Monday, August 23, 2010

Modern-Day Slavery: Jamaica for Sale

Today, 23rd of August, is African Remembrance Day, which celebrates the Haitian Revolution.

On Saturday, the BFI screened “Jamaica for Sale” as part of its African Remembrance Day programme. This documentary by Esther Figueroa explores the way the hotels and tourism industry in Jamaica is destroying the island’s coastline and with it, its wildlife, and a whole way of life for many people.

Large sections of Jamaica’s coast have been sold off to private developers who build vast hotel complexes, restricting access to the beaches where people used to rest and relax.

The construction workers work 12-hours days, for which they are paid a pittance. Their working conditions are often unsafe, and accidents have led to injuries and deaths. The workers often have to wait weeks to be paid at all. Then, they spend up to a third of their wages transport to and from work.

This is modern-day slavery.

Meanwhile, the hotels are exempt from paying taxes for up to 15 years, which means that their profits are not benefiting the local economy.

The lack of access to the beaches is impacting on the fishing industry. Not that this matters, as the fish are dying off. The coral reefs are dying, so the fish have nowhere to breed. The trees are cut down to make way for the hotels, which means that birds have nowhere to nest. We see a shot of a pelican picking its way around debris in the sea.

The images in this film will shock and disturb you. The combination of greed, short-sightedness and wanton disregard both for the people of Jamaica and for the environment leaves me speechless (for once).

There are trade unions, as well as people organising locally around the environmental issues. The film raises many questions but provides no answers and, unfortunately, at the screening I attended, no answers were forthcoming. But you need to see this film.

Click here for the African Remembrance Day show on What U Need to Know

See also:
Two Films about Haiti

Jamaica: Paradise Lost
Jamaica for Sale on Facebook

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