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
It’s been a sad and nostalgic Sunday for me, with the news that one of my truest, fiercest musical icons, Lou Reed, passed away this morning. OK, that dates me, I know. But I spent half the day rummaging through YouTube, endlessly replaying the dark, gritty and sometimes melodic sounds of Velvet Underground, and Lou. What a remarkable songwriter he was, too.
Meanwhile, I knew it was only a matter of time before the Riverton City dump (no, it’s not a landfill) caught fire. Today firefighters were trying to save people’s homes, made of board and zinc. If you have never been there – you should. It is not a place for anyone to live.
Seems everyone is running off to China these days: Education Minister Ronald Thwaites is trying to get China to take some of our trained teachers that we don’t have jobs for. I’m all for Jamaicans learning more languages, but why would Chinese people want to come all the way here to learn English? And the highly-favored Mayor of May Pen, Scean Barnswell – that’s right, the Mayor who sees no reason to resign – has been off to an agritourism conference in – yes, you’ve guessed it, China. Three questions: Who pays for these trips? What is the cost of a return flight to China (first class? Since our Prime Minister always travels first class I expect her officials/ministers do too?) And thirdly, what the blazes is agritourism? Read more here: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131025/lead/lead5.html and http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131025/news/news8.html
It took the murder of a young Woman Special Constable for our National Security Minister Peter Bunting to open his mouth and speak about our horrible murder rate, which has simply taken off this month. In my next post, I will do a quick tally and give you a rough idea of the number of murders for October. Even after the National Heroes Day bloodbath Minister Bunting said not a word, until this poor young woman was killed. At least he did say that every death was a tragedy, whether a policeman/woman or not.
Are you as weary as I am with the Jamaica Labour Party leadership race? It seems to be dragging on interminably. When is their conference? I know the date changed. Oh, it’s November 3. Good. I am really tired of nightly TV news items of men and women in various shades of green sitting in school classrooms at tiny little desks they can hardly fit into while Mr. Holness or Mr. Shaw, sweating profusely, tries to get some excitement going with a microphone. (These are delegates’ meetings). The Sunday Gleaner reports here: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=48913
No endorsement: By the way, G2K (the JLP’s young professionals arm, and a very effective political entity in many ways) is not endorsing either candidate. President Floyd Green says, “While we expect that our members will be actively involved in either campaign, their views and expressions of support are personal.” I think that’s fair enough.
Oh no, I got it wrong: The JLP conference is on November 10! Two more weeks? Well, we will just have to brave it out a bit longer… The end is in sight
Goat Islands alert: The Ministry of Industry, Investment & Commerce will be holding what appears to be a closed-doors, highly-priced forum on the logistics hub, excluding the average Jamaican, for the private sector, on November 12. I wonder if the media will be allowed in. This coincides with a meeting of the Iguana Specialist Group at Hope Zoo – including many representatives from the United States, Australia and elsewhere. Why is this meeting not open to the public? Your guess is as good as mine. Also, Minister of Everything Omar Davies says an announcement will be made in the Lower House (possibly Tuesday) on the preliminary report into the use of Goat Islands. See here: http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/findings-of-goat-islands-study-to-be-released-this-week. And last week a group of European diplomats toured the Portland Bight Protected Area and “congratulated” the Government on its concern for the environment, while touring mangrove restoration projects that the EU funded. Some subtle (not so subtle?) messages here, I think! Read more here: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131027/news/news5.html
And the tiefing continues… In some communities the latest ruse by the light thieves is to connect to street lights to steal their electricity. As a result, whole neighborhoods are plunged in darkness, thus encouraging more crime. In other communities, the theft of copper wiring from LIME installations is becoming a regular nightmare. Whenever it happens, residents’ phones and Internet services disappear, and LIME loses millions. Is the police aware of any of this and why can’t they do something about it? Read more: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/No-light-matter__15314255 and http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/scrap-metal-federation-distances-itself-from-theft-of-limes-copper-cables
Holiday for students of Oracabessa Primary: Students at this school got a few unexpected days’ holiday after it was discovered that the place became infested by fleas over the long holiday weekend. Some stray dogs lolling about in the cellar were blamed. I found the reports baffling. The cleaning ladies swore that they kept the building spotless, while the Principal mumbled something quite meaningless. Two days after the weekend, the problem remained. I hope the students are back at school tomorrow.
A little more “ruly”: I know that’s not a real word… The unruly students of the Half Way Tree Transport Centre in Kingston have been tamed…for now, according to the Jamaica Observer. I have a feeling that this story might recur in the future though. A bit like the Riverton City dump fire story.
A change of heart: Mr. Damion “Build, build, build” Crawford, the Junior Tourism Minister, was once much more environmentally aware, it seems. When interviewed for the Gleaner’s tourism supplement some years ago along with environmentalist Wendy Lee, a more youthful (and he would now say, perhaps, naïve?) Crawford declared: “For a tropical country whose tourism relies totally on the state of its natural environment, we are not even close to adhering to even our own national standards…In many cases, environmental impact assessments are not being done where they are required, solid waste management remains poor and there continues to be widespread dumping of sewage in the sea.” Oh, how people change when they obtain political office! You can read the article here: http://hospitalityjamaica.com/20080514/environ2.html (Oh, will an environmental impact assessment be done on Goat Islands, one wonders?)
Jamaicans need beaches: Last Sunday I referred to Archbishop Howard Gregory’s excellent column on access to beaches (or the lack thereof, in most cases) with particular reference to Little Dunn’s River, which has been summarily closed by the Urban Development Corporation because of illegal activities allegedly taking place there. This is not the way to do it. Our recreational spaces (and opportunities to enjoy what’s left of our beautiful coastline) are becoming fewer and fewer. I understand that church leaders and concerned residents in the Ocho Rios area are not going to take this one lightly. Think again, UDC!
Some things I have not heard much about lately… *Trafigura *Medical tourism *The Tivoli Commission of Enquiry – date!
Note to Television Jamaica: I am not impressed by your new practice of airing rather poor video footage of a radio discussion program on RJR earlier in the day as “news” every Sunday evening. I know TVJ and RJR are part of the same media group, but this is lame and doesn’t work. It also just seems very lazy. What works for radio does not always work for television, does it? Or don’t you know that?
Speaking of “lame”… The Gleaner’s editorials are becoming more and more limply apologetic. The Sunday Gleaner editorial this week (“The PM’s next step”) left me dumbfounded. Stunned, even. It reads like an essay by a high school student who has copied some nice-sounding words from the Internet, with grammatical errors and politely meaningless clichés thrown in. What planet are you living on, Mr/Ms Gleaner editor? Here is the link: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131027/cleisure/cleisure1.html
Recommended from elsewhere… I came across a great TED talk by one of my heroes, Jane Goodall, about “How humans and animals can live together.” Here’s the link. It’s food for thought, allow yourself twenty minutes to watch and I think you will enjoy it: http://www.ted.com/talks/jane_goodall_at_tedglobal_07.html
For those who want to delve into history and learn more about the descendants of the Tainos across our region (yes, there are still descendants), this is a fascinating read: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/people-places/What-Became-of-the-Taino.html
Sunday kudos to:
- Digicel Foundation who pulled off another tremendous Night Run/Walk downtown on Saturday night. I understand that an astonishing 7,500 Jamaicans participated. This was the second such fundraising event. I hope (and believe) they raised lots of money for Jamaicans – adults and children – with special needs. Congraulations!
- I Believe Initiative for their marvelous National Youth Conference last Thursday. I wrote about it over the weekend. I Believe chose the three speakers well, and I think many of those young people attending were inspired. It was good to see them actively participating in discussions, too. Here’s my article: http://petchary.wordpress.com/2013/10/27/helping-our-youth-to-believe-in-themselves/
- JPS Foundation for their “model school” projects. CEO Kelly Tomblin (looking very jazzy in a pink dress and white-framed sunglasses) broke ground at the Falmouth Basic School this week. The relatively new Foundation’s focus is education and youth leadership. Good for them!
- Hampton School, an excellent girls’ boarding school in rural St. Elizabeth, which is “going green.” And more thanks to Digicel Foundation for supporting this forward-thinking effort. I do hope more schools – and in particular, government offices – will follow suit. http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131026/lead/lead6.html
- The Jamaican organizations who have just received grants from the U.S. Embassy under the President’s Emergency Fund for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) Small Grants Program administered by the U.S. Department of State: Eve for Life, Mustard Seed Communities, National Council on Drug Abuse, Caribbean Community of Retired Persons and BREDS – the Treasure Beach Foundation.
It has been an especially horrible week, and the sadness continues, every day, relentlessly. I am going to start posting photos of those murdered, where available. So that we know they are real people, not statistics. Their grieving families and friends know they are people, and I send my sympathies to all.
Unidentified man, Arnett Gardens, Kingston
Jason Armstrong, Conway Road, Kingston 11
Jason Mais, 19, Mud Town, St. Andrew
“Indian,” August Town, St. Andrew
Special Constable Arianna Henry, 23, Portmore, St. Catherine
Gavin Huggins, Frazers Content, St. Catherine
Unidentified man, Burke Road, Spanish Town, St. Catherine
Pixiean Brandford, 23, Harker’s Hall, St. Catherine (on October 21)
Glendon Clarke, West End, Negril, Westmoreland
Tashman Stevenson, 32, Mount Carey, St. James
Leo Oldfield, 44, Mount Carey, St. James
Unidentified woman, Adelphi, St. James
Tedroy Logie, 28, Vineyard, St. Elizabeth
Killed by police:
Marlando Brown, 35, Waltham Park Road, Kingston
Jermaine Foote, 24, Grange Hill, Westmoreland
Omar Reid, Grange Hill, Westmoreland
Some other items of interest:
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131025/lead/lead1.html Best in the Caribbean: Ardenne outshines the region in CAPE: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Holness–Murder-rate-unacceptable_15318697 Holness: Murder rate unacceptable: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131025/news/news3.html Gravel Heights residents return after fleeing community: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131025/cleisure/cleisure1.html If the police want new powers… Gleaner editorial
http://www.minority-insight.org/2013/10/lesbian-harassed-and-then-shot-by.html Lesbian harassed and then shot by Jamaican police: minorityinsight.org
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Golding-willing-to-testify-at-Tivoli-Enquiry–but_15332632 Golding willing to testify at Tivoli Enquiry, but… Sunday Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Soldiers-in-Keith-Clarke-murder-for-trial-next-March Soldiers in Keith Clarke murder for trial next March: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/Tell-us-what-jobs-the–hub–wil-bring_15306431 Tell us what jobs the hub will bring: Letter to the Jamaica Observer
http://kentgammon.wordpress.com/2013/10/27/article-the-wada-extraordinary-doping-audit-for-jamaica-is-it-significant-to-jamaicas-sporting-reputation/ The WADA extraordinary doping audit for Jamaica: Is it significant for Jamaica’s sporting reputation? Kent Gammon blog
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads-100/35422 Campion gets new library and media center: Jamaica Information Service
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131025/news/news4.html Bustamante Children’s Hospital cardiac wing to be completed early 2014: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Smoking-ban-will-move-Jamaica-towards-developed-country-status—-Ferguson Smoking ban will move Jamaica towards developed country status – Ferguson: Jamaica Observer
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
There is still no word from the Jamaican Government on the Portland Bight Protected Area (including Goat Islands) whose fate hangs in the balance. The newspapers continue to publish a range of views from contributors at home and abroad. Inevitably, other concerns (including a looming energy crisis and other serious economic matters) have stolen the headlines. But I have heard Transport and Works Minister Omar Davies say, on two occasions, that the government has not signed off on the area as the location for a proposed logistics hub. Other ministers – Minister of Environment Robert Pickersgill and Trade and Invesment Minister Anthony Hylton – have only made vague noises.
But there has been no resolution to the matter. It is still very much on the table. Let us not be fooled for one minute! This is far from a “nine-day wonder” as Jamaicans like to call it. While the silence is deafening, Jamaican civil society must remain concerned and vigilant, keep the focus, and continue to monitor the situation.
I have seen some divisive comments that it is mostly “foreigners” and Jamaicans of a particular class who are concerned about Portland Bight. This is far from the truth. Since this issue was raised by the Jamaica Environment Trust, the Caribbean Coastal Area Management Foundation and the Jamaica Civil Society Coalition, the campaign has been supported by Jamaicans in all walks of life and all ages and backgrounds. Jamaicans in the diaspora are concerned about the future of our natural heritage and birthright, and so are Jamaicans at home. (And there is nothing wrong with having overseas supporters anyway, is there? I myself support environmental and human rights causes around the world. We are all connected).
The petition remains open, and if you have not already signed it, dear reader (whether you are at home and abroad) please consider doing so and sharing with everyone you know who would want to sign. A second petition was started on avaaz.org (also by a Jamaican) and support for this one would also be appreciated. Here are the links: https://secure.avaaz.org/en/petition/Proposed_Chinese_Logistics_Hub_on_Goats_Island_Jamaica/?snyUFab AND 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_petition
You can also “like” the Facebook page (No! To Port on Goat Island, Jamaica) here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/no.onportgoatisland/ The page is updated daily with all kinds of interesting articles and information on sustainable development issues, as well as commentary on this issue. And follow @SaveGoatIslands on Twitter.
I thought I would share a few of the comments from Jamaicans here at home on the threat to Portland Bight, taken directly from the change.org petition website. Yes, Jamaicans do feel strongly…
The Portland Bight and the Goat Island project is just another example of lazy destructive thinking by Jamaican leaders…A truly irreplaceable resource, with so much of Jamaica and Jamaica’s coastline already ravaged by pollution and exploitation, especially in the tourism sector. This would be an awful blow to our ecology. In a world that’s slowly dying from pollution, we need to protect our home.
Jamaica has few green spaces and we have not, as a country, done enough on educating our people on sustainable environment practices, as well as protecting what natural resources we have left. Development must NEVER be at the expense of our natural resources.
This is a protected environment, they can find other sites to build it.
There must be somewhere else, why not create an island in the Kingston Harbour/extend Palisadoes? Something other than destroying one of the very little protected areas left.
Jamaican fisheries, bird sanctuaries, wetlands, breathing spaces are too valuable to be destroyed by this development. Find another location.
We cannot destroy our precious heritage in this way. What about our children and grandchildren?
If this goes forward the destruction will be irreversible. To allow this to happen would be a betrayal of trust and duty for future generations. We must find another way.
It is a part of our heritage. Furthermore, politicians often sign contracts that continue to degrade Jamaican life, and it’s after everything fails that Jamaicans hear about the fine print – just like Highway 2000.
All this is going to affect us in the long run.
Get your hands off Goat Island, and learn to respect the environment, Governments of Jamaica and China.
You cannot mark a place protected, then go back and destroy it.
I believe in the protection of the environment, we must find ways for industrial development to coexist with the wellbeing of this planet. The Goat Islands are one of our most important protected areas, we should not destroy it because of some short term benefits that will be far outweighed by the negative impacts of the loss of this area in the decades to come.
This is my heritage!
This is important to me because I care about Jamaica’s environment, because the research shows that China’s “record” of development is not sustainable from an environmental standpoint, and as a small island nation we need to be very careful about how our environment is handled. In addition, the area in question which our government is prepared to allow the Chinese to have control of, is protected under an Act of the Jamaican Parliament, as well as international conventions. To give away this area under these circumstances is nothing short of criminal.
Because I am tired of seeing our natural resources sold off to the highest bidder.
It’s my country!
Jamaica is my home and I care deeply about the country and its welfare. I also care deeply about preserving endangered species such as the Jamaican Iguana.
This area is of high ecological and cultural relevance. Please leave Goat Island alone.
I got to see the Portland Bight area for myself first hand when I last went to Denbigh. It was a great experience, though brief. In my research…I learned a lot about the area and its inhabitants. It’s a crying shame that this is happening to another one of Jamaica’s natural resources.
I am signing because Goat Island is not the UDC’s or the Cabinet’s. It belongs to each and every one of us and we must have a say. I say no.
These are all cries from the heart. They speak for themselves. There are hundreds more comments from Jamaicans on the petition website.
Please add your voice, and let it be heard. Thank you.
Related articles and links:
- Flotilla to the Goat Islands (dwayneksmith.wordpress.com)
- Save The Goat Islands In Jamaica (thedrylandtourist.wordpress.com)
- YJBeat FollowUp : Goat Island Petition (yjbeat.wordpress.com)
- Everything is Connected… Cockpit Country and Goat Islands (petchary.wordpress.com)
- An Open Letter to Minister Robert Pickersgill (petchary.wordpress.com)
- Let’s Save Jamaica’s Portland Bight Protected Area (petchary.wordpress.com)
- Statement from the Jamaica Environment Trust on the port/logistics hub in Portland Bight Protected Area, including Goat Islands (petchary.wordpress.com)
- Floating To Goat Islands: The “Goatilla” (Plus Thoughts on Eco-Tourism) (petchary.wordpress.com)
- Jamaica Environment Trust: http://www.jamentrust.org
- Caribbean Coastal Area Management Foundation: http://www.ccam.org.jm (C-CAM administers the Portland Bight Protected Area)
Queen Victoria allegedly said this, using the royal “we.” It’s not clear what did not amuse her, but I don’t think it was her politicians. Do you know who does not amuse me? One guess.
- Are our political leaders incompetent, or just plain crafty? I don’t know. I became so impatient with the Minister of Transport and Works’ performance (and it was a performance) on CVM Television’s “Live at Seven” this week that I spilled my cup of tea all over everything, and then cursed. Minister Davies talks in a series of casual non sequiturs. He never finishes a sentence, so you get fragments, interspersed with throwaway lines that I think are intended to be humorous. He finds himself very amusing. The overall effect is a) offhand; b) incredibly condescending; and c) confusing – deliberately so?
- Meanwhile, what I called the Megawatt Muddle seems to be descending into ever murkier depths. Minister Phillip Paulwell has said very little. He has not held out a lifeline to the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR), which seems to be sinking deeper into the quagmire the more it struggles. Azurest Cambridge (the preferred bidder, which failed to come up with the deposit on time) made some comments that made me think this does not look good to any other firm interested in investing in Jamaica. Meanwhile, what of the local bidding consortium, Energize Jamaica? Since they came up with their proposal on time (by the March deadline – yes, March?) should not they be the one to move to the preferred spot, as the Contractor General suggested in his report?
- But then, the CG’s reports on both the Azan shambles and the power project have been generally overruled, undermined and/or ignored by all and sundry.
- I do share Minister Paulwell’s concern about the inadequate take-up for renewable energy included in the power package. Why did this happen? Altogether, the OUR comes out with egg all over its face. Can we revisit the renewable issue, too? Should we just wipe the slate clean with this energy bid, and start all over again? (Insert sigh of frustration here…)
- “We are actually desperate now,” Minister Paulwell told the Gleaner last week with his usual disarming frankness. Aren’t we all?
- So, do we expect the Mayor of May Pen to resign, despite being charged for misleading the Contractor General in the course of his investigations into the Spaldings shops? No? I thought not. Moving on…
- On a more encouraging note, Jamaican Shanique Myrie won her case in the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) against the Barbadian government for the degrading treatment she received at Bridgetown’s airport from immigration officers. This should be a wake-up call for Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries. “It’s not about the money, it’s about equal rights and justice,” said Ms. Myrie after the ruling. The money, by the way, translated from Barbadian dollars into Jamaican, highlighting the extreme weakness of our currency compared to our neighbors to the east. But besides that, I hope and believe that Barbados will take the necessary action, legal or otherwise, to ensure this does not happen again.
- I am glad Mr. Martin Henry focused on the World Bank’s recent “Jamaica Parliamentary Oversight of Public Finances – An Institutional Review” – which has been largely ignored by local media. Our Parliament is remarkably unproductive, as we probably know, and has been for years. I found Mr. Henry’s final dig at civil society groups (the latest section of society to make snide comments about) and the media (which people have always made snide comments about) quite unnecessary, but pretty much par for the course among newspaper columnists and the like.
- Another Sunday columnist whom I often don’t agree with (but that’s OK), Professor Carolyn Cooper, came up trumps today. She started her column: “In Jamaica today, a woman who ends up in hospital as a result of complications from an illegal abortion can actually be handcuffed to her bed as a suspected felon. Upon conviction of inducing abortion, she may be condemned to life sentence with hard labour. That’s the law.” This law is Section 72 of the Offences Against the Person 1864. Yes, 1864!
- And good news for our much-loved athlete Veronica Campbell-Brown, as Jamaican officials have ruled that “a reprimand without any period of ineligibility would be appropriate”
after her positive doping result from an invitational on May 4. Hopefully this will be upheld and all will be well. Just shows how careful you have to be.
Three cheers to all of these…
- The tireless and persistent host of “Live at Seven” Simon Crosskill, who scores 10 out of 10 for his dogged questioning of Minister Davies on “development” projects. The Minister employed his usual confusing, obfuscating tactics (see my earlier comment above). When Mr. Crosskill asked if we (Jamaicans) could see a copy of the Memorandum of Understanding on the logistics hub that was apparently signed in China, the Minister said condescendingly, “It’s boring…” (So why do you ordinary people want to bother your heads with it? It’s all legal stuff). Anyway, thank you Mr. Crosskill for trying, and major kudos to your excellent production team for this and all your programs. Keep up the good work!
- Brandon Allwood, one of our bright young Jamaicans studying overseas, who was among eight international undergraduates to receive the Toronto Excellence Awards recently. I first met Brandon when he was sixteen years old and editing the “Teen Observer.” When I asked him what issues he was interested in, he told me immediately, “Children’s rights.” He has retained that focus and is not only a savvy communicator and media person but focused and genuinely kind. He has a great deal to offer Jamaica.
- All those who participated in the Jamaica Startup Weekend in Kingston. From the tweets I have seen, it looks pretty intense as participants make their final pitches this evening. I am glad to see more women there in the mix, too. IT does not have to be a male preserve, does it! And congratulations once again to Ingrid Riley, the tireless organizer and energy behind this effort.
- Kudos to two young television journalists who have done a good job this week: Television Jamaica‘s Dashan Hendricks did some enlightening and useful reporting on the energy bid issue (which is fairly complex); and CVM Television’s Joel Crosskill reported sensitively on the renewed violence in Western Kingston. Good journalism.
- And personal thanks from my husband and I to Palace Amusement - our local cinema – for screening a new series of simulcasts from the Metropolitan Opera of New York. The audience was small, but it was an absolute treat and worth every cent! More on the passionate and powerful performance of Tchaikovsky’s “Eugene Onegin” in another blog post. But we really appreciated it and will not miss another one in the series…
The police claim to be getting a grip on crime in West Kingston, where gang violence has become more commonplace in recent months. However, the issue will not be solved through shootouts in which two or three alleged “wanted men” get killed. It just will not. Haven’t we “been there, done that”? My condolences are with the families of all those who have died (I am afraid two are still unidentified – the media do not really seem to see them all as human beings with names, it seems).
Unidentified man, Sunrise Crescent/Red Hills Road, Kingston
Unidentified, Bull Bay, St. Andrew
Andrea Blythe, 43, Glasgow, Westmoreland
Killed by police:
Fitzroy Gaynor, Hannah Town, Kingston
Demar Cameron, Hannah Town, Kingston
Troy Anthony Vassell, Upper Regent Street, Kingston
Related articles and links:
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131003/lead/lead4.html Transport Minister shields China Harbour from parliamentary committee: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/NEPA-received-no-application-for-Goat-Islands-development NEPA received no application for Goat Islands development: Jamaica Observer
http://www.caribjournal.com/2013/10/04/op-ed-jamaica-china-and-goat-island/ Jamaica, China and Goat Islands: David P. Rowe op-ed/Carib Journal
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/editorial/As-global-warming-accelerates—_15178056 As global warming accelerates… Jamaica Observer editorial
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/LIME-Foundation-adopts-part-of-forest-reserve-_15190271 LIME Foundation adopts part of forest reserve: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131004/lead/lead24.html No word on waste-to-energy plants: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131005/letters/letters1.html Letter of the Day from Frank Phipps: OUR must revisit renewable energy capacity offer: Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131003/lead/lead5.html PSOJ questions process used to select Azurest for 360MW venture: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131005/lead/lead2.html Azurest says OUR’s refusal to extend deadline robs Jamaicans of best energy solution: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131003/lead/lead6.html Paulwell wants OUR to revise decision on 115MW project bids: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131006/focus/focus5.html Make Parliament more effective: Martin Henry column/Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131003/news/news1.html First Global makes sweet music at Tarrant Primary: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131005/news/news2.html Marcus Garvey Choir boosts school morale: Gleaner
http://jamaicajournal.wordpress.com/2013/10/04/jacques-road-finished-project/ Jacques Road finished project: Jamaican Journal
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131004/lead/lead8.html Jamaican MSMs speak out: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131005/lead/lead1.html ”Speak up for your rights”: Shanique Myrie elated at CCJ ruling: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Executive-Summary-of-the-judgement-in-Shanique-Myre-case Executive Summary of the judgment in Shanique Myrie case: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131006/cleisure/cleisure3.html Policing women’s bodies: Carolyn Cooper column/Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131004/lead/lead25.html INDECOM wants power to take samples from cops: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=48419 Angry George’s Plain residents set canefield fire to capture gunmen: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Jamaican-Brandon-Allwood-receives-International-student-award-in-Toronto Former TEENage Club president receives international student award in Toronto: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131003/lead/lead1.html Warning for Veronica Campbell-Brown: Gleaner
Last time I visited Fort Rocky, along the road to Port Royal, I was in the company of archaeologist Heidi Savery and a band of intrepid Jamaican and American scholars and students. Yesterday could not have been more different. I was helping out at the registration tent of the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET), who organized one of the major activities for International Coastal Clean Up Day, September 21. The government’s National Environment & Planning Agency was toiling away not far down the road; and much cleaning was under way at many sites around the island.
The sky was an impenetrable grey, and when I arrived at 7:30 a.m. there was not a breath of wind. The ocean was still and opaque, with no sunlight to illuminate it. The beach behind Fort Rocky is on the open sea. The mangroves of Kingston Harbour (or what’s left of them, after the depredations of China Harbour Engineering Company’s work on the airport road) lie on the other side of this narrow spit of land. We set up in our tent, and waited for the invasion to begin.
Indeed, a veritable army of mostly young people descended on us throughout the morning – roughly two thousand, far more than expected. Eventually JET ran out of gloves and we at the registration table ran out of free bananas and other stuff. The early volunteers arrived and got straight to work. The later ones (including a horde of university students) found what work they could and then retreated inside the Fort Rocky compound for some relaxation (as is often the case in Jamaica, there was a certain amount of socializing). And we actually had to ship out some groups to a nearby site, as we were, as they say, “over-capacity.”
Meanwhile, the unruly pile of filled garbage bags slouched, and spread, and grew steadily higher until it was as tall as the tallest of us.
Some time after lunch, the Fort was quiet again. We could hear the sound of the waves. And the beach… Well, not a scrap of paper or plastic to be found.
Congratulations and thanks to the fantastic Jamaica Environment Trust team (led by energetic Program Director Suzanne Stanley), the amazing sponsors and all the great volunteers for making this a memorable day! I have added a few photos below – you can find a photo album on my Facebook page, too.
Related links and articles:
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130922/news/news4.html Huge turnout for International Coastal Cleanup Day: Sunday Gleaner
http://petchary.wordpress.com/2013/08/28/unprecedented-response-to-international-beach-clean-up-day-in-jamaica/ Unprecedented response to International Beach Cleanup Day in Jamaica: petchary.wordpress.com
http://petchary.wordpress.com/2013/01/19/reduce-reuse-recycle/ Reduce, reuse, recycle: petchary.wordpress.com
http://petchary.wordpress.com/2013/02/02/pollution-flowing-from-land-to-sea-the-un-caribbean-environment-programme-part-1/ Pollution flowing from land to sea: The UN Caribbean Environment Programme,, Part 1
http://petchary.wordpress.com/2013/09/06/lets-save-jamaicas-portland-bight-protected-area/ Let’s save Jamaica’s Portland Bight Protected Area: petchary.wordpress.com
http://www.upworthy.com/people-should-know-about-this-awful-thing-we-do-and-most-of-us-are-simply-unaware?g=3&c=ufb1 Trailer for “Midway,” a powerful documentary directed by Chris Jordan on the impact on wildlife of trash in our oceans. To donate to the makers of this film, please visit midwayfilm.com.
Two reports from the Contractor General (CG) came floating in on the news yesterday afternoon. Some of us were thinking that Mr. Dirk Harrison had been quiet for a long time; but as an online friend said, if this is what happens when he speaks, we don’t mind long silences (translating from the patois)!
OCG Report #1: Minister Azan… The CG has referred Richard Azan, Junior Minister in the Ministry of Transport and Works (headed by Minister Omar Davies) to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) for conspiracy to defraud. He also says that Mayor of May Pen Scean Barnswell sought to mislead the CG’s office; and that Bridget Daley-Dixon, Azan’s constituency secretary, who collected the rental for the shops, should also be considered for prosecution. Parliament, he said, should also take action against Minister Azan, whom the CG called “at best, tantamount to being politically corrupt as defined by Transparency International.”
OCG Report #2: Electricity bid: In a report half as long as the first one (but, it seems, equally hard-hitting) the CG has also severely criticized the process by which the bidding for the 360 megawatt energy project was conducted. We had already learned that the deadline for bidding had been extended, and that a new bidder had been introduced – the Hong Kong-based Energy World International (EWI). It also emerged that Energy Minister Phillip Paulwell had met with EWI representatives while the bidding process was going on – an action which the CG calls “irregular and improper intervention.” Bear in mind that the other bidders had already complied with the original deadline of March 15, 2013 (yes, the deadline was postponed).
In a press briefing today, the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR), the government agency that administered the bidding process, predictably denied that Minister Paulwell had interfered. So, of course, did the Minister. He responded swiftly that he was just trying to get the cheapest possible energy rates for the Jamaican people (so, I suppose, by any means necessary, Minister?) And the OCG doesn’t know what he is talking about. OK.
Well, as it turned out, the OUR announced the preferred bidder to be Azurest-Cambridge Joint Venture Association. Number Two is…EWI. This leaves a bad taste in the mouth.
“They haven’t had a chance”: There was another, much more touchy press briefing today. Right off the bat, Minister of Information Senator Sandrea Falconer informed the press, who were itching to ask her about the Azan issue, that “I am not going to entertain any questions on this matter.” Wow. But our trusty journalists are not the tame sheep that used to sit in government press briefings, writing down every word and asking one or two polite questions at the end. Those days are gone. In response to the inevitable questions on Minister Azan, Minister Falconer used her sternest voice and adopted the “blocking” stance (I think they do that in American football, don’t they?) after repeating several times that none of those whom the CG said received the reports on Monday had “had a chance” to peruse them.
One of the minions was eventually asked to disconnect the microphone of one particularly persistent journalist. He was undeterred. Can you imagine this happening at a White House press briefing, for example? All hell would break lose.
And as for our Prime Minister: I thought that if she only received the reports “late” on Tuesday evening, our Prime Minister and her team would have been sitting up all night examining them, with a view to urgently responding today. But she was interviewed very briefly by CVM Television late last night – or rather, a journalist waylaid her at a People’s National Party social event, all dressed up. Amazingly, Ms. Simpson Miller said that since the Azan matter had been referred to the DPP, she will wait and see what happens. And she “doesn’t know what’s going to happen.” Well, that unrehearsed response has told us a lot, Prime Minister. A lot.
Madam Prime Minister, did you not tell us when the issue first came to light that you would await the CG’s report on Minister Azan? Well, it is out. We now have to wait, again? What is all this? They used to call President Ronald Reagan the “Teflon President,” because no scandals seemed to affect him personally. Is our Prime Minister seeking “teflonship” status? Well, let’s put it this way…She likes to “defer.”
I am not impressed: The level of representation at the local government level seems very poor. That is not to say that there are not some serious councilors who are working hard on behalf of the communities they represent. But when CVM Television last night replayed remarks made by a Councilor Bailey of the Milk River Division earlier this year in defense of Minister Azan, I shuddered. It sounded even worse than the first time. “Comrades for life” - well, that kind of tribalistic partisanship is quite commonplace (on both sides). But to tell Minister Azan to just hang in there, and it will soon blow over - “A few days from now…Nine day talk” – that is not how a responsible leader should speak when a colleague is accused of corruption. And then, this week the Mayor of Savannah-la-Mar advised the police to “shoot first, ask questions after” in the face of rising crime in the parish of Westmoreland. Thankfully, the police more or less dismissed his words.
“Nature is a hell of a thing”: So said the head of the government’s Fisheries Division André Kong on television a few days ago. Yes, Mr. Kong. How right you are. Nature has a way of… well, having its way. We shall see…
Irony of ironies: We are actually importing fish now…from China.
Burning buses: Meanwhile, another Jamaica Urban Transit Company bus caught fire. Good grief! Whatever next? Any thoughts on that, Minister of Transport, Works, possibly Finance (and of course, environmental expert) Dr. Omar Davies? Any thoughts on the actions of your Junior Minister, come to that?
And a stinking city: The National Environment and Planning Agency is still trying to figure out the disgusting smell in and around the Kingston area. Could it be the salt pond in Yallahs, St. Thomas? Will we ever know? Please wait for the next exciting instalment.
Well…Petchary Bouquets go out to:
- Ayanna Dixon, a bright and highly talented fashion designer, who won a big prize at this evening’s Collection Moda Fashion Showcase in Kingston’s Hope Gardens. Congratulations, young lady!
- Women’s Media Watch for their great program on Roots FM “Equal Spaces.” Listen in tomorrow evening at 5 pm for a discussion on HIV and discrimination with Ainsley Reid.
- Youth Opportunities Unlimited (YOU) for initiating a great tweet chat today on women’s reproductive rights in Jamaica. It was very interesting and well conducted. At some point, though, we will have to address the issue of our archaic colonial law (1864, no less) stating that a person can get life in prison for performing an abortion. More on this in due course.
- Food for the Poor (yet again!) for their speedy response to a family in desperate need, which I wrote about in Sunday’s blog. They brought much-needed supplies and I do hope will be able to assist with housing in the near future. Without judging the woman. Thank you, again!
- Ms. Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, our star athlete, whose Pocket Rocket Foundation gave scholarships to seven needy students this week. She is a great girl.
“An eye for an eye”: Amidst all these dramas, Jamaicans continue to bleed. This week, a young woman was attacked, raped and murdered in roadside bushes in the rural district of Mullet Hall, in Clarendon. Residents suspected a man who had recently been released from prison after serving ten years for rape and had returned to the neighborhood. Residents attacked and stabbed him a day or two later. “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth,” said one resident. CVM Television’s report was chilling. A tragic story that went almost unnoticed, this week.
My friend Dean Moriah (and loved by so many, I know) was buried on Saturday in Ramble, Hanover. And someone has been arrested and reportedly confessed to his murder. Rest in peace, dear Dean. You are sadly missed. So are all those who passed away in violent circumstances in the past three or four days. Here are their names:
“Teeky Locks,” Bread Lane, downtown Kingston
Unidentified man, Kingston Gardens, Kingston
George Willie, Old Harbour, St. Catherine
Unidentified man, Old Harbour, St. Catherine
Raskemo Gordon, Reece Pen/Portmore, St. Catherine
Dwayne Cameron, 25, Braeton, St. Catherine
Kenroy Thompson, 39, Exchange District, St. Ann
Clive Robinson, 47, Mandeville, Manchester
Shanique Wright, Mullet Hall/Chapelton, Clarendon
Shanique’s alleged murderer, Mullet Hall, Clarendon (mob killing)
Unidentified man, Dump Up Beach, Montego Bay, St. James
Killed by the police:
Unidentified man, Portmore, St. Catherine
Related articles and links:
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/OCG-refers-Azan–Barnswell-to-DPP_15094359 OCG refers Azan, Barnswell to DPP: Jamaica Observer
http://www.ocg.gov.jm/ocg/ Office of the Contractor General: Press Release and Reports on Azan issue and energy bid
http://constructedthoughts.wordpress.com/2013/09/18/portias-contempt-the-richard-azan-scandal/ Portia’s contempt: the Richard Azan scandal: Veritas
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=adtf-3fczK4&feature=c4-overview&list=UUT6cAZGuOgJlXrEoPv8jtEw Video: press briefing on Azan, etc: YouTube
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=48075 Government mum on damning reports: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Contractor-general-slams-Paulwell–OUR-over-energy-project_15094005 Contractor General slams Paulwell, OUR over energy project: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Paulwell-welcomes-naming-of-360MW-preferred-bidder Paulwell welcomes naming of 360 MW preferred bidder: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/editorial/Preservation–patriotism–pragmatism-and-profits_15091893 Preservation, patriotism, pragmatism and profits: Jamaica Observer editorial
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=32360 Jamaica’s fish imports now at $7.8 billion: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130820/cleisure/cleisure4.html Should the environment lose every time? Op-ed by Dr Kurt McLaren, forest ecologist; Professor Byron Wilson, conservation biologist
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130915/focus/focus2.html Davies’ big mistake about “two likkle lizards”: Christopher Serju column/Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=48055 Diaspora against Goat Islands industrial development: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130917/letters/letters5.html Don’t ease up on Goat Islands advocacy: Letter to the Editor/Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130917/cleisure/cleisure4.html Don’t play fast and loose with Portland Bight facts – JET: Gleaner
http://www.caribjournal.com/2013/09/12/jamaican-prime-minister-warns-against-criticism-of-chinese-investment/ Jamaican Prime Minister warns against criticism of Chinese investment: Carib Journal
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130916/letters/letters1.html Letter of the Day: Who will bear the cost? Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130917/letters/letters8.html Demanding answers on smelly city: Letter to the Editor/Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130916/cleisure/cleisure1.html It’s time for private-sector muscle: Gleaner editorial
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130916/cleisure/cleisure2.html Labourites, please vote for Jamaica: Garth Rattray column/Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Race-is-on_15077280 Shaw says he’ll formally launch JLP leadership campaign on Sept 29: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=48021 Opposition Senator calls for changes to Offenses Against the Persons Act: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130918/lead/lead6.html Tivoli Committee satisfied after meeting with House Speaker: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130918/cleisure/cleisure1.html Sav’s Mayor should go: Gleaner editorial
http://jamaica-star.com/thestar/20130916/news/news6.html Franklin Town cops test-run community policing initiative: Jamaica Star
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Kartel-s-jail-cell-searched-in-investigation-of-producer-s-killing Kartel’s jail cell searched in investigation of producer’s killing: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=48033 Tuberculosis worries at Horizon Remand Centre: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=48081 Update: Man reportedly confesses to murder of hospitality worker Dean Moriah: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Our-seniors-are-miracle-workers_15077963 Our seniors are miracle workers: Jean Lowrie-Chin column/Jamaica Observer
The Portland Bight Protected Area (the PBPA) is the largest protected area on the island of Jamaica. It was created in 1999 by the Jamaican Government under the Natural Resources Conservation Act. It encompasses 1,876 sq km of coastal land and sea, including cays such as the Goat Islands. It is home to birds, iguanas, crocodiles, manatees, sea turtles and fish, as well as other flora and fauna. It includes three fish sanctuaries and endangered habitats such as dry limestone forest and mangrove.
This large area of diverse landscapes and natural treasures is now threatened by reported plans for a proposed logistics hub/trans-shipment port to be constructed by China Harbour Engineering Company. There is a petition site where you may register your concern about this here: http://chn.ge/1ecZdCO I urge you to sign and share with your friends and contacts who care about our increasingly fragile environment.
On August 23, environmentalists and civil society groups announced that they plan to take legal action against the Jamaican Government (the Ministry of Land, Environment and Climate Change and the Attorney General) after the Minister of Environment himself signaled that the project is under consideration, during a visit to China. Since then, very few details have been forthcoming; but much of the discussion has been on the outlying Goat Islands only. However, it must be emphasized that any bulldozing of the islands or dredging of the surrounding marine environment would have a devastating effect reaching far beyond this area. At this point we do not know how much larger the project plans are, although it has been reported that CHEC are looking for a total of 3,000 acres for the logistics hub. We still await details from the Jamaican Government.
DID YOU KNOW?
- The Society for the Conservation and Study of Caribbean Birds (SCSCB) has posted an extensive, beautiful photo album of the PBPA, compiled by U.S.-based naturalist Ted Lee Eubanks – 100 images! You can see this at their Facebook page (Caribbean Birds) and I am sharing a few photos below (although this blog format does not do them justice). The link to this wonderful photo album is http://tinyurl.com/mnmmpt9
- Jamaica is one of eight countries that has committed to The Nature Conservancy‘s Caribbean Challenge Initiative. This means Jamaica has committed to conserving at least 20% of its nearshore marine and coastal environments in national marine protected areas systems by 2020; and to creating a National Conservation Trust Fund endowed by new sustainable finance mechanisms (such as tourism fees), dedicated to solely to funding park management. Jamaica’s commitments (and those of private sector supporters, such as Sandals Resorts/Sandals Foundation) are here: http://www.nature.org/ourinitiatives/regions/caribbean/cci-summit-commitments.pdf As The Nature Conservancy notes, “With 70% of the population living along the coast, Caribbean lives and livelihoods directly depend upon healthy marine and coastal resources. Alarmingly, the Caribbean is increasingly threatened by development, pollution, overfishing and climate change.”
- The Portland Bight wetlands and cays are one of four designated RAMSAR sites in Jamaica, since 2006. According to the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA), a government agency, “The site has significant value for the country. Notably there is a range of endemic and rare plants, extensive fish life and several small coral cays.” Jamaica is a signatory to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance (since 1998). Note that part of one of the Jamaican RAMSAR sites, the Palisadoes – Port Royal Protected Area, was bulldozed and destroyed during the reconstruction of the airport road in 2010 through a project funded by the China Exim Bank. Jamaica’s Supreme Court ruled that NEPA breached the legal standard for the holding of public consultation for the development.
Please find below more information on this remarkable area, now threatened by development, and the great efforts of non-governmental AND government agencies, as well as overseas entities, to preserve and sustainably manage its resources:
Since the PBPA was created, it has been managed by the non-governmental organization Caribbean Coastal Area Management Foundation (C-CAM), which works with various government agencies and non-governmental organizations to ensure that the area is protected. Most importantly, C-CAM works closely with residents and other stakeholders – including farmers, fisherfolk, business people and landowners – through continuous outreach. Residents learn about – and implement – climate change mitigation, sustainable fishing, forestry and farming practices, such as rainwater harvesting. The aim is to contribute to the local economy sustainably, while improving the quality of life of residents.
C-CAM’s programs in the PBPA include a Biodiversity Conservation Program, and special attention to the dry limestone forest of the Hellshire HIlls, Portland Ridge, the Brazilletto Mountains and Kemps Hill. There is also some of this very special habitat on the Portland Bight Cays. This forest has close to 300 plant species, including 53 endemic species – that is, they exist nowhere else in the world. Why are plants important? They have many purposes and uses for humans, including their often unexplored medicinal potential. The Forestry Department has recommended that all of this precious and increasingly rare habitat be set aside for conservation purposes.
The critically endangered Jamaican Iguana also lives in the dry limestone forest. It was actually considered extinct until 1990, when it was rediscovered. The Jamaican Iguana Conservation Programme has been supported by a number of local and overseas agencies, including the International Iguana Foundation, Hope Zoo, San Diego Zoo, Fort Worth Zoo and several other zoos in the United States. The fate of this amazing and unique creature still hangs in the balance, however, due to destruction of habitat and predators such as domestic dogs. Head of the Iguana Recovery Group Dr. Byron Wilson, of the University of the West Indies, observes, “We must keep up the fight, because otherwise, the iguana will drift into extinction.” Gone forever.
C-CAM also has a Cave Conservation Programme (there are 53 known caves in the protected area, some with unique species). It established a Fisheries Management Council in 1995 to work on the many challenges for fishermen – including over-fishing, coral reef degradation, pollution and invasive species (C-CAM spearheaded a major public education program on the invasive Lion Fish, for example). With the support of government agencies, including the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries and organizations such as the California-based Seacology and UC-Rusal, three Special Fisheries Management Areas were established in 2010. C-CAM works with local gun clubs to control game bird shooting in the area; and with the government’s NEPA on a Watershed Management Programme. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has also partnered with C-CAM on a Climate Change Adaptation Programme, along with two government agencies – NEPA and the Planning Institute of Jamaica – in Old Harbour and Portland Cottage in particular. The coastal area is particularly vulnerable to storms.
I hope that all of this helps you to understand some facts about the Portland Bight Protected Area and that you will explore further. I do hope that wisdom will prevail.
A couple more articles:
http://repeatingislands.com/2013/09/04/i-live-for-art-an-ecocide-romance-on-youtube/ ”I live for art: an ecocide romance” on YouTube: repeatingislands.com
http://petchary.wordpress.com/2013/08/24/protecting-our-fish-earth-day-part-1-2/ Reblog from April, 2012: Opening of field office for fish sanctuaries, Salt River
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/environment/Six-reasons-against-port-on-Goat-Islands_14960085 Six reasons against port on Goat Islands: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/environment/Jamaican-Iguana-fighting-for-survival_15000242 Jamaican Iguana fighting for survival: Jamaica Observer
The following links will provide more information on SOME of the partnerships that support/have supported this protected area:
http://www.nature.org/ourinitiatives/regions/caribbean/cci-summit-commitments.pdf Commitments Announced at the Caribbean Summit of Political and Business Leaders under the Caribbean Challenge Initiative (CCI) (British Virgin Islands; May 17 – 18, 2013)
http://larc.iisd.org/news/caribbean-states-become-biodiversity-champions/ Caribbean states become biodiversity champions: International Institute for Sustainable Development
http://www.nature.org/ourinitiatives/regions/caribbean/caribbean-summit.xml Inaugural Caribbean summit rallies support for conservation: The Nature Conservancy
http://www.seacology.org/project/60-jamaica/ Seacology project in Portland Bight/Jamaica
http://www.iguanafoundation.org/s18-107-Jamaican-Iguana-Project.aspx The International Iguana Foundation/Jamaican Iguana Project
http://www.nature.org/ourinitiatives/regions/caribbean/jamaica/index.htm The Nature Conservancy Caribbean Challenge Initiative: Jamaica
http://glispa.org/?page_id=363 Global Island Partnership: Caribbean Challenge Initiative
http://www.caribbeanbirdingtrail.org/partners/jamaica/ Caribbean Birding Trail: Partners – Jamaica
http://www.ramsar.org/cda/ramsar/display/main/main.jsp?zn=ramsar&cp=1-30-168%5E16567_4000_0__ The Annotated RAMSAR List: Jamaica
http://www.greenantilles.com/2011/12/09/wetlands-of-international-significance-in-jamaica-a-new-one-has-been-designated-another-is-being-disfigured/ Wetlands of international significance in Jamaica: A new one has been designated, another is being disfigured: greenantilles.com
All the photographs below, all taken in the Portland Bight Protected Area, are by Ted Lee Eubanks. Thanks so much to Ted for sharing these! The full album of 100 photos can be found at the “Caribbean Birds” Facebook page.