If you drive along the gently winding road, with mangroves and dark lagoons on one side and sandhills spiked with cactus on the other, you will reach the small town of Port Royal. It is perched at the end of a long, flat spit of land, between Kingston Harbor and the open Caribbean Sea. Just before you reach Port Royal, however (I would prefer to call it a “hamlet” really) you will see a long wall to your left, stretching along the side of the road. We have probably passed it a hundred times or more, and never stopped there.
But this week, I did. This is Fort Rocky, and I was in the company of U.S. Fulbright Scholar, archaeologist and community builder extraordinaire, Heidi Savery.
Behind that mysterious wall, which gives away nothing, is a very large space, fringed with broken interior walls and rooms missing a wall. Here and there were knots of people in twos and threes, hunched in holes in the ground, writing on clipboards. They were students from the United States and from the University of the West Indies‘ (UWI) History and Archaeology Department in Kingston and their professors; as well as officials of the Jamaica National Heritage Trust (JNHT) and two officers from the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF).
This was the end of Year Two of UWI’s Archaeological Field School at Fort Rocky, and an opportunity for the students to gain hands-on experience on an actual site. Dr. Steve Lenik, who lectures at UWI’s Department of History and Archaeology, showed me a collection of maps from various periods, which help them to identify possible spots that could produce interesting material. They then divide the space up into grids at ten-meter intervals. They dig what are called “shovel test pits,” just 50 – 60 cm down, to see whether it is worth continuing to dig there.
So, what have they found at Fort Rocky?
Many buttons. Even the most corroded are lovely when cleaned up by the Heritage Trust restorers. Some show the military insignia of the West India Regiment, with the crocodile (and indeed there are real crocodiles living on the other side of the road, in the mangrove). One of the students, Zach Beier, found a drinking glass. They found ceramics, medicine bottles and glass dating back to the late 19th century. Also clay pipes, some with lovely designs on the bowl. One had the initials “E.W.” carved on it. I wonder who E.W. was. Many nails of different sizes and other pieces of metal that were parts of fixtures and machines. There were once cannons at Fort Rocky, but those had long since disappeared…spirited away.
I met Zach, a graduate student from Syracuse University. He told me that he is actually from my home country – born in Lancaster, Lancashire; and that he has been working on a project at an eighteenth-century fort in Dominica (a small island in the eastern Caribbean that I would love to visit). Like most of the workers, he looked windswept and his face was smudged with dirt. One cannot expect to be clean, neat and tidy when digging, of course! I also met Elizabeth McCague, from St. Mary’s College of Maryland, and her professor Liza Gijanto; and the ebullient James, also from Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina, who is a registered member of the Choctaw Nation.
Private Carmola of the JDF told me about the Military Museum at Up Park Camp in Kingston, which opened in 2006. He also told me that the day before had been a day off for the soldiers, as it was Victoria Cross Day (May 27) – a day taken seriously, with a grand dinner, a church service and a military holiday. I looked it up, and learned that one Jamaican has received the Victoria Cross: Sergeant William Gordon, of the First Battalion, West India Regiment, for his “heroic devotion” in saving the life of his officer during the British campaign in West Africa in March, 1892. The JDF also celebrates another Victoria Cross recipient, Private Samuel Hodge of the British Virgin Islands, who also performed braved deeds during the same campaign, in 1866.
As for Fort Rocky, it was in regular use until the end of World War II. According to the JDF website, it was built just before the First World War to replace the Victoria Battery, which had been badly damaged in the 1907 earthquake that rocked Kingston. At that time, it had five six-inch guns and could accommodate 82 soldiers. It also had a small railway system from about 1887, only two miles long, which ran along the Palisadoes spit to Port Royal. It was used to transport equipment over the light, sandy soil. Jamaica’s railway system – one of the great legacies of the colonial era – has, of course, been allowed to rot and no longer exists, except for a small private railway operated by a bauxite mining company. But then, that is another sad story.
And it is really a story of neglect, but also potential. As Heidi Savery explained to me, there are many and rich treasures to be found in Jamaica’s cultural heritage. Jamaica’s history has been painful in many respects, but that does not make it any less valuable; there is also much to learn and to seek to understand. As Jamaicans would say, “The half has never been told.” For Heidi, who believes passionately in Jamaica’s people and its culture, the management of the island’s cultural heritage is all important – and it must involve the people. It is not just about conservation and the preservation of “things” to be put in a museum. It is also about a deeper, more spiritual connection, whereby the past is revived and incorporated into the present. It is a much broader concept. In her work in Bluefields, Westmoreland (where she has unearthed a large Taino development), Heidi believes the community has much to give back and much to learn from its past. The past is a living thing for the residents of this vibrant community, in a particularly beautiful spot on Jamaica’s south coast. More on Bluefields another time.
A number of music videos have been filmed in battered old Fort Rocky. Some graffiti daub the walls. A body had been found there. It is a lonely spot, with nothing but the sound of the wind in the thorn bushes, and the thump of the waves on the nearby shore. The city of Kingston, full of stories sad and old, past and present, is just a few miles down the road.
But Fort Rocky still retains, somehow, a whisper of its past.
Especially when you start digging.
Here are a few related articles. You can also check out my photo album on Facebook
The Jamaica Defence Force as a cultural treasure: Gleaner
Victoria Cross commemorations in Jamaica: JDF website
Jamaica’s “wickedest city” Port Royal banks on heritage: BBC News
The underwater city of Port Royal: World Heritage Convention/UNESCO
1692: Earthquake of Port Royal: Gleaner/Pieces of the Past
Restoring glory: Bluefields residents work towards community and tourism
We have noticed that, for the last week or two, a fairly small spider appears every night in a specific corner of the bathroom floor. He/she just sits there, unmoving. With only five legs he/she is probably technically not a spider – don’t spiders have eight legs?
In the morning, the spider thingy is gone – only to reappear the next night at around midnight or so, when I am just going to bed. He does not spin a web. He does not appear to catch anything to eat. He just sits there, on the floor. He is just there.
Last night, I tried taking a photo of him. The photograph came out strangely blurry… It just would not focus. (But then, that could be due to the fact that my camera does not seem to be very reliable at the moment).
My husband has suggested it might be a duppy – a spirit. Like the big flapping brown moths that live in the shadows under trees and sometimes enter the house at night. We call them bats in Jamaica, although of course they are not. Latin American and Caribbean myths about those creatures are not encouraging and usually involve death. So our yard is full of spirits, lurking in dark corners. I see omens of death almost daily.
In light of these superstitions, I am starting to wonder about our five-legged spider. But I am not. Superstitious. Am I?
Perhaps I can catch a real photo of him tonight.
Four years ago today, fire broke out at the Armadale Juvenile Correctional Centre in St. Ann. Seven girls – wards of the state – died as a result of the fire, and eleven were injured. It was a real pleasure today to meet some of the girls who survived this horror, and who are doing their best to move out beyond that horror. I think their day was an emotional one but also filled with hope. I will write more about this.
Devaluation of dollar welcomed by IMF: Well, some of us might have figured this out already. The steady drop in the Jamaican Dollar seemed inexorable and there was really very little comment on it from the Simpson Miller administration at the time. It was just…happening. The rest of us were saying, “What is going on? Help!” as it steadily dropped, day after day. Then suddenly the battered J$ (often depicted in cartoons wrapped in bandages and sticking plaster and hobbling on crutches) pulled itself to a screeching halt at 99 or so to the U.S. Dollar. Well, well. Our friends at the Implacable Masters Fund (IMF) approve of this; and, in fact, say they would like to see our dollar plummet a little bit more, stopping at, let’s say… What do you think? Where should it stop? This, by the way, is the “flexible exchange-rate regime” mentioned by the Jamaican Government in its April 17 Letter of Intent to the IMF (the link is below). Flexible is such a nice…flexible word, isn’t it?
I wonder if the Jamaican public can be as flexible as the Jamaican Dollar has turned out to be?
Trinidad start up weekend: Good luck to Ms. Ingrid Riley, our tech entrepreneur and inspirer extraordinaire, who is in Trinidad now at her Silicon Caribe Startup Weekend. 57 pitches! I attended a Jamaica session; it was lively and abuzz with ideas. I love Ingrid’s regional (Caribbean) approach, and wish more of us were doing that…
Duppy story: According to CVM Television news, a certain house in rural St. James is giving some trouble. In case you haven’t been following it, all kinds of drama has been going on in this very ordinary-looking little house. It has created lots of excitement among the local residents, who can be seen hurrying down the path to the house to witness the latest phenomenon. My husband is almost convinced that there’s a real duppy (to my non-Jamaican readers, that is a ghost) – and so am I. A poltergeist, perhaps? A mysterious fire on top of a wardrobe (could be an electrical short circuit, but…) And objects thrown out of the house when it is empty? A local was hit in the head by one such “missile” and bled profusely. Once bandaged up, he felt pretty good, escorted down the road from the clinic like a real celebrity. What’s going to happen next? I hope it’s not all special effects…
Is the JEEP warming up its engine? Remember JEEP – the Jamaica Emergency Employment Programme? We haven’t heard much of it lately, but the Government has now found a way to create jobs by employing people to build concrete walls instead of zinc fences in selected Kingston communities. I suppose the concrete will screen off the poverty better – it will be harder to glimpse the earth-bare yards. But, Mr. Housing Minister, you know it won’t make any real difference. It’s just cosmetic. The same poverty is just a stone’s throw away…
African : It was announced today that our Prime Minister had flown off to Addis Ababa in Ethiopia, along with the Foreign Affairs Minister, four other government officials, plus her support team (I am not sure how many people that consists of – it is always reported in government press releases as a collective noun). They will be back next Tuesday. One of the radio stations this evening stated that the cost of the trip, in recognition of the African Union’s fiftieth anniversary, will be J$8.6 million. I wonder what the Ineffable Masters Fraternity (IMF) thinks of such expenditure. I can think of a thousand different ways in which that money could have been spent for the benefit of the Jamaican people (the Armadale survivors, for example).
Yay! That money could, perhaps, have been spent on a few more real toilets that flush in Jamaican schools. But sixteen schools in western Jamaica must be groveling with thanks that they do, in fact, have real toilets and not stinking, dangerous holes in the ground, any more. Thank God for Petro-Caribe, anyway. Last time I heard – about a year or two ago – around 200 schools still had pit latrines. Hopefully the number has dropped considerably. It is baffling to me that this can still be an issue in 21st century Jamaica. Perhaps this should come before tablets?
Some things bring out the Great Cynic in me: Recent comments by our Finance Minister Peter Phillips filled me with great weariness. Waxing philosophical and presumably not sticking to his notes, the goodly Minister started to wonder out loud why Jamaica is in its current economic state: “How did it get to this? At least part of the answer, I believe, has to do with the nature of our political processes and the absence, up until recently, of effective paradigm oversight and absence of transparency.” What does this mean? Can someone translate? OK, let me try. The politicians have done nothing to create an “effective nation” (the Minister’s words) since Independence (until the current administration came into power). That’s how it “got to this”. By actually not leading (that’s the oversight part) and by keeping the people ignorant (absence of transparency). Something like that, perhaps?
The young and the generous: In a Twitter exchange just last night, my friend Jean Lowrie-Chin reminded me (the Great Cynic that I am) that the younger generations of those “big” families that have chosen to stay in Jamaica have not only prospered, but are “giving back” to their country. She cited young Adam Stewart, who heads the Sandals Foundation. National Bakery has started its “Bold Ones” Project to encourage youth entrepreneurship. And the young Mahfoods have taken up the mantle of the amazing charity that does so much good work, Food for the Poor. Jean is right – I must try to curb my innate suspicion of the privileged and powerful. I wish all of them had such good intentions as these gentlemen, and that they could all give back…more.
Get well soon: I have no doubt that heading the Police Federation, a union that represents the rank-and-file police force, is a highly stressful occupation. The current chair, Raymond Wilson, has actually been a number of years in the post, off and on. Mr. Wilson has been in hospital for the past few days, after suffering a heart attack at a relatively young age. I wish him a speedy recovery.
By the way, I hope the Reggae Boyz thrash that English football team from north London, Tottenham Hotspur, when they play them tomorrow. Oh, how I would love to see that happen! As a dedicated Arsenal fan (in case you didn’t know) I was delighted that the Gunners denied Spurs a Champions League place again when the English Premier League season ended. And I’m quite satisfied with our team’s strong performance this year, after a lousy start to the season…
It is encouraging to learn that “major crimes,” including murders, have fallen. I hope that this trend will continue. But I am keeping in my thoughts the families of the following Jamaicans whose lives have been taken in the past three days.
Dwayne Brown, Ocho Rios, St. Ann
Selvin Hincklewood, Kingston
Killed by the police:
Noel Williams, 42, Rose Town, Kingston
Jerome Spence, George’s Plain, Westmoreland
Related links and articles:
IMF concludes staff visit to Jamaica: imf.org
Letter of Intent to IMF from Jamaican Government, April 17, 2013: imf.org
IMF gives us reality check: Jean Lowrie-Chin column/Jamaica Observer
J$ depreciation an important correction, says Fund: Gleaner
Phillips, IMF defend “strenuous” fiscal target for Jamaica: Gleaner
CHASE Fund, sports continue to reap big benefits from SVL: Jamaica Observer
Child extortionists: Judge, JPs step in as students make thousands of dollars a day: Gleaner
Tablets in schools, yes, but please…! Oniel Mantack/Op-ed: Gleaner
An assault on human dignity: Jamaica Observer
Normal school not for teen babymothers: Letter to the Editor/Gleaner
Erase the stupid idea of giving students condoms: George Davis column/Gleaner
Fourth anniversary of Armadale fire: RJR News
Sounder logic from the other Mr. Thwaites: Gleaner editorial
Deal with bullies before… Robert Lalah column/Gleaner
INDECOM concerned about police records: Gleaner
Crime now at uptown doorsteps: Jamaica Observer
More cops to be hauled before courts: Gleaner
Top-level probe into reports of contract on lives of prosecutor, investigator: RJR News
What violence-torn St. James – nay all Jamaica – can learn from Flanker: Jamaica Observer editorial
U.S. to give special training to MoBay firefighters: Gleaner
Political parties alone can’t do it – Phillips: Jamaica Observer
Is migrating Senate President a coward? Jamaica Observer
G2K wants answers from Contractor General: Gleaner
Shady dealings: Public sector workers under scrutiny… Gleaner
Prime Minister to attend African Union 50th Anniversary: Jamaica Information Service
Stop magnifying wasteful high-rollers: Letter to the Editor/Gleaner
Freudian slip or Gordian knot? Gordon Robinson column/Gleaner
Today is Malcolm X’s birthday; he would have been 88 years old. Tragically, his young grandson, Malcolm Shabazz, was murdered on May 9 at a Mexico City nightclub. But here’s a little Caribbean connection: Malcolm X’s mother Louise was born in Grenada - but she had a very sad life, too.
Well, with that useful and important fact stored away, let’s look at the last few days in Jamaica…
The voice of morality: Our pious Minister of Education, the Reverend Ronald Thwaites, told Parliament this week that he is not going to allow young Jamaican students to be “groomed” towards homosexuality (demonstrating his own mistaken beliefs on the subject); and that although he approves of (the right kind of) sex education, condoms in schools are out. None of us were surprised at this, were we – after all, the Minister’s Catholic faith strongly influences his prescriptions for our youth. The television program All Angles confronted the issue of condoms in schools last week with youth activist/commentator Jaevion Nelson, retired school principal Esther Tyson and the head of the guidance counseling association. The latter two both toed the Minister’s line as expected; were confused by the statistics Mr. Nelson produced to strengthen his case for contraceptive assistance in schools; and clumsily tried to catch him out, once or twice.
But a big, big silver lining: The same Minister folded his hands, turned his eyes to heaven and announced a change in government policy towards pregnant teens in school. Amendments to the Education Act and Regulations attached thereto will ensure that schools will keep open a space for a child who has had to leave due to pregnancy, so that she may continue her education afterwards. Huge kudos to Opposition Senator Kamina Johnson Smith for her strong lobbying on this issue; and to the Minister for seeing the sense and fairness of it. The Minister also announced a couple of pending measures that have ruffled the feathers of the Jamaica Teachers’ Association; more on that, probably, later. I don’t always agree with our overly preachy Minister; but at least he is trying to right some of the hundreds of wrongs afflicting our education system, one by one. He has some tricky issues to tackle, indeed.
“I’m so frustrated by this experience”: A quote from CEO of the Jamaica Public Service Company Kelly Tomblin on the seemingly very long and slow deliberations by the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) on who should receive the contract for a new 350 mw power plant. I can imagine how she feels. I often fail to see whether government agencies like the OUR, the Bureau of Standards (of toilet tissue infamy), the Urban Development Corporation and others do any good for the Jamaican people. I guess they provide jobs. How else do they serve our interests?
The truth is swimming away: In an enlightening radio interview with a frequently stuttering Transport and Works Minister Omar Davies on Thursday morning, it transpired that Davies’ junior minister Richard Azan told him two different stories about whether or not he knew that rental money was being collected at his (Azan’s) own constituency office for illegally constructed shops. There actually appear to be three different versions of this conversation, all aired on broadcast media. However, clearly Minister Davies seems to think that his junior minister means well, even if he has broken the law. He is eager to do good in the community, so let’s “give him a bligh,” nuh. The grammatically challenged Junior Minister had told Nationwide in an earlier interview, “Yes, I make a mistake for building the shops” (sic). But saying “My bad” sometimes has consequences, right?
This is a true patriot, Rev. Redwood: As I noted in my last blog post, the now-departed-on-a-jet-plane Senate President Reverend Stanley Redwood only dug a deeper hole for himself by responding to the cutting criticism of a Gleaner column in a letter to the newspaper. He actually called himself a patriotic Jamaican. The acerbic columnist Gordon Robinson today gives us a better idea of a patriotic Jamaican – one who has no choice but to struggle through our ramshackle health, justice and education systems with no special privileges, but who tries to help his fellow Jamaicans and ensure his family thrives.
Fresh face: Members of the 51% Coalition (including myself) are delighted at the appointment of a young attorney-at-law, Sophia Frazer-Binns. Great to see another woman in the Senate, and we look forward to her contribution. We note also that Ms. Frazer-Binns has some experience of working with youth. Good, too.
Two key meetings: J-FLAG and the Jamaica Civil Society Coalition (JCSC) had two key meetings this week: in recognition of International Day Against Homophobia, J-FLAG held a forum on homelessness and forced migration among the LGBT population; and the JCSC launched two publications arising from its lengthy series of consultations with communities on “People Participation in the National Budget Making Process.” Congratulations to both organizations for their efforts to keep seeking solutions to some of Jamaican society’s most intractable problems. I will be writing more on these meetings in the next week – in particular, on the “disconnects” between Jamaicans and Jamaicans. Need to overcome these…
Rooting for the children: Huge big-ups to the JN Foundation for providing desperately-needed funding for the Spanish Town-based non-governmental organization Children First. I had the honor of working with this organization on several occasions and have always been impressed by founder Claudette Richardson-Pious’ deep understanding of and clear-eyed focus on the complex and difficult lives of youth at risk. Since it is still Child Month, here are two other individuals who are quietly working on behalf of children: Deika Morrison of Crayons Count; and youth advocate Kemesha Kelly, who works with young people in St. Ann. Great role models.
Collecting: And Help JA Children, the lobby group formed one year ago, is busy collecting items for children in state care this month. Take your food, toiletries, clothes, books, magazines and other goodies to Kia Motors c/o HJC, 2 Chelsea Ave, Kgn 10. Tel: 920-5000. It will be hugely appreciated!
Kudos to Vaz: It’s Labour Day on Wednesday, when people undertake all kinds of tasks to make life better for their fellow-Jamaicans. One of former Prime Minister Michael Manley‘s better ideas, I think. Across the island, the infirmaries that are funded by local parish councils are in a terrible state of repair – often colonial-era buildings that have seen much better days. Now, a couple of months ago Member of Parliament for East Portland Daryl Vaz announced that he was going to give up five per cent of his salary, as a gesture of sacrifice in these tough times. He was praised in a half-hearted way by some. But now he has met with Port Antonio’s Mayor and decided the money he gives up will be earmarked for the Portland Infirmary, which is in a bad state. I really do like this. Did any other political representative follow Mr. Vaz’ example? I think not…
A waste of space: I am sometimes baffled by the sheer inanity and trivia that gets published in the newspapers each week. The random thoughts of commentators with nothing meaningful to say; the grinning men and women with wineglasses in their hands at an uptown party; yet another PR piece about some reggae/dancehall singer who is “making waves” overseas (playing in tiny clubs in the suburbs of big cities). If it’s online, at least with a click you can forget/delete it. But good trees are chopped down for this worthless nonsense.
Jamaican bloggers, sharpen your keyboards! Wednesday, May 23 – the third anniversary of the Tivoli Gardens Massacre – is Jamaica Blog Day, a “Day of Action for Jamaican bloggers on police and security force abuses.” The great little (growing) blogging community on the island, including myself, will be researching and writing and photographing on this subject. It’s going to be meaningful stuff. Do read and support our bloggers!
Coming up fast and not to be missed! The Fulbright Academy of Science and Technology will hold its 2013 Conference on Global Health in Montego Bay from May 24-27. It is open to the public. Important themes covered will be: Public Policy, Law and Economics in healthcare; Public Health and the Impact of Technology and Social Media; Emerging & Reemerging Infectious Diseases; Education, Sport and Wellness; Environmental Health (Global water supply & safety, Climate Change, Urban planning, engineering); and Human Sexuality. Visit the conference website at
And while I’m at it, big shout-out to all the fabulous Jamaican Fulbrighters (including Marcia Forbes, who will be presenting at the conference)… You make us proud!
I am relieved that the week, which started off so badly with homicides, has ended (hopefully) on a more peaceful note. However, my sympathies go out to the families and friends of Kenneth Kerr and Abasco Foster, who are grieving at this time. I hope that Mr. Foster’s companion recovers from serious injuries.
Kenneth Kerr, 54, Spanish Town, St. Catherine
Abasco Foster, 27, George’s Plain, Westmoreland
Related articles/links and local blogs in purple:
Economy contracts in March quarter: Gleaner
Kelly speaks her mind: Urges speedy decision on new power supplier: Sunday Gleaner
Stadium built with Chinese money in ruins: Sunday Observer
Jamaica: Three years on, state of emergency still an open wound: Amnesty International
”Act on Tivoli”: Gleaner
The methods of war have failed: Claude Clarke column/Sunday Gleaner
INDECOM needs more power: Letter of the Day/Gleaner
Cops to be charged for schoolgirl’s murder: Gleaner
Cop dodges court as DNA shatters lie: Jamaica Observer
Senate elects first visually impaired President: Jamaica Information Service
Attorney-at-law appointed to the Senate: Jamaica Information Service
Contribution to 2013 Sectoral Debate: Mikael Phillips, MP: Jamaica Information Service
Of patriots and sellouts: Gordon Robinson column/Sunday Gleaner
Saying goodbye and diaspora relations: Christopher Tufton op-ed/Sunday Gleaner
”Jamaica not grooming students for same sex unions, marriage is between a man and a woman”: chatychaty.com
Teen mothers to be reintegrated in school system: RJR News
The little wine that hurt somebody; or, soca and the bad-behaving gays of Jamaica: Under the Saltire Flag blog
”I give up!” Some parents no longer care about their runaway children: Gleaner
Cruel by choice: Thousands of Jamaican children intentionally injured by adults annually: Sunday Gleaner
Young and loveless: Teenage prostitute pushing for a fresh start: Sunday Gleaner
Condoms in schools: Martin Henry column/Sunday Gleaner
Ananda Alert to be displayed on billboards: Gleaner
Rescue for Children First: JN Foundation comes to the assistance of charity set up to help Jamaica’s most needy youths: Sunday Gleaner
Portland infirmary to get Vaz salary cut: Sunday Gleaner
Suspected dengue cases climb to 475, two confirmed deaths: Gleaner
Moneague Primary & Junior High cops LASCO environmental award: Gleaner
Caribbean talks conservation on Branson’s island: AP
Public gets say in Cockpit Country boundary debate: Gleaner
Eleven-year-old escapes croc attack, reptile snatches dog instead: Jamaica Star
KSAC, handcart men agree on registration fee: Gleaner
Balancing the act: Crawford seeks compromise between “want to eat” and “want to sleep”: Sunday Gleaner
An IDAHO State of Mind (petchary.wordpress.com)
May 15, 2013 (petchary.wordpress.com)
It’s a hot afternoon. It’s Mother’s Day in Jamaica, and the air is sleepy. Our gardener did some serious work yesterday and the yard looks scrupulously tidy. For now. Recent rain has brought back the many shades of green; and to my surprise, winter visitor warblers can still be seen flitting in the bushes. Time to travel north, young warblers!
Thinking about Tivoli: In the past few days since I last wrote, we have all been thinking more deeply about the Simpson Miller administration’s (wise) decision to hold a Commission of Enquiry into the massacre in Tivoli Gardens in May, 2010. There is some insightful commentary in the Sunday papers, and an indication that, three years later, many Jamaicans are more aware of the grave injustice and the horror of that day, when at least 77 Jamaicans lost their lives (we still do not know the exact figure; several people remain missing). For that, we at least partly have to thank the American journalist Mattathias Schwartz of the New Yorker; and the Public Defender Earl Witter, who finally produced the report. Today, Sunday Observer columnist Tamara Scott-Williams quotes the Jamaican president of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, Judge Patrick Robinson: “The simple, plain truth is that in no country with a Constitution that entrenches the right to life can 70 people be killed in peacetime in a single incident, whether by the security forces or by private persons, and national life and affairs continue as though nothing unusual has taken place.”
How can a monopoly not be viable? But that’s the way it apparently is with the Jamaica Public Service Company, according to its straight-talking CEO Kelly Tomblin. The eternal problem of widespread theft of electricity has still not been fully addressed; but as Ms. Tomblin said on radio, it is not just a question of devising ingenious ways of combating theft, but about lifting the company out of debt. Oh, two state-owned sugar companies were reportedly complicit in allowing neighboring communities to steal up to J$100 million worth. What kind of madness is that? Meanwhile, Ms. Tomblin has her work cut out – I am sure she has been aware of this for some time.
Leadership failures: The week’s fiasco involving the People’s National Party Youth Organization suggests, at the very least, weak leadership in the organization. Did President Alrick Campbell consult with his chapter leaders before sending out a press release that surprisingly refused to support the announced Commission of Enquiry into the Tivoli Gardens massacre? Similarly, Mayor of Montego Bay Glendon Harris is under pressure after a series of dreadful faux pas, culminating in the hospital re-naming fiasco. Do these people have any idea of public relations, either? Clueless.
NHT again: The whole National Housing Trust (NHT) business is still bugging me. It all seems wrong. One of my “tweeps” observed today, “How can the NHT force employers to make mortgage deductions from workers? Shoudn’t that be an arrangement between the Trust and its clients?” Very good question…
Blood on the streets: As usual, the social media was ahead of the traditional media on Friday morning, as several photos were pasted on Facebook of two apparently lifeless bodies – young men allegedly shot by the police in a parking lot in downtown Kingston. Reports appeared at least two hours later on the newspaper websites, noting a police report that ”brazen gunmen” had made a robbery attempt, and that three ”were in hospital” (dead on arrival?) According to the eye witnesses who posted the photos, the bodies were collected and loaded into vans within minutes, before the Crime Scene investigation unit or INDECOM (the Independent Commission of Investigations) arrived. Onlookers say the men were unarmed. I have shared the photos below. Meanwhile, the print media coverage of what actually happened in the middle of the day on Friday in busy downtown was muddled and lacking in detail.
Harassing the handcarts: Some genius at the Kingston & St. Andrew Corporation has come up with the startlingly brilliant idea of taxing handcart operators. These are rough-hewn carts with a primitive steering-wheel attached, operated by men in Kingston and most towns to transport small quantities of goods (and sometimes people). When I see men pushing and navigating these carts, sweating and straining in the hot sun, I think “what a hard life.” These are, basically, poor people. How could the Mayor think of doing such a thing?
I’m off now, but you guys can stay: President of the Senate Stanley Redwood is migrating to Canada, and made farewell comments last week before his departure. Methinks he doth protest too much. “No other Jamaican should be forced or feel forced to make the choice I have to make this month,” said the Senator, who has been beating himself up over departing for greener pastures for some time. It’s OK for me to go – but you guys stay here, stick it out… Not impressed, I’m afraid.
Power walks: While blood still stained the streets of downtown Kingston, a couple of miles away uptowners were preparing for two charity walks on Saturday – both good causes. Due to ongoing back problems, I was unable to participate in either. But I hope lots of money was raised for Dress for Success and the Nuttall Memorial Hospital, respectively. Next time!
Sick of them: There are certain things that always upset me when I watch the evening news on television. Of course, the ongoing bloodshed is one of those things. What also depresses me is the greed and selfishness of thieves who, like vampires, feed on hard-working Jamaicans. It seems that every week a school is broken into, and we see the anxious principal, his/her face creased with anxiety and stress, detailing all the items the school lost – of course, all the most valuable things that they can least afford to replace, many of them donated by kind-hearted people. Then there are the poor farmers, who go to the fields in the morning to see their precious animals hacked to pieces or their crops pulled out of the ground. On Friday, we heard that the bus belonging to Alpha Boys School was stolen in Spanish Town. I don’t know if they have found it. Alpha nurtures abandoned and orphaned boys, and is famous for its school band that has produced many great Jamaican musicians. Shame on you all, you vampires.
Pit latrines in schools: As I noted in my post of August 12, 2012, around 200 schools across Jamaica still have pit latrines. I doubt that much has changed since then. Perhaps we should consider this as a priority over tablets, Minister Paulwell? (Much as I love your tablets). The “sanitary conveniences” at St. Mary’s Primary School in rural St. Elizabeth are as old as the school itself (44 years) and pose a serious health risk. For a start, if a young child slips he/she can fall into them. The Florida-based Andrew Dixon Foundation is seeking to raise funds to replace them.
I was wondering… about the over 4,000 online jobs that the World Bank says it has created for young Jamaicans. The World Bank provides more details on its Digital Jam 2.0 program at the link below. It includes internships and fellowships at Howard University, pilot projects, incubators and so on. Brilliant!
Sports vs academics: The Gleaner recently published a table ranking Jamaica’s high schools in terms of their CSEC examination results. I’m trying to find a link to it. It was noticeable, however, that almost all the traditional boys’ high schools did quite poorly; unsurprisingly, the co-educational Kingston high school Campion College came out on top. A columnist yesterday pointed out that the low-performing boys’ schools are those that compete furiously and loudly at “Champs” (the high school athletics championships) and tout their sporting prowess. Is there a conflict here?
Less abatement? As I have noted before, Jamaica/Kingston is Party Central, and the noise must go on. I see the Ministry of National Security and Ministry of Entertainment as it seems to call itself are holding a public consultation on “changes to the Noise Abatement Act” on Wednesday at the Jamaica Conference Centre. What changes? Where? Is the noise to go on longer? I am suspicious of the “entertainment zones” that have been mentioned a few times by our enthusiastic Junior Minister Damion Crawford, who is young and therefore fond of “shelling dung” as the saying goes. And hey, do you think there may be more important things to be worrying about? I can only assume that, like the building of housing for poor people, this is a populist, vote-getting exercise.
Yohan Blake/boys home: I am very pleased with our young Olympian Yohan Blake, whose YB Afraid Foundation continues to support the Mount Olivet Boys’ Home in Manchester, in all kinds of important ways. The home’s infrastructure is steadily improving as a result. Thanks to Mr. Blake; you have a good, good heart.
It is very sad to report that in the past three days the following Jamaicans have been killed. My heart goes out to their families. Too much trouble in the world.
Clifton Drummonds, 55, John’s Town, St. Thomas (mob killing)
Winston Robinson, Mannings Hill Road, Kingston
Tiffany Shirley, Mannings Hill Road, Kingston
Killed by police:
Unidentified man, Pechon Street/Beckford Street, Kingston
Unidentified man, Matthews Lane, Kingston
Electricity theft, debt threaten company’s viability, says Tomblin: Jamaica Observer
Power thieves must be stopped: Gleaner editorial
Samuda labels logistics hub a “pipe dream”: Jamaica Observer
Jamaica Broilers invests $300 million in new plant: Gleaner
What, really, are agro parks? Gleaner editorial
Palmyra parent firm deemed a squatter: Gleaner
Creating employment solutions for young Jamaicans in the virtual economy: worldbank.org
Rating agency reacts to IMF-Jamaica agreement: Sunday Observer
The business of sport in Jamaica: Marcia Forbes op-ed/caribjournal.com
No unlicensed cable operator in Jamaica/Broadcasting Commission
No justification for NWC rate hike: Jamaica Observer editorial
Handcart permit regime off the deep end: Letter of the Day/Gleaner
Pryce chides PNPYO for washing dirty linen in public: Jamaica Observer
Montego Bay mayor faces no-confidence vote: Gleaner
Arscott defends cost of local government delegation to Uganda: RJR News
Whose plan for Jamaica is it anyway? Jamaica Civil Society Coalition op-ed/Sunday Gleaner
Does Jamaica need outside help to deal with crime? caribjournal.com
Man implicated in murder chopped to death: RJR News
Daylight gun battles cause mayhem downtown: Gleaner
Deadly end! Robbery foiled, cops kill one gunman, injure another: Jamaica Observer
Deadlock blanks downtown CCTV plan: Sunday Gleaner
Why the Tivoli enquiry is important: Claude Robinson column/Sunday Observer
Forget the enquiry; make a movie instead: Tamara Scott-Williams column/Sunday Observer
Pain still lingers for Tivoli man, family: Sunday Observer
West Kingston rejoices after cops kill thug: Gleaner
Mothers mourn loss of son, daughter: Sunday Observer
From Haiti to Cuba: A vision for the Caribbean in 2030: caribjournal.com
COMPLANT workers protest: RJR News
Pit latrines pose public health risk at St. Mary’s Primary: Gleaner
No water for farmers in Llandewey for decades: Letter to the Editor/Gleaner
Emergency call to action for Child Month: Letter from Jamaica Youth Action Network to the Gleaner
Condoms or abstinence: Guidance counselors ponder the best fit for schools: Sunday Gleaner
High school standard bearers of excellence? Lascelve Graham op-ed/Observer
Mount Olivet Boys’ Home a refuge from abuse: Gleaner
Saturday Social: Jamaica Observer
More assistance for local exporters: Jamaica Information Service
This week is Education Week in Jamaica. It means (obviously) that the Minister of Education is exceptionally busy, with a flurry of additional functions and school visits. We have also embarked on Child Month – when much wider issues affecting children are under the microscope. These “issues” are so wide-ranging that they cannot possibly be addressed during a few speeches/seminars during one month. We must keep them at the forefront of all our thoughts and discussions right through the year. In our hearts and minds.
Earlier today – Teachers’ Day – I spent some time at St. Michael’s Primary School, in the inner city area of Rae Town. The occasion was the donation of ten computers to the school by a U.S.-based company, GTECH Corporation (see press release below). The school is tucked away on a narrow lane, in one of the oldest parts of the city, close to the waterfront. There are remnants of old brick walls, broken kerbs and overgrown patches of land. This morning, rows of lilac-colored clouds furrowed the pale morning sky; the early light was soft and a faint humid breeze blew from the harbor. And just beyond the school loomed the red brick, Victorian walls of the “General Penitentiary” – or correctly named, the Tower Street Correctional Centre, spiked with barbed wire. The children must, one assumed, be used to these close quarters, this walled horizon.
The Chairman of the School Board, the Rev. Dr. Alton Tulloch, told me that the original St. Michael’s Anglican Church, where he ministers, was destroyed during the 1907 earthquake. It was close to or on the site of the current school, and was rebuilt further back from the shoreline, on Victoria Street. (The National Library of Jamaica has a wonderful photo album on Flickr, which includes a photo of the old church after the earthquake - little more than a pile of rubble).
The school was busy getting itself in order when we arrived; a few curious students wandered up to the room where we were to peer at the beautifully decorated walls, swathed in blue and yellow. They were shushed away. There was excitement in the air, and the narrow schoolyard was filling up with strange cars. The visitors were arriving…
Monday was Read Across Jamaica Day. Ms. Deika Morrison of Crayons Count visited the Sunrays Educational Centre and read to the young children there. Pelican Publishers’ Latoya West-Blackwood visited the Central Branch Infant School and tweeted, “Don’t know how the teachers do it! So much energy in the room!” The photographs below tell the story of enjoyment and fun. Crayons Count campaigns, and provides materials, in the area of early childhood education – those years when a child’s thoughts awaken. The brain absorbs; the eyes widen and imagination begins to flow.
Albert Einstein said, “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.” I grew up on fairy tales, and I don’t think they did me any harm.
Books, learning and exploring are at the core of the children’s experience at the Trench Town Reading Centre, which will celebrate its twentieth anniversary later this year. Situated in the heart of Kingston 12, just opposite the “Government Yard” where Bob Marley spent his youth, the Centre is bursting with energy and life. It is also a book-centred place of learning. No tablets here, no fancy technology; but so much creativity – hands-on – craft, music, art, gardening, dance, performing arts, and books, books, books.
And learning comes in many packages: whether it’s a tablet, a picture book or a computer such as those GTECH is providing to institutions in Jamaica.
So, wherever you are, and especially to my Jamaican readers… This month and throughout the year please do whatever you can to bring that shining light of discovery into a child’s eyes. The learning experience gives as much pleasure to the teacher and guide as it does to the young recipient. Try it, nuh! And please support organizations such as Trench Town Reading Centre and other places where the love of learning flourishes!
GTECH DONATES COMPUTERS TO ST. MICHAEL’S PRIMARY SCHOOL
Kingston, Jamaica, May 8, 2013 - Global information technology company GTECH today, Teachers’ Day, continued its commitment to fostering educational growth through their After School Advantage Programme with the handover of ten computers to St. Michael’s Primary School in Rae Town, Kingston.
This was their fifth such installation for Jamaican institutions, with two more planned by year-end. The Programme donates computers to non-profit organisations and schools with the aim of bridging the “digital divide” and empowering disadvantaged youth.
At the handover ceremony, Minister of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining Phillip Paulwell, who gave the main address, praised GTECH’s vision. He expressed his enthusiasm for and commitment to the use of information technology in schools, as a tool that will “create inquisitive minds” and encourage innovation and creativity. He recalled an early Jamaica Computer Society programme in rural schools that resulted in “almost immediate improvements” in reading.
“I thought: therein lies the answer,” Minister Paulwell observed. He expressed the belief that, once given access to information technology, Jamaicans could become technology leaders on the global stage.
GTECH Jamaica’s General Manager Debbie Green stressed that the Programme is much more than simply donating computers. “It is about establishing a relationship with the institution,” she noted, that includes continued support and maintenance. As an example of this, St. Michael’s Primary will be GTECH Jamaica’s Labour Day project onMay 23 this year; their staff members will be engaged in painting and refurbishing activities at the school, which houses 235 students.
GTECH’s Regional General Manager/Caribbean, Ann-Dawn Young Sang, quoted Jamaican National Hero Marcus Garvey’s words, “Knowledge is power.” She noted that in this “era of rapid advancement, there should be access to the digital world for every child.” In pursuit of this vision, she noted that GTECH works in over seventy countries worldwide, with over 200 After School Centres established. Emphasizing the importance of early childhood education, Mrs Young Sang sees information technology as a vital component for the region’s competitiveness.
St. Michael’s dedicated Principal, Dave Allen, expressed his gratitude for the computers, which he said would empower his students to “become good citizens of the world.” Noting the presence of veteran educator Verna Duncan, he celebrated the significance of the day – Teachers’ Day – for his school “in our little corner” of the city. Mr. Allen and a lively percussion section accompanied a group of charming students, who performed traditional folk songs for the guests.
Technology Specialist with the USAID/Jamaica Basic Education Project Dr. Melody Williams commended the GTECH family for its focus, pointing to several key benefits of information technology in schools. “If used effectively,” she suggested, “IT enhances the child’s creative skills.” Students must be “good digital citizens,” she added, pointing to the need for responsible use of the Internet.
Since 2006, GTECH Jamaica has provided assistance to a number of schools and institutions, including Lawrence Tavern and Easington Primary Schools, Sylvia Foote Basic School, the University of Technology, Caribbean Maritime Institute, Portmore Community College, Dunrobin Primary School, Holy Trinity High School, the Jamaica Christian Boys’ Home and the SOS Children’s Village. On average, the GTECH-funded programme invests US$15,000 to open and maintain each IT centre over a period of four years.
The GTECH After School Advantage Programme started in the Caribbean in 2005 in Trinidad and Tobago, where it has established twelve centres since 2011. In the U.S. Virgin Islands, GTECH has partnered with the Queen Louise Home for Children in St. Croix. It plans to open a second centre in St. Thomas this year, as well as one in the Dominican Republic.
USAID/Jamaica Basic Education Project
Disaster: The Earthquake of 1907
National Library of Jamaica Flickr Photostream
Open books and smiling faces: Read Across Jamaica Day 2013
Trench Town Reading Centre
We are refreshed by the rain, which has been coming down in oodles for the past few days, every afternoon on cue. It has turned the streets of Kingston into chaos and our lawn into a kind of marshland (previously it was desert). We are nevertheless thankful.
All that wet stuff has not washed away all the silliness that has been going on this week though, sadly. For a start…
The terrors of tweeting: The curse of the tweet has descended on Jamaica. You would think that our public officials would have learned from the sticky situations their overseas counterparts have got themselves into in the not too distant past. But Kingston’s Mayor dipped her toes into these dangerous waters, and got bitten. She used some of her 140 characters to exclaim “What the f!” and went on to complain that two Opposition representatives (including the leader) were appearing on the mid-week television current affairs shows. Now we all know what the “f” in the social media term WTF means (no, it does not stand for “frog”) and the Mayor pretty much acknowledged this in a sort of half-apology during a radio interview with Barbara Gloudon. So let’s move on from that, and the self-righteous indignation. Yes, certainly inappropriate for someone in her position, but let’s not overreact.
The show must go on: Several journalists responded sharply on social media and radio to the Mayor’s accusation of political bias. They pointed out (in fact, one even listed) the number of times they have requested the participation of the Prime Minister and other government officials, who have declined the requests. And the media knows that the show must go on, with or without them. Note: Mayor Angela Brown Burke is a stalwart of the People’s National Party and leader of the Kingston & St. Andrew Corporation, representing the majority party. Mayors are not directly elected in Jamaica – except for the Mayor of the Municipality of Portmore.
More importantly…This is all another manifestation of the uncomfortable relationship between the current administration and the media. Isn’t it? So badly out of sync. If I was the Prime Minister, I would gently relieve the current communications consultants (or whatever they call themselves) of their duties, and start afresh with a new “team.” At the moment, the whole thing is lurching from one faux pas to another. It’s painful to watch. And so unnecessary.
Is the press really free, or just comfortable? And talking of the press, there were some interesting remarks at the Press Association of Jamaica’s breakfast in recognition of World Press Freedom Day on Friday, May 3. The church person I have a great deal of time for, the head of Jamaica’s Anglican Church Bishop Howard Gregory, said he did not think either the current administration or the Opposition would want a Commission of Enquiry into the Tivoli Gardens slaughter, as suggested by the Public Defender and others. Why? Because “the complicity factor operates,” says Bishop Gregory. Both political parties will seek to preserve the status quo (see below) and not rock the boat. Who knows what might come out? It might not look good on either party. Best to just let sleeping dogs lie… or in this case, well over seventy dead Jamaicans. Professor Trevor Munroe of National Integrity Action warned against the “nine-day wonder” phenomenon, which a certain local government councilor predicted for the Azan affair recently. Soon blow over. Don’t let this happen! And broadcast journalist Emily Crooks suggested that her colleagues were “not pushing the envelope” – and were, therefore, quite comfortable compared to colleagues around the world who are harassed, attacked, even killed. We need a more “activist” and investigative press, one feels. Complacency is never desirable. The press must, and should, be prepared to rock that boat until the water slops over the sides.
Thievery reaches new heights: With the theft of over 200,000 liters of airplane fuel from the Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay. Pardon the pun. The mind boggles. How? We wait with bated breath for more news on this… Or else we might just forget to ask?
Houses for the poor: Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller seems mighty pleased with her latest plan to revive the Inner City Housing Project, using funds from the poor old National Housing Trust (NHT) – the gift that keeps on giving. There, you see! She is doing something for the poor, after all. Who said she didn’t love them? Others are not so impressed. Responding to a question on TVJ News earlier this week, 91 per cent of viewers said that NHT funds should not be used to assist non-contributors. In a Sunday Gleaner column today, the irreverent Gordon Robinson asks: ”Why are otherwise intelligent persons twisting themselves into knots to defend this indefensible rape of poor people’s assets?” I think he (and we) know a few reasons why. One must not upset the applecart, as that sage People’s National Party councilor told CVM Television in relation to the Richard Azan/Spaldings Market fiasco. All hail the status quo! Long may it live!
Incidentally, the Prime Minister said she had no knowledge of the councilor’s remarks, when questioned by CVM. Rather surprising. Or not?
What Negril does/does NOT have: We noted recently that the tourist town of Negril is extremely short of water. We also now hear that it has had no fire engine for the past two months, and is dependent on trucks from the town of Savannah-la-Mar, a good twenty minutes’ drive away. A large house burnt down yesterday. As the Jamaica Environment Trust notes, the beach is rapidly disappearing, with the sea lapping at beachside attractions; there are dubious plans to revive it by injecting chemicals into it. Oh, and there is basically no coral reef and no fish – all connected with said dwindling beach, of course. I’m informed, also, that the Negril Recycling Centre, supported by the Sandals Foundation about three years ago, is also non-functioning. The nearest one now is in Montego Bay.
Help JA Children, a local lobby group formed just one year ago and founded by the still-ridiculously-young Brandon Allwood, has started a collection of items for children in state care. The collection drive will go on for the entire month of May (Child Month) at Kia Motors, 2 Chelsea Avenue, in New Kingston. Please go through your cupboards or pop down to the store and donate anything that you can spare – clothes, toys, books, stationery and school items, toiletries… Help JA Children has a Facebook page and is on Twitter (@HelpJAChildren).
Reparations, again: In 2001, our very own Barbara Blake Hannah – a passionate Rastafarian defender of Jamaica’s culture – attended the United Nations World Conference on Racism in Durban, South Africa. The conference made 19 excellent recommendations for ways in which the evils of slavery could be atoned for by, in Jamaica’s case, the British Government. A British Lord, Anthony Gifford – a Queen’s Counsel who practices law in Jamaica and the UK – has campaigned tirelessly on the subject; and so has the Jamaica Labour Party’s Mike Henry. And yet, sadly, little or no progress has been made. Essentially, the British have said sorry, but no. The discussions continue. Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines Ralph Gonsalves spoke for a remarkable 87 minutes (according to tweets from friends who attended) at the launch of a new book on the topic by Professor Hilary Beckles at the University of the West Indies this week. Mr. Gonsalves has offered to host a Caribbean conference on the topic in his country, at which he will no doubt drone on for another 87 minutes. To my mind, this does not advance us any further. What next? Not more words, please? Let’s have action! It is a burning question, it needs to be resolved, and long speeches are not going to cut it.
But then, this is part of the Pontification Syndrome for which Jamaica is well known. We talk too much!
I hate Page 2: In the current socio-economic climate, my dislike for the social pages in the daily newspapers has been steadily growing. I am developing a real hatred for Page Two and Something Extra and all the other nonsense. I think I am going to start a Campaign for the Abolition of Social Pages (CASP for short). Seriously. They are irrelevant, elitist, classist, and actually rather offensive – in light of the fact that when the IMF funds were disbursed, the government had to ask for a special sum up front for “budgetary support.” So they could pay public sector wage bills for April, perhaps? So can we wave goodbye to those people with drinks in their hands, posing for their photo? Goodbye!
Once again, it is very sad to note the names of those who have been murdered in Jamaica since Wednesday, May 1, when I wrote my last review. My condolences to all those who mourn them (and to the family, friends and neighbors of the twelve-year-old girl who committed suicide in rural St. Catherine last week):
Violet Marsh, 63, Temple Hall, St. Andrew
Phillip Bell, 39, Seaforth, St. Thomas
Leroy Reid, 42, Naggo Head, St. Catherine
Constable Michael Townsend, Effortville District, Clarendon
Killed by the police:
Orane Bowman, Clarendon
Related links and articles (local blogs in purple):
PNP members apologize for controversial tweets: RJR News
Controversy in 140 characters: Gleaner editorial
Can you hear me now? Communication problems at Jamaica’s local government level: Perceptual Post
”Our journalists are not killed, but many stories die”: Jamaica Observer
Jamaican journalists challenged to improve standards: Sunday Gleaner
The people vs Portia: Lloyd B Smith op-ed/Jamaica Observer
Jamaica will find it difficult to implement IMF targets, Fitch says: Jamaica Observer
Lack of accountability in the budget debate: Robert Wynter column/Sunday Gleaner
NDX Saves Gov’t $17 Billion in Payments Per Year on Domestic Bonds: Jamaica Information Service
OUR to hold public meetings on request for increased water rates: RJR News
Energy bill reduction falls short of target: Solar Buzz Jamaica
Paulwell’s statement on CAP not true, says Golding: Jamaica Observer
Clarendon Alumina Partners no cost on budget – Finance Minister: Jamaica Information Service
NHT’s Inner City Housing Project causes headache: Gleaner – April, 2010
PM revives housing plan: Gleaner
The great NHT robbery: Gordon Robinson column/Sunday Gleaner
Upgraded facility to benefit St. Mary farmers: Jamaica Observer
Public beaches raise a stink: Gleaner
”Be more selective”: Food for the Poor Jamaica Chair Andrew Mahfood: lowrie-chin.blogspot.com
Britain’s black debt: The logic of reparation: anniepaul.net
Cut the talk and cut the red tape: Sunday Observer editorial
Richard Azan: The story not yet told: Desmond Allen article/Jamaica Observer
Spalding shops: Parish Council knew: Sunday Observer
Beyond Mr. Witter’s windy diatribe: Gleaner editorial
Witter wrong on ICC enquiry: Letter to the Editor from Lloyd D’Aguilar/Gleaner
We want $1 millon each: Tivoli residents put price on their loss: Gleaner
Anglican bishop says government will do nothing about Tivoli report: Jamaica Observer
Jamaica’s image in jeopardy if no Tivoli enquiry says human rights activist: RJR News
”Dudus” should testify – Witter: Sunday Observer
No disciplinary action yet – Albert Corcho: Jamaica Star
Children’s Advocate calls for partnerships: Jamaica Information Service
Give us clarity, Minister Thwaites: Letter from Senator Kamina Johnson Smith/Jamaica Observer
Child’s suicide leaves void in St. Catherine village: Sunday Observer
Revealing Jamaica’s soul: Jamaicans for Justice op-ed/Sunday Observer
Should contraceptives be introduced in schools? Sunday Observer
Contraceptives in schools: Don’t just dismiss it: Sunday Observer
Chart of the Week: Putting All our Eggs in One Basket? Cargo continues to decline: diGJamaica
”Tablets” for a wounded Jamaica: perceptualpost.com
”Time for Penwood to settle down”: Jamaica Observer
Was Penwood stabbing staged for YouTube? Sunday Gleaner
Prisoners party at Tower Street: Sunday Gleaner
Chronic shortage of special education teachers: RJR News
Sports: The opium of our high schools: Lasceive Graham op-ed/Jamaica Observer
Round and around and around and around we go: Tamara Scott Williams column/Sunday Observer
ODPEM gearing up for active hurricane season: Jamaica Information Service
Portrait of an elderly man: lovely artwork from a young man from St. Mary: jablogz.com
Influential Jamaican saxophonist Cedric Brooks dies at 70: Washington Post”
What happened to the Negril Recycling Centre? Undated photo from Sandals Foundation showsHeidi Clarke (third left), director of programmes at the Sandals Foundation, hands over a cheque valued at $320,000 to Carey Wallace, president of the Negril Chamber of Commerce, operators of the Negril Recycling Centre. Looking on are Mark Swainbank of Environmental Resources Management (from left); Junior Gordon, director of the Negril Chamber of Commerce and general manager for Grand Pineapple Negril; Jermaine Robinson, manager of the Negril Chamber of Commerce; and Peter Reid, manager of the Negril Recycling Centre.
This is my modest, personal contribution to an amazing series of videos, “We Are Jamaicans,” which is funded with the kind support of the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition (CVC) through its Global Fund Vulnerablised Project. These are short PSA-length videos – the voices of Jamaicans young and old, gay and straight, uptown and downtown – our personal stories, our thoughts, our perspectives.
My thought is that, in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., hate is too great a burden to bear. So much better to lay it down. Let us embrace Jamaica and Jamaicans, in all their wonderful, human diversity.
And the entire series (a total of eighteen to date) can be found here:
Do browse through, enjoy, and post your feedback if you wish. Thank you!
- Jamaican Transgender Women Lend Their Voices To ‘We Are Jamaicans’ Campaign (repeatingislands.com)
- MLK: Marcus Garvey Was the First (youthandeldersja.wordpress.com)
- J-FLAG, Jamaica’s gay rights group, launches YouTube video campaign, ‘We Are Jamaicans’ (miamiherald.typepad.com)
- Playing Politics With Jamaica’s Future (petchary.wordpress.com)
- Jamaican trans women call for equality (thefword.org.uk)
Jamaican press ignores ground-breaking gay rights video campaign
I admire this young man
Editor's Note : The views expressed below are not my own. Javed Jaghai returns to Veritas with his take on Jamaica's current political realities. Read. Reflect. Comment.
Jamaican politicians may be terrible leaders, but they are masters of political strategy. They understand our culture very well. They know how to appease us, they know how to mistreat us (and get away with it), and they know that we are familiar enough with each other to privilege loyalty and character over intellect and effectiveness.
- J-FLAG, Jamaica's gay rights group, launches YouTube video campaign, 'We Are Jamaicans' (miamiherald.typepad.com)
- Take a Deep Breath Now: Sunday March 10, 2013 (petchary.wordpress.com)
- http://petchary.wordpress.com/2013/01/29/i-admire-this-young-man/ I admire this young man (petchary.wordpress.com)
- http://petchary.wordpress.com/2013/01/23/jamaican-press-ignores-ground-breaking-gay-rights-video-campaign/ Jamaican press ignores ground-breaking gay rights video campaign (petchary.wordpress.com)
- http://petchary.wordpress.com/2012/04/12/op-ed-fighting-injustice-in-jamaica/ Fighting injustice in Jamaica: Javed Jaghai/Jaevion Nelson op-ed (petchary.wordpress.com)
We had rain! Yes, you know, that wet stuff that makes you wet. It was glorious in Kingston, splashing around for a bit. The cooler temperature is delightful. Our whole garden has woken up again.
The week so far has been fairly quiet. But here are a few things to ponder:
Time for “Man a Yaad”: Opposition Spokesman on Finance Audley Shaw made an interesting contribution to the Budget Debate in Parliament yesterday. As he often does, he alternated between throwaway jibes and humor and heavy, somber pronouncements. In between, he put forward some alternatives, some solutions. This was refreshing. We didn’t really get any from the Finance Minister last week; his “no new taxes” presentation was predictably dull. But then, it’s easier for the Opposition to be more interesting and engaging, whichever one of the parties it is. One just wishes these budget speeches didn’t go on so darn long.
Gloom and doom: As the signing of the agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) finally appears on the horizon – within striking distance now – it seems Jamaican consumers are none too cheerful. Although business confidence is reportedly up a little, 47 per cent of consumers in the latest Jamaica Chamber of Commerce quarterly survey are pessimistic about the economy. There has been a significant increase in gloom and doom compared to a year ago. IMF or no IMF.
“Bun and cheese politics”: This is how the Jamaica Observer’s editorial describes the current style of governance in Montego Bay. I would love to hear a really nice, inspiring story coming out of that city. Please. In particular, the leadership of the current Mayor Glendon Harris (People’s National Party) worries me. The former mayor, the Jamaica Labour Party‘s Charles Sinclair (who is a great deal more articulate than his successor) alleges that at Easter time the Parish Council over which Mayor Harris presides gave $20,000 to each council member to buy bun and cheese; and that it is also funding a Monday night public street dance. There was a bit of a shadow over the Council after the ridiculous and prolonged to-do last year over a Jamaican flag – minus the green – draped above a stage at an official function. Of course, the absent green is the Jamaica Labour Party’s color. That unpleasant little episode remains a little murky to this day, but fingers were pointed here and there…
The renaming of the ‘Ospital: Yes, the ‘Ealth Minister has, at last, spoken on the issue of the renaming of the Cornwall Regional Hospital in Montego Bay. He and the Prime Minister are pouring gallons of oil on troubled waters, stirred up by the aforesaid Mayor Harris. Whose name, you may ask? Why, only that of the man who almost single-handedly brought the hospital into being to serve western Jamaica. Dr. Herbert Eldemire died three years ago. He was Minister of Health from 1962-72 under the Jamaica Labour Party and served as party chairman for a few years; but was never known as a “tribalist.” Cabinet approved the renaming of the hospital in August, 2011. The current administration has said it had intended to proceed with the official renaming soon. This does not seem to sit well with the Mayor, who last week decided to “consult” with Montegonians on the matter. The Prime Minister has intervened and spoken to Dr. Eldemire’s daughter Denise, but it seems it is too late. The family is clearly deeply offended and hurt by the Mayor’s attitude and does not want the renaming to happen; see their statement below. This seems to me petty, reeking of political tribalism. By all accounts, Dr. Herbert Eldemire served his country extremely well. If not for him, the hospital might well not exist.
But no, the forces of political partisanship have won again, and soured what might have been a positive and celebratory move. Then again, maybe it would be best not to name anywhere at all after politicians, anywhere on the island. Not even a lamp post.
FINSAC report: The creation of the Financial Sector Adjustment Company (FINSAC) during the financial crash of the 1990s shattered many lives. This is a known fact. Opposition Spokesman Audley Shaw caused quite a rumpus in Parliament this week when he insisted that the Government must find the J$10-15 million needed to complete and publish the report of the Commission of Enquiry into FINSAC. Of course, there is politics at work here; FINSAC was presided over by the now Transport and Works Minister Omar Davies, who was Finance Minister in 1997. But for heaven’s sake, just find the money please and let’s bring closure. By the way, FINSAC has a nice website in patriotic Jamaican colors:
. I am sure it does not refer to the suicides, family breakups and destitution it left in its wake.
…and the other one: Another painful and shameful episode in Jamaica’s recent history was, of course, the massacre of over seventy Jamaican citizens in Tivoli Gardens in May, 2010. Yes, we are approaching the third anniversary of this horror, and still the Public Defender‘s interim report is not forthcoming. I am beginning to feel sorry for Mr. Michael Peart, the House Speaker, who is now insisting he will receive it by month-end, ready or not.
A little warming: The Prime Minister actually smiled at a journalist yesterday. CVM Television’s Andrew Cannon managed to have a chat with her, while her security man peered over her shoulder. On the Azan matter (which still rankles) the Prime Minister, in a disarming manner, pointed out that there was an ongoing “investigation” (a favorite word) and suggested poor Mr. Azan may “per’aps” have made an error. So no budging in the position there. It also appears that a microphone did not come into contact with Mrs. Simpson Miller’s mouth (a bit of dramatic license there perhaps on the part of the Information Minister). The Prime Minister merely backed away from the over-enthusiastic, unknown reporter; no physical contact. Speaker of the House Michael Peart, in the same TV report, seemed to have also let the cat out of the bag by saying he was unaware of any shooting incident that may have made the PM’s security even more uptight than usual. Did he not get the memo?
…but not so lovable these days? As a result of this public relations fiasco, I find the Prime Minister’s demeanor has become cold and distant. It may be a defense mechanism, but it is really strange and unexpected. She has been making almost no effort to “woo” either the media or the public at large. Her Information Minister is becoming far too schoolmistressy – and so condescending it leaves you breathless. It is all about protecting the Prime Minister from the rest of us, it seems. That’s fine, but can the Prime Minister’s entourage of advisors, support team etc. – whatever they call themselves – just lighten up a little? We are not zombies rampaging across the land. We are ordinary people seeking information! Minister Falconer, try smiling sometimes? The media and the public are not your enemies.
But hey, some awesome things have already happened this week: Top of my list, the donation of a gorgeous, shining white bus by UNICEF to Eve for Life, the non-governmental organization that supports teen mothers living with HIV. As the organization’s chair, I was happy to be able to thank UNICEF for this generosity and for their ongoing support and faith in the incredible Eve family – especially the indefatigable Joy Crawford and Pat Watson, who are so dedicated and hard-working it’s not true. The bus was loaded up with provisions today for the young ladies in Montego Bay – its inaugural trip out of town! SO exciting.
Then there is the current visit of the African American artist Kehinde Wiley, who creates breathtaking (and often huge) canvases of young urban males of various ethnicities in the striking poses of Western art traditions. I remember being stunned by a huge painting of LL Cool J sitting imperiously on a throne, against an ornate background, at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC some years ago. It’s a thrill to have Mr. Wiley here (his first visit to Jamaica) as part of his “World Stage” project. Can’t wait to see the results!
Speaking of art… Don’t forget the National Gallery will be having its monthly free Sunday opening on April 28th. It promises to be fun and stimulating, as usual.
And an intrepid group of Jamaicans has started the ball rolling on what I know will be an ongoing discussion on gender equity in Jamaica and what can be done to redress the balance. According to official figures, 34% of women are unemployed, compared to 10% for men (the actual figures are very likely higher). I have a feeling that the #leaninJA conversation will likely translate into action. Congratulations to Marcia Forbes et al for sharpening the focus!
Question: Is the drug trade on the rise again in Jamaica? See the reports below. I hope not, I really do.
My condolences to the families of the following Jamaicans who were killed recently. I want this to end…
Ann-Marie Campbell, 39, Black River, St. Elizabeth
Barrington Bennett, 61, Highfield, St. Catherine (British national) – last week.
Related articles (local blog posts in purple):
Richard Azan a law unto himself: Letter of the Day/Gleaner
Azan’s specter haunts the Budget: Is PM a coward? Gleaner editorial
Time come, Portia, time come: constructedthoughts.wordpress.com
”White Lady” is back: cops say cocaine trade resurfacing in Jamaica: Gleaner
Men linked to international drug network remanded: RJR News
Marijuana seized on Navy Island: RJR News
Guardsman suspends contractors in wake of multimillion dollar cocaine find: RJR News
PM to intervene in Cornwall Regional Hospital renaming issue: Gleaner
Statement from the Eldemire family regarding the renaming of the Cornwall Regional Hospital: delanoseiv.wordpress.com
Rise above the fray: Letter to the Editor from Lloyd B. Smith, MP/Jamaica Observer
Bun and cheese politics in MoBay: Jamaica Observer
No progress on murder halt: Letter to the Editor/Gleaner
Focus on safety, not war: Letter to the Editor from Yvonne McCalla Sobers/Gleaner
Rev Al Miller faces court in “Dudus” case: Jamaica Observer
Peart insists Tivoli report will be tabled by month-end: Jamaica Observer
Jamaicans enjoy living on the edge: Robert Lalah column/Gleaner
Jamaica hoping for talks on PetroCaribe soon: Gleaner
Entrepreneur reports growth and success in Tel-Aviv: Jamaica Star
Visas, air service hindering Chinese tourists to Jamaica: Gleaner
Reclaiming water: A solution to one of Jamaica’s problems: Jamaica Observer
Pastor says: Use more contraception – calls for use of “morning after” pill… Gleaner
Politicians afraid to tell poor not to have kids – Reid: Gleaner
Teachers learn to use music in class: Gleaner
God’s way not gay: Letter to the Editor/Jamaica Observer
”Mr. Commissioner, oh where art thou?” Akay Hendricks op-ed/Jamaica Observer
”Bang belly” economy: Shaw claims present state of affairs hostile to growth: Gleaner
Businesses more optimistic than consumers ahead of IMF agreement: Gleaner
Pledge FINSAC assets to NHT, Shaw suggests: Jamaica Observer
Shaw rips Government to shreds over incomplete FINSAC report: Gleaner
Women entrepreneurs link with global network: Gleaner
Reggae legend, Toots Hibbert makes on the spot donation towards purchase of vital medical equipment: chatychaty.com
Here’s the second half of the week: April 21, 2013 (petchary.wordpress.com)
Exclusion versus Empowerment (petchary.wordpress.com)