TAKING A BREAK I’ve been in Grand Cayman for the past few days, taking a well-deserved break from Jamaica’s problems. It’s my first visit, invited as part of a team of entertainers and media for the 2014 Cayman Spring Splash presented by Youngblood Productions, and I’ve had an eye-opening look at the surprising contrasts between this Caribbean nation and my home Jamaica.
The Cayman Islands used to be a dependency of Jamaica, governed as another part of our British colonial system. However, at Independence, the Cayman Islands chose to remain as a British colony and still retains that status. Cayman also enjoys tax free status, hence the higher standard of living of all, but I still wonder how Cayman is so much more advanced in simple ways that Jamaica should be. People obey the speed limit, stash their garbage, and mostly live without fear of petty crime. There are few fences, actual or social, and Jamaica’s reggae music plays continually from radio stations and relaxation spaces everywhere.
Little touches show the difference. Take for instance, the Cayman policy that preserves their native turtles. Jamaica’s turtle population died out when development came to our beaches and turtle nests were raided for eggs by beach boys to sell to tourists. When baby turtles hatched and turned instinctively towards the light, they headed towards the lights of the hotels on the beach, while any survivors that grew large enough soon became lampshades, belts and other tortoise shell ornaments.
In Cayman hotels must by law turn off their lights at night during turtle hatching season. Turtle shell ornaments are illegal and turtles are a tourist attraction, so the natural sea life is preserved. I saw more fish in the sea in Cayman than I have ever seen in Jamaican waters and the abundant sea life is part of the island’s attractions. Another impressive fact is that few hotels are all-inclusive, so restaurants and entertainment spots off property are well supported as part of the tourism product.
Among the magnificent mansions that line the main roads, there is always pride of place for the original wooden Cayman houses with pastel paint and gingerbread trim that have been there for up to 100 years, maintained as part of the nation’s beauty. The sight made me think what Spanish Town or Port Antonio could look like with the same thoughtfulness and pride! Roads are well maintained, no potholes. At one spot being dug up for a new road I saw why: the asphalt is 6 inches thick, not just a thin black ‘icing’ spread over marl.
Cayman is truly a tourism island with an emphasis on water sports. Spending a day on board a super deep sea fishing yacht anchored off a sand bar so we could swim with the stingrays, seeing a young child pick up starfish from the sea floor, admiring a beautiful conch shell I found on the beach, all made me realize how much Cayman life is tied to the sea. There are many accessible and free beaches all around the island and sea craft of all kinds are everywhere.
There was a lot that impressed me in Cayman. But most impressive of all was the Camana Bay development – a visionary new city created by US Billionare Ken Dart that surpasses any I have seen anywhere in the world. Think upscale Palm Beach mixed with Fifth Avenue, Manhattan in a setting rivaling the beauty of Jamaica’s North Coast, and you will have Camana Bay.
My first sight was at night, as the concert was held on the grassy Camana Bay entertainment field with its own helicopter pad beside the man-made lagoon and marina. Beautiful by night with the buildings lit up, it was even more beautiful when I visited by day, first by deep-sea fishing yacht to pick up a passenger at the marina, then the following day on foot to explore its many spaces.
Ground floor shops, offices and restaurants have balcony apartments on top with a 2nd floor swimming pool overlooking the marina. Fountains spurt in strategic corners, streams flow beside walkways, flowering vines flow down the sides of buildings and you can recharge your electric car in the basement parking lot. A great deal of innovative design has gone into making Camana Bay a spectacular 21st Century city with artistic touches everywhere and a cultural programme that attracts residents and visitors. The open spaces on land invite relaxation, while the lagoon and marina give Camana Bay a water-based option for fun.
The Dart family earned their fortune by inventing and manufacturing the foam plastic cups we all use. Ken Dart has invested some of his financial resources in Grand Cayman, with Camana Bay being just one of his several major projects that include a massive new hotel. Before Camana Bay construction started, Dart created nurseries growing the trees and plants that would eventually be needed, thus, he can plant a highway of flowering trees to beautify the meridian of a new highway passing his new hotel. If only Jamaica had such a developer! It’s the kind of place everyone would wish to live.
It was a pleasure to see the relaxed prosperity of this small Caribbean nation, such a contrast to the fear and economic uncertainty of Jamaica today. I truly enjoyed my short break from ‘reality’ and definitely plan to return.
EOTC TROUBLES When Marxist dictator Mengistu took power in Ethiopia, he broke the Canon Law of the EOTC by removing the sitting Patriarch (the EOTC equivalent of a Pope) and appointing a new one. The Archbishop of the Western Hemisphere, beloved Abuna Yesehaq, objected to the breaking of the Canon Law and ‘removed’ himself AND the members of the EOTC Churches he had established in the West from the governorship of the Head Office. The faithful members, especially of the Jamaican and Bronx churches, sided with and supported Abuna Yesehaq’s stand and continued operating without the official sanction of the EOTC in Ethiopia. However, some Jamaican priests did not agree with the Archbishop’s action and established another venue where they have held EOTC communion services since then.
The controversial Patriarch died recently, having been predeceased by Abuna Yesehaq (who is buried at Maxfield Avenue), and a new Patriarch has been appointed. Now the head office of the Church in Ethiopia has sought to bring the Jamaican church into the fold again and has appointed Jamaican EOTC priests who did not agree with Archbishop Yesehaq’s actions, to take over the Maxfield Avenue building and operations of the church in Jamaica. Despite a Jamaican court case that ruled that the present administrators should hand over the church property to those appointed by the Head Office, this was opposed by some Church members leading to recent activity at Maxfield Avenue, where keys to the office and church documents were siezed under Police supervision and belongings of residents of the care home on the premises put outside (though later replaced until the end of Lent). The change has been inevitable, but not easy for the Maxfield Avenue faithful.
PINNACLE There is uncertainty about the status of Pinnacle and also the OCCUPY PINNACLE movement. The Government has approved the allocation of the original 5 lots which will be under the control of the Jamaica National Heritage Trust, on the board of which still sits one of the Pinnacle real estate developers. There is as yet no notification or plan of how these lots will be developed or by whom. On the other side, a major issue is how to find a solution to the question of WHO are actually the authorized and accepted leaders of the Rastafari movement in Jamaica and therefore qualified to represent RASTA in any or all the necessary forums.
Meanwhile, the Howell Family continues their legal battle to reclaim the entire Pinnacle Property once owned by their father Leonard Howell, and fund-raising continues for the ongoing campaign.
GANJA REFORM The Government has clearly already set in place the actions and people necessary to enable the legalization and/or decriminalization of ganja. However, I continue to insist that the first action should be the wiping of the records of all those convicted for personal use. It should not be difficult to identify and clear the records of those to benefit, as the Police have the information and an efficient computerized service. It doesn’t seem to be on the agenda, so let me say: WIPE THE RECORDS!!! CORRECT THE PAIN BEFORE YOU BANK THE GAIN!!!
BLESSINGS & LOVE