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)
We had rain! Yes, you know, that wet stuff that makes you wet. It was glorious in Kingston, splashing around for a bit. The cooler temperature is delightful. Our whole garden has woken up again.
The week so far has been fairly quiet. But here are a few things to ponder:
Time for “Man a Yaad”: Opposition Spokesman on Finance Audley Shaw made an interesting contribution to the Budget Debate in Parliament yesterday. As he often does, he alternated between throwaway jibes and humor and heavy, somber pronouncements. In between, he put forward some alternatives, some solutions. This was refreshing. We didn’t really get any from the Finance Minister last week; his “no new taxes” presentation was predictably dull. But then, it’s easier for the Opposition to be more interesting and engaging, whichever one of the parties it is. One just wishes these budget speeches didn’t go on so darn long.
Gloom and doom: As the signing of the agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) finally appears on the horizon – within striking distance now – it seems Jamaican consumers are none too cheerful. Although business confidence is reportedly up a little, 47 per cent of consumers in the latest Jamaica Chamber of Commerce quarterly survey are pessimistic about the economy. There has been a significant increase in gloom and doom compared to a year ago. IMF or no IMF.
“Bun and cheese politics”: This is how the Jamaica Observer’s editorial describes the current style of governance in Montego Bay. I would love to hear a really nice, inspiring story coming out of that city. Please. In particular, the leadership of the current Mayor Glendon Harris (People’s National Party) worries me. The former mayor, the Jamaica Labour Party‘s Charles Sinclair (who is a great deal more articulate than his successor) alleges that at Easter time the Parish Council over which Mayor Harris presides gave $20,000 to each council member to buy bun and cheese; and that it is also funding a Monday night public street dance. There was a bit of a shadow over the Council after the ridiculous and prolonged to-do last year over a Jamaican flag – minus the green – draped above a stage at an official function. Of course, the absent green is the Jamaica Labour Party’s color. That unpleasant little episode remains a little murky to this day, but fingers were pointed here and there…
The renaming of the ‘Ospital: Yes, the ‘Ealth Minister has, at last, spoken on the issue of the renaming of the Cornwall Regional Hospital in Montego Bay. He and the Prime Minister are pouring gallons of oil on troubled waters, stirred up by the aforesaid Mayor Harris. Whose name, you may ask? Why, only that of the man who almost single-handedly brought the hospital into being to serve western Jamaica. Dr. Herbert Eldemire died three years ago. He was Minister of Health from 1962-72 under the Jamaica Labour Party and served as party chairman for a few years; but was never known as a “tribalist.” Cabinet approved the renaming of the hospital in August, 2011. The current administration has said it had intended to proceed with the official renaming soon. This does not seem to sit well with the Mayor, who last week decided to “consult” with Montegonians on the matter. The Prime Minister has intervened and spoken to Dr. Eldemire’s daughter Denise, but it seems it is too late. The family is clearly deeply offended and hurt by the Mayor’s attitude and does not want the renaming to happen; see their statement below. This seems to me petty, reeking of political tribalism. By all accounts, Dr. Herbert Eldemire served his country extremely well. If not for him, the hospital might well not exist.
But no, the forces of political partisanship have won again, and soured what might have been a positive and celebratory move. Then again, maybe it would be best not to name anywhere at all after politicians, anywhere on the island. Not even a lamp post.
FINSAC report: The creation of the Financial Sector Adjustment Company (FINSAC) during the financial crash of the 1990s shattered many lives. This is a known fact. Opposition Spokesman Audley Shaw caused quite a rumpus in Parliament this week when he insisted that the Government must find the J$10-15 million needed to complete and publish the report of the Commission of Enquiry into FINSAC. Of course, there is politics at work here; FINSAC was presided over by the now Transport and Works Minister Omar Davies, who was Finance Minister in 1997. But for heaven’s sake, just find the money please and let’s bring closure. By the way, FINSAC has a nice website in patriotic Jamaican colors: http://www.finsac.com. I am sure it does not refer to the suicides, family breakups and destitution it left in its wake.
…and the other one: Another painful and shameful episode in Jamaica’s recent history was, of course, the massacre of over seventy Jamaican citizens in Tivoli Gardens in May, 2010. Yes, we are approaching the third anniversary of this horror, and still the Public Defender‘s interim report is not forthcoming. I am beginning to feel sorry for Mr. Michael Peart, the House Speaker, who is now insisting he will receive it by month-end, ready or not.
A little warming: The Prime Minister actually smiled at a journalist yesterday. CVM Television’s Andrew Cannon managed to have a chat with her, while her security man peered over her shoulder. On the Azan matter (which still rankles) the Prime Minister, in a disarming manner, pointed out that there was an ongoing “investigation” (a favorite word) and suggested poor Mr. Azan may “per’aps” have made an error. So no budging in the position there. It also appears that a microphone did not come into contact with Mrs. Simpson Miller’s mouth (a bit of dramatic license there perhaps on the part of the Information Minister). The Prime Minister merely backed away from the over-enthusiastic, unknown reporter; no physical contact. Speaker of the House Michael Peart, in the same TV report, seemed to have also let the cat out of the bag by saying he was unaware of any shooting incident that may have made the PM’s security even more uptight than usual. Did he not get the memo?
…but not so lovable these days? As a result of this public relations fiasco, I find the Prime Minister’s demeanor has become cold and distant. It may be a defense mechanism, but it is really strange and unexpected. She has been making almost no effort to “woo” either the media or the public at large. Her Information Minister is becoming far too schoolmistressy – and so condescending it leaves you breathless. It is all about protecting the Prime Minister from the rest of us, it seems. That’s fine, but can the Prime Minister’s entourage of advisors, support team etc. – whatever they call themselves – just lighten up a little? We are not zombies rampaging across the land. We are ordinary people seeking information! Minister Falconer, try smiling sometimes? The media and the public are not your enemies.
But hey, some awesome things have already happened this week: Top of my list, the donation of a gorgeous, shining white bus by UNICEF to Eve for Life, the non-governmental organization that supports teen mothers living with HIV. As the organization’s chair, I was happy to be able to thank UNICEF for this generosity and for their ongoing support and faith in the incredible Eve family – especially the indefatigable Joy Crawford and Pat Watson, who are so dedicated and hard-working it’s not true. The bus was loaded up with provisions today for the young ladies in Montego Bay – its inaugural trip out of town! SO exciting.
Then there is the current visit of the African American artist Kehinde Wiley, who creates breathtaking (and often huge) canvases of young urban males of various ethnicities in the striking poses of Western art traditions. I remember being stunned by a huge painting of LL Cool J sitting imperiously on a throne, against an ornate background, at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC some years ago. It’s a thrill to have Mr. Wiley here (his first visit to Jamaica) as part of his “World Stage” project. Can’t wait to see the results!
Speaking of art… Don’t forget the National Gallery will be having its monthly free Sunday opening on April 28th. It promises to be fun and stimulating, as usual.
And an intrepid group of Jamaicans has started the ball rolling on what I know will be an ongoing discussion on gender equity in Jamaica and what can be done to redress the balance. According to official figures, 34% of women are unemployed, compared to 10% for men (the actual figures are very likely higher). I have a feeling that the #leaninJA conversation will likely translate into action. Congratulations to Marcia Forbes et al for sharpening the focus!
Question: Is the drug trade on the rise again in Jamaica? See the reports below. I hope not, I really do.
My condolences to the families of the following Jamaicans who were killed recently. I want this to end…
Ann-Marie Campbell, 39, Black River, St. Elizabeth
Barrington Bennett, 61, Highfield, St. Catherine (British national) – last week.
Related articles (local blog posts in purple):
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130422/letters/letters1.html Richard Azan a law unto himself: Letter of the Day/Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130422/cleisure/cleisure1.html Azan’s specter haunts the Budget: Is PM a coward? Gleaner editorial
http://constructedthoughts.wordpress.com/2013/04/22/time-come-portia-time-come/ Time come, Portia, time come: constructedthoughts.wordpress.com
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130422/lead/lead1.html ”White Lady” is back: cops say cocaine trade resurfacing in Jamaica: Gleaner
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/men-linked-to-international-drug-network-remanded Men linked to international drug network remanded: RJR News
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/marijuana-seized-on-navy-island Marijuana seized on Navy Island: RJR News
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/guardsman-suspends-contractors-in-wake-on-multimillion-dollar-cocaine-find Guardsman suspends contractors in wake of multimillion dollar cocaine find: RJR News
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130423/lead/lead7.html PM to intervene in Cornwall Regional Hospital renaming issue: Gleaner
http://delanoseiv.wordpress.com/2013/04/19/statement-from-the-eldemire-family-regarding-the-renaming-of-the-cornwall-regional-hospital/ Statement from the Eldemire family regarding the renaming of the Cornwall Regional Hospital: delanoseiv.wordpress.com
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/Rise-above-the-fray_14138564 Rise above the fray: Letter to the Editor from Lloyd B. Smith, MP/Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/editorial/Bun-and-cheese-politics-in-MoBay_14138493 Bun and cheese politics in MoBay: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130422/letters/letters2.html No progress on murder halt: Letter to the Editor/Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130423/cleisure/cleisure4.html Focus on safety, not war: Letter to the Editor from Yvonne McCalla Sobers/Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Rev-Al-Miller-faces-court-in–Dudus–case Rev Al Miller faces court in “Dudus” case: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Peart-insists-Tivoli-Report-will-be-tabled-by-month-end Peart insists Tivoli report will be tabled by month-end: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130422/cleisure/cleisure4.html Jamaicans enjoy living on the edge: Robert Lalah column/Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=44343 Jamaica hoping for talks on PetroCaribe soon: Gleaner
http://jamaica-star.com/thestar/20130422/news/news9.html Entrepreneur reports growth and success in Tel-Aviv: Jamaica Star
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130424/news/news4.html Visas, air service hindering Chinese tourists to Jamaica: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Reclaiming-water–A-solution-to-one-of-Jamaica-s-problems_14126106 Reclaiming water: A solution to one of Jamaica’s problems: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130423/lead/lead1.html Pastor says: Use more contraception – calls for use of “morning after” pill… Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130422/lead/lead2.html Politicians afraid to tell poor not to have kids – Reid: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130424/news/news2.html Teachers learn to use music in class: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/God-s-way-not-gay_14130077 God’s way not gay: Letter to the Editor/Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/-Mr-Commissioner–oh-where-art-thou–_14138406 ”Mr. Commissioner, oh where art thou?” Akay Hendricks op-ed/Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130424/lead/lead1.html ”Bang belly” economy: Shaw claims present state of affairs hostile to growth: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130424/business/business4.html Businesses more optimistic than consumers ahead of IMF agreement: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Pledge-FINSAC-assets-to-NHT–Shaw-suggests_14138289 Pledge FINSAC assets to NHT, Shaw suggests: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130424/lead/lead4.html Shaw rips Government to shreds over incomplete FINSAC report: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130422/news/news5.html Women entrepreneurs link with global network: Gleaner
http://chatychaty.com/2013/04/reggae-legend-toots-hibbert-makes-on-the-spot-donation-towards-purchase-of-vital-medical-equipment/ Reggae legend, Toots Hibbert makes on the spot donation towards purchase of vital medical equipment: chatychaty.com
Here’s the second half of the week: April 21, 2013 (petchary.wordpress.com)
Exclusion versus Empowerment (petchary.wordpress.com)
Or perhaps, don’t inhale too deeply. Some things don’t smell so good.
I am not talking about the Riverton City dump this week. But I am disturbed.
Firstly, what is happening with our justice system? I went through a range of emotions this week on hearing that a police sergeant was acquitted of the murder of a mentally ill drug addict by a judge who dismissed the case because the prosecution’s case was so weak. Sergeant Lloyd Kelly’s defense was not even heard. Now, we all saw a video recorded on a cell phone, aired on TV news on July 31, 2010. If you have the stomach for it, you can view the TV newscast including the video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MC54pcNNaR0. You are warned: it is not easy to watch. The man was unarmed. He was injured, having been beaten by residents as well as the police, after he had just allegedly committed a murder. He was lying on the ground. Sergeant Kelly (described by residents as a model policeman) could have arrested the man. But no. Egged on by a raucous crowd (reminiscent of a pack of wild dogs circling, anticipating the kill) he showed them what a “good cop” (their words) he was. On television, Director of Public Prosecutions Paula Llewellyn pointed out that the maker of the video was not available; the pathologist who conducted the post mortem was not available – in fact, not even a senior person at the Ministry of National Security knew where in the world he was; and the prosecution witnesses sounded more like defense witnesses. The Crown Counsel “fought valiantly,” she said. But in vain. “Justice has been served,” said one resident of the small town of Buckfield, St. Ann where these horrors occurred. Justice? What do we call justice, these days?
A policeman who had also hired highly-paid, high profile lawyers won his appeal against a corruption conviction on Friday. The Appeals judges were less than happy, reprimanding both the investigating officer (the then head of the police Anti-Corruption Branch) and the resident magistrate involved. Superintendent Harry “Bungles” Daley had been arrested during a sting operation as he allegedly sought to extort money from a businessman in Ewarton, St. Catherine. The chubby-faced “Bungles” wept copious tears in court. It’s clear, though, that there were so many discrepancies and errors in the case that the Appeals Court had no choice.
Meanwhile, the police killed seven Jamaicans in alleged shootouts in Kingston this week (although I could not find them all identified). Note that we always used that word “alleged.”
The problem is, justice is not “seen to be done” by the Jamaican man/woman on the street. The justice “system” barely works. Cases are postponed daily, either at the request of the prosecution who is not ready or because the defense is employing delaying tactics. As I have served as a witness and a juror on more than one occasion, I have seen this for myself. It is mind-numbing, frustrating, exhausting. Hours and hours are wasted daily. Other major causes of delay and the collapse of cases are the absence (or disappearance, or even elimination) of witnesses, incomplete documentation, the incredible shortage of jurors, and more. It’s even worse in the Coroner’s Court. The lobby group Jamaicans for Justice has bemoaned this for at least a decade now. Nothing has really changed. Nothing
The Director of Public Prosecution‘s office is over-burdened. Only the defense lawyers, who sweep into court in style (often late) seem quite comfortable with things the way they are.
But there was some good news on the crime-fighting front. National Security Minister Peter Bunting tabled the long-overdue legislation to tackle the utterly shameful “lotto scam,” which has continued virtually unchecked for several years. Many elderly and unsuspecting American citizens have been robbed of their life savings by these criminals. The necessary legislation was not in place, despite the sometimes desperate efforts of a police task force. Anyway, the Lottery Scam Bill (the Law Reform (Fraudulent Transactions) (Special Provisions) Act, 2013) will reach the Senate next Friday. Minister Bunting said on radio that he “hopes” legislation on DNA and anti-gang measures will be tabled in the next three months. We have been hearing about those for at least a couple years now…
Sunday Gleaner columnist Ian Boyne made a “moral” issue out of the lotto scam in his column today (how we love that word). Another commentator, theologian and academic Dr. Anna Kasafi Perkins, liberally sprinkled her lecture last week with the same word, along with “ethics” and “values.” The annual Grace Kennedy Foundation Lecture 2013 which Dr. Perkins delivered was entitled “Moral Dis-ease making Jamaica ill? Re-engaging the Conversation.” This and all the public lectures can be found at the link below. One question (or three): Whose morals, Dr. Perkins? Whose ethics? Whose values?
And then the President of Venezuela died, causing much hand-wringing (but perhaps not a lot of genuine grief?) around the Caribbean. What of the PetroCaribe deal, which we all eagerly signed on to in 2005? PetroCaribe provides us with oil at preferential prices and a loan to be repaid under very generous terms. We will have to wait until after general elections. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller led a weighty delegation to Caracas for the funeral – perhaps rather overweight. Someone tweeted that it was like the distant relatives coming from near and far to see if there is anything in the will for them – with a bunch of hungry “pickney” (kids) in tow. There were questions as to the cost of this delegation, considering that we Jamaican citizens are now tightening our belts. Are the politicians doing likewise? That recurring “sacrifice” theme again.
Minister Omar Davies, what is “optics”? In Parliament last week, the former Finance Minister brushed aside calls for a smaller Cabinet and possibly even a pay cut/wage freeze for politicians (gasp!) Just a little symbolic gesture of goodwill towards the Jamaican people perhaps? In his usual off-hand way, Minister Davies used the word “optics.” Take a deep breath…
Then, in the week of International Women’s Day, the case of Ms. Shanique Myrie came up in the first-ever sitting of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ). There was not much detail available, as much of the evidence was written and not made publicly available, according to keen observer Dionne Jackson-Miller. This seems odd to me. Meanwhile, details of Ms. Myrie’s attire in court; the rather difficult Barbadian accent of the lead attorney; and the literacy level of one of the witnesses seemed to preoccupy the media. Ms. Myrie is not a woman from what some call the “upper echelons” of Jamaican society. I admire her bravery in challenging the Barbadian immigration authorities over what must have been a deeply humiliating experience. Good for her. Sad and ironic, though, that the first case in the illustrious CCJ involving Jamaica should be dealing with perceived discrimination by one of our Caribbean neighbors against our citizens.
The intrepid Dionne Jackson-Miller tackled the topic of religion in schools on her weekly program “All Angles.” If you have time, please do watch the program on the link below, in which the Minister of Education (and Reverend) Ronald Thwaites continuously patronizes, rudely interrupts and completely loses his cool over views expressed clearly and intelligently by youth activist Javed Jaghai. At one point he even points his finger at Mr. Jaghai and can hardly restrain himself from angry outbursts. How dare this young upstart contest the fact that all Jamaican children should – and must – be exposed to religion (Christianity)? And on a daily basis, because it is “good,” and “wholesome” and – oh yes, “moral.” That word again. The argument that children can “opt out” if they want to doesn’t hold much water; allowed to stand at the side of the room, they remain a captive and passive participant in the “daily religious indoctrination,” as Mr. Jaghai put it. But the Minister embarrassed himself. I doubt he apologized. After all, he is a government minister and a church man, with considerable influence and piety on his side.
I must again commend young columnist Jaevion Nelson, who is doing a great job of challenging Jamaicans’ preconceived notions. He took up the same topic in his Gleaner column this week, asking simply, “Can you imagine how much better off we would be if the church was vocal about governance and corruption?” But the Church does not use its huge power and influence for this purpose.
Kudos also to another young writer Robert Lalah, whose column this week was honest, moving and real. Why are we so cold, so hard-hearted towards homeless gays, he asks? They are Jamaicans. I have always enjoyed Mr. Lalah’s humorous columns depicting country life in Jamaica. In this column, he again showed his humanity. Thank you.
This week was the Kingston Book Festival, organized by the Book Industry Association of Jamaica. Although publishing is not a huge and thriving industry in Jamaica, sad to say (I worked in that field for eight years myself) the enthusiasm for writing, sharing, reading and performing prose and poetry continues unabated here. Special congratulations to Ms. Kellie Magnus and her team for putting together a vibrant program of events, creating some great partnerships and collaborations. It’s also wonderful to welcome home one of our ex-pat writers, Andrew “Kei” Miller, for a few months. I am sure he will have much to contribute and enjoy, and hope he will be doing lots of outreach. Don’t stay cloistered at the University of the West Indies, Kei. Venture forth!
A lovely gentleman, Garveyite Frank Gordon, passed away last week at the age of ninety. Mr. Gordon was drawn to Marcus Garvey’s Liberty Hall in downtown Kingston from the age of twelve. He became a steadfast follower and key figure in the United Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), where he served as president for many years. A man with a deep grasp of history and the importance of Jamaica’s self-determination, he is the kind of person you wish would live forever, so that he could share his wisdom and guidance with future generations.
P.S. Did you know that Caribbean Earth Hour is March 23, 2013 from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m.? Would you like to turn off your lights/electricity for just one hour, in symbolic recognition of the challenges of climate change? If you have any ideas, plans or would like further information, do contact Heather Pinnock at firstname.lastname@example.org.
P.P.S. Our son used to love school swimming competitions when he was young. Many happy, sunny days spent at the National Stadium pool… Special “big ups” to Excelsior Primary School, the first primary (state) school to win the Preparatory/Primary School Swim Champs!
Once again, it was a sad week for some Jamaicans, who are mourning the loss of loved ones killed by their fellow-citizens. My heart goes out to them.
Unidentified man, Orange Street, Kingston
Copeland Coulbourne, 80, Content District, St. Catherine
Christopher Williams, 40, Homestead, St. Catherine
Unidentified man, Sydenham, St. Catherine
Unidentified man, Westchester/Portmore, St. Catherine
Maurie Redding, Little London, Westmoreland
Killed by police:
Rohan Armstrong, 18, Regent Street, west Kingston
Four others in west Kingston
Weng, National Heroes Circle, Kingston 4
Unidentified man, National Heroes Circle, Kingston 4
Related articles and websites: Local blog posts in purple – do read what my fellow Jamaican bloggers have
http://www.gracekennedy.com/corporate-citizenship/grace-kennedy-foundation/public-lecture-series Grace Kennedy Foundation Public Lecture Series: GraceKennedy.com
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130304/cleisure/cleisure4.html Cross-dressers not deserving of sympathy? Robert Lalah column/Gleaner
http://www.og.nr/rbt/12447-tanya-stephens-defends-gays-rants-against-bigots-in-facebook-tirade.html Tanya Stephens defends gays, rants against bigots on Facebook: On the Ground News Reports
http://www.sdgln.com/news/2013/03/08/rgod2-angeline-jackson-lesbian-activist-homophobic-jamaica Meet Angeline Jackson, lesbian activist in homophobic Jamaica: sdgln.com
http://www.caribjournal.com/2013/03/07/women-and-the-jamaican-work-force/ Women and the Jamaican work forces: Op-ed by Marcia Forbes/Carib Journal
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=43235 SSP Dathan Henry was poisoned: Gleaner
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/vanessa-wints-case-forwarded-to-special-coroners-office Vanessa Wint’s case forwarded to special coroner’s office: RJR News
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130310/cleisure/cleisure1.html The Buckfield case and the DPP: Sunday Gleaner editorial
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130310/news/news5.html ”Bungled”: Senior cop and resident magistrate chided by appeal court as it frees Harry “Bungles”: Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130310/cleisure/cleisure2.html Using science to control crime: Frank Phipps op-ed/Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130310/focus/focus1.html Lotto scamming, bling and morality: Ian Boyne column/Sunday Gleaner
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/more-florida-seniors-fall-victim-to-lottery-scam More Florida seniors fall victim to lottery scam: RJR News
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/US-cooperation-to-stem-lottery-scamming–Bunting_13808439 U.S. co-operation to stem lottery scamming – Bunting: Sunday Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Reluctant-witnesses-help-clog-court-system_13808517 Reluctant witnesses help clog court system: Sunday Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=43234 Wildman promises positive development in Cash Plus case: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130304/cleisure/cleisure1.html The CCJ: A declaration of relevance: Gleaner editorial
http://dmarcuswilliams.blogspot.com/2013/03/how-ronnie-thwaites-carolyn-cooper.html How Ronnie Thwaites and Carolyn Cooper disappointed me: D.Marcus Williams.blogspot.com
http://redforgender.wordpress.com/2013/03/05/the-ccj-and-shanique-myrie-how-to-signify-good-taste-and-respectability/ The CCJ and Shanique Myrie: How to signify “good taste” and “respectability”: redforgender.wordpress.com
http://newsandviewsbydjmillerja.wordpress.com/2013/03/07/jamaican-leg-of-shanique-myrie-case-ends-points-to-note/ Jamaican leg of Shanique Myrie ends: Points to note: Dionne Jackson-Miller blog
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads/33182s Gender equality public education campaign launched: Jamaica Information Service
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/reggie-cameron/diana-king_b_2827726.html?utm_hp_ref=tw Diana King on Jamaican homophobia and coming out: HuffPost
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130310/news/news4.html Young, homeless, hopeless: More people under 40 swell the street dwellers population: Sunday Gleaner
http://www.caribjournal.com/2013/03/07/dennis-chung-the-cost-of-cultural-habits-in-jamaica/ The cost of cultural habits in Jamaica: Op-ed by Dennis Chung/Carib Journal
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130303/business/business1.html NCB staff sues bank: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130308/cleisure/cleisure1.html More to be done on wage agreement: Gleaner editorial
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130306/news/news1.html Jamaica is NOT in a currency crisis…But could it be by the end of 2013? André Haughton op-ed/Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/A-good-time-to-bury-bad-news–cash–politics–media-and-corruption_13800883#ixzz2Mx89PPQ4 A good time to bury bad news: Cash, politics, media and corruption: Franklin Johnston column/Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/editorial/That-Jamaican-delegation-to-Venezuela_13808356 That Jamaican delegation to Venezuela: Sunday Observer editorial
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130307/lead/lead4.html Venezuela and Jamaica: The ties that bind: Gary Spaulding op-ed/Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130304/lead/lead9.html Don’t waste another year in Parliament: Gleaner
http://digjamaica.com/blog/2013/03/08/5-facts-petrocaribe/ 5 Facts: PetroCaribe: diGJamaica.com
http://digjamaica.com/petrocaribe The History of PetroCaribe in Jamaica: diGJamaica.com
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=43329 English only in the Senate, president tells Justice Minister: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130304/letters/letters3.html Unfortunate attack on Ruel Reid: Letter to the Editor/Gleaner
http://www.televisionjamaica.com/Programmes/AllAngles.aspx/Videos/24759 Should religious activities be banned from school? All Angles/TVJ
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130307/cleisure/cleisure3.html Misplaced Christian priorities: Jaevion Nelson column/Gleaner
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads/33171 Climate change documents to be tabled in Parliament: Jamaica Information Service
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Outstanding-Garveyite-Frank-Gordon-passes_13780222 Outstanding Garveyite Frank Gordon passes: Jamaica Observer
http://digjamaica.com/blog/2013/03/05/holywell-park-mother-nature-at-its-finest/ Holywell Park: Mother Nature at its finest: digjamaica.com
http://as-told-by-nella.blogspot.com/2013/03/friday-link-love.html Friday Link Love: nella.blogspot.com – more local blog links for you to explore…
Guyanese, Jamaicans top list of CARICOM nationals denied entry to Barbados (kaieteurnewsonline.com)
Is It Really March Already? Sunday: March 3, 2013 (petchary.wordpress.com)
A friend of mine teased me the other day that my weekly commentary on Jamaican affairs is generally of the gloom-and-doom variety. But hey, I am a cynical optimist. I always hope for and expect the best, but when I don’t get it… Whatever!
So much for my personal outlook on life. Let’s look at a few things that have been going on in the past week… and I have to say that I have actually found a number of “positive” stories for you, my faithful readers.
Firstly – and I think this is rather important – I was pleased to learn today of an initiative by University of the West Indies (UWI) students, a response to the recent homophobic beating of a student at the nearby University of Technology in Kingston. It is borrowed from a U.S.-based campaign called “NoH8″ (“no hate,” you see). Although some of Jamaica’s more devout Christians may not believe in the idea of love and tolerance (curious isn’t it?) I believe this is a good effort that really deserves our support – and in particular, one hopes, from public figures, celebrities etc. And I am especially glad to see young Jamaicans taking a stand. Kudos to the UWI Guild of Students’ Maya Wilkinson.
The Sunday Observer article ran a report on the matter that included comments from a student who claimed he had been tricked and harassed into participating in the campaign but subsequently withdrew when he heard that it was in support of gay marriage (which it apparently is not). The Observer’s continued ambivalence on such matters has been quite evident (the newspaper rarely seems to use the term “human rights” for example) but I am glad that they printed the article, although I am not sure about the overall tone of it. Read it and see for yourself. And I suppose one should be thankful that the Observer cartoonist no longer depicts homosexuals as bizarrely distorted freaks in women’s clothing, but rather as “fish” (this being the latest derogatory term for gays in Jamaica). You see, they are still obsessed with the topic.
But isn’t it strange how quiet our politicians are, as well as our leaders in general? They have remained mostly silent on this topic – one that is fundamental to the health of Jamaican society. The media and the Jamaican people have had much to say, and the debate has been generally thoughtful, interesting and vibrant up to this point. But clearly our leaders consider the issue of violence and intolerance of anyone who is “different” (not just gays) to be of little relevance; in fact, one has the sense that politicians, sportsmen/women, entertainers etc are avoiding the subject; or am I being unfair? The Minister of Education put out a hasty statement immediately after the University of Technology student mob chased and attacked a young man accused of being a homosexual. But since then a deafening silence, so far as I know. Correct me if I am wrong – but I have been listening out for something.
I have posted below what was probably my favorite cartoon of the week from Clovis… our beleaguered Finance Minister scraping the barrel for U.S. Dollars in the Net International Reserves. Somehow I feel stressed every time I hear him speak – because he sounds so stressed himself. It doesn’t engender confidence in me. Unlike the ever-cheerful former Finance Minister Omar Davies, he always seems rather down. Cheer up! It can’t be that bad – can it?
Oops! I promised to be positive. OK…The aforementioned UWI now has a shiny new Medical School, which will accommodate far more students than the current 350, including some foreign ones, it is hoped. It’s a nice building, and designed by a Jamaican, Robert Woodstock.
Now, I mentioned distractions in a recent blog: distractions from the large elephants currently installed in Jamaica’s living room, which is bedecked with the traditional crocheted mats and flamboyant artificial flowers. One of these was the news that the state-owned Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC), which operates buses in Kingston and surrounding areas, is to ban preachers on its buses. Yes, preachers. These devout gentlemen (I think they are mostly men) climb aboard with Bible in hand and proceed to harangue the captive, and not necessarily willing, congregation who are going about their business. They bellow, they pray, they shake their fists, they sing. At the end of their sermons, they take a collection. The preachers condemn those passengers who rebel (objecting to the proselytizing or refusing to pay up) to eternal hellfire. At which point other passengers may verbally reprimand the heathens, who then shrink into their seats with embarrassment. But hellfire might be preferable to taking a JUTC bus with a preacher on board.
This issue rattled on all week in the local media. This huge story (was it a huge story, I ask?) broke on Monday morning, and was still making front page headlines on Friday. Enough already, I cried. The preacher-on-the-bus issue was examined and discussed from every possible angle on radio talk shows, and radio and television stations ran numerous vox pops, asking every man, woman and child on the street, “What do you think?”
But then, one asked, what about the distorted, maniacal ramblings of so-called deejays, with their misogynistic lyrics that are offensive to women (and men), which minibus drivers apparently still play at full volume for the delectation of their passengers? Perhaps, as radio talk show host and Sunday Gleaner columnist Orville Taylor sagely observed, there is a serious underlying issue here, that of “respect for the rights and freedoms of others.”
This actually points to the fact that Jamaicans have a remarkable, and not particularly admirable, capacity for putting up with crap. To put it bluntly (pardon my French). And it also highlights once again a quite recent tendency for evangelical Christian beliefs to be foisted on the public in general. No meeting or meal can take place without a fervent prayer preceding it. We are told to lower our heads obediently and listen to someone asking the Almighty to direct our thoughts and guide our pens as we write, or for the food we are about to eat to be properly digested (yes). Supposing I am an atheist, an agnostic, a Hindu, a Buddhist, a Muslim or any other religion? Freedom of religion works both ways. I am sure these Christians are well-meaning, but please don’t impose your beliefs on others and simply expect us all to fall in line… But then again, Jamaicans do acquiesce, meekly. They do fall in line. Anything for a quiet life (or in the case of the JUTC buses, a noisy one).
And now, lo and behold! The Public Defender, Mr. Earl Witter, bestirred himself yesterday and decided he was going to investigate the constitutionality of the whole affair. A fellow blogger has commented on this, and you will find the link to his sharply observed blog post below. I plan to write more, but would just like to enquire of Mr. Witter: Could you kindly give us an update on your report on the Tivoli Gardens “incursion“ of May 2010, during which over seventy Jamaican citizens died at the hands of the security forces? This report was promised to us within two weeks, some months ago now (or maybe I imagined that). The Gleaner enquired about it in its editorials of August 27 and October 3 of this year. The Public Defender, who has described himself as a “whipping boy” for the media, has promised that we will soon see the report. When can we exhale, dear Mr. Witter?
Meanwhile, it’s politics time again. This time, the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) held its annual conference – a rather subdued affair compared to last year’s, when a huge crowd, transported by many buses, converged on the National Arena just prior to the election – which, of course, the JLP comprehensively lost a few weeks later. This year they met at the Jamaica Conference Centre downtown – a really nice, more intimate venue compared to the cavernous and ugly arena – just for one day, not two. Many supporters, however, said they preferred the Arena (perhaps it was harder for them to smoke their ganja at the Conference Centre – this is a party conference tradition, by the way).
Today’s Sunday Observer ran the eager headline this morning, “JLP in turmoil.” The Sunday Gleaner chimed in, “Warmington faces JLP’s wrath” (the last two words in huge red letters). Yes, once again the local media have discovered unrest in the JLP ranks, and there is nothing that they enjoy more than alleged plots and sub-plots within either of the two political parties. Mr. Everald Warmington (always one for a bit of excitement) filed a court injunction to prevent the election of deputy leaders (there are four) which he said was in breach of the party constitution. He withdrew the injunction at the end of the week, so I don’t know where that leaves us. It’s a nice tasty morsel for the local media to get their teeth into, though. Meanwhile, Opposition Leader Andrew Holness (who served as our Prime Minister briefly last year before his thumping defeat) sounded more than usually animated this afternoon at the podium, expressing concern for the poor – he took a leaf out of Portia Simpson Miller‘s book there. He actually shouted. It was quite invigorating.
Now, party politics – especially suspected internal upheavals – is always a major distraction. So, too, was another eulogy in the Lower House: this time for former Prime Minister PJ Patterson, who made a speech himself. They did “Uncle Eddie,“ and now it was PJ’s turn to have his afternoon of speechifying. Our current Prime Minister put on her brightest party colors for the occasion. This is all under the umbrella of Jamaica 50, one understands. No comment.
Didn’t I promise to be “positive” this week? Well, here goes: on the government side, there has been some movement. Couched in “anti-colonialism” terms, rather than with reference to Jamaicans’ human rights, the bills to abolish flogging were tabled in the Upper House last week. Also sitting on the Senate’s table is the Evidence (Special Measures) Act, designed to enable video evidence to be considered in court. This is an absolutely vital piece of legislation as the government continues to struggle with the deeply-embedded thorn in our side, the ubiquitous lotto scam. Good job, Justice Minister Mark Golding.
It’s important to reward young scientists and innovators; we need far more of them. The Jamaica Public Service Company recently sponsored a series of awards under the aegis of Minister of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining Phillip Paulwell. Many congratulations to the winners of the Innovation of the Year Award (worth a cool two million Jamaican Dollars) from UWI’s Natural Products Institute; and to Sunderland Primary School in St. James for their Youth Innovator Award – this for a remarkable pothole-patching compound. Much needed across the island, especially since Hurricane Sandy!
Speaking of technology, I attended the Caribbean Beta 2012 tech entrepreneurship conference in Kingston on Friday, and was deeply impressed by the caliber of the panelists; the excellent organization; and above all, the enthusiasm of the participants and the eighteen teams who competed in the afternoon in a “PitchFest” for their products – many of them mobile applications. Caribbean Beta is the brainchild of Ingrid Riley, supported by a young and energetic team at Connectimass. Read more at caribbeanbeta.com and take a look at Ingrid’s excellent website at www.siliconcaribe.com. More details in another blog post that I plan to write this week. Congratulations to all involved in this marvelous event – not just talk, but practical, learning stuff – a “boot camp” continued over the weekend for start-up companies.
And on the same theme, this year’s Jamaican Rhodes Scholar is UWI student Vincent Taylor, who is currently studying for an M.Phil in Computer Science. Runner-up is medical doctor and UWI graduate Katherine Innis, who will compete for the Commonwealth Caribbean Scholarship. Mr. Taylor, I hope you will enjoy and greatly benefit from study at my own alma mater!
I am personally so thrilled to hear that the St. Patrick’s Foundation, a faith-based NGO that does amazing work in inner-city areas of Kingston, has been receiving so much support from the friends of St. Luke’s Catholic Church in McLean, Virginia over the years – amounting to more than two million U.S. dollars! The contributions of overseas churches, universities, diaspora groups and volunteers of all ages to Jamaica are so great that it is almost impossible to quantify in monetary terms. And that does not even count all the goodwill engendered. What would we do without them all…
By the way, I am sorry I missed a very special art exhibition yesterday in downtown Kingston. 34-year-old Astro Saulter, who has cerebral palsy, uses the back of his head to paint digital pictures with a special device in his wheelchair. His first solo art exhibition was launched at Studio 174 downtown yesterday. Astro has two creative brothers, too – young Jamaican filmmakers Nile and Storm Saulter of New Caribbean Cinema. They have made a short film, “Astro, the Morning Star,” which will be screened at a special event tomorrow. Read more below… Congratulations Astro, and to your brothers for your loving support!
And finally, my deepest condolences to the family, colleagues and friends of police Corporal Robert Sortie, who was shot dead on a busy Kingston street last week. And to the loved ones of all those who have died violently in the past week. I should add that the families of those people (including many children) who are missing are also in my thoughts. I cannot imagine the fear and anxiety of having a loved one who has disappeared. I hope they all come home safely, and soon.
Sasia Johnson, 35, Little London, Westmoreland
Travis Welcome, 21, Jobs Lane, Spanish Town, St. Catherine
Unidentified man, Denham Town, Kingston
Corporal Robert Sortie, Constant Spring Road, Kingston
Shanique Pinnock, 27, Old Harbour, St. Catherine
http://dmarcuswilliams.blogspot.com/2012/11/public-defense-of-twisted-priorities.html?showComment=1353213315787#c5807704627188400409 (Public Defense of Twisted Priorities: Cogito Ergo Sum)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=41204 (Bunting decries Corporal’s killing: Jamaica Gleaner)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=41201 (Public Defender held up and robbed: Jamaica Gleaner)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20121111/arts/arts2.html (Introducing Astro Saulter – digital painter mounts first exhibition: Jamaica Gleaner)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20121116/cleisure/cleisure2.html (Freedom and restraint: Jamaica Gleaner/Peter Espeut op-ed)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20121116/business/business2.html (Bank of Jamaica predicts fourth quarter contraction of Jamaican economy: Jamaica Gleaner)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20121117/lead/lead1.html (Foul affair: Jamaica Gleaner)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20121117/letters/letters4.html (All hail PJ Patterson! Jamaica Gleaner/Letter to the Editor)
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/13-arrested-in-Lottery-scam-raid (Thirteen arrested in lottery scam raid: Jamaica Observer)
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Bills-to-abolish-flogging-tabled-in-Senate_13018187 (Bills to abolish flogging tabled in Senate: Jamaica Observer)
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/No-more-H8_13009532 (No more H8: University students fight discrimination: Sunday Observer)
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/JLP-in-turmoil_13025168 (JLP in turmoil: Sunday Observer)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=41221 (JLP leader outlines solutions to aid Jamaica’s poorest: Sunday Gleaner)
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/new-pnpyo-president-elected (New PNPYO president elected: RJR)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20121117/letters/letters4.html (All hail PJ Patterson! Letter to the Gleaner)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20121118/focus/focus4.html (Thou shalt not preach…on JUTC buses: Sunday Gleaner op-ed by Orville Taylor)
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Public-Defender-tackles-ban-on-bus-preachers_13025007 (Public Defender tackles ban on bus preachers: Sunday Observer)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20121003/cleisure/cleisure2.html (Earl Witter and the missing report: Gleaner editorial, October 3, 2012)
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Phillips–Shaw-s-claims-have-no-basis_13009361 (Phillips: Shaw’s claims have no basis: Jamaica Observer)
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Cop-shot-and-killed (Cop shot and killed: Jamaica Observer)
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/NEWS/Big-contribution-to-St-Patrick-s-Foundation-from-Virginia_13007574 (Big contribution to St. Patrick’s Foundation from Virginia: Jamaica Observer)
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/News/BoJ-projects-1-7–contraction-in-economy (Bank of Jamaica projects 1.7% contraction in economy: Jamaica Observer)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20121111/arts/arts2.html (Introducing Astro Saulter – digital painter mounts first exhibition: Jamaica Gleaner)
Sunday Elephants: November 11, 2012 (petchary.wordpress.com)
Sunday After Sandy: October 28, 2012 (petchary.wordpress.com)
Jlp at War With Itself Again ? (commonsenseja.wordpress.com)
Radcliffe Lewis Tells Bus Preachers Their Practice Is … An Offence And A Crime (steppaz1961.wordpress.com)