Two reports from the Contractor General (CG) came floating in on the news yesterday afternoon. Some of us were thinking that Mr. Dirk Harrison had been quiet for a long time; but as an online friend said, if this is what happens when he speaks, we don’t mind long silences (translating from the patois)!
OCG Report #1: Minister Azan… The CG has referred Richard Azan, Junior Minister in the Ministry of Transport and Works (headed by Minister Omar Davies) to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) for conspiracy to defraud. He also says that Mayor of May Pen Scean Barnswell sought to mislead the CG’s office; and that Bridget Daley-Dixon, Azan’s constituency secretary, who collected the rental for the shops, should also be considered for prosecution. Parliament, he said, should also take action against Minister Azan, whom the CG called “at best, tantamount to being politically corrupt as defined by Transparency International.”
OCG Report #2: Electricity bid: In a report half as long as the first one (but, it seems, equally hard-hitting) the CG has also severely criticized the process by which the bidding for the 360 megawatt energy project was conducted. We had already learned that the deadline for bidding had been extended, and that a new bidder had been introduced – the Hong Kong-based Energy World International (EWI). It also emerged that Energy Minister Phillip Paulwell had met with EWI representatives while the bidding process was going on – an action which the CG calls “irregular and improper intervention.” Bear in mind that the other bidders had already complied with the original deadline of March 15, 2013 (yes, the deadline was postponed).
In a press briefing today, the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR), the government agency that administered the bidding process, predictably denied that Minister Paulwell had interfered. So, of course, did the Minister. He responded swiftly that he was just trying to get the cheapest possible energy rates for the Jamaican people (so, I suppose, by any means necessary, Minister?) And the OCG doesn’t know what he is talking about. OK.
Well, as it turned out, the OUR announced the preferred bidder to be Azurest-Cambridge Joint Venture Association. Number Two is…EWI. This leaves a bad taste in the mouth.
“They haven’t had a chance”: There was another, much more touchy press briefing today. Right off the bat, Minister of Information Senator Sandrea Falconer informed the press, who were itching to ask her about the Azan issue, that “I am not going to entertain any questions on this matter.” Wow. But our trusty journalists are not the tame sheep that used to sit in government press briefings, writing down every word and asking one or two polite questions at the end. Those days are gone. In response to the inevitable questions on Minister Azan, Minister Falconer used her sternest voice and adopted the “blocking” stance (I think they do that in American football, don’t they?) after repeating several times that none of those whom the CG said received the reports on Monday had “had a chance” to peruse them.
One of the minions was eventually asked to disconnect the microphone of one particularly persistent journalist. He was undeterred. Can you imagine this happening at a White House press briefing, for example? All hell would break lose.
And as for our Prime Minister: I thought that if she only received the reports “late” on Tuesday evening, our Prime Minister and her team would have been sitting up all night examining them, with a view to urgently responding today. But she was interviewed very briefly by CVM Television late last night – or rather, a journalist waylaid her at a People’s National Party social event, all dressed up. Amazingly, Ms. Simpson Miller said that since the Azan matter had been referred to the DPP, she will wait and see what happens. And she “doesn’t know what’s going to happen.” Well, that unrehearsed response has told us a lot, Prime Minister. A lot.
Madam Prime Minister, did you not tell us when the issue first came to light that you would await the CG’s report on Minister Azan? Well, it is out. We now have to wait, again? What is all this? They used to call President Ronald Reagan the “Teflon President,” because no scandals seemed to affect him personally. Is our Prime Minister seeking “teflonship” status? Well, let’s put it this way…She likes to “defer.”
I am not impressed: The level of representation at the local government level seems very poor. That is not to say that there are not some serious councilors who are working hard on behalf of the communities they represent. But when CVM Television last night replayed remarks made by a Councilor Bailey of the Milk River Division earlier this year in defense of Minister Azan, I shuddered. It sounded even worse than the first time. “Comrades for life” - well, that kind of tribalistic partisanship is quite commonplace (on both sides). But to tell Minister Azan to just hang in there, and it will soon blow over - “A few days from now…Nine day talk” – that is not how a responsible leader should speak when a colleague is accused of corruption. And then, this week the Mayor of Savannah-la-Mar advised the police to “shoot first, ask questions after” in the face of rising crime in the parish of Westmoreland. Thankfully, the police more or less dismissed his words.
“Nature is a hell of a thing”: So said the head of the government’s Fisheries Division André Kong on television a few days ago. Yes, Mr. Kong. How right you are. Nature has a way of… well, having its way. We shall see…
Irony of ironies: We are actually importing fish now…from China.
Burning buses: Meanwhile, another Jamaica Urban Transit Company bus caught fire. Good grief! Whatever next? Any thoughts on that, Minister of Transport, Works, possibly Finance (and of course, environmental expert) Dr. Omar Davies? Any thoughts on the actions of your Junior Minister, come to that?
And a stinking city: The National Environment and Planning Agency is still trying to figure out the disgusting smell in and around the Kingston area. Could it be the salt pond in Yallahs, St. Thomas? Will we ever know? Please wait for the next exciting instalment.
Well…Petchary Bouquets go out to:
- Ayanna Dixon, a bright and highly talented fashion designer, who won a big prize at this evening’s Collection Moda Fashion Showcase in Kingston’s Hope Gardens. Congratulations, young lady!
- Women’s Media Watch for their great program on Roots FM “Equal Spaces.” Listen in tomorrow evening at 5 pm for a discussion on HIV and discrimination with Ainsley Reid.
- Youth Opportunities Unlimited (YOU) for initiating a great tweet chat today on women’s reproductive rights in Jamaica. It was very interesting and well conducted. At some point, though, we will have to address the issue of our archaic colonial law (1864, no less) stating that a person can get life in prison for performing an abortion. More on this in due course.
- Food for the Poor (yet again!) for their speedy response to a family in desperate need, which I wrote about in Sunday’s blog. They brought much-needed supplies and I do hope will be able to assist with housing in the near future. Without judging the woman. Thank you, again!
- Ms. Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, our star athlete, whose Pocket Rocket Foundation gave scholarships to seven needy students this week. She is a great girl.
“An eye for an eye”: Amidst all these dramas, Jamaicans continue to bleed. This week, a young woman was attacked, raped and murdered in roadside bushes in the rural district of Mullet Hall, in Clarendon. Residents suspected a man who had recently been released from prison after serving ten years for rape and had returned to the neighborhood. Residents attacked and stabbed him a day or two later. “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth,” said one resident. CVM Television’s report was chilling. A tragic story that went almost unnoticed, this week.
My friend Dean Moriah (and loved by so many, I know) was buried on Saturday in Ramble, Hanover. And someone has been arrested and reportedly confessed to his murder. Rest in peace, dear Dean. You are sadly missed. So are all those who passed away in violent circumstances in the past three or four days. Here are their names:
“Teeky Locks,” Bread Lane, downtown Kingston
Unidentified man, Kingston Gardens, Kingston
George Willie, Old Harbour, St. Catherine
Unidentified man, Old Harbour, St. Catherine
Raskemo Gordon, Reece Pen/Portmore, St. Catherine
Dwayne Cameron, 25, Braeton, St. Catherine
Kenroy Thompson, 39, Exchange District, St. Ann
Clive Robinson, 47, Mandeville, Manchester
Shanique Wright, Mullet Hall/Chapelton, Clarendon
Shanique’s alleged murderer, Mullet Hall, Clarendon (mob killing)
Unidentified man, Dump Up Beach, Montego Bay, St. James
Killed by the police:
Unidentified man, Portmore, St. Catherine
Related articles and links:
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/OCG-refers-Azan–Barnswell-to-DPP_15094359 OCG refers Azan, Barnswell to DPP: Jamaica Observer
http://www.ocg.gov.jm/ocg/ Office of the Contractor General: Press Release and Reports on Azan issue and energy bid
http://constructedthoughts.wordpress.com/2013/09/18/portias-contempt-the-richard-azan-scandal/ Portia’s contempt: the Richard Azan scandal: Veritas
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=adtf-3fczK4&feature=c4-overview&list=UUT6cAZGuOgJlXrEoPv8jtEw Video: press briefing on Azan, etc: YouTube
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=48075 Government mum on damning reports: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Contractor-general-slams-Paulwell–OUR-over-energy-project_15094005 Contractor General slams Paulwell, OUR over energy project: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Paulwell-welcomes-naming-of-360MW-preferred-bidder Paulwell welcomes naming of 360 MW preferred bidder: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/editorial/Preservation–patriotism–pragmatism-and-profits_15091893 Preservation, patriotism, pragmatism and profits: Jamaica Observer editorial
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=32360 Jamaica’s fish imports now at $7.8 billion: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130820/cleisure/cleisure4.html Should the environment lose every time? Op-ed by Dr Kurt McLaren, forest ecologist; Professor Byron Wilson, conservation biologist
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130915/focus/focus2.html Davies’ big mistake about “two likkle lizards”: Christopher Serju column/Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=48055 Diaspora against Goat Islands industrial development: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130917/letters/letters5.html Don’t ease up on Goat Islands advocacy: Letter to the Editor/Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130917/cleisure/cleisure4.html Don’t play fast and loose with Portland Bight facts – JET: Gleaner
http://www.caribjournal.com/2013/09/12/jamaican-prime-minister-warns-against-criticism-of-chinese-investment/ Jamaican Prime Minister warns against criticism of Chinese investment: Carib Journal
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130916/letters/letters1.html Letter of the Day: Who will bear the cost? Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130917/letters/letters8.html Demanding answers on smelly city: Letter to the Editor/Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130916/cleisure/cleisure1.html It’s time for private-sector muscle: Gleaner editorial
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130916/cleisure/cleisure2.html Labourites, please vote for Jamaica: Garth Rattray column/Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Race-is-on_15077280 Shaw says he’ll formally launch JLP leadership campaign on Sept 29: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=48021 Opposition Senator calls for changes to Offenses Against the Persons Act: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130918/lead/lead6.html Tivoli Committee satisfied after meeting with House Speaker: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130918/cleisure/cleisure1.html Sav’s Mayor should go: Gleaner editorial
http://jamaica-star.com/thestar/20130916/news/news6.html Franklin Town cops test-run community policing initiative: Jamaica Star
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Kartel-s-jail-cell-searched-in-investigation-of-producer-s-killing Kartel’s jail cell searched in investigation of producer’s killing: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=48033 Tuberculosis worries at Horizon Remand Centre: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=48081 Update: Man reportedly confesses to murder of hospitality worker Dean Moriah: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Our-seniors-are-miracle-workers_15077963 Our seniors are miracle workers: Jean Lowrie-Chin column/Jamaica Observer