Sunday 25th February , 2007

Peter Quentrall-Thomas
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Truth about Port-of-Spain

Well, my article on Jamaica provoked some interesting responses! Let me start by thanking everyone who wrote about the article.

They say, “A friend tells you what you are doing wrong” and I thought I’d share two of the responses with you to illustrate that maxim.

The first is from a Jamaican manager who works here and the second is from a Jamaican woman who was visiting for Carnival.

“After reading your article on page 30 of the Sunday Guardian (February 18), my first reaction was ‘How dare you! I’m a Jamaican who has been living in Trinidad for the last two years. To have someone (an outsider) make the points you made was akin to getting kicked in the stomach.

“However, my second (and accurate) reaction was sadness and disappointment, because you are right. You have pointed out to Trinidad what intelligent and well-thinking Jamaicans have known for years... there are two Jamaicas. Had your driver taken you into upper St Andrew, you would have noticed that there are also two Kingstons (sad but true).

“The Caribbean has a wonderful history and brand that appeals to the rest of the world. Jamaica, too, has its own appeal of sun, sea, sand and fun. Unfortunately, we haven’t learnt how to keep our ‘house’ clean.

“What you saw on your trip is exactly what the visitors’ see when they fly into Kingston. Those who fly into Montego Bay to stay at the all-inclusives, however, have a different experience. So you can well imagine their shock when friends and/or colleagues relate the horrors of a trip to Kingston.

“Our leaders haven’t been able to maintain a consistent image throughout the island. The irony, however, is that during his stint as Prime Minister, Edward Seaga insisted on a ‘clean house’ throughout the 14 parishes and did so. It just goes to show that we lack consistency and continuity.

“Hopefully, the right people will see this article and be ashamed enough to do the right thing. I also hope that we who live in Trinidad will adopt some civic pride and restore our highways, byways and cities to something worth being proud of.”

The second letter read:

“Hi, I am of Jamaican origin and currently in Trinidad for the Carnival, staying at the ---(name of St Ann’s-based hotel given). I resent your article about Jamaica. You mentioned that you had a pass and wanted to breeze through the airport. Terrorism is still a reality and nobody should be able to breeze through anywhere regardless of their skin colour.

“Then you mention that the airport is under construction and begin to describe for us what a place under construction should look like. By its very nature, construction is messy. As a matter of fact, I drove past the Queen’s Park Oval and it looks like they need another six years to finish and you have the nerve to talk about handling tens of thousands of cricket fans.

“Don’t let me start on the hotels in Trinidad. They get an easy “F” for failing. I am currently staying at --- (a St Ann’s hotel ) and they cannot even handle the few guests they have for Carnival, much less visitors for a worldwide event. Heck, you can’t even get a cup of coffee after 9pm. Jamaica has been handling tourists for many years and will continue to accommodate and make people feel at home. Let’s face it, Jamaica is a tourist paradise unlike Trinidad so I would not worry about that if I were you.

“Enough said about that, let’s move on to the two islands business. I visited downtown Port-of-Spain, specifically Nelson Street, and it looks like the whole place need a facelift. We also notice that the bands skirt the areas so that the lovely visitors don’t get a look at the ghetto of Trinidad. But when we went to St Clair, it was a different ballgame. These so-called Trinidadians, who look almost white, own everything. Talk about a bunch of people who value hair and colour, it’s the Trinidadians.

“Only yesterday I had a conversation about the buildings you call the Magnificent Seven. Pretty soon, you guys are gonna have to drop the magnificent. What’s so magnificent about buildings sorely in need of restoration? Maybe you need to expend some more time and energy on articles discussing the need to restore these landmarks if you value them.

“I took my daughter to the Kiddies Carnival and we were commenting about the lack of receptacles on the street and the water running through the gutters in the sidewalk, which smells bad and looks bad. You guys should really start planning to institute a proper drainage system. You accomplish three things as I see it:

• Take that green, unsightly, smelly water of the street.

• Save car owners’ money in constantly banging their vehicles to get to one corner from the next.

• Increase the free flow of traffic.

“No Sir, Trinidad is moreso a contradiction. The moral of this story is that people who live in glass houses should not throw stones. Trinidad ain’t all that.”

So Mr Mayor and the Town Councillors…if a Jamaican has that to say about our capital, you can imagine what the foreign visitors must say.

Just a thought.

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