Tue | Aug 22, 2017

Linton Gordon: Apartheid in Ocho Rios

Published:Tuesday | March 22, 2016 | 3:00 AM
Linton Gordon

The enforcement of law in Ocho Rios is gradually taking on the characteristics of an apartheid system. In a previous article, I made mention that downtown Ocho Rios is treated entirely differently from uptown Ocho Rios.

It does not take long for a visitor to, or resident of, Ocho Rios to realise that laws are enforced differently from the Jamaica Grande Moon Palace gate going west along Main Street, from the way they are enforced from the same gate going east along Main Street and along the roads leading from Main Street in that area.

Each morning, a large number of courtesy corps officers walk from the Ocho Rios Police Station along Evelyn Street, along DaCosta Drive, along Main Street east of the Jamaica Grande Moon Palace gate and along Graham Street down to the tourist area of Ocho Rios, where they enforce laws in protection of tourists visiting Ocho Rios.

The authorities should be commended for this as nobody is against the enforcement of law and order in protection of tourists visiting Ocho Rios. However, it is wrong and a form of apartheid for the authorities to abandon one section of the town to lawlessness, chaos and indiscipline.

No one is allowed to play loud music in downtown Ocho Rios. no one is allowed to display their goods for sale in the thoroughfares of downtown Ocho Rios. There is order, decency, cleanliness and discipline there.

There are police on mobile and foot patrol in downtown Ocho Rios. When we compare and contrast downtown Ocho Rios with uptown 'Ochi', we find the latter to be chaotic and devoid of law enforcement.

There is loud music along the roads of uptown Ocho Rios. It is difficult to walk along the sidewalks as persons display goods in most of the thoroughfares.

In other areas uptown, there are open fires along the roadways. On the sidewalks, kitchens, pots, pans, stoves and jerk grills are present. Business operators place loudspeakers in front of their business places from which they blare lewd, loud and annoying music throughout the day. You dare not do that downtown.

 

ADMIRABLY ENFORCED

The authorities are treating the persons who do business in uptown Ocho Rios as children of a lesser god. In particular, the police have failed to enforce the Noise Abatement Act in uptown Ocho Rios. That law has provisions restricting persons from having loudspeakers or any device emitting sounds audible beyond a distance of 100 metres. The act also provides that no loudspeakers should operate beyond 11 p.m. These laws are not enforced.

Squatters and other nomads operate sound systems for the entire night uptown Ocho Rios. Some of these persons operate along the public roads, while others do so at the entrances to private premises. The police pass these persons without interfering with them, on their way to downtown Ocho Rios to enforce the very laws they do not enforce uptown.

The Towns and Communities Act, at Section 5, provides restrictions against persons displaying their goods for sale in thoroughfares. This law is admirably enforced by the police downtown. Not so uptown, where it's a free-for-all.

The authorities are creating in the minds of the citizens who occupy uptown Ocho Rios that they are less important than the business people, residents and tourists downtown.

There are instances uptown where doctors cannot properly hear their stethoscopes as music being played in the vicinity of their surgeries is so loud that it is causing their windows to vibrate and preventing them from carrying out their professional duties. The police have done nothing about this.

If this is not apartheid, I challenge the authorities to tell me what this is. When citizens are discriminated against by the authorities, as is being done in Ocho Rios, no one should be surprised to learn that those citizens do not take the law seriously. They will not support the enforcement of law and order; they will not trust the police; and they will believe that two different standards are being applied.

- Linton P. Gordon is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and lpgordon@cwjamaica.com.