Or perhaps, don’t inhale too deeply. Some things don’t smell so good.
I am not talking about the Riverton City dump this week. But I am disturbed.
Firstly, what is happening with our justice system? I went through a range of emotions this week on hearing that a police sergeant was acquitted of the murder of a mentally ill drug addict by a judge who dismissed the case because the prosecution’s case was so weak. Sergeant Lloyd Kelly’s defense was not even heard. Now, we all saw a video recorded on a cell phone, aired on TV news on July 31, 2010. If you have the stomach for it, you can view the TV newscast including the video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MC54pcNNaR0. You are warned: it is not easy to watch. The man was unarmed. He was injured, having been beaten by residents as well as the police, after he had just allegedly committed a murder. He was lying on the ground. Sergeant Kelly (described by residents as a model policeman) could have arrested the man. But no. Egged on by a raucous crowd (reminiscent of a pack of wild dogs circling, anticipating the kill) he showed them what a “good cop” (their words) he was. On television, Director of Public Prosecutions Paula Llewellyn pointed out that the maker of the video was not available; the pathologist who conducted the post mortem was not available – in fact, not even a senior person at the Ministry of National Security knew where in the world he was; and the prosecution witnesses sounded more like defense witnesses. The Crown Counsel “fought valiantly,” she said. But in vain. “Justice has been served,” said one resident of the small town of Buckfield, St. Ann where these horrors occurred. Justice? What do we call justice, these days?
A policeman who had also hired highly-paid, high profile lawyers won his appeal against a corruption conviction on Friday. The Appeals judges were less than happy, reprimanding both the investigating officer (the then head of the police Anti-Corruption Branch) and the resident magistrate involved. Superintendent Harry “Bungles” Daley had been arrested during a sting operation as he allegedly sought to extort money from a businessman in Ewarton, St. Catherine. The chubby-faced “Bungles” wept copious tears in court. It’s clear, though, that there were so many discrepancies and errors in the case that the Appeals Court had no choice.
Meanwhile, the police killed seven Jamaicans in alleged shootouts in Kingston this week (although I could not find them all identified). Note that we always used that word “alleged.”
The problem is, justice is not “seen to be done” by the Jamaican man/woman on the street. The justice “system” barely works. Cases are postponed daily, either at the request of the prosecution who is not ready or because the defense is employing delaying tactics. As I have served as a witness and a juror on more than one occasion, I have seen this for myself. It is mind-numbing, frustrating, exhausting. Hours and hours are wasted daily. Other major causes of delay and the collapse of cases are the absence (or disappearance, or even elimination) of witnesses, incomplete documentation, the incredible shortage of jurors, and more. It’s even worse in the Coroner’s Court. The lobby group Jamaicans for Justice has bemoaned this for at least a decade now. Nothing has really changed. Nothing
The Director of Public Prosecution‘s office is over-burdened. Only the defense lawyers, who sweep into court in style (often late) seem quite comfortable with things the way they are.
But there was some good news on the crime-fighting front. National Security Minister Peter Bunting tabled the long-overdue legislation to tackle the utterly shameful “lotto scam,” which has continued virtually unchecked for several years. Many elderly and unsuspecting American citizens have been robbed of their life savings by these criminals. The necessary legislation was not in place, despite the sometimes desperate efforts of a police task force. Anyway, the Lottery Scam Bill (the Law Reform (Fraudulent Transactions) (Special Provisions) Act, 2013) will reach the Senate next Friday. Minister Bunting said on radio that he “hopes” legislation on DNA and anti-gang measures will be tabled in the next three months. We have been hearing about those for at least a couple years now…
Sunday Gleaner columnist Ian Boyne made a “moral” issue out of the lotto scam in his column today (how we love that word). Another commentator, theologian and academic Dr. Anna Kasafi Perkins, liberally sprinkled her lecture last week with the same word, along with “ethics” and “values.” The annual Grace Kennedy Foundation Lecture 2013 which Dr. Perkins delivered was entitled “Moral Dis-ease making Jamaica ill? Re-engaging the Conversation.” This and all the public lectures can be found at the link below. One question (or three): Whose morals, Dr. Perkins? Whose ethics? Whose values?
And then the President of Venezuela died, causing much hand-wringing (but perhaps not a lot of genuine grief?) around the Caribbean. What of the PetroCaribe deal, which we all eagerly signed on to in 2005? PetroCaribe provides us with oil at preferential prices and a loan to be repaid under very generous terms. We will have to wait until after general elections. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller led a weighty delegation to Caracas for the funeral – perhaps rather overweight. Someone tweeted that it was like the distant relatives coming from near and far to see if there is anything in the will for them – with a bunch of hungry “pickney” (kids) in tow. There were questions as to the cost of this delegation, considering that we Jamaican citizens are now tightening our belts. Are the politicians doing likewise? That recurring “sacrifice” theme again.
Minister Omar Davies, what is “optics”? In Parliament last week, the former Finance Minister brushed aside calls for a smaller Cabinet and possibly even a pay cut/wage freeze for politicians (gasp!) Just a little symbolic gesture of goodwill towards the Jamaican people perhaps? In his usual off-hand way, Minister Davies used the word “optics.” Take a deep breath…
Then, in the week of International Women’s Day, the case of Ms. Shanique Myrie came up in the first-ever sitting of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ). There was not much detail available, as much of the evidence was written and not made publicly available, according to keen observer Dionne Jackson-Miller. This seems odd to me. Meanwhile, details of Ms. Myrie’s attire in court; the rather difficult Barbadian accent of the lead attorney; and the literacy level of one of the witnesses seemed to preoccupy the media. Ms. Myrie is not a woman from what some call the “upper echelons” of Jamaican society. I admire her bravery in challenging the Barbadian immigration authorities over what must have been a deeply humiliating experience. Good for her. Sad and ironic, though, that the first case in the illustrious CCJ involving Jamaica should be dealing with perceived discrimination by one of our Caribbean neighbors against our citizens.
The intrepid Dionne Jackson-Miller tackled the topic of religion in schools on her weekly program “All Angles.” If you have time, please do watch the program on the link below, in which the Minister of Education (and Reverend) Ronald Thwaites continuously patronizes, rudely interrupts and completely loses his cool over views expressed clearly and intelligently by youth activist Javed Jaghai. At one point he even points his finger at Mr. Jaghai and can hardly restrain himself from angry outbursts. How dare this young upstart contest the fact that all Jamaican children should – and must – be exposed to religion (Christianity)? And on a daily basis, because it is “good,” and “wholesome” and – oh yes, “moral.” That word again. The argument that children can “opt out” if they want to doesn’t hold much water; allowed to stand at the side of the room, they remain a captive and passive participant in the “daily religious indoctrination,” as Mr. Jaghai put it. But the Minister embarrassed himself. I doubt he apologized. After all, he is a government minister and a church man, with considerable influence and piety on his side.
I must again commend young columnist Jaevion Nelson, who is doing a great job of challenging Jamaicans’ preconceived notions. He took up the same topic in his Gleaner column this week, asking simply, “Can you imagine how much better off we would be if the church was vocal about governance and corruption?” But the Church does not use its huge power and influence for this purpose.
Kudos also to another young writer Robert Lalah, whose column this week was honest, moving and real. Why are we so cold, so hard-hearted towards homeless gays, he asks? They are Jamaicans. I have always enjoyed Mr. Lalah’s humorous columns depicting country life in Jamaica. In this column, he again showed his humanity. Thank you.
This week was the Kingston Book Festival, organized by the Book Industry Association of Jamaica. Although publishing is not a huge and thriving industry in Jamaica, sad to say (I worked in that field for eight years myself) the enthusiasm for writing, sharing, reading and performing prose and poetry continues unabated here. Special congratulations to Ms. Kellie Magnus and her team for putting together a vibrant program of events, creating some great partnerships and collaborations. It’s also wonderful to welcome home one of our ex-pat writers, Andrew “Kei” Miller, for a few months. I am sure he will have much to contribute and enjoy, and hope he will be doing lots of outreach. Don’t stay cloistered at the University of the West Indies, Kei. Venture forth!
A lovely gentleman, Garveyite Frank Gordon, passed away last week at the age of ninety. Mr. Gordon was drawn to Marcus Garvey’s Liberty Hall in downtown Kingston from the age of twelve. He became a steadfast follower and key figure in the United Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), where he served as president for many years. A man with a deep grasp of history and the importance of Jamaica’s self-determination, he is the kind of person you wish would live forever, so that he could share his wisdom and guidance with future generations.
P.S. Did you know that Caribbean Earth Hour is March 23, 2013 from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m.? Would you like to turn off your lights/electricity for just one hour, in symbolic recognition of the challenges of climate change? If you have any ideas, plans or would like further information, do contact Heather Pinnock at firstname.lastname@example.org.
P.P.S. Our son used to love school swimming competitions when he was young. Many happy, sunny days spent at the National Stadium pool… Special “big ups” to Excelsior Primary School, the first primary (state) school to win the Preparatory/Primary School Swim Champs!
Once again, it was a sad week for some Jamaicans, who are mourning the loss of loved ones killed by their fellow-citizens. My heart goes out to them.
Unidentified man, Orange Street, Kingston
Copeland Coulbourne, 80, Content District, St. Catherine
Christopher Williams, 40, Homestead, St. Catherine
Unidentified man, Sydenham, St. Catherine
Unidentified man, Westchester/Portmore, St. Catherine
Maurie Redding, Little London, Westmoreland
Killed by police:
Rohan Armstrong, 18, Regent Street, west Kingston
Four others in west Kingston
Weng, National Heroes Circle, Kingston 4
Unidentified man, National Heroes Circle, Kingston 4
Related articles and websites: Local blog posts in purple – do read what my fellow Jamaican bloggers have
http://www.gracekennedy.com/corporate-citizenship/grace-kennedy-foundation/public-lecture-series Grace Kennedy Foundation Public Lecture Series: GraceKennedy.com
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130304/cleisure/cleisure4.html Cross-dressers not deserving of sympathy? Robert Lalah column/Gleaner
http://www.og.nr/rbt/12447-tanya-stephens-defends-gays-rants-against-bigots-in-facebook-tirade.html Tanya Stephens defends gays, rants against bigots on Facebook: On the Ground News Reports
http://www.sdgln.com/news/2013/03/08/rgod2-angeline-jackson-lesbian-activist-homophobic-jamaica Meet Angeline Jackson, lesbian activist in homophobic Jamaica: sdgln.com
http://www.caribjournal.com/2013/03/07/women-and-the-jamaican-work-force/ Women and the Jamaican work forces: Op-ed by Marcia Forbes/Carib Journal
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=43235 SSP Dathan Henry was poisoned: Gleaner
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/vanessa-wints-case-forwarded-to-special-coroners-office Vanessa Wint’s case forwarded to special coroner’s office: RJR News
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130310/cleisure/cleisure1.html The Buckfield case and the DPP: Sunday Gleaner editorial
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130310/news/news5.html ”Bungled”: Senior cop and resident magistrate chided by appeal court as it frees Harry “Bungles”: Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130310/cleisure/cleisure2.html Using science to control crime: Frank Phipps op-ed/Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130310/focus/focus1.html Lotto scamming, bling and morality: Ian Boyne column/Sunday Gleaner
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/more-florida-seniors-fall-victim-to-lottery-scam More Florida seniors fall victim to lottery scam: RJR News
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/US-cooperation-to-stem-lottery-scamming–Bunting_13808439 U.S. co-operation to stem lottery scamming – Bunting: Sunday Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Reluctant-witnesses-help-clog-court-system_13808517 Reluctant witnesses help clog court system: Sunday Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=43234 Wildman promises positive development in Cash Plus case: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130304/cleisure/cleisure1.html The CCJ: A declaration of relevance: Gleaner editorial
http://dmarcuswilliams.blogspot.com/2013/03/how-ronnie-thwaites-carolyn-cooper.html How Ronnie Thwaites and Carolyn Cooper disappointed me: D.Marcus Williams.blogspot.com
http://redforgender.wordpress.com/2013/03/05/the-ccj-and-shanique-myrie-how-to-signify-good-taste-and-respectability/ The CCJ and Shanique Myrie: How to signify “good taste” and “respectability”: redforgender.wordpress.com
http://newsandviewsbydjmillerja.wordpress.com/2013/03/07/jamaican-leg-of-shanique-myrie-case-ends-points-to-note/ Jamaican leg of Shanique Myrie ends: Points to note: Dionne Jackson-Miller blog
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads/33182s Gender equality public education campaign launched: Jamaica Information Service
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/reggie-cameron/diana-king_b_2827726.html?utm_hp_ref=tw Diana King on Jamaican homophobia and coming out: HuffPost
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130310/news/news4.html Young, homeless, hopeless: More people under 40 swell the street dwellers population: Sunday Gleaner
http://www.caribjournal.com/2013/03/07/dennis-chung-the-cost-of-cultural-habits-in-jamaica/ The cost of cultural habits in Jamaica: Op-ed by Dennis Chung/Carib Journal
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130303/business/business1.html NCB staff sues bank: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130308/cleisure/cleisure1.html More to be done on wage agreement: Gleaner editorial
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130306/news/news1.html Jamaica is NOT in a currency crisis…But could it be by the end of 2013? André Haughton op-ed/Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/A-good-time-to-bury-bad-news–cash–politics–media-and-corruption_13800883#ixzz2Mx89PPQ4 A good time to bury bad news: Cash, politics, media and corruption: Franklin Johnston column/Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/editorial/That-Jamaican-delegation-to-Venezuela_13808356 That Jamaican delegation to Venezuela: Sunday Observer editorial
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130307/lead/lead4.html Venezuela and Jamaica: The ties that bind: Gary Spaulding op-ed/Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130304/lead/lead9.html Don’t waste another year in Parliament: Gleaner
http://digjamaica.com/blog/2013/03/08/5-facts-petrocaribe/ 5 Facts: PetroCaribe: diGJamaica.com
http://digjamaica.com/petrocaribe The History of PetroCaribe in Jamaica: diGJamaica.com
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=43329 English only in the Senate, president tells Justice Minister: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130304/letters/letters3.html Unfortunate attack on Ruel Reid: Letter to the Editor/Gleaner
http://www.televisionjamaica.com/Programmes/AllAngles.aspx/Videos/24759 Should religious activities be banned from school? All Angles/TVJ
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130307/cleisure/cleisure3.html Misplaced Christian priorities: Jaevion Nelson column/Gleaner
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads/33171 Climate change documents to be tabled in Parliament: Jamaica Information Service
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Outstanding-Garveyite-Frank-Gordon-passes_13780222 Outstanding Garveyite Frank Gordon passes: Jamaica Observer
http://digjamaica.com/blog/2013/03/05/holywell-park-mother-nature-at-its-finest/ Holywell Park: Mother Nature at its finest: digjamaica.com
http://as-told-by-nella.blogspot.com/2013/03/friday-link-love.html Friday Link Love: nella.blogspot.com – more local blog links for you to explore…
Guyanese, Jamaicans top list of CARICOM nationals denied entry to Barbados (kaieteurnewsonline.com)
Is It Really March Already? Sunday: March 3, 2013 (petchary.wordpress.com)