It’s a hot afternoon. It’s Mother’s Day in Jamaica, and the air is sleepy. Our gardener did some serious work yesterday and the yard looks scrupulously tidy. For now. Recent rain has brought back the many shades of green; and to my surprise, winter visitor warblers can still be seen flitting in the bushes. Time to travel north, young warblers!
Thinking about Tivoli: In the past few days since I last wrote, we have all been thinking more deeply about the Simpson Miller administration’s (wise) decision to hold a Commission of Enquiry into the massacre in Tivoli Gardens in May, 2010. There is some insightful commentary in the Sunday papers, and an indication that, three years later, many Jamaicans are more aware of the grave injustice and the horror of that day, when at least 77 Jamaicans lost their lives (we still do not know the exact figure; several people remain missing). For that, we at least partly have to thank the American journalist Mattathias Schwartz of the New Yorker; and the Public Defender Earl Witter, who finally produced the report. Today, Sunday Observer columnist Tamara Scott-Williams quotes the Jamaican president of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, Judge Patrick Robinson: “The simple, plain truth is that in no country with a Constitution that entrenches the right to life can 70 people be killed in peacetime in a single incident, whether by the security forces or by private persons, and national life and affairs continue as though nothing unusual has taken place.”
How can a monopoly not be viable? But that’s the way it apparently is with the Jamaica Public Service Company, according to its straight-talking CEO Kelly Tomblin. The eternal problem of widespread theft of electricity has still not been fully addressed; but as Ms. Tomblin said on radio, it is not just a question of devising ingenious ways of combating theft, but about lifting the company out of debt. Oh, two state-owned sugar companies were reportedly complicit in allowing neighboring communities to steal up to J$100 million worth. What kind of madness is that? Meanwhile, Ms. Tomblin has her work cut out – I am sure she has been aware of this for some time.
Leadership failures: The week’s fiasco involving the People’s National Party Youth Organization suggests, at the very least, weak leadership in the organization. Did President Alrick Campbell consult with his chapter leaders before sending out a press release that surprisingly refused to support the announced Commission of Enquiry into the Tivoli Gardens massacre? Similarly, Mayor of Montego Bay Glendon Harris is under pressure after a series of dreadful faux pas, culminating in the hospital re-naming fiasco. Do these people have any idea of public relations, either? Clueless.
NHT again: The whole National Housing Trust (NHT) business is still bugging me. It all seems wrong. One of my “tweeps” observed today, “How can the NHT force employers to make mortgage deductions from workers? Shoudn’t that be an arrangement between the Trust and its clients?” Very good question…
Blood on the streets: As usual, the social media was ahead of the traditional media on Friday morning, as several photos were pasted on Facebook of two apparently lifeless bodies – young men allegedly shot by the police in a parking lot in downtown Kingston. Reports appeared at least two hours later on the newspaper websites, noting a police report that ”brazen gunmen” had made a robbery attempt, and that three ”were in hospital” (dead on arrival?) According to the eye witnesses who posted the photos, the bodies were collected and loaded into vans within minutes, before the Crime Scene investigation unit or INDECOM (the Independent Commission of Investigations) arrived. Onlookers say the men were unarmed. I have shared the photos below. Meanwhile, the print media coverage of what actually happened in the middle of the day on Friday in busy downtown was muddled and lacking in detail.
Harassing the handcarts: Some genius at the Kingston & St. Andrew Corporation has come up with the startlingly brilliant idea of taxing handcart operators. These are rough-hewn carts with a primitive steering-wheel attached, operated by men in Kingston and most towns to transport small quantities of goods (and sometimes people). When I see men pushing and navigating these carts, sweating and straining in the hot sun, I think “what a hard life.” These are, basically, poor people. How could the Mayor think of doing such a thing?
I’m off now, but you guys can stay: President of the Senate Stanley Redwood is migrating to Canada, and made farewell comments last week before his departure. Methinks he doth protest too much. “No other Jamaican should be forced or feel forced to make the choice I have to make this month,” said the Senator, who has been beating himself up over departing for greener pastures for some time. It’s OK for me to go – but you guys stay here, stick it out… Not impressed, I’m afraid.
Power walks: While blood still stained the streets of downtown Kingston, a couple of miles away uptowners were preparing for two charity walks on Saturday – both good causes. Due to ongoing back problems, I was unable to participate in either. But I hope lots of money was raised for Dress for Success and the Nuttall Memorial Hospital, respectively. Next time!
Sick of them: There are certain things that always upset me when I watch the evening news on television. Of course, the ongoing bloodshed is one of those things. What also depresses me is the greed and selfishness of thieves who, like vampires, feed on hard-working Jamaicans. It seems that every week a school is broken into, and we see the anxious principal, his/her face creased with anxiety and stress, detailing all the items the school lost – of course, all the most valuable things that they can least afford to replace, many of them donated by kind-hearted people. Then there are the poor farmers, who go to the fields in the morning to see their precious animals hacked to pieces or their crops pulled out of the ground. On Friday, we heard that the bus belonging to Alpha Boys School was stolen in Spanish Town. I don’t know if they have found it. Alpha nurtures abandoned and orphaned boys, and is famous for its school band that has produced many great Jamaican musicians. Shame on you all, you vampires.
Pit latrines in schools: As I noted in my post of August 12, 2012, around 200 schools across Jamaica still have pit latrines. I doubt that much has changed since then. Perhaps we should consider this as a priority over tablets, Minister Paulwell? (Much as I love your tablets). The “sanitary conveniences” at St. Mary’s Primary School in rural St. Elizabeth are as old as the school itself (44 years) and pose a serious health risk. For a start, if a young child slips he/she can fall into them. The Florida-based Andrew Dixon Foundation is seeking to raise funds to replace them.
I was wondering… about the over 4,000 online jobs that the World Bank says it has created for young Jamaicans. The World Bank provides more details on its Digital Jam 2.0 program at the link below. It includes internships and fellowships at Howard University, pilot projects, incubators and so on. Brilliant!
Sports vs academics: The Gleaner recently published a table ranking Jamaica’s high schools in terms of their CSEC examination results. I’m trying to find a link to it. It was noticeable, however, that almost all the traditional boys’ high schools did quite poorly; unsurprisingly, the co-educational Kingston high school Campion College came out on top. A columnist yesterday pointed out that the low-performing boys’ schools are those that compete furiously and loudly at “Champs” (the high school athletics championships) and tout their sporting prowess. Is there a conflict here?
Less abatement? As I have noted before, Jamaica/Kingston is Party Central, and the noise must go on. I see the Ministry of National Security and Ministry of Entertainment as it seems to call itself are holding a public consultation on “changes to the Noise Abatement Act” on Wednesday at the Jamaica Conference Centre. What changes? Where? Is the noise to go on longer? I am suspicious of the “entertainment zones” that have been mentioned a few times by our enthusiastic Junior Minister Damion Crawford, who is young and therefore fond of “shelling dung” as the saying goes. And hey, do you think there may be more important things to be worrying about? I can only assume that, like the building of housing for poor people, this is a populist, vote-getting exercise.
Yohan Blake/boys home: I am very pleased with our young Olympian Yohan Blake, whose YB Afraid Foundation continues to support the Mount Olivet Boys’ Home in Manchester, in all kinds of important ways. The home’s infrastructure is steadily improving as a result. Thanks to Mr. Blake; you have a good, good heart.
It is very sad to report that in the past three days the following Jamaicans have been killed. My heart goes out to their families. Too much trouble in the world.
Clifton Drummonds, 55, John’s Town, St. Thomas (mob killing)
Winston Robinson, Mannings Hill Road, Kingston
Tiffany Shirley, Mannings Hill Road, Kingston
Killed by police:
Unidentified man, Pechon Street/Beckford Street, Kingston
Unidentified man, Matthews Lane, Kingston
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/JPS-facing-death_14238670 Electricity theft, debt threaten company’s viability, says Tomblin: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130511/cleisure/cleisure1.html Power thieves must be stopped: Gleaner editorial
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Samuda-labels-logistics-hub-a–pipe-dream-_14239407 Samuda labels logistics hub a “pipe dream”: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130510/business/business5.html Jamaica Broilers invests $300 million in new plant: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130510/cleisure/cleisure1.html What, really, are agro parks? Gleaner editorial
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130510/business/business1.html Palmyra parent firm deemed a squatter: Gleaner
http://www.worldbank.org/en/results/2013/04/24/creating-employment-solutions-young-jamaicans Creating employment solutions for young Jamaicans in the virtual economy: worldbank.org
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/business/Rating-Agency-reacts-to-IMF-Jamaica-agreement_14244183 Rating agency reacts to IMF-Jamaica agreement: Sunday Observer
http://www.caribjournal.com/2013/05/11/forbes-the-business-of-sport-in-jamaica/ The business of sport in Jamaica: Marcia Forbes op-ed/caribjournal.com
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/No-unlicensed-cable-operator-in-Jamaica_14239648 No unlicensed cable operator in Jamaica/Broadcasting Commission
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/editorial/No-justification-for-NWC-rate-hike_14237953 No justification for NWC rate hike: Jamaica Observer editorial
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130510/letters/letters1.html Handcart permit regime off the deep end: Letter of the Day/Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Stop-the-bickering-_14239553 Pryce chides PNPYO for washing dirty linen in public: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130510/lead/lead10.html Montego Bay mayor faces no-confidence vote: Gleaner
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/arscott-defends-cost-of-local-government-delegation-to-uganda Arscott defends cost of local government delegation to Uganda: RJR News
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130512/focus/focus5.html Whose plan for Jamaica is it anyway? Jamaica Civil Society Coalition op-ed/Sunday Gleaner
http://www.caribjournal.com/2013/05/09/op-ed-does-jamaica-need-outside-help-to-deal-with-crime/ Does Jamaica need outside help to deal with crime? caribjournal.com
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/man-implicated-in-murder-chopped-to-death Man implicated in murder chopped to death: RJR News
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130511/lead/lead2.html Daylight gun battles cause mayhem downtown: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Deadly-end—-Robbery-foiled–cops-kill-one-gunman–injure-another_14239031 Deadly end! Robbery foiled, cops kill one gunman, injure another: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130512/lead/lead5.html Deadlock blanks downtown CCTV plan: Sunday Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Why-the-Tivoli-enquiry-is-important_14246024 Why the Tivoli enquiry is important: Claude Robinson column/Sunday Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Forget-the-enquiry–make-a-movie-instead_14246048 Forget the enquiry; make a movie instead: Tamara Scott-Williams column/Sunday Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Pain-still-lingers-for-Tivoli-man–family_14247384 Pain still lingers for Tivoli man, family: Sunday Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130510/news/news2.html West Kingston rejoices after cops kill thug: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Mothers-mourn-loss-of-son–daughter Mothers mourn loss of son, daughter: Sunday Observer
http://www.caribjournal.com/2013/05/09/op-ed-from-haiti-to-cuba-a-vision-for-the-caribbean-in-2030/ From Haiti to Cuba: A vision for the Caribbean in 2030: caribjournal.com
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/complant-workers-protest COMPLANT workers protest: RJR News
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130511/lead/lead6.html Pit latrines pose public health risk at St. Mary’s Primary: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130511/letters/letters8.html No water for farmers in Llandewey for decades: Letter to the Editor/Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130511/letters/letters2.html Emergency call to action for Child Month: Letter from Jamaica Youth Action Network to the Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130512/lead/lead61.html Condoms or abstinence: Guidance counselors ponder the best fit for schools: Sunday Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/High-school-standard-bearers-of-excellence-_14239025 High school standard bearers of excellence? Lascelve Graham op-ed/Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130511/lead/lead5.html Mount Olivet Boys’ Home a refuge from abuse: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Saturday-Social_14239033 Saturday Social: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads-107/33829 More assistance for local exporters: Jamaica Information Service