A Week of High Emotions: Wednesday, November 27, 2013

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).

Trinidadian Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar.

Trinidadian Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar.

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.

A pleased Shanique Myrie (right) and her ecstatic sister Antoinette Dacosta exit the Supreme Court building in downtown Kingston following the Caribbean Court of Justice ruling. (Photo: Joseph Wellington/Gleaner)

A pleased Shanique Myrie (right) and her sister Antoinette Dacosta exit the Supreme Court building in downtown Kingston following the Caribbean Court of Justice ruling. (Photo: Joseph Wellington/Gleaner)

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…

Vybz Kartel, the popular deejay who is in court on a second murder charge (the first one was thrown out). He has been in custody since September, 2011.

Vybz Kartel, the popular deejay who is in court on a second murder charge (the first one was thrown out). He has been in custody since September, 2011.

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.

The "Gleaner"s Jenni Campbell is President of the Press Association of Jamaica.

The “Gleaner”s Jenni Campbell is President of the Press Association of Jamaica.

Gleaner editorial cartoon portrays "Queen Portia" with journalists as her "humble subjects."

Gleaner editorial cartoon portrays “Queen Portia” with journalists as her “humble subjects.”

Leave the Prime Minister alone!! An RJR reporter gets his comeuppance during a recent press opportunity in Rose Town.

Leave the Prime Minister alone!! An RJR reporter gets his comeuppance during a recent press opportunity in Rose Town. (Photo: Gleaner)

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.

Today's Jamaica Observer editorial cartoon. Yes, the Prime Minister is off on her travels again!

Today’s Jamaica Observer editorial cartoon. Yes, the Prime Minister is off on her travels again! In this cartoon she is thumbing her nose at Jamaican journalists waving their (very dangerous, could be lethal) microphones!

Two very good Jamaican journalists, Dionne Jackson Miller and Claude Robinson take part in a Press Association of Jamaica forum. (Photo: Ian Allen/Gleaner)

Two very good Jamaican journalists, Dionne Jackson Miller and Claude Robinson take part in a Press Association of Jamaica forum. (Photo: Ian Allen/Gleaner)

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!

Tessanne Chin is a beauty with an extraordinarily powerful voice.

Tessanne Chin is a beauty with an extraordinarily powerful voice.

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

5 Comments

  1. First off I must say that the Caricom idea seems to have no benefits to Jamaicans, and I hope they deport all Trinidadians from Jamaica if they can’t play fair as they never did. Secondly, PM seems to be nothing but an ignorant dunce. I don’t think that she is aware that she works for the people and not for herself. Who anointed her to such a throne? She is only a puppet with strings connected to the American Gov’t who has and is still using her to wreck Jamaica. Only is if she knew what it meant to be a patriot.

    • I don’t know what to say. I still think that the concept of CARICOM is a good one, and that better communication and strong leadership in the region could make it much more effective. I don’t agree with the tit for tat threats of deportations, boycotts etc. That’s not to say there aren’t some real issues. It needs to be worked out with care and sensitivity. As for our Prime Minister, I agree she seems a little lost and has squandered a huge amount of political capital in less than two years. But what makes you say she is a puppet of the U.S. government and what evidence do you have of that? Why would the U.S. government want to “wreck” Jamaica? But talking of puppets, we are all under the IMF’s thumb these days… Sigh.

  2. CARICOM, like many regional communities, will have its lovers (usually, winners) and haters (usually, losers). One service a good CARICOM product (UWI) could do would be to spell out clearly the economic & political costs/benefits of CARICOM. That would, at least, give a reasoned basis for arguments.

    Retaliation is often a natural reaction, moreso, when it appears that public representatives are impotent or silent or unconcerned about the complaints of their people. But, talk can be cheap. Retaliation often has unforeseen consequences, usually negative. My view is that the recent Jamaican calls for boycotting Trini goods is more likely to hurt Jamaica–at least, first.

    The PM and her office don’t seem to want to engage the media–and that’s their prerogative, though we may dislike it. It’s a good point to criticise, though, as a poor understanding of what public service and political representation are meant to represent. Generally, the government does a poor job of communication, so we may actually be winning by hearing less from them :-)

    Being ‘under the IMF’ thumb, is a myth worth disspelling. We are under ‘in the yoke’ of generations of bad political and economic leaders. The IMF did not put us into our plight, but decades of unproductive spending (some for political purposes) has not helped us. Correct me, if I’m wrong. Decades of unaccountable public sector activity has left a legacy of inefficient services. We cannot look at our economy as one that is driven to do what we need, namely, provide jobs and incomes for the majority of its citizens, whether that fault lies at the feet of local or international investors. IMF solutions are mainly basic economics, but with a carrot of more financing if things go right.

    Good luck with the blog; it’s good reading.

    • Thanks very much for your comments, Dennis. I agree – talk is cheap and I just don’t think retaliation in the answer. I don’t agree though that not communicating is the PM’s “prerogative” – she was democratically elected as our leader and is in overall charge. Communicating with the people is part of her job description, as a leader. YES, we are under the IMF “thumb” – that’s not a myth. And YES, our leaders put us in that position. And now of course use the IMF as a convenient excuse for throwing up their hands and saying we can’t do better. Actually I have been blogging for over three years now (over 600 posts), and doing these twice-weekly news reviews for the past year or so. Will continue… and I hope you will continue to read. Thank you!

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