Peter Espeut | Jamming on the Palisadoes
I live in Bull Bay, St. Andrew, and on my way to Midnight Mass on New Year's Eve (Sunday night) in Kingston, I was thankful to be travelling away from the Palisadoes area, with many hundreds of cars heading to watch the fireworks.
The two lanes heading east had to merge into one along the strip heading towards the airport, and even though the police tried to direct the traffic flow, there simply wasn't enough space to accommodate everyone. As we drove by, we could see that cars were at a standstill from the Harbour View roundabout to well beyond the cement company.
Watching a fireworks display is good, clean, family fun, and I was pleased that so many thousands of Jamaicans were taking advantage of this opportunity for free entertainment. The Palisadoes peninsula is an excellent vantage point to watch the scintillating display on the Kingston waterfront, and a large number of people had the same bright idea to watch it from across the harbour. What resulted was disorganised chaos on the access roads!
After Mass, on the way home (well after midnight), my wife and I were caught up in the jam associated with people going home after the fireworks. The two lanes of traffic going towards the Harbour View roundabout were at a standstill for over an hour. Maybe the fireworks display was over too quickly, but people were still in a mood to party; cars were parked along the harbour front, music blaring and people gyrating. From the long line of red and white lights along the Palisadoes peninsula in the distance, I could imagine what was happening there.
This, of course, was not the traffic nightmare (I don't have the superlatives to adequately describe it) on New Year's Day (Monday), associated with the party at the old Gunboat Beach/Buccaneer Beach; as it turns out, the jam on New Year's Eve was only the dress rehearsal.
Surely, the anarchy and disorder of Sunday night should have made the authorities better prepared for what was on Monday supposed to be a highly-organised event, which allegedly received legitimate multi-agency approvals, including, a parking plan supervised by both the police and private security.
Apparently, people parked anywhere including in the middle of the road and went for a walk, or to enjoy the show. Maybe they thought that for the New Year holiday, the whole of the Palisadoes strip was a party zone, like New Kingston is on occasions. It gave new meaning to the expression 'New Year's Jam'.
The legitimacy and propriety of the official permits is one issue: Jamaican government officials are awash in Teflon (except for their fingers, which tend to be sticky), as nothing to do with responsibility and accountability ever seems to stick.
'I want to disturb my neighbour' was an anthem of the Most Honourable Bob, and attempts at enforcement of the Night Noises Act have driven all-night parties into remote locations like the Palisadoes strip, far from human abode. But it is my understanding that on the strip only Fort Rocky between the airport and Port Royal is a legitimate all-night party venue. Surely this episode is a multi-agency cock-up.
Even though this is a new year, don't hold your breath that anyone will be held accountable or responsible.
But what will happen next year? Maybe the New Year party won't get a permit for Gunboat Beach, but what will happen when people turn out in large numbers to watch the fireworks, for which they do not require a permit?
CHRISTMAS FOR THE GENTILES
Today is the eleventh of the 'Twelve Days of Christmas' celebrated in the West, and western Christians are still singing Christmas carols and celebrating the birth of the Christ child; the nativity story according to St. Luke presents the manifestation of Jesus to the Jews. Tomorrow called the Feast of the Epiphany is celebrated as Christmas Day in the East, highlighting the manifestation (Epiphany) of Jesus to the Gentiles, when the wise men from the East presented gifts to the Christ child in his house in Bethlehem, as reported in St. Matthew's account of the gospel. Our Ethiopian Orthodox brethren in Jamaica celebrate January 6 as Christmas day. May I wish them and all my readers abundant blessings in this very holy season.
Christians must not allow pagans to capture Christmas and use it for their profit. They began playing Christmas music in October as they plied their wares, and ceased on Boxing Day. Christmas has lost much of its religious significance, and has been transformed into an end-of-year ritual, when material signs of appreciation are expected.
Let us try to take it back in 2018.
- Peter Espeut is a sociologist and a Roman Catholic deacon. Send feedback to: Columns@gleanerjm.com