Events (and Christmas cards) keep crowding in on me, so it is harder and harder to complete my twice-weekly bulletins on time during the Christmas season! But, one tries…
I have given up trying to add links in to my news bulletins. They only work about half the time, which is frustrating for readers and for me too. So, if you do want to read more on any of the stories below, I suggest you look them up at jamaica-gleaner.com; jamaicaobserver.com; and rjrnewsonline.com. I do get stories from other sources too but you will find the top stories on these pages. My apologies for any inconvenience caused…
Schools found wanting (again): The Inspector of Schools’ latest report does not make for happy reading. Progress in about half of the 304 schools inspected was “unsatisfactory,” – with achievement in English Language rated unsatisfactory in 75 per cent of the primary level schools, and 50 per cent of the secondary schools. Good grief!
I am a little tired… of the regular hype we get from the Tourism Ministry – projections for the upcoming season. We are getting lots of stopover tourists from Czechoslovakia, apparently. Really now. “Jamaica on target to make stopover history” declares the Sunday Observer. Over two million stopover visitors expected for 2013? But hold on! According to the latest figures on onecaribbean.org (the Caribbean Tourist Organisation website), Cuba has already had over 2 million stopover visitors this year (without Americans)! And the Dominican Republic has had almost four million. Hmm. Am I missing something?
I actually got to read Mark Wignall’s column this week, as I bought a hard copy of the paper; how annoying it is that one cannot read the full column online. However, my mind has been going off in the same direction as Mr. Wignall in relation to the Goat Islands logistics hub and the lack of information thereon. Is it because the Chinese are concerned about our crime rate and are hesitating? Remember the Police Commissioner has had to reassure the Chinese Ambassador on more than one occasion that his nationals are safe, and toured downtown Kingston with him very recently. Mr. Wignall quotes Jamaican engineer Howard Chin, who believes that “the PNP government will be granting the Chinese extraterritorial rights to the Goat Island port facilities,” where they will be protected presumably. Good Lord. And as Mr. Wignall comments, “Something about this Goat Islands investment is not adding up.”
Head of the National Education Inspectorate Maureen Dwyer. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)
It’s snowing cocaine for Christmas: A lot of jokes about a “white Christmas” in Jamaica are circulating, after a series of enormous drug busts at Kingston’s ports. A total of over J$2.5 billion worth has been found in containers in the past week – 1,696 pounds in weight. And all being transshipped somewhere else – from Venezuela, Colombia and Curacao. Is this going to impress future investors in the promised logistics hub, one wonders? Is this sudden jump in seizures due to increased vigilance, or to an increase in drug trafficking (which Minister Peter Bunting recently described as one factor in the increased crime rate)? I would like to see more investigative reporting on this development.
Dusting off the begging bowls: But do they need dusting off – they have only just been used? This time Finance Minister Peter Phillips (plus delegation) is off to China to seek investment, funding etc. Which government ministers have not traveled to China first-class, at taxpayers’ expense? And why is Minister Phillips going to seek investment? I thought that was Minister Hylton’s portfolio.
Frightening stuff: The Montego Bay, St. James blood-letting continues. After five were killed on Wednesday, we had another four murders at the end of the week. For Minister Bunting, the week after the launch of his “Unite for Change” program, this must be very alarming. Montego Bay’s murder rate is some way above Kingston’s this year. It was first blamed on the “lotto scam,” but I understood this to be under control (or is it?) The police arrested a couple this week, but how many successful lotto scam cases have there been in court so far? Now it is all said to be “gang-related.” Can the police tell us what is happening, apart from the fact that there have been 152 murders, nine more than compared to the same time in 2012, in this parish alone?
The Chinese are worried about crime: And I fully understand that. We all are! So the Police Commissioner took a walk downtown yesterday with the Chinese Ambassador. There are over 200 Chinese-operated businesses in downtown Kingston alone. I had no idea it was so many, although I am told it has always been so.
CCTV is a must: I really think businesses and whoever can afford it need to invest in CCTV though. In the UK and U.S. it is in every public space, and it has solved many crimes. But the cost is high – and who would monitor the footage? I would love someone to delve more deeply into the pros and cons.
A very odd-looking person: The police descriptions of wanted men (they rarely have photographs) sometimes verge on the bizarre. The police are looking for a person with “a straight face and a pointed mouth” right now. He has a “high forehead and protruding ears,” too. If I met this gentleman I am not sure if I would recognize him. Another man was of “dark complexion” but also “appeared to be bleaching” (his skin, that is) – so what color does that make him, roughly? Dark with light patches, I suppose.
And odd comments: I may have misinterpreted remarks made at a Rotary Club function by the head of the Court of Appeal Justice Seymour Panton, as reported on television. He seemed to be blaming journalists for the increased crime rate, saying that the media glorifies criminals. Sorry, I am not seeing that at all – although there may have been a tendency to do that at one time, but not now. Justice Panton did not give any examples of this glorification, but didn’t like the media describing a person as a “don.” But dons do exist, actually!
Justice Seymour Panton. (Photo: Gleaner)
Another Christmas in jail: Talking of bleaching, the deejay Vybz Kartel will spend his third consecutive Christmas behind bars, as the second murder case in which he is a co-accused will drag on into the New Year. So Mr. Adijah Palmer’s highly-paid, arrogant defense lawyers will have ample opportunity to continue making witty remarks and parading in front of the court and media, flaunting their gowns like peacocks. I know, they are just doing their job. But this isn’t a network television series, is it.
Hurry along, now: Senator A.J. Nicholson had to apologize for the extreme haste with which many bills are being pushed through Parliament, ahead of the Christmas break. This is all to do with the International Monetary Fund‘s demands, he says. Yes, I am sure it is, but surely they should be properly debated? I foresee problems down the road…
Are we taking any notice? The European Union/UN’s very important Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction Project (what a mouthful) has ended. I hope that lessons have been learned and that the measures taken will have some effect for the future. EU representative Paola Amadei commented, “A careful environmental assessment of all projects is not a new fad but a necessity” (Hint, hint). I really hope that the Jamaican government has taken on board the warnings and concerns over the impact that development has on our fragile environment (or what’s left of it). As Ambassador Amadei said, it’s not a question of either/or. What’s the next step, Climate Change Minister Pickersgill?
Minister of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change Robert Pickersgill (centre); head of delegation of the European Union (EU) to Jamaica, Ambassador Paola Amadei (left); and deputy director general, sustainable development and regional planning, Planning Institute of Jamaica, Claire Bernard, view a portfolio with photos of projects under the Government of Jamaica/EU/United Nations Environment Programme Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction Project, which has just ended. – JIS Photo
NWC story: The Sunday Observer has a story about dubious contracts and cost overruns at the National Water Commission as its lead story, based on documents it obtained. However, I am never too comfortable with reports that rely on unnamed sources (whether “highly placed” or not) for comment and that are “unable to contact” key actors who could shed more light. I am, however, concerned at the staggering losses the NWC continues to incur (J$3.5 billion in just five months this year) and the Office of Utilities Regulation’s decision to grant this highly inefficient organization a rate increase of eighteen per cent in October. Humph!
Harmony Hall in St. Mary houses a lovely art gallery. For many years it has hosted exhibitions of Jamaican intuitive art – its 32nd will be on December 29, 2013. (Photo: Harmony Hall website)
Harmony Hall for sale: We have been going to exhibition openings at Harmony Hall in St. Mary for decades now (and occasionally buying art, when our budget permitted). Now, after 32 years of managing this attractive Georgian property (then Prime Minister Edward Seaga opened it in 1981), the owners Annabella and Peter Proudlock are putting it up for sale. I feel sad, and hope that whoever takes it over will give the building as much love and care as they have done. And keep the art gallery open.
600 handcarts registered!! Yay! Mayor Angela Brown-Burke is thrilled at the success of her drive to register handcart operators. She thinks this will empower them to get loans, save money, even buy a house. Umm, err…
Will this handcart operator ever be able to buy a house? Well, the Mayor of Kingston thinks he will, if he is registered.
P.S. Our newspapers are getting increasingly sloppy. A Sunday Observer column by “Sean Major-Williams” (at the top of the page) is accredited to “Sean Major-Campbell” in the introduction. It’s not even corrected online. By the way, this is well worth a read – it’s the Father’s message for Human Rights Day last week, headlined “The link between the Kingdom of God and justice.” He offers a marvelous quote from Archbishop Desmond Tutu: “Christians shouldn’t be just pulling people out of the river, we should be going upstream to find out who’s pushing them in.”
And I am so emotionally drained after the finale of “Homeland” that…I just cannot go on… (Is Brody really dead?)
This is Father Sean Major-CAMPBELL. Please note, Jamaica Observer!
Seasonal kudos to:
The Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS) for its sheer determination in pursuing the stealers of electricity. JPS says it has arrested and brought to court over 700 people this year!
The Jamaica Institute of Environmental Professionals (JIEP) for its detailed and thorough presentation on the processes, procedures and considerations for the logistics hub last Thursday evening. Inevitably, the oft-repeated refrain was, “But of course, we have very little information to go on, so…”
Jean Lowrie-Chin for her column (now available on her blog at lowrie-chin.blogspot.com) on our desire – and need – to see something Mandela-esque in our own political leaders. Oh, I wish! An excellent column and worth reading.
Gloria Simms is from the Trelawny Town Maroons in the hills of St. James. (Photo: Paul Williams/Gleaner)
Ms. Gloria Simms (a woman you will never forget, once you have met her) heads the Maroon Women’s Indigenous Circle. She will travel to Suriname soon, with the aim of forging stronger ties with Maroons there. Her aim is poverty reduction and the development of eco-tourism and community tourism in Maroon communities. Ms. Simms is brilliant and I hope she has a very successful visit.
It is very sad to list the names below. My heartfelt condolences to all the families of those murdered in the past four days:
Desmond Samuels, Spring Mount, St. James
Unidentified man, Content/Maroon Town, St. James
Unidentified man, Content/Maroon Town, St. James
Barrington Dennis, 23, Orange District, St. James
Monique Watson, 36, Montego Bay, St. James
Rosemarie Reid, 46, North Gully, St. James
Andrew Duhaney, 30, Rough Road, St. James
Gussette Clarke, 41, Edgewater/Portmore, St. Catherine
Kevin Kirkland, 37, Newlands Road/Portmore, St. Catherine
Demar Campbell, 24, Caymanas Gardens/Portmore, St. Catherine