Fake News Polluting Cockpit Country Discussion

The issue of mining in Jamaica’s resource- and culture-rich Cockpit Country has become a political football, liberally sprinkled with fake news until it is almost too heavy to kick from side to side. Almost, but not quite.

Both sides of the argument are vociferously being debated on traditional and social media. Each passionate pontificator is thoroughly convinced that truth is on his side.

But there is a fundamental difference of opinion that muddies the waters of this debate: ‘apples’ are being compared to ‘oranges’. It is much harder to reach consensus when we are unable and/or unwilling to recognize that we are arguing about entirely different things. And, to make matters worse, logic often retreats in the face of die-hard political leanings.

For those of us interested in a healthy discussion in which we find workable solutions for the way forward, I suggest we begin by making sure we are all — at the very least — on the same page as we begin the debate. Are we talking about the entire Cockpit Country (apples), or just a section designated for protection (oranges)?

Those interested in clarity should read Robert Nesta Morgan’s piece in the August 4 edition of The Gleaner. The government senator and parliamentary secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister methodically laid out the ruling party’s case. He noted that, as outlined in Prime Minister Andrew Holness’ November 2017 parliamentary address, the current administration has taken steps to define the sections of land that make up the Cockpit Country Protected Area (CCPA) and has also made it clear that the CCPA is off limits for mining. Their definition of the CCPA was based on a combination of previous research and the administration’s efforts to protect “not just environmental and hydrological sites but also cultural and historical sites”.

This definition is integral to any debate on what is a very polarizing issue. The current administration can claim that, by its definition, there is no mining going on in the protected areas. However, as Morgan pointed out in his article, the case can be made that there is mining being done in the Cockpit Country, in areas beyond the CCPA, for example those being mined by Noranda Jamaica Bauxite Partners. In fact Noranda made that very point in an ad that also ran in the August 4 edition of The Gleaner, explaining that the 8,300 hectares its lease allows it to mine are not a part of the protected section of the Cockpit County.

Now some may argue that Noranda, Morgan and his colleagues in the government are splitting hairs, that the CCPA is a part of the Cockpit so no matter how you look at it, there is mining taking place in the Cockpit Country; and this should not be allowed under any circumstances. The counter argument, a point which Morgan alluded to in his article, would likely be that it is economically not feasible to make some areas off limits, such as those currently contributing to job creation and economic growth. But that is yet another debate for yet another time, one that will undoubtedly touch on the peripheral but equally heated argument about which administration granted Noranda its license — and when…

Any future debate should put partisan politics aside as we try to find a balance between protecting the rich resources of the Cockpit Country while effectively leveraging them to improve the lives of the Jamaican people. I look forward to that discussion. I have grown weary of misinformation masquerading as truth.

Debate is healthy; but deliberately misleading others is not. And there are some who appear intent on doing just that. Not fans of the truth, they do not seek it out. They exist in a state of alternative facts; their default mode is fake news. They see only what they wish to see, diligently keeping tally on their political scoreboards.

By Claudia Clay

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