Thundery Sunday: August 11, 2013

Thunder in the air, but no rain today. It’s been a funny old week, ending on a high note today with Usain Bolt’s win at the World Championships. Yay!

No backing for those chickens: “Members of the media seem to be more political than the politicians…and I can almost name them,” said a clearly frustrated Minister of Agriculture, Roger Clarke. He was commenting on media (and social media) reaction to the fact that there is a shortage of (imported) chicken back. I referred to this in my mid-week post on Wednesday (“Let them eat oxtail”). His interview with radio journalist Dionne Jackson Miller went round and round in circles; the Minister just did not seem to be able to answer her question about the impact this shortage will have on poor Jamaicans, for whom chicken back is a staple.  There seems to be a disconnect, Minister Clarke. A bit of a PR disaster, really.

And the JTA really needs some good PR: The Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA) really does need some good publicity these days. Now they have owned up to a huge fraud – news which has already been reported in the Washington Post. The exact amount stolen from the JTA over the past financial year is not clear, yet. It’s not been the teachers’ best year. I would suggest that they take a long, hard look at their leadership. Are they heading in the right direction?

Makes sense to me: The Education Minister’s decision to spread the number of teachers more evenly across the country is a good move. How exactly is this redeployment going to happen, though? Will teachers have to be relocated? I am wondering about the logistics…. I also welcome the smoking ban, controversial as it may have been in some aspects; and am glad to see that most Jamaicans are in support of it, according to a local survey. Times have changed; and Jamaica needs to comply with all the international conventions it signs on to!

“Quiet guidance” – not enough for us: People’s National Party Chairman Robert Pickersgill has defended the Prime Minister’s leadership style, saying that Portia Simpson Miller offers her ministers “quiet guidance,” without interfering. But Mr. Pickersgill, that’s all fine and lovely for the party and for the Cabinet. What about offering some guidance to the Jamaican people? Just a thought. Perhaps she could study some of Michael Manley‘s broadcasts and communications (in his second incarnation) which I remember well, in the early 90s. That was leadership.

Apathy, or political statement? The local media seized on a small local government by-election in Cassia Park, Kingston this week as an earth-shattering event on the political calendar. Voters seem to have thought otherwise. There was a turnout of about fifteen per cent – in other words, only the diehard supporters of each party seem to have voted. The victory of the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party‘s Beverley Prince may or may not have been significant; earlier, the Prime Minister herself had said the result would be a referendum on her leadership, or words to that effect. It’s good to see two women candidates, though. But I think it was a very minor blip on the political radar.

On beauty…and inappropriate comments: Culture Minister Lisa Hanna has stacked up some brownie points in the past week with me: Firstly, the well-crafted and considered response to the “conscious” Queen Ifrica‘s inappropriate outburst at the Independence Grand Gala (and yes, it would be good for the Ministry to review carefully the artistes they select for such major national events). It seems Her Majesty, and her supporters, bleating about freedom of speech, are missing the point. She is perfectly entitled to spout her beliefs if she wishes, but not at a State-funded “family event” watched by many thousands, including children. And perhaps a nice message of love, peace and unity would have been preferable to divisiveness. Secondly, Minister Hanna made rather an interesting statement about concepts of beauty, which carried more credence considering her personal background, at a Festival Queen event.

Money could have been better spent: Meanwhile, non-governmental organizations that are struggling to support Jamaica’s much-neglected and marginalized disabled population are about to go under. The millions spent on the Independence Gala could perhaps have been channeled to keeping these organizations afloat. They provide a social service that is much needed and which the Government itself severely neglects. It is truly very sad.

Please, just give us a little break from the stubborn, determined Senior Superintendent of Police in charge of the Traffic Division, Radcliffe Lewis. I have nothing against the man – he appears very hard-working, and he has a certain style about him too – but we have had a string of television news reports in which he has appeared, in and out of uniform, by various roadsides, for the past few nights! We realize he is trying hard to reduce the number of road fatalities. But, you know, just give the media a rest for the next few days, dear SSP Lewis? We’ve got the message, now.

Guns and more guns: The Firearm Licensing Authority has issued over 8,000 firearm licenses since July, 2011 up to now. There is now no written test to get a gun, and other requirements have been relaxed. It only takes six months to acquire a legal gun in Jamaica, now. Somehow, I find none of this information reassuring.

“In our case, drugs mixing with demonism is a principal driver of violent crime.” I am not sure what demonism he is referring to (where is such activity taking place, exactly?) and profoundly disagree with Sunday Gleaner columnist Martin Henry on this. Yes, we are back to the “divine intervention” argument again, which National Security Minister Peter Bunting revived at a recent church service.  I am sorry, but I am just not buying any of this. It just sounds a little desperate on Minister Bunting’s part.

Is dancehall a global phenomenon that is largely unappreciated here in Jamaica? And if so, why? Please see the link below to Cucumber Juice’s thought-provoking blog post, and let her know what you think… I have already commented there (I like to comment on people’s blogs, as I know it is always good to get comments – even if we don’t always agree! What social media is all about – debate and sharing views).

Trying man: There is a lovely article in today’s Sunday Observer about a pan chicken man, “Ruddy” Bent, who came to Kingston as a teen with no job or prospects, and has built up a thriving business over the years. The well-written article by Shamille Scott does not appear online, however. At least, I can’t find it?

A hearty slap on the back to:

  • Mr. Usain Bolt (of course), who single-handedly rescued Jamaica’s international reputation today (at least in the sports arena) with his emphatic win. Mr. Bolt (who is such a nice guy, and knows how to work a photo-op too) is the new 100 meters World Champion, in case you didn’t know yet. Congratulations too to silver medal winner Justin Gatlin, always a fierce competitor; and to the three Jamaicans who came third, fourth and fifth: Nesta Carter, Kemar Bailey-Cole and Nickel Ashmeade. See a lovely YouTube tribute in rhyme from Michael Abrahams (link below).
  • Another athlete really worth a special mention is Novlene Williams-Mills, who has qualified for the women’s 400 meters finals at the IAAF World Championships. Ms. Williams-Mills announced recently that she has been fighting breast cancer. Good luck to her.
  • Digicel Foundation and USAID, who have partnered on a literacy program that I am sure will bear fruit. Both organizations have been focusing on literacy for a number of years now, and they have their priorities right.
  • The Governor General’s I Believe Initiative (which I was rather skeptical about at first) also has some good projects under its belt. It is heartening that the Chinese Government and LIME are supporting the GG’s village Wi-Fi Centers, which I think is a cool idea. You can find I Believe on Facebook and at http://www.ibelieveinitiative.org.
  • Jamaican swimmer Alia Atkinsonwho bounced (or maybe, splashed) back from recent disappointments to win gold at the FINA World Cup swim meet in Holland. It takes grit and determination to do this. Much tougher than anyone can imagine – whether for an athlete, or anyone else.
  • Food for the Poorwhom we may sometimes take for granted but who do great work, week in and week out. On Friday, they had a closing ceremony for their Band Camp for inner-city children in Spanish Town, teaching them to enjoy learning to play musical instruments. Wonderful program, now in its fifth year!
  • diGJamaica for its continued focus on the International Monetary Fund timeline – it’s very important to keep track, and no one else seems to be doing it. See link below.
  • Jamaica Environment Trust, which has obtained funding for a project to protect the Pedro Cays, following The Nature Conservancy’s departure from Jamaica (which is to be deeply regretted). Now it is up to the Government to step up to the plate and at least provide some supporting funds.
  • Gleaner reporter Christopher Serju is a man with great experience and knowledge as a writer on agriculture – and it shows. The article below, about a St. Mary pepper farmer who is recovering from the impact of Hurricane Sandy, is another example of his very good writing.
  • And here’s a good quote I picked up on Twitter: “With ignorance comes fear –  from fear comes bigotry. Education is the key to acceptance.” From the book “The Bullying Epidemic” by Kathleen Patel. Thanks to goodreads.com.

A reader commented recently that this sad list of murdered Jamaicans appears to be getting longer. I think this is true. The police have not released murder statistics recently (they used to do so monthly) so far as I know. But at least eight Jamaicans have left behind grieving relatives and friends, in the past three or four days. My sincere condolences to all those left behind.

Unidentified man, Oxford Mall, downtown Kingston

Davion Beckford, Toby Gully/Bull Bay, St. Andrew

George Foreman, 34, Folly/Port Antonio, Portland

Richard Spence, 53, Blenheim/Newport, Manchester

Jermaine Linton, 26, Shaw Park/Ocho Rios, St. Ann

Franklin Stephenson, 46, Hamilton Mountain/Oracabessa, St. Mary

Othneil Powell, 57, Ritchies, Clarendon

Patel Grant, Bloody Bay/Negril, Westmoreland

Related articles and links:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p2LmE2xjn7U&feature=youtu.be Usain Bolt, by Michael Abrahams: YouTube

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130808/lead/lead81.html Microchips won’t rein in farm thieves – Wellington: Gleaner

http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/editorial/Organised-communities-can-stop-farm-thieves_14845006 Organized communities can stop farm thieves: Observer editorial

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XcsIr3YZO6Q&feature=youtu.be Roger Clarke blasts the media: YouTube/Jamaica Observer

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130810/news/news72.html Pepper farmer reaping success: Gleaner

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130808/lead/lead4.html Dim future for disabled as institutions mull closure: Gleaner

http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Blaine-wants-Hanna-to-explain-reason-for-departure-of-CDA-head_14839690 Blaine wants Hanna to explain reason for departure of CDA head: Jamaica Observer

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=47061 127 Jamaicans allegedly killed by police in first half of 2013: Gleaner

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130811/news/news3.html More legal guns on the road: Thousands of firearm licenses approved in last two years: Sunday Gleaner

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130811/focus/focus4.html Divine intervention for crime reduction: Martin Henry column/Sunday Gleaner

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2389284/Dwayne-Jones-16-year-old-transgender-teen-latest-die-Jamaican-mob-violence-LGBT-community.html Dwayne Jones: 16-year-old transgender teen latest to die in mob violence in Jamaica: Daily Mail (UK)

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130811/cleisure/cleisure1.html The real lesson from Cassia Park: Sunday Gleaner editorial

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130808/lead/lead6.html JTA admits to uncovering multi-million-dollar fraud: Gleaner

http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Millions-missing-at-NWU_14853866 Millions missing at NWU: Sunday Observer

http://digjamaica.com/blog/2013/08/08/today-second-payment-towards-2010-imf-sba-more/ Today marks second payment towards 2010 IMF SBA and more… diGJamaica.com

http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/business/Tech-start-ups-urged-to-explore-new-crowd-funding-platform_14847676 Tech start-ups urged to explore new crowd-funding platform: Sunday Observer

http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/business/LIME-introducies-new-prepaid-Internet-packages_14843671 LIME introduces new prepaid internet packages: Jamaica Observer

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130811/lead/lead9.html Gleaner Online launches new app for Android smartphones: Sunday Gleaner

http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/datablog/2013/aug/09/remittances-britain-data Remittances: How much Britain sends, and where the cash goes – get the data: Guardian

http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/editorial/Not-enough-attention-to-alternative-energy_14853864 Not enough attention to alternative energy: Sunday Observer editorial

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130810/lead/lead2.html MP welcomes move to restart gypsum mining: Gleaner

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130808/letters/letters8.html Ifrica a grand blight on Gala: Letter to the Gleaner

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130809/cleisure/cleisure1.html Gay-baiting at a State event: Gleaner editorial

http://jamaica-star.com/thestar/20130808/news/news2.html “I spoke for what I believed in”: Queen Ifrica defends Grand Gala performance after J-FLAG backlash: Jamaica Star

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130808/letters/letters7.html Out of many, one race? Letter to the Gleaner

http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads/34770 Misguided concept of beauty must be corrected – Minister Hanna: Jamaica Information Service

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130808/cleisure/cleisure1.html Partnership Agreement no place for PM to escape: Gleaner editorial

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130811/lead/lead6.html Bobby backs Portia: Sunday Gleaner

http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Speeding-motorists-could-face-dangerous-driving-charge_14850153 Speeding motorists could face dangerous driving charge: Jamaica Observer

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130810/lead/lead2.html Redeployment of teachers begins September: Gleaner

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130808/news/news4.html Digicel, USAID partner for literacy: Gleaner

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130808/news/news6.html I Believe villages get computers for wi-fi centers: Gleaner

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130809/news/news1.html Pedro Cays program gets funding: Gleaner

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130811/lead/lead7.html Massive support for smoking ban: survey shows 83% of Jamaicans backing health minister: Sunday Gleaner

http://cucumberjuice.wordpress.com/2013/08/07/guest-post-dancehall-and-reggae-to-the-world-but-in-jamaica/ Dancehall and reggae to the world! But in Jamaica…? cucumber juice.wordpress.com

http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Revamping-National-Honours-and-Awards_14844740 Revamping National Honors and Awards: Barbara Gloudon column/Jamaica Observer

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130808/news/news1.html Journalist receives Independence Award: Gleaner

400 meters runner Novlene Williams-Mills had a double mastectomy, but has qualified for the finals in Moscow's World Championships. (Photo: Gleaner)

400 meters runner Novlene Williams-Mills was diagnosed with breast cancer last year, and has since had a double mastectomy. She qualified for the 400 meters finals in Moscow’s World Championships today. (Photo: Gleaner)

Susan Rattray-Hammond (left), principal of Petersfield Primary in Westmoreland, signs the grant agreement for the expanded phase of the Enrichment Initiative with Samantha Chantrelle (centre), executive director of the Digicel Foundation, and board member Joy Clark.

Susan Rattray-Hammond (left), principal of Petersfield Primary in Westmoreland, signs the grant agreement for the expanded phase of the Enrichment Initiative with Samantha Chantrelle (centre), executive director of the Digicel Foundation, and board member Joy Clark.

His Excellency the Most Honourable Sir Patrick Allen accepts one of ten computers from (right) Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China, His Excellency Zheng Qingdian, who made the presentation on behalf of the Chinese Embassy. The Chinese Embassy donated the computers to the Governor-General’s I Believe Initiative (IBI) programme in a ceremony that took place on Friday August 2, 2013 at King’s House. The computers will be handed out to the three wifi-centres, established between LIME and the IBI. (Left) Mr. Errol Miller from telecommunications company LIME was also there to witness the event.

Governor General Sir Patrick Allen (center) accepts one of ten computers from (right) Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China Zheng Qingdian. The Chinese Embassy donated the computers to the Governor-General’’s I Believe Initiative on Friday August 2, 2013. The computers will go to three wifi centers established by LIME and the I Believe Initiative. Errol Miller from telecommunications company LIME (left) also attended.

Jamaican swimmer Alia Atkinson also won two gold medals this week! (Photo: Ricardo Makyn/Gleaner)

Jamaican swimmer Alia Atkinson also won two gold medals this week! (Photo: Ricardo Makyn/Gleaner)

Spanish Town teens played their hearts out at the closing ceremony for Food for the Poor's summer Band Camp on Friday. (My photo)

Spanish Town teens played their hearts out at the closing ceremony for Food for the Poor’s summer Band Camp on Friday. (My photo)

The empty room where transgender teen Dwayne Jones, 16, once lived. Jones was beaten, stabbed and shot to death by a mob in Montego Bay on July 22, 2013. (Photo: AP)

The empty room where transgender teen Dwayne Jones, 16, once lived. Jones was beaten, stabbed and shot to death by a mob in Montego Bay on July 22, 2013. (Photo: AP)

Saluting the fans: Darling Mr. Usain Bolt gestures before competing in a men's 100-metre heat at the World Athletics Championships in the Luzhniki stadium in Moscow on Saturday. (Matt Dunham/Associated Press)

Saluting the fans: Darling Mr. Usain Bolt gestures before competing in a men’s 100-metre heat at the World Athletics Championships in the Luzhniki stadium in Moscow on Saturday. (Matt Dunham/Associated Press)

Farmer Paul Henry checks a pepper plant for insects and other potential infestation on the farm in Quebec, St Mary, where the crop is cultivated for the Grace Agro Processors Division, Hounslow, St Elizabeth, where it is used to make pepper mash.-(Photo: Christopher Serju)

Farmer Paul Henry checks a pepper plant for insects and other potential infestation on the farm in Quebec, St Mary, where the crop is cultivated for the Grace Agro Processors Division, Hounslow, St Elizabeth, where it is used to make pepper mash.-(Photo: Christopher Serju)

Fishermen (and frigate birds) at the Pedro Cays.

Fishermen (and frigate birds) at the Pedro Cays.

The late Olive Lewin has been posthumously awarded the prestigious Order of Merit, the country’s third-highest honour, in this year’s National Honors and Awards. (Photo: Courtesy of the  Jamaican Folk Singers)

The late Olive Lewin has been posthumously awarded the prestigious Order of Merit, the country’s third-highest honour, in this year’s National Honors and Awards. As I noted before, posthumously is just too late. (Photo: Courtesy of the Jamaican Folk Singers)

Pull over! SSP Radcliffe Lewis in action in Harbour View, St. Andrew. (Photo: Lionel Rookwood/Jamaica Observer)

Pull over! SSP Radcliffe Lewis in action in Harbour View, St. Andrew. (Photo: Lionel Rookwood/Jamaica Observer)

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