By John Maxwell
The Hope charade
Not a favour, but a right
Since I and most
people I know start counting at One, I have no intention of recognising
the end of this year as the end of anything except another year.
And since millennia are simply ways to count long numbers of years,
when the year 2000 ends, if I am still around, I shall simply thank
my lucky stars that I am still around.
But 1999 has been a year fit to end a millennium if only because
its been so flaky if it had been wine we might describe
it as corked and unfit for consumption. The WTO followed
the MAI into disgrace, having been rejected by the very subjects
they set out to enslave, and though we are by no means free of the
freaky, Ayn Rand believers who want to drag us into their private
version of hell, we at least have a breathing space. Which is more
than Africa had at the end of the last century when the North Atlantic
powers decided to make Africa their own private shooting preserve
with human beings as game.
Here, after 37 years of so called independence, our bureaucrats
and governors have reverted to the habits of the colonial masters
they once abhorred. The difference is that the police force is even
more brutal and corrupt and our masters even less accountable than
they were when they were British.
JAMAICANS FOR JUSTICE
There are of course, hopeful signs. Jamaicans for
Justice managed, against all the odds, to get a coroners inquest
for Michael Gayle, which is more than most people killed by the
police ever get. As a result, several members of the security forces
are to face charges of manslaughter for a depraved and inhuman episode
which should surely bring the government to realise that there is
something dreadfully wrong with the police force.
But, of course, the government still has to face the questions raised
by the so-called salaries issue, and despite the fact that it has
been abominably reported by the press, it is clear that there are
important deficiencies at the top of the political process and at
the top of the civil service.
And of course, there is Hope Gardens, which neatly encapsulates
so many of the pathologies from which our country suffers at the
THE HOPE CHARADE
When the law tells Ministers of Government that they
should consult with their people, it is a way to help prevent the
Ministers making avoidable errors which may cost them and
the country dearly.
Mr Easton Douglas, who is part Minister of Housing and part Minister
of Environment, seems to believe that consulting his subjects is
rather like the Pope washing poor peoples feet at Christmas
a purely symbolic act. So, having decided that the Hope Gardens
Yuppie Housing Scheme will proceed, he decided to select those objectors
with whom he would consult and interposed between them and himself
a body or committee, alleged to be advising him. Those whose feet
are washed by the Pope are of course, carefully cleansed before
being admitted into the pontifical presence.
On Monday morning it was announced at the Terra Nova hotel that
the committee would be hearing only three of the dozens of objectors
to the scheme. The others were barred apparently, either because
they did not ask to be heard or their objections were supposedly
Apparently the objection lodged by Mr Vivian Blake and myself was
stamped as received at the Ministry two days after it was actually
hand-delivered there and the Ministrys attorney did her level
best to prevent us from being heard. Mr O D. Marsh, chairman of
the panel, decided that since he had known Mr Blake and myself as
men of honour for more than 40 years, he would accept
our version and we would be heard. Eventually, he conceded that
we would be heard not as a matter of grace and favour but as of
None of this was reported by the Press.
NOT A FAVOUR, BUT A RIGHT
Mr Marsh also accepted our contention that the notice
given to the objectors was too short and did not give any of the
objectors time to adequately defend our positions in front of the
committee. This contention was accepted in response to a letter
from Mr Vivian Blake, QC., With these gains in the objectors
pockets, so to speak, it appears that democracy and common sense
are catching up with Mr Douglas and his Ministry of Housing. It
also seems increasingly likely that he will have to defend his behaviour
in court. But that of course, is another matter.
On Thursday morning, as I write, I have just heard one of Mr Douglass
minions, one Fitz Williams of the Ministry of Housing, alleging
that there had been a great deal of lying and misrepresentation
in the Hope Gardens matter. I totally agree with him, having pointed
out several of these lies already and being willing to point out
more. But I wish Mr Williams would give chapter and verse of the
lies he complains about, since I was under the impression that the
truth is not readily obtained from the proponents of the scheme
and that it is the objectors who have the facts.
For instance, the Gleaner on Thursday morning published what must
be one of the most blatant lies in the argument so far. It was in
the form of a map. This map,among other things, suggests that a
public road runs through Hope Gardens to Papine and that the proposed
housing area is much smaller than it really is.
The map also pretends that the housing area is not
inside of and a part of Hope Gardens; it suggest that only a fraction
of the land in question is Open Space. It does not acknowledge
that the land takes a huge bite out of a Development Order. That
of course, being irrelevant according to Mr Douglas. It would also
have been nice if the map had showed the piece of land originally
desired by Mr Douglas ministry for a nurses school. We would
then, of course, be able to understand what P.J.Patterson meant
when in 1991 he forbade the commercial development of Hope Gardens
or of any land in juxtaposition to it. Even if the land were not
an integral part of Hope Gardens, the map clearly shows its juxtaposition.
And the Gleaners map does not show the area earmarked since
1990, for the expansion of the zoo. Nor is there any statement about
the several rejections (9 at least) the scheme has had from responsible
adults in the Town Planning Department (3 at least ), the Ministry
of Agriculture (4 at least) and the Natural Resources Conservation
Authority (2 at least).
A suppression of the truth is tantamount to a lie, of course; as
Mr Blake and his fellow lawyers put it Suppressio veri, suggestio
Mr Douglas has attended innumerable meetings, UN conferences and
others at which he apparently committed himself wholeheartedly to
the idea of sustainable human development. The government says it
is committed to the idea. Mr Patterson signed Agenda 21. The PNP
in its 1997 manifesto commits itself to its principles.
Yet, a junior minister, Colin Campbell, is allowed
to go on the air to say that to dismember a national treasure puts
Jamaica in a Win/Win situation because those we
had entrusted with caring for Hope Gardens over the years had failed
The problem, as Mr Campbell will one day realise, is that he is
speaking of himself and his government which allowed squatters to
encroach on the lands abutting Hope. It is the government which
failed in its duty to fund the development of the Gardens and the
Zoo, two of Jamaicas most important learning resources as
well as important factors in the mental health of our people.
The government has failed to bring the people into the development
dialogue and have stood by while unplanned development has overrun
Jamaica, scarring and maiming cities and towns, scarring and destroying
hillsides and watersheds, and damaging the integrity of communities
all over Jamaica.
The consultation process which they should have embraced is one
way in which ordinary people can be brought into the decision making
process and one way on which politicians can avoid making fools
By going in the opposite direction, by aggrandising power and making
themselves unaccountable to their people, this government has destroyed
its own credibility and is about to forfeit the right to claim the
heritage of Norman Manley.
They should begin to take note of the objections which are flowing
in from every quarter of Jamaica, opposed to the Hope scheme, and
if they persist, opposed to them as well.
© 1999 by John Maxwell