I’m calling this “Sunday Sneezes” because I have been snuffling for the past few days with a seasonal bug. Not serious, but enough to irritate. My husband has been playing a Mariah Carey Christmas CD several times a day, which probably hasn’t helped…
Meanwhile, Christmas is in the air…isn’t it? Our usually-absent neighbors have finally come home to roost for a few days, and in uptown Kingston the little darlings of the privileged, who are all at school/college overseas are home for the holidays. The streets and shopping plazas are filled with struggling, sweating shoppers, most of whom can’t really afford Christmas shopping at all…
And the Prime Minister, Portia Simpson Miller, has been dancing “Gangnam Style.” I am not sure where this photo was taken, but I picked it up on Twitter. Rumors of our leader’s ill health are greatly exaggerated, perhaps… Well, it’s the time of year for having fun and forgetting our worries. Let’s postpone our looming crises until 2013, shall we?
Or can we? A former government minister, Claude Clarke, wants to know about the mission. “We’re on a Mission,” remember? That song that we have all forgotten about since August. Mr. Clarke takes a side swipe at the Simpson Miller administration’s recently tabled White Paper on tax reform, which he says merely “lays out an effective strategy for collecting as much taxes as possible. A framework for economic development it is not.” Taxation (in particular, the issuing of waivers and incentives) is a major area of concern for the International Monetary Fund, whose presence grows ever closer. One can almost feel their breath on our faces. In fact, the entire IMF team is riding on one of those elephants in Jamaica’s living room, now.
And it seems that the Minister of Finance is also feeling very uncomfortable. CVM Television reported the goodly minister tearing up at a Christmas treat in his constituency. He pointed out that he was wearing suit and tie to address the audience of mostly children with their mothers, because he had just come from an IMF meeting and was going back to one afterwards. The tears welled in his eyes as he said how good he felt to be there. The man is under severe pressure. And his counterpart, Opposition Finance Spokesman Audley Shaw, still maintains that there will be no agreement before December 31. Didn’t that always seem unlikely, though?
But hold on. Didn’t our Prime Minister say her administration would sign an agreement with the IMF two weeks after she came into office? But that was just campaign silliness. How churlish of me to bring it up…
Kudos though to Nationwide News Network, who have made a determined effort to wrestle with the economic elephant in the past week or two. Cliff Hughes and his intrepid co-presenters Emily Crooks and George Davis gathered together interesting and knowledgeable panelists for discussions on different aspects of the economic conundrum, including the tax waiver issue. They pointed out, though, that the Finance Minister declined all their invitations to participate in the discussions. I hope he was at least listening in…
Meanwhile, a real estate dealer is blaming the lack of an IMF agreement for his inability to sell telecoms giant Digicel’s buildings in New Kingston. Digicel is all set to move downtown, but has delayed the move until early next year. It is getting to that stage now… “When the agreement is signed…” Some are now saying “If the agreement is signed,” or even, “What if it isn’t signed?” Uncertainty is not healthy, and we are getting mixed signals – or no signals at all – from the political administration. As usual, I enjoy reading and listening to our calm, balanced financial analyst Dennis Chung, who is very good at summing up the situation in clear and simple terms.
The aforementioned Cliff Hughes says the last year has been “wasted political capital.” Certainly, it appears, the Prime Minister has not spent any of her substantial amount of PC. The Sunday Gleaner today seems to agree that she needs to open her purse and start spending it now. One thing she could do, the editors assert, is to pursue “full, candid and continuous communication” on the issue of public sector reform and other economic matters. We can’t beat about the bush any more, can we? Or we do so at our peril… As financial analyst Keith Collister (and others) have been saying for some time, “The time for action is now.” And keep us informed, please!
Crime is an issue. Yes, that particular elephant remains in the room, trunk swaying gently, despite the Jamaica Constabulary Force‘s year-end efforts to tout its successes. The picture has been very mixed in terms of major crimes, it seems. Clarendon has seen an upsurge (sadly it lost its highly effective police chief, who died suddenly and mysteriously in his 40s earlier this year – do we know the cause of death?) Other parishes have seen improvement; and as usual, beautiful Portland emerges as – by far – the Most Peaceful Parish.
In fact, by my weekly count, it has been the police who have killed the most Jamaicans this week. See the list below. I guess everyone is too busy with their Christmas socializing and credit cards to notice. (But they are only poor people anyway?) What is the reason for this sudden upsurge – eight Jamaicans shot dead by the police in a week? The Police Commissioner has been very quiet over an extended period of time – we finally heard from him this week. No word about police killings. Meanwhile, the Jamaica Observer only reports on the murder of middle-class Jamaicans, such as poor Jascinth Brae. Every death is a tragedy.
Meanwhile, on the political scene… The People’s National Party has given itself a big “thumbs up” for its performance after close to a year in office. It doesn’t seem to know (or care?) what the Jamaican people think. Has the PNP looked at what is being said in the social media recently? I think it should, and it hasn’t been pretty. Interestingly this week, two of our younger (and brighter) politicians, Christopher Tufton (Jamaica Labour Party) and Julian Robinson (my PNP Member of Parliament, actually) seem to agree on the need for a new political culture. Of course, this has been discussed a thousand times before; but things could change if politicians like Dr. Tufton (see his article below) started practicing what they preach. It might catch on. Pandering to the poor, as he puts it, needs to go out of the window, for a start.
Now to the Unfinished Business… Can you please tell me, Mr. Public Defender, Sir, what has happened to the interim report on the massacre in Tivoli Gardens in May 2010? Just to remind you, Speaker of the House of Representatives Michael Peart said on December 6 in Parliament that the report would be ready in two weeks. He may have a different calendar than me, but according to mine, it would have been due three days ago. Any word? Or are we too busy with Christmas? And if the report is complete, why is it necessary to print and “collate” hard copies? Hey, we have email!! And why should it take so long?
The other loose ends are the matter of the FINSAC Commission of Enquiry; and the issue of children in state care. Since the FINSAC débacle (I have to call it that) of the 1990s happened under a previous PNP administration, it is increasingly clear that this PNP administration is reluctant to see the enquiry concluded. So, it has not made the funds available for the commission to wind things up and print their report (which, one suspects, may not show the political leaders of the day in a very favorable light). However, the Association of FINSAC’d Entrepreneurs, many of whom were plunged into financial ruin by then Finance Minister Omar Davies’ actions, is not giving up. The Association is alleging that the government wants to keep the report secret. Meanwhile, the commissioners have reportedly requested an additional J$20 million to complete their work. But it’s hardly likely to be a priority for this administration…
Youth and Culture Minister Lisa Hanna finally spoke to the media properly this week at a press conference – where she was backed up by a protective Minister of Justice, who hovered in the background anxiously; and a stone-faced Commissioner of Corrections. Minister Hanna announced that a new correctional facility for girls is to be built – but where are the hundreds of millions of dollars to come from? Moreover, she is proposing to build juvenile holding centers for minors at police lock-ups. And the South Camp Correctional Centre (possibly one of the most unpleasant correctional centers in the island) is to be “upgraded” to accommodate young persons – something we already knew, but were not too happy with. But children are not supposed to be confined in adult facilities, Minister Hanna… Lobby group Jamaicans for Justice – which has been doggedly pursuing this issue – was not impressed – there were no timelines, no real commitments.
Since it’s now officially party time, I am not expecting anything anytime soon from the Public Defender’s office. Maybe by December 31? Meanwhile, the families of the more than seventy Jamaicans killed during the Tivoli “incursion” will spend another Christmas (the third) without any sense of closure or feeling that anyone cares… at all.
But so much to praise, this week… Firstly, it was an honor to spend time working with the JN Foundation and their volunteers (especially Neville Charlton and The Positive Organization, and the Jamaica National Building Society’s Corporate Communications Department). We had an amazing time with the Alpha Boys (who gave their own interesting interpretations of “Gangnam Style,” by the way). And the senior citizens at the Golden Age Home’s Cluster H thoroughly enjoyed their Christmas treat, with delicious ham, sorrel, songs, and even a fair bit of dancing… as well as holding hands. Congratulations to JN Foundation and all the other non-governmental organizations for the amazing work you do…
Panos Caribbean recently sent seven Jamaicans (two young politicians and five journalists) to Vancouver to study ways in which that liberal-minded Canadian city treats its marginalized populations, including sexual minorities. This excellent, focused non-governmental organization gave a press conference on their findings – although very few press representatives considered the issue important enough to turn up (not even the journalists’ own media houses). I am hoping to see much more about this Knowledge Exchange; the participants made some very interesting discoveries and there were many “aha!” moments. I will be writing about it shortly, so look out for a blog post! Meanwhile, congratulations to Panos’ Executive Director Jan Voorduow and the dedicated Indi McLymont for putting together such a meaningful project. You can read more here: https://www.facebook.com/notes/emma-caroline-lewis/jamaicans-participate-in-knowledge-exchange-with-vancouver-on-hiv-gay-stigmatiza/10151290664209555.
When I first visited the Hope Zoo, it was quite a depressing place. A lonely lion (now deceased) languished in a cage, and would roar for his supper every evening. Now the Hope Zoo Preservation Foundation (led by businessman Kenny Benjamin, who is known for his love of animals) has received J$25 million from local telecoms Flow for the ongoing upgrading of the zoo. There will be a strong educational component in Flow’s Learning and Resource Centre, to be established there. Many congratulations to Mr. Benjamin, the Foundation and Flow for your wonderful vision!
I applaud the two investors, Mark Tucci and his wife Frances, for supporting artist Ian “Ras Natango” Williams, his wife Tamika and son Ayale, owners of the Ras Natango Gallery and Garden in Camrose, near Montego Bay. They have bought them a really beautiful bus to transport tourists. For some time now I have been wondering why the Jamaica Tourist Board does not support lovely community tourism efforts like this. Tamika is herself an artist and teaches local children the value of art, conducting craft classes. She is also, like me, a great lover of birds and nature. Their garden is beautiful. Thank you, the Tuccis!
I have to ask, before I go…What IS going on at the Ministry of Health? Shouldn’t an alleged sexual harassment issue, which seems to have been going on for quite a while, be addressed as soon as possible? Somehow, the print media seem reluctant to investigate, but one television station is still asking questions…
And as the Ward Theatre celebrates 100 years, why is it now unusable? It’s tragic, says dramatist and creator of the annual pantomime Barbara Gloudon (and so do I). No wonder the celebrations were so low-key as to be almost non-existent. By the way, the new pantomime, “Skoolaz,” opens on Boxing Day at the Little Theatre and promises to be tremendous fun, as always.
By the way, do take a read of an article by Suzanne Charles-Watson (a member of the inestimable 51% Coalition, of which I have written before) – on gender and education. Note, for example, that in a recent review of Caribbean history text books, “Males were consistently afforded pride of place over women in terms of text and visuals.” The link is listed below. Much food for thought.
P.S. The good news is that the Mayan Apocalypse we were all looking forward to… never happened. Otherwise, I would, of course, not be writing this blog post, nor would you be reading it. It was the subject of many tweets this week. I just saw one from the Apocalypse itself (@kabooooooom): “Sorry everyone, running a bit late.”
Let’s not be late for 2013. My final Sunday post for the year will appear, all being well, on December 30.
My heart goes out to the families and friends of all those Jamaicans who lost their lives to violence in the past week. This is going to be a very hard Christmas for them. Please spare a thought for those who are sad, who are still grieving and missing loved ones during this period of festivities. It’s not a jolly, happy time for everyone.
Detective Corporal Ransford Durant, Windsor Heights, St. Ann
Richard Gibbs, 22, Montego Bay, St. James
Jascinth Brae, 37, Spanish Town, St. Catherine
Dennis Brown, 23, Norwood, St. James
Gregory Plummer, 31, Norwood, St. James
Unidentified woman, Palisadoes, Kingston
Carlos Baker, Albion/Montego Bay, St. James
Killed by the police:
Unidentified man, Causeway Fishing Village/Dyke Road, Portmore, St. Catherine
Unidentified man, Causeway Fishing Village/Dyke Road, St. Catherine
Unidentified man, Federal Gardens, Kingston
Dane Mason, Mountain View Avenue, Kingston
Wayne Brown, 39, Montpelier, St. Elizabeth
Unidentified man, Trench Town, Kingston
Laurent Lawrence, 22, Mandeville, Manchester
Leroy Campbell, 42, Mahogany Hill, St. Elixabeth
- Sunday Stupor: December 16, 2012 (petchary.wordpress.com)
- Sunday Wonders: November 25, 2012 (petchary.wordpress.com)
- Sunday Elephants: November 11, 2012 (petchary.wordpress.com)
- http://petchary.wordpress.com/2012/12/01/tivoli-gardens-on-may-24-2010-the-people-were-deading/ (Tivoli Gardens: On May 24, 2010, the people were “deading”: petchary.wordpress.com)
- http://petchary.wordpress.com/2012/12/21/they-always-come-at-christmas-the-jn-foundations-acton-volunteers/ (“They always come at Christmas”: The JN Foundation’s Act!on volunteers: petchary)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20121221/lead/lead4.html (PNP gives thumbs up to first year in power: Gleaner)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20121223/cleisure/cleisure1.html (The PM’s New Year resolution: Sunday Gleaner editorial)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20121223/focus/focus6.html (When the winner takes all – time to rethink our brand of competitive politics? Christopher Tufton op-ed, Sunday Gleaner)
- http://www.caribjournal.com/2012/12/21/op-ed-corruption-in-the-caribbean/ (Corruption in the Caribbean: David P. Rowe op-ed)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20121217/lead/lead1.html (Huge trade deficit: Gleaner)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20121220/lead/lead4.html (Moving cargo across Jamaica a hassle for freight stakeholders: Gleaner)
- http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/business/It-can-t-be-business-as-usual-in-Jamaica_13253996 (It can’t be business as usual in Jamaica: Keith Collister column: Observer)
- http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/business/The-economy-in-2013_13251784 (The economy in 2013: Dennis Chung column: Observer)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=41860 (Hylton responds to scrap metal concerns: Gleaner)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20121220/lead/lead1.html (No room for error: Government cautioned ahead of scrap metal trade reopening: Gleaner)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20121221/business/business3.html (Group alleges conspiracy of secrecy over delayed FINSAC report: Gleaner)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20121223/business/business1.html (No deals yet for Digicel New Kingston properties: Sunday Gleaner)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20121223/cleisure/cleisure2.html (On a Mission: What Mission? Claude Clarke op-ed, Sunday Gleaner)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20121217/lead/lead5.html (Conversion for Redemption: Gleaner)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20121217/lead/lead51.html (“Renovate the Ward Theatre”: Gleaner)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20121219/cleisure/cleisure1.html (The Ward’s disrepair as metaphor for Jamaica: Gleaner editorial)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20121217/news/news1.html (The Government of God: Apostle Steve Lyston op-ed/Gleaner)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20121217/news/news3.html (Deborah Chen working for the heart: Gleaner)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20121223/focus/focus3.html (Restructuring values and attitudes: Martin Henry column: Sunday Gleaner)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20121217/ent/ent2.html (Alpha Boys’ School willed valuable equipment: Gleaner)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20121218/cleisure/cleisure4.html (Give mandate to master principals: André Wright article: Gleaner)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20121223/focus/focus7.html (Gender equity and education: Suzanne Charles op-ed, Sunday Gleaner)
- http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Flow-pumps–25m-into-upgrading-Hope-Zoo_13241492 (Flow pumps $25million into upgrading Hope Zoo: Observer)
- http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/OCG-warns-Cabinet-of–criminal-offence-_13237247 (Office of the Contractor General warns Cabinet of criminal offense: Observer)
- http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/editorial/For-our-children-s-sake–Minister-Hanna—_13229742 (For our children’s sake, Minister Hanna: Observer editorial)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=41856 (Youth council disagrees with Hanna’s plans: Gleaner)
- http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Children-s-homes-abusers-charged–fired–says-Hanna_13242078 (Children’s home abusers charged, fired, says Hanna: Observer)
- http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Hanna-says-correctional-centre-for-girls-to-be-built_13241715 (Hanna says correctional centre for girls to be built: Observer)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20121219/lead/lead1.html (Cabinet considers expanding Child Development Agency role: Gleaner)
- http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/government-refutes-claims-of-no-support-to-vanessa-wints-family (Government refutes claim of no support to Vanessa Wint’s family: RJR)
- http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Elderly-at-risk_13254472 (Elderly at risk: Observer)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20121221/cleisure/cleisure2.html (Homophobia exposed! Peter Espeut column/Gleaner)
- http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/editorial/Well-done–Professor-Hopeton-Dunn_13241777 (Well done, Professor Hopeton Dunn: Observer editorial)
- http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/westernnews/Big-boost-for-community-tourism_13245908 (Big boost for community tourism: Observer West)
- http://-gleaner.com/gleaner/20121222/cleisure/cleisure1.html (Time to get creative, YMCA: Gleaner editorial)
- http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Pit-latrines-must-go-_13247796 (Pit latrines must go! Observer)
- http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Building-a-cathedral_13240261 (Building a cathedral: Grace Virtue op-ed: Observer)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20121222/news/news1.html (Natty to the rescue: Gleaner)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20121219/cleisure/cleisure3.html (Too many Doctors and Masters of Ginnalship: George Davis column/Gleaner)