Busy week, but I hope I haven’t missed out too much. Please bear with me…
The struggle continues… Back to the political killing floor. Sorry to use this violent imagery, but many columnists and talk shows are still mulling over the Jamaica Labour Party skirmishes last week, that left several members suffering possibly mortal wounds. What will happen to Christopher Tufton and Audley Shaw and others, whom I consider to be the brightest of that bunch? I hope they find their place somehow, so that they are able to contribute to the governance of the nation. They have a lot to offer. And can Andrew Holness do a decent job in the Finance Spokesman role? His mentor Edward Seaga also handled that portfolio himself… I don’t know. We shall see. It’s pretty messy.
So now, the Supreme Court should tomorrow hear a claim by former Leader of Opposition Business in the Senate Arthur Williams, himself an attorney. He is seeking an injunction to block Holness from filling the two Senate seats vacated by himself and Christopher Tufton, after Holness’ crafty sleight of hand last week. Yes, Mr. Holness has been crafty and may well feel that he has been rather smart. However, he now has a legal case as well as a deadwood Shadow Cabinet of yes-men (and one yes-woman). Read more here: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=49401Is
Mr. Ruel Reid is a very good school principal, by all accounts. Last week, Opposition Leader Andrew Holness quickly named him as Senator. But does he have time for this, as well as serving on a couple of boards? And he had better be careful not to let the politics spill over into his work as headmaster of the famous Jamaica College. The Minister of Education sounds concerned and somewhat wary; so am I.
PetroCaribe is doing a “wobbly”: A recent article in the Christian Science Monitor suggests that all is not well with Venezuela‘s PetroCaribe arrangements with at least one of the 17 participating nations. Its oil contracts with China and India must be profitable than those with Caribbean countries. Will the terms of Venezuela’s agreement with Jamaica change, in terms of higher interest rates etc? Energy Minister Phillip Paulwell says the agreement is “intact” and unchanged. Venezuela’s economy is in a mess, with a soaring crime rate and actual oil production very low. The man with the mustache is also not a reliable character. He will be ruling by decree for the next year – at least – so a dictatorship is in place, at least a temporary one. Read more here: http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Americas/2013/1115/Venezuela-s-regional-energy-program-Petrocaribe-wobbles
Financial news: The “big” news is that the economy grew in the last quarter by a whopping 0.6 per cent. After six consecutive quarters of negative growth, this is something to get mildly excited about. Inflation, however, is lurking in the wings and creeping up – as we are all painfully aware of when we visit the supermarket. It was 3.7 per cent in the last quarter – above the Bank of Jamaica target of two to three per cent. But financial reporting sometimes baffles me. The Gleaner reports that, in addition to increases in transportation costs, the reason for higher inflation was “higher costs associated with the summer holidays and preparations for the start of the new school year.” Er, doesn’t this happen every year? Read more here: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131120/business/business1.html
And in infrastructure news… An engineer has wisely suggested we build roads with concrete (which we actually produce here) rather than surfacing them with a (generally too thin) layer of imported asphalt. Concrete lasts much longer too. And over 600 street lights have mysteriously turned up in Trelawny – they have “moved” from somewhere else! So many? It is staggering. The poor Jamaica Public Service Company has to be constantly one or two steps ahead of the ingenious light thieves. Read more here: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Engineer-touts-benefits-of-concrete-roads_15432634 and http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131118/lead/lead6.html
Impunity basically means getting away with it. Impunity “tun up” these days (to coin a Jamaican phrase): for the electricity thieves; for the crazy bus and taxi drivers who threaten our lives daily on the road; for the operators of “Ponzi” schemes who have fleeced many Jamaicans of millions; for those police officers who break the law themselves; for those faceless, nameless rampaging mobs who regularly take the law into their own hands, as in the case of Dwayne Jones; and according to the latest study from the University of the West Indies (UWI), for the vast majority of murderers out there, who are never brought to justice.
UWI Professor Anthony Clayton tells us that the conviction rate for murder is less than five per cent per year. We always knew that this was a major concern, but the numbers are stark. Read more here: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131120/lead/lead1.html Are we going to hear from Minister of National Security Peter Bunting? Can he handle this portfolio, I have to ask? We cannot just blame the police; they are out of their depth and struggling. “Operation Resilience” (endless curfews, “shootouts” and the rounding up of young men in inner cities) is just not working. Those methods never have worked. A policy rethink is needed. A serious rethink, Minister.
It’s not just the murders. There has been a heightened level of violence and insecurity. A schoolgirl in Clarendon shot and injured accidentally by the police who were pursuing a suspect. A student in Portland stabbed by a fellow student and seriously ill in hospital. And again I ask, what was going on outside the Police Commissioner’s Office on Hope Road on Saturday evening – loud gunfire, huge traffic jam? Since I live just down the road, I would love to know.
As I mentioned in my last post, the brother of a journalist friend of mine was shot dead in downtown Kingston a few days ago. Here are Rohan Powell’s heartfelt comments on Facebook: “It has been more than four days since my brother Evon Powell was shot and killed on Sutton street, just a short hop from our childhood home. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to grasp that he was the target. The killer, like many others who have carried out similar dastardly acts, are known as cowards. He or she didn’t give my brother a fighting chance. The reality is that his life has been snuffed out by someone who wanted to “make a duppy”. My brother’s death speaks to the vicious cycle of what we call Life. Nothing can bring him back…all we can look forward to, is that he will enjoy a peaceful rest near to Joan..his mother…and that his children all , can lift their heads high and be proud to carry on the Powell name with pride and dignity….”
A mob of residents killed one man and injured two others whom they accused of stealing goats in rural Mocho. A teenage boy, a student of Morant Bay High School, was shot along with his grandmother and later died from his injuries. A teenage girl, a student of Lennon High School, was found dead in the Mocho area of Clarendon. A well-known farmer and businessman was shot in Black River. A bakery owner was shot dead on Monday morning on his way to the bank in Montego Bay. A teenage boy was reportedly beaten to death and another seriously injured by the police in Sandy Bay, Hanover. And so the sad stories continue. My condolences to the grieving families and loved ones left behind.
Everton Lewis, 63, Black River, St. Elizabeth
Kadiane Smith, 16, Bamboo River/Morant Bay, St. Thomas
Unidentified man, Queens Street/Morant Bay, St. Thomas
Rayon Lee Massie, 26, St. Thomas Technical High School
Carol Matthews, 43, Braeton, St. Catherine
Cedrick Ravine, 54, Rio Nuevo, St. Mary
Ralston Cole, 39, Castleton, St. Mary
Amariah Green, Mocho, Clarendon (mob killing)
Calecia Edwards, 15, Brixton Hill, Clarendon
Clinton Young, 45, Montego Bay, St. James
Everton Ewan, Johns Common, St. James
Killed by police:
Ashanti Clarke, 17, Sandy Bay, Hanover
Here are some more articles of interest, on the ongoing politics and such:
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131119/lead/lead1.html Security expert says police not aiming at right target to buck murder trend: Gleaner
http://jamaicapoliticaleconomy.wordpress.com/2013/11/18/the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly-november-17/ The good, the bad and the ugly: jamaicapoliticaleconomy.wordpress.com
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131118/cleisure/cleisure4.html Unconscionable political prenuptial agreement: Bert Samuels op-ed, Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Respect-my-mandate-_15459245 Respect my mandate! Holness tells the defeated: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Holness-to-establish-order-within-JLP_15463787 Holness to establish order within JLP: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Democracy-and-the-JLP—a-long-way-from-home_15459216 Democracy and the JLP – a long way from home: Louis Moyston column/Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/A-time-for-inspiration_15459069 A time for inspiration: Jean Lowrie-Chin column/Jamaica Observer
http://www.caribbeanlifenews.com/stories/2013/11/2013_11_15_vkp_jamaica_youth_minister.html Jamaica‘s youth minister pleads to UNESCO: Caribbean Life
http://www.caribbeannewsnow.com/headline-Mentors-to-assist-Caribbean-fisherfolk-to-enhance-their-contribution-to-food-security-18715.html Mentors to assist Caribbean fisherfolk to enhance their contribution to food security: Caribbean News Now
Both our political parties went into “shoot yourself in the foot” mode this week, in very different ways. But basically sparking the same general reaction among many of us: kiss teeth, shrug shoulders, sigh, laugh, cry, groan, make cynical noises. And of course, more great fodder for the media.
Let’s start with the party in power, the People’s National Party: As I warned you in Wednesday’s post, at five o’clock that evening the former Junior Minister in the Ministry of Transport and Works, Richard Azan had said he was not aware of any plans to reinstate him. The very next morning at nine o’clock he and his colleagues dutifully appeared all dressed up at King’s House. His colleagues applauded him as the Governor General swore him in. Everyone clapped. Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller (wearing those hideous sunglasses again, indoors) gave him a warm hug and kiss. The Jamaica Labour Party‘s Daryl Vaz attended (hmm) because the Azans are family friends, or something. Yes, after all the hand-wringing, finger-pointing and recriminations, Mr. Azan is back. He resigned just two months ago after huge public pressure. His return was apparently “urgent” - the reason perhaps being that Mr. Azan’s boss Omar Davies is taking sick leave for an operation.
Oh, what of the promised single anti-corruption agency, which I understand the government had promised to create by year-end? Just a few weeks to go, and… Well?
Since the re-election of Andrew Holness as Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) leader at their conference a week ago, the machinations of the Opposition have become quite complex. The chain of events goes something like this (hope I get this right): Sunday: Holness is re-elected with 57.3% of the delegates’ votes, defeating Audley Shaw. (Fake?) smiles all round. Monday: Holness receives a bunch of resignation letters from Shaw supporters. Tuesday: Holness wants all eight JLP Senators to resign, and then says he didn’t say that. Holness announces his dreary old Shadow Cabinet. Audley Shaw and Ed Bartlett say they cannot accept positions because of certain issues (including the disputed nomination of two deputy leaders, Christopher Tufton and James Robertson). Wednesday: What happened? I can’t remember. Thursday: It seems five JLP senators have resigned. Two prominent ones (Christopher Tufton and Arthur Williams) will not. Oh yes, then they did. Williams says Holness used undated resignation letters! Friday: A confused Upper House sits with five out of six remaining JLP senators present. Oh, Holness appointed a new one. His name is Alexander Williams. Weekend: Head spinning. Winner: Andrew Holness. Losers: Audley Shaw. The JLP. Democracy. Governance.
Is Holness the “transformational leader” he thinks he is? Will the JLP ever win an election again? What of all the pieces in this manic chess game? Is there space for them, or have some been knocked off the board? I personally believe Holness has just been a little too “smart” for his own good. At least party chairman Bobby Montague seems to be keeping sane while everyone else is losing their heads…
Meanwhile the private sector is getting antsy again, and it’s not surprising. Businessman Gassan Azan gave a speech recently about this eternal business of “cutting red tape.” If you recall, Jamaica just slipped on the annual “Doing Business” rankings. Mr. Azan wants the government to do something about it, not just talk. But the relevant government ministers are all in a tizzy over the logistics hub. Red tape? Oh, that’s boring stuff. Here is an edited version of Mr. Azan’s speech: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Cutting-the-red-tape–and–making-it-easier-to-do-business–have-become-almost-meaningless_15447161
The Contractor General is right. What is the point of the whistleblower legislation passed during the JLP administration at the end of 2010? One could say there is no “culture” of whistle-blowing in Jamaica (how I hate that word sometimes). Instead, we have the “informer fi dead culture.” We are all afraid of our own shadows. No whistle-blowing round here.
Drums rolling and trumpets blaring for these awesome people:
- Usain Bolt and Shelly-Ann Fraser Pryce, along with singer Tessanne Chin, are keeping Jamaicans’ morale up. The two athletes were named World Athletes of the Year (Usain for the fifth time, Shelly-Ann for the first) by the IAAF in a glitzy affair in Monaco over the weekend. They both looked gorgeous – and they are two marvelous role models. We are proud.
- Sir Richard Branson and volunteer Josh Chamberlain who are working together on a project for the Alpha Boys School called Alpha Wear Jamaica. Sir Richard was in Jamaica recently. Read more on Kate Chappell’s blog: http://jamaicajournal.wordpress.com/2013/11/13/branson-visits-jamaica/
- Sheena South and the Portmore Youth Information Centre, who yesterday aired the “Girl Rising” documentary. Here’s Sheena’s Facebook message: “10X10 is a global campaign to educate and empower girls. At the center of the campaign is a feature film, Girl Rising. It’s by an Academy Award nominated director (Richard Robbins) and features performances from Meryl Streep, Anne Hathaway, Selena Gomez, Salma Hayek, Alicia Keys, and others. This important film tells the stories of nine remarkable girls from around the world who are striving beyond circumstance, pushing past limits and demonstrating the extraordinary strength of the human spirit to overcome the odds. Yet it also carries a powerful message: if we educate girls, we can change the future of some 66 million girls around the world who today only dream of going to school.Together, we can create powerful change. I hope you’ll join this movement with me.” Great initiative!
- Dale and Evette Walker and the people of Bunker’s Hill in Trelawny (I love that name) who are working to build their community through the Bunker’s Hill Community Development Committee. “They used to call me typewriter at school,” says Evette, “because I was very good at writing.” Great story here: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/regional/Working-for-Bunker-s-Hill_15432245
- The people of Trench Town, who staged a special trade and development fair at Kingston’s Emancipation Park yesterday.
There has been a nine per cent increase in murders to date this year compared to last, according to police statistics. We have passed the 1,000 mark to 1,054. That’s 84 – yes, 84 – more deaths than the same time last year. A retired policeman was found murdered in his apartment, just down the road from our house. The brother of a journalist whom I know well, a netball coach, was also shot dead in Kingston. My condolences to their families and friends as well as to all those who continue to feel the pain of loss.
Kenneth Lynch, 66, Lady Musgrave Road, Kingston
Evon Powell, 48, Sutton/Duke Street, Kingston
“Raymond,” Darling Street/Spanish Town Road, Kingston
George Steering, 45, Spanish Town, St. Catherine
Oliver Kerr, 34, Sandy Bay, Hanover
Keeble Kerr, 36, Sandy Bay, Hanover
Clifford Lindo, 57, Palmers Cross, Clarendon
Infant male, York Town, Clarendon
Killed by the police:
Unidentified man, Spanish Town, St. Catherine
Unidentified man, Spanish Town, St. Catherine
Ryan Clarke, Retirement, St. James
To quote a Twitter friend tonight: “Yellow tape is good business.”
A few more articles on the Azan and JLP sagas:
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/civil-groups-strongly-object-reappointment-of-richard-azan_1 Local civil groups strongly object reappointment of Richard Azan: RJR News
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/-p-Opposition-slaps-Gov-t-over-Azan-s-reappointment–p—_15444623 Opposition slaps government over Azan’s reappointment: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131116/cleisure/cleisure1.html Gleaner editorial: PM’s misstep on Azan
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Resigning-after-a-mandate-change-the-ethical-thing-to-do–says-Holness_15444642 Resigning after a mandate change the ethical thing to do, says Holness: Sunday Observer
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/principle-not-bitterness-shaw-defends-decision-to-decline-post-in-shadow-cabinet Principle, not bitterness: Shaw defends decision to decline post in Shadow Cabinet: RJR News
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=49289 Holness criticized over Senate “resignations”: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131116/lead/lead2.html Upper House passes irrigation resolutions after Tufton’s resignation
http://digjamaica.com/blog/2013/11/15/5-facts-the-jamaican-senate/ Five Facts: The Jamaican Senate (the photograph is not of a Senate sitting however).
Our strange, moody weather continues. Murky clouds hang over Kingston, dripping rain here and there. And it’s open season on mosquitoes in our house.
The doping saga: The UK media are keeping tabs on the saga of the Jamaica Anti-Doping Commission (JADCO). Reports now emerge that the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) is furious that JADCO politely declined their request to visit Jamaica for an extraordinary audit this year and put them off until January 2014. It is particularly puzzling since I understood that Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller (who is our Sports Minister) invited WADA to come. Does the left hand know what the right is doing? Why are we making such a mess of all this? Now it appears that WADA will visit October 28-30, but some JADCO members will be overseas then… Can someone wave a magic wand and make it all go away please?
Closer ties with the “Commies”: (That’s a phrase from the Cold War – tongue in cheek). Members of the ruling People’s National Party (PNP) are currently en route to China, to forge closer ties with the political regime there. PNP General Secretary Robert Pickersgill (yes, our Environment Minister) is heading the delegation. Perhaps he will say something about the Portland Bight Protected Area/Goat Islands while he is there, like last time. He will not say anything about it in Jamaica. Read more: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=48793
Cronyism, nepotism, tribalism? Two items struck me this week: the suggestion by former PNP government minister Arnold Bertram that Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay be renamed after a PNP politician, Allan George Coombs. Donald Sangster was a former Jamaica Labour Party Prime Minister (Jamaica’s second) who died after only a few weeks in office. We also learn that former head of the PNP Youth Organisation (PNPYO) Mr. Junior Rose has been appointed Senior Director of Strategic Planning, Policy Research and Local Government Reform in the Ministry of Local Government. Is this jobs for the boys? Was this position advertised? (I have been increasingly unconvinced of any need for a Local Government Ministry in the first place). A career civil servant was pushed out to make way for Mr. Rose, the Opposition alleges. Read here: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/HONOUR-DENIED_15283812 and here: http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/controversy-surrounds-local-government-appointment
Former Contractor General Greg Christie reminded us this week of a great Gleaner article by Christopher Serju (which I missed – I was away) with some very relevant remarks by Professor Tommy Koh, Ambassador-at-Large for Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Not sure that Singapore (or anywhere) has “zero corruption,” but he pointed to the cost of it all. Adding, tellingly (and relevantly to the above): “…practise meritocracy (where) no one is appointed to a job because he knows somebody..” Another key arrow in Singapore’s armory was/is, of course, education. Read here: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130721/lead/lead3.html
I have a question: Why was the leader of the Opposition absent from Monday’s National Heroes Day ceremonies (wreath-laying and awards)? I do hope it wasn’t because his leadership rival Audley Shaw was receiving a national honor. I am perturbed by Mr. Holness’ apparent lack of maturity during this leadership race. Someone told me, “It’s important to have a young leader,” but youth in itself is not an asset. You’ve got to have some sense, too. He is making his aged (61 year-old) opponent look better and better…
For the fifth time! The corruption trial of former junior minister Kern Spencer and Colleen Wright was postponed for the fifth time yesterday. The Resident’s Magistrate’s was annoyed. The case is now nearly five years old and has been dragging on interminably. Of course, it didn’t help that the RM spent a long time wrangling with Director of Public Prosecutions Paula Llewellyn, half way through, creating considerable delay. The defense team is using every trick in the book, too. Our justice system is becoming a farce, isn’t it?
…and hot air: Meanwhile, with so many pressing matters afflicting the nation, Parliament decided to debate a resolution for the U.S. embargo on Cuba to be lifted. The lawmakers do this every year, with much pontificating, and they all agree. Many of the Opposition members were absent – apparently either campaigning, still on holiday, or both.
The price of fame: “Ras Puddler” found himself on the front page of the Jamaica Observer today photographed puffing on a chilum pipe. He was chilling on the beach in Belmont, Westmoreland on Sunday, during the town’s annual celebrations of Peter Tosh’s birthday, and sharing his views on the legalization of ganja – which I have to say made much sense to me. Alas, Ras Puddler’s fifteen minutes of fame were soon over, as the police arrested him today. He will be charged with possession of the aforementioned pipe, three pounds of ganja and some seedlings. I suppose it was rather foolish of him. But I confess I am a little confused by the current state of play on ganja legislation.
“The fact is that the family structure in Jamaica is dysfunctional”, Police Commissioner Owen Ellington says. Mothers reject their sons and drive them onto the streets because they can’t cope, he adds. So the answer is for the police to engage them in shootouts, right? Understanding the root of the crime problem is a good start, I suppose. Now, apply the right solutions.
I believe the police are overwhelmed by the burgeoning crime rate. The Commissioner speaks calmly but with barely disguised frustration in his voice. And Minister of National Security Peter Bunting, what say you? I have not heard HIS voice lately.
Congratulations to two women for their awesomeness:
- Diana McCaulay’s column in response to Gordon Robinson’s ill-informed nonsense about the Portland Bight Protected Area/Goat Islands is simply marvelous. Mr. Robinson, much as I often admire your satirical pieces, you were way off the mark on this one, and did not do your homework either. Ms. McCaulay has put you firmly in your place! A must-read: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131022/cleisure/cleisure2.html
- Petre Williams Raynor, who looks as if she has a forest growing out of her head in the photo below (sorry, Petre!). Petre was one of four “Forest Heroes” at a special award ceremony last week organized by the Forestry Department. Petre is now working with the non-governmental organization Panos Caribbean.
There have been many murders and shootings in the past few days. Our National Heroes must be turning in their graves, upon which wreaths were reverently placed on Monday. I wish I could send wreaths and flowers to the families of all those who have died in the past three days. Yes, just three days. Police Commissioner Owen Ellington told Parliament yesterday that seven were killed in one day.These are all sad, sad stories. My condolences…
Hopeton Livingston, St. Andrew
Douglas Folkes, 35, Padmore, St. Andrew
Odane Dacres, 17, National Stadium, Kingston
Lloyd Brown, 41, Tucker Avenue, Kingston
Setron Clarke, 41, Mandeville, Manchester
Sasha-Gaye Coffie, 27, Cumberland, St. Catherine
Flavius Forbes, De La Vega City, St. Catherine
Desmond Campbell, 44, Dam Head, St. Catherine
Winston Green, 17, Granville, St. James
Aston Atkinson, 48, Kenilworth HEART Academy, Hanover
Killed by police:
Solomon Johnson, 51, Dumfries, St. Thomas
Unidentified man, Greater Portmore, St. Catherine
Stephen Mason, 20, Stony Hill, St. Andrew
Melburn Campbell, 29, Stony Hill, St. Andrew
Here are a few additional articles of interest:
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=48783 Rare earth project plant expected by month-end, says Energy Minister: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131023/news/news1.html Debt-to-GDP ratio: an insurmountable task: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Shaw-wants-to-reform-JLP_15275954 Shaw wants to reform JLP: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131021/cleisure/cleisure4.html How not to build a nation: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131023/cleisure/cleisure1.html High praise, more work for the PM: Gleaner editorial
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/entertainment/Woman-of-Merit_15295674 Woman of Merit: Dr. Olive Lewin: Jamaica Observer
Things have caught up with me this week, and I did not find time to finish off my mid-week bulletin yesterday. So I am dashing to send it out now. My apologies to all for the delay.
Since the weekend, local media has returned to Jamaica’s dire economic situation. The latest study shows that business and consumer confidence is at an all- time low – a precipitous drop in confidence of 17% in one quarter. Read the Gleaner’s not overly optimistic take on it all here: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131017/cleisure/cleisure1.html
The Jamaican Dollar continues its inexorable slide. It’s now sidling up (or rather down) to J$105/US$1. For several technical reasons it is hardly benefiting our exporters as much as it should (our non-traditional exports have edged up marginally). And it’s much easier to import than to export. Our balance of payments situation remains very poor.
Upbeat officials: And yet if you listen to government officials, the economic situation seems reasonably rosy, heading in the right direction… The Planning Institute of Jamaica’s Colin Bullock says their estimates show a growth rate of 0.8 per cent in the past quarter (not yet backed up by actual statistics). Read more here: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131017/lead/lead5.html
Those megawatts: The saga of the 360MW power project drags on. Recriminations, accusations and hand-wringing continue. Rumors abound that all is not well in the Cabinet, which is divided on the management (or mismanagement) of the matter. The Office of Utilities Regulation has not informed us about the now overdue security bonds from bidders for the renewable energy bids either – an offer that was only partially taken up: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131017/lead/lead7.html You can read more here: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131014/cleisure/cleisure1.html Now, Energy World International (the preferred bidder, as it turned out) says it has its security bond ready: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131017/lead/lead9.html But countless questions remain. #notoveryet
The death of Vanessa: I have written about the suicide of 16-year-old Vanessa Wint while incarcerated in an adult prison before. The Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) has now sent its report to the Coroner’s Court to see whether anyone should be held responsible for her tragic death. Read more here: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/INDECOM-refers-report-on-Vanessa-Wint-s-death-for-Coroner-s-Inquest and http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131015/lead/lead2.html
Snipers everywhere: The Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) landscape now resembles the city of Sarajevo during the Balkan wars, when innocent people feared crossing the street in case someone shot at them. I hate to use a warlike metaphor, but missiles are flying around. The petty, barbed comments are becoming ridiculous. Party Chairman Robert Montague now appears to be trying to calm the waters; but for heaven’s sake, guys. Very little discussion on the many pressing issues affecting Jamaica during the JLP leadership debate, which will drag on until their conference in November. Instead, there is nonsense about one candidate being too old, talk of plots to unseat leader Andrew Holness, etc., etc. A party in Opposition needs to start thinking at some point about how it is going to win the next general elections. This is not the way to endear itself to the general public.
I enjoy his humor, but this week’s column by attorney-at-law Gordon Robinson on the logistics hub and the Portland Bight Protected Area is way off the mark. It’s riddled with inaccuracies and misinformation, and pours derision and scorn on qualified, professional people who have dedicated their lives (with very little reward, unlike those in Mr. Robinson’s profession) to environmental conservation. And is Jamaica that desperate, Mr. Robinson, that we have to take anything that’s offered without question? And whoever said that those who are protesting the “development” of a protected area are “anti-development”? That is simply not true. http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131015/cleisure/cleisure4.html
By the way, the Ministry of Industry, Investment & Commerce will hold a one-day conference on the logistics hub on November 12. Ironically, this coincides with a two-day meeting of the Iguana Specialty Group at Hope Zoo. Scientists will tour the Portland Bight Protected Area, which includes the Hellshire Hills, habitat for the endangered Jamaican Iguana.
Are we tuned in to climate change? A Washington Post article recently reported a new study that singled out the city of Kingston as reaching its hottest point in just ten years’ time. This hardly registered on the local media’s radar. It seems that Jamaican journalists are not really tuned in to the complexities of climate science and are not able to explain it (and its effects) to the media and public. They need to do their research and help us all understand. Here is a local blog: http://hill60bump.com/2013/10/15/kingston-jamaica-soon-the-hottest-place-on-earth/
More recriminations, too, on the WADA/JADA story: I am no expert on athletics or doping, but our Prime Minister (also Minister of Sport) invited the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) to visit Jamaica to do an audit of the Jamaica Anti-Doping Agency (JADA). The UK Guardian printed a scathing article (http://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2013/oct/16/jamaica-world-anti-doping-agency-drugs?CMP=twt_gu) on the JADA’s negative response to WADA’s suggested date for a visit. The Jamaica Information Service has clarified the situation thus: http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads/35320. Another athlete (Jamaica’s tae kwon do Olympian Kenneth Edwards) has now tested positive, but strongly denies doping. Oh dear…
Pretty bouquets all round to:
- God knows we need strong, inspiring role models, and our sprint champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce is doing astonishingly well in that department. I think she is discovering she has a gift for motivating young people. Read about her visit to girls at the Homestead Place of Safety here: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131013/lead/lead3.html
- The amazing surgeons from the UK who partnered with Jamaican surgeons through the Transplant Link Community project to perform the first kidney transplant operations at Montego Bay’s Cornwall Regional Hospital. A great achievement. Read more: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131014/lead/lead1.html No kidney transplants have been done in Jamaica for the past seven years; I wonder why they have stopped? There’s a great need.
- Have you seen the September/October issue of the new ECCO (Environmentally Conscious Consumer Operations) online magazine? It’s beautiful. Among the interesting articles is a hard-hitting piece by Tameka Coley entitled: “The Jamaican Environment: 50 Years of Mismanagement and Devastation.” Read ECCO magazine here: http://issuu.com/eccomagazine/docs/ecco_magazine_sept_2013/6
- Tamika Pommells Williams and her husband run the Ras Natango Gallery and Garden near Montego Bay. They have great art and beautiful flowers. Tamika presented at a National Integrity Action seminar this week on sustainable tourism. Good work by a very principled person who loves Jamaica and loves life!
- Karyl Walker of the Jamaica Observer for his investigative reporting on Vanessa Wint’s death. The details are of course heart-breaking and it is not easy to read. But you should read: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Shocking-account-of-a-suicide
Of interest from overseas: I visited the beautiful island of Grenada for the first time this year and I look out for stories. I was struck by a heartfelt letter this week regarding women’s rights in Grenada and throughout the world. “ For too long, the history of women has been a history of silence. Even today, there are those who are trying to silence our words,” the writer observes. Read more at: http://www.caribbeannewsnow.com/topstory-Letter%253A-Human-rights-violation-in-Grenada-and-other-countries-18182.html
Being an avid book-lover, I really enjoyed English writer Neil Gaiman’s lecture (an edited version is on the Guardian UK website, here: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/oct/15/neil-gaiman-future-libraries-reading-daydreaming?CMP=twt_gu) He had some very important things to say about literacy, reading and imagination – and on getting children engaged. A must-read!
There has been a significant increase in murders in Clarendon this year. I remember spending time in May Pen several years ago, when businesspeople and local officials were congratulating the police chief Dayton Henry on a steady decline in the violent crime rate. The 46-year-old Mr. Henry died, suddenly and mysteriously, last year; tests concluded that he was poisoned, and an investigation was reportedly under way. Since his death, the murder rate has climbed again. My deepest condolences to the bereaved…
Unidentified man, Fairlane/Savoy Avenue, Kingston 10
Tevin Farquharson, 19, Spring Mount, St. James
Canute Dennis, 50, Spring Mount, St. James
Oraine Dunkley, 26, Spring Mount, St. James
Unidentified man, Fontabelle, St. Mary
Unidentified, Portmore, St. Catherine
Here are some additional articles and links of interest:
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=48701 IMF team to visit next month for review: Gleaner
http://www.caribjournal.com/2013/10/14/oas-urges-caribbean-nations-to-explore-green-energy/ OAS urges Caribbean to explore green energy: Carib Journal
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131014/news/news1.html Farm Up Jamaica to grow organic foods, save money: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/JAMAICA-OBSERVER-ONLINE-EDITORIAL2013-10-15T03-09-05 Jamaica Observer online editorial
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/EU-provides–52-million-for-justice–human-rights-projects_15244756 EU provides $52 million for justice, human rights projects: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131014/news/news3.html DPP launches its disclosure protocol: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131014/lead/lead8.html Bird-shooting ban might become a must: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Church-rebuffs-gay-marriage_15253447 Church rebuffs gay marriage: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131014/cleisure/cleisure3.html Pregnant female vs foetus rights: Garth Rattray column/Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Raw-sewage-anger_15241640 Raw sewage anger: Jamaica Observer
http://franderby.com/2013/10/sexual-harassment-on-the-streets-of-kingston/ Sexual harassment on the streets of Kingston: franderby.com
Everything is pop-down again, it seems. (To my non-Jamaican readers: “pop-down” is quite a broad term meaning “exhausted, ruined,” or to coin another Jamaican phrase “mash-up.” It can also mean something is a flop or a failure).
The pop-downnest thing that I can think of right now is the economy. OK, we passed the first IMF test and re-submitted our proposal for completing tax reform measures (which are now late). BUT… (please note, I am not an economist. The notes below are just my layperson’s observations)…
* “There is no money in the system,” says local financier Aubyn Hill. He points out that the Bankers Association of Jamaica has been pleading for the Bank of Jamaica (BoJ) to put more Jamaican Dollars into the system, but the BoJ is “mopping up.” Interest rates will start rising, no doubt.
* The Jamaican Dollar is on a continuous downward slide. Let’s call it J$104 to US$1, now.
* Jamaica is in recession (yes, and hardly anyone wants to use that word, but we have been in recession for at least a couple of years)
* The IMF has put us on an austerity diet, and how can that not make our recession worse? We are starving already. Business is contracting!
* Our fiscal deficit is worsening. Government revenues are down because the economy is shrinking, people are spending less and there are fewer taxes to collect!
* While the Government pays lip-service to support for small businesses, micro-businesses are being squeezed and say they are being “hounded” by the Government, which often forces them into the “underground” economy. Businesswoman Dr. Blossom O’Meally Nelson says small businesses are being regulated, but not facilitated.
* Red tape is throttling business; corruption is choking the society. The World Economic Forum says it is the biggest deterrent to business, ahead of our crippling crime problem. And corruption.
* Our Finance Minister Peter Phillips is the Minister of IMF. He rarely talks about anything else, but says we should anticipate a coming era of productivity! How? Where?
* Thank God for Ralston Hyman’s “Real Business.” 9:00 to 10:00 a.m., Monday to Friday, Power 106 FM. At least he gives me information. The Government doesn’t.
And on the crime issue, murders are increasing again in and around Montego Bay, St. James. Is there (again?) a connection with the lotto scam (five people were arrested and charged just a few days ago, in an operation involving U.S. law enforcement, it is reported). Western Kingston is struggling with growing crime and violence – residents hear more gunfire at nights.
Meanwhile, the whining continues… The leader of the Opposition Andrew Holness is talking about “hurtfulness” and “lie” in delegates meetings. His demeanor and emphasis on “what dem seh” - “dem” being the supporters of his challenger Audley Shaw – is tedious and does not reflect well on his leadership abilities. Why doesn’t he talk about what would make him a better leader? His vision? A planned television debate will not take place. Well, this is not a national election after all, and just depends on the votes of 5,000 delegates. I’m getting a bit tired of the calls to radio talk shows though, about “Ardley Shar” and “Anju ‘Olness.” Ugh.
The megawatt muddle: The Private Sector Organization of Jamaica (PSOJ) is getting very antsy about the current state of the bidding process for 360 megawatts of energy to Jamaica. It transpires that none of the four entities which submitted proposals to provide 360 megawatts (MW) of base energy to Jamaica were able to convince the consultants that they could source the money to finance the project. What? What? Tomorrow is the deadline for the winning bidder, Azurest Cambridge, to come up with the security deposit. Can they do it? If so, can they deliver? If not, should the Chinese firm that Minister Phillip Paulwell allowed in at the last minute be the winner?
Why can’t the government follow its own rules? Why the obscurity, the confusion, the lack of transparency? Sometimes I get so confused I am wondering if these things are due to incompetence or corruption, or a bit of both. I suspect that many Members of Parliament, like Mr. Azan, flout the rules when it suits them. Whoever follows the rules “gets shafted,“ our current Finance Minister once said cynically. From the horse’s mouth…
As columnist Dr. Garth Rattray writes (he always makes sense), it took “political power” to get the Spalding Market shops there, and that is the reason why the Office of the Contractor General found a perception of “political corruption.” How are we going to deal with this kind of behavior among our leaders? Or are we going to just shrug our shoulders?
Finally Omar Davies has focused on the carnage on our roads. His ministry is, after all, responsible. He has managed to take his eyes off the exciting mega projects for one moment.
Friday October 11 is the International Day of the Girl. How can we empower our girls, so that they don’t fall into the pregnancy trap and become marginalized victims of the patriarchal, cold and unfeeling society we live in? Do read the article below (“Worrying Signs”) and consider it, before October 11.
Meanwhile, Port Maria is choked with garbage. Every time it rains the rubbish backs up, blocks drains, and hey presto! It floods!
“Let’s not forsake our future for short-term gains.” This comment comes at the end of an excellent article in HuffPost Green, on the Portland Bight Protected Area/Goat Islands.
Some people and things to feel good about:
- 8 Hillcrest Avenue was the former home of Dr. Olive Lewin. Apart from being an astonishing cultural powerhouse, this slender lady with a warm, intelligent smile was one of the kindest and most giving of Jamaican women, who loved her country and its people so deeply. She was also a lovely neighbor to us. After she became too frail to live there (she passed away on April 10) her former home was transformed into a courtyard with cafés, a cool art gallery and a deli, among other small businesses. I was so happy that last weekend there was a celebration of Dr. Lewin’s life and the dedication of a plaque by former Prime Minister Edward Seaga (always a celebrator of Jamaican culture) at #8. I shall pop along there shortly and see (good excuse for a cup of tea and other delights at Tea Tree Creperie!)
- Megan Deane is such a smart lady. I have great respect for her financial expertise and her sound business acumen. She is doing well with her credit bureau. Congrats, Megan!
- Three Caribbean tech entrepreneurs will be traveling soon – to compete before a live audience and a panel of mobile experts in Chisinau, Moldova on November 1. Jamaicans Dwayne Samuels and Jerome Campbell (both graduates of Ingrid Riley’s Kingston Beta) and Trinidad’s Ade Inniss-King were selected by the VentureOut Challenge, an initiative of infoDev and CRDF. I am sure they will make the most of this great opportunity. Good luck!
- Randy McLaren is the Kriativ Aktivis! A bright and creative young man with a mission to raise awareness among Jamaicans and create a kinder society. Read Kate Chappell’s great blog post about him, below.
And the sad list of names never seems any shorter. My deepest sympathies to the families of all those murdered in the past three days on this “pop-down” island of ours…
Clarence Morgan, 61, Brandon Hill, Clarendon
George Simpson, 77, Grays/Annotto Bay, St. Mary
Kenneth Simpson, 67, Anchovy, St. James
André Beckford, 27, Cambridge, St. James
Gemin Sinclair, 34, Cambridge, St. James
Brandon Wood, 19, Canterbury, St. James
Killed by the police:
Unidentified, Waterford/Passagefort, St. Catherine
Unidentified, Fraser’s Content, St. Catherine
Articles and links of interest:
http://www.our.org.jm/ourweb/evaluation-summary-–-base-load-capacity-project Evaluation summary: Base Load Capacity Project: Office of Utilities Regulation
http://go-jamaica.com/news/read_article.php?id=48323 Azurest was best option for 360MW project – consultants: Gleaner/Power 106 FM
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/-Pay-us-today–or-we-ll-strike–_15153200 ”Pay us today, or we’ll strike”: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131001/lead/lead1.html Tough forecast: Phillips says difficult times still to come after completion of first IMF test: Gleaner
http://www.imf.org/external/np/speeches/2013/091913a.htm 2013 High-Level Caribbean Forum: “Caribbean Challenges, Growth and Progress on the Small States Initiative”: imf.org
http://www.imf.org/external/np/sec/pr/2013/pr13374.htm IMF completes first review under Extended Fund Facility for Jamaica… imf.org
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=48341 Jamaica submits second IMF letter of intent: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131001/lead/lead4.html PSOJ welcomes new date for tax incentive law: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130929/business/business5.html GoJ owes financial companies J$16 billion: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131002/lead/lead5.html Jamaica facing possible currency crisis: André Haughton column/Gleaner
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads/35141 Jamaica leads the region in setting up private credit bureaus: Jamaica Information Service
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/business/Red-tape-worse-than-crime-for-businesses_15173793 Red tape worse than crime for businesses: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131001/cleisure/cleisure1.html Cuba’s head start on logistics hub: Gleaner editorial
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130929/business/business8.html Who has the will to deliver growth? David Jessop column/Sunday Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Guyana-welcomes-Fly-Jamaica_15155070 Guyana welcomes Fly Jamaica: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/editorial/What-Caricom-leaders-should-have-said-at-the-UN_15154883 What CARICOM leaders should have said at the UN: Jamaica Observer editorial
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130930/cleisure/cleisure3.html Not cashing in on gay tourist dollar: Maurice Tomlinson op-ed/Gleaner
http://jamaica-star.com/thestar/20131001/news/news1.html Gays seek men with bathroom ads: Jamaica Star
http://marogkingdom.blogspot.com/2013/09/cleaning-up-beach-along-old-airport.html Cleaning up the beach along the old airport road, Montego Bay: Beyond the Marog Kingdom
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/charles-knapp-phd/back-from-the-brink-to-ba_b_4004730.html?utm_hp_ref=tw Back from the Brink to Back to the Brink: HuffPost Green
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Shaw-advocates-term-limits-at-campaign-launch Shaw advocates term limits at campaign launch: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=48305 JLP leader Holness, challenger Shaw to sign code of conduct today: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130930/cleisure/cleisure2.html Defining political corruption: Garth Rattray column/Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/If-I-d-seen-it_15168326 If I’d seen it…says Herbert Thompson: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/editorial/Tread-cautiously–Mr-Contractor-General_15155224 Tread cautiously, Mr. Contractor General: Sunday Observer editorial
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131002/letters/letters3.html OCG is my baby, not the PNP’s! Letter to the Gleaner from Edward Seaga, former Prime Minister
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Holness-offers-olive-branch_15161227 Holness offers olive branch: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-star.com/thestar/20130930/news/news7.html Ackee vendor still shaken up by police incident: Jamaica Star
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/murder-rate-continues-to-climb Murder rate continues to climb: RJR News
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130930/news/news1.html Transport Ministry committed to reducing road fatalities: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130930/lead/lead4.html UTech staff have no confidence in the institution: Gleaner
http://jamaicajournal.wordpress.com/2013/10/01/kriativ-aktivis-randymclarenrm-talks-about-how-you-helped-him/ Kriativ Aktivis Randy McLaren talks about how YOU helped him: Jamaican Journal
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Worrying-signs_14877467 Worrying signs: 15 – 16-year-olds make up majority of teen mothers admitted to the Women’s Centre in 2011/2012L Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Canadian-sailors-bring-joy-to-Jacques-Road_15156555 Canadian sailors bring joy to Jacques Road: Jamaica Observer
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
It was a nightmarish weekend in the global news, but there were glimmers of hope at home. Just little glimmers…a flickering at the end of a dark tunnel. Maybe.
Mixed signals on Goat Islands: During a rambling and mostly forgettable speech on Sunday at the People’s National Party (PNP) conference, our Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller said her government ”will do everything in our power” to make the logistics hub a reality. She mentioned “sustainable development” in the same breath; although I doubt whether many of our politicians actually know what that means in real, practical terms. It’s just another lovely catchphrase. Meanwhile, comments from Chair of the Urban Development Corporation (UDC) and government Senator K.D. Knight, surprised me. He reportedly said at another event: “We [the Government] are just the trustees; it doesn’t belong to us. We must insist on environmental process and constructive views expressed must be heeded.” At least he is listening. Though I am not sure that it gives me hope. But the UDC does actually own Goat Islands.
And I wonder why? A presentation by China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) to the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce (JCC), held at JAMPRO’s offices yesterday evening, did not include the proposed Goat Islands development, which had been advertised in the JCC’s invitation. CHEC representatives just presented a nice PR piece, and stopped. This surprised many businesspeople attending the reception for a CHEC delegation that arrived yesterday. CHEC is a major sponsor of Jamaica’s Engineering Week and a participant in the Jamaica Institute of Engineers conference.
CHEC jobs: By the way (as I know this is an issue for some) the company employs 67% Jamaicans in its projects here (so far).
Should we be worried about the government missing an IMF deadline on tax reform legislation? I must listen to Ralston Hyman’s radio program more often…
Mad bus drivers: Early this morning, three vehicles, including an apparently speeding/racing minibus filled with students crashed into each other in Chudleigh, Manchester. Three students of Holmwood Technical High School and one of the bus drivers died. 22 others are in hospital. This terrible event pushes up the number of fatalities on our roads this year; it is also, I understand, the fourth major bus crash involving students from this school in recent years. The police need to get a grip on this – there is clearly a problem in Manchester. I wish we had those big, solid school buses like they have in the U.S.
Did the PNP really think it appropriate to present an award to then Chairman of the Electoral Commission of Jamaica (ECJ) Dr. Herbert Thompson at the party’s 75th anniversary awards ceremony last week? The Percival Patterson Award, no less presented by PJ Patterson, former PNP President/Prime Minister. What was actually inscribed on the award? Well, yesterday Dr. Thompson resigned. I am among those who believe, in the interests of good governance and balance within this critical organization, that he should step down as a board member too.
The ECJ’s recommendations on campaign financing had a rough ride in Parliament yesterday, with at least two Opposition members raising objections. The matter is now going to a parliamentary committee. What hypocrisy, though. As civil society activist Carol Narcisse says, we don’t want any more excuses! They keep thinking up new ones!
Police killings remain high: Some 172 persons have been killed by members of the security forces since the start of the year, the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) has said. At the end of September last year there were 158 fatalities, so we are well up on last year. The Mayor of Savannah-la-Mar has, by the way, just denied that he advised the police to “shoot first, ask questions later,” as reported in the Gleaner. It is hard to keep a cool head in the face of all the crime, though. But let us try, please.
More thieving: Talking of criminal acts, the level of thievery in Jamaica has reached epidemic proportions. Yesterday, 2,500 customers of the Jamaica Public Service Company were without power, after thieves stole oil from one of their installations. For years, it seems, firms like LIME have been complaining of theft and the high cost of replacing copper wires, batteries and so on. What is going on? Who is receiving/buying/using this valuable equipment? Is it still for the scrap metal trade? The police just don’t seem to be on top of this. It certainly doesn’t encourage potential investors, does it.
Stop whining, young man: Current leader of the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) Andrew Holness is complaining that certain people in the party are “undermining” him, etc., etc. His colleague Audley Shaw is, as we know, challenging him for the leadership position. Please stop whingeing and encouraging divisiveness, Mr. Holness (or are you following a time-honored tradition in the JLP?) The date of the party’s annual conference has now been brought forward to November 3.
Talking of young politicians, I hear some are busy building mansions in Beverley Hills. How nice.
One always hopes that the young politicians will behave differently from the older ones, but alas… I guess they just don’t have great role models, do they?
Ssssshhh… It’s tourism: I wrote recently about serious accidents involving jet skis in our tourist resorts, which appear to have been “hushed up.” Jamaican friends of ours taking a break at a north coast hotel last weekend heard shots fired on the beach. Apparently two boats landed on the beach; the occupants attempted to rob tourists. No injuries it seems. But I must ask: How often are such security-related incidents occurring, and do we feel comfortable about them being kept under wraps? Well, I guess we are protecting Brand Jamaica, right?
A huge round of applause for a bunch of people here:
- All those engaged in the fight against HIV/AIDS (too numerous to mention) in Jamaica over the last ten or twenty years, who have really made a difference. The number of new infections and deaths in the Caribbean is significantly down. The persistent efforts of government, non-governmental organizations, communities and individuals have paid off. I should not single out any one person or organization, but have to say that I am particularly proud of the work of the President’s Emergency Fund for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), established by President George W. Bush and continued under the Obama administration. I administered the U.S. State Department‘s portion of this Fund for a number of years in Jamaica and I know that it has made – and continues to make – an impact on thousands of lives. Visit http://www.pepfar.gov for more details.
- Ms. Tessanne Chin, who was the darling of the Jamaican Twittersphere last night as she auditioned in a U.S. network show called “The Voice.” I generally avoid these talent show thingys and this one was predictably tacky, with lots of red leather and shiny chrome and glass, plus squealing audience of course. Some of us were mesmerized by the bald head of a panelist called Cee-Lo, which was covered with tattoos. Others swooned over panelist Adam Levine. Meanwhile, our Jamaican girl sang her heart out. She was amazing (I am not being biased here, honest!) with more than a touch of the Tina Turners. I think she will go far on this show. Jamaicans are truly proud of her.
- Amber Estates, coffee growers who have landed a deal with Starbucks to sell their Blue Mountain coffee beans online. There is so much potential in our delicious coffee!
- Senator Marlene Malahoo Forte, who conducts her radio talk show “Justice” on Power 106 FM with great courtesy and thoughtfulness. Recommended listening!
- Non-governmental and community-based organizations should apply for the GEF Small Grants Program: http://www.youthjamaica.com/content/apply-gef-small-grants-programme
- And please – if you have not already done so, sign and share the petition to save the Portland Bight Protected Area (Goat Islands) from destruction here: http://www.change.org/petitions/no-to-port-on-goat-island-jamaica-no-trans-shipping-port-portland-bight-protected-area-jamaica?share_id=eqkTTbjcGd&utm_campaign=autopublish&utm_medium=facebook&utm_source=share_petit
Here is something to think about, from Transparency International: Countries that are more open, accountable & uphold rule of law have better education, health, access to clean water & sanitation.
A teenager was murdered in the inner city area of Grant’s Pen. My condolences to the families and friends of these Jamaicans who have been murdered in the past three days:
Peter McLeod, 16, Grant’s Pen, Kingston
Samuel Shepherd, 53, Molynes Road, Kingston
Garfield Wilson, 45, Waterloo District, St. Catherine
Andrew Walker, 39, May Pen, Clarendon
Killed by police:
Kemar Brown, Victoria Street, downtown Kingston
Related links and articles:
http://jamaicajournal.wordpress.com/2013/09/24/murder-rate-soars/ Murder rate “soars”: Jamaican Journal
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=48178 Murders spike in most police divisions: Gleaner
http://www.indecom.gov.jm/Statistics/Third%20Quarter.pdf Independent Commission of Investigations: Police shooting incidents, July – September, 2013
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/editorial/Tackle-the-crime-monster–PM_15120007 Tackle the crime monster, PM: Jamaica Observer editorial
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Gov-t-to-press-ahead-with-logistics-hub–Gov-t-to-press-ahead-with-logistics-hub Government to press ahead with logistics hub: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Knight-urges–careful–approach-to-use-of-Goat-Islands_15132903 Knight urges “careful” approach to use of Goat Islands: Jamaica Observer
http://go-jamaica.com/pressrelease/item.php?id=2460 China Harbour Engineering Company participates in Engineer’s Week 2013
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130925/lead/lead1.html Whiteman stunned as ECJ chairman resigns: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130925/lead/lead2.html Warmington: We can’t impose any more burdens on the poor – parliamentarians reject campaign finance proposals: Gleaner
http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2013/09/18/caribbean-quality-education-improvements-next-generation How to improve quality of education in the Caribbean for the next generation? World Bank
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130924/cleisure/cleisure1.html Make the shift permanent, Madam PM: Gleaner editorial
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130924/cleisure/cleisure3.html How governance works: Gordon Robinson column/Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130925/cleisure/cleisure2.html Richard…the hapless servant: George Davis column/Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Jamaica-on-target-for-IMF-review-Monday–despite-missed-deadline_15134007 Jamaica on target for IMF review Monday, despite missed deadline: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/business/Blue-Mountain-coffee-grower-lands-Starbucks-deal_15131690 Blue Mountain coffee grower lands Starbucks deal: Jamaica Observer
http://digjamaica.com/blog/2013/09/23/industry-update-summer-tourist-season-prospects-bright-or-not/ Industry update: Summer tourist season prospects bright or not? diGJamaica.com
http://www.ict-pulse.com/2013/09/transformational-nature-ict-advantage-it/ The transformational nature of ICT: Are we taking advantage of it? ICT Pulse
http://www.solarbuzzjamaica.com/2013/09/gone-with-the-wind-blue-mountain-renewables-looks-to-blow-down-energy-costs/ Gone with the wind: Blue Mountain Renewables looks to blow down energy costs: solarbuzzjamaica.com
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130924/lead/lead3.html Nearly 600 arrested in JPS anti-theft campaign: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130924/letters/letters3.html Commish apologizes to Customs boss: Letter to Gleaner
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads-117/35109 PM says permanent memorial at UN is great and fitting tribute: Jamaica Information Service
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/To-protect-and-serve To protect and serve: Police building new house for 86-year-old woman in Rose Town: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=48186 Human trafficking trial of businesswoman pushed back: Gleaner
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads-117/35109 Community members must be more proactive in reporting child abuse – CDA: Jamaica Information Service
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=48206 Caribbean records decline in new HIV/AIDS cases – new UN report: Gleaner