Special Report Continued

Text Box: Jamaica’s Eco Warriors Call for Support in Their Fight  Against Bad Environmental Practices  
Text Box: Official Sensitivities
Faced with criticism from environmentalists for granting prospecting licences in the island's ecologically sensitive Cockpit Country, Jamaican bauxite industry officials say they are willing to enforce a ban on any survey in the area. But first there would have to be agreement on what geographically is the Cockpit region. 
The Jamaica Gleaner Newspaper reported a senior official to have said "If it is going to cause a world war, I wouldn't support any exploration being done," Dr. Carlton Davis, the Cabinet secretary and Chairman of the Jamaica Bauxite Institute (JBI), the agency that set policy for the bauxite/alumina industry. 
Dr. Davis added, "but let's talk about what is the Cockpit Country. I think what is needed is that once we come to some sensible agreement of what is the Cockpit Country we put in some decent management systems." 
Bauxite deposits in the eastern half of Trelawny, and western St. Ann region of the Cockpit Country are estimated to reach tens of millions of tonnes, contained mainly in karstic depressions. A mining licence was in fact granted to the Alumina Company of Canada (Alcan) in the 1960s, but this was withdrawn in 1974 when the Government sought to take greater control of the country's natural resources. Prospecting in the area was revisited in the early 1990s when Aloca considered a new alumina refinery in Jamaica. 
Local Population Concerns
Accompong Town is a place where Africans who were enslaved settled since the 17th century. This place has historical importance. Freed Africans, sometimes called the "Maroons” established their headquarters in the Cockpit Country, also known as Trelawny Town. The Maroons governed themselves. This was the result of successful rebellions against the British rulers, which resulted in a Peace Treaty of 1739.
Today’s Maroon leader, Mr. Melville Currie, spoke at the 268th annual Accompong Maroon festival in St Elizabeth, Jamaica, on Friday 6 January 2007 and  suggested that the Maroon people need the local Cockpit County natural recourses to be left in tact and not to be polluted by mining or anyone.  

Mr. Currie said that the Accompong Maroon elders believe that  the Cockpit Country possesses economic benefits, including its potential for eco-tourism, organic farming and the pharmaceutical industry.

"The Cockpit produces any medical herb that you can think of," Mr. Currie told his colleagues and guests. "Ancient medicine," he said, "rests in this land."
Mr. Currie's colleague, Colonel Frank Lumsden of the Charles Town Maroons, said the Cockpit Country was central to the drive to build Maroon unity for economic development. 
"The Cockpit Country is of vital interest, because of all the medicinal and pharmaceutical possibilities," Colonel Lumsden was reported in Jamaica’s Daily Observer to have said.

With that in mind, the Maroon leaders say they will use a conference planned for 20-23 June 2007 - to mark the last battle at the Spanish River in Portland before the end of the first Maroon War - to zero in on the possibilities for development of this pharmaceutical industry.

According to the Observer, “this idea, we believe, makes perfect sense, particularly when it is framed in the context of the research findings of doctors Henry Lowe and Joseph Bryant that two plants endemic to Jamaica have so far shown promise as cures for five types of cancer.
“That research has rightly received a pledge of financial support from the Government. And while we know that there are no guarantees, we are hoping that any drug manufactured from these plants will, in fact, confirm the research findings.”

The Observer continued “Mr. Currie claims that he has benefited medically from using plants found in the Cockpit Country, so much so that he has never had need to see a doctor.”
The Observer had no way of confirming the validity of that statement. Neither should such a claim be dismissed. “For who knows for sure what, if any, medicinal properties can be extracted from the plants in the Cockpit Country?” concluded the Observer.
The Government Denials
Jamaica’s Government had consistently denied that its intention was to give permission to mine Bauxite in the Cockpit Country. This denial does not satisfy the Eco warriors.
What was clear from various local newspaper reports, the Government said categorically, a number of times, that there was no plan for mining in the ‘Cockpit County’. However, given contemporary history, where a sovereign nation was invaded and destroyed on a Big Lie, based on falseness that a small nation “possessed weapons of mass destruction” and capable of discharging them at “45 minute notice”, perpetrated by several major powers, one might understand those who were skeptical about government assurances these days.
 Government Dilemma
The issue of nationhood is always about a nation’s bread and butter question. The population must be fed, employed, clothed, educated, entertained, policed, and protected and so on. These are government responsibilities. The welfare of the people comes first.
Jamaica does not have substantive industries to sustain long term development. There is of course Tourism and Mining, perhaps the prime industries at present. 
Britain has run down her manufacturing industries, over the years. She is still strong on matters like insurance and banking. However, she is heavily dependent on Tourism and the service Industries.
This made Britain valuable, to some extent, at present. When a bomb exploded in the city, or a threat of bomb explosions, foreigners do not come to Britain, or their coming reduced dramatically, particularly to her main city, like London. They stayed away. This has knock-on effects, on the hotel, catering, and hospitality industries. Because of this vulnerability, although we hear strong talk about terrorism, if the truth to be faced, our service based economy is very vulnerable to this type of threats.
 Jamaica was almost crippled during the 1970s and 80s, by foreign interferences into her internal affairs. That was during the time of high tensions between the USA and Cuban Administrations, which spilt over into Jamaica. Pictures of young men discharging their guns aimlessly on the streets in Kingston were flashed across the world’s mass media at the time.
Foreign tourists, particularly, Americans, saw these pictures and kept away from Jamaica. Jamaica economy suffered badly. That attack on Jamaica was because the democratically elected Government pursued independent policies, which were not liked by some foreign governments. That was the objective observations at the time.    
In fact, even Jamaicans living in England, USA and Canada were often ‘frightened’ to visit Jamaica, because of the negative international images Jamaica got at the time. With a new immerging generation, this image is being repaired. What was good at the time, while many Jamaicans   did not return, particularly those in Europe, they continued to send their money to relatives and friend in Jamaica. They also opened bank accounts and saved their money in Jamaica’s banks. They purchased lands and built houses, via Jamaica’s building societies and other local estate agents. This kept the Jamaican economy going in the dark old days.
Tourism is not, and has never been a safe bit on which any country should build its economy, when there is an alternative wealth creating source. In this, instance, mining. With tourism, foreigners can decide the speed with which your economy grows or not grow.
Jamaica’s Government needs to develop clear and transparent   mining strategies and present them to the public.   Environmental matters are too important to be left in the hands of party political managers. There are environmental crises worldwide. In the interest of human survival, there needs to be a unified approach to sustainable ecological management.
There is a very strong argument for saving the Cockpit County. The specific area to be saved must be defined. There needs to be clear legal guidelines to mining companies as to what they can and cannot do, when extracting mineral from Jamaica’s soil. 
In all mining and exploration contracts, there must  be internationally enforceable provisions  which require miners to repair and landscape the environment, after they extracted minerals.  Part of the mining profits must be earmarked for local education, health, social housing, and local transport infrastructure, like roads.
It is unreasonable and unrealistic, however, to suggest to a responsible government, whatever political colour, that it should not exploit the nation’s natural resources at a time of real economic needs among the population.
However, the approach to that exploitation must be reasonable and consistent with best environmental practices, in the interest of the local population and ecologies.
Jamaica’s Tourism and Mining Industries are both owned predominantly by foreign investors. Both have individual vested interests in Jamaica. It is doubtful that these investors have ‘love’ for the Jamaican people.  There are only commercial considerations. There can be no sentiment employed here. Both industries are in the profit making business for their share holders and investors, and both pollute the nation in various ways. Both must be managed carefully. For Jamaica to place all its eggs, as it were, in the ‘tourism basket’, is to place the nation at high vulnerability.
Text Box: Maroon Leader, Mr. Melville Currie speaking  at Accompong Town, Cockpit Country, on 6 January 2007

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