Editorial: Protest gone too far
Protests have become part of everyday life in Jamaica because there are scores of citizen who don't think they are fairly treated. The cry for justice has been ringing loudly for decades.
Citizens have come to understand that the quickest way to get problems within a community addressed is to hoist some placards and block the roads. It does not matter that such actions may prevent others from going about their normal daily activities.
Protesters are usually forceful in driving home their point and appear to be oblivious to the great potential of someone in need of emergency attention dying while trying to negotiate roadblocks and rowdy demonstrators.
And recently, we have observed that protesters have taken their actions to a new level by padlocking the gates of schools and other facilities, the latest being the gate of the cruise ship pier in Ocho Rios which was chained by angry transport operators on Thursday.
According to news reports, the operators were upset about impending changes that would affect the way cruise tourists are transported in the resort town. And their action prevented some passengers from disembarking Thursday morning. The clear implication is that business would have been limited for all persons who make a livelihood from tourism endeavours.
This action was illegal and the police should have reacted forcefully to uphold the law and deter a repeat of such behaviour in future. Unfortunately, it comes at a time when Ocho Rios is struggling to maintain its cruise ship business. Let's not forget that there are other ports of call anxiously waiting for the opportunity to service ships and their passengers. Ocho Rios, in particular, and Jamaica, in general, can ill afford chaos in the tourism sector.
encrouching on rights
We recognise that times are tough, jobs are hard to come by, and some people are only eking out a living. However, what gives transport operators the right to interfere with the rights of others to move about freely? And what if the Urban Development Corporation (UDC) decides to be innovative and introduce a new type of transportation such as jitneys?
While transport operators have a right to make a livelihood, this kind of inflammatory reaction to impeding changes is definitely indicative of an anti-business stance and is not the way to register their dissatisfaction.
A meeting is likely to be held today to try to find a permanent solution to the problem. What precisely was the reason for the protest action then? Was it solely to secure a meeting of the stakeholders, or was this action intended to create embarrassment and chaos in the eyes of visitors?
Shahine Robinson, the opposition spokesperson on tourism, appears to endorse the protest action on the basis that there has been no consultation with the transport operators. We submit that it is a bad signal for politicians to be seen to side with unlawful behaviour.
Agitate for dialogue and inclusivity by all means, but do not encourage action that curtails people's freedom and also prevents others from participating in their economic livelihood.
The padlocking of schools and other institutions is intolerable, and we recommend that people find a new way of bringing attention to the difficulties that they face in their communities.