Classic John Maxwell: Black Holes in the Global Reich



by John Maxwell

In my one excursion out of the ranks of the working press, half a century ago I was the first Information Officer for the Industrial Development Corporation, preaching the benefits of industrialisation by invitation.

At that time, Norman Manley was Premier and the government was a great admirer of the Puerto Rican model of development. The western world was also convinced that underdeveloped countries would find in this model a sovereign remedy for underdevelopment. If we could attract capital we would create jobs and find our way onto the runway for ‘Take-off’ into the realm of First World Development.

Fifty years later we are no further forward than we were then and in some ways we are behind where we were.

Oddly enough, the same is true of our model, Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico seemed to have all the advantages. Their people were citizens of the US and at that time, nearly half of all Puerto Ricans lived in the US. Today there are more Puerto Ricans in the US than in Puerto Rico.

A few months ago the New York Times published an editorial “Puerto Rico, an Island in Distress” in which that other blessed isle was described in terms normally reserved for places like Jamaica. In January, the Miami Herald published a news story entitled “Puerto Rican killings may bring out National Guard” in which it was revealed that in the first 15 days of this year there were 46 homicides in Puerto Rico, just about the same level as in Jamaica.

The NYT editorial was a commentary on “The most exhaustive study of the Puerto Rican economy done in the past 75 years ” This study, done jointly by the Brookings Institution and a Puerto Rican think tank, said that Puerto Rico’s “hoped-for renaissance will require that the private sector and government join together to create thousands of jobs and that tax and other policies have to be developed to make this happen.” Just what was needed fifty years ago.

The situation is indeed dire. According to the study “About 48 percent of Puerto Rico’s 3.8 million people live below the federal poverty line, according to the 2000 Census. Despite the advances the island has made through the years, it has a per capita income of $8,185 — about half that of Mississippi. Unemployment hovers at 13 percent.

This is odd, since Puerto Rico with only fifty percent more people than Jamaica, gets in one year assistance from the United States equivalent to Jamaica’s entire National Public debt. “The island receives about $11 billion from Washington, $6 billion of which is through Social Security and federal worker pensions and salaries.” That s, PR receives nearly one billion dollars in aid every month.

In the fifties and sixties Puerto Rico became a showcase for private sector investment and development. US government assistance enabled Puerto Rico to offer huge subsidies to manufacturers wishing to relocate to the island, but it soon became apparent that it was costing the US taxpayer about US$70,000 to bring an American job to PR, nearly twice as much as the real cost.

In addition to this, as in Jamaica, screwdriver industries began to leave the country as soon as there appeared to be cheaper labour elsewhere. The same process has been in train in the United States itself, which is de-industrialising as American capitalists find lusher pastures in China, which now supplies the US with manufactured goods of every description, from computers to ships.

Some of us have always contended that the so-called paradigm of ‘competitiveness’ meant nothing in a world in which levels of living and pay were functions more of culture and history than of economic development. The answer was, of course, Globalisation, designed to make everybody competitive.

What this really means is that the world is now engaged in a race to the bottom of the barrel, in which manufacturers forsake their own homegrounds to seek maximum profits in foreign parts, mainly Far Eastern.

It seems to have escaped most economists in the west that in order for the so-called free market system to function rationally, the essential component in production Labour should be free to relocate just like capital, but racism and nationalism prevented most people from understanding Adam Smith’s truism that like water, all productive forces should be free to find their own levels.

The Chinese are for the time being, in a prison of their own culture. Having escaped the inflation and consumer-driven extravagances of the West, Chinese labour is up to now, satisfied with relatively picayune rewards. But, as soon as their productivity rises there will be demands for better pay so that workers can afford the products they produce.

In the United States that was the secret of their industrial success: thriving markets based on the increased productivity and earnings of their workers.

But in the United States, as in Puerto Rico and Jamaica, the pull to the bottom has become irresistible; American workers are no longer competitive and the giants of the last century, General Motors, Ford and Chrysler, are busy closing factories and laying off hundreds of thousands of workers.

It has not occurred to many people that if people are out of work they can’t afford to buy SUVs. If the money paid to labour goes to China it is the Chinese who will be able to buy cars and expensive appliances. That’s one of the reasons stock markets round the world shuddered over the last few days. The de-industrialisation of the United States has up to now been buffered by the middleclass and working class. They’ve been borrowing money to buy — following President Bush’s advice a few years ago to shop till they drop to help boost the economy. But loans have to be repaid and money borrowed on rising values has a tendency to become due and payable when values are dropping. That means that ordinary Americas who bought houses in a rising market or borrowed on the apparently increased value of their houses for the same reason, are finding it difficult to repay the money they borrowed.

Running out of Money

This is partly due to the de-industrialisation process and massive job losses, but also to the fact that American workers are not properly rewarded for increased productivity. The productivity gains are siphoned off by the bosses, who have also hijacked their shareholders’ interest by paying themselves enormous salaries and other benefits.

As I pointed out six years ago, The United States is the world’s largest financial black hole, attracting investments from bashful millionaires in Jamaica, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Burkina Faso you name it by way of places like Cayman, Anguilla and the Isle of Man. This constant swallowing of foreign money is what keeps the American enterprise machine and stock and bond markets booming. It also impoverishes the rest of the world.

The result, as in Jamaica and other Third World countries, is that while productivity and GDP are apparently increasing, the working classes are getting ever smaller shares of the increased pie.

So when it becomes apparent to the Chinese and others that the US as a whole is defaulting or about to default on its loans, both private and public, the Chinese stock market takes a hit when the US stock market takes a hit and the effect is knocked on round the world.

The catastrophic deceleration of the world’s largest economy has only just begun, and it will gain speed as panicked investors rush to cut their losses As more of them come into the market the stock tickers will soon become unable to keep up with the runaway elevator. The result: recession and perhaps, even depression.

Depression is not as outlandish as it seems, with the United States not only overextended in its foreign borrowing, but also overextended in its defense spending. The billions draining away down the rat hole of Iraq are not recoverable, and when the American taxpayer proves unable to cough up the ready cash, the foreign lenders will find their willingness to lend even more severely tested.

All of this is the result of globalisation or extreme capitalism, in which no thought is given to the basic principles of Adam Smith which briefly stated, are that income and outgo should fairly regularly come into balance.

We will soon feel the knock on effect. We will soon find that in the new atmosphere of economic stringency, the people who have lent us money will want it back rather more quickly than they’d promised. Since we have made our economy totally open, we have nothing to produce to pay for our purchases, the remittances from our expatriates will begin to fall, because many will be out of work and the earnings from tourism will crash because many middleclass Americans will no longer be able to afford the kinds of holidays to which they have become accustomed. With gasoline at $100 a liter how much in tolls will our new superhighways be able to collect?

What will happen to places such as Puerto Rico and Jamaica?

Eating cats, rats and dogs

Jamaica has swallowed the globalisation bait hook, line and sinker. We have opened up all our markets to unbridled foreign investment and competition, and, as I pointed out several years ago, this means that ordinary jamaicans are going to pay through the nose for the inestimable privilege of becoming for the second time round, a slave society. Our beaches, our forests and our farmland will become hostages to the foreign parasites. We will re-enter slavery.

And just in case you don’t know what slavery was, l;et me quote a sympathetic observer who wrote 250 years ago:

“Negroes who are now computed to be more than 120000 [120,000] in number; and by whose labours and industry almost alone, the colony flourisheth, and its productions are cultivated and manufactured. The Negroes are, for the most part, the property of the Whites; and bought and sold like every other commodity in the country”

“When we consider the inconveniences under which these creatures labour, the toils they are obliged to undergo, the vicissitudes of heat and cold, to which they are exposed, and the grossness of their food in general; we ought not to be surprized they had been still more slothful and sickly than they are

commonly observed to be;

In a footnote, Dr Patrick Browne writes:

“(a)in the country parts of the island every plantation Negroe is allowed a Saturday afternoon or some other afternoon …to stock and manure his particular patch of ground, which he generally plants in cassada (sic) yams, potatoes, Indian and Guinea corn and on Sunday they provide provisions for the ensuing week, and send some to market, to supply themselves with a little salt beef or pork or fish, and a little rum, which are the greatest dainties they can come at, unless a cat, a rat or dog fall in their way . It is true, many of them raise a little poultry, and other stock; but these they generally sell to enable them to purchase some decent as well as necessary cloathes (sic) for their wives and themselves..” ( pp 24-25 The Civil and Natural History of Jamaica by Patrick Browne, M.D., Grays Inn, London 1756)

What Dr Patrick Browne is saying is that he is surprised that the slaves were able to work as hard as they did given the treatment they received. Not only were they poorly and badly fed, but they had to supplement the estate food by growing their own. The day off they got was in fact an additional slave labour so that they could eat and dress decently. And it is clear that if they were forced by hunger to eat cats, dogs and rats, their situation was wretched in the extreme.

That is where we are headed when we beg the WTO for special treatment for bananas and sugar and when we buy the garbage about producing ethanol and aluminum. What we get is mines which will destroy our precious landscape, flora and fauna, screwdriver industries consisting only of worksites removable overnight. as we have seen and are seeing again in the “garment industry”. When that goes the women are reduced to whoring and the men to driving ‘robots’.

Eventually, of course, the laws of supply and demand will mean that as in Germany after the first World War, a woman may be had for a pack of cigarettes and you will need a wheelbarrow of worthless currency to buy a loaf of bread. We have seen it happen in the largest countries in Latin America, in Argentina and Brazil within the last two decades.

In protecting the bloodsucking industries of sugar and bananas and aluminum, we are sterilising our land, rendering it unfit for growing food and we will have to import food from countries where the farmers fly Cessnas to work.

Our real assets, our land and our people, remain unprotected. As I said six years ago, Jamaica is another kind of Black Hole, ” sucked dry of inspiration, brainpower and resources, busy burning the furniture to keep warm. We are going to destroy world-class biological reserves in Long Mountain, heedless of the fact that our crime rate is closely connected to the fact that children have nowhere to play and have no idea of their rich history or the fact that Jamaica’s ‘biological heritage is one of the richest in the world and that Long Mountain and Hellshire and the Cockpit Country are among our crown jewels. We, prefer to cast our pearls before developers.” – and now, before Marc Rich and Alcoa.

“Instead of giving our children space to roam, to play, to learn and to study and socialise, we foreclose their options by blitzing green space and confining them to their barracoons on the same places which were slave yards 150 years ago. Having failed them, deprived them and corrupted them, we will, by another end of pipe solution, be making criminals of them.

Jamaica and Puerto Rico, meet Haiti.

Copyright ©2007 John Maxwell


What the World Owes Haiti

John Maxwell

Some of us grow up with the feeling that being free means that we are at liberty to do whatever we want – as long as we don’t hurt anyone else; that simply by being born, we are entitled to inherit the riches and beauty of nature and to do whatever we think will make us wealthy, healthy and happy.
Most of us grow up in very different circumstances, walking barefoot, wearing cast-off clothing and knowing that we are mostly free to do what we can get away with and knowing that we will probably always have to worry about the next meal.
In places like Jamaica, however, rich and poor tend to believe that there are some basic freedoms we all share: the right to life, to liberty and to say what we want and associate with whomever we choose.
These freedoms are rights for which the human race has been fighting for a long time, and a few hundred years ago certain people believed that because they had acquired the Chinese invention called gunpowder, they owned superior rights to all those who had not got the secret recipe.
Primitive firearms made it possible for long distance ‘impersonal’ murder. Until then, if you wanted to kill someone you had to stab, or to throw a spear or an arrow not much further than the length of a cricket pitch. Blunderbusses and muskets meant that you could remain out of the range of your enemy’s arrows and spears and mow him down with invisible darts accompanied by horrendous noises.
Primitive firearms meant that men on horses, armed with guns, could round up dozens of fellow humans in a cost-effective time frame and move them like cattle to enormous holding pens where they were selected for desirable qualities and priced accordingly. Upright European merchants would then select those creatures most likely to bring good prices on the other side of the Atlantic, either for breeding purposes or for hard labour growing sugar or cotton.
As the history of the Palace of Westminster makes plain: The outbound slave ships were packed with British goods such as metal goods, firearms, textiles and wines, destined for exchange for human cargo. And returning vessels heading to their home port filled with plantation produce from the colonies.

Here was a trading network on an integrated international scale, lubricated by slavery, and all approved, regulated and monitored by Parliament.

We know of dozens of Acts passed specifically to encourage, regulate and monitor the trade in Africans.”


The slave trade and the plantation system which it supported, provided the motive force of the capitalist system and the foundation of the Palaces of Westminster and Versailles, of the Louvre and the British Museum, of London, Liverpool, Bristol and Marseilles. The extinction of civilisations on both sides of the Atlantic and their replacement by plantation economies provided the capital on which the European Empires and social systems of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries were erected.
The empires of Spain, and later France and Britain were built on the bones of the original inhabitants of the so called West Indian islands

The Spanish historian, Gonzalo Oviedo, estimated that of the one million Indians on Ayiti (Hispaniola) when the Spaniards arrived, less than five hundred remained half a century later.
Toribio Motolina, another Spanish priest, said in some parts of Mexico “more than one half the population died; in others the proportion was a little less; they died in heaps, like bedbugs.” A German missionary writing in 1699, said the so-called Indians “die so easily that the bare look and smell of a Spaniard causes them to give up the ghost.”
Then began the wholesale destruction of nations and civilisations in Africa– some disappearing almost without trace, further impoverishing mankind’s cultural diversity and robbing Africa of the populations and skills it needed for its own development.

As Sybille Fischer remarks in her book Modernity Disavowed: “Colonialism in the Caribbean had produced societies where brutality combined with licentiousness in ways unknown in Europe. The sugar plantations in the new World were expanding rapidly and had an apparently limitless hunger for slaves.” (Quoted in Common Sense “Christmas in Hell”, Dec. 30 2007)

The whole mad vampire enterprise seemed destined to continue as long as greed endured, notwithstanding bloody uprisings in every colony, the most dangerous being in Haiti and Jamaica. In Jamaica the slaves and their escaped brethren, the Maroons, fought the British to a standstill, a truce and a land concession. Bouckman, a leader of the islandwide Taki rebellion escaped to Haiti and there helped light the spark of revolution.

An Unpayable Debt

It was the Haitian revolution that destroyed slavery and the slave-trade forever.
It was the Haitians alone of all of history’s enslaved peoples who defeated the system, destroyed the institutions of slavery and legislated that thenceforth, all men, women and children of whatever colour or station or nationality were, in Ayiti, full and free human beings. It drove the Americans mad.
That declaration anticipated the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by 144 years and should be recognised for what it is: the single most important definition of humanity ever implemented.
The world owes Haiti an unpayable debt.
At this moment apparatchiks of various ideologies are busy racing around in Washington and similar places, like scarab beetles marking out territory on a fresh deposit of excrement.
It is clear that the peoples of the world are minded to help Haiti recover from the most punishing natural disaster of modern times. The scarab beetles – with grand names and even grander resumes – intend to be first in line as was Cheney’s Halliburton in Iraq – to milk the system and suck as much Haitian blood as possible.
People have already threatened to stop speaking to me – I’m anti-American or I’m anti-Haitian – because I believe that we need to assemble all those who want to work for Haiti to work for Haiti in exclusion to working for anyone else.
There are two huge problems:
On one side are Haitians, jealous of their liberty and suspicious of any and every one who offers to help. They have been victimised so often that they expect treachery as a given.
People like Clinton and Patterson do not impress them. Their records of anti-Haitian action speak for themselves. The hypocrisy is blatant.
On the other side – the American/French/Canadian side while there is knowledge of the grievous harm these countries have wreaked and are wreaking on Haiti, there is no understanding of the need – the absolutely essential requirement – that Haiti belongs to the Haitians and it is they alone who must decide what they want.
They may ask for help but the US, France and Canada must have the grace to apologise and atone for the heinous crimes they have committed in Haiti. If the Haitians want Aristide back, simple human decency should inform the Americans, the French and the Canadians that they have a duty to help the Haitians get back their President and a responsibility to protect him and the constitutional integrity of Haiti. The Haitians have the brains, the genius and the skills to manage their own country, if they are only left alone.
Haiti is a charter member of the United Nations and its various organs. Haiti has however been cheated, blackmailed, double-crossed and screwed by big powers in the IDB and IMF, for example.
Haiti needs to be able to summon the collective wisdom and skills of the General Assembly, to get rid of the so-called UN Peacekeepers – a bunch of bandits and rapists –and to assemble a force to keep the peace and help train a civil guard – as in Costa Rica – or whatever mechanism the Haitians prefer.
The United Nations General Assembly is the proper organ for the people-to-people assistance Haiti may require. The Security Council knows nothing about land reform, cooperatives or community development.
Finally, the General Assembly must find some way to organise an endowment fund for Haiti from the enormous sums she is owed by France and the United States. This fund should be for the development of Haiti, not Halliburton or Bechtel. The $25 billion Haiti paid to France and the United States in a brute force extortion scheme was the single resource whose absence made Port au Prince so vulnerable to the earthquake. Generations of capital investment were lost because they were never installed. Simple justice and human decency requires they be returned.
The countries of the Caribbean, Haiti’s siblings and neighbours, owe Haiti more than most. Haiti’s abolition of slavery led to the immediate abolition of the Caribbean slave trade and Caribbean slavery, a few years later.
When the US, France and Canada decapitated Haitian democracy in 2004 Caricom first protested and demanded a UN investigation into the affair. Patterson and Manning led Caricom’s cowardly retreat from that position.
But the Caribbean was honorably represented at the UN by the experienced Trinidadian diplomat, Reginald Dumas. He had just been appointed by Kofi Annan as his Special Representative on Haiti – one of the few sensible actions Annan took in the affair. Dumas recommended to CARICOM that it should use the General Assembly to get assistance for Haiti. As Reggie Dumas has reminded me, the President of the General Assembly at the time was Julian Hunte of St Lucia, who could have used his position to help CARICOM seek justice for Haiti.
CARICOM (and Hunte) ignored Dumas, and some of the same cowardly leaders are now poised to ‘help’ or again betray Haiti and the aspirations of the downtrodden of the world.
If the Caribbean wants to make sense and to help Haiti, we could do much worse than seeking the advice of Dumas and other Caribbean and Third World sages who know more about the problems of small states and are better disposed to help than the UN’s caravanserai of scarab beetles and Praying Mantises.
Copyright©2010 John Maxwell –

Shameless and Graceless


John Maxwell

Henry Kissinger once said that the United States had no friends, only interests. Watching the US intervention in Haiti makes it clear that the US, in the pursuit of its interests, does not need to exhibit any human attributes, such as shame or grace.
I said a few weeks ago that it seemed a little counterproductive sending masses of soldiers to Haiti since you can’t eat soldiers and soldiers needed to be fed and, in Haiti, one American probably consumes as much as ten Haitians. Feeding 20,000 US soldiers takes as much resources as feeding the entire population of Cite Soleil – the biggest slum in the Caribbean.
It is heartbreaking to read of the screwed-up relief efforts, screwed up mainly by sending in soldiers instead of relief workers, nurses and just ordinary people willing to follow instructions and to use their imaginations and initiative. Remember that army put-down from the comic books:
“You’re not being paid to think!”
Famines, famously, are not caused by shortages of food but by deficiencies of imagination and planning. In Haiti at this moment, some of the world’s most disciplined people are too often
, being treated like wild animals. The problem is that many of Haiti’s self-appointed rescuers are scared witless by their own superstitions and the garbage fed them by irresponsible journalists and crazy preachers.
You can see it in the pictures, where people have on their own, formed orderly queues but are still being harassed by men with rifles and an inflated sense of their own importance. One of the scourges of Haiti, self-righteous NGOs, are clearly wasting resources, time and lives insisting on being protected against starving women and children instead of getting out and doing what they should be doing.
Above it all are the mainstream journalists, busy viewing with alarm, scornful of the
heat, the smells and the people, and prophesying at any moment, outbreaks of mindless violence.
It is impossible to view Haiti without realising the enormous tax the world pays for ignorance and fear, and without understanding the real cost of journalism in promoting strife, frustration and unhappiness.
The Internet has made it much easier to transmit lies and superstition. A piece that landed on my screen supposedly from a black person in South Africa was so full of misinformation and outright lies that I thought that it must be a production of one of the thousands of rightwing solfataras of hate. Briefly, this farrago of nonsense claimed that no black country had come to the aid of Haiti – when his own country had been one of the first responders. Venezuela and other Caribbean countries had also made their contribution and of course he forgot Cuba, with 1,200 doctors and other emergency workers now there and more to come.
The letter was meant to discredit the poor, the black and the developing countries who are clearly not grateful for the incredible blessings bestowed on the by colonialism.
One of these days someone should try to estimate the real economic cost of ‘journalists’ like James Anthony Froude, Rudyard Kipling, Bob Novak, Jules Dubois and their more recent versions, the Wolf Blitzers, Judith Millers and their ilk.
These people are among the most important factors in the current confusion about Haiti and about the true state of the world.
Robert Novak, for
instance, parachuted into Haiti in 2004 on a mission to sanitise the bloodthirsty La Tortue and his way of doing that was to malign Jean Bertrand Aristide.

According to Novak, the Haitian ‘Prime Minister’ La Tortue was correct in describing the bandits, rapists and murderers backing him as ‘freedom fighters'”.
According to Novak “The radical
president’s [Aristide’s] reign left a country without electricity, passable roads or public schools, with a devastated economy and, according to LaTortue, a looted treasury.”
La Tortue told Novak: “The public finance is in crisis. They (the Aristide regime) took everything they could from the reserve of the country.” His estimate: “over $1 billion stolen in four weeks.” (Emphasis added)
The problem is that there has never been one billion of anything in Haiti worth stealing, and what is remarkable is that a
remark so completely unbelievable and outrageous as to verge on the insane, was published and republished in newspapers and magazines considered reputable in the United States. Aristide, despite his interruptions, left a country better off than he found it. (See
The question of course, is why the US has such a down on Haiti and why apparently sane people are so ready to believe the rubbish they do about Haiti.
Some of the reasons are:
    • Haitian insubordination in declaring themselves independent and offering universal emancipation and universal rights.
    • Haiti’s strategic position, commanding two of the most important gateways to the Caribbean;
    • Haiti’s potential as a base to attack Cuba;
    • Haiti’s position on top of a super-giant oil-field, rivaling Saudi Arabia’s in importance
    • Haiti’s potential as an offshore slave plantation from which US companies can import cheap ‘manufactures’ without worrying about unions or human rights.

Haitians of course, have completely different ideas.
• They want to be allowed, for the first time at last, to govern themselves without the brutal interference of the former slave-owning states;
• They want back the money – €20,000,00,000 – extorted from them by the French and the Americans over 120 years, and which robbed them of the resources to develop their own country;
• Haitians driven abroad by US backed dictators want to go back home and work for their development of their own country.
• Haitians cannot understand why they are denied the benefits of their membership in the United `nations and other International organisations of which they were foundation members.
Part of the problem with any discussion of Haiti with Americans is the political illiteracy of so many Americans – particularly journalists – some of whom think Obama is a Socialist or a Nazi. Aristide’s opponents, including some so-called journalists, have portrayed him as a blood-drinking, baby-sacrificing black-magician Communist. This garbage has been spread so wide and so deep that outside of Haiti, most people do not know that Aristide is a gentle, God-fearing priest. A practical man whose ideology is Haiti.
The Haitian people know this and keep telling the world that they want their democracy and their President back. The world press this week is full of stories about the lack of leadership in Haiti. There is no lack of leadership in Haiti; the leadership is there but it is the leadership of the majority, of the Fanmi Lavalas, of people loyal to Aristide. The United States and their clients in the United Nations Security
Council do not wish to see this.
Aristide does not want to be President again, but he wants to help Haiti develop. Between him and that aspiration sit a small gang of parasitic margin-gatherers who call themselves businessmen but are really sophisticated gang-leaders operating by
remote control.
If Haiti is to regain its integrity and autonomy there will need to be a programme resembling the post-war de-
Nazification in Germany to re-educate people in elementary civics. Otherwise, sooner or later there will be another Papa Doc or maybe, even an Idi Amin.
In 2004, the UN Special Envoy to Haiti, Reginald Dumas, a Caribbean man,
declared that the UN should be committing itself to a long-term mission in Haiti to last about twenty years, “We cannot continue with the start-stop cycle that has characterized relations between the international community and Haiti. You go in, you spend a couple of years, you leave, the Haitians are not necessarily involved and the whole thing collapses. This has to stop,” Dumas said.
He told the council:
“There has to be a long-term commitment, which I perceive the council is ready and willing to give,” Dumas said. “It must be coordinated assistance. It must be sustained assistance, and it must be assistance that involves the people of Haiti. It cannot be a situation in which the UN or some other agency goes in a
nd says `I have this for you.’ There has to be discussion. There has to be cooperation, or else it will fail again.”
I agree with Dumas but for one particular: The Haitians needs to get out of the clutches of the Security Council and seek help from the General Assembly, where they have friends.
Copyright©2010 John Maxwell.

Jamaican Mahogany

John Maxwell

There are lots of places in this world where, for weeks or months to come, people will be turning to other people and saying – “Let’s ask Rex what he thinks …” before realising that there is no Rex to ask, that the man they depended on for advice or counsel is not there any more.
Rex is dead. Gone.
He has been part of the intellectual landscape of Caribbean society for so long that he seemed to be a permanent fixture, one of those features that were here when we came and will be here long after we’ve gone
That will be true in a sense, except that when we lose a tree of this size, the space it once occupied appears so big that it seems impossible to fill.
Trelawny and more specifically, the Cockpit Country and its environs is where the soul of Jamaica goes for rest and recuperation. It is the spiritual home of Jamaican culture, the centre of resistance to slavery and colonialism, the last bastion of the maroons and the first place where the British Army first conceded defeat in the Western hemisphere. And here, every little boy has a built-in feistiness, and the knowledge that he is no one’s inferior.
As Rex Nettleford grew to young manhood he never appeared in any doubt that he was not simply destined to be ‘somebody’ but that he always had been somebody and he took it upon himself to carry this effortless self-confidence into the building of a Jamaican personality worthy of the Kojos and Akkompongs that populated the mists of Burnt Hill, Bunkers Hill and all of the Land of Look Behind.
But he was also acutely aware of the other side of his patrimony and embraced his European heritage as eagerly as the rest. In the Jamaica of the 1950s the idea of country boys dancing ballet was so outlandish as to seem bizarre, but that did not bother Rex Nettleford who knew what he wanted to do and refused to be fazed by opposition or even ridicule.
His determination to excel at anything he did swept away the ridicule and the opposition and by the time he won the Rhodes Scholarship it was clear that here was someone out of the ordinary. His selection by Norman Manley to be a member of the Mission to Africa on behalf of the Rastafari movement was recognition at the highest level, if any were needed, of his quality , and his career since then has simply amplified our understanding.
A little while ago, I had just returned from nearly a year of medical treatment abroad. Rex sought me out to invite my wife and me to the season’s final presentation of the National Dance Theatre . At the very end of the concert came an electrifying session from the company’s massed drummers – a performance that I told him deserved to be on DVD on its own. It was hair-raising, and with the dance, one of the most profoundly exciting theatrical experiences I’ve ever had; And I thought, this was the ultimate artistic tribute to Rex, who in the near half century of the NDTC has forged an instrument of national expression that is professional, imbued with enormous confidence and skill and with an elan that elevates them to the highest class. The NDTC’s achievement alone would be the pride of any one auteur working full time. That Rex managed this intricate and demanding human enterprise along with his other ‘day jobs’ is an amazing feat.
Rex was above all a teacher dedicated to his students and to none more so than the Diploma classes at Carimac that he and (Sir) Roy Augier, by far the most senior members of the university, insisted on teaching, year in and year out in an extraordinary example of commitment to the welfare of the young. He never gave up even when he was Vice Chancellor of the University of the West Indies. He took the Extra-Mural Department and converted it into an open University, inadequately named the School of Continuing Studies and singlehanded he created the Trade Union Institute – in my view the crown jewel of his successful campaign for the ‘smaddification’ of Jamaicans like him
It is impossible to do justice to Rex Nettleford. It is, for instance, unprecedented and amazing that of Oxford’s more than 7000 Rhodes scholars, Nettleford should be among four singled out for special centenary honour and even more extraordinary that the University of Oxford should create, in his honour, a special prize in Cultural Studies, a discipline almost unknown when he was at university.
I could go on, piling statistic upon statistic, fact upon fact, honour upon honour, degree upon degree, but none can add to the lustre that was Rex’s.
I am proud, simply to say that I was honoured to have been his friend for most of our lives.


Albert Huie

    Albert Huie, the most renowned of all Jamaican painters, died a few days before Rex . Huie was another piece of Trelawny mahogany, having been born in Falmouth, a dozen or so years before Rex.
He was another feisty man of the Maroon country who knew what he wanted to be at a time when country boys could become sign-painters, not artists. Albert told me that when he was a bare teenager he threw stones to help chase away gangs of bullies who had been hired to break up political meetings held by my father. My father, a penniless country parson, had challenged the power structure of Trelawny, then the last bastion of planter power in Jamaica. My father was running against one of the richest planters in Jamaica, Mr Guy Ewen; the leading lawyer on the north coast, head of the largest building society, chairman of the Parochial Board, Custos of the Parish and Member of the Legislative Council for 25 years. Against all the odds, my father beat Ewen despite the fact, according to Albert, that Ewen’s supporters had descended to hiring gangs of toughs to break up my father’s meetings. The toughs would march up the road, liquored up, swinging their kukkumacca sticks and making as much noise as possible, to the alarm of those waiting to hear my father speak.
Huie and his friends would lie in wait for the marauders, armed with slingshots and rocks and at a signal would attack the surpised bullies who ran in all directions shouting ‘murder!’ Two or three such encounters stopped the rot.
Huie came into Kingston and headed straight for the Institute of Jamaica, then the centre of everything intellectual and artistic in Jamaica. There he was soon noticed by Mr Molesworth, the Director, but more importantly by Edna Manley, who was teaching art classes there.
Soon, he was selected to represent Jamaican art at the New York World’s Fair. He was 18. Huie won several prizes at the fair and never looked back. He was a foundation member of the so-called Drumblair group. He did spend some time earning money by ‘interior decorating’ or house painting, but he never gave up his art and for years Albert could be seen with his easel, on various mountainsides or river banks, painting the Jamaican landscapes he loved. In a more civilised society Huie would have made a good living, but it wasn’t until near the end of his career that patrons began to realise the importance of his work and began to pay for it.
I believe that Huie brought with him to Kingston something of the quality of light of his Cockpit Country backgrounds – adding a mysterious quality that pervades some of his best work.
His work is in collections around the world, not as well known as it should be, but now commanding the sorts of prices that should have made Albert a wealthy man But his wealth is in his vision and he, like his fellow Trelawny man, Rex, is a national treasure and he fortunately, like Rex, lived long enough to know that.
The title of this piece is “Jamaican Mahogany”, because Huie and Nettleford remind me of the giant mahogany trees which during our lifetimes, adorned the Cockpit Country. Their lightness and grace belied their immense size and it was only after they were no longer there that it was possible to understand what an important part of the landscape they formed. In the case of Huie and Nettleford, these were not simply a part of our intellectual and cultural landscape, they were also, more important, architects of the very landscape in which they were such important components.

Dr George Proctor

    I first met Dr George Proctor when I was at school, spending my Saturdays at the Institute of Jamaica – either at the Junior Centre or at the Science Museum. I remember Proctor as a rather gawky American reputed to be very learned and aloof. He would not remember these encounters. It was much later that we had any real contact, and only a few years ago I at last did what I had wanted to do for years, interview him for a column

As I wrote in a column (Treasure in the Badlands) seven years ago, The Caribbean, particularly Jamaica, is the world’s third most biodiverse region. and an almost unknown place in Clarendon called Harris Savannah is one of the jewels in our crown, unlikely as it may seem.

“I consulted the leading expert on Harris Savannah, Dr George Proctor, who has spent the last fifty years attempting to find and catalogue every species of plant in this part of the world. In the first 6 years of this somewhat quixotic mission, Dr Proctor collected and catalogued about 12,000 specimens in Jamaica alone. Since then he has catalogued and described well over 100,000 plants and has become one of the world’s foremost botanists. He is THE expert on the Jamaican flora, particularly on ferns – of which we possess 609 taxa – a great many of them discovered by him. At the age of 82 he is still exploring, discovering, collecting, and cataloguing.
Dr Proctor thinks Harris Savannah is a very special place – not only by Jamaican standards, but by any standards. It is, he says, is a scientific treasury.”
This column is not about Harris Savannah and the riches it may mean for Jamaica. It is about Dr Proctor who, at 90, has just been found guilty of conspiracy to murder his wife and three other women and sentenced to four years in prison.
I do not contest Dr Proctor’s guilt, although I find it hard to believe that he has been convicted on the word on a man who is a professional liar and con-man with 70 convictions for various frauds and misrepresentations.
If a jury found him guilty, so be it.
My objection is to the sentence. I appeared in court on Dr Proctors behalf to give evidence in mitigation. I told the judge that I believed Proctor to be a man with a great respect for life, as evidenced by his life’s work.
I told her I was there to try to prevent him going to jail because , I said, if you lock him up you are going to kill him. I thought it would be pointless to send a 90 year old man to jail in any case
The judge referred specifically to my appeal and declared that despite what I said, a ‘balance’ had to be struck
I do not understand what balance she meant and I implore my readers help me understand.
Prison sentences are supposed to induce remorse, to be deterrent, to set an example, to prevent future offences. Does this apply to Proctor?
Dr Proctor is 90 and in Britain and the US would be accounted legally blind. He suffers from diabetes, from macular degeneration of the retina and from glaucoma, any and all of which would tend to slow anyone down, particularly at 90.
Dr Proctor spent five days in the lockup at Central Station, sharing a cell with an accused murderer who he said treated him kindly. He was supposed to sleep on a concrete slab, to be shared with his cellmate. Dr Proctor can barely walk, cannot stand straight and in court was unable to sit up. His head rested on the pew in front of him.
He said to me, before court began
“John, my head has shrunk from the few days in jail,” and it appeared to be true. As a diabetic he requires special food. None was available. He couldn’t eat. He was not allowed to buy even a cup of coffee. The first cup of coffee he had in five days was at the Supreme Court.
I believe that conspiracy is notoriously the easiest charge for prosecutors to make. It is very difficult to disprove a conspiracy.
Whatever the merits of the Crown’s case, I believe, in the end, that the proceedings cannot be described as either in the public interest, nor, as civilised.
Copyright 2010©John Maxwell

Protecting Haiti’s Interest

John Maxwell

It would be ironic, if you like your irony flavoured with blood and disinfectant, to discover that moored off Port au Prince at this moment is the US hospital ship, the USS Comfort, one of two employed in 1994 as floating slave barracoons in Kingston Harbour. Today the Comfort is providing medical care for people injured in the great earthquake of January 12.
In 1994, the Comfort and its consort functioned as temporary ‘processing facilities’ for Haitian refugees fleeing from a US supported coup and attendant tyranny. The refugees had been picked up either on the high seas or in Jamaican waters, running for their lives from a US-backed hoodlum-state, whose favourite law and order procedures were murder by dismemberment and disemboweling with bodies left in the streets; and women and children, beaten, publicly raped and disfigured and otherwise terrorised to encourage the others. Of those kidnapped either in Jamaican waters or on the high seas, 78.5% were sent back to their murderers while the rest were sent to Guantánamo Bay.
This barbarous triage was a joint venture operated by President William Jefferson Clinton of the United States and Jamaican Prime Minister Percival James Patterson. It was ended by Clinton’s deciding he couldn’t afford the death of a prominent black American leader on his record, if not on his conscience. Randall Robinson, President of TransAfrica, in one last desperate initiative, began a fast to the death in protest against his President’s callous behaviour.
Clinton had inherited “the Haitian problem” from his predecessor who could tolerate any number of fair-skinned Cubans dropping in on Miami Beach, but was revolted by the idea of Haitians doing the same thing. It didn’t matter that the Cubans, like Jamaicans and Mexicans were economic refugees while the Haitians were literally in fear of their lives.
This point was made explicit in 2002, by a former US Ambassador to Haiti, Timothy Carney, at the launching of the Haiti Democracy Project, the most important US NGO operating in Haiti. The launching was at the Brookings Institution, one of the most eminent right ring ‘think-tanks’ in Washington.
Carney said:

“Ambassador Roger Noriega mentioned that one of our interests is to defend human rights, but he didn’t mention the fundamental interest, which is to defend Miami Beach. We don’t want Haitians on Miami Beach … That is a fundamental interest of the United States … Now that you have realized that interest, you hopefully will have policies by which Haitians can realize their prosperity and their future at home.
” How do you do that? Well, we haven’t figured that out yet, have we?”

That was a job for the Haiti Democracy Project and other US backed subversive NGOs whose function was simply to make sure that the President of Haiti, legally elected, would be unable to govern. These NGOs, dozens of them, using tactics honed in the ‘peaceful overthrow’ of former Communist states, didn’t work well in Haiti; violence and provocation were introduced. The most effective weapons against Aristide were the press releases of the NGOs, swallowed whole by a criminally compliant US press. Even now, six years after Aristide was kidnapped by the then US Ambassador, US news agencies are printing garbage about “Aristide, deposed amid a violent uprising.’
These days, the USS Comfort, Bill Clinton and P.J Patterson are back in the organised hypocrisy game, along with new players like Ban Ki Moon who is proving as clueless about Haiti as his predecessor, Kofi Annan. Obama has brought back G. W. Bush, Condoleezza Rice’s mouthpiece. No doubt there is room for old Haiti hands like Roger Noriega and Otto Reich. Pity they can’t reanimate Strom Thurmond and Jesse Helms, both eminent authorities on black people. But there’s always Luigi Einaudi: “The only thing wrong with Haiti is that it is being run by Haitians”

Encouraging News

There is good news for those people, and there are many, who worried that valuable American cash was being squandered on hapless Haitians who specialise in provoking Acts of God.
The Associated Press reports:
Only 1 cent of each dollar the U.S. is spending on earthquake relief in Haiti is going in the form of cash to the Haitian government, according to an Associated Press review of relief efforts.

Less than two weeks after President Obama announced an initial $100 million for Haiti earthquake relief, U.S. government spending on the disaster has tripled to $317 million at latest count. That’s just over $1 each from everyone in the United States.
Relief experts say it would be a mistake to send too much direct cash to the Haitian government, which is in disarray and has a history of failure and corruption.
“I really believe Americans are the most generous people who ever lived, but they want accountability,” said Timothy R. Knight, a former US AID assistant director who spent 25 years distributing disaster aid. “In this situation they’re being very deliberate not to just throw money at the situation but to analyze based on a clear assessment and make sure that money goes to the best place possible.”
The AP review of federal budget spreadsheets, procurement reports and contract databases shows the vast majority of U.S. funds going to established and tested providers, who are getting everything from 40-cent pounds of pinto beans to a $3.4 million barge into the disaster zone.”
So, the worry warts can rest.
For one thing the Canadians and Europeans have donated more per capita to Haitian relief than the US and deserve a larger part in the immediate relief works.
Organisations like the Haiti Democracy Project and John McCain’s International Republican Institute will make certain that American money is spent on Strengthening American democracy and defeating the populist interests which have made governance in Haiti a problem ever since the peasant rebellion 90 years ago which required the machine gunning of entire villages to restore law and order.
Meanwhile the United States, Canada, France and the rest of the (rapidly diminishing) civilised world met in Montreal a few days ago to devise a plan for developing a Haiti for the Age of Globalisation.
The participants were more or less the same countries who plotted to depose Aristide. “Shortly after Aristide’s overwhelming victory in Haiti’s first democratic presidential election in 1990, the relicts of the Jim Crow Marine occupation managed to convince the Americans, first John McCain’s International Republican Institute and then elements of Bill Clinton’s government and various Canadian politico and officials that Haiti under Aristide was a threat to civilisation as they knew it.…”

Denis Paradis, a Canadian Minister, convened a coven of like-minded fascists, “who decided that Aristide must go, and the Canadians and Americans through the Canadian aid agency (CIDA), the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and John McCain’s International Republican Institute financed a whole panoply of Haitian francs tireurs, pimps and wannabe-presidents and face-card NGOs to support the programme of the elites which was simply to grab back from the Haitian people, the Universal Human Rights promulgated 200 years earlier for the first time on Earth by Jean Jacques Dessalines and the other illustrious fathers and mothers of the Haitian Revolution.” (Common Sense-Canada’s Bloody Hands’ April 19,2009)
This is the juncture where things get really tricky.
It would appear to me that a people who fought for their freedom incessantly, for 300 years and finally won it 200 years ago deserve to be accorded considerable respect. Moreso, because they fought as slaves, entrapped and circumscribed by the system itself and despite this, defeated three of the world’s most powerful armies, one of them twice. They are the only people in history to have broken their shackles themselves. Spartacus who tried valiantly but failed, is revered as a European hero. Bouckman, Toussaint and Dessalines are ignored by the same historians. It is not so odd; TIME recognised Margaret Thatcher but not Fidel Castro as a revolutionary.
Those Haitians whose savagery, indiscipline and general lawlessness the western “press” celebrated in slavering anticipation failed to show. The Haitians who survived behaved as those who know them expected: patient, disciplined, and displaying an exemplary solidarity, sharing their crusts while starving.
It was these same people who declared universal emancipation and universal human rights two centuries ago and who have told anyone who wants to listen that they know what they want and who they want to lead them and speak for them
They know how to develop their nation, if only, for the first time at last, they are allowed to do what they want.
They need help, but help on their own terms.
They want work, real work, not plastic ‘jobs’ in freezone sweatshops..
They want to go back to feeding themselves. They want to be complete Haitians again; the people who helped Bolivar liberate South America.

The world needs to get out of the way. France, the United States and Canada owe the Haitians billions in damages. It is not for them to tell the Haitians what to spend it on. France used Haitian money to conquer Algeria. Haitians want that money to conquer child hunger and maternal mortality.
If the General Assembly wants to prove its worth it should move quickly to take the Haitian initiative away from the clueless and overtaxed Security Council. The Assembly can – guided by  the Haitians and with the expert help of Cuba, Venezuela,  South Africa, Kerala (India),  Brazil,  China  and other parts of the developing world – map out an agenda and organise help from wherever it is available without strings. The object is not to defend Miami Beach but to protect the vital interests of the Haitians, and, by extension, the vital interests of humanity.
And, if anyone wants to know what to do right now: Land 10 thousand wheelbarrows on the streets handing them over to neighbourhood groups. Let the groups decide how they are going to move the rubble and what they are going to do with it. Give the groups money and supplies to set up 10 thousand street kitchens say about $200 a group. Let the groups pay the wheelbarrow men if necessary. In three weeks the casual journalist would be hard put to find any of the ‘usual’ stories. Total cost $2 million plus $1 million for wheelbarrows.

Meanwhile the UN can be assembling a real security force to protect the Haitians and particularly their president and under his direction, design and instal the apparatus allowing Haitians to run their own country and to make their own mistakes, for the first time at last.


Boojum Hunting in the Caribbean


John Maxwell


When Thor Heyerdahl crossed the Atlantic from Africa to the Caribbean nearly 40 years ago he was shocked by – of all things – a garbage dump in the middle of the ocean.

In the area known as the Doldrums (wonderful word) Heyerdahl’s papyrus raft Ra II, was surrounded for days by a wilderness of plastic rubbish from all over the world. The Age of Plastic has bequeathed countless conveniences to humanity as well as new forms of cancer and enormous collections of litter on land, at sea and even in space.

Since Heyerdahl’s observations we now know that every ocean in the world has its own garbage dump. The largest by far is the so-called North Pacific Garbage Patch, an area covering most of the North Pacific from Alaska to Japan – twice the size of the continental United States and discovered only in 1997. The gyres are not easily discerned, because most of the plastic rubbish has been macerated by marine forces and is composed of small particles that float just below the surface, killing fish that mistake it for food.

The Atlantic gyre like all others. has formed at the confluence of various ocean currents, an area of slackwater circulating majestically, slowly and almost imperceptibly until you pick up – on a Jamaican or Haitian beach – soft drink containers thrown into the Congo or the Niger.

There is another less well known gyre in the North Caribbean which has quite different effects from the other garbage patches.

This area of existential discombobulation is much more dangerous than its kin. It is, first of all, not composed of material fragments but of abstractions, strange apparitions that do not poison fish or litter beaches but poison minds and litter brave new policies with the toxic detritus of ancient ignorance, hysteria, and unreasonable beliefs.

It is a place where ancient racist libels still hang around, driving US politicians to distraction and the Bible. It is the place where apparitions like Pat Robertson, Roger Noriega, Otto Reich, and Luigi Einaudi flourish and have their being, sustained by vicious fables invented 500 years ago to justify human slavery, revised and updated periodically to deal with black rebellion against slavery, and colonialism, and used today to frighten and confuse US soldiers and journalists.

Baron Samedi Walks again

When I was about 12 years old I borrowed a book from the Institute of Jamaica’s Junior Centre library. It was part of a donation by the Carnegie Foundation and was almost brand new.

I cannot remember the name or author but the book was obviously written to sell millions by frightening the wits out of its American readers.

I had up to that time, heard nothing about Haiti or their religious system, Vodun. The novel was populated by zombies – the living dead – as well as other evil spirits presided over by the sulphurous presence of Baron Samedi who seemed to be in charge of everything in Haiti, from cooking to current affairs. If my memory is reliable there were incredible scenes of ‘demoniac possession’ mostly among the epically bloodthirsty natives but not sparing the fairest flowers of Nordic pulchritude and chastity.

Since the book was written n the first half of the twentieth century, indecencies were suggested rather than made plain and even bloodshed was a lot less indiscriminate than say – the latest dancehall invocation against homosexuals. What was clear was that the narrative was intended to make your skin creep; in my case it certainly succeeded.

The novel was not unusual for American colonial narratives of the time. Non-Europeans could be trusted as far as the front gate, being consumed by lust and crazed by the need to spill blood.

And the ‘black magic’ was integral to cultures that were brutish, repellent and totally merciless.

The Devil in the Flesh

A few years ago TIME magazine, quite seriously, printed what it said was a recipe for creating zombies. The process was not difficult, if one was not squeamish. It involved among other things, the flowers of the Datura bush (,9171,952208-2,00.html).

So, I was not surprised by the most recent eructations of Pat (Napoleon III) Robertson, a semi-literate Quack who seems to have a hotline to Satan himself and is always willing to explain the latest demonic manifestations. Nor was I really surprised to learn that the US Army was so terrified of unarmed, starving and wounded Haitians that it needed about ten soldiers to protect one aid person.

Others were not so intimidated by the Haitians.

Partners in Health, a Boston based NGO led by Paul Farmer, was running several field hospitals from its headquarters in Cange, in Haiti’s Central Plateau. Tiny Iceland (facing bankruptcy) had search and rescue teams on the ground in Port au Prince within 48 hours of the earthquake. Andri Magnason, a friend in Iceland sent me the following:

“There is an Icelandic team of 20 rescue workers in Port au Prince and Léogane. They have saved a few lives with their special equipment. They have not seen the violence that has been in the news, on the contrary – they see only gratitude and goodwill and cooperation – no hostility – and they have even seen some hope. Strange how the world media wants to paint things black – while they could pick up many stories of human dignity from the ruins.”

And, of course, the Cubans (“We Never Closed”) had more than 400 medical professionals on the ground before the earthquake and doubled that number with their graduating class of 400 Haitian doctors. Doctors without Borders complained that the US military was preventing medical assistance reaching those who needed it most.

The real problem as I see it, is that the US has scared itself silly with the policy garbage bequeathed by Thomas Jefferson and refined by the like of William Jennings Bryan, Reich, Noriega, Einaudi and their sainted mentors, Joe McCarthy, Strom Thurmond, and Jesse Helms.

If the US Army had thought to drop water, nothing more, they could have saved many lives. Some people drank their own urine. Others, less knowledgeable, may have died of thirst.

The late Hedi Annabi – the UN’s man in Haiti, died in the earthquake. He was clearly another who thought Haitians were all terrorists and his way of preparing for democracy involved the UN mission –MINUSTAH – making periodic forays into the slums to slaughter members of Fanmi Lavalas.

The UN secretary general is even more clueless, tolerating René Preval’s de-legitimising Fanmi Lavalas and appointing Bill Clinton as his representative in Haiti. Clinton was the man who restored Aristide in 1994 to stem the flood of refugees into Miami Beach and then broke every promise he made and pressured and blackmailed the Haitians by shutting down essential foreign aid.

So, I must confess that my blood ran cold when Barack Obama proved even more clueless than Ban Ki Moon by appointing Haiti’s worst enemy, George Bush, to join Clinton to raise funds for Haitian relief. If there is anyone who believes in Haitian zombies and bogeymen, it is Bush. As far as Ban Ki Moon, Clinton and Bush are concerned, the Haitians are only good for mindless ‘jobs’ in foreign-owned sweatshops.

What is so tragic about the loss of life since the earthquake is that, were it not for the boojums, zombies and Baron Samedi, so much more could have been done.

If you don’t believe me read the following:

“However, away from the glare of the international media, a team of Cuban doctors has been working among the quake-affected. The Cuban government offered its medical expertise to the governments of Pakistan and India immediately after the magnitude of the destruction caused by the quake was known. The Indian government did not even acknowledge the offer. Pakistan, where the scale of disaster was humongous, was quick to accept the offer. The first Cuban medical team was in Pakistan on October 14, six days after the earthquake.” (Frontline
Vol:22 Iss:26

In short order the Cubans had established 19 field hospitals staffed by more than 700 doctors – half of them women – working 12 hour shifts.

This was in Pakistan in 2005.

Pakistan is 14,000 miles from Cuba and the Cubans were working in foreign conditions, in fierce cold, in a country with which Cuba had no diplomatic relations.

There are now more than 25,000 Cuban doctors working outside their country and an almost equal number of teachers

If you think that boojums are a figment of my imagination, consider this: Three weeks ago the US government identified Cuba as one of the countries exporting terrorism.

After 200 years, the heirs of Jefferson are still hunting boojums in the Caribbean

Copyright © 2010 John Maxwell

Walls Within Walls

John Maxwell


First- full disclosure: Butch Stewart has been a friend of mine for a very long time and I was a buddy of his dad’s – Gordon Sr – when he was the founding Chief Engineer of the Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation. We haven’t always seen eye to eye, except perhaps mostly on the environment and even there we have had some serious disagreements. Butch is also the owner of the Jamaica Observer in which my column has appeared for more than a dozen years.

All this to explain that while Butch has never tried to tell me how to write my column, I am presuming to advise him how to run his business. Butch’s hotel chain, Sandals has applied for planning permission to erect some over-water rooms on an artificial island off Montego Bay.

Butch had no planning permission to create the island, but that was a long time ago.

It is my considered opinion that these over-water rooms are a bad idea and I hope Butch abandons his application for permission to build them.

•    They provide a bad example to less scrupulous and less intelligent ‘developers’ who are intent on reworking the geography of Jamaica;

•    They defy logic and wisdom in an area where strong ‘Northers’ – storms – are prevalent in the winter tourist season and an ‘accident’ will bathe Sandals and Jamaica in the sort of publicity we cannot afford;

•    Butch should remember Hurricane Allen which came ashore on the north coast shortly after he went into the hotel business. Allen made matchwood out of the Trident, a solidly built hotel on a cliff, not at sea-level. Allen’s storm surge wrecked San San lifting the upper story of one house 18 feet above ground level and leaving it on the parochial road to the Blue lagoon

•    At Galina, near Oracabessa, Allen lifted an enormous rock weighing several thousand tons off the seabed and onto the road 30 to 40 feet above sea level. A pretty solid little cottage between the rock and the place it came to rest was atomised and the two old ladies who lived in the house were never seen again.

•    I was a little boy in Duncans when the 1944 hurricane came through. Among that hurricane’s feats was the lifting of the perimeter verandah of the Eldon Great House and depositing it hundreds of yards away in a coconut walk in Harmony Hall/Georgia.

Not another Pear Tree Bottom?

    Several years ago some of us noticed that a Company called Tankweld had created an enormous unsightly stone-crushing arena on land at Pear Tree Bottom. A few years later we noticed that the public road was diverted at great expense, apparently on the orders of the Great I-Nyam, and since most of us had said nothing about Tankweld’s visual disaster nor about the road, we were soon greeted by news that a Spanish hotel was to be built there by the Pinero Group.

Despite protests and a court case launched by some brave women (mostly) led by Wendy Lee, the hotel was built. The hotel’s sewerage was reaching Pear Tree Bottom beach as I documented in these pages. The enterprise was allowed by some lunatic bureaucrats to inject sewage into the limestone aquifer, which means that by the time the hotel’s incentives run out the land will be good only for tumble-tu’d’ beetles and other coprophagic life-forms.

And then to everyone’s surprise, in 2008, Mr Pablo Pinero declared his outrage at the decision of NEPA/NRCA, to stop him from concreting even more of the coastline in the interests of his bank account.

As I said at the time, the NRCA had, up till then, managed to foul up almost every aspect of the regulation of the hotel including – the EIA, the fact that the hotel is built on a public beach, illegally, and the inadequate sanitary arrangements and other environmental protections which ought to have been built into any permit for any hotel anywhere in the world, but especially in an environmentally sensitive and important Jamaican wetland, fronting a world famous and scientifically important coral reef.

Since then on the south coast of Jamaica, largely unspoiled, people are starting to spoil things, with a vengeance

Some time ago elements of the Bicknell family, owners of Tankweld, have built on the south coast, something even more hideous than any of their stonecrushing enterprises on the North Coast.

This excrescence, this wanton insult to civilisation and culture sits athwart the beach at Great Bay, Treasure Beach, about 9,000 tons of river stone (quarried under what licence) and placed to cock a dirty snook at the public interest and whatever else its builders may have chosen to insult.

The problem with this wall is not simply that it desecrates, defiles and devalues one of the last tranquil places in Jamaica; it is that it is so monumentally ugly, so devoid of any hint of an aesthetic sense, so vehemently and virulently hideous that it could provide an icon for some plague, some noxious affliction meant to torment and terrify frail humanity.

Its size is intended to impress, to overwhelm and oppress and if there were two of these monstrosities side by side one could easily imagine oneself in the anteroom to hell itself – “Abandon Hope, All Ye Who Enter Here” or, alternatively, “Arbeit macht Frei””

But I don’t wish to examine the existential meaning of the wall. What concerns me is the ancient doctrine of prescriptive right.

Under the Prescription Act 1882 as amended by Act 65 of 1955, the Beach Control Act:

“4.1 When any beach has been used by the public or any class of the public for fishing, or for purposes incident to fishing, or for bathing or recreation, and any road, track or pathway passing over any land adjoining or adjacent to such beach has been used by the public or any class of the public as a means of such access to such beach, without interruption for the full period of twenty years, the public shall, subject to the provisos hereinafter contained, have the absolute and indefeasible right to use such beach, land, road, track or pathway as aforesaid, unless it shall appear that the same was enjoyed by some consent or agreement expressly made or given for that purpose by deed or writing.”

That seems to me to be perfectly clear, as it should be, having been drafted by N. W. Manley himself.

Although termites have been eating away at the Beach Control Act for years, they fortunately ignored the Prescription Act, possibly out of ignorance.

The situation in my non-lawyer’s opinion, is that no land below high-water mark in Jamaica may now be claimed by any private or public entity. That is to say, apart from designated licenced private beaches adjacent to houses, and the public recreational beaches including those attached to hotels with licences older than 1993, there are no beaches in Jamaica over which any entity or person, whether the Universal Devastation Conglomerate or Mr Vin Lawrence or his heirs and successors, can legally claim hegemony of any kind. The UDC’s attempt to steal Winnifred Beach or any other attempt to compromise the public interest in any form, is ultra vires and null and void

Now and then I wish I had followed my father’s wishes, that I should become a lawyer, like Mr Manley. Even if I hadn’t become a lawyer like Manley, but just another lawyer, I would now be making life unbearable for those who trample on the public interest and human rights.

If the Spanish hotels are to attempt to colonise Treasure Beach we now have a new weapon. The EPAs we signed under duress with the EU now allow poor litigants like me access to the European Commission for Human Rights where such enactments as the Aarhus Convention apply. That convention gives us the rights our constitution and laws such as the NRCA act say we have but sometimes can’t find.

The Aarhus Convention according to the UN Economic Commission for Europe, ” is by far the most impressive elaboration of Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration, which stresses the need for citizens’ participation in environmental issues and for access to information on the environment held by public authorities.” These principles, believe it or not, are also enshrined in the Jamaican NRCA’s guide to the conduct of Environmental Impact Assessments.

“The Convention adopts a rights-based approach. Article one, setting out the objective of the Convention, requires parties to guarantee rights of access to information, public participation in decision-making and access to justice in environmental matters.

It also refers to the goal of protecting the right of every person of present and future generations to live in an environment adequate to health and well-being, which represents a significant step forward in international law.” (United Nations Economic Commission for Europe

Mr Tufton and the Spaniards

    As I reported last week, the Spaniards are handing over to the Minister of Agriculture, about half a million US$ for a Centre of Excellence or perhaps a nice little agronomy lab. As Dr Tufton is also the MP for the Treasure Beach area, I really hope that my criticising the Spaniards has not queered his pitch with these eminent benefactors.

Copyright ©2010 John Maxwell