I skipped over Sunday. Yes, I confess that a whole week has passed since I last wrote about Jamaican news and current affairs. I have been overwhelmingly busy, with so many important things happening that I have not had time yet to even report properly to you! Note: I have not included any links this time. I am really struggling with them because when the blog is published they are often wrong. I hope you can do without them. But if you want to read more on these topics, take a look at the websites for the Gleaner, Observer, RJR, On The Ground News Reports, Television Jamaica and CVM Television. Those are my main sources.
Jamaicans’ emotions have been running rather high. We Jamaicans do love a bit of melodrama, and there has been plenty. Let me try and take a cool, calm and collected look at some of it (forgive me if I have missed or overlooked some items – I just have not been entirely focused).
Dissed again? Jamaican commentators have become quite heated over the deportation of thirteen Jamaicans, who were turned away in Port of Spain last week because they did not meet Trinidad’s immigration requirements. “Boycott Trinidadian goods!” some have cried. The Trinidadian Prime Minister has defended the immigration officials’ actions, and her Foreign Minister will visit Jamaica for talks on the matter. Now, many Jamaicans work in Trinidad (which has a stronger economy than ours). But those who don’t have a CARICOM skills certificate seem to face obstacles. Immigration is complicated; it’s a hot-button issue in many parts of the world. But the difference between Jamaicans traveling to the United States, for example, and Trinidad is that there is a (revised) treaty in force allowing freedom of movement among Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries. CARICOM’s Charter of Civil Society, interestingly, allows “Freedom of movement within the Caribbean Community, subject to such exceptions and qualifications as may be authorised by national law and which are reasonably justifiable in a free and democratic society.” My emphasis. Maybe there’s the rub. CARICOM officials need to sit down together now and sort this out. Then issue clear guidelines via the media/social media, websites etc. so that we are all clear for the future.
This follows hot on the heels of the high-profile Shanique Myrie case in Barbados. Ms. Myrie, a Jamaican, went to the Caribbean Court of Justice, which ruled in her favor after she accused Barbadian immigration officials of subjecting her to humiliating treatment (or “finger rape” as one Jamaican newspaper so nicely put it). After that, CARICOM issued new guidelines for immigration officials. Three things: We all need to get ourselves better informed on the facts of each case before we leap to conclusions. Secondly, this thing has been allowed to fester for too long in CARICOM. It has been lurking on the horizon for quite a while. Thirdly, please let us not be too thin-skinned. If these Jamaicans were, in fact, “undesirables” (I don’t know whether they were) let us own up to it, and let’s get our house in order and stop whining and hurling accusations.
CARICOM is well known for its dithering about on any and every issue. It gets full marks for talking a lot, though. Certainly the September 23 ruling by the Dominican Republic basically robbing Haitian-born citizens of their citizenship is a case in point. Back in early October, former Jamaican Prime Minister PJ Patterson urged CARICOM to take action on the matter. On November 23 - two months and two days later! - CARICOM roused itself to issue a statement condemning the ruling. It has suspended consideration of the Dom Rep‘s application for CARICOM membership. OK, Haiti, you can exhale now. CARICOM hath spoken. And even acted!
Has our Prime Minister made any comment on any of the above? Hello?
Blow by blow: The broadcast media has been tweeting and reporting up-to-the-minute, detailed accounts of the murder case involving Vybz Kartel, a dancehall deejay accused of killing someone called “Lizard.” Some of the reports have been – well, colorful, dramatic to say the least. Every twitch or eye-roll by prosecution witnesses diligently reported. And yes, the justice system has its faults – but all the more reason to report it (warts and all, as they say). I believe the Fourth Estate should always be present. And I say that in recognition of Journalism Week! During which journalists spend a lot of time talking about themselves in various panel discussions…
The PM and the media: And talking of journalism, things have taken a turn for the worse in what seems to be a perpetual Cold War between our Prime Minister and the local media. The latest skirmish occurred a few days ago. It featured the PM, an RJR reporter, a microphone, two burly security men and a crowd of bemused onlookers. The PM had a nice little photo-op in Rose Town, Kingston. Things went awry. The PM called out something about a mike being pushed into her face (she is mortally afraid of mikes) and the thuggish-looking security detail took this as a signal to rough up the reporter, who wanted to ask a question about the reinstatement of Richard Azan. The Press Association of Jamaica (PAJ) is not taking any of this nonsense lightly. And so they shouldn’t. Stand firm.
How on earth has it come to this? It is patently clear now to all that the Prime Minister is intent on avoiding the media, and in particular any possible “impromptu interview” as I think her office described it. Since she does not call press conferences and does not do one-on-one interviews, what options are there for the media to access the PM? Now her Information Minister (who speaks for her on most occasions, including anything related to women’s issues) says she does not see the relationship between the media and the PM as adversarial; and that a “protocol” must be worked out. The PAJ disagrees.
But how could the PM’s communications people possibly make a worse mess out of all this? Their ongoing blunders add up to a classic illustration of how not to “handle” the media, and ought to be fired.
Burning questions: In desperation, the Sunday Gleaner published “Ten Questions for Portia” furnished by “select persons” that I think adequately reflect the concerns of the Jamaican people. I can think of at least twenty, though.
Vocal thrills: Meanwhile, Jamaicans are going through agonies every week when an NBC program called “The Voice” airs. It’s a glorified talent show, with celebrities picking a team of talented (and not so talented) singers. Our Tessanne Chin is competing, and doing really well so far. Not to sound biased, but she seems way ahead of the competition. The emotional temperature gauge went through the roof before, during and after Tessanne’s performance, which this week was Jamaican – and stunning. Keep going, Tessanne!
I am going to stop there. Much more news, including the important information that six police officers have been charged with murder – two in St. James and four in St. Andrew, in connection with extra-judicial killings in 2013 and 2010 respectively. So Minister Crawford, you still want INDECOM to be scrapped for its ineffectiveness?
P.S. The Prime Minister is now in Brussels, Belgium, making a speech etc. What a hectic travel schedule!
Jamaicans for Justice called for the Police Commissioner to resign a few days ago, based on the soaring number of murders and police killings as well as the police’s seeming inability to successfully prosecute murders. There’s much more to say about this, but doesn’t the Commissioner answer to the Minister of National Security – should we be looking in that direction, and what is he doing? More on that next week. Meanwhile, I offer my condolences to the families of all those who have been violently killed since I last posted on November 20th:
Davion Swaby, Olympic Way/Three Miles, Kingston
Shaun Wade, Olympic Way/Three Miles, Kingston
“Bram,” Molynes Road, Kingston
Kerron McLeish, 43, Waterford/Portmore, St. Catherine
Medlina Wallace, 59, Portsmouth/Portmore, St. Catherine
Tanesha Bennett, Spanish Town, St. Catherine (body identified with that of Trinidadian citizen Keron Martin Stewart, found on November 10)
Dwayne Campbell, 24, Vere, Clarendon
Devon Gordon, 40, Boscobel, St. Mary
Unidentified man, Castleton, St. Mary
Nesta Daley, 77, Top Hill, Trelawny
Killed by police:
Miguel Wilson, Red Hills Road, Kingston
Unidentified man, Spanish Town, St. Catherine
- Challenging the Constitutional Tribunal Ruling in the Dominican Republic: Where is CARICOM Leadership? (stabroeknews.com)
- Jamaicans start campaign to ban T&T goods (caribslinks.wordpress.com)
- ‘Denationalisation’ vs ‘deportation’ (trinidadexpress.com)
- Caricom condemns Dominican citizenship ruling (utsandiego.com)
- Jamaicans accused of lying to T&T; immigration (jamaica-gleaner.com)
- Jamaica issues travel warning against Trinidad and Tobago (caribbean360.com)