Last Thursday, one of my mischievous friends sent me the link to a Gleaner article with this headline: ‘Holness urges developers not to be thwarted by bad mind’.’ The subject of the email was, “Is all like you Anju throwing word on.” I had a good laugh. ‘Anju’ could not possibly be throwing his ‘bad-mind’ words in my direction. I’m all for development. But, like so many other concerned citizens, I’ve been speaking out against the disorderly transformation of Kingston and St Andrew. The headline of my column published on May 7 was ‘KSAMC an di developer dem a mash up Kingston.’
Over the last several weeks, there’s been increased public debate on managing development. Honor Ford-Smith’s column, “Control the developers,” was published in The Gleaner on April 25. It was a plea for “community and green space in our city.” Ford-Smith is an associate professor in the Faculty of Environmental Studies at York University, Toronto. Her family home is on Hope Road. She has a personal and professional investment in coherent urban development.
Ford-Smith’s public intervention was sparked by the demolition of a grand old house on Seaview Avenue that had fallen into disrepair. She asserts: “I am not here arguing for the preservation of icons of the wealthy. I am arguing for the importance of public space and green space in a city that is changing rapidly. I am arguing for us to make use of the natural assets that we have instead of destroying them in favour of mimicking the profound ugliness and alienation of northern cities.”
On May 5, a column by architect Patricia Green was published in The Gleaner with this optimistic headline: “Citizens must enforce development power.” Green is a former head of the Caribbean School of Architecture at the University of the Technology. She argued that, “Government procedures are contravening guidelines, policies, and laws. Developers are receiving various levels of approvals to proceed with designs and construction that flaunt good governance and sustainable practice.”
Many citizens are fearful of tangling with developers. Legal fees can be prohibitive. In those rare cases when citizens win their battle with developers, it can take a long time to resolve the matter. Even when demolition of illegally constructed buildings is mandated, there’s no urgency to actually knock them down. Like prisoners on death row, developers appear to be hoping for a stay of execution.
‘A COLOSSAL MISTAKE’
On May 23, Clifton Yap’s column, “In the quest for safe and liveable streets,” was published in The Gleaner. Yap is an architect and a member of the Golden Triangle Neighbourhood Association. He highlighted a webinar hosted by The National Road Safety Council of Jamaica (NRSC) that focused on “providing streets that are safe in every sense of the word.” Prime Minister Holness gave the opening remarks.
Yap made this striking observation: “If the PM really listened to the presentations made, he would have realised that the countless billions of dollars of public resources that his administration has spent to build urban highways, including the introduction of the concrete, Jersey barriers throughout the city (Hagley Park Road, Constant Spring Road, and Barbican Road, etc), was a colossal mistake and totally contrary to the direction of best practices in the world.”
Pedestrians and cyclists have been forced to climb over high concrete dividers in order to cross these urban highways. Children, especially, are constantly in grave danger as they cannot easily negotiate the barriers. In a country of walk-foot people, how could this kind of ‘development’ have been approved? Lady Musgrave Road may soon become another urban highway, extending the Barbican Road disaster.
BAD-MIND AND GRUDGEFUL
All of us who have been questioning the policies and practices of government agencies want to see our country grow in a systematic way. We cannot reasonably be disregarded as ‘bad-mind.’ The prime minister’s throw-word does not apply to us. We are all of sound mind. But, of course, bad-mind does not signify a lack of mental sharpness. It’s a moral issue.
Believe it or not, ‘bad-mind’ is not a Jamaican term. The Oxford Dictionary confirms its origin: “Late 16th century; earliest use found in Thomas Churchyard (?1523–1604), writer and soldier.” It means, “An evil or suspicious mind,” and is now rare in Standard English. The Caribbean meaning is, “Malicious thoughts or intentions; spite, animosity.” In Jamaica, we have intensified ‘bad-mind’ by adding ‘grudgeful.’ In English, ‘grudgeful’ means ‘full of resentment’. For us, it means ‘envious.’
‘Bad-mind’ seems to be the prime minister’s preferred term for dismissing anyone – named or unnamed – who dares to challenge his administration’s policies or his own conduct. On August 19, 2019, The Gleaner published a column by civil-society advocate Carol Narcisse headlined, “Danger in PM’s ‘bad-mind’ rhetoric.” She argued that it is “startling and unacceptable that the prime minister should seek to deflect questions about the source of income for his considerable assets, by declaring such inquiry as ‘bad mind’.”
More recently, on May 17, Loop News reported that, “Prime Minister Andrew Holness has declared that he will not be sidetracked by those he described as being ‘bad mind,’ who oppose the Government’s decision to award a multibillion contract to China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) to construct the Montego Bay Perimeter (Bypass) Road.”
Then, two Saturdays ago, as reported in The Gleaner on June 8, the prime minister reassured developers: “Forget the talk, forget the bad-mind element in Jamaica.” He was speaking at the groundbreaking ceremony for ten villas in Kingston 6. The cost of each is J$294,202,347.00! Your eyes are not deceiving you. It’s almost 300 million Jamaican dollars for a single unit.
Is this the kind of housing Jamaica needs? Who can afford to buy these villas? I suppose the prime minister may brush off these questions as pure bad-mind. But I learned long ago not to envy the wealthy because I don’t know how they got their fortune. And, like Andrew Holness, I’m throwing words at no one in particular.
HAMBANI ESTATES, KINGSTON 6