A Double Whammy for Justice, The Unwanted Ones and A Private Plane: Sunday, October 19, 2014

A Sunday check-in, and plenty going on it seems. The Jamaican obsession with health issues continues unabated.

Robert Hill (Kentucky Kid) was murdered in December, 2009.

Robert Hill (Kentucky Kid) was murdered in December, 2009.

A double whammy: Last week, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) in her wisdom dropped two long-running, highly publicized cases involving the deaths of civilians and the police. One was the murder of an entertainer called Robert Hill (“Kentucky Kid”), who was shot dead in 2009 at his Kingston home. The DPP decided to drop the case against three police officers and two civilians because of lack of evidence – although the Coroner’s Court ruled finally in August that they should be charged for his murder. Now, Mr. Hill had posted videos on YouTube, talked to the media and human rights groups, told everyone he was being threatened by the police after a disagreement with them over a motor accident. The DPP said she had to go along with the police claim of a “shootout.” It would be “unethical” for her to pursue it further, she said. Unethical.

Secondly, a case of major concern – the alleged abduction and murder of two young men in Kingston (ten years ago) by two policemen – simply outraged me. The DPP decided to drop this one because, having consulted with the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Justice on the budget – it was too expensive to continue. Earlier this year, when there was a hung jury in the case, the judge ordered a retrial. But no, can’t afford it, sorry. Now, if Parliament had done the regulations attached to legislation (passed nearly two years ago) on video evidence being provided by witnesses in court, it might have happened (a room has already been set aside for this, but no – regulations not done yet). The Gleaner responded with an excellent editorial: “Justice kicked in the gut.”  Twice.

The DPP came on radio with a long monologue with her legalese. But the fact is, Madam… When was a policeman successfully prosecuted for murder? Between 2000 and 2010 there were 2,220 Jamaicans killed by the police. Two policemen were convicted (none since 2006). Then again, what is the clear-up rate for murders in Jamaica? (And I don’t mean killing a wanted man in a “shootout” either – that is not a “clear-up.”) I think it is not much more than five per cent of murders are solved annually. Jamaica’s justice system is a disaster. And yet there are people clamoring for the death penalty?

“There’s no justice in JA. None, none.” So said the mother of one of the young men abducted on the Washington Boulevard, Kemar Walters. Who can say otherwise?

Not wanted: The song and dance about Jamaicans being turned away at Trinidad’s airport, allegedly ill-treated and disrespected, has started up again. The Trinidadians now claim there are 19,000 Jamaicans living illegally in their country, without work or fixed abode. Since Trinidad’s economy consistently performs better than Jamaica’s, and there are likely more opportunities, it is not surprising that Jamaicans want to try their luck there. And there is supposed to be something called freedom of movement among countries in the Caribbean Community.  There have been some rather tactless comments on both sides, and many Jamaicans feel the Trinidadians are “dissing” them again. Still, now the two countries are supposed to be having “immigration talks” (didn’t that happen a few months ago?)

Yasin Abu Bakr, leader of the Jamaat al Muslimeen in Trinidad.

Yasin Abu Bakr, leader of the Jamaat al Muslimeen in Trinidad. A very costly deportee.

And definitely not wanted: So then detained Trinidadian Muslim leader Yasin Abu Bakr at Kingston’s international airport as he was coming in for a shindig with the creepy Louis Farrakhan which took place today at the National Arena. Mr. Abu Bakr was not amused and apparently became “boisterous” when they tried to send him back on a commercial flight, “in the interest of public safety.” So the man was put in detention and deported on Friday via private plane at a cost to taxpayers of J$4 million. The National Security Ministry explained: “Under the circumstances, it is the country (in this case Jamaica) which refuses to land a passenger that is required to pay for the return flight.” Why Louis Farrakhan would want to hold his “Million Man March” in Jamaica anyway is beyond me. I am not sure what benefit it will bring Jamaica; incidentally, the Nation of Islam has a local HQ in Portmore, St. Catherine.  (Reminder: Abu Bakr and others attempted to overthrow the Trinidadian government in 1990, taking some parliamentarians hostage. 24 people were killed). Oh, enough already… I wonder though if the Farrakhan visit caused any more cost to us taxpayers, apart from (indirectly) the four million?

Jamaicans seem to have a love affair with Minister Farrakhan. He received an official welcome at the airport…Nation of Islam Spiritual Leader, Hon. Minister Louis Farrakhan, delivers a brief statement during a welcoming ceremony hosted for him by the Government of Jamaica in the VIP lounge of the Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston, on Wednesday (October 15), following his arrival from the United States for a five-day visit. Mr. Farrakhan is in the island to mark the 19th anniversary of the Million Man March, staged in the United States capital, Washington, D.C., on October 16, 1995, which he was instrumental in organizing.

Jamaicans seem to have a love affair with Nation of Islam Spiritual Leader Minister Louis Farrakhan. He received an official welcome at the airport and here “delivers a brief statement during a welcoming ceremony hosted for him by the Government of Jamaica in the VIP lounge of the Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston, on Wednesday (October 15), following his arrival from the United States for a five-day visit. Mr. Farrakhan is in the island to mark the 19th anniversary of the Million Man March, staged in the United States capital, Washington, D.C., on October 16, 1995, which he was instrumental in organizing.” (Photo: Jamaica Information Service)

Other unwanted ones: Anyone from Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone. Jamaica followed some other Caribbean countries (St. Lucia and St. Vincent/Grenadines and others) and imposed a travel ban on travelers from these three countries on Thursday. This coincided with a major “scare” (yes, there had to be one) the day before, when a U.S. citizen traveling from Liberia was allowed to go to his hotel in Montego Bay after being cleared through the airport (he had no symptoms). Oh, and back to the Muslims: A Guyanese Muslim leader, Gerald Perreira, who heads the Black Consciousness Movement Guyana, was taken off a flight in Antigua en route to Jamaica. He is planning legal action!

Guyanese Muslim leader Gerald Perreira.

Guyanese Muslim leader Gerald Perreira was prevented from traveling to Jamaica for the Farrakhan meeting here.

Panicking professionals: Meanwhile, at Mandeville’s public hospital, a Nigerian man who turned out to have food poisoning vomited in the waiting room, causing hysteria. According to Gleaner sources, some of the medical staff locked themselves in a room when they heard his nationality and refused to treat him. I really hope this is untrue. Yes, it is true that the promised training for medical staff has not yet taken place (see below); and presumably they do not have the protective gear either. But they should have also been trained to support and help the patient, first and foremost; so put whatever gear you have on, isolate him and calm people down. Don’t panic! But then, recently a man died after many hours on a waiting room floor in a public hospital, so it seems helping patients may not always be a top priority. Something needs to be done about all of this!

Taking the lead: The Prime Minister held a meeting, and read out a statement about Jamaica’s Ebola preparedness – or, at least, plans to prepare. The text of her statement is here: http://jis.gov.jm/statement-prime-minister-action-relating-health-emergency/ It is simply marvelous that our PM has finally sat up and paid attention to the growing concerns over the chikungunya virus, which got carried over into a near-panic over Ebola. We will wait and see what actually happens. For some reason the so-called Information Minister, Sandrea Falconer, is “monitoring” the too-little-too-late cleanup operations across the island, to remove mosquito breeding sites. J$500 million has been allocated for this purpose, apparently. Commentator Gordon Robinson gives some interesting historical background in his latest blog post, here: http://theterribletout.wordpress.com/2014/10/14/ready-for-the-big-one/ – asserting, for example: “Almost every modern outbreak of dengue can be traced to Jamaica’s abysmal public health practices (1963/64 when the first 1500 cases were confirmed here; 1968/69 and 1977).”

Can we all calm down and get a little perspective on Ebola, please? I know the government’s (non)performance on chikungunya does not exactly fill one with confidence, but in many ways I am more concerned about its ongoing, lackadaisical approach to public health in general. The Ministry of Education has finally roused itself and decided to use the upcoming half-term break to clean up the compounds of 300 schools (why not all schools?) No rush, take your time… Meanwhile two teachers and a student have died at Vere Technical High School due to the virus – they all had existing medical conditions, but I think we need to pay attention.

A television set rests among the trash at the Airports Authority of Jamaica's land next to the airport. (My photo)

A television set rests among the trash on the Airports Authority of Jamaica’s land next to the airport. Toxic garbage is also burned there.  (My photo)

200 communities fogged? So we are told, but certainly our community (and nowhere near it, that I know of) was not on the list. Not that spraying chemicals around the place is the most effective way of fighting mosquito infestation. There needs to have been – over decades – attention paid to public and environmental health. Which was not done. I recently noted the horrific state of lands close to the Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston – a smoking garbage dump (illegal), piles of waste along the seashore and clear attempts to burn toxic material (aerosols etc). And yes, I took photos. The problem is far deeper than a few quick clean-ups organized by politicians and supporters.

Garbage washed down from gullies and clogging Kingston Harbour. (My photo)

Garbage washed down from gullies and clogging Kingston Harbour. (My photo)

Also, how many (residential) communities have raw sewage flowing in the street? Yes, raw sewage. How does this balance out with our new-found zeal for “cleaning up”? I have seen several television reports in the past few weeks. Riverton Meadows (how inappropriately named) is one such community, represented by Industry, Investment & Commerce Minister Anthony Hylton, where raw sewage has been flowing through the residents’ yards for months. Has this been addressed, or will it be?

As for the local opinion polls… One People’s National Party (PNP) Member of Parliament told me that polls are only a “snapshot.” This is true, but the recent Gleaner polls are pretty scary snapshots for the PNP, I would think. The “Comrades” must be concerned at the lack of trust and confidence in their government – in particular the apparent slump in their talisman Portia Simpson Miller’s popularity. 80 per cent of those polled, according to today’s results, say the Government has not kept its promises and is lacking in accountability and transparency. Ugh! But are our polls really reliable?

Minister of Health, Hon. Dr. Fenton Ferguson (right), hands over two of four hand-held fever temperature machines that the Government has acquired, to Public Health Nurse attached to the Norman Manley International Airport, Beverly Creary (2nd left), today Friday (October 17), while other medical staff and officials at the Airport, look on. (Photo: Jamaica Information Service)

Minister of Health, Hon. Dr. Fenton Ferguson (right), hands over two of four hand-held fever temperature machines that the Government has acquired, to Public Health Nurse attached to the Norman Manley International Airport, Beverly Creary (2nd left), today Friday (October 17), while other medical staff and officials at the Airport, look on. (Photo: Jamaica Information Service)

Thank you to the husband of our Prime Minister, Portia Simpson Miller, for donating four thermal sensors (to detect high temperatures) for ebola screening at the airport. They are all in Kingston, though; I think we need them in Montego Bay as soon as possible, so hope they will “soon come.”

I heard that there was a double murder just up the road from our house in Kingston last night. However, the local media don’t seem to have reported it yet. After all, it’s a holiday weekend. In any event, I extend my condolences to the families of these Jamaicans who have lost their loved ones:

Shamar Salmon, 33, Allman Town, Kingston (killed by police)

Natoya Sloley, 29, Montego Bay, St. James

Karl Fletcher, Tower Hill, St. James

Tyrone Cunningham, 38, Over River, St. James

Latoya Birch, 23, Culloden, Westmoreland

Peter Faley, 29, Seaforth, St. Thomas

Focus on Democracy Issues: Professor Trevor Munroe Speaks on Justice, Transparency and Corruption

There are many issues in our society, often interlocking, that we should be paying attention to in Jamaica. A lot of the noise and day-to-day drama in the media tends to get in the way. But one Jamaican is very good at making us sit down quietly for a moment to think about the way in which our democracy is heading. He is one of those special watchdogs, and his name is Professor Trevor Munroe, Executive Director of National Integrity Action (NIA), who is also Honorary Visiting Professor at the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute at the University of the West Indies, Mona.

I heard some of Professor Munroe’s comments on local television and they sparked my interest. I am therefore sharing with you his presentation to the St. Andrew Justices of the Peace Magistrates Association Quarterly Meeting in Kingston on September 27, 2014. I am grateful to Professor Munroe for allowing me to reproduce his remarks, below…

May I first of all thank Custos Marigold Harding for the kind invitation to be your guest speaker this morning, at this quarterly meeting of the St. Andrew Justices of the Peace and Lay Magistrates Association.

I am thankful not least of all because it provides me with an opportunity to express gratitude, too often not forthcoming, on behalf of the public for the services you perform as Justices of the Peace and as Lay Magistrates. Many of these services are simple but essential to the community and to members of the community – certifying a passport photograph, providing a reference to open a bank account, or authenticating a document. You really don’t know how important these are, until, for example, you need a photograph to be urgently certified and a JP cannot be located. And, by the way, should there not be an easier way to find out who is the JP nearest you? When we do find you, and you sign the passport photograph, we often don’t say thanks. Today, I would like to make up for that bad behaviour.

More importantly, I want to share with you some thoughts on the critical role of the JP and the lay magistrate in strengthening Jamaica’s Justice System.

May I begin with this observation: there is an insufficient appreciation amongst our people and perhaps amongst some JPs themselves that you are not only a servant of the community, important as that is, you are technically, a “judicial public officer”, albeit a voluntary one; our citizens often do not realise and new to be made aware that all JPs undergo qualifying training and many specialised training and that the JP is an officer that “is significant in the system of administration of justice in Jamaica”, in children’s courts for example, and in the drug courts. As such, the rules and regulations appointing you require the Governor General to be satisfied that each of you “is of unquestionable integrity… commands the respect and confidence of [your] community, has given good service to the community and the wider Jamaica and demonstrates the potential for continuing to so serve” (Jamaica Gazette Supplement, Dec. 14, 2006). I urge each and every one of you, JPs and Lay Magistrates of St Andrew, to live up to these special qualities and to uphold these high standards.

However, as is too often the case in almost every calling, there will be a few bad eggs and in such circumstances, the reputation of the good will invariably suffer for the bad. May I therefore urge you to identify any bad eggs amongst you and separate them from your ranks. Please recall your oath “to do right to all manner of people”, not just to some, maybe friends and company, and leave out others; to fulfil your responsibilities without fear or favour neither with timidity nor trepidation; most of all, recall your obligation to avoid behaviour that may “bring the administration of justice into disrepute.”

Custos, I am confident that when a complaint comes to you that suggests violation of these requirements, you shall institute the necessary inquiry and as the rules indicate, recommend revocation when the facts so justify.

Decisive action in this regard is one important contribution to maintaining peoples’ confidence in our justice system, which – with all its flaws – is trusted more than many other key institutions of governance in Jamaica: more than the parliament, more than the police, more than the political parties. [LAPOP 2012, pg. 129; GCB 2013 page 36]. You must do everything, as JP’s and as Lay Magistrates, to contribute to this trust, to sustain and to enhance this confidence in the system as a whole. By the way, this is not just an achievement in terms of the confidence in the Justice system amongst Jamaican institutions. Outside of Jamaica, in global terms, you and our people should know that Jamaica’s Justice System, in particular the independence of the judiciary, is ranked in the top one-third (1/3) of 144 countries worldwide [GCR 2014-2015]. This is no cause for complacency, nor for self-congratulation, but simply to give due respect and recognition in the midst of too much negativism, to acknowledge that all is not bad and that in fact we rank very highly on some indicators, including – may I say in passing – such as freedom of the press and on social wellbeing, where, believe it or not, we are ahead of the United States (Social Progress Index 2014).

Having said this, of course there is much room for a great deal of improvement and in that improvement you the JP here in St Andrew and across the Island, each has a critical role to play. Take one question, recently and justifiably very much in the news – the question of lockups. In this regard, you know better than I what your responsibilities are but many of our citizens do not. So allow me to remind and to indicate what the official guidelines ( Appendix A to Force Orders 3237 dated 2009-06-18) stipulate: Visiting Committees of Justices of the Peace are “authorised to enter any police station in the parish in which they are appointed to… interview any prisoner alone or in the presence of a member of the force… to record any complaints… to inspect lockups… and report on their suitability in respect of i) comfort, ii) hygiene, iii) general conditions… observe and assess the state of the building housing the lockups and bring to the notice of the divisional officer, the Custos, the Commissioner of Police and the Minister of National Security, any repairs, alterations, additions, etc. which may appear necessary.” I remind you that each of the nation’s seventy (70) “lockups should be visited at least once each week… prearranged with the police, or if considered necessary, without notice.”

In light of recent events concerning the brutal, gratuitous death of Mario Deane and heightened public concerns regarding the state of our lockups, this responsibility assumes even greater importance. Moreover Jamaica s Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms states that Any person deprived of his liberty shall be treated humanely and with respect for the inherent dignity of the person ( 14)(5). Visits to lock-ups by our JPs not only are therefore of importance not only in responding to public outcry but, potentially, play a critical role in upholding a fundamental constitutional right of the citizen. In   enhancing your contribution to strengthening Jamaica’s justice system, I urge you as members of Visiting Committees to accord this responsibility number 1 priority.   And ensure that your reports set out the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth about the state of the lock-up and those detained therein.

Of course, I am aware that the guidelines state that reports “should remain confidential and should not be released to the public under any condition.” Those guidelines were established in 1993; the Access to Information Act, acknowledging that transparency and accountability are essential to Jamaica’s democratic governance, was passed in 2002. I suggest that in today’s circumstances, freedom of information must supersede confidentiality in a matter such as this. The public needs to know, from your duly authorised reports, what is going on; the light of day must shine into these dark cells of detention in which Jamaicans, not convicted of any crime, are being held.

Of course, even when you perform your duty, according to oath, without fear or favour, other elements in the system must also be called on to play their part in order to better uphold justice .

  • For one, successive Governments, often with the tacit support of successive electorates, habitually under-resource the justice system. Take the 2013-2014 budget; I will give any of you a prize if you can guess the percentage of the budget allocated to the Ministry of Justice. It was 0.9%, and that was almost 300 million more than the allocation for the previous period (ESSJ 2013, Chapter 24.1)
  • Next, take successive reviews of our performance under the IMF programme. It is good that we are passing these tests, but transparency requires that we need to know more – at what expense? at what cost? Each review which we pass is accompanied by revenue shortfall, requiring expenditure to be cut in order to meet agreed targets. Between April and July 2014, for example, $7.7 Billion was – for this reason – cut from budgeted expenditure. The public needs to know, cut from which specific programmes and from what capital items were these cuts made? The public s watchdog, the co-chairman of the EPOC, needs to report on this– from what budgeted line items are expenditure reductions being made when he gives his regular review. And, we have to insist that those cuts do not touch the miniscule budget of the Ministry of Justice , some critical tiny, but essential, allocations in the Ministry of National Security (and of course, with the dreaded chick-v flying around, relevant allocations to elements of the Health Ministry) _ these should not be cut. I’ll give you an example; the 2013-2014 the revised estimates of expenditure tell us that $214.2 Million was spent on the administration of 70 lockups in Jamaica and the Jury process in Kingston and St. Andrew. The estimates for 2014-2015 are $151.3 Million. Can we justify further cuts in a line item such as this, especially when of the $151.3 Million allocated; $135.2 Million is for compensation of employees and expect our lock-ups to be properly maintained and our jury system to function adequately?
  • Then there is the work many of you do in the courts as Lay Magistrates. This is important work, fully appreciated seven (7) years ago in the report of the Justice Reform Task Force, chaired by the late Professor Barry Chevannes and including representatives of all elements in the Justice System, the Private Sector and Civil Society. That report referred to your function as Lay Magistrates as playing “an important and singular role within the Jamaican legal system” (page 208). In this context, it referred to your role in the Petty Sessions Courts. But there is absolutely nothing petty about these courts, your role in these courts- nor indeed there anything petty about any aspect of the justice system. Hence the Task Force recommended that the term ‘Petty Sessions’ be abolished and the court be re-designated the ‘Lay Magistrates’ Court’. Such a re-designation costs little or no money – The time has come, indeed has long passed, for this to be done. I would hate to believe that the IMF has to demand it as a structural benchmark before we implement it and make a change good for all of us!! So let s get it done!

There is one other matter I wish to share with you on this occasion. Jamaica’s New National Security Policy – Towards a Secure and Prosperous Nation was laid in Parliament in April 2014 by the Hon. Prime Minister .That policy identified “high-probability, high impact, Tier-1 clear and present dangers” to the nation’s security. Amongst these are: “Corruption of elected and public officials; public works contracts awarded to criminals; and corruption in the institutions of state” including in the Justice System. I suggest that each and every citizen – and you more so, as an important part of that Justice System – has a critical role in defeating this danger, a defeat of that is requiring enhanced investigative capacity, such as is contemplated in the ‘new MOCA’, modernised judicial arrangements, such as is contemplated in the Criminal Case Management System, sentencing guidelines, a judicial code of conduct, a strengthened Justice Training Institute and very importantly, legislation to plug loopholes in our current anti-corruption arrangements. In that regard, I bring to your attention and encourage your advocacy and support, alongside NIA, of three pieces of legislation, long-pending and now imminent.

  • Amendments to the Representation of the Peoples Act to provide for the registration, regulation and funding of political parties. Political parties, however imperfect, are now indispensable, vital institutions to democratic governance, in Jamaica and elsewhere,. They can no longer have the legal status of a private club; but, since the party, as government, exercise public power, they must become statute-based, regulated and accountable to public regulation as happens in democracies all across the world.
  • A Single Anti-Corruption Agency now designated the Integrity Commission. Amongst other things, this bill provides for a Director of Corruption Prosecutions with power to prosecute the corrupt-accused, thereby relieving the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions of this responsibility given their onerous workload.
  • Campaign Finance Reform. The imminent bill arising from the recommendation of the Electoral Commission of Jamaica, proposes measures to limit the extent to which the voter s equal power to vote is subverted by the very unequal power of money to subvert the vote and unduly influence elections and public policy outcomes in favour of private interests. Caps on how much a party can spend or receive in an election campaign; banning of contributions from unregulated financial organisations; prohibitions of donations from foreign entities are but a few of the necessary arrangements to modernise and regularise campaign financing in Jamaica.

None of these proposed pieces of legislation are perfect but they are a good beginning .These three proposed laws are, let me repeat, critical components in Jamaica’s endeavor to defeat the clear and present danger of continued corruption, to remove impediments to our advance towards becoming “a secure and prosperous nation”. I urge you in your personal capacities as citizens to support, and perhaps even as an association to make private submissions to the Authorities to delay no further in the quick debate and expeditious passage of this legislative package.

May I conclude by once more expressing sincere appreciation for the extraordinary voluntary service that each of you gives to the citizens of St Andrew, for your contribution to strengthening Jamaica s justice system and to urge on you constant striving to live up to that high standard of “unquestionable integrity.”

You may contact NIA here: https://niajamaica.org/contact-us/ It also has a toll-free anti-corruption hotline.


Envisioning the Pedro Bank’s Future

The Pedro Bank is a special place. Far from the island’s shores, it became a part of Jamaica in 1882. It is well known to many Jamaican fishers, but not to other Jamaicans. Now The Nature Conservancy is working with the Jamaican Government and other partners to develop a plan to ensure the Bank’s sustainability and protection. This press release from the Jamaica Environment Trust explains more:

Project Manager Kim Baldwin takes notes during stakeholder workshop in Kingston, September 29, 2014.

Project Manager Kim Baldwin takes notes during stakeholder workshop in Kingston, September 29, 2014.

Fifty years from now what do you hope to see on the Pedro Bank? This was one of many questions posed to fishers on the Pedro Cays and from South Coast fishing villages, government officials, academics, community-based organizations and other marine stakeholders over the past five months as part of a visioning and data collection exercise to plan for the future of the Pedro Bank.

Map of the Pedro Bank used in consultations with stakeholders, 2014.

Map of the Pedro Bank used in consultations with stakeholders, 2014.

The Nature Conservancy (TNC) is leading the first ever sea space use discussions on the unique Pedro Bank and Cays. These consultations and the resulting plan will plot out the uses of the sea space by the numerous users and determine how both its protection for both sustainable fishing resources and unique marine biodiversity can be achieved.

“It is definitely needed for the Pedro Bank. As fishermen we often feel neglected, as if nobody cares, but it is good to see all these people from the different agencies come together to protect the environment and our livelihoods. I am glad to be part of this,” said Pedro fisher, Tassady Mowatt.

Located approximately 80 kilometers southwest of Jamaica, the Pedro Bank is roughly 8,000 km2 and contains the country’s most important fishing grounds. The Pedro Cays provide critical habitat for a number of seabirds as well as a base for fishers. The Bank itself was declared a National underwater monument due to a large number of 16-19th century shipwrecks and more recently, has been the site of oil exploration. Due to its biological and economic importance to the fishing industry, in 2012 a Fish Sanctuary was declared around Southwest Cay and the wider Pedro Bank was declared an Ecological or Biological Significant Marine Area (EBSA) under the United Nation’s Convention of Biological Diversity. The National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) are currently developing a framework for a marine multi-use zoning plan for the Pedro Bank to increase the network of protected areas and manage activities occurring on the Pedro Bank and Cays.

Consultation with fishermen on Top Cay, Pedro Bank, July 2014.

Consultation with fishermen on Top Cay, Pedro Bank, July 2014.

Two sets of planning workshops were held, along with visits to the Pedro Cays and to South Coast fishing communities. The first workshops were held (June 26th and 27th) and participants included representatives from Government agencies, the Jamaica Fishermen’s Coop Union, Birds Caribbean, the University of the West Indies, the Jamaica Fish Sanctuary Network, Jamaica Environment Trust, CaribSave, The Nature Conservancy, as well as commercial and artisanal fishers. The second workshop took place on September 29th and 30th.

“During the first workshop, the participants identified conservation of biodiversity, regulated fisheries, safe transportation, research for awareness, and the development of future uses of the Bank as guiding visions”, said Mr. Llewelyn Meggs, Conservation Director at the Jamaica Environment Trust. “These visions will be used to identify goals for a marine multi-use space-use plan for the Pedro Bank.”

This project is made possible through support from the Protected Areas Project being implemented by the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) with funding from Global Environment Facility (GEF), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Government of Jamaica (GOJ).

Consultation with fishermen on Middle Cay, Pedro Bank, July 2014.

Consultation with fishermen on Middle Cay, Pedro Bank, July 2014.


Llewelyn Meggs
Conservation Director, Jamaica Environment Trust

Ngozi Christian
Project Manager, Protected Areas Project, NEPA
754-7540, ext 2315

Donna Blake
The Nature Conservancy

Colour Pink Group’s first training session


The work of the Colour Pink Group is little known, but they are quietly making progress. Here is my fellow blogger Kate’s account of their first training session. There is a lot of difficult work to come – but this is an important step forward.

Originally posted on Jamaican Journal:







It was a bright Saturday morning at the ManPower office in Crossroads that a group of 11 young men showed up to begin a program that is ultimately intended to secure them employment. Behind this innovative training program for this group of young men (who identify as gay, bisexual, sex workers, transexual or men who have sex with men) are Jermaine Burton and Astley Grey, founders of the Colour Pink Group (CPG). This group is aimed at securing employment for these young men, most of whom have been marginalized by society to the point that they can’t stay in their homes or communities or they have not gained the skills they need to work because they could not finish school or obtain training.

At 9 a.m., there were three young men dressed in the uniform of black shirt and pants and a pink tie. By 11:00 a.m., 11 had showed…

View original 357 more words

Chik V Weariness, Poll Shockers and The Hospital Floor: Monday, October 13, 2014

I promised a post for Sunday, and I am a woman of my word. Sorry though – it’s Monday. Having said that, my reason for taking a break last week was because I had “stuff” going on. But the stuff was thrown out the window when “chik v” arrived, just nine days ago. I am still wobbling along, slightly off kilter but doing the best I can. A lot of news, but I will touch on a few things here…

Professor Carolyn Cooper.

Professor Carolyn Cooper.

Boring each other: I have a feeling that we are all at this point boring each other with detailed descriptions of our symptoms (which seem to come and go) whether on social media or over the telephone. The Chikungunya virus is not a straightforward customer, as anyone who has endured it will know. You don’t wake up in the morning and say, “Oh – it’s gone!” I have fooled myself that way, already. So, “chik v” continues to wend its weary way across Jamaica, the recriminations continue – and I agree with columnist Carolyn Cooper about the clean-up exercises – too little, too late! Of course, these photo-ops by the Prime Minister and the (not-fired) Health Minister in their constituencies are just that – PR exercises which all party supporters were called to turn out for.

“Self-diagnosing”: Now, what does the Health Ministry really want us to do?  Health officials are complaining that Jamaicans are diagnosing themselves as having “chik v” – although they might have some other more dangerous disease such as dengue fever or leptospirosis, which a doctor should see. Then on the other hand we are told not to “crowd up” the hospitals with suspected “chik v” systems. At this stage, with the virus still spreading rapidly, and in the absence of any clear guidance or information, what would you like us to do, Minister? Stay home or crowd up the hospital – so that we can be ignored for hours in the emergency room?


Tragedy on the emergency room floor: On September 30 at around 7:00 p.m., 76-year-old Unalee Edwards took her son, 34-year-old Jason Forbes, to the Spanish Town Hospital, as he was complaining of bad stomach pains. Some fourteen hours later, on the morning of October 1, Mr. Forbes’ name was finally called for attention. But it was too late. He had died, right there, on a towel on the hospital floor, after screaming and crying for help for hours. His calls and his elderly mother’s efforts to get help for him were apparently ignored by auxiliary and medical staff. When interviewed about the case, a leading representative of the profession went to great lengths to tell us about the pressure on hospital staff, but omitted to express condolences or sympathy to Mr. Forbes’ family (who said they knew why this happened – “We are poor people,” or words to that effect).

Oh, and don’t think this is an isolated case of neglect. Every day in public hospitals across the country, Jamaicans in pain and need are treated contemptuously by staff. Very many of us know this, and have experienced it for ourselves. When are things going to change, Minister Ferguson? Are these people trained to show compassion and caring? Would they like their own families to be treated so coldly? Would a politician be happy at a family member being treated this way (But what am I saying… They go overseas!)

Is there one justice system and one health system for the rich, and another for the poor? Many Jamaicans would not dispute this, sad to say. In fact, the latest poll shows 96% believe that real “justice” is reserved for the well-off.

Sierra Leone’s government welcomes the 165 Cuban health-care workers who came to fight Ebola. (Photo: Glenna Gordon for The Wall Street Journal)

Sierra Leone’s government welcomes the 165 Cuban health-care workers who came to fight Ebola. (Photo: Glenna Gordon for The Wall Street Journal)

Ebola: Meanwhile, we know we are not prepared for the arrival of ebola on our shores. This is not only in terms of physical preparation and equipment, but also training – practical training for health care workers. I have heard the Cubans are putting the medical personnel they are sending to West Africa through a rigorous “boot camp” to ensure they have the procedures exactly correct. Perhaps we could learn from our close neighbors and do likewise?

Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller's popularity appears to have dropped precipitously according to the latest opinion polls.  (Photo: Gleaner)

Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller’s popularity appears to have dropped precipitously according to the latest opinion polls. (Photo: Gleaner)

Political polls are a bit of a mixed bag for Jamaica. They can be unreliable and can take you down roads that turn out to be dead ends. But the recent polls by Bill Johnson, published in the Gleaner, have certainly caused a little frisson. The People’s National Party must be seriously worried that its President and the nation’s Prime Minister, Portia Simpson Miller, seems to have lost a great deal of her legendary personal appeal, with an only 39 per cent favorability rating. Opposition Leader Andrew Holness has 53 per cent favorability (a little surprising perhaps, since the Jamaican public has never seemed exactly enthusiastic about “Anju.“) “Sista P/Mama P” has been the strength, the backbone of the party, ensuring that it can win elections. And then there are the respondents’ views on corruption: 70 per cent of Jamaica’s elected officials, 80 per cent of the police force and 50 per cent of government employees are considered corrupt by the Jamaican public. How much more damning could these polls be? But Professor Trevor Munroe, Executive Director of the anti-corruption watchdog group National Integrity Action, is not surprised, and nor should we be.

IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde. (Photo: AP)

IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde. (Photo: AP)

Growth projections: According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Latin American-Caribbean region is slowing down in economic growth. Our neighbors in Hispaniola (Haiti and the Dominican Republic) and St. Kitts & Nevis are expected to record the highest growth in 2014 and 2015. Jamaica is expected to have a measly 1.1 and 1.8 per cent in those two years. We may be passing the IMF tests, but… You can read the IMF survey here: http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/survey/so/2014/car101014c.htm

Senator Floyd Morris.

Senator Floyd Morris.

Good news! At last, the Senate passed the Disabilities Act last Friday, October 10. The visually-challenged President of the Senate Floyd Morris expressed his personal joy at its passing (with fourteen amendments). I hope it will make a difference; but as we all know, legislation cannot wipe away discrimination. That will take much longer.

Roaring River. (Photo: Irie FM)

Roaring River. (Photo: Irie FM)

Bad news! It was with a familiar sinking feeling that I read that the Chinese want another piece of Jamaica; and we will have to give it to them, in part payment for the North-South Highway. The headline “Chinese want lands next to Dunn’s River” gave me a chill (and it wasn’t the Chik V). The China Harbour Engineering Company want the Jamaican Government to give them these lands and have submitted a proposal for a development there. Yes, they are entitled to 1,200 acres of land. The Gleaner article notes: “The Government has started the process of picking out large tracts of lands, which could be made available to the Chinese.” (to “make available” means “to hand over”).

LAST BUT BY NO MEANS LEAST: The Commission of Enquiry into the West Kingston incursion of May 2010 will begin on Monday, December 1. Read the Terms of Reference here: http://jis.gov.jm/media/TOR-for-West-Kingston-COE-2014.pdf  The Commission has its own dedicated website and its full contact details are here: http://www.coewk.org.jm/content/contact-us  with a useful form, so do not hesitate to contact them… And watch this space for more.

“Big ups” are due to…

  • Britanny Mossop, Diandra Stephens, Chrystal Brown, Curtis Moxam, Oral Edwards, Kavion Grant, Sophia Richards, Ackera Gowie, Ricka-Ann Miles and Kaylia Spence. Who are they? These are young volunteers who recently received recognition from Governor General Sir Patrick Allen through his I Believe Initiative. They gave up their holidays to work with non-profit organizations during the GG’s second annual Summer of Service program. Kudos too, to the local firms who provided scholarships and prizes to the young people: The University of Technology, Northern Caribbean University, Newport Fersan Jamaica Limited, Sandals Foundation, Kingston Bookshop, Lasco Jamaica Limited, Derrimon Trading Co. Limited – and of course, the excellent I Believe Initiative.
The "ROAR Group" of young women sing at the launch of "Nuh Guh Deh" on Saturday, October 11. More photos can be viewed on Eve for Life's Facebook page!

The “ROAR Group” of young women sing at the launch of “Nuh Guh Deh” on Saturday, October 11. More photos can be viewed on Eve for Life’s Facebook page!

  • The incredible women of Eve for Life, the non-governmental organization that supports teen mothers living with HIV and AIDS. Due to my illness, I missed the official launch of their “Nuh Guh Deh” campaign against sex with the girl child – and of a very important publication, “I am Now Free: Diaries of a Survivor of Child Rape and Sexual Abuse.” Huge thanks to all the supporters of this effort, including the British High Commission, U.S. Embassy and UNICEF, the wonderful Fabian Thomas and Tribe Sankofa, the fabulously awesome and committed Nomaddz – my heart overflows when I think of all those who provided technical, resource and moral support. Please read Janet Silvera’s reporting in the Sunday Gleaner. And please support Eve for Life!
Jamaican poet Ann-Margaret Lim presented a copy of her book "Festival of Wild Orchid" to the Governor General Sir Patrick Allen on October 3.

Jamaican poet Ann-Margaret Lim presented a copy of her book “Festival of Wild Orchid” to Governor General Sir Patrick Allen on October 3. The GG is such a kind and sincere person. I am sure the meeting went really well.


Although murder rates have declined this year, I was disturbed to see how many Jamaicans lost their lives since I last posted. Among them were four men who were killed on a leg of the North-South Highway recently constructed by China Harbour Engineering Company. They were transporting nearly J$2 million in cash – wages to be paid to workers on the highway, on a Sunday afternoon in a regular motor vehicle. This is astonishing. Is this the way they pay their workers? Now four lives have been lost, besides the money of course. Why was there no security, and why would the company allow large amounts of cash to be carried around in this way?

Stenneth Smith, 48, Heywood Street, Kingston

Andrew Williams, 42, Sheffield Road, East Kingston

Ian Nugent, 36, Half Way Tree Police Station, Kingston (killed by police)

Martin Grant, Mona, Kingston 7

Unidentified man, Cargill Avenue, Kingston 10 (killed by police)

Unidentified man, Hughenden/Hendon Drive, Kingston 20

Jeffers Ferguson, 34, August Town, St. Andrew

George Witter, 26, Goldsmith Villa/August Town, St. Andrew

Franklyn Smith, 49, Bull Bay, St. Andrew

Unidentified man, Bull Bay, St. Andrew

Craig Christopher Harris, 29, Bowers Wood/Linstead, St. Catherine

Carlton Scott, 43, Bowers Wood/Linstead, St. Catherine 

Kirk Anthony Foote, 33, Bowers Wood/Linstead, St. Catherine 

Courtney Corbourne, 42, Bowers Wood/Linstead, St. Catherine 

Unknown taxi operator, Hellshire, St. Catherine

Unidentified woman, Ackee Village/Portmore, St. Catherine

Denroy Dennis, 24, Green Meadows, Clarendon

Unidentified man, Castleton, St. Mary (killed by police)

Richard Johnson, Florence Hall, Trelawny

Jessica McLarty, 18, Buckfield, St. Ann


Lincoln "Style" Scott, former drummer with the  excellent reggae band Roots Radics, died at his Williamsfield, Manchester home Thursday evening. It appears that he was murdered. This is so sad.

Lincoln “Style” Scott, former drummer with the excellent reggae band Roots Radics, died at his Williamsfield, Manchester home Thursday evening. It appears that he was murdered. This is so sad.

Nobel Prize winner Malala’s views, don’t drown them in hypocritical praise


I am adding my voice to those who welcome Malala Yousafzai’s award of the Nobel Peace Prize, which she shares with children’s rights advocate Kailash Satyarthi. It is a tremendous boost for the cause of children’s rights (and in particular, those of girls – yesterday was the International Day of the Girl Child). This blog post raises the interesting point, however, that we should not “sanitize” those human rights icons that we look up to. The principles and beliefs they represent are usually far more complex and nuanced than the simple, beautiful beliefs that they are recognized and lauded for. Let us listen to everything they say, and engage with them, rather than just picking out what is more “digestible.” Having said that, many congratulations to them both on winning the Prize and for all the incredible work they have been doing!

Originally posted on Dear Kitty. Some blog:

This video, recorded in the USA, is called Malala Yousafzai To Obama’s Face: Drones Fuel Terrorism.

Helen Keller from the USA is very famous as a champion of blind and deaf people. In the Capitol, where the United States Congress meets, a statue honours her.

However, very often Big Politics and Big Media ignore Ms Keller’s political views: she was a feminist, a pacifist, a socialist, and a member of the Industrial Workers of the World.

Another famous woman from the USA is Katharine Lee Bates, author of the very well-known poem/song America the Beautiful. Ms Bates was a feminist, a lesbian, a Christian socialist, and an anti-imperialist. All of these now conveniently ‘forgotten’ by United States Right wingers, who, when singing America the Beautiful, conveniently forget its later stanzas, so inconvenient for them.

These two women have been dead for a long time…

View original 658 more words

World Mental Health Day in Jamaica

Mensana Jamaica is a mental health support group that does much-needed work here in Jamaica. Below is Mensana’s message for today (October 10, 2014) – World Mental Health Day. There is still much work to be done in support of Jamaicans living with mental illness. If you are in Kingston and would like to support the organization in its annual fundraiser, please join them for the traditional “Saturday Soup” tomorrow.

Mensana's fundraiser.

Mensana’s fundraiser.

Mensana Jamaica welcomes the observance of World Mental Health Day on October 10. The focus on schizophrenia this year is most appropriate in our view as schizophrenia is a very common mental illness, but is grossly misunderstood by most Jamaicans. Consequently caregivers and loved ones of persons living with schizophrenia and many persons living with schizophrenia themselves, experience a lot of suffering due to ignorance, fear, misconceptions, stigma, shame and discrimination.

Mensana knows about that. We hear about it from our members all the time.

Mensana Jamaica is a mental health support group comprising caregivers, other family members and persons living with mental illnesses.

It was started in Kingston, in 1997 by two mothers of sons with schizophrenia and a psychiatrist.

The word “Mensana” is derived from the Latin phrase “Mens Sana in Corpore Sana” which translates to “A healthy (sound) mind in a healthy body”. Hence our slogan: “For a whole mind, body and spirit.”

Mensana Jamaica meets once per month, 10:00 a.m. every second Saturday only, at the Quakers meeting place, 11 Caledonia Avenue, Kingston 5.

Mensana Jamaica’s objectives are three-fold:

Support and Information Sharing – In addition to caregivers and loved-ones of persons living with a range of mental illnesses, our support group also includes professional mental health caregivers such as psychiatrists, mental health nurses and counsellors and, persons living with mental illnesses. In our sharing sessions participants discuss their concerns and stressors, and are helped by the feedback and advice. They also benefit from a feeling of safety to share in a space where others understand what they are going through. In August Mensana Jamaica conducted a caregivers retreat to really help members get to the heart of the issues that affect family and caregivers of persons with mental illnesses. Mensana also reaches out to other groups that help persons living with mental illnesses, such as the Open Arms Drop In Centre on Windward Road. We have conducted talks for the family members of the patients at the Bellevue Hospital and fostered the commencement of other mental health support groups such as one for Spanish Town in 2012.

Advocacy and Public Awareness – Mensana Jamaica is a registered, non-government voluntary organization and is a part of the Civil Society response for Mental Health in Jamaica.   Through public forums, media appearances, work-shops, conferences and participation in national technical working groups and advisory committees, Mensana advocates for improved national mental health services, and builds awareness to end stigma and discrimination.

Some of the national committees on which Mensana is represented include:

  • The Task force to revise the National Mental Health Policy,
  • The Ministry of Health (MOH) community health and psychiatry human rights committee and
  • The Joint Meeting of the Jamaica Constabulary Force and the Mental Health Services of the MoH)

There are several issues in mental health that members of Mensana believe need urgent attention. Some of these are:

  •  Access to appropriate and adequate health care is a right, which is not afforded to most persons with mental illness in Jamaica. Such care involves not only chemical management but also psycho-social support and rehabilitation services. In Jamaica there is emphasis on chemical management with little or no psycho-social support.
  • Treatment of the mentally ill in the penal system is still abysmal. There are illegal incarcerations due to lack of hospital space, no forensic psychiatric services and one or two psychiatrists working in the prisons. Delays in psychiatric evaluations of arrested persons result in long detention in jail, and mentally ill persons are being ‘lost’ in the prisons for decades because of being unfit to plead. There is also no social support for persons released. In addition to these issues, there is evidently limited police training in appropriate methods of restraint leading to excessive force and frequent instances of persons being shot and killed.  It is important to note however, that the Police have a well thought out draft policy for dealing with the mentally ill. We commend them in their efforts to put this together, however we are calling for their speedy ratification and implementation of this policy. Should this be done, we would see far fewer incidences of the violation of the rights of the mentally ill by the Police.
  • The Community Mental Health Services need more vehicles, vehicle maintenance and upkeep in order to help them to better serve the needs in community mental health care.
  • Jamaica’s Mental Health Policy is still in draft stage and has been for years. Although some good ideas are in this draft and would make for significant improvement in the management of our mental health program if implemented, the policy is still in limbo.
  • As our country gets ready to decriminalize ganja, we seriously question our preparedness to manage the expected increase in usage of ganja particularly by the youth population.

We mean to keep these and other critical mental health issues in public focus until they no longer exist.

Public Awareness & Education: Public awareness and education are keys in tackling stigma and discrimination. We try to keep our membership informed about mental health issues locally and internationally. Our meetings are often attended by experts on various mental health issues who are specially invited to share on these issues. Our last speaker was Dr. Winston De La Haye of the Department of Psychiatry who came in September to share about the implications of the decriminalization of ganja, in order to arm us with the facts on this issue.

Once a month Mensana Jamaica conducts talks with the student doctors at UWI to acquaint them with the issues that affect caregivers of persons with mental illnesses.

Our facebook page – Mensana Jamaica, is the most recent addition to our public education efforts.

It is important for the public to better understand mental illness and to respond to persons who are affected without fear, stigma and discrimination. Mental illness is treatable. The negative effects need not be a life sentence. With appropriate treatment, understanding and support, persons living with mental illnesses can recover and live meaningful lives.

Mensana Jamaica

October, 2014