The rain started with a flurry of wind and grumbling thunder which made our usually brave dogs tremble. Since then it has continued in a determined way, not wanting to stop.
The JTA furore: This has rumbled on, coming and going like the thunder, since the recent “unfortunate” remarks by no less than three past presidents of the Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA). These gentlemen indirectly but quite obviously aimed their barbs at Education Minister Ronald Thwaites, culminating in Mr. Doran Dixon’s unpleasant comments about mongrel dogs. (Personally though, I think mongrels are more intelligent than pedigree dogs). The revered Mico University College (the oldest teacher training institution in the Western Hemisphere, no less) issued a press release disassociating itself from Mr. Dixon’s comments; he is a senior lecturer there. There has been much outrage in the newspaper columns. But in an effort to return to the core issues at stake, Simon Crosskill’s Live at Seven last night attempted to clarify the JTA’s concerns in an interview with its current president Clayton Hall. It really does appear that Minister Thwaites was somewhat premature, and indeed inaccurate, in some of his comments in Parliament recently. Just want to emphasize the need for reasoned dialogue… All of you. A link to the Live at Seven program is below… It is, as Mr. Hall says, “a sincere issue of trust…”
Thanks goodness, now, the Labour Minister is going to step in. Please, let good sense and understanding prevail.
The children: It has been a rough and rocky Child Month for Minister of Youth and Culture Lisa Hanna. On Monday, she attempted to address the criticism of her oblique and tentative approach to the issue of children in state care in a joint press briefing, flanked by the Ministers of Security and Justice. Flying solo she has not done so well in my view. A radio interview this week was (as Jamaicans for Justice have noted) sadly lacking in details. Her announcement that the government will be building special lockups for children in several parishes (using the government’s JEEP emergency employment program) is puzzling. So, new lockups for children and a “retrofitted” prison on the same compound as an adult prison? Great improvement, yes and no doubt at great expense. Meanwhile, the Children’s Advocate embarked on an exhausting tour of television and radio talk shows, explaining in great detail the current situation regarding her efforts to obtain compensation for the survivors of the terrible fire at the Armadale Juvenile Correctional Centre. She is encountering roadblocks from the Attorney General’s Department. It is quite distressing to hear that she has to go to court for the girls…and the court date is July 2014. No, that was not a typo.
“Stomach-churning”: A luridly-written piece by Karyl Walker of the Jamaica Observer informed us that a small group of homeless gay men have “taken over” a house in a very posh uptown residential area of Kingston called Millsborough. The very posh residents are expressing outrage at their behavior, which “churns their collective stomachs,” to quote Mr. Walker’s colorful turn of phrase. Fingers are pointed at the non-governmental organization that advocates for gay rights, J-FLAG; this is the usual attitude of the average Jamaican towards human rights advocacy groups (Jamaicans for Justice have had their share of it over the years) These are homeless people, who may be breaking the law. If they are doing so, then the police should deal with them. The journalist clearly agrees with the residents, who believe it is the fault of the “disgusting,” stomach-churning gays who think they have rights. And how dare they think they have rights as Jamaican citizens? Sections of the media, Mr. Walker and his colleague, cartoonist Clovis included, encourage these attitudes enthusiastically.
Why don’t you get upset about rape, incest and child abuse, like Superintendent Gladys Brown?
Stressed-out Jamaica: Bloomberg recently posted a grid showing the “most stressed-out” countries in the world, based on things like perception of corruption, life expectancy and other factors. The top ten countries were in Latin America/Caribbean, with Jamaica rolling in at number eight. Most Jamaicans don’t seem particularly surprised at this finding. Slight shrug of shoulders. A tweep pointed out that not so long ago, some other survey concluded that Jamaica was one of the happiest countries in the world! We shrugged at that one, too. Can we be happy and stressed-out at the same time? And should we pay any attention to such matters?
A landmark case: See the useful links below from the blog of the insightful broadcast journalist Dionne Jackson-Miller. Along with J-FLAG, Dionne and Nationwide‘s Emily Crooks have been live tweeting this week from the Constitutional Court, where they are covering a very interesting and important case. Gay rights activist and attorney-at-law Maurice Tomlinson is suing three television stations – Television Jamaica, CVM Television and the Public Broadcasting Corporation of Jamaica – for refusing to air a public service announcement encouraging tolerance and love for gay family members. Dionne’s blog includes neat summaries of the first two days of the hearing.
For your information, I am sharing the link to this highly offensive (?) ad below. See for yourself.
More worries about the fake beach: There is still skepticism about the plan to rebuild the fast disappearing “seven mile” beach in Negril, using a material that has not been patented, manufactured by a Florida-based company. One resident points out that the product has not been tested and there are no reviews; what about the effects on humans and on the marine environment and creatures that live on the beach? Apparently the artificial beach will be tested at two other locations in Jamaica first…
Two very important reports: I think I omitted to post the links to two key human rights-related reports on Jamaica. Amnesty International’s 2013 Report is at
. The report of the Independent Commission of Investigations on police abuses in Jamaica is at
and is well worth reading. Neither report has received much more than a passing comment in the local media.
Kudos, kudos to:
- Educator, founder of the Nexus Performing Arts Company, cultural activist – and our son’s form teacher at Hillel Academy – Hugh Douse writes his debut column in the Jamaica Observer today. He makes a plea for the restoration of the historic Ward Theatre, a once-beautiful building in downtown Kingston, and the state of theater in Jamaica. A very good start!
- Another newcomer – Joel Crosskill is now reporting for CVM Television, with a British accent! Ah, that name sounds familiar… Some very informative reports so far, young Crosskill!
- Financial analyst and commentator Ralston Hyman, whose program “Real Business” on Power 106 FM is an endless mine of information on all aspects of finance and business, at home and abroad. I learn a lot from the interesting discussions, starting 9:00 a.m. weekdays…
- Superintendent Gladys Brown, who heads the Centre for the Investigation of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse (CISOCA). She continues to be my favorite police person by far. I admire her outspoken, fearless defense of the weak and marginalized, and in particular victims of sexual crimes. She is now speaking out about increasing rape allegations against the police. I hope all these cases are fully investigated, that the names are made public and that justice is done.
We are shocked by the murders of a young girl and an as yet unidentified teenager. I am so sad for the family and friends of these two Jamaican girls. I also heard about the murder/rape of a 75-year-old woman a few days ago, which the media seem to be avoiding. It was only reported on one television news station. Our women. Our children. Our men, too…
Natasha Brown, 4, Duanvale, Trelawny
Ansell Williams Jr., 46, Rio Nuevo, St. Mary
Unidentified woman, Maxfield Avenue, Kingston
Related articles (with local posts in purple):
Bloomberg Visual Data: Most stressed-out countries: bloomberg.com
Number portability by March 2014: Jamaica Information Service
So we now have an IMF deal, yay! Hugh Douse column/Jamaica Observer
Legislation for IMF requirements could delay other drafts: Gleaner
$185 million for renovation of facilities to house juveniles: Jamaica Information Service
Girl’s body found naked in front of church: Jamaica Observer
Shame! CISOCA boss decries apparent increase in rapes by cops: Gleaner
Residents say gays take over Barbican house: Jamaica Observer
JFJ takes children’s case to IACHR: Jamaica Observer
Students attend Fulbright session: Jamaica Information Service
Live at Seven discussion with JTA President Clayton Hall: CVM Television
Dixon’s comments have damaged Mico’s brand – Packer: Gleaner
Strengthen toothless anti-corruption laws: Victor Cummings op-ed/Gleaner
The conventional state of mind: Caribbean News Now/commentary
In praise of reports and enquiries in Jamaica: newsandviewsbydjmillerja
Highlights: Day 1, Maurice Tomlinson v TVJ, CVM and PBCJ: newsandviewsbydjmillerja
Highlights: Day 2, Maurice Tomlinson v TVJ, CVM and PBCJ: newsandviewsbydjmillerja
The “What?” “Why?” and “How?” of climate change resilient building in Jamaica: hill60bump.com
BACKGROUND NOTE: Ja Blog Day 2013 commemorates the third anniversary of the Tivoli Gardens Massacre, when Jamaican security forces invaded the community in west Kingston in search of an alleged drug trafficker and “don” Christopher “Dudus” Coke. A huge gun battle with gangsters defending the area allegedly took place. The police found just a few illegal guns – six in total, I believe – after it was over. On May 1, 2013, the Public Defender tabled his long-awaited interim (yes, interim) report on the Tivoli Gardens “incursion” in the House of Representatives. He is not sure exactly how many Jamaicans died on May 23, 2010 but records at least 76 civilian deaths (four are still missing, presumed dead) and one member of the Jamaica Defence Force killed. The Public Defender is investigating 44 complaints of extra-judicial killings (unjustifiable homicide) in Tivoli on that day. There are literally thousands of complaints of injury, malicious damage to property, theft and other abuses; and there are many ballistics reports outstanding from the security forces that have not yet been supplied to the Public Defender – who has faced many challenges in conducting his investigation. Mr. Earl Witter in his report describes the event as a “siege” (residents barricaded the entrances to the neighborhood). You may find a link to the complete report at
. The government has now announced that it will hold an official Commission of Enquiry into Tivoli; we wait to hear the terms of reference, in the next two weeks.
My thoughts on the issue of police and security force abuses – the topic that Jamaican bloggers are focused on today – are below.
Johnny Was. The first Bob Marley album I bought was “Rastaman Vibration.” The songs are not as often played as some of his more commercial albums. But “Johnny Was” always touched me, more deeply than the sentimental “No Woman No Cry.” The repetition of the line “Johnny was a good man,” over and over, echoes in my mind every time I see a woman on television, grieving publicly and painfully over the death of her young son. Her shoulders collapse; her body sags like a punch-drunk boxer; she gasps for breath, tumbles backwards onto the greasy pavement where her child lay bleeding, before being thrown into the back of a police pick-up truck to be transported to hospital. Neighbors and family members hurry to lift the woman up, support her weight and control her flailing arms. They wipe her face, distorted, wet with tears and dirt and the sweat of her grieving.
To the woman who cries in the song, Johnny “never did a thing wrong.” He was, simply, her child. That is how mothers are. I want to say this: Every man, woman and child cut down in an alleged shootout with the police has a mother, a father, a family, a friend. They are, and should not be, defined as “wanted men” with street names. But this is how the dispassionate police press releases describe them – in a specific format repeated generally, word for word, by the media – name/street name, age, and if possible, one or two crimes or murders that they may or may not have committed. I suspect they have a template in their computer with blank spaces for the names and ages and the type of gun found. (And almost always, a gun is found on the dead person; but one thing I have noticed is that when the police kill two or three at a time, they don’t find two or three guns. That means that, according to their own accounts, they have killed at least one unarmed citizen.)
But we, the Jamaican public, should see them differently. Those killed by the police are not alien creatures, living in their own world somewhere. They are a young man hanging out at a small cookshop, by the side of the road, holding a Dragon Stout between two fingers; they are a woman trying to make a life in a poor country town, with several children and no job; they are three family members, one a fireman, the other a “pillar of the church,” about to start a small business; they are a boisterous schoolgirl, who loves boys too much and loves to dance but wants to do well in high school; they are 13-year-old Janice Allen, shot dead at her gate in Trench Town, Kingston, on April 18, 2000. A policeman was charged with her murder, but was freed in 2004 after the Supreme Court directed the jury to bring a verdict of not guilty. Her mother, Millicent Forbes (“Miss Jenny”), died ten years later after fighting determinedly to get justice for her child. With the death of Miss Jenny – who, in Bob Marley’s words again, “never gave up the fight,” - the case was closed forever. Janice would be 26 now, perhaps with a husband and children of her own.
They are fathers, sons, mothers, daughters, sisters, brothers, uncles, aunts, friends, co-workers, neighbors, husbands, wives, lovers, baby mothers, baby fathers. Their brutal deaths leave behind a trail of grief and bitterness that is growing so long and so wide that you can see it covering the island, twisting and turning in all directions; like the termite trails on our old tree in the back yard.
By the way, if you want a completely different take on “Johnny Was,” an Irish punk band called Stiff Little Fingers produced a very loud, passionate rock version of the song. The mood is completely different; it is defiant and angry. The band’s version of the song appeared in 1979, not long after a highly troubled period in Northern Ireland’s history had begun.
But then, maybe that is the mood Jamaicans need to be in. Dry your tears. Stop your wailing. Get angry. And most of all, cry for justice.
Woman hold her head and cry,
As her son had been shot down in the street and died
Just because of the system.
Today is Malcolm X’s birthday; he would have been 88 years old. Tragically, his young grandson, Malcolm Shabazz, was murdered on May 9 at a Mexico City nightclub. But here’s a little Caribbean connection: Malcolm X’s mother Louise was born in Grenada - but she had a very sad life, too.
Well, with that useful and important fact stored away, let’s look at the last few days in Jamaica…
The voice of morality: Our pious Minister of Education, the Reverend Ronald Thwaites, told Parliament this week that he is not going to allow young Jamaican students to be “groomed” towards homosexuality (demonstrating his own mistaken beliefs on the subject); and that although he approves of (the right kind of) sex education, condoms in schools are out. None of us were surprised at this, were we – after all, the Minister’s Catholic faith strongly influences his prescriptions for our youth. The television program All Angles confronted the issue of condoms in schools last week with youth activist/commentator Jaevion Nelson, retired school principal Esther Tyson and the head of the guidance counseling association. The latter two both toed the Minister’s line as expected; were confused by the statistics Mr. Nelson produced to strengthen his case for contraceptive assistance in schools; and clumsily tried to catch him out, once or twice.
But a big, big silver lining: The same Minister folded his hands, turned his eyes to heaven and announced a change in government policy towards pregnant teens in school. Amendments to the Education Act and Regulations attached thereto will ensure that schools will keep open a space for a child who has had to leave due to pregnancy, so that she may continue her education afterwards. Huge kudos to Opposition Senator Kamina Johnson Smith for her strong lobbying on this issue; and to the Minister for seeing the sense and fairness of it. The Minister also announced a couple of pending measures that have ruffled the feathers of the Jamaica Teachers’ Association; more on that, probably, later. I don’t always agree with our overly preachy Minister; but at least he is trying to right some of the hundreds of wrongs afflicting our education system, one by one. He has some tricky issues to tackle, indeed.
“I’m so frustrated by this experience”: A quote from CEO of the Jamaica Public Service Company Kelly Tomblin on the seemingly very long and slow deliberations by the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) on who should receive the contract for a new 350 mw power plant. I can imagine how she feels. I often fail to see whether government agencies like the OUR, the Bureau of Standards (of toilet tissue infamy), the Urban Development Corporation and others do any good for the Jamaican people. I guess they provide jobs. How else do they serve our interests?
The truth is swimming away: In an enlightening radio interview with a frequently stuttering Transport and Works Minister Omar Davies on Thursday morning, it transpired that Davies’ junior minister Richard Azan told him two different stories about whether or not he knew that rental money was being collected at his (Azan’s) own constituency office for illegally constructed shops. There actually appear to be three different versions of this conversation, all aired on broadcast media. However, clearly Minister Davies seems to think that his junior minister means well, even if he has broken the law. He is eager to do good in the community, so let’s “give him a bligh,” nuh. The grammatically challenged Junior Minister had told Nationwide in an earlier interview, “Yes, I make a mistake for building the shops” (sic). But saying “My bad” sometimes has consequences, right?
This is a true patriot, Rev. Redwood: As I noted in my last blog post, the now-departed-on-a-jet-plane Senate President Reverend Stanley Redwood only dug a deeper hole for himself by responding to the cutting criticism of a Gleaner column in a letter to the newspaper. He actually called himself a patriotic Jamaican. The acerbic columnist Gordon Robinson today gives us a better idea of a patriotic Jamaican – one who has no choice but to struggle through our ramshackle health, justice and education systems with no special privileges, but who tries to help his fellow Jamaicans and ensure his family thrives.
Fresh face: Members of the 51% Coalition (including myself) are delighted at the appointment of a young attorney-at-law, Sophia Frazer-Binns. Great to see another woman in the Senate, and we look forward to her contribution. We note also that Ms. Frazer-Binns has some experience of working with youth. Good, too.
Two key meetings: J-FLAG and the Jamaica Civil Society Coalition (JCSC) had two key meetings this week: in recognition of International Day Against Homophobia, J-FLAG held a forum on homelessness and forced migration among the LGBT population; and the JCSC launched two publications arising from its lengthy series of consultations with communities on “People Participation in the National Budget Making Process.” Congratulations to both organizations for their efforts to keep seeking solutions to some of Jamaican society’s most intractable problems. I will be writing more on these meetings in the next week – in particular, on the “disconnects” between Jamaicans and Jamaicans. Need to overcome these…
Rooting for the children: Huge big-ups to the JN Foundation for providing desperately-needed funding for the Spanish Town-based non-governmental organization Children First. I had the honor of working with this organization on several occasions and have always been impressed by founder Claudette Richardson-Pious’ deep understanding of and clear-eyed focus on the complex and difficult lives of youth at risk. Since it is still Child Month, here are two other individuals who are quietly working on behalf of children: Deika Morrison of Crayons Count; and youth advocate Kemesha Kelly, who works with young people in St. Ann. Great role models.
Collecting: And Help JA Children, the lobby group formed one year ago, is busy collecting items for children in state care this month. Take your food, toiletries, clothes, books, magazines and other goodies to Kia Motors c/o HJC, 2 Chelsea Ave, Kgn 10. Tel: 920-5000. It will be hugely appreciated!
Kudos to Vaz: It’s Labour Day on Wednesday, when people undertake all kinds of tasks to make life better for their fellow-Jamaicans. One of former Prime Minister Michael Manley‘s better ideas, I think. Across the island, the infirmaries that are funded by local parish councils are in a terrible state of repair – often colonial-era buildings that have seen much better days. Now, a couple of months ago Member of Parliament for East Portland Daryl Vaz announced that he was going to give up five per cent of his salary, as a gesture of sacrifice in these tough times. He was praised in a half-hearted way by some. But now he has met with Port Antonio’s Mayor and decided the money he gives up will be earmarked for the Portland Infirmary, which is in a bad state. I really do like this. Did any other political representative follow Mr. Vaz’ example? I think not…
A waste of space: I am sometimes baffled by the sheer inanity and trivia that gets published in the newspapers each week. The random thoughts of commentators with nothing meaningful to say; the grinning men and women with wineglasses in their hands at an uptown party; yet another PR piece about some reggae/dancehall singer who is “making waves” overseas (playing in tiny clubs in the suburbs of big cities). If it’s online, at least with a click you can forget/delete it. But good trees are chopped down for this worthless nonsense.
Jamaican bloggers, sharpen your keyboards! Wednesday, May 23 – the third anniversary of the Tivoli Gardens Massacre – is Jamaica Blog Day, a “Day of Action for Jamaican bloggers on police and security force abuses.” The great little (growing) blogging community on the island, including myself, will be researching and writing and photographing on this subject. It’s going to be meaningful stuff. Do read and support our bloggers!
Coming up fast and not to be missed! The Fulbright Academy of Science and Technology will hold its 2013 Conference on Global Health in Montego Bay from May 24-27. It is open to the public. Important themes covered will be: Public Policy, Law and Economics in healthcare; Public Health and the Impact of Technology and Social Media; Emerging & Reemerging Infectious Diseases; Education, Sport and Wellness; Environmental Health (Global water supply & safety, Climate Change, Urban planning, engineering); and Human Sexuality. Visit the conference website at
And while I’m at it, big shout-out to all the fabulous Jamaican Fulbrighters (including Marcia Forbes, who will be presenting at the conference)… You make us proud!
I am relieved that the week, which started off so badly with homicides, has ended (hopefully) on a more peaceful note. However, my sympathies go out to the families and friends of Kenneth Kerr and Abasco Foster, who are grieving at this time. I hope that Mr. Foster’s companion recovers from serious injuries.
Kenneth Kerr, 54, Spanish Town, St. Catherine
Abasco Foster, 27, George’s Plain, Westmoreland
Related articles/links and local blogs in purple:
Economy contracts in March quarter: Gleaner
Kelly speaks her mind: Urges speedy decision on new power supplier: Sunday Gleaner
Stadium built with Chinese money in ruins: Sunday Observer
Jamaica: Three years on, state of emergency still an open wound: Amnesty International
”Act on Tivoli”: Gleaner
The methods of war have failed: Claude Clarke column/Sunday Gleaner
INDECOM needs more power: Letter of the Day/Gleaner
Cops to be charged for schoolgirl’s murder: Gleaner
Cop dodges court as DNA shatters lie: Jamaica Observer
Senate elects first visually impaired President: Jamaica Information Service
Attorney-at-law appointed to the Senate: Jamaica Information Service
Contribution to 2013 Sectoral Debate: Mikael Phillips, MP: Jamaica Information Service
Of patriots and sellouts: Gordon Robinson column/Sunday Gleaner
Saying goodbye and diaspora relations: Christopher Tufton op-ed/Sunday Gleaner
”Jamaica not grooming students for same sex unions, marriage is between a man and a woman”: chatychaty.com
Teen mothers to be reintegrated in school system: RJR News
The little wine that hurt somebody; or, soca and the bad-behaving gays of Jamaica: Under the Saltire Flag blog
”I give up!” Some parents no longer care about their runaway children: Gleaner
Cruel by choice: Thousands of Jamaican children intentionally injured by adults annually: Sunday Gleaner
Young and loveless: Teenage prostitute pushing for a fresh start: Sunday Gleaner
Condoms in schools: Martin Henry column/Sunday Gleaner
Ananda Alert to be displayed on billboards: Gleaner
Rescue for Children First: JN Foundation comes to the assistance of charity set up to help Jamaica’s most needy youths: Sunday Gleaner
Portland infirmary to get Vaz salary cut: Sunday Gleaner
Suspected dengue cases climb to 475, two confirmed deaths: Gleaner
Moneague Primary & Junior High cops LASCO environmental award: Gleaner
Caribbean talks conservation on Branson’s island: AP
Public gets say in Cockpit Country boundary debate: Gleaner
Eleven-year-old escapes croc attack, reptile snatches dog instead: Jamaica Star
KSAC, handcart men agree on registration fee: Gleaner
Balancing the act: Crawford seeks compromise between “want to eat” and “want to sleep”: Sunday Gleaner
An IDAHO State of Mind (petchary.wordpress.com)
May 15, 2013 (petchary.wordpress.com)
And I am not talking about the American state!
IDAHO is the acronym for International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. This afternoon in Jamaica, J-FLAG will host a discussion in Kingston on the issue of homelessness among the gay community – forced out of their homes, living on the street, harassed, abused, assaulted, despised, often in fear of their lives. The local media have made much drama out of the situation; and always the fact of their homelessness and subsequent (often defensive) “bad behavior” is linked to their being homosexual or transgendered.
If you are in Kingston, do try to join us for this discussion; we should also be streaming it live and I will share that link when I have it on Twitter (@petchary).
J-FLAG is seeking solutions. Not finger-pointing. Not hatred and intolerance. There is too much of that in the world already, isn’t there?
”We Are Jamaicans”: series of videos produced by J-FLAG in which Jamaican members of the LGBT community and their allies (including myself) speak about their experience and their views. Please do watch! These are powerful.
J-FLAG website includes news, videos, much more…
Activists target worldwide homophobia in Jamaica, Ukraine and South Africa: Amnesty International
International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia: Article by Freedom House
UK Foreign Secretary William Hague marks International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia: pinknews.co.uk
Georgia: Clashes on International Day Against Homophobia:euronews.com
Georgian Prime Minister says sexual minorities have equal rights: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
Jamaican press ignores ground-breaking gay rights video campaign: petchary.wordpress.com
I admire this young man: petchary.wordpress.com
Op-ed: Fighting injustice in Jamaica: petchary.wordpress.com
Lay down that burden: petchary.wordpress.com
St. Petersburg LGBT activists test “propaganda law” with tolerance event: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
This is my modest, personal contribution to an amazing series of videos, “We Are Jamaicans,” which is funded with the kind support of the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition (CVC) through its Global Fund Vulnerablised Project. These are short PSA-length videos – the voices of Jamaicans young and old, gay and straight, uptown and downtown – our personal stories, our thoughts, our perspectives.
My thought is that, in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., hate is too great a burden to bear. So much better to lay it down. Let us embrace Jamaica and Jamaicans, in all their wonderful, human diversity.
And the entire series (a total of eighteen to date) can be found here:
Do browse through, enjoy, and post your feedback if you wish. Thank you!
- Jamaican Transgender Women Lend Their Voices To ‘We Are Jamaicans’ Campaign (repeatingislands.com)
- MLK: Marcus Garvey Was the First (youthandeldersja.wordpress.com)
- J-FLAG, Jamaica’s gay rights group, launches YouTube video campaign, ‘We Are Jamaicans’ (miamiherald.typepad.com)
- Playing Politics With Jamaica’s Future (petchary.wordpress.com)
- Jamaican trans women call for equality (thefword.org.uk)
Jamaican press ignores ground-breaking gay rights video campaign
I admire this young man
Editor's Note : The views expressed below are not my own. Javed Jaghai returns to Veritas with his take on Jamaica's current political realities. Read. Reflect. Comment.
Jamaican politicians may be terrible leaders, but they are masters of political strategy. They understand our culture very well. They know how to appease us, they know how to mistreat us (and get away with it), and they know that we are familiar enough with each other to privilege loyalty and character over intellect and effectiveness.
- J-FLAG, Jamaica's gay rights group, launches YouTube video campaign, 'We Are Jamaicans' (miamiherald.typepad.com)
- Take a Deep Breath Now: Sunday March 10, 2013 (petchary.wordpress.com)
- http://petchary.wordpress.com/2013/01/29/i-admire-this-young-man/ I admire this young man (petchary.wordpress.com)
- http://petchary.wordpress.com/2013/01/23/jamaican-press-ignores-ground-breaking-gay-rights-video-campaign/ Jamaican press ignores ground-breaking gay rights video campaign (petchary.wordpress.com)
- http://petchary.wordpress.com/2012/04/12/op-ed-fighting-injustice-in-jamaica/ Fighting injustice in Jamaica: Javed Jaghai/Jaevion Nelson op-ed (petchary.wordpress.com)
It has been a strange and difficult week for the Jamaican Government. Not much joy. And the drought is biting so hard in Kingston, our garden is literally parched earth…
Psalms don’t help: Junior Minister in the Ministry of Transport, Works and Housing and Member of Parliament for North West Clarendon Richard Azan has been in boiling hot water for the entire week. Last Sunday’s Gleaner broke the news that Azan had allegedly arranged the unauthorized construction and illegal rental of ten shops at Spaldings Market. The local media are not letting him off the hook and nor is civil society. National Integrity Action’s Professor Trevor Munroe has called for Azan’s resignation and the Jamaica Civil Society Coalition is also wants a full and thorough investigation. Questions regarding the relationship between Azan and the contractor, etc., remain unanswered. Mr. Azan’s response included a quote from the Bible which did not greatly strengthen his case, in my view; he wants to “move on” after his “error,” he says. The role played by the Clarendon Parish Council certainly leaves much to be desired and raises many questions about governance in Jamaica. Comments by one councilor on television reeked of hypocrisy and thinly veiled “tribalism.” The whole affair is “smelly” as the media like to say.
Going for an Oscar? Or was it genuine despair/stress that prompted Minister of National Security Peter Bunting’s choked-up performance during a speech in Clarendon last week? I get a little edgy and suspicious when politicians resort to tears, publicly. But it was worrying. Minister Bunting called for “divine intervention” as the only solution (?) during the speech. I started to feel a little panicky at this point. If Minister Bunting is throwing up his hands at our steadily rising crime rate, then what should we, the poor citizens do? Is Minister Bunting admitting failure? If so, is he going to step aside? See the transcript below from journalist Emily Crooks. The Private Sector Organization of Jamaica’s Christopher Zacca’s suggestion that the ministries of national security and justice be reintegrated seems worthy of consideration. CVM TV has, however, pointed out that the Minister’s mother died recently – my condolences.
And the Prime Minister is quiet. Well, she did say she allowed the Ministers to get on with their job without interference. So mum’s the word.
Them taters: Agriculture Minister Roger Clarke disappointed me with his gratuitous remark that bad potato seeds were supplied by the previous administration, during a sitting of a parliamentary committee. Can’t see the point of all this. Can you please supply the poor farmers with some good seeds, then, Minister? Thanks. Enough already. (Oh yes, and both parties are equally guilty of this kind of partisan sniping and finger-pointing).
Itching to leave? We were greatly surprised this week to hear that the President of the Senate, the Reverend Stanley Redwood (a twice unsuccessful People’s National Party candidate in his native St. Elizabeth) is migrating! Ostensibly for family reasons. Is he a green card holder? One assumes so… Moreover, the wife of our Governor General Lady Allen caused a stir with some more “candid” comments while addressing schoolchildren last week. “Yesterday morning when I woke up, I didn’t want to be a Jamaican, I must be honest with you… I didn’t want to be in Jamaica any more…” She was commenting on the murder of a policeman who had served in her security detail at one time. She went on to express hope for the future, though.
An objectionable report: Human rights lobby group Jamaicans for Justice partnered with the University of Technology for a fascinating and indeed at times emotional public forum on the report of the Inter American Council for Human Rights (IACHR) on Human Rights in Jamaica, which has taken three years to compile. According to JFJ, the Jamaican Government has strongly objected to aspects of the report, and as a result the IACHR Commissioner scheduled to visit Jamaica for the launch (a Barbadian woman) canceled her trip. It transpires that the Government objected on legal grounds, as JFJ has in the past been involved in legal action via the IACHR. So, a little tricky. Putting that on one side, it was a powerful meeting that was hardly covered by local media except for a perfunctory report in the Gleaner. This is how human rights issues are generally treated. Link to the full report is below…
Talking about rights: Jamaican workers on one of the Chinese-funded mega projects that Jamaican governments have been so fond of in recent years were upset recently. Apparently the ratio of Jamaicans to Chinese should be 70% – 30%. The Jamaicans complained that there are more Chinese workers on the road project in St. Ann than there are locals, and that qualified masons, plumbers etc. are being sidelined and replaced by Chinese. Well, he who pays the piper calls the tune. Right?
Tief! Tief! Some major tiefing (stealing) has been going on lately. The theft of 53 solar batteries from the Mandela Highway, resulting in the operators (Trans Jamaican Highway) removing the remainder to ensure that they secure them better; large amounts of cable from Flow Jamaica, who are trying to roll out their services – internet etc – across the island; and to cap it all, the theft of J$15 million worth of oil from the Shell plant in Rockfort, East Kingston last Tuesday. 133,000 liters, no less. We are a nation of tiefs. Businesses and Jamaicans in general suffer…
Staying in St. Ann… A visitor from the UK, Angelia Christian, recently donated two ambulances and a lot of equipment to the A&E department at the St. Ann’s Bay Hospital through her Angel Foundation. This was because her daughter nearly died in 2011 after a swimming pool accident, and she was “shocked” at conditions in the emergency department. We are indeed grateful.
And speaking of ’Ospitals: Minister of ‘Ealth Fenton Ferguson (sorry, but he consistently drops his “h”s) visited the May Pen Hospital last week. I was amazed at how run-down it looked. Was it shoddy workmanship? The ceilings appeared to be leaking, paint peeling etc. The hospital was built in 1997 and I remember how great it looked then. Sure needs a “facelift” now…
A brilliant lady: Dr. Olive Lewin, described as a “cultural icon,” passed away last week. By “brilliant” I mean not only smart and intelligent – but shining. We saw her a year or so ago for the last time and although her body was fragile, her spirit was as strong as ever. I remember taking my parents to a performance by the Jamaican Folk Singers, which she founded. My father was quite entranced by Dr. Lewin and by the music, cheering loudly after each song. It was his introduction, as a foreigner, to Jamaican culture. Dr. Lewin was also a close neighbor of ours in Kingston when we first moved here, until she became sick and sold her house; we used to stop by the gate and chat. We will miss you.
I-PLEDGE: I remember when Western Union‘s I-PLEDGE program was launched years ago now, with the blessing and support of former U.S. Ambassador to Jamaica Sue Cobb. Western Union (Grace Kennedy Remittance Services operates the Jamaican franchise) had a special Reading Week last week and launched the program in St. James in support of reading and primary school education. Great stuff!
Empowering businesswomen globally: Congratulations to dynamic entrepreneur Yaneek Page and her team, who recently launched a local branch of WEConnect International, a non-profit organization that helps to empower women business owners to succeed in global markets. They will be holding a conference in June. More info on their Facebook Page WEConnect International in Jamaica. Good luck to all!
And here are some great women in media: I must say I am a huge fan of several women working in Jamaican broadcast media. Their standards are high, and they are fair and fearless. Senator Marlene Malahoo Forte does a quietly awesome job, with impeccable good manners, on her radio talk show “Justice” on Power 106 FM; Emily Crooks seeks out the truth every weekday morning on Nationwide News Network, and tweets up a storm (including on Arsenal match days!); the experienced Dionne Jackson Miller roots out stories and never misses a beat on RJR every evening; and former politician Sharon Hay Webster makes waves every morning on Newstalk 93 FM. Kudos to you all, ladies – keep enlightening us!
I must add kudos to the University of Technology: Since last year’s shameful episode on the UTech campus, in which security guards, egged on by a mob of students and others, beat an alleged homosexual, UTech has spearheaded an initiative to encourage tolerance and understanding among its student body. Dr. Rohan Lewis spoke about this at the JFJ Forum last week, and I believe that Dr. Rosalea Hamilton has been leading this charge; another Jamaican woman I have a lot of time for.
And VERY special kudos to a Jamaican playwright: Ms. Janet Morrison won the English as a first language category of the BBC World Service/British Council/Commonwealth Writers 23rd International Playwriting Competition. Her 55-minute radio play, “The Fisherman,” was aired on RJR this afternoon and can be heard here:
More tragic loss last week. My condolences to ALL, and especially to the family of young Nario Coleman, who got involved in a classroom fight in Penwood High School.
Adolf Campbell, 48, Lyndhurst Road, Kingston
Michael Francis, Lyndhurst Road, Kingston
Unidentified, Lyndhurst Road, Kingston
Sgt. Courtney Simpson, Harbour View, Kingston
Nario Coleman, 16, Penwood High School, Olympic Gardens, Kingston
Kirkland Anderson, Bay Farm Road, Kingston
Hugh Campbell, 75, Manchester
Unidentified man, Lincoln, Manchester
Christopher Campbell, 41, Bog Walk, St. Catherine
Michael “Willy” Cole, 50, Victoria, St. Catherine
Unidentified man, Waterford, St. Catherine
Rainford McDonald, 50, Clarendon
Anthony Donaldson, 49, Four Paths, Clarendon
Mark Anderson, 30, Dean Pen, St. Mary
Chase Scarlett, 25, Alma District, Westmoreland
Robert Davis, 24, Alma District, Westmoreland
Killed by the police:
“Street Light,” Parry Town/Ocho Rios, St. Ann
Barrington McAnuff, St. James
By the way, there are some interesting local blog posts this week – in purple. Do take a read when you can, and comment – support Jamaican bloggers! And we bloggers do love comments…
Inter American Commission on Human Rights Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Jamaica: http://www.oas.org
Five questions for Richard Azan: Sunday Gleaner
I wasn’t accusing Azan of political interference: Letter from Mayor of May Pen to the Gleaner
PM should fire Azan: Gleaner editorial
Government Minister Azan and in your face corruption? delanoseiv.wordpress.com
In his own words: Peter Bunting: thecrooksofitlivejournal.com
I’m not done with Jamaica: Redwood: Sunday Gleaner
Worst Western Hemisphere currency rout prompts Jamaica note sale: bloomberg.com
Chart of the Week: The downward-streaking NIR vs the sliding Jamaican Dollar: diGJamaica.com
Bureaucracy and Jamaican growth, by Dennis Chung: Carib Journal
NDX wipes out J$8 billion of National Insurance Fund: RJR News
Jamaica can export agro expertise, says FAO: Gleaner
The IMF will not grow our economy for us: Jamaica Observer editorial
Industry Minister and MSME stakeholders to discuss hub initiative: Jamaica Information Service
MSMEs to benefit from $439 million government allocation to productive sector: Jamaica Information Service
Flow vows to combat theft of its installations: RJR News
Police probe theft of batteries from solar lighting system on Mandela Highway: RJR News
Businessman among three dead in gun attack: Gleaner
Bad seeds bankrupt potato farmers – Clarke: RJR News
Wanton behavior by brazen homos cause (sic) chaos in carnival parade: chatychaty.com
Gyrating gays spark melee, throw missiles at carnival: jamaicajournal.wordpress.com
Hurling the first stone: Jaevion Nelson column/Gleaner
A country of hypocrites! Leighton Levy column/Jamaica Star
Jamaicans urged to be more vocal on human rights: Gleaner
Wanted: Children’s advocates: Alexis Goffe op-ed/Jamaica Observer
Jamaica complainant in immigration matter claims sexual assault: Trinidad Guardian
Forbes: Online Media and National Identity in Jamaica: Carib Journal
In defense of Portia: A supporter speaks out: Veritas blog
No truth to report of Cabinet reshuffle: Jamaica Information Service
Letter of the Day: West End needs no noise: Gleaner
Jamaica is Party Central: petchary.wordpress.com
Vybz Kartel’s book for CXC: Carolynjoycooper.wordpress.com
Major quake could ruin Palisadoes Road: Jamaica Observer
Viv Logan lives on: Lowrie-Chin.blogspot.com
Near-death experiences takes two ambulances to St. Ann’s Bay Hospital: Gleaner
I-PLEDGE initiative gets underway in St. James: Jamaica Observer
A belated Happy Easter, everyone. Whatever it means to you, I hope it has been a good one.
Easter is a strange time for me. I usually miss chocolate Easter eggs, and daffodils and hot cross buns. Here in Jamaica it is a long weekend, a nice spring break, the weather’s getting hotter and party central is in full gear (see my previous blog post
). The religious among us, and there are many, make special trips to church. And we all eat lots of bun and cheese. In fact, I am eating a piece right now…
Bit of an odd mixture this week, but here goes…
- The shock: Good Friday got off to a terrible start with a murder in my neighborhood – just round the corner from our house. We were sleeping late and sadly unaware. Gregory Archer, a network engineer at Digicel, was shot while taking an early morning walk with his young son, and died later in hospital. His son was unharmed. For some reason, this tragedy was only reported by one radio station; the local media ignored it until three days later, even though it was discussed at length in the social media. I guess the “traditional” media has gone to sleep for Easter; after all, at least one broadcast journalist recently admitted that he didn’t know anything about Twitter, etc! Meanwhile, our “upscale” uptown semi-residential neighborhood is not, for me, a safe place to walk any more. How very sad. And media, please wake up. A reader on the Jamaica Observer website alleges that other murders, especially in the Bog Walk area of St. Catherine, have not been reported. He mentioned a particular murder last Thursday night. Explanations are needed, I think.
- The prior actions: I’m rather worried about this. Can we have a list of them? If Jamaica has fulfilled all of them – something which our Finance Minister has mentioned several times – then why hasn’t the agreement being signed? I am sure I am missing something, and wish I really understood what is going on in the grinding saga of the International Monetary Fund. I cannot imagine what Minister Phillips’ blood pressure must be like.
- Surprise! Minister Phillips conceded that, contrary to his predictions/hopes/assurances, a formal deal with the IMF was not going to happen by the end of March, after all. I realize that he is now making lots of statements, in his efforts to keep us updated; the Jamaican public had earlier complained about lack of details. But we are now…confused. Or is it just me?
- Mum PM: Meanwhile, our Prime Minister is saying almost nothing about anything, except for the occasional exhortation for us all to be united. Oh, I think she cut another ribbon last week.
- A bit of a dig: I see that former senator and People’s National Party stalwart Delano Franklyn, in an article in the Sunday Observer, goes out of his way to takes quite a vicious dig at a media house that had the temerity to criticize the recent Government retreat. Mr Franklyn notes that said media house owes lots of taxes.
- The dilemma: Our Minister of Tourism and Entertainment, Dr. Wykeham McNeill, appears to be on the horns of one. The horns are the two different parts of his portfolio. On the one hand, he wants to improve the reportedly flagging tourism figures. On the other hand, he wants to keep his constituents in the tourist resort of Negril happy. But the tourists are not too pleased with the decibel level in Negril, according to a CVM Television report a few days ago; they have been complaining. It appears that local promoters are allowed to go on after the legal 2:00 a.m., with special permission. Now the Minister tells us that he has made some proposals to change the Noise Abatement Act. In a CVM interview (the link is below) he says: “We have to find a balance,” and that he wants to “regularize” the situation. We shall see how this turns out. It’s a tricky one!
- Those scammers: Last week, the Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Task Force (MOCA), which sounds like a cup of coffee, made some arrests in Montego Bay. Once again, we saw “high-end vehicles” that had been seized, etc. As the anti-lottery scam legislation has only just been passed, I wonder if any charges are going to be made, and whether they will stick.
- As predicted: The group of Haitians and fellow CARICOM nationals who arrived on our shores recently were “processed” (finger-printed like criminals) and shipped straight back last week. I told you so.
- Mi Happy (again): The Jamaica Tourist Board has regrettably brought out another video with the man from Minnesota (the VW ad). This is really milking it. You can find the link below, and well… It’s actually not as painful as the first one. What are your thoughts, dear readers?
- Mi Not Happy: With the weather. In eastern Jamaica, a bridge was washed away and hundreds stranded for a day or two by a swollen river after heavy rains. On the other side of the island, in Kingston at least, barely a drop has fallen. Mi wasn’t happy, either, with the long power cut on Saturday that affected almost the entire island. It seems that, on the energy front too, something’s got to give. The Jamaica Public Service Company is still awaiting word on its latest expansion proposal from the Government. What is really happening on energy, especially the Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) project? I’m confused, again. Meanwhile, financial analyst Dennis Chung tweeted that he is basically off the grid and did not suffer… Sensible man, went for solar power.
- The patriarchy strikes back: Roman Catholic deacon Peter Espeut, a “human rights advocate,” responded in somewhat heavy-handed fashion to fellow Gleaner columnist Jaevion Nelson’s column advocating for a change in the abortion laws. Well, Mr. Espeut is Roman Catholic, so we might expect that he would be anti-abortion. But it is a patronizing put-down (“Young Jaevion needs to put a little more balance in his writing, and his editors should guide him”!) of a bright, forward-thinking activist, who is trying to find solutions. Mr. Espeut concludes: “Thank God Jaevion Nelson is not typical of Jamaican young people, or I would despair where our beloved country might end up.” So that’s “young Jaevion” put in his place, good and proper. He’s not typical, Mr. Espeut claims; and since he is not, we can dismiss his opinions. Mr. Espeut says he works with young people, and I trust they are subservient.
- “From Coral Gardens to Tivoli Gardens”: The Rastafarian community last week marched through downtown Kingston to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of a violent incident in Coral Gardens, Montego Bay on Holy Thursday, 1963. At that time, Rastafarians suffered from widespread discrimination and abuse from the police force and general public. But the march (seeking compensation for Rastafarian elders who are still suffering, and an apology from the Government) was about more than the Coral Gardens injustice. It was about the human rights situation in Jamaica right here and now (the quote above was from a placard I saw held up). According to one participant, the actual theme was “Outrage against an unjust Justice system; Landlesness; Police Brutality” - it was never just a “Rasta thing” as some media characterized it. ”The people reach the stage where the State a do what dem used to do to Rastafari to dem,” said poet/activist Mutabaruka at the group’s rally in Half Way Tree. In other words, if they come for me in the morning, they will come for you in the evening.
- Fairness: In a comment on a recent blog post of mine, a fellow-blogger discussed “equality” when I was talking about “equity.” Of course, they are not the same thing at all. I recommend to you a column by Lawrence Powell of World Watch in yesterday’s Sunday Gleaner (link below), in which the writer makes an apposite comment: “It looks like [Minister] Omar [Davies] and the People’s National Party (PNP) will find themselves going against the grain of popular sentiment if they assume shared sacrifice is politically irrelevant, and that the perceived disparities between treatment of privileged and underprivileged groups are “frivolous”, and don’t matter.” Against the grain, indeed, and the tide of popular opinion.
- Poster comeback: So glad to see that overseas-based Jamaican Michael Thompson has launched the second annual International Reggae Poster Competition 2013. The theme is: Toward a Reggae Hall of Fame: Celebrating Great Jamaican Music. Deadline is April 21. More details at
. Really hope the Reggae Hall of Fame comes to fruition, some time in the near future. And I really hope we will get more Jamaican entries this time!
- Yummy postscript: Drop by the Tea Tree Creperie (in my ‘hood) for delicious nibbles, including homemade hummus with fresh-baked pesto pita chips!
- Good work: The Jamaica 50 Photo Album was a really good product from the Jamaica Information Service, and I am glad it has won an award in the U.S. I bought a few items for friends and family at home in the UK last year… Their favorites though were the Jamaica 50 glasses!
I am sick and tired of posting this sad list of names every week. But I don’t want us to forget those Jamaicans, young and old, who have lost their lives – and the grieving families and friends they leave behind, week after week. My condolences to them all. By the way, a comment following the online report on Gregory Archer’s death noted that several murders have gone unreported in local media, including that of Kirk
Vivian Grant, 29, Waltham Park Road, Kingston
Unidentified, Lopez/Bryden Streets, Kingston
Gregory Archer, 33, Upper Montrose Road/Vale Royal, Kingston
Unidentified man, Ferry, St. Andrew
Korine Bailey, 43, Linstead, St. Catherine
Sheldon Pennant, 38, Linstead, St. Catherine
Unidentified, Lennox Bigwoods/Darliston, Westmoreland
District Constable Brian Gray, 32, Mount Salem, St. James
Maxine Campbell, 37, Green Island, Hanover
Cornel Grizzle, 46, Comfort Hall, Trelawny
Beres Thompson, 32, Victoria Town, Manchester
Killed by police:
Basil Blackwood, 27, Spanish Town, St. Catherine
Unidentified man, Westport/Portmore, St. Catherine
Unidentified man, Texton Road, Kingston 14
Related articles (Local blogs are in purple):
Chart: Number of fatal shootings by the police: diGJamaica.com
Jamaica is Party Central: petchary.wordpress.com
Exclusion versus empowerment: petchary.wordpress.com
Gregory Archer’s wife a broken woman: Jamaica Observer
Only in this country! George Davis column/Gleaner
Salvaging what’s left of Jamaica: Letter to the Editor/Gleaner
The next act against the scammers: Sunday Gleaner editorial
The Cabinet retreat and the country’s economic challenges: Delano Franklyn op-ed/Sunday Observer
Trust deficit: Government, IMF and Haiti: Orville Taylor column/Sunday Gleaner
Is Jamaica destined to be poor forever? Mark Wignall column/Jamaica Observer
Terminating pregnancies should be legal: Jaevion Nelson column/Gleaner
Advocating youth responsibility: Peter Espeut column/Gleaner
Contraceptives in schools? Let’s at least discuss it: Jamaica Observer editorial
NDX2 or PEX? GraceKennedy confirms participation: Gleaner
Peter Phillips and the IMF: delanoseiv.wordpress.com
Construction on Trinidad-Barbados gas pipeline could begin next year: Carib Journal
Op-ed: Bringing Google to Jamaica: Carib Journal
Nurses await further discussions on wage claims: Gleaner
CVM Television report on noise nuisance in Negril (10 minutes into newscast)
CVM Television report on Tourism Minister’s response to noise complaints (17 minutes into newscast)
Party circuit: soundclash.wordpress.com
Two mobile licenses to be put on auction – Paulwell: Gleaner
Foreign Minister wants rethinking of treatment of middle income countries: Jamaica Information Service
Access to information progress lauded: Jamaica Information Service
Thirty-three Haitians to be transported home today: RJR News
b West Kingston residents decry deadly power struggle among criminals: Jamaica Observer
No longer just a Rasta thing: Claude Robinson op-ed/Sunday Observer
Police to charge popular sports personality after Montego Bay raids: Gleaner
”Woeful lack of leadership”: Gleaner
Women and the Jamaican work force: Marcia Forbes op-ed/Carib Journal
Flow, Jamaicans happy with Earth Hour concert: Gleaner
Wake up and smell the smog! Letter to the Editor/Gleaner
NWC to address city’s sewer problems: Jamaica Observer
Tamarind and beetroot shine, but what happens after? Joan Francis op-ed/Observer
Kingston, St. Andrew, St. Thomas worst hit by drought: Gleaner
Belvedere residents remain cut off: Gleaner
- Jamaica is Party Central (petchary.wordpress.com)
- Exclusion versus Empowerment (petchary.wordpress.com)
- My Birthday: Sunday, March 24, 2013 (petchary.wordpress.com)
I have been to several special events and interesting discussions with women on a range of issues lately. I’ve also taken some photographs of some terrific (mostly) Jamaican women whom I admire. This is a dynamic group… and there are many more Jamaican women with so much to offer in the public and private sectors.
So here we go with a few comments that I found interesting, with photos of the commenters… Enjoy!
Actually, the Ides of March were on Friday, March 15, just two days ago. We often hear the phrase “Beware the Ides of March,” without even understanding the sense of it. Blame Shakespeare. As a former student of Latin language and literature, I can assure you that the Romans were a highly superstitious lot, and very fond of omens. Reading animals’ entrails, birds, the weather, and all that. This period was not short of prophets of doom – and we have a few of those around ourselves, here in Jamaica.
It’s true that things are not looking rosy, in general. We were overwhelmed this week (and we knew it was coming) by the broadcast of a documentary on AXS TV on the “lotto scam,” narrated by Dan Rather, who visited Jamaica earlier this year. Segments were aired on CBS News and NBC News, and it was heavily publicized through Mr. Rather’s (and others’) social media outlets. Segments were, of course, aired on local television – including an interview with a young scammer in Montego Bay, who ran away when the journalist revealed that they were U.S. media. His face was clearly shown. I am not sure if you can download the full program somewhere – I’m not finding it online.
I understand that Mr. Rather is planning further investigations, so this may not be the end of this negative publicity. National Security Minister Peter Bunting had a sense of foreboding about this one, and rightly so. Since the testimony, and the documentary, there has been much discussion about the impact on so-called “Brand Jamaica.” Now, to me, Brand Jamaica is a fabrication of the politicians and tourism officials. How attractive is Brand Jamaica to ordinary Jamaicans, one of my friends asked on Twitter this week – “that is the real measure.” Indeed, but that is for another discussion. The government has naturally been scrambling to do “damage control,” according to local media. No reported “fallout” – yet.
But, why do the Americans have to clean up our mess again, other Jamaicans are asking? There are odd echoes of the “Dudus” affair… The same level of discomfort and a kind of humiliation. We are the bad guys, again. We are a very small nation, and we feel it. Yes, we take it to heart, even if we pretend not to.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging, headed by Democrat Bill Nelson of Florida, sat on Wednesday to consider the matter, at the urging of advocacy groups such as the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP). Minister Bunting had submitted written testimony. The recorded conversations between the criminals in Jamaica (what else can you call them?) and their sad, distressed elderly victims in Maine and other U.S. states; and the television interviews with them and their families – all made me cringe. It was very, very uncomfortable to watch and hear. A feeling of collective guilt infused many of the discussions on the matter – on radio talk shows, many expressed shame and at the very least, embarrassment. “Jamaica, the Nigeria of the Caribbean” was one online comment. We wondered how these old people could be so lonely, happy to hear the sound of a human voice even if it was that of a stranger with evil intent (I actually do consider the scammers evil, not a word I use lightly). Some called them “gullible” and “suckers” which I find unkind. Elderly people are vulnerable, almost like children.
My questions are: Why was the lotto scam allowed to continue for five or six years without any effective action being taken by the Jamaican government? Was the legislation – which the Senate will debate next week – only put together at the behest of the U.S. government? Who was/is benefiting from the lotto scam? Local politicians, businessmen, who exactly? Will they be brought to book? We all knew that Montego Bay has been booming for the last few years…How long will it take to extradite even one Jamaican – and how many are actually involved? Was someone “higher up” orchestrating the whole thing? Will the IT/call center business ever recover? Why was the local media, with some exceptions, unwilling to investigate over these past few years – were they under pressure?
According to at least one Opposition member, tourism is already in decline, even without all this unpleasantness. This is not good for our foreign exchange inflows, and I had heard that stopover visitors are seriously lagging behind cruise ship arrivals, even in the current winter tourist season. Suggestions are that cultural issues and environmental degradation are having a negative impact on visitors. Brand Jamaica is a tarnished mirror, in which we can hardly see ourselves any more, no matter how hard we try to wipe it clean. Let’s forget it.
There is no doubt that the lotto scam comes under the heading “organized crime” and must be dealt with accordingly. Extradition to the United States is fine in my book, so long as they are given a fair trial and brought to justice. And talking of organized crime, what is going on in west Kingston, the former domain of the aforementioned extraditee Christopher “Dudus” Coke? I hear rumblings that a new power structure is in place. If you visit Coronation Market regularly, you may have seen the signs.
Meanwhile, the police have taken a Kingston businessman into custody and he could face numerous charges, including murder and money laundering. But he doesn’t have a name – so he must be a “big man.” I am sure if he was from Arnett Gardens or Denham Town, we would all know his name, address and aliases right away.
Talking of foreign exchange: some local manufacturers are among those complaining about a shortage of foreign exchange. Former head of the Jamaica Manufacturers’ Association Omar Azan says the banks have waiting lists, and he was not able to get all the U.S. Dollars he needed to import raw materials. If this is a growing trend and it continues, there will be layoffs as production is cut. Opposition Finance Spokesman Audley Shaw already notes a “thriving black market” - he has been banging on about this for some time. More doom and gloom (if possibly exaggerated…in Audley Shaw’s somber tone…)
Do we need to be reminded of the “Cuban light bulb scandal”? It occurred during the previous People’s National Party administration, resulting in a corruption trial that is still not concluded. But hey! The program to provide free energy-saving bulbs from Cuba to poor households through Minister Phillip Paulwell’s energy ministry is back! That’s all we needed. Former junior minister Kern Spencer (who cried in Parliament when his Opposition counterpart accused him) has had his trial successfully postponed a number of times; he was first arrested over five years ago.
Well, I was on television myself last week. I appeared on CVM Television’s “Live at Seven.” I hope some of you were able to watch the program, which focused on whether pregnant teens should be “excluded” (in other words, kicked out) of high school or allowed to continue their education before and after giving birth. As Chair of Eve for Life Jamaica, I am firmly of the latter view. Education is empowerment, and many of these girls have suffered from rape, abuse, incest and are being punished for it. My co-panelist, the President-elect of the Jamaica Teachers Association, suggested that everything was fine and the girls can, at principals’ discretion, return to school (or a different school) afterwards. He also said that the state-funded Women’s Centre of Jamaica was most effective in supporting these vulnerable girls. In other words (as is often the case in these discussions on the media) one would be led to believe that all is hunky dory, and the system works perfectly… Unless one knew better, of course. In columnist Barbara Gloudon’s words, “It is the girl who must pay the price.” See her take on the issue, below…
More on this in another blog. Suffice it to say I was nervous as hell, this being my first television appearance; but I was impressed by Mr. Simon Crosskill, host of the program, and his great young production team. An excellent program. You can find the latest edition online here:
- updated daily.
A young lady I know and think highly of was also a guest on Power 106 FM’s youth program yesterday. Ms. Kemesha Kelly, who comes from a humble family in rural St. Ann, is a former Miss Jamaica Festival Queen. She is highly intelligent, enthusiastic and a terrific role model for girls. As usual, Ms. Kelly was overflowing with energy during her interview, discussing the “SWAG” (Something Worthwhile a Gwaan) initiative that she spearheads at the Marcus Garvey Youth Information Centre in St. Ann’s Bay. (A common refrain among youth is “Nutten Naah Gwaan” (nothing is going on). The project needs more funding support; if you are a local business or individual who would like to help, get in touch with Kemesha (or me).
When asked about the main challenges for Jamaican youth, Kemesha noted employment opportunities (lacking); crime and violence – youth are so often the victims and the perpetrators; and access to higher education, which she considers crucial. She is an aspiring human rights lawyer. I wish her all the very best…
More young people doing great (amazing) things: Over the last few days, the hotly-contested 103rd ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys’ and Girls’ Athletics Championships has taken the National Stadium by storm. Records broke left right and center, to the deafening sound of vuvuzelas (yes, they are still in use over here, unfortunately – we could hear them from our house!) Many congratulations to Calabar High School, who again came out on top, with two other Kingston boys’ schools, Jamaica College and Kingston College hot on their heels. The girls of Holmwood Technical High School overtook Edwin Allen High School, with St. Jago High School girls in third place – all, interestingly “out of town” schools in Manchester, Clarendon and St. Catherine respectively. Many, many congratulations to all! As someone observed, our successful athletes always rise above the divisiveness of Jamaican society. Do we care what political party they support, or which area of Kingston they come from? Of course not! They have transcended that political tribalism that breeds nothing but mediocrity.
And congratulations to all the winners of the Prime Minister’s Youth Awards. Special congratulations are due to Kimroy Bailey, a young engineer and fellow (award-winning) blogger who is highly focused on alternative energy. Let’s encourage those young people, in the sciences and other fields, who are doing the hands-on stuff and trying to raise awareness! We need those ideas. And action.
P.S. Just a word to journalists, especially the younger ones who are sometimes a little hurt when they are criticized. “Everyone tells us how to do our job,” one complained last week. Well, I for one will continue to criticize. As purveyors of the media product, you should also listen to what we – your consumers – have to say! I still maintain that there are far too many errors of spelling, grammar and pronunciation (some of them really embarrassing). And I also feel that browsing through the social media, commenting on what so-and-so is saying about such-and-such and reading it out, doth not good journalism make. It’s different if you are organizing feedback on a specific issue; fine. Otherwise, it looks like you are wasting time, and it’s irritating. It’s also not news – unless you suspect that the social media is more newsworthy than what your own radio/television station or newspaper produces?
This has been another week of terrible grief. The killing of three family members (including a fireman) in Westmoreland has traumatized the community where they live – and where they were setting up a small business, a cook shop. Residents of the lovely town of Lucea were horrified by a terrible murder/suicide (the suicide taking place in a busy public shopping plaza) which seems to have been the result of a woman trying to end an abusive relationship. My deepest condolences to the families, friends and neighbors. Whole communities in shock. We will all need group counseling, soon…
Omario Bryan, 17, Havannah Heights, Clarendon
Winston “Charlie” Dawkins, 63, Osbourne Store, Clarendon
Sean Powell, 31, Spanish Town, St. Catherine
Shane Stanley, 37, Green Acres, St. Catherine
Unidentified, Dyke Road/Portmore, St. Catherine
Unidentified, Dyke Road/Portmore, St. Catherine
Cameka Duhaney, 23, Lucea, Hanover
Sydney Smith, 43, Lucea, Hanover
Killed by police
Andrew Brydson, 28, Shrewsbury, Westmoreland
Tristan Brydson, 24, Shrewsbury, Westmoreland
Kingsley Green, 38, Shrewsbury, Westmoreland
Related articles: Local blogs in purple
Live at Seven on teen pregnancy/March 12, 2013: CVM Television
Police Federation awaits word from Cabinet: Gleaner
Cops kill fireman, brother and cousin: Jamaica Observer
Murderous rampage in Lucea: Jamaica Observer
Defense attorney troubled by lottery scam law: Gleaner
Government pushes public awareness on lottery scam impact: Jamaica Information Service
Government dismisses claims of being slow in addressing lottery scam: RJR News
Opposition supports extradition of scammers: Gleaner
United States Senate Special Committee on Aging – Hearing on Lotto Scam: http://www.aging.senate.gov/ – Video and audio here:
Doubletake: First Mattathias Schwartz, now Dan Rather – what ails Jamaican media? anniepaul.net
Dan Rather talks about investigating the Jamaican lottery scam: chatychaty.com
Americans continue to clean our house: Letter to Gleaner
Make the scammers’ lives hell: Observer editorial
Debate on lottery scam bill to continue on March 21: Jamaica Information Service
Lottery scammers are not operating alone: Mark Wignall column/Sunday Observer
Eradicate the culture of impunity around the lottery scam: Claude Robinson column/Sunday Observer
Dudus Part#2 – The Jamaican Lotto Scam extradition requests. (commonsenseja.wordpress.com) Dudus Part 2: The Jamaican lotto scam extradition requests: commonsenseja.wordpress.com
DPP advises police to charge World Wise operators: RJR News
Jamaica waives visa requirements for Eastern European tourists: caribjournal.com
Gangster country: Letter to the Editor/Gleaner
Cops fight at police station: Jamaica Star
Businessman held in money laundering, murder probe: Sunday Gleaner
Help needed: West Kingston’s plea: Sunday Gleaner
Fears of a child trafficking ring dismissed by police: RJR News
”Baby Madda” story come back again: Barbara Gloudon column/Jamaica Observer
An open letter to Caribbean men from Caribbean women: rhrealitycheck.org
Nicola Hamilton on a mission to empower women: Gleaner
Do homosexuals have a place in Jamaica? Jaevion Nelson column/Gleaner
Men beaten for “funny behavior”: Jamaica Star
Haitians were treated fairly: Letter to the Gleaner from Jamaican immigration chief
New China road deal: Gleaner
Tourism in major decline: Concerns about crisis: delanoseiv.wordpress.com
Rural St. Andrew water sources fall short of WHO guidelines: RJR News
Residents say bills too high: Gleaner
Controversial Cuban light bulb project to be reintroduced: RJR News
Growth in export earnings: Jamaica Information Service
Only 25% of NHT contributors have benefitted in 37 years: Jamaica Observer
Too many hypocrites in Jamaica: Letter to the Editor/Jamaica Observer
68-year-old killed in shark attack: Jamaica Star
Turning trash into treasure: Biochar oven: Gleaner
Trip to Chavez funeral no cost to government: RJR News
Politicians must sacrifice too: Francis J Mafar op-ed/Jamaica Observer
Manley-Duncan: Shift to a “sacred place”: Jean Lowrie-Chin column/Jamaica Observer
Change is possible and change is happening: All Woman/Jamaica Observer
What can we do when the “mother” school system fails? Tashion Hewitt op-ed/Jamaica Observer
The wisdom of Old Folly – St. Ann residents unite for model community: Gleaner
Michael “Freestylee” Thompson exhibits at the University of the West Indies Museum
Christopher John Farley keeps an open mind in life and art: Tallawahmagazine.com