I have been helter-skelter again this week so forgive me if I have missed something vital. Next week I will definitely slow down. Meanwhile, many Christmas cards are still waiting to be written…
What? Some church leaders are NOT right-wing fundamentalists!? But that’s un-Christian!! Online readers of the Jamaica Observer appeared shocked and outraged that an Anglican priest decried the discrimination and abuse meted out to gays during a church service for Human Rights Day last weekend. If most of these commenters were Jamaican, then anyone who pretends this country is not homophobic need only take a look at a few of these ignorant diatribes. They will have to eat their words. The way to get lots of comments in Jamaica (in this case, well over 100!) is to post an online article advocating for LGBT rights. We’ve got a long way to go. Read: “Pastor lashes out at injustices faced by gays” in the Jamaica Observer.
Are we committed to fighting corruption? Yes, I could rewind the Prime Minister’s avowed determination to fight corruption on taking office nearly two years ago (sigh). But ten years ago the Commission for the Prevention of Corruption first asked the Ministry of Finance (very politely, I am sure) for access to computerized Tax Administration Jamaica records. This government agency, who must feel like giving up sometimes, is still asking at regular intervals, to no avail. And Monday was International Day Against Corruption! The Gleaner reports “‘Finance ministry not open to request for online access.”
More engineers needed: Our local manufacturers (a steadily shrinking group in our economy) are always vocal. I am afraid that otherwise people might forget we still have a manufacturing sector. But I totally agree with Mr. Howard Mitchell, who says we need to train more mechanical engineers – and keep them in Jamaica (many have migrated in search of employment). The University of Technology apparently graduates about 40 mechanical engineers annually. Read: “Grinding to a halt – Manufacturers say nation needs more mechanical engineers before economy crumbles” in the Gleaner.
At the behest of the IMF: Meanwhile Parliament is busy pushing through legislation to amend the Securities Act, to clamp down on Ponzi schemes. Meanwhile, the Jamaican operator of one such scheme is happily pottering around Jamaica while the case against him languishes in limbo; and another Jamaican swindler is doing time overseas, having never been charged or convicted in this country. Anyway, this legislation is demanded by the International Monetary Fund; otherwise it would likely never happen. Read: “Ponzi squeeze – House revises Security Act in bid to attract more investors” in the Gleaner.
A requiem for arsenic (sob): It seems the operators of Jamaica’s fancy and expensive golf courses are wringing their hands over a ban on a certain kind of weedkiller they use which contains…arsenic! Well, thanks for telling us at this late stage (one assumes all wildlife on golf courses has been wiped out meanwhile?) Apparently arsenic never goes away. The golf course operators seem more concerned about the cost to their wealthy customers of more environmentally friendly fungicides and herbicides than about arsenic seeping into our underground water. Read: “Ban on weed-killer to hit golfing hard” in the Gleaner.
Something strange… Is happening at the College of Agriculture, Science and Education (CASE) which used to be a quiet place, tucked into lush green surroundings just off the main road leading to Port Antonio, Portland (a parish well-known for the lowest crime rate in the island, by far). There was another fire there early this morning, in which four students were injured, one seriously. This is the third fire at CASE this year; following one in March a student was charged with attempted murder and arson. A lecturer was found murdered on campus in September (case unsolved). There have been break-ins, and last month a student was stabbed by another. What are the police doing? What is the college administration doing? Has any journalist sought to investigate these many strange happenings?
The decline of television? Traditional television is on the decline, it seems. But in Jamaica? Well, not so. And who should know better than the former head of Television Jamaica Dr. Marcia Forbes, who has written an interesting article in the Carib Journal (www.caribjournal.com) on “Jamaica and the Future of Television.” Recommended read.
Congrats, congrats, congrats…
To Ms. Tamika Pommells Williams and her husband Ian Williams for their Certificate of Excellence from the travel website TripAdvisor (which I always consult before traveling and contribute to as a reviewer). The couple run the Ahhh Ras Natango Gallery and Garden near Montego Bay. TripAdvisor is a very influential and important website. Tamika has a beautiful garden (she often posts brilliant flowers on my Facebook page!) and her husband’s paintings are lovely. Congratulations to you both, and to your team!
- Ms. Tessanne Chin (again) for being simply brilliant in another round of “The Voice,” the talent show on NBC. Her rendition of Simon and Garfunkel‘s “Bridge Over Troubled Water“ - a deceptively simple song that is hard to sing because of the range required – was passionate. (Did you know that the song topped the Billboard charts for six weeks in 1970, and was a huge global hit?) Now fingers and toes are crossed for next week’s finals. Emotions will be overflowing in the Jamaican Twittersphere, that’s for sure!
Norman Manley Law School students, who won the World Human Rights Moot Court competition in Pretoria, South Africa recently – the fourth consecutive win for the Kingston-based law school. Many congratulations, and I hope this means that Jamaica will make greater strides in human rights in the future!
Ms. Monique Long, another student at Norman Manley Law School, who was recently selected as the first woman Executive Director of the Jamaica Youth Advocacy Network (JYAN), a voluntary youth-led program and training organization focused on development issues. Wishing you all the best in your new position, Monique!
Jamaica Environment Trust and the creative musical and animation teams that have put together a wonderful little animated song “Don’t Mess with Goat Islands.” Do look it up on JET’s new website (www.savegoatislands.org) and share the link!
A “brilliant” teenager from Dunoon Technical High School was murdered in a drive-by shooting in Portmore. Seven – yes, seven – Jamaicans were killed in 24 hours, most of them in St. James. The seven included three women, one elderly. Saying that some of the killings were “gang-related” is really no consolation. A death is a death. My heart goes out to the grieving families and loved ones of:
Beresford Robinson, 74, Hill Run, St. Catherine
Wayne West, 49, Portsmouth/Portmore, St. Catherine
John-Michael Hett, 16, Portsmouth/Portmore, St. Catherine
Errol Forrest, Maizeland, St. James
Natasha Palmer, Hibiscus Drive/Norwood, St. James
Nicolette Palmer, Hibiscus Drive/Norwood, St. James
Shane Anglin, 27, Hibiscus Drive/Norwood, St. James
Romario Haughton, 19, North Gully, St. James
“Banga,” North Gully, St. James
Cynthia Devanza, 78, Hopewell, St. Mary
There is something about sitting on a beach that puts you into a day dream. After a while, things get a little hazy, and you realize you have been staring at the same rock for at least ten minutes. It must be the hypnotic sound of the waves, the continuous, unhesitating wash of them. Someone says something to you, and you reply: “What?”
So it was when we escaped from town for a day with visiting relatives, ending up on Winifred’s Beach in Portland, eastern Jamaica. Winifred’s has always been one of our favorites. The road down there has not improved (violently bumpy) but the glimpse of the water through the trees as you jerk along downhill (preferably in an SUV) is alluring. It’s a little more built-up than when we first visited close to thirty years ago, when there was only the occasional tent and one or two shacks selling drinks. Now there are two or three unpretentious places where you can buy food. A couple of Rastafarian gentlemen diligently sweep the sand and tidy up, and ask for a small contribution for their services.
Yes, Winifred’s is a public beach – an increasing rarity in Jamaica. Much of our coastline – especially on the north coast – has been hijacked by monstrous all-inclusive hotels or fenced off by the owners of villas. To walk along what’s left of the severely-eroded Negril beach, you have to run the gauntlet of security guards whose main purpose is to keep you off a particular stretch of sand (if you look like a tourist, you might be let through). This is a huge contrast to other islands I have visited (notably Barbados and Grenada) where all beaches are open to the public.
Then, at Winifred’s, there is the spring. In one corner of the beach, it is a slightly muddy jade green at its deepest. A small stream makes its way gently into the sea. If you scoop up the sand there it smells strongly of sulphur. Its natural mineral waters (very cold) make your skin tingle, after a swim in the sea. My back felt wonderful after lying in it for ten minutes; I wish I could do it every day. At one time local people used to do their washing in the spring; the strong detergent was ruining the water and vegetation and flowing into the sea, threatening the coral reef. Now, there is a large sign up in patois telling people not to do their laundry there, and there were no signs of any washers.
Dear Winifred’s. I floated on my back in water clear as glass, the sun in my eyes. A wave broke on my face and made my eyes red. Memories drifted back of sitting under the same tree with twisted roots with my parents, during one of their visits here. Of sitting on the edge of the water watching our son’s ecstatic play in the waves. Of calling him endlessly to come out of the water, because it was time to go home. He never, ever wanted to come out of the water, even when the shadows lengthened.
But there I go. Day dreaming, again.
I could not let today pass without noting that on October 19, 1983 Prime Minister of Grenada Maurice Bishop and seven of his advisers and ministers were executed by an army firing squad at Fort Rupert (now Fort George) in St. George’s. A faction of his New Jewel Movement had placed Bishop under house arrest five days earlier, because he had refused to share leadership of the political party with Deputy Prime Minister Bernard Coard. This was the only political assassination in the Caribbean – hopefully, the first and last.
Bishop had seized power on March 13, 1979, burning down the army barracks at True Blue while Prime Minister Eric Gairy was away at a United Nations meeting. These were the Cold War days; and troubled days they were.
During my recent visit to Grenada I did not visit Fort George, where Bishop and his ministers were killed. But I sensed that there were very mixed feelings about the period among older Grenadians. One told me Grenadians were all glad when the United States invaded, just a few days after Bishop’s assassination, because the country was in chaos and there was no food to eat. Others regretted the tragic chain of events, and pointed to the achievements of the Bishop regime during the few years he was in power.
In particular, everyone credited Maurice Bishop with the construction of the international airport at Point Salines (now named after him), which was officially opened just a year after his death. It was a huge step forward for the island. The Cuban Government reportedly provided about half of the funding for the airport to be built, plus much of the labor and equipment. Someone else told me that the Cubans had done much for Grenada at the time of Bishop’s revolutionary government. Everyone seemed to have their opinion about the Bishop era and its aftermath, and every opinion was different.
This airport, which Bishop called “of extreme importance to our revolutionary process,” replaced Pearls Airport, which was in Grenville – inconveniently situated over twenty miles away from the capital. We stopped at Pearls, only for a few minutes (how I hate guided tours). Of course, it is overgrown, and completely deserted apart from a few goats. I would have loved to explore some more; and tried to imagine what the place was like at night – imagining runway lights lighting up, ghostly planes taking off and landing, flying to Cuba and back with supplies.
I did see another haunted place though – what was once a mental institution, which had been mistakenly bombed by U.S. forces. It stands in ruins close to Fort Frederick, high above St. George’s. From the fort there are sweeping views of the town’s red roofs below, the harbor, and the wide blue horizon. On the other side are the quiet green hills and the outskirts of the town. Just below the fort to one side, we looked down at the mental home, where our guide told us at least thirty people died. It is not something that you will find much information about, normally.
But everyone has stories to tell. There are many stories. That is history, isn’t it.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/08/maurice-bishop-murder-grenada_n_1580944.html Maurice Bishop murder: Grenada seeks remains of slain Marxist Prime Minister: Huffington Post
Autumn does not really exist in Jamaica, sadly. Yes, the temperatures ease a touch. The sun does not burn so hard. The light is a little softer. And the migrating birds arrive in our garden – bright warblers from Texas. So far, I have seen very few of our regular winter visitors, but hope to see more in the next week or so.
A year ago, I was in England, the country of my birth. At my sister’s home in Sussex, I enjoyed long walks across the fields and down paths lined with the burrows of various furry animals. Here are a few photos to give you a feel of it… Please indulge me if I share a few in the next week or two. I need to get this homesickness out of my system…
I spent a little time (very short, so these are truly only glimpses) in the capital of Grenada, St. George’s, recently. On my first day, I took a minibus and wandered around – alone and un-harrassed by anyone – during one warm and humid day, and spent a little time there too with groups during subsequent field trips. Here are a few photos I took that will give you an impression of the town of some 36,000 inhabitants (about half the size of the population of May Pen in Clarendon, Jamaica; and about one third of the total population of the island). The town was built by the French in 1650, and then later the British moved in. Despite the devastation of Hurricane Ivan in 2004, the town retains some lovely historic buildings, a charming waterfront and a lively atmosphere.
You can find more photos of Saint George’s (and more from the field trips, to follow) on my Facebook page.
We had an exhausting bout of endless, heavy rain yesterday, and just steamed gently in the sun today. Not bad for mid-week. With the holidays nearly over, Kingstonians are returning to whatever “normal” passes for these days. School hovers on the near horizon. It’s a weary time of year.
Exam fever: Once a year, the media and Jamaican public get all worked up about examination results, the relative performances of high schools, etc. There is little focus on education for the remainder of the year. Education Minister Ronnie Thwaites seems to have ruffled feathers, though, by suggesting to a very large crowd of unemployed teachers that they should volunteer their services meanwhile, with a view to getting a job. Perhaps it wasn’t the right moment to say this, Minister Thwaites – at a government-run jobs fair. There were a lot of long faces, and a lot of muttering. What to do… I hear the second day of the jobs fair went better. Perhaps it was just the lousy weather yesterday.
Crisis? What crisis? Oh, there IS? Meanwhile, Minister Thwaites wants to “avert a Maths crisis” based on the latest dismal results in that subject area, the Gleaner says. But are we on the brink? No, we are already well into the Maths crisis, and we have been for years. Well, at least the good Minister is using that word. Crisis.
So now it’s the Brazilians: We are to expect another wave of tourists from overseas – this time from Brazil. Jamaica’s Ambassador to Brazil Alison Stone Roofe (such a nice woman) is hopeful. But haven’t we heard this from tourism officials before? At one time we were expecting a flood of Chinese tourists; then Colombians; then Indians. Oh yes, and not long ago it was Russians! (How is that going, I wonder?) Meanwhile, our tourism figures are looking less than rosy. The stats for June 2013 showed gains over June in previous years, but there was a 4% decline overall for 2013 over the numbers for 2012.
BBC World Radio (which is on FM in Jamaica) had a fairly lengthy discussion on the recent mob killing of Dwayne Jones, led by their on-the-spot reporter in Kingston. He was sitting in a café on a very rainy morning. Blogger Annie Paul and a representative of the local LGBT community Jalna Broderick spoke on the phone, along with a church leader from Portmore. The local media as well as churches got some flak from both ladies on the phone for paying scant attention to the incident. But as Nationwide News Network‘s Emily Crooks noted on Twitter, isn’t Dwayne’s horrific murder all part of the general atmosphere of crime and violence pervading the country, which our journalists report on every day? However, Emily, this should not be an excuse for not reporting this incident in more depth – as overseas media houses have done. (An Associated Press report on the incident is, of course, all over the Internet on the websites of most major media houses). You can probably still find the many comments on the BBC’s “World Have Your Say“ Facebook page.
And the always thought-provoking “Live at Seven” followed up on an important discussion with prosecutor Caroline Hay (on the myriad difficulties of building a legal case in Jamaica) with a short piece on Dwayne Jones. CVM Television had interviewed him in another context – that of homelessness – some time ago. Images of Dwayne dancing round the room were poignant.
Police to be charged: The Director of Public Prosecutions has finally got around to ruling that two police constables are to be charged with the shooting deaths of three men in Shrewsbury, Westmoreland in March. This is how police killings go in court; sometimes the charges take much longer. The killing of the men (two of them brothers) caused deep anger and hurt among residents. One was a fireman.
Long hot summer downtown: Despite efforts to revive business in downtown Kingston, all is not really well, is it? We hear reports of rampant theft, regular shootings (and sometimes daylight shootouts with the police) and ongoing gang wars. Is downtown really that safe? What is happening with policing downtown?
What is going on in this country? I sometimes puzzle over strange and disturbing stories. On July 8, two brothers in deep rural St. Thomas were shot dead while working on their isolated farm. Now the Gleaner reports that at a wake for the brothers, Herman and Norman Rowe, a fisherman called Snake Eyes pulled a gun on a female relative of the men (at four in the morning). The woman’s husband, who was a policeman, disarmed and arrested Snake Eyes and also took a fourteen-year-old boy who was with him into custody. Snake Eyes and the boy were both from Bull Bay in St. Andrew – a good distance from quiet little Rolandsfield. What is really happening in Jamaica?
And what’s going on in the JLP? I understand there are rumblings in the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), and possible challenges to Andrew Holness‘ leadership. The local media has seized eagerly on this; political rumors are always to be relished. Now on top of that, JLP Member of Parliament for West Kingston and former Mayor Desmond McKenzie says he has received over thirty death threats in the past week! This seems to be a result of the MP’s comments after the tragic shooting death of eleven-year-old Tassanique James and the injury of two women in his constituency on Emancipation Day – August 1.
A shocking story: Fishermen near the town of Port Antonio complained about receiving electric shocks in the water, and guess what? Investigators found an illegal electricity cable running in the water along the shoreline – serving a nearby squatter community. A woman has been found guilty of stealing electricity. You can’t make this stuff up, can you? But the electricity thieves are apparently trying all kinds of tricks, and it’s not just the poorer communities we’re talking about: uptown, downtown, businesses and homes, they are all at it.
The hair biz: Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce has started a new business, selling swags of hair (real hair) to be attached to your own natural hair in various ways. This explains the shocking pink appendage that she wore for her championship-winning run in Moscow. “We retail different types of hair, namely Indian, Peruvian, Brazilian and Cambodian,” says Shelly-Ann. No offense to the lovely ladies of those countries who sell their hair, but I would feel most uncomfortable wearing an Indian or a Peruvian or a Brazilian or a Cambodian woman’s hair. To each her own, I suppose. What’s worse is the very poor writing in the Gleaner’s “Outlook” article on Shelly-Ann’s “Chic Hair Ja” - as a fellow-blogger pointed out to me. Just because an article is about some light, fluffy, “women’s” topic doesn’t mean it has to be written in a series of ghastly clichés, mixed metaphors and poor grammar – does it?
NEVERTHELESS…Special big ups to:
- Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, who reclaimed her World Championship status in Moscow on Monday with a great 100 meters win. Both she and Usain Bolt had lost their titles in 2011, but now both have them back! Huge congratulations to them both.
- Gleaner photographer Ricardo Makyn, whose photos from the athletics World Championships in Moscow have been quite wonderful. Somehow he captures the essence and the spirit – not just of sport, but of people. Well done, Ricardo! (You can see a selection of his photos of Shelly-Ann’s win at the link below).
- And to all the students who were successful in the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE) and Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) examinations (in many cases, against all the odds). May all your dreams come true, boys and girls.
- My “tweep” Ms. Stacy-Ann Hayles, for the launch on Twitter this evening of her brand new website, http://www.socialmediachica.com. Stacy-Ann is aiming to empower small business through social media. Get in touch with her and hire her for all your social media strategy needs, advice and campaign development!
- Michael Abrahams for his delightful video – an overview of Usain Bolt’s career – painstakingly and cleverly done. Michael has a way with words. Very enjoyable. Link below…
- Fearless columnist Gordon Robinson, who has a great way of addressing issues of governance. In this week’s column Mr. Robinson writes about the fiasco of the confiscated tapes (an incident that occurred while I was away) and the issue of press freedom in Jamaica. He uses Janis Joplin‘s lyrics, among others, to illustrate his point. Nicely done, and sharply to the point.
It has been depressing returning from two weeks away to this unrelenting bloodshed. The deaths of these Jamaicans (since Sunday evening, just three days) leave grief and heartbreak in their wake. Let us spare a thought for the families, left behind to grieve:
Unidentified man, Orange Street, downtown Kingston
Unidentified man, Glenmore Road/South Camp Road, Kingston
Elaine Steele, 37, St. Thomas
Kishane Haughton, 31, Norwood, St. James
Anthony Spence, Glendevon, St. James
Evan Scott Wilson, St. James
Jessica King, 22, Port Antonio, Portland
Lenville Fleming, Grange Hill, Westmoreland
Killed by police:
Owen Lilly, 23, Gimme-Me-Bit, Clarendon
http://theterribletout.wordpress.com/2013/08/11/whos-to-blame-for-jamaicas-shame/ Who’s to blame for Jamaica’s shame? The Terrible Tout
http://www.imf.org/external/np/sec/pr/2013/pr13305.htm New IMF Resident Representative in Jamaica takes up post: imf.org
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/finance-minister-meeting-with-imf-team Finance Minister meeting with IMF team: RJR News
http://digjamaica.com/blog/2013/08/09/chart-of-the-week-overall-total-tourist-arrivals-for-june-2013/ Chart of the week: Overall total tourist arrivals for June 2013: diGJamaica.com
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130814/lead/lead1.html Brazilian benefits: Jamaica ready to boost tourism with links from South American nation: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130812/news/news1.html Stop wholesale distribution of national honors: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130813/cleisure/cleisure1.html Here’s the right message, Mr. Pickersgill: Gleaner editorial
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130811/out/out10.html Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce launches Chic Hair Ja: Sunday Gleaner
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p2LmE2xjn7U&feature=youtu.be Usain Bolt by Michael Abrahams: YouTube
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/2-000-plus-for-teachers–job-fair_14856342 2,000-pus for teachers’ job fair: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130813/lead/lead2.html Review planned for teacher training to avert Math crisis: Gleaner
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads-100/34794 Education Minister encourages trainee teachers to volunteer in the classroom: Jamaica Information Service
http://lowrie-chin.blogspot.com/2013/08/act-now-for-our-children.html Act now – for our children: Jean Lowrie-Chin blog
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Gov-t-takes-steps-to-address-child-behaviour-issues_14870943 Gov’t takes steps to address child behavior issues: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=47151 Photos: Shelly-Ann’s gold world-leading run: Gleaner – Ricardo Makyn’s great photos
http://www.mercurynews.com/my-town/ci_23848325/visit-jamaica-is-trip-paradise-just-ask-locals A visit to Jamaica is a trip to paradise – just ask the locals: San Jose Mercury
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Portland-woman-found-guilty-of-stealing-electricity-using-undersea-cables Portland woman found guilty of stealing electricity using undersea cables: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130814/lead/lead6.html Bird boys swoop down for hunting season: Jamaica Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/entertainment/Will-JA-come-out-of-the-closet-_7821305 Will Jamaica come out of the closet? Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/My-gay-family-did-what-my-parents-didn-t-14864006 My gay family did what my parents didn’t: Letter/Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/Parents-make-kids-homeless_14870088 Parents make kids homeless: Letter/Jamaica Observer
http://iamquagmire.tumblr.com/post/58155073603/the-300-were-victorious The 300 were victorious: IAmQuagmire
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130813/cleisure/cleisure2.html Nothing left to lose: Gordon Robinson column/Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130811/news/news4.html Cops calm Denham Town: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/-Spoilers–gang-war-rages-in-Kingston ”Spoilers” gang war rages in Kingston: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Marked-for-death_14871568 Marked for death: Police confirm threats sent to McKenzie: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/St-Thomas-village-still-in-shock-over-double-murder_14849748 St. Thomas village still in shock over double murder: Sunday Observer
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
During a visit to the tourist resort of Negril in Jamaica several years ago, I ventured out in a glass-bottom boat. Snorkeling and diving make me claustrophobic, so this is the only way that I can really see what is happening under the surface.
I had hoped to see glowing, flourishing and healthy coral reefs; I saw very little of that. However, we did see, for a beautiful instant, a sea turtle. He (or she) sparkled in the fractured sunlight, like a freshly painted toy, suspended from an invisible string. I wondered how he/she survived in an environment that seemed almost devoid of fish. But it was an exquisite moment that I will never forget.
At a meeting last month with representatives of the United Nations Environment Programme‘s (UNEP) Caribbean Environment Programme in Kingston, we heard from Alessandra Vanzella-Khouri, Program Officer for the Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife (SPAW) treaty – the only regional and legally binding biodiversity treaty for the Wider Caribbean. I noted in my first article that the Wider Caribbean includes all the coastlines bordering on the Caribbean, including the Gulf of Mexico. In fact, it is four million square kilometers of deep water basins, estuaries, islands, sandbanks and coral reefs. SPAW is concerned with the life that exists in this beautiful, but far from pristine environment.
Here’s a bleak fact: 76 per cent – over three-quarters – of all species in this region are threatened by habitat loss or changing habitat. Over-fishing, unplanned coastal development and pollution (which I discussed in the first article) are wreaking havoc on our marine life – fish, sharks, lobsters, whales, dolphins and all the much tinier creatures too. All six species of sea turtles in the Caribbean are endangered, largely because people collect their eggs from the beaches where they nest.
Let’s go back to the United Nations’ SPAW Protocol for a moment. The Protocol Concerning Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife to the Convention for the Protection and Development of the Marine Environment of the Wider Caribbean Region was adopted at a conference in Kingston, Jamaica in 1990 and entered into force in 2000. Ambassador Don Mills (Jamaica) was elected President of the conference. How many countries in the region have signed and ratified the agreement? Sixteen so far, as indicated on the map.
You will notice that the name of Jamaica, the conference host in 1990, is not among the sixteen. You will also note that Cuba, the Dominican Republic and most of our Eastern Caribbean neighbors have ratified it. But there are benefits to be acquired – tangible benefits. It’s more than just a piece of paper. The pluses to ratifying the agreement are greatest in the field of the Marine Protected Areas, where there is much work to be done. In fact, Ms. Vanzella-Khouri revealed that there are eighteen protected areas from the Caribbean recently listed under the SPAW Protocol to be included in a regional cooperation programme. There are over 300 marine protected areas established in the region.
As Ms. Vanzella-Khouri pointed out, it is “increasingly difficult” to raise funds from the UN and elsewhere for local projects, as long as Jamaica is not a party to the agreement. The lack of ratification appears to indicate a lack of commitment to the goals of the Protocol and an unwillingness to co-operate as an important player in the region; or that is how I see it.
Some projects are under way; there is a sustainable management project on Pedro Cays, including training and capacity building; there is a Sea Turtle Recovery Action Plan and a Manatee Action Plan. But if Jamaica were to ratify SPAW, so much more could be achieved. Jamaica could obtain training; sustainable tourism and fisheries programs; technical co-operation with regional partners; funded participation at all SPAW meetings and workshops; access to specific guidelines, materials and research in order to meet the requirements of the Convention on Biological Diversity and other international agreements; and all kinds of support, (including financial) for much-needed conservation, awareness, community participation and best practice programs.
Jamaica is out on a limb. It is not a part of this international network of knowledge, co-operation and most importantly – action projects that will benefit us all.
As I noted in a previous blog post (and this seems so obvious to me) the beautiful Caribbean Sea, on which much of our livelihood and wellbeing depends, needs our love and nurturing. It is our birthright. And what is hugely important is that all those nations that border on the Caribbean, whether large or small, must co-operate and support each other to protect this precious jewel that we have inherited. Its waters lap all of our shores. We are all inter-connected.
There is “a lot at stake for Jamaica in SPAW,” said Ms. Vanzella-Khouri with a note of slight frustration in her voice. Jamaica can become part of this regional network of co-operation; at the moment it is not benefiting. There are no financial obligations required on Jamaica’s part, and it is already meeting some of the objectives of SPAW, she added.
You may say: Look, Jamaica is in a crippling economic crisis, with almost non-existent growth and low productivity; so why should “environmental issues” be of any relevance, right now? We have bigger fish to fry, metaphorically speaking.
Well, I would suggest that the environment in the Caribbean has a particularly important bearing on its economy. There is the Great God of Tourism, to which our governments bow. How can tourism thrive when the seas are polluted with untreated sewage, and snorkelers and divers can only find dying coral reefs with a scattering of small fish? There are over 20,000 fishermen in Jamaica according to the Food and Agriculture Organization; how many are now struggling to survive, with some turning to illegal ways to make a living? And how much more could our citizens – and generations to come – benefit from a healthy environment?
And here are some figures to back this up: The total value of Jamaica’s ecosystems is an estimated US$245 million, according to a 2009 report by the World Resources Institute (WRI) in Washington, DC (do check out their fascinating and informative website). The value of dive tourism, fishing and coastal production is between US$3 – 4.6 billion per year. And in the past twenty-five years, Jamaica has lost US$1.3 billion in revenues from reef fisheries, says the WRI.
So why, you may ask, has Jamaica not taken advantage of these benefits that have been on offer for thirteen years or so – at no cost to the Jamaican government? We have heard this phrase many times before: “Lack of political will.” In other words, our leaders, stuck in their short-term thinking, don’t really care. That is just my view.
But we Jamaicans must care, mustn’t we?
P.S. I must stress, again, that the Caribbean Environment Programme office can provide journalists. researchers and anyone interested in the environment with a wealth of information, statistics and analysis of all these issues and much more, related directly to Jamaica and the Caribbean. Don’t hesitate to contact them! They would welcome your interest.
Contact info: Alessandra Vanzella-Khouri, Program Officer, SPAW: firstname.lastname@example.org. Ms. Pietra Brown, Communications Officer/United Nations Volunteer Email: email@example.com. UNEP CEP, 14-20 Port Royal Street Kingston, Jamaica. Tel. # 876 922 9267 Fax # 876 922 9292
Related articles and websites:
http://www.cep.unep.org/cartagena-convention/spaw-protocol SPAW Protocol: UNEP Caribbean Environment Programme website
http://www.cep.unep.org UNEP Caribbean Environment Programme website
Pollution Flowing from Land to Sea: The UN Caribbean Environment Programme, Part 1 petchary.wordpress.com
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle petchary.wordpress.com
http://petchary.wordpress.com/2013/02/03/p-s-happy-world-wetlands-day-february-2-2013/ Happy World Wetlands Day! petchary.wordpress.com
http://petchary.wordpress.com/2013/01/25/5498/ Two new environmental films by Jamaican filmmaker Esther Figueroa: petchary
http://petchary.wordpress.com/2012/07/21/a-softer-blue-the-caribbean-sea/ A softer blue: The Caribbean Sea: petchary.wordpress.com
http://petchary.wordpress.com/2012/07/12/our-beautiful-caribbean-sea/ Our beautiful Caribbean Sea: petchary.wordpress.com
Coral comeback: Reef ‘seeding’ in the Caribbean miamiherald.com
Charity of the Week eastaltonrotary.blogspot.com
http://www.conserveturtles.org Sea Turtle Conservancy website
http://www.wri.org World Resources Institute website
http://www.wri.org/press/2011/06/press-release-new-analysis-coral-reefs-provide-great-value-jamaicas-economy New Analysis: Coral reefs provide great value to Jamaica’s economy: WRI press release
http://pdf.wri.org/working_papers/coastal_capital_jamaica_summary.pdf Coastal capital: Jamaica – WRI Special Paper
http://www.fao.org/fishery/countrysector/FI-CP_JM/en Food & Agriculture Organization Jamaica Country Profile/Fisheries
http://www.cep.unep.org/news/govt-losing-billions Government losing billions: Denise Dennis report/Jamaica Observer
My apologies! Yesterday proved to be such a busy day (including a slight hangover from our delicious trip to St. Elizabeth the day before) that this post eluded me.
This week is beginning with a heightened state of nerves over another national broadcast this evening. This is unusual, in that it will be a joint broadcast by Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller and Finance Minister Peter Phillips. It springs from the visit of an International Monetary Fund (IMF) team to Jamaica; the team arrived almost a week ago, and some members have since departed. The remainder will leave on February 15. Meanwhile, the address was recorded yesterday. What does it contain, and why is it a joint address? One talk show host believes the ministers will announce that the administration has abandoned the prospect of an IMF agreement. My concern, too, is that I don’t get the sense that any of the “prior actions” - which Minister Phillips has hinted are problematic – have been achieved, or are likely to be. I did hear that the Minister traveled to Washington, DC on Friday – but nothing more. Did this actually happen? Also, I thought I heard the Prime Minister comment recently, as an aside, that perhaps Jamaica might not sign an IMF agreement, or words to that effect. Did I hear correctly? If not, please let me know, dear readers.
The broadcast will take place on all media at 9:00 p.m. Jamaican time and on CVM Television at 11:00 p.m. The video will be available on the Jamaica Information Service website at http://www.jis.gov.jm. Fingers crossed… But I don’t have a good feeling.
And the financial analysts – such as Ralston Hyman on CVM Television – continue to stress the importance of things like productivity for our economic bottom line. What are we doing about that?
Meanwhile, we heard that last Tuesday, the House of Representatives’ session lasted just 45 minutes. “Guess there is nothing that really needs their attention at this time,” observed one of my online friends with just a hint of sarcasm. And why only 45 minutes? An investigative journalist should take this up and see how many hours the people we elected to represent us have actually spent working on the nation’s business – say, since the Christmas vacation. What about those important pieces of legislation (DNA, lotto scam, libel/slander laws, etc) that are pending? Let alone private members’ motions and so on. It would be fantastic to have a complete breakdown from each ministry of pending legislation and the status thereof, with timelines for completion. Or are our lawmakers just coasting down towards April 1, when the new budget year begins?
I do not understand the inertia. As another online friend tweeted last week: “Why does it take us so long in Ja to DO anything?
#perplexing.” Perhaps this question, which I have often asked, has answered itself. As a former U.S. Ambassador to Jamaica commented many years ago, I prefer to applaud achievements, not announcements. Action needed, please!
Meanwhile, I hear at least one government minister is visiting the fair isles of Trinidad and Tobago this week… Yes, Carnival time is here! But then, as we say in Jamaica, their bread is buttered…on both sides.
They also say that empty barrels make the most noise. Certainly, the rumblings over the “Enemy of the State” comment by our Prime Minister subsided last week. Ms. Simpson Miller put her foot down, and strongly (and I mean strongly) rejected any suggestion that she should apologize for her remarks – which suggests that they may well have been scripted. “Apologize for WHAT!” our fearless leader snapped at a broadcast journalist. She also issued a press release suggesting that “leaders should be careful with their statements.” OK. I tell you what… Let’s move on. I commend to you my fellow-blogger Damien Williams’ comments on the topic. See link below.
Another discussion that continued to rattle on last week was the VW ad that aired during Superbowl – remember, the one with the Jamaican accent (not patois)? Two schools of thought emerged. The largest school was that it was all great for us, as it portrayed our culture in a positive light and helped promote “Brand Jamaica” - some discussion too, around what Brand Jamaica really IS. A second school of thought, to which I belong, suggested that the ad perpetuates the “Everyt’ing irie, mon” stereotype of the happy Jamaican sitting under a coconut tree, lazing the day away. Those in the first school accuse those in the second of being miserable, negative and possibly unpatriotic. I have started a third school, called “Enough already!”
University professor Dr. Carolyn Cooper, who writes frequently on cultural issues considers this car ad a “reminder, yet again, that Jamaica is a cultural superpower.” The colonial oppressors are gone, and Jamaica rules the waves with reggae and champion sprinters. And as she says, “it’s all in good fun.” OK then, let’s lighten up a little – but let’s not expect millions of U.S. dollars to flow into the country’s coffers as a result of one TV ad, either. One of Dr. Cooper’s colleagues is not so amused by a British policeman, former Assistant Commissioner of Police Les Green,whose comments in the UK press on the inefficiencies of the Jamaica Constabulary Force continued to reverberate last week. Not good for Jamaica’s image. But those Jamaicans who don’t live in ivory towers seem to fundamentally disagree with Dr. Orville Taylor’s anti-colonial fulminations, accusations of racism etc. They claim Mr. Green is speaking the truth! The truth. Ah, where art thou, truth?
An online commentator noted: “We keep harping on the achievements of or artistes and athletes as a benchmark for performance. Where are the scientists, inventors, innovators?”
So much for the aftershocks. Last Tuesday was a pretty serious day for the residents of Majesty Gardens, a deeply impoverished community which has been represented by the Prime Minister for the past thirty years or so. The Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS), which is seeking to “regularize” the many thousands of squatters who have never paid an electricity bill, moved into the community that day and disconnected 2,857 illegal connections. TV footage showed light poles festooned with “throw ups” - illegal wiring – like spaghetti. Only three legal connections were found. Three! The residents protested and mumbled and said they were willing to pay something, but… The overriding, undeniable factor in this is, of course, poverty.
Talking about energy, media reports have been so conflicting and confusing that I, for one, would love someone to explain to me what is going on. Where is our energy plan, Minister Paulwell? I am afraid that, at this point, I am rethinking my enthusiastic endorsement. I am disappointed. Something has gone wrong – quite out of sync. I hope that we will hear more – specifics! We need to know where we are going in terms of alternative energy and so on. The prospects of cheaper electricity in the near future look increasingly bleak.
I continue to enjoy the CVM Television program “Live at Seven,” hosted by the very sharp Simon Crosskill. Last week I caught a report and discussion on the state of the Pedro Cays, where, according to the Jamaica Environment Trust, six hundred Jamaicans live! With no sanitation or amenities, these tiny islands have become a mini-slum of zinc and cardboard shacks and piles of garbage. Government officials (who, as usual, haven’t got it quite clear which of several agencies is responsible for this appalling state of affairs) told Mr. Crosskill last week that they have a plan for managing the cays. After twenty years they are just coming up with one. But hey, surprise! there is now no money for implementation of the plan!
One more thing has been bugging me since last week. Twenty-seven Haitian men, women and children arrived on our shores (in the eastern parish of Portland, as usual) in a rickety boat. They obviously intended to flee to the United States but ended up in Jamaica instead. Instead of discussing asylum and other issues, our government speedily “processed” the refugees (a word normally used when young men are rounded up and finger-printed by the police in inner-city communities). Within three days, they were shipped back to Haiti on a Jamaica Defense Force coast guard boat. One understands that the small rural community where they landed had no resources to house or support the refugees, and I know we have enough problems of our own, but… Isn’t Haiti a fellow-member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) where there is supposed to be freedom of movement? In fact, isn’t Haiti the current chair of CARICOM? Don’t the refugees have any rights to a hearing? Would Cuban refugees be treated the same way? The United Nations High Commission on Refugees has expressed concern. And Haitians are also the only CARICOM citizens that have to obtain a visa to visit other CARICOM nations. Is this right?
Throwing some bouquets… To my community of fellow-bloggers in Jamaica. They are becoming stronger, and more outspoken, and just more interesting altogether! Keep up the good work. And please, Jamaicans, do not steal the ideas and language of bloggers and reproduce it as your own original thought! This happened recently with a blogger I know, whose work was shamelessly plagiarized and repackaged into a letter to the editor. The sharing and amplification of ideas is one thing. Theft of another’s creative expression is a different thing entirely.
I am impressed by the work of the Road Safety Unit and the National Road Safety Council. They have been doing quiet work to stem the madness that stalks our highways and byways in the form of speeding vehicles of every description. And they are getting results! Take a look at the Council’s excellent website: http://www.nationalroadsafetycouncil.org.jm. Fatalities on the road were considerably lower than the targeted 300 last year, and are 12 per cent down so far this year. Keep up the good work!
The Women’s Resource and Outreach Centre (WROC) partnered with the Jamaica Civil Society Coalition (JCSC) and others last week for the first in a series of seminars on budgeting for gender equity. Tonight they will meet at the Trench Town Community Centre. Listen in if you can’t make it – Nationwide News Network, which does sterling service in live-broadcasting these democratic forums, will be airing it. I will write more about this worthy effort soon. Congratulations to all concerned, including the 51% Coalition that seeks to empower women and strengthen our democracy through increased participation for all. And it’s not only gender equity, but equity for all Jamaicans, which the JCSC seems now to be focused on. Excellent!
Last week, the U.S. Embassy brought another inspiring African American scientist to Jamaica in recognition of Black History Month. Her name is Mae Jemison and she was the first African American female astronaut in space. She has visited Jamaica before (the last time was in 1998) but this time the aim was for her to inspire students and young people, scientists and educators to promote the importance of science in the country’s development. I had planned to attend – Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson’s talk at the U.S. Embassy recently was fascinating – but could not make it. However, I understand that Dr. Jemison got people fired up.
And I am so pleased that the University of Technology (UTech) have taken the bull by the horns and instituted a campaign for tolerance on campus. Some students may shrug their shoulders and say it is not needed, but – yes, it is. And what harm can it do to encourage all students to treat their fellow Jamaicans with respect and decency? After last year’s nightmarish experience (the mob attack and beating of an alleged homosexual student on UTech’s campus), the university administration has clearly taken a sober look at things. The aim is not just to rein in homophobic attacks, but it is a broader campaign. A very good move, and an example that the other two main tertiary institutions – the University of the West Indies and Northern Caribbean University – might like to follow. They are by no means immune, as I know that similar “mob rule” behavior has taken place there, too.
And the mindless violence continues. For some, it seems, praying and going to church is the only answer. With so many churches per square mile, it is ironic that we have the third highest murder rate in the world. How is that possible, when we are all so “God-fearing”? I leave you with a comment from Sunday Gleaner columnist Martin Henry, who concludes his weekly column thus: “It is certain that Jamaica will not progress well without a stronger adoption of the virtues of religion.”
Really, Mr. Henry? Really? Shouldn’t we already be virtuous enough? No, more hours in church needed, it seems. Oh. Do read Mr. Hilaire Sobers’ column, below, for clarification.
My deepest condolences to the family and friends of all those who were killed in the past week. I feel saddened that the list at the end of each week’s post appears to be getting longer (seventeen by my count, which means two or three murders daily), while the police killed seven Jamaican citizens last week. Minister Bunting, is your policy of “there will be more shootouts” really working? And what happened to “community policing”?
Omar Bailey, Portmore, St. Catherine
Tafari Harvey, 17, Bog Walk, St. Catherine
Oneil Ormsby, Spanish Town, St. Catherine
Tyreena Gayle, 24, Spanish Town, St. Catherine
Damion, Denham Town, Kingston
Unidentified man, Milk Lane, Central Kingston
Unidentified woman, Milk Lane, Central Kingston
Lloyd Williams, 48, Molynes Road, Kingston 10
André Roberts, 26, Maxfield Avenue, Kingston
Unidentified man, Deanery Road, Kingston 3
Omar Myers, 31, Eastwood Park Road/Half Way Tree, Kingston 10
“Starry,” Standpipe, Kingston 6
Unidentified, Frome, Westmoreland
Alvin Rochester, 43, Greenvale, Manchester
Kevin Haughton, 36, Montego Bay, St. James
Lennox Campbell, 22, Lilliput, St. James
Gladstone Smith, 50, Epsom, St. Mary
“Slaughter,” Caledonia Meadows, Manchester
“Sekou,” Big Lane/Central Village, St. Catherine
Nicholas Mitchell, 27, Norwood, St. James
Unidentified, Norwood, St. James
Unidentified, Norwood, St. James
Unidentified, 27, Alexandria Road, Central Kingston
Jonoye Glaze, 20, Brighton, Westmoreland
Related links (local blog commentary highlighted in maroon)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130205/lead/lead8.html Prime Minister and Finance Minister to address the nation: Jamaica Information Service
http://repeatingislands.com/2013/02/04/native-tongue-speaking-with-a-caribbean-accent/ Native Tongue: Speaking with a Caribbean accent: repeatingislands.com
http://carolynjoycooper.wordpress.com/2013/02/05/superpower-jamaican-accent-for-the-super-bowl/ Superpower Jamaican accent for the Superbowl: carolynjoycooper.wordpress.com
http://newsandviewsbydjmillerja.wordpress.com/2013/01/30/that-vw-ad-jamaica-no-problem-offensive-or-good-exposure/#comment-1450 That VW ad – Jamaica No Problem: Offensive or good exposure? newsandviewsbydjmillerja.wordpress.com
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Our-dual-natures_13583905 Our dual natures: Tamara Scott-Williams column/Sunday Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Why-brand-Jamaica-won-t-work-for-us_13563923 Why brand Jamaica won’t work for us: Henley Morgan op-ed/Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/-Tell-what-you-know-_13535976 Tell what you know: Holness tells residents to expose child killers: Jamaica Observer
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j4z1d4UnaEU&feature=youtu.be Andrew Holness speech at PSOJ Chairman’s Breakfast Forum: YouTube
http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/real-life-stories/death-in-paradise-the-real-life-policeman-1571092 From London to Jamaica: The real “Death in Paradise” policeman: Daily Mirror, UK
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/I-am-not-surprised_13559895 ”I am not surprised”: JFJ’s Goffe backs Les Green: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130205/letters/letters3.html Les Green’s comments on the police racist? Letter to the Gleaner from Colin Campbell
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130210/focus/focus1.html Was it worth it? Orville Taylor column/Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130205/lead/lead3.html Denham Town victim campaigned for peace: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130205/letters/letters5.html Reach out to at-risk youth: Letter from Boys’ Town to Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Help-me-out-please–Prime-Minister_13536880 Help me out please, Prime Minister: Mark Wignall column/Sunday Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130205/cleisure/cleisure4.html Take offense or take action: Andre Wright column/Gleaner
http://dmarcuswilliams.blogspot.com/2013/02/who-is-enemy-of-state.html Who is (the) Enemy of the State? dmarcuswilliams.blogspot.com
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads/32900 PM Simpson Miller says leaders should be careful with their statements: Jamaica Information Service
http://newsandviewsbydjmillerja.wordpress.com/2013/02/06/parliament-called-upon-again-to-work-harder/ Parliament called upon (again) to work harder: newsandviewsbydjmillerja.wordpress.com
http://jamaica-star.com/thestar/20130205/news/news1.html Driver shot for not stopping: Jamaica Star
http://petchary.wordpress.com/2013/02/08/of-darkness-and-bears/ Of darkness, and bears: petchary.wordpress.com
http://www.og.nr/rbt/11833-man-crushed-to-death-woman-raped-at-kingston-funeral-home.html Man crushed to death, woman raped at Kingston funeral home: On the Ground News Reports
http://www.og.nr/permalink/11730#.URKWUJ3S69w.twitter Lotto scammer sends threatening messages to U.S. woman: On the Ground News Reports
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/Let-us-stop-demonising-gays_13545427 Let us stop demonising gays: Javed Jaghai letter to the Jamaica Observer
http://www.og.nr/rbt/11872-jamaican-gay-activist-challenges-buggery-law.html Jamaican gay activist challenges buggery law: On the Ground News Reports
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Buggery-law-review-promise-was-a-political-sham_13584250 Buggery law review promise was a political sham: Mark Wignall column/Sunday Observer
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/utech-launches-project-to-increase-tolerance UTech launches project to increase tolerance: RJR News
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/The-facts-about-homosexuality_13581293 The facts about homosexuality: Cynthia Burton op-ed/Sunday Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130207/lead/lead6.html Female astronaut encourages scientists to soar above expectations: Gleaner
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/haitians-sent-home_1 Haitians sent home: RJR News
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/haiti-could-take-caricom-imposed-visa-restrictions-to-ccj Haiti could take CARICOM-imposed visa restrictions to CCJ: RJR News
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/unhcr-concerned-about-repatriation-of-cubans-and-haitians UNHCR concerned about repatriation of Cubans, Haitians: RJR News
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/Work–work–work—–instead-of-pray–pray–pray_13534246 Work, work, work…instead of pray, pray, pray: Letter/Jamaica Observer
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/dalley-moves-to-support-public-defenders-office Dalley moves to support Public Defender‘s office: RJR News
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130205/lead/lead8.html IMF team in Jamaica: Gleaner
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/tough-measures-expected-in-joint-address-to-nation Tough measures expected in joint address to nation: RJR News
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/computer-hacker-breaks-into-dpps-files Computer hacker breaks into DPP’s files: RJR News
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130210/business/business1.html Lights out at Palmyra: Sunday Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/JPS-removes-2-857-illegal-connections-in-Majesty-Gardens JPS removes 2,587 illegal connections in Majesty Gardens: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130205/lead/lead1.html Blame government for high JPS bills – OUR boss says high energy cost is political leaders’ fault: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130204/news/news3.html Renewable energy data now available on PCJ’s website: Gleaner
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads-106/32902 Over 1,000 eye surgeries performed under Jamaica/Cuba program: Jamaica Information Service
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/undp-donates-to-dengue-control-programme UNDP donates to dengue control program: RJR News
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=42687 Busy Signal faces more charges over passport fraud: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=42690 Olint investors want money back: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130205/cleisure/cleisure3.html Reason and faith are like oil and water: Hilaire Sobers op-ed/Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130210/focus/focus5.html Religion and development: Martin Henry column/Sunday Gleaner
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/road-safety-unit-reports-reduction-in-road-fatalities Road Safety Unit reports reduction in traffic fatalities: RJR News
http://petchary.wordpress.com/2013/02/02/pollution-flowing-from-land-to-sea-the-un-caribbean-environment-programme-part-1/ Pollution flowing from land to sea: The UN Caribbean Environment Program, part 1: petchary.wordpress.com