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!

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.

Who Owns Jamaica’s Beaches?

UnknownEaston Douglas once took up a very big job that’s still not finished. I suppose it was much harder than chairing the board of the National Housing Trust. A board of ‘yes’ men and women makes things really easy for a chairman. This is particularly true if it’s a ‘bagasse’ board, accountable to no one.

As minister of environment and housing, Easton Douglas announced in 1995 that the Government had started to develop a policy for controlling access to Jamaica’s beaches. Nothing much has come of this promise after almost two decades. We are still stuck with a 1956 Beach Control Act.

According to that pre-Independence law, the Queen of England owns our beaches: “all rights in and over the foreshore of this Island and the floor of the sea are hereby declared to be vested in the Crown”. But even that outdated act does acknowledge the fact that the rights of the public have to be protected against selfish private-sector interests.

images-1Hotel owners, for example, can apply for a licence to operate ‘private’ beaches. But the act makes it absolutely clear that “licence shall not be granted under this section unless the Authority has certified that the issue of the licence is not likely to conflict with the public interest in regard to fishing, bathing, recreation or the protection of the environment”.

Now this ‘Authority’ is the very same Natural Resources Conservation Authority (NRCA) that appears to have given its stamp of approval to the Housing Agency of Jamaica (HAJ) to sell off protected public lands on Long Mountain to private developers. So I really don’t have much faith in the capacity of the NRCA to protect the public interest.

CONSPIRACY THEORISTS

Two Sundays ago, I watched that episode of Anthony Bourdain’s travel series, ‘Parts Unknown’, which focused on Jamaica. Avoiding the well-known all-inclusive hotels in and around MoBay, Bourdain turned to Portland, where Jamaica’s upscale tourist industry started. And he didn’t paint the usual portrait of the island as ‘paradise’. He got it right.

Bourdain documents the sharp lines of division in our society. The programme wasn’t aired on CNN in Jamaica. Conspiracy theorists immediately came up with a wicked explanation. It was because Flow is owned by Michael Lee-Chin. He came off so badly in the show that he stopped the company from airing it.

When I checked with Flow, I learned that CNN sends targeted feeds to different markets. We get the Latin American and Caribbean feed. Bourdain’s show is not on our feed. It’s now on Vimeo.com.

Hopefully, either TVJ or CVM will negotiate the rights to air the episode. We all need to see it. It’s not a pretty picture of our country. The landscape is beautiful and the food is appetising. But the disparity between the rich and poor is rather ugly.

‘WHAT KIND OF PERSON”?

Perhaps Michael Lee-Chin should have been much more cautious about exposing himself to Bourdain. This is how Bourdain introduces him: “There are those who believe that the area can come back; that it must come back. That the future is in hotels and resorts and restaurants for wealthy visitors as it once was.

trident-castle“Take this place, for instance: the Trident hotel. Expensive, luxurious! Best of all, I’m the only guest. Oh, did I mention that it comes with a castle? What kind of person would own a building like that? Who? Why? Then this man arrived and kind of answered that question. All of this belongs to Michael Lee-Chin. Local boy-turned-billionaire. One of the richest men in the world. And my host. He’s invited me for dinner.”

With guests like Bourdain, you don’t need gatecrashers. Down the road at GoldenEye, St Mary, Chris Blackwell, another host, gets the full Bourdain treatment. It’s a case of show me your friends. This is how Bourdain puts it: “When Blackwell heard I wanted to visit the local fishermen, he hooked me up with his good friend, Carl, to accompany me.”

Apparently forgetting that this wasn’t a B movie, Carl Bradshaw acts quite ugly. One of the insistent fishermen tries to tell the truth as he sees it. Blackwell’s ‘development’ plan for Oracabessa will create major problems: “This going belong to di tourist. . . .  The native here don’t have no beach in a few months time.”

“JUST STOP BOMBO KLAAT TALK!”

Bradshaw menacingly responds, “Wi no care ’bout truth, man. Wi kill people fi truth, man.” And he shouts down the middle-aged fisherman, “Yute, yute, just stop talk! Mi seh just stop bombo klaat talk!” Bradshaw forces the fisherman out of the interview. And then descends into a pseudo-philosophical rant on “tolerance”!

The star of Bourdain’s show is Cynthia who, with her partner Dennis, runs a cookshop on Winnifred Beach in Portland. It’s the only public beach for miles. The Urban Development Corporation (UDC) tried to capture the beach for private use, promising that the public would still have access. Cynthia’s response is completely understandable: “We don’t trust them. So we do not believe what they say.”

The Free Winnifred Benevolent Society took UDC to court. Last month, before Bourdain’s travel show aired, they won the case. Their heroism is a part of Jamaican culture we definitely know. The barbed-wire fences that block public access to so many beaches around the island must be torn down. With no regard for Missis Queen and her untrustworthy deputies, we must claim the right to sovereignty over our own beaches.

wiinifred-beach-campaign