OK, I don’t feel ready for Christmas, this year. But then, I never do.
I always buy charity Christmas cards (by the way, Youth Opportunities Unlimited has a great range of bright and beautiful cards this year) and send them out to dozens of friends and family (mostly overseas, so it costs a fortune in postage). I always feel “virtual” Christmas cards are a bit of a cop-out, since I only communicate with many of these people once or twice a year. They deserve something in their hand – something they can display on their mantelpiece or hang from the beams in the ceiling, as my sister does in her old English farmhouse. It’s a touch of Jamaica, bright and cheerful on a cold winter’s morning in New York or London.
It’s a ritual I enjoy. I write my cards in strict alphabetical order, so people whose surnames begin with “A” have a much better chance of getting their card on time than the “W”s. And I have to fill one half of the card with stuff like, “It’s been another busy year for us…” or “What, Christmas already?” and the obligatory updates on son’s and husband’s welfare. Variations on a theme, really. I usually just about get them finished by around December 20, which means of course that some are going to be, well, late. And this despite my husband’s gentle reminders: “I notice you haven’t started on your Christmas cards yet, dear…”
And no, I haven’t. That’s one of many reasons why I don’t feel ready for Christmas. No, never.
Oh, happy Thanksgiving by the way to all my friends and readers in the United States! And happy Hannukah, which coincides this year, to all our Jewish friends too. The Festival of Lights – how beautiful. Actually I am drawn to the Thanksgiving celebration for a number of reasons: I like it because God doesn’t intrude too much into the proceedings. I like to think we are giving thanks to Mother Earth, to the Universe, to whatever Spirit we may or may not subscribe to. We are just thankful, and it simply appeals to me on that level, philosophically. And it’s about family, more than anything else – which I happen to believe is very important, in my old-fashioned way. Plus, I am rather fond of roast turkey (which in England we always ate on Christmas Day, at home).
But back to Christmas. There is the food. Firstly, I am not crazy about sorrel, the traditional Christmas drink in Jamaica. I will only drink it if there is nothing else. It has a medicinal quality, and to reduce that taste, it is often made too sweet. But I dutifully sip it when I have to. And I dislike Christmas cake. I have an incredibly sweet tooth so I should love sorrel and cake, shouldn’t I? But I just don’t like the taste. If it had brandy butter with it, maybe. But Jamaicans don’t do brandy butter.
On the plus side there is the ham. Local Jamaican ham is incredibly delicious and juicy and makes me give up the idea of becoming a vegetarian, just yet. I am so tired of chicken, which we eat all year round until it’s coming out of our ears. And I miss the aforementioned turkey, cooked the way my mother used to do it. But the ham makes up for all this.
I don’t drink for health reasons so that is also quite boring of me, isn’t it? I will have a sip of wine (or preferably champagne) and just now, looking at a link in Carib Journal with all kinds of rum punch recipes, I licked my lips. Jamaicans are fond of egg nog at Christmas – an old-fashioned English thing – but I have always found it too rich and sickly. So, on Christmas Day we will be going to a nearby hotel, which boasts an enormous buffet: a huge range of delights. Something to look forward to.
And now it comes down to it, what else has Christmas got going for it, for me personally? We are not church-goers, and sitting with eyelids propped open for Midnight Mass (complete with a long, droning sermon) always seems like self-inflicted torture to me. So all that stuff is out. There are one or two parties; but fewer and fewer in Kingston these days, due to what we like to call the “economic downturn” (which seems to be a permanent fixture these days). To make matters worse, the local television Christmas ads started early this year, to drum up business. They are more annoying than ever. The jingles are nerve-wracking. Young women bounce around Christmas trees, dressed as elves in red tights – red tinsel, red glitter, everything swathed in red. I reach for the mute button instantly.
When our son was young, Christmas was fun. We would buy him all kinds of odd little presents. We would spend all day decorating the Christmas tree, smashing a few glass balls along the way. My husband would spend hours checking the Christmas lights (there were always those dead bulbs that spoiled the whole thing) – that was always his job. We would buy pots of poinsettias (a local plant, of course) and over-priced imported decorations. We would watch videos and kitschy children’s Christmas shows on television, and cook up a storm. My husband would go downtown to “Grand Market” (there is still a watered-down version of this, I believe) and revel in his childhood memories of Christmas in Kingston. My parents spent at least one or two Christmases with us here in Jamaica – which, all by itself, was awesome.
But let me return to the “giving thanks” part of this season, for a minute. There is so much to appreciate, after all. The sunlight lies gently on the tiny leaves of our lignum vitae tree with its heart-shaped orange fruits hanging like clusters of earrings. When I was hanging the washing out a short while ago, a Jamaican Oriole came down to sit on a branch of the mango tree and sang me a soft, conversational song. (Yes, people probably think I’m crazy talking to the birds – but they talk to me). Our dog lies down in her favorite spot on the front lawn every afternoon, sniffing the air, gazing round quietly (with the occasional bark if someone passes by). The “Christmas breeze” stirs, unobtrusive. The sky is a faded blue, decorated with harmless, fluffy clouds. The light ripens softly as the day declines into a pink sunset. The air is calm. The doves coo softly.
And there are people – especially my family (present, absent and passed on) – and the Jamaican people, in all their confusion and craziness. What more could I really want?
But why do I feel as if Christmas is some huge hurdle to climb over? I think it’s just about getting old. The memories begin to crowd the room, breathing in all the oxygen. It’s almost claustrophobic. I just need to accept that it is what it is.
Any tips for surviving Christmas would be welcome. And roll on, 2014!
Our Met Office forecast “severe weather” for the past couple of days, but it is a sunny, breezy Sunday in Kingston town. Not that we want severe weather, but recent weather forecasts have, to be honest, been wildly inaccurate.
Shaw gathers momentum: Meanwhile, it is pouring rain in Mandeville. As I write, Phase Three Productions is live-streaming from the official launch of Audley Shaw‘s bid for the leadership of the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) in that town. Phase Three’s Marcia Forbes is tweeting photos. There is apparently some confusion as to whether Mr. Shaw’s middle name is Fitz Albert or Fitz Gerald. It seems Mr. Shaw’s campaign is gaining some traction. He has acquired high-profile backers, such as former Agriculture Minister Dr. Christopher Tufton (who himself has strong leadership qualities) and former tourism man Ed Bartlett; and rumor has it that some “big men” (private sector interests) are also in support.
I am just hoping for a much more vibrant Opposition in the future. The past two years have, frankly, been very unimpressive. Under Mr. Holness’ leadership, my perception from the outside is that the Opposition has spent much time licking its wounds (and re-opening some).
Social media campaigning… I am not sure why Opposition Leader Andrew Holness and his challenger Audley Shaw are pretending that the use of social media is not important to their respective campaigns. It appears they are both using it quite effectively. Mr. Shaw is a regular tweeter.
…and no more bitching: Sorry to use that word, but the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) already has a reputation for factions (yes, I remember the “Gang of Five” in the early 1990s). So let’s start debating the issues. You have enough material to work with! And a word of advice: Jamaicans want details! They want to know “how” things are to be done. We already know the “what” and the “why”…
The Azan Aftermath: What is all that noise about now? Why, it is the Azan supporters, clamoring for their beloved leader to be reinstated as Minister of State in the Ministry of Transport and Works (curious that his boss, the usually strident Omar Davies, has been so reticent on all this). The supporters (including the People’s National Party Youth Organization) say that Azan has now been “vindicated” (or, as I saw somewhere, “ventricated.” New word!) since the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) announced she will not press charges against him.
The CG’s office is the enemy, again? There are also murmurings in some People’s National Party quarters, I understand, for the Contractor General (CG) – one of Jamaica’s main anti-corruption watchdogs – to resign, following the DPP’s announcement. Just a reminder that the CG’s office was set up in 1983 under Edward Seaga’s JLP administration. Under the current administration, Minister of Works-and-Other-Affairs Omar Davies has taken up the gauntlet and has been seeking to undermine the CG, in my view. Four months ago, if you recall, he got the Attorney General (AG) to propose changes to the Contractor General’s Act. Last year, the same Minister and AG tried to avoid reporting to the CG on the findings of Davies’ “oversight panel” that would fast-track large infrastructural projects – but finally gave up the fight in July of this year, thankfully.
This is an administration that declared it would fight corruption. Instead, it seems to be fighting anti-corruption bodies such as the CG, and defending its own officials under suspicion of corruption. Our Prime Minister warmly hugged Minister Azan at last weekend’s annual conference, if you recall. One hug speaks a thousand words.
All this worries me in relation to the Goat Islands mega-project, which remains shrouded in mystery, especially since the port aspect of it seems to fall under Minister Davies’ jurisdiction. Why is there no information coming from the government on this? Why is the media not trying to investigate?
Meanwhile, the charge of “political corruption” against Mr. Azan, referred to in the CG’s report remains. The fact that he will not be charged for fraud is only a part of the story.
Toughing it out: The smooth-talking Mayor of May Pen is putting a brave face on things meanwhile, despite the DPP’s intention to prosecute him for misleading the CG over the shops in Spalding Market. I think he will soon be charged, and then might possibly consider stepping down? The Opposition members of the Clarendon Parish Council want him to, of course; but they are in the minority, so will not prevail.
Productivity in the public sector has been declining over the past five years, says university lecturer Peter-John Gordon. “It may be acting as a sort of sponge for labor,” he added. And how on earth is that going to move us forward? There are major problems, here, that must be examined more deeply.
Slipping… The standard of editorials in both our daily newspapers has been quite sloppy of late, with a lot of woolly-headed thinking and lame conclusions. The editorials don’t even get important facts right (see the letter to the Gleaner - link below). Please sharpen up, people – we need more cogent analysis in these difficult times.
Farewell to Bunny: With much fanfare, the last remaining “original Wailer” Bunny Livingstone has announced that he will be leaving Jamaica and going to settle in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. I wish him well. The 66-year-old Mr. Livingstone says Jamaica is a “failure,” adding: “the politicality and the teachings and the other things that are taking place in Jamaica does not relate to my existence” (sic). St Vincent Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves‘ long-winded speeches on reparations seem to have attracted him. However, is St. Vincent governed any more skilfully than Jamaica? Certainly, their PM can talk for longer, if that is a plus. Perhaps Bunny could have considered staying, and as a music legend contributing in more positive ways to his country.
Things to keep an eye on… The parliamentary debate on the Commission of Enquiry Act, which was suspended last week; there are many issues to be resolved here. The Trafigura case(I have not seen a court date set when the Prime Minister and senior officials are to testify to prosecutors representing Dutch authorities). Measures to prevent major road accidents, especially school buses; what, if anything, will be done? Charges against Mayor Barnswell – when?
I am handing little Sunday bouquets to:
- My friendly neighborhood bookstore, Bookophilia. Always warm and welcoming, with a good cup of coffee (and tea) available behind the counter, it is a favorite hangout spot. It has a nice comfy sofa too. Apart from all that, an interesting selection of books (I always find some good material on their fiction shelves, and being a LatAm lit fan could not resist Isabel Allende’s latest). What makes it a standout though are their regular events – live poetry and music sessions, art exhibits, children’s story time, Motivation Mondays, and much more. Find them on Facebook, on Twitter (@Bookophilia) and drop by 92 Hope Road in Liguanea, Kingston 6, next to The Paint Shop. And they are open on Sundays! Buy books!
- Hon. Barbara Gloudon, for her beautifully written column on the Portland Bight Protected Area/Goat Islands issue in Friday’s Jamaica Observer. The link is below. Ms. Gloudon always writes with marvelous insights. I am thankful for her support for the campaign against the proposed logistics hub/megaport in this wonderful area – which is not only beautiful but harbors productive fish sanctuaries and bird breeding sites in the mangroves (a designated “Wetland of Importance” under the Ramsar Convention). I am sorry I missed her broadcast from Little Goat Island on her RJR radio talk show on Friday… and appreciate her concern for Jamaica’s precious natural (and cultural) heritage.
- The YMCA quietly does amazing work with marginalized youth. The boys in their early teens, for example, that others have given up on; and boys who live on the streets. These boys have endured real emotional and physical hardship growing up, and bear the scars. It is very challenging work. The YMCA and its director Sarah Newland-Martin (who really believes in the boys) truly deserve our support; they need new classrooms. Please support them where you can.
- Lord Bishop of Jamaica Howard Gregory, whose column in today’s Sunday Observer on corruption gets my two thumbs up. Despite being an eminent church leader, Bishop Gregory is so down to earth and a real straight talker. Here is one quote from his piece on the Azan saga and its aftermath: “What must be a matter of serious concern is the conduct of our politicians, whose behavior has come under scrutiny. We have seen over time behaviors of arrogance, defiance, and disrespect for those entrusted with legitimate authority to rule on such matters [ie corruption]…” Indeed.
- Ms. Donna Duncan of Jamaica Money Market Brokers, who recently gave a talk in Digicel’s “Extraordinary Leaders” series. Her thoughts? We all have greatness within us; live and lead according to your values; and great leaders help others to be their best selves. Yes, we may have heard this all before, but these are the essentials of leadership.
My quote for today: I got this from a Nigerian friend on Twitter (yes, Africa has quite a social media presence these days…) “Trust is like an eraser; it gets smaller and smaller with every mistake.” Perhaps some of our public figures should meditate on this one.
The sadness and grief continues. There are still too many fatalities on our roads, and too many violent deaths. We must also always spare a thought for those injured in these tragedies; it is not only the dead, but those affected who have to pick up the pieces of their lives and carry on. My condolences to all the families of these Jamaicans, and all those who are suffering physically, emotionally and mentally from the trauma. Each violent act leaves many scars.
Unidentified man, Rousseau Road, Kingston
Radcliffe White, 48, August Town, St. Andrew
Unidentified man, Kitson Town, St. Catherine
Unidentified man, Sandy Bay, Clarendon
Clarence Morgan, 61, Clarendon
Carlene Francis, 36, Great Pond/Ocho Rios, St. Ann
“Tony,” Steer Town, St. Ann
Related articles and links:
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/Open-letter-to-Minister-Robert-Pickersgill_15146109 Open Letter to Minister Robert Pickersgill: Letter to the Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/The-sea-is-my-employer_15145080 ”The sea is my employer”: Barbara Gloudon column/Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130928/cleisure/cleisure3.html Government should not neglect environmental consultation: Letter to the Gleaner
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads-107/35158 Country poised to meet 2015 deadline – Minister Hylton: Jamaica Information Service
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Develop-Royal-Palm-Reserve-into-attraction—-EU-head_15145048 Develop Royal Palm Reserve into attraction – EU head: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130928/news/news5.html Nature kisses art at Mountambrin Estate: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/DPP-clears-Azan DPP clears Azan: Jamaica Observer
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/dabdoub-to-challenge-contractor-general-findings-on-spaldings-market-issue Dabdoub to challenge Contractor General findings on Spaldings Market issue: RJR News
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Mayor-under-fire JLP councillors to move no-confidence vote against Barnswell: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130928/lead/lead2.html Police to probe Barnswell: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130928/letters/letters2.html Get the facts on ECJ appointment: Letter to the Gleaner from Governor General’s office
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Dynamic-media-supporting-better-leadership_15119864 Dynamic media supporting better leadership: Jean Lowrie-Chin column/Jamaica Observer
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/temporary-replacement-found-for-dismissed-permanent-secretary Temporary replacement found for dismissed permanent secretary: RJR News
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/editorial/Is-Mr-Holness-institutionalising-political-tribalism_15139836 Is Mr. Holness instutionalizing political tribalism? Jamaica Observer editorial
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130928/news/news1.html Debate on Commission of Enquiry Act suspended: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Chuck–PM–security-minister-must-address-crime-issue_15139068 Chuck: PM, security minister must address crime issue: Jamaica Observer
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/indecom-concerned-about-apprehension-of-mentally-ill-by-police INDECOM concerned about apprehension of mentally ill by police: RJR News
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Holmwood-driver-slapped-with-manslaughter-charges_15145975 Holmwood driver slapped with manslaughter charges: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130929/lead/lead61.html Rejected by Jamaica: Pathologist snubbed locally, embraced by Yale: Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130928/news/news7.html Limited by challenges, but big on hope: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130929/lead/lead7.html ”I will be great!” youth vows: Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130929/lead/lead6.html YMCA in need of new building: Sunday Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/So-that-explains-the-smell_15145599 So that explains the smell: Letter to the Jamaica Observer
http://repeatingislands.com/2013/09/27/bunny-wailer-to-turn-back-on-jamaica-for-st-vincent-and-the-grenadines/ Bunny Wailer to turn back on Jamaica for St. Vincent and the Grenadines: Repeating Islands
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads-117/35160 Prime Minister urges special consideration for SIDS: Jamaica Information Service
Dear readers: What is a Whimbrel, you may ask? A Whimbrel is a large, graceful wading bird, similar to a curlew, with a haunting cry, long legs and a long slender beak that curves downwards. It migrates great distances (as you can see below) from the Arctic down to South America, and through the Caribbean. Like all our birds, it is extraordinary, and precious. There is just a chance that you might see this lovely shorebird in Jamaica, passing through, around September. If you do, please wish him well on his way.
Please find below a press release from the Society for the Conservation of Caribbean Birds. And please share this story with anyone who loves our birds and our environment.
When “Machi,” a Whimbrel carrying a satellite transmitter, was shot and killed in Guadeloupe in September 2011, the international bird conservation community had a rude wake-up call about what was happening to migrating shorebirds in the French West Indies. The fact was that tens of thousands of shorebirds representing several species were being shot by hunters each fall. Swift action by the Society for the Conservation of Caribbean Birds (SCSCB)  and its members and partners, including AMAZONA (the local bird conservation organization) , has resulted in significant progress on the issue of shorebird hunting.
Whimbrels are amazing long distance migrants. Machi had been tracked for over 27,000 miles (44,000 km) back and forth between the breeding grounds in the Hudson Bay Lowlands of Canada to wintering grounds on the coast of Brazil. In 2011, we had learned from the satellite tracking study being conducted by the Center for Conservation Biology  that Machi, after hunkering down in Montserrat during Tropical Storm Maria, flew to Guadeloupe where she met her end. Ongoing tracking studies have shown that Whimbrels like Machi and other shorebirds utilize the Caribbean islands to rest and refuel, take refuge from dangerous storms, or spend the winter. However, the journey ends for many that attempt to stop in Guadeloupe, Martinique, or Barbados, where sport hunting of shorebirds remains a popular tradition.
At the time when Machi and a second satellite-tagged Whimbrel named Goshen were killed, there were no daily bag limits in the French West Indies, and no protection for species of conservation concern, such as the Red Knot. Thankfully, due to proactive advocacy, there have been some positive changes in hunting regulations since Machi’s death.
Following the shooting of the two shorebirds and in light of the fact that populations of many shorebird species are declining in the Americas, SCSCB organized a letter writing campaign targeting decision makers in environmental departments of the French government as well as other key authorities and international organizations. Many SCSCB members and partners sent letters to these officials, urging them to take actions in support of a more sustainable and responsible harvest. They also wrote about the issue in their local newspapers, websites, and blogs (see links to some of these below).
As a result of this international campaign and months of dedicated work by the National Hunting and Wildlife Agency (ONCFS) together with other departments and local hunters, there has been a change in policy which benefits migratory shorebirds that rely on these islands’ mangroves and wetlands as wintering and critical stopover sites during their long migrations.
The Ministère de l’Environnement and the Fédération Départementale des Chasseurs de la Guadeloupe and Fédération Départementale des Chasseurs de la Martinique have acted to place some restrictions on shorebird harvest: First, the Red Knot (beginning in 2012) and Solitary Sandpiper (2013) were closed to hunting on Guadeloupe and the Red Knot was closed to hunting on Martinique in 2013. The Ministère de l’Environnement in Paris is also considering long-term removal of the Red Knot from the list of hunted species. Second, a bag limit of 20 birds per day per hunter was instituted in Guadeloupe in 2013. This action of setting bag limits, initiated by an Overseas Department, is a rare action for the French hunting community and regulatory agency. Finally, a three-year moratorium on the shooting of Whimbrels and Hudsonian Godwits was put in place in Martinique in 2013.
The SCSCB community is encouraged by these outcomes. Lisa Sorenson, Executive Director of SCSCB commented, “Machi’s death drew attention to the fate that awaits hundreds of thousands of other shorebirds that pass through the Caribbean in the future, and provided an opportunity to encourage these governments to adopt more sustainable hunting regulations. There is still much work to be done, but we consider the change in hunting laws to be a very important and significant conservation outcome. Machi did not die in vain.”
Said Howard Nelson, President of SCSCB, “We applaud the French government’s and the Fédérations des Chasseurs of Guadeloupe and Martinique actions on this issue, and we want to thank our members and partners for their help in bringing about this positive change.”  He added, “We all need to remain vigilant about issues like this throughout the region as we continue to work to conserve resident and migratory birds for future generations to enjoy.” Nelson remarked that the Society supports broader social and ecological values of shorebirds and that in the longer term, he was hopeful that this would support meaningful behavior change on the islands.
Links to articles on the shooting of Machi and Goshen:
For more information, and to arrange an interview, please contact:
NOTES TO EDITORS:
1. The Society for the Conservation and Study of Caribbean Birds (SCSCB) is the largest single regional organization devoted to wildlife conservation in the Caribbean. It is a non-profit organization whose goals are to promote the scientific study and conservation of Caribbean birds and their habitats, and to promote greater public awareness of the bird life of the region. For more details, see: http://www.scscb.org.
2. AMAZONA is a not-for-profit organization in Guadeloupe, dedicated to the study and conservation of birds in Guadeloupe. For more information, visit: http://www.amazona-guadeloupe.com
3. This tracking project is a collaborative effort between The Center for Conservation Biology, The Nature Conservancy, The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Georgia Department of Natural Resources, the Virginia Coastal Zone Management Program, and Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences.
4. SCSCB thanks its many partners (too numerous to name individually) throughout the Caribbean, the Americas and beyond for their help with this letter writing campaign and efforts to raise awareness about the issue.
In the past two weeks (while in the eastern Caribbean) I actually did not see a gun. Not one. Or a squatter community. But, back to reality now. And we have been celebrating our 51st year of Independence. It’s amazing to think that all the Jamaica 50 hoopla was a whole year ago, already…
She has found her voice: My heart sank when I heard our Prime Minister, Portia Simpson Miller, campaigning vociferously for a candidate in a Kingston by-election, the morning before Independence. “Victory for the People’s National Party!” our Prime Minister thundered, to raucous applause from the assembled “comrades” (this is what her party’s supporters are called). She wants them to have the by-election all sewn up by midday. There seems something unseemly about this, to me, at this time. Anyway, the local by-election, in Finance Minister Peter Phillips’ constituency, is tomorrow, in case you are interested.
Messages trotted out: Here are some selected quotes for you to ponder as we are overwhelmed by Emancipation Day and Independence Day… And to my surprise, perhaps, the words of the Governor General, the Queen’s representative in Jamaica, resonate more strongly than those of the two political leaders, with me. There is a higher degree of honesty about the state in which Jamaica finds itself in 2013 in Sir Patrick Allen’s words. He also ended his Independence message one of my favorite quotes from Edmund Burke: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men (and women) to do nothing.”
“This insistence on freedom and human rights is our heritage, fellow Jamaicans.” (Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, Emancipation Day)
“We are indeed triumphant! Our triumphs shine through the spirit and resolve of Jamaicans who, despite our economic challenges, valiantly press on.” (Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, Independence Day)
“And yet it would appear that a large number of our people are still chained.” (Governor General Sir Patrick Allen, Emancipation Day)
“Each Jamaican, whether at home or abroad, has the responsibility to help restore our image as a peaceful and productive country.” (Governor General Sir Patrick Allen, Emancipation Day)
“We have another duty to our forefathers, we must never allow our society to be enslaved by foreign cultures and ideals.” (Opposition Leader Andrew Holness, Emancipation Day)
“Let us bear in mind these constructive words of Sir William Alexander Bustamante in 1962 on the occasion of our very first Independence Day: ‘Independence means the opportunity for us to frame our own destiny and the need to rely on ourselves for so doing.’ (Opposition Leader Andrew Holness, Independence Day)
Let them eat oxtail: Our Minister of Agriculture Roger Clarke (and his comrade, the head of the Jamaica Agricultural Society Senator Norman Grant) have both been wearing fancy straw hats to the annual Denbigh Agricultural Show, as is traditional. Minister Clarke must have quite a collection of them at home. But just this evening on CVM News, Minister Clarke spoke of a shortage of chicken back – which, some of us are surprised to know, is actually imported. Now, chicken back is “poor man/woman/child’s food.” How can there be a shortage? To make matters worse, when asked what people are to do for their much-needed protein, the Minister suggested they eat oxtail, or beef, or pork, or mutton (or turkey neck, which I think might be a cheaper alternative). He says Americans are cutting chickens into quarters, including the backs, for summer barbecues. Hence the shortage. I am not quite convinced…
Reparation is back in vogue: Meanwhile, the above-named Minister is joining the reparations bandwagon. Perhaps, as the Governor General wisely commented this week, he should focus on issues affecting his sector – such as the plight of farmers who are being robbed of their livestock and/or produce left, right and center. It’s called “praedial larceny.” Any thoughts on this, Minister Clarke?
Mixed reviews: Yesterday’s Grand Gala got mixed reviews on Twitter and elsewhere. Some complained that it was the “same old, same old,” then in the same breath protested when a new act appeared on stage. Some people are hard to please. I agree, though, that women with padded bottoms and bosoms wiggling around is pretty tacky and a caricature of Jamaica’s heritage. Anyway, this marathon affair takes place at the National Stadium every Independence Day, and it’s a challenge to come up with something new every year, I am sure. Personally, I would rather the money had been spent on something else – new equipment for a school in an impoverished area, or for a small rural hospital, perhaps. OK, boring, I know.
“Put up yuh hand if…” Meanwhile, an ”artiste” called Queen Ifrica decided to round off the evening at the stadium by asking Jamaicans who were NOT gay to put up their hand (yes). She also called for the legalization of marijuana – nothing new, really, Peter Tosh sang “Legalize It” in 1976. When asked whether her comments were appropriate at a feel-good patriotic celebration, Ms. Ifrica expressed annoyance that few people go to the Gala these days; clearly, she was peeved that the venue was virtually empty when she made her controversial comments. She considers herself a social commentator, with great influence. Perhaps she is. In which case, she could do better than that. Much better.
Jamaica circus: I must comment on Dr. Garth Rattray’s delightfully biting Gleaner column, likening the whole of Jamaica to a series of ridiculous circus performances. Beautifully constructed – I really enjoyed reading it. Dr. Rattray ends, “As for the clowns, considering where we once were and where we are today after 51 years of self-governance, I’m sure that you know where many of them can be found.” Indeed, we do.
What about the economy, folks? No one is talking about it, apart from Ralston Hyman. I am not sure who is listening. Have we forgotten about the IMF already? Well, one thing is for sure – the IMF is not a “nine-day wonder.”
Too late: I wish I could congratulate Dr. Olive Lewin (our former neighbor, humble and beautiful human being and great musicologist) personally on her Order of Merit. Unfortunately, it has been awarded posthumously; Dr. Lewin died in April. While the politically-favored ones walk away with their medals and honors while still hale and hearty, Dr. Lewin, who had been in declining health for some years, did not. This despite her wide and substantial contribution to the legacy of Jamaican music and culture. Anyway, we love and miss you Dr. Lewin. I am sorry you will never proudly wear your O.M. medal.
Things (and people) lining up for a Petchary Bouquet:
A nice new radio voice: I like Nationwide News’ new reporter, Orville Burke. He has a very nice, well modulated voice. He sounds so cool!
Journalist Janet Silvera, a warm-hearted lady – for her support for the city of Kingston and its culture (the recent “Pon di River” literary festival for example). And for her kind support for needy students to attend the University of the West Indies. Janet is terrific.
Viviene Deokoro, a dedicated and enthusiastic educator, who has gone off to a big conference (the 20th Biennial World Conference of the World Council for Gifted and Talented Children (WCGTC) in Kentucky) to talk about educating the gifted in the Caribbean. She plans to lobby for the conference to take place in Jamaica in 2017. Good for you and good luck, Viviene!
Junior Achievement Jamaica, which has been quietly doing good work in training our young people in entrepreneurial skills. It has now received the MetLife Foundation Entrepreneurial Award for its work, including a US$25,000 grant. Congratulations to all!
The youth advocates: I could mention some names but just want to say that, although very few people apparently consider young people and their opinions of much importance, the Jamaica Youth Action Network and others are doing an excellent job. One of those advocates is Ms. Kemesha Kelly, who has stepped down now as Miss Jamaica Festival Queen. But she is far from your average beauty queen – much more to this youth empowerment officer than that. A great role model at 23. I expect you to go far, Kemesha! And I have posted a profile of another very bright young activist, Tameka Hill, whose heart is definitely in the right place! Big ups to you all, and keep on doing what you’re doing!
The weather: We actually had some gentle rain today (accompanied by crashing and banging thunder). One is grateful for small mercies…
Six of the names below are those who lost their lives some two weeks or so ago, just before I went away… The other names are for the past three days. My deepest condolences to all those who are mourning the loss of these Jamaican lives…
Marvin Johnson, 33, Crescent District, St. Catherine
Nicosta Samuels, Old Harbour, St. Catherine
Unidentified woman, Spanish Town, St. Catherine
David McIntosh, 41, Annotto Bay, St. Mary
Maureen Pinnock, 44, Annotto Bay, St. Mary
Dennis Meadows, 57, Ocho Rios, St. Ann
Jason Douglas, 31, May Pen, Clarendon
Colin Stephenson, 39, Ramble, Hanover
Howell Grant, 38, Negril, Westmoreland
Marvin Campbell, 40, Little London, Westmoreland
Killed by the police:
Sheldon Rose, Spring Mount, St. James
And here’s my favorite quote for today: “Truth alone will endure, all the rest will be swept away before the tide of time.” ~Mahatma Gandhi
Related articles (with local blogs in purple) - note that the first few articles are from a couple of weeks back, but I wanted to draw attention to these issues…
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130718/lead/lead5.html JFJ engaging in dishonest tactics to smear Jamaica - Hanna: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130718/lead/lead6.html Parties see no reason to return Olint funds: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130718/letters/letters1.html Letter of the Day: We must acknowledge our past: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130718/lead/lead2.html Chuck wants anti-gang law to clamp down on turf defenders: Gleaner
http://dmarcuswilliams.blogspot.com/2013/07/trayvon-martin-lessons-for-jamaica.html Trayvon Martin: Lessons for Jamaica: cogito ergo sum
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130718/news/news1.html Journalist gives on birthday: Gleaner
http://www.jis.gov.jm/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=-90 Independence 2013: Celebrating Jamaica: Jamaica Information Service
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/thieves-hit-cumi-once-again Thieves hit CUMI once again: RJR News
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/six-held-as-cops-probe-murder-of-11-year-old-in-west-kingston Six held as cops probe murder of 11-year-old in West Kingston: RJR News
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Move—-or-else- Multi-million dollar agri-project stalled: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/PetroCaribe-surprise PetroCaribe surprise: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/No-interest-rate-hike-on-PetroCaribe-loans–Paulwell-says No interest rate hike on PetroCaribe deal, Paulwell says: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Outrageous-_14826086 Pastor condemns killing of cross-dresser, man at church altar: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/magazines/allwoman/Tameka-Hill–Youth-advocate_14803279 Tameka Hill – youth advocate: Jamaica Observer/All Woman
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=46978 Youth group to petition health minister on sexual and reproductive rights: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130805/news/news2.html Junior Achievement gets MetLife award, grant: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/It-s-you-we-re-talking-to_14824173 It’s you we’re talking to! Jean Lowrie-Chin column/Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130805/cleisure/cleisure2.html Jamaica circus: Garth Rattray column/Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=46977 Roger Clarke joins reparation call: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130805/lead/lead8.html Master teacher to pitch Jamaican model at Gifted confab: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=47022 Queen Ifrica’s Grand Gala performance disappoints J-FLAG: Gleaner
http://www.tallawahmagazine.com/2013/08/home-girl-kemesha-kelly-takes-pride-in.html Home girl: Kemesha Kelly takes pride in serving her culture and country: Talllawah Magazine
Well, today was Bastille Day (“félicitations” to all my friends at the Alliance française de Jamaïque and beyond!) Indeed there has been quite a lot of storming going on over the weekend, which has been not without drama.
Poor judgment? The National Security Minister’s enthusiastic participation in a Biography Channel documentary on the convicted organized crime overlord Christopher “Dudus” Coke is creating some ripples (but not a tidal wave). And this is not only in the ranks of the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party, which one would really expect anyway. Minister Bunting was a prominent interviewee on the program – one of those crime documentaries with a husky-voiced narrator and dramatic camera angles that I usually carefully avoid as too sensational. Some political analysts believe the Minister’s appearance on the show may have damaged his political future. Others feel he dragged Jamaica’s reputation through the mire, while trying to score political points at home. My view? I think Minister Bunting could have exercised more caution. It made me uncomfortable.
Change of heart: I was relieved to hear Leader of the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) Andrew Holness announce that his party will participate in the pending Commission of Enquiry into the Tivoli Gardens incursion, after all. He has been issuing mixed messages on this, drawing quite a bit of criticism. As I have noted before, the Enquiry must make the strongest attempt possible to arrive at the truth of what happened before, during and after the massacre of close to eighty Jamaicans in May, 2010. It’s going to be painful for the JLP, but they must just bite the bullet (pardon the expression). I agree with Sunday Gleaner columnist Daniel Thwaites’ advice to young Mr. Holness: “Confound your critics and embrace the Tivoli enquiry.” At twenty-six, Andrew Holness became Jamaica’s youngest ever Member of Parliament in 1997. A good leader does not have to be gray (or in the case of many in our Parliament) white-haired. Go forth, young man!
Meetings will help: As Tropical Storm Chantal hovered in our neighborhood, CVM Television’s “Direct” program addressed the issue of Jamaica‘s disaster preparedness, and the lack of available resources. The Local Government Minister seemed rather laid-back about the whole thing. Perhaps our Prime Minister heard my urgings in a recent blog post about the curious silence of the government on the topic. When asked by a CVM reporter about preparedness, she insisted that whenever a storm is approaching, she and government officials “have meetings.” Well, that’s reassuring.
I have a question: Did we forget about hurricane season this year?
Child suicides: How many teens and children have taken their own lives this year? A few days ago, an eleven-year-old girl hanged herself, throwing her family and friends into unbelievable shock and grief. Suicide is an agonizing thing (and for those left behind) at any age. What pain these children are going through. We should all nurture and love our children, pay attention to their moods and their behavior.
I still don’t know what an agro park is. Does it have a pond with ducks in it, and benches, and flowerbeds? Does a band play in the bandstand on Sundays?
Going, going, gone: Simon Crosskill’s always excellent “Live at Seven” program on Friday began with a report on the state of Hellshire Beach, a once-lovely spot on the coast of St. Catherine, a forty-five minute drive from Kingston. Having not visited the beach for about ten years, I was utterly shocked. We used to take our small son to Hellshire every Saturday; it was beautiful, clean and wide - with a scattering of shacks selling the most delicious fried fish and festival which made the beach famous. Now it is a scrap of dirty yellow sand covered in wooden shacks that are almost standing in the water. On the program, the Member of Parliament for the area talked about “vested interests” and the effort to “brand” the beach by a certain telecoms firm. Branding? Don’t make me laugh. My blood pressure rose steadily throughout the program while the panelists talked about studies and reports and meetings. It made me feel like crying, not laughing. And as for the “world famous seven-mile beach” in the tourism resort of Negril, that is no longer anywhere near seven miles long – and shrinking.
Racism, classism and more: Emotions ran high last night among my Twitter friends as news broke of the Trayvon Martin verdict. Jamaicans were extremely upset, railing against the evils of racism in America. It was a real shocker; I was expecting a manslaughter verdict. But I (and others) asked why Jamaicans don’t get even half as distressed over similar travesties of justice in Jamaica, which happen almost daily. I think my question is well answered by journalist Dionne Jackson Miller in her excellent blog – see link below. She asks the question, “Would we care if Trayvon Martin had died in Jamaica?” Once we had cooled down a bit, the Trayvon case sparked some interesting discussions on racism in the United States; and classism in Jamaica (the equivalent?) – as well as the role of the media. We got to know Trayvon and George Zimmerman personally – every detail of the case, their families – through the extensive U.S. media coverage. This is not generally the Jamaican media experience.
I still maintain that most Jamaicans do not really care about in/justice in Jamaica. Not unless or until it affects them personally and they become entangled in the justice system. Just look at the general disdain for human rights groups, who do care about what happens to poor, black Jamaicans – young men just like Trayvon, born on the “wrong side of the tracks.” Then again, the privileged Jamaican middle-class really does not have to worry about suffering injustice. Someone said she is so glad this would never happen to her son in Jamaica; but of course not. He is a privileged middle-class young man. He wouldn’t even be walking, he would be driving around town. But it would happen to a young man in Denham Town or Arnett Gardens. It’s the aforesaid poor, young, black…
Then the sports shockerooni: It’s been quite a weekend. Today we learnt (from the UK press initially) that five Jamaican athletes have tested positive for banned substances. Three of them are Olympic medal-winners Asafa Powell and Sherone Simpson; and national record holder in discus Allison Randal. Usain Bolt‘s arch-rival Tyson Gay also tested positive. What a great shame. Following the shock of Veronica Campbell Brown‘s positive test, Jamaicans feel rather deflated. We don’t have the other two Jamaican names yet. It’s depressing though. I don’t know much about athletics, but is the list of banned substances simply too long and complex? Each athlete will soon have to surround him/herself with a phalanx of chemists, in future. So much for sports…
Enormous hugs to:
- Twelve-year-old Latonya Clayton, who is Jamaica’s top Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) student. Latonya attends St. Jude’s Primary School and plans to go to the excellent St. Andrew’s High School for Girls. She is from Olympic Court in Waltham Gardens, not a “posh” part of town. I love the photo below of Latonya and her loving family…
- And another Jamaican lady who is one hundred and twelve – probably the oldest living Jamaican – Jane Young, who lives in a Kingston old age home. She is very fond of Guinness and that favorite beverage of Jamaicans, Malta – which is non-alcoholic. She is a very good advertisement for these drinks!
- Jamaicans for Justice for all the work they do. As they continue their campaign on behalf of our children in conflict with the law, they have started a petition. Please do take a look at the page, read, sign and share, if you can. Thank you. http://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/stop-the-abuse-of-jamaica-s-children-by-the-government.
- Digicel Volunteerism Club, who donated toys and other supplies last week to Eve for Life Jamaica, which works with and empowers teen and young mothers living with HIV and AIDS, and their children. Jamaica Observer reporter Kimmo Matthews also focused on Eve’s ongoing campaign “Nuh Go Deh,” which targets adult men who pursue sexual relationships with under-age girls, and who often infect them with HIV/AIDS and other diseases. Thanks to all! And please support Eve for Life in any way you can. Donations in kind for the mothers and children (food, clothing etc) as well as funding are badly needed and will be put to very good use.
- Jean Lowrie-Chin – businesswoman, newspaper columnist, poet, Chair of the awesome Stella Maris Foundation (and more): just for being who she is…and for being the “voice of reason” in our little Jamaican “Twitterland” when the discussions get overly passionate!
Among other violent deaths in the latter half of this week, the police killed an eighteen-year-old in West Kingston. Was there an outcry? Is anyone “heartbroken” – as one of my Jamaican friends was over poor Trayvon’s death? How many Jamaicans wept and wrung their hands when the killer of 13-year-old Janice Allen was acquitted?
Randel Ricketts, 32, George’s Plain, Westmoreland
Nicola Green, 36, Montego Bay, St. James
Odane Mendez, 23, Elim District, St. Elizabeth
Matthew Darby, Lacovia, St. Elizabeth
Unidentified man, Content/York Town, Clarendon
Unidentified man, Content/York Town, Clarendon
Killed by the police:
Damaro Lewis, 18, Denham Town, Kingston
Related links and articles (local blogs in purple):
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130711/lead/lead1.html ”Bad move, Bunting”: JLP angered by security minister’s role in “Dudus” documentary: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/Bunting–did-divine-intervention-tell-you-to-do-the-documentary- Bunting, did divine intervention tell you to do the documentary? Letter to Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/The-Jamaica-Labour-Party—A-liberating-force-for-70-years_14676592 The Jamaica Labour Party: A liberating force for 70 years: edited version of former Prime Minister Edward Seaga’s speech: Sunday Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=46428 JLP to participate in Tivoli enquiry: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130714/cleisure/cleisure4.html Mop up JLP with enquiry, Holness: Daniel Thwaites column/Sunday Gleaner
http://jabajanas.blogspot.com/2011/09/am-i-troy-davis-or-am-i-khajeel-mais-am.html Am I Troy Davis? Or am I Khajeel Mais? Am I even significant? jabajanas.com
https://newsandviewsbydjmillerja.wordpress.com/2012/04/21/would-we-care-if-trayvon-martin-had-died-in-jamaica/ Would we care if Trayvon Martin had died in Jamaica? newsandviewsbydjmillerja
http://redforgender.wordpress.com/2013/07/14/reactions-to-the-zimmerman-verdict-from-the-caribbean/ Reactions to the Zimmerman verdict from the Caribbean: Feminist Conversations on Caribbean Life
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130713/cleisure/cleisure1.html Time to fix jury system: Gleaner editorial
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Chinese-under-siege—Criminals–cops-extort–rob-businessmen-at-will Chinese under siege: Criminals, cops extort, rob businessmen at will: Sunday Observer
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads-100/34530 JFLL undergoes renaissance: Jamaica Information Service
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Senate-passes-Defamation-Bill_14678553 Senate passes Defamation Bill: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130711/lead/lead5.html Teenage pregnancy still a concern for Jamaica: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130711/cleisure/cleisure3.html Declining birth rate cause for concern: Wayne Campbell op-ed/Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Those-dirty-old-men-still-going-after-young-girls-for-sex Those dirty old men still going after young girls for sex: Jamaica Observer
http://worldpulse.com/magazine/articles/women-to-watch-4-girls-empowerment-champions?page=0,2 Women to Watch: Q & A with Nadeen Spence: worldpulse.com
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Ascot-Primary-school-family-mourning-after-11-year-old-s-death Ascot Primary School family mourning after 11 year-old’s death: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads-100/34543 Reduction of teachers on study leave will save $840 million: Jamaica Information Service
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130711/cleisure/cleisure4.html It’s homelessness, NOT rowdy gays! Jaevion Nelson column/Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/JFLAG-hits-out-at-gay-thieves_14634726 J-FLAG hits out at gay thieves: Sunday Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130713/cleisure/cleisure2.html Faith vs reason: Ethon Lowe op-ed/Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130713/news/news6.html A home for Ezra: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130711/news/news7.html Agro parks concept sparking excitement: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130711/news/news8.html ”They had no excuse”: Gleaner
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/nepa-halts-agro-project-at-amity-hall-citing-environment-breaches NEPA halts project at Amity Hall citing environmental breaches: RJR News
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130711/news/news9.html Inside the Cockpit Country: Stakeholders question value of boundary consultations: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130713/lead/lead3.html Delinquent fishers won’t get off the hook easily: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/environment/Jamaica-growing-eco-smart_14657559 Jamaica growing eco-smart: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/environment/Guy-s-Hill-wins-_14602332 Guy’s Hill wins! Jamaica Observer
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads-117/34542 U.S. Ambassador urges government to create economic opportunities for women: Jamaica Information Service
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Achievement-excites-top-GSAT-student_14679829#ixzz2Z4BKuRbi Achievement excites top GSAT student: Sunday Observer
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads/34550 Young people in Spanish Town to benefit from ICT and entrepreneurial training: Jamaica Information Service
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Chantal-prompts-look-at-lack-of-funds-for-flood-mitigation_14664624 Chantal prompts look at lack of funds for flood mitigation: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads/34529 Flash flood watch in effect for eastern and central parishes: Jamaica Information Service
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=46479 Difficult time, says Sherone, Asafa devastated: Sunday Gleaner
http://www.caribjournal.com/2013/07/12/in-kingston-a-literary-voyage-in-the-caribbeans-cultural-capital/ In Kingston, a literary voyage in the Caribbean’s cultural capital: Caribbean Journal
In yesterday evening’s blog post, I mentioned a young woman – an unusually early arrival for the hurricane season – named Chantal. I noted that Tropical Storm Chantal was expected to brush past Jamaica, with a flutter of her skirts – maybe a little rain.
Well, the “remnants” of Chantal proved rather unkind, overnight. Perhaps out of spite – having been downgraded to a mere tropical wave – Chantal roused herself and put on a fearsome display over Kingston between three and five in the morning. The sky lit up like a strobe light with almost continuous flashes of lightning, illuminating the sky with an unearthly grey-white glow. Three deafening crashes of thunder reduced me and our two dogs to trembling nervous wrecks. My husband, being the man of the house, put on a brave face.
At four o’clock we got up. I had a cup of tea, my husband cocoa, and we demolished the rock bun we had been saving until today. Food, and light, is comforting. I logged on to Twitter and found that most of my Kingston timeline was up too, and wide awake. My friends were also tweeting about food – hominy porridge, oven pizza, red pea soup, chick peas, chocolate milk, chicken nuggets, and more. “It brought out the child in a lot of us just now,” someone commented.
Yes, Chantal was a mean girl. You remember? The kind of horrid little girl at school who walks past you with a smile, but gives you a sharp dig in the ribs as she passes.
And then there was the Petchary. Yes, the real Petchary, or to give it its proper name, the Gray Kingbird. Through the most violent part of the storm, in between the huge rolls of thunder, we heard him. He was out there, his shrill voice piercing the darkness. It’s not surprising that he is sometimes called the storm bird. As you may know, the Petchary is a summer visitor from South America. Somehow he is drawn to the season of storms in the Caribbean Basin, which begins in June and ends (officially) on December 1, although it’s usually over by November.
The Petchary is unafraid. He defies the storm with his fierce cry. And of course, “he” could be a female. I hope to live up to the name, one day!
Tropical Storm Chantal claims victim (bbc.co.uk)
- Tropical Storm Chantal weakens to tropical wave (sacbee.com)
Another week is flying past, breezy and rainless. And a storm is fluttering around.
Chantal brushing past… Our Meteorological Office decided that Tropical Storm Chantal was “not a threat” to Jamaica before she even arrived in the Caribbean Basin. A little premature, and indeed Chantal did not follow her projected course. For a while Jamaica was on Tropical Storm Watch, but happily the storm has weakened. Chantal may bring some rain in her wake, and we will be happy for that. Kingston’s reservoirs are getting low, again. Perhaps the Met Office could wait and see a little bit. We have been surprised in the past by storms, haven’t we… I am thankful for the National Hurricane Center and weather.com.
Oh, and Chantal has actually given our Prime Minister an opportunity to speak. She has told us to be cautious.
…but a bit of drama brewing: Was it poor judgment by the current National Security Minister Peter Bunting to participate in a Biography Channel documentary on the now-incarcerated Tivoli Gardens “don” Christopher “Dudus” Coke? The Jamaica Labour Party believes so, and is now busy “examining” the Minister’s statements. I missed the program, but I found the full episode von the channel’s website; however, a voice tells me, “This content is currently unavailable.” Rather odd. This seems to be another ingredient in the murky soup in which the upcoming Commission of Enquiry is swimming; the pot is bubbling and brewing. But I am still far from impressed by the JLP leader’s deeply opaque remarks on the Commission. Mr. Holness now says the party is not opposed to the Commission taking place, but… Oh, I dunno. Can we not just cool down a little and stop politicizing for just a minute or two? (Oh, the documentary is in a series called “Gangsters: America’s Most Evil.” A Jamaican tweep commented, “Oh, so Dudus is American now?” )
The Septuagenarian: Meanwhile, the JLP, founded by Sir Alexander Bustamante, celebrated its seventieth birthday on July 8. Former Prime Minister Edward Seaga made a speech (in which he spoke about the potentially liberating effect of the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms, among many other things). I have received a copy, but don’t know how to add it to this blog as I don’t have a link to it yet, only a document. Yes, I am (quite often) technologically challenged. Advice, anyone? I think it will soon be online and will post the link as soon as I get it.
That diaspora conference: Yes, like Senator Christopher Tufton, I do have some questions. It was all the rage in the media a few weeks ago. Now what? Follow-up, monitoring, evaluation, results? Too early for results, I guess – but what plans and what timelines? We would love to know. Plus, of course, the cost to taxpayers, if it hasn’t been divulged already.
Wondering where the tablets are? Hold your horses. The Government hasn’t actually sourced the 30,000 tablet computers it intends to distribute to 35 selected schools come the new academic year in September. They are inviting bids.
Hotel puzzle: After a fire back in March, the Wyndham Kingston Hotel (which was the Hilton until quite recently) closed for renovations. Now the Wyndham is leaving altogether. I realize that there is some legal dispute, but one wonders – will the hotel, a prominent landmark in New Kingston, reopen any time soon? Are there any other reasons why the Wyndham is leaving? We have already lost the Ritz Carlton in Montego Bay (and does anyone have an update on that?)
The plight of the homeless: In a way, the media histrionics (not all of the media) over homeless gay men may have helped to highlight the agonizing plight of what seems to be a growing number of homeless people of all ages and backgrounds. A woman has been living on a bench outside Kingston Public Hospital for the past three weeks, according to the report below, having been abandoned there by her family. The most painful part of the story is the final comment by a health official: “It has reached a stage where when they (families) no longer want to take care of them, they dump them on the hospital compound.” (But it seems the authorities were aware of this situation. And…? Did nothing?)
Petchary Appreciation Awards:
- All those Jamaican men who support women’s right to choose what they do with their bodies and their lives! I can mention a number of names…But you know who you are. And we do so appreciate you! Thank you.
- “Beyond the Headlines” - a consistently good current affairs program on Radio Jamaica, ably moderated by Dionne Jackson-Miller. This evening’s program with J-FLAG’s Dane Lewis and attorney-at-law Gordon Robinson diligently sought solutions to the complex and painful issue of the gay homeless men – an issue that has created much sensationalism in other parts of the media. Some steps forward were suggested – including that the criminal elements in this group (who are a minority) must be separated from the law-abiding ones, first. Listeners texted irritably about the gays getting special treatment, etc., and they wish they would go away, not our problem. But, as Dionne noted, ignoring a problem won’t make it go away. it will get worse, and come back to slap you in the face later. And as Dane Lewis pointed out, the root cause is discrimination. (But we are not very good at identifying root causes and addressing them, are we?)
- Broadcaster and Gleaner columnist George Davis, who always tries to be provocative. Sometimes his efforts fall flat, but this week’s was spot on (“Why are we lying to ourselves?” ) But George, you know Jamaicans have been busy sweeping problems under the carpet for donkeys’ years (if you will pardon that rather odd expression). And you must have an inkling of when the “rot set in”? As for the pot boiling over, I think a more apt metaphor would be that of the frogs in the pot of water. The Jamaican frogs have suddenly realized, too late, that the gently heating water is now too hot. It’s basically the same theme as Dionne’s discussion this evening - Oh, it’s not happening to US…Oh, ow, yes, it IS!
- Digicel Foundation and the Camara Jamaica Foundation, which recently donated computers and educational software to a high-performing school in deep rural St. Thomas (and yes, Arcadia really is rural!) I am sure the young students of Arcadia Primary School will make good use of them. And I hope that they are well secured and that the surrounding community will also ensure that no one preys on our educational institutions. I’m sorry, but this has happened with frightening regularity, and it’s heart-breaking when schools are robbed.
Three sets of brothers were killed – among nine (yes, nine) murders that have taken place since Sunday – plus an additional shooting victim who succumbed to injuries a few days ago. Anyway, that makes THREE per day. Additionally, two of the six brothers were killed by the police in Kingston, provoking the usual angry protests that prevented the Independent Commission of Investigation (INDECOM) from gaining access to the scene to investigate. This is utterly tragic.
Norman Rowe, Rowlandsfield/Golden Grove, St. Thomas
Herman Rowe, Rowlandsfield/Golden Grove, St. Thomas
Kevin Reid, 22, Tucker Irwin, St. James
Oshane Ebanks, 18, Tucker Irwin, St. James
Damion Cousins, 30, Hart Hill, Portland
Erica Foster, 38, May Pen, Clarendon
Michael Williams, 56, Red Ground/Old Harbour, St. Catherine
Unidentified man, Bridgeport, St. Catherine
Wayne Williams, 42, Pike, Manchester
Leo McLaughlin, 18, Westmoreland
Killed by police:
Gary Cooke, 29, Red Hills Road, Kingston
Soyoga Cooke, 20, Red Hills Road, Kingston
Related links and websites (local blogs in purple):
http://digjamaica.com/imf IMF Special Report: diGJamaica.com
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Tufton-tables-questions-on-recent-diaspora-conference_14658091 Tufton tables questions on recent diaspora conference: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130710/cleisure/cleisure2.html Why are we lying to ourselves? George Davis column/Gleaner
http://drtammyhaynes.wordpress.com/2013/07/07/connecting-the-dots-a-word-on-legalizing-abortion-in-jamaica/ Connecting the dots: A word on legalizing abortion in Jamaica: Dr. Tammy Haynes blog
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Buggery-law–Government-will-bow_14640324 Buggery law: Government will bow: Jamaica Observer
http://redforgender.wordpress.com/2013/07/07/the-double-injustice-of-buggery-laws/ The double injustice of buggery laws: Feminist Conversations on Caribbean Life
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130709/letters/letters2.html Turn off gaydar and rescue homeless: Letter to Gleaner from hotelier Josef Forstmayr
http://jamaica-star.com/thestar/20130710/news/news1.html Woman lives on hospital bench: Jamaica Star
http://www.caribbean-beat.com/issue-122/j-flag-respecting-difference J-FLAG: Respecting difference: CaribbeanBeat.com
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=46321 Police kill two brothers off Red Hills Road: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130708/news/news1.html Perilous times: Parliament should urgently debate motions on natural disasters: The Gavel/Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130709/cleisure/cleisure1.html Graduating from what? Gleaner editorial
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130709/letters/letters5.html Have a glass of facts with your cake, Gary: Letter to the Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Montague–JLP-has-lived-up-to-its-core-values_14652515 Montague: JLP has lived up to its core values: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/JLP-to-celebrate-70-over-next-12-months_14652883 JLP to celebrate 70 over next twelve months: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130707/arts/arts1.html Art repurposed: an eclectic mix of creativity, technology: Sunday Gleaner
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xAcCqVWFRFE&feature=youtu.be I support Jamaica because… Jamaica National Foundation video
http://jamaica-star.com/thestar/20130710/news/news5.html Digicel Foundation powers Arcadia Primary with ICT: Jamaica Star
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads/34513 Small island states must address climate change mitigation: Jamaica Information Service
http://repeatingislands.com/2013/07/08/top-jamaican-chef-brian-lumley-wins-taste-of-the-caribbean-chef-of-the-year-award/ Top Jamaican chef Brian Lumley wins Taste of the Caribbean Chef of the Year award: Repeating Islands
http://jablogz.com/2013/07/the-challenged-chronicles-four/ The Challenged Chronicles Four: article by Maia Chung on jablogz.com
Just a quick thought here, and I hope my readers will bear with me.
As I write, Tropical Storm Chantal is bustling out of the Atlantic Ocean towards Barbados, which is now on Tropical Storm Warning. As a storm developing before July 15, Chantal is extremely unusual, as a meteorologist notes in the article below. Until now, only thirteen named storms have ever entered the Caribbean Basin before July 15 – since 1851. Dr. Jeff Masters sees this as a “harbinger” of an extremely active hurricane season. Before she even entered the Caribbean, however, our National Meteorological Service seemed quite certain that “Chantal is not a threat to Jamaica.”
I am a little nervous. (Is it only me?)
Some time ago in a blog post I expressed concern that no mention was made during the budget debate about the possibility of a natural disaster this year, and how such an “external shock” might impact the extremely fragile Jamaican economy. So far as I know, no mention was made of funds set aside for disaster preparedness and mitigation…or the eventuality of a major hurricane (or earthquake, flood etc., come to that). Yes, I know there is a Ministry of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change – but it seems to me that these four areas are in priority order. There has been much talk about water supply, as rightly there should be. Land is always a hot topic. But environment and climate change? Not so much.
I would love someone to prove me wrong. I see there is a Disaster Fund, and that a Disaster Risk Management Bill will likely be passed some time in this parliamentary year. No rush, it seems. Meanwhile, the Fund stands at some J$250 million (US$2.5 million) – which doesn’t seem very much in the scheme of things, does it? Now, last year Hurricane Sandy was only a Category One hurricane when it impacted Jamaica, but it caused around US$100 million in damage. Over 4,000 homes were damaged, and the agricultural sector was hard hit, to the tune of approximately J$1.4 billion. That disaster fund isn’t going to go far. But Jamaica has signed on to the Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility, and in April Jamaica did receive US$100,000 for post-Sandy recovery.
I was told when I mentioned this on social media that, OK, the “donor agencies” (foreign governments) will help out if there is a disaster. And indeed they have, in the past. But there are natural disasters all over the world at any given time. Are we just going to hold our hands out and beg for help every time there is a storm? Can’t we help ourselves? (I hope I have got all these figures right. Please correct me if I am wrong). The point is, I suppose, that Sandy was only seven months or so ago. Our memories seem short.
Meanwhile, the Jamaican Government’s Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management seems rather quiet. Is the Government holding its breath, keeping its fingers crossed and just hoping the worst doesn’t happen this year?
I hate to be paranoid, but what if we get a direct, or even a glancing hit from a major hurricane in the next two or three months? Even tropical storms can (and have) done incredible damage – Nicole, in September 2010, brought widespread and intense flooding, resulting in landslides and loss of life.
My husband and I have vivid memories of Hurricane Gilbert in 1988. The physical and psychological shock of that storm was enormous. I remember trying to drive through a devastated city… 45 Jamaicans died in Hurricane Gilbert.
And please don’t tell me that Jamaica is a “God blessed island,” or something. Let’s get real. We need to understand that climate change is here to stay; that we will be affected by another hurricane (or earthquake) inevitably; that our environment is both neglected and degraded; and that rather than praying, each one of us needs to pick ourselves up and start trying to strengthen our resistance to storms. Whatever we can do. And that includes not building on gully banks or in river beds. And caring for our environment.
Please take whatever steps are necessary to protect yourself and your surroundings. Don’t wait and hope it never happens.
I am not a prophetess of doom. But I do agree with Lord Byron, who once said, “The best prophet of the future is the past.”
Related articles and websites:
http://www.wunderground.com/blog/JeffMasters/comment.html?entrynum=2456 Dr. Jeff Masters’ WunderBlog, July 8, 2013
http://www.jis.gov.jm/component/content/article/122-parliament/34206-bill-to-be-tabled-to-boost-disaster-fund Bill to be tabled to boost disaster fund: Jamaica Information Service
http://www.odpem.org.jm Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management
http://www.metservice.gov.jm Meteorological Service of Jamaica website
http://www.ccrif.org Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility website
Tropical Storm Chantal forms, races toward Caribbean (coralvillecourier.typepad.com)
5 Ways to Landscape for Hurricane Preparedness (allstate.com)
Yardedge Addresses Climate Change and the Caribbean (repeatingislands.com)
World Environment Day: June 5, 2013 (petchary.wordpress.com)
http://hill60bump.com Caribbean Sustainable Development blog – very informative
Here are a few random photographs I took recently, while wandering around our Kingston yard. As the hurricane season approaches, there is change in the air…
I must have mentioned The Drought. Although some parts of the island have had rain, the unusually long dry spell has bitten very hard in the area we live in, in the shadow of the Blue Mountains. The days grow warmer, a dusty wind blows, and the drought enters its fourth month. Today, a light rain fell, dripped from the eaves of the roof, and then stopped, evaporating from the earth as quickly as it arrived.
The birds in our garden are trying to cope. There are few of our winter visitors remaining; the warblers that migrate to and from the United States seem to have left a little early. For the larger birds, our garden has become a haven, with particular focus on the bird bath. I feel we should have several of them, and have placed additional bowls on the ground in various parts of the garden. In the mornings, these bowls are empty, sometimes containing a tiny feather or two. Thank you, they seem to say; more water, please.
I have noticed the presence of two fine baldpates (White Crowned Pigeons). These very shy birds are now so anxious for water, it seems, that they are regular visitors to our humble garden. We are graced with their regal presence every morning, and every evening. Baldpates travel great distances and they may roam further during the days, foraging for food. But they return to the water pipe in the middle of our lawn. Although wasting water is something we are very careful about, the pipe does sometimes drip after we have used it. The baldpates love these small drops of water – just the right size for their beaks, perhaps. Balancing their large, slate-grey bodies, they take delicate sips. One remains on the ground, his white-capped head held erect, while the other drinks; they take it in turns. Then, when other birds arrive for a bath, they fly off, very swift on the wing.
And then we have the Smooth-Billed Anis, who are regular visitors to our garden throughout the year. Announcing their arrival with loud squawks (not at all tuneful, but then they are related to parrots), the Anis arrive in twos and threes and fours and sometimes more. They are large, black and ungainly. They flop down on the bird bath, seeming quietly relieved to have arrived safely at their destination. They then crouch in and around the bath, half-in, half-out of the water, their rather beautiful tails spreading like fans. They don’t mind being squeezed up – in fact, they are one of the few birds who do like to stay in close quarters with each other. And when they arrive, and start to splash (they are never in a hurry) there is certainly no space for our doves and the noisy grackles.
I wrote a blog post about the beloved baldpate almost two years ago. Here is the link to it: http://petchary.wordpress.com/2011/05/13/the-shining-baldpate/ It includes one of the few photos I have ever been able to take of this bird in our yard – right at the very top of our guango tree.
And so, we and the birds carry on, waiting for the rain. Please help them in your garden, too, by offering bowls of water.