My apologies! Yesterday proved to be such a busy day (including a slight hangover from our delicious trip to St. Elizabeth the day before) that this post eluded me.
This week is beginning with a heightened state of nerves over another national broadcast this evening. This is unusual, in that it will be a joint broadcast by Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller and Finance Minister Peter Phillips. It springs from the visit of an International Monetary Fund (IMF) team to Jamaica; the team arrived almost a week ago, and some members have since departed. The remainder will leave on February 15. Meanwhile, the address was recorded yesterday. What does it contain, and why is it a joint address? One talk show host believes the ministers will announce that the administration has abandoned the prospect of an IMF agreement. My concern, too, is that I don’t get the sense that any of the “prior actions” - which Minister Phillips has hinted are problematic – have been achieved, or are likely to be. I did hear that the Minister traveled to Washington, DC on Friday – but nothing more. Did this actually happen? Also, I thought I heard the Prime Minister comment recently, as an aside, that perhaps Jamaica might not sign an IMF agreement, or words to that effect. Did I hear correctly? If not, please let me know, dear readers.
Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller and Finance Minister Peter Phillips recording their joint broadcast yesterday. (Photo: Jamaica Information Service)
The broadcast will take place on all media at 9:00 p.m. Jamaican time and on CVM Television at 11:00 p.m. The video will be available on the Jamaica Information Service website at http://www.jis.gov.jm. Fingers crossed… But I don’t have a good feeling.
And the financial analysts – such as Ralston Hyman on CVM Television – continue to stress the importance of things like productivity for our economic bottom line. What are we doing about that?
The Jamaican House of Representatives as it must have looked for a large part of the day on Tuesday. Please tell me I am wrong and that other important national business was under way here… (Photo: Jamaica Information Service)
Meanwhile, we heard that last Tuesday, the House of Representatives’ session lasted just 45 minutes. “Guess there is nothing that really needs their attention at this time,” observed one of my online friends with just a hint of sarcasm. And why only 45 minutes? An investigative journalist should take this up and see how many hours the people we elected to represent us have actually spent working on the nation’s business – say, since the Christmas vacation. What about those important pieces of legislation (DNA, lotto scam, libel/slander laws, etc) that are pending? Let alone private members’ motions and so on. It would be fantastic to have a complete breakdown from each ministry of pending legislation and the status thereof, with timelines for completion. Or are our lawmakers just coasting down towards April 1, when the new budget year begins?
I do not understand the inertia. As another online friend tweeted last week: “Why does it take us so long in Ja to DO anything?
#perplexing.” Perhaps this question, which I have often asked, has answered itself. As a former U.S. Ambassador to Jamaica commented many years ago, I prefer to applaud achievements, not announcements. Action needed, please!
Meanwhile, I hear at least one government minister is visiting the fair isles of Trinidad and Tobago this week… Yes, Carnival time is here! But then, as we say in Jamaica, their bread is buttered…on both sides.
It’s party time again! A scene from Trinidad Carnival. (Photo: The Playmakers Group)
They also say that empty barrels make the most noise. Certainly, the rumblings over the “Enemy of the State” comment by our Prime Minister subsided last week. Ms. Simpson Miller put her foot down, and strongly (and I mean strongly) rejected any suggestion that she should apologize for her remarks – which suggests that they may well have been scripted. “Apologize for WHAT!” our fearless leader snapped at a broadcast journalist. She also issued a press release suggesting that “leaders should be careful with their statements.” OK. I tell you what… Let’s move on. I commend to you my fellow-blogger Damien Williams’ comments on the topic. See link below.
Another discussion that continued to rattle on last week was the VW ad that aired during Superbowl – remember, the one with the Jamaican accent (not patois)? Two schools of thought emerged. The largest school was that it was all great for us, as it portrayed our culture in a positive light and helped promote “Brand Jamaica” - some discussion too, around what Brand Jamaica really IS. A second school of thought, to which I belong, suggested that the ad perpetuates the “Everyt’ing irie, mon” stereotype of the happy Jamaican sitting under a coconut tree, lazing the day away. Those in the first school accuse those in the second of being miserable, negative and possibly unpatriotic. I have started a third school, called “Enough already!”
The Jamaican-accented Minnesotan is part of a bigger project by Volkswagen, which has bought into the “Fun Theory.” Learn more at thefuntheory.com.
University professor Dr. Carolyn Cooper, who writes frequently on cultural issues considers this car ad a “reminder, yet again, that Jamaica is a cultural superpower.” The colonial oppressors are gone, and Jamaica rules the waves with reggae and champion sprinters. And as she says, “it’s all in good fun.” OK then, let’s lighten up a little – but let’s not expect millions of U.S. dollars to flow into the country’s coffers as a result of one TV ad, either. One of Dr. Cooper’s colleagues is not so amused by a British policeman, former Assistant Commissioner of Police Les Green,whose comments in the UK press on the inefficiencies of the Jamaica Constabulary Force continued to reverberate last week. Not good for Jamaica’s image. But those Jamaicans who don’t live in ivory towers seem to fundamentally disagree with Dr. Orville Taylor’s anti-colonial fulminations, accusations of racism etc. They claim Mr. Green is speaking the truth! The truth. Ah, where art thou, truth?
Former Assistant Commissioner of Police Les Green. (Photo: Gleaner)
An online commentator noted: “We keep harping on the achievements of or artistes and athletes as a benchmark for performance. Where are the scientists, inventors, innovators?”
So much for the aftershocks. Last Tuesday was a pretty serious day for the residents of Majesty Gardens, a deeply impoverished community which has been represented by the Prime Minister for the past thirty years or so. The Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS), which is seeking to “regularize” the many thousands of squatters who have never paid an electricity bill, moved into the community that day and disconnected 2,857 illegal connections. TV footage showed light poles festooned with “throw ups” - illegal wiring – like spaghetti. Only three legal connections were found. Three! The residents protested and mumbled and said they were willing to pay something, but… The overriding, undeniable factor in this is, of course, poverty.
Benjamin Morris, a 65-year-old resident of Majesty Gardens off Spanish Town Road, shows a Sunday Gleaner news team the poor condition of his home during a recent visit to the depressed community. The piece of cardboard in the ceiling is used to insulate the home from the scorching heat beating down on his zinc roof. (Photo: Gladstone Taylor/Gleaner)
A JPS man disconnects illegal wiring. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)
Talking about energy, media reports have been so conflicting and confusing that I, for one, would love someone to explain to me what is going on. Where is our energy plan, Minister Paulwell? I am afraid that, at this point, I am rethinking my enthusiastic endorsement. I am disappointed. Something has gone wrong – quite out of sync. I hope that we will hear more – specifics! We need to know where we are going in terms of alternative energy and so on. The prospects of cheaper electricity in the near future look increasingly bleak.
I continue to enjoy the CVM Television program “Live at Seven,” hosted by the very sharp Simon Crosskill. Last week I caught a report and discussion on the state of the Pedro Cays, where, according to the Jamaica Environment Trust, six hundred Jamaicans live! With no sanitation or amenities, these tiny islands have become a mini-slum of zinc and cardboard shacks and piles of garbage. Government officials (who, as usual, haven’t got it quite clear which of several agencies is responsible for this appalling state of affairs) told Mr. Crosskill last week that they have a plan for managing the cays. After twenty years they are just coming up with one. But hey, surprise! there is now no money for implementation of the plan!
Garbage on Pedro Cays. (Photo: Gleaner)
One more thing has been bugging me since last week. Twenty-seven Haitian men, women and children arrived on our shores (in the eastern parish of Portland, as usual) in a rickety boat. They obviously intended to flee to the United States but ended up in Jamaica instead. Instead of discussing asylum and other issues, our government speedily “processed” the refugees (a word normally used when young men are rounded up and finger-printed by the police in inner-city communities). Within three days, they were shipped back to Haiti on a Jamaica Defense Force coast guard boat. One understands that the small rural community where they landed had no resources to house or support the refugees, and I know we have enough problems of our own, but… Isn’t Haiti a fellow-member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) where there is supposed to be freedom of movement? In fact, isn’t Haiti the current chair of CARICOM? Don’t the refugees have any rights to a hearing? Would Cuban refugees be treated the same way? The United Nations High Commission on Refugees has expressed concern. And Haitians are also the only CARICOM citizens that have to obtain a visa to visit other CARICOM nations. Is this right?
These Haitians, CARICOM nationals, were treated like criminals when they arrived on our shores last week. (Photo: Gareth Davis/Gleaner)
Throwing some bouquets… To my community of fellow-bloggers in Jamaica. They are becoming stronger, and more outspoken, and just more interesting altogether! Keep up the good work. And please, Jamaicans, do not steal the ideas and language of bloggers and reproduce it as your own original thought! This happened recently with a blogger I know, whose work was shamelessly plagiarized and repackaged into a letter to the editor. The sharing and amplification of ideas is one thing. Theft of another’s creative expression is a different thing entirely.
I am impressed by the work of the Road Safety Unit and the National Road Safety Council. They have been doing quiet work to stem the madness that stalks our highways and byways in the form of speeding vehicles of every description. And they are getting results! Take a look at the Council’s excellent website: http://www.nationalroadsafetycouncil.org.jm. Fatalities on the road were considerably lower than the targeted 300 last year, and are 12 per cent down so far this year. Keep up the good work!
One of the National Road Safety Council’s posters featuring athlete Melaine Walker.
The Women’s Resource and Outreach Centre (WROC) partnered with the Jamaica Civil Society Coalition (JCSC) and others last week for the first in a series of seminars on budgeting for gender equity. Tonight they will meet at the Trench Town Community Centre. Listen in if you can’t make it – Nationwide News Network, which does sterling service in live-broadcasting these democratic forums, will be airing it. I will write more about this worthy effort soon. Congratulations to all concerned, including the 51% Coalition that seeks to empower women and strengthen our democracy through increased participation for all. And it’s not only gender equity, but equity for all Jamaicans, which the JCSC seems now to be focused on. Excellent!
Dr. Mae Jemison speaking at the U.S. Embassy last week. (Photo: Ian Allen/Gleaner)
Last week, the U.S. Embassy brought another inspiring African American scientist to Jamaica in recognition of Black History Month. Her name is Mae Jemison and she was the first African American female astronaut in space. She has visited Jamaica before (the last time was in 1998) but this time the aim was for her to inspire students and young people, scientists and educators to promote the importance of science in the country’s development. I had planned to attend – Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson’s talk at the U.S. Embassy recently was fascinating – but could not make it. However, I understand that Dr. Jemison got people fired up.
And I am so pleased that the University of Technology (UTech) have taken the bull by the horns and instituted a campaign for tolerance on campus. Some students may shrug their shoulders and say it is not needed, but – yes, it is. And what harm can it do to encourage all students to treat their fellow Jamaicans with respect and decency? After last year’s nightmarish experience (the mob attack and beating of an alleged homosexual student on UTech’s campus), the university administration has clearly taken a sober look at things. The aim is not just to rein in homophobic attacks, but it is a broader campaign. A very good move, and an example that the other two main tertiary institutions – the University of the West Indies and Northern Caribbean University – might like to follow. They are by no means immune, as I know that similar “mob rule” behavior has taken place there, too.
And the mindless violence continues. For some, it seems, praying and going to church is the only answer. With so many churches per square mile, it is ironic that we have the third highest murder rate in the world. How is that possible, when we are all so “God-fearing”? I leave you with a comment from Sunday Gleaner columnist Martin Henry, who concludes his weekly column thus: “It is certain that Jamaica will not progress well without a stronger adoption of the virtues of religion.”
Really, Mr. Henry? Really? Shouldn’t we already be virtuous enough? No, more hours in church needed, it seems. Oh. Do read Mr. Hilaire Sobers’ column, below, for clarification.
My deepest condolences to the family and friends of all those who were killed in the past week. I feel saddened that the list at the end of each week’s post appears to be getting longer (seventeen by my count, which means two or three murders daily), while the police killed seven Jamaican citizens last week. Minister Bunting, is your policy of “there will be more shootouts” really working? And what happened to “community policing”?
Omar Bailey, Portmore, St. Catherine
Tafari Harvey, 17, Bog Walk, St. Catherine
Oneil Ormsby, Spanish Town, St. Catherine
Tyreena Gayle, 24, Spanish Town, St. Catherine
Damion, Denham Town, Kingston
Unidentified man, Milk Lane, Central Kingston
Unidentified woman, Milk Lane, Central Kingston
Lloyd Williams, 48, Molynes Road, Kingston 10
André Roberts, 26, Maxfield Avenue, Kingston
Unidentified man, Deanery Road, Kingston 3
Omar Myers, 31, Eastwood Park Road/Half Way Tree, Kingston 10
“Starry,” Standpipe, Kingston 6
Unidentified, Frome, Westmoreland
Alvin Rochester, 43, Greenvale, Manchester
Kevin Haughton, 36, Montego Bay, St. James
Lennox Campbell, 22, Lilliput, St. James
Gladstone Smith, 50, Epsom, St. Mary
“Slaughter,” Caledonia Meadows, Manchester
“Sekou,” Big Lane/Central Village, St. Catherine
Nicholas Mitchell, 27, Norwood, St. James
Unidentified, Norwood, St. James
Unidentified, Norwood, St. James
Unidentified, 27, Alexandria Road, Central Kingston
Jonoye Glaze, 20, Brighton, Westmoreland
Related links (local blog commentary highlighted in maroon)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130205/lead/lead8.html Prime Minister and Finance Minister to address the nation: Jamaica Information Service
http://repeatingislands.com/2013/02/04/native-tongue-speaking-with-a-caribbean-accent/ Native Tongue: Speaking with a Caribbean accent: repeatingislands.com
http://carolynjoycooper.wordpress.com/2013/02/05/superpower-jamaican-accent-for-the-super-bowl/ Superpower Jamaican accent for the Superbowl: carolynjoycooper.wordpress.com
http://newsandviewsbydjmillerja.wordpress.com/2013/01/30/that-vw-ad-jamaica-no-problem-offensive-or-good-exposure/#comment-1450 That VW ad – Jamaica No Problem: Offensive or good exposure? newsandviewsbydjmillerja.wordpress.com
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Our-dual-natures_13583905 Our dual natures: Tamara Scott-Williams column/Sunday Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Why-brand-Jamaica-won-t-work-for-us_13563923 Why brand Jamaica won’t work for us: Henley Morgan op-ed/Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/-Tell-what-you-know-_13535976 Tell what you know: Holness tells residents to expose child killers: Jamaica Observer
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j4z1d4UnaEU&feature=youtu.be Andrew Holness speech at PSOJ Chairman’s Breakfast Forum: YouTube
http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/real-life-stories/death-in-paradise-the-real-life-policeman-1571092 From London to Jamaica: The real “Death in Paradise” policeman: Daily Mirror, UK
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/I-am-not-surprised_13559895 ”I am not surprised”: JFJ’s Goffe backs Les Green: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130205/letters/letters3.html Les Green’s comments on the police racist? Letter to the Gleaner from Colin Campbell
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130210/focus/focus1.html Was it worth it? Orville Taylor column/Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130205/lead/lead3.html Denham Town victim campaigned for peace: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130205/letters/letters5.html Reach out to at-risk youth: Letter from Boys’ Town to Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Help-me-out-please–Prime-Minister_13536880 Help me out please, Prime Minister: Mark Wignall column/Sunday Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130205/cleisure/cleisure4.html Take offense or take action: Andre Wright column/Gleaner
http://dmarcuswilliams.blogspot.com/2013/02/who-is-enemy-of-state.html Who is (the) Enemy of the State? dmarcuswilliams.blogspot.com
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads/32900 PM Simpson Miller says leaders should be careful with their statements: Jamaica Information Service
http://newsandviewsbydjmillerja.wordpress.com/2013/02/06/parliament-called-upon-again-to-work-harder/ Parliament called upon (again) to work harder: newsandviewsbydjmillerja.wordpress.com
http://jamaica-star.com/thestar/20130205/news/news1.html Driver shot for not stopping: Jamaica Star
http://petchary.wordpress.com/2013/02/08/of-darkness-and-bears/ Of darkness, and bears: petchary.wordpress.com
http://www.og.nr/rbt/11833-man-crushed-to-death-woman-raped-at-kingston-funeral-home.html Man crushed to death, woman raped at Kingston funeral home: On the Ground News Reports
http://www.og.nr/permalink/11730#.URKWUJ3S69w.twitter Lotto scammer sends threatening messages to U.S. woman: On the Ground News Reports
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/Let-us-stop-demonising-gays_13545427 Let us stop demonising gays: Javed Jaghai letter to the Jamaica Observer
http://www.og.nr/rbt/11872-jamaican-gay-activist-challenges-buggery-law.html Jamaican gay activist challenges buggery law: On the Ground News Reports
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Buggery-law-review-promise-was-a-political-sham_13584250 Buggery law review promise was a political sham: Mark Wignall column/Sunday Observer
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/utech-launches-project-to-increase-tolerance UTech launches project to increase tolerance: RJR News
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/The-facts-about-homosexuality_13581293 The facts about homosexuality: Cynthia Burton op-ed/Sunday Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130207/lead/lead6.html Female astronaut encourages scientists to soar above expectations: Gleaner
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/haitians-sent-home_1 Haitians sent home: RJR News
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/haiti-could-take-caricom-imposed-visa-restrictions-to-ccj Haiti could take CARICOM-imposed visa restrictions to CCJ: RJR News
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/unhcr-concerned-about-repatriation-of-cubans-and-haitians UNHCR concerned about repatriation of Cubans, Haitians: RJR News
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/Work–work–work—–instead-of-pray–pray–pray_13534246 Work, work, work…instead of pray, pray, pray: Letter/Jamaica Observer
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/dalley-moves-to-support-public-defenders-office Dalley moves to support Public Defender‘s office: RJR News
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130205/lead/lead8.html IMF team in Jamaica: Gleaner
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/tough-measures-expected-in-joint-address-to-nation Tough measures expected in joint address to nation: RJR News
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/computer-hacker-breaks-into-dpps-files Computer hacker breaks into DPP’s files: RJR News
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130210/business/business1.html Lights out at Palmyra: Sunday Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/JPS-removes-2-857-illegal-connections-in-Majesty-Gardens JPS removes 2,587 illegal connections in Majesty Gardens: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130205/lead/lead1.html Blame government for high JPS bills – OUR boss says high energy cost is political leaders’ fault: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130204/news/news3.html Renewable energy data now available on PCJ’s website: Gleaner
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads-106/32902 Over 1,000 eye surgeries performed under Jamaica/Cuba program: Jamaica Information Service
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/undp-donates-to-dengue-control-programme UNDP donates to dengue control program: RJR News
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=42687 Busy Signal faces more charges over passport fraud: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=42690 Olint investors want money back: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130205/cleisure/cleisure3.html Reason and faith are like oil and water: Hilaire Sobers op-ed/Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130210/focus/focus5.html Religion and development: Martin Henry column/Sunday Gleaner
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/road-safety-unit-reports-reduction-in-road-fatalities Road Safety Unit reports reduction in traffic fatalities: RJR News
http://petchary.wordpress.com/2013/02/02/pollution-flowing-from-land-to-sea-the-un-caribbean-environment-programme-part-1/ Pollution flowing from land to sea: The UN Caribbean Environment Program, part 1: petchary.wordpress.com