The Mid-Weeker: Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The long Easter weekend is nearly upon us, and not a moment too soon. There’s a slightly “frazzled” feeling (or is it just me?) We all need a little break, I think.

“Time out”:  I agree with broadcaster Cliff Hughes that we all need to take a little “time out” in the matter of Youth Minister Lisa Hanna’s remarks regarding the issue of child abuse (a huge crisis, as she correctly noted) and the Alpha Boys’ School. Sadly, it has escalated. The Minister has “fired back” today at the school’s press release, which I published yesterday, with a letter to the Sisters of Mercy released to the media. Her communications man, former journalist Oliver Watt, insisted on radio this evening that her remarks were not inappropriate, and this is what she clearly believes. A Jamaica Observer cartoon on the matter was really distasteful and cruel – I’m not going to publish it here. We need to pull back now and allow all parties to work things out quietly and outside the glare of the media. (But let’s face it – if the Minister had not made those comments, there would have been no horrible cartoon…)

Terrence Williams, head of the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM), speaks with members of the media while Kahmile Reid, senior communications officer of INDECOM, looks on during a recent press briefing. (Photo: Rudolph Brown/Gleaner)

Terrence Williams, head of the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM), speaks with members of the media while Kahmile Reid, senior communications officer of INDECOM, looks on during a recent press briefing. (Photo: Rudolph Brown/Gleaner)

Excellent news: There has been a dramatic reduction in the number of fatal shootings by the police in the first quarter of this year – from 76 last year to 40 this year. That’s a decline of 47.3 per cent! Could it be that the police are aware that they are now being watched more carefully – and more importantly, that they are being held accountable? Last month they only killed four people, compared to 19 in 2013. This seems a tremendous vindication of the work of the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) – which has been very busy this year, having completed 88 investigations and recommended that sixteen police officers be charged with criminal offenses. Congratulations are also due to Minister of National Security Peter Bunting, who seems to be getting a better grip on things and supports INDECOM’s work. Good. Now keep it up!

Signed and sealed (but)… Energy Minister Phillip Paulwell finally broke his silence and told us he signed the license for Energy World International (EWI) to supply 381 megawatts of power back on April 4. It was amended (what were the amendments?) and re-signed on April 14, and included a draft (draft) Implementation Agreement between the Government and EWI. The Minister will meet with the Energy Monitoring Committee (EMC) to explain everything to them and then make the license arrangement public. Shouldn’t the EMC have been involved earlier? The Private Sector Organization of Jamaica is still expressing concern over the lack of transparency, while the Opposition’s Karl Samuda is waffling away about it, as is his wont. Well, we shall see what we shall see. (What about the financing?)

Finance Minister Peter Phillips. (Photo: Jamaica Information Service)

Finance Minister Peter Phillips. (Photo: Jamaica Information Service)

An independent central bank: Something I thought would never happen anytime soon has just happened. The omnibus banking bill currently being pushed through Parliament at the behest of the International Monetary Fund includes clauses that remove certain powers from the Minister of Finance in relation to the Bank of Jamaica (BoJ). The Minister will no longer appoint the BoJ governor, nor will he monitor banking institutions, grants licenses etc. This is quite remarkable. If this legislation had been in place when Omar Davies was Finance Minister, the collapse of the local banking sector under FINSAC would never have happened.

Appealing: Lawyers for Deejay Vybz Kartel and his three fellow convicts have filed appeals against their life sentences in the Supreme Court. As expected.

One of the wider parts of the Bog Walk Gorge, looking towards the historic Flat Bridge over the Rio Cobre.

One of the wider parts of the Bog Walk Gorge, looking towards the historic Flat Bridge over the Rio Cobre.

Not feasible: Mr. Howard Chin of the Jamaica Institute of Engineers says the idea of the damming of Bog Walk Gorge, which the ubiquitous China Harbour Engineering Company is looking at, is not a new idea. Decades ago it was considered, but ruled out because of the porous nature of the rocks and other reasons.

National Security Minister Peter Bunting. (Photo: Gleaner)

National Security Minister Peter Bunting. (Photo: Gleaner)

 

 

 

 

Congratulations and cheers!

Professor Mervyn Morris is Jamaica's first Poet Laureate for fifty years.

Professor Mervyn Morris is Jamaica’s first Poet Laureate for fifty years.

  • Professor Mervyn Morris, who is Jamaica’s new Poet Laureate! I am not sure whose idea this was, but it’s a great one. The Jamaican public also got the opportunity to vote. Professor Morris is a poet with an economical style – every word counts – but he is not lacking in acute observation and often a wry humor. I love his poetry, and he is also a calm, quiet, erudite man (also a former Rhodes Scholar at my alma mater, and a Fulbright Scholar by the way). This is well deserved! And by the way, he is Jamaica’s first Poet Laureate since Independence. Pretty cool.
  • Five women who were sworn in as judges by Governor-General this week. Carol Lawrence Beswick, and Ingrid Mangatal, who will act as Judges of Appeal. Justice Audre Lindo, and Marcia Dunbar Green will act as Puisine Judges of the Supreme Court; and Rosemarie Harris, who will act as Master-in-Chambers in the Supreme Court. Kudos to all!
  • CVM Television, who are keeping the fires of investigative reporting alive with their reporting in the local news and on the excellent current affairs program “Live at Seven.” Their latest report was very well put together, and I look forward to a response from the police on their allegedly faulty firearms!
The Black River Morass, which is a part of the Portland Bight Protected Area.

The Black River Morass, a large wetland area in St. Elizabeth.

  • Nationwide News Network recently reported from the Black River Morass in St. Elizabeth – the reporter took a tour to take a look at the problem of invasive species – namely, the paperbark tree and the water hyacinth. Very good, and I hope they do more of this reporting, which reminded me of the BBC actually!

My deepest sympathies, as always, to the families of the following who were murdered this week, and are now grieving…

Owayne Barrett, 33, St. Catherine

Nigel Steele, St. Catherine

Jeffrey Silvera, 35, Ocho Rios, St. Ann

Dean Watts, Canaan Heights, Clarendon

Daniel Anderson, 22, Rectory Road, Clarendon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A woman prepares to make her way cross a section of Clock Tower Plaza flooded by water from a broken hydrant (inset) in the vicinity. (Photo: Joseph Wellington/Jamaica Observer)

A woman prepares to make her way cross a section of Clock Tower Plaza flooded by water from a broken hydrant (inset) in the vicinity. The usual incompetence (and waste) from the National Water Commission. (Photo: Joseph Wellington/Jamaica Observer)

Late again! Sunday, April 13, 2014

My apologies again for this belated “Wh’appen in Jamaica” post! I can’t seem to catch up with myself.

Police Commissioner Owen Ellington: some concerns over his TV interview. (Photo: Gleaner)

Police Commissioner Owen Ellington: some concerns over his TV interview. (Photo: Gleaner)

Really, Mr. Commissioner?  Several things worried me about Commissioner of Police Owen Ellington’s television interview with Dionne Jackson-Miller this past week. The program posed questions from Jamaican men and women on the street; good idea. Commissioner of Police Owen Ellington asserted, right at the end, “Jamaicans are not afraid of the police.” Really, Mr. Ellington? I so wish that were true. He also told us that the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) began investigating allegations of extra-judicial killings in the Clarendon police division long before the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) – but said that the division has been “stigmatized” because of INDECOM’s announcement – which he did not seem very happy with. If it was up to him, he seemed to suggest, he would rather have kept things quiet for a while longer?

As for his remark regarding Vybz Kartel’s “gang” being responsible for about 100 murders That puzzles and concerns me, since the appeal will be coming up soon. Can Commissioner Ellington substantiate this allegation? Was the JCF investigating these murders?

The boards: The Opposition’s Dr. Horace Chang has expressed concern that some chairpersons of government agencies are over-stepping their mark and acting like executive chairpersons, “which is in direct contravention of national policy, as stated in the Public Bodies Management Act.” Perhaps this explains recent upheavals in the Housing Association of Jamaica and National Housing Trust. We should keep an eye on this.

Energy World International's Managing Director and Chairman Stewart Elliot points to where the Liquefied Natural Gas storage tank will be located when the company begins construction of its electricity generating project soon. Elliot was on a tour of the Cane River area of East Rural St Andrew yesterday with a group that included (from left) Commissioner of Police Owen Ellington, Member of Parliament for East Rural St Andrew Damian Crawford and Minister of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining, Phillip Paulwell. Energy World was recently granted a licence by the Office of Utilities Regulation for the supply of additional generating capacity to the national grid. (Photo: Joseph Wellington/Observer)

Energy World International’s Managing Director and Chairman Stewart Elliot points to where the Liquefied Natural Gas storage tank will be located when the company begins construction of its electricity generating project soon. Elliot was on a tour of the Cane River area of East Rural St Andrew yesterday with a group that included (from left) Commissioner of Police Owen Ellington, Member of Parliament for East Rural St Andrew Damian Crawford and Minister of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining, Phillip Paulwell. Energy World was recently granted a licence by the Office of Utilities Regulation for the supply of additional generating capacity to the national grid. (Photo: Joseph Wellington/Observer)

Powerful stuff: Well, the folks from Energy World International (EWI) have paid us a visit, buoyed by the news that Energy Minister Phillip Paulwell will sign the license for them to supply 381 megawatts of power. EWI must provide a performance bond of US$37 million, among other things. It appears the Minister has not yet signed the license, however, and he is going to update us on this, he says. The Minister says he is “quite startled” by a Sunday Gleaner report that the government plans to disband the Energy Monitoring Committee (EMC) as soon as he has signed. The private sector must be relieved to hear this. The most important thing is that oversight is critical; we need the EMC to keep the focus on transparency. There has been precious little of that, so far.

JPS tweeted this graphic a few days ago - "The Real Cost of Energy."

JPS tweeted this graphic a few days ago – “The Real Cost of Energy.”

Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS), our electricity suppliers, are meanwhile involved in a series of public consultations concerning their request for a 21 per cent (yes!) increase in rates – which are already four or five times electricity rates in the United States, for example. The first meeting this evening in Kingston was reportedly relatively civil, with the expected fireworks not happening. Perhaps we are all too depressed to even complain?

Yes, crime IS a major impediment to investment, says leading businessman Richard Byles. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s latest report shows that Jamaica has the sixth highest murder rate in the world (39.3 per 100,000). It’s interesting that eight out of the top ten countries for homicide rates are in Central/South America and the Caribbean.

Portia Simpson Miller

Portia Simpson Miller holds a boy’s face firmly in place before planting a kiss!

Agonizing over child abuse: Our Prime Minister once again spoke out against child abuse, pleading with Jamaicans not to abuse their children, during a speech about something else. I am sure her concern is genuine, but telling people “Don’t do it!” doesn’t really “cut it.” The PM repeated some of the more unpleasant examples that the Youth Minister regaled us with the other day, while demeaning the students at Alpha Boys’ School. She told family members to take their misbehaving children to a leader, pastor etc – “a person that can demand respect and doesn’t beg respect.” She lost me there.

Report it! The Office of the Children’s Registry and UNICEF recently published findings that only one in ten Jamaicans who are actually aware of child abuse actually report it. This is absolutely tragic and hard to accept. 82 per cent of children aged 10 – 17 years old that they interviewed said they had experienced or witnessed some kind of emotional or physical abuse. People, report it! You can go to the OCR’s website (www.ocr.gov.jm) and click on “Make a Report” and there are several confidential ways that you can do this. You will also find their latest report for January – June 2013 there.

Sunset in Port Royal. (My photo)

Sunset in Port Royal. (My photo)

No longer so sleepy: The small town with a famous (notorious?) past – Port Royal – has been suffering from a crime wave, and blame is being placed on a growing squatter community. We always love driving out to Port Royal for fish. I hope the police can deal with it quickly – it has always been a peaceful place.

I spoke about social media activism a few days ago, with Dennis Brooks (a “tweep” and Liverpool Football Club fan – on a high at the moment) about using social media platforms to advocate for causes. I describe myself as a social media activist. If you want to hear Petchary chirping away with Dennis, the link is on SoundCloud here: https://soundcloud.com/nationwide-newsnet/timeline-social-media-activism

Noel Watt, principal of Dunrobin Primary School, along with students Kelsie Spaulding (left) and Kayla Spaulding, didn't get a drop of water from these pipes at the school yesterday. - (Photo: Gladstone Taylor/Gleaner)

Noel Watt, principal of Dunrobin Primary School, along with students Kelsie Spaulding (left) and Kayla Spaulding, didn’t get a drop of water from these pipes at the school yesterday. – (Photo: Gladstone Taylor/Gleaner)

Drying out: The water shortage is becoming so dire that some schools in Kingston closed this week because of the lack of what our local media like to call “the precious commodity,” rather quaintly. Jamaicans are finally starting to take the issue of water conservation seriously, and I suppose it’s never too late. Meanwhile, Kingston’s Mona and Hermitage reservoirs are 36 and 20  per cent full, respectively, and getting lower daily. Heavy water restrictions are being put in place.

Special, special thanks and kudos to:

Projects Abroad Jamaica Country Director Dr Bridgette Barrett speaking about the Belle Haven Centre which is to be built in Central Manchester for children and women living with HIV/AIDS at a Rotaract Club meeting at the Northern Caribbean University last Wednesday. (PHOTO: PROJECTS ABROAD)

Projects Abroad Jamaica Country Director Dr Bridgette Barrett speaking about the Belle Haven Centre which is to be built in Central Manchester for children and women living with HIV/AIDS at a Rotaract Club meeting at the Northern Caribbean University last Wednesday. (PHOTO: PROJECTS ABROAD)

  •  Projects Abroad Jamaica and the BrigIT Water Foundation in Australia, who are working to build a home for women and children living with HIV and AIDS in central Manchester. I heard of these plans some years ago, and am so glad the project is about to get off the ground after a long search for a suitable location for the Belle Haven Centre, as it will be called.
The boys at Alpha Boys' School enjoy the donated sports gear. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

The boys at Alpha Boys’ School enjoy the donated sports gear. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

  •  Usain Bolt (so dear to our hearts), who donated sports gear to Alpha Boys’ School – just in time for their sports day on April 16. This is a much-needed morale-booster for the School, which has really suffered from negative press in the past week or so. Let’s support the boys and the School…
This photo is to prove that I did, in fact, meet Yohan Blake. And what a nice person he is.

This photo is to prove that I did, in fact, meet Yohan Blake. And what a nice person he is.

  • And fellow-sprinter Yohan Blake - whom I met recently and grabbed a photo-op with! – for his continued kindness and generosity through his YB Afraid Foundation, which he founded in 2011. He has brought amazing benefits to the Mount Olivet Home for boys – including a fully-equipped computer lab, improved educational and skills training facilities, wonderful sports facilities, and the list goes on. Mr. Blake (still only 24 years old) also reaches out personally to the boys, chatting with them on Facebook and regularly visiting the home. He is awesome.
Mount Olivet Boys' Home's beautiful computer lab. (Photo: Gleaner)

Mount Olivet Boys’ Home’s beautiful computer lab. (Photo: Gleaner)

In the kitchen at Mockingbird Hill Hotel with the children from School of Hope. (Photo: Facebook)

In the kitchen at Mockingbird Hill Hotel with the children from School of Hope. (Photo: Facebook)

  • Hotel Mockingbird Hill, in beautiful Portland, which has been reaching out to the children with special needs at the local School of Hope. The Hotel is seeking donations of toys, games and other suitable material for the children.

 

My condolences to the grieving families of the following Jamaicans, who were murdered in the past few days. Police Constable Davian Thompson shot his wife dead at their Kingston home; his body was found in a gully the following morning. The police believe he committed suicide.

Latoya Campbell-Thompson, 27, Constant Spring Road, Kingston

Dion Watt, Canaan Heights, Clarendon

Irvin Campbell, 17, Little London, Westmoreland

George Ricketts, Wentworth/Port Maria, St. Mary

Ricardo Barrington, 27, Gloucester Avenue, Montego Bay, St. James

Charles Bryan, 38, Montego Bay, St. James

Kirk Millington, 33, Montego Bay, St. James

Killed by police:

Kirk Rose, 37, Alexandria, St. Ann

“Junior,” downtown Kingston

And on the road: A 65-year-old gentleman who was riding his bicycle along the road in Trelawny was hit and killed by a truck, which did not stop. Why have there been so many hit-and-run accidents, and why so many crashes in western Jamaica recently?

A crowd watches from the bridge on Shortwood Road in Kingston as undertakers and police take Constable Davian Thompson’s body from the gully yesterday morning. Police believe the cop committed suicide after killing his wife Saturday night. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

A crowd watches from the bridge on Shortwood Road in Kingston as undertakers and police take Constable Davian Thompson’s body from the gully yesterday morning. Police believe the cop committed suicide after killing his wife Saturday night. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

World Health Day 2014: About The Tiny Things That Kill More Than a Million

We have an implement called a “zapper” in our house. It is rather ugly, made of orange plastic and looks like a small tennis racket. But it does the trick.

It kills mosquitoes.

World Health Day 2014 info graphic.

World Health Day 2014 infographic.

This year’s World Health Day (which was today, April 7 –  or still is in our part of the world) focused on vector-borne diseases. Vectors are small creatures such as mosquitoes, sandflies and ticks. These tiny things are not just a nuisance. They affect more than a billion and kill at least a million people a year worldwide, putting more than half the world’s population at risk of diseases such as malaria, dengue fever, yellow fever, river blindness and other terrible infectious diseases.

The Philippines Department of Health performs a "mosquito dance" to raise awareness of vector-borne diseases. (Jay Directo via AFP/Getty Images)

The Philippines Department of Health performs a “mosquito dance” to raise awareness of vector-borne diseases. (Jay Directo via AFP/Getty Images)

OK, so you might think this is a “developing world” problem that does not affect so-called First World countries? Not quite true. The West Nile Virus was carried by an airplane passenger from Africa and has caused many deaths in North America. The aedes aegypti mosquito, which transmits the dengue fever virus, has spread almost worldwide. With increased air travel this is bound to happen. And I suspect that climate change might have something to do with it.

Let’s talk about dengue fever, which is familiar to Jamaicans. I have vivid personal memories of it, about fifteen years ago. There was an outbreak in Portland, eastern Jamaica, where we had been holidaying. It takes a week or two to catch up with you. I had pain behind the eyes, headache, and terrible sharp pains in my limbs. In Jamaica dengue is known as “break bone fever,” and with good reason. Then there is the high fever (mine was so high that I was hallucinating at times). This lasted for about two weeks, following which I was exhausted and depressed for another few weeks. It takes a while to come out of your system. Dengue fever is no joke.

There is no cure for dengue fever – not even any special medication you can take. You just have to wait for it to go away, and you must not take painkillers with aspirin in them as this can cause internal bleeding. There is a severe form of haemorrhagic dengue fever, which can kill you, especially if you are a child or an elderly person. Now, dengue fever has spread dramatically over the last few decades; according to the World Health Organization, 40 per cent of the world’s population is at risk. In 2013, 2.35 million cases of dengue were reported in the Americas, of which 37,687 cases were severe dengue.

An aedes aegypti mosquito.

An aedes aegypti mosquito, which spreads dengue fever and also the chikungunya fever which has now arrived in the Caribbean.

A new mosquito-borne disease has appeared in the Caribbean recently. It is called chikungunya fever, and it seems to have started in St. Martin. Today, Health Minister Dr. Fenton Ferguson noted that it is now present in ten Caribbean nations. It is spread by the same mosquito as dengue fever, and the symptoms sound similar. Again, there is no cure and no vaccination against it.

What on earth can we do about all of this? While scientists try to find vaccines for this and other vector-borne diseases, we can take measures to prevent mosquitoes from breeding. Apart from spraying chemicals around (and can we please keep this to an absolute minimum?) we know we should not have garbage lying around. We should avoid having even the smallest breeding spot where there is standing water in and around our yards. Sleep under mosquito nets. I always close the windows and doors for a while in early mornings and at dusk, when the mosquitoes are most active. You might consider window screens. And do invest in that zapper!

Here's what Carron Hall resident Isilda Leanor, 72, wants to see for World Health Day in Jamaica! (Photo: HelpAge International Jamaica Facebook page)

Here’s what Carron Hall resident Isilda Leanor, 72, wants to see for World Health Day in Jamaica! (Photo: HelpAge International Jamaica Facebook page)

P.S. Here in Jamaica, HelpAge International Jamaica has participated in a campaign spanning forty countries called Age Demands Action on health. Specifically, HelpAge in Jamaica is calling for an end to discrimination against seniors in the healthcare system. This should be a year-round campaign, I think. Do support it.

The Antillean Nighthawk loves to feed on mosquitoes.

The Antillean Nighthawk loves to feed on mosquitoes.

And one more thing: Did you know that many Caribbean birds actually eat mosquitoes and other flying pests? The Antillean Night Hawk – that bird with the rattling cry that begins to dart around at dusk – and all the swifts and swallows. Migratory birds such as our winter visitor warblers, and even hummingbirds will eat mosquitoes. Yes, birds are very useful creatures.

ADA leaders in El Salvador join the campaign by calling on their authorities for better access to healthcare! (Photo: HelpAge International Jamaica Facebook page)

ADA leaders in El Salvador join the campaign by calling on their authorities for better access to healthcare! (Photo: HelpAge International Jamaica Facebook page)

World Health Day 2014 in Timor-Leste (East Timor) in southeast Asia - a region especially badly affected by vector-borne diseases. (Photo: Twitter)

World Health Day 2014 in Timor-Leste (East Timor) in southeast Asia – a region especially badly affected by vector-borne diseases. (Photo: Twitter)

Birds Do So Much For Us: A Special Webinar for the Caribbean

The Caribbean Endemic Birds Festival and BirdsCaribbean invite you to a Webinar on “Why Birds Matter” on Monday, April 7, 2014 from 12:00 noon to 1:00 p.m. EDT (that is 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon, Jamaican time).

Scott Johnson (in yellow, left) talks to a group of Grenadian Boy Scouts at last year's

Scott Johnson (in yellow, left) talks to a group of Grenadian Boy Scouts, who volunteered at last year’s 19th Regional Meeting of the Society for the Conservation & Study of Caribbean Birds (now renamed BirdsCaribbean) at St. George’s University, Grenada in July, 2012. Also sitting in is Lester Doodnath, a member of BirdsCaribbean’s Media Working Group from Trinidad and Tobago. (My photo)

Scott Johnson, Education Officer at the Bahamas National Trust and Chairperson of BirdsCaribbean’s Media Working Group will be speaking on the topic “Ten Reasons Why Caribbean Birds Matter” - the theme of the 2014 Caribbean Endemic Bird Festival - which is celebrated throughout the region from April 24 to May 24, 2014.

Although often unknown or unnoticed, birds play many indispensable roles that enrich the ecosystems and economies of the Caribbean. They act as garbage men, gardeners, fish-finders and tourist attractions. The Caribbean as we know it couldn’t exist without them. Best of all, they do all this work for free!

But for all the good things birds have given us, what have we given back to them? Please join us to learn about these amazing creatures and find the answer to this timely question.

To register for the webinar, copy and paste this link into your browser: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/2076749123836784130

1392615_664114253620560_184421205_n

BirdsCaribbean - formerly the Society for the Conservation and Study of Caribbean Birds (SCSCB) - is a non-profit organization, a vibrant network of members and partners committed to conserving the birds of the Caribbean and their habitats. Its mission is to conserve the birds of the Caribbean and their habitats through conservation, education, capacity building and research. Its overarching goal is to increase the capacity of Caribbean ornithologists, resource managers, conservation organizations, institutions, and local citizens to conserve the birds of the Caribbean and their habitats. More than 80,000 local people participate in our programs each year, making BirdsCaribbean the most broad-based conservation organization in the region.

BirdsCaribbean works by building networks and partnerships with local, national and international organizations and institutions that share our bird conservation goals to develop regional projects, activities, and materials that facilitate local research, management, conservation, education and outreach. We have partners and members on every island. Some of our international partners and supporters include US Fish and Wildlife Service, US Forest Service, Royal Society for the Protection of Caribbean Birds, Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, Wetlands International, and BirdLife International.

BirdsCaribbean’s programs are implemented through working groups, which are informal networks of experts and enthusiasts. Some of the most active groups include West Indian Whistling-Duck and Wetlands, Media, Seabirds, Invasives, Bird Monitoring, Caribbean Wildlife Art, Parrot, Bicknell’s Thrush, Diablotin (Black-capped Petrel), and others.

BirdsCaribbean works throughout the insular Caribbean, including Bermuda, Bahamas, Trinidad and Tobago, and all islands in the Caribbean basin.

For more on BirdsCaribbean, visit the Birds Caribbean Facebook page, follow on Twitter @BirdsCaribbean or visit the website: http://www.scscb.org

Support our birds! They support us!

Why Birds Matter

Why Birds Matter

Wednesday Words: April 2, 2014

There have been some interesting developments this week, already. With the end of the financial year and the Budget coming up, this month promises to be a challenging one. The new Parliamentary session will open tomorrow (April 3) with the usual parade of politicians all dressed up for the occasion.

Terrence Williams, head of the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM), speaks with members of the media while Kahmile Reid, senior communications officer of INDECOM, looks on during a press conference at INDECOM's head office in New Kingston yesterday. - (Photo: Rudolph Brown/Gleaner)

Terrence Williams, head of the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM), speaks with members of the media while Kahmile Reid, senior communications officer of INDECOM, looks on during a press conference at INDECOM’s head office in New Kingston yesterday. – (Photo: Rudolph Brown/Gleaner)

The INDECOM Effect: The Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) gave an important press briefing yesterday, which raised a number of issues. One impressive figure to note: police killings were way down in the first quarter of the year (40) compared to 2013, when there were 76.

The death squads: INDECOM has been investigating allegations of “death squads” in the police force, and yesterday announced that “there is great reason to believe” that eight cases in which nine Jamaicans were killed in the parish of Clarendon “were, indeed, police-involved homicides.” One policeman has been charged for the murder of Adif Washington, who was shot in Milk River but not killed; masked gunmen stormed into the hospital ward where he was recovering and killed him in January 2013. The same policeman has been charged with three other murders, and three other Clarendon policemen have been charged with murder since January. Some fifty police officers have been charged with various crimes, but none have come up in court yet, although INDECOM chief Terrence Williams said INDECOM is “trying its best” to get them to court. He noted one case that has been awaiting trial for nearly two years already.

Masked men: Human rights activist Horace Levy commented on radio that the police cannot be continually in “defensive mode” when such revelations are made; they must examine themselves. The Jamaica Constabulary Force’s (JCF) response to INDECOM’s announcements was confused, to say the least: At first the JCF was “unaware.” Two subsequent releases noted that the JCF “strategically denied” and then “categorically denied” the reports. But then the police urged investigations to move ahead as quickly as possible. 

Glad to see though that the JCF referred a rather unpleasant incident at the Steer Town Academy, a high school in St. Ann, to INDECOM. A group of police officers entered the school compound; one, whose child is reportedly a student at the school, allegedly pushed the Principal. This is the kind of thing that has to stop!

Energy Minister Phillip Paulwell

Energy Minister Phillip Paulwell.

The Minister insists: Energy Minister Phillip Paulwell insisted on television in January that he was ready to sign off on a license for Energy World International (EWI) to construct a 35 megawatt power plant. Concerns have been raised in various quarters, but the Minister is adamant. He will go ahead and sign the license, after the Office of Utilities Regulation cleared the way on March 26. You will recall the confidentiality clause in the due diligence report that the OUR said would not allow it to disclose any details. So transparency has been minimal. Why do I have a bad feeling about this?

So Minister Omar Davies has signed a “Framework Agreement with China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) for the development of a transshipment hub in the Portland Bight.” I presume the Jamaica Information Service meant the port. This is pretty dismal news. See the photo below, with the silent Minister of Environment and Climate Change leaning forward eagerly to see the agreement, whose contents will likely never be made public. This was wrapped up with an agreement to study the possible damming of the Bog Walk Gorge, which had already been announced. Again, zero transparency.

Portland Bight, in southern Jamaica, was designated a Wetland of International Importance on World Wetland Day, February 2, 2006. The Jamaican Government is now seriously considering a demand from Chinese investors to build a transshipment port in the area, which is protected by law and includes recently established fish sanctuaries.  (Photo: Gleaner)

Portland Bight, in southern Jamaica, was designated a Wetland of International Importance on World Wetland Day, February 2, 2006. The Jamaican Government is now seriously considering a demand from Chinese investors to build a transshipment port in the area, which is protected by law and includes recently established fish sanctuaries. (Photo: Gleaner)

“We treasure the preservation of the environment, as much as any other group, and we are concerned about the human beings and the plight of poverty, and the impact which that has on the environment,” said the Minister, repeating the Government’s fallacious mantra that poverty is the most damaging thing that can happen to the environment. Once again, no. The most damaging thing would be dredging the seabed, dynamiting an island and destroying mangrove forest to create a port made of concrete and a coal-fired power plant!

Minister of Transport, Works and Housing, Dr. the Hon. Omar Davies (4th left), presents Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China in Jamaica, Mr. Xiaojun Dong (2nd left), after signing the document with China Engineering Company (CHEC) for the development of a transshipment hub in the Portland Bight and a feasibility study on the damming of the Bog Walk Gorge, at the Ministry in Kingston, on March 28. Sharing in the occasion are (from left): General Manager of CHEC, Mr. Zhongdong Tang; Minister of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining, Hon. Phillip Paulwell; Minister with responsibility for Housing, Hon. Dr. Morais Guy, and Minister of Water, Land Environment and Climate Change, Hon. Robert Pickersgill. (Photo: JIS)

Minister of Transport, Works and Housing, Dr. the Hon. Omar Davies (4th left), presents Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China in Jamaica, Mr. Xiaojun Dong (2nd left), after signing the document with China Engineering Company (CHEC) for the development of a transshipment hub in the Portland Bight and a feasibility study on the damming of the Bog Walk Gorge, at the Ministry in Kingston, on March 28. Sharing in the occasion are (from left): General Manager of CHEC, Mr. Zhongdong Tang; Minister of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining, Hon. Phillip Paulwell; Minister with responsibility for Housing, Hon. Dr. Morais Guy, and Minister of Water, Land Environment and Climate Change, Hon. Robert Pickersgill. (Photo: JIS)Ja needs waste disposal policy. Duh.

Meanwhile Jamaican workers employed by the China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) on the North-South Highway have been on strike for a week. I’m not clear whether their grievances have been addressed.

Where are those engineering jobs? A qualified Jamaican engineer told a radio program this evening that she has  made over 70 job applications since returning to Jamaica a year ago, but is still jobless. I understand there should be great demand for engineers when the logistics hub takes shape (but then, it’s not here yet, is it).  Is the STEM field really opening up in Jamaica at all (I asked this question in a recent blog)? STEM is Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

Pity the poor farmers: There have been more cases of praedial larceny recently (the theft of valuable animals). Neither the police nor the Agriculture Ministry has ever been able to get a handle on this problem, or find any solution; there are very few prosecutions. Now farmers in the Plantain Garden River Agro-Park in St. Thomas are still struggling to pay off their loans, after their crops failed. Wake up, Minister Roger Clarke!

And we need to get overseas funding to repair our fire hydrants? Once again, the Japanese Government has come up with the funds (some J$13 million). A survey of over 13,000 hydrants across Jamaica of which over 4,000 are in need of repair and servicing.

Prime Minister the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller (second left), and Indian High Commissioner to Jamaica, His Excellency Shri Pratap Singh (second right), hold the signed Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), that will see the Indian Government providing US$2.1 million for the installation of flood lights at Sabina Park. The signing took place at Sabina Park on April 1. Minister with responsibility for Sport, Hon. Natalie Neita Headley (right), and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator the Hon. A.J. Nicholson, witnessed the signing. (Photo: JIS)

Prime Minister the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller (second left), and Indian High Commissioner to Jamaica, His Excellency Shri Pratap Singh (second right), hold the signed Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), that will see the Indian Government providing US$2.1 million for the installation of flood lights at Sabina Park. The signing took place at Sabina Park on April 1. Minister with responsibility for Sport, Hon. Natalie Neita Headley (right), and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator the Hon. A.J. Nicholson, witnessed the signing. (Photo: JIS)

 

And another grant for lighting up cricket matches: I’m not a cricket expert but understand that our Kingston cricket ground, Sabina Park, really needs lights so that it can stage the popular 20/20 matches, which bring in more income. Now a passionate cricketing nation has come up with a grant of over US$2 million (wow) to provide lighting. Thank you, Indian Government!

Total irrelevance: Meanwhile the churches are ignoring all the burning issues in society, and getting stressed out about “daylight Sabbath” and other issues relating to pending legislation on a flexible working week. OK, then.

Japanese Ambassador to Jamaica, His Excellency Yasuo Takese hands over cheque to outgoing Commissioner of the Jamaica Fire Brigade, Laurie Williams, at the Ministry of Local Government and Community Development in Kingston, on March 27. Looking on are (from left): Chairman of the Jamaica Fire Brigade, Mr. Jalil Dabdoub Jnr., and Acting Commissioner of the Jamaica Fire Brigade, Errol Mowatt. (Photo: JIS)

Japanese Ambassador to Jamaica, His Excellency Yasuo Takese hands over cheque to outgoing Commissioner of the Jamaica Fire Brigade, Laurie Williams, at the Ministry of Local Government and Community Development in Kingston, on March 27. Looking on are (from left): Chairman of the Jamaica Fire Brigade, Mr. Jalil Dabdoub Jnr., and Acting Commissioner of the Jamaica Fire Brigade, Errol Mowatt. (Photo: JIS)

I have some nice Petchary Awards to hand out, as follows:

  • Dr. Henry Lowe, the distinguished and enterprising Jamaican scientist, who continues to develop and expand research into Jamaica’s natural healing plants. Dr. Lowe is also Executive Chairman of Environmental Health Foundation Group of Companies and operator of Kingston’s recently rebranded health and wellness center, Eden Gardens – which is now a totally “green” facility. Good for him, and may his work go from strength to strength. I do like his suggestion that the Government implement policies and programs to transform Kingston into a “green city.” But won’t hold my breath.
Prime Minister the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller (centre), takes a closer look at a bottle of supplements on display inside the herbal and gift store at the Eden Gardens Wellness Resort and Spa, as Executive Chairman, Dr. Henry Lowe (right), and his wife Janet, introduce her to more of the shop’s offerings. Occasion was the launch of the newly redeveloped and rebranded facility on March 25, at its Lady Musgrave Road location, in Kingston. (Photo: JIS)

Prime Minister the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller (centre), takes a closer look at a bottle of supplements on display inside the herbal and gift store at the Eden Gardens Wellness Resort and Spa, as Executive Chairman, Dr. Henry Lowe (right), and his wife Janet, introduce her to more of the shop’s offerings. Occasion was the launch of the newly redeveloped and rebranded facility on March 25, at its Lady Musgrave Road location, in Kingston. (Photo: JIS)

  • 23-year-old Ainsworth (Ainzy) Morris, who has been nominated in the Journalism Category in the Prime Minister’s Youth Awards, organized by the Youth and Culture Ministry. Good luck, Ainzy! And good luck to all the nominees in various categories!

BkLSrtVCUAINC80.png-large

Leo studies a skin of a Vincentian parrot at the American Museum of Natural History. This species is threatened with endangerment, in part due to strong pressure from wildlife poachers. (Photo: NCEP blog)

Leo studies a skin of a Vincentian parrot at the American Museum of Natural History. This species is threatened with endangerment, in part due to strong pressure from wildlife poachers. (Photo: NCEP blog)

  • Dr. Leo Douglas, Jamaican Fulbright Scholar, who took over recently as President of BirdsCaribbean (formerly the Society for the Conservation & Study of Caribbean Birds). Leo is a research scholar in the Department of Geography/Geology and an honorary research fellow in the Institute for Sustainable Development (ISD) at the University of the West Indies. The Network of Conservation Educators & Practitioners recently announced him as its March 2014 Professor of the Month.
The winning Kingston College team celebrates after Schools Challenge Quiz on television. In the background are Campion College team members, whom they beat by a very narrow margin. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

The winning Kingston College team celebrates after Schools Challenge Quiz on television. In the background are Campion College team members, whom they beat by a very narrow margin. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

  • The winners of Schools’ Challenge Quiz, a long-running television quiz show, Kingston College. They squeezed out a narrow win against Campion College, another Kingston high school. This year Television Jamaica seems to have hyped up the finals excessively, with a “pre-show,” etc. But I guess they were aiming for a high viewership.

Armed men fired at a one-bedroom house in rural Lyssons, St. Thomas, hitting a seven-year-old boy, who is in serious condition in hospital. What makes me especially sad about this story is that his distraught mother ran out onto the main road with her son in her arms, but for some time no one stopped to help her take him to hospital. As she started running, eventually someone stopped for her. My condolences to the families of the following murder victims:

Robert Mendez, 41, Maxfield Avenue/Half Way Tree, Kingston 10

Kenneth Grant, 27, Priory, St. Ann

Anthony McCarthy, 34, Aboukir, St. Ann

On the road: The National Road Safety Council reports that 79 people have been killed on our roads since the start of the year. This number seems very high.

Payless Motors on Maxfield Avenue in Kingston was closed for business yesterday following the murder of its manager, Robert Mendez. (Photo: Joseph Wellington/Jamaica Observer)

Payless Motors on Maxfield Avenue in Kingston was closed for business yesterday following the murder of its manager, Robert Mendez. (Photo: Joseph Wellington/Jamaica Observer)

 

Jahmauny Robinson, aged seven, was seriously injured by gunmen in Lyssons, St. Thomas. His mother Nordia Johnson ran down the main road with him in her arms. (Photo: Michael Gordon/Jamaica Observer)

Jahmauny Robinson, aged seven, was seriously injured by gunmen in Lyssons, St. Thomas. His mother Nordia Johnson ran down the main road with him in her arms. (Photo: Michael Gordon/Jamaica Observer)

 

A Lively Week: Sunday, March 30, 2014

What with the UWI Great Debate and other discussions in and out of the media, the week has been more than usually combative and lively. That’s Jamaica for you!

Cynicism abounds: The dismissal of the corruption charges against former Member of Parliament and Junior Minister Kern Spencer and his personal assistant last week continues to spark some deeply satirical commentary. Mark Wignall’s column in the Sunday Observer is headlined “Kern Spencer for Prime Minister.” 

Happy Mr. Kern Spencer outside the courthouse after corruption charges against him were dismissed.

Happy Mr. Kern Spencer outside the courthouse after corruption charges against him were dismissed.

Vybz Kartel going into the courthouse last week.

Vybz Kartel going into the courthouse last week.

Jailhouse rock, or equivalent: So now the judge is trying to decide whether dancehall star and convicted murderer Vybz Kartel will be allowed to make recordings while in jail (but not actually earn money from them). Another convict musical star, Jah Cure, who was doing time for rape, did make music while behind bars and the proceeds went towards his rehabilitation. He is out of jail now and apparently rehabilitated.

Protesting too much: I am not convinced by the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party’s (JLP) concerns that the human rights of the Jamaican people should be of paramount importance in the upcoming enquiry into the Tivoli Gardens massacre of May, 2010. Their administration did not appear unduly concerned at the time about such matters. I think the JLP must be dreading the Enquiry. Meanwhile, the JLP Member of Parliament for the area Desmond McKenzie is supporting the Public Defender’s and Independent Commission of Investigation’s (INDECOM) view that the Enquiry should not go ahead before incomplete ballistics reports are available. The Minister of Justice says the reports are not necessary for the purpose of the Enquiry. The plot is likely to thicken.

The Patriarchy strikes back, again: A (poorly edited) opinion column on the editorial page of the Sunday Gleaner by a “freelance journalist, author and entertainment consultant” named Milton Wray had my head spinning. Under the headline “Are women natural leaders?” I read the most sexist, misogynistic, demeaning and at times truly offensive ramblings. Mr. Wray sees “modern woman” as a “threat” to the family and the society at large. It’s accompanied by an awful photograph of “the female senator” (he does not name her) Imani Duncan-Price, who recently introduced the issue of quotas for women in some areas of public life. The photo makes her look quite frightening (which she isn’t!) What century are we living in, Mr. Wray?

I suppose the Gleaner is seeking to be controversial again, to spark discussion and so on. Meanwhile it is deleting online comments that disagree with the article. I suppose it has the right to do so but what is the aim here – to manipulate the reading public’s opinions? As I have said before, the standard of commentary in the Sunday Gleaner in particular continues its downward slide. And although some believe it’s not worth responding to… One has to register a protest at this.

Don’t panic:  Financial writer and Executive Director of the Private Sector Organization of Jamaica Dennis Chung says the government must hang in there and not be panicked into imposing new taxes in the upcoming Budget, despite the fact that tax revenues have been below target. But can we stay the course? It needs a cool head, but thankfully Finance Minister Peter Phillips’ approach is much more measured than his predecessor Omar Davies’ predilection for incurring debt.

Prime Minister of Jamaica Portia Simpson Miller. (Photo: Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

Prime Minister of Jamaica Portia Simpson Miller. (Photo: Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

Why do we need a National Cultural and Creative Industries Commission? Well, the Prime Minister wanted one, so she has got it. She and various stakeholders will hold meetings from time to time, and talk a lot. “We need to recognise how important these industries are for both economic growth and national development imperatives,” says the PM. Don’t we already have the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JCDC)? What about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), which the rest of the world is forging ahead with? How are we doing with that? Not to say culture does not have its place, but… Quoting from a headline in Mark Wignall’s column today: “Fast runners and slick deejays cannot help Jamaica’s development.” Let’s not fool ourselves.

Minister of Transport, Works and Housing, Dr. the Hon. Omar Davies (3rd left), signs a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), with China Engineering Company (CHEC) for a feasibility study on the damming of the Bog Walk Gorge, at the Ministry in Kingston, on March 28. Also participating are (from left): Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China in Jamaica, Mr. Xiaojun Dong; Minister of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining, Hon. Phillip Paulwell; and Minister of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change, Hon. Robert Pickersgill. In the back row (from left) are: Commercial Counsellor at the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China, Mrs. Lei Liu (left); Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Transport, Works and Housing, Mrs. Audrey Sewell and Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change, Dr. Alwin Hayles. (Photo: JIS)

Minister of Transport, Works and Housing, Dr. the Hon. Omar Davies (3rd left), signs a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), with China Engineering Company (CHEC) for a feasibility study on the damming of the Bog Walk Gorge, at the Ministry in Kingston, on March 28. Also participating are (from left): Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China in Jamaica, Mr. Xiaojun Dong; Minister of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining, Hon. Phillip Paulwell; and Minister of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change, Hon. Robert Pickersgill. In the back row (from left) are: Commercial Counsellor at the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China, Mrs. Lei Liu (left); Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Transport, Works and Housing, Mrs. Audrey Sewell and Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change, Dr. Alwin Hayles. (Photo: JIS)

Retirement Dump, Montego Bay on Friday, March 28, 2014. (Photo: Jamaica Environment Trust)

Retirement Dump, Montego Bay on Friday, March 28, 2014. (Photo: Jamaica Environment Trust)

Next up…Bog Walk Gorge: So on Friday, quite out of the blue, Minister of Transport and Works Omar Davies signed a Memorandum of Understanding with – yes, you’ve guessed it – China Harbour Engineering Company, to dam the Rio Cobre on the picturesque Bog Walk Gorge. Now where did that come from? Were there any other bidders? Was it discussed in Parliament? What are the possible environmental impacts? Will it really produce much in terms of hydro-electric power, and at what cost? What will happen to the historic Flat Bridge, which is over 200 years old and still in use?

Meanwhile, the logistics hub PR machine churns onward, with the appointment of Ms. Tastey Blackman (is that really her name?) to a new position, that of Manager of Logistics and Emerging Markets at JAMPRO, the government’s investment agency. She is taking a delegation to the LATAM Ports and Logistics Summit in Panama next week. We await more government press releases, with bated breath.

Former banker Dunbar McFarlane.

Former banker Dunbar McFarlane.

An interesting development: I felt sad when we passed by the empty Palmyra luxury resort development near Montego Bay recently. Well, a New York-based firm, Philangco Corporation, is reportedly interested in bidding for the condominium towers in Rose Hall. The firm is planning to use a new hydrogen-powered fuel system to provide power called Elhydro. I note the firm’s chief financial officer is former Jamaican banker Dunbar McFarlane. Philangco may partner with the Jamaican Government in developing the energy source, which McFarlane’s partner Phillip Scott has developed and patented in the United States and Jamaica. We shall see.

Kingston College students march along Tom Redcam Avenue to the Boys' and Girls' Championships at the National Stadium yesterday. (Photo: Norman Grindley/Gleaner)

Kingston College students march along Tom Redcam Avenue to the Boys’ and Girls’ Championships at the National Stadium. (Photo: Norman Grindley/Gleaner)

The annual ritual that is “Boys’ Champs” is playing itself out at the National Stadium as I write. The wailing of distant vuvuzelas fills the air (no, the students haven’t given up on those hideous inventions, yet) as the high schools compete for glory. Roads around the Stadium are jammed with traffic. The flags of the major competing high schools flutter from cars on the road. This time there was a “peace march” by some 350 students to start off. I hope that some seriousness was attached to it. And I hope the authorities will consider drug testing for the student athletes. Yes, I think it should be done.

Jamaica time: I participated in no less than three separate activities in different parts of the UWI campus on Thursday. All three started between twenty and thirty minutes late. The other day I was telling someone I thought Jamaicans were becoming more punctual. I may have to reconsider that statement…

Big ups and thanks to:

Health Minister Dr Fenton Ferguson (second left) participates in the symbolic presentation of a $123-million (US$117,176) grant agreement being provided by the Government of Japan to the Bustamante Hospital for Children for the acquisition of vital medical equipment, following Wednesday’s signing ceremony at the institution. Also participating are the hospital Chief Executive Officer Anthony Wood (left); Chargé d’Affaires at the Japanese Embassy in Jamaica Koji Tomita (second right); and the South East Regional Health Authority’s acting chairman, Dr Andrei Cooke. (PHOTO: JIS)

Health Minister Dr Fenton Ferguson (second left) participates in the symbolic presentation of a $123-million (US$117,176) grant agreement being provided by the Government of Japan to the Bustamante Hospital for Children for the acquisition of vital medical equipment, following Wednesday’s signing ceremony at the institution. Also participating are the hospital Chief Executive Officer Anthony Wood (left); Chargé d’Affaires at the Japanese Embassy in Jamaica Koji Tomita (second right); and the South East Regional Health Authority’s acting chairman, Dr Andrei Cooke. (PHOTO: JIS)

  • The Government of Japan for its support for important social needs in Jamaica. The Japanese Embassy donated J$123 million to the Bustamante Hospital for Children for urgently needed equipment. Thank you!
Supreme Ventures logo.

Supreme Ventures logo.

  • Supreme Ventures, for their generous, ongoing support for Eve for Life, the non-governmental organization that supports teenage and young mothers living with HIV and their children. We are truly grateful for your recent donation and for all your support in the past!
Randy McLaren in performance at the University of the West Indies last Thursday. (My photo)

Randy McLaren in performance at the University of the West Indies last Thursday. (My photo)

  • Randy McLaren (the “Kriativ Aktivis”) who presented an entertaining lunchtime concert at the University of the West Indies (UWI) last week – entertainment with a biting social commentary. Well done, Randy – I can see you are maturing very nicely as an artist.
Jamaican jazz guitarist Ernie Ranglin.

Jamaican jazz guitarist Ernie Ranglin.

  • It’s hard to believe that the wonderful guitarist Ernie Ranglin is 82 years old. The Gleaner calls him a “ska and reggae guitarist” and indeed Mr. Ranglin has played in many genres. I think he is most famous for his jazz style, these days (and I heard him in concert some ten years ago, a marvel!) He has mostly played overseas, and his latest album is called “Bless Up,”  with international musicians Inx Herman, Jonathan Korty, and Yossi Fine. Good to hear he’s still going strong!
A friend's Earth Hour "selfie" - truly lights out!

Where are you? A friend’s Earth Hour “selfie” – truly lights out!

  • All those involved in the organization of the Earth Hour Acoustic Concert last night, which by all accounts was a great success. Special kudos to Rootz Underground’s Stephen Newland, who is often at the forefront of environmental awareness programs. It was good to see so many young people enjoying the music and understanding the message too!
Calabar High School’s Class Three sprint king Tyreke Wilson poses beside the display board showing his impressive new record achieved in the 200m. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

Calabar High School’s Class Three sprint king Tyreke Wilson poses beside the display board showing his impressive new record achieved in the 200m. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

  • Calabar High School (boys) and Edwin Allen High School (girls) athletes, who came out on top in the ISSA GraceKennedy Boys’ and Girls’ Athletics Championships, which ended yesterday at the National Stadium. As usual, the competition was fierce, and many records were broken.
Edwin Allen High's Marleena Eubanks salutes her supporters as she crosses the line to win the Class One 800m final in 2:06.51 at the ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys and Girls' Championships at the National Stadium yesterday. - Photo by Ricardo Makyn/Gleaner

Edwin Allen High’s Marleena Eubanks salutes her supporters as she crosses the line to win the Class One 800m final in 2:06.51 at the ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys and Girls’ Championships at the National Stadium yesterday. (Photo: Ricardo Makyn/Gleaner)

Flyer for Edna Manley School of Dance 18th Season of Performances.

Flyer for Edna Manley School of Dance 18th Season of Performances.

  • And if you enjoy dance, come out next week and support the students of the Edna Manley College School of Dance in Kingston for their 18th Season of Dance. There will be several performances throughout the week, culminating in their Gala Night on Sunday, April 6.

My condolences to the families and friends of the following Jamaicans who lost their lives violently over the past four days.

Kirk Palmer, 42, Cornwall Courts/Montego Bay, St. James

Bryan Martin, Orange Street/Montego Bay, St. James

Shanice Williams, 27, Hopewell, Hanover

Peta Rose, 64, Lumsden, St. Ann

Rushawn Myers, 20, Port Antonio, Portland

Lebert Balasal, 61, Little London, Westmoreland

Killed by police:

Paul O’Gilvie, 20, Alexandria, St. Ann

Unidentified man, Alexandria, St. Ann

On the road: 24-year-old Police Constable Christopher Foster appeared to have been speeding when he crashed into a stationary truck on Thursday morning in Manchester, and died. The car was virtually flattened. Over the weekend, three people were killed in two car crashes on the north coast, both apparently caused by speeding.

Police Constable Christopher Foster died in a tragic car crash.

Police Constable Christopher Foster died in a tragic car crash.

Earth Hour in Jamaica and the Caribbean

It was a warm night in Kingston, Jamaica. Down at the National Stadium, the annual high school athletics championships were drawing to an end, in a resounding climax of noise, vuvuzelas ringing (yes, we still have vuvuzelas in Jamaica, a throwback from the last football World Cup). For the sports fans and supporters of their respective schools (including those watching the live broadcast at home), there was no way that they were going to shut down for an hour.

Earth Hour at home in Kingston. Backdrop: Neighbors' loud party music!

Earth Hour at home in Kingston. Backdrop: Neighbors’ loud party music!

This was a pity, because from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. local time (everywhere, globally) millions celebrated Earth Hour by simply switching off. This was an easy thing for the two of us to do at home, since we had no interest in “Champs” anyway. We turned out all our lights and appliances at 8:30 p.m., lit candles and our oil lamp, and sat quietly in the dark, sipping wine and chatting. However, even then our reflective mood was completely spoiled by a close neighbor, who was having a party. Now, Jamaican parties are loud. They are non-negotiable. The music takes over. So we endured a great deal of distorted hip hop and dancehall music from our neighbor’s loudspeakers – before, during and after Earth Hour.

This tweet was sent with a photo of the acoustic concert: "Lanterns making their way to the sky in recognition of #EarthHourJA while #Nature brings "world peace" #greatmoment "

This tweet was sent with a photo of the acoustic concert: Lanterns making their way to the sky in recognition of #EarthHourJA while #Nature brings “world peace” #greatmoment 

Representatives of the telecoms firm Flow, together with Rootz Underground singer Stephen Newland (hidden, in the middle) release a lantern at the end of the Earth Hour acoustic concert in Kingston.

Representatives of the telecoms firm Flow, together with Rootz Underground singer Stephen Newland (hidden, in the middle) release a lantern at the end of the Earth Hour acoustic concert in Kingston.

This, too, was unfortunate – especially since our neighbors rarely indulge in parties these days, but chose this particular night to do so. Not too far away, though, a special Earth Hour acoustic concert was taking place at the Ranny Williams Entertainment Centre. The concert was free and open to the public; several local firms were sponsors, with some of them holding special Twitter events and photo competitions. It was really good to see the private sector on board; and to read the many comments from appreciative participants.  Lanterns were released into the night sky. There were glow sticks and bangles, and sparklers (what Jamaicans call “starlights”). There were “good vibes.”

Elsewhere in the Caribbean, other countries held their own celebrations – small, private or public, it mattered not. The important thing was to recognize and honor our Planet. After all, it’s the only one we’ve got.

Please see below some more photos of Earth Hour in Jamaica and elsewhere in the Caribbean… I don’t have live photos of all the events, however, although I gleaned as many as possible from Facebook pages.

Earth Hour Barbados.

Earth Hour Barbados.

Earth Hour 2015 in the Caribbean will be even bigger and better!

Earth Hour 2015 in the Caribbean will be even bigger and better!

Earth Hour at the University of Belize.

Earth Hour at the University of Belize.

Earth Hour Curacao.

Earth Hour Curacao.

 

Hora Del Planeta in Dominican Republic.

Hora Del Planeta in Dominican Republic.

Students from Bishop Anstey Trinity College East Sixth Form celebrating Earth Hour in Trinidad and Tobago.

Students from Bishop Anstey Trinity College East Sixth Form celebrating Earth Hour in Trinidad and Tobago.

Spiderman was out in support at the Trinidad Hilton.

Spiderman was out in support at the Trinidad Hilton.

Earth Strong TT and Trinidad Carnival Diary prepared solar-powered lanterns for Earth Hour.

Earth Strong TT and Trinidad Carnival Diary prepared solar-powered lanterns for Earth Hour.

Members of the Aruba Community Group get to work on some beautiful art for Earth Hour.

Members of the Aruba Community Group get to work on some beautiful art for Earth Hour.

Earth Hour at Fort Zoutman, Aruba. (Photo: Facebook)

Earth Hour at Fort Zoutman, Aruba. (Photo: Facebook)

The concert glowed...

The concert in Kingston just glowed…

Sparklers!

Sparklers! In Kingston

Flow's staff joined an Earth Hour promotion on Facebook.

Flow’s staff joined an Earth Hour promotion on Facebook.

Jamaica Yellow Pages' Earth Hour flyer.

Jamaica Yellow Pages’ Earth Hour flyer.

Are You Ready for Earth Hour?

Tomorrow – Saturday, March 29, 2014 – lights will go out across the globe from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m., local time. It’s just over 17 hours away in New Zealand.

Earth Hour 2014.

Earth Hour 2014.

Earth Hour is about much more than “lights out.” It is a global movement that aims to create an inter-connected global community that will create opportunities to create a sustainable world (and face the challenges, too!) This year Spiderman has just zoomed in as Special Ambassador for Earth Hour.

How did Earth Hour get started? It started with one city – the beautiful city of Sydney. Then Communications Director with World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Australia Andy Ridley convened a think tank in 2004 to discuss one simple action that would turn the spotlight on climate change. On March 31, 2007, over two million households and 2,000 businesses in Sydney turned their lights out for the inaugural Earth Hour. Since then, Earth Hour has steadily gathered momentum. It has garnered the backing of tens of thousands of businesses, including Google, Blackberry, HSBC, IKEA, Nickelodeon, PwC and many other multinationals. Earth Hour has also attracted support from governments at all levels and high profile global ambassadors including UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. If you look at the Earth Hour website you will see how many countries are involved this year (roughly 150!). Earth Hour Global is now headquartered in Singapore. The movement also serves as a platform for a number of climate change-related projects globally, some of them crowd-funded.

Check in with F1rst during Earth Hour in the Caribbean...

Check in with F1rst during Earth Hour in the Caribbean…

Several Caribbean countries are getting involved in Earth Hour. And the plan is to make this a regional, coordinated effort in coming years. Under the theme “Earth Hour Blue,” Caribbean people, organizations and businesses across the region will be raising awareness of our changing climate. We are small islands, but we can do something to keep the balance. The focus will be on living sustainably, acting responsibly and eating locally.

In Jamaica there will be a free acoustic concert at the Ranny Williams Centre in Kingston from 6:00 to 10:30 p.m., featuring Rootz Underground and many other local performers. A number of local businesses, including telecoms firm Columbus Communications (Flow) have come on board. “Our partnership for the Earth Hour concert enables us to demonstrate our commitment to action on climate change via initiatives to minimize our negative impact on the environment,” says Flow’s Corporate Communications Director Gail Abrahams.

Stephen Newland with teachers at the Little London Primary School in Westmoreland.

Stephen Newland with teachers at the Little London Primary School in Westmoreland.

A word on Rootz Underground: Earth Hour Caribbean movement has selected the band’s frontman Stephen Newland as “one of the Caribbean’s Earth Superheroes.” Earth Caribbean notes on its Facebook page:  “As lead singer of the popular reggae band Rootz Underground Stephen and his band mates have always made an effort to promote an interest in agriculture amongst the younger generation through their music. In October 2012 he launched the Lasco Releaf Environmental Awareness Program (R.E.A.P.) which is a recycling, conservation and tree planting initiative in primary schools. R.E.A.P aims to get primary-level school children more actively involved in the environment around them. One practical way to combat climate change is to plant more trees in order to take excess carbon out of the atmosphere. Younger trees absorb carbon dioxide quickly while they are growing. Tree planting initiatives are therefore always welcomed in the fight against climate change. For his efforts to make young people more aware of their environment and using tree planting as a preventative measure against Climate Change we salute Stephen Newland, our Caribbean Earth Superhero!”  

Earth Hour Acoustic Concert in Kingston, Jamaica.

Earth Hour Acoustic Concert in Kingston, Jamaica.

What can we do on an individual basis? Before, during and after Earth Hour 2014, let’s find out more about what we can do for our blue planet. Join an environmental action organization in your neighborhood (or start one). Support causes that can help our environment live and breathe – after all, we are the environment! Get some “green” practices going at home, in your workplace and in your community.

Use Your Power to…

raise consciousness

connect with your customers

find new partnerships

support each other

and simply celebrate our beautiful, blue Earth!

You Have the Power: At the very least, turn your lights out for an hour tomorrow night. It’s a time for reflection.

For more information on Earth Hour 2014, go to: www.earthhour.org., “Like” Earth Hour and Earth Hour Caribbean on Facebook and follow on Twitter @earthhour and @EarthHourCARIB.

From Blue to Green…

A gentle reminder to join the inaugural Portland Bight Green Run on Sunday, April 27. It starts at 7:00 a.m. sharp at Vere Technical High School in Clarendon and ends in Pawsey Park, Lionel Town. The run is in support of the Caribbean Coastal Area Management Foundation’s (C-CAM) work in the Portland Bight Protected Area – which, despite the threat of a port to be built in the Goat Islands area, is celebrating 15 years as Jamaica’s largest Protected Area. To register and obtain more information, call: 289-8253 or email: ccamfngo@gmail.com. Also you can find C-CAM on Facebook!

Do join and support the inaugural "Green Run" in aid of the Caribbean Coastal Area Management Foundation's great work in the Portland Bight Protected Area.

Do join and support the inaugural “Green Run” in aid of the Caribbean Coastal Area Management Foundation’s great work in the Portland Bight Protected Area.

 

 

 

What a Week! Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The week started dramatically. In just five minutes and one or two sentences, Resident Magistrate (RM) Judith Pusey upheld a no-case submission by the defense, dismissing a corruption case against a well-known politician that had dragged on for six years. Former Minister of State in the Energy Ministry Kern Spencer and his personal assistant Colleen Wright were cleared of charges of money laundering, conspiracy to defraud and breaches of the Corruption Prevention Act. The news went down like a lead balloon in many circles; Spencer’s party supporters celebrated with him in his former constituency of N.E. St. Elizabeth.

Thumbs up from Kern Spencer.

Thumbs up from Kern Spencer.

We lost the thread: Part of the reason why this came as a shock was the incredibly slow progress of the trial. Although it was “high profile” I think the general public – and the media – lost the plot. The entire trial went on a long leave of absence (from April 13, 2010 to September 3, 2013) because of a legal battle between the RM and Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). It had stopped and started so many times before and since that hiatus that we had all lost track of the ins and outs of it. Be that as it may, the public perception is that there is one law for the politicians, and another for poor Jamaicans. One commentator compared this with the oft-quoted case of a man who was jailed for stealing J$350 worth of ackees on the grounds of King’s House. It would also have helped if the RM had expanded on her decision. There was no reasoning, no overview of evidence – just that there was no case to answer. The DPP on radio came close to saying that justice had not been served…

Right of appeal: The case highlighted the recently-discussed issue of the prosecution’s right to appeal. There is currently no such right, but just this morning the Government announced that it will begin work on legislation allowing for limited rights to appeal certain court decisions. A step in the right direction, I think.

Defence attorneys KD Knight (left) and Deborah Martin, for former energy junior minister Kern Spencer and his personal assistant Coleen Wright after the court ruled Monday morning that there was no case for the two to answer. (Photo: Paul Henry/Jamaica Observer)

Defence attorneys KD Knight (left) and Deborah Martin, for former energy junior minister Kern Spencer and his personal assistant Coleen Wright after the court ruled Monday morning that there was no case for the two to answer. (Photo: Paul Henry/Jamaica Observer)

“Corruption remains entrenched and widespread in Jamaica,” the U.S. State Department’s International Narcotics Control Strategy Report notes. “It is compounded by a judicial system that has a poor record of successfully prosecuting corruption cases against high-level gov officials.”  Meanwhile, the defense lawyer for Colleen Wright and government Senator K.D. Knight advises Kern Spencer not to consider re-entry into politics now. (He should bide his time, perhaps?)

A fish vendor talks to Mayor of Lucea Shernet Haughton during a visit to the market last year. (Photo: Claudia Gardner/Gleaner)

A fish vendor talks to Mayor of Lucea Shernet Haughton during a visit to the market last year. (Photo: Claudia Gardner/Gleaner)

“You know my taste, right!” Member of Parliament for West Hanover Ian Hayles (also State Minister in the Environment Ministry) is in hot water after his utterly misogynistic remarks at a public People’s National Party (PNP) meeting. The target of Mr. Hayles’ remarks was the 38-year-old Mayor of Lucea Shernet Haughton. Mr. Hayles is to face a disciplinary hearing of the PNP, and I hope he will issue a public apology. Meanwhile, women’s activist Joan Grant-Cummings noted that such episodes are a set-back as Jamaica seeks to improve its UN ranking on the status of women (we are not doing too well in the Millennium Development Goals). Such verbal abuse is sexual harassment, and Jamaica has no laws against that. Moreover, as Senator Kamina Johnson-Smith said, such behavior “has absolutely no place in politics.” Women in leadership positions in Jamaica appear to be under great pressure at the moment. 

Western Hanover Member of Parliament Ian Hayles.

Western Hanover Member of Parliament Ian Hayles.

“We have forgotten what our government is, you know. They are not our kings and queens. They are our servants. And when we ask for information we should get it.” So said CEO of the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) Diana McCaulay at this week’s community meeting in Old Harbour Bay. She was referring to the repeated refusal of the Government to provide information on the planned Goat Islands port to JET under the Access to Information Act.

Businessman Richard Byles, who heads the Economic Programme Oversight Committee.

Businessman Richard Byles, who heads the Economic Programme Oversight Committee.

The Economic Program Oversight Committee (EPOC), headed by businessman Richard Byles, keeps us firmly rooted in reality. It reports that tax revenues have fallen, helping to create a shortfall in the primary balance of payments for the first time since entering the International Monetary Fund (IMF) program. EPOC expressed some concerns that unless revenues are increased, the Government will have challenges as it enters the fourth quarter of the IMF program. Mr. Byles also expressed concern over the government’s indecisiveness on energy matters over the years, which he thinks has deterred investors; and matters related to the major power plant are still not resolved and ready to go.

Kingston Container Terminal. (Photo: Gleaner)

Kingston Container Terminal. (Photo: Gleaner)

Huge loss: Meanwhile, the heavily-indebted Port Authority of Jamaica - the government agency in charge of plans to build a port on Goat Islands – has recorded a J$2.23 billion net loss, mainly due to the depreciation of the Jamaican Dollar. Wow. Plans to privatize the Kingston Container Terminal need to be fast-forwarded.

CHEC workers on strike: The China Harbour Engineering Company is working on another project in Jamaica, the long-awaited highway that will bypass Mt Rosser in St. Ann. But all is not well. Jamaican workers are on strike, claiming that they are not paid the negotiated rates and that working conditions are poor – there is insufficient protective gear, and so on.

Firemen seek to control the  fire at Riverton City dump on Sunday, March 16. (Photo: Rudolph Brown/Gleaner)

Firemen seek to control the fire at Riverton City dump on Sunday, March 16. (Photo: Rudolph Brown/Gleaner)

The fire is out! Head of the National Solid Waste Management Agency (NSWMA) Jennifer Edwards has confirmed that the fire which began at the Riverton City dump on March 16 is finally out (I thought they already told us). But why was there a smoke problem in the Spanish Town Road area and beyond, this morning?

Now… Major kudos this week to:

  • The Jamaica Environment Trust and Caribbean Coastal Area Management Foundation, who took on the challenge of organizing a Community Meeting in Old Harbour Bay on Monday evening. The turnout (200/300 people) was excellent and the residents expressed themselves – sometimes a little too energetically – but they aired many of the issues surrounding the controversial planned port project at Goat Islands in the Portland Bight Protected Area. CVM Television provided some good coverage (and kudos too to CVM’s “Live at Seven” program for keeping the focus on the issue). You can view footage of both these programs on http://www.cvmtv.com.
Randy McLaren with a whole set of new fans at the Trench Town Reading Centre's 20th anniversary celebrations last year. (My photo)

Randy McLaren with a whole set of new fans at the Trench Town Reading Centre’s 20th anniversary celebrations last year. The children were thrilled by his performance. (My photo)

  • Randy McLaren, the “Kriativ Aktivis,” who will stage a lunchtime concert at the University of the West Indies’ Philip Sherlock Centre tomorrow (1:00 p.m.) to raise funds for cancer treatment for a UWI student. Contribution only $200. Randy is the 2013 recipient of the Prime Minister’s Youth Award for Excellence in Arts and Culture and was also named a finalist in the Commonwealth Youth Award for Excellence in Development Work that same year. He’s also Jamaica’s youth ambassador for culture and vulnerable youth. Do support him!
  • The Jamaica Public Service Company, who commissioned a small hydro-electric plant today at Maggotty, St. Elizabeth – 7.2 megawatts of electricity to be added to the national grid. 

So as always I will extend my condolences to those left behind to mourn, after the untimely deaths of these Jamaican citizens:

Michael Rose, 41, Franklin Town, Kingston

Edward Keating, Denham Town, Kingston

Sheldon Levy, 22, Retry Road, Clarendon

Anthony George Hudson, 25 – body has been found in St. Mary. Three men, including a policeman, have already been charged with his murder.

An amateur video showing a tussle between a taxi operator and a policeman, during which the latter appeared to fire several shots injuring the man, has been circulating widely on social media. Residents blocked the road in protest at the incident in Hopewell, Hanover, which was witnessed by many. The video is disturbing to watch.

On the road: The driver of the bus that knocked down and killed a street sweeper and seriously injured another last week has finally turned himself in to the police. A 43-year-old woman was killed when a car crashed into the back of the taxi as she got out of it in Williamsfield, Manchester.

 

 

Going West

Last Friday, before dawn, we set off on an expedition to visit a Twitter friend, whom I had never met. She was vacationing with her husband in the resort town of Negril, on the western tip of the island. We had not traveled to the west of the island for a very long time, and we decided to try out a local bus service that had been highly recommended to us, the Knutsford Express. Locals and visitors use it to get from one major town to the other, across the island. We decided to do the return trip in a day. Ambitious, but doable, we thought. It’s over 130 miles each way, but the roads have improved quite a bit.

Knutsford Express buses are pretty cool!

Knutsford Express buses are pretty cool!

We are not good at getting up before dawn, these days, but the bus left Kingston at 5. That meant lurching out of bed and down to the bus station with eyes half-open. Everyone around us seemed too alert. We got little bottles of water and a free newspaper. The buses are air-conditioned and the staff are charming and polite. They have an on-board toilet that reminded us strangely of an airplane toilet, only even smaller. And they have free wifi, always a big selling-point for me.

Then suddenly, about half way through the journey a screen descended, a few inches from our faces (we were definitely in the wrong seats) and a Tyler Perry movie started up. The inane dialogue and one-dimensional characters tormented us all the way from Ocho Rios to Montego Bay. After we changed buses for Negril, our driver had another TP masterpiece lined up, but we begged him not to play it. We don’t have to be entertained every minute of the journey, we figured. Watching the world go by outside was pretty interesting. It’s nice being a little higher up than usual – you see so much. But maybe some of us might like to read a book, too, or sleep, or just have peace and quiet. It was even difficult to have a conversation with your neighbor, without Latoya or Kevin or Brian intervening from the video screen.

View from Mt. Rosser, St. Ann.

Sunrise from Mt. Rosser, St. Ann.

Anyway, we set off at a good, steady speed (the drivers were very careful) and soon found ourselves climbing Mt Rosser, a steep hill notorious for its twists and turns. As we ascended, the rising sun slipped above distant hills and poured a crystalline, rosy glow over the landscape. I managed to grab a couple of photos.

An unfamiliar coast.

An unfamiliar coast.

The first stop was Ocho Rios, where we were glad to drink a cup of terrifyingly weak coffee. But it was still coffee. Back on the bus. Then the Tyler Perry. As his characters tried to work out their love affairs, with much pouting and many changes of costume, I happily watched the landscape slide by – unfamiliar towns and coastlines. With a very quick stop outside Falmouth, we were on our way to Montego Bay.

It had been a long while since we had even passed through Jamaica’s “second city.” Our memories of MoBay are few, but include a hectic weekend at an all-inclusive hotel on the so-called “Hip Strip,” which seemed to be in non-stop party mode. Now we hear the hotel has been closed for some time. Coming into the town, the towers of the luxurious Palmyra development stood empty. We drove along a hillside above the town and passed several properties in various states of disrepair, including at least two small hotels or guest houses, sad and abandoned. Down in the town again, we passed by shopping malls and more promising signs of economic activity: some commercial buildings apparently under construction. Driving through (and back again later) I thought MoBay had a disappointed look about it, though. Hard to put my finger on it. But it was just a quick trip through, so maybe I had a wrong impression.

Market scene, Lucea, Hanover.

Market scene, Lucea, Hanover.

Passing through smaller rural towns in Jamaica, such as Lucea (the capital of Hanover, Jamaica’s smallest parish) is like taking tiny glimpses into people’s lives – as short as a shutter opening and closing. Schoolboys in khaki uniforms wasting time along the road; market women chatting at their stalls; taxi operators cooling out under a shady tree. It’s everyday, it’s routine and yet has its own quietly pulsating life.

The beach is smaller than it used to be. Where we sat, to all seemed very cluttered.

The beach is smaller than it used to be. From where we sat, it seemed very cluttered.

Negril was exactly as we had expected and knew it always to be; or perhaps an exaggerated version of what we used to enjoy during numerous trips with our young son, some years ago. But nostalgia was short-lived. The main street that runs along behind the beach seemed more crowded than ever, with small hotels and apartments on top of dive shops and restaurants and duty-free shops. There were little signs tacked up everywhere, for motorbike rentals and tattoo parlors and car mechanics and water sports operators.

There were the inevitable Negril hustlers. Sometimes they are a shifting part of the landscape, walking up and down. Or they position themselves under a tree or against a fence and startle you with a sudden hiss, offering any and every possible service or product that a tourist could desire.  Our friends found it amusing – the first two or three times.

Near Montego Bay.

Seabirds near Montego Bay.

There was a silver lining, though. As a bird lover, I was delighted by all the bird life that I saw in Negril – bananaquits, warblers and American Redstarts in the trees. On our return journey, in the environs of Montego Bay, groups of waders foraged and ducks clustered on large artificial ponds. I wanted to tell the bus driver to slow down so I could do some bird-watching, but of course I could not.

Negril beach scene.

Negril beach scene.

Near Montego Bay.

Near Montego Bay.

Waiting for something or someone, in Montego Bay.

Waiting for something or someone, in Montego Bay.

Glistening Waters, a lagoon near Falmouth, Trelawny.

Glistening Waters, a lagoon near Falmouth, Trelawny.

 

The ride home was video madness. We sat further back to avoid the screen – but there was no escape, because there is a loudspeaker by every seat that you cannot turn up or down. So the audio was fed to us, the captive passengers. We had so many back-to-back episodes of a 1970s sitcom starring Richard Pryor and Redd Foxx that my head started spinning, as the theme tune played over and over. I can still hear it in my head now.

I think next time I will invest in a good pair of headphones before I get on the bus. Apart from that, though, the service was excellent – friendly, comfortable and efficient, and the fares are reasonable. I would heartily recommend Knutsford Express for getting around the island.

Perhaps crazy day trips are not for us any more. A more leisurely approach is required, next time.

Afternoon sun, western Jamaica.

Afternoon sun, western Jamaica.