Spinning on a dead wicket
Several Cabinet ministers, to their credit, have given a solemn undertaking that "there will be no mining in the Cockpit Country" because of its ecological, hydrological and cultural importance - the most recent being Environment Minister Robert Pickersgill. But this has led to the inevitable next question: What are the boundaries of the Cockpit Country? The Government hired consultants to answer this question.
The consultants have made their determination, but the Government has neither accepted nor rejected their findings. Inconvenient truth, maybe? It is quite improper to give permission for mining or even prospecting in a disputed area until the boundary issue is resolved.
The government consultants went further than just defining external boundaries. Following standard natural resource management practice, they zoned the Cockpit Country into three distinct areas: the core, the transition area, and the buffer zone. The core is largely undisturbed, and worthy of the highest level of protection; the transition area has high ecological value and is worthy of protection, but has experienced some historical disturbance. The buffer zone has the most disturbed, but it is still essential to protect the buffer zone to insulate the core and the transition area from further disturbance (that is why it is called a buffer).
It is important to make clear that the core, transition and buffer areas are all part of the Cockpit Country, and, therefore, the promise by the Cabinet ministers that "there will be no mining in the Cockpit Country" would apply to the core, transition and buffer areas of the Cockpit Country.
INTENT TO BREACH?
I take note that Julian J. Robinson, state minister of mining, has made several statements that the Government is committed that there will be no mining in the core of the Cockpit Country, the implication being that the Government might allow mining in the transition area and the buffer zone.
I submit that those statements by Minister Robinson indicate that the Government intends to breach the solemn undertaking given by several Cabinet ministers that "there will be no mining in the Cockpit Country".
Minister Robinson has stated that the pre-mining activity reported to be taking place near Stewart Town in Trelawny falls outside all the boundaries proposed so far for the Cockpit Country. This is a load of nonsense! It may not fall inside the core area, but it certainly falls within the transition area and the buffer zone. Minister Robinson is trying his hand at political spin, trying to shift the solemn promise about "no mining" from the Cockpit Country to the core area. Minister Robinson: The wicket is dead and not taking your spin. Do the honourable thing and assist your colleagues to keep their promises.
I call upon Cabinet minister Robert Pickersgill to have words with Junior Minister Robinson, to advise him not to get the Government in trouble by making uninformed statements. So many promises have been broken by the Government with respect to the environment over the years, and especially recently, that I don't think they want the embarrassment of such an egregious breach of trust. I call upon the minister of mining to rein in his junior minister to prevent him from further embarrassing the Government. An election is near!
YOU CAN'T HAVE IT BOTH WAYS
I take note that the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ) is reporting that Jamaica has recorded a 0.8 per cent increase in unemployment; however, they say the increase is not caused by layoffs or factory closures but was primarily linked to a decrease in the number of persons opting to stay outside of the labour force. I quite believe that!
Some months ago, the Government was crowing about recent data showing a reduction in unemployment. At the time, I commented in this column that this was likely to be primarily due to people dropping out of the labour force so that the same number of employed persons as before now amounted to a higher percentage of the smaller labour force. I was criticised.
They can't have it both ways. The number of employed persons is not growing, and so it is disingenuous to either boast about decreases in the unemployment rate or to attempt to spin away increases in this manner.
Time to grow the economy and increase the absolute number of people in jobs.
- Peter Espeut is a sociologist and environ-mentalist. Email feedback to columns