30 July 2006

The Human Factor

Common Sense
John Maxwell

Even the notoriously noncommittal Kofi Annan must have been surprised when a journalist questioned his credentials for refereeing the current Mideast free-for-all.

At a press conference in Rome after the failed Middle East peacekeeping talks, an English-speaking journalist drove hard at Mr Annan. Didn't the UN secretary-general think that his condemnation of Israel for deliberately bombing the UN position undermined his qualifications to be an honest broker in the conflict?

Annan pointed out that the questioner misquoted him. He did not say "deliberate bombing" but "apparently deliberate bombing".

It was a little hard to understand why the questioner chose to tackle Annan on that point, since it had been clear for some time that there was no question that Israel had bombed the UN outpost after having been warned several times that they were firing perilously close to the UN position.

In fact, Israel's commander in the field, who could see the UN position, was warned at least 10 times, at least six of those times by an Irish member of the UNIFIL team. And when Israel finally destroyed the post, it was done by way of a bomb and a precision-guided missile. If that doesn't sound at least like an "apparently deliberate" act I can't imagine what could.

Israel's frustration is showing

The plan was to teach its enemies a short, sharp lesson, to castrate Hezbollah and to punish the Lebanese for allowing 'terrorists' to hijack their country. Even the Lebanese government seemed to agree at the beginning of the conflict. It might be a good thing to discipline Hezbollah, it suggested. But that soon turned to something else.

The Lebanese prime minister and foreign minister were soon saying that Hezbollah were Lebanese, patriotically defending their homeland. In fact, Hezbollah is a party and is included in the Lebanese Cabinet. The turnaround in attitude came when it became clear that far from being taught a short, sharp lesson, Hezbollah was fulfilling its promise to surprise Israel and the world.

In two weeks of relentless bombardment, the Israeli incursion has still not got past first base in Lebanon, and on Wednesday, at Bint Jabayl, a town they said they had surrounded, if not captured, the Israel Defence Force suffered a brutal setback, losing nine troops and many more wounded in intense fighting. The Israelis have admitted losing 33 soldiers; Hezbollah have said they have lost 35.

The Israelis have said that their assault was precisely aimed at Hezbollah assets, not at the civilian population. Clearly, civilian losses included 600 people (according to the Lebanese government), about 200 of them children; 5,000 homes, one toilet paper factory, one bottle factory and 150 other businesses. Nearly one million Lebanese have been driven from their homes.

By Thursday afternoon, a partial list of other important Lebanese assets destroyed by Israel included: The Beirut Lighthouse and the ports of Beirut, Tripoli and Jounieh; three dams, two power stations and one sewage plant; 62 bridges, 22 gas stations, 72 road overpasses, and 600 kilometres of road.

In the realm of communications, Hezbollah's Al Manar TV station was one of two TV stations destroyed, along with two mobile phone networks.

And finally, in addition to this impressive list of presumably military targets, we must add one military airport, two civil airports, four radar installations and one army barrack.

According to ReliefWeb:
"As of July 26, WHO reported . more than 1,267 people are injured. The conflict has affected an estimated 800,000 people, including internally displaced, individuals under siege, refugees, and asylum seekers.

"OCHA estimated that 710,000 people have fled their homes, and the majority are now located in Beirut, Tyre, Sidon, the Chouf mountains, and the Alea region. Although the majority of displaced are staying with relatives and friends, approximately 125,000 are staying in schools and public institutions in Lebanon, and 150,000 have crossed the border into Syria. According to international media reports, remaining residents in southern Lebanon cannot leave due to ongoing attacks and damaged infrastructure."
The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) estimates that 45 per cent of the displaced population are children. Approximately half of them - about 125,000 - are living in 587 schools and shelters and are in urgent need of water storage and tankers, improved sanitation, and health kits.

UNICEF says: "....the insecure situation, especially in southern Lebanon, has severely restricted UNICEF's ability to reach the affected population outside of Beirut. UNICEF joins the rest of the UN family in its call for safe corridors for the delivery of aid to all affected children."

Israel's security Cabinet decided to step up its air campaign against Lebanon on Thursday, but said it would not expand its ground offensive after the death of nine of its soldiers in fighting for Bint Jabayl the day before.

The Beirut Daily Star reports: "According to Elias Hanna, a researcher of military affairs, the decision to limit the ground campaigns was made because "Israelis are traumatised by their negative experience during the invasion of Lebanon in 1982."

"They are afraid of suffering more losses in every village they try to conquer," Hanna added.

The researcher said internal political calculations are also affecting Israel's military strategy.

"The ruling coalition includes the conservative Likud Party, which is constantly trying to prove that the withdrawal from Southern Lebanon in 2000 was a mistake in the first place," Hanna said. The Israeli daily Haaretz said Israeli consensus over a large-scale offensive in Lebanon is beginning to "crack".

"...critics are starting to say the government launched the offensive hastily, with no exit strategy, and many fear the country is again being dragged into a quagmire across its northern border."

The truth is that Israel has got itself into an unholy mess from which it has no easy exit. Since its initial strategy seemed to be based on an easy, lossless victory, a sort of war college setpiece, driving back Hezbollah to its caves, the fact that they have taken nearly two weeks to make any impression in their ground offensive frightens many Israelis. Rockets are still hitting Haifa and there is no progress on the ground in Lebanon. The script was not supposed to be going this way.

Israel is now in a position where 'winning' seems implausible, and anything less will look suspiciously like defeat. Too many IDF soldiers are being killed and the Israeli nation does not want to accept massive casualties.

Having totally destabilised the Hamas government of Palestine, Lebanon seemed a nice bit of icing to add to that cake. Israel, the script went, would then be able, from a position of strength, to impose its solutions on the rest of the Middle East, backed by its invincible partner, the United States.

They felt so confident that they spoke of enforcing UN resolution 1559 demanding the surrender of Lebanon and the disarmament of Hezbollah. This demand is especially poignant, when it is remembered that Israel has, for 50 years, defied scores of UN Security Council resolutions about the settlement of the Palestinian question and the establishment of a Palestinian state.

The Israeli calculus was based on the doctrines of Ariel Sharon - who saw no reason to obey any law which did not suit him - and a long line of Israeli statesmen who have nibbled away at Palestinian rights and Palestinian property without fear of successful challenge.

This all depended on Arab armies which would fire a few rounds in the air and then retreat, honour satisfied. Hezbollah, it turns out, is made of sterner stuff. But Hezbollah should not have taken Israel by surprise. It was that organisation after all, which drove the Israelis to vacate Lebanon 20 years ago after Sharon's bloody and unsuccessful attempt to settle Palestine by way of Lebanon.

This time the defeat will be more easily visible on a larger stage, particularly because the United States and Israel have postured so grandly and played their cards so badly.

It was clear, as some Arab commentators have said, that the mere kidnapping of three Israeli soldiers was not the real reason for the start of these hostilities. Soldiers have been kidnapped before and exchanged for prisoners kidnapped by Israel. The original kidnapping was, after all, an attempt to pressure Israel into returning several hundred civilians, including dozens of women and children, held by Israel without charge.

Somehow, the Western Press, in reporting the Palestine conflict, finds it difficult to see Palestinian grievances as real and substantial. They proclaim the illegitimate expression of the grievances but ignore the legitimate grievances themselves. Israel's arrogant kidnapping of several Hamas Cabinet ministers was meant to teach a lesson - a lesson perilously close to the dictum stated some years ago by a Jewish rabbi at the funeral of a Jewish terrorist named Dr Baruch Goldstein.

Goldstein walked into a mosque in Jerusalem with a machine-gun and killed 29 Palestinians and wounded 125 others before he was torn to pieces by the congregation. At his funeral the rabbi, one Yacov Perin, declared "One million Arab lives are not worth a Jewish fingernail".

Western commentators and the Israeli government, echoed by Ms Condoleezza Rice and her president, suggest that the real problem is the support of terrorists by Syria and Iran. In calling for the enforcement of the UN resolution it does not seem to have crossed their minds that there are other, even more relevant resolutions of the UN Security Council.

Whether the Israelis and the US Press believe so or not, the UN resolutions were not anti-semitic, nor anti-Zionist, nor anti-Jewish, but were the world's sincere attempts to deliver justice to both sides - to people who have been holding the sharp end of the stick ever since Joshua smote the Amalekites and the Amorites, David smote the Philistines, and the Romans smote the Jews.

The problem is that the Israelis, grievously wronged by European peoples, cannot believe that they can live peacefully and occupy the same general space as any other people. It is an exaggeration to describe the attitude of the Zionists as believing that the Bible is a title to Palestinian real estate, but the behaviour of Ehud Olmert and those Israelis who follow him make it seem very much that way. Olmert is reported to have said he would drive Palestinians mad with sonic booms.

Olmert and many, but not all his predecessors, have behaved as if might is right, that facts on the ground are tantamount to eternal truths. Which is why some 'democrats' were so surprised that the Palestinians, given a chance at democracy, elected Hamas to be their government, and that the Lebanese have now been radicalised, not by Hezbollah, but by the Israel Defence Force. It does not seem to matter that Hamas are Palestinians and Hezbollah are Lebanese, legitimate expressions of their people, not imported from anywhere else.

There is, of course, another difficulty. To attempt to separate Hamas from Palestine and Hezbollah from Lebanon on the ground that they are terrorists would require the dismemberment of the countries. The "Terrorists" have become integral with the populations because they express the terrible grievances of the people.

Many Israelis over the years have realised that you cannot impose peace through war and injustice. Wise Israelis and others have been pointing out for years that every Israeli victory seems to produce a new and larger crop of enemies. The process seems endless.

If we were to calculate the suffering, the number of lives lost and destroyed on all sides, the amount of treasure and culture lost, we would be appalled, horrified, struck dumb, perhaps. It seems acceptable in small doses, until we realise how corroded our souls have become and how much of our civilisations we have thrown into the trash along with the truth.

Any attempt to tell the truth in this conflict is almost immediately denounced as anti-semitic or pro-terrorist and invites violence of one sort or another. But the much larger violences which are ignored by propaganda are likely to be apocalyptic in scale when they do happen, and are inevitable unless we begin to face facts and tell ourselves the truth.

I cannot do my duty to my friend by telling him the lies he wants to hear. If I do that, I am setting him up for his enemy.

23 July 2006

'God' Buck Him Toe!

Common Sense
John Maxwell

I was talking to man who works as a waiter in a Kingston hotel. "You know," he said, "there are people who would rather knock you down in the street than risk their expensive car being damaged by a pothole. Rather than hitting the pothole they will hit you and drive off - figuring the cops will never trace them.

"They don't realise that they should be nice to the people they meet on the way up because they're going to meet them again on the way down."

I'm not sure that I have the same faith in divine justice as he, but I couldn't help thinking about what he said as I watched the images of Israel's destruction of Lebanon and Palestine and read about the unravelling of the power of the man many in Jamaica have for the past several years referred to only half-jokingly as 'God'.

Israel is spending a great deal of time, effort and money in buying itself enemies. People on the Jamaican streets, knowing what I do for a living, come up to me and ask me to explain what's going on in the Middle East. And they are not just seeking my opinion, they are giving me theirs.

The major question is why Israel believes it makes sense to slaughter hundreds of Palestinians and Lebanese civilians in the effort to recover three Israeli soldiers captured by Palestinians and by Hezbollah. It seemed totally out of proportion to them.

The Israelis wouldn't be doing it, they tell me, if the Americans weren't giving them the money and the arms to do it. "Don't they believe," they ask, "that one day the money will come to an end? That one day the shoe might be on the other foot?"

Jamaicans have always had a lively and intelligent interest in what happens in the rest of the world. In small countries, people tend to be very attentive to anything that might conceivably affect them; the behaviour of our powerful neighbour to the north is one such factor, partly because Jamaicans realise that we could not possibly defend ourselves against any attack from that quarter, but also because most Jamaicans have a - fast disappearing - tradition of respect and affection for the USA. There are so many Jamaicans there. Many Jamaicans serve and have served in the US armed forces.

In my daily peregrinations I increasingly encounter people who formerly would have been partisans of the United States. I meet them in supermarkets and such places, middle-aged, middle-class women who want to know why the US believes that it makes sense to be buying new enemies, as one put it to me last week. I had not realised how many Palestinians there are in Jamaica and how many of them - who are mainly middle- and upper-class - hate the United States.

"Buying enemies" is an apt description of the process. They see the destruction of Palestine as a process which began 60 years ago, when some of them were first displaced. They know that their ancestors had given shelter and succour to the Jews and do not understand why Middle Eastern people should now be paying for the sins of European racists.

And they tell me that they think the Israelis are behaving just like the Nazis who persecuted and murdered them by the millions not so long ago. Although few of them are Muslim and most are Christian, Jamaican Palestinian and Lebanese people identify strongly with the Islamic resistance to Israeli hegemony. One businessman told me a few months ago that the memories of Palestinians are just as long as the memories of the Jews. "We still remember Saladin," he said.

And he reminded me that 60 years ago, people like Yitzhak Shamir and Menachem Begin were officially described by the British as terrorists; just as Hamas and Hezbollah are now described by the Americans, the British and the Israelis. And, don't even begin to talk about Iraq!

Some Palestinian, Lebanese and other Middle Eastern people in Jamaica muse on the cost of the current destruction - wouldn't the money spent on missiles and bombs, on F-16s and missile-firing warships make more sense being spent on the development of the whole area?

Wouldn't it make Israel safer if they were to try buying friends rather than enemies? Wouldn't it be cheaper?

And my Middle Eastern friends, turning away from the United States, slowly but increasingly more surely, have a particular contempt for the American Press. My businessman friend asked me to explain what was the essential difference between CNN and Pravda or Izvestia? Even the British BBC, he said, could no longer be trusted.

'God' buck him toe!

The major Jamaican story of the week (and of several weeks to come) is the scandal surrounding the Sandals Whitehouse hotel development.

The Urban Development Corporation (UDC), which has never been about urban development, is now at the centre of a dispute about their management of the construction of a hotel on Jamaica's south coast, which was supposed to inaugurate a new era in Jamaican tourism. The hotel was being built for the Sandals group, headed by 'Butch' Stewart, who also happens to be the owner of this newspaper.

Several months ago, it transpired that Sandals and the UDC were involved in a dispute about who was responsible for horrendous cost overruns in the construction of the hotel. The project was originally scheduled to cost about US$70 million. The final cost is somewhere north of US$110 million, a cost overrun of more than 60 per cent.

I do not have the space to go into the details of the corporate arrangements surrounding the project management, except to say that, according to 'Butch' Stewart, the Sandals group, who were supposed to be joint venture partners, were never made aware of the exact financial position.

Despite trying to find out what was the position, Sandals kept getting the run-around from the UDC and its nominee on site, a project management company headed by Mr Alston Stewart, a journalist and public relations practitioner who suddenly became an all-purpose expert, running the National Solid Waste Management Authority as well as the Sandals Whitehouse construction project.

The contractor-general's office has now issued a report on the Sandals project, and the contents so far are mind-boggling. According to the contractor-general, the UDC has been unco-operative in providing the facts required for a proper investigation of the scheme. It is apparently at this moment, impossible to accurately trace what happened to nearly US$40 million.

As in every story, there are several sides. In this case, the contractor-general insists that the UDC had contravened the Government's mandatory requirements for the procurement of services and goods, including the hiring of consultants. The UDC, on the other hand, says that it has provided full access to all the information it has in its possession and that the contractor-general had never asked for additional information, nor did he indicate dissatisfaction with the quality or timeliness of the information provided.

One of the more curious aspects has been the contention of Vin Lawrence that government guidelines about the hiring of consultants were not in place when he hired them for the project. Whether there were guidelines or not, wouldn't any sensible businessman make sure that the process was transparent and ethical? You don't need official guidelines for that.

The Sandals group, through director Chris Zacca, who is also deputy chairman of the Observer newspaper, says the contractor-general was misinformed about the part Sandals' affiliates played, but the group shared the concerns expressed by the C-G about the lack of transparency and accountability in the construction project. They have promised their side of the story shortly.

All of this seems to lead inevitably to the former chairman of the UDC, the man formerly known as 'God' - the man some believed was the real deputy prime minister to Mr Patterson - Vin Lawrence Jnr. While Mr Patterson reigned, it was said, Mr Lawrence ruled. He was the man to see if you wanted anything done. Without his say-so, supplicants could wait a very long time.

My own problems with Mr Lawrence were simpler. The word "Environment" was to him an incendiary device, and he made sure that 'development' - as the UDC saw it - had nothing to do with sustainability or the Precautionary Principle.

Thirty years ago, long before Mr Lawrence became chairman of the UDC, I convinced Michael Manley to hand over a portion of the Hellshire (Halfmoon Bay) beach to the fishermen who had originally colonised it. It seemed to me that in addition to their fishing they should also be permitted to run the beach as a public recreational park, and initially, 32 acres were set aside for this.

The UDC, led by Moses Matalon, then chairman, and Gloria Knight, managing director, fought every step of the way to prevent the transfer of ownership. The original 32 acres were cut to 10.

They also fought my proposal to accept the advice of a high-level UWI scientific team that Hellshire should be handled with kid gloves because it was ecologically important, sensitive and potentially a huge scientific and touristic asset if properly protected.

The UDC saw Hellshire as another step in the urbanisation of Jamaica concentrated on Kingston and premised on massive hotel developments. I was famously denounced as a dreamer for saying that iguanas still existed in Hellshire. They were wrong.

The UWI and the NRCA (of which I was chair at the time) were happy to give up eastern Hellshire to housing but wanted the rest of it for a wilderness park and a scientific reserve. There was space, we thought, for all of this in Hellshire's 17 square miles.

In the first place, the UDC refused to surrender its claims to Halfmoon Bay, allowing the construction of a monstrous edifice on the western side of the beach and sending in bulldozers to flatten the houses of the fishermen. They were squatters, the UDC said.
It was only later, two years ago, that the Hellshire Bay community learned that even while the UDC had been demolishing their houses, the title for the land had already been passed from the UDC to the fishermen's co-operative. The UDC was in fact criminally trespassing on their land.

Mr Lawrence was chair of the UDC at this time, and after the demolitions he undertook an eventually fruitless attempt to get the fishermen to surrender their land in exchange for 30 or so barrack houses away from the beach.

It took us nearly 30 years to get what had been promised by Michael Manley, Prime Minister of Jamaica, in 1978. Since then, the UDC has gone from strength to strength. It has claimed that the 50-year leases granted to farmers on the Winnifred Beach property at Fairy Hill in Portland are null and void. It has better things to do with the land and the beach.

The UDC intends to wall off the beach and the property from Jamaica, to make it an exclusive ghetto for foreigners. The same solution is to be applied to the Trelawny coastline, taking away public beaches for the pleasure of the UDC's rich friends abroad.

If the UDC were allowed to continue its mad career, pretty soon Jamaicans won't be able to find a decent public beach in their own country.

There cannot be a better reason for the prime minister to order an immediate and full-scale forensic audit of the UDC as a preliminary to abolishing the corporation in the public interest.

No accountability for decades

In 1973, I was invited to a press conference by the then minister of mining and natural resources, Allan Isaacs, to hear about the UDC's plan to rebuild downtown Kingston. During the course of the press conference I asked Mr Matalon whether I could have the UDC's last annual report. It wasn't available yet, I was told. Could I have the previous annual report? That too was unavailable. Could I have any of the corporation's annual reports? None were available.

Allan Isaacs, listening to this exchange with bafflement and increasing fury, asked Moses Matalon whether the UDC had published any annual reports since its inception five years before? Matalon said 'no'. Isaacs then ordered the UDC to let him have the annual reports on his desks within some reasonable time, and the press conference was at an end.

Several weeks later, the UDC produced a document which was said to contain the annual reports from 1968 to 1973. Among other things it revealed that the UDC had been financing itself with promissory notes from local and foreign banks, all without the knowledge of the ministry of finance. It would be interesting to discover how many other annual reports have been published since 1973.

Since then, the UDC has, instead of urban development, gone into the business of property development. It has built two condo hotels - Seacastles and Sandcastles - and earns a substantial but undisclosed share of its revenue from the (US$) fees it charges at the Dunn's River Falls.

Nobody really knows what the UDC is up to. What we do know is that it is not, in any sense, an Urban Development Corporation.

16 July 2006

Busha Blockhead

Common Sense
John Maxwell

There are one or two important things in this life of which we must always be aware. One is that you can kill as many Haitians as you like, you can rape as many Haitians as you like, you can chop off the faces of as many Haitians as satisfies your blood lust, and you can still live like a king in Queens, New York, as long as you remember that you mustn't mess with Uncle Sam's financial system.

Not even a teensy weensy bit.
You don't have to rob Fort Knox or deprive 50,000 people of their pensions and life savings, or like Al Capone, avoid income tax. All you need to get into real trouble is to work a simple little scheme to relieve a bank of some of its surplus cash. That will get you the attention of New York's finest. You will go to jail, be fingerprinted, mug-shotted and become a person of interest to the FBI.

Cocaine trafficking? Rape? Murder? Terrorism? Crimes against humanity ? Bagatelles!!! Who remembers them? But making a banker look stupid? Now that's really serious.
You're gonna swing for that. That is a crime against the Holy Greenback itself.

Emanuel Toto Constant, like Baron Savimbi of Angola, was a friend of the CIA and various Higher Powers. He had not, as far as is known, yet been invited to the White House like Savimbi, but he was doing very well, thank you, as long as he confined his depredations to the Haitians, as long as his attachés with machetes, machine guns and murder in their hearts carved their bloody way through Haitian democracy with lavish fascism.
Toto, living the life in Queens, New York, just didn't know the rules.

While he danced, his president was in exile 5,000 miles away, his country's prime minister languishing in jail for no good reason, along with Haiti's foremost folklorist, a sexagenarian lady named Anne August, and thousands more like them are dead, or in prison, or in exile, because of the machinations and macheteros of Good Ol' Toto, friend of the CIA and Mr (Deadeye) Dick Cheney.

And other friends, like Louis Jodel Chamblain and other assassins, walk freely in Haiti, shooting and chopping up as they please. One of them ran for president a few months ago. They even have anniversary Massacres! They had one last week.

It all goes to show that, contrary to what some people believe, some of us don't have to await the Rapture; Heaven is right here on earth as long as you don't mess with the Feds.

In Haiti itself, God has at long last deigned to speak - through the American ambassador, one Ms Sanderson. This oracle has delivered herself of the message that perhaps Prime Minister Yvon Neptun has been in jail long enough. She thought it was because of Haiti's "flawed judicial system" that he was still there, after two years without charge or trial.

Which is strange, since it was her government which elevated the head of that same judicial system to the post of "President" of Haiti, from which eyrie he and another American carpetbagger, one Gerard Latortue, dispatched Mr Neptun to jail.

The charade now taking place in Haiti is not a Haitian production, it is an American production, like "The Emperor Jones". In this American version of Grand Guignol theatre, an important walk-on part is played by black people who have the temerity not only to speak French but to anticipate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by 144 years.

The real actors are Americans - a whole panoply of eminent fellows, steel-jawed and gimlet-eyed, full of 'resolve' - from Thomas Jefferson to Woodrow Wilson, to George (the least) Bush, from William Jennings Bryan, a failed Presidential candidate, to Colin Powell, a failed Jamaican.

In their polished diplomatic phrases they all express themselves satisfied when the Haitians, the first and only people to abolish the servitude which chained them, are reduced to their proper status as less-than-people, undeserving of even as much democracy as Iraqis or Palestinians. The Nanny-in-Chief, a failed African-American named Condoleezza Rice, was quite within her rights to inform them last year that their vote was all-important. It was the most important thing they could do.

Because, no matter which way they voted, they were not going to get the leader they wanted. He would have to stay in South Africa while Uncle Dick scouted the waters round Haiti for oil.

There must be oil in Haiti. Just read the CV of the latest prophetess, Ms Sanderson. Her minor qualifications seem to have been her alleged intimate involvement in the illegal detention of two dozen Algerian nationals at the US Naval base in Guantanamo Bay in 2002.

She completed an honours thesis, "The Arab Oil Weapon", the year before joining the State Department as a career diplomat in August 1977. She later served as the petroleum attaché to Kuwait. During the first Gulf War, Sanderson was working as economic counsellor at the US Embassy in Jordan.

As ambassador to Algeria she was most famous for her attitude to the arrest of 24 Algerians working for aid organisations in occupied Bosnia. They were accused of "planning terrorist attacks on the American and UK embassies in Sarajevo". Two of the men are computer programmers, while the other 22 held administrative positions in several different NGOs.

The men were detained without bail for three months before the Bosnian Supreme Court acquitted them. However, in the early morning hours on the day they were to be released, the men were hooded, shackled and taken away to an unknown destination. They wouldn't be located for over a month. Eventually they were found to be in Guantanamo Bay.

After a year in custody, all 24 Algerian aid workers were released. Strangely, Miss Sanderson refused to lift a finger to help their families locate them, referring them to the Algerian authorities although she must have known they were in American custody. (Thanks to Lynn Duff for this info).

During a Senate hearing in 2000, Sanderson was gung-ho about the so-called drawdown programme, under which favoured US allies are allowed to receive, free of cost, unused US weaponry to control unruly trade unionists and pesky journalists, for example. "The drawdown programme, like the rest of our foreign assistance programmes, underscores the importance we attach to [the country we give weapons to] and to our ongoing political, military and security relationship."

That connection, and her little noticed expertise in petroleum matters, suggests to me that Mr Cheney knows that there is oil off the coast of Haiti and that he wants Halliburton to retrieve it for its rightful owner, the USA. Sanderson's human rights and petroleum background would seem to fit her perfectly for this critical mission.

Meanwhile, in the Middle East, the slaughter goes on. It is a fair fight, with the Palestinians using their concrete schools, hospitals and power stations to damage Israeli bombs and tank-shells and employing their formidable skulls against Israeli bullets. Children's sleep patterns repel sonic booms at 4 o'clock in the morning, no doubt damaging the Israeli F16s.

Mr George Bush, recognising a championship fight when he sees one, has called on both sides for restraint. He has vetoed a Security Council resolution encouraging Israel to behave herself. Not evenhanded enough.

As I have said, ad nauseam, the ruling classes of the world, but especially in Jamaica, have no class and cannot rule. Just as the Israeli rockets and shells are powerless against Palestinian civilians, so are our own rulers powerless against the public they say they serve.

If this were not so we would not have people like Mr Dennis Morrison whining about the all-powerful Jamaican NGOs, some of them intimidating entities boasting two women and a WMD fax machine.

These are dangerous adversaries indeed, which is why such powerless bureaucracies as the Ultimate Degradation Conglomerate (UDC) and various ministries are forced to do good by stealth.

In the all-important race to curtain Jamaica off from its seacoast, the poor, helpless Cyclops-like JAMPRO, the Ministry of Production, the Ministry of Transport, the UDC and various other enervated entities must find ways round the law, ways to evade the public's due diligence, ways to diddle the public out of its beaches, its national parks and its sadly neglected cultural assets.

The government entities are giving privileged positions on the seaside to such as the RIU hotels, who, if all goes according to form, will soon produce in Jamaica a massive scandal which will tarnish the image of the entire Jamaican hotel industry. The RIU chain owns two hotels in Jamaica, forcing-houses in which tourists are processed for a few days and sent back whence they fled with nothing to show that they have been in a faraway country of which they knew nothing before coming and about which they remain blissfully ignorant after having been.

In the Dominican Republic RIU owns at least three hotels and since last year, according to several firms of English lawyers, the Financial Times and the Daily Mail, droves of English guests in RIU hotels have come down with serious and debilitating gastric afflictions.

According to Financial Times information services, quoted in the Daily Mail:
"Hundreds of British holidaymakers have been struck down by a severe vomiting bug at a luxury Caribbean resort - a year after an identical outbreak.

More than 200 guests have fallen ill at a five-star hotel in the Dominican Republic, which closed for five weeks in June last year to eradicate the highly contagious virus. Many of the sick, including dozens of children, had intravenous drips hooked up in their rooms and one 18-month-old baby was hospitalised for a fortnight.

Some of the guests asked to be transferred to another hotel, but say their requests were rejected. Others were simply too ill to be moved."
But the story, judging from travelblogs, is not new: "29 year-old Nicola Piercy from Mansfield was affected by the outbreak of the virus at the same resort in 2005 and says, "I think it's absolutely disgraceful that this has happened again. I travelled to the resort in March 2005 for what I hoped would be my dream wedding, and instead had to endure seeing my fiancé placed on a drip on our wedding day and most of our family, including myself, suffering from severe gastric symptoms".

The personal injury law firm of Pannone in Manchester, England, says, "Hotels in the Dominican Republic have suffered similar problems over recent years with the Riu chain featuring in newspaper articles last year regarding complaints of poor standards of hygiene. Identical complaints are surfacing again this year as well as reports of vermin in hotel bars and restaurants, tour operator reps denying there were problems, unsupervised groups of Puerto Rican teenagers, some of whom were seen urinating in the swimming pool and medical staff treating patients without washing their hands."

If anything like this were to happen in Jamaica, you know that the entire hotel industry would be shut down within a week or two. The US Press would roast us, the British Press would trot out its favourite template about Trouble in Paradise and the dollar would probably be devalued.

Have the Jamaican government agencies done their due diligence? Do they really understand what is at stake? I have my doubts.

God Speaks, Again

The founding prophetess of the Church Dayton Diamond Ridge has lashed out at those people in her church who informed the Press and others about the case of the violated teenager. And, before we go any further, a child cannot consent to sexual intercourse, and sexual intercourse without consent is rape.

I don't want to say too much about this strange and increasingly noxious case, except to point out that it is an offence to conceal knowledge of a felony, which carnal abuse is. The founder of the church should have sought legal advice before making a fool of herself in public.

But she had legal advice available; her pastor is a Queen's Counsel, a former Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions, former High Court Judge and former Justice of the Court of Appeal.

He is a bona fide member of the ruling classes.

09 July 2006

By Order, Management

Common Sense
John Maxwell

It is enough to make your hair stand on end. A child is screaming - a teenage girl is being gang-raped in the back seat of a moving car. The car is being driven by the deacon of a church. The rapists are the girl's schoolmates.

There is a voice apparently giving instructions to the hysterical girl although it is not clear that the hysterical child can hear anything but the sound of her own terror.

The car is being driven by a man, the deacon of a church to which all the participants in this obscene drama are connected. We do not know whether it is his voice giving instructions to the girl. We do know that his pastor says that the deacon has admitted doing wrong, that in the pastor's words, "he has disciplined himself".

The pastor is a retired judge of the Jamaican High Court. Mr Martin Wright does not apparently know that as someone who knows of a felony, it is his duty to report it to the police. The felon cannot discipline himself. In Mr Justice Wright's court, there must have been hundreds of cases where expressed remorse did not prevent the law from taking its course.

But perhaps the church has different rules. Perhaps the church's law is now superior to the law of the land. Perhaps the Director of Public Prosecutions should seek to establish this fact by bringing a prosecution against Mr Wright - simply, of course, to test whose law is supreme in this instance.

Recently, so-called Christian lawyers have been claiming that human rights should be subject to the over-riding doctrines of sectarian fundamentalist Christianity. The Jamaican version of the Taliban believes that human rights to privacy should be reduced to allow them or their agents to penetrate the bedrooms of consenting adults to view and perhaps prosecute instances of what they may deem to be unnatural behaviour.

Their view of what is unnatural is not derived from scientific observation but taken from the oral histories of nomadic tribes whose social mores reflected the times in which they lived, four or five thousand years ago.

At that time, of course, there was no such thing as universal human rights; women were the property of their men and anyone who took the name of God "in vain" was legally liable to be stoned to death.
Cherry picking the Bible to satisfy their lust for revenge and blood is, of course, superior to any other lust. It does not occur to the Taliban that any diminution of the privacy enjoyed by Jamaicans at this moment might be enough to get them into trouble with the law in another time, should there for instance, be a government, which supported a different religion.

If human rights are to mean anything, they must mean that all humans are entitled to the same rights. But the Jamaican Taliban has eminent precedent: certain elements of the Caribbean Press would wish to enshrine sectoral rights.

Freedom of the press, according to these worthies, does not belong to the People but to the Press. And, pretty soon, freedom of religion will only apply to those religions approved by the Taliban.

By order, management I

The Tinson Pen airport has been closed, on the orders and authority of the Port Authority. These are the same people who, without a care in the world, employed a Belgian dredging company three years ago to redistribute toxic waste from the bottom of the Kingston harbour to produce new land. The fact that these wastes included:

'Arsenic, Benzene, Cadmium, Chlordane, Chloroform, Chromium, Cresols, 2,4-D9 (aka Agent Orange) dichlorobenzene, dichlorethane, dinitrotoluene, Endrin, Heptachlor, Hexachlorobutadiene, lead, lindane, mercury, nitrobenzene, pentachlorophenol, pyridine, selenium, tetrachloroethylene, toxaphene, 4,5 Trichlorophenol and vinyl chloride.

'Many PBTs are associated with a range of adverse human health effects, including damage to nervous system and deformities of the sex organs and reproductive system generally, and associated developmental problems, cancer, plus genetic impacts.

They not only deform people now living, but may deform people not yet conceived. Particular risks may be posed to the developing foetus or young child where critical organs, such as the central nervous system and the reproductive system, are under development. (Commonsense: People at Risk, February 2002).

The incredibly dangerous movement of these poisons was, apparently, to provide space for the storage of containers. Unfortunately for all of us, the Port Authority's planning was faulty and so, in their wisdom, the Authority has decided to close down the country's busiest domestic airport at Tinson Pen, in order to store cargo containers.

So, having endangered the health of generations yet unborn as well as the present-day inhabitants of the areas round the harbour, the Port Authority is increasing our general risk by adding 50% to the traffic to be handled by the Norman Manley International airport - NMIA

This is not a small matter. In 2004, Norman Manley handled 39,296 flights (arrivals and departures) while Tinson Pen handled 20,186.

This bold decision of the Port Authority, without public consultation, means that Norman Manley's flight load will go up 50%, to 60,000 flights a year on one runway. This would not be so dangerous if all the flights were commercial jets with highly experienced pilots and state of the art navigation equipment. Among the new NMIA load will be student pilots and countless small aeroplanes flown for sport.

I plan to restrict my aeroplane time as much as possible in the future. Certainly, the new arrangements should provide for considerable excitement during rush periods like the World Cup of cricket.

By order, management II

We are all familiar with the signs by which Imperial Jamaica keeps its distance from the hoi polloi. Some absolutely arrogant notice is posted, arrogating all sorts of rights to some unnamed authority, ending in the words: 'By Order, management.'

This is an instruction that these directions are not to be questioned. They are the product of 'higher authority' and perhaps, a higher intelligence, answerable, one suspects, only to God. The Port Authority is only one of several QUANGOs (quasi non-governmental organisations aka statutory corporations or more recently, executive agencies) in which the role of the plantation boss is assumed by newly empowered and overpaid bureaucrats masquerading as underpaid geniuses.

Apart from the Port Authority, there are three more, which should put the fear of God into Jamaicans. These include the Urban Development Corporation, (UDC) the Jamaica Promotions Corporation (JAMPRO) and the National Environmental Protection Agency, (NEPA) all of whom are engaged, in my opinion, in reducing Jamaican human rights to the Statutory Globalised Minimum.

The NEPA was formed by the conglomeration of the Town Planning Department (TPD) and the Natural Resources Conservation Authority (NRCA). Among its duties are the safeguarding of the Jamaican natural patrimony and the planning of safe communities. Effectively, the combination of the NRCA and the TPD has meant a serious diminution in the protections afforded by the laws supposedly governing these bodies.

The understaffed and widely ignored TPD is effectively outranked by the NRCA, which means that its recommendations are not taken seriously. The NRCA apparently believes that its function is to get out of the way of 'development' no matter how unsustainable such development might be.

One way the NRCA gets round the rules is to regard any development as relevant only to the small populations nearest to it. Environmental Impact Assessments which should be on the public agenda, are discussed in small, obscure meetings, called at short notice in some backwoods meeting hall.

The so-called EIA for the horrendous Doomsday Highway was publicly discussed by a few dozen people in a restaurant in Spanish Town. The Northcoast Highway was never publicly discussed, as far as I can ascertain. The dispute over the Portmore connection to Kingston would not have happened had the government been forced to follow its own rules.

The destruction of Harris Savannah, one of the biological treasures of the world, is now imminent for the same reason.
Also imminent is the destruction of the Winniefred (sic) Beach in Portland, the last public beach for several miles in any direction and one of the first public beaches to be established by the Beach Control Authority 50 years ago.

The Winniefred Rest Home at Fairy Hill was the gift of Frederick Barnet Brown and his wife, Mrs Annie Brown, and was named, it is said, after their faithful retainer of many years, one Winniefred. In Brown's will, dated May 14, 1918, the Fairy Hill property was given as a rest home for missionary workers, teachers and responsible poor persons. When the Jamaican Poor law was revised the home fell into disuse. In the 1970s the land was leased to small farmers. The beach was left to the public.

Using some legal or illegal legerdemain, the UDC has managed to evict the holders of the 50 year leases on the property and is now seeking to capture the beach where, they say, they will be building an 'eco-tourist attraction', consisting mainly of an all-inclusive hotel and expensive cottages.

The gloriously unspoiled beach will no doubt be enhanced, a la Bahia Principe. The people who have managed the beach for years will be expelled. The beach is to be globalised. And you wonder why I describe the UDC as the Universal Degradation Conglomerate?

All of this would be of course impossible without the collusion of JAMPRO and the NRCA, who will make sure that there is no hindrance to the sequestration of the Jamaican patrimony into the safe hands of some foreign coupon clipper.

On Wednesday, on Disclosure on Hot 102, I received anguished telephone calls from Jamaicans and from Canada, Belgium, and the Netherlands, from people who love the beach as it is and keep coming back year after year. One woman spends three months a year in Jamaica, on Winniefred beach and she has been doing it for 15 years.

Environmental Impact Assessments are, in the real world, examinations made on behalf of the public but paid for by developers. They are supposed to allow a rational discussion of whether any development should be allowed and if so, how it should be regulated. It is clear that the NRCA exists solely to rubberstamp EIAs, submitted in support of the development, thus eliminating the public interest from the start.

The character of EIAs may be gathered from the following quotation: "Previous EIAs reviewed have been notoriously negligent in the review of impacts associated with drainage, particularly impacts resulting from the development changes that will be imposed on previously undeveloped land and impacts associated with building layouts in flood-prone areas."

I don't have space for the rest of the quotation but basically, the NRCA is telling ESTECH: "Look, chaps, give us a plausible reason for approving this without further questions, OK?"

This quotation is from an EIA for another concrete avalanche on the beach. This time in one of the most gorgeous spots in Jamaica, the cove at Point, in Hanover.

The result of this hotel development will be an "enhanced beach", destroyed corals, a seriously diminished water supply for the natives and the end of informal sea bathing for the people near Point. Just as in Pear Tree Bottom, Mammee Bay, Lilliput, Bloody Bay and of course, Winniefred beach.

The moral is simple, If you are a Jamaican resident with a deep dream of surf, you had better get going now, or you may have to pursue your dream in Barbados or Miami.

'Trespassers will be prosecuted; pigs and goats will be shot."
By order, management.