The Kingston and Saint Andrew corporation has been complaining about illegal building in the Kingston and Saint Andrew areas which falls under its sphere of responsibility. Interestingly the Mayor of the corporation Desmond McKenzie is a councillor from Tivoli Gardens the epic center of JLP politics and heart of Prime Minister Bruce Golding’s west Kingston Constituency.
If the Mayor as head of the council, and a close ally of the Prime minister ,cannot get the illegal building to stop , what chance is there for a resolution to this problem? The truth is Jamaicans were generally never required to seek governmental approval for building their homes or other structures, however as we move into becoming a developed country, we realized we have to adhere to codes that are universal with a view to saving lives and ensure relative safety.
The problem in Jamaica’s case is that Jamaican laws have not kept pace with the times and as such there is no incentive to obey the archaic existing laws.
In these blogs we have sought to point this out as it relates to the issue of crime and criminality. This problem is however not confined to criminal law , but other areas of the laws to include those that covers building construction or the protection of tourists coming off cruise ships.
Surprisingly The Council’s Mayor told the Jamaica Gleaner that the regulations governing building construction are woefully ineffective, resulting in many players in the construction industry ignoring the KSAC orders to cease and desist.
Finally a statement of truth or common sense from a politician. We have been shouting this for years. The reason we have the level of crime and disrespect for the rule of law is simply because the laws are old and useless, and the penalties assigned ineffectual as deterrent.
This offers us a perfect segue into another problem in the heart of the country. The issue of tourist harassment in resort towns like Ocho Rios. Nothing new by the way, but something left unchecked, because the money the cash cow brings in still rolls in.
President of the St Ann Chamber of Commerce, Kumar Sujanani, complained that the police were not implementing the Prescribed Areas Act, even while the complaints of tourist harassment persisted. According to Sujananai, the complaint was top of the list from cruise passengers who disembark in Ocho Rios. But according to Superintendent of Police at Area Two headquarters, Gary Griffiths, who was formerly in charge of St Ann, the police had, in fact, implemented the act in an area stretching from Island Village to Pineapple Place, effectively covering the majority of the resort town. Superintendent Griffiths said the measure was discontinued due to non-cooperation and complaints by merchants, especially those on Main Street, the main shopping area in Ocho Rios.
Here we have people with power and influence blaming the police for doing something the police has very little power to control.
Rather than use what influence he has individually,or that of the Chamber he heads, to lobby Government to pass tougher legislation that would effectively deal with the issue of tourist harassment, he seeks to lambast the police the traditional scapegoat .
From the look on the face of Superintendent Griffith’s face I can see he would like to tell this clown where to go with his nonsense.
As a young constable stationed at the Mobile Reserve in St Andrew I spent countless hours with my colleagues combatting the issue of tourist harassment in towns like Ocho Rios and Montego Bay. Despite countless hours of patrol time, thousands of arrests, and untold physical confrontations with peddlers drug-dealers and hustlers the problem persisted.
Which must lead to a comprehensive review of the reason/s behind the failure of this project.
If people are arrested , over and over , and over , yet they persist in doing what they did that keep getting them arrested, then the blind can see that the problem is with the penalty. As is the case with all areas of criminality in Jamaica there are inadequate and archaic penalties assigned to these crimes .
The truth is some offenders were arrested dozens of times each month and released sometimes without even paying a fine.
No one is suggesting that people looking to make a few bucks from selling trinkets be imprisoned for life . What we are saying is there must be an understanding that tourists come to our shores with money to spend, they deserve to be treated with respect,as we would like to be treated , we should also make sure that the tourism dollar not be confined to rich hoteliers and business people, but must be available to the general populace.
There must also be a cumulative penalty that says if you get caught committing this offense, after a certain amount of times preferably three (3) you are going to jail for a year.
I guarantee this problem would go away,vendors and peddlers would sell in designated spaces provided for them.
There has got to be order otherwise it’s chaos , what’s happening now and has been so for decades, it is the drip , drip, slow death of Jamaica’s Tourist industry.
The rise in number of other Caribbean Islands as legitimate tourism destinations is proof positive that the country’s tourism product is getting tired and stale. Crime violence and harassment to visitors has condensed the product itself ,literally relegating it to all-inclusive resorts, with visitors not getting a chance to see the country, and probably for the better.
Many cruise ship passenger confide in me that when docked in Jamaica the stay on board, usually out of fear.
There must be a general consideration for the interest of everyone when plans are being drafted for Cruise ship ports. These must take into consideration craft shops , restaurants, etc. Essentially they must contain a direct component that benefits average Jamaicans over and above the general benefits derived from tax dollars collected.
Each person with a contribution should feel he or she may benefit from whatever they have to offer. there must however be a differentiation between offering a genuine product in a controlled and designated locale, against pushing trinkets into the faces of people coming off a ship demanding they buy them, that to most people is tantamount to soft extortion.
People will buy what they want because they want to buy it, not because someone forces it on them, or intimidates them into buying something that at its genesis , was always going to be an impulse, discretionary purchase.
A friend of mine, a female police officer in the States, told me of a horror incident she and her husband encountered in Montego Bay when they refused the advances of a seller of trinkets to purchase a piece of trinket he pushed on them. The incident she related escalated into threats and verbal abuse , which culminated with a machete being pulled on them , forcing other vendors to intervene on their behalf. Needless to say they will never be back to Jamaica.
We know that bad news gets disseminated four times faster than good news does, so we have to conclude that sooner or later this will invariably catch up to the Jamaica tourism industry, and the country in general. Legislators must acknowledge that our laws are old , useless, and ineffective, this has had a crippling effect on the country’s justice system because of recidivism, and a devastating overall effect on our country. Law makers must do something about overhauling our laws, instead of spending their time banging on desks and shouting childish insults at each other.
Asking this of them may however be too much to expect from the losers that make up the country’s political leadership.
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