By John Maxwell
such a bright idea
Hope for hope
(a bulleted list overview)
To judge by the headlines in the news media,
printed and electronic, Jamaica is an unrelieved landscape of gloom
and doom. Some practitioners seem to salivate at the prospect of
yet anther negative, at a fall in the stock market, the moaning
of the tourist industry, the news of another shooting. It is sometimes
hard to believe that there is another side to Jamaica, in fact,
several other sides.
But the Press, fixated on its own importance and its own agenda,
does its damnedest to make sure that we focus on the small picture,
that we forget that we are a part of a larger world and that the
world is not black and white. The Gleaner informs us, for instance,
that the Senate keeps Press Waiting a headline
which I thought at first was a joke, and then realised was meant
to be taken seriously.
The Senate obviously does not know its place in the scheme of things.
How dare they keep the Press waiting! What a piece of impertinence.
How could this little bunch of hurry-come-ups keep the sovereign
press twiddling its thumbs while the President, or some other jack-in-office
and her fellow jackanapes indulged in unseemly frivolity or worse,
while the mighty press languished, waiting for its historic opportunity
to be the first group to hold an illegal demonstration in the chamber?
NOT SUCH A BRIGHT IDEA
Media heads don dust masks, to symbolise the muzzling of the
the caption stated, and I was sorry to see some
of my good friends conned into joining by the nonsensical campaign
to smear the government as an enemy of press freedom. The Anti-Corruption
bill is a flawed piece of legislation, but this government, above
all others since independence, cannot be accused of attempting to
muzzle the press. If anything, it has been guilty of allowing the
electronic media to get away with the wholesale slandering of Jamaica
and its government in the name of freedom of the press. It is not
that the government should have taken action to shut down criticism,
but that, in the protection of all our freedoms and rights to privacy
and a good name, and our economic integrity, for instance, the government
has a duty to defend the rights of individuals and groups and of
the nation itself, on whom the prosecutors general of the press
have declared open season.
It cannot be in the public interest for the government to tolerate
its description as thieves, for politicians to be routinely described
as associates of gunmen, as robbers and pickpockets, or for returning
Jamaicans to be warned to stay away from Jamaica because the government
will steal their savings. Mashing down Jamaica in order to mas up
the government is an idea already proved to be insane.
Since the press seems incapable of disciplining itself the government
has a duty, as a more or less responsible adult, to call at least
the worst offenders to order. Of course the press will say that
this is censorship, as it did when it claimed the right to tell
lies on the occasion of the Act to reform the Stock Exchange rules.
In the present instance, the press should move for total transparency
in the conduct of public business. Shareholders and taxpayers are
both entitled to know how their money is spent, and just as we are
entitled to know what the Governor of the Bank of Jamaica is paid
we are entitled to know what the CEO of Grace Kennedy or the Mechala
group are paid. Its Our Money!
Incidentally, we must demand of all of our newspapers and radio
and television stations a declaration hat they do not have lists
of people and organisations, stories about whom must before
publication be referred to non-editorial decision makers.
Those who talk transparency must practice it or stop questioning
the credibility of others.
HOPE FOR HOPE
While the all important matter of penalties for journalists is being
discussed, the fight to save Hope Gardens continues quietly. Last
Thursday evening many of those who object to the Hope Country Club
housing scheme met at the JTURDC in Hope Pastures to
coordinate their positions. In attendance were the representatives
from at least half a dozen citizens associations who understand
how important Hope is to the sanity of their city. Among other things,
they heard Dr. Lloyd Barnett announce that the Independent Council
for Human Rights (ICHR) will be providing legal aid for the objectors
to the Hope Gardens housing scheme.
Dr. Barnett is of course, the countrys leading constitutional
authority as well as President of the Bar Association and Chairman
of the ICHR.
It seems to me that the debate over the past weeks has more or less
settled several disputed issues. First, it is clear that the Hope
Country Club is meant to be sited within Hope Gardens.
Other points are:
Mr Cartade, the so-called developer does not
have the approvals he needs for the scheme, contrary to what the
Minister of Housing (the real developer under the law) told parliament.
The Town Planning Department opposes the scheme.
The Minister of Agriculture, Roger Clarke, unequivocally,
opposes the scheme as do, probably, a majority of the Cabinet.
The Ministry of Agriculture opposes the scheme.
The Superintendent of Public Gardens opposes the scheme.
The Curator of the Zoo, opposes the scheme
The land is required for the development of Hope Gardens.
The Government, since October 1, 1991, has banned the commercial
development of Hope Gardens and of lands in juxtaposition
The area is covered by a Development Order which defines
it as public open space. Even the Environmental Impact Assessment
contains a map which demonstrates this, but the EIA does not takes
this fact into account.
The Environment Impact Assessment is so deficient that it
That Hope Gardens has a great future as a leisure resource,
as a tourist attraction, as a botanical centre, as a training and
learning institution, and as a centre for ethnobotany and sustainable
development. Hope Gardens needs more space, not less.
The NRCA Act binds the Crown specifically in Section which
was reportedly inserted at the insistence of Mr Patterson himself,
when he was Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Planning.
The invocation of the Housing Act is a stratagem devised
by the Joint Venture section of the Ministry of Housing to get away
from its responsibilities under the NRCA ACT, and has already been
used to justify the commercial conversion of public open space in
Portmore, Mona Heights and elsewhere..
That the Commissioner of Lands, the Town Planning Department
and the Ministry of the Environment including the NRCA, require
an immediate divorce from the developer-oriented Ministry of Housing
to protect them against conflicts of interest and the risk of contamination
by vested interests.
I have been informed (Friday evening) that the Housing Ministers
advisory committee is to hold its first meeting tomorrow morning
at the Terra Nova Hotel. This intelligence was reportedly conveyed
in an invitation to to the Hope Pastures Citizens Association on
Friday. This overnight summons, of course, gives them no time to
properly prepare their case, since they have no idea of the terms
of reference of the Committee nor of its procedures. The developers
have had seven years to prepare theirs.
As far as I can gather, no other objector has been informed of this
meeting and most certainly, neither the Hon. Vivian Blake, QC.,
nor I, who are joint objectors, has been informed.
One further point:
It is clear from all reports that apart from one real estate conveyancer
and some of the beneficiaries of the proposed scheme, the overwhelming
majority of Jamaicans oppose the scheme.
Copyright © 1999 by John Maxwell