Sat | Aug 17, 2019

We have no allies in Parliament – Dixon - Battle lines thicken in Cockpit Country dispute

Published:Tuesday | August 13, 2019 | 12:14 AMAdrian Frater/News Editor

Western Bureau:

As the battle lines thicken in the dispute over whether or not bauxite mining should be allowed in any parts of the Cockpit Country, southern Trelawny-based environmentalist Hugh Dixon is questioning the sincerity of the Government and the Opposition on the matter.

Dixon, who has emerged as one of the leading voices against mining in the Cockpit Country, which is a biologically rich area in rare plant species and arguably the primary source of the nation’s domestic water, is not convinced that there is goodwill in the utterances from both Prime Minister Andrew Holness and Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips.

In response to reports that Holness said the proposed mining, which will take place in an area that the Government sees as outside of the protected section of the Cockpit Country, offers an option to generate earnings for the country, Dixon is calling for a comprehensive evaluation of that option.

“Place the options on the table and let’s weigh in on the pros and cons ... . State the vision and the strategy as a leader in charge and in control with a policy framework to achieve the vision,” urged Dixon.

With regard to utterances by Phillips over last weekend, in which he seemingly sided with the stakeholders who are adamant that there should be no mining in and around the Cockpit Country, Dixon wants to see him fighting that battle in Parliament.

“The opposition leader should have articulated with clarity and pointed evidence to the opinions, concerns, fears, and disgust of the people that have been all over the social, electronic and print media since June, protesting their case. He should be championing our cause in the corridors of Parliament and at his campaign conference,” said Dixon.

No guts

In expressing doubt as to whether politicians on either side are brave enough to stand up against the powerful special-interest groups, who might have a vested interest in seeing mining take place, Dixon raised questions about whether they have the requisite guts.

“To me, they (the politicians on both sides) seemed like coward men steeped in old-style politics … afraid of their corporate bosses, who issue them with directives and warnings ... yes-men – worried about the assistance they received from these corporate sources being withdrawn, made public, or become worthy of a new scandal against their names,” said Dixon.

In urging those who have been openly defiant so far, Dixon said they should not look to the Parliament for help.

“All I can say to Jamaicans is, you have no allies or representatives in the Parliament brave enough to stand up and say no bauxite mining in any part of the Cockpit Country landscape. It is we against the legislators and their corporate buddies,” Dixon said.

Kenneth Grant, the president of the Trelawny Lay Magistrates’ Association, has already declared publicly that he is ready to put his life on the line to blunt the mining plans, which could affect several established communities in south Trelawny.