I was told that Ash Wednesday should be all about quiet meditation. But at least in our part of Kingston it has been far from meditative, with people on microphones and playing mindless music in all directions, all day long. Jamaica is one of the few countries in the world (they are mostly in the Caribbean) that takes a day off. Today seems to have been mid-week party time. I cannot see the point.
Attorney General Patrick Atkinson.
Phew! Yesterday, the heat was turned up considerably in the Lower House. Not unexpectedly, the issue was the pending Commission of Enquiry into the Tivoli Gardens massacre in May, 2010; and the selection of attorney Velma Hylton as a commissioner. The last shouting match in Parliament involved a great deal of bellowing from the Government side. This time, it was Opposition Member of Parliament for Tivoli Gardens ( and never a shrinking violet) Desmond McKenzie who repeatedly shouted “Sit down!” The Gleaner reports that McKenzie called Attorney General Patrick Atkinson, who defended the Hylton selection, a ”lackey, Mickey Mouse and an evil person.” Ouch. Opposition Leader Andrew Holness noted, “The greater travesty is that the Government would seek to play politics with the deaths of 77 Jamaicans.” Well Mr. Holness, estimates are that at least 80-85 died and some have said closer to 100. But the part about “playing politics” made me laugh cynically. Tivoli Gardens, a small and struggling “garrison” community, has always been about “playing politics.”
For the life of me I cannot understand what motivated the government to choose Ms. Hylton. I am also concerned at the Opposition’s apparent past ambivalence to discussions surrounding the setting up of the enquiry. And I wish Ms. Hylton would just say, in effect, “You know, I get it. I’ve had enough of this and I’m stepping down.” But no. “Oy vey”!
Bolivarian National Police officers push demonstrators to prevent them from blocking the Francisco Fajardo highway in Caracas, Venezuela, Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014. Anti-government protesters rallied to demand an end to the government crackdown on protests and the release of those jailed in recent weeks. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano) (AP2014)
The Venezuela connection: Our Prime Minister left for a one-day trip to the somewhat edgy city of Caracas for the one-year commemoration of former Venezuela leader Hugo Chavez. It must have been a slightly nervous trip all round; I suspect the government is in a mild state of panic over the recent instability in the country. If – and it’s a big “if” in my opinion – there was to be a régime change, the PetroCaribe program would be in jeopardy. And without PetroCaribe we would be up a certain creek without a paddle. (I still don’t understand why the PetroCaribe office has moved into larger, much more expensive offices in New Kingston and taken on new staff?)
Talking about expensive offices, I understand that the Urban Development Corporation, anxious to offload some properties, has given the Ministry of Health until the end of April to quit its downtown location. The Ministry will then move back uptown and shell out much, much more rent. What happened to the idea of moving government downtown, by the way? Oh, that was the previous administration’s idea. Sorry. Forget it. Even if quite a good idea… Forget it.
A merger: National Security Minister Peter Bunting has announced that the Jamaica Constabulary Force and the Island Special Constabulary Force will merge into one entity during the next financial year. This seems to have the approval of all, including Opposition Spokesman Derrick Smith. I’m not sure if this will greatly impact the work of the police, but may mean greater efficiency and cost-savings.
The Jamaica Observer editorial asks disingenuously, “Has Mr. Pickersgill [our so-called Environment and Climate Change Minister] been sidelined on Goat Islands?” The editorial reminds us that it was Minister Pickersgill who spilt the beans last August in China, when he said that the Protected Area was “now under very serious consideration” as the site of a mega-port. And how quiet he has been, ever since. So, Jamaica Observer, the answer to your question is…clearly, yes.
The Gleaner has written another ill-informed and biased editorial on the subject of Goat Islands. I don’t know why I keep commenting. But I must point out, dear Gleaner editor, that the much-maligned environmentalists (who are such a nuisance, aren’t they?) are neither “neo-Luddians” nor “xenophobic.” Not one of them. Not one. Of course there are a range of opinions on the planned project. And local climate change expert Professor Anthony Chen expressed clear concern over the coal-fired power plant (more on that in later blogs) – not “instinctively,” dear Gleaner editor, but based on his scientific knowledge and many years of experience in the field. Environmentalists have repeated endlessly that they are not opposed to development – they just want sustainable development and for proper procedures to be observed, laws to be obeyed and not side-stepped. And they are opposed to a project in one particular location. Nor have any of these awful environmentalists, to my knowledge, ever said or done anything “anti-Chinese.” Despite Minister of Everything Omar Davies’ protestations, concerns about a possible Chinese “enclave” are not to be dismissed out of hand, however, based on experiences around the world. And it ought to be discussed. (And for heaven’s sake, don’t drag poor Tessanne Chin into the argument! Good Lord).
Sorry for all the bold print in the previous paragraph. It’s just that the Gleaner persists in repeating fallacies and half-truths. It is just not listening!
Couldn’t care less: I was disturbed by a television report on the sudden, steep increase in the cost of obtaining birth and death certificates from the Registrar General’s Department. A senior official at the Department, when interviewed on the matter, looked as if she could hardly be bothered to explain the reason for this increase – which of course, will hit poor Jamaicans hard. This is unfortunately a common attitude among our public servants, who often forget they are servants, and are paid to do their jobs properly. It is a kind of disrespect that adds to the feelings of resentment and alienation among the general public.
The Liberty Hill Primary School in Dumbarton, St. Ann, on fire early Monday morning. The police now suspect arson. (Photo: On The Ground News Reports)
People deserve better: An entire primary school in the rural parish of St. Ann burnt down a few days ago, largely due to an absence of fire truck in the town of Brown’s Town. And for reasons unknown, the operating theater at the only public hospital serving the very large parish of Westmoreland in Savannah-la-Mar has been closed. I hear the hospital is in a very poor state (this was where the tourist who was killed by a jet ski was taken). Can the Government please invest some money (or beg or borrow some, even) in essential services for Jamaicans? Would it be too much to ask to have working fire trucks and proper medical services, especially in rural areas?
Humanizing: By the way, I enjoyed radio talk show host and Opposition Senator Marlene Malahoo Forte’s talk with Minister Peter Bunting on her excellent program “Justice” yesterday. It was friendly, relaxed and humanized the Minister quite a bit (he has had a bit of a problem with the “human” aspect). It was also refreshing to hear two politicians from opposite sides of the fence discussing a problem that is a concern to all of us – crime – in a non-confrontational manner.
Prince Edward was here: On a “working meeting” with his wife. Do the Royals actually work? OK, don’t answer that one.
Some Indian nationals are very happy that they have their name on the list to travel one-way to Mars in 2024. (Photo: BBC)
Mars-bound: Meanwhile, the Dutch non-profit organisation Mars One has a shortlist of Earthlings who want to travel to Mars – it’s a one-way trip – and settle there, in 2024. I wish I had added my name to the shortlist, but fear it’s too late. I’m stuck here on Planet Earth, or what’s left of it.
Congrats and pats on the back to:
A great advocate for women and girls: Nadeen Spence (left) speaks at the launch of the 51% Coalition’s media campaign last year. (My photo)
Ms. Nadeen Spence! Her I’m Glad I’m a Girl Foundation empowers the students of Mary Seacole Hall at the University of the West Indies (UWI) to serve as mentors for girls. I was honored to participate in today’s capacity-building and training session and to talk about social media for advocacy and leadership. Nadeen spoke on “The Realities of Girls in Jamaica.” She is doing excellent work.
Environmentalists and media representatives strategized at the Panos Caribbean workshop on biodiversity in Kingston last Friday and Saturday. (My photo)
Panos Caribbean, the NGO with a difference, which organized a really superb two-day workshop on biodiversity, bringing environmentalists and journalists from across the island together for what was much more than a “talk shop.” An action plan is in the making. Well done to Indi McLymont and Petre Williams Raynor!
Youngsters take part in the 2014 Peace Day March and Concert at Emancipation Park in New Kingston yesterday. (Photo: Rudolph Brown/Gleaner)
Ms. Deika Morrison, who continues to use the Wonderful World of Twitter in many interesting ways. She organized an interesting and vibrant tweet chat yesterday (Peace Day) and I am hoping she will put all the thoughtful comments and suggestions together in one online “Storify” document. When she has time!
Tessanne Chin will score another first in American and Jamaican music history tomorrow when she performs at the White House. Photo: Kenyon Hemans)
The fabulous Ms. Chin (Tessanne, that is) will be performing along with great “songbirds” like Melissa Etheridge, Aretha Franklin, Ariana Grande, Patti LaBelle, Janelle Monae and Jill Scott at the White House tomorrow evening, at a concert organized by First Lady Michelle Obama, “Women of Soul.” It will be broadcast live from the White House website and rebroadcast on PBS stations across the United States on April 7. So those unkind people who suggested that Ms. Chin would lapse into obscurity after winning “The Voice” had better keep quiet, now.
Three women’s organizations that will be celebrating anniversaries on Saturday, March 8 – International Women’s Day. They are the Bureau of Women’s Affairs (40 years old), the Women’s Resource and Outreach Centre (31 years old) and the Institute for Gender and Development Studies (20 years old). They will join together on Saturday for a special expo at UWI’s Undercroft from 10:00 until 4:00. I think you should be there!
I do recommend this blog: http://iamikonik.com/page/2/ - which focuses on the local social media scene and was kind enough to recommend 20 “must-read” Jamaican blogs recently. It is clear, focused and small business-oriented. Do follow @iam_ikonik on Twitter, too!
Meanwhile, my sympathies to all those who are mourning these people – most of them young people, indeed – who have lost their lives to violence in the past three days. Nicole Whyte was a student nurse, who will never be able to practice her trade, now.
Nicolas Shaw, 29, Glendevon, St. James
Leroy Gordon, 42, Chelsea District/Montego Bay, St. James
Unidentified man, Montego Bay Transport Centre, St. James
Oneil Fraser, Clarks Town, Trelawny
Nicole Whyte, 26, Waterford, St. Catherine
Glen Hopwood, 43, Strathbogie, Westmoreland