BACKGROUND NOTE: Ja Blog Day 2013 commemorates the third anniversary of the Tivoli Gardens Massacre, when Jamaican security forces invaded the community in west Kingston in search of an alleged drug trafficker and “don” Christopher “Dudus” Coke. A huge gun battle with gangsters defending the area allegedly took place. The police found just a few illegal guns – six in total, I believe – after it was over. On May 1, 2013, the Public Defender tabled his long-awaited interim (yes, interim) report on the Tivoli Gardens “incursion” in the House of Representatives. He is not sure exactly how many Jamaicans died on May 23, 2010 but records at least 76 civilian deaths (four are still missing, presumed dead) and one member of the Jamaica Defence Force killed. The Public Defender is investigating 44 complaints of extra-judicial killings (unjustifiable homicide) in Tivoli on that day. There are literally thousands of complaints of injury, malicious damage to property, theft and other abuses; and there are many ballistics reports outstanding from the security forces that have not yet been supplied to the Public Defender – who has faced many challenges in conducting his investigation. Mr. Earl Witter in his report describes the event as a “siege” (residents barricaded the entrances to the neighborhood). You may find a link to the complete report at http://www.jis.gov.jm/docs/Tivoli-Report.pdf. The government has now announced that it will hold an official Commission of Enquiry into Tivoli; we wait to hear the terms of reference, in the next two weeks.
My thoughts on the issue of police and security force abuses – the topic that Jamaican bloggers are focused on today – are below.
Johnny Was. The first Bob Marley album I bought was “Rastaman Vibration.” The songs are not as often played as some of his more commercial albums. But “Johnny Was” always touched me, more deeply than the sentimental “No Woman No Cry.” The repetition of the line “Johnny was a good man,” over and over, echoes in my mind every time I see a woman on television, grieving publicly and painfully over the death of her young son. Her shoulders collapse; her body sags like a punch-drunk boxer; she gasps for breath, tumbles backwards onto the greasy pavement where her child lay bleeding, before being thrown into the back of a police pick-up truck to be transported to hospital. Neighbors and family members hurry to lift the woman up, support her weight and control her flailing arms. They wipe her face, distorted, wet with tears and dirt and the sweat of her grieving.
To the woman who cries in the song, Johnny “never did a thing wrong.” He was, simply, her child. That is how mothers are. I want to say this: Every man, woman and child cut down in an alleged shootout with the police has a mother, a father, a family, a friend. They are, and should not be, defined as “wanted men” with street names. But this is how the dispassionate police press releases describe them – in a specific format repeated generally, word for word, by the media – name/street name, age, and if possible, one or two crimes or murders that they may or may not have committed. I suspect they have a template in their computer with blank spaces for the names and ages and the type of gun found. (And almost always, a gun is found on the dead person; but one thing I have noticed is that when the police kill two or three at a time, they don’t find two or three guns. That means that, according to their own accounts, they have killed at least one unarmed citizen.)
But we, the Jamaican public, should see them differently. Those killed by the police are not alien creatures, living in their own world somewhere. They are a young man hanging out at a small cookshop, by the side of the road, holding a Dragon Stout between two fingers; they are a woman trying to make a life in a poor country town, with several children and no job; they are three family members, one a fireman, the other a “pillar of the church,” about to start a small business; they are a boisterous schoolgirl, who loves boys too much and loves to dance but wants to do well in high school; they are 13-year-old Janice Allen, shot dead at her gate in Trench Town, Kingston, on April 18, 2000. A policeman was charged with her murder, but was freed in 2004 after the Supreme Court directed the jury to bring a verdict of not guilty. Her mother, Millicent Forbes (“Miss Jenny”), died ten years later after fighting determinedly to get justice for her child. With the death of Miss Jenny – who, in Bob Marley’s words again, “never gave up the fight,” - the case was closed forever. Janice would be 26 now, perhaps with a husband and children of her own.
They are fathers, sons, mothers, daughters, sisters, brothers, uncles, aunts, friends, co-workers, neighbors, husbands, wives, lovers, baby mothers, baby fathers. Their brutal deaths leave behind a trail of grief and bitterness that is growing so long and so wide that you can see it covering the island, twisting and turning in all directions; like the termite trails on our old tree in the back yard.
By the way, if you want a completely different take on “Johnny Was,” an Irish punk band called Stiff Little Fingers produced a very loud, passionate rock version of the song. The mood is completely different; it is defiant and angry. The band’s version of the song appeared in 1979, not long after a highly troubled period in Northern Ireland’s history had begun.
But then, maybe that is the mood Jamaicans need to be in. Dry your tears. Stop your wailing. Get angry. And most of all, cry for justice.
Woman hold her head and cry,
As her son had been shot down in the street and died
Just because of the system.
Four years ago today, fire broke out at the Armadale Juvenile Correctional Centre in St. Ann. Seven girls – wards of the state – died as a result of the fire, and eleven were injured. It was a real pleasure today to meet some of the girls who survived this horror, and who are doing their best to move out beyond that horror. I think their day was an emotional one but also filled with hope. I will write more about this.
Devaluation of dollar welcomed by IMF: Well, some of us might have figured this out already. The steady drop in the Jamaican Dollar seemed inexorable and there was really very little comment on it from the Simpson Miller administration at the time. It was just…happening. The rest of us were saying, “What is going on? Help!” as it steadily dropped, day after day. Then suddenly the battered J$ (often depicted in cartoons wrapped in bandages and sticking plaster and hobbling on crutches) pulled itself to a screeching halt at 99 or so to the U.S. Dollar. Well, well. Our friends at the Implacable Masters Fund (IMF) approve of this; and, in fact, say they would like to see our dollar plummet a little bit more, stopping at, let’s say… What do you think? Where should it stop? This, by the way, is the “flexible exchange-rate regime” mentioned by the Jamaican Government in its April 17 Letter of Intent to the IMF (the link is below). Flexible is such a nice…flexible word, isn’t it?
I wonder if the Jamaican public can be as flexible as the Jamaican Dollar has turned out to be?
Trinidad start up weekend: Good luck to Ms. Ingrid Riley, our tech entrepreneur and inspirer extraordinaire, who is in Trinidad now at her Silicon Caribe Startup Weekend. 57 pitches! I attended a Jamaica session; it was lively and abuzz with ideas. I love Ingrid’s regional (Caribbean) approach, and wish more of us were doing that…
Duppy story: According to CVM Television news, a certain house in rural St. James is giving some trouble. In case you haven’t been following it, all kinds of drama has been going on in this very ordinary-looking little house. It has created lots of excitement among the local residents, who can be seen hurrying down the path to the house to witness the latest phenomenon. My husband is almost convinced that there’s a real duppy (to my non-Jamaican readers, that is a ghost) – and so am I. A poltergeist, perhaps? A mysterious fire on top of a wardrobe (could be an electrical short circuit, but…) And objects thrown out of the house when it is empty? A local was hit in the head by one such “missile” and bled profusely. Once bandaged up, he felt pretty good, escorted down the road from the clinic like a real celebrity. What’s going to happen next? I hope it’s not all special effects…
Is the JEEP warming up its engine? Remember JEEP – the Jamaica Emergency Employment Programme? We haven’t heard much of it lately, but the Government has now found a way to create jobs by employing people to build concrete walls instead of zinc fences in selected Kingston communities. I suppose the concrete will screen off the poverty better – it will be harder to glimpse the earth-bare yards. But, Mr. Housing Minister, you know it won’t make any real difference. It’s just cosmetic. The same poverty is just a stone’s throw away…
African : It was announced today that our Prime Minister had flown off to Addis Ababa in Ethiopia, along with the Foreign Affairs Minister, four other government officials, plus her support team (I am not sure how many people that consists of – it is always reported in government press releases as a collective noun). They will be back next Tuesday. One of the radio stations this evening stated that the cost of the trip, in recognition of the African Union’s fiftieth anniversary, will be J$8.6 million. I wonder what the Ineffable Masters Fraternity (IMF) thinks of such expenditure. I can think of a thousand different ways in which that money could have been spent for the benefit of the Jamaican people (the Armadale survivors, for example).
Yay! That money could, perhaps, have been spent on a few more real toilets that flush in Jamaican schools. But sixteen schools in western Jamaica must be groveling with thanks that they do, in fact, have real toilets and not stinking, dangerous holes in the ground, any more. Thank God for Petro-Caribe, anyway. Last time I heard – about a year or two ago – around 200 schools still had pit latrines. Hopefully the number has dropped considerably. It is baffling to me that this can still be an issue in 21st century Jamaica. Perhaps this should come before tablets?
Some things bring out the Great Cynic in me: Recent comments by our Finance Minister Peter Phillips filled me with great weariness. Waxing philosophical and presumably not sticking to his notes, the goodly Minister started to wonder out loud why Jamaica is in its current economic state: “How did it get to this? At least part of the answer, I believe, has to do with the nature of our political processes and the absence, up until recently, of effective paradigm oversight and absence of transparency.” What does this mean? Can someone translate? OK, let me try. The politicians have done nothing to create an “effective nation” (the Minister’s words) since Independence (until the current administration came into power). That’s how it “got to this”. By actually not leading (that’s the oversight part) and by keeping the people ignorant (absence of transparency). Something like that, perhaps?
The young and the generous: In a Twitter exchange just last night, my friend Jean Lowrie-Chin reminded me (the Great Cynic that I am) that the younger generations of those “big” families that have chosen to stay in Jamaica have not only prospered, but are “giving back” to their country. She cited young Adam Stewart, who heads the Sandals Foundation. National Bakery has started its “Bold Ones” Project to encourage youth entrepreneurship. And the young Mahfoods have taken up the mantle of the amazing charity that does so much good work, Food for the Poor. Jean is right – I must try to curb my innate suspicion of the privileged and powerful. I wish all of them had such good intentions as these gentlemen, and that they could all give back…more.
Get well soon: I have no doubt that heading the Police Federation, a union that represents the rank-and-file police force, is a highly stressful occupation. The current chair, Raymond Wilson, has actually been a number of years in the post, off and on. Mr. Wilson has been in hospital for the past few days, after suffering a heart attack at a relatively young age. I wish him a speedy recovery.
By the way, I hope the Reggae Boyz thrash that English football team from north London, Tottenham Hotspur, when they play them tomorrow. Oh, how I would love to see that happen! As a dedicated Arsenal fan (in case you didn’t know) I was delighted that the Gunners denied Spurs a Champions League place again when the English Premier League season ended. And I’m quite satisfied with our team’s strong performance this year, after a lousy start to the season…
It is encouraging to learn that “major crimes,” including murders, have fallen. I hope that this trend will continue. But I am keeping in my thoughts the families of the following Jamaicans whose lives have been taken in the past three days.
Dwayne Brown, Ocho Rios, St. Ann
Selvin Hincklewood, Kingston
Killed by the police:
Noel Williams, 42, Rose Town, Kingston
Jerome Spence, George’s Plain, Westmoreland
Related links and articles:
http://www.imf.org/external/np/sec/pr/2013/pr13186.htm IMF concludes staff visit to Jamaica: imf.org
http://www.imf.org/External/NP/LOI/2013/JAM/041713.pdf Letter of Intent to IMF from Jamaican Government, April 17, 2013: imf.org
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/IMF-gives-us-reality-check_14298943 IMF gives us reality check: Jean Lowrie-Chin column/Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130522/lead/lead7.html J$ depreciation an important correction, says Fund: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130522/business/business2.html Phillips, IMF defend “strenuous” fiscal target for Jamaica: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/CHASE-Fund–sports-continue-to-reap-big-benefits-from-SVL_14302742 CHASE Fund, sports continue to reap big benefits from SVL: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130521/lead/lead1.html Child extortionists: Judge, JPs step in as students make thousands of dollars a day: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130521/cleisure/cleisure3.html Tablets in schools, yes, but please…! Oniel Mantack/Op-ed: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/An-assault-against-human-dignity_14308320 An assault on human dignity: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130521/letters/letters4.html Normal school not for teen babymothers: Letter to the Editor/Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130522/cleisure/cleisure2.html Erase the stupid idea of giving students condoms: George Davis column/Gleaner
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/fourth-anniversary-of-armadale-fire Fourth anniversary of Armadale fire: RJR News
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130520/cleisure/cleisure1.html Sounder logic from the other Mr. Thwaites: Gleaner editorial
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130520/cleisure/cleisure4.html Deal with bullies before… Robert Lalah column/Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130521/news/news8.html INDECOM concerned about police records: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Crime-now-at-uptown-doorsteps_14298922 Crime now at uptown doorsteps: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130522/lead/lead2.html More cops to be hauled before courts: Gleaner
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/top-level-probe-into-reports-of-contract-on-lives-of-prosecutor-investigator Top-level probe into reports of contract on lives of prosecutor, investigator: RJR News
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/editorial/What-violence-torn-St-James–nay-all-Jamaica–can-learn-from-Flanker_14299652 What violence-torn St. James – nay all Jamaica – can learn from Flanker: Jamaica Observer editorial
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130522/news/news2.html U.S. to give special training to MoBay firefighters: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Political-parties-alone-can-t-do-it—Phillips_14299845 Political parties alone can’t do it – Phillips: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Is-migrating-Senate-President-a-coward_14296192 Is migrating Senate President a coward? Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130520/news/news1.html G2K wants answers from Contractor General: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130522/lead/lead1.html Shady dealings: Public sector workers under scrutiny… Gleaner
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads/33972 Prime Minister to attend African Union 50th Anniversary: Jamaica Information Service
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130522/letters/letters3.html Stop magnifying wasteful high-rollers: Letter to the Editor/Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130521/cleisure/cleisure2.html#.UZuRJBboiag.facebook Freudian slip or Gordian knot? Gordon Robinson column/Gleaner
Today is Malcolm X’s birthday; he would have been 88 years old. Tragically, his young grandson, Malcolm Shabazz, was murdered on May 9 at a Mexico City nightclub. But here’s a little Caribbean connection: Malcolm X’s mother Louise was born in Grenada - but she had a very sad life, too.
Well, with that useful and important fact stored away, let’s look at the last few days in Jamaica…
The voice of morality: Our pious Minister of Education, the Reverend Ronald Thwaites, told Parliament this week that he is not going to allow young Jamaican students to be “groomed” towards homosexuality (demonstrating his own mistaken beliefs on the subject); and that although he approves of (the right kind of) sex education, condoms in schools are out. None of us were surprised at this, were we – after all, the Minister’s Catholic faith strongly influences his prescriptions for our youth. The television program All Angles confronted the issue of condoms in schools last week with youth activist/commentator Jaevion Nelson, retired school principal Esther Tyson and the head of the guidance counseling association. The latter two both toed the Minister’s line as expected; were confused by the statistics Mr. Nelson produced to strengthen his case for contraceptive assistance in schools; and clumsily tried to catch him out, once or twice.
But a big, big silver lining: The same Minister folded his hands, turned his eyes to heaven and announced a change in government policy towards pregnant teens in school. Amendments to the Education Act and Regulations attached thereto will ensure that schools will keep open a space for a child who has had to leave due to pregnancy, so that she may continue her education afterwards. Huge kudos to Opposition Senator Kamina Johnson Smith for her strong lobbying on this issue; and to the Minister for seeing the sense and fairness of it. The Minister also announced a couple of pending measures that have ruffled the feathers of the Jamaica Teachers’ Association; more on that, probably, later. I don’t always agree with our overly preachy Minister; but at least he is trying to right some of the hundreds of wrongs afflicting our education system, one by one. He has some tricky issues to tackle, indeed.
“I’m so frustrated by this experience”: A quote from CEO of the Jamaica Public Service Company Kelly Tomblin on the seemingly very long and slow deliberations by the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) on who should receive the contract for a new 350 mw power plant. I can imagine how she feels. I often fail to see whether government agencies like the OUR, the Bureau of Standards (of toilet tissue infamy), the Urban Development Corporation and others do any good for the Jamaican people. I guess they provide jobs. How else do they serve our interests?
The truth is swimming away: In an enlightening radio interview with a frequently stuttering Transport and Works Minister Omar Davies on Thursday morning, it transpired that Davies’ junior minister Richard Azan told him two different stories about whether or not he knew that rental money was being collected at his (Azan’s) own constituency office for illegally constructed shops. There actually appear to be three different versions of this conversation, all aired on broadcast media. However, clearly Minister Davies seems to think that his junior minister means well, even if he has broken the law. He is eager to do good in the community, so let’s “give him a bligh,” nuh. The grammatically challenged Junior Minister had told Nationwide in an earlier interview, “Yes, I make a mistake for building the shops” (sic). But saying “My bad” sometimes has consequences, right?
This is a true patriot, Rev. Redwood: As I noted in my last blog post, the now-departed-on-a-jet-plane Senate President Reverend Stanley Redwood only dug a deeper hole for himself by responding to the cutting criticism of a Gleaner column in a letter to the newspaper. He actually called himself a patriotic Jamaican. The acerbic columnist Gordon Robinson today gives us a better idea of a patriotic Jamaican – one who has no choice but to struggle through our ramshackle health, justice and education systems with no special privileges, but who tries to help his fellow Jamaicans and ensure his family thrives.
Fresh face: Members of the 51% Coalition (including myself) are delighted at the appointment of a young attorney-at-law, Sophia Frazer-Binns. Great to see another woman in the Senate, and we look forward to her contribution. We note also that Ms. Frazer-Binns has some experience of working with youth. Good, too.
Two key meetings: J-FLAG and the Jamaica Civil Society Coalition (JCSC) had two key meetings this week: in recognition of International Day Against Homophobia, J-FLAG held a forum on homelessness and forced migration among the LGBT population; and the JCSC launched two publications arising from its lengthy series of consultations with communities on “People Participation in the National Budget Making Process.” Congratulations to both organizations for their efforts to keep seeking solutions to some of Jamaican society’s most intractable problems. I will be writing more on these meetings in the next week – in particular, on the “disconnects” between Jamaicans and Jamaicans. Need to overcome these…
Rooting for the children: Huge big-ups to the JN Foundation for providing desperately-needed funding for the Spanish Town-based non-governmental organization Children First. I had the honor of working with this organization on several occasions and have always been impressed by founder Claudette Richardson-Pious’ deep understanding of and clear-eyed focus on the complex and difficult lives of youth at risk. Since it is still Child Month, here are two other individuals who are quietly working on behalf of children: Deika Morrison of Crayons Count; and youth advocate Kemesha Kelly, who works with young people in St. Ann. Great role models.
Collecting: And Help JA Children, the lobby group formed one year ago, is busy collecting items for children in state care this month. Take your food, toiletries, clothes, books, magazines and other goodies to Kia Motors c/o HJC, 2 Chelsea Ave, Kgn 10. Tel: 920-5000. It will be hugely appreciated!
Kudos to Vaz: It’s Labour Day on Wednesday, when people undertake all kinds of tasks to make life better for their fellow-Jamaicans. One of former Prime Minister Michael Manley‘s better ideas, I think. Across the island, the infirmaries that are funded by local parish councils are in a terrible state of repair – often colonial-era buildings that have seen much better days. Now, a couple of months ago Member of Parliament for East Portland Daryl Vaz announced that he was going to give up five per cent of his salary, as a gesture of sacrifice in these tough times. He was praised in a half-hearted way by some. But now he has met with Port Antonio’s Mayor and decided the money he gives up will be earmarked for the Portland Infirmary, which is in a bad state. I really do like this. Did any other political representative follow Mr. Vaz’ example? I think not…
A waste of space: I am sometimes baffled by the sheer inanity and trivia that gets published in the newspapers each week. The random thoughts of commentators with nothing meaningful to say; the grinning men and women with wineglasses in their hands at an uptown party; yet another PR piece about some reggae/dancehall singer who is “making waves” overseas (playing in tiny clubs in the suburbs of big cities). If it’s online, at least with a click you can forget/delete it. But good trees are chopped down for this worthless nonsense.
Jamaican bloggers, sharpen your keyboards! Wednesday, May 23 – the third anniversary of the Tivoli Gardens Massacre – is Jamaica Blog Day, a “Day of Action for Jamaican bloggers on police and security force abuses.” The great little (growing) blogging community on the island, including myself, will be researching and writing and photographing on this subject. It’s going to be meaningful stuff. Do read and support our bloggers!
Coming up fast and not to be missed! The Fulbright Academy of Science and Technology will hold its 2013 Conference on Global Health in Montego Bay from May 24-27. It is open to the public. Important themes covered will be: Public Policy, Law and Economics in healthcare; Public Health and the Impact of Technology and Social Media; Emerging & Reemerging Infectious Diseases; Education, Sport and Wellness; Environmental Health (Global water supply & safety, Climate Change, Urban planning, engineering); and Human Sexuality. Visit the conference website at http://www.fulbrightacademy.org/page/HealthSummit/index.v3page;jsessionid=4j4dleqsqk0m4 And while I’m at it, big shout-out to all the fabulous Jamaican Fulbrighters (including Marcia Forbes, who will be presenting at the conference)… You make us proud!
I am relieved that the week, which started off so badly with homicides, has ended (hopefully) on a more peaceful note. However, my sympathies go out to the families and friends of Kenneth Kerr and Abasco Foster, who are grieving at this time. I hope that Mr. Foster’s companion recovers from serious injuries.
Kenneth Kerr, 54, Spanish Town, St. Catherine
Abasco Foster, 27, George’s Plain, Westmoreland
Related articles/links and local blogs in purple:
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130517/business/business4.html Economy contracts in March quarter: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130519/lead/lead6.html Kelly speaks her mind: Urges speedy decision on new power supplier: Sunday Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Stadium-built-with-Chinese-money-in-ruins_14278481 Stadium built with Chinese money in ruins: Sunday Observer
http://www.amnesty.org.uk/news_details.asp?NewsID=20784 Jamaica: Three years on, state of emergency still an open wound: Amnesty International
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130518/lead/lead1.html ”Act on Tivoli”: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130519/cleisure/cleisure2.html The methods of war have failed: Claude Clarke column/Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130518/letters/letters1.html INDECOM needs more power: Letter of the Day/Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130517/lead/lead2.html Cops to be charged for schoolgirl’s murder: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Cop-dodges-court-as-DNA-shatters-lie-that-arrested-man-had-spliff_14284218 Cop dodges court as DNA shatters lie: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads-122/33915 Senate elects first visually impaired President: Jamaica Information Service
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads-122/33919 Attorney-at-law appointed to the Senate: Jamaica Information Service
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads/33909 Contribution to 2013 Sectoral Debate: Mikael Phillips, MP: Jamaica Information Service
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130519/cleisure/cleisure2.html Of patriots and sellouts: Gordon Robinson column/Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130519/focus/focus6.html Saying goodbye and diaspora relations: Christopher Tufton op-ed/Sunday Gleaner
http://chatychaty.com/2013/05/jamaica-not-grooming-students-for-same-sex-unions-marriage-is-between-a-man-and-a-woman/ ”Jamaica not grooming students for same sex unions, marriage is between a man and a woman”: chatychaty.com
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-o2el_Gw8O8 Stop being naïve about sex! Jamaican high school students speak: YouTube
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/teen-mothers-to-be-reintegrated-in-school-system?utm_source=rjr&utm_medium=news Teen mothers to be reintegrated in school system: RJR News
http://keimiller.wordpress.com/2013/05/19/the-little-wine-that-hurt-somebody-or-soca-and-the-bad-behaving-gays-of-jamaica/ The little wine that hurt somebody; or, soca and the bad-behaving gays of Jamaica: Under the Saltire Flag blog
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130517/lead/lead1.html ”I give up!” Some parents no longer care about their runaway children: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130519/news/news1.html Cruel by choice: Thousands of Jamaican children intentionally injured by adults annually: Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130519/lead/lead2.html Young and loveless: Teenage prostitute pushing for a fresh start: Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130519/focus/focus3.html Condoms in schools: Martin Henry column/Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130516/news/news1.html Ananda Alert to be displayed on billboards: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130519/lead/lead8.html Rescue for Children First: JN Foundation comes to the assistance of charity set up to help Jamaica’s most needy youths: Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130519/news/news5.html Portland infirmary to get Vaz salary cut: Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130517/lead/lead Suspected dengue cases climb to 475, two confirmed deaths: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130517/news/news1.html Moneague Primary & Junior High cops LASCO environmental award: Gleaner
http://www.bellinghamherald.com/2013/05/16/3012766/caribbean-talks-conservation-on.html Caribbean talks conservation on Branson’s island: AP
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130516/news/news7.html Public gets say in Cockpit Country boundary debate: Gleaner
http://jamaica-star.com/thestar/20130516/news/news1.html Eleven-year-old escapes croc attack, reptile snatches dog instead: Jamaica Star
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130516/news/news3.html KSAC, handcart men agree on registration fee: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130519/ent/ent1.html Balancing the act: Crawford seeks compromise between “want to eat” and “want to sleep”: Sunday Gleaner
An IDAHO State of Mind (petchary.wordpress.com)
May 15, 2013 (petchary.wordpress.com)
And I am not talking about the American state!
IDAHO is the acronym for International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. This afternoon in Jamaica, J-FLAG will host a discussion in Kingston on the issue of homelessness among the gay community – forced out of their homes, living on the street, harassed, abused, assaulted, despised, often in fear of their lives. The local media have made much drama out of the situation; and always the fact of their homelessness and subsequent (often defensive) “bad behavior” is linked to their being homosexual or transgendered.
If you are in Kingston, do try to join us for this discussion; we should also be streaming it live and I will share that link when I have it on Twitter (@petchary).
J-FLAG is seeking solutions. Not finger-pointing. Not hatred and intolerance. There is too much of that in the world already, isn’t there?
http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCdPmbLflqNtiAzOd-Cxtffg ”We Are Jamaicans”: series of videos produced by J-FLAG in which Jamaican members of the LGBT community and their allies (including myself) speak about their experience and their views. Please do watch! These are powerful.
http://www.jflag.org J-FLAG website includes news, videos, much more…
http://www.amnesty.org/en/news/activists-worldwide-target-homophobia-jamaica-ukraine-and-south-africa-2013-05-16 Activists target worldwide homophobia in Jamaica, Ukraine and South Africa: Amnesty International
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/freedom-house/international-day-against_b_3287305.html International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia: Article by Freedom House
http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2013/05/17/william-hague-marks-international-day-against-homophobia-and-transphobia/ UK Foreign Secretary William Hague marks International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia: pinknews.co.uk
http://www.euronews.com/2013/05/17/georgia-clashes-on-international-day-against-homophobia/ Georgia: Clashes on International Day Against Homophobia:euronews.com
http://www.rferl.org/content/georgia-lgbt-equal-rights/24986492.html Georgian Prime Minister says sexual minorities have equal rights: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
http://petchary.wordpress.com/2013/01/23/jamaican-press-ignores-ground-breaking-gay-rights-video-campaign/ Jamaican press ignores ground-breaking gay rights video campaign: petchary.wordpress.com
http://petchary.wordpress.com/2013/01/29/i-admire-this-young-man/ I admire this young man: petchary.wordpress.com
http://petchary.wordpress.com/2012/04/12/op-ed-fighting-injustice-in-jamaica/ Op-ed: Fighting injustice in Jamaica: petchary.wordpress.com
http://petchary.wordpress.com/2013/04/30/lay-down-that-burden/ Lay down that burden: petchary.wordpress.com
http://www.rferl.org/content/russia-lgbt-gay-homophobia-petersburg-moscow/24988036.html St. Petersburg LGBT activists test “propaganda law” with tolerance event: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
My week got off to a great start with a donation to Eve for Life from the Optimist Club of Sunset, Liguanea on Monday morning. We are indeed tremendously grateful for the gifts donated, and it was a huge pleasure to welcome President Lavern Brown, three members of the Walker family and Patrick Prendergast, a Facebook friend I had never met before! There are indeed some good and kind people in the world. Pictures to follow…
Are they serious? The Bureau of Standards, whose mission is (presumably) to maintain standards for us poor ignorant consumers, has been busy testing more toilet tissue. Remember the #TissueIssue? And guess what? It has found five more brands that are contaminated. This makes…four plus five…nine brands that are on their “No-Wipe” list. Problem is, the Bureau in its wisdom will not reveal the names of this new batch of miscreants, either. It is concerned about lawsuits from the manufacturers. So let’s worry about the manufacturers then. We will just sit there like idiots, in the dark.
Won’t happen again: It is incredibly sad that a World War I cannon has been stolen from a resident of Gordon Town, who treasured this as a memory of old friends as well as for its historical/cultural value. But no, the vampires are at it again, tiefing everything in sight. Presumably this is the scrap metal trade at work again. And speaking of scrap metal, we have learnt that the Transport Authority, in its wisdom, sold hundreds of motor cars that it had impounded for many years, mostly for scrap, in 2008. It says it did not profit from this sale. A representative said that they will make sure in future to obey their own rules – to auction cars every six months. Which they clearly had not been doing.
Murders this month: According to the Gleaner’s intrepid and seasoned crime reporter Glenroy Sinclair, up to May 13 we have already had thirty murders, give or take one or two. What is happening? Some seem to be domestic matters, others gangs, many others robberies. Most of the time, the motive is not clear. One thing we do know is that most of the murders will not be “cleared up” - in other words, solved - although if an alleged murderer is shot dead by the police, I think they count it as a clear-up. February has been the bloodiest month this year so far, with 92.
Random: The violence seems to just leap out at you. A man kills his partner because of jealousy or some argument; a policeman allegedly attacks a schoolboy who was studying with his daughter at his house and caught “in a compromising position” with said daughter; a man is shot dead while trying to rescue his neighbors from their burning house. If you care to look, these random acts of violence and aggression continue, day after day. If not reported in the traditional media, you soon hear on the social media when one of these crimes gets too close to home for one of your online friends – like the discovery of a woman’s body next to the Marcus Garvey Youth Information Centre in St. Ann’s Bay where one of my young friends works. I have shared several links below to individual stories, so you get the picture. These incidents have all occurred in the last two or three days.
Jamaica Blog Day: Anniversaries are difficult times for us all when they are remembrances of things that should never have happened. The pain returns. So it is with two adjoining anniversaries next week: On May 22, 2009, fire broke out at the Armadale Juvenile Correctional Centre in St. Ann in the “Office Dormitory” – a space big enough for five people. At the Commission of Enquiry in 2010, Justice Paul Harrison castigated the then Commissioner of Corrections for taking the decision to house 23 girls in this space. On that night, the girls were locked in, because they had been misbehaving. A policeman who actually threw a tear gas canister in the window allegedly exacerbated the fire. Five girls were killed that night and eleven injured; two more girls died later in hospital. Then, on May 23, 2010, security forces invaded the community of Tivoli Gardens in West Kingston in search of Christopher “Dudus” Coke, for whom there was an extradition warrant. We know that at least 75 civilians were killed and many injured; many still bear the physical and psychological wounds. The interim report of the Public Defender into the matter has just been released, and the Simpson Miller administration has announced that it will establish a Commission of Enquiry. No date has yet been set and we do not yet know the parameters of the enquiry. Jamaican bloggers will be writing about police abuses on May 23rd. If you are a blogger, or would like to post an article on Facebook or elsewhere, please join us. We must never forget. We want to make an impact!
The wonderful world of Twitter: I spend some time every day (and sometimes rather late at night) in Twitterland. It is an extraordinary place. There can be flashes of illumination, surprises, much amusement, even shocks. One of my followers, the wonderful comedian, writer and all-round creative person Owen “Blakka” Ellis received a severe jolt when I retweeted an article recently. I am an inveterate retweeter and like to share provocative viewpoints as well as useful information. The tweet asserted,“Black men think that hypermasculinity, sports obsession, extreme homophobia, sexism and belittling women makes a man, a man”. Now, this damning, sweeping generalization struck poor Mr. Ellis to the core. He responded to the original tweeter, and got slapped down at least twice more. Ouch! And ouch again! This compelled Mr. Ellis to write the article below. For the record, I feel Mr. Ellis had a right to protest and was treated harshly. (Oh, you can follow me on @petchary).
Scrambling for jobs: Figures released by the Statistical Institute of Jamaica this week show a 37 per cent unemployment rate among youth. The overall rate is 14.2 per cent. However, we know that these numbers are even higher in inner city communities and rural districts where jobs are extremely scarce. The large and profitable Jamaican firm GraceKennedy (GK) recently advertised ten internships, and received 780 applications. Yes, the job situation is desperate. As GK’s CEO Don Wehby says, local firms should offer more internships. At least, then, young people would have something on their resumé (how do you get work experience if there are no jobs?)
Boundless patriotism: Meanwhile the great patriot Rev. Stanley Redwood, who just stepped down as President of the Senate, has responded to a very sarcastic article in the Gleaner regarding his pending migration to Canada. Reverend Redwood clearly does not have much faith in the Jamaican education system. He pleads, “Many Jamaicans have sought opportunities for their children overseas. I do not believe there is any shame in seeking the best for my talented children. I am sure you would have done no differently.” But then, it is a fact that most government ministers and members of Parliament do send their children to school overseas; and when they are sick, they go overseas for treatment. They have such touching faith in the Jamaican education and health systems. And in fact, in Jamaica itself. And yet, we must “unite and build…”
The Sufferer: On top of all that, during a speech this week our Prime Minister decided to take up the cross of suffering, pointing out that she is the most criticized person in Jamaica, upon whose head all “negativity” is heaped. This was part of a speech in which she was encouraging her audience to hold their heads up high in the face of adversity. Madam Prime Minister, this air of martyrdom does not become you. In fact, it is embarrassing and unnecessary. Almost as embarrassing and unnecessary as those sinister-looking sunglasses that she has been wearing for years now. Not a good look. Where are her advisors?
The Silent One: I have not seen or heard Minister of National Security Peter Bunting on any newscast recently. Is he OK?
Since Sunday the following murders have been reported. It is heart-breaking. My condolences to the families and friends.
Shelly-Ann Maxwell, 21, Bombay Stud Farm/Bernard Lodge, St. Catherine
Cordel Steer, 22, Bombay Stud Farm/Bernard Lodge, St. Catherine
Unidentified man, George Lane, Kingston
Garth Simpson, 39, Gayle, St. Mary
Janice Burrell, 38, Islington, St. Mary
Leroy Robinson, 54, Little London, Westmoreland
Adina Bell, 36, St. Ann’s Bay, St. Ann
Killed by police:
Desmond McCalla, Bull Bay, St. Andrew
http://jablogday.tumblr.com Jamaica Blog Day
http://www.solarbuzzjamaica.com/2013/05/removal-of-illegal-connections-to-sugar-factories-to-cost-govt-200m-no-more-free-light/ Removal of illegal connections to sugar factories to cost government $200 million. No more free light! solarbuzzjamaica.com
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/five-toilet-paper-brands-pulled-due-to-high-levels-of-bacteria Five toilet paper brands pulled due to high levels of bacteria: RJR News
http://delanoseiv.wordpress.com/2013/05/13/wanted-full-disclosure-in-ritz-carlton-affair/ Wanted: Full disclosure in Ritz-Carlton affair: delanoseiv.wordpress.com
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130513/lead/lead22.html Playa replaces Ritz with Park Hyatt: Gleaner
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/protest-action-escalates-at-complant Protest action escalates at COMPLANT: RJR News
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/-We-will-not-flinch-_142522042013-05-14T00-04-44 BITU head asserts commitment to workers’ rights: Jamaica Observer
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/new-law-paves-way-for-government-to-pass-imf-test New law paves way for government to pass IMF test: RJR News
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130515/news/news1.html Exploring logistics hubs: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/editorial/The-rightness-of-the-Tivoli-enquiry_14252198 The rightness of the Tivoli enquiry: Jamaica Observer editorial
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Let-us-have-a-Garrison-Enquiry_14251339 Let us have a garrison enquiry: Jean Lowrie-Chin column/Jamaica Observer
http://digjamaica.com/blog/2013/05/13/a-look-at-jamaicas-human-rights-situation/ A look at Jamaica‘s human rights situation: diGJamaica.com
http://jamaica-star.com/thestar/20130513/news/news12.html Wanted fugitive killed in shoot-out: Jamaica Star
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130514/lead/lead8.html Two persons killed per day: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Terror-in-Clifton_14268531 Gunmen invade community, fire-bomb five houses: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Murdered-for-good-deed_14271138 Gunman kills hotel worker trying to rescue neighbor: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=43114 Policeman allegedly attacks schoolboy with pipe iron and gun: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130515/lead/lead1.html Massive MoBay raid: Drugs, cash seized in 11-hour operation; Canadian held: Gleaner
http://speakmytruthwritemylife.blogspot.com/2012/11/let-he-that-is-without-sin-cast-first.html Let he that is without sin cast the first stone: speakmytruthwritemylife.blogspot.com
http://jamaica-star.com/thestar/20130513/news/news10.html Residents shocked by chopping death: Jamaica Star
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130514/letters/letters1.html Don’t push gay men into closet marriages: Letter of the Day/Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Cars-sold-as-scrap-metal_14263174 Cars sold as scrap metal: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130515/lead/lead93.html ”No profit made”: Transport Authority did not gain from sale of impounded motor vehicles: Gleaner
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/mobay-mayor-lashes-out-at-detractors MoBay Mayor lashes out at detractors: RJR News
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130514/cleisure/cleisure1.html The Redwood factor: Gleaner editorial
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130515/letters/letters2.html I’m a patriot, but family comes first: Letter to the Editor from Rev. Stanley Redwood
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130513/news/news1.html Redwood’s resignation and Vision 2030/The Gavel: Gleaner
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads-117/33851 Prime Minister urges Jamaicans to assist the most vulnerable: Jamaica Information Service
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Prison-programme-providing-women-with-useful-skills_14260950 Prison program providing women with useful skills: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Amradale-report Brutal! Judge blames cop for starting deadly fire (February, 2010): Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-star.com/thestar/20130515/features/features1.html Damning declaration about black men: Blakka Ellis column/Jamaica Star
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/environment/The-cost-of-inaction_14223127 The cost of inaction on climate change: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130514/lead/lead6.html World War I cannon stolen: Gleaner
http://cbcburke9.wordpress.com/2013/05/13/dancehall-mashing-up-hell-knows/ Dancehall mashing up hell knows: cbcburke9.wordpress.com
http://digjamaica.com/blog/2013/05/10/image-of-the-week-seaforths-artistic-excellence/ Image of the Week: Seaforth’s artistic excellence: diGJamaica.com
It’s a hot afternoon. It’s Mother’s Day in Jamaica, and the air is sleepy. Our gardener did some serious work yesterday and the yard looks scrupulously tidy. For now. Recent rain has brought back the many shades of green; and to my surprise, winter visitor warblers can still be seen flitting in the bushes. Time to travel north, young warblers!
Thinking about Tivoli: In the past few days since I last wrote, we have all been thinking more deeply about the Simpson Miller administration’s (wise) decision to hold a Commission of Enquiry into the massacre in Tivoli Gardens in May, 2010. There is some insightful commentary in the Sunday papers, and an indication that, three years later, many Jamaicans are more aware of the grave injustice and the horror of that day, when at least 77 Jamaicans lost their lives (we still do not know the exact figure; several people remain missing). For that, we at least partly have to thank the American journalist Mattathias Schwartz of the New Yorker; and the Public Defender Earl Witter, who finally produced the report. Today, Sunday Observer columnist Tamara Scott-Williams quotes the Jamaican president of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, Judge Patrick Robinson: “The simple, plain truth is that in no country with a Constitution that entrenches the right to life can 70 people be killed in peacetime in a single incident, whether by the security forces or by private persons, and national life and affairs continue as though nothing unusual has taken place.”
How can a monopoly not be viable? But that’s the way it apparently is with the Jamaica Public Service Company, according to its straight-talking CEO Kelly Tomblin. The eternal problem of widespread theft of electricity has still not been fully addressed; but as Ms. Tomblin said on radio, it is not just a question of devising ingenious ways of combating theft, but about lifting the company out of debt. Oh, two state-owned sugar companies were reportedly complicit in allowing neighboring communities to steal up to J$100 million worth. What kind of madness is that? Meanwhile, Ms. Tomblin has her work cut out – I am sure she has been aware of this for some time.
Leadership failures: The week’s fiasco involving the People’s National Party Youth Organization suggests, at the very least, weak leadership in the organization. Did President Alrick Campbell consult with his chapter leaders before sending out a press release that surprisingly refused to support the announced Commission of Enquiry into the Tivoli Gardens massacre? Similarly, Mayor of Montego Bay Glendon Harris is under pressure after a series of dreadful faux pas, culminating in the hospital re-naming fiasco. Do these people have any idea of public relations, either? Clueless.
NHT again: The whole National Housing Trust (NHT) business is still bugging me. It all seems wrong. One of my “tweeps” observed today, “How can the NHT force employers to make mortgage deductions from workers? Shoudn’t that be an arrangement between the Trust and its clients?” Very good question…
Blood on the streets: As usual, the social media was ahead of the traditional media on Friday morning, as several photos were pasted on Facebook of two apparently lifeless bodies – young men allegedly shot by the police in a parking lot in downtown Kingston. Reports appeared at least two hours later on the newspaper websites, noting a police report that ”brazen gunmen” had made a robbery attempt, and that three ”were in hospital” (dead on arrival?) According to the eye witnesses who posted the photos, the bodies were collected and loaded into vans within minutes, before the Crime Scene investigation unit or INDECOM (the Independent Commission of Investigations) arrived. Onlookers say the men were unarmed. I have shared the photos below. Meanwhile, the print media coverage of what actually happened in the middle of the day on Friday in busy downtown was muddled and lacking in detail.
Harassing the handcarts: Some genius at the Kingston & St. Andrew Corporation has come up with the startlingly brilliant idea of taxing handcart operators. These are rough-hewn carts with a primitive steering-wheel attached, operated by men in Kingston and most towns to transport small quantities of goods (and sometimes people). When I see men pushing and navigating these carts, sweating and straining in the hot sun, I think “what a hard life.” These are, basically, poor people. How could the Mayor think of doing such a thing?
I’m off now, but you guys can stay: President of the Senate Stanley Redwood is migrating to Canada, and made farewell comments last week before his departure. Methinks he doth protest too much. “No other Jamaican should be forced or feel forced to make the choice I have to make this month,” said the Senator, who has been beating himself up over departing for greener pastures for some time. It’s OK for me to go – but you guys stay here, stick it out… Not impressed, I’m afraid.
Power walks: While blood still stained the streets of downtown Kingston, a couple of miles away uptowners were preparing for two charity walks on Saturday – both good causes. Due to ongoing back problems, I was unable to participate in either. But I hope lots of money was raised for Dress for Success and the Nuttall Memorial Hospital, respectively. Next time!
Sick of them: There are certain things that always upset me when I watch the evening news on television. Of course, the ongoing bloodshed is one of those things. What also depresses me is the greed and selfishness of thieves who, like vampires, feed on hard-working Jamaicans. It seems that every week a school is broken into, and we see the anxious principal, his/her face creased with anxiety and stress, detailing all the items the school lost – of course, all the most valuable things that they can least afford to replace, many of them donated by kind-hearted people. Then there are the poor farmers, who go to the fields in the morning to see their precious animals hacked to pieces or their crops pulled out of the ground. On Friday, we heard that the bus belonging to Alpha Boys School was stolen in Spanish Town. I don’t know if they have found it. Alpha nurtures abandoned and orphaned boys, and is famous for its school band that has produced many great Jamaican musicians. Shame on you all, you vampires.
Pit latrines in schools: As I noted in my post of August 12, 2012, around 200 schools across Jamaica still have pit latrines. I doubt that much has changed since then. Perhaps we should consider this as a priority over tablets, Minister Paulwell? (Much as I love your tablets). The “sanitary conveniences” at St. Mary’s Primary School in rural St. Elizabeth are as old as the school itself (44 years) and pose a serious health risk. For a start, if a young child slips he/she can fall into them. The Florida-based Andrew Dixon Foundation is seeking to raise funds to replace them.
I was wondering… about the over 4,000 online jobs that the World Bank says it has created for young Jamaicans. The World Bank provides more details on its Digital Jam 2.0 program at the link below. It includes internships and fellowships at Howard University, pilot projects, incubators and so on. Brilliant!
Sports vs academics: The Gleaner recently published a table ranking Jamaica’s high schools in terms of their CSEC examination results. I’m trying to find a link to it. It was noticeable, however, that almost all the traditional boys’ high schools did quite poorly; unsurprisingly, the co-educational Kingston high school Campion College came out on top. A columnist yesterday pointed out that the low-performing boys’ schools are those that compete furiously and loudly at “Champs” (the high school athletics championships) and tout their sporting prowess. Is there a conflict here?
Less abatement? As I have noted before, Jamaica/Kingston is Party Central, and the noise must go on. I see the Ministry of National Security and Ministry of Entertainment as it seems to call itself are holding a public consultation on “changes to the Noise Abatement Act” on Wednesday at the Jamaica Conference Centre. What changes? Where? Is the noise to go on longer? I am suspicious of the “entertainment zones” that have been mentioned a few times by our enthusiastic Junior Minister Damion Crawford, who is young and therefore fond of “shelling dung” as the saying goes. And hey, do you think there may be more important things to be worrying about? I can only assume that, like the building of housing for poor people, this is a populist, vote-getting exercise.
Yohan Blake/boys home: I am very pleased with our young Olympian Yohan Blake, whose YB Afraid Foundation continues to support the Mount Olivet Boys’ Home in Manchester, in all kinds of important ways. The home’s infrastructure is steadily improving as a result. Thanks to Mr. Blake; you have a good, good heart.
It is very sad to report that in the past three days the following Jamaicans have been killed. My heart goes out to their families. Too much trouble in the world.
Clifton Drummonds, 55, John’s Town, St. Thomas (mob killing)
Winston Robinson, Mannings Hill Road, Kingston
Tiffany Shirley, Mannings Hill Road, Kingston
Killed by police:
Unidentified man, Pechon Street/Beckford Street, Kingston
Unidentified man, Matthews Lane, Kingston
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/JPS-facing-death_14238670 Electricity theft, debt threaten company’s viability, says Tomblin: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130511/cleisure/cleisure1.html Power thieves must be stopped: Gleaner editorial
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Samuda-labels-logistics-hub-a–pipe-dream-_14239407 Samuda labels logistics hub a “pipe dream”: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130510/business/business5.html Jamaica Broilers invests $300 million in new plant: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130510/cleisure/cleisure1.html What, really, are agro parks? Gleaner editorial
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130510/business/business1.html Palmyra parent firm deemed a squatter: Gleaner
http://www.worldbank.org/en/results/2013/04/24/creating-employment-solutions-young-jamaicans Creating employment solutions for young Jamaicans in the virtual economy: worldbank.org
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/business/Rating-Agency-reacts-to-IMF-Jamaica-agreement_14244183 Rating agency reacts to IMF-Jamaica agreement: Sunday Observer
http://www.caribjournal.com/2013/05/11/forbes-the-business-of-sport-in-jamaica/ The business of sport in Jamaica: Marcia Forbes op-ed/caribjournal.com
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/No-unlicensed-cable-operator-in-Jamaica_14239648 No unlicensed cable operator in Jamaica/Broadcasting Commission
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/editorial/No-justification-for-NWC-rate-hike_14237953 No justification for NWC rate hike: Jamaica Observer editorial
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130510/letters/letters1.html Handcart permit regime off the deep end: Letter of the Day/Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Stop-the-bickering-_14239553 Pryce chides PNPYO for washing dirty linen in public: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130510/lead/lead10.html Montego Bay mayor faces no-confidence vote: Gleaner
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/arscott-defends-cost-of-local-government-delegation-to-uganda Arscott defends cost of local government delegation to Uganda: RJR News
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130512/focus/focus5.html Whose plan for Jamaica is it anyway? Jamaica Civil Society Coalition op-ed/Sunday Gleaner
http://www.caribjournal.com/2013/05/09/op-ed-does-jamaica-need-outside-help-to-deal-with-crime/ Does Jamaica need outside help to deal with crime? caribjournal.com
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/man-implicated-in-murder-chopped-to-death Man implicated in murder chopped to death: RJR News
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130511/lead/lead2.html Daylight gun battles cause mayhem downtown: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Deadly-end—-Robbery-foiled–cops-kill-one-gunman–injure-another_14239031 Deadly end! Robbery foiled, cops kill one gunman, injure another: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130512/lead/lead5.html Deadlock blanks downtown CCTV plan: Sunday Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Why-the-Tivoli-enquiry-is-important_14246024 Why the Tivoli enquiry is important: Claude Robinson column/Sunday Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Forget-the-enquiry–make-a-movie-instead_14246048 Forget the enquiry; make a movie instead: Tamara Scott-Williams column/Sunday Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Pain-still-lingers-for-Tivoli-man–family_14247384 Pain still lingers for Tivoli man, family: Sunday Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130510/news/news2.html West Kingston rejoices after cops kill thug: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Mothers-mourn-loss-of-son–daughter Mothers mourn loss of son, daughter: Sunday Observer
http://www.caribjournal.com/2013/05/09/op-ed-from-haiti-to-cuba-a-vision-for-the-caribbean-in-2030/ From Haiti to Cuba: A vision for the Caribbean in 2030: caribjournal.com
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/complant-workers-protest COMPLANT workers protest: RJR News
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130511/lead/lead6.html Pit latrines pose public health risk at St. Mary’s Primary: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130511/letters/letters8.html No water for farmers in Llandewey for decades: Letter to the Editor/Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130511/letters/letters2.html Emergency call to action for Child Month: Letter from Jamaica Youth Action Network to the Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130512/lead/lead61.html Condoms or abstinence: Guidance counselors ponder the best fit for schools: Sunday Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/High-school-standard-bearers-of-excellence-_14239025 High school standard bearers of excellence? Lascelve Graham op-ed/Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130511/lead/lead5.html Mount Olivet Boys’ Home a refuge from abuse: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Saturday-Social_14239033 Saturday Social: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads-107/33829 More assistance for local exporters: Jamaica Information Service
On April 8, 2013, the Chilean authorities exhumed the body of the revered poet Pablo Neruda at his former seaside home in Isla Negra. Neruda died on September 23, 1973, just twelve days after the overthrow of Salvador Allende‘s socialist regime. Neruda was a close friend of Allende. Both his widow, before her death in 1985, and his driver were convinced that he was murdered by lethal injection in a hospital in Santiago. Was the poet assassinated during those chaotic days of the military coup that brought the much-feared General Augusto Pinochet into power? Or did he die of natural causes (he was believed to be suffering from prostate cancer)? We may not know for quite a while, as the Nobel laureate‘s body undergoes all kinds of tests. We may never know. But coincidentally, the passionate poet is the central figure in a novel that I just finished reading – and enjoyed so much I wished I had not finished.
As its rather plain-vanilla title suggests, this novel involves a mystery too, and an investigation. But the mystery is of the highly personal and romantic variety. The investigation is an adventure, deliciously laced with romantic dalliances and a certain amount of political intrigue and Cold War ideology along the way. The quieter, more subtle and tragic undercurrents are slow and well beneath the surface of the flowing narrative. But the quiet tragedy of the times does emerge in the latter part of the book.
The investigator is Cayetano Brulé, a Cuban who had settled in Valparaíso with his Chilean wife. This is his first case as a private detective, and the ailing poet is his first employer. As the story begins, Cayetano is sitting in a café in the coastal city. The reader spends a lot of time with Cayetano in cafés, restaurants and bars. A great deal of coffee, tortillas, crepes and sandwiches are consumed, as Cayetano considers his next move. So, too, is alcohol in many forms – including lots of whiskey, and a concoction offered him by the poet himself (“Don Pablo”) on their first meeting: “It’s good enough to make you suck on your mustache,” says Neruda. The reader is even introduced to some examples of Latin American cuisine – clams in parsley sauce, for example.
Inspired by the fictional, pipe-smoking Belgian detective Inspector Maigret, Cayetano learns on the job. His assignment is to find a certain Dr. Ángel Bracamonte, a Mexican oncologist – and he must keep his quest a secret. But it’s not as simple as that; before Cayetano has even figured out Don Pablo’s real purpose, he is already involved in an intriguing and complex journey that takes him from Chile to Havana, Cuba, Mexico City, Bolivia and even as far as East Germany. As he goes, he seeks to unravel a story that is like a tangled ball of string, full of knots and occasional loose ends.
Sometimes Cayetano gets distracted, and often these distractions come in female form. A parade of fascinating women float in and out of the narrative – including his estranged wife Ángela, who leaves him to do “political work” in Cuba but has a lingering fondness for Hermès scarves and Coco Chanel perfume. There are the two beguiling German comrades, Valentina and the “emancipated” Margaretchen, and there is Laura, a Chilean student with “deep-set eyes, like those of someone who slept very little because of insomnia or an excess of work or sex.” Like his employer Don Pablo, Cayetano has a deep appreciation of women, and he gets on well with them. Some of them help him along the way; others lead him down cul de sacs.
The women of Pablo Neruda’s past – some living, some dead, most lost – move through the story like ghosts, coming and going. During the interlocking conversations with Cayetano, Don Pablo takes erotic excursions, resurrecting memories of past sexual encounters and passionate love affairs, occasionally with regret. Many of these relationships inspired his poetry.
“The Neruda Case” is more than just a detective story, although it is one to keep you on your toes in the best Agatha Christie tradition. It is a sensual journey through Latin America in the Cold War. It is not only the characters who fascinate (they each have their own interesting story). As he moves from city to city on his quest for the truth, Cayetano moves from the decaying hills of Valparaíso, wreathed in sad sea fogs; to dusty offices in Mexico City; to the vibrant Caribbean island of his birth (where he meets a Jamaican called Sammy); to East Berlin, where much drama ensues; and to La Paz, Bolivia, where he is afflicted with altitude sickness.
“Detectives are like wine like wine, rum, tequila or beer, children of their own land and climate, and anyone who forgot this would inevitably fail.” Cayetano reminds himself of this as he sets off from Chile – grounding himself, so to speak. But many surprises and unexpected occurrences await him. He often finds himself far outside his comfort zone – and never more so than in Santiago at the time of Allende’s fall – a city echoing with gunfire, where the sun glints off soldiers’ helmets, as the military coup gathers pace.
At the core of the novel is the restless and regretful figure of the poet, sitting in his house floating high over the Pacific Ocean, fretting over his past and impatiently waiting for Cayetano to report back to him. During the author’s childhood, the poet was actually his neighbor in real life; while writing the book, he sat in Neruda’s living room, so evocatively described in the novel. The writer has, I believe, succeeded quite well in bringing the Nobel Laureate to life – not as a diplomat, a political figure or a poet, but simply as a human being.
“There are times when I simply tire of being human,” Neruda observes irritably. But I found enormous humanity in this novel. I understand there is a series, and look forward to meeting Cayetano Brulé again in the near future. I could really get to like him.
Roberto Ampuero has published twelve novels in Spanish. “The Neruda Case” (2008) is his first novel published in English. It is translated by Uruguayan-born Carolina De Robertis, herself the author of two novels, including the best-selling “The Invisible Mountain.” Ampuero was born into a middle-class family in Valparaíso, Chile in 1953; he attended a German school there, and then studied Social Anthropology and Latin American Literature at the University of Chile in Santiago. He became a member of the Chilean Communist Youth and received a journalism scholarship to study in East Germany in 1973. He met his first wife there and they moved to Cuba, where Ampuero lived until 1979; he left disillusioned with what he saw as a dictatorship in Cuba and returned to East Germany, where he studied Marxism and enrolled in Humboldt University to do postgraduate studies. He moved to West Germany in 1983, where he published his first two novels in German, and married the Guatemalan Ambassador to Germany. Returning to Chile in 1993, he published his first novel in Spanish, introducing private detective Cayetano Brulé, for which he received the Book Magazine Award of El Mercurio. During a three-year sojourn in Sweden he wrote two more novels, including a harsh criticism of the Cuban regime, “Nuestros Años Verde Olivo” (Our Green Olive Years) He is a graduate of the prestigious International Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa, where he currently teaches literature and creative writing. He also serves currently as Chile’s Ambassador to Mexico, sharing his time between Iowa City and Mexico City.
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/10/opinion/disturbing-pablo-nerudas-rest.html?_r=0 Disturbing Pablo Neruda’s rest: New York Times
http://blogs.nature.com/news/2013/05/tests-cofirm-pablo-neruda-had-terminal-cancer.html Tests confirm Pablo Neruda had terminal cancer: nature.com
http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/literature/laureates/1971/neruda-bio.html Pablo Neruda biography: NobelPrize.org
http://www.marxists.org/archive/allende/1973/september/11.htm Salvador Allende: Last words to the nation: marxists.org
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/jul/20/salvador-allende-committed-suicide-autopsy Salvador Allende committed suicide, autopsy confirms: Guardian UK
Longing with Pablo Neruda (petchary.wordpress.com)
This week is Education Week. I posted a few of my rather random thoughts on the matter, inspired by yesterday’s visit to a primary school that sits right in the shadow of the General Penitentiary. There are always “feel good” events, much praise for teachers, etc. And major kudos to the private sector for its support for education. And then there are the voices of young people themselves, such as in a letter to the Gleaner, below. The tone is pleading, wistful:
“We the young people are looking for the slightest glimmer of hope to hold on to…Many of us die a little every day on the inside from the knowledge that our true potential may never be realized…On behalf of all the young people out there – the potential leaders, scientists, inventors and innovators – please give us a reason to continue to hold on. We are the future: make decisions now that will give us a true fighting chance.”
The can of worms is open: Since the final publication of the Public Defender‘s interim report on the Tivoli Gardens massacre almost three years ago, things have started happening rather suddenly. On Monday, Cabinet took a decision (which I believe is the correct one) to hold a Commission of Enquiry, on the recommendation of the Public Defender. The question now is, what does the Commission wish to achieve? What do the people of Tivoli Gardens want? We do know that the family of Keith Clarke would really like a public apology from the Jamaican Government – at this stage, it seems so late as to be laughable, but it would help. Mr. Clarke, the brother of a former government minister, died in a hail of bullets at his home in the “upscale” hills above Kingston on May 27, 2010, while the security forces were searching for former Tivoli “don” Christopher “Dudus” Coke. The print media has been delving deeply into the potentially negative political repercussions of such an enquiry; both the Jamaica Defence Force and the Jamaica Constabulary Force
What happened to the PNPYO? Our budding young politicians at the People’s National Party Youth Organization (PNPYO) seem to have had some kind of brainstorm yesterday, issuing a press release on the Tivoli affair and then contradicting themselves. Radio journalist Dionne Jackson-Miller attempted to have a sensible interview with one of them, but we were none the wiser. He didn’t seem to be listening to what she said. In the end she gave up. Meanwhile the Kingston chapter of the organization sought to distance itself from the President’s astonishingly crass press release, in which he referred to those who died in Tivoli Gardens as “casualties of war.” And has been suspended.
Are we policing downtown? For quite a while now we have been hearing about the numerous (daylight) robberies of businesses and individuals. Now the police are reporting quite a dramatic increase. If we are to revive Kingston’s downtown area (the building of Digicel’s new head office has been a pioneering move in many ways) then surely the first thing is to ensure good security? The two main hospitals are especially suffering. Just get more police on the beat down there, for heaven’s sake.
I LIKE Minister Paulwell: I was encouraged to hear Minister Phillip Paulwell speak at GTECH’s donation of computers to St. Michael’s Primary School yesterday. It was refreshing to hear a politician, in a manner completely devoid of pomposity, elaborate a clear vision for the future of technology in education. With sincere enthusiasm, too. He was especially excited about his proposed distribution of tablets to teachers and students; some (like Opposition Senator Kamina Johnson-Smith, below) are not completely sold. It was quite a small gathering at the school, but the Minister connected with his audience – and did not read from any notes. And it’s nice to hear from someone with vision, who doesn’t spout the usual well-worn platitudes. Another gold star for him was his defusing of a threatened gas tanker strike today; he called an emergency meeting with the union, and the drivers went back to work. You’ve had a good week, Minister.
Going downmarket? I was very sad to hear of the closure of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Montego Bay. It is a beautiful property and a luxury brand (virtually the only one left on the island). Now it has been sold to another firm that plans to add more rooms and turn it into yet another all-inclusive. So what the tourism marketing people like to call the “Elegant Corridor” in Montego Bay – a beautiful stretch of road going into the town – will be less elegant in the future. And especially with the recent sad demise of the luxury Palmyra development; I would love to know what is happening with the Palmyra, which fell into financial difficulties. There is one part that is not yet completed. What is the latest on this? I had the pleasure of staying there just before it closed – beautifully designed, splendidly luxurious, it deserved to be filled with well-heeled visitors (and Jamaicans) every night. But it was lonely and sad.
Tourism looking wobbly: It really seems all is not well in the tourism sector. I can’t quite put my finger on why. Junior Minister Damian Crawford said on radio this morning that tourism is down by four per cent up until the end of March, and looks to be down a little in April, too. He explained the downturn on hotels doing refurbishing; but why would any hotel close for that purpose during the winter tourist season? Something doesn’t quite add up. Meanwhile, the Caribbean Tourism Association has predicted a 4-5 per cent increase regionally this year. Several Caribbean countries show increases already this year (Belize, Cayman Islands and others). Barbados is doing worse than us though, presumably because of a slump in the UK market. But… what is the plan?
Those tubers again: The Agriculture Minister seems a nice man, but he tends to ramble. Now he wants farmers to plant more cassava. But I thought that one of his predecessors in a previous administration, Christopher Tufton, was laughed at for his obsession with cassava a few years back? Maybe he whispered the magic word in the Minister’s ear. But there is good news – food exports have gone up over the past year, and imports are just a fraction up. Hold on a minute though – when the Chinese firm Complant took over some sugar estates a few years ago there was much talk of increased production and efficiency. This year production is falling. Why? And Blue Mountain Tea? Well, Minister Clarke, let’s get Blue Mountain Coffee sorted out first, shall we?
Breathtaking… The speed with which a man was charged, convicted and sentenced (to two years in prison) for house-breaking and larceny from a country villa where National Security Minister Peter Bunting was staying over the Easter holiday weekend. That’s just a matter of a few weeks. In the normal scheme of things, this could have taken many months.
Plummeting… Jamaica’s Net International Reserves fell to a thirteen-year low in April. We now have twelve weeks’ worth of money. Financial guru Owen James tells me that things should improve, now that the International Monetary Fund agreement has been signed. Hope so.
The children: We had an interesting Twitter chat yesterday with UNICEF Jamaica and Eve for Life on the sexual abuse of children. Did you know that 33% of girls and 18% of boys aged 10-15 did not consent to their first sexual encounter? And the excellent Live at Seven hosted by Simon Crosskill kept its focus on children’s rights with a discussion with the velvet-toned Youth and Culture Minister Lisa Hanna and the head of the Child Development Agency – the government agency ostensibly in charge of children’s homes. The former seemed defensive at times; the latter was afraid to look at the camera, or anyone – and when asked a question looked nervously at her boss before answering, even at one point asking her for permission to speak. They did not greatly enlighten us. Mr. Crosskill brought in the issue of homeless gay youth; and wrapped up the program with scathing comments on the Christian fundamentalists among us who use the Bible to justify their opposition to gays – citing the numerous other common practices punishable by stoning according to the Good Book. Ha! Good stuff, Mr. Crosskill.
Deepest condolences to the family and friends of the following Jamaicans, who have added to the homicide statistics in the past four days. It is too sad.
Unidentified man, Tower Street, Kingston
Joseph Lyons, 55, Tivoli Gardens, Kingston
Milton Chisholm, 41, Seaview Gardens, Kingston
Killed by police:
Unidentified man, Matthews Lane, Kingston
George Moxam, 25, Waltham Park Road, Kingston
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130509/lead/lead1.html Bruce didn’t trust JDF: Golding sought U.S. aid in verifying Tivoli claims of abuse by soldiers: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130508/cleisure/cleisure1.html Route to a worthy Tivoli enquiry: Gleaner editorial
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/jfj-appalled-at-casualties-of-war-statement-by-pnpyo JFJ appalled at casualties of war statement by PNPYO: RJR News
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130509/news/news1.html Tech boost for St. Michael’s: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Are-Paulwell-s-tablets-the-right-prescription-_14206450 Are Paulwell’s tablets the right prescription? Kamina Johnson-Smith op-ed/Ja. Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130508/business/business1.html Start-ups want mobile money now: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Unlicensed-cable-company-lands-Ja-on-IP-watch-list_14224992 Unlicensed cable operator lands Jamaica on IP watch list: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Ritz-Carlton-leaving–400-jobs-in-doubt_14231797 Ritz-Carlton leaving; 400 jobs in doubt: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=44734 ”Loss of Ritz-Carlton brand detracts from Jamaica’s offering”: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130509/letters/letters1.html Jamaica the modern-day Animal Farm: Letter of the Day/Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130509/letters/letters4.html IMF deal brings an opportunity to build, renew: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Time-for-a-more-promising-future-for-Jamaica_13863318 Time for a more promising future for Jamaica: Gene Leon op-ed/Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/Did-she-say-that-with-a-straight-face-_14217848 Did she say that with a straight face? Letter to the Editor/Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130508/cleisure/cleisure2.html The squinting Prime Minister: George Davis column/Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130509/lead/lead7.html Clarke wants more focus on cassava: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130509/lead/lead4.html Robberies on the rise in Kingston: Gleaner
This week is Education Week in Jamaica. It means (obviously) that the Minister of Education is exceptionally busy, with a flurry of additional functions and school visits. We have also embarked on Child Month – when much wider issues affecting children are under the microscope. These “issues” are so wide-ranging that they cannot possibly be addressed during a few speeches/seminars during one month. We must keep them at the forefront of all our thoughts and discussions right through the year. In our hearts and minds.
Earlier today – Teachers’ Day – I spent some time at St. Michael’s Primary School, in the inner city area of Rae Town. The occasion was the donation of ten computers to the school by a U.S.-based company, GTECH Corporation (see press release below). The school is tucked away on a narrow lane, in one of the oldest parts of the city, close to the waterfront. There are remnants of old brick walls, broken kerbs and overgrown patches of land. This morning, rows of lilac-colored clouds furrowed the pale morning sky; the early light was soft and a faint humid breeze blew from the harbor. And just beyond the school loomed the red brick, Victorian walls of the “General Penitentiary” – or correctly named, the Tower Street Correctional Centre, spiked with barbed wire. The children must, one assumed, be used to these close quarters, this walled horizon.
The Chairman of the School Board, the Rev. Dr. Alton Tulloch, told me that the original St. Michael’s Anglican Church, where he ministers, was destroyed during the 1907 earthquake. It was close to or on the site of the current school, and was rebuilt further back from the shoreline, on Victoria Street. (The National Library of Jamaica has a wonderful photo album on Flickr, which includes a photo of the old church after the earthquake - little more than a pile of rubble).
The school was busy getting itself in order when we arrived; a few curious students wandered up to the room where we were to peer at the beautifully decorated walls, swathed in blue and yellow. They were shushed away. There was excitement in the air, and the narrow schoolyard was filling up with strange cars. The visitors were arriving…
Monday was Read Across Jamaica Day. Ms. Deika Morrison of Crayons Count visited the Sunrays Educational Centre and read to the young children there. Pelican Publishers’ Latoya West-Blackwood visited the Central Branch Infant School and tweeted, “Don’t know how the teachers do it! So much energy in the room!” The photographs below tell the story of enjoyment and fun. Crayons Count campaigns, and provides materials, in the area of early childhood education – those years when a child’s thoughts awaken. The brain absorbs; the eyes widen and imagination begins to flow.
Albert Einstein said, “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.” I grew up on fairy tales, and I don’t think they did me any harm.
Books, learning and exploring are at the core of the children’s experience at the Trench Town Reading Centre, which will celebrate its twentieth anniversary later this year. Situated in the heart of Kingston 12, just opposite the “Government Yard” where Bob Marley spent his youth, the Centre is bursting with energy and life. It is also a book-centred place of learning. No tablets here, no fancy technology; but so much creativity – hands-on – craft, music, art, gardening, dance, performing arts, and books, books, books.
And learning comes in many packages: whether it’s a tablet, a picture book or a computer such as those GTECH is providing to institutions in Jamaica.
So, wherever you are, and especially to my Jamaican readers… This month and throughout the year please do whatever you can to bring that shining light of discovery into a child’s eyes. The learning experience gives as much pleasure to the teacher and guide as it does to the young recipient. Try it, nuh! And please support organizations such as Trench Town Reading Centre and other places where the love of learning flourishes!
GTECH DONATES COMPUTERS TO ST. MICHAEL’S PRIMARY SCHOOL
Kingston, Jamaica, May 8, 2013 - Global information technology company GTECH today, Teachers’ Day, continued its commitment to fostering educational growth through their After School Advantage Programme with the handover of ten computers to St. Michael’s Primary School in Rae Town, Kingston.
This was their fifth such installation for Jamaican institutions, with two more planned by year-end. The Programme donates computers to non-profit organisations and schools with the aim of bridging the “digital divide” and empowering disadvantaged youth.
At the handover ceremony, Minister of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining Phillip Paulwell, who gave the main address, praised GTECH’s vision. He expressed his enthusiasm for and commitment to the use of information technology in schools, as a tool that will “create inquisitive minds” and encourage innovation and creativity. He recalled an early Jamaica Computer Society programme in rural schools that resulted in “almost immediate improvements” in reading.
“I thought: therein lies the answer,” Minister Paulwell observed. He expressed the belief that, once given access to information technology, Jamaicans could become technology leaders on the global stage.
GTECH Jamaica’s General Manager Debbie Green stressed that the Programme is much more than simply donating computers. “It is about establishing a relationship with the institution,” she noted, that includes continued support and maintenance. As an example of this, St. Michael’s Primary will be GTECH Jamaica’s Labour Day project onMay 23 this year; their staff members will be engaged in painting and refurbishing activities at the school, which houses 235 students.
GTECH’s Regional General Manager/Caribbean, Ann-Dawn Young Sang, quoted Jamaican National Hero Marcus Garvey’s words, “Knowledge is power.” She noted that in this “era of rapid advancement, there should be access to the digital world for every child.” In pursuit of this vision, she noted that GTECH works in over seventy countries worldwide, with over 200 After School Centres established. Emphasizing the importance of early childhood education, Mrs Young Sang sees information technology as a vital component for the region’s competitiveness.
St. Michael’s dedicated Principal, Dave Allen, expressed his gratitude for the computers, which he said would empower his students to “become good citizens of the world.” Noting the presence of veteran educator Verna Duncan, he celebrated the significance of the day – Teachers’ Day – for his school “in our little corner” of the city. Mr. Allen and a lively percussion section accompanied a group of charming students, who performed traditional folk songs for the guests.
Technology Specialist with the USAID/Jamaica Basic Education Project Dr. Melody Williams commended the GTECH family for its focus, pointing to several key benefits of information technology in schools. “If used effectively,” she suggested, “IT enhances the child’s creative skills.” Students must be “good digital citizens,” she added, pointing to the need for responsible use of the Internet.
Since 2006, GTECH Jamaica has provided assistance to a number of schools and institutions, including Lawrence Tavern and Easington Primary Schools, Sylvia Foote Basic School, the University of Technology, Caribbean Maritime Institute, Portmore Community College, Dunrobin Primary School, Holy Trinity High School, the Jamaica Christian Boys’ Home and the SOS Children’s Village. On average, the GTECH-funded programme invests US$15,000 to open and maintain each IT centre over a period of four years.
The GTECH After School Advantage Programme started in the Caribbean in 2005 in Trinidad and Tobago, where it has established twelve centres since 2011. In the U.S. Virgin Islands, GTECH has partnered with the Queen Louise Home for Children in St. Croix. It plans to open a second centre in St. Thomas this year, as well as one in the Dominican Republic.
http://www.usaidjamaicabasiced.com USAID/Jamaica Basic Education Project
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/pages/history/story0017.html Disaster: The Earthquake of 1907
http://www.flickr.com/photos/28320522@N08/ National Library of Jamaica Flickr Photostream
http://dogoodjamaica.org/crayonscount/2013/05/07/open-books-smiling-faces-read-across-jamaica-day-2013/ Open books and smiling faces: Read Across Jamaica Day 2013
http://www.trenchtownreadingcentre.com Trench Town Reading Centre
We are refreshed by the rain, which has been coming down in oodles for the past few days, every afternoon on cue. It has turned the streets of Kingston into chaos and our lawn into a kind of marshland (previously it was desert). We are nevertheless thankful.
All that wet stuff has not washed away all the silliness that has been going on this week though, sadly. For a start…
The terrors of tweeting: The curse of the tweet has descended on Jamaica. You would think that our public officials would have learned from the sticky situations their overseas counterparts have got themselves into in the not too distant past. But Kingston’s Mayor dipped her toes into these dangerous waters, and got bitten. She used some of her 140 characters to exclaim “What the f!” and went on to complain that two Opposition representatives (including the leader) were appearing on the mid-week television current affairs shows. Now we all know what the “f” in the social media term WTF means (no, it does not stand for “frog”) and the Mayor pretty much acknowledged this in a sort of half-apology during a radio interview with Barbara Gloudon. So let’s move on from that, and the self-righteous indignation. Yes, certainly inappropriate for someone in her position, but let’s not overreact.
The show must go on: Several journalists responded sharply on social media and radio to the Mayor’s accusation of political bias. They pointed out (in fact, one even listed) the number of times they have requested the participation of the Prime Minister and other government officials, who have declined the requests. And the media knows that the show must go on, with or without them. Note: Mayor Angela Brown Burke is a stalwart of the People’s National Party and leader of the Kingston & St. Andrew Corporation, representing the majority party. Mayors are not directly elected in Jamaica – except for the Mayor of the Municipality of Portmore.
More importantly…This is all another manifestation of the uncomfortable relationship between the current administration and the media. Isn’t it? So badly out of sync. If I was the Prime Minister, I would gently relieve the current communications consultants (or whatever they call themselves) of their duties, and start afresh with a new “team.” At the moment, the whole thing is lurching from one faux pas to another. It’s painful to watch. And so unnecessary.
Is the press really free, or just comfortable? And talking of the press, there were some interesting remarks at the Press Association of Jamaica’s breakfast in recognition of World Press Freedom Day on Friday, May 3. The church person I have a great deal of time for, the head of Jamaica’s Anglican Church Bishop Howard Gregory, said he did not think either the current administration or the Opposition would want a Commission of Enquiry into the Tivoli Gardens slaughter, as suggested by the Public Defender and others. Why? Because “the complicity factor operates,” says Bishop Gregory. Both political parties will seek to preserve the status quo (see below) and not rock the boat. Who knows what might come out? It might not look good on either party. Best to just let sleeping dogs lie… or in this case, well over seventy dead Jamaicans. Professor Trevor Munroe of National Integrity Action warned against the “nine-day wonder” phenomenon, which a certain local government councilor predicted for the Azan affair recently. Soon blow over. Don’t let this happen! And broadcast journalist Emily Crooks suggested that her colleagues were “not pushing the envelope” – and were, therefore, quite comfortable compared to colleagues around the world who are harassed, attacked, even killed. We need a more “activist” and investigative press, one feels. Complacency is never desirable. The press must, and should, be prepared to rock that boat until the water slops over the sides.
Thievery reaches new heights: With the theft of over 200,000 liters of airplane fuel from the Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay. Pardon the pun. The mind boggles. How? We wait with bated breath for more news on this… Or else we might just forget to ask?
Houses for the poor: Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller seems mighty pleased with her latest plan to revive the Inner City Housing Project, using funds from the poor old National Housing Trust (NHT) – the gift that keeps on giving. There, you see! She is doing something for the poor, after all. Who said she didn’t love them? Others are not so impressed. Responding to a question on TVJ News earlier this week, 91 per cent of viewers said that NHT funds should not be used to assist non-contributors. In a Sunday Gleaner column today, the irreverent Gordon Robinson asks: ”Why are otherwise intelligent persons twisting themselves into knots to defend this indefensible rape of poor people’s assets?” I think he (and we) know a few reasons why. One must not upset the applecart, as that sage People’s National Party councilor told CVM Television in relation to the Richard Azan/Spaldings Market fiasco. All hail the status quo! Long may it live!
Incidentally, the Prime Minister said she had no knowledge of the councilor’s remarks, when questioned by CVM. Rather surprising. Or not?
What Negril does/does NOT have: We noted recently that the tourist town of Negril is extremely short of water. We also now hear that it has had no fire engine for the past two months, and is dependent on trucks from the town of Savannah-la-Mar, a good twenty minutes’ drive away. A large house burnt down yesterday. As the Jamaica Environment Trust notes, the beach is rapidly disappearing, with the sea lapping at beachside attractions; there are dubious plans to revive it by injecting chemicals into it. Oh, and there is basically no coral reef and no fish – all connected with said dwindling beach, of course. I’m informed, also, that the Negril Recycling Centre, supported by the Sandals Foundation about three years ago, is also non-functioning. The nearest one now is in Montego Bay.
Help JA Children, a local lobby group formed just one year ago and founded by the still-ridiculously-young Brandon Allwood, has started a collection of items for children in state care. The collection drive will go on for the entire month of May (Child Month) at Kia Motors, 2 Chelsea Avenue, in New Kingston. Please go through your cupboards or pop down to the store and donate anything that you can spare – clothes, toys, books, stationery and school items, toiletries… Help JA Children has a Facebook page and is on Twitter (@HelpJAChildren).
Reparations, again: In 2001, our very own Barbara Blake Hannah – a passionate Rastafarian defender of Jamaica’s culture – attended the United Nations World Conference on Racism in Durban, South Africa. The conference made 19 excellent recommendations for ways in which the evils of slavery could be atoned for by, in Jamaica’s case, the British Government. A British Lord, Anthony Gifford – a Queen’s Counsel who practices law in Jamaica and the UK – has campaigned tirelessly on the subject; and so has the Jamaica Labour Party’s Mike Henry. And yet, sadly, little or no progress has been made. Essentially, the British have said sorry, but no. The discussions continue. Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines Ralph Gonsalves spoke for a remarkable 87 minutes (according to tweets from friends who attended) at the launch of a new book on the topic by Professor Hilary Beckles at the University of the West Indies this week. Mr. Gonsalves has offered to host a Caribbean conference on the topic in his country, at which he will no doubt drone on for another 87 minutes. To my mind, this does not advance us any further. What next? Not more words, please? Let’s have action! It is a burning question, it needs to be resolved, and long speeches are not going to cut it.
But then, this is part of the Pontification Syndrome for which Jamaica is well known. We talk too much!
I hate Page 2: In the current socio-economic climate, my dislike for the social pages in the daily newspapers has been steadily growing. I am developing a real hatred for Page Two and Something Extra and all the other nonsense. I think I am going to start a Campaign for the Abolition of Social Pages (CASP for short). Seriously. They are irrelevant, elitist, classist, and actually rather offensive – in light of the fact that when the IMF funds were disbursed, the government had to ask for a special sum up front for “budgetary support.” So they could pay public sector wage bills for April, perhaps? So can we wave goodbye to those people with drinks in their hands, posing for their photo? Goodbye!
Once again, it is very sad to note the names of those who have been murdered in Jamaica since Wednesday, May 1, when I wrote my last review. My condolences to all those who mourn them (and to the family, friends and neighbors of the twelve-year-old girl who committed suicide in rural St. Catherine last week):
Violet Marsh, 63, Temple Hall, St. Andrew
Phillip Bell, 39, Seaforth, St. Thomas
Leroy Reid, 42, Naggo Head, St. Catherine
Constable Michael Townsend, Effortville District, Clarendon
Killed by the police:
Orane Bowman, Clarendon
Related links and articles (local blogs in purple):
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/pnp-members-apologise-for-controversial-tweets PNP members apologize for controversial tweets: RJR News
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130504/cleisure/cleisure1.html Controversy in 140 characters: Gleaner editorial
http://perceptualpost.wordpress.com/2013/05/05/can-you-hear-me-now/ Can you hear me now? Communication problems at Jamaica’s local government level: Perceptual Post
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/-Our-journalists-are-not-killed-but-many-stories-die-_14196488 ”Our journalists are not killed, but many stories die”: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130505/lead/lead7.html Jamaican journalists challenged to improve standards: Sunday Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/The-people-vs-Portia_14185042#disqus_thread The people vs Portia: Lloyd B Smith op-ed/Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/business/Jamaica-will-find-it-difficult-to-implement-IMF-targets–Fitch-says Jamaica will find it difficult to implement IMF targets, Fitch says: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130505/focus/focus1.html Lack of accountability in the budget debate: Robert Wynter column/Sunday Gleaner
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads/33766 NDX Saves Gov’t $17 Billion in Payments Per Year on Domestic Bonds: Jamaica Information Service
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/our-to-hold-public-meetings-on-request-for-increased-water-rates OUR to hold public meetings on request for increased water rates: RJR News
http://www.solarbuzzjamaica.com/2013/05/energy-bill-reduction-falls-short-of-target/ Energy bill reduction falls short of target: Solar Buzz Jamaica
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Paulwell-s-statement-on-CAP-not-true–says-Golding_14191572 Paulwell’s statement on CAP not true, says Golding: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads/33758 Clarendon Alumina Partners no cost on budget – Finance Minister: Jamaica Information Service
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20100423/lead/lead10.html NHT’s Inner City Housing Project causes headache: Gleaner – April, 2010
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130501/lead/lead1.html PM revives housing plan: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130505/cleisure/cleisure2.html The great NHT robbery: Gordon Robinson column/Sunday Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/business/Upgraded-facility-to-benefit-St-Mary-farmers_14189002 Upgraded facility to benefit St. Mary farmers: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130504/western/western1.html Public beaches raise a stink: Gleaner
http://lowrie-chin.blogspot.com/2013/05/be-more-selective-ffpj-chair-andrew.html?m=1 ”Be more selective”: Food for the Poor Jamaica Chair Andrew Mahfood: lowrie-chin.blogspot.com
http://anniepaul.net/2013/05/04/britains-black-debt-the-logic-of-reparation/ Britain’s black debt: The logic of reparation: anniepaul.net
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/editorial/Cut-the-talk-and-cut-the-red-tape_14201352 Cut the talk and cut the red tape: Sunday Observer editorial
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/RICHARD-AZAN–The-story-not-yet-told_14191123 Richard Azan: The story not yet told: Desmond Allen article/Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Spalding-shops–Parish-Council-knew_14201657 Spalding shops: Parish Council knew: Sunday Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130503/cleisure/cleisure1.html Beyond Mr. Witter’s windy diatribe: Gleaner editorial
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130503/letters/letters3.html Witter wrong on ICC enquiry: Letter to the Editor from Lloyd D’Aguilar/Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130503/lead/lead3.html We want $1 millon each: Tivoli residents put price on their loss: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Don-t-hold-your-breath-_14198207 Anglican bishop says government will do nothing about Tivoli report: Jamaica Observer
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/jamaicas-image-in-jeopardy-if-no-tivoli-enquiry-human-rights-activist Jamaica’s image in jeopardy if no Tivoli enquiry says human rights activist: RJR News
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/-Dudus–should-testify—Witter_14198889 ”Dudus” should testify – Witter: Sunday Observer
http://jamaica-star.com/thestar/20130503/news/news10.html No disciplinary action yet – Albert Corcho: Jamaica Star
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads/33762 Children’s Advocate calls for partnerships: Jamaica Information Service
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/Give-us-clarity–Minister-Thwaites_14190349 Give us clarity, Minister Thwaites: Letter from Senator Kamina Johnson Smith/Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Child-s-suicide-leaves-void-in-St-Catherine-village_14198680 Child’s suicide leaves void in St. Catherine village: Sunday Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Revealing-Jamaica-s-soul_14198396 Revealing Jamaica’s soul: Jamaicans for Justice op-ed/Sunday Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Should-contraceptives-be-introduced-in-schools_14190754 Should contraceptives be introduced in schools? Sunday Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Contraceptives-in-schools–Don-t-just-dismiss-it_14197942 Contraceptives in schools: Don’t just dismiss it: Sunday Observer
http://digjamaica.com/blog/2013/05/03/chart-of-the-week-putting-all-our-eggs-in-one-basket-cargo-continues-to-decline/ Chart of the Week: Putting All our Eggs in One Basket? Cargo continues to decline: diGJamaica
http://perceptualpost.com/tablets-for-a-wounded-jamaica/ ”Tablets” for a wounded Jamaica: perceptualpost.com
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/-Time-for-Penwood-to-settle-down-_14189985 ”Time for Penwood to settle down”: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130505/lead/lead2.html Was Penwood stabbing staged for YouTube? Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130505/lead/lead3.html Prisoners party at Tower Street: Sunday Gleaner
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/chronic-shortage-of-special-education-teachers Chronic shortage of special education teachers: RJR News
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Sports—the-opium-of-our-high-schools_14192172 Sports: The opium of our high schools: Lasceive Graham op-ed/Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Round-and-around-and-around-and-around-we-go_14192177 Round and around and around and around we go: Tamara Scott Williams column/Sunday Observer
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads/33761 ODPEM gearing up for active hurricane season: Jamaica Information Service
http://jablogz.com/2013/05/portrait-of-an-elderly-man/ Portrait of an elderly man: lovely artwork from a young man from St. Mary: jablogz.com
http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/the_americas/influential-jamaican-saxophonist-cedric-brooks-dies-at-70/2013/05/04/80c5a052-b4e2-11e2-9fb1-62de9581c946_story.html Influential Jamaican saxophonist Cedric Brooks dies at 70: Washington Post”
What happened to the Negril Recycling Centre? Undated photo from Sandals Foundation showsHeidi Clarke (third left), director of programmes at the Sandals Foundation, hands over a cheque valued at $320,000 to Carey Wallace, president of the Negril Chamber of Commerce, operators of the Negril Recycling Centre. Looking on are Mark Swainbank of Environmental Resources Management (from left); Junior Gordon, director of the Negril Chamber of Commerce and general manager for Grand Pineapple Negril; Jermaine Robinson, manager of the Negril Chamber of Commerce; and Peter Reid, manager of the Negril Recycling Centre.