Yesterday evening, we drove out of town to Port Royal, with a hunger for fish at Gloria’s Restaurant. We drove along the slowly winding road – sand and cacti on one side, mangrove-fringed lagoons on the other – with the late afternoon sun shining in our eyes. The radio said that many of Nelson Mandela’s family members had gathered at his house.
We climbed the steps to the top floor of Gloria’s (downstairs is rather stuffy). Upstairs is open to the sea breeze, which blew softly as we sat down at the table. Now, there is nothing sophisticated about Gloria’s – one does not go there for its fancy decor. It’s the food that counts. Or to be precise: the fish. Brown stew, fry, steam, fry fish, sometimes lobster.
Looking out to sea on one side, there was the dust-grey sand beach and the muffled murmur of the waves. Further out the small island of Lime Cay, with a slip of silver-white sand, rode on the water like a tiny tufted ship.
While waiting for our food, I wandered around upstairs and took a few photos, as the light became richer, glowing on the wall. The wispy grey clouds touching the Blue Mountains above Kingston turned to rose. Behind me, the sun descended to just above the low rooftops of the small town, which began to swim in orange light. The breeze went away, and the waves barely whispered.
The boys who had started a football game nearby were now playing in the growing dusk; but their voices grew louder as if the coming dark made their game more urgent.
Our bellies were full. It was time to go home, and as we got in the car and turned on the radio, we heard that Nelson Mandela had died, just as the sun was setting over Port Royal.
I spent a little time (very short, so these are truly only glimpses) in the capital of Grenada, St. George’s, recently. On my first day, I took a minibus and wandered around – alone and un-harrassed by anyone – during one warm and humid day, and spent a little time there too with groups during subsequent field trips. Here are a few photos I took that will give you an impression of the town of some 36,000 inhabitants (about half the size of the population of May Pen in Clarendon, Jamaica; and about one third of the total population of the island). The town was built by the French in 1650, and then later the British moved in. Despite the devastation of Hurricane Ivan in 2004, the town retains some lovely historic buildings, a charming waterfront and a lively atmosphere.
You can find more photos of Saint George’s (and more from the field trips, to follow) on my Facebook page.
Today is Malcolm X’s birthday; he would have been 88 years old. Tragically, his young grandson, Malcolm Shabazz, was murdered on May 9 at a Mexico City nightclub. But here’s a little Caribbean connection: Malcolm X’s mother Louise was born in Grenada - but she had a very sad life, too.
Well, with that useful and important fact stored away, let’s look at the last few days in Jamaica…
The voice of morality: Our pious Minister of Education, the Reverend Ronald Thwaites, told Parliament this week that he is not going to allow young Jamaican students to be “groomed” towards homosexuality (demonstrating his own mistaken beliefs on the subject); and that although he approves of (the right kind of) sex education, condoms in schools are out. None of us were surprised at this, were we – after all, the Minister’s Catholic faith strongly influences his prescriptions for our youth. The television program All Angles confronted the issue of condoms in schools last week with youth activist/commentator Jaevion Nelson, retired school principal Esther Tyson and the head of the guidance counseling association. The latter two both toed the Minister’s line as expected; were confused by the statistics Mr. Nelson produced to strengthen his case for contraceptive assistance in schools; and clumsily tried to catch him out, once or twice.
But a big, big silver lining: The same Minister folded his hands, turned his eyes to heaven and announced a change in government policy towards pregnant teens in school. Amendments to the Education Act and Regulations attached thereto will ensure that schools will keep open a space for a child who has had to leave due to pregnancy, so that she may continue her education afterwards. Huge kudos to Opposition Senator Kamina Johnson Smith for her strong lobbying on this issue; and to the Minister for seeing the sense and fairness of it. The Minister also announced a couple of pending measures that have ruffled the feathers of the Jamaica Teachers’ Association; more on that, probably, later. I don’t always agree with our overly preachy Minister; but at least he is trying to right some of the hundreds of wrongs afflicting our education system, one by one. He has some tricky issues to tackle, indeed.
“I’m so frustrated by this experience”: A quote from CEO of the Jamaica Public Service Company Kelly Tomblin on the seemingly very long and slow deliberations by the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) on who should receive the contract for a new 350 mw power plant. I can imagine how she feels. I often fail to see whether government agencies like the OUR, the Bureau of Standards (of toilet tissue infamy), the Urban Development Corporation and others do any good for the Jamaican people. I guess they provide jobs. How else do they serve our interests?
The truth is swimming away: In an enlightening radio interview with a frequently stuttering Transport and Works Minister Omar Davies on Thursday morning, it transpired that Davies’ junior minister Richard Azan told him two different stories about whether or not he knew that rental money was being collected at his (Azan’s) own constituency office for illegally constructed shops. There actually appear to be three different versions of this conversation, all aired on broadcast media. However, clearly Minister Davies seems to think that his junior minister means well, even if he has broken the law. He is eager to do good in the community, so let’s “give him a bligh,” nuh. The grammatically challenged Junior Minister had told Nationwide in an earlier interview, “Yes, I make a mistake for building the shops” (sic). But saying “My bad” sometimes has consequences, right?
This is a true patriot, Rev. Redwood: As I noted in my last blog post, the now-departed-on-a-jet-plane Senate President Reverend Stanley Redwood only dug a deeper hole for himself by responding to the cutting criticism of a Gleaner column in a letter to the newspaper. He actually called himself a patriotic Jamaican. The acerbic columnist Gordon Robinson today gives us a better idea of a patriotic Jamaican – one who has no choice but to struggle through our ramshackle health, justice and education systems with no special privileges, but who tries to help his fellow Jamaicans and ensure his family thrives.
Fresh face: Members of the 51% Coalition (including myself) are delighted at the appointment of a young attorney-at-law, Sophia Frazer-Binns. Great to see another woman in the Senate, and we look forward to her contribution. We note also that Ms. Frazer-Binns has some experience of working with youth. Good, too.
Two key meetings: J-FLAG and the Jamaica Civil Society Coalition (JCSC) had two key meetings this week: in recognition of International Day Against Homophobia, J-FLAG held a forum on homelessness and forced migration among the LGBT population; and the JCSC launched two publications arising from its lengthy series of consultations with communities on “People Participation in the National Budget Making Process.” Congratulations to both organizations for their efforts to keep seeking solutions to some of Jamaican society’s most intractable problems. I will be writing more on these meetings in the next week – in particular, on the “disconnects” between Jamaicans and Jamaicans. Need to overcome these…
Rooting for the children: Huge big-ups to the JN Foundation for providing desperately-needed funding for the Spanish Town-based non-governmental organization Children First. I had the honor of working with this organization on several occasions and have always been impressed by founder Claudette Richardson-Pious’ deep understanding of and clear-eyed focus on the complex and difficult lives of youth at risk. Since it is still Child Month, here are two other individuals who are quietly working on behalf of children: Deika Morrison of Crayons Count; and youth advocate Kemesha Kelly, who works with young people in St. Ann. Great role models.
Collecting: And Help JA Children, the lobby group formed one year ago, is busy collecting items for children in state care this month. Take your food, toiletries, clothes, books, magazines and other goodies to Kia Motors c/o HJC, 2 Chelsea Ave, Kgn 10. Tel: 920-5000. It will be hugely appreciated!
Kudos to Vaz: It’s Labour Day on Wednesday, when people undertake all kinds of tasks to make life better for their fellow-Jamaicans. One of former Prime Minister Michael Manley‘s better ideas, I think. Across the island, the infirmaries that are funded by local parish councils are in a terrible state of repair – often colonial-era buildings that have seen much better days. Now, a couple of months ago Member of Parliament for East Portland Daryl Vaz announced that he was going to give up five per cent of his salary, as a gesture of sacrifice in these tough times. He was praised in a half-hearted way by some. But now he has met with Port Antonio’s Mayor and decided the money he gives up will be earmarked for the Portland Infirmary, which is in a bad state. I really do like this. Did any other political representative follow Mr. Vaz’ example? I think not…
A waste of space: I am sometimes baffled by the sheer inanity and trivia that gets published in the newspapers each week. The random thoughts of commentators with nothing meaningful to say; the grinning men and women with wineglasses in their hands at an uptown party; yet another PR piece about some reggae/dancehall singer who is “making waves” overseas (playing in tiny clubs in the suburbs of big cities). If it’s online, at least with a click you can forget/delete it. But good trees are chopped down for this worthless nonsense.
Jamaican bloggers, sharpen your keyboards! Wednesday, May 23 – the third anniversary of the Tivoli Gardens Massacre – is Jamaica Blog Day, a “Day of Action for Jamaican bloggers on police and security force abuses.” The great little (growing) blogging community on the island, including myself, will be researching and writing and photographing on this subject. It’s going to be meaningful stuff. Do read and support our bloggers!
Coming up fast and not to be missed! The Fulbright Academy of Science and Technology will hold its 2013 Conference on Global Health in Montego Bay from May 24-27. It is open to the public. Important themes covered will be: Public Policy, Law and Economics in healthcare; Public Health and the Impact of Technology and Social Media; Emerging & Reemerging Infectious Diseases; Education, Sport and Wellness; Environmental Health (Global water supply & safety, Climate Change, Urban planning, engineering); and Human Sexuality. Visit the conference website at http://www.fulbrightacademy.org/page/HealthSummit/index.v3page;jsessionid=4j4dleqsqk0m4 And while I’m at it, big shout-out to all the fabulous Jamaican Fulbrighters (including Marcia Forbes, who will be presenting at the conference)… You make us proud!
I am relieved that the week, which started off so badly with homicides, has ended (hopefully) on a more peaceful note. However, my sympathies go out to the families and friends of Kenneth Kerr and Abasco Foster, who are grieving at this time. I hope that Mr. Foster’s companion recovers from serious injuries.
Kenneth Kerr, 54, Spanish Town, St. Catherine
Abasco Foster, 27, George’s Plain, Westmoreland
Related articles/links and local blogs in purple:
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130517/business/business4.html Economy contracts in March quarter: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130519/lead/lead6.html Kelly speaks her mind: Urges speedy decision on new power supplier: Sunday Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Stadium-built-with-Chinese-money-in-ruins_14278481 Stadium built with Chinese money in ruins: Sunday Observer
http://www.amnesty.org.uk/news_details.asp?NewsID=20784 Jamaica: Three years on, state of emergency still an open wound: Amnesty International
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130518/lead/lead1.html ”Act on Tivoli”: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130519/cleisure/cleisure2.html The methods of war have failed: Claude Clarke column/Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130518/letters/letters1.html INDECOM needs more power: Letter of the Day/Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130517/lead/lead2.html Cops to be charged for schoolgirl’s murder: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Cop-dodges-court-as-DNA-shatters-lie-that-arrested-man-had-spliff_14284218 Cop dodges court as DNA shatters lie: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads-122/33915 Senate elects first visually impaired President: Jamaica Information Service
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads-122/33919 Attorney-at-law appointed to the Senate: Jamaica Information Service
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads/33909 Contribution to 2013 Sectoral Debate: Mikael Phillips, MP: Jamaica Information Service
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130519/cleisure/cleisure2.html Of patriots and sellouts: Gordon Robinson column/Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130519/focus/focus6.html Saying goodbye and diaspora relations: Christopher Tufton op-ed/Sunday Gleaner
http://chatychaty.com/2013/05/jamaica-not-grooming-students-for-same-sex-unions-marriage-is-between-a-man-and-a-woman/ ”Jamaica not grooming students for same sex unions, marriage is between a man and a woman”: chatychaty.com
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-o2el_Gw8O8 Stop being naïve about sex! Jamaican high school students speak: YouTube
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/teen-mothers-to-be-reintegrated-in-school-system?utm_source=rjr&utm_medium=news Teen mothers to be reintegrated in school system: RJR News
http://keimiller.wordpress.com/2013/05/19/the-little-wine-that-hurt-somebody-or-soca-and-the-bad-behaving-gays-of-jamaica/ The little wine that hurt somebody; or, soca and the bad-behaving gays of Jamaica: Under the Saltire Flag blog
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130517/lead/lead1.html ”I give up!” Some parents no longer care about their runaway children: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130519/news/news1.html Cruel by choice: Thousands of Jamaican children intentionally injured by adults annually: Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130519/lead/lead2.html Young and loveless: Teenage prostitute pushing for a fresh start: Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130519/focus/focus3.html Condoms in schools: Martin Henry column/Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130516/news/news1.html Ananda Alert to be displayed on billboards: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130519/lead/lead8.html Rescue for Children First: JN Foundation comes to the assistance of charity set up to help Jamaica’s most needy youths: Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130519/news/news5.html Portland infirmary to get Vaz salary cut: Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130517/lead/lead Suspected dengue cases climb to 475, two confirmed deaths: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130517/news/news1.html Moneague Primary & Junior High cops LASCO environmental award: Gleaner
http://www.bellinghamherald.com/2013/05/16/3012766/caribbean-talks-conservation-on.html Caribbean talks conservation on Branson’s island: AP
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130516/news/news7.html Public gets say in Cockpit Country boundary debate: Gleaner
http://jamaica-star.com/thestar/20130516/news/news1.html Eleven-year-old escapes croc attack, reptile snatches dog instead: Jamaica Star
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130516/news/news3.html KSAC, handcart men agree on registration fee: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130519/ent/ent1.html Balancing the act: Crawford seeks compromise between “want to eat” and “want to sleep”: Sunday Gleaner
An IDAHO State of Mind (petchary.wordpress.com)
May 15, 2013 (petchary.wordpress.com)
Actually, the Ides of March were on Friday, March 15, just two days ago. We often hear the phrase “Beware the Ides of March,” without even understanding the sense of it. Blame Shakespeare. As a former student of Latin language and literature, I can assure you that the Romans were a highly superstitious lot, and very fond of omens. Reading animals’ entrails, birds, the weather, and all that. This period was not short of prophets of doom – and we have a few of those around ourselves, here in Jamaica.
It’s true that things are not looking rosy, in general. We were overwhelmed this week (and we knew it was coming) by the broadcast of a documentary on AXS TV on the “lotto scam,” narrated by Dan Rather, who visited Jamaica earlier this year. Segments were aired on CBS News and NBC News, and it was heavily publicized through Mr. Rather’s (and others’) social media outlets. Segments were, of course, aired on local television – including an interview with a young scammer in Montego Bay, who ran away when the journalist revealed that they were U.S. media. His face was clearly shown. I am not sure if you can download the full program somewhere – I’m not finding it online.
I understand that Mr. Rather is planning further investigations, so this may not be the end of this negative publicity. National Security Minister Peter Bunting had a sense of foreboding about this one, and rightly so. Since the testimony, and the documentary, there has been much discussion about the impact on so-called “Brand Jamaica.” Now, to me, Brand Jamaica is a fabrication of the politicians and tourism officials. How attractive is Brand Jamaica to ordinary Jamaicans, one of my friends asked on Twitter this week – “that is the real measure.” Indeed, but that is for another discussion. The government has naturally been scrambling to do “damage control,” according to local media. No reported “fallout” – yet.
But, why do the Americans have to clean up our mess again, other Jamaicans are asking? There are odd echoes of the “Dudus” affair… The same level of discomfort and a kind of humiliation. We are the bad guys, again. We are a very small nation, and we feel it. Yes, we take it to heart, even if we pretend not to.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging, headed by Democrat Bill Nelson of Florida, sat on Wednesday to consider the matter, at the urging of advocacy groups such as the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP). Minister Bunting had submitted written testimony. The recorded conversations between the criminals in Jamaica (what else can you call them?) and their sad, distressed elderly victims in Maine and other U.S. states; and the television interviews with them and their families – all made me cringe. It was very, very uncomfortable to watch and hear. A feeling of collective guilt infused many of the discussions on the matter – on radio talk shows, many expressed shame and at the very least, embarrassment. “Jamaica, the Nigeria of the Caribbean” was one online comment. We wondered how these old people could be so lonely, happy to hear the sound of a human voice even if it was that of a stranger with evil intent (I actually do consider the scammers evil, not a word I use lightly). Some called them “gullible” and “suckers” which I find unkind. Elderly people are vulnerable, almost like children.
My questions are: Why was the lotto scam allowed to continue for five or six years without any effective action being taken by the Jamaican government? Was the legislation – which the Senate will debate next week – only put together at the behest of the U.S. government? Who was/is benefiting from the lotto scam? Local politicians, businessmen, who exactly? Will they be brought to book? We all knew that Montego Bay has been booming for the last few years…How long will it take to extradite even one Jamaican – and how many are actually involved? Was someone “higher up” orchestrating the whole thing? Will the IT/call center business ever recover? Why was the local media, with some exceptions, unwilling to investigate over these past few years – were they under pressure?
According to at least one Opposition member, tourism is already in decline, even without all this unpleasantness. This is not good for our foreign exchange inflows, and I had heard that stopover visitors are seriously lagging behind cruise ship arrivals, even in the current winter tourist season. Suggestions are that cultural issues and environmental degradation are having a negative impact on visitors. Brand Jamaica is a tarnished mirror, in which we can hardly see ourselves any more, no matter how hard we try to wipe it clean. Let’s forget it.
And we should forget this one – quickly. Jamaica Tourist Board, what were you thinking? Here’s the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P9KSiitCnXg (Mr. Nicolaisen, I don’t blame you – you are an actor and you are making a living, but...)
There is no doubt that the lotto scam comes under the heading “organized crime” and must be dealt with accordingly. Extradition to the United States is fine in my book, so long as they are given a fair trial and brought to justice. And talking of organized crime, what is going on in west Kingston, the former domain of the aforementioned extraditee Christopher “Dudus” Coke? I hear rumblings that a new power structure is in place. If you visit Coronation Market regularly, you may have seen the signs.
Meanwhile, the police have taken a Kingston businessman into custody and he could face numerous charges, including murder and money laundering. But he doesn’t have a name – so he must be a “big man.” I am sure if he was from Arnett Gardens or Denham Town, we would all know his name, address and aliases right away.
Talking of foreign exchange: some local manufacturers are among those complaining about a shortage of foreign exchange. Former head of the Jamaica Manufacturers’ Association Omar Azan says the banks have waiting lists, and he was not able to get all the U.S. Dollars he needed to import raw materials. If this is a growing trend and it continues, there will be layoffs as production is cut. Opposition Finance Spokesman Audley Shaw already notes a “thriving black market” - he has been banging on about this for some time. More doom and gloom (if possibly exaggerated…in Audley Shaw’s somber tone…)
Do we need to be reminded of the “Cuban light bulb scandal”? It occurred during the previous People’s National Party administration, resulting in a corruption trial that is still not concluded. But hey! The program to provide free energy-saving bulbs from Cuba to poor households through Minister Phillip Paulwell’s energy ministry is back! That’s all we needed. Former junior minister Kern Spencer (who cried in Parliament when his Opposition counterpart accused him) has had his trial successfully postponed a number of times; he was first arrested over five years ago.
Well, I was on television myself last week. I appeared on CVM Television’s “Live at Seven.” I hope some of you were able to watch the program, which focused on whether pregnant teens should be “excluded” (in other words, kicked out) of high school or allowed to continue their education before and after giving birth. As Chair of Eve for Life Jamaica, I am firmly of the latter view. Education is empowerment, and many of these girls have suffered from rape, abuse, incest and are being punished for it. My co-panelist, the President-elect of the Jamaica Teachers Association, suggested that everything was fine and the girls can, at principals’ discretion, return to school (or a different school) afterwards. He also said that the state-funded Women’s Centre of Jamaica was most effective in supporting these vulnerable girls. In other words (as is often the case in these discussions on the media) one would be led to believe that all is hunky dory, and the system works perfectly… Unless one knew better, of course. In columnist Barbara Gloudon’s words, “It is the girl who must pay the price.” See her take on the issue, below…
More on this in another blog. Suffice it to say I was nervous as hell, this being my first television appearance; but I was impressed by Mr. Simon Crosskill, host of the program, and his great young production team. An excellent program. You can find the latest edition online here: http://www.cvmtv.com/videos_1.php?id=921§ion=live7 - updated daily.
A young lady I know and think highly of was also a guest on Power 106 FM’s youth program yesterday. Ms. Kemesha Kelly, who comes from a humble family in rural St. Ann, is a former Miss Jamaica Festival Queen. She is highly intelligent, enthusiastic and a terrific role model for girls. As usual, Ms. Kelly was overflowing with energy during her interview, discussing the “SWAG” (Something Worthwhile a Gwaan) initiative that she spearheads at the Marcus Garvey Youth Information Centre in St. Ann’s Bay. (A common refrain among youth is “Nutten Naah Gwaan” (nothing is going on). The project needs more funding support; if you are a local business or individual who would like to help, get in touch with Kemesha (or me).
When asked about the main challenges for Jamaican youth, Kemesha noted employment opportunities (lacking); crime and violence – youth are so often the victims and the perpetrators; and access to higher education, which she considers crucial. She is an aspiring human rights lawyer. I wish her all the very best…
More young people doing great (amazing) things: Over the last few days, the hotly-contested 103rd ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys’ and Girls’ Athletics Championships has taken the National Stadium by storm. Records broke left right and center, to the deafening sound of vuvuzelas (yes, they are still in use over here, unfortunately – we could hear them from our house!) Many congratulations to Calabar High School, who again came out on top, with two other Kingston boys’ schools, Jamaica College and Kingston College hot on their heels. The girls of Holmwood Technical High School overtook Edwin Allen High School, with St. Jago High School girls in third place – all, interestingly “out of town” schools in Manchester, Clarendon and St. Catherine respectively. Many, many congratulations to all! As someone observed, our successful athletes always rise above the divisiveness of Jamaican society. Do we care what political party they support, or which area of Kingston they come from? Of course not! They have transcended that political tribalism that breeds nothing but mediocrity.
And congratulations to all the winners of the Prime Minister’s Youth Awards. Special congratulations are due to Kimroy Bailey, a young engineer and fellow (award-winning) blogger who is highly focused on alternative energy. Let’s encourage those young people, in the sciences and other fields, who are doing the hands-on stuff and trying to raise awareness! We need those ideas. And action.
P.S. Just a word to journalists, especially the younger ones who are sometimes a little hurt when they are criticized. “Everyone tells us how to do our job,” one complained last week. Well, I for one will continue to criticize. As purveyors of the media product, you should also listen to what we – your consumers – have to say! I still maintain that there are far too many errors of spelling, grammar and pronunciation (some of them really embarrassing). And I also feel that browsing through the social media, commenting on what so-and-so is saying about such-and-such and reading it out, doth not good journalism make. It’s different if you are organizing feedback on a specific issue; fine. Otherwise, it looks like you are wasting time, and it’s irritating. It’s also not news – unless you suspect that the social media is more newsworthy than what your own radio/television station or newspaper produces?
This has been another week of terrible grief. The killing of three family members (including a fireman) in Westmoreland has traumatized the community where they live – and where they were setting up a small business, a cook shop. Residents of the lovely town of Lucea were horrified by a terrible murder/suicide (the suicide taking place in a busy public shopping plaza) which seems to have been the result of a woman trying to end an abusive relationship. My deepest condolences to the families, friends and neighbors. Whole communities in shock. We will all need group counseling, soon…
Omario Bryan, 17, Havannah Heights, Clarendon
Winston “Charlie” Dawkins, 63, Osbourne Store, Clarendon
Sean Powell, 31, Spanish Town, St. Catherine
Shane Stanley, 37, Green Acres, St. Catherine
Unidentified, Dyke Road/Portmore, St. Catherine
Unidentified, Dyke Road/Portmore, St. Catherine
Cameka Duhaney, 23, Lucea, Hanover
Sydney Smith, 43, Lucea, Hanover
Killed by police
Andrew Brydson, 28, Shrewsbury, Westmoreland
Tristan Brydson, 24, Shrewsbury, Westmoreland
Kingsley Green, 38, Shrewsbury, Westmoreland
Related articles: Local blogs in purple
http://www.cvmtv.com/videos_1.php?id=900§ion=live7 Live at Seven on teen pregnancy/March 12, 2013: CVM Television
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RznaKL7n1Ss Javed Jaghai talks about human rights in Jamaica: youtube.com
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=43373 Police Federation awaits word from Cabinet: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Cops-kill-fireman–brother-and-cousin_13873042 Cops kill fireman, brother and cousin: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Murderous-rampage-in-Lucea_13877726 Murderous rampage in Lucea: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130311/lead/lead5.html Defense attorney troubled by lottery scam law: Gleaner
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads-112/33244 Government pushes public awareness on lottery scam impact: Jamaica Information Service
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/govt-dismisses-claims-of-being-slow-in-addressing-lottery-scam?utm_source=rjr&utm_medium=news Government dismisses claims of being slow in addressing lottery scam: RJR News
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=43472 Opposition supports extradition of scammers: Gleaner
http://www.aging.senate.gov/hearing_detail.cfm?id=340977& United States Senate Special Committee on Aging – Hearing on Lotto Scam: http://www.aging.senate.gov/ – Video and audio here: http://www.aging.senate.gov/hearing_detail.cfm?id=339898&
http://anniepaul.net/2013/03/15/doubletake-first-mattathias-schwartz-now-dan-rather-what-ails-jamaican-media/ Doubletake: First Mattathias Schwartz, now Dan Rather – what ails Jamaican media? anniepaul.net
http://chatychaty.com/2013/03/dan-rather-talks-about-investigating-the-jamaican-lottery-scam/ Dan Rather talks about investigating the Jamaican lottery scam: chatychaty.com
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130315/letters/letters2.html Americans continue to clean our house: Letter to Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/editorial/Make-the-scammers–lives-hell_13860009 Make the scammers’ lives hell: Observer editorial
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads-122/33255 Debate on lottery scam bill to continue on March 21: Jamaica Information Service
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Lottery-scammers-are-not-operating-alone_13865327 Lottery scammers are not operating alone: Mark Wignall column/Sunday Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Eradicate-the-culture-of-impunity-around-the-lottery-scam_13872254 Eradicate the culture of impunity around the lottery scam: Claude Robinson column/Sunday Observer
Dudus Part#2 – The Jamaican Lotto Scam extradition requests. (commonsenseja.wordpress.com) Dudus Part 2: The Jamaican lotto scam extradition requests: commonsenseja.wordpress.com
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/dpp-advises-police-to-charge-world-wise-operators DPP advises police to charge World Wise operators: RJR News
http://www.caribjournal.com/2013/03/15/jamaica-waives-visa-requirements-for-eastern-european-tourists/ Jamaica waives visa requirements for Eastern European tourists: caribjournal.com
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130313/letters/letters4.html Gangster country: Letter to the Editor/Gleaner
http://jamaica-star.com/thestar/20130313/news/news2.html Cops fight at police station: Jamaica Star
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130317/lead/lead2.html Businessman held in money laundering, murder probe: Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130317/lead/lead5.html Help needed: West Kingston’s plea: Sunday Gleaner
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/fears-of-a-child-trafficking-ring-dismissed-by-police Fears of a child trafficking ring dismissed by police: RJR News
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Baby-Madda–story-come-back-again_13865068 ”Baby Madda” story come back again: Barbara Gloudon column/Jamaica Observer
http://rhrealitycheck.org/article/2013/03/12/an-open-letter-to-caribbean-men-from-caribbean-women/?goback=%2Egde_118853_member_223341878#sthash%2EIhg06iZI%2Edpuf An open letter to Caribbean men from Caribbean women: rhrealitycheck.org
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130316/lead/lead6.html Nicola Hamilton on a mission to empower women: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130314/cleisure/cleisure3.html Do homosexuals have a place in Jamaica? Jaevion Nelson column/Gleaner
http://jamaica-star.com/thestar/20130316/news/news1.html Men beaten for “funny behavior”: Jamaica Star
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130315/letters/letters4.html Haitians were treated fairly: Letter to the Gleaner from Jamaican immigration chief
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130311/lead/lead2.html New China road deal: Gleaner
http://delanoseiv.wordpress.com/2013/03/12/tourism-in-major-decline-concerns-about-crisis/ Tourism in major decline: Concerns about crisis: delanoseiv.wordpress.com
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/rural-st-andrew-water-sources-fall-short-of-who-guidelines Rural St. Andrew water sources fall short of WHO guidelines: RJR News
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130313/lead/lead4.html Residents say bills too high: Gleaner
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/controversial-cuban-light-bulb-project-to-be-reintroduced Controversial Cuban light bulb project to be reintroduced: RJR News
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads-103/33221 Growth in export earnings: Jamaica Information Service
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Only-25–of-NHT-contributors-have-benefitted-in-37-years_13863877 Only 25% of NHT contributors have benefitted in 37 years: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/Too-many-hypocrites-in-Jamaica_13800895 Too many hypocrites in Jamaica: Letter to the Editor/Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-star.com/thestar/20130313/news/news1.html 68-year-old killed in shark attack: Jamaica Star
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130316/business/business3.html Turning trash into treasure: Biochar oven: Gleaner
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/trip-to-chavez-funeral-no-cost-to-government Trip to Chavez funeral no cost to government: RJR News
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Politicians-must-sacrifice-too_13626549 Politicians must sacrifice too: Francis J Mafar op-ed/Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Manley-Duncan–Shift-to–a-sacred-place-_13805888 Manley-Duncan: Shift to a “sacred place”: Jean Lowrie-Chin column/Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/magazines/allwoman/Change-is-possible—change-is-happening_13805613 Change is possible and change is happening: All Woman/Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/What-can-we-do-when-the–mother–school-system-fails_13782498 What can we do when the “mother” school system fails? Tashion Hewitt op-ed/Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130316/lead/lead3.html The wisdom of Old Folly – St. Ann residents unite for model community: Gleaner
http://carolynjoycooper.wordpress.com/2013/03/13/michael-freestylee-thompson-exhibits-at-the-university-of-the-west-indies-museum/ Michael “Freestylee” Thompson exhibits at the University of the West Indies Museum
http://www.tallawahmagazine.com/2013/03/home-front-christopher-john-farley.html Christopher John Farley keeps an open mind in life and art: Tallawahmagazine.com
Xaymaca is the Arawak (Taino) name for Jamaica. It means ”Land of Wood and Water.”
The Women’s Resource and Outreach Centre (WROC) has a small and unpretentious office in Kingston. And it has an outstretched arm, too – eastwards, over the struggling community of Bull Bay and its dusty environs to the rich pastures, rivers and hillsides of St. Thomas. WROC’s outreach program, which seeks to empower women (and men) in rural communities, grew from the organization’s Sustainable Livelihoods program eastablished after the devastation of Hurricane Ivan – a particularly vicious storm – in 2004. But WROC has actually been working in several communities in St. Thomas since 2001.
Sustainability is a key word here – and another one which came to mind when I visited the area last week is resilience. Resilience in the deepest sense of the word: drawing on reserves of strength, stretching and getting pulled out of shape, and “bouncing back.” But the bouncing back might not be a complete recovery; after a hurricane, things are never quite the same again, and never will be. One might perhaps be unable to return to how things were before. But one has armed oneself with skills, with resources – and with the strength – to be able to create and carve out an altered, adjusted life. It is about no longer depending on those elements that were – but that may never be (quite the same) again.
These are the complexities of climate change. As we headed out of the city, there were signs everywhere. As we crossed the Harbour View Bridge, I remembered the destruction of Tropical Storms: Nicole (2010) and Gustav, two years earlier. Last week, a trickle of water had worn a narrow path along one side of the wide, dry riverbed of the Hope River, which opens up into a rough and restless stretch of the sea coast on the other side of the long Palisadoes spit that takes you to Kingston’s airport. The Donald Quarrie High School, named after the Olympic champion athlete who came from Harbour View, sits precariously, on a flat area, now much too close to the sea. Huge waves flooded the school compound and several classrooms just last year during Hurricane Sandy; the school wants the Chinese engineering company that built up the Palisadoes spit to build them a sea wall. In 2007, Hurricane Dean stirred the waves to such fury that the sea knocked a huge hole in the schools’s Industrial Arts Department; while not far away, a once desirable housing development (Caribbean Terrace) has been steadily torn apart by successive storms since Hurricane Ivan. You can still see some of the solid concrete homes, overturned by the strength of the waves, knocked sideways like abandoned small toys.
Did you notice how many storm names I mentioned in that last paragraph?
The main coastal road took us across the dry Yallahs River, where as you cross the now-raised fording you look inland to the spread of hills, dark with forests. But the palette is different now; the landscape of St. Thomas is colored auburn, blond. As the road passed close to the shore at Roselle, we noticed that bulldozers were busy, piling up huge stones where once there was a rocky but attractive fishing beach. The ocean was always strong and lively here, with “white horses” piled up to the horizon. But we used to stop sometimes at the beach, where fishermen sold their catch. On the other side of the narrow road, a delicious waterfall slides over rocks, creating a natural (but not at all private) shower for local residents. That waterfall was small and modest last week, barely enough for a good wash.
At last, we reached the quiet village of Trinityville, having turned off the road and driven through pastures that showed the effects of prolonged drought. An arc of irrigation water hung over brown fields. As we drew closer, the exquisite rounded, green hills that I admired on my last visit came into view, now sunburned and dry. The several rivers we crossed en route were low, their waters trickling among dry boulders.
But when we arrived in Trinityville, they had enjoyed a shower of rain that morning. The air seemed to want to turn into water; humidity dripped from the trees. We met Ernest Grant, a goat farmer who had benefited from WROC’s sustainability project, with two of his animals. Guided by WROC’s energetic outreach officer Nkrumah, we then visited a greenhouse, tucked away among tangled foliage behind some houses, and flanked by large black water tanks (a regular feature of our landscape these days). There we met Lenford Brown and Clinton Bailey. They were growing 426 tomato plants in the greenhouse, which cost around J$1 million. They were also starting a seedling nursery, where young sweet pepper seedlings were already flourishing, with the assistance of the Digicel Foundation; delicious romaine lettuce was also growing nearby.
Mr. Brown and Mr. Bailey were hoping for more rain. They would like to have more greenhouses, expand their operations. They are also hoping to expand the market for their produce, although they already sell to local “higglers” (traders) and to those outside the community who sell in Kingston’s markets. The logistics of selling to hotels are not workable; roads in the area are poor, and it would simply take too long for the produce to reach its destination. There are no large (or even small) hotels nearby. The local market fluctuates somewhat, but it is there.
Mr. Brown, an astute and highly-focused graduate of the nearby Robert Lightbourne High School, has a business plan. He believes in value-added products. He has helped develop a tomato jam or ketchup. WROC also launched a delicious guava ketchup (sauce) at the Denbigh Agricultural Show in 2010; the project was funded by the European Union and Christian Aid to provide income to the rural residents. Now, guava is a resilient and abundant crop in the area, growing virtually wild; and it is nutrition-rich, with many possibilities for value-added products.
We moved on, climbing a little further to the village of Somerset, set a little deeper in the hills above the gently chiming Somerset River. There we met Joslyn (not sure if I got the spelling of his name right), who oversees another WROC project sponsored by the European Union, to build check dams.
What are check dams, you may ask? Well, they are small dams, built across gullies or water channels or ditches, to “check” the water flow. During storms or heavy rains, the water gushes madly down the hillsides, sweeping everything in its path. Crops, forested areas, even homes are damaged and destroyed, and entire hillsides with precious soils can be eroded, washing away into nothing and swamping the valleys below. The check dam slows the waters down; it creates pools, and the overflow slips over – often to another check dam below, which again slows the water and prevents that furious, destructive torrent.
From Somerset, we walked up the hill to one of the check dams under construction. On the way up, we saw the kind of damage that the dams are designed to counteract: the hillside torn away by landslides, exposing tree roots; and a house that had been abandoned years before when the hillside pushed down on it.
And here was the dam. The men joked loudly as they worked, shoveling cement under a bright blue tarpaulin. Another man walked up the steep gully from the site of another dam to be built lower down. At the end of the path, we met a group of women, sturdy and strong, who gave us a demonstration of how they carry river stones from the huge pile at their feet down to the dam, hand to hand, to be cemented into the structure. This turned out to be an interactive project; the whole group of us joined in, passing the large stones along. The visitors found this amusing; the women were serious in their work.
The higher slopes were a dull brown, with bright green fans of bamboo still flourishing where other trees had been cut down. Farmers are moving higher up in the hills to grow their cash crops, Joslyn told us – ackee, coffee, pear. It is cooler up there and the rainfall is better. Nevertheless, we saw many fruit trees in the village - “fruit trees are always cared for.” Mules and donkeys are still valuable in these parts, we were told; there are no roads – at least none suitable for cars – and to reach their farming plots on the higher slopes, farmers must hike for two hours or more on the animals’ backs. They have to do it. It’s a change for them, but they are adapting.
And what of the native trees, the hardwoods that used to flourish in this beautiful watershed of the island? There are very few remaining. During the 1980s, the Forestry Industry Development Company (FIDCO) operated in the area. According to locals and environmentalists alike, FIDCO’s logging operations, while replanting with fast-growing pine trees, did untold damage to Jamaica’s forests. The state agency, established in 1978, was finally wound up in 2000. A reforestation project is now under way; but again, to make the young trees take root and grow properly, proper irrigation is needed. Without water, the wood cannot flourish. And it is hard, very hard, to repair the damage.
We walked back down the hill for lunch, passing a small office made from a container, where a U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer, Sarah Marshall works on a number of community environmental awareness projects. She’s doing great work, especially with the schoolchildren, we were told. As we ate our flavorful chicken and rice and peas and drank delicious fresh carrot and orange juice, delicately flavored with ginger, I reflected on the mysterious, quiet beauty of Jamaican country life.
Times change, the climate is changing; but I strongly feel that the women and men of Trinityville and Somerset are ready for whatever the future brings. With the ongoing support of organizations such as WROC and with adequate funding, these communities can face the future. They understand what is needed, and they are ready. I am filled with admiration for them all.
Thank you to WROC, and to the visitors from the Seven Hills Outreach Center in Boston, Massachusetts for allowing me to hitch a ride on their bus. And especially, my grateful thanks to the people of Trinityville and Somerset, in the living, breathing hills and valleys of St. Thomas.
You should go and visit them soon.
http://wrocjamaica.org/focus-areas/sustainable-livelihoods: WROC Sustainable Livelihoods
http://www.forestry.gov.jm Forestry Department, Jamaica
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E7APrx74afw Hurricane Sandy damages Donald Quarrie High: Jamaica Observer/video
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20100704/news/news5.html Caribbean Terrace a shell: Gleaner, 2010
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20110901/cook/cook1.html Check out Beechwood’s Gourmet Guava Sauce: Gleaner, 2011
http://www.jamaicaelections.com/general/2002/articles/20021016-5.html The dawning of truth: article by environmentalist Peter Espeut/Gleaner
During a visit to the tourist resort of Negril in Jamaica several years ago, I ventured out in a glass-bottom boat. Snorkeling and diving make me claustrophobic, so this is the only way that I can really see what is happening under the surface.
I had hoped to see glowing, flourishing and healthy coral reefs; I saw very little of that. However, we did see, for a beautiful instant, a sea turtle. He (or she) sparkled in the fractured sunlight, like a freshly painted toy, suspended from an invisible string. I wondered how he/she survived in an environment that seemed almost devoid of fish. But it was an exquisite moment that I will never forget.
At a meeting last month with representatives of the United Nations Environment Programme‘s (UNEP) Caribbean Environment Programme in Kingston, we heard from Alessandra Vanzella-Khouri, Program Officer for the Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife (SPAW) treaty – the only regional and legally binding biodiversity treaty for the Wider Caribbean. I noted in my first article that the Wider Caribbean includes all the coastlines bordering on the Caribbean, including the Gulf of Mexico. In fact, it is four million square kilometers of deep water basins, estuaries, islands, sandbanks and coral reefs. SPAW is concerned with the life that exists in this beautiful, but far from pristine environment.
Here’s a bleak fact: 76 per cent – over three-quarters – of all species in this region are threatened by habitat loss or changing habitat. Over-fishing, unplanned coastal development and pollution (which I discussed in the first article) are wreaking havoc on our marine life – fish, sharks, lobsters, whales, dolphins and all the much tinier creatures too. All six species of sea turtles in the Caribbean are endangered, largely because people collect their eggs from the beaches where they nest.
Let’s go back to the United Nations’ SPAW Protocol for a moment. The Protocol Concerning Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife to the Convention for the Protection and Development of the Marine Environment of the Wider Caribbean Region was adopted at a conference in Kingston, Jamaica in 1990 and entered into force in 2000. Ambassador Don Mills (Jamaica) was elected President of the conference. How many countries in the region have signed and ratified the agreement? Sixteen so far, as indicated on the map.
You will notice that the name of Jamaica, the conference host in 1990, is not among the sixteen. You will also note that Cuba, the Dominican Republic and most of our Eastern Caribbean neighbors have ratified it. But there are benefits to be acquired – tangible benefits. It’s more than just a piece of paper. The pluses to ratifying the agreement are greatest in the field of the Marine Protected Areas, where there is much work to be done. In fact, Ms. Vanzella-Khouri revealed that there are eighteen protected areas from the Caribbean recently listed under the SPAW Protocol to be included in a regional cooperation programme. There are over 300 marine protected areas established in the region.
As Ms. Vanzella-Khouri pointed out, it is “increasingly difficult” to raise funds from the UN and elsewhere for local projects, as long as Jamaica is not a party to the agreement. The lack of ratification appears to indicate a lack of commitment to the goals of the Protocol and an unwillingness to co-operate as an important player in the region; or that is how I see it.
Some projects are under way; there is a sustainable management project on Pedro Cays, including training and capacity building; there is a Sea Turtle Recovery Action Plan and a Manatee Action Plan. But if Jamaica were to ratify SPAW, so much more could be achieved. Jamaica could obtain training; sustainable tourism and fisheries programs; technical co-operation with regional partners; funded participation at all SPAW meetings and workshops; access to specific guidelines, materials and research in order to meet the requirements of the Convention on Biological Diversity and other international agreements; and all kinds of support, (including financial) for much-needed conservation, awareness, community participation and best practice programs.
Jamaica is out on a limb. It is not a part of this international network of knowledge, co-operation and most importantly – action projects that will benefit us all.
As I noted in a previous blog post (and this seems so obvious to me) the beautiful Caribbean Sea, on which much of our livelihood and wellbeing depends, needs our love and nurturing. It is our birthright. And what is hugely important is that all those nations that border on the Caribbean, whether large or small, must co-operate and support each other to protect this precious jewel that we have inherited. Its waters lap all of our shores. We are all inter-connected.
There is “a lot at stake for Jamaica in SPAW,” said Ms. Vanzella-Khouri with a note of slight frustration in her voice. Jamaica can become part of this regional network of co-operation; at the moment it is not benefiting. There are no financial obligations required on Jamaica’s part, and it is already meeting some of the objectives of SPAW, she added.
You may say: Look, Jamaica is in a crippling economic crisis, with almost non-existent growth and low productivity; so why should “environmental issues” be of any relevance, right now? We have bigger fish to fry, metaphorically speaking.
Well, I would suggest that the environment in the Caribbean has a particularly important bearing on its economy. There is the Great God of Tourism, to which our governments bow. How can tourism thrive when the seas are polluted with untreated sewage, and snorkelers and divers can only find dying coral reefs with a scattering of small fish? There are over 20,000 fishermen in Jamaica according to the Food and Agriculture Organization; how many are now struggling to survive, with some turning to illegal ways to make a living? And how much more could our citizens – and generations to come – benefit from a healthy environment?
And here are some figures to back this up: The total value of Jamaica’s ecosystems is an estimated US$245 million, according to a 2009 report by the World Resources Institute (WRI) in Washington, DC (do check out their fascinating and informative website). The value of dive tourism, fishing and coastal production is between US$3 – 4.6 billion per year. And in the past twenty-five years, Jamaica has lost US$1.3 billion in revenues from reef fisheries, says the WRI.
So why, you may ask, has Jamaica not taken advantage of these benefits that have been on offer for thirteen years or so – at no cost to the Jamaican government? We have heard this phrase many times before: “Lack of political will.” In other words, our leaders, stuck in their short-term thinking, don’t really care. That is just my view.
But we Jamaicans must care, mustn’t we?
P.S. I must stress, again, that the Caribbean Environment Programme office can provide journalists. researchers and anyone interested in the environment with a wealth of information, statistics and analysis of all these issues and much more, related directly to Jamaica and the Caribbean. Don’t hesitate to contact them! They would welcome your interest.
Contact info: Alessandra Vanzella-Khouri, Program Officer, SPAW: firstname.lastname@example.org. Ms. Pietra Brown, Communications Officer/United Nations Volunteer Email: email@example.com. UNEP CEP, 14-20 Port Royal Street Kingston, Jamaica. Tel. # 876 922 9267 Fax # 876 922 9292
Related articles and websites:
http://www.cep.unep.org/cartagena-convention/spaw-protocol SPAW Protocol: UNEP Caribbean Environment Programme website
http://www.cep.unep.org UNEP Caribbean Environment Programme website
Pollution Flowing from Land to Sea: The UN Caribbean Environment Programme, Part 1 petchary.wordpress.com
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle petchary.wordpress.com
http://petchary.wordpress.com/2013/02/03/p-s-happy-world-wetlands-day-february-2-2013/ Happy World Wetlands Day! petchary.wordpress.com
http://petchary.wordpress.com/2013/01/25/5498/ Two new environmental films by Jamaican filmmaker Esther Figueroa: petchary
http://petchary.wordpress.com/2012/07/21/a-softer-blue-the-caribbean-sea/ A softer blue: The Caribbean Sea: petchary.wordpress.com
http://petchary.wordpress.com/2012/07/12/our-beautiful-caribbean-sea/ Our beautiful Caribbean Sea: petchary.wordpress.com
Coral comeback: Reef ‘seeding’ in the Caribbean miamiherald.com
Charity of the Week eastaltonrotary.blogspot.com
http://www.conserveturtles.org Sea Turtle Conservancy website
http://www.wri.org World Resources Institute website
http://www.wri.org/press/2011/06/press-release-new-analysis-coral-reefs-provide-great-value-jamaicas-economy New Analysis: Coral reefs provide great value to Jamaica’s economy: WRI press release
http://pdf.wri.org/working_papers/coastal_capital_jamaica_summary.pdf Coastal capital: Jamaica – WRI Special Paper
http://www.fao.org/fishery/countrysector/FI-CP_JM/en Food & Agriculture Organization Jamaica Country Profile/Fisheries
http://www.cep.unep.org/news/govt-losing-billions Government losing billions: Denise Dennis report/Jamaica Observer
“Water, thou hast no taste, no color, no odor; canst not be defined, art relished while ever mysterious. Not necessary to life, but rather life itself, thou fillest us with a gratification that exceeds the delight of the senses.”
While some of my readers, I know, are enduring blizzards, lashed with rain storms and knee-deep in snowdrifts, our island has lapsed into a somnolent drought. The days are long, quiet and unusually warm for early February. The hills are sere. Grey clouds occasionally drift overhead, offering nothing but a little shade from the sun. The mockingbird sings determinedly in the hush of midday. Our neighbor insists on making bonfires early in the morning. This morning, after I filled the bird bath, three white winged doves arrived and settled down, resting in the cool water. The National Water Commission is locking off water at nights and in many areas, all through the day. There is a “high pressure ridge.”
We need rain, and plenty of it.
A day trip to YS River and YS Falls in St. Elizabeth, Jamaica yesterday was, to say the least, refreshing. Here are a few of the photos I took there. All of my photos are posted in my photostream on Flickr at http://www.flickr.com/photos/bananakatie/ and there is a link to my Flickr account in the right sidebar of this blog.
Two things I appreciated about YS Falls (apart from the beauty of the place): environmentally friendly composting toilets (we should have more of these in rural areas); and the Gift Shop brews a mean cup of coffee – good, strong Blue Mountain.
http://www.jamaicamix.com/JamaicaCultureAndHeritage/StElizabeth.html St. Elizabeth, Jamaica – history: jamaicamix.com
http://www.digjamaica.com/st_elizabeth St. Elizabeth: diGJamaica.com
http://petchary.wordpress.com/2013/02/03/p-s-happy-world-wetlands-day-february-2-2013/ Happy World Wetlands Day! petchary.wordpress.com
http://petchary.wordpress.com/2013/02/02/pollution-flowing-from-land-to-sea-the-un-caribbean-environment-programme-part-1/ Pollution flowing from land to sea: The UN Caribbean Environment Programme, Part 1: petchary.wordpress.com
http://petchary.wordpress.com/2013/01/25/5498/ Two new environmental films by independent filmmaker Esther Figueroa: petchary.wordpress.com
I know that we city-dwellers (or most of us) have been spoilt. After Hurricane Sandy whisked across the island, tearing up trees and tearing down light poles, we have been the lucky ones (despite our loud complaints that we didn’t get power back the following day…) Now it is a week away, and after our determined attempts to sweep up the yard it now looks reasonably tidy. Garbage and forlorn piles of foliage now fringe Kingston’s roadsides. We are not expecting a garbage truck any time soon. There are only twenty for the entire city, says the government agency. I suppose they weren’t expecting a hurricane? No warnings?
So, my husband whipped up a little something over the weekend, which went down very well. My dear brother and his Australian wife recently gave us a marvelous cookbook, “Bill’s Sydney Food: The Original and Classic Recipe Collection.” I refer you to page 25: Sweet Corn Fritters with Roast Tomato and Bacon. Well, we skipped the bacon, but… for a first attempt, it was pretty darn good. The cookbook also does lunch and dinner recipes too, so we plan to delve further into its yummy depths..
Why Bill’s, you may ask? When we were staying in the great city of Sydney three years ago, in the cozy neighborhood of Darlinghurst, the bohemian-chic little hotel we were staying at referred us there for breakfast. We had just arrived, at six in the morning, after a twelve-hour flight from San Francisco. We were feeling light-headed and slightly crazed after the longest flight we had ever taken, on the largest plane we had ever seen. Bill’s breakfast brought us back down to earth, deliciously. We stuck with Bill’s the day after, and the day after that. The freshness and simplicity of the food, and the cool but light-filled restaurant and pleasant service easily seduced us. We were good for our days of sight-seeing.
More on post-Sandy pleasures in my next post!
http://www.bills.com.au (Bill’s marvelous website)
http://www.amazon.com/Sydney-Food-Commemorative-Bill-Granger/dp/1741965543 (Bill’s Sydney Food)
The title of this blog post is influenced by the fact that I am have become locked into the Euro 2012 tournament for the past three days. I am just watching the passionate Croatians getting the better of the dogged Irish. It has been (and will remain) a complete distraction for me, as I am a hopelessly addicted football (soccer) fan. If I was to give a score for this past week, however, I would say that it might be something along the lines of Jamaican Politicians 3, Jamaican People 1, although the people’s goal was really an “own goal.” And in the case of our home-grown don Christopher “Dudus” Coke – well, the U.S. Government kept a clean sheet, 1-0.
Mr. Coke received a 23-year sentence in a New York court this week, for racketeering and assault. This prompted local journalists to rush down to the tired and dusty Tivoli Gardens neighborhood in West Kingston, where large bullet holes still pock-mark some of the buildings after the security forces’ May 2010 assault on the area. This is where, in the “good/bad old days,” Mr. Coke and his “Presidential Click” held sway. And yet, Mr. Coke’s criminal career, his flight, pursuit, capture, extradition and now incarceration will linger on in Jamaica, like the sickening smell of a dead cat in our garbage bin even after it had been removed. (Yes, our dogs killed a cat one night last week. They have a penchant for hunting. I am sorry, cat-lovers…) The residents’ responses to Mr. Coke’s sentence ranged from angry tears to shrugged shoulders.
Coincidentally, I think, Mr. Mattathias Schwartz of the New Yorker magazine produced another piece on the Tivoli Gardens “incursion” (this is the euphemism used by the Jamaican media for a military attack on Tivoli Gardens, when security forces pursued Mr. Coke and over seventy people were killed). See the link to Mr. Schwartz’s article below. His first article on the Tivoli Gardens attack, published in December 2011, “revealed” information that everyone in Kingston already knew – that a surveillance plane of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security circled over Kingston; embarrassingly, then National Security Minister Dwight Nelson flatly denied what we had all seen with our own eyes. The second Schwartz article alleges that, according to the U.S. Government, the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) “fired mortars” at Tivoli Gardens; and the JDF conceded that indeed they did. “Bombs on Tivoli” shouted the Gleaner’s headline on Friday; and they got another confirmation from the JDF, who noted that the so-called “bombs” did not target people or buildings. Now, the U.S. Government plan to search for Mr. Coke’s assets, amounting to a possible US$1.5 million to be forfeited. It’s all about the Benjamins, as a hip hop artist once said…
The Budget Debate dragged on to its inevitable conclusion: some more tinkering with the taxes, resulting in the Budget, Mark Two. Remember, Politicians vs People and, as always, the Politicians won. The local media dutifully broadcast and reported on two lengthy speeches, firstly by Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller and then by Finance Minister Peter Phillips – redux. In the background, government Members of Parliament twiddled their writing implements, adjusted the collars of their fashionable outfits, browsed their blackberries, and even stuffed food in their mouths. They kept their right hands at the ready though, so that they could thump their desks in thunderous approval of every announcement or political point scored by the speakers. Journalists remained at their posts, putting all other news on hold, tweeting and reporting small chunks of the changes and announcements – all of which could have been neatly wrapped up in a half hour presentation by Dr. Phillips. But, the public and media endured a hesitant, labored (almost tired) presentation, punctuated frequently by witty remarks, muttered insults and loud guffaws from both sides of the house. The Prime Minister, whose speech took place the day before Dr. Phillips’ revisions, consisted of 25% accusing the former administration of creating Jamaica’s economic woes; 35% ranting about child abuse and how “disgraceful” and “shameful” it is; another 25% of interruptions, etc; and about 15% actual substance. As broadcaster Dionne Jackson-Miller complained in her blog, why are these speeches so long?
Some of the “softening” measures adopted in Budget Version Two were the lifting of General Consumption Tax on school books “approved by the Ministry of Education.” Having worked for eight years in the book business, I know full well that we are already approaching the dreaded “school book season,” when anxious parents descend on the bookstores with book lists in hand for the upcoming academic year starting September. Of course, I agree with Mr. Steadman Fuller of Kingston Bookshop, who said on radio last week that the idea of producing an approved book list out of the hundreds of titles that appear on school lists each year by the middle of this month is completely impossible. And is the Bible, which appears on almost every school list, an approved text book? By the way, tax remains on beef patties.
And as for the child abuse issue, as columnist and common-sense businessman James Moss-Solomon observed in the Sunday Observer today, “The poor of this country are no more intentionally depraved than the animals on television that must find ways to survive even as their natural habitat is shrinking.” It’s all a part of the general desperation that afflicts large proportions of the country’s population – including the Prime Minister’s own constituency: Majesty Gardens, for example, which was prominently featured in recent television reports. One could not find a less appropriate name for that place.
Meanwhile, in the Land of Bling it seems anything goes (see link below). Everywhere one looks there are models strutting and posing for Caribbean Fashion Week. Last week I asked where the actual economic value was in this “fashion industry.” How much is it worth – how many jobs in Jamaica does it create? I would love to know…
And last night, our very own sprint champion crashed his car again – just around daybreak in Kingston’s Half Way Tree – just a little fender bender, returning from a “popular party.” He is “at home sleeping” now, his publicist says. The inexorable build-up to the London Olympics seems to go on for ever; surely the athletes’ jewelry boxes must be full of diamonds by now?
But several bouquets are waiting to be handed out… Perhaps the Reggae Boyz would prefer something more macho, but congratulations to Theodore Whitmore and the Jamaican football team for their win in the first game of their qualifying campaign for the next World Cup. Pity you had to let in the Guatemalan goal in extra time, though. But 2-1 is, indeed, a respectable score.
Well now! Ms. Janet Silvera of the Gleaner, always the epitome of Jamaican warmth and hospitality, is the first Jamaican to win the Marcia Vickery-Wallace Memorial Award for excellence in travel tourism.
Talking of Montego Bay (Ms. Silvera’s neck of the woods) I was pleased to learn that its Free Zone is set for a a 50,000 square foot expansion - “bursting at the seams” as my favorite Government Minister Phillip Paulwell put it – and that LIME is to give up the telecoms monopoly in the Zone. LIME Chairman Chris Dehring noted, “This partnership with the Government for the development of the ICT and telecoms services signals our total embrace of competition in the sector.” That is good; and I hope for the sake of competition in Jamaica on the whole that LIME does not suffer further great losses as it competes with Digicel. Excellent work Minister Paulwell too, on moving forward with net billing and awarding licenses to those who wish to sell their excess electricity back to the grid. Woot woot!
A pat on the back for another Minister – Justice Minister Mark Golding – for taking a step in the right direction with the formation of the Major Organized Crime and Anti-Corruption Task Force (MOCA – a new acronym to remember) on Tuesday. This single anti-corruption body makes a lot of sense to me. Let’s hope the whole process does not take too long; a committee is to advise on this matter by the end of the month which is a good timeframe. After that, it will go to Cabinet. This is something that the Contractor General had recommended to the Government and Opposition more than two years ago.
I am also impressed by Jamaica’s first “all-green” residence, somewhere in St. Elizabeth I believe. It is quite a large house, and completely “off the grid” – swimming pool and all.
Another positive… The Independent Commission of Investigation (INDECOM) that investigates police abuses appears to be gaining confidence, since the Supreme Court ruling in its favor.It has taken over the investigation into one of the more disturbing incidents (well, they are all disturbing) – the shooting death of sixteen-year-old Vanessa Kirkland in a car on March 20. Three policemen implicated in the shooting are to face identification parades next week. Meanwhile, the tireless and determined head of Jamaicans for Justice Dr. Carolyn Gomes joined the residents of Jarrett Lane in a peaceful demonstration on Friday evening in protest at the shooting death of Police Youth Club member Kavorn Schue a week ago. Head of the police Community Safety Branch Senior Superintendent James Forbes, a man whose sincerity I do not question, has a very hard job now as he seeks to mend fences in the community.
It’s tough being a talk show host. Ms. Barbara Gloudon patiently endured an onslaught of calls from irate rum-drinkers on Thursday. They were furious about the sudden increase in the price of white rum – which, like rice and peas, chicken and beef patties, is a Jamaican staple. Ms. Gloudon defended herself valiantly – the callers seemed to expect her to explain the many and various prices of large and small bottles. Let’s hope that things settle down and that “unscrupulous persons” (to use Government jargon) are not pricing their goods over the top (and often not handing over the Government tax – this does happen). Yes, you know who you are…
Time is getting on and there is more to talk about of course. Last but not least, however, may I send appreciation and thanks to Miss Jamaica Universe 2012, Ms. Chantal Zaky, who will be supporting the fund-raising efforts of Jamaica AIDS Support for Life (JASL). Ms. Zaky will hold a press conference tomorrow (Monday June 11) at JASL offices on Upper Musgrave Avenue, Kingston at 12:00 noon. Please come along and support. More on this anon, but suffice it to say, for now, that JASL are quietly doing incredible work with those Jamaicans who are most vulnerable to HIV/AIDS and who are routinely marginalized by society. They need much more funds to be able to continue this heroic work. PLEASE support them in any way you can; financial donations will be most gratefully received. Visit their website at http://www.jasforlife.org/html/.
- Euro 2012: Why Can’t America Get Behind the World’s Most Popular Sport? (bleacherreport.com)
- It’s OK to like football and soccer. Really. (independentmail.com)
- Euro 2012: Embrace the Bar Life and Enjoy Games with Fellow Fans (bleacherreport.com)
- As Jamaican Drug Lord is Sentenced, U.S. Still Silent on Massacre (newyorker.com)
- http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2011/12/12/111212fa_fact_schwartz: A Massacre in Jamaica (mattatiasschwartz.com)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120610/lead/lead1.html: Dudus dollars wanted (Jamaica Gleaner)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120608/lead/lead1.html: Bombs on Tivoli (Jamaica Gleaner)
- http://newsandviewsbydjmillerja.wordpress.com/2012/06/07/memo-to-jamaican-politicians-long-speeches-bad-idea/: Dionne Jackson Miller’s blog
- http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Tax-package-softened_11634098: Tax package softened (Jamaica Observer)
- http://www.kingstonstyle.com/2012/06/lisa-hyper-never-the-less-at-cfw-2012/: Lisa Hyper at Caribbean Fashion Week
- http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Population–popularity–and-politics_11649986: James Moss-Solomon column
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120610/news/news4.html: Janet Silvera receives major tourism award
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/videos/video.php?id=466: Anger over Jarrett Lane police shooting lingers
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120605/lead/lead23.html: Deeply wounded (Jamaica Gleaner)
- The British officer who changed policing in Jamaica (guardian.co.uk)
In the state of Denmark, yes. A Jamaican version of “Hamlet” would be a challenge for any playwright (who would be our Ophelia, for example?) but let’s just insert the name of our hapless island in there, for Denmark, anyway.
Last week was celebrated (if that’s the word) as International Anti-Corruption Day. And oh, it is always so much easier to stand up and make a fine speech about corruptionthan it is to actually do something about it.
Our local anti-corruption warrior brought together two leading politicians, with the aim of pointing their noses in the direction of campaign finance reform, for a start. Fine, as far as it goes, although both political parties are wreathed in ambivalence on that particular topic. We won’t hold our breath, will we?
I won’t quote all the lofty words that were spoken by the speakers – I am sure they all meant well. A police official spent less time beating about the bush. He told us that most Jamaican police officers fail lie-detector tests, and that corruption is still a major challenge.
But as UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon says, “corruption afflicts all countries” – although ironically, it hardly afflicts the aforementioned Denmark, which is the second squeaky-cleanest country in the world after New Zealand, according to Transparency International‘s Corruption Perceptions Index. Times have changed since Shakespeare’s day. By the way, Jamaica is 86th on TI’s Index, so semi-rotten by global standards. I wonder about a country like Somalia, which festers at the bottom; have Somalis completely given up on their society and their economy?
The Petchary has this deep, gut feeling that, well – perhaps we really can’t do much about corruption. We can spend millions on anti-corruption conferences, we can speak for hours, we can conduct anti-corruption campaigns, we can run for office on an anti-corruption platform, we can come up with action plans. We can wag our fingers and say how terribly bad it is, and hope someone is listening. But it will go on. It might go underground, but it will be like an underground stream that never runs dry and that wells up when the rain falls.
The image of corruption as a stream, tainting everything in its path, is indeed a popular one. But a more appropriate image to me is that of a stagnant pool of water. As I pass the dismal gullies and drains of the city of Kingston, it is the kind of pollution that makes me quickly turn my head away. It is the stench that hangs over inner-city communities, especially on a hot and windless summer’s day – one that the residents have become accustomed to. They live with it.
It is a filthy pool – sometimes sickly-green with algae or colored with chemicals, sometimes with the greyish film of untreated sewage. It contains plastic bottles, and “scandal” bags (for the non-Jamaican, this is a black plastic shopping bag) containing something we would rather not know about, and the urine of rats and breeding mosquitoes.
The very deep did rot: O Christ!/That ever this should be/Yea, slimy things did crawl with legs/Upon the slimy sea.
It’s the word “upon” that I always find disturbing. The rot is so deep and thick that these creatures (“things”) cannot swim in it, they slither on the surface.
Truly rotten, like the ship that sails on it. The ship of state, perhaps.
Talking of politics, here in Jamaica the election campaign grinds on, bedecked with flags on every light pole, buxom dancing women, the eternal vuvuzelas, and the Green and Orange Ones hugging and squeezing each other for the cameras, hoping to appear on TV or in the newspapers. They call that little charade “a show of unity.”
It’s a show, all right. More anon. Still two long weeks to go, and I’ve stopped counting the days until Christmas.
- AU and ECA mark International Anti-corruption Day in Dakar, Senegal (appablog.wordpress.com)
- Mike Hanlon – 2011 Transparency International CPI Report Shows 80% Of Humans Live Under Corrupt Government (lucas2012infos.wordpress.com)
- NZ still least corrupt (homepaddock.wordpress.com)
- India Transparency International corruption index blow – BBC News (bbc.co.uk)
- Kingston’s gullies, ugh! (jamaicaobserver.com)