A Lively Week: Sunday, March 30, 2014

What with the UWI Great Debate and other discussions in and out of the media, the week has been more than usually combative and lively. That’s Jamaica for you!

Cynicism abounds: The dismissal of the corruption charges against former Member of Parliament and Junior Minister Kern Spencer and his personal assistant last week continues to spark some deeply satirical commentary. Mark Wignall’s column in the Sunday Observer is headlined “Kern Spencer for Prime Minister.” 

Happy Mr. Kern Spencer outside the courthouse after corruption charges against him were dismissed.

Happy Mr. Kern Spencer outside the courthouse after corruption charges against him were dismissed.

Vybz Kartel going into the courthouse last week.

Vybz Kartel going into the courthouse last week.

Jailhouse rock, or equivalent: So now the judge is trying to decide whether dancehall star and convicted murderer Vybz Kartel will be allowed to make recordings while in jail (but not actually earn money from them). Another convict musical star, Jah Cure, who was doing time for rape, did make music while behind bars and the proceeds went towards his rehabilitation. He is out of jail now and apparently rehabilitated.

Protesting too much: I am not convinced by the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party’s (JLP) concerns that the human rights of the Jamaican people should be of paramount importance in the upcoming enquiry into the Tivoli Gardens massacre of May, 2010. Their administration did not appear unduly concerned at the time about such matters. I think the JLP must be dreading the Enquiry. Meanwhile, the JLP Member of Parliament for the area Desmond McKenzie is supporting the Public Defender’s and Independent Commission of Investigation’s (INDECOM) view that the Enquiry should not go ahead before incomplete ballistics reports are available. The Minister of Justice says the reports are not necessary for the purpose of the Enquiry. The plot is likely to thicken.

The Patriarchy strikes back, again: A (poorly edited) opinion column on the editorial page of the Sunday Gleaner by a “freelance journalist, author and entertainment consultant” named Milton Wray had my head spinning. Under the headline “Are women natural leaders?” I read the most sexist, misogynistic, demeaning and at times truly offensive ramblings. Mr. Wray sees “modern woman” as a “threat” to the family and the society at large. It’s accompanied by an awful photograph of “the female senator” (he does not name her) Imani Duncan-Price, who recently introduced the issue of quotas for women in some areas of public life. The photo makes her look quite frightening (which she isn’t!) What century are we living in, Mr. Wray?

I suppose the Gleaner is seeking to be controversial again, to spark discussion and so on. Meanwhile it is deleting online comments that disagree with the article. I suppose it has the right to do so but what is the aim here – to manipulate the reading public’s opinions? As I have said before, the standard of commentary in the Sunday Gleaner in particular continues its downward slide. And although some believe it’s not worth responding to… One has to register a protest at this.

Don’t panic:  Financial writer and Executive Director of the Private Sector Organization of Jamaica Dennis Chung says the government must hang in there and not be panicked into imposing new taxes in the upcoming Budget, despite the fact that tax revenues have been below target. But can we stay the course? It needs a cool head, but thankfully Finance Minister Peter Phillips’ approach is much more measured than his predecessor Omar Davies’ predilection for incurring debt.

Prime Minister of Jamaica Portia Simpson Miller. (Photo: Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

Prime Minister of Jamaica Portia Simpson Miller. (Photo: Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

Why do we need a National Cultural and Creative Industries Commission? Well, the Prime Minister wanted one, so she has got it. She and various stakeholders will hold meetings from time to time, and talk a lot. “We need to recognise how important these industries are for both economic growth and national development imperatives,” says the PM. Don’t we already have the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JCDC)? What about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), which the rest of the world is forging ahead with? How are we doing with that? Not to say culture does not have its place, but… Quoting from a headline in Mark Wignall’s column today: “Fast runners and slick deejays cannot help Jamaica’s development.” Let’s not fool ourselves.

Minister of Transport, Works and Housing, Dr. the Hon. Omar Davies (3rd left), signs a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), with China Engineering Company (CHEC) for a feasibility study on the damming of the Bog Walk Gorge, at the Ministry in Kingston, on March 28. Also participating are (from left): Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China in Jamaica, Mr. Xiaojun Dong; Minister of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining, Hon. Phillip Paulwell; and Minister of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change, Hon. Robert Pickersgill. In the back row (from left) are: Commercial Counsellor at the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China, Mrs. Lei Liu (left); Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Transport, Works and Housing, Mrs. Audrey Sewell and Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change, Dr. Alwin Hayles. (Photo: JIS)

Minister of Transport, Works and Housing, Dr. the Hon. Omar Davies (3rd left), signs a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), with China Engineering Company (CHEC) for a feasibility study on the damming of the Bog Walk Gorge, at the Ministry in Kingston, on March 28. Also participating are (from left): Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China in Jamaica, Mr. Xiaojun Dong; Minister of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining, Hon. Phillip Paulwell; and Minister of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change, Hon. Robert Pickersgill. In the back row (from left) are: Commercial Counsellor at the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China, Mrs. Lei Liu (left); Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Transport, Works and Housing, Mrs. Audrey Sewell and Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change, Dr. Alwin Hayles. (Photo: JIS)

Retirement Dump, Montego Bay on Friday, March 28, 2014. (Photo: Jamaica Environment Trust)

Retirement Dump, Montego Bay on Friday, March 28, 2014. (Photo: Jamaica Environment Trust)

Next up…Bog Walk Gorge: So on Friday, quite out of the blue, Minister of Transport and Works Omar Davies signed a Memorandum of Understanding with – yes, you’ve guessed it – China Harbour Engineering Company, to dam the Rio Cobre on the picturesque Bog Walk Gorge. Now where did that come from? Were there any other bidders? Was it discussed in Parliament? What are the possible environmental impacts? Will it really produce much in terms of hydro-electric power, and at what cost? What will happen to the historic Flat Bridge, which is over 200 years old and still in use?

Meanwhile, the logistics hub PR machine churns onward, with the appointment of Ms. Tastey Blackman (is that really her name?) to a new position, that of Manager of Logistics and Emerging Markets at JAMPRO, the government’s investment agency. She is taking a delegation to the LATAM Ports and Logistics Summit in Panama next week. We await more government press releases, with bated breath.

Former banker Dunbar McFarlane.

Former banker Dunbar McFarlane.

An interesting development: I felt sad when we passed by the empty Palmyra luxury resort development near Montego Bay recently. Well, a New York-based firm, Philangco Corporation, is reportedly interested in bidding for the condominium towers in Rose Hall. The firm is planning to use a new hydrogen-powered fuel system to provide power called Elhydro. I note the firm’s chief financial officer is former Jamaican banker Dunbar McFarlane. Philangco may partner with the Jamaican Government in developing the energy source, which McFarlane’s partner Phillip Scott has developed and patented in the United States and Jamaica. We shall see.

Kingston College students march along Tom Redcam Avenue to the Boys' and Girls' Championships at the National Stadium yesterday. (Photo: Norman Grindley/Gleaner)

Kingston College students march along Tom Redcam Avenue to the Boys’ and Girls’ Championships at the National Stadium. (Photo: Norman Grindley/Gleaner)

The annual ritual that is “Boys’ Champs” is playing itself out at the National Stadium as I write. The wailing of distant vuvuzelas fills the air (no, the students haven’t given up on those hideous inventions, yet) as the high schools compete for glory. Roads around the Stadium are jammed with traffic. The flags of the major competing high schools flutter from cars on the road. This time there was a “peace march” by some 350 students to start off. I hope that some seriousness was attached to it. And I hope the authorities will consider drug testing for the student athletes. Yes, I think it should be done.

Jamaica time: I participated in no less than three separate activities in different parts of the UWI campus on Thursday. All three started between twenty and thirty minutes late. The other day I was telling someone I thought Jamaicans were becoming more punctual. I may have to reconsider that statement…

Big ups and thanks to:

Health Minister Dr Fenton Ferguson (second left) participates in the symbolic presentation of a $123-million (US$117,176) grant agreement being provided by the Government of Japan to the Bustamante Hospital for Children for the acquisition of vital medical equipment, following Wednesday’s signing ceremony at the institution. Also participating are the hospital Chief Executive Officer Anthony Wood (left); Chargé d’Affaires at the Japanese Embassy in Jamaica Koji Tomita (second right); and the South East Regional Health Authority’s acting chairman, Dr Andrei Cooke. (PHOTO: JIS)

Health Minister Dr Fenton Ferguson (second left) participates in the symbolic presentation of a $123-million (US$117,176) grant agreement being provided by the Government of Japan to the Bustamante Hospital for Children for the acquisition of vital medical equipment, following Wednesday’s signing ceremony at the institution. Also participating are the hospital Chief Executive Officer Anthony Wood (left); Chargé d’Affaires at the Japanese Embassy in Jamaica Koji Tomita (second right); and the South East Regional Health Authority’s acting chairman, Dr Andrei Cooke. (PHOTO: JIS)

  • The Government of Japan for its support for important social needs in Jamaica. The Japanese Embassy donated J$123 million to the Bustamante Hospital for Children for urgently needed equipment. Thank you!
Supreme Ventures logo.

Supreme Ventures logo.

  • Supreme Ventures, for their generous, ongoing support for Eve for Life, the non-governmental organization that supports teenage and young mothers living with HIV and their children. We are truly grateful for your recent donation and for all your support in the past!
Randy McLaren in performance at the University of the West Indies last Thursday. (My photo)

Randy McLaren in performance at the University of the West Indies last Thursday. (My photo)

  • Randy McLaren (the “Kriativ Aktivis”) who presented an entertaining lunchtime concert at the University of the West Indies (UWI) last week – entertainment with a biting social commentary. Well done, Randy – I can see you are maturing very nicely as an artist.
Jamaican jazz guitarist Ernie Ranglin.

Jamaican jazz guitarist Ernie Ranglin.

  • It’s hard to believe that the wonderful guitarist Ernie Ranglin is 82 years old. The Gleaner calls him a “ska and reggae guitarist” and indeed Mr. Ranglin has played in many genres. I think he is most famous for his jazz style, these days (and I heard him in concert some ten years ago, a marvel!) He has mostly played overseas, and his latest album is called “Bless Up,”  with international musicians Inx Herman, Jonathan Korty, and Yossi Fine. Good to hear he’s still going strong!
A friend's Earth Hour "selfie" - truly lights out!

Where are you? A friend’s Earth Hour “selfie” – truly lights out!

  • All those involved in the organization of the Earth Hour Acoustic Concert last night, which by all accounts was a great success. Special kudos to Rootz Underground’s Stephen Newland, who is often at the forefront of environmental awareness programs. It was good to see so many young people enjoying the music and understanding the message too!
Calabar High School’s Class Three sprint king Tyreke Wilson poses beside the display board showing his impressive new record achieved in the 200m. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

Calabar High School’s Class Three sprint king Tyreke Wilson poses beside the display board showing his impressive new record achieved in the 200m. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

  • Calabar High School (boys) and Edwin Allen High School (girls) athletes, who came out on top in the ISSA GraceKennedy Boys’ and Girls’ Athletics Championships, which ended yesterday at the National Stadium. As usual, the competition was fierce, and many records were broken.
Edwin Allen High's Marleena Eubanks salutes her supporters as she crosses the line to win the Class One 800m final in 2:06.51 at the ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys and Girls' Championships at the National Stadium yesterday. - Photo by Ricardo Makyn/Gleaner

Edwin Allen High’s Marleena Eubanks salutes her supporters as she crosses the line to win the Class One 800m final in 2:06.51 at the ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys and Girls’ Championships at the National Stadium yesterday. (Photo: Ricardo Makyn/Gleaner)

Flyer for Edna Manley School of Dance 18th Season of Performances.

Flyer for Edna Manley School of Dance 18th Season of Performances.

  • And if you enjoy dance, come out next week and support the students of the Edna Manley College School of Dance in Kingston for their 18th Season of Dance. There will be several performances throughout the week, culminating in their Gala Night on Sunday, April 6.

My condolences to the families and friends of the following Jamaicans who lost their lives violently over the past four days.

Kirk Palmer, 42, Cornwall Courts/Montego Bay, St. James

Bryan Martin, Orange Street/Montego Bay, St. James

Shanice Williams, 27, Hopewell, Hanover

Peta Rose, 64, Lumsden, St. Ann

Rushawn Myers, 20, Port Antonio, Portland

Lebert Balasal, 61, Little London, Westmoreland

Killed by police:

Paul O’Gilvie, 20, Alexandria, St. Ann

Unidentified man, Alexandria, St. Ann

On the road: 24-year-old Police Constable Christopher Foster appeared to have been speeding when he crashed into a stationary truck on Thursday morning in Manchester, and died. The car was virtually flattened. Over the weekend, three people were killed in two car crashes on the north coast, both apparently caused by speeding.

Police Constable Christopher Foster died in a tragic car crash.

Police Constable Christopher Foster died in a tragic car crash.

Sunday, March 9 – Wednesday March 12, 2014

Sorry, this is going to be one of those combination, or rather belated posts on what’s happening in Jamaica. Somehow I didn’t manage my Sunday bulletin, so am carrying it all over to Wednesday. Forgive me.

Over in St. Vincent, a Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Inter-Sessional summit (please don’t ask me to explain what that is) is debating those two old favorites: the legalization of ganja and reparations for slavery. Education? Employment? Crime? Freedom of movement for CARICOM nationals? Economic opportunity? Hopefully they will get a mention, and I believe the weakening economies of member states will be under discussion. Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller is there, in her capacity as “Chairman of the CARICOM Prime Ministerial Sub-Committee on External Negotiations.” Not sure we knew about that before, but we know now. I wonder if we can expect a briefing (by “we” I mean the Jamaican public) on what transpired, on the PM’s return. She has taken quite a large delegation with her again, one notes.

Back home, the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) is making a great deal of noise now about the forthcoming Commission of Enquiry into the Tivoli Gardens massacre. A team of lawyers, headed by Opposition Justice Spokesman Alexander Williams, has been appointed to represent the interests of the residents. Things are very murky. It seems to me the JLP should have got properly involved in the proceedings from Day One. They are whining now, but were very equivocal prior to this – for reasons some of which were quite clear. The JLP is now threatening legal action if the controversial Ms. Velma Hylton remains in place as a selected Commissioner. It is accusing the ruling People’s National Party of politicking, but both are equally guilty, it seems to me. The whole thing is a royal mess already, and it hasn’t even started yet. I agree with the Gleaner: Ms. Hylton, please step aside, gracefully!

Church members protest against crime in West Kingston last Sunday. (Photo: Gleaner)

Church members protest against crime in West Kingston last Sunday. (Photo: Gleaner)

And over the weekend, the people of West Kingston went on a peace march. Minister Bunting and the Commissioner of Police were there, and a lot of hymns were sung. Television footage showed an elderly lady sitting on a rickety bench calling on the “blood of Jesus” to help them. Though all this might make people feel a little better, I doubt it will have any effect whatsoever. The Minister exhorted residents to turn “informer” on the criminals. Enough is enough, the residents parroted. I have heard that phrase many times before, and somehow it never is enough… I also suspect that a lot of people stayed at home.

All is not well in some government agencies. The entire board of the Housing Association of Jamaica has resigned; and recently the Executive Director of the Bureau of Women’s Affairs was sent on leave pending investigations into irregularities at the agency, where she has served for nearly twenty years. And the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Youth and Culture is also on leave, as discussed before. The media talk about “crisis” and “controversy,” rumors flybut none of us really knows what goes on behind the scenes. We realize that sometimes people’s faces don’t fit, politically; or are they too non-political?

Discussions under the mango tree at Jamaica Environment Trust, last week. (My photo)

Discussions under the mango tree at Jamaica Environment Trust, last week. (My photo)

I wasn’t expecting much, but the Jamaica Labour Party’s (JLP) stance on the proposed shipping port at Goat Islands is disappointing. The JLP has left its Member of Parliament Gregory Mair out in the cold…under the mango tree at Jamaica Environment Trust, where he spent some time last week. Mr. Mair’s private member motion has dropped off the order sheet in Parliament, and will not be revived, it seems.The JLP is talking out of two sides of its mouth at the same time. I guess it u weighing their options, and quite happy to sell Jamaica’s birthright down the river for the chance of backing the right horse and getting themselves elected next time around. JLP leader Andrew Holness reportedly told the Jamaica Observer that “the party is in support of the development of the hub/trans-shipment port on condition that there is no environmental threat to the Portland Bight Protected Area.” But Mr. Holness, the threat has already been established, as you well know. This may backfire on the Opposition further down the line. We shall see. Meanwhile political expediency comes first.

Oh! Our city dump is operating illegally… As we would say in social media, “smh.” I truly wonder about this government agency called the National Environment & Planning Agency (NEPA). I would also love to get some information on the air quality in the city from them. Does NEPA measure air quality? 

The National Environment & Planning Agency mentioned in passing last week that the Riverton City dump in Kingston is operating without a license. (Photo: Gleaner)

The National Environment & Planning Agency mentioned in passing last week that the Riverton City dump in Kingston is operating without a license. (Photo: Gleaner)

Short-sightedness: We have often said that our leaders (political and otherwise) have short-term vision only (not even medium-term, let’s face it). But there is Vision 2030. Does anyone know what it is? Is it mere words? I plan to examine the Vision 2030 document in future blog posts…

Patrons at the opening night of Bacchanal Fridays in Kingston last week…in anticipation of Carnival. (Photo: Lionel Rookwood/Jamaica Observer)

Patrons at the opening night of Bacchanal Fridays in Kingston last week…in anticipation of Carnival. (Photo: Lionel Rookwood/Jamaica Observer)

Meanwhile, young uptowners are girding their loins for the upcoming Carnival celebrations. Hugely expensive costumes are on sale I believe, and every Friday there is a major session to get everyone warmed up for the road march and other gyrations. If it’s your thing…enjoy! I feel nostalgic about the days when Carnival was less sophisticated and exclusive – it didn’t matter if you didn’t have a costume. And the Children’s Carnival in early years was great (we have photos of our son in various costumes, the kids just loved it). Those were the days…

Residents of West Kingston march for peace over the weekend. (Photo: Joseph Wellington/Jamaica Observer)

Residents of West Kingston march for peace over the weekend. (Photo: Joseph Wellington/Jamaica Observer)

Major Petchary bouquets for:

Senators Imani Duncan-Price (left) and Kamina Johnson-Smith, who presented on advancing leadership and gender equality in Jamaica's democracy in the Upper House last Friday. (Photo: Facebook)

Senators Imani Duncan-Price (left) and Kamina Johnson-Smith, who presented on advancing leadership and gender equality in Jamaica’s democracy in the Upper House last Friday. (Photo: Facebook)

  • Senators Imani Duncan-Price and Kamina Johnson-Smith, who presented on advancing leadership and gender equality in Jamaica’s democracy last Friday, March 7 in the Upper House. I posted Senator Duncan-Price’s presentation in my last blog post and hope to have her Opposition counterpart’s presentation shortly to share with you. A group of supporters was there, and I plan to be among them this coming Friday! All who would like to come and listen to the ongoing debate should check into Gordon House a little before 10:00 a.m. (It’s very sad that some Senators, on both sides of the political fence, chose to heckle and comment loudly throughout the presentations that these women had worked so hard on, to the extent that the Speaker of the House had to ask them to be quiet. Shame on them).
  • Food for the Poor, the Spanish-Jamaican Foundation and the Solo Jamaica Foundation on their partnership to provide badly-needed school furniture for 1,000 students – a container full. I hope that FFP will be able to achieve their goal of 30,000 desks and chairs. 
  • Tamara Nicholson, graduate student at the Institute of Gender and Development Studies at the University of the West Indies and “Half the Sky” Ambassador, for her initiative in showing the film and organizing a stimulating panel discussion on sexual and gender-based violence two days before International Women’s Day. I was a panelist along with three brilliant women – Jalna Broderick of Quality of Citizenship Jamaica, Georgia Love of WMW Jamaica and Inspector Winifred Moore of the Centre for the Investigation of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse (CISOCA). The film “Half the Sky” can be viewed online. More in a later blog post.
Jay and me at last year's World AIDS Day event at the University of the West Indies.

Javan and me at last year’s World AIDS Day event at the University of the West Indies.

  • Youth activist Javan Campbell, one of the coolest young men I know, who has been selected as Jamaica country coordinator for the International Youth Alliance on Family Planning (IYAFP). Jay will seek to support an alliance of young individuals, youth associations, youth organizations or communities with a common mission to support provision of comprehensive reproductive health care services with a particular focus on family planning for vulnerable populations, especially youth.
Founder and chair of Alligator Head Marine Lab Francesca von Habsburg, and Principal of the University of the West Indies, Mona, Professor Archibald McDonald sign the partnership agreement for the establishment of Alligator Head Marine Lab and seven projects designed to restore the marine environment in the area. Witnessing the signing are Director of the Fisheries Division at the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries Andre Kong (left) and Director of the Centre for Marine Science, Professor Dale Webber. (Photo: Naphtali Junior/Jamaica Observer)

Founder and chair of Alligator Head Marine Lab Francesca von Habsburg, and Principal of the University of the West Indies, Mona, Professor Archibald McDonald sign the partnership agreement for the establishment of Alligator Head Marine Lab and seven projects designed to restore the marine environment in the area. Witnessing the signing are Director of the Fisheries Division at the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries Andre Kong (left) and Director of the Centre for Marine Science, Professor Dale Webber. (Photo: Naphtali Junior/Jamaica Observer)

  • Baroness Francesca von Habsburg and her art foundation Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary (TBA 21). The Baroness opened the Alligator Head Marine Lab in Portland over the weekend, on her property. The University of the West Indies (UWI), the Portland Environment Protection Association and Reef Check Dominican Republic are partners in the project, which has seven specific goals. Much needed!
Jamaica Observer's Environment Editor Kimone Thompson at a recent biodiversity workshop organized by Panos Caribbean. (My photo)

Jamaica Observer’s Environment Editor Kimone Thompson at a recent biodiversity workshop organized by Panos Caribbean. (My photo)

  • And kudos to the Jamaica Observer’s environment editor Kimone Thompson. She is doing an outstanding job in pursuing the issues and some solid reporting has resulted.

The police have released composite pictures of two men wanted in connection with the murder of a man and an infant in “Dunkirk” on Valentine’s Day. Take a look: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Police-release-sketches-of-suspects-in-Dunkirk-double-murder I guess it’s not always possible, but it would be good if they could do this for all wanted men. These actually look like real, identifiable people, so good job. Meanwhile, my deepest condolences to the families of all those who lost their lives to violence in the past week. Ms. Williams was attacked, stabbed and robbed while walking home from church…

Syril, Papine Market, St. Andrew

Livingston Garvey, 68, Dyke Road/Portmore, St. Catherine

Mario Cross, 26, Dyke Road/Portmore, St. Catherine

Keldon Wade, 31, Clifton District, St. Catherine

Unidentified man, McCook’s Pen, St. Catherine

Damion Callum, Alexandria, St. Ann

Phyllis Williams, 79, Mango Walk, Montego Bay, St. James

Police Commissioner Owen Ellington (left) meets Shackelia Jackson sister of deceased Robert Nakeia Jackson while he toured the Orange Villa community with Minister of National Security Peter Bunting after the shooting. (Photo: Jermaine Barnaby/Gleaner)

Police Commissioner Owen Ellington (left) meets Shackelia Jackson sister of deceased Robert Nakeia Jackson while he toured the Orange Villa community with Minister of National Security Peter Bunting after the shooting. Member of Parliament Desmond McKenzie is on the right. (Photo: Jermaine Barnaby/Gleaner)

Meanwhile, Special Constable Leighton Rose who was charged in the January 20, 2014 fatal shooting of Nakiea Jackson, a cook shop operator in Downtown Kingston, is to appear in court today.

On the road: Three people were killed in a terrible bus crash on Highway 2000 in Clarendon last night. The driver “lost control” of the vehicle (a euphemism for speeding) and was killed along with two passengers. Fourteen others remain in hospital. A 61-year-old woman was hit by two cars and killed, as she tried to cross the road near Ferry, on the Mandela Highway; and a two-year-old was killed by a motorist in Portland, as he and his mother got off the bus. Many of the pedestrians killed on the road are older persons, and the very young. Please take care!

And the back of Jay's shirt! (My photo)

And this is what Javan Campbell is all about! (My photo)

1st Annual Portland Bight Green Run!

1st Annual Portland Bight Green Run!

It’s been a Warm Sunday, February 9, 2014

At least, it is in Kingston, and not a drop of rain in sight.

Corruption, anti-corruption: I am simply going to quote former Contractor General Greg Christie on this: “Jamaican MPs and Cabinet members who are against aggressive anti-corruption reforms must not be allowed to hold the country to ransom.” Who are these people, I wonder? Meanwhile, Justice Minister Mark Golding says work towards creating a single anti-corruption agency is proceeding apace. Of course, one hopes that it will be a functioning, efficient and effective agency, when it finally appears.

A picture of Leonard Howell, from the Occupy Pinnacle Facebook page.

A picture of Leonard Howell, from the Occupy Pinnacle Facebook page.

“Occupy Pinnacle”: A robust discussion continues in social media over the fate of Pinnacle, the hilltop homesite of Rastafari founder Leonard P. Howell. Reverend Garnett Roper (who is now a public servant as well as heading the Jamaica Theological Seminary) has come up with what I believe is a workable solution: to create a theme park-style attraction focusing on Rastafari, which has played a key role in promoting “Brand Jamaica” through reggae music (who doesn’t recognize the red, gold and green?). It could be a private-public sector project promoted to attract visitors from near and far. Rev. Roper thinks this would be a remarkable opportunity to right some historical wrongs.” Yes, in the past there has been much injustice. Anyway, I think this could work out well for all concerned. Compromise is definitely a possibility. But of course whatever is created must retain its authentic cultural integrity.

Proud flag bearer brakeman Marvin Dixon before stepping out at #Sochi2014 opening ceremony. (Photo: Twitter)

Proud flag bearer brakeman Marvin Dixon before stepping out at #Sochi2014 opening ceremony. (Photo: Twitter)

Talking of “Brand Jamaica”: The Jamaican bobsled team is once again a huge hit. The Government has done very little to support them officially (apart from a short press release congratulating them on qualifying for the Winter Olympics in Sochi) but hey – the New York Times, Miami Herald, ESPN, NBC, ABC, BBC and more have been writing great stories about them and following their every move. The bobsledders raised the funds for their trip to Sochi in just a couple of days via crowd-funding (showing the strength of their global support) and have had to ask people to stop sending money, as they have more than enough! Why the Government’s lukewarm interest? This is tailor-made stuff. Remember “Cool Runnings,” Mr. Tourism Minister, JAMPRO et al? The 1993 Disney movie made well over US$150 million and the soundtrack was a major hit. Nuff said. (Follow the team on Twitter @Jambobsled for great photos and updates!)

INDECOM-logo

INDECOM (the Independent Commission of Investigations) is operating at only 60 % of the staff that it needs to deal with hundreds of cases of police abuses (including extra-judicial killings, which were up last year). Why can’t they be given the needed resources? This is much less than what the Bureau of Special Investigations received (that was INDECOM’s ineffective predecessor). INDECOM has achieved some modest results during its short term of existence, but against the odds. I wish them all the best and hope they will get the support they deserve.

Signing our future away: Finance and Planning Minister, Dr. the Hon. Peter Phillips (left), and Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) Country Representative in Jamaica, Therese Turner-Jones sign copies of two loan agreements for the IDB’s provision of just over $15 billion (US$140 million) in budgetary support to the government to undertake the country’s Fiscal Structural Programme for Economic Growth, and Competitiveness Enhancement Programme (III). The signing took place on February 6. Overseeing the proceedings is the Ministry’s Communications and Public Relations Director, Cheryl Smith. (Photo: Jamaica Information Service)

Signing our future away: Finance and Planning Minister, Peter Phillips (left), and Inter-American Development Bank Country Representative in Jamaica, Therese Turner-Jones sign copies of two loan agreements for the IDB’s provision of just over $15 billion (US$140 million) in budgetary support to the government to undertake the country’s Fiscal Structural Programme for Economic Growth, and Competitiveness Enhancement Programme (III). The signing took place on February 6. Overseeing the proceedings is the Ministry’s Communications and Public Relations Director, Cheryl Smith. (Photo: Jamaica Information Service)

More huge loans: Forgive me for asking, but is the way out of our debt problem to continue borrowing vast sums of money? The Government have signed two big ‘uns lately: US$140 million from the Inter-American Development Bank for enhancing fiscal administration of the economy” ; and an even larger loan from the Chinese Government, our new best friends. I guess the IMF is cool with all this, right Minister Phillips?

He's back! Minister of Transport, Works and Housing Omar Davies addresses members of the Diplomatic Corps on February 5 where he provided details on major infrastructural projects being undertaken. (Photo: JIS)

He’s back! Minister of Transport, Works and Housing Omar Davies addresses members of the Diplomatic Corps on February 5 where he provided details on major infrastructural projects being undertaken. (Photo: JIS)

Last week was Diplomatic Week, which means that representatives of fifty-odd countries that have diplomatic relations with Jamaica get together for a heavy dose of Jamaican Government presentations and cocktails. Transport Minister Omar Davies (yes, he has reappeared, finally) told the diplomats about plans for a network of roads and the logistics hub. The Minister said the “bits of the puzzle are coming together.” Yes, it’s a puzzle, all right!

Bahij Mansour (Photo: Winston Sill/Freelance Photographer)

Israel’s non-resident Ambassador to Jamaica Bahij Mansour (Photo: Winston Sill/Freelance Photographer)

Solar solutions? The non-resident Israeli Ambassador to Jamaica Bahij Mansour has expressed interest in assisting with the logistics hub. What I would really like to see is Israeli assistance with solar power and water conservation projects; they are world-leading experts in these fields, and God knows the responsible ministers are doing virtually nothing in these areas of any significance.

Kingston cruise ships? Minister Davies also mentioned the possibility of Kingston becoming a cruise ship port. Is this the reason why the Kingston port is being expanded? I think not. Well, a hell of a lot of work will have to be done on downtown Kingston before this could be at all feasible.

NFPB chair Dr Sandra Knight (centre) makes a point during Thursday’s Observer Press Club at the newspaper’s Beechwood Avenue headquarters. Her colleagues Sania Sutherland (right), executive director and Marion Scott, acting director of outreach and prevention, flank her. (Photo: Joseph Wellington/Jamaica Observer)

NFPB chair Dr Sandra Knight (centre) makes a point during Thursday’s Observer Press Club at the newspaper’s Beechwood Avenue headquarters. Her colleagues Sania Sutherland (right), executive director and Marion Scott, acting director of outreach and prevention, flank her. (Photo: Joseph Wellington/Jamaica Observer)

Teens in trouble: Several articles in today’s papers are enough to make you break out in a cold sweat. Chair of the National Family Planning Board Dr. Sandra Knight (a terrific and knowledgeable lady) tells us that “transactional sex” (for benefit/gifts) is on the rise; more young people have multiple sex partners and most are not bothering to use condoms; abstinence programs aren’t working; and more and more teens are becoming addicted to porn, with home-made sex videos circulating on mobile phones. And of course, with all this happening, the abuse of children aged 11 to 15 years is increasing. A total nightmare.

At last! A female (guest) columnist in the Sunday Gleaner, Suzanne Leslie-Bailey, and she does a good job of telling the middle-class to “get off their verandas and get involved in the political process, raise their voices on the issues, and demand that politicians be true servants of the people!” Thank you.

“Dem can gwan run up dem mouth…” So said our Prime Minister on video regarding those who have been criticizing her many overseas trips. For those who don’t understand Jamaican patois… Oh, it’s not worth the bother of translating, actually.

Major kudos to: 

G2K President Floyd Green is the new Deputy Spokesman on Labour and Social Security with the Jamaica Labour Party.

G2K President Floyd Green is the new Deputy Spokesman on Labour and Social Security with the Jamaica Labour Party.

Suzanne Leslie-Bailey and Floyd Green, two young people who have been appointed Deputy Spokespersons for Tourism and Labour/Social Security, respectively.  Go out and make a difference!

Suzanne Leslie Bailey is the new Deputy Spokeswoman on Tourism.

Suzanne Leslie Bailey is the new Deputy Spokeswoman on Tourism.

Palace Amusement Company (again) for bringing us the wonderful Live at the Met HD Series from the Metropolitan Opera of New York. It is a joy to go down to the Carib cinema and immerse ourselves with other happy opera lovers. I have reviewed a couple of them – including Dvorak’s “Rusalka” - which will be encored at the Palace Multiplex, Montego Bay and the Cineplex in Kingston on February 16 at 11:30 a.m. Next up is “Prince Igor” on March 1. Can’t wait!

Yup! Pharrell Williams is happy, and it's infectious!

Yup! Pharrell Williams is happy, and it’s infectious!

The makers of the “Jamaica Happy” video, using Pharrell’s funky, catchy tune: This is a gem of a short video (wish it was a bit longer!) – beautifully produced, with real Jamaicans in real locations. The boys who dive at Kingston’s waterfront, the cool uptown girls, a motor mechanic among his cars, a young man on his cell phone in New Kingston… Lovely! It will bring a smile to your face. This is Jamaica, minus the fake Jamaica Tourist Board hype. Watch and share widely: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bFugJzhrsUM

Shaking a leg in the mechanic's yard - a still from the awesome "Jamaica Happy" video with Pharrell's song.

Shaking a leg in the mechanic’s yard – a still from the awesome “Jamaica Happy” video with Pharrell’s song.

Wyatt Gallery in Kingston's Jewish Cemetery at Orange Street. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

Wyatt Gallery in Kingston’s Jewish Cemetery at Orange Street. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

New York-based photographer and philanthropist Wyatt Gallery (who has Jamaican connections), who gave us a preview of his exquisitely beautiful book, “Jewish Treasures of the Caribbean,” in Kingston last week. Collector’s packages are available. For more information, go to Wyatt’s website at: http://www.wyattgallery.com.

Dr. Marcia Forbes is the author of two books on social media and its impact on Jamaican youth. She also heads a dynamic team at Phase Three Productions, a 25-year-old Jamaican company offering TV, film and multimedia services. (Photo: jamediapro.wordpress.com)

Dr. Marcia Forbes is the author of two books on social media and its impact on Jamaican youth. She also heads a dynamic team at Phase Three Productions, a 25-year-old Jamaican company offering TV, film and multimedia services. (Photo: jamediapro.wordpress.com)

Businesswoman and communicator extraordinaire Marcia Forbes, whose two-part series on the logistics hub is enlightening. She keeps it clear and simple, minus the hype of the Jamaican Government’s PR on the planned mega-development. Here are Ms. Forbes’ cogent comments on the proposed transshipment port at Goat Islands: Jamaicans are concerned that in addition to environmental degradation, with possible flooding of surrounding land mass and losses to fisher-folks and their families as a result of situating a Logistics Park within the Portland Bight, there will be no meaningful job creation. They fear that the Chinese will bring many of their nationals, not only those with ‘special expertise’ and that the jobs of which Professor Shirley speaks may never really materialize.” Read more at the Caribbean Journal website:  http://www.caribjournal.com/2014/02/07/marcia-forbes-understanding-jamaica’s-logistics-hub-part-2/

The Jamaican Government could perhaps bear this in mind… Thank you!

The Jamaican Government could perhaps bear this in mind… Thank you!

The number of deaths in incidents involving the police seems to be steadily growing. I am not sure what is going on here. How can National Security Minister Peter Bunting be preaching “unity” and “working together to fight the monster of crime,” in the full knowledge that every such killing further erodes the level of trust between the police and citizens? The Police Commissioner’s response to the latest killing – the death of a woman in downtown Kingston while the police and gunmen were allegedly involved in a gunfight – was inept and hypocritical, to say the least. He said, well this is what happens when gunmen fire at police and they must stop doing that. Hmmm.  My deepest sympathies to those who are mourning; Ms. Stone leaves behind five children.

Dekalda McKenzie, 25, Ziaidie Gardens, Kingston

Oneill Washington, 30, Portmore, St. Catherine

Rema Arthurs, 67, Greenvale/Mandeville, Manchester

Duane Powell, 33, Salt Spring, St. James

Brandon Gordon, 23, Norwood, St. James

Killed by the police:

Kevin Davis, 19, Regent Street, Kingston

Jacqueline Stone, 44, Oxford Road, Kingston

Adrian Knight, Bethel Town, Westmoreland

On the roads:  26 Jamaicans have died on our roads this year, already. Now, how do eight people fit into a Nissan Sunny? Two people died when this car crashed in Petersfield, Westmoreland: 37-year-old Nichola Graham and 20-year-old Lavern Gordon. The car must have been unstable and going too fast – no other vehicle was involved. And the media have just caught onto the fact that a talented young man, Jason Cruickshank, 28, was killed while crossing the road a whole week ago along the Jacks Hill Road in Kingston. The truck that hit him did not stop. Another car that followed also hit him, and did not stop.

Alicia Dixon, with photos of her 19-year-old brother Tevin Davis, who was allegedly shot and killed by the police in Denham Town, Kingston, on Thursday. (Photo: Norman Grindley/Gleaner)

Alicia Dixon, with photos of her 19-year-old brother Kevin Davis, who was allegedly shot and killed by the police in Denham Town, Kingston, on Thursday. (Photo: Norman Grindley/Gleaner)

Looking for Good News: Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Starting with bad news. I’m sorry, but will have to tell it like it is…

It seems that the jet ski is as dangerous machine as a motor car in Jamaica. (Photo: Gleaner)

It seems that the jet ski is as dangerous a machine as a motor car in Jamaica – but largely unregulated. (Photo: Gleaner)

Deaths, injuries, talk, no action: On Tuesday, a jet ski rider hit an American tourist in the head and did not stop.  Tomas Torres Castillo of Las Vegas, Nevada, who was vacationing at Travellers Beach Hotel in Negril, died later in hospital. Hoteliers said there was no ambulance and the police took a long time to arrive. Other tourists tried to perform CPR on the beach. The police held someone for questioning but had to release him, and are still searching for the jet ski operator; someone must be hiding him. I have written about this issue several times in this blog. My favorite television current affairs program, “Live at Seven” discussed it at length. This was about six months ago, after the death of a seven-year-old Jamaican girl, who was killed by a tourist operating a jet ski in St. Ann last summer. There have been many other serious incidents over the years. Stakeholders have been discussing this for twenty-five years! Promises were made to ban the importation of jet skis and regulate the (mostly illegal) operators last year. What was done? There are so many issues here, but it appears that lawlessness has won the day. The Minister of Tourism and Member of Parliament for the area Dr. Wykeham McNeill has a lot of questions to answer. Why hasn’t he visited Negril yet to meet with stakeholders? The town is in shock. Does he ever walk along the beach and see what is happening there? It’s chaos.

What is left of Negril's once-famous beach. I am not sure whether NEPA's efforts will help to redress the damage done over the years. (Photo: Gleaner)

What is left of Negril’s once-famous beach. I am not sure whether NEPA’s efforts will help to redress the damage done over the years. (Photo: Gleaner)

And in Negril, the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) will be “clamping down” on poor environmental practices in what I consider to be a seriously degraded tourist resort, with a once-famous, now-eroded, no-longer-seven-mile beach. Once again, better late than never – but too little, too late.

One more question on this: How can this tourist town (or any other town of this size) not have an ambulance? Can anyone who lives there confirm that this is true? Again, this has been discussed ad nauseam in the past…

Are we looking into the issue of dangerous pit bulls, which are becoming increasingly popular in Jamaica?

Are we looking into the issue of dangerous pit bulls, which are becoming increasingly popular in Jamaica?

Same thing… Pit bulls have reportedly injured several Jamaicans (mostly children) in recent years. Is this another disaster waiting to happen? They are not regulated and are allegedly being illegally smuggled into Jamaica. Veterinarian St. Aubyn Bartlett has raised concerns and CVM Television’s Kerlyn Brown ran a series of reports. Nothing doing? I guess we are waiting for a death. Grace Virtue notes in her Jamaica Observer column (her pieces are always an excellent read): “The Ministry of Agriculture, which has direct responsibility for animal control, is moving with the speed of a century-old turtle as far as addressing the issue is concerned, or the broader reality of the outdated laws governing animal importation in Jamaica in general.”

Lapsing into the third person (as is a habit of hers) in a short video on the Jamaica Observer website, our Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller re-emphasized her love for “the poor.” She added, “It suit us to live loving and good.” She reiterated the “Out of Many One People” motto. She also pointed out that history cannot be reversed. How true. We’d better believe it.

Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller (right), addresses the first plenary session of the Second Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), in Havana, Cuba, on January 28. (Photo: JIS)

Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller (right), addresses the first plenary session of the Second Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), in Havana, Cuba, on January 28. (Photo: JIS)

And, while dozens of dissidents were arrested before the Summit in Havana, Cuba, our PM made a nice speech over there. Here is the text of it: http://jis.gov.jm/prime-ministers-message-2nd-celac-summit/

Andrew Holness (left) and former senator Christopher Tufton - the latter has now withdrawn from active politics. (Photo: Gleaner)

Andrew Holness (left) and former senator Christopher Tufton – the latter has now withdrawn from active politics. (Photo: Gleaner)

The eloquent former Agriculture Minister Christopher Tufton has bowed out of representational politics (at least for now) but will remain a member of the Jamaica Labour Party. Dr. Tufton has had his ups and downs (mainly downs) in the last couple of years. I think it’s a pity – he is an intelligent and clear-sighted individual – but he was badly bruised by the recent leadership contest (and perhaps, he could have handled things better). But he is relatively young and may return. Maybe.

SHAW... initially refused to take up the position of opposition spokesperson on finance following his unsucessful challenge for leadership of the Jamaica Labour Party. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

SHAW… initially refused to take up the position of opposition spokesperson on finance following his unsucessful challenge for leadership of the Jamaica Labour Party. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

And former leadership contender Mr. Audley Shaw has moved straight back into his former position as Opposition Spokesman on Finance. Phew! Glad to see him back, I must say. He has asked questions in the Lower House about the current state of finances at the National Housing Trust; and is on the warpath about the exorbitant charges that Jamaican banks torment their customers with – which is an absolute disgrace.

Presenting large and sweet-smelling bouquets to:

The awesome Digicel Foundation, which is currently handing out cheques to the various institutions that support Jamaicans with special needs, from the proceeds of last year’s downtown walk/run. Today, they presented a cheque to the STEP Centre. Read more about this wonderful school, which offers therapy, education and parenting for children with multiple disabilities, here: http://www.thestepcentre.com.

Kingston City Run!

Kingston City Run!

There’s another run coming up… The Kingston City Run – half marathon and 5K – find them on Facebook! This will take place on March 9. The Alpha Boys’ Home will be one of the charities to benefit. Sign up now at http://www.kingstoncityrun.com

Tessanne Chin (left) and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce are joint winners of the Gleaner's Person of the Year Award. Two wonderful Jamaican women! (Photo: Gleaner)

Tessanne Chin (left) and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce are joint winners of the Gleaner’s Person of the Year Award. Two wonderful Jamaican women! (Photo: Gleaner)

The Gleaner Company, who have finally – finally! – ditched their “Man of the Year Award” and replaced it with a “Person of the Year.” The joint winners this year are singer Tessanne Chin and sprinter Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce. Congratulations to these two fabulous ladies and thanks to the Gleaner for doing the right thing!

Digital Jam 3.0 Caribbean Edition.

Digital Jam 3.0 Caribbean Edition.

Digital Jam 3.0 is an exciting youth/IT partnership among the the Government of Jamaica, The World Bank, the Caribbean Development Bank, the OECS Secretariat, Microsoft, other partners from the Caribbean private sector and the  international development community. Read more on their Facebook page.  The program includes includes apps competitions, awareness workshops on micro-work and e-lancing opportunities and a final Caribbean that will include key notes from Inspirational Speakers, Networking opportunities and the final phase of the Apps Competition. I listened to the mentors’ inspiring (and down to earth) presentations yesterday and spoke with some of the young competitors. More to follow! Final event is March 1 – 2.

The National Forum on Youth-Violence Prevention took place in downtown Kingston today. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

The National Forum on Youth-Violence Prevention took place in downtown Kingston today. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

As a major youth/crime conference takes place in downtown Kingston today, the death toll continues to rise. A father of seven was shot dead in his car outside Tarrant Primary School in Kingston, while doing his school run. Thankfully two of his children in the car were unhurt. 

Rohan Newman, 36, Molynes Road, Kingston

“Rantis,” Jones Town, Kingston

Janice Atkinson-Reid, 32, Portsmouth, St. Catherine

Robert Piliner, 46, Savannah-la-Mar, Westmoreland

Rosemarie Wilson, 34, Savannah-la-Mar, Westmoreland

Kevin Coombs, 41, Tucker/Irwin, St. James

Killed by the police:

Shaquielle Stephens, 18, Grants Pen, Kingston

Crime scene investigators look at the motorcar in which Rohan Newman was shot and killed at Molynes Road yesterday. (Photo: Michael Gordon/Jamaica Observer)

Crime scene investigators look at the motorcar in which Rohan Newman was shot and killed at Molynes Road yesterday. (Photo: Michael Gordon/Jamaica Observer)

The blood-stained floor of the ransacked house where 18-year-old Shaquielle Stephens was fatally shot by police yesterday. (Photo: Michael Gordon/Jamaica Observer)

The blood-stained floor of the ransacked house where 18-year-old Shaquielle Stephens was fatally shot by police yesterday. He was the son of reputed “don” in Kingston’s Grant Pen “Andrew Phang,” (Andrew Stephens), who was killed by the police in 2001. (Photo: Michael Gordon/Jamaica Observer)

Happy Birthday, Dr. King: Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Happy birthday, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr!  Here is a quote from the rich treasury of sayings by the great man: “The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.”

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

A man not afraid of uncomfortable truths, and not afraid to express them.

The killing of Jamaican citizens by agents of the State jumped alarmingly last year compared to 2012, the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) reports. In 2013, 258 Jamaicans were killed by security forces; in 2012 the police killed 219.  Last October, they killed 40 Jamaicans. In fact, Jamaica has one of the highest rate of police killings per capita in the world, running alongside our murder rate, of course. Perfect proof that “hard policing” does not work, I’d say. In 2009 Amnesty International reported that Jamaica’s rate of police killings was the highest in the world. I am not sure where we stand now.

National Security Minister Peter Bunting. (Photo: Gleaner)

National Security Minister Peter Bunting. (Photo: Gleaner)

What will Minister Peter Bunting have to say about this, I wonder? What is the answer? More of the same for 2014? I know the “Unite for Change” program launched last year is addressing the problem in the right way. But law enforcement must be on the same page with the political directorate. Please.

Meanwhile the police have reported the seizure of a large number of weapons over the past two or three months. This week, they seized two high-powered guns and a large amount of ammunition; and have arrested eleven people (including five Costa Ricans) and over a ton of ganja, all in the rural parish of Westmoreland (which seems to be a hotbed of organized crime). And talking about the “weed”…

The late Professor Barry Chevannes headed the National Commission on Ganja, which produced a report in 2001. The report was subsequently ignored by the Jamaican Government.

The late Professor Barry Chevannes headed the National Commission on Ganja, which produced a report in 2001. The report was subsequently ignored by the Jamaican Government.

The ganja conundrum: In my last post, I expressed cynicism over the “legalize it” chorus among opinion-makers and media pundits. I now realize Jamaicans are not all talking about the same thing in the ongoing discussions. Are we talking about the decriminalization of marijuana possession? Or are we talking about embracing the weed, Colorado-style? How exactly would legalization boost our economy? For a start, the value of ganja would drop dramatically… I don’t know. I need to get my hands on the 2001 report of the National Commission on Ganja, which is what Mr. Delano Seiveright of the Ganja Law Reform Coalition wants implemented. I remain unconvinced, and I don’t like bandwagons either. And Jamaica is not – not - Colorado, Mr. Seiveright.

Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller speaks at the Digicel Foundation's tenth anniversary celebration at Stella Maris Foundation today. (Photo: Jean Lowrie-Chin/Twitter)

Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller speaks at the Digicel Foundation’s tenth anniversary celebration at Stella Maris Foundation today. (Photo: Jean Lowrie-Chin/Twitter)

A monstrous cliché: Our Prime Minister used the phrase “monster of crime” several times over in her speech today at the Digicel Foundation’s tenth anniversary celebration. She also talked about us “coming together” to deal with the issue, ending up with the well-worn African proverb: “It takes a village to raise a child.” Yes, all the sentiments are fine, but can we stop talking in clichés about crime? Clichés make people yawn and feel like they’ve heard it all before (they have). In fact, can we stop talking altogether and actually do something?

Jamaica Labour Party supporters greet Opposition and party leader Andrew Holness on his arrival at a meeting of the South Central St Catherine Constituency on Sunday. (Photo: Michael Gordon/Jamaica Observer)

Jamaica Labour Party supporters greet Opposition and party leader Andrew Holness on his arrival at a meeting of the South Central St Catherine Constituency on Sunday, where “Warmie” gave us his pearls of wisdom. (Photo: Michael Gordon/Jamaica Observer)

The Warmonger: That everlasting loose cannon, the Honorable Everald Warmington, M.P., has opened his mouth again. He has got everyone very hot under the collar, as usual; even the People’s National Party Youth Organisation has risen from its slumber and put out a press release calling Mr. Warmington’s remarks “at least BARBARIC” (their capital letters) and “horrifying.” The media are busy chewing over the latest salvo, delivered in his usual aggressive style on a Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) platform over the weekend, with party leader Andrew Holness sitting in the front row. And as is his wont, “Warmie” refuses to retract his assertion that if one of his constituents came to him for help, he would consult his list and would refuse him/her if he found out that the person had not voted (for him, that is, while professing to be a JLP follower).  Those who do not vote should not receive state benefits, the MP contends. “If you don’t vote, you don’t count, and at this stage if a person walk in the office and say boss mi a Labourite [JLP supporter], when I check the computer and you didn’t vote I not dealing with you…” This is the man who once told a female journalist to “go to hell” during a television interview. We are all quite used to his uncouth outbursts. We are also not surprised that he has refused to retract his remarks. Oh, he says he believes in compulsory voting. Party leader Holness has said nothing, but the General Secretary has in a laid-back kind of way distanced the party from the MP’s remarks. So have some fellow Opposition members, notably Mr. Daryl Vaz – a man of some influence in the JLP.

Mr. Everald Warmington, M.P., is considered by some to be bullying and indeed, somewhat coarse.

Mr. Everald Warmington, M.P. 

For me the issue is quite simple: If you are a taxpayer (but many of Mr. W’s constituents may not be, for one reason or another) and dutifully pay your taxes but didn’t vote, you should be entitled to state benefits! But then again, Mr. W was talking about those benefits obtained directly from the MP in person (the proverbial “scarce benefits and spoils” that party supporters receive).  As broadcaster Cliff Hughes noted, this is sheer political tribalism.”

All smiles at the signing of an agreement for the donation of a Chinese Garden to Jamaica last November. Now, the Chinese team working on the garden have been violently attacked and robbed.

All smiles at the signing of an agreement for the donation of a Chinese Garden to Jamaica last November. Now, the Chinese team working on the garden have been violently attacked and robbed.

Horrible attack: Apart from making speeches this week, perhaps Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller should have expressed some concern about the brutal attack and robbery of several Chinese nationals at a Kingston residence. Two of the Chinese were hospitalized, one with a broken jaw, and all their valuables, laptops etc. stolen. They are in Jamaica to work in Hope Botanical Gardens on a Chinese Garden – a valuable gift (J$320 million) from the Chinese Government to the Jamaican people; a gesture of goodwill, for which the agreement was happily signed last November.  The damage control machine is in full gear (again) and “dedicated police patrols” are now in place to guard these Chinese visitors. This is so shameful, and begs the question: Will this continued preying on Chinese nationals in Jamaica (this is not the first case) turn them, and other investors away?

A view across part of the Portland Bight Protected Area. (Photo: Ted Lee Eubanks)

A view across part of the Portland Bight Protected Area. (Photo: Ted Lee Eubanks)

Irony of ironies: In a sad attempt to reassure the public, the National Environment & Planning Agency (NEPA – and no, the “P” does not stand for “Protection”) has announced that the Pedro Bank and Cays, as well as the Black River Morass, will be declared Protected Areas! NEPA is strengthening management plans for seven other protected areas. No mention of the largest protected area of all, the Portland Bight Protected Area, which includes Goat Islands. I wonder why not…

Dr. Fritz Pinnock is also Managing Director of the Caribbean Maritime Institute, a forward-thinking educational institution. (Photo: Gleaner)

Dr. Fritz Pinnock is also Managing Director of the Caribbean Maritime Institute, a forward-thinking educational institution. (Photo: Gleaner)

Let’s go for science and technology: I agree with chairman of the sub-committee on education and training in the Logistics Hub Task Force (wow) Dr Fritz Pinnock. He points out that 70 per cent of degree programs offered in Jamaica are in the liberal arts, while the rest of the world is leaning towards science and technology. We need more engineers and physicists and biologists! Even our 350 engineering graduates per year are largely in unsuitable fields, Dr. Pinnock says.

Minister of Mining, Energy & Technology Phillip Paulwell

The well-traveled Minister of Mining, Energy and Technology Phillip Paulwell seems to be off the radar at the moment.

MIA Minister: I am aware that Minister Omar Davies is working but not in office, due to malfunctioning elevators in his building. But where, oh where, is Minister Phillip Paulwell (who has slipped in my rankings of favorite ministers)? Has there been any sighting of him since the Christmas holiday?

Newspaper editorials: What has happened to the sharp critical thinking of our newspaper editorials? The Gleaner and Jamaica Observer manage to produce about one decent, thought-provoking editorial per week each, on average. I will only comment occasionally on those I think are worthy of note. That won’t be often if they keep up this level of mediocrity.

I’m handing out bouquets to…

Students from the Genesis Academy for children with special needs perform at the Digicel Foundation's tenth anniversary event.

Students from the Genesis Academy for children with special needs perform at the Digicel Foundation’s tenth anniversary event.

Digicel Foundation, who are basking in the glow of their tenth birthday celebrations. I am sorry I was unable to attend the event at the Stella Maris Foundation (a brilliant organization led by the admirable young Omar Frith). I commend the Foundation for their incredible work and for their current focus on helping Jamaicans with special needs.

The Bold Ones 2014, eight new manufacturing entrepreneurs who are stepping bravely out into the marketplace, with the support of National Bakery (to whom many kudos also). They (and their superb products) were unveiled yesterday (please see my earlier blog). I wish them huge success and in fact, expect them to do really well with the marketing support that they need (and deserve).. Check out their Facebook page: National Bakery’s The Bold Ones.

Luxury coach provider Knutsford Express Services Limited lists on the Jamaica Stock Exchange (JSE) Junior Market today. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

Luxury coach provider Knutsford Express Services Limited lists on the Jamaica Stock Exchange (JSE) Junior Market today. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

The Knutsford Express, which has listed on the Junior Stock Exchange today. From personal experience I wish to congratulate this company on providing a very valuable service, connecting Jamaica’s major towns and transporting people in comfort and on time for a reasonable fare. Well done and keep up the good work!

Businesswoman Marcia Forbes attending a recent church service. (Photo: Twitter)

Businesswoman Marcia Forbes attending a recent church service. (Photo: Twitter)

Marcia Forbes has written a great article in Carib Journal on “Social Media and Social Good in Jamaica.”  Marcia inspired me to take the world of social media seriously, and I’m grateful to her for that. She points to the tremendous support for singer Tessanne Chin in “The Voice” through social media mobilization in Kingston and Miami; and fund-raising through the Shaggy and Friends concert, again galvanizing support through social media (major kudos to Deika Morrison for these successful efforts!)

Once again, my condolences to the families and loved ones of the following Jamaicans (and one German national) who have been murdered in the past two and a half days. It is especially sad that the quiet parish of Portland – which usually has an extremely low murder rate – has had two murders in the space of twelve hours. Quite a shock, but I hope that this will not continue.

Devon Rankine, 49, Tavern Drive, Papine, St. Andrew

Bevin James, 68, St. Ann’s Bay, St. Ann

Ute Sobtaier (sp?) 48, Nonsuch, Portland (German national)

Janice Linton, 37, Baker Hill/Hope Bay, Portland

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

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

Finance Minister Peter Phillips.

Finance Minister Peter Phillips.

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

Dennis Chung. (Gleaner file photo)

Dennis Chung. (Gleaner file photo)

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

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

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

Save Goat Islands!

Save Goat Islands!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Illegal electricity connections in Kingston.

Illegal electricity connections in Kingston.

Kudos to…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ramon Perkins, 20, Santa Cruz, St. Elizabeth

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

Norman Comrie, 30, Runaway Bay, St. Ann

Melessha Evans, 20, Irwin, St. James

Jeliana Evans, four months, Irwin, St. James

Unidentified man, Springfield, Westmoreland

Fernando Woolery, 26, Red Ground/Negril, Westmoreland

Geraldine Powell, 65, Sherwood Content, Trelawny

Killed by the police:

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

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

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

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

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

 

A Week of Struggles: Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Busy week, but I hope I haven’t missed out too much. Please bear with me…

The struggle continues… Back to the political killing floor. Sorry to use this violent imagery, but many columnists and talk shows are still mulling over the Jamaica Labour Party skirmishes last week, that left several members suffering possibly mortal wounds. What will happen to Christopher Tufton and Audley Shaw and others, whom I consider to be the brightest of that bunch? I hope they find their place somehow, so that they are able to contribute to the governance of the nation. They have a lot to offer. And can Andrew Holness do a decent job in the Finance Spokesman role? His mentor Edward Seaga also handled that portfolio himself… I don’t know. We shall see. It’s pretty messy.

The Jamaica Labour Party's Arthur Williams.

The Jamaica Labour Party’s Arthur Williams.

So now, the Supreme Court should tomorrow hear a claim by former Leader of Opposition Business in the Senate Arthur Williams, himself an attorney. He is seeking an injunction to block Holness from filling the two Senate seats vacated by himself and Christopher Tufton, after Holness’ crafty sleight of hand last week. Yes, Mr. Holness has been crafty and may well feel that he has been rather smart. However, he now has a legal case as well as a deadwood Shadow Cabinet of yes-men (and one yes-woman). Read more here: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=49401Is 

Jamaica College is a "traditional" high school for boys in Kingston.

Jamaica College is a “traditional” high school for boys in Kingston.

Mr. Ruel Reid is a very good school principal, by all accounts. Last week, Opposition Leader Andrew Holness quickly named him as Senator. But does he have time for this, as well as serving on a couple of boards? And he had better be careful not to let the politics spill over into his work as headmaster of the famous Jamaica College. The Minister of Education sounds concerned and somewhat wary; so am I.

PetroCaribe is doing a “wobbly”: A recent article in the Christian Science Monitor suggests that all is not well with Venezuela‘s PetroCaribe arrangements with at least one of the 17 participating nations. Its oil contracts with China and India must be profitable than those with Caribbean countries. Will the terms of Venezuela’s agreement with Jamaica change, in terms of higher interest rates etc? Energy Minister Phillip Paulwell says the agreement is “intact” and unchanged. Venezuela’s economy is in a mess, with a soaring crime rate and actual oil production very low. The man with the mustache is also not a reliable character. He will be ruling by decree for the next year – at least – so a dictatorship is in place, at least a temporary one.  Read more here: http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Americas/2013/1115/Venezuela-s-regional-energy-program-Petrocaribe-wobbles

Financial news: The “big” news is that the economy grew in the last quarter by a whopping 0.6 per cent. After six consecutive quarters of negative growth, this is something to get mildly excited about.  Inflation, however, is lurking in the wings and creeping up – as we are all painfully aware of when we visit the supermarket. It was 3.7 per cent in the last quarter – above the Bank of Jamaica target of two to three per cent. But financial reporting sometimes baffles me. The Gleaner reports that, in addition to increases in transportation costs, the reason for higher inflation was “higher costs associated with the summer holidays and preparations for the start of the new school year.” Er, doesn’t this happen every year? Read more here: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131120/business/business1.html

And in infrastructure news… An engineer has wisely suggested we build roads with concrete (which we actually produce here) rather than surfacing them with a (generally too thin) layer of imported asphalt. Concrete lasts much longer too. And over 600 street lights have mysteriously turned up in Trelawny – they have “moved” from somewhere else! So many? It is staggering. The poor Jamaica Public Service Company has to be constantly one or two steps ahead of the ingenious light thieves. Read more here: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Engineer-touts-benefits-of-concrete-roads_15432634 and http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131118/lead/lead6.html

Impunity basically means getting away with it. Impunity “tun up” these days (to coin a Jamaican phrase): for the electricity thieves; for the crazy bus and taxi drivers who threaten our lives daily on the road; for the operators of “Ponzi” schemes who have fleeced many Jamaicans of millions; for those police officers who break the law themselves; for those faceless, nameless rampaging mobs who regularly take the law into their own hands, as in the case of Dwayne Jones; and according to the latest study from the University of the West Indies (UWI), for the vast majority of murderers out there, who are never brought to justice.

UWI Professor Anthony Clayton tells us that the conviction rate for murder is less than five per cent per year. We always knew that this was a major concern, but the numbers are stark. Read more here: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131120/lead/lead1.html Are we going to hear from Minister of National Security Peter Bunting? Can he handle this portfolio, I have to ask? We cannot just blame the police; they are out of their depth and struggling. “Operation Resilience” (endless curfews, “shootouts” and the rounding up of young men in inner cities) is just not working. Those methods never have worked. A policy rethink is needed. A serious rethink, Minister.

National Security Minister Peter Bunting. (Photo: Gleaner)

National Security Minister Peter Bunting. (Photo: Gleaner)

Professor Anthony Clayton, Alcan Professor of Caribbean Sustainable Development at the University of the West Indies.

Professor Anthony Clayton, Alcan Professor of Caribbean Sustainable Development at the University of the West Indies.

It’s not just the murders. There has been a heightened level of violence and insecurity. A schoolgirl in Clarendon shot and injured accidentally by the police who were pursuing a suspect. A student in Portland stabbed by a fellow student and seriously ill in hospital. And again I ask, what was going on outside the Police Commissioner’s Office on Hope Road on Saturday evening – loud gunfire, huge traffic jam? Since I live just down the road, I would love to know.

 

Ambassador to the United States, His Excellency Stephen Vasciannie (right), listens attentively as member of the International Reggae Poster Contest (IRPC), Kathryn Buford (centre), explains the significance of one of the posters on display at the Embassy of Jamaica. Looking on (at left) is founder of the IRPC, Michael Thompson. The exhibition, which was officially opened by Ambassador Vasciannie at the Embassy on November 14, will run for one week. (Photo: Jamaica Information Service)

Ambassador to the United States, His Excellency Stephen Vasciannie (right), listens attentively as member of the International Reggae Poster Contest (IRPC), Kathryn Buford (centre), explains the significance of one of the posters on display at the Embassy of Jamaica. Looking on (at left) is founder of the IRPC, Michael Thompson. The exhibition, which was officially opened by Ambassador Vasciannie at the Embassy on November 14, will run for one week. (Photo: Jamaica Information Service)

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro

As I mentioned in my last post, the brother of a journalist friend of mine was shot dead in downtown Kingston a few days ago. Here are Rohan Powell’s heartfelt comments on Facebook: “It has been more than four days since my brother Evon Powell was shot and killed on Sutton street, just a short hop from our childhood home. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to grasp that he was the target. The killer, like many others who have carried out similar dastardly acts, are known as cowards. He or she didn’t give my brother a fighting chance. The reality is that his life has been snuffed out by someone who wanted to “make a duppy”. My brother’s death speaks to the vicious cycle of what we call Life. Nothing can bring him back…all we can look forward to, is that he will enjoy a peaceful rest near to Joan..his mother…and that his children all , can lift their heads high and be proud to carry on the Powell name with pride and dignity….”

A mob of residents killed one man and injured two others whom they accused of stealing goats in rural Mocho. A teenage boy, a student of Morant Bay High School, was shot along with his grandmother and later died from his injuries. A teenage girl, a student of Lennon High School, was found dead in the Mocho area of Clarendon. A well-known farmer and businessman was shot in Black River. A bakery owner was shot dead on Monday morning on his way to the bank in Montego Bay. A teenage boy was reportedly beaten to death and another seriously injured by the police in Sandy Bay, Hanover. And so the sad stories continue. My condolences to the grieving families and loved ones left behind. 

Fifteen-year-old Calecia Edwards was found dead in Clarendon. She was a student of Lennon High School in Mocho. (Photo: On The Ground News Reports)

Fifteen-year-old Calecia Edwards was found dead in Clarendon. She was a student of Lennon High School in Mocho. (Photo: On The Ground News Reports)

Everton Lewis, 63, Black River, St. Elizabeth

Kadiane Smith, 16, Bamboo River/Morant Bay, St. Thomas

Unidentified man, Queens Street/Morant Bay, St. Thomas

Rayon Lee Massie, 26, St. Thomas Technical High School

Carol Matthews, 43, Braeton, St. Catherine

Cedrick Ravine, 54, Rio Nuevo, St. Mary

Ralston Cole, 39, Castleton, St. Mary

Amariah Green, Mocho, Clarendon (mob killing)

Calecia Edwards, 15, Brixton Hill, Clarendon

Clinton Young, 45, Montego Bay, St. James

Everton Ewan, Johns Common, St. James

Killed by police:

Ashanti Clarke, 17, Sandy Bay, Hanover

Here are some more articles of interest, on the ongoing politics and such: 

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131119/lead/lead1.html Security expert says police not aiming at right target to buck murder trend: Gleaner

http://jamaicapoliticaleconomy.wordpress.com/2013/11/18/the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly-november-17/ The good, the bad and the ugly: jamaicapoliticaleconomy.wordpress.com

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131118/cleisure/cleisure4.html Unconscionable political prenuptial agreement: Bert Samuels op-ed, Gleaner

http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Respect-my-mandate-_15459245  Respect my mandate! Holness tells the defeated: Jamaica Observer

http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Holness-to-establish-order-within-JLP_15463787 Holness to establish order within JLP: Jamaica Observer

http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Democracy-and-the-JLP—a-long-way-from-home_15459216 Democracy and the JLP – a long way from home: Louis Moyston column/Jamaica Observer

http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/A-time-for-inspiration_15459069 A time for inspiration: Jean Lowrie-Chin column/Jamaica Observer

http://www.caribbeanlifenews.com/stories/2013/11/2013_11_15_vkp_jamaica_youth_minister.html Jamaica‘s youth minister pleads to UNESCO: Caribbean Life

http://www.caribbeannewsnow.com/headline-Mentors-to-assist-Caribbean-fisherfolk-to-enhance-their-contribution-to-food-security-18715.html Mentors to assist Caribbean fisherfolk to enhance their contribution to food security: Caribbean News Now

Andrew Holness (left) and former senator Christopher Tufton - the latter now out in the cold. (Photo: Gleaner)

Andrew Holness (left) and former senator Christopher Tufton – the latter now out in the cold. (Photo: Gleaner)

Politricks Again: Sunday, November 18, 2013

Both our political parties went into “shoot yourself in the foot” mode this week, in very different ways. But basically sparking the same general reaction among many of us: kiss teeth, shrug shoulders, sigh, laugh, cry, groan, make cynical noises. And of course, more great fodder for the media.

Let’s start with the party in power, the People’s National Party: As I warned you in Wednesday’s post, at five o’clock that evening the former Junior Minister in the Ministry of Transport and Works, Richard Azan had said he was not aware of any plans to reinstate him. The very next morning at nine o’clock he and his colleagues dutifully appeared all dressed up at King’s House. His colleagues applauded him as the Governor General swore him in. Everyone clapped. Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller (wearing those hideous sunglasses again, indoors) gave him a warm hug and kiss. The Jamaica Labour Party‘s Daryl Vaz attended (hmm) because the Azans are family friends, or something. Yes, after all the hand-wringing, finger-pointing and recriminations, Mr. Azan is back. He resigned just two months ago after huge public pressure. His return was apparently “urgent” - the reason perhaps being that Mr. Azan’s boss Omar Davies is taking sick leave for an operation.

Oh, what of the promised single anti-corruption agency, which I understand the government had promised to create by year-end? Just a few weeks to go, and… Well?

Welcome back: Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller embraces the newly-reinstated Junior Minister of Transport and Works Richard Azan following the ceremony at King's House on Thursday morning. (Photo: Ricardo Makyn/Gleaner)

Welcome back: Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller embraces the newly-reinstated Junior Minister of Transport and Works Richard Azan following the ceremony at King’s House on Thursday morning. (Photo: Ricardo Makyn/Gleaner)

 

Opposition Leader Andrew Holness. (Photo: Gleaner)

Opposition Leader Andrew Holness. (Photo: Gleaner)

Since the re-election of Andrew Holness as Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) leader at their conference a week ago, the machinations of the Opposition have become quite complex. The chain of events goes something like this (hope I get this right): Sunday: Holness is re-elected with 57.3% of the delegates’ votes, defeating Audley Shaw. (Fake?) smiles all round. Monday: Holness receives a bunch of resignation letters from Shaw supporters. Tuesday:  Holness wants all eight JLP Senators to resign, and then says he didn’t say that. Holness announces his dreary old Shadow Cabinet. Audley Shaw and Ed Bartlett say they cannot accept positions because of certain issues (including the disputed nomination of two deputy leaders, Christopher Tufton and James Robertson).  Wednesday: What happened? I can’t remember. Thursday: It seems five JLP senators have resigned. Two prominent ones (Christopher Tufton and Arthur Williams) will not. Oh yes, then they did. Williams says Holness used undated resignation letters! Friday: A confused Upper House sits with five out of six remaining JLP senators present. Oh, Holness appointed a new one. His name is Alexander Williams. Weekend: Head spinning. Winner: Andrew Holness. Losers: Audley Shaw. The JLP. Democracy. Governance.

Is Holness the “transformational leader” he thinks he is? Will the JLP ever win an election again? What of all the pieces in this manic chess game? Is there space for them, or have some been knocked off the board? I personally believe Holness has just been a little too “smart” for his own good. At least party chairman Bobby Montague seems to be keeping sane while everyone else is losing their heads…

Meanwhile the private sector is getting antsy again, and it’s not surprising. Businessman Gassan Azan gave a speech recently about this eternal business of “cutting red tape.” If you recall, Jamaica just slipped on the annual “Doing Business” rankings. Mr. Azan wants the government to do something about it, not just talk. But the relevant government ministers are all in a tizzy over the logistics hub. Red tape? Oh, that’s boring stuff. Here is an edited version of Mr. Azan’s speech: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Cutting-the-red-tape–and–making-it-easier-to-do-business–have-become-almost-meaningless_15447161

Businessman Gassan Azan wants action, no more talk. (Photo: Gleaner)

Businessman Gassan Azan wants action, no more talk. (Photo: Gleaner)

The Sunday Observer editorial cartoon, today, depicts the Jamaica Labour Party's Andrew Holness, who has just experienced his Second Coming as Opposition Leader.

The Sunday Observer editorial cartoon, today, depicts the Jamaica Labour Party’s Andrew Holness, who has just experienced his Second Coming as Opposition Leader.

The Contractor General is right. What is the point of the whistleblower legislation passed during the JLP administration at the end of 2010? One could say there is no “culture” of whistle-blowing in Jamaica (how I hate that word sometimes). Instead, we have the “informer fi dead culture.” We are all afraid of our own shadows. No whistle-blowing round here.

Drums rolling and trumpets blaring for these awesome people:

MONACO — Jamaican sprinters Usain Bolt and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce hold their International Athletics Foundation 2013 Athlete of the Year Awards after a press conference. Don't they look lovely. (PHOTO: AP)

MONACO — Jamaican sprinters Usain Bolt and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce hold their International Athletics Foundation 2013 Athlete of the Year Awards after a press conference. Don’t they look lovely. (PHOTO: AP)

  • Usain Bolt and Shelly-Ann Fraser Pryce, along with singer Tessanne Chin, are keeping Jamaicans’ morale up. The two athletes were named World Athletes of the Year (Usain for the fifth time, Shelly-Ann for the first) by the IAAF in a glitzy affair in Monaco over the weekend. They both looked gorgeous – and they are two marvelous role models. We are proud.
  • Sheena South and the Portmore Youth Information Centre, who yesterday aired the “Girl Rising” documentary. Here’s Sheena’s Facebook message: “10X10 is a global campaign to educate and empower girls. At the center of the campaign is a feature film, Girl Rising. It’s by an Academy Award nominated director (Richard Robbins) and features performances from Meryl Streep, Anne Hathaway, Selena Gomez, Salma Hayek, Alicia Keys, and others. This important film tells the stories of nine remarkable girls from around the world who are striving beyond circumstance, pushing past limits and demonstrating the extraordinary strength of the human spirit to overcome the odds. Yet it also carries a powerful message: if we educate girls, we can change the future of some 66 million girls around the world who today only dream of going to school.Together, we can create powerful change. I hope you’ll join this movement with me.” Great initiative!
Two young people at the screening of "Girl Rising" at Portmore Youth Information Centre yesterday. (Photo: Sheena South/Facebook)

Two young people at the screening of “Girl Rising” at Portmore Youth Information Centre yesterday. (Photo: Sheena South/Facebook)

  • Dale and Evette Walker and the people of Bunker’s Hill in Trelawny (I love that name) who are working to build their community through the Bunker’s Hill Community Development Committee. “They used to call me typewriter at school,” says Evette, “because I was very good at writing.” Great story here: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/regional/Working-for-Bunker-s-Hill_15432245
  • The people of Trench Town, who staged a special trade and development fair at Kingston’s Emancipation Park yesterday.

 

Jenefer Wilson and  Barbara Dicks of Honey Rose Bud of Rose Town at the Trench Town fair in Kingston. (Photo: Jean Lowrie-Chin)

Jenefer Wilson and Barbara Dicks of Honey Rose Bud of Rose Town at the Trench Town fair in Kingston. (Photo: Jean Lowrie-Chin)

There has been a nine per cent increase in murders to date this year compared to last, according to police statistics. We have passed the 1,000 mark to 1,054. That’s 84 – yes, 84 – more deaths than the same time last year. A retired policeman was found murdered in his apartment, just down the road from our house. The brother of a journalist whom I know well, a netball coach, was also shot dead in Kingston. My condolences to their families and friends as well as to all those who continue to feel the pain of loss.

Kenneth Lynch, 66, Lady Musgrave Road, Kingston

Evon Powell, 48, Sutton/Duke Street, Kingston

“Raymond,” Darling Street/Spanish Town Road, Kingston

George Steering, 45, Spanish Town, St. Catherine

Oliver Kerr, 34, Sandy Bay, Hanover

Keeble Kerr, 36, Sandy Bay, Hanover

Clifford Lindo, 57, Palmers Cross, Clarendon

Infant male, York Town, Clarendon

Killed by the police:

Unidentified man, Spanish Town, St. Catherine

Unidentified man, Spanish Town, St. Catherine

Ryan Clarke, Retirement, St. James

To quote a Twitter friend tonight: “Yellow tape is good business.”

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A few more articles on the Azan and JLP sagas:

http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/civil-groups-strongly-object-reappointment-of-richard-azan_1  Local civil groups strongly object reappointment of Richard Azan: RJR News

http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/-p-Opposition-slaps-Gov-t-over-Azan-s-reappointment–p—_15444623 Opposition slaps government over Azan’s reappointment: Jamaica Observer

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131116/cleisure/cleisure1.html   Gleaner editorial: PM’s misstep on Azan

http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Resigning-after-a-mandate-change-the-ethical-thing-to-do–says-Holness_15444642  Resigning after a mandate change the ethical thing to do, says Holness: Sunday Observer

 http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/principle-not-bitterness-shaw-defends-decision-to-decline-post-in-shadow-cabinet Principle, not bitterness: Shaw defends decision to decline post in Shadow Cabinet: RJR News

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=49289 Holness criticized over Senate “resignations”: Gleaner

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131116/lead/lead2.html Upper House passes irrigation resolutions after Tufton’s resignation

http://digjamaica.com/blog/2013/11/15/5-facts-the-jamaican-senate/ Five Facts: The Jamaican Senate (the photograph is not of a Senate sitting however).  

Fisherman Desmond Phillips (left) and boat captain Michael Grant with a sunfish, which they caught off Boston Bay in Portland. (Photo: Everard Owen)

Fisherman Desmond Phillips (left) and boat captain Michael Grant with a 900-pound sunfish, which they caught off Boston Bay in Portland. I wish they had let it go, though. (Photo: Everard Owen/Jamaica Observer)

Principal of Jamaica College Ruel Reid has been appointed as an Opposition Senator. Reid was formerly an advisor to the re-elected Opposition Leader Andrew Holness when he was Education Minister. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

Principal of Jamaica College Ruel Reid has been appointed as an Opposition Senator along with Alexander Williams, replacing Tufton and Arthur Williams. Reid was formerly an advisor to the re-elected Opposition Leader Andrew Holness when he was Education Minister. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)JLP: Old wine in old wineskins (jamaica-gleaner.com)

 

 

Still Fighting Flu: November 13, 2013

Our kitchen is now filled with flu medication. My husband has six, and I have a mere four different types. It’s ridiculous (and costly). But this flu bug is so evil that one has to throw everything at it. The Ministry of Health has said very little about it, but I have heard that this is no ordinary flu.

A French farce: After the sweetness and light of Sunday’s vote, where people said such nice things about “unity,” things suddenly lurched uncertainly into chaos and confusion in the Jamaica Labour Party. On Tuesday the re-elected leader Andrew Holness announced his shadow Cabinet. But things quickly became murky. Holness announced he wanted all his Senators to resign en bloc (what? why? is this even constitutional?). Then former Finance spokesman Audley Shaw declined an offer to be in Holness’ Cabinet, until certain things are set right. His letter appeared in the media. Holness now has a same-old, same-old Cabinet (all the dinosaurs are there) and what of Mr. Shaw? Oh, Edmund Bartlett has also politely declined; read more here: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=49222 The plot thickens!

"Man a Yaad" Audley Shaw is not happy with a couple of things.  (Photo: Gleaner)

“Man a Yaad” Audley Shaw is not happy with a couple of things. (Photo: Gleaner)

Many Jamaicans are completely underwhelmed by all of this. A bad soap opera? Or perhaps a French farce – the kind where one character after another runs across the stage, waving his/her arms in the air and shouting. Exit left, then enter right, pursued by… Oh! I give up. All we need now is a little toy dog running around, yapping. Seriously though, as columnist Jean Lowrie-Chin observes, the JLP’s challenge now will be to persuade the Jamaican people that they have what it takes to run the country’s affairs. That will take some time I would think. Read Jean here: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/As-the-dust-settles_15420966

Another farce? Or perhaps a sick joke… Reports floated in this evening that former junior minister Richard Azan, who resigned two months ago in the wake of a scandal over the illegal construction of shops, will be reinstated and sworn in again tomorrow. This would make a mockery of the report and recommendations of the Office of the Contractor General, which investigates corruption in this area, and all the subsequent discussions and concerns. But I understand Azan is one of our Prime Minister’s favorites and has had “the Party’s” full support from the outset. When asked about it earlier this evening, Mr. Azan said he was “not aware” of any plan to reinstate him. All I can say is, if this is true: What a nerve.

Former Junior Minister Richard Azan may be back again, fresh and new! (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

Former Junior Minister Richard Azan MAY be back in the Ministry again, fresh and new! (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

Finance Minister Peter Phillips (Remember him? He only speaks about, or in tandem with, the International Monetary Fund) spoke with the IMF representative today. He brought the good news that the economy has grown by less than one per cent in the last quarter. (Pause for applause). The IMF rep Jan Kees Martijn said Jamaica has passed the test (to be confirmed by Washington) for the second quarter (July to September). For the future, reducing energy costs is on the agenda among other items. You hear, Minister Paulwell? Here is the IMF statement: http://www.imf.org/external/np/sec/pr/2013/pr13446.htm

Stepping up the hype: A shiny new four-minute infomercial on the logistics hub has popped up on our television screens. It describes a fantasy world that bears no relation to the Jamaica I know. Now, raw sewage has been flowing on Red Hills Road for the past two weeks; and a grandmother is stabbed to death and her grandson abducted by her murderer. Which Jamaica is real? Or will the Jamaica I see every day somehow transform into the glossy video one? You can find the video on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10153412929000085 “The hub means wealth creation…Every Jamaican stands to benefit,” says a smiling Industry and Investment Minister at the end. Jamaica Logistics Hub now has a strong social media presence; see Facebook, Twitter, YouTube… A website, an email address. Yes, Jamaica is “open for business” !

Image from the Jamaica Logistics Hub Facebook page.

Image from the Jamaica Logistics Hub Facebook page.

Court supports INDECOM: We were distracted by the JLP shenanigans (not to mention Tessanne Chin on “The Voice”) but the Constitutional Court struck out an appeal by eight policemen, who in 2010 contended that the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) did not have the power to request statements from them. I am not sure how any entity can conduct an investigation without obtaining statements from the people it is investigating, but… http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=49217

Glad to see that the Commissioner of Police is putting his foot down over the non-availability of witnesses. After a judge made a fuss about it the other day, the police produced the sole witness in the case immediately. Good to see that the Commissioner is taking these matters seriously; otherwise more cases will fall apart because of sloppy procedure and follow-up. Read morehttp://jamaica-star.com/thestar/20131112/news/news4.htm

Underweight boys: I am perturbed and a little puzzled by a report noting an apparent increase in the number of schoolboys aged 12 to 14 years old who are underweight for their age. The head of the Jamaica Diabetes Association, which has been doing a lot of testing, says children are hungry and are going to school without eating breakfast. But would this not apply to girls too? Read more here: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131112/lead/lead4.html

The Prime Minister has started watching the television news, after all (some time ago she said she didn’t, remember?) She came up with a message of sympathy to the people of the Philippines after the devastating Typhoon Haiyan today – somewhat late. I hope she realizes that if a hurricane anywhere near this size and strength hit Jamaica, most of our coastal areas would be completely wiped out. Logistics hub (destroying protective mangroves) or not.

Hey! Huge “big ups” to:

  • The magical Tessanne Chin, who continues to progress through various stages of the competition on NBC’s “The Voice.” Every week she has been thrilling Jamaicans with her masterful singing. She has great range, great control, and a lot of power. Plus she is beautiful, inside and out. We are all proud of her for progressing so far already.
  • Seventeen-year-old Rusea’s High School student Jordan Samms, who has launched Jamaica’s first anti-bullying organization under the slogan “Transforming Lives Positively.” The official launch will take place in January. Not so long ago, J-FLAG held an anti-bullying forum, where the Minister of Education spoke. BUT only one school (American International School of Kingston) attended; every other school declined the invitation. But there is no doubt that bullying is a major problem – whatever the gender or sexuality of the students is. I remember the AISK students  spoke a lot about cyber-bullying among middle-class children. Congrats to Jordan on this initiative!
  • Roslyn Ellison, Sweets, Joan and other staff at the Trench Town Reading Centre, which is celebrating twenty exciting years. Join us on Saturday, November 23 between 12:00 and 4:00 p.m. for a music-filled, book-filled, happy celebration! The Centre is built on true dedication…and love.

The first three days of this week have brought more sadness and grief to the loved ones of those whose lives have been torn from them. My deepest condolences to them all as they mourn:

Andrew Holness poses with his new/old Cabinet. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

Andrew Holness poses with his new/old Cabinet. Does he really, really think this is the winning team for the next election?  (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

Nathlee Hamilton, 63, Beecher Town, St. Ann

Javore Elleston, 14, Riverton City, Kingston

Henry Hong, Oxford Road, New Kingston (Chinese national)

Virgilin Williams, 26, Caymanas Bay, St. Catherine

Leonard Clarke, 31, Angel Heights/Spanish Town, St. Catherine

Leroy Gordon, 52, Angel Heights/Spanish Town, St. Catherine

Unidentified man, Little London, Westmoreland

Killed by the police:

Winston Williams, 36, Port Morant, St. Thomas

A few more articles of interest:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/athletics/24900565 Jamaica doping scandals tip of iceberg, says senior drug tester: BBC

http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Give-it-a-rest–INDECOM-naysayers_15423778 Give it a rest, INDECOM naysayers

http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Crawford-takes-issue-with-Anti-gang-Bill-clause_15417366 Crawford takes issue with anti-gang bill clause: Jamaica Observer

http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/-p-PNP-councillor-questioned-in-Whitmore-son-s-death–p—_15423853 PNP councilor questioned in Whitmore son’s death: Jamaica Observer

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131112/lead/lead3.html Influx of deportees concerns police: Gleaner

Campaigning and Corruption: Sunday, September 29, 2013 (petchary.wordpress.com)

JLP FALLOUT after Leadership Election (alricwill.wordpress.com)

Avast, ye varlet! Shaw is not backing down, yet (jamaicapoliticaleconomy.wordpress.com)

Tessanne Chin Thrills “The Voice” Again, Releases “Anything’s Possible” (repeatingislands.com)

Raw sewage flowing freely at the intersection of Cassia Park Road and Red Hills Road in Kingston…for the past two weeks! (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

Raw sewage flowing freely at the intersection of Cassia Park Road and Red Hills Road in Kingston…for the past two weeks! (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

Tessanne Chin sings on The Voice this week. (Photo: NBC)

Tessanne Chin sings on The Voice this week. (Photo: NBC)

Parade Gardens Centenarians (seated from left) Leon Sylvester Williams, Ruby Hall, Artur Walker, Alberto McDonald, and Virginia Hall (standing, second right) with hosts of a special treat put on for them last Friday (standing from left) Sergeant Carl Simpson of the Gold Street Police Station; Wayne Andrew Tai of A1 Plumbing and Maintenance Services Ltd; Superintendent Victor Hamilton, who heads the Kingston Central police; Don Wehby, group CEO of GraceKennedy Limited; and Susan Moore (right), director of recipient services at Food for the Poor. The treat, which was themed the 'Centenarians of Parade Gardens', was held at the learning Institute of Central Kingston on Tower Street in downtown Kingston. (Photo: Karl McLarty/Jamaica Observer)

Parade Gardens Centenarians (seated from left) Leon Sylvester Williams, Ruby Hall, Artur Walker, Alberto McDonald, and Virginia Hall (standing, second right) with hosts of a special treat put on for them last Friday (standing from left) Sergeant Carl Simpson of the Gold Street Police Station; Wayne Andrew Tai of A1 Plumbing and Maintenance Services Ltd; Superintendent Victor Hamilton, who heads the Kingston Central police; Don Wehby, group CEO of GraceKennedy Limited; and Susan Moore (right), director of recipient services at Food for the Poor. The treat, which was themed the ‘Centenarians of Parade Gardens’, was held at the learning Institute of Central Kingston on Tower Street in downtown Kingston. (Photo: Karl McLarty/Jamaica Observer)

This six-week-old baby boy is missing from Beecher Town, St. Ann, following his grandmother's murder on Monday evening. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

This six-week-old baby boy is missing from Beecher Town, St. Ann, following his grandmother’s murder on Monday evening. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

 

Day of the Leadership Vote! At last! Sunday, November 10, 2013

Since I last wrote, I fought a fierce battle with an aggressive flu – and think I may have won. They say it is H1-N1, or something. Whatever it is, both my husband and I have been very sick. The air has been thick with rain and all kinds of bugs have been brewing in the humidity, it seems. And today some 5,000 party delegates voted for the leadership of the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP)! Thank God, the day has arrived at last…

Andrew Holness rejoices with his supporters earlier today. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

Andrew Holness rejoices with his supporters earlier today. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

Well, I can now inform you that the current Opposition Leader, Andrew Holness, was returned as head of the JLP fairly convincingly. There was a media blitz, with all the media houses setting up camp and sending us exciting tweets (well, I confess, not exciting for me). We were mostly concerned with Arsenal Football Club‘s struggle with Manchester United at Old Trafford, and the vote paled into insignificance accordingly. But the leadership race has increasingly dominated the broadcast media in recent weeks. I suppose now we will be besieged with analyses of the result for the next week or so, before (one hopes) returning to the real, important business of the nation – crime, the economy, our children, our justice system.

A party delegate, in dancehall gear, celebrates Mr. Holness' win at the National Stadium today. (Photo: Jermaine Barnaby/Gleaner)

A party delegate, in dancehall gear, celebrates Mr. Holness’ win at the leadership vote at Kingston’s National Stadium today. (Photo: Jermaine Barnaby/Gleaner)

And hopefully, the re-elected JLP leader will turn to these major challenges and speak out on them. Something he has hardly been doing for the past two years… So today, they all talked about “unity” and Holness’ erstwhile challenger, Audley Shaw, said the race had “re-energized” the party. Yes, it woke up Holness, if that’s what you mean by “re-energize.”

Andrew Holness' challenger Audley Shaw gives what one assumes is a positive sign at the National Stadium. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

Andrew Holness’ challenger Audley Shaw holds up his finger showing that he voted (I wonder who for) at the National Stadium. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

Perfect timing: The Jamaican and Chinese Governments signed yet another deal; this time it is for a Chinese Garden, to be constructed at a cost of J$230 million at Hope Gardens  (An appropriate location? I don’t know). With a deal on the destruction of Goat Islands and the Portland Bight Protected Area about to get official approval (some think it may have been a done deal), is this a reward for our co-operation? Not a loan this time. A “gift.”  Read more: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/230-million-Chinese-Garden-donated-to-Jamaica_15408101 (Note the date of the signing of this agreement – over two weeks ago).

Another signing ceremony with the Chinese: The gift of a garden this time. (Photo: Jamaica Information Service)

Another signing ceremony with the Chinese: The gift of a garden this time. (Photo: Jamaica Information Service)

Yesterday, an all-day forum (with only one female out of 24 panelists, all day) sang the praises of the hub. Diana McCaulay and others live-tweeted from the event (oh, the wonders of Twitter!) As my health did not permit my attendance, I was grateful for this. They reported laughter in the audience when Jamaica was described as “socially and politically stable.” This admits fears of violence at today’s Jamaica Labour Party leadership vote, and numerous roadblocks and protests across the island last week. Depends what you call stable, I suppose. As for the glorious hub: precious few specifics, as usual.

MP Anthony Hylton should take a tour of some of the constituencies he represents in Kingston 20 and thereabouts. Not long ago I wrote about the appalling conditions in a small community called New Haven. Now a friend of mine has posted photos of the “roads” in the area that he represents on Facebook, and they are not any better. I suppose the Minister of Industry, Investment & Commerce is too busy thinking about the logistics hub to worry about impassable roads. After all, he does not have to live there.

Logistics hub PR roll-out continues: Minister Hylton’s logistics hub propaganda campaign continues with an exciting essay competition. Wow. And of course the Port Authority of Jamaica (let’s not forget that Omar Davies‘ ministry does not want to be outdone) has started its “intellectually stimulating” series of forums (for whom exactly?) Meanwhile, educational institutions are hurriedly putting Masters/Diplomas in Logistics programs in place (who is going to teach them?) Quick, quick…

One of the roads in Kingston 20. Minister Hylton, the neglect in your constituency is glaring! (Photo: Facebook)

One of the roads in Kingston 20. Minister Hylton, the neglect in your constituency is glaring! (Photo: Facebook)

The tweetings of the “Rasta Yute”: Minister Damion Crawford is Minister of State in the Ministry of Tourism and Entertainment. Not long ago, he tweeted some ill-informed remarks about the proposed Goat Islands development, starting off with the exhortation “Build, build, build!” (and to think that, as a student of tourism, he once spoke eloquently on the importance of preserving the environment…) This week came another ill-conceived tweet based on incorrect information: “Say NO to INDECOM #close_it”  As we know, INDECOM (the Independent Commission of Investigations) was set up just over three years ago as an independent body to investigate police abuses, including the steadily rising number of extra-judicial killings. As I have noted in recent posts, INDECOM seems to be under some kind of subtle, and not-so-subtle, pressure from the police rank and file; but now the Minister of National Security had to make a statement that the government was not considering disbanding INDECOM.

The charming Minister responsible for entertainment, Damion Crawford. He is developing a habit of talking a lot of ill-informed nonsense on issues outside his portfolio. However, some believe we should excuse him because he is a "Rasta" and he is "young."

State Minister responsible for entertainment, Damion Crawford. He is developing a habit of talking/tweeting a lot of ill-informed stuff on issues outside his portfolio. However, some believe we should excuse him because he is a “Rasta” and he is “young.” Well, Mr. Crawford, I don’t think Rastas are usually anti-environment and pro-police abuse, generally… And how old are you again?

Interviewed on radio regarding his tweet, Minister Crawford said we are really being unfair on the police (agents of the state with infinitely more powers than the average citizen) by investigating them. They can do a great job of it themselves. The interviewers sounded slightly incredulous as they tried to make the Rasta Yute see sense. “I do not claim to be the authority…” said the RY at one point. No? Well, then as a public servant, perhaps you should not comment. And should you be tweeting what one assumes to be a personal opinion as a Government Minister? Thanks to my tweep/fellow blogger for these observations on the RY tweet: http://thinkjamaica.wordpress.com/2013/11/07/indecom/ Another blogger, Annie Paul, commented thus: http://anniepaul.net/2013/11/08/say-yes-to-indecom-if-you-want-to-be-taken-seriously-mr-crawford/ (and I agree Annie, what a huge disappointment this Minister is). The Commissioner himself called the Minister’s comments “naïve.” That’s being kind, Mr. Commissioner. My friend “Cogito Ergo Sum” is a little kinder, too. See link below.

Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller (left), is greeted by her Japanese counterpart, His Excellency Shinzo Abe, prior to their talks in Tokyo on Tuesday (November 5). Both leaders signed a statement pledging to strengthen bilateral ties between the two countries. (Photo: Jamaica Information Service)

Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller (left), is greeted by her Japanese counterpart, His Excellency Shinzo Abe, prior to their talks in Tokyo on Tuesday (November 5). Both leaders signed a statement pledging to strengthen bilateral ties between the two countries. (Photo: Jamaica Information Service)

Back from her travels (for now): Meanwhile our Prime Minister returned from another overseas trip, to Japan this time. What happened on this trip? Courtesy calls? Check. Photo-ops? Check. Well-crafted speeches? Check. Nice outfits? Check. Platitudes about the “important relationship between our two countries”? Check. First class travel for all? Check. Nice hotel? Check. Business Forum? That sounds more like it. But specifics, please, Minister Paulwell! (He was amongst her entourage…) Oh – there is a two-minute video on the Jamaica Information Service website that may or may not enlighten us.

Minister Paulwell is suggesting that Jamaica is a world leader in “addressing energy needs.” We are reeling from escalating energy costs, with one of the highest rates in the Caribbean, don’t we? Are we committed to renewable energy (we did not even get enough bids, the other day to fill what we had on offer)? And what about the Energy World International fiasco, and the unconscionable delays in that bid? I would say our energy future looks a little uncertain. Only a couple of weeks ago there was talk of an impending “energy crisis,” and Jamaica Public Service Company is worried about two ancient stations that are on their last legs. Seems like there’s a lot of work to do.  Read more: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Jamaica-a-leader-in-addressing-energy-needs–says-Paulwell_15408571

Is our Prime Minister really “an Ambassador” for our country, Jamaica Observer – is that the correct term? What about running the country? It must be lovely to go abroad for the above-mentioned hand-shaking and smiling, while your country is fighting an escalating crime rate, soaring dollar, etc etc. Read the Observer’s off-the-mark editorial here: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/editorial/PM-in-Japan–doing-what-she-does-best_15394137 How I long for a thought-provoking editorial, instead of the platitudes we are getting from both newspapers these days!

Ah, but what is this? Minister Hanna is off to Paris (nice shopping, there) leading a delegation to UNESCO. This is mentioned in Saturday’s Gleaner editorial, which asks some hard questions for once. Primarily: Is Child Abuse on Parliament’s Radar? http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131109/cleisure/cleisure1.html In the face of the Office of the Children’s Registry’s dreadfulstatistics on child abuse reports… Let’s face it. It’s not a priority. Is it?

What’s going on with corruption prosecutions and the Jamaica Customs? Just asking.

And what happened to the promised revised National Youth Policy? Minister of Youth and Culture, please respond to the Jamaica Youth Advocacy Network’s hard-working program officer Javan Campbell. (Oh, but the Minister is “leading a delegation” somewhere isn’t she?) OK. It’s now around four months late, but she’ll get round to it… Here’s Javan’s letter: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/Sill-no-revised-National-Youth-Policy_15409820

Youth and Culture Minister Lisa Hanna is off on a trip to Paris. What about our children, Minister? (Photo: Office of the Prime Minister)

Youth and Culture Minister Lisa Hanna is off on a trip to Paris. What about our child abuse crisis, Minister? The National Youth Policy? The detention centers? (Photo: Office of the Prime Minister)

Very special Big ups to:

Jamaican swimmer Alia Atkinson.  (Photo: Ricardo Makyn/Gleaner)

Jamaican swimmer Alia Atkinson. (Photo: Ricardo Makyn/Gleaner)

Members of the Rockfort business community put their heads together at the meeting organized by Youth Opportunities Unlimited a few days ago. (My photo)

Members of the Rockfort business community put their heads together at the meeting organized by Youth Opportunities Unlimited a few days ago. (My photo)

  • Women Business Owners, who have done a great job training female entrepreneurs in recent years. Jamaica recently found itself at the bottom of a the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Women’s Entrepreneurial Venture Scope Study 2013 for Latin America/Caribbean. So the only way now is up. Get to it, my sistren! You can read more about the project and WBO at their website: http://www.womenbusinessownersja.com
Women Business Owners logo.

Women Business Owners logo.

  • Kimroy Bailey, who recently organized a science camp in rural St. Mary (at his old school, Lowe River Primary and Junior High School) focusing on robotics and renewable energy. We need far more initiatives like these to enhance children’s interest in science. Congrats to Kimroy, an energetic young UTech graduate with a mission. Read more: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131109/news/news3.html You can visit Kimroy’s page at http://kimroybailey.com  He has a lot going on!

It has been another sad week, and my deepest condolences go out to the families and friends of the following Jamaicans. The tears continue to fall:

CONTRIBUTED PHOTOS Kimroy Bailey (right) with students and volunteers at Lowe River Primary and Junior High School.


Kimroy Bailey (right) with students and volunteers at Lowe River Primary and Junior High School.

Billy Dee Lawrence, 21, Spicy Grove, St. Mary

Neal Taylor, 56, Denbigh, Clarendon

Keron Martin Fraser, Spanish Town, St. Catherine (Trinidadian national)

Lenford Ulett, 55, Brae’s River, St. Elizabeth

Killed by the police:

Dujon Robinson, 29, Mount Salem, St. James

Geraldo Bell, 20, Runaway Bay, St. Ann

The front page of Trinidad and Tobago's Newsday newspaper last month, when Keron Martin first went missing.

The front page of Trinidad and Tobago’s Newsday newspaper last month, when Keron Martin first went missing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here are a few more articles of interest:

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131109/lead/lead6.html No work yet on juvenile detention facilities: Gleaner

http://dmarcuswilliams.blogspot.com/2013/11/shut-down-indecom-damion-crawfords-big.html Shut down INDECOM: Damian Crawford’s BIG issue: D Marcus Williams blog

http://newsandviewsbydjmillerja.wordpress.com/2013/11/09/environment-v-development-takeaways-from-the-uwicmi-logistics-hub-forum/ Environment vs Development? Takeaways from the UWI-CMI logistics hub forum: Dionne Jackson Miller blog