10 May 2008

We are Not for Sale

We Are Not For Sale

John Maxwell

Scott Fitzgerald once confided to Ernest Hemingway – “You know, Ernest, the rich are different from us.”
“Yes” said Hemingway, “They have more money.”
Some people seem to think that the Jamaican Constitution is a kind of public convenience needing to be flushed from time to time to get rid of stuff the rich find offensive or inconvenient. The Observer reports that some of Jamaica’s leading women in business have criticised what they saw as flaws in the constitution which reserved certain posts for Jamaican citizens. Citizenship, apparently, should be fungible like certain assets, and Jamaica is rude and ungrateful to deny people who had renounced their Jamaican allegiances to become Americans.
I will say nothing more than to challenge any one of these big-mouths to publicly say the same thing in the United States of America regarding US citizenship and the prohibitions contained in the US constitution,
Dr Herbert Thompson, head of the Northern Caribbean University would seem to be of the same opinion as Ms Audrey Hinchcliffe and her fellows. He lashed out at those who objected to Mr Danville Walker’s disqualification from his position as Chief Electoral Officer because of his US citizenship. Dr Thompson blasted hitherto unknown miscreants who had apparently fought against Mr. Walker for a long time
"There are those who want Mr Walker's head for a number of different reasons, not the least of which is the fact that Mr Walker is no pushover and and he cannot be trampled upon," he said.
Thompson told The Gleaner that Walker was a "man of principle" who stood firm as the commission sought to fix the electoral system."
Lost in Dr Thompson’s fantasies is the fact that the elected representatives of the Jamaican people led by Michael Manley and the PNP, have for the last three decades, fought to reform the electoral system, which is how and why Walker got the job.
In all of his words reported in the Gleaner, Dr Thompson did not appear to criticise the principled Mr Walker for accepting a position for which he must have known he was not qualified, and for taking no steps to come into compliance with the law and constitution.
The learned and reverend Dr Thompson would seem to be partial to some miscreants, depending on which law they break.
Mr Darryl Vaz was reported to be very upset with people in parliament who, like him, owe allegiance to foreign powers. They should resign or renounce their citizenship as he has done.
I totally agree and pointed out, years ago, that a Green Card which apprentices people on their way to US citizenship, effectively negates one’s erstwhile nationality.
But some people demand to eat their cake and have it.
There is one small problem that Mr Vaz has not recognised. Having renounced his American citizenship he is effectively stateless, because it will take him five years to become a Jamaican national -- just like any other alien. The fact that you were once entitled to Jamaican citizenship and did not take it doesn’t mean that you can adopt it when you want. Citizenship is not a coat that you can put on when it suits you. And the rules of naturalisation everywhere exist because the people whose nationality you wish to adopt are thought to have some right to decide whether they want you. Same thing in the US.
All this means, in my opinion, that no one has to go to court to disqualify any alien who was wrongfully nominated and elected to parliament. By virtue of their citizenship they cannot be seated in Parliament, and if some MP should cry out “I spy strangers” in the House, it would be up to the alleged aliens to prove that they were not.
And any unqualified who sits in Parliament and votes on any measure there is breaking the law and can be penalised for every vote he or she makes.
Ignorance of the law is no excuse, and the people affected cannot use that excuse anyway. As I pointed out immediately after the election, we were already in a constitutional crisis. In the traditional Jamaican way we ignored it until sore foot turn to gangrene.
Various alleged authorities are busy trying to devalue Jamaican citizenship and to suggest that it would be more convenient for everybody if we simply accepted the high-class lawbreaking of the so-called “dual citizens”. These apologists are doing so under the meretricious cover that the Jamaican constitution was written by the British and forced down our throats. This is the sort of garbage peddled for years by those who also say that independence was not our idea but forced on us by Britain. Not to put too fine a point on it, this is a bold-faced and disgraceful lie, and dishonours the struggle for freedom by everyone from Juan de Bolas to Norman Manley.
Those who do not know our history seem compelled to denigrate it.
The Spanish Abusers
I am one of very few people who has ever driven right around this island. I did it in 1962 and again in 1965. I and my friend Bill Carr, who was on my second tour, did not simply go round the coast, we ramified into all sorts of secret places like Thicketts and Scharschmidt’s Prospect, and places whose names elude me now.
On the north coast of Hanover I remember small secret coves at Green Island which I knew would at some point lose their virginity to capitalist progress, but hoped against hope that it would be a long time coming.
I have lived to see the rape of these secret and perhaps sacred places, to see my grandfather’s bones entombed by an alumina refinery, to see the rugged slopes of the Blue Montains succumb to the disease of squatting, itself a result of land monopolisation, to watch as millions of tons of precious topsoil bleeds steadily into Hunts Bay and into the seas all round Jamaica. When I was the Gleaner’s Shipping Reporter, boys used to dive for coins thrown overboard by tourists on ships in Kingston Harbour. You could follow the coin as it wobbled its way – 16, 18, 20 feet down. The water was so clear. Today in Kingston Harbour you cannot see anything one foot down even if your view is not occluded by excrement or condoms.
Last week, courtesy of this newspaper, I surveyed some of this country by helicopter.
My first helicopter flight was courtesy of the US Marine Corps and US Vice president Lyndon Johnson, representing John Kennedy at Jamaica’s Independence. The difference was startling. In Christiana, where there were productive terraces in 1962, the hills were bare as in Haiti. The real surprise was on the coast, where enormous piles of brazen concrete offered a new face to the sea. The Genoese navigator, Cristóbal Colón, would never have recognised any part of the land he described as ‘the fairest isle’ that European eye had ever beheld.
The new Spanish Conquistadors consider themselves different and privileged. They have more money than we do, which means that we should trim the law to suit them and that we should bow down in awe before their outrageous displays of bourgeois kitsch.
I am not going into the legal aspects of the Spanish invasion. I want to discuss the simpler, cruder human aspects.
The United Nations of which Spain is a member, recognised in the Treaty of Rio that there are some secret and sacred places in the world, some not secret but valued by humanity for their stillness, majesty, wildness, tranquility or for other values lying deep within the human soul.
The European Union, of which Spain is a member, recognises that people have the right to protect their patrimony and to decide what they want to preserve and what changes they are willing to allow in their environment. The Europeans have even devised a Convention to protect the sacred human right to decide on development, recognising that development is a matter of developing the mind, soul and spirit of the human person and not concrete eructations to rectify feelings of inferiority.
The Spanish were occupied and ruled for 500 years by people from Africa who left enduring monuments to their presence in cities like Cordoba and buildings like the Alhambra. When the Spaniards threw out the Africans and turned their faces to the west they did not tear down the Moorish jewels, they converted them to their own use and some of these places are among the reasons Spain’s tourist industry rivals its population.
In this hemisphere the idea that gimmicks mean development is concretised in Spanish abominations.
At Bloody Bay, in Negril, once one of the most hospitable swimming places in the world there are two Spanish hotels, both owned by Riu. the first seems content to accept and respect its environment. The second sits like a toad on a lilypad, croaking its aesthetic desecration of a place once thickly populated by Santa Maria hardwood trees. Odd that the trees now destroyed had the same name as the flagship of the Genoese navigator.
The beautiful little town of Lucea has been desecrated and humbled by a sprawling Disneyesque nightmare which has obliterated the charm of the entire coast. (see photo)In Montego Bay sits another gingerbread monument to bad taste -- and to Spanish arrogance. This is the Mahoe Bay Riu hotel where an alleged building permit was in Spanish! Not arrogance?
Further down the coast is another comic book creation, the Bahia Principe whose sewage fouls the beach beside it. Then in Mammee Bay is another Riu catastrophe, arrogantly claiming attention by the simple expedient of disfiguring the entire coastline.
The Spanish have apparently taken this newspaper and its owner Butch Stewart to be their enemies, according to an advertisement in the Gleaner last week. I am not aware that Butch and the Observer are their enemies but I know that I am.
I believe that as a Jamaican I have the right to insist that my guests should obey the rules of the house, my country’s laws, respect its customs and traditions and generally, behave in a civilised manner.
They should not defecate on my doorstep,
If the Spanish have been misled by any Jamaican – of whatever rank or stinkability – to believe that they can do what they want in this country, I have news for them:
Copyright ©2008 John Maxwell

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