31 March 2009

message not messenger

you freeze the egg but still expect to see

the final bird unfold a bright blue wing

open its beak hop on a branch and sing

without restraint as it was meant to be

by complex nature set in plain degree

with hard compulsion still we have to fling

each accusation that's the strangest thing

of all the monsters that we have set free

back in the heart of all we keep alive

are means of sacrifice to gods unknown

who might observe our little jokes and crimes

and want to punish us or to deprive

our victories of hope and leave the bone

for us to gnaw and waste away the times

29 March 2009

The Golden Future of Bauxite

John Maxwell

Should you wish to evaluate the management ethic and the rarefied aesthetic values of those who manage the Jamaican bauxite industry you need go no further than Roxburgh, a spot quite near the geographic centre of Jamaica and which happens to be an important place in Jamaican history.
Roxburgh used to be a place of tranquility and peace, of big old guangos and expansive views in all directions – of the rolling green hills of Manchester, fatally composed of bauxite. On Melrose Hill, before the turn off to Roxburgh to the south there once was a ravine cut through metres of solid bauxite, dark red, like living flesh, frozen.
At Roxburgh – off the beaten track like most other bauxitic obscenities – the Jamaica Bauxite Institute, – JBI –The Commissioner Of Mines and Geology–CMG – the mining companies and the Jamaican bauxite workers have combined to create a shambles out of what is supposed to be a national monument. A shambles, in the old meaning of the word is a slaughterhouse, a vision of bloody confusion, an end to order and civilisation.
So it is at Roxburgh, the birthplace of Norman Manley, the man most of us revere as the Father of the Nation. But there must be others who don't share that respect and reverence; and their appetites have been unleashed at Roxburgh, where green tranquility has been butchered and gouged by men seeking to despoil this shrine. There's no accounting for tastes nor for power.
I don't know who ordered this disaster, who approved it, or who drove the bulldozers.
I don't want to know. What I want to know is –
Who will protect the public interest?

An Elite work-force

Half a century ago some of us were fighting trade union battles not won even now. The head of the Chamber of Commerce, Richard Youngman, the head of the Industrial Development Corporation, Robert Lightbourne and Jamaica's leading capitalist, N.N."Dickie" Ashenheim were all busy trying to convince Jamaicans that bauxite workers' pay should be in line with the average pittance paid in sugar and other so called industries.

People like me campaigned for the union line that bauxite workers pay should reflect the companies' ability to pay. We won – and hoped the higher wages would trickle down and produce a benign multiplier effect. The reality was different. As Michael Kaufman says (in Jamaica Under Manley) bauxite created a "high-income ghetto within an underdeveloped economy, representing a point of disequilibrium within the economy. . This is but one contradiction between national capitalist development and the expansion of multinational capital".

There were other malignant effects. Bauxite owned 19% – one in every five acres – of Jamaica's farmland, some of the best, removing it from economic production and driving the communities that lived on it into exile into the ghettoes of Kingston, Brixton and Brooklyn.
Although the 1974 Manley initiative restored Jamaican ownership of the land previously owned by the companies, the more recent policies of the Jamaican Bauxite managers   have restored the status quo ante – where, legally or illegally, the JBI and the CMG have again sterilised Jamaican farmland and destroyed our capacity to feed ourselves.
Meanwhile, bauxite is the only remaining source of revenue for the trade unions and this makes the unions absolutely dependent on the companies for survival. To say, as I do, that bauxite is a "Bad Thing" is to court virulent hostility.
What the unions do not realise is that there are altermatives to bauxite mining that are at least as lucrative to their members and would in fact contribute to real human and economic development. The union leaders have not thought about 'Life after bauxite' preferring to think of Jamaica as a gigantic quarry which, in the fulness of time, will be reduced to a limestone bas relief submerged twice a day by the Caribbean Sea.
Then the whole island will be a beach.

Billions $US in Bauxite Reparations

I said last week the bauxite companies owe this country between US$250 million and US$600 million for their failure to rehabilitate mined out land.
That was an error. The real figure is ten times as much – US$2,500,million to US$6,000 million –because I underestimated the destroyed acreage by a factor of ten or more
It does suggest the contempt that the bauxite managers have for the rest of us that they have not bothered to explain or correct the figures.
In addition to this, the companies have the responsibility to clean up the mess they left behind at their red mud lakes, at least two of which – Kirkvine and Mount Rosser pose catastrophic and immediate threats to the lives and property of tens of thousands of people in the neighbouring downstream towns, villages, farms factories and highways.
Jamaica is one of the most seismically active areas in the world and we have experienced two of the most disastrous earthquakes in this hemisphere within the last three centuries. In their red mud ponds and in other depositories the bauxite managers have stored 63,000,000,000 gallons of red mud and other toxic waste. This waste is equivalent to 70,000 times the capacity of Jamaica largest fresh water store, Mona Reservoir.
If Mona or Hermitage were to rupture thousands of people would die from impact injuries and drowning. If the red mud lake at mount Rosser should decide to take a stroll down the mountain we would lose the refinery itself, Ewarton and Linstead, everything in the Rio Cobre gorge and the Bog Walk area, thousands of acres of citrus and other farmland, thousands of human lives and hundreds of thousands of livestock, possibly large parts of Spanish Town and Portmore would become uninhabitable.
The Kirkvine disaster would be at least as dreadful.
Since it is clear, as the US Corps of Engineers said four years ago, that Jamaica cannot absorb any more red mud, we need to find better ways of dealing with these problems.
With the billions owed by the mining companies we could finance some intelligent, appropriate sustainable development.
We would start by removing and stabilising the red mud.
The flatter, desert areas left behind by mining could be used as sites for solar power plants since they get between 11 and 13 hours of sunshine a day. The mined out pits should be waterproofed by leaving a patina of bauxite supplemented by rammed earth. And since the CMG may not be aware that he is entitled to give directions to mining companies as to exactly how much they may mine and even the profiles of their digs, someone should tell him. Perhaps a writ of mandamus might accelerate his willingness to recover damages from the mining companies for all that they have neglected to do.
Meanwhile in the rehabilitated pits we will establish public fish ponds in which people will pay per pound for the fish they catch and will be able to use the pond waters for irrigation and for neighbourhood tourism, boating and bird watching.
The Public Defender should attempt to enforce specific performance of dishonored contracts between the companies and poor communities such as in Aboukir, Sawyers and Mocho and dozens of others , cheated out of their livelihoods and conned into relocating to various no mans lands.
Building their houses, building facilities to manufacture wind turbines and photovoioltaic cells will generate income to pay for decent new housing and to invest in cooperative family farms out of the old sugar estates.
The ordinary Jamaican knows we can do all these things and more. It is only the politicians, the bureaucrats and the merchants who believe we are helpless.
Copyright©2009 John Maxwell

26 March 2009

tropic death

absence of winter yet the tree must die

no sign of frost but still the bird grows old

warmth surely but at the end all cold


something must come at last to chill the eye

ending the courage of even the bold

absence of winter yet the tree must die


leaves falling slowly under the blue sky

as in a story you once wanted told

all shrivelled brown not one turned red or gold

absence of winter yet the tree must die

up the long path

we bear sweet water in a firm green gourd

across a chasm before day fully clean

begins the business that we cannot screen

from hateful eyes yet we have truly scored

an honest mark of what no one could hoard

the patient clearing of this final scene

with the refreshment of what went between

so that you listen for that early chord

now drink your fill and do not fear to say

the needed words there is no better rule

that you may follow in this blessed place

time now has come for you to make your way

achieve the good for which you went to school

and teach them all the true meaning of grace

25 March 2009

clarity or truth

you think there is no need to measure fact

with solemn words or set out note by note

with clarity or truth since all's intact


within the bounds that you have to react

against the crime that set this world afloat

you think there is no need to measure fact


nor any purpose that is not attacked

by solemn legions so you must emote

with clarity or truth since all's intact


and no false signal could from this detract

nor any evil one have cause to gloat

you think there is no need to measure fact


but no proud demon was there when you cracked

nor was there any thing left to devote

with clarity or truth since all's intact


in this small world of the final impact

when we name he who wins the truest goat

you think there is not need to measure fact

with clarity or truth since all's intact

22 March 2009

how we’re assessed

you name us victims and impute the blame

most subtly to our lack of honest soul

seeing we have no better truer name


no one in your department bears the shame

so well as we do lacking better goal

you name us victims and impute the blame


so carefully it seems a sort of game

in which the loser has the most control

seeing we have no better truer name


to give the process it is much the same

in night or morning though we might cajole

you name us victims and impute the blame


in ways that make the wildest fox seem tame

and us most guilty though we paid the toll

seeing we have no better truer name


to keep from earning the payment of fame

when we have reached the bottom of the hole

you name us victims and impute the blame

seeing we have no better truer name

rebirth of truth

once we escape the bodyguard of lies

the world is changed and all the music there

though muffled once now seems to fill the air

with complex tones there are things we devise

to capture fact and bring it under eyes

most able to discern the true affair

scrutinise nature analyse the sphere

those who describe are those we call the wise

now past the moment when we were afraid

of shadows that reminded of the grave

waiting for naughty boys who dared to speak

first out of turn we view the prompt parade

of urgent messengers pretending brave

ready to yield the first blow to the meek

The Enduring Curse of Bauxite

John Maxwell

Almost everything you thought you knew about bauxite is a lie, beginning with the Authorised Version of how the Industry began. 'Although deposits of aluminous red earth have been known to occur in the Tertiary Limestone areas (which covers two thirds of the land surface of Jamaica) since the 1820's, it was not until the 1940's that their economic significance as an ore of aluminum was recognised."
That's not as bad as the garbage disseminated in various quarters, including schools, which attributes the 'discovery' to one of Jamaica's merchant barons in the 1940s.
According to that story the merchant, who owned land in St. Ann, noticed that his crops were not doing well on red earth and sent some away to be analysed. And presto! a bauxite industry.

The very first Government Geologist, J.G.Sawkins, had mapped some of the major deposits and discussed their possible importance in his official Notes of 1867. And Aluminium Ltd of London had had its agents mapping and getting options on land in Jamaica since 1936.

The discovery of mineral wealth in the Third World has usually been the precursor to communal strife up to and including civil war (Nigerian oil, Congolese cobalt, uranium, oil, etc., etc.,) and social dissolution. Jamaica has been no different, only slightly less bloody.

Mining usually destroys the environment, fragments communities, intensifies inequality and enhances criminal activity. Bauxite has disfigured the landscape, opened land to illegal deforestation and increased soil erosion. The dust nuisance from mining and transportating bauxite is spread wide as are the asthma and other collateral medical conditions. The fallout is much greater and more severe in the neighbourhood of alumina refineries. The toxic effusions of these hellholes destroys the roofs of houses, furniture, livestock and most shameful of all, the lungs of childre Red mud polluted water contributes to hypertension, stroke and early death
But all this is just a start, a sample, of the enduring curse of bauxite, that magic mineral that only 50 years ago was going to be the engine of our development, was going to make us all rich and happy.


Suicide in the Garden Parish


I spent four years, from 8 to 12, at a school in Claremont, the centre of St Ann, the so-called Garden Parish of Jamaica. On Sundays we went for long walks past groves of cedar, bastard cedar, guango and mahogany, past ponds and their blue and white gaulins, past trees full of anis and doves and brilliant, yard-long green lizards It was a verdant gentle landscape, fertile and productive. The big landowners had their 'penns' – cattle ranches – but small farmers produced the sweetest oranges, grapefruit, tangerines, ortaniques and 'uglis' known to man, corn and yams and gungoo peas. There was peace, self-sufficiency and little idleness.
You get the picture.

I thought I remembered a green place called Inverness. Can't fnd it anymore. Can't really find Aboukir and much of Alexandria has vanished as well as most of the dales and greensward, the scrub and bird-rich 'ruinate of my youth.
Whole districts have been wiped out, whole villages have ceased to exist, replaced by huge holes in the ground – some 'restored' to grassland – if they happen to be alongside a public road and therefore open to scrutiny. But fly over St Ann and the mindless, chaotic destruction becomes clear. Huge craters remain, 'unrestored', raw, gaping wounds in the flesh of this once green garden. The people were not considered in this planning; only bauxite; but wait till you get to south Manchester. At Roxburgh, birthplace of Norman Manley – the destruction has a quality of fascist brutality and sadistic revenge about it. Only so-called 'civilised' human vultures could even contemplate ravaging the earth in this way.

A survey of teenagers in relation to AIDS/HIV, a few years ago, disclosed that in the parish of St Ann, Jamaica's most literate parish and probably most prosperous and peaceful parish in 1955, sixteen percent (16%) – nearly one in five male teenagers – had either attempted or seriously considered suicide.
Some of the people I left here in 1945 moved to Kingston, some to London and New York, leaving behind children and destroying extended families, communities and social capital. The villages changed, new kinds of bars, nightclubs and 'guesthouses' to service the newly rich millwrights and dump-truck drivers.
The Natural Resources Conservation Authority/National Environmental Planning Agency – NRCA/NEPA – say they have delegated their environmental protection and regulation responsibilities to the Jamaica Bauxite Institute. I find nothing in the law to allow this delegation, and I believe it is illegal and ultra vires. As Wendy Lee of the Northern Jamaica Conservation Association (NJCA) points out, it involves a severe and inherent conflict of interest.

And since the JBI some years ago seriously proposed to establish in Jamaica one of the world's most dangerous industrial plants, a facility to incinerate imported PCBs and dioxins, I doubt whether the JBI understands the meaning of ecology – or of environmental integrity.

The JBI's environmental competence must be further questioned when one of their principals was quoted in November 2006 as saying that the flora and fauna of the Cockpit Country could be 're-located".

At that time I asked:

"If Mr Parris Lyew Ayee believes that he can relocate the flora and fauna of the Cockpit Country I would ask him to give us an explanation of how he would deal with just one species - the beautiful Blue Swallowtail butterfly.

The Blue Swallowtail is a seriously endangered species. It is one of the world's largest butterflies and is the largest butterfly in the western hemisphere. [One] is big enough to cover most of the palm of a normal hand. "

I didn't get any answer then and I won't get any answer now, because Mr Lyew Ayee's proposal is unscientific and impossible.

Planning and Expropriation

The JBI and its sidekick the Commissioner of Mines – CMG , – claim the power to relieve landowners of their property rights by a simple declaration. This is the most dangerous and corrupt nonsense.

If Jamaica is, a nation of laws it is clear that people can lose their rights only by due process. The law, despite P.J.Patterson, Q.C., is a shackle.

Under the Mining Act and its Regulations, applicants for Prospecting Licences, Mining Leases and Special Mining Leases must provide the commissioner (CMG) with detailed information including surveys (mapping) conducted under strict conditions .

Section 24 of the Regulations requires the applicant for a lease to survey the area for which the lease is requested and requires the application to be advertised in the Gazette and in a Jamaican daily newspaper.

"Mining Regulations
"Sec 25.-(1) Upon receipt of an application for a mining lease the Commissioner shall cause a notice setting out the main particulars of such application to be published at the expense of the applicant once in the Gazette and once in a daily newspaper circulating in Jamaica and shall give notice of the particulars of such application to any person who to his knowledge has any interest in the area contained in such application.

(2) No mining lease shall be granted until at least three weeks have expired after the publication of the notice in the Gazette as required under paragraph (1).

No legal bauxite mining


    If the law means what it says it is not only possible but probable that there is not a single legitimate mining lease in existence in Jamaica.

In my view, both the `JBI and the `CMG are operating outside of and contrary to the law. If the CMG operates as he told the Access to Information he does there is no question tat the law is being flouted and has been flouted for several years. (see last week's column – Public Mischief and the Public Interest).

I believe on the basis of the facts above, that people affected by theJBI/CMG attempted expropriation have the right, the opportunity and the duty to shut down the mining industry in Jamaica by application to the high court.

We could do it tomorrow, and we probably should.

If the CMG/JBI were operating the Mining Act as they are required to, Jamaica would have earned millions more from bauxite than it actually did
The Act requires mining companies to compensate Jamaica for every hectare of land mined but not restored.
Currently there are at least 2,669 hectares on which the companies owe us US$ 66,725,000 in one time compensation,at the rate of $25,000 per hectare. In addition the companies owe the people of Jamaica an additional US 2,500 per hectare for every year the land is not rehabilitated. According to my calculations, which are probably an underestimate, the companies owe us another US $150 to 350 million. We are talking real money here, our money– between US$200 million and US$400 million.
When is the government going to collect this debt?
    In addition to all this the companies are liable under international law to reclaim and make harmless nearly 100 million tons of red mud – an enterprise that would solve our unemployment problems for a decade or two and pay pensions to the bauxite workers.. In addition we are entitled to seek damages for the reclamation of the aquifers poisoned by red mud, under the Polluter Pays principle, endorsed in 1992 by P. J. Patterson in Rio.

The Red Mud Scandal


Listen to what the USArmy Corps of Engineers says about bauxite mining in Jamaica:

"Bauxite mining is surface mining, which is land-intensive, noisy, and dusty.
'Jamaica can produce about three million tons of alumina per year. The refining process creates a thick fluid called "red mud" which has high levels of sodium and hydroxide ions, iron oxides, and organic substances.


'About one ton of red mud waste or residue will be produced from each ton of alumina. The land mass cannot accommodate this high volume of waste. This waste is often ponded into lakes, either man-made or karst depressions, with no consideration of the environmental effects.


'The effluent is free to seep into the subsurface, or to mix with precipitation, creating caustic ponds. The disposal of the wastes from alumina processing is a major environmental problem. Discoloration, turbidity, and high coliform bacteria counts, due to the high organic content." –Water Resources Assessment of Jamaica; February 2001. US Army Corps of Engineers.

A few years ago there was in Jamaica, a Czech scientist, Dr Jasmino Karanjac, who retired as professor of hydrogeology at UWI, Mona. While he was here he carried out several studies with the co-operation of the Water Resources Authority and its head, Mr Basil Fernandez, who like him is an authority on bauxite refinery contamination. In a paper prepared for a Conference 'Water Resources & Environmental Problems in Karst' in September 2006, Professor Karanjac said, inter alia, ""Today, it appears that Jamaica, which has the size of 10,991 sq km, may have problems developing enough good-quality water for its population of just over 2.7 million ... ground water in Jamaica is very vulnerable. There are no feasible sites for surface water storage and ground water remains the major source of water supply. Along the coast, aquifers are overabstracted and in the interior explorations and drilling are prohibitively expensive.

Professor Karanjac points out that under the UN definitions, Jamaica ranks as a water-stressed country and suggests that desalination/reverse osmosis plants will certainly be needed in the near future; before even considering red mud contamination. According to Basil Fernandez billions of cubic yards of underground water has been contaminated by bauxite waste.

With these factors in mind, it would seem totally insane for anyone to contemplate any activity which has the capacity of reducing Jamaica's water resources capacity. Any bauxite mining will certainly have that effect:
"Recent readings obtained from domestic water wells in the vicinity of Jamaican alumina refineries have indicated elevated sodium and PH readings. Also, the escape of caustic soda (which is used to extract alumina from raw bauxite) into the groundwater supply significantly increases sodium concentration of domestic well water mostly in the rural areas. Sodium is associated with a higher incidence of hypertension. As a result of its genetic composition, the Jamaican population is particularly subject to hypertension, which can be aggravated by high levels of sodium."

It is known that disturbing the Jamaican red earth liberates cobalt, arsenic and other toxic metals. The problem is that no one knows the extent of the damage.The JBI may know, but it won't tell its employers, the Jamaican people. And, bizarre as it may seem, in a situation as dangerous as this one, the JBI conducts studies into red mud infiltration of aquifers only once every five years .

The levels of cadmium in some Jamaican soils have been found by ICENS (International Centre for Environmental & Nuclear Studies, UWI, Jamaica) to be 40 times the world mean of 0.5 mg/kg). [In]The soils with the highest levels …About 40% of Cd is bioavailable and could enter the food cycle.
I could go on – but I do believe it is time for the ginnigogs to answer the charges against them.

As they say somewhere, you never miss the water till the well runs dry.
Copyright©2009John Maxwell

18 March 2009

ceremonial magic

just name the monster and it bites your head

there's no protection from the angry crowd

once you have spoken and seen them uncowed

by tricks and weapons now is time for dread

too late for you as all your guards have fled

and you have gone far past what was allowed

all you can do is laugh at the last cloud

saying that there is time when all are dead

for those who have the duty to report

what you have done this unrelenting score

might drive them mad if the had open ears

but others wait to bring you into court

and say those words all know that you abhor

just loud enough to provoke all to tears

17 March 2009

not empty honours

not empty honours of the noble fool

but simple dignity and scent of earth

laughing at fears of drought and angry dearth


no wise man sitting on a gilded stool

to praise the omen or announce the birth

not empty honours of the noble fool


but the plain lesson of the oldest school

take proper time for tears and time for mirth

give praise only to those who earn their worth

not empty honours of the noble fool


here are the fragments of this oldest tale

in our large repertoire silver in tone

golden in spirit force that cannot fail


each child will gather sand in a small pail

to build a castle imitating stone

here are the fragments of this oldest tale


how we begin to lay a proper trail

for you to follow once the flower's blown

golden in spirit force that cannot fail


to show the wary how to raise the veil

gaining what's wanted without angry moan

here are the fragments of this oldest tale


fresh as we heard them ready to inhale

into our deepest parts so we atone

golden in spirit force that cannot fail


now that we're ready to reach due scale

conquering all that we could hope to own

here are the fragments of this oldest tale

golden in spirit force that cannot fail

15 March 2009

point of departure

at the border and not one inch before

i cede command and turn over the prize

that you had wanted nothing to despise


you might have said but a good to adore

it was no longer my place to advise

at the border and not one inch before


when at the last you understood the score

all magic gone and the world clear of lies

not one thing left to praise nor to despise

at the border and not one inch before

Public Mischief & the Public Interest

John Maxwell

I am fond of quoting the 1954 World Bank Report on Jamaica, where it says, on page 17 I think:

"In Jamaica, absolute ownership of land means in practice, the absolute right of the owner to ruin the land in his own way."

Now, nearly six decades later, the very idea of Jamaica is under siege.

For our rulers, the poor have a duty to be poor, to bear their misery with grace and to shut up and to know their place.

In the last twenty years the transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich has outpaced the rate and volume of the transfers in the same direction over the previous 300 years.

And yet, the poor are told they must make further sacrifices in the name of Development.

During the last 32 years the people of Hellshire, assisted by people like me have been fighting a rearguard action against the Urban Development Corporation, parish councils and various private interests to maintain their rights to develop the only decent white sand beach near Kingston. We have had to suffer bulldozers and official obloquy as well as middleclass squatting, all intended to take away the people's rights.

What rights can they have?

They are fishermen and women. Their children don't go to university.

Over 30 years ago, when I was chairman of the NRCA the staff of the department designed and constructed a little park for people and a sanctuary for manatees at Alligator Hole River in Canoe Valley, near Milk River.

We are now told Canoe Valley must be destroyed to make way for 'Development' – a project to dig down the precious biodiversity and archaeological heritage along with of the limestone hills in the neighbourhood. The hills are to be dug down and to be exported.

Every precious piece of Jamaica is under threat.

A few years ago the Ministry of Housing collaborated with two developers to try to steal part of Hope Gardens for an upscale housing development. When public outrage stopped that little boondoggle, the government solaced the developers with a priceless archaeological site at Long Mountain/Wareika with important biodiversity to destroy. We still have no idea what we have lost there.

The UDC and successive governments have conspired to steal public beaches all along the north coast for the building of environmentally hostile hotels. These projects are destroying the coral reefs and the fishing and tourist attractions based on them. / Spanish millionaires have priority over Jamaican fishermen and consumers, and over Jamaican schoolchildren seeking places to relax and enjoy their country.

A few months ago it was announced that Mr. Michael Lee Chin was about to acquire the last unspoiled beaches in Portland and St Thomas to convert the coastline of southeast Jamaica into a gated paradise for foreigners. It is to have its own international airport and, perhaps, its own passports.

Next door, at Fairy Hill, the UDC is doing its damnedest to steal the Winifred Public Recreational Beach, one of the first to be gazetted under Norman Manley's Beach Control Act.

Enormously rich entrepreneurs in collaboration with the government are planning to convert two thirds of the coast of Trelawny into another gated demesne, from Rio Bueno almost to Falmouth – a paradise for high rolling gamblers. At Falmouth the Port Authority is busy knocking down 500 years of history and destroying unique phosphorescent wetlands to build a project straight out of the South Sea Bubble.

Falmouth is to be transformed into a mall and theme park reserved for foreigners, providing an enormous sewage disposal facility for gigantic cruise ships which are actually self-contained floating resort properties competing tax-free with Jamaican hotels.

In Westmoreland a Dubai-style anti-environmental development is to be built south of Negril and there are no doubt, other exquisite horrors just waiting to be announced.

This week Mr Charles Johnston pronounced sentence of death on Portland. In the parish where the first Tarzan epic was filmed, with lianas strong enough to bear Johnny Weismuller, Mr Johnston announced Portland's destiny. Jamaica's greenest and most enchanting parish is to be stripped, and raped to supply aggregate – sand and stone – to build other paradises, in other places.

When the Jamaican Constitution was being written in 1962, lawyers for the Jamaica Labour Party fought hard for the inclusion of a clause making it obligatory for the government effectively to pay cash for any land it wanted for any public purpose. Effectively, this precluded governments from paying in bonds or other securities and has helped to foreclose the principle of eminent domain – the right of a government to force the owner of private property sell it if it is needed for a public use. The right is based on the doctrine that a sovereign state has dominion over all lands and buildings within its borders.

Pernicious Garbage

According to a column in the Gleaner by Dr Garth Rattray, the Jamaica Bauxite Institute has found a way around the constitution and the law.

Friends of Dr Rattray have been told they cannot subdivide or develop their land because the JBI claims "the land falls within an area reserved for possible future mining and cannot be subdivided."

"The JBI admits that many people unknowingly already own lands that fall into the category of an area reserved as an exclusive prospective (bauxite) mining area. And, the JBI has recently added more properties to their list of reserved areas. They even admitted that there is no notification of this anywhere - therefore, anyone acquiring lands runs the risk of inadvertently buying JBI-reserved real estate."

The JBI's claim is pernicious garbage.

There is nothing in the law or in custom or tradition – outside of a confirmed Development Order that could allow anyone to sterilise private property because it may be wanted for bauxite mining. And Development Orders are public documents – they were not designed for the surreptitious confiscation of private property.

In November 2006, in a column entitled "My Grandfather's Bones" I revealed that "between the Jamaica Bauxite Institute and ALCOA, there has been a plan kept secret for 13 years, to build a million-ton a year alumina refinery in the middle of Jamaica's most ecologically and environmentally valuable real estate in the Cockpit Country.

At that time many people, not simply the environmental/ecological movement, were seriously apprehensive of the massive programme of economic and environmental vandalism being planned by the bauxite interests. In a column in October 2006, I wrote:

"What is planned, whatever the developers say, is nothing less than the total destruction of a priceless resource – for a polluting alumina refinery, the destruction of Rio Bueno harbour and the world-famous coral cliffs above and below the waterline. Below the waterline are corals and an unimaginable wonderland of aquatic life, already threatened by climate change/global warming, and about to be sentenced to death by so-called development.

As we were outraged by the attempted rape of Hope Gardens, five years earlier, so too were we outraged by the planned assault on the Cockpit Country, the Land of Look Behind

Thousands signed petitions demanding the government protect this priceless ecological/geological/historic and cultural treasure

The Jamaica Environment Trust tried to find out from the JBI and the Commissioner of Mines (CMGD) the extent of areas to be mined and areas already mined – information they believed was in the public domain and to which they were entitled – and copies of certificates and other documents demonstrating whether the mining companies had obeyed the law in restoring and rehabilitating mined out land.

The Commissioner of Mines refused to hand over most of the information requested contending that "they [the maps] were not created therefore they do not exist." and that "The ones that were not supplied contained material exempted from disclosure under the ATI Act."

JET challenged the CMGD under the Access to Information Act and the department responded by contending that disclosure … would constitute an actionable breach of confidence –under Section 17 (b) (i) of the ATI Act.

In evidence before the Tribunal, of which I was and remain a member, the Commissioner of Mines himself, one Clinton Thompson, personally contended that the materials in question were "confidential", and "in the nature of trade secrets" and were handled by him in conformity with what he alleged was a worldwide or industry-wide "protocol" regarding such information.

He contended:

"We submit that the information in question is certainly not in the public domain. He amplified this contention by asserting that "It is understood by all parties involved based on long established practice and the highly competitive nature of the mining industry that all maps showing prospective mining activities are confidential and should not be disclosed to the public" and again in para 26 it is contended that the maps represent the time, expense and expertise of the companies and are "valuable intellectual property'" of the company that any reasonable person would consider to deserve the "utmost care and confidentiality."

"It is indeed a reality and a practice of regulatory agencies in the mining industry in Jamaica and worldwide that maps showing the prospective mining operations of bauxite companies must be treated with confidentiality. It is indeed a protocol adopted internationally by regulatory agencies responsible for mining that documents such as these must be kept confidential."

The CMGD had summoned the Attorney General's Department to defend its case. As a member of the Tribunal I was transfixed by these claims and decided to do some research on these matters.

Not a word of truth

What I discovered was astonishing. The CMGD's case was garbage, explicitly contradicted by the Jamaica Mining Law and the Mining Regulations themselves.

There was not a word of truth in the CMGD's contentions. The Tribunal, two of whom were Queens Counsel and former Attorneys General ( one, David Coore, Jamaica's most senior and eminent lawyer) and the Chair, herself a very senior lawyer, were being asked to endorse a fiction, to prevent Jamaicans getting information that they owned and that the law says they are entitled to have.*

Not satisfied with my research, the Tribunal decided to consult the two foremost authorities on Jamaican bauxite law, the head of the JBI, Dr the Hon Carlton Davis and the Hon Pat Rousseau, Jamaica's team leaders in the 1974 negotiations with the bauxite companies.

They agreed with me.

The CMGD's arguments could not be supported by a single piece of evidence.

The CMGD had managed to involve us all in a gigantic wild goose chase, an intellectual Ponzi scheme as it were, where JET, the Attorney General's department, the Access to Information Tribunal itself and all the support services had been assembled in pursuit of a fantasy.

If Mr Thompson had been simply deluded he might perhaps be forgiven. But it is clear that when he spoke of international 'protocols' enjoining secrecy his statements were contradicted by the international bodies to which most mining companies and countries are affiliated.

The world mining industry has spent much of the last two decades devising protocols for the dissemination of information to comply with the recommendations of Agenda 21, the Declaration of Rio, and the worldwide trend towards accountability and transparency for the protection of the public interest and sustainable development.


The International Council on Mining and Metals is a confederation governing worldwide standards in the mining industry. The ICMM "Members Resource Guide" states unequivocally:

"There is also a vital need to provide communities with the capacity and the information to participate knowledgeably in decision-making around minerals projects.…companies will report publicly on their environmental and social performance in a manner that is accountable and transparent and that allows for appropriate participation.

…" If communities and regions consent to mining, there must be ways to verify that the promised benefits do materialize."

We have a serious problem.

Our environment is under threat. For nearly 60 years we have created a number of institutions and laws to protect our interests.

It is now clear that these institutions are not only failing to protect us but some are being used to work against the public interest.

It cannot be in the public interest for the JBI to invent some new procedure which sterilises private rights of property;

It cannot be appropriate for the JBI to be asked to deputise for the Natural Resources Conservation Authority in relation to bauxite mining. Bauxite mines require EIAs and no one has ever heard of any EIA having been conducted re bauxite – yet, if Dr Rattray's friends are to be believed the JBI has decided to allot mining leases which will block development.

It cannot be acceptable for a Government department to attempt to frustrate the public interest by way of fictitious statements and mythical protocols and to waste the time of private people and public servants in the pursuit of such fantasies.

WE need to take action now. The GG's Privy Council, the Public Services Commission, the Attorney General, the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Public Defender and the Contractor General, all in my opinion, need to act on the information in this column.

And Dr Rattray's friends need to hire some high-powered lawyers to get the justice they deserve by filing some multibillion dollar law suits.

Copyright©2009 John Maxwell


*Members of the Tribunal were; Hon Dorothy Pine-Mclarty OJ , Chair; Hon David Coore, QC.,OJ.; Dr the Hon Oswald Harding, Ph.D., Q.C. OJ; Rev Philip Robinson, CD.; John Maxwell, CD.

13 March 2009

slope looking west

the humble task of mixing shit in soil

is one you don't forget nor yet how weak

the body turns and this duty is meek

you have been told this is no complex broil

requiring thought one day the seeds uncoil

out of the earth since it is light they seek

but now you have to work and not to speak

service to hunger means that you must toil

what has been spent is more than simple light

emerging from the heart but soon betrayed

into declaring more than it could bear

rather the product of some final fight

that you got into when you were afraid

how much would hang on just a single tear

the message that binds

somewhere a cable lies beneath the sea

and signals move like sparks across the ooze

while far above pass large ships and canoes


the frigate bird cannot say it is free

above the odours of sweat and refuse

somewhere a cable lies beneath the sea


and some smart boy dreaming beneath a tree

will think about it and perhaps may choose

to send a message or might learn the news

somewhere a cable lies beneath the sea

the thirteenth of march history was made

this is the day when they captured true blue

and mongoose died never to rise again

when laughing women children and grown men

looked at the world and saw it grow brand-new

we all had hope that no force could subdue

our best desire and the right moment when

all hearts would cease to hurt so we could then

bring the true world we wanted into view

had at last come now all is back to where

the old men with the whip said it should be

no one would want that but it is the fact

our only memory is a passing tear

added in vain to the encircling sea

and we just laugh at the whole useless act

11 March 2009

logic of the law

in moonlight city now the basic norm

of hunger and the short cry of desire

is law when spoken by the coming storm


we thought your welcome was not very warm

but had not known then that matters were dire

in moonlight city now the basic norm


becomes the rule to which we must conform

because the signal that we must acquire

is law when spoken by the coming storm


some people watch as all the hungry swarm

upon the carcass lying on the byre

in moonlight city now the basic norm


demands so little yet we must perform

our futile magic since the rule of buyer

is law when spoken by the coming storm


truth once distorted will not then reform

all honest hope must vanish into fire

in moonlight city now the basic norm

is law when spoken by the coming storm

10 March 2009

king in the window

king in the window thinks that he has won

lordship so great that no one could deny

the truth of conquest beneath smiling sky


all now should fear him as the noonday sun

in heart of tropic turning all hope dry

king in the window thinks that he has won


the needed battle and the task is done

there is one truth that wins out over lie

one market where we can find goods to buy

king in the window thinks that he has won

head of the gully

you think of places where the soft rain fell

at three o'clock of hard mosquito whine

in the dense air so harsh smoke was benign

and the whole evening you bore the smell

of allspice wood on hair and skin rebel

you knew you could not there was one clear line

not to be crossed and no skill could refine

what you were then you waited for the bell

now what is told can never be complete

since all our stories fade into one tale

and then expire like the last winter snow

under strong sun we simply won't repeat

the pressures that would lead a lad to fail

but just command that you get up and go

08 March 2009

one moment too late

there is a point when having missed the boat

each steps aside and thinks that there's a way

off this hard coast out of this shallow bay

back to the heart and places less remote

than swampy shores where answers come by rote

but not this time it's late and tempers fray

sun has gone down now there is no more day

soon terror will reach out and seize each thoat

what once was magic has become no more

than one more trick and that already known

even to children so it does not fly

the others watch as every wooden door

slams shut and the cold walls of carven stone

all seem to turn their back to questing eye

music halted

pipeline is empty house filled with dust

purpose forgotten the time has turned dry

nobody's coming to sell or to buy

while we were dancing the market went bust

all those old heroes walked off in disgust

not one believer remained for the lie

only cold silence now under dumb sky

and this machinery turning to rust

in this disaster not one thing's denied

the rage of each river calls out that doom

once so far distant now is our mate

turning to sorrow each shred of our pride

blazing to ashes the last golden bloom

just as we notice the moment's turned late

Development or Dementia


John Maxwell

Mr Warren Buffett may still be the world's richest person and is worth more than the combined GDPs of Jamaica, Zambia, Gabon, Uganda, Paraguay, and Brunei. although he lost the equivalent of Jamaica, last year. As you may imagine, lots of very rich and influential people listen carefully to Mr Buffett as to a modern day prophet. Last year he admitted to losing nearly 11 billion dollars in misplaced investments; He prophesies or forecasts that the world economy will be in a shambles throughout this year and "for that matter, well beyond."

In another development this week, the Spectrem (sic) Group's Millionaire Investor Index hit its lowest level since the company unveiled it in February 2004. The index fell 15 points in November to a level of negative 39, deep into bearish territory. The index is based on a survey of the economic confidence of American households with more than $1 million in investable assets.

Wealthy investors have a huge effect on investment markets because of the disproportionate amount of money they control. The wealthiest 20% of Americans account for more than half of U.S. household income.

Judging from a wide reading of investment advice, financial papers and news stories about the current financial disaster, it would seem fairly clear to me that it is not the time for speculative bets involving large amounts of money.

On Thursday the Jamaican Ministry of Finance said: "The Government of Jamaica remains committed to fiscal prudence and policy initiatives geared towards the preservation of sound macroeconomic fundamentals." This was in response to the news that the deepening global financial crisis has caused one of the world's leading rating agencies, Moody's Investors Service, taking the decision to downgrade Jamaica's government bonds.

This downgrade of course, makes it harder to borrow money and more expensive to borrow if you are able to find a lender.

Late last year the Port Authority had not apparently found any answer to its huge unfunded debt burden which the PAJ itself suggested was overpowering its balance sheet The PAJ sought advice from Merrill Lynch but eventually apparently, decided not to take it

Merrill itself has been one of the most spectacular casualties of the global financial disaster so it may not be politic to mention them in this connection.

Nevertheless, the PAJ seems to be pressing ahead with its plan to destroy the town of Falmouth and to replace it with the world's largest sewage disposal plant for ships. For this coprophagic extravaganza, the PAJ is all on its own, undertaking to borrow somewhere in the region of 200 million US dollars

This facility is to attract the word's most environmentally hostile enterprise, a floating property development called the Oasis of the Seas. It will be five times the size of the Titanic and is meant to house 10,000 people at a time, divided between paying guests and employees.

This monstrosity will be a self contained floating theme park and condo/resort, designed to make is unnecessary for the paying guests to set foot on land, except when the property requires to be cleaned and sanitised.

The Oasis of the Seas is being built in Finland for Royal Caribbean Cruise Line on an 80% bridging loan from the government of Finland. But RCCL says it cannot guarantee that the company will be able to finance the project.

The company has told the US Securities and Exchange Commission, the SEC, "Although we believe that we will be able to (finance the ship), there can be no assurance that we will be able to do so or that we will be able to do so on acceptable terms."

"The disruption in the credit markets has resulted in a lack of liquidity worldwide (that) may affect our ability to successfully raise capital or to do so on acceptable terms," RCCL warned.

Royal Caribbean noted that credit rating agencies Standard & Poors and Moody's have both lowered its credit rating over the past year, and cash flow at the company is under pressure due to the decrease in consumer cruise spending as a result of the current economic climate. In fact RCCCL bonds are currently rated as 'junk'.

Worse, the company announced net income of US$8.8 million for the first quarter of 2007, down from US$119.5 million a year earlier, a drop of 98%.

In all of this confusion, one or two things appear to be clear:

1.    RCCL is as the Americans say, in deep doo doo.

2.     Jamaica's PAJ is in effect backing RCCL's speculative enterprise, but does not stand to gain any profit in the unlikely event that the ship is built and operated successfully on schedule.. If we are to invest one fifth of the cost of the ship, there should be corresponding equity in it for us.

If the project collapses as seems likely in the present crisis, we will be left holding the bag, forced to pay for a benefit we have not had while hundreds of thousands of poor and starving Jamaicans demand a piece of the action.

There seems to be no parliamentary approval for this assault on the Consolidated Fund. Is someone personally guaranteeing our $200 million adventure into deep-sea property development?


I do not understand the logic or the law behind the recent electoral petition decisions.

AS I understand it, under the Representation of the People Act, if only one qualified candidate presents himself on Nomination Day, that candidate is judged to have been elected, unopposed.

That means that Abe Dabdoub is the rightful Member of Parliament for Western Portland and there is no vacancy for which any by-election may be called. The same principle holds in all the other constituencies.

What riles me is that much of this confusion was due to the direct intervention of a man who must have been well aware that he was himself unqualified to make any determination on the legitimacy or otherwise, of any candidate in the election. Should the DPP not have taken notice.

Masters of Hypocrisy

One of the most instructive morality plays has recently been presented by the British press. The villain is Britain's Prime Minister, Gordon Brown and the cartoonists and columnists have clearly declared open season on him. Recently Mr Brown has been attacked from all sides including his own party, for failing to apologise for not preventing the recent worldwide depression and the criminal activity that led to it.

The SUN may have given the game away with its warning that no matter how successful he was abroad, Brown could not escape from the criticism at home that he was partly to blame for the economic crisis in Britain.

His every action has been damned with faint praise, culminating in the reviews of Mr Brown's official visit to the US. Before he got there the British press was reporting thst he had been snubbed by President Obama, because the customary Rose Garden press conference had not been scheduled. It was only later that the British figured out that a Rose Garden press conference in sub-zero weather was unlikely to be either popular or healthy.

The behaviour of the British press was so peculiar that some of the US coverage has been concerned more with how the British media reported the story, than the significance of Mr Brown's trip

The reviews of Mr Brown's appearance before the joint session of congress were even more bizarre; it did not occur to most of the British press authorities that an invitation to address a joint session of `congress was a very rare honour indeed.

The Brits tried to play down Brown's 35 minute speech, despite the fact that US news agencies said it had been interrupted by applause almost once per minute.

If you want to understand how the British can turn triumph into disaster, read on:

KEVIN CONNOLLY, BBC 'We were discussing whether or not Mr Brown had been "snubbed" by the White House before he had reached the sanctuary of the British Embassy on the night he arrived - and that debate probably helped to shape British perceptions of the trip before it was properly under way.'

GUARDIAN 'It went down pretty well - although the repeated standing ovations have to be seen in context. The joint houses are almost as well-drilled as the National Assembly of North Korea in recognising the key moments in a speech which call for you to leap to your feet applauding.'

But what he said was so full of echoes from other writers that he never found his own voice and was able to inspire a not much more than respectful ovation when he finished.

TIMES: 'While both prime ministers [Blair 2003 and Brown 2009] received 19 standing ovations, it was notable yesterday that many Republicans could be seen sitting on their hands while Democrats were repeatedly rising to their feet.'

'They rewarded him with 19 standing ovations while he was speaking but as they filed from the chamber of the House of Representatives after Gordon Brown's 36-minute address, US legislators offered somewhat less effusive praise.'

JULIAN GLOVER, GUARDIAN: 'The response differed too. Blair received 19 standing ovations in his speech, which was ecstatically received. … Brown got 19 too, but some - especially in response to passages on the sacrifices of the American military - appeared somewhat routine.'

ANDREW GIMSON, Daily Telegraph, reporting from London was able to say:

'Somehow the speech was sagging. Mr Brown spoke over and over again about optimism, but was not making his listeners feel any more optimistic.… was able to inspire a not much more than respectful ovation when he finished.'

The American view was different:

BOSTON GLOBE : 'Neal joined several other Irish-American lawmakers in escorting Brown down the aisle of the House floor, a courtesy that would have been unthinkable during the darkest days of the conflict.'

Ben Pershing , Washington Post : 'Brown's 35-minute address to the dignitaries and lawmakers assembled in the House chamber was interrupted nearly 30 times by applause …'

... 'Brown's reception on the Hill yesterday was warm, as many lawmakers jockeyed for seats along the aisle of the House chamber so they could shake the prime minister's hand and get his autograph.'

The New York Times's Brian Knowlton also noted the 'warm welcome' that Mr Brown received. And he added that attendance had been good: 'The Capitol interns who are sometimes summoned to fill empty seats on such occasions were relatively few in number.'

TIME magazine's Michael Scherer perhaps best summed up the whole sorry business when he described as 'kind of pathetic' the British media's 'obsession' with how the UK is viewed by America, and how Mr Brown is viewed by Mr Obama.

A final note on British spinmania: The severely handicapped toddler son of the leader of the British opposition has just died. He had never been expected to survive long and Gordon Brown, who has also lost a child in infancy, cancelled Prime Minister's question time to deliver an emotional message of sympathy to David Cameron and his wife.. What the British press did with the story afterwards was unbelievable. The front pages were filled with pictures of the child and his father, never his mother, in what seemed a transparent attempt at political PR. This went on for days for no discernible good reason. David Cameron, having lost a child, seemed well on the way to canonisation.

The Tories may well need the PR; despite being well ahead in the polls, unanticipated swings to Labour lost the Tories a couple of very recent bye elections.

Copyright© 2009 John Maxwell


07 March 2009

a late discovery

it is not who you think that wields the blade

nor any force you have that wins the prize

so now you tremble and now you're afraid


so many colours all this day pervade

the countryside and trouble our surmise

it is not who you think that wields the blade


to cut through centuries and shred the braid

of all our recollection killing lies

so now you tremble and now you're afraid


that what was fair and clean will be unmade

but no one knows what good word to advise

it is not who you think that wields the blade


nor any of the ones who could downgrade

your expectations and crush your disguise

so now you tremble and now you're afraid


and want to argue or else want to trade

some paltry goods for sight of those bright eyes

it is not who you think that wields the blade

so now you tremble and now you're afraid

music of history

a broken mirror tells a complex tale

if we can see the patterns in blank space

hearts reconstruct what guns cannot erase


each bill is paid right on the monthly nail

and there's no need to bow nor to debase

a broken mirror tells a complex tale


which is enough not one of us could fail

to reach the target find the safer place

where masks can drop and each can show their face

a broken mirror tells a complex tale

04 March 2009

a broken image

there are so many words but few with weight

to break the glass and let the spirit go

just where it will we set them in a row

giving them due force early now or late

to be our keepers else to fly the gate

laughing at us since bodies move too slow

while thought and speech are rapidly in flow

though not able to carry the full freight

of what we found there is no evidence

left here today for others to enjoy

nor could there be given what we were told

needed the doing and in fullest sense

had been achieved by branding truth a toy

and turning all our hopes suddenly cold

01 March 2009

pain of frustration

what we have wanted was an end to cold

and signs of spring were there on every side

young buds bright flowers the darkish days belied


some might have said that we were getting old

and told us there were better ways to bide

what we have wanted was an end to cold


just warmer days and colours green and gold

birds coming from the tropics in their pride

now it is snowing and we could have cried

what we have wanted was an end to cold

no paradoxes here

our language hides from us a golden rule

which if we follow will guide us to bread

a simple message kept in every head

that is not taught in church nor yet in school

no one is king there is no sacred stool

let down from heaven to abolish dread

that is the fact those who don't know are dead

and those who speak will not deny the fool

never again must we accept the cause

that will lead brother to trade blow for blow

driving the weak with horror shock and pain

in dull obedience to the lower laws

when tropic birds must adapt to the snow

as in the desert comes the longed-for rain

500 Years’ Hard Labour

John Maxwell

As I looked at the photograph last Sunday, in this paper, I though they could be my relatives. The caption said "Anger, Despair at Long Pond" and their faces seemed very familiar.
I knew them. Not personally, but they were my kin.
Three people in desperate search for justice.
Knowing, after 500 years and 300 years and 100 years that no one is going to offer them justice. If there is to be justice they must make that justice themselves.
I was born just 4 miles away from Clarks Town, where the Observer's Ingrid Brown wrote her story. When I was a little boy you could often smell the Long Pond dunder in Duncans. Rum was so profitable then that a Canadian company built a new factory, Vale Royal, to produce rum – right next t Long Pond..
Like all the others, the Ewens, the Farquharsons, the Delgados, Sewells, Shirriffs, the O'Haras and even the Mussingtons, they are all gone, having made their fortunes, most of them, and left. They left behind them wounded communities, families broken by the refusal of the planters to even understand the idea of job tenure. Tenure! You must be joking. Want a job? Join the crowd in the cane yard and hope a 'driver' picks you.
I was much too young to understand what was happening in 1938 when a British 'seaplane' was used to overawe an unruly crowd in Duncans. The people were agitating for a dollar a day wage (four shillings, one fifth of £1 or about J$25 in today's money) They were a threat to the peace and prosperity of King George and his empire.
Perhaps the parents of Maud and Guy Campbell and their friend Mr Smith, were in that unruly crowd and their ancestors and mine would have been in Sam Sharpe's general strike and some of them, like my relatives from Trelawny Town and Accompong, were guerrilla warriors against the British and before them, the Spanish.
And yet, after all this time and all this struggle, after all this misery and oppression, after all this labour and all the years of going to bed hungry for days and weeks and years on end…after all these years, and all this blood and all these fortunes, Mr and Mrs Campbell and their friend Mr Smith are angry, not rockstone-throwing angry but the anger inherited from centuries of betrayal, of broken promises and blasted dreams.
These are the people who built capitalism, whose sweat raised Bristol and Marseilles, Liverpool and Rotterdam, and financed Versailles, the Titanic and Handel's Water Music.
And yet, after 500 years …

No duty to be poor
My father's circuit of churches included a quiet place called Refuge for reasons I am not clear about. It was a very important place during and after slavery because it offered some sort of sanctuary to the escaped slaves. That church, like Clarks Town, Duncans and Rio Bueno (Calabar) were all part of William Knibb's circuit a century before too. At one time Trelawny was the centre of Jamaican wealth, boasting at one time 88 sugar factories and Jamaica's first newspaper. It was that wealth that spawned the Georgian elegance of Falmouth now under attack by The Port Authority of Jamaica.
When Sam Sharpe's general strike began, the Trelawny planters plotted to kill William Knibb, who they thought was the brains behind Sharpe. They planned to descend on Knibb's house at Kettering, in Duncans and to set fire to the house with Knibb inside.
The slaves' intelligence network alerted them to the plot. Knibb and family were bundled off to Falmouth in a canoe from what is now Silver `Sands.
When the horsemen of the Anglican Church Union arrived in white robes they burned a cross on Knibb's lawn before setting the house on fire. These ancestors of the `Ku Klux Klan were misled by the slaves. They made dummies representing Knibb and his wife and posed them behind curtains next to the oil lamps. As the sun went down, Knibb and his wife were apparently to be seen taking their ease in their rocking chairs.
As a child I remember driving Trelawny's horse and buggy marl roads, through towering canefields broken by sudden cascades of elegant greensward, some graced by peacocks. The immaculate great houses frequently stood next to disused windmills, some of which had only recently ceased grinding sugar. Small farmers made their own 'wet sugar' ground in mills powered by oxen and boiled in the coppers to be found all over Trelawny then.
Trelawny was then, as now, always different to other parishes. Its small farmers were more independent, more self sufficient. Trelawny, the most warlike in the struggle against slavery was also the most peaceful, law-abiding parish.
~The people of Trelawny have always known that they made the parish, that they created the wealth
They worked for the sugar estates but they also worked for themselves. Up to the last, the most intricate and beautiful Jankunnu costumes, bands and music were products of Trelawny.

Sugar is officially dead
Some of us have been waiting for this day for a very long time. In 1964, the Sugar Manufacturers Research Chemist, Mr R.F. Innes, said that the industry should be producing 30 percent more sugar on the land it occupied. Some of us took that to mean that sugar could give up 30% of its acreage to small farmers to grow more food. And 1964/65 was Jamaica's best year ever for sugar, when the investments of the N. W. Manley government began to pay off. But Manley was no longer the leader, there was no follow through and it's been downhill from there ever since.
The people of Trelawny need to take charge of their own property. They need to get together to work out a plan to take into their ownership the remaining assets of the sugar industry in the parish. Those who labored in sugar should begin by allocating blocks of land – say in 2 hectare plots, to be assigned to be farmed by one family. Other plots could be farmed by larger groups. and the whole enterprise managed by cooperatives.
Naturally, everybody and his brother will want a piece of the action, and Jamaican governments are usually to be depended on to make the wrong decisions. We need the government to keep out of the way while helping organise advice and supplying skills.
All the assets include the great houses, and when the people reconstruct the great houses and put them back into operation as guesthouses, their chidren can train as guides to the history and culture of Trelawny.
We could use this as the first stage in an emergency food production programme for Jamaica. We could not only restore the old windmills but build some new ones, modern turbines, to provide power for the people of Trelawny.
If we could eliminate the imported corruption we could revolutionise Trelawny and the world.
Copyright©2009 John Maxwell