29 November 2009

A Brief History of Freedom

A Brief History of Freedom
John Maxwell

This time last year I was in the throes of preparing to dispatch a petition to the then President-elect of the United States.
The petition or open letter to Barack Obama was never sent, largely because I was diagnosed with advanced lung cancer and ordered to undergo treatment urgently. It was entirely my fault that though the petition had already been signed by a couple of hundred people it was never sent. Haitians, Jamaicans, other Caribbean people, English and American people, French people, Canadians and others from all over the world, had endorsed the call for Barack Obama to seize the mantle of the Liberator and to restore to the people of Haiti their freedom, liberty, dignity and all their human rights.
As I say, the letter was never sent. I wonder whether it have had any effect had it been sent.
Looking at what has happened to Honduran democracy and this week's latest farce in Haiti, I have my doubts. I am excerpting the letter here. What do you think?
When the Haitians spoke of Freedom they did not qualify it. They named a major promenade after John Brown, and offered Lincoln a Union Army brigade to complete the service they had begun to render in the American War of Independence.
In our letter to the President-elect we began by noting the coincidence of Mr Obama's electoral victory in the bicentennial year of the end of the slave trade, an achievement owing much to the Haitian struggle. We continued

We, the undersigned, are a group of people of many nations, of all classes and callings moved by what we consider an overwhelming moral imperative to seek assistance for Haiti in breaking a vicious circle of defamation, economic oppression, external political and military interference that has unjustly constrained for nearly two centuries, the exercise of Haiti's hard-won independence, freedom and liberty.

Because of these malign factors the Haitian people have been reduced to penury; most are unemployed, many are starving and their land and environment degraded by decades of over-exploitation. A proud people whose forefathers once produced enough to make other peoples wealthy and powerful, are now prevented from exercising their own free will and genius in deciding their own destiny.

Despite these factors the Haitian spirit remains free, undaunted and optimistic. The Haitians want to be free – to be themselves, to employ their own genius and strength as they did in their unique struggle for independence, defeating powers mightier than themselves to abolish slavery and to assert their independence and freedom

Now, as they languish prisoners in their own land, justice and humanity demand that the Haitian people should be able to reclaim the dignity and respect they have earned by centuries of their struggle for human rights and dignity for themselves and for other nations and peoples.

The circumstances surrounding this demand are so important and so extraordinary that we believe it is important to set them out in some detail.
This historical narrative included the following:

You are aware that two hundred and four years ago the people of Haiti, having defeated the armies of France (twice) and of Britain and Spain, the greatest powers of that time, declared their independence and simultaneously abolished slavery. The Haitians were the first and only people in the world to abolish the evil system that enslaved them.

Their struggle effectively destroyed the trans-Atlantic Trade in Africans and accelerated freedom for those enslaved in the British and other empires.

The Haitians did more: the Haitian Revolution invented the concept of universal emancipation, guaranteeing the freedom of any enslaved person who set foot on Haitian soil.

The Haitians went even further: Haiti was the first, and for a long time, the only state in the world to recognise the universal equality of rights for all human beings regardless of sex, economic condition or any other consideration. It was the first state to implement human rights universally and unconditionally at a time when the only free people in other modern states were white adult male property owners.

Human freedom was then and is now, of transcendental importance to the Haitians.

In 1816 – with their economy still in ruins after a twelve year war of independence, while blockaded by greater powers and prevented from international trade, the Haitians made an heroic and decisive contribution to the independence of six major countries in Spanish South America. Haiti gave the then-penniless and friendless liberator Simon Bolivar soldiers, ships, arms,, ammunition and provisions to prosecute the liberation of South America. The Haitians asked in return only one thing from Bolivar: that whenever he liberated a country he should also liberate those who were enslaved.

It was the Haitian support of Bolivar in his liberation of South America which made possible the Monroe Doctrine by which the US forbade European attempts to re-colonise South America.

Clearly, Haiti has made enormous contributions to the cause of human freedom and the world owes her an unpayable debt.

The world has not been as kind to Haiti.
After brief review of the twentieth century history of Haiti we related how Haitian democracy had been destroyed by its enemies within Haiti and outside. First, in 1992:

"The new President's (Jean Bertrand Aristide) aims were simple: that all Haitians be treated justly as God's children, that all have food and shelter, and that all take pride in their own Kreyol language and culture. He said he wanted "to build Utopia on the dungheap" left behind by the dictators

Elements of the Duvalier army, backed by elements of the business and elite classes promoted a coup which ended with the attempted assassination and departure into exile of the lawfully elected President Aristide after only six months in office.

Mr Patrick Robinson, a distinguished Jamaican jurist (now President of the International Criminal Court for the former Yugoslavia in the Hague) went to Haiti on behalf of the Inter American Human Rights Commission in 1994. He reported

"The people in Haiti have the same emotions and aspirations as the citizens of any other state in the organisation. They have within themselves an enormous capacity for warmth and love and friendship and endurance and a great yearning for peace, justice and democracy. But a people do not endure the hardships, the deprivation, the violence, the victimisation and the enormous disappointments that the Haitians have experienced over the past 32 months without their faith in humanity and their expectations of decency and justice being challenged in a serious way .…
The Commission received reports of rape and sexual abuse of the wives and relatives of men who are active supporters of President Aristide; women are also raped, not only because of their relationship to men who support President Aristide, but because they also support President Aristide; thus, sexual abuse is used as an instrument of repression and political persecution."

In 2001 former President Aristide was again inaugurated as President after another overwhelming electoral victory. A campaign, led by the same elements responsible for the first coup but this time directed and openly supported by various agencies of the US and Canadian and French governments, including the CIA, the State Department, John McCain's International Republican Institute, USAID and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) , promoted the formation of a small and divided Opposition formed by a assemblage of Haitian NGOs and supported by elements of the corrupt army dissolved by President Aristide.

This opposition, on the basis of a few disputed election results unconnected to the election of the President and before he took office, refused to work or even speak to President Aristide to resolve political problems. The opposition, which at all times represented a small minority of the Haitian people, was supported by non-Haitian elements, American, Canadian and French, in their demand that President Aristide must leave office.

No substantive reason has ever been presented to support this demand.

Decapitating Democracy

In the early morning of February 29, 2004 the US Ambassador and a party of US Marines arrived at the private residence of the President and his family and left with the President and Mme. Aristide in a heavily guarded motorcade to the airport where the Aristides were placed on a plane to Africa, manifested as cargo.

A worldwide wave of disapproval of this kidnapping placed the blame squarely at the door of the United States.

A delegation led by Randall Robinson of TransAfrica and Congresswoman Maxine Waters of California together with Sharon Hay Webster, a Jamaican member of Parliament and aide to Prime Minister Patterson of Jamaica, travelled to Bangui by chartered plane to rescue the Aristides and bring them back to the Caribbean, to asylum in Jamaica.

The government of Jamaica, despite being threatened by the US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, accepted the Aristides until they could arrange permanent asylum. They were received by President Thabo Mbeki to South Africa where they remain to this day.

The United States, Canada and France, operating through the UN Security Council, then imposed upon the Haitian people a government headed by a Haitian businessman who had lived outside of Haiti for most of his adult life.

Under this unelected regime, a so-called "peacekeeping" force of US Marines and later, of soldiers from other countries, provided the armed state power to maintain law and order.

Terror is still abroad in Haiti. Two prominent supporters of the Lavalas movement, Lovinsky Pierre Antoine and Maryse Narcisse were kidnapped last year (2007). Mme Narcisse has been restored to her family after a worldwide outcry. Pierre Antoine is still missing and the government has done nothing to investigate his disappearance.

All over Haiti poor people have been reduced to eating earth to stave off hunger. The women mix clay, salt and a little fat to produce patties which are baked in the sun before being eaten. Women, too malnourished to breastfeed their newborns, watch them die in their arms.

What Haiti needs

Haiti needs, first of all, reconciliation, a period of peace and order and negotiation to reclaim its democracy and to develop among all its citizens, a true respect for the universal human rights implemented in Haiti, for the first time on the planet, two centuries ago.

Haiti needs peace and order to build the institutions, facilities and infrastructure which it has been unable to build because of foreign interference and exploitation

Haiti needs a programme of long-term development, designed and implemented by the Haitians themselves without interference from outside.

Haiti is hungry and its farmlands and forests have been depleted, degraded and destroyed as a result of the fatal interventions from abroad. Haiti needs assistance to feed its people and to restore the population to acceptable standards of nutrition.

Haiti needs to resume and accelerate its programme of building schools and universities and training people to prevail against the threat of HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis.

Haiti needs roads and water supplies and a governmental apparatus that will design and implement them.

Haiti should be able to expect, as of right, justice and fair treatment from the United Nations, the Organisation of American states and the Multilateral Financial Institutions. Haiti has suffered and is suffering from unfair treatment by many of these organisations of which she was a founding member.

Finally, President Obama, we who sign this letter do not presume to speak for Haiti. We believe that you will want to hear from the Haitian people themselves. They have spoken eloquently over the centuries in which they have built the economies of other countries, in which they have fought for and won their own freedom and have accelerated the freedom of others. But we believe we speak on behalf of humanity, being moved by the unbearable suffering of a people who have contributed so much to human freedom and dignity.

We believe that achieving justice for Haiti is an undertaking important to the history and integrity human civilisation and to the cause of the human rights of all people, everywhere.

We believe that you are uniquely qualified by history by temperament and by your office to make the decisive intervention that will cure centuries-old injustices and free your country and Haiti from an entanglement which devalues and in some ways, delegitimizes humanity's constant struggle for the secure establishment of the inalienable rights of mankind.

To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, humanity cannot be half slave and half-free.

If Haiti is not free, none of us is free.

It is long past time for outsiders to stop their deadly interference in Haiti's affairs and time for any who can come to Haiti's assistance to do so, on Haiti's terms. Haiti need a new relationship with the United States, a partnership that promotes human rights, debt relief, reciprocal trade, sustainable development, Haiti's domestic agriculture, an end to foreign occupation and justice for the victims of official terror.

This is a long letter, but as one of our signatories has noted, for Haiti, the suffering has not simply been long, but apparently endless.

We are confident that you will see the justice of the Haitian case.

Millions of people in the United States and in the Caribbean and Latin America and in Africa owe a debt of freedom to Haiti. It is a debt that is long past due.

Copyright©2009 John Maxwell jankunnu@gmail.com

28 November 2009

“Roundup-Ready” Thinkers

John Maxwell


By the time you read this it should be official – the end of the Triangular Trade, the traffic in human flesh, sugar and consumer goods between Europe, Africa, and the Caribbean begun 500 years ago. It will soon be transformed by "Globalisation" into a cat's cradle of exploitative relationships in which the exploiters and the exploited will remain the same, only the terms of trade will be transformed to protect the guilty.
Europe's trade commissioner, Catherine Ashton, told the world's press on Wednesday that within the next few days the Europeans are close to a deal to end the world's longest-running trade dispute and bolster the World Trade Organisation, whose Doha negotiations to free up global commerce have at times been held hostage by the row.
What Ms Ashton meant was that the former Caribbean, African and Pacific colonies of Europe will at long last lose the tariff protection which kept their lands addicted to producing bananas and sugar as against producing food for their people. It was a serious addiction for these nations, comparable to but worse than addiction to crack or alcohol, distracting the addicts from productive thought and activity and promoting the short-cut, Anancy mentality.
In Jamaica the end of plantation banana and sugar cane may bring enormous benefits to our national health and well-being.
Plantation economics depend heavily on labour-sparing techniques. No longer are weeds eliminated by hoes or harrows but by spraying ferociously poisonous chemicals which are 'biocides', in Rachel Carson's formulation, enemies of life which kill everything. In plantations such as Jamaica or Central America the biocide of choice is, as in the rest of the 'civilised' world, a Monsanto Chemicals product called Roundup.
Roundup is a package deal. The farmer buys soya bean or wheat seeds from Monsanto which has altered the genes of the seed to make the emerging plant resistant to Roundup – or glyphosate as it is known in the world of chemists. Roundup is not a simple product; it contains other chemicals – catalysts – to intensify or accelerate the penetration of glyphosate, so making it more potent.
The problem with these so called surfactants and accelerants is that some are even more toxic than glyphosate and they are not simply more poisonous to weeds, they are more poisonous to everything, including fungi, worms, rats and human beings.

A recent article in the journal Toxicology reports that very low doses of Roundup not only disrupt human hormone function but also kill human liver cells within 24 hours of exposure.

"The toxicity of some of the formulations was independent of how much glyphosate - the active herbicide in Roundup - they contained, suggesting it is other "inert" ingredients that may alone - or in combination with each other and/or the weed-killer - assault the cells. This study's results are similar to prior studies that find human embryo cells are affected more by the Roundup formulations and an inert ingredient than by the active ingredient."

What is even more alarming is that all formulations of the weed-killer – even and perhaps especially those with reduced glyphosate levels – were potent hormone disruptors. Hormone disruptors mimic or suppress the action of human hormones producing premature puberty in young girls, for instance, or feminising boys and deforming their genitalia.

There is worse to come.
Soils are composed of organic (living) and inorganic (non-living) material. Worms and fungi are among the organic components of coil, rock and sand are inorganic. In good soils these components are in balance and harmony. In vegetation killed by Roundup the normal balance of fungi is upset, penicilliums are killed while toxic fungi of the fusarium family begin to flourish.

Jamaica is 'Roundup-ready'

The fusarium family includes fungi that kill bananas, and, in St Elizabeth, melons of all kinds, cucumbers and others of that family. Dr Robert Kremer and other soil scientists at the University of missouri now believe that fusarium is a natural, secondary characteristic of Roundup use. Fusariums turn up even in the grain produced by the Roundup ready plants, capable of killing innocent people eating breakfast cereal, for instance.
This little tale of Roundup – the Great Panacea – should allow us to see that we need to be more careful in our decision making. The bean counters, the armies of MBAs, will always be Roundup-ready. Others among us realise that thirty years after the introduction of Roundup we still know very little about it or its long term dangers. As Rachel Carson said, more than forty years ago, we should understand that it has taken life on earth hundreds of thousands of years to adapt to most of the chemicals naturally found on earth. We are crazy to believe that – within the lifetime of any human being – we can adapt to the hundreds of thousands of new chemicals introduced annually.

Growing our own food

Now that we have the liberation from globalisation in bananas and sugar, it may be useful not only to look at what we may have escaped but at the opportunities we can now investigate. Edith Clarke gave me her collection of the Journal of the Jamaica Agricultural Society, from 1920 to 1954, one or two of which have been borrowed/stolen in the 30 or so years in which I have been their custodian. I am in Amsterdam at the moment so I cannot quote from them but there is an entry in one of them which has stuck in my memory since the day I first read it.
The entry is entitled "A small holding" and is a report from Mr Hanson, a famous Agricultural Instructor who was writing about a small farmer near Clonmel, in St Mary. This man had on his holding of slightly more than an acre about a thousand different plants, from coconuts to sweet basil, from ginger and turmeric to annatto and calomel, varieties of potatoes, tomatoes, oranges, grapefruit,cocoa, coffee and tea (as in Earl Gray), black pepper and capsicums. His land was always producing something he could eat or trade or transform into a marketable product. He was self-sufficient and proud. Professor Kari Levitt was so impressed by this story that she used a copy of it as an illustration in her book on the George Beckford papers on sustainable agriculture.
In the JAS journal and in the memories of Jamaicans, many of them relatively young, there exists a template of a Jamaican culture that is mature, autonomous, and self-respecting.
It is a culture that is capable of regenerating the Jamaica that knows its people and their capacity better than the British or the IMF ever could. We need to devise a process to sweep away the politicians, commentators and private sector leaders who promote the Roundup Ready culture and its toxic contaminants at every level and class.


Our connection with the Triangular Trade could not have ended at a more opportune time. The World Summit on Food has just ended without Jamaica making any serious contribution to the discussion.
We know that there are millions of people starving all around the world. The Cubans say say that none of the millions of children sleeping on the streets is Cuban, but the Americans, the British and most 'advanced' societies in Europe and elsewhere cannot say that. We certainly cannot.
Where would we start?
We should already have a pretty good idea of how many people are short of food in our communities, how many people especially children, go to bed hungry.
If we know that we can calculate the amount of food needed to bring them back into the society. What and how much food does a child or an adult require?
We know that an acre of well treated land can produce ten to thirty tons or more of sweet potatoes. We know how much corn and cassava can be produced on an acre of land in Trelawny and St Ann, how much pumpkin can be produced on an acre of land in St Elizabeth.
We may not understand but we are at this moment in a state of extreme emergency and we need to move fast. About two years ago I forecast this moment and suggested that we needed a bipartisan approach to the problem.
At that time Mrs Simpson-Miller was Prime Minister and I suggested that she should ask the leaders of the society to volunteer their energies, abilities, money or machinery to tackle the problem before it became unmanageable. I would like to suggest that instead of concentrating on whether UTECH should get the Trelawny stadium it might make more sense to devise an Emergency production plan and a distribution system to go with it.
We need to get thousands of idle acres into production and we can worry about systems of tenure later . I really do believe that such an effort may be one thing that most Jamaicans would find themselves willing to support.

Copyright©2009John Maxwell jankunnu@gmail.com

27 November 2009


no meaning in these texts that is not bright

even in caverns that have known no sun

nor any warming heat since world begun

their sense is clarity their essence light

each word is set to open up in flight

as avian wisdom that we could not shun

even rock-bound its glories seem to stun

the wary heart with knowledge of the right

so having learnt a simple truth we turn

our faces to the task that now seems plain

to uncurl horrors and restore the chief

dependency of each old mind to earn

the wages of such learning once again

in this cold season of the fallen leaf

in memory of c.a.l.l. born 27 november 1919 died 16 november 2001

your birth was ninety years ago today

a matter to recall with lots of pride

but just nine years ago you went away


into the dust back to the primal clay

and kept still secret all you chose to hide

your birth was ninety years ago today


in warm november when no skies were grey

in willow walk right next to mountainside

but just nine years ago you went away


in a strange land where other rules have play

your ashes sit not too far from the tide

your birth was ninety years ago today


so we remember and with no delay

cast our minds back to thank and not to chide

but just nine years ago you went away


and we cannot forget that painful day

the words that crossed the water never lied

your birth was ninety years ago today

but just nine years ago you went away

15 November 2009

Bullets Can’t Kill Crime

John Maxwell

There are studies enough and statistics galore to prove to the most ignorant and obscurantist amongst us that retaliatory crime and violence is not a policy to defeat crime or criminality.
Crime is a symptom of a diseased society and we can no more 'solve' crime by killing criminals than we can solve terrorism by exterminating people identified as "terrorists".
In Afghanistan the world is now recognising these truisms – after thousands of deaths, of American and European soldiers, of Taliban guerrillas, Al Qaeda terrorists and after spending billions on a wild goose chase and slaughter of innocent Afghans, Pakistanis and others, caught in the crossfire of a misbegotten "War on Terror". In the process we have destroyed cultures and ecologies, economies and communities, all without making any serious progress toward the stated objective. Using the present means guarantees comprehensive failure, as in Vietnam and Cambodia, and as over and over in Afghanistan itself from the time of Alexander the Great to the present day.
Right after '9/11' some of us pointed out that it was impossible to wage war on an abstraction; that terrorism was an abstraction with no central command; that 'terrorism' was the last resort of the hopeless, the anthem of the desperate in the last extremity of their attempts to communicate their misery, their thirst for justice. . As Fidel Castro points out, bullets can kill the poor, but bullets can't kill poverty; bullets can kill the hopeless and the hungry; bullets cannot kill hopelessness and bullets cannot kill hunger.

A Summons to Justice

    One Friday morning more than 40 years ago I was at my Editor's desk at Public Opinion, the weekly political review, when I got a phone call from Jamaica's very first Director of Public Prosecutions, Huntley Monroe, QC.

"Maxwell," he said,"I have read your editorial in this morning's paper and I must tell you that if you cannot justify every word of it it will be my duty to put you behind bars."
There were actually two editorials titled
Was it Murder ? – I
Was it Murder ? – II
Both concerned unlawful killing. The second was about the lynching of men in Padmore, Red Hills, on suspicion of being goat thieves and called for the DPP's intervention.
The first was about the killing of a young waiter of the Courtleigh Manor Hotel by a policeman named George Porter.

George Porter was a policeman who had a year or so earlier, assaulted me and charged me with using indecent language, obstructing a policeman in his duty, resisting arrest and assaulting him and another policeman at a police roadblock at Constant Spring. The details of the fracas were recorded rather imaginatively in the Star under the headline:

"Editor charged with Cursing, Cop-beating."

I was innocent but that was no excuse on the night. I was dragged to the Halfway Tree Police Station where Porter and some other cops, one a woman. tried to drag me upstairs to give me a 'proper beating.' I resisted and they eventually desisted. My then wife had meanwhile woken up my publisher, O.T. Fairclough, a JP and a man of some presence, who came and bailed me.
One result of all this was my being found guilty on the lying evidence of Cons Porter and one of his accomplices. I was fined £2 each on the 'bad word' and assault charges and had to pay £2 each for teeth I had allegedly knocked out of Porter's mouth.
The other consequence was to prove much more serious for Porter. I lost my front door key in the second fracas at the cop shop.
A friend of mine, Rolly Simms, a Communist who farmed a piece of land in Mocho, now destroyed by bauxite mining, was a director of the Citrus Growers Association and stayed at my house whenever the CGA and or JAS had directors meetings in Kingston.
Sometime after my soiree with Cons Porter, Rolly came to town, went to my house and found that I wasn't home and my door key was not in its usual place. He went down to the Courtleigh for supper and heard that one of the waiters, a person he knew, had ben shot and killed the night before as he made his way home after collecting his week's pay.

According to the story in the Sunday Gleaner, Constable George Porter had been on duty in the Holborn Road gully area on Friday night in response to 'numerous' reports of a robber operating in the area. On the night, Porter had accosted a suspicious individual who, when challenged had attacked the constable with a huge clasp knife and the constable, in self-defence, had had to shoot the highwayman.

But Rolly heard a different story at the Courtleigh. The waiter, Cassells, was a slight fellow and his sole weapon was a small penknife with a picture of a naked lady on the handle. Cassells himself was not only small, he was meek and peace-loving. Further, his colleagues and family wanted to know what had happened to his pay-packet, his wallet, and the bicycle he had been riding?
When Rolly told me the story and I told him who Porter was we were both determined to follow the trail to the end.
Through the Courtleigh workers we soon found a taxi driver who had been parked in the bushes where the Towers now stand on Dominica Drive. (The area was said to be a lover's lane.) When I heard THE TAXI DRIVER'S STORY I asked Kenny McNeill, one of Jamaica's foremost surgeons to attend the autopsy. When Kenny got to the morgue he was told the autopsy had been held earlier than scheduled and burial ordered.
When Huntley Monroe phoned me I told him some of what the taxi driver had told us and about the phantom autopsy.
THE TAXI DRIVER SAID there had been no attack by Cassells - who was about six inches shorter than Porter and about thirty pounds lighter.
What happened was that Porter, in plain clothes, had constituted himself into a one man crime-wave. He had waylaid Cassells as he had ambushed others before; Cassells who like Porter came from Kellitts, recognised his schoolmate.
Cassels last words were something like:
"But a no you dat George?"
to which the reply was a savage 'pistol-whipping' ended by several gunshots, many in Cassells' back.
When Kenny McNeill reported on the phantom autopsy, the DPP at my suggestion, ordered an exhumation of the body and a second, real autopsy. The results from Kenny, were devastating. Cassells had been savagely beaten as we contended and shot in the back.
Porter was guilty as charged and sentenced to hang.
We don't hang policemen in Jamaica as a rule, no matter how serious their crimes. As I was a known opponent of capital punishment, Porter's supporters knew they could count on my signature on the petition to the Governor General.
Porter's sentence was commuted to life imprisonment.
In 1972 the government of Michael Manley wanted to pardon a man who had been in prison, many thought, wrongfully, for the manslaughter of several fellow policemen who had tormented the young policeman – Roy Morgrage – beyond endurance. His 'crime' had been committed in 1948, and he had been in prison for 24 years, well beyond the normal life sentence. He had been kept in prison by police pressure. No matter how gross the provocation they felt, Morgrage had killed policemen.
Many people had long felt that Morgrage should never have been convicted, but for what seemed a specially selected jury and that even had he been properly convicted, his sentence was excessive. When the police federation heard of Morgrage's impending pardon all hell broke loose. The police demanded Porter's pardon in return for not making problems about Morgrage.
In the eyes of the police the offences appeared, somehow, comparable. Morgrage, tormented, humiliated abused and sexually threatened reacted in blind desperation seizing the first instrument to hand to end a programme of merciless persecution.
George Porter, who murdered a civilian in cold blood was given full support by the police and by certain members of the press and of the legal profession. He spent one third of Morgrage's time in prison, under considerably better conditions.
Both, I believe are now living abroad. I tell the story because there is now an artificially created frenzy, a supposed ''popular movement' to install one of Jamaica's most volatile men as Commissioner of Police.
I believe that the director of Public Prosecutions should do for Mr Reneto Adams what her predecessor did for me, so long ago. She should facilitate him in discharging his clear public duty, particularly because of the nature of the job he covets
Mr Adams a little while ago, while discussing the vacancy in the office of Commissioner, made some statements about criminal behaviour in certain places, in politics and among human rights organisations.
These statements were so serious that I believe if they are true they must be pursued with the utmost rigour.
I believe that Miss Paula Llewellyn QC. has a statutory duty to ask Mr Reneto Adams for further and better particulars and if he cannot produce them, to do what Huntley Monroe threatened to do to me four decades ago – prosecute for criminal libel.
Copyright©2009John Maxwell jankunnu@gmail.com

14 November 2009

no winter farm

so often broken scented with manure

dark earth yields little without freight of pain

not yellow tubers nor yet tasty grain

that does not speak of what we must endure

this simple purpose is the only cure

beneath the moon our inner voice says plain

for what ails most but there is no great gain

nor ever hope that wisdom will come pure

here light may sting and sun will leave a burn

noon is not dark nor will we ever pine

for the lost sweetness of the rising sap

no children dance with joy at sunreturn

nor old men feel the need for warming wine

yet each must have the sense of a sprung trap

08 November 2009

man o’war hill

we chose at last the path out of deep night

through tangled vines and withes into clean air

nothing we gained came to us just by right


what we'd been told was that the facts would bite

each normal mind and send us to despair

we chose at last the path out of deep night


not with relief but knowing that a fight

would have to come and that no one would care

nothing we gained came to us just by right


instead we seemed the victims of some spite

from distant past inheritors of fear

we chose at last the path out of deep night


although each thought that hope was truly slight

the only thing we had to do was dare

nothing we gained came to us just by right


we were the folk throughout bereft of light

who never thought the process could be fair

we chose at last the path out of deep night

nothing we gained came to us just by right

Why We Fail



John Maxwell

Once upon a time, it seemed, we could do no wrong. These days, it seems we can do nothing right.
Apart from the brilliant natural talent of our young men and women, everything we touch turns to lead.
But wait!
If our young people can do so well at athletic sports, at university and in competition with spellers ad chess players from all over, how come we're not doing much better, overall? Why are so many of our kids killing themselves or being killed by other kids or getting into all kinds of bizarre trouble?
Perhaps we should ask Mr Latibeaudiere, lately governor of the bank of Jamaica, who earns in a year more than most of us would earn in several lifetimes. Anyone paid as much as he must be very, very wise indeed. Or perhaps we should ask Mr Tony Hylton, head of the Port Authority, whose weight is enough to anchor US$200+ millions in debt – no questions asked about how we will pay back this money.
On one side of our society are thousands of children who, given encouragement and the right leadership, will work like slaves to excel and do well for their country. On the other side are ladies and gentlemen of exalted degree whose mantra is development and who persistently ask a question so simple that it should be duck soup to answer: why can't the police reduce the crime rate?
Such a simple question.
One of the good things about writing for the press is the feedback. You get it in the shops, in the newspaper columns and courtesy of some of the so-called talk-shows. I've got it from fishermen in Discovery Bay and Treasure Beach, from a 'limousine' driver in Ridgefield, Connecticut and from Rastas everywhere.
In response to my column last week there were several of the standard responses, suggesting that I am simply wrongheaded and wondering why I didn't join the respectable classes.

They didn't quite put it that way. A few weeks ago an item in the Gleaner's historical highlights reminded me of a time when I provoked even more anger. The was an item about the introduction of the National Minimum Wage, (October 22, 1975) a fight begun and carried on Public Eye until it was eventually successful. But not before one stush chatelaine in her stush Benz took deliberate aim and spat at me as I walked on South Odeon Avenue.

October was a busy month for me in the Gleaner's highlights, recounting my close encounter years earlier (October 23, 1960) with the statue of Lewis Quier Bowerbank, one of George William Gordon's murderers. At about midnight on that October night 49 years ago, I unleashed my sledgehammer in protest against Bowerbank and the fact that Gordon was still considered a criminal. People noticed, although only a few knew who the midnight 'vandal' was.
Memories like these amuse me when I read something like this

Maxwell, sometimes I think you encourage slackness too much. Squatters and other so-called underprivileged are responsible for the uglification of Jamaica.
What is it that you have against progress? Do you want Jamaica to continue in poverty and ugliness because people have to "scratch out a living"? "

There exists a whole phalanx of critics who have swallowed gallons of the Globalisation Kool-Aid and who believe that Jamaica would be well on the way to "Take-Off" if only we were more "competitive"
These characters don't realise that we are competitive where it counts: Our interest rates are among the highest in the world, to try to persuade people to rinse their money here rather than in Cayman; We have more underemployed able-bodied skilled and unskilled. people than anywhere else. Our country, instead of being able to be in any way self-reliant,has forgotten how to cook and instead depends on junk-food and imported sugar water for sustenance.
And then they wonder why people are so violent.
Is there anyone in Jamaica who makes his/her own butter? I did at my Uncle Hugh Cork's small farm, first in Tollgate and then in Juno Gully, May Pen. I learned to manage honeybees, goats, cows, chickens, turkeys and rabbits. Our people having been driven off the land can't tell the difference between coco and dasheen or know what you mean when you speak of renta, St Vincent, Lucea or himba. The development of bauxite has obliterated enormous areas of Jamaican culture, devastating farmland, driving fathers abroad and mothers and their children to kraals in inhospitable cities.
The sense of community is destroyed. The artisan skills of the elders is replaced by cheap shoes, cheap clothes, cheap furniture and cheap 'food' from abroad. Our people are adrift in the most extreme shopkeeper culture in the world, ignorant and incompetent to help themselves.
Many of the apparently Jamaican products now merchandised here are imported. No Jamaican farmers are involved. Even some coconut water is imported from southeast Asia. The merchants see no need to foster Jamaican agriculture. After all, they are helping famers, in Thailand, Brazil and California. That's Development!

"Come on, let development proceed and we will have more people getting employment.
I don't know about you but I don't want to live in a country where we have all these underdeveloped establishments"

The 'underdeveloped establishment' would be a community owned beach, run by the community with minimal assistance, perhaps, from state agencies. That was the aim. But there were and are forces in this country determined that poor people should have no autonomy and for nearly forty years they have sabotaged, corrupted and tried to destroy that dream of Hellshire and a productive, autonomous community.

The causes of Squatting

One in every three people in Jamaica is a squatter, driven off the land by bauxite or some other 'development'. We can't afford to find safe housing land because, when the Constitution was being written in 1962 the rich decided that the government effectively must pay cash for any property it wanted. So housing is built on marginal farmland which has defaulted into the hands of government. We lose land for food and endanger the lives of those who live on these lands. We can't plan to develop places like May Pen or Santa Cruz because the speculative vultures have cornered the land markets. Instead we build dormitory disasters on land subject to flooding or landslides.
    In beautiful and historic Falmouth, we are busy making a billion dollar cosy corner for the Royal Caribbean Line on the alleged promise that they will be bringing 6,000 visitors a week to Falmouth What we don't know is that we have probably been conned…

Mr Arthur Frommer is probably the foremost travel writer/publisher in the world. He has been investigating the fabled Oasis of the Seas . Here Is Mr Frommer:

"Starting in May of 2010, Half of the Itineraries of 'Oasis of the Seas' Become Cruises to Nowhere
"You have only to read the actual schedules of the new, 220,000-ton, 6,000-passenger Oasis of the Seas to understand the revolutionary nature of the changes it will bring about. .…
On weekly, seven-night sailings, the mammoth ship leaves each Saturday afternoon from Ft. Lauderdale, … then sailing for six more days and nights. Every week, on all itineraries, it spends three of those six days simply at sea, stopping nowhere. And then, on an itinerary it follows every other week starting in May, it devotes the fourth of those six days to a stop at the "private island" (actually a "private beach") of Labadee on the coast of Haiti. Labadee, as you may have experienced on one of your own cruises, is a totally isolated stretch of sand fenced in by barbed wire and guards from Haiti and Haitians. "
There's more, much more here:http://www.frommers.com/blog/
As I reported nearly a year ago, the new megaships are no longer means of transportation; they are full-fledged resorts in their own right, offering dozens of restaurants, casinos, shops, auctions and other consumerist attractions too grandiose to mention.

The Oasis of the Seas will make land-based hotels irrelevant. Instead of bringing visitors to Jamaica the new ships will bring an ersatz Jamaica to the visitors. Each of these ships will be human zoos specially designed to bemuse their clientele…


'Crapital' (sic) of the world

According to the literature each ship's 'central park' will be basically a mini 'jungle' themed to reflect an imaginary island, say Jamaica, no doubt with its quota of 5 iguanas, 3 crocodiles, 2 dozen parrots, a cage of humming birds and other 'authentic' simulacra of the 'authentic' island experience – about as much authentic 'nature' as a couch potato can stand– and making it unnecessary to actually visit the place.

One cannot help hoping that these benefactors of the sea will have the forethought to include appropriate accommodation in their casinos to display retired politicians and other ginnigogs in their natural habitat.
Given all this, the rationale for the Falmouth cruise shipping centre is simple: There's got to be somewhere to dump the huge amounts of waste generated by such a monumentally environmentally unfriendly project. Falmouth's destiny is to act as a relief point for the ship to be sanitised, resupplied with cheap Jamaican water and for the ship its passengers and crew to offload their excrement in what will become the cruise crapital (sic) of the world. And, thanks to the Port Authority, we get to pay for it – another taxpayer privilege like the Doomsday Highway.
You read it here first.

What is development?

The Kool Aid drinkers, waiting on Deliverance will wait in vain. They will soon discover that there is little difference between the likes of Bernard Madoff and Goldman Sachs apart from the fact that one has immeasurably more 'backative' than the other but they were in their own way, developers, making things happen, destroying pensions nest-eggs and lives.
We in Jamaica, particularly people like Derek Latibeaudiere, would understand this. It is a natural consequence of 'development.'
In Germany there is a substantial number of people who feel differently. They were brought up in a society, like old time Jamaica, where people looked out for each other. This philosophy is even engrained in the law, which mandates what is called "co-determination" in which the workers have a statutory interest in their enterprise, in the goods or services they produce and in the management of their production. Workers sit on the boards of management, even of Krupp and Volksagen.
It was therefore no surprise to me to read two news items from Germany that may have startled some others but didn't really shock me. Just as Goldman Sachs was announcing a bonus fund for its managers equivalent to the GDP of the Greater Antilles, the BMW company was announcing new bonus and pay policy.

Sustainable Culture

"BMW plans to tie executive bonuses to those of its blue-collar workers, in a bid to create a fairer and sustainable compensation environment within the company.
" Starting in 2010, the company will use a common formula to ascertain and award bonuses to its upper and lower level employees, based on the company's performance as measured by profit, sales and other factors. That means that upper level management could potentially lose more money than their lower level counterparts for bad performance, BMW said."
According to a spokesman BMW wanted not only to produce sustainable cars but a sustainable corporate culture.
Mr Golding should perhaps ask My Latibeaudiere to write him a short study on the possibilities of applying these principles in Jamaica
The other news item did startle a few of my friends. Some rich Germans have come together to petition their government to raise their taxes to help their country. For retired doctor Dieter Kelmkuhl, 66, it is time the wealthy came to the aid of their country.
Dr Kelmkuhl estimate that if the 2.2 million Germans who have personal fortunes of more than 500,000 euros (750,000 dollars) paid a tax of five percent this year and next, it would provide the state with 100 billion euros.
Perhaps Mr Golding could ask the Private Sector Organisation to come up with a comparable proposal. It is well known that Jamaican salaries at the top are competitive with the Developed world, and Jamaicans are famous for their generous and benevolent nature – as Lady Nugent and the Caymanians can testify.

We could easily raise the money to build our own cruise-ship. After all,seventy five years ago, the 27,000 small farmer members of the Jamaica Banana Association raised the money to build three ocean going "banana boats" – the Jamaica Producer, the Jamaica Pioneer and the Jamaica Planter, two of them sunk in wartime service.

What couldn't we do if we could get the rich to invest in Jamaica?
If we started by putting money into education (meals, buildings, teachers, playing fields) we would certainly not find it necessary to change Commissioners of Police quite so often.
As the World Bank might say –"Trust us!"

Copyright©2009 John Maxwell – jankunnu@gmail.com

01 November 2009

The Rape of the Public Interest

John Maxwell

In 1973, nearly forty years ago,I was one of the journalists on the new JBCTV public affairs programme, Press Conference – later renamed Firing Line. One of the first guests on the programme was Moses Matalon, the first chairman of the UDC – the Urban Development Corporation.

Mr Matalon was then – as we say in Jamaica 'in him ackee'. He had been installed in 1968 by the JLP Finance and Development Minister Edward Seaga and confirmed by the new, PNP Prime Minister, Michael Manley when he took office in 1972.
Someone of course had to invent the aphorism: 'JLP or PNP in office, no matter, Matalon in power!'
The UDC was then at the height of its public relations prowess, spinning out brochure after brochure detailing how the corporation was going to give Jamaica an extreme makeover and convert it into the Miami of the Caribbean.
At that time, Hellshire had only recently been rediscovered. The rugged geology conspired with the harsh climate to keep Hellshire out of sight to all but a few Jamaicans, mainly bird-shooters and crocodile hunters like James Gore, father and son, hog hunters and fishermen. The UDC decided to change all that. It was going to build another Kingston across the water – eclipsing Portmore whose prospects were pretty dim at that time.
Some of us who knew something about Hellshire would drive out on the new UDC road to swim and eat some fish with the fishermen. It was even possible to skinny dip on the deserted white sand beach with 20-ft dunes walling off parts of the beach from easy view.
It was paradise, whether you inhaled or imbibed or simply lay about in blissful, peaceful idleness.
About two or three weeks before Mr Matalon's appearance on Press Conference a few of us found an enormous gully cut across the road to Hellshire – between Fort Clarence and Halfmoon Bay.

On Press Conference Mr Matalon expatiated on his plans to remodel Jamaica, always skirting delicately round Hellshire. In response to a direct question he admitted, yes, there was a plan to develop Hellshire as a tourist resort . I asked him whether he realised that Halfmoon Bay was the only good beach within reach of Kingston's sweltering multitudes. He said there was Gunboat Beach. I said Gunboat was now too dirty for swimming and even with its neighbour, Buccaneer Beach there was not enough space for Kingston's people.

Since he didn't reply to that I asked him why had the UDC cut the road to Hellshire preventing people going to the beach?
Matalon said he didn't know the road had been cut. I told him it had been done, when and by whom. Would he make inquiries and ensure that the road was back in operation say, by the weekend?
Somewhat sheepishly, he agreed.
Matalon regarded me, as a journalist, as a damned nuisance. In 1977, when I became Chairman of the Natural Resources Conservation Authority, he became really upset with me.

Obnoxious Obstructionist

Matalon was what they call 'multi-faceted': He was not only chairman of the public sector UDC Group, he was also Chairman of the Portmore Land Development Company the developers and West Indies Home Contractors, the builders of Portmore, and a director of the Adventure Inn/Forum group, etc., etc., ad nauseam.
We clashed over Portmore, further development of which we stopped, until the developers agreed to reserve land for parks, schools, public buildings including an advanced health clinic, a fire brigade station and several police stations. We also insisted on serious strengthening of the foundations of the houses, since Portmore was underlain by irregular lenses of peat, sand, quicksand, unconsolidated clay and gravels and other debris deposited by the Rio Cobre, the Sandy Gully and other streams which had formed the estuary on which Portmore was being built. The whole area was subject to liquefaction in a sufficiently violent earthquake.
We also insisted on a complete modern sewage treatment plant plus measures to mitigate hurricane storm surge and flooding from the rivers.
The upshot was that Michael Manley summoned me to Jamaica House to inform me that the houses at Waterford, originally to be sold for $7,000 would now cost $11,000.
In one particular exchange Mr Matalon was upset by some figures I had quoted on earthquake risk at Portmore. He then said: "But Mr Maxwell, you are not an engineer!"
To which I replied: "But neither are you, Mr Matalon!".
As far as he was concerned, and as he told Vin Lawrence a few minutes later, Maxwell was simply "an obnoxious, overeducated Rasta!" In addition to which, I seemed far too fond of mangroves and mosquito-breeding swamps.

Relocating the Fishermen                    

I got along well with the Rasta fishermen of Hellshire. They had heard that they were to be 'relocated' and asked me to help them. Their beach was to be converted into an exclusive Beach Club and they would have to find some other place to scratch a living
Some of these men had been on Halfmoon Bay for more than thirty years, and there seem to have been fishermen on that beach since the Tainos. The UDC had come in, knocked down Fort Johnstone and other ruins or allowed freebooters to sack them for the stones. A pair of contractors told me that they had been paid to remove the dunes and transport the sand to the nascent Adventure Inn/Forum in Port Henderson.
The UDC had revised its plan for Hellshire. In that limestone desert they were going to build a collection of suburban developments but still backed by the beach club.
I argued with the UDC, wanting them to reserve wilderness and scientific reserves. I argued the despite what they thought, the hog-hunters knew that iguanas and coneys were not extinct but still lived in Hellshire.
I begged them for 32 acres of land at Halfmoon Bay for the fishermen. We wanted space for a fishing village, a secure area for boats and gear and an area behind the beach where the fishermen and the families could sell the cooked result of their labours.
I got nowhere until I went to talk to Michael Manley He deputed Hugh Small and D.K.Duncan to try to solve the problem. We were valiantly backed up by Beverley Manley.
It was agreed – in 1979 – that the UDC would turn over ten acres of land to the Fishermen's Cooperative

Slippery customer

The UDC is by far the slipperiest customer with whom I have ever had to deal.
•A few years ago, fully aware that their legal department had already signed off on the transfer of Title to the fishermen – although the fishermen had not been informed – the UDC proceed under cover of darkness to criminally trespass on the houses of the fishermen, bulldozing them, while publicly and libellously claiming that the people were squatters.
•In or about 1980, the UDC, having been informed that what they proposed was illegal, proceeded to construct a groyne at the outlet to Jackass Water Hole, starving the fisherman's beach of sand. now, a quarter of a century later, because the Jackass Water hole groyne has colleted enough sand on its southeastern side to make a new, small beach, additional sand is once again flowing to Haalfmoon Beach. The dunes are back and new middleclass squatters have built substantial buildings on them, contrary to law and common sense and against the interest of the original stakeholders and the public interest.

•According to the campaign now being waged in the Gleaner, the fishermen are merely leaseholders and any minute now I expect the UDC to claim that these are 24-hour leases, or some such lunacy.
The propaganda is that the beach is a hotbed of gun and drug smugglers though how these activities would go unnoticed in this community mystifies me. Perhaps the beach will be seized as the product of contraband activity and sold, perhaps to the Spaniards. I wonder who will get the finder's fee?
It is simply the latest in a series of campaigns to demoralise the fishermen, subvert their leadership, undermine their will and spirit and drive them off the beach.

Now that the white sand is back, the beach has become 'marketable'– the sand is valued by the ounce, and the poor fishermen and their families are about to be defrauded of their legitimate interest. The public is about to have another beach stolen, despite the existence of prescriptive rights inherent in the fishermen and in their clients such as you and me.
The state, as the Public Trustee, will betray its trust, as usual
Incredible stories have surfaced, all to suggest that poor people's rights are not worth respecting. And all those who, over the years, refused to help defend the fishermen and to build a really attractive folk industry centre will no doubt be happy when steel gates go up across the beach and you are offered croissants instead of festival with your Dover sole a la bonne femme.

The Brutification of Falmouth.

    I haven't seen it myself, but I do not doubt the stories I've been told of the savage attack now in progress on the history and archaeology of Falmouth. I know, as a boy and much more recently, that in the Falmouth nearshore it was possible to pick up 300 year old bottles and other relics of the past.
Now, people watching the dredging say they have seen historic artefacts in the material being dredged for the establishment of the proposed cruise shipping pier. These artefacts are unceremoniously dumped in the offshore deeps.
If this is true I believe the coroner for the area should be informed and that he should take immediate action to end this depraved assault on our history and our culture. Is there no one in Falmouth, or Trelawny or in Jamaica, public-spirited enough to pledge some money to fight these barbarians in court?

Copyright ©2009 John Maxwell jankunnu@gmail.com