Carolyn Cooper | Jamaica Red Cross like the dog in the manger
A bad-mind dog ferociously guarded a manger filled with hay. The dog didn’t eat hay but it refused to let the cattle into the stable to feed after a hard day’s work. The dog acted as if the hay was meat, which it wanted to keep all for itself. When the farmer saw what the selfish dog was doing, he drove it out with a good beating.
This is one of the many fables supposedly told by Aesop. According to legend, he was an African enslaved in Greece. Some researchers propose that Aesop was from Ethiopia. Others suggest that he was Nubian. Still others argue that he was born in Greece. It is popularly believed that he was eventually freed from slavery, thanks to his talent. Like his tales, Aesop himself appears to be a fable.
The Interesting Literature website defines Aesop’s dog in the manger in this way: “someone who has no need of (or ability to use) a possession that would be useful or valuable to others, but who prevents others from having it”. Aesop’s fable reminds me of the Jamaica Red Cross’ mismanagement of Peach Beach and its refusal of assistance that would increase the value of the property.
A DISTURBING TALE
The parallels between the Red Cross and the dog are not precise in all details. The organisation does need the beach. It is an extremely valuable possession that could generate much-needed income. Like the dog, the Red Cross does not appear to have the ability to use this asset. The leadership seems to lack both the vision and the financial resources to develop the beach to its full potential.
Like the dog, the Red Cross is preventing others from accessing the beach. On Wednesday, March 10, I emailed MP Daryl Vaz about his negotiations with the Red Cross on the development of Peach Beach. I must big him up for responding promptly. He telephoned and told a disturbing tale. It was not a fable. With responsibility for land, environment, climate change and investments, Vaz played a major role in formulating a private/public partnership that would benefit the Red Cross and the Jamaican public.
In collaboration with the Tourism Product Development Company, the Tourism Enhancement Fund and the Discovery Bay Community Development Committee, the Red Cross would secure funding to upgrade Peach Beach. Approximately J$30 million was approved to develop the long stretch of beach in Discovery Bay from Fisherman’s Beach all the way to Peach Beach.
At first, the Red Cross seemed willing to participate in the partnership, as evidenced in a letter from Director General Miss Yvonne Clarke to Minister of Tourism Ed Bartlett, dated August 29, 2018: “We write to follow up on a conversation between your good self and our Vice-President Mr Martin Gooden concerning the Jamaica Red Cross’ Beach Front Property in Discovery Bay, St Ann.
“As indicated, the Jamaica Red Cross would like to re-establish basic amenities to the property to facilitate comfortable, sanitary and safe use of this beautiful Beach.
“We trust that you will see fit to partner with us and provide us with financial support through the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF) to make this a reality. Such a venture will enable us to satisfy the needs of the community and attract much-needed income for the operations of the Red Cross.
“We thank you for your attention and urgently await your invitation to discuss our request.”
Miss Clarke’s letter was copied to Mr Carey Wallace, executive director of the TEF; Dr Dennis Edwards, Mr Martin Gooden, and Dr Jaslin Salmon, president and vice-presidents, respectively, of the Jamaica Red Cross. The partnership seemed like a done deal. But there was a spanner in the works: The Discovery Bay Community Development Committee (CDC). The Red Cross seemed to fear that the Committee wanted to take control of the beach.
THE DOG AND THE BONE
At the February 2019 general meeting of the CDC, it was minuted that, “Minister Vaz has been trying to arrange a meeting between his office, CDC, TPDCO and Red Cross since Nov 19, 2018 but he has not been successful so far.” The following decision was taken at that meeting: “It was agreed that CDC would write to Red Cross telling them that we are aware that the beach belongs to them and that we are prepared to work with them.” The letter was sent but it did not seem to have the desired effect.
Daryl Vaz told me that after repeated attempts over several months to reach out to the Red Cross, he finally got a reply, which he reported in a letter, dated April 30, 2019, to Lee Arbouin, then president of the CDC: “I regret to inform you that I have finally had a response from the Jamaica Red Cross, and I am sorry to say that surprisingly, they are uncommitted to the scheme that had been earlier discussed.
“I therefore have to find a different way to deal with the matter.”
The Jamaica Red Cross needs to consider the moral of another fable told by Aesop that’s documented on the US Library of Congress website: “A Dog, to whom the butcher had thrown a bone, was hurrying home with his prize as fast as he could go. As he crossed a narrow footbridge, he happened to look down and saw himself reflected in the quiet water as if in a mirror. But the greedy Dog thought he saw a real Dog carrying a bone much bigger than his own.
“If he had stopped to think he would have known better. But instead of thinking, he dropped his bone and sprang at the Dog in the river, only to find himself swimming for dear life to reach the shore. At last he managed to scramble out, and as he stood sadly thinking about the good bone he had lost, he realised what a stupid Dog he had been.”
The Kaiser Bauxite Company gave the Jamaica Red Cross the juicy bone that is Peach Beach. But it appears as if greed is preventing the organisation from sharing management of the beach with the community, represented by the CDC. Hopefully, the Red Cross will collectively beat sense into its own head and allow all interested parties to enter the proverbial stable and enjoy the benefits of Peach Beach.