Jamaica is bleeding. I feel it is not only the blood seeping from the veins of those who have been murdered by their fellow citizens – including the police. It is the slow and exhausting drip, drip, drip of life-giving energy from the country. Since I wrote my mid-week update on June 5, I have had a growing sense of this. Maybe it’s the increasing heat of early summer that’s getting to me.
Dead children: The Director of UNICEF in Jamaica, Robert Fuderich, is a forthright man – which I love. He gave a speech this week, expressing distress at the murder and abuse of Jamaican children. So, the head of UNICEF is upset. So are many Jamaicans, by the way. Is the Prime Minister upset, one wonders? She is a woman who, as I have said before, has often expressed her love of children in speeches. Could she have made a statement about the recent shocking murders? Even that? Better still, could she have visited the families and the communities affected, to grieve with them and to express her condolences? I am not demanding that Portia Simpson Miller responds in every case, but a nice appropriate public gesture would have been good. Too late now, by the way.
…and neglected: The National Road Safety Council is expressing deep concern at a huge (400%) increase in child pedestrian fatalities on the road this year. But this does not surprise me. Yesterday, the Gleaner’s front page story reported that children are being dumped on other people to look after, etc. As if this is news? Why don’t we realize that children aren’t adults. They are vulnerable.
Where is the Prime Minister? Have we seen or heard from her since her return from Africa? I have scoured the Jamaica Information Service pages, looked under the Office of the Prime Minister – and find nothing at all that relates to her. Has she made any speeches? Maybe I missed something. No ribbon-cuttings or ground-breakings? Is she sick? Is she on vacation? (I am not trying to start rumors – just trying to explore possible explanations).
Women suffering too: You may have noticed that women are murdered every week. Whatever the motivation – sometimes a jealous lover, other times gang violence – it is becoming increasingly common. I remember when the murder of a woman was a shocking and unusual occurrence – now it’s commonplace. The Jamaica Observer’s Karyl Walker (whom I have criticized recently) wrote a very painful report in today’s newspaper about a young woman who has ended up on the street, abused and unwanted. Can someone please help?
And talking of trips: I know, I am obsessed. As I asked in my last bulletin, what actually took place in Africa? What did the Prime Minister and her large delegation achieve? Since we paid J$8.6 million for the trip, I am still hoping for a report card. But it’s been two weeks or so since they all came home, laden with souvenirs no doubt. So, I don’t hold out much hope. Now, we understand that our amiable Agriculture Minister Roger Clarke will soon be off to China, with a small delegation, at the invitation of the Chinese Government (hopefully the Chinese are paying, so taxpayers don’t need to dig into their pockets again for this one).
Dusting off the begging bowl: Meanwhile, the Finance Minister has just returned from a trip round Europe - he might have to wait for the flood waters to subside, though. I am afraid he may end up getting us into deeper debt (although Europe is not exactly flush with funds at the moment). It’s just a thought, but if we are going for growth rather than plunging ourselves into deeper debt, perhaps a trade and investment team, with a few private sector representatives, would have been be smarter? He has at least commented on the trip, though. See below.
Psychological barrier: On Friday morning word went out that the J$ had reached 100/US$1. It closed slightly above. A collective shudder went through the Twittersphere and radio talk shows. This is the end, we all declared – or the beginning of the end. In theory, of course, the devaluation might benefit us by making exports cheaper. Oh, but…We’re not exporting anything are we? Where is the Jamaica Exporters’ Association? Long time, no hear.
Elusive growth: As Dr. Damien King, economics prof and head of our local think tank CaPRI tweeted a few days ago, “The average growth rate of the world’s poor countries over the last decade was 6%, cutting worldwide poverty by half during that time.” But again – that doesn’t apply to Jamaica, does it? We can’t manage any growth at all, at the moment. None in sight; and more worryingly, no clear strategy for growth.
“We don’t want INDECOM, we want outcome!” The police killed five people, since I last wrote, and in the space of a little over 24 hours. This was the cry of one resident – which made me laugh a little, as Jamaicans have such a way with words. But very serious too. I know that the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) is working as hard as it can but is hampered (by very late police reports, for example) – but can’t blame people for getting impatient.
Another twist: You may be tired of hearing about this saga by now, but just to let you know that Doran “mongrel dog” Dixon is back in the race for the presidency of the Jamaica Teachers’ Association, who have changed their mind and allowed him to run, after all. Meanwhile Mr. Paul “cocaine injection” Adams is not suffering any ill effects (he’s not running, anyway). I only hope that a sensible woman is elected to the presidency. I am tired of the male egos…
Earth matters: You know I am a big fan of CVM Television’s “Live at Seven.” I am glad that the program turned its attention to a whole bunch of niggling environmental issues that are not going to go away – the beach at Negril, for example.
Untouchable Usain: Some of my tweeps have been following the French Open tennis tournament, and were thrilled to see our very own Usain Bolt presenting the trophy to Rafal Nadal. I was a bit surprised. I thought it was usually rather dull officials (or royalty in the case of Wimbledon) who did this. The spotlight is supposed to be on the winner of the trophy – not on the presenter. I am told that Bolt is a “celebrity” so it is acceptable, and we are all proud of his achievements. But celebrities have a habit of popping up all over the place, like Kim Kardashian. I just thought it inappropriate, and upset several people on my Twitter timeline by suggesting that it was. Don’t get me wrong – I love Usain as much as anyone and have often praised him in my blog, but I don’t want it to get to the point where people say, “Oh no – not him again!” whenever he makes an appearance. He is worth more than that.
Still so much good things to say about…
- Dr Jean Beaumont, who has been doing great work as head of the USAID/Jamaica Basic Education Project. What could be more important than reading?
- Health writer Eulalee Thompson, who has a new blog and a new consulting practice. Find her at http://kingstontherapist.wordpress.com.
- Ambassador Pamela Bridgewater, who delivered a terrific speech on women’s leadership at the University of the West Indies‘ Faculty of Law on Thursday evening. I couldn’t make it, but hear the place was packed. I do have a copy of the speech, which I intend to post on this blog shortly.
- Dr. Rosalea Hamilton for her piece on nine-day wonders – with specific reference to the Richard Azan/Spaldings shops issue. Dr. Hamilton concludes, “It is time we move beyond complaining about our situation and seriously press for governance that is accountable to the people of this country.” Make your voice heard and put some pressure on.
- The Jamaica Medical Mission. We do tend to take this almost continuous stream of visiting medical teams, mostly from the United States, for granted. They often pay their way and sacrifice their vacations etc. to come over here and help Jamaicans who simply cannot afford to access our public health system. They are absolutely marvelous. I know the Jamaicans whom they treat appreciate their work; I hope the rest of us do, too. (This group of 157 doctors, nurses etc comes over every year and will treat at least 3,000 indigent Jamaicans).
- Nice to see an interesting report by environmental reporter Petre Williams-Raynor, now with the Gleaner. Check out her attractive blog, too. By the way, public consultations on the boundaries of our precious Cockpit Country are still ongoing. There is one in Kingston this week – I must check details.
- The Gleaner for two things: Firstly, its editorials have really hit the nail on the head in the past week. It’s worth reading them all. Secondly, on Friday evening its continuous, accurate tweeting of the World Cup qualifying match between Jamaica and the United States was streets ahead of the competition. Sprinkled, too, with marvelous photos from one of my favorite photogs, Mr. Ricardo Makyn. See a couple of the photos below…Hats off!
Petchary’s Pet Hate of the Week: Mosquitoes are plaguing us. Thank God for the electrifying plastic tennis racket – or the zapper, as it’s called in our house.
Petchary’s Quote of the Week: “Children are not just the future, they are the present” – Robert Fuderich, Director, UNICEF Jamaica.
The tragedies continue. Each Jamaican’s death is a tragedy for the families, friends. The following Jamaicans have died violently just in the past FOUR days:
Sophia Smith, 47, Mandeville, Manchester
Dwight Robinson, 28, Seaview Gardens, Kingston
Jerome Anthony Gooden, 33, Seaview Gardens, Kingston
Ricardo Lawes, 28, Seaview Gardens, Kingston
Omar Smith, 32, Seaview Gardens, Kingston
Killed by police:
Unidentified man, Kitson Town, St. Catherine
Junior Guy, Waterloo Villas/Tredegar Park, St. Catherine
André Ledgister, Waterloo Villas/Tredegar Park, St. Catherine
Kemar Thompson, Waterloo Villas/Tredegar Park, St. Catherine
Jevon Reid, 21, Granville, Trelawny
Related links and articles:
World Environment Day: June 5, 2013 (petchary.wordpress.com)
http://thinkjamaica.wordpress.com/2013/06/07/thanksgiving-service-for-the-jamaican-dollar-will-be-held-at/ Thanksgiving service for the Jamaican Dollar will be held at… ThinkJamaica.wordpress.com
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130607/news/news2.html “Jamaica debt burden a threat to human development” – UNDP: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130609/lead/lead1.html ”Don’t panic over sliding dollar”: Gleaner
Final chance for Jamaica, says Financial Times (commonsenseja.wordpress.com)
http://www.jis.gov.jm/component/content/article/111-ministry-of-science-technology-energy-and-mining/34169-minister-paulwell-urges-jamaicans-to-access-energy-fund- Minister Paulwell urges Jamaicans to access energy fund: Jamaica Information Service
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130607/business/business2.html Port divestment proceeds to dredge Kingston Harbour: Gleaner
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads/34162 Minister Hylton sets record straight on logistics hub: Jamaica Information Service
http://sonofstmary.wordpress.com/2013/06/06/democracy/ Anti-gay Christian groups undermine democracy: sonofstmary.wordpress.com
http://newsandviewsbydjmillerja.wordpress.com/2013/06/06/gay-rights-activist-seeks-to-challenge-belize-and-tt-laws/ Gay rights activist seeks to challenge Belize and TT laws: newsandviewsbydjmillerja.wordpress.com
http://perceptualpost.com/jamaica-observer-accused-of-staging-story-involving-gays-observer-report-tells-all/ Jamaica Observer accused of staging story involving gays: Perceptual Post
http://www.televisionjamaica.com/Programmes/AllAngles.aspx/Videos/26956 Discusion on homosexuality/All Angles/Television Jamaica, June 5, 2013
http://drtammyhaynes.wordpress.com/2013/06/07/homosexuality-choice-or-innate/ Homosexuality: Choice or innate: Dr. Tammy Haynes blog
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130606/lead/lead1.html ”We have the numbers”: Church leaders confident enough religious Jamaicans in island to prevent change to buggery law: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Woman-beaten–robbed–raped-in-Kingston_14442076 Woman beaten, robbed, raped in Kingston: Sunday Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Handling-of-rape-cases-irks-Montague_14444584 Handling of rape cases irks Montague: Sunday Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Allman-Town-wants-closure-to-boy-s-murder_14426032 Allman Town wants closure to boy’s murder: Sunday Observer
http://delanoseiv.wordpress.com/2013/06/06/g2k-writes-to-ocg-regarding-dead-silent-richard-azan-probe/ G2K writes to OCG regarding dead silent Richard Azan probe: delanoseiv.wordpress.com
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130416/lead/lead92.html Another nine-day wonder? Rosalea Hamilton op-ed/Gleaner
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/more-work-needed-on-spaldings-market-probe-arscott More work needed on Spaldings market probe – Arscott: RJR News
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/more-road-blocks-in-claremont-as-residents-continue-protest More road blocks in Claremont as residents continue protest: RJR News
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Jamaica-leading-project-to-address-underachievement-in-boys_14424128 Jamaica leading project to address underachievement in boys: Jamaica Observer
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/montaque-questions-nicholson-on-status-of-reported-rape-cases Montaque questions Nicholson on status of reported rape cases: RJR News
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130606/cleisure/cleisure3.html Condoms aren’t aphrodisiacs: Jaevion Nelson column/Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130606/cleisure/cleisure4.html The crime of “uncontrollable”: Patrick Lalor op-ed/Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Cabinet-approves-new-policy-for-pregnant-schoolgirls_14434151 Cabinet approves new policy for pregnant schoolgirls: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/UNICEF-concerned-about-child-killings_14424458 UNICEF concerned about child killings: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130607/lead/lead4.html Disabled, elderly should get free health care – CaPRI study: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130606/news/news4.html Reading coaches initiative making a positive difference: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130607/lead/lead5.html Dixon back in the race: Gleaner
https://blogs.worldbank.org/latinamerica/animation-could-mean-jobs-and-serious-business-jamaican-youths Animation could mean jobs and serious business for Jamaican youths: World Bank
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130607/lead/lead3.html Trench Town Ceramics and Art Centre – Using art to save the youth: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Downtown-Kingston-vendors-protest_14434985 Downtown Kingston vendors protest: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130607/news/news3.html 3,000 indigents to benefit from medical mission: Gleaner
http://wordsfrompetre.webs.com Petre Williams-Raynor environmental blog
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130607/news/news1.html Inside Cockpit Country: Project eyes conservation of key biodiversity areas: Gleaner
Four years ago today, fire broke out at the Armadale Juvenile Correctional Centre in St. Ann. Seven girls – wards of the state – died as a result of the fire, and eleven were injured. It was a real pleasure today to meet some of the girls who survived this horror, and who are doing their best to move out beyond that horror. I think their day was an emotional one but also filled with hope. I will write more about this.
Devaluation of dollar welcomed by IMF: Well, some of us might have figured this out already. The steady drop in the Jamaican Dollar seemed inexorable and there was really very little comment on it from the Simpson Miller administration at the time. It was just…happening. The rest of us were saying, “What is going on? Help!” as it steadily dropped, day after day. Then suddenly the battered J$ (often depicted in cartoons wrapped in bandages and sticking plaster and hobbling on crutches) pulled itself to a screeching halt at 99 or so to the U.S. Dollar. Well, well. Our friends at the Implacable Masters Fund (IMF) approve of this; and, in fact, say they would like to see our dollar plummet a little bit more, stopping at, let’s say… What do you think? Where should it stop? This, by the way, is the “flexible exchange-rate regime” mentioned by the Jamaican Government in its April 17 Letter of Intent to the IMF (the link is below). Flexible is such a nice…flexible word, isn’t it?
I wonder if the Jamaican public can be as flexible as the Jamaican Dollar has turned out to be?
Trinidad start up weekend: Good luck to Ms. Ingrid Riley, our tech entrepreneur and inspirer extraordinaire, who is in Trinidad now at her Silicon Caribe Startup Weekend. 57 pitches! I attended a Jamaica session; it was lively and abuzz with ideas. I love Ingrid’s regional (Caribbean) approach, and wish more of us were doing that…
Duppy story: According to CVM Television news, a certain house in rural St. James is giving some trouble. In case you haven’t been following it, all kinds of drama has been going on in this very ordinary-looking little house. It has created lots of excitement among the local residents, who can be seen hurrying down the path to the house to witness the latest phenomenon. My husband is almost convinced that there’s a real duppy (to my non-Jamaican readers, that is a ghost) – and so am I. A poltergeist, perhaps? A mysterious fire on top of a wardrobe (could be an electrical short circuit, but…) And objects thrown out of the house when it is empty? A local was hit in the head by one such “missile” and bled profusely. Once bandaged up, he felt pretty good, escorted down the road from the clinic like a real celebrity. What’s going to happen next? I hope it’s not all special effects…
Is the JEEP warming up its engine? Remember JEEP – the Jamaica Emergency Employment Programme? We haven’t heard much of it lately, but the Government has now found a way to create jobs by employing people to build concrete walls instead of zinc fences in selected Kingston communities. I suppose the concrete will screen off the poverty better – it will be harder to glimpse the earth-bare yards. But, Mr. Housing Minister, you know it won’t make any real difference. It’s just cosmetic. The same poverty is just a stone’s throw away…
African : It was announced today that our Prime Minister had flown off to Addis Ababa in Ethiopia, along with the Foreign Affairs Minister, four other government officials, plus her support team (I am not sure how many people that consists of – it is always reported in government press releases as a collective noun). They will be back next Tuesday. One of the radio stations this evening stated that the cost of the trip, in recognition of the African Union’s fiftieth anniversary, will be J$8.6 million. I wonder what the Ineffable Masters Fraternity (IMF) thinks of such expenditure. I can think of a thousand different ways in which that money could have been spent for the benefit of the Jamaican people (the Armadale survivors, for example).
Yay! That money could, perhaps, have been spent on a few more real toilets that flush in Jamaican schools. But sixteen schools in western Jamaica must be groveling with thanks that they do, in fact, have real toilets and not stinking, dangerous holes in the ground, any more. Thank God for Petro-Caribe, anyway. Last time I heard – about a year or two ago – around 200 schools still had pit latrines. Hopefully the number has dropped considerably. It is baffling to me that this can still be an issue in 21st century Jamaica. Perhaps this should come before tablets?
Some things bring out the Great Cynic in me: Recent comments by our Finance Minister Peter Phillips filled me with great weariness. Waxing philosophical and presumably not sticking to his notes, the goodly Minister started to wonder out loud why Jamaica is in its current economic state: “How did it get to this? At least part of the answer, I believe, has to do with the nature of our political processes and the absence, up until recently, of effective paradigm oversight and absence of transparency.” What does this mean? Can someone translate? OK, let me try. The politicians have done nothing to create an “effective nation” (the Minister’s words) since Independence (until the current administration came into power). That’s how it “got to this”. By actually not leading (that’s the oversight part) and by keeping the people ignorant (absence of transparency). Something like that, perhaps?
The young and the generous: In a Twitter exchange just last night, my friend Jean Lowrie-Chin reminded me (the Great Cynic that I am) that the younger generations of those “big” families that have chosen to stay in Jamaica have not only prospered, but are “giving back” to their country. She cited young Adam Stewart, who heads the Sandals Foundation. National Bakery has started its “Bold Ones” Project to encourage youth entrepreneurship. And the young Mahfoods have taken up the mantle of the amazing charity that does so much good work, Food for the Poor. Jean is right – I must try to curb my innate suspicion of the privileged and powerful. I wish all of them had such good intentions as these gentlemen, and that they could all give back…more.
Get well soon: I have no doubt that heading the Police Federation, a union that represents the rank-and-file police force, is a highly stressful occupation. The current chair, Raymond Wilson, has actually been a number of years in the post, off and on. Mr. Wilson has been in hospital for the past few days, after suffering a heart attack at a relatively young age. I wish him a speedy recovery.
By the way, I hope the Reggae Boyz thrash that English football team from north London, Tottenham Hotspur, when they play them tomorrow. Oh, how I would love to see that happen! As a dedicated Arsenal fan (in case you didn’t know) I was delighted that the Gunners denied Spurs a Champions League place again when the English Premier League season ended. And I’m quite satisfied with our team’s strong performance this year, after a lousy start to the season…
It is encouraging to learn that “major crimes,” including murders, have fallen. I hope that this trend will continue. But I am keeping in my thoughts the families of the following Jamaicans whose lives have been taken in the past three days.
Dwayne Brown, Ocho Rios, St. Ann
Selvin Hincklewood, Kingston
Killed by the police:
Noel Williams, 42, Rose Town, Kingston
Jerome Spence, George’s Plain, Westmoreland
Related links and articles:
http://www.imf.org/external/np/sec/pr/2013/pr13186.htm IMF concludes staff visit to Jamaica: imf.org
http://www.imf.org/External/NP/LOI/2013/JAM/041713.pdf Letter of Intent to IMF from Jamaican Government, April 17, 2013: imf.org
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/IMF-gives-us-reality-check_14298943 IMF gives us reality check: Jean Lowrie-Chin column/Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130522/lead/lead7.html J$ depreciation an important correction, says Fund: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130522/business/business2.html Phillips, IMF defend “strenuous” fiscal target for Jamaica: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/CHASE-Fund–sports-continue-to-reap-big-benefits-from-SVL_14302742 CHASE Fund, sports continue to reap big benefits from SVL: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130521/lead/lead1.html Child extortionists: Judge, JPs step in as students make thousands of dollars a day: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130521/cleisure/cleisure3.html Tablets in schools, yes, but please…! Oniel Mantack/Op-ed: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/An-assault-against-human-dignity_14308320 An assault on human dignity: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130521/letters/letters4.html Normal school not for teen babymothers: Letter to the Editor/Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130522/cleisure/cleisure2.html Erase the stupid idea of giving students condoms: George Davis column/Gleaner
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/fourth-anniversary-of-armadale-fire Fourth anniversary of Armadale fire: RJR News
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130520/cleisure/cleisure1.html Sounder logic from the other Mr. Thwaites: Gleaner editorial
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130520/cleisure/cleisure4.html Deal with bullies before… Robert Lalah column/Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130521/news/news8.html INDECOM concerned about police records: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Crime-now-at-uptown-doorsteps_14298922 Crime now at uptown doorsteps: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130522/lead/lead2.html More cops to be hauled before courts: Gleaner
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/top-level-probe-into-reports-of-contract-on-lives-of-prosecutor-investigator Top-level probe into reports of contract on lives of prosecutor, investigator: RJR News
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/editorial/What-violence-torn-St-James–nay-all-Jamaica–can-learn-from-Flanker_14299652 What violence-torn St. James – nay all Jamaica – can learn from Flanker: Jamaica Observer editorial
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130522/news/news2.html U.S. to give special training to MoBay firefighters: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Political-parties-alone-can-t-do-it—Phillips_14299845 Political parties alone can’t do it – Phillips: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Is-migrating-Senate-President-a-coward_14296192 Is migrating Senate President a coward? Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130520/news/news1.html G2K wants answers from Contractor General: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130522/lead/lead1.html Shady dealings: Public sector workers under scrutiny… Gleaner
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads/33972 Prime Minister to attend African Union 50th Anniversary: Jamaica Information Service
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130522/letters/letters3.html Stop magnifying wasteful high-rollers: Letter to the Editor/Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130521/cleisure/cleisure2.html#.UZuRJBboiag.facebook Freudian slip or Gordian knot? Gordon Robinson column/Gleaner
We had rain! Yes, you know, that wet stuff that makes you wet. It was glorious in Kingston, splashing around for a bit. The cooler temperature is delightful. Our whole garden has woken up again.
The week so far has been fairly quiet. But here are a few things to ponder:
Time for “Man a Yaad”: Opposition Spokesman on Finance Audley Shaw made an interesting contribution to the Budget Debate in Parliament yesterday. As he often does, he alternated between throwaway jibes and humor and heavy, somber pronouncements. In between, he put forward some alternatives, some solutions. This was refreshing. We didn’t really get any from the Finance Minister last week; his “no new taxes” presentation was predictably dull. But then, it’s easier for the Opposition to be more interesting and engaging, whichever one of the parties it is. One just wishes these budget speeches didn’t go on so darn long.
Gloom and doom: As the signing of the agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) finally appears on the horizon – within striking distance now – it seems Jamaican consumers are none too cheerful. Although business confidence is reportedly up a little, 47 per cent of consumers in the latest Jamaica Chamber of Commerce quarterly survey are pessimistic about the economy. There has been a significant increase in gloom and doom compared to a year ago. IMF or no IMF.
“Bun and cheese politics”: This is how the Jamaica Observer’s editorial describes the current style of governance in Montego Bay. I would love to hear a really nice, inspiring story coming out of that city. Please. In particular, the leadership of the current Mayor Glendon Harris (People’s National Party) worries me. The former mayor, the Jamaica Labour Party‘s Charles Sinclair (who is a great deal more articulate than his successor) alleges that at Easter time the Parish Council over which Mayor Harris presides gave $20,000 to each council member to buy bun and cheese; and that it is also funding a Monday night public street dance. There was a bit of a shadow over the Council after the ridiculous and prolonged to-do last year over a Jamaican flag – minus the green – draped above a stage at an official function. Of course, the absent green is the Jamaica Labour Party’s color. That unpleasant little episode remains a little murky to this day, but fingers were pointed here and there…
The renaming of the ‘Ospital: Yes, the ‘Ealth Minister has, at last, spoken on the issue of the renaming of the Cornwall Regional Hospital in Montego Bay. He and the Prime Minister are pouring gallons of oil on troubled waters, stirred up by the aforesaid Mayor Harris. Whose name, you may ask? Why, only that of the man who almost single-handedly brought the hospital into being to serve western Jamaica. Dr. Herbert Eldemire died three years ago. He was Minister of Health from 1962-72 under the Jamaica Labour Party and served as party chairman for a few years; but was never known as a “tribalist.” Cabinet approved the renaming of the hospital in August, 2011. The current administration has said it had intended to proceed with the official renaming soon. This does not seem to sit well with the Mayor, who last week decided to “consult” with Montegonians on the matter. The Prime Minister has intervened and spoken to Dr. Eldemire’s daughter Denise, but it seems it is too late. The family is clearly deeply offended and hurt by the Mayor’s attitude and does not want the renaming to happen; see their statement below. This seems to me petty, reeking of political tribalism. By all accounts, Dr. Herbert Eldemire served his country extremely well. If not for him, the hospital might well not exist.
But no, the forces of political partisanship have won again, and soured what might have been a positive and celebratory move. Then again, maybe it would be best not to name anywhere at all after politicians, anywhere on the island. Not even a lamp post.
FINSAC report: The creation of the Financial Sector Adjustment Company (FINSAC) during the financial crash of the 1990s shattered many lives. This is a known fact. Opposition Spokesman Audley Shaw caused quite a rumpus in Parliament this week when he insisted that the Government must find the J$10-15 million needed to complete and publish the report of the Commission of Enquiry into FINSAC. Of course, there is politics at work here; FINSAC was presided over by the now Transport and Works Minister Omar Davies, who was Finance Minister in 1997. But for heaven’s sake, just find the money please and let’s bring closure. By the way, FINSAC has a nice website in patriotic Jamaican colors: http://www.finsac.com. I am sure it does not refer to the suicides, family breakups and destitution it left in its wake.
…and the other one: Another painful and shameful episode in Jamaica’s recent history was, of course, the massacre of over seventy Jamaican citizens in Tivoli Gardens in May, 2010. Yes, we are approaching the third anniversary of this horror, and still the Public Defender‘s interim report is not forthcoming. I am beginning to feel sorry for Mr. Michael Peart, the House Speaker, who is now insisting he will receive it by month-end, ready or not.
A little warming: The Prime Minister actually smiled at a journalist yesterday. CVM Television’s Andrew Cannon managed to have a chat with her, while her security man peered over her shoulder. On the Azan matter (which still rankles) the Prime Minister, in a disarming manner, pointed out that there was an ongoing “investigation” (a favorite word) and suggested poor Mr. Azan may “per’aps” have made an error. So no budging in the position there. It also appears that a microphone did not come into contact with Mrs. Simpson Miller’s mouth (a bit of dramatic license there perhaps on the part of the Information Minister). The Prime Minister merely backed away from the over-enthusiastic, unknown reporter; no physical contact. Speaker of the House Michael Peart, in the same TV report, seemed to have also let the cat out of the bag by saying he was unaware of any shooting incident that may have made the PM’s security even more uptight than usual. Did he not get the memo?
…but not so lovable these days? As a result of this public relations fiasco, I find the Prime Minister’s demeanor has become cold and distant. It may be a defense mechanism, but it is really strange and unexpected. She has been making almost no effort to “woo” either the media or the public at large. Her Information Minister is becoming far too schoolmistressy – and so condescending it leaves you breathless. It is all about protecting the Prime Minister from the rest of us, it seems. That’s fine, but can the Prime Minister’s entourage of advisors, support team etc. – whatever they call themselves – just lighten up a little? We are not zombies rampaging across the land. We are ordinary people seeking information! Minister Falconer, try smiling sometimes? The media and the public are not your enemies.
But hey, some awesome things have already happened this week: Top of my list, the donation of a gorgeous, shining white bus by UNICEF to Eve for Life, the non-governmental organization that supports teen mothers living with HIV. As the organization’s chair, I was happy to be able to thank UNICEF for this generosity and for their ongoing support and faith in the incredible Eve family – especially the indefatigable Joy Crawford and Pat Watson, who are so dedicated and hard-working it’s not true. The bus was loaded up with provisions today for the young ladies in Montego Bay – its inaugural trip out of town! SO exciting.
Then there is the current visit of the African American artist Kehinde Wiley, who creates breathtaking (and often huge) canvases of young urban males of various ethnicities in the striking poses of Western art traditions. I remember being stunned by a huge painting of LL Cool J sitting imperiously on a throne, against an ornate background, at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC some years ago. It’s a thrill to have Mr. Wiley here (his first visit to Jamaica) as part of his “World Stage” project. Can’t wait to see the results!
Speaking of art… Don’t forget the National Gallery will be having its monthly free Sunday opening on April 28th. It promises to be fun and stimulating, as usual.
And an intrepid group of Jamaicans has started the ball rolling on what I know will be an ongoing discussion on gender equity in Jamaica and what can be done to redress the balance. According to official figures, 34% of women are unemployed, compared to 10% for men (the actual figures are very likely higher). I have a feeling that the #leaninJA conversation will likely translate into action. Congratulations to Marcia Forbes et al for sharpening the focus!
Question: Is the drug trade on the rise again in Jamaica? See the reports below. I hope not, I really do.
My condolences to the families of the following Jamaicans who were killed recently. I want this to end…
Ann-Marie Campbell, 39, Black River, St. Elizabeth
Barrington Bennett, 61, Highfield, St. Catherine (British national) – last week.
Related articles (local blog posts in purple):
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130422/letters/letters1.html Richard Azan a law unto himself: Letter of the Day/Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130422/cleisure/cleisure1.html Azan’s specter haunts the Budget: Is PM a coward? Gleaner editorial
http://constructedthoughts.wordpress.com/2013/04/22/time-come-portia-time-come/ Time come, Portia, time come: constructedthoughts.wordpress.com
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130422/lead/lead1.html ”White Lady” is back: cops say cocaine trade resurfacing in Jamaica: Gleaner
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/men-linked-to-international-drug-network-remanded Men linked to international drug network remanded: RJR News
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/marijuana-seized-on-navy-island Marijuana seized on Navy Island: RJR News
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/guardsman-suspends-contractors-in-wake-on-multimillion-dollar-cocaine-find Guardsman suspends contractors in wake of multimillion dollar cocaine find: RJR News
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130423/lead/lead7.html PM to intervene in Cornwall Regional Hospital renaming issue: Gleaner
http://delanoseiv.wordpress.com/2013/04/19/statement-from-the-eldemire-family-regarding-the-renaming-of-the-cornwall-regional-hospital/ Statement from the Eldemire family regarding the renaming of the Cornwall Regional Hospital: delanoseiv.wordpress.com
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/Rise-above-the-fray_14138564 Rise above the fray: Letter to the Editor from Lloyd B. Smith, MP/Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/editorial/Bun-and-cheese-politics-in-MoBay_14138493 Bun and cheese politics in MoBay: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130422/letters/letters2.html No progress on murder halt: Letter to the Editor/Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130423/cleisure/cleisure4.html Focus on safety, not war: Letter to the Editor from Yvonne McCalla Sobers/Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Rev-Al-Miller-faces-court-in–Dudus–case Rev Al Miller faces court in “Dudus” case: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Peart-insists-Tivoli-Report-will-be-tabled-by-month-end Peart insists Tivoli report will be tabled by month-end: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130422/cleisure/cleisure4.html Jamaicans enjoy living on the edge: Robert Lalah column/Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=44343 Jamaica hoping for talks on PetroCaribe soon: Gleaner
http://jamaica-star.com/thestar/20130422/news/news9.html Entrepreneur reports growth and success in Tel-Aviv: Jamaica Star
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130424/news/news4.html Visas, air service hindering Chinese tourists to Jamaica: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Reclaiming-water–A-solution-to-one-of-Jamaica-s-problems_14126106 Reclaiming water: A solution to one of Jamaica’s problems: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130423/lead/lead1.html Pastor says: Use more contraception – calls for use of “morning after” pill… Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130422/lead/lead2.html Politicians afraid to tell poor not to have kids – Reid: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130424/news/news2.html Teachers learn to use music in class: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/God-s-way-not-gay_14130077 God’s way not gay: Letter to the Editor/Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/-Mr-Commissioner–oh-where-art-thou–_14138406 ”Mr. Commissioner, oh where art thou?” Akay Hendricks op-ed/Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130424/lead/lead1.html ”Bang belly” economy: Shaw claims present state of affairs hostile to growth: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130424/business/business4.html Businesses more optimistic than consumers ahead of IMF agreement: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Pledge-FINSAC-assets-to-NHT–Shaw-suggests_14138289 Pledge FINSAC assets to NHT, Shaw suggests: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130424/lead/lead4.html Shaw rips Government to shreds over incomplete FINSAC report: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130422/news/news5.html Women entrepreneurs link with global network: Gleaner
http://chatychaty.com/2013/04/reggae-legend-toots-hibbert-makes-on-the-spot-donation-towards-purchase-of-vital-medical-equipment/ Reggae legend, Toots Hibbert makes on the spot donation towards purchase of vital medical equipment: chatychaty.com
Here’s the second half of the week: April 21, 2013 (petchary.wordpress.com)
Exclusion versus Empowerment (petchary.wordpress.com)
Well, dear readers, the first part of my weekly review can be found here: http://petchary.wordpress.com/2013/04/18/midweek-special-a-jamaican-news-update-for-april-17-2013/
Here is Part Two…
“No new taxes”…today: The presentation of the Budget came and went without much fanfare. Local media diligently reported, analyzed and tweeted highlights. But we do know that this annual ritual is…just that. There are likely to be supplemental budgets, adjustments, and the “allocated” amounts may, in fact, never be allocated for their specific purposes, at least not in full. One did however feel irritated by this announcement of “no new taxes” in Parliament. The Finance Minister was duly applauded for it, with the usual loud banging of desks, on his side. The Opposition was not so amused, pointing out that we are still reeling from a huge (J$16 billion) tax package announced in February. And we have a sneaking feeling that there may be more taxes in the offing in the next few months. At least, many callers to radio talk shows seem perturbed about the huge increase in property taxes. We are worried, too. My retired mother-in-law, who is on a pension, has just been hit with a 130 per cent increase. Ours is likely to be similar; and Minister Phillips says properties may be re-evaluated, and taxes increased again on the new valuations.
What about all those who don’t pay? This is just an obsession of mine, but it really bugs me that there are hundreds – nay, thousands – of individuals and organizations out there in society (and you know who you are) who are simply not paying their way. The National Water Commission has just applied for a 19 per cent rate increase, and at the same time we know that huge amounts of water are lost (about thirty per cent I believe) due to theft – and their own carelessness… We know all about the widespread theft of electricity, mainly in inner city communities, many of whom have never paid a “light bill” in their life. And then there are the non-taxpayers. The St. Catherine Parish Council now has to pay for its services – street lights, garbage collection etc – from property taxes only. And it has only ever collected fifty per cent of its property taxes… I wish them luck. Meanwhile, law-abiding Jamaicans have to pay for all this waste and thievery.
At arms’ length: The Prime Minister’s support team kept journalists at a distance as she departed from the Budget debate. For security reasons, it was said. More on this below.
Yes, and the tiefing continues: I thought receiving stolen property was an offense; can someone clarify this please? In any case, the Gleaner reported that a former Mayor has returned a nice Rolex watch he received from a “political activist” who is among five charged with committing a robbery at Swiss Stores in downtown Kingston recently. This is all such inspiring stuff, eh?
Poor farmers: Another kind of thieving that financial analyst Dennis Chung referred to in an interview is what is called “praedial larceny” (a term I had never heard until I came to Jamaica). This means stealing farm produce and livestock, which hard-working farmers have reared and grown. In other words, taking their livelihood away from them. Like Dennis, I cannot understand why this criminal act, which goes on year after year unabated, is not taken more seriously by law enforcement and the courts. Perhaps it is because it affects rural residents, and we really only care about what happens in Kingston and a couple of other towns. I don’t know. But I believe the penalties should be much higher and the pursuit of these criminals should be aggressive and unrelenting. This isn’t happening. And when someone spots an alleged goat thief, an angry and frustrated mob attacks him.
Negative, negative (negative?) Having successfully side-stepped journalists on the way to making a speech, our Prime Minister and leader Portia Simpson Miller referred to the Azan issue. She used the first part of her speech to talk about the prevailing “negative, negative” attitude towards politicians (only one repeat this time – usually it’s two, as in “working, working, working.”) Her stony face and strident tone certainly had a negative effect on me. Why was the Prime Minister so upset?
Young Turks: Veteran journalist Barbara Gloudon is concerned at the prelude to all of this – the post-Cabinet press briefing during which the Information Minister bravely fended off an enthusiastic “tag team” of young broadcast journalists. Minister Falconer wasn’t entirely successful. I described this lively encounter in my Wednesday post. Ms. Gloudon (and government officials, as well as other traditional journalists) are all concerned about this apparent shift in the dynamics of media. But didn’t we all see this new era arriving? Ms. Gloudon writes in her weekly column: “There is very little which does not end up broadcast far and wide, and it doesn’t need old media to do it. Everybody has become his/her own reporter and to hell with the niceties. Everyone has his/her own truth and it can be stretched either way.”
Blame social media: Of course, the dreaded social media is to blame for all this. I trust that no one is thinking of “regulating” it. Russia and China have their own sanitized versions of the social media, while other countries simply throw bloggers in jail, or block the social media. I’m a little concerned – but hopefully with no good reason.
The “gladiators”: The Prime Minister was apparently ruffled at the behavior of our over-zealous “gladiators” as Ms. Gloudon calls them. Ms. Simpson Miller will not comment on the issue of Minister Richard Azan and the seemingly illegal shops, as she says an investigation is going on. The Prime Minister observed, “Why should I make a comment?” adding, somewhat obscurely, “The time has come when we should put country ahead of any personal ambition… I have given all of my adult life to the service of this country…” (Who was she referring to? Over-ambitious journalists? Did she not have ambitions in her long political career, or was it all purely selfless?) The occasion was the opening of a new business showroom. “This should be the news, not anything else!” declared Prime Minister. OK, journalists – you have been told what the news is to be.
Procedure is important: The Prime Minister’s team believe that procedure is important in the interaction between politicians and journalists. Maybe they need to revisit procedures, together.
Laughing it off: Meanwhile, CVM Television’s Andrew Cannon is not letting this go. He did catch Minister Azan and sought to question him, but Azan’s response was, “I sent a release, and that is enough. Have a good evening.” He repeated the last sentence several times and then seemed to find this highly amusing, walking off chuckling with one of his sidekicks. No success for the gladiator there; he did not seem to get the joke. But Mr. Azan seems to have plenty of supporters, mainly members of the People’s National Party. The head of that party’s youth organization (the PNPYO) said it was a “very humanitarian move” to build the shops.
Opening a small can of worms: The #Tissue#Issue has basically remained unresolved. We are really none the wiser. But it seems to have provoked a mini-trade war with Trinidad & Tobago. The issue may go to the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) for resolution. What a tangled web of toilet paper we weave; a bit like that ad when the whole thing unrolls…
Digicel Foundation: The Digicel Foundation is doing so much good work that it’s hard to keep up with them. Their focus on literacy is excellent and commendable. Now they have teamed up with USAID on an enrichment program that will benefit 40,000. We have to keep fighting the literacy fight.
Crayons do count: And most awesomely (is there such a word?) the local Continental Bakery has donated J$50 million – no mean sum indeed! – to the wonderful Crayons Count program initiated by Ms. Deika Morrison. Of course, she is over the moon. I liked what Continental CEO Gary “Butch” Hendrickson says: “We cannot lose another generation of children in this country; we have lost too many.” For more on the program which is a huge enhancer for early childhood education, go to this website: http://dogoodjamaica.org/crayonscount/ Congratulations to Ms. Morrison – this is her passion. And kudos to Continental!
Ralston Hyman has a dry style. I love his program on Power 106 FM, “Real Business.” I learn a great deal from it. And it’s streamed live on their website, too.
Sadly, more Jamaican citizens are no longer with us. The following have been murdered since my last post on Wednesday:
Michael Coombs, 50, Spanish Town, St. Catherine
Wentworth Patterson, 50, Spanish Town, St. Catherine
Unidentified woman, 20, Greater Portmore, St. Catherine
Garnett Gray, 29, Waterford, St. Catherine
Silbeta Brown, 52, Hopeton District, Manchester
Kareem Hines, 29, Montego Bay, St. James
Carlton Stone, 39, Montego Bay, St. James
Bryan English, 42, Robin’s Bay, St. Mary
Killed by police
Michael Robinson, 41, Molynes Road, Kingston
Errol Irvin, 22, St. Catherine North
Related articles. Local blog posts are in purple…
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130419/lead/lead1.html The nation welcomes…no new taxes: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Shaw-accuses-Gov-t-of-deception-after-Phillips–announcement_14101004 No new taxes? Shaw accuses Government of deception after Phillips announcement
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/February-tax-package-no-secret—Phillips_14115125 February tax package no secret – Phillips: Sunday Observer
http://rjrnewsonline.com/business/full-text-of-budget-presentation-by-finance-minister-dr-peter-phillips Full text of budget presentation by Finance Minister Dr. Peter Phillips: RJR News
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=44217 Phillips can’t say if property taxes will go up again: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130419/lead/lead2.html IMF deal by early May: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130421/focus/focus5.html Beyond the IMF: Ten things we must do to stimulate growth: Michael Ennis column/Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130419/lead/lead9.html Unemployment on the rise: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130419/letters/letters7.html A dry dock facility, seriously? Letter to the Editor/Gleaner from Jamaica Welding Institute
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/opposition-demands-removal-of-restrictions-to-interviewing-prime-minister Opposition demands removal of restrictions to interviewing Prime Minister: RJR News
https://www.facebook.com/notes/think-jamaica/to-the-21st-century-journalists/372179526232136 To the 21st century journalists: Facebook Note by Durie Dee
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Tag-teaming-the-minister-_14100136 Tag teaming the minister: Barbara Gloudon column/Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/Honourable-means-honourable_14083533 Honorable means honorable: Letter to the Editor/Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130419/letters/letters3.html Questions on Azan-Spaldings Market saga: Letter to the Editor/Gleaner from Paul Ashley
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130421/cleisure/cleisure2.html Azan, defiance and impeachment: Gary Spaulding article/Sunday Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Leadership–governance-and-the-reform-agenda_14110492 Leadership, governance and the reform agenda: Claude Robinson column/Sunday Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Runwiddit–again_14101237 Runwiddit, again: Tamara Scott-Williams column/Sunday Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130421/lead/lead4.html Poorly-paid politicians: Jamaican political leaders among the worst paid in the region: Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130419/lead/lead7.html Ex-Mayor returns Rolex: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=44251 Guardsman confirms arrest of a contractor in St. James drug bust: Sunday Gleaner
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/arrest-warrant-issued-for-movado Arrest warrant issued for Mavado: RJR News
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Penwood-student-didn-t-have-to-die_14109184 Penwood student didn’t have to die: Sunday Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130421/lead/lead5.html Annual national survey on prisons shows mega increase in career criminals: Sunday Gleaner
http://dcjottings.blogspot.com/2013/04/if-we-are-to-solve-our-crime-problem.html If we are to solve our crime problem: dcjottings.blogspot.com
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=44255 Holness says state must adopt pro-citizen stance: Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-star.com/thestar/20130419/news/news4.html Colin Mann freed of charges: Jamaica Star
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130421/news/news1.html Lessons from Boston – cops want more CCTVs: Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130420/cleisure/cleisure1.html The new gun ID fallacy: Gleaner Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Gov-t-tables-CCJ-Bills_14100593 Government tables CCJ Bills: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-star.com/thestar/20130419/news/news1.html Gay students overrun school! Jamaica Star
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130421/ent/ent1.html Gender gap still hurts: Entertainers feel there is a far way to go before equality obtains: Sunday Gleaner
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/row-deepens-over-renaming-of-cornwall-regional-hospital Row deepens over renaming of Cornwall Regional Hospital: RJR News
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=44207 Theft of JPS cables resulted in corporate area water problems: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130421/lead/lead7.html Help coming for 40,000 students: Digicel Foundation and USAID join forces to increase literacy levels: Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130419/cleisure/cleisure1.html The toilet paper debate: Gleaner editorial
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/toilet-paper-row-dispute-between-jamaica-and-tt-heading-to-caricom Toilet paper row dispute between Jamaica and TT heading to CARICOM: RJR News
The drought is relentless, but one day of rain felt like heaven. This week, I am trying to find silver linings wherever I can (like the Oscar-nominated movie “Silver Linings Playbook,” which I heartily recommend. And I plan to do a rain dance on what is left of our parched front lawn.
So let’s start with the heartening news that the police may be winning the armed struggle against the gangs of Spanish Town that has been going on for years. For at least the last decade the “Old Capital,” with its crumbling historic buildings, narrow streets and zinc-fence slums pressing against its boundaries, has been best known for the One Order gang and the Klansmen Gang – both ostensibly politically-affiliated. We became sadly familiar with their names and the names of their leaders. Not out of the woods yet, but by all accounts things have calmed down. There will be ”shootouts,” the necessary evil that Security Minister Peter Bunting predicted a few weeks ago – in which the alleged criminals always come off the worst. Two alleged extortionists were shot dead by the police last week. But in general, as you can see below, the tally of murders is way below the usual level.
The issue of the root causes of crime has not even been touched on or addressed. Curfews and patrols and shootouts by our military-style police (who could easily be mistaken for soldiers these days) are no substitute for real employment opportunities (not short-term work programs); training for jobs that actually exist or can be created; and decent living conditions with toilets, running water and garbage collection. How long can one hold the lid down on a pressure cooker filled with despair? Social conditions have not changed, and are likely to worsen.
And the justice system creaks along, like a very old man bent with arthritis, unable to straighten up any more. An important case was postponed last week until July 1, to make way for the hearing of a nine-year-old murder case against a policeman charged with shooting a colleague. When that case came up, the prosecution could not find the main witness. The case of Keith Clarke (the middle-class Jamaican who died in a hail of bullets at his uptown home around the time of the May 2010 Tivoli Gardens massacre) was also put off until July 1, amidst uncertainties over the origin of the bullets that killed him. Time and resources wasted, and lives put on hold. Justice delayed is….
On the topic of justice, there is still none for the families of over seventy Jamaicans who lost their lives during a police/military assault on the community of Tivoli Gardens in May, 2010 (euphemistically called the “incursion.”) Since the administration met with the Public Defender, who has not yet produced an interim report on the matter, there has been a deafening silence. What is really happening?
The National Housing Trust (NHT) issue generated heat this week – that is, the decision by the government to “raid” the NHT to the tune of J$11 billion a year for four years, to bail us out of our current economic agonies. A pressure group called Citizens Action for Principle & Integrity (CAPI) has filed suit in the Supreme Court, challenging what seems to have been a hasty and somewhat desperate decision by the government as the twin swords of Damocles, the debt burden and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), hang over us. Make that one big sword, perhaps. Some regard the CAPI lawsuit as unnecessary, cynical, even unpatriotic (one talk show host called it “silly political games,” not in the country’s interest). To that I would retort, is it in our interest to allow the government that we elected to railroad through the NHT funding, when it is clear that this will be to the detriment of contributors, and may be illegal? Working Jamaicans have contributed to the NHT for years, many hoping to be able to purchase a house at reasonable cost one day. Simple but important point. Housing is a basic need. No one would deny that. Why, too does the National Housing Trust have such a huge surplus? Why wasn’t it building houses with all that money? And is this drawdown going to be even feasible? The NHT chairman said the Turst had only worked out the payments for the first two years. And on another note, why is the housing program for the very poor (under the auspices of that often-elusive JEEP program) in such confusion? It seems if you leave these things in the laps of Members of Parliament, there may be great inefficiencies in the administration thereof.
And if the National Housing Trust isn’t really a trust, as its directors claim, then why was it called the National Housing Trust? Well, we shall see how things turn out. Meanwhile, the Finance Minister is suggesting that if what they are doing is illegal, the administration may have to amend the law accordingly.
Going back to the IMF for just a minute, I was taken aback by the Prime Minister’s announcement in St. Mary last week. It was what the Jamaica Information Service called a “wide-ranging speech” in St. Mary last week. I can’t find a copy of it anywhere, and I wonder what else she talked about? Anyway, former Finance Minister and current Transport Minister Omar Davies is to chair the oversight committee that will monitor Jamaica’s progress towards getting in line with the IMF requirements. I am disappointed, to say the least, as I had hoped the committee would be private sector-led and by “independent” Jamaicans. And of all people, Minister Davies? Who are the other committee members, please?
I am going to mention these real quick as I have told myself to be more “positive” this week (how am I doing, by the way?) but I have to mention: the economy contracted by 0.6% in the October-December 2012 quarter; there was a fiscal deficit of J$16.7 billion during the review quarter, J$6.7 billion more than budgeted; unemployment rose by 0.9% over the previous quarter; and the Jamaican Dollar continued its decline to around J$96/US$1. Someone pointed out that this is way higher than the Haitian Gourde rate to the U.S. Dollar. (Comparisons with Haiti are a favorite obsession of ours). Oh, and the Net International Reserves (NIR) are now reportedly at the minimum level that is internationally acceptable. Help…
But hey, here’s some silver linings:
My faith in Energy Minister Phillip Paulwell (which had been flagging somewhat recently) may be restored by the announcement of measures to stimulate alternative energy production, including solar power equipment; I know at least one firm that is delighted by this and believes it will stimulate investment. Other measures he has announced in the sector seem to make sense to me, although I don’t have the technical knowledge to understand the details very clearly. You will see further links below. Minister Paulwell likes to announce that he will be making an announcement in Parliament, and then make it with a just discernible tremor in his voice. After that, we often ask questions, starting with “But…?” But, the man is trying. Let’s give him credit. But Jamaica Public Service head Kelly Tomblin – who seems an honest and up-front lady – was not quite so enthused during a radio interview; JPS is losing money, for a start.
The Principal of Holy Trinity High School, Ms. Margaret Brissett-Bolt (a truly dedicated educator) was thrilled to receive a donation of J$200,000 worth of equipment from the Kiwanis Club of Eastern Kingston. Many schools – especially those in less “desirable” areas – are struggling with meager resources.
Hooray for the women and their supporters! The Jamaica Civil Society Coalition (JCSC) has been collaborating with a number of organizations, including the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung and the Women’s Resource and Outreach Centre, to discuss what the budget really means. A well attended session for women’s organizations concluded that women must pay more attention, gather knowledge and use it boldly and wisely. The JCSC will share the conclusions of these sessions with the government; the JCSC has already met with the Ministry of Education and will meet with the Justice Ministry soon. Plus Opposition Senator Kamina Johnson Smith, a lady who does her homework, put forward a proposal not to penalize girls who are automatically thrown out of the education system once they get pregnant. Plus youth and human rights activist Jaevion Nelson wrote another excellent column in support of women’s rights this week. Nice going.
A fellow blogger wrote a marvelous article (the link is below) about the creation of a vertical wall garden in African Gardens, a small section of the impoverished community of August Town. The University of the West Indies, whose campus is just a stone’s throw away, began the UWI Township initiative some years ago, under the aegis of the late Professor Barry Chevannes – a great believer in social empowerment. This is a low-cost project that, if maintained, has great potential for the self-sufficiency and raised self-esteem of the community. Congratulations to CUSO International and all those involved in the project, which could be easily replicated in other neighborhoods. Isn’t it sad that many of these inner-city areas are called “Gardens” – Arnett Gardens, Seaview Gardens etc – and yet there are so few gardens in them? We could do much more in this area.
My final “silver lining”: It is a corny old saying that there is opportunity in adversity. But, as young diaspora leader David Mullings commented in his Sunday column, “We must be optimistic.” We must be, yes! We must all pull together! We must make this work! We must pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, put our shoulders to the wheel, and… I will soon run out of clichés.
Much as I loved that movie (and Jennifer Lawrence deserved her Oscar), perhaps silver linings are a cliché, too. But there may be one, somewhere.
P.S. A young journalist hosting a radio talk show began the program by exhorting young people to take all their opportunities, as help and institutions are out there just ready and waiting to help them find a job. I think he should take that speech to inner-city Seaview Gardens or deep rural St. Thomas, where unemployment is around 50% or more, and see what kind of response he gets.
This past week has been unusually “quiet” – far fewer homicides than usual. I wish this would be the same every week – let’s hope so. My deepest condolences to the families and friends of the following Jamaican citizens who lost their lives – including, tragically, an infant allegedly killed by her mentally troubled mother. But every life lost is a tragedy, isn’t it…
Salverna Josephs, 1, Brompton, St. Elizabeth
Owayne Sinclair, 28, New Kingston
Denzil Boyd, 63, Queensborough, Kingston
By the police:
Tyrone Heron, 18, Spanish Town, St. Catherine
Seon Taylor, 20, Spanish Town, St. Catherine
Related articles/links: (Jamaican blog posts highlighted in purple):
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/What-have-we-become_13674828 What have we become? Letter to the Editor/Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/What-is-being-done-with-our-taxes–Prime-Minister_13657475 What is being done with our taxes, Prime Minister? Letter to the Editor/Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130220/cleisure/cleisure1.html The other side of the IMF agreement: Gleaner editorial
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130222/business/business4.html Economy contracts 0.6%: Gleaner
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads-104/33054 Statement from the Ministry of Finance on the acceptance and extension of the NDX: Jamaica Information Service
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130219/cleisure/cleisure1.html Another way to skin the NHT cat: Gleaner editorial
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/pm-defends-drawdown-of-nht-funds PM defends drawdown of NHT funds: RJR News
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130222/lead/lead1.html ”We’re still viable”: NHT confident $45b government swipe won’t hurt operations: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/NHT-to-modify-programmes-to-ensure–44-b-handover_13690389 NHT to modify programs to ensure $44 billion handover: Jamaica Observer
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/capi-fast-tracks-plans-to-challenge-government-on-nht-funds CAPI fast-tracks plans to challenge government on NHT funds: RJR News
http://www.capijamaica.org CAPI Jamaica
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/paac-chairman-calls-for-divestment-of-mobay-convention-centre PAAC chairman calls for divestment of Mobay Convention Centre: RJR News
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130220/cleisure/cleisure2.html PM, don’t deceive the people: George Davis column/Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Can-the-poor-take-any-more-_13652219 Can the poor take any more? Jean Lowrie-Chin column/Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Designing-a-political-path-for-a-different-economic-result_13651976 Designing a political path for a different economic result: Claude Robinson column/Sunday Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130220/lead/lead1.html Prepaid power? Gleaner
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads/33033 CET suspended on energy-saving devices: Jamaica Information Service
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130220/business/business1.html Paulwell slows process in order to fast-track energy proposals: Gleaner
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/energy-ministers-presentation-to-parliament-on-jps-changes Energy Minister’s presentation to Parliament on JPS changes: RJR News
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads/33026 Reduction in electricity rate: Jamaica Information Service
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130220/business/business2.html Revenue, profit plunge at JPS: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=42995 Air traffic controllers say no to wage freeze: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130221/news/news3.html 7,000 public sector posts to be abolished: Gleaner
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads/33017 Norman Manley Airport management to be privatized: Jamaica Information Service
http://www.digjamaica.com/data/view/inflation_rate_monthly Inflation rate – monthly: diGJamaica.com
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/business/Grounded–Jamaica-Air-Shuttle-seeks-partners_13669655 Grounded: Jamaica Air Shuttle seeks partners: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads-113/33030 VW actor to help promote Brand Jamaica: Jamaica Information Service
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130221/news/news5.html KSAC to sign off on housing projects despite mass resignation of committee members: Gleaner
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/tighter-measures-in-place-to-protect-government-information-robinson Tighter measures in place to protect government information: RJR News
http://cucumberjuice.wordpress.com/2013/02/21/a-suspended-wall-garden-in-african-gardens-jamaica/#comment-1181 A suspended wall garden in African Gardens, Jamaica: cucumberjuice.wordpress.com
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Police-take-back-Spanish-Town_13692423 Police take back Spanish Town: Sunday Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/-Stray–bullet-_13698573 Ammo found may not have come from soldiers’ weapon, says JDF: Sunday Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Vicious-gays_13677272 Vicious gays: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Opposition-wants-second-chance-for-pregnant-schoolgirls_13701933 Opposition wants second chance for pregnant schoolgirls: Jamaica Observer
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/bail-revoked-for-police-inspector-dadrick-henry Bail revoked for police Inspector Dadrick Henry: RJR News
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/cop-accused-of-killing-colleague-appears-in-court_1 Cop accused of killing colleague ten years ago appears in court: RJR News
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Guns-and-bullets-once-again_13688049 Guns and bullets once again: Ramesh Sujanani op-ed/Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/teenage/OCR-appoints-ambassadors-to-help-raise-awareness-about-child-abuse_13660593 OCR appoints ambassadors to help raise awareness about child abuse: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130223/letters/letters1.html Are we proud of how we treat our children? Letter of the Day/Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130221/cleisure/cleisure3.html Women must truly have equal rights: Jaevion Nelson column/Gleaner
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/plans-to-establish-entertainment-zones-islandwide Plans to establish entertainment zones islandwide: RJR News
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/environment/Lionfish-decreasing_13653509 Lionfish decreasing: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads/33029 Agriculture Ministry to lobby EPA on pesticide use: Jamaica Information Service
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/environment/-God-blessed-dirt-_13569435 Up to 2,500 per cent higher concentration levels in Jamaica’s red mud: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130220/lead/lead4.html Jamaica College kicks off Gospel Crusade 2013: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130221/news/news6.html Holy Trinity High 11th-graders get well-needed hardware boost: Gleaner
http://newsandviewsbydjmillerja.wordpress.com/2013/02/23/that-burning-jamaican-flag/#comment-1495 That burning Jamaican flag: newsandviewsbydjmillerja.wordpress.com
http://dextercommunications.wordpress.com/2013/02/23/jamaicans-harlem-shake-while-germans-desecrated-jamaican-flag/ Jamaicans Harlem shake while Germans desecrate Jamaican flag: dextercommunications.wordpress.com
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=43048 Opposition fumes over burning of Jamaican flag in German commercial: Gleaner
http://www.saturn.de/mcs/shop/die-welt-braucht-bessere-technik.html?et_cid=46&et_lid=128&et_sub=bessere_technik Die Welt braucht bessere Technik: Saturn.de video
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130220/cleisure/cleisure3.html Gehry Reggae Museum – no insult intended: Michael Thompson article/Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/US-medical-mission-treats-2-000-St-Mary-residents_13651944 U.S. medical mission treats 2,000 St. Mary residents: Jamaica Observer
The past week has been one of unusual and alarming events, globally…
A meteorite the size of half a football field hurtled out of the blue sky and exploded in mid-air near a Siberian city with a blinding flash, injuring 1,200 people and smashing thousands of windowpanes. It entered the earth’s atmosphere at 44,000 miles per hour and exploded with the power of thirty Hiroshima bombs, fifteen miles above the heads of the freaked-out residents of Chelyabinsk.
Pope Benedict XVI threw the Catholic Church into shock by announcing his retirement from Popedom – the first Pope to do so for six hundred years. He plans to settle down quietly in a convent in the Vatican, presumably surrounded by nuns. Hope he doesn’t cramp the new Pope’s style too much.
On the same day as the meteorite’s startling arrival, asteroid 2012 DA14 whizzed past our planet just over 17,000 miles above us – closer than many satellites and closer than any other known asteroid. If it had decided to change course, I guess I would not be writing this today.
The fascinating, handsome and heroic athlete, South Africa’s Oscar “Blade Runner” Pistorius, sobbed in court as he was charged, astonishingly, with the premeditated murder of his girlfriend inside their high-security compound in Pretoria, on Valentine’s Day. The compound is surrounded by a high wall topped with an electric fence, but he still had a gun, baseball bat etc in his bedroom…Sigh.
In Jamaica we have had some surprises of our own, mostly of the fiscal variety. But today, half of uptown Jamaica was out in its finery (designer sports gear etc) in support of the annual corporate Sigma Run, now in its fifteenth year. In case you didn’t know, charity runs/walks have developed into the latest occasion to see and be seen in Kingston – they are multiplying. But at least it’s in a good cause, while the well-toned upper St. Andrew residents get to show off their taut bodies on the street and talk in loud voices along the way. Many do seem to take it seriously, though, and the organizers are hoping to raise J$16 million for local charities. Good for them.
But I digress. Back to our tottering economy. Firstly, we had another nationwide broadcast, which I mentioned in last week’s post. Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller and Finance Minister Peter Phillips were a tag team. The PM did the usual “let’s all work together” spiel, while Minister Phillips filled in with the hard stuff. He announced that Jamaica will embark on a National Debt Exchange (NDX). This has been in the offing apparently since around last September, according to Bank of Jamaica governor Brian Wynter. The People’s National Party (PNP) administration cannot, of course, call the exchange by the same name as a Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) program, That was the JDX, and this is the same concept. The government hopes to reduce the debt “by 8.5 per cent or around $17 billion per year between now and 2020,” according to Minister Phillips. But of course, “it’s a process,” as government technocrats love to say. The private sector has to buy into it. Will they? The offer closes on February 21 and will be settled the following day, and already at least two financial institutions (Bank of Nova Scotia and Sagicor) have said they are in.
So, we did learn from this broadcast that the Simpson Miller administration, pushed and prodded by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) team, will be making moves to reduce our incredibly high debt (now one of the highest in the world). According to the Bank of Jamaica, our debt to GDP ratio is around 150 per cent.
OK. Moving on. But the following afternoon the Finance Minister dropped his bombshell. He announced a huge taxation package (J$16 billion) not mentioned in the broadcast in the House of Representatives. His side of the house insisted that the package be approved that very afternoon, without debate. You can read details in the links below. The JLP was naturally taken aback. Opposition Finance Spokesman Audley Shaw claimed that the government had not even mentioned the taxes in a meeting the day before – at which the NDX was presented to them pretty much as a fait accompli. Opposition Members of Parliament slowly and deliberately gathered up their papers, their bags and laptops, and walked out of the Lower House, holding a press conference in a nearby meeting room immediately afterwards. Generally, I hate to see these “Opposition walkouts,” which happen fairly regularly – but on this occasion I sympathized. And ironically, one television station aired a clip of the Finance Minister (then in Opposition) railing against the imposition of taxes without consultation in a Rotary Club speech! One radio talk show host considered the whole affair the height of arrogance and disrespect to all stakeholders.
Of course, the tax package was passed. So much for our democracy. And aren’t the Opposition members of the house elected by the people, too? Yes. Thought so.
The private sector was extremely sour about all this. It all came as a complete surprise to them – a bolt from the blue, like the Russian meteorite. Business leaders have not minced their words. Union leaders and civil society groups have also expressed discomfort over the “Nicodemus” tactics of the government (Jamaicans love to refer to Biblical characters; Nicodemus came at night – but was he a bad guy?) Thus, the taxes were sneaked in under the radar, so to speak… Phrases like “lack of trust” were bandied about. Just not good enough.
Besides the $16 billion tax package, the government also proposes to take $11 billion per year for four years from the National Housing Trust (NHT), to which all working Jamaicans contribute. Now, the Chairman of the NHT is Mr. Easton Douglas, a former People’s National Party Member of Parliament and Housing Minister; there are other PNP members on the Board too. Mr. Douglas told journalists Emily Crooks and Naomi Francis on radio last week that he had not had to twist the arms of his board to comply with the administration’s wishes, but that they had a good “discussion” on the matter and agreed to it some three weeks ago. He added that despite the huge dip into its funds, the NHT will certainly remain “viable and sustainable,” noting that there will be a “paradigm shift” in the government agency towards lower income housing.
And of course, this is not the end of it. Although at the end of the week the government and the IMF announced that they had reached a staff-level agreement, I don’t think this is much more than a Memorandum of Understanding on the way forward. What about the IMF’s required “prior actions”? What about the public sector wages, which I have been mentioning every week recently? The police are getting edgy, now. What about waivers and incentives? What about actual, real tax reform? And how will the JDX 2 (sorry, NDX) affect bondholders, pensioners and others on fixed incomes?
So now, everyone is looking to pick up the pieces – rather like the Russians, who are busy searching for fragments of the exploded meteorite. Like them, so far we have only found the huge hole the tax package has already created.
I really enjoyed my friend Earl Moxam’s program “It’s a Wrap” on RJR today as he discussed the issues with an interesting group, including financial analyst Errol Gregory. Mr. Gregory regards the IMF agreement as a “temporary reprieve,” giving Jamaica time to put its house in order and “get production going.” But “growth has simply eluded us,” Mr. Gregory added. And all agreed that the crisis facing the country, and this lack of growth over decades, was not just about economics, but about “social attitudes.” Ian Wilkinson of the Jamaican Bar Association said that by now, “We should be fishermen, not begging fish.” We should also get out of campaign mode and party considerations. You just cannot govern while still in campaign mode, ranting and raving on party platforms. NO! Enough of that! Judith Wedderburn of the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung pointed out that we should not “rely on mega-projects funded by the Chinese” to stimulate growth; small business and agricultural production must be encouraged, with short term projects built in to address the needs of vulnerable groups. Ms. Wedderburn described them as “slipping and sliding.” How true.
By the way, diGJamaica.com has been posting a series of very useful graphs and statistics on our current economic state. There are a couple of links below. As noted before, this is a very good resource for all things Jamaican!
OK, I know this means little or nothing to the Jamaican man/woman on the street. But they will be seeing the effects of all of this before too long. One hopes that the media will seek to clarify it all in a more digestible way for the average Jamaican. Meanwhile, the good thing is that (one sincerely hopes and believes) there will be a much higher level of transparency and accountability from here on in. This is absolutely essential for the Simpson Miller administration, going forward. It must really make huge efforts to engage the Jamaican people on what to expect, when and how. However unpalatable it may be (and some of the medicine will be very bitter – we are still using the former Prime Minister’s analogy) please tell us the truth! The truth shall set you free! Or at least, as close to it as you can get without jeopardizing your chances of winning the next election… And let’s get on with – somehow – producing a real growth strategy (highways don’t count) that enhances productivity.
Can we get real, please: Local churches are frowning on the sale of lottery tickets on Sundays – the Jamaica Umbrella Group of Churches, to be precise. “While we are in this plight we have to bear in mind the values or the importance of our morals,” says the group’s Reverend Gary Harriott.
Speaking of “morals”… Perhaps a higher priority for our church people might be, for example, the sexual exploitation of young girls (many under the age of consent of sixteen) by older men. This issue came starkly into focus during the week, when sixteen-year-old Martha Byrowe, was stabbed to death – allegedly by a 33-year-old man whom she was living with (for at least a year) in a small rural community. The girl’s mother lived just down the road. Mom has declared her innocence, after being charged with failure to report a child in need of care and protection and failure to exercise proper care and guidance to a child. She says the man was an old friend of the family, almost like a brother. The surrounding community is also expressing equal surprise and puzzlement over the developments, although they seem to have been fine with the schoolgirl’s alleged domestic arrangements. We shall see.
The point is, though, that such arrangements are not unusual in Jamaica. It is complex, and not easy to understand or explain, but mothers will turn a blind eye to, condone (and sometimes encourage) relationships between their young daughters and older men. Some reasons are clear: In a society where men are still earning more than women and where there are still higher levels of unemployment among women, mothers who are struggling (often as heads of households) are glad for whatever monetary support the man can offer. They are prepared to sacrifice their daughters’ wellbeing for this. Please read my fellow blogger Damien Williams’ very apt post on this topic, below.
I have to write more on this topic at a later date, but can we please start seeing our young girls (and boys) however precocious, as children. Children need nurturing, love, guidance; they need to be protected. For some reason, no one wants to talk about it. The community where young Martha and her lover lived seem to have adopted the “See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil” approach. The much-hackneyed phrase “It takes a village to raise a child“ would be the best policy in communities, one feels. So please tell older men who are watching young girls in their school uniforms: Leave the girls alone! Let them grow up, let them study and develop naturally! Forget this “force ripe” idea; it’s not the girls’ fault. And having sex with a child is nothing to be proud of. In Jamaican parlance, No Guh Deh! For more information on this, please contact Eve for Life Jamaica, the local non-governmental organization that supports women and children living with HIV. Support their campaign! (And by the way, girls aged ten to nineteen years are three times more likely to contract HIV/AIDS than their male counterparts).
Let me get down off my soap box.
Just a couple more things, as I am running out of time… Our former “Bronze Queen,” Merlene Ottey, paid a rare visit to Jamaica this week to receive an honorary doctorate from the University of Technology. The social media included many snide comments from younger Jamaicans about Ms. Ottey, that I thought were unkind and uncalled-for. Ms. Ottey did a great deal to put Jamaica on the map in athletics. In 1980 she became the first female English-speaking Caribbean athlete to win an Olympic medal. She remains Jamaica’s most-decorated female athlete. She became a Slovenian citizen in 2002. There were controversies along the way, it is true; but I think we should recognize Ms. Ottey’s achievement. And yes, she probably does not speak English that much any more, hence the peculiar “farrin” accent. OK?
Heather Little-White was an incredibly warm person, and a former Fulbright Scholar, who overcame personal challenges with a smile. I noticed that at the huge thanksgiving service for her life yesterday, former Prime Minister Bruce Golding was in attendance. I thought he looked tired, thinner and very serious. Jamaican singer Jimmy Cliff, however, was jolly as ever – he just won a Grammy Award. I wish he would visit our shores more often.
And finally – big ups to the Jamaica Public Service Company and its energetic CEO, Ms. Kelly Tomblin, for its participation in the Valentine’s Day global effort to raise awareness about violence against women - One Billion Rising. I hear Ms. Tomblin was dancing up a storm at the celebration in Kingston. My only complaint is that this was not advertised much more widely. Along with my colleagues at the 51% Coalition, I would loved to have been a part of it. I couldn’t find any photos of the event… Next year, let us plan ahead!
Question of the Week: What sacrifices is the Portia Simpson Miller making, while asking the Jamaican public to do so? Trade in the Prados for Honda Accords, perhaps? “Just asking…”
I am so sad that the following Jamaican citizens were killed violently in the past week. My deepest sympathies to all their families and friends, who must be suffering grief and loss at this time:
Sebastian Smith, 48, Robin’s Bay, St. Mary
William Barrett, 52, Robin’s Bay, St. Mary
Anthony Williams, Bishop Lane, St. Mary
Levy Cohen, Greendale, St. Catherine
Jermaine Walker, 23, Linstead, St. Catherine
Martha Byrowe, 16, Knockpatrick, Manchester
David Lee-Chung, 55, Anchovy, St. James (Chinese national)
K. Duncan, 32, Darlington, Westmoreland
Shot dead by the police:
Jermaine Reid, 35, Red Pond, St. Catherine (Feb. 9)
“Sekou,” Big Lane/Central Village, St. Catherine
Related articles (local blogs highlighted in purple):
http://digjamaica.com/blog/2013/02/12/new-taxation-measures/ Ministry Paper: New taxation measures – diGJamaica.com
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads-104/32978 Government looking to raise $15.9 billion in revenue: Jamaica Information Service
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/-16B-in-new-taxes_13630287 $16 billion in new taxes; government also taking $45 billion from NHT funds: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/No-love-lost-_13629477 No love lost: JLP, JCSA, CAPI scream foul on “Nicodemus” taxes: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Fewer-NHT-houses-in-wake-of-Gov-t-drawdown_13653627 Fewer NHT houses in wake of government drawdown: Sunday Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130217/lead/lead1.html Finance Minister accepts that Government must prove its commitment to sound economic decisions: Sunday Gleaner
http://digjamaica.com/blog/2013/02/15/net-international-reserves-at-lowest-since-january-2001/?utm_source=Subscriptions&utm_campaign=c1e39118cb-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email Net International Reserves at lowest since 2001: diGJamaica.com
http://digjamaica.com/blog/2013/02/17/chart-of-the-week-trade-imbalance-widens/ Chart of the Week: Trade Imbalance Widens: diGJamaica.com
http://www.imf.org/external/np/sec/pr/2013/pr1343.htm Statement by an International Monetary Fund mission to Jamaica: http://www.imf.org
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads-104/32996 IMF and Government reach staff-level agreement: Jamaica Information Service
http://www.imf.org/external/np/sec/pr/2013/pr1351.htm IMF Mission and Jamaican Authorities Reach Staff-Level Agreement on Key Elements for EFF-Supported Program: http://www.imf.org
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/police-groups-call-for-urgent-meeting-with-government Police groups call for urgent meeting with government: RJR News
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Blackness–Monkey-and-Mawga-Dawg_13626906 Blackness, Monkey and Mawga Dawg: Grace Virtue op-ed/Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/Leadership-crisis-in-Jamaica_13628167 Leadership crisis in Jamaica: Letter to Editor/Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/Dear-Prime-Minister—_13601822 Dear Prime Minister: Letter to Editor/Jamaica Observer
http://www.caribjournal.com/2013/02/12/mcneill-jamaica-must-press-ahead-on-new-tourism-projects/ McNeill: Jamaica must press ahead on new tourism projects: Carib Journal
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Palisadoes-shoreline-project-completed-within-budget—Davies Palisadoes shoreline project completed within budget – Davies: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads/32966 HIV/AIDS Workplace Policy tabled in the Senate: Jamaica Information Service
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/JPS-crew-stoned_13652710 JPS crew stoned: Residents offer resistance: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130215/cleisure/cleisure5.html#.UR7G9YBEvc8.facebook End scare tactics on gays: Javed Jaghai op-ed/Gleaner
http://redforgender.wordpress.com/2013/02/16/751/ Gay student challenges Jamaica’s anti-sodomy law: redforgender.wordpress.com
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/Unprotected-gay-sex-is-medically-unsafe_13628288 Unprotected gay sex is medically unsafe: Letter to the Editor/Observer
http://dmarcuswilliams.blogspot.com/2013/02/when-being-woman-is-criminal.html When being a woman is criminal: dmarcuswilliams.blogspot.com
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/churches-frown-on-sunday-sale-of-lottery-tickets Churches frown on Sunday sale of lottery tickets: RJR News
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/male-students-in-st-catherine-forming-gangs Male students in St. Catherine forming gangs: RJR News
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/8-injured-in-Nannyville-attack_13652655 Eight injured in Nannyville attack: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130214/sports/sports1.html Ottey will keep going: 52 year-old sprinter sets sights on World Champs: Gleaner
Now, here’s a happy photo to kick off with! Yes, so good to see the politicians are still enjoying themselves! This time it was Minister Phillip Paulwell, who celebrated his fiftieth birthday in Port Royal (at the old Fort George of Horatio Nelson fame). According to one social writer, it was “on the social Richter scale – a definite tenner!”
I live in an area of uptown Kingston and a Government Minister is my neighbor. One night, as the sounds of delicious food, the chink of glasses and the carefree laughter drifted over to us, I looked out of our front gate. The street was lined with Prados and other huge SUVs, gleaming in the street lights, with their accompanying security men standing by the vehicles. Several had their air conditioning running, engines purring, ready for the occupant to step into its cool interior when they had finished their merry-making…
La dolce vita indeed, for some.
Now let’s look at the economy. Radio talk show host Ronald Mason has been thrashing out various details of the International Monetary Fund/growth/productivity conundrum, focusing on exports one day, and on the promised logistics hub the next. He has been trying to get people to think, and find solutions. How about selling off entities like the Factories Corporation of Jamaica and Clarendon Alumina Partners that are a burden on the government? How about making a serious effort to collect property taxes, most of which are avoided?
Talking of the logistics hub, the government put out a release last week noting that public consultations will start soon on this huge, and potentially highly lucrative project. It’s all related to the expansion of the Panama Canal, and Jamaica is in the perfect geographical position to take advantage of this. But why are we still making speeches about consultations? They should have got under way last year, I would have thought. Time is of the essence. At this rate, Minister Anthony Hylton, it will have run out. But from the press release, it seems that the Cabinet has only just become aware that the project “represents the centrepiece of the country’s economic growth strategy, and is therefore a major initiative to drive the development and growth of the Jamaican economy.” Well, at least we’ve got that figured out. And implementation? When?
Nationwide News Network has certainly played its part in seeking to explain and explore economic issues in Jamaica. You can find them streaming live online, too. Speaking on the station this week, Opposition Finance Spokesman Audley Shaw expressed concern about the “prior actions” required by the IMF. “Wage restraint must be there,” he commented. Yes, Mr. Shaw, we know that. And as I have said before in this post, thunderclouds gather on the horizon. The trade unions are muttering, and the teachers, policemen, nurses and so on are not, it seems, going to go down without a fight. But have Jamaican government negotiators already “caved in to the IMF’s demands” as someone suggested last week? One recalls Finance Minister Peter Phillips’ defiant declarations about “sovereignty” last year. Now, does one sense a different tone? We hear a lot of references to “protecting the poor.” What does this mean? More taxes? What about the somewhat watered-down White Paper on taxation tabled in Parliament? Does that pass muster with the IMF, I wonder?
And how far away are we from the IMF agreement, really? March? April? May? One doesn’t have any sense of this.
Sorry! The last few sentences have mostly ended in question marks. I guess there’s a reason for that…
With his barely-suppressed-excitement voice, the birthday boy, Minister Phillip Paulwell, made a big announcement last week. Jamaica is going to make millions, nay billions, from rare earth elements. A Japanese firm will extract the rare earth from the hideous “red mud” lakes, filled with all kinds of toxic chemicals, that can be found in several spots on the island. The lakes contain the waste from bauxite mines. China has 23 per cent of the world’s supply of this stuff, which is used to make computer screens etc, and “controls” 95 per cent of the world market. Now the Japanese are in a desperate search for the stuff at home and abroad. Geopolitical rivalry going on here; China has, in the past, cut off Japan’s rare earth supply, which they badly need for their manufacturing industry. And the two nations are bickering over those islands.
There is another aspect to the rare earth issue: its severe environmental impact. I hope our journalists will investigate this in depth. When asked about this in a radio interview, Minister Paulwell said with a touch of impatience, “Well, I just want some jobs and growth, and whatever it takes we are going to do it.” Whatever it takes, Minister Paulwell? Even at the risk of destroying our fragile environment, which is already under serious threat? But let’s see. This is a six-month pilot project to find these minerals. Minister Paulwell has been accused of jumping the gun with his big pronouncements in the past. His colleagues in a former People’s National Party administration passed this tendency off laughingly as “youthful exuberance.” Well – much as I admire your enthusiasm and your go get ‘em approach, Mr. Paulwell… You are not so youthful any more. You are middle-aged.
Comments by two women who called one of the radio talk shows last week stayed in my mind. One was a small businesswoman. She sounded quite young. “We are out there on our own,” she said. Small business owners and entrepreneurs get no support. The banks don’t want to lend money to entrepreneurs; but if you want a loan to buy a car, you can get it in 48 hours. There is a lack of visionary leadership, she said, reminding us of the words in the Jamaican National Anthem: “Give us vision lest we perish.”
The second woman was much older. She used to work training women on the production line. What production line, you may ask? Yes, Jamaica once had a reasonably thriving manufacturing industry. Young people would not remember, but I do remember crowds of women leaving the factories in the Kingston FreeZone when they had finished their shift, so that you had to stop the car and allow them all to cross the road. This woman, although older, wanted the country to move forward. “King’s House should be a museum,” she added. How I agree.
Oh, please: With all the huge issues facing the country, Senator (and Kingston Mayor) Angela Brown Burke wants ganja to be legalized in small amounts for personal use. OK, fine. Legalize ganja if you want. But can we clean up Kingston first, Senator/Madam Mayor Brown Burke? Priorities please!
Senator Tom Tavares-Finson is not very high-profile these days, as senators go. His comments do not often make headlines, as some of the more bombastic senators in Parliament do when they decide to indulge themselves in some wishful thinking and philosophizing. But he said two things this week that made me sit up and give a little quiet clap. Firstly, he pointed to the travesty that is the continued non-appearance of the Public Defender‘s report on Tivoli Gardens. Tavares-Finson, an attorney-at-law, said all along he had doubts about Mr. Witter’s ability to investigate the killing of over seventy people during an attack by security forces on the West Kingston community in 2010. “Technically incapable,” is the phrase he used in the Senate on Friday. Come to think of it, why didn’t we get “outside help” for this monumental task? I am not sure I agree with Senator Tavares-Finson’s call for a judicial enquiry. Such things have proved costly and in general dissatisfying in the past. But, it had to be said. Well said, Tom. And secondly, he pointed to the destruction of Jamaica’s dry limestone forest – death by chain saw and machete.
Just a thought: The word “massacre” derives from Old French, meaning “butchery” or “slaughterhouse.” I don’t like to quote dictionary definitions normally, but Merriam-Webster calls a massacre “the act or an instance of killing a number of usually helpless or unresisting human beings under circumstances of atrocity or cruelty.” Did all those human beings resist in Tivoli Gardens? Just wondering.
Some “big ups” here – especially to some of our media professionals. They get a lot of flack, but these journalists (among others) did well…
Firstly, to the new “Live at Seven” program on CVM Television. I confess I was iffy about the change in the program format and the hosts. I had enjoyed from its inception and didn’t really want it to change. But host Simon Crosskill is doing a grand job so far. I remember him from his years on TVJ’s Smile Jamaica morning magazine program, being very jokey and sometimes going too far with it… But this program shows his serious side, and also a good degree of sensitivity. The program is addressing some touchy issues, such as the selling of bootleg porn videos to teenagers on the streets of Kingston; and public health issues of various kinds. Late last week it touched on the issue of maternal mortality, interviewing a woman whose sister had lapsed into a coma after giving birth. The woman said the hospital was uncaring. There was also the report of a doctor who had recently returned from Burma and was diagnosed with full-blown tuberculosis after already handling many patients at the Spanish Town Hospital. It’s time they got the Health Minister to agree to come on the program and explain. I hope he will. He seems very well-meaning.
I very much like Simon Crosskill’s sharp, incisive commentary at the end of the program. Very good.
By the way, I looked up Jamaica’s maternal mortality rate. According to a UNICEF report three years ago, “The country’s current maternal mortality rate of 95 deaths per 100,000 live births has not changed significantly over the last two decades.” The government is trying to reduce this rate to 25 per 100,000 by 2015, in keeping with the UN Millennium Development Goal. This seems a tall order, to me.
More thumbs up to two female journalists whom I met last week at a press briefing by the UN Environment Programme in Kingston – TVJ’s Christa Samuels and the Jamaica Observer’s Denise Dennis. It’s a pity the Gleaner was a no-show. The meeting provided much food for thought, and I will be writing about it in the next week or so. Both these ladies have done great reports on the meeting, with Ms. Samuels focusing on the rare earth issue and its polluting effects. The Sunday Observer had some useful and thoughtful articles on environmental issues today, including a focus on the fast-disappearing Negril beach. It’s hardly seven miles any more; at intervals it just disappears into the sea.
If you want some good news, open last week’s copy of the Observer’s TeenAge weekly. The Digicel Foundation has these really nice Mobile Enrichment Carts, and also paid bus fares for 300 students. What impressed me even more was the spirit of volunteerism among youth groups in St. Mary, who pulled together to fix up the Port Maria Primary School. The school has been closed for a while after floods and an overflowing, ancient, malfunctioning sewage plant. Hurricane Sandy aftermath. I am really happy to see young people volunteering in this way.
Last but not least, congratulations again to all the nominees and winners of the Jamaica Blog Awards 2012 (including myself, I guess!) I don’t want to single anyone out but there is much talent and enthusiasm among our young blogging community! I witnessed that last night at the awards. But next time, perhaps, a better venue for the celebration!
Finally, Diane Abbott (a Jamaican-born Member of Parliament in the UK – she was my MP once!) stated simply in the Sunday Observer why the murder of an eight-year-old British citizen in Jamaica was major news over there: “As long as the shooting of children in Jamaica makes front-page news in Britain, Jamaica will pay a high economic price for the failure to bring violent crime under control.”
On that note, my deepest condolences to the grieving families of all those who lost their lives to violence last week – including those killed by the police, who shot four more Jamaican citizens dead, in alleged “shootouts.” The sad list of names is below. Others who were murdered last week were a thirty-year-old registered nurse; the Director of Corporate Services at the Ministry of Youth and Culture; a businessman and licensed firearm holder who killed the man who robbed him in a popular jogging area in Kingston; and a man who had already received gunshot wounds and was lying in bed in a ward at the May Pen Hospital. All precious lives lost. And, by the way, how did a policeman only get fifteen months in jail for deliberately shooting a man (not in self-defense, as he claimed) and then kicking him repeatedly when he fell to the ground? I don’t understand the technicalities of it. But. I dunno.
I dunno. On that note I will end!
Those who died violently this week:
Eurick Brown, 16, Half Way Tree, Kingston
Christopher Bingham, Constant Spring, Kingston
Winston Joseph, Constant Spring, Kingston
Unidentified man, Merrivilla Road, Kingston 5
Sean Thompson, 45, Angels Estate, St. Catherine
Audrey Barrett, 47, St. John’s Road/Spanish Town, St. Catherine
Shellian Pinnock-Lafayette, 30, Farmer’s Heights, St. Mary
Milton Lue, 44, Gayle, St. Mary
Courtney Patterson, 28, Wentworth, St. Mary
Unidentified man, Montego Bay, St. James
Nicolas Chambers, 21, Salt Marsh, Trelawny
Xavier Lewis, Duncans, Trelawny
Adif Washington, 36, May Pen Hospital, Clarendon
Neil Virgo, 38, Unity Primary School, Westmoreland
Killed by police:
Tevin Rose, 19, Payne Land, Kingston
Shoyan Bird, Payne Land, Kingston
Leslie Miller, Montego Bay, St. James
Raul Reid, 22, Savannah-la-Mar, Westmoreland
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/witter-apologizes-for-non-delivery-of-long-awaited-tivoli-report Witter apologizes for non-delivery of long-awaited report: RJR News
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/plans-being-made-to-hasten-tivoli-report Plans being made to hasten Tivoli report: RJR News
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130119/lead/lead1.html ”Dirty secret”: Tavares-Finson calls for public judicial enquiry in Tivoli killings: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=42247 Imani Green family not scammers: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130117/lead/lead1.html Cops embrace INDECOM; Commission notes improvements, but still wants more: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130117/lead/lead3.html Groups call for greater accountability for police killings: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130117/lead/lead6.html INDECOM probes safety measures employed for murdered patient: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=42270 Licensed firearm holder, gunman killed in Kingston: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Murder-in-Angels-_13430942 Murder in Angels: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Nurse-slain_13426035 Registered midwife gunned down near St. Mary home: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130119/news/news4.html Cop jailed for unlawful wounding: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130120/lead/lead2.html Fear fuels not-guilty verdicts: Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130117/cleisure/cleisure3.html Stop ridiculing the poor and vulnerable: Jaevion Nelson op-ed: Gleaner
http://www.unicef.org/jamaica/early_childhood_13951.htm UNICEF calls for continued efforts to reduce child mortality
http://jamaica-star.com/thestar/20130118/news/news5.html Calabar students rushed to hospital after brawl: Jamaica Star
http://www.caribjournal.com/2013/01/15/op-ed-medical-tourism-in-the-caribbean/ Op-ed: Medical tourism in the Caribbean: Caribbean Journal
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130117/cleisure/cleisure1.html The potential of rare-earth metals: Gleaner editorial
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/-Hold-the-applause-_13415326 ”Hold the applause”: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/environment/Gov-t-losing-billion-_13431006 Government losing billions: Jamaica delays action on environment protocol to its detriment: Sunday Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/environment/Gov-t-hunts-grant-funding-to-solve-Negril-s-problems_13286262 Government hunts grant funding to solve Negril’s problems: Sunday Observer
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/nswma-reports-garbage-pile-up-cleared NSWMA reports garbage pile-up cleared: RJR News
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130116/business/business1.html Jamalco plans US$26mil temp fix to energy problem – source says future plans include coal-fired plant: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=42370 Jamaica’s dry tropical forest under threat – Tavares-Finson: Sunday Gleaner)
http://go-jamaica.com/news/read_article.php?id=42351 Logistics Hub public consultations to begin this week: Gleaner/Go-Jamaica
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/another-setback-vaz-forbes-and-bicknell-case Another setback in Vaz, Forbes and Bicknell case: RJR News
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130117/letters/letters7.html Holness didn’t push GG to force government’s hand: Letter from Governor General‘s office to Gleaner
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/former-railway-workers-give-government-ultimatum Former railway workers give government ultimatum: RJR News
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130120/out/out3.html#.UPwUrRtOPAI.facebook Paulwell’s rip-roaring shindig: Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130116/letters/letters3.html Al Miller’s parallel universe: Letter to the Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130117/letters/letters5.html Mediocrity is PM’s mantra: Letter to the Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130119/lead/lead2.html Legalize ganja for medicinal purposes, says Brown Burke: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130116/news/news1.html Family cancels Christmas celebration to help needy: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/teenage/50-schools-to-receive-literacy-boost-through–Nominate-2-Educate–campaign_13372443 50 schools to receive literacy boost through Nominate 2 Educate campaign: Observer TeenAge
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/teenage/Digicel-pays-busfares-for-300–students_13384784 Digicel pays bus fares for 300 students: Observer TeenAge
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/teenage/Youth-groups-assist-in-clean-up-exercise-of-Port-Maria-Primary_13385189 Youth groups assist in clean-up exercise of Port Maria Primary: Observer TeenAge
What is Tambrin (Tamarind) Season? It is the time of year when Jamaica changes down to a low gear. After Christmas, businesses don’t do so well. People have no money in their pockets, and bills to pay. Jobs are fewer. Now, the tamarind is a delicious fruit that is not greatly used in Jamaican cuisine, unfortunately – except to make the delicious sweet/sour tamarind balls. There was quite a large tamarind tree near our house, which was cut down years ago to facilitate the building of yet another gated community. It bears from January to March, when other fruits are scarce. So, this is the season.
But in some areas, Jamaica has started its tambrin season in a far from low-key fashion. As I noted last week, the Jamaica Constabulary Force and Ministry of National Security kicked off 2013 with a veritable barrage of press releases, speeches and announcements. Unfortunately, it has been accompanied by a literal barrage of gunshots. The Jamaica Constabulary Force has killed eighteen civilians since the start of the year. This may actually exceed the number of murders in 2013 so far.
The latest was the killing of three men in upper St. Andrew, a mile or so from my house, yesterday morning. The word soon got around to avoid the area as gunshots had been heard. Two of the dead men were from the adjoining “inner city” area of Grants Pen – which has seen many troubles – and one was from an “upscale” area called Smokey Vale; one of the men was apparently his golf caddy. Now, of course all of these men may have been hardened “bad men” and they may have been carrying guns; but whether they were or not, why kill them? Oh yes, it was probably a “shootout” - the usual description of such an encounter between police and civilians (although, interestingly, it is extremely rare for a policeman to be injured, let alone killed in these alleged “shootouts.”) And the men were probably “wanted men.” We are always told that after their blood has already stained the sidewalk and their bodies have already been thrown into the back of a police jeep. They never got their day in court.
I shall leave it at that. Judge for yourself, dear reader. But please, let’s think about where we are going with all of this. If the police continues at the same rate, they will have dispatched 547 civilians by the end of 2013.
It was a sad week all round, actually. An eight-year-old girl was caught in gunfire while standing near a little shop near Duncans, Trelawny on Friday evening; she was killed, and three others injured. When it transpired that the girl was a British citizen, National Security Minister Peter Bunting immediately issued a press release expressing shock and regret. The little girl, a sickle cell sufferer, had been brought to Jamaica by relatives to get some warm weather (the cold affects sicklers very badly). How tragic. And how very sad, too, that Minister Bunting could not express the same kind of heartfelt regret at the murders of a humble, hard-working, middle-aged Jamaican couple who ran a shop in rural St. Mary, a few days earlier.
To me, the loss of each one of these lives is a tragedy: whether man or woman, child or adult, British or Jamaican, good citizen or “bad man.”
Meanwhile, with a remarkable lack of sensitivity in its headline, the Sunday Observer cries out today, “Who would kill this child?” with a photo of the adorable infant killed by her mother a few days ago. The media really needs to explore the issue of mental health in Jamaica. This is another one that has been pushed under the carpet over the years. The mother was likely suffering from postpartum depression and already had some problems. Her supportive partner had always ensured that she took her medication and recognized that her mental health had deteriorated, but it was still not enough. Sadly, many Jamaicans with mental health issues do not seek help, go untreated and are often ignored and/or stigmatized. I think the well-meaning Health Minister Fenton Ferguson is fully aware of the problem, and the current head of the Medical Association of Jamaica (MAJ) is a well-known psychiatrist. They need to work together on this one – a public awareness program on mental health would be a good way to start.
Which leads me straight into the next painful issue that I regret I must at least touch on today: the issue of children in adult prisons and lock-ups. I addressed this two days ago in a separate blog post. But last week, another girl at the Fort Augusta women’s prison attempted suicide. A couple of weeks before that, three girls were transferred from the maximum-security Horizon Remand Centre after they were suspected of planning to commit suicide by hoarding pills. In the face of the continued and unrelenting criticism of her performance as Youth and Culture Minister, the glamorous Ms. Hanna is today visiting the two prisons where children are kept behind bars, with the afore-mentioned MAJ head and other psychiatrists in tow. I hope – I truly do hope – that this is not a PR exercise or a photo-op (I am sure Ms. Hanna will be beautifully dressed. She always is). We await the results of this high-powered visit. And I hope this is not her first visit to the incarcerated children.
Another tactic that the lovely Minister Hanna has adopted within her Ministry was the topic of a Gleaner editorial yesterday. In order to counteract declining morale in the Ministry, Ms. Hanna brought in a religious person and many containers of salt. Yes, salt. I understand that salt has cleansing properties, and guards against bad luck. So, with a combination of organized religion and superstition, Ms. Hanna has sought to address the problems affecting her office. Perhaps, instead, she could have brought in a motivational speaker – you know, one of those upbeat people who have you all down on your knees or hopping around on one leg or something to get you inspired and motivated to work harder and love all your colleagues. Or bring in a counselor or two to have an open chat with the employees about the problems they are having. This story may well have been exaggerated – possibly circulated by someone who has a personal animus against Ms. Hanna. But if it is even remotely true, it raises the perennial question of the line between church and state. Why does religion – one particular religion, as we are told Jamaica is “predominantly” Christian – have to enter the workplace, meetings etc; and why, in particular, in a government office? (Oh, and is it true that each employee had to keep a container of salt on their desk?)
By the way, Ms. Hanna has reportedly never got back to Mustard Seed Communities, who immediately offered to assist with providing care and shelter for the imprisoned girls following the death of Vanessa Wint last November, and presented her with a proposal. Not a word.
Goodness me, I nearly forgot to give you a follow-up on the Prime Minister’s televised address, which took place one week ago. As I noted last week, anticipation began to soar ahead of the evening broadcast. I have posted the link again, below. The broadcast was partly a “report card” (that expression irritates me, not sure why) on the government’s first year in office. It was a list of notable (and some not so notable) achievements. But it appears that Jamaicans did not want to be told about how many tourist arrivals we are expecting from Russia; or even how many teachers were trained last year (are there jobs for them?) They wanted to hear about 1) how the talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) are progressing; 2) what serious prospects there are for more jobs and 3) what is happening in the economy in general. There was some information (mostly already announced) about major infrastructural projects in the pipeline; an exhortation to “unite and build”; the inevitable Bible reference – Old Testament is always preferable; quotes from the lyrics of a Jimmy Cliff song; and even the oft-repeated platitude that “children are our future.” That was it. And in passing, the Prime Minister mentioned that the Jamaican Dollar slipped, and the Net International Reserves “dipped.” Did this happen all by itself, Madam Prime Minister? They just decided to slip and dip?
Despite party loyalist Delano Franklyn’s valiant efforts to defend the Prime Minister’s address, the fact is that it went down like a lead balloon. Not only among the general public, but in the private sector sphere. Head of the powerful Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ) Christopher Zacca made a hard-hitting speech following the address, during which he referred to what he called a “seemingly unexplainable lack of widespread public discourse by the Government, Prime Minister and other members of the Cabinet” on the details of the IMF situation. And Mr. Zacca believes that going ahead without such an agreement “risks plunging us into the abyss…” You can see the link to the full text of his speech, below.
Poor Portia. Everything about her address was up for criticism – even her yellow attire (daffodil yellow was the “Portia color“ adopted by her supporters during election campaigns). But instead of taking it on the chin, as every politician and public figure around the world has to do, our Prime Minister decided to “fight back” (to use a favorite media expression) at what she called her “naysayers” and “detractors” in her address. And she should not have gone down that road. Next time, perhaps, she will be calling her critics “haters.” Anyway, in a speech a few days later, Ms. Simpson Miller told us that she does not watch the television news; she has others (including her husband) to do that. Why? Because she wants to “remain positive.”
This, of course, made matters worse.
Meanwhile, the Cabinet went into a three-day retreat this week. In a huge effort to communicate, it has been issuing regular bulletins about the excellent progress made. The Prime Minister and other ministers are to inform us all tomorrow on what was decided, and what is the way forward. We eagerly await this press briefing, and the subsequent actions.
By the way, if you have ventured downtown, you may observe that things are pretty chaotic. Not only is the long-running lack of garbage collection a major issue there and around the country; but something has gone wrong with the street vendors. Since Christmas, the seemingly desperate vendors have been throwing down their goods on the sidewalk. They have been playing a cat and mouse game with the police, who have been called in to deal with them. A somewhat heavy-handed approach, one might think, to a situation which has already got out of hand. I can see the thinly veiled desperation in the faces of the vendors when they speak on television. They have pickney going to school, they say. They didn’t do well over the festive season. Nevertheless… there must be some order. A plan. Something, Madam Mayor?
A couple more things: Nationwide News Network reporter George Davis wrote in his regular Gleaner column about the way in which hours are wasted by lazy employees in the public sector. He was, he said, speaking from his own experience and observations as a former employee. The column made me laugh, but had a depressing ring of truth to it. It is all about productivity, a topic not regularly referred to in discussions on the economy. As one caller to a radio talk show questioned, how come we have 37,000 farmers in Jamaica, and agriculture only contributes six per cent to our Gross Domestic Product?
When a country has more weighty political, economic and social matters to address, environmental issues tend to get left behind. But I was most disturbed to hear that an exporter had forty containers full of charcoal ready to ship? The Jamaica Environment Trust has raised the alarm on this, and the National Environment & Planning Agency (NEPA) has, to its credit, stepped in to prevent this ever happening again. I have been quite impressed by comments made by NEPA head Peter Knight, backed by the Forestry Department, on this issue. NEPA has written to the Customs Department asking them to prevent this shipment. Hopefully this is one thing that will be nipped in the bud.
And on a more “positive” note, to quote the Prime Minister:
I am so happy to hear that the dreaded Lionfish, which has been plaguing our waters and gobbling up all our native fish, is now on the decline along our north and north-west coasts. Congratulations to the University of the West Indies Discovery Bay Marine Laboratory and Field Station and Sandals Resorts, who are at the forefront of the battle against this invasive species, supported by non-governmental organizations such as the Caribbean Coastal Area Conservation Foundation (C-CAM).
I like the political commentary of the Gleaner’s Gary Spaulding. Please see the link below. He gets to the heart of things. (And is the Prime Minister’s problem that she is getting bad advice from a multitude of advisers? Astute commentator and former Opposition minister Christopher Tufton seems to think so).
Mr. Usain Bolt says he is not tired of receiving all kinds of awards. On Friday night, he and Ms. Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce received RJR’s prestigious Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year Awards – predictably, and most deservedly. We are very proud of them both not only for their achievements, but for being such decent, warm-hearted individuals. I totally love them (teenage expression!)
Well, so ends the second week of 2013. I am really, really hoping for better in the second half of this month.
P.S. A deejay called Dillinger did a great song called “Tambrin’ Season,” if you enjoy a bit of dub as I do.
P.P.S. My friend, author, social media expert and businesswoman extraordinaire Marcia Forbes just suggested that I do my weekly blog in two parts. It’s a bit long, isn’t it? I will start doing that next week, I think.
Finally, as always, my deepest condolences to the family and friends of all those who lost their lives violently this week. Words cannot express the grief and suffering.
Larry Chin, 47, May Pen, Clarendon
Anthony Rambalam, 53, Rosemount/Linstead, St. Catherine
Ivey Rambalam, 52, Rosemount/Linstead, St. Catherine
Imani Green, 8, British citizen, Red Dirt/Duncans, Trelawny
Peter Maxwell, teenager, Savannah-la-Mar, Westmoreland
Unidentified man, Belvedere, Hanover
Killed by security forces (I am sorry, this list is not 100% accurate; any corrections welcome. I simply lost track):
Jermaine Campbell, Whithorn District, Westmoreland
3 unidentified men, May Pen, Clarendon
Agronomy District, Clarendon
Rivoli, St. Catherine
Duncan’s Pen, St. Catherine
Unidentified man, Bartons, St. Catherine
Unidentified man, Port Henderson Road, Portmore, St. Catherine
Unidentified man, Port Henderson Road, Portmore, St. Catherine
Kenrick Morris, 28, Lilliput, St. James
Eucliffe Dyer, Arcadia Drive, Kingston 8
“Ratty,” Arcadia Drive, Kingston 8
Matthew Lee, Arcadia Drive, Kingston 8
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/The-reality-of-Jamaica-s-debt-crisis_13350521 (The reality of Jamaica’s debt crisis: Jamaica Observer editorial)
http://www.caribjournal.com/2013/01/11/dennis-chung-avoiding-economic-and-social-decline-in-jamaica/ (Avoiding economic and social decline in Jamaica: Dennis Chung/Carib Journal)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130110/cleisure/cleisure4.html (Human rights just as important as IMF: Jaevion Nelson op-ed/Gleaner)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=42191 (Police kill ten civilians in ten days: Gleaner)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130113/lead/lead2.html (Cops kill eighteen in twelve days: Sunday Gleaner)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120307/lead/lead3.html (Police killings spark outrage: Gleaner, March 7, 2012)
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/INDECOM-jump-starts-cold-case-files_13362585 (INDECOM jump starts cold case files: Sunday Observer)
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Grief-in-Rosemount-as-residents-mourn-murder-of-couple_13351587 (Grief in Rosemount as residents mourn murder of couple: Observer)
http://go-jamaica.com/news/read_article.php?id=42182 (Long-awaited Tivoli report ready: Gleaner/Power 106 FM)
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/yale-students-file-suit-against-dea-to-release-tivoli-tapes (Yale students file suit against DEA to release Tivoli tapes: RJR News)
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Gang-feud-puts-Tivoli-Gardens-on-edge_13346079 (Gang feud puts Tivoli Gardens on edge: Jamaica Observer)
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/grieving-mother-still-hopes-for-justice (Grieving mother still hopes for justice: RJR)
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/Melvin-Chung-s-death-goes-deep_13339337 (Melvin Chung’s death goes deep: Letter to Jamaica Observer)
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/How-could-anyone-kill-this-baby- (How could anyone kill this baby? Sunday Observer)
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-21002359 (Imani Green Jamaica killing: “Happy girl,” eight, shot dead: BBC News)
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/-We-are-still-waiting-_13346061 (“We are still waiting: Government yet to take up Mustard Seed’s offer: Jamaica Observer)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130112/cleisure/cleisure1.html (How much religion is too much? Gleaner editorial)
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/list/32668 (National Broadcast by Prime Minister Simpson Miller: Jamaica Information Service)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130113/letters/letters4.html (Disillusioned by Prime Minister’s address: Letter to the Sunday Gleaner)
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Vision-and-strategy-are-still-misunderstood_13358995 (Vision and strategy are still misunderstood: James Moss-Solomon column/Sunday Observer)
http://www.televisionjamaica.com/Programmes/PrimeTimeNews.aspx/Videos/23431 (Television Jamaica’s Bite of the Week: Portia Simpson Miller)
http://www.cvmtv.com/videos_1.php?id=591§ion=watch (CVM Television News Watch: January 9, 2013)
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/list/32720 (Good progress made at Special Meeting of the Cabinet, says PM Simpson Miller: Jamaica Information Service)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130113/cleisure/cleisure1.html (Cabinet must be ready to “re-retreat”: Sunday Gleaner editorial)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130113/cleisure/cleisure3.html (Political turning points: column by Gary Spaulding/Sunday Gleaner)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130113/focus/focus5.html (Fumbling Portia should loosen grip of political advisers: op-ed by Christopher Tufton/Sunday Gleaner)
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/list/32704 (Leaders to pray for more love on January 17: Jamaica Information Service)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=42216 (Prison officials confirm ward’s suicide attempt: Gleaner)
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/youth-minister-to-lead-visit-to-prisons (Youth Minister to lead visit to prisons: RJR News)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130113/lead/lead4.html (Grading the Cabinet – responses: Sunday Gleaner)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130109/cleisure/cleisure2.html (In the office but not on the job: George Davis op-ed/Gleaner)
http://www.psoj.org/files/s_to_the_Lions_Club_of_Kingston__2013_01_09_.pdf (Address by PSOJ President Christopher Zacca to Lion’s Club, January 9, 2013)
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/ocgs-utterances-could-damage-countrys-image-atkinson (OCG’s utterances could damage country’s image – Atkinson: RJR News)
http://www.og.nr/rbt/11035-dean-of-discipline-at-rusea-s-high-chopped-during-attack.html (Dean of Discipline at Rusea’s High chopped during attack: On the Ground News Reports)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130109/letters/letters1.html (Chavez no paragon of virtue: Letter to the Editor/Gleaner)
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/list/32694 (U.S. solar technology company to employ Jamaicans: Jamaica Information Service)
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/-We-are-going-to-lose-our-forests-_13355374 (“We are going to lose our forests”: Jamaica Observer)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=42202 (Environmental group concerned about charcoal exports: Gleaner)
The New Year is a funny time, isn’t it? We all feel we should be doing something bright and new, starting a fresh chapter in our lives. And many of us do.
Well, governments are no different. So early last week, the Jamaican Government started the New Year with a bang. The Minister of National Security Peter Bunting announced a “significant” reduction in major crimes in 2012 compared to the previous year (as noted in last week’s blog post – including a four per cent reduction in murders). He praised the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) for this achievement; and the JCF deserves praise, indeed. Half-way through last year, murders were up by seven per cent – so the second half of 2012 saw much improvement. In mid-2011 the JCF noted, however, that major crimes had fallen to an eight-year low. Of course, the police want to tout their successes; it’s morale-building, and even if some Jamaicans are not particularly encouraged by these figures, it shows a slow but steady progress in the right direction. I have added Minister Bunting’s Sunday Gleaner article below (in case you missed it last week) in which he sets out the many challenges. However, as the Gleaner noted last week, a far more drastic reduction will have to take place for Mr. Bunting to achieve his goal of twelve murders per 100,000 by 2016. We are currently at around 40 murders per 100,000 – a good reduction from a few years back, but still pretty much up there in terms of global statistics. Last year, our murder rate was still the third highest in the world. So yes, it’s good – but no room for complacency.
So for three consecutive nights last week, the television stations played excerpts of a speech by Minister Bunting, in which he extolled the virtues of the “crime-fighting“ effort. Rather embarrassingly, the crime rate in the area he represents as Member of Parliament (Central Manchester, including the once-sleepy town of Mandeville) has risen. The new police chief in the area is Derrick Knight. The media insist on including his nickname, “Cowboy,” in his name, which I find unfortunate. Do we really want to foster a “Wild West” culture in our police force? Let’s drop it.
Then the figures for the number of police killings were released. Unfortunately, this created confusion. I haven’t quite sorted it out in my own head, yet. It appears though that figures released by the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) showing a slight increase in extra-judicial killings were based on records provided by the JCF (who noted a very small decrease in the number). INDECOM is now getting good support from the British Government over the next three years, which is excellent. This agency did not actually come into being until April 2011, so had to depend on the JCF for the figures for a while. But from now on, says INDECOM, they will keep their own records. Suffice it to say: Every year for the past ten years or more, agents of the state have killed at least 200 Jamaican citizens annually. Last year was no exception. March 2012 was the worst month, when the police killed 35. And it’s still much, much too high. (By the way, The worst year this century has been 2007 – an election year – with 272 civilians killed).
INDECOM is, however, severely limited not only by human and other resources, but also by the fact that it is endlessly waiting for medical and ballistics reports. Huge delays are the order of the day.
And over seventy Jamaicans died in Tivoli Gardens in May, 2010 during the so-called “incursion” by security forces – police and the Jamaica Defence Force. These weren’t included in that year’s figures. This reminds me: What is happening at the Public Defender‘s office? Last I heard, the Speaker of the House of Representatives Michael Peart told everyone the interim report on the Tivoli Gardens massacre (my word for it) would be ready in two weeks. It just needed to be collated and printed (what about email, I wonder?) Those were his words on December 5, 2012. Therefore, if I can count correctly, the report should have been made available on December 19, 2012. Can we have some news, please? Or are we going to wait until the third anniversary?
When we talk about crime, let us not just think of murders; let us think about law and order. This is still a huge issue and it encompasses many different situations that Jamaicans find themselves in, day to day. In her inaugural speech exactly one year ago, Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller said:“On my watch, I pledge that the rule of law will be paramount.” This is something the police have to wrestle with – as well as many Jamaicans, who should know better but can’t somehow resist leaning in the wrong direction. You know what I mean. Let’s do better. Let’s not jump the line. Let’s just be cool.
And talking about crime… I had never heard the expression “praedial larceny“ before I lived in Jamaica. It means theft, in the agricultural context. It is an absolute plague for farmers; it nearly breaks my heart when I see a farmer on television weeping over the loss of his/her goats or other animals – which are sometimes dismembered on the spot by the thieves before they pack the meat into the back of a car. Truly, this does sound like the cattle rustlers of the Wild West. These criminals are depriving people of their entire livelihood (which sometimes only depends on a few animals), leaving them destitute and desperate. Recently, thieves stole 32 heads of cattle from a farm in St. James. And almost every week warnings go out about large vegetable crops that have been stolen when they have just been sprayed with pesticide and are therefore harmful to eat. Now in the Sunday Gleaner, the excellent reporter on rural issues and agriculture, Christopher Serju, says a senior police officer told him that the police do not consider this a serious crime. There are few records kept of this constant thieving, week in, week out. It is a disgrace. What does the Agriculture Minister have to say about it? For years, we have heard about new “plans” to deal with praedial larceny. Much hand-wringing, speechifying and big headlines – something must be done. But guess what? Nothing is done. Read Chris’ article, below. He has seen it for himself, for years.
“Politricks” news of the week: The Office of the Contractor General has recommended the entire Cabinet for prosecution – yes, the entire Cabinet. Acting Contractor General Craig Beresford (who took over after the high-profile Greg Christie stepped down) issued a press statement on January 2 saying his office has referred the Cabinet “for its collective failure to comply with several lawful requisitions of a contractor general.” The Cabinet apparently did not submit certain reports on time, says Mr. Beresford, despite reminders. The ever-cool and deliberate Director of Public Prosecutions, Paula Llewellyn, says she will be taking her time over this one. Meanwhile, I get the feeling that over the past year the relationship between Mr. Beresford’s office and the Simpson Miller administration has been far from comfortable. This is despite the fact that, in the last televised leadership debate in December 2011, Ms. Simpson Miller pledged to “strengthen” the Contractor General’s office. Actions by the Government so far seem to indicate the opposite… Or am I missing something?
News hangover of the week: The issue of the tax amnesty for those who have outstanding traffic tickets has progressed from the ridiculous to the “I just can’t take it any more” stage. It has now emerged that there are major discrepancies in the database. Many Jamaicans who have paid their tickets are coming up as not having paid, for example. As a result, there was growing frustration among Jamaicans, who continued to run up and down from one government office to another in the hot sun, with scraps of paper in their hand. What puzzles me is how so many Jamaicans can receive traffic tickets from the police for various traffic offenses and not pay them? One taxi driver has hundreds outstanding, amounting to millions of dollars in fines! Having said that, I still have a great liking for the no-nonsense head of the Traffic Division, Senior Superintendent Radcliffe Lewis – who has a great turn of phrase, too. I wish I could give you a couple of his best sound-bytes. Anyway, he has given everyone two more weeks – I think that is until the end of next week. Another panic will then ensue. It really is a lesson in not only incompetence (the database is clearly corrupted, or something) – but more importantly, a lesson in how Jamaicans behave in such situations. Can’t we curb this “last-minute” mentality?
A quiver of doubt about… A comment made by Minister of Education Ronald Thwaites, who seems to have got into a bit of conflict with some sports administrators over an issue involving the transfer of student athletes from one high school to another. It appears that Minister Thwaites does not approve of this. His philosophy is: “You must grow where you are planted” (his words). I don’t know anything about the complexities of school sports, but found this comment rather perturbing. This comes from a man from one of Jamaica’s most privileged families (not just middle class – I would say, upper class) and a Rhodes Scholar. Of course he could happily stay where he was planted but…he must surely understand the value of young people seizing their educational opportunities. Did I read this wrong?
That’s enough of that. I’m handing out more bouquets this week, including some to the media!
The Gleaner newspaper has started a new feature on its website called The Gleaner Minute - a mini-synopsis of the week’s news narrated by Power 106 FM’s Damion Mitchell (one of my favorite radio voices). Take a look at the link below; it’s a nice innovation.
CVM Television’s Andrew Cannon did a very good job with a series aired in place of the excellent “Live at Seven” last week, including thoughtful interviews. The series was called “Schooling for a Nation.” Balanced and thought-provoking.
And I have to give diGJamaica another plug! At http://www.digjamaica.com you will have all kinds of information on Jamaica at your fingertips. I applaud Ms. Deika Morrison, the brains behind this venture. It’s an invaluable resource for researchers, students, journalists and anyone interested in our fair island. Check it out!
I also have to rather belatedly give two of our leading athletes a pat on the back. Warren Weir (whom few of us had heard of before he won a bronze medal in the 100 meters at the London Olympics) proposed to his sweetheart with a beautiful cake inscribed: “Will You Marry Me?” OK, I get a bit sentimental sometimes; but this was so sweet. Good luck to them both.
And Mr. Bolt: Big hugs to you for giving back to the small rural community where you grew up. I am sure the men, women and children of Sherwood Content really enjoyed the treat you offered. Keep up the good work, and never forget where you came from, oh Famous One!
There has been “nuff excitement” in the past week or so. If you think Jamaica has finished its seasonal partying, no – they aren’t done yet. Hundreds of uptown Kingstonians squeezed onto a small scrap of sand known as Maiden Cay, just outside Kingston Harbour, for the annual party. Most preferred to arrive in one of the many yachts lined up near the cay; and many had to stand up to their waists in water due to the lack of dry land. With global warming and sea levels rising faster than expected, who knows? Next year they might be partying up to their necks. But so long as they can hold a bottle or a can of something alcoholic, they probably won’t be bothered. (The Observer website has suddenly got issues, otherwise I would be posting here photos of all the lightly-clad bodies standing up in the water, and the row of gleaming white yachts).
And then, to everyone’s surprise, the erstwhile king of hip-hop (whom I always call Puff Daddy, but I know he isn’t) landed in Kingston on Saturday night with a former world boxing champion Lennox Lewis. He took the Limelight Club in Half Way Tree by storm, where a deejay “clash” was in progress (for those of you who don’t know what a clash is, see a link to my recent article below on Jamaica’s seasonal entertainment scene).
My applause is long overdue, too, for U.S. Ambassador to Jamaica Pamela Bridgewater, who opened her home again to around one hundred children from marginalized communities for a Christmas treat, aided and abetted by U.S. Embassy volunteers and the Ambassador’s lovely staff. She also again visited the Glenhope Place of Safety, which has been really spruced up since the distressing fire of 2011, together with the Embassy’s U.S. Marine representatives, bearing toys for these abandoned and needy children under their annual “Toys for Tots” toy drive.
Now (last but by no means least), a highly-anticipated broadcast address to the nation by our Prime Minister was aired last night. You can find the video link and transcript below. The initial reaction was one of disappointment. Members of the public interviewed on Television Jamaica news last night were hoping to hear more about what the government plans to do about crime, the economy, and “The IMF! The IMF!” They were, perhaps, looking for reassurance, for a clear path to pursue, for a way forward, for action taken or to be taken very soon. Were their expectations unreasonable? Did they want too much? And did this address actually do more harm than good – that is, reinforce a perception among many Jamaicans that the Prime Minister is distant and not addressing the concerns of the man/woman on the street? The verdict is still out.
Finally, and perhaps in the context of the people’s disappointment with the address, my quote of the week from Lord Bishop of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands (and Sunday Observer columnist) Howard Gregory: “The potential for alienation of a people from their own society is indeed great, and is indeed happening.”
These Jamaicans lost their lives at the hands of their fellow-Jamaicans during the week. My deepest condolences to family, friends and loved ones.
Melvin Chung, 52, East Street, Kingston
Unidentified man, Olympic Way, Kingston
Omar Bennett, 32, Lacovia, St. Elizabeth
Renford Williams, 66, Old Harbour, St. Catherine
Kevar Watson, 25, Bartons, St. Catherine
Dave Rowe, 36, Old Harbour, St. Catherine
Norman Simpson, Old Harbour, St. Catherine
Killed by the police:
Ricardo Allen, Greater Portmore, St. Catherine
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20121230/cleisure/cleisure2.html (Significant progress made in reducing major crimes: op-ed by Peter Bunting, Sunday Gleaner)
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Well-known-Kingston-businessman-gunned-down–robbed_13322410 (Well-known businessman gunned down, robbed: Sunday Observer)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130103/cleisure/cleisure1.html (Does Mr. Bunting still hold to his target? Gleaner editorial)
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/editorial/Greater-effort-needed–but-well-done–JCF_13281549 (Greater effort needed, but well done JCF: Observer editorial)
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/iachr-concerned-about-alarming-level-of-violence (IACHR concerned about “alarming level of violence”: RJR News)
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/-I-want-to-see-Jamaica-nicer-_13318653 ”I want to see Jamaica nicer”: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=42105 (INDECOM blames JCF for faulty figures on police killings: Gleaner)
http://petchary.wordpress.com/2012/12/01/tivoli-gardens-on-may-24-2010-the-people-were-deading/ (Tivoli Gardens: On May 24, 2010 The People were “Deading”)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20121206/lead/lead4.html (Tivoli report in two weeks: Gleaner, December 6, 2012)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20100808/lead/lead5.html (Trigger-happy cops? More than 2,000 civilians killed in alleged gun battles with the police between 1999 and 2009: Gleaner)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130106/cleisure/cleisure2.html (Farm theft low priority for government: Christopher Serju op-ed: Sunday Gleaner)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120126/lead/lead9.html (Clarke urges cops to fight praedial larceny: Gleaner, January 26, 2012)
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/jfj-questions-appointment-of-sadie-keating-to-youth-ministry (JFJ questions appointment of Sadie Keating to Youth Ministry: RJR News)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=42134 (The Gleaner Minute: video)
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/tourism-ministry-explores-creation-of-entertainment-zones (Tourism Ministry explores creation of entertainment zones: RJR News)
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/specific-laws-needed-to-target-discrimination-golding (Specific laws needed to target discrimination – Golding: RJR News)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130106/focus/focus3.html (No justice for homosexuals: Rev. Clinton Chisholm column: Sunday Gleaner)
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/trafficking-in-persons-unit-cites-severe-limitations-in-prosecutions (Local Trafficking in Persons Unit cites severe limitations in prosecutions: RJR News)
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/shake-up-at-nswma-backlog-to-be-cleared-in-two-weeks (Shake-up at NSWMA, backlog to be cleared in two weeks: RJR News)
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/jcsa-wants-early-resumption-of-wage-talks (JCSA wants early resumption of wage talks: RJR News)
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/nwu-president-requests-meeting-with-finance-minister-re-imf (NWU president requests meeting with finance minister re: IMF: RJR News)
http://digjamaica.com/blog/2013/01/06/chart-of-the-week-december-31-2012-january-6-2013/ (Chart of the Week: Up, up and away – Jamaica’s sliding dollar: DiGJamaica.com)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=42115 (Chavez’ ill health makes Petro-Caribe pact uncertain: Gleaner)
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Waiting-to-exhale_13314022 (Waiting to exhale: Archbishop Howard Gregory column: Sunday Observer)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130106/cleisure/cleisure1.html (Cabinet should stay in retreat until it gets over cowardice: Sunday Gleaner editorial)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130106/focus/focus1.html (Corruption watchdog growls at Cabinet: Martin Henry column: Sunday Gleaner)
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/The-more-things–don-t–change—_13314028 (The more things (don’t) change: Claude Robinson column: Sunday Observer)
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/Let-s-end-our-relationship–PNP_13299043 (Let’s end our relationship, PNP: Letter to the Jamaica Observer)
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads/32665 (JEEP School Feeding Program starts this month: Jamaica Information Service)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130105/lead/lead4.html (The Next 50 Years: Moving Towards Greater Road Safety)
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/westernnews/Bolt-gives-back_13308257 (Bolt gives back: Observer)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130103/news/news2.html (Warren pops the question; Natalya says “yes”: Gleaner)
http://petchary.wordpress.com/2012/12/29/the-in-between-blues-freewheeling-down-to-2013/ (The In-Between Blues: Freewheeling down to 2013: petchary.wordpress.com)
I’m calling this “Sunday Sneezes” because I have been snuffling for the past few days with a seasonal bug. Not serious, but enough to irritate. My husband has been playing a Mariah Carey Christmas CD several times a day, which probably hasn’t helped…
Meanwhile, Christmas is in the air…isn’t it? Our usually-absent neighbors have finally come home to roost for a few days, and in uptown Kingston the little darlings of the privileged, who are all at school/college overseas are home for the holidays. The streets and shopping plazas are filled with struggling, sweating shoppers, most of whom can’t really afford Christmas shopping at all…
And the Prime Minister, Portia Simpson Miller, has been dancing “Gangnam Style.” I am not sure where this photo was taken, but I picked it up on Twitter. Rumors of our leader’s ill health are greatly exaggerated, perhaps… Well, it’s the time of year for having fun and forgetting our worries. Let’s postpone our looming crises until 2013, shall we?
Or can we? A former government minister, Claude Clarke, wants to know about the mission. “We’re on a Mission,” remember? That song that we have all forgotten about since August. Mr. Clarke takes a side swipe at the Simpson Miller administration’s recently tabled White Paper on tax reform, which he says merely “lays out an effective strategy for collecting as much taxes as possible. A framework for economic development it is not.” Taxation (in particular, the issuing of waivers and incentives) is a major area of concern for the International Monetary Fund, whose presence grows ever closer. One can almost feel their breath on our faces. In fact, the entire IMF team is riding on one of those elephants in Jamaica’s living room, now.
And it seems that the Minister of Finance is also feeling very uncomfortable. CVM Television reported the goodly minister tearing up at a Christmas treat in his constituency. He pointed out that he was wearing suit and tie to address the audience of mostly children with their mothers, because he had just come from an IMF meeting and was going back to one afterwards. The tears welled in his eyes as he said how good he felt to be there. The man is under severe pressure. And his counterpart, Opposition Finance Spokesman Audley Shaw, still maintains that there will be no agreement before December 31. Didn’t that always seem unlikely, though?
But hold on. Didn’t our Prime Minister say her administration would sign an agreement with the IMF two weeks after she came into office? But that was just campaign silliness. How churlish of me to bring it up…
Kudos though to Nationwide News Network, who have made a determined effort to wrestle with the economic elephant in the past week or two. Cliff Hughes and his intrepid co-presenters Emily Crooks and George Davis gathered together interesting and knowledgeable panelists for discussions on different aspects of the economic conundrum, including the tax waiver issue. They pointed out, though, that the Finance Minister declined all their invitations to participate in the discussions. I hope he was at least listening in…
Meanwhile, a real estate dealer is blaming the lack of an IMF agreement for his inability to sell telecoms giant Digicel’s buildings in New Kingston. Digicel is all set to move downtown, but has delayed the move until early next year. It is getting to that stage now… “When the agreement is signed…” Some are now saying “If the agreement is signed,” or even, “What if it isn’t signed?” Uncertainty is not healthy, and we are getting mixed signals – or no signals at all – from the political administration. As usual, I enjoy reading and listening to our calm, balanced financial analyst Dennis Chung, who is very good at summing up the situation in clear and simple terms.
The aforementioned Cliff Hughes says the last year has been “wasted political capital.” Certainly, it appears, the Prime Minister has not spent any of her substantial amount of PC. The Sunday Gleaner today seems to agree that she needs to open her purse and start spending it now. One thing she could do, the editors assert, is to pursue “full, candid and continuous communication” on the issue of public sector reform and other economic matters. We can’t beat about the bush any more, can we? Or we do so at our peril… As financial analyst Keith Collister (and others) have been saying for some time, “The time for action is now.” And keep us informed, please!
Crime is an issue. Yes, that particular elephant remains in the room, trunk swaying gently, despite the Jamaica Constabulary Force‘s year-end efforts to tout its successes. The picture has been very mixed in terms of major crimes, it seems. Clarendon has seen an upsurge (sadly it lost its highly effective police chief, who died suddenly and mysteriously in his 40s earlier this year – do we know the cause of death?) Other parishes have seen improvement; and as usual, beautiful Portland emerges as – by far – the Most Peaceful Parish.
In fact, by my weekly count, it has been the police who have killed the most Jamaicans this week. See the list below. I guess everyone is too busy with their Christmas socializing and credit cards to notice. (But they are only poor people anyway?) What is the reason for this sudden upsurge – eight Jamaicans shot dead by the police in a week? The Police Commissioner has been very quiet over an extended period of time – we finally heard from him this week. No word about police killings. Meanwhile, the Jamaica Observer only reports on the murder of middle-class Jamaicans, such as poor Jascinth Brae. Every death is a tragedy.
Meanwhile, on the political scene… The People’s National Party has given itself a big “thumbs up” for its performance after close to a year in office. It doesn’t seem to know (or care?) what the Jamaican people think. Has the PNP looked at what is being said in the social media recently? I think it should, and it hasn’t been pretty. Interestingly this week, two of our younger (and brighter) politicians, Christopher Tufton (Jamaica Labour Party) and Julian Robinson (my PNP Member of Parliament, actually) seem to agree on the need for a new political culture. Of course, this has been discussed a thousand times before; but things could change if politicians like Dr. Tufton (see his article below) started practicing what they preach. It might catch on. Pandering to the poor, as he puts it, needs to go out of the window, for a start.
Now to the Unfinished Business… Can you please tell me, Mr. Public Defender, Sir, what has happened to the interim report on the massacre in Tivoli Gardens in May 2010? Just to remind you, Speaker of the House of Representatives Michael Peart said on December 6 in Parliament that the report would be ready in two weeks. He may have a different calendar than me, but according to mine, it would have been due three days ago. Any word? Or are we too busy with Christmas? And if the report is complete, why is it necessary to print and “collate” hard copies? Hey, we have email!! And why should it take so long?
The other loose ends are the matter of the FINSAC Commission of Enquiry; and the issue of children in state care. Since the FINSAC débacle (I have to call it that) of the 1990s happened under a previous PNP administration, it is increasingly clear that this PNP administration is reluctant to see the enquiry concluded. So, it has not made the funds available for the commission to wind things up and print their report (which, one suspects, may not show the political leaders of the day in a very favorable light). However, the Association of FINSAC’d Entrepreneurs, many of whom were plunged into financial ruin by then Finance Minister Omar Davies’ actions, is not giving up. The Association is alleging that the government wants to keep the report secret. Meanwhile, the commissioners have reportedly requested an additional J$20 million to complete their work. But it’s hardly likely to be a priority for this administration…
Youth and Culture Minister Lisa Hanna finally spoke to the media properly this week at a press conference – where she was backed up by a protective Minister of Justice, who hovered in the background anxiously; and a stone-faced Commissioner of Corrections. Minister Hanna announced that a new correctional facility for girls is to be built – but where are the hundreds of millions of dollars to come from? Moreover, she is proposing to build juvenile holding centers for minors at police lock-ups. And the South Camp Correctional Centre (possibly one of the most unpleasant correctional centers in the island) is to be “upgraded” to accommodate young persons – something we already knew, but were not too happy with. But children are not supposed to be confined in adult facilities, Minister Hanna… Lobby group Jamaicans for Justice – which has been doggedly pursuing this issue – was not impressed – there were no timelines, no real commitments.
Since it’s now officially party time, I am not expecting anything anytime soon from the Public Defender’s office. Maybe by December 31? Meanwhile, the families of the more than seventy Jamaicans killed during the Tivoli “incursion” will spend another Christmas (the third) without any sense of closure or feeling that anyone cares… at all.
But so much to praise, this week… Firstly, it was an honor to spend time working with the JN Foundation and their volunteers (especially Neville Charlton and The Positive Organization, and the Jamaica National Building Society’s Corporate Communications Department). We had an amazing time with the Alpha Boys (who gave their own interesting interpretations of “Gangnam Style,” by the way). And the senior citizens at the Golden Age Home’s Cluster H thoroughly enjoyed their Christmas treat, with delicious ham, sorrel, songs, and even a fair bit of dancing… as well as holding hands. Congratulations to JN Foundation and all the other non-governmental organizations for the amazing work you do…
Panos Caribbean recently sent seven Jamaicans (two young politicians and five journalists) to Vancouver to study ways in which that liberal-minded Canadian city treats its marginalized populations, including sexual minorities. This excellent, focused non-governmental organization gave a press conference on their findings – although very few press representatives considered the issue important enough to turn up (not even the journalists’ own media houses). I am hoping to see much more about this Knowledge Exchange; the participants made some very interesting discoveries and there were many “aha!” moments. I will be writing about it shortly, so look out for a blog post! Meanwhile, congratulations to Panos’ Executive Director Jan Voorduow and the dedicated Indi McLymont for putting together such a meaningful project. You can read more here: https://www.facebook.com/notes/emma-caroline-lewis/jamaicans-participate-in-knowledge-exchange-with-vancouver-on-hiv-gay-stigmatiza/10151290664209555.
When I first visited the Hope Zoo, it was quite a depressing place. A lonely lion (now deceased) languished in a cage, and would roar for his supper every evening. Now the Hope Zoo Preservation Foundation (led by businessman Kenny Benjamin, who is known for his love of animals) has received J$25 million from local telecoms Flow for the ongoing upgrading of the zoo. There will be a strong educational component in Flow’s Learning and Resource Centre, to be established there. Many congratulations to Mr. Benjamin, the Foundation and Flow for your wonderful vision!
I applaud the two investors, Mark Tucci and his wife Frances, for supporting artist Ian “Ras Natango” Williams, his wife Tamika and son Ayale, owners of the Ras Natango Gallery and Garden in Camrose, near Montego Bay. They have bought them a really beautiful bus to transport tourists. For some time now I have been wondering why the Jamaica Tourist Board does not support lovely community tourism efforts like this. Tamika is herself an artist and teaches local children the value of art, conducting craft classes. She is also, like me, a great lover of birds and nature. Their garden is beautiful. Thank you, the Tuccis!
I have to ask, before I go…What IS going on at the Ministry of Health? Shouldn’t an alleged sexual harassment issue, which seems to have been going on for quite a while, be addressed as soon as possible? Somehow, the print media seem reluctant to investigate, but one television station is still asking questions…
And as the Ward Theatre celebrates 100 years, why is it now unusable? It’s tragic, says dramatist and creator of the annual pantomime Barbara Gloudon (and so do I). No wonder the celebrations were so low-key as to be almost non-existent. By the way, the new pantomime, “Skoolaz,” opens on Boxing Day at the Little Theatre and promises to be tremendous fun, as always.
By the way, do take a read of an article by Suzanne Charles-Watson (a member of the inestimable 51% Coalition, of which I have written before) – on gender and education. Note, for example, that in a recent review of Caribbean history text books, “Males were consistently afforded pride of place over women in terms of text and visuals.” The link is listed below. Much food for thought.
P.S. The good news is that the Mayan Apocalypse we were all looking forward to… never happened. Otherwise, I would, of course, not be writing this blog post, nor would you be reading it. It was the subject of many tweets this week. I just saw one from the Apocalypse itself (@kabooooooom): “Sorry everyone, running a bit late.”
Let’s not be late for 2013. My final Sunday post for the year will appear, all being well, on December 30.
My heart goes out to the families and friends of all those Jamaicans who lost their lives to violence in the past week. This is going to be a very hard Christmas for them. Please spare a thought for those who are sad, who are still grieving and missing loved ones during this period of festivities. It’s not a jolly, happy time for everyone.
Detective Corporal Ransford Durant, Windsor Heights, St. Ann
Richard Gibbs, 22, Montego Bay, St. James
Jascinth Brae, 37, Spanish Town, St. Catherine
Dennis Brown, 23, Norwood, St. James
Gregory Plummer, 31, Norwood, St. James
Unidentified woman, Palisadoes, Kingston
Carlos Baker, Albion/Montego Bay, St. James
Killed by the police:
Unidentified man, Causeway Fishing Village/Dyke Road, Portmore, St. Catherine
Unidentified man, Causeway Fishing Village/Dyke Road, St. Catherine
Unidentified man, Federal Gardens, Kingston
Dane Mason, Mountain View Avenue, Kingston
Wayne Brown, 39, Montpelier, St. Elizabeth
Unidentified man, Trench Town, Kingston
Laurent Lawrence, 22, Mandeville, Manchester
Leroy Campbell, 42, Mahogany Hill, St. Elixabeth
- Sunday Stupor: December 16, 2012 (petchary.wordpress.com)
- Sunday Wonders: November 25, 2012 (petchary.wordpress.com)
- Sunday Elephants: November 11, 2012 (petchary.wordpress.com)
- http://petchary.wordpress.com/2012/12/01/tivoli-gardens-on-may-24-2010-the-people-were-deading/ (Tivoli Gardens: On May 24, 2010, the people were “deading”: petchary.wordpress.com)
- http://petchary.wordpress.com/2012/12/21/they-always-come-at-christmas-the-jn-foundations-acton-volunteers/ (“They always come at Christmas”: The JN Foundation’s Act!on volunteers: petchary)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20121221/lead/lead4.html (PNP gives thumbs up to first year in power: Gleaner)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20121223/cleisure/cleisure1.html (The PM’s New Year resolution: Sunday Gleaner editorial)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20121223/focus/focus6.html (When the winner takes all – time to rethink our brand of competitive politics? Christopher Tufton op-ed, Sunday Gleaner)
- http://www.caribjournal.com/2012/12/21/op-ed-corruption-in-the-caribbean/ (Corruption in the Caribbean: David P. Rowe op-ed)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20121217/lead/lead1.html (Huge trade deficit: Gleaner)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20121220/lead/lead4.html (Moving cargo across Jamaica a hassle for freight stakeholders: Gleaner)
- http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/business/It-can-t-be-business-as-usual-in-Jamaica_13253996 (It can’t be business as usual in Jamaica: Keith Collister column: Observer)
- http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/business/The-economy-in-2013_13251784 (The economy in 2013: Dennis Chung column: Observer)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=41860 (Hylton responds to scrap metal concerns: Gleaner)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20121220/lead/lead1.html (No room for error: Government cautioned ahead of scrap metal trade reopening: Gleaner)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20121221/business/business3.html (Group alleges conspiracy of secrecy over delayed FINSAC report: Gleaner)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20121223/business/business1.html (No deals yet for Digicel New Kingston properties: Sunday Gleaner)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20121223/cleisure/cleisure2.html (On a Mission: What Mission? Claude Clarke op-ed, Sunday Gleaner)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20121217/lead/lead5.html (Conversion for Redemption: Gleaner)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20121217/lead/lead51.html (“Renovate the Ward Theatre”: Gleaner)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20121219/cleisure/cleisure1.html (The Ward’s disrepair as metaphor for Jamaica: Gleaner editorial)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20121217/news/news1.html (The Government of God: Apostle Steve Lyston op-ed/Gleaner)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20121217/news/news3.html (Deborah Chen working for the heart: Gleaner)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20121223/focus/focus3.html (Restructuring values and attitudes: Martin Henry column: Sunday Gleaner)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20121217/ent/ent2.html (Alpha Boys’ School willed valuable equipment: Gleaner)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20121218/cleisure/cleisure4.html (Give mandate to master principals: André Wright article: Gleaner)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20121223/focus/focus7.html (Gender equity and education: Suzanne Charles op-ed, Sunday Gleaner)
- http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Flow-pumps–25m-into-upgrading-Hope-Zoo_13241492 (Flow pumps $25million into upgrading Hope Zoo: Observer)
- http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/OCG-warns-Cabinet-of–criminal-offence-_13237247 (Office of the Contractor General warns Cabinet of criminal offense: Observer)
- http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/editorial/For-our-children-s-sake–Minister-Hanna—_13229742 (For our children’s sake, Minister Hanna: Observer editorial)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=41856 (Youth council disagrees with Hanna’s plans: Gleaner)
- http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Children-s-homes-abusers-charged–fired–says-Hanna_13242078 (Children’s home abusers charged, fired, says Hanna: Observer)
- http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Hanna-says-correctional-centre-for-girls-to-be-built_13241715 (Hanna says correctional centre for girls to be built: Observer)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20121219/lead/lead1.html (Cabinet considers expanding Child Development Agency role: Gleaner)
- http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/government-refutes-claims-of-no-support-to-vanessa-wints-family (Government refutes claim of no support to Vanessa Wint’s family: RJR)
- http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Elderly-at-risk_13254472 (Elderly at risk: Observer)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20121221/cleisure/cleisure2.html (Homophobia exposed! Peter Espeut column/Gleaner)
- http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/editorial/Well-done–Professor-Hopeton-Dunn_13241777 (Well done, Professor Hopeton Dunn: Observer editorial)
- http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/westernnews/Big-boost-for-community-tourism_13245908 (Big boost for community tourism: Observer West)
- http://-gleaner.com/gleaner/20121222/cleisure/cleisure1.html (Time to get creative, YMCA: Gleaner editorial)
- http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Pit-latrines-must-go-_13247796 (Pit latrines must go! Observer)
- http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Building-a-cathedral_13240261 (Building a cathedral: Grace Virtue op-ed: Observer)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20121222/news/news1.html (Natty to the rescue: Gleaner)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20121219/cleisure/cleisure3.html (Too many Doctors and Masters of Ginnalship: George Davis column/Gleaner)