The heat in Kingston this week has been a dictator, beating us all into submission. I have spent the week cowering at home (two inches away from the fan) or hiding in air-conditioned cafés.
And it’s only June. As one Twitter friend just observed: “This rain need fi fall an dun.” (translation for non-Jamaicans: “This rain needs to fall and get it over with.”)
Shock and horror: Friday night frolics for many Jamaicans were somewhat overshadowed by the disturbing news that one of our athletic heroines, Veronica Campbell Brown, tested positive for a banned substance, a diuretic called Lasix (furosemide). Ms. Campbell Brown has won gold medals and broken all kinds of records, and Jamaica has been justifiably enormously proud of her over the past few years. Now, many are in denial, believing that it must be an error, a “set-up” even. Others are pointing at the big, bad United States, which they claim is the sports doping center of the world; the athlete lives and trains there. Many others are just hoping it’s not true. We will have to wait and see.
The Church again: Meanwhile our ultra-conservative, dogmatic, religious anti-gay activists are sharpening their keyboards/pencils and ramping up their opposition to a case that will be coming up soon in court. More details later this month. Long live the Status Quo!* Long live the Patriarchy! Long live the Normal and the God-fearing! *Not talking about the UK pop band of the 1960s…
The death of the animals: I did not mention the horrific slaughter of 32 sheep and 18 goats at a farm in St. Catherine last week. An armed gang invaded the farm and tied up the caretaker, then killed his entire stock of animals and carried away the meat. I commented on the issue of praedial larceny in April, thus (and I might as well repeat it here – nothing has changed: “Poor farmers: Another kind of thieving…is what is called “praedial larceny” (a term I had never heard until I came to Jamaica). This means stealing farm produce and livestock, which hard-working farmers have reared and grown. In other words, taking their livelihood away from them…I cannot understand why this criminal act, which goes on year after year unabated, is not taken more seriously by law enforcement and the courts. Perhaps it is because it affects rural residents, and we really only care about what happens in Kingston and a couple of other towns. I don’t know. But I believe the penalties should be much higher and the pursuit of these criminals should be aggressive and unrelenting. This isn’t happening. And when someone spots an alleged goat thief, an angry and frustrated mob attacks him.” National Security Minister, over to you! (And the meat must have gone somewhere!)
Ganja gone high-tech: So a high-tech marijuana farm was found in a big house on the outskirts of Kingston. Most of the comments seem to be along the lines of “Good for them, you’ve got to make money somehow.” Yes indeed, times are hard. One word of warning, however: a doctor whom I know and respect told me recently that he is seeing more and more young people (not only men) coming to his office with psychoses, directly related to ganja-smoking. Jamaicans (especially those who smoke themselves) believe it is harmless. I believe otherwise.
Ganja conference: Meanwhile, the energetic pro-ganja lobby is holding a Cannabis Conference in September here in Jamaica. This will presumably be an entirely one-sided affair and a platform for Lord Anthony Gifford et al to air their views. I hope they all enjoy themselves. I do agree with them though that using one spliff as an excuse for the police to harass, abuse and imprison a young man is not right and the law could be corrected.
Online=scary: We all know about the dangers of cyber-bullying. It has been going on for a long while, but it seems our police have just caught on to it. Of course, there are many pitfalls and hazards online, especially for young people – some pretty nasty stuff going on. But perhaps the police could figure out a way of using social media to actually find some of the missing persons they think have fallen prey to it. It’s a good way of getting the word out, you know! Tech entrepreneur Ingrid Riley spoke on radio on the topic and sought to point out the many positive aspects of social media. It’s a tool, and as such it depends how you use it, she says. But it’s clear the police regard it as the latest fearsome menace of the modern world.
Tapping the diaspora: The fifth conference with members of the diaspora is opening in Montego Bay. What is the Jamaican diaspora? It is the many thousands, even millions of Jamaicans scattered across the globe, but mostly in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. These conferences are a bit like CARICOM meetings in the jaundiced eyes of many Jamaicans. They are seen as “talk shops,” where all the challenges, issues, problems and possible solutions are aired, and then…what? I would love to see lots of investments and joint ventures and the like flow from these biennial meetings, but it doesn’t seem to happen. Like so many things in Jamaica, we talk and talk – but these confabs are not “fruitful” as politicians like to say. Reality hits. Things are not as attractive as they might sound in a comfortable room, with air-conditioning purring and a good cup of coffee at hand. The two major constraints to the diaspora digging in its pockets and spending its hard-earned cash are still there: crime and bureaucracy. Successive governments have not addressed these issues. It just goes round to round.
Having said all that, I would love to see some meaningful projects and partnerships come out of this conference. Something fruity. Sorry, I mean fruitful.
What IS the matter with the National Water Commission (NWC)? The government agency is reportedly dragging its feet on projects already funded by multilateral donors. They have not yet got off the ground and the excuses are manifold and complex. But listen, the NWC has been stumbling along for years, awash in what seems to be chronic inefficiency and waste, lack of resources and a kind of inertia that results from both. There is talk of privatizing water. Do you think this would help, dear readers? At this stage, I don’t know whether I am for or against it.
No reason to panic: Meanwhile we had the “don’t panic, folks” routine from the Bank of Jamaica this week, over the issue of the declining Jamaican Dollar. As a member of the long-suffering Jamaican public, reeling from the effects of recession, huge tax increases and soaring prices, I don’t feel I can listen to any more of these rationalizations. Not right now, anyway. I’ve had it.
Petchary Awards today go out to:
- The Government of Japan and the World Bank for funding a project to improve the lives of the disabled in Jamaica. I would love to see more of these projects funded that will really help the most vulnerable in Jamaican society. It is an empowerment project – skills training, special education. Very good!
- Javed Jaghai, our articulate (and brave – I won’t say unafraid because I think that is not true) gay rights activist. He tackles the issues head-on. Take a read of his blog post, below.
- The energetic Ms. Tanya Batson-Savage for the launch of a truly delightful children’s book, “Bolo the Monkey” - published by her very own Blue Moon Publishing. Tanya is also to be congratulated for venturing forth full-time into the world of publishing. I wish her the best of luck. Go out and buy the book! Only J$500 in local bookstores… It’s a treat.
- Ms. Stephanie Saulter for her new sci-fi novel “Gemsigns” - I missed the launch last week but wish her all the best with it. Published by Quercus Books in London. Check it out!
- That dedicated microphone wielder Andrew Cannon of CVM Television. His reporting on the vexed issue of customs (fees etc) this week was informative.
- UNICEF’s representative in Jamaica Robert Fuderich (he might as well have a permanent spot on my “honors list”!) again for his refreshingly outspoken remarks this week. After four years here, he is irritated by the divisiveness, finger-pointing and point-scoring going on among those involved in protecting and caring for Jamaica’s children. Please! Let’s work together! And again – too much talk, not enough action. How is all this helping the children?
- Also to UNICEF for sharing a very useful online Directory of Services for Children in Jamaica. It’s in a pdf document here: https://workspaces.acrobat.com/app.html#d=AdnGY2QvUTbKs0C89DBjow
- Finally, to the Rain God who granted our wish… Since I started writing this we have had a deliciously refreshing shower!
Sadly, more Jamaicans have lost their lives to violence in the past few days; two were teenagers. My condolences to their grieving families.
Nathaniel Brown, 18, Old Harbour, St. Catherine
Goston Smith, 27, Woodstock/Claremont, St. Ann
Killed by the police:
Christopher Wilson, 17, Yallahs, St. Thomas
Related links and articles:
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130616/lead/lead1.html Disbelief! Jamaicans line up behind VCB despite positive tests: Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130613/lead/lead1.html IMF rep says without key policy changes, Jamaica will remain in economic rut: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/BOJ-says-fall-of—within-expectation_14490279 BoJ says fall of J$ within expectation: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/business/The-value-of-the-dollar-is-just-a-symptom-of-Jamaica-s-underlying-problem_14488271 The value of the dollar is just a symptom of Jamaica’s underlying problem: Keith Collister column/Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130615/letters/letters1.html Stop lying to us! Sunday Gleaner/Letter of the Day
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads/34238 Focus on Vision 2030 at Diaspora Conference: Jamaica Information Service
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/business/Example-of-excellence-in-the-public-sector_14486846 Example of excellence in the public sector: Dennis Chung column/Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130616/lead/lead2.html Build new schools, government urges overseas Jamaicans – but red tape, crime scaring away investors: Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130613/letters/letters1.html Customs fees oppressive: Letter of the Day/Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/High-tech-ganja-farm-found-on-church-owned-property_14482785 High-tech ganja farm found on church-owned property: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Ganja-lobby-fires-up_14497626 Ganja lobby fires up: Jamaica Observer
http://digjamaica.com/blog/2013/06/13/2013-crime-stats-parish-by-parish-jan-april/ 2013 crime stats parish by parish, Jan-April 2013: diGJamaica.com
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Gunmen-raid-animal-farm_14490972 Gunmen raid animal farm: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130615/cleisure/cleisure1.html Farmers cower as heists continue: Gleaner editorial
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130613/lead/lead2.html Black tank project lacked transparency: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Seaview-High-Home-to-stray-animals-haven-for-criminals_14480144 ”Seaview High”: Home to stray animals, haven for criminals: Jamaica Observer
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/court-date-set-for-cops-charged-in-connection-with-school-girls-death Court date set for cops charged in connection with schoolgirl’s death: RJR News
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/cops-involved-in-fatal-shooting-of-st-ann-man-taken-off-front-line-duty_1 Cops involved in fatal shooting of St. Ann man taken off frontline duty: RJR News
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130614/cleisure/cleisure2.html Gays made, not born: Peter Espeut column/Gleaner
http://sonofstmary.wordpress.com/2013/06/13/freedom-to-be-intolerant/ Gay rights clash with the freedom to be intolerant: Son of St. Mary
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130615/cleisure/cleisure4.html Father-child interaction crucial to development: Dr. Sandra Knight op-ed/Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130616/lead/lead8.html UNICEF official: Too many unhelpful quarrels: Sunday Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Police-establish-link-between-social-media–missing-persons_14465683 Police establish link between social media, missing persons: Jamaica Observer
http://newsandviewsbydjmillerja.wordpress.com/2013/06/13/parliaments-sectoral-debate-yawn/ Parliament’s sectoral debate. Yawn. newsandviewsbydjmiller
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Japan-funds-project-to-improve-lives-of-people-with-disabilities Japan funds project to improve lives of people with disabilities: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130616/news/news5.html ”You’re moving too slow, NWC” – International agencies say Commission taking too long to implement projects: Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130613/news/news1.html Inside the Cockpit Country: Conservation workers want to end deforestation, pollution: Gleaner
This month has started with a kind of numbing heat. Kingston nights are hot and dark; the days are hot and bright. Those annoying birds, the grackles have brought some screeching offspring into our yard. I chase them away, and it seems to make me feel better.
First things first…The PM is anxious about our athletes’ health: Remember now, Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller is Minister of Sport. She must also be Minister of Defence, but national security is of lesser importance, I guess. Before taking a few days’ vacation, the PM met with a large group of people (you can see some of them sitting round the table in the photo below, which doesn’t even show all of them) to discuss the burning issue of a wellness center for our athletes. Top priority – not child abuse, children in lock-ups, crime and violence, the crisis in education, our failing health system, our failing justice system, the economy…
But the Reggae Boyz… Our national football team is now sadly on life support after its third consecutive defeat in Honduras last night. Moreover, our coach, former player Theodore Whitmore, has resigned. The “Road to Rio” - our World Cup campaign – seems to have faded beneath our feet. Several rather unkind memes have circulated online. I will not rub salt in the wounds by reproducing them here. Fact is, we cannot just throw together a team made up of mostly second- or third-tier overseas-based players. We need a serious national football training program.
Those trips again: I am glad that Opposition Senator Robert Montague stood up and asked a number of questions about yet another trip that I may not even have mentioned: the journey of Mayor of Kingston Angela Brown Burke and her entourage, including Local Government Minister Noel Arscott and various assistants, down to the good old continent of Africa. This is quite separate from the Prime Minister’s excursion (no report card yet, Madam Prime Minister? And yes, we know about the “teachers to Tanzania” concept. Apart from that). Since the good Senator has formally tabled questions, I hope he will get proper answers. The Mayor et al went first to Uganda and then down to South Africa, I understand.
Dollars nah run: My favorite minister Phillip Paulwell wants more people to apply for the (barely) “single-digit” interest rate energy loans. Amazing that 9.5% is considered a really low interest rate in Jamaica, isn’t it? I think that everyone’s running away from getting themselves into more debt at the moment. What does my economic guru Ralston Hyman have to say about this? I will have to listen in to his morning radio program to find out. Confidence in markets is everything. I learnt that during my years in the financial sector. Once it is gone…dawg nyam yuh supper.
And time a-wasting: A great report in today’s Gleaner notes the irritation of employers with the huge chunks taken out of their employees’ working days while they wait in line at banks and government agencies (the two prime culprits, but there are others). Yes indeed folks, in Jamaica you can wait up to two hours for service in a bank, in the middle of the day when you should be back at your workplace. It is utterly ridiculous. I know of one financial institution that my husband and I jokingly call the “sleepy place.” There is a large waiting area – rows of chairs, where customers regularly doze off while waiting. And no matter how many customers they have, there is almost always only one person to serve them. It’s an insult and it is a serious deterrent to productivity.
Oh, and no money for disasters? About two months or more ago (I will have to look it up) I mentioned in a blog post that there was absolutely no mention of budgeting for disaster preparedness. When I raised the issue, someone muttered something about help from overseas. So if we do get hit by a hurricane this year then we can always turn to these kind donors and say “help”? Now the Local Government Minister tells us that “it is apparent that the (National Disaster Fund) is not adequate…” God help us if a disaster hits. I don’t know who else will.
So now gays are “uncontrollable”: You’ve heard about the “uncontrollable” girls, such as those at the Armadale Juvenile Correctional Centre (and elsewhere) who are locked up because their parents (mothers) can’t cope with them. Well, the Jamaica Observer is now describing a small group of homeless young men who have occupied an abandoned house in an upscale area of Kingston as “uncontrollable.” Is it that any group of Jamaicans (young ones) who don’t behave “normally” is uncontrollable? These two groups have something in common: seriously marginalized. At least the newspaper tried to get a more balanced picture this time – actually speaking to J-FLAG and to the police – plus a so-called caretaker at the house.
I’m not very impressed… by radio journalist George Davis’ column in today’s Gleaner. He is trying to be too clever. But I do not think it particularly clever to refer to “a man who presents the major evening newscasts for one of our two major television stations” as homosexual. Why do that to a fellow journalist? Of course, no names mentioned but please!! It’s just tacky.
The meaning of service: The image many of us have of U.S. college fraternities is one of heavy-drinking, partying, crazy students. However, there is another side to fraternities: a tradition of service to others. The photograph below and the blog it comes from epitomizes the “giving back” that these fraternity brothers (Delta Upsilon) from several different colleges and universities are engaged in during a recent trip to Jamaica. The students are refurbishing a school in Westmoreland; I must find out which one. The contribution of these “farriners” - like the ongoing medical missions from overseas – is often greatly under-estimated. OK, I am sure these boys had fun in Negril too – but they also gave their time and energy, freely, to the children of Jamaica. They could have been sitting on their couches at home watching TV. I wish more young Jamaicans would catch on to the power of volunteerism. It is better to give than receive…
Word of the week: “Committed.” I think we (especially any government agency) should give this word a rest. It means “we’re going to do something but we haven’t done it yet. But yes, we think it’s a really good thing and a great idea. But…Not just yet.” Just read a Jamaica Information Service report: “Government committed to the elimination of child labor.” How? When?
And big ups to:
The U.S. Peace Corps volunteers: Since we are talking about service… Below you will find a link to the blog of one volunteer in Jamaica, who is living and working in rural St. Thomas, up in the mountains. The U.S. Peace Corps has been doing great work in Jamaica since Independence.
Ms. Virtue…: I met Ms. Erica Virtue quite a few years ago. I remember bumping into her in the Gleaner newsroom when visiting that worthy media house; and many rambling telephone chats. I have always had a healthy respect for her feisty, often provocative style. Now Erica is doing a weekly video commentary piece on the newspaper’s website, called “Erica’s Edge.“ I love it, and Erica’s biting and sometimes brutal humor. She may rub people up the wrong way sometimes – but she’s a journalist, not a shrinking violet…
…and Mr. Henry: When I first spoke to Darien Henry many years ago, he was an enthusiastic community-based reporter for Irie FM in Ocho Rios. I told him what a splendid radio voice he has. Now, it seems, he is putting pen to paper – or rather, fingers to keyboard. He has written a sensible column on education reform in the Gleaner. I look forward to more from the affable Mr. Henry.
Isle Chixx: Jamaicans eat chicken like there’s no tomorrow, and a relatively new local firm is doing well. They do Cornish hens. Managing Director Alex Antaeus will be opening a Greek restaurant in Kingston soon – so we can start eating healthier!
The Ministry of Justice: For posting the draft terms of reference for the upcoming Commission of Enquiry into the Tivoli Gardens massacre online for all to see. This kind of transparency and public consultation is laudable and I don’t believe this has been done with previous enquiries. You can find the discussion draft at http://www.moj.gov.jm/sites/default/files/pdf/Discussion%20Draft.pdf And you should submit your comments in writing to the Ministry not later than Friday, June 21.
And talking of consultations, I just returned from a complex, lengthy public consultation on the boundaries to the precious Cockpit Country in western Jamaica. More on that in a later blog.
The following Jamaicans have lost their lives violently in the past three days. I extend my condolences, as always, to the grieving families and friends who are left behind:
Errol Irwin, 57, Bog Walk, St. Catherine
Millar Bowen, 43, Bodles Research Station, St. Catherine
Rohan Clarke, 28, Cambridge, St. James
O’Neil Clarke, 34, Stettin, Trelawny
Unnamed infant, Stettin, Trelawny
Killed by police:
Davion Gordon, downtown Kingston
Okeen Edwards, 19, Greendale/Spanish Town, St. Catherine
Related links and articles:
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads-117/34209 PM wants swift action on wellness center for athletes: Jamaica Information Service
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/latestnews/Montague-questions-Local-Govt-trip-to-Africa-in-May Montague questions local government trip to Africa in May: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Security-costing-taxpayers-million–for-ruined-Goodyear-factory_14447506 Security costing taxpayers millions for ruined Goodyear factory: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Ruined-Sligoville-Stadium-to-be-rescued–says-Neita-Headley_14435373 Ruined Sligoville Stadium to be rescued, says Neita-Headley: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130612/lead/lead1.html Bosses seeing red! Long wait in lines keeping their workers off the job: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130612/lead/lead3.html Tick, tick, tick: Jamaicans lose valuable production hours standing in line: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130612/lead/lead5.html Not enough money in the country’s hurricane coffers: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130610/lead/lead9.html ”I love UTech, but no”: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130611/cleisure/cleisure1.html Dr. Phillips must hold his nerve: Gleaner editorial
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/business/100-to-1–makes-sense-_14465183 100 to 1, makes sense? Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/business/More-takers-needed-for-energy-loans_14471505 More takers needed for energy loans: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130610/lead/lead1.html AJ, know your role: private sector fires back at Nicholson after “trade bickering” comments: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130610/news/news1.html Jamaica, China dreaming together: op-ed by Chinese Ambassador to Jamaica Zheng Qingdian: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130610/letters/letters2.html CARICOM an old boys’ club: Letter to the Editor from Joan Williams/Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Why-we-are-glad—-and-mad-_14451547 Why we are glad – and mad! Jean Lowrie-Chin column/Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130610/news/news5.html Mass exodus! Senator warns teachers may leave in droves: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130611/cleisure/cleisure3.html Pay teachers better, then hold bar higher: Darien Henry column/Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130611/lead/lead5.html More teachers than vacancies: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130610/cleisure/cleisure1.html Look at New York, Mr. Thwaites: Gleaner editorial
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130611/lead/lead1.html Free health fallout: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Don-t-touch-it-_14451904 Don’t touch it! say Negril residents: Jamaica Observer
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/commissioner-of-police-knew-of-plans-to-settle-bribery-case-says-witness Commissioner of Police knew of plans to settle bribery case, says witness: RJR News
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130610/cleisure/cleisure3.html Use human rights to save us: Garth Rattray column/Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/J-FLAG-denies-abandoning-homeless-gay-men_14447331 J-FLAG denies abandoning homeless gay men: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130612/cleisure/cleisure4.html Those slow to accept gays are not evil: George Davis column/Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=45647 Government invites comments on draft terms of reference for Tivoli enquiry: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130610/cleisure/cleisure2.html Judges can’t bail out cops: Peter Champagnie op-ed/Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/High-hopes-for-Diaspora-conference_14464778 High hopes for diaspora conference: Jamaica Observer
http://wellreadrobin.wordpress.com/2013/06/10/the-sheltered-ones-are-not-yet-born/ The sheltered ones are not yet born: wellreadrobin.wordpress.com
http://aprilspeacecorpsblog.com/2013/06/10/life-in-the-valley/ Life in the Valley: April’s Peace Corps blog.com
http://deltaupsilon.wordpress.com/2013/05/17/gsi-jamaica-why-i-am-a-du/ GSI Jamaica: Why I am a DU: deltaupsilon.wordpress.com
Jamaica is bleeding. I feel it is not only the blood seeping from the veins of those who have been murdered by their fellow citizens – including the police. It is the slow and exhausting drip, drip, drip of life-giving energy from the country. Since I wrote my mid-week update on June 5, I have had a growing sense of this. Maybe it’s the increasing heat of early summer that’s getting to me.
Dead children: The Director of UNICEF in Jamaica, Robert Fuderich, is a forthright man – which I love. He gave a speech this week, expressing distress at the murder and abuse of Jamaican children. So, the head of UNICEF is upset. So are many Jamaicans, by the way. Is the Prime Minister upset, one wonders? She is a woman who, as I have said before, has often expressed her love of children in speeches. Could she have made a statement about the recent shocking murders? Even that? Better still, could she have visited the families and the communities affected, to grieve with them and to express her condolences? I am not demanding that Portia Simpson Miller responds in every case, but a nice appropriate public gesture would have been good. Too late now, by the way.
…and neglected: The National Road Safety Council is expressing deep concern at a huge (400%) increase in child pedestrian fatalities on the road this year. But this does not surprise me. Yesterday, the Gleaner’s front page story reported that children are being dumped on other people to look after, etc. As if this is news? Why don’t we realize that children aren’t adults. They are vulnerable.
Where is the Prime Minister? Have we seen or heard from her since her return from Africa? I have scoured the Jamaica Information Service pages, looked under the Office of the Prime Minister – and find nothing at all that relates to her. Has she made any speeches? Maybe I missed something. No ribbon-cuttings or ground-breakings? Is she sick? Is she on vacation? (I am not trying to start rumors – just trying to explore possible explanations).
Women suffering too: You may have noticed that women are murdered every week. Whatever the motivation – sometimes a jealous lover, other times gang violence – it is becoming increasingly common. I remember when the murder of a woman was a shocking and unusual occurrence – now it’s commonplace. The Jamaica Observer’s Karyl Walker (whom I have criticized recently) wrote a very painful report in today’s newspaper about a young woman who has ended up on the street, abused and unwanted. Can someone please help?
And talking of trips: I know, I am obsessed. As I asked in my last bulletin, what actually took place in Africa? What did the Prime Minister and her large delegation achieve? Since we paid J$8.6 million for the trip, I am still hoping for a report card. But it’s been two weeks or so since they all came home, laden with souvenirs no doubt. So, I don’t hold out much hope. Now, we understand that our amiable Agriculture Minister Roger Clarke will soon be off to China, with a small delegation, at the invitation of the Chinese Government (hopefully the Chinese are paying, so taxpayers don’t need to dig into their pockets again for this one).
Dusting off the begging bowl: Meanwhile, the Finance Minister has just returned from a trip round Europe - he might have to wait for the flood waters to subside, though. I am afraid he may end up getting us into deeper debt (although Europe is not exactly flush with funds at the moment). It’s just a thought, but if we are going for growth rather than plunging ourselves into deeper debt, perhaps a trade and investment team, with a few private sector representatives, would have been be smarter? He has at least commented on the trip, though. See below.
Psychological barrier: On Friday morning word went out that the J$ had reached 100/US$1. It closed slightly above. A collective shudder went through the Twittersphere and radio talk shows. This is the end, we all declared – or the beginning of the end. In theory, of course, the devaluation might benefit us by making exports cheaper. Oh, but…We’re not exporting anything are we? Where is the Jamaica Exporters’ Association? Long time, no hear.
Elusive growth: As Dr. Damien King, economics prof and head of our local think tank CaPRI tweeted a few days ago, “The average growth rate of the world’s poor countries over the last decade was 6%, cutting worldwide poverty by half during that time.” But again – that doesn’t apply to Jamaica, does it? We can’t manage any growth at all, at the moment. None in sight; and more worryingly, no clear strategy for growth.
“We don’t want INDECOM, we want outcome!” The police killed five people, since I last wrote, and in the space of a little over 24 hours. This was the cry of one resident – which made me laugh a little, as Jamaicans have such a way with words. But very serious too. I know that the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) is working as hard as it can but is hampered (by very late police reports, for example) – but can’t blame people for getting impatient.
Another twist: You may be tired of hearing about this saga by now, but just to let you know that Doran “mongrel dog” Dixon is back in the race for the presidency of the Jamaica Teachers’ Association, who have changed their mind and allowed him to run, after all. Meanwhile Mr. Paul “cocaine injection” Adams is not suffering any ill effects (he’s not running, anyway). I only hope that a sensible woman is elected to the presidency. I am tired of the male egos…
Earth matters: You know I am a big fan of CVM Television’s “Live at Seven.” I am glad that the program turned its attention to a whole bunch of niggling environmental issues that are not going to go away – the beach at Negril, for example.
Untouchable Usain: Some of my tweeps have been following the French Open tennis tournament, and were thrilled to see our very own Usain Bolt presenting the trophy to Rafal Nadal. I was a bit surprised. I thought it was usually rather dull officials (or royalty in the case of Wimbledon) who did this. The spotlight is supposed to be on the winner of the trophy – not on the presenter. I am told that Bolt is a “celebrity” so it is acceptable, and we are all proud of his achievements. But celebrities have a habit of popping up all over the place, like Kim Kardashian. I just thought it inappropriate, and upset several people on my Twitter timeline by suggesting that it was. Don’t get me wrong – I love Usain as much as anyone and have often praised him in my blog, but I don’t want it to get to the point where people say, “Oh no – not him again!” whenever he makes an appearance. He is worth more than that.
Still so much good things to say about…
- Dr Jean Beaumont, who has been doing great work as head of the USAID/Jamaica Basic Education Project. What could be more important than reading?
- Health writer Eulalee Thompson, who has a new blog and a new consulting practice. Find her at http://kingstontherapist.wordpress.com.
- Ambassador Pamela Bridgewater, who delivered a terrific speech on women’s leadership at the University of the West Indies‘ Faculty of Law on Thursday evening. I couldn’t make it, but hear the place was packed. I do have a copy of the speech, which I intend to post on this blog shortly.
- Dr. Rosalea Hamilton for her piece on nine-day wonders – with specific reference to the Richard Azan/Spaldings shops issue. Dr. Hamilton concludes, “It is time we move beyond complaining about our situation and seriously press for governance that is accountable to the people of this country.” Make your voice heard and put some pressure on.
- The Jamaica Medical Mission. We do tend to take this almost continuous stream of visiting medical teams, mostly from the United States, for granted. They often pay their way and sacrifice their vacations etc. to come over here and help Jamaicans who simply cannot afford to access our public health system. They are absolutely marvelous. I know the Jamaicans whom they treat appreciate their work; I hope the rest of us do, too. (This group of 157 doctors, nurses etc comes over every year and will treat at least 3,000 indigent Jamaicans).
- Nice to see an interesting report by environmental reporter Petre Williams-Raynor, now with the Gleaner. Check out her attractive blog, too. By the way, public consultations on the boundaries of our precious Cockpit Country are still ongoing. There is one in Kingston this week – I must check details.
- The Gleaner for two things: Firstly, its editorials have really hit the nail on the head in the past week. It’s worth reading them all. Secondly, on Friday evening its continuous, accurate tweeting of the World Cup qualifying match between Jamaica and the United States was streets ahead of the competition. Sprinkled, too, with marvelous photos from one of my favorite photogs, Mr. Ricardo Makyn. See a couple of the photos below…Hats off!
Petchary’s Pet Hate of the Week: Mosquitoes are plaguing us. Thank God for the electrifying plastic tennis racket – or the zapper, as it’s called in our house.
Petchary’s Quote of the Week: “Children are not just the future, they are the present” – Robert Fuderich, Director, UNICEF Jamaica.
The tragedies continue. Each Jamaican’s death is a tragedy for the families, friends. The following Jamaicans have died violently just in the past FOUR days:
Sophia Smith, 47, Mandeville, Manchester
Dwight Robinson, 28, Seaview Gardens, Kingston
Jerome Anthony Gooden, 33, Seaview Gardens, Kingston
Ricardo Lawes, 28, Seaview Gardens, Kingston
Omar Smith, 32, Seaview Gardens, Kingston
Killed by police:
Unidentified man, Kitson Town, St. Catherine
Junior Guy, Waterloo Villas/Tredegar Park, St. Catherine
André Ledgister, Waterloo Villas/Tredegar Park, St. Catherine
Kemar Thompson, Waterloo Villas/Tredegar Park, St. Catherine
Jevon Reid, 21, Granville, Trelawny
Related links and articles:
World Environment Day: June 5, 2013 (petchary.wordpress.com)
http://thinkjamaica.wordpress.com/2013/06/07/thanksgiving-service-for-the-jamaican-dollar-will-be-held-at/ Thanksgiving service for the Jamaican Dollar will be held at… ThinkJamaica.wordpress.com
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130607/news/news2.html “Jamaica debt burden a threat to human development” – UNDP: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130609/lead/lead1.html ”Don’t panic over sliding dollar”: Gleaner
Final chance for Jamaica, says Financial Times (commonsenseja.wordpress.com)
http://www.jis.gov.jm/component/content/article/111-ministry-of-science-technology-energy-and-mining/34169-minister-paulwell-urges-jamaicans-to-access-energy-fund- Minister Paulwell urges Jamaicans to access energy fund: Jamaica Information Service
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130607/business/business2.html Port divestment proceeds to dredge Kingston Harbour: Gleaner
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads/34162 Minister Hylton sets record straight on logistics hub: Jamaica Information Service
http://sonofstmary.wordpress.com/2013/06/06/democracy/ Anti-gay Christian groups undermine democracy: sonofstmary.wordpress.com
http://newsandviewsbydjmillerja.wordpress.com/2013/06/06/gay-rights-activist-seeks-to-challenge-belize-and-tt-laws/ Gay rights activist seeks to challenge Belize and TT laws: newsandviewsbydjmillerja.wordpress.com
http://perceptualpost.com/jamaica-observer-accused-of-staging-story-involving-gays-observer-report-tells-all/ Jamaica Observer accused of staging story involving gays: Perceptual Post
http://www.televisionjamaica.com/Programmes/AllAngles.aspx/Videos/26956 Discusion on homosexuality/All Angles/Television Jamaica, June 5, 2013
http://drtammyhaynes.wordpress.com/2013/06/07/homosexuality-choice-or-innate/ Homosexuality: Choice or innate: Dr. Tammy Haynes blog
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130606/lead/lead1.html ”We have the numbers”: Church leaders confident enough religious Jamaicans in island to prevent change to buggery law: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Woman-beaten–robbed–raped-in-Kingston_14442076 Woman beaten, robbed, raped in Kingston: Sunday Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Handling-of-rape-cases-irks-Montague_14444584 Handling of rape cases irks Montague: Sunday Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Allman-Town-wants-closure-to-boy-s-murder_14426032 Allman Town wants closure to boy’s murder: Sunday Observer
http://delanoseiv.wordpress.com/2013/06/06/g2k-writes-to-ocg-regarding-dead-silent-richard-azan-probe/ G2K writes to OCG regarding dead silent Richard Azan probe: delanoseiv.wordpress.com
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130416/lead/lead92.html Another nine-day wonder? Rosalea Hamilton op-ed/Gleaner
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/more-work-needed-on-spaldings-market-probe-arscott More work needed on Spaldings market probe – Arscott: RJR News
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/more-road-blocks-in-claremont-as-residents-continue-protest More road blocks in Claremont as residents continue protest: RJR News
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Jamaica-leading-project-to-address-underachievement-in-boys_14424128 Jamaica leading project to address underachievement in boys: Jamaica Observer
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/montaque-questions-nicholson-on-status-of-reported-rape-cases Montaque questions Nicholson on status of reported rape cases: RJR News
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130606/cleisure/cleisure3.html Condoms aren’t aphrodisiacs: Jaevion Nelson column/Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130606/cleisure/cleisure4.html The crime of “uncontrollable”: Patrick Lalor op-ed/Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Cabinet-approves-new-policy-for-pregnant-schoolgirls_14434151 Cabinet approves new policy for pregnant schoolgirls: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/UNICEF-concerned-about-child-killings_14424458 UNICEF concerned about child killings: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130607/lead/lead4.html Disabled, elderly should get free health care – CaPRI study: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130606/news/news4.html Reading coaches initiative making a positive difference: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130607/lead/lead5.html Dixon back in the race: Gleaner
https://blogs.worldbank.org/latinamerica/animation-could-mean-jobs-and-serious-business-jamaican-youths Animation could mean jobs and serious business for Jamaican youths: World Bank
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130607/lead/lead3.html Trench Town Ceramics and Art Centre – Using art to save the youth: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Downtown-Kingston-vendors-protest_14434985 Downtown Kingston vendors protest: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130607/news/news3.html 3,000 indigents to benefit from medical mission: Gleaner
http://wordsfrompetre.webs.com Petre Williams-Raynor environmental blog
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130607/news/news1.html Inside Cockpit Country: Project eyes conservation of key biodiversity areas: Gleaner
Today is the second day of the 2013 Hurricane Season. Now, those large Atlantic maps appear on our televisions, with the forecasters looking further to the east to see what might, or might not, be making its way across the ocean from the West coast of Africa. Blobs of bright orange are the ones to look for, bringing rain and hopefully not much else.They also tend to hang out in the Gulf of Mexico and decide to pay us a visit, on occasion. I always look here: http://www.weather.com/newscenter/tropical/ where you can also find an animated Caribbean satellite map where the blobs actually move around… If you are into that.
Horror upon horror: That’s enough of the weather. The day after I wrote my last bulletin, the island went into a paroxysm of shock, despair and recrimination, which has lasted for the remainder of the week. It seems to have swamped almost everything else. Yes, it’s crime again – this time, a series of horrendous murders that began with the killing and dismemberment of four-year-old Natasha Brown in the small community of Duanvale on Tuesday. Duanvale has had a series of murders in the past few years; one wonders. Some residents think the best response is to “fast and pray.” If it makes them feel better…The death of another young girl, eight-year-old Temera Laing, in the impoverished March Pen area near Spanish Town, followed swiftly after little Natasha’s tragic demise. Immediately after that, the bodies of two men were found in the community. They were tagged with notes apparently blaming them for Temera’s death.
The finger-pointing began: “It’s the parents’ fault,” said some (for “parent,” read “mother” – the fathers are mere sperm donors in most cases). Why was the four-year-old walking home all by herself? Many Jamaicans say it is a traditional/common practice in rural Jamaica for small children to walk to and from school unaccompanied by an adult. Whether common practice or not, it amounts to child neglect in my view. It frightens me when I see small children, sometimes hand in hand, teetering on the edge of busy main roads. Anything could happen. Children aren’t adults, last time I checked. Well, OK, so maybe I am pointing fingers. But everyone gets blamed in these situations – the community, the police. The (silent) Minister of National Security. Of course, the Education Minister had to say something, about parenting, at a church. “We must not kill them – whether in the womb or whether by our behavior and treatment,” said the Reverend Thwaites when talking about the child murders. Could he perhaps, just for once, leave the religious dogma out of the discussion? But that is clearly quite impossible.
Child Month was depressing: Meanwhile Youth Minister Lisa Hanna took a deep breath and issued a regretful press release about the child murders. When I said in my last notes that she had had a rough Child Month, the last few days of it got a lot rougher. In fact, May ended on a note of horror…and hand-wringing.
But that was not all: In the past week, two elderly ladies have been murdered. A young man attacked an 83-year-old newspaper vendor on a busy morning in downtown Kingston with a machete. They say he was of “unsound mind.” I believe he is in hospital after onlookers set upon him. Meanwhile, an American tourist was reportedly caught in crossfire during a robbery and killed – in addition to a “wanted man”; a prisoner was stabbed to death in a police lock-up (how could this happen?); and more. But you don’t want to hear any more, do you?
And one newspaper has nothing better to do… So after its first sensational article, the Observer, in its desire to inflame its readers further on the shocking behavior of a small group of homeless men who happen to be gay, took a “team” up to Millsborough in uptown Kingston. What was the purpose of this? To try and get some salacious photographs of the gays getting on bad? To provoke some kind of confrontation? Well, they seem to have succeeded in the latter, as another so-called report appeared (this time with no byline) claiming that the gays attacked the journalists. This in turn sparked a disapproving release from the Press Association of Jamaica, addressed to J-FLAG.
J-FLAG responded, in part: “We condemn all acts of violence or intimidation either from or directed towards the LGBT community.” J-FLAG went on to point out that it is an advocacy organization agitating for the rights of LGBT Jamaicans. ”We do not have control over the behavior of the people we represent…We cannot be held responsible for the actions of any person who acts contrary to the norms of civil engagement, even if they are LGBT.” Tell me, if the offending group of squatters was made up entirely of women, would the PAJ write to the Association of Women’s Organizations of Jamaica? No? I thought not. Just call the police, for heaven’s sake!
Hey, corruption is a generational issue: This is what the zealous young politician Raymond Pryce seemed to imply during a radio discussion with Professor Trevor Munroe, who continues to maintain his laser-sharp focus on the corruption issue as head of the National Integrity Action lobby group. I was mighty surprised when Mr. Pryce suggested that the professor’s views on corruption were out of date…
The social divide: Meanwhile, tickets for the Jamaica Observer Food Awards were J$10,000 a pop, I heard. How happy and flourishing are the elite! How happy I am to see them so happy and flourishing, cocktails in hands, on the social pages! I just need to ask them one question: Do you live in the same Jamaica as me? Nevertheless, congratulations to Café Blue who won Best Café. One of our very favorite hang-out spots!
World Environment Day: Is on Wednesday, June 5. What will you be doing to reduce your carbon footprint? Here is the relevant link: http://www.thinkeatsave.org.
Throwing Petchary Bouquets to the following:
- Pan-Jamaican Investment Trust, who are going to bid in the Office of Utilities Regulation’s request for proposals for renewable energy generation. This is a first for the company. I am also glad to see that they are investing in the new Courtyard Marriott Hotel; ground will be broken this month.
- Dr. Carolyn Cooper for her relentless campaigning against the horrible, creeping over-development of the huge swathe of green that was Long Mountain, high above Kingston. Years ago I walked up there with environmental activist/journalist John Maxwell – before the concrete took over. I am afraid it will all end in tears…
- Jamaicans for Justice for their great series of articles in the Sunday Gleaner on children’s rights – outlining clearly the steps that must – must – be taken to improve the current situation.
- Police Commissioner Owen Ellington for a thoughtful piece in today’s Sunday Observer. Well worth a read. See the link below.
- Young Roneilla Powell and Breanna Marsh of Mona Heights Primary, winners of the school’s writing competition. Roneilla’s essay “Myself as a Clock” should make interesting reading. Kudos to to their supportive teachers and parents! I am all for creative writing – hope other schools will follow this example.
- Glad to hear that Sergeant Raymond Wilson, head of the Police Federation, is out of hospital and recovering from a heart attack. Take it easy and get well soon!
- And on a football note – Arsenal’s Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (who has Jamaican roots by the way) who scored a cheeky goal for England against a star-studded Brazil team today; and the United States football team for beating the all-powerful Germans! Impressive.
As noted above, the death toll over the past four days has been depressing and the crimes horrifying. I would ask you, dear readers, to also read a report from the Jamaica Star (link below) on a widow’s efforts to ensure that the killers of her husband are brought to justice. It’s a sad and exhausting story. If you have any thoughts on it (or any pertinent information) please do let me know…
Sylvia Sewell, 83, Beckford/Orange Street, downtown Kingston
André Allison, 21, Central Police lock-up, downtown Kingston
Damion Spence, 19, Old Harbour, St. Catherine
Temera Laing, 8, March Pen, St. Catherine
Clayton Parkinson, 33, March Pen, St. Catherine
Tishawn Campbell, 24, March Pen, St. Catherine
Vera Knight, 75, Belle Plain, Clarendon
Unidentified U.S. national, Savannah-la-Mar, Westmoreland
Killed by police:
Unidentified man, Fraser’s Content, St. Catherine
“Bigga,” Savannah-la-Mar, Westmoreland
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130530/lead/lead2.html Help Tanzania if we have extra teachers – JTA President: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130530/lead/lead8.html TV stations defend refusal to air ad in tolerance case: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Men-in-house-said-occupied-by-gays-attack-Observer-news-team_14372677 Men in house said occupied by gays attack Observer news team: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130530/cleisure/cleisure4.html Protecting rights and freedoms for all: Jaevion Nelson column/Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130530/cleisure/cleisure3.html Thwaites must stand firm on condoms in schools: Sean Major-Campbell op-ed/Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/COJO-gives-generously-to-Maxfield-Park-Children-s-Home_14366437 COJO gives generously to Maxfield Park Children’s Home: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130602/lead/lead6.html Former Fort Augusta inmate
http://www.cepr.net/index.php/blogs/the-americas-blog/imf-approves-jamaica-loan-pain-no-gain IMF approves Jamaica loan: Pain, no gain: Center for Economic and Policy Research
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/The-regional-trade–political-and-economic-quagmire-_14366167 The regional trade, political and economic quagmire: Anthony Gomes column/Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130602/news/news5.html Opposition MP provides additional suggestions to spark development: Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130602/business/business3.html Pan-Jam eyes renewable energy market: Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130602/news/news7.html Better parenting needed, says Thwaites: Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130602/focus/focus7.html Inspect education ministry too: Owen Speid column/Sunday Gleaner
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads/34048 Start-Up Jamaica to provide support for ICT entrepreneurs: Jamaica Information Service
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/We-are-nearing-on-the-mark_14366155 We are nearing on the mark: Letter from Housing Minister Morais Guy/Jamaica Observer
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/more-opposition-to-plans-to-amend-ocg-act More opposition to plans to amend OCG act: RJR News
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130530/news/news1.html Judge us on commitments – Robinson: Gleaner
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads-103/34049 Renewed focus on cassava: Jamaica Information Service
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130530/news/news8.html Erosion control agent testing gets under way on Negril beach: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130602/lead/lead8.html Negril the only Jamaican star on CNN’s top 100 beaches: Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130602/news/news2.html Visitor arrivals down – but summer looks “all right”! Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130530/news/news9.html Bad farming practices killing ecosystem: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130602/cleisure/cleisure3.html Raping virgin territory: Carolyn Cooper column/Sunday Gleaner
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads-106/34065 Dr. Ferguson appeals for continued external support for HIV/AIDS program: Jamaica Information Service
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Dealing-effectively-with-guns-and-drugs-for-improved-public-safety_14390368 Dealing effectively with guns and drugs for improved public safety: Commissioner of Police Owen Ellington article/Sunday Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Call-for-Duanvale-to–fast-and-pray-_14391939 Call for Duanvale to “fast and pray”: Sunday Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Madness_14388617 Madness: Tamara Scott-Williams column/Sunday Observer
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/body-of-slain-teenager-identified Body of slain teen identified: RJR News
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/top-cop-charged-with-rape Top cop charged with rape: RJR News
http://jamaica-star.com/thestar/20130426/news/news12.html Man escapes police custody: Jamaica Star, April 26, 2013
- The Hurricane Season is Here: June 2, 2013 (petchary.wordpress.com)
Four years ago today, fire broke out at the Armadale Juvenile Correctional Centre in St. Ann. Seven girls – wards of the state – died as a result of the fire, and eleven were injured. It was a real pleasure today to meet some of the girls who survived this horror, and who are doing their best to move out beyond that horror. I think their day was an emotional one but also filled with hope. I will write more about this.
Devaluation of dollar welcomed by IMF: Well, some of us might have figured this out already. The steady drop in the Jamaican Dollar seemed inexorable and there was really very little comment on it from the Simpson Miller administration at the time. It was just…happening. The rest of us were saying, “What is going on? Help!” as it steadily dropped, day after day. Then suddenly the battered J$ (often depicted in cartoons wrapped in bandages and sticking plaster and hobbling on crutches) pulled itself to a screeching halt at 99 or so to the U.S. Dollar. Well, well. Our friends at the Implacable Masters Fund (IMF) approve of this; and, in fact, say they would like to see our dollar plummet a little bit more, stopping at, let’s say… What do you think? Where should it stop? This, by the way, is the “flexible exchange-rate regime” mentioned by the Jamaican Government in its April 17 Letter of Intent to the IMF (the link is below). Flexible is such a nice…flexible word, isn’t it?
I wonder if the Jamaican public can be as flexible as the Jamaican Dollar has turned out to be?
Trinidad start up weekend: Good luck to Ms. Ingrid Riley, our tech entrepreneur and inspirer extraordinaire, who is in Trinidad now at her Silicon Caribe Startup Weekend. 57 pitches! I attended a Jamaica session; it was lively and abuzz with ideas. I love Ingrid’s regional (Caribbean) approach, and wish more of us were doing that…
Duppy story: According to CVM Television news, a certain house in rural St. James is giving some trouble. In case you haven’t been following it, all kinds of drama has been going on in this very ordinary-looking little house. It has created lots of excitement among the local residents, who can be seen hurrying down the path to the house to witness the latest phenomenon. My husband is almost convinced that there’s a real duppy (to my non-Jamaican readers, that is a ghost) – and so am I. A poltergeist, perhaps? A mysterious fire on top of a wardrobe (could be an electrical short circuit, but…) And objects thrown out of the house when it is empty? A local was hit in the head by one such “missile” and bled profusely. Once bandaged up, he felt pretty good, escorted down the road from the clinic like a real celebrity. What’s going to happen next? I hope it’s not all special effects…
Is the JEEP warming up its engine? Remember JEEP – the Jamaica Emergency Employment Programme? We haven’t heard much of it lately, but the Government has now found a way to create jobs by employing people to build concrete walls instead of zinc fences in selected Kingston communities. I suppose the concrete will screen off the poverty better – it will be harder to glimpse the earth-bare yards. But, Mr. Housing Minister, you know it won’t make any real difference. It’s just cosmetic. The same poverty is just a stone’s throw away…
African : It was announced today that our Prime Minister had flown off to Addis Ababa in Ethiopia, along with the Foreign Affairs Minister, four other government officials, plus her support team (I am not sure how many people that consists of – it is always reported in government press releases as a collective noun). They will be back next Tuesday. One of the radio stations this evening stated that the cost of the trip, in recognition of the African Union’s fiftieth anniversary, will be J$8.6 million. I wonder what the Ineffable Masters Fraternity (IMF) thinks of such expenditure. I can think of a thousand different ways in which that money could have been spent for the benefit of the Jamaican people (the Armadale survivors, for example).
Yay! That money could, perhaps, have been spent on a few more real toilets that flush in Jamaican schools. But sixteen schools in western Jamaica must be groveling with thanks that they do, in fact, have real toilets and not stinking, dangerous holes in the ground, any more. Thank God for Petro-Caribe, anyway. Last time I heard – about a year or two ago – around 200 schools still had pit latrines. Hopefully the number has dropped considerably. It is baffling to me that this can still be an issue in 21st century Jamaica. Perhaps this should come before tablets?
Some things bring out the Great Cynic in me: Recent comments by our Finance Minister Peter Phillips filled me with great weariness. Waxing philosophical and presumably not sticking to his notes, the goodly Minister started to wonder out loud why Jamaica is in its current economic state: “How did it get to this? At least part of the answer, I believe, has to do with the nature of our political processes and the absence, up until recently, of effective paradigm oversight and absence of transparency.” What does this mean? Can someone translate? OK, let me try. The politicians have done nothing to create an “effective nation” (the Minister’s words) since Independence (until the current administration came into power). That’s how it “got to this”. By actually not leading (that’s the oversight part) and by keeping the people ignorant (absence of transparency). Something like that, perhaps?
The young and the generous: In a Twitter exchange just last night, my friend Jean Lowrie-Chin reminded me (the Great Cynic that I am) that the younger generations of those “big” families that have chosen to stay in Jamaica have not only prospered, but are “giving back” to their country. She cited young Adam Stewart, who heads the Sandals Foundation. National Bakery has started its “Bold Ones” Project to encourage youth entrepreneurship. And the young Mahfoods have taken up the mantle of the amazing charity that does so much good work, Food for the Poor. Jean is right – I must try to curb my innate suspicion of the privileged and powerful. I wish all of them had such good intentions as these gentlemen, and that they could all give back…more.
Get well soon: I have no doubt that heading the Police Federation, a union that represents the rank-and-file police force, is a highly stressful occupation. The current chair, Raymond Wilson, has actually been a number of years in the post, off and on. Mr. Wilson has been in hospital for the past few days, after suffering a heart attack at a relatively young age. I wish him a speedy recovery.
By the way, I hope the Reggae Boyz thrash that English football team from north London, Tottenham Hotspur, when they play them tomorrow. Oh, how I would love to see that happen! As a dedicated Arsenal fan (in case you didn’t know) I was delighted that the Gunners denied Spurs a Champions League place again when the English Premier League season ended. And I’m quite satisfied with our team’s strong performance this year, after a lousy start to the season…
It is encouraging to learn that “major crimes,” including murders, have fallen. I hope that this trend will continue. But I am keeping in my thoughts the families of the following Jamaicans whose lives have been taken in the past three days.
Dwayne Brown, Ocho Rios, St. Ann
Selvin Hincklewood, Kingston
Killed by the police:
Noel Williams, 42, Rose Town, Kingston
Jerome Spence, George’s Plain, Westmoreland
Related links and articles:
http://www.imf.org/external/np/sec/pr/2013/pr13186.htm IMF concludes staff visit to Jamaica: imf.org
http://www.imf.org/External/NP/LOI/2013/JAM/041713.pdf Letter of Intent to IMF from Jamaican Government, April 17, 2013: imf.org
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/IMF-gives-us-reality-check_14298943 IMF gives us reality check: Jean Lowrie-Chin column/Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130522/lead/lead7.html J$ depreciation an important correction, says Fund: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130522/business/business2.html Phillips, IMF defend “strenuous” fiscal target for Jamaica: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/CHASE-Fund–sports-continue-to-reap-big-benefits-from-SVL_14302742 CHASE Fund, sports continue to reap big benefits from SVL: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130521/lead/lead1.html Child extortionists: Judge, JPs step in as students make thousands of dollars a day: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130521/cleisure/cleisure3.html Tablets in schools, yes, but please…! Oniel Mantack/Op-ed: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/An-assault-against-human-dignity_14308320 An assault on human dignity: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130521/letters/letters4.html Normal school not for teen babymothers: Letter to the Editor/Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130522/cleisure/cleisure2.html Erase the stupid idea of giving students condoms: George Davis column/Gleaner
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/fourth-anniversary-of-armadale-fire Fourth anniversary of Armadale fire: RJR News
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130520/cleisure/cleisure1.html Sounder logic from the other Mr. Thwaites: Gleaner editorial
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130520/cleisure/cleisure4.html Deal with bullies before… Robert Lalah column/Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130521/news/news8.html INDECOM concerned about police records: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Crime-now-at-uptown-doorsteps_14298922 Crime now at uptown doorsteps: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130522/lead/lead2.html More cops to be hauled before courts: Gleaner
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/top-level-probe-into-reports-of-contract-on-lives-of-prosecutor-investigator Top-level probe into reports of contract on lives of prosecutor, investigator: RJR News
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/editorial/What-violence-torn-St-James–nay-all-Jamaica–can-learn-from-Flanker_14299652 What violence-torn St. James – nay all Jamaica – can learn from Flanker: Jamaica Observer editorial
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130522/news/news2.html U.S. to give special training to MoBay firefighters: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Political-parties-alone-can-t-do-it—Phillips_14299845 Political parties alone can’t do it – Phillips: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Is-migrating-Senate-President-a-coward_14296192 Is migrating Senate President a coward? Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130520/news/news1.html G2K wants answers from Contractor General: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130522/lead/lead1.html Shady dealings: Public sector workers under scrutiny… Gleaner
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads/33972 Prime Minister to attend African Union 50th Anniversary: Jamaica Information Service
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130522/letters/letters3.html Stop magnifying wasteful high-rollers: Letter to the Editor/Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130521/cleisure/cleisure2.html#.UZuRJBboiag.facebook Freudian slip or Gordian knot? Gordon Robinson column/Gleaner
It’s a hot afternoon. It’s Mother’s Day in Jamaica, and the air is sleepy. Our gardener did some serious work yesterday and the yard looks scrupulously tidy. For now. Recent rain has brought back the many shades of green; and to my surprise, winter visitor warblers can still be seen flitting in the bushes. Time to travel north, young warblers!
Thinking about Tivoli: In the past few days since I last wrote, we have all been thinking more deeply about the Simpson Miller administration’s (wise) decision to hold a Commission of Enquiry into the massacre in Tivoli Gardens in May, 2010. There is some insightful commentary in the Sunday papers, and an indication that, three years later, many Jamaicans are more aware of the grave injustice and the horror of that day, when at least 77 Jamaicans lost their lives (we still do not know the exact figure; several people remain missing). For that, we at least partly have to thank the American journalist Mattathias Schwartz of the New Yorker; and the Public Defender Earl Witter, who finally produced the report. Today, Sunday Observer columnist Tamara Scott-Williams quotes the Jamaican president of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, Judge Patrick Robinson: “The simple, plain truth is that in no country with a Constitution that entrenches the right to life can 70 people be killed in peacetime in a single incident, whether by the security forces or by private persons, and national life and affairs continue as though nothing unusual has taken place.”
How can a monopoly not be viable? But that’s the way it apparently is with the Jamaica Public Service Company, according to its straight-talking CEO Kelly Tomblin. The eternal problem of widespread theft of electricity has still not been fully addressed; but as Ms. Tomblin said on radio, it is not just a question of devising ingenious ways of combating theft, but about lifting the company out of debt. Oh, two state-owned sugar companies were reportedly complicit in allowing neighboring communities to steal up to J$100 million worth. What kind of madness is that? Meanwhile, Ms. Tomblin has her work cut out – I am sure she has been aware of this for some time.
Leadership failures: The week’s fiasco involving the People’s National Party Youth Organization suggests, at the very least, weak leadership in the organization. Did President Alrick Campbell consult with his chapter leaders before sending out a press release that surprisingly refused to support the announced Commission of Enquiry into the Tivoli Gardens massacre? Similarly, Mayor of Montego Bay Glendon Harris is under pressure after a series of dreadful faux pas, culminating in the hospital re-naming fiasco. Do these people have any idea of public relations, either? Clueless.
NHT again: The whole National Housing Trust (NHT) business is still bugging me. It all seems wrong. One of my “tweeps” observed today, “How can the NHT force employers to make mortgage deductions from workers? Shoudn’t that be an arrangement between the Trust and its clients?” Very good question…
Blood on the streets: As usual, the social media was ahead of the traditional media on Friday morning, as several photos were pasted on Facebook of two apparently lifeless bodies – young men allegedly shot by the police in a parking lot in downtown Kingston. Reports appeared at least two hours later on the newspaper websites, noting a police report that ”brazen gunmen” had made a robbery attempt, and that three ”were in hospital” (dead on arrival?) According to the eye witnesses who posted the photos, the bodies were collected and loaded into vans within minutes, before the Crime Scene investigation unit or INDECOM (the Independent Commission of Investigations) arrived. Onlookers say the men were unarmed. I have shared the photos below. Meanwhile, the print media coverage of what actually happened in the middle of the day on Friday in busy downtown was muddled and lacking in detail.
Harassing the handcarts: Some genius at the Kingston & St. Andrew Corporation has come up with the startlingly brilliant idea of taxing handcart operators. These are rough-hewn carts with a primitive steering-wheel attached, operated by men in Kingston and most towns to transport small quantities of goods (and sometimes people). When I see men pushing and navigating these carts, sweating and straining in the hot sun, I think “what a hard life.” These are, basically, poor people. How could the Mayor think of doing such a thing?
I’m off now, but you guys can stay: President of the Senate Stanley Redwood is migrating to Canada, and made farewell comments last week before his departure. Methinks he doth protest too much. “No other Jamaican should be forced or feel forced to make the choice I have to make this month,” said the Senator, who has been beating himself up over departing for greener pastures for some time. It’s OK for me to go – but you guys stay here, stick it out… Not impressed, I’m afraid.
Power walks: While blood still stained the streets of downtown Kingston, a couple of miles away uptowners were preparing for two charity walks on Saturday – both good causes. Due to ongoing back problems, I was unable to participate in either. But I hope lots of money was raised for Dress for Success and the Nuttall Memorial Hospital, respectively. Next time!
Sick of them: There are certain things that always upset me when I watch the evening news on television. Of course, the ongoing bloodshed is one of those things. What also depresses me is the greed and selfishness of thieves who, like vampires, feed on hard-working Jamaicans. It seems that every week a school is broken into, and we see the anxious principal, his/her face creased with anxiety and stress, detailing all the items the school lost – of course, all the most valuable things that they can least afford to replace, many of them donated by kind-hearted people. Then there are the poor farmers, who go to the fields in the morning to see their precious animals hacked to pieces or their crops pulled out of the ground. On Friday, we heard that the bus belonging to Alpha Boys School was stolen in Spanish Town. I don’t know if they have found it. Alpha nurtures abandoned and orphaned boys, and is famous for its school band that has produced many great Jamaican musicians. Shame on you all, you vampires.
Pit latrines in schools: As I noted in my post of August 12, 2012, around 200 schools across Jamaica still have pit latrines. I doubt that much has changed since then. Perhaps we should consider this as a priority over tablets, Minister Paulwell? (Much as I love your tablets). The “sanitary conveniences” at St. Mary’s Primary School in rural St. Elizabeth are as old as the school itself (44 years) and pose a serious health risk. For a start, if a young child slips he/she can fall into them. The Florida-based Andrew Dixon Foundation is seeking to raise funds to replace them.
I was wondering… about the over 4,000 online jobs that the World Bank says it has created for young Jamaicans. The World Bank provides more details on its Digital Jam 2.0 program at the link below. It includes internships and fellowships at Howard University, pilot projects, incubators and so on. Brilliant!
Sports vs academics: The Gleaner recently published a table ranking Jamaica’s high schools in terms of their CSEC examination results. I’m trying to find a link to it. It was noticeable, however, that almost all the traditional boys’ high schools did quite poorly; unsurprisingly, the co-educational Kingston high school Campion College came out on top. A columnist yesterday pointed out that the low-performing boys’ schools are those that compete furiously and loudly at “Champs” (the high school athletics championships) and tout their sporting prowess. Is there a conflict here?
Less abatement? As I have noted before, Jamaica/Kingston is Party Central, and the noise must go on. I see the Ministry of National Security and Ministry of Entertainment as it seems to call itself are holding a public consultation on “changes to the Noise Abatement Act” on Wednesday at the Jamaica Conference Centre. What changes? Where? Is the noise to go on longer? I am suspicious of the “entertainment zones” that have been mentioned a few times by our enthusiastic Junior Minister Damion Crawford, who is young and therefore fond of “shelling dung” as the saying goes. And hey, do you think there may be more important things to be worrying about? I can only assume that, like the building of housing for poor people, this is a populist, vote-getting exercise.
Yohan Blake/boys home: I am very pleased with our young Olympian Yohan Blake, whose YB Afraid Foundation continues to support the Mount Olivet Boys’ Home in Manchester, in all kinds of important ways. The home’s infrastructure is steadily improving as a result. Thanks to Mr. Blake; you have a good, good heart.
It is very sad to report that in the past three days the following Jamaicans have been killed. My heart goes out to their families. Too much trouble in the world.
Clifton Drummonds, 55, John’s Town, St. Thomas (mob killing)
Winston Robinson, Mannings Hill Road, Kingston
Tiffany Shirley, Mannings Hill Road, Kingston
Killed by police:
Unidentified man, Pechon Street/Beckford Street, Kingston
Unidentified man, Matthews Lane, Kingston
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/JPS-facing-death_14238670 Electricity theft, debt threaten company’s viability, says Tomblin: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130511/cleisure/cleisure1.html Power thieves must be stopped: Gleaner editorial
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Samuda-labels-logistics-hub-a–pipe-dream-_14239407 Samuda labels logistics hub a “pipe dream”: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130510/business/business5.html Jamaica Broilers invests $300 million in new plant: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130510/cleisure/cleisure1.html What, really, are agro parks? Gleaner editorial
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130510/business/business1.html Palmyra parent firm deemed a squatter: Gleaner
http://www.worldbank.org/en/results/2013/04/24/creating-employment-solutions-young-jamaicans Creating employment solutions for young Jamaicans in the virtual economy: worldbank.org
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/business/Rating-Agency-reacts-to-IMF-Jamaica-agreement_14244183 Rating agency reacts to IMF-Jamaica agreement: Sunday Observer
http://www.caribjournal.com/2013/05/11/forbes-the-business-of-sport-in-jamaica/ The business of sport in Jamaica: Marcia Forbes op-ed/caribjournal.com
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/No-unlicensed-cable-operator-in-Jamaica_14239648 No unlicensed cable operator in Jamaica/Broadcasting Commission
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/editorial/No-justification-for-NWC-rate-hike_14237953 No justification for NWC rate hike: Jamaica Observer editorial
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130510/letters/letters1.html Handcart permit regime off the deep end: Letter of the Day/Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Stop-the-bickering-_14239553 Pryce chides PNPYO for washing dirty linen in public: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130510/lead/lead10.html Montego Bay mayor faces no-confidence vote: Gleaner
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/arscott-defends-cost-of-local-government-delegation-to-uganda Arscott defends cost of local government delegation to Uganda: RJR News
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130512/focus/focus5.html Whose plan for Jamaica is it anyway? Jamaica Civil Society Coalition op-ed/Sunday Gleaner
http://www.caribjournal.com/2013/05/09/op-ed-does-jamaica-need-outside-help-to-deal-with-crime/ Does Jamaica need outside help to deal with crime? caribjournal.com
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/man-implicated-in-murder-chopped-to-death Man implicated in murder chopped to death: RJR News
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130511/lead/lead2.html Daylight gun battles cause mayhem downtown: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Deadly-end—-Robbery-foiled–cops-kill-one-gunman–injure-another_14239031 Deadly end! Robbery foiled, cops kill one gunman, injure another: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130512/lead/lead5.html Deadlock blanks downtown CCTV plan: Sunday Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Why-the-Tivoli-enquiry-is-important_14246024 Why the Tivoli enquiry is important: Claude Robinson column/Sunday Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Forget-the-enquiry–make-a-movie-instead_14246048 Forget the enquiry; make a movie instead: Tamara Scott-Williams column/Sunday Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Pain-still-lingers-for-Tivoli-man–family_14247384 Pain still lingers for Tivoli man, family: Sunday Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130510/news/news2.html West Kingston rejoices after cops kill thug: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Mothers-mourn-loss-of-son–daughter Mothers mourn loss of son, daughter: Sunday Observer
http://www.caribjournal.com/2013/05/09/op-ed-from-haiti-to-cuba-a-vision-for-the-caribbean-in-2030/ From Haiti to Cuba: A vision for the Caribbean in 2030: caribjournal.com
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/complant-workers-protest COMPLANT workers protest: RJR News
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130511/lead/lead6.html Pit latrines pose public health risk at St. Mary’s Primary: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130511/letters/letters8.html No water for farmers in Llandewey for decades: Letter to the Editor/Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130511/letters/letters2.html Emergency call to action for Child Month: Letter from Jamaica Youth Action Network to the Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130512/lead/lead61.html Condoms or abstinence: Guidance counselors ponder the best fit for schools: Sunday Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/High-school-standard-bearers-of-excellence-_14239025 High school standard bearers of excellence? Lascelve Graham op-ed/Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130511/lead/lead5.html Mount Olivet Boys’ Home a refuge from abuse: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Saturday-Social_14239033 Saturday Social: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads-107/33829 More assistance for local exporters: Jamaica Information Service
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.
It’s warm, bright and it’s Wednesday, which means my mid-week bulletin on Jamaican comings and goings is due. Here goes…
First shops, now houses? I am very sorry that the wonderful charity Food for the Poor, which does so much for Jamaica, has been dragged into a new story of alleged political corruption in South Trelawny. It seems to be a sort of political counterpoint to the Richard Azan saga, since it involves a Jamaica Labour Party Member of Parliament this time. There are claims from residents, an independent local councilor and others that Marisa Dalrymple-Philibert (what a great name!) has ensured the distribution of wooden houses constructed by Food for the Poor to residents loyal to her party. She denies this, and there were some inaccuracies in the early claims, which Food for the Poor corrected. We shall see what happens after Food for the Poor, which is known for its adherence to accountability and transparency, has done its own investigation into the matter. They should conclude this by the end of the week. I’m beginning to think that Members of Parliament should not be involved in the distribution of any kind of benefits within their constituencies. Perhaps, instead, they could live in their constituencies, and represent them properly in Parliament. Let’s get away from the “scarce benefits and spoils.”
The children: Today is the first day of Child Month – a month when the Government pays lip service to Jamaican children. There are various feel-good events and lots of pictures of sweet, laughing children and politicians patting them on the head. But a child in Jamaica is an endangered species, like the African elephant. Children are actively discriminated against. At best, they are ignored. At worst, they are abused, physically, mentally, sexually, and locked up. Many of those in conflict with the law are labeled “uncontrollable,” bad boys and girls who should be “disciplined.” I have written numerous blog posts on children’s rights in the past. Congratulations to Jamaicans for Justice, who today started a series of articles on children’s rights in the Gleaner. See link below.
The Jamaican Child at Risk: And on the first day of Child Month, I read reports about students of Calabar High School attacking a bus driver in Kingston; a 12-year-old girl found hanging from a mango tree; the body of an abducted schoolgirl found in a cane field; and a student of Robert Lightbourne High School in serious condition after being stabbed at the school in rural St.Thomas today.
PM budget speech: Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller made her contribution to the Budget Debate yesterday. Time consumed: well over two hours (her Opposition counterpart spoke for a good three hours!) Perhaps taking a cue from Mr. Holness, the Prime Minister was less confrontational than usual and dropped the hectoring tone for the most part. As a result, it was easier to listen to, without the usual feeding-time-at-the-zoo background noise. She kicked off by professing her love for the poor, mentioned some houses distributed and ground she has broken (in one case at least, with emotion), and used the word “transformation” over fifty times (note to speechwriters: that really is overkill). She wrapped up with several mentions of the word “God” and the usual exhortations to unite and work together… In between, there was little of substance and a lot of fluff (fond as I am of the Sunshine Girls – our national netball team – I don’t see the need to include them in a budget speech).
A couple of concerns: The Prime Minister announced that our new, oriental colonial masters (China Harbour et al) have changed their minds about developing a transshipment port in the Kingston Harbour area near Fort Augusta women’s prison. This decision was made “a few weeks ago.” They have decided to do a bigger, better project somewhere else (“final location undetermined”) in Jamaica instead. This puzzles me and also raises questions about the development of the logistics hub and preparations for the expansion of the Panama Canal. And talking of the hub, what is actually happening now, and what needs to happen by the deadline/s for Jamaica to be competitively “in” on the thing? I have a feeling deadlines are looming, and the Prime Minister proudly announced that party stalwart Professor Gordon Shirley will head a National Taskforce “that will drive the process.” Why in the future – shouldn’t it be happening now?
The NHT again: Yes, another heavy burden will be placed on the National Housing Trust (NHT) this year. The Prime Minister announced that the Trust would have to cough up more for the Inner City Renewal Program and other major projects.
The Tivoli forest: An absolute forest of trees has been cut down for the printing of the long-awaited interim report on the Tivoli Gardens Massacre of May, 2010. We heard that the report would be tabled in Parliament yesterday. This did not happen, since they had not finished printing 63 copies (200 plus pages each). One journalist asked why they couldn’t just use the tablets that Technology Minister Phillip Paulwell had kindly given to each Member of Parliament just recently?
Tweeps find a voice: This morning, broadcast journalist Emily Crooks invited her faithful “tweeps” to comment on the Prime Minister’s speech. So several of us piped up and shared our thoughts on the radio. It was interesting to hear human voices in place of the regular comments on my TweetDeck. Emily and her co-host Naomi seemed rather pleased with us, and we got some compliments about our commentary! Thanks for giving us the opportunity, Em…
Revenge of the security guard: Ambassador Courtney Walsh has refused to accept an apology from the Jamaica Cricket Association for his treatment at the hands of a security guard. He wanted to enter a particular section of Sabina Park, Kingston’s cricket ground and was flatly refused. Now, anyone who lives in Kingston has probably run the gamut of security guards at every business place, government office, shopping plaza or residential complex one might visit. They are extremely poorly paid, work very long hours in poor, sometimes dangerous conditions, and are often grumpy, arrogant and mean. We have to put up with it. They are “doing their job,” as was this particular guard, no doubt. I suppose the phrase “Do you know who I am?” came up. Anyway, the famous sportsman is pretty upset.
Stop press: The interim report on the Tivoli Gardens Massacre has finally been tabled in Parliament this afternoon. Oh, no! I take that back. It wasn’t. Or was it? Yes! It was, and it’s available online, so more trees are spared. Please see the link below. Coincidentally, the New Yorker journalist Mattathias Schwartz writes a follow-up report on the killing of over seventy Jamaicans allegedly at the hands of the security forces, along with a four-minute video. You can find it on the magazine’s online pages. Schwartz visited Jamaica, wrote extensively on the “incursion,” and has now released surveillance footage from the U.S. Government, after filing a lawsuit to obtain it. See for yourself at the link below. And…Today the International Monetary Fund approved Jamaica’s application for a four-year extended fund facility, worth US$958 million. Yay! Now, don’t spend it all at once, will you? You can’t? Oh well… First US$200 million installment coming soon, anyway.
Let’s hear it for the Alpha Boys: I spent some time late last year at the Alpha Boys School in Kingston while volunteering with the JN Foundation. It was Christmas, and the boys were exuberant, energetic and participated in a highly competitive dance competition (Gangnam Style). Congratulations to overseas-based Jamaican artist Michael Thompson, special projects manager at Alpha Joshua Chamberlain, the Bob Marley Foundation and all the other individuals and organizations involved in the Alpha Boys’ revival, including its “rebranding.” The boys will be producing and selling branded shirts; for more details contact Alpha Service Bureau at 930-2200 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
I Believe in Spring Village: A huge pat on the back too, to Randy Finikin of the Spring Village Development Foundation for his great community work over the years; and thanks to the Governor General for his support and the construction of an I Believe Medical Centre under his special I Believe Initiative in Spring Village. You can read more about the program here: http://www.ibelieveinitiative.org.
See you on Sunday for the next bulletin!
My condolences to the families of the following Jamaicans, who have been brutally murdered since Sunday, April 28:
Harry Bunwarrie, 28, Thompson Pen, St. Catherine
Sebert Wilks, 70, Bushy Park, St. Catherine
Gerald Wilks, 60, Bushy Park, St. Catherine
Abigail Robb, 15, Clarks Town, Trelawny
Nigel Watson, 38, Somerton, St. James
André Roper, 26, Montego Bay, St. James
Related links/articles (purple links are local blogs):
http://japarliament.gov.jm/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=945:office-of-the-public-defender-interim-report-to-parliament-concerning-investigations-into-the-conduct-of-the-security-forces-during-the-state-of-emergency-declared-may2010&catid=7:general-reports&Itemid=22 Office of the Public Defender Interim Report to Parliament Concerning Investigations into the Conduct of the Security Forces during the State of Emergency: Jamaican Parliament (pdf files)
http://www.jis.gov.jm/docs/PM_Speech_Final_web.pdf Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller‘s Budget Speech, April 30, 2013: Going for Growth and Development
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130428/lead/lead1.html Who got the houses? Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=44467 Dalrymple Philibert says house allocations not politically aligned: Gleaner
http://foodforthepoorja.blogspot.com/2013/04/press-release-food-for-poor-reaffirms.html Food for the Poor Jamaica reaffirms its modus operandi of transparency and accountability: Food for the Poor blog
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/NHT-AGAIN_14178454 Government raids Trust to fund major projects: Jamaica Observer
http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/newsdesk/2013/05/video-massacre-in-jamaica.html Traces of a massacre: Mattathias Schwartz/New Yorker
http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/from-1-battlefield-to-another-us-tries-2-new-aerial-tools-to-search-for-drugs-in-caribbean/2013/04/27/43ceea30-af30-11e2-b59e-adb43da03a8a_story.html# From one battlefield to another: U.S. tries two new aerial tools to search for drugs in the Caribbean: Washington Post
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130429/lead/lead2.html Danzil Clarke was clueless: Man who robbed Bunting’s friends was unaware of who his victims were: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130501/lead/lead4.html Thieves jet off with $20 million worth of airplane fuel: Gleaner
http://repeatingislands.com/2013/04/28/carolyn-cooper-changing-dirty-diapers-on-earth-day/ Changing dirty diapers on Earth Day: Carolyn Cooper column/Sunday Gleaner
http://delanoseiv.wordpress.com/2013/05/01/we-need-a-leader-like-thatcher/ We need a leader like Thatcher: Delano Seiveright blog
http://www.caribjournal.com/2013/04/29/jamaica-to-receive-eu-health-grant/ Jamaica to receive EU health grant: Carib Journal
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130501/cleisure/cleisure4.html Quotas crucial to righting scale of gender imbalance: Linnette Vassell op-ed/Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130429/lead/lead4.html “Fewer women screened for cervical cancer”: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130501/cleisure/cleisure3.html Where has our sense of community gone? George Davis column/Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/sport/JCA-apologises-to-Courtney-Walsh_14177824 JCA apologizes to Courtney Walsh: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130430/ent/ent2.html Alpha Boys reborn: Gleaner
http://www.caribjournal.com/2013/04/29/sheryl-sandbergs-lean-in-and-jamaica/ Sheryl Sandberg‘s “Lean In” and Jamaica: Marcia Forbes op-ed/Carib Journal
http://www.jamaicans.com/articles/primecomments/jamaicanentrepreneurshipsellingdreams.shtml Selling dreams and unrealistic hope – Jamaicans being pitched to be an entrepreneur: Jane Nina Buchanan article/jamaicans.com
Sunday Thoughts: April 28, 2013 (petchary.wordpress.com)
Playing Politics With Jamaica’s Future (petchary.wordpress.com)
Maggie and Me: Some Thoughts on Leadership (petchary.wordpress.com)
Actually, the Ides of March were on Friday, March 15, just two days ago. We often hear the phrase “Beware the Ides of March,” without even understanding the sense of it. Blame Shakespeare. As a former student of Latin language and literature, I can assure you that the Romans were a highly superstitious lot, and very fond of omens. Reading animals’ entrails, birds, the weather, and all that. This period was not short of prophets of doom – and we have a few of those around ourselves, here in Jamaica.
It’s true that things are not looking rosy, in general. We were overwhelmed this week (and we knew it was coming) by the broadcast of a documentary on AXS TV on the “lotto scam,” narrated by Dan Rather, who visited Jamaica earlier this year. Segments were aired on CBS News and NBC News, and it was heavily publicized through Mr. Rather’s (and others’) social media outlets. Segments were, of course, aired on local television – including an interview with a young scammer in Montego Bay, who ran away when the journalist revealed that they were U.S. media. His face was clearly shown. I am not sure if you can download the full program somewhere – I’m not finding it online.
I understand that Mr. Rather is planning further investigations, so this may not be the end of this negative publicity. National Security Minister Peter Bunting had a sense of foreboding about this one, and rightly so. Since the testimony, and the documentary, there has been much discussion about the impact on so-called “Brand Jamaica.” Now, to me, Brand Jamaica is a fabrication of the politicians and tourism officials. How attractive is Brand Jamaica to ordinary Jamaicans, one of my friends asked on Twitter this week – “that is the real measure.” Indeed, but that is for another discussion. The government has naturally been scrambling to do “damage control,” according to local media. No reported “fallout” – yet.
But, why do the Americans have to clean up our mess again, other Jamaicans are asking? There are odd echoes of the “Dudus” affair… The same level of discomfort and a kind of humiliation. We are the bad guys, again. We are a very small nation, and we feel it. Yes, we take it to heart, even if we pretend not to.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging, headed by Democrat Bill Nelson of Florida, sat on Wednesday to consider the matter, at the urging of advocacy groups such as the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP). Minister Bunting had submitted written testimony. The recorded conversations between the criminals in Jamaica (what else can you call them?) and their sad, distressed elderly victims in Maine and other U.S. states; and the television interviews with them and their families – all made me cringe. It was very, very uncomfortable to watch and hear. A feeling of collective guilt infused many of the discussions on the matter – on radio talk shows, many expressed shame and at the very least, embarrassment. “Jamaica, the Nigeria of the Caribbean” was one online comment. We wondered how these old people could be so lonely, happy to hear the sound of a human voice even if it was that of a stranger with evil intent (I actually do consider the scammers evil, not a word I use lightly). Some called them “gullible” and “suckers” which I find unkind. Elderly people are vulnerable, almost like children.
My questions are: Why was the lotto scam allowed to continue for five or six years without any effective action being taken by the Jamaican government? Was the legislation – which the Senate will debate next week – only put together at the behest of the U.S. government? Who was/is benefiting from the lotto scam? Local politicians, businessmen, who exactly? Will they be brought to book? We all knew that Montego Bay has been booming for the last few years…How long will it take to extradite even one Jamaican – and how many are actually involved? Was someone “higher up” orchestrating the whole thing? Will the IT/call center business ever recover? Why was the local media, with some exceptions, unwilling to investigate over these past few years – were they under pressure?
According to at least one Opposition member, tourism is already in decline, even without all this unpleasantness. This is not good for our foreign exchange inflows, and I had heard that stopover visitors are seriously lagging behind cruise ship arrivals, even in the current winter tourist season. Suggestions are that cultural issues and environmental degradation are having a negative impact on visitors. Brand Jamaica is a tarnished mirror, in which we can hardly see ourselves any more, no matter how hard we try to wipe it clean. Let’s forget it.
And we should forget this one – quickly. Jamaica Tourist Board, what were you thinking? Here’s the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P9KSiitCnXg (Mr. Nicolaisen, I don’t blame you – you are an actor and you are making a living, but...)
There is no doubt that the lotto scam comes under the heading “organized crime” and must be dealt with accordingly. Extradition to the United States is fine in my book, so long as they are given a fair trial and brought to justice. And talking of organized crime, what is going on in west Kingston, the former domain of the aforementioned extraditee Christopher “Dudus” Coke? I hear rumblings that a new power structure is in place. If you visit Coronation Market regularly, you may have seen the signs.
Meanwhile, the police have taken a Kingston businessman into custody and he could face numerous charges, including murder and money laundering. But he doesn’t have a name – so he must be a “big man.” I am sure if he was from Arnett Gardens or Denham Town, we would all know his name, address and aliases right away.
Talking of foreign exchange: some local manufacturers are among those complaining about a shortage of foreign exchange. Former head of the Jamaica Manufacturers’ Association Omar Azan says the banks have waiting lists, and he was not able to get all the U.S. Dollars he needed to import raw materials. If this is a growing trend and it continues, there will be layoffs as production is cut. Opposition Finance Spokesman Audley Shaw already notes a “thriving black market” - he has been banging on about this for some time. More doom and gloom (if possibly exaggerated…in Audley Shaw’s somber tone…)
Do we need to be reminded of the “Cuban light bulb scandal”? It occurred during the previous People’s National Party administration, resulting in a corruption trial that is still not concluded. But hey! The program to provide free energy-saving bulbs from Cuba to poor households through Minister Phillip Paulwell’s energy ministry is back! That’s all we needed. Former junior minister Kern Spencer (who cried in Parliament when his Opposition counterpart accused him) has had his trial successfully postponed a number of times; he was first arrested over five years ago.
Well, I was on television myself last week. I appeared on CVM Television’s “Live at Seven.” I hope some of you were able to watch the program, which focused on whether pregnant teens should be “excluded” (in other words, kicked out) of high school or allowed to continue their education before and after giving birth. As Chair of Eve for Life Jamaica, I am firmly of the latter view. Education is empowerment, and many of these girls have suffered from rape, abuse, incest and are being punished for it. My co-panelist, the President-elect of the Jamaica Teachers Association, suggested that everything was fine and the girls can, at principals’ discretion, return to school (or a different school) afterwards. He also said that the state-funded Women’s Centre of Jamaica was most effective in supporting these vulnerable girls. In other words (as is often the case in these discussions on the media) one would be led to believe that all is hunky dory, and the system works perfectly… Unless one knew better, of course. In columnist Barbara Gloudon’s words, “It is the girl who must pay the price.” See her take on the issue, below…
More on this in another blog. Suffice it to say I was nervous as hell, this being my first television appearance; but I was impressed by Mr. Simon Crosskill, host of the program, and his great young production team. An excellent program. You can find the latest edition online here: http://www.cvmtv.com/videos_1.php?id=921§ion=live7 - updated daily.
A young lady I know and think highly of was also a guest on Power 106 FM’s youth program yesterday. Ms. Kemesha Kelly, who comes from a humble family in rural St. Ann, is a former Miss Jamaica Festival Queen. She is highly intelligent, enthusiastic and a terrific role model for girls. As usual, Ms. Kelly was overflowing with energy during her interview, discussing the “SWAG” (Something Worthwhile a Gwaan) initiative that she spearheads at the Marcus Garvey Youth Information Centre in St. Ann’s Bay. (A common refrain among youth is “Nutten Naah Gwaan” (nothing is going on). The project needs more funding support; if you are a local business or individual who would like to help, get in touch with Kemesha (or me).
When asked about the main challenges for Jamaican youth, Kemesha noted employment opportunities (lacking); crime and violence – youth are so often the victims and the perpetrators; and access to higher education, which she considers crucial. She is an aspiring human rights lawyer. I wish her all the very best…
More young people doing great (amazing) things: Over the last few days, the hotly-contested 103rd ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys’ and Girls’ Athletics Championships has taken the National Stadium by storm. Records broke left right and center, to the deafening sound of vuvuzelas (yes, they are still in use over here, unfortunately – we could hear them from our house!) Many congratulations to Calabar High School, who again came out on top, with two other Kingston boys’ schools, Jamaica College and Kingston College hot on their heels. The girls of Holmwood Technical High School overtook Edwin Allen High School, with St. Jago High School girls in third place – all, interestingly “out of town” schools in Manchester, Clarendon and St. Catherine respectively. Many, many congratulations to all! As someone observed, our successful athletes always rise above the divisiveness of Jamaican society. Do we care what political party they support, or which area of Kingston they come from? Of course not! They have transcended that political tribalism that breeds nothing but mediocrity.
And congratulations to all the winners of the Prime Minister’s Youth Awards. Special congratulations are due to Kimroy Bailey, a young engineer and fellow (award-winning) blogger who is highly focused on alternative energy. Let’s encourage those young people, in the sciences and other fields, who are doing the hands-on stuff and trying to raise awareness! We need those ideas. And action.
P.S. Just a word to journalists, especially the younger ones who are sometimes a little hurt when they are criticized. “Everyone tells us how to do our job,” one complained last week. Well, I for one will continue to criticize. As purveyors of the media product, you should also listen to what we – your consumers – have to say! I still maintain that there are far too many errors of spelling, grammar and pronunciation (some of them really embarrassing). And I also feel that browsing through the social media, commenting on what so-and-so is saying about such-and-such and reading it out, doth not good journalism make. It’s different if you are organizing feedback on a specific issue; fine. Otherwise, it looks like you are wasting time, and it’s irritating. It’s also not news – unless you suspect that the social media is more newsworthy than what your own radio/television station or newspaper produces?
This has been another week of terrible grief. The killing of three family members (including a fireman) in Westmoreland has traumatized the community where they live – and where they were setting up a small business, a cook shop. Residents of the lovely town of Lucea were horrified by a terrible murder/suicide (the suicide taking place in a busy public shopping plaza) which seems to have been the result of a woman trying to end an abusive relationship. My deepest condolences to the families, friends and neighbors. Whole communities in shock. We will all need group counseling, soon…
Omario Bryan, 17, Havannah Heights, Clarendon
Winston “Charlie” Dawkins, 63, Osbourne Store, Clarendon
Sean Powell, 31, Spanish Town, St. Catherine
Shane Stanley, 37, Green Acres, St. Catherine
Unidentified, Dyke Road/Portmore, St. Catherine
Unidentified, Dyke Road/Portmore, St. Catherine
Cameka Duhaney, 23, Lucea, Hanover
Sydney Smith, 43, Lucea, Hanover
Killed by police
Andrew Brydson, 28, Shrewsbury, Westmoreland
Tristan Brydson, 24, Shrewsbury, Westmoreland
Kingsley Green, 38, Shrewsbury, Westmoreland
Related articles: Local blogs in purple
http://www.cvmtv.com/videos_1.php?id=900§ion=live7 Live at Seven on teen pregnancy/March 12, 2013: CVM Television
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RznaKL7n1Ss Javed Jaghai talks about human rights in Jamaica: youtube.com
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=43373 Police Federation awaits word from Cabinet: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Cops-kill-fireman–brother-and-cousin_13873042 Cops kill fireman, brother and cousin: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Murderous-rampage-in-Lucea_13877726 Murderous rampage in Lucea: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130311/lead/lead5.html Defense attorney troubled by lottery scam law: Gleaner
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads-112/33244 Government pushes public awareness on lottery scam impact: Jamaica Information Service
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/govt-dismisses-claims-of-being-slow-in-addressing-lottery-scam?utm_source=rjr&utm_medium=news Government dismisses claims of being slow in addressing lottery scam: RJR News
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=43472 Opposition supports extradition of scammers: Gleaner
http://www.aging.senate.gov/hearing_detail.cfm?id=340977& United States Senate Special Committee on Aging – Hearing on Lotto Scam: http://www.aging.senate.gov/ – Video and audio here: http://www.aging.senate.gov/hearing_detail.cfm?id=339898&
http://anniepaul.net/2013/03/15/doubletake-first-mattathias-schwartz-now-dan-rather-what-ails-jamaican-media/ Doubletake: First Mattathias Schwartz, now Dan Rather – what ails Jamaican media? anniepaul.net
http://chatychaty.com/2013/03/dan-rather-talks-about-investigating-the-jamaican-lottery-scam/ Dan Rather talks about investigating the Jamaican lottery scam: chatychaty.com
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130315/letters/letters2.html Americans continue to clean our house: Letter to Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/editorial/Make-the-scammers–lives-hell_13860009 Make the scammers’ lives hell: Observer editorial
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads-122/33255 Debate on lottery scam bill to continue on March 21: Jamaica Information Service
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Lottery-scammers-are-not-operating-alone_13865327 Lottery scammers are not operating alone: Mark Wignall column/Sunday Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Eradicate-the-culture-of-impunity-around-the-lottery-scam_13872254 Eradicate the culture of impunity around the lottery scam: Claude Robinson column/Sunday Observer
Dudus Part#2 – The Jamaican Lotto Scam extradition requests. (commonsenseja.wordpress.com) Dudus Part 2: The Jamaican lotto scam extradition requests: commonsenseja.wordpress.com
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/dpp-advises-police-to-charge-world-wise-operators DPP advises police to charge World Wise operators: RJR News
http://www.caribjournal.com/2013/03/15/jamaica-waives-visa-requirements-for-eastern-european-tourists/ Jamaica waives visa requirements for Eastern European tourists: caribjournal.com
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130313/letters/letters4.html Gangster country: Letter to the Editor/Gleaner
http://jamaica-star.com/thestar/20130313/news/news2.html Cops fight at police station: Jamaica Star
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130317/lead/lead2.html Businessman held in money laundering, murder probe: Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130317/lead/lead5.html Help needed: West Kingston’s plea: Sunday Gleaner
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/fears-of-a-child-trafficking-ring-dismissed-by-police Fears of a child trafficking ring dismissed by police: RJR News
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Baby-Madda–story-come-back-again_13865068 ”Baby Madda” story come back again: Barbara Gloudon column/Jamaica Observer
http://rhrealitycheck.org/article/2013/03/12/an-open-letter-to-caribbean-men-from-caribbean-women/?goback=%2Egde_118853_member_223341878#sthash%2EIhg06iZI%2Edpuf An open letter to Caribbean men from Caribbean women: rhrealitycheck.org
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130316/lead/lead6.html Nicola Hamilton on a mission to empower women: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130314/cleisure/cleisure3.html Do homosexuals have a place in Jamaica? Jaevion Nelson column/Gleaner
http://jamaica-star.com/thestar/20130316/news/news1.html Men beaten for “funny behavior”: Jamaica Star
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130315/letters/letters4.html Haitians were treated fairly: Letter to the Gleaner from Jamaican immigration chief
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130311/lead/lead2.html New China road deal: Gleaner
http://delanoseiv.wordpress.com/2013/03/12/tourism-in-major-decline-concerns-about-crisis/ Tourism in major decline: Concerns about crisis: delanoseiv.wordpress.com
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/rural-st-andrew-water-sources-fall-short-of-who-guidelines Rural St. Andrew water sources fall short of WHO guidelines: RJR News
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130313/lead/lead4.html Residents say bills too high: Gleaner
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/controversial-cuban-light-bulb-project-to-be-reintroduced Controversial Cuban light bulb project to be reintroduced: RJR News
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads-103/33221 Growth in export earnings: Jamaica Information Service
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Only-25–of-NHT-contributors-have-benefitted-in-37-years_13863877 Only 25% of NHT contributors have benefitted in 37 years: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/Too-many-hypocrites-in-Jamaica_13800895 Too many hypocrites in Jamaica: Letter to the Editor/Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-star.com/thestar/20130313/news/news1.html 68-year-old killed in shark attack: Jamaica Star
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130316/business/business3.html Turning trash into treasure: Biochar oven: Gleaner
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/trip-to-chavez-funeral-no-cost-to-government Trip to Chavez funeral no cost to government: RJR News
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Politicians-must-sacrifice-too_13626549 Politicians must sacrifice too: Francis J Mafar op-ed/Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Manley-Duncan–Shift-to–a-sacred-place-_13805888 Manley-Duncan: Shift to a “sacred place”: Jean Lowrie-Chin column/Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/magazines/allwoman/Change-is-possible—change-is-happening_13805613 Change is possible and change is happening: All Woman/Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/What-can-we-do-when-the–mother–school-system-fails_13782498 What can we do when the “mother” school system fails? Tashion Hewitt op-ed/Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130316/lead/lead3.html The wisdom of Old Folly – St. Ann residents unite for model community: Gleaner
http://carolynjoycooper.wordpress.com/2013/03/13/michael-freestylee-thompson-exhibits-at-the-university-of-the-west-indies-museum/ Michael “Freestylee” Thompson exhibits at the University of the West Indies Museum
http://www.tallawahmagazine.com/2013/03/home-front-christopher-john-farley.html Christopher John Farley keeps an open mind in life and art: Tallawahmagazine.com
Not the best of Sundays. The prevailing mood in our household is bitter, after Tottenham Hotspurs Football Club defeated Arsenal Football Club in the North London derby. So, our pathetic season is basically over. I am sorry to inflict my football passions on you, dear readers. But it hurts as much as being stabbed in the arm. Well, probably not quite as much. Over in London, our son is probably drowning his sorrows in a pint of …bitter. I am drinking coffee, and wishing it was something stronger.
Putting that aside. More bitterness, this time a bitter smell. On Thursday morning downtown Kingston was once again afflicted by what the media calls “noxious odors” - this time at the Central Sorting Office of Jamaica Post. Hundreds of students poured onto the streets after several large nearby schools suspended classes and sent them home. Over 600 workers were evacuated. Approximately sixty people sought medical treatment. Roads were cordoned off. In other words, chaos. Representatives of various government agencies bustled about the place. But so far as I know, no one has yet discovered the source of the fumes. This is not the first time we have had mystery fumes in Kingston. And probably it will not be the last.
The head of the National Solid Waste Management Agency Jennifer Edwards spoke with journalist Dionne Jackson Miller on the TV program “All Angles” - and it seems there is really no plan for solid waste or appropriate legislation. But Ms. Edwards seems to be trying to do bits and pieces here and there. But will noxious fumes from the Riverton City dump (est. 1964) waft over the city once more? Has anything changed since the huge fire there a year ago? What is the quality of the air that we city-dwellers are breathing in? See the link to the program below.
Talking of bitterness, the Simpson Miller administration’s new taxation package remains a bad taste in the mouth. A fellow-tweeter commented that Skype, FaceTime and other free methods will be widely in use, replacing highly-taxed phone calls. A noted cleric wrote to the Gleaner pointing out that there is a tax on the tax on phone calls, now. Is that even legal? I believe there is a growing “working poor” in Jamaica, who have to juggle competing bills and cut back on non-essentials (if they can). I know a few of them personally.
But how much further can we cut back? How much more can we tighten our belts or “band our belly,” as Jamaicans would say? “Sacrifice” has been a word on many lips recently. I think our politicians had better be very circumspect when using that word in the future. What are they sacrificing, many are asking? Certainly not those nice shiny new Toyota Prados. As columnist Lawrence Powell notes today, symbolic sacrifice is good. Former Prime Minister Bruce Golding, to his credit, saw that this was a good thing to do when he and his Cabinet colleagues took a pay cut, a few years back. If we are to all pull together for the sake of the country, let’s make it all of us!
There is a Jamaican expression I love: “Hol’ dung tek weh” - basically meaning holding someone down and robbing them by force. Now our political leaders are again digging around in our pockets. But they are only finding pieces of fluff, sweetie papers and the occasional Jamaican cent (which is practically worthless). Nothing left; empty pockets, bare cupboards. As Mr. Gordon Robinson said acerbically in his Sunday Gleaner column, many of us have nothing - nothing - left to give up!
The issue of the NHTHol’DungTekWeh (I should put a hashtag in front of that!) took some twists and turns last week, too (NHT = National Housing Trust). The lawsuit filed by the pressure group Citizens Action for Principle and Integrity (CAPI) has hit a snag, due to some problems with documents – and was postponed in court. Meanwhile, the government will be pushing through some legislation to amend the NHT Act and make it perfectly OK for them to withdraw the funds – to plug what commentator Claude Clarke calls the “hole in the bucket” that urgently needs to be filled. It is possible that the lawsuit will fizzle out; we shall see. In a thoughtful piece, former Prime Minister Bruce Golding (who has been very quiet for a long time until recently) suggests that the J$44 billion could have taken the form of a loan, or in exchange for land. See the link to his Gleaner article below.
The issue of corruption has raised its ugly head (of course, it has never gone anywhere). We have seen a series of reports on incidents involving the Jamaica Constabulary Force that seem to be corruption, or sheer criminality. A policewoman was found to have been sheltering a man who had escaped from a police lock-up – in her home. Two policemen (one from the Anti-Corruption Branch, no less) were allegedly involved in an armed robbery in Negril and have been arrested. Another policemen, who has just been convicted and sentenced to life for the horrendous murder of a schoolgirl, is now suspected of fathering a child while awaiting trial in a police lock-up (and one local lawyer has said it’s a waste of time investigating. Sorry??)
Meanwhile, our Prime Minister happily cut some ribbons and broke some ground last week, which is very nice… But less happily she faced some TV reporters. TVJ’s excellent Kirk Wright and others waylaid her one day last week. They pointed out to her that while in Opposition she herself had (on January 8, 2010 to be precise) vehemently protested at the possibility of the Golding administration obtaining funds from the NHT. Ms. Simpson Miller backed away from the microphones. “I don’t know if I objected then,” she said. How could she forget, I wonder? I remember, and TVJ played the clip. When the reporters pressed her further, our Prime Minister became really flustered. “I’m not going to answer any more of your questions!” she cried, arms flapping, moving rapidly away from the cameras. Oh dear.
Can’t be bothered section: I know the flogging legislation is an awful colonial vestige and an abuse of human rights, so can we just get rid of it, please. No need to waste parliamentary time on debating it is there, when there are so many other pressing issues? Those who want to retain it are, presumably, seeking to heighten the already unbearably high level of violence in society, and to perpetuate it. The debate seems a big distraction from the elephants in the room (remember those elephants?)
A few of my favorite things last week, though…
UNICEF’s Deputy Executive Director, Ms. Geeta Rao Gupta, visited the offices of Eve for Life last week with UNICEF Representative for Jamaica Robert Fuderich and representatives of the Ministry of Health. Ms. Gupta sat down and spoke quietly with a group of our young women and girls. It was such a pleasure to meet her. Eve for Life, which supports and empowers young mothers with HIV/AIDS, recently moved into new offices. You can find them on Facebook (Eve Jamaica) and on Twitter at @EveforLife.
The Jamaica Civil Society Coalition (JCSC, which includes the sharp-witted and articulate Carol Narcisse) has been busy recently. A series of public meetings on the budget process has been very fruitful. The JCSC is also angry with the operators of the fore-mentioned Riverton City dump and has withdrawn from the oversight committee, complaining that the authorities have not complied with their own standards and regulations (the dump still does not have a permit from the National Environment and Planning Agency! But “it is now being reviewed,” says the agency head). And what happened to funding offered by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to fix the dump? Well, guess what – Jamaica was not able to provide matching funds. In fact, the JCSC contends, billions of dollars’ worth of aid from multi-laterals has not been taken up by successive administrations every year, due to delays, red tape and sheer incompetence it seems…
Congratulations to the 51% Coalition on the highly successful launch of their media campaign to raise awareness of the need for greater gender balance and equity on public sector boards – and of the need for greater integrity and accountability in governance. Listen out for the public service announcements on Power 106 FM, KOOL FM and RJR (and huge thanks to them and all media and other supporters). Politician-turned-talk-show-host Sharon Hay Webster conducted an excellent interview with Judith Wedderburn of the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung on Newstalk 93 FM.
CVM Television’s Live at Seven did a great job again last week with thought-provoking reports and interviews on challenging topics. Host Simon Crosskill’s interviewing style is direct and unflinching. One discussion I enjoyed was on whether prostitution should be legalized; it was good to see Ian McKnight of Caribbean Vulnerable Communities making some important points.
And on the arts and culture scene… Special, special congratulations to young Jamaican Ann Margaret Lim, who has received a Special Mention in the poetry section longlist of the 2013 OCM Bocas Prize. I wrote about the launch of her delicious collection “The Festival of Wild Orchid” last year. Overseas-based Jamaican novelist Anthony Winkler is also on the list; as well as Jamaican historian Dave St Aubyn Gosse for his book “Abolition and Plantation Management in Jamaica, 1807–1838″ – another Special Mention. Congratulations and good luck to all!
The Kingston Book Festival organized by the Book Industry Association of Jamaica kicked off today and we look forward to the next week’s vibrant events. Do support! You can find details on their Facebook page and from @kgnbookfest on Twitter.
Awesome to see our recent Grammy Award winner Jimmy Cliff at the U.S. Embassy’s “Blues on the Green” concert, an always wondrous musical event rounding off Black History Month, in Kingston’s Emancipation Park. Although I wasn’t able to attend myself, it was good to see Mr. Cliff enjoying the music of the young American jazz singing group Traces of Blue alongside U.S. Ambassador to Jamaica Pamela Bridgewater. Check out the U.S. Embassy Jamaica Facebook page for great photographs…
And finally, congratulations to Margaret and Michael Stanley on their brilliant (and literally brilliant) exhibition “Red…and other Colors” which continues at the Grosvenor Gallery in Manor Park, Kingston, until March 9. And if you haven’t caught it yet, the National Biennial continues at the National Gallery of Jamaica until the same date! Do not miss these!
On women’s leadership, I will end with a quote from one of my “tweeps”: “Oh God! All these disastrous women in Jamaican politics. Where are the women who actually reflect our innate strength and wisdom?”
It has been another tragic week. A young woman severely injured by her ex-husband died one week after the man had killed her mother. And there was the appalling murder/suicide by a man who killed his two young children and then himself. The mother was reportedly trying to end the relationship. These occurrences are more than “crimes of passion.” I am grieving with the families of all those who died. And I wish the men would understand that women, too, have freedom of choice in whom they love or choose not to love. Men, you need to let go. Just let go.
“Grung Gad,” 26, Standpipe, Kingston 6
Maxine Fearon, 45, Ballard’s River, Clarendon
Tamara Fearon, 27, Ballard’s River, Clarendon
Kenrick Tyndale, 26, Palmetto Pen, Clarendon
Tashina Lewin, 17, Woodside, Clarendon
K-Lee Mullings, two, Wait-a-Bit, Trelawny
Kimocoya Mullings, four,Wait-a-Bit, Trelawny
Courtney Ellis, 34, Retreat, St. Mary
Howard Hull, 40, Old Harbour Bay, St. Catherine
By the police:
“Dennis,” 20, Sevens Road, Clarendon
Kemar Witter, 26, Cambridge, St. James
Related articles: Local blog posts in purple
http://www.caribjournal.com/2013/03/01/dennis-chung-jamaicas-survival-under-the-international-monetary-fund/ Dennis Chung: Jamaica’s survival under the International Monetary Fund: Caribbean Journal
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/ratings-agency-fitch-upgrades-jamaica Ratings agency Fitch upgrades Jamaica: RJR News
http://digjamaica.com/blog/2013/02/28/and-the-dollar-slide-hastens-j-loses-3-2-of-value-in-february/ And the dollar hastens! J$ loses 3.2% of value in February: digjamaica.com
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/More-debt-_13763419 More debt! Jamaica owes international bodies $794 million: Sunday Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130302/letters/letters2.html Time to revolt against taxes: Rev. Clinton Chisholm letter to Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130303/cleisure/cleisure2.html There’s a hole in the bucket: Claude Clarke column/Sunday Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/editorial/Avoid-the-triumph-of-expediency-over-pragmatism_13748478 Avoid the triumph of expediency over pragmatism: Jamaica Observer editorial
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Trust–governance–and-the-national-good_13752498 Trust, governance and the national good: Howard Gregory column/Sunday Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Expect-no-shared-sacrifice-from-the-PNP-Administration_13757557 Expect no shared sacrifice from the PNP administration: Mark Wignall column/Sunday Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130303/focus/focus6.html Singapore, symbolism and “shared sacrifice”: Martin Henry column/Sunday Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/A-more-vigilant-population-_13752407 A more vigilant population? David Mullings column/Sunday Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130228/news/news1.html That $44 billion NHT “contribution”: Bruce Golding op-ed/Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Court-action-to-block-NHT-withdrawal-postponed_13757980 Court action to block NHT withdrawal postponed: Jamaica Observer
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/hartford-police-launches-probe-into-fire-truck-donated-to-jamaica Hartford police launches probe into fire truck donated to Jamaica: RJR News
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/policeman-accused-of-killing-colleague-freed Policeman accused of killing colleague freed: RJR News
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130303/lead/lead11.html Murder, jail and a baffling birth: Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130303/lead/lead5.html The wild west: Haven for corrupt cops: Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130303/focus/focus4.html Putting brakes on corruption: Martin Henry column/Sunday Gleaner
http://www.og.nr/rbt/12388-corporal-surrenders-to-police-following-negril-robbery.html Corporal surrenders to police following Negril robbery: On the Ground News Reports
http://www.cvmtv.com/story.php?id=3036&type=newswatch No motive yet for murder of politician’s husband: CVM Television
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130302/cleisure/cleisure4.html Why are Jamaicans so bloody violent? Ethon Lowe op-ed/Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130302/letters/letters6.html In loving memory and honor of Sheriefa Saddler: Letter to the editor/Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Death-of-a-bold–young-visionary_13761551 Death of a bold young visionary: Sunday Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Show-us-the-plan-and-we-ll-help_13734237 Show us the plan and we’ll help: Sunday Observer
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/attorney-outlines-significance-of-ccj-sitting-in-jamaica Attorney outlines significance of sitting of CCJ in Jamaica: RJR News
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130228/cleisure/cleisure3.html Expelling adolescent mothers unjust: Jaevion Nelson column/Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/A-war-against-women-and-children_13757571 A war against women and children: Letter to Sunday Observer
http://jamaicajournal.wordpress.com/2013/03/01/51-coalition-calls-for-more-women-in-leadership-roles-in-jamaica/ 51% Coalition calls for more women in leadership roles in Jamaica: jamaicajournal.wordpress.com
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads/33120 KSAC to place more focus on the homeless: Jamaica Information Service
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Divine-Intervention_13758266 Restaurateur has a mission to uplift the homeless: Sunday Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Street-side-chef-gets-a-boost_13701855?fb_ref=storypage Street side chef gets a boost: Sunday Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/NEPA-continues-probe-into-sickening-fumes_13756780 NEPA continues probe into sickening fumes: Jamaica Observer
http://www.kimroybailey.com/2013/03/offshoreeconomics.html Invest the IMF loan in an offshore windfarm: kimroybailey.com
http://www.televisionjamaica.com/Programmes/AllAngles.aspx/Videos/24586 Riverton City landfill fire, one year later: All Angles/TV Jamaica
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Make-rainwater-harvesting-compulsory_13761729 Make rainwater harvesting compulsory: Sunday Observer
http://www.bocaslitfest.com/2013/2013-ocm-bocas-prize-longlist-announced/ 2013 Bocas Prize longlist announced: http://www.bocaslitfest.com
http://petchary.wordpress.com/2013/03/02/seeing-red-with-the-stanleys/ Seeing Red with the Stanleys: petchary.wordpress.com
http://petchary.wordpress.com/2013/02/20/a-burst-of-biennial-magic/ A burst of Biennial magic: petchary.wordpress.com
http://petchary.wordpress.com/2012/10/16/the-festival-of-wild-orchid-a-poem-for-national-heroes-day/ The Festival of Wild Orchid: A Poem for National Heroes Day: petchary.wordpress.com
http://repeatingislands.com/2013/02/27/haiti-jamaicas-embarrassment/ Haiti: Jamaica’s embarrassment: repeatingislands.com