Crime is a complex thing. And that’s an understatement.
So, I understand the need for a “movement” - something that is going to turn the tide nationally while pulling together all the strands in this web. This morning, the Ministry of National Security launched such an initiative: the start, one hopes and prays, of a genuine, detailed, more thoughtful approach. The movement is called “Unite for Change.”
Minister Peter Bunting gave us a wide-ranging presentation – a pretty thorough overview of crime trends this year and in the previous few years. As he outlined some of the programs his Ministry has embarked on, he referred to the work of epidemiologist Dr. Gary Slutkin, founder/director of Cure Violence. In the same breath, he noted his own collaboration with Dr. Elizabeth Ward, founder of the Violence Prevention Alliance, who works in the same field as Dr. Slutkin. Both doctors (and indeed the Minister himself) have reached the conclusion that violence is a public health crisis. The presence of public health institutions such as the Centers for Disease Control at a recent National Forum on Youth Violence in Washington, DC, which the Minister attended, underlined this point.
You can read more about Dr. Slutkin’s “Public health approach to public safety” at http://cureviolence.org/violence-interruption/ Dr. Slutkin sees parallels between violence and, say, a flu epidemic. There are clusters of violence in specific areas, and there are waves. The greatest indicator of a violent act is a preceding violent act. Therefore in Dr. Slutkin’s Cure Violence Model, “Interrupting Transmission” is the first step, to prevent the future spread of the “disease.” This is the goal of the Ministry’s Operation Resilience. One graph shows the level of murders per 100,000 of the population (which is the method by which homicides are measured, by the way) per parish. Disturbingly, St. James and Westmoreland are the highest, with Hanover (also in western Jamaica) not far behind. Kingston and St. Andrew, with by far the highest population density, is third on the list (the graph shown below almost omits Portland, which is on the far left. It always has much lower murder rates than the rest of the country).
There has been a third quarter spike in murders. Why? Minister Bunting attributes this to the release of a number of gang leaders from prison; an increase in murders in the course of robberies; increased trafficking in drugs (and thus in firearms); and a slight decline in police morale (police feel threatened, in some way, by the presence of organizations such as INDECOM, Jamaicans for Justice, etc). And just a quick note on the last point: Minister Bunting did emphasize later that “well-thinking” members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) “welcomed” the increased oversight of these bodies, as well as anti-corruption efforts within the force, noting that it “enhanced professionalism.”
Since its launch on October 3, Operation Resilience (targeting criminal gangs) has resulted in 426 operations, 195 arrests and 142 guns recovered. These statistics are impressive, you will agree – especially on the guns. 63 per cent of gun recovery operations were carried out without the use of deadly force (I wish this percentage was higher). Up to June of this year (as you will have figured from my weekly notations) there were an average of ninety murders per month this year; this is higher than 2012 but still lower than 2010 and 2011.
That’s on the law enforcement side. On the policy agenda, Minister Bunting said he had been working closely with Professor Anthony Clayton at the University of the West Indies (UWI) to identify ways to remove the profit from organized crime, through MOCA (which always sounds a bit like a cup of coffee to me, but actually stands for the Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Task Force). MOCA includes the all-important Financial Investigations Division. Another key element is reform of the justice system (how often have we spoken about that!) The Ministry of Justice is looking at our neighbors in Colombia, who have made “dramatic headway” in this respect, especially in reducing the time of the court process. A case now takes an average of 96 days to reach court, instead of 567 days as previously.
Another element of Dr. Slutkin’s model is what he calls “identify and change the thinking of highest potential transmitters” - in other words, those high-risk groups we talk so much about. This means what we in Jamaica like to call “The Youth.” Minister Bunting is planning a National Youth Violence Prevention Forum in January 2014. The Citizens Security and Justice Programme (CSJP) III (with funding from overseas partners) will receive US$55 million over the next four or five years to boost youth outreach, community safety and security and poverty reduction. The CSJP, operating in fifty communities, has been quite successful over the years (it was established by one of Minister Bunting’s predecessors Peter Phillips under a different administration in 2001).
Just to note here: I asked a question about how specifically this new movement was to operate on the ground in communities. I did not get a detailed answer of course, but had noted Minister Bunting’s earlier comment that he was “disappointed so far” by the response to his efforts to collaborate with locally-based organizations. He said he had engaged with faith-based organizations back in April, in the hopes that they would start engaging members in the anti-crime effort, community by community. He will engage the support of the government’s Social Development Commission, which is present in most communities, to save on administrative costs. But this is clearly an area to be worked on, and hopefully CSJP III will help. The Minister also hoped for greater support from the media and from the creative industries in support of “Unite for Change.”
Meanwhile, the Ministry is pushing forward with the legislative agenda and trying to build capacity. The Anti-Gang Bill will go to Parliament for debate by January; it seems to have got somewhat bogged down in committee but there are several obviously controversial aspects of it that are still under consideration. Minister Bunting also spoke of the DNA Bill (which seems to have been languishing for some time now), and pending amendments to the Proceeds of Crime Act, the “shiprider” agreement and legislation on trafficking in persons, all to come in 2014. The government employs more ballistics experts now, and the Forensics Lab has produced 8,466 certificates as of October 31 this year. The Ministry aims to turn the Lab into an executive agency, to separate it off somehow and to even make it a separate institute at UWI, one day. Makes very good sense to me.
Jamaica is “under-policed,” as we know. There are currently 13,654 policemen and women. But the Ministry is trying to increase the police presence in communities through the creation of “portable police posts” – forty-foot containers with accommodation for four police officers, running on solar power, that can be hooked onto the back of a truck and put down in any “hot spots” not covered by regular police stations. Cool idea and it has worked well in other jurisdictions, I believe.
Minister Bunting comes from the private sector, of course, and has been seeking their support. In Irwin, St. James, one construction firm (WIHCON) has donated a police post. Let’s hope for more of this.
There are other public relations tools that may also have some impact. Television ads and posters (one with a young schoolgirl telling her teacher that in the future “I want to be…alive!” and another with a teenage boy saying, “All I want for Christmas…is to see the next”). Let’s all remind ourselves of the toll-free number for reporting crime: 1-800-CORRUPT (267-7878). There was a flash mob at the Half Way Tree Transportation Center, where many teens gather, where the Minister “shamelessly” cashed in with a quick anti-gang message. A mobile app is under development that will enable you to report, get alerts, and even press a panic button. A group of “well-thinking” entertainers is working on a theme song for the initiative.
Did you know that five out of ten adolescents in Jamaica have seen a dead body, other than at a funeral? Dr. Elizabeth Ward’s research has shown this. The Peace Management Initiative reports that 86 per cent drop out of school by age fifteen (not necessarily because of bad behavior, but because of sheer poverty). At least half are fatherless; many suffer physical abuse at home; and eventually the victims become the perpetrators. The “informa fi dead” (informers must be killed) culture is alive and well in many communities. Bre’r Anancy remains one of our national icons, and misogynistic deejays remain role models for many young people. Minister Bunting showed us disturbing photographs obtained by the JCF of young gangsters posing with assault rifles. The picture looks grim, but the Ministry’s aim is to keep “putting citizens at the center.”
Because the citizens must, always, be at the center. That means bringing them together, and getting them involved. The Jamaican people.
I look forward to hearing much more about “Unite for Change” in coming months.
P.S. I would love some of the organizations mentioned above to update their websites! The CSJP and Violence Prevention Alliance pages are way out of date. Their Facebook pages are much better, however, and should be “liked.” And I hope to see a much greater presence on Twitter from the Ministry, the JCF and other organizations. The social media can really help to boost a national movement!
Kudos to the Ministry of National Security for:
- Starting on time!
- Keeping the agenda simple and without long-winded speeches
- Allowing plenty of time for Q and A
- Making themselves available (especially the Minister) informally afterwards
- The orange juice! It was all thirsty work…
And special thanks to Tassia Stewart for inviting me and other social media commentators, in addition to the traditional media. Much appreciated!
Time is galloping along, the uptown (and downtown) Christmas party season is gathering speed, and (in case you were wondering) I have not written one Christmas card yet. I am living dangerously.
The CARICOM tiff: After much blustering on the part of our Minister of Foreign Affairs and hysterical ranting on talk shows and elsewhere, Trinidad’s Minister of Foreign Affairs arrived on Monday. The matter of the denial of entry to 13 Jamaicans, the two ministers agreed, was not, after all, profiling; and the vast majority of Jamaicans are happily accepted by Trinidad. The two signed a trade agreement. So, a lot of smoothing over went on, although both Ministers were careful to assert their respective countries’ interests. Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines Ralph Gonsalves (never a man to stay quiet for too long) noted in a Jamaican radio interview that yes, there was some prejudice against Jamaicans in other CARICOM countries; and I think he is right. Now, all Caribbean leaders need to keep cool heads and discourage over-heated rhetoric that is based on very little fact. They also need to put their respective houses in order (including Jamaica) in terms of implementing all the requirements for the free movement of persons. (Read the Gleaner’s “No time for blame” – Nicholson, Dookeran Say Ja-T&T Meetings Fruitful.”)
Good question, scary answer: On the matter of international relations, a question from Opposition Senator Robert Montague prompted a disturbing response from Minister Nicholson. I did a quick count and it appears Jamaica owes approximately US$1,319,00 to the United Nations, including over $860,000 for peace-keeping operations (?). We will soon lose voting rights if we don’t pay some of it (so the Chinese and others might stop courting us). We have already lost voting rights in a couple of Commonwealth bodies and we are in arrears with all the international bodies we are members of.
Meanwhile, a woman named Shirley Richards wrote to the Gleaner asking the question, “Is Jamaica under UN rule?” The United Nations is our “new colonial master,” she suggested, with UNICEF incurring her wrath for referring to “sex” and “condoms” in relation to its reports on the desperate state of the nation’s children. OK, Ms. Richards, we will continue burying our heads in the sand. Let’s pretend sexuality is not a concern. Maybe doesn’t even exist. She concludes, “Forgive me, then, for asking, is Jamaica now under the rule of UN agencies?” No, I don’t think I will. Forgive you, that is.
Is it really a shock? I had the pleasure of meeting the Registrar of the Office of the Children’s Registry (OCR) last week at the launch of Eve for Life’s “Nuh Guh Deh” campaign. I wondered how he must feel about the reports of child abuse that arrive at his office in a continuous wave (or tsunami perhaps). Between January and August this year the OCR received over 8,000 reports (probably the tip of the iceberg). 1,730 children went missing, ten of whom were found dead (where are the others – did they all return? I have asked this question so many times in the past on my blog). Read the Observer: “Child abuse shocker – 8,030 cases reported between Jan & Aug.” (But is this really a “shocker” to us now? We know the enormity of the problem, don’t we?)
At a recent focus group on corruption, we struggled to find solutions to the tangled web we have been weaving for so long in Jamaica. I see “we” because, although I would hope that I have not engaged in a corrupt act of any kind, it is such a complex web that one could get unwittingly caught up in it; a cog in the corruption wheel, quite innocently. Meanwhile, Jamaica has not moved on the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index since last year – still sitting pretty with a ranking of 38. Barbados ranked as the least corrupt Caribbean country – and came out pretty high on the list at 15th with a score of 75.
To quote former Contractor General Greg Christie on Twitter: “No country, region or community is immune to corruption, a serious crime that can undermine social & economic development in all societies.” He believes (and I agree) that this government has done nothing whatsoever to tackle the issue - in fact, it has done the reverse on occasion – despite the pious promises of the Prime Minister’s inauguration speech.
And on that subject, I am irritated (but not surprised) that the reinstated/reborn Junior Minister Richard Azan still wants to try to convince us all that he is squeaky clean. He has been granted a judicial review of the Contractor General’s investigation of his allegedly building and collecting rent for shops in contravention of the rules. Mr. Azan is “seeking a declaration from the court that he’s not politically corrupt, whether as defined by Transparency International or otherwise.” But I guess he doesn’t realize that, whatever the outcome of this legal move, corruption has a lot to do with perception, as TI will tell you. And I think the verdict has been reached on that one in the popular court. (Read more in the Observer: “Azan seeks judicial review of Contractor General’s probe”).
By the way, is Azan’s boss, Transport and Works Minister Omar Davies still in hospital? Have we heard any updates on his health?
Pleased to hear about improvements in forensic facilities – so essential for the Jamaica Constabulary Force. And especially, to hear from Police Commissioner Owen Ellington that Jamaica is now tapped into the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) eTrace program for tracing guns. This should hopefully make a real difference in the investigation of crime – and organized crime, at that. (Read the Observer: “Ellington points to significant upgrade of police forensic capabilities”).
I know the police have a tough job. Yes, I know. But somehow my heart does not bleed for those who have to cough up legal fees to defend themselves when they are accused of wrongdoing. And I do not think that taxpayers should foot the police officers’ bills; we already pay their salaries. Don’t they have a union? (Yes they do). My suggestion: start a legal fund. And don’t put yourselves in situations where you know you are breaking the law. Just like the rest of us. (Read the Observer: “Legal Woes”). This is perhaps more not-so-subtle police propaganda against INDECOM – the Independent Commission of Investigation set up by Parliament to investigate allegations of police abuse. Tired of it now. Just do your job and do it professionally. Thanks.
Brian-Paul Welsh wrote a very good letter to the Gleaner, regarding the Rasta Yute’s (Minister Damion Crawford) stout defense of dancehall music. The Minister is even encouraging lobbyists to oppose the anti-gang legislation, which includes a clause relating to lyrics that incite violence; this seems rather odd to me. Mr. Crawford needs to decide whether he is still a student who organizes dances at the University of the West Indies; or a government official to be taken seriously. At the moment he is an odd hybrid, and a very disappointing one at that. (Read the Gleaner’s Letter of the Day: “Crawford Off-Key on Dancehall“).
(Mis)understanding indeed: I have always enjoyed Grace Virtue’s columns and was sorry when she appeared to stop writing. Grace is the sister of Gleaner journalist Erica and she is based in the United States. This does not prevent her from writing insightful and balanced pieces, such as ”(Mis)understanding Media” in the Observer - on the matter of the RJR reporter, the mike, the PM and the security guards. Which has not really gone away, by the way.
I’m worried about Vybz Kartel. As I tweeted this evening, his appearance has changed dramatically since he has been languishing in prison (for nearly two years, no less) on two murder charges. He is now in the middle of the second trial (and if a journalist calls it “high profile” one more time I shall scream!) and – well, he has gone from skinny and weedy-looking to strangely bloated. What are they feeding him on in prison? Does he have an exercise regime? He seems very pale, still (the cake soap that he bleaches his skin with must have been smuggled into prison, some surmise). But his hair stylist seems to have gone AWOL. Oh, one does love the trivia sometimes!
If you want to read a lame editorial, try the Observer’s “Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea” for size. NO, the murder of eighteen-year-old Kimberly Simpson was not a case of “enraged jealousy” on the part of the man who had impregnated her when she was still legally below the age of consent (statutory rape) – and who had been abusing her physically ever since, according to her family (who appear to have stood by and done nothing). It was just that: domestic abuse; and initially child rape, which should have been reported to the police three years ago.
I am puzzled and confused by some of the facts paraded in the Jamaica Constabulary Force’s latest public relations effort – this time, comments by Deputy Commissioner in charge of crime Carl Williams on the so-called “clear-up rate” for murders. I will have to return to this at some point. (Read the Observer - ”Police vow to improve murder clear-up rate.”)
I often try to imagine the horror and grief of those left behind when their loved ones are killed violently. But I really cannot. All I can do is offer my condolences to the families and friends…
Herbert McKail, 70, Mandeville, Manchester
Gary Pinnock, 43, Hanover
Christopher Buddan, 22, Old Harbour Road, St. Catherine
Unidentified man, Brandon Hill, St. James
Omar Brown, Montego Bay, St. James
I skipped over Sunday. Yes, I confess that a whole week has passed since I last wrote about Jamaican news and current affairs. I have been overwhelmingly busy, with so many important things happening that I have not had time yet to even report properly to you! Note: I have not included any links this time. I am really struggling with them because when the blog is published they are often wrong. I hope you can do without them. But if you want to read more on these topics, take a look at the websites for the Gleaner, Observer, RJR, On The Ground News Reports, Television Jamaica and CVM Television. Those are my main sources.
Jamaicans’ emotions have been running rather high. We Jamaicans do love a bit of melodrama, and there has been plenty. Let me try and take a cool, calm and collected look at some of it (forgive me if I have missed or overlooked some items – I just have not been entirely focused).
Dissed again? Jamaican commentators have become quite heated over the deportation of thirteen Jamaicans, who were turned away in Port of Spain last week because they did not meet Trinidad’s immigration requirements. “Boycott Trinidadian goods!” some have cried. The Trinidadian Prime Minister has defended the immigration officials’ actions, and her Foreign Minister will visit Jamaica for talks on the matter. Now, many Jamaicans work in Trinidad (which has a stronger economy than ours). But those who don’t have a CARICOM skills certificate seem to face obstacles. Immigration is complicated; it’s a hot-button issue in many parts of the world. But the difference between Jamaicans traveling to the United States, for example, and Trinidad is that there is a (revised) treaty in force allowing freedom of movement among Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries. CARICOM’s Charter of Civil Society, interestingly, allows “Freedom of movement within the Caribbean Community, subject to such exceptions and qualifications as may be authorised by national law and which are reasonably justifiable in a free and democratic society.” My emphasis. Maybe there’s the rub. CARICOM officials need to sit down together now and sort this out. Then issue clear guidelines via the media/social media, websites etc. so that we are all clear for the future.
This follows hot on the heels of the high-profile Shanique Myrie case in Barbados. Ms. Myrie, a Jamaican, went to the Caribbean Court of Justice, which ruled in her favor after she accused Barbadian immigration officials of subjecting her to humiliating treatment (or “finger rape” as one Jamaican newspaper so nicely put it). After that, CARICOM issued new guidelines for immigration officials. Three things: We all need to get ourselves better informed on the facts of each case before we leap to conclusions. Secondly, this thing has been allowed to fester for too long in CARICOM. It has been lurking on the horizon for quite a while. Thirdly, please let us not be too thin-skinned. If these Jamaicans were, in fact, “undesirables” (I don’t know whether they were) let us own up to it, and let’s get our house in order and stop whining and hurling accusations.
CARICOM is well known for its dithering about on any and every issue. It gets full marks for talking a lot, though. Certainly the September 23 ruling by the Dominican Republic basically robbing Haitian-born citizens of their citizenship is a case in point. Back in early October, former Jamaican Prime Minister PJ Patterson urged CARICOM to take action on the matter. On November 23 - two months and two days later! - CARICOM roused itself to issue a statement condemning the ruling. It has suspended consideration of the Dom Rep‘s application for CARICOM membership. OK, Haiti, you can exhale now. CARICOM hath spoken. And even acted!
Has our Prime Minister made any comment on any of the above? Hello?
Blow by blow: The broadcast media has been tweeting and reporting up-to-the-minute, detailed accounts of the murder case involving Vybz Kartel, a dancehall deejay accused of killing someone called “Lizard.” Some of the reports have been – well, colorful, dramatic to say the least. Every twitch or eye-roll by prosecution witnesses diligently reported. And yes, the justice system has its faults – but all the more reason to report it (warts and all, as they say). I believe the Fourth Estate should always be present. And I say that in recognition of Journalism Week! During which journalists spend a lot of time talking about themselves in various panel discussions…
The PM and the media: And talking of journalism, things have taken a turn for the worse in what seems to be a perpetual Cold War between our Prime Minister and the local media. The latest skirmish occurred a few days ago. It featured the PM, an RJR reporter, a microphone, two burly security men and a crowd of bemused onlookers. The PM had a nice little photo-op in Rose Town, Kingston. Things went awry. The PM called out something about a mike being pushed into her face (she is mortally afraid of mikes) and the thuggish-looking security detail took this as a signal to rough up the reporter, who wanted to ask a question about the reinstatement of Richard Azan. The Press Association of Jamaica (PAJ) is not taking any of this nonsense lightly. And so they shouldn’t. Stand firm.
How on earth has it come to this? It is patently clear now to all that the Prime Minister is intent on avoiding the media, and in particular any possible “impromptu interview” as I think her office described it. Since she does not call press conferences and does not do one-on-one interviews, what options are there for the media to access the PM? Now her Information Minister (who speaks for her on most occasions, including anything related to women’s issues) says she does not see the relationship between the media and the PM as adversarial; and that a “protocol” must be worked out. The PAJ disagrees.
But how could the PM’s communications people possibly make a worse mess out of all this? Their ongoing blunders add up to a classic illustration of how not to “handle” the media, and ought to be fired.
Burning questions: In desperation, the Sunday Gleaner published “Ten Questions for Portia” furnished by “select persons” that I think adequately reflect the concerns of the Jamaican people. I can think of at least twenty, though.
Vocal thrills: Meanwhile, Jamaicans are going through agonies every week when an NBC program called “The Voice” airs. It’s a glorified talent show, with celebrities picking a team of talented (and not so talented) singers. Our Tessanne Chin is competing, and doing really well so far. Not to sound biased, but she seems way ahead of the competition. The emotional temperature gauge went through the roof before, during and after Tessanne’s performance, which this week was Jamaican – and stunning. Keep going, Tessanne!
I am going to stop there. Much more news, including the important information that six police officers have been charged with murder – two in St. James and four in St. Andrew, in connection with extra-judicial killings in 2013 and 2010 respectively. So Minister Crawford, you still want INDECOM to be scrapped for its ineffectiveness?
P.S. The Prime Minister is now in Brussels, Belgium, making a speech etc. What a hectic travel schedule!
Jamaicans for Justice called for the Police Commissioner to resign a few days ago, based on the soaring number of murders and police killings as well as the police’s seeming inability to successfully prosecute murders. There’s much more to say about this, but doesn’t the Commissioner answer to the Minister of National Security – should we be looking in that direction, and what is he doing? More on that next week. Meanwhile, I offer my condolences to the families of all those who have been violently killed since I last posted on November 20th:
Davion Swaby, Olympic Way/Three Miles, Kingston
Shaun Wade, Olympic Way/Three Miles, Kingston
“Bram,” Molynes Road, Kingston
Kerron McLeish, 43, Waterford/Portmore, St. Catherine
Medlina Wallace, 59, Portsmouth/Portmore, St. Catherine
Tanesha Bennett, Spanish Town, St. Catherine (body identified with that of Trinidadian citizen Keron Martin Stewart, found on November 10)
Dwayne Campbell, 24, Vere, Clarendon
Devon Gordon, 40, Boscobel, St. Mary
Unidentified man, Castleton, St. Mary
Nesta Daley, 77, Top Hill, Trelawny
Killed by police:
Miguel Wilson, Red Hills Road, Kingston
Unidentified man, Spanish Town, St. Catherine
- Challenging the Constitutional Tribunal Ruling in the Dominican Republic: Where is CARICOM Leadership? (stabroeknews.com)
- Jamaicans start campaign to ban T&T goods (caribslinks.wordpress.com)
- ‘Denationalisation’ vs ‘deportation’ (trinidadexpress.com)
- Caricom condemns Dominican citizenship ruling (utsandiego.com)
- Jamaicans accused of lying to T&T; immigration (jamaica-gleaner.com)
- Jamaica issues travel warning against Trinidad and Tobago (caribbean360.com)
It’s late, and there is not much left of November 20 as I write this (at least, not where I am writing from), but I could not close down my computer without recognizing this day, which was established in 1999 to commemorate those transgender persons who have been murdered in the past year (I understand it is well over 200 globally this year). Especially, here in Jamaica, I would like us to remember Dwayne Jones, a gender non-conforming teenager who was murdered (chopped and stabbed to death) by a mob on July 22 this year after party-goers discovered he was wearing women’s clothing. Young Dwayne had aspirations to become an entertainer.
So far as I know, we have had no recent updates on the investigation into Dwayne’s tragic death.
Below is a link to a message from the White House in recognition of the day, which notes: “This day is an opportunity to remember those who have lost their lives to violence and injustice because of their gender identity or gender expression,” and quotes former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice‘s words: “At the United Nations, the United States is standing up for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals and fighting to ensure that their voices are heard and protected. The United States was proud to co-sponsor and adopt an historic resolution at the UN Human Rights Council condemning human rights abuses and violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity.” Where was Jamaica?
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rev-miller-jen-hoffman/transgender-day-of-remembrance_b_4304629.html Transgender Day of Remembrance: Huffington Post
http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2013/11/20/marking-transgender-day-remembrance-0 Marking Transgender Day of Remembrance: White House
http://www.news.com.au/world/transgender-teen-dwayne-jones-murdered-by-mob-in-jamaica/story-fndir2ev-1226695183449 Transgender teen Dwayne Jones murdered by mob in Jamaica: news.com.au
Busy week, but I hope I haven’t missed out too much. Please bear with me…
The struggle continues… Back to the political killing floor. Sorry to use this violent imagery, but many columnists and talk shows are still mulling over the Jamaica Labour Party skirmishes last week, that left several members suffering possibly mortal wounds. What will happen to Christopher Tufton and Audley Shaw and others, whom I consider to be the brightest of that bunch? I hope they find their place somehow, so that they are able to contribute to the governance of the nation. They have a lot to offer. And can Andrew Holness do a decent job in the Finance Spokesman role? His mentor Edward Seaga also handled that portfolio himself… I don’t know. We shall see. It’s pretty messy.
So now, the Supreme Court should tomorrow hear a claim by former Leader of Opposition Business in the Senate Arthur Williams, himself an attorney. He is seeking an injunction to block Holness from filling the two Senate seats vacated by himself and Christopher Tufton, after Holness’ crafty sleight of hand last week. Yes, Mr. Holness has been crafty and may well feel that he has been rather smart. However, he now has a legal case as well as a deadwood Shadow Cabinet of yes-men (and one yes-woman). Read more here: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=49401Is
Mr. Ruel Reid is a very good school principal, by all accounts. Last week, Opposition Leader Andrew Holness quickly named him as Senator. But does he have time for this, as well as serving on a couple of boards? And he had better be careful not to let the politics spill over into his work as headmaster of the famous Jamaica College. The Minister of Education sounds concerned and somewhat wary; so am I.
PetroCaribe is doing a “wobbly”: A recent article in the Christian Science Monitor suggests that all is not well with Venezuela‘s PetroCaribe arrangements with at least one of the 17 participating nations. Its oil contracts with China and India must be profitable than those with Caribbean countries. Will the terms of Venezuela’s agreement with Jamaica change, in terms of higher interest rates etc? Energy Minister Phillip Paulwell says the agreement is “intact” and unchanged. Venezuela’s economy is in a mess, with a soaring crime rate and actual oil production very low. The man with the mustache is also not a reliable character. He will be ruling by decree for the next year – at least – so a dictatorship is in place, at least a temporary one. Read more here: http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Americas/2013/1115/Venezuela-s-regional-energy-program-Petrocaribe-wobbles
Financial news: The “big” news is that the economy grew in the last quarter by a whopping 0.6 per cent. After six consecutive quarters of negative growth, this is something to get mildly excited about. Inflation, however, is lurking in the wings and creeping up – as we are all painfully aware of when we visit the supermarket. It was 3.7 per cent in the last quarter – above the Bank of Jamaica target of two to three per cent. But financial reporting sometimes baffles me. The Gleaner reports that, in addition to increases in transportation costs, the reason for higher inflation was “higher costs associated with the summer holidays and preparations for the start of the new school year.” Er, doesn’t this happen every year? Read more here: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131120/business/business1.html
And in infrastructure news… An engineer has wisely suggested we build roads with concrete (which we actually produce here) rather than surfacing them with a (generally too thin) layer of imported asphalt. Concrete lasts much longer too. And over 600 street lights have mysteriously turned up in Trelawny – they have “moved” from somewhere else! So many? It is staggering. The poor Jamaica Public Service Company has to be constantly one or two steps ahead of the ingenious light thieves. Read more here: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Engineer-touts-benefits-of-concrete-roads_15432634 and http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131118/lead/lead6.html
Impunity basically means getting away with it. Impunity “tun up” these days (to coin a Jamaican phrase): for the electricity thieves; for the crazy bus and taxi drivers who threaten our lives daily on the road; for the operators of “Ponzi” schemes who have fleeced many Jamaicans of millions; for those police officers who break the law themselves; for those faceless, nameless rampaging mobs who regularly take the law into their own hands, as in the case of Dwayne Jones; and according to the latest study from the University of the West Indies (UWI), for the vast majority of murderers out there, who are never brought to justice.
UWI Professor Anthony Clayton tells us that the conviction rate for murder is less than five per cent per year. We always knew that this was a major concern, but the numbers are stark. Read more here: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131120/lead/lead1.html Are we going to hear from Minister of National Security Peter Bunting? Can he handle this portfolio, I have to ask? We cannot just blame the police; they are out of their depth and struggling. “Operation Resilience” (endless curfews, “shootouts” and the rounding up of young men in inner cities) is just not working. Those methods never have worked. A policy rethink is needed. A serious rethink, Minister.
It’s not just the murders. There has been a heightened level of violence and insecurity. A schoolgirl in Clarendon shot and injured accidentally by the police who were pursuing a suspect. A student in Portland stabbed by a fellow student and seriously ill in hospital. And again I ask, what was going on outside the Police Commissioner’s Office on Hope Road on Saturday evening – loud gunfire, huge traffic jam? Since I live just down the road, I would love to know.
As I mentioned in my last post, the brother of a journalist friend of mine was shot dead in downtown Kingston a few days ago. Here are Rohan Powell’s heartfelt comments on Facebook: “It has been more than four days since my brother Evon Powell was shot and killed on Sutton street, just a short hop from our childhood home. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to grasp that he was the target. The killer, like many others who have carried out similar dastardly acts, are known as cowards. He or she didn’t give my brother a fighting chance. The reality is that his life has been snuffed out by someone who wanted to “make a duppy”. My brother’s death speaks to the vicious cycle of what we call Life. Nothing can bring him back…all we can look forward to, is that he will enjoy a peaceful rest near to Joan..his mother…and that his children all , can lift their heads high and be proud to carry on the Powell name with pride and dignity….”
A mob of residents killed one man and injured two others whom they accused of stealing goats in rural Mocho. A teenage boy, a student of Morant Bay High School, was shot along with his grandmother and later died from his injuries. A teenage girl, a student of Lennon High School, was found dead in the Mocho area of Clarendon. A well-known farmer and businessman was shot in Black River. A bakery owner was shot dead on Monday morning on his way to the bank in Montego Bay. A teenage boy was reportedly beaten to death and another seriously injured by the police in Sandy Bay, Hanover. And so the sad stories continue. My condolences to the grieving families and loved ones left behind.
Everton Lewis, 63, Black River, St. Elizabeth
Kadiane Smith, 16, Bamboo River/Morant Bay, St. Thomas
Unidentified man, Queens Street/Morant Bay, St. Thomas
Rayon Lee Massie, 26, St. Thomas Technical High School
Carol Matthews, 43, Braeton, St. Catherine
Cedrick Ravine, 54, Rio Nuevo, St. Mary
Ralston Cole, 39, Castleton, St. Mary
Amariah Green, Mocho, Clarendon (mob killing)
Calecia Edwards, 15, Brixton Hill, Clarendon
Clinton Young, 45, Montego Bay, St. James
Everton Ewan, Johns Common, St. James
Killed by police:
Ashanti Clarke, 17, Sandy Bay, Hanover
Here are some more articles of interest, on the ongoing politics and such:
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131119/lead/lead1.html Security expert says police not aiming at right target to buck murder trend: Gleaner
http://jamaicapoliticaleconomy.wordpress.com/2013/11/18/the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly-november-17/ The good, the bad and the ugly: jamaicapoliticaleconomy.wordpress.com
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131118/cleisure/cleisure4.html Unconscionable political prenuptial agreement: Bert Samuels op-ed, Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Respect-my-mandate-_15459245 Respect my mandate! Holness tells the defeated: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Holness-to-establish-order-within-JLP_15463787 Holness to establish order within JLP: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Democracy-and-the-JLP—a-long-way-from-home_15459216 Democracy and the JLP – a long way from home: Louis Moyston column/Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/A-time-for-inspiration_15459069 A time for inspiration: Jean Lowrie-Chin column/Jamaica Observer
http://www.caribbeanlifenews.com/stories/2013/11/2013_11_15_vkp_jamaica_youth_minister.html Jamaica‘s youth minister pleads to UNESCO: Caribbean Life
http://www.caribbeannewsnow.com/headline-Mentors-to-assist-Caribbean-fisherfolk-to-enhance-their-contribution-to-food-security-18715.html Mentors to assist Caribbean fisherfolk to enhance their contribution to food security: Caribbean News Now
Both our political parties went into “shoot yourself in the foot” mode this week, in very different ways. But basically sparking the same general reaction among many of us: kiss teeth, shrug shoulders, sigh, laugh, cry, groan, make cynical noises. And of course, more great fodder for the media.
Let’s start with the party in power, the People’s National Party: As I warned you in Wednesday’s post, at five o’clock that evening the former Junior Minister in the Ministry of Transport and Works, Richard Azan had said he was not aware of any plans to reinstate him. The very next morning at nine o’clock he and his colleagues dutifully appeared all dressed up at King’s House. His colleagues applauded him as the Governor General swore him in. Everyone clapped. Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller (wearing those hideous sunglasses again, indoors) gave him a warm hug and kiss. The Jamaica Labour Party‘s Daryl Vaz attended (hmm) because the Azans are family friends, or something. Yes, after all the hand-wringing, finger-pointing and recriminations, Mr. Azan is back. He resigned just two months ago after huge public pressure. His return was apparently “urgent” - the reason perhaps being that Mr. Azan’s boss Omar Davies is taking sick leave for an operation.
Oh, what of the promised single anti-corruption agency, which I understand the government had promised to create by year-end? Just a few weeks to go, and… Well?
Since the re-election of Andrew Holness as Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) leader at their conference a week ago, the machinations of the Opposition have become quite complex. The chain of events goes something like this (hope I get this right): Sunday: Holness is re-elected with 57.3% of the delegates’ votes, defeating Audley Shaw. (Fake?) smiles all round. Monday: Holness receives a bunch of resignation letters from Shaw supporters. Tuesday: Holness wants all eight JLP Senators to resign, and then says he didn’t say that. Holness announces his dreary old Shadow Cabinet. Audley Shaw and Ed Bartlett say they cannot accept positions because of certain issues (including the disputed nomination of two deputy leaders, Christopher Tufton and James Robertson). Wednesday: What happened? I can’t remember. Thursday: It seems five JLP senators have resigned. Two prominent ones (Christopher Tufton and Arthur Williams) will not. Oh yes, then they did. Williams says Holness used undated resignation letters! Friday: A confused Upper House sits with five out of six remaining JLP senators present. Oh, Holness appointed a new one. His name is Alexander Williams. Weekend: Head spinning. Winner: Andrew Holness. Losers: Audley Shaw. The JLP. Democracy. Governance.
Is Holness the “transformational leader” he thinks he is? Will the JLP ever win an election again? What of all the pieces in this manic chess game? Is there space for them, or have some been knocked off the board? I personally believe Holness has just been a little too “smart” for his own good. At least party chairman Bobby Montague seems to be keeping sane while everyone else is losing their heads…
Meanwhile the private sector is getting antsy again, and it’s not surprising. Businessman Gassan Azan gave a speech recently about this eternal business of “cutting red tape.” If you recall, Jamaica just slipped on the annual “Doing Business” rankings. Mr. Azan wants the government to do something about it, not just talk. But the relevant government ministers are all in a tizzy over the logistics hub. Red tape? Oh, that’s boring stuff. Here is an edited version of Mr. Azan’s speech: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Cutting-the-red-tape–and–making-it-easier-to-do-business–have-become-almost-meaningless_15447161
The Contractor General is right. What is the point of the whistleblower legislation passed during the JLP administration at the end of 2010? One could say there is no “culture” of whistle-blowing in Jamaica (how I hate that word sometimes). Instead, we have the “informer fi dead culture.” We are all afraid of our own shadows. No whistle-blowing round here.
Drums rolling and trumpets blaring for these awesome people:
- Usain Bolt and Shelly-Ann Fraser Pryce, along with singer Tessanne Chin, are keeping Jamaicans’ morale up. The two athletes were named World Athletes of the Year (Usain for the fifth time, Shelly-Ann for the first) by the IAAF in a glitzy affair in Monaco over the weekend. They both looked gorgeous – and they are two marvelous role models. We are proud.
- Sir Richard Branson and volunteer Josh Chamberlain who are working together on a project for the Alpha Boys School called Alpha Wear Jamaica. Sir Richard was in Jamaica recently. Read more on Kate Chappell’s blog: http://jamaicajournal.wordpress.com/2013/11/13/branson-visits-jamaica/
- Sheena South and the Portmore Youth Information Centre, who yesterday aired the “Girl Rising” documentary. Here’s Sheena’s Facebook message: “10X10 is a global campaign to educate and empower girls. At the center of the campaign is a feature film, Girl Rising. It’s by an Academy Award nominated director (Richard Robbins) and features performances from Meryl Streep, Anne Hathaway, Selena Gomez, Salma Hayek, Alicia Keys, and others. This important film tells the stories of nine remarkable girls from around the world who are striving beyond circumstance, pushing past limits and demonstrating the extraordinary strength of the human spirit to overcome the odds. Yet it also carries a powerful message: if we educate girls, we can change the future of some 66 million girls around the world who today only dream of going to school.Together, we can create powerful change. I hope you’ll join this movement with me.” Great initiative!
- Dale and Evette Walker and the people of Bunker’s Hill in Trelawny (I love that name) who are working to build their community through the Bunker’s Hill Community Development Committee. “They used to call me typewriter at school,” says Evette, “because I was very good at writing.” Great story here: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/regional/Working-for-Bunker-s-Hill_15432245
- The people of Trench Town, who staged a special trade and development fair at Kingston’s Emancipation Park yesterday.
There has been a nine per cent increase in murders to date this year compared to last, according to police statistics. We have passed the 1,000 mark to 1,054. That’s 84 – yes, 84 – more deaths than the same time last year. A retired policeman was found murdered in his apartment, just down the road from our house. The brother of a journalist whom I know well, a netball coach, was also shot dead in Kingston. My condolences to their families and friends as well as to all those who continue to feel the pain of loss.
Kenneth Lynch, 66, Lady Musgrave Road, Kingston
Evon Powell, 48, Sutton/Duke Street, Kingston
“Raymond,” Darling Street/Spanish Town Road, Kingston
George Steering, 45, Spanish Town, St. Catherine
Oliver Kerr, 34, Sandy Bay, Hanover
Keeble Kerr, 36, Sandy Bay, Hanover
Clifford Lindo, 57, Palmers Cross, Clarendon
Infant male, York Town, Clarendon
Killed by the police:
Unidentified man, Spanish Town, St. Catherine
Unidentified man, Spanish Town, St. Catherine
Ryan Clarke, Retirement, St. James
To quote a Twitter friend tonight: “Yellow tape is good business.”
A few more articles on the Azan and JLP sagas:
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/civil-groups-strongly-object-reappointment-of-richard-azan_1 Local civil groups strongly object reappointment of Richard Azan: RJR News
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/-p-Opposition-slaps-Gov-t-over-Azan-s-reappointment–p—_15444623 Opposition slaps government over Azan’s reappointment: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131116/cleisure/cleisure1.html Gleaner editorial: PM’s misstep on Azan
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Resigning-after-a-mandate-change-the-ethical-thing-to-do–says-Holness_15444642 Resigning after a mandate change the ethical thing to do, says Holness: Sunday Observer
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/principle-not-bitterness-shaw-defends-decision-to-decline-post-in-shadow-cabinet Principle, not bitterness: Shaw defends decision to decline post in Shadow Cabinet: RJR News
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=49289 Holness criticized over Senate “resignations”: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131116/lead/lead2.html Upper House passes irrigation resolutions after Tufton’s resignation
http://digjamaica.com/blog/2013/11/15/5-facts-the-jamaican-senate/ Five Facts: The Jamaican Senate (the photograph is not of a Senate sitting however).
I spent the weekend in a different world: where the scent of suntan lotion fills the air, and nice, sanitized reggae music fills the air. Yes, I was in the massive (and I mean huge) complex that is the Gran Bahia Principe on Jamaica’s fair north coast. But actually, good to be back home…
Mountain View troubles: Just a couple of weeks ago I visited the Jacques Road area of Mountain View. People were getting on with their lives, the Homework Centre was open. Francena and other community leaders were doing great work with much support. It is really extremely sad to hear of the problems in the area, which began a week ago with the police shooting a teenager in the Jarrett Lane area, some distance down the road. But roadblocks and unrest have continued all of this week, and gang activity seems to have started up again. Just over a year ago, the police killed another teen (and leading light in the police youth club there) Kavorne Shue, in the same area. The pain of that death still lingers; and there are now allegations of police brutality in the area. How will all this help to reduce our rate of violent crime?
And Minister Bunting, to be honest, we don’t need a “forum” on violence prevention. Unless it is going to lead to an action plan that will lead to…action. http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=48995 And now the Minister has also expressed concern about the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM), who investigate police killings, because they actually take away the policemen’s guns. He echoed the Police Federation’s recent complaints. Surely in any investigation into a gun crime, all the guns must be taken for examination? See here: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131031/lead/lead5.html
INDECOM says the police killed 15 Jamaicans in September – and 35 in October. Well, the Police Commissioner did warn us that the police will not be “delicate”… Read more here: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131101/lead/lead7.html The INDECOM Commissioner has also clarified the situation re: the “seizing” of guns from the police at crime scenes – an accusation the Minister seemed so eager to back up. So between the police rank and file and the Minister himself, there is a lot of chipping away at the authority of a Commission established by Government. How does this help us as we search for justice for all? And why is the Minister not clear on the role and responsibilities of INDECOM?
The enigma that is Minister Bunting: In my last post I suggested that he is impersonal and lacking in empathy towards the victims of crime. No expressions of regret for the most terrible crimes seem to pass his lips. I’m trying to figure out the mindset, but he is an enigma. I would not like to think that he is quite comfortable with the daily horrors. Here is what some Observer readers think: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/-How-s-the-praying-thing-going–Mr-Bunting–_15362955
But I am not letting the Opposition Spokesman off the hook: Mr. Delroy Chuck seems to have had a rush of blood to the head and agrees with Minister Bunting that strong measures must be taken to curb crime. And I quote: “I have heard it from persons who believe that the problem of crime is a social one and if you put in enough social reform and enough social intervention you can curb the crime problem. It nuh work.” So by inference, you do not believe the problem of crime is a social issue, Mr. Chuck? You once used to talk quite a bit of sense… Read more here: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131103/news/news5.html
The dynamic duo of Bunting and Chuck (chair and member, respectively, of the joint select committee considering anti-gang legislation) also gave short shrift to human rights lawyer Nancy Anderson of the Norman Manley Law School. Ms. Anderson pointed out that a part of the proposed law is in violation of the (already flawed) Charter of Rights, passed three years ago. Oh no, but strong measures are needed to fight the scourge of gangs, etc., chorused Minister B and Mr. C.Here we are: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131103/news/news6.html
In just a few months this year, the National Water Commission (NWC) has lost J$3.5 billion. Staggering, especially when you consider that this abominably wasteful and inefficient government agency has just been granted a rate increase that we, the consumers, must pay. http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131031/lead/lead1.html Moreover, the head of the NWC has just resigned, to take up a position as head of…the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR), which reviews rates and just approved this latest increase. Well, I never. (The Sunday Gleaner came up with a decent editorial at last, reminding politicians of their responsibility. Read here: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131103/cleisure/cleisure1.html
Do read our revered columnist Barbara Gloudon’s vivid first-hand account of a teen party she literally ran into recently here: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Stranded-in-an-over-sexed-age_15362857 Meanwhile Talk Up Yout,‘ a UNICEF-sponsored project, is urging us not to judge the young people too hastily, after the viral video of Maggotty High School students disporting themselves (two years ago). Read their views here: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131101/letters/letters6.html
Parenting is “in”: Parenting workshops and parenting centers are breaking out all over these days, as both government and non-governmental agencies try to find a solution to the “uncontrollable” behavior of our young adults, among other social ills. I hope they will help to shore up the crumbling family structures that exist in many of our communities; so many children have very little they can call family. Read more about one project: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Whitfield-Town-teen-moms–dads-learn-parenting-skills_15362607
Bobbing and weaving: An item in the business news notes that Jamaicans will spend close to J$1 billion this year on imported weaves. Yes, weaves…fake hair. I choked when I read this. One person in the business observes, “Fake hair is not necessary for survival (er, no ma’am) but has become a staple for many women.” So this is where all our foreign exchange is going. While the economy is collapsing around them, women cannot – must not – do without their fake hair, wigs and even eyelashes! Read more: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/business/Jamaica-s-weave-imports-set-to-hit–1-billion-in-2013_15362696#ixzz2jQpIJ0Ua
Zero out of ten to Mr. Gordon Robinson for his pathetic response to Diana McCaulay’s brilliant critique of his column on the Portland Bight Protected Area (Goat Islands etc). The sexism is absolutely nauseating. He describes Ms. McCaulay as “the subject of every pimply nerd’s wet dreams,” among other things. Mr. Robinson, a lawyer by profession, would say this is humorous, and anyone who disagrees just has no sense of fun. Yes, the most offensive racist, sexist, homophobic, misogynistic comments are often disguised as “humor,” actually. If you can stomach it, read here: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131103/focus/focus1.html
Meanwhile, our silent Prime Minister is in Japan. I do hope she is enjoying her trip. “No problem, mon!” (I have been influenced by my tourism experience this weekend, clearly…) I am tired of asking the same questions: how many people accompanied her (“her support staff and security team”)? And did they all travel first class, as Ms. Simpson Miller always does? What is to be achieved by this visit? Will we, the taxpayers footing the bill for this long-distance journey, be granted a report on the results of the visit?
Three cheers for the following:
- USAID: USAID Jamaica – which celebrated 52 years of foreign assistance on Friday, November 1 – recently graduated 98 youth across the island from training in climate change adaptation – an important, even urgent concern that we should all be paying attention to. Read more here: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131101/lead/lead8.html and http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/98-graduate-from-Climate-Change-Action-Training-programme
- My former boss, Ian Randle, who received an honorary doctorate from the University of the West Indies (UWI) recently. Here is an edited version of the speech he gave at UWI’s St. Augustine campus in Trinidad: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131101/lead/lead99.html
- Petre Williams-Raynor, the excellent environmental journalist now with Panos Caribbean, who is highly focused, well-informed and has a consistently high level of output. She has written here on climate change adaptation: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131101/news/news1.html And in her blog here following Friday’s fascinating seminar on disaster preparedness for the disabled community in Portmore (more on that later): http://wordsfrompetre.webs.com/apps/blog/entries/show/34882533-disasters-and-the-disabled
Meanwhile, the police continue to inflict “strong measures” on the Jamaican people. They shot dead two teenage brothers on the first day of the month. A mentally ill man was severely beaten in the Falmouth police lock-up on October 19, and is lying in hospital with serious head injuries. INDECOM is investigating. And a mob chopped and beat to death a teenager in Hanover, who was also said to be “of unsound mind.” My sad condolences to all those left behind to mourn the deaths of the following Jamaican citizens who lost their lives to violence in the past four days:
Javore Elleston, 14, Riverton City, Kingston
“Mattic Head,” Torrington Park, Kingston
“Strado,” Seaview Gardens, Kingston
Sophia Dawson, 46, Dyke Road/Portmore, St. Catherine
Dennis Martin, 31, Norwood, St. James
Gregory Black, 35, St. James
Ojay Gardner, 18, Chigwell, Hanover (mob killing)
Omar Taylor, Havana Heights, Clarendon
Markland Drysdale, 40, Cow Bay/Albion, St. Thomas
Killed by police:
Odane Myers, 21, Russia/Savannah-la-Mar, Westmoreland
Lewishon Campbell 17, Mt. Salem, St. James
Romario Campbell, 19, Mt. Salem, St. James
Additional articles of interest:
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131101/lead/lead1.html Feeding Jamaica, no problem: Gleaner
http://newsandviewsbydjmillerja.wordpress.com/2013/11/03/jamaica-masters-of-crisis-management/ Jamaica: Masters of Crisis Management: newsandviewsbydjmiller
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131101/lead/lead96.html Chuck: Changing Article 45 will “Jamaicanize” region: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131103/lead/lead3.html Children stuck in horror: health-care workers recount haunting tales of sex abuse of kids: Sunday Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Maroon-chief-to-add-voice-to-international-exchange-on-indigenous-issues Maroon chief to add voice to international exchange on indigenous issues: Jamaica Observer
It’s been a sad and nostalgic Sunday for me, with the news that one of my truest, fiercest musical icons, Lou Reed, passed away this morning. OK, that dates me, I know. But I spent half the day rummaging through YouTube, endlessly replaying the dark, gritty and sometimes melodic sounds of Velvet Underground, and Lou. What a remarkable songwriter he was, too.
Meanwhile, I knew it was only a matter of time before the Riverton City dump (no, it’s not a landfill) caught fire. Today firefighters were trying to save people’s homes, made of board and zinc. If you have never been there – you should. It is not a place for anyone to live.
Seems everyone is running off to China these days: Education Minister Ronald Thwaites is trying to get China to take some of our trained teachers that we don’t have jobs for. I’m all for Jamaicans learning more languages, but why would Chinese people want to come all the way here to learn English? And the highly-favored Mayor of May Pen, Scean Barnswell – that’s right, the Mayor who sees no reason to resign – has been off to an agritourism conference in – yes, you’ve guessed it, China. Three questions: Who pays for these trips? What is the cost of a return flight to China (first class? Since our Prime Minister always travels first class I expect her officials/ministers do too?) And thirdly, what the blazes is agritourism? Read more here: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131025/lead/lead5.html and http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131025/news/news8.html
It took the murder of a young Woman Special Constable for our National Security Minister Peter Bunting to open his mouth and speak about our horrible murder rate, which has simply taken off this month. In my next post, I will do a quick tally and give you a rough idea of the number of murders for October. Even after the National Heroes Day bloodbath Minister Bunting said not a word, until this poor young woman was killed. At least he did say that every death was a tragedy, whether a policeman/woman or not.
Are you as weary as I am with the Jamaica Labour Party leadership race? It seems to be dragging on interminably. When is their conference? I know the date changed. Oh, it’s November 3. Good. I am really tired of nightly TV news items of men and women in various shades of green sitting in school classrooms at tiny little desks they can hardly fit into while Mr. Holness or Mr. Shaw, sweating profusely, tries to get some excitement going with a microphone. (These are delegates’ meetings). The Sunday Gleaner reports here: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=48913
No endorsement: By the way, G2K (the JLP’s young professionals arm, and a very effective political entity in many ways) is not endorsing either candidate. President Floyd Green says, “While we expect that our members will be actively involved in either campaign, their views and expressions of support are personal.” I think that’s fair enough.
Oh no, I got it wrong: The JLP conference is on November 10! Two more weeks? Well, we will just have to brave it out a bit longer… The end is in sight
Goat Islands alert: The Ministry of Industry, Investment & Commerce will be holding what appears to be a closed-doors, highly-priced forum on the logistics hub, excluding the average Jamaican, for the private sector, on November 12. I wonder if the media will be allowed in. This coincides with a meeting of the Iguana Specialist Group at Hope Zoo – including many representatives from the United States, Australia and elsewhere. Why is this meeting not open to the public? Your guess is as good as mine. Also, Minister of Everything Omar Davies says an announcement will be made in the Lower House (possibly Tuesday) on the preliminary report into the use of Goat Islands. See here: http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/findings-of-goat-islands-study-to-be-released-this-week. And last week a group of European diplomats toured the Portland Bight Protected Area and “congratulated” the Government on its concern for the environment, while touring mangrove restoration projects that the EU funded. Some subtle (not so subtle?) messages here, I think! Read more here: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131027/news/news5.html
And the tiefing continues… In some communities the latest ruse by the light thieves is to connect to street lights to steal their electricity. As a result, whole neighborhoods are plunged in darkness, thus encouraging more crime. In other communities, the theft of copper wiring from LIME installations is becoming a regular nightmare. Whenever it happens, residents’ phones and Internet services disappear, and LIME loses millions. Is the police aware of any of this and why can’t they do something about it? Read more: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/No-light-matter__15314255 and http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/scrap-metal-federation-distances-itself-from-theft-of-limes-copper-cables
Holiday for students of Oracabessa Primary: Students at this school got a few unexpected days’ holiday after it was discovered that the place became infested by fleas over the long holiday weekend. Some stray dogs lolling about in the cellar were blamed. I found the reports baffling. The cleaning ladies swore that they kept the building spotless, while the Principal mumbled something quite meaningless. Two days after the weekend, the problem remained. I hope the students are back at school tomorrow.
A little more “ruly”: I know that’s not a real word… The unruly students of the Half Way Tree Transport Centre in Kingston have been tamed…for now, according to the Jamaica Observer. I have a feeling that this story might recur in the future though. A bit like the Riverton City dump fire story.
A change of heart: Mr. Damion “Build, build, build” Crawford, the Junior Tourism Minister, was once much more environmentally aware, it seems. When interviewed for the Gleaner’s tourism supplement some years ago along with environmentalist Wendy Lee, a more youthful (and he would now say, perhaps, naïve?) Crawford declared: “For a tropical country whose tourism relies totally on the state of its natural environment, we are not even close to adhering to even our own national standards…In many cases, environmental impact assessments are not being done where they are required, solid waste management remains poor and there continues to be widespread dumping of sewage in the sea.” Oh, how people change when they obtain political office! You can read the article here: http://hospitalityjamaica.com/20080514/environ2.html (Oh, will an environmental impact assessment be done on Goat Islands, one wonders?)
Jamaicans need beaches: Last Sunday I referred to Archbishop Howard Gregory’s excellent column on access to beaches (or the lack thereof, in most cases) with particular reference to Little Dunn’s River, which has been summarily closed by the Urban Development Corporation because of illegal activities allegedly taking place there. This is not the way to do it. Our recreational spaces (and opportunities to enjoy what’s left of our beautiful coastline) are becoming fewer and fewer. I understand that church leaders and concerned residents in the Ocho Rios area are not going to take this one lightly. Think again, UDC!
Some things I have not heard much about lately… *Trafigura *Medical tourism *The Tivoli Commission of Enquiry – date!
Note to Television Jamaica: I am not impressed by your new practice of airing rather poor video footage of a radio discussion program on RJR earlier in the day as “news” every Sunday evening. I know TVJ and RJR are part of the same media group, but this is lame and doesn’t work. It also just seems very lazy. What works for radio does not always work for television, does it? Or don’t you know that?
Speaking of “lame”… The Gleaner’s editorials are becoming more and more limply apologetic. The Sunday Gleaner editorial this week (“The PM’s next step”) left me dumbfounded. Stunned, even. It reads like an essay by a high school student who has copied some nice-sounding words from the Internet, with grammatical errors and politely meaningless clichés thrown in. What planet are you living on, Mr/Ms Gleaner editor? Here is the link: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131027/cleisure/cleisure1.html
Recommended from elsewhere… I came across a great TED talk by one of my heroes, Jane Goodall, about “How humans and animals can live together.” Here’s the link. It’s food for thought, allow yourself twenty minutes to watch and I think you will enjoy it: http://www.ted.com/talks/jane_goodall_at_tedglobal_07.html
For those who want to delve into history and learn more about the descendants of the Tainos across our region (yes, there are still descendants), this is a fascinating read: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/people-places/What-Became-of-the-Taino.html
Sunday kudos to:
- Digicel Foundation who pulled off another tremendous Night Run/Walk downtown on Saturday night. I understand that an astonishing 7,500 Jamaicans participated. This was the second such fundraising event. I hope (and believe) they raised lots of money for Jamaicans – adults and children – with special needs. Congraulations!
- I Believe Initiative for their marvelous National Youth Conference last Thursday. I wrote about it over the weekend. I Believe chose the three speakers well, and I think many of those young people attending were inspired. It was good to see them actively participating in discussions, too. Here’s my article: http://petchary.wordpress.com/2013/10/27/helping-our-youth-to-believe-in-themselves/
- JPS Foundation for their “model school” projects. CEO Kelly Tomblin (looking very jazzy in a pink dress and white-framed sunglasses) broke ground at the Falmouth Basic School this week. The relatively new Foundation’s focus is education and youth leadership. Good for them!
- Hampton School, an excellent girls’ boarding school in rural St. Elizabeth, which is “going green.” And more thanks to Digicel Foundation for supporting this forward-thinking effort. I do hope more schools – and in particular, government offices – will follow suit. http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131026/lead/lead6.html
- The Jamaican organizations who have just received grants from the U.S. Embassy under the President’s Emergency Fund for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) Small Grants Program administered by the U.S. Department of State: Eve for Life, Mustard Seed Communities, National Council on Drug Abuse, Caribbean Community of Retired Persons and BREDS – the Treasure Beach Foundation.
It has been an especially horrible week, and the sadness continues, every day, relentlessly. I am going to start posting photos of those murdered, where available. So that we know they are real people, not statistics. Their grieving families and friends know they are people, and I send my sympathies to all.
Unidentified man, Arnett Gardens, Kingston
Jason Armstrong, Conway Road, Kingston 11
Jason Mais, 19, Mud Town, St. Andrew
“Indian,” August Town, St. Andrew
Special Constable Arianna Henry, 23, Portmore, St. Catherine
Gavin Huggins, Frazers Content, St. Catherine
Unidentified man, Burke Road, Spanish Town, St. Catherine
Pixiean Brandford, 23, Harker’s Hall, St. Catherine (on October 21)
Glendon Clarke, West End, Negril, Westmoreland
Tashman Stevenson, 32, Mount Carey, St. James
Leo Oldfield, 44, Mount Carey, St. James
Unidentified woman, Adelphi, St. James
Tedroy Logie, 28, Vineyard, St. Elizabeth
Killed by police:
Marlando Brown, 35, Waltham Park Road, Kingston
Jermaine Foote, 24, Grange Hill, Westmoreland
Omar Reid, Grange Hill, Westmoreland
Some other items of interest:
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131025/lead/lead1.html Best in the Caribbean: Ardenne outshines the region in CAPE: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Holness–Murder-rate-unacceptable_15318697 Holness: Murder rate unacceptable: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131025/news/news3.html Gravel Heights residents return after fleeing community: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131025/cleisure/cleisure1.html If the police want new powers… Gleaner editorial
http://www.minority-insight.org/2013/10/lesbian-harassed-and-then-shot-by.html Lesbian harassed and then shot by Jamaican police: minorityinsight.org
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Golding-willing-to-testify-at-Tivoli-Enquiry–but_15332632 Golding willing to testify at Tivoli Enquiry, but… Sunday Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Soldiers-in-Keith-Clarke-murder-for-trial-next-March Soldiers in Keith Clarke murder for trial next March: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/Tell-us-what-jobs-the–hub–wil-bring_15306431 Tell us what jobs the hub will bring: Letter to the Jamaica Observer
http://kentgammon.wordpress.com/2013/10/27/article-the-wada-extraordinary-doping-audit-for-jamaica-is-it-significant-to-jamaicas-sporting-reputation/ The WADA extraordinary doping audit for Jamaica: Is it significant for Jamaica’s sporting reputation? Kent Gammon blog
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads-100/35422 Campion gets new library and media center: Jamaica Information Service
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131025/news/news4.html Bustamante Children’s Hospital cardiac wing to be completed early 2014: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Smoking-ban-will-move-Jamaica-towards-developed-country-status—-Ferguson Smoking ban will move Jamaica towards developed country status – Ferguson: Jamaica Observer