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 https://petchary.wordpress.com/2013/03/31/jamaica-is-party-central/). 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 http://www.reggaepostercontest.com. 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! http://www.teatreecreperie.com
- 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):
http://digjamaica.com/blog/2013/03/25/chart-of-the-week-number-of-persons-fatal-shootings-by-the-police/ Chart: Number of fatal shootings by the police: diGJamaica.com
http://petchary.wordpress.com/2013/03/31/jamaica-is-party-central/ Jamaica is Party Central: petchary.wordpress.com
http://petchary.wordpress.com/2013/03/23/exclusion-versus-empowerment/ Exclusion versus empowerment: petchary.wordpress.com
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Gregory-Archer-s-wife-a-broken-woman_13980114 Gregory Archer’s wife a broken woman: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130327/cleisure/cleisure2.html Only in this country! George Davis column/Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130330/letters/letters1.html Salvaging what’s left of Jamaica: Letter to the Editor/Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130331/cleisure/cleisure1.html The next act against the scammers: Sunday Gleaner editorial
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/The-Cabinet-retreat-and-the-country-s-economic-challenges_13970514 The Cabinet retreat and the country’s economic challenges: Delano Franklyn op-ed/Sunday Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130331/focus/focus4.html Trust deficit: Government, IMF and Haiti: Orville Taylor column/Sunday Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Is-Jamaica-destined-to-be-poor-forever_13962991 Is Jamaica destined to be poor forever? Mark Wignall column/Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130328/cleisure/cleisure2.html Terminating pregnancies should be legal: Jaevion Nelson column/Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130330/cleisure/cleisure4.html Advocating youth responsibility: Peter Espeut column/Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/editorial/Contraceptives-in-schools–Let-s-at-least-discuss-it_13941256 Contraceptives in schools? Let’s at least discuss it: Jamaica Observer editorial
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=43689 NDX2 or PEX? GraceKennedy confirms participation: Gleaner
http://delanoseiv.wordpress.com/2013/03/27/peter-phillips-the-imf-must-read-t-h-i-n-k-jamaica/ Peter Phillips and the IMF: delanoseiv.wordpress.com
http://www.caribjournal.com/2013/03/25/construction-on-trinidad-barbados-gas-pipeline-could-begin-next-year/ Construction on Trinidad-Barbados gas pipeline could begin next year: Carib Journal
http://www.caribjournal.com/2013/03/27/op-ed-bringing-google-to-jamaica/ Op-ed: Bringing Google to Jamaica: Carib Journal
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=43706 Nurses await further discussions on wage claims: Gleaner
http://www.cvmtv.com/videos_1.php?id=985§ion=watch CVM Television report on noise nuisance in Negril (10 minutes into newscast)
http://www.cvmtv.com/videos_1.php?id=987§ion=watch CVM Television report on Tourism Minister’s response to noise complaints (17 minutes into newscast)
http://soundclash.wordpress.com/2013/04/01/party-circuit/ Party circuit: soundclash.wordpress.com
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130327/lead/lead5.html Two mobile licenses to be put on auction – Paulwell: Gleaner
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads/33339 Foreign Minister wants rethinking of treatment of middle income countries: Jamaica Information Service
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads/33358 Access to information progress lauded: Jamaica Information Service
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/thirty-three-haitians-to-be-transported-home-today Thirty-three Haitians to be transported home today: RJR News
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Let-peace-reign_13964282b West Kingston residents decry deadly power struggle among criminals: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/No-longer-just-a-Rasta-thing_13974690 No longer just a Rasta thing: Claude Robinson op-ed/Sunday Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130330/lead/lead1.html Police to charge popular sports personality after Montego Bay raids: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130327/lead/lead8.html ”Woeful lack of leadership”: Gleaner
http://www.caribjournal.com/2013/03/07/women-and-the-jamaican-work-force/ Women and the Jamaican work force: Marcia Forbes op-ed/Carib Journal
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130326/ent/ent4.html Flow, Jamaicans happy with Earth Hour concert: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130330/letters/letters4.html Wake up and smell the smog! Letter to the Editor/Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/NWC-to-address-city-s-sewer-problems_13894839 NWC to address city’s sewer problems: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Tamarind-and-beetroot-shine–but-what-happens-after-_13975042 Tamarind and beetroot shine, but what happens after? Joan Francis op-ed/Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=43739 Kingston, St. Andrew, St. Thomas worst hit by drought: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=43749 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)
Last week, we celebrated a birthday. The child is just one year old, a mere infant. But she is growing up fast.
“She” is the 51% Coalition – a coalition of “Women in Partnership for Development and Empowerment Through Equity.” The Coalition is very much an action-oriented group, committed to these goals. It has a businesslike approach to its mission of bringing women to the table – to make a strong contribution to Jamaica’s development. To quote its press release: “Over the past year the 51% Coalition has been working to redress the gender imbalance in decision-making. Its thrust is to achieve a ‘balance’ of not more than 60% and not less than 40% of either sex on public boards and bodies.”
At a celebratory breakfast in Kingston last Wednesday, Chairperson of the Women’s Resource and Outreach Centre (WROC) Linnette Vassell spoke of “many gaps.” These are the empty spaces we need to fill, to ensure that Jamaican women enjoy their full representative rights as productive members of society. WROC was a co-sponsor of the birthday party, along with the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) office in Jamaica.
Over the past half-century since Independence, Jamaica has not done as well as it could have, for its women. Some may disagree with this statement, but this is my view. Perhaps one could say that Jamaican women have not done enough for themselves. In the year of “Jamaica 50,” for example, women are still barely visible on the political scene, despite the fact that we currently have a woman Prime Minister. Only 12.7 per cent of Jamaican parliamentarians, and seventeen per cent of local government councilors are women.
At the breakfast, Ms. Vassell presented a report card on the 51% Coalition’s activities and achievements over the past year. Of course, this is all work that the Coalition has to continuously build on to achieve longer-term goals. We are not talking instant results, here. However, in the amazing way that women have, the Coalition has already established meaningful partnerships: a support network that will stand it in good stead over the coming years. The influential Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica is seeking to bridge one of the “gaps” by encouraging more women to join private boards. It has provided “train the trainers” instruction in corporate governance. And after twenty years of setting up its Hall of Fame, it has eventually inducted a woman – Ms. Lorna Myers. In a very promising partnership with the Jamaica Stock Exchange (JSE, headed by Marlene Street-Forrest) the Coalition has addressed company CEOs and circulated a list of 54 women that it recommends for board membership. Collaboration with the JSE is ongoing.
And what of the Government? Well, there are interesting linkages here. The Bureau of Women’s Affairs, led by the dedicated Ms. Faith Webster, is a government agency which falls under the Women’s Affairs portfolio. Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller has, by the way, held this portfolio for most of the past twenty years or so; during this time, the picture for Jamaican women in public life has been mixed, as noted above. The public-private sector Partnership for Transformation is a key vehicle to enable the 51% Coalition to integrate equity issues into the national dialogue. The previous political administration had committed to an independent seat for a woman in its manifesto, and this will become a reality, which the Coalition welcomes.
The National Policy for Gender Equality is of key importance. The Coalition looks forward to monitoring the debate on this topic and to ensuring that the policy provides a workable and blueprint for the future.
And the politicians? They are the important gatekeepers, standing by the gate that opens to women’s full citizenship; full citizenship meaning full participation and equal representation. The 51% Coalition felt it should and must engage both political parties, as they each tackle new challenges in the wake of the December 2011 general elections. Members have already met with the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), which is re-thinking and evaluating its internal structure and strategies, in order to make sure that women’s empowerment and gender issues are firmly on the table. We shall see what comes out of that. (Incidentally, the JLP fielded a record number of female candidates in the 2011 parliamentary elections – thirteen, most of them new to representational politics – but only three seasoned women contenders were successful. Five out of the People’s National Party‘s six candidates won or retained their seats).
The Coalition has also set up a political and constitutional reform working group, with two specific aims in mind. Firstly, the group seeks to ensure that gender issues are addressed in the reform of electoral laws; a meeting with the Electoral Office of Jamaica was scheduled for this week. Recommendations on gender issues have also been made to the Electoral Commission of Jamaica, for inclusion in its 2013-15 agenda.
Let us return, for a moment, to the Prime Minister who is also responsible for Women’s Affairs, Portia Simpson Miller. The 51% Coalition is still waiting for a meeting to discuss with her its key objectives and plans for the way ahead; this should take place soon. Specifically, the Coalition would like to press upon the Prime Minister the importance of adopting and implementing the Corporate Governance Framework for Public Bodies in Jamaica, which her predecessors had adopted.
For example let us take a look at the Urban Development Corporation (UDC). Chaired by government Senator K.D. Knight, the UDC is a major government agency which falls under the Prime Minister’s portfolio. An Auditor General’s report pointed to its huge indebtedness and its major operating losses of close to J$500 million. The Coalition’s Ms. Vassell called this state of affairs “truly alarming,” pointing to the need for a Public Accountability Act and other legal measures to deal poor corporate governance in the public sector. (By the way, there are five women on the UDC’s 22-member board). In this respect, the Coalition has made specific proposals for specific competent women to be included on the board of this and other government agencies (the National Water Commission‘s nine-member board, for example, includes just one woman; this agency has come under fire just this week for its billions of dollars of losses; and only 32 per cent of the water it supplies is actually paid for).
Up to April 2012, at least seventy per cent of public sector boards were chaired by men; and more than half had less than 20 per cent women board members. A few years ago, the picture was very much the same – very little progress. Don’t you think that if more women were appointed to their boards they would have a new dimension to offer to these struggling government agencies? In seeking to address this, the 51% Coalition has conducted a series of public consultations in Kingston, Mandeville and Ocho Rios with women appointed to public boards; these were attended by 186 women and a few men, and the response was highly positive. Some women are ready to go out and advocate.
Other issues that the 51% Coalition looks forward to discussing with the Prime Minister include possible collaboration with her Office on the agenda of priorities established by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW); as well as the approach to gender-based violence, a critical issue for Jamaica.
What is in the future for the Coalition then? There are many plans ahead, including forging on with the issues above. A media and publicity campaign to stimulate discussion around these issues will be stepped up (listen out for some thought-provoking PSAs early in 2013!) The Coalition will build on partnerships already established with women’s groups and tap into the growing interest in the private sector; it will expand and diversify its recommendations for board representation by women; it will continue to facilitate training and support for female board members through mentoring.
Most of all, the Coalition wants to see growing activism and hands-on work among its members. It would like more women (and men) to speak on these issues at service clubs, churches, community meetings and so on. Get the dialogue going. Help is needed with the mobilization of all kinds of resources. Moreover, women need to look inside themselves; they need to support each other, at every opportunity. “We need to overcome the barriers within ourselves,” as Ms. Vassell noted.
So, there is much work ahead. The Coalition has more growing up to do, and much to get its teeth into. Its voice is growing louder, and will continue to grow in the next year of its existence. Its objectives are clear; its vision is sharply focused. It intends to make things happen.
Happy birthday again! And here is a quote from a pioneer of women’s rights, Eleanor Roosevelt:
We women are callow fledglings as compared with the wise old birds who manipulate the political machinery, and we still hesitate to believe that a woman can fill certain positions in public life as competently and adequately as a man.
But the times are a-changing… And in the words of President Barack Obama, the 51% Coalition’s vibrant membership is “fired up, ready to go!” And no reason to hesitate.
For further information, please contact the 51 % Coalition Secretariat:
Ms. Anna-Kaye Rowe
Tel: 929-8873, 960-9067
Related links and websites:
http://www.caribjournal.com/2012/11/27/forbes-jamaicas-womens-coalition-marks-first-anniversary/ (Jamaica’s Women’s Coalition Marks First Anniversary: Carib Journal)
http://www.marciaforbes.com/content/women-performed-well-jamaica’s-2011-elections (Women performed well in Jamaica’s 2011 elections: MarciaForbes.com)
http://petchary.wordpress.com/2012/06/22/madam-director-madam-chair/ (Madam Director, Madam Chair: petchary.wordpress.com)
http://petchary.wordpress.com/2012/08/01/we-are-the-51-per-cent/ (We Are the 51 Per Cent: petchary.wordpress.com)
http://www.eclac.org/mujer/noticias/paginas/6/38906/Jamaica.pdf (Report from Jamaica to the Regional Conference on Women in Latin America and the Caribbean/ECLAC)
http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/cedaw/ (UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women)
http://wrocjamaica.org/womens-leadership/51-coalition-additional-resources/npge-ja/view (National Policy on Gender Equality: pdf document on WROC website)
http://www.wrocjamaica.org (Women’s Resource and Outreach Centre website)
http://www.fesdc.org (Friedrich Ebert Stiftung Washington website)
http://www.psoj.org (Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica website)
http://www.bwa-jamaica.gov.jm (Bureau of Women’s Affairs website)
http://www.jamstockex.com/index.php (Jamaica Stock Exchange website)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=36675 (K.D. Knight new UDC Chairman: Jamaica Gleaner)
http://www.udcja.com (Urban Development Corporation website)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20121011/lead/lead7.html (Under-utilized facilities put huge hole in UDC finances: Jamaica Gleaner)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120729/lead/lead2.html ($400 million shame in the city: Jamaica Gleaner)
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/editorial/No-to-a-tariff-increase-for-the-NWC_13116803 (No to a tariff increase for the NWC: Jamaica Observer editorial)
As Jamaica continues to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of our Independence, I was pondering the nature of our heroes, role models and so on. It is wonderful to praise the successes of our Olympians, and the legacy of our National Heroes (although I am not so keen on the political ones, myself). But there are many other amazingly successful Jamaicans, at home and abroad, in many other fields. Sprinting and politicizing aren’t the only things we are good at. There are Jamaicans who are astonishingly good at what they do, all over the place. And by “success” I don’t necessarily mean winning something, or getting a National Honor. This kind of success is simply being very good at whatever you do. It’s a path you take, a journey you make – and it’s no flash in the pan.
I have been thinking about information technology and the amazing embrace of the digital universe that we now live in. Everything is a click or a swipe or a touch away. It’s beautiful, and for a small island nation like Jamaica, it is empowering. All we need to do now is bridge that tricky old “digital divide;” I see that the One Laptop Per Child program and other initiatives are helping to throw some ropes across that divide globally. We have pioneering men and women in technology in Jamaica, too. Ingrid Riley of SiliconCaribe is one of those who is pushing us along, and there are others.
Now, my husband recently discovered someone, online, and I really want to introduce you to him, dear readers – a Jamaican, an inspiration, an entrepreneurial master of his craft. His name is Lloyd Carney. And he is the same age as Jamaica this year – fifty years old, and indeed a high achiever. “Forbes“ magazine, in an article linked below, says Mr. Carney is “walking the talk” in Silicon Valley as a venture capitalist and IT entrepreneur. Initially, he made use of an interesting concept called the Start-up Common in Silicon Valley. I will have to learn more about the Common. Mr. Carney – currently the CEO of Xsigo (“See-go”), which was recently acquired by Oracle – is good at grabbing firms by the scruff of the neck and infusing them with success. Xsigo’s achievements are connected to Data Center Fabrics and virtualization. I am not a technical person, but I do know that although it is a small firm, it has a product that is greatly in demand. Xsigo is only eight years old.
What have I learned about Lloyd Carney? Mr. Carney was born and grew up in Jamaica – he attended Wolmer’s High School in Kingston – and in 1979 he stepped off the plane in Boston to continue his studies. He started off with medical studies – everyone doing science in those days was supposed to become a doctor, it seems – but medicine was not for him. He ended up obtaining a B.Sc. in Electrical Engineering from Wentworth Institute and a Masters in Business from Lesley College. He then went to work for various computer firms, moved to the West, created Bay Networks and ten years ago began to make great strides, working in top positions at Nortel, Juniper Networks, Micromuse and IBM Netcool, among other IT firms. Fast-paced and flying high.
But Mr. Carney is not just a faceless businessman obsessed with money. He “gives back” to his native country, to Haiti, Africa and to marginalized communities in California, where he lives. He and his wife Carole set up a charitable foundation in 1999, which focuses on healthcare and children. The Lloyd and Carole Carney Foundation supports a house for orphans in South Africa; has donated medical equipment to the University Hospital of the West Indies in Kingston and Black River Hospital; and donated a computer lab to Vaz Preparatory School in Kingston. Mr. Carney also serves on the board of the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Peninsula in California.
The glitz and the glamor of Usain Bolt is enormous fun (although I am afraid he has now become the target of the sleazy UK tabloids, which was bound to happen). It’s exciting and glittery and golden, and it’s Jamaica 50. But my point is: There are many other ways in which young Jamaicans can achieve, with ambition, determination, hard work… and yes, a touch of Jamaican flair and imagination.
Be inspired! Be very inspired!
http://carneyglobalventures.com (Carney Global Ventures website)
http://www.vazprep.edu.jm (Vaz Preparatory School)
http://wolmers.org (Wolmer’s Schools website)
http://www.bgcp.org (Boys and Girls Clubs of the Peninsula)
http://www.forbes.com/sites/petercohan/2012/08/22/lloyd-carneys-profitable-journey-from-jamaica-to-palo-alto/ (Forbes.com: Lloyd Carney’s profitable journey from Jamaica to Palo Alto)
http://www.forbes.com/sites/petercohan/2012/02/15/xsigo-aims-a-dagger-at-ciscos-heart/ (Forbes.com: Xsigo aims a dagger at Cisco’s heart)
http://www.xsigo.com/blog/2012/02/data-center-fabric-xsigo-ceo/ (Xsigo CEO Lloyd Carney explains Data Center Fabric – video)
http://www.siliconcaribe.com (Siliconecaribe.com – Jamaican blog)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20071007/business/business4.html (Jamaican venture capitalist offers business tips on China – Jamaica Gleaner)
Oracle to acquire network virtualisation technology provider Xsigo Systems (siliconrepublic.com)
Oracle Acquires Virtual Networking Concern Xsigo Systems (allthingsd.com)
Youth Using Technology to Combat Child Abuse (petchary.wordpress.com)
The squalls of last night are over. I lay in bed with continuous thunder, lightning and sheets of rain falling, assaulting my senses and rendering me sleepless. A cup of strong Blue Mountain coffee is helping to revive me. Thanks for just brushing by us, Tropical Storm Isaac. It could have been a lot worse. Nine silly people traveling through the notorious Bog Walk Gorge (basically, a main road running between a river and a sheer rock face) had to be rescued from the roofs of their cars last night. Now, Sunday morning in Kingston has been bright and breezy; and the lawn has grown by several inches overnight.
So, on to the week that was. It was the usual odd mix of melodrama and “nutten nah gwaan” (for non-Jamaicans, this means “nothing happening”).
First, the drama. The big “C” reared its ugly head (corruption, not cancer – although you could say that one is the other). The case (brought by a police sergeant who should be highly commended and supported) involves a Businessman (or “big man” as we call these powerful men in SUVs), a high-profile Police Senior Superintendent, and an Opposition Politician. I think it is fair to say that these three categories of Jamaicans – businessmen, politicians and the police force – are regarded with the greatest suspicion by the average man/woman on the street. There is always that little corruption? question mark. Trust, or the lack of it, is a terrible thing.
In this case, the Businessman was stopped by the Sergeant for speeding in said SUV, and allegedly offered him a bribe. According to media reports, in a complicated web of negotiations described as “mediation,” the Sergeant was told to discuss the matter with a Senior Policeman, who, it is alleged, “took care of things.” The Politician also intervened, as the Businessman is a great friend of his; he is charged with breaching Section 14(2) of the Corruption Prevention Act while Senior Policeman and Businessman are charged with attempting to pervert the course of justice. The case came to court last week; there were many cynical comments, some shock and some puzzlement that a Businessman should go to such lengths to avoid a mere traffic ticket. Is this how “big men” arrange their lives? There was much excitement outside the courthouse last week when the three accused, accompanied by various family members and supporters, arrived. The Senior Policeman had a very pained and sad look, head bowed, clutching his wife’s hand; the Businessman and his Wife looked cool and well-dressed, in matching designer shades; the Politician appeared happy for the attention and, as usual, talked too much. “I always say, ‘Who God bless, no man curse,’” he cheerfully told an eager television reporter. OK, then.
Now, I felt that the eviction of around sixty people in downtown Kingston a week ago – mostly women and children – was treated rather carelessly by aspects of the media. The focus seemed to be wrong. Since then, commentators have got to grips with the issue to some extent. But listen, folks, this is serious. It’s fine for us to say, “Well, they shouldn’t have so many children…They expect us to support them…I don’t feel sorry for them…They want everything for free,” etc. But why aren’t we addressing the core issue? Does no one want to talk about it? And that issue is poverty. Yes, the p-word. Jamaica Observer columnist Mark Wignall wrote an insightful piece on the matter today – the link is below. He describes the situation of squatting as a “tragedy.” Of course it is. If one-third of your population live in “informal settlements,” - at the mercy of the environment, in unhealthy conditions, preyed on by criminals, and used by politicians as a vote-getting group at election time – what else can you call it?
It is a tragedy. But these are poor people. Somehow it’s all their fault, they shouldn’t be poor. But all is not lost; the politicians “love” them (i.e. love their votes). As Wignall’s colleague columnist James Moss-Solomon notes, “The so-called ‘love of the poor’ is not expressed as a hatred of poverty and a need to eliminate that scourge, but is reminiscent of sharing the suffering of Jesus without wanting to remove the nails if we are able.” Mr. Moss-Solomon was writing in general about that elusive concept of unity - which a number of leading Jamaicans were waxing lyrical about on the Gleaner front page in the weeks before Independence. Unity – and division. See more division below.
In the Nutten Nah Gwaan section: Well, after not much more than a year, the commuter railway revived by the previous Jamaica Labour Party administration ran its last trip through the parish of St. Catherine. Yes, we know the economic reasons for its closure. But this was most disheartening. It was not as if Jamaicans were not using it – they loved it. A CVM Television series focused on reactions to the closure, and the commuters suggested it could have made much more money if it had run to Kingston, or even Montego Bay. In our fiftieth year of Independence, this was somehow not morale-boosting.
Are we in recession? asked an article in the Business Observer last week. Well, the head of the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ) and the Governor of the Bank of Jamaica seem confused, but it’s fair to say, I think, that “nutten nah gwaan” in the Jamaican economy. The PIOJ tried desperately to put some kind of positive spin on what appeared at first report (via the Statistical Institute of Jamaica) to have been negative growth in the first quarter of 2012. Isn’t that a recession, then? It ended up predicting between minus 0.5 per cent and plus 0.5 per cent growth for the September quarter. The looks on their faces said it all. They were not
Mayor of Kingston Angela Brown Burke says she is “working behind the scenes” after coming under fire from the Gleaner in an editorial last week. Like all the others, Ms. Brown Burke made a wonderful speech at her swearing-in in April. We have not heard much from her since… But let’s give her the benefit of the doubt. It’s only been a few months. But it seems we are all impatient…
Meanwhile, our Prime Minister allows her ministers to get on with their portfolios, and does not interfere – so she told a television reporter this week when asked to comment on an issue. Is this the hands-off, autopilot approach to leadership?
“I see a nation that is drifting,” intoned radio talk show host on Nationwide News Network Ronald Mason last week. “There has been eight months of inertia.” I can just hear another famed talk show host, the late Wilmot Perkins, agreeing with him. Mr Perkins would have added, “Things fall apart…The center cannot hold.” Back to Mr. Mason: “I see no motivation, no reassurance from our political leaders.” These comments got the listeners and callers all revved up for a few hours of gloom and doom, last week, I can tell you.
Something is going on at Caymanas Park, where our horse racing takes place. Here are some pieces of information, and you can make out of it what you will. Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of Finance Derrick Kellier announced recently that the Government plans to sell Caymanas, but wants good money for it. Last week, among the many murders (see list of names below) a racehorse trainer was shot in the head by two gunmen who seemed to be waiting for him as he drove into the Park. There is poor security there, it appears – Caymanas is “bruck.” Then, just last night, gunmen broke into the office at Caymanas, held up some staff and stole more than seven million Jamaican Dollars cash. Well, I don’t know. Some things we can never get to the bottom of…
Why am I not impressed?
…By the lovely 2012 Mercedes Benz driven by the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries Donovan Stanberry. Mr. Stanberry went into a convoluted argument in the Sunday Gleaner, explaining why this was a good deal for the Jamaican taxpayer, rather than the usual SUVs that our public servants swish around in. Only J$6.3 million, less duty concessions and other allowances which would lower the cost. Very economical, yes. Perhaps some of that could have gone towards the rebuilding of the Glenhope Place of Safety, a state home for unwanted small children and girls, which was partly destroyed by fire nine months ago. Work there has not even started. The Government is “bruck.” But what am I saying? These are only poor people’s abandoned kids. Like the squatters. They are not priority are they? (Please forgive me – I get too carried away with the sarcasm sometimes!)
…By Member of Parliament for South St. James Derrick Kellier, who did not see what the fuss was all about (his words) when he reportedly recommended that a firm owned by his brother be granted road-works contracts in his constituency, through the often-contentious Constituency Development Fund. The indefatigable Office of the Contractor General is, thankfully, investigating.
…By the dithering over the lifting of a ban on the scrap metal trade. So many hints have been dropped in the media that the ban is to be lifted that the scavengers have pricked up their ears, and got to work. They are being proactive. So far, the scrap metal thieves have targeted the Jamaica Public Service Company, Highway 2000 and telecoms firm LIME; the latter, in particular has recently suffered millions of dollars in losses. What is really happening? I thought that the Minister in charge, Hon. Anthony Hylton, was to make a statement on Friday? Meanwhile, legitimate (one hopes) scrap dealers have been protesting. In May a local think tank, the Caribbean Policy Research Institute (CaPRI), issued a ten-step solution to the scrap metal conundrum. I hope the Minister has had a look at it. A link to the full brief is below…
…By Minister of Tourism Wykeham McNeill‘s announcement this week that its publicity campaign for Jamaica at the London Olympics was a roaring success. Most of us lesser mortal were not privileged to be in London; so we would have to take his word for it. But I hear that “Jamaica House” in London was a fun place to hang out for a drink in the evenings… And also, the one million pounds spent during the campaign was “well spent,” the good Minister told us. What actually came out of it in terms of dollars and cents, business opportunities, partnerships etc? Not sure of the details. Are you? But Information Minister Sandrea Falconer, who chaired the Minister’s press conference, gently chided Jamaicans/the media for “quibbling” over small matters, as questions were asked. Take their word for it. It was money well spent. Perhaps the “small matter” was the unfortunate tweet by Minister McNeill’s junior minister Damion Crawford, who informed us all that he and some Jamaican musicians were having a great time at a London club. Or perhaps it was the people who were part of the delegation to London. I am still not clear why Minister of Agriculture Roger Clarke went, but I am sure he had a nice time, too… Meanwhile, visitor arrivals over the Independence period reportedly grew by six per cent, we are told. Frankly, I would have thought we could have attracted more visitors for Jamaica 50.
…And I have to agree with Observer columnist Jean Lowrie-Chin, who staunchly defends Jamaica’s “Out of Many, One People” motto. This multi-racial concept has come under attack recently from noted academic at the University of the West Indies (UWI) Dr. Carolyn Cooper – who loves to ruffle feathers, and appears to have seized the opportunity to do so as we try to celebrate “unity” on our fiftieth anniversary. Please, Carolyn, can we smooth those feathers down a bit?
Now, Ms. Lowrie-Chin is eternally positive, optimistic and far less cynical than I am – and I love her for it. But she spoke in an unusually strong tone in her column last week: “Will the UWI Mona folks who refuse to accept non-blacks as Jamaicans forgo their salaries and professorial chairs, since they are so heavily subsidised by non-black business owners who contribute significantly to our national coffers?” Now, it seems, UWI’s enfant terrible has taken set on the very small Jewish community in Jamaica, claiming that the history of the Jews’ role in Jamaica’s plantation society and slavery has not been properly aired. (Well, surely everyone in those days was involved in slavery in some way or other, weren’t they?) She is taking the head of the Jamaican Jewish community to task for seeking to defend his people in a letter to the Gleaner editor, accusing him of a personal attack on her. I don’t know where all this is going, and it seems both unnecessary and insensitive; but Dr. Cooper wants us all to face facts about the “out of many” scenario – or at least, her version of the facts. Perhaps she just wants to be controversial… How, I wonder, does this mesh with Dr. Cooper’s recent spirited defense of a certain deejay – now in jail on murder charges – whose claim to fame was the “bleaching” of his dark skin to an unhealthy off-white color? And perhaps she might recall that most, if not all of the Jews who arrived in Jamaica were themselves fleeing persecution in Europe.
Dear, dear. And they say race isn’t an issue in Jamaica!
…Then there are the teachers. Folks, let us just remember that the Jamaica Teachers’ Association is a trade union. Therefore, its mandate is to call for improved wages and conditions for its members – every year, at this time. The fact that – as I keep pointing out – government is “bruck” is neither here nor there to the JTA, it seems. They have rejected a wage offer, and they want their pension arrangements to remain in place. The fact is that pension reform is one of the three issues which the International Monetary Fund wants the Jamaican Government to address as a precursor (or condition?) of negotiations – those negotiations which are scheduled to start in September. Any word from the Finance Minister? Not much. Any word from the Education Minister? Plenty of words, all of which I agree with.
But still, there are some bouquets to hand out this week, I think:
Firstly, to the University of the West Indies‘ Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social & Economic Studies (SALISES) for their week-long reflections on where on earth Jamaica is heading after fifty years, “Fifty-Fifty: Critical Reflections in a time of Uncertainty.” This was the result of a huge amount of research by numerous clusters of academics on a wide range of topics. I plan to write more about this during the week in a separate blog post, but I do applaud SALISES for this ambitious conference – and particularly, for inviting the public to participate free of charge. When I went down there one afternoon this week, the Jamaica Pegasus was throbbing with life, and filled with Jamaicans who wanted to contribute to one debate or the other. I was very pleased to see this. Now I look forward to seeing some action plans coming out of the discussions. As Lee Kwan-Yew once caustically observed, Jamaicans are very eloquent and very good at talking. Now let’s translate this all into meaningful action that will propel us forward…
Secondly, I am proud of the two youth-led groups Help Ja Children and the Jamaica Youth Advocacy Network, who have taken on the issue of Jamaica’s homeless and marginalized (see “squatting” above) with a new online campaign. I would urge you to go to http://www.change.org/petitions/end-the-eviction-and-displacement-of-homeless-jamaicans, read it carefully and if you agree, please do sign their petition and shared it widely.
I heard about the Harris Family Vision Foundation for the first time this week, and have to give them warm hugs on behalf of our children. The amazing part of the Foundation is that it is co-founded by a seventeen-year-old (who has a growth disability) Nekhidia and her fourteen-year-old sister Kimberly. Their parents, Michael and Dasline, have been volunteering in Jamaica for the past twenty years. Among many other activities and donations, the Foundation donated a clinic in Madras, St. Ann on Marcus Garvey’s birthday this year. When asked about her amazing confidence, Nekhidia quoted Garvey himself: “If you do not have confidence in yourself you are twice defeated in the race of life.” What an inspiring family – and, by the way, they live in New York. Thank you.
And last but not least: the wonderful Yohan Blake is now officially the second fastest man in the world ever, after a fantastic 9.69 second run in Lausanne, Switzerland. Do join our Facebook group, The Unofficial Yohan Blake Appreciation Society. It seems there are more female members than males, but we are seeking to address the gender imbalance!
Kudos on the media front: Television Jamaica has greatly improved its website. I never used to visit it, but realize it is now slick, attractive and has easily accessible clips from their highly popular morning magazine program “Smile Jamaica” as well as news, etc. Good going. (A nice interview with Jamaica’s first Tae Kwon Do Olympian Kenneth Edwards is linked below). They have uploaded nearly 600 video clips – something there for everyone.
No one seems to put in a good word for On the Ground News Reports, so I will. They started off as a Facebook page and now have an excellent website at http://www.og.nr/keywords/local-news. If you want news from the street – every detail, including roads closed, car crashes, house fires, sports, security issues (murders) – you name it – this will keep you up to date. It is interactive, so anyone can contribute if they can confirm a story or add further information. You can send them photos from your phone. It’s a unique idea and it deserves to be better supported by us, the Jamaican public out there. If you see or hear of something going on, let them know! They are also on Twitter (@onthegroundjm). Their slogan: “You are the news.”
I like the Observer’s TeenAge weekly, edited and written by teens. It is nicely put together and a good mix of the usual teen stuff – pop music, fashion etc – and more uplifting information relevant to teens. I liked this week’s article on the young journalists’ visit to the Youth Science Forum in Trinidad recently.
Finally, “big ups” to the Jamaican diaspora media, out there. In Florida, there are a few radio stations focusing on Jamaican issues. For example, my Facebook friend Desmond Brown will be discussing whether Jamaicans overseas should be allowed to vote in Jamaican elections (always a tricky topic!) this afternoon on Island Riddim Radio in Central Florida. They do live streaming at www.islandriddimradio.com. Then there is the young Kingstonian Lawman Lynch, now operating out of New York with a newsletter, who is also active in the broadcast media. Greetings to all!
Once again, and on my usual sad note, I offer my deepest condolences to the grieving families and friends of the following Jamaicans, who were killed in the past week. It concerns me that this list appears to be growing a little longer each week – and no one seems to be commenting on this very much.
Killed by police:
Three unidentified men, Norwood, Montego Bay, St. James
Karl Nation, 18, Maxfield Park, Kingston
Nigel Thompson, 18, Maxfield Park, Kingston
Rohan Lewis, 28, St. Ann’s Bay, St. Ann
Joseph Wedderburn, Sine Irwin, St. James
Ralbert Wilmot, 48, Retreat, St. James
Karl Atkinson, 56, Balaclava, St. Elizabeth
Anthony Kirlew, 50, Caymanas Park, St. Catherine
Michael Raymond, 51, Palmers Cross, Clarendon
Bucassa McIntosh, 35, Portsmouth, St. Catherine
Don Riggs, 35, Green Pond, St. James
Donovan Anderson, 37, Green Pond, St. James
Jermaine Gordon, 23, Green Pond, St. James
Melbourne Lowe, 57, Eleven Miles, St. Thomas
Matthew McAnuff, 25, Kingston
Unidentified man, Lincoln Avenue, Kingston 13
Peter Nembhard, Central Village, St. Catherine
Clayton Smith, 39, Bluefields, Westmoreland
Devon Thompson, 41, Islington, St. Mary
Veronica Wizard, 75, Torrington Park, Kingston
Kemar Beckford, 21, Retreat, St. James (mob killing)
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Vaz-steps-aside_12331030 (Vaz steps aside – Jamaica Observer)
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Poor–pregnant-and-homeless_12346438 (Poor, pregnant and homeless – Mark Wignall op-ed)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120826/lead/lead2.html (Birthing poverty: Is two still better than too many? – Sunday Gleaner)
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Help-coming-for-evicted-squatters_12322447 (Help coming for evicted squatters – Jamaica Observer)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120823/lead/lead7.html (Squatter squabble – Gleaner)
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/A-nation-divided-against-itself-must-fall_12340147 (A nation divided against itself must fall – James Moss-Solomon op-ed)
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Gov-t-will-sell-Caymanas-Park-but-not-cheaply–says-Dalley (Government will sell Caymanas Park but not cheaply, says Dalley – Jamaica Observer)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120826/lead/lead9.html (Kirlew marked for death? – Sunday Gleaner)
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Stopover-arrivals-up-6—-Minister-McNeil (Stopover arrivals up six per cent – Minister McNeill – Jamaica Observer)
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/list/31580 (One Million Pounds on promotional activities in London well spent – Jamaica Information Service)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120826/lead/lead4.html (Eyebrows raised over Stanberry’s Benz – Sunday Gleaner)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120820/cleisure/cleisure1.html (Derrick Kellier defends the trough – Gleaner editorial)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120826/focus/focus3.html (Fifty years in dependence – Ian Boyne op-ed – Sunday Gleaner)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120826/focus/focus1.html (Government squandering mandate – Chris Tufton op-ed – Sunday Gleaner)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120826/lead/lead91.html (Glenhope yet to rise from ashes – Sunday Gleaner)
http://www.capricaribbean.org/research/10-steps-scrap-metal-solution-full-brief (Ten Steps to a Scrap Metal Solution- CaPRI)
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/business/Are-we-in-recession_12326791 (Are we in recession? – Jamaica Observer)
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/list/31582 (Jamaica House in London a succes – McNeill – Jamaica Information Service)
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/list/31569 (36,000 additional airlift seats secured from UK – Jamaica Information Service)
http://www.televisionjamaica.com/Programmes/SmileJamaica.aspx/Videos/20346 (Jamaica’s first taekwondo champion – TVJ interview)
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Tribalism-in-Jamaican-politics_12340116 (Tribalism in Jamaican politics – Diane Abbott op-ed)
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Fifty-Fifty–Critical-Reflections-in-a-Time-of-Uncertainty–1-_12343567 (50-50: Critical Reflections in a Time of Uncertainty – Claude Robinson op-ed)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120826/cleisure/cleisure3.html (Persistent Perversity on Jews and Slavery – Carolyn Cooper op-ed)
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Jamaica—still-ahead-of-the-race-curve (Jamaica – Still Ahead of the Race Curve – Jean Lowrie-Chin op-ed)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120823/lead/lead5.html (Phillips firm on IMF wrap-up – Gleaner)
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/teenage/TEENage-visits-Youth-Science-Forum_12312347 (TeenAge visits Youth Science Forum)
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/-Charity-begins-at-home-_12268953 (Charity begins at home – Jamaica Observer)
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/sport/-Beast–unleashed_12338646 (Beast unleashed! – Jamaica Observer Sports)
50-50 Reflections (petchary.wordpress.com)
Sunday Sighs: August 19, 2012 (petchary.wordpress.com)
Jamaica 50 Special: Monday, August 6, 2012 (petchary.wordpress.com)
UN agency calls for full probe into Jamaica murder (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
Yes, we are striding into the next fifty years full of confidence and braggadocio (what a great word that is!) after our command performance at the London Olympics. (I am planning a couple more posts on that topic, so will not get side-tracked here). Many Jamaicans believe that this euphoric wave (which might last for another week or two) will somehow carry the island forward in a spirit of love and unity. Others believe that our twelve medals will somehow boost Jamaica’s economic recovery. Our Prime Minister is still on a high, and milking both the Jamaica 50 celebrations and the Olympic achievements for all they are worth.
Well, that’s what politicians do. Cynics like me have strong doubts about it all.
So let us look at other matters. Among those issues pushed on one side for discussion later, there is that little matter of education. The results of the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) examinations were released by the Caribbean Examinations Council on Friday. Our eloquent Education Minister Ronald Thwaites declared himself “very disappointed.” I think “horrified,” or perhaps to use an awful English expression “gobsmacked” might have been a better word. But then Minister Thwaites, having reflected further, described the results later as “a very disastrous lurch downwards.” That’s more like it.
Of the so-called “cohort” of students who are actually allowed to sit the exams (which is only a fraction of the school population) only 31.7 per cent passed the Mathematics paper. Fewer passed than in 2011 (a mere 33.2 per cent), which was lower than 201o (a less than impressive 39.5 per cent). Passes in English Language showed a dramatic drop from 64.9 per cent (2010) and 63.9 per cent (2012) to 46.2 per cent. Again, this was only the results for those entered for the exam; many others – I will have to check the percentage – will have left secondary school with neither English nor Mathematics passes, one presumes. Plus, of course, well over half the students who did prepare for the exams – a two-year syllabus. What is to happen to these thousands of young people?
How can we talk about striding into the next fifty years, when our young people are so poorly educated/uneducated/hardly literate/innumerate/untrained? Is this our work force of the future? One hopes for proper analysis, discussion – and solutions – to this crisis in the next few weeks. Yes, I do believe this is a crisis. If this isn’t a crisis, then what is? Will we finally panic when we get down to 20 per cent passes?
Meanwhile, Minister Thwaites has suggested cutting teachers’ vacation leave in order to deal with the issue of teachers’ unemployment. Yes, hundreds of teachers qualify every year and many cannot find work. Even those who have been urged to go into early childhood education – supposedly the government’s priority – are finding no jobs after they have graduated from teachers’ college. And what is being taught at those colleges? Are our teachers really equipped to go into a class of forty or so students and teach properly?
OK. SMH as they say in social media. Meanwhile Minister Thwaites has other issues to deal with. For a start, around 200 Jamaican schools still use pit latrines – in other words, the children use a dark, evil-smelling hole in the ground as a toilet. One such rural school made the front page of the Gleaner this week. The Minister took pity on the school and has issued an edict for real toilets to be installed by the beginning of the school year. When will the other 199 or so schools get their toilets, I wonder? (Having personally seen the condition of some school toilets that are not pit latrines, I can say that sanitary conditions in many schools are pretty disgusting).
Another burning issue for Minister Thwaites: the bookmarks. Bookmarks, you may ask, what bookmarks? Well, a great deal of hot air is being blown about over the printing of 100,000 bookmarks as gifts to the students of secondary schools. Minister Thwaites had asked for as many schools as possible to recognize Independence Day (August 6). The bookmarks were to be distributed as souvenirs. Anyway, these bookmarks bore the smiling face of the Minister superimposed on the Jamaican flag. Opposition Leader (and former Education Minister) Andrew Holness was furious. (There seem to be so many “flag issues” don’t there?) He has called in the intrepid Contractor General, Greg Christie, to investigate procurement and other concerns. I understand that the offending bookmarks, which are now useless, cost J$1.7 million. This would be enough to fund a non-governmental organization serving Jamaican children for at least six months.
We will no doubt never get to the “truth” on this matter, but meanwhile – I wonder who authorized this? Did they really think this was OK, protocol-wise?
While we were all celebrating, Western Union shut down the operations of fourteen overseas branches in and around Montego Bay. We didn’t really see this one coming, and anyway we were in the clutches of full-fledged “Olympicitis” by then. The only conversations were about finals and semi-finals on the track.
The closure was, of course, connected to the heinous lottery scam. This remittance service has become a conduit for the activities of our Jamaican-based criminals, and I am, like the Gleaner, somewhat surprised that this did not happen sooner. The closure is expected to last for two weeks – possibly more – and it will not be business as usual when they reopen (or at any other branch in Jamaica either, one hopes).
Meanwhile those poor and needy people who depend on remittances from Jamaican family members living overseas were thrown into panic at the closure. I was amazed – and depressed – to see the crowds of Jamaicans, young and old, thronging the Western Union offices. Some did not even have the money to travel down the road to Hanover to collect their money. Women said they depended on the money to send their children to school. Little old ladies and frail old gentlemen were thrown into despair. Somehow, it frightened me to see such dependency. Although I should not have been surprised.
The Gleaner served up a number of punchy editorials this week, as if determined not to be distracted by the dancing in Half Way Tree, joyful as it may be. One suggested, “There is a sense that ministers are off on independent programs, seeking to outdo each other, rather than being part of a coherent whole.“ Is this fair, one wonders? And if so, what is Agriculture Minister Roger Clarke doing about the growing food crisis? Ah – that might be a topic for another blog post; because this issue is not going to go away any time soon. Even the Observer got tetchy on the subject this week, with an editorial that pointed out rising grain prices in the United States, our huge food import bill, and the lack of a clear strategy to deal with food security. With another quick left hook, the Gleaner - while congratulating Minister Clarke on his national honor, a Commander of the Order of Distinction – reprimanded him for his lack of vision on the matter.
Vision. There’s a big word. It’s something we seem to be searching for, sadly and with increasing weariness. Like Growth. And Leadership! And Investment. And, oh yes, Unity!
And here are a couple of things I was less than excited about last week:
Winston Hubert McIntosh (better known as Peter Tosh) received a posthumous Order of Merit (O.M.) in the Independence National Honors. The weed-smoking, profane, rebellious, unicycling Tosh, a former member of the Wailers, was murdered in 1987. He still has a website, liberally sprinkled with ganja leaves. I remember he was well-known for his obscene language on stage (but of course, that is quite accepted these days) – part of his rebelliousness, one supposes – and he played a guitar shaped like an M-16 on stage, too. Yes, a great role model.
Having said all that, I love Mr. McIntosh’s music and always have done. And yes, he spoke out against apartheid (so did almost every other singer at that time) and “Equal Rights and Justice” is a brilliant song. But I don’t think that is enough to get the third highest honor in Jamaica. Plus, I don’t really believe in the posthumous thing. If they didn’t deserve one when they were alive then why give people an award when they are six feet under, many years later? I’m sure Tosh wouldn’t care and might well refuse it, as John Lennon refused a National Honor. I also know that, although our current Transport Minister reveres the reggae musician, if the anti-establishment Tosh were alive today he would not be so popular with politicians. Didn’t he invent the word “politricks” ? He would be giving them hell.
An article, headlined “500 new houses for Coral Springs,” puzzled me this week. The article declared that the said homes would be built “in the dry limestone forests surrounding an already existing housing estate in Coral Springs.“ This is in Trelawny, western Jamaica. Presumably that existing housing estate was also built on previously existing dry limestone forest. Forgive me for enquiring, but isn’t dry limestone forest a special ecosystem, an environment that is becoming very scarce indeed in Jamaica and that is home to the endangered iguana and other creatures? Am I missing something here? Someone explain please?
Finally, is this the only way that Red Stripe beer can think of to advertise its product? How sad. And how unoriginal. Like those endless dancehall videos. Bottoms…protruding everywhere.
And much more inspiring…
Congrats to the Braco Village Hotel, which won a TripAdvisor Award after only being open for a couple of months. I swear by TripAdvisor and am one of its “senior reviewers.” I make hotel and other choices based on its reviews. So this means something to me.
As a passionate Arsenal Football Club fan, what’s not to love about the Observer Lifestyle Team’s great feature on the club’s haute cuisine a few days ago. Yes, chef Collin Brown can whip up a wicked jerk chicken roulade. Go Gunners! The new season awaits!
And kudos to the Observer reader, who gave Independence Day gifts to students from the difficult Mountain View Avenue area of Kingston. There was a touching article about this by the Observer’s Kimmo Matthews, which unfortunately I am unable to locate – but it really was quite moving. I will try to find the link. Such gestures of human kindness are what the “spirit of Independence” is about, no? P.S. For more reflections on Jamaica 5o and Independence, I would like to refer you to fellow blogger Annie Paul’s blog and 2009 article, “Do you remember the days of slav’ry?” The link is below.
As always, I extend my deepest sympathies to the families and friends, brothers and sisters, girlfriends, husbands and wives of the following persons who died violently this week:
Ms. Natasha Dixon, 29, Mandeville, Manchester
Oneil Livingston, 26, Mark Lane, Kingston
Unidentified man, Grier Park, St. Ann
Unidentified man, Lawrence Tavern, St. Andrew
Paul Cooper, 44, Savanna-la-Mar, Westmoreland
Unidentified man, King Street, Kingston
Unidentified man, Charles Street, Kingston 13
Cecil Elson, 45, Spanish Town, St. Catherine
Related websites and articles:
http://www.cxc.org (Caribbean Examinations Council website)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120811/news/news6.html (Shocking CSEC results)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120810/lead/lead92.html (Cut vacation leave, employ more teachers)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120808/lead/lead8.html (Mt. Rosser Primary pleads for proper sanitary facilities)
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Thwaites-says-he-s-ready-for-probe-on-bookmarks (Thwaites says he’s ready for probe on bookmarks)
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Spanish-Town-hospital-patients-transferred-to-Linstead (Spanish Town Hospital patients transferred to Linstead)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120809/cleisure/cleisure1.html (Warning from Western Union – Gleaner editorial)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120808/lead/lead2.html (Western Union operators pushing to implement new security measures)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120812/cleisure/cleisure1.html (Food crisis and a disjointed Government – Sunday Gleaner editorial)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120810/cleisure/cleisure1.html (Incoherent Government – Gleaner editorial)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120808/cleisure/cleisure1.html (Beyond Roger Clarke’s C.D. – Gleaner editorial)
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/editorial/Seizing-the-moment-in-a-time-of-crisis_12216161 (Seizing the moment in a time of crisis – Observer editorial)
http://petertosh.com (Peter Tosh website)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120808/cleisure/cleisure3.html (O.M. for Peter Tosh? No way!)
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/business/Five-hundred-new-houses-for-Coral-Springs_12224190 (500 new houses for Coral Springs)
http://www.bracobeachresort.com (Braco Village Hotel & Spa website)
http://anniepaul.net/2012/08/01/do-you-remember-the-days-of-slavry/ and http://anniepaulose.files.wordpress.com/2012/08/the-days-of-slavry1.pdf (Do you remember the days of slav’ry? Annie Paul blog and 2009 article)
Today, Jamaica is half a century old. Music throbs from the National Stadium as the evening grey grows deeper. The remnants of Tropical Storm Ernesto rustle in the trees, and the White-Chinned Thrush in our yard starts his persistent, piercing whistle. On television, the military bands in scarlet, white and black march at the Grand Gala. Choirs will sing, dancers will dance, flags will be waved, drummers will drum. The announcer will speak in her best Queen’s English Jamaican voice. There has been Indian Bollywood dancing, Chinese dragons and of course African drums, illustrating the Jamaican motto “Out of Many One People” – and then, time to wheel out the church people. The obligatory prayers (yes, we are a Christian country. Out of many one people, but let’s not worry too much about the Jews, Hindus, Muslims, atheists and others tonight) – followed by gospel music. As one Twitter friend just commented, “Forgive my naïveté but I interpret ‘Out of many, one people’ to include many races, many cultures AND many religions.”
Sigh. Well as you can see my weekly review is well overdue. It has been overwhelmed with Olympic runners and swimmers and shooters and fencers and rowers and fighters, and now the celebrations of Jamaica’s fiftieth year of Independence. Putting all of that aside (which is a lot), what is left?
Talking about the preservation of our culture (last Monday, August 1, was our Emancipation Day and we are greatly focused on this topic at present), Professor Emeritus of English at the University of the West Indies Edward Baugh (who’s also a marvelous poet) spoke out recently on Jamaica’s lack of interest in actually preserving the physical aspects of our heritage. As we know, some of our finest examples of colonial architecture are now in ruins – except for a few that have been miraculously revived in the name of tourism. And there are many examples of our oral and written history that just can’t be found. How careless we are.
All the more reason to congratulate the venerable Gleaner Company - the oldest company in Jamaica by far – for its new website, diG Jamaica (www.digjamaica.com) – an ambitious project that seeks to pull together a great deal of information on Jamaica, including historical data and up-to-date vital statistics. This is a fiftieth birthday gift to Jamaica from the Gleaner, and it’s looking good. We need this kind of serious and detailed record. Kudos to Gleaner Managing Director Christopher Barnes and consultant Deika Morrison. This is the way to go!
Well, there were at least a couple of interesting developments last week. Firstly, the Supreme Court ruled that the license issued by the then minister of mining and energy in 2001 to the Jamaica Public Service Company (JPSCo) was invalid and not, in fact, an exclusive monopoly. The legal details are too complex to get into, but this is a remarkable development, following a rare class action suit filed by a group of Jamaican citizens calling themselves Citizens United to Reduce Electricity (CURE) and represented by a high-profile and somewhat controversial lawyer. Well, it’s not quite a “cure” yet, but this paves the way for more competition. What next? JPSCo will appeal the ruling. There’s a long way to go before we manage to reduce the insanely high cost of electricity. Jamaica’s rates are the highest in the Caribbean and among the highest globally – a huge deterrent to business and investment, large and small, domestic and overseas. My favorite government minister, Energy Minister Phillip Paulwell, seems quietly pleased with the ruling.
Secondly, the British policeman who has been heading the Jamaica Constabulary Force‘s anti-corruption unit – with considerable success – for the past few years, has been appointed head of the Financial Investigations Division, which operates from the Ministry of Finance. Mr. Justin Felice says he will tackle corruption, financial crimes and money laundering “very, very robustly” (note emphasis) and more power to him! We would like to see some of the “big boys” under manners (a Jamaican expression meaning “on their best behavior,” for my non-Jamaican readers!)
Talking of law enforcement, the head of the Lottery Scam Task Force has been transferred to the newly-formed Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Task Force (MOCA – another nice acronym), and the Deputy Mayor of Montego Bay was released from prison. You may recall the high drama at the orange house on the hill, the DM’s residence, with an early morning raid involving the seizure of large quantities of cash and “high-end vehicles,” etc. Well, gun and ammunition charges brought against the DM were dismissed in court last week. His son pleaded guilty. So the matter was swiftly dealt with; the DM was hauled on the shoulders of jubilant supporters – quite well-built ladies – on exiting the court; and he will no doubt return to taking up his duties in the St. James Parish Council. There are no charges remaining against him, including no charges connected with the hateful scam, either. That’s that.
Apart from these events, there was a huge wave of reflections and all kinds of analysis from columnists and anyone with an opinion on the state of Island Jamaica at fifty. We were regaled with the views of our former prime minister, P.J. Patterson, who believes that “we have achieved” much in the last fifty years. A strong advocate of the Caribbean Court of Justice, Mr. Patterson (sorry, the Most Honorable P.J. Patterson etc) thinks politicians should come together in the Jamaica 50 “spirit of unity” and “do what is necessary” - that is, pass legislation to make the Court Jamaica’s final court of appeal, without of course consulting the Jamaican people on the matter. A battle is to follow… I don’t need a crystal ball to foresee politicians on both sides showing a remarkable lack of Jamaica 50 unity on the matter – perhaps involving much braying, shouting and walking out of the chamber.
And talking of unity – it has become a real buzzword, lately – the Gleaner continued to air the views of the privileged and successful on the topic on its front page. Even business leaders – the head of our local cigarette company included – are pontificating on the matter. I would like them to go down and talk to the men, women and young people of this country and ask them what they think about unity; especially perhaps in the “garrison” communities of our inner-cities (funny there has been very little talk about them, lately) where one side of a street is feuding with the other side, and small communities have names like “Vietnam” and “Dunkirk.” Even the Prime Minister’s garrison constituency. I wonder what they would have to say.
There were, of course, endless speeches in Parliament, and numerous recorded messages from the Prime Minister, Governor General and Leader of the Opposition, on Emancipation Day and again for Jamaica 50. If you are really interested in reading them, the links are below. Our Prime Minister also gave an interview to Time magazine, talking about everything from homophobia (no, Jamaica, we are not really homophobic, and no, I am not going to do anything about changing the laws on buggery); to Usain Bolt, etc. The full interview is in the magazine and excerpts are in a link below.
There was an additional speech in Parliament late last week, by President of Nigeria Goodluck Jonathan. The hardly-ever-smiling President was warmly received, wore his usual felt hat both indoors and outdoors, and urged Jamaica to join his country in fighting poverty. Again, that old buzzword “Unity” or variations thereof continually punctuated his speech. In fact, he asked a very pertinent question: “Is the Black man really free today?” and continued, “Today the destiny of the Black person is in the hands of the Black people.” Well, Marcus Garvey told us that years ago.
President Jonathan had very little to smile about, on his own account. An Associated Press report printed in the Sunday Observer, a day or two after his visit, was headlined “Nigeria in turmoil.” Gloom and doom.
Others shared their views on Jamaica 50. A letter writer observed, “Isn’t it interesting that with all the festivities surrounding our Emancipation and Independence the only things that we can boast about are our music and our athletes? Are you telling me that almost 180 years after Emancipation and 50 years since Independence the only thing that we can brag about is entertainment?” Oh dear me. Financial analyst Dennis Chung, in his usual clear-headed manner, asked another question: “After the party, what?” Read his sensible and balanced article in the Observer’s Caribbean Business Report below.
And you may well have missed some interesting comments by economist Dr. Damien King of the University of the West Indies. “We are poor because we have not had the courage to expand opportunity. It is now time to choose inspired leadership that can create equality of opportunities instead of pandering to the poor,” Dr. King said recently. I could not agree more. But are our leaders listening? Well, for the past fifty years they have not been. And as we all know, our current Prime Minister loves the poor.
OK, now the good and bad (and we are all beautiful, not ugly):
Bad first: A letter to the Editor from a pastor last week declared, “Flexi-work is slavery.” Oh, come on. Can the church please get worked up about some actually relevant issues? The debate about flexi-time has actually been going on for eighteen years, now, with the church vehemently opposed. Eighteen years. That’s progress for you.
The University Hospital of the West Indies and the Kingston Public Hospital have malfunctioning or non-functioning CT scan machines. These are two crucial, large and busy Kingston hospitals. They, and their patients, often have to resort to seeking assistance from private institutions – and the patients have to pay.
As radio talk show host Barbara Gloudon has regularly remarked, with Jamaica at fifty years old, the historic Ward Theatre in downtown Kingston is literally crumbling. Chunks of it will soon start falling on people’s heads.
The good stuff, finally:
I don’t usually gush over beauty queens – and Jamaicans do love their beauty queens – but have to congratulate the Miss Jamaica Festival Queen 2012, Ms. Kemesha Kelly. She is not just a pretty face (although her smile is dazzling). She is a youth advocate – intelligent and articulate, with a strong vision for Jamaica. One of those many young people we should be proud of. Big ups to Kemesha! You will go far.
And now, congratulations to a Jamaican overseas, and a former work colleague of mine in Jamaica, Luke Williams. The lanky Luke has lived in London for ten years now and he is a tremendous teacher, a writer, a great actor. He is also a correspondent for Radio Jamaica, so I hear his warm voice reporting from London on a regular basis. And Luke recently carried the Olympic torch! From Ilford High Road to Redbridge Town Hall. His school nominated him for the honor. Marvelous stuff. And a lovely article by Jamaica Observer writer Janice Budd, by the way.
Our Jamaican Fulbright Scholars always do us proud, and six post-graduates were recently selected for courses in the United States ranging from public policy to tourism and the environment to finance and pest management. Congratulations to them all.
And once again, the American Friends of Jamaica came up trumps. They donated a forty-foot container full of very important equipment and supplies to the Cornwall Regional Hospital in Montego Bay, which serves a wide area with a population of almost a million people. I have no idea why this news was tucked away in the Gleaner’s social pages…
Last but not least, an organization called Halls of Learning has done a great job with a special summer camp for young people in the often-volatile Mountain View area of Kingston. Its young and enterprising founder, Marvin Hall, has a unique approach to learning which includes technology (robotics) and stimulating the child’s natural creativity. Great stuff.
To end, sadly blood was still shed on our island during its weeklong celebrations. My sincere condolences to the families, friends and all those affected by the sad deaths of the following Jamaicans.
And so we march on, into our next fifty years! Have a great remainder of the week.
Killed by police:
Joseph Williams, 29. Llandilo, Westmoreland
Randy Allwood, 21, Alma, Westmoreland
Kadena Jarrett, 24, Frome, Westmoreland
Robert Williams, 24, Dover, St. Mary
Dudley Gordon, Rose End, St. Mary
Sasheka McBean, 25, Spring Mount, St. James
Oneil Lee, Spring Mount, St. James
Jerome Allen, Spring Mount, St. James
Therese Marie Cole, 26, St. James
Davian Robinson, Port Antonio, Portland
Oneil Brown, 30, Cassava Piece, St. Andrew
Uleces Johns, 51, Slipe, St. Elizabeth
Stacy-Ann Smith, 17, Wynters Pen, St. Catherine
http://www.jis.gov.jm/special_sections/Independence/symbols.html (Independence symbols)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120731/lead/lead6.html (JPS licence invalid, rules Supreme Court)
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/UWI-professor-bemoans-Ja-s-poor-record-keeping-practices_12086060 (UWI professor bemoans Jamaica’s poor record-keeping practices)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120730/lead/lead8.html (Can you diG it? Jamaica Gleaner)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120803/lead/lead8.html (Felice to tighten noose on financial crimes)
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/New-FID-boss-Justin-Felice-vows-to-tackle-corruption_12152121 (New FID boss Justin Felice vows to tackle corruption)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120608/news/news6.htmlRelated articles (Anti-corruption body to work with new task force)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120801/lead/lead1.html (Troupe set free)
Jamaica 50 – The Celebration Continues (prweb.com)
50-50 Reflections (petchary.wordpress.com)
Who Is Jamaica? (nytimes.com)
Jamaica celebrates 50th anniversary to mixed reviews (lfpress.com)
VIDEO: Memories of Jamaican independence (bbc.co.uk)
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Raw-sewage-flowing-in-Majesty-Gardens-streets (Raw sewage flowing in Majesty Gardens streets)
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/PJ-wants-politicians-to-show-maturity_12098630 (PJ wants politicians to show maturity)
http://repeatingislands.com/2012/08/05/jamaica-at-50-island-nations-p-m-talks-about-the-queen-the-caribbean-and-usain-bolt/ (Jamaica at 50: Island Nation’s PM talks – Time Magazine)
http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1834406,00.html (Can Jamaica’s sprinters fight crime? – Time Magazine)
http://www.nigeriavillagesquare.com/newsflash/president-jonathan-speech-at-jamaicas-50th-annivesary-celebrations.html (President Jonathan Speech at Jamaica’s 50th Anniversary Celebrations)
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/What-are-we-celebrating-_12142507 (What are we celebrating?)
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/business/Jamaica-2012–A-time-for-reflection (A Time for Reflection: Dennis Chung column)
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Redistributive-policies-have-not-helped-the-poor–says-Damien-King_12098736 (Redistributive policies have not helped the poor, says Damien King)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120802/news/news3.html (Hospital emergency)
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/magazines/career/Fulbright-scholars-feted_11990181 (Fulbright scholars feted)
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Luke-Williams–moment-to-shine_12035947 (Luke Williams’ moment to shine)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120802/lead/lead5.html (Huge support for Mountain View special summer camp)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120803/social/social4.html (American Friends of Jamaica gives Cornwall Regional medical supplies)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20061127/flair/flair1.html (Marvin Hall’s Robotics Stimul-i)
And the situation is… That two elected political representatives in Montego Bay are being investigated in connection with the horrible “lotto scam,” which has spread like an infection from Jamaica’s second city. On Wednesday, the police conducted early morning raids on the homes of Deputy Mayor Mr. Michael Troupe, Councilor for the Granville Division, and the Councilor for the Salt Spring Division Mr. Sylvan Reid, both representing the ruling People’s National Party (PNP) on the St. James Parish Council. Mr. Troupe and his son Jevaughn are to appear in court on Wednesday on charges of illegal firearm and ammunition possession. Mr. Reid has been charged with illegal possession of property. Large amounts of U.S. Dollars and Jamaican Dollars were found hidden inside Mr. Troupe’s home – painted a lovely shade of orange…
Now the lottery scam, which emerged years ago now, has been the scourge of Jamaica for a long time; it has dragged our good name in the mud and has been a continuous source of shame and embarrassment. U.S. police forces have advised citizens not to accept calls from an 876 number (Jamaica’s area code). But it has been an economic godsend for the city of Montego Bay. Small hotels and entertainment venues, where the scammers reportedly hold lavish parties; local businesses, real estate and luxury car sales have all been booming. It has also been the ostensible of much violent crime and many murders, the police say. In case you didn’t know, these people have long lists of the names and numbers of American citizens (where do they obtain these?) whereby elderly ladies and others are robbed of their life savings by smooth-talking Jamaicans, who tell them they have won a lottery, but must first send money. That is basically it, so far as I know. One hears that even teenagers and school kids are involved. It’s “get rich quick” and everybody loves them because they bring money into the community. Lovely. No questions asked.
But the determined efforts of the Jamaica Constabulary Force – who have been steadily picking up not just the small fry, but increasingly what they call “major players” in the lotto scam – are starting to pay off. I must hereby heartily congratulate the head of the Lottery Scam Task Force Superintendent Leon Clunis and his team for their determined investigations. Whether Mr. Troupe and Mr. Reid are proved guilty or not in a court of law, a message has been sent that no one is above the law – not even duly elected officials.
The People’s National Party itself sent a different kind of message – one which did not sit well with many Jamaicans. Firstly, Prime Minister (and President of the PNP) Portia Simpson Miller‘s off the cuff response on the matter was lacking in coherence and conveyed an anxiety to avoid the issue altogether. A television journalist waylaid her as she was entering Parliament later that day, and our Prime Minister’s hurried, abrupt response was, in essence, that she knew nothing about it and could not comment and in any case she is “so busy” with matters of the State… She appeared flustered. Not a good start. On TVJ this evening, she repeated that she did not want to comment until she is sure that she knows what is happening. When will that be? Party Chairman Robert Pickersgill believes Mr. Troupe has “done the honorable thing.” Opposition Leader Andrew Holness says that “I don’t know” has “become the Prime Minister’s tagline.”
So, we waited. No word on Thursday or Friday from the PNP, although its Deputy General Secretary Julian Robinson (the only man who sounded fairly coherent in his remarks) had promised a statement. Something like a statement came out on the Saturday evening television news, almost four days later. It transpired that Mr. Troupe had “voluntarily” (and under no pressure from his party) taken leave of absence from his job – he had not resigned. At a press briefing immediately following the PNP’s regular meeting of the National Executive Council, two of the party leaders looked somewhat sheepish. However, the General Secretary (also ironically the Minister of National Security) took the microphone, asserting that because the two elected officials (sorry to keep stressing this point) are “innocent until proven guilty” they have not been asked to step down, despite the charges against them.
TVJ’s regular viewers’ feedback poll pretty much summed up how most Jamaicans feel about this matter, soon after the arrests. “Should they step down even though they haven’t been charged?” was the question. The viewers’ texted response was loud and clear: eighty per cent said “Yes.” But do the politicians know (or care) what the average Jamaican thinks? (OK, that’s one of my rhetorical questions…) Head of the admirable institution, the National Integrity Action Forum, Professor Trevor Munroe, also said that they must resign. But his voice sounds increasingly lonely, these days – echoing, as if in an empty room.
Did the Prime Minister talk about strengthening the Government’s hand against corruption in her inauguration speech just a few months ago? Just asking. I must revisit that speech.
On this topic, I will end with comments from two people who I think got it right. In a no-holds-barred column in today’s Sunday Observer, Mark Wignall noted caustically that the arrests demonstrate that “too many of our politicians, in this island of crooks, are themselves crooked…Politicians are always hungry for cash and more cash.” Civil rights activist Susan Goffe has noted the key points that I completely agree with: Basically, that it this is not merely a legal issue (of course we are all innocent until proven guilty, that’s a “given”) – so much as it is a moral issue. These are publicly elected officials! We are supposed to respect them, they are our leaders, for heaven’s sake, and we should hold them to a higher standard than your “average Joe.” As Susan Goffe suggests, “If you are charged with a serious criminal offense, declare your innocence, resign from your public office (to preserve the reputation of the office) and deal with the matter of your defence and clearing your name. Too high a standard to ask of those who hold high public office in Jamaica?” Well, it seems so.
As my husband said, supposing before the election a councilor had said to the Jamaican electorate, “Oh well – I might be involved in the lotto scam…and oh, I have an illegal gun.” Would we have voted for him/her? Well, would we? I fear the ruling party has made a grave mistake, and misjudged us all. Just a few months after the optimism (even euphoria) of the general election – and just two weeks before we celebrate our fiftieth year of Independence – it leaves a sour taste in the mouth, like biting into a mango that is not as ripe as you thought it was. Whatever the outcome…
Equally important news… Three Jamaica Defence Force soldiers were – finally – ordered arrested for the murder of accountant Keith Clarke in May 2010. During a botched military operation in search of the fugitive Christopher “Dudus” Coke in a rather wealthy area near Kingston, soldiers allegedly fired at Mr. Clarke’s home and then entered. Mr. Clarke died in a hail of bullets (he apparently received twenty shots). The investigation has been extremely long drawn-out and the bureaucratic procedures related to the military are seemingly rather complex – but it appears that the three will be brought to court as soon as possible. Meanwhile, the question is what has happened in the investigations into the murders of more than seventy residents of Tivoli Gardens during that same period (many of them young men)? The trauma of that period has cut deeply into the consciousness of Jamaicans and the pain of it still lingers – especially in the hearts and minds of the many relatives and friends of those who died under terrifying circumstances.
And in other news… Was there any other news? Well, personally I am feeling very antsy about two major events that are going to take place in the next couple of weeks, and that are dominating the news and social media: the London Olympics and the Jamaica 50 Independence celebrations. On the first, my colleague blogger and journalist par excellence Ms. Dionne Jackson Miller wrote an excellent piece on the excessive, almost hostile attitude of some Jamaicans towards our hard-working athletes – you are expected to win, and to win gold! I agree with Dionne, and have commented elsewhere, that they are all winners. Yet some Jamaicans – supported by some sections of the media – seem to believe that only a gold medal will do. If not, then…Cho! A Gleaner sports report just yesterday noted that an athlete in Monaco was “the only Jamaican winner” at the meet. It was noted that other Jamaican athletes “had to be satisfied with” second and third places in other races. Let us salute and support all our athletes; they work hard, they keep a positive attitude and they have overcome many challenges to reach where they are – the Olympic Games. Congratulations to them all.
P.S. “Time” magazine (yes, the very same Time that presented an award to the Prime Minister apparently for saying that she would tolerate gays in her Cabinet) conducted an online poll on the “best and worst” Olympic athletes kits and what do you know? You’ve guessed it, Jamaica’s came out on top. But the Jamaican jury is, of course, still out. Let’s see how they look at the opening ceremony – that will be the test for Ms. Cedella Marley’s creations, one would like to think.
And on Jamaica 50… What is happening in Jamaica? I’m sorry, I still don’t know, and I have been asking this question for weeks. I can just imagine Jamaicans from overseas arriving on the island, glowing with patriotic pride, checking into their hotels and eagerly enquiring of their hosts, “OK, what’s happening? Where are the celebrations?” Only to be met with confused silence, or perhaps a kind of mumbling – like a politician trying to avoid a difficult question. The Jamaica 50 Secretariat head and the Culture Minister have gone completely silent. It’s good to know, though, that other cities in the Jamaican diaspora worldwide seem to have taken the opportunity to highlight many positive aspects of Jamaican culture in different ways. In London, there will be a seventeen-day “Festival Jamaica 2012″ in Stratford, close to the Olympic venue, including all kinds of exhibits and performances. Jamaican history and culture, flower displays, kids’ events, you name it… And film. As I noted in a reblog earlier this week from the founder of the Reggae Film Festival (a regular fixture on our cultural calendar) the concept of the film festival appears to have been “pirated.” Please see the link below. In Toronto, Canada there is also an exciting schedule of events. They have a beautiful website (see link below) for their “Jump for Jamaica” program of events (the title is also the title of their theme song). Then there is New York, Atlanta, Miami… Perhaps we should go overseas to celebrate Jamaica 50? At least, the distinct impression one has is that we Jamaicans at home are basically left to our own devices. I suppose… Let’s have a party.
Meanwhile, former Prime Minister Edward Seaga told the Jamaica Observer last week that Jamaica had made little progress in the last fifty years. The newspaper then wrote a critical editorial – asking questions that perhaps they should have asked when they were actually interviewing him… And there are questions to be answered.
The Can’t be Bothered Department: Why so much fuss about the over-rated, has-been Jamaican deejay Shabba Ranks? He made what some might call a “triumphant return” to Jamaica for the much-hyped Reggae Sumfest, an annual show in Montego Bay which took place in the past few days. His on-stage cavorting graced (and I use that word sarcastically) almost the entire front page of today’s Sunday Gleaner. (Our Sunday newspapers have become somewhat schizophrenic, of late – a cross between serious commentary/news and entertainment trivia. Saturday’s Observer consists mainly of look-alike hairstyles, ridiculous makeup and nail treatments, and sports). Anyway, Mr. Ranks engaged in “sexually suggestive byplay” with another singer, before introducing his wife on stage. Give me a break… Meanwhile, R. Kelly – the guest star – reportedly owes millions in taxes back home… Jamaica must have been a nice break for him.
Another new rum on the market? And does the launch event have to include women in tiny shorts and too much makeup (where do they get these women from?) Yawn.
Meanwhile, Education Minister Ronald Thwaites continues his unending flow of high-minded speeches, for our edification.
The Not Impressed Department: The long-suffering, once beautiful “Bamboo Avenue,” the supposed tourist attraction in Holland, St. Elizabeth, was seriously damaged by fire caused apparently by a careless farmer. There was no fire truck available to assist. Once again, the St. Elizabeth Parish Council is going to meet and discuss how to preserve what is left of this beautiful area. The area has lost 750 meters of bamboo over the past few weeks. It is sad.
Thumbs down to Windalco – and again, this is a regular/periodic occurrence – for pouring 62,500 gallons of some kind of caustic chemical into the poor old Rio Cobre, resulting inevitably in the death of many fish. Thumbs up to the National Environment & Planning Agency (NEPA) for taking action against the bauxite mining company – and let me say also, for taking the National Solid Waste Management Agency (NSWMA) - another government agency – to court. The latter action is in connection with the appalling fires at the Riverton City dump, which the NSWMA was apparently operating without a license. Do I get the feeling that NEPA is acquiring some teeth, at last? I do hope so. Meanwhile, Windalco – clean up your act! How can these things just happen so?
The Three Cheers Department: CVM Television’s Kameal Gayle, who produced a good series of reports from Haiti. The accompanying footage conveyed a good “on the ground” feel for Haiti – not just the usual clichéd images. The reporting was unpretentious and straight forward. Good going.
To “veteran” deejay Capleton, who through his annual concert “A St. Mary Mi Come From” supports several institutions in what is always described as Jamaica’s poorest parish. The show is in its twelfth year and will take place on August 5 in Annotto Bay. I love it when people don’t forget their roots, but go back to water and nourish them…
I am glad that the University of the West Indies and the Montego Bay Marine Park have partnered on a program to reduce the huge numbers of the flamboyant but invasive species, the lion fish, which is gobbling up reef fish in the Caribbean. I hear that the fish actually does taste good…but cut the spines off, first…
And talking of food, a great move that Wisynco has expanded the distribution of its soda drink Bigga to the United States, partnering with the highly successful Jamaican bakery Golden Krust, which will distribute the drink along with its patties etc. to hungry Jamericans (or even others hooked on Jamaican food!)
Big ups too, to Dr. Henry Lowe, who has forged a partnership of a different kind – with a Chinese anti-cancer biotech firm. Dr. Lowe has been conducting some fascinating research, resulting in the launch of seven nutraceutical products that have great potential through his Bio-Tech R&D Institute. I hope the partnership progresses and bears fruit.
To the Good Shepherd Foundation in Montego Bay, which has had to pause in its building of its Hope Health Clinic due to a shortage of funds. If anyone can help or support in any way, please do so. The Foundation has done incredible work with people living with HIV/AIDS and many other residents since 1997. This is a very worthy project.
To South African High Commissioner to Jamaica Mathu Joyini, U.S. Ambassador to Jamaica Pamela Bridgewater (who served as Consul General in South Africa when Mandela was released from prison) and all those organizations who participated in Nelson Mandela International Day on Wednesday, July 18 – which was Mr. Mandela’s 94th birthday. In particular, the JNBS Foundation partnered with the Kingston YMCA and Children First in Spanish Town for a health outreach and cultural day for at-risk youth. More on this in a post to come…
And talking of Children First, I was thrilled and delighted at the news that the LIME Foundation, California-based Dilieu Technology and the Mosaic Group provided new computers to their Kingston center, which was robbed of all its equipment recently during a break-in. Dilieu will also help provide security, while LIME will provide free internet connection. You are wonderful!
Last but not least, a huge pat on the back for the Liberty Academy at Priory, a small independent school in Kingston, which is doing marvelous work in special education. It has an inclusive and nurturing philosophy. With more revenue and funds, it could do so much more. Educational institutions like this deserve our support, even if the government can provide very little (or so it seems).
Finally, it is my weekly sad task to send condolences to the families and friends of those murdered in Jamaica in the past week. This week, thankfully, I have no police killings to report. Dr. Phillip Chamberlain’s murder has sent shock-waves through the town of Mandeville. A Howard University alumnus, “Dr. Phil” as he was called lived much of his life in the United States and then returned to help his fellow Jamaicans. I hear he was incredibly kind, would work late at night and was always available at any time to help those in need. Many are grieving his sad loss.
Dr. Philip Chamberlain, 71, Mandeville, Manchester
Ava-Gaye Ward, 32, Sunrise Crescent, Kingston
Paul Jackson, 49, Grants Pen, Kingston
Karl Johnson, 57, Old Harbour, St. Catherine
Unidentifed man, Montego Bay, St. James
Holden Riggs, 49, Newmarket, St. Elizabeth
- Human rights group urges Jamaica to repeal anti-buggery law (antiguaobserver.com)
- PNP officials arrested in Jamaican lottery scam (caribbean360.com)
- Sunday Selection: July 15, 2012 (petchary.wordpress.com)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=38619 (Police name deputy mayor, councilor as major players in lotto scam)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120721/lead/lead1.html (Still no word: PNP yet to respond to Michael Troupe gun charge)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120722/lead/lead3.html (PNP waffles on arrested councilors)
- http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/MoBay-deputy-mayor-taking-leave-of-absence_11998615 (MoBay Deputy Mayor Taking Leave of Absence)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=38726 (PNP still refusing to speak on fate of jailed councilors)
- http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Politics-attracts-criminality (Politics attracts criminality AND 50 years old and decrepit/Mark Wignall)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=38592 (Three soldiers to be charged with Keith Clarke murder named)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=38615 (Soldiers detained for Keith Clarke murder)
- http://anniepaul.net/2012/07/18/and-justice-for-tivoli-gardens-memento-mori/ (And justice for Tivoli Gardens? Memento Mori Annie Paul blog)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120717/lead/lead8.html (Witter’s report on Tivoli deaths almost done)
- http://newsandviewsbydjmillerja.wordpress.com/2012/07/21/jamaica-and-the-london-2012-olympics-want-to-help-our-athletes-back-off/ (Want to help our athletes? Back off! DJM blog)
- http://petchary.wordpress.com/2012/07/21/why-are-jamaicans-so-amazing-at-running/ (Why Are Jamaicans so amazing at running?)
- http://petchary.wordpress.com/2012/07/22/3477/ (They Are All Winners!)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120718/sports/sports3.html (The Best! Time votes Jamaica’s Olympic gear tops)
- http://festivaljamaica2012.com/ (Festival Jamaica 2012 – London)
- http://jamaica50.ca/ (Jamaica 50 – Canada)
- http://www.jamaica50anniversary.com/ (Jamaica 50 – New York)
- http://www.ajaatlanta.org/ (Jamaica 50 – Atlanta)
- http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Ja-has-not-progressed-much-in-50-years–says-Seaga_11966332 (Jamaica has not progressed much in 50 years, says Seaga)
- http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/editorial/What-Mr-Seaga-did-not-say–but-should-have-said_11982081 (What Mr. Seaga did not say but should have said – Jamaica Observer editorial)
- http://jamediapro.wordpress.com/2012/07/18/england-steals-reggae-film-festival/ (England steals Reggae Film Festival – Barbara Blake Hannah’s blog)
- http://rjrnewsonline.com/news/local/st-elizabeth-pc-calls-meeting-preservation-holland-bamboo (St. Elizabeth PC calls meeting for the preservation of Holland Bamboo)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=38633 (NEPA to take action against Windalco)
- http://mobile.jamaica-gleaner.com/news/article.php?id=38679 (NEPA takes NSWMA to court)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120718/news/news8.html (If you can’t beat them, eat them)
- http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/business/-A-Bigga-deal-_11998035 (A Bigga deal)
- http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Dr-Lowe-forges-alliance-with-Chinese-anti-cancer-biotech-firm_11982245 (Dr. Lowe forges alliance with Chinese anti-cancer biotech firm)
- http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/westernnews/Good-Shepherd-Foundation-seeks-funds-to-complete-US-3-million-health-facility_11977999 (Good Shepherd Foundation seeks funds)
- http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Children-s-First-gets-new-computers_11989795 (Children First gets new computers)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120721/letters/letters6.html (Liberty nurturing children of varying abilities)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=38537 (Another doctor murdered in Mandeville)
- http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/entertainment/Capleton-lauded-for-charity-work_11982686 (Capleton lauded for charity work)
- Jamaica: Combat Homophobia (hrw.org)
…And you know the other half of that saying. Which is it to be, for Jamaica? The Gleaner newspaper has been running a series on its front pages on the topic of “Unity,” in the context of Jamaica 50. The newspaper asks “movers and shakers” this question: “Why is unity important at this time as we celebrate Jamaica’s 50th anniversary of Independence, and what will this mean for Jamaica going forward?”
The responses have been by turns optimistic, stoic, doggedly determined and idealistic. Lovely words like “commitment,” “integrity,” “transparency” and a short word with great significance for us, “trust,” adorn the short paragraphs attributed to leaders from the private sector, civil society etc. It’s all so predictable it’s almost painful. Yet one senses an unease among many of the comments. ”We are too close to the wire,” comments one young businessman. What does he mean by that? Another more mature businessman comments, “If we do not change direction, we may end up where we are heading.“
And where exactly are we heading? Have we, perhaps, already reached that place, without even realizing it?
Looking at today’s Jamaica Observer this morning, I got some answers as to where we are, right now. “Bloody weekend” declared the front page headline, noting an upsurge of what the police say is gang warfare in a deprived inner-city area situated close to uptown. Three people were shot dead and three injured.
I turned the page to the newspaper’s “Page 2,” which is devoted to the activities of a select group of uptowners with familiar family names that are regularly recycled, it appears. It’s hard to distinguish one from the other. The ladies wear fashionable sunglasses à la Mrs. Beckham, very short skirts showing off their well-toned legs, and “on trend” shoes, hats, handbags. They are usually “sipping” something – the finest wine, perhaps, or the latest cocktail. The men wear cool shades too, of course, and are also very fashionably attired. They all smile for the camera. What a life.
Well, it’s Sunday lunchtime in the city, and just as these ladies and gentlemen were getting ready for their pool party at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel, a mile or two away 49-year-old Paul Jackson was shot dead while attempting to flee into a house in Grants Pen. While the guests were arriving, and as the music played and the mimosas and champagne started flowing, 32-year-old Ava-Gaye Ward was being “sprayed with bullets” in Sunrise Crescent, not far from Grants Pen. She was hit in the back, hip, abdomen and right palm, according to the Observer report, and did not survive the attack.
I will leave you, dear reader, to draw your own conclusions.
PS. Wherever you are in the world, please don’t forget to observe Nelson Mandela International Day on Wednesday, July 18. It is intended to be a day of action. To quote the great man himself…
“Rhetoric is not important. Actions are.”
- http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Six-shot-in-resurgence-of-gang-violence-in-St-Andrew-North_11963377 (Bloody weekend – murder victims chased, shot)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120716/lead/lead3.html (Unity: Jamaica 50)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120716/lead/lead4.html (Nothing to celebrate, says Garveyite)
- http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/8308734/Page2-2012-07-13.jpg (Page Two: July 14, 2012)
- Nelson Mandela Day: Volunteers Needed… (petchary.wordpress.com)
- 50-50 Reflections (petchary.wordpress.com)
- Bloody weekend in Jamaica (antiguaobserver.com)
- Sunday Selection: July 15, 2012 (petchary.wordpress.com)
- http://www.timeanddate.com/holidays/un/nelson-mandela-day (Nelson Mandela International Day)