Sun | Aug 25, 2019

Linvern Wright | Call for transparency on Cockpit Country

Published:Wednesday | August 14, 2019 | 12:06 AM

It was clear that Robert Morgan’s guest column published in The Sunday Gleaner of August 4, 2019, titled ‘Beyond the noise on Cockpit Country’ was less about the protection of the Cockpit Country and more about presenting the prime minister as a paragon of environmental virtue that residents must see as the hosanna riding through the hills to protect us from all evil. Any close reading of Mr Morgan’s text underscores his painstaking obfuscation.

We are very clear that a boundary has been established. We know that the prime minister had commissioned the definition of the boundary with alacrity.We know that the Parris Lyew-Ayee Jr’s 2005 boundaries were agreed by an exclusive club.

Our contention, Mr Morgan, is that the process to determine these borders was not transparent. Jamaica must know that at least five or six different groups had determined boundaries for the Cockpit Country. It is important for transparency that we get a clear outline of the criteria that led to choosing Parris Lyew-Ayee Jr’s version of it. We expect you and the prime minister to answer some questions that would help to clarify the process.

Here are some things we are concerned about. Given that Parris Lyew-Ayee Jr is son to Parris Lyew Ayee Sr, who was head of the Jamaica Bauxite institute for many years, would it matter if the country understood the objective measures and parameters he used to determine the borders alluded to by the prime minister? What were the criteria used to determine that this chosen border was in the best interest of sustainability? Can we know the groups, agencies and persons who were consulted in this exercise?

Mr Morgan would do well to explain to the country why Noranda had received a licence for Special Mining Lease Area 173 before an environmental impact assessment had been done.

I am unclear about the Forestry Department’s ground-truthing work. What criteria are being used? Residents believe that the process is being manipulated to establish boundaries that exclude Special Mining Lease 173, which we deem to be Cockpit Country territory.

PREFERENCE for mining

It is our view that Noranda and the Government are more interested in mining than preservation. It is our view that the repeated assurance by operatives of the Government that there will be no mining in the Cockpit Country is disingenuous.

Jamaica must know that the borders were not properly determined by a transparent process of consultation. Our contention is that the Government must listen to all sides. Why has Noranda’s licence to mine not been withdrawn since they have received no approval via an EIA?

Mr Morgan’s desperation is mind-boggling, especially with his reference to farmers’ livelihoods being at risk in an expanded view of the Cockpit Country.

Farming has been practised for hundreds of years on the fringes of the Cockpit Country and its effects on the land have been nowhere as devastating as mining’s have been to St Elizabeth, St Ann and Manchester. Mr Morgan’s reference to yam hill farmers are infantile and desperate. Above all, it is a dishonest attempt to hoodwink farmers into thinking that those calling for protection of the Cockpit Country are forecasting their demise. This kind of reasoning is meant to create discord.

Mr Morgan, for all the noise being made, we seek nothing but the truth. Do not omit facts and try to protect anyone. It is the protection of our landscape that is important.

 

Linvern Wright is a resident of the Cockpit Country. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.