Bishop of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands, Rt Rev Howard Gregory has lashed out against successful members of society who live in isolation, saying that their selfishness has done nothing for nation-building.
Describing such persons as “castrated slaves”, the bishop said that class segregation is one of the biggest problems that the country now faces.
“So, there are many who are convinced that they have made it when they are featured on the social pages of the newspapers… and there are those who have been the beneficiaries of the best that this country has to offer, as first and second generation of peasant forebears, who now see it as their entitlement to earn multiple milliondollar packages per year, but who are satisfied to pay their staff, who are working in very profitable institutions, the minimum wage; and justify their actions by saying that this is what the Government says that they must. It takes a delayed International Monetary Fund agreement to make them agitated and realise that we are all part of a common melting pot,” he said.
Gregory was speaking Sunday at a thanksgiving service at Kingston Parish Church in downtown Kingston to mark the 140th anniversary of the City of Kingston. He used the biblical story of Nehemiah, a cup bearer turned overseer for the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem following its ruin under Persian control, to background his message.
The Anglican Bishop described the anniversary as a milestone which deserves observance by all Jamaicans, and not just to the residents of the capital city.
He bemoaned the decay of the city, which he said is reflected in the physical environment and in the living conditions of its residents.
“Every time I travel to cities abroad and see what the renewal of cities can look like, I weep over my city,” Gregory said. “We have a well-laid-out city with good infrastructure, and it is being allowed to slide further and further into decay. The twin-edged sword of crime and violence and political tribalism have been allowed to wreak havoc in residential communities nearest to the city centre, and the lack of adequate planning for the city is obvious for all to see.
“In our city, a garage can begin operation on your street, and there is no agent of State which will respond with any measure of effectiveness,” he continued. “And the sad thing about it all is that the residents can complain from now to eternity and they are not receiving a response from those individuals and institutions charged with governance that would allow people to foster a sense of ownership of their communities and partnership with municipal authorities.”
According to Gregory, an effective system of governance is woefully lacking across the nation, and the people needed more than a public relations campaign from city officials. He talked of a need for a proper communication system, where residents can air their concerns and have them addressed, instead of being “given the run around”.
He said the challenge is for the country’s leaders to exercise vision and for all stakeholders including, civil society, business, and the church to unite in order to transform Kingston into a place where human beings count, and the physical environment is one which facilitates human development.