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)

 

Youth Advocacy Through the Lens: The Resolution Project

This is the season for awards ceremonies in Jamaica. School is out, the weather is hot and it’s time to get together and say, “Well done! You made it!” before we all go off on our separate summer excursions, here and there.

The awards ceremony gets under way. (My photo)

The awards ceremony gets under way. (My photo)

A few days ago I attended an extraordinary ceremony – not in the audience, but as a volunteer for the Jamaica National (JN) Foundation. The Olympia Gallery – a wonderful, old-fashioned building which is a combination art gallery and apartment block – was the venue for the awards ceremony for the Resolution Project (formerly Youth Zoom) which is ten years old this year. The photography project was the brainchild of the Jamaica National Building Society’s General Manager Earl Jarrett – a forward-looking man who always seems to find creative avenues for Jamaica’s development, especially through youth.

Resolution Project volunteer Dwight Walters. (My photo)

Resolution Project volunteer Dwight Walters. (My photo)

Photography is a powerful medium for advocacy. Students from 42 Jamaican high schools participating in the Resolution Project attend training workshops on camera techniques and advocacy. They then receive a digital camera and a great deal of freedom to go out and capture compelling pictures. It is competitive, but it is also a learning curve for the students and for those who guide them. Over the years, the project has deepened and broadened from simply giving young Jamaicans a way of expressing themselves, focusing on issues that concern them. Now, the photographs ask complex questions about human rights, sexuality, gender and identity issues that affect them and the communities in which they live.

Jodi Morgan receives a prize from Jamaican photographer Ray Chen. (Photo: JN Foundation)

Jodi Morgan receives one of her awards from JN Foundation board member Parris Lyew-Ayee. (Photo: JN Foundation)

The photographs are disconcertingly personal and “close to home.” The prize-winning photographers at the awards ceremony have an unflinching vision; over 100 photographs competed for the prizes and most were displayed for our viewing. One young person in particular, Jodi Morgan of Glenmuir High School, is a great photo-journalist in the making. Slender and cool, with a broad smile, Jodi does not shy away from challenging, even disturbing subjects. She won an armful of prizes, and deservedly so.

Indira Jathan of Grange Hill gets ready to snap yet another photograph. (My photo)

Indira Jathan of Grange Hill gets ready to snap yet another photograph. (My photo)

I met an enthusiastic group of girls from Grange Hill High School in rural Westmoreland. They had got up before dawn to reach Kingston on time. Sixteen-year-old Indira Jathan is very proud of her camera; she uses every part of it, she says, including the manual settings.

The students thoroughly enjoyed the ceremony, which was attended by Minister of Youth and Culture Lisa Hanna. (My photo)

The students thoroughly enjoyed the ceremony, which was attended by Minister of Youth and Culture Lisa Hanna. (My photo)

Now, Glenmuir High School did particularly well, winning the Best Performing School award. I spoke with Nathaniel Stewart, the head of their Photography Club, an affable gentleman who was quite proud of his protégés. He seemed modest about his own achievements, however, pointing out to me that he is merely responsible for teaching the students the technicalities. It is up to them to become good photographers. He does not, he said, advise them on what to photograph; they just go out and shoot.

Nathaniel Stewart heads the Glenmuir High School Photography Club. (My photo)

Nathaniel Stewart heads the Glenmuir High School Photography Club. (My photo)

Meanwhile, I got busy with dishing out sandwiches and pasta (why am I so hopeless at serving food?) while the students chatted and laughed and took selfies. Yes, the smartphone camera still has its uses. The photographs on the walls spoke for themselves. The images challenge us to think: a moody image of a homeless man in May Pen, sitting on the sidewalk smoking a cigarette; a little boy and girl, striking “sexy” poses, copying what they had seen older children and adults do; a young man’s face divided into two – with one side lighter-skinned and made-up (“The Real Me (Ze)” by Jodi Morgan). 

Under each photograph is a comment by the student on the issues and the thoughts behind the photographs. Which is the real me? asks Ms. Morgan. Glenmuir High’s Carl Simpson (also an award winner) asks “Who Owns Me?” with a photograph of a girl’s back. The name of her boyfriend is tattooed across it, just above her low-cut jeans. Pursuing the theme of body image, Grange Hill High’s Petrona McDonald photographed a girl’s waist wrapped in tape measures (“String Beans“), noting girls’ obsession with small waists.

Selfie time! Glenmuir's Carl Simpson takes a photo of himself, Project Officer Amashika Lorne and a representative of the LIME Foundation, one of the co-sponsors, in front of Carl's own photograph - a self-portrait. (Photo: JN Foundation)

Selfie time! Glenmuir’s Carl Simpson takes a photo of himself, Project Officer Amashika Lorne and a representative of the LIME Foundation, one of the co-sponsors, in front of Carl’s own photograph – a self-portrait. (Photo: JN Foundation)

Some of the photographs are much lighter in mood; I enjoyed “Jamaica Day” by Crystal Edwards of Hampton High School, showing students performing a folk dance. The camera angle captures the energy and rhythm perfectly. “Photobomber” by Sanjae Hudson of Manchester High School – an expression of teenage exuberance in the schoolyard –  made me smile.

Two members of the Alpha Boys' School Band watch the proceedings intently. You can purchase their very cool T shirts in many sizes and brilliant colors at the Alpha Wear JA Facebook page. They are irresistible! (My photo)

Two members of the Alpha Boys’ School Band watch the proceedings intently. You can purchase their very cool T shirts in many sizes and brilliant colors at the Alpha Wear JA Facebook page. They are irresistible! (My photo)

You may have noted that all the participants are from outside the Kingston area. And I have not mentioned that a 50th Anniversary exhibit in London last year showcased many of the Resolution Project’s photographs, and that they have also been shown at the Jamaican Consulate in New York. Gone abroad, as the Jamaican saying goes!

Stuart Reeves (center, holding a basket) with Earl Jarrett, General Manager of the Jamaica National Building Society and students. (My photo)

Stuart Reeves (center, holding a basket) with Earl Jarrett, General Manager of the Jamaica National Building Society and students. (My photo)

Many congratulations are due to all those who have worked so hard – and continue to do so – on the Resolution Project. Photographer Stuart Reeves, who helped train the students and remains their mentor, received a special “thank you.” The hard-working JN Foundation General Manager Saffrey Brown and Project Officer Amashika Lorne deserve a hearty pat on the back! A trio from the Alpha Boys School Band played beautifully. Not to mention the food, lovingly served by me and other volunteers (in my case, rather clumsily). The spring rolls were to die for.

Photographers take a break, while a solemn bust of Marcus Garvey oversees proceedings. (My photo)

Photographers take a break, while a solemn bust of Marcus Garvey oversees proceedings at the Olympia Gallery (My photo)

And of course, the initial vision of JNBS General Manager Earl Jarrett has blossomed over the years.

He must be proud. As I was, to bask in the students’ success.

To get involved with the Resolution Project, or to order photographs, contact: JNBS Foundation, 32 1/2 Duke Street, Kingston. Website: http://www.jnfoundation.com. Tel: 1 (876) 922-1344  Email: foundation@jnbs.com. The JN Foundation is also on Facebook and on Twitter @JNFoundation.

Yes - you can purchase the photographs. Contact the JN Foundation for details!

Yes – you can purchase the photographs. Contact the JN Foundation for details!

Nelson Mandela International Day: July 18

This message is from Jamaica’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Senator A.J. Nicholson, for Nelson Mandela International Day – Friday, July 18, 2014, Mr. Mandela’s birthday. The day was designated by the United Nations General Assembly in 2009.

If you want to remind yourself of Mr. Mandela’s greatness, you can browse through my Pinterest board. I have quite a collection of historic photos. Take a look here: http://www.pinterest.com/petchary/mr-mandela/

I think we are still missing Mr. Mandela, who left us on December 5, 2013. Not so long ago, is it, although to me it seems like longer. 

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Nelson Mandela International Day

18th July 2014

Jamaica is pleased to join the international community in commemorating Nelson Mandela International Day, in honor of an awe-inspiring humanitarian, philosopher, political activist, and freedom fighter who has been a beacon of hope and love for people across the globe. This year, the commemoration of Nelson Mandela International Day strikes a particularly sombre note, as it marks the first observance after the passing last year of this global icon. Nelson Mandela will long be recalled as a man who dedicated his life to the transformation of South Africa into a nation where every citizen, regardless of racial or social background, could live a life of dignity.

Keenly aware that “…to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others”, Mr. Mandela earned his place in history on account of his unswerving commitment to the principles of freedom, equality and service to humanity, which eventually led to the dismantling of the dehumanising system of apartheid. His dedication to the upliftment of South Africans cost him 27 years of imprisonment, underscoring the fact that he fought for a cause for which he was prepared to die. This is the measure of a man who transcended narrow self interest and lived for the betterment of all humanity.

Mr. Mandela was a true disciple of reconciliation and unity. Rather than avenging the evil which was perpetrated against him, he saw reconciliation as a route to confront the cruel past and chart a future of hope and truth for the people of South Africa. His establishment of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission after he became President was a colossal step towards harmonizing a segregated society.

As a country that has been scarred by the reprehensible institution of slavery and been at the vanguard of human rights since the 1960s, Jamaica served with great fervor at the forefront of the global struggle to end apartheid. We will continue to advocate for the elimination of discrimination or any form of oppressive conduct perpetrated by human beings.

As we celebrate Nelson Mandela Day, let all Jamaicans join the international community in its efforts to build a culture of altruism which inspires the change we want to see in our society, to be our brother’s keeper, to be defined, not by our differences, but by our common humanity.

Mr. Mandela’s devotion to freedom and democracy challenges all of us to never compromise our highest hopes and deepest convictions. In reflecting on his life and invaluable contribution to humanity, let us continue to be inspired by his example and work each day towards creating a better world, inspired by his wise words: It is in your hands to make of our world a better one for all, especially the poor, vulnerable and marginalized.”

Nelson Mandela International Day, July 18.

Nelson Mandela International Day, July 18.

 

 

International Partners, “Chik V” and Slash and Burn: Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The drought continues. The heat continues. I am thinking we should maybe pave over our lawn, or turn our front yard into a callaloo bed, or just a flower bed. Anything is better than the patch of bare earth and dying yellow grass that currently calls itself a lawn. Well, @JamaicaWeather shared a little map of the Saharan dust. Here it is – not really evident in the Caribbean now, but there is still a thick haze over the city.

A satellite map of the Saharan dust, which seems to be much thicker on the European side. Still, we suffer...

A satellite map of the Saharan dust, which seems to be much thicker on the European side. Still, we suffer…

National Security Minister Peter Bunting addressing Parliament yesterday. (Ricardo Makyn/Gleaner)

National Security Minister Peter Bunting addressing Parliament yesterday. (Ricardo Makyn/Gleaner)

“I’m sorry…” National Security Minister Peter Bunting disappointed many with his statement in Parliament yesterday on the sudden departure of Police Commissioner Owen Ellington. Minister Bunting did disclose that “international partners” had withdrawn support for specific units of the security forces because of human rights concerns, following the publication of the Public Defender’s interim report on the Tivoli Gardens incursion of May, 2010. But he would not be drawn on the Opposition’s question regarding the possible invoking of the Leahy Amendment and its possible connection with investigations into a Clarendon “death squad. He said he could not disclose matters of national security due to secrecy issues and moreover, parliamentary rules did not allow for such questions.

Former Commissioner of Police Owen Ellington.

Former Commissioner of Police Owen Ellington.

A “cover-up”? Following the Minister’s statement – two weeks ahead of the stipulated timeframe for answering written questions – there has been much grumbling. Minister Bunting’s Opposition counterpart Derrick Smith suggested there was a cover-up of the circumstances surrounding the Police Commissioner’s departure; but I wonder whether he would have said anything different, had he been in Minister Bunting’s shoes. Nevertheless, the media and Jamaicans in general are still not buying Ellington’s official explanation at the time of his resignation; but the Government is sticking to it, and one wonders whether any more information will be forthcoming.

And here is our Acting Commissioner of Police since July 1, Glenmore Hinds. (Photo: Gleaner)

And here is our Acting Commissioner of Police since July 1, Glenmore Hinds. (Photo: Gleaner)

A new Commissioner: Meanwhile, ads are going out this week for a new Commissioner, and Minister Bunting says we should have one by September. Deputy Commissioner Glenmore Hinds is acting until then. And may I add, as discussions begin on who might be Mr. Ellington’s successor, I disagree with Opposition Leader Andrew Holness’ assertion that it should not be a foreigner. Why did he come out with this, I wonder, at this time? Could he not have just bided his time a little? I still find Mr. Holness’ occasional outbursts sometimes baffling, and often ill-timed.

Shurandy Quant, who was deported to Curacao in April 2013 and thence to the Netherlands. Charges have now been dropped against him, it is reported.

Shurandy Quant, who was deported to Curacao in April 2013 and thence to the Netherlands. Charges have now been dropped against him, it is reported.

More woes: Minister Bunting must have a lot of headaches these days. Yesterday a court threw out his application to suit against him thrown out, and a judicial review will take place in October. Shurandy Quant (described as a violent international drug trafficker at the time – against whom all charges have now been dropped) claims Minister Bunting signed a deportation order from Jamaica to Curaçao in breach of a court order in April, 2013. A contempt of court suit is also under consideration.

The pot and the kettle?  Former Prime Minister Bruce Golding’s comments on the sudden departure of Police Commissioner Owen Ellington strike me as a touch hypocritical. Golding said on radio he was “shocked and disappointed” at Ellington’s early retirement (if you accept that definition of his departure). Golding is “perplexed” about the alleged reason why he left. He then launched into a tirade against the U.S. Government. The U.S. has no moral authority, he declared, to be concerned about human rights in Jamaica, while it “reserves for itself the right to dispatch drones to extrajudicially kill civilians…”  Let’s be careful with that phrase “moral authority,” shall we?

Former Prime Minister Bruce Golding. (Photo: Gleaner)

Former Prime Minister Bruce Golding. (Photo: Gleaner)

Mr. Golding, who was Prime Minister when Jamaica endured the trauma of the Tivoli Gardens massacre, was full of moral indignation. In May 2010 at least 76 Jamaicans died – at least 44 of the deaths deemed to be extra-judicial killings. Perhaps Mr. Golding is nervous about the upcoming enquiry into Tivoli Gardens and what it may reveal? Sometimes getting on your moral high horse and pointing fingers elsewhere is a good way to distract attention.

The aedes aegypti mosquitoes that spread dengue and "Chik V" fevers were once restricted to tropical and sub-tropical climes but can now be found almost everywhere. There have been cases of "Chik V" in Texas and Florida.

The aedes aegypti mosquitoes that spread dengue and “Chik V” fevers were once restricted to tropical and sub-tropical climes but can now be found almost everywhere. There have been cases of “Chik V” in Texas and Florida.

Is “Chik V” here? Most of the region has had cases of the chikungunya virus, or “Chik V” for short, which seems to be a variation on dengue fever (I am not sure whether it is more dangerous or not, but the symptoms are similar). Now it seems there is one suspected, imported case in someone who arrived from overseas. We shall see. Meanwhile, let us take all precautions.

A Jamaica Observer cartoon shows the Finance Minister and central bank governor waiting for IMF chief Christine Lagarde to leave before putting in support mechanisms for the Jamaican Dollar.

A Jamaica Observer cartoon shows the Finance Minister and central bank governor waiting for IMF chief Christine Lagarde to leave before putting in support mechanisms for the Jamaican Dollar.

Still supporting: Finance Minister Peter Phillips says the Bank of Jamaica will continue to intervene in the market to stop the Jamaican Dollar’s persistent downhill slide. It is to guard against speculation, he says.

Stop the “slash and burn”! Farmers are still using the “slash and burn” technique to clear their land, in the midst of the most terrible drought. As a result, one farmer in Potsdam, St. Elizabeth burned to death yesterday, and another fire today destroyed crops, water storage tanks etc. It is hot, extremely dry and windy. I really feel these farmers need to have their heads examined! Hundreds of acres of land in the parish have already been destroyed. Stop it!

Agriculture Minister Roger Clarke is not very well at the moment, but the sector is under such huge pressure. Setting up a monitoring team may not really be enough, and there is not enough money to keep trucking water to the affected areas, week after week. The media need to keep reporting on this crisis.

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will visit Trinidad and Tobago soon. (Photo: AP)

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will visit Trinidad and Tobago on July 27 and 28 – to celebrate 50 years of diplomatic relations. A ship will visit Jamaica, for the same reason. (Photo: AP)

The Japanese connection: Jamaica is celebrating fifty years of diplomatic relations with Japan, and a Japanese Navy ship will be visiting next week. Meanwhile, the Japanese Prime Minister will visit Trinidad later this month – also celebrating fifty years; go figure.

The International Seabed Authority meeting in Kingston this week. (Photo: Lionel Rookwood/Jamaica Observer)

The International Seabed Authority meeting in Kingston this week. (Photo: Lionel Rookwood/Jamaica Observer)

ISA Assembly glitches: The annual meeting of the International Seabed Authority (ISA), which is based in Kingston, got off to a rocky start this week. Technical issues with translation equipment (apparently a nagging problem in recent years) caused a temporary suspension of the meeting at the Jamaica Conference Centre. The JCC is a wonderful building on Kingston’s downtown waterfront, but it is not as well maintained as it could be. It is the responsibility of the Jamaican Government. ISA members frequently complain, and we need to get our act together.

Tragedy in Trelawny: Meanwhile, in a quiet rural district, the bodies of two children were pulled from a pond. They were apparently dumped there. The two had been among a small group of children who went to a beach with a man, according to one news report. Police are still investigating and reports say the boy was murdered, but the girl may have drowned.

There was a disturbing incident at Mandeville Hospital this week. According to media reports, an orthopedic patient with a broken leg became unruly (although presumably incapacitated) and stabbed another patient with a pin from his leg. A policeman who was guarding another patient came to the assistance of patients and staff and shot the patient dead. Why shoot him? Surely the patient could have been easily overcome by staff and the police.

Meanwhile, a policeman was shot and injured during a gun battle near the Old Harbour Road roundabout in St. Catherine yesterday afternoon. I wish him a speedy recovery, and extend condolences to all those who are suffering and who mourn. How much longer will this violence go on?

Omari Sterling, 13, Hague, Trelawny

Mallica Mitchell, 10, Hague, Trelawny

Conroy Allen, 17, Gordon Pen, St. Catherine

“Cutty,” Lennonville, St. Catherine

Patrick Nembhard, 20, King Street, Kingston

John Carty, 32, Crofts Hill, Clarendon

Donovan Stewart, 38, Mandeville, Manchester (shot by police)

Thirteen-year-old Omari Sterling was a student of St. James High School.

Thirteen-year-old Omari Sterling was a student of St. James High School.

Reverend Dr Sonia Seivwright (right), president of the Trelawny Ministers' Fraternal, comforts a crying Devona Kerr, the mother of Mellica Mitchell, who is believed to be one of the two children found dead in a pond in Trelawny yesterday. (Photo: Adrian Frater/Gleaner)

Reverend Dr Sonia Seivwright (right), president of the Trelawny Ministers’ Fraternal, comforts a crying Devona Kerr, the mother of Mellica Mitchell, who is believed to be one of the two children found dead in a pond in Trelawny yesterday. (Photo: Adrian Frater/Gleaner)

 

Jamaican Broadcaster Salutes Hitler on Live Television

petchary:

I mentioned this disturbing incident which occurred on Sunday on live television. What is even more disturbing is that there has been NO comment, let alone an apology, from the television station concerned. And many Jamaicans seem to think that this outrageous behavior is “no big deal.” It is an insult, not only to Jewish people, including Jamaicans, but also to all the minorities (including black people) who suffered and died at Hitler’s evil, racist command. And, indeed, it is extremely painful for all those of German descent. I wonder how the German team this journalist was “praising” would have felt about it? Shame on you, CVM Television.

Originally posted on Dimitri Lyon:

Veteran Jamaican broadcaster Rohan Daley on Sunday, July 13th, 2014 saluted Hitler by uttering the phrase “Heil Hitler” in celebration of Germany securing the 2014 World Cup title. It was inconceivable to think that a broadcaster would have uttered such a phrase on national television. In so doing, Mr. Daley single handedly tainted what had otherwise been perceived as superb coverage of the games by CVM television.

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