Time is galloping along, the uptown (and downtown) Christmas party season is gathering speed, and (in case you were wondering) I have not written one Christmas card yet. I am living dangerously.
The CARICOM tiff: After much blustering on the part of our Minister of Foreign Affairs and hysterical ranting on talk shows and elsewhere, Trinidad’s Minister of Foreign Affairs arrived on Monday. The matter of the denial of entry to 13 Jamaicans, the two ministers agreed, was not, after all, profiling; and the vast majority of Jamaicans are happily accepted by Trinidad. The two signed a trade agreement. So, a lot of smoothing over went on, although both Ministers were careful to assert their respective countries’ interests. Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines Ralph Gonsalves (never a man to stay quiet for too long) noted in a Jamaican radio interview that yes, there was some prejudice against Jamaicans in other CARICOM countries; and I think he is right. Now, all Caribbean leaders need to keep cool heads and discourage over-heated rhetoric that is based on very little fact. They also need to put their respective houses in order (including Jamaica) in terms of implementing all the requirements for the free movement of persons. (Read the Gleaner’s “No time for blame” – Nicholson, Dookeran Say Ja-T&T Meetings Fruitful.”)
Good question, scary answer: On the matter of international relations, a question from Opposition Senator Robert Montague prompted a disturbing response from Minister Nicholson. I did a quick count and it appears Jamaica owes approximately US$1,319,00 to the United Nations, including over $860,000 for peace-keeping operations (?). We will soon lose voting rights if we don’t pay some of it (so the Chinese and others might stop courting us). We have already lost voting rights in a couple of Commonwealth bodies and we are in arrears with all the international bodies we are members of.
Meanwhile, a woman named Shirley Richards wrote to the Gleaner asking the question, “Is Jamaica under UN rule?” The United Nations is our “new colonial master,” she suggested, with UNICEF incurring her wrath for referring to “sex” and “condoms” in relation to its reports on the desperate state of the nation’s children. OK, Ms. Richards, we will continue burying our heads in the sand. Let’s pretend sexuality is not a concern. Maybe doesn’t even exist. She concludes, “Forgive me, then, for asking, is Jamaica now under the rule of UN agencies?” No, I don’t think I will. Forgive you, that is.
Is it really a shock? I had the pleasure of meeting the Registrar of the Office of the Children’s Registry (OCR) last week at the launch of Eve for Life’s “Nuh Guh Deh” campaign. I wondered how he must feel about the reports of child abuse that arrive at his office in a continuous wave (or tsunami perhaps). Between January and August this year the OCR received over 8,000 reports (probably the tip of the iceberg). 1,730 children went missing, ten of whom were found dead (where are the others – did they all return? I have asked this question so many times in the past on my blog). Read the Observer: “Child abuse shocker – 8,030 cases reported between Jan & Aug.” (But is this really a “shocker” to us now? We know the enormity of the problem, don’t we?)
At a recent focus group on corruption, we struggled to find solutions to the tangled web we have been weaving for so long in Jamaica. I see “we” because, although I would hope that I have not engaged in a corrupt act of any kind, it is such a complex web that one could get unwittingly caught up in it; a cog in the corruption wheel, quite innocently. Meanwhile, Jamaica has not moved on the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index since last year – still sitting pretty with a ranking of 38. Barbados ranked as the least corrupt Caribbean country – and came out pretty high on the list at 15th with a score of 75.
To quote former Contractor General Greg Christie on Twitter: “No country, region or community is immune to corruption, a serious crime that can undermine social & economic development in all societies.” He believes (and I agree) that this government has done nothing whatsoever to tackle the issue - in fact, it has done the reverse on occasion – despite the pious promises of the Prime Minister’s inauguration speech.
And on that subject, I am irritated (but not surprised) that the reinstated/reborn Junior Minister Richard Azan still wants to try to convince us all that he is squeaky clean. He has been granted a judicial review of the Contractor General’s investigation of his allegedly building and collecting rent for shops in contravention of the rules. Mr. Azan is “seeking a declaration from the court that he’s not politically corrupt, whether as defined by Transparency International or otherwise.” But I guess he doesn’t realize that, whatever the outcome of this legal move, corruption has a lot to do with perception, as TI will tell you. And I think the verdict has been reached on that one in the popular court. (Read more in the Observer: “Azan seeks judicial review of Contractor General’s probe”).
By the way, is Azan’s boss, Transport and Works Minister Omar Davies still in hospital? Have we heard any updates on his health?
Pleased to hear about improvements in forensic facilities – so essential for the Jamaica Constabulary Force. And especially, to hear from Police Commissioner Owen Ellington that Jamaica is now tapped into the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) eTrace program for tracing guns. This should hopefully make a real difference in the investigation of crime – and organized crime, at that. (Read the Observer: “Ellington points to significant upgrade of police forensic capabilities”).
I know the police have a tough job. Yes, I know. But somehow my heart does not bleed for those who have to cough up legal fees to defend themselves when they are accused of wrongdoing. And I do not think that taxpayers should foot the police officers’ bills; we already pay their salaries. Don’t they have a union? (Yes they do). My suggestion: start a legal fund. And don’t put yourselves in situations where you know you are breaking the law. Just like the rest of us. (Read the Observer: “Legal Woes”). This is perhaps more not-so-subtle police propaganda against INDECOM – the Independent Commission of Investigation set up by Parliament to investigate allegations of police abuse. Tired of it now. Just do your job and do it professionally. Thanks.
Brian-Paul Welsh wrote a very good letter to the Gleaner, regarding the Rasta Yute’s (Minister Damion Crawford) stout defense of dancehall music. The Minister is even encouraging lobbyists to oppose the anti-gang legislation, which includes a clause relating to lyrics that incite violence; this seems rather odd to me. Mr. Crawford needs to decide whether he is still a student who organizes dances at the University of the West Indies; or a government official to be taken seriously. At the moment he is an odd hybrid, and a very disappointing one at that. (Read the Gleaner’s Letter of the Day: “Crawford Off-Key on Dancehall“).
(Mis)understanding indeed: I have always enjoyed Grace Virtue’s columns and was sorry when she appeared to stop writing. Grace is the sister of Gleaner journalist Erica and she is based in the United States. This does not prevent her from writing insightful and balanced pieces, such as ”(Mis)understanding Media” in the Observer - on the matter of the RJR reporter, the mike, the PM and the security guards. Which has not really gone away, by the way.
I’m worried about Vybz Kartel. As I tweeted this evening, his appearance has changed dramatically since he has been languishing in prison (for nearly two years, no less) on two murder charges. He is now in the middle of the second trial (and if a journalist calls it “high profile” one more time I shall scream!) and – well, he has gone from skinny and weedy-looking to strangely bloated. What are they feeding him on in prison? Does he have an exercise regime? He seems very pale, still (the cake soap that he bleaches his skin with must have been smuggled into prison, some surmise). But his hair stylist seems to have gone AWOL. Oh, one does love the trivia sometimes!
If you want to read a lame editorial, try the Observer’s “Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea” for size. NO, the murder of eighteen-year-old Kimberly Simpson was not a case of “enraged jealousy” on the part of the man who had impregnated her when she was still legally below the age of consent (statutory rape) – and who had been abusing her physically ever since, according to her family (who appear to have stood by and done nothing). It was just that: domestic abuse; and initially child rape, which should have been reported to the police three years ago.
I am puzzled and confused by some of the facts paraded in the Jamaica Constabulary Force’s latest public relations effort – this time, comments by Deputy Commissioner in charge of crime Carl Williams on the so-called “clear-up rate” for murders. I will have to return to this at some point. (Read the Observer - ”Police vow to improve murder clear-up rate.”)
I often try to imagine the horror and grief of those left behind when their loved ones are killed violently. But I really cannot. All I can do is offer my condolences to the families and friends…
Herbert McKail, 70, Mandeville, Manchester
Gary Pinnock, 43, Hanover
Christopher Buddan, 22, Old Harbour Road, St. Catherine
Unidentified man, Brandon Hill, St. James
Omar Brown, Montego Bay, St. James
This evening, Jamaica AIDS Support for Life (JASL) held its annual World AIDS Day Candlelight Vigil at the Webster Memorial United Church Hall in Half Way Tree, Kingston.I have memories of the event being held with us all spread out on the front lawn of JASL’s former office, an old house which was demolished this year. This was in a much more restricted space, but the feeling of unity, love and remembrance was the same. Representatives of several affected communities lit candles – including orphans and vulnerable children, civil society, faith-based organizations, the deaf community, local and international volunteers, international and local NGOs, the PLHIV community and JASL’s clients.
JASL got off the ground in 1992 with funding from USAID, opening a hospice in the same year. The hospice served well over 300 people before it was forced to close in September 2000 due to a lack of sustainable funding; but JASL has since continued to provide unswerving support for Jamaicans living with HIV and AIDS, preserving their dignity and human rights. At the same time it has continued to provide education and programs designed to bring about a deeper understanding of HIV/AIDS and to effect social change. It also has chapters in Montego Bay and Ocho Rios.
Go to JASL’s Facebook page for more information, and please support their work in every way that you can. And please read my article on a recent awareness event at the University of the West Indies (I will be doing a follow-up): Catching My Breath… Justice for All at UWI
Readers, friends, journalists, fellow-bloggers, supporters and anyone working in this field or who is interested in learning more and getting involved, PLEASE JOIN US TOMORROW (Tuesday, November 26, 2013) at 10:00 a.m. at the offices of Eve for Life, 1A Richmond Park Avenue, Kingston 10 (near the Transport Authority offices). Eve for Life will launch its campaign aimed at sensitizing the public about the ills of cross-generational sex, including transactional sex and forced sex with young girls aged 10 to 19 years old that is posing serious challenges to the HIV response in Jamaica.
Participants will include: Deidre Kiernan, Deputy Representative, UNICEF Jamaica; Greig Smith, Registrar, Office of the Children’s Registry; Sannia Sutherland, Acting Executive Director, National Family Planning Board; St. Rachel Ustanny, Family Planning Association of Jamaica; Randy McLaren, Word Activist; and the band Nomaddz.
Please see Eve for Life’s press release below. Please share widely and let your friends and contacts know. Looking forward to a vibrant morning with you tomorrow!
Sex with young girls has over the years become the norm and is the subject of many popular songs. It is widely practiced in many communities regardless of economic status. A ground breaking study done by Family Health International’s (FHI) 360 Communication for Change project in Jamaica entitled “Cross-Generational Relationships: Perceived Norms and Practices in Jamaica”, noted that cross generational sex contributes greatly to HIV prevalence and has become a norm. The participants in the study indicated that cross-generational relationships were common and persons were generally indifferent to these relationships or approved of them for the material gain they offered. The study further noted that young girls got involved in cross-generational relationships primarily for emotional/security support. Other reasons were sexual gratification and financial gain. On the other hand, the primary motivation for males was sexual gratification. The study also pointed to the fact that many of the persons involved in cross-generational sex also had multiple, concurrent sexual relationships.
Statistics from the Ministry of Health also show that transactional sex is increasing. Forty-three per cent of persons 15-24 years reported being involved in the activity in 2012, up from thirty-nine per cent in 2008. Additionally, at least twenty per cent of young girls report that their first sexual encounter was forced.
A key underlined factor in all the above is that young girls are becoming engaged in sex from an early age thus increasing their vulnerability to HIV and early pregnancy; they are unable to insist on condom use or to refuse sex. Eighteen per cent of pregnancies now occur among teenagers up to nineteen years old. HIV infection is three times higher among young girls aged 10 to 19 years old than among young boys the same age.
As a result of the foregoing, EVE For Life is launching a community chat entitled “Nuh Guh Deh!!”. This community chat will take place between November 29 and December 5, 2013 in three major town centres (Half Way Tree, Ocho Rios and Sam Sharpe Square -Montego Bay) and one inner city community in Kingston. These community chats will prelude an island wide campaign to be launched under the same name.
The “Nuh Guh Deh”, campaign complements EVE For Life’s current initiatives among HIV adolescents and young mothers aged 14 -24 years old, funded by World Learning and UNICEF; and an awareness raising intervention around Gender Based Violence and young girls funded by the U.S. Ambassador’s Fund and the British High Commission.
For more details, please contact: Patricia Watson. Tel: 754-3954
It’s late, and there is not much left of November 20 as I write this (at least, not where I am writing from), but I could not close down my computer without recognizing this day, which was established in 1999 to commemorate those transgender persons who have been murdered in the past year (I understand it is well over 200 globally this year). Especially, here in Jamaica, I would like us to remember Dwayne Jones, a gender non-conforming teenager who was murdered (chopped and stabbed to death) by a mob on July 22 this year after party-goers discovered he was wearing women’s clothing. Young Dwayne had aspirations to become an entertainer.
So far as I know, we have had no recent updates on the investigation into Dwayne’s tragic death.
Below is a link to a message from the White House in recognition of the day, which notes: “This day is an opportunity to remember those who have lost their lives to violence and injustice because of their gender identity or gender expression,” and quotes former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice‘s words: “At the United Nations, the United States is standing up for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals and fighting to ensure that their voices are heard and protected. The United States was proud to co-sponsor and adopt an historic resolution at the UN Human Rights Council condemning human rights abuses and violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity.” Where was Jamaica?
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rev-miller-jen-hoffman/transgender-day-of-remembrance_b_4304629.html Transgender Day of Remembrance: Huffington Post
http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2013/11/20/marking-transgender-day-remembrance-0 Marking Transgender Day of Remembrance: White House
http://www.news.com.au/world/transgender-teen-dwayne-jones-murdered-by-mob-in-jamaica/story-fndir2ev-1226695183449 Transgender teen Dwayne Jones murdered by mob in Jamaica: news.com.au
Busy week, but I hope I haven’t missed out too much. Please bear with me…
The struggle continues… Back to the political killing floor. Sorry to use this violent imagery, but many columnists and talk shows are still mulling over the Jamaica Labour Party skirmishes last week, that left several members suffering possibly mortal wounds. What will happen to Christopher Tufton and Audley Shaw and others, whom I consider to be the brightest of that bunch? I hope they find their place somehow, so that they are able to contribute to the governance of the nation. They have a lot to offer. And can Andrew Holness do a decent job in the Finance Spokesman role? His mentor Edward Seaga also handled that portfolio himself… I don’t know. We shall see. It’s pretty messy.
So now, the Supreme Court should tomorrow hear a claim by former Leader of Opposition Business in the Senate Arthur Williams, himself an attorney. He is seeking an injunction to block Holness from filling the two Senate seats vacated by himself and Christopher Tufton, after Holness’ crafty sleight of hand last week. Yes, Mr. Holness has been crafty and may well feel that he has been rather smart. However, he now has a legal case as well as a deadwood Shadow Cabinet of yes-men (and one yes-woman). Read more here: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=49401Is
Mr. Ruel Reid is a very good school principal, by all accounts. Last week, Opposition Leader Andrew Holness quickly named him as Senator. But does he have time for this, as well as serving on a couple of boards? And he had better be careful not to let the politics spill over into his work as headmaster of the famous Jamaica College. The Minister of Education sounds concerned and somewhat wary; so am I.
PetroCaribe is doing a “wobbly”: A recent article in the Christian Science Monitor suggests that all is not well with Venezuela‘s PetroCaribe arrangements with at least one of the 17 participating nations. Its oil contracts with China and India must be profitable than those with Caribbean countries. Will the terms of Venezuela’s agreement with Jamaica change, in terms of higher interest rates etc? Energy Minister Phillip Paulwell says the agreement is “intact” and unchanged. Venezuela’s economy is in a mess, with a soaring crime rate and actual oil production very low. The man with the mustache is also not a reliable character. He will be ruling by decree for the next year – at least – so a dictatorship is in place, at least a temporary one. Read more here: http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Americas/2013/1115/Venezuela-s-regional-energy-program-Petrocaribe-wobbles
Financial news: The “big” news is that the economy grew in the last quarter by a whopping 0.6 per cent. After six consecutive quarters of negative growth, this is something to get mildly excited about. Inflation, however, is lurking in the wings and creeping up – as we are all painfully aware of when we visit the supermarket. It was 3.7 per cent in the last quarter – above the Bank of Jamaica target of two to three per cent. But financial reporting sometimes baffles me. The Gleaner reports that, in addition to increases in transportation costs, the reason for higher inflation was “higher costs associated with the summer holidays and preparations for the start of the new school year.” Er, doesn’t this happen every year? Read more here: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131120/business/business1.html
And in infrastructure news… An engineer has wisely suggested we build roads with concrete (which we actually produce here) rather than surfacing them with a (generally too thin) layer of imported asphalt. Concrete lasts much longer too. And over 600 street lights have mysteriously turned up in Trelawny – they have “moved” from somewhere else! So many? It is staggering. The poor Jamaica Public Service Company has to be constantly one or two steps ahead of the ingenious light thieves. Read more here: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Engineer-touts-benefits-of-concrete-roads_15432634 and http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131118/lead/lead6.html
Impunity basically means getting away with it. Impunity “tun up” these days (to coin a Jamaican phrase): for the electricity thieves; for the crazy bus and taxi drivers who threaten our lives daily on the road; for the operators of “Ponzi” schemes who have fleeced many Jamaicans of millions; for those police officers who break the law themselves; for those faceless, nameless rampaging mobs who regularly take the law into their own hands, as in the case of Dwayne Jones; and according to the latest study from the University of the West Indies (UWI), for the vast majority of murderers out there, who are never brought to justice.
UWI Professor Anthony Clayton tells us that the conviction rate for murder is less than five per cent per year. We always knew that this was a major concern, but the numbers are stark. Read more here: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131120/lead/lead1.html Are we going to hear from Minister of National Security Peter Bunting? Can he handle this portfolio, I have to ask? We cannot just blame the police; they are out of their depth and struggling. “Operation Resilience” (endless curfews, “shootouts” and the rounding up of young men in inner cities) is just not working. Those methods never have worked. A policy rethink is needed. A serious rethink, Minister.
It’s not just the murders. There has been a heightened level of violence and insecurity. A schoolgirl in Clarendon shot and injured accidentally by the police who were pursuing a suspect. A student in Portland stabbed by a fellow student and seriously ill in hospital. And again I ask, what was going on outside the Police Commissioner’s Office on Hope Road on Saturday evening – loud gunfire, huge traffic jam? Since I live just down the road, I would love to know.
As I mentioned in my last post, the brother of a journalist friend of mine was shot dead in downtown Kingston a few days ago. Here are Rohan Powell’s heartfelt comments on Facebook: “It has been more than four days since my brother Evon Powell was shot and killed on Sutton street, just a short hop from our childhood home. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to grasp that he was the target. The killer, like many others who have carried out similar dastardly acts, are known as cowards. He or she didn’t give my brother a fighting chance. The reality is that his life has been snuffed out by someone who wanted to “make a duppy”. My brother’s death speaks to the vicious cycle of what we call Life. Nothing can bring him back…all we can look forward to, is that he will enjoy a peaceful rest near to Joan..his mother…and that his children all , can lift their heads high and be proud to carry on the Powell name with pride and dignity….”
A mob of residents killed one man and injured two others whom they accused of stealing goats in rural Mocho. A teenage boy, a student of Morant Bay High School, was shot along with his grandmother and later died from his injuries. A teenage girl, a student of Lennon High School, was found dead in the Mocho area of Clarendon. A well-known farmer and businessman was shot in Black River. A bakery owner was shot dead on Monday morning on his way to the bank in Montego Bay. A teenage boy was reportedly beaten to death and another seriously injured by the police in Sandy Bay, Hanover. And so the sad stories continue. My condolences to the grieving families and loved ones left behind.
Everton Lewis, 63, Black River, St. Elizabeth
Kadiane Smith, 16, Bamboo River/Morant Bay, St. Thomas
Unidentified man, Queens Street/Morant Bay, St. Thomas
Rayon Lee Massie, 26, St. Thomas Technical High School
Carol Matthews, 43, Braeton, St. Catherine
Cedrick Ravine, 54, Rio Nuevo, St. Mary
Ralston Cole, 39, Castleton, St. Mary
Amariah Green, Mocho, Clarendon (mob killing)
Calecia Edwards, 15, Brixton Hill, Clarendon
Clinton Young, 45, Montego Bay, St. James
Everton Ewan, Johns Common, St. James
Killed by police:
Ashanti Clarke, 17, Sandy Bay, Hanover
Here are some more articles of interest, on the ongoing politics and such:
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131119/lead/lead1.html Security expert says police not aiming at right target to buck murder trend: Gleaner
http://jamaicapoliticaleconomy.wordpress.com/2013/11/18/the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly-november-17/ The good, the bad and the ugly: jamaicapoliticaleconomy.wordpress.com
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131118/cleisure/cleisure4.html Unconscionable political prenuptial agreement: Bert Samuels op-ed, Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Respect-my-mandate-_15459245 Respect my mandate! Holness tells the defeated: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Holness-to-establish-order-within-JLP_15463787 Holness to establish order within JLP: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Democracy-and-the-JLP—a-long-way-from-home_15459216 Democracy and the JLP – a long way from home: Louis Moyston column/Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/A-time-for-inspiration_15459069 A time for inspiration: Jean Lowrie-Chin column/Jamaica Observer
http://www.caribbeanlifenews.com/stories/2013/11/2013_11_15_vkp_jamaica_youth_minister.html Jamaica‘s youth minister pleads to UNESCO: Caribbean Life
http://www.caribbeannewsnow.com/headline-Mentors-to-assist-Caribbean-fisherfolk-to-enhance-their-contribution-to-food-security-18715.html Mentors to assist Caribbean fisherfolk to enhance their contribution to food security: Caribbean News Now
Our Police Commissioner rarely smiles these days, and our National Security Minister rarely speaks. Nor, frankly, does the media seem greatly concerned by the fact that – as I listed in my last blog post – at least twelve Jamaicans have been murdered in the past three days, and at least four have been shot dead by agents of the state.
The ongoing crime and violence in Jamaican society has become so commonplace, so everyday. It is like background music – elevator music, the kind you can ignore – purring along in the background, while we get on with our lives. Like an out of date television program that we have all seen before, playing while we get on with more interesting things. We discuss politics; the regulation of handcart operators and jet skis; the IMF; a primary school infested by fleas; fraud and corruption. But not that thing in the background. In fact, we will likely turn that thing off.
I am sharing with you – painful as it is – the names and photographs (where available) of some of those who have been killed over the past week or so, and a little bit of their stories. Not all of them; some Jamaicans are just names and ages. Some are “unidentified.” We don’t know anything about their lives. But they are (were) Jamaicans, like you and me.
We shudder, we sigh. We say, “Oh no, how sad.” But somehow we are not touched too deeply. If we allowed that to happen, we would suffer a terrible mental seizure. We would be overwhelmed. And for the media, the average, everyday murder is not worth reporting on. Only the dramatic, high-profile ones. In fact, many of us would prefer that the media did not report on crime at all – too much doom and gloom. And certainly let’s not hear about the injured ones, destroyed by gunshot wounds for the rest of their lives. Too depressing.
But please, just allow me to introduce you to some (not all) of the victims of the past week – dead Jamaicans, young and old, who leave grief and suffering in their wake.
Please spare them a thought. And spare a thought for Jamaica.
- Hopeton Livingston, who owned a car dealership in Hagley Park Road, Kingston called “Honda Doc,” was found chopped to death in his upper St. Andrew apartment.
- 27-year-old Sasha-Gaye Coffie, a legal clerk in the Administrator General’s Department, was at her home in Cumberland, St. Catherine with family members. A man entered and shot her three times in the stomach and once in the head on Monday, National Heroes Day (when seven murders took place). She was seven months pregnant. She and her baby died on the spot.
- 17-year-old Winston Green was shot dead while walking with two friends in Granville, St. James. The other two, aged 23 and 21, were injured and admitted to hospital.
- Another 17-year-old, Odaine Dacres, was stabbed to death on the grounds of Kingston’s National Stadium on National Heroes Day, at a popular water party. Dacres reportedly tried to break up a fight between a man and woman and was stabbed in the chest.
- 41-year-old Lloyd “Columbus” Brown, a cooking gas dealer from Nannyville, was shot dead on nearby Tucker Avenue in Kingston also on National Heroes Day, while delivering gas on his motorbike. Heroes Day celebrations in the Nannyville community were canceled after his death.
- Olivia Dacres, aged 54, was at her home late one night in rural Prospect, St. Thomas when she heard someone call her. When she went outside she was shot in the head.
- Desmond Campbell, 44, was shot and killed at 2:00 a.m. at a go-go club in Dam Head, St. Catherine.
- The police shot dead 51-year-old Solomon “Salla” Johnson in Dumfries, St. Thomas, claiming he pointed a gun at them. Local residents protested at the Princess Margaret Hospital, claiming he was a benefactor. The police say they took an illegal pistol from him.
- The body of a bus operator, Flavius Forbes (“Second”) was found floating face down in the Rio Cobre near the bridge along the Spanish Town bypass at Dela Vega City. He had not been heard from since he radioed that his bus had broken down on the bypass.
- An unnamed teenage student was stabbed to death at the HEART/NTA Skills Training Centre at Boulevard Baptist Church in Kingston 20. He was trying to intervene in a fight between students.
- The body of 48-year-old shop owner Dervent Aston Atkinson was found with multiple chop wounds near his burnt-out car near the Kenilworth HEART Academy playing field in Sandy Bay, Hanover. Atkinson had left for a party in Montego Bay the previous evening, but had never arrived there.
- 81-year-old Zachariah Angus was shot twice and killed at a bar in Fontabelle, St. Mary during a robbery. Mr. Angus had tried to resist the robber, who also shot and injured his friend.
- Romaine Baker, 24, was at home in Adelphi, St. James when three armed men kicked down his door and shot him twice in the head.
- 35-year-old cab driver Douglas “Carlos” Folkes drove a route taxi in rural Padmore, St. Andrew. He picked up two passengers and was driving down hill at 8:00 a.m. when shots were heard. Folkes ran from his Nissan Sunny car for about 400 meters before collapsing on the road.
- The police shot dead Stephen Mason, 20, and another young man one morning in Stony Hill, St. Andrew. Stephen was a student of the University College of the Caribbean, on his way to class. His mother said she was told her son was “in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
It will have blood, they say. Blood will have blood.Stones have been known to move, and trees to speak.William Shakespeare, “Macbeth”
Our strange, moody weather continues. Murky clouds hang over Kingston, dripping rain here and there. And it’s open season on mosquitoes in our house.
The doping saga: The UK media are keeping tabs on the saga of the Jamaica Anti-Doping Commission (JADCO). Reports now emerge that the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) is furious that JADCO politely declined their request to visit Jamaica for an extraordinary audit this year and put them off until January 2014. It is particularly puzzling since I understood that Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller (who is our Sports Minister) invited WADA to come. Does the left hand know what the right is doing? Why are we making such a mess of all this? Now it appears that WADA will visit October 28-30, but some JADCO members will be overseas then… Can someone wave a magic wand and make it all go away please?
Closer ties with the “Commies”: (That’s a phrase from the Cold War – tongue in cheek). Members of the ruling People’s National Party (PNP) are currently en route to China, to forge closer ties with the political regime there. PNP General Secretary Robert Pickersgill (yes, our Environment Minister) is heading the delegation. Perhaps he will say something about the Portland Bight Protected Area/Goat Islands while he is there, like last time. He will not say anything about it in Jamaica. Read more: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=48793
Cronyism, nepotism, tribalism? Two items struck me this week: the suggestion by former PNP government minister Arnold Bertram that Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay be renamed after a PNP politician, Allan George Coombs. Donald Sangster was a former Jamaica Labour Party Prime Minister (Jamaica’s second) who died after only a few weeks in office. We also learn that former head of the PNP Youth Organisation (PNPYO) Mr. Junior Rose has been appointed Senior Director of Strategic Planning, Policy Research and Local Government Reform in the Ministry of Local Government. Is this jobs for the boys? Was this position advertised? (I have been increasingly unconvinced of any need for a Local Government Ministry in the first place). A career civil servant was pushed out to make way for Mr. Rose, the Opposition alleges. Read here: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/HONOUR-DENIED_15283812 and here: http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/controversy-surrounds-local-government-appointment
Former Contractor General Greg Christie reminded us this week of a great Gleaner article by Christopher Serju (which I missed – I was away) with some very relevant remarks by Professor Tommy Koh, Ambassador-at-Large for Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Not sure that Singapore (or anywhere) has “zero corruption,” but he pointed to the cost of it all. Adding, tellingly (and relevantly to the above): “…practise meritocracy (where) no one is appointed to a job because he knows somebody..” Another key arrow in Singapore’s armory was/is, of course, education. Read here: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130721/lead/lead3.html
I have a question: Why was the leader of the Opposition absent from Monday’s National Heroes Day ceremonies (wreath-laying and awards)? I do hope it wasn’t because his leadership rival Audley Shaw was receiving a national honor. I am perturbed by Mr. Holness’ apparent lack of maturity during this leadership race. Someone told me, “It’s important to have a young leader,” but youth in itself is not an asset. You’ve got to have some sense, too. He is making his aged (61 year-old) opponent look better and better…
For the fifth time! The corruption trial of former junior minister Kern Spencer and Colleen Wright was postponed for the fifth time yesterday. The Resident’s Magistrate’s was annoyed. The case is now nearly five years old and has been dragging on interminably. Of course, it didn’t help that the RM spent a long time wrangling with Director of Public Prosecutions Paula Llewellyn, half way through, creating considerable delay. The defense team is using every trick in the book, too. Our justice system is becoming a farce, isn’t it?
…and hot air: Meanwhile, with so many pressing matters afflicting the nation, Parliament decided to debate a resolution for the U.S. embargo on Cuba to be lifted. The lawmakers do this every year, with much pontificating, and they all agree. Many of the Opposition members were absent – apparently either campaigning, still on holiday, or both.
The price of fame: “Ras Puddler” found himself on the front page of the Jamaica Observer today photographed puffing on a chilum pipe. He was chilling on the beach in Belmont, Westmoreland on Sunday, during the town’s annual celebrations of Peter Tosh’s birthday, and sharing his views on the legalization of ganja – which I have to say made much sense to me. Alas, Ras Puddler’s fifteen minutes of fame were soon over, as the police arrested him today. He will be charged with possession of the aforementioned pipe, three pounds of ganja and some seedlings. I suppose it was rather foolish of him. But I confess I am a little confused by the current state of play on ganja legislation.
“The fact is that the family structure in Jamaica is dysfunctional”, Police Commissioner Owen Ellington says. Mothers reject their sons and drive them onto the streets because they can’t cope, he adds. So the answer is for the police to engage them in shootouts, right? Understanding the root of the crime problem is a good start, I suppose. Now, apply the right solutions.
I believe the police are overwhelmed by the burgeoning crime rate. The Commissioner speaks calmly but with barely disguised frustration in his voice. And Minister of National Security Peter Bunting, what say you? I have not heard HIS voice lately.
Congratulations to two women for their awesomeness:
- Diana McCaulay’s column in response to Gordon Robinson’s ill-informed nonsense about the Portland Bight Protected Area/Goat Islands is simply marvelous. Mr. Robinson, much as I often admire your satirical pieces, you were way off the mark on this one, and did not do your homework either. Ms. McCaulay has put you firmly in your place! A must-read: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131022/cleisure/cleisure2.html
- Petre Williams Raynor, who looks as if she has a forest growing out of her head in the photo below (sorry, Petre!). Petre was one of four “Forest Heroes” at a special award ceremony last week organized by the Forestry Department. Petre is now working with the non-governmental organization Panos Caribbean.
There have been many murders and shootings in the past few days. Our National Heroes must be turning in their graves, upon which wreaths were reverently placed on Monday. I wish I could send wreaths and flowers to the families of all those who have died in the past three days. Yes, just three days. Police Commissioner Owen Ellington told Parliament yesterday that seven were killed in one day.These are all sad, sad stories. My condolences…
Hopeton Livingston, St. Andrew
Douglas Folkes, 35, Padmore, St. Andrew
Odane Dacres, 17, National Stadium, Kingston
Lloyd Brown, 41, Tucker Avenue, Kingston
Setron Clarke, 41, Mandeville, Manchester
Sasha-Gaye Coffie, 27, Cumberland, St. Catherine
Flavius Forbes, De La Vega City, St. Catherine
Desmond Campbell, 44, Dam Head, St. Catherine
Winston Green, 17, Granville, St. James
Aston Atkinson, 48, Kenilworth HEART Academy, Hanover
Killed by police:
Solomon Johnson, 51, Dumfries, St. Thomas
Unidentified man, Greater Portmore, St. Catherine
Stephen Mason, 20, Stony Hill, St. Andrew
Melburn Campbell, 29, Stony Hill, St. Andrew
Here are a few additional articles of interest:
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=48783 Rare earth project plant expected by month-end, says Energy Minister: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131023/news/news1.html Debt-to-GDP ratio: an insurmountable task: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Shaw-wants-to-reform-JLP_15275954 Shaw wants to reform JLP: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131021/cleisure/cleisure4.html How not to build a nation: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131023/cleisure/cleisure1.html High praise, more work for the PM: Gleaner editorial
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/entertainment/Woman-of-Merit_15295674 Woman of Merit: Dr. Olive Lewin: Jamaica Observer
Things have caught up with me this week, and I did not find time to finish off my mid-week bulletin yesterday. So I am dashing to send it out now. My apologies to all for the delay.
Since the weekend, local media has returned to Jamaica’s dire economic situation. The latest study shows that business and consumer confidence is at an all- time low – a precipitous drop in confidence of 17% in one quarter. Read the Gleaner’s not overly optimistic take on it all here: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131017/cleisure/cleisure1.html
The Jamaican Dollar continues its inexorable slide. It’s now sidling up (or rather down) to J$105/US$1. For several technical reasons it is hardly benefiting our exporters as much as it should (our non-traditional exports have edged up marginally). And it’s much easier to import than to export. Our balance of payments situation remains very poor.
Upbeat officials: And yet if you listen to government officials, the economic situation seems reasonably rosy, heading in the right direction… The Planning Institute of Jamaica’s Colin Bullock says their estimates show a growth rate of 0.8 per cent in the past quarter (not yet backed up by actual statistics). Read more here: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131017/lead/lead5.html
Those megawatts: The saga of the 360MW power project drags on. Recriminations, accusations and hand-wringing continue. Rumors abound that all is not well in the Cabinet, which is divided on the management (or mismanagement) of the matter. The Office of Utilities Regulation has not informed us about the now overdue security bonds from bidders for the renewable energy bids either – an offer that was only partially taken up: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131017/lead/lead7.html You can read more here: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131014/cleisure/cleisure1.html Now, Energy World International (the preferred bidder, as it turned out) says it has its security bond ready: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131017/lead/lead9.html But countless questions remain. #notoveryet
The death of Vanessa: I have written about the suicide of 16-year-old Vanessa Wint while incarcerated in an adult prison before. The Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) has now sent its report to the Coroner’s Court to see whether anyone should be held responsible for her tragic death. Read more here: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/INDECOM-refers-report-on-Vanessa-Wint-s-death-for-Coroner-s-Inquest and http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131015/lead/lead2.html
Snipers everywhere: The Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) landscape now resembles the city of Sarajevo during the Balkan wars, when innocent people feared crossing the street in case someone shot at them. I hate to use a warlike metaphor, but missiles are flying around. The petty, barbed comments are becoming ridiculous. Party Chairman Robert Montague now appears to be trying to calm the waters; but for heaven’s sake, guys. Very little discussion on the many pressing issues affecting Jamaica during the JLP leadership debate, which will drag on until their conference in November. Instead, there is nonsense about one candidate being too old, talk of plots to unseat leader Andrew Holness, etc., etc. A party in Opposition needs to start thinking at some point about how it is going to win the next general elections. This is not the way to endear itself to the general public.
I enjoy his humor, but this week’s column by attorney-at-law Gordon Robinson on the logistics hub and the Portland Bight Protected Area is way off the mark. It’s riddled with inaccuracies and misinformation, and pours derision and scorn on qualified, professional people who have dedicated their lives (with very little reward, unlike those in Mr. Robinson’s profession) to environmental conservation. And is Jamaica that desperate, Mr. Robinson, that we have to take anything that’s offered without question? And whoever said that those who are protesting the “development” of a protected area are “anti-development”? That is simply not true. http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131015/cleisure/cleisure4.html
By the way, the Ministry of Industry, Investment & Commerce will hold a one-day conference on the logistics hub on November 12. Ironically, this coincides with a two-day meeting of the Iguana Specialty Group at Hope Zoo. Scientists will tour the Portland Bight Protected Area, which includes the Hellshire Hills, habitat for the endangered Jamaican Iguana.
Are we tuned in to climate change? A Washington Post article recently reported a new study that singled out the city of Kingston as reaching its hottest point in just ten years’ time. This hardly registered on the local media’s radar. It seems that Jamaican journalists are not really tuned in to the complexities of climate science and are not able to explain it (and its effects) to the media and public. They need to do their research and help us all understand. Here is a local blog: http://hill60bump.com/2013/10/15/kingston-jamaica-soon-the-hottest-place-on-earth/
More recriminations, too, on the WADA/JADA story: I am no expert on athletics or doping, but our Prime Minister (also Minister of Sport) invited the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) to visit Jamaica to do an audit of the Jamaica Anti-Doping Agency (JADA). The UK Guardian printed a scathing article (http://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2013/oct/16/jamaica-world-anti-doping-agency-drugs?CMP=twt_gu) on the JADA’s negative response to WADA’s suggested date for a visit. The Jamaica Information Service has clarified the situation thus: http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads/35320. Another athlete (Jamaica’s tae kwon do Olympian Kenneth Edwards) has now tested positive, but strongly denies doping. Oh dear…
Pretty bouquets all round to:
- God knows we need strong, inspiring role models, and our sprint champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce is doing astonishingly well in that department. I think she is discovering she has a gift for motivating young people. Read about her visit to girls at the Homestead Place of Safety here: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131013/lead/lead3.html
- The amazing surgeons from the UK who partnered with Jamaican surgeons through the Transplant Link Community project to perform the first kidney transplant operations at Montego Bay’s Cornwall Regional Hospital. A great achievement. Read more: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131014/lead/lead1.html No kidney transplants have been done in Jamaica for the past seven years; I wonder why they have stopped? There’s a great need.
- Have you seen the September/October issue of the new ECCO (Environmentally Conscious Consumer Operations) online magazine? It’s beautiful. Among the interesting articles is a hard-hitting piece by Tameka Coley entitled: “The Jamaican Environment: 50 Years of Mismanagement and Devastation.” Read ECCO magazine here: http://issuu.com/eccomagazine/docs/ecco_magazine_sept_2013/6
- Tamika Pommells Williams and her husband run the Ras Natango Gallery and Garden near Montego Bay. They have great art and beautiful flowers. Tamika presented at a National Integrity Action seminar this week on sustainable tourism. Good work by a very principled person who loves Jamaica and loves life!
- Karyl Walker of the Jamaica Observer for his investigative reporting on Vanessa Wint’s death. The details are of course heart-breaking and it is not easy to read. But you should read: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Shocking-account-of-a-suicide
Of interest from overseas: I visited the beautiful island of Grenada for the first time this year and I look out for stories. I was struck by a heartfelt letter this week regarding women’s rights in Grenada and throughout the world. “ For too long, the history of women has been a history of silence. Even today, there are those who are trying to silence our words,” the writer observes. Read more at: http://www.caribbeannewsnow.com/topstory-Letter%253A-Human-rights-violation-in-Grenada-and-other-countries-18182.html
Being an avid book-lover, I really enjoyed English writer Neil Gaiman’s lecture (an edited version is on the Guardian UK website, here: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/oct/15/neil-gaiman-future-libraries-reading-daydreaming?CMP=twt_gu) He had some very important things to say about literacy, reading and imagination – and on getting children engaged. A must-read!
There has been a significant increase in murders in Clarendon this year. I remember spending time in May Pen several years ago, when businesspeople and local officials were congratulating the police chief Dayton Henry on a steady decline in the violent crime rate. The 46-year-old Mr. Henry died, suddenly and mysteriously, last year; tests concluded that he was poisoned, and an investigation was reportedly under way. Since his death, the murder rate has climbed again. My deepest condolences to the bereaved…
Unidentified man, Fairlane/Savoy Avenue, Kingston 10
Tevin Farquharson, 19, Spring Mount, St. James
Canute Dennis, 50, Spring Mount, St. James
Oraine Dunkley, 26, Spring Mount, St. James
Unidentified man, Fontabelle, St. Mary
Unidentified, Portmore, St. Catherine
Here are some additional articles and links of interest:
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=48701 IMF team to visit next month for review: Gleaner
http://www.caribjournal.com/2013/10/14/oas-urges-caribbean-nations-to-explore-green-energy/ OAS urges Caribbean to explore green energy: Carib Journal
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131014/news/news1.html Farm Up Jamaica to grow organic foods, save money: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/JAMAICA-OBSERVER-ONLINE-EDITORIAL2013-10-15T03-09-05 Jamaica Observer online editorial
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/EU-provides–52-million-for-justice–human-rights-projects_15244756 EU provides $52 million for justice, human rights projects: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131014/news/news3.html DPP launches its disclosure protocol: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131014/lead/lead8.html Bird-shooting ban might become a must: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Church-rebuffs-gay-marriage_15253447 Church rebuffs gay marriage: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131014/cleisure/cleisure3.html Pregnant female vs foetus rights: Garth Rattray column/Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Raw-sewage-anger_15241640 Raw sewage anger: Jamaica Observer
http://franderby.com/2013/10/sexual-harassment-on-the-streets-of-kingston/ Sexual harassment on the streets of Kingston: franderby.com
Here is a press release from J-FLAG – the non-governmental organization whose Vision is: “The creation of a Jamaican society that respects and protects the human rights and inherent dignity of all individuals irrespective of their sexual orientation and gender identity: A Jamaica where there is the freedom to be, for all people.”
J-FLAG will celebrate its 15th anniversary on December 10, 2013 – World Human Rights Day. It defines its Values thus: “J-FLAG promotes the values of all-inclusivity, diversity, equality, fairness, and love. These values are at the heart of all we do, as we seek to become effective agents of social change.”
I would love to hear more about the Prime Minister’s 2004 task force set up to address the issue of homelessness. What progress has it made?
Statement from J-FLAG on World Homeless Day – October 10, 2013
J-FLAG condemns the reported firebombing of a house occupied by homeless gay men in Porto Bello, St James on October 8, 2013. The incident highlights the extent of the problems faced by members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, especially those whose circumstances have made them extremely vulnerable to discrimination and violence.
At least two homeless gay teenagers have been brutally killed this year and their murders remain unsolved. In January, just days after being put out of his home by his parents, one teenager was set ablaze as he slept in a gully in St. Andrew. In July, 16 year-old Dwayne Jones was set upon by a mob that beat, chopped and shot him in St James. Their deaths painfully highlight incidents of cruelty meted out to LGBT Jamaicans, especially those who are young and marginalised by their socio-economic status.
J-FLAG is therefore urging the government to urgently respond to the needs of LGBT Jamaicans, especially those who are most vulnerable.
While the true figure of the number of persons who are homeless is unknown, we note there are at least 1097 known to the Poor Relief Department as at March 2012. Sadly, nearly half of them are not supported by any programmes that cater to the provision of basic necessities, education, personal development or other services.
J-FLAG wishes to remind Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller of her leadership in October 2004 when she launched a taskforce to develop and implement policies and programmes to respond to homelessness. Currently, not all parishes have programmes that care for the homeless despite a commitment by the Government in Vision 2030 -the National Development Plan- to “provide effective social protection.” In addition, as reported to J-FLAG, it has been the experience of some LGBT persons in these parishes that stigma and discrimination preclude access existing services.
The Government has made a commitment in the National Development Plan to “ensure that those citizens who are unable to provide and care for themselves will be supported through the resources of the State and its partners.”
J-FLAG urges the Prime Minister, Hon. Portia Simpson Miller to immediately take steps to provide homeless care facilities in each parish, enhance access to social safety net services and provide rehabilitative programmes for people who are homeless or otherwise displaced. We are willing to work with the government to ensure that service providers are trained to care for diverse populations.
The government cannot continue to ignore the plight of persons who are being expelled from their homes and communities because of their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity and expression. These are vulnerable young Jamaicans in desperate need of help and any moral aversion to their sexual or gender identities is irrelevant to the need to uplift their humanity by regarding them with dignity.
Related articles and links:
- http://petchary.wordpress.com/2013/08/15/how-do-these-parents-sleep-at-night/ ”How do these parents sleep at night?” (petchary.wordpress.com)
- http://petchary.wordpress.com/2013/07/05/evicting-the-homeless-is-not-the-solution/ Evicting the homeless is not the solution (petchary.wordpress.com)
- http://petchary.wordpress.com/2013/05/17/an-idaho-state-of-mind/ An IDAHO state of mind (petchary.wordpress.com)
- http://petchary.wordpress.com/2012/12/10/for-human-rights-day-2012-a-challenge-an-invitation-and-an-anniversary/ For Human Rights Day 2012 (petchary.wordpress.com)
- Jamaica needs urgent action to save LGBT people’s lives (76crimes.com)
- J-FLAG, Jamaica’s gay rights group, launches YouTube video campaign, ‘We Are Jamaicans’ (miamiherald.typepad.com)
- Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller’s Inaugural Address, January 5, 2012. (petchary.wordpress.com)
- Jamaican Prime gives television interview in China, but won’t do likewise in Jamaica (commonsenseja.wordpress.com)
- Mid-Week Overload: Wednesday, October 9, 2013 (petchary.wordpress.com)
- Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller Blows Kisses at LGBT Rights Protesters (blogs.villagevoice.com)
- Cuso Considers Gender Priorities for Jamaica (petchary.wordpress.com)
I have a bit too much on my plate this week, so will try to keep this short. And literally – I ate too much today, at one of our lovely local neighborhood restaurants, Tea Tree Creperie. It’s recommended.
I start with a mea culpa: One of my readers gently reprimanded me for a comment I made in my last (Sunday) post, in which I poked fun at the way some callers to radio talk shows speak. It smacked of condescension, said my reader. The point is well taken. My attempt at being amusing certainly did sound that way, I do agree. So, my apologies to anyone who may have found it at all offensive or unkind. And please, dear readers, feel free to correct me whenever you feel it necessary! I take all your comments seriously, and you don’t have to be nice and polite!
It’s been an energetic week: With the preferred bidder for the 360 MW power project not able to come up with its deposit on time, the slightly mysterious Energy World International (EWI) has moved to the top of the heap. A local consortium, Energize Jamaica, has apparently been sidelined indefinitely. I understand that the EWI people will arrive in Jamaica this weekend, so we shall see what we shall see. Now local journalists have been digging around to find out what they can about EWI. The results have been far from impressive. A review of successive annual reports shows EWI failed to come up with the funds for an LNG project in the Philippines after several years of stalling. A report from the Sydney Morning Herald (link below) confirms this. Remember, EWI was the firm who met with Energy Minister Phillip Paulwell after the original deadline for bids, and was allowed in (why?)
Is the OUR up to the task? I agree with the private sector leaders, who are very uncomfortable with the unsatisfactory situation that has developed. Some wonder (as I do) whether the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR), in whose lap the whole thing landed, actually had the know-how in the first place to evaluate the bids from each of the firms. They may know all the rules and regulations, as all good bureaucrats should, but should not some additional expertise have been brought to bear on the matter?
Problem is, the matter is becoming urgent. Almost a whole year of dithering has passed. Financial journalist Ralston Hyman (whose morning program Real Business gives me a sobering dose of reality on a daily basis) points out that the delay cannot continue. The requested emergency meeting with the Prime Minister should take place – now. Can we have some leadership, please?
Forty cents out of every dollar that Jamaica earns goes towards buying imported oil. As Mr. Hyman and his guest said this week, it is mind-boggling.
Are Jamaicans at the end of their tether? I was quite taken aback by raging emotions in the Jamaican twittersphere one night. What was everyone so upset about? Television Jamaica (TVJ) had bought the exclusive rights to “The Voice“ from NBC – prompting local cable company Flow to block the live NBC coverage – and planned to air the program with a two-hour delay. Jamaica’s much-loved singer Tessanne Chin is one of the stars of the show and a strong contender to win. Now, this may seem a petty matter, but perhaps it is symptomatic of a wider frustration creeping into Jamaican society – a kind of sense of “you can’t win” - which I fully understand, and share to some extent. Tessanne’s success is a little glimmer of light in a dark and foggy landscape (like sporting successes etc) and we cling on to these things. When even these small lights are snatched away…
The aggrieved Chin fans immediately whipped up a Facebook page (“No to The Voice on TVJ”), and many of us “liked” it. We patted ourselves on the back as to the power of social media in Jamaica – TVJ listened, and made concessions. Which prompted the question, how come the Jamaican public can become so galvanized around a relatively small concern like this, but remains indifferent, resigned or bored by many of our most enormous and pressing social issues?
I’ll meet you in court: Earlier this week, as former politician Kern Spencer sat in court waiting for his long-delayed corruption case to come up (it was delayed for the third time in two weeks), he sat through the case of (still current, not former) Mayor of May Pen Scean Barnswell, who is charged with misleading the Contractor General. And lawyers for Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, former Information Minister Colin Campbell, Ministers Phillip Paulwell and Robert Pickersgill filed an appeal against a ruling handed down by the Constitutional Court in the matter of an alleged donation to the People’s National Party by the Dutch firm Trafigura. Our politicians were trying to get diplomatic immunity so that they would not have to testify in court. The Director of Public Prosecutions is not amused. Oh, and lastly, the case of contempt of court filed by a now-deported Dutch national from Curacao against Minister of National Security Peter Bunting comes up tomorrow.
The corridors of our courts are clogged with politicians – or at least, with their well-heeled lawyers. I’m tired of hearing the phrase, “I am consulting with my legal team…”
I don’t want to be a scare-monger, but… There have been reported cases of (and deaths from) “swine flu” in Barbados and Trinidad. The Cayman Islands government has issued an alert. Are our health authorities at all worried? And with swarms of big fat mosquitoes flying around after the daily rains (I just killed one that landed on my hand as I typed), is there a dengue fever prevention program taking place anywhere at all on the island? Over to you, Mr. Health Minister.
And again, why the silence? On the Portland Bight (Goat Islands) logistic hub issue? Aren’t we already past the deadline for the so-called “desktop study” to be completed? Is it finished, as some news outlets reported this week? And if it is (or is not), why the continued deafening silence? We have an Access to Information Act, which the Jamaica Environment Trust has used several times to try to obtain information from the Government. Nothing.
The impact of climate change: Perhaps our local journalists are afraid to tackle the science of it, but I would love to see much more in-depth reporting on climate change as it affect the region, Jamaica, and our daily lives. There’s no doubt that it will play an increasingly important role, affecting our livelihoods in as yet undetermined ways. And in fact, it already has – hence the need to do some kind of assessment. We need to sit up and take notice. A new study in the popular science magazine Nature predicts that Kingston, Jamaica will be the second city in the world (after somewhere in Indonesia) to experience greatly heightened temperatures in the next decade. Other cities will follow. Let’s find out more about how and why Kingston was singled out.
And today, in Kingston, there was hail. Yes, hail in the tropics. Please see the photo below from a tweep for the evidence of this.
I’m not handing out bouquets today. Next time…
Today on television, the Commissioner of Police complained that the Opposition Spokesman on Crime appeared to be “celebrating” the rising murder rate. No one is celebrating, Mr. Commissioner; but it is Mr. Chuck’s role and responsibility to point these things out. Or would you rather he said nothing, while the death toll rises? And is your way of “dealing with” gang violence in western Jamaica engaging in shootouts that result in the deaths of the alleged wanted men? Is that our strategy now, Minister Peter Bunting? That’s it?
My condolences to the families of all those who died, listed below – including the alleged gangsters, who will not get their day in court.
Rochel Davis, 25, Ocho Rios, St. Ann
Rohan DaCosta, 30, Montego Bay, St. James
Brad Gray, 25, Montego Bay, St. James
Killed by the police:
André Cox, Norwood Gardens, St. James
Odane Scott, Norwood, St. James
Unidentified, Grange Hill, Westmoreland
Related links and articles:
http://www.caribjournal.com/2013/10/05/dennis-chung-behaviour-and-economic-growth-in-jamaica/ Behavior and economic growth in Jamaica: Dennis Chung op-ed/Carib Journal
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Brand-Jamaica-needs-backative-_15209544 Brand Jamaica needs backative: Melody Cammock-Gayle column/Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131007/lead/lead1.html Energized: 360 MW third-ranked bidder questions OUR’s due diligence, claims it has cash ready for bond: Gleaner
http://www.smh.com.au/business/energy-world-does-fine-line-in-hot-air-but-not-much-lng-20120928-26qvt.html Energy World does fine line in hot air, but not much LNG: Sydney Morning Herald
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/ruling-expected-in-case-involving-dutch-national-and-national-security-minister Ruling expected in case involving Dutch national and National Security Minister: RJR News
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Bread-sold-by-the-slice-_15053101 Bread sold by the slice: Jamaica Observer
http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Americas/2013/1009/The-Caribbean-makes-strides-in-reducing-HIV-AIDS-in-babies The Caribbean makes strides in reducing HIV/AIDS in babies: Christian Science Monitor
http://www.westernmirror.com/index.php/permalink/6329.html No shipping port on Goat Island! Letter to the Western Mirror
http://www.iriefm.net/news/headline/environmental-group-yet-be-updated-goat-islands-project Environmental group yet to be updated on Goat Islands project: Irie FM
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/report-on-environmental-and-feasibility-study-on-goat-islands-ready Report on environmental and feasibility study on Goat Islands ready: RJR News
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131006/out/out1.html A feast of birds! Sunday Gleaner/Outlook
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131007/lead/lead7.html Bring reform to DPP’s office: Gleaner