Alpha Boys’ Home Statement by the Sisters of Mercy

MY DEAR READERS: This is a statement from the Sisters of Mercy, who administer the Alpha Boys’ School for abused and abandoned boys on South Camp Road in Kingston. Alpha Boys’ is an educational institution founded by Jesse Ripoll in 1880s. It has a tremendous tradition of musical accomplishment. For more information on this wonderful place, go to: http://www.alphaboysschool.org

I am also publishing below the statement a column written by Jean Lowrie-Chin in yesterday’s “Jamaica Observer.” This column also makes it clear that Alpha Boys’ has been struggling financially for years; but despite the closure of its residential program there is much hope for a new and brighter future for Alpha boys. 

Let us show the Alpha Boys – and all our children, especially those in State care – more love, compassion and respect.

The Sisters of Mercy are forced to break our silence in the face of unfortunate statements on the Alpha Boys’ School and resulting media commentaries, including a shocking cartoon, which have been disrespectful and have caused great stress to our students.

It is bad enough to make harsh remarks and direct hurtful “humour” towards adults, but when directed at children, it is irresponsible and indefensible. We wish to express our sadness at this turn of events on behalf of Alpha students and children in State care everywhere in Jamaica.

The untruths and half-truths that have been voiced and published in the press about the closure of the residential programme at Alpha Boys’ School have caused serious damage to our boys who are presently living at Alpha. We seem as a society to be unable to strike a balance between fair political comment and good journalism on the one hand and sensationalism in politics and journalism on the other hand opting only for sensationalism. Let us stop blaming the victims in this case and bring the voices of reason to bear on what is a very positive and life-giving move for the future students at Alpha Boys’ School.

The Community of the Sisters of Mercy have made a decision regarding the closure of only the residential programme at Alpha Boys’ School based on many factors related to finance and personnel. These are not new problems and over several years we have raised the issues of inadequate finance and social misbehavior to the attention of both Governments. The residential program at St John Bosco Children’s Home in Mandeville which is also operated by the Sisters of Mercy will continue to provide residential care to over 100 boys.

However our decision is now timely in the present climate and direction of the Child Development Agency’s (“CDA”) new thrust toward foster care and family reintegration: our decision goes hand in hand with the CDA’s thrust to put the responsibility for child rearing back into the home. Support services will also need to be a part of this transition.

The restructuring of Alpha will facilitate the Sisters of Mercy along with the Ministry of Education and HEART to offer remedial education for more than 200 boys, along with technical and vocational education. Our renowned music education will also be expanded to include radio, sound production and commercial components.

Truth – “What is truth”? Pilate’s dilemma comes to mind as we read and heard the words of those who testify against our management of the Alpha Boys’ School. We hope this statement will address that question, and that all parties will allow our precious children to receive the respect they deserve.

___________________________________________________________________

15 April 2014

Sister Marie Chin, Regional Administrator

Religious Sisters of Mercy,

“Alpha”, 26 South Camp Road

Kingston 4.

 

Mercy alive and well at Alpha Boys’ School

Jamaica Observer, Monday April 14, 2014

AFTER almost 130 years of nurturing Jamaican boys, the Alpha Boys’ School is closing its residential facilities. On the positive side, however, the school will expand its educational offerings. You would think that an institution like Alpha would have no difficulty receiving a decent subvention for its good work. But, like many others of its kind, it has been struggling financially.

“We understand that the decision to close the residential part of Alpha Boys School has been subject to misunderstanding and misinterpretation,” commented Sister Marie Chin, area administrator of the Sisters of Mercy, when I called her after hearing the reports. “We appreciate this opportunity to explain that the closing of the residential part is due to a constellation of factors that are as much social as they are economic.”

She said pointedly: “The problems that have arisen in this programme did not materialise overnight; nor do they belong solely to Alpha Boys’ School. They have grown exponentially alongside the deterioration of societal values and norms, our seeming incapacity to halt our country’s downward spiral into alarming dysfunction, and inadequate government funding to meet the social and developmental needs of our people.”

It seems that the Minister of Youth and Culture Lisa Hanna may have misunderstood the situation, as she ascribed the change in operations to deviant behaviour among the students. Sister Susan Frazer, the administrator for Alpha Boys’ School, wants to make it clear that it is a small minority that gives cause for such concern. The students are deeply hurt by this comment, so we hope that the minister will explain to them, that her sweeping statement resulted from a misunderstanding.

Thank goodness the great Usain Bolt lifted their spirits when he visited Alpha Boys School last Wednesday and presented gifts to all.

“The Sisters of Mercy remain firm in their long-time commitment to boys at risk,” said Sister Marie Chin. “Neither Alpha Boys’ School nor St John Bosco (which the Sisters operate in Manchester) is closing. In fact, Alpha is undergoing a restructuring that will enable the ministry to help more boys who are at risk. Part of the restructuring will include closing the residential part only of Alpha Boys’ School as the Sisters of Mercy join with the Ministry of Education and HEART to offer literacy, numeracy and remedial educational along with technical and vocation education for more than 200 boys.

“With the escalating cost of living over these last years, the amount of funds that Government has given per capita to private children’s homes, such as Alpha Boys’ School and St John Bosco, for housing, clothing, food, and education has proven to be woefully inadequate,” said Sister.

After several attempts to address this situation the Sisters of Mercy have had to acknowledge some hard facts: “Our childcare system is broken, and we can no longer continue doing business as usual. It is no longer enough to simply provide beds for our children. We must seek alternative ways to enable our vulnerable children to enhance their potential as human beings and to become employable and responsible citizens capable of taking their rightful place in society. And, with the changes we are initiating, we are pursuing that path.”

Alpha Boys’ School graduate, the legendary musician Winston ‘Sparrow’ Martin is the bandmaster for the school and outlined the plans for the expansion of their cherished and esteemed music education which has developed such other talents as Cedric ‘Im’ Brooks, Dwight Richards, Lennie Hibbert OD, Tommy McCook, Don Drummond, Johnny ‘Dizzy’ Moore, Rico Rodriguez, Winston ‘Yellowman’ Foster, Dizzy Reece, Lester Sterling OD, Dalton Browne, Nicholas Laraque, Leslie Samuels, Harold McNair, Wilton ‘Bogey’ Gaynair, Bertie King, Leslie Thompson, Damon Riley, Tony Gregory, and Leroy Smart.

They have played with many top bands, including Bob Marley and the Wailers, The Beatles — yes, those world-famous Brits — and our legendary Skatalites. Alpha past students have worked with or now work with Beres Hammond, Beenie Man, Jimmy Cliff, Stephen Marley, Damian Marley, and Nomaddz.

“The future developments at Alpha Boys’ School mean larger numbers of students will be able to take advantage of a comprehensive music industry training programme at the school,” said Sparrow Martin, “including but not limited to: training in performance; work in the newly created sound studio; radio technology; as well as the ‘business’ of music and recording”.

He said that Alpha Boys’ School Radio (http://www.alphaboysschoolradio.com/), features local and international productions and has been gaining worldwide popularity, with over 60,000 unique listeners. Many of them have contributed to the recently completed Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign which will enable the school to build its own radio studio. Here, the students will be trained in production, presentation, promotions, and programming.

Thanks to the Jamaica National Foundation, the school is also developing a state-of-the-art music recording studio, where there will be instruction in recording techniques, audio engineering and audio production.

“Alpha now has its own top band, the Alpha All Stars, a touring band consisting of Alpha graduates playing jazz, ska, rocksteady, and reggae,” said a proud Martin. “The band will be an opportunity for Alpha alumni who demonstrate an ability to perform and will facilitate the transition from school to work. This is a music enterprise, so instruction will include an introduction to and practical experience in contracts, booking, licensing, promotion, and publishing.”

Additionally, students will be trained in screen-printing, woodwork, general maintenance, landscaping, hydroponic farming, and other skills. It is a model that has worked well at St John Bosco, where farming, meat processing and catering are helping that residential facility, also run by the Sisters of Mercy, to be self-sustaining. It is noteworthy that the catering manager there is none other than Newton Coote, who was rescued at seven years old after his hand was set on fire by an abusive father. Newton, who is now 40, is an exemplary leader at Bosco.

Clearly, mercy for Jamaica’s children remains alive and well with the Sisters. Alpha Boys’ School will continue to educate and train Jamaica’s boys so that, like Sparrow Martin and Newton Coote, they can become responsible citizens, embracing the dignity of honest work and enjoying the fruits of their success.

Jean Lowrie-Chin

The Roma: An Ancient Culture Still Struggling for Respect

Today is International Roma Day.

Now, that may mean little (or nothing) to my Jamaican readers. But perhaps I can illustrate this with a childhood memory or two.

When I was young, I remember being at Waterloo Station in London. We were on the way to the south coast, I believe. I remember being fascinated by a big woman with skin like mahogany, wearing voluminous black clothing. She looked very old. I thought she might be some kind of magic person (I lived in a world of fairytales, at that age). I remember she was speaking a language I did not understand.

That was in the city. Near my grandmother’s house in the country, there was a lovely roadside spot with tall trees. I was always curious about the people who lived in caravans there (they even had the old-fashioned kind, with horses). They fascinated me. They looked different. Sometimes they just disappeared. Then they returned, perhaps a few weeks later. They lit fires. In the orderly, rather dull middle-class world in which I lived, their regular appearances were extraordinary, exciting and mysterious. I invented lots of romantic stories about them.

These are the kind of "gypsy caravans" I remember seeing as a child. In England, Roma people are often called "travelers" - a term many Roma dislike.  (Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

These are the kind of “gypsy caravans” I remember seeing as a child. In England, Roma people are often called “travelers” – a term many Roma dislike. (Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

But I was told not to go near any of these people. They were regarded with fear and suspicion. They were “gypsies.” They were different. They were thieves and criminals. They were dirty. They had too many children. They had their own religion and a language we did not understand.

Many Romani people live in great poverty and are subject to mass evictions and tremendous harassment by right-wing groups in several countries. This photo is of a Roma settlement in Belgrade, Serbia, taken by Boja Vasic.

Many Romani people live in great poverty and are subject to mass evictions and tremendous harassment by right-wing groups in several countries. This photo is of a Roma settlement in Belgrade, Serbia, taken by Boja Vasic.

Yes, the “gypsies” were truly living outside of society; they were ostracized and they were discriminated against. They were not allowed into the local shop, and “respectable” people would never allow them inside their homes. This was the attitude decades ago; but many Roma (as they are officially named) are still fighting discrimination and living in poverty. According to Amnesty International, “Numbering between 10 and 12 million people, the Roma are one of Europe’s largest and most disadvantaged minorities.” They live in 38 countries. The majority live in Turkey, Romania, Bulgaria, Spain and Russia, according to the European Union (EU).

French police inspect an illegal Roma camp in Aix-en-Provence to control and check the identity of its residents on August 19, 2010. France sent dozens of Roma home on flights to Bucharest on Thursday in the first mass repatriation since President Nicolas Sarkozy unveiled a crackdown on crime and immigration with the dismantling of some 300 illegal camps that has been condemned by rights groups. Some 60 Roma left on a chartered plane from Lyon and about a dozen boarded a flight from Paris, the first wave of transfers in a campaign to send 700 people living in squalid camps across France back to Romania and Bulgaria by the end of the month.  REUTERS/Philippe Laurenson  (FRANCE - Tags: SOCIETY POLITICS)

French police inspect an illegal Roma camp in Aix-en-Provence to control and check the identity of its residents on August 19, 2010. France has deported hundreds of Roma people since President Nicolas Sarkozy unveiled a crackdown on crime and immigration with the dismantling of some 300 illegal camps that was condemned by rights groups. The eviction of Roma communities has continued in France since 2010; last year hundreds were evicted from a camp in Lille. (REUTERS/Philippe Laurenson)

There are over 300,000 Roma people in Bulgaria. (Photo: BGNES)

There are over 300,000 Roma people in Bulgaria. (Photo: BGNES)

International Roma Day was officially declared in 1990 in Serock, Poland, the site of the fourth World Romani Congress of the International Romani Union (IRU).On April 8th 1971, the first World Romani Congress was held in Oprington, near London. The day highlights the plight of many marginalized Romani communities – but also celebrates their rich culture and traditions.

Roma families like the Baloghs have left Hungary in droves in the hope of finding freedom from persecution in Canada. Claudia Balogh, middle, hugs a relative, as her husband Miklos, left, looks on in their home in Budapest on Oct. 22, 2012. (Ed Ou/Reportage by Getty Images for CBC)

Roma families like the Baloghs have left Hungary in droves in the hope of finding freedom from persecution in Canada. Claudia Balogh, middle, hugs a relative, as her husband Miklos, left, looks on. (Ed Ou/Reportage by Getty Images for CBC)

International Roma Day.

International Roma Day.

So who are the Roma?

They are an ancient people. According to academic studies, the Roma originally came from India. The roots of the Romani language are there; and recent genetic studies also show they moved from north-west India around 1,500 years ago, eventually settling in the Balkans in the 12th century. In several countries, they became slaves or serfs of one sort or another during medieval times. From the 19th century onwards, large groups of Roma migrated to North and even to South America. Nazi Germany systematically persecuted the Roma; along with Jews, homosexuals, black people and those with disabilities, they were sent to concentration camps. Up to 1.5 million Romas are estimated to have been killed during this period. They did not fare well under Communist regimes either, however, with forced sterilization a common practice.

Romani children in Romania.

Romani children in Romania.

Roma carry their possessions through the village of Gyongyospata, eastern Hungary, in 2011 after a far-right vigilante group set up a training camp near their homes. (Bela Szandelszky/Associated Press)

Roma carry their possessions through the village of Gyongyospata, eastern Hungary, in 2011 after a far-right vigilante group set up a training camp near their homes. (Bela Szandelszky/Associated Press)

Although originally Hindu, and adhering to some Hindu family practices to this day, most Roma today are Muslims or Christians. It’s all quite mixed up though, depending on the country they live in. Romani people are very musical and greatly influenced many forms of European music over the centuries; they are famous for their wedding music, too. The Spanish flamenco musical form is actually Roma music.

Roman Catholic Roma and Sinti people (Sinti are related to the Roma) play during a pilgrimage in Germany.

Roman Catholic Roma and Sinti people (Sinti are related to the Roma) play during a pilgrimage in Germany.

Christian gypsies during the pilgrimage at Saintes-Maries de la Mer, France. Many Romani communities today are Muslims. (Photo: Wikipedia Commons)

Christian gypsies during the pilgrimage at Saintes-Maries de la Mer, France. Many Romani communities today are Muslims. (Photo: Wikipedia Commons)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry issued a statement for International Roma Day, today (at least one million Roma live in the United States). Here it is:

Today of all days, all the American people are particularly thinking of the Roma around the world. We celebrate the rich Romani culture and contributions to our societies in Europe, the United States, and beyond. We also renew our commitment to remove the obstacles that keep millions of Roma on the margins of society and prevent them from realizing their full potential.

We each have a responsibility to speak out against hateful anti-Roma rhetoric and all forms of violence, wherever they occur. We must help provide Romani communities the opportunities they need to build a better future for their families.

The United States will continue to work with our European and international partners to promote tolerance, dignity, and equal treatment for all Roma.

A Romani woman walks on a street in France.

A Romani woman walks on a street in France.

Modern-day Roma continue to fight for the rights of their people. Magda Matache, who heads an NGO that defends the rights of Roma, observes: “I think the role of activists, but also of society, is to find the means to help those who lost hope and fell below the level of human dignity, in order to regain equality, so that, one day, we, the Roma, shall all feel and understand that expressing and giving continuity to our identity makes us honorable.” 

These comments, of course, could apply to many marginalized minority groups. A healthy democracy is not about the will of the majority; it is about how we protect our minorities and support diversity.

The Roma are a proud people whose often tragic past has been one of struggle for respect and dignity. Let’s hope for a better future for them.

Magda Matache, the Executive Director of Romani CRISS, an NGO that defends the rights of the Roma, notes: "I think the role of activists, but also of society, is to find the means to help those who lost hope and fell below the level of human dignity, in order to regain equality, so that, one day, we, the Roma, shall all feel and understand that expressing and giving continuity to our identity makes us honourable."

Magda Matache, Executive Director of Romani CRISS, an NGO that defends and promotes the rights of the Roma as full European Union citizens.

 

Statement from Alpha Boys School Addressing Rumors of Home Shutting Down in June

PRESS RELEASE from ProComm

Contact Information: Dominic Bell  dominic.bell@procomm.com.jm Tel: (876) 478-5624

Statement from Alpha Boys School Addressing Rumors of Home Shutting Down in June

The Alpha Boys School has advised that the school is not closing in June and that the students continue to attend classes and trade training in a safe and supervised environment. There is absolutely no truth to a rumor suggesting that the home is shutting down largely due to inappropriate behavior among Alpha boys.

Alpha Boys School and the Sisters of Mercy, are in fact, pleased to announce the completion of a successful Kickstarter fundraising campaign only just completed yesterday, Monday, April 7. The campaign raised over US$23,000 with the support of an international community of donors to fund the renovation of a room at the old junior dormitory. The room will become the new home of Alpha Boys School Radio for Alpha students to learn audio production and radio broadcasting skills. In addition, Alpha’s music studio is soon to become a reality and the Alpha screen printing program will be unveiling its new facilities on campus in the next month with backing from a variety of local partners.

Winston ‘Sparrow’ Martin, the current bandmaster and a past Alpha student, is part of a special advisory committee for the school’s organizational planning process. In response to the rumours, he gave a firm denial:

“Alpha Boys School is not shutting down,” says Mr Martin. “There is absolutely no truth in that. Alpha, is in fact, taking significant steps to increase and expand the education and vocational programs. I have been a part of the transition process and I am looking forward to these positive developments at Alpha Boys School.”

Alpha Boys School has provided a safe place for youth to learn and live since 1880. Alpha is now completing a thorough organizational planning process that will enable the school to continue to serve youth at risk, and in greater numbers, for another one hundred years. Alpha Boys School, is also, now engaged in talks with additional training and education partners to expand its educational and vocational offerings. The Alpha Boys School of the future will be one that graduates dozens of students every year with certified skills training, real world experience and meaningful career advancement opportunities.

Late for Sunday, April 6, 2014

Due to the crazy distraction of the “Game of Thrones” marathons, which sucked me in, I am a day late with my Sunday roundup. My apologies!

Adijah Palmer (aka Vybz Kartel) dressed up for his court appearance, wearing his old school tie (Calabar High School). Photo: Jamaica Observer)

Adijah Palmer (aka Vybz Kartel) dressed up for his court appearance, wearing his old school tie (Calabar High School, which won the Boys’ Athletics Championships recently). Palmer left school after Fourth Form. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

Heavy sentences: In the past few days there has been drama. Last Thursday, the popular deejay Vybz Kartel (Adijah Palmer is his real name) was sentenced to 35 years in prison before he is eligible for parole, for the murder of Clive “Lizard” Williams (whose body has still not been found). Under the concept of “Common Design,” his three accomplices also received heavy sentences. One of them, Shawn Campbell, refused to plead guilty for a much lighter sentence. The men’s lawyers are expected to appeal the verdicts.

“God complex”: The sister of the deceased Mr. Williams, who was one of Mr. Palmer’s hangers-on, made some comments about marginalized youth. They are in danger, she said, of being “bullied” into following people “with a God complex” like Mr. Palmer, who use them for their own purposes. Mr. Palmer liked to call himself “Worl’ Boss” and built a so-called “empire” in his home town, the dingy suburb of Waterford. 

Reaction: The sentencing produced another wave of newspaper columns and lots of social media commentary. The response from Kartel supporters on the street was predictably angry. One supporter swore that Mr. Williams was still alive, and had gone to Cuba. I hear that Kartel was the most brilliant dancehall artiste ever; what that has to do with his murder conviction, I don’t know. But it’s not surprising that many Jamaicans have compared the long sentences with the dismissal of corruption charges against former state minister Kern Spencer. By the way, I have found some information on the Resident Magistrate’s reasons for dismissal, and they are here: http://www.jamaica-gleaner/gleaner/20140404/cleisure/cleisure6.html.

This meme has been circulating on social media.

This meme has been circulating on social media.

The Sunday Observer's editorial cartoon shows former State Minister Kern Spencer relaxing on the couch with a cocktail in hand while dancehall deejay Vybz Kartel is sentenced for life.

The Sunday Observer’s editorial cartoon shows former State Minister Kern Spencer, whose corruption charges were dismissed in court recently, relaxing on the couch with a cocktail in hand while dancehall deejay Vybz Kartel is sentenced to life imprisonment.

All dolled up for the opening of Parliament: Youth and Culture Minister Lisa Hanna. When the Parliamentarians walk to Gordon House for the official opening of the new parliamentary year, our political leaders dress up for the occasion. (Photo: Ian Allen/Gleaner)

All dolled up for the opening of Parliament: Youth and Culture Minister Lisa Hanna. When the Parliamentarians walk to Gordon House for the official opening of the new parliamentary year, our political leaders dress up for the occasion. (Photo: Ian Allen/Gleaner)

Also on Thursday: The Kartel sentencing coincided with the Throne Speech, at the official opening of Parliament – a far less exciting event downtown, but the media dutifully reported it. Every year, the Governor General reads out what is put in front of him – just like the Queen does in her speech in England. So, don’t blame them for being rather dull. It seems Cabinet decided against renaming the speech “The People’s Speech” (Member of Parliament Raymond Pryce had tabled a motion proposing this). Whatever it’s called, it will always provoke a collective yawn, although we really should pay more attention.

Arriving for the state opening of Parliament: Opposition members Senator Tom Tavares-Finson (I wish he would ditch those silly sunglasses), Opposition Leader Andrew Holness and National Security Spokesman Derrick Smith. (Photo: Ian Allen/Gleaner)

Arriving for the state opening of Parliament: Opposition members Senator Tom Tavares-Finson (I wish he would ditch those silly sunglasses), Opposition Leader Andrew Holness and National Security Spokesman Derrick Smith. (Photo: Ian Allen/Gleaner)

Budget time: Finance Minister Peter Phillips will open the Budget Debate next Thursday, April 17. The Budget Debate will then drag on for weeks afterwards, with every sector in Jamaica’s economy represented. I say “drag” because I wonder whether many Jamaicans fully appreciate or even understand the very important budget process. This year the budget is very conservative, with the International Monetary Fund looking over our shoulder. It has increased from last year’s J$744 million to J$761 million, which is really not an increase at all when one takes 8 per cent inflation and the steady devaluation of the Jamaican Dollar into account (the latter is now edging up to J$110/US$1).

Minister Phillip Paulwell says he has to obey the rules. But wasn't EWI's bid slipped in well past the allotted deadline? Have all the rules been followed, really?

Minister Phillip Paulwell says he has to obey the rules. But didn’t EWI’s bid come in well past the allotted deadline? Have all the rules been followed? There has been a distinct lack of transparency in this matter, too.

Minister Paulwell got his way: Energy Minister Phillip Paulwell has got the go-ahead to sign the license for Energy World International to construct a major power plant. He says he is legally obliged to obey the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) which has approved the awarding of the license. “I am a creature of the law and rules…” he declares. OK, then. The Office of the Contractor General, members of civil society, the Energy Monitoring Committee (EMC), and the private sector have urged Paulwell to proceed with caution on this, but no, it’s going ahead. 

PNP graffiti sprayed on a Tivoli Gardens sign in West Kingston. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

PNP graffiti sprayed on a Tivoli Gardens sign in West Kingston. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

“Peace marches” don’t work!  The violence continues in the relatively small community of Tivoli Gardens and surrounding areas of West Kingston. Member of Parliament Desmond McKenzie says a relatively small group” is seeking to dominate the area. After a shooting incident on Friday night, when two people (including a twelve-year-old boy) were killed and ten others injured, a group of angry residents demonstrated against Mr. McKenzie. No one is standing up for them, they say. What, despite all those peace marches, gospel concerts etc? Mr. McKenzie is asking residents to co-operate with the police, but in this atmosphere of distrust, one wonders. Members of the family of Christopher “Dudus” Coke, the former don who was extradited to the U.S. in 2010, are allegedly involved. Another theory is that it is warfare between two gangs fighting for what one resident called the “donship position.” God help us.

Uptowners having a lovely, lovely time. (Photo: Bacchanal Facebook page)

Uptowners having a lovely, lovely time. (Photo: Bacchanal Facebook page)

Partying till they drop: Regardless, Kingston’s uptowners are donning tiny shorts and skimpy tops at least once a week to kick up their heels and jump on top of each other during the regular Bacchanal ritual. This will culminate in the annual Carnival on April 27. I suppose it’s good exercise – although the health benefits may be completely canceled out by the large quantities of alcohol consumed. And someone’s making money out of it all!

Good news! The Alpha Boys’ School has now funded its Radio Studio and Media Lab Project to the tune of (pardon the pun) US$23,000 through Kickstarter crowd-funding. Congratulations and many thanks to all who contributed to this success! Alpha Boys is a home for abandoned boys that has also, over the years, nurtured many great Jamaican musicians and still has its wonderful Alpha Boys Band.

Petchary is bigging up…

  • The 23 young Jamaicans and two organizations that have received the Prime Minister’s Youth Awards for Excellence in several categories. Over forty were nominated, and all are to be congratulated.
Prime Minister the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller (right, centre) and Minister of Youth and Culture, Lisa Hanna (to the PM’s left), with the 2013 recipients of the Prime Minister’s Youth Awards for Excellence after the ceremony, held on April 6 on the lawns of Jamaica House, Kingston, under the theme: ‘Celebrating Jamaican Youth…the Courage of Perseverance’. (Photo: JIS)

Prime Minister the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller (right, centre) and Minister of Youth and Culture, Lisa Hanna (to the PM’s left), with the 2013 recipients of the Prime Minister’s Youth Awards for Excellence after the ceremony, held on April 6 on the lawns of Jamaica House, Kingston, under the theme: ‘Celebrating Jamaican Youth…the Courage of Perseverance’. (Photo: JIS)

  • The management of the Jamaica Urban Transit Corporation (JUTC), which has been making huge efforts to strengthen the public transportation system in Kingston, and to impose some kind of order, struggling with the problems of illegal taxis and declining profitability, among a myriad other issues. Efforts have been made before, but I think – hope – the JUTC may be successful this time. The JUTC has been riddled with indiscipline, corruption and sheer criminality over the years; the current administration appears to be getting to grips with this.

As always, I extend my condolences to the families and loved ones of all those who have been murdered in the past few days. I always wish that this list of names would disappear, but it never does…

Prison guard Cpl Easton Williams has died in hospital from multiple gunshot wounds he received late last month after he was attacked while making his way to work in St. Catherine. No one has been arrested.

Ricardo Lowe, 28, Charles Street/Chestnut Lane, Kingston

Kawayne McAnuff, 12, Charles Street/Chestnut Lane, Kingston

Carl Williams, 51, Bay Farm Road, Kingston

Unidentified man, Orange/Beckford Streets, Kingston

Almando McKnight, 67, Palmers Cross, Clarendon

Donovan Stewart, 24, Innswood Estate, St. Catherine

Akeem Stephenson, 22,Innswood Estate, St. Catherine

On the road: The National Road Safety Council reports a pretty major increase in the number of deaths on the road up to the first week in April (83), compared to the same period last year (69). NRSC Vice Chairman Lucien Jones believes speeding still remains a problem, along with cell phone use while driving (I see the latter problem each time I am on the road in Kingston – drivers on cell phones driving carelessly). When are we going to pass laws prohibiting cell phone use? Meanwhile, a 24-year-old security guard was killed when his motorbike collided with a car driving in the opposite direction in Retreat, Westmoreland. A ten-year-old girl is in critical condition after she was knocked down in Salem, Runaway Bay, St. Ann while trying to cross the road. The driver fled the scene but was picked up later by the police.

Ricardo Lowe, who was involved in the music business as road manager for an entertainer for Teflon, was murdered on Friday night.

Ricardo Lowe, who was involved in the music business as road manager for an entertainer for Teflon, was murdered on Friday night.

A Lively Week: Sunday, March 30, 2014

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

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

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

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

Vybz Kartel going into the courthouse last week.

Vybz Kartel going into the courthouse last week.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Former banker Dunbar McFarlane.

Former banker Dunbar McFarlane.

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

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

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

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

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

Big ups and thanks to:

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

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

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

Supreme Ventures logo.

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

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

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

Jamaican jazz guitarist Ernie Ranglin.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shanice Williams, 27, Hopewell, Hanover

Peta Rose, 64, Lumsden, St. Ann

Rushawn Myers, 20, Port Antonio, Portland

Lebert Balasal, 61, Little London, Westmoreland

Killed by police:

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

Unidentified man, Alexandria, St. Ann

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

Police Constable Christopher Foster died in a tragic car crash.

Police Constable Christopher Foster died in a tragic car crash.

Earth Hour in Jamaica and the Caribbean

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Earth Hour Barbados.

Earth Hour Barbados.

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

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

Earth Hour at the University of Belize.

Earth Hour at the University of Belize.

Earth Hour Curacao.

Earth Hour Curacao.

 

Hora Del Planeta in Dominican Republic.

Hora Del Planeta in Dominican Republic.

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

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

Spiderman was out in support at the Trinidad Hilton.

Spiderman was out in support at the Trinidad Hilton.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The concert glowed...

The concert in Kingston just glowed…

Sparklers!

Sparklers! In Kingston

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

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

Jamaica Yellow Pages' Earth Hour flyer.

Jamaica Yellow Pages’ Earth Hour flyer.

Are You Ready for Earth Hour?

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

Earth Hour 2014.

Earth Hour 2014.

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

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

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

Check in with F1rst during Earth Hour in the Caribbean…

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

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

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

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

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

Earth Hour Acoustic Concert in Kingston, Jamaica.

Earth Hour Acoustic Concert in Kingston, Jamaica.

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

Use Your Power to…

raise consciousness

connect with your customers

find new partnerships

support each other

and simply celebrate our beautiful, blue Earth!

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

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

From Blue to Green…

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

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

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

 

 

 

What a Week! Wednesday, March 26, 2014

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

Thumbs up from Kern Spencer.

Thumbs up from Kern Spencer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Western Hanover Member of Parliament Ian Hayles.

Western Hanover Member of Parliament Ian Hayles.

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

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

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

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

Kingston Container Terminal. (Photo: Gleaner)

Kingston Container Terminal. (Photo: Gleaner)

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

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

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

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

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

Now… Major kudos this week to:

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

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

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

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

Michael Rose, 41, Franklin Town, Kingston

Edward Keating, Denham Town, Kingston

Sheldon Levy, 22, Retry Road, Clarendon

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

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

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

 

 

Oh Happy Day

If I went out on the streets of Kingston today and asked random people, “Are you happy, at this moment?” I am sure I would get a variety of responses. Some would scratch their heads, others give a wry laugh. While a few might say, with some degree of certainty, that they were in fact happy at that particular moment, there would, I suspect, be a lot of “ifs” and “buts” involved.  If you asked children, they would be more straightforward, as they always are, and give you an honest answer. Yes or No.

Bob Marley had a great smile - well, he seemed to laugh a lot, right?

Bob Marley had a great smile – well, he seemed to laugh a lot, right? And a love of life…

Well today – Thursday March 20, 2014 – if you didn’t know already, is International Day of Happiness. The United Nations Foundation has teamed up with the irresistible Pharrell Williams (who should have won an Oscar the other day, in my view, for his film music) in a vibrant campaign to put smiles on people’s faces. You can see more, and donate at 24hoursofhappiness.com. I have to admit that replaying his song does that for me – and did  you know there is a Jamaican version? It’s rather short but delightful and you can find it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bFugJzhrsUM Oh, and the Guardsman Group in Jamaica (yes, security is big business here) has released a really fun video today, too.

Happy Pharrell. Can't go wrong with this message.

Happy Pharrell. Can’t go wrong with this message!

As the United Nations website says: “Lasting happiness does not come from what we consume, how we look or how much we earn. But, let’s be honest, you probably knew that already!”  Well, I hope we do.

By the way, Pharrell has also launched another project, which I find rather interesting. It’s called “i am OTHER” (iamother.com) and you can find it in all the social media. It’s an effort to expose and encourage the work of unusual and creative people who are “doing their own thing” in different fields (and also, of course, it promotes his latest album, but I hope it is more than that!) Do check it out.  “We are proud to be different and believe that individuality is the new wealth.” Nice!

The World Happiness Report is a product of the UN's Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN).

The World Happiness Report is a product of the UN’s Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN).

So then, back to happiness. The World Happiness Report 2013 had some people rather baffled. But it makes interesting reading. In case you are wondering, Jamaica is about half way down (or up) at #75 out of 156 countries. If you are talking Caribbean, Trinidad and Tobago is some way above us at #31 and then there is Suriname at #40. European (especially Scandinavian) countries dominate the top ten, along with Canada and Australia. Israel and Costa Rica are right up there, too. The criteria used are GDP per capita; healthy life expectancy; perception of corruption; freedom to make life choices; generosity; and social support. 

Jamaica's VIsion 2030 is available online at http://www.vison2030.gov.jm

Jamaica’s VIsion 2030 is available online at http://www.vison2030.gov.jm

This rather ties in with some thoughts I have been having on Jamaica’s “Vision 2030.” The Happiness Report attempts to measure human wellbeing across the globe, and hopes this will be used as a policy-making tool by governments seeking to connect with the people, so to speak. There are some thoughtful discussions on things like values. And one very important discovery: with at least one in ten human being suffering from serious mental illness globally, mental health is a key factor that is not being addressed by our leaders. This is certainly true of Jamaica.

Can we stop trying to chase the bluebird of happiness? (Photo: Isidor Jeklin/Cornell Lab of Orinthology)

Can we stop trying to chase the bluebird of happiness? (Photo: Isidor Jeklin/Cornell Lab of Orinthology)

For the skeptical (and I am not short on that quality either)  - we know, “happiness” is not an over-the-rainbow bluebird thing, always to be pursued, always elusive, sitting there on the horizon waiting for you to catch up with it. And there is no automatic “happiness switch.” There is nothing worse than forced jollity. As the Dalai Lama so wisely put it: “Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.”

Surely the Dalai Lama is one of the happiest people on the planet. Do you ever see him not smiling or laughing? It's infectious. (Photo: Mads Nissen/EPA)

Surely the Dalai Lama is one of the happiest people on the planet. Do you ever see him not smiling or laughing? It’s infectious. (Photo: Mads Nissen/EPA)

I remember distinctly that Bobby McFerrin song “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” that was played ad nauseam on Jamaican radio in the aftermath of Hurricane Gilbert in 1988. I love Bobby, but in the midst of considerable trauma and suffering it was just too much. It actually hurt. 

International Day of Happiness 2014

International Day of Happiness 2014

But… I defy you to watch the global version of Pharrell’s video and not break out in a grin, or even laugh out loud. It’s at 24hoursofhappiness.com and it keeps changing as the time zones change. Currently it’s up on a mountainside with a bunch of crazy skiers in the snow. There’s a video from Antarctica – complete with whales and penguins. And there’s an edited version that simply flies around the world (thought I caught a glimpse of Jamaica in there). Yes. That’s happiness. It may only last a few minutes, but it’s there. And as a social media fanatic, this page encapsulates everything that I love about the connectivity and creativity that makes the world go round.

Just because he's cute and a little bit eccentric… I give you Mr. Pharrell Williams, again.

Just because he’s cute and a little bit eccentric… I give you Mr. Pharrell Williams, again.

A comment by the rather marvelous Mr. Williams really touched me, as I watched a video of his surprise visit to a school that had done a “Happy” video (yes, there are hundreds of them on YouTube). The Man With The Hat told the rather over-excited students:

“The point is…the journey. If you can enjoy the journey, then you can enjoy your life.”

 

It’s Not Raining: Wednesday, March 19, 2014

I am unhappy that two drops of rain fell earlier, and then stopped. So, our little corner of Kingston remains warm, sticky – and rainless.

FILE - In this May 20, 2010 file photo, residents gather outside their house riddled with bullet holes during a media tour organized by government authorities inside the Tivoli Gardens neighborhood in Kingston, Jamaica.  In May 2010, in one of the bloodiest episodes in Jamaica's recent history, over 80 civilians were killed over the course of a few days while security forces hunted drug kingpin Christoper "Dudus" Coke. We await the start of an enquiry into the incident, if it ever happens. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd, File)

FILE – In this May 20, 2010 file photo, residents gather outside their house riddled with bullet holes during a media tour organized by government authorities inside the Tivoli Gardens neighborhood in Kingston, Jamaica. In May 2010, in one of the bloodiest episodes in Jamaica’s recent history, over 80 civilians were killed over the course of a few days while security forces hunted drug kingpin Christoper “Dudus” Coke. We await the start of the enquiry into the incident. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd, File)

Some interesting developments this week: Ms. Velma Hylton, QC has stepped down (granting my fervent wish) as a Commissioner at the upcoming enquiry into the Tivoli Gardens massacre of 2010. Ms. Hylton stated: “The Commission of  Enquiry is important to Jamaica and should not be hampered by politics and petty distractions.”  I am glad that you have withdrawn, Ms. Hylton, but the concerns were far from petty. Putting the politics well to one side, your appointment seemed neither fair nor ethical, after the comments you made at another enquiry into an earlier Tivoli Gardens slaughter. The government should appoint someone who hasn’t been involved in any previous investigations. Simple.

Another positive development is the announcement of an adjustment to the Airport Passenger Duty that the United Kingdom had imposed on flights to the Caribbean. This has been a thorn in the side of tourism interests for a long time. Let us hope that it will make a difference to our anemic tourism performance. And at least the Tory Government in the UK has done something right in its new Budget.

Vybz Kartel, looking pale.

Vybz Kartel, looking pale.

A couple of twists in the murder conviction of dancehall star Vybz Kartel. Firstly, a juror has been charged with attempting to bribe the foreman and possibly other jurors to persuade them to return a “not guilty” verdict. Secondly, Kartel and two others are charged with attempting to pervert the course of justice and will go to court on August 11. The latter charge arose from a false report by a supporter, Ms. Gaza Slim to a police station which suggested that Clive Williams (whom Kartel and others have now been convicted of murdering) was still alive.

Mr. Derrick Latibeaudiere got into hot water over houses from as far back as 2006, and was eventually fired as Governor of the Bank of Jamaica in October, 2009.

Mr. Derrick Latibeaudiere got into hot water over houses from as far back as 2006, and was eventually fired as Governor of the Bank of Jamaica on October 30, 2009.

Former Bank of Jamaica Governor Derrick Latibeaudiere is the new chair of the Housing Association of Jamaica, after the entire board of the government agency resigned recently. I find this appointment amusing, in light of a controversy during the last political administration over Mr. Latibeaudiere’s low interest loan to himself to help build a luxury mansion in the hills. This eventually resulted in his removal as Governor. I suppose heading a housing agency is a fitting portfolio for him. (If you need to refresh your memory you can read this Gleaner report: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20091108/lead/lead2.html)

On the topic of government agencies in general, I tweeted today, and I repeat: “The level of political corruption and victimization in government agencies is appalling. I will say no more.”

The dump: Late on Sunday, the government announced that it had “activated its multi-agency Emergency Response Protocol” in response to the fearsome fire at the Riverton City dump. Very impressive. Less impressive were the radio interviews the following morning. The Jamaica Fire Brigade complained that it did not receive any water for over seven hours, and when the chairman of the National Water Commission was asked about this he said something about “the blame game.”  Meanwhile, the Acting Director General of the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (clearly focusing on the emergency part of his portfolio) seems to have been pushed to the front as spokesman for this awesome coalition of government agencies.

Photo taken from West Kirkland Heights on Sunday of the horrendous tire fire at Riverton City dump.

Photo taken from West Kirkland Heights on Sunday of the horrendous tire fire at Riverton City dump.

I thought the National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA) was the government agency responsible for the maintenance and management of the Riverton City dump. Yet, since the five-acre section containing tires (supposedly to be recycled at some point) caught light, Ms. Jennifer Edwards who heads the NSWMA has hardly spoken.  Why the reticence, Ms. Edwards? How do you feel about the dump operating in breach of the law?

And what does the Minister of Environment and Climate Change etc have to say? (*crickets*) Any word from the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) (*crickets*)

With so much talk/lip service about climate change, you would think we could do better at protecting our forests; but the denuding of our hillsides continues apace. Conservator of Forests Marilyn Headley says 350 hectares or so is lost every year in Jamaica. Remember, we are only a small island. She is doing her best, one supposes. Public education and lots of outreach to farmers would help. But it’s not just the farmers slashing and burning. As we noted in a recent Panos workshop, much of the forested land is being taken for large-scale housing developments, especially in western Jamaica.

EWI: Having made it clear less than three weeks ago that it needed a lot more financial and other information before recommending that Energy World International (EWI) receive a license for the 350 megawatt power plant, the Office of Utilities Regulation is now ready to give the green light “by the end of this week.” Yes! That was quite a volte-face, it seems to me. One minute, major concerns; now, everything cool. I know that Energy Minister Phillip Paulwell declared on television in January that he wanted to sign EWI’s license as soon as possible. Was there perhaps some pressure exerted?

Conservator of forests/head of the Forestry Department Marilyn Headley. With her are (from second left) managing director of the Water Resources Authority Basil Fernandez; deputy director of Meteorological Service of Jamaica Evan Thompson; and Adrian Shaw, also of the Met Service. (Photo: Naphtali Junior/Jamaica Observer)

Conservator of forests/head of the Forestry Department Marilyn Headley. With her are (from second left) managing director of the Water Resources Authority Basil Fernandez; deputy director of Meteorological Service of Jamaica Evan Thompson; and Adrian Shaw, also of the Met Service. (Photo: Naphtali Junior/Jamaica Observer)

Dr. Sonjah Stanley Niaah, Senior Lecturer at the University of the West Indies, is author of "DanceHall: From Slave Ship to Ghetto." Her blog is dancehallgeographies.wordpress.com

Dr. Sonjah Stanley Niaah, Senior Lecturer at the University of the West Indies, is author of “DanceHall: From Slave Ship to Ghetto.” Her blog is dancehallgeographies.wordpress.com

The dancehall trial: Some of my tweeps have upbraided me on this. If I am not a dancehall “fan,” they say (and I am not, I just don’t like it) then it is my loss, since dancehall is “the most relevant aspect of contemporary Jamaica.” Really? I stand accused of “living in a bubble.” Well, we all have our own bubbles, I guess, some smaller than others. Meanwhile, Dr. Sonjah Niaah from the University of the West Indies is very knowledgeable on the topic, so as a final postscript to the Vybz Kartel trial I highly recommend that you read her latest blog post here: http://dancehallgeographies.wordpress.com/2014/03/17/convicted-the-exceptional-werl-boss-and-the-dilemma-of-social-responsibility/  Social responsibility remains, I believe, a key issue in all of this. And having read more about him, I suspect that Mr. Kartel needs to seek professional help.

While we are still discussing the fire and the murder trial, it may have escaped our notice that tourism numbers are not looking so hot, again – down 3.2 per cent in January compared to January 2013; and that the Jamaican Dollar’s slide has accelerated this month. On Friday, it was J$109.27 to the U.S. Dollar; on Monday it went to J$109.31. The Bank of Jamaica put out a statement on Sunday evening that it stood ready to intervene in the market to avoid anything “disorderly” happening.

Finance Minister Peter Phillips

Finance Minister Peter Phillips is focused on one thing only: passing the next IMF test. He must dream IMF at nights…

The IMF at work: Parliament swiftly passed two laws yesterday that will help restrain public spending: The Public Bodies Management and Accountability (Amendment) Act and the Financial Administration and Audit (Amendment) Act. Me and many other cynics will agree that such legislation would never have been passed without the International Monetary Fund (IMF) breathing down our politicians’ necks – especially an administration that still includes former Finance Minister Omar “Run Wid It” Davies. But anyway, good going, Minister Peter Phillips.

Anyway, André Haughton, who teaches at the University of the West Indies, says Jamaica is “poised for growth.” What, again? How long have we been poised?

Parry Town residents demanding water in their pipes. (Photo: Renae Dixon/Jamaica Observer)

Parry Town residents demanding water in their pipes. (Photo: Renae Dixon/Jamaica Observer)

Irate and “bex”: Every evening on prime time news we see residents waving placards in protest at – well, it could be one of three things: lack of water, poor roads, or a police killing. On Monday night, the people of Parry Town, in Ocho Rios, were furious, shouting down their local councilor. They blocked the road.

The White Knight in "Alice in Wonderland" wore spiked ankle bands to keep away the sharks.

The White Knight in “Alice in Wonderland” wore spiked ankle bands to keep away the sharks, and recited a deeply strange poem.

The White Knight: In a nice little PR piece, University of Technology lecturer James McNish tells us that “China evidently is becoming the white knight for many economies of the world.” I am assuming he means a friendly investor. In one of my childhood stories, “Alice in Wonderland,” the White Knight is friendly enough, but one of Lewis Carroll’s strangest characters. Mr. McNish extols the virtues of the huge Baha Mar mega-resort and casino in the Bahamas. It is being built by 3,000 (yes, 3,000!) Chinese workers and with a huge Chinese loan, too. Hopefully there will be jobs for Bahamians at the end of it all.

And the White Knight has come to the rescue of JEEP (our Prime Minister’s Jamaica Emergency Employment Program) – which had broken down by the side of the road some time ago. There have been delays, but an agreement between the relevant ministries and the China Harbour Engineering Company was signed on Tuesday in the amount of J$5.4 billion (more or less) for the revival of the government’s Major Infrastructure Development Program. Some JEEP jobs will come out of that, one expects and hopes.

The Negril Morass and Royal Palm Reserve.

The Negril Morass and Royal Palm Reserve. (Photo: Island Buzz Jamaica)

Drying out: The head of the Water Resources Authority Basil Fernandez notes that water supplies in western Jamaica are drying up, and this will affect tourism. A year or two back there was a water crisis in the tourist resort of Negril that affected hotels. Once when we were staying there the entire morass was on fire; we had to leave the hotel. A lot of this is to do with climate change – the tropics are drying up; and also to do with bad planning, especially in the case of Negril, which is a mess in terms of badly planned developments and hotels.

Big ups to the following, meanwhile:

The Jamaica Fire Brigade, which was on the front line and worked round the clock to bring the horrible Riverton City fire under control. Special kudos to their spokesman Emilio Ebanks (I love that name), who is very straight forward and focused.

logo

Caribbean Producers (CPJ): It’s always a pleasure to eat lunch at their Deli on Kingston’s Lady Musgrave Road. Now I have even more reason to praise the food distribution company, which has announced through its Managing Director Mark Hart that it will be adopting the Glenhope Nursery. I have visited there on more than one occasion and this would tug at anyone’s heart: the sight of rows of cots containing small abandoned babies, and a sad little playground where the toddlers play. These are all abandoned children, most “in need of care and protection” as they say. Muchissimos kudos, Mr. Hart!

Jamaica's formidable Director of Public Prosecutions Paula Llewellyn has a broad, broad smile.

Jamaica’s formidable Director of Public Prosecutions Paula Llewellyn has a broad, broad smile.

Director of Public Prosecutions Paula Llewellyn, who spent considerable time on Monday morning discussing some details of the much-sensationalized Vybz Kartel trial on Senator Marlene Malahoo Forte’s morning talk show “Justice.”  I was very impressed at her diligence in answering many of the questions about court procedures and the investigative process that had been hovering around after the dancehall star’s murder conviction last week. Ms. Llewellyn clarified a lot of issues for me and other listeners. It was also a reality check on the over-stretched and inadequate justice system. Did you know that more than forty cases had to be rescheduled because of the long Vybz Kartel trial?  Anyway, thanks to both ladies!

Norma Walters being escorted by her husband, retired Custos of St Ann Radcliffe Walters during an inspection of the grounds of the Seville Great House prior to her installation as Custos of the parish.

Norma Walters and her husband, retired Custos of St Ann Radcliffe Walters at the Seville Great House prior to her installation as Custos of the parish.

The first female Custos of St. Ann Ms. Norma Walters, who has succeeded her husband Radcliffe in the largely ceremonial -but influential – position.The office of Custos is a colonial throwback; but Ms. Walters can still play an important role in guiding citizens and their leaders alike, up there on the north coast.

Videographer/photographer Zomian Thompson of Modern Media Services/Drone-maica. Photo stolen from his Facebook page!

Videographer/photographer Zomian Thompson of Modern Media Services/Drone-maica. Photo stolen from his Facebook page!

Mr. Zomian Thompson and his Modern Media Services/Dronemaica, who do brilliant aerial photography and post “virtual tours” online. Check them out on Facebook. Their recent postings of tours of Goat Islands (beautiful) and Riverton City dump on fire (fearful) are well worth looking at.

The sad part is that the murders continue, while everyone discusses everything else. My deepest condolences to the loved ones of the following Jamaican citizens, killed since Sunday (but at least the police have taken their fingers off the triggers, and we are grateful for that)…

Unidentified woman, Kitson Town, St. Catherine

Wiggan Bennett, 46, Bel Air/Runaway Bay, St. Ann

Norris Garvey, 70, Gayle, St. Mary

On our roads: Two women, both street sweepers, were run over by a speeding coaster bus that did not stop in Dunbeholden, St. Catherine this morning. One is dead and the other seriously injured. I am so sick of hearing of these hit-and-run incidents. How can one knock down two women and not stop? What kind of conscience do these people have? These street sweepers start work before dawn, very often. It is so sad. And why does the media use this expression “mowed down” to describe the running over of pedestrians? Human beings are not lawns. It sounds awful.