Categorized | Features, General, Local, News

Losing Montserrat – Part II

By Shirley Osborne

Shirley Osborne

Shirley Osborne

It is ironic, muses one prominent Montserratian businessman, that the street named after Robert W. Griffith is leading to a part of our lands that a large portion of Montserratians feel is being taken away from Montserratians.

Montserrat is displacing fishermen and boats while declaring that it is seeking millions of dollars of investment capital to provide top-level harbour facilities! That little piece of very bitter irony cannot be escaped.

This obvious dissonance seems to be one of the major reasons for the discontent being evinced across such a large section of the Montserratian people. This institutional blindness is one of the reasons why so very, very many Montserratians complain that they feel excluded, powerless and even fear that they are being, systematically, rendered helpless to participate in the affluence and progress that, it is hoped, will come with the rebuilding of the country.

Development is supposed to be a rising tide that raises all ships, not an earth-moving exercise that buries dissenters and questioners – not to mention history, fishermen and part-time entrepreneurs trying to make a living. Yet, there are those who echo the lack of compassion and foresight that they see coming from above them, and feel no discomfort with the suffering and loss of some of the least powerful Montserratians, the least monied and least well-connected.

Some of the Montserratians who report feeling left out and pushed out of the development process might not want, qualify for, or be able to afford a whole building, but would probably accept and make good if they were offered or allowed, a kiosk and some space, even part-time, in what is now being variously referred to as “the new exclusion zone” and “the other exclusion zone”.

By many accounts, the road to Montserrat’s development and rebuilding is at risk of turning into a Trail of Tears. Would that, instead, the Road to Little Bay become a Road to Damascus for at least some of those who presume to lead us. Montserrat might, then, have a chance at sustainable development and real, lasting progress. As it stands, we are losing ground on this particular path to progress. But, that does not necessarily have to be so.

So! Yes, I repeat! Develop Murphy, TOO! Yes, I say, develop the Saturday afternoon business of Molly and Sonia, TOO! And maybe develop Mikie selling his peanuts, TOO!

What if, for example, an area were set aside, at Little Bay, along the bay-front, to accommodate the Montserratian Saturday afternoon soup and chicken crowd, the beer crowd, the limers and swimmers alike – and what if this space had kiosks to hold the soup pot and the goat-water pot and the frying pans and beer coolers; and what if there were a few benches for the residents of Montserrat to sit on and watch the sunset, the waves roll ashore and their children play in the surf. What if …

port-and-marina-little-bayA couple of years ago or so, I was seated in the office of a Permanent Secretary who, upon concluding a phone call received from the Minister, remarked, or rather, complained out loud, “And you can’t even say anything in this place, otherwise you lose your job.”

This cannot be good. It is impossible to lead development with fear and suppression. The only outcome of this is loss, all ‘round.

Now, obviously, when something is reported by just one person, a simple nod of acknowledgment and even maybe a shrug could suffice as response. One person’s say-so could quite possibly be merely a personal grievance and best left to die of neglect. By the time that “quite a few” are saying the same thing though, the matter might, wisely, bear observation. And, certainly, when the population, in general – groups of people at all levels of the society – is expressing the same concerns, the same fears, the same observations, then direct attention, if not actual investigation would probably be a respectable approach.

Wise leaders know that real power is not eroded by the free expression of opinion, objection or grievance. Good leaders know that democracy cannot flourish where the people are denied access to news and information, and many Montserratians, in the public service and not, complain about the paucity and poor quality of the news and information that is allowed to express through the tight controls on the public media services and by the de facto denial of access to privately-owned media houses.

A country cannot be built strong and resilient when the people describe the attitude of a large cross-section of the leaders, movers and shakers, elected, appointed and self-appointed alike, as, “Sit down and shut up,”  – as I heard it described by several. It would behoove the people in authority to begin treating Montserratians, as a whole, with some real respect – and the leaders to ensure that Montserratians feel that they are being so treated – and any shadow of any threat of retaliation against those who think differently and speak out be dispelled once and for all – perception is so often indistinguishable from reality.

Development and progress cannot be attained if people are muzzled and denied expression, exchange and input and a fair and equal chance to participate. People have to be inspired, taught, enrolled, attracted and engaged, and when accorded respect, clarity and trust, they usually can be.

The best leaders all know that it is never a smart move to oppress and shut up those who think differently. One of the inevitable consequences of this is that the supporters, also, internalise the same message and will, eventually, stop reporting things the leaders really need to know. Wise leaders know that the best ideas always – always – come through challenge, exchange and inquiry. Even inept leaders are aware that to welcome and engage challenge takes courage, creativity and competence.

It is not possible to achieve development via condescension. It is not likely that sustainable development will occur when contempt, disengagement and exclusion are the currency.

Good and wise leadership and progressive governing are the only kinds that lead to the sustainable development of a people. It takes money to put up buildings, lay down roads and drive pylons but, leading a country to development requires “a people” – a people who are engaged, excited, and who are willing and eager to activate their resourcefulness and do the work of development because they feel a sense of ownership, and are led by people with perspicacity and goodwill.

Other leaders have been known to have staked their legacy on the notion that one needs simply build a road (literally or figuratively) and the people will just instinctively fall in behind and blindly follow wherever they are led. And these leaders have all been disappointed, at the very least, every last one of them.

sketch-design-marine-villa

sketch-design-marine-villa

A man that many Montserratians consider probably the wisest Montserrat has yet produced, once gave me an important lesson. “Little Shirley,” Marse Bob advised me, “you must always listen when people talk about you. No matter what they say, listen. You don’t have to care what they say about you, and you don’t have to answer them back, but make sure you always know. And then you will know what to do.”

As good advice for politicians as for little girls.

The greatest politician that Montserrat has had, so far, taught me, very early on that, “You have to let people talk, Shirley. When people talk, don’t stop them; encourage them. Let them say what they want, and then listen to everything they say. That is how you get to find out what people think and then you know exactly how to beat them or win them over to your side – and even if you never get them to agree with you, when you let people talk, you learn things that could help you another time…”  and furthermore, “Sometimes, you just have to change your mind about some things … and so wha’ you care if is somebody else think it up?!”

Sound advice for daughters. And for leaders, politicians and governments.

What I know for sure is that if we care, we listen; if we are courageous, wise and good, we experience no fear and no loss of self – or of power – in engaging difference and dissent. If we are good and sage leaders, we know that personal aggrandisement is not the aim and neither is our wish necessarily the people’s command.

The best leaders know that they are merely vessels and channels for the amelioration and advancement of those whom they lead – and whose confidence they need. The best leaders act accordingly. And more people win.

And fewer people lose.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Moment with the Registrar of Lands

By Shirley Osborne

Shirley Osborne

Shirley Osborne

It is ironic, muses one prominent Montserratian businessman, that the street named after Robert W. Griffith is leading to a part of our lands that a large portion of Montserratians feel is being taken away from Montserratians.

Insert Ads Here

Montserrat is displacing fishermen and boats while declaring that it is seeking millions of dollars of investment capital to provide top-level harbour facilities! That little piece of very bitter irony cannot be escaped.

This obvious dissonance seems to be one of the major reasons for the discontent being evinced across such a large section of the Montserratian people. This institutional blindness is one of the reasons why so very, very many Montserratians complain that they feel excluded, powerless and even fear that they are being, systematically, rendered helpless to participate in the affluence and progress that, it is hoped, will come with the rebuilding of the country.

Development is supposed to be a rising tide that raises all ships, not an earth-moving exercise that buries dissenters and questioners – not to mention history, fishermen and part-time entrepreneurs trying to make a living. Yet, there are those who echo the lack of compassion and foresight that they see coming from above them, and feel no discomfort with the suffering and loss of some of the least powerful Montserratians, the least monied and least well-connected.

Some of the Montserratians who report feeling left out and pushed out of the development process might not want, qualify for, or be able to afford a whole building, but would probably accept and make good if they were offered or allowed, a kiosk and some space, even part-time, in what is now being variously referred to as “the new exclusion zone” and “the other exclusion zone”.

By many accounts, the road to Montserrat’s development and rebuilding is at risk of turning into a Trail of Tears. Would that, instead, the Road to Little Bay become a Road to Damascus for at least some of those who presume to lead us. Montserrat might, then, have a chance at sustainable development and real, lasting progress. As it stands, we are losing ground on this particular path to progress. But, that does not necessarily have to be so.

So! Yes, I repeat! Develop Murphy, TOO! Yes, I say, develop the Saturday afternoon business of Molly and Sonia, TOO! And maybe develop Mikie selling his peanuts, TOO!

What if, for example, an area were set aside, at Little Bay, along the bay-front, to accommodate the Montserratian Saturday afternoon soup and chicken crowd, the beer crowd, the limers and swimmers alike – and what if this space had kiosks to hold the soup pot and the goat-water pot and the frying pans and beer coolers; and what if there were a few benches for the residents of Montserrat to sit on and watch the sunset, the waves roll ashore and their children play in the surf. What if …

port-and-marina-little-bayA couple of years ago or so, I was seated in the office of a Permanent Secretary who, upon concluding a phone call received from the Minister, remarked, or rather, complained out loud, “And you can’t even say anything in this place, otherwise you lose your job.”

This cannot be good. It is impossible to lead development with fear and suppression. The only outcome of this is loss, all ‘round.

Now, obviously, when something is reported by just one person, a simple nod of acknowledgment and even maybe a shrug could suffice as response. One person’s say-so could quite possibly be merely a personal grievance and best left to die of neglect. By the time that “quite a few” are saying the same thing though, the matter might, wisely, bear observation. And, certainly, when the population, in general – groups of people at all levels of the society – is expressing the same concerns, the same fears, the same observations, then direct attention, if not actual investigation would probably be a respectable approach.

Wise leaders know that real power is not eroded by the free expression of opinion, objection or grievance. Good leaders know that democracy cannot flourish where the people are denied access to news and information, and many Montserratians, in the public service and not, complain about the paucity and poor quality of the news and information that is allowed to express through the tight controls on the public media services and by the de facto denial of access to privately-owned media houses.

A country cannot be built strong and resilient when the people describe the attitude of a large cross-section of the leaders, movers and shakers, elected, appointed and self-appointed alike, as, “Sit down and shut up,”  – as I heard it described by several. It would behoove the people in authority to begin treating Montserratians, as a whole, with some real respect – and the leaders to ensure that Montserratians feel that they are being so treated – and any shadow of any threat of retaliation against those who think differently and speak out be dispelled once and for all – perception is so often indistinguishable from reality.

Development and progress cannot be attained if people are muzzled and denied expression, exchange and input and a fair and equal chance to participate. People have to be inspired, taught, enrolled, attracted and engaged, and when accorded respect, clarity and trust, they usually can be.

The best leaders all know that it is never a smart move to oppress and shut up those who think differently. One of the inevitable consequences of this is that the supporters, also, internalise the same message and will, eventually, stop reporting things the leaders really need to know. Wise leaders know that the best ideas always – always – come through challenge, exchange and inquiry. Even inept leaders are aware that to welcome and engage challenge takes courage, creativity and competence.

It is not possible to achieve development via condescension. It is not likely that sustainable development will occur when contempt, disengagement and exclusion are the currency.

Good and wise leadership and progressive governing are the only kinds that lead to the sustainable development of a people. It takes money to put up buildings, lay down roads and drive pylons but, leading a country to development requires “a people” – a people who are engaged, excited, and who are willing and eager to activate their resourcefulness and do the work of development because they feel a sense of ownership, and are led by people with perspicacity and goodwill.

Other leaders have been known to have staked their legacy on the notion that one needs simply build a road (literally or figuratively) and the people will just instinctively fall in behind and blindly follow wherever they are led. And these leaders have all been disappointed, at the very least, every last one of them.

sketch-design-marine-villa

sketch-design-marine-villa

A man that many Montserratians consider probably the wisest Montserrat has yet produced, once gave me an important lesson. “Little Shirley,” Marse Bob advised me, “you must always listen when people talk about you. No matter what they say, listen. You don’t have to care what they say about you, and you don’t have to answer them back, but make sure you always know. And then you will know what to do.”

As good advice for politicians as for little girls.

The greatest politician that Montserrat has had, so far, taught me, very early on that, “You have to let people talk, Shirley. When people talk, don’t stop them; encourage them. Let them say what they want, and then listen to everything they say. That is how you get to find out what people think and then you know exactly how to beat them or win them over to your side – and even if you never get them to agree with you, when you let people talk, you learn things that could help you another time…”  and furthermore, “Sometimes, you just have to change your mind about some things … and so wha’ you care if is somebody else think it up?!”

Sound advice for daughters. And for leaders, politicians and governments.

What I know for sure is that if we care, we listen; if we are courageous, wise and good, we experience no fear and no loss of self – or of power – in engaging difference and dissent. If we are good and sage leaders, we know that personal aggrandisement is not the aim and neither is our wish necessarily the people’s command.

The best leaders know that they are merely vessels and channels for the amelioration and advancement of those whom they lead – and whose confidence they need. The best leaders act accordingly. And more people win.

And fewer people lose.