Level the playing field: It's now 'Out Of Many, Some People'Sunday, June 06, 2021
Our motto, “Out of many one people” is echoed in all institutions across our island once we broach the subject of heritage and identity.
It was coined to reflect diversity and equality but, unfortunately, it functions exclusively as a national symbol for most. The sense of oneness that our forefathers intended it to evoke remains an unrealised courtesy of the ever present inequality in our society.
One very recent example of this inequality was the Mocha Fest events planned weeks in advance that had gone seemingly unperturbed and undisturbed by the authorities. For those who don't already know, Mocha Fest is an annual week-long urban festival that usually takes place in Negril, Jamaica.
According to the Disaster Risk Management Act (DRMA) which was implemented in lieu of the novel coronavirus pandemic, no event of this sort should be held, whether by locals or otherwise as it is literally a matter of life or death. Associated sanctions and their effects are well known by local promoters and felt by their pockets as the entertainment scene has become arid, due to a dearth of events; gatherings of such sort are strictly prohibited. However, much to the chagrin of local party stakeholders, “foreign promoters” were in the process of hosting a whole festival for tourists and would have succeeded without penalties if the local uproar was any less potent.
Up to this point, the Government and Government-run agencies within the tourism sector have denied any knowledge of such festival. The Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) also maintains that no permission was given to Rick's Cafe to host such an event. However, irrespective of whether or not either entity is to be believed; the events have already happened. In our native tongue, “It dun gwaan bad already.”
The establishment has also offered its apologies to the country, but it is no different from a case of a child stealing a bicycle then praying for forgiveness rather than praying for a bicycle. The rationale being that forgiveness (and in our case forgetfulness as well) comes easier than doing the right thing. Surely, there will be sanctions but that too is besides the point. The point is prejudice and other forms of inequality are too prominent in our society for it to be unified. We have heard of several cases of locals trying to have events of a lesser magnitude and in less prominent places (even in wooded areas) which have drawn the ire of the authorities, who have not only locked down the events and imposed fines but have treated locals with disrespect.
If we persist to segregate and attribute allowances based on status, how can we ever be one people? Our motto speaks to inclusivity despite background and it was coined by the forefathers who apparently knew better than us. They knew of the strength in unity and made it their point of duty to create a motto that promotes exactly that.
The truth is, we acknowledge the significance of our tourists as they constitute the framework for our largest industry. Therefore, it only makes sense that our tourists be awarded the liberties they have sought out in our country. However, these special treatments ought not to be granted at the expense of our locals. If the law says no parties, the rules need not be bent to facilitate foreign interests unless otherwise specified.
It appears that we are only unified in outrage and displeasure when the prejudices we perpetuate enable events like these to happen. I hereby call upon our locals and opinion leaders to consider what it means to be one people and proceed to treat each other accordingly.
Hugh Graham is Member of Parliament for St Catherine North Western, and Chief Executive Officer of Paramount Trading Jamaica Ltd.
Now you can read the Jamaica Observer ePaper anytime, anywhere. The Jamaica Observer ePaper is available to you at home or at work, and is the same edition as the printed copy available at https://bit.ly/epaper-login