I have been sitting at home today, struggling with the flu bug, reading a long series of live tweets from a forum intended to “educate” the Jamaican public on the wonderful benefits of the logistics hub. Some see the hub as the savior of the economy – a kind of magic bullet – while others do not want this development to take place within a major Protected Area, as projected. Residents appear concerned (and confused) about what benefits the hub will (or will not) bring them.
On one fundamental thing, most would agree: We know very little indeed about the logistics hub.
At a joint press briefing earlier this week (I would have reported earlier, but the flu kicked in soon after) the Scientific Officer at the Caribbean Coastal Area Management Foundation (C-CAM), the local non-governmental organization that manages the Portland Bight Protected Area told us that the project remains “mired in secrecy.” There is a total, and mystifying, lack of transparency. Not even the author of the so-called “scoping study” of the area, Dr. Conrad Douglas, has any details of the project. He just produced this study in a vacuum, it seems.
Several groups attended the briefing, hosted by the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) at its Earth House headquarters. Apart from C-CAM, Chairman of the Jamaica Conservation and Development Trust (JCDT) Robert Stephens was there; so were Professor Byron Wilson and Dr. Kurt McLaren of the University of the West Indies‘ (UWI) Department of Life Sciences. Representatives of the Jamaica Civil Society Coalition (of which JET is a member) were also present.
The scientists went on to critique aspects of Dr. Douglas’ study, as follows…
The literature review was totally inadequate. Dr. Douglas did not refer to some important studies that he should have consulted (see the list below, for your own research if you wish). A whole body of scientific work was ignored;
The scientific value of the study was seriously compromised by numerous factual errors and contradictory statements;
There was too much focus on Goat Islands, whereas the entire area should have been discussed. The Hellshire Hills, for example (where the Jamaican Iguana was “re-discovered” in 1990 after being considered extinct) was not even mentioned;
The author of the study did not consult at all with some pretty key entities, both government and non-government: C-CAM, which manages the area, and the National Environmental Protection Agency (NEPA), for example. He seemed to be writing it in a vacuum;
In its rush to comply with the wishes of China Harbour Engineering Company, the scientists are afraid that the government is taking short cuts and circumventing the proper processes. Everything is happening in the wrong order. An Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) should provide the basis for a decision to take the project for approval, not the ill-informed, hurried scoping study. They should not use the EIA afterwards;
There is no economic cost benefit analysis of this and several other alternative sites. This should also take place before any decision is made.
Alternative sites were rejected out of hand. Why? In response to a question on this from Television Jamaica’s Janella Precius, Mr. Hay said it was hard to suggest alternative sites when it is not know what exactly is envisaged (the size of the project, for example). Bowden Harbour in St. Thomas (a huge harbor, by the way that was used in the colonial era); Kingston Harbour, where much infrastructure already exists; or even Montego Bay or the north coast might have been possible. Anyway, Robert Stephens added, the onus should not be on non-governmental organizations to suggest locations; what a disingenuous throwaway line that was from some politician, a few weeks ago: “Well, why don’t you guys suggest somewhere?” or words to that effect. It seems that China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) has said “We want the Portland Bight Protected Area,” and the Jamaican Government has said, “OK, we will get round things and make it happen.” Minister Omar Davies already said in Parliament that no alternative was under consideration by CHEC or its enabler, the Government. “The government says it’s all or nothing,” said Mr. Hay.
What next, it was asked at the briefing? Well, Jamaica has signed onto a lot of United Nations Conventions. It would be in breach of these. And there is a long list of those conventions. JET has already indicated the possibility of legal action. And, most importantly, as Diana McCaulay said: “Much more engagement by ordinary Jamaicans is needed. Otherwise, we will fail.”
By the way, a note on the “two likkle lizard” (Minister Davies’ words) – in other words, the highly endangered Jamaican Iguana. The Goat Islands were actually suggested as a sanctuary for them back in 2003, I understand. No, there aren’t any iguanas there right now – and no one ever said there were! But they could thrive there.
And it’s not possible to do a “Noah’s Ark,” as Professor Wilson called it. You cannot simply transplant mangroves, or seagrass, from one area to another and expect it to thrive just like it was doing somewhere else. It was doing well somewhere else for a reason. (On our trip to Goat Islands, we saw a great deal of very healthy mangrove and seagrass). It has been proven, all over the world, that removing mangrove will reduce the coastal defenses against climate change – storm surges and so on. Also, did you know that mangrove forests retain the highest levels of carbon? In fact, the United Nations will buy your mangrove forests under its REDD program (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries). You can find more details at www.un-redd.org.
And how exactly do you “relocate” a fish sanctuary? The study was very dismissive of the “degraded” fish sanctuaries. We don’t know how lucky we are, said Dr. McLaren – we have rich resources. Volunteers come from around the world to study our biodiversity; he has a Colombian student doing research at the moment. Environmental awareness should be much more deeply embedded in the school curriculum, as we are “failing to excite public interest in the environment,” the panelists agreed.
Another participant, who came later in the conference, noted also that there will almost inevitably be pressure on the area’s fresh water supplies. Such matters were not mentioned in the Douglas study, by the way.
Now, today’s forum went on all day. (Incidentally, out of a total of 24 panelists there was only one woman – the patriarchy ruleth?) Dr. Douglas declared that his study was not an EIA (well, clearly) and that nothing – nothing – could be concluded from it. What was the point of doing it then, if it is so inconclusive? He did, however, betray his bias towards development, said Diana McCaulay. But at the end of it all, my friends on Twitter seemed as baffled as ever (even those who were vaguely in favor of the hub).
There was a Jimmy Cliff song called “Sitting in Limbo.” One of the lines goes, “…waiting for the dice to roll…” Well, here we all are. Plenty of time for soul-searching.
Or is it too late?
Two postscripts… more (unedited) comments from the petition website. They speak for themselves… One from a Jamaican, another from a scientist who has done much research in Jamaica and across the Caribbean.
This is pure natural beauty in it’s natural state, why provoke it? It help protect the main land shore land from storm surges and have some rare fauna and flora not seen anywhere else on the island and are breed ground for animals. I love my country very much and it means so much to me and others out there. We need to protect what we have left that is ours. When we destroy it for cash, what do we have left? and just imagine the consequences yet to come if we do so. Life is so precious and what we have others around the world would love to have what we are taking for granted. Please save the little beauty we have. - Andrae Treleven
As Executive Director of the nonprofit Avian Research and Conservation Institute in Gainesville, Florida, USA, I believe the trans-shipping port in Portland Bight would undoubtedly be harmful and potentially destructive to the ecology and large numbers of birds of many species that rely on the Portland Bight. This area, quite justifiably, is recognized internationally as being of great conservation significance to a high diversity of species, not only birds. This is yet another reason Jamaica has gained recognition internationally for having high regard for protecting vital natural resources. I respectfully implore you to identify all possible alternatives to damaging this ecosystem of international acclaim and importance. - Kenneth D. Meyer, Ph.D.
For more information, please contact:
Caribbean Coastal Area Management Foundation (CCAM): Brandon Hay, Scientific Officer. Tel: (876) 382-8543
Jamaica Environment Trust (JET): Diana McCaulay, CEO. Tel: (876) 469-1315
Jamaica Conservation and Development Trust (JCDT): Robert Stephens, Chairman. Tel: (876) 873-8191
Jamaica Civil Society Coalition (JCSC): Jeanette Calder, Acting Executive Director. Tel: (876) 878-3778
Professor Byron Wilson, Department of Life Sciences, UWI. Tel: (876) 870-2392
Dr Kurt McLaren, Department of Life Sciences, UWI. Tel: (876) 399-2315
Here are some of the important scientific studies that Dr. Douglas did not consider for his scoping study – omitted from the literature review:
Wilson, B. S. (2011). Conservation of Jamaican amphibians and reptiles. Conservation of Caribbean Island Herpetofaunas, 2, 273-310.
Davis, Suzanne Mae Camille, “Rethinking Biodiversity Conservation Effectiveness and Evaluation in the National Protected Areas Systems of Tropical Islands: The Case of Jamaica and the Dominican Republic” (2010). Theses and Dissertations (Comprehensive).
Tietze, U., Haughton, M., & Siar, S. V. (Eds.). (2006). Socio-economic indicators in integrated coastal zone and community-based fisheries management: case studies from the Caribbean (No. 491). FAO.
Cesar, H., & Chong, C. K. (2004). Economic Valuation and Socioeconomics of Coral Reefs: Methodological issues and three case studies. Economic Valuation and Policy Priorities for Sustainable Management of Coral Reefs, 14-40.
Linton, D., Jones, L., & Edwards, P. (2003). Preliminary Report of Coral Reef Monitoring of the Portland Bight Protected Area (PBPA). Centre for Marine Sciences, 10.
Wilson, B. S., & Vogel, P. (2000). A survey of the herpetofauna of the Hellshire Hills, Jamaica, including the rediscovery of the Blue-tailed Galliwasp (Celestus duquesneyi Grant). Caribbean Journal of Science, 36(3/4), 244-249.
Cesar, H. S. J., Öhman, M. C., Espeut, P., & Honkanen, M. (2000). An economic valuation of Portland Bight, Jamaica: an integrated terrestrial and marine protected area. Working paper 00/03, Institute for Environmental Studies, Free University, Amsterdam.
Cesar, H., Ohman, M. C., Espeut, P., & Honkanen, M. (2000). Economic Valuation of an Integrated Terrestrial and Marine Protected Area: Jamaica’s Portland Bight. Collected Essays on the Economics of Coral Reefs. CORDIO. Kalmar University, Kalmar, Sweden, 203-214.
Lazell, J. (1996). Careening Island and the Goat Islands: Evidence for the arid–insular invasion wave theory of dichopatric speciation in Jamaica. Contributions to West Indian Herpetology: A Tribute to Albert Schwartz, 195-205.
Vogel, Peter (1994). Evidence of reproduction in a remnant population of the endangered Jamaican iguana, Cyclura collei (Lacertilia: Iguanidae). Caribbean Journal of Science, 30(3-4), 234-241.
Woodley, J. D. (1980). Survival of the Jamaican iguana, Cyclura collei. Journal of Herpetology, 45-49.
Last time I visited Fort Rocky, along the road to Port Royal, I was in the company of archaeologist Heidi Savery and a band of intrepid Jamaican and American scholars and students. Yesterday could not have been more different. I was helping out at the registration tent of the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET), who organized one of the major activities for International Coastal Clean Up Day, September 21. The government’s National Environment & Planning Agency was toiling away not far down the road; and much cleaning was under way at many sites around the island.
The sky was an impenetrable grey, and when I arrived at 7:30 a.m. there was not a breath of wind. The ocean was still and opaque, with no sunlight to illuminate it. The beach behind Fort Rocky is on the open sea. The mangroves of Kingston Harbour (or what’s left of them, after the depredations of China Harbour Engineering Company’s work on the airport road) lie on the other side of this narrow spit of land. We set up in our tent, and waited for the invasion to begin.
Indeed, a veritable army of mostly young people descended on us throughout the morning – roughly two thousand, far more than expected. Eventually JET ran out of gloves and we at the registration table ran out of free bananas and other stuff. The early volunteers arrived and got straight to work. The later ones (including a horde of university students) found what work they could and then retreated inside the Fort Rocky compound for some relaxation (as is often the case in Jamaica, there was a certain amount of socializing). And we actually had to ship out some groups to a nearby site, as we were, as they say, “over-capacity.”
Meanwhile, the unruly pile of filled garbage bags slouched, and spread, and grew steadily higher until it was as tall as the tallest of us.
Some time after lunch, the Fort was quiet again. We could hear the sound of the waves. And the beach… Well, not a scrap of paper or plastic to be found.
Congratulations and thanks to the fantastic Jamaica Environment Trust team (led by energetic Program Director Suzanne Stanley), the amazing sponsors and all the great volunteers for making this a memorable day! I have added a few photos below – you can find a photo album on my Facebook page, too.
Related links and articles:
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130922/news/news4.html Huge turnout for International Coastal Cleanup Day: Sunday Gleaner
http://petchary.wordpress.com/2013/08/28/unprecedented-response-to-international-beach-clean-up-day-in-jamaica/ Unprecedented response to International Beach Cleanup Day in Jamaica: petchary.wordpress.com
http://petchary.wordpress.com/2013/01/19/reduce-reuse-recycle/ Reduce, reuse, recycle: petchary.wordpress.com
http://petchary.wordpress.com/2013/02/02/pollution-flowing-from-land-to-sea-the-un-caribbean-environment-programme-part-1/ Pollution flowing from land to sea: The UN Caribbean Environment Programme,, Part 1
http://petchary.wordpress.com/2013/09/06/lets-save-jamaicas-portland-bight-protected-area/ Let’s save Jamaica’s Portland Bight Protected Area: petchary.wordpress.com
http://www.upworthy.com/people-should-know-about-this-awful-thing-we-do-and-most-of-us-are-simply-unaware?g=3&c=ufb1 Trailer for “Midway,” a powerful documentary directed by Chris Jordan on the impact on wildlife of trash in our oceans. To donate to the makers of this film, please visit midwayfilm.com.
The streets are pretty dark in downtown Kingston at night. The daytime noise and scramble dies down. The waters of Kingston Harbour are still.
But next month, I can guarantee bright lights – and noise! The Digicel Foundation (and many Jamaicans) will be “shining a light” – with the help of a number of superb local sponsors – on the plight of Jamaicans with special needs. The Foundation’s second 5K Night Run/Walk will start on Saturday, October 26 at 7:00 p.m., leaving Digicel’s headquarters on Ocean Boulevard. The event will raise funds for eleven organizations: NAZ Children’s Centre, Genesis Academy, the STEP Centre, Mustard Seed Communities, Liberty Academy, Early Stimulation Plus, the Jamaica Association on Intellectual Disabilities, Jamaica Autism Support Association, Jamaica Association for the Blind, Jamaica Association for the Deaf and the Jamaica Down’s Syndrome Foundation (JSDF). The Digicel Foundation has really chosen a worthy cause to support. Many of these organizations are badly in need of funding, and the plight of men, women and children with special needs is often overlooked. The Run/Walk will supplement the J$100 million that the Foundation has already invested in the sector – an impressive sum.
You notice I call it “Run/Walk.” You can do either. Last year I walked at a fairly sedate pace, while the young, eager ones flew on ahead. It was a beautiful night; the air crackled with energy. Music greeted us on every street corner. And there were literally thousands of us! In fact, Digicel says there were more than 5,400 registered participants and an estimated 3,000 spectators. They are hoping for more this year (so I am expecting you, dear readers, to get up off that comfortable Saturday night couch or bar stool and get running/walking!) It was quite a historic moment, too – the first night walk in Jamaica or the Caribbean. Yes, Jamaicans like to do things a little differently!
The very first person to sign up for the event at the September 4 launch was Alfonso Cunningham, Jamaica’s gold-medal winning Paralympian and a Digicel Brand Ambassador. Mr. Cunningham is quite a celebrity and a wonderful example of grit and determination.
On your marks! Let’s go, and let’s help Jamaicans with special needs live a better life.
(And hurry up, please! Registration closes on Sunday, October 6 – or when numbers reach the event limit, whichever comes first).
- Individuals and teams can register online with either credit or debit cards at http://www.runningeventsja.com.
- A donation of J$1,000 is requested per person. Entries are NOT REFUNDABLE or TRANSFERABLE.
- Race numbers can be collected between Tuesday, October 22 and Friday, October 25 from 10:00am to 3:00pm at the Digicel Headquarters.
A note on the Digicel Foundation:
The Digicel Foundation is the largest local private sector foundation in Jamaica. Since its inception in 2004 the Foundation has invested over J$1.2 billion in communities in which Digicel operates islandwide. The Digicel Foundation has been proactive in the areas of Education, Special Needs, and Community Empowerment.
The Digicel Foundation has:
Invested over J$100 million in their Enrichment Initiative in partnership with the Ministry of Education to improve literacy at the primary school level islandwide.
Invested over J$38 million in resource rooms, including science and IT labs, in high schools island-wide.
Committed to building three Special Needs schools, two of which, the STEP Centre, and NAZ Children’s Centre broke ground in 2012.
Invested over J$60 million in Community Empowerment initiatives over the past four years, including $10 million annually and $15 million in 2012 to support the National Best Communities Competition and Program.
Invested $13 million in the ‘Back to Roots—Stronger Roots, Stronger Communities, Stronger Nation Project.’ The program aims to help community organizations become more self-reliant by facilitating their transition to social enterprises, by teaching them how to run sustainable community businesses.
Jamaica is bleeding. I feel it is not only the blood seeping from the veins of those who have been murdered by their fellow citizens – including the police. It is the slow and exhausting drip, drip, drip of life-giving energy from the country. Since I wrote my mid-week update on June 5, I have had a growing sense of this. Maybe it’s the increasing heat of early summer that’s getting to me.
Dead children: The Director of UNICEF in Jamaica, Robert Fuderich, is a forthright man – which I love. He gave a speech this week, expressing distress at the murder and abuse of Jamaican children. So, the head of UNICEF is upset. So are many Jamaicans, by the way. Is the Prime Minister upset, one wonders? She is a woman who, as I have said before, has often expressed her love of children in speeches. Could she have made a statement about the recent shocking murders? Even that? Better still, could she have visited the families and the communities affected, to grieve with them and to express her condolences? I am not demanding that Portia Simpson Miller responds in every case, but a nice appropriate public gesture would have been good. Too late now, by the way.
…and neglected: The National Road Safety Council is expressing deep concern at a huge (400%) increase in child pedestrian fatalities on the road this year. But this does not surprise me. Yesterday, the Gleaner’s front page story reported that children are being dumped on other people to look after, etc. As if this is news? Why don’t we realize that children aren’t adults. They are vulnerable.
Where is the Prime Minister? Have we seen or heard from her since her return from Africa? I have scoured the Jamaica Information Service pages, looked under the Office of the Prime Minister – and find nothing at all that relates to her. Has she made any speeches? Maybe I missed something. No ribbon-cuttings or ground-breakings? Is she sick? Is she on vacation? (I am not trying to start rumors – just trying to explore possible explanations).
Women suffering too: You may have noticed that women are murdered every week. Whatever the motivation – sometimes a jealous lover, other times gang violence – it is becoming increasingly common. I remember when the murder of a woman was a shocking and unusual occurrence – now it’s commonplace. The Jamaica Observer’s Karyl Walker (whom I have criticized recently) wrote a very painful report in today’s newspaper about a young woman who has ended up on the street, abused and unwanted. Can someone please help?
And talking of trips: I know, I am obsessed. As I asked in my last bulletin, what actually took place in Africa? What did the Prime Minister and her large delegation achieve? Since we paid J$8.6 million for the trip, I am still hoping for a report card. But it’s been two weeks or so since they all came home, laden with souvenirs no doubt. So, I don’t hold out much hope. Now, we understand that our amiable Agriculture Minister Roger Clarke will soon be off to China, with a small delegation, at the invitation of the Chinese Government (hopefully the Chinese are paying, so taxpayers don’t need to dig into their pockets again for this one).
Dusting off the begging bowl: Meanwhile, the Finance Minister has just returned from a trip round Europe - he might have to wait for the flood waters to subside, though. I am afraid he may end up getting us into deeper debt (although Europe is not exactly flush with funds at the moment). It’s just a thought, but if we are going for growth rather than plunging ourselves into deeper debt, perhaps a trade and investment team, with a few private sector representatives, would have been be smarter? He has at least commented on the trip, though. See below.
Psychological barrier: On Friday morning word went out that the J$ had reached 100/US$1. It closed slightly above. A collective shudder went through the Twittersphere and radio talk shows. This is the end, we all declared – or the beginning of the end. In theory, of course, the devaluation might benefit us by making exports cheaper. Oh, but…We’re not exporting anything are we? Where is the Jamaica Exporters’ Association? Long time, no hear.
Elusive growth: As Dr. Damien King, economics prof and head of our local think tank CaPRI tweeted a few days ago, “The average growth rate of the world’s poor countries over the last decade was 6%, cutting worldwide poverty by half during that time.” But again – that doesn’t apply to Jamaica, does it? We can’t manage any growth at all, at the moment. None in sight; and more worryingly, no clear strategy for growth.
“We don’t want INDECOM, we want outcome!” The police killed five people, since I last wrote, and in the space of a little over 24 hours. This was the cry of one resident – which made me laugh a little, as Jamaicans have such a way with words. But very serious too. I know that the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) is working as hard as it can but is hampered (by very late police reports, for example) – but can’t blame people for getting impatient.
Another twist: You may be tired of hearing about this saga by now, but just to let you know that Doran “mongrel dog” Dixon is back in the race for the presidency of the Jamaica Teachers’ Association, who have changed their mind and allowed him to run, after all. Meanwhile Mr. Paul “cocaine injection” Adams is not suffering any ill effects (he’s not running, anyway). I only hope that a sensible woman is elected to the presidency. I am tired of the male egos…
Earth matters: You know I am a big fan of CVM Television’s “Live at Seven.” I am glad that the program turned its attention to a whole bunch of niggling environmental issues that are not going to go away – the beach at Negril, for example.
Untouchable Usain: Some of my tweeps have been following the French Open tennis tournament, and were thrilled to see our very own Usain Bolt presenting the trophy to Rafal Nadal. I was a bit surprised. I thought it was usually rather dull officials (or royalty in the case of Wimbledon) who did this. The spotlight is supposed to be on the winner of the trophy – not on the presenter. I am told that Bolt is a “celebrity” so it is acceptable, and we are all proud of his achievements. But celebrities have a habit of popping up all over the place, like Kim Kardashian. I just thought it inappropriate, and upset several people on my Twitter timeline by suggesting that it was. Don’t get me wrong – I love Usain as much as anyone and have often praised him in my blog, but I don’t want it to get to the point where people say, “Oh no – not him again!” whenever he makes an appearance. He is worth more than that.
Still so much good things to say about…
- Dr Jean Beaumont, who has been doing great work as head of the USAID/Jamaica Basic Education Project. What could be more important than reading?
- Health writer Eulalee Thompson, who has a new blog and a new consulting practice. Find her at http://kingstontherapist.wordpress.com.
- Ambassador Pamela Bridgewater, who delivered a terrific speech on women’s leadership at the University of the West Indies‘ Faculty of Law on Thursday evening. I couldn’t make it, but hear the place was packed. I do have a copy of the speech, which I intend to post on this blog shortly.
- Dr. Rosalea Hamilton for her piece on nine-day wonders – with specific reference to the Richard Azan/Spaldings shops issue. Dr. Hamilton concludes, “It is time we move beyond complaining about our situation and seriously press for governance that is accountable to the people of this country.” Make your voice heard and put some pressure on.
- The Jamaica Medical Mission. We do tend to take this almost continuous stream of visiting medical teams, mostly from the United States, for granted. They often pay their way and sacrifice their vacations etc. to come over here and help Jamaicans who simply cannot afford to access our public health system. They are absolutely marvelous. I know the Jamaicans whom they treat appreciate their work; I hope the rest of us do, too. (This group of 157 doctors, nurses etc comes over every year and will treat at least 3,000 indigent Jamaicans).
- Nice to see an interesting report by environmental reporter Petre Williams-Raynor, now with the Gleaner. Check out her attractive blog, too. By the way, public consultations on the boundaries of our precious Cockpit Country are still ongoing. There is one in Kingston this week – I must check details.
- The Gleaner for two things: Firstly, its editorials have really hit the nail on the head in the past week. It’s worth reading them all. Secondly, on Friday evening its continuous, accurate tweeting of the World Cup qualifying match between Jamaica and the United States was streets ahead of the competition. Sprinkled, too, with marvelous photos from one of my favorite photogs, Mr. Ricardo Makyn. See a couple of the photos below…Hats off!
Petchary’s Pet Hate of the Week: Mosquitoes are plaguing us. Thank God for the electrifying plastic tennis racket – or the zapper, as it’s called in our house.
Petchary’s Quote of the Week: “Children are not just the future, they are the present” – Robert Fuderich, Director, UNICEF Jamaica.
The tragedies continue. Each Jamaican’s death is a tragedy for the families, friends. The following Jamaicans have died violently just in the past FOUR days:
Sophia Smith, 47, Mandeville, Manchester
Dwight Robinson, 28, Seaview Gardens, Kingston
Jerome Anthony Gooden, 33, Seaview Gardens, Kingston
Ricardo Lawes, 28, Seaview Gardens, Kingston
Omar Smith, 32, Seaview Gardens, Kingston
Killed by police:
Unidentified man, Kitson Town, St. Catherine
Junior Guy, Waterloo Villas/Tredegar Park, St. Catherine
André Ledgister, Waterloo Villas/Tredegar Park, St. Catherine
Kemar Thompson, Waterloo Villas/Tredegar Park, St. Catherine
Jevon Reid, 21, Granville, Trelawny
Related links and articles:
World Environment Day: June 5, 2013 (petchary.wordpress.com)
http://thinkjamaica.wordpress.com/2013/06/07/thanksgiving-service-for-the-jamaican-dollar-will-be-held-at/ Thanksgiving service for the Jamaican Dollar will be held at… ThinkJamaica.wordpress.com
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130607/news/news2.html “Jamaica debt burden a threat to human development” – UNDP: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130609/lead/lead1.html ”Don’t panic over sliding dollar”: Gleaner
Final chance for Jamaica, says Financial Times (commonsenseja.wordpress.com)
http://www.jis.gov.jm/component/content/article/111-ministry-of-science-technology-energy-and-mining/34169-minister-paulwell-urges-jamaicans-to-access-energy-fund- Minister Paulwell urges Jamaicans to access energy fund: Jamaica Information Service
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130607/business/business2.html Port divestment proceeds to dredge Kingston Harbour: Gleaner
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads/34162 Minister Hylton sets record straight on logistics hub: Jamaica Information Service
http://sonofstmary.wordpress.com/2013/06/06/democracy/ Anti-gay Christian groups undermine democracy: sonofstmary.wordpress.com
http://newsandviewsbydjmillerja.wordpress.com/2013/06/06/gay-rights-activist-seeks-to-challenge-belize-and-tt-laws/ Gay rights activist seeks to challenge Belize and TT laws: newsandviewsbydjmillerja.wordpress.com
http://perceptualpost.com/jamaica-observer-accused-of-staging-story-involving-gays-observer-report-tells-all/ Jamaica Observer accused of staging story involving gays: Perceptual Post
http://www.televisionjamaica.com/Programmes/AllAngles.aspx/Videos/26956 Discusion on homosexuality/All Angles/Television Jamaica, June 5, 2013
http://drtammyhaynes.wordpress.com/2013/06/07/homosexuality-choice-or-innate/ Homosexuality: Choice or innate: Dr. Tammy Haynes blog
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130606/lead/lead1.html ”We have the numbers”: Church leaders confident enough religious Jamaicans in island to prevent change to buggery law: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Woman-beaten–robbed–raped-in-Kingston_14442076 Woman beaten, robbed, raped in Kingston: Sunday Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Handling-of-rape-cases-irks-Montague_14444584 Handling of rape cases irks Montague: Sunday Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Allman-Town-wants-closure-to-boy-s-murder_14426032 Allman Town wants closure to boy’s murder: Sunday Observer
http://delanoseiv.wordpress.com/2013/06/06/g2k-writes-to-ocg-regarding-dead-silent-richard-azan-probe/ G2K writes to OCG regarding dead silent Richard Azan probe: delanoseiv.wordpress.com
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130416/lead/lead92.html Another nine-day wonder? Rosalea Hamilton op-ed/Gleaner
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/more-work-needed-on-spaldings-market-probe-arscott More work needed on Spaldings market probe – Arscott: RJR News
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/more-road-blocks-in-claremont-as-residents-continue-protest More road blocks in Claremont as residents continue protest: RJR News
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Jamaica-leading-project-to-address-underachievement-in-boys_14424128 Jamaica leading project to address underachievement in boys: Jamaica Observer
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/montaque-questions-nicholson-on-status-of-reported-rape-cases Montaque questions Nicholson on status of reported rape cases: RJR News
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130606/cleisure/cleisure3.html Condoms aren’t aphrodisiacs: Jaevion Nelson column/Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130606/cleisure/cleisure4.html The crime of “uncontrollable”: Patrick Lalor op-ed/Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Cabinet-approves-new-policy-for-pregnant-schoolgirls_14434151 Cabinet approves new policy for pregnant schoolgirls: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/UNICEF-concerned-about-child-killings_14424458 UNICEF concerned about child killings: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130607/lead/lead4.html Disabled, elderly should get free health care – CaPRI study: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130606/news/news4.html Reading coaches initiative making a positive difference: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130607/lead/lead5.html Dixon back in the race: Gleaner
https://blogs.worldbank.org/latinamerica/animation-could-mean-jobs-and-serious-business-jamaican-youths Animation could mean jobs and serious business for Jamaican youths: World Bank
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130607/lead/lead3.html Trench Town Ceramics and Art Centre – Using art to save the youth: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Downtown-Kingston-vendors-protest_14434985 Downtown Kingston vendors protest: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130607/news/news3.html 3,000 indigents to benefit from medical mission: Gleaner
http://wordsfrompetre.webs.com Petre Williams-Raynor environmental blog
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130607/news/news1.html Inside Cockpit Country: Project eyes conservation of key biodiversity areas: Gleaner
It’s warm, bright and it’s Wednesday, which means my mid-week bulletin on Jamaican comings and goings is due. Here goes…
First shops, now houses? I am very sorry that the wonderful charity Food for the Poor, which does so much for Jamaica, has been dragged into a new story of alleged political corruption in South Trelawny. It seems to be a sort of political counterpoint to the Richard Azan saga, since it involves a Jamaica Labour Party Member of Parliament this time. There are claims from residents, an independent local councilor and others that Marisa Dalrymple-Philibert (what a great name!) has ensured the distribution of wooden houses constructed by Food for the Poor to residents loyal to her party. She denies this, and there were some inaccuracies in the early claims, which Food for the Poor corrected. We shall see what happens after Food for the Poor, which is known for its adherence to accountability and transparency, has done its own investigation into the matter. They should conclude this by the end of the week. I’m beginning to think that Members of Parliament should not be involved in the distribution of any kind of benefits within their constituencies. Perhaps, instead, they could live in their constituencies, and represent them properly in Parliament. Let’s get away from the “scarce benefits and spoils.”
The children: Today is the first day of Child Month – a month when the Government pays lip service to Jamaican children. There are various feel-good events and lots of pictures of sweet, laughing children and politicians patting them on the head. But a child in Jamaica is an endangered species, like the African elephant. Children are actively discriminated against. At best, they are ignored. At worst, they are abused, physically, mentally, sexually, and locked up. Many of those in conflict with the law are labeled “uncontrollable,” bad boys and girls who should be “disciplined.” I have written numerous blog posts on children’s rights in the past. Congratulations to Jamaicans for Justice, who today started a series of articles on children’s rights in the Gleaner. See link below.
The Jamaican Child at Risk: And on the first day of Child Month, I read reports about students of Calabar High School attacking a bus driver in Kingston; a 12-year-old girl found hanging from a mango tree; the body of an abducted schoolgirl found in a cane field; and a student of Robert Lightbourne High School in serious condition after being stabbed at the school in rural St.Thomas today.
PM budget speech: Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller made her contribution to the Budget Debate yesterday. Time consumed: well over two hours (her Opposition counterpart spoke for a good three hours!) Perhaps taking a cue from Mr. Holness, the Prime Minister was less confrontational than usual and dropped the hectoring tone for the most part. As a result, it was easier to listen to, without the usual feeding-time-at-the-zoo background noise. She kicked off by professing her love for the poor, mentioned some houses distributed and ground she has broken (in one case at least, with emotion), and used the word “transformation” over fifty times (note to speechwriters: that really is overkill). She wrapped up with several mentions of the word “God” and the usual exhortations to unite and work together… In between, there was little of substance and a lot of fluff (fond as I am of the Sunshine Girls – our national netball team – I don’t see the need to include them in a budget speech).
A couple of concerns: The Prime Minister announced that our new, oriental colonial masters (China Harbour et al) have changed their minds about developing a transshipment port in the Kingston Harbour area near Fort Augusta women’s prison. This decision was made “a few weeks ago.” They have decided to do a bigger, better project somewhere else (“final location undetermined”) in Jamaica instead. This puzzles me and also raises questions about the development of the logistics hub and preparations for the expansion of the Panama Canal. And talking of the hub, what is actually happening now, and what needs to happen by the deadline/s for Jamaica to be competitively “in” on the thing? I have a feeling deadlines are looming, and the Prime Minister proudly announced that party stalwart Professor Gordon Shirley will head a National Taskforce “that will drive the process.” Why in the future – shouldn’t it be happening now?
The NHT again: Yes, another heavy burden will be placed on the National Housing Trust (NHT) this year. The Prime Minister announced that the Trust would have to cough up more for the Inner City Renewal Program and other major projects.
The Tivoli forest: An absolute forest of trees has been cut down for the printing of the long-awaited interim report on the Tivoli Gardens Massacre of May, 2010. We heard that the report would be tabled in Parliament yesterday. This did not happen, since they had not finished printing 63 copies (200 plus pages each). One journalist asked why they couldn’t just use the tablets that Technology Minister Phillip Paulwell had kindly given to each Member of Parliament just recently?
Tweeps find a voice: This morning, broadcast journalist Emily Crooks invited her faithful “tweeps” to comment on the Prime Minister’s speech. So several of us piped up and shared our thoughts on the radio. It was interesting to hear human voices in place of the regular comments on my TweetDeck. Emily and her co-host Naomi seemed rather pleased with us, and we got some compliments about our commentary! Thanks for giving us the opportunity, Em…
Revenge of the security guard: Ambassador Courtney Walsh has refused to accept an apology from the Jamaica Cricket Association for his treatment at the hands of a security guard. He wanted to enter a particular section of Sabina Park, Kingston’s cricket ground and was flatly refused. Now, anyone who lives in Kingston has probably run the gamut of security guards at every business place, government office, shopping plaza or residential complex one might visit. They are extremely poorly paid, work very long hours in poor, sometimes dangerous conditions, and are often grumpy, arrogant and mean. We have to put up with it. They are “doing their job,” as was this particular guard, no doubt. I suppose the phrase “Do you know who I am?” came up. Anyway, the famous sportsman is pretty upset.
Stop press: The interim report on the Tivoli Gardens Massacre has finally been tabled in Parliament this afternoon. Oh, no! I take that back. It wasn’t. Or was it? Yes! It was, and it’s available online, so more trees are spared. Please see the link below. Coincidentally, the New Yorker journalist Mattathias Schwartz writes a follow-up report on the killing of over seventy Jamaicans allegedly at the hands of the security forces, along with a four-minute video. You can find it on the magazine’s online pages. Schwartz visited Jamaica, wrote extensively on the “incursion,” and has now released surveillance footage from the U.S. Government, after filing a lawsuit to obtain it. See for yourself at the link below. And…Today the International Monetary Fund approved Jamaica’s application for a four-year extended fund facility, worth US$958 million. Yay! Now, don’t spend it all at once, will you? You can’t? Oh well… First US$200 million installment coming soon, anyway.
Let’s hear it for the Alpha Boys: I spent some time late last year at the Alpha Boys School in Kingston while volunteering with the JN Foundation. It was Christmas, and the boys were exuberant, energetic and participated in a highly competitive dance competition (Gangnam Style). Congratulations to overseas-based Jamaican artist Michael Thompson, special projects manager at Alpha Joshua Chamberlain, the Bob Marley Foundation and all the other individuals and organizations involved in the Alpha Boys’ revival, including its “rebranding.” The boys will be producing and selling branded shirts; for more details contact Alpha Service Bureau at 930-2200 or email@example.com.
I Believe in Spring Village: A huge pat on the back too, to Randy Finikin of the Spring Village Development Foundation for his great community work over the years; and thanks to the Governor General for his support and the construction of an I Believe Medical Centre under his special I Believe Initiative in Spring Village. You can read more about the program here: http://www.ibelieveinitiative.org.
See you on Sunday for the next bulletin!
My condolences to the families of the following Jamaicans, who have been brutally murdered since Sunday, April 28:
Harry Bunwarrie, 28, Thompson Pen, St. Catherine
Sebert Wilks, 70, Bushy Park, St. Catherine
Gerald Wilks, 60, Bushy Park, St. Catherine
Abigail Robb, 15, Clarks Town, Trelawny
Nigel Watson, 38, Somerton, St. James
André Roper, 26, Montego Bay, St. James
Related links/articles (purple links are local blogs):
http://japarliament.gov.jm/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=945:office-of-the-public-defender-interim-report-to-parliament-concerning-investigations-into-the-conduct-of-the-security-forces-during-the-state-of-emergency-declared-may2010&catid=7:general-reports&Itemid=22 Office of the Public Defender Interim Report to Parliament Concerning Investigations into the Conduct of the Security Forces during the State of Emergency: Jamaican Parliament (pdf files)
http://www.jis.gov.jm/docs/PM_Speech_Final_web.pdf Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller‘s Budget Speech, April 30, 2013: Going for Growth and Development
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130428/lead/lead1.html Who got the houses? Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=44467 Dalrymple Philibert says house allocations not politically aligned: Gleaner
http://foodforthepoorja.blogspot.com/2013/04/press-release-food-for-poor-reaffirms.html Food for the Poor Jamaica reaffirms its modus operandi of transparency and accountability: Food for the Poor blog
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/NHT-AGAIN_14178454 Government raids Trust to fund major projects: Jamaica Observer
http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/newsdesk/2013/05/video-massacre-in-jamaica.html Traces of a massacre: Mattathias Schwartz/New Yorker
http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/from-1-battlefield-to-another-us-tries-2-new-aerial-tools-to-search-for-drugs-in-caribbean/2013/04/27/43ceea30-af30-11e2-b59e-adb43da03a8a_story.html# From one battlefield to another: U.S. tries two new aerial tools to search for drugs in the Caribbean: Washington Post
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130429/lead/lead2.html Danzil Clarke was clueless: Man who robbed Bunting’s friends was unaware of who his victims were: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130501/lead/lead4.html Thieves jet off with $20 million worth of airplane fuel: Gleaner
http://repeatingislands.com/2013/04/28/carolyn-cooper-changing-dirty-diapers-on-earth-day/ Changing dirty diapers on Earth Day: Carolyn Cooper column/Sunday Gleaner
http://delanoseiv.wordpress.com/2013/05/01/we-need-a-leader-like-thatcher/ We need a leader like Thatcher: Delano Seiveright blog
http://www.caribjournal.com/2013/04/29/jamaica-to-receive-eu-health-grant/ Jamaica to receive EU health grant: Carib Journal
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130501/cleisure/cleisure4.html Quotas crucial to righting scale of gender imbalance: Linnette Vassell op-ed/Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130429/lead/lead4.html “Fewer women screened for cervical cancer”: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130501/cleisure/cleisure3.html Where has our sense of community gone? George Davis column/Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/sport/JCA-apologises-to-Courtney-Walsh_14177824 JCA apologizes to Courtney Walsh: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130430/ent/ent2.html Alpha Boys reborn: Gleaner
http://www.caribjournal.com/2013/04/29/sheryl-sandbergs-lean-in-and-jamaica/ Sheryl Sandberg‘s “Lean In” and Jamaica: Marcia Forbes op-ed/Carib Journal
http://www.jamaicans.com/articles/primecomments/jamaicanentrepreneurshipsellingdreams.shtml Selling dreams and unrealistic hope – Jamaicans being pitched to be an entrepreneur: Jane Nina Buchanan article/jamaicans.com
Sunday Thoughts: April 28, 2013 (petchary.wordpress.com)
Playing Politics With Jamaica’s Future (petchary.wordpress.com)
Maggie and Me: Some Thoughts on Leadership (petchary.wordpress.com)
On the Sunday after Hurricane Sandy, with spirits somewhat restored, we spent the day with a new friend from Suriname. The gloom of the storm in the endless mists and forests of the Blue Mountains still weighed a little heavily, and our friend was far from home. So we endeavored to lighten her load (and ours, into the bargain) with a visit to the National Gallery of Jamaica.
We did not regret it.
As I noted in a recent post, a strong move is under way to “revive” the downtown area of Kingston. This can only work to the benefit of a cultural oasis like the National Gallery – a government entity, but certainly not dull or lacking in variety and vibrancy. The NGJ’s mission statement is “to collect, research, document and preserve Jamaican, other Caribbean Art and related material and to promote our artistic heritage for the benefit of present and future generations.” This is something which Executive Director Veerle Poupeye and Assistant Curator O’Neil Lawrence put into practice every day. Moreover…with her small and enthusiastic team, Ms. Poupeye has also, in her quiet, determined way, greatly expanded the Gallery’s outreach through innovative programs, such as its monthly Sunday openings (the last Sunday of each month from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.) These are free and include guided tours, musical interludes, children’s activities…and simply the enjoyment of permanent as well as current exhibitions.
Now, it is well worth while spending some time downtown, as we did, where the waters of Kingston Harbour sparkle brilliantly and the city somehow seems to regain its personality in the calm of a Sunday lunchtime. The day was quieter than usual, as the good citizens of Kingston pulling their affairs back together after the storm. But we had had enough of sweeping and cleaning and clearing up, and wanted to refresh ourselves; and we found many friends and acquaintances eager to do the same.
While we were away (or “off the island” as Jamaicans like to say) a remarkable exhibition opened at the National Gallery: the winners of the First International Reggae Poster Contest went on display. There were 1,142 entries from 678 designers in eighty countries – from every corner of the planet – an indicator, of course, of reggae music’s extraordinary global resonance. The first prize winner was Alon Braier, from Israel, who visited Jamaica for the exhibit opening. His piece was a serious portrayal of the “Roots of Dub.” The central figure, the engineer/producer, has one finger poised to press a button on the amplifier; in one corner, roots musician Augustus Pablo plays his haunting melodica tunes; in the other, a rather stoned-looking Lee “Scratch” Perry half-smiles, enigmatically.
Second prize, from Turkey, is completely different: a dazzling five-point, red gold and green star; third prize, from Italy, is a flowing portrayal of a singer with birds nesting, resting and then flying from his dreads with the logo, “Riddim is Freedom”; fourth – and one of my personal favorites – from Poland, is a fine portrait of veteran reggae singer Winston Rodney (Burning Spear); and fifth is a Jamaican entry full of vigor and complexity by Taj Francis, a graduate of Kingston’s Edna Manley College for the Visual & Performing Arts. The “top ten” can be found on the contest’s website – link below; including #10, which I find quite beautiful, from Greece.
All I can say is that we were so overwhelmed and impressed by the diversity of the 100 posters on show that we realized it must have been incredibly hard for the fifteen international judges to pick the very best. Some reflected the lyricism of roots reggae; some expressed the harder, more aggressive mood of dancehall and the first deejays; others simply celebrated the music, interpreting its messages for the most part as peace, love and harmony. I have posted a few other favorites of mine below, so that you can see the amazing range of moods and interpretations.
Reggae music is complex. It is not one thing. It is not just rhythm and baseline – although these are important components, to draw you in. It is so much more – and the “more” is what this ground-breaking exhibition encompasses – the quiet philosophy, the raw emotion of reggae music, for better or for worse.
Now to the even more important part: The posters are to be auctioned off this weekend – yes THIS weekend - at the National Gallery of Jamaica on Sunday, November 11 at 2:30 p.m. All proceeds will go to the Alpha Boys School (which deserves at least another blog post for itself), where many of Jamaica’s musicians got their training with the Alpha Boy’s Band. Alpha Boys is no ordinary boys’ school; it was, in fact an orphanage, founded by the Roman Catholic Sisters of Mercy in 1880 on Kingston’s South Camp Road. The flyer below shows Sister Mary Ignatius Davis, the iconic head of the school for an astounding 64 years, who passed away in 2003. The school teaches music and as well as academics has a strong focus on vocational training for boys from very deprived backgrounds (a number of them were homeless, alone, and without family, but Alpha takes care of them, gives their lives structure – and brings music). The illustrious alumni of Alpha include jazz trumpeter Dizzy Reece, singers Leroy Smart and Johnny Osbourne, pioneering dancehall deejay Yellowman; trombonist Rico Rodriguez; founding members of the legendary Skatalites, Tommy McCook, Lester Sterling and Dizzy Moore – among many others. What better beneficiary could there be?
The Alpha Boys are more than half-way downtown. Another important arrow in the bow that the poster competition has let fly is the campaign to build a Reggae Hall of Fame on Kingston’s waterfront. Something along the lines of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio, which I have visited and which is a delightfully brash and enticing attraction on the lakeside, built of glass and steel. As a huge rock fan since the age of ten, for me it was like visiting a cross between a shrine and a garden of unexpected delights (their small but intimate exhibit on the Doors moved me nearly to tears, when I visited). I hope the reggae version might be something similar, for the true fan. On the Reggae Hall of Fame’s Facebook page (why don’t you “like” it?) Michael Thompson describes the vision as “a new approach for Kingston’s development, linking reggae with urban revitalization.” Aha.
So there you have it. Please come down on Sunday to bid for your favorite poster – or, if you cannot afford it, just enjoy a final look at the exhibit. The exhibition officially closes TOMORROW!
For more details, visit the National Gallery of Jamaica website or contact them via their blog, Facebook page or on Twitter. Support Jamaican art, and especially this amazing initiative!
http://natgalja.org.jm/ioj_wp/ (National Gallery of Jamaica website)
http://nationalgalleryofjamaica.wordpress.com (National Gallery of Jamaica blog)
http://www.reggaepostercontest.com (First International Reggae Poster Contest: website)
http://www.alphaoldboysassociation.com/history.html (Alpha Old Boys’ Association: History of the School)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120917/ent/ent2.html (Alpha Boys’ Home gets Royal Philharmonic treat: Jamaica Gleaner)
http://freestylee.net/tag/reggae-hall-of-fame-propaganda/ (Posters for Reggae Hall of Fame)
http://www.reggaehalloffame.com (Reggae Hall of Fame.com)
A Pause for Refreshment…and Art to Soothe the Soul (petchary.wordpress.com)
Sticks and Stones (petchary.wordpress.com)
What to See and Do in Kingston (channelvoyager.com)
Post-Sandy Cheer, Part One: Gastronomic (petchary.wordpress.com)
National Gallery of Jamaica’s Saturday Art-Time (repeatingislands.com)
National Gallery To Open ‘World-A-Reggae’ Exhibition (repeatingislands.com)
VIDEO: Hurricane Sandy hits Jamaica coast (bbc.co.uk)
A few more of my favorite posters, below:
- Clarks, the shoes that tap to Jamaica’s reggae beat (guardian.co.uk)
- Heart on sleeves: 50 years of Jamaican album covers tell the story of a nation (independent.co.uk)
At dawn she is cool and quiet, still holding the mysteries of the night reefs. As the sun rises, she spreads out like a glittering party dress, sequined in silver-white. In the heat of the summer day, she tries to merge with the sky, blurred and shifting at the edges. As the afternoon comes and with it the trade winds of summer, she becomes restless and foam-tipped. When evening comes, she sinks into the sunset, painting herself briefly with its colors. At night she reflects only starlight, and dreams while the sharks roam. This is our Caribbean Sea.
Our sea is a stone that changes color with the light, from opal to turquoise to indigo blue. But those colors are changing. The blood of its creatures that we humans kill is leaking into the blue, dark and stinking. The filth that we produce on our small islands is constantly seeping into its waters: garbage - plastic bags, plastic bottles, sanitary napkins, diapers, dead dogs, half-eaten burgers and beef patties, toothpaste tubes, beer cans and much more; poisonous chemicals that we spray onto our crops; half-treated or untreated sewage; all kinds of waste from factories and shops and the docks and the ships that pass through the harbors.
The blood. Dear reader, you may or may not be aware that the International Whaling Commission (IWC) recently met as it does regularly, to decide the fate of these unfathomably beautiful creatures around the world. As usual, it was politics and power play, and tiny nations such as ours in the Caribbean are caught in the middle of it all and used as pawns to be pushed this way and that. Our votes are important for those countries that persist in hunting whales. And so it came to pass that a presentation by Brazil, South Africa, Argentina and Uruguay to establish a South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary was defeated at the IWC’s recent meeting. St. Kitts & Nevis, Antigua & Barbuda, Grenada and St. Lucia joined the whaling nations (Japan, Iceland, Norway) and some small Pacific islands in opposing the whale sanctuary; St. Vincent and the Grenadines (which already hunts whales) abstained from the vote.
They should be ashamed of themselves. As a resident of the Caribbean, I am ashamed of them.
Indeed, St. Vincent and the Grenadines (where the “Pirates of the Caribbean” films have been made) has asked the IWC if it can hunt down and kill 24 humpback whales over the next five years. This is on the basis of a “super-proposal” by St. Vincent, the United States and the Russian Federation for so-called “aboriginal” subsistence whaling. Yes, the aboriginal peoples of St. Vincent need to kill these humpback whales, for their own survival. And who are these aborigines of St. Vincent, you may well ask? Where are they? Well, you tell me. I thought (I could be wrong) that the Caribs had died out decades ago, although there may be some descendants left – a few.
By the way, according to environmental societies such as the American Cetacean Society and others, these “Vincentian aborigines” use speedboats to pursue the humpbacks, targeting calves that will lure them to their mothers, and using other illegal methods. They also allegedly hunt down and kill other marine mammals illegally – such as the orca (they may already have slaughtered a few orcas so far this year). They have reportedly not provided data or reported to the IWC on their whale-killing activities. According to an IWC Watch blog (link posted below), the St. Vincent Whaling Commissioner literally shouts down anyone who dares question their need for dead whales. In a somewhat hysterical speech (see link below for the full text), St. Kitt’s Commissioner accused those opposing the “aboriginal” proposal of racism and colonialism; while St. Lucia asserted that there are in fact many full-blooded indigenous peoples in the Eastern Caribbean. The Dominican Republic questioned this; and said it is making money taking tourists on whale-watching trips (so are the Turks and Caicos Islands, by the way). To which St. Lucia retorted, “I say to the Dominican Republic, you can conduct your whale watching while SVG (St. Vincent and the Grenadines) conducts its hunts.”
Wow. If I was a humpback whale, I know which part of the Caribbean I would rather hang out in.
And what of the tourists, by the way – since the Caribbean is undoubtedly very dependent on them? How delighted would they be to know that the residents of the idyllic island on which they spend their dream honeymoon are a little ways out from the shore, pursuing baby whales in speedboats, and filling the beautiful sea they love to splash about in with the blood of humpbacks? What if they were on a boat trip or cruise and actually witnessed such “aboriginal” activity for themselves? After all, these are small spaces we are talking about – it could happen… What if (as I intend to do) environmentally conscious tourists avoided these islands and visited eco-friendly islands instead?
And talking of environmentally conscious tourists, another apparent disaster occurred last week which shows the combination of carelessness and ignorance which typifies much of the Caribbean people‘s (and governments’) approach to the environment. First reports suggested that thousands of eggs and hatchlings of the highly endangered leatherback turtle were reportedly crushed and destroyed by government bulldozer that were attempting to divert a river that was apparently causing problems for the Mt. Plaisir Estate Hotel in Trinidad and nearby homes. Later, we were told it was merely hundreds of leatherbacks, and that the river diversion was necessary to save millions of turtles in the future. Ironically and very sadly, thousands of tourists stay at the hotel every year just to see the baby turtles hatch on this famous nesting beach.
There is a postscript to this – a comment on the Washington Post website “from Steven Greenleaf – President of the Caribbean Institute of Sustainability. I was there at the event today in Grand Rivere. I have years of training and experience as an ecologist and natural resource conservationist. NOT ONE person that I spoke to or heard speak who is actually involved in turtle conservation there, including biologists, conservationists, scientists, guides, or commmunity members was critical of the project to re-direct the river. NOT ONE. Thousands of turtles dead from the project……..not true. Did not happen. The river’s new course meant that the nests were being innundated by fresh water, preventing incubation. The turtles were dead before they were dug up. The fact is that the intervention will save thousands of turtle hatchlings, and the properties which were being eroded. Certainly the project could have been handled far better in terms of communication and planning. However completely non-factual and sensationalised reporting and outright fabrication of “facts,” achieves nothing of value and is counter productive in terms of improving environmental management in T&T.” Not all environmentalists appear to agree with him. The Ministry of Tourism also put out a statement and held a press conference, noting, “We are deeply saddened by the unfortunate statements circulating in the media on the “assumed” destruction of the turtle nesting ground at the Grande Riviere Beach in Trinidad.” Assumed. OK.
I feel really sorry for the hotel owners and do hope that their efforts to attract tourists will not be ruined by this. They have a beautiful website and obviously care deeply for the environment.
After all that….Thankfully Jamaica does not have a “whaling tradition” and is not a member of the IWC. However, we are playing our part in damaging our marine eco-systems. We are busy over-fishing our waters; and in an act of desperation – or sheer laziness – some fishermen are still blowing the fish out of the sea with dynamite, causing untold damage. A few days ago, a truck driver (possibly speeding, though we don’t know the cause yet) had an accident “negotiating a corner” on the road that sweeps round downtown Kingston by the sea. The truck tipped over, spilling oil into the ocean and causing a “minor fish kill.” I was actually surprised that there were any fish still living in Kingston Harbour (the eighth largest natural harbor in the world) – which has often been described as a “cesspool.” A friend told me that she had personally witnessed effluent of various kinds (I won’t go into detail) pouring from a cruise ship into the sea at Ocho Rios, St. Ann; others have seen human faces floating past them while bathing in other resorts.
When will we start respecting our beautiful Caribbean Sea? For how much longer can our sea, and its creatures, endure this abuse?
Please support local non-governmental organizations like the Caribbean Coastal Area Management Foundation (C-CAM) which has established fishing sanctuaries off the south coast; and the Jamaica Environment Trust, which has conducted sea turtle workshops and numerous other programs and environmental campaigns – including a protracted but highly successful legal battle that finally stopped sewage from being poured into the sea at Harbour View, near Kingston. C-CAM can be contacted at (876) 986-3344; (876) 289-8253; Fax: (876) 986-3956; email: firstname.lastname@example.org; street address: Bustamante Drive, Lionel Town, Clarendon; mailing address: P.O. Box 33, Lionel Town, Clarendon, Jamaica, W.I. The Jamaica Environment Trust is at (876) 960-3693; (876) 906-9783; (876) 906-9385; Fax: (876) 926-0212; email: Address: Earth House, 11B Waterloo Road, Kingston 10, Jamaica Their website links are below. There are many other community-based, local environmental groups that also deserve our support. Do what you can.
- Caribbean Scuba Spotlight on diving in the TURKS AND CAICOS (turkscaicosluxuryvillas.com)
- http://iwcblogger.wordpress.com/2012/07/02/south-atlantic-whale-sanctuary-fails-to-pass-iwc-vote/#comment-347 (South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary fails to pass IWC vote)
- http://iwcblogger.wordpress.com/2012/07/03/is-that-rain-or-just-st-vincent-the-grenadines/ (Is that rain, or just St. Vincent and the Grenadines?)
- http://iwcblogger.wordpress.com/2012/07/03/a-majority-of-iwc-commissioners-agree-one-out-of-three-asw-quotas-sucks/ (A majority of IWC Commissioners agree one out of three ASW quotas sucks)
- Whale sanctuary bid falls short (bbc.co.uk)
- http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-18693753 (Indigenous whaling bids granted after “racism” claim)
- http://www.greenerideal.com/science/0618-aboriginal-whale-hunting/ (Aboriginal whale hunting: Does it make a difference to the whale?)
- Protect whales from new oil industry threat, warns WWF (guardian.co.uk)
- Indigenous whaling bids granted (bbc.co.uk)
- Memories of a moratorium: Rundown of the 64th International Whaling Commission meeting (greenerideal.com)
- Meeting Results In ‘Mixed Bag For Whales’ (huffingtonpost.com)
- Don’t miss whale watching while you’re here! (turkscaicosluxuryvillas.com)
- http://petchary.wordpress.com/2010/09/19/whales-and-such/ (Whales and such – Monterey)
- http://petchary.wordpress.com/2012/04/21/protecting-our-fish-earth-day-part-1/ (Protecting our Fish: Earth Day, part 1- C-CAM)
- http://petchary.wordpress.com/2011/01/02/non-human-persons/ (Non-human persons – dolphins)
- http://petchary.wordpress.com/2011/12/08/total-destruction/ (Total destruction – Kingston’s Palisadoes)
- http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/the_americas/trinidad-crews-crush-thousands-of-leatherback-turtle-eggs-hatchlings-while-redirecting-river/2012/07/09/gJQA87tyYW_story.html (Turtle Tragedy: Work crews crush thousands of leatherback eggs, hatchlings on Trinidad beach… washingtonpost.com)
- http://www.bradenton.com/2012/07/10/4109984/activists-seek-answers-in-trinidad.html (Work on turtle nesting beach was crucial)
- http://www.stabroeknews.com/2012/news/breaking-news/07/10/tt-environment-authority-only-a-few-100-turtles-lost/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+stabroeknewsguyana+%28Stabroek+News%29 (T&T Environment Authority: “Only a few hundred” turtles lost)
- http://rjrnewsonline.com/news/local/tanker-overturns-oil-spills-vicinity-kingston-harbour (Tanker overturns oil spills in Kingston Harbour)
- http://www.ccam.org.jm/ (Caribbean Coastal Area Management Foundation, C-CAM/Jamaica)
- http://www.jamentrust.org/ (Jamaica Environment Trust)
- US Objects to SKorean Whaling Plan (abcnews.go.com)