Easter Sunday: April 20, 2014

For those who celebrate it… Happy Easter, everyone. This blissfully quiet long weekend in town continues. It seems our entire neighborhood has migrated, except us. We are enjoying it.

Finance Minister Peter Phillips.

Finance Minister Peter Phillips.

Budget anger: On Thursday, Finance Minister Peter Phillips told Jamaicans how he plans to finance the 2014/15 budget. His announcement of a “progressive” tax on bank transactions has gone down like a lead balloon among Jamaica’s middle classes (let’s just call them the “working poor.”) The levy on withdrawals from deposit-taking institution and encashment from securities dealers is expected to raise J$2.3 billion – about one third of the announced tax package. As I write, some are questioning economist Dr. Damien King’s interpretation of that word “progressive.” Attorney at law Marc Ramsay (now here’s another Jamaican blog you should follow – http://www.marcramsay.com) is encouraging Jamaicans to sign an online petition that is circulating protesting the taxes. Actually I believe there’s more than one. Dr. King says: “It’s progressive because the poorest hardly use banks so they will pay zero. Use of banks rises with income…”  Hmm.

Why the bitterness? It’s something called distrust. Young Member of Parliament and State Minister Damion Crawford tweeted that he didn’t know what all the fuss was about, adding fuel to the fire of discontent. But Jamaicans all know about two things: corruption, and tax dodgers. When are measures going to be taken to address these issues? I understand that would be difficult and costly, so let law-abiding Jamaicans suffer with new tax measures. One man said on television that he is going to start saving his money under his mattress. Jamaicans already pay very high bank charges (this is a government tax, of course).They are anxious about a pending large increase in electricity bills. The prevailing mood is a simmering anger. Meanwhile, at the end of 2013 the Gleaner reported from the Auditor General’s report: “Eleven importers who owed the Government some $1.2 billion in general consumption tax (GCT) and other taxes from 2011 were still able to get waivers valued at $4.2 billion in the last financial year.” It’s against this kind of background that Jamaicans feel they are being unfairly treated, again.

I am told a "phablet" is a medium sized tablet from which one can make phone calls. OK, then.

I am told a “phablet” is a medium sized tablet from which one can make phone calls. OK, then.

“Phablets,” Minister? Oh, there is no customs duty on “phablets.” This is the first time I have ever heard this word. Where did you get it from, Minister Phillips?

The inflation rate for the fiscal year ended up at 8.3 per cent, just below the target range of 8.5 per cent to 10.5 per cent. For this and more economic data, http://www.digjamaica.com is an excellent source, by the way.

Members of the Alpha Boys' Band play for The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra on their arrival at the Norman Manley International Airport a few years ago. - Winston Sill/Freelance/Gleaner

Members of the Alpha Boys’ Band play for The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra on their arrival at the Norman Manley International Airport a few years ago. (Photo: Winston Sill)

On a positive note: Good changes are taking place at Alpha Boys’ School, which was recently dragged into a completely unnecessary controversy. Apart from the Alpha Boys’ School Radio (which I recommend highly!) and a new music studio, a screen-printing training program will set up shop soon, with support from the Digicel Foundation and others. The football field is reportedly once again in very good shape. After all, “Onwards and Upwards” is their motto!

Fire and pollution… The Riverton dump again. (Photo: Twitter)

Fire and pollution… The Riverton dump again. (Photo: Twitter)

AGAIN? So soon? Yes, the Riverton City dump (and I wish the officials would stop calling it a “landfill”) starting burning again on Friday night – fifteen acres of it. This close-up photo was taken by a news team who visited there yesterday. Now, the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) says the fire is “contained” (but not necessarily out) and I hear there was nasty smoke billowing out up to last night. How could this happen again?

The drought deepens: It is hot and it is windy in Kingston. We can literally feel the yard drying out, minute by minute. But we must – must – conserve water, as supplies are getting alarmingly low in both the reservoirs that serve the city. They contain about three to four weeks’ worth of water, we understand. This is frightening. Montego Bay got some rain yesterday, but the capital city desperately needs some really good, heavy showers.

Disturbing: I was surprised and disturbed by a full-page article by the Sunday Observer’s “Editor-at-Large,” an all-out ad hominem attack on former Deputy Commissioner of Police Mark Shields. The editor did not like Mr. Shields’ concerns over a sensational, front-page report in the same newspaper last week, making certain allegations relating to the Vybz Kartel murder trial (I did not write about this as I considered it irresponsible journalism myself). Mr. Shields suggested the report was indeed irresponsible, in that it put peoples’ lives at risk. The editor’s vitriolic response was unnecessary and very unpleasant, indeed. Come on, Sunday Observer… As I have said in previous blog posts every week, you can rise above the gutter. Don’t dig yourselves in deeper.

Easter recommendations and kudos:

Alpha Boys' School Radio

Alpha Boys’ School Radio

I’ve been listening to some great roots reggae, ska, dub, you name it today on http://www.alphaboysschoolradio.com. Yes, the Alpha Boys’ School Radio station is up and running online; you can even download the free mobile app for your android or iPhone. Find them on Twitter and Facebook. Tune in! According to the radio station, Alpha Boys’ Band started in 1892 with drum and fife; then got some brass instruments from the United States. The boys found out then that it was “a lot of hard work, a lot of practice.” 

Free at last! Superintendent Rudolf Edwards (right) of the Tamarind Farm Adult Correctional Centre seems quite pleased as he joins Gillette Ramsay (left), a volunteer with Food for the Poor Jamaica, in sharing the good news with one of the three inmates. (Photo: Gleaner)

Free at last! Superintendent Rudolf Edwards (right) of the Tamarind Farm Adult Correctional Centre seems quite pleased as he joins Gillette Ramsay (left), a volunteer with Food for the Poor Jamaica, in sharing the good news with one of the three inmates. Food for the Poor paid the fines of 21 prisoners to ensure their release for the Easter holiday.  (Photo: Gleaner)

Food for the Poor Jamaica has done its twice-a-year routine, ensuring the release of 21 prisoners who were unable to pay fines for minor offenses and ended up in jail. So they are enjoying the Easter weekend with family, now. Thank you!

Remember the Coptics? As the debate on ganja legalization/decriminalization continues, fellow blogger Barbara Blake Hannah reminds us of a piece of history: the emergence of the Ethiopian Zion Coptic Church in eastern Jamaica during the seventies, and the impact this had on Jamaican society and politics. Read more at http://barbarablakehannah.wordpress.com/2014/04/20/remember-the-coptics/ 

I love this photo of Antoinette Wemyss-Gordon, the first female Commanding Officer of the JDF Coast Guard. (Photo: Gladstone Taylor/Gleaner)

I love this photo of Antoinette Wemyss-Gordon, the first female Commanding Officer of the JDF Coast Guard. (Photo: Gladstone Taylor/Gleaner)

Many congratulations to Antoinette Wemyss-Gordon, who has become the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) Coast Guard’s first female Commanding Officer. What an achievement! Interestingly, she says women should not “rely on their femininity” when seeking to advance their military career. Male colleagues, she adds, “expect you to behave equally like them, like just another officer. That’s where you earn your respect.”

It’s very sad that four Jamaicans were murdered on Good Friday. Among them, a teenage boy and a friend who were reportedly targeted by robbers in Clarendon. Another teenager was injured. My condolences to the families who are mourning this weekend:

 

Phillip Douglas, 24, Farm/May Pen, Clarendon

Omar Joseph, 16, Farm/May Pen, Clarendon

Owayne Barrett, 33, Old Harbour, St. Catherine

Nigel Steele,Old Harbour, St. Catherine

Unidentified man, Nain, St. Elizabeth

On the road: A 69-year-old woman was killed in Chudleigh, Manchester on Thursday. The driver was apparently speeding, hit a wall, and the woman who was a passenger was flung out of the car. Was she wearing a seat belt? In any case, can we please just SLOW DOWN? And another young policeman was killed that day, while riding his motorcycle in Kingston. I hope everyone is taking care on the roads this holiday weekend.

Good Friday Music

Good Friday is almost over. It has been blissfully quiet on our usually busy street. The only sounds have been the springtime wind in the trees, the song of the “nightingale” (our mockingbird) perched on the lamp post, and the occasional, obligatory bark from our dog, when she felt she really had to register her presence. You would never have thought you were in the city, at all.

The fantastic German tenor Jonas Kaufmann as Parsifal in the Metropolitan Opera of New York's latest production.

The fantastic German tenor Jonas Kaufmann as Parsifal in the Metropolitan Opera of New York’s latest production. (Photo: Ken Howard/Met Opera)

At the end of the afternoon, we felt as if we were awakening from a very long meditation. We had played our entire four-CD set of Wagner’s “Parsifal.”  We often don’t get past the first CD, but when you listen to it in full, it slowly and steadily seeps into your soul and your heart. It is sublime. It is hypnotic. It requires focus.

Richard Wagner (1813-1883)

Richard Wagner (1813-1883)

OK, I know Richard Wagner doesn’t have a good “image.” Unfortunately, Adolf Hitler was a big fan; some of Wagner’s own views were controversial to say the least. Hitler thought Wagner’s epic operas fitted in beautifully with his concept of heroic Germany. And Wagner was not a particularly lovable person. But then, nor was Johannes Brahms, who wrote such fine music but was a miserable, bad-tempered man.

Flower maidens try to lead Parsifal (Jonas Kaufmann) astray. (Photo: Sara Krulwich/New York Times)

Flower maidens try to lead Parsifal (Jonas Kaufmann) astray. (Photo: Sara Krulwich/New York Times)

But if we can (please) put all of that on one side, “Parsifal,” Wagner’s last opera, is more than just an opera. At five and a half hours long, it is a journey. It took Wagner four years to compose. At its first performance at the Festspielhaus in Bayreuth in 1882, he was already ailing. It is based (loosely) on a thirteenth-century epic poem called “Parzival,” about one of the knights of King Arthur’s Round Table, but there is much more to it.

A scene from "Parsifal."

A scene from “Parsifal.” (Photo: Ken Howard/Met Opera)

A part of Act 3 is called “Good Friday Music.” It was actually prepared as a separate piece, and it’s the scene where Parsifal arrives at the Castle of the Grail (the Holy Grail or chalice) and rests in a meadow filled with flowers.“This is Good Friday’s magic spell” (Karfreitagszauber), says the knight Gurnemanz. In 1865, Wagner wrote to his friend and patron, King Ludwig II of Bavaria: “A warm and sunny Good Friday, with its mood of sacred solemnity, once inspired me with the idea of writing Parsifal; since then it has lived within me and prospered, like a child in its mother’s womb. With each Good Friday it grows a year older, and I then celebrate the day of its conception, knowing that its birthday will follow one day.” 

The final act is filled with hope, redemption, and a kind of emotional and spiritual cleansing, hard to describe. Here Parsifal holds the Holy Grail. (Photo: New York Times)

The final act is filled with hope, redemption, and a kind of emotional and spiritual cleansing, hard to describe. Here Parsifal holds the Holy Grail. (Photo: New York Times)

If you read the story of “Parsifal,” you might think to yourself: “What the heck?”  This opera may sound like a sort of religious hotchpotch, with maidens and knights thrown in; but it is not. The music transcends and blurs the lines. The final Act simply shimmers with emotion, with hope, redemption and all those wonderful words that give our lives meaning. And I don’t see it as a purely “Christian” work; Wagner was not particularly religious, but interested in spirituality in his later years. He was reading the work of Persian Sufi poet Hafez at the time, and was apparently planning to write an opera about the Buddha.

Evgeny Nikitin as the magician Klingsor in "Parsifal" at the Metropolitan Opera of New York. (Photo: Sara Krulwich/New York Times)

Evgeny Nikitin as the magician Klingsor in “Parsifal” at the Metropolitan Opera of New York. When we saw the opera at Covent Garden in London many years ago, the Jamaican-born Willard White played this role. He was very sinister, indeed. (Photo: Sara Krulwich/New York Times)

“Parsifal” is not easy to understand, and draws on many cultural references. There is magic. There is darkness and fear; there is passion, and even an (attempted) seduction scene. It could actually have a lot of appeal for younger audiences, given the enormous popularity of “The Lord of the Rings,” “The Game of Thrones” and other lengthy, vivid and powerful fantasy narratives. However, it requires huge amounts of patience, and the attention span of our young people does not extend to well over five hours. It unfolds slowly. Slowly, and beautifully.

The opening Vorspiel (Prelude) of the opera is calm and stately. “Parsifal” ends on lingering, peaceful notes. It is springtime, the weather is sweet, and all’s well with the world.

I hope you had a wonderful Good Friday.

P.S. To our great chagrin, the current Metropolitan Opera of New York production – with the stunningly charismatic and accomplished tenor, Jonas Kaufmann in the title role – was not among the operas chosen for the worldwide HD live broadcasts. I can understand why; its length is a major drawback for that kind of thing. But I am so sad that I will not be able to see the wonderful Mr. Kaufmann – whose performance in Massenet’s “Werther” was exquisite – as the wandering fool Parsifal in our local cinema. Never mind. 

Tenor Jonas Kaufmann in the latest production directed by Francois Girard at the Metropolitan Opera of New York. (Photo: Ken Howard/Met Opera)

Tenor Jonas Kaufmann in the latest production directed by Francois Girard at the Metropolitan Opera of New York. (Photo: Ken Howard/Met Opera)

Alpha Boys’ Home Statement by the Sisters of Mercy

MY DEAR READERS: This is a statement from the Sisters of Mercy, who administer the Alpha Boys’ School for abused and abandoned boys on South Camp Road in Kingston. Alpha Boys’ is an educational institution founded by Jesse Ripoll in 1880s. It has a tremendous tradition of musical accomplishment. For more information on this wonderful place, go to: http://www.alphaboysschool.org

I am also publishing below the statement a column written by Jean Lowrie-Chin in yesterday’s “Jamaica Observer.” This column also makes it clear that Alpha Boys’ has been struggling financially for years; but despite the closure of its residential program there is much hope for a new and brighter future for Alpha boys. 

Let us show the Alpha Boys – and all our children, especially those in State care – more love, compassion and respect.

The Sisters of Mercy are forced to break our silence in the face of unfortunate statements on the Alpha Boys’ School and resulting media commentaries, including a shocking cartoon, which have been disrespectful and have caused great stress to our students.

It is bad enough to make harsh remarks and direct hurtful “humour” towards adults, but when directed at children, it is irresponsible and indefensible. We wish to express our sadness at this turn of events on behalf of Alpha students and children in State care everywhere in Jamaica.

The untruths and half-truths that have been voiced and published in the press about the closure of the residential programme at Alpha Boys’ School have caused serious damage to our boys who are presently living at Alpha. We seem as a society to be unable to strike a balance between fair political comment and good journalism on the one hand and sensationalism in politics and journalism on the other hand opting only for sensationalism. Let us stop blaming the victims in this case and bring the voices of reason to bear on what is a very positive and life-giving move for the future students at Alpha Boys’ School.

The Community of the Sisters of Mercy have made a decision regarding the closure of only the residential programme at Alpha Boys’ School based on many factors related to finance and personnel. These are not new problems and over several years we have raised the issues of inadequate finance and social misbehavior to the attention of both Governments. The residential program at St John Bosco Children’s Home in Mandeville which is also operated by the Sisters of Mercy will continue to provide residential care to over 100 boys.

However our decision is now timely in the present climate and direction of the Child Development Agency’s (“CDA”) new thrust toward foster care and family reintegration: our decision goes hand in hand with the CDA’s thrust to put the responsibility for child rearing back into the home. Support services will also need to be a part of this transition.

The restructuring of Alpha will facilitate the Sisters of Mercy along with the Ministry of Education and HEART to offer remedial education for more than 200 boys, along with technical and vocational education. Our renowned music education will also be expanded to include radio, sound production and commercial components.

Truth – “What is truth”? Pilate’s dilemma comes to mind as we read and heard the words of those who testify against our management of the Alpha Boys’ School. We hope this statement will address that question, and that all parties will allow our precious children to receive the respect they deserve.

___________________________________________________________________

15 April 2014

Sister Marie Chin, Regional Administrator

Religious Sisters of Mercy,

“Alpha”, 26 South Camp Road

Kingston 4.

 

Mercy alive and well at Alpha Boys’ School

Jamaica Observer, Monday April 14, 2014

AFTER almost 130 years of nurturing Jamaican boys, the Alpha Boys’ School is closing its residential facilities. On the positive side, however, the school will expand its educational offerings. You would think that an institution like Alpha would have no difficulty receiving a decent subvention for its good work. But, like many others of its kind, it has been struggling financially.

“We understand that the decision to close the residential part of Alpha Boys School has been subject to misunderstanding and misinterpretation,” commented Sister Marie Chin, area administrator of the Sisters of Mercy, when I called her after hearing the reports. “We appreciate this opportunity to explain that the closing of the residential part is due to a constellation of factors that are as much social as they are economic.”

She said pointedly: “The problems that have arisen in this programme did not materialise overnight; nor do they belong solely to Alpha Boys’ School. They have grown exponentially alongside the deterioration of societal values and norms, our seeming incapacity to halt our country’s downward spiral into alarming dysfunction, and inadequate government funding to meet the social and developmental needs of our people.”

It seems that the Minister of Youth and Culture Lisa Hanna may have misunderstood the situation, as she ascribed the change in operations to deviant behaviour among the students. Sister Susan Frazer, the administrator for Alpha Boys’ School, wants to make it clear that it is a small minority that gives cause for such concern. The students are deeply hurt by this comment, so we hope that the minister will explain to them, that her sweeping statement resulted from a misunderstanding.

Thank goodness the great Usain Bolt lifted their spirits when he visited Alpha Boys School last Wednesday and presented gifts to all.

“The Sisters of Mercy remain firm in their long-time commitment to boys at risk,” said Sister Marie Chin. “Neither Alpha Boys’ School nor St John Bosco (which the Sisters operate in Manchester) is closing. In fact, Alpha is undergoing a restructuring that will enable the ministry to help more boys who are at risk. Part of the restructuring will include closing the residential part only of Alpha Boys’ School as the Sisters of Mercy join with the Ministry of Education and HEART to offer literacy, numeracy and remedial educational along with technical and vocation education for more than 200 boys.

“With the escalating cost of living over these last years, the amount of funds that Government has given per capita to private children’s homes, such as Alpha Boys’ School and St John Bosco, for housing, clothing, food, and education has proven to be woefully inadequate,” said Sister.

After several attempts to address this situation the Sisters of Mercy have had to acknowledge some hard facts: “Our childcare system is broken, and we can no longer continue doing business as usual. It is no longer enough to simply provide beds for our children. We must seek alternative ways to enable our vulnerable children to enhance their potential as human beings and to become employable and responsible citizens capable of taking their rightful place in society. And, with the changes we are initiating, we are pursuing that path.”

Alpha Boys’ School graduate, the legendary musician Winston ‘Sparrow’ Martin is the bandmaster for the school and outlined the plans for the expansion of their cherished and esteemed music education which has developed such other talents as Cedric ‘Im’ Brooks, Dwight Richards, Lennie Hibbert OD, Tommy McCook, Don Drummond, Johnny ‘Dizzy’ Moore, Rico Rodriguez, Winston ‘Yellowman’ Foster, Dizzy Reece, Lester Sterling OD, Dalton Browne, Nicholas Laraque, Leslie Samuels, Harold McNair, Wilton ‘Bogey’ Gaynair, Bertie King, Leslie Thompson, Damon Riley, Tony Gregory, and Leroy Smart.

They have played with many top bands, including Bob Marley and the Wailers, The Beatles — yes, those world-famous Brits — and our legendary Skatalites. Alpha past students have worked with or now work with Beres Hammond, Beenie Man, Jimmy Cliff, Stephen Marley, Damian Marley, and Nomaddz.

“The future developments at Alpha Boys’ School mean larger numbers of students will be able to take advantage of a comprehensive music industry training programme at the school,” said Sparrow Martin, “including but not limited to: training in performance; work in the newly created sound studio; radio technology; as well as the ‘business’ of music and recording”.

He said that Alpha Boys’ School Radio (http://www.alphaboysschoolradio.com/), features local and international productions and has been gaining worldwide popularity, with over 60,000 unique listeners. Many of them have contributed to the recently completed Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign which will enable the school to build its own radio studio. Here, the students will be trained in production, presentation, promotions, and programming.

Thanks to the Jamaica National Foundation, the school is also developing a state-of-the-art music recording studio, where there will be instruction in recording techniques, audio engineering and audio production.

“Alpha now has its own top band, the Alpha All Stars, a touring band consisting of Alpha graduates playing jazz, ska, rocksteady, and reggae,” said a proud Martin. “The band will be an opportunity for Alpha alumni who demonstrate an ability to perform and will facilitate the transition from school to work. This is a music enterprise, so instruction will include an introduction to and practical experience in contracts, booking, licensing, promotion, and publishing.”

Additionally, students will be trained in screen-printing, woodwork, general maintenance, landscaping, hydroponic farming, and other skills. It is a model that has worked well at St John Bosco, where farming, meat processing and catering are helping that residential facility, also run by the Sisters of Mercy, to be self-sustaining. It is noteworthy that the catering manager there is none other than Newton Coote, who was rescued at seven years old after his hand was set on fire by an abusive father. Newton, who is now 40, is an exemplary leader at Bosco.

Clearly, mercy for Jamaica’s children remains alive and well with the Sisters. Alpha Boys’ School will continue to educate and train Jamaica’s boys so that, like Sparrow Martin and Newton Coote, they can become responsible citizens, embracing the dignity of honest work and enjoying the fruits of their success.

Jean Lowrie-Chin

Late again! Sunday, April 13, 2014

My apologies again for this belated “Wh’appen in Jamaica” post! I can’t seem to catch up with myself.

Police Commissioner Owen Ellington: some concerns over his TV interview. (Photo: Gleaner)

Police Commissioner Owen Ellington: some concerns over his TV interview. (Photo: Gleaner)

Really, Mr. Commissioner?  Several things worried me about Commissioner of Police Owen Ellington’s television interview with Dionne Jackson-Miller this past week. The program posed questions from Jamaican men and women on the street; good idea. Commissioner of Police Owen Ellington asserted, right at the end, “Jamaicans are not afraid of the police.” Really, Mr. Ellington? I so wish that were true. He also told us that the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) began investigating allegations of extra-judicial killings in the Clarendon police division long before the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) – but said that the division has been “stigmatized” because of INDECOM’s announcement – which he did not seem very happy with. If it was up to him, he seemed to suggest, he would rather have kept things quiet for a while longer?

As for his remark regarding Vybz Kartel’s “gang” being responsible for about 100 murders That puzzles and concerns me, since the appeal will be coming up soon. Can Commissioner Ellington substantiate this allegation? Was the JCF investigating these murders?

The boards: The Opposition’s Dr. Horace Chang has expressed concern that some chairpersons of government agencies are over-stepping their mark and acting like executive chairpersons, “which is in direct contravention of national policy, as stated in the Public Bodies Management Act.” Perhaps this explains recent upheavals in the Housing Association of Jamaica and National Housing Trust. We should keep an eye on this.

Energy World International's Managing Director and Chairman Stewart Elliot points to where the Liquefied Natural Gas storage tank will be located when the company begins construction of its electricity generating project soon. Elliot was on a tour of the Cane River area of East Rural St Andrew yesterday with a group that included (from left) Commissioner of Police Owen Ellington, Member of Parliament for East Rural St Andrew Damian Crawford and Minister of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining, Phillip Paulwell. Energy World was recently granted a licence by the Office of Utilities Regulation for the supply of additional generating capacity to the national grid. (Photo: Joseph Wellington/Observer)

Energy World International’s Managing Director and Chairman Stewart Elliot points to where the Liquefied Natural Gas storage tank will be located when the company begins construction of its electricity generating project soon. Elliot was on a tour of the Cane River area of East Rural St Andrew yesterday with a group that included (from left) Commissioner of Police Owen Ellington, Member of Parliament for East Rural St Andrew Damian Crawford and Minister of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining, Phillip Paulwell. Energy World was recently granted a licence by the Office of Utilities Regulation for the supply of additional generating capacity to the national grid. (Photo: Joseph Wellington/Observer)

Powerful stuff: Well, the folks from Energy World International (EWI) have paid us a visit, buoyed by the news that Energy Minister Phillip Paulwell will sign the license for them to supply 381 megawatts of power. EWI must provide a performance bond of US$37 million, among other things. It appears the Minister has not yet signed the license, however, and he is going to update us on this, he says. The Minister says he is “quite startled” by a Sunday Gleaner report that the government plans to disband the Energy Monitoring Committee (EMC) as soon as he has signed. The private sector must be relieved to hear this. The most important thing is that oversight is critical; we need the EMC to keep the focus on transparency. There has been precious little of that, so far.

JPS tweeted this graphic a few days ago - "The Real Cost of Energy."

JPS tweeted this graphic a few days ago – “The Real Cost of Energy.”

Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS), our electricity suppliers, are meanwhile involved in a series of public consultations concerning their request for a 21 per cent (yes!) increase in rates – which are already four or five times electricity rates in the United States, for example. The first meeting this evening in Kingston was reportedly relatively civil, with the expected fireworks not happening. Perhaps we are all too depressed to even complain?

Yes, crime IS a major impediment to investment, says leading businessman Richard Byles. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s latest report shows that Jamaica has the sixth highest murder rate in the world (39.3 per 100,000). It’s interesting that eight out of the top ten countries for homicide rates are in Central/South America and the Caribbean.

Portia Simpson Miller

Portia Simpson Miller holds a boy’s face firmly in place before planting a kiss!

Agonizing over child abuse: Our Prime Minister once again spoke out against child abuse, pleading with Jamaicans not to abuse their children, during a speech about something else. I am sure her concern is genuine, but telling people “Don’t do it!” doesn’t really “cut it.” The PM repeated some of the more unpleasant examples that the Youth Minister regaled us with the other day, while demeaning the students at Alpha Boys’ School. She told family members to take their misbehaving children to a leader, pastor etc – “a person that can demand respect and doesn’t beg respect.” She lost me there.

Report it! The Office of the Children’s Registry and UNICEF recently published findings that only one in ten Jamaicans who are actually aware of child abuse actually report it. This is absolutely tragic and hard to accept. 82 per cent of children aged 10 – 17 years old that they interviewed said they had experienced or witnessed some kind of emotional or physical abuse. People, report it! You can go to the OCR’s website (www.ocr.gov.jm) and click on “Make a Report” and there are several confidential ways that you can do this. You will also find their latest report for January – June 2013 there.

Sunset in Port Royal. (My photo)

Sunset in Port Royal. (My photo)

No longer so sleepy: The small town with a famous (notorious?) past – Port Royal – has been suffering from a crime wave, and blame is being placed on a growing squatter community. We always love driving out to Port Royal for fish. I hope the police can deal with it quickly – it has always been a peaceful place.

I spoke about social media activism a few days ago, with Dennis Brooks (a “tweep” and Liverpool Football Club fan – on a high at the moment) about using social media platforms to advocate for causes. I describe myself as a social media activist. If you want to hear Petchary chirping away with Dennis, the link is on SoundCloud here: https://soundcloud.com/nationwide-newsnet/timeline-social-media-activism

Noel Watt, principal of Dunrobin Primary School, along with students Kelsie Spaulding (left) and Kayla Spaulding, didn't get a drop of water from these pipes at the school yesterday. - (Photo: Gladstone Taylor/Gleaner)

Noel Watt, principal of Dunrobin Primary School, along with students Kelsie Spaulding (left) and Kayla Spaulding, didn’t get a drop of water from these pipes at the school yesterday. – (Photo: Gladstone Taylor/Gleaner)

Drying out: The water shortage is becoming so dire that some schools in Kingston closed this week because of the lack of what our local media like to call “the precious commodity,” rather quaintly. Jamaicans are finally starting to take the issue of water conservation seriously, and I suppose it’s never too late. Meanwhile, Kingston’s Mona and Hermitage reservoirs are 36 and 20  per cent full, respectively, and getting lower daily. Heavy water restrictions are being put in place.

Special, special thanks and kudos to:

Projects Abroad Jamaica Country Director Dr Bridgette Barrett speaking about the Belle Haven Centre which is to be built in Central Manchester for children and women living with HIV/AIDS at a Rotaract Club meeting at the Northern Caribbean University last Wednesday. (PHOTO: PROJECTS ABROAD)

Projects Abroad Jamaica Country Director Dr Bridgette Barrett speaking about the Belle Haven Centre which is to be built in Central Manchester for children and women living with HIV/AIDS at a Rotaract Club meeting at the Northern Caribbean University last Wednesday. (PHOTO: PROJECTS ABROAD)

  •  Projects Abroad Jamaica and the BrigIT Water Foundation in Australia, who are working to build a home for women and children living with HIV and AIDS in central Manchester. I heard of these plans some years ago, and am so glad the project is about to get off the ground after a long search for a suitable location for the Belle Haven Centre, as it will be called.
The boys at Alpha Boys' School enjoy the donated sports gear. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

The boys at Alpha Boys’ School enjoy the donated sports gear. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

  •  Usain Bolt (so dear to our hearts), who donated sports gear to Alpha Boys’ School – just in time for their sports day on April 16. This is a much-needed morale-booster for the School, which has really suffered from negative press in the past week or so. Let’s support the boys and the School…
This photo is to prove that I did, in fact, meet Yohan Blake. And what a nice person he is.

This photo is to prove that I did, in fact, meet Yohan Blake. And what a nice person he is.

  • And fellow-sprinter Yohan Blake - whom I met recently and grabbed a photo-op with! – for his continued kindness and generosity through his YB Afraid Foundation, which he founded in 2011. He has brought amazing benefits to the Mount Olivet Home for boys – including a fully-equipped computer lab, improved educational and skills training facilities, wonderful sports facilities, and the list goes on. Mr. Blake (still only 24 years old) also reaches out personally to the boys, chatting with them on Facebook and regularly visiting the home. He is awesome.
Mount Olivet Boys' Home's beautiful computer lab. (Photo: Gleaner)

Mount Olivet Boys’ Home’s beautiful computer lab. (Photo: Gleaner)

In the kitchen at Mockingbird Hill Hotel with the children from School of Hope. (Photo: Facebook)

In the kitchen at Mockingbird Hill Hotel with the children from School of Hope. (Photo: Facebook)

  • Hotel Mockingbird Hill, in beautiful Portland, which has been reaching out to the children with special needs at the local School of Hope. The Hotel is seeking donations of toys, games and other suitable material for the children.

 

My condolences to the grieving families of the following Jamaicans, who were murdered in the past few days. Police Constable Davian Thompson shot his wife dead at their Kingston home; his body was found in a gully the following morning. The police believe he committed suicide.

Latoya Campbell-Thompson, 27, Constant Spring Road, Kingston

Dion Watt, Canaan Heights, Clarendon

Irvin Campbell, 17, Little London, Westmoreland

George Ricketts, Wentworth/Port Maria, St. Mary

Ricardo Barrington, 27, Gloucester Avenue, Montego Bay, St. James

Charles Bryan, 38, Montego Bay, St. James

Kirk Millington, 33, Montego Bay, St. James

Killed by police:

Kirk Rose, 37, Alexandria, St. Ann

“Junior,” downtown Kingston

And on the road: A 65-year-old gentleman who was riding his bicycle along the road in Trelawny was hit and killed by a truck, which did not stop. Why have there been so many hit-and-run accidents, and why so many crashes in western Jamaica recently?

A crowd watches from the bridge on Shortwood Road in Kingston as undertakers and police take Constable Davian Thompson’s body from the gully yesterday morning. Police believe the cop committed suicide after killing his wife Saturday night. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

A crowd watches from the bridge on Shortwood Road in Kingston as undertakers and police take Constable Davian Thompson’s body from the gully yesterday morning. Police believe the cop committed suicide after killing his wife Saturday night. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

The (Un)bearable Lightness of Being

I put the bracket in the title above, because at this stage I am not sure whether it’s bearable, or not.

It’s not so easy to center yourself, to find and explore your inner self. For me, the hard part is the physical part.

The lovely practice space, evening time. (Photo: Facebook)

The lovely practice space, evening time. (Photos from Facebook page)

So it was with some trepidation that I first approached the TrueSelf Centre of Being, a haven of tranquility among tall trees and many birds in uptown Kingston. I was attracted by an invitation to join a special Yin Yoga session for activists, conducted by a gentle Canadian woman with blonde dreads. I consider myself an activist, more or less. It was a long evening, with the whistling and chirruping of crickets and frogs as a soundtrack and the scent of candles and incense wafting across the space. But I hardly noticed the time passing. We did a lot of noisy exhaling. Our teacher propped me up on occasion with various objects, to prevent me simply toppling over in embarrassing fashion. I realized I can hardly sit cross-legged any more.

After that, I felt ridiculously stretched and at the same time loose and relaxed. I spent the following day feeling very comfortable with my body (apart from aches and pains here and there). So I ventured to dip my toes in again, and this time it was Kundalini Yoga – a morning session, complete with birdsong. This was possibly the most rigorous workout I have ever experienced – including those hectic aerobics sessions I used to attend in my younger days. I have all kinds of things wrong with my back (I won’t bore you with details). By the end of the class, it had been twisted, stretched and massaged in a hundred different ways, while sweet and soothing music murmured to me in the background. For the next two days, my muscles quietly complained to me – including some I never knew existed – but I felt great. Invigorated inside and out.

Some of the lovely items that bring my stiff old body some comfort!

Some of the lovely items that bring my stiff old body some comfort!

Looking out...

Looking out…

Yesterday, I took my husband along to a Tai Chi session. We are both complete novices, my only brush with martial arts having been a huge enthusiasm for judo at high school in England. We were both nervous. We both, of course, found it ridiculously hard even to walk in the correct way from one end of the room to the other. For those who don’t know, or have never practiced yoga (or tai chi): None of it is as easy as it looks. It is incredibly demanding. You find yourself in an impossible position where you are supposed to have reached the floor – and you are only half way down. And then you remember – oh, I’m not breathing! Breathe…

I have seen people doing Tai Chi in the park; it looks so easy and relaxed. Well it isn’t easy, although one day it might get easier. We are both determined to try. If at first you don’t succeed…

At the end of our Tai Chi class, we went outside onto the lawn. Grey clouds floated around, serving no useful purpose. With our toes deliciously tucked into the thick grass, we raised our arms and faces to call down some rain. Later that afternoon, large warm drops of rain fell for five minutes, and then stopped. No, we were thinking of a bit more than that, Oh Rain God.

Did I mention that all of the above has been an uplifting experience? Truly. My head feels clear and alert, and the rest of my body is trying hard to catch up. I could get addicted to this.

Moreover, Deepak Chopra is starting one of his online meditation series on Monday. “You will hear a soft bell…” In the end, both my mind and body will feel so light, I might just float away.

Namaste.

The TrueSelf Centre of Being is on Facebook, and you can contact them at (876) 819-7899 or trueselfpractice@gmail.com. Do some good for yourself and sign up for a class today! 

The Centre's peaceful garden. (Photo: Facebook)

The Centre’s peaceful garden. 

 

 

 

 

 

Late for Sunday, April 6, 2014

Due to the crazy distraction of the “Game of Thrones” marathons, which sucked me in, I am a day late with my Sunday roundup. My apologies!

Adijah Palmer (aka Vybz Kartel) dressed up for his court appearance, wearing his old school tie (Calabar High School). Photo: Jamaica Observer)

Adijah Palmer (aka Vybz Kartel) dressed up for his court appearance, wearing his old school tie (Calabar High School, which won the Boys’ Athletics Championships recently). Palmer left school after Fourth Form. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

Heavy sentences: In the past few days there has been drama. Last Thursday, the popular deejay Vybz Kartel (Adijah Palmer is his real name) was sentenced to 35 years in prison before he is eligible for parole, for the murder of Clive “Lizard” Williams (whose body has still not been found). Under the concept of “Common Design,” his three accomplices also received heavy sentences. One of them, Shawn Campbell, refused to plead guilty for a much lighter sentence. The men’s lawyers are expected to appeal the verdicts.

“God complex”: The sister of the deceased Mr. Williams, who was one of Mr. Palmer’s hangers-on, made some comments about marginalized youth. They are in danger, she said, of being “bullied” into following people “with a God complex” like Mr. Palmer, who use them for their own purposes. Mr. Palmer liked to call himself “Worl’ Boss” and built a so-called “empire” in his home town, the dingy suburb of Waterford. 

Reaction: The sentencing produced another wave of newspaper columns and lots of social media commentary. The response from Kartel supporters on the street was predictably angry. One supporter swore that Mr. Williams was still alive, and had gone to Cuba. I hear that Kartel was the most brilliant dancehall artiste ever; what that has to do with his murder conviction, I don’t know. But it’s not surprising that many Jamaicans have compared the long sentences with the dismissal of corruption charges against former state minister Kern Spencer. By the way, I have found some information on the Resident Magistrate’s reasons for dismissal, and they are here: http://www.jamaica-gleaner/gleaner/20140404/cleisure/cleisure6.html.

This meme has been circulating on social media.

This meme has been circulating on social media.

The Sunday Observer's editorial cartoon shows former State Minister Kern Spencer relaxing on the couch with a cocktail in hand while dancehall deejay Vybz Kartel is sentenced for life.

The Sunday Observer’s editorial cartoon shows former State Minister Kern Spencer, whose corruption charges were dismissed in court recently, relaxing on the couch with a cocktail in hand while dancehall deejay Vybz Kartel is sentenced to life imprisonment.

All dolled up for the opening of Parliament: Youth and Culture Minister Lisa Hanna. When the Parliamentarians walk to Gordon House for the official opening of the new parliamentary year, our political leaders dress up for the occasion. (Photo: Ian Allen/Gleaner)

All dolled up for the opening of Parliament: Youth and Culture Minister Lisa Hanna. When the Parliamentarians walk to Gordon House for the official opening of the new parliamentary year, our political leaders dress up for the occasion. (Photo: Ian Allen/Gleaner)

Also on Thursday: The Kartel sentencing coincided with the Throne Speech, at the official opening of Parliament – a far less exciting event downtown, but the media dutifully reported it. Every year, the Governor General reads out what is put in front of him – just like the Queen does in her speech in England. So, don’t blame them for being rather dull. It seems Cabinet decided against renaming the speech “The People’s Speech” (Member of Parliament Raymond Pryce had tabled a motion proposing this). Whatever it’s called, it will always provoke a collective yawn, although we really should pay more attention.

Arriving for the state opening of Parliament: Opposition members Senator Tom Tavares-Finson (I wish he would ditch those silly sunglasses), Opposition Leader Andrew Holness and National Security Spokesman Derrick Smith. (Photo: Ian Allen/Gleaner)

Arriving for the state opening of Parliament: Opposition members Senator Tom Tavares-Finson (I wish he would ditch those silly sunglasses), Opposition Leader Andrew Holness and National Security Spokesman Derrick Smith. (Photo: Ian Allen/Gleaner)

Budget time: Finance Minister Peter Phillips will open the Budget Debate next Thursday, April 17. The Budget Debate will then drag on for weeks afterwards, with every sector in Jamaica’s economy represented. I say “drag” because I wonder whether many Jamaicans fully appreciate or even understand the very important budget process. This year the budget is very conservative, with the International Monetary Fund looking over our shoulder. It has increased from last year’s J$744 million to J$761 million, which is really not an increase at all when one takes 8 per cent inflation and the steady devaluation of the Jamaican Dollar into account (the latter is now edging up to J$110/US$1).

Minister Phillip Paulwell says he has to obey the rules. But wasn't EWI's bid slipped in well past the allotted deadline? Have all the rules been followed, really?

Minister Phillip Paulwell says he has to obey the rules. But didn’t EWI’s bid come in well past the allotted deadline? Have all the rules been followed? There has been a distinct lack of transparency in this matter, too.

Minister Paulwell got his way: Energy Minister Phillip Paulwell has got the go-ahead to sign the license for Energy World International to construct a major power plant. He says he is legally obliged to obey the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) which has approved the awarding of the license. “I am a creature of the law and rules…” he declares. OK, then. The Office of the Contractor General, members of civil society, the Energy Monitoring Committee (EMC), and the private sector have urged Paulwell to proceed with caution on this, but no, it’s going ahead. 

PNP graffiti sprayed on a Tivoli Gardens sign in West Kingston. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

PNP graffiti sprayed on a Tivoli Gardens sign in West Kingston. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

“Peace marches” don’t work!  The violence continues in the relatively small community of Tivoli Gardens and surrounding areas of West Kingston. Member of Parliament Desmond McKenzie says a relatively small group” is seeking to dominate the area. After a shooting incident on Friday night, when two people (including a twelve-year-old boy) were killed and ten others injured, a group of angry residents demonstrated against Mr. McKenzie. No one is standing up for them, they say. What, despite all those peace marches, gospel concerts etc? Mr. McKenzie is asking residents to co-operate with the police, but in this atmosphere of distrust, one wonders. Members of the family of Christopher “Dudus” Coke, the former don who was extradited to the U.S. in 2010, are allegedly involved. Another theory is that it is warfare between two gangs fighting for what one resident called the “donship position.” God help us.

Uptowners having a lovely, lovely time. (Photo: Bacchanal Facebook page)

Uptowners having a lovely, lovely time. (Photo: Bacchanal Facebook page)

Partying till they drop: Regardless, Kingston’s uptowners are donning tiny shorts and skimpy tops at least once a week to kick up their heels and jump on top of each other during the regular Bacchanal ritual. This will culminate in the annual Carnival on April 27. I suppose it’s good exercise – although the health benefits may be completely canceled out by the large quantities of alcohol consumed. And someone’s making money out of it all!

Good news! The Alpha Boys’ School has now funded its Radio Studio and Media Lab Project to the tune of (pardon the pun) US$23,000 through Kickstarter crowd-funding. Congratulations and many thanks to all who contributed to this success! Alpha Boys is a home for abandoned boys that has also, over the years, nurtured many great Jamaican musicians and still has its wonderful Alpha Boys Band.

Petchary is bigging up…

  • The 23 young Jamaicans and two organizations that have received the Prime Minister’s Youth Awards for Excellence in several categories. Over forty were nominated, and all are to be congratulated.
Prime Minister the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller (right, centre) and Minister of Youth and Culture, Lisa Hanna (to the PM’s left), with the 2013 recipients of the Prime Minister’s Youth Awards for Excellence after the ceremony, held on April 6 on the lawns of Jamaica House, Kingston, under the theme: ‘Celebrating Jamaican Youth…the Courage of Perseverance’. (Photo: JIS)

Prime Minister the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller (right, centre) and Minister of Youth and Culture, Lisa Hanna (to the PM’s left), with the 2013 recipients of the Prime Minister’s Youth Awards for Excellence after the ceremony, held on April 6 on the lawns of Jamaica House, Kingston, under the theme: ‘Celebrating Jamaican Youth…the Courage of Perseverance’. (Photo: JIS)

  • The management of the Jamaica Urban Transit Corporation (JUTC), which has been making huge efforts to strengthen the public transportation system in Kingston, and to impose some kind of order, struggling with the problems of illegal taxis and declining profitability, among a myriad other issues. Efforts have been made before, but I think – hope – the JUTC may be successful this time. The JUTC has been riddled with indiscipline, corruption and sheer criminality over the years; the current administration appears to be getting to grips with this.

As always, I extend my condolences to the families and loved ones of all those who have been murdered in the past few days. I always wish that this list of names would disappear, but it never does…

Prison guard Cpl Easton Williams has died in hospital from multiple gunshot wounds he received late last month after he was attacked while making his way to work in St. Catherine. No one has been arrested.

Ricardo Lowe, 28, Charles Street/Chestnut Lane, Kingston

Kawayne McAnuff, 12, Charles Street/Chestnut Lane, Kingston

Carl Williams, 51, Bay Farm Road, Kingston

Unidentified man, Orange/Beckford Streets, Kingston

Almando McKnight, 67, Palmers Cross, Clarendon

Donovan Stewart, 24, Innswood Estate, St. Catherine

Akeem Stephenson, 22,Innswood Estate, St. Catherine

On the road: The National Road Safety Council reports a pretty major increase in the number of deaths on the road up to the first week in April (83), compared to the same period last year (69). NRSC Vice Chairman Lucien Jones believes speeding still remains a problem, along with cell phone use while driving (I see the latter problem each time I am on the road in Kingston – drivers on cell phones driving carelessly). When are we going to pass laws prohibiting cell phone use? Meanwhile, a 24-year-old security guard was killed when his motorbike collided with a car driving in the opposite direction in Retreat, Westmoreland. A ten-year-old girl is in critical condition after she was knocked down in Salem, Runaway Bay, St. Ann while trying to cross the road. The driver fled the scene but was picked up later by the police.

Ricardo Lowe, who was involved in the music business as road manager for an entertainer for Teflon, was murdered on Friday night.

Ricardo Lowe, who was involved in the music business as road manager for an entertainer for Teflon, was murdered on Friday night.

“A Time of Major Transition” for Jamaican Art

petchary:

On several occasions, we have enjoyed the National Gallery of Jamaica’s satisfying and enjoyable free Sundays – a compilation of the performing arts, excellent coffee, the always-tempting gift shop, and of course, plenty of art. But in what direction is the once vibrant Jamaican art scene heading? Is it going anywhere at all, or merely stagnating against the background of a weak economy? The recently-appointed Chief Curator of the National Gallery Charles Campbell spoke at the opening of an exhibition of student work at the Edna Manley College for the Visual & Performing Arts in Kingston, and I thought I would share his comments here. Let’s hope that Jamaican artists of the future will take up the challenge.

Originally posted on National Gallery of Jamaica Blog:

Nadine Hall - Sacred Bodies (2014), detail of installation - presently on view in Be Uncaged

Nadine Hall – Sacred Bodies (2014), detail of installation – presently on view in Be Uncaged

The NGJ’s Chief Curator Charles Campbell was the guest speaker at the April 3 opening of Be Uncaged, an exhibition of student work at the Edna Manley College’s CAG[e] gallery. Since his remarks have broader relevance, we decided to share them here. The exhibition, which was curated by the students in the Introduction to Curatorial Studies course, is well worth visiting and remains open at the College until April 17.

One of the questions I’m frequently asked is what I think of the art scene here. It’s a complicated question to answer. Are we talking about the artists that live here, the Island’s talent pool and what’s going on behind closed doors in studios and bedrooms across the island? Is it the quality of the exhibitions we get to see, the activity…

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Tyrone Wilson: “No ‘BS’”

Tyrone R. Wilson is a serious young man. It’s hard to coax a smile out of him. As he sits down across the table from me in his office at the University of Technology’s  (UTech) Technology Innovation Centre, his gaze is alert and intelligent.

Tyrone Wilson.

Tyrone R. Wilson. (My photo)

“People call me a tech entrepreneur,” Tyrone tells me. “But I am a new media entrepreneur.” As Founder and CEO of eMedia Interactive, Tyrone believes, first and foremost, in a good story - “And good stories travel faster than bad ones,” he observed. The technology is the vehicle for his digital e-zines and his online television station, iVutv – all producing original, local, excellent quality content. eMedia Interactive thrives on creativity and innovation, and aims to become a digital media leader in several geographical markets. Last year, eMedia Interactive offered branded eZines to the North American market, a part of Tyrone’s expansion plan.

Tyrone has his own inspiring story, too. He attended Jamaica College (a Kingston high school), he told me. Then, as a University of the West Indies student (he has a degree in Banking and Finance) he made up his mind that he had to sell his own story, his vision for a business. “I believe in pitching,” he said. “I am always pitching – daily!”  

Tyrone Wilson (centre) shows off some of the latest technologies to Sagicor Life president Richard Byles (right) and PanCaribbean CEO Donovan Perkins. Pan Caribbean invested US$350,000 into Wilson’s business. (Photo: Jamaica Observer, MARCH 2012)

Tyrone R. Wilson (centre) shows off some of the latest technologies to Sagicor Life president Richard Byles (right) and PanCaribbean CEO Donovan Perkins. Pan Caribbean invested US$350,000 into Wilson’s business. (Photo: Jamaica Observer, MARCH 2012)

How did Tyrone R. Wilson end up as CEO of his own company, at the age of 22? It all started when Tyrone’s mother bought him a ticket to a corporate dinner for Jamaica College alumni. He took advantage of the opportunity. He knew no one in corporate Jamaica; but he did know what he wanted to achieve, and he was passionate about it. He learned to be patient. He learned how to network; he was persistent in getting appointments to meet with people he thought could advise and hopefully support him in fulfilling his vision. He made a direct approach to businessman Richard Byles to be the Chairman of the board. Byles agreed. He was “sold” on the vision:“When you look at the creativity and talent we have here in Jamaica… I was moved by Tyrone’s confidence in himself and his understanding of the business.” Williams, then Managing Director of NCB Capital Markets and now President and CEO of Proven Investments, and NCB’s Sheree Martin also gave invaluable mentorship and formed the firm’s advisory board.

The Technology Innovation Centre is a special unit of the School of Entrepreneurship, College of Business and Management at Kingston's University of Technology (UTech). (My photo)

The Technology Innovation Centre is a special unit of the School of Entrepreneurship, College of Business and Management at Kingston’s University of Technology (UTech). (My photo)

eMedia came into being in June, 2008 at the Technology Innovation Centre, which provides support for small businesses through its Business Incubator. Tyrone is grateful to the Centre’s Dionne Palmer, who provided strong support in the firm’s establishment. Initially eZines Limited, it produced a digital magazine Your Money. It was a challenging time for a start-up; the economic downturn overseas affected Jamaica adversely and resulted in a downsizing of the company. But eMedia went on to produce three more eZines and has built a readership of over 32,000.

Then in April 2012, eMedia took another leap, launching Jamaica’s first online television network, iVutv, after raising US$350,000 in a private placement managed by PanCaribbean Merchant Bank and Sagicor Investments. The company is in the final stages of building out mobile applications for their smartphone and tablet platforms in addition to their websites, giving users a more interactive reading and viewing experience and their advertisers more value for their money.

Danny Williams is a former government minister and successful businessman. He is still active in public life, having recently taken over as Chairman of the Jamaica Anti-Doping Commission (JADCO). (Photo: Gleaner)

Danny Williams is a former government minister and successful businessman. He is still active in public life, having recently taken over as Chairman of the Jamaica Anti-Doping Commission (JADCO). (Photo: Gleaner)

Tyrone Wilson motivates young tech entrepreneurs at the recent Digital Jam 3.0 (Caribbean Edition) at the World Bank offices in Kingston. (My photo)

Tyrone Wilson motivates young tech entrepreneurs at the recent Digital Jam 3.0 (Caribbean Edition) at the World Bank offices in Kingston. (My photo)

I asked Tyrone about his early inspirations. He says the germ of his idea sprang from a TED talk. He also admired Steve Jobs’ over-arching vision: “Apple wanted to change the world.”  Here in Jamaica, he was inspired by the leadership and determination of the former CEO of Life of Jamaica (now Sagicor) Danny Williams, who is a huge role model for him: “He is a good Jamaican.” A Jamaica College alumnus like Tyrone, Williams’ parents struggled to send him to school; he sold cigarettes to supplement his income.

By the way, eMedia’s revenues grew by 65 per cent last year; good going in this challenging economic landscape. So what is the key to success? It’s important, Tyrone told me, to build a group of supporters around you. As eMedia grew, this is what he did. Whether it’s your parents, your peers, potential team members, board members – don’t be afraid, he said, to garner their expertise. Tap into “those with the knowledge.” Many young entrepreneurs feel they can go it alone. But that is really hard. It’s really hard, anyway. As Tyrone has found, the entrepreneurship road is full of dips and curves.

Tyrone’s advice to budding entrepreneurs: “Become a student of entrepreneurship, eager to learn.” And, even more importantly: “Be more humble…Arrogance will get you nowhere in business. Be honest.”

With half a smile he adds, “No BS.”

Tyrone Wilson, Founder and CEO of eMedia Interactive.

Smiling: Tyrone Wilson, Founder and CEO of eMedia Interactive.

 

Wednesday Words: April 2, 2014

There have been some interesting developments this week, already. With the end of the financial year and the Budget coming up, this month promises to be a challenging one. The new Parliamentary session will open tomorrow (April 3) with the usual parade of politicians all dressed up for the occasion.

Terrence Williams, head of the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM), speaks with members of the media while Kahmile Reid, senior communications officer of INDECOM, looks on during a press conference at INDECOM's head office in New Kingston yesterday. - (Photo: Rudolph Brown/Gleaner)

Terrence Williams, head of the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM), speaks with members of the media while Kahmile Reid, senior communications officer of INDECOM, looks on during a press conference at INDECOM’s head office in New Kingston yesterday. – (Photo: Rudolph Brown/Gleaner)

The INDECOM Effect: The Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) gave an important press briefing yesterday, which raised a number of issues. One impressive figure to note: police killings were way down in the first quarter of the year (40) compared to 2013, when there were 76.

The death squads: INDECOM has been investigating allegations of “death squads” in the police force, and yesterday announced that “there is great reason to believe” that eight cases in which nine Jamaicans were killed in the parish of Clarendon “were, indeed, police-involved homicides.” One policeman has been charged for the murder of Adif Washington, who was shot in Milk River but not killed; masked gunmen stormed into the hospital ward where he was recovering and killed him in January 2013. The same policeman has been charged with three other murders, and three other Clarendon policemen have been charged with murder since January. Some fifty police officers have been charged with various crimes, but none have come up in court yet, although INDECOM chief Terrence Williams said INDECOM is “trying its best” to get them to court. He noted one case that has been awaiting trial for nearly two years already.

Masked men: Human rights activist Horace Levy commented on radio that the police cannot be continually in “defensive mode” when such revelations are made; they must examine themselves. The Jamaica Constabulary Force’s (JCF) response to INDECOM’s announcements was confused, to say the least: At first the JCF was “unaware.” Two subsequent releases noted that the JCF “strategically denied” and then “categorically denied” the reports. But then the police urged investigations to move ahead as quickly as possible. 

Glad to see though that the JCF referred a rather unpleasant incident at the Steer Town Academy, a high school in St. Ann, to INDECOM. A group of police officers entered the school compound; one, whose child is reportedly a student at the school, allegedly pushed the Principal. This is the kind of thing that has to stop!

Energy Minister Phillip Paulwell

Energy Minister Phillip Paulwell.

The Minister insists: Energy Minister Phillip Paulwell insisted on television in January that he was ready to sign off on a license for Energy World International (EWI) to construct a 35 megawatt power plant. Concerns have been raised in various quarters, but the Minister is adamant. He will go ahead and sign the license, after the Office of Utilities Regulation cleared the way on March 26. You will recall the confidentiality clause in the due diligence report that the OUR said would not allow it to disclose any details. So transparency has been minimal. Why do I have a bad feeling about this?

So Minister Omar Davies has signed a “Framework Agreement with China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) for the development of a transshipment hub in the Portland Bight.” I presume the Jamaica Information Service meant the port. This is pretty dismal news. See the photo below, with the silent Minister of Environment and Climate Change leaning forward eagerly to see the agreement, whose contents will likely never be made public. This was wrapped up with an agreement to study the possible damming of the Bog Walk Gorge, which had already been announced. Again, zero transparency.

Portland Bight, in southern Jamaica, was designated a Wetland of International Importance on World Wetland Day, February 2, 2006. The Jamaican Government is now seriously considering a demand from Chinese investors to build a transshipment port in the area, which is protected by law and includes recently established fish sanctuaries.  (Photo: Gleaner)

Portland Bight, in southern Jamaica, was designated a Wetland of International Importance on World Wetland Day, February 2, 2006. The Jamaican Government is now seriously considering a demand from Chinese investors to build a transshipment port in the area, which is protected by law and includes recently established fish sanctuaries. (Photo: Gleaner)

“We treasure the preservation of the environment, as much as any other group, and we are concerned about the human beings and the plight of poverty, and the impact which that has on the environment,” said the Minister, repeating the Government’s fallacious mantra that poverty is the most damaging thing that can happen to the environment. Once again, no. The most damaging thing would be dredging the seabed, dynamiting an island and destroying mangrove forest to create a port made of concrete and a coal-fired power plant!

Minister of Transport, Works and Housing, Dr. the Hon. Omar Davies (4th left), presents Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China in Jamaica, Mr. Xiaojun Dong (2nd left), after signing the document with China Engineering Company (CHEC) for the development of a transshipment hub in the Portland Bight and a feasibility study on the damming of the Bog Walk Gorge, at the Ministry in Kingston, on March 28. Sharing in the occasion are (from left): General Manager of CHEC, Mr. Zhongdong Tang; Minister of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining, Hon. Phillip Paulwell; Minister with responsibility for Housing, Hon. Dr. Morais Guy, and Minister of Water, Land Environment and Climate Change, Hon. Robert Pickersgill. (Photo: JIS)

Minister of Transport, Works and Housing, Dr. the Hon. Omar Davies (4th left), presents Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China in Jamaica, Mr. Xiaojun Dong (2nd left), after signing the document with China Engineering Company (CHEC) for the development of a transshipment hub in the Portland Bight and a feasibility study on the damming of the Bog Walk Gorge, at the Ministry in Kingston, on March 28. Sharing in the occasion are (from left): General Manager of CHEC, Mr. Zhongdong Tang; Minister of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining, Hon. Phillip Paulwell; Minister with responsibility for Housing, Hon. Dr. Morais Guy, and Minister of Water, Land Environment and Climate Change, Hon. Robert Pickersgill. (Photo: JIS)Ja needs waste disposal policy. Duh.

Meanwhile Jamaican workers employed by the China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) on the North-South Highway have been on strike for a week. I’m not clear whether their grievances have been addressed.

Where are those engineering jobs? A qualified Jamaican engineer told a radio program this evening that she has  made over 70 job applications since returning to Jamaica a year ago, but is still jobless. I understand there should be great demand for engineers when the logistics hub takes shape (but then, it’s not here yet, is it).  Is the STEM field really opening up in Jamaica at all (I asked this question in a recent blog)? STEM is Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

Pity the poor farmers: There have been more cases of praedial larceny recently (the theft of valuable animals). Neither the police nor the Agriculture Ministry has ever been able to get a handle on this problem, or find any solution; there are very few prosecutions. Now farmers in the Plantain Garden River Agro-Park in St. Thomas are still struggling to pay off their loans, after their crops failed. Wake up, Minister Roger Clarke!

And we need to get overseas funding to repair our fire hydrants? Once again, the Japanese Government has come up with the funds (some J$13 million). A survey of over 13,000 hydrants across Jamaica of which over 4,000 are in need of repair and servicing.

Prime Minister the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller (second left), and Indian High Commissioner to Jamaica, His Excellency Shri Pratap Singh (second right), hold the signed Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), that will see the Indian Government providing US$2.1 million for the installation of flood lights at Sabina Park. The signing took place at Sabina Park on April 1. Minister with responsibility for Sport, Hon. Natalie Neita Headley (right), and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator the Hon. A.J. Nicholson, witnessed the signing. (Photo: JIS)

Prime Minister the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller (second left), and Indian High Commissioner to Jamaica, His Excellency Shri Pratap Singh (second right), hold the signed Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), that will see the Indian Government providing US$2.1 million for the installation of flood lights at Sabina Park. The signing took place at Sabina Park on April 1. Minister with responsibility for Sport, Hon. Natalie Neita Headley (right), and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator the Hon. A.J. Nicholson, witnessed the signing. (Photo: JIS)

 

And another grant for lighting up cricket matches: I’m not a cricket expert but understand that our Kingston cricket ground, Sabina Park, really needs lights so that it can stage the popular 20/20 matches, which bring in more income. Now a passionate cricketing nation has come up with a grant of over US$2 million (wow) to provide lighting. Thank you, Indian Government!

Total irrelevance: Meanwhile the churches are ignoring all the burning issues in society, and getting stressed out about “daylight Sabbath” and other issues relating to pending legislation on a flexible working week. OK, then.

Japanese Ambassador to Jamaica, His Excellency Yasuo Takese hands over cheque to outgoing Commissioner of the Jamaica Fire Brigade, Laurie Williams, at the Ministry of Local Government and Community Development in Kingston, on March 27. Looking on are (from left): Chairman of the Jamaica Fire Brigade, Mr. Jalil Dabdoub Jnr., and Acting Commissioner of the Jamaica Fire Brigade, Errol Mowatt. (Photo: JIS)

Japanese Ambassador to Jamaica, His Excellency Yasuo Takese hands over cheque to outgoing Commissioner of the Jamaica Fire Brigade, Laurie Williams, at the Ministry of Local Government and Community Development in Kingston, on March 27. Looking on are (from left): Chairman of the Jamaica Fire Brigade, Mr. Jalil Dabdoub Jnr., and Acting Commissioner of the Jamaica Fire Brigade, Errol Mowatt. (Photo: JIS)

I have some nice Petchary Awards to hand out, as follows:

  • Dr. Henry Lowe, the distinguished and enterprising Jamaican scientist, who continues to develop and expand research into Jamaica’s natural healing plants. Dr. Lowe is also Executive Chairman of Environmental Health Foundation Group of Companies and operator of Kingston’s recently rebranded health and wellness center, Eden Gardens – which is now a totally “green” facility. Good for him, and may his work go from strength to strength. I do like his suggestion that the Government implement policies and programs to transform Kingston into a “green city.” But won’t hold my breath.
Prime Minister the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller (centre), takes a closer look at a bottle of supplements on display inside the herbal and gift store at the Eden Gardens Wellness Resort and Spa, as Executive Chairman, Dr. Henry Lowe (right), and his wife Janet, introduce her to more of the shop’s offerings. Occasion was the launch of the newly redeveloped and rebranded facility on March 25, at its Lady Musgrave Road location, in Kingston. (Photo: JIS)

Prime Minister the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller (centre), takes a closer look at a bottle of supplements on display inside the herbal and gift store at the Eden Gardens Wellness Resort and Spa, as Executive Chairman, Dr. Henry Lowe (right), and his wife Janet, introduce her to more of the shop’s offerings. Occasion was the launch of the newly redeveloped and rebranded facility on March 25, at its Lady Musgrave Road location, in Kingston. (Photo: JIS)

  • 23-year-old Ainsworth (Ainzy) Morris, who has been nominated in the Journalism Category in the Prime Minister’s Youth Awards, organized by the Youth and Culture Ministry. Good luck, Ainzy! And good luck to all the nominees in various categories!

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Leo studies a skin of a Vincentian parrot at the American Museum of Natural History. This species is threatened with endangerment, in part due to strong pressure from wildlife poachers. (Photo: NCEP blog)

Leo studies a skin of a Vincentian parrot at the American Museum of Natural History. This species is threatened with endangerment, in part due to strong pressure from wildlife poachers. (Photo: NCEP blog)

  • Dr. Leo Douglas, Jamaican Fulbright Scholar, who took over recently as President of BirdsCaribbean (formerly the Society for the Conservation & Study of Caribbean Birds). Leo is a research scholar in the Department of Geography/Geology and an honorary research fellow in the Institute for Sustainable Development (ISD) at the University of the West Indies. The Network of Conservation Educators & Practitioners recently announced him as its March 2014 Professor of the Month.
The winning Kingston College team celebrates after Schools Challenge Quiz on television. In the background are Campion College team members, whom they beat by a very narrow margin. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

The winning Kingston College team celebrates after Schools Challenge Quiz on television. In the background are Campion College team members, whom they beat by a very narrow margin. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

  • The winners of Schools’ Challenge Quiz, a long-running television quiz show, Kingston College. They squeezed out a narrow win against Campion College, another Kingston high school. This year Television Jamaica seems to have hyped up the finals excessively, with a “pre-show,” etc. But I guess they were aiming for a high viewership.

Armed men fired at a one-bedroom house in rural Lyssons, St. Thomas, hitting a seven-year-old boy, who is in serious condition in hospital. What makes me especially sad about this story is that his distraught mother ran out onto the main road with her son in her arms, but for some time no one stopped to help her take him to hospital. As she started running, eventually someone stopped for her. My condolences to the families of the following murder victims:

Robert Mendez, 41, Maxfield Avenue/Half Way Tree, Kingston 10

Kenneth Grant, 27, Priory, St. Ann

Anthony McCarthy, 34, Aboukir, St. Ann

On the road: The National Road Safety Council reports that 79 people have been killed on our roads since the start of the year. This number seems very high.

Payless Motors on Maxfield Avenue in Kingston was closed for business yesterday following the murder of its manager, Robert Mendez. (Photo: Joseph Wellington/Jamaica Observer)

Payless Motors on Maxfield Avenue in Kingston was closed for business yesterday following the murder of its manager, Robert Mendez. (Photo: Joseph Wellington/Jamaica Observer)

 

Jahmauny Robinson, aged seven, was seriously injured by gunmen in Lyssons, St. Thomas. His mother Nordia Johnson ran down the main road with him in her arms. (Photo: Michael Gordon/Jamaica Observer)

Jahmauny Robinson, aged seven, was seriously injured by gunmen in Lyssons, St. Thomas. His mother Nordia Johnson ran down the main road with him in her arms. (Photo: Michael Gordon/Jamaica Observer)

 

Planned April 1 Raid to Evict Homeless LGBT Youth

petchary:

Just a few days ago, at the University of the West Indies (UWI), we were discussing the role of leadership in protecting vulnerable populations. Jamaica’s homeless – including this particular group of LGBT youth, as well as mentally and physically disabled Jamaicans and children who roam our streets daily – are arguably the most neglected and marginalized of all. This is an account by CUSO volunteer and fellow blogger Kate Chappell of the pending police raid to evict this group of young men, who live in a gully in New Kingston. Perhaps before the UWI event, the debaters should have paid them a visit. It might have been a good dose of reality, and given a little more edge to their presentations. Homelessness is not a “gay issue” in Jamaica. It is a human rights issue.

Originally posted on Jamaican Journal:

April 1 is apparently the deadline for the police, headed by Inspector Murdock, to perform a “raid” and force the young men out of the gully. This is where they live as they are disenfranchised from society and rejected by their families.

A judge recently ruled against an order to have them evicted, as it is a public place, but the police insist that their occupation is a health hazard.

On Saturday night, the final night of high school athletic competition Champs, the police chose this time to warn the guys that they will be forced to leave. (Read another account of this evening here.)

In terms of avoiding the further inflammation of the situation, this could not have been a worse time. I was driving by and witnessed throngs of young men and women walking by, some of them clumped around the gully. I heard several calls of…

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