Tag Archives: Minister (government)
Well, let’s get straight to it and start with the shenanigans. And you’ve guessed it; it has something – everything – to do with politicians. Our “Honorable” Members of Parliament – yes, those who allegedly represent our interests – are past masters at such matters. All hell broke loose in our House of Representatives (the Lower House, and you couldn’t get much lower, as it turned out) on Tuesday, ending with the Members of the Opposition walking out with all the dignity they could muster (not very much of it left). As the experienced parliamentary reporter Gary Spaulding commented, “Every single aspect of a breach in standing orders” took place. The Deputy Speaker of the House failed to bring the situation under control (“The noise was tremendously loud,” he said rather plaintively on radio). “When you don’t have anything to say, you talk foolishness,” commented radio talk show host Barbara Gloudon, in exasperation. And the foolishness developed into a full-scale row. “Don’t mek mi get ignorant,” the Opposition Spokesman on Agriculture, trembling from head to toe with indignation, said to a younger Government Member who at some point told him to “Shut up and sit down.” Too late. They already all sounded ignorant as hell. All of them.
Merely writing about this cannot convey the atmosphere in the Lower House last Tuesday – you had to hear it to believe it. On TV and radio,there was a cacophony of bellowing, yelling and shrieking. It was like feeding time at the zoo. Starting with the Opposition Member’s remarks, the decibel level rose steadily. At first (as the zookeeper began his rounds, wheeling a trolley full of goodies for the animals) there was a kind of restlessness and the occasional vocalization; then a steady crescendo, with the parrots squawking the initial alert, and the smaller monkeys starting off the much louder howler monkeys. On the zookeeper moves – to the cages of the larger animals, who get very agitated and make various hooting and bleating sounds. Eventually, as the whole zoo becomes aware that dinner time is finally here, they all join in, until the noise level becomes almost unbearable, the sound bouncing off the walls of the animals’ cages. There is a strange, occasional sound in the background – like the faint cracking of a whip. But it’s only the Deputy Speaker banging his gavel. He is completely ignored by all the animals.
Let me point out that there is nothing particularly unusual about any of this – this boorish behavior takes place week after week, as local journalists have observed – it was just a little more extreme than usual. It was all sparked by comments about the design of a folder containing a Government minister’s speech, which allegedly looked more like “black, green and orange” (orange being the ruling People’s National Party‘s color of choice) rather than the black, green and gold of the Jamaican flag. Yes, I kid you not. It’s a reworking of the flag issue, all over again; remember the fracas over the “greenless” flag?) Amidst the chaos, there was also some shouting about a “fish” - a reference which was lost on many of us, but meant something to those in the House, it seems; this inflamed matters. I guess the sea lions at the zoo were discussing their favorite food, at that point. But, you are bored already – I know it, dear reader – so I will go no further.
Actually, it’s unfair to compare our politicians to zoo animals. I love animals. And humans are supposed to know better, right? “Our politicians have let us down,” says the hard-working counselor and NGO leader Dr. Beverley Scott. Columnist Mark Wignall went several steps further, commenting, “It is obvious that amateurs are in charge…We are probably witnessing the worst political leadership that this country has ever had. And all this in our 50th year…”
Talking of the fiftieth year (and here I suppress a sigh) we had more gems from the Jamaica 50 Secretariat this week. “Jamaica to be re-branded globally” declared a Gleaner front page headline. The head of the Secretariat (he who was responsible for creating the “legacy” of World Cup Cricket in Jamaica in 2007) is busy talking about “positioning” Jamaica again. He added at a press briefing that there had been “insufficient attention” paid to a “sober reflection” on values etc. Yes, and whose fault is that? Is it too late now? We are all focused on street dances and the Olympics, aren’t we? Thank God – I should interject – the University of the West Indies‘ Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies (SALISES) has been getting serious; its “50-50 Reflections” conference will take place from August 20-24 at Kingston‘s Jamaica Pegasus Hotel, and the public are invited free of charge (see the link to my recent blog post on the topic, below). The third part of Peter-John Gordon’s analysis of the education system can be found in the Sunday Gleaner, as part of the 50-50 research exercise. [I also enjoyed a column by the Observer's Louis Moyston on scientific education - link below.]
It will be important to get young Jamaicans involved; according to some youth leaders, they are completely missing the point of Jamaica 50. And the youth are also searching for meaning in it all – as youth always do. They are impatient, by nature.
Does Tuesday’s performance in Parliament help in all of this? (Rhetorical question…)
Meanwhile, the Minister in charge of both Jamaica 50 and the youth portfolio, Ms. Lisa Hanna, came in for a bit of a bashing in the media last week. The aforementioned youth leaders complained that they have not had any kind of meaningful engagement with her. She has spoken eloquently in her melodious upper St. Andrew voice, and of course as a former Miss World, she looks ravishingly beautiful and well groomed at all times. But the youth are just not “feeling her,” they say. However, I am now starting to think that Minister Hanna has been given the proverbial “basket to carry water” – and that the water is not just dripping, but starting to trickle out steadily. She has Jamaica 50, the culture part; she has youth issues in general; and all the child welfare issues previously under the portfolio of the Health Ministry have been transferred to her ministry – child abuse, the condition of children in state care and other burning social issues affecting children that have been troubling us for at least the past year in particular. This is a lot to have on her plate, for a relatively young and inexperienced politician who had previously only served for four years as a backbench Member of Parliament.
The Local Government Minister even mentioned a few days ago that Ms. Hanna’s ministry would be taking over the missing children portfolio, although it seems he may have spoken out of turn. But I do think Minister Hanna has more than enough on her plate. I should note that her speech to a large audience of parents (mothers and the occasional father) in Trench Town last week was a brave effort to address the issue of child abuse – a difficult topic to make a public speech about, but she did rather well. Take heart, Ms. Hanna. There are other Government Ministers who have not been trying as hard as you. For example, the trade unions are pretty displeased that they have not received any response from the Labour Minister to their expressed concerns about the poor conditions for private security guards, one month after they outlined these in a letter. Not good enough. And the Opposition need to pull their socks up, too. As today’s Sunday Gleaner editorial notes, please – give us some substance. Stop the bickering.
As for the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance… Speak up, please! Sorry, I didn’t hear you? Say that again? (Sound of tree frogs tweeting outside…)
Last week’s disquieting matters…
- The Special Investigations Unit of the Independent Commission of Investigation on police abuses, INDECOM, is to be tabled in Parliament shortly. A preview in the newspapers this week notes that the police killed 95 citizens in the first half of this year, with the worst month being 34 in the month of March. But July has not gotten off to a good start; by my count, the police have killed eight more in the past week. The Commissioner’s Quarterly Report to Parliament, and other useful information, can be found at INDECOM’s excellent website: http://www.indecom.gov.jm/.
- I have written much in the past about Jamaica’s missing children. Activist Ms. Betty-Ann Blaine re-directed us to what certainly is a crisis in her weekly Observer column last week, pointing to the severe lack of resources to address the issue. A fully-equipped ”stand-alone, investigative unit” is the answer, she suggests. We won’t hold our breath. It’s just not going to happen. And does anyone care?
- An official of the United Nations Population Fund highlighted Jamaica’s high rate of maternal deaths last week. We are very far from the UN Millennium Development Goal of 25 per 100,000 by 2015. Unsafe abortions are one factor, among others. If we have a decent health system (and aren’t we talking about “health tourism”?) how can we be comfortable with a current rate of 95 maternal deaths per 100,000? And apart from a front page Observer report, why so little concern or focus in the media?
- Gunmen robbed a Youth Centre in Kingston administered by the NGO Children First, which does amazing work with children living in the shadow of urban violence, crime and a degraded environment (mostly in Spanish Town). Why are organizations and institutions (many schools included) the target of these criminals? How could they? My heart goes out to the endlessly kind and hard-working Claudette Richardson-Pious and her staff. They deserve support. Lots of it. Not robbers.
- When is a deer a “reindeer”? Answer: When it lives in the Arctic regions. Therefore, the white-tailed deer that escaped from captivity during Hurricane Gilbert (which journalist Paul. H. Williams notes in his article) and now lives in the rainforest of Portland cannot be a reindeer. OK? OK.
- “Nowhere nuh better than Yaad!” concludes columnist Daniel Thwaites in his weekly Gleaner column. He was writing about the World Happiness Report, which ranked Jamaica fairly high. This over-used exclamation of Jamaican superiority made me chuckle rather cynically. According to the Gleaner, Mr. Thwaites is a partner in a New York law firm, which he formed several years ago. He was educated in Canada, the UK and the United States; and after a short stint in the Jamaican Government in the early 2000s left this beloved island again. Yep, nowhere is better than Yard…
- Talking about Jamaicans’ assumption of superiority, Gleaner reporter Daraine Luton concluded his report on a European tour funded by the EU by commenting that “The Dominican Republic has no business calling itself a competitor with Jamaica in terms of tourism.” OK. The Dominican Republic’s economic growth has averaged 7.8 per cent from 2004-7, and even in these tough times was estimated at 4.5 per cent last year. Compared to Jamaica? The Dom Rep’s tourist association and government announced that tourism grew by over 5 per cent in the first two months of this year, with arrivals growing by 7.25 per cent. Dom Rep now has over 70,000 hotel rooms, more than any other Caribbean country. No, not much of a competitor, eh.
And OK, I take it back…
- A couple of weeks ago I questioned whether there was really a ”fashion industry” in Jamaica. Well, Pulse has just recorded a J$44 million profit – not bad in this climate. It appears that there is money to be made from skinny models stalking up and down catwalks with glares on their faces, after all… Great stuff!
And hats off to…
- Minister Morais Guy for the comments he made on putting a stop to squatter settlements (in the Observer, but I cannot find the link). I think he has the right approach.
- Businesswoman/entrepreneur Ms. Nadine Boothe-Gooden, who recently participated in U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s 10,000 Women Initiative. See the YouTube link below!
- Northern Caribbean University, winners of the Digital Jam 2.0 competition and a number of other global competitions with a focus on technology. A marvelous place of learning in Mandeville that is making its mark in the field of research – and is now headed by Dr. Trevor Gardner. Congratulations to Dr. Gardner, the staff and students of NCU. May you go from strength to strength!
- The Caribbean Community of Retired Persons, founded just over two years ago by Jean Lowrie-Chin, which opened its Manchester chapter recently. CCRP’s campaign on behalf of former Windalco employees who are in danger of losing their pensions is a worthy cause. I wish the Manchester Chapter all the best and every success!
- Ms. Petre Williams-Raynor, environmental journalist at the Jamaica Observer, for her new book “Project Climate Change.” A local publication – and especially one targeting a young audience – on this vital topic is long overdue. Congrats and I hope you sell thousands of copies!
- Chicago-based Jamaicans Mary and Mike McLaughlin, founders of the Trees That Feed Foundation, who have planted hundreds of breadfruit trees in Jamaica and hundreds more in other countries. Wonderful concept. And I’m a breadfruit addict!
- In Memoriam
Deepest condolences and sympathy to the families and friends of the following, whose blood was shed in Jamaica over the past week:
Killed by police:
Mario Gabiddon, Windsor Heights, St. Catherine
Delano Pinnock,Windsor Heights, St. Catherine
Dwayne Johnson, 29, Windsor Heights, St. Catherine
Tyrone Reid, 17, Windsor Heights, St. Catherine
Unidentified man, Oracabessa, St. Mary
Unidentified man, Gregory Park, St. Catherine
Unidentified man, Gregory Park, St. Catherine
Unidentified man, Lauriston, St. Catherine
Gavin Campbell, 35, Cardiff Hall, Runaway Bay, St. Ann
Latisha Rich, 23, Sunrise Crescent, Kingston
Denver Pink, 37, Sunrise Crescent, Kingston
Unidentified man, Ridge, St. Elizabeth
Gary Duncan, 36, Stony Hill, St. Andrew
Michael Small, 51, Porto Bello, St. James
Michael Thompson, 40, Slipe Road, Kingston
Leaford Watson, Grange Hill, Westmoreland
Pablo Avigliano, 40, Constant Spring Road, Kingston [Italian national]
Hanif Fuller, 34, Liguanea Terrace, Kingston
Unidentified man in his 40s, Half Way Tree, Kingston
Ms. Norris Dunkley, 59, Lacovia, St. Elizabeth
Hayden Riggs, 49, St. Elizabeth
- In Memoriam (petchary.wordpress.com)
- http://newsandviewsbydjmillerja.wordpress.com/author/djmillerja/ (What’s wrong with our Jamaican Parliament? Dionne Jackson Miller’s blog)
- http://m.jamaicaobserver.com/mobile/news/Hell-in-the-House—Parliament-ends-sitting-in-confusion–disorder_11881968 (Hell in the House… jamaicaobserver.com)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120705/cleisure/cleisure4.html (Lunacy in the House! Gary Spaulding… jamaica-gleaner.com)
- http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Disgracing-our-National-Heroes_11887484 (Disgracing our National Heroes/Mark Wignall…jamaicaobserver.com)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120705/lead/lead2.html (Jamaica to be rebranded globally… jamaica-gleaner.com)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120705/lead/lead4.html (Public buildings not sporting national emblem… jamaica-gleaner.com)
- 50-50 Reflections (petchary.wordpress.com)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120704/lead/lead2.html (True essence of Jamaica 50 lost on masses – youth leaders… jamaica-gleaner.com)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120704/lead/lead1.html (Lisa gets failing grade… jamaica-gleaner.com)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120704/lead/lead93.html (Hanna bats for unity… jamaica-gleaner.com)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120705/lead/lead5.html (“Grade me on achievements”… jamaica-gleaner.com)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120705/cleisure/cleisure1.html (A second chance for Ms. Hanna… jamaica-gleaner.com Editorial)
- http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Security-concerns_11893533 (Security concerns… jamaicaobserver.com)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120708/focus/focus6.html (The financial cost of learning… jamaica-gleaner.com)
- http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Education–Science-versus-dumplings_11713280 (Education: Science versus dumplings… jamaicaobserver.com)
- http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Crisis-of-Jamaica-s-missing-children_11869040 (Crisis of Jamaica’s missing children… jamaicaobserver.com)
- http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Too-many-dying_11888467 (Too many dying! No woman should die giving birth in this century… jamaicaobserver.com)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120705/cook/cook3.html (Reindeer, anyone?… jamaica-gleaner.com)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120703/cleisure/cleisure4.html (In danger of being happy… jamaica-gleaner.com)
- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=APYpGgyR1DE (Nadine Boothe-Gooden)
- http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/editorial/In-praise-of-NCU (In praise of NCU – Editorial… jamaicaobserver.com)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120704/lead/lead92.html (Saving the world, one breadfruit at a time… jamaica-gleaner.com)
- http://www.treesthatfeed.org/ (Trees That Feed Foundation)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120708/focus/focus1.html (August Town farce/Martin Henry… jamaica-gleaner.com)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120708/focus/focus2.html (Honor Delroy Wilson for Jamaica 50/Ian Boyne… jamaica-gleaner.com)
- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oZvtZEh3QUg (“I’m in a Dancing Mood” by Delroy Wilson)