Beyond the pale
Morris Cargill, Contributor
REASONABLE criticism of politicians, public people or matters in
general which concern the public is necessary in every civilised country.
But sometimes events occur which are quite beyond the range of normal
criticism by reason of their absurdity, and the only criticism possible
must involve a certain amount of loud laughter.
For instance, how is it possible seriously to criticise our prison
authorities when it is discovered that many prisoners not only had keys to
their cells, but also owned the padlocks to them?
Moreover, one gathers that there are certain areas of the General
Penitentiary that smell so terrible that the warders can't enter. Perhaps
part of the equipment for warders should include gas masks, large bottles
of deodorant, and perhaps some good perfume.
Then again there is this matter of the Government's proposed new Corruption
Bill which again is beyond the grasp of sensible commentary. Here is a
Government which proposes to abolish corruption, but imposes prison terms
and fines upon those who expose it which are heavier than the penalties of
those guilty of it. This makes a joke of Press freedom, and is in all
probability unconstitutional. The only comment possible, except a roar of
laughter is that those who drafted the Bill are not only hostile to the
idea of a free Press, but are hell-bent on making quite sure that no
corruption could ever be exposed.
When the Press and the Press Association understandably make a fuss about
it, the reaction of K.D. Knight was to obligingly propose certain
amendments which didn't improve its dangerous provisions at all. The
Gleaner headline on Wednesday, November 17 read, "Knight acts on Bill." On
the contrary, I think the Bill has been acting on Knight and has given him
a severe attack of legislative flux. The only possible conclusion from all
this is that those responsible for the Bill, have simply gone bonkers.
Then again take the matter of the failed Jamaica Soya Products Industries
Limited. The Government induces local and foreign investors to put up money
for the purpose of privatisation and an American investor contributed
US$1.5 million for the purpose. The whole business was predicated on the
Government's promise to maintain the tariff on imported soya products.
Hardly had the investors put up their money, than the Government kicks
their feet from under them by abolishing the tariff, thus making the whole
proposition impossible. Among other things, this involved the American
Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) having to pay out US$1.5
million to the American investor with OPIC claiming that the Jamaican
Government was guilty of expropriation and a breach of international law.
This seems to be one hell of a way of attracting foreign investment.
Here again the action of the Government seems to be beyond normal
criticism, for it is so irrational that it borders on lunacy. All the above
instances serve to illustrate my original contention that it is impossible
seriously to criticise something which has gone beyond the range of
criticism. You cannot, for instance, validly criticise some nut for
claiming to be Napoleon.
AH! BLYTHE SPIRIT...
Nobody seems to know the truth about the brouhaha at a meeting two weeks
ago of National Water Commission (NWC) workers. There are various rumours,
but I don't know the truth of any of them.
One rumour is that PNP political goons were sent there to protect Dr. Karl
Blythe from hostile unionised workers. Another rumour has it that the goons
were sent there to intimidate the union and the union leaders. You can take
your pick. The Jamaican Confederation of Trade Unions (JCTU) has said that
it is a most ominous sign that the Minister could justify the use of
political goons to do the work of the police.
In the meantime, one unfortunate result has been the suspension of a
Memorandum of Understanding between the union and the NWC.
I wonder if we shall ever learn the full truth of this unfortunate affair.
It is usually impossible to discover the truth about anything if a
politician is involved.
In spite of the best efforts of many good people and particularly the
consistent efforts by my colleague Diana McCaulay, the pollution of Jamaica
continues apace. We shall soon be knee deep in plastic bags and other
containers; and the paltry sum allocated to clean up Kingston Harbour will
be quite ineffective.
But apart from pollution we continue to destroy our country in other ways.
We are destroying our fishing, by destroying our mangroves and our coral
reefs, and we continue to denude our mountainsides by the relentless
chopping down of trees. We also use our gully courses as rubbish dumps. The
list of our environmental sins is almost endless. If things continue as
they are the country will be a shambles 50 or 60 years from now, and we
will have probably lost our tourist trade.
Even worse, by the end of 60 years the Haitianization of Jamaica, which has
already made a small start will probably have come to full bloom, and all
our well educated and skilled people will probably have migrated with the
help of a flourishing industry in forged passports and visas. If I may be
pardoned for continuing this very depressing glimpse into the future in my
half-cracked crystal-ball, our Government will be fully dominated by area
I trust of course that my forebodings will turn out to be totally wrong,
but it is always wise to keep in mind the bad things the future may hold in
order to avoid them.
JLP GOONS COME OUT
The march of the Citizens for Civil Society on Saturday, November 20 was a
very small one, probably not more than 30 or 40 people, to deliver a
message to the Governor-General. It was a signal for well over a hundred
JLP goons from Tivoli Gardens to try to intimidate the marchers by threats
of violence and vulgar insults.
When this group marched before, and was calling for the resignations of two
PNP Ministers, the PNP supporters left them in peace. On this second
occasion the marchers were very efficiently protected by the police from
But the whole thing demonstrates the difference between the JLP and the
PNP; the JLP being now-a-days the chief proponents of hooliganism from
Edward Seaga's garrison constituency. It's all a great pity, and makes one
despair that the JLP will ever, again be reborn as a worthwhile party.