Bush Fires, Water Parties and the Shot Put: Monday, July 28, 2014

While some were watching the talent show on television last night (and pretty awful it sounded, too!) or washing their cars  and watering their lawns (both illegal activities) our Fire Brigade were working overtime… I have written many times about air quality. Today, it could not be worse.

Houses in Tavistock, Jack's Hill threatened by fire Sunday night. (Photo: Milton Walker/TVJ, on Twitter)

Houses in Tavistock, Jack’s Hill threatened by fire Sunday night. (Photo: Milton Walker/TVJ, on Twitter)

Fire and water: As I started writing last night, four separate bush fires were burning along the dry ridges of Jack’s Hill, St. Andrew, above Kingston. We could smell the smoke. Helicopters were dropping buckets of water on the fires, but were having to take longer trips to the sea to collect the water; the nearby Mona Reservoir is three quarters empty. Residents heard the loud popping sounds of bamboo trees burning. On Friday, fires had started higher up in the mountains (and are perhaps still burning) in the Mavis Bank area; a house burned down in Westphalia – the highest district in Jamaica – and many crops were burned. This area is so high and the roads so difficult that the fire engines could not even reach up there.

Fires on Jack's Hill this afternoon. (Photo: Twitter)

Fires on Jack’s Hill this afternoon. (Photo: Twitter)

Some need to get their priorities straight: Meanwhile, pastors are really worried about the availability of water for baptisms! And on the other side of the coin, no less than four “water parties” were scheduled for the summer season, as follows: Surfaris (the Water Rave) – water trucks, unlimited water, water guns; The Aquatic Sensation (prepare to get wet, wet and wet) – two water trucks (unlimited water); Hydro Safari – two water trucks, water balloons, water slide; Surf – the Hawaiian Dream – 4,000 water balloons, fully loaded water trucks. Is this sea water? Or water from the reservoir?

Well, the whole island may burn down, but so long as we have church and parties - the  ultimate diversions – we are all fine!

Just a couple of questions for the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM): Do the words “disaster” and “emergency” only apply to hurricanes, not extended drought or major bush fires? And secondly: Where were you?  Anyway, kudos to TVJ’s Milton Walker for live tweets from the site of one of the fires, to the Gleaner for regular updates – and to Marksman Limited for tweeting tips about fire safety. No thanks to anyone else, including the rest of the media. Sometimes we wish we had our own CNN.

“Sex sells”: Today’s Sunday Gleaner seems to believe that adage. It seems to be operating on the principle that any headline with the word “sex” in it is going to attract lots of readers. OK, so a massage parlor is set up close to a church. So what? Is that really headline news? But the headline writer has a fondness for alliteration. “Sacrilege: Seedy Sex Shop Blooms Next to Sacred Sanctuary.” Nice one.

Its first conviction: The Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) won its first conviction today. Perhaps appropriately, this was the case of eight policemen, who had refused to co-operate with an INDECOM investigation into the fatal shooting of two civilians four years ago. The policemen will not go to prison but will be fined up to a maximum of J$3 million. Former Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) Mark Shields (a British import, now still living in Jamaica as a consultant) said on radio today that INDECOM was one of the best things to have happened in a long time, and I agree. While he was DCP, Mr. Shields said he had seen no evidence of any “hit squads” - but had “plenty of evidence” of murders by the police. He was concerned that changes in the Jamaica Constabulary Force had been generally slow, however, and hoped that all that had been invested in it would pay off, eventually. Why the sudden and precipitous drop in police killings, though (45% this year to date)? INDECOM must have something to do with it.

The charming Minister responsible for entertainment, Damion Crawford, is now disillusioned with the political system. Perhaps he could try harder to change it from the inside?

The Minister responsible for entertainment, Damion Crawford, is already disillusioned with the political system. Perhaps he could try harder to change it from the inside? Give it a bit longer, Minister Crawford?

The gloss has worn off: Our young Member of Parliament and Junior Minister Damion Crawford is disillusioned with the system, and frustrated. He has made presentations in Parliament, he says, and put forward ideas and suggestions; and no one is listening. He will not be running for office again, come next elections. Hearing him speak on radio today, I must say I felt more than a twinge of sympathy. Damion certainly went off the deep end on a number of occasions, showing his lack of experience; but he means well, and it’s a shame that a young politician can get so disenchanted so quickly. Perhaps he has another leadership role in mind.

Floyd Green, 32, is the current head of G2K and now a candidate for the next elections. He is from the rural town of Junction, St. Elizabeth.

Floyd Green, 32, is the current head of G2K and now a candidate for the next elections. He is from the rural town of Junction, St. Elizabeth.

As the parties announce their candidates (yes, I did mention things are warming up), two of my “tweeps” – the Jamaica Labour Party’s (JLP) ebullient Delano Seiveright and the urbane Floyd Green, have been selected. Mr. Seiveright will contest the St. Thomas Eastern seat against our current Health Minister Fenton Ferguson; young Floyd (who is head of the G2K young professionals arm) will stand for office in South West St. Elizabeth, which his party lost narrowly in the last election. I wish them both the best of luck. They are forward-thinking young men, I do believe.

Delano Seiveright has one of the biggest smiles in the business. This is only half a Delano smile.

Delano Seiveright has one of the biggest smiles in the business. This is only half a Delano smile.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interestingly, eight out of ten of the JLP candidates confirmed so far are first timers and mostly quite young. Certainly some of the JLP’s current cohorts are distinctly long in the tooth. No offense, we all get older.

Jet skiers in Jamaica.

Jet skiers in Jamaica.

The jet skiers are back: Well, the jet skiers are back after a ban, following a series of incidents resulting in deaths and injuries. The Tourism Product Development Company has them all registered and is presumably monitoring them. Will registration be enough to control the crazy jet ski riders? I mean, lots of car drivers are registered and licensed and still drive like maniacs on the streets. I wish I could be hopeful that there will be no more incidents.

A very belated apology: I understand that CVM Television issued a formal apology on the air a couple of evenings ago, just before the prime time news – for its sports reporter’s Heil Hitler outburst after the World Cup . I am sorry I missed it, so I don’t know the exact wording, but reporter Garfield Burford read it out and it appeared on the screen. Better late than never, but thank you.

Emancipation cometh: Friday, August 1 is Emancipation Day, and August 6 is Independence Day, so things are slowing down somewhat. The two holidays are sometimes combined into one world, “Emancipendence,” which for some reason I find most annoying. I am not sure when my next news blog will appear as this week is looking a little complicated, but certainly – in the next few days.

I have some major bouquets to throw out, now…

Alia Atkinson at Glasgow. (Photo: Ricardo Makyn/Gleaner)

Alia Atkinson at Glasgow. (Photo: Ricardo Makyn/Gleaner)

  • Firstly, all Jamaica’s amazing athletes at the Commonwealth Games. Two in particular – our swimmer Alia Atkinson and shot putter O’Dayne Richards – put in remarkable performances. Ms. Atkinson won a silver and a bronze medal, and Mr. Richards a gold! Now, these are areas in which Jamaicans are not particularly well represented, which makes their victories even sweeter. I am sure they will inspire future generations of Jamaican swimmers and shot putters. There is more to come, and I must not forget of course all the sprinters – especially Kemar Bailey-Cole, who won gold, and Veronica Campbell-Brown, who won a silver in the men’s and women’s 100 meters, with Kerron Stewart getting a bronze in the women’s.
  • And if we are talking sport, I have to give a huge pat on the back to the Gleaner photographer Ricardo Makyn, who is taking some really superb pictures in Glasgow. I have posted a couple of them here…
WMW Jamaica's mingle starts mingling on Saturday evening at the NGO's offices. (My photo)

WMW Jamaica’s mingle starts mingling on Saturday evening at the NGO’s offices. (My photo)

  • WMW Jamaica, that dynamic NGO that is engaged in empowering our women and working for gender equity, had a marvelous mingle and website launch on Saturday evening. Congratulations to the awesome Ms. Georgia Love, and especially Patricia Phillips and the rest of the team for putting it together. Check out their Facebook page too! More to follow on this …
  • Corve daCosta has got a marvelous blog going. Did I tell you? Well, I shall tell you again. Corve addresses all kinds of interesting topics and is very up to date. He also writes about the obscene “water parties” in his latest post. Check it out: http://www.dailyveritas.com
Jamaican shot putter O'Dayne Richards at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. (Photo: Ricardo Makyn/Gleaner)

Jamaican shot putter O’Dayne Richards at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. (Photo: Ricardo Makyn/Gleaner)

I am sorry to frighten you with this long list, but I should have known it could not last. The following is a list of all those Jamaicans (all men, except for one women who was murdered on July 18) who lost their lives to violence since my last post, which was I believe four or five days ago. I can only say that this is very sad, and convey my condolences to all their loved ones.

Granville Dyer, 34, Seivwright Gardens, Kingston (mob killing)

Barrington Reid, 17, August Town, St. Andrew

Tevin Pryce, 20, Gordon Pen, St. Catherine

Dwayne Hall, 26, Gordon Pen, St. Catherine

Rohan Knight, 40, Spanish Town, St. Catherine

Delroy Edwards, 43, Spanish Town, St. Catherine 

On July 18: Verna Dunkley-Morrison and Owen McCoy, Willowdene, St. Catherine

Lincoln McLean, 34, Wakefield/Smithville, Clarendon

Solomon Williams, 28, Canaan Heights, Clarendon

Mendez Dyer, 70, Foga/Mocho, Clarendon

Roderick Richards, Montego Bay, St. James

Boris Douglas, 49, West Gate/Montego Bay, St. James

Kemar Cross, Capital Heights, St. James

Lyndale Graham, 60, Boscobel, St. Mary

Berkley Bennett, Christiana, Manchester

 

Security forces on patrol in August Town, St. Andrew, where a curfew is in effect. (Photo: Bryan Cummings/Observer)

Security forces on patrol in August Town, St. Andrew, where a curfew is in effect. (Photo: Bryan Cummings/Observer)

An Immoral Ignorance

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petchary:

“There is no sin so great as ignorance. Remember this.” So wrote Rudyard Kipling in his book “Kim.” And, of course, ironically, it is a quote from the Old Testament. In light of all the nonsense flying around, this wonderful blog post by Kei Miller resonated deeply with me. Sins should be forgivable, and I do believe yesterday’s ignorance is more forgivable than today’s. Do read and enjoy, but one word to dear Mr. Miller: perhaps you should spend less time on Facebook. Those awful “philosophical” discussions, rants and outbursts of sheer ignorance have a terrible psychological effect after a while. In other words, they make your brain hurt.

Originally posted on Under the Saltire Flag:

Martin

1. Yesterday’s Ignorance

My paternal great-grandmothers were ignorant women – one more so than the other. They did not mean to be. They were products of their time. One of them – Aunt May was what they called her – was disappointed in the woman my father chose to marry. In fact, Aunt May was disappointed in the marital choices of all her grandsons. My father and his brothers married black women. It wasn’t that my father and his brothers weren’t black. And it wasn’t that Aunt May wasn’t black herself. At best, she was light-skinned. But she was also ambitious and she believed that the way to advance was to marry up – to marry someone of a lighter shade. A woman who had raised her two boys in Cuba until her husband took off for New York, Aunt May returned to Jamaica, a bitter and trifling woman. She…

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Marcus Garvey — 100 years of the UNIA

petchary:

Barbara is a fellow blogger and writer, filmmaker, creative and influential woman and wise Rastafarian. She always inspires me! On the centenary of Marcus Garvey’s United Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) I am happy to share Barbara’s fascinating memories and her thoughts on Mr. Garvey here. Unfortunately, it seems the Jamaican education system will never incorporate Mr. Garvey’s philosophy into the curriculum. He will remain as a historical figure in school books, along with the other National Heroes – nothing much more.

Originally posted on Through Red, Gold, Green Spectacles:

BLACK PHILOSOPHY & IDEASgarveyIn 1972, newly returned to Jamaica fleeing 8 years of living with racial prejudice in England, I attended an event at the Sheraton Kingston hotel to hear a speech by Evonne Goolagong, an Australian half-Aboriginee girl who had just won Wimbledon. I did not know that whatever admiration I then had for this girl who had just made Black history, would pale by comparison with the eye-opening shock of hearing a frail, 82-year old woman speak about a true Black Hero whose life and philosophy she demanded that we follow. She was Mrs. Amy Jacques Garvey and the man she spoke of was her husband Marcus Mosiah Garvey.

I had never heard of Mr. Garvey before that day. My education in Black History had begun only a few years earlier in England, where racism made me absorb all the “Black is beautiful” information then being spread…

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Amnesty, Tax Delinquents and a Bad Back: Thursday, July 24, 2014

Yes, the drought is still on and it’s miserable. Many Kingstonians, uptown and downtown, are without water some or all of the time. We are hanging on by our fingernails, and scouring satellite maps for any sign of clouds. Even more clouds would be nice. We just get burning sun, hotter every day.  So, our lawn looks like a country in Africa where it rarely rains, and where people have to walk miles in search of water.

This photo of Mona Reservoir was taken by the Gleaner on July 3. The water level is lower now.

This photo of Mona Reservoir was taken by the Gleaner on July 3. The water level is lower now.

Transparency is a nice word: But human rights group Amnesty International thinks the Jamaican Government does not have enough of it. Its press release today calls for National Security Minister Peter Bunting to “act with full transparency” on allegations of human rights violations by the police (the so-called “Death Squad”). Amnesty calls Minister Bunting’s refusal to answer some questions on the matter in Parliament “a threat to Jamaica’s international obligations on justice, truth and reparation for human rights violations and send the wrong signal on ending impunity in Jamaica.” Every Jamaican is entitled to know the truth, says Amnesty. Yes, and how often are we given the truth? Will we ever know the truth in this matter? I doubt it, although the media might (might) winkle out a little bit of information here and there relating to Police Commissioner Owen Ellington’s sudden resignation on July 2.

Finance Minister Peter Phillips

Finance Minister Peter Phillips (Photo: Jamaica Gleaner)

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The bad guys: Finance Minister Peter Phillips told Parliament this week that several large companies are avoiding paying their taxes. Two pieces of tax legislation were passed to tighten up on tax evasion yesterday. Opposition Finance Spokesman Audley Shaw believes the new measures are potentially unconstitutional, giving awesome powers to the Commissioner of Taxes. The Private Sector Organization of Jamaica did not see the draft legislation before it was tabled in Parliament but says it will “review” it.

Agriculture Minister Roger Clarke.

Agriculture Minister Roger Clarke.

That plane to Miami: I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that Agriculture Minister Roger Clarke is not well. Like all politicians (without any exception, so far as I know) he has gone to the United States for medical treatment. It is the same pattern with education: which Minister’s child is receiving a Jamaican education at tertiary level? They all take the next flight to Miami (or Toronto, or London). Various ministers’ children return home for Christmas for a nice holiday at home in the sun; then back to college overseas. It seems Jamaica’s health and education systems are just not good enough. Well, I wish Minister Clarke a speedy recovery.

Health Minister Dr. Fenton Ferguson. (Photo: Gleaner)

Health Minister Dr. Fenton Ferguson. (Photo: Gleaner)

Dr. Ferguson taking some flak: An angry letter-writer stated bluntly that Health Minister Dr. Fenton Ferguson should stop profiling at home and abroadasserting that in the public health system “doctors and nurses now resort to carrying basics like toilet tissue, paper towels and their own supply of basic medical items to help patients.” We hear such stories almost daily. And on the political front, Dr. Ferguson is in hot water with the Opposition (and others) for stating baldly at a People’s National Party (PNP) meeting that party workers should be rewarded out of constituency funds. Well, many of us are aware of this practice, too. Nothing new there, either. CVM Television (who must have filmed several PNP meetings simultaneously over the weekend and did some serious editing) reported these comments, as well as the Minister “dropping legs” (dancing) on the platform. He is a very tall man, but acquitted himself rather well in that regard.

Boycotting media houses? I also hear that the same Minister is refusing to give interviews to two high-profile local media houses. I hope this is not true!

The trial of Rev. Al Miller, who has pleaded not guilty to perverting the course of justice while transporting a wanted man (Christopher “Dudus” Coke) allegedly to the U.S. Embassy, has begun this week. It got off to a slightly disconcerting start, but I will write more about it in the next blog. Remind me.

ESET was set up by the Prime Minister and is headed by People's National Party stalwart Dr. Vin Lawrence. (Photo: Gleaner)

ESET was set up by the Prime Minister and is headed by People’s National Party stalwart Dr. Vin Lawrence. (Photo: Gleaner)

I don’t understand Andrew Holness: Our second shortest-serving Prime Minister seems to communicate in short, intense outbursts, and then lapse into silence. I am not hearing a consistent, well-articulated Opposition platform from him. At all. Last month, Mr. Holness expressed a lack of support for the Electricity Sector Enterprise Team (ESET) headed by PNP stalwart Vin Lawrence. The Prime Minister set up ESET in early June to handle the procurement process for a 381 megawatt power plant (yes, you remember the EWI débacle). Mr. Holness said it was poor governance and illegal, and the Prime Minister said the Office of Utilities Regulation Act would be amended to accommodate this. Now, oddly, the Opposition Leader has gone quiet and his Energy Spokesman, veteran politician Karl Samuda, has popped up with a contradictory remark on the issue – which he says is the definitive Opposition position. Get your act together, people!  Any word on this development? No? “Crickets,” as we say.

Lottery scam arrests: The police have arrested an astounding 41 suspects in Westmoreland and Trelawny in the last couple of days. They seem determined to break the back of this horrible scourge, which has caused so much suffering – murders at home, much grief and suicides in the United States – while the scammers buy flashy cars and build mansions. I just hope the police have sufficient evidence to convict, and that those convicted serve long sentences (I don’t mean two or three years). Recently, rather shockingly, several U.S. citizens (all elderly, I believe) have arrived in Jamaica with large sums of cash ready to pay over. The police have interviewed them. Disturbing.

And Minister Lisa Hanna has established a review committee. Another one.

Former President of the Senate, lawyer and lecturer Oswald Harding, Q.C. (Photo: Gleaner)

Former President of the Senate, lawyer and lecturer Oswald Harding, Q.C. (Photo: Gleaner)

Doubts over CCJ: Former Attorney General and lawyer Ossie Harding has doubts about the Caribbean Court of Appeal (CCJ), headquartered in Trinidad. As a former Jamaica Labour Party senator, this might be expected; but his comments are worth considering. After ten years, he asks, what has the CCJ achieved, with the large amount of money invested it (US$100 million seed money)? How does it function? If we don’t want to stay with the UK Privy Council, Mr. Harding also asks why Jamaica could not use its own final Court of Appeal – it has a strong cadre of judges? Questions to ponder.

Jamaican Ambassador to the United States Stephen Vasciannie signs the condolence book for former Governor General Sir Howard Cooke in Washington, DC.

Jamaican Ambassador to the United States Stephen Vasciannie signs the condolence book for former Governor General Sir Howard Cooke in Washington, DC.

Former Governor General Sir Howard Cooke’s state funeral will take place at the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Kingston on August 8, 2014. Sir Howard will be laid to rest at National Heroes Circle.

Congratulations to…

Alia Atkinson at the 2012 Olympics

Jamaican swimmer Alia Atkinson at the 2012 Olympics.

  • Jamaican swimmer Alia Atkinson, who broke the Commonwealth Games record for the women’s 50 meter breaststroke today in Glasgow, on her way to the semi-finals. Brilliant!

 

  • Young high jumpers Christoff Bryan and Clayton Brown, both of whom have qualified for the high jump finals tomorrow at the 15th World IAAF Junior Championships in Eugene, Oregon. Good luck to all our athletes!

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  • The excellent Dionne Jackson-Miller for her powerful “All Angles” program last night on the mob killing of a transgender teen, Dwayne Jones, just one year ago in Montego Bay. It was very balanced but sensitive to the issues, and did not make any judgments. Well done.
14-year-old Amoya Anderson has been missing since October 27, 2013. Have you seen her?

14-year-old Amoya Anderson has been missing since October 27, 2013. Have you seen her? Her mother, Cheryl Morgan, still hopes to see her coming through the gate…

Only one murder to report, and this is remarkable (again!) My condolences to the loved ones of:

Craig Reary, 44, Lucea, Hanover

 

Another missing child: Samunya Bloomfield disappeared one month ago. A J$100,000 reward is being offered for her safe return.

Another missing child: Samunya Bloomfield disappeared one month ago. A J$100,000 reward is now being offered for her safe return.

 

On the road: The news is not so good. The number of those killed on the road (mostly pedestrians and motorcyclists) this year now stands at 175 – 19 more than this time last year. Meanwhile today one Coaster bus was trying to overtake another but crashed into it on the Spanish Town Road in Kingston; twelve passengers were injured. Those buses frighten me – the drivers are often speeding, even racing each other sometimes. Another Coaster bus driver was killed in a crash in Moneague, St. Ann yesterday.

U.S. Embassy Kingston to Host Youth Poetry Slam Competition

The summer is already proving to be exhausting. But summer fun and excitement is out there! Here is another opportunity for young people to get together for a creative poetry session (and we know how much Jamaicans love poetry!)

AND there’s the chance to win an iPad or Tablet! If you know any young people who would like to compete, please share this information. DEADLINE: AUGUST 5, 2014.

The U.S. Embassy is pleased to announce its first competitive youth poetry slam, “Understanding the World Around You: The Environment and Climate Change” on August 12, 2014. The poetry slam intends to engage the youth on the topics of the environment and climate change in a fun and creative way.

The event will be held from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon at the U.S. Embassy, 142 Old Hope Road, Kingston 6. There will be two sessions, with Session One for participants aged 10 – 14 years and Session Two for ages 15 – 19 years. There will be an Intermission with an Open Mic session where audience members are welcome to perform a poem outside of the competition. Those who do not wish to perform are encouraged to attend and cheer on the performers as audience members.

Winner of the “Best Slam” and the “Best Written Piece” will be chosen from each age group and will win an iPad or Tablet. All eligible entrants will receive certificates and free lifetime membership to the Embassy library, The Paul Robeson Information Resource Centre.

Listed below are the rules and requirements to compete in the event:

Age criteria: Ages 10 -19 years

All works submitted must be original pieces from the performers

Each performance is no longer than three minutes

Poems must focus on the theme of environment and climate change. This theme can relate to many aspects of life, including but not limited to Jamaican prosperity, wildlife, relationship with the environment, etc.

Poem can be in any style.

Poets may stomp their feet, sing, drum on themselves etc., but they may not a) play an instrument or b) use recorded music.

There is no censorship. It is recommended that poets regulate themselves and avoid excessive violence, sexually explicit language and/or degrading language.

Attendees must send their first name and last name, date of birth, contact phone number and email address, and if they wish to compete they must also submit their poem to kingstonirc@state.gov by Tuesday, August 5, 2014. Anyone wishing to attend must RSVP.

The Children, Water Panic and the PM’s Hunger: Monday, July 21, 2014

I have been thinking about children this week. The innocent victims of a wave of violence and madness that has swept through the international and local news, without a care for their souls and their small precious lives. Four children killed while playing on a beach in Palestine (not to mention the many others killed, injured and orphaned during the Israeli incursions); three children burned to death in a home in Jamaica, locked in and trapped by metal grilles and dying together in a bath filled with water; eighty children going on holiday, some homeward bound, with parents and family members, with their books and games and soft toys, blown out of the sky by a missile over a troubled area of Ukraine; two children found murdered in a pond in deep rural Jamaica. Why the suffering?

Three children died in this house fire in Negril, Westmoreland last Friday. (Photo: Phillip Lemonte)

Three children died in this house fire in Negril, Westmoreland last Friday. They are  14-year-old Britney Boning, 11-year-old Beyonce Leslie and their cousin, 8-year-old Xavier McKenzie.  (Photo: Phillip Lemonte)

It has been a grim week.

Water panic: A national broadcast last night by our Minister of Water, Land, Environment & Climate Change Robert Pickersgill put us all in a tizzy. The water situation has considerably worsened. As I learned at a UN Development Programme Learning Conference on Climate Change last week (more about that later) last month was especially dire, with the parishes of Clarendon experiencing only 2% of normal rainfall, Manchester 4%, St. Thomas 6%, St. Mary 8% and Kingston and St. Andrew 12% of their 30 year normal rainfall.

Rainwater harvesting in St. Elizabeth. (Photo: Ian Allen/Gleaner)

Rainwater harvesting in St. Elizabeth. (Photo: Ian Allen/Gleaner)

The Minister stressed the importance of rainwater harvesting (always much talked about but not implemented in a comprehensive way) and with a note of urgency in his voice, gave out hotline numbers for people to report leaks. I must say I suppressed a cynical laugh when I heard this; for years citizens have complained about water leaks running for days before the National Water Commission (NWC) arrives to fix them. Now it’s “Every drop counts!!!” (three exclamation marks). The usual last-minute “crisis,” after decades of inertia by successive administrations and a lack of long-term planning. But today the NWC tells us the Kingston area (by far the largest concentration of population) should have enough water to last until October. Perhaps if conservation measures had been implemented and adhered to when we had plenty of water in the reservoirs, we would not be worried now. But you know the saying about “You never miss the water till the well runs dry”…

Tropical Depression Two is approaching the Caribbean. (Graphic by NOAA)

Tropical Depression Two is approaching the Caribbean. (Graphic by NOAA)

But what it is we see on the horizon? As we all do rain dances and send up prayers, my friend @JamaicaWeather posted this exciting map… We are keeping fingers crossed. I never thought I would welcome a tropical depression or storm, but… Yes, bring it on! (Oh. I just heard it may “dissipate” before it reaches us). Meanwhile, bush fires are spreading in the north coast parish of St. Ann as I write. Sigh.

On other matters…

  • The Viber issue is far from resolved. The Office of Utilities Regulation is still considering whether its VOIP system constitutes an illegal bypass, as telecoms firms (for once joining forces) Digicel and LIME allege. The OUR is supposed to make up its mind by the end of the month. Meanwhile, couldn’t it allow Viber to continue for the time being, as was done in Trinidad?
Kay Osborne has stepped down as Executive Director of Jamaicans for Justice. (Photo: Gleaner)

Kay Osborne has stepped down as Executive Director of Jamaicans for Justice. (Photo: Gleaner)

  •  The slow and painful disintegration of the board of human rights lobby group Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ) has continued over the past few weeks, since the “sex education in children’s homes” débacle. The local media has reported on it quite a bit (and no doubt got the wrong end of the stick a number of times) and I do not want to go into who said what, etc. But I just express the hope that JFJ, which has been so influential in Jamaican society for the last 15 years, will reconstitute itself and continue its valuable and important work. Now Executive Director Kay Osborne resigned immediately after the board chairman. I hope JFJ will take a deep breath, re-focus and start all over again. These things do happen.
Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller.

Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller is hungry, too.

  • Politricks heating up: I hate commenting on all the party political nonsense all the time, but can hardly avoid it after this evening’s CVM Television newscast. It’s clear that the ruling party has started its electioneering. The first 25 minutes or so of the newscast covered a series of People’s National Party (PNP) meetings over the weekend, including an address by Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller (who mentioned, in passing and very belatedly, the five little children who died recently. It hurt her soul, she said). I was startled, and again disappointed by the Prime Minister’s remarks. She said she feels the pain of “my people” (subjects?) and empathizes with those Jamaicans who are hungry, because sometimes she is hungry. Why? Because she is so busy working she forgets to eat! Hardly the same thing, ma’am. If you had said you remember what it was like growing up poor, then fine. But – you went in the wrong direction.
Mikael Phillips, Member of Parliament for    and son of Finance Minister Peter Phillips, is an intelligent young man. I think he can do better when speaking to his party supporters. Get away from that tribalistic thinking! (Photo: Gleaner)

Mikael Phillips, Member of Parliament for North West Manchester  and son of Finance Minister Peter Phillips, is a well educated young man. I think he can do better when speaking to his party supporters. Get away from that tribalistic talk! (Photo: Gleaner)

  • Then we had a young Member of Parliament, Mikael Phillips (the son of the Finance Minister) saying, “This is PNP country.”  Young Mr. Phillips, you can do better than that. The homophobic rant of a PNP councilor followed (I cannot repeat what he said – his speech was so poor and his reasoning so illogical  – but suffice it to say he’s against it).
  • Watching economic figures? You might like to take a look at the charts on the excellent diGJamaica website, which breaks down the Government’s planned spending – showing major reductions in almost all sectors. Here’s the link: http://digjamaica.com/blog/2013/04/26/chart-of-the-week-bang-belly-economy-bang-belly-spending/ 
Dennis Chung. (Gleaner file photo)

Dennis Chung. (Gleaner file photo)

  • To leave…or not: A newspaper report recently noted that at least 7,000 professionals have left Jamaica in the past six years. That is, indeed, quite a few leaving for what they believe will be “greener pastures.” CEO of the Private Sector Organization of Jamaica Dennis Chung has a different view, however. He feels that if some of those professionals had stayed, they could have done very well. “I would rather stay in my country and fix my country rather than stay outside and help to criticize it,” said Chung. “Everything is not just about having a lot of money, quality of life is a lot more important than that.” I must admit that this resonates with me, strongly. But Dennis, were the job opportunities even here for them? We all have to live…
  • And the “Heil Hitler” episode? Well, you’ve guessed it. CVM Television took no action, so far as I know, on the sports journalist’s ignorant outburst, and did not issue any apology. It was hardly even the proverbial “nine-day wonder.” It lasted a day or two. I am sure if an overseas sports journalist jumped up on TV and shouted “Hail to the slave masters!” we would never hear the end of it. Meanwhile, the young Member of Parliament Damion Crawford tweeted that it was “no big deal.” I will make no comment (but wonder about our young politicians, in general).

Much more news to tell  you, but it can wait for my next newsy post. Meanwhile…

Major kudos to…

  • U.S. Embassy Kingston, which is offering free SAT classes for those wanting to apply to U.S. colleges. Email: Kingstonirc@state.gov or call 702-6172.
Miss Jamaica Festival Queen and her runners-up.  The competition is much more culturally significant than the regular beauty pageants, I think.

Miss Jamaica Festival Queen and her runners-up. The competition is much more culturally significant than the regular beauty pageants, I think.

  • I don’t set much store by beauty pageants, although many Jamaicans love them. But congrats to the Miss Jamaica Festival Queen 2014 Anjell Bryan and first and second runners up Sharlene Codner and Honica Ornella Brown. I think this beauty contest has more cultural significance, being linked to the annual Festival celebrations for Jamaica’s Independence holiday. I am sure Ms. Bryan will be great!
The Evelyn Mitchell Infant School in Brandon Hill, Clarendon. (Photo: Horace Fisher/Gleaner)

The Evelyn Mitchell Infant School in Brandon Hill, Clarendon. (Photo: Horace Fisher/Gleaner)

  • Mr. Glen Christian, Chairman of Cari-Med and Kirk Distributors, for his wonderful support for the Brandon Hill community in Clarendon where he grew up (to the tune of some J$100 million, to date) through the Cari-Med and Kirk Foundation. The Primary School recently received twenty computers and Evelyn Mitchell Infant School received five computers, along with printers etc. The infant school is a state-of-the-art, award-winning school named after Mr. Christian’s mother. This is “giving back”!
Support Jamaican theater!

Support Jamaican theater!

  • If you feel like a trip to the theater, why not go to the Philip Sherlock Centre this weekend (July 25-27) and take in “Her Last Cry,” written and directed by Dahlia Harris? This is Ms. Harris’ eighth play and her seventh stint as director. Going from strength to strength!
Shantol Barton (left), top Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate student among those who used the EduFocal system to study, and Tyrese Bryan (right), top Grade Six Achievement Test student, pose with their awards and cheque with Gordon Swaby, creator of the study system, during the EduFocal Awards Ceremony held last Thursday. - (Ian Allen/Gleaner)

Shantol Barton (left), top Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate student among those who used the EduFocal system to study, and Tyrese Bryan (right), top Grade Six Achievement Test student, pose with their awards and cheque with Gordon Swaby, creator of the study system, during the EduFocal Awards Ceremony held last Thursday. – (Ian Allen/Gleaner)

  • Creator and director of the online examination preparation system EduFocal Gordon Swaby – a young entrepreneur with a difference – who awarded twenty students who did exceptionally well while using the website http://www.edufocal.com. Congratulations to all!
Respect Jamaica.

Respect Jamaica.

  • Talk Up Yout’ and Respect Jamaica, who organized a very good tweet chat on Nelson Mandela International Day on the topic of respect. Several Jamaican NGOs and individuals joined in a no-holds-barred discussion on how to create a more respectful and caring society.
  • The Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), founded by National Hero Marcus Mosiah Garvey on July 20, 1914, which is celebrating its 100th year in existence. Numerous activities to celebrate the centenary will take place this month. Meanwhile, you can follow the UNIA on Twitter (@UNIAJAMAICA).

Mingle Flyer

  • Do join us at the WMW Corporate Mingle and Website Launch on Saturday, July 26. It will be an opportunity to meet and support the members of a great women’s organization which is doing excellent work.

 

 

It is really good news that murders this year (up to July 13) have declined by 12 per cent compared to last year (520 compared to 590 in 2013). A newspaper report suggests that Jamaica’s total fascination with the World Cup may have had something to do with a dramatic drop in the past few weeks, in particular. Interestingly, the greatest decline in murders is in the parish of Clarendon – where investigators are looking into allegations of a police “death squad.” 

In fact, there are NO murders to report since my last post. I am very, very happy about this! Long may it continue…

 

Chilling on an Ice Floe in Trench Town

A few days ago, I was at the Trench Town Reading Centre. The heat of summer has worked its way into our very bones, in recent days. The real answer is rain, but our drought has reached a new pain threshold, and many are without water.

A boy and his penguin. (Photo: Facebook)

A boy and his penguin. (Photo: Facebook)

So, in Trench Town it was predictably hot – and dusty, from the adjoining space where the boys play football. But the children are happy, because it is summer school (yes, July is the month of award ceremonies and summer schools!)

Teacher Joan with Roslyn peeping over her shoulder…and the inevitable penguin. (My photo)

Teacher Joan with Roslyn peeping over her shoulder…and the inevitable penguin. (My photo)

But did I mention that, this month, the children are all obsessed with penguins? Yes, penguins! The Reading Centre’s tireless co-founder and chief bottle-washer, Roslyn Ellison, did not deliberately choose this theme to make them all feel cooler. But it caught their imagination. They must be dreaming penguins at night… Chinstrap Penguins, Emperor Penguins, Rockhopper Penguins, all those flightless birds that hop, walk, slither and slide across the ice (oh, that delicious, cooling substance!)

I think the one in the middle is Princess Sophia.

I think the one in the middle is Princess Sophia.

I talked to the older children about story-writing. The stories had to include at least one penguin. As we talked about beginnings, middles and ends, characters and settings and what-happens-next, some of the children were already writing. One little girl was writing about herself as a rainbow, she said. Where was the penguin going to fit in? At the end of the rainbow, perhaps? Imaginations soared, as lunchtime approached. I taught them the word “floe.” As in “ice floe.”

Meet "Unnu" and his creator.  (My photo)

Meet “Unnu” (still in the making) and his creator. (My photo)

Another class of younger children was busy building a penguin colony. When we asked them if their penguins had names, one little girl told me solemnly that her penguin was called “Princess Sophia.” Penguin royalty, there (and perhaps the influence of a television program). A little boy, intriguingly, called his penguin “Unnu.” Now, “unnu” is the word for you (in the plural) in Jamaican patois. Rather Zen, I thought.

Learning in the Reading Centre! (Photo: Facebook)

Learning in the Reading Centre! (Photo: Facebook)

I blew kisses to the children and the penguins. Later, Roslyn posted some great photos on the Reading Centre’s Facebook page (Friends of the TrenchTown Reading Centre).

Summer school at the Reading Centre is busy. It’s creative. It’s laughter.

It’s the children.

Emperor Penguins in the making! (Photo: Facebook)

Emperor Penguins in the making! (Photo: Facebook)

These recycled plastic bottles become...

These recycled plastic bottles become…You’ve guessed it.

Kirkland, a former student at the Trench Town Reading Centre, now working there - providing sustenance. (Photo: Facebook)

Kirkland, a former student at the Trench Town Reading Centre, now working there – providing sustenance. (Photo: Facebook)