Community and youth groups from in and around Kingston participated in the huge International Beach Cleanup Day at Fort Rocky, near Port Royal… And of course many groups across the island. Here are a few more photos, gleaned from Facebook pages.
Yes, the young people really worked hard and enthusiastically. I am asking them to please work just as hard in their own communities…
Keep your environment clean and garbage-free. Please!
Today the ruling People’s National Party‘s (PNP) Annual Conference is taking place at the National Stadium in Kingston. The party is also celebrating its 75th year. From my yard (quite a distance away from the Stadium) I can hear those mind-numbing vuvuzelas, much shouting over microphones and snatches of over-amplified music. In Jamaica, the songs played at political party conferences are always carefully selected to reflect the “message.” The conference made it quite clear that it is fully supporting former Junior Minister Richard Azan; one of the tunes I just heard was “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” The PNP Twitter account also “blessed up” Mr. Azan yesterday. In my yard, I also heard “three cheers” for the PNP’s founder and creator of one of the Two Tribes, Norman Washington Manley (who would probably be turning in his grave at all this).
In many other countries Mr. Azan’s party colleagues would not even want to be seen with him; with a possible charge of political corruption hanging over his head (as well as his own admission of wrongdoing) he would be sidelined. But in Jamaica, the PNP is celebrating him as some kind of hero, parading him on stage. And our Prime Minister (PM) is dancing around (yes, our politicians dance), while the poor (literally poor) masses of supporters soak it all up. They arrived at the Stadium in government buses, arms and whole bodies protruding from windows and doors. As night falls, the PNP followers are enjoying a lively dancehall session and some free curry goat and Red Stripe, before piling back into their buses and going home.
“I don’t talk until it is absolutely necessary to talk,” said our Prime Minister at the conference last night. She was responding to Jamaicans who have been “running up their mouths” (her words) about her extraordinary silence over the past several months. In fact, she has never – never – given a one-on-one interview since taking office a year and nine months ago. She clearly doesn’t feel that is necessary. This is astonishing arrogance. She speaks only when she feels it is needed; not if or when she is asked to speak. And this is the way she responds to criticism – dismissively, carelessly (and she often takes criticism far too personally).
Meanwhile, Jamaicans have to suffer the embarrassment (and it was embarrassing) of a BBC Radio Five Live report on the Azan affair by Nick Davies. We cringe. Link is below.
But let’s face it, the last few days have been pretty lousy for the PM and her administration…. Hence the defiant tone.
- Firstly, Richard Azan resigned as Junior Transport and Works Minister, three whole days after the Contractor General’s report on his actions in Spalding Market was tabled in Parliament. He has not resigned as Member of Parliament. His lawyers, with whom he consulted extensively while we waited for some word, clearly wrote the letter. Mr. Azan did not resign because he thought he had done wrong, and resigning was the right thing to do, on principle. He did so on the advice of the lawyers and his “comrades” (politicians of the PNP persuasion), who fully support him. At the same time strongly denying that he had done anything wrong.
[As usual, the government is taking a narrow view of corruption, pointing out that Mr. Azan did not personally profit from the illegally constructed shops in Spaldings Market. But surely corruption is much more than that. There is such a thing as political corruption, and this is what the Contractor General referred to specifically. Former Contractor General Mr. Greg Christie shared with me the Corruption Prevention Act of 2001. If you want a clear definition of corruption under Jamaica's law, just look up Section 14, here: http://www.moj.gov.jm/sites/default/files/laws/The%20Corruption%20Prevention%20Act.pdf ]
- Secondly, late in the week the news broke of a Constitutional Court ruling that Prime Minister Simpson Miller, PNP Chairman Robert Pickersgill, Energy Minister Phillip Paulwell, former Information Minister Colin Campbell and businessman Norton Hinds will have to testify in open court in another corruption issue – that of an alleged illegal payment to the PNP by Dutch firm Trafigura Beheer. The resulting scandal impacted the 2007 general elections, won by the Jamaica Labour Party. The five had refused to testify in 2010, thus bringing questioning on the matter to a halt, claiming it was a breach of their constitutional rights. The court disagreed. More to follow.
Suggestion from a concerned Jamaican citizen: If it really wants to get to grips with the ongoing issue of rampant child abuse in Jamaica, the Child Development Agency (CDA) should get out of its Kingston office and go into the communities. This government agency needs to truly understand the issues on the ground.
Much, much more to say on the corruption issues, of course. There is always more to say. Meanwhile, I am giving a big “shout out” to…
- Salvation Army, Mannings Hill Road: Just for being who they are. Did you know they have a Seniors Club on Wednesday? Donations are always welcome: food, clothing, old appliances. The Salvation Army deserves our support – just quietly serving the most vulnerable among us. Thank you!
- Fly Jamaica: So pleased that this rather new airline will be starting direct flights to Georgetown, Guyana – the inaugural flight will be on Thursday. I paid a short visit there some years ago but did not have a chance to explore this fascinating country. I would love to go back – and without having to travel to almost every island in the eastern Caribbean to actually get there! Hope to be flying with you soon…
- Former Contractor General Greg Christie, whose tweets continue to provoke me into thinking more deeply on governance. This week, Mr. Christie commented, “Corruption is never voluntarily addressed by those who benefit from it but by pressure brought by those who suffer because of it.” To which I would add, almost all of us do suffer because of corruption in some way; but even more tragically, many of us do not even realize that corruption is affecting us. It is insidious, a bit like one of those hidden viruses.
- Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) Program Director Suzanne Stanley and her amazing young team for their organization and their ability to remain strong and work hard. The International Coastal Clean-Up Day at Fort Rocky Beach surpassed all expectations. Congratulations to all who participated in clean-ups across the island on Saturday – well done!
- Oh, and Arsenal Football Club for their impressive and hard-fought win against Stoke yesterday. You made my day, Gunners! (Sorry… How did that slip in?)
Now, just a mile or two away from the celebrations at the National Stadium, blood was flowing on the streets on a Sunday morning. A triple murder took place early on Sunday – two women and a man were killed. Soon after, a 19-year-old was gunned down by the police in the same area. There is no doubt that our murder rate – and the general level of insecurity in the society – is getting worse. We don’t hear of “crime plans” any more. And the grief and suffering continues; my condolences to all the families and loved ones.
Post Script: 34 Jamaicans were murdered last week, according to official government statistics. That is almost five per day. Over to you, Minister Bunting…
Dorian Francis, Red Rose Market, downtown Kingston
Alrick Gooden, 28, Waltham Park Road, Kingston
Randy Collins, 22, Waltham Park Road, Kingston
Shantel Campbell, 21, Waltham Park Road, Kingston
Marcus Lorde, 32, Church Pen, St. Catherine
Wilton Boyd, Colonel’s Ridge, Clarendon
Alphonso Joseph, 48, Mandeville, Manchester
Trevor Anderson, 28, Berrydale, Portland
Killed by police:
Sanjay Bartlett, 19, Waltham Park Road, Kingston
Related articles and links:
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130919/cleisure/cleisure1.html#.UjtfjdkQ2Qw.twitter Another chance for decency, Mr. Azan: Gleaner editorial
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/-Build-more-shops-_15099787 Support for Azan at Spalding Market: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=48119 Richard Azan resigns over Spaldings Market scandal: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/editorial/Messrs-Azan–Paulwell–The-way-to-hell-is-paved-with-good-intentions_15095630 Messrs Azan, Paulwell: The way to hell is paved with good intentions: Jamaica Observer editorial
http://newsandviewsbydjmillerja.wordpress.com/2013/09/22/urgently-needed-reform-of-treatment-of-ocg-reports/ Urgently needed: Reform of treatment of OCG reports: newsandviewsbydjmillerja.wordpress.com
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130920/lead/lead1.html No regrets: Azan shoots back at politically corrupt label
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TGa56uOe5b0&feature=youtu.be BBC 5 Live reports on Azan controversy: YouTube
http://thinkjamaica.wordpress.com/2013/09/20/the-writing-on-the-wall/ The writing on the wall: ThinkJamaica.wordpress.com
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=48113 Trafigura application dismissed, PNP officials to testify in open court: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Trafigura-blow_15111055 Trafigura blow: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=48155 Controversial transshipment hub on Goat Islands may go ahead – Portia: Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130920/cleisure/cleisure1.html Did they mean it? Peter Espeut column/Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130922/lead/lead1.html ”JLP betrayed”: Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130922/lead/lead2.html Portia safe! PNP MPs support Simpson Miller for another general election run: Sunday Gleaner
http://www.caribjournal.com/2013/09/23/are-women-in-jamaica-under-siege/ Are women in Jamaica under siege? Marcia Forbes op-ed/Carib Journal
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=48115 Robust economic growth has to be private sector-led – IMF: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130920/lead/lead3.html Civil servants buckle under economic pressure: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130920/cleisure/cleisure1.html Fingers crossed on Azurest: Gleaner editorial
http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-09-19/jamaica-july-tourist-arrivals-by-country-of-origin-table-.html Jamaica July tourist arrivals by country of origin – table: Bloomberg.com
http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-09-19/jamaica-july-cruise-passengers-by-port-of-call-table-.html Jamaica July cruise ship arrivals by port of call – table: Bloomberg.com
http://jamaica-star.com/thestar/20130919/news/news1.html U.S. cops arrest alleged gang leader Tesha Miller for entering country illegally: Jamaica Star
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Businessman-s-murder-shocks-Mandeville_15117275 Businessman’s murder shocks Mandeville: Sunday Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Foul-smells-and-ruined-reputations_15106263 Foul smells and ruined reputations: Barbara Gloudon column/Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Legalising-marijuana-would-be-wrong_15118209 Legalizing marijuana would be wrong: Dayton Campbell op-ed/Sunday Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130920/lead/lead2.html Ban advertising of infant formula, UNICEF urges government: Gleaner
http://jamaica-star.com/thestar/20130918/news/news6.html Sixty-two graduates benefit from entrepreneurship program: Jamaica Star
Last time I visited Fort Rocky, along the road to Port Royal, I was in the company of archaeologist Heidi Savery and a band of intrepid Jamaican and American scholars and students. Yesterday could not have been more different. I was helping out at the registration tent of the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET), who organized one of the major activities for International Coastal Clean Up Day, September 21. The government’s National Environment & Planning Agency was toiling away not far down the road; and much cleaning was under way at many sites around the island.
The sky was an impenetrable grey, and when I arrived at 7:30 a.m. there was not a breath of wind. The ocean was still and opaque, with no sunlight to illuminate it. The beach behind Fort Rocky is on the open sea. The mangroves of Kingston Harbour (or what’s left of them, after the depredations of China Harbour Engineering Company’s work on the airport road) lie on the other side of this narrow spit of land. We set up in our tent, and waited for the invasion to begin.
Indeed, a veritable army of mostly young people descended on us throughout the morning – roughly two thousand, far more than expected. Eventually JET ran out of gloves and we at the registration table ran out of free bananas and other stuff. The early volunteers arrived and got straight to work. The later ones (including a horde of university students) found what work they could and then retreated inside the Fort Rocky compound for some relaxation (as is often the case in Jamaica, there was a certain amount of socializing). And we actually had to ship out some groups to a nearby site, as we were, as they say, “over-capacity.”
Meanwhile, the unruly pile of filled garbage bags slouched, and spread, and grew steadily higher until it was as tall as the tallest of us.
Some time after lunch, the Fort was quiet again. We could hear the sound of the waves. And the beach… Well, not a scrap of paper or plastic to be found.
Congratulations and thanks to the fantastic Jamaica Environment Trust team (led by energetic Program Director Suzanne Stanley), the amazing sponsors and all the great volunteers for making this a memorable day! I have added a few photos below – you can find a photo album on my Facebook page, too.
Related links and articles:
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130922/news/news4.html Huge turnout for International Coastal Cleanup Day: Sunday Gleaner
http://petchary.wordpress.com/2013/08/28/unprecedented-response-to-international-beach-clean-up-day-in-jamaica/ Unprecedented response to International Beach Cleanup Day in Jamaica: petchary.wordpress.com
http://petchary.wordpress.com/2013/01/19/reduce-reuse-recycle/ Reduce, reuse, recycle: petchary.wordpress.com
http://petchary.wordpress.com/2013/02/02/pollution-flowing-from-land-to-sea-the-un-caribbean-environment-programme-part-1/ Pollution flowing from land to sea: The UN Caribbean Environment Programme,, Part 1
http://petchary.wordpress.com/2013/09/06/lets-save-jamaicas-portland-bight-protected-area/ Let’s save Jamaica’s Portland Bight Protected Area: petchary.wordpress.com
http://www.upworthy.com/people-should-know-about-this-awful-thing-we-do-and-most-of-us-are-simply-unaware?g=3&c=ufb1 Trailer for “Midway,” a powerful documentary directed by Chris Jordan on the impact on wildlife of trash in our oceans. To donate to the makers of this film, please visit midwayfilm.com.
Tucked away behind the grey stone Chapel on the University of the West Indies‘ (UWI) Mona campus in Kingston is the Book-keeper‘s Cottage. It is small and solid and is one of the few original plantation buildings left on this beautiful swathe of land that rolls out at the foot of the forested hills. The University’s 653 acres once formed part of two sugar estates, Mona and Papine. There are fragmented ruins (a water wheel, an aqueduct) scattered throughout the campus among the modern university buildings.
The Cottage now houses UWI’s Archaeology Lab. This is where I met up again with U.S. Fulbright Scholar Heidi Savery, along with the lively group of students from the Department and from U.S. colleges. Some were sitting outside writing up notes; inside, they were analyzing, sorting, bringing records up to date. All the students looked much cleaner and tidier than two days previously, amidst the windswept dust and heat. They were conducting excavations at Fort Rocky, near Port Royal (see my earlier post). Now the atmosphere was relaxed, but they were all working hard to finish things off. The Archaeological Field School at Fort Rocky was over, and the summer has arrived, with the heat seeping in from the coast.
I met up with Oshane Robinson and Adrian Reid, who are President and Vice President of UWI’s History and Archaeological Society, respectively. Adrian just completed his final year and hopes to work with the Jamaica National Heritage Trust. He grew up in a rural area of western Jamaica and went to Rusea’s High School in Lucea, Hanover, which has an interesting history of its own. There, he says his history teacher greatly influenced him and it was always his favorite subject. A natural fit. The Society conducts the only heritage tours of the Mona campus authorized by the University, in a beautifully decorated van. It is actively involved in UWI’s Research Days, too. And Adrian told me that the Society provides a great deal of guidance to first year students, helping them to link history, heritage and archaeology.
I also chatted with Max, an anthropology student who will be conducting community research with the Jamaican Social Development Commission during the summer. The other Jamaican students who had been working at Fort Rocky were Melissa Bryan, Keresha Barr and Kwame Clarke (I hope I got their names right…)
While I was in the Cottage I browsed through some Taino exhibits. Heidi told me about Dr. James W. Lee, a native of Vancouver, British Columbia, who arrived in Jamaica in 1951, and settled here. Dr. Lee used to work for the bauxite firm Alpart (Alumina Partners of Jamaica), and as such traveled round the island prospecting (and, one presumes, doing a bit of digging). He developed a passion for archaeology in Jamaica, and especially for Taino relics; he began mapping Taino sites in 1959. Dr. Lee was not an academic in the strictest sense – that is, he did not work at an academic institution. His daughter Wendy observes, “I have never known a researcher as meticulous and thorough as my father. He founded the Archaeological Society of Jamaica and published a quarterly newsletter for 25 years without a single interruption. He used this medium to document and publicly share the results of his explorations and research. He read widely, including all the original sources of information about the ‘discovery’ of the Caribbean islands (in Spanish, French and German) and used this knowledge to inform his work in the field. My father devised a classification system for the artifacts he collected, and every piece was labeled and accounted for; each stone artifact was also described, measured and the stone and its source identified. He made detailed maps of every new or rediscovered archaeological site (he was also a trained surveyor). He was the author of numerous articles on Jamaican archaeology and geology, published in relevant professional journals.” Dr. Lee’s wonderful collection (which he had hoped to house in a museum at his residence in Runaway Bay) was donated to the University in 2000, thus enriching our knowledge.
By the way, we used to call Jamaica’s first nation people the “Arawak Indians.” Nowadays we are calling them the “Taino” people. But can I tell you something? I am not quite sure I understand what the difference is. I do wish someone would enlighten me. I can’t help still thinking of them as Arawaks.
Meanwhile, back at the Cottage it was group photo time, before everyone said their goodbyes – at least on the work part of the field trip. I believe some social events were planned over the weekend. The students and professors gathered on the porch and posed beautifully (well, some of them perhaps not particularly elegant, but…) See the results below.
The afternoon waned. Grackles strutted in the grass outside and music played somewhere, as the group drifted off, in ones and twos and threes. The end of a great project – but there will be many more to come.
Many thanks to Heidi Savery for allowing me to get to know this wonderful group. I wish them all the best for the future, as they all go their separate ways, and hope they will all keep in touch with each other. These times spent together, working as a team, are invaluable.
Related articles and links:
http://petchary.wordpress.com/2013/06/02/revealing-the-silences-of-the-past/ Revealing the silences of the past: petchary.wordpress.com
http://myspot.mona.uwi.edu/history/ Department of History and Archaeology/University of the West Indies Mona Campus
http://myspot.mona.uwi.edu/history/staff/lenik-steve Lecturer Dr. Steve Lenik’s profile, Department of History and Archaeology
If you drive along the gently winding road, with mangroves and dark lagoons on one side and sandhills spiked with cactus on the other, you will reach the small town of Port Royal. It is perched at the end of a long, flat spit of land, between Kingston Harbor and the open Caribbean Sea. Just before you reach Port Royal, however (I would prefer to call it a “hamlet” really) you will see a long wall to your left, stretching along the side of the road. We have probably passed it a hundred times or more, and never stopped there.
But this week, I did. This is Fort Rocky, and I was in the company of U.S. Fulbright Scholar, archaeologist and community builder extraordinaire, Heidi Savery.
Behind that mysterious wall, which gives away nothing, is a very large space, fringed with broken interior walls and rooms missing a wall. Here and there were knots of people in twos and threes, hunched in holes in the ground, writing on clipboards. They were students from the United States and from the University of the West Indies‘ (UWI) History and Archaeology Department in Kingston and their professors; as well as officials of the Jamaica National Heritage Trust (JNHT) and two officers from the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF).
This was the end of Year Two of UWI’s Archaeological Field School at Fort Rocky, and an opportunity for the students to gain hands-on experience on an actual site. Dr. Steve Lenik, who lectures at UWI’s Department of History and Archaeology, showed me a collection of maps from various periods, which help them to identify possible spots that could produce interesting material. They then divide the space up into grids at ten-meter intervals. They dig what are called “shovel test pits,” just 50 – 60 cm down, to see whether it is worth continuing to dig there.
So, what have they found at Fort Rocky?
Many buttons. Even the most corroded are lovely when cleaned up by the Heritage Trust restorers. Some show the military insignia of the West India Regiment, with the crocodile (and indeed there are real crocodiles living on the other side of the road, in the mangrove). One of the students, Zach Beier, found a drinking glass. They found ceramics, medicine bottles and glass dating back to the late 19th century. Also clay pipes, some with lovely designs on the bowl. One had the initials “E.W.” carved on it. I wonder who E.W. was. Many nails of different sizes and other pieces of metal that were parts of fixtures and machines. There were once cannons at Fort Rocky, but those had long since disappeared…spirited away.
I met Zach, a graduate student from Syracuse University. He told me that he is actually from my home country – born in Lancaster, Lancashire; and that he has been working on a project at an eighteenth-century fort in Dominica (a small island in the eastern Caribbean that I would love to visit). Like most of the workers, he looked windswept and his face was smudged with dirt. One cannot expect to be clean, neat and tidy when digging, of course! I also met Elizabeth McCague, from St. Mary’s College of Maryland, and her professor Liza Gijanto; and the ebullient James, also from Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina, who is a registered member of the Choctaw Nation.
Private Carmola of the JDF told me about the Military Museum at Up Park Camp in Kingston, which opened in 2006. He also told me that the day before had been a day off for the soldiers, as it was Victoria Cross Day (May 27) – a day taken seriously, with a grand dinner, a church service and a military holiday. I looked it up, and learned that one Jamaican has received the Victoria Cross: Sergeant William Gordon, of the First Battalion, West India Regiment, for his “heroic devotion” in saving the life of his officer during the British campaign in West Africa in March, 1892. The JDF also celebrates another Victoria Cross recipient, Private Samuel Hodge of the British Virgin Islands, who also performed braved deeds during the same campaign, in 1866.
As for Fort Rocky, it was in regular use until the end of World War II. According to the JDF website, it was built just before the First World War to replace the Victoria Battery, which had been badly damaged in the 1907 earthquake that rocked Kingston. At that time, it had five six-inch guns and could accommodate 82 soldiers. It also had a small railway system from about 1887, only two miles long, which ran along the Palisadoes spit to Port Royal. It was used to transport equipment over the light, sandy soil. Jamaica’s railway system – one of the great legacies of the colonial era – has, of course, been allowed to rot and no longer exists, except for a small private railway operated by a bauxite mining company. But then, that is another sad story.
And it is really a story of neglect, but also potential. As Heidi Savery explained to me, there are many and rich treasures to be found in Jamaica’s cultural heritage. Jamaica’s history has been painful in many respects, but that does not make it any less valuable; there is also much to learn and to seek to understand. As Jamaicans would say, “The half has never been told.” For Heidi, who believes passionately in Jamaica’s people and its culture, the management of the island’s cultural heritage is all important – and it must involve the people. It is not just about conservation and the preservation of “things” to be put in a museum. It is also about a deeper, more spiritual connection, whereby the past is revived and incorporated into the present. It is a much broader concept. In her work in Bluefields, Westmoreland (where she has unearthed a large Taino development), Heidi believes the community has much to give back and much to learn from its past. The past is a living thing for the residents of this vibrant community, in a particularly beautiful spot on Jamaica’s south coast. More on Bluefields another time.
A number of music videos have been filmed in battered old Fort Rocky. Some graffiti daub the walls. A body had been found there. It is a lonely spot, with nothing but the sound of the wind in the thorn bushes, and the thump of the waves on the nearby shore. The city of Kingston, full of stories sad and old, past and present, is just a few miles down the road.
But Fort Rocky still retains, somehow, a whisper of its past.
Especially when you start digging.
Here are a few related articles. You can also check out my photo album on Facebook
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20110515/arts/arts2.html The Jamaica Defence Force as a cultural treasure: Gleaner
http://www.jdfmil.org/JamaicaLegion/vet_extra1.php Victoria Cross commemorations in Jamaica: JDF website
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-18601357 Jamaica’s “wickedest city” Port Royal banks on heritage: BBC News
http://whc.unesco.org/en/tentativelists/5430/ The underwater city of Port Royal: World Heritage Convention/UNESCO
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/pages/history/story001.html 1692: Earthquake of Port Royal: Gleaner/Pieces of the Past
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20111112/lead/lead8.html Restoring glory: Bluefields residents work towards community and tourism