It’s warm, bright and it’s Wednesday, which means my mid-week bulletin on Jamaican comings and goings is due. Here goes…
First shops, now houses? I am very sorry that the wonderful charity Food for the Poor, which does so much for Jamaica, has been dragged into a new story of alleged political corruption in South Trelawny. It seems to be a sort of political counterpoint to the Richard Azan saga, since it involves a Jamaica Labour Party Member of Parliament this time. There are claims from residents, an independent local councilor and others that Marisa Dalrymple-Philibert (what a great name!) has ensured the distribution of wooden houses constructed by Food for the Poor to residents loyal to her party. She denies this, and there were some inaccuracies in the early claims, which Food for the Poor corrected. We shall see what happens after Food for the Poor, which is known for its adherence to accountability and transparency, has done its own investigation into the matter. They should conclude this by the end of the week. I’m beginning to think that Members of Parliament should not be involved in the distribution of any kind of benefits within their constituencies. Perhaps, instead, they could live in their constituencies, and represent them properly in Parliament. Let’s get away from the “scarce benefits and spoils.”
The children: Today is the first day of Child Month – a month when the Government pays lip service to Jamaican children. There are various feel-good events and lots of pictures of sweet, laughing children and politicians patting them on the head. But a child in Jamaica is an endangered species, like the African elephant. Children are actively discriminated against. At best, they are ignored. At worst, they are abused, physically, mentally, sexually, and locked up. Many of those in conflict with the law are labeled “uncontrollable,” bad boys and girls who should be “disciplined.” I have written numerous blog posts on children’s rights in the past. Congratulations to Jamaicans for Justice, who today started a series of articles on children’s rights in the Gleaner. See link below.
The Jamaican Child at Risk: And on the first day of Child Month, I read reports about students of Calabar High School attacking a bus driver in Kingston; a 12-year-old girl found hanging from a mango tree; the body of an abducted schoolgirl found in a cane field; and a student of Robert Lightbourne High School in serious condition after being stabbed at the school in rural St.Thomas today.
PM budget speech: Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller made her contribution to the Budget Debate yesterday. Time consumed: well over two hours (her Opposition counterpart spoke for a good three hours!) Perhaps taking a cue from Mr. Holness, the Prime Minister was less confrontational than usual and dropped the hectoring tone for the most part. As a result, it was easier to listen to, without the usual feeding-time-at-the-zoo background noise. She kicked off by professing her love for the poor, mentioned some houses distributed and ground she has broken (in one case at least, with emotion), and used the word “transformation” over fifty times (note to speechwriters: that really is overkill). She wrapped up with several mentions of the word “God” and the usual exhortations to unite and work together… In between, there was little of substance and a lot of fluff (fond as I am of the Sunshine Girls – our national netball team – I don’t see the need to include them in a budget speech).
A couple of concerns: The Prime Minister announced that our new, oriental colonial masters (China Harbour et al) have changed their minds about developing a transshipment port in the Kingston Harbour area near Fort Augusta women’s prison. This decision was made “a few weeks ago.” They have decided to do a bigger, better project somewhere else (“final location undetermined”) in Jamaica instead. This puzzles me and also raises questions about the development of the logistics hub and preparations for the expansion of the Panama Canal. And talking of the hub, what is actually happening now, and what needs to happen by the deadline/s for Jamaica to be competitively “in” on the thing? I have a feeling deadlines are looming, and the Prime Minister proudly announced that party stalwart Professor Gordon Shirley will head a National Taskforce “that will drive the process.” Why in the future – shouldn’t it be happening now?
The NHT again: Yes, another heavy burden will be placed on the National Housing Trust (NHT) this year. The Prime Minister announced that the Trust would have to cough up more for the Inner City Renewal Program and other major projects.
The Tivoli forest: An absolute forest of trees has been cut down for the printing of the long-awaited interim report on the Tivoli Gardens Massacre of May, 2010. We heard that the report would be tabled in Parliament yesterday. This did not happen, since they had not finished printing 63 copies (200 plus pages each). One journalist asked why they couldn’t just use the tablets that Technology Minister Phillip Paulwell had kindly given to each Member of Parliament just recently?
Tweeps find a voice: This morning, broadcast journalist Emily Crooks invited her faithful “tweeps” to comment on the Prime Minister’s speech. So several of us piped up and shared our thoughts on the radio. It was interesting to hear human voices in place of the regular comments on my TweetDeck. Emily and her co-host Naomi seemed rather pleased with us, and we got some compliments about our commentary! Thanks for giving us the opportunity, Em…
Revenge of the security guard: Ambassador Courtney Walsh has refused to accept an apology from the Jamaica Cricket Association for his treatment at the hands of a security guard. He wanted to enter a particular section of Sabina Park, Kingston’s cricket ground and was flatly refused. Now, anyone who lives in Kingston has probably run the gamut of security guards at every business place, government office, shopping plaza or residential complex one might visit. They are extremely poorly paid, work very long hours in poor, sometimes dangerous conditions, and are often grumpy, arrogant and mean. We have to put up with it. They are “doing their job,” as was this particular guard, no doubt. I suppose the phrase “Do you know who I am?” came up. Anyway, the famous sportsman is pretty upset.
Stop press: The interim report on the Tivoli Gardens Massacre has finally been tabled in Parliament this afternoon. Oh, no! I take that back. It wasn’t. Or was it? Yes! It was, and it’s available online, so more trees are spared. Please see the link below. Coincidentally, the New Yorker journalist Mattathias Schwartz writes a follow-up report on the killing of over seventy Jamaicans allegedly at the hands of the security forces, along with a four-minute video. You can find it on the magazine’s online pages. Schwartz visited Jamaica, wrote extensively on the “incursion,” and has now released surveillance footage from the U.S. Government, after filing a lawsuit to obtain it. See for yourself at the link below. And…Today the International Monetary Fund approved Jamaica’s application for a four-year extended fund facility, worth US$958 million. Yay! Now, don’t spend it all at once, will you? You can’t? Oh well… First US$200 million installment coming soon, anyway.
Let’s hear it for the Alpha Boys: I spent some time late last year at the Alpha Boys School in Kingston while volunteering with the JN Foundation. It was Christmas, and the boys were exuberant, energetic and participated in a highly competitive dance competition (Gangnam Style). Congratulations to overseas-based Jamaican artist Michael Thompson, special projects manager at Alpha Joshua Chamberlain, the Bob Marley Foundation and all the other individuals and organizations involved in the Alpha Boys’ revival, including its “rebranding.” The boys will be producing and selling branded shirts; for more details contact Alpha Service Bureau at 930-2200 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
I Believe in Spring Village: A huge pat on the back too, to Randy Finikin of the Spring Village Development Foundation for his great community work over the years; and thanks to the Governor General for his support and the construction of an I Believe Medical Centre under his special I Believe Initiative in Spring Village. You can read more about the program here: http://www.ibelieveinitiative.org.
See you on Sunday for the next bulletin!
My condolences to the families of the following Jamaicans, who have been brutally murdered since Sunday, April 28:
Harry Bunwarrie, 28, Thompson Pen, St. Catherine
Sebert Wilks, 70, Bushy Park, St. Catherine
Gerald Wilks, 60, Bushy Park, St. Catherine
Abigail Robb, 15, Clarks Town, Trelawny
Nigel Watson, 38, Somerton, St. James
André Roper, 26, Montego Bay, St. James
Related links/articles (purple links are local blogs):
http://japarliament.gov.jm/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=945:office-of-the-public-defender-interim-report-to-parliament-concerning-investigations-into-the-conduct-of-the-security-forces-during-the-state-of-emergency-declared-may2010&catid=7:general-reports&Itemid=22 Office of the Public Defender Interim Report to Parliament Concerning Investigations into the Conduct of the Security Forces during the State of Emergency: Jamaican Parliament (pdf files)
http://www.jis.gov.jm/docs/PM_Speech_Final_web.pdf Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller‘s Budget Speech, April 30, 2013: Going for Growth and Development
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130428/lead/lead1.html Who got the houses? Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=44467 Dalrymple Philibert says house allocations not politically aligned: Gleaner
http://foodforthepoorja.blogspot.com/2013/04/press-release-food-for-poor-reaffirms.html Food for the Poor Jamaica reaffirms its modus operandi of transparency and accountability: Food for the Poor blog
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/NHT-AGAIN_14178454 Government raids Trust to fund major projects: Jamaica Observer
http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/newsdesk/2013/05/video-massacre-in-jamaica.html Traces of a massacre: Mattathias Schwartz/New Yorker
http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/from-1-battlefield-to-another-us-tries-2-new-aerial-tools-to-search-for-drugs-in-caribbean/2013/04/27/43ceea30-af30-11e2-b59e-adb43da03a8a_story.html# From one battlefield to another: U.S. tries two new aerial tools to search for drugs in the Caribbean: Washington Post
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130429/lead/lead2.html Danzil Clarke was clueless: Man who robbed Bunting’s friends was unaware of who his victims were: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130501/lead/lead4.html Thieves jet off with $20 million worth of airplane fuel: Gleaner
http://repeatingislands.com/2013/04/28/carolyn-cooper-changing-dirty-diapers-on-earth-day/ Changing dirty diapers on Earth Day: Carolyn Cooper column/Sunday Gleaner
http://delanoseiv.wordpress.com/2013/05/01/we-need-a-leader-like-thatcher/ We need a leader like Thatcher: Delano Seiveright blog
http://www.caribjournal.com/2013/04/29/jamaica-to-receive-eu-health-grant/ Jamaica to receive EU health grant: Carib Journal
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130501/cleisure/cleisure4.html Quotas crucial to righting scale of gender imbalance: Linnette Vassell op-ed/Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130429/lead/lead4.html “Fewer women screened for cervical cancer”: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130501/cleisure/cleisure3.html Where has our sense of community gone? George Davis column/Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/sport/JCA-apologises-to-Courtney-Walsh_14177824 JCA apologizes to Courtney Walsh: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130430/ent/ent2.html Alpha Boys reborn: Gleaner
http://www.caribjournal.com/2013/04/29/sheryl-sandbergs-lean-in-and-jamaica/ Sheryl Sandberg‘s “Lean In” and Jamaica: Marcia Forbes op-ed/Carib Journal
http://www.jamaicans.com/articles/primecomments/jamaicanentrepreneurshipsellingdreams.shtml Selling dreams and unrealistic hope – Jamaicans being pitched to be an entrepreneur: Jane Nina Buchanan article/jamaicans.com
Sunday Thoughts: April 28, 2013 (petchary.wordpress.com)
Playing Politics With Jamaica’s Future (petchary.wordpress.com)
Maggie and Me: Some Thoughts on Leadership (petchary.wordpress.com)
The Jamaica Environment Trust launched its fourth annual Jamaica Environmental Action Awards recently.
Except where otherwise specified, the awards are open to individuals and groups (non-governmental organizations, community-based organizations, private sector organizations, government agencies etc). The instructions and full details of awards in each of the categories below are available on the Jamaica Environment Trust website (www.jamentrust.org) – click on “judging criteria” and scroll down when the window comes up). Nomination forms are also downloadable on the website. You may nominate yourself or your organization!
Do you know a school that is doing a great job teaching students environmental awareness?
Do you know a great teacher who is spreading the word on protecting and preserving our environment?
Do you know an individual or organization that is doing a fantastic job in water conservation?
Do you know an individual or organization doing great work in the field of sustainable agriculture?
Do you know an individual or organization that is working to conserve energy?
Do you know an individual or organization that is involved in an excellent waste management project?
Do you know an individual or organization that is involved in preserving our precious biodiversity?
Do you know an individual or organization that would qualify for JET’s Trees for the Future Award?
Do you know of a community that is really taking care of its environment?
And last but not least: JET is looking for a great Youth Leader in environmental conservation! We know the youth are doing good work! Nominate someone (or yourself!)
The Jamaica Environmental Action Awards are the first of their kind in Jamaica. The Environmental Action Awards seek to reward outstanding groups and individuals who have demonstrated innovative efforts aimed at protecting and preserving Jamaica’s natural environment. The awards were launched in April 2010 during the Jamaica Environment Trust’s Earth Day activities. The inaugural JEAA ceremony was held in June of 2010, with eleven categories of awards being presented to individuals and groups from both the private and public sector.
Nominations for the 2013 Jamaica Environmental Action Awards open on March 19th and close on May 2nd, 2013 at noon. This is a FINAL deadline and late entries will not be accepted! The JEAA awards ceremony will take place on June 25th, 2012 at the Knutsford Court Hotel.
Nomination forms can be filled in online, saved and emailed to JET (email@example.com). You can also print and fax to JET at 926-0212 or drop off at the office at Earth House, 11 Waterloo Road. Please note JET recommends Firefox or Internet Explorer when downloading the PDF files.
- Jamaica’s Environmental Action Awards Nomination Form 2013
- Jamaica’s Environmental Action Awards Self Nomination Form 2013Word
Nomination forms can be downloaded in word format here: JEAA 2013 Nomination forms word
Jamaica Environment Trust is a serious, dedicated organization, founded in 1991 by environmental activist Diana McCaulay. JET fully deserves our support as it seeks to preserve our fragile and imperiled island environment. Why don’t you become a member today or make a donation? Take a look at its website – one of the best-maintained NGO websites in Jamaica – for full details of all its programs (www.jamentrust.org/) Another great NEW website to look at is the Caribbean Environmental Law website at http://www.caribbeanenvirolaw.org.
Nominate someone (or yourself) today!
Is it really June 6, 2012? Doesn’t that make it World Environment Day 2012? It is? OK… Because I have hardly heard a whisper about it all day today. I have heard a lot of politicians blustering and guffawing in the House of Representatives over the Budget; the trade winds have continued to trouble us on a fiercely hot June day; there have been the usual compromises and concessions and in the city of Kingston, Jamaica.
The theme for 2012 is: “Green Economy: Does It Include YOU?” Well, if asked this question, most Jamaican men and women would scratch their heads, frown slightly and shake their heads. And these days, it seems to me, the word economy is more often on the lips of many than the word green. Apart from our own stifling debt crisis, there is Spain, which can’t afford to bail out its own banks; Greece, which is stumbling along towards a re-run of its election on June 17; the British Prime Minister flitting about Europe like a slightly agitated migrating bird, urging “immediate” action on the Eurozone debt crisis; and President Barack Obama, now in the throes of a full-blown election campaign, turning a little more grey and holding conference calls with European leaders. Even Facebook‘s IPO was something of a flop, and it appears marred by technical errors.
And back in Jamaica, people get more excited about the green in the flag (or lack of it) than they do about the “greening” of our increasingly deforested, polluted, mined-out, over-developed, garbage-filled island.
But hey… It is slightly cooler now after 9:00 p.m.; I can hear music playing faintly and pleasantly outside – sounds like an old ska tune; the dogs are quietly snoozing; the Petcharys are enjoying the welcome, late-season bounty of our Bombay mango tree; and I am looking forward to high tea with a friend at the wonderful Terra Nova Hotel tomorrow. Things could be worse. The economic (and green) crisis might never happen.
And tomorrow is another day. June 7. When we may say to each other, “Oh yes, it was World Environment Day yesterday, wasn’t it?”
- World Environment Day (pottedplantsociety.wordpress.com)
- If it’s June 5, it must be World Environment Day (photoblog.msnbc.msn.com)
- Morning Minutes: June 5 (hopestar.com)
- World Environment Day (periwinkleporte.com)
- World Environment Day 2012 (energyrefuge.com)
- http://www.unep.org/wed/: UN World Environment Day
- http://www.terranovajamaica.com/index2.php: Terra Nova Hotel, Kingston
It is a beautiful green garden, the kind that feels like home. Three or four big old mango trees, the tips of their branches dripping with “black mangoes” (and one Bombay tree that I was told doesn’t bear much). The lawns are not flat or perfectly smooth, and a little worn in places.The white house that stands back from the road is worn with memories, but comfortable with them. One can still imagine family members sitting on the verandah on warm afternoons, sipping lemonade. Inside, the wooden floors shine, and walls and screens are adorned with bright posters and photographs. This is the home of the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) in Kingston, Jamaica.
For Earth Day 2012, JET welcomed over one hundred young people from several inner-city communities to their headquarters for a special celebration. Most of the children had participated in a special joint project between JET and the downtown-based NGO RISE Life Management Services, which works with at-risk youth. The project, supported by the Environmental Foundation of Jamaica, is called “Building Appreciation for Nature in Children at Risk.” There is a link to this project below. The program began with the communities of Parade Gardens, Fletcher’s Land and Allman Town; the second phase included children from Drewsland, Tower Hill and Majesty Gardens, and I also met some children from Cockburn Gardens. These are all depressed areas of Kingston; despite their attractive names, there are very few gardens indeed. There is concrete, there is uncollected garbage, there are rats, zinc fences. Hence the need for such a project, which was conceptualized by the dynamic leaders of JET and RISE, Diana McCaulay and Sonita Abrahams. From the enthusiasm and interest of the young people (and their desire to show off their new-found knowledge) I could tell that the program had been successful. It was clear from their faces, from their sheer enjoyment.
One of the highlights of the morning was the reading of two books written by Jamaican children’s author Jana Bent. Well, it was much more than a reading. Jana’s two books, “Shaggy Parrot and the Reggae Band” and “The Reggae Band Rescues Mama Edda Leatherback” come with music CDs that enhance the narrative and encourage participation. The music is excellent, inspired, written and performed by Jamaican reggae singer Shaggy – rhythmic, fun and well produced. Of course, both the books have strong messages on environmental protection – not just Jamaica-related. The second book involves the poor Leatherback Turtle who has swallowed a plastic bag…. But don’t worry, of course there was a happy ending.
And as one of the old hippy anthems has it (in fact, it was the classic “Woodstock” by Joni Mitchell, I believe) … “We’ve got to get back to the garden.” For the children’s sake.
- On Earth Day – Five Reasons I Love Jamaica (newsandviewsbydjmillerja.wordpress.com)
- Mangoes; A source of Roughage!!! (goldenfingers.wordpress.com)
- http://www.jamentrust.org/education/building-appreciation-for-nature-in-children-at-risk.html (jamentrust.org)
- Protecting our Fish: Earth Day, Part 1 (petchary.wordpress.com)
- http://www.reggaepickney.com/ The Shaggy Parrot books
- Jamaica Musings – second try!! (lifecoachingplus.wordpress.com)
- Celebrate Earth Day with These Children’s Books from Dawn Publications! (susanheim.blogspot.com)
- JN Foundation Volunteers in ACT!ON – Do Good Jamaica Kingston Book Festival (jnbsfoundation.wordpress.com)
- Circles of Hope for Earth Day (readaloudsforallchildren.wordpress.com)
- Top 10 Green Reads For Earth Day (huffingtonpost.com)
- Mos Def Sings About Butterflies and Trees in New Children’s Project, Pacha’s Pajamas (Video) (treehugger.com)
- The best friend (theunofficialversion.com)
Happy Earth Day!
And yes, I know. I’m late again. Blame it on the determined nature of the weather – fierce showers all day that left us with that exhausted feeling that rain seems to bring in tropical climes. Now the lawn is soaking, the eaves are dripping, cars are splashing down the road, and it has just started raining again.
Meanwhile, it has been a messy weekend in the media, too.
Let’s ponder a bit more… The “flag foul-up fiasco” (as it is now called in the Sunday Gleaner) continues to rumble on, like a thunderstorm that moves away reluctantly and threatens to return at any moment. The Prime Minister declared earlier this week that she is not going to going to speak publicly on “every issue” and that she relies on her ministers as front men (and women). She has her own “leadership style,” she asserts. (What is that, exactly? Photo-ops at the Summit of the Americas, ribbon-cuttings and launches and nice suits are the easy part. So was stomping around on the campaign trail). But the letters to the Editor, columns and shrill complaints on radio call-in shows drip, drip, dripped all week, like today’s rain. In case you feel you need to catch up on this issue, there is a link below to today’s Sunday Gleaner piece by Adrian Frater, which gives you a blow-by-blow account. The decorator who was labeled the “fall guy” in the affair is not willing to play that role; there are questions about how an alleged protocol officer attached to the Prime Minister’s office was allowed to take over the event – and who allowed him; and investigations are under way. The media have not got to the bottom of the matter, by any means.
And another flag fiasco? Saturday’s Observer headlines blared, “Rastas livid!” And a livid Rasta is not a pretty sight, I can tell you. ”Now what?” you may well ask, dear reader. Footage emerged on CVM Television’s prime time news of an indignant gentleman being cajoled, beseeched, and when that failed, eventually escorted away with some difficulty last Thursday night in Kingston’s Emancipation Park. What was going on there? Well, it was the much heralded (and indeed much praised) documentary film “Marley” - which was premiered free to the Jamaican public in the park. It was, of course, a great social occasion, with politicians of different stripes rubbing shoulders with aging reggae musicians, rastas from all corners of the island, curious members of the public and – of course – the young, influential and beautiful social butterflies who appear regularly on the pages of our daily newspapers anyway, all showing their “rootsy” side. A number of people, Jamaicans and others, who are only famous because of their association with the “reggae icon” (to coin a cliche) were also there; and of course members of Bob Marley’s family, who approved the film.
But back to the livid rastas. At the film premiere, the decorators had perhaps gone a little overboard with swathes of fabric. There was rather a nice arch and pathway for “VIPs” in red, gold and green cloth – except that the pathway (a kind of red carpet, if you will) was the colors of the Rastafarian flag – or the Ethiopian flag, which has the same colors. So the dignitaries would be walking on the Ethiopian/Rastafarian flag, an insult to both the country and Rastafarian beliefs.
Unlike the Montego Bay flag, however, there was no (alleged) shortage of fabric here. A large quantity of not-very-practical white material was found by artiste manager Bridgette Anderson (who appeared unfazed by the protestations of her Rastafarian brethren) which was applied to the floor. But of course, politicians avoided the area like the plague. When CVM’s reporter asked Culture Minister Lisa Hanna whether she would walk on the offending area, she murmured, “Um, no…” with a deprecating smile.
Nevertheless, the film was declared to be a sensitive, absorbing personal portrait of Bob Marley – not the usual run-of-the-mill biopic. Congratulations to director Kevin Macdonald, and all those involved in its making.
This week’s trivia question: How many countries besides Ethiopia have red, gold and green in their national flags?
Why bother… Personally, I have had enough of media stories involving “scandals,” hate-mail and political gossip-mongering. Don’t care. Just simply don’t care. These are serious times.
A couple more stories of note… There was rather an important story in the Sunday Observer on Jamaica’s birth rate. Producing fewer children will help the Jamaican economy, but we already have a “bulge” of young people to get over before we can settle settle down a bit, it seems. That’s according to Dr. Carl Haub of the Population Reference Bureau, based in Washington, DC. There’s something called the Child Dependency Ratio (our birth rate has declined to 2.3 births per woman). The only answer, says Dr. Haub, is to train and educate the three-quarter-of-a-million Jamaicans between zero and fifteen years, 27 per cent of the population – and hope the economy will improve. Hmm. I would like to see a more in-depth report or analysis of this subject.
Principal of the boys’ high school Jamaica College, Mr. Ruel Reid, also gave a clear-eyed assessment of the factors behind “failing schools.” Management, and leadership, are crucial in schools, he says. Couldn’t one go further and say these are issues in many of our key institutions, too – including governmental institutions? Reid, who was an advisor to the former Education Minister/Prime Minister Andrew Holness, adds that a lack of well-qualified teachers is also a major problem – only twenty per cent of Jamaican teachers have first degrees. “Accountability” was a word he used, repeated by the Principal of Shortwood Teachers’ College Elaine Foster-Allen, who added that ongoing training was inadequate and the physical conditions in schools (especially primary schools) were detrimental to learning (students can’t always hear the teacher in class because of noise and over-crowding – a pretty fundamental concern). Mr. Reid commented, “What you see…is the profile of average teachers, average teaching and an average system.” Perhaps he is being kind – perhaps “average” is an euphemism for “mediocre.”
Concerns: A technical team is girding up its loins for a trip to Washington, DC for the annual International Monetary Fund/World Bank meeting. There has been talk of “sacrifice” and “austerity” in editorials and columns; but do the politicians really believe it’s necessary now – like, right now? Or do they think they can just get by with talking about “tough times ahead” (or “bitter medicine” as the former Prime Minister called it) without having to implement any unpopular measures? And will they be able to set an example of said “sacrifice”?
Mr. Rickey Singh turned the focus on the Chairman of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and President of Suriname Desi Bouterse. Now, Jamaicans tend not to pay too much attention to Suriname, which although a CARICOM member speaks Dutch and is not an island. President Bouterse made a come-back when he was democratically elected in August 2010. He led the country under military rule from 1982 – 1992, a period with a very poor record of human rights. But the “democratic” President/Chairman has just passed new legislation, granting amnesty for himself and a number of his cronies from prosecution for the massacre of fifteen Surinamese, among other crimes. Meanwhile, ironically, Suriname submitted a request for assistance for a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to the Organization of American States at the recent Summit of the Americas. So much for the weird construction that is called democracy in the Caribbean. I wonder if fellow CARICOM states are going to have anything to say about this? I won’t hold my breath.
To the Caribbean Coastal Area Management Foundation (C-CAM) headed by the industrious Ms. Ingrid Parchment. C-CAM celebrated its thirteenth anniversary of the Portland Bight Protected Area that they manage along with various partners, on April 19. On the same day, they opened their new field office in Salt River to manage the three fish sanctuaries in the protected area. Kudos also to WINDALCO for their sponsorship of an artificial reef project and to Seacology, the California-based organization that has provided much support on the project. I wrote a post on this after attending last week – see link below…
…To our esteemed and beloved poet Kwame Dawes, who was recently awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship. The genial Mr. Dawes is a prolific Jamaican/Ghanaian by birth poet and novelist and co-founder of Jamaica’s own native literary jamboree, the Calabash International Literary Festival (renamed for this year Jubilation! 50) which will take place from May 25-27 in Treasure Beach. On his website he calls himself”the busiest man in literature today.” He is an absolute gem. Congratulations, Kwame!
…Another cultural gem, Ms. Barbara Blake Hannah, whose Reggae Film Festival is now in its fifth year. It takes a lot of belief to get a project like this off the ground. Ms. Blake Hannah is a lady of depth and substance. In the Sunday Observer lifestyle pages she noted that her favorite film is Akira Kurosawa’s “Kagemusha.” Kurosawa’s extraordinary, epic works are close to my heart and remain masterpieces of film-making. Great choice.
Who else do I love this week? The Nathan Ebanks Foundation should receive a big pat on the back for their Sixth Annual Special Needs Conference Expo – a four-day event aimed at helping caregivers, educators and medical professionals improve the lives of physically and mentally challenged people. The focus was on a remarkable program started by Californian Ms. Linda Bidabe called MOVE (Mobility Opportunities Via Education/Experience, great acronym). Congratulations to Ms. Christine Staple-Ebanks and her partners and sponsors for their dedication to special education, a meaningful cause.
Well, dear readers – blue skies perhaps tomorrow? As always, I welcome your comments and feedback on any of these stories. And please – I hope I have been accurate in my comments. If not, please correct me!
- 8 Gorgeous Nature Blogs for Earth Day (breedheenorilleykeefer.com)
- Sunday Steam (petchary.wordpress.com)
- http://www.worldflags101.com/e/ethiopia-flag.aspx History of the Ethiopian flag
- http://www.bobmarley.com/marley_the_movie.php Movie website
- Jamaicans pack a city park to watch documentary about the life of reggae icon Bob Marley (repeatingislands.com)
- Bob Marley: So much things to say… (repeatingislands.com)
- HW Pick: Marley (video) (harlemworldmag.com)
- http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Rastas-livid-_11299691: Rastas livid!
- http://repeatingislands.com/2012/03/29/love-jamaica-at-jubilation-50/: Jubilation! 50/Calabash
- http://www.prb.org/ Population Reference Bureau
- http://petchary.wordpress.com/2012/04/21/protecting-our-fish-earth-day-part-1/ My blog post on C-CAM fish sanctuaries
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120422/arts/arts5.html Kwame Dawes awarded Guggenheim Fellowship
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120422/news/news6.html Nathan Ebanks Foundation
Earth Day approaches (Sunday, April 22), and yesterday we attended an event that was more a Song of the Sea than of the Earth. We attended the opening of a field office, to be administered by the Caribbean Coastal Area Conservation Foundation (C-CAM), in Salt River, Clarendon.
The sparkling new green and white building is to be C-CAM’s base for patrols of three Fish Sanctuaries in the surrounding wetlands (Three Bays, Salt Harbour and Galleon Harbour). There are six other sanctuaries across the island. C-CAM’s Executive Director Ingrid Parchment hopes the field office will become a complete “green building” in the near future, one of a kind in the parish.
And Jamaica’s fish stock is declining drastically. The island is one of the most over-fished areas in the world. When we used to eat at Gloria’s, a well-known fish restaurant in Port Royal, some ten years ago or more, we used to eat one big snapper fish each. When we ate there a few weeks ago, it struck me that we each had three or four much smaller fish on our plate. Just a little indicator.
The building was dedicated, with prayers and a plaque, to the memory of Professor Aggrey Brown, a former chairman of C-CAM. The professor was a dedicated fisherman in the area on holidays and weekends. The building itself is situated next to a small, well-kept marina at the Monymusk Gun, Rod and Tiller Club – a charming backwater of the Salt River, where several well-kept boats awaited their next adventure, and another boat, upended on the shore, was being thoroughly scrubbed by a group of sturdy young men. The sun shone brightly on the dark water, polished to bronze; and on the green hillside above, topped with billowing white clouds against the blue. A perfect morning.
The project is the result of a valuable partnership with the California-based NGO Seacology, which has been working in Jamaica for the past two or three years and which Ingrid Parchment noted was very “understanding” of the issues involved. Ms. Parchment recognizes the importance of partnerships – in Jamaica, NGOs can barely survive without them. This is especially important when you are managing the protected area of the Portland Bight, which is a bump of land sticking out at the bottom of the island of Jamaica, on its south coast.
The Portland Bight Protected Area, established by the Jamaican government on Earth Day 1999, makes up 4.7 per cent of the entire island of Jamaica; it is larger than Barbados or Grenada or Antigua & Barbuda in the eastern Caribbean. It includes 81 square miles of the endangered habitat called dry limestone forest and 32 square miles of coastal wetland and mangroves and coral reefs. Most of the remainder of the land is sugar estates (we met several trucks with teetering loads of cane on the road) and small hamlets with a total of 50,000 inhabitants. C-CAM works closely with community representatives and the local private sector – and on this project with WINDALCO, the nearby bauxite firm whose Russian managing director attended the event and spoke through an interpreter. WINDALCO has a port at nearby Port Esquivel from where it ships its products. The firm is funding a fisheries enhancement project in a coral reef area in one of the three fish sanctuaries, Three Bays – the “jewel in the crown” as Ms. Parchment put it. The project involves a metal frame, which is electrified and somehow calcifies and creates excellent conditions for coral to grow, according to C-CAM’s Scientific Officer Brandon Hay. The research for this was reportedly done at the University of the West Indies‘ Discovery Bay Marine Laboratory on Jamaica’s north coast some time ago. But, it’s never too late to put it into practice…
A government minister arrived impossibly late; the proceedings had already started without him. He arrived just in time to let us know that the government will be banning spear-fishing at night (or in the day too?) and that it would also provide funding for rangers to patrol the sanctuaries – very important. So, he was clapped, and cut the ribbon obligingly alongside Thera Edwards, C-CAM’s Chairperson. Reverend Elliston stood on the stairs and, Bible in hand, gave the building and all those who sailed in it his blessing.
And – last but by no means least – young Shemara and several of her small friends from the Salt River Basic School gave an irresistible “tribute item” – a rendition of the Jamaican folk song “Sammy plant piece a corn dung a gully.” For those who don’t know it, this song is akin to one of those rather grim little nursery rhymes where the principal characters end up dead. The children sang with much emphasis on certain words, accompanied by dramatic hand gestures. Perfect.
There is a website which calls overfishing a “global disaster.” According to the most recent Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) report, at least one quarter of all the world’s fish stocks are either overexploited or depleted. Over half is fully exploited, which means just a step away from being overexploited. And these are fairly conservative numbers. For an area like Portland Bight, which is heavily dependent on fishing, it is crucial to maintain and expand fish stocks, and to preserve the environment in which the fish breed. The mangroves and coastal wetlands are nurseries for the fish that populate our reefs. And of course, this protected area is also home to many endangered and protected species, including the crocodile (common in Salt River), the Jamaican Iguana, the Coney (Jamaica’s only endemic terrestrial mammal) and countless waterfowl and bird life.
And – it is beautiful. Clear aqua-blue waters with waving seagrass; moorhen (or “water hens” as Jamaicans call them) scuttling in the bulrushes; open lagoons, still and quiet; spiky mangroves and limpid pools; thorny bushes cluttering the hillsides.
Learn more about this precious, unique part of Jamaica. Learn more about the work of C-CAM, and support them. Learn something new about the island of Jamaica that you can cherish, and help to preserve.
And please, do something for the Earth on Sunday, April 22.
http://www.earthday.org/2012: Earth Day 2012
http://www.televisionjamaica.com/Programmes/SmileJamaica.aspx/Videos/17294: TVJ interview with Ingrid Parchment and Alicia Burnett of WINDALCO, April 17, 2012
http://www.ccam.org.jm/: C-CAM website
http://www.portlandbight.org/: Portland Bight Protected Area website
http://www.uwimona.edu.jm/cms/dbml.htm: Discovery Bay Marine Laboratory, University of the West Indies
http://www.seacology.org/: Seacology website
http://overfishing.org/: Overfishing: A global environmental disaster