Govt puts hold on JUTC fare increase

KINGSTON, Jamaica -- Government has put a hold in the implementation of a fare increase for the Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) OBSERVER ONLINE has learned. The decision follows a meeting this morning between Transport Minister Omar Davies and stakeholders in the transport sector. The increase ... Read more

Columns

Turn back the darkness

Barbara GLOUDON

Friday, May 16, 2014    

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HELP! Somebody, anybody, come explain it to me. Is it true that we're heading back to the age of tilly lantern, the home sweet home lamp, the coal stove, and all the things we associate with 'the good old days'? Good fi who?

What else can I think, especially in the light of recent matters of moment? Last week this time, we were discussing EWI and bringing down fire — metaphorically, of course -- upon the head of whoever seemed to be in the way of us getting cheap energy, which of course meant nuff-nuff development ahead. But, as we know now, that pipe dream is going nowhere for now — if not ever.

So as soon as we caught our breath on that one, here comes this one. The headlines scream, warning us that JPS, the grand-daddy of our electricity supplies, has been cutting off the light in certain communities where the ratio of non-paying customers to paying customers is draining the JPS of millions -- and, who knows, zillions -- of revenue. Then, the company saw a bright, new light, one of those light bulbs over the head. Turn off the light on everybody -- the paying and the non-paying alike; a kind of shock therapy you could call it.

You see, when the payers realise what is happening, they could persuade the non-payers to ante up and so bring light and harmony back into the community. But, of course, it don't go so. The payers vex and the non-payers...well, they can always move and set up another community and get on with the practice of "trow-up line".

To those who do not yet know about "trow-up line", dare to drive off the beaten track if you would be so bold, and you will see the phenomenon of the hundreds and hundreds of feet or metres, or whatever you call it, of lines encroaching on the JPS lines, sucking away the power like a hungry goat kid nursing. Trow-up lines are part of the cobweb, the ultimate Anansy trickery. The image which this portrays to some is of the people's imaginative and inventive spirit. Well, JPS is not buying it. It blacked out entire communities to show its disapproval.

In doing so, they reckoned without the good people who had to be paying for what they did not receive and quite rightly raised hell. Now the black out has to go, and it has reached as far as Gordon House. With Parliamentarians pledging to help clean up the mess, it would not be impolite to say that it really began in a parliamentary spirit. The time has come for freeness to end. We can't continue the same old way in which some people get scarce spoils and benefits, while others starve. Turn on the light of honesty and take down the cobweb which has been tying us up for far too long.

For years it has been a source of annoyance that residents of some communities have not paid for utilities because of political patronage. Changes in the life of the constituencies have forced the residents to consider a new reality. I know of one such community where the leader got the utility companies to establish facilities where payments could be made for services received, and where the offices were manned by staff drawn from the community. The project failed. Old habits die hard... and nobody was giving up the old for the new.

The impassioned pleas being made for clemency for the poor do not ring well, considering that economic hardship is now the challenge for most people. Nobody is taken in by the pleas of members of parliament for special treatment for the poor in their charge. The poor are everywhere. What we should be talking about is how to awaken everyone to learning how to cope, how to deal with the cold hard facts of our present situation. This should not mean that the real sufferers, as they used to be known, should not be assisted with the basic necessities for a start and access to ways of learning how to manage. We have an obligation to help the helpless, but not to facilitate dishonesty. The trow-up line way of life brings honour to nobody.

Beyond that, what will we do on the whole matter of moving the nation into a new age when everybody, except us, is making strides in equipping themselves with innovative ways to meet energy needs? We're still forming the fools.

PS: We can do better, y'know. At an event in Mandeville, yesterday, you should have seen politicians who have made their name tearing each other to shreds. But the media spotlight was not on them, and they were docile as lambs, and friendly as little goat kids...Can't we start here?

To Nigeria, with love

The sad saga of the kidnapped Nigerian girls continues. I'm still disappointed that more public concern is not being shown here. Yes, we have our own crosses to bear, including a growing register of missing girls of our own. That shouldn't mean, though, that we can't have compassion for others. The case is being argued, as it were, on social media, but despite its popularity not everyone lives almost entirely by that method of communication.

Last Saturday morning, a small but determined band of women, with "one and few" men, stood outside the Nigerian High Commission to show their solidarity. Their mission seemed to have been misunderstood but, says one of the group, "We stood there all the same". We cannot always be silent, though. Sometimes, courage will have to express itself by being seen and heard.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK for me... One of the kidnapped girls is reported to have been paraded before persons investigating their situation was told to respond to the question if she was harassed into acceptance of a new religion. She replied, "No harassment, but righteousness." Like it or not the two are unfortunately linked.

gloudonb@yahoo.com

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