Balancing lives and livelihoodsMonday, May 31, 2021
Prime Minister Andrew Holness's line on the “haves and have-nots” hit the spot with perfect timing at the commemoration of late former Prime Minister Mr Edward Seaga's 91st birthday.
Those paying attention know we are referring to the prime minister's response to ongoing controversy regarding recent blatant breaches of COVID-19 protocols captured on video at a Mocha Fest party in Negril last week.
Many Jamaicans can be forgiven for not knowing of Mr Seaga's 'haves and have-nots' speech way back in 1961, just a year before this country gained its political independence from Britain.
Mr Seaga, a young, fiery Opposition politician, caused considerable discomfort for the Jamaican establishment at the time because of his speech focused on extreme inequalities. Indeed, there were even whispers that perhaps he was a socialist.
Jamaicans need no reminding that the situation Mr Seaga complained so passionately about 60 years ago is largely still with us.
By referencing “…the unequalness of the society, the haves and the have-nots... Why is it that some people are allowed to party and others are not?” And, by speedily pledging to investigate the Negril incident, Mr Holness may well have succeeded in deflecting some heat.
Yet, there is no escaping that agencies of Government must take responsibility.
As Opposition leader and People's National Party (PNP) President Mr Mark Golding said “[T]here is very little going on. So, a major event like that in Negril must have been known to the Government…”
We are hearing that Mocha Fest, an annual international festival which largely targets African-Americans, had the stamp of approval from the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) more than a year in advance of last week's drama.
We wait to see how the Government's investigation pans out, and if anyone is held accountable. Surely, Rick's Café can't be the only one to take the fall.
Beyond all that, Mocha Fest highlights the need for Jamaicans and their leaders to take a fresh look at the current situation. How do we cater for the life-giving tourism industry as well as the starving entertainment sector over the next several months in the context of this novel coronavirus pandemic?
It's readily recognised that as the COVID-19 vaccination programme takes hold in Jamaica's major tourism source markets — North America and elsewhere — there will be a surge in visitors to our shores. In fact, that is already happening. After being cooped up for well in excess of 15 months, cash-enabled, newly vaccinated people want to relax and have fun.
If they can't have fun in Jamaica these potential visitors will go elsewhere. That's one reason acceleration of the vaccine programme to achieve herd immunity here is of paramount importance.
It's not easy because of the challenges in accessing vaccines. But whatever needs to be done, must be done.
Vaccines apart, the Government, together with tourism and entertainment sector leaders, must knock heads regarding how best to deal with immediate realities as the pandemic becomes less of a threat in North America, Britain, and wider Europe. The country needs to find a way to take advantage without risking another major surge in COVID-19 cases here.
It's hard. We know. But a way must be found.
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