Poor people Ha Fi Go Dead!

Two spelling systems are used for the Jamaican language below. The first, which I call ‘chaka-chaka’, is based on English spelling. The second, ‘prapa-prapa’, is the specialist system designed by the Jamaican linguist Frederic Cassidy. It has been updated by the Jamaican Language Unit at the University of the West Indies, Mona. After the two Jamaican versions, there’s an English translation.

CHAKA-CHAKA SPELLING

bustamante-children-hospital-kingston-jamaicaA dat mi housekeeper Annie seh when mi tell her how much fi di lab test weh her son ha fi do: $22,000! She no mek dat fi di whole week. Di pikni dida go a Children’s Hospital an she never ha fi pay fi none a di test dem. Dat a up to when im a 12. Last year, im turn 13. Ascorden to Children’s Hospital, im a big smaddy now. So dem done wid im.

Im start go a Spanish Town Hospital. Im have kidney problem from im born. An a plenty sufferation di poor lickle pikni go through. Wen im a two month old, dem operate pon im. An a so im an im mada a fight life so til im a go high school now.

Di last time im go hospital, dem gi Annie paper fi tek go a Public fi do sinting fi mek im vein dem open up. Through she ha fi work, she aks her friend fi go get one appointment. Dem tell her seh Annie ha fi come. When she go, dem tell her seh di pikni ha fi come too so dem can look pan im vein before dem gi im appointment fi du wa dem a fi do. So she go back wid him one next day.

Annie work wid mi two day fi di week an dat a did one a fi mi day dem. She go a Public early di morning fi see if she coulda get through an still come a work. Lickle before 11, she call fi seh all now dem no see no doctor. So mi aks her fi mek mi talk to di smaddy weh in charge. She never bodder wid mi. She go talk fi harself.

She tell mi seh di doctor weh fi see di pikni deh inna theatre. If she never go aks, she woulda never find out. Anyhow, one next doctor gi her paper fi go a Apex lab pon Molynes Road fi do di said same test weh dem shoulda do a Public. Im never even look pon di pikni.

DOCTOR CRAB TOE

By dis time, it never mek sense fi Annie bodder come a work. She just go straight a Apex. Dem seh dem no do dat deh test an dem send her to one next Apex pon Winchester Road. Di next week, she go after she lef work. Dem tell her seh dat deh section close 4 o’clock pon Friday.

She go back di next week. Dem tell her seh dem no do dat deh test. She fi go a Oxford Medical. Unu see how much time a waste a go up an dung fi nutten! Not to mention bus fare! Wen mi hear di story, mi tell Annie seh mi a go call Oxford Medical fi mek sure dem do di test.

Well, wen mi look pon di paper, mi couldn’t mek out nutten weh di doctor write. A pure crab toe. Wa mek? Power! Fi mek wi know seh doctor know more dan wi. An wi dis ha fi sop it. Plenty a dem doctor tek Hypocritical Oath, not Hippocratic. Dem love money more dan people. No bodder mek mi start pon dem.

Mi tek picture a di paper an email it to Oxford Medical. Dem know how fi read crab toe. A fi dem bizniz dat. An dem do di test. But koo pon di price! Weh Annie fi get dat deh money? Wi ha fi do plenty better wid health care inna dis ya country.

Pikni age not suppose fi stop a 12. Dat no right. An wi done know seh Govament can’t afford fi gi everybody free health care. A pure politics mek dem mash up di system. Who can pay suppose fi pay. An who can’t pay suppose fi get help. Poor people can’t just dead so fi nutten.

PRAPA-PRAPA SPELIN

A dat mi ouskiipa Annie se wen mi tel ar omoch fi di lab tes we ar son a fi du: $22,000! Shi no mek dat fi di uol wiik! Di pikni dida go a Children’s Hospital an she neva a fi pie fi non a di tes dem. Dat a op tu wen im a 12. Laas ier, im ton tortiin. Azkaadn tu Children’s Hospital, im a big smadi nou. So dem don wid im.

Im staat go a Spanish Town Hospital. Im av kidni prablem fram im baan. An a plenti sofarieshan di puor likl pikni go chruu. Wen im a tuu mont uol, dem apariet pan im. An a so im an im mada a fait laif so til im a go a ai skuul nou.

Di laas taim im go aaspital, dem gi Annie piepa fi tek go a Public fi du sinting fi mek im vien dem opn op. Chruu shi a fi wok, shi aks ar fren fi go get wan apaintment. Dem tel ar se Annie a fi kom. Wen shi go, dem tel ar se di pikni a fi kom tu so dem kyan luk pan im vien bifuor dem gi im apaintment fi du wa dem a fi du. So shi go bak wid im wan neks die.

Annie wok wid mi tuu die fi di wiik an dat a did wan a fi mi die dem. Shi go a Public orli di maanin fi si if shi kuda get chruu an stil kom a wok. Likl bifuor 11, shi kaal fi se aal nuo dem no si no dakta.So mi aks ar fi mek mi taak tu di smadi we in chaaj. Shi neva bada wid mi. Shi go taak fi arself.

Shi tel mi se di dakta we fi si di pikni de ina tieta. If shi neva go aks, shi wuda neva fain out. Eniou, wan neks dakta gi ar piepa fi go a Apex lab pan Molynes Ruod fi du di sed siem test we dem shuda du a Public. Im neva iivn luk pan di pikni.

DAKTA KRAB TUO

Bai dis taim, it neva mek sens fi Annie bada kom a wok. Shi jos go striet a Apex. Dem se dem no du dat de tes an dem sen a tu wan nex Apex pan Winchester Ruod. Di neks wiik, shi go aafta shi lef wok. Dem tel ar se dat de sekshan kluoz 4 aklak pan Fraide.

Shi go bak di neks wiik. Dem tel ar se dem no du dat de tes. Shi fi go a Oxford Medical. Unu si omoch taim a wies a go op an dong fi notn! Nat tu menshan bos fier! Wen mi ier di stuori, mi tel Annie se mi a go kaal Oxford Medical fi mek shuor dem du di tes.

hypocriteWel, wen mi luk pan di piepa, mi kudn mek out notn we di dakta rait. A pyuur krab tuo. Wa mek? Powa! Fi mek wi nuo se dakta nuo muor dan wi. An wi dis a fi sop it. Plenti a dem dakta tek Hypocritical Oath, nat Hippocratic. Dem lov moni muor dan piipl. No bada mek mi staat pan dem.

Mi tek pikcha a di piepa an iimiel it tu Oxford Medical. Dem nuo ou fi riid krab tuo. A fi dem bizniz dat. An dem du di test. Bot ku pan di prais! We Annie fi get dat de moni? Wi a fi du plenti beta wid elt kier ina dis ya konchri.

Pikni iej nat sopuoz fi stap a 12. Dat no rait. An wi don nuo se Govament kyaahn afuod fi gi evribadi frii elt kier. A pyuur palitiks mek dem mash op di sistim. Uu kyan pie supuoz fi pie. An uu kyaahn pie supuoz fi get elp. Puor piipl kyaahn jos ded so fi notn.

ENGLISH TRANSLATION

POOR PEOPLE JUST HAVE TO DIE!

That’s what my housekeeper Annie said when I told her the cost of the lab test her son has to do: $22,000! She doesn’t make that much in a week. The child used to to go to the Children’s Hospital and she didn’t have to pay for any of the tests. That was up to when he was 12. Last year, he turned 13. According to the mandate of the Children’s Hospital, he’s now an adult. So that’s it.

He started to go to the Spanish Town Hospital. He’s had  kidney problems from birth. And that poor child has suffered so much.   When he was two months’ old, he had to have an operation. And he and his mother have been fighting against the odds.  He’s now in  high school.

The last time he visited the hospital, Annie was referred to the Public Hospital to do a procedure to open up his veins. Because she has to work, she asked a friend to go and make an appointment. She was told that Annie herself had to come. When she did go, she was told that the child also had to come so they could examine his veins before giving him an appointment to do the procedure. So she went back with him another day.

Annie works with me two days each week and that was one of the days she should have come to work.  She went to Public early that morning, hoping to get through in time to still come a work. A little before 11, she called to let me know that she still hadn’t seen a doctor. So I asked her to let me speak with  the person in charge. She didn’t  bother with me. She went and spoke up for  herself.

She told me that the doctor who was supposed to examine the child was in theatre. If she hadn’t asked, she wouldn’t have known. Anyhow, another doctor gave her a referral to Apex lab on Molynes Road to do the very same test that should have been done at Public.  And he didn’t even examine the child.

DOCTOR CRAB TOE

By this time, it didn’t make sense for Annie to come to work. She just went straight to Apex. She was told that they don’t do the test there and she was sent to the Winchester Road lab. The following week, she went after work.  She was told that that section closes at 4 o’clock on Fridays.

She went back the following week. They told her that they don’t do the test and sent her Oxford Medical. You see how much time was wasted going up and down all for nothing! Not to mention bus fare! When I heard the story, I told Annie that I was going to call Oxford Medical to make sure they do the test.

hippocratic-oathWell, when I looked at the form, I  couldn’t make out anything the doctor had written. It was pure crab toe. Why? Power! To let us know that  doctors know more than we do. And we just have to  put up with it.  A lot of those doctors have taken the Hypocritical Oath, not Hippocratic. They love money more than people. Don’t let me start on them.

I took a picture of the form and emailed it to Oxford Medical. They know how to read crab toe. They’re in that business. And they do the test. But look at the price! How can Annie afford that?  We have to do much, much better with health care in this country.

Children shouldn’t be cut off  at age 12. That’s not right. And we know that the Government can’t afford to give everybody free health care. It’s nothing but politics that made them dismantle the system we had.   Who can afford to pay should pay.   And those who can’t should get assistance. Poor people can’t just die like that for nothing.

Jamaica going up in smoke

One day last month, there was a pestilence of smoke in my neighbourhood. It wasn’t an act of God. Just one of my selfish neighbours burning rubbish in his yard. And it certainly wasn’t enlightened self-interest. This is an intelligent man who must know that smoke can’t be good for his health.

Soon after I started to smell the nasty fumes, I got a call from his next-door neighbour asking if I’d gone for my walk. I told her I was just about to when I smelled the smoke. She asked me to come and see. That made no sense. When I looked out, I couldn’t believe the density of the smoke. And I was several houses away from the source!

I immediately locked up all my windows, hoping to keep out the ash that was sure to come. I eventually went on my walk after the smoke had cleared. Of course, the ill effects were lingering. There was still the acrid smell and God only knows what was in the air.

dont-let-lung-health-go-up-in-smoke-thumb.jpgBurning rubbish doesn’t make it go away. It just turns into deadly particles of disease that attack your lungs. Why is that so hard to understand? Why do we persist in believing that smoke is harmless? Respiratory problems are a very high price to pay for not getting rid of rubbish.

BURNING OUT OBEAH

I was quite prepared to tackle my neighbour. But he wasn’t at home. Perhaps, he’d left before the fire was lit and I was falsely accusing him of negligence. If yu can’t ketch Kwaku, yu ketch im shut. In this case, it was the gardener. So I asked him why he had lit such a huge fire. He was burning out termites.

According to him, no other treatment was as effective as fire. Not true! Bleach and boric acid are a deadly combination. Believe it or not, a few days later, he was at it again. This time, it was a dead dog. Why couldn’t the dog have been buried instead of cremated?

Another morning, I confronted a gardener up the road who had set a big fire that was sending up clouds of smoke. When I asked him what he was burning, he said it was old clothes. I couldn’t believe it. So I asked why the clothes couldn’t have been put out in regular garbage. His response: “The lady don’t want nobody use her clothes do her nothing.” Words to that effect.

Mi couldn’t even get vex. Mi just had to laugh. As far as I know, that lady is a big Christian. But she was covering all her bases. Christian or not, she knew the power of obeah and was not taking any chances. She was just going to burn it out. Or at least the clothes!

mhyh2qo

I keep wondering if my inconsiderate neighbours don’t know that it is illegal to light fires in residential communities. It’s not just a courtesy to one’s neighbours not to smoke them out. It’s actually against the law.

The problem, of course, is that the law is not enforced. I’ve actually called the police station to report illegal fires. You can just imagine the response. With all the crimes the police have to deal with, you know illegal fires are very low on their list of priorities.

Sometimes it takes a near-disaster to cure some people of their very bad habit of setting fires. A gardener who works in my neigbourhood had the fright of his life when a fire he lit got out of control. He was sure the fire was going to burn down his employer’s house. He ran away, fearful that he would be arrested for destruction of property.

He was very lucky. The fire was put out in time. By then, he was very far from the scene of the crime. You can just imagine his relief when he found out that the house was still standing. And he’s never ever set another fire. He learnt his lesson the hard way.

PUBLIC EDUCATION

We can’t continue with business as usual. We have to start a national campaign to educate Jamaicans about the dangers of setting fires here, there and everywhere. The Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) is heroically doing what it can to bring the matter to public attention. But there’s only so much that one underfunded NGO can do.

It is the responsibility of the Government to come up with solutions to this persistent problem. In a press release issued last Monday, Diana McCaulay, CEO of JET, called on Prime Minister Andrew Holness to use all of the regulatory agencies to deal with the problem of extremely poor air quality across the island. Chief of these agencies is the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA).

According to its website, one of NEPA’s seven core functions is “environmental management”. This is defined as “Pollution prevention and control; pollution monitoring and assessment; Pollution incident investigation and reporting”. I wonder how much of this is actually done daily.

semi_burning-1

The Government absolutely must enforce the law against setting fires. Both domestic and industrial offenders must be systematically targeted. Until we start prosecuting lawbreakers for setting fires, nothing will change. Jamaica will just continue to go up in smoke. And not even obeah can save us.

KSAC Sells Street to Chinese?

ksacTwo Sundays ago, I got an alarming email: “Having read your article ‘Pearly Beach a no fi poor people’, I found it imperative to make you aware of a troubling situation existing in downtown Kingston. What obtains on Princess Street, between West Parade and Barry Street, are spaces along the roadway marked ‘No parking. RESERVED KSAC’, accompanied by a number of some sorts. These spaces are sold to Chinese business operators by someone at the KSAC at a reported cost of $200,000.

“I took the liberty of parking in one of the spaces recently and was instructed to move by a Chinese gentleman. I made some enquiries and found out that the business operators received letters with KSAC letterhead offering the purchase of parking spaces along the Government’s roadway. Well, suffice it to say, I did not move, as I don’t think I can buy space on the public thoroughfare in China, and believe Chinese should not be able to do so in Jamaica. I hope you may find interest to investigate this matter and bring some public attention through your column.”

I was interested and called the office of the CEO of the KSAC. He was in a meeting. When I said I was enquiring about the sale of parking spaces on Princess Street, I was referred to another office. But I didn’t want to buy a parking space. I needed information on the policy. It was only the CEO (in the meeting) who could update me.

So I sent an email: “Can you please let me know the terms on which parking spaces are sold? To whom are parking spaces sold? And at what cost? When was this policy first implemented? And how is it managed? I very much look forward to your answer to these questions and to any other pertinent information you can offer.”

To date, I haven’t got a response. If the KSAC operates in the same way as the Urban Development Corporation (UDC), I suppose I’ll get an answer in about two weeks. No matter how long it takes, these questions must be answered in the public interest.

 

PRESUMED RIGHTS

 

The perceptive man who emailed me made a connection between the business of selling parking spaces on the street in downtown Kingston and limited access to Pearly Beach. It appears to be the same issue: The Government of Jamaica selling the rights of citizens to the highest bidder, whether foreigner or local.

e874c2259dbf5ae5c59c44f4e29bdcedAs it turns out, some of these presumed rights are not rights at all. They are figments of our collective imagination as a supposedly independent nation. I was intrigued by the response of Peter Knight, CEO of the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA), to both my column, ‘No beach for local tourists’, and Diana McCaulay’s excellent article, ‘The problem of beach exclusion’.

First of all, Mr Knight makes an error in reporting the headline of my column. He writes, ‘No beach for local tourist’. Singular. I actually wrote ‘tourists’. Plural. The issue of beach access is much bigger than the exclusion of a single individual. It’s about all Jamaicans who ought to have the right to enjoy well-kept beaches.

And, again, I’m appealing to all Jamaicans at home and in the diaspora to sign the petition to the prime minister launched by the Jamaica Environment Trust: ‘Better Beaches for All Jamaicans’. You can find it at change.org. So far, 1,245 of us have signed. Our goal is 5,000, at least.

Mr Knight’s response was published on January 22 with the deceptively succinct headline, ‘Jamaica’s beaches: access and rights’. I wondered if he was hoping that only a few people would read the long-winded article, especially since the news was not good:

“Ownership of the foreshore is vested in the Crown, except where rights are acquired under or by virtue of the Registration of Titles Act or any express grant or licence from the Crown subsisting immediately before 1956. The portion of the beach above the foreshore may be private or public property. The Beach Control Act did not seek to convey general rights to the public to gain access to and use the foreshore or the floor of the sea.”

 

DOG NYAM WI SUPPER

 

In plain English, this is what Mr Knight was saying: “It’s the Crown (now the Government) who owns the beaches – unless the beach was sold or leased before 1956. So beaches can be either private or public property. The Beach Control Act was not set up to give the public any general rights to beach access.” In other words, dog nyam wi supper.

There is also the even older Prescription Act of 1882. That was passed over a century ago, a mere 15 years after the Morant Bay war. This act allows rights to fish and bathe, based on tradition. But, again, as Mr Knight writes, “There are no general common-law rights over the foreshore, except to pass over it for the purpose of navigation or fishing.”

Why have we held on to these outdated acts? Because they protect the interests of the rich and powerful, especially those who have made major investments in the tourist industry? I suppose we need tourism in much the same way we need Chinese businesses on Princess Street. But at what price? Where is the vision to save us from perishing?

top-10-jamaican-business-stories-for-2016-810x810

No Pussyfooting in Cock Tales

 

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It takes a lot of spunk to call your play Cock Tales. And then to tack on “Shame on Me!” Exclamation mark! This clearly shows you’re not ashamed at all. You’re brazening it out. That’s Debra Ehrhardt for you. This cocky Jamaican playwright and actress is certainly not afraid to talk up di tings. After the spectacular success of her brilliant one-woman play, Jamaica Farewell, Debra’s back with another winner.

Cock Tales is about penises and the men attached to them. It’s also about how one woman deals with the penises she unexpectedly comes upon. From childhood to adulthood! But, as Debra coyly admitted on ‘CVM at Sunrise’ last Thursday, it’s not all that many penises.

In the programme notes, Debra reveals her husband’s reaction to Cock Tales: “When my husband heard the name of my new show, he about lost his mind. I gently explained that his penis was not the first I’d encountered in my life, and that Cock Tales and all my one-woman shows have come from my own life experiences.”

Debra’s play addresses serious social issues such as sexual abuse of girls and sexual repression in Christian families. But there’s also lots of humour. When a well-dressed man on a train in New York invites Debra to view his penis, she raucously exposes him, much to the delight of the audience on the train and in the theatre. Debra skilfully seduces us to laugh even when she’s dealing with trauma. It’s a subtle art. Laughter often masks pain. And it also helps us cope with pain.

PASTOR COULDA NEVER DO DAT!

th-1Debra grew up in a Seventh-day Adventist home. The church doesn’t come off so well in the play. Pastor White offers the young girl a ride home. In the seclusion of the car, he grabs her hand and places it on his penis. She knows it’s a sin and puts up loud resistance. And she tells her mother.

Fortunately for Debra, her mother believes her. They dash off to the pastor’s home to confront him. Many abused girls aren’t so lucky. Their mothers refuse to even consider the possibility that the child is a victim of abuse. Not if the predator is an upstanding member of the community. And certainly not if he brings groceries regularly! No sah! Pastor coulda never do dat!

Cock Tales makes us contemplate the shame that victims of abuse often endure. That’s the other meaning of “Shame on Me!” It’s the victim who feels shame. Not the heartless attacker. And no matter how innocent the child, she is tainted by abuse. And it can mark her for life. Yu never hear what happen to her? Poor thing! Her life mash up now. She done fah. And the perpetrator of the crime often gets off scot-free.

Of course, I’m not going to tell you all the tales in Debra’s play. You have to go and see for yourself. The play opened last Wednesday at the Jamaican Shopping Club Theatre, formerly Green Gables, on Cargill Avenue. It’s on from Wednesday to Sunday until the 19th of February. Seventh-day Adventists should turn out in large numbers to look in Debra’s mirror. It’s an opportunity for reflection. I hope it’s not still a sin to go to the theatre.

FOUR CAN’T PLAY

Cock Tales isn’t the only play in town that’s dealing with men out of control. Basil Dawkins’ Four Can’t Play is on at the Little Little Theatre. It stars Oliver Samuels. He’s not the bad guy. His only problem is a very bad case of snoring. The villain is an irrationally jealous man who attacks anyone he thinks is attracted to his wife. He ends up in prison. Again, the play’s serious message is delivered with much humour.

Then there’s Tek Yuh Han Off A Mi, written by Michael Dawson, the local producer of Cock Tales. He also wrote the song of the same name that’s performed by Queen Ifrica. The play deals with domestic violence. And it attempts to free men and women trapped in co-dependence. It’s on today at 6 o’clock at the Jamaican Shopping Club Theatre.

blow-the-whistle-for-truth-t-shirts-mens-premium-t-shirtDebra Ehrhardt’s Cock Tales couldn’t have come to Jamaica at a better time. The constant abuse of girls by powerful men in and out of the Church has now provoked national condemnation. I hope it’s not a nine-day wonder. The abuse of children really isn’t news. We’ve long known about it. But it’s often hushed up. Debra has certainly blown the whistle on this nasty issue. Very loudly!

The Bible says, “A whistling woman and a crowing hen are an abomination to the Lord.” Actually, no! That sentence does not appear anywhere in the Bible. It sounds like it should be in the Book of Proverbs. But it’s not.

Donald Trump’s right-hand woman, Kellyanne Conway, might very well insist that it’s there in the Bible. But that would be an ‘alternative fact’ – a downright lie from a shameless con artist.

Even though the Bible doesn’t condemn whistling women or crowing hens, supposedly holy men of God have used the ancient book for centuries to silence women and keep us in our subservient place. But women keep on putting up resistance fearlessly. In Cock Tales, Debra doesn’t pussyfoot around. She stamps on abusers and shamelessly crows down deviant men: Cock-a-doodle don’t!

Pearly Beach a no fi poor people

Two spelling systems are used for the Jamaican language below. The first, which I call ‘chaka-chaka’, is based on English spelling. The second, ‘prapa-prapa’, is the specialist system designed by the Jamaican linguist Frederic Cassidy. It has been updated by the Jamaican Language Unit at the University of the West Indies, Mona. After the two Jamaican versions, there’s an English translation.

CHAKA-CHAKA SPELLING

Last week Tuesday, January 17, di director of corporate communication fi UDC answer back mi email weh mi did send pon January 3. It tek whole-a two week. Anyhow, mi lucky fi get answer. Unu done know how dem govament office stay. Mi did aks wa mek Pearly Beach private; an which part inna St Ann have public beach weh yu can carry een yu owna food.

pearly-beach-entranceHear weh UDC seh: “Pearly Beach was developed by the Urban Development Corporation (UDC) in line with the needs of our customers which were derived from market research. Consequently, the facility allows for group excursions ranging from corporate gatherings to parties, weddings or any group event. There continues to be a high demand for this type of offering.”

Mi no know a which market UDC do fi dem research. An mi no know a who a fi dem customer. Dem no talk to nobody weh waan go beach wid dem fambily? Wen mi call di St Ann Development Company, mi find out seh di cheapest price fi go a Pearly Beach a $87,375.00. Dat a fi from one smaddy up to 70.

From 71 to 100 smaddy, dat a $116,400. From 101 to 200 smaddy, dat a $174,750.00. An from 201 to 1,000 smaddy, dat a $291,250. Pon top a dat, yu ha fi pay security deposit. Dat a $30,000 fi all a di group dem. Dat no fair.

‘FREE FROM DISCRIMINATION’?

See one next part a UDC email ya:

“It must be stated that public access does not mean free or unrestricted access as nominal fees are collected from patrons for all beach facilities that the UDC operates. As it relates to Pearly Beach, please be advised that access to the recreational facility is available to all and refers to accessing same, free from discrimination and preserving the right to book once the facility is available relative to other public bookings.”

discrimination.jpg

A no true seh UDC price fi use all a dem beach “nominal”. Di four a wi weh did a drive up an down St Ann pon New Year’s Day a look beach wuda ha fi pay $21,843.75 – one, one – fi go a Pearly Beach. Pon top a dat, UDC can’t seh “access to the recreational facility is available to all and refers to accessing same, free from discrimination”. Wid dem deh high price, UDC kuda never expect poor people fi go a Pearly Beach. UDC a discriminate gainst poor people.

An mi no know a how UDC price di different-different group dem. Di lickle group dem pay more fi one smaddy dan di big group dem. Dat no right. Seventy smaddy pay $1,248.21 fi one.  One hundred smaddy pay $1,164 fi one. Two hundred smaddy pay $873.75 fi one. An thousand smaddy pay $291.25 fi one!

UDC better wheel an come again. A no so-so big event fi keep a Pearly Beach. It fi open every day fi everybody. An UDC wuda mek nuff money offa all a wi weh waan go a good beach. An unu fi sign di petition to Prime Minister Andrew Holness pon change.org weh di Jamaica Environment Trust launch: “Better Beaches For All Jamaicans.” Di whole a wi!

PRAPA-PRAPA SPELIN

Laas wiik Chuusde, Janieri 17, di director of corporate communication fi UDC ansa bak mi iimiel we mi did sen pan Janieri 3. It tek uola tuu wiik. Eniou, mi loki fi get ansa. Unu don nuo ou dem govament afis stie. Mi did aks wa mek Pearly Beach praivit; an wich paat iina St Ann av poblik biich we yu kyahn kyari iin yu uona fuud.

market-researchIer we UDC se: “Pearly Beach was developed by the Urban Development Corporation (UDC) in line with the needs of our customers which were derived from market research. Consequently, the facility allows for group excursions ranging from corporate gatherings to parties, weddings or any group event. There continues to be a high demand for this type of offering.”

Mi no nuo a wich maakit UDC du fi dem risorch. An mi no nuo a uu a fi dem kostama. Dem no taak to nobadi we waahn go biich wid dem fambili? Wen mi kaal di St Ann Development Company, mi fain out se di chiipis prais fi go a Pearly Beach a $87,375. Dat a fi fram wan smadi op tu seventi.

Fram seventi-wan tu wan onjred smadi, dat a $116,400.00. Fram wan onjred an wan tu tuu onjred smadi, dat a $174,750. An fram tuu onjred an wan tu wan touzan smadi, dat a $291,250. Pan tap a dat, yu a fi pie sikuoriti dipazit. Dat a $30,000 fi aal a di gruup dem. Dat no fier.

‘FREE FROM DISCRIMINATION’?

Si wan neks paat a UDC iimiel ya:

“It must be stated that public access does not mean free or unrestricted access as nominal fees are collected from patrons for all beach facilities that the UDC operates. As it relates to Pearly Beach, please be advised that access to the recreational facility is available to all and refers to accessing same, free from discrimination and preserving the right to book once the facility is available relative to other public bookings.”

A no chruu se UDC prais fi yuuz aal a dem biich ‘nominal’. Di fuor a wi we did a jraiv op an dong St Ann pan Nyuu Ierz Die a luk biich uda a fi pie $21,843.75 – wan, wan – fi go a Pearly Beach. Pan tap a dat, UDC kyaahn se “access to the recreational facility is available to all and refers to accessing same, free from discrimination.” Wid dem de ai prais, UDC kuda neva ekspek puor piipl fi go a Pearly Beach. UDC a diskriminiet gens puor piipl.

An mi no nuo a ou UDC prais di difran-difran gruup dem. Di likl gruup dem pie muor fi wan smadi dan di big gruup dem. Dat no rait. Seventi smadi pie $1,248.21 fi wan. Onjred smadi pie $1,164.00 fi wan. Tuu onjred smadi pie $873.75 fi wan. An touzan smadi pie $291.25 fi wan!

UDC beta wiil an kom agen. A no suo-so big event fi kip a Pearly Beach. It fi opn evri die fi evribadi. An UDC wuda mek nof moni aafa aal a wi we waahn go a gud biich. An unu fi sain di pitishan tu Praim Minista Andrew Holness pan change.org we di Jamaica Environment Trust laanch: “Better Beaches For All Jamaicans.” Di uol a wi!

ENGLISH TRANSLATION

PEARLY BEACH NOT FOR POOR PEOPLE

Last Tuesday, January 17, UDC’s director of corporate communication responded to my email sent on January 3. It took all of two weeks. Anyhow, I’m fortunate to have got an answer. You know how government offices operate. I’d asked why Pearly Beach is private; and where in St. Ann there are public beaches to which you can take your own food.

Here’s UDC’s response: “Pearly Beach was developed by the Urban Development Corporation (UDC) in line with the needs of our customers which were derived from market research. Consequently, the facility allows for group excursions ranging from corporate gatherings to parties, weddings or any group event.  There continues to be a high demand for this type of offering”.

I don’t know in which market UDC did their research. And I don’t know who are their customers. Didn’t they talk to anyone who wanted to go to the beach with their family? When I called the St. Ann Development Company, I found out that the lowest entry fee for Pearly Beach is $87,375.00. That’s for from one to seventy persons.

From seventy-one to one hundred persons, that’s $116,400.00. From one hundred and one to two hundred persons, that’s $174,750.00. And from two hundred and one to one thousand persons that’s $291,250.00. In addition, there’s a security deposit. It’s $30,000.00 for all of the groups. That’s not fair.

“FREE FROM DISCRIMINATION”?

Here’s another bit of the email from UDC: “It must be stated that public access does not mean free or unrestricted access as nominal fees are collected from patrons for all beach facilities that the UDC operates. As it relates to Pearly Beach, please be advised that access to the recreational facility is available to all and refers to accessing same, free from discrimination and preserving the right to book once the facility is available relative to other public bookings”.

costs

It’s simply not true that the UDC fee to use all their beaches is “nominal”. The four of us who were driving up and down St. Ann on New Year’s Day looking for a beach would have had to pay $21,843.75 each to get into Pearly Beach. In addition, UDC can’t claim that “access to the recreational facility is available to all and refers to accessing same, free from discrimination”. With those high entry fees, UDC could not expect poor people to be able to afford to go to Pearly Beach.   UDC is discriminating against poor people.

And I don’t quite understand how UDC costs the different categories of fees. The small groups pay more for each individual than the big groups. That’s not right. Seventy persons pay $1,248.21 each. One hundred pay $1,164.00 each. Two hundred persons pay $873.75 each. And one thousand persons pay $291.25 each!

UDC had better wheel and come again. It’s not only big events that should be kept at Pearly Beach. It should be open every day for everybody. And UDC would make lots of money from all of us who want to go to a good beach. And you all must sign the petition to Prime Minister Andrew Holness on change.org that the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) has launched: “Better Beaches For All Jamaicans”. All of us!

Chanting down greedy hoteliers

Last week’s post, ‘No Beach For Local Tourists’, touched a very sensitive nerve. I got so many emails from both Jamaicans and other Caribbean citizens who are very concerned about the way in which hoteliers dominate the conversation about public access to our beaches.

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Diana McCaulay, CEO of the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET), highlights this troubling issue of special interests in her excellent article, ‘The Problem of Beach Exclusion’, published in The Gleaner on Wednesday, January 11: “In 1997, the NRCA [National Resources Conservation Authority] began work on a beach policy to address issues surrounding public access and a Green Paper was drafted which proposed open access. There was immediate pushback from the tourism industry”.

Of course, there was pushback! Hoteliers don’t want open access to beaches because this will reduce their control of valuable resources. Their all-exclusive hotels would become much too inclusive for their liking. They want to erect barbed wire fences, stretching into the sea, to keep out the locals.

We cannot sit back passively and allow our beaches to be captured by greedy hoteliers, irresponsible politicians and all those who benefit from the current state of affairs. We have to take action. We, Jamaicans, like to think of ourselves as militant. We boast about our Ashanti warrior heritage. But we don’t always put up a fight for important causes. We need to follow the example of our uncompromising Caribbean neighbours who refuse to be shut out of their beaches.

VIRAL PROTEST

I got an inspiring email from Antigua. Here’s an excerpt. I’ve deleted the name of the hotelier: “A few years ago, [a Jamaican hotelier] tried to get the Government of Antigua and Barbuda to ‘allow’ him to turn one of our most visited and, by far, favourite beaches – among locals and visitors – into a private enclave for his guests. The protests from the locals and nearby residents were not only unrelenting, but in your face. Some of the protests even went viral. He eventually backed away and the Government did not have to intervene … the people with the power had spoken.”

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One of the most outspoken warriors in the fight to keep Caribbean beaches out of the grasp of hoteliers is the Barbadian calypsonian The Mighty Gabby. His 1982 calypso, “Jack”, was a classic piece of throw word confronting Jack Dear, chairman of the Barbados Tourist Board. Dear, who was certainly not dearly beloved, had declared that hotel owners had the right to develop their property up to the waterfront of the island’s beaches.

This is how Gabby launched his counterattack:

“I grow up bathing in seawater

But nowadays dat is bare horror

If I only venture down by the shore

Police telling me Ah can’t bathe no more

Cause Jack don’t want me to bathe on my beach

Jack tell dem to keep me out of reach

Jack tell dem I will never make the grade

Strength and security build barricade

Da can’t happen here in this country

I want Jack to know dat di beach belong to we

Da can’t happen here over my dead body

Tell Jack dat I say dat di beach belong to we”.

Gabby knows that the barricades are all about the tourist dollar. And he’s not prepared to sell his birthright:

“Tourism vital, I can’t deny

But can’t mean more than I and I

My navel string bury right here

But a tourist one could be anywhere

Yet Jack don’t want me to bathe on my beach”.

Gabby’s use of “I and I” is an assertion of Rastafari consciousness. It empowers him to chant down the forces of oppression.

BIG UP WI BEACH

Tourism is now vital to our economies across the Caribbean. But we have to find a way to balance the requirements of the tourist industry and the needs of citizens. We can’t just fence in tourists and fence out locals. Many hoteliers assume that their property is like a cruise ship. And the ship is the destination. But some tourists actually want to escape the all-exclusive prison. They want to meet the people outside the barricades.

Diana McCaulay shows us the way forward: “It is true that harassment is a problem for the tourist industry – or indeed for any visitor to a Jamaican beach. But the response cannot be exclusion. The response has to be commitment to a set of articulated principles – frequent access points; provision of well-managed public beaches, including the requirement for behaviour by beach users that does not present a nuisance or threat to others or to the beach itself”.

thThis week, the Jamaica Environment Trust launches ‘Big Up Wi Beach’ on Facebook. It’s an open forum for debate on beach access and related issues such as beach erosion. Readers are invited to post images of their favourite beaches and to write about their memories of great beach outings.

JET is also developing a petition to the Government advocating a definitive policy on beach access for all Jamaicans. I trust that the Urban Development Corporation will support the petition. I won’t hold my breath. I still haven’t gotten an answer to my email to the director of corporate communications about access to Pearly Beach. And I hope Jamaican musicians will create a song in support of the campaign. Like Gabby, they simply must chant down greedy hoteliers.

No Beach For Local Tourists

pearly-beach-entranceOn New Year’s Day, a carload of us drove up, down and around Ocho Rios looking for a public beach. Our first stop was Pearly Beach. The name sounded promising. But we might as well have gone to the Pearly Gates. St Peter would not let us in. The security guard said it was a private beach managed by UDC (the Urban Development Corporation). It could be rented but it was not open to the general public without prior arrangements.

We wondered if we should forget about finding a decent public beach and just go to one of the hotels. So we stopped at Jamaica Inn. Unfortunately for us, but not for them, they were at full occupancy. And their policy is not to issue day passes when the hotel is full. The view from the hotel lobby showed hardly anybody on the beach. But hotel policy is hotel policy.

We asked the receptionist if there was a public beach nearby and we were told about one in the centre of Ocho Rios. That’s not a beach. It’s a port. Back on the road, we kept looking for a public beach and we were sent to Sugar Pot beach. That’s not a beach. It’s a wasteland. We were well salt.

‘NO FOOD & DRINKS’

We decided to try our luck at Bamboo Beach. The sign at the entrance boldly announced that this was PRIVATE PROPERTY. And there was a long list of rules and regulations including: No drugs, no firearms or weapons, no ganja smoking, no profanity, vulgar language or loud behaviour and no soliciting. All very well and good!

But we were not amused to find that food and drinks were prohibited. The gate hostess informed us that the car would have to be searched and if we did have food and drink there were two options. We could either eat and drink before going on the property. Or we could leave our food with the security guard. Neither option was appetising.

img_2248The last item on the sign read: “Please call management to report any questions or concerns”. We got voicemail. So we kept going. By now, we had wasted a lot of beach time looking for a beach. We decided to try Shaw Park Beach Hotel. For US$65 each we could access the beach and get lunch. Or we could pay J$1,000 each to go to the adjacent White River beach, entry to which was controlled by Shaw Park.

We decided on the latter option since food and drink were not prohibited. But, alas, the White River beach was not a beach. The river had been in spate so the water was muddy. The beach was dirty. There was a dog roaming around. We quickly ate our food in less than ideal circumstances.

On the way out, I complained to the manager of the hotel. He was surprised that we had been sent to the beach because he knew it was not in a good condition that day. And he cheerfully refunded the entry fee. That was some consolation. But after all of that upping and downing, we still hadn’t gone to the beach!

HELD HOSTAGE

On Tuesday, I called the UDC office in Kingston to ask about access to Pearly Beach. I was advised to send an email to the director of corporate communications, which I did. I proposed that one of the priorities of urban development ought to be ensuring access of all Jamaicans to public beaches in ways that are consistent with local cultural values – for example, self-catering. Patrons should not be held hostage by beach operators who attempt to force them to buy food and drink on the property. UDC has not yet responded.

The Jamaican Government needs to take lessons from Barbados. All beaches in Barbados are, by law, national parks and cannot be privatised. Every citizen of Barbados has access to all beaches. One of my favourites is Accra Beach, named after the capital of Ghana. Both locals and tourists enjoy the beach which reminds me of Hellshire. Full of vibes!

hellshirebeach

Hellshire Beach before and after erosion

By the way, if the Government doesn’t move quickly to build back the reef at Hellshire, the beach will die. Imagine, Kingston is sitting on the seventh largest natural harbour in the world and we don’t have a single beach in the city. We have turned the harbour into a cesspool.

There’s been a lot of talk in the news lately about record visitor arrivals. We welcome these foreigners. But we simply can’t forget about local tourists who also want to enjoy the beauty of our homeland. We have to launch a national campaign to take back Jamaica’s beaches from private operators. In the 1970s we used to say we’re more than a beach, we’re a country. Now, we need to claim our beaches. They should belong to all Jamaicans. Not just a few hoteliers.

And the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) needs to look carefully at its ads for the North American market. There are hardly any black tourists! It seems as if even Jamaicans in the diaspora who come home often are not recognised as tourists. We only want their remittances! The issue of beach access may not just be about locals. Perhaps, for the JTB, the ideal tourist is really not black.