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COLUMNS BY JOHN MAXWELL :
'NO MEK DEM TEK IT!'

 

‘No mek dem tek it!’
By John Maxwell

Such fun!
Questions, questions...
And more questions...
Last week in Seattle
No mek dem tek it!


It’s been amusing to watch some of the performances by those who want to cut off a slice of Hope Gardens for an
upscale housing scheme.

Talking to Mrs. Jennifer Messado on the First Edition radio programme, I elicited a scandalised “No!” from her when I suggested that the developers should instead turn their lusts towards the Constant Spring Golf Club, which is open space, also owned by the public. But, said Mrs. Messado, the golf club is “being used”.

Exactly, just like Hope Gardens, but not all parts of it are being used at the same time. Besides which, Mrs. Messado said, the people who want to live in the Hope Country Club don’t want to live at Portmore and they can pack their bags and leave Jamaica at any time. She was, she said, thinking of people like the young executives at Wray and Nephew, a Jamaican company for nearly two centuries. As I reminded her, Wray & Nephew’s managers still solidly reflect the complexion of the ruling classes of the last three centuries.

Hope, of course, is “not being used” not in the way that the ruling classes understand it. They, after all, went to schools abroad, every one of which has its own Hope gardens. The people who can’t afford Couples or Negril or the golf clubs, have to make do with Hope, although that word seems to spring eternal in the breasts of Messrs. Cartade and Douglas, whose obsession with this piece of land goes back a long time.

Mr Douglas says the developers first approached him in 1995, but both Cartade and the ministry of housing were after a piece of Hope for far longer, as I explained last week. And Mr Douglas, I think, misled Parliament when, according to report, he said it should be ‘clearly understood’ that the government Town Planner has no authority to stop his scheme.

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SUCH FUN!

Mr Douglas is depending on the Housing Act, designed to allow the Minister to build houses in areas of need. And, under the Act, it is Mr Douglas who is the developer, not Mr Cartade. Why then should Mr Cartade be guaranteed a profit from the land? Why should he be involved at all?

Ahhh! Cartade has technical expertise. All the talk about helping squatters boils down to Mr Cartade’s offering the Ministry of Housing ‘technical assistance’ to rehouse the squatters. Those who derided the objectors to the scheme on the ground that they “didn’t want to live next to poor people” have got their answer, from the horse’s mouth, so speak. Mr Cartade is by profession a chef, and he is going to offer technical expertise to a ministry with more experience in rehousing squatters than probably any government housing department in the world. Such FUN!

Mr Douglas, who is a former Government Town Planner says the Town Planning department has no authority to stop him, forgetting perhaps, two small points. First, is that the area is covered by a development Order, which puts the TPD in the driver’s seat, and second, that the Natural Resources Conservation Authority Act gives the NRCA sole discretion over physical developments of any kind in Jamaica.

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QUESTIONS, QUESTIONS...
Under the Housing Act the Minister may acquire lands compulsorily and determine how much should be paid for them. Mr Douglas has chosen another route. Instead of summoning his Commissioner of Lands to his office and telling him to turn over part of Hope Gardens, he went to Cabinet to get authority. But he did not inform cabinet that the lands are part of Hope Gardens, because according to him they are not. So why did he need Cabinet permission?

And, since he can acquire the land compulsorily, why did he choose to offer it instead, by private treaty, to Mr Cartade, although another developer, Mr Roosevelt Thompson was had been recommended by the former commissioner of Lands to be the beneficiary?

And, having offered it by private treaty and getting his Commissioner of Valuations to value the land, why did Mr Douglas ask Cabinet to reduce the price? In a world ruled by the market, surely another bidder might have been found at full value, perhaps even more. If the scheme is commercially viable, it should be viable commercially. Not so?

What is the Paramount Importance attached to this piece of land for it to be handed over to a professional chef for development for yuppie housing? Why should the lions and crocodiles have to be hushed when little Wray’s nephew has the gripe?

And why should the young lovers out of Bond Street and Rum Lane be forced to take their ease on grass watered by the chlorinated excrement of the ruling classes? Perhaps it doesn’t need chlorination at all and should be distributed in champagne buckets to specially privileged plants.

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AND MORE QUESTIONS...
Since Mr Douglas, under the Housing Act must be the developer of Hope Country Club, he should be able to give the rest of us further and better particular about this scheme In fact the law requires him to do so. But as one objector said at the meeting with the developers, the scheme is a moving target. One day it will have x number of homes (not houses) or housing solutions (shades of Nannyville!) another day the number has changed.

The Environmental Impact Assessment contains a map showing clearly that the land will eat a huge piece out of the Development Order, but the Development Order is not mentioned in the EIA, or at least, it is never addressed. How can the Minister or the NRCA accept an EIA which does not consider, as it should. all the social and economic factors affecting the scheme? How can an EIA simply toss aside the interest in the land inhering in the more than two million citizens of this country?

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LAST WEEK IN SEATTLE

The barrage of propaganda by the American Press may have concealed the fact that the debacle in Seattle was provoked by an attempt, on the world scale, to do to humanity what Hope Country Club proposes to do to Jamaicans. Despite the uproar caused by a small number of troublemakers, the real issues at Seattle were about democracy, about whether mega-corporations should rule the world and have the right to tell ordinary people how to live their lives, what to eat and how much to expect for their work.

As I have suggested in several columns, the World Trade organisation is at heart a conspiracy to nullify Agenda 21 and to make an end run round sustainable development. Under the existing rules of the WTO, the United States, for example, cannot exclude from its market gasoline deemed environmentally dangerous by the US Environmental protection Agency. The Europeans cannot keep out of their markets, food produced in the USA which the Europeans believe may be harmful to their health. Under the WTO rules, small farmers in Jamaica and Dominica must be penalised for paying their workers a subsistence wage while Chiquita (United Fruit) and Dole pay starvation wages to their peons in Central and South America.

Now, in Jamaica, the nurses are paid much less than policemen and cannot have a wage increase because the government has decided to subsidise the rich in order to stop them speculating against the dollar and has reduced income tax at the same time, to engender, perhaps – ‘confidence’. Perhaps, the Hope Country Club is another step in the same direction.

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NO MEK DEM TEK IT!
In his statement to parliament, Mr Douglas argued that more people signed letters approving the scheme than those who made objections. I presume that Mr Douglas counted the Jamaica Society of Architects, for instance, as one objection. And that the objection lodged by the Hon. Vivian Blake, QC and I represented two.

I have news for him.

I have not counted the number of people who have come up to me on the street and thanked me for objecting on their behalf, as they put it. I remember most clearly, one man, who accosted me politely in the local pharmacy and said: “Beg you, Mr Mac, no mek dem tek it!” He didn’t have to tell me what he meant, as other people nearby, hearing him, nodded and indicated by various means that they understood what I had understood. Another person, a woman said to me on the street that selling Hope Gardens would be like “dig up Daddy Manley and bury him a’ May Pen!”

I got the message.
It is quite plain:
They must not pass!
They shall not pass!
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