We have had alternate sun and heavy rain for most of the week, and our garden is glowing. The house is full of a) mangoes and b) mosquitoes – the former far more pleasant than the latter of course, and mostly of the slightly tart Bombay variety.
As for the second half of the week, it has been somewhat tense – for several reasons. Firstly…
The teachers get nasty… The Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA), after many ominous rumblings, went on the attack during consultations with their members in some parishes. There are several issues at stake – all of which, I believe, could be resolved by sitting down round a table with Education Minister Ronald Thwaites. It’s something called negotiation. The JTA is, essentially, a trade union; and that is what trade unions are supposed to do with governments. Negotiate. Admittedly, the Minister’s style is pedantic, and a little condescending at times. His comments on the generous paid study leave and paid vacations that teachers currently enjoy may have ruffled a few feathers. However, that is no excuse for the uncouth, insulting remarks made by some past JTA presidents on public platforms. One referred to a “mongrel dog” - asserting that the JTA is a mean old puss that will not be intimidated – with accompanying aggressive body language. Another suggested that the Minister must be on cocaine, which his audience of teachers found most amusing. And the term “backra massa” used by another leading teacher to describe the Minister has certain unpleasant connotations. Please. Stop it.
…but may lose the PR battle: Let’s face it. There are so many things wrong with the Jamaican education system it’s hard to know where to start. But I believe Minister Thwaites is open to a frank discussion with the teachers on the many complex issues affecting the system and those who work in it. And can we start thinking about the students, please? It’s worth looking back at Jaevion Nelson’s Gleaner column from a few weeks ago. Jaevion is good with statistics, and they speak for themselves. Be careful, teachers (and yes, I know there are many dedicated, hard-working teachers out there). The behavior of some of your leaders is not endearing you to the general public. And many Jamaicans are really not too impressed with the results you are producing. In its latest report, the National Education Inspectorate is none too thrilled by the state of our schools, either. Shape up, please!
Emotions running high: We had back to back anniversaries, on Thursday and Friday, for two extremely painful events that took place on May 22, 2009, and May 23, 2010 respectively: the terrible fire at the Armadale Juvenile Correctional Centre, in which seven young girls perished; and the onslaught on Tivoli Gardens by security forces, during which at least 77 Jamaican citizens died. UNICEF Jamaica did a marvelous job with photo essays and interviews on Armadale, which can be viewed on their Facebook page and which got wide media coverage. As for the Tivoli affair, there is a strange (and to me, really disturbing) ambivalence in some Jamaicans’ attitudes (see the comments on the Jamaica Observer article “Tivoli still hurting” below as an example). The residents of Tivoli had it coming to them; they were mostly criminals; they supported their “don.” Why should we feel sorry for them? There is also the posturing of the Jamaica Labour Party, and in particular the current Member of Parliament for the area Desmond McKenzie, who does not want a Commission of Enquiry. I wonder why.
Lovely PR: On the Armadale anniversary, our glamorous Youth Minister Lisa Hanna was at a smart uptown hotel for a photo-op and a feel-good speech. At the event, an overseas-based Jamaican diaspora organization, Children of Jamaica Outreach, Inc., (COJO) presented scholarships and tablets to three former wards of state for pursuing tertiary education; and the Minister joined in. I am extremely happy for these young people, and COJO are to be congratulated for their philanthropy. Minister Hanna also congratulated the three for “braving the odds” - a term used frequently in a Jamaica Information Service release. The odds are certainly against them. Most of the recommendations of the Commission of Enquiry into the Armadale fire have not been implemented, and conditions have hardly improved for wards of state – especially the girls. All “lovely PR,” as Susan Goffe of Jamaicans for Justice commented on radio. Now read today’s front page Sunday Gleaner report about Vanessa Wint, who committed suicide in an adult prison several months ago.
And lovely trips, too: While Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller and her delegation of (at a guess?) eight, nine or ten people including the “support team” enjoy their stay in Addis Ababa for the African Union celebrations, there are other trips afoot. National Security Minister Peter Bunting is leading a delegation (size also unknown) to meet with the Vice President of the United States, Joe Biden, at a CARICOM Heads of State meeting tomorrow in Port of Spain. One wonders why a minister with just over one year’s experience would be attending such a high-level meeting; then I thought, perhaps it’s all about security. But no. CARICOM will be signing a trade accord with the United States. Why isn’t the much more senior Finance Minister Peter Phillips or Trade Minister Anthony Hylton attending, in that case? And why is Transport Minister Omar Davies in charge of the government in Portia’s absence? I would have thought…Minister Phillips?
Am I obsessed with foreign trips? Why, you may ask, my preoccupation with the size of delegations, etc? Well, we know for sure that the African trip cost J$8.6 million. We are confused. We have been told to tighten our belts, here at home. Did some people not get that message? Oh, I see. It’s ordinary Jamaicans who are to tighten their belts; politicians can continue letting theirs out. And what does the International Monetary Fund have to say on this, I wonder? Please bear in mind that the Prime Minister says she always, always travels first class…
Quick question: According to recent reports, both tourism and bauxite mining are currently in decline. Aren’t these our two major earners of foreign exchange? Just asking.
Cheers to the following:
- My fellow Jamaican bloggers, who came together on the first Jamaica Blog Day (May 23) to focus on police abuses. Many voices and perspectives. See link below.
- Sandals Whitehouse and the U.S. Peace Corps for a great little environmental project in Beeston Spring – recycling plastic bottles and getting students and their parents involved.
- UNICEF Jamaica for their ongoing awareness program during May (Child Month) on children at risk, which I believe has been very successful in the traditional and social media.
- Jamaicans for Justice for their series of columns for Child Month in the Gleaner. Well written, hard-hitting and asking all the right questions. Answers, please!
- Young Randy McLaren, dub poet and “creative activist,” for his moving and beautiful video in remembrance of the Armadale fire, its victims and survivors.
- Jamaican Fulbright Scholar and tweep Bianca Welds, who will be departing tomorrow for a six-month trip to Italy. Bianca responded to a tweet, offering her an opportunity to join a business startup program. She is interviewed by her alma mater, St. Andrew’s High School (which has a great online/social media presence). See link below for video interviews, and see htpp://www.f6s.com and
. Bon voyage, Bianca!
- The young and brilliant gay rights activist Javed Jaghai, whose case challenging the archaic buggery laws will come up in the Supreme Court on June 26. Such courage.
- Mr. Daniel Thwaites (yes, Minister Ronnie’s son) for an amusing and clever column in today’s Sunday Gleaner, beginning with a great sentence: “Is there anything easier to be mega-hypocritical about than teenage sexuality?” Mmm. Probably not, Daniel.
- Mr. Chris Serju for a thoughtful column on the issue of land use in Jamaica – a fundamental issue, indeed. See the link below. Chris is an excellent writer on agriculture. Well worth a read.
- The Brownies of Yallahs Primary School in St. Thomas for reaching out to the deaf community. I hope they will all learn sign language.
Although major crimes are reportedly declining, I do not see much change in the sad little list at the end of each post that I write. My deepest sympathies to the families of the following Jamaicans, who have been killed in the past four days. Please let us not forget that whatever lives these people led, they leave behind grieving relatives, friends, and some leave children without a mother or a father, too…
Tracy-Ann Richards, 33, Duhaney Park, Kingston 20
Shandon Levy, 14, downtown Kingston
Desmond Brown, 49, Red Pond, St. Catherine
Paulette Campbell, 44, Hayes, Clarendon
Unidentified man, Spaulding, Clarendon
Killed by the police:
Ramone Wright, St. John’s Road/Spanish Town, St. Catherine
Rohan Campbell, 23, Hamilton Gardens/Portmore, St. Catherine
Damion Jarrett, 30, Latore Ave/Waltham Park, Kingston
Related articles and links (local blog posts in purple):
Jamaica Blog Day: links to 22 blog posts on police abuses – May 23, 2013
Public Defender urges government to await ballistics report: RJR News
Witter challenges McKenzie to tell all he knows about Tivoli incursion: RJR News
PM, ministers heading overseas: Gleaner
CARICOM, U.S. to sign trade accord: Jamaica Observer
Poverty has little bearing on students: Jaevion Nelson column/Gleaner (April 25, 2013)
Teachers accuse minister of taking “baccra massa” approach: Gleaner
Hijacking the teaching profession: Letter of the Day/Gleaner
Rein in police death squads: Horace Levy letter/Sunday Gleaner
Tivoli still hurting: Jamaica Observer
Memories of May: Madness! Murder! Mayhem! Gary Spaulding article/Gleaner
Revealing Jamaica’s soul: Stacey’s story is not uncommon: Jamaicans for Justice column/Gleaner
Rising from Armadale’s ashes: UNICEF article/Sunday Gleaner
She cried, “Help!” Authorities knew troubled teen was suicidal months before she killed herself: Sunday Gleaner
Revealing Jamaica’s soul: How others see us: Jamaicans for Justice column/Sunday Gleaner
A university dream comes true for three wards of the state: Jamaica Observer
Policeman charged in connection with Armadale fire still on interdiction: RJR News
Employment up: Jamaica Information Service
Chart of the Week: Murders by parish, January to April 2013: diGJamaica.com
Government sued: Keith Clarke’s family seeks big compensation: Jamaica Observer
Another challenge to buggery laws: Sunday Gleaner
In defense of “Jacqueline”: Daniel Thwaites column/Sunday Gleaner
Set inner-city electricity rate: solarbuzzjamaica.com
Decline in earnings from mining sector: RJR News
PIOJ Head says multi-billion projects will contribute to growth projections: Jamaica Information Service
Agriculture digging its grave: Gleaner editorial
Halt farmland capture: Chris Serju article/Sunday Gleaner
Interest rates are on the rise: Jamaica Observer
Senate approves bill on charitable organizations: Jamaica Information Service
Hylton living in logistics dream world: Gleaner commentary
RADA is a failure: agri stakeholders say agency not fulfilling mandate: Gleaner
The 2013 hurricane season: Caribbean predictions: hill60bump.com
Busta, Manley get touch-up: Gleaner
Yallahs Primary Brownies reach out to deaf community: Gleaner
Bianca Welds, a second generation SAHS alumna: St Andrew High School Museum on tumblr.
We are refreshed by the rain, which has been coming down in oodles for the past few days, every afternoon on cue. It has turned the streets of Kingston into chaos and our lawn into a kind of marshland (previously it was desert). We are nevertheless thankful.
All that wet stuff has not washed away all the silliness that has been going on this week though, sadly. For a start…
The terrors of tweeting: The curse of the tweet has descended on Jamaica. You would think that our public officials would have learned from the sticky situations their overseas counterparts have got themselves into in the not too distant past. But Kingston’s Mayor dipped her toes into these dangerous waters, and got bitten. She used some of her 140 characters to exclaim “What the f!” and went on to complain that two Opposition representatives (including the leader) were appearing on the mid-week television current affairs shows. Now we all know what the “f” in the social media term WTF means (no, it does not stand for “frog”) and the Mayor pretty much acknowledged this in a sort of half-apology during a radio interview with Barbara Gloudon. So let’s move on from that, and the self-righteous indignation. Yes, certainly inappropriate for someone in her position, but let’s not overreact.
The show must go on: Several journalists responded sharply on social media and radio to the Mayor’s accusation of political bias. They pointed out (in fact, one even listed) the number of times they have requested the participation of the Prime Minister and other government officials, who have declined the requests. And the media knows that the show must go on, with or without them. Note: Mayor Angela Brown Burke is a stalwart of the People’s National Party and leader of the Kingston & St. Andrew Corporation, representing the majority party. Mayors are not directly elected in Jamaica – except for the Mayor of the Municipality of Portmore.
More importantly…This is all another manifestation of the uncomfortable relationship between the current administration and the media. Isn’t it? So badly out of sync. If I was the Prime Minister, I would gently relieve the current communications consultants (or whatever they call themselves) of their duties, and start afresh with a new “team.” At the moment, the whole thing is lurching from one faux pas to another. It’s painful to watch. And so unnecessary.
Is the press really free, or just comfortable? And talking of the press, there were some interesting remarks at the Press Association of Jamaica’s breakfast in recognition of World Press Freedom Day on Friday, May 3. The church person I have a great deal of time for, the head of Jamaica’s Anglican Church Bishop Howard Gregory, said he did not think either the current administration or the Opposition would want a Commission of Enquiry into the Tivoli Gardens slaughter, as suggested by the Public Defender and others. Why? Because “the complicity factor operates,” says Bishop Gregory. Both political parties will seek to preserve the status quo (see below) and not rock the boat. Who knows what might come out? It might not look good on either party. Best to just let sleeping dogs lie… or in this case, well over seventy dead Jamaicans. Professor Trevor Munroe of National Integrity Action warned against the “nine-day wonder” phenomenon, which a certain local government councilor predicted for the Azan affair recently. Soon blow over. Don’t let this happen! And broadcast journalist Emily Crooks suggested that her colleagues were “not pushing the envelope” – and were, therefore, quite comfortable compared to colleagues around the world who are harassed, attacked, even killed. We need a more “activist” and investigative press, one feels. Complacency is never desirable. The press must, and should, be prepared to rock that boat until the water slops over the sides.
Thievery reaches new heights: With the theft of over 200,000 liters of airplane fuel from the Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay. Pardon the pun. The mind boggles. How? We wait with bated breath for more news on this… Or else we might just forget to ask?
Houses for the poor: Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller seems mighty pleased with her latest plan to revive the Inner City Housing Project, using funds from the poor old National Housing Trust (NHT) – the gift that keeps on giving. There, you see! She is doing something for the poor, after all. Who said she didn’t love them? Others are not so impressed. Responding to a question on TVJ News earlier this week, 91 per cent of viewers said that NHT funds should not be used to assist non-contributors. In a Sunday Gleaner column today, the irreverent Gordon Robinson asks: ”Why are otherwise intelligent persons twisting themselves into knots to defend this indefensible rape of poor people’s assets?” I think he (and we) know a few reasons why. One must not upset the applecart, as that sage People’s National Party councilor told CVM Television in relation to the Richard Azan/Spaldings Market fiasco. All hail the status quo! Long may it live!
Incidentally, the Prime Minister said she had no knowledge of the councilor’s remarks, when questioned by CVM. Rather surprising. Or not?
What Negril does/does NOT have: We noted recently that the tourist town of Negril is extremely short of water. We also now hear that it has had no fire engine for the past two months, and is dependent on trucks from the town of Savannah-la-Mar, a good twenty minutes’ drive away. A large house burnt down yesterday. As the Jamaica Environment Trust notes, the beach is rapidly disappearing, with the sea lapping at beachside attractions; there are dubious plans to revive it by injecting chemicals into it. Oh, and there is basically no coral reef and no fish – all connected with said dwindling beach, of course. I’m informed, also, that the Negril Recycling Centre, supported by the Sandals Foundation about three years ago, is also non-functioning. The nearest one now is in Montego Bay.
Help JA Children, a local lobby group formed just one year ago and founded by the still-ridiculously-young Brandon Allwood, has started a collection of items for children in state care. The collection drive will go on for the entire month of May (Child Month) at Kia Motors, 2 Chelsea Avenue, in New Kingston. Please go through your cupboards or pop down to the store and donate anything that you can spare – clothes, toys, books, stationery and school items, toiletries… Help JA Children has a Facebook page and is on Twitter (@HelpJAChildren).
Reparations, again: In 2001, our very own Barbara Blake Hannah – a passionate Rastafarian defender of Jamaica’s culture – attended the United Nations World Conference on Racism in Durban, South Africa. The conference made 19 excellent recommendations for ways in which the evils of slavery could be atoned for by, in Jamaica’s case, the British Government. A British Lord, Anthony Gifford – a Queen’s Counsel who practices law in Jamaica and the UK – has campaigned tirelessly on the subject; and so has the Jamaica Labour Party’s Mike Henry. And yet, sadly, little or no progress has been made. Essentially, the British have said sorry, but no. The discussions continue. Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines Ralph Gonsalves spoke for a remarkable 87 minutes (according to tweets from friends who attended) at the launch of a new book on the topic by Professor Hilary Beckles at the University of the West Indies this week. Mr. Gonsalves has offered to host a Caribbean conference on the topic in his country, at which he will no doubt drone on for another 87 minutes. To my mind, this does not advance us any further. What next? Not more words, please? Let’s have action! It is a burning question, it needs to be resolved, and long speeches are not going to cut it.
But then, this is part of the Pontification Syndrome for which Jamaica is well known. We talk too much!
I hate Page 2: In the current socio-economic climate, my dislike for the social pages in the daily newspapers has been steadily growing. I am developing a real hatred for Page Two and Something Extra and all the other nonsense. I think I am going to start a Campaign for the Abolition of Social Pages (CASP for short). Seriously. They are irrelevant, elitist, classist, and actually rather offensive – in light of the fact that when the IMF funds were disbursed, the government had to ask for a special sum up front for “budgetary support.” So they could pay public sector wage bills for April, perhaps? So can we wave goodbye to those people with drinks in their hands, posing for their photo? Goodbye!
Once again, it is very sad to note the names of those who have been murdered in Jamaica since Wednesday, May 1, when I wrote my last review. My condolences to all those who mourn them (and to the family, friends and neighbors of the twelve-year-old girl who committed suicide in rural St. Catherine last week):
Violet Marsh, 63, Temple Hall, St. Andrew
Phillip Bell, 39, Seaforth, St. Thomas
Leroy Reid, 42, Naggo Head, St. Catherine
Constable Michael Townsend, Effortville District, Clarendon
Killed by the police:
Orane Bowman, Clarendon
Related links and articles (local blogs in purple):
PNP members apologize for controversial tweets: RJR News
Controversy in 140 characters: Gleaner editorial
Can you hear me now? Communication problems at Jamaica’s local government level: Perceptual Post
”Our journalists are not killed, but many stories die”: Jamaica Observer
Jamaican journalists challenged to improve standards: Sunday Gleaner
The people vs Portia: Lloyd B Smith op-ed/Jamaica Observer
Jamaica will find it difficult to implement IMF targets, Fitch says: Jamaica Observer
Lack of accountability in the budget debate: Robert Wynter column/Sunday Gleaner
NDX Saves Gov’t $17 Billion in Payments Per Year on Domestic Bonds: Jamaica Information Service
OUR to hold public meetings on request for increased water rates: RJR News
Energy bill reduction falls short of target: Solar Buzz Jamaica
Paulwell’s statement on CAP not true, says Golding: Jamaica Observer
Clarendon Alumina Partners no cost on budget – Finance Minister: Jamaica Information Service
NHT’s Inner City Housing Project causes headache: Gleaner – April, 2010
PM revives housing plan: Gleaner
The great NHT robbery: Gordon Robinson column/Sunday Gleaner
Upgraded facility to benefit St. Mary farmers: Jamaica Observer
Public beaches raise a stink: Gleaner
”Be more selective”: Food for the Poor Jamaica Chair Andrew Mahfood: lowrie-chin.blogspot.com
Britain’s black debt: The logic of reparation: anniepaul.net
Cut the talk and cut the red tape: Sunday Observer editorial
Richard Azan: The story not yet told: Desmond Allen article/Jamaica Observer
Spalding shops: Parish Council knew: Sunday Observer
Beyond Mr. Witter’s windy diatribe: Gleaner editorial
Witter wrong on ICC enquiry: Letter to the Editor from Lloyd D’Aguilar/Gleaner
We want $1 millon each: Tivoli residents put price on their loss: Gleaner
Anglican bishop says government will do nothing about Tivoli report: Jamaica Observer
Jamaica’s image in jeopardy if no Tivoli enquiry says human rights activist: RJR News
”Dudus” should testify – Witter: Sunday Observer
No disciplinary action yet – Albert Corcho: Jamaica Star
Children’s Advocate calls for partnerships: Jamaica Information Service
Give us clarity, Minister Thwaites: Letter from Senator Kamina Johnson Smith/Jamaica Observer
Child’s suicide leaves void in St. Catherine village: Sunday Observer
Revealing Jamaica’s soul: Jamaicans for Justice op-ed/Sunday Observer
Should contraceptives be introduced in schools? Sunday Observer
Contraceptives in schools: Don’t just dismiss it: Sunday Observer
Chart of the Week: Putting All our Eggs in One Basket? Cargo continues to decline: diGJamaica
”Tablets” for a wounded Jamaica: perceptualpost.com
”Time for Penwood to settle down”: Jamaica Observer
Was Penwood stabbing staged for YouTube? Sunday Gleaner
Prisoners party at Tower Street: Sunday Gleaner
Chronic shortage of special education teachers: RJR News
Sports: The opium of our high schools: Lasceive Graham op-ed/Jamaica Observer
Round and around and around and around we go: Tamara Scott Williams column/Sunday Observer
ODPEM gearing up for active hurricane season: Jamaica Information Service
Portrait of an elderly man: lovely artwork from a young man from St. Mary: jablogz.com
Influential Jamaican saxophonist Cedric Brooks dies at 70: Washington Post”
What happened to the Negril Recycling Centre? Undated photo from Sandals Foundation showsHeidi Clarke (third left), director of programmes at the Sandals Foundation, hands over a cheque valued at $320,000 to Carey Wallace, president of the Negril Chamber of Commerce, operators of the Negril Recycling Centre. Looking on are Mark Swainbank of Environmental Resources Management (from left); Junior Gordon, director of the Negril Chamber of Commerce and general manager for Grand Pineapple Negril; Jermaine Robinson, manager of the Negril Chamber of Commerce; and Peter Reid, manager of the Negril Recycling Centre.
Yesterday, the tremor of Carnival shook the air. As the tired afternoon faded, the sounds continued, although more muted than earlier. Yes, it was party time again, and my Twitter feed was replete with photographs of festooned and feathered bodies, pouting faces with glitter attached to cheekbones and eyelids. Yes, it’s only once a year…
So on to the week’s shenanigans:
Stop press: The International Monetary Fund has just issued a statement on Jamaica, indicating that all documents are now in order and it is ready to submit Jamaica’s case to its board, which will meet by the end of April. You will find the statement here (note final paragraph):
The mystery of it all: Last weekend, a burglary took place at a well-groomed villa in the lush and secluded San San, Portland. Depending on which report you read, a laptop, jewelry and cell phones were stolen – give or take a few items. Depending on which report you read, the stolen goods did/did not belong to National Security Minister Peter Bunting. Depending on which report you read, Minister Bunting was/was not with a female companion/two female companions. They were/were not held up at knife-point while sitting by the pool. The first reports that floated through Twitterland over the Easter weekend told one story. It seemed to be from the San San police, who are but a stone’s throw away from the villa. This report was seemingly quickly overridden by the police High Command, after the Minister himself dismissed the knife-point version of events. Now the local police and residents have reportedly taken a vow of silence. Will we ever know what really happened? Meanwhile, on Friday a man was charged with a “lesser offense” - housebreaking/larceny. The stolen goods were recovered, somehow; many theories about this, too. And where were the minister’s security men? The Gleaner calls it a “lack of clarity” involving, of all people, our National Security Minister.
A “flood tide of disrespect for the nation’s leaders”? This is how veteran journalist Barbara Gloudon described the public and media reaction to the murky “burglary” affair. Respect, as we have noted, is one of those two-way things. When did our politicians last show the people “true respect for all,” as noted in the Jamaican national anthem? Just asking.
Austerity begins at home: One of the intrepid journalists of Nationwide News Network managed to catch the Prime Minister outside a meeting one day last week, and asked her about U.S. President Barack Obama‘s five per cent pay cut. He had the temerity to ask our nation’s leader whether she might be willing to follow the President’s example. After being told that “this is not a press conference,” (?) Ms. Simpson Miller informed the young reporter that she was already making sacrifices. Of what nature, one might ask? Well, she lives at her private home and not at the old colonial Prime Minister’s residence in Vale Royal, Kingston (which already had some $14 million allocated for its upkeep in the new budget). So tell me now, does the Prime Minister not receive allowances for living in her own home, also? Maintenance, security (which is on the public purse – policemen?), wages of household workers etc? Someone, please correct me if I am wrong.
…and in the air: The Prime Minister also informed the reporter that she has foregone attendance at many conferences that she has been invited to, thus saving a packet on overseas travel – which, of course, is always first class. (“I don’t fly econ,” our leader announced during a speech recently. Her Ministers and Government agency heads are still “not flying econ” to Miami and beyond, though?) I would like to know how much has been saved by not attending these conferences?
Can we tone down the tone, please? That aggressive/defensive tone of voice is aggravating and comes across as arrogant. Please talk to us like human beings. Even the media are human beings, although that may be hard for politicians to conceive.
Nuh Go Deh: I don’t usually listen to the pulpit rantings of churchmen on television news, but Pastor Joseph Rose of the First Born Assembly put it succinctly. He told dons and older men: “Leave the pickney alone!” The non-governmental organization Eve for Life has been campaigning for some time about sex with children. Older men watch young teens grow up, discuss them among themselves, and literally prey on the girls. We need to change the hearts and mindset of these men, who encourage each other in this “macho” pursuit. We need to tell them, “Nuh go deh!” (Don’t go there). I fail to understand how forcing young girls – children – to have sex somehow enhances your manliness and your prestige. And make no mistake, very many of these sexual encounters are forced. It is in any event statutory rape and thus punishable by a prison term.
Sitting on the Throne: Our Governor General read the Throne Speech at the official opening of Parliament last week. As usual, the female politicians wore nice dresses and matching hats, and were duly celebrated in the Trivial Pages of the newspapers. Sorry, I mean the Social Pages. The gaggles of supporters of each party outside Gordon House were reduced in numbers and more subdued than usual. But please…may I remind Jamaicans that the Governor General represents the Queen of England? He, and not the Prime Minister, is our Head of State. He simply reads out the speech that is written by speechwriters at the behest of the political administration and handed to him by the Prime Minister. The Queen herself does the same thing in England; she reads out whatever meaningless nonsense the Prime Minister hands her. So why did people say they “expected more” from our GG? The speech is an overview of the Government’s plans and policies for the upcoming year. That’s it.
Vague platitudes? What concerns me, however, is the insubstantial nature of the speech. It starts and ends with platitudes (“The bright colors of our National Flag continue to fly in the face of all our difficulties; constantly reminding us that: ‘The land is fertile, the sun shineth and our people are still strong.’…) There is very little in between. Below are the main points:
- The Government wants “long-term concessionary funding” to fight climate change from the “international community.”
- The Government is worried about violence against women and children, and about car crashes. “We have to work much harder” to reduce the bloodshed, it says.
- The Government will go around the country trying to find out why we are not being nice to each other – an attempt to resuscitate the Values and Attitudes program instituted by former Prime Minister P.J. Patterson. The website,
is under construction. Indeed.
- Having “terminated” the Liquefied Natural Gas program, the Government will look around for renewables etc. and “let the market determine” fuel costs.
- The Government is going to use more computers and be more friendly to the public.
- Aha! Net billing. That’s a good thing. Thanks, Minister Paulwell.
- Remember JEEP? Well, 18,000 Jamaicans were employed under the program last year. They tended grass verges, mended fences and generally tidied up the place.
- The Government has fulfilled all the “prior actions” required by the IMF (see Stop Press above).
- The Government has agreed with said IMF on a “minimum level of support for social intervention programs for the more vulnerable members of our society.” How minimum is that? Who are the vulnerable?
- The Government will try to be more efficient.
- The Government will do a bit more privatization of state assets. It will also try to pin down that nebulous creature, “The Growth Agenda.” Oh, here it is. Some Chinese projects. And aren’t we way behind with the logistics hub? Sounds like it.
- The meaningful part: More reliable and less expensive electricity.
- The Government is going to try to get more Russian tourists (like it tried to get more Chinese, Indians, Latin Americans…)
- The Government will launch eight agro-parks. What is an agro-park?
- Second meaningful part: The legislative agenda. (What is the Charities Bill all about? Taxing charities? “Regulating” them?)
- The JDF will train 500 youth at risk. And offer them jobs?
- The Government will especially strengthen ties with the almost-failed state of Venezuela, where the Chavez candidate told electors that he has put a curse on all who vote against him in the upcoming elections. But it will continue to hug up its “traditional partners” and seek to “enhance the free movement of Jamaican nationals in CARICOM.”
- Education and health: Nothing much.
- The End.
On Health: Or “‘Ealth” as our Minister would pronounce it… This sector gets a few lines in the Throne Speech. And yet, a few days ago, our doctors fell “sick” in protest at their reclassification exercise, which will result in some doctors being paid less than nurses. The ‘Ealth Minister says he is going to review the no-user-fee policy, after consultations. Well, I am glad he is consulting with the public, but hasn’t the decision already been made on that one? As for the Nurses Association of Jamaica, its tirade on radio Friday night left me open-mouthed. The nurses’ president got so carried away she even suggested that we could do without doctors altogether, because nurses are so much more highly qualified and important! Listen, don’t be silly. We need both. And is the government going to shoulder the cost of anti-retroviral drugs for Jamaicans living with HIV for at least the next two years or so, since overseas funding has now ended?
Is it true? Activist Betty Ann Blaine of the New Nation Coalition is calling for an investigation into the alleged purchase of two luxury bullet-proof vehicles at a cost of $30 million. I really don’t want to believe this and trust it is not true. OK. The Minister of Information says it’s NOT true.
How cool is that: Mr. Dennis Chung, the fresh-faced, straight-talking financial analyst, is the new CEO of the highly influential Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica. Many congratulations to the always cool, unpretentious and all-round decent Mr. Chung. I hope he will still have time for his cycling. I am also hoping this will mean the PSOJ focuses more on energy issues. I know renewable energy is a passion of his, and of crucial importance for our economic development. I understand Mr. Chung is himself almost totally “off the grid” at home.
Good works: Food for the Poor paid the fines of 81 prisoners in Jamaica, Haiti, Guyana and Honduras – 37 in Jamaica, just before Easter. These are inmates who were imprisoned simply because they were unable to pay their fines for non-violent, non-drug offenses. This is something Food for the Poor does regularly at Easter and Christmas. Huge kudos to them.
A passionate advocate: I met with the General Counsel of the U.S. National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) last week. Her name is Kim Keenan and she is passionate about standing up and garnering support for important causes, pressing them forward. In the face of some “ifs” and “buts” from her audience of community activists and students at the University of the West Indies’ Faculty of Law, Ms. Keenan said “You have to make up your mind to be unpopular…It is never popular to challenge the status quo.” I will write more on this. Thank you so much to the U.S. Embassy’s Public Affairs Section for organizing Ms. Keenan’s visit to Jamaica; it was very timely.
My deepest sympathies to the families and friends of the following Jamaican citizens who were murdered in the past week, including one man who was shot dead as he drove in Half Way Tree, as Carnival revelers were preparing to hit the road in Kingston this morning. The man injured a pedestrian and crashed into a light pole, cutting off electricity in the area. I am not sure whether Carnival participants had to dance through or around the yellow crime scene tape.
Wayne James, 42, Half Way Tree Road, Kingston
Unidentified male, age 15 approx., Rockfort, Kingston
Everton Mills, 54, Red Pond, St. Catherine
Kirk Porter, Bog Walk, St. Catherine
Unidentified, Nain, St. Elizabeth
Edgar Clarke, 74, Bogue Village/Montego Bay, St. James
Devoney Morgan, 34, Whitehouse, Westmoreland
Vincent Brown, 42, Negril, Westmoreland
Related articles with local blog posts in purple:
”Don’t judge victims”: Violence Prevention Alliance head calls for training of police in dealing with abuse complaints: Gleaner
Understanding the right to life: Shawn Wilkinson op-ed/Sunday Observer
Teacher traumatized by alleged police harassment: Jamaica Star
Out of the closet, out of Jamaica: Dadland Maye op-ed/Sunday Gleaner
Killed for naseberries? Jamaica Observer
Children’s Advocate steps in following assault on ward at Fort Augusta: RJR News
Sick doctors get better: Sunday Gleaner
Health Ministry reviewing no-user-fee policy: RJR News
Cash crunch grips universities: Sunday Gleaner
Does Bunting get it? Gleaner editorial
Portland police, residents clam up about robbery of villa where Bunting was staying: Sunday Observer
Outstanding questions on the villa break-in: Sunday Gleaner editorial
Files show security minister wasn’t robbed: Jamaica Star
Playing politics and crime: Barbara Gloudon column/Jamaica Observer
Letter of the Day: Don’t make MPs ministers: Gleaner
The Throne Speech: April 4, 2013 – Jamaica Information Service
Benchwarmers all? Lawmakers as quick as snails: Martin Henry column/Sunday Gleaner
Is the Throne Speech losing its relevance? Sunday Observer
Cabinet pay cut will not improve country’s coffers – JCSA: RJR News
Government making sacrifices, says PM: RJR News
List: Discretionary waivers: diGJamaica.com
Never again! Clergyman urges Jamaicans to turn back on populist politics: Gleaner
It’s revival time Jamaica! Jean Lowrie-Chin column/Jamaica Observer
One in every three tourists is harassed: Sunday Gleaner
Mystery shops and a meddling minister: Sunday Gleaner
Mrs. Simpson Miller, the exit is to your left: delanoseiv.wordpress.com
Caribbean Small States: Challenges of High Debt and Low Growth: imf.org
Government to grab $34 billion from state agencies this year: Sunday Gleaner
Secret deal: NHT paid $4 billion into government coffers last year: Sunday Gleaner
Has the Government gone mad? Letter to the Editor/Sunday Gleaner
State of Duhaney Power Station worries JPS head: RJR News
Chinese Kingston hotel targets 2014 opening: Jamaica Observer
Government eyeing Montpelier agricultural lands for housing: Sunday Observer
Senator Graham helps import Jamaicans for work at elite country club: dailycaller.com
”It is an anachronistic law”: Jamaica Observer
Why Twitter is essential for journalists: anniepaul.net
Food for the Poor secures release of 81 prisoners for Easter: Sunday Observer
Identity theft, data espionage not covered by 2010 Cybercrimes Act: Jamaica Observer
Breathing life into “No Man’s Land”: Sunday Observer
Tarrant principal wins case after school board bungling: Gleaner/Power 106 FM
Kim Keenan putting her stamp on NAACP post: Sunday Observer
A belated Happy Easter, everyone. Whatever it means to you, I hope it has been a good one.
Easter is a strange time for me. I usually miss chocolate Easter eggs, and daffodils and hot cross buns. Here in Jamaica it is a long weekend, a nice spring break, the weather’s getting hotter and party central is in full gear (see my previous blog post
). The religious among us, and there are many, make special trips to church. And we all eat lots of bun and cheese. In fact, I am eating a piece right now…
Bit of an odd mixture this week, but here goes…
- The shock: Good Friday got off to a terrible start with a murder in my neighborhood – just round the corner from our house. We were sleeping late and sadly unaware. Gregory Archer, a network engineer at Digicel, was shot while taking an early morning walk with his young son, and died later in hospital. His son was unharmed. For some reason, this tragedy was only reported by one radio station; the local media ignored it until three days later, even though it was discussed at length in the social media. I guess the “traditional” media has gone to sleep for Easter; after all, at least one broadcast journalist recently admitted that he didn’t know anything about Twitter, etc! Meanwhile, our “upscale” uptown semi-residential neighborhood is not, for me, a safe place to walk any more. How very sad. And media, please wake up. A reader on the Jamaica Observer website alleges that other murders, especially in the Bog Walk area of St. Catherine, have not been reported. He mentioned a particular murder last Thursday night. Explanations are needed, I think.
- The prior actions: I’m rather worried about this. Can we have a list of them? If Jamaica has fulfilled all of them – something which our Finance Minister has mentioned several times – then why hasn’t the agreement being signed? I am sure I am missing something, and wish I really understood what is going on in the grinding saga of the International Monetary Fund. I cannot imagine what Minister Phillips’ blood pressure must be like.
- Surprise! Minister Phillips conceded that, contrary to his predictions/hopes/assurances, a formal deal with the IMF was not going to happen by the end of March, after all. I realize that he is now making lots of statements, in his efforts to keep us updated; the Jamaican public had earlier complained about lack of details. But we are now…confused. Or is it just me?
- Mum PM: Meanwhile, our Prime Minister is saying almost nothing about anything, except for the occasional exhortation for us all to be united. Oh, I think she cut another ribbon last week.
- A bit of a dig: I see that former senator and People’s National Party stalwart Delano Franklyn, in an article in the Sunday Observer, goes out of his way to takes quite a vicious dig at a media house that had the temerity to criticize the recent Government retreat. Mr Franklyn notes that said media house owes lots of taxes.
- The dilemma: Our Minister of Tourism and Entertainment, Dr. Wykeham McNeill, appears to be on the horns of one. The horns are the two different parts of his portfolio. On the one hand, he wants to improve the reportedly flagging tourism figures. On the other hand, he wants to keep his constituents in the tourist resort of Negril happy. But the tourists are not too pleased with the decibel level in Negril, according to a CVM Television report a few days ago; they have been complaining. It appears that local promoters are allowed to go on after the legal 2:00 a.m., with special permission. Now the Minister tells us that he has made some proposals to change the Noise Abatement Act. In a CVM interview (the link is below) he says: “We have to find a balance,” and that he wants to “regularize” the situation. We shall see how this turns out. It’s a tricky one!
- Those scammers: Last week, the Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Task Force (MOCA), which sounds like a cup of coffee, made some arrests in Montego Bay. Once again, we saw “high-end vehicles” that had been seized, etc. As the anti-lottery scam legislation has only just been passed, I wonder if any charges are going to be made, and whether they will stick.
- As predicted: The group of Haitians and fellow CARICOM nationals who arrived on our shores recently were “processed” (finger-printed like criminals) and shipped straight back last week. I told you so.
- Mi Happy (again): The Jamaica Tourist Board has regrettably brought out another video with the man from Minnesota (the VW ad). This is really milking it. You can find the link below, and well… It’s actually not as painful as the first one. What are your thoughts, dear readers?
- Mi Not Happy: With the weather. In eastern Jamaica, a bridge was washed away and hundreds stranded for a day or two by a swollen river after heavy rains. On the other side of the island, in Kingston at least, barely a drop has fallen. Mi wasn’t happy, either, with the long power cut on Saturday that affected almost the entire island. It seems that, on the energy front too, something’s got to give. The Jamaica Public Service Company is still awaiting word on its latest expansion proposal from the Government. What is really happening on energy, especially the Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) project? I’m confused, again. Meanwhile, financial analyst Dennis Chung tweeted that he is basically off the grid and did not suffer… Sensible man, went for solar power.
- The patriarchy strikes back: Roman Catholic deacon Peter Espeut, a “human rights advocate,” responded in somewhat heavy-handed fashion to fellow Gleaner columnist Jaevion Nelson’s column advocating for a change in the abortion laws. Well, Mr. Espeut is Roman Catholic, so we might expect that he would be anti-abortion. But it is a patronizing put-down (“Young Jaevion needs to put a little more balance in his writing, and his editors should guide him”!) of a bright, forward-thinking activist, who is trying to find solutions. Mr. Espeut concludes: “Thank God Jaevion Nelson is not typical of Jamaican young people, or I would despair where our beloved country might end up.” So that’s “young Jaevion” put in his place, good and proper. He’s not typical, Mr. Espeut claims; and since he is not, we can dismiss his opinions. Mr. Espeut says he works with young people, and I trust they are subservient.
- “From Coral Gardens to Tivoli Gardens”: The Rastafarian community last week marched through downtown Kingston to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of a violent incident in Coral Gardens, Montego Bay on Holy Thursday, 1963. At that time, Rastafarians suffered from widespread discrimination and abuse from the police force and general public. But the march (seeking compensation for Rastafarian elders who are still suffering, and an apology from the Government) was about more than the Coral Gardens injustice. It was about the human rights situation in Jamaica right here and now (the quote above was from a placard I saw held up). According to one participant, the actual theme was “Outrage against an unjust Justice system; Landlesness; Police Brutality” - it was never just a “Rasta thing” as some media characterized it. ”The people reach the stage where the State a do what dem used to do to Rastafari to dem,” said poet/activist Mutabaruka at the group’s rally in Half Way Tree. In other words, if they come for me in the morning, they will come for you in the evening.
- Fairness: In a comment on a recent blog post of mine, a fellow-blogger discussed “equality” when I was talking about “equity.” Of course, they are not the same thing at all. I recommend to you a column by Lawrence Powell of World Watch in yesterday’s Sunday Gleaner (link below), in which the writer makes an apposite comment: “It looks like [Minister] Omar [Davies] and the People’s National Party (PNP) will find themselves going against the grain of popular sentiment if they assume shared sacrifice is politically irrelevant, and that the perceived disparities between treatment of privileged and underprivileged groups are “frivolous”, and don’t matter.” Against the grain, indeed, and the tide of popular opinion.
- Poster comeback: So glad to see that overseas-based Jamaican Michael Thompson has launched the second annual International Reggae Poster Competition 2013. The theme is: Toward a Reggae Hall of Fame: Celebrating Great Jamaican Music. Deadline is April 21. More details at
. Really hope the Reggae Hall of Fame comes to fruition, some time in the near future. And I really hope we will get more Jamaican entries this time!
- Yummy postscript: Drop by the Tea Tree Creperie (in my ‘hood) for delicious nibbles, including homemade hummus with fresh-baked pesto pita chips!
- Good work: The Jamaica 50 Photo Album was a really good product from the Jamaica Information Service, and I am glad it has won an award in the U.S. I bought a few items for friends and family at home in the UK last year… Their favorites though were the Jamaica 50 glasses!
I am sick and tired of posting this sad list of names every week. But I don’t want us to forget those Jamaicans, young and old, who have lost their lives – and the grieving families and friends they leave behind, week after week. My condolences to them all. By the way, a comment following the online report on Gregory Archer’s death noted that several murders have gone unreported in local media, including that of Kirk
Vivian Grant, 29, Waltham Park Road, Kingston
Unidentified, Lopez/Bryden Streets, Kingston
Gregory Archer, 33, Upper Montrose Road/Vale Royal, Kingston
Unidentified man, Ferry, St. Andrew
Korine Bailey, 43, Linstead, St. Catherine
Sheldon Pennant, 38, Linstead, St. Catherine
Unidentified, Lennox Bigwoods/Darliston, Westmoreland
District Constable Brian Gray, 32, Mount Salem, St. James
Maxine Campbell, 37, Green Island, Hanover
Cornel Grizzle, 46, Comfort Hall, Trelawny
Beres Thompson, 32, Victoria Town, Manchester
Killed by police:
Basil Blackwood, 27, Spanish Town, St. Catherine
Unidentified man, Westport/Portmore, St. Catherine
Unidentified man, Texton Road, Kingston 14
Related articles (Local blogs are in purple):
Chart: Number of fatal shootings by the police: diGJamaica.com
Jamaica is Party Central: petchary.wordpress.com
Exclusion versus empowerment: petchary.wordpress.com
Gregory Archer’s wife a broken woman: Jamaica Observer
Only in this country! George Davis column/Gleaner
Salvaging what’s left of Jamaica: Letter to the Editor/Gleaner
The next act against the scammers: Sunday Gleaner editorial
The Cabinet retreat and the country’s economic challenges: Delano Franklyn op-ed/Sunday Observer
Trust deficit: Government, IMF and Haiti: Orville Taylor column/Sunday Gleaner
Is Jamaica destined to be poor forever? Mark Wignall column/Jamaica Observer
Terminating pregnancies should be legal: Jaevion Nelson column/Gleaner
Advocating youth responsibility: Peter Espeut column/Gleaner
Contraceptives in schools? Let’s at least discuss it: Jamaica Observer editorial
NDX2 or PEX? GraceKennedy confirms participation: Gleaner
Peter Phillips and the IMF: delanoseiv.wordpress.com
Construction on Trinidad-Barbados gas pipeline could begin next year: Carib Journal
Op-ed: Bringing Google to Jamaica: Carib Journal
Nurses await further discussions on wage claims: Gleaner
CVM Television report on noise nuisance in Negril (10 minutes into newscast)
CVM Television report on Tourism Minister’s response to noise complaints (17 minutes into newscast)
Party circuit: soundclash.wordpress.com
Two mobile licenses to be put on auction – Paulwell: Gleaner
Foreign Minister wants rethinking of treatment of middle income countries: Jamaica Information Service
Access to information progress lauded: Jamaica Information Service
Thirty-three Haitians to be transported home today: RJR News
b West Kingston residents decry deadly power struggle among criminals: Jamaica Observer
No longer just a Rasta thing: Claude Robinson op-ed/Sunday Observer
Police to charge popular sports personality after Montego Bay raids: Gleaner
”Woeful lack of leadership”: Gleaner
Women and the Jamaican work force: Marcia Forbes op-ed/Carib Journal
Flow, Jamaicans happy with Earth Hour concert: Gleaner
Wake up and smell the smog! Letter to the Editor/Gleaner
NWC to address city’s sewer problems: Jamaica Observer
Tamarind and beetroot shine, but what happens after? Joan Francis op-ed/Observer
Kingston, St. Andrew, St. Thomas worst hit by drought: Gleaner
Belvedere residents remain cut off: Gleaner
- Jamaica is Party Central (petchary.wordpress.com)
- Exclusion versus Empowerment (petchary.wordpress.com)
- My Birthday: Sunday, March 24, 2013 (petchary.wordpress.com)
Or perhaps, don’t inhale too deeply. Some things don’t smell so good.
I am not talking about the Riverton City dump this week. But I am disturbed.
Firstly, what is happening with our justice system? I went through a range of emotions this week on hearing that a police sergeant was acquitted of the murder of a mentally ill drug addict by a judge who dismissed the case because the prosecution’s case was so weak. Sergeant Lloyd Kelly’s defense was not even heard. Now, we all saw a video recorded on a cell phone, aired on TV news on July 31, 2010. If you have the stomach for it, you can view the TV newscast including the video here:
. You are warned: it is not easy to watch. The man was unarmed. He was injured, having been beaten by residents as well as the police, after he had just allegedly committed a murder. He was lying on the ground. Sergeant Kelly (described by residents as a model policeman) could have arrested the man. But no. Egged on by a raucous crowd (reminiscent of a pack of wild dogs circling, anticipating the kill) he showed them what a “good cop” (their words) he was. On television, Director of Public Prosecutions Paula Llewellyn pointed out that the maker of the video was not available; the pathologist who conducted the post mortem was not available – in fact, not even a senior person at the Ministry of National Security knew where in the world he was; and the prosecution witnesses sounded more like defense witnesses. The Crown Counsel “fought valiantly,” she said. But in vain. “Justice has been served,” said one resident of the small town of Buckfield, St. Ann where these horrors occurred. Justice? What do we call justice, these days?
A policeman who had also hired highly-paid, high profile lawyers won his appeal against a corruption conviction on Friday. The Appeals judges were less than happy, reprimanding both the investigating officer (the then head of the police Anti-Corruption Branch) and the resident magistrate involved. Superintendent Harry “Bungles” Daley had been arrested during a sting operation as he allegedly sought to extort money from a businessman in Ewarton, St. Catherine. The chubby-faced “Bungles” wept copious tears in court. It’s clear, though, that there were so many discrepancies and errors in the case that the Appeals Court had no choice.
Meanwhile, the police killed seven Jamaicans in alleged shootouts in Kingston this week (although I could not find them all identified). Note that we always used that word “alleged.”
The problem is, justice is not “seen to be done” by the Jamaican man/woman on the street. The justice “system” barely works. Cases are postponed daily, either at the request of the prosecution who is not ready or because the defense is employing delaying tactics. As I have served as a witness and a juror on more than one occasion, I have seen this for myself. It is mind-numbing, frustrating, exhausting. Hours and hours are wasted daily. Other major causes of delay and the collapse of cases are the absence (or disappearance, or even elimination) of witnesses, incomplete documentation, the incredible shortage of jurors, and more. It’s even worse in the Coroner’s Court. The lobby group Jamaicans for Justice has bemoaned this for at least a decade now. Nothing has really changed. Nothing
The Director of Public Prosecution‘s office is over-burdened. Only the defense lawyers, who sweep into court in style (often late) seem quite comfortable with things the way they are.
But there was some good news on the crime-fighting front. National Security Minister Peter Bunting tabled the long-overdue legislation to tackle the utterly shameful “lotto scam,” which has continued virtually unchecked for several years. Many elderly and unsuspecting American citizens have been robbed of their life savings by these criminals. The necessary legislation was not in place, despite the sometimes desperate efforts of a police task force. Anyway, the Lottery Scam Bill (the Law Reform (Fraudulent Transactions) (Special Provisions) Act, 2013) will reach the Senate next Friday. Minister Bunting said on radio that he “hopes” legislation on DNA and anti-gang measures will be tabled in the next three months. We have been hearing about those for at least a couple years now…
Sunday Gleaner columnist Ian Boyne made a “moral” issue out of the lotto scam in his column today (how we love that word). Another commentator, theologian and academic Dr. Anna Kasafi Perkins, liberally sprinkled her lecture last week with the same word, along with “ethics” and “values.” The annual Grace Kennedy Foundation Lecture 2013 which Dr. Perkins delivered was entitled “Moral Dis-ease making Jamaica ill? Re-engaging the Conversation.” This and all the public lectures can be found at the link below. One question (or three): Whose morals, Dr. Perkins? Whose ethics? Whose values?
And then the President of Venezuela died, causing much hand-wringing (but perhaps not a lot of genuine grief?) around the Caribbean. What of the PetroCaribe deal, which we all eagerly signed on to in 2005? PetroCaribe provides us with oil at preferential prices and a loan to be repaid under very generous terms. We will have to wait until after general elections. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller led a weighty delegation to Caracas for the funeral – perhaps rather overweight. Someone tweeted that it was like the distant relatives coming from near and far to see if there is anything in the will for them – with a bunch of hungry “pickney” (kids) in tow. There were questions as to the cost of this delegation, considering that we Jamaican citizens are now tightening our belts. Are the politicians doing likewise? That recurring “sacrifice” theme again.
Minister Omar Davies, what is “optics”? In Parliament last week, the former Finance Minister brushed aside calls for a smaller Cabinet and possibly even a pay cut/wage freeze for politicians (gasp!) Just a little symbolic gesture of goodwill towards the Jamaican people perhaps? In his usual off-hand way, Minister Davies used the word “optics.” Take a deep breath…
Then, in the week of International Women’s Day, the case of Ms. Shanique Myrie came up in the first-ever sitting of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ). There was not much detail available, as much of the evidence was written and not made publicly available, according to keen observer Dionne Jackson-Miller. This seems odd to me. Meanwhile, details of Ms. Myrie’s attire in court; the rather difficult Barbadian accent of the lead attorney; and the literacy level of one of the witnesses seemed to preoccupy the media. Ms. Myrie is not a woman from what some call the “upper echelons” of Jamaican society. I admire her bravery in challenging the Barbadian immigration authorities over what must have been a deeply humiliating experience. Good for her. Sad and ironic, though, that the first case in the illustrious CCJ involving Jamaica should be dealing with perceived discrimination by one of our Caribbean neighbors against our citizens.
The intrepid Dionne Jackson-Miller tackled the topic of religion in schools on her weekly program “All Angles.” If you have time, please do watch the program on the link below, in which the Minister of Education (and Reverend) Ronald Thwaites continuously patronizes, rudely interrupts and completely loses his cool over views expressed clearly and intelligently by youth activist Javed Jaghai. At one point he even points his finger at Mr. Jaghai and can hardly restrain himself from angry outbursts. How dare this young upstart contest the fact that all Jamaican children should – and must – be exposed to religion (Christianity)? And on a daily basis, because it is “good,” and “wholesome” and – oh yes, “moral.” That word again. The argument that children can “opt out” if they want to doesn’t hold much water; allowed to stand at the side of the room, they remain a captive and passive participant in the “daily religious indoctrination,” as Mr. Jaghai put it. But the Minister embarrassed himself. I doubt he apologized. After all, he is a government minister and a church man, with considerable influence and piety on his side.
I must again commend young columnist Jaevion Nelson, who is doing a great job of challenging Jamaicans’ preconceived notions. He took up the same topic in his Gleaner column this week, asking simply, “Can you imagine how much better off we would be if the church was vocal about governance and corruption?” But the Church does not use its huge power and influence for this purpose.
Kudos also to another young writer Robert Lalah, whose column this week was honest, moving and real. Why are we so cold, so hard-hearted towards homeless gays, he asks? They are Jamaicans. I have always enjoyed Mr. Lalah’s humorous columns depicting country life in Jamaica. In this column, he again showed his humanity. Thank you.
This week was the Kingston Book Festival, organized by the Book Industry Association of Jamaica. Although publishing is not a huge and thriving industry in Jamaica, sad to say (I worked in that field for eight years myself) the enthusiasm for writing, sharing, reading and performing prose and poetry continues unabated here. Special congratulations to Ms. Kellie Magnus and her team for putting together a vibrant program of events, creating some great partnerships and collaborations. It’s also wonderful to welcome home one of our ex-pat writers, Andrew “Kei” Miller, for a few months. I am sure he will have much to contribute and enjoy, and hope he will be doing lots of outreach. Don’t stay cloistered at the University of the West Indies, Kei. Venture forth!
A lovely gentleman, Garveyite Frank Gordon, passed away last week at the age of ninety. Mr. Gordon was drawn to Marcus Garvey’s Liberty Hall in downtown Kingston from the age of twelve. He became a steadfast follower and key figure in the United Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), where he served as president for many years. A man with a deep grasp of history and the importance of Jamaica’s self-determination, he is the kind of person you wish would live forever, so that he could share his wisdom and guidance with future generations.
P.S. Did you know that Caribbean Earth Hour is March 23, 2013 from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m.? Would you like to turn off your lights/electricity for just one hour, in symbolic recognition of the challenges of climate change? If you have any ideas, plans or would like further information, do contact Heather Pinnock at email@example.com.
P.P.S. Our son used to love school swimming competitions when he was young. Many happy, sunny days spent at the National Stadium pool… Special “big ups” to Excelsior Primary School, the first primary (state) school to win the Preparatory/Primary School Swim Champs!
Once again, it was a sad week for some Jamaicans, who are mourning the loss of loved ones killed by their fellow-citizens. My heart goes out to them.
Unidentified man, Orange Street, Kingston
Copeland Coulbourne, 80, Content District, St. Catherine
Christopher Williams, 40, Homestead, St. Catherine
Unidentified man, Sydenham, St. Catherine
Unidentified man, Westchester/Portmore, St. Catherine
Maurie Redding, Little London, Westmoreland
Killed by police:
Rohan Armstrong, 18, Regent Street, west Kingston
Four others in west Kingston
Weng, National Heroes Circle, Kingston 4
Unidentified man, National Heroes Circle, Kingston 4
Related articles and websites: Local blog posts in purple – do read what my fellow Jamaican bloggers have
Grace Kennedy Foundation Public Lecture Series: GraceKennedy.com
Cross-dressers not deserving of sympathy? Robert Lalah column/Gleaner
Tanya Stephens defends gays, rants against bigots on Facebook: On the Ground News Reports
Meet Angeline Jackson, lesbian activist in homophobic Jamaica: sdgln.com
Women and the Jamaican work forces: Op-ed by Marcia Forbes/Carib Journal
SSP Dathan Henry was poisoned: Gleaner
Vanessa Wint’s case forwarded to special coroner’s office: RJR News
The Buckfield case and the DPP: Sunday Gleaner editorial
”Bungled”: Senior cop and resident magistrate chided by appeal court as it frees Harry “Bungles”: Sunday Gleaner
Using science to control crime: Frank Phipps op-ed/Sunday Gleaner
Lotto scamming, bling and morality: Ian Boyne column/Sunday Gleaner
More Florida seniors fall victim to lottery scam: RJR News
U.S. co-operation to stem lottery scamming – Bunting: Sunday Observer
Reluctant witnesses help clog court system: Sunday Observer
Wildman promises positive development in Cash Plus case: Gleaner
The CCJ: A declaration of relevance: Gleaner editorial
How Ronnie Thwaites and Carolyn Cooper disappointed me: D.Marcus Williams.blogspot.com
The CCJ and Shanique Myrie: How to signify “good taste” and “respectability”: redforgender.wordpress.com
Jamaican leg of Shanique Myrie ends: Points to note: Dionne Jackson-Miller blog
Gender equality public education campaign launched: Jamaica Information Service
Diana King on Jamaican homophobia and coming out: HuffPost
Young, homeless, hopeless: More people under 40 swell the street dwellers population: Sunday Gleaner
The cost of cultural habits in Jamaica: Op-ed by Dennis Chung/Carib Journal
NCB staff sues bank: Gleaner
More to be done on wage agreement: Gleaner editorial
Jamaica is NOT in a currency crisis…But could it be by the end of 2013? André Haughton op-ed/Gleaner
A good time to bury bad news: Cash, politics, media and corruption: Franklin Johnston column/Jamaica Observer
That Jamaican delegation to Venezuela: Sunday Observer editorial
Venezuela and Jamaica: The ties that bind: Gary Spaulding op-ed/Gleaner
Don’t waste another year in Parliament: Gleaner
5 Facts: PetroCaribe: diGJamaica.com
The History of PetroCaribe in Jamaica: diGJamaica.com
English only in the Senate, president tells Justice Minister: Gleaner
Unfortunate attack on Ruel Reid: Letter to the Editor/Gleaner
Should religious activities be banned from school? All Angles/TVJ
Misplaced Christian priorities: Jaevion Nelson column/Gleaner
Climate change documents to be tabled in Parliament: Jamaica Information Service
Outstanding Garveyite Frank Gordon passes: Jamaica Observer
Holywell Park: Mother Nature at its finest: digjamaica.com
http://as-told-by-nella.blogspot.com/2013/03/friday-link-love.html Friday Link Love: nella.blogspot.com – more local blog links for you to explore…
Guyanese, Jamaicans top list of CARICOM nationals denied entry to Barbados (kaieteurnewsonline.com)
Is It Really March Already? Sunday: March 3, 2013 (petchary.wordpress.com)