Wed | Aug 22, 2018

Ronald Mason | Help! I'm in Jamaica!

Published:Sunday | October 2, 2016 | 12:00 AM

You have been out of Jamaica for a considerable amount of time and you've chosen not to follow news and current events from the land of your birth. Now you're back in Jamaica.

You have made your way into the city of Kingston from Norman Manley International Airport. The roads along the coastline are different. The housing scheme on the right gives rise to feelings of some progress. You pass the Jamaica Stock Exchange, but a major distraction forces its way into your consciousness as you assimilate what is now Kingston. A tattered prison, garbage, vacant, dirty lots and a decrepit Rae Town, however, you continue out to King Street.

You turn right and your memory is jarred. Bank of Jamaica, Nathan's, Issa's, the many retail establishments that used to thrive on King Street are no longer. The landmarks are gone, but the Kingston Parish Church remains.

Parade is different. It is crowded, noisy, traffic-packed and the ever present dirt and grime. West Parade to Orange Street gives a preview of the indiscipline that blankets the city. Pedestrians, vehicles, dogs, garbage jostle to occupy turf.

You continue up Orange Street and you are confronted with derelict and ramshackle buildings, abandoned vacant lots. Move up through Torrington Bridge to Cross Roads. Carib Cinema is still there, and a recently constructed plaza, but the stream of people commingling with the traffic never ends. They cross the road anywhere, at anytime, and they jostle to determine who shall dominate.

The scene is a stark contrast to what Kingston used to be. The same thing is repeated at Montego Bay City Centre, Mandeville by the market, May Pen Clock Tower and at a number of the parish capitals.




One can only conclude that things in Jamaica have become much more undisciplined. There is coarser interaction among the people, and dirt, grime and garbage dominate life.

You go on a journey uptown. Beverley Hills and nearby communities have become palatial living spaces. Liguanea glitters: Shopping, banks, service businesses, brand-name furniture, upscale restaurants, stocked supermarkets and an embassy befitting any world capital.

A retreat is made to your place of residence, and one pauses to reflect; solar water heater, big flat-screen TV and a multitude of cable channels. Apartment living and gated communities are now the accepted standard. All is well within.

A look in the parking lot of these buildings reveals a display of high-end automobiles: Jaguar, Audi, Range Rover, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Pajero. The odd Toyota and Honda are misfits.

One settles into read recent hard-copy editions of the daily newspapers which reveal hundreds of persons wantonly slaughtered: babies, schoolchildren, grandmothers, grandfathers, male and female - young, middle-aged and elderly being gunned downed and stabbed several times. People slaughtered like dogs in the streets, killed from bullets sprayed. Men cradle AK47s as if there were infant children.

Nobody is reported as giving the police information as to who was responsible, what were the reasons for, and where to find the perpetrators, so the bloodletting continues: morning, noon and night-time.

Killing is the trademark of this Jamaican society. One asks, where are the police? Does law and order not exist in Jamaica? The constant refrain is that the police force is corrupt, and the politicians are corrupt. 'Bebe' perfected a scheme for income transfer from the USA to Jamaica by way of lotto scamming. And the gangs continue to grow.

We are told about new institutions that have been developed such as the Office of the Contractor General, which has never had a major successful prosecution. The Integrity Commission is distinguished by its inertia.

The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions is characterised by the failure rate of its prosecutions and its combative role with every institution. The Jamaica Constabulary Force changes top leadership more frequently than its members get new uniforms.




Financial institutions face the prospect of not being able to maintain correspondent relationships with foreign banks. Is this Jamaica? It is Wednesday, Parliament is in session, and you are invited to watch the proceedings live to get a sense of what occupies those elected to lead.

The vision is initially jarring. The speaker is dressed in a colonial-style wig. The members saunter. They chat to each other incessantly. They use electronic devices continually and they bark at each other like dogs across the aisle. The ministers make opening statements; others are permitted to ask questions only. No preamble to questions. No debating the content of the ministerial statement. It is the equivalent of a papal bull.

You turn to TV for news and you see persons indiscriminately firing guns at a gas station, killing one and injuring pump staff. The biggest uproar is about who leaked the videotape.

You read the Government's document to the IMF and it speaks to the Goat Islands project being approved for implementation. Shortly thereafter, as a statement in the USA, it is revealed that the prior statement to the IMF was a lie. Suddenly, you become aware that what has really happened in Jamaica is curiouser than Alice in Wonderland. The political power structure operates on a whim, on emotions of the moment rather than logic, reason, data and analysis.

Help! I am in Jamaica. Help!

- Ronald Mason is an attorney-at-law and Supreme Court mediator. Email feedback to and