The Mid-Weeker: Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The long Easter weekend is nearly upon us, and not a moment too soon. There’s a slightly “frazzled” feeling (or is it just me?) We all need a little break, I think.

“Time out”:  I agree with broadcaster Cliff Hughes that we all need to take a little “time out” in the matter of Youth Minister Lisa Hanna’s remarks regarding the issue of child abuse (a huge crisis, as she correctly noted) and the Alpha Boys’ School. Sadly, it has escalated. The Minister has “fired back” today at the school’s press release, which I published yesterday, with a letter to the Sisters of Mercy released to the media. Her communications man, former journalist Oliver Watt, insisted on radio this evening that her remarks were not inappropriate, and this is what she clearly believes. A Jamaica Observer cartoon on the matter was really distasteful and cruel – I’m not going to publish it here. We need to pull back now and allow all parties to work things out quietly and outside the glare of the media. (But let’s face it – if the Minister had not made those comments, there would have been no horrible cartoon…)

Terrence Williams, head of the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM), speaks with members of the media while Kahmile Reid, senior communications officer of INDECOM, looks on during a recent press briefing. (Photo: Rudolph Brown/Gleaner)

Terrence Williams, head of the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM), speaks with members of the media while Kahmile Reid, senior communications officer of INDECOM, looks on during a recent press briefing. (Photo: Rudolph Brown/Gleaner)

Excellent news: There has been a dramatic reduction in the number of fatal shootings by the police in the first quarter of this year – from 76 last year to 40 this year. That’s a decline of 47.3 per cent! Could it be that the police are aware that they are now being watched more carefully – and more importantly, that they are being held accountable? Last month they only killed four people, compared to 19 in 2013. This seems a tremendous vindication of the work of the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) – which has been very busy this year, having completed 88 investigations and recommended that sixteen police officers be charged with criminal offenses. Congratulations are also due to Minister of National Security Peter Bunting, who seems to be getting a better grip on things and supports INDECOM’s work. Good. Now keep it up!

Signed and sealed (but)… Energy Minister Phillip Paulwell finally broke his silence and told us he signed the license for Energy World International (EWI) to supply 381 megawatts of power back on April 4. It was amended (what were the amendments?) and re-signed on April 14, and included a draft (draft) Implementation Agreement between the Government and EWI. The Minister will meet with the Energy Monitoring Committee (EMC) to explain everything to them and then make the license arrangement public. Shouldn’t the EMC have been involved earlier? The Private Sector Organization of Jamaica is still expressing concern over the lack of transparency, while the Opposition’s Karl Samuda is waffling away about it, as is his wont. Well, we shall see what we shall see. (What about the financing?)

Finance Minister Peter Phillips. (Photo: Jamaica Information Service)

Finance Minister Peter Phillips. (Photo: Jamaica Information Service)

An independent central bank: Something I thought would never happen anytime soon has just happened. The omnibus banking bill currently being pushed through Parliament at the behest of the International Monetary Fund includes clauses that remove certain powers from the Minister of Finance in relation to the Bank of Jamaica (BoJ). The Minister will no longer appoint the BoJ governor, nor will he monitor banking institutions, grants licenses etc. This is quite remarkable. If this legislation had been in place when Omar Davies was Finance Minister, the collapse of the local banking sector under FINSAC would never have happened.

Appealing: Lawyers for Deejay Vybz Kartel and his three fellow convicts have filed appeals against their life sentences in the Supreme Court. As expected.

One of the wider parts of the Bog Walk Gorge, looking towards the historic Flat Bridge over the Rio Cobre.

One of the wider parts of the Bog Walk Gorge, looking towards the historic Flat Bridge over the Rio Cobre.

Not feasible: Mr. Howard Chin of the Jamaica Institute of Engineers says the idea of the damming of Bog Walk Gorge, which the ubiquitous China Harbour Engineering Company is looking at, is not a new idea. Decades ago it was considered, but ruled out because of the porous nature of the rocks and other reasons.

National Security Minister Peter Bunting. (Photo: Gleaner)

National Security Minister Peter Bunting. (Photo: Gleaner)

 

 

 

 

Congratulations and cheers!

Professor Mervyn Morris is Jamaica's first Poet Laureate for fifty years.

Professor Mervyn Morris is Jamaica’s first Poet Laureate for fifty years.

  • Professor Mervyn Morris, who is Jamaica’s new Poet Laureate! I am not sure whose idea this was, but it’s a great one. The Jamaican public also got the opportunity to vote. Professor Morris is a poet with an economical style – every word counts – but he is not lacking in acute observation and often a wry humor. I love his poetry, and he is also a calm, quiet, erudite man (also a former Rhodes Scholar at my alma mater, and a Fulbright Scholar by the way). This is well deserved! And by the way, he is Jamaica’s first Poet Laureate since Independence. Pretty cool.
  • Five women who were sworn in as judges by Governor-General this week. Carol Lawrence Beswick, and Ingrid Mangatal, who will act as Judges of Appeal. Justice Audre Lindo, and Marcia Dunbar Green will act as Puisine Judges of the Supreme Court; and Rosemarie Harris, who will act as Master-in-Chambers in the Supreme Court. Kudos to all!
  • CVM Television, who are keeping the fires of investigative reporting alive with their reporting in the local news and on the excellent current affairs program “Live at Seven.” Their latest report was very well put together, and I look forward to a response from the police on their allegedly faulty firearms!
The Black River Morass, which is a part of the Portland Bight Protected Area.

The Black River Morass, a large wetland area in St. Elizabeth.

  • Nationwide News Network recently reported from the Black River Morass in St. Elizabeth – the reporter took a tour to take a look at the problem of invasive species – namely, the paperbark tree and the water hyacinth. Very good, and I hope they do more of this reporting, which reminded me of the BBC actually!

My deepest sympathies, as always, to the families of the following who were murdered this week, and are now grieving…

Owayne Barrett, 33, St. Catherine

Nigel Steele, St. Catherine

Jeffrey Silvera, 35, Ocho Rios, St. Ann

Dean Watts, Canaan Heights, Clarendon

Daniel Anderson, 22, Rectory Road, Clarendon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A woman prepares to make her way cross a section of Clock Tower Plaza flooded by water from a broken hydrant (inset) in the vicinity. (Photo: Joseph Wellington/Jamaica Observer)

A woman prepares to make her way cross a section of Clock Tower Plaza flooded by water from a broken hydrant (inset) in the vicinity. The usual incompetence (and waste) from the National Water Commission. (Photo: Joseph Wellington/Jamaica Observer)

Late for Sunday, April 6, 2014

Due to the crazy distraction of the “Game of Thrones” marathons, which sucked me in, I am a day late with my Sunday roundup. My apologies!

Adijah Palmer (aka Vybz Kartel) dressed up for his court appearance, wearing his old school tie (Calabar High School). Photo: Jamaica Observer)

Adijah Palmer (aka Vybz Kartel) dressed up for his court appearance, wearing his old school tie (Calabar High School, which won the Boys’ Athletics Championships recently). Palmer left school after Fourth Form. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

Heavy sentences: In the past few days there has been drama. Last Thursday, the popular deejay Vybz Kartel (Adijah Palmer is his real name) was sentenced to 35 years in prison before he is eligible for parole, for the murder of Clive “Lizard” Williams (whose body has still not been found). Under the concept of “Common Design,” his three accomplices also received heavy sentences. One of them, Shawn Campbell, refused to plead guilty for a much lighter sentence. The men’s lawyers are expected to appeal the verdicts.

“God complex”: The sister of the deceased Mr. Williams, who was one of Mr. Palmer’s hangers-on, made some comments about marginalized youth. They are in danger, she said, of being “bullied” into following people “with a God complex” like Mr. Palmer, who use them for their own purposes. Mr. Palmer liked to call himself “Worl’ Boss” and built a so-called “empire” in his home town, the dingy suburb of Waterford. 

Reaction: The sentencing produced another wave of newspaper columns and lots of social media commentary. The response from Kartel supporters on the street was predictably angry. One supporter swore that Mr. Williams was still alive, and had gone to Cuba. I hear that Kartel was the most brilliant dancehall artiste ever; what that has to do with his murder conviction, I don’t know. But it’s not surprising that many Jamaicans have compared the long sentences with the dismissal of corruption charges against former state minister Kern Spencer. By the way, I have found some information on the Resident Magistrate’s reasons for dismissal, and they are here: http://www.jamaica-gleaner/gleaner/20140404/cleisure/cleisure6.html.

This meme has been circulating on social media.

This meme has been circulating on social media.

The Sunday Observer's editorial cartoon shows former State Minister Kern Spencer relaxing on the couch with a cocktail in hand while dancehall deejay Vybz Kartel is sentenced for life.

The Sunday Observer’s editorial cartoon shows former State Minister Kern Spencer, whose corruption charges were dismissed in court recently, relaxing on the couch with a cocktail in hand while dancehall deejay Vybz Kartel is sentenced to life imprisonment.

All dolled up for the opening of Parliament: Youth and Culture Minister Lisa Hanna. When the Parliamentarians walk to Gordon House for the official opening of the new parliamentary year, our political leaders dress up for the occasion. (Photo: Ian Allen/Gleaner)

All dolled up for the opening of Parliament: Youth and Culture Minister Lisa Hanna. When the Parliamentarians walk to Gordon House for the official opening of the new parliamentary year, our political leaders dress up for the occasion. (Photo: Ian Allen/Gleaner)

Also on Thursday: The Kartel sentencing coincided with the Throne Speech, at the official opening of Parliament – a far less exciting event downtown, but the media dutifully reported it. Every year, the Governor General reads out what is put in front of him – just like the Queen does in her speech in England. So, don’t blame them for being rather dull. It seems Cabinet decided against renaming the speech “The People’s Speech” (Member of Parliament Raymond Pryce had tabled a motion proposing this). Whatever it’s called, it will always provoke a collective yawn, although we really should pay more attention.

Arriving for the state opening of Parliament: Opposition members Senator Tom Tavares-Finson (I wish he would ditch those silly sunglasses), Opposition Leader Andrew Holness and National Security Spokesman Derrick Smith. (Photo: Ian Allen/Gleaner)

Arriving for the state opening of Parliament: Opposition members Senator Tom Tavares-Finson (I wish he would ditch those silly sunglasses), Opposition Leader Andrew Holness and National Security Spokesman Derrick Smith. (Photo: Ian Allen/Gleaner)

Budget time: Finance Minister Peter Phillips will open the Budget Debate next Thursday, April 17. The Budget Debate will then drag on for weeks afterwards, with every sector in Jamaica’s economy represented. I say “drag” because I wonder whether many Jamaicans fully appreciate or even understand the very important budget process. This year the budget is very conservative, with the International Monetary Fund looking over our shoulder. It has increased from last year’s J$744 million to J$761 million, which is really not an increase at all when one takes 8 per cent inflation and the steady devaluation of the Jamaican Dollar into account (the latter is now edging up to J$110/US$1).

Minister Phillip Paulwell says he has to obey the rules. But wasn't EWI's bid slipped in well past the allotted deadline? Have all the rules been followed, really?

Minister Phillip Paulwell says he has to obey the rules. But didn’t EWI’s bid come in well past the allotted deadline? Have all the rules been followed? There has been a distinct lack of transparency in this matter, too.

Minister Paulwell got his way: Energy Minister Phillip Paulwell has got the go-ahead to sign the license for Energy World International to construct a major power plant. He says he is legally obliged to obey the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) which has approved the awarding of the license. “I am a creature of the law and rules…” he declares. OK, then. The Office of the Contractor General, members of civil society, the Energy Monitoring Committee (EMC), and the private sector have urged Paulwell to proceed with caution on this, but no, it’s going ahead. 

PNP graffiti sprayed on a Tivoli Gardens sign in West Kingston. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

PNP graffiti sprayed on a Tivoli Gardens sign in West Kingston. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

“Peace marches” don’t work!  The violence continues in the relatively small community of Tivoli Gardens and surrounding areas of West Kingston. Member of Parliament Desmond McKenzie says a relatively small group” is seeking to dominate the area. After a shooting incident on Friday night, when two people (including a twelve-year-old boy) were killed and ten others injured, a group of angry residents demonstrated against Mr. McKenzie. No one is standing up for them, they say. What, despite all those peace marches, gospel concerts etc? Mr. McKenzie is asking residents to co-operate with the police, but in this atmosphere of distrust, one wonders. Members of the family of Christopher “Dudus” Coke, the former don who was extradited to the U.S. in 2010, are allegedly involved. Another theory is that it is warfare between two gangs fighting for what one resident called the “donship position.” God help us.

Uptowners having a lovely, lovely time. (Photo: Bacchanal Facebook page)

Uptowners having a lovely, lovely time. (Photo: Bacchanal Facebook page)

Partying till they drop: Regardless, Kingston’s uptowners are donning tiny shorts and skimpy tops at least once a week to kick up their heels and jump on top of each other during the regular Bacchanal ritual. This will culminate in the annual Carnival on April 27. I suppose it’s good exercise – although the health benefits may be completely canceled out by the large quantities of alcohol consumed. And someone’s making money out of it all!

Good news! The Alpha Boys’ School has now funded its Radio Studio and Media Lab Project to the tune of (pardon the pun) US$23,000 through Kickstarter crowd-funding. Congratulations and many thanks to all who contributed to this success! Alpha Boys is a home for abandoned boys that has also, over the years, nurtured many great Jamaican musicians and still has its wonderful Alpha Boys Band.

Petchary is bigging up…

  • The 23 young Jamaicans and two organizations that have received the Prime Minister’s Youth Awards for Excellence in several categories. Over forty were nominated, and all are to be congratulated.
Prime Minister the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller (right, centre) and Minister of Youth and Culture, Lisa Hanna (to the PM’s left), with the 2013 recipients of the Prime Minister’s Youth Awards for Excellence after the ceremony, held on April 6 on the lawns of Jamaica House, Kingston, under the theme: ‘Celebrating Jamaican Youth…the Courage of Perseverance’. (Photo: JIS)

Prime Minister the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller (right, centre) and Minister of Youth and Culture, Lisa Hanna (to the PM’s left), with the 2013 recipients of the Prime Minister’s Youth Awards for Excellence after the ceremony, held on April 6 on the lawns of Jamaica House, Kingston, under the theme: ‘Celebrating Jamaican Youth…the Courage of Perseverance’. (Photo: JIS)

  • The management of the Jamaica Urban Transit Corporation (JUTC), which has been making huge efforts to strengthen the public transportation system in Kingston, and to impose some kind of order, struggling with the problems of illegal taxis and declining profitability, among a myriad other issues. Efforts have been made before, but I think – hope – the JUTC may be successful this time. The JUTC has been riddled with indiscipline, corruption and sheer criminality over the years; the current administration appears to be getting to grips with this.

As always, I extend my condolences to the families and loved ones of all those who have been murdered in the past few days. I always wish that this list of names would disappear, but it never does…

Prison guard Cpl Easton Williams has died in hospital from multiple gunshot wounds he received late last month after he was attacked while making his way to work in St. Catherine. No one has been arrested.

Ricardo Lowe, 28, Charles Street/Chestnut Lane, Kingston

Kawayne McAnuff, 12, Charles Street/Chestnut Lane, Kingston

Carl Williams, 51, Bay Farm Road, Kingston

Unidentified man, Orange/Beckford Streets, Kingston

Almando McKnight, 67, Palmers Cross, Clarendon

Donovan Stewart, 24, Innswood Estate, St. Catherine

Akeem Stephenson, 22,Innswood Estate, St. Catherine

On the road: The National Road Safety Council reports a pretty major increase in the number of deaths on the road up to the first week in April (83), compared to the same period last year (69). NRSC Vice Chairman Lucien Jones believes speeding still remains a problem, along with cell phone use while driving (I see the latter problem each time I am on the road in Kingston – drivers on cell phones driving carelessly). When are we going to pass laws prohibiting cell phone use? Meanwhile, a 24-year-old security guard was killed when his motorbike collided with a car driving in the opposite direction in Retreat, Westmoreland. A ten-year-old girl is in critical condition after she was knocked down in Salem, Runaway Bay, St. Ann while trying to cross the road. The driver fled the scene but was picked up later by the police.

Ricardo Lowe, who was involved in the music business as road manager for an entertainer for Teflon, was murdered on Friday night.

Ricardo Lowe, who was involved in the music business as road manager for an entertainer for Teflon, was murdered on Friday night.

What a Week! Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The week started dramatically. In just five minutes and one or two sentences, Resident Magistrate (RM) Judith Pusey upheld a no-case submission by the defense, dismissing a corruption case against a well-known politician that had dragged on for six years. Former Minister of State in the Energy Ministry Kern Spencer and his personal assistant Colleen Wright were cleared of charges of money laundering, conspiracy to defraud and breaches of the Corruption Prevention Act. The news went down like a lead balloon in many circles; Spencer’s party supporters celebrated with him in his former constituency of N.E. St. Elizabeth.

Thumbs up from Kern Spencer.

Thumbs up from Kern Spencer.

We lost the thread: Part of the reason why this came as a shock was the incredibly slow progress of the trial. Although it was “high profile” I think the general public – and the media – lost the plot. The entire trial went on a long leave of absence (from April 13, 2010 to September 3, 2013) because of a legal battle between the RM and Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). It had stopped and started so many times before and since that hiatus that we had all lost track of the ins and outs of it. Be that as it may, the public perception is that there is one law for the politicians, and another for poor Jamaicans. One commentator compared this with the oft-quoted case of a man who was jailed for stealing J$350 worth of ackees on the grounds of King’s House. It would also have helped if the RM had expanded on her decision. There was no reasoning, no overview of evidence – just that there was no case to answer. The DPP on radio came close to saying that justice had not been served…

Right of appeal: The case highlighted the recently-discussed issue of the prosecution’s right to appeal. There is currently no such right, but just this morning the Government announced that it will begin work on legislation allowing for limited rights to appeal certain court decisions. A step in the right direction, I think.

Defence attorneys KD Knight (left) and Deborah Martin, for former energy junior minister Kern Spencer and his personal assistant Coleen Wright after the court ruled Monday morning that there was no case for the two to answer. (Photo: Paul Henry/Jamaica Observer)

Defence attorneys KD Knight (left) and Deborah Martin, for former energy junior minister Kern Spencer and his personal assistant Coleen Wright after the court ruled Monday morning that there was no case for the two to answer. (Photo: Paul Henry/Jamaica Observer)

“Corruption remains entrenched and widespread in Jamaica,” the U.S. State Department’s International Narcotics Control Strategy Report notes. “It is compounded by a judicial system that has a poor record of successfully prosecuting corruption cases against high-level gov officials.”  Meanwhile, the defense lawyer for Colleen Wright and government Senator K.D. Knight advises Kern Spencer not to consider re-entry into politics now. (He should bide his time, perhaps?)

A fish vendor talks to Mayor of Lucea Shernet Haughton during a visit to the market last year. (Photo: Claudia Gardner/Gleaner)

A fish vendor talks to Mayor of Lucea Shernet Haughton during a visit to the market last year. (Photo: Claudia Gardner/Gleaner)

“You know my taste, right!” Member of Parliament for West Hanover Ian Hayles (also State Minister in the Environment Ministry) is in hot water after his utterly misogynistic remarks at a public People’s National Party (PNP) meeting. The target of Mr. Hayles’ remarks was the 38-year-old Mayor of Lucea Shernet Haughton. Mr. Hayles is to face a disciplinary hearing of the PNP, and I hope he will issue a public apology. Meanwhile, women’s activist Joan Grant-Cummings noted that such episodes are a set-back as Jamaica seeks to improve its UN ranking on the status of women (we are not doing too well in the Millennium Development Goals). Such verbal abuse is sexual harassment, and Jamaica has no laws against that. Moreover, as Senator Kamina Johnson-Smith said, such behavior “has absolutely no place in politics.” Women in leadership positions in Jamaica appear to be under great pressure at the moment. 

Western Hanover Member of Parliament Ian Hayles.

Western Hanover Member of Parliament Ian Hayles.

“We have forgotten what our government is, you know. They are not our kings and queens. They are our servants. And when we ask for information we should get it.” So said CEO of the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) Diana McCaulay at this week’s community meeting in Old Harbour Bay. She was referring to the repeated refusal of the Government to provide information on the planned Goat Islands port to JET under the Access to Information Act.

Businessman Richard Byles, who heads the Economic Programme Oversight Committee.

Businessman Richard Byles, who heads the Economic Programme Oversight Committee.

The Economic Program Oversight Committee (EPOC), headed by businessman Richard Byles, keeps us firmly rooted in reality. It reports that tax revenues have fallen, helping to create a shortfall in the primary balance of payments for the first time since entering the International Monetary Fund (IMF) program. EPOC expressed some concerns that unless revenues are increased, the Government will have challenges as it enters the fourth quarter of the IMF program. Mr. Byles also expressed concern over the government’s indecisiveness on energy matters over the years, which he thinks has deterred investors; and matters related to the major power plant are still not resolved and ready to go.

Kingston Container Terminal. (Photo: Gleaner)

Kingston Container Terminal. (Photo: Gleaner)

Huge loss: Meanwhile, the heavily-indebted Port Authority of Jamaica - the government agency in charge of plans to build a port on Goat Islands – has recorded a J$2.23 billion net loss, mainly due to the depreciation of the Jamaican Dollar. Wow. Plans to privatize the Kingston Container Terminal need to be fast-forwarded.

CHEC workers on strike: The China Harbour Engineering Company is working on another project in Jamaica, the long-awaited highway that will bypass Mt Rosser in St. Ann. But all is not well. Jamaican workers are on strike, claiming that they are not paid the negotiated rates and that working conditions are poor – there is insufficient protective gear, and so on.

Firemen seek to control the  fire at Riverton City dump on Sunday, March 16. (Photo: Rudolph Brown/Gleaner)

Firemen seek to control the fire at Riverton City dump on Sunday, March 16. (Photo: Rudolph Brown/Gleaner)

The fire is out! Head of the National Solid Waste Management Agency (NSWMA) Jennifer Edwards has confirmed that the fire which began at the Riverton City dump on March 16 is finally out (I thought they already told us). But why was there a smoke problem in the Spanish Town Road area and beyond, this morning?

Now… Major kudos this week to:

  • The Jamaica Environment Trust and Caribbean Coastal Area Management Foundation, who took on the challenge of organizing a Community Meeting in Old Harbour Bay on Monday evening. The turnout (200/300 people) was excellent and the residents expressed themselves – sometimes a little too energetically – but they aired many of the issues surrounding the controversial planned port project at Goat Islands in the Portland Bight Protected Area. CVM Television provided some good coverage (and kudos too to CVM’s “Live at Seven” program for keeping the focus on the issue). You can view footage of both these programs on http://www.cvmtv.com.
Randy McLaren with a whole set of new fans at the Trench Town Reading Centre's 20th anniversary celebrations last year. (My photo)

Randy McLaren with a whole set of new fans at the Trench Town Reading Centre’s 20th anniversary celebrations last year. The children were thrilled by his performance. (My photo)

  • Randy McLaren, the “Kriativ Aktivis,” who will stage a lunchtime concert at the University of the West Indies’ Philip Sherlock Centre tomorrow (1:00 p.m.) to raise funds for cancer treatment for a UWI student. Contribution only $200. Randy is the 2013 recipient of the Prime Minister’s Youth Award for Excellence in Arts and Culture and was also named a finalist in the Commonwealth Youth Award for Excellence in Development Work that same year. He’s also Jamaica’s youth ambassador for culture and vulnerable youth. Do support him!
  • The Jamaica Public Service Company, who commissioned a small hydro-electric plant today at Maggotty, St. Elizabeth – 7.2 megawatts of electricity to be added to the national grid. 

So as always I will extend my condolences to those left behind to mourn, after the untimely deaths of these Jamaican citizens:

Michael Rose, 41, Franklin Town, Kingston

Edward Keating, Denham Town, Kingston

Sheldon Levy, 22, Retry Road, Clarendon

Anthony George Hudson, 25 – body has been found in St. Mary. Three men, including a policeman, have already been charged with his murder.

An amateur video showing a tussle between a taxi operator and a policeman, during which the latter appeared to fire several shots injuring the man, has been circulating widely on social media. Residents blocked the road in protest at the incident in Hopewell, Hanover, which was witnessed by many. The video is disturbing to watch.

On the road: The driver of the bus that knocked down and killed a street sweeper and seriously injured another last week has finally turned himself in to the police. A 43-year-old woman was killed when a car crashed into the back of the taxi as she got out of it in Williamsfield, Manchester.

 

 

Fresh Sunday, March 23, 2014

We’re feeling a little freshened up after a nice shower. We give thanks.

The increasingly tabloidesque Sunday Observer kicks off its front page with a somewhat dubious story about a pastor accused of deliberately “spreading AIDS” (the latter word in huge red letters in the headlines). Moving quickly on, I have found a couple of good articles on…

I recommend the tweets of former Contractor General Greg Christie.

I recommend the tweets of former Contractor General Greg Christie.

The C-word: A lot of public officials and others have been gathering in the Cayman Islands this week to discuss what to do about corruption. The issue has been analyzed to death, and still no one has a solution. Or do they? Former Contractor General Greg Christie has come up with a 21-point plan to deal with corruption.  He suggests that Caribbean governments pursue “remedial counter-measures.” He also uses the word “immediately.” In my view, that word is not in the vocabulary of our political leaders, who have little or no interest in addressing the issue any time soon. While they are still trying to figure out what corruption is, though, do follow Mr. Christie on Twitter (@Greg0706). He will enlighten you.

Bishop Howard Gregory.

Bishop Howard Gregory.

I also applaud Anglican Bishop of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands Howard Gregory - one of the very few church people who talks about issues that are actually relevant. He insists that the Church play a heightened advocacy role on corruption (I see absolutely no sign of that happening, apart from his own utterances). He points to an issue that is always an irritant to Jamaicans: “Very often when public figures have allegations of corruption laid against them, they are quick to point out that they have not broken any laws. It is…important to understand that corruption is not just about laws, but is at base about ethics and morality in governance and social relations.” Well said, Bishop Gregory! He hits the nail on the head and his language is forthright.

And the last word from our Prime Minister: “On my watch, I pledge that we will reject governmental extravagance and be vigilant in eliminating corruption.”  (Inaugural speech, January 5, 2012).

Priorities: The Church raised the dreary old issue of a flexible work week, huffing and puffing about how disappointed it is with the Government. Of course, whether people take a day off on a Saturday or a Sunday is so much more important than corruption. Successive administrations have tried and failed to push this issue through to a sensible conclusion; the poor Labour Minister Horace Dalley must be fed up to the back teeth. The umbrella group of churches is now accusing him of avoiding them. All they want is for the right to rest and worship on specific days of their choice to be enshrined in law. Meanwhile the International Monetary Fund is breathing down the Government’s neck to get the thing sorted out (after several years of wrangling!) Enough already!

The Energy Monitoring Committee is headed by investment banker Peter Melhado. (Photo: Gleaner)

The Energy Monitoring Committee is headed by investment banker Peter Melhado. (Photo: Gleaner)

Lingering doubts: The private sector-led Energy Monitoring Committee (EMC) is confirming my doubts over the Office of Utilities Regulation’s (OUR) seemingly hurried decision to award a license to Energy World International (EWI) to build a major power plant. I wondered if the OUR is under some political pressure, and I think we should remain concerned. The EMC feels that EWI has still not provided enough financial information.  So what next?

Dennis Chung. (Gleaner file photo)

Dennis Chung. (Gleaner file photo)

On economic matters, you should always read Dennis Chung’s clear-eyed articles. They appear in Caribbean Journal online. In his latest article Dennis notes that public sector bureaucracy, coupled with inefficient and poor service, must be tackled to boost productivity. Here it is: http://www.caribjournal.com/2014/03/21/transforming-jamaicas-public-sector/

And what next on the Tivoli Gardens Commission of Enquiry? One supposes that the Government is scouting around for a replacement for the unsuitable Velma Hylton. Hoping for an update soon. I am generally feeling uncomfortable about the affair, which has certainly got off to an inauspicious start. The Opposition Jamaica Labour Party’s equivocation and contradictory comments do not bode well either.

Questions: Should garbage collection be privatized? What has changed after last weekend’s major dump fire? What will change?

Media star: Former Senior Superintendent of Police Reneto Adams, who once headed the controversial Crime Management Unit, appeared in a short television report on Al Jazeera English called “Island of Music and Murder” (oh, doesn’t that sound nice). Although retired, Mr. Adams is not shy of the limelight and we have to listen to his pearls of wisdom on how to solve our crime problem at frequent and regular intervals. At least now in interviews we can actually see his eyes; for years he wore dark glasses, even in television studios.

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And talking of human rights, there are two big events this week. Tomorrow (Monday 24th) at 6:30 p.m., the Jamaica Environment Trust and Caribbean Coastal Area Management Foundation will host a community meeting in Old Harbour Bay Square on the planned Goat Islands development. It’s my birthday so I don’t think I will be able to attend, but please come and support and spread the word! Nationwide News Network will broadcast from the event.

On Thursday, March 27 from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. there will be the University of the West Indies’ “Great Debate” - a partnership with J-FLAG – on the topic “The Role of Leadership in Responding to Vulnerable Populations.” Students from three Jamaican tertiary institutions will participate. Not to be missed! And don’t forget to watch the interview with UWI’s debaters on “Smile Jamaica” (Television Jamaica’s morning show) on Tuesday morning!

The fearsome Reneto Adams in full battle gear. Some Jamaicans actually believe he should be our National Security Minister. If that happened I would be on the first plane out of here!

The fearsome Reneto Adams in full battle gear. Some Jamaicans actually believe he should be our National Security Minister. If that happened I would be on the first plane out of here!

Carnival Minister: Minister of Youth and Culture Lisa Hanna considers it entirely appropriate to share a photo of herself on Instagram, dressed in her skimpy Carnival costume, displaying what some online observers consider an enviable set of abs. Ms. Hanna clearly spends a lot of time and attention in the gym tending to her body. I hope she spends as much time tending to the young Jamaicans, many in desperate straits in juvenile correctional centers, that are her responsibility.  But I suppose once a beauty queen…

On some other political matters, I repeat: The level of political corruption and victimization in government agencies is appalling. I will say no more.” Sometimes, your face just does not fit…

 Major congrats to:

A Phase Three Productions truck ready for action. The multi media firm is celebrating 30 years.

A Phase Three Productions truck ready for action. The multi media firm is celebrating 30 years.

  • Phase Three Productions, a family firm working in the television and the wider media that has lasted thirty years through tough economic times. Congratulations to Dr. Marcia Forbes, husband Richard and son Delano for their hard work and focus on high standards. Last year alone, Phase Three produced over 500 hours of local content. Wishing you continued success!
JN Foundation volunteer Neville Charlton tries to figure out what to do next during first aid training over the weekend.

JN Foundation volunteer Neville Charlton tries to figure out what to do next during first aid training over the weekend.

  • The JN Foundation, which offered its volunteers free first aid training over the weekend. The Foundation is expanding and growing in all directions, and don’t forget its great “I Support Jamaica” program, which allows supporters to lend or donate to projects or small entrepreneurs.  I urge you to take a look and contribute what you can!  https://www.isupportjamaica.com
  • The Star – the Gleaner’s tabloid sister paper that comes out in the afternoons – is know for its strange, sometimes rather unpleasant headlines. Here’s a funny one though: “Cow escapes police custody.”

It is always very sad to list these names, but as always I extend my sympathies to the families who are left to mourn:

Jamario Ferguson, 15, Kingston 12

Melissa Duffus, 35, Logwood, St. Thomas

Anthony George Hudson, 25, Richmond District, St. Mary

Kevin Graham, 48, Claremont, St. Ann

Late Again! Sunday, January 12, 2014

I am still catching up and after an absence of a week, I have missed quite a lot in the news. But here are some items that have caught my attention…

Four years ago today… Haiti was shaken by a 7.0 magnitude earthquake. Here in Kingston, Jamaica, we felt the jolt of it. More than 300,000 died and around 1.5 million were made homeless. Please let us remember those who are still suffering and displaced; I believe 150,000 still remain in temporary shelter. For an excellent update four years later, please read Jacqueline Charles’ article in the Miami Herald here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/01/11/3865318/four-years-after-the-earthquake.html#

Where the National Palace once stood: Port-au-Prince, Haiti, January 12, 2014. (Photo: Twitter)

Where the National Palace once stood: Port-au-Prince, Haiti, January 12, 2014. (Photo: Twitter)

Down at the wharves: I am a bit confused by all the planned infrastructural projects. Please bear with me while I try to sort them out in my head over the next few weeks. There have been layoffs at the wharves, apparently because of a decline in business; I know this for a fact. But reports have simultaneously emerged about plans for expansion at Kingston Wharves, increased profits and the dredging of Kingston Harbour. The Jamaica Information Service (JIS) reports that government approved plans for a public-private partnership in December and will consider requests for proposals from  the Port of Singapore; the Terminal Ling Consortium; and Dubai Ports. Incidentally, China Harbour Engineering Corporation did not consider Kingston’s port adequate for a possible trans-shipment port. They want Goat Islands.

An aerial view of Kingston Wharves Limited.

An aerial view of Kingston Wharves Limited.

President of JAMPRO, Dianne Edwards (right), shares a moment with Chairman of the Logistics and Investment Task Force in the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce, Dr. Eric Deans; and Executive Director of the American Chamber of Commerce of Jamaica, Betty Stockhausen, at a function to launch of a two-day logistics hub symposium for the local business community on Thursday, January 9, at JAMPRO’s head office in New Kingston. The symposium will be held on January 21-22. (Photo: Jamaica Information Service)

President of JAMPRO, Dianne Edwards (right), shares a moment with Chairman of the Logistics and Investment Task Force in the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce, Dr. Eric Deans; and Executive Director of the American Chamber of Commerce of Jamaica, Betty Stockhausen, at a function to launch of a two-day logistics hub symposium for the local business community on Thursday, January 9, at JAMPRO’s head office in New Kingston. The symposium will be held on January 21-22. (Photo: Jamaica Information Service)

Speaking about mega-projects… The planned symposium on the logistics hub was postponed for some reason, but is back on track. The Jamaican Government and the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce (JCC) are organizing it. It will take place at the Jamaica Conference Centre on January 21-22. It’s not for your average Jamaican, at a cost of J$8,500. Representatives of multilateral donor agencies, bankers and logistics experts will be there to “demystify” the hub for local businessmen, according to JCC head Francis Kennedy, who is very gung-ho about it. Will media be invited, one asks?

Mr. Karl Samuda is dramatizing the urgency of the logistics hub, somewhat. Too much blustering.

Mr. Karl Samuda is dramatizing the urgency of the logistics hub, somewhat. Too much blustering.

Not impressed by the Opposition Spokesman on Investment and Commerce Karl Samuda’s recent comments on the logistics hub. He looks tired, by the way (so do many members of the rapidly-ageing Shadow Cabinet that Andrew Holness now has in place). But has Mr. Samuda done his homework on this? He says the government must hurry up and get going on the logistics hub, because the Chinese are looking elsewhere. Mr. Samuda seems to slightly exaggerate the speed at which things are moving elsewhere, by the way. The Nicaraguan President has just announced that construction of  the canal to be built through Nicaragua by Chinese firms will not start until December 2014. No work has yet started on the port in Mariel, Cuba to be developed by a Singaporean firm, but President Castro says the first stage will be “inaugurated” this month.

The Ganja Man: Delano Seiveright. (Photo: Gleaner)

The Ganja Man: Delano Seiveright. (Photo: Gleaner)

More excitement now, about the possible decriminalization of marijuana (ganja) in Jamaica. Former head of the Jamaica Labour Party’s G2K Delano Seiveright now heads the Ganja Law Reform Coalition (formed in 2010) which seeks to have the government implement a pioneering study by the late Professor Barry Chevannes. The 2001 study was ignored by successive administrations. Again, more exaggeration: Mr. Seiveright claims “half of the USA has already gone over”  to legalization (twenty states), and Jamaica is missing out. He wants legalization for both medical and recreational use. Financial analyst Ralston Hyman is equally enthusiastic, noting the “hypocrisy” of Jamaica’s public and private sector leaders, most of whom Mr. Hyman suggests smoke the weed on a regular basis. Both Mr. Seiveright and Mr. Hyman agree on the need for “public education” and “a regulated regime.” Hate to be a cynic, but we all know how well those two things work in Jamaica…

Businessman Richard Byles, who heads the Economic Programme Oversight Committee.

Businessman Richard Byles, who heads the Economic Programme Oversight Committee.

Recent comments by head of the Economic Programme Oversight Committee Richard Byles are balanced and indeed encouraging. Mr. Byles expressed cautious optimism following the passage of some important pieces of legislation at the end of the year (albeit prompted by IMF demands); and urged the private sector of which he is a member to push for economic growth. He noted, correctly, that the Jamaican public cannot “feel” a one or two per cent growth rate. Sure can’t.

On to politics: A former People’s National Party Member of Parliament (MP), Phyllis Mitchell is apparently planning a comeback. Ms. Mitchell served as MP for North West St. Catherine and was ousted by a legal challenge in 2001. She now chairs the People’s National Party’s (PNP) constituency executive; the present MP is the Jamaica Labour Party’s Gregory Mair. I’d like to see some new faces in politics; not the old ones returning, which seems to be the current trend.

Local Government Minister Noel Arscott.

Local Government Minister Noel Arscott.

The PNP Mayor of the Municipality of Portmore George Lee passed away in September, 2013. But the current administration appears to be in no hurry to hold an election – Portmore is the only place in Jamaica where mayors are directly elected. There are boundary issues, says Local Government Minister Noel Arscott. Ah, I see. Minister Arscott says an election cannot take place until these issues are resolved. Ah, I see. And that a proposal will be sent to Cabinet. Ah, I see. And he will have to consult with the Attorney General. Ah, I see. No rush, then…

The Jamaica Constabulary Force continues to defend itself against skeptics, noting that it has charged five people for murder between January 1 – 10. Is this a record? It has also seized a lot of guns, and even managed to capture one or two high-profile alleged gangsters without actually killing them. The police continue to tell us that “major crimes are down,” except for murder. When they know that the only major crime Jamaicans really care about is murder.

Shirley Lewis-McFarlane, pictured here in Jamaica which she had made her home. Her body was found on December 30 at her house in Discovery Bay, St. Ann

Ontario-born Shirley Lewis-McFarlane, 53, pictured here in Jamaica which she had made her home. Her body was found on December 30 at her house in Discovery Bay, St. Ann

Former MP Phyllis Mitchell is planning a return to representational politics. (Photo: Gleaner)

Former MP Phyllis Mitchell is planning a return to representational politics. (Photo: Gleaner)

The family of the Canadian woman who was found murdered in Jamaica  is upset that the police have not arrested anyone for the crime, yet. I feel extremely sorry for them, but it is a sad fact that most murders in Jamaica are not solved. Since Ms. Shirley Lewis-McFarlane’s murder is a high-profile case, and not one of your run-of-the-mill ghetto youth killings, it will likely get much more attention than the others. Many murder cases, I know for sure, have gone cold within a few weeks.

Speaking of our inner cities, there has been quite a lot more shooting and gang activity in and around Trench Town over the past few months., including very recently. This makes me so sad, when I see the lovely children at the Trench Town Reading Centre. We had to leave there early, last week. Gunfire was heard.

The children at Trench Town Reading Centre at their 20th anniversary party in December. (My photo)

The children at Trench Town Reading Centre at their 20th anniversary party in December. (My photo)

There is much more to be said about the “uncontrollable” girls housed behind bars at the South Camp prison. And about the fifteen-year-old girl raped by three men in Clarendon. Our girls need protection, guidance, and most of all love. 

I wondered, too… why the Commonwealth has not seen fit to offer or provide support for the three eastern Caribbean islands badly hit by floods over Christmas. Sunday Observer columnist and former diplomat Sir Ronald Sanders notes that not so long ago, climate change and natural disasters were considered “immediate Commonwealth concerns.”  This sense of urgency has apparently dissipated over the last two or three years. Thanks to BBC Channel Four’s Jon Snow, who happened to be vacationing nearby at the time, to raise this issue.

Lupita Nyong'o in Ralph Lauren ran away with my Facebook Fashion Police top prize at the Golden Globes last night. By the way, the designer and his wife spend quite a lot of time (especially Christmas) at their Jamaican home...

Lupita Nyong’o in Ralph Lauren ran away with my Facebook Fashion Police top prize at the Golden Globes last night. By the way, the designer and his wife spend quite a lot of time (especially Christmas) at their Jamaican home…

Best and worst-dressed: On the trivial side now, I had fun with my “fashion police” friends on Facebook, where I posted my regular red carpet review as the Golden Globe Awards were handed out last night. I think we were a little kinder than usual. Back in Jamaica, the annual best- and worst-dressed Jamaicans appeared in the Gleaner social pages. I don’t think some of the worst-dressed ones could give a damn about whether they appear on the list – they are busy doing their jobs. But it’s important for the socialites to appear on the best-dressed list. What a world some people live in…

Sunday Gleaner report noted that most Jamaicans (62 per cent) would actually prefer to stay in Jamaica, rather than migrate, if offered the choice. I am not sure who the sample was (and it was quite small, just over 1,000). I must investigate it further, but suffice it to say many are wondering which Jamaicans the survey interviewed. The well-connected, perhaps? Bankers, politicians, millionaires? Please see the meme of two Gleaner reports, posted on Twitter today (thanks to Ms. Durie Dee). I note that 43 per cent of those who would want to migrate are university graduates (where are the jobs for them in Jamaica, I ask?)

Do Jamaicans want to migrate or not?

Do Jamaicans want to migrate or not? Well… that depends.

Warm wishes to these young people:

The Positive Organisation after their first meeting of 2014 in Kingston.

The Positive Organization after their first meeting of 2014 in Kingston.

The Positive Organization, a great volunteer group founded by Moya Swearing and Neville Charlton, which is seeking to make an impact. Its 2014 projects include work at Jamaica’s children’s homes. Good luck and more power to you all!  (Check out their Facebook page).

Danté Djokovic from Kingston’s Seaview Gardens has an ambition to become an astronaut. The Jamaica Observer has been following his progress. He has returned from three days at the Apollo Astronaut Space Academy (AASA) in Orlando, Florida, calling the experience “some part awesome, some part life-changing, and some part breathtaking”. But where does he go from here? I wish this graduate of Excelsior High School all the best of luck – and hope that he achieves his dream.

This sad list covers an entire week – since it is a whole week since I last posted. Nevertheless, the list is long. The police also killed a young woman along with two men in Clarendon. Perhaps one of the saddest stories is that of two teenage boys who were killed while out catching shrimp in rural St. Elizabeth; I hear that they trespassed on a ganja field. The list is long; my sympathies to all those who mourn. 

Dantè Djokovic at the Apollo Astronaut Space Academy (AASA) in Orlando, Florida. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

Dantè Djokovic at the Apollo Astronaut Space Academy (AASA) in Orlando, Florida. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

Rudolph Taylor, 68, Matthews Lane, Kingston

Kirk Nelson, 27, Crescent Road/Spanish Town Road, Kingston 13

Omar Brown, 22, Crescent Road/Spanish Town Road, Kingston 13

Dane Cross, 34, Newlands, St. Catherine

Franklin Robinson, 36, Newlands, St. Catherine

Unidentified man, Washington Mews, St. Catherine

Gregory Bryan, Retirement, St. Elizabeth

Unidentified man, Retirement, St. Elizabeth

Desrick Williams, 15, Thornton/Siloah, St. Elizabeth (student of Balaclava High School)

Ashnell Coke, 15, Thornton/Siloah, St. Elizabeth (student of Maggotty High School)

Orville Smith, Junior Crescent/May Pen, Clarendon

Kenroy Morrison, 34, Montego Bay, St. James

Derrick Stewart, 48, Orange District, St. James

Romario Clarke, 18, Salt Spring, St. James

André Tomlinson, Flanker, St. James

Killed by the police:

Gavin Mason, Bucknor/May Pen, Clarendon

Dwight Mason, Bucknor/May Pen, Clarendon

Tracy-Ann Butler, Bucknor/May Pen, Clarendon

Martin Shand, Newlandsville, Clarendon

Chevaughn Foster, 21, Quarry, St. James

Unidentified man, Quarry, St. James

Donovan Sinclair, 44, Clarks Town, Trelawny

“Khaki,” Back Bush/Dam Head, St. Catherine

Mona Primary School teacher Paul Watson, 26, who was killed in Harbour View, Kingston last weekend. He may have been mistaken for a gang member, the police say. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

Mona Primary School teacher Paul Watson, 26, who was killed in Harbour View, Kingston last weekend along with his friend Omar Campbell. Three others were injured. Watson may have been mistaken for a gang member, police say. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

Granville Taylor hugs the lifeless body of his father 68-year-old Rudolph Taylor, after he was shot in the chest at his tailor shop on Matthews Lane by gunmen yesterday morning, while police and a neighbour try to pull him away. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

Granville Taylor hugs the lifeless body of his father 68-year-old Rudolph Taylor, after he was shot in the chest at his tailor shop on Matthews Lane by gunmen yesterday morning, while police and a neighbour try to pull him away. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

Olive Taylor tries to come to terms with the killing of her husband Rudolph by gunmen at his tailor shop on Matthews Lane  Saturday morning. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

Olive Taylor tries to come to terms with the killing of her husband Rudolph by gunmen at his tailor shop on Matthews Lane
Saturday morning. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

New Year’s Day: Wednesday, January 1, 2014

It’s official! It’s 2014!

And quieter than a Sunday in our neighborhood. The only excitement has been in the English Premier League, where my team Arsenal managed to cling onto the top spot again.

I am not sure sure what necessitated Minister Phillip Paulwell's sixteen overseas trips in six months, but he assured the Gleaner they benefited the country greatly.

I am not sure sure what necessitated Minister Phillip Paulwell’s sixteen overseas trips in six months, but he assured the Gleaner they benefited the country greatly.

Frequent flyers: The Gleaner has decided to get to the bottom of those overseas trips by government ministers that Jamaicans (including myself) have been grumbling about for some time. Using the Access to Information Act, journalists have requested information on the ministers’ travels, expenses etc. for the first half of 2013. Half of the ministries have provided information, including the Office of the Prime Minister.  Finance Minister Peter Phillips  made seven overseas trips in six months with his advisor and usually four others; total cost J$8 million. Technology Minister Philllip Paulwell took sixteen trips during that period with his State Minister Julian Robinson, costing over J$6 million. Education Minister Ronald Thwaites (whose total travel costs were quite modest) believes “You guys have the wrong presumption” (Gleaner’s quote) about overseas travel. It is really hard work, he contends. No fun at all! Not even flying first class…

Corruption bites: Contractor General Dirk Harrison was highly critical of the public sector’s general disregard for the rules and protocols of contract awards in his latest report (for 2012) tabled in Parliament last week. Conflict of interest, unethical conduct, and the flouting of several regulations are among his concerns. Will our political leaders ignore this report (as they usually do)? Is the International Monetary Fund paying attention to this issue? Mr. Harrison notes that every year he repeats the same recommendations. Read “OCG raps public sector disregard for contract rules” in the Jamaica Observer.

Commissioner of Customs Richard Reese. (Photo: Gleaner)

Commissioner of Customs Richard Reese. (Photo: Gleaner)

And Customs muddle: The Auditor General is none too pleased with Jamaica Customs, either. She asserts that they have been breaking the rules, applying duties and tariffs on imports in an arbitrary way. We have imported a few small items occasionally and have heard that this before. It’s hard to know how much they are going to charge you. That isn’t good enough, Commissioner Reese! Can we have an explanation please?

Contractor General Dirk Harrison (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

Contractor General Dirk Harrison (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

Tourism Minister Dr Wykeham McNeill (right), his junior minister Damion Crawford (second left) and Tourism Director John Lynch (left) with Craig and Alexis Greiner, the American couple who pushed Jamaica’s stopover visitor arrivals figure to two million for the first time in a year, shortly after their arrival at the Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay on Sunday. (Photo: Noel Thompson)

Tourism Minister Dr Wykeham McNeill (right), his junior minister Damion Crawford (second left) and Tourism Director John Lynch (left) with Craig and Alexis Greiner, the American couple who pushed Jamaica’s stopover visitor arrivals figure to two million for the first time in a year, shortly after their arrival at the Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay on Sunday. (Photo: Noel Thompson)

“Tourism history”: American newlyweds Alexis and Craig Grenier (who had that midwinter pale look) arrived at Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay to find that they were the two millionth stopover visitors to Jamaica for 2013. This is the first time we have achieved this landmark, and that is great. So, there was much fanfare, speeches by Tourism Minister Dr. Wykeham McNeill, and so on. I hope this is the start of something big. But as I have noted before, tourism stats for January to September 2013 (stopovers) show that Cuba (with 2,142,000) and Dominican Republic (3,840,000) were already ahead of Jamaica (1,534,000). Figures from the Caribbean Tourism Organization (www.onecaribbean.org). And Cuba doesn’t have American tourists (yet). So, progress made, but…

Like community peacemaker Horace Levy, I welcome National Security Minister Peter Bunting’s return to community policing considerations. As he said, it is late (I for one thought the idea had been put on ice permanently) but I hope that this will be seriously integrated into Minister Bunting’s “Unite for Jamaica” initiative (see my earlier blog post) – and not just lip service, but through action and programs.

Executive Chairman of Conrad Douglas and Associates, Dr. Conrad Douglas, presenting findings on the limestone industry, at a recent stakeholder symposium held at the JAMPRO business auditorium in New Kingston. (Photo: Jamaica Information Service)

Executive Chairman of Conrad Douglas and Associates, Dr. Conrad Douglas, presenting findings on the limestone industry, at a recent stakeholder symposium at JAMPRO business auditorium in New Kingston. (Photo: Jamaica Information Service)

Sounds ominous: Dr. Conrad Douglas (recently-appointed head of the government’s Climate Change Unit and author of the so-called “scoping study” on Goat Islands) is talking about how much money is to be made out of limestone mining in Jamaica. See Jamaica Information Service press release on their website: “Jamaica Can Earn US$7 billion annually from Limestone Industry.” Dr. Douglas talks about “sustainable development  and the use of creative conservation technologies, which now exist for the rehabilitation of those areas, which we might extract this resource from…” I wonder if Dr. Douglas and Co. may be training their sights on the Cockpit Country, which is threatened by mining and quarrying. Another “protected area”

Insecurity everywhere: There is a big panic now about lack of security in downtown Kingston, as if this is something new. I have been writing about it for weeks and asking if downtown really is as safe as we were led to believe. There’s a particular focus on Kingston Public Hospital and police have stepped up their vigilance there, but according to numerous reports widespread street robberies are largely perpetrated by very young men. And after all the reports and complaints, it seems the Ocho Rios bus park is still the venue for stabbings, shootings etc. I don’t want to think the Jamaica Constabulary Force cannot cope? A letter to the Gleaner (“How safe and peaceful are we?”) points out rather eloquently: “the painful scars from these killings are borne by families and friends of the victims deep within their hearts.” Which is what I think about when I post those names at the end of my blog.

Praedial larceny: I have mentioned this so many times. No matter who the Agriculture Minister is, or for how long, they seem totally unable to come up with a solution to the problem of the stealing of livestock and crops from long-suffering farmers. Now there is a “pilot program” with dairy farmers in Clarendon, involving technology. Before that there was a receipt system that was a total failure, but let’s hope this comes to something. Not holding my breath.

Threat level for…? The Jamaica Constabulary Force has put out a notice that the threat level against its members has risen to “extreme” in western Jamaica. What about the threat level for regular Jamaicans? Most of us don’t have heavy weaponry to defend ourselves with, either…

More messages: The official New Year messages are out, and again Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller‘s message is again far too long. It ends with these words: “We are God’s mighty army and we can and shall defeat all the giants as we build our promise (sic) land.” Oh dear.

LIME Foundation Chairman Errol Miller (centre) and Jamaica Observer Managing Director Danville Walker display a T-shirt branded for the LIME Foundation 6K, while Observer Head of Advertising, Marketing and Communication Natalie Chin-Watkins looks on. Occasion was a recent signing of an agreement for the Observer’s involvement in the event. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

LIME Foundation Chairman Errol Miller (centre) and Jamaica Observer Managing Director Danville Walker display a T-shirt branded for the LIME Foundation 6K, while Observer Head of Advertising, Marketing and Communication Natalie Chin-Watkins looks on. Occasion was a recent signing of an agreement for the Observer’s involvement in the event. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

Do support the LIME Foundation 6K run on Sunday, January 5 in Portmore! Funds raised from the road race will go towards setting up a fund to purchase a fluoroscope for the Bustamante Children’s Hospital – a very important piece of equipment. Deadline for registration is January 3!

A huge pat on the back and major hugs to:

Ms. Deika Morrison and the entire volunteer team supporting Shaggy’s fund-raising efforts for the Bustamante Children’s Hospital. The entire profits of the show will go to the Hospital. For those overseas or wishing to donate online, please go to the Food for the Poor website: foodforthepoor.org/teamshaggy4kids. You can donate 24/7 from mobile device by phone, text or online 501c3, write a check, wire money, or donate by remittance. (I hope that those patrons enjoying complimentary concert tickets will consider making a donation elsewhere).

The masterminds behind the Joy Of Youth Foundation and caregivers of the Jamaica National Children’s Home (JNCH). From left are Beverly Hunter, founder and executive director; Lady Hall, patron of the JOY Foundation; Yanique Thomas Shepherd, deputy director of administration at JNCH; Rev Eva Cocks Williams, deputy director of childcare; and Leroy Anderson, director of JNCH. (Photo: Lionel Rookwood/Jamaica Observer)

The masterminds behind the Joy Of Youth Foundation and caregivers of the Jamaica National Children’s Home (JNCH). From left are Beverly Hunter, founder and executive director; Lady Hall, patron of the JOY Foundation; Yanique Thomas Shepherd, deputy director of administration at JNCH; Rev Eva Cocks Williams, deputy director of childcare; and Leroy Anderson, director of JNCH. (Photo: Lionel Rookwood/Jamaica Observer)

The Joy of Youth Foundation was set up in 2011 in support of the National Children’s Home. One thing we could do (if I may suggest) is bring some light and happiness into the lives of Jamaican children, who may not have enough joy in their lives. Not just at Christmas, but throughout the year… Go and visit the National Children’s Home. It’s tucked away near Hope Gardens in Kingston.

Jamaican-born Professor Emeritus Geoffrey Palmer of Heriot-Watt University in Scotland just got knighted.

Jamaican-born Professor Emeritus Geoffrey Palmer of Heriot-Watt University in Scotland just got knighted.

Professor Geoffrey Palmer is a Jamaican-born scientist and he has been knighted for services to science, human rights and charity. Professor Palmer campaigns for better educational opportunities for minorities in the UK, and against racism. He

Kofi Walker, who organized a lively dance workshop for his young students in beautiful Castleton Gardens, St. Mary, just before Christmas. My hateful flu did not allow me to go, but I congratulate the hard-working dancer and dedicated teacher on his work. You can follow Kofi and his AIR-PAASA Foundation on Facebook. He deserves support! Dance is great for kids – physically, mentally and spiritually!

Materials collected by Concerned Citizens of Bequia. (Photo: Facebook)

Materials collected by Concerned Citizens of Bequia for the citizens of St. Vincent. (Photo: Facebook)

Ms. Holly Bynoe and Concerned Citizens of Bequia, who have been collecting funds and materials to assist the citizens of St. Vincent, who have lost so much in the Christmas floods that affected the eastern Caribbean. Where is Bequia, you may ask? It’s a tiny island (seven square miles) in the Grenadines. I am really happy to see Caribbean people supporting each other in times of need. I wish that perhaps Jamaica could have done something?

West Indies cricketing legend Brian Lara donates US$250,000 towards children at risk in Jamaica. (Photo: Abka Fitz-Henley/Twitter)

West Indies cricketing legend Brian Lara donates US$250,000 towards children at risk in Jamaica. (Photo: Abka Fitz-Henley/Twitter)

And speaking of Caribbean support…Brian Lara, former West Indies cricketing captain and star batsman, visited Jamaica this week and donated US$250,000 towards children at risk in Jamaica. This is incredibly kind and generous. Thank you!

The Jamaica Observer notes “2013 bloodier than 2012.” It is referring to murders – 1,200 for the year compared to 1,097 in 2012. One assumes that hundreds, maybe thousands more were injured (many seriously) in violent crime incidents. They are not mentioned. To all those who have endured, and still endure grief, pain and suffering (physical and mental) I offer my sympathies. When will it end.

Kofi Walker and young dancers rehearse at Castleton Gardens. (Photo: AIR-PASSA Foundation)

Kofi Walker and young dancers rehearse at Castleton Gardens. (Photo: AIR-PAASA Foundation/Facebook)

Dyran Dyer, 20, Bayfarm Villa, Kingston

Paul Bailey, 21, Majesty Gardens, Kingston

Unidentified man, Sheffield, Westmoreland

Jerome Wilson, 32, Belvedere, Westmoreland

Shirley Lewis-McFarlane,  53, Discovery Bay, St. Ann (Canadian citizen)

Tasheik Nugent, 16, Brown’s Town, St. Ann

Killed by police:

Torniel Haughton, Big Bridge, Westmoreland

Last Sunday of the Year: Sunday, December 29, 2013

It’s that period between Christmas and New Year when some of us get very reflective and philosophical. We look back over the past year, and look forward to the next; so there are endless “reviews” and “previews” in the media and elsewhere. As for me, I prefer to look forward, so no reviews for me. And I am really trying hard to live in the present. Like Arsenal Football Club manager Arsène Wenger, who likes to say that he takes it one game at a time.

Finance Minister Peter Phillips.

Finance Minister Peter Phillips.

More taxes looming? I noted in my last post that the government has hinted at the possibility of imposing General Consumption  Tax on gasoline. The mere mention of it made us shudder. Now the government has told the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that tax revenues have fallen short, so they think they must tax us some more (see the Letter of Intent dated December 3, 2013 on the IMF website). Well, of course tax revenues have fallen; the economy has been contracting over an extended period; imports have decreased; people are not spending. And how is adding more taxes going to help?

Dennis Chung. (Gleaner file photo)

Dennis Chung. (Gleaner file photo)

Now, there’s a very good article by financial analyst Dennis Chung on caribjournal.com (a website worth subscribing to) headlined “Jamaica in 2014.” Dennis is quite right. We can’t under-estimate the importance of confidence in almost any economic scenario (something I learned while working in the eurobond sector in London). The government must grasp this concept. Dennis also warns: The government cannot take the path of previous administrations and seek to tax our way out of the problem, as this will only lead to short-term fiscal gain and long-term loss. This has been the path chosen in the past and it has not worked.” But based on the Appendix to the Jamaican Government’s Letter of Intent to the IMF, this is pretty much what it plans to do.

Dennis talks about the two major hindrances to our economic growth: bureaucracy and crime. On the latter issue, former Contractor General Greg Christie has pointed out that the World Economic Forum identified government inefficiency, crime and corruption as major impediments to Jamaica’s economic growth. So let’s keep that in the equation, too.

No to debt swap: Minister of Finance Peter Phillips has ruled out the idea of a third debt swap. Well, of course that is a no-no, Minister Phillips. The private sector, led by Scotiabank Jamaica, made it abundantly clear after the last one that they would not countenance such a thing.

Save Goat Islands!

Save Goat Islands!

Eastern Caribbean floods: Our Prime Minister has sent her sympathies to the islands of St. Lucia, Dominica and St. Vincent and the Grenadines that suffered terribly from a Christmas storm and subsequent flooding. That’s nice, but could we perhaps have sent some assistance? Some Jamaica Defence Force soldiers or other manpower at least?

Relief supplies arrive in St. Lucia from Trinidad & Tobago. (Photo: Press Secretary to the Prime Minister, St. Lucia/Facebook)

Relief supplies arrive in St. Lucia from Trinidad & Tobago. (Photo: Press Secretary to the Prime Minister, St. Lucia/Facebook)

In my last post, I omitted to include a very disturbing story highlighted by Annie Paul on her blog, Active Voice“NOT dead on arrival! No Sir! I will not rest in peace!” tells the tale of a man whom the police thought they had killed in a “shootout.” On arriving at the hospital he sat up and declared himself not dead, meanwhile pointing out the policeman who had tried to kill him. He was then put under police guard in hospital. What has happened to him? Has INDECOM investigated? Read the story at anniepaul.net.

Deaths on the road: Despite the best efforts of the National Road Safety Council, fatalities on the road will end up higher than in 2012, which was 267 dead. What a terrible waste of lives – mainly through stupidity: overtaking, distracted driving, driving much too fast. Are we still considering legislation on cell phones and driving? I’ve noticed this is so common in Kingston – drivers cut corners, hardly even notice you on the road when they have a phone glued to their ear.

Macka Diamond (right) and Lady Saw in a heated battle onstage at Sting 2013. (Photo: Lionel Rookwood)

Macka Diamond (right) and Lady Saw in a heated battle onstage at Sting 2013. (Photo: Lionel Rookwood/Jamaica Observer)

Sting women: I believe Culture Minister Lisa Hanna told local press that the Boxing Day dancehall event called Sting (now celebrating thirty years) would be family-friendly. How terribly wrong she was. If people want to go to these shows, then it is their choice. But I think it is wrong for government to support any of these shows - whether the so-called Jazz Festival, Sting or whatever. The Jamaica Tourist Board sponsored this one for the first (and hopefully last) time. It’s a private sector thing. Moreover, I don’t want my hard-earned taxes to be spent on two women hurling obscenities at each other in the name of entertainment. I would rather it was spent on school furniture, or perhaps hospital equipment. (Did Minister Hanna attend this event, and if so what did she think about it? At the press conference, putting on her best Jamaican patois, she said: mi haffi deh deh”meaning: I have to be there)!

This was Sting 2013 on Boxing Day, sponsored by the Jamaica Tourist Board.

This was Sting 2013 on Boxing Day, sponsored by the Jamaica Tourist Board and endorsed by Culture Minister Lisa Hanna, who said she would have to be there. Was she? Did she watch this “performance” I wonder?

This question was asked on Facebook recently: “After decades and decades of violent crime in Jamaica, what do you do to protect yourself? I’m not talking about the grills and the burglar alarms and the gated communities and the not walking on the road at night. What do you do to protect your spirit and soul from the news every day of murders and rapes and assaults of men, women and children? When you or those you know have been personally affected, or when it is news reports about people you do not know?” I believe that I wrestle with this question week in, week out. 

Protest signs in August Town after police killed Dennis Levy. (Photo: Ricardo Makyn/Gleaner)

Protest signs in August Town after police killed Dennis Levy. (Photo: Ricardo Makyn/Gleaner)

Revenge? Residents of August Town say that the police killed Dennis Levy on December 20 as an act of revenge for the murder of a District Constable and the injuring of a policewoman a short time earlier that day. August Town is  a small community tucked into the high green hills of St. Andrew near the University of the West Indies campus. It has suffered from gang warfare and political strife in the past; however the crime rate there has decreased this year. “They decided that someone had to die for the police,” said one resident, according to a report in today’s Sunday Gleaner.  

Tiefs continue to flourish: Here’s an interesting photo (from our Prime Minister’s constituency) showing a light post festooned with “throw-ups” – that is, illegal electricity connections. I will not comment except to say that the Jamaica Public Service Company has its work cut out…

Illegal electricity connections in Kingston.

Illegal electricity connections in Kingston.

Kudos to…

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Yohan Blakeour lovely sprinter, whose YB Afraid Foundation has partnered with the private sector and individuals to help young people. In particular, the Foundation supports the Mt. Olivet Children’s Home in Manchester. It held some special events and a motivating workshop over Christmas. Big ups to the young man and wishing you great success in 2014!

Principal of the Lethe Primary and Infant School in St James, Anthony Murray (right), accepts the Jamaica Teaching Council/Ministry of Education and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) Leadership in Education Award, from Minister of Education, Ronald Thwaites, at a recent ceremony at the school. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

Principal of the Lethe Primary and Infant School in St James, Anthony Murray (right), accepts the Jamaica Teaching Council/Ministry of Education and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) Leadership in Education Award, from Minister of Education, Ronald Thwaites, at a recent ceremony at the school. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

A young principal, Anthony Murray, who has guided his school (Lethe Primary and Infant School in St. James) to some great results. He recently received an award for his efforts from the government and UNESCO. We do know that there are many dedicated teachers out there! And yes, Minister Thwaites, the Effective Principals’ Training Programme is a worthwhile effort. It is a pity that 49 principals have refused to participate. In fact, it is very unimpressive.

Journalist and producer of the excellent “Live at Seven” show on CVM Television Yolande Gyles Levy, who produced an excellent feature on the fight to save the Portland Bight Protected Area/Goat Islands earlier this year. She gave an update from her perspective on the program on Friday night, as follows: Nothing much has changed. The government, she said is still waiting on a written proposal from China Harbour Engineering Company. Based on that, the government will conduct an Environmental Impact Assessment, which will be paid for by the Chinese firm. Transport and Works Minister Omar Davies spoke on “Live at Seven” about a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the logistics hub. When host Simon Crosskill asked if he could see a copy he said he could – but “Live at Seven” has not seen it yet.

The St. Mary Chapter of G2K (the young professionals arm of the Jamaica Labour Party), who held a Christmas treat for over 100 children from the Annotto Bay community over the holidays. And “big ups” to all those many organizations, both domestic and overseas-based, that brought joy to under-privileged Jamaicans during the period. I hope we will remember all our vulnerable and marginalized groups throughout the year, not just at Christmas.

The murders of two cousins in Clarendon over Christmas has caused much concern and anger, and has been reported widely abroad, since one of the young women, Franciena Johnson was a Brooklyn resident. The police are now suggesting that a jealous boyfriend may have been the cause. Just this weekend in St. James, a young woman and her infant son were murdered; the father of the child is being questioned. There have been so many tragedies involving young women, their infant children and jealous, vengeful partners. I have also noticed that women OF ALL AGES are murder victims, week in, week out – including, this week, a woman farmer in her sixties, in Sherwood Content, Trelawny (Usain Bolt’s home). So much pain. My condolences to all the families…

Renaldo Walton, 25, Parade Gardens (Tel Aviv), Kingston

Marva Henry, 56, Ebony Vale/Spanish Town, St. Catherine

Unidentified man, Ebony Vale/Spanish Town, St. Catherine

Ramon Perkins, 20, Santa Cruz, St. Elizabeth

Eulalee McIntosh, 64, Shaw Park/Ocho Rios, St. Ann

Norman Comrie, 30, Runaway Bay, St. Ann

Melessha Evans, 20, Irwin, St. James

Jeliana Evans, four months, Irwin, St. James

Unidentified man, Springfield, Westmoreland

Fernando Woolery, 26, Red Ground/Negril, Westmoreland

Geraldine Powell, 65, Sherwood Content, Trelawny

Killed by the police:

Dennis “Evian” Levy, 35, August Town, St. Andrew (previously reported as “Heavy Hand”)

Arlene Robinson, mother of Nordia Fearon, holds a picture of her slain daughter, who went missing with Franciena Johnson on the way to May Pen in Clarendon. Her body was found in Salt River. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

Arlene Robinson, mother of Nordia Fearon, holds a picture of her slain daughter, who went missing with Franciena Johnson on the way to May Pen in Clarendon. Her body was found in Salt River. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

Franciena Johnson kisses her boyfriend, who has since been arrested in connection with her murder. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

Franciena Johnson kisses her boyfriend, who has since been arrested in connection with her murder. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

 

“Homeland” finale day: Sunday, December 15, 2013

Events (and Christmas cards) keep crowding in on me, so it is harder and harder to complete my twice-weekly bulletins on time during the Christmas season! But, one tries…

I have given up trying to add links in to my news bulletins. They only work about half the time, which is frustrating for readers and for me too. So, if you do want to read more on any of the stories below, I suggest you look them up at jamaica-gleaner.com; jamaicaobserver.com; and rjrnewsonline.com. I do get stories from other sources too but you will find the top stories on these pages. My apologies for any inconvenience caused…

Schools found wanting (again): The Inspector of Schools’ latest report does not make for happy reading. Progress in about half of the 304 schools inspected was “unsatisfactory,” – with achievement in English Language rated unsatisfactory in 75 per cent of the primary level schools, and 50 per cent of the secondary schools. Good grief!

I am a little tired… of the regular hype we get from the Tourism Ministry – projections for the upcoming season. We are getting lots of stopover tourists from Czechoslovakia, apparently. Really now. “Jamaica on target to make stopover history” declares the Sunday Observer. Over two million stopover visitors expected for 2013? But hold on! According to the latest figures on onecaribbean.org (the Caribbean Tourist Organisation website), Cuba has already had over 2 million stopover visitors this year (without Americans)! And the Dominican Republic has had almost four million. Hmm. Am I missing something?

I actually got to read Mark Wignall’s column this week, as I bought a hard copy of the paper; how annoying it is that one cannot read the full column online. However, my mind has been going off in the same direction as Mr. Wignall in relation to the Goat Islands logistics hub and the lack of information thereon. Is it because the Chinese are concerned about our crime rate and are hesitating? Remember the Police Commissioner has had to reassure the Chinese Ambassador on more than one occasion that his nationals are safe, and toured downtown Kingston with him very recently. Mr. Wignall quotes Jamaican engineer Howard Chin, who believes that “the PNP government will be granting the Chinese extraterritorial rights to the Goat Island port facilities,” where they will be protected presumably. Good Lord. And as Mr. Wignall comments, “Something about this Goat Islands investment is not adding up.”

Head of the National Education Inspectorate Maureen Dwyer. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

Head of the National Education Inspectorate Maureen Dwyer. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

It’s snowing cocaine for Christmas: A lot of jokes about a “white Christmas” in Jamaica are circulating, after a series of enormous drug busts at Kingston’s ports. A total of over J$2.5 billion worth has been found in containers in the past week – 1,696 pounds in weight. And all being transshipped somewhere else – from Venezuela, Colombia and Curacao. Is this going to impress future investors in the promised logistics hub, one wonders? Is this sudden jump in seizures due to increased vigilance, or to an increase in drug trafficking (which Minister Peter Bunting recently described as one factor in the increased crime rate)? I would like to see more investigative reporting on this development.

Dusting off the begging bowls: But do they need dusting off – they have only just been used? This time Finance Minister Peter Phillips (plus delegation) is off to China to seek investment, funding etc. Which government ministers have not traveled to China first-class, at taxpayers’ expense? And why is Minister Phillips going to seek investment? I thought that was Minister Hylton’s portfolio.

Frightening stuff: The Montego Bay, St. James blood-letting continues. After five were killed on Wednesday, we had another four murders at the end of the week. For Minister Bunting, the week after the launch of his “Unite for Change” program, this must be very alarming. Montego Bay’s murder rate is some way above Kingston’s this year. It was first blamed on the “lotto scam,” but I understood this to be under control (or is it?) The police arrested a couple this week, but how many successful lotto scam cases have there been in court so far? Now it is all said to be “gang-related.” Can the police tell us what is happening, apart from the fact that there have been 152 murders, nine more than compared to the same time in 2012, in this parish alone?

The Chinese are worried about crime: And I fully understand that. We all are! So the Police Commissioner took a walk downtown yesterday with the Chinese Ambassador. There are over 200 Chinese-operated businesses in downtown Kingston alone. I had no idea it was so many, although I am told it has always been so.

CCTV is a must: I really think businesses and whoever can afford it need to invest in CCTV though. In the UK and U.S. it is in every public space, and it has solved many crimes. But the cost is high – and who would monitor the footage? I would love someone to delve more deeply into the pros and cons.

A very odd-looking person: The police descriptions of wanted men (they rarely have photographs) sometimes verge on the bizarre. The police are looking for a person with “a straight face and a pointed mouth” right now. He has a “high forehead and protruding ears,” too. If I met this gentleman I am not sure if I would recognize him. Another man was of “dark complexion” but also “appeared to be bleaching” (his skin, that is) – so what color does that make him, roughly? Dark with light patches, I suppose.

And odd comments: I may have misinterpreted remarks made at a Rotary Club function by the head of the Court of Appeal Justice Seymour Panton, as reported on television. He seemed to be blaming journalists for the increased crime rate, saying that the media glorifies criminals. Sorry, I am not seeing that at all – although there may have been a tendency to do that at one time, but not now. Justice Panton did not give any examples of this glorification, but didn’t like the media describing a person as a “don.” But dons do exist, actually!

Justice Seymour Panton. (Photo: Gleaner)

Justice Seymour Panton. (Photo: Gleaner)

Another Christmas in jail: Talking of bleaching, the deejay Vybz Kartel will spend his third consecutive Christmas behind bars, as the second murder case in which he is a co-accused will drag on into the New Year. So Mr. Adijah Palmer’s highly-paid, arrogant defense lawyers will have ample opportunity to continue making witty remarks and parading in front of the court and media, flaunting their gowns like peacocks. I know, they are just doing their job. But this isn’t a network television series, is it.

Hurry along, now: Senator A.J. Nicholson had to apologize for the extreme haste with which many bills are being pushed through Parliament, ahead of the Christmas break. This is all to do with the International Monetary Fund‘s demands, he says. Yes, I am sure it is, but surely they should be properly debated? I foresee problems down the road…

Are we taking any notice? The European Union/UN’s very important Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction Project (what a mouthful) has ended. I hope that lessons have been learned and that the measures taken will have some effect for the future. EU representative Paola Amadei commented, “A careful environmental assessment of all projects is not a new fad but a necessity”  (Hint, hint). I really hope that the Jamaican government has taken on board the warnings and concerns over the impact that development has on our fragile environment (or what’s left of it). As Ambassador Amadei said, it’s not a question of either/or. What’s the next step, Climate Change Minister Pickersgill?

Minister of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change Robert Pickersgill (centre); head of delegation of the European Union (EU) to Jamaica, Ambassador Paola Amadei (left); and deputy director general, sustainable development and regional planning, Planning Institute of Jamaica, Claire Bernard, view a portfolio with photos of projects under the Government of Jamaica/EU/United Nations Environment Programme Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction Project, which has just ended. - JIS Photo

Minister of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change Robert Pickersgill (centre); head of delegation of the European Union (EU) to Jamaica, Ambassador Paola Amadei (left); and deputy director general, sustainable development and regional planning, Planning Institute of Jamaica, Claire Bernard, view a portfolio with photos of projects under the Government of Jamaica/EU/United Nations Environment Programme Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction Project, which has just ended. – JIS Photo

NWC story: The Sunday Observer has a story about dubious contracts and cost overruns at the National Water Commission as its lead story, based on documents it obtained. However, I am never too comfortable with reports that rely on unnamed sources (whether “highly placed” or not) for comment and that are “unable to contact” key actors who could shed more light. I am, however, concerned at the staggering losses the NWC continues to incur (J$3.5 billion in just five months this year) and the Office of Utilities Regulation’s decision to grant this highly inefficient organization a rate increase of eighteen per cent in October. Humph!

Harmony Hall in St. Mary houses a lovely art gallery. For many years it has hosted exhibitions of Jamaican intuitive art - its 32nd will be on December 29, 2013. (Photo: Harmony Hall website)

Harmony Hall in St. Mary houses a lovely art gallery. For many years it has hosted exhibitions of Jamaican intuitive art – its 32nd will be on December 29, 2013. (Photo: Harmony Hall website)

Harmony Hall for sale: We have been going to exhibition openings at Harmony Hall in St. Mary for decades now (and occasionally buying art, when our budget permitted). Now, after 32 years of managing this attractive Georgian property (then Prime Minister Edward Seaga opened it in 1981), the owners Annabella and Peter Proudlock are putting it up for sale. I feel sad, and hope that whoever takes it over will give the building as much love and care as they have done. And keep the art gallery open.

600 handcarts registered!! Yay! Mayor Angela Brown-Burke is thrilled at the success of her drive to register handcart operators. She thinks this will empower them to get loans, save money, even buy a house. Umm, err…

Will this handcart operator ever be able to buy a house? Well, the Mayor of Kingston thinks he will, if he is registered.

Will this handcart operator ever be able to buy a house? Well, the Mayor of Kingston thinks he will, if he is registered.

P.S. Our newspapers are getting increasingly sloppy. A Sunday Observer column by “Sean Major-Williams” (at the top of the page) is accredited to “Sean Major-Campbell” in the introduction. It’s not even corrected online. By the way, this is well worth a read – it’s the Father’s message for Human Rights Day last week, headlined “The link between the Kingdom of God and justice.” He offers a marvelous quote from Archbishop Desmond Tutu: “Christians shouldn’t be just pulling people out of the river, we should be going upstream to find out who’s pushing them in.” 

And I am so emotionally drained after the finale of “Homeland” that…I just cannot go on… (Is Brody really dead?)

This is Father Sean Major-CAMPBELL. Please note, Jamaica Observer!

This is Father Sean Major-CAMPBELL. Please note, Jamaica Observer!

Seasonal kudos to:

The Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS) for its sheer determination in pursuing the stealers of electricity. JPS says it has arrested and brought to court over 700 people this year!

The Jamaica Institute of Environmental Professionals (JIEP) for its detailed and thorough presentation on the processes, procedures and considerations for the logistics hub last Thursday evening. Inevitably, the oft-repeated refrain was, “But of course, we have very little information to go on, so…” 

Jean Lowrie-Chin for her column (now available on her blog at lowrie-chin.blogspot.com) on our desire – and need – to see something Mandela-esque in our own political leaders. Oh, I wish! An excellent column and worth reading.

Gloria Simms is from the Trelawny Town Maroons in the hills of St. James. (Photo: Paul Williams/Gleaner)

Gloria Simms is from the Trelawny Town Maroons in the hills of St. James. (Photo: Paul Williams/Gleaner)

Ms. Gloria Simms (a woman you will never forget, once you have met her) heads the Maroon Women’s Indigenous Circle. She will travel to Suriname soon, with the aim of forging stronger ties with Maroons there. Her aim is poverty reduction and the development of eco-tourism and community tourism in Maroon communities. Ms. Simms is brilliant and I hope she has a very successful visit.

It is very sad to list the names below. My heartfelt condolences to all the families of those murdered in the past four days:

Desmond Samuels, Spring Mount, St. James

Unidentified man, Content/Maroon Town, St. James

Unidentified man, Content/Maroon Town, St. James

Barrington Dennis, 23, Orange District, St. James

Monique Watson, 36, Montego Bay, St. James

Rosemarie Reid, 46, North Gully, St. James

Andrew Duhaney, 30, Rough Road, St. James

Gussette Clarke, 41, Edgewater/Portmore, St. Catherine

Kevin Kirkland, 37, Newlands Road/Portmore, St. Catherine

Demar Campbell, 24, Caymanas Gardens/Portmore, St. Catherine

Mid-Week Bulletin: Wednesday, December 11, 2013

I have been helter-skelter again this week so forgive me if I have missed something vital. Next week I will definitely slow down. Meanwhile, many Christmas cards are still waiting to be written…

What? Some church leaders are NOT right-wing fundamentalists!? But that’s un-Christian!! Online readers of the Jamaica Observer appeared shocked and outraged that an Anglican priest decried the discrimination and abuse meted out to gays during a church service for Human Rights Day last weekend. If most of these commenters were Jamaican, then anyone who pretends this country is not homophobic need only take a look at a few of these ignorant diatribes. They will have to eat their words. The way to get lots of comments in Jamaica (in this case, well over 100!) is to post an online article advocating for LGBT rights. We’ve got a long way to go. Read: “Pastor lashes out at injustices faced by gays” in the Jamaica Observer.

Are we committed to fighting corruption? Yes, I could rewind the Prime Minister’s avowed determination to fight corruption on taking office nearly two years ago (sigh). But ten years ago the Commission for the Prevention of Corruption first asked the Ministry of Finance (very politely, I am sure) for access to computerized Tax Administration Jamaica records. This government agency, who must feel like giving up sometimes, is still asking at regular intervals, to no avail.  And Monday was International Day Against Corruption! The Gleaner reports “‘Finance ministry not open to request for online access.”

More engineers needed: Our local manufacturers (a steadily shrinking group in our economy) are always vocal. I am afraid that otherwise people might forget we still have a manufacturing sector. But I totally agree with Mr. Howard Mitchell, who says we need to train more mechanical engineers – and keep them in Jamaica (many have migrated in search of employment). The University of Technology apparently graduates about 40 mechanical engineers annually. Read: “Grinding to a halt – Manufacturers say nation needs more mechanical engineers before economy crumbles” in the Gleaner.

At the behest of the IMF: Meanwhile Parliament is busy pushing through legislation to amend the Securities Act, to clamp down on Ponzi schemes. Meanwhile, the Jamaican operator of one such scheme is happily pottering around Jamaica while the case against him languishes in limbo; and another Jamaican swindler is doing time overseas, having never been charged or convicted in this country. Anyway, this legislation is demanded by the International Monetary Fund; otherwise it would likely never happen. Read: “Ponzi squeeze – House revises Security Act in bid to attract more investors” in the Gleaner.

A requiem for arsenic (sob): It seems the operators of Jamaica’s fancy and expensive golf courses are wringing their hands over a ban on a certain kind of weedkiller they use which contains…arsenic! Well, thanks for telling us at this late stage (one assumes all wildlife on golf courses has been wiped out meanwhile?) Apparently arsenic never goes away. The golf course operators seem more concerned about the cost to their wealthy customers of more environmentally friendly fungicides and herbicides than about arsenic seeping into our underground water. Read: “Ban on weed-killer to hit golfing hard” in the Gleaner. 

Something strange… Is happening at the College of Agriculture, Science and Education (CASE) which used to be a quiet place, tucked into lush green surroundings just off the main road leading to Port Antonio, Portland (a parish well-known for the lowest crime rate in the island, by far). There was another fire there early this morning, in which four students were injured, one seriously. This is the third fire at CASE this year; following one in March a student was charged with attempted murder and arson. A lecturer was found murdered on campus in September (case unsolved). There have been break-ins, and last month a student was stabbed by another. What are the police doing? What is the college administration doing? Has any journalist sought to investigate these many strange happenings?

The decline of television? Traditional television is on the decline, it seems. But in Jamaica? Well, not so. And who should know better than the former head of Television Jamaica Dr. Marcia Forbes, who has written an interesting article in the Carib Journal (www.caribjournal.com) on “Jamaica and the Future of Television.” Recommended read.

Congrats, congrats, congrats…

Tamika Pommells Williams poses with the Certificate of Excellence from TripAdvisor. (Photo: Facebook)

Tamika Pommells Williams poses with the Certificate of Excellence from TripAdvisor. (Photo: Facebook)

To Ms. Tamika Pommells Williams and her husband Ian Williams for their Certificate of Excellence from the travel website TripAdvisor (which I always consult before traveling and contribute to as a reviewer). The couple run the Ahhh Ras Natango Gallery and Garden near Montego Bay. TripAdvisor is a very influential and important website. Tamika has a beautiful garden (she often posts brilliant flowers on my Facebook page!) and her husband’s paintings are lovely. Congratulations to you both, and to your team!

  • Ms. Tessanne Chin (again) for being simply brilliant in another round of “The Voice,” the talent show on NBC. Her rendition of Simon and Garfunkel‘s Bridge Over Troubled Water” - a deceptively simple song that is hard to sing because of the range required – was passionate. (Did you know that the song topped the Billboard charts for six weeks in 1970, and was a huge global hit?) Now fingers and toes are crossed for next week’s finals. Emotions will be overflowing in the Jamaican Twittersphere, that’s for sure!
Tessanne Chin sings "Bridge Over Troubled Water" on "The Voice." (Photo: NBC)

Tessanne Chin sings “Bridge Over Troubled Water” on “The Voice.” (Photo: NBC)

Norman Manley Law School students, who won the World Human Rights Moot Court competition in Pretoria, South Africa recently – the fourth consecutive win for the Kingston-based law school. Many congratulations, and I hope this means that Jamaica will make greater strides in human rights in the future!

Final year students at the Norman Manley Law School, Ralston Dickson (left) and Donia Fuller (right), proudly show off their awards after copping the top prize. Sharing the moment is the chief judge, Madam Justice Bess Nkabinde, who is also a judge at the Constitutional Court of South Africa. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

Final year students at the Norman Manley Law School, Ralston Dickson (left) and Donia Fuller (right), proudly show off their awards after copping the top prize. Sharing the moment is the chief judge, Madam Justice Bess Nkabinde, who is also a judge at the Constitutional Court of South Africa. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

Ms. Monique Long, another student at Norman Manley Law School, who was recently selected as the first woman Executive Director of the Jamaica Youth Advocacy Network (JYAN), a voluntary youth-led program and training organization focused on development issues. Wishing you all the best in your new position, Monique!

Jamaica Environment Trust and the creative musical and animation teams that have put together a wonderful little animated song “Don’t Mess with Goat Islands.” Do look it up on JET’s new website (www.savegoatislands.org) and share the link!

"Two likkle lizard" (the Jamaican Iguana, as described by the Transport Minister) as featured in the "Don't Mess with Goat Islands" animation.

“Two likkle lizard” (the Jamaican Iguana, as described by the Transport Minister) as featured in the “Don’t Mess with Goat Islands” animation.

Monique Long, the first female Executive Director of the Jamaica Youth Action Network. (Photo: JYAN Facebook page)

Monique Long, the first female Executive Director of the Jamaica Youth Action Network. (Photo: JYAN Facebook page)

  • A policeman from the Greater Portmore Police Station offers his condolences to grieving neighbours of John-Michael Hett who was shot dead in the community of Portsmouth on Monday night. (Photo: Joseph Wellington/Jamaica Observer)

    A policeman from the Greater Portmore Police Station offers his condolences to grieving neighbours of John-Michael Hett who was shot dead in the community of Portsmouth on Monday night. (Photo: Joseph Wellington/Jamaica Observer)

A "Jamaica Observer" editorial cartoon. The well-traveled Prime Minister, on hearing that singer Tessanne Chin has reached the finals in "The Voice," asks the pilot to prepare for takeoff so that she can fly off to be there in person...

A “Jamaica Observer” editorial cartoon. The well-traveled Prime Minister, on hearing that singer Tessanne Chin has reached the finals in “The Voice,” asks the pilot to prepare for takeoff so that she can fly off to be there in person…

A “brilliant” teenager from Dunoon Technical High School was murdered in a drive-by shooting in Portmore. Seven – yes, seven – Jamaicans were killed in 24 hours, most of them in St. James. The seven included three women, one elderly. Saying that some of the killings were “gang-related” is really no consolation. A death is a death. My heart goes out to the grieving families and loved ones of:

Beresford Robinson, 74, Hill Run, St. Catherine

Wayne West, 49, Portsmouth/Portmore, St. Catherine

John-Michael Hett, 16, Portsmouth/Portmore, St. Catherine

Errol Forrest, Maizeland, St. James

Natasha Palmer, Hibiscus Drive/Norwood, St. James

Nicolette Palmer, Hibiscus Drive/Norwood, St. James

Shane Anglin, 27, Hibiscus Drive/Norwood, St. James

Romario Haughton, 19, North Gully, St. James

“Banga,” North Gully, St. James 

Cynthia Devanza, 78, Hopewell, St. Mary

Pop-Down Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Everything is pop-down again, it seems. (To my non-Jamaican readers: “pop-down” is quite a broad term meaning “exhausted, ruined,” or to coin another Jamaican phrase “mash-up.” It can also mean something is a flop or a failure).

The pop-downnest thing that I can think of right now is the economy. OK, we passed the first IMF test and re-submitted our proposal for completing tax reform measures (which are now late). BUT… (please note, I am not an economist. The notes below are just my layperson’s observations)…

* “There is no money in the system,” says local financier Aubyn Hill. He points out that the Bankers Association of Jamaica has been pleading for the Bank of Jamaica (BoJ) to put more Jamaican Dollars into the system, but the BoJ  is “mopping up.” Interest rates will start rising, no doubt.

* The Jamaican Dollar is on a continuous downward slide. Let’s call it J$104 to US$1, now.

* Jamaica is in recession (yes, and hardly anyone wants to use that word, but we have been in recession for at least a couple of years)

* The IMF has put us on an austerity diet, and how can that not make our recession worse? We are starving already. Business is contracting!

* Our fiscal deficit is worsening. Government revenues are down because the economy is shrinking, people are spending less and there are fewer taxes to collect!

* While the Government pays lip-service to support for small businesses, micro-businesses are being squeezed and say they are being “hounded” by the Government, which often forces them into the “underground” economy. Businesswoman Dr. Blossom O’Meally Nelson says small businesses are being regulated, but not facilitated.

* Red tape is throttling business; corruption is choking the society. The World Economic Forum says it is the biggest deterrent to business, ahead of our crippling crime problem. And corruption.

* Our Finance Minister Peter Phillips is the Minister of IMF. He rarely talks about anything else, but says we should anticipate a coming era of productivity! How? Where?

* Thank God for Ralston Hyman’s “Real Business.” 9:00 to 10:00 a.m., Monday to Friday, Power 106 FM. At least he gives me information. The Government doesn’t.

And on the crime issue, murders are increasing again in and around Montego Bay, St. James. Is there (again?) a connection with the lotto scam (five people were arrested and charged just a few days ago, in an operation involving U.S. law enforcement, it is reported). Western Kingston is struggling with growing crime and violence – residents hear more gunfire at nights.

Meanwhile, the whining continues… The leader of the Opposition Andrew Holness is talking about “hurtfulness” and “lie” in delegates meetings. His demeanor and emphasis on “what dem seh” - “dem” being the supporters of his challenger Audley Shaw – is tedious and does not reflect well on his leadership abilities. Why doesn’t he talk about what would make him a better leader? His vision? A planned television debate will not take place. Well, this is not a national election after all, and just depends on the votes of 5,000 delegates. I’m getting a bit tired of the calls to radio talk shows though, about “Ardley Shar” and “Anju ‘Olness.”  Ugh.

The megawatt muddle: The Private Sector Organization of Jamaica (PSOJ) is getting very antsy about the current state of the bidding process for 360 megawatts of energy to Jamaica. It transpires that none of the four entities which submitted proposals to provide 360 megawatts (MW) of base energy to Jamaica were able to convince the consultants that they could source the money to finance the project. What? What? Tomorrow is the deadline for the winning bidder, Azurest Cambridge, to come up with the security deposit. Can they do it? If so, can they deliver? If not, should the Chinese firm that Minister Phillip Paulwell allowed in at the last minute be the winner?

Why can’t the government follow its own rules? Why the obscurity, the confusion, the lack of transparency? Sometimes I get so confused I am wondering if these things are due to incompetence or corruption, or a bit of both. I suspect that many Members of Parliament, like Mr. Azan, flout the rules when it suits them. Whoever follows the rules gets shafted,” our current Finance Minister once said cynically. From the horse’s mouth…

As columnist Dr. Garth Rattray writes (he always makes sense), it took “political power” to get the Spalding Market shops there, and that is the reason why the Office of the Contractor General found a perception of “political corruption.” How are we going to deal with this kind of behavior among our leaders? Or are we going to just shrug our shoulders?

Finally Omar Davies has focused on the carnage on our roads. His ministry is, after all, responsible. He has managed to take his eyes off the exciting mega projects for one moment.

Friday October 11 is the International Day of the Girl. How can we empower our girls, so that they don’t fall into the pregnancy trap and become marginalized victims of the patriarchal, cold and unfeeling society we live in? Do read the article below (“Worrying Signs”) and consider it, before October 11.

Meanwhile, Port Maria is choked with garbage. Every time it rains the rubbish backs up, blocks drains, and hey presto! It floods!

“Let’s not forsake our future for short-term gains.” This comment comes at the end of an excellent article in HuffPost Green, on the Portland Bight Protected Area/Goat Islands.

Some people and things to feel good about:

  • 8 Hillcrest Avenue was the former home of Dr. Olive Lewin. Apart from being an astonishing cultural powerhouse, this slender lady with a warm, intelligent smile was one of the kindest and most giving of Jamaican women, who loved her country and its people so deeply. She was also a lovely neighbor to us. After she became too frail to live there (she passed away on April 10) her former home was transformed into a courtyard with cafés, a cool art gallery and a deli, among other small businesses. I was so happy that last weekend there was a celebration of Dr. Lewin’s life and the dedication of a plaque by former Prime Minister Edward Seaga (always a celebrator of Jamaican culture) at #8. I shall pop along there shortly and see (good excuse for a cup of tea and other delights at Tea Tree Creperie!)
  • Megan Deane is such a smart lady. I have great respect for her financial expertise and her sound business acumen. She is doing well with her credit bureau. Congrats, Megan!
  • Three Caribbean tech entrepreneurs will be traveling soon – to compete before a live audience and a panel of mobile experts in Chisinau, Moldova on November 1. Jamaicans Dwayne Samuels and Jerome Campbell (both graduates of Ingrid Riley’s Kingston Beta) and Trinidad’s Ade Inniss-King were selected by the VentureOut Challenge, an initiative of infoDev and CRDF. I am sure they will make the most of this great opportunity. Good luck!
  • Randy McLaren is the Kriativ Aktivis! A bright and creative young man with a mission to raise awareness among Jamaicans and create a kinder society. Read Kate Chappell’s great blog post about him, below.

And the sad list of names never seems any shorter. My deepest sympathies to the families of all those murdered in the past three days on this “pop-down” island of ours…

Clarence Morgan, 61, Brandon Hill, Clarendon

George Simpson, 77, Grays/Annotto Bay, St. Mary

Kenneth Simpson, 67, Anchovy, St. James

André Beckford, 27, Cambridge, St. James

Gemin Sinclair, 34, Cambridge, St. James

Brandon Wood, 19, Canterbury, St. James

Killed by the police:

Unidentified, Waterford/Passagefort, St. Catherine

Unidentified, Fraser’s Content, St. Catherine

Articles and links of interest:

http://www.our.org.jm/ourweb/evaluation-summary-–-base-load-capacity-project Evaluation summary: Base Load Capacity Project: Office of Utilities Regulation

http://go-jamaica.com/news/read_article.php?id=48323 Azurest was best option for 360MW project – consultants: Gleaner/Power 106 FM

http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/-Pay-us-today–or-we-ll-strike–_15153200 “Pay us today, or we’ll strike”: Jamaica Observer

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131001/lead/lead1.html Tough forecast: Phillips says difficult times still to come after completion of first IMF test: Gleaner

http://www.imf.org/external/np/speeches/2013/091913a.htm 2013 High-Level Caribbean Forum: “Caribbean Challenges, Growth and Progress on the Small States Initiative”: imf.org

http://www.imf.org/external/np/sec/pr/2013/pr13374.htm IMF completes first review under Extended Fund Facility for Jamaica… imf.org

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=48341 Jamaica submits second IMF letter of intent: Gleaner

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131001/lead/lead4.html PSOJ welcomes new date for tax incentive law: Gleaner

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130929/business/business5.html GoJ owes financial companies J$16 billion: Gleaner

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131002/lead/lead5.html Jamaica facing possible currency crisis: André Haughton column/Gleaner

http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads/35141 Jamaica leads the region in setting up private credit bureaus: Jamaica Information Service

http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/business/Red-tape-worse-than-crime-for-businesses_15173793 Red tape worse than crime for businesses: Jamaica Observer

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131001/cleisure/cleisure1.html Cuba’s head start on logistics hub: Gleaner editorial

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130929/business/business8.html Who has the will to deliver growth? David Jessop column/Sunday Gleaner

http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Guyana-welcomes-Fly-Jamaica_15155070 Guyana welcomes Fly Jamaica: Jamaica Observer

http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/editorial/What-Caricom-leaders-should-have-said-at-the-UN_15154883 What CARICOM leaders should have said at the UN: Jamaica Observer editorial

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130930/cleisure/cleisure3.html Not cashing in on gay tourist dollar: Maurice Tomlinson op-ed/Gleaner

http://jamaica-star.com/thestar/20131001/news/news1.html Gays seek men with bathroom ads: Jamaica Star

http://marogkingdom.blogspot.com/2013/09/cleaning-up-beach-along-old-airport.html Cleaning up the beach along the old airport road, Montego Bay: Beyond the Marog Kingdom

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/charles-knapp-phd/back-from-the-brink-to-ba_b_4004730.html?utm_hp_ref=tw Back from the Brink to Back to the Brink: HuffPost Green

http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Shaw-advocates-term-limits-at-campaign-launch Shaw advocates term limits at campaign launch: Jamaica Observer

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=48305 JLP leader Holness, challenger Shaw to sign code of conduct today: Gleaner

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130930/cleisure/cleisure2.html Defining political corruption: Garth Rattray column/Gleaner

http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/If-I-d-seen-it_15168326 If I’d seen it…says Herbert Thompson: Jamaica Observer

http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/editorial/Tread-cautiously–Mr-Contractor-General_15155224 Tread cautiously, Mr. Contractor General: Sunday Observer editorial

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131002/letters/letters3.html OCG is my baby, not the PNP’s! Letter to the Gleaner from Edward Seaga, former Prime Minister

http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Holness-offers-olive-branch_15161227 Holness offers olive branch: Jamaica Observer

http://jamaica-star.com/thestar/20130930/news/news7.html Ackee vendor still shaken up by police incident: Jamaica Star

http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/murder-rate-continues-to-climb Murder rate continues to climb: RJR News

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130930/news/news1.html Transport Ministry committed to reducing road fatalities: Gleaner

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130930/lead/lead4.html UTech staff have no confidence in the institution: Gleaner

http://jamaicajournal.wordpress.com/2013/10/01/kriativ-aktivis-randymclarenrm-talks-about-how-you-helped-him/ Kriativ Aktivis Randy McLaren talks about how YOU helped him: Jamaican Journal

http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Worrying-signs_14877467 Worrying signs: 15 – 16-year-olds make up majority of teen mothers admitted to the Women’s Centre in 2011/2012L Jamaica Observer

http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Canadian-sailors-bring-joy-to-Jacques-Road_15156555 Canadian sailors bring joy to Jacques Road: Jamaica Observer

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Spoken word performer Randy McLaren, the "Kriativ Aktivis," doing what he does best.

Spoken word performer Randy McLaren, the “Kriativ Aktivis,” doing what he does best.

The dynamic Ms. Megan Deane, CEO of Jamaica's first credit bureau, Creditinfo. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

The dynamic Ms. Megan Deane, CEO of Jamaica’s first credit bureau, Creditinfo. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

The Jamaican Folk Singers (founded by Dr. Olive Lewin) perform in her honor at her former home, #8 Hillcrest Avenue. (Photo: Marcia Forbes on Twitter)

The Jamaican Folk Singers (founded by Dr. Olive Lewin) perform in her honor at her former home, #8 Hillcrest Avenue. (Photo: Marcia Forbes on Twitter)

Usain Bolt was running in Paris when he bumped into a couple of newlyweds. They insisted on a photo-op. Here is the result, from Instagram!

Usain Bolt was running in Paris when he bumped into a couple of newlyweds. They insisted on a photo-op. Here is the result, from Instagram!

Artistes Wayne Marshall (left), Tifa (second left), Denyque (second right) and Assassin (right) flank Fly Jamaica CEO Capt Ronald Reece at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport in Georgetown Guyana, after the airline’s inaugural flight from Kingston to the South American country, on Thursday. (Photo: Noel Grant/Jamaica Observer)

Artistes Wayne Marshall (left), Tifa (second left), Denyque (second right) and Assassin (right) flank Fly Jamaica CEO Capt Ronald Reece at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport in Georgetown Guyana, after the airline’s inaugural flight from Kingston to the South American country, on Thursday. (Photo: Noel Grant/Jamaica Observer)

Members of the Jamaica Defence Force work alongside sailors from the Royal Canadian Navy to help paint the computer centre and Internet café. (Photo: Kate Chappell)

Members of the Jamaica Defence Force work alongside sailors from the Royal Canadian Navy to help paint the computer centre and Internet café. (Photo: Kate Chappell)