Categorized | Local, News, Opinions

Rasta Man’s Death – Is the State liable for the crumbling house?

By Claude Gerald

The Physical Planning Unit, representing the executive arm of the government of Montserrat, must absorb substantial blame for the accidental death of the resplendent Ras Jaki Fire, at his crumbled Friths Village home.

He may have been a complex individual with his fixed ideas on life and living; but he was a citizen, a bona fide human being in a relationship with the state for which the latter may have relinquished major statutory responsibilities to his and others welfare, in allowing an obviously risky undertaking to keep compounding itself.

His loss is mourned and his closely knit grieving family surely is in a state of perplexity. His death is not to be treated as casually as society may have viewed him; he died tragically and the state is potentially liable regardless of the informality of his status and his calling in his life.

In a responsibly governed society, with the appropriate checks and balances, those elected wage earners tasked with management of the high policy affairs of Montserrat, must go beyond frivolous talk and engage in institutional building that has a measurable degree of bite.

Coincident with law making must be a resolve to ensure that the respective departments of the public service are peopled, not with certified personnel only but with a character driven by the wider objective of living the letter and spirit of the law and its implications for national welfare.

Intestinal fortitude must be the defining feature of every public servant to qualify for timely emoluments. This test is not easily passed but it must be central to due processes. It is the standard that sustains workable standards.

This being so, the departed Ras Jaki’s fanciful idea of erecting a many story  monument, around a fruit laden coconut tree, unreinforced and made of gathered  volcanic rocks from the Behlam River basin, cemented by impotent mortar, would not have been a reality. No installation of electricity or water either.

Neither would the tourist attraction it was made to be nor the glib promotion that some Saturday ZJB ‘cultural shows’, had showered and promoted, as a novel site with outside the box appeal.

The shack’s inherent attractiveness was embedded in its high risk profile only. A visitor who dared to visit had little aversion to risk taking or was blissfully unaware of bodily dangers. Despite this Ras Fire possessed the right idea of creating a unique product with enough attraction to sustain interest in himself and his talents.

Confirmed reports indicate that members of a prominent international band, visiting for the St. Patrick’s Day and related celebrations were scheduled to visit 2 hours after his death.  He at the time of the collapse was waiting to greet and host, with his customized visitors book, at the ready of his steel less arched entrance.

House before collapse

House before collapse

Climbing skyward on an uncertain base was an ongoing ambition of the brother, with at least 3 levels completed. Predictable disaster was pro-forma.

Allowing the construction certainly gave legitimacy to an idea that had none in fact.

The team headed by Mr. Franklyn Greenaway, the retired Chief Physical Planner was for 20 years considered consistently variable in its outreach duties, since the volcano. To confirm that a blind eye was turned to a workmanlike execution of duties is beyond this commentary. When you juxtapose the timing of erection of the cascaded edifice, designed and built by a devotee of the Rastafarian Faith, the team’s foray in overseeing the physical development of Montserrat, to the minutiae, must be fronted with a barrage of focused questions, to undergird an assessment of its various undertakings during its stint.

Questions must slide beyond the certification of the team members and zero in on how they did what they did in committing themselves and the management of the human resources at their call. Greenaway’s team should have borne in mind the patriotic implications of its work, given a natural desire in helping to architect a wholesome Montserrat, aesthetically sound and fitting into naturally established, unique environmental imperatives.

This incident can trigger a wider examination of the state of physical planning and to learn the extent of alleged breaches as widely reported since enforced settlement in the North. The influential ignores the laws; the powerless is railed upon, harried and told the law and its application. Sometimes one must wonder whether there are not personal vendettas at the root of such interventions.

House after collapse

House after collapse

Mr. Franklyn Greenaway himself is pivotal to this process of recall as a means of going forward. A voluntary explanation of his sojourn in this context is decent and proper as the baton was his to chiefly deliver.

Our culture is not investigative.  We employ the best we have when we do, expecting them to give recommendations to empower us as decision makers; virtually to tell us what to do, unnecessarily. They too give soft responses, slighting the evidence, though paid, as they wish to hide and duck fearful of being ostracized. Only tough decisions made by tough servants last for general good.

We tend to ignore and turn the other eye. We mix business with pleasure thinking that even paid employees should engage in self benefit at the expense of service, rendered soundly and professionally. It is the seat of an unending muddling of minds. It corrupts corruptly.

We disengage from what is germane to real progress; instead we take a path of least resistance failing to explore the breath of the journey either because we view progress from selfish eyes or just too lazy to make the sacrifice for the general good.

Productivity is thus rendered a death blow, as standards plummet to levels indecent to sustain the cycle of impoverished real growth and development.

The Caribbean islands are disaster prone and earthquake specifically so. Montserrat’s reputation in sound construction needs to survive to give confidence to investment opportunities; shoddy buildings that do not comply with the specific legal codes are unhealthy in the extreme.

It is a fact that earthquakes occur daily at an unrealized level in our region. Even though unfelt by the populace, their impacts on housing structures are accumulative.  Low standard construction will sustain lasting damage more so than that of approved standards. It is suspected that slight and continuous earth movements are a causative factor in the disintegration of the compromised home of Ras Fire and his unfortunate demise.

His life is taken. We see. We comment. Do we remain inured to a life snuffed this way, as just another statistic? Do we doggedly push for answers and seek practical interventions? Who will lead a righting of this wrong?

A little bit of people centeredness is the antidote to episodes as we now witness at Friths, Salem, Montserrat.

 Claude Gerald is a social commentator. He resides on Montserrat. Find him at ceegee15@hotmail.com

 

Leave a Reply

Newsletter

Archives

By Claude Gerald

The Physical Planning Unit, representing the executive arm of the government of Montserrat, must absorb substantial blame for the accidental death of the resplendent Ras Jaki Fire, at his crumbled Friths Village home.

He may have been a complex individual with his fixed ideas on life and living; but he was a citizen, a bona fide human being in a relationship with the state for which the latter may have relinquished major statutory responsibilities to his and others welfare, in allowing an obviously risky undertaking to keep compounding itself.

Insert Ads Here

His loss is mourned and his closely knit grieving family surely is in a state of perplexity. His death is not to be treated as casually as society may have viewed him; he died tragically and the state is potentially liable regardless of the informality of his status and his calling in his life.

In a responsibly governed society, with the appropriate checks and balances, those elected wage earners tasked with management of the high policy affairs of Montserrat, must go beyond frivolous talk and engage in institutional building that has a measurable degree of bite.

Coincident with law making must be a resolve to ensure that the respective departments of the public service are peopled, not with certified personnel only but with a character driven by the wider objective of living the letter and spirit of the law and its implications for national welfare.

Intestinal fortitude must be the defining feature of every public servant to qualify for timely emoluments. This test is not easily passed but it must be central to due processes. It is the standard that sustains workable standards.

This being so, the departed Ras Jaki’s fanciful idea of erecting a many story  monument, around a fruit laden coconut tree, unreinforced and made of gathered  volcanic rocks from the Behlam River basin, cemented by impotent mortar, would not have been a reality. No installation of electricity or water either.

Neither would the tourist attraction it was made to be nor the glib promotion that some Saturday ZJB ‘cultural shows’, had showered and promoted, as a novel site with outside the box appeal.

The shack’s inherent attractiveness was embedded in its high risk profile only. A visitor who dared to visit had little aversion to risk taking or was blissfully unaware of bodily dangers. Despite this Ras Fire possessed the right idea of creating a unique product with enough attraction to sustain interest in himself and his talents.

Confirmed reports indicate that members of a prominent international band, visiting for the St. Patrick’s Day and related celebrations were scheduled to visit 2 hours after his death.  He at the time of the collapse was waiting to greet and host, with his customized visitors book, at the ready of his steel less arched entrance.

House before collapse

House before collapse

Climbing skyward on an uncertain base was an ongoing ambition of the brother, with at least 3 levels completed. Predictable disaster was pro-forma.

Allowing the construction certainly gave legitimacy to an idea that had none in fact.

The team headed by Mr. Franklyn Greenaway, the retired Chief Physical Planner was for 20 years considered consistently variable in its outreach duties, since the volcano. To confirm that a blind eye was turned to a workmanlike execution of duties is beyond this commentary. When you juxtapose the timing of erection of the cascaded edifice, designed and built by a devotee of the Rastafarian Faith, the team’s foray in overseeing the physical development of Montserrat, to the minutiae, must be fronted with a barrage of focused questions, to undergird an assessment of its various undertakings during its stint.

Questions must slide beyond the certification of the team members and zero in on how they did what they did in committing themselves and the management of the human resources at their call. Greenaway’s team should have borne in mind the patriotic implications of its work, given a natural desire in helping to architect a wholesome Montserrat, aesthetically sound and fitting into naturally established, unique environmental imperatives.

This incident can trigger a wider examination of the state of physical planning and to learn the extent of alleged breaches as widely reported since enforced settlement in the North. The influential ignores the laws; the powerless is railed upon, harried and told the law and its application. Sometimes one must wonder whether there are not personal vendettas at the root of such interventions.

House after collapse

House after collapse

Mr. Franklyn Greenaway himself is pivotal to this process of recall as a means of going forward. A voluntary explanation of his sojourn in this context is decent and proper as the baton was his to chiefly deliver.

Our culture is not investigative.  We employ the best we have when we do, expecting them to give recommendations to empower us as decision makers; virtually to tell us what to do, unnecessarily. They too give soft responses, slighting the evidence, though paid, as they wish to hide and duck fearful of being ostracized. Only tough decisions made by tough servants last for general good.

We tend to ignore and turn the other eye. We mix business with pleasure thinking that even paid employees should engage in self benefit at the expense of service, rendered soundly and professionally. It is the seat of an unending muddling of minds. It corrupts corruptly.

We disengage from what is germane to real progress; instead we take a path of least resistance failing to explore the breath of the journey either because we view progress from selfish eyes or just too lazy to make the sacrifice for the general good.

Productivity is thus rendered a death blow, as standards plummet to levels indecent to sustain the cycle of impoverished real growth and development.

The Caribbean islands are disaster prone and earthquake specifically so. Montserrat’s reputation in sound construction needs to survive to give confidence to investment opportunities; shoddy buildings that do not comply with the specific legal codes are unhealthy in the extreme.

It is a fact that earthquakes occur daily at an unrealized level in our region. Even though unfelt by the populace, their impacts on housing structures are accumulative.  Low standard construction will sustain lasting damage more so than that of approved standards. It is suspected that slight and continuous earth movements are a causative factor in the disintegration of the compromised home of Ras Fire and his unfortunate demise.

His life is taken. We see. We comment. Do we remain inured to a life snuffed this way, as just another statistic? Do we doggedly push for answers and seek practical interventions? Who will lead a righting of this wrong?

A little bit of people centeredness is the antidote to episodes as we now witness at Friths, Salem, Montserrat.

 Claude Gerald is a social commentator. He resides on Montserrat. Find him at ceegee15@hotmail.com