IT MUST HAVE seemed like a very good idea at the time. Thousands of unpaid tickets for traffic offences... Imagine if we could get the people to pay up. It would benefit the public coffers. It would send a signal that we can maintain law and order, so desperately needed on our roads. With that, the traffic ticket amnesty was born.
The plan... gives time to persons who have not settled their debts with the Traffic Department to put things in order and then go forward with a clean slate. Unfortunately, attractive as the dream was, it didn't turn out so smoothly. The long, long lines which choked the areas around tax offices islandwide in the waning hours of the year now past, was a sign of the difference between "Dem" - the administrators of public business and "We" - the people who have a different perception of reality.
Who could have imagined (a) That so many persons had so much unsettled business with the law; (b) That so many would be horrified to be classed as not being responsible citizens; (c) That so many road users openly defy the law day after day; (d) That lessons about procrastination mean little or nothing. The subsequent amnesty experience should be a productive lesson to one and all, but in reality, it don't go so.
Everybody trapped in the amnesty line over recent days was as angry as wasps in a broken nest. The anger was directed mainly at "Dem" who should have anticipated the last-minute crowd... and made appropriate arrangements to facilitate us. Irate citizens took to the airwaves to vent. Few, if any, admitted that if we'd had the good sense to settle our accounts before the very last minute, we would not have come to a "social cliff" of our own. "Cliffs" may have been all right for the Americans who have become addicted to suspense. They can afford it, we can't. Notice, however, that they were smart enough to settle their differences instead of falling over the edge.
We, of course, seem unable to help ourselves. We are expert at "jooking" our own selves. That is why so many stumbled into the New Year, exhausted from standing in long lines which could well have been avoided. The "authorities dem" need to pay serious attention to the "pig's dinner" system which had manual and electronic payments lumped together. It is no surprise that there were complaints of double-charging with some persons threatening to test the system in court. (Litigation has become as fashionable as ugly shoes).
One lesson which we could do well to learn is the consequence of amassing hundreds of unpaid tickets for traffic infringements and yet continuing to drive, posing a threat to the safety of ourselves and others. Well, there's still time to make amends. Take heed that unpaid tickets must be settled by today (January 4). Persons with more difficult cases, like warrants for arrest, are advised to check with the police. Those who claim that they settled up previously are being assured that they will be allowed to prove their case and be refunded if necessary. We haven't heard the last of that word "Amnesty".
"WISH I'D SAID IT": A young man observing the angry, sweating crowd outside the Cross Roads Tax Office on December 31, created a tag line for the scene before him, proclaiming it: "THE LINE OF THE YEAR." Which year, it didn't matter. Last year or this, it was a phenomenon fi true.
FROM AMNESTY, LET'S MOVE ON to the wickedest thieves of the year. The dubious award goes to the bandits who robbed a cattle farm in St James in the height of Christmas, making off with livestock worth millions of dollars. I'm surprised that there has been so little public comment since the news was headlined by the Jamaica Observer on December 29.
I can understand why cattle rustlers came to a very bad end in Western movies ... We can't hang ours high, but I wish they could be caught and made an example of. What about stiffer penalties, like longer, much longer, sentences? We run our mouths daily about the value of agriculture and how "farming will save the nation." Not with thievery it won't. I'm heart-sick of hearing stories of farmers who have ended up broke and disillusioned, not because their crops failed but because of the scourge called "praedial larceny" - fancy words for criminality. Now that we've proved that we can bring down the murder rate, why not turn attention to a crime which is destroying lives and livelihoods?
RE cattle theft - Let's not deceive ourselves that this is some "lickle man" seeking to feed his family. This is organised thievery by bandits in well-planned operations with community support. While the owner of the herd faces financial ruin, the rustlers walk free. By Wednesday, praedial thieves had struck again, this time stealing thousands of dollars worth of oranges from another farm. The fruit had been sprayed recently with a substance, harmless when used according to directions, but a threat to human health when incorrectly consumed. Who knows where the fruit has reached by this? How do we know if anyone has been affected by it?
DID YOU KNOW that 21st century foretellers of the future issue disclaimers of responsibility, letting them off the hook if their prophecies crash? How so? It seems that if the Man Upstairs were to change his mind and pardon some of the wicked, then the "predictors" could not be blamed for meaningless information. Good Lord, deliver us ... and them.
NEW YEAR MUSTS:
(1) Act decisively to save more of our environment
(2) Stop giving away our heritage
(3) Leave something to remind our children and our children’s children that this land is their land, from Morant Point to Negril and back again
(4) Stop deluding ourselves that illfitting imported clothing and ugly footwear can save the nation
(5) Advise parents that their offspring need more than certificates to get the best jobs
(6) Skills carry the swing these days.