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?
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
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:
- 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.
- Sir Richard Branson and volunteer Josh Chamberlain who are working together on a project for the Alpha Boys School called Alpha Wear Jamaica. Sir Richard was in Jamaica recently. Read more on Kate Chappell’s blog: http://jamaicajournal.wordpress.com/2013/11/13/branson-visits-jamaica/
- 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!
- 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.
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.”
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).
It’s been a sad and nostalgic Sunday for me, with the news that one of my truest, fiercest musical icons, Lou Reed, passed away this morning. OK, that dates me, I know. But I spent half the day rummaging through YouTube, endlessly replaying the dark, gritty and sometimes melodic sounds of Velvet Underground, and Lou. What a remarkable songwriter he was, too.
Meanwhile, I knew it was only a matter of time before the Riverton City dump (no, it’s not a landfill) caught fire. Today firefighters were trying to save people’s homes, made of board and zinc. If you have never been there – you should. It is not a place for anyone to live.
Seems everyone is running off to China these days: Education Minister Ronald Thwaites is trying to get China to take some of our trained teachers that we don’t have jobs for. I’m all for Jamaicans learning more languages, but why would Chinese people want to come all the way here to learn English? And the highly-favored Mayor of May Pen, Scean Barnswell – that’s right, the Mayor who sees no reason to resign – has been off to an agritourism conference in – yes, you’ve guessed it, China. Three questions: Who pays for these trips? What is the cost of a return flight to China (first class? Since our Prime Minister always travels first class I expect her officials/ministers do too?) And thirdly, what the blazes is agritourism? Read more here: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131025/lead/lead5.html and http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131025/news/news8.html
It took the murder of a young Woman Special Constable for our National Security Minister Peter Bunting to open his mouth and speak about our horrible murder rate, which has simply taken off this month. In my next post, I will do a quick tally and give you a rough idea of the number of murders for October. Even after the National Heroes Day bloodbath Minister Bunting said not a word, until this poor young woman was killed. At least he did say that every death was a tragedy, whether a policeman/woman or not.
Are you as weary as I am with the Jamaica Labour Party leadership race? It seems to be dragging on interminably. When is their conference? I know the date changed. Oh, it’s November 3. Good. I am really tired of nightly TV news items of men and women in various shades of green sitting in school classrooms at tiny little desks they can hardly fit into while Mr. Holness or Mr. Shaw, sweating profusely, tries to get some excitement going with a microphone. (These are delegates’ meetings). The Sunday Gleaner reports here: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=48913
No endorsement: By the way, G2K (the JLP’s young professionals arm, and a very effective political entity in many ways) is not endorsing either candidate. President Floyd Green says, “While we expect that our members will be actively involved in either campaign, their views and expressions of support are personal.” I think that’s fair enough.
Oh no, I got it wrong: The JLP conference is on November 10! Two more weeks? Well, we will just have to brave it out a bit longer… The end is in sight
Goat Islands alert: The Ministry of Industry, Investment & Commerce will be holding what appears to be a closed-doors, highly-priced forum on the logistics hub, excluding the average Jamaican, for the private sector, on November 12. I wonder if the media will be allowed in. This coincides with a meeting of the Iguana Specialist Group at Hope Zoo – including many representatives from the United States, Australia and elsewhere. Why is this meeting not open to the public? Your guess is as good as mine. Also, Minister of Everything Omar Davies says an announcement will be made in the Lower House (possibly Tuesday) on the preliminary report into the use of Goat Islands. See here: http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/findings-of-goat-islands-study-to-be-released-this-week. And last week a group of European diplomats toured the Portland Bight Protected Area and “congratulated” the Government on its concern for the environment, while touring mangrove restoration projects that the EU funded. Some subtle (not so subtle?) messages here, I think! Read more here: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131027/news/news5.html
And the tiefing continues… In some communities the latest ruse by the light thieves is to connect to street lights to steal their electricity. As a result, whole neighborhoods are plunged in darkness, thus encouraging more crime. In other communities, the theft of copper wiring from LIME installations is becoming a regular nightmare. Whenever it happens, residents’ phones and Internet services disappear, and LIME loses millions. Is the police aware of any of this and why can’t they do something about it? Read more: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/No-light-matter__15314255 and http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/scrap-metal-federation-distances-itself-from-theft-of-limes-copper-cables
Holiday for students of Oracabessa Primary: Students at this school got a few unexpected days’ holiday after it was discovered that the place became infested by fleas over the long holiday weekend. Some stray dogs lolling about in the cellar were blamed. I found the reports baffling. The cleaning ladies swore that they kept the building spotless, while the Principal mumbled something quite meaningless. Two days after the weekend, the problem remained. I hope the students are back at school tomorrow.
A little more “ruly”: I know that’s not a real word… The unruly students of the Half Way Tree Transport Centre in Kingston have been tamed…for now, according to the Jamaica Observer. I have a feeling that this story might recur in the future though. A bit like the Riverton City dump fire story.
A change of heart: Mr. Damion “Build, build, build” Crawford, the Junior Tourism Minister, was once much more environmentally aware, it seems. When interviewed for the Gleaner’s tourism supplement some years ago along with environmentalist Wendy Lee, a more youthful (and he would now say, perhaps, naïve?) Crawford declared: “For a tropical country whose tourism relies totally on the state of its natural environment, we are not even close to adhering to even our own national standards…In many cases, environmental impact assessments are not being done where they are required, solid waste management remains poor and there continues to be widespread dumping of sewage in the sea.” Oh, how people change when they obtain political office! You can read the article here: http://hospitalityjamaica.com/20080514/environ2.html (Oh, will an environmental impact assessment be done on Goat Islands, one wonders?)
Jamaicans need beaches: Last Sunday I referred to Archbishop Howard Gregory’s excellent column on access to beaches (or the lack thereof, in most cases) with particular reference to Little Dunn’s River, which has been summarily closed by the Urban Development Corporation because of illegal activities allegedly taking place there. This is not the way to do it. Our recreational spaces (and opportunities to enjoy what’s left of our beautiful coastline) are becoming fewer and fewer. I understand that church leaders and concerned residents in the Ocho Rios area are not going to take this one lightly. Think again, UDC!
Some things I have not heard much about lately… *Trafigura *Medical tourism *The Tivoli Commission of Enquiry – date!
Note to Television Jamaica: I am not impressed by your new practice of airing rather poor video footage of a radio discussion program on RJR earlier in the day as “news” every Sunday evening. I know TVJ and RJR are part of the same media group, but this is lame and doesn’t work. It also just seems very lazy. What works for radio does not always work for television, does it? Or don’t you know that?
Speaking of “lame”… The Gleaner’s editorials are becoming more and more limply apologetic. The Sunday Gleaner editorial this week (“The PM’s next step”) left me dumbfounded. Stunned, even. It reads like an essay by a high school student who has copied some nice-sounding words from the Internet, with grammatical errors and politely meaningless clichés thrown in. What planet are you living on, Mr/Ms Gleaner editor? Here is the link: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131027/cleisure/cleisure1.html
Recommended from elsewhere… I came across a great TED talk by one of my heroes, Jane Goodall, about “How humans and animals can live together.” Here’s the link. It’s food for thought, allow yourself twenty minutes to watch and I think you will enjoy it: http://www.ted.com/talks/jane_goodall_at_tedglobal_07.html
For those who want to delve into history and learn more about the descendants of the Tainos across our region (yes, there are still descendants), this is a fascinating read: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/people-places/What-Became-of-the-Taino.html
Sunday kudos to:
- Digicel Foundation who pulled off another tremendous Night Run/Walk downtown on Saturday night. I understand that an astonishing 7,500 Jamaicans participated. This was the second such fundraising event. I hope (and believe) they raised lots of money for Jamaicans – adults and children – with special needs. Congraulations!
- I Believe Initiative for their marvelous National Youth Conference last Thursday. I wrote about it over the weekend. I Believe chose the three speakers well, and I think many of those young people attending were inspired. It was good to see them actively participating in discussions, too. Here’s my article: http://petchary.wordpress.com/2013/10/27/helping-our-youth-to-believe-in-themselves/
- JPS Foundation for their “model school” projects. CEO Kelly Tomblin (looking very jazzy in a pink dress and white-framed sunglasses) broke ground at the Falmouth Basic School this week. The relatively new Foundation’s focus is education and youth leadership. Good for them!
- Hampton School, an excellent girls’ boarding school in rural St. Elizabeth, which is “going green.” And more thanks to Digicel Foundation for supporting this forward-thinking effort. I do hope more schools – and in particular, government offices – will follow suit. http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131026/lead/lead6.html
- The Jamaican organizations who have just received grants from the U.S. Embassy under the President’s Emergency Fund for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) Small Grants Program administered by the U.S. Department of State: Eve for Life, Mustard Seed Communities, National Council on Drug Abuse, Caribbean Community of Retired Persons and BREDS – the Treasure Beach Foundation.
It has been an especially horrible week, and the sadness continues, every day, relentlessly. I am going to start posting photos of those murdered, where available. So that we know they are real people, not statistics. Their grieving families and friends know they are people, and I send my sympathies to all.
Unidentified man, Arnett Gardens, Kingston
Jason Armstrong, Conway Road, Kingston 11
Jason Mais, 19, Mud Town, St. Andrew
“Indian,” August Town, St. Andrew
Special Constable Arianna Henry, 23, Portmore, St. Catherine
Gavin Huggins, Frazers Content, St. Catherine
Unidentified man, Burke Road, Spanish Town, St. Catherine
Pixiean Brandford, 23, Harker’s Hall, St. Catherine (on October 21)
Glendon Clarke, West End, Negril, Westmoreland
Tashman Stevenson, 32, Mount Carey, St. James
Leo Oldfield, 44, Mount Carey, St. James
Unidentified woman, Adelphi, St. James
Tedroy Logie, 28, Vineyard, St. Elizabeth
Killed by police:
Marlando Brown, 35, Waltham Park Road, Kingston
Jermaine Foote, 24, Grange Hill, Westmoreland
Omar Reid, Grange Hill, Westmoreland
Some other items of interest:
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131025/lead/lead1.html Best in the Caribbean: Ardenne outshines the region in CAPE: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Holness–Murder-rate-unacceptable_15318697 Holness: Murder rate unacceptable: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131025/news/news3.html Gravel Heights residents return after fleeing community: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131025/cleisure/cleisure1.html If the police want new powers… Gleaner editorial
http://www.minority-insight.org/2013/10/lesbian-harassed-and-then-shot-by.html Lesbian harassed and then shot by Jamaican police: minorityinsight.org
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Golding-willing-to-testify-at-Tivoli-Enquiry–but_15332632 Golding willing to testify at Tivoli Enquiry, but… Sunday Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Soldiers-in-Keith-Clarke-murder-for-trial-next-March Soldiers in Keith Clarke murder for trial next March: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/Tell-us-what-jobs-the–hub–wil-bring_15306431 Tell us what jobs the hub will bring: Letter to the Jamaica Observer
http://kentgammon.wordpress.com/2013/10/27/article-the-wada-extraordinary-doping-audit-for-jamaica-is-it-significant-to-jamaicas-sporting-reputation/ The WADA extraordinary doping audit for Jamaica: Is it significant for Jamaica’s sporting reputation? Kent Gammon blog
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads-100/35422 Campion gets new library and media center: Jamaica Information Service
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131025/news/news4.html Bustamante Children’s Hospital cardiac wing to be completed early 2014: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Smoking-ban-will-move-Jamaica-towards-developed-country-status—-Ferguson Smoking ban will move Jamaica towards developed country status – Ferguson: Jamaica Observer
This is the kind of photo gallery you sometimes see in the newspapers… SMH, as they say in social media.
Yesterday, we drove through the community of New Haven. The land is flat and low-lying, wedged between the main road leading westwards from Kingston to Spanish Town, and steep hillsides. At one end is the polluted Duhaney River, which always seems to be very high and which has regularly overflowed its banks during heavy rains and storms. The area has a population of roughly 7,000 (in 1970 there were just a few hundred living there).
New Haven is in the constituency of St. Andrew Western. The Member of Parliament (MP) is Anthony Hylton, who is now Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce. Hylton is quoted in a 2011 newspaper article: “Getting capital is one of the keys to unlocking poverty in the inner city,” as he complains about delays in receiving money through the Constituency Development Fund. At that time (just two years ago) the People’s National Party was in Opposition, and Minister Hylton suggested then that Jamaica Labour Party MPs were getting preferential treatment. Mr. Hylton stated at the time, “I want to transform inner cities into ‘winner-cities.’” Later that same year, raw sewage flowed at least one street for several weeks (I can imagine the stench).
Well, now it is 2013. Mr. Hylton’s party is in power – and by the same token, one assumes that the funds are perhaps flowing a little more easily now. Certainly, a huge Seventh Day Adventist Church on the main road looks in very good condition. So does the New Haven Baptist Church. But right next to the latter church is a derelict plot of land, where garbage is liberally scattered amongst the bushes. On the other side of the church is a very nicely painted house with a well-kept front yard.
And there are some nice houses in the area, which the residents are trying to keep up. The houses are marooned – sometimes literally, when New Haven is flooded on a yearly basis – in a sea of degradation. The roads can barely be called roads at all, and become progressively worse the further you drive from the main road (and we drove far). Garbage dumped in the gully that runs from the back of Duhaney Park further down the road finds its way into the drains and the river. The drains are regularly blocked, causing flooding. There is no attempt at creating sidewalks or keeping the roadsides in good repair. Some of the empty lots are being used as illegal dumps by passing trucks – piles of construction rubble and so on – on a regular basis.
And I am afraid to say that the area does smell rather badly. I am not sure whether sewage issues remain, or whether it is the somewhat swampy river, where more garbage often floats (you can see this from the main road), or what.
New Haven has been represented by a number of politicians over the years, so I am not pointing fingers at any particular Member of Parliament. Honest. This amount of neglect has taken place over many, many years. It didn’t happen overnight.
And I know times are hard. But the residents deserve better than this. Don’t they?
I took the photographs below just as we were driving out, and I decided to focus on the “roads” – which are so appalling that they are virtually impossible to navigate. In a jeep, we just about managed it. You will have to use your imagination for the rest of what I have described, above. Or take a drive through there. Take a deep breath though, before you start.
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Revolving-fund-delay-irks-MP_9599019 Revolving fund delay irks MP: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/New-Haven-residents-flooded-out–again New Haven residents flooded out, again: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/environment/Public-health-nightmare-looms-in-New-Haven_10010184 Public health nightmare looms in New Haven: Jamaica Observer
Queen Victoria allegedly said this, using the royal “we.” It’s not clear what did not amuse her, but I don’t think it was her politicians. Do you know who does not amuse me? One guess.
- Are our political leaders incompetent, or just plain crafty? I don’t know. I became so impatient with the Minister of Transport and Works’ performance (and it was a performance) on CVM Television’s “Live at Seven” this week that I spilled my cup of tea all over everything, and then cursed. Minister Davies talks in a series of casual non sequiturs. He never finishes a sentence, so you get fragments, interspersed with throwaway lines that I think are intended to be humorous. He finds himself very amusing. The overall effect is a) offhand; b) incredibly condescending; and c) confusing – deliberately so?
- Meanwhile, what I called the Megawatt Muddle seems to be descending into ever murkier depths. Minister Phillip Paulwell has said very little. He has not held out a lifeline to the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR), which seems to be sinking deeper into the quagmire the more it struggles. Azurest Cambridge (the preferred bidder, which failed to come up with the deposit on time) made some comments that made me think this does not look good to any other firm interested in investing in Jamaica. Meanwhile, what of the local bidding consortium, Energize Jamaica? Since they came up with their proposal on time (by the March deadline – yes, March?) should not they be the one to move to the preferred spot, as the Contractor General suggested in his report?
- But then, the CG’s reports on both the Azan shambles and the power project have been generally overruled, undermined and/or ignored by all and sundry.
- I do share Minister Paulwell’s concern about the inadequate take-up for renewable energy included in the power package. Why did this happen? Altogether, the OUR comes out with egg all over its face. Can we revisit the renewable issue, too? Should we just wipe the slate clean with this energy bid, and start all over again? (Insert sigh of frustration here…)
- “We are actually desperate now,” Minister Paulwell told the Gleaner last week with his usual disarming frankness. Aren’t we all?
- So, do we expect the Mayor of May Pen to resign, despite being charged for misleading the Contractor General in the course of his investigations into the Spaldings shops? No? I thought not. Moving on…
- On a more encouraging note, Jamaican Shanique Myrie won her case in the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) against the Barbadian government for the degrading treatment she received at Bridgetown’s airport from immigration officers. This should be a wake-up call for Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries. “It’s not about the money, it’s about equal rights and justice,” said Ms. Myrie after the ruling. The money, by the way, translated from Barbadian dollars into Jamaican, highlighting the extreme weakness of our currency compared to our neighbors to the east. But besides that, I hope and believe that Barbados will take the necessary action, legal or otherwise, to ensure this does not happen again.
- I am glad Mr. Martin Henry focused on the World Bank’s recent “Jamaica Parliamentary Oversight of Public Finances – An Institutional Review” – which has been largely ignored by local media. Our Parliament is remarkably unproductive, as we probably know, and has been for years. I found Mr. Henry’s final dig at civil society groups (the latest section of society to make snide comments about) and the media (which people have always made snide comments about) quite unnecessary, but pretty much par for the course among newspaper columnists and the like.
- Another Sunday columnist whom I often don’t agree with (but that’s OK), Professor Carolyn Cooper, came up trumps today. She started her column: “In Jamaica today, a woman who ends up in hospital as a result of complications from an illegal abortion can actually be handcuffed to her bed as a suspected felon. Upon conviction of inducing abortion, she may be condemned to life sentence with hard labour. That’s the law.” This law is Section 72 of the Offences Against the Person 1864. Yes, 1864!
- And good news for our much-loved athlete Veronica Campbell-Brown, as Jamaican officials have ruled that “a reprimand without any period of ineligibility would be appropriate”
after her positive doping result from an invitational on May 4. Hopefully this will be upheld and all will be well. Just shows how careful you have to be.
Three cheers to all of these…
- The tireless and persistent host of “Live at Seven” Simon Crosskill, who scores 10 out of 10 for his dogged questioning of Minister Davies on “development” projects. The Minister employed his usual confusing, obfuscating tactics (see my earlier comment above). When Mr. Crosskill asked if we (Jamaicans) could see a copy of the Memorandum of Understanding on the logistics hub that was apparently signed in China, the Minister said condescendingly, “It’s boring…” (So why do you ordinary people want to bother your heads with it? It’s all legal stuff). Anyway, thank you Mr. Crosskill for trying, and major kudos to your excellent production team for this and all your programs. Keep up the good work!
- Brandon Allwood, one of our bright young Jamaicans studying overseas, who was among eight international undergraduates to receive the Toronto Excellence Awards recently. I first met Brandon when he was sixteen years old and editing the “Teen Observer.” When I asked him what issues he was interested in, he told me immediately, “Children’s rights.” He has retained that focus and is not only a savvy communicator and media person but focused and genuinely kind. He has a great deal to offer Jamaica.
- All those who participated in the Jamaica Startup Weekend in Kingston. From the tweets I have seen, it looks pretty intense as participants make their final pitches this evening. I am glad to see more women there in the mix, too. IT does not have to be a male preserve, does it! And congratulations once again to Ingrid Riley, the tireless organizer and energy behind this effort.
- Kudos to two young television journalists who have done a good job this week: Television Jamaica‘s Dashan Hendricks did some enlightening and useful reporting on the energy bid issue (which is fairly complex); and CVM Television’s Joel Crosskill reported sensitively on the renewed violence in Western Kingston. Good journalism.
- And personal thanks from my husband and I to Palace Amusement - our local cinema – for screening a new series of simulcasts from the Metropolitan Opera of New York. The audience was small, but it was an absolute treat and worth every cent! More on the passionate and powerful performance of Tchaikovsky’s “Eugene Onegin” in another blog post. But we really appreciated it and will not miss another one in the series…
The police claim to be getting a grip on crime in West Kingston, where gang violence has become more commonplace in recent months. However, the issue will not be solved through shootouts in which two or three alleged “wanted men” get killed. It just will not. Haven’t we “been there, done that”? My condolences are with the families of all those who have died (I am afraid two are still unidentified – the media do not really seem to see them all as human beings with names, it seems).
Unidentified man, Sunrise Crescent/Red Hills Road, Kingston
Unidentified, Bull Bay, St. Andrew
Andrea Blythe, 43, Glasgow, Westmoreland
Killed by police:
Fitzroy Gaynor, Hannah Town, Kingston
Demar Cameron, Hannah Town, Kingston
Troy Anthony Vassell, Upper Regent Street, Kingston
Related articles and links:
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131003/lead/lead4.html Transport Minister shields China Harbour from parliamentary committee: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/NEPA-received-no-application-for-Goat-Islands-development NEPA received no application for Goat Islands development: Jamaica Observer
http://www.caribjournal.com/2013/10/04/op-ed-jamaica-china-and-goat-island/ Jamaica, China and Goat Islands: David P. Rowe op-ed/Carib Journal
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/editorial/As-global-warming-accelerates—_15178056 As global warming accelerates… Jamaica Observer editorial
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/LIME-Foundation-adopts-part-of-forest-reserve-_15190271 LIME Foundation adopts part of forest reserve: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131004/lead/lead24.html No word on waste-to-energy plants: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131005/letters/letters1.html Letter of the Day from Frank Phipps: OUR must revisit renewable energy capacity offer: Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131003/lead/lead5.html PSOJ questions process used to select Azurest for 360MW venture: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131005/lead/lead2.html Azurest says OUR’s refusal to extend deadline robs Jamaicans of best energy solution: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131003/lead/lead6.html Paulwell wants OUR to revise decision on 115MW project bids: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131006/focus/focus5.html Make Parliament more effective: Martin Henry column/Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131003/news/news1.html First Global makes sweet music at Tarrant Primary: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131005/news/news2.html Marcus Garvey Choir boosts school morale: Gleaner
http://jamaicajournal.wordpress.com/2013/10/04/jacques-road-finished-project/ Jacques Road finished project: Jamaican Journal
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131004/lead/lead8.html Jamaican MSMs speak out: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131005/lead/lead1.html ”Speak up for your rights”: Shanique Myrie elated at CCJ ruling: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Executive-Summary-of-the-judgement-in-Shanique-Myre-case Executive Summary of the judgment in Shanique Myrie case: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131006/cleisure/cleisure3.html Policing women’s bodies: Carolyn Cooper column/Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131004/lead/lead25.html INDECOM wants power to take samples from cops: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=48419 Angry George’s Plain residents set canefield fire to capture gunmen: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Jamaican-Brandon-Allwood-receives-International-student-award-in-Toronto Former TEENage Club president receives international student award in Toronto: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131003/lead/lead1.html Warning for Veronica Campbell-Brown: Gleaner
Our Met Office forecast “severe weather” for the past couple of days, but it is a sunny, breezy Sunday in Kingston town. Not that we want severe weather, but recent weather forecasts have, to be honest, been wildly inaccurate.
Shaw gathers momentum: Meanwhile, it is pouring rain in Mandeville. As I write, Phase Three Productions is live-streaming from the official launch of Audley Shaw‘s bid for the leadership of the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) in that town. Phase Three’s Marcia Forbes is tweeting photos. There is apparently some confusion as to whether Mr. Shaw’s middle name is Fitz Albert or Fitz Gerald. It seems Mr. Shaw’s campaign is gaining some traction. He has acquired high-profile backers, such as former Agriculture Minister Dr. Christopher Tufton (who himself has strong leadership qualities) and former tourism man Ed Bartlett; and rumor has it that some “big men” (private sector interests) are also in support.
I am just hoping for a much more vibrant Opposition in the future. The past two years have, frankly, been very unimpressive. Under Mr. Holness’ leadership, my perception from the outside is that the Opposition has spent much time licking its wounds (and re-opening some).
Social media campaigning… I am not sure why Opposition Leader Andrew Holness and his challenger Audley Shaw are pretending that the use of social media is not important to their respective campaigns. It appears they are both using it quite effectively. Mr. Shaw is a regular tweeter.
…and no more bitching: Sorry to use that word, but the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) already has a reputation for factions (yes, I remember the “Gang of Five” in the early 1990s). So let’s start debating the issues. You have enough material to work with! And a word of advice: Jamaicans want details! They want to know “how” things are to be done. We already know the “what” and the “why”…
The Azan Aftermath: What is all that noise about now? Why, it is the Azan supporters, clamoring for their beloved leader to be reinstated as Minister of State in the Ministry of Transport and Works (curious that his boss, the usually strident Omar Davies, has been so reticent on all this). The supporters (including the People’s National Party Youth Organization) say that Azan has now been “vindicated” (or, as I saw somewhere, “ventricated.” New word!) since the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) announced she will not press charges against him.
The CG’s office is the enemy, again? There are also murmurings in some People’s National Party quarters, I understand, for the Contractor General (CG) – one of Jamaica’s main anti-corruption watchdogs – to resign, following the DPP’s announcement. Just a reminder that the CG’s office was set up in 1983 under Edward Seaga’s JLP administration. Under the current administration, Minister of Works-and-Other-Affairs Omar Davies has taken up the gauntlet and has been seeking to undermine the CG, in my view. Four months ago, if you recall, he got the Attorney General (AG) to propose changes to the Contractor General’s Act. Last year, the same Minister and AG tried to avoid reporting to the CG on the findings of Davies’ “oversight panel” that would fast-track large infrastructural projects – but finally gave up the fight in July of this year, thankfully.
This is an administration that declared it would fight corruption. Instead, it seems to be fighting anti-corruption bodies such as the CG, and defending its own officials under suspicion of corruption. Our Prime Minister warmly hugged Minister Azan at last weekend’s annual conference, if you recall. One hug speaks a thousand words.
All this worries me in relation to the Goat Islands mega-project, which remains shrouded in mystery, especially since the port aspect of it seems to fall under Minister Davies’ jurisdiction. Why is there no information coming from the government on this? Why is the media not trying to investigate?
Meanwhile, the charge of “political corruption” against Mr. Azan, referred to in the CG’s report remains. The fact that he will not be charged for fraud is only a part of the story.
Toughing it out: The smooth-talking Mayor of May Pen is putting a brave face on things meanwhile, despite the DPP’s intention to prosecute him for misleading the CG over the shops in Spalding Market. I think he will soon be charged, and then might possibly consider stepping down? The Opposition members of the Clarendon Parish Council want him to, of course; but they are in the minority, so will not prevail.
Productivity in the public sector has been declining over the past five years, says university lecturer Peter-John Gordon. “It may be acting as a sort of sponge for labor,” he added. And how on earth is that going to move us forward? There are major problems, here, that must be examined more deeply.
Slipping… The standard of editorials in both our daily newspapers has been quite sloppy of late, with a lot of woolly-headed thinking and lame conclusions. The editorials don’t even get important facts right (see the letter to the Gleaner - link below). Please sharpen up, people – we need more cogent analysis in these difficult times.
Farewell to Bunny: With much fanfare, the last remaining “original Wailer” Bunny Livingstone has announced that he will be leaving Jamaica and going to settle in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. I wish him well. The 66-year-old Mr. Livingstone says Jamaica is a “failure,” adding: “the politicality and the teachings and the other things that are taking place in Jamaica does not relate to my existence” (sic). St Vincent Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves‘ long-winded speeches on reparations seem to have attracted him. However, is St. Vincent governed any more skilfully than Jamaica? Certainly, their PM can talk for longer, if that is a plus. Perhaps Bunny could have considered staying, and as a music legend contributing in more positive ways to his country.
Things to keep an eye on… The parliamentary debate on the Commission of Enquiry Act, which was suspended last week; there are many issues to be resolved here. The Trafigura case(I have not seen a court date set when the Prime Minister and senior officials are to testify to prosecutors representing Dutch authorities). Measures to prevent major road accidents, especially school buses; what, if anything, will be done? Charges against Mayor Barnswell – when?
I am handing little Sunday bouquets to:
- My friendly neighborhood bookstore, Bookophilia. Always warm and welcoming, with a good cup of coffee (and tea) available behind the counter, it is a favorite hangout spot. It has a nice comfy sofa too. Apart from all that, an interesting selection of books (I always find some good material on their fiction shelves, and being a LatAm lit fan could not resist Isabel Allende’s latest). What makes it a standout though are their regular events – live poetry and music sessions, art exhibits, children’s story time, Motivation Mondays, and much more. Find them on Facebook, on Twitter (@Bookophilia) and drop by 92 Hope Road in Liguanea, Kingston 6, next to The Paint Shop. And they are open on Sundays! Buy books!
- Hon. Barbara Gloudon, for her beautifully written column on the Portland Bight Protected Area/Goat Islands issue in Friday’s Jamaica Observer. The link is below. Ms. Gloudon always writes with marvelous insights. I am thankful for her support for the campaign against the proposed logistics hub/megaport in this wonderful area – which is not only beautiful but harbors productive fish sanctuaries and bird breeding sites in the mangroves (a designated “Wetland of Importance” under the Ramsar Convention). I am sorry I missed her broadcast from Little Goat Island on her RJR radio talk show on Friday… and appreciate her concern for Jamaica’s precious natural (and cultural) heritage.
- The YMCA quietly does amazing work with marginalized youth. The boys in their early teens, for example, that others have given up on; and boys who live on the streets. These boys have endured real emotional and physical hardship growing up, and bear the scars. It is very challenging work. The YMCA and its director Sarah Newland-Martin (who really believes in the boys) truly deserve our support; they need new classrooms. Please support them where you can.
- Lord Bishop of Jamaica Howard Gregory, whose column in today’s Sunday Observer on corruption gets my two thumbs up. Despite being an eminent church leader, Bishop Gregory is so down to earth and a real straight talker. Here is one quote from his piece on the Azan saga and its aftermath: “What must be a matter of serious concern is the conduct of our politicians, whose behavior has come under scrutiny. We have seen over time behaviors of arrogance, defiance, and disrespect for those entrusted with legitimate authority to rule on such matters [ie corruption]…” Indeed.
- Ms. Donna Duncan of Jamaica Money Market Brokers, who recently gave a talk in Digicel’s “Extraordinary Leaders” series. Her thoughts? We all have greatness within us; live and lead according to your values; and great leaders help others to be their best selves. Yes, we may have heard this all before, but these are the essentials of leadership.
My quote for today: I got this from a Nigerian friend on Twitter (yes, Africa has quite a social media presence these days…) “Trust is like an eraser; it gets smaller and smaller with every mistake.” Perhaps some of our public figures should meditate on this one.
The sadness and grief continues. There are still too many fatalities on our roads, and too many violent deaths. We must also always spare a thought for those injured in these tragedies; it is not only the dead, but those affected who have to pick up the pieces of their lives and carry on. My condolences to all the families of these Jamaicans, and all those who are suffering physically, emotionally and mentally from the trauma. Each violent act leaves many scars.
Unidentified man, Rousseau Road, Kingston
Radcliffe White, 48, August Town, St. Andrew
Unidentified man, Kitson Town, St. Catherine
Unidentified man, Sandy Bay, Clarendon
Clarence Morgan, 61, Clarendon
Carlene Francis, 36, Great Pond/Ocho Rios, St. Ann
“Tony,” Steer Town, St. Ann
Related articles and links:
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/Open-letter-to-Minister-Robert-Pickersgill_15146109 Open Letter to Minister Robert Pickersgill: Letter to the Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/The-sea-is-my-employer_15145080 ”The sea is my employer”: Barbara Gloudon column/Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130928/cleisure/cleisure3.html Government should not neglect environmental consultation: Letter to the Gleaner
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads-107/35158 Country poised to meet 2015 deadline – Minister Hylton: Jamaica Information Service
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Develop-Royal-Palm-Reserve-into-attraction—-EU-head_15145048 Develop Royal Palm Reserve into attraction – EU head: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130928/news/news5.html Nature kisses art at Mountambrin Estate: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/DPP-clears-Azan DPP clears Azan: Jamaica Observer
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/dabdoub-to-challenge-contractor-general-findings-on-spaldings-market-issue Dabdoub to challenge Contractor General findings on Spaldings Market issue: RJR News
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Mayor-under-fire JLP councillors to move no-confidence vote against Barnswell: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130928/lead/lead2.html Police to probe Barnswell: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130928/letters/letters2.html Get the facts on ECJ appointment: Letter to the Gleaner from Governor General’s office
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Dynamic-media-supporting-better-leadership_15119864 Dynamic media supporting better leadership: Jean Lowrie-Chin column/Jamaica Observer
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/temporary-replacement-found-for-dismissed-permanent-secretary Temporary replacement found for dismissed permanent secretary: RJR News
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/editorial/Is-Mr-Holness-institutionalising-political-tribalism_15139836 Is Mr. Holness instutionalizing political tribalism? Jamaica Observer editorial
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130928/news/news1.html Debate on Commission of Enquiry Act suspended: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Chuck–PM–security-minister-must-address-crime-issue_15139068 Chuck: PM, security minister must address crime issue: Jamaica Observer
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/indecom-concerned-about-apprehension-of-mentally-ill-by-police INDECOM concerned about apprehension of mentally ill by police: RJR News
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Holmwood-driver-slapped-with-manslaughter-charges_15145975 Holmwood driver slapped with manslaughter charges: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130929/lead/lead61.html Rejected by Jamaica: Pathologist snubbed locally, embraced by Yale: Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130928/news/news7.html Limited by challenges, but big on hope: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130929/lead/lead7.html ”I will be great!” youth vows: Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130929/lead/lead6.html YMCA in need of new building: Sunday Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/So-that-explains-the-smell_15145599 So that explains the smell: Letter to the Jamaica Observer
http://repeatingislands.com/2013/09/27/bunny-wailer-to-turn-back-on-jamaica-for-st-vincent-and-the-grenadines/ Bunny Wailer to turn back on Jamaica for St. Vincent and the Grenadines: Repeating Islands
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads-117/35160 Prime Minister urges special consideration for SIDS: Jamaica Information Service
Two reports from the Contractor General (CG) came floating in on the news yesterday afternoon. Some of us were thinking that Mr. Dirk Harrison had been quiet for a long time; but as an online friend said, if this is what happens when he speaks, we don’t mind long silences (translating from the patois)!
OCG Report #1: Minister Azan… The CG has referred Richard Azan, Junior Minister in the Ministry of Transport and Works (headed by Minister Omar Davies) to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) for conspiracy to defraud. He also says that Mayor of May Pen Scean Barnswell sought to mislead the CG’s office; and that Bridget Daley-Dixon, Azan’s constituency secretary, who collected the rental for the shops, should also be considered for prosecution. Parliament, he said, should also take action against Minister Azan, whom the CG called “at best, tantamount to being politically corrupt as defined by Transparency International.”
OCG Report #2: Electricity bid: In a report half as long as the first one (but, it seems, equally hard-hitting) the CG has also severely criticized the process by which the bidding for the 360 megawatt energy project was conducted. We had already learned that the deadline for bidding had been extended, and that a new bidder had been introduced – the Hong Kong-based Energy World International (EWI). It also emerged that Energy Minister Phillip Paulwell had met with EWI representatives while the bidding process was going on – an action which the CG calls “irregular and improper intervention.” Bear in mind that the other bidders had already complied with the original deadline of March 15, 2013 (yes, the deadline was postponed).
In a press briefing today, the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR), the government agency that administered the bidding process, predictably denied that Minister Paulwell had interfered. So, of course, did the Minister. He responded swiftly that he was just trying to get the cheapest possible energy rates for the Jamaican people (so, I suppose, by any means necessary, Minister?) And the OCG doesn’t know what he is talking about. OK.
Well, as it turned out, the OUR announced the preferred bidder to be Azurest-Cambridge Joint Venture Association. Number Two is…EWI. This leaves a bad taste in the mouth.
“They haven’t had a chance”: There was another, much more touchy press briefing today. Right off the bat, Minister of Information Senator Sandrea Falconer informed the press, who were itching to ask her about the Azan issue, that “I am not going to entertain any questions on this matter.” Wow. But our trusty journalists are not the tame sheep that used to sit in government press briefings, writing down every word and asking one or two polite questions at the end. Those days are gone. In response to the inevitable questions on Minister Azan, Minister Falconer used her sternest voice and adopted the “blocking” stance (I think they do that in American football, don’t they?) after repeating several times that none of those whom the CG said received the reports on Monday had “had a chance” to peruse them.
One of the minions was eventually asked to disconnect the microphone of one particularly persistent journalist. He was undeterred. Can you imagine this happening at a White House press briefing, for example? All hell would break lose.
And as for our Prime Minister: I thought that if she only received the reports “late” on Tuesday evening, our Prime Minister and her team would have been sitting up all night examining them, with a view to urgently responding today. But she was interviewed very briefly by CVM Television late last night – or rather, a journalist waylaid her at a People’s National Party social event, all dressed up. Amazingly, Ms. Simpson Miller said that since the Azan matter had been referred to the DPP, she will wait and see what happens. And she “doesn’t know what’s going to happen.” Well, that unrehearsed response has told us a lot, Prime Minister. A lot.
Madam Prime Minister, did you not tell us when the issue first came to light that you would await the CG’s report on Minister Azan? Well, it is out. We now have to wait, again? What is all this? They used to call President Ronald Reagan the “Teflon President,” because no scandals seemed to affect him personally. Is our Prime Minister seeking “teflonship” status? Well, let’s put it this way…She likes to “defer.”
I am not impressed: The level of representation at the local government level seems very poor. That is not to say that there are not some serious councilors who are working hard on behalf of the communities they represent. But when CVM Television last night replayed remarks made by a Councilor Bailey of the Milk River Division earlier this year in defense of Minister Azan, I shuddered. It sounded even worse than the first time. “Comrades for life” - well, that kind of tribalistic partisanship is quite commonplace (on both sides). But to tell Minister Azan to just hang in there, and it will soon blow over - “A few days from now…Nine day talk” – that is not how a responsible leader should speak when a colleague is accused of corruption. And then, this week the Mayor of Savannah-la-Mar advised the police to “shoot first, ask questions after” in the face of rising crime in the parish of Westmoreland. Thankfully, the police more or less dismissed his words.
“Nature is a hell of a thing”: So said the head of the government’s Fisheries Division André Kong on television a few days ago. Yes, Mr. Kong. How right you are. Nature has a way of… well, having its way. We shall see…
Irony of ironies: We are actually importing fish now…from China.
Burning buses: Meanwhile, another Jamaica Urban Transit Company bus caught fire. Good grief! Whatever next? Any thoughts on that, Minister of Transport, Works, possibly Finance (and of course, environmental expert) Dr. Omar Davies? Any thoughts on the actions of your Junior Minister, come to that?
And a stinking city: The National Environment and Planning Agency is still trying to figure out the disgusting smell in and around the Kingston area. Could it be the salt pond in Yallahs, St. Thomas? Will we ever know? Please wait for the next exciting instalment.
Well…Petchary Bouquets go out to:
- Ayanna Dixon, a bright and highly talented fashion designer, who won a big prize at this evening’s Collection Moda Fashion Showcase in Kingston’s Hope Gardens. Congratulations, young lady!
- Women’s Media Watch for their great program on Roots FM “Equal Spaces.” Listen in tomorrow evening at 5 pm for a discussion on HIV and discrimination with Ainsley Reid.
- Youth Opportunities Unlimited (YOU) for initiating a great tweet chat today on women’s reproductive rights in Jamaica. It was very interesting and well conducted. At some point, though, we will have to address the issue of our archaic colonial law (1864, no less) stating that a person can get life in prison for performing an abortion. More on this in due course.
- Food for the Poor (yet again!) for their speedy response to a family in desperate need, which I wrote about in Sunday’s blog. They brought much-needed supplies and I do hope will be able to assist with housing in the near future. Without judging the woman. Thank you, again!
- Ms. Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, our star athlete, whose Pocket Rocket Foundation gave scholarships to seven needy students this week. She is a great girl.
“An eye for an eye”: Amidst all these dramas, Jamaicans continue to bleed. This week, a young woman was attacked, raped and murdered in roadside bushes in the rural district of Mullet Hall, in Clarendon. Residents suspected a man who had recently been released from prison after serving ten years for rape and had returned to the neighborhood. Residents attacked and stabbed him a day or two later. “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth,” said one resident. CVM Television’s report was chilling. A tragic story that went almost unnoticed, this week.
My friend Dean Moriah (and loved by so many, I know) was buried on Saturday in Ramble, Hanover. And someone has been arrested and reportedly confessed to his murder. Rest in peace, dear Dean. You are sadly missed. So are all those who passed away in violent circumstances in the past three or four days. Here are their names:
“Teeky Locks,” Bread Lane, downtown Kingston
Unidentified man, Kingston Gardens, Kingston
George Willie, Old Harbour, St. Catherine
Unidentified man, Old Harbour, St. Catherine
Raskemo Gordon, Reece Pen/Portmore, St. Catherine
Dwayne Cameron, 25, Braeton, St. Catherine
Kenroy Thompson, 39, Exchange District, St. Ann
Clive Robinson, 47, Mandeville, Manchester
Shanique Wright, Mullet Hall/Chapelton, Clarendon
Shanique’s alleged murderer, Mullet Hall, Clarendon (mob killing)
Unidentified man, Dump Up Beach, Montego Bay, St. James
Killed by the police:
Unidentified man, Portmore, St. Catherine
Related articles and links:
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/OCG-refers-Azan–Barnswell-to-DPP_15094359 OCG refers Azan, Barnswell to DPP: Jamaica Observer
http://www.ocg.gov.jm/ocg/ Office of the Contractor General: Press Release and Reports on Azan issue and energy bid
http://constructedthoughts.wordpress.com/2013/09/18/portias-contempt-the-richard-azan-scandal/ Portia’s contempt: the Richard Azan scandal: Veritas
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=adtf-3fczK4&feature=c4-overview&list=UUT6cAZGuOgJlXrEoPv8jtEw Video: press briefing on Azan, etc: YouTube
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=48075 Government mum on damning reports: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Contractor-general-slams-Paulwell–OUR-over-energy-project_15094005 Contractor General slams Paulwell, OUR over energy project: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Paulwell-welcomes-naming-of-360MW-preferred-bidder Paulwell welcomes naming of 360 MW preferred bidder: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/editorial/Preservation–patriotism–pragmatism-and-profits_15091893 Preservation, patriotism, pragmatism and profits: Jamaica Observer editorial
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=32360 Jamaica’s fish imports now at $7.8 billion: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130820/cleisure/cleisure4.html Should the environment lose every time? Op-ed by Dr Kurt McLaren, forest ecologist; Professor Byron Wilson, conservation biologist
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130915/focus/focus2.html Davies’ big mistake about “two likkle lizards”: Christopher Serju column/Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=48055 Diaspora against Goat Islands industrial development: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130917/letters/letters5.html Don’t ease up on Goat Islands advocacy: Letter to the Editor/Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130917/cleisure/cleisure4.html Don’t play fast and loose with Portland Bight facts – JET: Gleaner
http://www.caribjournal.com/2013/09/12/jamaican-prime-minister-warns-against-criticism-of-chinese-investment/ Jamaican Prime Minister warns against criticism of Chinese investment: Carib Journal
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130916/letters/letters1.html Letter of the Day: Who will bear the cost? Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130917/letters/letters8.html Demanding answers on smelly city: Letter to the Editor/Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130916/cleisure/cleisure1.html It’s time for private-sector muscle: Gleaner editorial
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130916/cleisure/cleisure2.html Labourites, please vote for Jamaica: Garth Rattray column/Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Race-is-on_15077280 Shaw says he’ll formally launch JLP leadership campaign on Sept 29: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=48021 Opposition Senator calls for changes to Offenses Against the Persons Act: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130918/lead/lead6.html Tivoli Committee satisfied after meeting with House Speaker: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130918/cleisure/cleisure1.html Sav’s Mayor should go: Gleaner editorial
http://jamaica-star.com/thestar/20130916/news/news6.html Franklin Town cops test-run community policing initiative: Jamaica Star
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Kartel-s-jail-cell-searched-in-investigation-of-producer-s-killing Kartel’s jail cell searched in investigation of producer’s killing: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=48033 Tuberculosis worries at Horizon Remand Centre: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=48081 Update: Man reportedly confesses to murder of hospitality worker Dean Moriah: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Our-seniors-are-miracle-workers_15077963 Our seniors are miracle workers: Jean Lowrie-Chin column/Jamaica Observer
Kingston has sprung to life. The traffic is back, school is in, and it’s been a lively week so far.
More drama: The pending/possible challenge to Andrew Holness‘ leadership from former Finance Minister Audley Shaw seems to have stirred things up in the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP). Previously calm (even stagnant) JLP waters are looking rather rough at the moment. Bobbing up and down on the waves on Monday night was a busload of rowdy delegates, which descended on party headquarters apparently in support of “the leader.” Also at sea were two prominent women in the party (former Culture Minister Olivia “Babsy” Grange, and Joan Gordon Webley). There was a confrontation. Ms. Grange agonized over the matter on radio this morning, using words like “hypocrisy.” And these two ladies are veteran politicians, not young hotheads! I think they all need to take a deep breath.
“Spotlight” on the rabble: Now one learns that most of those delegates (who act as a kind of Greek chorus for the main actors, I suppose) are not even eligible to vote for a new leader! And talking of noisy crowds, I am commenting on the issue of these party parties in the latest issue of “Spotlight,” a beautiful monthly online magazine edited by Reggae Film Festival founder, cultural activist and author Barbara Blake Hannah. Ms. Blake Hannah also takes a pointed look at the recent Grand Gala, and the marketing of tourism in her home parish of Portland. She also invites you to be “royal”! Read more here: https://t.co/gLcDsSkAAo
Remember those Cuban lightbulbs? The media is quite distracted by the JLP shenanigans. But the corruption trial of former Member of Parliament Kern Spencer (a former young bright spark of the People’s National Party) and his associate, which was delayed for over a year thanks to the manipulations of various lawyers, started up again this week. It’s hard to think that far back; the whole affair – a major scandal at the time – seems lost in the mists of time. Let us please try and refocus and pay close attention to what transpires in court. More to follow.
Did I say corruption? Former Contractor General Greg Christie shared a number of very useful documents on corruption from the World Bank on Twitter this week. Here’s the link: http://www.scribd.com/mobile/users/WorldBankPublications/collections/3382219
And remember Mr. Richard Azan? We don’t need to cast our mind too far back, but this gentleman has got somehow lost in the mix. As one of his comrade councilors predicted, perhaps it was a “nine-day wonder.” We were told by the Prime Minister and others that the Member of Parliament and Junior Minister was deemed “innocent” of any wrongdoing in the construction of illegal shops until reports had emerged on the matter. That was back in April. The summer has passed, and it now emerges that a report from the Ministry of Local Government has absolved Mr. Azan. Well, I never! We still wait to hear the results of the Contractor General, who is also investigating. Not a peep out of his office so far.
OK, then? So the Press Association of Jamaica (PAJ) has withdrawn its call for the resignation of Television Jamaica Chairman Milton Samuda, after he apologized for confiscating tapes of an interview with two athletes whom Samuda represented as their attorney. As they used to say on one television show, “Really, PAJ? Really?” This debacle raised multiple issues of press freedom. It’s a disturbing business, and a former PAJ President has expressed his anger at the PAJ’s latest move online. Another former PAJ president is also describing the actions of the journalists throughout as “totally spineless.” Investigations into the incident are reportedly ongoing. Good grief!
Protest the logistics hub on Facebook: There is a Facebook page now (No! to port on Goat Island, Jamaica) to protest the proposed logistics hub in the Portland Bight Protected Area (Goat Islands and beyond). Do “like” if you are concerned about this issue here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/no.onportgoatisland/
And view a photo album there too: The Society for the Conservation and Study of Caribbean Birds (SCSCB) has posted a beautiful photo album on its Facebook page, entitled “Portland Bight Protected Area 2013-2013.” Do browse through the photographs, taken by naturalist Ted Lee Eubanks of the U.S. Audubon Society, which show the amazing biodiversity of the area.
HOW many “active gangs”? Police say there are 67 “active gangs” operating in the lovely tourism mecca of Montego Bay, and that they are expanding. And there is the lotto scam connection. Do you ever visit Montego Bay, Minister Bunting, to see what’s really going on? Is anyone coming up with any solutions?
Jet skis/Live at Seven: I was very glad to see that Live at Seven last night addressed the issue of jet skis, which I raised in my blog of August 28. The regulation and licensing of these machines, whose macho operators have caused mayhem at our tourist resorts – including serious injury and deaths – appears to be problematic. Why? The Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo) – a government agency, which is responsible – has questions to answer. We must do better.
Another shootout downtown: This is almost a weekly occurrence – a shootout between gunmen and police. I ask again: Is downtown really safe for Jamaicans to live and work?
And I have decided not to comment on the distressing photo of Roger Clarke that has circulated widely on social media since Sunday evening. You can see it at the link below. Well, by saying “distressing” I suppose you know how I feel about it, anyway. Enough said!
Meanwhile, major kudos are due to:
The Jamaica Observer (again): For their continued coverage of the proposed destruction of the Portland Bight Protected Area. An article today focuses on the endangered Jamaican Iguana, which is again threatened by the possible Chinese development. The newspaper reports that the twenty-year-old iguana conservation program was funded and supported by overseas donors (including two U.S. zoos) It notes that the development of an area where it has been re-introduced would certainly deter donor agencies from supporting future conservation efforts. I made the point in an earlier blog that all the support from overseas will evaporate if all the efforts (and money) for environmental projects is literally bulldozed.
ECCO Magazine: The new online environmental magazine (ECCO stands for Environmentally Conscious Consumer Operations) held its virtual launch yesterday on Twitter, and an interesting Twitter Chat with the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) took place today. Take a look at their beautiful website: www.eccomagazine.com - and join the conversation on social media (@ECCOMagazine and on Facebook). You can also read JET’s newsletter here: http://content.yudu.com/Library/A2efti/THEJETTERVOL1NO6/resources/index.htm
UTech Mentoring Program: Congratulations to the staff and alumni of the University of Technology (UTech) as well as private sector supporters on the launch of their 5th Annual Mentoring Program today. It is an excellent program that will no doubt empower students and encourage them along their career path in these difficult economic times.
There were five murders between last night and today. Despite the regular attempts at massaging the “major crime” figures, it is clear that murders are not down compared to last year. And that, for me, is the most major crime. Moreover, the police allegedly shot dead a pregnant woman – just over a year after a policeman shot dead a pregnant woman in Yallahs, St. Thomas in early September, 2012. My condolences to all the family and friends who mourn these Jamaicans:
Unidentified man, Olympic Gardens, Kingston
Orrett Walford, Lyndhurst Crescent, Kingston
Mario Jackson, 24, Linstead, St. Catherine
David Todd, Linstead, St. Catherine
Pamela James, Flanker/Montego Bay, St. James
George Kelly, 42, Lilliput, St. James
Donovan Murray, 34, Burnt Savannah, Westmoreland
Evon Gayle, 31, Burnt Savannah, Westmoreland
Dean McIntosh, 33, Negril, Westmoreland
Killed by the police:
Felicia Henry, 21, Dempshire Pen/Central Village, St. Catherine
Articles and links of interest:
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130902/lead/lead4.html Cedar Grove Academy opens: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130902/lead/lead8.html Ganja has potential to attract high-end tourists: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130902/lead/lead6.html School of Marijuana: Research facility to be established: Gleaner
http://digjamaica.com/blog/2013/09/02/dollar-continues-to-weaken/ Dollar continues to weaken: diGJamaica.com
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130903/lead/lead1.html No jobs for grads: Experts predict almost 20,000
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=47687 Roger Clarke blazes social media with the “chicken back” dance: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130903/lead/lead3.html Source: Azan emerges unscathed in Spaldings report: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=47744 Cuban light bulb trial: No oversight unit established to monitor program: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/editorial/Environmental-preservation–economic-development-not-mutually-exclusive_14987651 Environmental preservation, economic development not mutually exclusive: Jamaica Observer editorial
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130902/business/business1.html Yes, go to hell! Get on with Goat Island, megaprojects: Gleaner
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads-114/34958 No agreement on Goat Island – Dr. Davies: Jamaica Information Service
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/environment/Jamaican-Iguana-fighting-for-survival_15000242 Jamaican Iguana fighting for survival: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130902/lead/lead91.html Milton Samuda apologizes to PAJ: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=47719 Gunman hospitalized after shootout in Kingston: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130902/news/news5.html Police boast human rights efforts: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Dempshire-Pen-residents-protest-police-killing-of-pregnant-woman Dempshire Pen residents protest police killing of pregnant woman: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130902/cleisure/cleisure3.html Brand Jamaica August 10-18, 2013: Garth Rattray column/Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130902/lead/lead1.html Homosexuals are not targeted for violent crime, say experts: Gleaner
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/30/jamaica-anti-gay-violence_n_3844356.html Jamaica anti-gay violence continues to escalate: Huffington Post
http://www.npr.org/2013/09/02/217296757/examining-jamaicas-homophobia Examining Jamaica’s homophobia: NPR