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.”
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.
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 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.
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?
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.
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.”
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?
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…
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.
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…
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.
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!
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