The Christmas traffic in Kingston has now officially reached insanity level. I am not sure what all the frenzied activity is about; downtown at least business is reportedly very slow, worse than last year. But some people still have money in their pockets uptown, and the cost of gasoline has finally dropped (albeit far too slowly) so people can use up more gas by rushing up and down. As for me, I have gone into reclusive mode for the season…
Firstly, my bad… Well, one of my faithful readers – who is always refreshingly honest with me – feels my comments on the Minister of Youth and Culture’s Instagram bikini photo were – well, “catty.” Yes, it did really look that way, and I humbly apologize for being so harsh. My problem is, I just cannot join the majority of Jamaicans, male and female, who virtually idolize beauty queens (and ex-beauty queens). Yes, they are beautiful; there are many beautiful people in the world. The other point I was trying to get across is that our political leaders need to find a way of carefully separating their personal and professional lives, especially on social media. And that applies to images of oneself, too. They are not handling it well, in general. Meanwhile, I look forward to hearing more about the achievements of the Minister in her work – and in particular the youth side of her portfolio.
No more impunity: Two pieces of news this week. Firstly, a former policeman and his sister were convicted and sentenced to life in prison for the murder (and beheading) of a taxi driver, who had reported the policeman for corruption. Secondly, the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) is leaving no stone unturned in its investigation of an alleged police “death squad” in Clarendon and has exhumed the body of Seydane Nelson, who was said to have been killed by a criminal but perhaps may not have been. Twelve Clarendon police officers are now before the courts in connection with eight murders. The rate of police killings has dropped drastically (by over fifty per cent) this year. Not a coincidence.
“Third most murderous”: Jamaicans are perturbed about the country’s portrayal as third in the world for homicides. This comes from a new (first of its kind) World Health Organization report on Violence Prevention (not just murders, but things like child abuse/protection, gender-based violence and so on). The figures seem to reflect a pattern (I think, having read the introduction) covering 2000 – 20012, while acknowledging a decline in murders in Jamaica since 2009. It is well worth looking at, as it is far more than homicide stats, depressing as they are: http://www.who.int/violence_injury_prevention/violence/en/ And here is the link to Jamaica’s country profile, which clearly shows homicides from 2011 — 2011 in a graph: http://www.who.int/violence_injury_prevention/violence/status_report/2014/coutry_profiles/Jamaica_new.pdf?ua=1
“Solving” murders: I was truly perplexed by a press event involving the Jamaica Constabulary Force and the China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC). With some fanfare this week, Police Commissioner Carl Williams announced that the murders of four Jamaicans (CHEC employees, who inexplicably were transporting a large amount of cash payroll through the countryside in a private vehicle) were “solved.” Well, not quite surely Mr. Commissioner? The four men charged with murder have yet to see their day in court. The Chinese handed over two vehicles and everyone is happy. I wish we were in such a hurry to “solve” the hundreds, nay thousands of other murder cases over the past several years. But this involves the Chinese, so extra effort and ingratiating smiles are required.
Hacking the GoJ: Sony are not the only ones. It appears at least ten Jamaican Government websites have been hacked, possibly by an entity called “AnonGhost.” The Opposition first mentioned it – not sure why the Government did not admit it earlier. It has requested help from the Organization of American States to deal with it, and hopefully it will soon be fixed. However, one wonders whether all our Government websites are really secure. Of course, there are others that are simply not updated – but that is a separate matter altogether!
Cuba, Jamaica and tourism: While Jamaican politicians (especially those who still like to consider themselves socialists) expressed delight at President Obama’s historic announcement of the renewal of diplomatic relations with Cuba, there are increasingly loud murmurings about how this will affect Jamaica, especially in the tourism sector. Some say the opening up of Cuba to American travelers will be the death of our tourism industry. I would not go that far, but the impact will be considerable and we will have to work very hard to improve and upgrade our tourism product. Our political leaders will not be waxing so lyrical if (or when) U.S. investment floods into Cuba, at Jamaica’s expense. According to Caribbean Tourism Organization statistics, Cuba already had more stopover visitors up to September this year than Jamaica. Without any Americans. No cruise ship visitors, but they will follow in due course. You can find the stats at http://www.onecaribbean.org/statistics/latest-tourism-statistics-tables/
Speaking of tourism, I wrote earlier this year about the state of the resort town of Negril (our Tourism Minister represents the area, by the way) and the debate over possible solutions to the problem of the famous, but disappearing beach upon which the whole life of the town depends. One small hotel along the beach has been taken over by squatters. A few days ago there were piles of garbage around the town; the photos were posted by concerned businesspeople on Facebook. Harassment is rampant – and not only on the beach. When I was last there, in the space of a few minutes (I was mistaken for a tourist because of my color) people offered me drugs, taxis and another service that I shall not mention, while I was standing on the compound of a hotel – not even on the street. They were hissing at me from the hedges. Don’t tell me it’s “no problem, mon,” please!
Meanwhile, the National Environment & Planning Agency (NEPA) – in the face of opposition from a large and vocal group of local hoteliers and residents – has gone ahead and approved the construction of two breakwaters composed of large boulders, and the dredging of the sea at Negril, to reduce the beach erosion problem. No surprise I am afraid, but they might have had the decency to inform the Negril Chamber of Commerce and other concerned parties before they heard this for the first time in the media. NEPA claims to have made the decision (so they can access the climate change adaptation funding) “after carefully considering all comments from stakeholders in Negril and the wider Jamaica.” I suspect this will not be the end of the matter. And I will be writing more.
My latest post on gleanerblogs.com discusses the Digicel Foundation’s focus on special needs…and the need for “consistent advocacy” on the issue, as expressed by Senator Floyd Morris recently. Read here:http://gleanerblogs.com/socialimpact/?p=2404
Need a car wash at your home? Go to mobilewashexpressja.com to make a booking! (Recommended on Twitter).
Big ups to…
U.S. Peace Corps Jamaica Director Carla Ellis, who is departing these shores for Ghana. The Peace Corps quietly does amazing work around the island. Dr. Ellis says, “Jamaica will always be in my heart…” And a new U.S. Ambassador to Jamaica has been sworn in. Luis Moreno will arrive in Jamaica with his wife and two daughters after Christmas. He has previously served in Iraq, Haiti, Monterrey/Mexico, Tel Aviv and Bogota.
Stand Up for Jamaica, founded 15 years ago and headed by local human rights activist Maria Carla Gullotta of Amnesty International, which has for some time been involved in an important prison rehabilitation program. Ms. Gullotta was showcasing the work of female prisoners, who make lovely jewelry, at a recent women’s networking event sponsored by the European Union. The organization’s documentary film, “Songs of Redemption,” is very powerful. Doing wonderful work!
And do you listen to Zanj Radio? If you want to hear an exciting mix of African, reggae, jazz and world music spun by Jamaican deejays on weekend evenings/nights, tune in at http://zanj.org.
When I see the names of those who have been murdered in the past few days, I feel so deeply saddened. I wonder about their lives, their families, and their last days. My deepest condolences to all those who mourn:
Mark Williams, Barbican, Kingston
Kimberley Bennett, 23, Port Henderson Road, Portmore, St. Catherine
Unidentified man, Kitson Town, St. Catherine (killed by police)
June Peng (sic) – Chinese businessman, 26, Hayes, Clarendon
Constable Orville Preddie, Farm, Manchester
Joseph Senior, 40, Ocho Rios, St. Ann
Unidentified man, Ginger Hill, St. Elizabeth