Some people go to the country and come upon roast yam and saltfish stalls. We come upon demonstrations. On our way to the country for a special All Angles assignment our team passed by a crowd of agitated protesters outside the Riu Hotel in Mammee Bay, St. Ann. We had interviewees waiting for us, but hey, news is news.
It turns out that the demonstrators were protesting against the early morning raid of several properties in the community and consequent seizure of a number of jet skis. The ones left behind were those without engines.
This was apparently pursuant to a recent decision by Tourism Minister Wyckham McNeil to take strong measures to regulate the operation of jet skis. This after the death of a little girl earlier this year and the injury of five people in two
jet ski incidents. So the Minister has announced a set of “short term” measures including:
The imposition of a six (6) month suspension on the importation of all Jet Skis for commercial purposes;
Clamping down on all illegal commercial operators of Jet Skis;
Strengthening and enforcement of regulations regarding the use of Jet Skis;
Establishing special zones for jet ski operations, and training and certifying commercial jet ski operators.
Residents says three jet skis operating yesterday in Mammee Bay were seized by officials pretending to be customers, this morning, the others were others seized in the early morning raid. They say their entire community depends on the jet ski operations. They’ve spent hundreds of thousands to acquire the machines, and it’s the main source of income for many of the men, and by extension, families, and shops that operate in the community. Several told me they understand the need to regulate the industry, acknowledge they are operating illegally, and say they are willing to co-operate, but that it is unfair to suddenly deprive them of their livelihood in this way.
“What we must do now?” they asked over and over. Hence the protest.
Is there any question that government must regulate, must act in the public interest, must ensure law and order? Absolutely not. But why on earth does our government ALWAYS wait until we are in a crisis? The situation – whatever it is – has to spiral out of control before government acts. Houses illegally constructed on gully banks have to fall in and people drown, squatter settlements have to mushroom into small cities with little or no proper infrastructure incapable of being adequately patrolled by police, and in this case, a little girl had to die. In addition, ignoring the problem for years, as has happened here, has led families and communities to depend on activities like jet ski operations for their survival. So now we have protests.
Here’s a radical idea. How about we stop that first squatter, that first illegal jet ski operator, that first house being built on the gully bank? Actually prevent the crisis, not just struggle to manage it? But then that would be real governance, not government by crisis. Do we even know what that means? I doubt it.