CCRP Protests Increase in Bus Fare for Seniors Commuting on JUTC Buses

I reported in my previous blog on the increase in bus fares announced yesterday; the increases will take effect on Sunday. There have been numerous expressions of deep concern from several sectors of society, including the National Consumer League and some trade unions. The Bustamante Industrial Trade Union says the issue will impact public sector wage negotiations next year (in March, 2013 civil servants agreed to wage restraint for the contract period 2012-2015. They are feeling the pinch). Jamaica’s oldest union, the Jamaica Civil Service Association (JACISERA) has gone a step further, suggesting members boycott the Jamaica Urban Transit Corporation buses. JACISERA says the increase does not bode well for the Partnership for Transformation among the public and private sector and civil society.

Fares for Jamaica’s senior citizens have seen by far the largest increase. Below is a release from the Caribbean Community of Retired Persons (CCRP), which supports Jamaicans over fifty who are retired or planning to retire. Seniors are already struggling with rising inflation and a declining standard of living for many. This increase is, in my view, quite heartless.

Kingston, Jamaica- August 21, 2014: The Caribbean Community of Retired Persons (CCRP) is reacting with shock to the government’s announcement of an increase in the bus fare for seniors who travel on the Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) buses, from $20.00 to $60.00 – a whopping increase of 200 per cent.

Professor Denise Eldemire-Shearer, Chair of the CCRP, in commenting on the decision, stated: “The increase will amplify the burden on seniors who have to make regular visits to health care facilities such as hospitals and health clinics along with collecting their NIS [pensions].”

She further indicated that the increase will also have a negative impact on programmes implemented by the CCRP, the National Council for Senior Citizens (NCSC) and other organizations for seniors, designed to promote active ageing and healthy living, as most seniors will not be able to attend due the increase.

Jean Lowrie-Chin, Founder and CEO of the CCRP, added that the plight of seniors in the society is already quite alarming and this would further compound their challenges. “They are facing the triple jeopardy of poor health, economic marginalization and threats to their personal security – surely there needs to be special consideration for them,” she said.

The government is urged to identify other alternatives that will not discriminate against this vulnerable group of citizens.



CCRP Jamaica was launched in April 2010. It is a membership organisation for persons 50 and over retired or planning to retire. CCRP is dedicated to honouring the wisdom of seniors and promoting respect for them through programmes that enhance their well-being, skills, and talents towards the development of Jamaica, the Caribbean and the Diaspora. Our aspiration is for all seniors to be empowered to live ‘Life to the Fullest’.

Contact: Dorett Linton,
CCRP Jamaica
Tel: 926-6740 (office)
435-0099 (mobile)

Bus Fares, A Boat Trip and Ice Buckets: Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Despite the weather forecast today (which predicted we would be “high and dry”) we actually had some refreshing rain. Another great stress reliever was the arrival of… Yes! A garbage truck! I like to think that my photo of our piles of garbage posted on Instagram did the trick. We feel very fortunate, as a street close by is still knee deep in the stuff.

Mario Deane died in custody after suffering severe injuries at the Barnett Street police lock-up in Montego Bay.

Mario Deane died in custody after suffering severe injuries at the Barnett Street police lock-up in Montego Bay.

Predictable: Just as I expected, our Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller chose a partisan political meeting on Sunday to finally say something about Mario Deane, nearly two weeks after his death. This was the wrong platform; and the tone of her response was also inappropriate. Her remarks on the tragedy, which has deeply disturbed so many Jamaicans, turned into a diatribe against the Opposition. She had not commented on the Deane case “because it was under investigation” and her Ministers of Justice and National Security had already spoken, she added.  As always, the PM seemed to take personally the criticisms of her complete silence while all sections of society were expressing anger at Mario Deane’s death (and the complex and painful ramifications of it). She does not seem to understand the nature of her position as Prime Minister. This means she should speak out on matters of national concern. This is called “leadership.” She must cover all bases.

The PM did, however, acknowledge the importance of human rights. That phrase is rolling off the tongue of some politicians a little more easily, these days. Jamaicans for Justice has commended her for this. By the way, an autopsy on Mario Deane by an overseas pathologist will likely take place next week.

Minister of Transport & Works Omar Davies

Minister of Transport & Works Omar Davies.

Great timing: Minister of Transport Omar Davies announced an increase in bus fares for the Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) today – effective Sunday, so we have just three days’ notice. The timing could not have been worse, as the new school year approaches. Adult fares will increase by 20%; children, students and the disabled will see a 50% increase; and senior citizens a 200% increase. Minister Davies said the JUTC is seeking to run a “first world service” with hugely increasing expenses. It doesn’t seem likely at this time that the government will back down on this – unless there is a huge fuss (and there is a faint possibility that there may be demonstrations and civil unrest on this matter). The Minister says he would have to find another funding source to keep the JUTC afloat if the increase was withdrawn. He waffled over the major increase for senior citizens, even appearing to question the journalist’s description of this demographic as “vulnerable.”

Ironically, the People’s National Party (PNP) fiercely opposed a proposed fare increase in 2010. Portia Simpson Miller, then Opposition Leader, called the move “wicked and uncaring”. Now it’s Andrew Holness’ turn (he called the fare increase a “travesty of grave injustice, inconsiderate and wicked” and threatened street protests). He does have a point about the last Auditor General’s Report, which highlighted many inefficiencies in the JUTC. Minister Davies says some of these will be addressed by year-end – in particular, the lack of a mechanism to track the operations of its buses. They will get GPS. Oh, and they will issue schedules!

Passengers board a JUTC bus. (Photo: Rudolph Brown/Gleaner)

Passengers board a JUTC bus. (Photo: Rudolph Brown/Gleaner)

In the scheme of things bus fares may not seem high. But a Twitter friend calculated that for a Jamaican earning the minimum wage, taking one bus to and from work will mean transportation will take up 21% of his/her income (thank you, Alexis Goffe!) If that person has a child, then bus fares will be 27% of income. Bear in mind that July inflation was higher than expected (mainly due to much higher food prices caused by the drought).

Passengers embarking a Jamaica Urban Transit Company bus at North Parade, downtown Kingston. (Photo: Gleaner)

Passengers embarking a Jamaica Urban Transit Company bus at North Parade, downtown Kingston. (Photo: Gleaner)

The JUTC’s history has been a rough and rocky one. Eleven years ago, then Finance Minister Omar Davies gave it a huge (J$3.45 billion) to clear its debt. By that time, it was racking up losses of billions of Jamaican Dollars.

Fourth consecutive quarter of growth: This has to be good news, doesn’t it. The Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ) reported growth of 1.2% for the past quarter – especially in agriculture. The PIOJ, as always, put a positive spin on it all, but only projected a maximum one per cent growth rate for the next quarter. Nothing to crow about, after all?


Mayor Shernet Haughton with members of her team after the first sitting of the Hanover Parish Council in 2012. (Photo: Adrian Frater/Gleaner)

Mayor Shernet Haughton with members of her team after the first sitting of the Hanover Parish Council in 2012. (Photo: Adrian Frater/Gleaner)

What is the story behind the resignation of Mayor of Lucea Shernet  Haughton, after just over two years in office, and her Deputy? I understand that there were party machinations; we may never know details. I also see this as the triumph of the Patriarchy. I cannot forget the extremely unpleasant, misogynistic (and perhaps racist) attack on her by local Member of Parliament Ian Hayles, who said the Mayor was “not his type” at a party meeting.

Bring your own water: Back to school is upon us, and Education Minister Ronald Thwaites says some schools may ask students to bring their own water for drinking and sanitary purposes to school each day (the image of small children staggering down the road with their heavy bag of books and a few gallons of water is not a happy one).The drought has not lifted, despite a few showers here and there. It’s worsening in some areas. Bush fires continue. I am still hoping that the National Water Commission will do a better job of responding to the many calls regarding leaking pipes – and fix them! Incidentally, when did the NWC last do any customer service training? Their staff do not know the meaning of the word “customer,” I swear. Re-training urgently needed!

Most schools “ineffective”: Six out of every ten schools surveyed (129 of them) by the National Education Inspectorate (NEI) are failing to provide quality education. NEI reports are generally as gloomy as the PIOJ’s reports are optimistic. I am not sure I am happy with Education Minister Ronald Thwaites “calling out” specific schools in his speeches. How does that help? There is no doubt, however, that leadership and management of schools is a major concern. As it is in most sectors, one might add. The NEI report will be published next month.

The Victoria Jubilee Hospital.

The Victoria Jubilee Hospital.

You’re in labor? Well, just shut up!  This has (allegedly) been the attitude of some nurses at the Victoria Jubilee Hospital, the public maternity hospital in downtown Kingston. We have been hearing these stories for years. Now an extremely damning report from a mother (who lost her baby) in the Jamaica Observer prompted other mothers to come forward with tales of woe, focusing on unprofessional behavior by the staff. At last the Minister of Health has taken action. He recently ordered an investigation into the allegations, suggesting perhaps staff need “customer service training.” Methinks also the Ministry fears lawsuits…

This is what Great Goat Island looked like on September 14, 2013 when we traveled round the islands. (My photo)

This is what Great Goat Island looked like on September 14, 2013 when we traveled round the islands. (My photo)

“There’s nothing there!” The Government’s chief propagandizer for the transshipment port at Goat Islands, the Caribbean Maritime Institute Dr. Fritz Pinnock, took a much larger group of media and Jamaica Chamber of Commerce members on a lovely boat trip to the area on Sunday. He told financial analyst Ralston Hyman on radio (Mr. Hyman is already gung-ho on the project so was an uncritical listener) that he took the group to Greater Goat Island. This was not apparent in the Facebook photos I saw. Clearly Dr. Pinnock took them to a degraded area, in the middle of the day. I doubt the group were impressed as to the ecological value of Goat Islands after that. Dr. Pinnock said they could see there was “nothing there” (what does “nothing” mean in this context?)

Sprinter Usain Bolt challenged Youth and Culture Minister Lisa Hanna to the icebucket treatment.

Sprinter Usain Bolt challenged Youth and Culture Minister Lisa Hanna to the icebucket treatment.

The IceBuckets: Never one to shy away from self-promotion, our Youth and Culture Minister Lisa Hanna sat at her desk, waterproof makeup applied, for someone to pour a bucket of ice water over her in the cause of ALS research. Critics said the water damaged her computer and government documents, but Ms. Hanna’s office denied this. I just hope that all these people seeking a nice PR opportunity will actually donate to the cause – and the Minister did promote the cause, too. Ms. Hanna is a bit of a video star these days. Having conquered Instagram with her glamorous photos, she is now on YouTube. Her PR man tweeted a video of the birthday celebrations at her office today, complete with a large cake (hopefully not purchased on the public purse). Happy birthday, Minister!

Another “big man” charged with fraud: A member of the PNP’s National Executive Committee (on the party executive for the Prime Minister’s South West St. Andrew constituency) Donovan Bisasor and an employee have been accused of fleecing the National Water Commission of over 7 million dollars was granted multi-million dollar bail this week. This is the work of the new MOCA (the Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency). The two return to court on September 29.

Chikungunya cases are increasing: As of this evening there are seventeen confirmed cases. People, arm thyselves with mosquito zappers! They are very effective. If we have more rain, numbers of mosquitoes will go up rapidly. Also keep checking possible breeding grounds around the house. Mosquitoes can breed quickly in a small amount of water – even that contained in a leaf, or a bottle-top…

Fab at forty: National Gallery of Jamaica

Fab at forty: National Gallery of Jamaica

Happy Anniversary!  To two great institutions: The National Gallery of Jamaica (forty years) and the Gleaner newspaper (180 years!) Celebrations are in order!

My next overview should be on Sunday, all things being well…

The Gleaner is 180 years old!

The Gleaner is 180 years old!

Empowering the Young Women of Jamaica: Eve for Life (and Save the Date!)

Saturday, October 11, 2014 is the UN International Day of the Girl Child. This special day aims to “recognize girls’ rights and the unique challenges girls face around the world,” says the United Nations.

International Day of the Girl Child

International Day of the Girl Child

What is it like to be a 21st century girl? In many parts of the world, girls face discrimination. In some countries, they are forced into early marriages(46% of girls in India, for example) –  which they are physically and psychologically unprepared for. In many countries, girls are subject to physical and sexual abuse. Millions of girls up to fifteen years of age endure and suffer from female genital mutilation (circumcision). Many are deprived of a proper education. Many are forced into child labor, sexual exploitation and human trafficking. The International Day of the Girl Child focuses on the need to address these difficulties, to promote girls’ empowerment and the fulfillment of their human rights.

Eve for Life

Eve for Life

In Jamaica, the non-governmental organization Eve for Life supports and empowers some of the most marginalized girls: young (mostly teenage) mothers living with HIV and AIDS and their children. Executive Director Patricia Watson and Director of Programs and Training Joy Crawford co-founded Eve for Life in 2008. They are supported by a loyal and hard-working staff and a group of amazing “Mentor Moms” who guide and support the young women, based in Kingston, St. James and St. Ann. Their core services and programmes include parenting workshops, HIV and AIDS counselling, social support, training and capacity building, AIDS education and community sensitization and mobilization and advocacy.

Eve for Life staff, volunteers, mentor moms and supporters at the soft launch of Nuh Guh Deh. (My photo)

Eve for Life staff, volunteers, mentor moms and supporters gather at the soft launch of Nuh Guh Deh last November. (My photo)


Young women make up over sixty per cent of all people living with HIV globally. In Jamaica, there are more than twice as many women in the 15 – 24 years age group living with HIV as there are men. The physical and psychological challenges Eve for Life clients face (apart from trying to keep themselves and their children healthy) are unbelievably complex. Their situation is usually exacerbated by poverty and the rising cost of living; unemployment; stigma and discrimination; lack of family support; domestic and sexual abuse (increasingly); and even in some cases homelessness. Eve does an absolutely incredible job. They build the girls’ confidence. They counsel them on difficult issues. They help the girls get into training programs, so they can earn money. They help them get back to school, or into programs where they can continue their education. They help the girls become independent, strong and hopeful again. They offer them love. And, most importantly, they care.

As the International Day of the Girl Child approaches, Eve for life is on a mission. It aims to try to change a mindset that exists among some Jamaican men and that is often supported by women too. This is the practice of “grooming” young girls, sexualizing them when they are still very young. It is the practice of older men approaching these very young girls for sex, which is often forced on them. They are still children. It is illegal. It is sexual abuse. It causes mental, spiritual and physical suffering, unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections, and sometimes HIV. Men, stop it! Nuh Guh Deh!

Deirdre Kienan (left) of UNICEF, Marion Scott (centre) of the National Family Planning Board, and St Rachel Ustanny of Family Planning Association of Jamaica show their Nuh Guh Deh T shirts at the  "soft" launch of the Eve for Life initiative in November, 2013.  (Photo: Rudolph Brown/Gleaner)

Deirdre Kienan (left) of UNICEF, Marion Scott (centre) of the National Family Planning Board, and St Rachel Ustanny of Family Planning Association of Jamaica show their Nuh Guh Deh T shirts at the “soft” launch of the Eve for Life initiative in November, 2013. (Photo: Rudolph Brown/Gleaner)

If you have not already done so, please read some of my earlier posts, including Nickeisha’s Story:  In a heartfelt speech at the soft launch of the “Nuh Guh Deh” campaign last November, Nickeisha, who is from St. Ann, said: “As someone who has experienced abuse, I feel it is my duty as an empowered and proud teenager and mother to say this to you … “NUH GUH DEH!!” Lef wi mek wi grow…!!”

The official launch of the Nuh Guh Deh campaign will be on the International Day of the Girl Child, Saturday, October 11, 2014. Eve for Life and all the girls would love you to be there to support them. It’s going to be a lively, exciting event. More details to follow.

Eve for Life Jamaica will celebrate the International Day of the Girl Child in a very important way.

Eve for Life Jamaica will celebrate the International Day of the Girl Child in a very important way, by asking Jamaican men “Nuh Guh Deh” (Don’t Go There!)

If you also want to support Eve for Life financially, no amount is too small. Funds are needed so that Pat, Joy and the team can continue their work and support our vulnerable girls. Eve is asking each person to give J$365 x 365 days. Monthly, weekly or annual deposits can be made. Persons can contribute for any number of days; if possible for at least four days per month.

Funds received will support the organization’s local fundraising to strength and sustain work with adolescent girls and children affected by HIV and AIDS.


If you need more information feel free to contact Shandell Lowe at 876-771-8500.

You can contribute to funds to Scotiabank Jamaica’s Constant Spring Financial Centre Savings Account:  EVE for Life; Branch No. 21725; Account No. 32433

Contact Eve for Life: Office: 876-758-7049; Other: 876-816-1365/876-342-6107  Fax: 876-758-7049


Website:  You can also find them on Facebook and on Twitter @EveforLife

A star supporter: Musician, actor and leader of the Nomaddz band Sheldon

A star supporter: Musician, actor and leader of the Nomaddz band Sheldon Shepherd with Eve for Life’s Joy Crawford, outside a benefit concert the band gave last year. (My photo)

Widespread Coal Burning in Amity Hall – Portland Bight Protected Area

This is a disturbing development taking place – apparently unchecked – in a Protected Area that is already under threat from the proposed construction of a transshipment port at Goat Islands. I hope the National Environment and Planning Agency takes swift action to prevent further deforestation.

By the way, the Director of the Caribbean Maritime Institute, Dr. Fritz Pinnock, took a large group of media and members of the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce (JCC) to Goat Islands on Sunday, August 17.  Dr. Pinnock took the group to a degraded area, apparently to prove that complete destruction of the area to build a transshipment port would be no great sacrifice of Jamaica’s environmental biodiversity (“See! It’s already messed up!”) He observed during a radio interview this morning, “There’s nothing there!”

I hope that similar arguments will not be used to justify the destruction of  this part of the Portland Bight Protected Area.

Here is a press release from the Jamaica Environment Trust:

The Jamaica Environment Trust has received reports about widespread cutting down of trees and coal burning taking place at Amity Hall in St. Catherine. Photographs, taken on August 12, 2014, show the extent of the damage to the area.

JET reported the matter to the National Environment and Planning Agency on August 14, 2014 and is expecting a swift investigation and enforcement action to be taken to stop further deforestation and burning.

Amity Hall is within Jamaica’s largest protected area – The Portland Bight Protected Area. A part of the area was also designated as a Game Sanctuary under the Wild Life Protection Act.

Danielle Andrade
Legal Director
Jamaica Environment Trust

Coal burning in Amity Hall.

Coal burning in Amity Hall.

Destruction of forest in Amity Hall.

Destruction of forest in Amity Hall.

Environmental destruction at Amity Hall. (Photo: Jamaica Environment Trust)

Environmental destruction at Amity Hall.

Coal burning in Amity Hall, St. Catherine in the Portland Bight Protected Area. (all photos: Jamaica Environment Trust)

Clearing of woodland in Amity Hall, St. Catherine in the Portland Bight Protected Area. (all photos: Jamaica Environment Trust)

We Have Enough Battles to Fight…

Businesswoman, philanthropist, writer, poet and newspaper columnist Jean Lowrie-Chin is also a committed Christian (in thought, word and action). She comments in a kind, thoughtful way on Jamaican society in her weekly “Jamaica Observer” column, always seeking to highlight hopeful stories. In today’s interesting piece, Ms. Lowrie-Chin gently but firmly puts her fingers on several issues troubling Jamaica at this time. She ends with a similar challenge to our National Hero Marcus Garvey, whose birthday we celebrated yesterday.

Marcus Garvey.

Marcus Garvey.

TODAY, the day after we celebrate the birthday of our first National Hero Marcus Mosiah Garvey, we are still asking why the teachings of this great man are not part of our school curriculum. Garvey produced numerous books. Academics and authors like Professor Rupert Lewis, Professor Robert Hill, Ken Jones, and Geoffrey Philp have explored his work and philosophy. And there is a wealth of information that can be shared with children at every stage of their lives. How I would love to hear our schoolchildren recite, “Up you mighty race, you can accomplish what you will!”

Garvey’s passion for learning, enterprise and self-respect is what we need now more than ever. If our leaders, educators, police officers had been brought up reciting his words, we would have reached so much further as a country. This issue of self-respect goes deeper than we realise, because if we do not respect ourselves, we will have but a minus quantity of respect for anyone who looks like us.

A successful professional lady told me that she was afraid for her son’s life and would rather he lived abroad than in Jamaica after he was pulled over and roughed up by the police. She had loaned her handsome cool-black son her Mercedes Benz. “They accused him of stealing the car and refused to listen to him when he tried to explain it was his mother’s car,” she said bitterly. She said her son was very shaken up by the incident. I understand that the young man now lives in a country where he is part of a small minority of blacks, yet he has experienced virtually no disrespect in that country.

Marcus Garvey would have wept over the Mario Deane story. He would have wept not only for the suffering and loss of a young man in the full flower of his life, but also for his damaged cellmates and our spiritually wounded police force. Paul Reid’s report in last Thursday’s Observer that Deane was locked up over a mere ganja cigarette and was kept in a cell with a schizophrenic exposes a system with wide cracks through which too many are falling.

Even as we welcome amendments to our laws, particularly the recent passage of the Disabilities Act, we are aware that there are so many laws to protect our citizens that are not being enforced. We need to love ourselves more, we deserve better but we have to believe that we do.

My family is a multi-racial one, and when my son — of African ancestry — reached ‘party age’ I died many deaths waiting for him to get home safely in the wee hours. When I think of the terrible thoughts I have had as I counted the minutes, I cannot even imagine how the family of Mario Deane is coping.

There was also a report that the sister of one of the cellmates accused of Deane’s murder had reported him missing to the police several weeks before the incident, and only discovered the whereabouts of her brother when she heard the news report.

The words of Shakespeare’s Mark Antony at Julius Caesar’s funeral ring in my head: “O kinsmen, we have fled to brutish beasts and men have lost their reason.” Clearly, those of us who call ourselves ‘well-thinking Jamaicans’ have dropped the ball. Have we been so corsetted by our tight social circles that we feel immune to the depravity around us? Our Christianity is being tested. The pious politicians who read lessons at funeral services are being tested. We need more Jamaicans to walk in the light and cease those activities in the dark of night.

This system has forced good police to do wrong under threat of demotion and even loss of jobs. Some have become thugs — the confession of a dying policeman, as related to me by a health worker, would make your skin crawl. Others have learned to “see and blind, hear and deaf”. One senior officer, now departed, was threatened by his colleagues because he turned in all of the millions of dollars he had found during an operation. He came to me in terror begging me to identify for him someone in the high command that I felt he could trust to share his plight. I did, but it seems the threats did not stop, and the poor man worried himself to a premature death.

If we do not resolve to choose a path of righteousness, we will all be affected, and some who consider themselves safe will find themselves wringing their hands in grief.

This Jamaican Babel

As I listened to Jamaicans in civil society, private sector and academia quarreling over lessons, letters, ivory towers, and reality, I realized that our spiritual centre is not holding. There is a level of sophistry in some of the arguments which makes one wonder if there are invisible puppeteers or if everything is about the almighty dollar, whether through sponsorship, salary, or social standing. Or is it just that people have been getting away with low IQs by wearing good clothes and quoting from the right books?

As we approach the new academic year, the Jamaica Teachers’ Association seems to be more concerned about a leadership challenge than the challenges of a system that is turning out illiterate unemployables. Parents are struggling to find funds for those long booklists that have still not been shortened, despite efforts of the Ministry of Education that have been met with resistance from teachers.

Decent, well-thinking, God-fearing? If that is how you describe yourself, you have a lot of work to do in this Jamaican Babel. We have enough battles to fight, what with chikungunya and climate change. Let us not make it worse for ourselves.

Marcus Garvey’s Birthday, Kentucky Kid, and a Radio Tower: Sunday, August 17, 2014

Happy birthday, Mr. Garvey! Celebrations have been taking place at our National Hero’s former headquarters, Liberty Hall on King Street. It’s been an edgy sort of week. No rain fell in Kingston this week. The drought has returned, and so has the heat. The holiday mood is steadily evaporating.

I am sorry that I missed today's Marcus Garvey Lecture by Professor Robert Hill.

I am sorry that I missed today’s Marcus Garvey Lecture by Professor Robert Hill. I hope to get a copy to share with readers

One thing that has not returned is garbage collection. The National Solid Waste Management Agency (NSWMA), for which we pay quite high property taxes, told us on the phone last week that we would have a collection on Friday. We have not seen even a fleeting glimpse of the truck, since.

Mario Deane as a little boy with his sister Sadiki, who says: "I feel as though half of my heart has been removed and I am walking around half-empty." (Photo: Gleaner)

Mario Deane as a little boy with his sister Sadiki, who now says: “I feel as though half of my heart has been removed and I am walking around half-empty.” (Photo: Gleaner)

Mario Deane still haunts us: Since my August 10 article (“Holiday Disturbances”), the tragic story of Mario Deane, who died on August 6 after a severe beating in the Barnett Street police lock-up, has taken several twists and turns. The two men who were charged with Mr. Deane’s murder, it transpires, were both mentally challenged. Marvin Orr’s lawyer described him in court as “schizophrenic” and a drug abuser. He was denied bail and is seeking psychiatric treatment. Adrian Morgan is also reportedly mentally challenged and is undergoing psychiatric treatment; he did not appear in court last week. On Friday, a third man, who is hearing impaired, was charged. Now Mr. Orr was in turn reportedly beaten by inmates and hospitalized. Two more inmates have been charged with assault.

The plight of the other inmates in the lock-up came into focus. How are the mentally ill and those with other disabilities treated in custody? There are many concerns here, too. Many.

Another death in custody: Yesterday, a man who had been sick for some time (but was not in hospital, for some reason) died in the Hunt’s Bay police lock-up in Kingston. Dudley Davis, 54, who reportedly had a heart condition, had been awaiting trial for fraud and was hospitalized for a few days, then sent back to the lock-up. The police say they tried to have him bailed but friends and family could not meet the conditions set by the court for bail. They were seeking to transfer him to the Horizon Remand Centre when Mr. Davis died.

Three policemen and two civilians are to be charged for the murder of Robert Hill (Kentucky Kid) in Kingston in December 2009.

Three policemen and two civilians are to be charged for the murder of Robert Hill (Kentucky Kid) in Kingston in December 2009.

Justice delayed: In December 2009, entertainer Robert Hill (“Kentucky Kid”) was shot and killed at his Ivy Green Mews home in Kingston. Almost a year later, the Coroner’s Court began an enquiry into his death. Last Thursday, August 14, the Court ruled that three policemen and two civilians be charged for Hill’s murder. Now the case must go to the Circuit Court for trial. The terrible part of this case (as if all police killings are not terrible) was that Hill had made numerous reports that he was being harassed and threatened by the police, after a dispute resulting from a motor vehicle accident in July, 2009. The police visited his house several times and physically abused him and his pregnant wife. Mr. Hill filmed these incidents and posted them on YouTube. Jamaicans for Justice, in a release, noted that it “represented the family of Robert Hill during the coroner’s inquest, as it has done for over 100 families of deceased persons in the past two years. The organisation is heartened by INDECOM’s work in this matter.” It expressed a wish for a speedy outcome to the case. Justice delayed is justice denied.

And the Prime Minister’s silence on the Mario Deane issue has upset many Jamaicans. The Opposition has commented on it. “Loving the poor is not enough” said Senator Kamina Johnson Smith. The Prime Minister has made no comment whatsoever. Is she just a figurehead these days? The only time she really seems to come to life is at political party meetings in front of an entirely receptive audience. Otherwise, she sticks to formal events only. Breaking news: The Prime Minister just “broke her silence” I hear after eleven days. Details later…

Note: Since Mario Deane’s death, the police have killed four more Jamaicans in alleged shootouts.

Who is “un-Jamaican”? The State Minister for Tourism Damion Crawford, as discussed in my blog post earlier today, has gone and put his foot in it again. He is sinking deeper into the mire. One of the questions arising from Kei Miller’s excellent blog post (and Mr. Crawford’s poorly written response) is “What does it mean to be Jamaican?” As we ponder this, I would like Mr. Crawford to get on with his job, and behave like an adult. Enough already!

White-Crowned Pigeon

A White-Crowned Pigeon wearing his crown beautifully at the top of our guango tree in Kingston. A magnificent bird that we welcome in our garden, but some Jamaicans like to shoot them at certain times of year. (My photo)

The White-Crowned Pigeon (local name: Baldpate) is a large and beautiful bird. It is a “Near Threatened” species on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List, but in Jamaica it is still on a short list of “game birds” that upper-class Jamaicans (including a number of politicians and their friends) can go out and shoot at in various parts of the island for a few weeks each year. Now the National Environment & Planning Agency (NEPA) has issued a very surprising release regarding some baldpates that have been fitted with electronic trackers. This is a project of BirdsCaribbean. I am a member. Last summer in Grenada I met representatives of the Florida-based Avian Research and Conservation Institute, which fitted the trackers with the aim of determining whether they migrate between Jamaica and other islands  – Cuba or the Caymans (Baldpates are strong, fast flyers). NEPA asks the shooters (who started this weekend and will end their slaughter on September 21) to look out for the birds and offers them money to return the trackers if they shoot them! How can they allow this! This is a funded scientific research project!

Speaking of our endangered environment, the head of the Caribbean Maritime Institute Dr. Fritz Pinnock today took a large group of journalists and members of the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce to Goat Islands, in the Portland Bight Protected Area. The trip apparently included some sort of lecture; looking at the photos on Facebook, I didn’t see anyone taking notes, however. A little jaunt for the media, who will no doubt produce something insubstantial and un-researched on the destruction of the Protected Area for a transshipment port. Meanwhile, a Chinese company has been fined more than half a million U.S. Dollars for environmental breaches in a designated nature reserve near Cancun, Mexico, where it built a “Dragon Mart” shopping mall. There are other examples around the world.

Ikon on the radio tower. (Photo: RJR)

Ikon on the radio tower. The Jamaica Fire Brigade rescued him. (Photo: RJR)

Publicity stunt? Tyson Fisher (whose deejay name is Ikon) climbed Zip FM’s radio tower in the busy Half Way Tree area of Kingston last week. Why? He said the station wasn’t playing his song. He was charged with creating public mischief and released. It appears that this was not an attempted suicide (which was the initial fear) but an attempt to get publicity for his song; and, he said, to highlight the plight of other struggling entertainers. Everyone wants to be a deejay these days. Some comments were rather harsh and unsympathetic. I found it sad, and worrying.

Jamaican novelist Roland Watson-Grant at a book session during the Independence Holiday. (My photo)

Jamaican novelist Roland Watson-Grant at a book session during the Independence Holiday. (My photo)

“My Kingston” - a feature in the Sunday Observer which I always find highly pretentious (“What cologne are you splashing?”) – this week features the interesting Jamaican writer Roland Watson-Grant. He suggested a “Ministry of Imagination” for Jamaica. What a cool idea. And I can think of several possible Ministers too, who might do a great job. P.S. Do go out and buy Mr. Watson-Grant’s novel “Sketcher” – a piquant coming-of-age tale.

Petchary is on Gleaner blogs: By the way, I am now writing an exclusive weekly article for the Gleaner Online at The series is under the heading “Social Impact.”  You should see my fourth article online tomorrow or Tuesday. Enjoy, and please comment on the page! Thank you.

Huge bouquets go out to:

Education Minister Ronald Thwaites

Education Minister Ronald Thwaites.

Teachers and students of a number of high schools that have produced much better than usual results in CSEC Mathematics (a 13% increase over last year). Schools  such as Bridgeport High in St. Catherine and Cornwall College in St. James have seen dramatically improved results this year, and “non-traditional” schools Papine High, Mona High, and Pembroke Hall High did particularly well. But as usual we must approach the initial figures with caution. Only 56% of those eligible to take the examination were actually enrolled for it – an increase of two per cent registered over last year, mostly canceled out by “no-shows.” And the overall pass mark was only 55% among those who did take CSEC Mathematics. We’ve got a long way to go, but it’s a start, Minister Thwaites.

The National Youth Orchestra of Jamaica in 2010. (Photo: YardEdge)

The National Youth Orchestra of Jamaica in 2010. (Photo: YardEdge)

National Youth Orchestra of Jamaica and all who made it possible for their “Dream Tour” of Canada to come true. The Orchestra has performed in Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal to enthusiastic audiences. The young musicians have had an exciting summer. This five-year-old classical music education program for at-risk youth is really a valuable one, and I hope it goes from strength to strength. Congratulations to the Canadian High Commission and to all who contributed to the fund-raising effort (including a great fashion show in June that I wrote about) that made it possible for the 25 children to go to Canada! You can read more about them at

Book Exchange: The Jamaica Information Service (JIS) has started a back-to-school book exchange.To make your donation, visit JIS at 58A Half Way Tree Road,send an email to or call 929-1919. Excellent idea!

Food for the Poor donated 16,000 packages of IV fluids to the Health Ministry. (Photo: Loop Jamaica)

Food for the Poor donated 16,000 packages of IV fluids to the Health Ministry. (Photo: Loop Jamaica)

Food for the Poor: Who have come to the rescue again with the donation of 16,000 packages of intravenous (IV) fluids to the Ministry of Health, where there’s has been a worrying shortage. Thank you so much once again!

Randy McLaren's

Randy McLaren’s powerful documentary poem is the only Caribbean entry on the shortlist for the World Summit Youth Award.

Randy McLaren: The dub/reggae poet’s powerful “docu-poem” (“Armadale: Children on Fire”) about the fire at the Armadale Juvenile Correctional Centre in which seven girls died has been short-listed for the 2014 World Summit Youth Award. Randy is the only shortlisted candidate from the Caribbean.  Good luck, Randy!

"Ebony and the Auntie of the Starlight" is also out on Kindle. Another delightful book for young people from Diane Browne.

“Ebony and the Auntie of the Starlight” is also out on Kindle. Another delightful book for young people from Diane Browne.

Here are two recommended Jamaican books online: Children’s author Diane Browne recently published “Ebony and the Auntie of the Starlight: A Caribbean Cinderella Story” is available from Amazon on Kindle here:

Barbara Blake Hannah's historical novel

Barbara Blake Hannah’s historical novel “The Moon Has Its Secrets” is out now, and it’s a fascinating read.

Barbara Blake Hannah, a terrific writer, has also just published an e-book! Her novel “The Moon Has Its Secrets” was published on August 6, and is also available on Amazon Kindle.

The best performer in the 10 to 14-year-old group, Jahzan McLaughlin, prowls across the stage at the US Embassy on Thursday. (Photo: U.S. Embassy)

The best performer in the 10 to 14-year-old group, Jahzan McLaughlin, prowls across the stage at the US Embassy on Thursday during the Youth Poetry Slam. (Photo: U.S. Embassy)

The U.S. Embassy and in particular Public Affairs Intern Sybil Lewis  for their highly successful Youth Poetry Slam at the Embassy last Thursday. I will be writing a bit more about this great event shortly.

All those who attended, and helped spread the word about a benefit for a stalwart of Jamaican theater and film, Franklin “Chappy” St. Juste, who has been ill and swamped with medical bills. Chappy is on his way to recovery now, and your support made a difference!

Murders in July may have been at a ten-year low, but it seems to me that this list is very long. It covers one week. My condolences to all those who are grieving these violent deaths.

Two unidentified men (alleged robbers) killed in an alleged shootout by the police, Brighton, Westmoreland

Roosevelt McGregor, Mannings Hill Road, Kingston

Ricardo Hines, 27, Salt Spring, St. James

Mervyn Blake, 50, Montego Bay, St. James (homeless man)

Two unidentified men, Irwin, St. James (accused of stealing a bus) – killed by police or security guards?

Xavier Williams, 34, Orange Bay, Hanover

“Asia,” Dover Beach, Annotto Bay, St. Mary

Rock River, Clarendon – two unidentified men killed

Anthony Pink, 18, Moores, Clarendon

Unidentified man, Moores, Clarendon

Dwight McPherson, 32, Carowmena District, Westmoreland

Ryan Broderick, 30, Boscobel, St. Mary

“Jah Jah,” Old Harbour, St. Catherine

Orville Lee, 36, Foreman’s Hill/Moneague, St. Ann

Lynette Graham, 42, Faith’s Pen, St. Ann

The God-Fearing Muddle

Well, no – it’s not a muddle at all. Some people believe in God. Others don’t. Some believe in lots of gods; others in no god at all. Many others do not know what they believe in; some are still trying to figure it out; and others simply do not care. And all of that is fine.

Nevertheless, some Jamaicans in high places never stop talking about God. They’ve got it all figured out. They can talk if they want to – we can’t stop them. As someone who was brought up as a baptized and confirmed Anglican, I think I know a fair bit about God. Every Sunday morning, our father furiously polished our shoes and we dusted off our Sunday hats. Then we went off to a church in Central London. After this endurance test (and I have hated hats ever since) we were sometimes rewarded with ice cream at the (now defunct) Lyons Corner House. Some of it rubbed off on me (the church part, that is. I could eat one of those banana sundaes right now!)

I do believe in freedom of religion, and I respect others’ beliefs, always. What I object to is for an entire nation (Jamaica) to be told (on Twitter) by a Government Minister that if they do not “fear” God (is he that frightening?) they are actually not legitimate citizens of that nation. And in the most arrogant, careless and even offensive tone, too.  

Minister of State in the Ministry of Tourism Damion Crawford

Minister of State in the Ministry of Tourism Damion Crawford.

Well, a few days ago, our proverbial loose cannon, State Minister for Tourism and Member of Parliament Damion Crawford went there. It all started with an article he shared on Twitter, describing a recent speech Minister Crawford made to a group of Jamaicans living in Canada – the diaspora, as we like to call them. Here is a link to it: Our dreadlocked Minister spent a good twenty minutes elaborating on his key point to his Toronto audience, namely that his “greatest concern is that Jamaica is losing its fear of God.”

When the article started circulating on social media and some critical comments inevitably surfaced, Minister Crawford defended himself with alacrity. Mr. “Wakka Flakka” (which is his Twitter name, whatever that means) states on his profile: “Views are my own.” That’s fine, but you are also a Minister of Government, answerable to the people you represent. So be careful. You have genuinely offended people. You may dismiss them as “forty people on Twitter” but they may represent a much larger group than you think. And even if they don’t… 

But our illustrious writer, blogger and UK-based lecturer Kei Miller puts it so much better than I can in his “Open Letter to Damion Crawford.” I have reblogged his excellent “Under the Saltire Flag” a few times recently. You can read Kei’s article below here:

Dear Damion Crawford

I write to you as a fellow Jamaican. I could show you my passport to prove my Jamaicanness, but I do not know if you would accept that as credential enough. Most people, however, accept me as a Jamaican writer and academic. My 9 books to date have consistently thought through the complicated question of what it means to be Jamaican.

It is by no means an easy question to answer. Most of my work tries to expand the dangerously limiting ideas that are out there. At the University of Glasgow where I taught until recently, my students were mostly white and from the UK. They sometimes came to my lectures on Caribbean Literature with very naive ideas about the region. Sometimes they thought that we all looked like you and me – dreadlocked men – and that we were always smiling and playing banjos and smoking ganja on the beach. On the streets of Glasgow, people sometimes stopped me to ask if I had any weed to sell.

At the university I forced my students to deconstruct and then expand these notions. I told them that Jamaica was made up of different races and classes and cultures and conflicts. I told them that everything wasn’t always ‘irie’ and that Jamaican culture has never been a singular thing. I’m pleased that several of these students, astounded by the largeness and complexity of it all, have since visited Jamaica, and at least one student now works as a publisher helping to produce Caribbean literature. In this small way maybe I even contributed to your ministerial portfolio of tourism.

But Damion, it isn’t only foreigners who think in limited ways about Jamaica. When I taught at UWI, I remember asking a class how they would describe our island. When a few students answered that they would describe it as ‘exotic’ I felt compelled to challenge this. I told them it’s important not to see their own home through foreign eyes. If Jamaica is ‘exotic’ to the tourist, surely it can’t be ‘exotic’ to the local.

As a writer and an academic researcher I’ve been particularly interested in the Caribbean’s spiritual landscapes. A recent chapter that I contributed to the Routledge Reader in Anglophone Caribbean Literature surveyed the vast spectrum of religions across the archipelago – from Vodoun to Santeria to Christianity to Orisha worship. My most recent novel, The Last Warner Woman, was about a Revivalist whose gift of prophecy is misunderstood in the unhospitably secular world of the UK. She is misdiagnosed as schizophrenic and sectioned off to a mental institution because of her Africanized version of Christianity.

As you well know, Jamaica didn’t start out as a Christian country. The Tainos who gave this island its name (and other words like ‘hurricane’ and ‘barbecue’) had a very different idea of spirituality. We retain little to nothing of the island’s indigenous religions. It is not unfair to point out that Christianity was quite literally whipped into us, and though I think we should celebrate and embrace our Christian heritage, it is worth remembering the brutality of its imposition. It is also understandable that some Jamaicans have taken an ethical position against the ‘white man’s religion’.


Indeed, such an ethical position has led to one of the most creative and exciting ways in which we can now be Jamaican. I’m talking specifically about Rastafari which was rejected by so many at first as un-Jamaican. Indeed, Rastafari itself tried to distance itself from Jamaican culture which it saw and still sees as ‘Babylon’. But now it is integrated and our culture is richer for it.

This is why many Jamaicans had a problem when you tweeted: “All of a sudden everybody a atheist and agnostic and undecided and non believer unuh need fi rhatid stop it… that a nuh Jamaica.” You have disingenuously represented the backlash that followed, proving yourself, if nothing else, to be a skillful politician, taking shelter in the very crowd that you pander to. You’ve pretended to be a victim and that it’s your expression of faith that is under attack. But no, Damion, it isn’t!

What’s problematic is not your ideas of what Jamaica is, but your insistence on what Jamaica is NOT. I have no problem with you telling the world that Jamaica is a Christian country, because it certainly is. More specifically, Jamaica is a Pentecostal country. And in some parts it is an Anglican country. In other parts still, it is a Baptist country, and an SDA country, and in other parts a Revival country. Jamaica is also a Rastafari country and a Muslim country and an Obeah country. Jamaica is a black country, but also a white country and a Chinese country and a mixed race country. It is a straight country, and in some corners and gullies it is a gay country. Jamaica is spiritual and it is also secular; it is a believing country and in some parts, it is an unbelieving country. And Jamaica manages to be all these things simultaneously. Some parts don’t agree with other parts, but that is alright. That’s how culture happens. No part should ever monopolize the whole.

In geographic terms, we are a small island, but our culture is a wide, wide space that can accommodate much more than you seem to think. It is my job as a writer to think through and write through that complexity. All of it! It is your job as an MP to represent your nation. All of us!

Your Sincerely,

Dr Kei Miller

Not long after, Minister Crawford responded thus (the numerous grammatical errors are, as he would say, “his own”). I find the section entitled “Defining a Country” particularly disturbing. And is it pandering or pondering, Minister Crawford? No, don’t get me started. Do enjoy this great Sunday read!

Dear Dr. Miller,

I note your letter posted August 16th 2014 and titled “An open letter to Damion Crawford” I found it a rather interesting read and was moved to reply in an attempt to clear up some of your misconceptions. If I am to have a shot of achieving my main objective of clearing up your misconceptions which led to countless misrepresentation within your open letter I will have to start from the beginning.

So, two weeks ago I called my uncle who is a pastor (and a Queens Counsel) and expressed to him my concern that Jamaicans are moving away from God. I explained to him that I was using the reduced attendance to watch night (new years eve church service) and Sunday/Sabbath school as a proxy for the reduced fear and belief in God. I further explained to him that I found this to be a major concern as it was my estimation that this negative movement away from God was the platform for (1) a decline in the collective social conscience of the nation, (2) the clouding of what is accepted as wrong as versus right and (3) a reduction in the risk perceived by the perpetrators of negative actions.

He agreed and confirmed that there was indeed drastic reductions in both above mentioned proxies. As the conversation continued I also noted to him that in the last year I have met more self proclaimed agnostic and atheist than in my entire life combined.

Reduced Risk Perception:

The 1st two outcomes of ungodliness are fairly self explanatory so I beg your indulgence to expound on the third before delving into your bone of contention. While lecturing at the University of the West Indies, Mona School of Business, Excelsior Community College and the UCC, I often explained to my students that all actions were based on a perceived ratio of expected benefits and expected outlay for which the outlay included an assumption of risk (be it real or imagined). I use the example of a murder to expound on my point. Let us assume that when provoked to anger by another individual violence, the extreme of which is murder would make the aggrieved individual feel good. This being the case therefore feeling good is the benefit of murder. Now lets add to the scenario person A who perceives a high risk of negative repercussion if the act of murder is committed and person B who perceives a low risk of negative repercussion if murder is committed. In this scenario person B is more likely to commit the crime than is person A.

Hopefully You have not yet stopped reading but realise therefore that the fear of God increases the risk perceived in the carrying out of negative acts and therefore reduces the likelihood that said act will be carried out all things held constant. I can hear many persons uttering that all things are never held constant but it is an acceptable basis of relationship analysis as I would tell the students I taught in Economics and a pillar of the Naumann Equation as I told my Marketing Students at the UWI and a important theory to consider as I articulated in a paper I wrote title “Recovering from Terror” and published in the peer reviewed journal Worldwide Hospitality and Tourism Themes.

A Jamaican v.s whats Jamaican

I read in another blog you wrote titled “Talking and Dancing like you’re really Jamaican” and realise that you are indeed very concerned about being “de-Jamaicanised” I must highlight to you sir that the revocation of citizenship and the removal of passports are not in my powers nor my intentions.

In fact no where in my utterances have I said that any individual is not a Jamaican but instead that an atheist and an agnostic is indeed Un-Jamaica and that the trend where such anti-God pronouncements are becoming fashionable should be stopped. I stand firmly behind both statements.

Let’s first look at what its meant to be un-Jamaican. To understand this I give the meaning of Un-American as provided by the Websters Dictionary which defines Un-American as “not agreeing with the American values, principles nor traditions”. It would stand to reason therefore that un-Jamaican would equally mean not agreeing with the Jamaican values, principles nor traditions. I put it to you sir without fear of contradiction that Atheist and Agnostics are not in agreement with Jamaica’s values, principles nor traditions. My sister who is a PHD student in sociology can expound at a later date the importance of shared norms to the development of a Society.

Therefore since Un-Jamaican and not Jamaican are very different and also not mutually exclusive it is possible for someone to be un-Jamaican yet still a Jamaican citizen. You might be aware that Barack Obama was accused of being un-American because his policies were seemingly socialist. It must further be noted that America’s house of representatives had an Un-American Activity Committee during the period 1945 to 1975. Therefore sir I put it to you that there is precedence for a political representative to be concerned about a shift from accepted norms and values.


I hold no reservation in declaring that I am a believer in Christ and by extension Christian. As I said on social media that I am not trying to be an evangelist as I not qualified by education nor lifestyle. However, the fact that Christianity came with slavery is of no significance as far as I am concerned. I put it to you that many of our current societal norms also came with slavery. These include English, breadfruit and also the Jerk style of cooking which came as a result of the hiding Maroon. I doubt that the American Indians at the day of discovery were Capitalist yet today free-market is as American as Apple pie (also doubt the Indians liked pie)

Defining a Country

A country is defined by the majority accepted norms. Indeed I find it ludicrous to argue that a country is everything that exist in that country. Jamaica is a Christian country full stop. We have Rastafarians, Jews, Muslims etc, but the accepted norm is christianity. In the same way that some countries are defined as bi-lingual because of the high representation of secondary languages while others are simply defined as Spanish speaking or English Speaking etc because their isn’t a material number of other languages represented.


I close by simple saying I do not ponder I say what I believe and who happy great, who isn’t happy can seek to educate me as to my folly and if I am convinced I will change my opinion if not my opinion stands. Therefore for those who believe that 40 people tweeting many times is a backlash or if “twitter world can shape my opinions with 140 characters my best advise is that they take a very long nap.

With Gods love

Damion Crawford

Going back to Minister Crawford’s speech, which he gave in Toronto earlier this month on the occasion of the Grand Independence Gala, I am still mulling over this reported statement: “The development of the human capital is central to the development of everything else, because without the involvement of human activity everything else is rendered latent.” Can anyone translate this for me? I’m lost.

Personally I wish all this “God” talk would stop. I would love all Jamaicans to get down to work at caring for our neighbors, fellow Jamaicans, fellow human beings, instead of shouting at them about “God.” He is just one big distraction from the task at hand.

I know – I am quoting a religious leader (and I admire and quote from many of them). The Dalai Lama once said: “Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive.” That’s the crux of it, to me.

Meanwhile, today is Marcus Garvey’s birthday. He might be turning in his grave.

I think I’ll head off for a nap, now.