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A purely analytical perception...


Jamaica
The Geography

Errol Flynn said it most aptly said it; Jamaica was where the folks who wrote the Bible ''got their descriptions of Paradise.''

The Caribbean islands stretch like an arc from the tip of Florida to the western most reaches of Venezuela in South America. The islands are divided into two groups called The Greater Antilles and The Lesser Antilles. The Greater Antilles makes up the northern most islands and includes among others, Cuba, Hispaniola, Puerto Rico and Jamaica. The Lesser Antilles: include all of the islands south of Jamaica. Those islands in which English is the official language are normally members of the English Commonwealth and are known generically as the West Indies.

Although the Atlantic surrounds the territory, the body of water in which these island lie is called the Caribbean Sea. At the epicenter of the Caribbean Sea stands Jamaica which is the largest of the English Speaking West Indian Islands and the third largest island in the Caribbean behind Cuba and Hispaniola, having an area of 4,411 square miles.  Because of its location at the geographic center of the Caribbean Sea, Jamaica strategically lies within the sea routes from the United States and Europe to the Panama Canal.

Two thirds of the area of Jamaica is covered by cave riddled limestone. So far over 1000 caves have been discovered with the deepest on located at the abyss of Morgan’s Pond. That cave is over 500 feet deep. The record for the long cave is held by one by the Bourie and its length is better that than 2 miles. Early buccaneers found that the cave belt which extended throughout the country was an excellent place to hide their booty. Today people from all over the world are exploring these underground caverns while enjoying this tropical paradise.  However, that is the good news, Jamaica is the world leader in percentage of deforestation.

Most probably, in prehistoric times the mountain range whose peaks make up the islands was a land bridge connecting North and South America. The Spanish historian, Andres Bernaldez put Christopher Columbus's thoughts in perspective as he first witnessed Jamaica; " It is the fairest island eyes have beheld; mountainous and the land seems to touch the sky; very large; bigger than Sicily, has a circumference of 800 leagues, and all full of valleys and fields and plains; it is very strong and extraordinarily populous; even on the edge of the sea as well as inland it is full of very big villages, very near together, about four leagues apart." In reality the date was May fourth and the year was 1494. He claimed the place for Their Catholic Majesties, Ferdinand , Isabella of Spain. The natives that Chris found on the island called it Xaymaca which in English meant, wooded land of water.

THE HISTORY

Chris Columbus

Chris also thought he had discovered the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow and so informed his benefactors back in Europe. Although Chris didn't have it all together, his public relations piece played well to the crowd at the court in Spain and its heavy duty investors, Ferdinand and Isabella were overjoyed with his statements and initiated a slave trade in order to get out all of the gold as quickly as possible. .  In 1540, after Columbus had died, his estate was awarded what is now the country of Jamaica for all of the exploring and conquering he had done in the name of Spain.  By this time all of their efforts to find anything of value in the country had failed and they began pulling up stakes. They probably figured they owed the guy something for gambling that he was going to drop off the ends of the earth and giving him Jamaica wasn’t that big of deal once they found that there was nothing there.

As they were occupied with wars and revolutions elsewhere they couldn't drop by and it was another 146 years when Juan de Esquivel from Santo Domingo in 1509 that it became occupied. Well not exactly, in reality, the Arawaks or Tainos had been living there for some time living in huts, sleeping in hammocks and making their way in the world by fishing. The land was bountiful and the women raised cassava, sweet potatoes, corn and cotton. The Spanish people didn't respect these folks at all and made them slaves.

If You Are Going To Be A Slave, Do It right!

The Arawaks weren't really good a being slaves and it took a great deal of punishing of them to have them toe the mark. In spite of Spanish patience, they just couldn't get their act together and for the most part had been wiped out within fifty years. The Spanish didn't spend a lot of time fretting over the demise of sixty-thousand people and sent an order to Spain for reinforcements. The order was filed within the allotted time and replacements arrived from Africa shortly thereafter.  As soon as the new slaves arrived, the Spanish began to have them look for gold and other precious metals in earnest, but literally nothing of value was to be found. Spain tended to lose interest at that point in Jamaican affairs.

Oliver Cromwell in 1655 decided that it would be a good idea to capture the island of Hispaniola and when General Venables, his commander could not take the city of Santo Domingo, they gave up in disgust. Not wanting to report back to Cromwell that he had failed he sailed on to Jamaica and thinking that Cromwell would not know the difference, laid siege to the island and luckily for him the Spanish defenders  surrendered . He gave them a short time to pack their bags and for the most part they headed for Cuba. In spite of the fact that the Spanish literally surrendered on the spot, the battle has gone down in history as biggest ever fought on Jamaican territory. However, there haven’t been a lot of battles fought here by warring nations because other than the bauxite and magnificent beaches, there is little of natural value. Moreover, some of the fights between street gangs in Kingston have produced a lot more dead people that this one did.

The English Arrive

Now that the English had the island they found that they didn't know what to do with it either. Not only did the English commander of the island who soon died of fever and most of the sailors and soldiers who garrisoned there met the same fate.

Well, the English believed that in spite of the fact that they themselves couldn't find much use for the island, the Spanish were just ornery enough to want it back and with what resources that were left, they started constructing fortifications. Well it turned out that the Spanish hadn't all fled to Cuban and a Don Cristobal Arnaldo de Ysassi, the man the Spanish had appointed governor of the island,  came storming out of the interior leading a rag-tag band of Spanish zealots. With the English fortifications facing seaward they thought the element of surprise would be in their favor. At the same time, the Spanish from Cuba also joined the fray but ultimately General Doyley the English commander was able to destroy the opposing forces in what was to become the biggest battle ever fought on Jamaican territory. Ysassi slunk back into the Jamaican jungles and held out until most of his comrades defected and he grabbed a passing canoe and left permanently this time for Cuba.

Now firmly in command the English began to set up shop. Doyley as a reward for his victories against the Spanish was appointed governor of the island and English citizenship was granted to the children of those born of subjects in Jamaica. The more than 4,000 people living on the island were also allowed to vote for their own leaders by Royal Proclamation.  In the meantime, there were a lot of decedents of the slaves that the Spanish had requisitioned and they were cluttering up the territory. In a number of pitched battles, the English more than met their match and determined that the Maroons as they were called could under the right circumstances indeed make good neighbors and a peace treaty was initialed by all concerned.

Who Is Going To Handle The Hard Labor Now?

With the Maroons being treated as equals, the English were fresh out of people to do their work for them and needed hearty folks to till the soil, cut the sugar cane and cultivate the coca. It was now their turn to requisition slaves from Africa. Spanish Town was now the capital of the country and the colony had forty-five new laws along with and the Pirate, Henry Morgan became Lieutenant-Governor. There was booty to be had by all and the residents were warm in their hearts that Morgan was one of them who immediately upon becoming ensconced in his job, captured the city of Panama, plundered it and burnt it to the ground. You see, England had learned that the best incentive that they could give to people was the license to steal in the name of the crown. This allowed their duly licensed mercenaries to kill, pillage, maim and rob provided the crown got it’s agreed upon share. By pillaging everything in sight the British were also able to keep unwanted visitors out of their territories.

In 1690 the British slaves became unhappy and they first had a tantrum and then a rebellion. For the most part, those that survived the rebellion took to the woods and mountains where they joined the Maroons and blended into the scenery. The British were now totally without good help. Their minds were soon taken away from that problem when an earthquake totally destroyed Port Royal, the city known as one of the wickedest places on earth. You see this is where the Assembly was now meeting, it was where the buccaneers took the booty to be inventoried and it was the most modern place in the new world having houses that were made only of stone.  As most of the city sank beneath the sea, one resident who was rumored to have been the oldest person on the island remarked that there were many similarities between the end of Port Royal and that of the end suffered by Sodom and Gomorra. Many of the natives, despite never having heard of Sodom and Gomorra, shook their heads in agreement.   However, after the city had finished sinking into the sea a tally of the damage was made and it was determined that over 2,000 had been killed and the entire commercial area of the city was not substantially submerged.

The few residents that hadn't been drowned, crushed or burnt to death tried to make the best of a bad hair day and attempted to restore the city to its former glory. Several years later, a fire broke out in a downtown warehouse and ravaged everything that was left but the stone forts.

A Losing Battle

The loss of Port Royal and the Buccaneers was by no means the end of the Jamaican economy. By this time, there were large estates on which sugar, cocoa and would you believe sarsaparilla, were being grown and horses, cattle and pigs had made their appearance. Moreover, England had found a replacement for the slaves by emptying their prisons of murderers, rapists and thieves, and sent them to the new world. Although it was ultimately possible for these men to regain their freedom, the work was backbreaking and their treatment was similar to that meted out to the blacks that had been brought over from Africa.  Some of those blacks had come down out of the mountains to go back to work stating that "as long as they were getting three squares a day, it was better than eating the weeds in the mountains."

With the destruction of Port Royal complete, the British needed a new capital and chose the land that ultimately became Kingston. Because it was so carefully chosen, Kingston became one of the earliest of what later became known as planned communities. It was not long before Kingston had become an important city. In the midst of this revival, the French, who were at war with the British, struck Jamaica.  Although eventually driven off, the French grabbed over a thousand working slaves and destroyed a substantial number of plantations. In 1702, Admiral Benbow caught the French fleet out in the open and attacked. Two of his captains, who were not in the mood, determined to cut and run, embarrassing the heck out of the British Navy and they were shot to death on the spot. This didn't make things any better for Old Benbow, who died shortly thereafter and was buried in the Kingston Parish Church. You can see him there today.

Things got a tad quiet around these parts until 1720 when two of the best buccaneers that ever slit a throat died, Blackbeard and Charles Vane, had gone to their maker. The natives around these parts remarked that things were never quite the same again. As long as these folks were dead and privateering was no longer in vogue, acting governor, Sir Nicholas Lawes, determined to get rid of the last of the privateers, “Calico Jack” Racham. Calico Jack  was a rather strange dude and had at best what could be described as a very mixed crew. It seems that when Lawes’ pinched Racham and his men in a sneak attack that really caught them napping, they also pinched two of his most ardent followers, women disguised as men. In one for Believe It or Not, Anne Bonney and Mary Read had both signed on with Calico Jack as able seamen and these girls had more than held their own when the real pillaging needed to be done. They could pillage with the very best, and not one of the other men knew that they were really women. Some say that Calico Jack knew but no one was every really sure because all of his men were hanged immediately and they didn’t speak a lot after that. However, in deference to their sex, Anne and Mary were allowed to rot in jail where they died a natural death, if that is what you call it when you die in a cell. Rackham was publicly hung and placed on display as evidence as to how pirates would be treated in this area. However, in his honor they named the spot, Rackham’s Cay in respect for his memory. Or maybe out of respect for his ability to disguise two attractive women as men for years without anyone ever catching on.  

From there on in, things started to slide downhill. The Maroons, which is derived from the Spanish word “cimarron,” meaning “wild and untamed”  broke the peace treaty and killed a substantial number of British citizens, a drought hit the area and the crops wouldn't grow, and in 1722 to cap it all off a hurricane blew through the island and pulverized it. Someone said that the island was in a rut and there was not a lot of optimism in general. Not wanting the inhabitants to become dejected, Major General Hunter, then the Governor, brought two detachments of troops over from Gibraltar to go after the Maroons, who were now becoming a pain in the butt. When it was found out by intelligence that a woman named Nanny was leading the revolt, the General became enraged. He was determined to rid the island of this problem and promptly reinforced his troops by contributing to the Jamaican Militia bloodhounds imported from Scotland and highly trained hand to hand combat experts, the Mosquito Indians.  When they arrived from Nicaragua they went out to corral the Maroons in manner reminiscent of an old English foxhunt. Maybe with this kind of fighting force he could do the old biddy in. They attacked a place appropriately named Nanny Town, which is where Nanny lived with her cohorts. Eventually the British were able to destroy the city, but with a tremendous loss of life among their fighters.

A Somewhat Unfair Advantage

The British were not doing well in Jamaica at all. The fact that blacks outnumbered whites by a ratio of 14 to 1 was not the only problem that they were facing. A strange thing happened, the Maroons were at this point in 1739 were lead by a military commander by the name of Cudjoe. Cudjoe was just about to pack everything in when the British, suffering from about every known disease and losing countless men every day, asked for a peace treaty. Cudjoe was naturally startled, but played his cards close to the vest and was able to extract a set of pretty fair terms. The Maroons were given domination over whatever of their land would be considered “traditional,” i.e., historically theirs,  and they were also given the right to effectuate their own law on this territory. In exchange, they would stop attacking the Brits and they would stop recruiting British slaves for their army. Moreover, should Jamaica be attacked by a foreign power, the Maroons would join the British in fighting them off. To the Maroons this seemed a deal made in heaven, and they quickly agreed to all of its terms. The Maroons for the most part kept their word and the deal was sealed. However, that only solved a small part of the total problem that the British had in these parts.   Things were quiet again until 1760 when the remaining slaves rioted and seized the town of Port Maria. The murdered as many whites as they could and made a good old time of it until they were overwhelmed by British Regulars. Six-hundred were deported to British Honduras, four-hundred were killed and the ringleaders were tortured to death English Style. 

The British became complacent by the time 1760 rolled around, having ridded themselves of their most fearsome enemy. The seemed to have forgotten about the evil Coromantee’s. Those folks had a chieftain who ate nails for breakfast by the strange name of Tacky. Tacky really didn’t like the British one whit, and got together a small band of ragged slaves and then proceeded to attack the British military supplies located at Port Maria. The British crumbled like a house of cards and the Coromantee’s had become more successful than they could have dreamed. For the first time, the British would be now be fighting an insurrection where their opponents had British weapons including muskets and all of the ammunition they could carry. Tacky’s troops tarried not and as they picked up steam they also picked volunteers by the wagonload. For no particular reason, the British were not particularly well liked among the natives.

The British, fearing the worst, went ballistic and not only called out just about every available man they had on the island,  but also called on the Maroons to keep their blood oath, which in case your forgot, to help them should they need it. The Maroons were good to their word and the British and Maroons met the Coromantee’s at Spanish Town in a battle that later was referred to as the Easter Monday Rebellion. Tacky was a better talker than fighter and was killed early on.  Seeing their leader fall, almost all of the rest of their warriors lost heart and valiantly committed suicide rather than face the lousy food that they had heard that was served in English Jails. However, there were still pockets of resistance and a large number of people died before the insurrection was totally brought under control.  All this fighting made the British are very sorry they ever heard of this place. Moreover, Jamaica by this time has surpassed Barbados as the biggest British outpost in the region and of course the Brits had already gone beyond the point of no return. They were now stuck, to say the least. Not much else happened other than the killing and fighting that would flare up now and again but one important event did occur. In 1778 some misguided person brought akye fufo to a festive meal in Jamaica one day and everyone liked it so much that it soon became the national dish. It may be better known as Ackee.

Once again people settled in and were interrupted in 1778 by the war between England and France. A French fleet made short work of the West Indies as the British were otherwise occupied by rebellious colonists in the states. Sure that there would be an attack on Jamaica, Horatio Nelson was made Governor of Fort Charles in Port Royal. This appointment came none to soon as the French probably hearing about it stayed clear of the island. On the other hand, there was a small revolution in France that had to be dealt with.

During the next decade or so the British had their minds totally directed to  trying to drive, not only  the French, but also the Spanish out of the region. The reason that this was getting some press was the fact that they were alternatively blockading the island, making it difficult to get three squares a day there. You see, nothing much was being produced and most of the food that was fed the British Garrison had to be imported. In a series of rapid moves, the British started the natives growing Mangos, corn, yams, nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon and coffee as an alternative to starving to death. Moreover, none other than Captain William Bligh sails in unannounced right out of a fog bank, and arrives with breadfruit, jackfruit and otaheite apple plants. In the meantime he takes the Jamaican pineapple plants to the South Seas talking about making the exchange that helped create the fabled Hawaiian pineapple industry. As the story goes, Bligh left Hawaii and then sailed into oblivion, but not before he had made his mark on Jamaica.

However, without killing, maiming and burning, things seemed slow here, so in 1795 the Maroons, having nothing better to do on a Saturday night, attacked the British. Nah, just kidding, in reality, a couple of loyal Maroons grabbed a couple of runaway slaves in the Trelawney district and for some reason or other the British got pissed. They whipped the Maroons within an inch of their lives and in front of their captives to boot. Now everyone was mad. The captives for getting caught, the Maroons for getting beaten with whips, and British because a number of them had developed the gout from the rich Jamaican food. Talks between the two sides led nowhere and things began to fall apart with both sides saying evil things about the other. Eventually things got worse primarily because the British had installed the highly sensitive Earl of Balcarres as the Governor of the Island. He was very unhappy at being assigned what he called a god-forsaken spot at the end of the earth where they didn’t even have a workable cricket field. A war began in earnest and quickly spread throughout the entire island. After five years of fighting with a substantial number of casualties the British were able to overcome most of the Maroons and exiled them to Sierra Leone, a fate at that time even worse than death.

The Hateful French Rear Their Ugly Heads

France and England began another war in 1805 and Martial Law was proclaimed in Jamaica. The French sent a fleet into West Indian waters to divert the British by threatening to pillage the towns and cities. This threat was short lived when Lord Nelson ate their lunch in the Battle of Trafalgar. The British Parliament at the same time absolved the Slave Trade between Africa and Jamaica.  It was estimated by some that from the time that Jamaica came under English domination until this act was passed, over one-million blacks were imported from Africa. At the time of the abolition, there were slightly over 300,000 slaves on the island.

France having been decimated by revolution and the Spanish by virtue of losing every war they ever fought no longer provided threats to Jamaica in particular or the  West Indies in general. Although this appeared to be good news on the surface, in reality it wasn't. Jamaica was located in a strategically important crossroads and thus, the British kept it well fortified and well manned. These expenditures from home greatly aided the economy in bad times was disappearing. No less a loss was the commerce in goods to the Spanish Ports that had been blockaded by the British. This source of income was even greater than the former and with a feeling in peace in the air, clandestine operations of almost all sorts were no longer the order of the day.

Other changes, perhaps more subtle were also taking place. Now that there was no longer an endless stream of slaves available to plantation owners, it was no longer economic to work them to death. With their value rising and the amount of work that they did falling, the slaves started to get some rights along with a degree of economic muscle. They were given small pieces of land on the plantations to work one day in twenty as their own. They could sell whatever they produced beyond their needs. Thus, the more industrious of them soon were able to buy themselves and their children out of slavery. This was the advent of the freeman.

 

Simon Bolivar No Less

The next milestone in Jamaican slavery occurred in 1816 not long after the time that Simon Bolivar, the Liberator of Spanish Central America, was given political immunity by the Duke of Manchester, who entertained him royally. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the Government rescinded the regulation that a slave owner had to pay a tax of one-hundred pounds in order to free a slave. This, the government determined would tend to control the number of slaves that would be released at any given time.

In spite of the gradual  erosion of slavery in Jamaica, things weren't moving fast enough and in 1831 a major insurrection occurred in St. James and spread throughout the Island. The English were becoming easier on the slaves than were the Jamaican landowners and the slaves interpreted this as meaning that they had been freed. Whether started rightly or wrongly, this insurrection was the beginning of the end of slavery in Jamaica. In 1833 the Abolition Act was passed that stated that all children under six years of age would be set free. In the meantime, an "apprenticeship" was ordained for all other slaves and they were to remain in servitude from 1834 until 1840 when they to would receive freedom. To make the cheese more binding, the British Government threw in a prize that could not be equaled, almost 6 million pounds to be compensation to be divided between all of the slave-holders in Jamaica.   Slave-holders in Jamaica, in spite of being well paid, did not like the abolition shoved down their throats and took their animosity out on the slaves. The British Parliament in a reaction to this mistreatment cut two years off of the apprenticeship and slavery was abolished as of 1838.

Read My Lips, No More Slave Trade

Nothing much happened until 1807 and that was not unusual. However, in that year the British Parliament abolished the slave trade effective in the following years. However, this made little difference because the British used nominees in their stead and were able to hold on to their ever increasing stable of free workers. Nevertheless, with a push by the Quakers, in 1823 along with the pushing by a number of prominent  abolitionists,  the British finally put the heel to the wheel and got something accomplished. “Parliament decided to gradually abolish slavery with a series of amelioration measures: a fee day for slaves to sell produce, religious education, and the eradication of whipping in the field. While this seemed to be a step in the right direction, the Jamaican Assembly refused to go along with the British mandate. Now this is really something else. Sounds like an insurrection or something even worse, but I guess that the colonials really needed people to work endlessly in the field for no pay and without the benefit of religion. Talk about being really bad guys. However, in as a move toward baby steps, Jamaicans of mixed heritage, who were dubbed “mulattos,” were given all of their rights in 1830. It would seem that if you had a little piece of British Blood you could vote and own land, but if you didn’t you were dirt.

A year later a fellah by the name of Sam Sharpe, feeling that the blacks weren’t getting a fair shake decided to lead a strike to peacefully during Christmas Week to protest their actions. The British were not firm believers in fact that striking especially during Christmas and were not sure that it was allowed under their rules of engagement. Considering the fact that Christmas was a festive season here for the British and what is festivity without servants, they determined to express their anger in a way that would send a strong message. They constructed a gallows in the middle of the main square in downtown Montego Bay. They then lined up hundreds of strikers and hung them one at a time until hundreds had perished. Among those killed by the British was Sam Sharpe and the place he was killed is still known as Sam Sharp Square in his honor. Shortly after the hangings, the British House of Commons passed a bill that would end slavery, however, it was far too late to help Sharp at that point. However, the bill as it finally came down would only free slaves that were born after 1828 so in effect it did not affect any one in the current work force. However, even those that would be free would be obligated to spend approximately five-years in an apprenticeship before they were released from their obligations to the British. Moreover,  during that period, they would be obligated to work long hours for little or no pay. As they say, old ideas die a very hard death in the British Empire, these folks were trying eat their cake and have it as well and they were making unhappiness with their rule, the order of the day.  

The British highly concerned about who would do the work, in the 1840s turned toward a policy of bringing contract workers in from China, India and Africa to pick up the slack. The main bank in Jamaica failed and there is substantial concern about the economy. The new contract laborers are not treated much different that slaves and they start to become very unhappy with their lot. With their economy in shreds, their slaves being set free and  the contract laborers unhappy and in a rebellious mode, the British are now beside themselves trying to figure out what to do next.  

  The Ashanti Influence

Historically it is a good idea to analyze what the makeup of the slave population was at this time. There was an inherent intelligence in these people and the British were always saying that it was as if they knew something their captors did not. As slave trading picked up steam, the culture of Jamaica started to become a melting pot of the various civilizations from whence they had originated. No stronger influence was felt than that of the Ashanti’s who were most probably plucked from their homes in what was then known as the “Gold Coast” in Africa. Various historians began looking into the matter and were trying to get a fix on the socio-geographic background of the people making up the population here with the best history having been written by Reverend William James Gardner, a Congregational Minister who first came to the Island in 1849 and remained for the next quarter century. In 1873 in an attempt to pin down the Ashanti influence he wrote something that could just as well have come from the pen of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle:

Writing of the period that led up to the Anti-Slavery struggle of 1782, in his chapter on ‘Manners and Customs of the Inhabitants,’ Gardner describes what he calls the ‘social life of the slaves’, and tells us: ‘Little can be said with confidence as to the religious beliefs of these people. The influence of the Koromanytyns seems to have modified, if not entirely obliterated, whatever was introduced by other tribes. They recognized, in a being called Accompong, the creator and preserver of mankind; to him praise, but never sacrifice, was offered.’ Edward Long, the first historian of Jamaica, to go into such details, writing in 1774, expresses uncertainty concerning the source of these Koromanytyns. Unquestionably they came from the Gold Coast but he finds it impossible to determine whether their tribal habitat was some distance inland or not. Their classification as Akims, Fantis and Ashantis raises a doubt in his mind. It may signify the town of origin or the market where they were bought. However, he insists that the entire group are effectively banded together by their obeah-men who administer the oath or fetish. From our later knowledge, this fact alone would be sufficient to identify their leading spirits with the Ashanti. Long further informs us concerning these Koromantyns: “Their language is copious, and more regular than any other Negro dialects; their music too is livelier, and their dances entirely martial.’ And again: ‘Their persons are well made and their features very different from the rest of the African Negroes, being smaller, amore of the European turn.’ And finally: ‘On many estates, they do not mix at all with the other slaves, but build their houses distinct from the rest.’ “

His reasoning seems most logical, but for some reason or other I do not quite get the drift. I am sure that he has made his point beyond much question, but I am not sure what we know now that is either valid or of continuing interest. I have met the ruling Ashanti’s that are now ensconced in Ghana, literally every one of them  from the King on down. These are highly intelligent people, many of whom have been educated in the very best of schools in either England or the United States. We were very impressed with their grasp of internal and external events and if indeed the Jamaicans are descended from the like of these folks, they have much to be proud of in the background and it is a superb culture.  

Three Square A Day and Pay Beside

August 1, 1838 became freedom day for the slaves and Queen Victoria, who had recently ascended the British Throne, became the people's hero.  Now that  wages had to be paid to the slaves, the economics of farming cotton or sugar came into question.  The English helped support the newly freed slaves with donations and the landholders, not believing they were getting enough bang for their buck started to bring in East Indian's to do farm work.  During this period Jamaica constructed its first intra-island railroad, which went from Kinston to Angels, a distance of fifteen miles. There wasn't much happening in Angels and they didn't produce anything so that while the railroad was an artistic success, the economics were dismal.

Furthermore, it was at this time that the British Government established global free-trade which meant in essence that countries that still supported slavery and that weren't in the Commonwealth were free to sell their "subsidized" produce directly to Britain. Naturally this caused a panic throughout the West Indies and the Jamaican Banking system went into a state of suspended animation after the collapse of its biggest banks. The Bank run was accompanied by an unrelated outbreak of cholera taking 32,000 lives and Port Royal took an especial hard hit.  An equal number of people of done in by smallpox which broke out two years later. Naturally everyone blamed the Crown for these events. The country was broke and England was forced to advance Jamaica five-hundred thousand pounds to help them make ends meet.

.Fat was trimmed, excesses were eliminated and some degree of prosperity returned along with Jamaica's first postage stamp in 1858 followed by  its first telegraph system in 1859. This for some inexplicable reason was followed by a religious revival which didn't take long to degenerate into superstitious practices bordering on black-magic. The American Civil War and the various delicacies so loved by the Islanders were cut off while a drought in Jamaica caused much hardship internally.

Just A Minor Rebellion

Edward John Eyre become the new Governor General of Jamaica in 1864. Sadly for the people of Jamaica, Eyre is a substantive bigot that down deep, for whatever reason really hates black people. He resists giving the slaves any benefits whatsoever and seems to be rubbing salt in open wounds with whatever new legislation he proposes. Things become so unbearable under his leadership that the blacks put together a petition which lists their grievances. The petition which recites chapter and verse the problems that Eyre has brought to the colony are sent to the Queen Victoria of England as a last resort. The always helpful Queen who for the most part lives secluded from reality, reads the petition and writes a memorandum on the subject which became known as the Queen’s Letter. Amazingly Victoria who was not the brightest of the British Monarchs indicates that “hard work is the best remedy for the condition of poor blacks.” This letter is posted all over the country by Eyre who has found a major by daft champion in the queen.  

These actions lead to the rebellion that took place in the 1860's that caused wide scale destruction of property and took many lives. The people gather and eventually go after the police station in Morant Bay after their leader is arrested. They take a large number of rifles and bayonets where they set fir to the courthouse and kill a number of British soldiers. The uprising is lead by a Black Preacher by the name of Paul Bogle who is eventually hanged along with a number of his followers in the square at Morant Bay. However, by this time, the Government of the Colony has become so upset over their inability to handle that matter that they gave up over two-hundred years of power and asked that the British Crown take possession of the colonies political affairs. The British sent Sir John Peter Grant over to take care of the situation with the title of Governor. He arrived with excellent credentials as he was had been a major administrator in India. He immediately re-organized the legislative set-up in the Colony along with a revamped police force and court system.

Grant brings a semblance of order to these chaotic conditions and in 1869 a cable reached Jamaica from Europe and direct communications became possible for the first time. A government savings bank, island medical services, botanical garden as well as public works are established. And the capital of the country is moved to Kingston from Spanish Town. The railroad was extend a piece and now went as far as Old Harbor. There wasn't much in Old Harbor, but the people were proud of their achievement and would go to Kingston on Saturday Nights just to watch the motorman blow the engines whistle, a stirring experience for all. Of greater importance, a college for the higher education of Jamaican youths was established and the Rio Cobre Irrigation Works were begun and in 1875, a street car system was started in Kingston.

The Railroad was extended to Porus in 1885 and later that year to Ewarton while the throngs cheered and for some unknown reason an American Syndicate bought the line. . Smallpox broke out again and five hotels were opened to accommodate the expected tourist boom. Not too many foreigners visited Jamaica that year because the timing between the opening of the hotels and the smallpox epidemic were not well thought out.

In 1893, elementary education became free and mandatory while the American Syndicate extended the railroad to Montego Bay and shortly thereafter to Port Antonio. Sir Henry Blake oversaw the construction of a substantial number of bridges, tunnels and roads in the country and communications between areas had become greatly improved. .Regular steamship traffic was inaugurated by Imperial Direct Line and with direct service to England. This main thrust of this activity was to open a market for Jamaican bananas which were not in any kind of demand.

A Touch of the Weird

Mysticism was abundant in Jamaica in the late 1800’s and various strange phenomena were constantly being reported in books and papers. One of the groups of people that were given credit for most of the mostly nocturnal activities were the duppies, shadow like figures that were really just into causing trouble. To get a picture of life in Jamaica during that period we are going to give a small quote from Reverend Abraham J. Emerick, a missionary who was born in Falmouth, Pennsylvania and worked in Jamaica from 1895 until 1905. The incident that he reported apparently occurred shortly after he first arrived.

“One of the favorite pastimes of the duppies is stone-throwing. Reports of persons and places being stoned by duppies are very common. My first experience of stone-throwing duppies was rather startling and trying. It happened soon after my undertaking the mountain missions on the north side of the island, and before I was acquainted with the habits of the people and knew anything about their superstitions and occult practices. One evening after dark, I was on my way to Alva mission, situated at a lonesome spot on a hill in the Dry harbor Mountains. I was met by a crowd about a mile away from the mission. They said the duppies were up there at night throwing stones; that the duppies had stoned the teacher away from the Alva school. It seems that the stone-throwing had been going on for a week or more before my arrival. For several nights crowds went up to the old Alva school, not far from the church on the mountain spur partly surrounded by a deep ravine covered with thick bush. The teacher of the school, a certain Mr. D. lived in two rooms that overlooked the declivity. Every night the crowd was there, stones were thrown from various directions, but most of them seemed to come from the bush-covered ravine. What mystified the people most and made them believe and say, as did the teacher and the most intelligent store-keeper in the district, that the stones were thrown not by human hands but by spirits, was that those who were hit by the stones were not injured, and that some of the stones which came from the bushy declivity, after smashing through the window turned at a right angle and broke the teacher’s clock, glasses, etc. on a sideboard.

In spite of the dreadful stone-throwing duppies, I went up to the hill followed by a crowd. I found the school building littered with stones, broken windows and a generally smashed-up, sure-enough ghost-haunted place. The story of the stone-throwing, which I afterwards put together amounted to this. On a Saturday night Mr. D. and a hired girl notice a suspicious person lurking around the premises. They became frightened, left the place, and returned later with a man by the name of H. who brought a gun with him. They were not long in the school building before stones began to fall here and there in different rooms, at first one by one but gradually very plentifully. They ran away in fright and with the stones pelting after them as they ran. H. turned around once and fired , pointing his gun in the direction from which the stones were coming. As he did so, a stone flying from the opposite direction hit him the back of the neck. The stone-throwing followed them into the house to which they fled for refuge about a quarter of a mile away. They. With the family living in the house, made a gathering of six or seven or more. Stones were fired into this house and broke a number of things on the sideboard, but no one could tell from where the stones were coming. Some of them seemed to come in the open door, turn around and fall at the teacher’s feet. One of the persons marked a stone and threw it out saying: “If him be a true duppy, him will throw this stone back.” This marked stone was said to have been thrown back, proving that the stone-thrower was a true duppy. A while after they went to bed, the stone-throwing ceased.”

You can not fault anyone for thinking the duppies had done the evil deed, but it was more likely to have been one or more students that were not to happy with their teacher that determined to pepper the school with rocks in exchange for a punishment that had received. Naturally, the Jamaicans blamed the duppies that were an historic whipping boy in these parts. Whenever something untoward happened in these mountains, the duppies did it and having said that everyone felt much better.

A Small Earthquake In The Wrong Place

Things remained quiet through 1907 with the only thing of any passing importance being the destruction of the entire city of Kingston by earthquake. Nothing was left upright, fires ravaged the city for days and hundreds were killed.   Starvation was averted by quick assistance from The Imperial Government. The American squadron steamed into Kingston Harbor shortly after the disaster and offered aid. There were soldiers wearing guns and the Governor did not want armed men milling about his country and denied them access. As a result, substantially more were killed in the earthquake than need be.  A story written about the earthquake by a person on the scene might be of interest:

“Early in December, 1906, I first visited Jamaica, where I planned staying a couple of months. On January 14th, the day of the disastrous earthquake, I was returning from the north side of the island, driving by way of Mount Diabolo and I arrived at the Ewarton Railway Station about an hour before the starting time of the train that was to carry me back to Kingston.

The day was unusually tropical for that season of the year in Jamaica, with a cloudless sky, and what was really strange, at a time when the Trade Winds should have been at their height, not a breath of air was stirring. One could almost feel the stillness, and the brightness of the sunshine was imply dazzling. As I reached the station platform, a gentleman and a young lady were attracting much attention. They were brown people of the mulatto type, well dressed and with every indication of refinement. But the young lady, who, I should judge, was about twenty-five years of age, had become hysterical. She was wringing her hands, and between convulsive sobs kept repeating: “Father, we should never have left home to-day. I told you that something dreadful is going to happen.”

The gentleman naturally showed great embarrassment as he vainly strove to quiet his daughter who kept repeating in a mechanical sort of way that she knew that something dreadful was going to happen. Finally, her father led her away and I saw nothing more of either of them. But just about a half an hour after their departure, suddenly the ground began to tremble and to run-in waves with a crackling, sputtering sound similar to the disruption of a gigantic Leydan jar – an earthquake was upon us. Then as the tremors ceased, I glanced at my watch, the time was exactly eighteen minutes past three.

It was the following morning before I reached Kingston, and I found the city a mass of ruins with a ravaging fire still sweeping over the debris. More than a thousand persons had been killed outright and many hundreds of others were succumbing to their injuries. Amid the general confusion and excitement, I repeatedly heard stories of a weird prophet who, it was said, had passed along the city’s streets some hours before the disaster, sounding a cry of warning that had gone unheeded by the populace who had only laughed at him. Ordinarily, I would not have given any credence to these rumors which I could have classified with those numerous after-fact delusions to be expected on such occasions. But the memory of the strange scene at the Ewarton Station haunted me as it had baffled any explanation that I could offer. Consequently, I made it a point to inquire carefully from the least imaginative of my confreres and they were in agreement that they had heard the rumor many hours before the earthquake had happened.

Years later, this incident was reported in The Times of London for January 13, 1921, as follows: ‘It is noteworthy that in the forenoon of January 14, 1907, a man wearing a red mantle, who was regarded as an irresponsible person, made his appearance in Kingston warning the people that before evening Kingston would destroyed. At 3:30 p.m. Kingston, and in fact the entire island was visited by an earthquake of great magnitude which not only laid a large area of the capital in ruin but killed at least 2,000 persons.’”[1]

The author of that piece was a Boston College Graduate School professor by the name of Joseph J. Williams who later spent over six-years in Jamaica trying to track down the origins of that psychic phenomena. Even at that time, Jamaicans were used to growing ganja or marijuana. Many of these folks would suddenly arise from several hours of smoking grass and make a substantive proclamation. Naturally, now and again one of these pot heads was gong to be right. The good professor gave up a substantive period of his life trying to track down what in Jamaica would be considered the drug induced ravings of a person that should have on the funny farm instead in the middle of downtown Kingston.

However, back to the ranch. Mr. Sydney Oliver arrived shortly after the calamity and took over from the previous Governor. He went about trying to restore Kingston to its former vigor by rebuilding the destroyed building and lowering taxes. The Americans were relieved of when they found that there was absolutely no way to make money with the contraption. Taken over by the Jamaican Government, the railroad and it was extended to Clarendon with substantial fanfare.  During this period, just when things were starting to improve, a disastrous hurricane blew away much of the effort and for good measure destroyed the banana crop which really wasn't going anywhere anyway.

World War I

What came to be know as the Great War began in 1914 and Jamaica responded through a policy of national conscription by sending ten-thousand men to the front. By this time Jamaica was producing sugar, rum, tobacco, coffee and cocoa, all of which were well received in the war effort. During this time there was a consistent problem getting ships to carry the produce to the markets where they were required. On the other hand, this was a large war, but the big thing was the fact that some women property owner were given the right to vote. 

The war ended and the men came home and in 1925, the branch railway from Chapelton to Frankfield was opened and  the Hermitage Dam was begun which would be a two year effort. A banana cooperative was started and named the Jamaica Producers' Association as a sort of coop for mutual marketing of their mostly unsaleable banana crop. Government enthusiasm for the project was unbounded but to no avail. The flood of 1933 was far from helpful for the banana crop the nearly unlimited rainfall created on of the great droughts in Jamaican history when the gullies, water mains and dams burst sending the precious supply of water cascading into the ocean.

Modernization

In 1937, the Jamaica Progressive League brought up the subject of self government again and radio-telephone service was inaugurated between Jamaica, the Untied States, England, Canada, Mexico and Cuba. The following year a major strike occurs at Frome Westmoreland at the West Indies Sugar Company, where the workers are demanding the unheard of wages of $1 a day. The rebellion is crushed by authorities and there are many injured during the melee. However, the abortive strike results in the creation of the island’s first political parties and a trade union movement mystically appears.

World War II broke out with a vengeance in 1939 and the Governor instigated wage-price controls to prevent profiteering. Censorship of the press mails and telegraph was imposed for the first time in Jamaican history.  The United States worked out a deal with Britain to have air, army and naval bases in the territory. These bases provided substantial infrastructure to the Jamaican country. The airport that the United States build during that time is now the major airport in the country and the sea terminals are still actively being used by Jamaican ships and long-shore operators.

Another War

When World War II came to an end, a conference was organized in Montego Bay to talk about the uniting of the entire British West Indies under a single Federal Government. Representatives were sent by the Governments of all the territories, namely: Jamaica, Trinidad, Barbados, the Windward Islands, the Leeward Islands British Guiana and British Honduras, and the conference was presided over by the Right Hon. Arthur Creech Jones, Secretary of State for the Colonies. A Standing Committee to study the problem was appointed; it made a report, three years later, which was the basis for further debate in all the territories as to the desirability of federation. Nothing ever came of this idea and people tended to think of in the same breath as their banana industry. Radio Jamaica made their first broadcast about this time.

As a precursor of things to come, Jamaica’s George Rhoden wins the 400 meters in the London Olympic Games of 1948 and native son Herb McKenley finishes right behind him in second. However, one of the Country's greatest days came in 1952 at the Helsinki, Finland Olympics when Jamaica's team of Arthur Wint, Leslie Laing Herbert McKenley and George Rhoden won the 4 x 400 relay in world record time, as did Rhoden in winning the gold medal in the 400 meters. McKenley won silver medals in the 100 and 400 meters and Wint the silver in the 800 meters. Jamaica had become a force to be reckoned with in track and field events and was now giving the United States a substantial run for their money.

A Dread Disease

Poliomyelitis hit Jamaica in 1954 during an Industrial fair sponsored by the  Jamaica Manufacturers Association. World leaders attended for state visits but many called their trips short when informed of the epidemic. Soon thereafter, Princess Margaret spent five days in Jamaica during the course of her official tour through the British Caribbean and she opened the Morant Bay Hospital which was later named for her. In spite of the fact that the Jamaican’s still were harboring a grudge against the British Crown, and especially, Queen Victoria, the receive her with pomp and honors. To some degree as a result of that visit, in 1957 Jamaica received full internal self-government which meant a complete change of the political structure that had existed for almost three centuries. This change gave control of all internal matters to a Council of Ministers, called the Executive Council, nominated by the Governor on the recommendation of the Chief Minister, who now became known as Premier. This Parliamentary system was modeled on that of the United Kingdom. There were now ten Ministers instead of the nine under the 1953 Constitution. Also in 1957 the new Montego Bay International Air Terminal was officially opened to traffic in July , while in August the new 7,600 ft. runway at the Palisades Airport, near Kingston, was also opened. At the same time, Mr. Norman Manley, Q.C. became Premier of Jamaica.

In 1961 the Government opened the Bank of Jamaica and almost simultaneously at a referendum, Jamaica determined to withdraw from the Federation of West Indian Countries. This was one of the prime reasons that the Federation, dissolved shortly thereafter.  Britain agreed that Jamaica would have independence on August 6, 1962.

In 1972 The first Test Match of New Zealand's first tour of the West Indies ended on February 22 in a draw at Sabina Park. The Jamaican Lawrence Rowe set a record as the first batsman to score centuries in both innings on his Test debut: 214 and 100 not out. About that time, Michael Manley was sworn in as Jamaica's fourth Prime Minister and Jamaica had now seen childhood's end.  The following year saw universal free education and all school services were to be free as well. 

Manley Has Strange Ideas

Bauxite levies were increased and all countries mining bauxite in the country were obligated to make almost immediate payments.  "Democratic Socialism" was invented. Manley's foreign policy supported Puerto Rico's independence from the United States. He backed the African National Congress in South Africa and other liberation movements.

By the government and the people were told that it was to be the nation's new philosophy. There was no little concern over this as Manley and Fidel Castro were rather close and foreign governments were then of the opinion that Jamaica was going to be the next shoe to drop. Politics turned cold blooded and a State of Emergency was declared and 500 people were detained with no charges other than they may have belonged to an opposition party. 

Kaiser Bauxite Company and Reynolds Jamaica Limited both sold the Government pieces of their companies under substantial duress in 1977, shortly thereafter, Fidel Castro arrived for a six day official visit and Air Jamaica's showed a substantial profit for the first time.  Soon thereafter the Jamaica Labor Party changed their name to the Social Democratic Party and the International Monetary Fund could not come to terms with Jamaica on a substantial infrastructure loan. This was followed by an attempt by the Jamaican Government to reschedule the repayment of its national debt in the amount of $200 million.

Simultaneously, an overthrow was attempted of the Jamaican Government by JDF personnel. Many felt that the United States CIA was involved in this action. Numerous Jamaican military personnel were killed in the next several years under mysterious circumstances, but for some unknown reason, the Government of Jamaica was able to negotiate an IMF loan in the amount of $698 with flexible terms. Shortly thereafter, Jamaica broke off relations with Cuba. Mysterious deaths ceased and the Western world breathed a sigh of relief. President Regan of the United States paid a visit to the Island followed by the President of Germany and the President of Venezuela. Jamaica had indeed become the place to be. 

The Queen Arrives

Not one to miss a social opportunity, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II made Jamaica a place to visit in early 1983. It appeared that everything was stabilizing when the Government announced the devaluation of the Jamaican dollar and a call for new elections. For the first time in history, Manley's party somehow won every seat. The United States invaded Communist Grenada and called on Jamaica to act as police relative to the prisoners they were taking. As a good democratic neighbor, Jamaica responded in the affirmative.

In 1984, the Minister of Education, Dr. Mavis Gilmore launched the Primary School Textbook Scheme which assured all children attending primary schools of whatever textbooks that they would need without charge.   As usual, the Auditor General's Report shows substantial irregularities in most Government Departments.  The following year in an attempt to attract tourist an Anti-Litter Act was passed and implemented the following year.

Misery Loves Company

The following year and AIDS epidemic hit the country as Miguel de la Madrid of Mexico, President of Mexico and Dr. Auelt Masire of President of Botswana visited the country.  Hurricane Gilbert decimated the country the following year and a great number of people died. It traveled the full length of the Island and had winds of 160 miles per hour and more. Damage was so severe that other countries throughout the world came to Jamaica's assistance. That followed the heaviest earthquake to hit Jamaica in 30 years. Nature was not finished yet, when the storm had subsided, another and stronger earthquake again ravaged the country measuring 5.2 on the Richter scale. This may or may not have aided Michael Manley's return to office in 1989. The Jamaican dollar tanked and the Cabinet Ministers received substantial raises.

Nelson Mandela visited in 1991 with his Wife Winnie who had been accused of torturing people by throwing burning tires over them. Mandela stood by his wife until he left her shortly thereafter.  Shortly after Mandela's visit the Manley Government introduced a consumption tax that amounted to 10% on just about everything but the air the people were breathing. This operated something like a value-added tax.

In 1992, Michael Manley who was getting up there in years and who had a much younger wife started to develop prostate problems and resigned for reasons of health. Power 106, a new radio station went on the air, the Jamaica Record went bust and the Jamaica Herald took its place. The following year saw the sugar factories privatized and Marlene Ottey winning the gold medal in track at Stuttgart, Germany in the World Games.  For the first time tourism became the top foreign exchange earner bringing in close to $1 billion. Station CVM TV started and Pope John Paul came to visit. Love FM, a religious radio station went on the air to commemorate his visit.

In 1994 the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 940 which discussed the necessity of eliminating the government of Haiti from power. Jamaica contributed troops to that successful operation.  Whether or not this was a deal made in advance relative to Haiti, the United States Government under USAID provided Jamaica $10 million is assistance in 1994 which was intended to aid foreign exchange earnings, environmental quality improvement, the protections of natural resources and the promotion of family planning.  

THE PRESENT 

The Sun, the Water and The ???

As time rolled by, new folks became important in Jamaica and the growing Rastafarian movement soon  started to make itself a force to be reckoned with. The Rastafarians were a combination religious and social sect that had many unusual habits among them the excessive use of  pot or ganja as it was known in these parts.  The Rastafarian believes  considered the weed ganja an integral part of their culture and attempted to convince the government that people who wanted to smoke the stuff aught to be able to do it as long as they didn’t bother anyone else in the process. Marijuana had become the major cash crop here and although outlawed massive amounts had been successfully processed and shipped illegally to the United States for many years. Moreover, Jamaican police  had their hands full with unemployed Jamaican youngsters and a very serious number of other people who banded together in gangs engaged in the transshipping of cocaine. The government consensus seemed to be that Ganja should be legalized so that law enforcement officials could concentrate their time on what they considered to be more serious matters. P. J. Patterson, the prime minister indicated that he would follow the recommendation of Parliament on the matter and indicated that: “Clearly we are not considering making it legal for people to grow, sell and to export marijuana. It is for private use and it will confined to adults.”  If there had not been any adverse publicity at that point the matter would have ended but that was not to be the case.

However, The Jamaican Parliamentary Commission agreed with the fact that the police in the country were overworked and underpaid and could not be expected to chase innocent people that desired to smoke a joint now and again. “Administering the present laws as they apply to possession and use of small quantities of marijuana not only puts and unbearable strain on the relationship of the police with the communities, in particular the male youth, but also ties up the justice system and the work of the police, who could use their time to much greater advantage in the relentless pursuit of crack/cocaine trafficking.”  Moreover, the commission did not seem to be adverse to tourists while visiting the island being able to buy a reefer or two should they be in the need a pick-me-up. After all they said, “Visitors sometimes need to be made to feel comfortable as well”. However, the commission did not indicate how the ganja would be distributed to the island’s tourists but word had it that the Rastafarians had already made a pitch to get the concession in that they operated within a short distance of all of the country’s tourist hotels. 

This was about all the people from DEA in the United States had to hear in order to go totally ballistic. Moreover, Michael Koplovsky who works for the U.S. Embassy in Kingston was beside himself and said: “The U.S. government will consider Jamaica’s adherence to its commitments under the 1988 UN Drug Convention when making its determination under the annual narcotics certification review.” What he was saying in reality  was the fact that Jamaica could well be de-certified by the United States should they go ahead with this plan and indicating that the country under those circumstances would be deemed not to be making the required effort to stamp out drug trafficking. Should that happen, the plagues of the universe could be foisted on Jamaica in the form being cut off from money from organizations like the World Bank, The International Monetary Fund and possibly worst of all, the benefits provided by being a member of the Caribbean Basin Initiative. While Jamaica could keep a stiff upper lip all it wanted to, these installing these restrictions could well prove life threatening.

However, they were not about to be bullied and Stafford Neil the Jamaican Permanent Secretary of the Foreign Affairs Ministry said, “The Jamaican government has not yet decided whether it will accept or reject the recommendations.” However, this statement was interpreted by Washington bureaucrats to indicate that these folks were not going to succumb to our threats. One Jamaican government official said it they way it is: “This is a matter that will be decided by the Jamaican parliament and the island’s sovereign parliament will not be swayed by any external threats. Jamaica is a major exporter and trading in marijuana will continue to be a crime. The US is the major consumer and the US should attempt to curb demand at their end.”  The whole thing seems straight forward enough to me, Jamaica would continue to grow and export the stuff as long as the Americans had an appetite for it and it was up to them to control the demand. 

In the meantime, whether it becomes law or not, the Jamaican population leads the world in pot smoking per capita. The island is so laid back because most of the population is usually out of their head’s on the stuff.  I would think that this dispute, for many is the greatest advertising the country could ever hope to receive, it is like saying, “We already have the most beautiful island in the Caribbean, we have the region’s most beautiful women, we have the most beautiful beaches. Why don’t you come down here, relax on the beach and have a joint. When you wake up you will hardly remember your problems.  And remember, it is only a stone’s throw from the United States.

I spent myself have spent numerous vacations in Jamaica and have enjoyed the beaches, the sun, the water, the women and everything else about this magnificent place. I well remember the time when I was staying at the Hilton in Ocho Rios and there were a group of Rastafarians nearby, out of their heads on grass behind a fence between their enclosure and the hotel. One of them came over to me at the fence and said, “How would you like to rent the best boat in Jamaica and do a little fishing with me? They day was magnificent and the fact that he had obviously been smoking joints all day did not dissuade me from agreeing. My wife and I were put aboard a small boat that resembled the one pictures tell us Cleopatra must have used when going down the Nile. There was a green awning to beat back the early afternoon, the ocean was like glass and the weather was magnificent. He headed the boat offshore for a time and then put down a line with which to catch some fish. While we were waiting for a fish to bite we laid on pillows under the awning and were served delicious cold white win and cheese. I thought to myself that surely we had gone to heaven. We lulled in the sun thinking about little but the weather, the water and the beauty of it all. Eventually however, I remembered the fishing pole and could not recall seeing anything that even resembled a fish biting on it.

I suggested to my Rastafarian friend that perhaps a fish had eaten the bait and there was nothing left on the hook to attract our quarry. He admonished me by saying “No Mon, I would have known if that had happened” I was enjoying the day so much that I did not then inquire further into the matter but after another hour I began to wonder once again. This time after he gave me the same response I asked him to pull up the line so that I could see whether it had bait on it or not. I knew that he was not operating with a full deck and if we could only catch a nice fish that would complete the day. When he brought the line up there was not even a hook tied to the end of it, forget about the fact that there was no bait. “What are you doing trying to fish without even a hook?” I asked.    “Hey Mon” he said, “The fish here like to eat string. We soak the string in a material that makes them think it is a giant worm. When they grab it and start eating we let them swallow it for a time until they get nearer the boat and then we take a fishing net and pull them in. Today just must be a slow fishing day, yesterday we caught so many fish that way we couldn’t get them all into the boat.”  What was there to say to that? Who needed fish anyway and weren’t we were having a ball. “OK Mon,” I said, “put the line back into the water and maybe we will have some luck later.”  Believe it or not, I did this without taking a puff of that stuff. The day was great but I think our guide was having an even better time than we were.

When we pulled in I told him what a great trip it was, that I was not upset about not catching anything and that he had been the best fishing guide I ever had.  I think that Jamaica really is learning how to sell paradise and they don’t even have to make ganja legal to do it.

National Commission



Whereas there has been long and considerable debate in
Jamaica regarding the decriminalization or non-decriminalization of ganja in well-defined circumstances and under specific conditions,

Whereas differing views have been urged on the advisability of allowing the possession of specified quantities of ganja, its permissible use by adults within private premises, while continuing to prohibit its smoking by juveniles or by anyone on premises to which the public ordinarily has access,
Whereas some Groups have proposed that its use as a sacrament for religious purposes ought to be sanctioned,

Whereas there is a body of scientific opinion which attests to its medicinal qualities and clinical value,\

Whereas serious questions have been raised as to its impact on health, on patterns of social behavior, its implications for the economy and possible effects relating to crime and security,

Whereas there are international treaties, conventions and regulations to which Jamaica subscribes that must be respected,

In consideration thereof a National Commission is hereby established, with the following Terms of Reference:
(i) To receive submissions or memoranda, hear testimony, evaluate research and studies, engage in dialogue with relevant interest Groups, and undertake wide public consultations with the aim of guiding a national approach.

(ii) To indicate what changes, if any, are required to existing Laws or entail new legislation, taking account of the social, cultural, economic and international factors.

(iii) To recommend the diplomatic initiatives, security considerations, education process and programmed of public information which will need to be undertaken in the light of whatever changes may be proposed.

(iv) To consider and report on any other matter sufficiently related to the foregoing.

(v) To make such interim reports as it may deem fit and a final Report within a period of nine months from the first sitting.
September 2000




The Gangs

So the good news is the fact that these folks do a little pot now and again. The bad news is that Jamaica has become one of the largest drug transshipment spots in the world and has become home to violent thugs that will kill you just as easily as look at you. However, the gangs and the tourists don’t particularly clash because they each have their own turf. Most of the 2.5 million people of Jamaica alive in the southern part of the island near and around Kingston. Moreover, a mountain range literally cuts the island in two and in the northern sector is where the beaches and hotels that accommodate tourism are located.  While murder, drug dealing and violence had become a part of daily life on the southern side of the island, the tourists in the north could never have known that anything had occurred at all if it weren’t for the newspapers and television coverage of the events.  However, many of the natives that have been affected by these mini-civil wars that seem to pop up here every now and again have packed up and left. Nearly one-third of the population has immigrated elsewhere, primarily to the United States and many have become citizens. However, for the most part they are loyal to their families and regularly send money home. As a matter of fact, they send so much money back home that, next to tourism, the importation of money from abroad has become the second largest source of revenue for the country.

However, when things go bad in Kingston they really blow, but this is for a very unusual reason. The politicians in Jamaica are an unusually savvy group especially for the islands around these parts and have found new ways to galvanize their constituents to vote both early and often; for them. This was accomplished in one of the most unusual manners that I have ever encountered. As political parties waxed and waned here, each one while in office would take political funds and create massive subsidized housing projects. However, the rules relative to who could live in these dwelling had nothing at all to do with money, jobs or education. Occupancy was solely based on how the particular family had been voting in the past and how they were going to be expected to vote in the future. If they had shown exception loyalty to the party currently in office and were willing to give their wholehearted political allegiance to that party, they could be given a great place to life. However, each political party could only build so much because funds are always limited in this beautify but impoverished country. Eighteen of these enclaves have been created so far and they have now become know as garrison towns.

 

The only things seemingly missing are the castle and the mote. The people that live in these areas are similar to midlevel vassals and can be counted on to vote over and over again for the same officials, belong to the same gangs and share the same religious beliefs. When one of the gang members steps inside another gang’s turf with malice aforethought he is asking for trouble and it soon arrives in a usually deadly package. This caused the entire garrison community to become galvanized and what you will often occur soon becomes something a lot worse than  a really bad day at Black Rock. The fighting usually does not spread beyond the two warring neighborhoods, but the gang members are usually much better armed than the police and until the fighting stops of its own accord, it is usually the best thing to leave these folks to their own devices.

“The violence surged last weekend, after more than two months of clashes between gangs with rival political ties killed 37 people. Some say the unrest has already damaged the island's vital $1.3 billion tourism industry -- airlines and hoteliers are starting to report cancellations.  Jamaica's two main political parties created the country's fearsome gang culture in the 1970s, by organizing and arming criminals to intimidate voters in Kingston's poor neighborhoods. The gangs are largely focused on the drug trade, now, but most retain political ties. Prime Minister P.J. Patterson's party and the opposition accuse each other of orchestrating the latest unrest ahead of general elections next year.


 Police took action against the gangs in a notorious
Kingston neighborhood on Saturday. Residents erected roadblocks in protest, saying the authorities were targeting their poor neighborhoods because they are strongholds of the opposition Jamaica Labor Party. On Monday, Patterson ordered the entire army -- more than 3,000 troops -- to quell the violence. The gun battles appeared to have ended by Wednesday, and security forces in Kingston cleared smoldering roadblocks. In all, police said 25 people were killed in four days. Labor Party leader Edward Seaga put the death toll at 26 -- 22 civilians, three police officers and a soldier.


 "It's the politicians. It's their war," said James Findletter, a 25-year-old fisherman in the northern resort town of
Ocho Rios, where another cruise ship docked as usual on Wednesday.


Despite the flood of arriving visitors, the violence has worried the tourism industry. Joseph Forstmayr, president of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association, said some airlines were reporting canceled trips. The Jamaica Observer newspaper reported at least four hotels on the north coast had received cancellations, including a group of Americans who had booked 120 rooms from Thursday at the new Ritz Carlton Hotel in Rose Hall, just east of
Montego Bay.

 
 "They are now going to
Puerto Rico," Verona Carter, a spokesman for the Ritz Carlton, was quoted as saying.  Gary Stephens, manager of the Couples resort in the west coast town of Negril, said concerned travelers have been calling to ask about the violence. He and his staff have been telling them all is calm at the resort, he said. "This will cost the economy dearly, and there are too many people in Jamaica who need jobs," he said.”[2]

This philosophy more often than not causes additional casualties that well could have been avoided, but such is what life here is about. Most recently in the summer of 200 a clash occurred between two garrisons that soon erupted into a full blown war. Running battles were fought and numerous people were killed. Police were totally unable to bring the situation under control and the tourists who were reading about what was going on started to stay away in droves because the story had been so blown up that it appeared as though an insurrection had occurred all over the island. Although the violence was literally confined to a small section of Kingston, the number of causalities that resulted from it must have seemed to outsiders that the island was ablaze. Eventually the uprising was put down and the island returned to normal but the damage had been done. The tourists had determined that in spite of the beautiful scenery and glorious days, there were other spots just as nice and not so dangerous where they could go without being worried about being killed. Jamaica if you are there at the wrong time or in the wrong area, can be a very scary place.

I remember the time when Michael Manley was in power and was in the midst of cozying up to Fidel Castro. The United States had become extremely upset and things had become extra fierce in these parts. The massive alumina facilities that had previously produced the hard currency for Jamaica had recently been expropriated and Americans were no longer really welcome guests in spite of the money they brought to the island. Manley, an excellent orator had gotten the natives really stirred up when I arrived for my annual vacation in the country with my wife. At this point I had been coming to Jamaica for a great number of years and knew that the problems primarily existed on the other side of the island, but during my stay I suddenly remembered a pirate movie that I had once seen. I think the name of it or a location in the movie was a place called Port Royal. The movie depicted a swash buckling place with great scenery and  I on a dull day I though, “what a great place to visit”. They probably had a pirate museum along without a lot of lore of one kind or another and when you drive in this country, the scenery is always great anyway.  My wife and I had recently been involved in event called Wall Street Charities where we were among the sponsors of a boxing match where the best slugger from each brokerage house would take on his counterpart in the name of charity. We had a very successful session and the charity had done well.

Because of my wife’s successful work with the charity she had just been awarded  a magnificent tee shirt that had a colorful picture of a bear and bull boxing with each other in a prize fighting ring  and there was blood pouring all over the place from their battle.  However, although this was not what you would call a delicate shirt, she loved it and wore it whenever the occasion arouse. So here we have her wearing this flaming shirt with a view of Wall Street so vivid that you couldn’t miss it if you tried. We looked totally like ugly Americans when we headed out to Port Royal, where ever that is or was. Still not thinking about the political mess that was occurring in Kingston and what they were saying about our ugliness, we got into our snappy yellow convertible and drove off to see the pirates. Soon we started seeing signs that indicated that in order to get to Port Royal you had to go though downtown Kingston. Stopping a gas station on the outskirts of town to get directions and gas up the car we were greeted by an attendant who literally seemed unable to believe his eyes. He was starring at my wife’s shirt and had become incapable of speech. After stuttering for a time he was eventually able to blurt out that we were not safe going any further into town and were lucky that we hadn’t been killed already. He indicated that the people in town would kill us on sight when they saw her tee shirt. He wasn’t finished with us yet. He went on to say that we were American trouble makers and we deserved what we were going to get. He was a large fellow and as he talked he kept looking at the shirt and getting madder and madder. In the interests of international relations between our countries I hastily grabbed some money, stuffed it into has grubby hands and stepped on the gas. I literally skidded out of the service station very happy that I now had a full tank that could safely take me back to the security of our hotel.

By this time a crowd had started to gather around the gas station and the people were beginning to get ugly. Luckily were escorted out of town by the police and told that by them once we got over the dividing mountains, she should burn the shirt and forget about returning  to these parts. Americans were not welcome in Jamaica no matter how much money they had and we were the ugliest ones they had ever seen. 

Ultimately Manley was unseated by the CIA and others and Jamaica started accepting our money again. However, that was a scary experience and these folks were not kidding. Manley had been feeding them so much garbage that they could no longer see straight. Thankfully this situation ended and once again Jamaica became peaceful and serene, especially if you stay on the right side of the mountains.

Well, everything is not just peaches and cream in the New Jamaica and we have excerpted parties of the U. S. Department of State report on Human Rights Practices for Jamaica in the their most current reporting year, 1996.  

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

The security forces frequently employed lethal force in apprehending criminal suspects, usually in the guise of shoot-outs. This resulted in the killing by police of 140 people during the year. While allegations of "police murder" were frequent, the validity of some of the allegations was suspect. This problem is the result of unresolved, long-standing antipathy between the security forces and certain communities, especially among the urban poor. The JCF conducted both administrative and criminal investigations into incidents involving fatal shootings by the police. The JCF policy statement on the use of force incorporates U.N.-approved language on basic principles on the use of force and firearms by law enforcement officials.

However, even though the police in Jamaica are not particularly kind to their own people, they are even handed in that regard when it comes to foreigners. I guess what I am saying here is that they treated them just as badly. In spite of this and probably because of its great beaches and climate, Jamaica has recently become a place where those wanted by the police in other countries have come here o cool-off while the hunt for them simmers down. For one recent example of this behavior you only have to look at the case of the amiable head of Hells Angels, Walter “Nurget” Stadnick who mistakenly decided that Jamaica would be a great place to visit. This was a sudden decision made when some of his friends indicated that the police in Canada, where he was then situated would soon be picking him up on a substantial number of charges. He and his biker wife flew down to Montego Bay and checked in at the Ritz Carlton Hotel there, getting the best room in the place, a $1,500 a night room, the best they had. However, the always jovial Nurget did not cover his tracks well enough when he left on his vacation and Jamaican Police soon found him at the hotel pool. When they entered the pool area carrying evil looking submachine guns, the visitors of the Ritz panicked as most of the guests thought they were going to be murdered. The police carefully explained to the terrorized pool crowd that one of the hotel’s guests was wanted on thirteen different murder charges along with a substantial number of lesser offenses. In addition if you folks would just step aside, the arrest will be over in seconds.

Thankfully, Stadnick, not wanting to cause a scene, went along with the fellow that were carrying these large guns without a struggle but was apparently ruffed up more than a tad in the Jamaican Jail that where he was locked up. Moreover, apparently from that point on things did not go smoothly for the head of the Angels and when it came time to make a determination of whether to return to the mainland and face charges or fight his extradition, Stadnick begged to be escorted to first plane back out of the country. No one has ever described what happened behind the prison’s walls to Stadnick but it must have been something very serious for him to beg to get out of the country. This will certainly give you some insight into what things are like in the jails here. A man that was facing no less than 709 years behind bars along with a possible death sentence actually volunteered to be sent back to that fate rather than spend one more day locked up in a Jamaican Jail. This is certainly something to boggle the mind. It certainly does not sound like the kind of place that I would want to spend any time and you better believe that I will be walking the straight and narrow path if I every go back there again.

Political Violence

Political violence resurged in 1996. The former chairman of the opposition Jamaica Labor Party (JLP) resigned in 1995 and established a new party, the National Democratic Movement (NDM), late that year. Tensions between the JLP and NDM remained high, with frequent vilification of the NDM by JLP leaders. Beginning in January, strongly politicized areas of Kingston and Spanish Town were repeatedly wracked by political violence. According to police, this led to 10 deaths by mid-year, including murders of NDM and JLP supporters. The Government deployed strong police and military detachments to the affected areas in response to serious outbreaks of violence, which significantly dampened the level of political violence. However, the Government could not afford to maintain strong detachments in all affected areas at all times.

…A state of emergency has been declared in Jamaica and army troops have been deployed throughout the country tonight. The crisis involved multiple gun-battles between police and gang-members. At least twenty people have been killed and more than 30 others have been wounded in the past 72 hours, according to both press and government sources. Prime Minister P.J. Patterson is quoted by the Associated Press this evening as saying, "There must be full deployment [of troops]... to prevent anticipated problems and to ensure the restoration of law and order."

Jamaica Labor Party leader Edward Seaga continues to charge that the problems are of a "political nature" and that members of his party are being targeted by police. Jamaican authorities blame the unrest on common street thugs and drug-gang members, who they say are trying to "destabilize the islands." Regardless of who you believe, local observers say that the situation has gotten "completely out of control," and that extraordinary measures called for by P.M. Patterson are warranted.[3]

Vigilantism

Vigilantism, involving spontaneous mob executions in response to crime, rose in 1996, both in rural areas and in Kingston. Mobs killed 10 persons in West Kingston between November 1995 and September 1996, 5 of whom were charged with murder at the time of their own deaths. Official investigations into the killings did not uncover any information. Mobs lynched four other persons suspected of robberies in rural St. Catherine in late 1995-early 1996. In May a crowd beat a man to death after he was allegedly caught sexually assaulting a 3-year-old girl in rural Hanover. In July crowds beat and slashed to death three other suspected robbers in rural St. Elizabeth (near Montego Bay). Police reported a total of 22 vigilante killings between November 1995 and August 1996.

The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary, which exists in practice. However, the judicial system is overburdened and operates with inadequate resources. Trials in many cases are delayed for years, and other cases are dismissed because files cannot be located. The Government initiated a night court in September 1995, which has had some success in reducing the backlog of cases.

Trial Without Benefit of Counsel

While the defendant's right to counsel is well-established, the courts appoint counsel for indigents only in cases of a serious offense (e.g., murder, rape, robbery, gun offenses). However, the law does not consider many offenses, including wounding with intent to cause great bodily harm, as "serious." Thus the courts try many defendants without benefit of counsel.

Votes Marred by Violence and Fraud

The Constitution provides citizens with the right to change their government peacefully. Periodic elections are held on the basis of universal suffrage. All citizens age 18 and over have the right to vote by secret ballot. The last general election, in March 1993, was marred by violence and fraud. The violence and fraud was most prevalent in so-called garrison communities, which are dominated by the major political parties. The People's National Party (PNP) holds a majority in the House of Representatives. The Jamaican Labor Party, which has alternated in power with the PNP since 1944, boycotted all by-elections since 1993, claiming that needed electoral reforms were not in place. Voter registration under an improved system was scheduled to begin island-wide on January 6, 1997.

PRIME MINISTER P.J. Patterson says he will not tolerate corrupt practices by members of his Cabinet and has warned them to keep their hands clean or face the consequences. "Anytime I find any one of you putting your finger in the cookie jar, a gone you gone," he warned from the platform in St. Mary Saturday night. His comments come against the background of several scandals now rocking the People's National Party (PNP) led Government, including those involving the NetServ/Intec Fund and Operation PRIDE projects and charges by the opposition Jamaica Labor Party (JLP) that the system was riddled with corruption. Mr. Patterson, addressing a large crowd of supporters at the James Bond Beach, at a "bashment" celebrating his 10th anniversary as leader of the party, admitted that the Government had made mistakes. "Yes, we made some mistakes, but we were in hurry to get things done," the Prime Minister said. He also argued that when anything goes wrong, his party exposes it and calls in investigators to probe the matter, an apparent reference to another scandal involving fraud at the National Land Agency. [4]

 

The Economics

Jamaica has substantial natural resources and their exports of bauxite and alumina have led the world since the 1970s. On the other hand, the price of both materials has been at or near dollar related historic lows and are not making a significant impact on the economy. The increase in the shipments of these products though was almost directly proportional to the drop in agricultural exports of sugar and bananas. Tourism although doing well may have seen better days. New "in" destinations in other areas of the world are constantly cropping up to compete and although busy the internal travel business has been heavily hit by discounting do to the competition.

For almost five-years, Jamaica has suffered a major economic contraction and during that period of time over 11,000 Jamaicans have lost their jobs. Private estimates now put the unemployment at over 20 percent. Interest rates have remained high to deal with an oppressive inflationary spiral. An excellent example of how bad things have gotten is the recent hike in the gasoline tax by the government. Before most of the tax was rolled back, 9 people were killed, 152 arrested and substantial areas were denuded by looting and arson. As a result of this occurrence and advisory warning was issued by the Canadian, American, British and German Governments. American Airlines, Canadian Airlines and a number of other carriers temporarily stopped flying to Jamaica as well. 

The Government had been counting on the proceeds of that tax increase to cover the short-fall in tourist revenues.  Without that alternative, the Jamaican Government is now taking a serious look into the legalizing of casinos. The Chamber of Commerce in Montego Bay, the largest resort area in the country, estimated that tax revenue in the first year of casino operations in the Montego Bay area alone would produce $50 million which is two-thirds of what would have been garner from the tax on gasoline.   Although church groups have lobbied long and hard against casinos, horse-racing, lotteries and slot machines have proliferated the Island for some time. 

The big economic problem in Jamaica is their crime rate and the tourists are beginning to find out about it. The United Nations has ranked Jamaica number three after South Africa and Brazil in murders. Far from the Island in the sun that we envision when we talk of Jamaica, in reality, crime has become a disease that is eating away at the very infrastructure of the country.

That problem is enhanced by the fact that because the Island's economy has been in such miserable shape for so long, Jamaica has the dubious distinction of having one of the highest rates of people exiting its shores for places with better economics than almost anyplace on earth. Thus, the Jamaican population in the United States has grown substantially over the last several decades and when a shipment is made back home, it is not money, food or staples; more often than not they are sending automatic weapons back to friends and families for both offensive and defensive purposes.

Adding to the problem is the fact that the United States sends criminals that are arrested for crimes in this country back to Jamaica rather than clutter our cells with them. Last year almost 1,200 hundred undesirables were returned by the United States to Jamaica, many of them being involved in the transshipment of heroine, cocaine and marijuana from South America to Jamaica and then to the United States.

Cruise ship patronage is rapidly dissipating due both harassment at the ports (1) and due to the higher taxes that were recently imposed and competition with other destinations that are gouging the tourists. In addition, tourists are very quick to react to internal problems and with recent stories of harassment and violence, the number of visits has dropped accordingly. Four cruise ship lines have threatened to pull out of Montego because of the situation and Celebrity Lines has ceased visiting the port with its top of the line Mercury Ship. Jamaica receives more revenue from the almost 2 million tourists that visit their shores than any other single source and almost 50% of Jamaica's foreign exchange was accounted for by their presence. In addition, one out of every four jobs in Jamaica is tourist related and 14% of the Country's gross domestic product comes from visitors. Things weren't helped by the United States State Department's advisory that visitors to Jamaica should exercise caution.

The Jamaica Hotel and Motel Association stunned by the incredible drop in tourist traffic and attributing it to the headline stories in the press of tourist's being harassed, robbed or kidnapped, have been lobbying the Government for armed guards to be placed in areas where tourist would be visiting.  Jamaica is effectively facing a murder rate of three time that of New York City, which doesn’t play well either with the natives or the tourists. In order to show that they were doing something about the problem, Jamaica withdrew from both the United Nations and Inter-American Human Rights Conventions because of its dissatisfaction with their restrictions on the death penalty. (2)

The Washington Post did a story on July 27, 1999 written by Serge F. Kovaleski which can give you an idea of what the Jamaican's are facing,

 "Two armored vehicles rumble through the late-night darkness along a blighted Kingston street as soldiers cock their rifles and set out on foot patrols. A gaggle of stragglers quickly disperses into an alley.

In a nearby neighborhood nicknamed Tel Aviv, troops clutching high-powered firearms stand on corners to enforce an overnight curfew. Their silhouettes are barely visible because gunfire between gangs has blown out the street lamps. Not far away, three soldiers detain a passing car at gunpoint and search it for illegal weapons. An army helicopter hovers overhead.

Scenes like these, reminiscent of military occupation, play out around the clock in more than a dozen troubled communities in the hard-bitten Kingston area. The security measures, including deployment of the armed forces, are part of a crackdown launched earlier this month to stem a surge in murders that Prime Minister P.J. Patterson has described as "criminal madness" and "a national challenge of unprecedented proportions."

Overall, 505 people have been slain this year, most of them young, unemployed men who belong to heavily armed drug gangs that compete for turf in poor neighborhoods in and around Kingston. A total of 185 people were killed in May and June, most of them in the capital.

During one 17-day stretch running into July, 66 victims--including an elderly woman shot in the head by robbers and three young girls who were raped--were felled in bloodshed that sent dozens of panicked residents fleeing their inner-city homes. Some sought refuge inside police stations, where they set up makeshift camps."

Jamaica believes that the only way they can show tourists that they are serious about the crime problem in their country is to throw the book at criminals and if that offends their critics, so be it.  Peter Martin, a spokesman for the Jamaica Tourist Board in New York, said that although the tourist total had risen substantially over 10 years -- the level is now 1.9 million a year, including nearly 700,000 cruise passengers, Mr. Martin said -- the police force had not grown commensurately.

Reuters recently 8/4/99 did an interesting story on the Jamaican problem which was good enough to include here in whole. It was written by Earl Maxam.

"KINGSTON, Jamaica, Aug 4 (Reuters) - Jamaica 's national security chief will meet U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno on Thursday as the Caribbean nation struggles to stem a crime wave blamed partly on illegal guns imported from the United States and criminals deported by Washington.

In his meeting with Reno in Washington, Minister of National Security and Justice K.D. Knight will discuss the flow of illegal weapons and U.S. deportation of Jamaican criminals back to Jamaica, Jamaican government sources told Reuters.

University of the West Indies political scientist Christine Cummings said Knight's meeting with Reno could mean Jamaica was looking for outside policing help.

"When the issues reach the level of Janet Reno, it's very serious, and I wouldn't be surprised if this was an attempt to get outside policing help," Cummings said.

Knight left on Tuesday for Washington and also will meet officials at the State and Justice Departments, Drug Enforcement Administration and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

The murder rate in Jamaica, a nation of 2.6 million, has soared over the past two months. In parts of Kingston, violence and random gunfire in the streets have prompted residents to move from their homes and businesses to relocate.

The government has responded by deploying Jamaica Defense Force soldiers to help police in enforcing curfews and vehicle checks. But the measures have had limited success.

Derrick Smith, the opposition's spokesman in parliament on national security, supported Knight's initiative and criticized the U.S. policy of sending Jamaicans raised in the United States back to Jamaica when convicted of crimes.

"...For all intents and purposes, they are Americans. They learned their nefarious craft up there and it is unfair to send them to us," Smith said.

Police sources said deportees - Jamaicans convicted of crimes who are sent home by foreign countries - have been linked to several of Jamaica’s more heinous crimes in recent years.

Smith also said the United States had not assured Jamaica that it was doing all it could "to minimize the inflow of illegal firearms," especially through the major gateways of New York, Florida and California, into Jamaica."

The Jamaica's external debt remains and a nearly unserviceable $3.6 billion dollars More critical is the fact that imported items necessary to keep the economic machine operating have risen in price where indigenously produced products have nose-dived.

Environmental concerns are also apparent as the control of industrial pollution has not kept up with economic activity. Various attempts have been taken to revitalized stagnant industries especially in the areas of bringing in and maintaining foreign exchange, generating employment and the utilization of raw materials that can be found indigenously. Duty free access tax holidays along with free trade zones for light manufacturing, data entry and garment assembly have had some modicum of success. The United States has an investment of over $1 billion in Jamaica with almost 100 companies operating within Jamaica's boundaries.

Unemployment is averaging about 17%, inflation is critical and the Jamaican dollar has gone to hell in a hand basket. These factors have caused labor unrest for literally the first time in the Nation's independent history. The unemployed seem to flow from agrarian areas in Jamaica to the cities in an endless flow of humanity. The entire country has been suffering from a very high crime rate most likely brought on by the simultaneous jump in drug trafficking with such standards as crack cocaine, marijuana and heroin making up the menu.

Corruption has also been a serious thorn in the Government's side as one official after another has been forced to resign under pressure because of being unable to their hands out of the till. Election fraud is common and pervasive and the public is losing patience in their elected leaders as well as the process itself.

And it almost appears that the police have taken over total control of law enforcement.  The Government of Jamaica itself indicates that the police have a shoot first and ask questions second type of philosophy. On August, 10, in Kingston seven people were shot by police in two separate incidents according to the Associated Press report.

(1)   Prime Minister Percival J. Patterson described harassment at the ports as the single biggest problem facing the tourist industry.

(2)   Those organizations believe that if a person has been held in jail for over five years, they believe that it is cruel and inhuman punishment. Thus, Jamaican Lawyers push the legal envelope to keep their clients going for more than five years. Once over that hurdle under the old guide-lines they would be safe from execution. .

 

 



[1] Psychic Phenomena of Jamaica, Joseph H. Williams, S. J. PhD, Litt.D, Professor of Cultural Anthropology,, Boston College Graduate School.  1934

[2] By Ian James -- Associated Press

[3] ERRI Advisory, Emergency Net News.

[4] Jamaica Gleaner

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