Four years ago today, fire broke out at the Armadale Juvenile Correctional Centre in St. Ann. Seven girls – wards of the state – died as a result of the fire, and eleven were injured. It was a real pleasure today to meet some of the girls who survived this horror, and who are doing their best to move out beyond that horror. I think their day was an emotional one but also filled with hope. I will write more about this.
Devaluation of dollar welcomed by IMF: Well, some of us might have figured this out already. The steady drop in the Jamaican Dollar seemed inexorable and there was really very little comment on it from the Simpson Miller administration at the time. It was just…happening. The rest of us were saying, “What is going on? Help!” as it steadily dropped, day after day. Then suddenly the battered J$ (often depicted in cartoons wrapped in bandages and sticking plaster and hobbling on crutches) pulled itself to a screeching halt at 99 or so to the U.S. Dollar. Well, well. Our friends at the Implacable Masters Fund (IMF) approve of this; and, in fact, say they would like to see our dollar plummet a little bit more, stopping at, let’s say… What do you think? Where should it stop? This, by the way, is the “flexible exchange-rate regime” mentioned by the Jamaican Government in its April 17 Letter of Intent to the IMF (the link is below). Flexible is such a nice…flexible word, isn’t it?
I wonder if the Jamaican public can be as flexible as the Jamaican Dollar has turned out to be?
Trinidad start up weekend: Good luck to Ms. Ingrid Riley, our tech entrepreneur and inspirer extraordinaire, who is in Trinidad now at her Silicon Caribe Startup Weekend. 57 pitches! I attended a Jamaica session; it was lively and abuzz with ideas. I love Ingrid’s regional (Caribbean) approach, and wish more of us were doing that…
Duppy story: According to CVM Television news, a certain house in rural St. James is giving some trouble. In case you haven’t been following it, all kinds of drama has been going on in this very ordinary-looking little house. It has created lots of excitement among the local residents, who can be seen hurrying down the path to the house to witness the latest phenomenon. My husband is almost convinced that there’s a real duppy (to my non-Jamaican readers, that is a ghost) – and so am I. A poltergeist, perhaps? A mysterious fire on top of a wardrobe (could be an electrical short circuit, but…) And objects thrown out of the house when it is empty? A local was hit in the head by one such “missile” and bled profusely. Once bandaged up, he felt pretty good, escorted down the road from the clinic like a real celebrity. What’s going to happen next? I hope it’s not all special effects…
Is the JEEP warming up its engine? Remember JEEP – the Jamaica Emergency Employment Programme? We haven’t heard much of it lately, but the Government has now found a way to create jobs by employing people to build concrete walls instead of zinc fences in selected Kingston communities. I suppose the concrete will screen off the poverty better – it will be harder to glimpse the earth-bare yards. But, Mr. Housing Minister, you know it won’t make any real difference. It’s just cosmetic. The same poverty is just a stone’s throw away…
African : It was announced today that our Prime Minister had flown off to Addis Ababa in Ethiopia, along with the Foreign Affairs Minister, four other government officials, plus her support team (I am not sure how many people that consists of – it is always reported in government press releases as a collective noun). They will be back next Tuesday. One of the radio stations this evening stated that the cost of the trip, in recognition of the African Union’s fiftieth anniversary, will be J$8.6 million. I wonder what the Ineffable Masters Fraternity (IMF) thinks of such expenditure. I can think of a thousand different ways in which that money could have been spent for the benefit of the Jamaican people (the Armadale survivors, for example).
Yay! That money could, perhaps, have been spent on a few more real toilets that flush in Jamaican schools. But sixteen schools in western Jamaica must be groveling with thanks that they do, in fact, have real toilets and not stinking, dangerous holes in the ground, any more. Thank God for Petro-Caribe, anyway. Last time I heard – about a year or two ago – around 200 schools still had pit latrines. Hopefully the number has dropped considerably. It is baffling to me that this can still be an issue in 21st century Jamaica. Perhaps this should come before tablets?
Some things bring out the Great Cynic in me: Recent comments by our Finance Minister Peter Phillips filled me with great weariness. Waxing philosophical and presumably not sticking to his notes, the goodly Minister started to wonder out loud why Jamaica is in its current economic state: “How did it get to this? At least part of the answer, I believe, has to do with the nature of our political processes and the absence, up until recently, of effective paradigm oversight and absence of transparency.” What does this mean? Can someone translate? OK, let me try. The politicians have done nothing to create an “effective nation” (the Minister’s words) since Independence (until the current administration came into power). That’s how it “got to this”. By actually not leading (that’s the oversight part) and by keeping the people ignorant (absence of transparency). Something like that, perhaps?
The young and the generous: In a Twitter exchange just last night, my friend Jean Lowrie-Chin reminded me (the Great Cynic that I am) that the younger generations of those “big” families that have chosen to stay in Jamaica have not only prospered, but are “giving back” to their country. She cited young Adam Stewart, who heads the Sandals Foundation. National Bakery has started its “Bold Ones” Project to encourage youth entrepreneurship. And the young Mahfoods have taken up the mantle of the amazing charity that does so much good work, Food for the Poor. Jean is right – I must try to curb my innate suspicion of the privileged and powerful. I wish all of them had such good intentions as these gentlemen, and that they could all give back…more.
Get well soon: I have no doubt that heading the Police Federation, a union that represents the rank-and-file police force, is a highly stressful occupation. The current chair, Raymond Wilson, has actually been a number of years in the post, off and on. Mr. Wilson has been in hospital for the past few days, after suffering a heart attack at a relatively young age. I wish him a speedy recovery.
By the way, I hope the Reggae Boyz thrash that English football team from north London, Tottenham Hotspur, when they play them tomorrow. Oh, how I would love to see that happen! As a dedicated Arsenal fan (in case you didn’t know) I was delighted that the Gunners denied Spurs a Champions League place again when the English Premier League season ended. And I’m quite satisfied with our team’s strong performance this year, after a lousy start to the season…
It is encouraging to learn that “major crimes,” including murders, have fallen. I hope that this trend will continue. But I am keeping in my thoughts the families of the following Jamaicans whose lives have been taken in the past three days.
Dwayne Brown, Ocho Rios, St. Ann
Selvin Hincklewood, Kingston
Killed by the police:
Noel Williams, 42, Rose Town, Kingston
Jerome Spence, George’s Plain, Westmoreland
Related links and articles:
IMF concludes staff visit to Jamaica: imf.org
Letter of Intent to IMF from Jamaican Government, April 17, 2013: imf.org
IMF gives us reality check: Jean Lowrie-Chin column/Jamaica Observer
J$ depreciation an important correction, says Fund: Gleaner
Phillips, IMF defend “strenuous” fiscal target for Jamaica: Gleaner
CHASE Fund, sports continue to reap big benefits from SVL: Jamaica Observer
Child extortionists: Judge, JPs step in as students make thousands of dollars a day: Gleaner
Tablets in schools, yes, but please…! Oniel Mantack/Op-ed: Gleaner
An assault on human dignity: Jamaica Observer
Normal school not for teen babymothers: Letter to the Editor/Gleaner
Erase the stupid idea of giving students condoms: George Davis column/Gleaner
Fourth anniversary of Armadale fire: RJR News
Sounder logic from the other Mr. Thwaites: Gleaner editorial
Deal with bullies before… Robert Lalah column/Gleaner
INDECOM concerned about police records: Gleaner
Crime now at uptown doorsteps: Jamaica Observer
More cops to be hauled before courts: Gleaner
Top-level probe into reports of contract on lives of prosecutor, investigator: RJR News
What violence-torn St. James – nay all Jamaica – can learn from Flanker: Jamaica Observer editorial
U.S. to give special training to MoBay firefighters: Gleaner
Political parties alone can’t do it – Phillips: Jamaica Observer
Is migrating Senate President a coward? Jamaica Observer
G2K wants answers from Contractor General: Gleaner
Shady dealings: Public sector workers under scrutiny… Gleaner
Prime Minister to attend African Union 50th Anniversary: Jamaica Information Service
Stop magnifying wasteful high-rollers: Letter to the Editor/Gleaner
Freudian slip or Gordian knot? Gordon Robinson column/Gleaner
My week got off to a great start with a donation to Eve for Life from the Optimist Club of Sunset, Liguanea on Monday morning. We are indeed tremendously grateful for the gifts donated, and it was a huge pleasure to welcome President Lavern Brown, three members of the Walker family and Patrick Prendergast, a Facebook friend I had never met before! There are indeed some good and kind people in the world. Pictures to follow…
Are they serious? The Bureau of Standards, whose mission is (presumably) to maintain standards for us poor ignorant consumers, has been busy testing more toilet tissue. Remember the #TissueIssue? And guess what? It has found five more brands that are contaminated. This makes…four plus five…nine brands that are on their “No-Wipe” list. Problem is, the Bureau in its wisdom will not reveal the names of this new batch of miscreants, either. It is concerned about lawsuits from the manufacturers. So let’s worry about the manufacturers then. We will just sit there like idiots, in the dark.
Won’t happen again: It is incredibly sad that a World War I cannon has been stolen from a resident of Gordon Town, who treasured this as a memory of old friends as well as for its historical/cultural value. But no, the vampires are at it again, tiefing everything in sight. Presumably this is the scrap metal trade at work again. And speaking of scrap metal, we have learnt that the Transport Authority, in its wisdom, sold hundreds of motor cars that it had impounded for many years, mostly for scrap, in 2008. It says it did not profit from this sale. A representative said that they will make sure in future to obey their own rules – to auction cars every six months. Which they clearly had not been doing.
Murders this month: According to the Gleaner’s intrepid and seasoned crime reporter Glenroy Sinclair, up to May 13 we have already had thirty murders, give or take one or two. What is happening? Some seem to be domestic matters, others gangs, many others robberies. Most of the time, the motive is not clear. One thing we do know is that most of the murders will not be “cleared up” - in other words, solved - although if an alleged murderer is shot dead by the police, I think they count it as a clear-up. February has been the bloodiest month this year so far, with 92.
Random: The violence seems to just leap out at you. A man kills his partner because of jealousy or some argument; a policeman allegedly attacks a schoolboy who was studying with his daughter at his house and caught “in a compromising position” with said daughter; a man is shot dead while trying to rescue his neighbors from their burning house. If you care to look, these random acts of violence and aggression continue, day after day. If not reported in the traditional media, you soon hear on the social media when one of these crimes gets too close to home for one of your online friends – like the discovery of a woman’s body next to the Marcus Garvey Youth Information Centre in St. Ann’s Bay where one of my young friends works. I have shared several links below to individual stories, so you get the picture. These incidents have all occurred in the last two or three days.
Jamaica Blog Day: Anniversaries are difficult times for us all when they are remembrances of things that should never have happened. The pain returns. So it is with two adjoining anniversaries next week: On May 22, 2009, fire broke out at the Armadale Juvenile Correctional Centre in St. Ann in the “Office Dormitory” – a space big enough for five people. At the Commission of Enquiry in 2010, Justice Paul Harrison castigated the then Commissioner of Corrections for taking the decision to house 23 girls in this space. On that night, the girls were locked in, because they had been misbehaving. A policeman who actually threw a tear gas canister in the window allegedly exacerbated the fire. Five girls were killed that night and eleven injured; two more girls died later in hospital. Then, on May 23, 2010, security forces invaded the community of Tivoli Gardens in West Kingston in search of Christopher “Dudus” Coke, for whom there was an extradition warrant. We know that at least 75 civilians were killed and many injured; many still bear the physical and psychological wounds. The interim report of the Public Defender into the matter has just been released, and the Simpson Miller administration has announced that it will establish a Commission of Enquiry. No date has yet been set and we do not yet know the parameters of the enquiry. Jamaican bloggers will be writing about police abuses on May 23rd. If you are a blogger, or would like to post an article on Facebook or elsewhere, please join us. We must never forget. We want to make an impact!
The wonderful world of Twitter: I spend some time every day (and sometimes rather late at night) in Twitterland. It is an extraordinary place. There can be flashes of illumination, surprises, much amusement, even shocks. One of my followers, the wonderful comedian, writer and all-round creative person Owen “Blakka” Ellis received a severe jolt when I retweeted an article recently. I am an inveterate retweeter and like to share provocative viewpoints as well as useful information. The tweet asserted,“Black men think that hypermasculinity, sports obsession, extreme homophobia, sexism and belittling women makes a man, a man”. Now, this damning, sweeping generalization struck poor Mr. Ellis to the core. He responded to the original tweeter, and got slapped down at least twice more. Ouch! And ouch again! This compelled Mr. Ellis to write the article below. For the record, I feel Mr. Ellis had a right to protest and was treated harshly. (Oh, you can follow me on @petchary).
Scrambling for jobs: Figures released by the Statistical Institute of Jamaica this week show a 37 per cent unemployment rate among youth. The overall rate is 14.2 per cent. However, we know that these numbers are even higher in inner city communities and rural districts where jobs are extremely scarce. The large and profitable Jamaican firm GraceKennedy (GK) recently advertised ten internships, and received 780 applications. Yes, the job situation is desperate. As GK’s CEO Don Wehby says, local firms should offer more internships. At least, then, young people would have something on their resumé (how do you get work experience if there are no jobs?)
Boundless patriotism: Meanwhile the great patriot Rev. Stanley Redwood, who just stepped down as President of the Senate, has responded to a very sarcastic article in the Gleaner regarding his pending migration to Canada. Reverend Redwood clearly does not have much faith in the Jamaican education system. He pleads, “Many Jamaicans have sought opportunities for their children overseas. I do not believe there is any shame in seeking the best for my talented children. I am sure you would have done no differently.” But then, it is a fact that most government ministers and members of Parliament do send their children to school overseas; and when they are sick, they go overseas for treatment. They have such touching faith in the Jamaican education and health systems. And in fact, in Jamaica itself. And yet, we must “unite and build…”
The Sufferer: On top of all that, during a speech this week our Prime Minister decided to take up the cross of suffering, pointing out that she is the most criticized person in Jamaica, upon whose head all “negativity” is heaped. This was part of a speech in which she was encouraging her audience to hold their heads up high in the face of adversity. Madam Prime Minister, this air of martyrdom does not become you. In fact, it is embarrassing and unnecessary. Almost as embarrassing and unnecessary as those sinister-looking sunglasses that she has been wearing for years now. Not a good look. Where are her advisors?
The Silent One: I have not seen or heard Minister of National Security Peter Bunting on any newscast recently. Is he OK?
Since Sunday the following murders have been reported. It is heart-breaking. My condolences to the families and friends.
Shelly-Ann Maxwell, 21, Bombay Stud Farm/Bernard Lodge, St. Catherine
Cordel Steer, 22, Bombay Stud Farm/Bernard Lodge, St. Catherine
Unidentified man, George Lane, Kingston
Garth Simpson, 39, Gayle, St. Mary
Janice Burrell, 38, Islington, St. Mary
Leroy Robinson, 54, Little London, Westmoreland
Adina Bell, 36, St. Ann’s Bay, St. Ann
Killed by police:
Desmond McCalla, Bull Bay, St. Andrew
Jamaica Blog Day
Removal of illegal connections to sugar factories to cost government $200 million. No more free light! solarbuzzjamaica.com
Five toilet paper brands pulled due to high levels of bacteria: RJR News
Wanted: Full disclosure in Ritz-Carlton affair: delanoseiv.wordpress.com
Playa replaces Ritz with Park Hyatt: Gleaner
Protest action escalates at COMPLANT: RJR News
BITU head asserts commitment to workers’ rights: Jamaica Observer
New law paves way for government to pass IMF test: RJR News
Exploring logistics hubs: Gleaner
The rightness of the Tivoli enquiry: Jamaica Observer editorial
Let us have a garrison enquiry: Jean Lowrie-Chin column/Jamaica Observer
A look at Jamaica‘s human rights situation: diGJamaica.com
Wanted fugitive killed in shoot-out: Jamaica Star
Two persons killed per day: Gleaner
Gunmen invade community, fire-bomb five houses: Jamaica Observer
Gunman kills hotel worker trying to rescue neighbor: Jamaica Observer
Policeman allegedly attacks schoolboy with pipe iron and gun: Gleaner
Massive MoBay raid: Drugs, cash seized in 11-hour operation; Canadian held: Gleaner
Let he that is without sin cast the first stone: speakmytruthwritemylife.blogspot.com
Residents shocked by chopping death: Jamaica Star
Don’t push gay men into closet marriages: Letter of the Day/Gleaner
Cars sold as scrap metal: Jamaica Observer
”No profit made”: Transport Authority did not gain from sale of impounded motor vehicles: Gleaner
MoBay Mayor lashes out at detractors: RJR News
The Redwood factor: Gleaner editorial
I’m a patriot, but family comes first: Letter to the Editor from Rev. Stanley Redwood
Redwood’s resignation and Vision 2030/The Gavel: Gleaner
Prime Minister urges Jamaicans to assist the most vulnerable: Jamaica Information Service
Prison program providing women with useful skills: Jamaica Observer
Brutal! Judge blames cop for starting deadly fire (February, 2010): Jamaica Observer
Damning declaration about black men: Blakka Ellis column/Jamaica Star
The cost of inaction on climate change: Jamaica Observer
World War I cannon stolen: Gleaner
Dancehall mashing up hell knows: cbcburke9.wordpress.com
Image of the Week: Seaforth’s artistic excellence: diGJamaica.com
It’s a hot afternoon. It’s Mother’s Day in Jamaica, and the air is sleepy. Our gardener did some serious work yesterday and the yard looks scrupulously tidy. For now. Recent rain has brought back the many shades of green; and to my surprise, winter visitor warblers can still be seen flitting in the bushes. Time to travel north, young warblers!
Thinking about Tivoli: In the past few days since I last wrote, we have all been thinking more deeply about the Simpson Miller administration’s (wise) decision to hold a Commission of Enquiry into the massacre in Tivoli Gardens in May, 2010. There is some insightful commentary in the Sunday papers, and an indication that, three years later, many Jamaicans are more aware of the grave injustice and the horror of that day, when at least 77 Jamaicans lost their lives (we still do not know the exact figure; several people remain missing). For that, we at least partly have to thank the American journalist Mattathias Schwartz of the New Yorker; and the Public Defender Earl Witter, who finally produced the report. Today, Sunday Observer columnist Tamara Scott-Williams quotes the Jamaican president of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, Judge Patrick Robinson: “The simple, plain truth is that in no country with a Constitution that entrenches the right to life can 70 people be killed in peacetime in a single incident, whether by the security forces or by private persons, and national life and affairs continue as though nothing unusual has taken place.”
How can a monopoly not be viable? But that’s the way it apparently is with the Jamaica Public Service Company, according to its straight-talking CEO Kelly Tomblin. The eternal problem of widespread theft of electricity has still not been fully addressed; but as Ms. Tomblin said on radio, it is not just a question of devising ingenious ways of combating theft, but about lifting the company out of debt. Oh, two state-owned sugar companies were reportedly complicit in allowing neighboring communities to steal up to J$100 million worth. What kind of madness is that? Meanwhile, Ms. Tomblin has her work cut out – I am sure she has been aware of this for some time.
Leadership failures: The week’s fiasco involving the People’s National Party Youth Organization suggests, at the very least, weak leadership in the organization. Did President Alrick Campbell consult with his chapter leaders before sending out a press release that surprisingly refused to support the announced Commission of Enquiry into the Tivoli Gardens massacre? Similarly, Mayor of Montego Bay Glendon Harris is under pressure after a series of dreadful faux pas, culminating in the hospital re-naming fiasco. Do these people have any idea of public relations, either? Clueless.
NHT again: The whole National Housing Trust (NHT) business is still bugging me. It all seems wrong. One of my “tweeps” observed today, “How can the NHT force employers to make mortgage deductions from workers? Shoudn’t that be an arrangement between the Trust and its clients?” Very good question…
Blood on the streets: As usual, the social media was ahead of the traditional media on Friday morning, as several photos were pasted on Facebook of two apparently lifeless bodies – young men allegedly shot by the police in a parking lot in downtown Kingston. Reports appeared at least two hours later on the newspaper websites, noting a police report that ”brazen gunmen” had made a robbery attempt, and that three ”were in hospital” (dead on arrival?) According to the eye witnesses who posted the photos, the bodies were collected and loaded into vans within minutes, before the Crime Scene investigation unit or INDECOM (the Independent Commission of Investigations) arrived. Onlookers say the men were unarmed. I have shared the photos below. Meanwhile, the print media coverage of what actually happened in the middle of the day on Friday in busy downtown was muddled and lacking in detail.
Harassing the handcarts: Some genius at the Kingston & St. Andrew Corporation has come up with the startlingly brilliant idea of taxing handcart operators. These are rough-hewn carts with a primitive steering-wheel attached, operated by men in Kingston and most towns to transport small quantities of goods (and sometimes people). When I see men pushing and navigating these carts, sweating and straining in the hot sun, I think “what a hard life.” These are, basically, poor people. How could the Mayor think of doing such a thing?
I’m off now, but you guys can stay: President of the Senate Stanley Redwood is migrating to Canada, and made farewell comments last week before his departure. Methinks he doth protest too much. “No other Jamaican should be forced or feel forced to make the choice I have to make this month,” said the Senator, who has been beating himself up over departing for greener pastures for some time. It’s OK for me to go – but you guys stay here, stick it out… Not impressed, I’m afraid.
Power walks: While blood still stained the streets of downtown Kingston, a couple of miles away uptowners were preparing for two charity walks on Saturday – both good causes. Due to ongoing back problems, I was unable to participate in either. But I hope lots of money was raised for Dress for Success and the Nuttall Memorial Hospital, respectively. Next time!
Sick of them: There are certain things that always upset me when I watch the evening news on television. Of course, the ongoing bloodshed is one of those things. What also depresses me is the greed and selfishness of thieves who, like vampires, feed on hard-working Jamaicans. It seems that every week a school is broken into, and we see the anxious principal, his/her face creased with anxiety and stress, detailing all the items the school lost – of course, all the most valuable things that they can least afford to replace, many of them donated by kind-hearted people. Then there are the poor farmers, who go to the fields in the morning to see their precious animals hacked to pieces or their crops pulled out of the ground. On Friday, we heard that the bus belonging to Alpha Boys School was stolen in Spanish Town. I don’t know if they have found it. Alpha nurtures abandoned and orphaned boys, and is famous for its school band that has produced many great Jamaican musicians. Shame on you all, you vampires.
Pit latrines in schools: As I noted in my post of August 12, 2012, around 200 schools across Jamaica still have pit latrines. I doubt that much has changed since then. Perhaps we should consider this as a priority over tablets, Minister Paulwell? (Much as I love your tablets). The “sanitary conveniences” at St. Mary’s Primary School in rural St. Elizabeth are as old as the school itself (44 years) and pose a serious health risk. For a start, if a young child slips he/she can fall into them. The Florida-based Andrew Dixon Foundation is seeking to raise funds to replace them.
I was wondering… about the over 4,000 online jobs that the World Bank says it has created for young Jamaicans. The World Bank provides more details on its Digital Jam 2.0 program at the link below. It includes internships and fellowships at Howard University, pilot projects, incubators and so on. Brilliant!
Sports vs academics: The Gleaner recently published a table ranking Jamaica’s high schools in terms of their CSEC examination results. I’m trying to find a link to it. It was noticeable, however, that almost all the traditional boys’ high schools did quite poorly; unsurprisingly, the co-educational Kingston high school Campion College came out on top. A columnist yesterday pointed out that the low-performing boys’ schools are those that compete furiously and loudly at “Champs” (the high school athletics championships) and tout their sporting prowess. Is there a conflict here?
Less abatement? As I have noted before, Jamaica/Kingston is Party Central, and the noise must go on. I see the Ministry of National Security and Ministry of Entertainment as it seems to call itself are holding a public consultation on “changes to the Noise Abatement Act” on Wednesday at the Jamaica Conference Centre. What changes? Where? Is the noise to go on longer? I am suspicious of the “entertainment zones” that have been mentioned a few times by our enthusiastic Junior Minister Damion Crawford, who is young and therefore fond of “shelling dung” as the saying goes. And hey, do you think there may be more important things to be worrying about? I can only assume that, like the building of housing for poor people, this is a populist, vote-getting exercise.
Yohan Blake/boys home: I am very pleased with our young Olympian Yohan Blake, whose YB Afraid Foundation continues to support the Mount Olivet Boys’ Home in Manchester, in all kinds of important ways. The home’s infrastructure is steadily improving as a result. Thanks to Mr. Blake; you have a good, good heart.
It is very sad to report that in the past three days the following Jamaicans have been killed. My heart goes out to their families. Too much trouble in the world.
Clifton Drummonds, 55, John’s Town, St. Thomas (mob killing)
Winston Robinson, Mannings Hill Road, Kingston
Tiffany Shirley, Mannings Hill Road, Kingston
Killed by police:
Unidentified man, Pechon Street/Beckford Street, Kingston
Unidentified man, Matthews Lane, Kingston
Electricity theft, debt threaten company’s viability, says Tomblin: Jamaica Observer
Power thieves must be stopped: Gleaner editorial
Samuda labels logistics hub a “pipe dream”: Jamaica Observer
Jamaica Broilers invests $300 million in new plant: Gleaner
What, really, are agro parks? Gleaner editorial
Palmyra parent firm deemed a squatter: Gleaner
Creating employment solutions for young Jamaicans in the virtual economy: worldbank.org
Rating agency reacts to IMF-Jamaica agreement: Sunday Observer
The business of sport in Jamaica: Marcia Forbes op-ed/caribjournal.com
No unlicensed cable operator in Jamaica/Broadcasting Commission
No justification for NWC rate hike: Jamaica Observer editorial
Handcart permit regime off the deep end: Letter of the Day/Gleaner
Pryce chides PNPYO for washing dirty linen in public: Jamaica Observer
Montego Bay mayor faces no-confidence vote: Gleaner
Arscott defends cost of local government delegation to Uganda: RJR News
Whose plan for Jamaica is it anyway? Jamaica Civil Society Coalition op-ed/Sunday Gleaner
Does Jamaica need outside help to deal with crime? caribjournal.com
Man implicated in murder chopped to death: RJR News
Daylight gun battles cause mayhem downtown: Gleaner
Deadly end! Robbery foiled, cops kill one gunman, injure another: Jamaica Observer
Deadlock blanks downtown CCTV plan: Sunday Gleaner
Why the Tivoli enquiry is important: Claude Robinson column/Sunday Observer
Forget the enquiry; make a movie instead: Tamara Scott-Williams column/Sunday Observer
Pain still lingers for Tivoli man, family: Sunday Observer
West Kingston rejoices after cops kill thug: Gleaner
Mothers mourn loss of son, daughter: Sunday Observer
From Haiti to Cuba: A vision for the Caribbean in 2030: caribjournal.com
COMPLANT workers protest: RJR News
Pit latrines pose public health risk at St. Mary’s Primary: Gleaner
No water for farmers in Llandewey for decades: Letter to the Editor/Gleaner
Emergency call to action for Child Month: Letter from Jamaica Youth Action Network to the Gleaner
Condoms or abstinence: Guidance counselors ponder the best fit for schools: Sunday Gleaner
High school standard bearers of excellence? Lascelve Graham op-ed/Observer
Mount Olivet Boys’ Home a refuge from abuse: Gleaner
Saturday Social: Jamaica Observer
More assistance for local exporters: Jamaica Information Service
This week is Education Week. I posted a few of my rather random thoughts on the matter, inspired by yesterday’s visit to a primary school that sits right in the shadow of the General Penitentiary. There are always “feel good” events, much praise for teachers, etc. And major kudos to the private sector for its support for education. And then there are the voices of young people themselves, such as in a letter to the Gleaner, below. The tone is pleading, wistful:
“We the young people are looking for the slightest glimmer of hope to hold on to…Many of us die a little every day on the inside from the knowledge that our true potential may never be realized…On behalf of all the young people out there – the potential leaders, scientists, inventors and innovators – please give us a reason to continue to hold on. We are the future: make decisions now that will give us a true fighting chance.”
The can of worms is open: Since the final publication of the Public Defender‘s interim report on the Tivoli Gardens massacre almost three years ago, things have started happening rather suddenly. On Monday, Cabinet took a decision (which I believe is the correct one) to hold a Commission of Enquiry, on the recommendation of the Public Defender. The question now is, what does the Commission wish to achieve? What do the people of Tivoli Gardens want? We do know that the family of Keith Clarke would really like a public apology from the Jamaican Government – at this stage, it seems so late as to be laughable, but it would help. Mr. Clarke, the brother of a former government minister, died in a hail of bullets at his home in the “upscale” hills above Kingston on May 27, 2010, while the security forces were searching for former Tivoli “don” Christopher “Dudus” Coke. The print media has been delving deeply into the potentially negative political repercussions of such an enquiry; both the Jamaica Defence Force and the Jamaica Constabulary Force
What happened to the PNPYO? Our budding young politicians at the People’s National Party Youth Organization (PNPYO) seem to have had some kind of brainstorm yesterday, issuing a press release on the Tivoli affair and then contradicting themselves. Radio journalist Dionne Jackson-Miller attempted to have a sensible interview with one of them, but we were none the wiser. He didn’t seem to be listening to what she said. In the end she gave up. Meanwhile the Kingston chapter of the organization sought to distance itself from the President’s astonishingly crass press release, in which he referred to those who died in Tivoli Gardens as “casualties of war.” And has been suspended.
Are we policing downtown? For quite a while now we have been hearing about the numerous (daylight) robberies of businesses and individuals. Now the police are reporting quite a dramatic increase. If we are to revive Kingston’s downtown area (the building of Digicel’s new head office has been a pioneering move in many ways) then surely the first thing is to ensure good security? The two main hospitals are especially suffering. Just get more police on the beat down there, for heaven’s sake.
I LIKE Minister Paulwell: I was encouraged to hear Minister Phillip Paulwell speak at GTECH’s donation of computers to St. Michael’s Primary School yesterday. It was refreshing to hear a politician, in a manner completely devoid of pomposity, elaborate a clear vision for the future of technology in education. With sincere enthusiasm, too. He was especially excited about his proposed distribution of tablets to teachers and students; some (like Opposition Senator Kamina Johnson-Smith, below) are not completely sold. It was quite a small gathering at the school, but the Minister connected with his audience – and did not read from any notes. And it’s nice to hear from someone with vision, who doesn’t spout the usual well-worn platitudes. Another gold star for him was his defusing of a threatened gas tanker strike today; he called an emergency meeting with the union, and the drivers went back to work. You’ve had a good week, Minister.
Going downmarket? I was very sad to hear of the closure of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Montego Bay. It is a beautiful property and a luxury brand (virtually the only one left on the island). Now it has been sold to another firm that plans to add more rooms and turn it into yet another all-inclusive. So what the tourism marketing people like to call the “Elegant Corridor” in Montego Bay – a beautiful stretch of road going into the town – will be less elegant in the future. And especially with the recent sad demise of the luxury Palmyra development; I would love to know what is happening with the Palmyra, which fell into financial difficulties. There is one part that is not yet completed. What is the latest on this? I had the pleasure of staying there just before it closed – beautifully designed, splendidly luxurious, it deserved to be filled with well-heeled visitors (and Jamaicans) every night. But it was lonely and sad.
Tourism looking wobbly: It really seems all is not well in the tourism sector. I can’t quite put my finger on why. Junior Minister Damian Crawford said on radio this morning that tourism is down by four per cent up until the end of March, and looks to be down a little in April, too. He explained the downturn on hotels doing refurbishing; but why would any hotel close for that purpose during the winter tourist season? Something doesn’t quite add up. Meanwhile, the Caribbean Tourism Association has predicted a 4-5 per cent increase regionally this year. Several Caribbean countries show increases already this year (Belize, Cayman Islands and others). Barbados is doing worse than us though, presumably because of a slump in the UK market. But… what is the plan?
Those tubers again: The Agriculture Minister seems a nice man, but he tends to ramble. Now he wants farmers to plant more cassava. But I thought that one of his predecessors in a previous administration, Christopher Tufton, was laughed at for his obsession with cassava a few years back? Maybe he whispered the magic word in the Minister’s ear. But there is good news – food exports have gone up over the past year, and imports are just a fraction up. Hold on a minute though – when the Chinese firm Complant took over some sugar estates a few years ago there was much talk of increased production and efficiency. This year production is falling. Why? And Blue Mountain Tea? Well, Minister Clarke, let’s get Blue Mountain Coffee sorted out first, shall we?
Breathtaking… The speed with which a man was charged, convicted and sentenced (to two years in prison) for house-breaking and larceny from a country villa where National Security Minister Peter Bunting was staying over the Easter holiday weekend. That’s just a matter of a few weeks. In the normal scheme of things, this could have taken many months.
Plummeting… Jamaica’s Net International Reserves fell to a thirteen-year low in April. We now have twelve weeks’ worth of money. Financial guru Owen James tells me that things should improve, now that the International Monetary Fund agreement has been signed. Hope so.
The children: We had an interesting Twitter chat yesterday with UNICEF Jamaica and Eve for Life on the sexual abuse of children. Did you know that 33% of girls and 18% of boys aged 10-15 did not consent to their first sexual encounter? And the excellent Live at Seven hosted by Simon Crosskill kept its focus on children’s rights with a discussion with the velvet-toned Youth and Culture Minister Lisa Hanna and the head of the Child Development Agency – the government agency ostensibly in charge of children’s homes. The former seemed defensive at times; the latter was afraid to look at the camera, or anyone – and when asked a question looked nervously at her boss before answering, even at one point asking her for permission to speak. They did not greatly enlighten us. Mr. Crosskill brought in the issue of homeless gay youth; and wrapped up the program with scathing comments on the Christian fundamentalists among us who use the Bible to justify their opposition to gays – citing the numerous other common practices punishable by stoning according to the Good Book. Ha! Good stuff, Mr. Crosskill.
Deepest condolences to the family and friends of the following Jamaicans, who have added to the homicide statistics in the past four days. It is too sad.
Unidentified man, Tower Street, Kingston
Joseph Lyons, 55, Tivoli Gardens, Kingston
Milton Chisholm, 41, Seaview Gardens, Kingston
Killed by police:
Unidentified man, Matthews Lane, Kingston
George Moxam, 25, Waltham Park Road, Kingston
Bruce didn’t trust JDF: Golding sought U.S. aid in verifying Tivoli claims of abuse by soldiers: Gleaner
Route to a worthy Tivoli enquiry: Gleaner editorial
JFJ appalled at casualties of war statement by PNPYO: RJR News
Tech boost for St. Michael’s: Gleaner
Are Paulwell’s tablets the right prescription? Kamina Johnson-Smith op-ed/Ja. Observer
Start-ups want mobile money now: Gleaner
Unlicensed cable operator lands Jamaica on IP watch list: Jamaica Observer
Ritz-Carlton leaving; 400 jobs in doubt: Jamaica Observer
”Loss of Ritz-Carlton brand detracts from Jamaica’s offering”: Gleaner
Jamaica the modern-day Animal Farm: Letter of the Day/Gleaner
IMF deal brings an opportunity to build, renew: Gleaner
Time for a more promising future for Jamaica: Gene Leon op-ed/Jamaica Observer
Did she say that with a straight face? Letter to the Editor/Jamaica Observer
The squinting Prime Minister: George Davis column/Gleaner
Clarke wants more focus on cassava: Gleaner
Robberies on the rise in Kingston: Gleaner
We are refreshed by the rain, which has been coming down in oodles for the past few days, every afternoon on cue. It has turned the streets of Kingston into chaos and our lawn into a kind of marshland (previously it was desert). We are nevertheless thankful.
All that wet stuff has not washed away all the silliness that has been going on this week though, sadly. For a start…
The terrors of tweeting: The curse of the tweet has descended on Jamaica. You would think that our public officials would have learned from the sticky situations their overseas counterparts have got themselves into in the not too distant past. But Kingston’s Mayor dipped her toes into these dangerous waters, and got bitten. She used some of her 140 characters to exclaim “What the f!” and went on to complain that two Opposition representatives (including the leader) were appearing on the mid-week television current affairs shows. Now we all know what the “f” in the social media term WTF means (no, it does not stand for “frog”) and the Mayor pretty much acknowledged this in a sort of half-apology during a radio interview with Barbara Gloudon. So let’s move on from that, and the self-righteous indignation. Yes, certainly inappropriate for someone in her position, but let’s not overreact.
The show must go on: Several journalists responded sharply on social media and radio to the Mayor’s accusation of political bias. They pointed out (in fact, one even listed) the number of times they have requested the participation of the Prime Minister and other government officials, who have declined the requests. And the media knows that the show must go on, with or without them. Note: Mayor Angela Brown Burke is a stalwart of the People’s National Party and leader of the Kingston & St. Andrew Corporation, representing the majority party. Mayors are not directly elected in Jamaica – except for the Mayor of the Municipality of Portmore.
More importantly…This is all another manifestation of the uncomfortable relationship between the current administration and the media. Isn’t it? So badly out of sync. If I was the Prime Minister, I would gently relieve the current communications consultants (or whatever they call themselves) of their duties, and start afresh with a new “team.” At the moment, the whole thing is lurching from one faux pas to another. It’s painful to watch. And so unnecessary.
Is the press really free, or just comfortable? And talking of the press, there were some interesting remarks at the Press Association of Jamaica’s breakfast in recognition of World Press Freedom Day on Friday, May 3. The church person I have a great deal of time for, the head of Jamaica’s Anglican Church Bishop Howard Gregory, said he did not think either the current administration or the Opposition would want a Commission of Enquiry into the Tivoli Gardens slaughter, as suggested by the Public Defender and others. Why? Because “the complicity factor operates,” says Bishop Gregory. Both political parties will seek to preserve the status quo (see below) and not rock the boat. Who knows what might come out? It might not look good on either party. Best to just let sleeping dogs lie… or in this case, well over seventy dead Jamaicans. Professor Trevor Munroe of National Integrity Action warned against the “nine-day wonder” phenomenon, which a certain local government councilor predicted for the Azan affair recently. Soon blow over. Don’t let this happen! And broadcast journalist Emily Crooks suggested that her colleagues were “not pushing the envelope” – and were, therefore, quite comfortable compared to colleagues around the world who are harassed, attacked, even killed. We need a more “activist” and investigative press, one feels. Complacency is never desirable. The press must, and should, be prepared to rock that boat until the water slops over the sides.
Thievery reaches new heights: With the theft of over 200,000 liters of airplane fuel from the Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay. Pardon the pun. The mind boggles. How? We wait with bated breath for more news on this… Or else we might just forget to ask?
Houses for the poor: Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller seems mighty pleased with her latest plan to revive the Inner City Housing Project, using funds from the poor old National Housing Trust (NHT) – the gift that keeps on giving. There, you see! She is doing something for the poor, after all. Who said she didn’t love them? Others are not so impressed. Responding to a question on TVJ News earlier this week, 91 per cent of viewers said that NHT funds should not be used to assist non-contributors. In a Sunday Gleaner column today, the irreverent Gordon Robinson asks: ”Why are otherwise intelligent persons twisting themselves into knots to defend this indefensible rape of poor people’s assets?” I think he (and we) know a few reasons why. One must not upset the applecart, as that sage People’s National Party councilor told CVM Television in relation to the Richard Azan/Spaldings Market fiasco. All hail the status quo! Long may it live!
Incidentally, the Prime Minister said she had no knowledge of the councilor’s remarks, when questioned by CVM. Rather surprising. Or not?
What Negril does/does NOT have: We noted recently that the tourist town of Negril is extremely short of water. We also now hear that it has had no fire engine for the past two months, and is dependent on trucks from the town of Savannah-la-Mar, a good twenty minutes’ drive away. A large house burnt down yesterday. As the Jamaica Environment Trust notes, the beach is rapidly disappearing, with the sea lapping at beachside attractions; there are dubious plans to revive it by injecting chemicals into it. Oh, and there is basically no coral reef and no fish – all connected with said dwindling beach, of course. I’m informed, also, that the Negril Recycling Centre, supported by the Sandals Foundation about three years ago, is also non-functioning. The nearest one now is in Montego Bay.
Help JA Children, a local lobby group formed just one year ago and founded by the still-ridiculously-young Brandon Allwood, has started a collection of items for children in state care. The collection drive will go on for the entire month of May (Child Month) at Kia Motors, 2 Chelsea Avenue, in New Kingston. Please go through your cupboards or pop down to the store and donate anything that you can spare – clothes, toys, books, stationery and school items, toiletries… Help JA Children has a Facebook page and is on Twitter (@HelpJAChildren).
Reparations, again: In 2001, our very own Barbara Blake Hannah – a passionate Rastafarian defender of Jamaica’s culture – attended the United Nations World Conference on Racism in Durban, South Africa. The conference made 19 excellent recommendations for ways in which the evils of slavery could be atoned for by, in Jamaica’s case, the British Government. A British Lord, Anthony Gifford – a Queen’s Counsel who practices law in Jamaica and the UK – has campaigned tirelessly on the subject; and so has the Jamaica Labour Party’s Mike Henry. And yet, sadly, little or no progress has been made. Essentially, the British have said sorry, but no. The discussions continue. Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines Ralph Gonsalves spoke for a remarkable 87 minutes (according to tweets from friends who attended) at the launch of a new book on the topic by Professor Hilary Beckles at the University of the West Indies this week. Mr. Gonsalves has offered to host a Caribbean conference on the topic in his country, at which he will no doubt drone on for another 87 minutes. To my mind, this does not advance us any further. What next? Not more words, please? Let’s have action! It is a burning question, it needs to be resolved, and long speeches are not going to cut it.
But then, this is part of the Pontification Syndrome for which Jamaica is well known. We talk too much!
I hate Page 2: In the current socio-economic climate, my dislike for the social pages in the daily newspapers has been steadily growing. I am developing a real hatred for Page Two and Something Extra and all the other nonsense. I think I am going to start a Campaign for the Abolition of Social Pages (CASP for short). Seriously. They are irrelevant, elitist, classist, and actually rather offensive – in light of the fact that when the IMF funds were disbursed, the government had to ask for a special sum up front for “budgetary support.” So they could pay public sector wage bills for April, perhaps? So can we wave goodbye to those people with drinks in their hands, posing for their photo? Goodbye!
Once again, it is very sad to note the names of those who have been murdered in Jamaica since Wednesday, May 1, when I wrote my last review. My condolences to all those who mourn them (and to the family, friends and neighbors of the twelve-year-old girl who committed suicide in rural St. Catherine last week):
Violet Marsh, 63, Temple Hall, St. Andrew
Phillip Bell, 39, Seaforth, St. Thomas
Leroy Reid, 42, Naggo Head, St. Catherine
Constable Michael Townsend, Effortville District, Clarendon
Killed by the police:
Orane Bowman, Clarendon
Related links and articles (local blogs in purple):
PNP members apologize for controversial tweets: RJR News
Controversy in 140 characters: Gleaner editorial
Can you hear me now? Communication problems at Jamaica’s local government level: Perceptual Post
”Our journalists are not killed, but many stories die”: Jamaica Observer
Jamaican journalists challenged to improve standards: Sunday Gleaner
The people vs Portia: Lloyd B Smith op-ed/Jamaica Observer
Jamaica will find it difficult to implement IMF targets, Fitch says: Jamaica Observer
Lack of accountability in the budget debate: Robert Wynter column/Sunday Gleaner
NDX Saves Gov’t $17 Billion in Payments Per Year on Domestic Bonds: Jamaica Information Service
OUR to hold public meetings on request for increased water rates: RJR News
Energy bill reduction falls short of target: Solar Buzz Jamaica
Paulwell’s statement on CAP not true, says Golding: Jamaica Observer
Clarendon Alumina Partners no cost on budget – Finance Minister: Jamaica Information Service
NHT’s Inner City Housing Project causes headache: Gleaner – April, 2010
PM revives housing plan: Gleaner
The great NHT robbery: Gordon Robinson column/Sunday Gleaner
Upgraded facility to benefit St. Mary farmers: Jamaica Observer
Public beaches raise a stink: Gleaner
”Be more selective”: Food for the Poor Jamaica Chair Andrew Mahfood: lowrie-chin.blogspot.com
Britain’s black debt: The logic of reparation: anniepaul.net
Cut the talk and cut the red tape: Sunday Observer editorial
Richard Azan: The story not yet told: Desmond Allen article/Jamaica Observer
Spalding shops: Parish Council knew: Sunday Observer
Beyond Mr. Witter’s windy diatribe: Gleaner editorial
Witter wrong on ICC enquiry: Letter to the Editor from Lloyd D’Aguilar/Gleaner
We want $1 millon each: Tivoli residents put price on their loss: Gleaner
Anglican bishop says government will do nothing about Tivoli report: Jamaica Observer
Jamaica’s image in jeopardy if no Tivoli enquiry says human rights activist: RJR News
”Dudus” should testify – Witter: Sunday Observer
No disciplinary action yet – Albert Corcho: Jamaica Star
Children’s Advocate calls for partnerships: Jamaica Information Service
Give us clarity, Minister Thwaites: Letter from Senator Kamina Johnson Smith/Jamaica Observer
Child’s suicide leaves void in St. Catherine village: Sunday Observer
Revealing Jamaica’s soul: Jamaicans for Justice op-ed/Sunday Observer
Should contraceptives be introduced in schools? Sunday Observer
Contraceptives in schools: Don’t just dismiss it: Sunday Observer
Chart of the Week: Putting All our Eggs in One Basket? Cargo continues to decline: diGJamaica
”Tablets” for a wounded Jamaica: perceptualpost.com
”Time for Penwood to settle down”: Jamaica Observer
Was Penwood stabbing staged for YouTube? Sunday Gleaner
Prisoners party at Tower Street: Sunday Gleaner
Chronic shortage of special education teachers: RJR News
Sports: The opium of our high schools: Lasceive Graham op-ed/Jamaica Observer
Round and around and around and around we go: Tamara Scott Williams column/Sunday Observer
ODPEM gearing up for active hurricane season: Jamaica Information Service
Portrait of an elderly man: lovely artwork from a young man from St. Mary: jablogz.com
Influential Jamaican saxophonist Cedric Brooks dies at 70: Washington Post”
What happened to the Negril Recycling Centre? Undated photo from Sandals Foundation showsHeidi Clarke (third left), director of programmes at the Sandals Foundation, hands over a cheque valued at $320,000 to Carey Wallace, president of the Negril Chamber of Commerce, operators of the Negril Recycling Centre. Looking on are Mark Swainbank of Environmental Resources Management (from left); Junior Gordon, director of the Negril Chamber of Commerce and general manager for Grand Pineapple Negril; Jermaine Robinson, manager of the Negril Chamber of Commerce; and Peter Reid, manager of the Negril Recycling Centre.
We had rain! Yes, you know, that wet stuff that makes you wet. It was glorious in Kingston, splashing around for a bit. The cooler temperature is delightful. Our whole garden has woken up again.
The week so far has been fairly quiet. But here are a few things to ponder:
Time for “Man a Yaad”: Opposition Spokesman on Finance Audley Shaw made an interesting contribution to the Budget Debate in Parliament yesterday. As he often does, he alternated between throwaway jibes and humor and heavy, somber pronouncements. In between, he put forward some alternatives, some solutions. This was refreshing. We didn’t really get any from the Finance Minister last week; his “no new taxes” presentation was predictably dull. But then, it’s easier for the Opposition to be more interesting and engaging, whichever one of the parties it is. One just wishes these budget speeches didn’t go on so darn long.
Gloom and doom: As the signing of the agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) finally appears on the horizon – within striking distance now – it seems Jamaican consumers are none too cheerful. Although business confidence is reportedly up a little, 47 per cent of consumers in the latest Jamaica Chamber of Commerce quarterly survey are pessimistic about the economy. There has been a significant increase in gloom and doom compared to a year ago. IMF or no IMF.
“Bun and cheese politics”: This is how the Jamaica Observer’s editorial describes the current style of governance in Montego Bay. I would love to hear a really nice, inspiring story coming out of that city. Please. In particular, the leadership of the current Mayor Glendon Harris (People’s National Party) worries me. The former mayor, the Jamaica Labour Party‘s Charles Sinclair (who is a great deal more articulate than his successor) alleges that at Easter time the Parish Council over which Mayor Harris presides gave $20,000 to each council member to buy bun and cheese; and that it is also funding a Monday night public street dance. There was a bit of a shadow over the Council after the ridiculous and prolonged to-do last year over a Jamaican flag – minus the green – draped above a stage at an official function. Of course, the absent green is the Jamaica Labour Party’s color. That unpleasant little episode remains a little murky to this day, but fingers were pointed here and there…
The renaming of the ‘Ospital: Yes, the ‘Ealth Minister has, at last, spoken on the issue of the renaming of the Cornwall Regional Hospital in Montego Bay. He and the Prime Minister are pouring gallons of oil on troubled waters, stirred up by the aforesaid Mayor Harris. Whose name, you may ask? Why, only that of the man who almost single-handedly brought the hospital into being to serve western Jamaica. Dr. Herbert Eldemire died three years ago. He was Minister of Health from 1962-72 under the Jamaica Labour Party and served as party chairman for a few years; but was never known as a “tribalist.” Cabinet approved the renaming of the hospital in August, 2011. The current administration has said it had intended to proceed with the official renaming soon. This does not seem to sit well with the Mayor, who last week decided to “consult” with Montegonians on the matter. The Prime Minister has intervened and spoken to Dr. Eldemire’s daughter Denise, but it seems it is too late. The family is clearly deeply offended and hurt by the Mayor’s attitude and does not want the renaming to happen; see their statement below. This seems to me petty, reeking of political tribalism. By all accounts, Dr. Herbert Eldemire served his country extremely well. If not for him, the hospital might well not exist.
But no, the forces of political partisanship have won again, and soured what might have been a positive and celebratory move. Then again, maybe it would be best not to name anywhere at all after politicians, anywhere on the island. Not even a lamp post.
FINSAC report: The creation of the Financial Sector Adjustment Company (FINSAC) during the financial crash of the 1990s shattered many lives. This is a known fact. Opposition Spokesman Audley Shaw caused quite a rumpus in Parliament this week when he insisted that the Government must find the J$10-15 million needed to complete and publish the report of the Commission of Enquiry into FINSAC. Of course, there is politics at work here; FINSAC was presided over by the now Transport and Works Minister Omar Davies, who was Finance Minister in 1997. But for heaven’s sake, just find the money please and let’s bring closure. By the way, FINSAC has a nice website in patriotic Jamaican colors:
. I am sure it does not refer to the suicides, family breakups and destitution it left in its wake.
…and the other one: Another painful and shameful episode in Jamaica’s recent history was, of course, the massacre of over seventy Jamaican citizens in Tivoli Gardens in May, 2010. Yes, we are approaching the third anniversary of this horror, and still the Public Defender‘s interim report is not forthcoming. I am beginning to feel sorry for Mr. Michael Peart, the House Speaker, who is now insisting he will receive it by month-end, ready or not.
A little warming: The Prime Minister actually smiled at a journalist yesterday. CVM Television’s Andrew Cannon managed to have a chat with her, while her security man peered over her shoulder. On the Azan matter (which still rankles) the Prime Minister, in a disarming manner, pointed out that there was an ongoing “investigation” (a favorite word) and suggested poor Mr. Azan may “per’aps” have made an error. So no budging in the position there. It also appears that a microphone did not come into contact with Mrs. Simpson Miller’s mouth (a bit of dramatic license there perhaps on the part of the Information Minister). The Prime Minister merely backed away from the over-enthusiastic, unknown reporter; no physical contact. Speaker of the House Michael Peart, in the same TV report, seemed to have also let the cat out of the bag by saying he was unaware of any shooting incident that may have made the PM’s security even more uptight than usual. Did he not get the memo?
…but not so lovable these days? As a result of this public relations fiasco, I find the Prime Minister’s demeanor has become cold and distant. It may be a defense mechanism, but it is really strange and unexpected. She has been making almost no effort to “woo” either the media or the public at large. Her Information Minister is becoming far too schoolmistressy – and so condescending it leaves you breathless. It is all about protecting the Prime Minister from the rest of us, it seems. That’s fine, but can the Prime Minister’s entourage of advisors, support team etc. – whatever they call themselves – just lighten up a little? We are not zombies rampaging across the land. We are ordinary people seeking information! Minister Falconer, try smiling sometimes? The media and the public are not your enemies.
But hey, some awesome things have already happened this week: Top of my list, the donation of a gorgeous, shining white bus by UNICEF to Eve for Life, the non-governmental organization that supports teen mothers living with HIV. As the organization’s chair, I was happy to be able to thank UNICEF for this generosity and for their ongoing support and faith in the incredible Eve family – especially the indefatigable Joy Crawford and Pat Watson, who are so dedicated and hard-working it’s not true. The bus was loaded up with provisions today for the young ladies in Montego Bay – its inaugural trip out of town! SO exciting.
Then there is the current visit of the African American artist Kehinde Wiley, who creates breathtaking (and often huge) canvases of young urban males of various ethnicities in the striking poses of Western art traditions. I remember being stunned by a huge painting of LL Cool J sitting imperiously on a throne, against an ornate background, at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC some years ago. It’s a thrill to have Mr. Wiley here (his first visit to Jamaica) as part of his “World Stage” project. Can’t wait to see the results!
Speaking of art… Don’t forget the National Gallery will be having its monthly free Sunday opening on April 28th. It promises to be fun and stimulating, as usual.
And an intrepid group of Jamaicans has started the ball rolling on what I know will be an ongoing discussion on gender equity in Jamaica and what can be done to redress the balance. According to official figures, 34% of women are unemployed, compared to 10% for men (the actual figures are very likely higher). I have a feeling that the #leaninJA conversation will likely translate into action. Congratulations to Marcia Forbes et al for sharpening the focus!
Question: Is the drug trade on the rise again in Jamaica? See the reports below. I hope not, I really do.
My condolences to the families of the following Jamaicans who were killed recently. I want this to end…
Ann-Marie Campbell, 39, Black River, St. Elizabeth
Barrington Bennett, 61, Highfield, St. Catherine (British national) – last week.
Related articles (local blog posts in purple):
Richard Azan a law unto himself: Letter of the Day/Gleaner
Azan’s specter haunts the Budget: Is PM a coward? Gleaner editorial
Time come, Portia, time come: constructedthoughts.wordpress.com
”White Lady” is back: cops say cocaine trade resurfacing in Jamaica: Gleaner
Men linked to international drug network remanded: RJR News
Marijuana seized on Navy Island: RJR News
Guardsman suspends contractors in wake of multimillion dollar cocaine find: RJR News
PM to intervene in Cornwall Regional Hospital renaming issue: Gleaner
Statement from the Eldemire family regarding the renaming of the Cornwall Regional Hospital: delanoseiv.wordpress.com
Rise above the fray: Letter to the Editor from Lloyd B. Smith, MP/Jamaica Observer
Bun and cheese politics in MoBay: Jamaica Observer
No progress on murder halt: Letter to the Editor/Gleaner
Focus on safety, not war: Letter to the Editor from Yvonne McCalla Sobers/Gleaner
Rev Al Miller faces court in “Dudus” case: Jamaica Observer
Peart insists Tivoli report will be tabled by month-end: Jamaica Observer
Jamaicans enjoy living on the edge: Robert Lalah column/Gleaner
Jamaica hoping for talks on PetroCaribe soon: Gleaner
Entrepreneur reports growth and success in Tel-Aviv: Jamaica Star
Visas, air service hindering Chinese tourists to Jamaica: Gleaner
Reclaiming water: A solution to one of Jamaica’s problems: Jamaica Observer
Pastor says: Use more contraception – calls for use of “morning after” pill… Gleaner
Politicians afraid to tell poor not to have kids – Reid: Gleaner
Teachers learn to use music in class: Gleaner
God’s way not gay: Letter to the Editor/Jamaica Observer
”Mr. Commissioner, oh where art thou?” Akay Hendricks op-ed/Jamaica Observer
”Bang belly” economy: Shaw claims present state of affairs hostile to growth: Gleaner
Businesses more optimistic than consumers ahead of IMF agreement: Gleaner
Pledge FINSAC assets to NHT, Shaw suggests: Jamaica Observer
Shaw rips Government to shreds over incomplete FINSAC report: Gleaner
Women entrepreneurs link with global network: Gleaner
Reggae legend, Toots Hibbert makes on the spot donation towards purchase of vital medical equipment: chatychaty.com
Here’s the second half of the week: April 21, 2013 (petchary.wordpress.com)
Exclusion versus Empowerment (petchary.wordpress.com)
It has been a strange and difficult week for the Jamaican Government. Not much joy. And the drought is biting so hard in Kingston, our garden is literally parched earth…
Psalms don’t help: Junior Minister in the Ministry of Transport, Works and Housing and Member of Parliament for North West Clarendon Richard Azan has been in boiling hot water for the entire week. Last Sunday’s Gleaner broke the news that Azan had allegedly arranged the unauthorized construction and illegal rental of ten shops at Spaldings Market. The local media are not letting him off the hook and nor is civil society. National Integrity Action’s Professor Trevor Munroe has called for Azan’s resignation and the Jamaica Civil Society Coalition is also wants a full and thorough investigation. Questions regarding the relationship between Azan and the contractor, etc., remain unanswered. Mr. Azan’s response included a quote from the Bible which did not greatly strengthen his case, in my view; he wants to “move on” after his “error,” he says. The role played by the Clarendon Parish Council certainly leaves much to be desired and raises many questions about governance in Jamaica. Comments by one councilor on television reeked of hypocrisy and thinly veiled “tribalism.” The whole affair is “smelly” as the media like to say.
Going for an Oscar? Or was it genuine despair/stress that prompted Minister of National Security Peter Bunting’s choked-up performance during a speech in Clarendon last week? I get a little edgy and suspicious when politicians resort to tears, publicly. But it was worrying. Minister Bunting called for “divine intervention” as the only solution (?) during the speech. I started to feel a little panicky at this point. If Minister Bunting is throwing up his hands at our steadily rising crime rate, then what should we, the poor citizens do? Is Minister Bunting admitting failure? If so, is he going to step aside? See the transcript below from journalist Emily Crooks. The Private Sector Organization of Jamaica’s Christopher Zacca’s suggestion that the ministries of national security and justice be reintegrated seems worthy of consideration. CVM TV has, however, pointed out that the Minister’s mother died recently – my condolences.
And the Prime Minister is quiet. Well, she did say she allowed the Ministers to get on with their job without interference. So mum’s the word.
Them taters: Agriculture Minister Roger Clarke disappointed me with his gratuitous remark that bad potato seeds were supplied by the previous administration, during a sitting of a parliamentary committee. Can’t see the point of all this. Can you please supply the poor farmers with some good seeds, then, Minister? Thanks. Enough already. (Oh yes, and both parties are equally guilty of this kind of partisan sniping and finger-pointing).
Itching to leave? We were greatly surprised this week to hear that the President of the Senate, the Reverend Stanley Redwood (a twice unsuccessful People’s National Party candidate in his native St. Elizabeth) is migrating! Ostensibly for family reasons. Is he a green card holder? One assumes so… Moreover, the wife of our Governor General Lady Allen caused a stir with some more “candid” comments while addressing schoolchildren last week. “Yesterday morning when I woke up, I didn’t want to be a Jamaican, I must be honest with you… I didn’t want to be in Jamaica any more…” She was commenting on the murder of a policeman who had served in her security detail at one time. She went on to express hope for the future, though.
An objectionable report: Human rights lobby group Jamaicans for Justice partnered with the University of Technology for a fascinating and indeed at times emotional public forum on the report of the Inter American Council for Human Rights (IACHR) on Human Rights in Jamaica, which has taken three years to compile. According to JFJ, the Jamaican Government has strongly objected to aspects of the report, and as a result the IACHR Commissioner scheduled to visit Jamaica for the launch (a Barbadian woman) canceled her trip. It transpires that the Government objected on legal grounds, as JFJ has in the past been involved in legal action via the IACHR. So, a little tricky. Putting that on one side, it was a powerful meeting that was hardly covered by local media except for a perfunctory report in the Gleaner. This is how human rights issues are generally treated. Link to the full report is below…
Talking about rights: Jamaican workers on one of the Chinese-funded mega projects that Jamaican governments have been so fond of in recent years were upset recently. Apparently the ratio of Jamaicans to Chinese should be 70% – 30%. The Jamaicans complained that there are more Chinese workers on the road project in St. Ann than there are locals, and that qualified masons, plumbers etc. are being sidelined and replaced by Chinese. Well, he who pays the piper calls the tune. Right?
Tief! Tief! Some major tiefing (stealing) has been going on lately. The theft of 53 solar batteries from the Mandela Highway, resulting in the operators (Trans Jamaican Highway) removing the remainder to ensure that they secure them better; large amounts of cable from Flow Jamaica, who are trying to roll out their services – internet etc – across the island; and to cap it all, the theft of J$15 million worth of oil from the Shell plant in Rockfort, East Kingston last Tuesday. 133,000 liters, no less. We are a nation of tiefs. Businesses and Jamaicans in general suffer…
Staying in St. Ann… A visitor from the UK, Angelia Christian, recently donated two ambulances and a lot of equipment to the A&E department at the St. Ann’s Bay Hospital through her Angel Foundation. This was because her daughter nearly died in 2011 after a swimming pool accident, and she was “shocked” at conditions in the emergency department. We are indeed grateful.
And speaking of ’Ospitals: Minister of ‘Ealth Fenton Ferguson (sorry, but he consistently drops his “h”s) visited the May Pen Hospital last week. I was amazed at how run-down it looked. Was it shoddy workmanship? The ceilings appeared to be leaking, paint peeling etc. The hospital was built in 1997 and I remember how great it looked then. Sure needs a “facelift” now…
A brilliant lady: Dr. Olive Lewin, described as a “cultural icon,” passed away last week. By “brilliant” I mean not only smart and intelligent – but shining. We saw her a year or so ago for the last time and although her body was fragile, her spirit was as strong as ever. I remember taking my parents to a performance by the Jamaican Folk Singers, which she founded. My father was quite entranced by Dr. Lewin and by the music, cheering loudly after each song. It was his introduction, as a foreigner, to Jamaican culture. Dr. Lewin was also a close neighbor of ours in Kingston when we first moved here, until she became sick and sold her house; we used to stop by the gate and chat. We will miss you.
I-PLEDGE: I remember when Western Union‘s I-PLEDGE program was launched years ago now, with the blessing and support of former U.S. Ambassador to Jamaica Sue Cobb. Western Union (Grace Kennedy Remittance Services operates the Jamaican franchise) had a special Reading Week last week and launched the program in St. James in support of reading and primary school education. Great stuff!
Empowering businesswomen globally: Congratulations to dynamic entrepreneur Yaneek Page and her team, who recently launched a local branch of WEConnect International, a non-profit organization that helps to empower women business owners to succeed in global markets. They will be holding a conference in June. More info on their Facebook Page WEConnect International in Jamaica. Good luck to all!
And here are some great women in media: I must say I am a huge fan of several women working in Jamaican broadcast media. Their standards are high, and they are fair and fearless. Senator Marlene Malahoo Forte does a quietly awesome job, with impeccable good manners, on her radio talk show “Justice” on Power 106 FM; Emily Crooks seeks out the truth every weekday morning on Nationwide News Network, and tweets up a storm (including on Arsenal match days!); the experienced Dionne Jackson Miller roots out stories and never misses a beat on RJR every evening; and former politician Sharon Hay Webster makes waves every morning on Newstalk 93 FM. Kudos to you all, ladies – keep enlightening us!
I must add kudos to the University of Technology: Since last year’s shameful episode on the UTech campus, in which security guards, egged on by a mob of students and others, beat an alleged homosexual, UTech has spearheaded an initiative to encourage tolerance and understanding among its student body. Dr. Rohan Lewis spoke about this at the JFJ Forum last week, and I believe that Dr. Rosalea Hamilton has been leading this charge; another Jamaican woman I have a lot of time for.
And VERY special kudos to a Jamaican playwright: Ms. Janet Morrison won the English as a first language category of the BBC World Service/British Council/Commonwealth Writers 23rd International Playwriting Competition. Her 55-minute radio play, “The Fisherman,” was aired on RJR this afternoon and can be heard here:
More tragic loss last week. My condolences to ALL, and especially to the family of young Nario Coleman, who got involved in a classroom fight in Penwood High School.
Adolf Campbell, 48, Lyndhurst Road, Kingston
Michael Francis, Lyndhurst Road, Kingston
Unidentified, Lyndhurst Road, Kingston
Sgt. Courtney Simpson, Harbour View, Kingston
Nario Coleman, 16, Penwood High School, Olympic Gardens, Kingston
Kirkland Anderson, Bay Farm Road, Kingston
Hugh Campbell, 75, Manchester
Unidentified man, Lincoln, Manchester
Christopher Campbell, 41, Bog Walk, St. Catherine
Michael “Willy” Cole, 50, Victoria, St. Catherine
Unidentified man, Waterford, St. Catherine
Rainford McDonald, 50, Clarendon
Anthony Donaldson, 49, Four Paths, Clarendon
Mark Anderson, 30, Dean Pen, St. Mary
Chase Scarlett, 25, Alma District, Westmoreland
Robert Davis, 24, Alma District, Westmoreland
Killed by the police:
“Street Light,” Parry Town/Ocho Rios, St. Ann
Barrington McAnuff, St. James
By the way, there are some interesting local blog posts this week – in purple. Do take a read when you can, and comment – support Jamaican bloggers! And we bloggers do love comments…
Inter American Commission on Human Rights Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Jamaica: http://www.oas.org
Five questions for Richard Azan: Sunday Gleaner
I wasn’t accusing Azan of political interference: Letter from Mayor of May Pen to the Gleaner
PM should fire Azan: Gleaner editorial
Government Minister Azan and in your face corruption? delanoseiv.wordpress.com
In his own words: Peter Bunting: thecrooksofitlivejournal.com
I’m not done with Jamaica: Redwood: Sunday Gleaner
Worst Western Hemisphere currency rout prompts Jamaica note sale: bloomberg.com
Chart of the Week: The downward-streaking NIR vs the sliding Jamaican Dollar: diGJamaica.com
Bureaucracy and Jamaican growth, by Dennis Chung: Carib Journal
NDX wipes out J$8 billion of National Insurance Fund: RJR News
Jamaica can export agro expertise, says FAO: Gleaner
The IMF will not grow our economy for us: Jamaica Observer editorial
Industry Minister and MSME stakeholders to discuss hub initiative: Jamaica Information Service
MSMEs to benefit from $439 million government allocation to productive sector: Jamaica Information Service
Flow vows to combat theft of its installations: RJR News
Police probe theft of batteries from solar lighting system on Mandela Highway: RJR News
Businessman among three dead in gun attack: Gleaner
Bad seeds bankrupt potato farmers – Clarke: RJR News
Wanton behavior by brazen homos cause (sic) chaos in carnival parade: chatychaty.com
Gyrating gays spark melee, throw missiles at carnival: jamaicajournal.wordpress.com
Hurling the first stone: Jaevion Nelson column/Gleaner
A country of hypocrites! Leighton Levy column/Jamaica Star
Jamaicans urged to be more vocal on human rights: Gleaner
Wanted: Children’s advocates: Alexis Goffe op-ed/Jamaica Observer
Jamaica complainant in immigration matter claims sexual assault: Trinidad Guardian
Forbes: Online Media and National Identity in Jamaica: Carib Journal
In defense of Portia: A supporter speaks out: Veritas blog
No truth to report of Cabinet reshuffle: Jamaica Information Service
Letter of the Day: West End needs no noise: Gleaner
Jamaica is Party Central: petchary.wordpress.com
Vybz Kartel’s book for CXC: Carolynjoycooper.wordpress.com
Major quake could ruin Palisadoes Road: Jamaica Observer
Viv Logan lives on: Lowrie-Chin.blogspot.com
Near-death experiences takes two ambulances to St. Ann’s Bay Hospital: Gleaner
I-PLEDGE initiative gets underway in St. James: Jamaica Observer
Yesterday, the tremor of Carnival shook the air. As the tired afternoon faded, the sounds continued, although more muted than earlier. Yes, it was party time again, and my Twitter feed was replete with photographs of festooned and feathered bodies, pouting faces with glitter attached to cheekbones and eyelids. Yes, it’s only once a year…
So on to the week’s shenanigans:
Stop press: The International Monetary Fund has just issued a statement on Jamaica, indicating that all documents are now in order and it is ready to submit Jamaica’s case to its board, which will meet by the end of April. You will find the statement here (note final paragraph):
The mystery of it all: Last weekend, a burglary took place at a well-groomed villa in the lush and secluded San San, Portland. Depending on which report you read, a laptop, jewelry and cell phones were stolen – give or take a few items. Depending on which report you read, the stolen goods did/did not belong to National Security Minister Peter Bunting. Depending on which report you read, Minister Bunting was/was not with a female companion/two female companions. They were/were not held up at knife-point while sitting by the pool. The first reports that floated through Twitterland over the Easter weekend told one story. It seemed to be from the San San police, who are but a stone’s throw away from the villa. This report was seemingly quickly overridden by the police High Command, after the Minister himself dismissed the knife-point version of events. Now the local police and residents have reportedly taken a vow of silence. Will we ever know what really happened? Meanwhile, on Friday a man was charged with a “lesser offense” - housebreaking/larceny. The stolen goods were recovered, somehow; many theories about this, too. And where were the minister’s security men? The Gleaner calls it a “lack of clarity” involving, of all people, our National Security Minister.
A “flood tide of disrespect for the nation’s leaders”? This is how veteran journalist Barbara Gloudon described the public and media reaction to the murky “burglary” affair. Respect, as we have noted, is one of those two-way things. When did our politicians last show the people “true respect for all,” as noted in the Jamaican national anthem? Just asking.
Austerity begins at home: One of the intrepid journalists of Nationwide News Network managed to catch the Prime Minister outside a meeting one day last week, and asked her about U.S. President Barack Obama‘s five per cent pay cut. He had the temerity to ask our nation’s leader whether she might be willing to follow the President’s example. After being told that “this is not a press conference,” (?) Ms. Simpson Miller informed the young reporter that she was already making sacrifices. Of what nature, one might ask? Well, she lives at her private home and not at the old colonial Prime Minister’s residence in Vale Royal, Kingston (which already had some $14 million allocated for its upkeep in the new budget). So tell me now, does the Prime Minister not receive allowances for living in her own home, also? Maintenance, security (which is on the public purse – policemen?), wages of household workers etc? Someone, please correct me if I am wrong.
…and in the air: The Prime Minister also informed the reporter that she has foregone attendance at many conferences that she has been invited to, thus saving a packet on overseas travel – which, of course, is always first class. (“I don’t fly econ,” our leader announced during a speech recently. Her Ministers and Government agency heads are still “not flying econ” to Miami and beyond, though?) I would like to know how much has been saved by not attending these conferences?
Can we tone down the tone, please? That aggressive/defensive tone of voice is aggravating and comes across as arrogant. Please talk to us like human beings. Even the media are human beings, although that may be hard for politicians to conceive.
Nuh Go Deh: I don’t usually listen to the pulpit rantings of churchmen on television news, but Pastor Joseph Rose of the First Born Assembly put it succinctly. He told dons and older men: “Leave the pickney alone!” The non-governmental organization Eve for Life has been campaigning for some time about sex with children. Older men watch young teens grow up, discuss them among themselves, and literally prey on the girls. We need to change the hearts and mindset of these men, who encourage each other in this “macho” pursuit. We need to tell them, “Nuh go deh!” (Don’t go there). I fail to understand how forcing young girls – children – to have sex somehow enhances your manliness and your prestige. And make no mistake, very many of these sexual encounters are forced. It is in any event statutory rape and thus punishable by a prison term.
Sitting on the Throne: Our Governor General read the Throne Speech at the official opening of Parliament last week. As usual, the female politicians wore nice dresses and matching hats, and were duly celebrated in the Trivial Pages of the newspapers. Sorry, I mean the Social Pages. The gaggles of supporters of each party outside Gordon House were reduced in numbers and more subdued than usual. But please…may I remind Jamaicans that the Governor General represents the Queen of England? He, and not the Prime Minister, is our Head of State. He simply reads out the speech that is written by speechwriters at the behest of the political administration and handed to him by the Prime Minister. The Queen herself does the same thing in England; she reads out whatever meaningless nonsense the Prime Minister hands her. So why did people say they “expected more” from our GG? The speech is an overview of the Government’s plans and policies for the upcoming year. That’s it.
Vague platitudes? What concerns me, however, is the insubstantial nature of the speech. It starts and ends with platitudes (“The bright colors of our National Flag continue to fly in the face of all our difficulties; constantly reminding us that: ‘The land is fertile, the sun shineth and our people are still strong.’…) There is very little in between. Below are the main points:
- The Government wants “long-term concessionary funding” to fight climate change from the “international community.”
- The Government is worried about violence against women and children, and about car crashes. “We have to work much harder” to reduce the bloodshed, it says.
- The Government will go around the country trying to find out why we are not being nice to each other – an attempt to resuscitate the Values and Attitudes program instituted by former Prime Minister P.J. Patterson. The website,
is under construction. Indeed.
- Having “terminated” the Liquefied Natural Gas program, the Government will look around for renewables etc. and “let the market determine” fuel costs.
- The Government is going to use more computers and be more friendly to the public.
- Aha! Net billing. That’s a good thing. Thanks, Minister Paulwell.
- Remember JEEP? Well, 18,000 Jamaicans were employed under the program last year. They tended grass verges, mended fences and generally tidied up the place.
- The Government has fulfilled all the “prior actions” required by the IMF (see Stop Press above).
- The Government has agreed with said IMF on a “minimum level of support for social intervention programs for the more vulnerable members of our society.” How minimum is that? Who are the vulnerable?
- The Government will try to be more efficient.
- The Government will do a bit more privatization of state assets. It will also try to pin down that nebulous creature, “The Growth Agenda.” Oh, here it is. Some Chinese projects. And aren’t we way behind with the logistics hub? Sounds like it.
- The meaningful part: More reliable and less expensive electricity.
- The Government is going to try to get more Russian tourists (like it tried to get more Chinese, Indians, Latin Americans…)
- The Government will launch eight agro-parks. What is an agro-park?
- Second meaningful part: The legislative agenda. (What is the Charities Bill all about? Taxing charities? “Regulating” them?)
- The JDF will train 500 youth at risk. And offer them jobs?
- The Government will especially strengthen ties with the almost-failed state of Venezuela, where the Chavez candidate told electors that he has put a curse on all who vote against him in the upcoming elections. But it will continue to hug up its “traditional partners” and seek to “enhance the free movement of Jamaican nationals in CARICOM.”
- Education and health: Nothing much.
- The End.
On Health: Or “‘Ealth” as our Minister would pronounce it… This sector gets a few lines in the Throne Speech. And yet, a few days ago, our doctors fell “sick” in protest at their reclassification exercise, which will result in some doctors being paid less than nurses. The ‘Ealth Minister says he is going to review the no-user-fee policy, after consultations. Well, I am glad he is consulting with the public, but hasn’t the decision already been made on that one? As for the Nurses Association of Jamaica, its tirade on radio Friday night left me open-mouthed. The nurses’ president got so carried away she even suggested that we could do without doctors altogether, because nurses are so much more highly qualified and important! Listen, don’t be silly. We need both. And is the government going to shoulder the cost of anti-retroviral drugs for Jamaicans living with HIV for at least the next two years or so, since overseas funding has now ended?
Is it true? Activist Betty Ann Blaine of the New Nation Coalition is calling for an investigation into the alleged purchase of two luxury bullet-proof vehicles at a cost of $30 million. I really don’t want to believe this and trust it is not true. OK. The Minister of Information says it’s NOT true.
How cool is that: Mr. Dennis Chung, the fresh-faced, straight-talking financial analyst, is the new CEO of the highly influential Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica. Many congratulations to the always cool, unpretentious and all-round decent Mr. Chung. I hope he will still have time for his cycling. I am also hoping this will mean the PSOJ focuses more on energy issues. I know renewable energy is a passion of his, and of crucial importance for our economic development. I understand Mr. Chung is himself almost totally “off the grid” at home.
Good works: Food for the Poor paid the fines of 81 prisoners in Jamaica, Haiti, Guyana and Honduras – 37 in Jamaica, just before Easter. These are inmates who were imprisoned simply because they were unable to pay their fines for non-violent, non-drug offenses. This is something Food for the Poor does regularly at Easter and Christmas. Huge kudos to them.
A passionate advocate: I met with the General Counsel of the U.S. National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) last week. Her name is Kim Keenan and she is passionate about standing up and garnering support for important causes, pressing them forward. In the face of some “ifs” and “buts” from her audience of community activists and students at the University of the West Indies’ Faculty of Law, Ms. Keenan said “You have to make up your mind to be unpopular…It is never popular to challenge the status quo.” I will write more on this. Thank you so much to the U.S. Embassy’s Public Affairs Section for organizing Ms. Keenan’s visit to Jamaica; it was very timely.
My deepest sympathies to the families and friends of the following Jamaican citizens who were murdered in the past week, including one man who was shot dead as he drove in Half Way Tree, as Carnival revelers were preparing to hit the road in Kingston this morning. The man injured a pedestrian and crashed into a light pole, cutting off electricity in the area. I am not sure whether Carnival participants had to dance through or around the yellow crime scene tape.
Wayne James, 42, Half Way Tree Road, Kingston
Unidentified male, age 15 approx., Rockfort, Kingston
Everton Mills, 54, Red Pond, St. Catherine
Kirk Porter, Bog Walk, St. Catherine
Unidentified, Nain, St. Elizabeth
Edgar Clarke, 74, Bogue Village/Montego Bay, St. James
Devoney Morgan, 34, Whitehouse, Westmoreland
Vincent Brown, 42, Negril, Westmoreland
Related articles with local blog posts in purple:
”Don’t judge victims”: Violence Prevention Alliance head calls for training of police in dealing with abuse complaints: Gleaner
Understanding the right to life: Shawn Wilkinson op-ed/Sunday Observer
Teacher traumatized by alleged police harassment: Jamaica Star
Out of the closet, out of Jamaica: Dadland Maye op-ed/Sunday Gleaner
Killed for naseberries? Jamaica Observer
Children’s Advocate steps in following assault on ward at Fort Augusta: RJR News
Sick doctors get better: Sunday Gleaner
Health Ministry reviewing no-user-fee policy: RJR News
Cash crunch grips universities: Sunday Gleaner
Does Bunting get it? Gleaner editorial
Portland police, residents clam up about robbery of villa where Bunting was staying: Sunday Observer
Outstanding questions on the villa break-in: Sunday Gleaner editorial
Files show security minister wasn’t robbed: Jamaica Star
Playing politics and crime: Barbara Gloudon column/Jamaica Observer
Letter of the Day: Don’t make MPs ministers: Gleaner
The Throne Speech: April 4, 2013 – Jamaica Information Service
Benchwarmers all? Lawmakers as quick as snails: Martin Henry column/Sunday Gleaner
Is the Throne Speech losing its relevance? Sunday Observer
Cabinet pay cut will not improve country’s coffers – JCSA: RJR News
Government making sacrifices, says PM: RJR News
List: Discretionary waivers: diGJamaica.com
Never again! Clergyman urges Jamaicans to turn back on populist politics: Gleaner
It’s revival time Jamaica! Jean Lowrie-Chin column/Jamaica Observer
One in every three tourists is harassed: Sunday Gleaner
Mystery shops and a meddling minister: Sunday Gleaner
Mrs. Simpson Miller, the exit is to your left: delanoseiv.wordpress.com
Caribbean Small States: Challenges of High Debt and Low Growth: imf.org
Government to grab $34 billion from state agencies this year: Sunday Gleaner
Secret deal: NHT paid $4 billion into government coffers last year: Sunday Gleaner
Has the Government gone mad? Letter to the Editor/Sunday Gleaner
State of Duhaney Power Station worries JPS head: RJR News
Chinese Kingston hotel targets 2014 opening: Jamaica Observer
Government eyeing Montpelier agricultural lands for housing: Sunday Observer
Senator Graham helps import Jamaicans for work at elite country club: dailycaller.com
”It is an anachronistic law”: Jamaica Observer
Why Twitter is essential for journalists: anniepaul.net
Food for the Poor secures release of 81 prisoners for Easter: Sunday Observer
Identity theft, data espionage not covered by 2010 Cybercrimes Act: Jamaica Observer
Breathing life into “No Man’s Land”: Sunday Observer
Tarrant principal wins case after school board bungling: Gleaner/Power 106 FM
Kim Keenan putting her stamp on NAACP post: Sunday Observer
A belated Happy Easter, everyone. Whatever it means to you, I hope it has been a good one.
Easter is a strange time for me. I usually miss chocolate Easter eggs, and daffodils and hot cross buns. Here in Jamaica it is a long weekend, a nice spring break, the weather’s getting hotter and party central is in full gear (see my previous blog post
). The religious among us, and there are many, make special trips to church. And we all eat lots of bun and cheese. In fact, I am eating a piece right now…
Bit of an odd mixture this week, but here goes…
- The shock: Good Friday got off to a terrible start with a murder in my neighborhood – just round the corner from our house. We were sleeping late and sadly unaware. Gregory Archer, a network engineer at Digicel, was shot while taking an early morning walk with his young son, and died later in hospital. His son was unharmed. For some reason, this tragedy was only reported by one radio station; the local media ignored it until three days later, even though it was discussed at length in the social media. I guess the “traditional” media has gone to sleep for Easter; after all, at least one broadcast journalist recently admitted that he didn’t know anything about Twitter, etc! Meanwhile, our “upscale” uptown semi-residential neighborhood is not, for me, a safe place to walk any more. How very sad. And media, please wake up. A reader on the Jamaica Observer website alleges that other murders, especially in the Bog Walk area of St. Catherine, have not been reported. He mentioned a particular murder last Thursday night. Explanations are needed, I think.
- The prior actions: I’m rather worried about this. Can we have a list of them? If Jamaica has fulfilled all of them – something which our Finance Minister has mentioned several times – then why hasn’t the agreement being signed? I am sure I am missing something, and wish I really understood what is going on in the grinding saga of the International Monetary Fund. I cannot imagine what Minister Phillips’ blood pressure must be like.
- Surprise! Minister Phillips conceded that, contrary to his predictions/hopes/assurances, a formal deal with the IMF was not going to happen by the end of March, after all. I realize that he is now making lots of statements, in his efforts to keep us updated; the Jamaican public had earlier complained about lack of details. But we are now…confused. Or is it just me?
- Mum PM: Meanwhile, our Prime Minister is saying almost nothing about anything, except for the occasional exhortation for us all to be united. Oh, I think she cut another ribbon last week.
- A bit of a dig: I see that former senator and People’s National Party stalwart Delano Franklyn, in an article in the Sunday Observer, goes out of his way to takes quite a vicious dig at a media house that had the temerity to criticize the recent Government retreat. Mr Franklyn notes that said media house owes lots of taxes.
- The dilemma: Our Minister of Tourism and Entertainment, Dr. Wykeham McNeill, appears to be on the horns of one. The horns are the two different parts of his portfolio. On the one hand, he wants to improve the reportedly flagging tourism figures. On the other hand, he wants to keep his constituents in the tourist resort of Negril happy. But the tourists are not too pleased with the decibel level in Negril, according to a CVM Television report a few days ago; they have been complaining. It appears that local promoters are allowed to go on after the legal 2:00 a.m., with special permission. Now the Minister tells us that he has made some proposals to change the Noise Abatement Act. In a CVM interview (the link is below) he says: “We have to find a balance,” and that he wants to “regularize” the situation. We shall see how this turns out. It’s a tricky one!
- Those scammers: Last week, the Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Task Force (MOCA), which sounds like a cup of coffee, made some arrests in Montego Bay. Once again, we saw “high-end vehicles” that had been seized, etc. As the anti-lottery scam legislation has only just been passed, I wonder if any charges are going to be made, and whether they will stick.
- As predicted: The group of Haitians and fellow CARICOM nationals who arrived on our shores recently were “processed” (finger-printed like criminals) and shipped straight back last week. I told you so.
- Mi Happy (again): The Jamaica Tourist Board has regrettably brought out another video with the man from Minnesota (the VW ad). This is really milking it. You can find the link below, and well… It’s actually not as painful as the first one. What are your thoughts, dear readers?
- Mi Not Happy: With the weather. In eastern Jamaica, a bridge was washed away and hundreds stranded for a day or two by a swollen river after heavy rains. On the other side of the island, in Kingston at least, barely a drop has fallen. Mi wasn’t happy, either, with the long power cut on Saturday that affected almost the entire island. It seems that, on the energy front too, something’s got to give. The Jamaica Public Service Company is still awaiting word on its latest expansion proposal from the Government. What is really happening on energy, especially the Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) project? I’m confused, again. Meanwhile, financial analyst Dennis Chung tweeted that he is basically off the grid and did not suffer… Sensible man, went for solar power.
- The patriarchy strikes back: Roman Catholic deacon Peter Espeut, a “human rights advocate,” responded in somewhat heavy-handed fashion to fellow Gleaner columnist Jaevion Nelson’s column advocating for a change in the abortion laws. Well, Mr. Espeut is Roman Catholic, so we might expect that he would be anti-abortion. But it is a patronizing put-down (“Young Jaevion needs to put a little more balance in his writing, and his editors should guide him”!) of a bright, forward-thinking activist, who is trying to find solutions. Mr. Espeut concludes: “Thank God Jaevion Nelson is not typical of Jamaican young people, or I would despair where our beloved country might end up.” So that’s “young Jaevion” put in his place, good and proper. He’s not typical, Mr. Espeut claims; and since he is not, we can dismiss his opinions. Mr. Espeut says he works with young people, and I trust they are subservient.
- “From Coral Gardens to Tivoli Gardens”: The Rastafarian community last week marched through downtown Kingston to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of a violent incident in Coral Gardens, Montego Bay on Holy Thursday, 1963. At that time, Rastafarians suffered from widespread discrimination and abuse from the police force and general public. But the march (seeking compensation for Rastafarian elders who are still suffering, and an apology from the Government) was about more than the Coral Gardens injustice. It was about the human rights situation in Jamaica right here and now (the quote above was from a placard I saw held up). According to one participant, the actual theme was “Outrage against an unjust Justice system; Landlesness; Police Brutality” - it was never just a “Rasta thing” as some media characterized it. ”The people reach the stage where the State a do what dem used to do to Rastafari to dem,” said poet/activist Mutabaruka at the group’s rally in Half Way Tree. In other words, if they come for me in the morning, they will come for you in the evening.
- Fairness: In a comment on a recent blog post of mine, a fellow-blogger discussed “equality” when I was talking about “equity.” Of course, they are not the same thing at all. I recommend to you a column by Lawrence Powell of World Watch in yesterday’s Sunday Gleaner (link below), in which the writer makes an apposite comment: “It looks like [Minister] Omar [Davies] and the People’s National Party (PNP) will find themselves going against the grain of popular sentiment if they assume shared sacrifice is politically irrelevant, and that the perceived disparities between treatment of privileged and underprivileged groups are “frivolous”, and don’t matter.” Against the grain, indeed, and the tide of popular opinion.
- Poster comeback: So glad to see that overseas-based Jamaican Michael Thompson has launched the second annual International Reggae Poster Competition 2013. The theme is: Toward a Reggae Hall of Fame: Celebrating Great Jamaican Music. Deadline is April 21. More details at
. Really hope the Reggae Hall of Fame comes to fruition, some time in the near future. And I really hope we will get more Jamaican entries this time!
- Yummy postscript: Drop by the Tea Tree Creperie (in my ‘hood) for delicious nibbles, including homemade hummus with fresh-baked pesto pita chips!
- Good work: The Jamaica 50 Photo Album was a really good product from the Jamaica Information Service, and I am glad it has won an award in the U.S. I bought a few items for friends and family at home in the UK last year… Their favorites though were the Jamaica 50 glasses!
I am sick and tired of posting this sad list of names every week. But I don’t want us to forget those Jamaicans, young and old, who have lost their lives – and the grieving families and friends they leave behind, week after week. My condolences to them all. By the way, a comment following the online report on Gregory Archer’s death noted that several murders have gone unreported in local media, including that of Kirk
Vivian Grant, 29, Waltham Park Road, Kingston
Unidentified, Lopez/Bryden Streets, Kingston
Gregory Archer, 33, Upper Montrose Road/Vale Royal, Kingston
Unidentified man, Ferry, St. Andrew
Korine Bailey, 43, Linstead, St. Catherine
Sheldon Pennant, 38, Linstead, St. Catherine
Unidentified, Lennox Bigwoods/Darliston, Westmoreland
District Constable Brian Gray, 32, Mount Salem, St. James
Maxine Campbell, 37, Green Island, Hanover
Cornel Grizzle, 46, Comfort Hall, Trelawny
Beres Thompson, 32, Victoria Town, Manchester
Killed by police:
Basil Blackwood, 27, Spanish Town, St. Catherine
Unidentified man, Westport/Portmore, St. Catherine
Unidentified man, Texton Road, Kingston 14
Related articles (Local blogs are in purple):
Chart: Number of fatal shootings by the police: diGJamaica.com
Jamaica is Party Central: petchary.wordpress.com
Exclusion versus empowerment: petchary.wordpress.com
Gregory Archer’s wife a broken woman: Jamaica Observer
Only in this country! George Davis column/Gleaner
Salvaging what’s left of Jamaica: Letter to the Editor/Gleaner
The next act against the scammers: Sunday Gleaner editorial
The Cabinet retreat and the country’s economic challenges: Delano Franklyn op-ed/Sunday Observer
Trust deficit: Government, IMF and Haiti: Orville Taylor column/Sunday Gleaner
Is Jamaica destined to be poor forever? Mark Wignall column/Jamaica Observer
Terminating pregnancies should be legal: Jaevion Nelson column/Gleaner
Advocating youth responsibility: Peter Espeut column/Gleaner
Contraceptives in schools? Let’s at least discuss it: Jamaica Observer editorial
NDX2 or PEX? GraceKennedy confirms participation: Gleaner
Peter Phillips and the IMF: delanoseiv.wordpress.com
Construction on Trinidad-Barbados gas pipeline could begin next year: Carib Journal
Op-ed: Bringing Google to Jamaica: Carib Journal
Nurses await further discussions on wage claims: Gleaner
CVM Television report on noise nuisance in Negril (10 minutes into newscast)
CVM Television report on Tourism Minister’s response to noise complaints (17 minutes into newscast)
Party circuit: soundclash.wordpress.com
Two mobile licenses to be put on auction – Paulwell: Gleaner
Foreign Minister wants rethinking of treatment of middle income countries: Jamaica Information Service
Access to information progress lauded: Jamaica Information Service
Thirty-three Haitians to be transported home today: RJR News
b West Kingston residents decry deadly power struggle among criminals: Jamaica Observer
No longer just a Rasta thing: Claude Robinson op-ed/Sunday Observer
Police to charge popular sports personality after Montego Bay raids: Gleaner
”Woeful lack of leadership”: Gleaner
Women and the Jamaican work force: Marcia Forbes op-ed/Carib Journal
Flow, Jamaicans happy with Earth Hour concert: Gleaner
Wake up and smell the smog! Letter to the Editor/Gleaner
NWC to address city’s sewer problems: Jamaica Observer
Tamarind and beetroot shine, but what happens after? Joan Francis op-ed/Observer
Kingston, St. Andrew, St. Thomas worst hit by drought: Gleaner
Belvedere residents remain cut off: Gleaner
- Jamaica is Party Central (petchary.wordpress.com)
- Exclusion versus Empowerment (petchary.wordpress.com)
- My Birthday: Sunday, March 24, 2013 (petchary.wordpress.com)
I wrote this article a couple of months ago – in January, 2013. As our Cabinet comes out of its latest two-day pre-Easter retreat, I thought that you might enjoy it, dear readers…
The great Stoic philosopher (and Roman Emperor) Marcus Aurelius commented in his wisdom, centuries ago: “Men seek retreats for themselves, houses in the country, sea-shores, and mountains; and thou too art wont to desire such things very much. But this is altogether a mark of the most common sort of men, for it is in thy power whenever thou shalt choose to retire into thyself…But perhaps the desire of the thing called fame will torment thee. See how soon everything is forgotten, and look at the chaos of infinite time on each side of the present, and the emptiness of applause, and the changeableness and want of judgment in those who pretend to give praise, and the narrowness of the space within which it is circumscribed, and be quiet at last. For the whole earth is a point, and how small a nook in it is this thy dwelling, and how few are there in it, and what kind of people are they who will praise thee.” (From “Meditations,” written between 170 and 180).
Well, the Jamaican Cabinet went into retreat recently – the fourth in its one-year lifespan under the leadership of Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller. This is clearly a common-sense move. When members of a team are running up and down in different directions (in this case, hopping in and out of their costly Toyota Prados, and traveling by air – first class, of course) then it is difficult to bring them all together in one place. The team needs time to reflect and then make its plans, away from the daily routine.
Therefore, on January 10, 2013 the Cabinet went into a three-day retreat – not to a mountainside or a sea-shore, although trips to the north coast have not been out of the question in the past with Jamaican Governments. No, this retreat was in Kingston, at Jamaica House.
The Cabinet was retreating in more ways than one. It was retreating from a growing chorus of concern and criticism from the private sector and civil society. They wanted more information. Now, and rather surprisingly I feel, the Simpson Miller administration has shown that it has a serious communication problem, as the great communicator and public relations veteran Barbara Gloudon commented on radio. Why this is so, I am not sure. It is just not getting through to the people.
So. The Cabinet retreat appears to be a regular quarterly event, and nothing wrong with that. A good idea, in fact. Please note that the previous retreat was only two days long, last October. After that, the Prime Minister told Parliament on October 22: “I am making the commitment to Jamaicans at home and overseas that there will be increased communication on matters of governance.”
Did the increased communication manifest itself in any way? I would suggest that through the end-of-year season, it did not.
So this month’s retreat became a matter of some urgency. The Cabinet needed to tell Jamaica something about the current state of the International Monetary Fund negotiations. There had been increasingly blunt, pointed comments from the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica on the remarkable dearth of information on the negotiations. And in Jamaica, when there is a vacuum it is filled with rumors, growing fear and speculation. The shrill voices on radio talk shows grew louder. Commentators on television current affairs programs, their faces gloomy in the too-bright studio lights, began discussing a “What if?” scenario. Columnists and financial analysts tackled the IMF issue from every possible angle, with precious little material to work with.
None of this is good, not for any political administration. And in many ways, it is especially sad for Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, who has always been considered a tremendous communicator and a great lover of the people – especially the poor and downtrodden of society. Her vibrant and often strident speeches – almost reminiscent of a fundamentalist preacher – have stirred thousands of Jamaicans, especially during election campaigns. Is this magnetism fading?
In fact, I would suggest that a large part of all of this revolves around the Prime Minister’s leadership. Former government minister Christopher Tufton observed in a newspaper column the other day that the Prime Minister probably needs to shake off some of her advisers, and just be herself – go out and lead, firmly. Show some mettle, don’t allow herself to get confused. Just lead!
A week before the retreat, the Prime Minister gave a televised broadcast that had largely disappointed. Unwisely wearing the “Portia” daffodil yellow of the 2011 election campaign, she had given what the media like to term a “report card” on her administration’s first year in office. She gave some details of projects in the pipeline for the next year. Fair enough. But this was not what people wanted. Just before the broadcast, “man/woman on the street” interviews (always, it seems, conducted in the same spot in Half Way Tree) showed that people expected to hear more about “the IMF, the IMF, the IMF” – and jobs. The people were adamant. That was what they wanted.
Perhaps the government was not listening, because Ms. Simpson Miller mentioned the IMF once in passing. And Bible quotes and lyrics from a Jimmy Cliff song, however apt, just did not cut it.
Then there was the post-retreat press briefing, another brave effort to keep the public informed. But there was something wrong. The atmosphere was prickly. The phalanx of Cabinet ministers lined up to talk to the journalists looked less than refreshed from the retreat. The Prime Minister, this time in powder blue, used her warm and pleasant voice well at times. At other times, her eloquence abandoned her and a pleading tone crept in. The Finance Minister looked as if the weight of the world was on his shoulders. While the Prime Minister spoke he fiddled uncomfortably with the papers in front of him. When he spoke, the Prime Minister had a slightly confused look on her face. During question time, the defensive phrase, “I didn’t say that…” crept up, more than once. The other ministers remained largely mute.
We were told that Cabinet had “signed off” on several items required by the IMF. What items, we are not sure. Words sometimes don’t mean much. But body language can tell you a lot, especially when our excellent newspaper photographers capture an expression, a gesture. The sense of discomfort at the press briefing is somehow reflected in the malaise of the people. We are, sadly, really none the wiser.
So, the retreat ended on January 13, and the anxious press briefing has come and gone. Now, ten days later, it is business as usual. In other words, the uncertainty continues. It is as if we are all feeling our way, groping in the dark towards a glimmer of light. It’s a feeble candle that flickers in the wind. And sometimes the wind can pick up some strength, and threaten to blow the candle out.
Let me leave our Cabinet – and our Prime Minister, in particular – with some more wise words from Marcus Aurelius: “Never let the future disturb you. You will meet it, if you have to, with the same weapons of reason which today arm you against the present.”
Stay calm. Empower yourselves. Be strong. Do the right thing for the people of Jamaica!
PSOJ gives Cabinet thumbs up on retreat: Gleaner
Cabinet Retreat: Government will communicate more, Jamaica will overcome – Portia: Gleaner
Cabinet signs off on measures to advance IMF negotiations: Jamaica Information Service
IMF is not the solution to everything: Prime Minister