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]