Supporting lawlessness

Published: Friday | December 20, 2013 Comments 0

By Peter Espeut

I don't agree with Justice Seymour Panton. The mere fact of reporting crime - or even highlighting it - does not glorify the criminals, nor does it encourage criminality. Not to report crime would be to deprive the public of its right to know what is going on in our country.

But that is not to say that elements of the Jamaican media do not, from time to time, support lawlessness. For example, a newspaper which is pro-business might regard legislation designed to protect the natural environment or national heritage resources as so much humbug! And might indeed encourage the Government to press ahead with investments, ignoring or bypassing important laws intended to support and attain sustainable development. That would be definitely supporting lawlessness.

Here is an extract from the editorial in the last Sunday Gleaner. Read it and tell me what you think:

"Indeed, the Chinese firm which is already developing a US$650-million north-south tolled highway is likely to be frustrated over how slowly we have proceeded on its idea for a US$1.5-billion trans-shipment port and logistics hub at Goat Islands, off Jamaica's south coast.

"This newspaper urges the Jamaican Government to rapidly accelerate the pace of these projects, certain - despite the squeals from some quarters - that it has no reason to be bashful about deals that will create jobs and growth."

NO PROPOSAL YET

I guess I am one of the squealers referred to by The Sunday Gleaner, as I do not believe the Chinese proposal can pass the sustainability test. But I do not understand the call by The Sunday Gleaner for "the Jamaican Government [to] rapidly accelerate the pace" of the "US$1.5-billion trans-shipment port and logistics hub at Goat Islands".

First, the Chinese have not even submitted their proposal to the Jamaican Government stating exactly what they wish to do; that is due at the end of April 2014. Does The Sunday Gleaner want the Government to approve the Chinese proposal sight unseen? Without a proposal in hand, what exactly has the Government not done at this point that it could have done?

Once the Chinese proposal is received, the next step for the Jamaican Government will be to do its due diligence, including an environmental impact assessment (EIA). Does The Sunday Gleaner want ground to be broken for the Goat Islands logistics hub before the terms of reference of the EIA are even prepared? That would be supporting lawlessness.

When The Sunday Gleaner tells the Government "that it has no reason to be bashful about deals that will create jobs and growth", is it trying to suggest that sustainability be sacrificed for jobs and economic growth? So, it really does not matter what the EIA finds, as long as there will be jobs and economic growth.

In this kind of thinking, there really should be only one law: the law of jobs and economic growth, and everything else must come second (last, really). This is the ultimate lawlessness.

Idolatry of money

I prefer to think that the above words in the editorial of The Sunday Gleaner last were poorly thought through, rather than support for the dictatorship of money and investment; I know that there are many who worship at that altar, and I would hate to think that The Sunday Gleaner falls among those.

This type of thinking was condemned by Pope Francis in his apostolic exhortation, 'Evangelii Gaudium', last month when he called on the world to say, "No to the new idolatry of money." Let me quote from paragraph 56:

"While the earnings of a minority are growing exponentially, so, too, is the gap separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by those happy few. This imbalance is the result of ideologies which defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation. Consequently, they reject the right of states, charged with vigilance for the common good, to exercise any form of control. A new tyranny is thus born, invisible and often virtual, which unilaterally and relentlessly imposes its own laws and rules. ... In this system, which tends to devour everything which stands in the way of increased profits, whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenceless before the interests of a deified market, which become the only rule."

The Jamaican State, the media and all of us have the obligation to work for the common good - of Jamaicans currently alive, and of those as yet unborn. I don't know anyone who doesn't want a sustainable logistics hub for Jamaica. If we squeal, it is because we suspect that narrow and lawless interests are about to trample upon the common good.

Peter Espeut is a development scientist and Roman Catholic dean. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.

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