A case study of lawlessness in Ja

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Print this page Email A Friend!

It is difficult to argue against the observation that the breakdown of law and order in Jamaica is essentially a fait accompli. I say this against the background of the debacle on New Year's Day which saw the sole thoroughfare to and from Kingston's Norman Manley International Airport locked tighter than a drum, the result of a massive pile-up of traffic as revellers converged on Gunboat Beach, the venue for the Sandz New Year's Day fete.

According to various media reports, traffic on the road to Norman Manley International Airport (NMIA) was brought to a complete standstill with the bedlam trundling all the way from the entrance at the Gunboat Beach and convulsing back to the entrance of the Jamaica Flour Mills plant on Windward Road. The pandemonium could easily have been predicted as the mindless indiscipline characteristic of too many Jamaicans had already written this script countless times over.

For decades event attendees across the island have been commandeering functioning travel lanes in the vicinity of events and turning them into parking spaces. Observe the accumulation of multiple millions of dollars in unpaid traffic tickets issued for various traffic violations — a poster of the palpable indiscipline of too many of our motorists. Furthermore, the combination of an apparently inept bureaucracy, and the massive spectre of corruption negates any potential impact from the threat of prosecution. The net result is what obtained on the airport road, fuelled by an either bungling or compromised bureaucracy, or both.

The puzzling question remains: How was such a fiasco allowed to happen and, especially, how could the administrators of the city have bungled so badly that agencies that ought to have been in full communication with each other were completely blindsided by the event?

In its wake, there are reports coming thick and fast from various agencies from which permission had to have been sought in order for such an event to have been given the green light. Kingston's mayor has been quick to condemn the debacle and alluded to a temporary ban on the staging of future events at this venue. Minister of Entertainment Olivia “Babsy” Grange insisted that the Government does not support any decision to hold an event “of that nature” at Gun Boat Beach, having assessed the location and found it unsuitable to be declared part of the entertainment zone.

Further, the National Environment and Planning Agency's (NEPA) CEO Peter Knight disclosed that the area on the Palisadoes Road where the Sandz party was held Monday had not been approved as an entertainment zone. According to Knight, NEPA gave approval for an entertainment zone to be established at Fort Rocky, several kilometres away. He further stated that the approval that the Town and Country Planning Authority gave to the ministry clearly specified the conditions, and that the area where the party was held had not been approved.

It is instructive to note that in December 2015 the Palisadoes strip was approved by the NEPA for designation as Jamaica's first entertainment zone. At the time, then state minister in the Ministry of Tourism and Entertainment Damion Crawford communicated the approval at a press briefing and provided the green light to a number of events and activities expected to take place during the 2015 Christmas season. It would appear to me that the Sandz promoters relied on this declaration, which was never officially rescinded by the new Administration, so it was business as usual.

It would appear also that the Norman Manley International Airport authorities gave the Sandz party its blessing after reportedly perusing the plans, including published outlines for parking and the use of a shuttle service to transport patrons to and from the venue. In the wake of all this, one wonders, therefore, how the police superintendent in charge of traffic in the Kingston Metropolitan Area could not have known that a permit had been issued for such an event. It would appear that, as a result, police presence was virtually non-existent.

The debacle left hundreds of arriving passengers stranded at NMIA for up to eight hours, dozens of departing passengers got caught in the gridlock and missed their outgoing flights, and flight crews scheduled to man outgoing flights were prevented from getting to the airport, resulting in massive delays.

The fiasco has been carried on the newscast of some television stations here in the US, creating an image of “the lunatics running the asylum”. One wonders just how much more damage to the country's reputation needs to be done before all the major stakeholders come to a decision to stem the rot. We are an undisciplined and unruly people, and any presumption that good sense will prevail in circumstances such as these could only be the prayer of a fool.

Respect for law and order is anathema to too many Jamaicans, which provides the atmosphere that has driven our decades-long killing sprees. For, make no mistake about it, the rule of law is virtually non-existent in our society and it does not make it any easier when the so-called “Big Man” can use his clout to break down established conventions and institutions because of proximity to those who control the trough.

Richard Hugh Blackford is a self-taught artist, writer and social commentator. He shares his time between Coral Springs, Florida, and Kingston, Jamaica. Send comments to the Observer or




1. We welcome reader comments on the top stories of the day. Some comments may be republished on the website or in the newspaper � email addresses will not be published.

2. Please understand that comments are moderated and it is not always possible to publish all that have been submitted. We will, however, try to publish comments that are representative of all received.

3. We ask that comments are civil and free of libellous or hateful material. Also please stick to the topic under discussion.

4. Please do not write in block capitals since this makes your comment hard to read.

5. Please don't use the comments to advertise. However, our advertising department can be more than accommodating if emailed:

6. If readers wish to report offensive comments, suggest a correction or share a story then please email:

7. Lastly, read our Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy

comments powered by Disqus



Today's Cartoon

Click image to view full size editorial cartoon