It’s a bright sunny day, Arsenal Football Club is playing a delightful second half against West Ham, and it’s a day for relaxing and recovering from Christmas Day. I do hope you all had a wonderful time yesterday, my dear readers… Here in Jamaica, much sorrel was swilled…
But we must offer deepest sympathies to our friends in the eastern Caribbean (St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Dominica, in particular) who have suffered from terrible flooding during unseasonal storms just before Christmas. A total of twenty-two are confirmed dead and a number are still missing. Houses and bridges were washed away and many roads destroyed. My condolences to all who have suffered losses.
I like very much Governor General Sir Patrick Allen’s Christmas message, which reminded us to care for the sick, bereaved, abandoned and marginalized among us, – and that not everyone is filled with joy at Christmas. I also liked his support for all the agencies supporting these populations. And I like the GG’s voice. So there you have it. All the Christmas messages are on the Jamaica Information Service website. I like his best, and it’s not too long either.
Timing is a little off: Right before Christmas, the government suggested that more tax (General Consumption Tax) on gasoline is under consideration. The immediate reaction from unions and other stakeholders was, of course, negative. Do Omar Davies (then Finance Minister) and then Prime Minister PJ Patterson recall the gas riots of 1999? The government needs to tread very carefully on this one. Perhaps it was just “flying a kite”? In any event, with the International Monetary Fund pressure still unrelenting, tax reform is very much on Minister Phillips’ mind. Now duty is to be removed on January 1 on certain equipment imported by tourism interests; this should help the struggling small hotels.
Sting is 30 years old: No, not Sting the English rock star who is considerably older. Hype is building about Sting the annual dancehall stage show, which will take place tonight/ tomorrow morning (I give two dates, because it always goes on well into the morning the next day. Dancehall fans have stamina). A deejay from a bygone age, whom I remember well, is making a comeback on this occasion. He lives overseas and has not performed here for twelve years. But he looks very different now. The “Don Dada“ (Super Cat) was reportedly “quickly whisked away” when he arrived at the airport (were there hordes of screaming fans, one wonders?) He had several hits in the late 80s/early 90s. The young man was devilishly handsome and very dapper. Hard to believe he is now fifty years old!
Some weeks ago now, two bodies were found in New Haven, Kingston – an area I had just visited and wrote a post about. The community is a shambles. The roads are almost non-existent, and there are large areas of wasteland where trucks illegally dump builder’s waste. Amongst all this people try to live a decent life in their homes. But there has been no further report on the two bodies found, which I find very strange. Are all murders being reported? Are all being investigated properly? Why are so many unsolved – even the murder of fifteen-year-old Calisa Edwards, a student of Lennon High School in Clarendon, who was buried on Sunday?
And where are the two men who were abducted in October from an upper St. Andrew home? Three men have been charged with the abduction, and denied bail. But the whereabouts of twenty-seven-year-old businessman, Curtis Martin, and 25-year-old University of Technology graduate, Mario Daley are still unknown. How can that be?
The Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) features in almost every news item these days – the good, bad and indifferent. The JCF has been successful in getting a lot of weapons off the streets in the past few weeks – but at the cost of three Jamaican lives in Westmoreland this week, among others. And I don’t know if it’s good or bad, but seven police constables have been charged for extortion from an alleged drug dealer in Montego Bay; and two more appeared in court charged with armed robbery in Kingston. Good! And the police have received 89 new vehicles, which should help them in their work.
Renewed tourism push: With new flights coming in from here, there and everywhere (a new route from Denver, Colorado, to Montego Bay, for example) Tourism Minister Wykeham McNeill is quite bullish about the current tourist season. But do these bits and pieces add up to a large number of stopovers, overall? Time will tell.
Horse racing on the beach? Having just managed to get the marauding (lethal) jet ski drivers under control, what is left of the Negril beach is now patrolled by men selling horseback rides. There are so many now, I hear they make a mess of the beach, defecate in the sea and even race each other. Dangerous and harmful to health. It’s only a matter of time before someone trying to relax on the beach is trampled underfoot. The police seem unable to handle the situation. They don’t know what to do with horses…
And talking of beaches, journalist and activist Andrea Williams has been campaigning for some time for the “Little Dunn’s River” beach to be reopened to the public. The Urban Development Corporation, the government agency that takes care of it for us, had simply closed it. Now the gate is unlocked. Congratulations to Andrea, Barbara Blake Hannah and other good citizens who have fought for the re-opening of the beach. Now its users must respect the beach’s beauty and keep it clean. It is one of the few public beaches in the area – large stretches of the northern coastline have been fenced off by hotels.
Progress: Minister of Health Fenton Ferguson, PFM (that stands for Petchary’s Favorite Minister) has announced the introduction of an electronic records system for hospitals. This is long, long overdue. I recall catching a glimpse of an office at a certain public hospital, and was horrified to see folders bulging with papers stacked up to the ceiling!
Boxing Day kudos go out to:
Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller and supporters of her Simpson Miller Foundation, which just disbursed J$250,000 each to five very deserving organizations: the Bustamante Hospital for Children, Missionaries of the Poor, the Salvation Army School for the Blind, Mustard Seed Children’s Home, and Maxfield Park Children’s Home. This is excellent!
I have stated before how much I enjoy the occasional, well-written and argued columns of Grace Virtue in the Jamaica Observer. This week’s, entitled “A Whole New Ethic,” is no exception – do look it up. It doesn’t hurt that in her Christmas Eve column, which some may have missed, Ms. Virtue gives thoughtful consideration to the environmentalists, who she believes show “our better selves” with their campaign to prevent the destruction of the Portland Bight Protected Area (and Goat Islands), noting: “Pardon the reductionism, but most of us probably agree that a spirited defense of just ‘two likkle lizzad’ comes from a nobler place than ‘your policies are getting in the way of me getting richer and I don’t give a rat’s tail if they favor the poor’.” http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/A-whole-new-ethic_15688666#ixzz2ocFuCzxL
In the Gleaner, I also encourage you to read young columnist Jaevion Nelson’s piece entitled “Age of consent not the problem.” Well, let’s say it won’t solve the problem of harmful sexual relationships, especially intergenerational sex (which Eve for Life is seeking to address in its “Nuh Guh Deh” campaign). Of course, there is much more to say on this topic, but this column is a good starting point for discussion.
Global gaming technology provider G-TECH, which is quietly doing so much good work in schools. I recall a wonderful visit to St. Michael’s Primary School in downtown Kingston earlier this year. G-TECH operates After-School Advantage Programs in six schools in Jamaica, and 200 worldwide.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation recently gave a major grant to the Jamaica Library Service, which will help it to expand its IT offerings enormously across the island. This is just amazing and will undoubtedly make a huge difference. Great news!
And Digital Jam 3.0 is coming our way! There is an App Contest (Deadline December 31!!) in three categories for Caribbean citizens. Finalists will be invited to pitch on March 1 and 2 in Kingston. The deadline is tight so look up all the details on their Facebook page (Digital Jam) and they are on Twitter @digitaljam3. Fantastic prizes await the successful ones!
Miami Herald journalist Jacqueline Charles, who has her finger on the pulse of everything happening on this side of the Caribbean. I follow her detailed Twitter updates “on the ground” in Haiti. And she wrote a marvelous piece that is splashed on the top half of the newspaper’s front page. It’s about Jamaican support for Tessanne Chin, in whose victory on “The Voice” we are still rejoicing. Here is the link: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/12/25/3837525/jamaicans-social-media-rallied.html
A musical website for every taste: If you are bored with the same-old-same-old played on radio, check out NPR Music, which is filled with interesting music of every genre. The Tiny Desk Concerts are great, too. NPR also presents its eclectic 50 Albums of the Year, and there’s a 24/7 music feed. It’s at http://www.npr.org/music/
And in other news (as they say) there has been much sadness over the Christmas holidays. A young woman visiting from the United States, who was staying in rural Jacob’s Hut, Clarendon with family, was murdered the day after she arrived. She and her cousin went out last Friday night, and never returned. Her cousin’s body was found the following day. And the police have killed six Jamaicans – three of whom were called “gang members.” Well, they will never be able to have their day in court. Innocent until proved guilty, but if you are killed by the police, you are somehow assumed guilty. My condolences to all those who have suffered the loss of or injury to a family member over the last week.
Francena Johnson, 19, Salt River, Clarendon (U.S. resident)
Nadia Fearon, 18, Salt River, Clarendon
Silbert Levy, 50, Little Rock District, St. Elizabeth
Andrew Bogle, 36, Portmore, St. Catherine
Killed by the police:
Jermaine Brown, 33, Little London, Westmoreland
Nicoy Clayton, 20, Little London, Westmoreland
Ryan Pringle, 24, Little London, Westmoreland
Randy Walters, Hopewell, Hanover
Oshane Green, Hopewell, Hanover
Gavin Patterson, 19, Bamboo Tree/Port Maria, St. Mary