Kingston has sprung to life. The traffic is back, school is in, and it’s been a lively week so far.
More drama: The pending/possible challenge to Andrew Holness‘ leadership from former Finance Minister Audley Shaw seems to have stirred things up in the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP). Previously calm (even stagnant) JLP waters are looking rather rough at the moment. Bobbing up and down on the waves on Monday night was a busload of rowdy delegates, which descended on party headquarters apparently in support of “the leader.” Also at sea were two prominent women in the party (former Culture Minister Olivia “Babsy” Grange, and Joan Gordon Webley). There was a confrontation. Ms. Grange agonized over the matter on radio this morning, using words like “hypocrisy.” And these two ladies are veteran politicians, not young hotheads! I think they all need to take a deep breath.
“Spotlight” on the rabble: Now one learns that most of those delegates (who act as a kind of Greek chorus for the main actors, I suppose) are not even eligible to vote for a new leader! And talking of noisy crowds, I am commenting on the issue of these party parties in the latest issue of “Spotlight,” a beautiful monthly online magazine edited by Reggae Film Festival founder, cultural activist and author Barbara Blake Hannah. Ms. Blake Hannah also takes a pointed look at the recent Grand Gala, and the marketing of tourism in her home parish of Portland. She also invites you to be “royal”! Read more here: https://t.co/gLcDsSkAAo
Remember those Cuban lightbulbs? The media is quite distracted by the JLP shenanigans. But the corruption trial of former Member of Parliament Kern Spencer (a former young bright spark of the People’s National Party) and his associate, which was delayed for over a year thanks to the manipulations of various lawyers, started up again this week. It’s hard to think that far back; the whole affair – a major scandal at the time – seems lost in the mists of time. Let us please try and refocus and pay close attention to what transpires in court. More to follow.
Did I say corruption? Former Contractor General Greg Christie shared a number of very useful documents on corruption from the World Bank on Twitter this week. Here’s the link: http://www.scribd.com/mobile/users/WorldBankPublications/collections/3382219
And remember Mr. Richard Azan? We don’t need to cast our mind too far back, but this gentleman has got somehow lost in the mix. As one of his comrade councilors predicted, perhaps it was a “nine-day wonder.” We were told by the Prime Minister and others that the Member of Parliament and Junior Minister was deemed “innocent” of any wrongdoing in the construction of illegal shops until reports had emerged on the matter. That was back in April. The summer has passed, and it now emerges that a report from the Ministry of Local Government has absolved Mr. Azan. Well, I never! We still wait to hear the results of the Contractor General, who is also investigating. Not a peep out of his office so far.
OK, then? So the Press Association of Jamaica (PAJ) has withdrawn its call for the resignation of Television Jamaica Chairman Milton Samuda, after he apologized for confiscating tapes of an interview with two athletes whom Samuda represented as their attorney. As they used to say on one television show, “Really, PAJ? Really?” This debacle raised multiple issues of press freedom. It’s a disturbing business, and a former PAJ President has expressed his anger at the PAJ’s latest move online. Another former PAJ president is also describing the actions of the journalists throughout as “totally spineless.” Investigations into the incident are reportedly ongoing. Good grief!
Protest the logistics hub on Facebook: There is a Facebook page now (No! to port on Goat Island, Jamaica) to protest the proposed logistics hub in the Portland Bight Protected Area (Goat Islands and beyond). Do “like” if you are concerned about this issue here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/no.onportgoatisland/
And view a photo album there too: The Society for the Conservation and Study of Caribbean Birds (SCSCB) has posted a beautiful photo album on its Facebook page, entitled “Portland Bight Protected Area 2013-2013.” Do browse through the photographs, taken by naturalist Ted Lee Eubanks of the U.S. Audubon Society, which show the amazing biodiversity of the area.
HOW many “active gangs”? Police say there are 67 “active gangs” operating in the lovely tourism mecca of Montego Bay, and that they are expanding. And there is the lotto scam connection. Do you ever visit Montego Bay, Minister Bunting, to see what’s really going on? Is anyone coming up with any solutions?
Jet skis/Live at Seven: I was very glad to see that Live at Seven last night addressed the issue of jet skis, which I raised in my blog of August 28. The regulation and licensing of these machines, whose macho operators have caused mayhem at our tourist resorts – including serious injury and deaths – appears to be problematic. Why? The Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo) – a government agency, which is responsible – has questions to answer. We must do better.
Another shootout downtown: This is almost a weekly occurrence – a shootout between gunmen and police. I ask again: Is downtown really safe for Jamaicans to live and work?
And I have decided not to comment on the distressing photo of Roger Clarke that has circulated widely on social media since Sunday evening. You can see it at the link below. Well, by saying “distressing” I suppose you know how I feel about it, anyway. Enough said!
Meanwhile, major kudos are due to:
The Jamaica Observer (again): For their continued coverage of the proposed destruction of the Portland Bight Protected Area. An article today focuses on the endangered Jamaican Iguana, which is again threatened by the possible Chinese development. The newspaper reports that the twenty-year-old iguana conservation program was funded and supported by overseas donors (including two U.S. zoos) It notes that the development of an area where it has been re-introduced would certainly deter donor agencies from supporting future conservation efforts. I made the point in an earlier blog that all the support from overseas will evaporate if all the efforts (and money) for environmental projects is literally bulldozed.
ECCO Magazine: The new online environmental magazine (ECCO stands for Environmentally Conscious Consumer Operations) held its virtual launch yesterday on Twitter, and an interesting Twitter Chat with the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) took place today. Take a look at their beautiful website: www.eccomagazine.com - and join the conversation on social media (@ECCOMagazine and on Facebook). You can also read JET’s newsletter here: http://content.yudu.com/Library/A2efti/THEJETTERVOL1NO6/resources/index.htm
UTech Mentoring Program: Congratulations to the staff and alumni of the University of Technology (UTech) as well as private sector supporters on the launch of their 5th Annual Mentoring Program today. It is an excellent program that will no doubt empower students and encourage them along their career path in these difficult economic times.
There were five murders between last night and today. Despite the regular attempts at massaging the “major crime” figures, it is clear that murders are not down compared to last year. And that, for me, is the most major crime. Moreover, the police allegedly shot dead a pregnant woman – just over a year after a policeman shot dead a pregnant woman in Yallahs, St. Thomas in early September, 2012. My condolences to all the family and friends who mourn these Jamaicans:
Unidentified man, Olympic Gardens, Kingston
Orrett Walford, Lyndhurst Crescent, Kingston
Mario Jackson, 24, Linstead, St. Catherine
David Todd, Linstead, St. Catherine
Pamela James, Flanker/Montego Bay, St. James
George Kelly, 42, Lilliput, St. James
Donovan Murray, 34, Burnt Savannah, Westmoreland
Evon Gayle, 31, Burnt Savannah, Westmoreland
Dean McIntosh, 33, Negril, Westmoreland
Killed by the police:
Felicia Henry, 21, Dempshire Pen/Central Village, St. Catherine
Articles and links of interest:
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130902/lead/lead4.html Cedar Grove Academy opens: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130902/lead/lead8.html Ganja has potential to attract high-end tourists: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130902/lead/lead6.html School of Marijuana: Research facility to be established: Gleaner
http://digjamaica.com/blog/2013/09/02/dollar-continues-to-weaken/ Dollar continues to weaken: diGJamaica.com
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130903/lead/lead1.html No jobs for grads: Experts predict almost 20,000
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=47687 Roger Clarke blazes social media with the “chicken back” dance: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130903/lead/lead3.html Source: Azan emerges unscathed in Spaldings report: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=47744 Cuban light bulb trial: No oversight unit established to monitor program: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/editorial/Environmental-preservation–economic-development-not-mutually-exclusive_14987651 Environmental preservation, economic development not mutually exclusive: Jamaica Observer editorial
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130902/business/business1.html Yes, go to hell! Get on with Goat Island, megaprojects: Gleaner
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads-114/34958 No agreement on Goat Island – Dr. Davies: Jamaica Information Service
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/environment/Jamaican-Iguana-fighting-for-survival_15000242 Jamaican Iguana fighting for survival: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130902/lead/lead91.html Milton Samuda apologizes to PAJ: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=47719 Gunman hospitalized after shootout in Kingston: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130902/news/news5.html Police boast human rights efforts: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Dempshire-Pen-residents-protest-police-killing-of-pregnant-woman Dempshire Pen residents protest police killing of pregnant woman: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130902/cleisure/cleisure3.html Brand Jamaica August 10-18, 2013: Garth Rattray column/Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130902/lead/lead1.html Homosexuals are not targeted for violent crime, say experts: Gleaner
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/30/jamaica-anti-gay-violence_n_3844356.html Jamaica anti-gay violence continues to escalate: Huffington Post
http://www.npr.org/2013/09/02/217296757/examining-jamaicas-homophobia Examining Jamaica’s homophobia: NPR
It has been a strange week, so far. But there are many strange weeks in Jamaica. One just has to keep on going.
The death of Dean: A dark shadow arrived yesterday: The horrible murder of a good and kind Jamaican, Dean Moriah. We first met Dean fifteen or more years ago. We were immediately struck by his warmth, energy, and dedication to making people happy. A perfect ambassador for our tourism industry. Dean was stabbed, and crawled out of his house in Montego Bay – residents found him on the road. Emergency services were reportedly slow in coming. His house was burnt and his car stolen. It is painful to think of Dean suffering in this way. His friend and Gleaner senior journalist Janet Silvera noted on my Facebook page yesterday: “I have watched Dean over the years. He was selfless. He could hardly say no. He fought for everybody. All he wanted was to make a difference to the society.” Nuff said.
Poor, poor journalism: No one has yet been arrested for Dean’s murder, but CVM Television last night suggested that it was committed by a “lover gone berserk.” Then a faceless, nameless resident was interviewed. This wise man suggested off-camera that “what goes on in people’s bedrooms” does, in fact, affect the community (hint, hint). The entire report (apart from a heartfelt tribute to Dean from a local singer) was based on rumor and hearsay. Yet another example of what passes for TV journalism in this country.
What is the matter with Montego Bay? There is another terribly sad account below of the murder of a 65-year-old businessman a few days ago. A man in the place where Dean lived, Bogue Village, was arrested over the weekend in connection with the lotto scam. Why is the lotto scam still going on, despite the huge efforts of local and overseas law enforcement? Can someone who lives in the “second city” tell us what is going on there – or is it all hush-hush?
Political overkill: The local media in the first part of this week has obsessed over the utterances of Opposition Leader Andrew Holness and the challenger for his party’s leadership position, former Finance Minister Audley Shaw. And let’s not forget their supporters. Both television stations dedicated the first fifteen minutes (and it was a very long fifteen minutes) to coverage of the weekend’s party meetings, for two consecutive evenings. I suppose we will have to endure extensive reporting and analysis of every word that comes out of the politicians’ mouths between now and the Jamaica Labour Party Conference in November, when the matter will be decided.
Don’t get me wrong – politics is important. But can our media houses be a little more selective in their reporting? Thank you! There is other news, you know…
For example, negative economic growth: This came a distant second after the politics. Perhaps the news will sink in later that the economy shrank by 0.4 per cent in the June 2013 compared to the 2012 quarter – led by large drops in agricultural production (sugar cane down 41 per cent, bananas 57 per cent!) Almost every sector of the economy dropped, apart from mining and residential construction. Despite this, the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ) declares that we are “out of recession.” How come? The PIOJ predicts a “resurgence in output,” blaming the “impact of Hurricane Sandy” ten months ago for the latest decline. Can we have much more analysis of this situation please?
“The greatest enemy to the environment is ABJECT POVERTY:” So says our former Finance Minister Omar Davies, in response to criticism of the proposed Portland Bight Protected Area development by the Chinese. Well, Minister Davies (who now heads Transport and Works) should know all about poverty. And it’s not quite as simple as that. The Minister is presumably seeking to justify the development as providing jobs and economic growth (how many jobs by the way? How many jobs for Jamaicans?) Oh – the World Bank notes that the greatest threat to the environment is not poverty, but rapid population growth. Not the same thing, at all.
Other environmental tidbits: I understand that eight laying turtles were killed and their eggs dug up a few days ago. I do not know details, but this is devastating news. On a happier note, there is much enthusiasm about the upcoming International Beach Cleanup Day (September 21) organized by the Jamaican Environment Trust (JET). And by the way, JET’s recycling center has re-opened. They take clean plastic, paper/newspaper and glass. Drop-off spot is 11B Waterloo Road, Kingston 10 and JET’s number is (876) 960-3693.
The persecution of handcart operators: Why, oh why did the Mayor of Kingston see fit to confiscate over 100 handcarts in the downtown area, when the announced regulations governing them are not yet finalized and discussions are still under way? Have licenses already been issued to all handcart vendors? If not, how can the vendors/transporters of goods have their livelihoods taken away from them because they are “unlicensed”?
Horrible machines: At least, jet skis are horrible when operated by young men with a macho mentality who like to show off their “skills,” swerving and speeding through the water at our various hotels on the north coast. It puzzles me that the recent horrible death of a six-year-old girl (her sisters were also injured, one of them badly, only four years old) sparked so little comment in the media. Perhaps if a tourist who died there would have been more comment (although this has in fact happened too). Jet skis disturb beachgoers with their noise and fumes, and are extremely dangerous to swimmers. Like so many other things in Jamaica, the situation is almost out of control. Why can’t the media report the name of the jet ski rider (has he/she been charged?) Or the hotel? I understand there was a serious jet ski incident in Negril recently, which has been hushed up. Can we stop hushing things up, now?
Protecting us all: I am so glad that the police are concerned about the safety of Chinese nationals living in Jamaica. They have even appointed a special liaison officer to work with the Chinese community. May I say: Jamaicans deserve protection too. And perhaps downtown Chinese businesspersons, who complain of extortion and robbery attempts, should start using the local banking system rather than carrying large amounts of cash everywhere. Why are all their transactions cash-only, anyway?
And hats off to…
- The Island Special Constabulary Force (ISCF) who rolled up at a friend’s door recently with a large Yellow Snake (Jamaican Boa) in a bag. My friend runs a wildlife sanctuary in St. Ann, and the ISCF crew had confiscated this endangered snake from a man in St. Mary. They were terrified of it, of course! But congratulations to the ISCF and may they continue to enforce Jamaica’s environmental laws to the very best of their ability (and, as we know, with their limited resources).
- Education Minister Ronald Thwaites for his plan to introduce local produce, juices etc into the school feeding program this year. This will benefit farmers, cut costs and we should have healthier students, too! Great move.
- Diabetes reality show: Talking of health, I look forward to hearing more about celebrity chef Charles Mattocks’ upcoming television show targeting diabetics (Charles is diabetic himself). I believe he may be coming to Jamaica soon? Find him on Twitter @thepoorchef1 or online at charlesmattocks.com.
- ECCO Magazine for hosting a very interesting #tweetchat on Sustainable Tourism with Mirieme Hill of Virgin Holidays today. Some good ideas were aired! Look forward to the next one. Next time, we need to bring government entities into the conversation…
- Jamaica Public Service Company for launching its charitable arm, the JPS Foundation. Read more here: http://www.myjpsco.com/community/foundation/ I am already a big fan of JPS CEO Kelly Tomblin, and look forward to hearing more about the Foundation’s projects.
- Social Media Chica Stacy-Ann Hayles for her first Storify compilation from Twitter on “Is the Social Media Helping or Hurting the Job Market?” You can find it here: #Storify story “#SMCchat 1: Is Social Media Helping or Hurting The Job Market?” sfy.co/dP1n
My quote for today: “There is no sadder sight than a young pessimist.” (Mark Twain)
Stay positive! But please spare a thought for the grieving families and friends of these Jamaicans, murdered in the past three days. RIP, Dean and all the others.
Linford Wallace, 29, Chancery Lane, downtown Kingston
Unidentified man, Industrial Terrace, Kingston 14
Unidentified man, Benson Fording/Norbrook, Kingston 8
Dean Moriah, 41, Bogue Village, St. James
Unidentified man, Montego Bay, St. James
“Dwayne,” 17, Cove Road, Westmoreland
http://petchary.wordpress.com/2013/08/26/its-build-build-build-august-25-2013/ It’s “build, build, build” – August 25, 2012
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130826/lead/lead22.html Jamaica, China talk visa waivers: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130828/business/business1.html PIOJ predicts return to growth in Sept. quarter – GDP shrinks 0.4%: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/business/-Jamaica-out-of-recession-_14958761 ”Jamaica out of recession”: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130826/lead/lead43.html COMPLANT eyes Sav
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=47538 Police to ramp up security for the Chinese community: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130826/news/news9.html Let Goat Islands development proceed; Address JADCO’s issues now! Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130827/cleisure/cleisure3.html China port may finish off Goat Islands fisheries: Diana McCaulay op-ed/Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/Logistics-Hub–here-we-go-again_14938445 Logistics hub – here we go again: Letter to the Editor/Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Wigton-IDs-four-wind-energy-sites_14929664 Wigton IDs four wind energy sites: Jamaica Observer
http://petchary.wordpress.com/2013/08/28/unprecedented-response-to-international-beach-clean-up-day-in-jamaica/ Unprecedented response to International Beach Cleanup Day
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=47498 JADCO outlines number of tests conducted May 2009 -July 2013: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=47513 Another month before KPH gets critical diagnostic equipment: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Get-a-skill- Get a skill! Says Education Minister: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Local-food–juices-for-school-feeding-programme_14952112 Local food, juices for school feeding program: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130821/news/news2.html Excelling to make her Dad proud: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130827/lead/lead1.html Battle lines drawn: JLP members take sides… Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130826/letters/letters3.html Prioritize regulation of jet skis: Letter to the Editor/Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130826/letters/letters6.html Curb jet-ski madness: Letter to the Editor/Gleaner
http://anniepaul.net/2013/08/21/demonic-jetski-kills-6-year-old-girl-in-jamaica/ Demonic jetski kills six-year-old girl in Jamaica: anniepaul.net
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/several-arrested-following-massive-conch-seizure Several arrested following massive conch seizure: RJR News
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Handcart-seizures-leave-vendors-furious_14938472 Handcart seizures leave vendors furious: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Residents-reject-go-kart-track-plan-for-Barbican-Square_14956552 Residents reject go-kart track plan for Barbican Square: Jamaica Observer
http://cbcburke9.wordpress.com/2013/08/26/gangs-framing-popular-cops/ Gangs framing popular cops: CBC Burke blog
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Margaritaville-entertainment-manager-killed_14958875 Margaritaville entertainment manager killed: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Brutal-murder_14947814 Co-owner of WYS Catering stabbed, shot dead in his house: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=47503 At least seven killed in weekend crashes: Gleaner