Sun | Jun 16, 2019

Mark Wignall | I agree with Lee-Chin

Published:Sunday | May 19, 2019 | 12:15 AM

It is my view that former Contractor General Greg Christie, while a fine public servant, spent too much time in his investigations crossing T’s and dotting I’s, and in that process, short-changed the country of much-needed investment.

Which is not to say that he has never uncovered blatant corruption. The fact is, in business negotiations, especially where the Government of Jamaica is a client, there are no hard and fast rules drawn out of Economics 101. Negotiations do involve the boring but important legalities, but mostly, it is about both parties seeking the best deal under the circumstances.

In certain instances, where official valuations are conducted, it is still accepted that a final sale is only made when an offer and an acceptance are sealed. And while the parties may have utilised official valuations as guides and requirements, at no stage is the party holding more of the handle than the blade going to be held hostage to a strict valuation price.

Michael Lee-Chin, chairman of the Economic Growth Council, while presenting his eighth report to the nation, said: “I am very concerned because it is difficult for someone to come to Jamaica and invest. Once they are here, we should do everything to keep them. A business person’s reputation is all they have, so if someone’s reputation is being impeached because of peripheral things ... if I were in that position, I’d be gone.”

Dirk Harrison, the most recent contractor general and still officially one of the commissioners on the newly minted Integrity Commission, did not disappoint as these legal minds do as contractor general. Faced with a proactive minister who asked to be informed if there were any hitches during the Urban Development Corporation (UDC) negotiations.

Harrison’s views on the Rooms on the Beach negotiations and sale have not found much broad or even pointed agreement with the others making up the Integrity Commission although they have laid out the proviso that his findings are his, even if findings in his draft report do not line up with his conclusions.

One senses that those making up the Integrity Commission have seen much of the real world of business and may be trying to nudge Dirk Harrison in a similar direction. If the mindset and the business outlook held by Harrison are unchangeable, how can Harrison maintain his position?

The JLP administration has shown a welcome impatience with the pace of new business start-ups and much of its political future is tied up in increasing the investment pool and moving the job numbers further along in positive territory. Of course, as these job numbers show increases, pressure will be brought on the Government to include many more of those at-risk youth in this new bounty.

If that does not happen soon enough (next three years), our trajectory of gun crimes will only follow the same destructive path that we have painfully become used to.

THE HORRORS OF HUMAN TRAFFICKING

Jenny (not her real name) left Jamaica as a young girl at the beginning of the 1990s. She settled in with older relatives in the Bronx. There was no big DNA of education running through her family abroad, so after flunking out in school, she became an assistant in a hair dressing salon.

But what she had really going for her was her stunning beauty. “Even now, long after she is dead and gone, I stare at the pictures and wish I had even a half of her beauty,” her sister told me last week.

Jenny eventually became an ‘exotic dancer’ in an underground nightclub, meaning that she was a stripper. She, naturally, began to sell sexual favours. She began to smoke and drink and ingest hard drugs, and she found that increasingly, she had to be pasting on more make-up just to get back to an acceptable level of beauty.

“We lost track of her for a while, then we heard that she was in Puerto Rico, dancing, stripping, and selling her body,” her sister shared. She was by then all of 20 years old.

“In the next 10 years, all we heard were rumours – that she had made a lot of money, had bought a house, had moved to another island. We didn’t know what to believe, and she didn’t respond to letters.”

Unknown to her sisters and her mother living in Manchester, Jenny had got in a knife fight with another stripper, was locked up and eventually deported to Jamaica. Outside the airport at Palisadoes, she found herself all alone. Her mother had moved about three times, so she had no idea which way to turn.

With a small duffel bag slung across one shoulder, she must have made an ideal target for the tall dreadlocks man staring at her. He walked over and began questioning her. He immediately sensed her powerlessness. He begun to spin a tale of lies – that he knew her mother and could arrange a link-up. Crazily, she allowed herself to fall into his web, of hope, she assumed.

She rode with him on his bike to what she eventually told me in one of her saner moments was a big ganja farm somewhere in St Thomas. The man had dozens of youngsters working there. Then hell descended on her.

The first night, the man raped her and after that, she became the property of the others in the close-knit community. They held Jenny captive for about a year until she escaped. Maybe somewhat naturally, she ended up on the streets of Kingston when her mother got wind that she had been sleeping in a pile of bushes along one side of a section of Red Hills Road.

DAMAGED AND ENCRUSTED WITH DIRT

It was at a section just below Whitehall Avenue that we found her. She looked nothing like the glowing picture of hope her mother had taken of her at 10 years old. We tried talking to her, but she had obviously developed a natural tendency to be hostile and distrustful of others.

I called the mental hospital, and luckily for us, on the next day when the van arrived, she was at the same spot. The little clump of bushes. Her home.

Inside her handbag were piles of what could only charitably be called garbage. Then there were bags of ganja so old that they turned powdery on handling. She was taken to the Bellevue Hospital. When I accompanied her mother and others to the mental hospital, she was cleaned up but constantly sedated.

It was in one of her lucid moments that she told us the story leading up to her deportation, the house she owned in Puerto Rico, and the hundreds of thousands of dollars she had “somewhere in a bank”.

Her mother was constantly crying and so were two other sisters as Jenny, in a sudden switch, began to reel of a string of invective at them. In time, her mother and sisters simply left her at the hospital because it appeared that their very presence was upsetting to her.

BACK ON THE STREETS AGAIN, RAPED AGAIN

Jenny walked out of Bellevue, and within two weeks, we heard that she was in St Elizabeth. She had been working as a domestic helper for a family in exchange for food and a place to sleep in the nights. Sometimes the man of the house had his way with her when he felt like it.

This time, I did not accompany the mother when she took her from St Elizabeth. Highly fundamental in her Christianity, her mother took her to church in Manchester, where some of her church sisters were able to convince her that a good dose of Obeah would do the trick.

Jenny ran away again, and while living on the streets, she wandered out too far, was hit by a truck and instantly killed.

- Mark Wignall is a political- and public-affairs analyst. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and mawigsr@gmail.com