The heat in Kingston this week has been a dictator, beating us all into submission. I have spent the week cowering at home (two inches away from the fan) or hiding in air-conditioned cafés.
And it’s only June. As one Twitter friend just observed: “This rain need fi fall an dun.” (translation for non-Jamaicans: “This rain needs to fall and get it over with.”)
Shock and horror: Friday night frolics for many Jamaicans were somewhat overshadowed by the disturbing news that one of our athletic heroines, Veronica Campbell Brown, tested positive for a banned substance, a diuretic called Lasix (furosemide). Ms. Campbell Brown has won gold medals and broken all kinds of records, and Jamaica has been justifiably enormously proud of her over the past few years. Now, many are in denial, believing that it must be an error, a “set-up” even. Others are pointing at the big, bad United States, which they claim is the sports doping center of the world; the athlete lives and trains there. Many others are just hoping it’s not true. We will have to wait and see.
The Church again: Meanwhile our ultra-conservative, dogmatic, religious anti-gay activists are sharpening their keyboards/pencils and ramping up their opposition to a case that will be coming up soon in court. More details later this month. Long live the Status Quo!* Long live the Patriarchy! Long live the Normal and the God-fearing! *Not talking about the UK pop band of the 1960s…
The death of the animals: I did not mention the horrific slaughter of 32 sheep and 18 goats at a farm in St. Catherine last week. An armed gang invaded the farm and tied up the caretaker, then killed his entire stock of animals and carried away the meat. I commented on the issue of praedial larceny in April, thus (and I might as well repeat it here – nothing has changed: “Poor farmers: Another kind of thieving…is what is called “praedial larceny” (a term I had never heard until I came to Jamaica). This means stealing farm produce and livestock, which hard-working farmers have reared and grown. In other words, taking their livelihood away from them…I cannot understand why this criminal act, which goes on year after year unabated, is not taken more seriously by law enforcement and the courts. Perhaps it is because it affects rural residents, and we really only care about what happens in Kingston and a couple of other towns. I don’t know. But I believe the penalties should be much higher and the pursuit of these criminals should be aggressive and unrelenting. This isn’t happening. And when someone spots an alleged goat thief, an angry and frustrated mob attacks him.” National Security Minister, over to you! (And the meat must have gone somewhere!)
Ganja gone high-tech: So a high-tech marijuana farm was found in a big house on the outskirts of Kingston. Most of the comments seem to be along the lines of “Good for them, you’ve got to make money somehow.” Yes indeed, times are hard. One word of warning, however: a doctor whom I know and respect told me recently that he is seeing more and more young people (not only men) coming to his office with psychoses, directly related to ganja-smoking. Jamaicans (especially those who smoke themselves) believe it is harmless. I believe otherwise.
Ganja conference: Meanwhile, the energetic pro-ganja lobby is holding a Cannabis Conference in September here in Jamaica. This will presumably be an entirely one-sided affair and a platform for Lord Anthony Gifford et al to air their views. I hope they all enjoy themselves. I do agree with them though that using one spliff as an excuse for the police to harass, abuse and imprison a young man is not right and the law could be corrected.
Online=scary: We all know about the dangers of cyber-bullying. It has been going on for a long while, but it seems our police have just caught on to it. Of course, there are many pitfalls and hazards online, especially for young people – some pretty nasty stuff going on. But perhaps the police could figure out a way of using social media to actually find some of the missing persons they think have fallen prey to it. It’s a good way of getting the word out, you know! Tech entrepreneur Ingrid Riley spoke on radio on the topic and sought to point out the many positive aspects of social media. It’s a tool, and as such it depends how you use it, she says. But it’s clear the police regard it as the latest fearsome menace of the modern world.
Tapping the diaspora: The fifth conference with members of the diaspora is opening in Montego Bay. What is the Jamaican diaspora? It is the many thousands, even millions of Jamaicans scattered across the globe, but mostly in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. These conferences are a bit like CARICOM meetings in the jaundiced eyes of many Jamaicans. They are seen as “talk shops,” where all the challenges, issues, problems and possible solutions are aired, and then…what? I would love to see lots of investments and joint ventures and the like flow from these biennial meetings, but it doesn’t seem to happen. Like so many things in Jamaica, we talk and talk – but these confabs are not “fruitful” as politicians like to say. Reality hits. Things are not as attractive as they might sound in a comfortable room, with air-conditioning purring and a good cup of coffee at hand. The two major constraints to the diaspora digging in its pockets and spending its hard-earned cash are still there: crime and bureaucracy. Successive governments have not addressed these issues. It just goes round to round.
Having said all that, I would love to see some meaningful projects and partnerships come out of this conference. Something fruity. Sorry, I mean fruitful.
What IS the matter with the National Water Commission (NWC)? The government agency is reportedly dragging its feet on projects already funded by multilateral donors. They have not yet got off the ground and the excuses are manifold and complex. But listen, the NWC has been stumbling along for years, awash in what seems to be chronic inefficiency and waste, lack of resources and a kind of inertia that results from both. There is talk of privatizing water. Do you think this would help, dear readers? At this stage, I don’t know whether I am for or against it.
No reason to panic: Meanwhile we had the “don’t panic, folks” routine from the Bank of Jamaica this week, over the issue of the declining Jamaican Dollar. As a member of the long-suffering Jamaican public, reeling from the effects of recession, huge tax increases and soaring prices, I don’t feel I can listen to any more of these rationalizations. Not right now, anyway. I’ve had it.
Petchary Awards today go out to:
- The Government of Japan and the World Bank for funding a project to improve the lives of the disabled in Jamaica. I would love to see more of these projects funded that will really help the most vulnerable in Jamaican society. It is an empowerment project – skills training, special education. Very good!
- Javed Jaghai, our articulate (and brave – I won’t say unafraid because I think that is not true) gay rights activist. He tackles the issues head-on. Take a read of his blog post, below.
- The energetic Ms. Tanya Batson-Savage for the launch of a truly delightful children’s book, “Bolo the Monkey” - published by her very own Blue Moon Publishing. Tanya is also to be congratulated for venturing forth full-time into the world of publishing. I wish her the best of luck. Go out and buy the book! Only J$500 in local bookstores… It’s a treat.
- Ms. Stephanie Saulter for her new sci-fi novel “Gemsigns” - I missed the launch last week but wish her all the best with it. Published by Quercus Books in London. Check it out!
- That dedicated microphone wielder Andrew Cannon of CVM Television. His reporting on the vexed issue of customs (fees etc) this week was informative.
- UNICEF’s representative in Jamaica Robert Fuderich (he might as well have a permanent spot on my “honors list”!) again for his refreshingly outspoken remarks this week. After four years here, he is irritated by the divisiveness, finger-pointing and point-scoring going on among those involved in protecting and caring for Jamaica’s children. Please! Let’s work together! And again – too much talk, not enough action. How is all this helping the children?
- Also to UNICEF for sharing a very useful online Directory of Services for Children in Jamaica. It’s in a pdf document here: https://workspaces.acrobat.com/app.html#d=AdnGY2QvUTbKs0C89DBjow
- Finally, to the Rain God who granted our wish… Since I started writing this we have had a deliciously refreshing shower!
Sadly, more Jamaicans have lost their lives to violence in the past few days; two were teenagers. My condolences to their grieving families.
Nathaniel Brown, 18, Old Harbour, St. Catherine
Goston Smith, 27, Woodstock/Claremont, St. Ann
Killed by the police:
Christopher Wilson, 17, Yallahs, St. Thomas
Related links and articles:
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130616/lead/lead1.html Disbelief! Jamaicans line up behind VCB despite positive tests: Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130613/lead/lead1.html IMF rep says without key policy changes, Jamaica will remain in economic rut: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/BOJ-says-fall-of—within-expectation_14490279 BoJ says fall of J$ within expectation: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/business/The-value-of-the-dollar-is-just-a-symptom-of-Jamaica-s-underlying-problem_14488271 The value of the dollar is just a symptom of Jamaica’s underlying problem: Keith Collister column/Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130615/letters/letters1.html Stop lying to us! Sunday Gleaner/Letter of the Day
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads/34238 Focus on Vision 2030 at Diaspora Conference: Jamaica Information Service
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/business/Example-of-excellence-in-the-public-sector_14486846 Example of excellence in the public sector: Dennis Chung column/Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130616/lead/lead2.html Build new schools, government urges overseas Jamaicans – but red tape, crime scaring away investors: Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130613/letters/letters1.html Customs fees oppressive: Letter of the Day/Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/High-tech-ganja-farm-found-on-church-owned-property_14482785 High-tech ganja farm found on church-owned property: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Ganja-lobby-fires-up_14497626 Ganja lobby fires up: Jamaica Observer
http://digjamaica.com/blog/2013/06/13/2013-crime-stats-parish-by-parish-jan-april/ 2013 crime stats parish by parish, Jan-April 2013: diGJamaica.com
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Gunmen-raid-animal-farm_14490972 Gunmen raid animal farm: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130615/cleisure/cleisure1.html Farmers cower as heists continue: Gleaner editorial
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130613/lead/lead2.html Black tank project lacked transparency: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Seaview-High-Home-to-stray-animals-haven-for-criminals_14480144 ”Seaview High”: Home to stray animals, haven for criminals: Jamaica Observer
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/court-date-set-for-cops-charged-in-connection-with-school-girls-death Court date set for cops charged in connection with schoolgirl’s death: RJR News
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/cops-involved-in-fatal-shooting-of-st-ann-man-taken-off-front-line-duty_1 Cops involved in fatal shooting of St. Ann man taken off frontline duty: RJR News
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130614/cleisure/cleisure2.html Gays made, not born: Peter Espeut column/Gleaner
http://sonofstmary.wordpress.com/2013/06/13/freedom-to-be-intolerant/ Gay rights clash with the freedom to be intolerant: Son of St. Mary
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130615/cleisure/cleisure4.html Father-child interaction crucial to development: Dr. Sandra Knight op-ed/Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130616/lead/lead8.html UNICEF official: Too many unhelpful quarrels: Sunday Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Police-establish-link-between-social-media–missing-persons_14465683 Police establish link between social media, missing persons: Jamaica Observer
http://newsandviewsbydjmillerja.wordpress.com/2013/06/13/parliaments-sectoral-debate-yawn/ Parliament’s sectoral debate. Yawn. newsandviewsbydjmiller
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Japan-funds-project-to-improve-lives-of-people-with-disabilities Japan funds project to improve lives of people with disabilities: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130616/news/news5.html ”You’re moving too slow, NWC” – International agencies say Commission taking too long to implement projects: Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130613/news/news1.html Inside the Cockpit Country: Conservation workers want to end deforestation, pollution: Gleaner
This month has started with a kind of numbing heat. Kingston nights are hot and dark; the days are hot and bright. Those annoying birds, the grackles have brought some screeching offspring into our yard. I chase them away, and it seems to make me feel better.
First things first…The PM is anxious about our athletes’ health: Remember now, Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller is Minister of Sport. She must also be Minister of Defence, but national security is of lesser importance, I guess. Before taking a few days’ vacation, the PM met with a large group of people (you can see some of them sitting round the table in the photo below, which doesn’t even show all of them) to discuss the burning issue of a wellness center for our athletes. Top priority – not child abuse, children in lock-ups, crime and violence, the crisis in education, our failing health system, our failing justice system, the economy…
But the Reggae Boyz… Our national football team is now sadly on life support after its third consecutive defeat in Honduras last night. Moreover, our coach, former player Theodore Whitmore, has resigned. The “Road to Rio” - our World Cup campaign – seems to have faded beneath our feet. Several rather unkind memes have circulated online. I will not rub salt in the wounds by reproducing them here. Fact is, we cannot just throw together a team made up of mostly second- or third-tier overseas-based players. We need a serious national football training program.
Those trips again: I am glad that Opposition Senator Robert Montague stood up and asked a number of questions about yet another trip that I may not even have mentioned: the journey of Mayor of Kingston Angela Brown Burke and her entourage, including Local Government Minister Noel Arscott and various assistants, down to the good old continent of Africa. This is quite separate from the Prime Minister’s excursion (no report card yet, Madam Prime Minister? And yes, we know about the “teachers to Tanzania” concept. Apart from that). Since the good Senator has formally tabled questions, I hope he will get proper answers. The Mayor et al went first to Uganda and then down to South Africa, I understand.
Dollars nah run: My favorite minister Phillip Paulwell wants more people to apply for the (barely) “single-digit” interest rate energy loans. Amazing that 9.5% is considered a really low interest rate in Jamaica, isn’t it? I think that everyone’s running away from getting themselves into more debt at the moment. What does my economic guru Ralston Hyman have to say about this? I will have to listen in to his morning radio program to find out. Confidence in markets is everything. I learnt that during my years in the financial sector. Once it is gone…dawg nyam yuh supper.
And time a-wasting: A great report in today’s Gleaner notes the irritation of employers with the huge chunks taken out of their employees’ working days while they wait in line at banks and government agencies (the two prime culprits, but there are others). Yes indeed folks, in Jamaica you can wait up to two hours for service in a bank, in the middle of the day when you should be back at your workplace. It is utterly ridiculous. I know of one financial institution that my husband and I jokingly call the “sleepy place.” There is a large waiting area – rows of chairs, where customers regularly doze off while waiting. And no matter how many customers they have, there is almost always only one person to serve them. It’s an insult and it is a serious deterrent to productivity.
Oh, and no money for disasters? About two months or more ago (I will have to look it up) I mentioned in a blog post that there was absolutely no mention of budgeting for disaster preparedness. When I raised the issue, someone muttered something about help from overseas. So if we do get hit by a hurricane this year then we can always turn to these kind donors and say “help”? Now the Local Government Minister tells us that “it is apparent that the (National Disaster Fund) is not adequate…” God help us if a disaster hits. I don’t know who else will.
So now gays are “uncontrollable”: You’ve heard about the “uncontrollable” girls, such as those at the Armadale Juvenile Correctional Centre (and elsewhere) who are locked up because their parents (mothers) can’t cope with them. Well, the Jamaica Observer is now describing a small group of homeless young men who have occupied an abandoned house in an upscale area of Kingston as “uncontrollable.” Is it that any group of Jamaicans (young ones) who don’t behave “normally” is uncontrollable? These two groups have something in common: seriously marginalized. At least the newspaper tried to get a more balanced picture this time – actually speaking to J-FLAG and to the police – plus a so-called caretaker at the house.
I’m not very impressed… by radio journalist George Davis’ column in today’s Gleaner. He is trying to be too clever. But I do not think it particularly clever to refer to “a man who presents the major evening newscasts for one of our two major television stations” as homosexual. Why do that to a fellow journalist? Of course, no names mentioned but please!! It’s just tacky.
The meaning of service: The image many of us have of U.S. college fraternities is one of heavy-drinking, partying, crazy students. However, there is another side to fraternities: a tradition of service to others. The photograph below and the blog it comes from epitomizes the “giving back” that these fraternity brothers (Delta Upsilon) from several different colleges and universities are engaged in during a recent trip to Jamaica. The students are refurbishing a school in Westmoreland; I must find out which one. The contribution of these “farriners” - like the ongoing medical missions from overseas – is often greatly under-estimated. OK, I am sure these boys had fun in Negril too – but they also gave their time and energy, freely, to the children of Jamaica. They could have been sitting on their couches at home watching TV. I wish more young Jamaicans would catch on to the power of volunteerism. It is better to give than receive…
Word of the week: “Committed.” I think we (especially any government agency) should give this word a rest. It means “we’re going to do something but we haven’t done it yet. But yes, we think it’s a really good thing and a great idea. But…Not just yet.” Just read a Jamaica Information Service report: “Government committed to the elimination of child labor.” How? When?
And big ups to:
The U.S. Peace Corps volunteers: Since we are talking about service… Below you will find a link to the blog of one volunteer in Jamaica, who is living and working in rural St. Thomas, up in the mountains. The U.S. Peace Corps has been doing great work in Jamaica since Independence.
Ms. Virtue…: I met Ms. Erica Virtue quite a few years ago. I remember bumping into her in the Gleaner newsroom when visiting that worthy media house; and many rambling telephone chats. I have always had a healthy respect for her feisty, often provocative style. Now Erica is doing a weekly video commentary piece on the newspaper’s website, called “Erica’s Edge.“ I love it, and Erica’s biting and sometimes brutal humor. She may rub people up the wrong way sometimes – but she’s a journalist, not a shrinking violet…
…and Mr. Henry: When I first spoke to Darien Henry many years ago, he was an enthusiastic community-based reporter for Irie FM in Ocho Rios. I told him what a splendid radio voice he has. Now, it seems, he is putting pen to paper – or rather, fingers to keyboard. He has written a sensible column on education reform in the Gleaner. I look forward to more from the affable Mr. Henry.
Isle Chixx: Jamaicans eat chicken like there’s no tomorrow, and a relatively new local firm is doing well. They do Cornish hens. Managing Director Alex Antaeus will be opening a Greek restaurant in Kingston soon – so we can start eating healthier!
The Ministry of Justice: For posting the draft terms of reference for the upcoming Commission of Enquiry into the Tivoli Gardens massacre online for all to see. This kind of transparency and public consultation is laudable and I don’t believe this has been done with previous enquiries. You can find the discussion draft at http://www.moj.gov.jm/sites/default/files/pdf/Discussion%20Draft.pdf And you should submit your comments in writing to the Ministry not later than Friday, June 21.
And talking of consultations, I just returned from a complex, lengthy public consultation on the boundaries to the precious Cockpit Country in western Jamaica. More on that in a later blog.
The following Jamaicans have lost their lives violently in the past three days. I extend my condolences, as always, to the grieving families and friends who are left behind:
Errol Irwin, 57, Bog Walk, St. Catherine
Millar Bowen, 43, Bodles Research Station, St. Catherine
Rohan Clarke, 28, Cambridge, St. James
O’Neil Clarke, 34, Stettin, Trelawny
Unnamed infant, Stettin, Trelawny
Killed by police:
Davion Gordon, downtown Kingston
Okeen Edwards, 19, Greendale/Spanish Town, St. Catherine
Related links and articles:
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads-117/34209 PM wants swift action on wellness center for athletes: Jamaica Information Service
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/latestnews/Montague-questions-Local-Govt-trip-to-Africa-in-May Montague questions local government trip to Africa in May: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Security-costing-taxpayers-million–for-ruined-Goodyear-factory_14447506 Security costing taxpayers millions for ruined Goodyear factory: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Ruined-Sligoville-Stadium-to-be-rescued–says-Neita-Headley_14435373 Ruined Sligoville Stadium to be rescued, says Neita-Headley: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130612/lead/lead1.html Bosses seeing red! Long wait in lines keeping their workers off the job: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130612/lead/lead3.html Tick, tick, tick: Jamaicans lose valuable production hours standing in line: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130612/lead/lead5.html Not enough money in the country’s hurricane coffers: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130610/lead/lead9.html ”I love UTech, but no”: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130611/cleisure/cleisure1.html Dr. Phillips must hold his nerve: Gleaner editorial
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/business/100-to-1–makes-sense-_14465183 100 to 1, makes sense? Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/business/More-takers-needed-for-energy-loans_14471505 More takers needed for energy loans: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130610/lead/lead1.html AJ, know your role: private sector fires back at Nicholson after “trade bickering” comments: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130610/news/news1.html Jamaica, China dreaming together: op-ed by Chinese Ambassador to Jamaica Zheng Qingdian: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130610/letters/letters2.html CARICOM an old boys’ club: Letter to the Editor from Joan Williams/Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Why-we-are-glad—-and-mad-_14451547 Why we are glad – and mad! Jean Lowrie-Chin column/Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130610/news/news5.html Mass exodus! Senator warns teachers may leave in droves: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130611/cleisure/cleisure3.html Pay teachers better, then hold bar higher: Darien Henry column/Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130611/lead/lead5.html More teachers than vacancies: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130610/cleisure/cleisure1.html Look at New York, Mr. Thwaites: Gleaner editorial
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130611/lead/lead1.html Free health fallout: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Don-t-touch-it-_14451904 Don’t touch it! say Negril residents: Jamaica Observer
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/commissioner-of-police-knew-of-plans-to-settle-bribery-case-says-witness Commissioner of Police knew of plans to settle bribery case, says witness: RJR News
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130610/cleisure/cleisure3.html Use human rights to save us: Garth Rattray column/Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/J-FLAG-denies-abandoning-homeless-gay-men_14447331 J-FLAG denies abandoning homeless gay men: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130612/cleisure/cleisure4.html Those slow to accept gays are not evil: George Davis column/Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=45647 Government invites comments on draft terms of reference for Tivoli enquiry: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130610/cleisure/cleisure2.html Judges can’t bail out cops: Peter Champagnie op-ed/Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/High-hopes-for-Diaspora-conference_14464778 High hopes for diaspora conference: Jamaica Observer
http://wellreadrobin.wordpress.com/2013/06/10/the-sheltered-ones-are-not-yet-born/ The sheltered ones are not yet born: wellreadrobin.wordpress.com
http://aprilspeacecorpsblog.com/2013/06/10/life-in-the-valley/ Life in the Valley: April’s Peace Corps blog.com
http://deltaupsilon.wordpress.com/2013/05/17/gsi-jamaica-why-i-am-a-du/ GSI Jamaica: Why I am a DU: deltaupsilon.wordpress.com
Tucked away behind the grey stone Chapel on the University of the West Indies‘ (UWI) Mona campus in Kingston is the Book-keeper‘s Cottage. It is small and solid and is one of the few original plantation buildings left on this beautiful swathe of land that rolls out at the foot of the forested hills. The University’s 653 acres once formed part of two sugar estates, Mona and Papine. There are fragmented ruins (a water wheel, an aqueduct) scattered throughout the campus among the modern university buildings.
The Cottage now houses UWI’s Archaeology Lab. This is where I met up again with U.S. Fulbright Scholar Heidi Savery, along with the lively group of students from the Department and from U.S. colleges. Some were sitting outside writing up notes; inside, they were analyzing, sorting, bringing records up to date. All the students looked much cleaner and tidier than two days previously, amidst the windswept dust and heat. They were conducting excavations at Fort Rocky, near Port Royal (see my earlier post). Now the atmosphere was relaxed, but they were all working hard to finish things off. The Archaeological Field School at Fort Rocky was over, and the summer has arrived, with the heat seeping in from the coast.
I met up with Oshane Robinson and Adrian Reid, who are President and Vice President of UWI’s History and Archaeological Society, respectively. Adrian just completed his final year and hopes to work with the Jamaica National Heritage Trust. He grew up in a rural area of western Jamaica and went to Rusea’s High School in Lucea, Hanover, which has an interesting history of its own. There, he says his history teacher greatly influenced him and it was always his favorite subject. A natural fit. The Society conducts the only heritage tours of the Mona campus authorized by the University, in a beautifully decorated van. It is actively involved in UWI’s Research Days, too. And Adrian told me that the Society provides a great deal of guidance to first year students, helping them to link history, heritage and archaeology.
I also chatted with Max, an anthropology student who will be conducting community research with the Jamaican Social Development Commission during the summer. The other Jamaican students who had been working at Fort Rocky were Melissa Bryan, Keresha Barr and Kwame Clarke (I hope I got their names right…)
While I was in the Cottage I browsed through some Taino exhibits. Heidi told me about Dr. James W. Lee, a native of Vancouver, British Columbia, who arrived in Jamaica in 1951, and settled here. Dr. Lee used to work for the bauxite firm Alpart (Alumina Partners of Jamaica), and as such traveled round the island prospecting (and, one presumes, doing a bit of digging). He developed a passion for archaeology in Jamaica, and especially for Taino relics; he began mapping Taino sites in 1959. Dr. Lee was not an academic in the strictest sense – that is, he did not work at an academic institution. His daughter Wendy observes, “I have never known a researcher as meticulous and thorough as my father. He founded the Archaeological Society of Jamaica and published a quarterly newsletter for 25 years without a single interruption. He used this medium to document and publicly share the results of his explorations and research. He read widely, including all the original sources of information about the ‘discovery’ of the Caribbean islands (in Spanish, French and German) and used this knowledge to inform his work in the field. My father devised a classification system for the artifacts he collected, and every piece was labeled and accounted for; each stone artifact was also described, measured and the stone and its source identified. He made detailed maps of every new or rediscovered archaeological site (he was also a trained surveyor). He was the author of numerous articles on Jamaican archaeology and geology, published in relevant professional journals.” Dr. Lee’s wonderful collection (which he had hoped to house in a museum at his residence in Runaway Bay) was donated to the University in 2000, thus enriching our knowledge.
By the way, we used to call Jamaica’s first nation people the “Arawak Indians.” Nowadays we are calling them the “Taino” people. But can I tell you something? I am not quite sure I understand what the difference is. I do wish someone would enlighten me. I can’t help still thinking of them as Arawaks.
Meanwhile, back at the Cottage it was group photo time, before everyone said their goodbyes – at least on the work part of the field trip. I believe some social events were planned over the weekend. The students and professors gathered on the porch and posed beautifully (well, some of them perhaps not particularly elegant, but…) See the results below.
The afternoon waned. Grackles strutted in the grass outside and music played somewhere, as the group drifted off, in ones and twos and threes. The end of a great project – but there will be many more to come.
Many thanks to Heidi Savery for allowing me to get to know this wonderful group. I wish them all the best for the future, as they all go their separate ways, and hope they will all keep in touch with each other. These times spent together, working as a team, are invaluable.
Related articles and links:
http://petchary.wordpress.com/2013/06/02/revealing-the-silences-of-the-past/ Revealing the silences of the past: petchary.wordpress.com
http://myspot.mona.uwi.edu/history/ Department of History and Archaeology/University of the West Indies Mona Campus
http://myspot.mona.uwi.edu/history/staff/lenik-steve Lecturer Dr. Steve Lenik’s profile, Department of History and Archaeology
Today is the second day of the 2013 Hurricane Season. Now, those large Atlantic maps appear on our televisions, with the forecasters looking further to the east to see what might, or might not, be making its way across the ocean from the West coast of Africa. Blobs of bright orange are the ones to look for, bringing rain and hopefully not much else.They also tend to hang out in the Gulf of Mexico and decide to pay us a visit, on occasion. I always look here: http://www.weather.com/newscenter/tropical/ where you can also find an animated Caribbean satellite map where the blobs actually move around… If you are into that.
Horror upon horror: That’s enough of the weather. The day after I wrote my last bulletin, the island went into a paroxysm of shock, despair and recrimination, which has lasted for the remainder of the week. It seems to have swamped almost everything else. Yes, it’s crime again – this time, a series of horrendous murders that began with the killing and dismemberment of four-year-old Natasha Brown in the small community of Duanvale on Tuesday. Duanvale has had a series of murders in the past few years; one wonders. Some residents think the best response is to “fast and pray.” If it makes them feel better…The death of another young girl, eight-year-old Temera Laing, in the impoverished March Pen area near Spanish Town, followed swiftly after little Natasha’s tragic demise. Immediately after that, the bodies of two men were found in the community. They were tagged with notes apparently blaming them for Temera’s death.
The finger-pointing began: “It’s the parents’ fault,” said some (for “parent,” read “mother” – the fathers are mere sperm donors in most cases). Why was the four-year-old walking home all by herself? Many Jamaicans say it is a traditional/common practice in rural Jamaica for small children to walk to and from school unaccompanied by an adult. Whether common practice or not, it amounts to child neglect in my view. It frightens me when I see small children, sometimes hand in hand, teetering on the edge of busy main roads. Anything could happen. Children aren’t adults, last time I checked. Well, OK, so maybe I am pointing fingers. But everyone gets blamed in these situations – the community, the police. The (silent) Minister of National Security. Of course, the Education Minister had to say something, about parenting, at a church. “We must not kill them – whether in the womb or whether by our behavior and treatment,” said the Reverend Thwaites when talking about the child murders. Could he perhaps, just for once, leave the religious dogma out of the discussion? But that is clearly quite impossible.
Child Month was depressing: Meanwhile Youth Minister Lisa Hanna took a deep breath and issued a regretful press release about the child murders. When I said in my last notes that she had had a rough Child Month, the last few days of it got a lot rougher. In fact, May ended on a note of horror…and hand-wringing.
But that was not all: In the past week, two elderly ladies have been murdered. A young man attacked an 83-year-old newspaper vendor on a busy morning in downtown Kingston with a machete. They say he was of “unsound mind.” I believe he is in hospital after onlookers set upon him. Meanwhile, an American tourist was reportedly caught in crossfire during a robbery and killed – in addition to a “wanted man”; a prisoner was stabbed to death in a police lock-up (how could this happen?); and more. But you don’t want to hear any more, do you?
And one newspaper has nothing better to do… So after its first sensational article, the Observer, in its desire to inflame its readers further on the shocking behavior of a small group of homeless men who happen to be gay, took a “team” up to Millsborough in uptown Kingston. What was the purpose of this? To try and get some salacious photographs of the gays getting on bad? To provoke some kind of confrontation? Well, they seem to have succeeded in the latter, as another so-called report appeared (this time with no byline) claiming that the gays attacked the journalists. This in turn sparked a disapproving release from the Press Association of Jamaica, addressed to J-FLAG.
J-FLAG responded, in part: “We condemn all acts of violence or intimidation either from or directed towards the LGBT community.” J-FLAG went on to point out that it is an advocacy organization agitating for the rights of LGBT Jamaicans. ”We do not have control over the behavior of the people we represent…We cannot be held responsible for the actions of any person who acts contrary to the norms of civil engagement, even if they are LGBT.” Tell me, if the offending group of squatters was made up entirely of women, would the PAJ write to the Association of Women’s Organizations of Jamaica? No? I thought not. Just call the police, for heaven’s sake!
Hey, corruption is a generational issue: This is what the zealous young politician Raymond Pryce seemed to imply during a radio discussion with Professor Trevor Munroe, who continues to maintain his laser-sharp focus on the corruption issue as head of the National Integrity Action lobby group. I was mighty surprised when Mr. Pryce suggested that the professor’s views on corruption were out of date…
The social divide: Meanwhile, tickets for the Jamaica Observer Food Awards were J$10,000 a pop, I heard. How happy and flourishing are the elite! How happy I am to see them so happy and flourishing, cocktails in hands, on the social pages! I just need to ask them one question: Do you live in the same Jamaica as me? Nevertheless, congratulations to Café Blue who won Best Café. One of our very favorite hang-out spots!
World Environment Day: Is on Wednesday, June 5. What will you be doing to reduce your carbon footprint? Here is the relevant link: http://www.thinkeatsave.org.
Throwing Petchary Bouquets to the following:
- Pan-Jamaican Investment Trust, who are going to bid in the Office of Utilities Regulation’s request for proposals for renewable energy generation. This is a first for the company. I am also glad to see that they are investing in the new Courtyard Marriott Hotel; ground will be broken this month.
- Dr. Carolyn Cooper for her relentless campaigning against the horrible, creeping over-development of the huge swathe of green that was Long Mountain, high above Kingston. Years ago I walked up there with environmental activist/journalist John Maxwell – before the concrete took over. I am afraid it will all end in tears…
- Jamaicans for Justice for their great series of articles in the Sunday Gleaner on children’s rights – outlining clearly the steps that must – must – be taken to improve the current situation.
- Police Commissioner Owen Ellington for a thoughtful piece in today’s Sunday Observer. Well worth a read. See the link below.
- Young Roneilla Powell and Breanna Marsh of Mona Heights Primary, winners of the school’s writing competition. Roneilla’s essay “Myself as a Clock” should make interesting reading. Kudos to to their supportive teachers and parents! I am all for creative writing – hope other schools will follow this example.
- Glad to hear that Sergeant Raymond Wilson, head of the Police Federation, is out of hospital and recovering from a heart attack. Take it easy and get well soon!
- And on a football note – Arsenal’s Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (who has Jamaican roots by the way) who scored a cheeky goal for England against a star-studded Brazil team today; and the United States football team for beating the all-powerful Germans! Impressive.
As noted above, the death toll over the past four days has been depressing and the crimes horrifying. I would ask you, dear readers, to also read a report from the Jamaica Star (link below) on a widow’s efforts to ensure that the killers of her husband are brought to justice. It’s a sad and exhausting story. If you have any thoughts on it (or any pertinent information) please do let me know…
Sylvia Sewell, 83, Beckford/Orange Street, downtown Kingston
André Allison, 21, Central Police lock-up, downtown Kingston
Damion Spence, 19, Old Harbour, St. Catherine
Temera Laing, 8, March Pen, St. Catherine
Clayton Parkinson, 33, March Pen, St. Catherine
Tishawn Campbell, 24, March Pen, St. Catherine
Vera Knight, 75, Belle Plain, Clarendon
Unidentified U.S. national, Savannah-la-Mar, Westmoreland
Killed by police:
Unidentified man, Fraser’s Content, St. Catherine
“Bigga,” Savannah-la-Mar, Westmoreland
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130530/lead/lead2.html Help Tanzania if we have extra teachers – JTA President: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130530/lead/lead8.html TV stations defend refusal to air ad in tolerance case: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Men-in-house-said-occupied-by-gays-attack-Observer-news-team_14372677 Men in house said occupied by gays attack Observer news team: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130530/cleisure/cleisure4.html Protecting rights and freedoms for all: Jaevion Nelson column/Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130530/cleisure/cleisure3.html Thwaites must stand firm on condoms in schools: Sean Major-Campbell op-ed/Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/COJO-gives-generously-to-Maxfield-Park-Children-s-Home_14366437 COJO gives generously to Maxfield Park Children’s Home: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130602/lead/lead6.html Former Fort Augusta inmate
http://www.cepr.net/index.php/blogs/the-americas-blog/imf-approves-jamaica-loan-pain-no-gain IMF approves Jamaica loan: Pain, no gain: Center for Economic and Policy Research
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/The-regional-trade–political-and-economic-quagmire-_14366167 The regional trade, political and economic quagmire: Anthony Gomes column/Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130602/news/news5.html Opposition MP provides additional suggestions to spark development: Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130602/business/business3.html Pan-Jam eyes renewable energy market: Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130602/news/news7.html Better parenting needed, says Thwaites: Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130602/focus/focus7.html Inspect education ministry too: Owen Speid column/Sunday Gleaner
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads/34048 Start-Up Jamaica to provide support for ICT entrepreneurs: Jamaica Information Service
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/We-are-nearing-on-the-mark_14366155 We are nearing on the mark: Letter from Housing Minister Morais Guy/Jamaica Observer
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/more-opposition-to-plans-to-amend-ocg-act More opposition to plans to amend OCG act: RJR News
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130530/news/news1.html Judge us on commitments – Robinson: Gleaner
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads-103/34049 Renewed focus on cassava: Jamaica Information Service
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130530/news/news8.html Erosion control agent testing gets under way on Negril beach: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130602/lead/lead8.html Negril the only Jamaican star on CNN’s top 100 beaches: Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130602/news/news2.html Visitor arrivals down – but summer looks “all right”! Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130530/news/news9.html Bad farming practices killing ecosystem: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130602/cleisure/cleisure3.html Raping virgin territory: Carolyn Cooper column/Sunday Gleaner
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads-106/34065 Dr. Ferguson appeals for continued external support for HIV/AIDS program: Jamaica Information Service
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Dealing-effectively-with-guns-and-drugs-for-improved-public-safety_14390368 Dealing effectively with guns and drugs for improved public safety: Commissioner of Police Owen Ellington article/Sunday Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Call-for-Duanvale-to–fast-and-pray-_14391939 Call for Duanvale to “fast and pray”: Sunday Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Madness_14388617 Madness: Tamara Scott-Williams column/Sunday Observer
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/body-of-slain-teenager-identified Body of slain teen identified: RJR News
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/top-cop-charged-with-rape Top cop charged with rape: RJR News
http://jamaica-star.com/thestar/20130426/news/news12.html Man escapes police custody: Jamaica Star, April 26, 2013
- The Hurricane Season is Here: June 2, 2013 (petchary.wordpress.com)
If you drive along the gently winding road, with mangroves and dark lagoons on one side and sandhills spiked with cactus on the other, you will reach the small town of Port Royal. It is perched at the end of a long, flat spit of land, between Kingston Harbor and the open Caribbean Sea. Just before you reach Port Royal, however (I would prefer to call it a “hamlet” really) you will see a long wall to your left, stretching along the side of the road. We have probably passed it a hundred times or more, and never stopped there.
But this week, I did. This is Fort Rocky, and I was in the company of U.S. Fulbright Scholar, archaeologist and community builder extraordinaire, Heidi Savery.
Behind that mysterious wall, which gives away nothing, is a very large space, fringed with broken interior walls and rooms missing a wall. Here and there were knots of people in twos and threes, hunched in holes in the ground, writing on clipboards. They were students from the United States and from the University of the West Indies‘ (UWI) History and Archaeology Department in Kingston and their professors; as well as officials of the Jamaica National Heritage Trust (JNHT) and two officers from the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF).
This was the end of Year Two of UWI’s Archaeological Field School at Fort Rocky, and an opportunity for the students to gain hands-on experience on an actual site. Dr. Steve Lenik, who lectures at UWI’s Department of History and Archaeology, showed me a collection of maps from various periods, which help them to identify possible spots that could produce interesting material. They then divide the space up into grids at ten-meter intervals. They dig what are called “shovel test pits,” just 50 – 60 cm down, to see whether it is worth continuing to dig there.
So, what have they found at Fort Rocky?
Many buttons. Even the most corroded are lovely when cleaned up by the Heritage Trust restorers. Some show the military insignia of the West India Regiment, with the crocodile (and indeed there are real crocodiles living on the other side of the road, in the mangrove). One of the students, Zach Beier, found a drinking glass. They found ceramics, medicine bottles and glass dating back to the late 19th century. Also clay pipes, some with lovely designs on the bowl. One had the initials “E.W.” carved on it. I wonder who E.W. was. Many nails of different sizes and other pieces of metal that were parts of fixtures and machines. There were once cannons at Fort Rocky, but those had long since disappeared…spirited away.
I met Zach, a graduate student from Syracuse University. He told me that he is actually from my home country – born in Lancaster, Lancashire; and that he has been working on a project at an eighteenth-century fort in Dominica (a small island in the eastern Caribbean that I would love to visit). Like most of the workers, he looked windswept and his face was smudged with dirt. One cannot expect to be clean, neat and tidy when digging, of course! I also met Elizabeth McCague, from St. Mary’s College of Maryland, and her professor Liza Gijanto; and the ebullient James, also from Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina, who is a registered member of the Choctaw Nation.
Private Carmola of the JDF told me about the Military Museum at Up Park Camp in Kingston, which opened in 2006. He also told me that the day before had been a day off for the soldiers, as it was Victoria Cross Day (May 27) – a day taken seriously, with a grand dinner, a church service and a military holiday. I looked it up, and learned that one Jamaican has received the Victoria Cross: Sergeant William Gordon, of the First Battalion, West India Regiment, for his “heroic devotion” in saving the life of his officer during the British campaign in West Africa in March, 1892. The JDF also celebrates another Victoria Cross recipient, Private Samuel Hodge of the British Virgin Islands, who also performed braved deeds during the same campaign, in 1866.
As for Fort Rocky, it was in regular use until the end of World War II. According to the JDF website, it was built just before the First World War to replace the Victoria Battery, which had been badly damaged in the 1907 earthquake that rocked Kingston. At that time, it had five six-inch guns and could accommodate 82 soldiers. It also had a small railway system from about 1887, only two miles long, which ran along the Palisadoes spit to Port Royal. It was used to transport equipment over the light, sandy soil. Jamaica’s railway system – one of the great legacies of the colonial era – has, of course, been allowed to rot and no longer exists, except for a small private railway operated by a bauxite mining company. But then, that is another sad story.
And it is really a story of neglect, but also potential. As Heidi Savery explained to me, there are many and rich treasures to be found in Jamaica’s cultural heritage. Jamaica’s history has been painful in many respects, but that does not make it any less valuable; there is also much to learn and to seek to understand. As Jamaicans would say, “The half has never been told.” For Heidi, who believes passionately in Jamaica’s people and its culture, the management of the island’s cultural heritage is all important – and it must involve the people. It is not just about conservation and the preservation of “things” to be put in a museum. It is also about a deeper, more spiritual connection, whereby the past is revived and incorporated into the present. It is a much broader concept. In her work in Bluefields, Westmoreland (where she has unearthed a large Taino development), Heidi believes the community has much to give back and much to learn from its past. The past is a living thing for the residents of this vibrant community, in a particularly beautiful spot on Jamaica’s south coast. More on Bluefields another time.
A number of music videos have been filmed in battered old Fort Rocky. Some graffiti daub the walls. A body had been found there. It is a lonely spot, with nothing but the sound of the wind in the thorn bushes, and the thump of the waves on the nearby shore. The city of Kingston, full of stories sad and old, past and present, is just a few miles down the road.
But Fort Rocky still retains, somehow, a whisper of its past.
Especially when you start digging.
Here are a few related articles. You can also check out my photo album on Facebook
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20110515/arts/arts2.html The Jamaica Defence Force as a cultural treasure: Gleaner
http://www.jdfmil.org/JamaicaLegion/vet_extra1.php Victoria Cross commemorations in Jamaica: JDF website
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-18601357 Jamaica’s “wickedest city” Port Royal banks on heritage: BBC News
http://whc.unesco.org/en/tentativelists/5430/ The underwater city of Port Royal: World Heritage Convention/UNESCO
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/pages/history/story001.html 1692: Earthquake of Port Royal: Gleaner/Pieces of the Past
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20111112/lead/lead8.html Restoring glory: Bluefields residents work towards community and tourism
The rain started with a flurry of wind and grumbling thunder which made our usually brave dogs tremble. Since then it has continued in a determined way, not wanting to stop.
The JTA furore: This has rumbled on, coming and going like the thunder, since the recent “unfortunate” remarks by no less than three past presidents of the Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA). These gentlemen indirectly but quite obviously aimed their barbs at Education Minister Ronald Thwaites, culminating in Mr. Doran Dixon’s unpleasant comments about mongrel dogs. (Personally though, I think mongrels are more intelligent than pedigree dogs). The revered Mico University College (the oldest teacher training institution in the Western Hemisphere, no less) issued a press release disassociating itself from Mr. Dixon’s comments; he is a senior lecturer there. There has been much outrage in the newspaper columns. But in an effort to return to the core issues at stake, Simon Crosskill’s Live at Seven last night attempted to clarify the JTA’s concerns in an interview with its current president Clayton Hall. It really does appear that Minister Thwaites was somewhat premature, and indeed inaccurate, in some of his comments in Parliament recently. Just want to emphasize the need for reasoned dialogue… All of you. A link to the Live at Seven program is below… It is, as Mr. Hall says, “a sincere issue of trust…”
Thanks goodness, now, the Labour Minister is going to step in. Please, let good sense and understanding prevail.
The children: It has been a rough and rocky Child Month for Minister of Youth and Culture Lisa Hanna. On Monday, she attempted to address the criticism of her oblique and tentative approach to the issue of children in state care in a joint press briefing, flanked by the Ministers of Security and Justice. Flying solo she has not done so well in my view. A radio interview this week was (as Jamaicans for Justice have noted) sadly lacking in details. Her announcement that the government will be building special lockups for children in several parishes (using the government’s JEEP emergency employment program) is puzzling. So, new lockups for children and a “retrofitted” prison on the same compound as an adult prison? Great improvement, yes and no doubt at great expense. Meanwhile, the Children’s Advocate embarked on an exhausting tour of television and radio talk shows, explaining in great detail the current situation regarding her efforts to obtain compensation for the survivors of the terrible fire at the Armadale Juvenile Correctional Centre. She is encountering roadblocks from the Attorney General’s Department. It is quite distressing to hear that she has to go to court for the girls…and the court date is July 2014. No, that was not a typo.
“Stomach-churning”: A luridly-written piece by Karyl Walker of the Jamaica Observer informed us that a small group of homeless gay men have “taken over” a house in a very posh uptown residential area of Kingston called Millsborough. The very posh residents are expressing outrage at their behavior, which “churns their collective stomachs,” to quote Mr. Walker’s colorful turn of phrase. Fingers are pointed at the non-governmental organization that advocates for gay rights, J-FLAG; this is the usual attitude of the average Jamaican towards human rights advocacy groups (Jamaicans for Justice have had their share of it over the years) These are homeless people, who may be breaking the law. If they are doing so, then the police should deal with them. The journalist clearly agrees with the residents, who believe it is the fault of the “disgusting,” stomach-churning gays who think they have rights. And how dare they think they have rights as Jamaican citizens? Sections of the media, Mr. Walker and his colleague, cartoonist Clovis included, encourage these attitudes enthusiastically.
Why don’t you get upset about rape, incest and child abuse, like Superintendent Gladys Brown?
Stressed-out Jamaica: Bloomberg recently posted a grid showing the “most stressed-out” countries in the world, based on things like perception of corruption, life expectancy and other factors. The top ten countries were in Latin America/Caribbean, with Jamaica rolling in at number eight. Most Jamaicans don’t seem particularly surprised at this finding. Slight shrug of shoulders. A tweep pointed out that not so long ago, some other survey concluded that Jamaica was one of the happiest countries in the world! We shrugged at that one, too. Can we be happy and stressed-out at the same time? And should we pay any attention to such matters?
A landmark case: See the useful links below from the blog of the insightful broadcast journalist Dionne Jackson-Miller. Along with J-FLAG, Dionne and Nationwide‘s Emily Crooks have been live tweeting this week from the Constitutional Court, where they are covering a very interesting and important case. Gay rights activist and attorney-at-law Maurice Tomlinson is suing three television stations – Television Jamaica, CVM Television and the Public Broadcasting Corporation of Jamaica – for refusing to air a public service announcement encouraging tolerance and love for gay family members. Dionne’s blog includes neat summaries of the first two days of the hearing.
For your information, I am sharing the link to this highly offensive (?) ad below. See for yourself.
More worries about the fake beach: There is still skepticism about the plan to rebuild the fast disappearing “seven mile” beach in Negril, using a material that has not been patented, manufactured by a Florida-based company. One resident points out that the product has not been tested and there are no reviews; what about the effects on humans and on the marine environment and creatures that live on the beach? Apparently the artificial beach will be tested at two other locations in Jamaica first…
Two very important reports: I think I omitted to post the links to two key human rights-related reports on Jamaica. Amnesty International’s 2013 Report is at http://www.amnesty.org/en/region/jamaica/report-2013. The report of the Independent Commission of Investigations on police abuses in Jamaica is at http://www.indecom.gov.jm/Release/Safeguarding%20the%20Right%20to%20Life.pdf and is well worth reading. Neither report has received much more than a passing comment in the local media.
Kudos, kudos to:
- Educator, founder of the Nexus Performing Arts Company, cultural activist – and our son’s form teacher at Hillel Academy – Hugh Douse writes his debut column in the Jamaica Observer today. He makes a plea for the restoration of the historic Ward Theatre, a once-beautiful building in downtown Kingston, and the state of theater in Jamaica. A very good start!
- Another newcomer – Joel Crosskill is now reporting for CVM Television, with a British accent! Ah, that name sounds familiar… Some very informative reports so far, young Crosskill!
- Financial analyst and commentator Ralston Hyman, whose program “Real Business” on Power 106 FM is an endless mine of information on all aspects of finance and business, at home and abroad. I learn a lot from the interesting discussions, starting 9:00 a.m. weekdays…
- Superintendent Gladys Brown, who heads the Centre for the Investigation of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse (CISOCA). She continues to be my favorite police person by far. I admire her outspoken, fearless defense of the weak and marginalized, and in particular victims of sexual crimes. She is now speaking out about increasing rape allegations against the police. I hope all these cases are fully investigated, that the names are made public and that justice is done.
We are shocked by the murders of a young girl and an as yet unidentified teenager. I am so sad for the family and friends of these two Jamaican girls. I also heard about the murder/rape of a 75-year-old woman a few days ago, which the media seem to be avoiding. It was only reported on one television news station. Our women. Our children. Our men, too…
Natasha Brown, 4, Duanvale, Trelawny
Ansell Williams Jr., 46, Rio Nuevo, St. Mary
Unidentified woman, Maxfield Avenue, Kingston
Related articles (with local posts in purple):
http://www.bloomberg.com/visual-data/best-and-worst/most-stressed-out-countries Bloomberg Visual Data: Most stressed-out countries: bloomberg.com
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads/34036 Number portability by March 2014: Jamaica Information Service
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/So-we-now-have-an-IMF-deal–yay-_14354056 So we now have an IMF deal, yay! Hugh Douse column/Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130529/lead/lead9.html Legislation for IMF requirements could delay other drafts: Gleaner
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads/34023 $185 million for renovation of facilities to house juveniles: Jamaica Information Service
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Girl-s-body-found-naked-in-front-of-church_14366208 Girl’s body found naked in front of church: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130528/lead/lead1.html Shame! CISOCA boss decries apparent increase in rapes by cops: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Residents-say-gays-take-over-Barbican-house_14327913 Residents say gays take over Barbican house: Jamaica Observer
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZxZrp8oWHIE Unconditional love: The video Jamaican TV stations refused to air
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/JFJ-takes-children-s-case-to-IACHR_14366303 JFJ takes children’s case to IACHR: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads/34022 Students attend Fulbright session: Jamaica Information Service
http://www.cvmtv.com/videos_1.php?id=1288§ion=live7 Live at Seven discussion with JTA President Clayton Hall: CVM Television
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130529/lead/lead2.html Dixon’s comments have damaged Mico’s brand – Packer: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130528/cleisure/cleisure3.html Strengthen toothless anti-corruption laws: Victor Cummings op-ed/Gleaner
http://www.caribbeannewsnow.com/topstory-Commentary%3A-The-conventional-state-of-mind-16088.html The conventional state of mind: Caribbean News Now/commentary
https://newsandviewsbydjmillerja.wordpress.com/2013/05/23/in-praise-of-reports-and-enquiries-in-jamaica/ In praise of reports and enquiries in Jamaica: newsandviewsbydjmillerja
https://newsandviewsbydjmillerja.wordpress.com/2013/05/27/highlights-day-1-maurice-tomlinson-v-tvj-cvm-and-pbcj/ Highlights: Day 1, Maurice Tomlinson v TVJ, CVM and PBCJ: newsandviewsbydjmillerja
http://newsandviewsbydjmillerja.wordpress.com/2013/05/29/highlights-day-2-maurice-tomlinson-v-tvj-cvm-and-pbcj/ Highlights: Day 2, Maurice Tomlinson v TVJ, CVM and PBCJ: newsandviewsbydjmillerja
http://hill60bump.com/2013/05/29/the-what-why-and-how-of-climate-change-resilient-building/ The “What?” “Why?” and “How?” of climate change resilient building in Jamaica: hill60bump.com
We have had alternate sun and heavy rain for most of the week, and our garden is glowing. The house is full of a) mangoes and b) mosquitoes – the former far more pleasant than the latter of course, and mostly of the slightly tart Bombay variety.
As for the second half of the week, it has been somewhat tense – for several reasons. Firstly…
The teachers get nasty… The Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA), after many ominous rumblings, went on the attack during consultations with their members in some parishes. There are several issues at stake – all of which, I believe, could be resolved by sitting down round a table with Education Minister Ronald Thwaites. It’s something called negotiation. The JTA is, essentially, a trade union; and that is what trade unions are supposed to do with governments. Negotiate. Admittedly, the Minister’s style is pedantic, and a little condescending at times. His comments on the generous paid study leave and paid vacations that teachers currently enjoy may have ruffled a few feathers. However, that is no excuse for the uncouth, insulting remarks made by some past JTA presidents on public platforms. One referred to a “mongrel dog” - asserting that the JTA is a mean old puss that will not be intimidated – with accompanying aggressive body language. Another suggested that the Minister must be on cocaine, which his audience of teachers found most amusing. And the term “backra massa” used by another leading teacher to describe the Minister has certain unpleasant connotations. Please. Stop it.
…but may lose the PR battle: Let’s face it. There are so many things wrong with the Jamaican education system it’s hard to know where to start. But I believe Minister Thwaites is open to a frank discussion with the teachers on the many complex issues affecting the system and those who work in it. And can we start thinking about the students, please? It’s worth looking back at Jaevion Nelson’s Gleaner column from a few weeks ago. Jaevion is good with statistics, and they speak for themselves. Be careful, teachers (and yes, I know there are many dedicated, hard-working teachers out there). The behavior of some of your leaders is not endearing you to the general public. And many Jamaicans are really not too impressed with the results you are producing. In its latest report, the National Education Inspectorate is none too thrilled by the state of our schools, either. Shape up, please!
Emotions running high: We had back to back anniversaries, on Thursday and Friday, for two extremely painful events that took place on May 22, 2009, and May 23, 2010 respectively: the terrible fire at the Armadale Juvenile Correctional Centre, in which seven young girls perished; and the onslaught on Tivoli Gardens by security forces, during which at least 77 Jamaican citizens died. UNICEF Jamaica did a marvelous job with photo essays and interviews on Armadale, which can be viewed on their Facebook page and which got wide media coverage. As for the Tivoli affair, there is a strange (and to me, really disturbing) ambivalence in some Jamaicans’ attitudes (see the comments on the Jamaica Observer article “Tivoli still hurting” below as an example). The residents of Tivoli had it coming to them; they were mostly criminals; they supported their “don.” Why should we feel sorry for them? There is also the posturing of the Jamaica Labour Party, and in particular the current Member of Parliament for the area Desmond McKenzie, who does not want a Commission of Enquiry. I wonder why.
Lovely PR: On the Armadale anniversary, our glamorous Youth Minister Lisa Hanna was at a smart uptown hotel for a photo-op and a feel-good speech. At the event, an overseas-based Jamaican diaspora organization, Children of Jamaica Outreach, Inc., (COJO) presented scholarships and tablets to three former wards of state for pursuing tertiary education; and the Minister joined in. I am extremely happy for these young people, and COJO are to be congratulated for their philanthropy. Minister Hanna also congratulated the three for “braving the odds” - a term used frequently in a Jamaica Information Service release. The odds are certainly against them. Most of the recommendations of the Commission of Enquiry into the Armadale fire have not been implemented, and conditions have hardly improved for wards of state – especially the girls. All “lovely PR,” as Susan Goffe of Jamaicans for Justice commented on radio. Now read today’s front page Sunday Gleaner report about Vanessa Wint, who committed suicide in an adult prison several months ago.
And lovely trips, too: While Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller and her delegation of (at a guess?) eight, nine or ten people including the “support team” enjoy their stay in Addis Ababa for the African Union celebrations, there are other trips afoot. National Security Minister Peter Bunting is leading a delegation (size also unknown) to meet with the Vice President of the United States, Joe Biden, at a CARICOM Heads of State meeting tomorrow in Port of Spain. One wonders why a minister with just over one year’s experience would be attending such a high-level meeting; then I thought, perhaps it’s all about security. But no. CARICOM will be signing a trade accord with the United States. Why isn’t the much more senior Finance Minister Peter Phillips or Trade Minister Anthony Hylton attending, in that case? And why is Transport Minister Omar Davies in charge of the government in Portia’s absence? I would have thought…Minister Phillips?
Am I obsessed with foreign trips? Why, you may ask, my preoccupation with the size of delegations, etc? Well, we know for sure that the African trip cost J$8.6 million. We are confused. We have been told to tighten our belts, here at home. Did some people not get that message? Oh, I see. It’s ordinary Jamaicans who are to tighten their belts; politicians can continue letting theirs out. And what does the International Monetary Fund have to say on this, I wonder? Please bear in mind that the Prime Minister says she always, always travels first class…
Quick question: According to recent reports, both tourism and bauxite mining are currently in decline. Aren’t these our two major earners of foreign exchange? Just asking.
Cheers to the following:
- My fellow Jamaican bloggers, who came together on the first Jamaica Blog Day (May 23) to focus on police abuses. Many voices and perspectives. See link below.
- Sandals Whitehouse and the U.S. Peace Corps for a great little environmental project in Beeston Spring – recycling plastic bottles and getting students and their parents involved.
- UNICEF Jamaica for their ongoing awareness program during May (Child Month) on children at risk, which I believe has been very successful in the traditional and social media.
- Jamaicans for Justice for their series of columns for Child Month in the Gleaner. Well written, hard-hitting and asking all the right questions. Answers, please!
- Young Randy McLaren, dub poet and “creative activist,” for his moving and beautiful video in remembrance of the Armadale fire, its victims and survivors.
- Jamaican Fulbright Scholar and tweep Bianca Welds, who will be departing tomorrow for a six-month trip to Italy. Bianca responded to a tweet, offering her an opportunity to join a business startup program. She is interviewed by her alma mater, St. Andrew’s High School (which has a great online/social media presence). See link below for video interviews, and see htpp://www.f6s.com and http://biancawelds.com. Bon voyage, Bianca!
- The young and brilliant gay rights activist Javed Jaghai, whose case challenging the archaic buggery laws will come up in the Supreme Court on June 26. Such courage.
- Mr. Daniel Thwaites (yes, Minister Ronnie’s son) for an amusing and clever column in today’s Sunday Gleaner, beginning with a great sentence: “Is there anything easier to be mega-hypocritical about than teenage sexuality?” Mmm. Probably not, Daniel.
- Mr. Chris Serju for a thoughtful column on the issue of land use in Jamaica – a fundamental issue, indeed. See the link below. Chris is an excellent writer on agriculture. Well worth a read.
- The Brownies of Yallahs Primary School in St. Thomas for reaching out to the deaf community. I hope they will all learn sign language.
Although major crimes are reportedly declining, I do not see much change in the sad little list at the end of each post that I write. My deepest sympathies to the families of the following Jamaicans, who have been killed in the past four days. Please let us not forget that whatever lives these people led, they leave behind grieving relatives, friends, and some leave children without a mother or a father, too…
Tracy-Ann Richards, 33, Duhaney Park, Kingston 20
Shandon Levy, 14, downtown Kingston
Desmond Brown, 49, Red Pond, St. Catherine
Paulette Campbell, 44, Hayes, Clarendon
Unidentified man, Spaulding, Clarendon
Killed by the police:
Ramone Wright, St. John’s Road/Spanish Town, St. Catherine
Rohan Campbell, 23, Hamilton Gardens/Portmore, St. Catherine
Damion Jarrett, 30, Latore Ave/Waltham Park, Kingston
Related articles and links (local blog posts in purple):
http://jablogday.tumblr.com/post/51181833688/ja-blog-day-2013-posts Jamaica Blog Day: links to 22 blog posts on police abuses – May 23, 2013
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/public-defender-urges-government-to-await-balistics-report Public Defender urges government to await ballistics report: RJR News
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/witter-challenges-mckenzie-to-tell-all-he-knows-about-tivoli-incursion Witter challenges McKenzie to tell all he knows about Tivoli incursion: RJR News
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130523/lead/lead92.html PM, ministers heading overseas: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/CARICOM-US-to-sign-trade-accord CARICOM, U.S. to sign trade accord: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130425/cleisure/cleisure2.html Poverty has little bearing on students: Jaevion Nelson column/Gleaner (April 25, 2013)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=45153 Teachers accuse minister of taking “baccra massa” approach: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130525/letters/letters1.html Hijacking the teaching profession: Letter of the Day/Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130526/letters/letters2.html Rein in police death squads: Horace Levy letter/Sunday Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Tivoli-still-hurting_14323359 Tivoli still hurting: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130524/lead/lead3.html Memories of May: Madness! Murder! Mayhem! Gary Spaulding article/Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130524/cleisure/cleisure4.html Revealing Jamaica’s soul: Stacey’s story is not uncommon: Jamaicans for Justice column/Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130526/lead/lead2.html Rising from Armadale’s ashes: UNICEF article/Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130526/lead/lead1.html She cried, “Help!” Authorities knew troubled teen was suicidal months before she killed herself: Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130526/focus/focus8.html Revealing Jamaica’s soul: How others see us: Jamaicans for Justice column/Sunday Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/A-university-dream-comes-true-for-three-wards-of-the-state_14318995 A university dream comes true for three wards of the state: Jamaica Observer
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/policeman-charged-in-connection-with-armadale-fire-still-on-interdiction Policeman charged in connection with Armadale fire still on interdiction: RJR News
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads/34015 Employment up: Jamaica Information Service
http://digjamaica.com/blog/2013/05/17/chart-of-the-week-murder-by-parish-january-to-april-2013/ Chart of the Week: Murders by parish, January to April 2013: diGJamaica.com
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Keith-Clarke-s-family-seeks-big-compensation Government sued: Keith Clarke’s family seeks big compensation: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130526/news/news11.html Another challenge to buggery laws: Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130526/cleisure/cleisure5.html In defense of “Jacqueline”: Daniel Thwaites column/Sunday Gleaner
http://www.solarbuzzjamaica.com/2013/05/set-inner-city-electricity-rate/ Set inner-city electricity rate: solarbuzzjamaica.com
http://rjrnewsonline.com/business/decline-in-earnings-from-mining-sector Decline in earnings from mining sector: RJR News
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads/33994 PIOJ Head says multi-billion projects will contribute to growth projections: Jamaica Information Service
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130525/cleisure/cleisure1.html Agriculture digging its grave: Gleaner editorial
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130526/focus/focus2.html Halt farmland capture: Chris Serju article/Sunday Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/business/Interest-rates-are-on-the-rise_14323268 Interest rates are on the rise: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads-104/34017 Senate approves bill on charitable organizations: Jamaica Information Service
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130520/lead/lead9.html Hylton living in logistics dream world: Gleaner commentary
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130524/lead/lead1.html RADA is a failure: agri stakeholders say agency not fulfilling mandate: Gleaner
http://hill60bump.com/2013/05/24/the-2013-hurricane-season-caribbean-predictions/ The 2013 hurricane season: Caribbean predictions: hill60bump.com
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130524/lead/lead6.html Busta, Manley get touch-up: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130525/news/news6.html Yallahs Primary Brownies reach out to deaf community: Gleaner
http://sahsmuseum.tumblr.com/post/51412364253/alumna Bianca Welds, a second generation SAHS alumna: St Andrew High School Museum on tumblr.
BACKGROUND NOTE: Ja Blog Day 2013 commemorates the third anniversary of the Tivoli Gardens Massacre, when Jamaican security forces invaded the community in west Kingston in search of an alleged drug trafficker and “don” Christopher “Dudus” Coke. A huge gun battle with gangsters defending the area allegedly took place. The police found just a few illegal guns – six in total, I believe – after it was over. On May 1, 2013, the Public Defender tabled his long-awaited interim (yes, interim) report on the Tivoli Gardens “incursion” in the House of Representatives. He is not sure exactly how many Jamaicans died on May 23, 2010 but records at least 76 civilian deaths (four are still missing, presumed dead) and one member of the Jamaica Defence Force killed. The Public Defender is investigating 44 complaints of extra-judicial killings (unjustifiable homicide) in Tivoli on that day. There are literally thousands of complaints of injury, malicious damage to property, theft and other abuses; and there are many ballistics reports outstanding from the security forces that have not yet been supplied to the Public Defender – who has faced many challenges in conducting his investigation. Mr. Earl Witter in his report describes the event as a “siege” (residents barricaded the entrances to the neighborhood). You may find a link to the complete report at http://www.jis.gov.jm/docs/Tivoli-Report.pdf. The government has now announced that it will hold an official Commission of Enquiry into Tivoli; we wait to hear the terms of reference, in the next two weeks.
My thoughts on the issue of police and security force abuses – the topic that Jamaican bloggers are focused on today – are below.
Johnny Was. The first Bob Marley album I bought was “Rastaman Vibration.” The songs are not as often played as some of his more commercial albums. But “Johnny Was” always touched me, more deeply than the sentimental “No Woman No Cry.” The repetition of the line “Johnny was a good man,” over and over, echoes in my mind every time I see a woman on television, grieving publicly and painfully over the death of her young son. Her shoulders collapse; her body sags like a punch-drunk boxer; she gasps for breath, tumbles backwards onto the greasy pavement where her child lay bleeding, before being thrown into the back of a police pick-up truck to be transported to hospital. Neighbors and family members hurry to lift the woman up, support her weight and control her flailing arms. They wipe her face, distorted, wet with tears and dirt and the sweat of her grieving.
To the woman who cries in the song, Johnny “never did a thing wrong.” He was, simply, her child. That is how mothers are. I want to say this: Every man, woman and child cut down in an alleged shootout with the police has a mother, a father, a family, a friend. They are, and should not be, defined as “wanted men” with street names. But this is how the dispassionate police press releases describe them – in a specific format repeated generally, word for word, by the media – name/street name, age, and if possible, one or two crimes or murders that they may or may not have committed. I suspect they have a template in their computer with blank spaces for the names and ages and the type of gun found. (And almost always, a gun is found on the dead person; but one thing I have noticed is that when the police kill two or three at a time, they don’t find two or three guns. That means that, according to their own accounts, they have killed at least one unarmed citizen.)
But we, the Jamaican public, should see them differently. Those killed by the police are not alien creatures, living in their own world somewhere. They are a young man hanging out at a small cookshop, by the side of the road, holding a Dragon Stout between two fingers; they are a woman trying to make a life in a poor country town, with several children and no job; they are three family members, one a fireman, the other a “pillar of the church,” about to start a small business; they are a boisterous schoolgirl, who loves boys too much and loves to dance but wants to do well in high school; they are 13-year-old Janice Allen, shot dead at her gate in Trench Town, Kingston, on April 18, 2000. A policeman was charged with her murder, but was freed in 2004 after the Supreme Court directed the jury to bring a verdict of not guilty. Her mother, Millicent Forbes (“Miss Jenny”), died ten years later after fighting determinedly to get justice for her child. With the death of Miss Jenny – who, in Bob Marley’s words again, “never gave up the fight,” - the case was closed forever. Janice would be 26 now, perhaps with a husband and children of her own.
They are fathers, sons, mothers, daughters, sisters, brothers, uncles, aunts, friends, co-workers, neighbors, husbands, wives, lovers, baby mothers, baby fathers. Their brutal deaths leave behind a trail of grief and bitterness that is growing so long and so wide that you can see it covering the island, twisting and turning in all directions; like the termite trails on our old tree in the back yard.
By the way, if you want a completely different take on “Johnny Was,” an Irish punk band called Stiff Little Fingers produced a very loud, passionate rock version of the song. The mood is completely different; it is defiant and angry. The band’s version of the song appeared in 1979, not long after a highly troubled period in Northern Ireland’s history had begun.
But then, maybe that is the mood Jamaicans need to be in. Dry your tears. Stop your wailing. Get angry. And most of all, cry for justice.
Woman hold her head and cry,
As her son had been shot down in the street and died
Just because of the system.
Today is Malcolm X’s birthday; he would have been 88 years old. Tragically, his young grandson, Malcolm Shabazz, was murdered on May 9 at a Mexico City nightclub. But here’s a little Caribbean connection: Malcolm X’s mother Louise was born in Grenada - but she had a very sad life, too.
Well, with that useful and important fact stored away, let’s look at the last few days in Jamaica…
The voice of morality: Our pious Minister of Education, the Reverend Ronald Thwaites, told Parliament this week that he is not going to allow young Jamaican students to be “groomed” towards homosexuality (demonstrating his own mistaken beliefs on the subject); and that although he approves of (the right kind of) sex education, condoms in schools are out. None of us were surprised at this, were we – after all, the Minister’s Catholic faith strongly influences his prescriptions for our youth. The television program All Angles confronted the issue of condoms in schools last week with youth activist/commentator Jaevion Nelson, retired school principal Esther Tyson and the head of the guidance counseling association. The latter two both toed the Minister’s line as expected; were confused by the statistics Mr. Nelson produced to strengthen his case for contraceptive assistance in schools; and clumsily tried to catch him out, once or twice.
But a big, big silver lining: The same Minister folded his hands, turned his eyes to heaven and announced a change in government policy towards pregnant teens in school. Amendments to the Education Act and Regulations attached thereto will ensure that schools will keep open a space for a child who has had to leave due to pregnancy, so that she may continue her education afterwards. Huge kudos to Opposition Senator Kamina Johnson Smith for her strong lobbying on this issue; and to the Minister for seeing the sense and fairness of it. The Minister also announced a couple of pending measures that have ruffled the feathers of the Jamaica Teachers’ Association; more on that, probably, later. I don’t always agree with our overly preachy Minister; but at least he is trying to right some of the hundreds of wrongs afflicting our education system, one by one. He has some tricky issues to tackle, indeed.
“I’m so frustrated by this experience”: A quote from CEO of the Jamaica Public Service Company Kelly Tomblin on the seemingly very long and slow deliberations by the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) on who should receive the contract for a new 350 mw power plant. I can imagine how she feels. I often fail to see whether government agencies like the OUR, the Bureau of Standards (of toilet tissue infamy), the Urban Development Corporation and others do any good for the Jamaican people. I guess they provide jobs. How else do they serve our interests?
The truth is swimming away: In an enlightening radio interview with a frequently stuttering Transport and Works Minister Omar Davies on Thursday morning, it transpired that Davies’ junior minister Richard Azan told him two different stories about whether or not he knew that rental money was being collected at his (Azan’s) own constituency office for illegally constructed shops. There actually appear to be three different versions of this conversation, all aired on broadcast media. However, clearly Minister Davies seems to think that his junior minister means well, even if he has broken the law. He is eager to do good in the community, so let’s “give him a bligh,” nuh. The grammatically challenged Junior Minister had told Nationwide in an earlier interview, “Yes, I make a mistake for building the shops” (sic). But saying “My bad” sometimes has consequences, right?
This is a true patriot, Rev. Redwood: As I noted in my last blog post, the now-departed-on-a-jet-plane Senate President Reverend Stanley Redwood only dug a deeper hole for himself by responding to the cutting criticism of a Gleaner column in a letter to the newspaper. He actually called himself a patriotic Jamaican. The acerbic columnist Gordon Robinson today gives us a better idea of a patriotic Jamaican – one who has no choice but to struggle through our ramshackle health, justice and education systems with no special privileges, but who tries to help his fellow Jamaicans and ensure his family thrives.
Fresh face: Members of the 51% Coalition (including myself) are delighted at the appointment of a young attorney-at-law, Sophia Frazer-Binns. Great to see another woman in the Senate, and we look forward to her contribution. We note also that Ms. Frazer-Binns has some experience of working with youth. Good, too.
Two key meetings: J-FLAG and the Jamaica Civil Society Coalition (JCSC) had two key meetings this week: in recognition of International Day Against Homophobia, J-FLAG held a forum on homelessness and forced migration among the LGBT population; and the JCSC launched two publications arising from its lengthy series of consultations with communities on “People Participation in the National Budget Making Process.” Congratulations to both organizations for their efforts to keep seeking solutions to some of Jamaican society’s most intractable problems. I will be writing more on these meetings in the next week – in particular, on the “disconnects” between Jamaicans and Jamaicans. Need to overcome these…
Rooting for the children: Huge big-ups to the JN Foundation for providing desperately-needed funding for the Spanish Town-based non-governmental organization Children First. I had the honor of working with this organization on several occasions and have always been impressed by founder Claudette Richardson-Pious’ deep understanding of and clear-eyed focus on the complex and difficult lives of youth at risk. Since it is still Child Month, here are two other individuals who are quietly working on behalf of children: Deika Morrison of Crayons Count; and youth advocate Kemesha Kelly, who works with young people in St. Ann. Great role models.
Collecting: And Help JA Children, the lobby group formed one year ago, is busy collecting items for children in state care this month. Take your food, toiletries, clothes, books, magazines and other goodies to Kia Motors c/o HJC, 2 Chelsea Ave, Kgn 10. Tel: 920-5000. It will be hugely appreciated!
Kudos to Vaz: It’s Labour Day on Wednesday, when people undertake all kinds of tasks to make life better for their fellow-Jamaicans. One of former Prime Minister Michael Manley‘s better ideas, I think. Across the island, the infirmaries that are funded by local parish councils are in a terrible state of repair – often colonial-era buildings that have seen much better days. Now, a couple of months ago Member of Parliament for East Portland Daryl Vaz announced that he was going to give up five per cent of his salary, as a gesture of sacrifice in these tough times. He was praised in a half-hearted way by some. But now he has met with Port Antonio’s Mayor and decided the money he gives up will be earmarked for the Portland Infirmary, which is in a bad state. I really do like this. Did any other political representative follow Mr. Vaz’ example? I think not…
A waste of space: I am sometimes baffled by the sheer inanity and trivia that gets published in the newspapers each week. The random thoughts of commentators with nothing meaningful to say; the grinning men and women with wineglasses in their hands at an uptown party; yet another PR piece about some reggae/dancehall singer who is “making waves” overseas (playing in tiny clubs in the suburbs of big cities). If it’s online, at least with a click you can forget/delete it. But good trees are chopped down for this worthless nonsense.
Jamaican bloggers, sharpen your keyboards! Wednesday, May 23 – the third anniversary of the Tivoli Gardens Massacre – is Jamaica Blog Day, a “Day of Action for Jamaican bloggers on police and security force abuses.” The great little (growing) blogging community on the island, including myself, will be researching and writing and photographing on this subject. It’s going to be meaningful stuff. Do read and support our bloggers!
Coming up fast and not to be missed! The Fulbright Academy of Science and Technology will hold its 2013 Conference on Global Health in Montego Bay from May 24-27. It is open to the public. Important themes covered will be: Public Policy, Law and Economics in healthcare; Public Health and the Impact of Technology and Social Media; Emerging & Reemerging Infectious Diseases; Education, Sport and Wellness; Environmental Health (Global water supply & safety, Climate Change, Urban planning, engineering); and Human Sexuality. Visit the conference website at http://www.fulbrightacademy.org/page/HealthSummit/index.v3page;jsessionid=4j4dleqsqk0m4 And while I’m at it, big shout-out to all the fabulous Jamaican Fulbrighters (including Marcia Forbes, who will be presenting at the conference)… You make us proud!
I am relieved that the week, which started off so badly with homicides, has ended (hopefully) on a more peaceful note. However, my sympathies go out to the families and friends of Kenneth Kerr and Abasco Foster, who are grieving at this time. I hope that Mr. Foster’s companion recovers from serious injuries.
Kenneth Kerr, 54, Spanish Town, St. Catherine
Abasco Foster, 27, George’s Plain, Westmoreland
Related articles/links and local blogs in purple:
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130517/business/business4.html Economy contracts in March quarter: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130519/lead/lead6.html Kelly speaks her mind: Urges speedy decision on new power supplier: Sunday Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Stadium-built-with-Chinese-money-in-ruins_14278481 Stadium built with Chinese money in ruins: Sunday Observer
http://www.amnesty.org.uk/news_details.asp?NewsID=20784 Jamaica: Three years on, state of emergency still an open wound: Amnesty International
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130518/lead/lead1.html ”Act on Tivoli”: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130519/cleisure/cleisure2.html The methods of war have failed: Claude Clarke column/Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130518/letters/letters1.html INDECOM needs more power: Letter of the Day/Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130517/lead/lead2.html Cops to be charged for schoolgirl’s murder: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Cop-dodges-court-as-DNA-shatters-lie-that-arrested-man-had-spliff_14284218 Cop dodges court as DNA shatters lie: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads-122/33915 Senate elects first visually impaired President: Jamaica Information Service
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads-122/33919 Attorney-at-law appointed to the Senate: Jamaica Information Service
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads/33909 Contribution to 2013 Sectoral Debate: Mikael Phillips, MP: Jamaica Information Service
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130519/cleisure/cleisure2.html Of patriots and sellouts: Gordon Robinson column/Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130519/focus/focus6.html Saying goodbye and diaspora relations: Christopher Tufton op-ed/Sunday Gleaner
http://chatychaty.com/2013/05/jamaica-not-grooming-students-for-same-sex-unions-marriage-is-between-a-man-and-a-woman/ ”Jamaica not grooming students for same sex unions, marriage is between a man and a woman”: chatychaty.com
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-o2el_Gw8O8 Stop being naïve about sex! Jamaican high school students speak: YouTube
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/teen-mothers-to-be-reintegrated-in-school-system?utm_source=rjr&utm_medium=news Teen mothers to be reintegrated in school system: RJR News
http://keimiller.wordpress.com/2013/05/19/the-little-wine-that-hurt-somebody-or-soca-and-the-bad-behaving-gays-of-jamaica/ The little wine that hurt somebody; or, soca and the bad-behaving gays of Jamaica: Under the Saltire Flag blog
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130517/lead/lead1.html ”I give up!” Some parents no longer care about their runaway children: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130519/news/news1.html Cruel by choice: Thousands of Jamaican children intentionally injured by adults annually: Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130519/lead/lead2.html Young and loveless: Teenage prostitute pushing for a fresh start: Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130519/focus/focus3.html Condoms in schools: Martin Henry column/Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130516/news/news1.html Ananda Alert to be displayed on billboards: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130519/lead/lead8.html Rescue for Children First: JN Foundation comes to the assistance of charity set up to help Jamaica’s most needy youths: Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130519/news/news5.html Portland infirmary to get Vaz salary cut: Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130517/lead/lead Suspected dengue cases climb to 475, two confirmed deaths: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130517/news/news1.html Moneague Primary & Junior High cops LASCO environmental award: Gleaner
http://www.bellinghamherald.com/2013/05/16/3012766/caribbean-talks-conservation-on.html Caribbean talks conservation on Branson’s island: AP
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130516/news/news7.html Public gets say in Cockpit Country boundary debate: Gleaner
http://jamaica-star.com/thestar/20130516/news/news1.html Eleven-year-old escapes croc attack, reptile snatches dog instead: Jamaica Star
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130516/news/news3.html KSAC, handcart men agree on registration fee: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130519/ent/ent1.html Balancing the act: Crawford seeks compromise between “want to eat” and “want to sleep”: Sunday Gleaner
An IDAHO State of Mind (petchary.wordpress.com)
May 15, 2013 (petchary.wordpress.com)
And I am not talking about the American state!
IDAHO is the acronym for International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. This afternoon in Jamaica, J-FLAG will host a discussion in Kingston on the issue of homelessness among the gay community – forced out of their homes, living on the street, harassed, abused, assaulted, despised, often in fear of their lives. The local media have made much drama out of the situation; and always the fact of their homelessness and subsequent (often defensive) “bad behavior” is linked to their being homosexual or transgendered.
If you are in Kingston, do try to join us for this discussion; we should also be streaming it live and I will share that link when I have it on Twitter (@petchary).
J-FLAG is seeking solutions. Not finger-pointing. Not hatred and intolerance. There is too much of that in the world already, isn’t there?
http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCdPmbLflqNtiAzOd-Cxtffg ”We Are Jamaicans”: series of videos produced by J-FLAG in which Jamaican members of the LGBT community and their allies (including myself) speak about their experience and their views. Please do watch! These are powerful.
http://www.jflag.org J-FLAG website includes news, videos, much more…
http://www.amnesty.org/en/news/activists-worldwide-target-homophobia-jamaica-ukraine-and-south-africa-2013-05-16 Activists target worldwide homophobia in Jamaica, Ukraine and South Africa: Amnesty International
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/freedom-house/international-day-against_b_3287305.html International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia: Article by Freedom House
http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2013/05/17/william-hague-marks-international-day-against-homophobia-and-transphobia/ UK Foreign Secretary William Hague marks International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia: pinknews.co.uk
http://www.euronews.com/2013/05/17/georgia-clashes-on-international-day-against-homophobia/ Georgia: Clashes on International Day Against Homophobia:euronews.com
http://www.rferl.org/content/georgia-lgbt-equal-rights/24986492.html Georgian Prime Minister says sexual minorities have equal rights: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
http://petchary.wordpress.com/2013/01/23/jamaican-press-ignores-ground-breaking-gay-rights-video-campaign/ Jamaican press ignores ground-breaking gay rights video campaign: petchary.wordpress.com
http://petchary.wordpress.com/2013/01/29/i-admire-this-young-man/ I admire this young man: petchary.wordpress.com
http://petchary.wordpress.com/2012/04/12/op-ed-fighting-injustice-in-jamaica/ Op-ed: Fighting injustice in Jamaica: petchary.wordpress.com
http://petchary.wordpress.com/2013/04/30/lay-down-that-burden/ Lay down that burden: petchary.wordpress.com
http://www.rferl.org/content/russia-lgbt-gay-homophobia-petersburg-moscow/24988036.html St. Petersburg LGBT activists test “propaganda law” with tolerance event: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty