In a statement yesterday, Mr. Jackson said the “preservation of the thriving agricultural sector in Bernard Lodge, St Catherine, is critical not only for the small farmers and their families but also for the good of the wider community”.
Jackson pointed out that the fire sale of Bernard Lodge sugar lands to what he termed 'connected interests' and the rushed effort by Government to displace the farmers by brute force, without consultation and consideration, signals a general lack of care for those who are most vulnerable in the society.
Jackson's statement questioned “How can the Government justify uprooting existing farmers with substantial production and supply into the export and agro-processing trade, to facilitate new farming interests while hundreds of unused lands are elsewhere in the Bernard Lodge area?”
“One such export farmer of horticultural products has died upon hearing that his farm would be uprooted. How many more will have to die, before this travesty is halted? If it is that all or most of the farmers will be facilitated in other areas, why not place those 'big picture investors', as Agriculture Minister Audley Shaw terms them, in those same areas?” Jackson argued.
At the same time, pointing to the eviction of vendors at the now demolished Constant Spring Market, and what he described as the disregard for residents, businesses, schools and pedestrian and commuter traffic along Constant Spring Road and Hagley Park Road, Jackson said government must not use its power to discount the value of ordinary Jamaicans nor wrest away the very livelihood of those on the fringes.
“As was the case in slavery and colonial days, ordinary and aspiring Jamaicans are being relegated to the fringes, while the well connected are given the prime or choice areas. This is very similar to the apartheid farming system once practised in South Africa and Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe. This must be resisted relentlessly by all well thinking people,” Jackson said.
“There are thousands of acres of land in the Bernard Lodge area available for development, I strongly suggest that the farmers are left alone and the government utilise the portion of land they are suggesting that the farmers should use for the new project. These lands are wide open and can be utilised without uprooting the farmers and destroying their crops,” Jackson added.
He noted that what appears to be the secret sale of the sugar lands in the area must be exposed and any hint of corruption or misappropriation brought to book.
“Well-thinking Jamaicans should not sit by and allow the nation's land assets to be divested in ways that are not transparent and appear to be sweet deals for friends and associates, while the hard working small farmers are evicted with no recourse. We need to know who are the purchasers of these lots and how much did they pay for them. It cannot be enough that the lands are too expensive for the small farmers,” Jackson charged.
- Countries: Jamaica