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 http://www.amnesty.org/en/region/jamaica/report-2013. The report of the Independent Commission of Investigations on police abuses in Jamaica is at http://www.indecom.gov.jm/Release/Safeguarding%20the%20Right%20to%20Life.pdf 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):
http://www.bloomberg.com/visual-data/best-and-worst/most-stressed-out-countries Bloomberg Visual Data: Most stressed-out countries: bloomberg.com
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads/34036 Number portability by March 2014: Jamaica Information Service
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/So-we-now-have-an-IMF-deal–yay-_14354056 So we now have an IMF deal, yay! Hugh Douse column/Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130529/lead/lead9.html Legislation for IMF requirements could delay other drafts: Gleaner
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads/34023 $185 million for renovation of facilities to house juveniles: Jamaica Information Service
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Girl-s-body-found-naked-in-front-of-church_14366208 Girl’s body found naked in front of church: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130528/lead/lead1.html Shame! CISOCA boss decries apparent increase in rapes by cops: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Residents-say-gays-take-over-Barbican-house_14327913 Residents say gays take over Barbican house: Jamaica Observer
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZxZrp8oWHIE Unconditional love: The video Jamaican TV stations refused to air
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/JFJ-takes-children-s-case-to-IACHR_14366303 JFJ takes children’s case to IACHR: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads/34022 Students attend Fulbright session: Jamaica Information Service
http://www.cvmtv.com/videos_1.php?id=1288§ion=live7 Live at Seven discussion with JTA President Clayton Hall: CVM Television
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130529/lead/lead2.html Dixon’s comments have damaged Mico’s brand – Packer: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130528/cleisure/cleisure3.html Strengthen toothless anti-corruption laws: Victor Cummings op-ed/Gleaner
http://www.caribbeannewsnow.com/topstory-Commentary%3A-The-conventional-state-of-mind-16088.html The conventional state of mind: Caribbean News Now/commentary
https://newsandviewsbydjmillerja.wordpress.com/2013/05/23/in-praise-of-reports-and-enquiries-in-jamaica/ In praise of reports and enquiries in Jamaica: newsandviewsbydjmillerja
https://newsandviewsbydjmillerja.wordpress.com/2013/05/27/highlights-day-1-maurice-tomlinson-v-tvj-cvm-and-pbcj/ Highlights: Day 1, Maurice Tomlinson v TVJ, CVM and PBCJ: newsandviewsbydjmillerja
http://newsandviewsbydjmillerja.wordpress.com/2013/05/29/highlights-day-2-maurice-tomlinson-v-tvj-cvm-and-pbcj/ Highlights: Day 2, Maurice Tomlinson v TVJ, CVM and PBCJ: newsandviewsbydjmillerja
http://hill60bump.com/2013/05/29/the-what-why-and-how-of-climate-change-resilient-building/ The “What?” “Why?” and “How?” of climate change resilient building in Jamaica: hill60bump.com
The title of this blog post is influenced by the fact that I am have become locked into the Euro 2012 tournament for the past three days. I am just watching the passionate Croatians getting the better of the dogged Irish. It has been (and will remain) a complete distraction for me, as I am a hopelessly addicted football (soccer) fan. If I was to give a score for this past week, however, I would say that it might be something along the lines of Jamaican Politicians 3, Jamaican People 1, although the people’s goal was really an “own goal.” And in the case of our home-grown don Christopher “Dudus” Coke – well, the U.S. Government kept a clean sheet, 1-0.
Mr. Coke received a 23-year sentence in a New York court this week, for racketeering and assault. This prompted local journalists to rush down to the tired and dusty Tivoli Gardens neighborhood in West Kingston, where large bullet holes still pock-mark some of the buildings after the security forces’ May 2010 assault on the area. This is where, in the “good/bad old days,” Mr. Coke and his “Presidential Click” held sway. And yet, Mr. Coke’s criminal career, his flight, pursuit, capture, extradition and now incarceration will linger on in Jamaica, like the sickening smell of a dead cat in our garbage bin even after it had been removed. (Yes, our dogs killed a cat one night last week. They have a penchant for hunting. I am sorry, cat-lovers…) The residents’ responses to Mr. Coke’s sentence ranged from angry tears to shrugged shoulders.
Coincidentally, I think, Mr. Mattathias Schwartz of the New Yorker magazine produced another piece on the Tivoli Gardens “incursion” (this is the euphemism used by the Jamaican media for a military attack on Tivoli Gardens, when security forces pursued Mr. Coke and over seventy people were killed). See the link to Mr. Schwartz’s article below. His first article on the Tivoli Gardens attack, published in December 2011, “revealed” information that everyone in Kingston already knew – that a surveillance plane of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security circled over Kingston; embarrassingly, then National Security Minister Dwight Nelson flatly denied what we had all seen with our own eyes. The second Schwartz article alleges that, according to the U.S. Government, the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) “fired mortars” at Tivoli Gardens; and the JDF conceded that indeed they did. “Bombs on Tivoli” shouted the Gleaner’s headline on Friday; and they got another confirmation from the JDF, who noted that the so-called “bombs” did not target people or buildings. Now, the U.S. Government plan to search for Mr. Coke’s assets, amounting to a possible US$1.5 million to be forfeited. It’s all about the Benjamins, as a hip hop artist once said…
The Budget Debate dragged on to its inevitable conclusion: some more tinkering with the taxes, resulting in the Budget, Mark Two. Remember, Politicians vs People and, as always, the Politicians won. The local media dutifully broadcast and reported on two lengthy speeches, firstly by Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller and then by Finance Minister Peter Phillips – redux. In the background, government Members of Parliament twiddled their writing implements, adjusted the collars of their fashionable outfits, browsed their blackberries, and even stuffed food in their mouths. They kept their right hands at the ready though, so that they could thump their desks in thunderous approval of every announcement or political point scored by the speakers. Journalists remained at their posts, putting all other news on hold, tweeting and reporting small chunks of the changes and announcements – all of which could have been neatly wrapped up in a half hour presentation by Dr. Phillips. But, the public and media endured a hesitant, labored (almost tired) presentation, punctuated frequently by witty remarks, muttered insults and loud guffaws from both sides of the house. The Prime Minister, whose speech took place the day before Dr. Phillips’ revisions, consisted of 25% accusing the former administration of creating Jamaica’s economic woes; 35% ranting about child abuse and how “disgraceful” and “shameful” it is; another 25% of interruptions, etc; and about 15% actual substance. As broadcaster Dionne Jackson-Miller complained in her blog, why are these speeches so long?
Some of the “softening” measures adopted in Budget Version Two were the lifting of General Consumption Tax on school books “approved by the Ministry of Education.” Having worked for eight years in the book business, I know full well that we are already approaching the dreaded “school book season,” when anxious parents descend on the bookstores with book lists in hand for the upcoming academic year starting September. Of course, I agree with Mr. Steadman Fuller of Kingston Bookshop, who said on radio last week that the idea of producing an approved book list out of the hundreds of titles that appear on school lists each year by the middle of this month is completely impossible. And is the Bible, which appears on almost every school list, an approved text book? By the way, tax remains on beef patties.
And as for the child abuse issue, as columnist and common-sense businessman James Moss-Solomon observed in the Sunday Observer today, “The poor of this country are no more intentionally depraved than the animals on television that must find ways to survive even as their natural habitat is shrinking.” It’s all a part of the general desperation that afflicts large proportions of the country’s population – including the Prime Minister’s own constituency: Majesty Gardens, for example, which was prominently featured in recent television reports. One could not find a less appropriate name for that place.
Meanwhile, in the Land of Bling it seems anything goes (see link below). Everywhere one looks there are models strutting and posing for Caribbean Fashion Week. Last week I asked where the actual economic value was in this “fashion industry.” How much is it worth – how many jobs in Jamaica does it create? I would love to know…
And last night, our very own sprint champion crashed his car again – just around daybreak in Kingston’s Half Way Tree – just a little fender bender, returning from a “popular party.” He is “at home sleeping” now, his publicist says. The inexorable build-up to the London Olympics seems to go on for ever; surely the athletes’ jewelry boxes must be full of diamonds by now?
But several bouquets are waiting to be handed out… Perhaps the Reggae Boyz would prefer something more macho, but congratulations to Theodore Whitmore and the Jamaican football team for their win in the first game of their qualifying campaign for the next World Cup. Pity you had to let in the Guatemalan goal in extra time, though. But 2-1 is, indeed, a respectable score.
Well now! Ms. Janet Silvera of the Gleaner, always the epitome of Jamaican warmth and hospitality, is the first Jamaican to win the Marcia Vickery-Wallace Memorial Award for excellence in travel tourism.
Talking of Montego Bay (Ms. Silvera’s neck of the woods) I was pleased to learn that its Free Zone is set for a a 50,000 square foot expansion - “bursting at the seams” as my favorite Government Minister Phillip Paulwell put it – and that LIME is to give up the telecoms monopoly in the Zone. LIME Chairman Chris Dehring noted, “This partnership with the Government for the development of the ICT and telecoms services signals our total embrace of competition in the sector.” That is good; and I hope for the sake of competition in Jamaica on the whole that LIME does not suffer further great losses as it competes with Digicel. Excellent work Minister Paulwell too, on moving forward with net billing and awarding licenses to those who wish to sell their excess electricity back to the grid. Woot woot!
A pat on the back for another Minister – Justice Minister Mark Golding – for taking a step in the right direction with the formation of the Major Organized Crime and Anti-Corruption Task Force (MOCA – a new acronym to remember) on Tuesday. This single anti-corruption body makes a lot of sense to me. Let’s hope the whole process does not take too long; a committee is to advise on this matter by the end of the month which is a good timeframe. After that, it will go to Cabinet. This is something that the Contractor General had recommended to the Government and Opposition more than two years ago.
I am also impressed by Jamaica’s first “all-green” residence, somewhere in St. Elizabeth I believe. It is quite a large house, and completely “off the grid” – swimming pool and all.
Another positive… The Independent Commission of Investigation (INDECOM) that investigates police abuses appears to be gaining confidence, since the Supreme Court ruling in its favor.It has taken over the investigation into one of the more disturbing incidents (well, they are all disturbing) – the shooting death of sixteen-year-old Vanessa Kirkland in a car on March 20. Three policemen implicated in the shooting are to face identification parades next week. Meanwhile, the tireless and determined head of Jamaicans for Justice Dr. Carolyn Gomes joined the residents of Jarrett Lane in a peaceful demonstration on Friday evening in protest at the shooting death of Police Youth Club member Kavorn Schue a week ago. Head of the police Community Safety Branch Senior Superintendent James Forbes, a man whose sincerity I do not question, has a very hard job now as he seeks to mend fences in the community.
It’s tough being a talk show host. Ms. Barbara Gloudon patiently endured an onslaught of calls from irate rum-drinkers on Thursday. They were furious about the sudden increase in the price of white rum – which, like rice and peas, chicken and beef patties, is a Jamaican staple. Ms. Gloudon defended herself valiantly – the callers seemed to expect her to explain the many and various prices of large and small bottles. Let’s hope that things settle down and that “unscrupulous persons” (to use Government jargon) are not pricing their goods over the top (and often not handing over the Government tax – this does happen). Yes, you know who you are…
Time is getting on and there is more to talk about of course. Last but not least, however, may I send appreciation and thanks to Miss Jamaica Universe 2012, Ms. Chantal Zaky, who will be supporting the fund-raising efforts of Jamaica AIDS Support for Life (JASL). Ms. Zaky will hold a press conference tomorrow (Monday June 11) at JASL offices on Upper Musgrave Avenue, Kingston at 12:00 noon. Please come along and support. More on this anon, but suffice it to say, for now, that JASL are quietly doing incredible work with those Jamaicans who are most vulnerable to HIV/AIDS and who are routinely marginalized by society. They need much more funds to be able to continue this heroic work. PLEASE support them in any way you can; financial donations will be most gratefully received. Visit their website at http://www.jasforlife.org/html/.
- Euro 2012: Why Can’t America Get Behind the World’s Most Popular Sport? (bleacherreport.com)
- It’s OK to like football and soccer. Really. (independentmail.com)
- Euro 2012: Embrace the Bar Life and Enjoy Games with Fellow Fans (bleacherreport.com)
- As Jamaican Drug Lord is Sentenced, U.S. Still Silent on Massacre (newyorker.com)
- http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2011/12/12/111212fa_fact_schwartz: A Massacre in Jamaica (mattatiasschwartz.com)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120610/lead/lead1.html: Dudus dollars wanted (Jamaica Gleaner)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120608/lead/lead1.html: Bombs on Tivoli (Jamaica Gleaner)
- http://newsandviewsbydjmillerja.wordpress.com/2012/06/07/memo-to-jamaican-politicians-long-speeches-bad-idea/: Dionne Jackson Miller’s blog
- http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Tax-package-softened_11634098: Tax package softened (Jamaica Observer)
- http://www.kingstonstyle.com/2012/06/lisa-hyper-never-the-less-at-cfw-2012/: Lisa Hyper at Caribbean Fashion Week
- http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Population–popularity–and-politics_11649986: James Moss-Solomon column
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120610/news/news4.html: Janet Silvera receives major tourism award
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/videos/video.php?id=466: Anger over Jarrett Lane police shooting lingers
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120605/lead/lead23.html: Deeply wounded (Jamaica Gleaner)
- The British officer who changed policing in Jamaica (guardian.co.uk)
The swirl is the dust in my yard, whipped up by the trade winds that blow continually through these hot days. And I begin with something that is very disturbing, just like the wind, which rattles and bangs every window and door in the house.
Yesterday afternoon, the police killed a citizen in an alleged “shootout” in Jarret Lane, a narrow, impoverished street just off Mountain View Avenue in Kingston. Mountain View has been a perennially troubled area, with quite small pockets of communities – sometimes just one or two streets or lanes – loyal to either one of the two political parties. Traversing this road, heading east out of town, to Port Royal or the airport, one feels close to its problems. Wareika Hill – still mostly green and wild – leans over it. The citizen was 25-year-old Kavorn Schue – the same age as our son. In today’s Sunday Observer his grieving brother Shane describes hearing the shooting of Kavorn inside their home; and then overhearing the police concocting a story that would be told to their superiors – and to the public, on last night’s evening news. A police officer told us on television last night that as the police entered the house looking for wanted men, two men jumped up and started firing at them. One escaped and another was shot and killed. No policeman was injured or killed in the incident (this is quite normal; the police always seem to be better shots than the alleged gunmen). Angry residents blocked the road in protest; one woman wanted to know where their Member of Parliament was (he is a new, young politician, Andre Hylton). We were later told he was “overseas on government business.” The National Security Minister did visit the area, however. In the last couple of months, police killings seemed to have declined slightly; but I believe this impression was erroneous. According to Mr. Terrence Williams, who heads the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) that investigates police abuses, there were 65 cases resulting in deaths in the first quarter of 2012. How can we make our (still heavily armed) police force more accountable, less corrupt, more professional, less callous? Mr. Williams told the media last week that it is “getting there” with a number of prosecutions in the offing; and one must commend him and his team for their determination as they seek to conquer their massive workload.
Moving on, sadly. The repercussions (and recriminations) inevitably followed the recent Budget announcement, thick and fast, throughout the week, blowing interminably like the wind. The Opposition responded to the Finance Minister in Parliament. Opposition Spokesman Audley Shaw (who has been fairly pro-austerity, one would say) chided the Portia Simpson Miller administration for not being bold enough. He called the Budget a “betrayal,” - a word that resonated with some Jamaicans. Without actually saying “I told you so,” Opposition Leader Andrew Holness, who had warned the Jamaican public last year that they would be taking “bitter medicine,” described the Budget as “poisonous.” Radio talk shows reverberated with cries of “unfair” from members of the public; columnists picked over the budget like John Crows, looking for juicy pieces to seize and feed on.
The worst of this poisonous fare, which has made many Jamaican organizations and citizens choke and splutter, is probably a) the tax on printed material – including school books; and b) the tax on patties – the staple Jamaican fast food which is often called the “poor people’s food.” As some commentators noted, the cheap and cheerful patty is filling – and the only meal for the day for some poor Jamaicans. A number of articles and columns appeared on these topics. Increased taxes on tourism and on international telephone calls were also major areas of concern – but more for those specific sectors than for the Jamaican public. School books (an estimated 25% increase) and patties – that hurts. But the implementation of the book tax has been delayed, as the Book Industry Association of Jamaica puts pressure on the government to rethink. We shall see.
Now, next Tuesday, the Prime Minister herself will make her presentation in Parliament. The general mood is that she had better “come good” with something that will reassure and encourage the Jamaican people (and members of her administration who have taken a bit of a bashing since Budget Day). Today’s “Sunday Gleaner” even printed a photograph of Ms. Simpson Miller planting one of her frequent kisses on a child (everyone gets hugs and kisses from her), with the headline “A Kiss from Judas?” Heavy stuff.
There were other implications to Holness’ presentation – two huge issues that have been the flagship of the current administration’s agenda – that of the Caribbean Court of Justice, and the ongoing discussion about Jamaica becoming a republic. These two issues, which require the agreement of the Opposition, are now “dead in the water,” according to broadcaster Dionne Jackson-Miller. Mr. Holness made this quite clear. Talk show host and columnist Barbara Gloudon sighed: “there is no common ground,” questioning why politicians continue “ripping each other to shreds.” Why, indeed. And we will certainly hear more on this.
Back to our children… You may have missed it, but one of our faith-based leaders, Father Gregory Ramkissoon of the Mustard Seed Communities, made what seems to have been quite a hard-hitting and political speech at the Rotary Club last week. “Any increase in salaries or benefits to members of the Upper or Lower Houses of Parliament should be postponed for this fiscal year and the money given to the needs of the early-childhood institutions,” asserted the good father, to rousing applause. See the links below and support Mustard Seed Communities, who care for hundreds of children and adults with disabilities and HIV/AIDS.
Meanwhile, a series of accidents involving apparently crazed bus drivers, children – and tourists, sparked numerous stories. A bus crashed in Portmore, killing a high school student, after it was allegedly “chased” by a Transport Authority vehicle. There are so many versions from eye witnesses, friends of eye witnesses, and others that it is hard to know the truth; but the driver did have 85 outstanding traffic tickets and should not have been on the road at all. A couple of days later, a bus driver was stopped and found to have over 130 tickets, unsettled. The redoubtable head of the traffic police, Senior Superintendent Radcliffe Lewis – a no-nonsense man if ever there was one – must have a permanent headache.
“Gleaner” reporter Ryon Jones (a new name?) wrote a good report on the occasion of World No Tobacco Day (May 31). Health Minister Fenton Ferguson assures us that work is far advanced to give effect to the Tobacco Control Act; but haven’t we been hearing this for quite a while now? Everything that was said this year was, I swear, also said on World No Tobacco Day 2011. The exact same thing.
In other news… The rather unpleasant-sounding Beet Armyworm (where is the army?) is wreaking havoc among our vegetable crops; two major Jamaica-based firms (LIME and Caribbean Cement) are making huge losses, with LIME seeking assistance from its parent company Cable & Wireless; and while the Cubans’ search for oil has come up empty, it was announced that offshore exploratory drilling will take place off the shore of beautiful St. Elizabeth, on Jamaica’s south coast. Agriculture Minister Roger Clarke sought a major distraction by providing details of the former administration’s granting of huge tax waivers to a Chinese firm that took over three state-owned sugar factories, and with a long, leisurely discussion of fake Blue Mountain Coffee being sold abroad (is this anything new?); and “No IMF deal likely before autumn,” the Gleaner reported. So much for the promise to “renegotiate” the IMF deal in the first one hundred days of this administration? (What is the current status of the IMF talks, anyway?) And, quietly and without any great fanfare, unions accepted a two-year public sector wage freeze. Some interesting developments, but no space to discuss further – at least, not this week.
Meanwhile, on another planet… The Governor General and wife got out their best “dan dans” and went off to London for the hyped-up Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. “It’s cougar week at Hedonism II!” reports the Gleaner’s social pages, with hungry older women arriving in scores on Jamaica’s shores looking for younger prey. The newspapers were also filled with huge photographs of anorexic models with legs like sticks parading up and down in mostly ridiculous outfits, as “Styleweek Jamaica” got under way, ending with something called “Fashion Block” in New Kingston, a week ago. How much income does the fashion industry in Jamaica generate? Is it an industry at all, or is it just for show? I would love someone to tell me. But wait… It’s not over yet… Caribbean Fashion Week runs from June 7-11, so I hope you are all ready for more “fierce,” “on-trend,” and “chic” offerings? Well, Pulse’s Romae Gordon tells us that “It is a great time to be in fashion in the region.” Let’s see know, exactly how? Who buys these “fashions”? In the real world, evicted tenants downtown were begging for extra time, as they had nowhere to live…
But hey, congratulations are in order…
- To that lovable uptown rude boy, the Mohican-haired deejay Sean Paul, who married his long-term sweetheart last week. Congratulations, the photos were really sweet!
- To the Poetry Society of Jamaica, still going strong after 23 years
- To young Gifton Wright, who finished tied in fourth place out of 278 spellers at the Howard Scripps National Spelling Bee Final in Washington, DC last week. Amazing!
- To the winners of the U.S. Embassy’s “50 Years of Democracy in Focus” photography competition: Trench Town High School, Penwood High School and Yallahs High School. See their wonderful photographs, and all the great entries from high schools across Jamaica, on the “U.S. Embassy Jamaica” Facebook page…
- To the Caribbean winners of the Commonwealth Writers Prize – both Jamaicans: Alecia McKenzie (Commonwealth Book Prize) and Diana McCaulay (Commonwealth Short Story Prize)
- And last but not least, to Wayne Reynolds, Twain Wright and Jubal “Jubby” Daley, who received the Canadian Medal of Bravery for saving the life of a tourist who was drowning in rough waters in Negril.
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120601/lead/lead43.html: We’re getting there – INDECOM says most of its cases solved
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120603/focus/focus2.html: Andrew bitter over Portia’s poison
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120530/lead/lead6.html: Shaw shines light on PM’s tax “betrayal”
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120601/lead/lead44.html: Father Ramkissoon to government: Do more for our kids
http://www.mustardseed.com/site/PageServer?pagename=where_serve_jamaica: Mustard Seed Communities in Jamaica
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120531/news/news1.html: Driver with more than 130 tickets released
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120601/lead/lead31.html: “Smoke-free public spaces now!”
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120602/ent/ent1.html: Directing Caribbean Fashion
http://blogs.jamaica-gleaner.com/fashion/?p=2800: Styleweek Jamaica Review
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120531/lead/lead2.html: Samuda defends big Complant waivers
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120601/cleisure/cleisure1.html: Roger Clarke’s comedy act
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120601/lead/lead3.html: Good going, Gifton
Summer Sunday turns to Monday (petchary.wordpress.com)