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What Betty Ann Blaine did not say (but should have)

Thursday, August 23, 2012    

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WE return to the issue of the eviction last Friday of an estimated 60 persons from premises they had illegally occupied near Duke and North streets in downtown Kingston, to raise a critical matter which needs to be addressed.

Among the evicted squatters was a large number of children who, poor souls, are like helpless lambs to the slaughter, having been born to absolutely careless parents.

While the outrage expressed by politician and children's advocate — Mrs Betty Ann Blaine — would have touched a raw nerve in most Jamaicans, we don't believe that she went far enough in the direction of a sustainable solution to the perennial problem of women having more children than they can adequately provide for.

The dilemma of squatting continues to be one that has to be tackled as a national imperative and that is going to take a considerable length of time to resolve only after deep social intervention. However, the practice of having large numbers of children that cannot be afforded is something which we can deal with in the short term.

We have to continue the public education of Jamaicans — especially women who are the ones left with the burden when the worthless fathers disappear — that the surest way of perpetuating poverty is having too many children. We must tell them the truth to their faces. Do we still have a family planning unit?

It is palpably illogical that someone squatting on another person's property, with all its uncertainty and amidst the usual squalor, can proceed to have as many as eight children as is the case of one of women whom we are told is currently pregnant with her ninth. From the number of children affected, it is clear that many of the women at Duke Street have multiple children.

It is not the fault of the children and we commend all those, especially Food for the Poor, who are trying to intervene to assist them to minimise the trauma they would have been experiencing from the legal eviction. But it must be clearly understood that these irresponsible parents cannot expect to have endless number of children and then turn around and cry foul when legitimate owners move them off their property. Our country is in no position to afford it.

If we truly want to help the poor, then we must get to the nitty-gritty of the problem of poverty. Of course, poverty originated in slavery; of course, the freed slaves were left landless; of course joblessness is a big problem, but knowing that is not enough. Crying and expressing outrage about that, by itself, will not bring land to the landless or homes to the homeless.

And even if somehow we magically provide land and homes for the poor, their poverty will continue as long as they have too many children and not enough to provide food, clothes, health care and, education for them.

We are sure that Mrs Blaine knows this, so we find it curious that she has neglected to speak about it in her press statements and would love to hear from her, lest the wrong impression is given that she was merely playing politics.

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