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!
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.
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.
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 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.
“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.
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.
- 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.