We all must take responsibility

Saturday, October 27, 2012

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Hurricane Sandy hit hard, but as we said in this space yesterday it could have been worse. So, again, let's give thanks.

But also we need to take stock of the things that as individuals, corporate entities, government, and as a country we can do to ease the effects of natural disasters such as Hurricane Sandy.

Take this matter of preparedness. How is it that with Hurricane Dean in 2007 and Hurricane Ivan 2004, still fresh in the memory of the great majority of able-minded adults, we still have Jamaicans ignoring the warnings of the relevant authorities, even as a dangerous storm closed in on the island?

Then there was the case of people turning up at emergency shelters with their families empty-handed, expecting to be fed and clothed. Obviously the primary responsibility of an emergency shelter must be to provide just that. We say this even while recognising the extreme levels of poverty afflicting much of the population.

It seems to this newspaper that Government, through its various agencies, the political directorate, the Church, so-called civil society groups, the news media, and all others with a voice, should start telling our people the truth: That they must take responsibility for themselves.

Regrettably, politicians anxious not to offend all too often cultivate the dependency syndrome among potential voters by not talking straight.

Individuals need to be told simple truths by their leaders and others whom they respect, such as, that it makes no sense build a family of six children when he/she or both can barely manage to support one.

People must be told that they should not build on gullies and river banks or river beds and then expect the State to bail them out when there is a flood. People should be made to understand that if they block the gully courses with garbage and other debris, then there is a good chance they will be flooded out when the "gully come down".

And, as State Minister for Works Mr Richard Azan told the people of Dalintoba in South West St Elizabeth last week, they should be prepared to clean their community drains themselves rather than wait on "MP and councillor".

The State must also take responsibility. Take evacuation for example. Within reason, the State should be able to assure people that their communities will be watched in their absence. The stories of break-ins and looting have contributed significantly to the reluctance of many to leave their homes.

Also, the State must once and for all take responsibility for land use. By all means necessary, it is full time to start preventing people from building in disaster-prone areas such as gullies, river banks and river beds.

And the State needs to make examples of those — including business operators — who persist in blocking our drains and gullies with garbage.

Ultimately, all of us must take responsibility.




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