Sat | Sep 23, 2017

Devon Dick | Controversy over Chinese construction and cosmopolitan concerts

Published:Thursday | June 8, 2017 | 6:00 AM

Recently, there was a controversial debate over foreign acts entering local contests. Similarly, there was angst about a Chinese company being given the contract to finance, design and construct the Jamaican Parliament.

There was opposition by some significant stakeholders to foreign act in TVJ's Magnum Kings and Queens of Dancehall competition. This competition allows for persons to develop their creativity with words and an ability to 'ride a riddim'. It also gives exposure to upcoming acts. Some would want to keep it for Jamaicans only.

However, Jamaica should welcome foreign acts and see this as an opportunity to market our culture to a wider cosmopolitan audience. Many Jamaicans watched the NBC Voice competition only when a Jamaican entered. This was a way to grow audience share in Jamaica and the diaspora.

We cannot rejoice when Jamaicans such as Jody Ann Maxwell enter the American Spelling Bee competition and win and then we want to shut foreigners from our sound clash. We cannot rejoice when Tessanne Chin wins the American Voice competition but do not want a Japanese to enter Magnum Kings and Queens. This is not fair.

In addition, foreign acts could lead to improved performance and a better production. We need to see the opportunity in having foreign acts.

There could be a danger if bigger foreign territories start to outvote small Jamaica. Perhaps there should be a mix between voting and the judges' score to determine a winner rather than merely number of electronic votes to avoid money power and to promote talent.

However, there seems to be something deeper to this opposition. It's not just because we want to oppose foreign acts. We have had foreign acts performing in Jamaica on occasions too numerous to count. We have had foreign acts from the Asian part of the world entering our dancehall dance competition. Maybe it could be due to a simmering resentment to what some perceive as Chinese imperialism.

Personally, I have Chinese blood. My paternal grandfather was Chinese and his surname was 'Hue'. I have my paternal grandmother's surname. I could be said to be 'quarter' Chinese and one day I hope to visit his village in China and also walk the Great Wall. However, the powers that be are not handling the situation properly. Some would say that a Chinese company got very generous concessions, that were not given to others, to purchase sugar factories. In the early 1960s, there were racial disturbances in western Kingston and we ought to learn from history in order not to repeat it. There has been some resentment building up in the construction industry among master builders about the favourable treatment of Chinese contractors in obtaining contracts.

 

THE LAST STRAW

 

Perhaps the last straw on the camel's back could be this new Parliament building. It is laudable of the Chinese government to provide the financing. However, to tie the borrower to the banker, insisting that the borrower has to use the banker's architect and developer and contractor, is not wholesome.

A better arrangement for both the Chinese government and the Jamaican government is to put the design of the Parliament building to tender and have a committee of Jamaicans analyse the design and determine the best, based on our history, heritage, ethos and aspirations. This design competition would be open to the Chinese and any other international company. However, Jamaicans ought to determine the design of an important building to ensure it reflects our values, virtues, struggles for political independence and our attempts at self-understanding and self-identity. The design should capture our resilience, strength and 'no problem' attitudes.

Let's us remember that in every controversy there is an opportunity.

- Rev Devon Dick is pastor of the Boulevard Baptist Church in St Andrew. He is author of 'The Cross and the Machete', and 'Rebellion to Riot'. Send feedback to columns@ gleanerjm.com.