From an earlier outing, last year …
The discussion, since the year began, has centered around the tourism industry, its marketing, and the product/plant, and what can be done to improve it all for the benefit of visitor and local alike. Of course, the big obstacle to realising many of our ambitions is the dollar sign: We need more of it to get more of it.
Given our financial situation, however, all the wishes in the world won’t buy a horse for us beggars. But what we advocate – what we have always advocated – won’t cost us much more than the effort to want it done. What we are talking about today, again, is the physical environment; the thing with which God has blessed us and made us like unto the Garden of Eden.
We give kudos to the government and to those private-sector partners whose efforts continue to be obvious along the highways. For even in the midst of the economic recession, they have seen the importance of not rolling back these programmes, which are so important to those who are passing through and whom we would invite to return, as well as to the quality of life of those who live here. We must give kudos, as well, to those persons who have been given the job of keeping St John’s clean, and, in particular, one woman whose name we do not know – we identify her only by the broad hat she wears – but whose pride in her work speaks volumes.
Yesterday, Tuesday, we were heartened to see the Sir Sydney Walling Highway being spruced up, particularly in the area of the Sir Vivian Richards Cricket Grounds. Part of this effort, doubtless, is for the benefit of those planning to attend the day/night matches being played this weekend, and we can only hope that, between now and then, and even during, the highways can remain in such near-pristine condition.
The gateways to our island-paradise ought to be always clean and shining in order to entice guests into our house; and, make no mistake, there are thousands and thousands of guests every year who do not arrive by cruise ship or board a tour bus. Instead, they travel along Sir George Walter Highway and are greeted not only by litter but masses of overgrown bushes and shrubs that do not say “Welcome! We’re glad you’re here.” (It’s enough to make a body shake its head and miss the aesthetic sensibilities of R Allen Stanford.) And we’ve heard, once too many times, about the floating islands of debris that greet cruise-ship passengers.
As we said before, it costs nothing not to litter, but knowing human weakness and even human malice, there will be those who continue to toss the beer can, the soda bottle, the KFC box and the Styrofoam container out of the window, and even to place the old galvanise, the tree clippings, and the cane peelings alongside the roads. What, then, are we to do about these things and these people’s lack of consciousness? What we advocate today is using the human resources available to the state, those who have debts to pay to the society, ie the guests who reside at Her Majesty’s Prison, aka 1735.
There are those among us who wonder, aloud and often, what has become of “hard labour.” Well, while we are sure there are those for whom we ought to bring back the jail cart and the Prison Ground and all other such visible forms of penalty, we want to believe that there are even more for whom practical, results-based “work” would be seen as remedial, therapeutic, and rehabilitative.
What then is there to stop the “employment” of prisoners to help spruce up the place and keep it spruced? What is there to stop – other than the lack of will – the authorities from sentencing first-time offenders and those charged with the traditional possession of a gram of “a green leafy substance” from community service? Isn’t a little weeding a better penalty for a little weed than, say, six months at HMP, during which the taxpayer must clothe, house and feed? Isn’t it safer to reorient those inclined to swinging a cutlass toward, say, a stubborn cassi tree? And instead of filling their own and each other’s heads with braggadocio, isn’t it easier for them to fill those big black garbage bags with detritus and dry leaves?
Most of the prisoners, we believe, were gainfully employed at one time or other. Surely they have not forgotten their skills. And so there’s really no need for the roundabouts to be overgrown by grass and for signs such as that leading to Betty’s Hope (now thankfully replaced) to be sagging pieces of public embarrassment, or Victoria Gardens to be a waste land (two words, yes). There are sagging fences along various public schools, missing slabs in the sidewalk on Old Parham Road and even on lower High Street. Aren’t these little things in which inmates can be employed to better prepare them to be out-mates? We are not convinced that because they are incarcerated they no longer have a stake in what happens on the outside.
Though much maligned and misused, the old adage “Work will make you free” is not without merit; nor are the sayings our grandparents drummed into us, “No work is degrading” and “Cleanliness is next to godliness.” So let us, as a society that claims to be Christian, take those precepts to heart and begin taking our stewardship of this country seriously. And let us reach out to the prisoners and involve them in our endeavours, for otherwise, we can be sure that the devil will, indeed, find other work for idle hands to do.