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Carolyn Cooper | David versus Goliath in Discovery Bay | Commentary

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The Bible story about the clash between the giant Goliath and the youth David came to mind when I heard the latest development in the conflict between Guardsman Hospitality Ltd. and environmental activists in Discovery Bay.

Lee Arbouin, president of the Community Development Committee (CDC), as well as another resident of the town are being sued by Guardsman Hospitality Ltd. for defamation and damages to the tune of US$1,872,000.00, representing one year’s earnings that the company claims to have lost.

Lee Arbouin is a retired educator. She was an inspector of schools in the United Kingdom. She is not wealthy. Most of the members of the CDC are senior citizens. Many of them are returning residents who have come home to spend their hard-earned retirement years in peace. They really don’t want to make any trouble. They enjoy the simple pleasure of going to the beach. And they want to ensure that they can continue to do so. They are also looking out for all the children who enjoy the beach so much, especially during the holidays!

These civic-minded citizens are committed to doing whatever they can to protect beautiful Discovery Bay from environmental degradation. Not just for themselves, but for generations to come. That’s why the members of the CDC have engaged in peaceful protests for many months, trying to bring public attention to their concerns.

I first heard about the group in June last year when I was sitting in for Mutabaruka on his ‘Steppin Razor’ programme on IRIE FM. Lee called in to the show asking for help to get their message across to a wide public.

JUST ONE FLAT STONE

The power dynamic between the Discovery Bay community activists and Guardsman Hospitality Ltd. is clearly unequal. The private company is rather wealthy and can afford to hire expensive lawyers to defend its interests. Unquestionably, it has the economic and social might to completely defeat the CDC. Like the Philistine Goliath, Guardsman Hospitality Ltd. possesses all the necessary armaments for the legal battle.

Goliath is described in this way in I Samuel 17, Common English Bible: “A champion named Goliath from Gath came out from the Philistine camp. He was more than nine feet tall. He had a bronze helmet on his head and wore bronze scale-armor weighing one hundred twenty-five pounds. He had bronze plates on his shins, and a bronze scimitar hung on his back. His spear shaft was as strong as the bar on a weaver’s loom, and its iron head weighed fifteen pounds. His shield-bearer walked in front of him.”

By contrast, David could not even manage to wear the armour King Saul put on him. It was far too heavy. He took off the coat and the bronze helmet; and put down the sword. Instead, he went to a stream and picked up five flat stones as ammunition for his slingshot.

When Goliath took a good look at David, he got angry and shouted, “Am I some sort of dog that you come at me with sticks?…Come here,” he said to David, “and I’ll feed your flesh to the wild birds and the wild animals!”

David calmly responded, “You are coming against me with sword, spear, and scimitar, but I come against you in the name of the Lord of heavenly forces…”

The very first stone David fired at Goliath clapped him in the middle of his forehead. And that was that. He used Goliath’s own sword to cut off the Philistine’s head.

THE MORAL OF THE STORY

That story has a lovely moral. Might is not always right. And weighty, high-powered weapons can be defeated by low-level technology.

All the same, community activists in Discovery Bay are not depending on a slingshot and a pebble to defend themselves in court. They have hired an eminent lawyer who, in the circumstances, is willing to work with them according to their means.

The CDC has launched a GoFundMe campaign to cover the cost of their legal fees. Their target is US$10,000.00. That should not be too hard to achieve. All it takes is for 1,000 people to give US$10 each. And many of us at home and in the Diaspora can afford to give more. The Discovery Bay community activists are depending on citizens of good will to put their money where their mouth is.

Here is an opportunity to make a difference. Instead of forcing the CDC and, in particular, Lee Arbouin, to bear the full cost of legal defence, we can share the burden. To find the link, go on the GoFundMe site and search for ‘To defend lawsuit from dolphinarium’.

The fight shouldn’t be left to small groups of activists who are willing to lay themselves on the line.

Powerful government agencies that are responsible for environmental planning should also support the CDC, whether they gave approval or not, but they should support discourse on the environment.

 

– Carolyn Cooper, PhD, is a specialist on culture and development. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and karokupa@gmail.com

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