Late for Sunday, April 6, 2014

Due to the crazy distraction of the “Game of Thrones” marathons, which sucked me in, I am a day late with my Sunday roundup. My apologies!

Adijah Palmer (aka Vybz Kartel) dressed up for his court appearance, wearing his old school tie (Calabar High School). Photo: Jamaica Observer)

Adijah Palmer (aka Vybz Kartel) dressed up for his court appearance, wearing his old school tie (Calabar High School, which won the Boys’ Athletics Championships recently). Palmer left school after Fourth Form. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

Heavy sentences: In the past few days there has been drama. Last Thursday, the popular deejay Vybz Kartel (Adijah Palmer is his real name) was sentenced to 35 years in prison before he is eligible for parole, for the murder of Clive “Lizard” Williams (whose body has still not been found). Under the concept of “Common Design,” his three accomplices also received heavy sentences. One of them, Shawn Campbell, refused to plead guilty for a much lighter sentence. The men’s lawyers are expected to appeal the verdicts.

“God complex”: The sister of the deceased Mr. Williams, who was one of Mr. Palmer’s hangers-on, made some comments about marginalized youth. They are in danger, she said, of being “bullied” into following people “with a God complex” like Mr. Palmer, who use them for their own purposes. Mr. Palmer liked to call himself “Worl’ Boss” and built a so-called “empire” in his home town, the dingy suburb of Waterford. 

Reaction: The sentencing produced another wave of newspaper columns and lots of social media commentary. The response from Kartel supporters on the street was predictably angry. One supporter swore that Mr. Williams was still alive, and had gone to Cuba. I hear that Kartel was the most brilliant dancehall artiste ever; what that has to do with his murder conviction, I don’t know. But it’s not surprising that many Jamaicans have compared the long sentences with the dismissal of corruption charges against former state minister Kern Spencer. By the way, I have found some information on the Resident Magistrate’s reasons for dismissal, and they are here: http://www.jamaica-gleaner/gleaner/20140404/cleisure/cleisure6.html.

This meme has been circulating on social media.

This meme has been circulating on social media.

The Sunday Observer's editorial cartoon shows former State Minister Kern Spencer relaxing on the couch with a cocktail in hand while dancehall deejay Vybz Kartel is sentenced for life.

The Sunday Observer’s editorial cartoon shows former State Minister Kern Spencer, whose corruption charges were dismissed in court recently, relaxing on the couch with a cocktail in hand while dancehall deejay Vybz Kartel is sentenced to life imprisonment.

All dolled up for the opening of Parliament: Youth and Culture Minister Lisa Hanna. When the Parliamentarians walk to Gordon House for the official opening of the new parliamentary year, our political leaders dress up for the occasion. (Photo: Ian Allen/Gleaner)

All dolled up for the opening of Parliament: Youth and Culture Minister Lisa Hanna. When the Parliamentarians walk to Gordon House for the official opening of the new parliamentary year, our political leaders dress up for the occasion. (Photo: Ian Allen/Gleaner)

Also on Thursday: The Kartel sentencing coincided with the Throne Speech, at the official opening of Parliament – a far less exciting event downtown, but the media dutifully reported it. Every year, the Governor General reads out what is put in front of him – just like the Queen does in her speech in England. So, don’t blame them for being rather dull. It seems Cabinet decided against renaming the speech “The People’s Speech” (Member of Parliament Raymond Pryce had tabled a motion proposing this). Whatever it’s called, it will always provoke a collective yawn, although we really should pay more attention.

Arriving for the state opening of Parliament: Opposition members Senator Tom Tavares-Finson (I wish he would ditch those silly sunglasses), Opposition Leader Andrew Holness and National Security Spokesman Derrick Smith. (Photo: Ian Allen/Gleaner)

Arriving for the state opening of Parliament: Opposition members Senator Tom Tavares-Finson (I wish he would ditch those silly sunglasses), Opposition Leader Andrew Holness and National Security Spokesman Derrick Smith. (Photo: Ian Allen/Gleaner)

Budget time: Finance Minister Peter Phillips will open the Budget Debate next Thursday, April 17. The Budget Debate will then drag on for weeks afterwards, with every sector in Jamaica’s economy represented. I say “drag” because I wonder whether many Jamaicans fully appreciate or even understand the very important budget process. This year the budget is very conservative, with the International Monetary Fund looking over our shoulder. It has increased from last year’s J$744 million to J$761 million, which is really not an increase at all when one takes 8 per cent inflation and the steady devaluation of the Jamaican Dollar into account (the latter is now edging up to J$110/US$1).

Minister Phillip Paulwell says he has to obey the rules. But wasn't EWI's bid slipped in well past the allotted deadline? Have all the rules been followed, really?

Minister Phillip Paulwell says he has to obey the rules. But didn’t EWI’s bid come in well past the allotted deadline? Have all the rules been followed? There has been a distinct lack of transparency in this matter, too.

Minister Paulwell got his way: Energy Minister Phillip Paulwell has got the go-ahead to sign the license for Energy World International to construct a major power plant. He says he is legally obliged to obey the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) which has approved the awarding of the license. “I am a creature of the law and rules…” he declares. OK, then. The Office of the Contractor General, members of civil society, the Energy Monitoring Committee (EMC), and the private sector have urged Paulwell to proceed with caution on this, but no, it’s going ahead. 

PNP graffiti sprayed on a Tivoli Gardens sign in West Kingston. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

PNP graffiti sprayed on a Tivoli Gardens sign in West Kingston. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

“Peace marches” don’t work!  The violence continues in the relatively small community of Tivoli Gardens and surrounding areas of West Kingston. Member of Parliament Desmond McKenzie says a relatively small group” is seeking to dominate the area. After a shooting incident on Friday night, when two people (including a twelve-year-old boy) were killed and ten others injured, a group of angry residents demonstrated against Mr. McKenzie. No one is standing up for them, they say. What, despite all those peace marches, gospel concerts etc? Mr. McKenzie is asking residents to co-operate with the police, but in this atmosphere of distrust, one wonders. Members of the family of Christopher “Dudus” Coke, the former don who was extradited to the U.S. in 2010, are allegedly involved. Another theory is that it is warfare between two gangs fighting for what one resident called the “donship position.” God help us.

Uptowners having a lovely, lovely time. (Photo: Bacchanal Facebook page)

Uptowners having a lovely, lovely time. (Photo: Bacchanal Facebook page)

Partying till they drop: Regardless, Kingston’s uptowners are donning tiny shorts and skimpy tops at least once a week to kick up their heels and jump on top of each other during the regular Bacchanal ritual. This will culminate in the annual Carnival on April 27. I suppose it’s good exercise – although the health benefits may be completely canceled out by the large quantities of alcohol consumed. And someone’s making money out of it all!

Good news! The Alpha Boys’ School has now funded its Radio Studio and Media Lab Project to the tune of (pardon the pun) US$23,000 through Kickstarter crowd-funding. Congratulations and many thanks to all who contributed to this success! Alpha Boys is a home for abandoned boys that has also, over the years, nurtured many great Jamaican musicians and still has its wonderful Alpha Boys Band.

Petchary is bigging up…

  • The 23 young Jamaicans and two organizations that have received the Prime Minister’s Youth Awards for Excellence in several categories. Over forty were nominated, and all are to be congratulated.
Prime Minister the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller (right, centre) and Minister of Youth and Culture, Lisa Hanna (to the PM’s left), with the 2013 recipients of the Prime Minister’s Youth Awards for Excellence after the ceremony, held on April 6 on the lawns of Jamaica House, Kingston, under the theme: ‘Celebrating Jamaican Youth…the Courage of Perseverance’. (Photo: JIS)

Prime Minister the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller (right, centre) and Minister of Youth and Culture, Lisa Hanna (to the PM’s left), with the 2013 recipients of the Prime Minister’s Youth Awards for Excellence after the ceremony, held on April 6 on the lawns of Jamaica House, Kingston, under the theme: ‘Celebrating Jamaican Youth…the Courage of Perseverance’. (Photo: JIS)

  • The management of the Jamaica Urban Transit Corporation (JUTC), which has been making huge efforts to strengthen the public transportation system in Kingston, and to impose some kind of order, struggling with the problems of illegal taxis and declining profitability, among a myriad other issues. Efforts have been made before, but I think – hope – the JUTC may be successful this time. The JUTC has been riddled with indiscipline, corruption and sheer criminality over the years; the current administration appears to be getting to grips with this.

As always, I extend my condolences to the families and loved ones of all those who have been murdered in the past few days. I always wish that this list of names would disappear, but it never does…

Prison guard Cpl Easton Williams has died in hospital from multiple gunshot wounds he received late last month after he was attacked while making his way to work in St. Catherine. No one has been arrested.

Ricardo Lowe, 28, Charles Street/Chestnut Lane, Kingston

Kawayne McAnuff, 12, Charles Street/Chestnut Lane, Kingston

Carl Williams, 51, Bay Farm Road, Kingston

Unidentified man, Orange/Beckford Streets, Kingston

Almando McKnight, 67, Palmers Cross, Clarendon

Donovan Stewart, 24, Innswood Estate, St. Catherine

Akeem Stephenson, 22,Innswood Estate, St. Catherine

On the road: The National Road Safety Council reports a pretty major increase in the number of deaths on the road up to the first week in April (83), compared to the same period last year (69). NRSC Vice Chairman Lucien Jones believes speeding still remains a problem, along with cell phone use while driving (I see the latter problem each time I am on the road in Kingston – drivers on cell phones driving carelessly). When are we going to pass laws prohibiting cell phone use? Meanwhile, a 24-year-old security guard was killed when his motorbike collided with a car driving in the opposite direction in Retreat, Westmoreland. A ten-year-old girl is in critical condition after she was knocked down in Salem, Runaway Bay, St. Ann while trying to cross the road. The driver fled the scene but was picked up later by the police.

Ricardo Lowe, who was involved in the music business as road manager for an entertainer for Teflon, was murdered on Friday night.

Ricardo Lowe, who was involved in the music business as road manager for an entertainer for Teflon, was murdered on Friday night.

Are You Ready for Earth Hour?

Tomorrow – Saturday, March 29, 2014 – lights will go out across the globe from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m., local time. It’s just over 17 hours away in New Zealand.

Earth Hour 2014.

Earth Hour 2014.

Earth Hour is about much more than “lights out.” It is a global movement that aims to create an inter-connected global community that will create opportunities to create a sustainable world (and face the challenges, too!) This year Spiderman has just zoomed in as Special Ambassador for Earth Hour.

How did Earth Hour get started? It started with one city – the beautiful city of Sydney. Then Communications Director with World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Australia Andy Ridley convened a think tank in 2004 to discuss one simple action that would turn the spotlight on climate change. On March 31, 2007, over two million households and 2,000 businesses in Sydney turned their lights out for the inaugural Earth Hour. Since then, Earth Hour has steadily gathered momentum. It has garnered the backing of tens of thousands of businesses, including Google, Blackberry, HSBC, IKEA, Nickelodeon, PwC and many other multinationals. Earth Hour has also attracted support from governments at all levels and high profile global ambassadors including UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. If you look at the Earth Hour website you will see how many countries are involved this year (roughly 150!). Earth Hour Global is now headquartered in Singapore. The movement also serves as a platform for a number of climate change-related projects globally, some of them crowd-funded.

Check in with F1rst during Earth Hour in the Caribbean...

Check in with F1rst during Earth Hour in the Caribbean…

Several Caribbean countries are getting involved in Earth Hour. And the plan is to make this a regional, coordinated effort in coming years. Under the theme “Earth Hour Blue,” Caribbean people, organizations and businesses across the region will be raising awareness of our changing climate. We are small islands, but we can do something to keep the balance. The focus will be on living sustainably, acting responsibly and eating locally.

In Jamaica there will be a free acoustic concert at the Ranny Williams Centre in Kingston from 6:00 to 10:30 p.m., featuring Rootz Underground and many other local performers. A number of local businesses, including telecoms firm Columbus Communications (Flow) have come on board. “Our partnership for the Earth Hour concert enables us to demonstrate our commitment to action on climate change via initiatives to minimize our negative impact on the environment,” says Flow’s Corporate Communications Director Gail Abrahams.

Stephen Newland with teachers at the Little London Primary School in Westmoreland.

Stephen Newland with teachers at the Little London Primary School in Westmoreland.

A word on Rootz Underground: Earth Hour Caribbean movement has selected the band’s frontman Stephen Newland as “one of the Caribbean’s Earth Superheroes.” Earth Caribbean notes on its Facebook page:  “As lead singer of the popular reggae band Rootz Underground Stephen and his band mates have always made an effort to promote an interest in agriculture amongst the younger generation through their music. In October 2012 he launched the Lasco Releaf Environmental Awareness Program (R.E.A.P.) which is a recycling, conservation and tree planting initiative in primary schools. R.E.A.P aims to get primary-level school children more actively involved in the environment around them. One practical way to combat climate change is to plant more trees in order to take excess carbon out of the atmosphere. Younger trees absorb carbon dioxide quickly while they are growing. Tree planting initiatives are therefore always welcomed in the fight against climate change. For his efforts to make young people more aware of their environment and using tree planting as a preventative measure against Climate Change we salute Stephen Newland, our Caribbean Earth Superhero!”  

Earth Hour Acoustic Concert in Kingston, Jamaica.

Earth Hour Acoustic Concert in Kingston, Jamaica.

What can we do on an individual basis? Before, during and after Earth Hour 2014, let’s find out more about what we can do for our blue planet. Join an environmental action organization in your neighborhood (or start one). Support causes that can help our environment live and breathe – after all, we are the environment! Get some “green” practices going at home, in your workplace and in your community.

Use Your Power to…

raise consciousness

connect with your customers

find new partnerships

support each other

and simply celebrate our beautiful, blue Earth!

You Have the Power: At the very least, turn your lights out for an hour tomorrow night. It’s a time for reflection.

For more information on Earth Hour 2014, go to: www.earthhour.org., “Like” Earth Hour and Earth Hour Caribbean on Facebook and follow on Twitter @earthhour and @EarthHourCARIB.

From Blue to Green…

A gentle reminder to join the inaugural Portland Bight Green Run on Sunday, April 27. It starts at 7:00 a.m. sharp at Vere Technical High School in Clarendon and ends in Pawsey Park, Lionel Town. The run is in support of the Caribbean Coastal Area Management Foundation’s (C-CAM) work in the Portland Bight Protected Area – which, despite the threat of a port to be built in the Goat Islands area, is celebrating 15 years as Jamaica’s largest Protected Area. To register and obtain more information, call: 289-8253 or email: ccamfngo@gmail.com. Also you can find C-CAM on Facebook!

Do join and support the inaugural "Green Run" in aid of the Caribbean Coastal Area Management Foundation's great work in the Portland Bight Protected Area.

Do join and support the inaugural “Green Run” in aid of the Caribbean Coastal Area Management Foundation’s great work in the Portland Bight Protected Area.

 

 

 

Happy Birthday, Dr. King: Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Happy birthday, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr!  Here is a quote from the rich treasury of sayings by the great man: “The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.”

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

A man not afraid of uncomfortable truths, and not afraid to express them.

The killing of Jamaican citizens by agents of the State jumped alarmingly last year compared to 2012, the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) reports. In 2013, 258 Jamaicans were killed by security forces; in 2012 the police killed 219.  Last October, they killed 40 Jamaicans. In fact, Jamaica has one of the highest rate of police killings per capita in the world, running alongside our murder rate, of course. Perfect proof that “hard policing” does not work, I’d say. In 2009 Amnesty International reported that Jamaica’s rate of police killings was the highest in the world. I am not sure where we stand now.

National Security Minister Peter Bunting. (Photo: Gleaner)

National Security Minister Peter Bunting. (Photo: Gleaner)

What will Minister Peter Bunting have to say about this, I wonder? What is the answer? More of the same for 2014? I know the “Unite for Change” program launched last year is addressing the problem in the right way. But law enforcement must be on the same page with the political directorate. Please.

Meanwhile the police have reported the seizure of a large number of weapons over the past two or three months. This week, they seized two high-powered guns and a large amount of ammunition; and have arrested eleven people (including five Costa Ricans) and over a ton of ganja, all in the rural parish of Westmoreland (which seems to be a hotbed of organized crime). And talking about the “weed”…

The late Professor Barry Chevannes headed the National Commission on Ganja, which produced a report in 2001. The report was subsequently ignored by the Jamaican Government.

The late Professor Barry Chevannes headed the National Commission on Ganja, which produced a report in 2001. The report was subsequently ignored by the Jamaican Government.

The ganja conundrum: In my last post, I expressed cynicism over the “legalize it” chorus among opinion-makers and media pundits. I now realize Jamaicans are not all talking about the same thing in the ongoing discussions. Are we talking about the decriminalization of marijuana possession? Or are we talking about embracing the weed, Colorado-style? How exactly would legalization boost our economy? For a start, the value of ganja would drop dramatically… I don’t know. I need to get my hands on the 2001 report of the National Commission on Ganja, which is what Mr. Delano Seiveright of the Ganja Law Reform Coalition wants implemented. I remain unconvinced, and I don’t like bandwagons either. And Jamaica is not – not - Colorado, Mr. Seiveright.

Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller speaks at the Digicel Foundation's tenth anniversary celebration at Stella Maris Foundation today. (Photo: Jean Lowrie-Chin/Twitter)

Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller speaks at the Digicel Foundation’s tenth anniversary celebration at Stella Maris Foundation today. (Photo: Jean Lowrie-Chin/Twitter)

A monstrous cliché: Our Prime Minister used the phrase “monster of crime” several times over in her speech today at the Digicel Foundation’s tenth anniversary celebration. She also talked about us “coming together” to deal with the issue, ending up with the well-worn African proverb: “It takes a village to raise a child.” Yes, all the sentiments are fine, but can we stop talking in clichés about crime? Clichés make people yawn and feel like they’ve heard it all before (they have). In fact, can we stop talking altogether and actually do something?

Jamaica Labour Party supporters greet Opposition and party leader Andrew Holness on his arrival at a meeting of the South Central St Catherine Constituency on Sunday. (Photo: Michael Gordon/Jamaica Observer)

Jamaica Labour Party supporters greet Opposition and party leader Andrew Holness on his arrival at a meeting of the South Central St Catherine Constituency on Sunday, where “Warmie” gave us his pearls of wisdom. (Photo: Michael Gordon/Jamaica Observer)

The Warmonger: That everlasting loose cannon, the Honorable Everald Warmington, M.P., has opened his mouth again. He has got everyone very hot under the collar, as usual; even the People’s National Party Youth Organisation has risen from its slumber and put out a press release calling Mr. Warmington’s remarks “at least BARBARIC” (their capital letters) and “horrifying.” The media are busy chewing over the latest salvo, delivered in his usual aggressive style on a Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) platform over the weekend, with party leader Andrew Holness sitting in the front row. And as is his wont, “Warmie” refuses to retract his assertion that if one of his constituents came to him for help, he would consult his list and would refuse him/her if he found out that the person had not voted (for him, that is, while professing to be a JLP follower).  Those who do not vote should not receive state benefits, the MP contends. “If you don’t vote, you don’t count, and at this stage if a person walk in the office and say boss mi a Labourite [JLP supporter], when I check the computer and you didn’t vote I not dealing with you…” This is the man who once told a female journalist to “go to hell” during a television interview. We are all quite used to his uncouth outbursts. We are also not surprised that he has refused to retract his remarks. Oh, he says he believes in compulsory voting. Party leader Holness has said nothing, but the General Secretary has in a laid-back kind of way distanced the party from the MP’s remarks. So have some fellow Opposition members, notably Mr. Daryl Vaz – a man of some influence in the JLP.

Mr. Everald Warmington, M.P., is considered by some to be bullying and indeed, somewhat coarse.

Mr. Everald Warmington, M.P. 

For me the issue is quite simple: If you are a taxpayer (but many of Mr. W’s constituents may not be, for one reason or another) and dutifully pay your taxes but didn’t vote, you should be entitled to state benefits! But then again, Mr. W was talking about those benefits obtained directly from the MP in person (the proverbial “scarce benefits and spoils” that party supporters receive).  As broadcaster Cliff Hughes noted, this is sheer political tribalism.”

All smiles at the signing of an agreement for the donation of a Chinese Garden to Jamaica last November. Now, the Chinese team working on the garden have been violently attacked and robbed.

All smiles at the signing of an agreement for the donation of a Chinese Garden to Jamaica last November. Now, the Chinese team working on the garden have been violently attacked and robbed.

Horrible attack: Apart from making speeches this week, perhaps Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller should have expressed some concern about the brutal attack and robbery of several Chinese nationals at a Kingston residence. Two of the Chinese were hospitalized, one with a broken jaw, and all their valuables, laptops etc. stolen. They are in Jamaica to work in Hope Botanical Gardens on a Chinese Garden – a valuable gift (J$320 million) from the Chinese Government to the Jamaican people; a gesture of goodwill, for which the agreement was happily signed last November.  The damage control machine is in full gear (again) and “dedicated police patrols” are now in place to guard these Chinese visitors. This is so shameful, and begs the question: Will this continued preying on Chinese nationals in Jamaica (this is not the first case) turn them, and other investors away?

A view across part of the Portland Bight Protected Area. (Photo: Ted Lee Eubanks)

A view across part of the Portland Bight Protected Area. (Photo: Ted Lee Eubanks)

Irony of ironies: In a sad attempt to reassure the public, the National Environment & Planning Agency (NEPA – and no, the “P” does not stand for “Protection”) has announced that the Pedro Bank and Cays, as well as the Black River Morass, will be declared Protected Areas! NEPA is strengthening management plans for seven other protected areas. No mention of the largest protected area of all, the Portland Bight Protected Area, which includes Goat Islands. I wonder why not…

Dr. Fritz Pinnock is also Managing Director of the Caribbean Maritime Institute, a forward-thinking educational institution. (Photo: Gleaner)

Dr. Fritz Pinnock is also Managing Director of the Caribbean Maritime Institute, a forward-thinking educational institution. (Photo: Gleaner)

Let’s go for science and technology: I agree with chairman of the sub-committee on education and training in the Logistics Hub Task Force (wow) Dr Fritz Pinnock. He points out that 70 per cent of degree programs offered in Jamaica are in the liberal arts, while the rest of the world is leaning towards science and technology. We need more engineers and physicists and biologists! Even our 350 engineering graduates per year are largely in unsuitable fields, Dr. Pinnock says.

Minister of Mining, Energy & Technology Phillip Paulwell

The well-traveled Minister of Mining, Energy and Technology Phillip Paulwell seems to be off the radar at the moment.

MIA Minister: I am aware that Minister Omar Davies is working but not in office, due to malfunctioning elevators in his building. But where, oh where, is Minister Phillip Paulwell (who has slipped in my rankings of favorite ministers)? Has there been any sighting of him since the Christmas holiday?

Newspaper editorials: What has happened to the sharp critical thinking of our newspaper editorials? The Gleaner and Jamaica Observer manage to produce about one decent, thought-provoking editorial per week each, on average. I will only comment occasionally on those I think are worthy of note. That won’t be often if they keep up this level of mediocrity.

I’m handing out bouquets to…

Students from the Genesis Academy for children with special needs perform at the Digicel Foundation's tenth anniversary event.

Students from the Genesis Academy for children with special needs perform at the Digicel Foundation’s tenth anniversary event.

Digicel Foundation, who are basking in the glow of their tenth birthday celebrations. I am sorry I was unable to attend the event at the Stella Maris Foundation (a brilliant organization led by the admirable young Omar Frith). I commend the Foundation for their incredible work and for their current focus on helping Jamaicans with special needs.

The Bold Ones 2014, eight new manufacturing entrepreneurs who are stepping bravely out into the marketplace, with the support of National Bakery (to whom many kudos also). They (and their superb products) were unveiled yesterday (please see my earlier blog). I wish them huge success and in fact, expect them to do really well with the marketing support that they need (and deserve).. Check out their Facebook page: National Bakery’s The Bold Ones.

Luxury coach provider Knutsford Express Services Limited lists on the Jamaica Stock Exchange (JSE) Junior Market today. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

Luxury coach provider Knutsford Express Services Limited lists on the Jamaica Stock Exchange (JSE) Junior Market today. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

The Knutsford Express, which has listed on the Junior Stock Exchange today. From personal experience I wish to congratulate this company on providing a very valuable service, connecting Jamaica’s major towns and transporting people in comfort and on time for a reasonable fare. Well done and keep up the good work!

Businesswoman Marcia Forbes attending a recent church service. (Photo: Twitter)

Businesswoman Marcia Forbes attending a recent church service. (Photo: Twitter)

Marcia Forbes has written a great article in Carib Journal on “Social Media and Social Good in Jamaica.”  Marcia inspired me to take the world of social media seriously, and I’m grateful to her for that. She points to the tremendous support for singer Tessanne Chin in “The Voice” through social media mobilization in Kingston and Miami; and fund-raising through the Shaggy and Friends concert, again galvanizing support through social media (major kudos to Deika Morrison for these successful efforts!)

Once again, my condolences to the families and loved ones of the following Jamaicans (and one German national) who have been murdered in the past two and a half days. It is especially sad that the quiet parish of Portland – which usually has an extremely low murder rate – has had two murders in the space of twelve hours. Quite a shock, but I hope that this will not continue.

Devon Rankine, 49, Tavern Drive, Papine, St. Andrew

Bevin James, 68, St. Ann’s Bay, St. Ann

Ute Sobtaier (sp?) 48, Nonsuch, Portland (German national)

Janice Linton, 37, Baker Hill/Hope Bay, Portland

Last Sunday of the Year: Sunday, December 29, 2013

It’s that period between Christmas and New Year when some of us get very reflective and philosophical. We look back over the past year, and look forward to the next; so there are endless “reviews” and “previews” in the media and elsewhere. As for me, I prefer to look forward, so no reviews for me. And I am really trying hard to live in the present. Like Arsenal Football Club manager Arsène Wenger, who likes to say that he takes it one game at a time.

Finance Minister Peter Phillips.

Finance Minister Peter Phillips.

More taxes looming? I noted in my last post that the government has hinted at the possibility of imposing General Consumption  Tax on gasoline. The mere mention of it made us shudder. Now the government has told the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that tax revenues have fallen short, so they think they must tax us some more (see the Letter of Intent dated December 3, 2013 on the IMF website). Well, of course tax revenues have fallen; the economy has been contracting over an extended period; imports have decreased; people are not spending. And how is adding more taxes going to help?

Dennis Chung. (Gleaner file photo)

Dennis Chung. (Gleaner file photo)

Now, there’s a very good article by financial analyst Dennis Chung on caribjournal.com (a website worth subscribing to) headlined “Jamaica in 2014.” Dennis is quite right. We can’t under-estimate the importance of confidence in almost any economic scenario (something I learned while working in the eurobond sector in London). The government must grasp this concept. Dennis also warns: The government cannot take the path of previous administrations and seek to tax our way out of the problem, as this will only lead to short-term fiscal gain and long-term loss. This has been the path chosen in the past and it has not worked.” But based on the Appendix to the Jamaican Government’s Letter of Intent to the IMF, this is pretty much what it plans to do.

Dennis talks about the two major hindrances to our economic growth: bureaucracy and crime. On the latter issue, former Contractor General Greg Christie has pointed out that the World Economic Forum identified government inefficiency, crime and corruption as major impediments to Jamaica’s economic growth. So let’s keep that in the equation, too.

No to debt swap: Minister of Finance Peter Phillips has ruled out the idea of a third debt swap. Well, of course that is a no-no, Minister Phillips. The private sector, led by Scotiabank Jamaica, made it abundantly clear after the last one that they would not countenance such a thing.

Save Goat Islands!

Save Goat Islands!

Eastern Caribbean floods: Our Prime Minister has sent her sympathies to the islands of St. Lucia, Dominica and St. Vincent and the Grenadines that suffered terribly from a Christmas storm and subsequent flooding. That’s nice, but could we perhaps have sent some assistance? Some Jamaica Defence Force soldiers or other manpower at least?

Relief supplies arrive in St. Lucia from Trinidad & Tobago. (Photo: Press Secretary to the Prime Minister, St. Lucia/Facebook)

Relief supplies arrive in St. Lucia from Trinidad & Tobago. (Photo: Press Secretary to the Prime Minister, St. Lucia/Facebook)

In my last post, I omitted to include a very disturbing story highlighted by Annie Paul on her blog, Active Voice“NOT dead on arrival! No Sir! I will not rest in peace!” tells the tale of a man whom the police thought they had killed in a “shootout.” On arriving at the hospital he sat up and declared himself not dead, meanwhile pointing out the policeman who had tried to kill him. He was then put under police guard in hospital. What has happened to him? Has INDECOM investigated? Read the story at anniepaul.net.

Deaths on the road: Despite the best efforts of the National Road Safety Council, fatalities on the road will end up higher than in 2012, which was 267 dead. What a terrible waste of lives – mainly through stupidity: overtaking, distracted driving, driving much too fast. Are we still considering legislation on cell phones and driving? I’ve noticed this is so common in Kingston – drivers cut corners, hardly even notice you on the road when they have a phone glued to their ear.

Macka Diamond (right) and Lady Saw in a heated battle onstage at Sting 2013. (Photo: Lionel Rookwood)

Macka Diamond (right) and Lady Saw in a heated battle onstage at Sting 2013. (Photo: Lionel Rookwood/Jamaica Observer)

Sting women: I believe Culture Minister Lisa Hanna told local press that the Boxing Day dancehall event called Sting (now celebrating thirty years) would be family-friendly. How terribly wrong she was. If people want to go to these shows, then it is their choice. But I think it is wrong for government to support any of these shows - whether the so-called Jazz Festival, Sting or whatever. The Jamaica Tourist Board sponsored this one for the first (and hopefully last) time. It’s a private sector thing. Moreover, I don’t want my hard-earned taxes to be spent on two women hurling obscenities at each other in the name of entertainment. I would rather it was spent on school furniture, or perhaps hospital equipment. (Did Minister Hanna attend this event, and if so what did she think about it? At the press conference, putting on her best Jamaican patois, she said: mi haffi deh deh”meaning: I have to be there)!

This was Sting 2013 on Boxing Day, sponsored by the Jamaica Tourist Board.

This was Sting 2013 on Boxing Day, sponsored by the Jamaica Tourist Board and endorsed by Culture Minister Lisa Hanna, who said she would have to be there. Was she? Did she watch this “performance” I wonder?

This question was asked on Facebook recently: “After decades and decades of violent crime in Jamaica, what do you do to protect yourself? I’m not talking about the grills and the burglar alarms and the gated communities and the not walking on the road at night. What do you do to protect your spirit and soul from the news every day of murders and rapes and assaults of men, women and children? When you or those you know have been personally affected, or when it is news reports about people you do not know?” I believe that I wrestle with this question week in, week out. 

Protest signs in August Town after police killed Dennis Levy. (Photo: Ricardo Makyn/Gleaner)

Protest signs in August Town after police killed Dennis Levy. (Photo: Ricardo Makyn/Gleaner)

Revenge? Residents of August Town say that the police killed Dennis Levy on December 20 as an act of revenge for the murder of a District Constable and the injuring of a policewoman a short time earlier that day. August Town is  a small community tucked into the high green hills of St. Andrew near the University of the West Indies campus. It has suffered from gang warfare and political strife in the past; however the crime rate there has decreased this year. “They decided that someone had to die for the police,” said one resident, according to a report in today’s Sunday Gleaner.  

Tiefs continue to flourish: Here’s an interesting photo (from our Prime Minister’s constituency) showing a light post festooned with “throw-ups” – that is, illegal electricity connections. I will not comment except to say that the Jamaica Public Service Company has its work cut out…

Illegal electricity connections in Kingston.

Illegal electricity connections in Kingston.

Kudos to…

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Yohan Blakeour lovely sprinter, whose YB Afraid Foundation has partnered with the private sector and individuals to help young people. In particular, the Foundation supports the Mt. Olivet Children’s Home in Manchester. It held some special events and a motivating workshop over Christmas. Big ups to the young man and wishing you great success in 2014!

Principal of the Lethe Primary and Infant School in St James, Anthony Murray (right), accepts the Jamaica Teaching Council/Ministry of Education and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) Leadership in Education Award, from Minister of Education, Ronald Thwaites, at a recent ceremony at the school. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

Principal of the Lethe Primary and Infant School in St James, Anthony Murray (right), accepts the Jamaica Teaching Council/Ministry of Education and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) Leadership in Education Award, from Minister of Education, Ronald Thwaites, at a recent ceremony at the school. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

A young principal, Anthony Murray, who has guided his school (Lethe Primary and Infant School in St. James) to some great results. He recently received an award for his efforts from the government and UNESCO. We do know that there are many dedicated teachers out there! And yes, Minister Thwaites, the Effective Principals’ Training Programme is a worthwhile effort. It is a pity that 49 principals have refused to participate. In fact, it is very unimpressive.

Journalist and producer of the excellent “Live at Seven” show on CVM Television Yolande Gyles Levy, who produced an excellent feature on the fight to save the Portland Bight Protected Area/Goat Islands earlier this year. She gave an update from her perspective on the program on Friday night, as follows: Nothing much has changed. The government, she said is still waiting on a written proposal from China Harbour Engineering Company. Based on that, the government will conduct an Environmental Impact Assessment, which will be paid for by the Chinese firm. Transport and Works Minister Omar Davies spoke on “Live at Seven” about a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the logistics hub. When host Simon Crosskill asked if he could see a copy he said he could – but “Live at Seven” has not seen it yet.

The St. Mary Chapter of G2K (the young professionals arm of the Jamaica Labour Party), who held a Christmas treat for over 100 children from the Annotto Bay community over the holidays. And “big ups” to all those many organizations, both domestic and overseas-based, that brought joy to under-privileged Jamaicans during the period. I hope we will remember all our vulnerable and marginalized groups throughout the year, not just at Christmas.

The murders of two cousins in Clarendon over Christmas has caused much concern and anger, and has been reported widely abroad, since one of the young women, Franciena Johnson was a Brooklyn resident. The police are now suggesting that a jealous boyfriend may have been the cause. Just this weekend in St. James, a young woman and her infant son were murdered; the father of the child is being questioned. There have been so many tragedies involving young women, their infant children and jealous, vengeful partners. I have also noticed that women OF ALL AGES are murder victims, week in, week out – including, this week, a woman farmer in her sixties, in Sherwood Content, Trelawny (Usain Bolt’s home). So much pain. My condolences to all the families…

Renaldo Walton, 25, Parade Gardens (Tel Aviv), Kingston

Marva Henry, 56, Ebony Vale/Spanish Town, St. Catherine

Unidentified man, Ebony Vale/Spanish Town, St. Catherine

Ramon Perkins, 20, Santa Cruz, St. Elizabeth

Eulalee McIntosh, 64, Shaw Park/Ocho Rios, St. Ann

Norman Comrie, 30, Runaway Bay, St. Ann

Melessha Evans, 20, Irwin, St. James

Jeliana Evans, four months, Irwin, St. James

Unidentified man, Springfield, Westmoreland

Fernando Woolery, 26, Red Ground/Negril, Westmoreland

Geraldine Powell, 65, Sherwood Content, Trelawny

Killed by the police:

Dennis “Evian” Levy, 35, August Town, St. Andrew (previously reported as “Heavy Hand”)

Arlene Robinson, mother of Nordia Fearon, holds a picture of her slain daughter, who went missing with Franciena Johnson on the way to May Pen in Clarendon. Her body was found in Salt River. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

Arlene Robinson, mother of Nordia Fearon, holds a picture of her slain daughter, who went missing with Franciena Johnson on the way to May Pen in Clarendon. Her body was found in Salt River. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

Franciena Johnson kisses her boyfriend, who has since been arrested in connection with her murder. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

Franciena Johnson kisses her boyfriend, who has since been arrested in connection with her murder. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

 

Ways to Support the Campaign to Protect Portland Bight Protected Area/Goat Islands

When I last posted an update about support for the campaign to save the Portland Bight Protected Area, including Goat Islands, I noted that things remain “hanging in the balance.” Well, they still are. The Jamaican Government remains alarmingly silent on the matter. The Finance Minister recently visited China along with the head of the Port Authority of Jamaica, among others; what happened during that visit? Was anything signed?

Well, I have updated the list that I posted on October 22 of all the organizations (and some influential individuals) that have come out in support of the campaign. They are both at home and abroad, as you can see: in Jamaica, the UK, USA, Cayman Islands, Puerto Rico, New Zealand, Brazil, Belgium…even Vietnam. Every day, more supporters are joining the campaign. As I noted before, scientists are part of a global network that knows no borders. They continuously support each other, collaborating on field expeditions and programs (such as the Caribbean Birding Trail which includes this protected area). Technology and the Internet has made this all possible – and easy.

If I have made any errors in this list – or have omitted anyone that I should have included – please let me know.

The Save Goat Islands campaign is hugely grateful to all these organizations. Please continue supporting us in every way you can!

  • Amphibian and Reptile Conservation, Bournemouth, Dorset, UK AND Berkeley, California
  • A Peaceful Planet Facebook page
  • ARKive, Bristol, UK and Washington, DC, USA
  • Avian Research and Conservation Institute, Gainesville, Florida
  • Betty White (“Golden Girls”), Actress and Activist
  • Birds Caribbean (formerly the Society for the Conservation & Study of Caribbean Birds)
  • Blue Iguana Recovery Programme, Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands
  • Botanical Research Institute of Texas, Fort Worth, Texas, USA
  • Caribbean Birding Trail
  • Caribbean Coastal Area Management Foundation (C-CAM), Jamaica
  • Caribbean Landscape Conservation Cooperative, Puerto Rico
  • Caribbean Wildlife Alliance, Fort Worth, Texas, USA
  • Centre for Biological Diversity, Tucson, Arizona, USA
  • Chester Zoo UK
  • Conservation International, Arlington, Virginia, USA
  • Countrystyle Community Tourism Network, Jamaica
  • David Suzuki Foundation, Vancouver, Canada
  • Dream Team Divers, Jamaica
  • Earthjustice, San Francisco, California, USA
  • Eco-Index, ℅ Rainforest Alliance, New York, USA
  • Environmental Foundation of Jamaica
  • Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide (eLaw), Eugene, Oregon, USA
  • Fans of Animal Rights Facebook page
  • Feel Like a Biologist
  • 51% Coalition: Women in Partnership for Development and Empowerment through Equity, Jamaica
  • Fort Worth Zoo, Fort Worth, Texas, USA
  • GoNOMAD Travel, South Deerfield, Massachusetts, USA
  • Greenpeace NZ, New Zealand
  • Herp Alliance, Saint Charles, Illinois, USA
  • Herpeto, Belo Horizonte, Brazil
  • Herpetology, Free University of Brussels (VUB), Belgium
  • HuffPost Green
  • I.F.R.O.G.S (Indigenous Forest Research Organization for Global Sustainability), Stuart, Florida, USA (with reps in other countries)
  • Iguana Specialist Group (ISG) – IUCN Red List
  • International Iguana Foundation (IIF), Fort Worth, Texas, USA
  • IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (IUCN: International Union for the Conservation of Nature), Cambridge, UK
  • Jamaica Civil Society Coalition
  • Jamaica Conservation & Development Trust
  • Jamaica Environment Trust
  • Jamaicans for Justice
  • Misty Mountain Herbs, Jamaica
  • Mockingbird Hill Hotel, Jamaica
  • National Coalition Jamaica
  • NoMaddz Bongo Music, Jamaica
  • North American Reptile Breeders Conference, California, Illinois, Texas, USA
  • Novataxa: Species New to Science, Hat Yai, Thailand
  • One World Wildlife, Stroud, Gloucestershire, UK
  • Plant Conservation Unit, University of Cape Town, South Africa
  • Project Noah (supported by National Geographic)
  • Queensland Ecotourism Authority, Australia
  • Ramsar Convention (the Portland Bight Protected Area is a Ramsar Wetland of Importance)
  • Reptile Hunter
  • Reptile Lovers ACE (Awareness, Conservation & Education)
  • Rock Iguanas Facebook page
  • San Diego Herpetological Society, San Diego, California, USA
  • San Diego Zoo Global, San Diego, California, USA
  • Seven Oaks Sanctuary for Wildlife, Jamaica
  • Shawn Heflick, Explorer, Conservation Biologist & Wildlife Expert, Palm Bay, Florida, USA
  • Southern California Herpetological Association & Rescue, Fuller, California, USA
  • The Biodiversity Group, Tucson, Arizona, USA
  • The Biologist Apprentice, Mexico
  • The Jamaica Caves Organisation
  • The Nature Conservancy (worldwide), Arlington, Virginia, USA
  • The Reptile Report, Denver, Colorado, USA
  • The Wildlife Conservation Society, Bronx, New York, USA
  • Tropical Herping, Quito, Ecuador
  • United States Association of Reptile Keepers (USARK), Grandy, North Carolina, USA
  • Urban Jungles Radio (Danny Mendez), New York, USA
  • Vietnam Herpetology
  • Wildlife Nature: Facebook
  • Windsor Research Centre, Jamaica
  • World Wildlife Fund

Thousands of people from Jamaica and around the world have signed the petition on change.org, here: http://www.change.org/petitions/no-to-port-on-goat-island-jamaica-no-trans-shipping-port-portland-bight-protected-area-jamaica?share_id=eqkTTbjcGd&utm_campaign=autopublish&utm_medium=facebook&utm_source=share_petition  If you have not signed it yet, please consider doing so and share with anyone who may be interested. It includes many heartfelt comments from supporters, as well as additional articles and information.

Other ways in which you can support the campaign:  

  • Join the Facebook page: No! To Port on Goat Island Jamaica. It is updated daily with news, relevant articles and updates, including links from many of our supporting organizations – and archived information that you are unlikely to find anywhere else. Please also join the Facebook pages of the Caribbean Coastal Area Management Foundation (C-CAM), the NGO that manages this Protected Area; and of course that of the Jamaica Environment Trust, which spearheads the campaign in Jamaica.
  • Read the new Briefing Paper on the Goat Islands/Portland Bight just posted by the Jamaica Environment Trust on its new website: http://savegoatislands.org, where you can find updates and further information. The link is here: http://savegoatislands.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/Goat_Islands_PBPA_Briefing_Paper.pdf
  • Follow @SaveGoatIslands and @jamentrust on Twitter.
  • Become a member of the Jamaica Environment Trust! Volunteer, or make a donation… Visit the JET website at http://www.jamentrust.org for more details.
  • Buy a Save Goat Islands T-shirt – available via the online form in Jamaica (J$1000) or in the U.S. for $15 at this link: https://www.booster.com/savegoatisland. See the Save Goat Islands website for further details.
  • Share the short animated video “Don’t mess with Goat Islands,” created by Jamaicans. Here it is: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E7wAg7y3h2A (It’s very catchy, I warn you!) Lyrics: Inilek Wilmot; Vocals: Quecee; Music: Jeremy Ashbourne. Animation: NivekPro Animations. Well done!
  • Write to Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller; President/CEO of the Port Authority of Jamaica Professor Gordon Shirley; Dr. Omar Davies, Minister of Transport and Works; and Robert Pickersgill, Minister of Land Water Environment and Climate Change.
  • Write letters to the newspapers: the Jamaica Gleaner (letters@gleanerjm.com) and the Jamaica Observer (editorial@jamaicaobserver.com). If you are overseas, please spread the word online via the media, etc…
  • In case you missed it, please read this statement from Jamaica Environment Trusthttp://www.jamentrust.org/education/media/media-archive/2004-archive/160-statement-from-jet-on-goat-islands.html And here is the statement from the Jamaica Civil Society Coalition, which includes JET and many other non-governmental and community-based organizations: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/environment/Six-reasons-against-port-on-Goat-Islands_14960085

Please support the campaign to preserve and protect the Portland Bight Protected Area, and Goat Islands! It is Jamaicans’ birthright…

Thank you!

Photo: C-CAM
Photo: C-CAM

Celebrating Christmas with the Seniors: Much Dancing at Cluster H

It was a very warm, calm morning in Vineyard Town, Kingston, and I arrived early for the JN Foundation’s annual Christmas treat for the residents of Cluster H at the Golden Age Home. Music was playing, and the seniors were getting themselves organized. There was an atmosphere of quiet expectancy. Next door to the Cluster, there was another event being prepared. “Big tings a gwaan,” I thought. It was a separate treat, that included children, and the Minister of Social Security as it turned out later.

Underneath that big old almond tree...

Underneath that big old almond tree…lovingly painted white and draped in Christmas lights. All photos mine unless noted.

A patriotic tree outside Cluster H. (My photo)

A patriotic tree outside Cluster H. 

And indeed, it turned out to be an exceptionally lively morning. The residents emerged in twos and threes, looking very smart, and settled down under the spreading almond tree. That tree gives beautiful shade in the centre of the cluster – a roughly square arrangement of buildings which includes a small office as well as the residents’ living quarters. Jamaican almond trees are untidy, with knobby branches and big papery leaves that cover the ground – but that is part of their charm.

When the good people from JN Foundation arrived, bearing gifts, the residents were seated on benches, in wheelchairs and wherever there was space, waiting for the action to start. And once the formalities were over (prayers and short speeches), it didn’t take long for the “vibes” to start flowing.

There was the singing. The young volunteers did a good job. (Singing bravely along with the Christmas carols, I realized that my voice has gone “off” considerably; the days of singing alto in the school choir back in west London are long gone, sadly).

And then – oh my – the dancing swiftly followed, and the music swelled in volume. We were competing somewhat with the event next door, so there were overlapping waves of music (I told you it was lively, didn’t I!) A lady named Dorothy (my grandmother’s name, I always love it), who had earlier recited an entire psalm for us in a strong, firm voice, got up to dance – and stayed on her feet. It was a quiet shuffle. Another lady who had been clapping along enthusiastically was easily persuaded to get on her feet. One gentleman recalled a dancehall song from a few years back; and demonstrated all the moves. It was Elephant Man‘s “‘Pon Di River, ‘Pon Di Bank.” In case you’re wondering!

Volunteers distributed the beautifully-wrapped gifts in shiny red paper, and then…time for lunch.

But wait – this year there was “brawta” (that means an extra something, in Jamaican patois). A choir from the Alpha Primary School arrived (some of them looked a little surprised at all the noise we were making by that time!) and calmed us down with some spiritual performances. The excitement was raised a few notches, however, by the young soloists – two girls and a boy – who threw heart and soul into their performances. We might be seeing them competing in “The Voice” (or its equivalent) in, say, twenty years’ time! Of course, the residents enjoyed the performance thoroughly.

As I was leaving, the music (two layers of it, including a very good roots reggae band next door) shook the air. The residents were still in the swing of it.

Congratulations, as always, to the JN Foundation and its volunteers, who do a marvelous job. You can find out more about them and their work on their Facebook page and contact them on Twitter @JNFoundation.

And if you know an elderly person who is lonely, depressed or in need – or maybe simply a little bored – do reach out over Christmas. Pay them a visit, give them a call, drop by and cheer him/her up! 

Me and a new friend, a lady from St. Elizabeth. (I think her name is Theresa). This photo is from JN Foundation's great Facebook album.

Me and a new friend, a lady from St. Elizabeth. (I think her name is Theresa). This photo is from JN Foundation’s great Facebook album.

And then there was just the simple pleasure of hanging out together… The volunteer in blue T shirt is my friend Neville Charlton, and the lady in the red hat next to him is the lovely Dorothy.

And then there was just the simple pleasure of hanging out together… The volunteer in blue T shirt is my friend Neville Charlton, and the lady in the red hat next to him is the lovely Dorothy.

 

This young man sang with feeling. He had all the moves too, by the way. Knew how to work that mic!

This young man sang with feeling. He had all the moves too, by the way. Knew how to work that mic!

One of the young soloists - so full of confidence.

One of the young soloists – so full of confidence.

Gently swaying to the beat...

Gently swaying to the beat…

JN Foundation volunteers have gorgeous smiles!

JN Foundation volunteers have gorgeous smiles!

Some volunteers were experimenting with the best way to wear a Santa hat…

Some volunteers were experimenting with the best way to wear a Santa hat…

The volunteers raised their voices...

The volunteers raised their voices…

Color coordinated: These lovely ladies in shades of pink were waiting for the action to start.

Color coordinated: These lovely ladies in shades of pink were waiting for the action to start.

A Hopeful Voice

“We need hope.”

This simple comment by a Jamaican, just before singer Tessanne Chin won in the finals of The Voice” - a talent show on NBC – just about summed it up. Christmas is a week away. Low-paid workers such as security guards and domestic helpers have just received a J$600 (less than US$6) per week increase to the minimum wage. Our pensioners now receive the equivalent of US$15 or so per month from the government (an increase). How do people manage? Crime and insecurity are tapping on our shoulders, reminding us of their presence. We are doing the best we can, but we certainly needed this. This hope. So, thank you, Tessanne. You have brightened our Christmas. You have flipped the switch.

Ms. Chin expresses herself.

Ms. Chin expresses herself.

Personally, I am not a fan of television talent shows, anywhere in the world. The screaming studio audiences, the self-congratulatory celebrity judges, the manufactured hype and suspense – not my cup of tea. So, I had never watched “The Voice” before, and I am unlikely to watch it ever again. But Tessanne’s achievement was nothing short of stunning. A few things strike me about her win (and without any bias, I can say that she deserved it. She simply has a marvelous voice!)

Kingston fans support Ms. Chin. (Photo: Jermaine Barnaby/Gleaner)

Kingston fans support Ms. Chin. (Photo: Jermaine Barnaby/Gleaner)

Audience: A few months ago if we asked the average Jamaican “Are you a fan of Tessanne Chin?” the vast majority would reply, “Who?” The 28-year-old Ms. Chin has had a loyal following, mostly among uptown Kingston dwellers – but numerically her audiences have been quite small. Her style of reggae-infused rock music was nowhere near mainstream in the Jamaican music scene, which has been obsessed with the dancehall culture for years. Now, she has sailed into the stratosphere of both local and overseas recognition and acclaim, all in one go.

Hard work: Ms. Chin has paid her dues. She toured for three years as a back-up singer for Jimmy Cliff, and she kept plugging away at the local music scene. She performed at local live music festivals. She has always had a great voice, always kept her performance standards high. She did not succumb to the temptation of stripping off her clothes and indulging in slo-mo “wining” in music videos, in order to garner short-term popularity. There is much more to her than that. She is a “keeper,” as they say.

Going outside her comfort zone: Tessanne launched herself from the comfortable, if slightly dull world of middle-class Kingston into the glitzy but cut-throat world of American network television. This quantum leap (with the support I note below, of course) was courageous. She must have been terrified at times. But I admire her for pushing herself out there. It takes guts.

Support: There is no doubt that Tessanne received enormous support in this effort, and I understand other Jamaican musicians and entities (such as the singer Shaggy) helped to make things happen, behind the scenes. Good for them, and thank you.

Character: I have already mentioned the work ethic, which is never to be under-estimated. You don’t reap success – in any field at all – by doing a little bit here and a bit there. Genius is 90 per cent sweat, or something like that. Tessanne stuck to it. Moreover, her strong but humble character was evident in all her interactions on the show. She was simply herself – and that person turned out to be a very good person. There is no doubt in my mind that this contributed to her win. She was warm, kind and humorous – no airs and graces, no affectations. Just a lovely Jamaican woman. (I loved her comment, on winning a car, “We have the worst roads!”)

A loving Dad: Mr. Chin with Tessanne (left) and Tami. Sweet photo!

A loving Dad: Mr. Chin with Tessanne (left) and Tami. Sweet photo!

Family: And a musical one, at that. The Chins have all been involved in music, and Tessanne’s sister Tami is also a singer. They are a close family, and Tessanne’s husband Michael Cuffe is clearly very supportive. One can never, ever, discount the importance of family in the achievement of young people’s goals. In particular, the father-daughter relationship is so valuable. I remember this with my own father, who always sought to guide me in my career and helped me make key decisions in my life. I can see that the Chin girls have a tremendously nurturing father, too.

“Out of many”: And yes, to me and I trust to many Jamaicans, Tessanne’s heritage as a Chinese Jamaican means something. It does to us, as a “bi-racial” family. I don’t like that word really, but what I am getting at is celebrating diversity. Let us celebrate all our minorities; each one has so much to offer to society. Let us affirm Jamaica’s motto, “Out of many one people” - let’s start believing in it.

The power of (social) media: There was what seemed to me a complicated system of voting, buying Tessanne’s songs on iTunes etc. On Twitter and Facebook, and online in general, many Jamaican individuals and entities simply got it all organized (the Jamaica Gleaner and MsDeika Morrison come immediately to mind, but I know there were many others). The power of “sharing” is amazing. You might say that many Jamaicans still don’t have the luxury of home Internet access, etc. But people do have mobile phones. Traditional media helped to keep the momentum going.

The support of Jamaicans abroad: Following on from this was the easy online accessibility of the Jamaican diaspora (as we call it – but they are actually people!) They are just out there, a tap on the keyboard away, and always anxious to communicate with “home.” I have Jamaican tweeps and Facebook friends who may well be living overseas – sometimes I just don’t know where in the world they are! – but they always want to support Jamaica. A radio call-in program that I listen to was flooded with calls today from Jamaicans in the United States, France, Bermuda… all over. The diaspora (you know, I really don’t like that word much either) is always “there” for Jamaica. They want something positive to support. And they did. There were Tessanne support parties all over the United States, I gather, watching the finals and sending in their votes. It is actually very touching, if you think about it.

Another lovely Jamaican, track medalist Usain Bolt, visited Tessanne during the competition. Another person who has achieved so much and is still humble - and just himself.

Another lovely Jamaican, track medalist Usain Bolt, visited Tessanne during the competition. Another person who has achieved so much and is still humble – and just himself.

Meanwhile, back home, crowds gathered in Half Way Tree, in semi-darkness, waiting – and hoping – to celebrate, as they did the wins of Jamaican track athletes during the Olympics last year. They were not disappointed, and they shared the joy. It was sheer emotion.

Crowds gathered in Half Way Tree, Kingston to watch the finals of "The Voice" on a big screen. (Photo: Raymond Simpson/Gleaner)

Crowds gathered in Half Way Tree, Kingston to watch the finals of “The Voice” on a big screen. (Photo: Raymond Simpson/Gleaner)

And hope is a pretty indestructible thing. Thank you, just for that alone, Tessanne. And I am wishing you and your family a very happy Christmas.

Oh, and I want a hairstyle - something like…this… Tessanne Chin sings on "The Voice."

Oh, and I want a hairstyle – something like…this… Tessanne Chin sings on “The Voice.”

There is so much online commentary already on Tessanne’s win. I guess we are all saying much the same thing in different ways. Here are a couple of other blogs that I enjoyed today (I am not putting the exact links but you can look them up here): http://thecrooksofthematter.wordpress.com  from broadcast journalist and tweep Emily Crooks; and http://sparkiebaby.wordpress.com - another Jamaican tweep with an inside track on the music business. Enjoy!

Politricks Again: Sunday, November 18, 2013

Both our political parties went into “shoot yourself in the foot” mode this week, in very different ways. But basically sparking the same general reaction among many of us: kiss teeth, shrug shoulders, sigh, laugh, cry, groan, make cynical noises. And of course, more great fodder for the media.

Let’s start with the party in power, the People’s National Party: As I warned you in Wednesday’s post, at five o’clock that evening the former Junior Minister in the Ministry of Transport and Works, Richard Azan had said he was not aware of any plans to reinstate him. The very next morning at nine o’clock he and his colleagues dutifully appeared all dressed up at King’s House. His colleagues applauded him as the Governor General swore him in. Everyone clapped. Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller (wearing those hideous sunglasses again, indoors) gave him a warm hug and kiss. The Jamaica Labour Party‘s Daryl Vaz attended (hmm) because the Azans are family friends, or something. Yes, after all the hand-wringing, finger-pointing and recriminations, Mr. Azan is back. He resigned just two months ago after huge public pressure. His return was apparently “urgent” - the reason perhaps being that Mr. Azan’s boss Omar Davies is taking sick leave for an operation.

Oh, what of the promised single anti-corruption agency, which I understand the government had promised to create by year-end? Just a few weeks to go, and… Well?

Welcome back: Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller embraces the newly-reinstated Junior Minister of Transport and Works Richard Azan following the ceremony at King's House on Thursday morning. (Photo: Ricardo Makyn/Gleaner)

Welcome back: Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller embraces the newly-reinstated Junior Minister of Transport and Works Richard Azan following the ceremony at King’s House on Thursday morning. (Photo: Ricardo Makyn/Gleaner)

 

Opposition Leader Andrew Holness. (Photo: Gleaner)

Opposition Leader Andrew Holness. (Photo: Gleaner)

Since the re-election of Andrew Holness as Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) leader at their conference a week ago, the machinations of the Opposition have become quite complex. The chain of events goes something like this (hope I get this right): Sunday: Holness is re-elected with 57.3% of the delegates’ votes, defeating Audley Shaw. (Fake?) smiles all round. Monday: Holness receives a bunch of resignation letters from Shaw supporters. Tuesday:  Holness wants all eight JLP Senators to resign, and then says he didn’t say that. Holness announces his dreary old Shadow Cabinet. Audley Shaw and Ed Bartlett say they cannot accept positions because of certain issues (including the disputed nomination of two deputy leaders, Christopher Tufton and James Robertson).  Wednesday: What happened? I can’t remember. Thursday: It seems five JLP senators have resigned. Two prominent ones (Christopher Tufton and Arthur Williams) will not. Oh yes, then they did. Williams says Holness used undated resignation letters! Friday: A confused Upper House sits with five out of six remaining JLP senators present. Oh, Holness appointed a new one. His name is Alexander Williams. Weekend: Head spinning. Winner: Andrew Holness. Losers: Audley Shaw. The JLP. Democracy. Governance.

Is Holness the “transformational leader” he thinks he is? Will the JLP ever win an election again? What of all the pieces in this manic chess game? Is there space for them, or have some been knocked off the board? I personally believe Holness has just been a little too “smart” for his own good. At least party chairman Bobby Montague seems to be keeping sane while everyone else is losing their heads…

Meanwhile the private sector is getting antsy again, and it’s not surprising. Businessman Gassan Azan gave a speech recently about this eternal business of “cutting red tape.” If you recall, Jamaica just slipped on the annual “Doing Business” rankings. Mr. Azan wants the government to do something about it, not just talk. But the relevant government ministers are all in a tizzy over the logistics hub. Red tape? Oh, that’s boring stuff. Here is an edited version of Mr. Azan’s speech: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Cutting-the-red-tape–and–making-it-easier-to-do-business–have-become-almost-meaningless_15447161

Businessman Gassan Azan wants action, no more talk. (Photo: Gleaner)

Businessman Gassan Azan wants action, no more talk. (Photo: Gleaner)

The Sunday Observer editorial cartoon, today, depicts the Jamaica Labour Party's Andrew Holness, who has just experienced his Second Coming as Opposition Leader.

The Sunday Observer editorial cartoon, today, depicts the Jamaica Labour Party’s Andrew Holness, who has just experienced his Second Coming as Opposition Leader.

The Contractor General is right. What is the point of the whistleblower legislation passed during the JLP administration at the end of 2010? One could say there is no “culture” of whistle-blowing in Jamaica (how I hate that word sometimes). Instead, we have the “informer fi dead culture.” We are all afraid of our own shadows. No whistle-blowing round here.

Drums rolling and trumpets blaring for these awesome people:

MONACO — Jamaican sprinters Usain Bolt and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce hold their International Athletics Foundation 2013 Athlete of the Year Awards after a press conference. Don't they look lovely. (PHOTO: AP)

MONACO — Jamaican sprinters Usain Bolt and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce hold their International Athletics Foundation 2013 Athlete of the Year Awards after a press conference. Don’t they look lovely. (PHOTO: AP)

  • Usain Bolt and Shelly-Ann Fraser Pryce, along with singer Tessanne Chin, are keeping Jamaicans’ morale up. The two athletes were named World Athletes of the Year (Usain for the fifth time, Shelly-Ann for the first) by the IAAF in a glitzy affair in Monaco over the weekend. They both looked gorgeous – and they are two marvelous role models. We are proud.
  • Sheena South and the Portmore Youth Information Centre, who yesterday aired the “Girl Rising” documentary. Here’s Sheena’s Facebook message: “10X10 is a global campaign to educate and empower girls. At the center of the campaign is a feature film, Girl Rising. It’s by an Academy Award nominated director (Richard Robbins) and features performances from Meryl Streep, Anne Hathaway, Selena Gomez, Salma Hayek, Alicia Keys, and others. This important film tells the stories of nine remarkable girls from around the world who are striving beyond circumstance, pushing past limits and demonstrating the extraordinary strength of the human spirit to overcome the odds. Yet it also carries a powerful message: if we educate girls, we can change the future of some 66 million girls around the world who today only dream of going to school.Together, we can create powerful change. I hope you’ll join this movement with me.” Great initiative!
Two young people at the screening of "Girl Rising" at Portmore Youth Information Centre yesterday. (Photo: Sheena South/Facebook)

Two young people at the screening of “Girl Rising” at Portmore Youth Information Centre yesterday. (Photo: Sheena South/Facebook)

  • Dale and Evette Walker and the people of Bunker’s Hill in Trelawny (I love that name) who are working to build their community through the Bunker’s Hill Community Development Committee. “They used to call me typewriter at school,” says Evette, “because I was very good at writing.” Great story here: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/regional/Working-for-Bunker-s-Hill_15432245
  • The people of Trench Town, who staged a special trade and development fair at Kingston’s Emancipation Park yesterday.

 

Jenefer Wilson and  Barbara Dicks of Honey Rose Bud of Rose Town at the Trench Town fair in Kingston. (Photo: Jean Lowrie-Chin)

Jenefer Wilson and Barbara Dicks of Honey Rose Bud of Rose Town at the Trench Town fair in Kingston. (Photo: Jean Lowrie-Chin)

There has been a nine per cent increase in murders to date this year compared to last, according to police statistics. We have passed the 1,000 mark to 1,054. That’s 84 – yes, 84 – more deaths than the same time last year. A retired policeman was found murdered in his apartment, just down the road from our house. The brother of a journalist whom I know well, a netball coach, was also shot dead in Kingston. My condolences to their families and friends as well as to all those who continue to feel the pain of loss.

Kenneth Lynch, 66, Lady Musgrave Road, Kingston

Evon Powell, 48, Sutton/Duke Street, Kingston

“Raymond,” Darling Street/Spanish Town Road, Kingston

George Steering, 45, Spanish Town, St. Catherine

Oliver Kerr, 34, Sandy Bay, Hanover

Keeble Kerr, 36, Sandy Bay, Hanover

Clifford Lindo, 57, Palmers Cross, Clarendon

Infant male, York Town, Clarendon

Killed by the police:

Unidentified man, Spanish Town, St. Catherine

Unidentified man, Spanish Town, St. Catherine

Ryan Clarke, Retirement, St. James

To quote a Twitter friend tonight: “Yellow tape is good business.”

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A few more articles on the Azan and JLP sagas:

http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/civil-groups-strongly-object-reappointment-of-richard-azan_1  Local civil groups strongly object reappointment of Richard Azan: RJR News

http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/-p-Opposition-slaps-Gov-t-over-Azan-s-reappointment–p—_15444623 Opposition slaps government over Azan’s reappointment: Jamaica Observer

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131116/cleisure/cleisure1.html   Gleaner editorial: PM’s misstep on Azan

http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Resigning-after-a-mandate-change-the-ethical-thing-to-do–says-Holness_15444642  Resigning after a mandate change the ethical thing to do, says Holness: Sunday Observer

 http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/principle-not-bitterness-shaw-defends-decision-to-decline-post-in-shadow-cabinet Principle, not bitterness: Shaw defends decision to decline post in Shadow Cabinet: RJR News

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=49289 Holness criticized over Senate “resignations”: Gleaner

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131116/lead/lead2.html Upper House passes irrigation resolutions after Tufton’s resignation

http://digjamaica.com/blog/2013/11/15/5-facts-the-jamaican-senate/ Five Facts: The Jamaican Senate (the photograph is not of a Senate sitting however).  

Fisherman Desmond Phillips (left) and boat captain Michael Grant with a sunfish, which they caught off Boston Bay in Portland. (Photo: Everard Owen)

Fisherman Desmond Phillips (left) and boat captain Michael Grant with a 900-pound sunfish, which they caught off Boston Bay in Portland. I wish they had let it go, though. (Photo: Everard Owen/Jamaica Observer)

Principal of Jamaica College Ruel Reid has been appointed as an Opposition Senator. Reid was formerly an advisor to the re-elected Opposition Leader Andrew Holness when he was Education Minister. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

Principal of Jamaica College Ruel Reid has been appointed as an Opposition Senator along with Alexander Williams, replacing Tufton and Arthur Williams. Reid was formerly an advisor to the re-elected Opposition Leader Andrew Holness when he was Education Minister. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)JLP: Old wine in old wineskins (jamaica-gleaner.com)

 

 

Celebrating Twenty Years with the Children of Trench Town: Saturday, November 23

Twenty years is a good, long time. Through trials and tribulations, joy and success, the Trench Town Reading Centre has soldiered on through two interrupted decades. Twenty years of educating the children of Trench Town – and that’s education in the broadest sense of the word. Planting trees, creating art of all kinds, playing drums, spelling bees, listening and learning. During the summer program, the Centre is humming with activity.

Little Authors… Yes, Trench Town Reading Centre is about reading AND writing, too!

Little Authors… Yes, Trench Town Reading Centre is about reading AND writing, too!

Members of the Kingston Drummers had a lively session with the children in the summer.

Members of the Kingston Drummers had a lively session with the children in the summer.

Making masks from papier-mâché and cloth… All the children's original designs!

Making masks from papier-mâché and cloth… All the children’s original designs!

Most importantly, the Trench Town Reading Centre has brought the fascination and love of reading to the children. Just watch them when a new book arrives. They cluster round it, turning the pages slowly and carefully, studying the illustrations. A book is a discovery, a small treasure.

A new book to discover… The children browse through a book by local children's author Tanya Batson Savage during her visit to the Reading Centre at the end of the summer. (My photo)

A new book to discover… The children browse through a title by local children’s author Tanya Batson Savage during her visit to the Reading Centre at the end of the summer. The Reading Centre has a great range of books for all ages. (My photo)

20yr cards None But zebra

So now, the Centre celebrates (with the kind sponsorship of the Scotiabank Foundation, who are steady supporters). Drop by on Saturday, November 23 between 12:00 noon and 4:00 p.m. for music, poetry, performances and sheer enjoyment with the kids. They love visitors, and if you want to bring a book or something to read or perform… They are the greatest audience!

A very fishy art activity!

A very fishy art activity!

You are Invited!

You are Invited!

For more details, call (876) 570-4211 or email: reading_centre@hotmail.com.

Look forward to seeing you there!

Well, this is a work in progress… (My photo)

Well, this is a work in progress… (My photo)

 

Day of the Leadership Vote! At last! Sunday, November 10, 2013

Since I last wrote, I fought a fierce battle with an aggressive flu – and think I may have won. They say it is H1-N1, or something. Whatever it is, both my husband and I have been very sick. The air has been thick with rain and all kinds of bugs have been brewing in the humidity, it seems. And today some 5,000 party delegates voted for the leadership of the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP)! Thank God, the day has arrived at last…

Andrew Holness rejoices with his supporters earlier today. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

Andrew Holness rejoices with his supporters earlier today. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

Well, I can now inform you that the current Opposition Leader, Andrew Holness, was returned as head of the JLP fairly convincingly. There was a media blitz, with all the media houses setting up camp and sending us exciting tweets (well, I confess, not exciting for me). We were mostly concerned with Arsenal Football Club‘s struggle with Manchester United at Old Trafford, and the vote paled into insignificance accordingly. But the leadership race has increasingly dominated the broadcast media in recent weeks. I suppose now we will be besieged with analyses of the result for the next week or so, before (one hopes) returning to the real, important business of the nation – crime, the economy, our children, our justice system.

A party delegate, in dancehall gear, celebrates Mr. Holness' win at the National Stadium today. (Photo: Jermaine Barnaby/Gleaner)

A party delegate, in dancehall gear, celebrates Mr. Holness’ win at the leadership vote at Kingston’s National Stadium today. (Photo: Jermaine Barnaby/Gleaner)

And hopefully, the re-elected JLP leader will turn to these major challenges and speak out on them. Something he has hardly been doing for the past two years… So today, they all talked about “unity” and Holness’ erstwhile challenger, Audley Shaw, said the race had “re-energized” the party. Yes, it woke up Holness, if that’s what you mean by “re-energize.”

Andrew Holness' challenger Audley Shaw gives what one assumes is a positive sign at the National Stadium. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

Andrew Holness’ challenger Audley Shaw holds up his finger showing that he voted (I wonder who for) at the National Stadium. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

Perfect timing: The Jamaican and Chinese Governments signed yet another deal; this time it is for a Chinese Garden, to be constructed at a cost of J$230 million at Hope Gardens  (An appropriate location? I don’t know). With a deal on the destruction of Goat Islands and the Portland Bight Protected Area about to get official approval (some think it may have been a done deal), is this a reward for our co-operation? Not a loan this time. A “gift.”  Read more: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/230-million-Chinese-Garden-donated-to-Jamaica_15408101 (Note the date of the signing of this agreement – over two weeks ago).

Another signing ceremony with the Chinese: The gift of a garden this time. (Photo: Jamaica Information Service)

Another signing ceremony with the Chinese: The gift of a garden this time. (Photo: Jamaica Information Service)

Yesterday, an all-day forum (with only one female out of 24 panelists, all day) sang the praises of the hub. Diana McCaulay and others live-tweeted from the event (oh, the wonders of Twitter!) As my health did not permit my attendance, I was grateful for this. They reported laughter in the audience when Jamaica was described as “socially and politically stable.” This admits fears of violence at today’s Jamaica Labour Party leadership vote, and numerous roadblocks and protests across the island last week. Depends what you call stable, I suppose. As for the glorious hub: precious few specifics, as usual.

MP Anthony Hylton should take a tour of some of the constituencies he represents in Kingston 20 and thereabouts. Not long ago I wrote about the appalling conditions in a small community called New Haven. Now a friend of mine has posted photos of the “roads” in the area that he represents on Facebook, and they are not any better. I suppose the Minister of Industry, Investment & Commerce is too busy thinking about the logistics hub to worry about impassable roads. After all, he does not have to live there.

Logistics hub PR roll-out continues: Minister Hylton’s logistics hub propaganda campaign continues with an exciting essay competition. Wow. And of course the Port Authority of Jamaica (let’s not forget that Omar Davies‘ ministry does not want to be outdone) has started its “intellectually stimulating” series of forums (for whom exactly?) Meanwhile, educational institutions are hurriedly putting Masters/Diplomas in Logistics programs in place (who is going to teach them?) Quick, quick…

One of the roads in Kingston 20. Minister Hylton, the neglect in your constituency is glaring! (Photo: Facebook)

One of the roads in Kingston 20. Minister Hylton, the neglect in your constituency is glaring! (Photo: Facebook)

The tweetings of the “Rasta Yute”: Minister Damion Crawford is Minister of State in the Ministry of Tourism and Entertainment. Not long ago, he tweeted some ill-informed remarks about the proposed Goat Islands development, starting off with the exhortation “Build, build, build!” (and to think that, as a student of tourism, he once spoke eloquently on the importance of preserving the environment…) This week came another ill-conceived tweet based on incorrect information: “Say NO to INDECOM #close_it”  As we know, INDECOM (the Independent Commission of Investigations) was set up just over three years ago as an independent body to investigate police abuses, including the steadily rising number of extra-judicial killings. As I have noted in recent posts, INDECOM seems to be under some kind of subtle, and not-so-subtle, pressure from the police rank and file; but now the Minister of National Security had to make a statement that the government was not considering disbanding INDECOM.

The charming Minister responsible for entertainment, Damion Crawford. He is developing a habit of talking a lot of ill-informed nonsense on issues outside his portfolio. However, some believe we should excuse him because he is a "Rasta" and he is "young."

State Minister responsible for entertainment, Damion Crawford. He is developing a habit of talking/tweeting a lot of ill-informed stuff on issues outside his portfolio. However, some believe we should excuse him because he is a “Rasta” and he is “young.” Well, Mr. Crawford, I don’t think Rastas are usually anti-environment and pro-police abuse, generally… And how old are you again?

Interviewed on radio regarding his tweet, Minister Crawford said we are really being unfair on the police (agents of the state with infinitely more powers than the average citizen) by investigating them. They can do a great job of it themselves. The interviewers sounded slightly incredulous as they tried to make the Rasta Yute see sense. “I do not claim to be the authority…” said the RY at one point. No? Well, then as a public servant, perhaps you should not comment. And should you be tweeting what one assumes to be a personal opinion as a Government Minister? Thanks to my tweep/fellow blogger for these observations on the RY tweet: http://thinkjamaica.wordpress.com/2013/11/07/indecom/ Another blogger, Annie Paul, commented thus: http://anniepaul.net/2013/11/08/say-yes-to-indecom-if-you-want-to-be-taken-seriously-mr-crawford/ (and I agree Annie, what a huge disappointment this Minister is). The Commissioner himself called the Minister’s comments “naïve.” That’s being kind, Mr. Commissioner. My friend “Cogito Ergo Sum” is a little kinder, too. See link below.

Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller (left), is greeted by her Japanese counterpart, His Excellency Shinzo Abe, prior to their talks in Tokyo on Tuesday (November 5). Both leaders signed a statement pledging to strengthen bilateral ties between the two countries. (Photo: Jamaica Information Service)

Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller (left), is greeted by her Japanese counterpart, His Excellency Shinzo Abe, prior to their talks in Tokyo on Tuesday (November 5). Both leaders signed a statement pledging to strengthen bilateral ties between the two countries. (Photo: Jamaica Information Service)

Back from her travels (for now): Meanwhile our Prime Minister returned from another overseas trip, to Japan this time. What happened on this trip? Courtesy calls? Check. Photo-ops? Check. Well-crafted speeches? Check. Nice outfits? Check. Platitudes about the “important relationship between our two countries”? Check. First class travel for all? Check. Nice hotel? Check. Business Forum? That sounds more like it. But specifics, please, Minister Paulwell! (He was amongst her entourage…) Oh – there is a two-minute video on the Jamaica Information Service website that may or may not enlighten us.

Minister Paulwell is suggesting that Jamaica is a world leader in “addressing energy needs.” We are reeling from escalating energy costs, with one of the highest rates in the Caribbean, don’t we? Are we committed to renewable energy (we did not even get enough bids, the other day to fill what we had on offer)? And what about the Energy World International fiasco, and the unconscionable delays in that bid? I would say our energy future looks a little uncertain. Only a couple of weeks ago there was talk of an impending “energy crisis,” and Jamaica Public Service Company is worried about two ancient stations that are on their last legs. Seems like there’s a lot of work to do.  Read more: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Jamaica-a-leader-in-addressing-energy-needs–says-Paulwell_15408571

Is our Prime Minister really “an Ambassador” for our country, Jamaica Observer – is that the correct term? What about running the country? It must be lovely to go abroad for the above-mentioned hand-shaking and smiling, while your country is fighting an escalating crime rate, soaring dollar, etc etc. Read the Observer’s off-the-mark editorial here: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/editorial/PM-in-Japan–doing-what-she-does-best_15394137 How I long for a thought-provoking editorial, instead of the platitudes we are getting from both newspapers these days!

Ah, but what is this? Minister Hanna is off to Paris (nice shopping, there) leading a delegation to UNESCO. This is mentioned in Saturday’s Gleaner editorial, which asks some hard questions for once. Primarily: Is Child Abuse on Parliament’s Radar? http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131109/cleisure/cleisure1.html In the face of the Office of the Children’s Registry’s dreadfulstatistics on child abuse reports… Let’s face it. It’s not a priority. Is it?

What’s going on with corruption prosecutions and the Jamaica Customs? Just asking.

And what happened to the promised revised National Youth Policy? Minister of Youth and Culture, please respond to the Jamaica Youth Advocacy Network’s hard-working program officer Javan Campbell. (Oh, but the Minister is “leading a delegation” somewhere isn’t she?) OK. It’s now around four months late, but she’ll get round to it… Here’s Javan’s letter: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/Sill-no-revised-National-Youth-Policy_15409820

Youth and Culture Minister Lisa Hanna is off on a trip to Paris. What about our children, Minister? (Photo: Office of the Prime Minister)

Youth and Culture Minister Lisa Hanna is off on a trip to Paris. What about our child abuse crisis, Minister? The National Youth Policy? The detention centers? (Photo: Office of the Prime Minister)

Very special Big ups to:

Jamaican swimmer Alia Atkinson.  (Photo: Ricardo Makyn/Gleaner)

Jamaican swimmer Alia Atkinson. (Photo: Ricardo Makyn/Gleaner)

Members of the Rockfort business community put their heads together at the meeting organized by Youth Opportunities Unlimited a few days ago. (My photo)

Members of the Rockfort business community put their heads together at the meeting organized by Youth Opportunities Unlimited a few days ago. (My photo)

  • Women Business Owners, who have done a great job training female entrepreneurs in recent years. Jamaica recently found itself at the bottom of a the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Women’s Entrepreneurial Venture Scope Study 2013 for Latin America/Caribbean. So the only way now is up. Get to it, my sistren! You can read more about the project and WBO at their website: http://www.womenbusinessownersja.com
Women Business Owners logo.

Women Business Owners logo.

  • Kimroy Bailey, who recently organized a science camp in rural St. Mary (at his old school, Lowe River Primary and Junior High School) focusing on robotics and renewable energy. We need far more initiatives like these to enhance children’s interest in science. Congrats to Kimroy, an energetic young UTech graduate with a mission. Read more: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131109/news/news3.html You can visit Kimroy’s page at http://kimroybailey.com  He has a lot going on!

It has been another sad week, and my deepest condolences go out to the families and friends of the following Jamaicans. The tears continue to fall:

CONTRIBUTED PHOTOS Kimroy Bailey (right) with students and volunteers at Lowe River Primary and Junior High School.


Kimroy Bailey (right) with students and volunteers at Lowe River Primary and Junior High School.

Billy Dee Lawrence, 21, Spicy Grove, St. Mary

Neal Taylor, 56, Denbigh, Clarendon

Keron Martin Fraser, Spanish Town, St. Catherine (Trinidadian national)

Lenford Ulett, 55, Brae’s River, St. Elizabeth

Killed by the police:

Dujon Robinson, 29, Mount Salem, St. James

Geraldo Bell, 20, Runaway Bay, St. Ann

The front page of Trinidad and Tobago's Newsday newspaper last month, when Keron Martin first went missing.

The front page of Trinidad and Tobago’s Newsday newspaper last month, when Keron Martin first went missing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here are a few more articles of interest:

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131109/lead/lead6.html No work yet on juvenile detention facilities: Gleaner

http://dmarcuswilliams.blogspot.com/2013/11/shut-down-indecom-damion-crawfords-big.html Shut down INDECOM: Damian Crawford’s BIG issue: D Marcus Williams blog

http://newsandviewsbydjmillerja.wordpress.com/2013/11/09/environment-v-development-takeaways-from-the-uwicmi-logistics-hub-forum/ Environment vs Development? Takeaways from the UWI-CMI logistics hub forum: Dionne Jackson Miller blog