Our strange, moody weather continues. Murky clouds hang over Kingston, dripping rain here and there. And it’s open season on mosquitoes in our house.
The doping saga: The UK media are keeping tabs on the saga of the Jamaica Anti-Doping Commission (JADCO). Reports now emerge that the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) is furious that JADCO politely declined their request to visit Jamaica for an extraordinary audit this year and put them off until January 2014. It is particularly puzzling since I understood that Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller (who is our Sports Minister) invited WADA to come. Does the left hand know what the right is doing? Why are we making such a mess of all this? Now it appears that WADA will visit October 28-30, but some JADCO members will be overseas then… Can someone wave a magic wand and make it all go away please?
Closer ties with the “Commies”: (That’s a phrase from the Cold War – tongue in cheek). Members of the ruling People’s National Party (PNP) are currently en route to China, to forge closer ties with the political regime there. PNP General Secretary Robert Pickersgill (yes, our Environment Minister) is heading the delegation. Perhaps he will say something about the Portland Bight Protected Area/Goat Islands while he is there, like last time. He will not say anything about it in Jamaica. Read more: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=48793
Cronyism, nepotism, tribalism? Two items struck me this week: the suggestion by former PNP government minister Arnold Bertram that Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay be renamed after a PNP politician, Allan George Coombs. Donald Sangster was a former Jamaica Labour Party Prime Minister (Jamaica’s second) who died after only a few weeks in office. We also learn that former head of the PNP Youth Organisation (PNPYO) Mr. Junior Rose has been appointed Senior Director of Strategic Planning, Policy Research and Local Government Reform in the Ministry of Local Government. Is this jobs for the boys? Was this position advertised? (I have been increasingly unconvinced of any need for a Local Government Ministry in the first place). A career civil servant was pushed out to make way for Mr. Rose, the Opposition alleges. Read here: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/HONOUR-DENIED_15283812 and here: http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/controversy-surrounds-local-government-appointment
Former Contractor General Greg Christie reminded us this week of a great Gleaner article by Christopher Serju (which I missed – I was away) with some very relevant remarks by Professor Tommy Koh, Ambassador-at-Large for Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Not sure that Singapore (or anywhere) has “zero corruption,” but he pointed to the cost of it all. Adding, tellingly (and relevantly to the above): “…practise meritocracy (where) no one is appointed to a job because he knows somebody..” Another key arrow in Singapore’s armory was/is, of course, education. Read here: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130721/lead/lead3.html
I have a question: Why was the leader of the Opposition absent from Monday’s National Heroes Day ceremonies (wreath-laying and awards)? I do hope it wasn’t because his leadership rival Audley Shaw was receiving a national honor. I am perturbed by Mr. Holness’ apparent lack of maturity during this leadership race. Someone told me, “It’s important to have a young leader,” but youth in itself is not an asset. You’ve got to have some sense, too. He is making his aged (61 year-old) opponent look better and better…
For the fifth time! The corruption trial of former junior minister Kern Spencer and Colleen Wright was postponed for the fifth time yesterday. The Resident’s Magistrate’s was annoyed. The case is now nearly five years old and has been dragging on interminably. Of course, it didn’t help that the RM spent a long time wrangling with Director of Public Prosecutions Paula Llewellyn, half way through, creating considerable delay. The defense team is using every trick in the book, too. Our justice system is becoming a farce, isn’t it?
…and hot air: Meanwhile, with so many pressing matters afflicting the nation, Parliament decided to debate a resolution for the U.S. embargo on Cuba to be lifted. The lawmakers do this every year, with much pontificating, and they all agree. Many of the Opposition members were absent – apparently either campaigning, still on holiday, or both.
The price of fame: “Ras Puddler” found himself on the front page of the Jamaica Observer today photographed puffing on a chilum pipe. He was chilling on the beach in Belmont, Westmoreland on Sunday, during the town’s annual celebrations of Peter Tosh’s birthday, and sharing his views on the legalization of ganja – which I have to say made much sense to me. Alas, Ras Puddler’s fifteen minutes of fame were soon over, as the police arrested him today. He will be charged with possession of the aforementioned pipe, three pounds of ganja and some seedlings. I suppose it was rather foolish of him. But I confess I am a little confused by the current state of play on ganja legislation.
“The fact is that the family structure in Jamaica is dysfunctional”, Police Commissioner Owen Ellington says. Mothers reject their sons and drive them onto the streets because they can’t cope, he adds. So the answer is for the police to engage them in shootouts, right? Understanding the root of the crime problem is a good start, I suppose. Now, apply the right solutions.
I believe the police are overwhelmed by the burgeoning crime rate. The Commissioner speaks calmly but with barely disguised frustration in his voice. And Minister of National Security Peter Bunting, what say you? I have not heard HIS voice lately.
Congratulations to two women for their awesomeness:
- Diana McCaulay’s column in response to Gordon Robinson’s ill-informed nonsense about the Portland Bight Protected Area/Goat Islands is simply marvelous. Mr. Robinson, much as I often admire your satirical pieces, you were way off the mark on this one, and did not do your homework either. Ms. McCaulay has put you firmly in your place! A must-read: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131022/cleisure/cleisure2.html
- Petre Williams Raynor, who looks as if she has a forest growing out of her head in the photo below (sorry, Petre!). Petre was one of four “Forest Heroes” at a special award ceremony last week organized by the Forestry Department. Petre is now working with the non-governmental organization Panos Caribbean.
There have been many murders and shootings in the past few days. Our National Heroes must be turning in their graves, upon which wreaths were reverently placed on Monday. I wish I could send wreaths and flowers to the families of all those who have died in the past three days. Yes, just three days. Police Commissioner Owen Ellington told Parliament yesterday that seven were killed in one day.These are all sad, sad stories. My condolences…
Hopeton Livingston, St. Andrew
Douglas Folkes, 35, Padmore, St. Andrew
Odane Dacres, 17, National Stadium, Kingston
Lloyd Brown, 41, Tucker Avenue, Kingston
Setron Clarke, 41, Mandeville, Manchester
Sasha-Gaye Coffie, 27, Cumberland, St. Catherine
Flavius Forbes, De La Vega City, St. Catherine
Desmond Campbell, 44, Dam Head, St. Catherine
Winston Green, 17, Granville, St. James
Aston Atkinson, 48, Kenilworth HEART Academy, Hanover
Killed by police:
Solomon Johnson, 51, Dumfries, St. Thomas
Unidentified man, Greater Portmore, St. Catherine
Stephen Mason, 20, Stony Hill, St. Andrew
Melburn Campbell, 29, Stony Hill, St. Andrew
Here are a few additional articles of interest:
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=48783 Rare earth project plant expected by month-end, says Energy Minister: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131023/news/news1.html Debt-to-GDP ratio: an insurmountable task: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Shaw-wants-to-reform-JLP_15275954 Shaw wants to reform JLP: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131021/cleisure/cleisure4.html How not to build a nation: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131023/cleisure/cleisure1.html High praise, more work for the PM: Gleaner editorial
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/entertainment/Woman-of-Merit_15295674 Woman of Merit: Dr. Olive Lewin: Jamaica Observer
I have a bit too much on my plate this week, so will try to keep this short. And literally – I ate too much today, at one of our lovely local neighborhood restaurants, Tea Tree Creperie. It’s recommended.
I start with a mea culpa: One of my readers gently reprimanded me for a comment I made in my last (Sunday) post, in which I poked fun at the way some callers to radio talk shows speak. It smacked of condescension, said my reader. The point is well taken. My attempt at being amusing certainly did sound that way, I do agree. So, my apologies to anyone who may have found it at all offensive or unkind. And please, dear readers, feel free to correct me whenever you feel it necessary! I take all your comments seriously, and you don’t have to be nice and polite!
It’s been an energetic week: With the preferred bidder for the 360 MW power project not able to come up with its deposit on time, the slightly mysterious Energy World International (EWI) has moved to the top of the heap. A local consortium, Energize Jamaica, has apparently been sidelined indefinitely. I understand that the EWI people will arrive in Jamaica this weekend, so we shall see what we shall see. Now local journalists have been digging around to find out what they can about EWI. The results have been far from impressive. A review of successive annual reports shows EWI failed to come up with the funds for an LNG project in the Philippines after several years of stalling. A report from the Sydney Morning Herald (link below) confirms this. Remember, EWI was the firm who met with Energy Minister Phillip Paulwell after the original deadline for bids, and was allowed in (why?)
Is the OUR up to the task? I agree with the private sector leaders, who are very uncomfortable with the unsatisfactory situation that has developed. Some wonder (as I do) whether the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR), in whose lap the whole thing landed, actually had the know-how in the first place to evaluate the bids from each of the firms. They may know all the rules and regulations, as all good bureaucrats should, but should not some additional expertise have been brought to bear on the matter?
Problem is, the matter is becoming urgent. Almost a whole year of dithering has passed. Financial journalist Ralston Hyman (whose morning program Real Business gives me a sobering dose of reality on a daily basis) points out that the delay cannot continue. The requested emergency meeting with the Prime Minister should take place – now. Can we have some leadership, please?
Forty cents out of every dollar that Jamaica earns goes towards buying imported oil. As Mr. Hyman and his guest said this week, it is mind-boggling.
Are Jamaicans at the end of their tether? I was quite taken aback by raging emotions in the Jamaican twittersphere one night. What was everyone so upset about? Television Jamaica (TVJ) had bought the exclusive rights to “The Voice“ from NBC – prompting local cable company Flow to block the live NBC coverage – and planned to air the program with a two-hour delay. Jamaica’s much-loved singer Tessanne Chin is one of the stars of the show and a strong contender to win. Now, this may seem a petty matter, but perhaps it is symptomatic of a wider frustration creeping into Jamaican society – a kind of sense of “you can’t win” - which I fully understand, and share to some extent. Tessanne’s success is a little glimmer of light in a dark and foggy landscape (like sporting successes etc) and we cling on to these things. When even these small lights are snatched away…
The aggrieved Chin fans immediately whipped up a Facebook page (“No to The Voice on TVJ”), and many of us “liked” it. We patted ourselves on the back as to the power of social media in Jamaica – TVJ listened, and made concessions. Which prompted the question, how come the Jamaican public can become so galvanized around a relatively small concern like this, but remains indifferent, resigned or bored by many of our most enormous and pressing social issues?
I’ll meet you in court: Earlier this week, as former politician Kern Spencer sat in court waiting for his long-delayed corruption case to come up (it was delayed for the third time in two weeks), he sat through the case of (still current, not former) Mayor of May Pen Scean Barnswell, who is charged with misleading the Contractor General. And lawyers for Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, former Information Minister Colin Campbell, Ministers Phillip Paulwell and Robert Pickersgill filed an appeal against a ruling handed down by the Constitutional Court in the matter of an alleged donation to the People’s National Party by the Dutch firm Trafigura. Our politicians were trying to get diplomatic immunity so that they would not have to testify in court. The Director of Public Prosecutions is not amused. Oh, and lastly, the case of contempt of court filed by a now-deported Dutch national from Curacao against Minister of National Security Peter Bunting comes up tomorrow.
The corridors of our courts are clogged with politicians – or at least, with their well-heeled lawyers. I’m tired of hearing the phrase, “I am consulting with my legal team…”
I don’t want to be a scare-monger, but… There have been reported cases of (and deaths from) “swine flu” in Barbados and Trinidad. The Cayman Islands government has issued an alert. Are our health authorities at all worried? And with swarms of big fat mosquitoes flying around after the daily rains (I just killed one that landed on my hand as I typed), is there a dengue fever prevention program taking place anywhere at all on the island? Over to you, Mr. Health Minister.
And again, why the silence? On the Portland Bight (Goat Islands) logistic hub issue? Aren’t we already past the deadline for the so-called “desktop study” to be completed? Is it finished, as some news outlets reported this week? And if it is (or is not), why the continued deafening silence? We have an Access to Information Act, which the Jamaica Environment Trust has used several times to try to obtain information from the Government. Nothing.
The impact of climate change: Perhaps our local journalists are afraid to tackle the science of it, but I would love to see much more in-depth reporting on climate change as it affect the region, Jamaica, and our daily lives. There’s no doubt that it will play an increasingly important role, affecting our livelihoods in as yet undetermined ways. And in fact, it already has – hence the need to do some kind of assessment. We need to sit up and take notice. A new study in the popular science magazine Nature predicts that Kingston, Jamaica will be the second city in the world (after somewhere in Indonesia) to experience greatly heightened temperatures in the next decade. Other cities will follow. Let’s find out more about how and why Kingston was singled out.
And today, in Kingston, there was hail. Yes, hail in the tropics. Please see the photo below from a tweep for the evidence of this.
I’m not handing out bouquets today. Next time…
Today on television, the Commissioner of Police complained that the Opposition Spokesman on Crime appeared to be “celebrating” the rising murder rate. No one is celebrating, Mr. Commissioner; but it is Mr. Chuck’s role and responsibility to point these things out. Or would you rather he said nothing, while the death toll rises? And is your way of “dealing with” gang violence in western Jamaica engaging in shootouts that result in the deaths of the alleged wanted men? Is that our strategy now, Minister Peter Bunting? That’s it?
My condolences to the families of all those who died, listed below – including the alleged gangsters, who will not get their day in court.
Rochel Davis, 25, Ocho Rios, St. Ann
Rohan DaCosta, 30, Montego Bay, St. James
Brad Gray, 25, Montego Bay, St. James
Killed by the police:
André Cox, Norwood Gardens, St. James
Odane Scott, Norwood, St. James
Unidentified, Grange Hill, Westmoreland
Related links and articles:
http://www.caribjournal.com/2013/10/05/dennis-chung-behaviour-and-economic-growth-in-jamaica/ Behavior and economic growth in Jamaica: Dennis Chung op-ed/Carib Journal
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Brand-Jamaica-needs-backative-_15209544 Brand Jamaica needs backative: Melody Cammock-Gayle column/Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131007/lead/lead1.html Energized: 360 MW third-ranked bidder questions OUR’s due diligence, claims it has cash ready for bond: Gleaner
http://www.smh.com.au/business/energy-world-does-fine-line-in-hot-air-but-not-much-lng-20120928-26qvt.html Energy World does fine line in hot air, but not much LNG: Sydney Morning Herald
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/ruling-expected-in-case-involving-dutch-national-and-national-security-minister Ruling expected in case involving Dutch national and National Security Minister: RJR News
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Bread-sold-by-the-slice-_15053101 Bread sold by the slice: Jamaica Observer
http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Americas/2013/1009/The-Caribbean-makes-strides-in-reducing-HIV-AIDS-in-babies The Caribbean makes strides in reducing HIV/AIDS in babies: Christian Science Monitor
http://www.westernmirror.com/index.php/permalink/6329.html No shipping port on Goat Island! Letter to the Western Mirror
http://www.iriefm.net/news/headline/environmental-group-yet-be-updated-goat-islands-project Environmental group yet to be updated on Goat Islands project: Irie FM
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/report-on-environmental-and-feasibility-study-on-goat-islands-ready Report on environmental and feasibility study on Goat Islands ready: RJR News
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131006/out/out1.html A feast of birds! Sunday Gleaner/Outlook
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131007/lead/lead7.html Bring reform to DPP’s office: Gleaner
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
Actually, the Ides of March were on Friday, March 15, just two days ago. We often hear the phrase “Beware the Ides of March,” without even understanding the sense of it. Blame Shakespeare. As a former student of Latin language and literature, I can assure you that the Romans were a highly superstitious lot, and very fond of omens. Reading animals’ entrails, birds, the weather, and all that. This period was not short of prophets of doom – and we have a few of those around ourselves, here in Jamaica.
It’s true that things are not looking rosy, in general. We were overwhelmed this week (and we knew it was coming) by the broadcast of a documentary on AXS TV on the “lotto scam,” narrated by Dan Rather, who visited Jamaica earlier this year. Segments were aired on CBS News and NBC News, and it was heavily publicized through Mr. Rather’s (and others’) social media outlets. Segments were, of course, aired on local television – including an interview with a young scammer in Montego Bay, who ran away when the journalist revealed that they were U.S. media. His face was clearly shown. I am not sure if you can download the full program somewhere – I’m not finding it online.
I understand that Mr. Rather is planning further investigations, so this may not be the end of this negative publicity. National Security Minister Peter Bunting had a sense of foreboding about this one, and rightly so. Since the testimony, and the documentary, there has been much discussion about the impact on so-called “Brand Jamaica.” Now, to me, Brand Jamaica is a fabrication of the politicians and tourism officials. How attractive is Brand Jamaica to ordinary Jamaicans, one of my friends asked on Twitter this week – “that is the real measure.” Indeed, but that is for another discussion. The government has naturally been scrambling to do “damage control,” according to local media. No reported “fallout” – yet.
But, why do the Americans have to clean up our mess again, other Jamaicans are asking? There are odd echoes of the “Dudus” affair… The same level of discomfort and a kind of humiliation. We are the bad guys, again. We are a very small nation, and we feel it. Yes, we take it to heart, even if we pretend not to.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging, headed by Democrat Bill Nelson of Florida, sat on Wednesday to consider the matter, at the urging of advocacy groups such as the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP). Minister Bunting had submitted written testimony. The recorded conversations between the criminals in Jamaica (what else can you call them?) and their sad, distressed elderly victims in Maine and other U.S. states; and the television interviews with them and their families – all made me cringe. It was very, very uncomfortable to watch and hear. A feeling of collective guilt infused many of the discussions on the matter – on radio talk shows, many expressed shame and at the very least, embarrassment. “Jamaica, the Nigeria of the Caribbean” was one online comment. We wondered how these old people could be so lonely, happy to hear the sound of a human voice even if it was that of a stranger with evil intent (I actually do consider the scammers evil, not a word I use lightly). Some called them “gullible” and “suckers” which I find unkind. Elderly people are vulnerable, almost like children.
My questions are: Why was the lotto scam allowed to continue for five or six years without any effective action being taken by the Jamaican government? Was the legislation – which the Senate will debate next week – only put together at the behest of the U.S. government? Who was/is benefiting from the lotto scam? Local politicians, businessmen, who exactly? Will they be brought to book? We all knew that Montego Bay has been booming for the last few years…How long will it take to extradite even one Jamaican – and how many are actually involved? Was someone “higher up” orchestrating the whole thing? Will the IT/call center business ever recover? Why was the local media, with some exceptions, unwilling to investigate over these past few years – were they under pressure?
According to at least one Opposition member, tourism is already in decline, even without all this unpleasantness. This is not good for our foreign exchange inflows, and I had heard that stopover visitors are seriously lagging behind cruise ship arrivals, even in the current winter tourist season. Suggestions are that cultural issues and environmental degradation are having a negative impact on visitors. Brand Jamaica is a tarnished mirror, in which we can hardly see ourselves any more, no matter how hard we try to wipe it clean. Let’s forget it.
And we should forget this one – quickly. Jamaica Tourist Board, what were you thinking? Here’s the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P9KSiitCnXg (Mr. Nicolaisen, I don’t blame you – you are an actor and you are making a living, but...)
There is no doubt that the lotto scam comes under the heading “organized crime” and must be dealt with accordingly. Extradition to the United States is fine in my book, so long as they are given a fair trial and brought to justice. And talking of organized crime, what is going on in west Kingston, the former domain of the aforementioned extraditee Christopher “Dudus” Coke? I hear rumblings that a new power structure is in place. If you visit Coronation Market regularly, you may have seen the signs.
Meanwhile, the police have taken a Kingston businessman into custody and he could face numerous charges, including murder and money laundering. But he doesn’t have a name – so he must be a “big man.” I am sure if he was from Arnett Gardens or Denham Town, we would all know his name, address and aliases right away.
Talking of foreign exchange: some local manufacturers are among those complaining about a shortage of foreign exchange. Former head of the Jamaica Manufacturers’ Association Omar Azan says the banks have waiting lists, and he was not able to get all the U.S. Dollars he needed to import raw materials. If this is a growing trend and it continues, there will be layoffs as production is cut. Opposition Finance Spokesman Audley Shaw already notes a “thriving black market” - he has been banging on about this for some time. More doom and gloom (if possibly exaggerated…in Audley Shaw’s somber tone…)
Do we need to be reminded of the “Cuban light bulb scandal”? It occurred during the previous People’s National Party administration, resulting in a corruption trial that is still not concluded. But hey! The program to provide free energy-saving bulbs from Cuba to poor households through Minister Phillip Paulwell’s energy ministry is back! That’s all we needed. Former junior minister Kern Spencer (who cried in Parliament when his Opposition counterpart accused him) has had his trial successfully postponed a number of times; he was first arrested over five years ago.
Well, I was on television myself last week. I appeared on CVM Television’s “Live at Seven.” I hope some of you were able to watch the program, which focused on whether pregnant teens should be “excluded” (in other words, kicked out) of high school or allowed to continue their education before and after giving birth. As Chair of Eve for Life Jamaica, I am firmly of the latter view. Education is empowerment, and many of these girls have suffered from rape, abuse, incest and are being punished for it. My co-panelist, the President-elect of the Jamaica Teachers Association, suggested that everything was fine and the girls can, at principals’ discretion, return to school (or a different school) afterwards. He also said that the state-funded Women’s Centre of Jamaica was most effective in supporting these vulnerable girls. In other words (as is often the case in these discussions on the media) one would be led to believe that all is hunky dory, and the system works perfectly… Unless one knew better, of course. In columnist Barbara Gloudon’s words, “It is the girl who must pay the price.” See her take on the issue, below…
More on this in another blog. Suffice it to say I was nervous as hell, this being my first television appearance; but I was impressed by Mr. Simon Crosskill, host of the program, and his great young production team. An excellent program. You can find the latest edition online here: http://www.cvmtv.com/videos_1.php?id=921§ion=live7 - updated daily.
A young lady I know and think highly of was also a guest on Power 106 FM’s youth program yesterday. Ms. Kemesha Kelly, who comes from a humble family in rural St. Ann, is a former Miss Jamaica Festival Queen. She is highly intelligent, enthusiastic and a terrific role model for girls. As usual, Ms. Kelly was overflowing with energy during her interview, discussing the “SWAG” (Something Worthwhile a Gwaan) initiative that she spearheads at the Marcus Garvey Youth Information Centre in St. Ann’s Bay. (A common refrain among youth is “Nutten Naah Gwaan” (nothing is going on). The project needs more funding support; if you are a local business or individual who would like to help, get in touch with Kemesha (or me).
When asked about the main challenges for Jamaican youth, Kemesha noted employment opportunities (lacking); crime and violence – youth are so often the victims and the perpetrators; and access to higher education, which she considers crucial. She is an aspiring human rights lawyer. I wish her all the very best…
More young people doing great (amazing) things: Over the last few days, the hotly-contested 103rd ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys’ and Girls’ Athletics Championships has taken the National Stadium by storm. Records broke left right and center, to the deafening sound of vuvuzelas (yes, they are still in use over here, unfortunately – we could hear them from our house!) Many congratulations to Calabar High School, who again came out on top, with two other Kingston boys’ schools, Jamaica College and Kingston College hot on their heels. The girls of Holmwood Technical High School overtook Edwin Allen High School, with St. Jago High School girls in third place – all, interestingly “out of town” schools in Manchester, Clarendon and St. Catherine respectively. Many, many congratulations to all! As someone observed, our successful athletes always rise above the divisiveness of Jamaican society. Do we care what political party they support, or which area of Kingston they come from? Of course not! They have transcended that political tribalism that breeds nothing but mediocrity.
And congratulations to all the winners of the Prime Minister’s Youth Awards. Special congratulations are due to Kimroy Bailey, a young engineer and fellow (award-winning) blogger who is highly focused on alternative energy. Let’s encourage those young people, in the sciences and other fields, who are doing the hands-on stuff and trying to raise awareness! We need those ideas. And action.
P.S. Just a word to journalists, especially the younger ones who are sometimes a little hurt when they are criticized. “Everyone tells us how to do our job,” one complained last week. Well, I for one will continue to criticize. As purveyors of the media product, you should also listen to what we – your consumers – have to say! I still maintain that there are far too many errors of spelling, grammar and pronunciation (some of them really embarrassing). And I also feel that browsing through the social media, commenting on what so-and-so is saying about such-and-such and reading it out, doth not good journalism make. It’s different if you are organizing feedback on a specific issue; fine. Otherwise, it looks like you are wasting time, and it’s irritating. It’s also not news – unless you suspect that the social media is more newsworthy than what your own radio/television station or newspaper produces?
This has been another week of terrible grief. The killing of three family members (including a fireman) in Westmoreland has traumatized the community where they live – and where they were setting up a small business, a cook shop. Residents of the lovely town of Lucea were horrified by a terrible murder/suicide (the suicide taking place in a busy public shopping plaza) which seems to have been the result of a woman trying to end an abusive relationship. My deepest condolences to the families, friends and neighbors. Whole communities in shock. We will all need group counseling, soon…
Omario Bryan, 17, Havannah Heights, Clarendon
Winston “Charlie” Dawkins, 63, Osbourne Store, Clarendon
Sean Powell, 31, Spanish Town, St. Catherine
Shane Stanley, 37, Green Acres, St. Catherine
Unidentified, Dyke Road/Portmore, St. Catherine
Unidentified, Dyke Road/Portmore, St. Catherine
Cameka Duhaney, 23, Lucea, Hanover
Sydney Smith, 43, Lucea, Hanover
Killed by police
Andrew Brydson, 28, Shrewsbury, Westmoreland
Tristan Brydson, 24, Shrewsbury, Westmoreland
Kingsley Green, 38, Shrewsbury, Westmoreland
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http://www.cvmtv.com/videos_1.php?id=900§ion=live7 Live at Seven on teen pregnancy/March 12, 2013: CVM Television
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RznaKL7n1Ss Javed Jaghai talks about human rights in Jamaica: youtube.com
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=43373 Police Federation awaits word from Cabinet: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Cops-kill-fireman–brother-and-cousin_13873042 Cops kill fireman, brother and cousin: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Murderous-rampage-in-Lucea_13877726 Murderous rampage in Lucea: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130311/lead/lead5.html Defense attorney troubled by lottery scam law: Gleaner
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads-112/33244 Government pushes public awareness on lottery scam impact: Jamaica Information Service
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/govt-dismisses-claims-of-being-slow-in-addressing-lottery-scam?utm_source=rjr&utm_medium=news Government dismisses claims of being slow in addressing lottery scam: RJR News
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=43472 Opposition supports extradition of scammers: Gleaner
http://www.aging.senate.gov/hearing_detail.cfm?id=340977& United States Senate Special Committee on Aging – Hearing on Lotto Scam: http://www.aging.senate.gov/ – Video and audio here: http://www.aging.senate.gov/hearing_detail.cfm?id=339898&
http://anniepaul.net/2013/03/15/doubletake-first-mattathias-schwartz-now-dan-rather-what-ails-jamaican-media/ Doubletake: First Mattathias Schwartz, now Dan Rather – what ails Jamaican media? anniepaul.net
http://chatychaty.com/2013/03/dan-rather-talks-about-investigating-the-jamaican-lottery-scam/ Dan Rather talks about investigating the Jamaican lottery scam: chatychaty.com
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130315/letters/letters2.html Americans continue to clean our house: Letter to Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/editorial/Make-the-scammers–lives-hell_13860009 Make the scammers’ lives hell: Observer editorial
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads-122/33255 Debate on lottery scam bill to continue on March 21: Jamaica Information Service
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Lottery-scammers-are-not-operating-alone_13865327 Lottery scammers are not operating alone: Mark Wignall column/Sunday Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Eradicate-the-culture-of-impunity-around-the-lottery-scam_13872254 Eradicate the culture of impunity around the lottery scam: Claude Robinson column/Sunday Observer
Dudus Part#2 – The Jamaican Lotto Scam extradition requests. (commonsenseja.wordpress.com) Dudus Part 2: The Jamaican lotto scam extradition requests: commonsenseja.wordpress.com
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/dpp-advises-police-to-charge-world-wise-operators DPP advises police to charge World Wise operators: RJR News
http://www.caribjournal.com/2013/03/15/jamaica-waives-visa-requirements-for-eastern-european-tourists/ Jamaica waives visa requirements for Eastern European tourists: caribjournal.com
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130313/letters/letters4.html Gangster country: Letter to the Editor/Gleaner
http://jamaica-star.com/thestar/20130313/news/news2.html Cops fight at police station: Jamaica Star
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130317/lead/lead2.html Businessman held in money laundering, murder probe: Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130317/lead/lead5.html Help needed: West Kingston’s plea: Sunday Gleaner
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/fears-of-a-child-trafficking-ring-dismissed-by-police Fears of a child trafficking ring dismissed by police: RJR News
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Baby-Madda–story-come-back-again_13865068 ”Baby Madda” story come back again: Barbara Gloudon column/Jamaica Observer
http://rhrealitycheck.org/article/2013/03/12/an-open-letter-to-caribbean-men-from-caribbean-women/?goback=%2Egde_118853_member_223341878#sthash%2EIhg06iZI%2Edpuf An open letter to Caribbean men from Caribbean women: rhrealitycheck.org
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130316/lead/lead6.html Nicola Hamilton on a mission to empower women: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130314/cleisure/cleisure3.html Do homosexuals have a place in Jamaica? Jaevion Nelson column/Gleaner
http://jamaica-star.com/thestar/20130316/news/news1.html Men beaten for “funny behavior”: Jamaica Star
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130315/letters/letters4.html Haitians were treated fairly: Letter to the Gleaner from Jamaican immigration chief
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130311/lead/lead2.html New China road deal: Gleaner
http://delanoseiv.wordpress.com/2013/03/12/tourism-in-major-decline-concerns-about-crisis/ Tourism in major decline: Concerns about crisis: delanoseiv.wordpress.com
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/rural-st-andrew-water-sources-fall-short-of-who-guidelines Rural St. Andrew water sources fall short of WHO guidelines: RJR News
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130313/lead/lead4.html Residents say bills too high: Gleaner
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/controversial-cuban-light-bulb-project-to-be-reintroduced Controversial Cuban light bulb project to be reintroduced: RJR News
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads-103/33221 Growth in export earnings: Jamaica Information Service
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Only-25–of-NHT-contributors-have-benefitted-in-37-years_13863877 Only 25% of NHT contributors have benefitted in 37 years: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/Too-many-hypocrites-in-Jamaica_13800895 Too many hypocrites in Jamaica: Letter to the Editor/Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-star.com/thestar/20130313/news/news1.html 68-year-old killed in shark attack: Jamaica Star
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130316/business/business3.html Turning trash into treasure: Biochar oven: Gleaner
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/trip-to-chavez-funeral-no-cost-to-government Trip to Chavez funeral no cost to government: RJR News
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Politicians-must-sacrifice-too_13626549 Politicians must sacrifice too: Francis J Mafar op-ed/Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Manley-Duncan–Shift-to–a-sacred-place-_13805888 Manley-Duncan: Shift to a “sacred place”: Jean Lowrie-Chin column/Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/magazines/allwoman/Change-is-possible—change-is-happening_13805613 Change is possible and change is happening: All Woman/Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/What-can-we-do-when-the–mother–school-system-fails_13782498 What can we do when the “mother” school system fails? Tashion Hewitt op-ed/Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130316/lead/lead3.html The wisdom of Old Folly – St. Ann residents unite for model community: Gleaner
http://carolynjoycooper.wordpress.com/2013/03/13/michael-freestylee-thompson-exhibits-at-the-university-of-the-west-indies-museum/ Michael “Freestylee” Thompson exhibits at the University of the West Indies Museum
http://www.tallawahmagazine.com/2013/03/home-front-christopher-john-farley.html Christopher John Farley keeps an open mind in life and art: Tallawahmagazine.com