Mon | Sep 20, 2021

Call a thief a thief. Full stop!

Published:Sunday | May 18, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Ronald Mason

Each society has an expectation of abiding by a set of rules, mores and norms that enhance quality of life. We convince ourselves that the society that is ordered works best. At every occasion, we extol the virtues of the brotherhood of mankind, the generosity of spirit, and the strength to be found in unity.

Jamaica also pays lip service to these lofty ideals, but what is the true reality? We murder the peacemaker in Spanish Town, then we rationalise it by saying we have no idea as to what may have occurred in the past, as his known activities of the present do not suggest that he was not 'mixed up with something'. A rationalisation for a cruel, cold, calculated act of murder.

We decry the black scandal bag disposal facility, yet the gullies are littered with them. Who put them there? We have. The same collective we that is the foundation for unity. The same collective we that extols the prominence of a Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Usain Bolt. The same we who bask in hard work and success. We fill the public square and soak up the pride. We fill the gullies and decry the nastiness of others, yet it is we who do both.

Our Jamaica has a million persons who have stolen the property of others. Sounds harsh, but the one million who are squatters on the lands of others find acceptance. We are told they must be 'regularised'. What does that mean? Give them legal tenure to the land. Provide infrastructure and utilities. Water is life; they must have it.

A people who have land have an enduring stake in the society. Now you do not have to buy it, even with a 50-year mortgage so the payments may be more affordable. Just take it because the big leech in the form of politics will smooth the path to strong legal tenure.

These settlements will probably throw up a majority of the school-age population who will not pay the auxiliary fee to obtain a high-school education, but will reside in households with multiple large flat-screen televisions, washing machines and dryers, air conditioning, every electronic device ever made, and the creature comforts required by means other than work. The lotto scammers extol the value of their 'work'. It provides the upscale home and furnishings, latest automobile, and the good life. What is wrong with a little thievery, or 'hustling'?

Come now, the Jamaica Public Service Company Limited, which unlawfully inflicts collective punishment on sections of the country. The problem of electricity theft has been a feature of this country since 1966. It began with the grant of an islandwide licence for the JPS. The company has had enough. It's having the very viability of the company threatened by the continuous theft of electricity, but no one is determined enough to bring the unlawful practice to an end. How come? No one has the solution.

All the members of the Gangs of Gordon House make impassioned pleas for the thieves. Set them a flat rate. Not an economic rate, just make it flat, at a ridiculous level. Listen to Parliament. Not one politician called it theft. They just have not paid. None of them accept their lack of good governance has contributed to the present state of affairs. They can plan for and put in the Budget of fiscal year 2014-2015 accumulated losses in government entities of more than J$22 billion. The gall of seeking new tax revenues of $6.7 billion dollars! (Source: Ministry of Finance and Planning, Jamaica Public Bodies Publication 2014-2015).

The National Water Commission, with its 11 vice-presidents, is programmed to lose, all by itself, J$3.58 billion. The Coffee Industry Board, whose functions have been curtailed in recent times, will still lose J$51 milliion. The Mortgage Bank: J$8 million. And even the sugar industry, allegedly divested, will take J$1 million. Who is stealing from whom?

Here comes the JPS: The poor can take no more. In this case, the 'poor' is JPS. The real supposed poor are being protected even from the biblical pronouncement that by the sweat of your brow shall you eat bread. They are protected by that most protected of class, the Jamaican politician.

Let them steal electricity. Let them steal land. Let them ignore the norms. The politician will not begin the tough-love restoration of discipline and respect for values, attitudes and property. The chickens are home.

The late Marilyn Nash

Many years ago, I met a most remarkable woman, who, by her diligence and sheer vision, proved to be a most extraordinary and transformative person. Always staying away from the spotlight, but making sure the light would shine on those she felt worthy, she laid down rules in a community that needed discipline, guidance and support to make itself better. She was successful. I shall miss Marilyn Nash. If only Jamaica had cloned her.

Ronald Mason is an immigration attorney, mediator, and talk-show host. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and nationsagenda@gmail.com.