Today is Malcolm X’s birthday; he would have been 88 years old. Tragically, his young grandson, Malcolm Shabazz, was murdered on May 9 at a Mexico City nightclub. But here’s a little Caribbean connection: Malcolm X’s mother Louise was born in Grenada - but she had a very sad life, too.
Well, with that useful and important fact stored away, let’s look at the last few days in Jamaica…
The voice of morality: Our pious Minister of Education, the Reverend Ronald Thwaites, told Parliament this week that he is not going to allow young Jamaican students to be “groomed” towards homosexuality (demonstrating his own mistaken beliefs on the subject); and that although he approves of (the right kind of) sex education, condoms in schools are out. None of us were surprised at this, were we – after all, the Minister’s Catholic faith strongly influences his prescriptions for our youth. The television program All Angles confronted the issue of condoms in schools last week with youth activist/commentator Jaevion Nelson, retired school principal Esther Tyson and the head of the guidance counseling association. The latter two both toed the Minister’s line as expected; were confused by the statistics Mr. Nelson produced to strengthen his case for contraceptive assistance in schools; and clumsily tried to catch him out, once or twice.
But a big, big silver lining: The same Minister folded his hands, turned his eyes to heaven and announced a change in government policy towards pregnant teens in school. Amendments to the Education Act and Regulations attached thereto will ensure that schools will keep open a space for a child who has had to leave due to pregnancy, so that she may continue her education afterwards. Huge kudos to Opposition Senator Kamina Johnson Smith for her strong lobbying on this issue; and to the Minister for seeing the sense and fairness of it. The Minister also announced a couple of pending measures that have ruffled the feathers of the Jamaica Teachers’ Association; more on that, probably, later. I don’t always agree with our overly preachy Minister; but at least he is trying to right some of the hundreds of wrongs afflicting our education system, one by one. He has some tricky issues to tackle, indeed.
“I’m so frustrated by this experience”: A quote from CEO of the Jamaica Public Service Company Kelly Tomblin on the seemingly very long and slow deliberations by the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) on who should receive the contract for a new 350 mw power plant. I can imagine how she feels. I often fail to see whether government agencies like the OUR, the Bureau of Standards (of toilet tissue infamy), the Urban Development Corporation and others do any good for the Jamaican people. I guess they provide jobs. How else do they serve our interests?
The truth is swimming away: In an enlightening radio interview with a frequently stuttering Transport and Works Minister Omar Davies on Thursday morning, it transpired that Davies’ junior minister Richard Azan told him two different stories about whether or not he knew that rental money was being collected at his (Azan’s) own constituency office for illegally constructed shops. There actually appear to be three different versions of this conversation, all aired on broadcast media. However, clearly Minister Davies seems to think that his junior minister means well, even if he has broken the law. He is eager to do good in the community, so let’s “give him a bligh,” nuh. The grammatically challenged Junior Minister had told Nationwide in an earlier interview, “Yes, I make a mistake for building the shops” (sic). But saying “My bad” sometimes has consequences, right?
This is a true patriot, Rev. Redwood: As I noted in my last blog post, the now-departed-on-a-jet-plane Senate President Reverend Stanley Redwood only dug a deeper hole for himself by responding to the cutting criticism of a Gleaner column in a letter to the newspaper. He actually called himself a patriotic Jamaican. The acerbic columnist Gordon Robinson today gives us a better idea of a patriotic Jamaican – one who has no choice but to struggle through our ramshackle health, justice and education systems with no special privileges, but who tries to help his fellow Jamaicans and ensure his family thrives.
Fresh face: Members of the 51% Coalition (including myself) are delighted at the appointment of a young attorney-at-law, Sophia Frazer-Binns. Great to see another woman in the Senate, and we look forward to her contribution. We note also that Ms. Frazer-Binns has some experience of working with youth. Good, too.
Two key meetings: J-FLAG and the Jamaica Civil Society Coalition (JCSC) had two key meetings this week: in recognition of International Day Against Homophobia, J-FLAG held a forum on homelessness and forced migration among the LGBT population; and the JCSC launched two publications arising from its lengthy series of consultations with communities on “People Participation in the National Budget Making Process.” Congratulations to both organizations for their efforts to keep seeking solutions to some of Jamaican society’s most intractable problems. I will be writing more on these meetings in the next week – in particular, on the “disconnects” between Jamaicans and Jamaicans. Need to overcome these…
Rooting for the children: Huge big-ups to the JN Foundation for providing desperately-needed funding for the Spanish Town-based non-governmental organization Children First. I had the honor of working with this organization on several occasions and have always been impressed by founder Claudette Richardson-Pious’ deep understanding of and clear-eyed focus on the complex and difficult lives of youth at risk. Since it is still Child Month, here are two other individuals who are quietly working on behalf of children: Deika Morrison of Crayons Count; and youth advocate Kemesha Kelly, who works with young people in St. Ann. Great role models.
Collecting: And Help JA Children, the lobby group formed one year ago, is busy collecting items for children in state care this month. Take your food, toiletries, clothes, books, magazines and other goodies to Kia Motors c/o HJC, 2 Chelsea Ave, Kgn 10. Tel: 920-5000. It will be hugely appreciated!
Kudos to Vaz: It’s Labour Day on Wednesday, when people undertake all kinds of tasks to make life better for their fellow-Jamaicans. One of former Prime Minister Michael Manley‘s better ideas, I think. Across the island, the infirmaries that are funded by local parish councils are in a terrible state of repair – often colonial-era buildings that have seen much better days. Now, a couple of months ago Member of Parliament for East Portland Daryl Vaz announced that he was going to give up five per cent of his salary, as a gesture of sacrifice in these tough times. He was praised in a half-hearted way by some. But now he has met with Port Antonio’s Mayor and decided the money he gives up will be earmarked for the Portland Infirmary, which is in a bad state. I really do like this. Did any other political representative follow Mr. Vaz’ example? I think not…
A waste of space: I am sometimes baffled by the sheer inanity and trivia that gets published in the newspapers each week. The random thoughts of commentators with nothing meaningful to say; the grinning men and women with wineglasses in their hands at an uptown party; yet another PR piece about some reggae/dancehall singer who is “making waves” overseas (playing in tiny clubs in the suburbs of big cities). If it’s online, at least with a click you can forget/delete it. But good trees are chopped down for this worthless nonsense.
Jamaican bloggers, sharpen your keyboards! Wednesday, May 23 – the third anniversary of the Tivoli Gardens Massacre – is Jamaica Blog Day, a “Day of Action for Jamaican bloggers on police and security force abuses.” The great little (growing) blogging community on the island, including myself, will be researching and writing and photographing on this subject. It’s going to be meaningful stuff. Do read and support our bloggers!
Coming up fast and not to be missed! The Fulbright Academy of Science and Technology will hold its 2013 Conference on Global Health in Montego Bay from May 24-27. It is open to the public. Important themes covered will be: Public Policy, Law and Economics in healthcare; Public Health and the Impact of Technology and Social Media; Emerging & Reemerging Infectious Diseases; Education, Sport and Wellness; Environmental Health (Global water supply & safety, Climate Change, Urban planning, engineering); and Human Sexuality. Visit the conference website at http://www.fulbrightacademy.org/page/HealthSummit/index.v3page;jsessionid=4j4dleqsqk0m4 And while I’m at it, big shout-out to all the fabulous Jamaican Fulbrighters (including Marcia Forbes, who will be presenting at the conference)… You make us proud!
I am relieved that the week, which started off so badly with homicides, has ended (hopefully) on a more peaceful note. However, my sympathies go out to the families and friends of Kenneth Kerr and Abasco Foster, who are grieving at this time. I hope that Mr. Foster’s companion recovers from serious injuries.
Kenneth Kerr, 54, Spanish Town, St. Catherine
Abasco Foster, 27, George’s Plain, Westmoreland
Related articles/links and local blogs in purple:
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130517/business/business4.html Economy contracts in March quarter: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130519/lead/lead6.html Kelly speaks her mind: Urges speedy decision on new power supplier: Sunday Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Stadium-built-with-Chinese-money-in-ruins_14278481 Stadium built with Chinese money in ruins: Sunday Observer
http://www.amnesty.org.uk/news_details.asp?NewsID=20784 Jamaica: Three years on, state of emergency still an open wound: Amnesty International
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130518/lead/lead1.html ”Act on Tivoli”: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130519/cleisure/cleisure2.html The methods of war have failed: Claude Clarke column/Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130518/letters/letters1.html INDECOM needs more power: Letter of the Day/Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130517/lead/lead2.html Cops to be charged for schoolgirl’s murder: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Cop-dodges-court-as-DNA-shatters-lie-that-arrested-man-had-spliff_14284218 Cop dodges court as DNA shatters lie: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads-122/33915 Senate elects first visually impaired President: Jamaica Information Service
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads-122/33919 Attorney-at-law appointed to the Senate: Jamaica Information Service
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads/33909 Contribution to 2013 Sectoral Debate: Mikael Phillips, MP: Jamaica Information Service
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130519/cleisure/cleisure2.html Of patriots and sellouts: Gordon Robinson column/Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130519/focus/focus6.html Saying goodbye and diaspora relations: Christopher Tufton op-ed/Sunday Gleaner
http://chatychaty.com/2013/05/jamaica-not-grooming-students-for-same-sex-unions-marriage-is-between-a-man-and-a-woman/ ”Jamaica not grooming students for same sex unions, marriage is between a man and a woman”: chatychaty.com
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-o2el_Gw8O8 Stop being naïve about sex! Jamaican high school students speak: YouTube
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/teen-mothers-to-be-reintegrated-in-school-system?utm_source=rjr&utm_medium=news Teen mothers to be reintegrated in school system: RJR News
http://keimiller.wordpress.com/2013/05/19/the-little-wine-that-hurt-somebody-or-soca-and-the-bad-behaving-gays-of-jamaica/ The little wine that hurt somebody; or, soca and the bad-behaving gays of Jamaica: Under the Saltire Flag blog
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130517/lead/lead1.html ”I give up!” Some parents no longer care about their runaway children: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130519/news/news1.html Cruel by choice: Thousands of Jamaican children intentionally injured by adults annually: Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130519/lead/lead2.html Young and loveless: Teenage prostitute pushing for a fresh start: Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130519/focus/focus3.html Condoms in schools: Martin Henry column/Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130516/news/news1.html Ananda Alert to be displayed on billboards: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130519/lead/lead8.html Rescue for Children First: JN Foundation comes to the assistance of charity set up to help Jamaica’s most needy youths: Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130519/news/news5.html Portland infirmary to get Vaz salary cut: Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130517/lead/lead Suspected dengue cases climb to 475, two confirmed deaths: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130517/news/news1.html Moneague Primary & Junior High cops LASCO environmental award: Gleaner
http://www.bellinghamherald.com/2013/05/16/3012766/caribbean-talks-conservation-on.html Caribbean talks conservation on Branson’s island: AP
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130516/news/news7.html Public gets say in Cockpit Country boundary debate: Gleaner
http://jamaica-star.com/thestar/20130516/news/news1.html Eleven-year-old escapes croc attack, reptile snatches dog instead: Jamaica Star
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130516/news/news3.html KSAC, handcart men agree on registration fee: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130519/ent/ent1.html Balancing the act: Crawford seeks compromise between “want to eat” and “want to sleep”: Sunday Gleaner
An IDAHO State of Mind (petchary.wordpress.com)
May 15, 2013 (petchary.wordpress.com)
The work of self-taught painter and sculptor Everald Brown is best understood in the context of religious Rastafari and African-Jamaican spirituality. Like many other religious Rastafarians, Brother Brown was attracted to the teachings and ritual practices of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and in the early 1960s established the Assembly of the Living, a self-styled mission of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church which was located at 82 ½ Spanish Town Road.
Seretse Small has a face that you cannot forget once you have seen it – rather chubby, with strong brows and large brown eyes. He also has an infectious chuckle, especially when talking about his favorite things.
The Jamaican musician introduced us to some of these at Bookophilia this evening – and his favorites were, essentially, creative people. He began with his mother, Jean Small – educator, linguist, actress, writer, storyteller. Seretse paid an unsentimental tribute to Jean, who was sitting in the front row, speaking of the “international awareness” he grew up with. Seretse studied at the Jamaica School of Music in Kingston and Berklee College in Boston, USA. His musical heroes include, therefore, Bob Marley (almost a cliché, but you cannot ignore the richness of his songs, said Seretse); and Quincy Jones. Seretse has that jazz feel and inserted a refreshing burst of scat into one of the songs. But he also spoke passionately at one point about the comfort and sense of nurturing he feels at home on his island, Jamaica.
Now, what were the components of this evening of pre-Mother’s Day favorites? Firstly, Seretse has teamed up with two other amazing musicians – Wayne Armond and Steve Golding, to form Jakoostik. (Go and buy their CD – it was all recorded in one take, just like that, and is available at Bookophilia). The three put together create astonishingly soulful, delicately structured harmonies through their versions of well-known songs. Beres Hammond‘s “Putting Up Resistance,” slowed down and sung by Armond, takes on an added soulfulness. Golding, who has played with Peter Tosh, Chalice and others, began softly singing a Tosh song – one of quiet resilience, “Pick Myself Up,” which the other two continued. A wisp of sweet nostalgia caught me – and again, as they sang the Heptones classic “Book of Rules” - a simple tune with extraordinary lyrics, sung with passion by Armond (who is, by the way, a wonderful guitarist in his own right). Whatever your Book of Rules is, it is the guiding light you live by.
Words and music go together – and following these powerful songs, Seretse introduced a friend. Jean Lowrie-Chin read from her beautiful little book of poems and writings, “Souldance.” Jean says this book encapsulates a philosophy – the belief that each one of us has many facets – like a shining cut diamond. We are all so rich, aren’t we.
Bringing three poems, Jean focused on the family. She described the joy of her Chinese Jamaican husband dancing “to the riddim of Jah” (smilingly dedicating this poem to Steve Golding). She also read “Pick-up Time” - about the simple pleasure of going to pick up your children from school in the middle of a busy working day. The last lines made many of the working mothers in the audience smile…“Freeze the moment/Stop the clock…I live for pick-up time.” She ended by walking along the road built by her mother, firm and strong and “stadium-lit with love.”
Di Blueprint Band, comprising former students of the Jamaica School of Music, is the winner of the 2012 Global Battle of the Bands (that’s 3,000 bands from around the world, by the way). Three members of the band played for us – just keyboard and voice. Alex Gallimore has a strong, flexible voice with beautiful phrasing. He sang about love – and nothing wrong with that either. Their last song, “Back to Life,” was about vision, determination and “regaining what we have lost,” as Alex put it. I think he has a fine voice for rock music; Wayne Armond thought he had a great reggae voice. Well, both perhaps?
They say love makes the world go round. My grandmother always used to tell me that, and as a small child I used to wonder how exactly that worked. I think I’ve got it, now. Music and poetry certainly helps one towards that belief.
P.S. It’s not too late. “Souldance: Poems and Writings” by Jean Lowrie-Chin would make a beautiful Mother’s Day gift. Or a birthday present, or just a gift for someone you care about. It will enrich their lives, and yours. And pick up Jakoostik’s CD while you’re at it. What a package of sweetness that would be!
We are refreshed by the rain, which has been coming down in oodles for the past few days, every afternoon on cue. It has turned the streets of Kingston into chaos and our lawn into a kind of marshland (previously it was desert). We are nevertheless thankful.
All that wet stuff has not washed away all the silliness that has been going on this week though, sadly. For a start…
The terrors of tweeting: The curse of the tweet has descended on Jamaica. You would think that our public officials would have learned from the sticky situations their overseas counterparts have got themselves into in the not too distant past. But Kingston’s Mayor dipped her toes into these dangerous waters, and got bitten. She used some of her 140 characters to exclaim “What the f!” and went on to complain that two Opposition representatives (including the leader) were appearing on the mid-week television current affairs shows. Now we all know what the “f” in the social media term WTF means (no, it does not stand for “frog”) and the Mayor pretty much acknowledged this in a sort of half-apology during a radio interview with Barbara Gloudon. So let’s move on from that, and the self-righteous indignation. Yes, certainly inappropriate for someone in her position, but let’s not overreact.
The show must go on: Several journalists responded sharply on social media and radio to the Mayor’s accusation of political bias. They pointed out (in fact, one even listed) the number of times they have requested the participation of the Prime Minister and other government officials, who have declined the requests. And the media knows that the show must go on, with or without them. Note: Mayor Angela Brown Burke is a stalwart of the People’s National Party and leader of the Kingston & St. Andrew Corporation, representing the majority party. Mayors are not directly elected in Jamaica – except for the Mayor of the Municipality of Portmore.
More importantly…This is all another manifestation of the uncomfortable relationship between the current administration and the media. Isn’t it? So badly out of sync. If I was the Prime Minister, I would gently relieve the current communications consultants (or whatever they call themselves) of their duties, and start afresh with a new “team.” At the moment, the whole thing is lurching from one faux pas to another. It’s painful to watch. And so unnecessary.
Is the press really free, or just comfortable? And talking of the press, there were some interesting remarks at the Press Association of Jamaica’s breakfast in recognition of World Press Freedom Day on Friday, May 3. The church person I have a great deal of time for, the head of Jamaica’s Anglican Church Bishop Howard Gregory, said he did not think either the current administration or the Opposition would want a Commission of Enquiry into the Tivoli Gardens slaughter, as suggested by the Public Defender and others. Why? Because “the complicity factor operates,” says Bishop Gregory. Both political parties will seek to preserve the status quo (see below) and not rock the boat. Who knows what might come out? It might not look good on either party. Best to just let sleeping dogs lie… or in this case, well over seventy dead Jamaicans. Professor Trevor Munroe of National Integrity Action warned against the “nine-day wonder” phenomenon, which a certain local government councilor predicted for the Azan affair recently. Soon blow over. Don’t let this happen! And broadcast journalist Emily Crooks suggested that her colleagues were “not pushing the envelope” – and were, therefore, quite comfortable compared to colleagues around the world who are harassed, attacked, even killed. We need a more “activist” and investigative press, one feels. Complacency is never desirable. The press must, and should, be prepared to rock that boat until the water slops over the sides.
Thievery reaches new heights: With the theft of over 200,000 liters of airplane fuel from the Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay. Pardon the pun. The mind boggles. How? We wait with bated breath for more news on this… Or else we might just forget to ask?
Houses for the poor: Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller seems mighty pleased with her latest plan to revive the Inner City Housing Project, using funds from the poor old National Housing Trust (NHT) – the gift that keeps on giving. There, you see! She is doing something for the poor, after all. Who said she didn’t love them? Others are not so impressed. Responding to a question on TVJ News earlier this week, 91 per cent of viewers said that NHT funds should not be used to assist non-contributors. In a Sunday Gleaner column today, the irreverent Gordon Robinson asks: ”Why are otherwise intelligent persons twisting themselves into knots to defend this indefensible rape of poor people’s assets?” I think he (and we) know a few reasons why. One must not upset the applecart, as that sage People’s National Party councilor told CVM Television in relation to the Richard Azan/Spaldings Market fiasco. All hail the status quo! Long may it live!
Incidentally, the Prime Minister said she had no knowledge of the councilor’s remarks, when questioned by CVM. Rather surprising. Or not?
What Negril does/does NOT have: We noted recently that the tourist town of Negril is extremely short of water. We also now hear that it has had no fire engine for the past two months, and is dependent on trucks from the town of Savannah-la-Mar, a good twenty minutes’ drive away. A large house burnt down yesterday. As the Jamaica Environment Trust notes, the beach is rapidly disappearing, with the sea lapping at beachside attractions; there are dubious plans to revive it by injecting chemicals into it. Oh, and there is basically no coral reef and no fish – all connected with said dwindling beach, of course. I’m informed, also, that the Negril Recycling Centre, supported by the Sandals Foundation about three years ago, is also non-functioning. The nearest one now is in Montego Bay.
Help JA Children, a local lobby group formed just one year ago and founded by the still-ridiculously-young Brandon Allwood, has started a collection of items for children in state care. The collection drive will go on for the entire month of May (Child Month) at Kia Motors, 2 Chelsea Avenue, in New Kingston. Please go through your cupboards or pop down to the store and donate anything that you can spare – clothes, toys, books, stationery and school items, toiletries… Help JA Children has a Facebook page and is on Twitter (@HelpJAChildren).
Reparations, again: In 2001, our very own Barbara Blake Hannah – a passionate Rastafarian defender of Jamaica’s culture – attended the United Nations World Conference on Racism in Durban, South Africa. The conference made 19 excellent recommendations for ways in which the evils of slavery could be atoned for by, in Jamaica’s case, the British Government. A British Lord, Anthony Gifford – a Queen’s Counsel who practices law in Jamaica and the UK – has campaigned tirelessly on the subject; and so has the Jamaica Labour Party’s Mike Henry. And yet, sadly, little or no progress has been made. Essentially, the British have said sorry, but no. The discussions continue. Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines Ralph Gonsalves spoke for a remarkable 87 minutes (according to tweets from friends who attended) at the launch of a new book on the topic by Professor Hilary Beckles at the University of the West Indies this week. Mr. Gonsalves has offered to host a Caribbean conference on the topic in his country, at which he will no doubt drone on for another 87 minutes. To my mind, this does not advance us any further. What next? Not more words, please? Let’s have action! It is a burning question, it needs to be resolved, and long speeches are not going to cut it.
But then, this is part of the Pontification Syndrome for which Jamaica is well known. We talk too much!
I hate Page 2: In the current socio-economic climate, my dislike for the social pages in the daily newspapers has been steadily growing. I am developing a real hatred for Page Two and Something Extra and all the other nonsense. I think I am going to start a Campaign for the Abolition of Social Pages (CASP for short). Seriously. They are irrelevant, elitist, classist, and actually rather offensive – in light of the fact that when the IMF funds were disbursed, the government had to ask for a special sum up front for “budgetary support.” So they could pay public sector wage bills for April, perhaps? So can we wave goodbye to those people with drinks in their hands, posing for their photo? Goodbye!
Once again, it is very sad to note the names of those who have been murdered in Jamaica since Wednesday, May 1, when I wrote my last review. My condolences to all those who mourn them (and to the family, friends and neighbors of the twelve-year-old girl who committed suicide in rural St. Catherine last week):
Violet Marsh, 63, Temple Hall, St. Andrew
Phillip Bell, 39, Seaforth, St. Thomas
Leroy Reid, 42, Naggo Head, St. Catherine
Constable Michael Townsend, Effortville District, Clarendon
Killed by the police:
Orane Bowman, Clarendon
Related links and articles (local blogs in purple):
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/pnp-members-apologise-for-controversial-tweets PNP members apologize for controversial tweets: RJR News
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130504/cleisure/cleisure1.html Controversy in 140 characters: Gleaner editorial
http://perceptualpost.wordpress.com/2013/05/05/can-you-hear-me-now/ Can you hear me now? Communication problems at Jamaica’s local government level: Perceptual Post
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/-Our-journalists-are-not-killed-but-many-stories-die-_14196488 ”Our journalists are not killed, but many stories die”: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130505/lead/lead7.html Jamaican journalists challenged to improve standards: Sunday Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/The-people-vs-Portia_14185042#disqus_thread The people vs Portia: Lloyd B Smith op-ed/Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/business/Jamaica-will-find-it-difficult-to-implement-IMF-targets–Fitch-says Jamaica will find it difficult to implement IMF targets, Fitch says: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130505/focus/focus1.html Lack of accountability in the budget debate: Robert Wynter column/Sunday Gleaner
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads/33766 NDX Saves Gov’t $17 Billion in Payments Per Year on Domestic Bonds: Jamaica Information Service
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/our-to-hold-public-meetings-on-request-for-increased-water-rates OUR to hold public meetings on request for increased water rates: RJR News
http://www.solarbuzzjamaica.com/2013/05/energy-bill-reduction-falls-short-of-target/ Energy bill reduction falls short of target: Solar Buzz Jamaica
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Paulwell-s-statement-on-CAP-not-true–says-Golding_14191572 Paulwell’s statement on CAP not true, says Golding: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads/33758 Clarendon Alumina Partners no cost on budget – Finance Minister: Jamaica Information Service
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20100423/lead/lead10.html NHT’s Inner City Housing Project causes headache: Gleaner – April, 2010
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130501/lead/lead1.html PM revives housing plan: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130505/cleisure/cleisure2.html The great NHT robbery: Gordon Robinson column/Sunday Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/business/Upgraded-facility-to-benefit-St-Mary-farmers_14189002 Upgraded facility to benefit St. Mary farmers: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130504/western/western1.html Public beaches raise a stink: Gleaner
http://lowrie-chin.blogspot.com/2013/05/be-more-selective-ffpj-chair-andrew.html?m=1 ”Be more selective”: Food for the Poor Jamaica Chair Andrew Mahfood: lowrie-chin.blogspot.com
http://anniepaul.net/2013/05/04/britains-black-debt-the-logic-of-reparation/ Britain’s black debt: The logic of reparation: anniepaul.net
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/editorial/Cut-the-talk-and-cut-the-red-tape_14201352 Cut the talk and cut the red tape: Sunday Observer editorial
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/RICHARD-AZAN–The-story-not-yet-told_14191123 Richard Azan: The story not yet told: Desmond Allen article/Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Spalding-shops–Parish-Council-knew_14201657 Spalding shops: Parish Council knew: Sunday Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130503/cleisure/cleisure1.html Beyond Mr. Witter’s windy diatribe: Gleaner editorial
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130503/letters/letters3.html Witter wrong on ICC enquiry: Letter to the Editor from Lloyd D’Aguilar/Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130503/lead/lead3.html We want $1 millon each: Tivoli residents put price on their loss: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Don-t-hold-your-breath-_14198207 Anglican bishop says government will do nothing about Tivoli report: Jamaica Observer
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/jamaicas-image-in-jeopardy-if-no-tivoli-enquiry-human-rights-activist Jamaica’s image in jeopardy if no Tivoli enquiry says human rights activist: RJR News
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/-Dudus–should-testify—Witter_14198889 ”Dudus” should testify – Witter: Sunday Observer
http://jamaica-star.com/thestar/20130503/news/news10.html No disciplinary action yet – Albert Corcho: Jamaica Star
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads/33762 Children’s Advocate calls for partnerships: Jamaica Information Service
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/Give-us-clarity–Minister-Thwaites_14190349 Give us clarity, Minister Thwaites: Letter from Senator Kamina Johnson Smith/Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Child-s-suicide-leaves-void-in-St-Catherine-village_14198680 Child’s suicide leaves void in St. Catherine village: Sunday Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Revealing-Jamaica-s-soul_14198396 Revealing Jamaica’s soul: Jamaicans for Justice op-ed/Sunday Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Should-contraceptives-be-introduced-in-schools_14190754 Should contraceptives be introduced in schools? Sunday Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Contraceptives-in-schools–Don-t-just-dismiss-it_14197942 Contraceptives in schools: Don’t just dismiss it: Sunday Observer
http://digjamaica.com/blog/2013/05/03/chart-of-the-week-putting-all-our-eggs-in-one-basket-cargo-continues-to-decline/ Chart of the Week: Putting All our Eggs in One Basket? Cargo continues to decline: diGJamaica
http://perceptualpost.com/tablets-for-a-wounded-jamaica/ ”Tablets” for a wounded Jamaica: perceptualpost.com
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/-Time-for-Penwood-to-settle-down-_14189985 ”Time for Penwood to settle down”: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130505/lead/lead2.html Was Penwood stabbing staged for YouTube? Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130505/lead/lead3.html Prisoners party at Tower Street: Sunday Gleaner
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/chronic-shortage-of-special-education-teachers Chronic shortage of special education teachers: RJR News
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Sports—the-opium-of-our-high-schools_14192172 Sports: The opium of our high schools: Lasceive Graham op-ed/Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Round-and-around-and-around-and-around-we-go_14192177 Round and around and around and around we go: Tamara Scott Williams column/Sunday Observer
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads/33761 ODPEM gearing up for active hurricane season: Jamaica Information Service
http://jablogz.com/2013/05/portrait-of-an-elderly-man/ Portrait of an elderly man: lovely artwork from a young man from St. Mary: jablogz.com
http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/the_americas/influential-jamaican-saxophonist-cedric-brooks-dies-at-70/2013/05/04/80c5a052-b4e2-11e2-9fb1-62de9581c946_story.html Influential Jamaican saxophonist Cedric Brooks dies at 70: Washington Post”
What happened to the Negril Recycling Centre? Undated photo from Sandals Foundation showsHeidi Clarke (third left), director of programmes at the Sandals Foundation, hands over a cheque valued at $320,000 to Carey Wallace, president of the Negril Chamber of Commerce, operators of the Negril Recycling Centre. Looking on are Mark Swainbank of Environmental Resources Management (from left); Junior Gordon, director of the Negril Chamber of Commerce and general manager for Grand Pineapple Negril; Jermaine Robinson, manager of the Negril Chamber of Commerce; and Peter Reid, manager of the Negril Recycling Centre.
Dear and faithful readers: I hope you are finding the two-part review more convenient and timely. I certainly find it much more manageable, from the writing point of view! As you will see, I still add a lot of links at the end of the post, so that you can do further reading on the various topics. My two-part news reviews now appear on Wednesdays and Sundays.
The PM and the press: The Press Association of Jamaica (PAJ) met with Information Minister Sandrea Falconer on Thursday to discuss the issue of media access to the Prime Minister. How could this really be an issue? But there you go; it is. As the PAJ noted before, the Prime Minister has not done any “substantive” media interview since taking office fifteen months ago. Minister Falconer said this was not quite true. But sorry – I just don’t remember many “impromptu” interviews. The Prime Minister never does a press briefing alone. She is always flanked by several other protective ministers. I am also wondering about this “Support Unit” that the Prime Minister takes with her everywhere. How many are there and what do they do?
Blast from the past: The final sentence in the Jamaica Information Service press release (link below) caught my eye. “The (Information) Minister was accompanied by members of the Prime Minister’s Support Unit and Head of the Minister’s Taskforce [to keep press in line], Colin Campbell.” Slight raise of the eyebrows there. Mr. Campbell is a former Information Minister, People’s National Party general secretary and Member of Parliament, a man who is (or was) under a bit of a shadow in connection with the 2007 Trafigura scandal (alleged campaign donations to the party). He has been keeping a low profile for the past few years – apart from writing a newspaper article last December attacking the outgoing Contractor General (who, of course, investigates matters like Trafigura). Campbell called the CG “an abject failure.” Meanwhile, I understand the PAJ’s Vice President Arthur Hall says that the organization will not be part of any “protocol” to restrict access to Ms. Simpson Miller. This is, very definitely, the thin end of the wedge, and the PAJ recognizes it as such.
Paulwell announced some things: As I have noted before, I like Minister Phillip Paulwell because he seems to stay focused, generally restrains himself from scoring cheap political points, and actually seems to want to get things done. His contribution to the Budget Debate last week certainly contained much food to chew on. The government has decided not to sell its 45% stake in the hugely loss-making Clarendon Alumina Partners (the bauxite plant), Paulwell announced; although the Finance Minister had said something different. So this is a little confusing. The majority owners, Alcoa and Glencore, have written a report on the matter, that will be made public soon.
Venezuelan grey areas: The future of the long-delayed expansion of the Petrojam oil refinery now seems gravely in doubt, according to Minister Paulwell; the Venezuelan government has been a 49% shareholder since 2006. The death of Hugo Chavez and the election of the so far unimpressive Nicolas Maduro has also raised questions over the PetroCaribe agreement, on which Jamaica and other Caribbean nations are (too) heavily dependent. Minister Paulwell must be feeling very antsy about our socialist friends; Jamaica needs to know what’s happening, ASAP.
On and on and on: Opposition Leader Andrew Holness also made his contribution to the Budget Debate last week. It dragged on all afternoon (three hours). I would like to see all budget speeches shortened to twenty minutes or so. It’s more than possible – just boil down your announcements, package them neatly. There would be no more glazed eyes (and irritating side- conversations) in Parliament. Members would have to sit up and concentrate for a much shorter time. There would be no time for the heckling, aside jokes and guffaws from the other side of the room. Members of the public would be able to tune in and really listen, instead of just having the radio on as a kind of soporific background drawl. Generally, though, the Opposition Leader did quite well, by all accounts. His use of two baskets of groceries, to show how much less we can buy compared to December 2011, was effective and made for good television. He also made ten recommendations to the Government for digging itself out of the economic hole it finds itself in. The speech was remarkably lacking in rancor and political point-scoring. This must have surprised the Government side of the House, who were priming their weapons for battle. The usual insults and “banter” therefore stayed at a manageable level. Good, constructive stuff, Mr. Holness.
Yes, we have drugs: I’ve noticed a remarkable upsurge in major drug busts, lately. Two retirees from Florida have been arrested in connection with the discovery of 350 pounds of marijuana on Navy Island, a beautiful spot just off Port Antonio. 650 pounds of weed was found in West Kingston. 500 pounds of ganja was found in St. Elizabeth, always a productive area. On April 20, a security guard contractor was arrested with a huge amount of cocaine in Montego Bay. Hell, there was even a cocaine find on a Caribbean Airlines flight departing for Florida. Jamaicans are being arrested in the Bahamas and elsewhere on drug charges. One gets the feeling that the “war on drugs” has just been rekindled.
Water, water everywhere: The seaside resort of Negril is parched. During an edition of the call-in radio show “Justice” this week, there was a somewhat futile discussion on what happened to all the water in Negril, how it was being managed, etc. Local residents are upset that water is being diverted to the hotels, and the hotels are upset at having to give refunds to guests who leave because there is no water. Basically, there is not enough to go around. When Negril began developing rapidly some 15-20 years ago (and the Spanish have subsequently moved in with their monstrous hotels) there was concern among some that water, sewage systems etc. might be inadequate. The Powers that Were more or less dismissed these fears in the name of the mighty god of Investment, and we seem to have an insatiable appetite for more tourism rooms. Well, so it has come to pass: no water. Then, of course, there is the disappearing “world famous seven-mile beach” – which can no longer be called seven miles long by any stretch of the imagination. What is the Member of Parliament (also Tourism Minister) doing about all this? He seems to be preoccupied with arguing with his Opposition counterpart about tourism money, at the moment.
Could the Ministry of Foreign Affairs please tell me…? What does the Association of Caribbean States (ACS) do, apart from talk of course? What are its achievements? It has been meeting in Haiti this week. And why do we need to have an Embassy in Ecuador, as Minister of Foreign Affairs AJ Nicholson is suggesting? I thought that diplomatic missions abroad were very costly. What do Jamaica and Ecuador have to offer each other? Is Julian Assange going to be palmed off on us?
More details, please? Of the 4,000 online jobs that the World Bank says it has created for Jamaicans. Wasn’t aware…
Jamaica is slipping: And talking of IT, Jamaica has slipped down the rankings again in the World Economic Forum’s Global Information Technology Report – for the seventh consecutive year. With all that Minister Paulwell and IT entrepreneurs are doing (Ingrid Riley is doing a superb job to stimulate start-ups with her Kingston Beta) we are steadily slipping behind – for example, in network readiness, broadband subscribers, e-commerce, venture capital availability, and (depressingly) math and science education. Can we have some more discussion on this? What has gone wrong? Are we just dragging our feet? What do we need to be doing that we are not doing now?
Maybe the Member of Parliament can pay a visit with her Support Team: I hear the deprived and desolate inner-city community of Majesty Gardens (such a tragic misnomer), in the Prime Minister’s constituency, is “tense.” Perhaps their Member of Parliament can pay them a visit soon, and re-ignite the love.
Tears for Dr. Lewin: I was moved by former Prime Minister Edward Seaga’s very emotional farewell to Dr. Olive Lewin at her funeral yesterday. Dr. Lewin was founder of the Jamaican Folk Singers, cultural explorer and invigorator. She was also, as Mr. Seaga pointed out, an incredibly kind and humanitarian woman who cared deeply about our marginalized and poor children and quietly did much good work on their behalf. Mr. Seaga said, in a voice thick with tears, “I wish I could feel it in my heart that she was fully recognized in her own land.” I agree with him – she was not. No pretty speech from the Culture Minister or hugs from the Prime Minister can make up for that.
Phrases I don’t want to hear for a while: “Divine intervention” and “The relevant authorities.”
Tweet-grabbing: The Jamaica Observer is now reprinting Jamaicans’ tweets, with names and Twitter handles – especially the political ones. I am just wondering what the purpose is. If you look at page 27 of today’s Sunday newspaper you will see tweeters clearly identified alongside their tweets on the issue of the Prime Minister and the press. I suppose the newspaper doesn’t have to ask permission, but… They also have an address where you can “email your views” but must include your Twitter handle. Why?
The Energy God doth protest: A dancehall figure called Elephant Man is protesting against wild rumors that he is gay. This is the worst thing you can say to a macho dancehall man, in a sphere where homophobia still reigns supreme. The orange-haired Elephant Man claims to have “thirty-five pickney” [children] so how could he be gay? The last figure bandied about was apparently 22 pickney. Well, he has lived up to his name of “Energy God” it seems, and got busy. Keeping the population levels up there. So long as none of the pickney have orange hair.
I am very sad to report that the following Jamaicans have lost their lives in the past three days, since my last bulletin. My deepest condolences to all their families. Ms. Ricketts’ other son is also hospitalized. I cannot imagine how the father is feeling. I have noticed how often the names of Jamaicans killed by the police are not reported – or, as below, their nicknames are given. I suppose they are not so important?
Richard Aiken, 19, Beckford Town, St. Mary
Shawn Magnus, 31, Parry Town/Ocho Rios, St. Ann
Patrick Shakes, 51, Catadupa, St. James
Kereisha Ricketts, 34, Newtown, Westmoreland
Jafe Francis, 9, Newtown, Westmoreland
Killed by police:
“Piggy Deer,” Gregory Park, St. Catherine
Related articles (local posts in purple):
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130425/cleisure/cleisure2.html Poverty has little bearing on students: Jaevion Nelson column/Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130425/lead/lead1.html Change a coming: Energy minister says positive move to reduce electricity rates on the horizon: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Four-bidders-for-power-plant_14144802 Four bidders for new power plant: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130426/business/business4.html Paulwell pins final hopes for Petrojam on Maduro: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130426/lead/lead6.html Bauxite revival: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130426/business/business2.html Jamalco to press ahead with coal plant: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130426/cleisure/cleisure1.html Will CAP decision undermine IMF deal? Gleaner editorial
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Phillips-says-public-sector-agencies-to-be-merged_14152187 Phillips says public sector agencies to be merged: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130426/news/news1.html Paulwell gives tablets to parliamentarians: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Students–teachers-at-30-schools-to-get-free-tablets_14151109 Students, teachers at 30 schools to get free tablets: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Cost-of-living–tun-up-_14143444 Holness blames government for people’s hardships: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130426/lead/lead1.html ”We’ve been butchered”: Holness tells government to backtrack on taxes, pitches 10-point formula: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130426/lead/lead3.html Charting a different course: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=44370 4,000 jobs created for young Jamaicans in virtual economy: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130424/business/business8.html Jamaica dips in new IT rankings: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/business/New-customs-tax-presents-nightmare-for-small-businesses_14137839 New customs tax presents nightmare for small businesses: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130425/cleisure/cleisure1.html Give details for the June IMF test: Gleaner editorial
http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/the_americas/in-caribbean-gridlocked-courts-hit-by-crime-wave-block-justice-and-stall-lives/2013/04/26/ff6984b0-ae9c-11e2-b240-9ef3a72c67cc_story.html In Caribbean, gridlocked courts hit by crime wave block justice and stall lives: AP/Washington Post
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Mayhem-on-Waltham-Avenue-in-Kingston_14152374 Mayhem on Waltham Avenue in Kingston: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130425/lead/lead2.html ”Let’s go get these bad guys”: U.S. sets eyes on scammers: Gleaner
http://ht.ly/kv5ld ”Dem call it scam, me call it a reparation”: Mark Wilson op-ed/Trinidad Guardian
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130427/lead/lead1.html Rolex probe widens: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20121209/cleisure/cleisure3.html Greg Christie was an abject failure: Colin Campbell op-ed/Gleaner, December 2012
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Shock-arrest_14159903 JPS contractors accused of stealing utility wires, street lamps: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130425/lead/lead91.html American nabbed in Portland drug operation, another on the run: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Cops-keeping-an-eye-on-tense-Majesty-Gardens_14131169 Cops keeping an eye on tense Majesty Gardens: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130425/lead/lead3.html Tivoli residents call on PM to “have a heart”: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130427/cleisure/cleisure1.html Tyranny in the ghetto: Gleaner editorial
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130425/news/news2.html UNICEF donates vehicle to Eve for Life: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/-Show-love-to-our-children-in-entire-month-of-May-_14153267 ”Show love to our children in entire month of May”: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130425/lead/lead8.html Media Association joins PAJ’s call for greater access to public officials: Gleaner
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads/33683 Minister Falconer and PAJ meet on proposed protocol: Jamaica Information Service
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/719-children-missing-since-the-start-of-the-year 719 children missing since the start of the year: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130426/letters/letters1.html Gender-based quotas wrong: Letter of the Day/Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Anglican-bishops-reject-same-sex-marriage_14150775 Anglican bishops reject same sex marriage: Jamaica Observer
http://jamlink.com/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=50:ghastly-pit-latrines-at-st-marys&Itemid=191 Ghastly pit latrines at St. Mary’s:
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/CDA-head-says-child-care-facilities-audit-almost-complete_14152607 CDA head says child care facilities audit almost complete: Jamaica Observer
http://arcthemagazine.com/arc/2013/04/usain-bolt-foundation-announces-samsung-camera-workshop-in-jamaica/ Usain Bolt Foundation announces Samsung camera workshop in Jamaica: Arc Magazine
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130425/cleisure/cleisure3.html Divine intervention is the Church promoting peace in the society: Bernard Headley op-ed/Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130426/news/news4.html Port Maria Hospital gets well-needed lifeline: Gleaner
The funeral of Baroness Margaret Hilda Thatcher, the United Kingdom’s first and only female Prime Minister, took place in London yesterday. She was one of the longest-serving Prime Ministers (over eleven years) and one of the most influential political leaders in twentieth-century Europe.
So much has already been written about the “Iron Lady” since her death on April 8. Crowds of left-wingers (many of whom did not appear old enough to have actually experienced “Thatcherism” for themselves) danced and beat drums and bought copies of “Ding Dong, the Wicked Witch is Dead.” I considered this tasteless, but it is their right to free speech. The state funeral was beautifully executed, the coffin piled with white roses, the gun carriage, the slow funeral marching soldiers.
I lived in England during most of the 1970s and 1980s. These were times of a kind of drifting change, often of the “one step forward, two steps back” variety. On returning from living overseas in 1976, I was rather startled by the dreary state of English society. Something didn’t fit. Compared to Japan, where I had been living, there was no vibrancy, no growth. There was endless bickering and many divisions along class lines (nothing new). The freshness and idealism of the sixties and early seventies had long worn off. London was dirty, untidy. There was a strike literally every week – the post office, the trains, and of course the endless coal miner strikes up North.
So along came Maggie, she of the rigid hair-sprayed do, the commanding voice, administering the “painful medicine” like a strict nanny (that phrase may sound familiar, Jamaicans!) It certainly was painful, and prolonged. But I feel that much of the eighties experience in Britain (when things at times seemed turned upside down and then back again) was due to global forces as much as it was to Mrs. Thatcher. She was merely an instigator. Perhaps I sensed this because, for much of that decade, I worked in the international financial markets in London. Everything was booming. It was carried along on its own momentum. We were called “yuppies” (young upwardly-mobile professionals) and were resented by the working class. A young man once threw a brick through our car windscreen in protest. The Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) was also active in the City of London; bomb scares were frequent, and a wine bar near our office was blown up, killing a number of the hated yuppies. In a sense, Mrs. Thatcher exacerbated already existing strife and division in British society. It was all “in your face.” But many of us prospered.
Mrs. Thatcher was a radical. She was hard-right and often divisive. The state was the problem, not the solution, she said. But whatever you might think of her politics and her at times abrasive personal style, the woman had a vision for her country. And she achieved it, dragging England kicking and screaming into the twentieth century. She brought about change. I strongly disliked her foreign policy, in general; although being a Euro-skeptic I am thankful her approach to the European Union was a guarded one. But it’s really debatable how popular she was with the people. Under the Westminster system she did not always have the popular vote. And of course a Prime Minister has more actual power than a President of the United States, as we are fully aware; so she generally got her way.
I spent a few weeks in and around my home town last year, and concluded that yes, Britain has become a much more liberal, tolerant and egalitarian society; or at least, it aspires to be. It has changed dramatically, although I sense a growing societal conflict over the immigration issue. The Thatcher years were the final years of the Cold War, remember; Europe and the world was a very different place. Hard to imagine; it seems light years away.
Should Mrs. Thatcher have forced that medicine down our throats? I believe that, like most medicine, it was necessary at the time. And I believe that a good leader does what needs to be done, whether people like it or not. There are a few lessons in leadership that we could perhaps consider, looking back on the Thatcher era. And one of them is: You don’t have to be universally loved to be a good leader. Leadership is not about being loved. Politicians can kiss babies while campaigning, but once they achieve power they need to get on with the job at hand. I don’t recall Mrs. Thatcher ever telling us how much she loved us; but there is no doubt she loved her country. She proved this by her actions, even if sometimes misguided (I never approved of the Falklands War, but understand why she did it).
Of course, we do admire and love many of our leaders. Nelson Mandela, for example, is loved because of his selflessness and personal sacrifice; and because he stood for principle and stayed true to his principles. Not just in words, but primarily through his actions. He translated his vision into action, creating a new South Africa through the extraordinary power of his leadership. And people followed him, and revere him to this day. If you set an example of integrity and principle – if you demonstrate it through your actions - then you will be not only loved, but respected.
And I am not just talking about pretty speeches. President Barack Obama is one of the most powerful speech-makers I know; but it is by his actions that we judge him.
And talking of speeches, a leader must not ever, ever be seen to give up the ghost. Standing on a platform admitting defeat is simply not an option – whether in an emotional moment or not. President Obama became emotional immediately after the slaughter of innocent children at Sandy Hook and reflected the sense of shock in his demeanor and words. But he never threw up his hands in despair, calling on God to help. He saw this tragedy as a way to propel the country forward into something better; an opportunity in a crisis to make the United States a stronger, more humane society. Whether he will ultimately succeed is yet to be seen; but he hasn’t given up trying. Because he knows what leadership means. If he gives up, if he falters – what will the people do?
“He/she is only human.” Of course, this is true. But leaders are special human beings, and should see themselves as such. They should shoulder that burden. If they are not willing to do it, then leave it to someone else. Weakness is not a desirable or admirable trait in a leader. On this topic, a Jamaican “tweep” commented sagely: “‘Only human’ is an association with humanity to all things weak, negative, finite and limited. We’re also strong, positive and infinitely unlimited!”
Leaders must, must communicate – clearly, regularly, forcefully sometimes if need be. When we first lived in Jamaica, I used to groan when then Prime Minister Michael Manley came on the television for yet another broadcast message: “My fellow Jamaicans…” he would intone. But he was communicating. I am sorry, but the last thing any leader wants to see is a cartoon like this:
And simply put, leaders must obey the rules. It is all about setting an example. You are out there – you have been voted in, elected or selected. You may be a company boss, an NGO head, a Mayor, a parish councilor. But you must – must – follow the rules and regulations, and be seen to be doing so. It’s a bit like the parent-child relationship. If children see their parents smoking cigarettes and cursing profusely, are they going to pay attention when the parents tell them to behave themselves? No, they are going to do as they please. A good leader must set standards and must adhere to them him/herself at all times!
I know many Jamaicans with strong leadership qualities, although I find these are mostly in the private sector, and especially in civil society. Others aspire to be the “boss” or the “big man.” They are happy when they have reached the top. They can be driven around by a chauffeur; they can fly first class. They can wear nice designer suits and have their photo taken in the social pages (which, in my view, should be abolished). They can call their secretary on the intercom and order coffee, sitting in their plush office.
They have “arrived.” But the trappings of leadership are nothing. This is counterfeit leadership, a chimera. This is just a satisfied ego.
Not that leaders should not have an ego; nothing wrong with that. It is a driving force. But it must be used in a positive way. And leadership is about responsibility. First and foremost.
Leaders, be strong. Be humble. Be visionary. Be principled. Be lawful. Be exemplary. Be respectful. Step up to the plate. If you are unable to do so, then step away. It’s not for everyone.
The nation will find it very hard to look up to the leaders who are keeping their ears to the ground.
Those are the words of another famous British Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill. He was also the last Prime Minister, before Thatcher, to have a state funeral (and I, as a young girl, was there with my parents to watch the procession, on a day of biting cold in London). During the terrible wartime years, Churchill – who actually suffered from depression for many years – held his head high and lifted the country with him. And then, after the war, he was no longer needed.
We are only human. And we are only on this Earth for a short time. Let us make our lives count for something.
- ‘Lying here, she is one of us’ (standard.co.uk)
- A fondish farewell to Mrs. Thatcher, Thatcher, Milk Snatcher (newsobserver.com)
- Margaret Thatcher funeral: fans travel thousands of miles to pay their respects (telegraph.co.uk)
- An alternative soundtrack for Maggie Thatcher’s funeral (foreignpolicy.com)
- Lean in, Maggie style (standard.co.uk)
- http://www.winstonchurchill.org All you need to know about Winston Churchill
- http://www.nelsonmandela.org Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory
- http://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/leadership Basics of Leadership
- http://www.forbes.com/sites/glennllopis/2013/02/18/the-most-successful-leaders-do-15-things-automatically-every-day/ The most successful leaders do 15 things automatically every day: Forbes.com
- http://www.theelders.org The Elders: Independent global leaders working together for peace and human rights
Our son went to school near Boston for four years. Strangely – and shockingly for him – his first day of school was Tuesday, September 11, 2001. I remember reading sadly that members of a family from the small, peaceful town where his school was located were passengers on one of the planes guided by the terrorists into the World Trade Center. We were staying in New York at the time; I will never forget the looming clouds of smoke that hung on the horizon for days afterwards, and the strange silence as all the planes were grounded.
It is so painful to think that now Boston itself has suffered from what appears to be a terrorist attack, on such a day of celebration. We spent some wonderful days in the city with my sister and her daughter. I remember eating the most delicious clam chowder in the world at a lively waterside restaurant. I remember sitting in the “Cheers” bar drinking Bloody Marys (my sister’s favorite) and chatting about a baseball game, as if we were experts, with the charming bartender. I remember walking barefoot alongside of the Charles River, among picnicking locals on a warm day. In fact, like all cities Boston has its gritty side; but it is charming. It wins you over. Its inhabitants are kind, friendly and liberal. Our son loved the city, and has good friends there.
I read these words today in the social media, by a stand-up comedian called Patton Oswalt (he was also in “King of Queens,” one of our favorite old sitcoms). He describes himself on his Twitter page as “a former wedding deejay from northern Virginia.” Well, these words from Mr. Oswalt just made me think (we always think about good and evil after such events, don’t we?) and I wanted to share his comments with you. So here you are, in case you haven’t caught up with it on Facebook, yet. Thanks, Mr. Oswalt.
“I remember, when 9/11 went down, my reaction was, ‘Well, I’ve had it with humanity.’
But I was wrong. I don’t know what’s going to be revealed to be behind all of this mayhem. One human insect or a poisonous mass of broken sociopaths.
But here’s what I DO know. If it’s one person or a HUNDRED people, that number is not even a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a percent of the population on this planet. You watch the videos of the carnage and there are people running TOWARDS the destruction to help out. (Thanks Paul Kozlowski for pointing this out to me). This is a giant planet and we’re lucky to live on it but there are prices and penalties incurred for the daily miracle of existence. One of them is, every once in awhile, the wiring of a tiny sliver of the species gets snarled and they’re pointed towards darkness.
But the vast majority stands against that darkness and, like white blood cells attacking a virus, they dilute and weaken and eventually wash away the evil doers and, more importantly, the damage they wreak. This is beyond religion or creed or nation. We would not be here if humanity were inherently evil. We’d have eaten ourselves alive long ago.
So when you spot violence, or bigotry, or intolerance or fear or just garden-variety misogyny, hatred or ignorance, just look it in the eye and think, “The good outnumber you, and we always will.”
It has been a while since I went out for tea. Such a quaint English thing, isn’t it; although sadly I don’t think many English people have time for it, these days. And yet, even in the gritty old town of Kingston, Jamaica, there are a few spots where uptown ladies (and a scattering of gentlemen) can still sip tea in tranquility. The Terra Nova Hotel on Thursday afternoons is one such delight. The intimate Tea Tree Creperie in our neighborhood is another little oasis. A bit of free advertising there!
Last Saturday afternoon, I was invited to afternoon tea with a bit of a difference. It was a fund-raising event organized by the Hope United Church, just down the road from the lovely Hope Botanical Gardens. The bright, airy Church Hall was festooned with pastel-colored balloons. The backdrop through the windows showed the effects of the extended drought on our faded hills. Inside, music was playing and a swathe of tables spread out in front of us. Each was set with a pretty linen tablecloth, teacups and saucers and a teapot in the middle. The crockery did not match well – a charming mixture of the traditional, the modern, the chintzy. The Celestial Seasonings teas – a wide variety of flavors -were delicious. I highly recommend the Mandarin Orange Spice Herbal Tea.
But there was more, much more. There was poetry.
Jean Lowrie-Chin has an aura of calm and gentility, mixed with a wry, earthy humor which suited the occasion perfectly. The hall was full by the time she stepped up in front of the stage with a copy of her book of poems and writings, “Souldance,” in her hand. We settled down to listen. Jean told us (poetically) that she was a “Jonkunnu Baby,” born in the Christmas season in rural Hartford, Westmoreland. For those of my readers not familiar with Jonkunnu, this is the Jamaican tradition of dancing, wild music and lively antics performed by a group of odd characters – Pitchy Patchy, Horsehead, Belly Woman among them. As the irreverent, rowdy dancers arrived in the yard that evening, frightening the children, baby Jean was born,“a noisy little exclamation!”
Another dancing poem followed. In “My Chinaman Jumped to the Riddim of Jah,” Jean’s beloved husband Hubie (a Chinese Jamaican) embraces and “jumps” to the reggae rhythm. It is a defiant dance, too, as her husband had been held up by a gunman in a robbery attempt. But he danced. There is a story behind this one; I must find out more. This poem dates back to the seventies.
I especially loved the poem “I Thought That I Was Marking Time.” It is a wistful commentary on the physical signs of growing old; but looking beyond the face of the ticking clock, there is the universal consciousness into which we are still growing. Time is… just time.
Jean’s book is a personal and spiritual journey in words. Divided into three distinct parts, it begins with Jean’s inner journey of discovery – a journey that is mostly joyful and celebratory. On, then, to the yearning poetry and troubled young heart, in the section called “Growing Pains.” The final segment, the “Power of Words,” is a series of short prose essays on some special Jamaican passions, from football to Marcus Garvey. The delicate but vibrant cover features a painting by Jamaican painter Viv Logan from her series “Cherubs Gone Rasta.”
I should drink less coffee. And I should read more poetry. It’s good for a soul.
Thank you, Souldancer!
“Souldance: Poems and Writings” by Jean Lowrie-Chin was first published in 2009 by Ian Randle Publishers (www.ianrandlepublishers.com). It is available at Monarch Pharmacy in Kingston and local bookstores in Jamaica; and from Amazon.com.
There is a sense of unease. I can feel it in the wind. Unable to rest, it throws itself at windows and doors. It tosses down the small green mangoes that have not had a chance to ripen on our trees. The frantic carnival parties continue in the night. At a discussion earlier this week, anxious words and especially the word “But…” followed words of encouragement and promise. A pudgy-faced young man over in the East is telling his robotic marching toy people that war is imminent.
And the rain refuses to fall.
One of my most-loved writers is the German-Swiss novelist and poet Hermann Hesse, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1946. I suppose this is a legacy of my “hippy” years; Hesse was enormously influential during the 1960s and early 1970s among young Europeans. Born into a rigid Christian missionary family, Hesse became a spiritual explorer, partly arising from his parents’ work in India. Skeptical of organized religion, he came to develop a view of a universal spirituality that still resonates today. (In fact, I often find strong echoes of my 1960s explorations in today’s world. Coming full circle, as my brother pointed out recently, I am now meditating again, as I did in my early twenties). Hesse was also a pacifist, and his work was reviled by German nationalists during and after the First World War. He became a Swiss citizen in 1923.
Well, I recently retired my forty-year-old hardcover copy of “Siddhartha“ - it had become very battered over the years and was literally collapsing. I bought a new copy, but am not as comfortable with it, yet. It needs a few more re-reads, I think.
Meanwhile, a fellow-blogger posted a quote by Hesse that simply reflected my mood, and the discomfort of this little island I live on, Jamaica. Here it is:
“There is no escape…You say yes to the sunlight and pure fantasies, so you have to say yes to the filth and the nausea. Everything is within you, gold and mud, happiness and pain, the laughter of childhood and the apprehension of death. Say yes to everything, shrink from nothing. Don’t try to lie to yourself. You are not a solid citizen. You are a bird in the storm. Let it storm! Let it drive you!”
http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/literature/laureates/1946/hesse-autobio.html Hermann Hesse autobiographical sketch: nobelprize.org
http://www.hermann-hesse.de/en Hermann Hesse Portal – this is very revealing and well put together
Bird in the Storm… (jruthkelly.com)
Hermann Hesse (pensaleas.wordpress.com)
Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse – review (guardian.co.uk)
SopranoAscends SINGS! (sopranoascending.wordpress.com)
50 Spiritual Classics: Timeless Wisdom from 50 Great Books of Inner Discovery, Enlightenment & Purpose ~ Tom Butler-Bowdon (evolutionarymystic.wordpress.com)
I love these words: Redemption, Revival, Renewal. They have strong religious/Christian connotations, and I am not religious. But these words have an uplifting effect. They have a sense of strength, freshness, all at once.
Ms. Jean Lowrie-Chin chose these words as inspiration for her weekly column in the Jamaica Observer yesterday, and I thought I would share it with you. Jean is not just a columnist, by the way; she is a business owner, PR guru, author, philanthropist, philosopher. Her faith is strong, as you can tell; but above all, I love this overview of what is right (and wrong) and where we should, or could all be heading in Jamaica.
“Quality of leadership is crucial to our survival.”
EASTER is a time of renewal. As we hark back to the life of Jesus, a historical figure whose teachings inspire even non-Christians, we understand the power of compassion, of diligence, and of faith. Jesus’s ‘Cabinet’ comprised 12 apostles, men who were far from perfect. Judas betrayed him for 30 pieces of silver, Peter denied him three times in the space of one night and Thomas doubted his resurrection.
Such was Jesus’s leadership that two centuries after he left this earth, his faithful millions continue to follow his teachings. Many religious leaders have faltered, but as Jesus promised, the gates of hell have not prevailed against his church.
Now here we are, Jamaica, facing uncertain times, led by uncertain leaders on both sides of the House. These are times that demand us to revive that strong faith that rests not on our political preferences, but on the courage of our forebears. I was only four years old when my father died, and I remember moving with my mother and three siblings to a rather rundown house. To our anxious, childish questions, my mother said unwaveringly, “God will provide.”
Her belief that “God will provide” did not mean that she was going to throw up her hands and become a mendicant to her family and a burden to society. She set up her little shop at 2 Rose Street in Savanna-la-Mar, adjacent to the town hall. She had an ‘easy chair’ under the counter where she would catnap between her long hours. We had a little eating area at the back of the shop and, on the wall before us, she pasted two ditties: “Labour for learning before you grow old ….” And “Good, better, best – never let it rest …”
Most Jamaicans have similar stories of that mother, father, grandparent, or kindly relative who supported and sheltered them so that they could build a better life for themselves. Those sacrificial relatives had little time for status symbols – they were too preoccupied with the urgent business of survival. One business owner told me: “My mother washed uptown people’s dirty clothes so that I could go to a good school. She is my hero.”
I noted that a gentleman interviewed in a recent issue of The Jamaica Observer ‘Style’ magazine said his motto was ‘live simply so that others may simply live’. Our frugal, honest, hardworking parents were the leaders who made the education of their children possible. St Paul the apostle used the fine education and freedom of movement he was afforded as a Roman citizen to write the most inspiring epistles, and to travel far and wide instructing others to live by the virtues of faith, hope and charity.
This is what we expect of our political leaders. We expect them to be the best possible examples to their people. Unfortunately, the passion and engagement we saw in our founding political parents are lacking in our leaders of the present. We became derailed by the thuggery that was allowed to enter politics, and the increased dependence on borrowed money, instead of increased emphasis on productivity. The IMF is certainly no god – it may provide for the short term, but only productivity will guarantee sustainability.
And so, this column is appealing to our politicians to look at the story of Jesus’s Cabinet, where it is true that St Peter denied and Thomas doubted, but they redeemed themselves by asking forgiveness and staying the course. As people of God, we know it is never too late to acknowledge our failings and resolve to do better.
This has to apply as well to the members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force, led by the exemplary Commissioner Owen Ellington. The current gun-dominated method of policing is undermining the achievements of our fine police officers. Our country is sickened by the recent wave of police killings. While we know there are dangerous, hardened criminals in our midst, our police are now better equipped than ever to use intelligence to track them down.
I remember hearing the story of a young man heading to catch a bus in Half-Way-Tree, when he was arrested and charged for murder because he seemed to match the description of a wanted man. Mercifully, after spending tough times in jail, he was finally acquitted. How many persons have been killed because of mistaken identity? How many languish in our prisons because they have been wrongly accused?
Employment is hard to come by, and our national security minister has disclosed that police salaries are comparatively high – he says he is paid the equivalent of a police inspector. Surely such earning potential should enable them to be more selective about those recruited to ‘serve, protect and reassure’ our people. In fact, my late friend Garveyite Frank Gordon had maintained that we should change the name of the JCF to ‘Jamaica Police Service’, reasoning that the emphasis would be on ‘service’ and not on ‘force’.
Further, our educators in schools and tertiary institutions have to acknowledge that the country looks to them for leadership by example. They are providing a tremendous service but they also receive great benefits. We do not begrudge them their long study-leave allowances, their extended vacations and their duty concessions. However, they must know that with such privileges comes responsibility. How can teachers, of all people, owe so many millions of dollars to the Government?
A national revival is not an option – it is our only means of survival. Right now, we need to know how our leaders are going to make themselves fitter and more accountable to take this country out of this thicket of obfuscation. Attractive looks and smiling photo opportunities, which were charming in the few months after elections are now so irritating that some ministers should best avoid the camera until they have real accomplishments to announce to Jamaicans, teetering on the brink of despair.
CAFFE (Citizens’ Action for Free and Fair Elections) was the brainchild of a clergyman, the late Father Jim Webb, who energetically called meetings and had the organisation tuned and ready for election monitoring. This column is appealing to our churches and private sector bodies to establish an efficient monitoring system which would ensure that we only have fit and proper candidates to run for public office – both national and local. Let us have a website where we can click on the names of candidates to learn if they have successfully run anything other than their mouths. Let us see their track records for proper spend of public funds, and probe the quality of their community relationships.
Private sector corporations are very careful about the folks who operate their purse-strings – they need to help Jamaica to ensure that those entrusted with our billions of dollars in taxes are competent and ethical. Church, private sector – it’s revival time —quality of leadership is crucial to our survival.