit.
But these men did not know these things, and come across in this story as ignorant buffoons or cruel, childish pranksters. I also suspect that Robert Lalah did not share any alternative perspective with them.
When I consider how much effort we put into destroying what we don’t understand – whether its people or lizards – I do wonder how much longer we can sustain these levels of ignorance and mistreatment, before we begin to see empathy, fairness and valuing our natural environment as endangered traits. We can and should turn this around. And we can start with leaving the lizards alone.
February 11, 2009
I have been in conversation with a friend about this Falmouth wharf issue for a couple weeks now. So when I heard and saw the reportage today, I fired off another outraged letter to the editor (btw, that’s getting to be a bad habit, but I will deal with that later).
P.S. As always the joke is on us. While people in Trelawny vex because the Parish Council stopped work on the demolition – albeit temporarily – Royal Caribbean is already advertising Falmouth, and on terms that Jamaicans are not even familiar with. If you don’t believe me, check out this website. The inimitable John Maxwell sounded off on this issue back in December 2008, but I missed it for some reason.
What bemuses me though is that while all the flaws in this project are an environmental activist’s nightmare (and dream for the sheer number of ways to expose and shame the various parties), our local advocates don’t seem to know what to do with themselves. Apparently they haven’t figured out that bureaucratic structures are the friends of developers and politicians, and that activists must develop their own ways of speaking and making their views heard. I think I need to write another post on this.
In my mind, the decision to turn the wharf into a cruise ship port was never conducted in the interests of Jamaican people. Rather, it has been orchestrated as a deal between governmental officials and the private cruise ship company Royal Caribbean. There is no evidence to suggest that the plan, as currently constituted and which has not been properly disclosed to the Jamaican people, will do anything more than fill the coffers of Royal Caribbean and the Port Authority. Furthermore, it is entirely disingenuous and insulting for local politicians to now tell ordinary Jamaicans that this plan is for really for our own good. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
Well before the Golding administration took the helm of government, the physical landscape of this country was being parceled and sold to whoever wanted to pay, regardless of the consequences for those of us who continue to live here. And we the citizens never even bothered to ask how much the land was sold for, who received that money, and what the government planned to do with it. Just like now, there is not a single word uttered about where the money from the sale of the Falmouth wharf has gone, and why it was not directly invested back into Trelawny.
Despite what many ordinary Jamaicans may want to think, our governmental agencies do not act in the public interest. Rather, the individuals that run these agencies and broker the various deals are more interested in moving hell and highwater to make way for private capital and big money, whether the sources are foreign or local, even if it means sacrificing our present and the future of the nation. They use the language of “development” and the promise of “jobs” to lure us into believing that they are working in the best interests of poor and working-class people for whom job are scarce, and the difference between eating and starvation, between educating our children and killing our future. And the only way the needy ones are supposed to respond when the powers-that-be use these words, especially in difficult times like now, is to say “yes”, either enthusiastically or through our silence as we swallow our spit and our pride.
For them, “development” means new buildings that were created based on large contracts with foreign companies. But that kind of “development” does not educate our children, make our lives safer or protect our natural environment. In fact, it does the opposite.
Indeed, what has the cheerleading of politicians, government officials and our confused silence bought us so far? Certainly not the whole heap of jobs and properity that were promised in Westmoreland, St. Ann, St. James and wherever else coastal property has been sold to foreigners to do whatever they want to do. No, what the more ordinary among us got was more of what we already had: exploitative work conditions that turn us into modern-day slaves, complete with injuries and lost lives. When the paltry jobs are created, they are only for men, pay a pittance and dry up as soon as the projects end. And when the projects end, we have more sewage problems, more substandard housing, poor living conditions as we poured into the towns and set up shop to get access to the jobs and better life that we were promised were coming but never materialized; more crowded schools, more crime, more violence and social disorder as we all clamour to eke out some sort of living at the edges of civility, none of which are extended to us.
This is what we get when “development” happens in Jamaica these days, even as we hear the news reportage of government-paid engineers who “miscalculated” measurements so that the school that was to be cannot materialize; where well-paid government-paid officials refuse to do their jobs to come up with tangible plans that rid our communities of all the trash and toxic waste that is making us sick and tired. And yet, the politicians in Trelawny seem happy, ecstatic even, to sign off on yet another such “development” project, as is slated to happen in Falmouth. One has to ask the question: if we know that the people of Trelawny are not going to get much out of this grand plan, what are THEY expecting to receive that makes them so happy?
The level of slackness in the Falmouth project lies primarily in the secrecy and the lack of disclosure to the public. Remember how we have constantly been worked into a lather by our various ministers of tourism who tell us that if we don’t accept the exploitation of our land and our dignity by doing everything at all costs to get tourists to come to Jamaica, then we might as well lock up shop economically? When the news reportage hailing Jamaica as the newest intended destination for Royal Caribbean’s “Genesis” class (note the religious metaphor), few (including media persons) asked about what it would take to be one of a handful of ports that would accommodate one of the largest cruise ships ever created. We are expected to just be happy that we are to be made special, but the cost of that specialness is lost on many.
For one thing, this very cruise ship company, Royal Caribbean, has been found to be a lethal weapon when it comes to turning beautiful seas into toxic soups, by dumping sewage and waste and floating away before they are caught. So, how do we explain why NEPA, the very governmental agency which is charged with being steward of the physical landscape and to act in the name of “sustainable development”, has actually consented for the removal of the coral reefs in and around the wharf areas in order for the famed cruise ship to be able to dock? Apparently, they have an idea to put the destroyed reefs somewhere else to grow.
Furthermore, without presenting any credible evidence, NEPA has convinced the Port Authority, the Trelawny Parish Council and other politicians that “the environment” will be fine and all is well without actually doing any of the research that they need to do. So sure are they of the validity of the proposed plan, as well as of their power and control over the fate and future of the people of Falmouth, that the agency has not even bothered to do the necessary paperwork that are a matter of law and due diligence. The Jamaica National Heritage Trust, another entity which is supposed to be the guardian of public history, and has some jurisdiction over the existing buildings and property of the wharf area, has not even given formal approval on the demolition of the buildings. So buildings are being knocked down before everyone involved knows whether this is a good idea or not.
Here, we have the leadership of a governmental agency who are given the responsibility of making informed and ethical decisions about how the physical landscape is to be used, and yet they have consistently ignored scientific research and points of view that contradicted what they set out to do. Now, when 90% of our existing coral reefs are already dead and dying as a direct result of the lack of governmental planning, knowledge and oversight regarding waste disposal, the construction and operation of all those mega-hotels on the north coast, and the lasting and negative effects of cruise ships, can anyone say with any confidence that they believe governmental agencies like NEPA have the credibility or ability to prevent Falmouth from becoming another Montego Bay or Ocho Rios?
The decision about turning Falmouth wharf into a Jamaican-style Disneyland by destroying the landscape, polluting the coastline and by turning ordinary Jamaicans into happy slaves, should completely turn our stomachs and enrage the people of Jamaica. That we have been so consistently misinformed by governmental bodies when it comes to decisions about how “development” will take place certainly tells me one thing: that the folks who engineered this grand plan for Falmouth know nothing about the kind of “development” that is essential in this part of the country. The Falmouth plan does not come close to promoting the social and economic development of the area that the politicians want to claim. Long after the architects of the deal have all been paid, received promotions and gone on greener pastures, and the paltry jobs have dried up, the people of Trelawny will still be asking for fair and living wages, decent schools, good roads, running water, proper sanitation, clean unpolluted waters from which people can make a livelihood, and open access to a beach to spend time with their families. That’s the kind of development that we need and deserve.
October 30, 2008
What happens when one overlooks the “details” involved in one’s work, like, I don’t know, noticing that the ground below the scheduled construction site is actually hollow and replete with caves, rendering any building constructed there useless and dangerous. You know, small details like that.
Well, first, your identity will be protected – we still don’t know who the surveyor was because the esteemed Observer chose not to report this information. People will excuse rather than condemn your behaviour, and if you work your networks sufficiently, you might actually get to walk away scot-free. Maybe.
A most-embarassed Bruce Golding who was part of the committee overseeing the construction of new school facilities in St. Ann, “admitted that the consultants employed to the project had fallen down.” Fallen down. Now that is an interesting choice of words.
Golding continues: “The consultants we employed, I must confess, didn’t do a good job so they did not identify the caves that were there, also the geotech survey only indicated rocks, they did not indicate that we had these caves.” Didn’t do a good job. Hmmm. Is that all now? Why does this stink of nepotism and some backdoor deal gone bad? Ah one o’ im fren dem sheg up di project so? I’m roundly suspicious. We await more news on the topic.
Then we find out that “there was no penalty clause in the consultant’s contract for matters of this nature.” In other words, the assumption is that there is no recourse for when so-called experts fail to do their jobs properly and jeapardize people’s lives with their inept behaviour.
Golding plans to sell the land to someone else; I wonder if they will bother to disclose the caves to potential buyers? Apparently, when the government was buying the land, the seller did not disclose this information, and the buyers clearly didn’t pay attention to broader geographic/geological knowledge that suggests that the existence of caves is a distinct possibility. So, someone sold govament useless land. Why am I not surprised? Wasn’t there a recent problem with some illegal arms trader selling guns to the ministry of national security just recently? Hmmm. What we have here – a bunch of not so smart folks making decisions that end up wasting taxpayers’ money? Now they plan to pass it on. But, Ii you can’t put up a school building on the land, then you damn sure can’t put any other building on it. Although, one could explore whether there was a way to incorporate the cave structures into whatever physical building was being constructed on the land. Now there’s an idea!
Meanwhile, whoever did such a shoddy job of surveying and approving the building of the school should lose their license to practice in Jamaica and banned from any professional association. They should also be sued for the cost of the partial construction, as well as the cost of creating a new project, including the acquisition of new land. That ought to teach them fi ‘top treat govament money like is freeness. That’s my pipe dream anyway.
P.S. Just so you don’t think is only we do dem sort a foolishness ya. Check out what happened in Barbados.
August 13, 2008
Of course, the bridge, like everything else here, is already politicized. JLP will want to take credit for building it and finishing ahead of schedule to score points with the masses. But once something goes wrong, PNP will get the blame, some of it rightly attributed, for their share of the sheggery that went down in the awarding of public contracts.
The company contracted to do the work is a Danish group, Pihl and Sons. Their specialty is in marine and waterfront construction. They have built bridges, but, from what I see, the quality of what they have done elsewhere is not reflected in what has been produced here in Jamaica. I have a sneaking suspicion that they were only contracted to build the bridge structure, not to deal with the other environmental and structural issues related to maintaining the bridge. So, is this bridge going to be yet another stick house built in quicksand?
Apparently, Mike Henry (Minister of Transport and Works) is also appropriately concerned that the bridge’s span across the ravine that runs from the foothills of the Blue Mountains towards the coast is insufficient. And I bet he is not the only one who is suspicious. But, according to the Observer, “[h]e was also assured by project manager at the National Works Agency, Linval Ramdial, that with proper river training, water should not be able to wash out the structure. This river training, Henry later said, was ongoing work which should continue into the next couple of months.”
Hmm. “With proper river training”; “ongoing work should continue.” Do we see where this is headed?
Wasn’t that work supposed to be integrated into the design and construction of the bridge? Have you ever seen this area before and during construction? If you have, then you will recognize that that expansive ravine is NOT simply a river; it is an organic waterway. It widens and deepens based on the force of the water pouring down out of those hills. We have seen the results of such movement recently.
And yet, to date and even with the new bridge being heralded, there is no engineering intervention in place to manage that waterway.
I see a picture of the bridge. In none of the media commentary has anyone – engineers, politicians, geographers, nobody – bothered to say HOW this bridge design will be different in order to accommodate the stressful conditions it will be subjected to – not just water but the ongoing parade of trucks! As usual, the tittilation has been all about building the bridge, drooling over the hefty pieces of steel, as if we watching pornography or is some ki’n a neva-see-come-see.
Not a word about quality.
Not a word about sustainability and how/whether bridge use will be amended to prolong its lifetime.
Not a word about why this project has been so difficult to accomplish properly.
Not one word.
We are supposed to just sit down and watch taxpayers’ money being washed out to sea, and then wait for when it will be time again to roll that rock right back to the top of the hill.
I have been fortunate to have studied about and driven across many bridges – small and large. I know a dud when I see it. And when I look at the picture, what I see here is a puny bridge that appears to be a sitting duck, ready to be washed away. Its design is not much different than what has been there before and shared a common fate, several times.
Despite what the politicians say, the problem with Yallahs fording does not date back to 2002; it dates back to the 1970s. St. Thomas people know this problem and know that the lack of adequate resolution is related to the quarrying that is going on right there at the foot of the river. A couple decades later, the bridge issue still an albatross around the necks of the people of St. Thomas. Don’t think it has been resolved with this new structure that has been erected. How much you want to bet that this bridge don’t last five years?
But, I, like you, will wait and see. I will drive across it in weeks to come when I go to a balmyard for a ritual cleansing in time for the school year to begin. I wish the entire nation could take a bath. We sure need it.
August 4, 2008
So, di one Mr. Powell from Duncans read mi letter di odda day an’ decide fi come trace me. I was gwáin tell im two wud, but I settled for several. ‘Ear im nuh:
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
One of the worst curses that human beings have had to endure is jealousy, which our ancestors aptly termed “red eye”. It is a curse that afflicts us here in Jamaica almost as if it were made for us. The clearest example yet of this terrible affliction is a letter in your competitor, The Gleaner, “Sand in our faces” published on July 19.
“Regarding the (illegal) sand mining in Coral Springs, Trelawny, old-time people say ‘tief from tief, God laugh’,” the letter by “Long Bench” says. Maybe I hang out too much with lawyers, but my legal experience tells me that it is libellous to suggest that the investors who lost their sand are thieves, as much as those who stole the sand.
Because The Gleaner is more interested in playing personality politics than in promoting the bigger picture or encouraging national development, it allowed itself to publish this libel against a group of people whose only crime “Long Bench” can pinpoint is their success. The question can be asked, “When has success become a crime?” For crying out loud, we teach our children to strive for success! Should we stop now?
Again The Gleaner allows itself to be used to breach one of the most important journalistic canons – poor taste – when it publishes the letter writer’s bald envy: “Alas, Felicitas Ltd is feeling anything but happy right now. I feel a tremendous sense of loss, but not for these actors.”
That “Long Bench” did not have the courage of his conviction to sign his name to the letter makes it cowardly. The Gleaner makes itself a part of this cowardice and charade, and not for the first time. It scarcely touched the big scandal involving the RIU Hotel when the resort chain illegally built four floors in the direct flight path of the Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay, putting Jamaican and other passengers at risk.
Maybe The Gleaner isn’t playing God at all. Maybe it’s protecting its directors, if any are involved or taking sides against people it does not like. Maybe its staff doesn’t know news when they see it, or maybe its editors are ineffective and don’t know libel when they see it. Whatever it is, The Gleaner has lost its way.
Perhaps the worst thing about the letter is that it has no sympathy for the people of Trelawny who stand to benefit from one of the most spectacular developments of our time. Thirty-six six-star villas get my vote any day. I am willing to bet that the unemployed people in Trelawny agree.
“Long Bench” is long on diatribe and envy but short on solutions. Perhaps it is the sand in his face that is causing his ‘red eye’.
But, ah just bite mi tongue, swallah mi spit, an’ used my best henglish fi dress im dung:
August 4, 208
As I watch the sand mining of Coral Spring being treated in the press as the mother of all environmental thefts, I am also reminded of Phillip Powell’s response (July 22, “Sand in the face also causes ‘red eye’) to my letter “Sand in our faces” originally published in the July 19 issue of the Gleaner. There, in response to my critique of the complicity of governmental bodies and lack of attention given to private developers’ exploitation of the physical environment, Mr. Powell resorted to some now-familiar personal attacks. The threat of the lawsuit (for libel, no less!) and name-calling (grudgeful, red-eye, no ambition, coward, unsympathetic, et al.) alone led to me think that I had been caught in a cussing match in the street, but over what, it’s not clear.
If I am “grudgeful” of anything as Mr. Powell accuses me of being, it is the ability of the Felicitas investors to have such affluence and influence and to use it only for their personal gain. Already, the cast of characters that have been drawn into the “find the sand” mystery rivals any stage production of the national pantomime. But the one thing that is made patently clear, and which Mr. Powell actively ignores, is that not all Jamaican persons are entitled to this level of “response.” We know this, because at the same time that Coral Spring is getting the royal treatment, there are many other cases of sandmining and illegal quarrying that have never been investigated sufficiently, or at all. Apparently, Jamaican citizens cannot learn the lesson enough: being “successful” ie. having too much money and unfettered access to the halls of power, is the key to being listened to around here. And in this scenario, those of us who dare to demand equitable treatment when balancing the needs of developers and citizens, and who ask for greater accountability on the part of the developers are treated as the problem, not part of the solution. It is no wonder that persons like Mr. Powell become so confused when presented with more than one point of view on this issue; daring to point out the misuses of power or to ask questions is treated as being “out of order” and motivated by ill-will. The only other response that we are expected to have is silence. Here Mr. Powell misses an important point; it is our responsibility as citizens to point out when and where unequal treatment is meted out by our institutions, and to ensure that our institutions are responsive to our collective needs, rather than tailor their accountability based on the colour of our skin, the size of our bank accounts or the content of our social networks. Were we consistent in our demands for accountability, fairness and just protection of public goods, then the sandmining at Coral Spring might not have happened at all!
Siding with the elite’s consumption and accumulation practices is a time-honoured, well-honed practice in self-deception in Jamaica. We, the ordinary citizens, are simply supposed to sit and look from the sidelines, clap politely, and then run to offer our assistance at the lowest possible value, and even free of charge. That, of course, is Phillip Powell’s purview; like many others, I choose not to participate in such self-destructive delusions. Neither should the people of Trelawny who he believes are the “victims” in this regard.
I do not now, nor will I ever, choose to side with developers who do not have the interests of Jamaicans – in Trelawny or elsewhere – at the center of their plans. Tellingly, I have not heard of any discussion about the place, Duncans; all the chatter has all been about the sand and what money the developers thought they could make off marketing it as some of the whitest, prettiest sand in the world. For this group of investors, they have demonstrated no commitment to the place. There is not a mention of what they plan to bring to the people of Duncans, Trelawny although numerous opportunities have emerged for them to do so. Instead, we are the ones who speculate about “jobs”; those words did not come from the would-be developers. The place Duncans, might as well not exist. Unless, of course, people start speaking up.
The unemployment issues in Trelawny – complex as they are – will not be resolved by any development in Coral Spring. I daresay, whatever happens there will have a negligible effect on the area. In the Gleaner’s July 23 report, Andrew Desnoes was clear about the priorities of the group: “the beach was the essence of the project.” No beach, no project. I don’t know how their intentions could be made more clear. Trelawny residents have no promise or guarantee that they will get the jobs that might materialize. Nor do they have any guarantees that their quality of life will improve significantly over time. And the one thing people are desperate for now is a guarantee of something better. Sadly, if this project followed the models established by other similar schemes since the 1980s – and there’s no reason to suggest that it won’t – we already have a mountain of evidence that shows how this project will, at the end of the day, use the struggling people of Trelawny as fodder for its ultimate goal: more accumulation of capital.
The questions we choose not to ask about this and other projects are also glaring, as the investigation unfolds. And yet, Mr. Powell has nothing to say about these. For instance, the proposed project is adjacent to a protected area, but only with the sand mining do we hear the first murmurs about the environmental impact of anything being done there. Rather, we hear about the problem of the sand mining, but not the problem of the construction, buildings and long-term use of this particular piece of land. I certainly don’t hear that the investors have any consciousness of how their use was going to create any environmental issues that needed to be addressed prior to any development project. Nor, do I hear of any efforts to partner with any nearby school or community organization and provide resources to develop a strong curriculum on managing and making the best use of what’s left of the physical environment. The citizens of Duncans and Jamaica should be able to access all plans that have been approved, be able to voice their concerns in a public setting, and expect to be listened to with respect by both governmental agencies and developers. However, given the general secrecy with which this and other development schemes are treated, in this instance I see my duty as a citizen to point to the ways in which the sand mining is just a tip of the problem; it is the lack of appropriate governmental oversight to private development schemes which have contributed to the destruction of the physical and social infrastructure. The hunger for more sand is just one manifestation of the problem.
Contrary to the news reports and chatter, the well-heeleed ones aren’t the only persons who lost something; however, their “something” has been given a meaning that we think we understand: millions of dollars. What the people of Duncans have lost is much larger in scope. And yet, if they see fit, the investors will take their money and run, as usual to wherever their fancy takes them. These oversights, if I may call them that, are simply amazing for what they suggest about how the investors value the people and the land on which they are building their fortunes.
I would hope that when we get around to having an informed conversation about the meaning of “success” we are able to make some important distinctions. That is, perpetuating the idea that having a lot of money and power is equivalent to success in Jamaica certainly accounts for why so many of our activities and interactions – from schoolroom to parliament – are informed by corrupt practices. The ethic of “success” that we seem to salute is what produces the various types of don-manship we encounter everyday – whether via Felicitas or in Southside: it is a play-the-system, lie-cheat-and-manipulate-your-way-to-what-you-want, don’t-let-the-little-people-stand-in-your-way ethic of amorality. I hope that Mr. Powell, and most of us readers, are able to distinguish these sources of “success” from those achievements that are gained through ethical practices that include honesty, integrity, a genuine good regard for those with whom one comes into contact along the way, a sense of humility about what one has accomplished and what remains undone, and a sense of accountability to those whose lives will be touched by whatever has been done. I certainly hope that Felicitas comes out on the right side. However, given how difficult it is to get our government officials to see the interests of ordinary Jamaicans as equivalent in importance to the elites who support them, I won’t be surprised if they choose to maintain the status quo. For that reason, I advise Mr. Powell to put on some goggles, as he will need them. The sand is starting to blow hard!
July 18, 2008
Apparently, some “enterprising” Jamaicans have figured out a solution to the growing problem of private ownership of our beachfront lands. Here I’m imagining the kind of screwed-up scheming that must have gone into this: just because foreigners dem now come buy up de land, dat nuh mean seh dem affi get di beach to’! Mek we tek it back!
And take back they did — by the truckloads apparently, causing the “value”of the developers’ investment to bottom-out overnight, but also creating one hell of an environmental hazard for the area. Just wait till de next hurricane, yuh will see.
In some ways, this story is almost side-splitting funny – I’m envisioning a Clovis cartoon featuring some white tourists and Mr. Mahfood who come to beach only to see a pit and a sign “Sand for Sale, Call….”, with trucks driving off in the distance. Felicitas will have to go buy back dem own sand! Lord have mercy!
[Apparently, Clovis did not take my advice, although he did offer a new angle on the issue].
It funny don’t it? Now dat dem tief farrin an brown people sand, is national crisis. Even Prime Minister get involved, to backfoot! But when said people dem a tief wi beach from right under wi backside, not a soul a fart pon we. What a prekke! Next ting yuh know, dem gwa’in want back de ‘ole o dem money; den when dem get it back, tun roun’ and buy the SAME piece of land fi much less cause now it supposedly lost all its value, get all kind of government concession including that govament mus’ gi dem back di sand whe did tief so dem cya’ mek up an even fancier hexclusive resort, an den walk whe’ wid one ‘ole ‘eap o’ money. In fact, me starting to wonder if dis ‘ole ting is not a setup, if dem neva tief from demself jus’ fi dis purpose. But yuh see how rumours start, do’ eeh?
But this is really no laughing matter at all. The Observer article has some good “before” and “after” photos. The audacity of these renegade truckers really – dem see sand put dung, so dem go tek it up. Simple. I guess they assume the sand will replace and renew itself; god put it there so god will send some more? This is really a metaphor for how this country operates isn’t it?
The Gleaner July 17 article quotes Mahfood: “Only a month ago, this was a quarter mile of the most beautiful white-sand beach anyone could find in the world, and that is the reason why I invested in the project,” said William Mahfood, one of the infuriated investors.
Hm! I want to say “serve unnu right!” Ol time people seh tief from tief god laugh. After all, the Mahfood types have been so busy sucking up all the property on the northcoast, that it is getting difficult for ordinary people to find a likkle seaside fi go siddung a sunday morning. We simply can’t take public access to our beaches for granted anymore. This, in the land of sea and sun! If this kind of theft weren’t a sign of how actively we are digging a serious hole for ourselves in this country, and how entrenched corruption has become, I would salute the truckers as heroes in this ultimate sabotage.
And therein lies the problem.
First, there’s the disgusting greed on the part of individuals who source the construction companies and who, in this age of privatization, think that if they got to the beach first and undeterred, then whatever they found belongs to them, and which they will gladly sell for a price. As fi dem dyam tiefing truckers, like all how dem go mek di millionnaire dem bex wid dem, well, dog nyam fi dem suppa! Jail is too nice fi dem! Dem shoulda mek dem carr’ back di sand one condense can at a time from whi’che part dem did put it dung. Den sen dem go jail fi go res’.
This is certainly not the first beach to be mined in this way; in fact, in the 1990s, there was a stretch when it seemed as if beaches were disappearing overnight. These folks have been ravaging the country, and there is nobody who has the courage to stop them. And I am quite sure the Mahfoods and the like have been participating in the trafficking of sand, marl and the like; when they are building their mansions and what have you, indeed, when its time to build up the hotel etc. on this property, where do they think the cement and building material is going to come from? Sand and marl illegally obtained and sourced from somewhere else, of course.
The media reportage keeps emphasizing the point that “local investors” were involved. Well, I can tell you that it wasn’t the churchpeople who supposedly put their hard-earned offering money in Olint. Indeed, it is a virtual roll call of “who’s who” involved in mass acquisition of coastal lands, and whose rampant speculation have helped to drive up property values while getting all kinds of government concessions so they don’t have to pay their fair share of property taxes. These are also folks who give practically nothing back to the society, except glamour shots of conspicuous consumption. These investors provide employment, you say. Yep, they sure do. Jobs that they would never, ever do, for one thing, and which barely put food on people’s tables. I can assure you that what these folks earned on just the deal itself and the monies that continue to roll in for years to come is far and above what any employee could make if they spent their entire working lives (16 – 70 yrs) spreading beds and smiling at the tourists during the high season. Nope, I don’t feel sorry for them one bit.
Then, there’s the political factor: don’t tell me the MP’s and local councillors are not being paid off in some way, and are not benefiting from these bold efforts to move entire parts of the country from one part of the island to another? Day and night, you can hear and see the trucks rumbling on the likkle piece o’ road dem and ready fi run yuh offa di highway. Is me alone noticing that the new big moneymaker especially among young men, is to buy a 16-wheeler or dump truck, hire oneself out to various companies, and to haul all kinds of material – some not so legal – for a set price? Where is the research and surveillance that links the importation and sale of these vehicles with the annihilation of the physical environment? Where is the police and highway patrol who suppose fi know seh if yuh see truck a come from dung a di seaside wid a load a san’ yuh suppose fi detain de driver until yuh have proof of ownership o’ di land and proof of permission to mine the land? Or is mek me mek up dat? Dat nuh exist a Jamaica? Why not? This haulage thing is big big business these days; the developers need the truckers to create their expensive monstrosities, and the truckers need the developer to keep the money rolling; one han’ wash de odder, and everybody go home wid dem belly full.
Then notice how fast this reach the Police High Command and the ears of Karl Samuda, Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce. Hear ím nuh?
“They’re thieves and a thief is a thief is a thief,” Samuda said. “And if you’re a little man trying to hustle and you steal, you’re a thief. And you’re a big multimillionaire and you steal, you must suffer the consequences,” he warned.
Don’t you find it weird when people start to talk about themselves in the third person? After all, this is a deal that was brokered through his ministry and personal connections; using the public purse to support private acquisition of national resources is his specialty after all. Samuda, the shameless cur that he is, fresh from his recent spending “spree” in New York, is now actively lobbying on the part of his monied BFF and bedfellows to dispatch as many national resources as possible to find out who the culprits are. Disgraceful and bald-faced! I would not be surprised if he has also personally invested in this venture that he is using his political clout to save. What does this smell like to you? I’ll give you a hint: It rhymes with “bit”, not with “nose”. Ah bwoy!
Frankly, this is a call for much stricter regulation and coordination of how the physical landscape is to be managed. But you know where that’s going to go – absolutely nowhere. In fact, I noted that the CEO of National Environmental Preservation Trust has taken a hands-off approach to this Coral Springs drama. Is that a sign that he knows this whole cass-cass is really for private/political interests and has taken an ethical stance? They’ll probably fire him or pressure the hell out of him. Watch for that.
Meanwhile, see the letter “Sand in Our Faces” that I sent to the editors of Observer and Gleaner. They probably won’t publish it, but if they do, you can say you saw it here first. [The Gleaner did]
July 1, 2008
Earlier this year, China banned the free distribution of plastic bags in grocery stores et. al. I bet they are still producing and exporting them en masse though.
From the anecdotal information offered in a newsarticle some months back, we could certainly do with a little bit of public education on this front. Frankly, I don’t see why its important whether Jamaican people *want* to use biodegradable bags or not. The answer is simple: ban de scandal bag dem or make it very expensive for people to get and use. Eventually people will get the point, but this idea that people must want something before government etc. must make it available is really ass backward. Memba seh we neva dis ask fi di scandal bags dem fi come strangle we inna di the first place. It was introduced through the greedy money-grubbing private sector. I remember when we used to have to pay for the plastic bag when we go to buy things, especially at the market. Either that, or bring your own container. There was a lot less of the bags lying around and hanging from the trees because people were recycling more. Once it became cheap and profitable for the importers to get these bags they promptly flooded the island, and nobody, not even our esteem environmental protection body, cared or said a word about what damage was being done. It’s rather funny, in a sick, sad way, to see how little vision we have for ourselves and the future of this country, and to watch how some of us get giddy with excitement when we point out that we’re doing what other countries are doing. Of course, what is rarely disclosed is that those other countries to which we insist on comparing ourselves, are dealing with these environmental issues with far more thought, clarity and decisiveness on the part of the national leadership, not just to falla fashan in the heat of the moment. There has been some leadership from the private sector on this issue – some of our very own polluters turned conservationists, but certainly not from our politicians. Apparently, our elected peeps will only get on board when they are sure there is money to skim off the surface and put in dem pocket. And right now, according to Mr. Mahfood, there’s no money to be made in environmental protection – be it recycling, or whatever. Obviously a lie im a tell, but dem n’ah go know dat cau’ seh dem nuh read newspaper. That lack of vision problem raises its ugly head again.
To hear Gordon-Webley of the NWSMA, you would think these issues of pollution were just discovered yesterday. You would also not figure out that the very agency that she is in charge of has been actively polluting the ground water and large areas of land with its dumping practices for years! Small details these.
Now, gallon jugs have been remodeled to make them more compact. I still prefer getting milk in the bottle; plus, you can keep the bottles forever. Let’s see how long it take for Jamaica and the sweet drinks industry to figure this one out.
October 12, 2007
Letter to Gleaner, Feb. 28, 2007
Regarding the Feb. 25 story about Jamaica not being the favored destination for overprivileged college students from the US. In my view, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. And using the recent policies regarding passports as a scapegoat makes the problem even more apparent.
Over the past 10 years, I have often travelled to Jamaica around the spring break period. The conversations in the airport lobbies, on the airplane returning to their homes, and in my college classrooms reveal some of the reasons why the mystique has evaporated. Jamaica simply is too expensive for what they get. Students say they want to party, but seriously, they don’t really expect to see a replication of Six Flags America-style amusement parks. They do want to experience what this country is really about. They want a peek beyond the mystique even though they’re probably high while doing so.
What they get glimpses of – the dirt, decline, corruption, mistreatment – tells them that they either should return as Peace Corps types, or not at all. Feeling bad about what is happening around you is not exactly the way to enjoy one’s vacation. As such, Cancun and South Florida is a better deal; at least they know what they are getting. This is what they tell their friends and family.
What’s missing from the development of tourism in Jamaica is a love of the place and the people who make this place what it is. The disdain with which Jamaican citizens are treated by policy makers is clearly evident to the naked, uncritical eye of spring breakers.
When the national government actively perpetuates structural violence against its citizens (poverty, poor quality of education, no protections for whatever employment does exist et al) and raids the national coffers with no explanation or plan for replacing the dwindling resources, the effects reverberate throughout the society. The tourist industry is not immune to these conditions, and the effects are often unintended.
What is needed? Radically new ideas about planning and management of the built environment, mass firing of the government folks who are currently running the country into the ground, and sustained efforts to nurture and sustain an educated (not just school-related, but civic-minded) and engaged public.
In truth, Jamaica need a break from tourism. We need to address the social infrastructure to make it possible for people to be less dependent on one industry for survival. We — from the swims lady in St. Elizabeth to the JUTA driver in Montego Bay – need to be able to say proudly and truthfully that residents of this country matter just as much, if not more than, the visitors. Only then can the indigenous sense of pride that is most often expressed through mob violence and desperate but ineffective demonstrations, develop into something that makes Jamaica worth going to, over and over again. And we would all — residents and visitors alike — be better off for it.