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COLUMNS BY JOHN MAXWELL :
HOPING AGAINST HOPE

 

Hoping Against Hope
By John Maxwell

Jamaicans for Justice
The Hope charade
Not a favour, but a right
Suppressio veri
Suggestio falsi


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 it’s 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.


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JAMAICANS FOR JUSTICE

There are of course, hopeful signs. Jamaicans for Justice managed, against all the odds, to get a coroner’s 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 moment.


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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 people’s 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 late.

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 Ministry’s 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 right.

None of this was reported by the Press.


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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 Douglas’s 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.


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SUPPRESSIO VERI
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 Gleaner’s 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 falsi.”

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.


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SUGGESTIO FALSI

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 us”.

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 Jamaica’s 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 of themselves.

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.

Copyright © 1999 by John Maxwell

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LINKS
Photo of Proposed Site (800x600) |
1966 Survey Map | Objection sent to the Minister of Housing and Development | Rebuttal of Estech's EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment) | Objection made to NRCA (Natural Resources Conservation Authority) | Common Sense: Where will the children play? | Common Sense: The battle of Hope Gardens | Common Sense: An offer they couldn't refuse | Common Sense: No mek dem tek it! | Common Sense: Hoping against Hope | Common Sense: Transparency and Hope | News: The Struggle Continues | Press Release from Birdlife of Jamaica | Memo from Mona Heights Citizens' Association | Letter from Stuart Lacy of WildLife Jamaica | Letter from Gloria Escoffery | Letter from Daphne & Peter Abrahams | Satire by 'Cher' | An Opposing Viewpoint from The Gleaner | Protest Letters | The Principals | Add your $0.02