The Mid-Weeker: Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The long Easter weekend is nearly upon us, and not a moment too soon. There’s a slightly “frazzled” feeling (or is it just me?) We all need a little break, I think.

“Time out”:  I agree with broadcaster Cliff Hughes that we all need to take a little “time out” in the matter of Youth Minister Lisa Hanna’s remarks regarding the issue of child abuse (a huge crisis, as she correctly noted) and the Alpha Boys’ School. Sadly, it has escalated. The Minister has “fired back” today at the school’s press release, which I published yesterday, with a letter to the Sisters of Mercy released to the media. Her communications man, former journalist Oliver Watt, insisted on radio this evening that her remarks were not inappropriate, and this is what she clearly believes. A Jamaica Observer cartoon on the matter was really distasteful and cruel – I’m not going to publish it here. We need to pull back now and allow all parties to work things out quietly and outside the glare of the media. (But let’s face it – if the Minister had not made those comments, there would have been no horrible cartoon…)

Terrence Williams, head of the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM), speaks with members of the media while Kahmile Reid, senior communications officer of INDECOM, looks on during a recent press briefing. (Photo: Rudolph Brown/Gleaner)

Terrence Williams, head of the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM), speaks with members of the media while Kahmile Reid, senior communications officer of INDECOM, looks on during a recent press briefing. (Photo: Rudolph Brown/Gleaner)

Excellent news: There has been a dramatic reduction in the number of fatal shootings by the police in the first quarter of this year – from 76 last year to 40 this year. That’s a decline of 47.3 per cent! Could it be that the police are aware that they are now being watched more carefully – and more importantly, that they are being held accountable? Last month they only killed four people, compared to 19 in 2013. This seems a tremendous vindication of the work of the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) – which has been very busy this year, having completed 88 investigations and recommended that sixteen police officers be charged with criminal offenses. Congratulations are also due to Minister of National Security Peter Bunting, who seems to be getting a better grip on things and supports INDECOM’s work. Good. Now keep it up!

Signed and sealed (but)… Energy Minister Phillip Paulwell finally broke his silence and told us he signed the license for Energy World International (EWI) to supply 381 megawatts of power back on April 4. It was amended (what were the amendments?) and re-signed on April 14, and included a draft (draft) Implementation Agreement between the Government and EWI. The Minister will meet with the Energy Monitoring Committee (EMC) to explain everything to them and then make the license arrangement public. Shouldn’t the EMC have been involved earlier? The Private Sector Organization of Jamaica is still expressing concern over the lack of transparency, while the Opposition’s Karl Samuda is waffling away about it, as is his wont. Well, we shall see what we shall see. (What about the financing?)

Finance Minister Peter Phillips. (Photo: Jamaica Information Service)

Finance Minister Peter Phillips. (Photo: Jamaica Information Service)

An independent central bank: Something I thought would never happen anytime soon has just happened. The omnibus banking bill currently being pushed through Parliament at the behest of the International Monetary Fund includes clauses that remove certain powers from the Minister of Finance in relation to the Bank of Jamaica (BoJ). The Minister will no longer appoint the BoJ governor, nor will he monitor banking institutions, grants licenses etc. This is quite remarkable. If this legislation had been in place when Omar Davies was Finance Minister, the collapse of the local banking sector under FINSAC would never have happened.

Appealing: Lawyers for Deejay Vybz Kartel and his three fellow convicts have filed appeals against their life sentences in the Supreme Court. As expected.

One of the wider parts of the Bog Walk Gorge, looking towards the historic Flat Bridge over the Rio Cobre.

One of the wider parts of the Bog Walk Gorge, looking towards the historic Flat Bridge over the Rio Cobre.

Not feasible: Mr. Howard Chin of the Jamaica Institute of Engineers says the idea of the damming of Bog Walk Gorge, which the ubiquitous China Harbour Engineering Company is looking at, is not a new idea. Decades ago it was considered, but ruled out because of the porous nature of the rocks and other reasons.

National Security Minister Peter Bunting. (Photo: Gleaner)

National Security Minister Peter Bunting. (Photo: Gleaner)

 

 

 

 

Congratulations and cheers!

Professor Mervyn Morris is Jamaica's first Poet Laureate for fifty years.

Professor Mervyn Morris is Jamaica’s first Poet Laureate for fifty years.

  • Professor Mervyn Morris, who is Jamaica’s new Poet Laureate! I am not sure whose idea this was, but it’s a great one. The Jamaican public also got the opportunity to vote. Professor Morris is a poet with an economical style – every word counts – but he is not lacking in acute observation and often a wry humor. I love his poetry, and he is also a calm, quiet, erudite man (also a former Rhodes Scholar at my alma mater, and a Fulbright Scholar by the way). This is well deserved! And by the way, he is Jamaica’s first Poet Laureate since Independence. Pretty cool.
  • Five women who were sworn in as judges by Governor-General this week. Carol Lawrence Beswick, and Ingrid Mangatal, who will act as Judges of Appeal. Justice Audre Lindo, and Marcia Dunbar Green will act as Puisine Judges of the Supreme Court; and Rosemarie Harris, who will act as Master-in-Chambers in the Supreme Court. Kudos to all!
  • CVM Television, who are keeping the fires of investigative reporting alive with their reporting in the local news and on the excellent current affairs program “Live at Seven.” Their latest report was very well put together, and I look forward to a response from the police on their allegedly faulty firearms!
The Black River Morass, which is a part of the Portland Bight Protected Area.

The Black River Morass, a large wetland area in St. Elizabeth.

  • Nationwide News Network recently reported from the Black River Morass in St. Elizabeth – the reporter took a tour to take a look at the problem of invasive species – namely, the paperbark tree and the water hyacinth. Very good, and I hope they do more of this reporting, which reminded me of the BBC actually!

My deepest sympathies, as always, to the families of the following who were murdered this week, and are now grieving…

Owayne Barrett, 33, St. Catherine

Nigel Steele, St. Catherine

Jeffrey Silvera, 35, Ocho Rios, St. Ann

Dean Watts, Canaan Heights, Clarendon

Daniel Anderson, 22, Rectory Road, Clarendon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A woman prepares to make her way cross a section of Clock Tower Plaza flooded by water from a broken hydrant (inset) in the vicinity. (Photo: Joseph Wellington/Jamaica Observer)

A woman prepares to make her way cross a section of Clock Tower Plaza flooded by water from a broken hydrant (inset) in the vicinity. The usual incompetence (and waste) from the National Water Commission. (Photo: Joseph Wellington/Jamaica Observer)

Late again! Sunday, April 13, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Portia Simpson Miller

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

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

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

Sunset in Port Royal. (My photo)

Sunset in Port Royal. (My photo)

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

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

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

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

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

Special, special thanks and kudos to:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Dion Watt, Canaan Heights, Clarendon

Irvin Campbell, 17, Little London, Westmoreland

George Ricketts, Wentworth/Port Maria, St. Mary

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

Charles Bryan, 38, Montego Bay, St. James

Kirk Millington, 33, Montego Bay, St. James

Killed by police:

Kirk Rose, 37, Alexandria, St. Ann

“Junior,” downtown Kingston

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

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

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

Wednesday Words: April 2, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Energy Minister Phillip Paulwell

Energy Minister Phillip Paulwell.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kenneth Grant, 27, Priory, St. Ann

Anthony McCarthy, 34, Aboukir, St. Ann

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

A Lively Week: Sunday, March 30, 2014

What with the UWI Great Debate and other discussions in and out of the media, the week has been more than usually combative and lively. That’s Jamaica for you!

Cynicism abounds: The dismissal of the corruption charges against former Member of Parliament and Junior Minister Kern Spencer and his personal assistant last week continues to spark some deeply satirical commentary. Mark Wignall’s column in the Sunday Observer is headlined “Kern Spencer for Prime Minister.” 

Happy Mr. Kern Spencer outside the courthouse after corruption charges against him were dismissed.

Happy Mr. Kern Spencer outside the courthouse after corruption charges against him were dismissed.

Vybz Kartel going into the courthouse last week.

Vybz Kartel going into the courthouse last week.

Jailhouse rock, or equivalent: So now the judge is trying to decide whether dancehall star and convicted murderer Vybz Kartel will be allowed to make recordings while in jail (but not actually earn money from them). Another convict musical star, Jah Cure, who was doing time for rape, did make music while behind bars and the proceeds went towards his rehabilitation. He is out of jail now and apparently rehabilitated.

Protesting too much: I am not convinced by the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party’s (JLP) concerns that the human rights of the Jamaican people should be of paramount importance in the upcoming enquiry into the Tivoli Gardens massacre of May, 2010. Their administration did not appear unduly concerned at the time about such matters. I think the JLP must be dreading the Enquiry. Meanwhile, the JLP Member of Parliament for the area Desmond McKenzie is supporting the Public Defender’s and Independent Commission of Investigation’s (INDECOM) view that the Enquiry should not go ahead before incomplete ballistics reports are available. The Minister of Justice says the reports are not necessary for the purpose of the Enquiry. The plot is likely to thicken.

The Patriarchy strikes back, again: A (poorly edited) opinion column on the editorial page of the Sunday Gleaner by a “freelance journalist, author and entertainment consultant” named Milton Wray had my head spinning. Under the headline “Are women natural leaders?” I read the most sexist, misogynistic, demeaning and at times truly offensive ramblings. Mr. Wray sees “modern woman” as a “threat” to the family and the society at large. It’s accompanied by an awful photograph of “the female senator” (he does not name her) Imani Duncan-Price, who recently introduced the issue of quotas for women in some areas of public life. The photo makes her look quite frightening (which she isn’t!) What century are we living in, Mr. Wray?

I suppose the Gleaner is seeking to be controversial again, to spark discussion and so on. Meanwhile it is deleting online comments that disagree with the article. I suppose it has the right to do so but what is the aim here – to manipulate the reading public’s opinions? As I have said before, the standard of commentary in the Sunday Gleaner in particular continues its downward slide. And although some believe it’s not worth responding to… One has to register a protest at this.

Don’t panic:  Financial writer and Executive Director of the Private Sector Organization of Jamaica Dennis Chung says the government must hang in there and not be panicked into imposing new taxes in the upcoming Budget, despite the fact that tax revenues have been below target. But can we stay the course? It needs a cool head, but thankfully Finance Minister Peter Phillips’ approach is much more measured than his predecessor Omar Davies’ predilection for incurring debt.

Prime Minister of Jamaica Portia Simpson Miller. (Photo: Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

Prime Minister of Jamaica Portia Simpson Miller. (Photo: Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

Why do we need a National Cultural and Creative Industries Commission? Well, the Prime Minister wanted one, so she has got it. She and various stakeholders will hold meetings from time to time, and talk a lot. “We need to recognise how important these industries are for both economic growth and national development imperatives,” says the PM. Don’t we already have the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JCDC)? What about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), which the rest of the world is forging ahead with? How are we doing with that? Not to say culture does not have its place, but… Quoting from a headline in Mark Wignall’s column today: “Fast runners and slick deejays cannot help Jamaica’s development.” Let’s not fool ourselves.

Minister of Transport, Works and Housing, Dr. the Hon. Omar Davies (3rd left), signs a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), with China Engineering Company (CHEC) for a feasibility study on the damming of the Bog Walk Gorge, at the Ministry in Kingston, on March 28. Also participating are (from left): Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China in Jamaica, Mr. Xiaojun Dong; Minister of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining, Hon. Phillip Paulwell; and Minister of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change, Hon. Robert Pickersgill. In the back row (from left) are: Commercial Counsellor at the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China, Mrs. Lei Liu (left); Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Transport, Works and Housing, Mrs. Audrey Sewell and Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change, Dr. Alwin Hayles. (Photo: JIS)

Minister of Transport, Works and Housing, Dr. the Hon. Omar Davies (3rd left), signs a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), with China Engineering Company (CHEC) for a feasibility study on the damming of the Bog Walk Gorge, at the Ministry in Kingston, on March 28. Also participating are (from left): Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China in Jamaica, Mr. Xiaojun Dong; Minister of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining, Hon. Phillip Paulwell; and Minister of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change, Hon. Robert Pickersgill. In the back row (from left) are: Commercial Counsellor at the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China, Mrs. Lei Liu (left); Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Transport, Works and Housing, Mrs. Audrey Sewell and Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change, Dr. Alwin Hayles. (Photo: JIS)

Retirement Dump, Montego Bay on Friday, March 28, 2014. (Photo: Jamaica Environment Trust)

Retirement Dump, Montego Bay on Friday, March 28, 2014. (Photo: Jamaica Environment Trust)

Next up…Bog Walk Gorge: So on Friday, quite out of the blue, Minister of Transport and Works Omar Davies signed a Memorandum of Understanding with – yes, you’ve guessed it – China Harbour Engineering Company, to dam the Rio Cobre on the picturesque Bog Walk Gorge. Now where did that come from? Were there any other bidders? Was it discussed in Parliament? What are the possible environmental impacts? Will it really produce much in terms of hydro-electric power, and at what cost? What will happen to the historic Flat Bridge, which is over 200 years old and still in use?

Meanwhile, the logistics hub PR machine churns onward, with the appointment of Ms. Tastey Blackman (is that really her name?) to a new position, that of Manager of Logistics and Emerging Markets at JAMPRO, the government’s investment agency. She is taking a delegation to the LATAM Ports and Logistics Summit in Panama next week. We await more government press releases, with bated breath.

Former banker Dunbar McFarlane.

Former banker Dunbar McFarlane.

An interesting development: I felt sad when we passed by the empty Palmyra luxury resort development near Montego Bay recently. Well, a New York-based firm, Philangco Corporation, is reportedly interested in bidding for the condominium towers in Rose Hall. The firm is planning to use a new hydrogen-powered fuel system to provide power called Elhydro. I note the firm’s chief financial officer is former Jamaican banker Dunbar McFarlane. Philangco may partner with the Jamaican Government in developing the energy source, which McFarlane’s partner Phillip Scott has developed and patented in the United States and Jamaica. We shall see.

Kingston College students march along Tom Redcam Avenue to the Boys' and Girls' Championships at the National Stadium yesterday. (Photo: Norman Grindley/Gleaner)

Kingston College students march along Tom Redcam Avenue to the Boys’ and Girls’ Championships at the National Stadium. (Photo: Norman Grindley/Gleaner)

The annual ritual that is “Boys’ Champs” is playing itself out at the National Stadium as I write. The wailing of distant vuvuzelas fills the air (no, the students haven’t given up on those hideous inventions, yet) as the high schools compete for glory. Roads around the Stadium are jammed with traffic. The flags of the major competing high schools flutter from cars on the road. This time there was a “peace march” by some 350 students to start off. I hope that some seriousness was attached to it. And I hope the authorities will consider drug testing for the student athletes. Yes, I think it should be done.

Jamaica time: I participated in no less than three separate activities in different parts of the UWI campus on Thursday. All three started between twenty and thirty minutes late. The other day I was telling someone I thought Jamaicans were becoming more punctual. I may have to reconsider that statement…

Big ups and thanks to:

Health Minister Dr Fenton Ferguson (second left) participates in the symbolic presentation of a $123-million (US$117,176) grant agreement being provided by the Government of Japan to the Bustamante Hospital for Children for the acquisition of vital medical equipment, following Wednesday’s signing ceremony at the institution. Also participating are the hospital Chief Executive Officer Anthony Wood (left); Chargé d’Affaires at the Japanese Embassy in Jamaica Koji Tomita (second right); and the South East Regional Health Authority’s acting chairman, Dr Andrei Cooke. (PHOTO: JIS)

Health Minister Dr Fenton Ferguson (second left) participates in the symbolic presentation of a $123-million (US$117,176) grant agreement being provided by the Government of Japan to the Bustamante Hospital for Children for the acquisition of vital medical equipment, following Wednesday’s signing ceremony at the institution. Also participating are the hospital Chief Executive Officer Anthony Wood (left); Chargé d’Affaires at the Japanese Embassy in Jamaica Koji Tomita (second right); and the South East Regional Health Authority’s acting chairman, Dr Andrei Cooke. (PHOTO: JIS)

  • The Government of Japan for its support for important social needs in Jamaica. The Japanese Embassy donated J$123 million to the Bustamante Hospital for Children for urgently needed equipment. Thank you!
Supreme Ventures logo.

Supreme Ventures logo.

  • Supreme Ventures, for their generous, ongoing support for Eve for Life, the non-governmental organization that supports teenage and young mothers living with HIV and their children. We are truly grateful for your recent donation and for all your support in the past!
Randy McLaren in performance at the University of the West Indies last Thursday. (My photo)

Randy McLaren in performance at the University of the West Indies last Thursday. (My photo)

  • Randy McLaren (the “Kriativ Aktivis”) who presented an entertaining lunchtime concert at the University of the West Indies (UWI) last week – entertainment with a biting social commentary. Well done, Randy – I can see you are maturing very nicely as an artist.
Jamaican jazz guitarist Ernie Ranglin.

Jamaican jazz guitarist Ernie Ranglin.

  • It’s hard to believe that the wonderful guitarist Ernie Ranglin is 82 years old. The Gleaner calls him a “ska and reggae guitarist” and indeed Mr. Ranglin has played in many genres. I think he is most famous for his jazz style, these days (and I heard him in concert some ten years ago, a marvel!) He has mostly played overseas, and his latest album is called “Bless Up,”  with international musicians Inx Herman, Jonathan Korty, and Yossi Fine. Good to hear he’s still going strong!
A friend's Earth Hour "selfie" - truly lights out!

Where are you? A friend’s Earth Hour “selfie” – truly lights out!

  • All those involved in the organization of the Earth Hour Acoustic Concert last night, which by all accounts was a great success. Special kudos to Rootz Underground’s Stephen Newland, who is often at the forefront of environmental awareness programs. It was good to see so many young people enjoying the music and understanding the message too!
Calabar High School’s Class Three sprint king Tyreke Wilson poses beside the display board showing his impressive new record achieved in the 200m. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

Calabar High School’s Class Three sprint king Tyreke Wilson poses beside the display board showing his impressive new record achieved in the 200m. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

  • Calabar High School (boys) and Edwin Allen High School (girls) athletes, who came out on top in the ISSA GraceKennedy Boys’ and Girls’ Athletics Championships, which ended yesterday at the National Stadium. As usual, the competition was fierce, and many records were broken.
Edwin Allen High's Marleena Eubanks salutes her supporters as she crosses the line to win the Class One 800m final in 2:06.51 at the ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys and Girls' Championships at the National Stadium yesterday. - Photo by Ricardo Makyn/Gleaner

Edwin Allen High’s Marleena Eubanks salutes her supporters as she crosses the line to win the Class One 800m final in 2:06.51 at the ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys and Girls’ Championships at the National Stadium yesterday. (Photo: Ricardo Makyn/Gleaner)

Flyer for Edna Manley School of Dance 18th Season of Performances.

Flyer for Edna Manley School of Dance 18th Season of Performances.

  • And if you enjoy dance, come out next week and support the students of the Edna Manley College School of Dance in Kingston for their 18th Season of Dance. There will be several performances throughout the week, culminating in their Gala Night on Sunday, April 6.

My condolences to the families and friends of the following Jamaicans who lost their lives violently over the past four days.

Kirk Palmer, 42, Cornwall Courts/Montego Bay, St. James

Bryan Martin, Orange Street/Montego Bay, St. James

Shanice Williams, 27, Hopewell, Hanover

Peta Rose, 64, Lumsden, St. Ann

Rushawn Myers, 20, Port Antonio, Portland

Lebert Balasal, 61, Little London, Westmoreland

Killed by police:

Paul O’Gilvie, 20, Alexandria, St. Ann

Unidentified man, Alexandria, St. Ann

On the road: 24-year-old Police Constable Christopher Foster appeared to have been speeding when he crashed into a stationary truck on Thursday morning in Manchester, and died. The car was virtually flattened. Over the weekend, three people were killed in two car crashes on the north coast, both apparently caused by speeding.

Police Constable Christopher Foster died in a tragic car crash.

Police Constable Christopher Foster died in a tragic car crash.

Sunday, March 9 – Wednesday March 12, 2014

Sorry, this is going to be one of those combination, or rather belated posts on what’s happening in Jamaica. Somehow I didn’t manage my Sunday bulletin, so am carrying it all over to Wednesday. Forgive me.

Over in St. Vincent, a Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Inter-Sessional summit (please don’t ask me to explain what that is) is debating those two old favorites: the legalization of ganja and reparations for slavery. Education? Employment? Crime? Freedom of movement for CARICOM nationals? Economic opportunity? Hopefully they will get a mention, and I believe the weakening economies of member states will be under discussion. Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller is there, in her capacity as “Chairman of the CARICOM Prime Ministerial Sub-Committee on External Negotiations.” Not sure we knew about that before, but we know now. I wonder if we can expect a briefing (by “we” I mean the Jamaican public) on what transpired, on the PM’s return. She has taken quite a large delegation with her again, one notes.

Back home, the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) is making a great deal of noise now about the forthcoming Commission of Enquiry into the Tivoli Gardens massacre. A team of lawyers, headed by Opposition Justice Spokesman Alexander Williams, has been appointed to represent the interests of the residents. Things are very murky. It seems to me the JLP should have got properly involved in the proceedings from Day One. They are whining now, but were very equivocal prior to this – for reasons some of which were quite clear. The JLP is now threatening legal action if the controversial Ms. Velma Hylton remains in place as a selected Commissioner. It is accusing the ruling People’s National Party of politicking, but both are equally guilty, it seems to me. The whole thing is a royal mess already, and it hasn’t even started yet. I agree with the Gleaner: Ms. Hylton, please step aside, gracefully!

Church members protest against crime in West Kingston last Sunday. (Photo: Gleaner)

Church members protest against crime in West Kingston last Sunday. (Photo: Gleaner)

And over the weekend, the people of West Kingston went on a peace march. Minister Bunting and the Commissioner of Police were there, and a lot of hymns were sung. Television footage showed an elderly lady sitting on a rickety bench calling on the “blood of Jesus” to help them. Though all this might make people feel a little better, I doubt it will have any effect whatsoever. The Minister exhorted residents to turn “informer” on the criminals. Enough is enough, the residents parroted. I have heard that phrase many times before, and somehow it never is enough… I also suspect that a lot of people stayed at home.

All is not well in some government agencies. The entire board of the Housing Association of Jamaica has resigned; and recently the Executive Director of the Bureau of Women’s Affairs was sent on leave pending investigations into irregularities at the agency, where she has served for nearly twenty years. And the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Youth and Culture is also on leave, as discussed before. The media talk about “crisis” and “controversy,” rumors flybut none of us really knows what goes on behind the scenes. We realize that sometimes people’s faces don’t fit, politically; or are they too non-political?

Discussions under the mango tree at Jamaica Environment Trust, last week. (My photo)

Discussions under the mango tree at Jamaica Environment Trust, last week. (My photo)

I wasn’t expecting much, but the Jamaica Labour Party’s (JLP) stance on the proposed shipping port at Goat Islands is disappointing. The JLP has left its Member of Parliament Gregory Mair out in the cold…under the mango tree at Jamaica Environment Trust, where he spent some time last week. Mr. Mair’s private member motion has dropped off the order sheet in Parliament, and will not be revived, it seems.The JLP is talking out of two sides of its mouth at the same time. I guess it u weighing their options, and quite happy to sell Jamaica’s birthright down the river for the chance of backing the right horse and getting themselves elected next time around. JLP leader Andrew Holness reportedly told the Jamaica Observer that “the party is in support of the development of the hub/trans-shipment port on condition that there is no environmental threat to the Portland Bight Protected Area.” But Mr. Holness, the threat has already been established, as you well know. This may backfire on the Opposition further down the line. We shall see. Meanwhile political expediency comes first.

Oh! Our city dump is operating illegally… As we would say in social media, “smh.” I truly wonder about this government agency called the National Environment & Planning Agency (NEPA). I would also love to get some information on the air quality in the city from them. Does NEPA measure air quality? 

The National Environment & Planning Agency mentioned in passing last week that the Riverton City dump in Kingston is operating without a license. (Photo: Gleaner)

The National Environment & Planning Agency mentioned in passing last week that the Riverton City dump in Kingston is operating without a license. (Photo: Gleaner)

Short-sightedness: We have often said that our leaders (political and otherwise) have short-term vision only (not even medium-term, let’s face it). But there is Vision 2030. Does anyone know what it is? Is it mere words? I plan to examine the Vision 2030 document in future blog posts…

Patrons at the opening night of Bacchanal Fridays in Kingston last week…in anticipation of Carnival. (Photo: Lionel Rookwood/Jamaica Observer)

Patrons at the opening night of Bacchanal Fridays in Kingston last week…in anticipation of Carnival. (Photo: Lionel Rookwood/Jamaica Observer)

Meanwhile, young uptowners are girding their loins for the upcoming Carnival celebrations. Hugely expensive costumes are on sale I believe, and every Friday there is a major session to get everyone warmed up for the road march and other gyrations. If it’s your thing…enjoy! I feel nostalgic about the days when Carnival was less sophisticated and exclusive – it didn’t matter if you didn’t have a costume. And the Children’s Carnival in early years was great (we have photos of our son in various costumes, the kids just loved it). Those were the days…

Residents of West Kingston march for peace over the weekend. (Photo: Joseph Wellington/Jamaica Observer)

Residents of West Kingston march for peace over the weekend. (Photo: Joseph Wellington/Jamaica Observer)

Major Petchary bouquets for:

Senators Imani Duncan-Price (left) and Kamina Johnson-Smith, who presented on advancing leadership and gender equality in Jamaica's democracy in the Upper House last Friday. (Photo: Facebook)

Senators Imani Duncan-Price (left) and Kamina Johnson-Smith, who presented on advancing leadership and gender equality in Jamaica’s democracy in the Upper House last Friday. (Photo: Facebook)

  • Senators Imani Duncan-Price and Kamina Johnson-Smith, who presented on advancing leadership and gender equality in Jamaica’s democracy last Friday, March 7 in the Upper House. I posted Senator Duncan-Price’s presentation in my last blog post and hope to have her Opposition counterpart’s presentation shortly to share with you. A group of supporters was there, and I plan to be among them this coming Friday! All who would like to come and listen to the ongoing debate should check into Gordon House a little before 10:00 a.m. (It’s very sad that some Senators, on both sides of the political fence, chose to heckle and comment loudly throughout the presentations that these women had worked so hard on, to the extent that the Speaker of the House had to ask them to be quiet. Shame on them).
  • Food for the Poor, the Spanish-Jamaican Foundation and the Solo Jamaica Foundation on their partnership to provide badly-needed school furniture for 1,000 students – a container full. I hope that FFP will be able to achieve their goal of 30,000 desks and chairs. 
  • Tamara Nicholson, graduate student at the Institute of Gender and Development Studies at the University of the West Indies and “Half the Sky” Ambassador, for her initiative in showing the film and organizing a stimulating panel discussion on sexual and gender-based violence two days before International Women’s Day. I was a panelist along with three brilliant women – Jalna Broderick of Quality of Citizenship Jamaica, Georgia Love of WMW Jamaica and Inspector Winifred Moore of the Centre for the Investigation of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse (CISOCA). The film “Half the Sky” can be viewed online. More in a later blog post.
Jay and me at last year's World AIDS Day event at the University of the West Indies.

Javan and me at last year’s World AIDS Day event at the University of the West Indies.

  • Youth activist Javan Campbell, one of the coolest young men I know, who has been selected as Jamaica country coordinator for the International Youth Alliance on Family Planning (IYAFP). Jay will seek to support an alliance of young individuals, youth associations, youth organizations or communities with a common mission to support provision of comprehensive reproductive health care services with a particular focus on family planning for vulnerable populations, especially youth.
Founder and chair of Alligator Head Marine Lab Francesca von Habsburg, and Principal of the University of the West Indies, Mona, Professor Archibald McDonald sign the partnership agreement for the establishment of Alligator Head Marine Lab and seven projects designed to restore the marine environment in the area. Witnessing the signing are Director of the Fisheries Division at the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries Andre Kong (left) and Director of the Centre for Marine Science, Professor Dale Webber. (Photo: Naphtali Junior/Jamaica Observer)

Founder and chair of Alligator Head Marine Lab Francesca von Habsburg, and Principal of the University of the West Indies, Mona, Professor Archibald McDonald sign the partnership agreement for the establishment of Alligator Head Marine Lab and seven projects designed to restore the marine environment in the area. Witnessing the signing are Director of the Fisheries Division at the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries Andre Kong (left) and Director of the Centre for Marine Science, Professor Dale Webber. (Photo: Naphtali Junior/Jamaica Observer)

  • Baroness Francesca von Habsburg and her art foundation Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary (TBA 21). The Baroness opened the Alligator Head Marine Lab in Portland over the weekend, on her property. The University of the West Indies (UWI), the Portland Environment Protection Association and Reef Check Dominican Republic are partners in the project, which has seven specific goals. Much needed!
Jamaica Observer's Environment Editor Kimone Thompson at a recent biodiversity workshop organized by Panos Caribbean. (My photo)

Jamaica Observer’s Environment Editor Kimone Thompson at a recent biodiversity workshop organized by Panos Caribbean. (My photo)

  • And kudos to the Jamaica Observer’s environment editor Kimone Thompson. She is doing an outstanding job in pursuing the issues and some solid reporting has resulted.

The police have released composite pictures of two men wanted in connection with the murder of a man and an infant in “Dunkirk” on Valentine’s Day. Take a look: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Police-release-sketches-of-suspects-in-Dunkirk-double-murder I guess it’s not always possible, but it would be good if they could do this for all wanted men. These actually look like real, identifiable people, so good job. Meanwhile, my deepest condolences to the families of all those who lost their lives to violence in the past week. Ms. Williams was attacked, stabbed and robbed while walking home from church…

Syril, Papine Market, St. Andrew

Livingston Garvey, 68, Dyke Road/Portmore, St. Catherine

Mario Cross, 26, Dyke Road/Portmore, St. Catherine

Keldon Wade, 31, Clifton District, St. Catherine

Unidentified man, McCook’s Pen, St. Catherine

Damion Callum, Alexandria, St. Ann

Phyllis Williams, 79, Mango Walk, Montego Bay, St. James

Police Commissioner Owen Ellington (left) meets Shackelia Jackson sister of deceased Robert Nakeia Jackson while he toured the Orange Villa community with Minister of National Security Peter Bunting after the shooting. (Photo: Jermaine Barnaby/Gleaner)

Police Commissioner Owen Ellington (left) meets Shackelia Jackson sister of deceased Robert Nakeia Jackson while he toured the Orange Villa community with Minister of National Security Peter Bunting after the shooting. Member of Parliament Desmond McKenzie is on the right. (Photo: Jermaine Barnaby/Gleaner)

Meanwhile, Special Constable Leighton Rose who was charged in the January 20, 2014 fatal shooting of Nakiea Jackson, a cook shop operator in Downtown Kingston, is to appear in court today.

On the road: Three people were killed in a terrible bus crash on Highway 2000 in Clarendon last night. The driver “lost control” of the vehicle (a euphemism for speeding) and was killed along with two passengers. Fourteen others remain in hospital. A 61-year-old woman was hit by two cars and killed, as she tried to cross the road near Ferry, on the Mandela Highway; and a two-year-old was killed by a motorist in Portland, as he and his mother got off the bus. Many of the pedestrians killed on the road are older persons, and the very young. Please take care!

And the back of Jay's shirt! (My photo)

And this is what Javan Campbell is all about! (My photo)

1st Annual Portland Bight Green Run!

1st Annual Portland Bight Green Run!

Reasons to Be Cheerful: Sunday, March 2, 2014

It’s hard to be upbeat today, but I will try. A naughty Cockney English singer, the late Ian Dury had a great song called “Reasons to be Cheerful, Part 3″ (by the way, his band the Blockheads were so funky). So I will seek his inspiration…

Diana McCaulay

Diana McCaulay, the hard-working – and brave – founder/CEO of the Jamaica Environment Trust (and a highly successful novelist).

I don’t regularly comment on opinion columns. They are so predictable. (I still bemoan the absolute dearth of women columnists in our two daily newspapers. Are women reluctant to write or air their opinions?) On the Goat Islands issue, the Observer’s Mark Wignall seeks to think and write “outside the box,” (which he usually does), and has provided some food for thought in today’s piece entitled “The Chinese Goat Islands ‘offer’ is non-negotiable.” He’s a bit all over the place and drags the Americans into it, but still. Then there is Ronald Mason’s virulent, sexist attack on environmental advocate Diana McCaulay (he is careful not to name her) in today’s Gleaner entitled That screeching environmentalist.” A member of the Ruling Jamaican Patriarchy - the status quo that is apparently happily supported by the Gleaner newspaper these days – Mr. Ronald Mason is accusing Ms. McCaulay of getting her “knickers in a wad” (yes, it is that offensive) while writing to the newspaper to correct some assertions in an earlier column of his (here is her letter: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20140226/letters/letters5.html). Shame on you, Sunday Gleaner and shame on you, Mr. Mason.

Marine scientist Dr. Peter Edwards. (Photo: Gleaner)

Marine scientist Dr. Peter Edwards. (Photo: Gleaner)

Meanwhile, a highly qualified environmentalist, Peter Edwards has responded with a letter to the Gleaner. You can read it in full here (I am sure it will be edited, if indeed they publish it at all): http://peteretedwards.ipower.com/other-musings.html  Perhaps Peter Edwards, with a doctorate in Marine Studies, and Ms. McCaulay, a Humphrey Fellow, are not as qualified to speak on the environment as our learned Mr. Mason. A related question: is one of our newspapers censoring/removing some online comments? It’s their website so they are entitled to, but this regular practice has been noted. 

Dr Edwards remarks: “Mr. Mason, like other cheerleaders of this ill-advised project (by which I mean the plan to dredge and fill the Goat Island for storing heavy cranes and aggregates and NOT the wider logistics hub concept) continues to promote the false argument that it is a bunch of uptown ‘brown’ people, out of touch with poor people’s reality that are blocking progress to save two likkle lizard.” Hit the nail on the head there. This is the kind of divisive tactic that is used repeatedly in Jamaican society. Sex, race, gender, class – it’s all fair game in the eternal “tracing” match. No wonder our society cannot progress.

Enough of the Sunday windbags. I am in danger of becoming one myself! I promised to be cheerful, didn’t I?

Environment Minister Robert Pickersgill. (Photo: Gleaner)

Environment Minister Robert Pickersgill. (Photo: Gleaner)

Cheerfulness, indeed: Meanwhile, our Environment Minister was observed (and heard) being loudly fêted in the dining room of a Kingston hotel by a group of Chinese people on Friday. Happy birthday, Minister Pickersgill!

Birds Caribbean (formerly the Society for the Conservation and Study of Caribbean Birds) is among several international entities that have not been accorded the decency of a response to their letters from the Government of Jamaica.

Birds Caribbean (formerly the Society for the Conservation and Study of Caribbean Birds) is among several international entities that have written expressing concern over the Goat Islands/Portland Bight Protected Area proposed project. None have been accorded the decency of a response from the Government of Jamaica.

The Sound of Silence: That is, the silence of officialdom. I understand that our government has not responded to any letters from international organizations (United Nations, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Birds Caribbean and others) expressing concern over Goat Islands. The IUCN (the largest and oldest global conservation organization, of which Jamaica is a member) wrote a long and detailed two-page letter on the topic, signed by its chairperson. No answer. Similarly, the government agency responsible for environmental protection (oh, and planning) does not respond to the concerns of environmentalists and even ordinary citizens. It just gives out licenses and approvals.

 

Government PAAC committee member Fitz Jackson (left) is objecting to JET's request to speak on Goat Islands; Opposition member Audley Shaw (right) says "We have a duty to take into consideration the concerns of the public." But isn't it all politics, really?

Government PAAC committee member Fitz Jackson (left) objects to JET’s request to speak on Goat Islands; Opposition member Audley Shaw (right) says “We have a duty to take into consideration the concerns of the public.” But isn’t it all politics, really?

Meanwhile, Ms. McCaulay’s request to appear in front of the parliamentary Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) to discuss the Goat Islands issue has sparked a bit of a row among committee members. Although the PAAC has apparently agreed to allow her to testify, Government politicians on the committee are still objecting (it’s not important, relevant, etc.) Both sides are accusing the other of politicizing the issue and the matter has been referred to the Clerk of the Parliament for procedural advice. I notice the veteran Opposition Member of Parliament Mike Henry (a bit of a maverick) is also stirring things up, as he does from time to time on various issues!

On other matters: This issue seems to be using up all the air in the room, today. My apologies.

The U.S. State Department’s annual Human Rights Report on Jamaica never tells us anything new that we didn’t know before – or at least, that we should have known before. Former Contractor General Greg Christie notes these lines, however: “Despite the Access to Information Act to promote transparency, media accounts indicated that the Government sometimes categorically denied access to information.’ Also: “More than 5,000 civil servants failed to file or filed late or incomplete financial declarations required under the Corruption Prevention Act.” And so on. The word “impunity” is, notably, used in several different contexts. You can read the full document here: http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/humanrightsreport/index.htm?year=2013&dlid=220454#wrapper

 

Commendations to:

The marvelous Ms. Kelly at a Youth Development Forum in Hanover. (Photo: Instagram/Facebook)

The marvelous Ms. Kelly at a Youth Development Forum in Hanover. (Photo: Instagram/Facebook)

  • Youth advocate Kemesha Kelly, who will appear on the popular and incredibly long-running television program “Profile” on Television Jamaica this evening. Kemesha is articulate, highly motivated and focused, and truly gives me hope for Jamaica’s future…
The apps "pitch" kicks off at Digital Jam 3.0 earlier today. (Photo: Twitter)

The apps “pitch” kicks off at Digital Jam 3.0 earlier today. (Photo: Twitter)

Anand James came to Jamaica in 1983 and initially went into teaching. (Photo: Karl McLarty/Jamaica Observer)

Anand James came to Jamaica in 1983 and initially went into teaching. (Photo: Karl McLarty/Jamaica Observer)

  • The Jamaica Observer has started what seems to be a promising series of articles about people who have settled in Jamaica and made it their home and who have contributed to building the country. Nice idea. The first one is about Guyana-born Anand James, who arrived in Jamaica in 1983 with his wife and now heads a successful company, Caribbean Flavours and Fragrances. I look forward to more inspiring pieces in this series.

 

 

Go to the kickstarter website to support Alpha Boys' School and to learn more about the project.

Go to the kickstarter website to support Alpha Boys’ School and to learn more about the project.

Please support! The Alpha Boys’ School is seeking funds to construct a radio and production studio for vocational and classroom training for this historic music school in Kingston, Jamaica – the home of so many Jamaican musical greats. Please contribute what you can (US$1 is the minimum!) here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/alphaboysschoolradio/alpha-boys-school-radio-studio-and-media-lab-proje And here’s a related blog post of mine from 2012: http://petchary.wordpress.com/2012/11/09/the-global-spirit-of-reggae-music/

Quality of Citizenship Jamaica organized this demonstration in solidarity with LGBT Ugandans just before its anti-homosexuality bill was passed. This was at the University of the West Indies' Law Faculty.

Quality of Citizenship Jamaica organized this demonstration in solidarity with LGBT Ugandans just before its anti-homosexuality bill was passed. This was at the University of the West Indies’ Law Faculty.

Quality of Citizenship Jamaica seeks to empower lesbian and bisexual women through education, workshops etc. The organization, which just celebrated its “first birthday” on January 22, needs funding to continue its work in this field and to improve the quality of citizenship of all Jamaicans through its determined fight for LGBT rights and human rights. If you would like to support them please go to http://qcjm.org/yearone/

Five young men have been murdered (including one in the prison in Spanish Town), and another shot dead by the police during a car chase in Kingston, in the past few days. My deepest sympathies to the families. Please don’t forget – they do have families and loved ones. Spare a thought for them, please.

Jesse Crawford, 25, Exton, St. Elizabeth

Jermaine James, 26, Spring Mount, St. James

Travoy Russell, Grange Hill, Westmoreland

Tajay Samuels, Grange Hill, Westmoreland

Lester Donaldson, St. Catherine Correctional Centre, Spanish Town

Killed by the police:

Unidentified man, Hagley Park Road, Kingston

On the roads: Pedestrians continue to be at terrible risk on our roads. In the past few days, a 70-year-old man was struck down and killed in Ocho Rios, St. Ann (yesterday evening). And an eight-year-old girl was struck by a bus while walking near her school, St. Mary’s Prep and Kindergarten School in Montepelier, St. James. Pedestrians, please do take care when using the roads; and motorists, for heaven’s sake look out for pedestrians, especially those who may not be able to walk very fast, and the youngsters. This is so very sad…

Sunday, February 23, 2014

It’s been a busy week and I apologize for skipping over my mid-week bulletin. I will try to keep this one snappy though and not twice the length!

The winter games at Sochi have ended, and Jamaica’s bobsled team represented Jamaica incredibly well, bringing extra life and energy to the competition. However, since they failed to win a medal the Jamaican Government chose to ignore them, apart from a Jamaica Tourist Board video that arrived much too late. A Washington Post article summed it up: “The warm reception the Jamaicans received in Sochi stood in stark contrast to the shrugs and indifference they receive at home, where Usain Bolt and the sprinters rule the sports roost and soak up all the local sponsorship money available.”  Well, not quite true; many Jamaicans were rooting for them at home, despite their official non-recognition.

A marketing no-brainer: The bobsled team and a promo for the immensely successful "Cool Runnings" film.

A marketing no-brainer: The bobsled team and a promo for the immensely successful “Cool Runnings” film of 1993.

What next for the bobsled team? P.S. Thanks to Samsung for their support too!

Anti-government protests in Caracas, Venezuela, February 14, 2014.

Anti-government protests in Caracas, Venezuela, February 14, 2014.

While rival demonstrators were marching in Caracas, Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller opened a Venezuelan Government exhibition at the Jamaica Library Service HQ, called “Chavez Was Here.” Calling the late president a good friend of Jamaica, the PM mentioned the PetroCaribe agreement. The current President Maduro does not have the same charisma and political sensibility as his predecessor. He is struggling with high crime, food shortages and economic woes. He is already ruling by decree. Can he hold things together? Is PetroCaribe safe? Time will tell.

I went bird-watching with a group of educators via the Jamaica Environment Trust/Caribbean Birding Trail's Bird Sleuth program last year. This large area is now to become a "Chinese Garden." (My photo)

I went bird-watching with a group of educators via the Jamaica Environment Trust/Caribbean Birding Trail’s Bird Sleuth program last year. This large area around the pond is now to become a “Chinese Garden.” (My photo)

Talking of friends bearing gifts: Yesterday the PM and other officials broke ground for the J$240 million Chinese Garden inside Hope Gardens. This is a gift from the Chinese Government. Hope Gardens is a much-loved public space, and this large chunk of the gardens (eleven acres) has been fenced off for some time. What will become of our beloved pond, filled with waterbirds? And will the Jamaican public have to pay to enter the Chinese Garden?

Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller (right), having a light discussion with Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China, His Excellency, Dong Xiaojun, at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Chinese garden project, at the Hope Botanical Gardens in Kingston, on February 20. The garden, which will be sited on 11 acres at the Lilly Pond, is the first of its kind in the Caribbean, and is being developed at a cost of $240 million. (Photo: JIS)

Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller (right), having a light discussion with Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China, His Excellency, Dong Xiaojun, at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Chinese garden project, at the Hope Botanical Gardens in Kingston, on February 20. The garden, which will be sited on 11 acres at the Lilly (sic) Pond, is the first of its kind in the Caribbean, and is being developed at a cost of $240 million. (Photo: JIS)

And could those millions of dollars not have been put to better use? To build a factory or two? To refurbish some of our dilapidated, neglected schools? To buy desperately-needed cancer equipment for our public hospitals? To fund a major renewable energy project? To purchase ambulances and fire engines? And so on…

“Chinese gardens are designed to express the harmony that should exist between man and nature. As a government, we remain committed to achieving that harmonious balance between the demands and impact of human development, and the care and preservation of our environment,” said the PM, without batting an eyelid, at the ground-breaking for the Chinese Garden. Yes, it’s very balanced in Beijing, where people have to stay indoors because of air pollution. Plenty of harmony planned for the destruction of Goat Islands, too. Oh, and JIS – “lily” is spelt with one “l” before the “y” – not two. Thank you.

“The greatest threat to the environment is poverty.” Finance Minister Peter Phillips trotted out this oft-repeated phrase again last week in connection with Goat Islands. No, Minister, the greatest threat is dynamiting, digging and destroying land, dredging untouched marine environments, and concreting over wetlands.

PPPs are cool…Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller with Acting British High Commissioner to Jamaica and Bahamas, Julia Sutherland, before the start of the February19 session of a Public Private Partnership (PPP) seminar, being hosted by UK Trade and Investment and the Development Bank of Jamaica. (Photo: JIS)

PPPs are cool…Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller with Acting British High Commissioner to Jamaica and Bahamas, Julia Sutherland, before the start of the February19 session of a Public Private Partnership (PPP) seminar, being hosted by UK Trade and Investment and the Development Bank of Jamaica. (Photo: JIS)

PPPs anyone? Cassava bread sounds actually rather yummy. It’s one of the good things to come out of the University of the West Indies (UWI) Research Days this week and it’s a partnership between UWI, the government and Continental Bakery. This is called a “PPP” - the latest thing the government has latched onto as one of the keys to economic success. Of course, it’s got to be in the interests of the “private” part of the partnership for it to work. Minister Phillips says he hopes the government (and therefore one assumes the people) will make lots of money out of planned PPPs, in connection with Kingston’s Norman Manley International Airport and Kingston Container Terminal. We shall see.

Our PM has been very visible the last two or three weeks, have you noticed? A lot of speeches being made. Now, in her first stint as Prime Minister, I remember her saying she wanted a pastor on every public sector board, to instill the right values. This seems to have fallen by the wayside; but now the PM is urging churches to play a more active role in schools (and what about in society as a whole?) Are we a little disappointed, Madam PM? Minister Peter Bunting is still seeking divine intervention in the crime fight; and another “peace march” is planned in East Kingston today. OK, then…

What is happening with EWI’s license? It seems the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) is now requesting more information from Energy World International (EWI) and Minister Phillip Paulwell, who said on January 19 he would be signing the license in a matter of days, has not yet done so. The OUR has actually not yet received the required information from EWI, including audited financial information, one television station reports. Hmm.

Sympathy: A policewoman offers a drink to Jacqueline Shawna Russell who lost all her possessions in a fire in East Kingston. Russell was one of 13 victims of the blaze. (Photo: Karl McLarty/Jamaica Observer)

Sympathy: A policewoman offers a drink to Jacqueline Shawna Russell, who lost all her possessions in a fire in East Kingston. Russell was one of 13 victims of the blaze. (Photo: Karl McLarty/Jamaica Observer)

Despair and loss: The despair of a woman (described as an exotic dancer on television news last night) was very moving. She had lost all her possessions in a fire in East Kingston. Ms. Jacqueline Russell (seated, in a red dress in the photograph) said although she didn’t have a “big education” she had always worked to support herself, and never begged anything from anyone. The struggles of the inner-city woman – like many others, trying to keep her independence and her dignity – struck me forcibly as I listened to her hoarse-voiced monologue of grief.

Why has the man riding a jet ski, who struck and killed a tourist in Negril several weeks ago, still not been arrested?

Royal visit? I understand members of the Royal Family are to visit Jamaica next month. This means that the increasingly seedy environs of the City of Kingston might get a hasty face-lift.

University of the West Indies Mona Campus Pro-Vice Chancellor and Principal Professor Archibald McDonald (left) shows the university's cassava bread to Denise Herbol, mission director, USAID; Colombian Ambassador to Jamaica Luis Guillermo Martinez (second left); and Health Minister Dr Fenton Ferguson during the UWI's Research Days this week. McDonald had announced at the Jamaica Observer Monday Exchange this week that the UWI has entered into partnership with the Government of Jamaica and Continental Baking Company Limited to produce bread and other by-products from cassava. The venture, McDonald said, will save Jamaica $1 billion per year. Research Days ran from February 19 to 21. (Photo: Aston Spaulding/Jamaica Observer)

University of the West Indies Mona Campus Pro-Vice Chancellor and Principal Professor Archibald McDonald (left) shows the university’s cassava bread to Denise Herbol, mission director, USAID; Colombian Ambassador to Jamaica Luis Guillermo Martinez (second left); and Health Minister Dr Fenton Ferguson during Research Days this week. UWI has entered into partnership with the Government of Jamaica and Continental Baking Company Limited to produce bread and other by-products from cassava. The venture, McDonald said, will save Jamaica $1 billion per year. Research Days ran from February 19 to 21. (Photo: Aston Spaulding/Jamaica Observer)

Kudos to:

(l-r) Dr. Marjan de Bruin and Yolanda Paul of UWI HARP with Noelle Ingledew on World AIDS Day last year.

(l-r) Dr. Marjan de Bruin and Yolanda Paul of UWI HARP with Noelle Ingledew on World AIDS Day last year.

Dr. Marjan de Bruin, Yolanda Paul and all the hard-working members of the UWI HIV/AIDS Response Programme (UWI HARP), who do so much to reach out, educate and raise awareness, in the student community and beyond, on sexual and reproductive health. I admire their energy and good humor!

Minister of Health, Hon. Dr. Fenton Ferguson (left), takes a close look at the $11 million cheque, which Ambassador of Japan to Jamaica, His Excellency Yasuo Takase, (centre) is presenting to Executive Director, Jamaica Society for the Blind (JSB), Lola Marson. The money will go towards the building of the low vision resource centre at the JSB’s premises in St. Andrew. The signing ceremony for the grant assistance was held on February 20, at the Lion’s Club Resource Centre in Mona. (Photo: JIS)

Minister of Health, Hon. Dr. Fenton Ferguson (left), takes a close look at the $11 million cheque, which Ambassador of Japan to Jamaica, His Excellency Yasuo Takase, (centre) is presenting to Executive Director, Jamaica Society for the Blind (JSB), Lola Marson. The money will go towards the building of the low vision resource centre at the JSB’s premises in St. Andrew. The signing ceremony for the grant assistance was held on February 20, at the Lion’s Club Resource Centre in Mona. (Photo: JIS)

Health Minister Fenton Ferguson (now officially Petchary’s Favorite Minister) for his support for all the right things and his focus on prevention. And you know, he actually apologized for being late (when he wasn’t really) at the Nuttall event a few days ago. Some of his colleagues could follow his courteous example.

Fabian Brown is a Jamaican I truly admire and respect. Here we are at Nuttall Memorial Hospital.

CEO of Value Added Services Fabian Brown is a Jamaican I truly admire and respect. Here we are at Nuttall Memorial Hospital.

Nuttall Memorial Hospital and its partners, especially Value Added Services. Congratulations on the opening of the spanking new Accident and Emergency Department, and the opening of the office of the Jamaica Association of Professionals in Nutrition & Dietetics (JAPINAD). I love the special focus on wellness!

The Japanese Government for their support for two eminently worthy projects – a pilot project to grow sea island cotton, which is grown on a few other Caribbean islands on a small scale; and support for the Jamaica Society for the Blind.

Grace Virtue

Grace Virtue

Columnist Grace Virtue, who as always hits the nail on the head in her article “Education and employment is the solution, not State control of our bodies.”   http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Education-and-employment-is-the-solution–not-State-control-of-our-bodies I hope that this gives Senator Ruel Reid food for thought.

G2K, the Opposition’s young professionals arm, for its community outreach efforts, including organizing blood donation drives recently.

FILE - In this May 20, 2010 file photo, residents gather outside their house riddled with bullet holes during a media tour organized by government authorities inside the Tivoli Gardens neighborhood in Kingston, Jamaica.  In May 2010, in one of the bloodiest episodes in Jamaica's recent history, over 80 civilians were killed over the course of a few days while security forces hunted drug kingpin Christoper "Dudus" Coke. We await the start of an enquiry into the incident, if it ever happens. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd, File)

In this May 20, 2010 file photo, residents gather outside their house riddled with bullet holes during a media tour organized by government authorities inside the Tivoli Gardens neighborhood in Kingston. In May 2010, in one of the bloodiest episodes in Jamaica’s recent history, over 80 civilians were killed over the course of a few days while security forces hunted drug kingpin Christoper “Dudus” Coke. We await the start of an enquiry into the incident, if it ever happens. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd, File)

And the police should think about these words from European Union Representative Paola Amadei, who said while opening a new police station in Tivoli Gardens, “To reduce violence effectively, we must acknowledge that you cannot treat violence with violence.” Can’t say it clearer than that. The people of Tivoli Gardens, nearly four years ago, lost between 85 and 100 of its residents (including many young men) in a massacre by security forces. Now, since last year, over 100 have been murdered in the West Kingston constituency to which Tivoli belongs, according to its Member of Parliament Desmond McKenzie. Mr. McKenzie spoke yesterday at the funeral of Nakeia Jackson, who was shot by the police in Orange Villa last month. By the way, I give huge credit to the dignified way in which his family have responded, and hope that Jackson’s death will not be in vain.

The police say 119 murders have taken place so far this year, which is 13 fewer deaths than for the same period in 2013. For this we are thankful, and hope that the downward trend will continue. 74 murders took place in January, and 45 in the first half of this month. The case of Ms. Carlene Young, a diabetic teen who ran away from a state-run home in Trelawny, is particularly painful. My condolences to the families of all, who are grieving at this time.

Rupert Robinson, 44, Majesty Gardens, Kingston

Ricardo Finlay, 18, Majesty Gardens, Kingston

Akeem Campbell, 19, Point, Hanover

Ian Wells, 36, Lucea, Hanover

Carlene Young, 16, Hague, Trelawny

Unidentified man, Gore Tuca/Portmore, St. Catherine

Sonia Gayle, McCooks Pen, St. Catherine

Franklin daCosta, 52, Grants Town, St. Mary

Orlando Cunningham, 20, Foga Road, Clarendon

Lloyd Robinson, 80, Four Paths, Clarendon

Please take care on the road! Last week the National Road Safety Council reported that 29 Jamaicans have died on the road since the start of 2014 – including 8 pedestrians, 5 pedal cyclists and 6 motorcyclists. On Friday night, 23-year-old Richard Gillespie lost control of his car while driving along the Discovery Bay main road and was killed. When reports note that the driver “lost control” of his vehicle, one takes it to mean he/she was driving too fast. Please, please slow down!

Little Trejaun Harvey, age 17 months, was shot dead in McIntyre Villa, East Kingston on February 13.

Little Trejaun Harvey, age 17 months, was shot dead in McIntyre Villa, East Kingston on February 13.

Fire personnel transport an injured man to the May Pen hospital, following an accident along the Bustamante Highway in Clarendon yesterday. The man was driving a Nissan Sunny motor car when it collided with a Leyland Freighter motor truck. (Photo: Llewellyn Winter/Jamaica Observer)

Fire personnel transport an injured man to the May Pen hospital, following an accident along the Bustamante Highway in Clarendon yesterday. The man was driving a Nissan Sunny motor car when it collided with a Leyland Freighter motor truck. (Photo: Llewellyn Winter/Jamaica Observer)

Norma Brown says her last words to her son Nakiea Jackson at his thanksgiving service held at the Assembly Hall Church on Orange Street yesterday. Jackson was shot dead by the police in his cook shop on January 20. (Photo: Michael Gordon/ Jamaica Observer

Norma Brown says her last words to her son Nakiea Jackson at his thanksgiving service held at the Assembly Hall Church on Orange Street yesterday. Jackson was shot dead by the police in his cook shop on January 20. (Photo: Michael Gordon/ Jamaica Observer

Yellow tape cordons off a crime scene in the salubrious and unsuitably named Majesty Gardens, after a double murder in the area - which is represented by our Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

Yellow tape cordons off a crime scene in the salubrious and inappropriately-named Majesty Gardens, after two murders in the area – which is represented by Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

Sigma Sunday, February 16, 2014

This morning, the 16th annual Sagicor Sigma Corporate Run 2014 took place in the city of Kingston. Organizers say 22,368 people took part and that it raised J$20 million. It’s certainly the biggest charity run in the city; these events have become very popular in recent years. Sigma is so big that I understand it’s a major social event, for those who aren’t so interested in exerting themselves: I saw reports of runners wearing “red Chanel lipstick” and marriage proposals, en route…

Eager uptowners jostle to start the Sagicor Sigma 5K race in Kingston. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

Eager uptowners jostle to start the Sagicor Sigma 5K race in Kingston (last year). (Photo: Bryan Cummings/Jamaica Observer)

Here is the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) team at this morning's Sagicor Sigma Run in Kingston, showing their Save Goat Islands credentials! (Photo: JET)

Here is the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) team at this morning’s Sagicor Sigma Run in Kingston, showing their Save Goat Islands credentials! (Photo: JET)

The Government completely dropped the ball on the Jamaican bobsled team. Yes, I know I am biased but since they first qualified for the Sochi Winter Olympics I have been so excited about them!  As I noted in earlier blogs, this was a tailor-made marketing opportunity for the Jamaica Tourist Board etc to use our tax dollars for a good purpose. The bobsled team basically marketed themselves – and Jamaica - regardless, with a great deal of help from the media. The New York Times, LA Times and many other traditional and online media have written glowing reports. Volunteers have been begging photo-ops with the team and enthusiastic tweets from all over the world have been pouring in. What a missed opportunity. Oh, you don’t remember “Cool Runnings”?

The lads prepare their speed wagon at Sochi. (Photo: Twitter)

The lads prepare their speed wagon at Sochi. (Photo: Twitter)

Nuff said!

Nuff said!

The Contractor General has got his way and will now have meeting notes of the Constituency Development Fund committee for perusal. This despite the protests of MP Everald Warmington, who once famously said, “The contractor general’s office is a creature of Parliament. Parliament is not a creature of the contractor general.” He protested again, in vain this time. I wonder why politicians on both sides of the House of Representatives have such a niggling distrust of the Contractor General?

Junior Transport and Works Minister Richard Azan. (Photo: Gleaner)

Junior Transport and Works Minister Richard Azan. (Photo: Gleaner)

And yes, Minister Azan, bureaucracy is a real pain. But it cannot be used as an excuse to bypass the rules and regulations – isn’t that called corruption? The “re-energized” Junior Transport Minister, who returned to his job recently, assures us: “Whatever I am doing now, especially as it relates to the Government, everything has to be in writing.” That’s good to know, Minister Azan. Good to have things in writing. Wow.

Talking of corruption: What has happened to the Trafigura investigation by Dutch authorities? Weren’t government ministers subpoena’ed to testify in court, or did I imagine it? I see Trafigura made a hefty profit last year, and that questions are being raised about their dealings in Zambia.

Is this democracy? We have a Local Government Minister, but it doesn’t seem to have helped the situation in the Municipality of Portmore. The former Mayor, George Lee (the only Mayor in Jamaica to be directly elected) passed away last September. No council meetings took place for the rest of the year. Not sure if Opposition Local Government spokesman Desmond McKenzie has tabled questions on this in Parliament. It just doesn’t seem right, with no mayoral election in sight after five months.

The “frequent flyer” debate has taken on such a partisan political flavor that the key point – that of our Prime Minister’s accountability to taxpayers – has been submerged. Representatives of the Two Tribes did a lot of point-scoring on CVM Television’s “Live at Seven” last week. The Prime Minister continues to refer to the issue in every single speech she makes at various events round the island (she has been reading out more speeches, lately). It’s all too much.

The “too many kids” debate also drags on. You might want to consider youth commentator Jaevion Nelson’s response. He joins the chorus of critics of Senator Ruel Reid’s suggestion that there should be a limit on Jamaica’s fertility:  http://jaevion.blogspot.com/2014/02/abort-that-idea-heres-some-info-you.html Mr. Nelson says Senator Reid based his comments on erroneous information and has shown his ignorance of sexual and reproductive health issues in Jamaica.  Perhaps we should not be distracted from the fact that we have a growing aging population, and worry about that instead. But no one is discussing that, it seems.

Huge kudos to…

A Jonkunnu character and fan at "Fi Wi Sinting" in Portland. (Photo: Twitter)

A Jonkunnu character and fan at “Fi Wi Sinting” in Portland. (Photo: Twitter)

Jamaican writers and creative people in general, who attended the “Talking Trees” Literary Festival, as well as “Arts in the Park” - both in Kingston. We city-dwellers are lucky – I hope the rest of the island enjoys some live cultural events. I know “Fi Wi Sinting,” a fantastic annual celebration of our African heritage in Portland, which takes place in Black History Month. It has suffered from some rain today, I understand.

Billy Elm, Jamaican children's writer.

Billy Elm, Jamaican children’s writer.

Helen Williams (pen-name Billy Elm) lives in Montego Bay, and she’s a children’s writer. She does a lot of readings in local schools. Here is her account of one on her blog: http://marogkingdom.blogspot.com/2014/02/reading-delroy-in-marog-kingdom-at.html Keep the book flag flying, Billy Elm! And special kudos to her daughter Clara Brydson, furniture designer and entrepreneur, whose VintEdge Swank is worth investigating! For more details contact Clara at www.facebook.com/vintedgeswank, email: info@vintedgeswank.com, or call (876)-771-7881.

Ms. Yolandie Bailey (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

Ms. Yolandie Bailey (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

Yolandie Bailey, a young mother in Islington, St. Mary, just because she is obviously a very kind woman. You can read her story here: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Young-Islington-mother-gives-back-to-community_16068680

One of Clara Brydson's funky VintEdge Swank designs. (Photo: Gleaner)

An example of Clara Brydson’s funky VintEdge Swank designs. (Photo: Gleaner)

Since yesterday, my Twitter timeline has been filled with commentary on a murder trial in Florida (the infamous “stand your ground” law, which has got to go!) I am, quite frankly, much more concerned about the flood of horrors right here in Jamaica in the past few days, including:

A mentally ill man cut the throat of another mentally ill inmate in the Dickensian (yes, it is) Tower Street Correctional Facility in downtown Kingston. Both the alleged murderer and his victim had already been charged with murder but were deemed “unfit to plea.” Then what were they doing in prison? They should have been in a mental institution. This is tragic and possibly the tip of the iceberg. How many mentally challenged inmates languish in our prisons? Does the government have a policy on this?

On Thursday evening, armed men invaded a Valentine’s Day party on Banana Street in Kingston’s McIntyre Villa (called “Dunkirk”) and killed a man and an infant. A short distance away and a short time after, armed men from Banana Street, seeking revenge, shot and seriously injured a couple who were trying to protect their two-month-old child from a “revenge infanticide.”

A  woman was chopped and beheaded allegedly by a former partner in the Mountain View area of Kingston late last night. Since last year, there have been increasing numbers of women murdered by abusive partners or jealous former partners in Jamaica. Often the families are aware of the abuse but do not report it.

I think that’s enough, but I could go on. My condolences to the grieving families, who are left to suffer and mourn. The following names are of those Jamaicans who have been killed in the past four days:

“Damar,” McIntyre Villa, Kingston

Trejaun Harvey, 17 months, McIntyre Villa, Kingston

Unidentified man, Tower Street Correctional Facility, Kingston

Karen Rainford, 34, Backbush/Mountain View Avenue, Kingston

Damion Hemmings, 25, Southborough/Portmore, St. Catherine

Jimony Powell, 17, Bendon District, Clarendon

Roderick Murray, 27, Hopewell, Hanover

Cindy Campbell, 40, Hopewell, Hanover

Killed by the police:

Jason Williams, 22, Browns Gully/Morant Bay, St. Thomas

Jerome Williams, 20, Browns Gully/Morant Bay, St. Thomas

On the road: Retired Police Inspector Arnold Steer was a passenger in a car that went off the road in Philadelphia, St. Ann. He died from his injuries. A teenager Malcolm Whyte, a student of St. Andrew College, was reportedly hit off his motorbike by a police car and killed during a chase in Kingston.

Karen Rainford's former partner chopped and beheaded her in "Backbush" off Mountain View Avenue at 2:30 a.m. Sunday morning. (Photo: Gleaner)

Karen Rainford’s former partner chopped and beheaded her in “Backbush” off Mountain View Avenue at 2:30 a.m. Sunday morning. (Photo: Gleaner)

The car in which passenger Arnold Steer sustained injuries and died after it crashed in St. Ann. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

The car in which passenger Arnold Steer sustained injuries and died after it crashed in St. Ann. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

It’s been a Warm Sunday, February 9, 2014

At least, it is in Kingston, and not a drop of rain in sight.

Corruption, anti-corruption: I am simply going to quote former Contractor General Greg Christie on this: “Jamaican MPs and Cabinet members who are against aggressive anti-corruption reforms must not be allowed to hold the country to ransom.” Who are these people, I wonder? Meanwhile, Justice Minister Mark Golding says work towards creating a single anti-corruption agency is proceeding apace. Of course, one hopes that it will be a functioning, efficient and effective agency, when it finally appears.

A picture of Leonard Howell, from the Occupy Pinnacle Facebook page.

A picture of Leonard Howell, from the Occupy Pinnacle Facebook page.

“Occupy Pinnacle”: A robust discussion continues in social media over the fate of Pinnacle, the hilltop homesite of Rastafari founder Leonard P. Howell. Reverend Garnett Roper (who is now a public servant as well as heading the Jamaica Theological Seminary) has come up with what I believe is a workable solution: to create a theme park-style attraction focusing on Rastafari, which has played a key role in promoting “Brand Jamaica” through reggae music (who doesn’t recognize the red, gold and green?). It could be a private-public sector project promoted to attract visitors from near and far. Rev. Roper thinks this would be a remarkable opportunity to right some historical wrongs.” Yes, in the past there has been much injustice. Anyway, I think this could work out well for all concerned. Compromise is definitely a possibility. But of course whatever is created must retain its authentic cultural integrity.

Proud flag bearer brakeman Marvin Dixon before stepping out at #Sochi2014 opening ceremony. (Photo: Twitter)

Proud flag bearer brakeman Marvin Dixon before stepping out at #Sochi2014 opening ceremony. (Photo: Twitter)

Talking of “Brand Jamaica”: The Jamaican bobsled team is once again a huge hit. The Government has done very little to support them officially (apart from a short press release congratulating them on qualifying for the Winter Olympics in Sochi) but hey – the New York Times, Miami Herald, ESPN, NBC, ABC, BBC and more have been writing great stories about them and following their every move. The bobsledders raised the funds for their trip to Sochi in just a couple of days via crowd-funding (showing the strength of their global support) and have had to ask people to stop sending money, as they have more than enough! Why the Government’s lukewarm interest? This is tailor-made stuff. Remember “Cool Runnings,” Mr. Tourism Minister, JAMPRO et al? The 1993 Disney movie made well over US$150 million and the soundtrack was a major hit. Nuff said. (Follow the team on Twitter @Jambobsled for great photos and updates!)

INDECOM-logo

INDECOM (the Independent Commission of Investigations) is operating at only 60 % of the staff that it needs to deal with hundreds of cases of police abuses (including extra-judicial killings, which were up last year). Why can’t they be given the needed resources? This is much less than what the Bureau of Special Investigations received (that was INDECOM’s ineffective predecessor). INDECOM has achieved some modest results during its short term of existence, but against the odds. I wish them all the best and hope they will get the support they deserve.

Signing our future away: Finance and Planning Minister, Dr. the Hon. Peter Phillips (left), and Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) Country Representative in Jamaica, Therese Turner-Jones sign copies of two loan agreements for the IDB’s provision of just over $15 billion (US$140 million) in budgetary support to the government to undertake the country’s Fiscal Structural Programme for Economic Growth, and Competitiveness Enhancement Programme (III). The signing took place on February 6. Overseeing the proceedings is the Ministry’s Communications and Public Relations Director, Cheryl Smith. (Photo: Jamaica Information Service)

Signing our future away: Finance and Planning Minister, Peter Phillips (left), and Inter-American Development Bank Country Representative in Jamaica, Therese Turner-Jones sign copies of two loan agreements for the IDB’s provision of just over $15 billion (US$140 million) in budgetary support to the government to undertake the country’s Fiscal Structural Programme for Economic Growth, and Competitiveness Enhancement Programme (III). The signing took place on February 6. Overseeing the proceedings is the Ministry’s Communications and Public Relations Director, Cheryl Smith. (Photo: Jamaica Information Service)

More huge loans: Forgive me for asking, but is the way out of our debt problem to continue borrowing vast sums of money? The Government have signed two big ‘uns lately: US$140 million from the Inter-American Development Bank for enhancing fiscal administration of the economy” ; and an even larger loan from the Chinese Government, our new best friends. I guess the IMF is cool with all this, right Minister Phillips?

He's back! Minister of Transport, Works and Housing Omar Davies addresses members of the Diplomatic Corps on February 5 where he provided details on major infrastructural projects being undertaken. (Photo: JIS)

He’s back! Minister of Transport, Works and Housing Omar Davies addresses members of the Diplomatic Corps on February 5 where he provided details on major infrastructural projects being undertaken. (Photo: JIS)

Last week was Diplomatic Week, which means that representatives of fifty-odd countries that have diplomatic relations with Jamaica get together for a heavy dose of Jamaican Government presentations and cocktails. Transport Minister Omar Davies (yes, he has reappeared, finally) told the diplomats about plans for a network of roads and the logistics hub. The Minister said the “bits of the puzzle are coming together.” Yes, it’s a puzzle, all right!

Bahij Mansour (Photo: Winston Sill/Freelance Photographer)

Israel’s non-resident Ambassador to Jamaica Bahij Mansour (Photo: Winston Sill/Freelance Photographer)

Solar solutions? The non-resident Israeli Ambassador to Jamaica Bahij Mansour has expressed interest in assisting with the logistics hub. What I would really like to see is Israeli assistance with solar power and water conservation projects; they are world-leading experts in these fields, and God knows the responsible ministers are doing virtually nothing in these areas of any significance.

Kingston cruise ships? Minister Davies also mentioned the possibility of Kingston becoming a cruise ship port. Is this the reason why the Kingston port is being expanded? I think not. Well, a hell of a lot of work will have to be done on downtown Kingston before this could be at all feasible.

NFPB chair Dr Sandra Knight (centre) makes a point during Thursday’s Observer Press Club at the newspaper’s Beechwood Avenue headquarters. Her colleagues Sania Sutherland (right), executive director and Marion Scott, acting director of outreach and prevention, flank her. (Photo: Joseph Wellington/Jamaica Observer)

NFPB chair Dr Sandra Knight (centre) makes a point during Thursday’s Observer Press Club at the newspaper’s Beechwood Avenue headquarters. Her colleagues Sania Sutherland (right), executive director and Marion Scott, acting director of outreach and prevention, flank her. (Photo: Joseph Wellington/Jamaica Observer)

Teens in trouble: Several articles in today’s papers are enough to make you break out in a cold sweat. Chair of the National Family Planning Board Dr. Sandra Knight (a terrific and knowledgeable lady) tells us that “transactional sex” (for benefit/gifts) is on the rise; more young people have multiple sex partners and most are not bothering to use condoms; abstinence programs aren’t working; and more and more teens are becoming addicted to porn, with home-made sex videos circulating on mobile phones. And of course, with all this happening, the abuse of children aged 11 to 15 years is increasing. A total nightmare.

At last! A female (guest) columnist in the Sunday Gleaner, Suzanne Leslie-Bailey, and she does a good job of telling the middle-class to “get off their verandas and get involved in the political process, raise their voices on the issues, and demand that politicians be true servants of the people!” Thank you.

“Dem can gwan run up dem mouth…” So said our Prime Minister on video regarding those who have been criticizing her many overseas trips. For those who don’t understand Jamaican patois… Oh, it’s not worth the bother of translating, actually.

Major kudos to: 

G2K President Floyd Green is the new Deputy Spokesman on Labour and Social Security with the Jamaica Labour Party.

G2K President Floyd Green is the new Deputy Spokesman on Labour and Social Security with the Jamaica Labour Party.

Suzanne Leslie-Bailey and Floyd Green, two young people who have been appointed Deputy Spokespersons for Tourism and Labour/Social Security, respectively.  Go out and make a difference!

Suzanne Leslie Bailey is the new Deputy Spokeswoman on Tourism.

Suzanne Leslie Bailey is the new Deputy Spokeswoman on Tourism.

Palace Amusement Company (again) for bringing us the wonderful Live at the Met HD Series from the Metropolitan Opera of New York. It is a joy to go down to the Carib cinema and immerse ourselves with other happy opera lovers. I have reviewed a couple of them – including Dvorak’s “Rusalka” - which will be encored at the Palace Multiplex, Montego Bay and the Cineplex in Kingston on February 16 at 11:30 a.m. Next up is “Prince Igor” on March 1. Can’t wait!

Yup! Pharrell Williams is happy, and it's infectious!

Yup! Pharrell Williams is happy, and it’s infectious!

The makers of the “Jamaica Happy” video, using Pharrell’s funky, catchy tune: This is a gem of a short video (wish it was a bit longer!) – beautifully produced, with real Jamaicans in real locations. The boys who dive at Kingston’s waterfront, the cool uptown girls, a motor mechanic among his cars, a young man on his cell phone in New Kingston… Lovely! It will bring a smile to your face. This is Jamaica, minus the fake Jamaica Tourist Board hype. Watch and share widely: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bFugJzhrsUM

Shaking a leg in the mechanic's yard - a still from the awesome "Jamaica Happy" video with Pharrell's song.

Shaking a leg in the mechanic’s yard – a still from the awesome “Jamaica Happy” video with Pharrell’s song.

Wyatt Gallery in Kingston's Jewish Cemetery at Orange Street. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

Wyatt Gallery in Kingston’s Jewish Cemetery at Orange Street. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

New York-based photographer and philanthropist Wyatt Gallery (who has Jamaican connections), who gave us a preview of his exquisitely beautiful book, “Jewish Treasures of the Caribbean,” in Kingston last week. Collector’s packages are available. For more information, go to Wyatt’s website at: http://www.wyattgallery.com.

Dr. Marcia Forbes is the author of two books on social media and its impact on Jamaican youth. She also heads a dynamic team at Phase Three Productions, a 25-year-old Jamaican company offering TV, film and multimedia services. (Photo: jamediapro.wordpress.com)

Dr. Marcia Forbes is the author of two books on social media and its impact on Jamaican youth. She also heads a dynamic team at Phase Three Productions, a 25-year-old Jamaican company offering TV, film and multimedia services. (Photo: jamediapro.wordpress.com)

Businesswoman and communicator extraordinaire Marcia Forbes, whose two-part series on the logistics hub is enlightening. She keeps it clear and simple, minus the hype of the Jamaican Government’s PR on the planned mega-development. Here are Ms. Forbes’ cogent comments on the proposed transshipment port at Goat Islands: Jamaicans are concerned that in addition to environmental degradation, with possible flooding of surrounding land mass and losses to fisher-folks and their families as a result of situating a Logistics Park within the Portland Bight, there will be no meaningful job creation. They fear that the Chinese will bring many of their nationals, not only those with ‘special expertise’ and that the jobs of which Professor Shirley speaks may never really materialize.” Read more at the Caribbean Journal website:  http://www.caribjournal.com/2014/02/07/marcia-forbes-understanding-jamaica’s-logistics-hub-part-2/

The Jamaican Government could perhaps bear this in mind… Thank you!

The Jamaican Government could perhaps bear this in mind… Thank you!

The number of deaths in incidents involving the police seems to be steadily growing. I am not sure what is going on here. How can National Security Minister Peter Bunting be preaching “unity” and “working together to fight the monster of crime,” in the full knowledge that every such killing further erodes the level of trust between the police and citizens? The Police Commissioner’s response to the latest killing – the death of a woman in downtown Kingston while the police and gunmen were allegedly involved in a gunfight – was inept and hypocritical, to say the least. He said, well this is what happens when gunmen fire at police and they must stop doing that. Hmmm.  My deepest sympathies to those who are mourning; Ms. Stone leaves behind five children.

Dekalda McKenzie, 25, Ziaidie Gardens, Kingston

Oneill Washington, 30, Portmore, St. Catherine

Rema Arthurs, 67, Greenvale/Mandeville, Manchester

Duane Powell, 33, Salt Spring, St. James

Brandon Gordon, 23, Norwood, St. James

Killed by the police:

Kevin Davis, 19, Regent Street, Kingston

Jacqueline Stone, 44, Oxford Road, Kingston

Adrian Knight, Bethel Town, Westmoreland

On the roads:  26 Jamaicans have died on our roads this year, already. Now, how do eight people fit into a Nissan Sunny? Two people died when this car crashed in Petersfield, Westmoreland: 37-year-old Nichola Graham and 20-year-old Lavern Gordon. The car must have been unstable and going too fast – no other vehicle was involved. And the media have just caught onto the fact that a talented young man, Jason Cruickshank, 28, was killed while crossing the road a whole week ago along the Jacks Hill Road in Kingston. The truck that hit him did not stop. Another car that followed also hit him, and did not stop.

Alicia Dixon, with photos of her 19-year-old brother Tevin Davis, who was allegedly shot and killed by the police in Denham Town, Kingston, on Thursday. (Photo: Norman Grindley/Gleaner)

Alicia Dixon, with photos of her 19-year-old brother Kevin Davis, who was allegedly shot and killed by the police in Denham Town, Kingston, on Thursday. (Photo: Norman Grindley/Gleaner)

Sunday Focus: February 2, 2014

It’s World Wetlands Day, if there are any Jamaican wetlands left by the time I finish writing this blog post. They’re disappearing fast (only two per cent of our land space). So hardly anything to celebrate.

A part of the extensive mangroves that surround Goat Islands, inside one of the fish sanctuaries. Beautiful and endangered wetlands. (My photo)

A part of the extensive mangroves that surround Goat Islands, inside one of the fish sanctuaries. Beautiful and endangered wetlands. (My photo)

Transparency? NOT: The Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) has decided to keep the Jamaican people in the dark on details of their assessment of Energy World International (EWI). If you recall, the somewhat mysterious EWI rather crept in the back door as the preferred bidder for the 350 megawatt power plant; construction is due to start this year. National Integrity Action, the Jamaica Civil Society Coalition and the Opposition are not pleased. The Energy Monitoring Committee says it has outstanding concerns to discuss with the OUR, including “focusing on the financial capability of the Preferred Bidder.” Hmm. Rather important! Need more information on EWI? Their website is here: http://www.energyworldcorp.com/index.html.

Dr. Mark Nicely, President of the Jamaica Teachers' Association, is Principal of William Knibb High School in Trelawny. (Photo: Jamaica Teachers' Association)

Dr. Mark Nicely, President of the Jamaica Teachers’ Association, is Principal of William Knibb High School in Trelawny. (Photo: Jamaica Teachers’ Association)

The “Association of No”?  The Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA) seem to have a default “no” mode whenever the Ministry of Education puts forward a proposal to them. This time it’s the Jamaica Teaching Council Bill, which would regulate and license teachers. However, JTA head Dr. Mark Nicely has said the teachers are open to dialogue, and has put forward some suggestions. I think the Minister needs a break…

Former tourism minister Ed Bartlett is back now as Opposition Spokesman. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

Former tourism minister Ed Bartlett is back now as Opposition Spokesman. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

Another back in the fold: Mr. Ed Bartlett has returned as Opposition Spokesman on Tourism. He is needed, as there are several issues in that sector. I wonder what Mr. Bartlett did about the jet skis when he was minister? And what about the craft vendors, their stalls piled high with (hugely similar) wood carvings and T shirts, who look so lonely with no customers?

You will find Wealth Magazine on all the social media and at http://www.wealthmagja.com

You will find Wealth Magazine on all the social media and at http://www.wealthmagja.com

Popping up all over the place: I went to a Corporate Mingle sponsored by Wealth Magazine on Friday night. Terrific energy and connections made, and kudos again to the wonderful CUSO International and JN Foundation – two of my favorite organizations. For me it was somewhat spoilt by the appearance of the Minister of Youth, Lisa Hanna. After being told how beautiful she was, she then enlightened us on how many thousands of young people are being trained by the National Youth Service (something her predecessors have been telling us for many years now). Then at today’s “Grounation” at Liberty Hall as Reggae Month begins, we have Transport & Works Minister Omar Davies giving a lecture (sermon?). Pity we haven’t had a peep out of him on the transshipment port proposed for Goat Islands – or any other issue, since he went on sick leave last year. I’d like to have a break from politicians at any and every social/cultural event, really.

What's your favorite Dennis Brown song? He died young (age 42) but was incredibly prolific.

What’s your favorite Dennis Brown song? The Kingstonian died young (age 42) but was incredibly prolific. “What About the Half” might possibly be my favorite. Or…

It’s nice to celebrate Bob Marley but really, do we need a Reggae Month? Every month is Reggae Month in Jamaica (although I confess it was nice to hear some Dennis Brown playing somewhere nearby, this afternoon…) I’ve got nothing against it but feel it is sort of unnecessary.

The “microphone in face” syndrome: Our Prime Minister still seems to be suffering from the trauma of having a microphone “pushed in her face.” She told the Jamaica Observer that the media is trying to “trap” her (I suppose that’s why she has that startled look when journalists approach). Why can’t the media treat her like they treat President Obama, she asks querulously? Just not fair. Perhaps it’s because local media are often desperate for information, feedback…any kind of communication that is not a prepared speech or photo-op.The journalists are doing their job, Ma’am. That is, trying to get information without “spin.”

And why does our Prime Minister take every little criticism so personally? Politicians usually develop a thick skin. Not everyone will love you, but that’s the way it is in public life, isn’t it?

Ballooning debt: Opposition Spokesman Audley Shaw is not wasting any time on addressing the issues, including the growing debt that is exacerbated by the continuously sliding exchange rate (now at around J$108=US$1). Financial secretary Devon Rowe says the public debt increases by 0.5 per cent with every one per cent slide in the dollar; and that it is expected to end the financial year (March 31) at J$1.9 trillion or 129.9 per cent of Gross Domestic Product – a small improvement over the 2013/13 fiscal year.

Former Prime Minister Golding, I see nothing sensational or “populist” about protesting the crippling bank charges, which the three big banks say is now providing them with more income than interest. But I wonder if certain overseas-based banks would enjoy such a wide spread in interest rates and such huge charges back home? The National Commercial Bank’s Patrick Hylton considers the complaints “much ado about nothing.” Meanwhile, Royal Bank of Canada (RBC Jamaica) has sold out to Sagicor Group. Humph.

HAVANA, Cuba — Leaders meet for the second day of the CELAC Summit in Havana on Wednesday, January 29, 2014. Leaders from across Latin America and the Caribbean signed a resolution declaring the region a “zone of peace”, pledging to resolve their disputes as respectful neighbours without the use of arms. (Photo: AP)

HAVANA, Cuba — Leaders meet for the second day of the CELAC Summit in Havana on Wednesday, January 29, 2014. Leaders from across Latin America and the Caribbean signed a resolution declaring the region a “zone of peace”, pledging to resolve their disputes as respectful neighbours without the use of arms. (Photo: AP)

“A zone of peace”: So Latin American and Caribbean leaders, in yet another new grouping called CELAC, have declared the region to be a “zone of peace.” They sound a bit like a bunch of old hippies, but somewhat ironic considering that the highest crime rates are in our hemisphere. The Cuban Government rounded up a bunch of malcontents and journalists and threw them in jail just before the meeting in Havana, as is their tradition, but our leaders did not seem to mind much. The United States and Canada are not members of the group, which is intended to be an alternative to the Organization of American States. Did they miss much? I don’t know, but I hope the CELAC folks all had a jolly good time. Peace and love, man.

The Year of the Horse:  Happy New Year to Chinese friends and readers! It’s the Year of the Horse, and according to an ad from China Harbour Engineering Company, a subsidiary of China Communications Construction Company, it’s a year for “self improvement and swift victories!” So, galloping on…

There are Taino carvings on the walls of Two Sisters Caves in Hellshire, St. Catherine, which the Urban Development Corporation has decided to effectively close to members of the public. (Photo: UDC website)

There are Taino carvings on the walls of Two Sisters Caves in Hellshire, St. Catherine, which the Urban Development Corporation has decided to effectively close to members of the public. (Photo: UDC website)

What’s the UDC up to? First the Urban Development Corporation (UDC) closed Little Dunn’s River, a popular bathing/relaxing spot for Jamaicans (yes, Jamaicans!) on the north coast (it’s now reopened due to media/public pressure). Now it has closed the Two Sisters Cave in Hellshire, St. Catherine to the public for “efficiency” reasons, and will only be open by appointment to groups of “at least fifty people.” Are they serious?

Tourism Minister Wykeham McNeill.

Tourism Minister Wykeham McNeill.

The jet skis: It seems clear that TPDCo (Tourism Product Development Company), the Ministry of Tourism and the police dropped the ball. They were not enforcing or monitoring the enforcement of regulations supposedly governing the activities of jet ski operators, when a tourist was hit and killed by a jet ski driver in Negril last week. I understand that the police took a long time to arrive; and that they stood around watching while vacationers and others tried to revive the man. An ambulance never came. The hospital is about an hour’s drive away, and I am told the tourist was dead before he reached there. I thought our tourist industry was so precious? Why are emergency services in the town almost non-existent  (for locals and visitors?)

I am still waiting to read a decent newspaper editorial that will make me sit up and think. It’s been weeks now…

“Big ups” to a group of wonderful Jamaican women:

Congratulations to Commissioner Tracy Robinson. (Photo: Juan Manuel Herrera/OAS

Congratulations to Commissioner Tracy Robinson. (Photo: Juan Manuel Herrera/OAS

Commissioner Tracy Robinson, who has just been appointed as the Thematic and Country Rapporteur for Bahamas, Honduras, Nicaragua and Suriname; Rapporteur on the Rights of Women; and Rapporteur on the Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Transsexual Bisexual and Intersex Persons at the Inter American Council on Human Rights (IACHR). Ms. Robinson is a Lecturer in Gender and the Law, Constitutional Law and Commonwealth Caribbean Human Rights at the Mona Campus of the University of the West Indies in Mona, Jamaica and First Vice-President of the IACHR.

Georgina Sergeon atop Good Life, her first ride after returning from a two-year absence due to injuries received from a fall. (Photo: Garfield Robinson/Jamaica Observer)

Georgina Sergeon atop Good Life, her first ride after returning from a two-year absence due to injuries received from a fall. (Photo: Garfield Robinson/Jamaica Observer)

Jamaica’s only female jockey Georgina Sergeon, who is back in the saddle this weekend after suffering serious injuries in a fall from her horse two years ago. Good luck, brave girl!

Erica Wynter has been elected President of the Young Entrepreneurs Association. (Photo: On The Ground News Reports)

Erica Wynter has been elected President of the Young Entrepreneurs Association. (Photo: On The Ground News Reports)

The new President of the Young Entrepreneurs Association is Ms.  Erica Wynter, Chief Executive Officer of C & E Innovational Services Limited. Wishing you all the best!

Valerie Viera of the Jamaica Business Development Corporation.

Valerie Viera of the Jamaica Business Development Corporation.

Valerie Viera heads the Jamaica Business Development Corporation, a government agency that supports and mentors micro-businesses and entrepreneurs (it was at JBDC that I met Nakia Jackson, the cook shop operator who was killed by the police last week). 29-year-old Rachel Anderson, who operates Myrtle Farm Industries in St. James, says she would have given up without Ms. Viera’s encouragement. She rears and plans to export ornamental fish.

Rachel Anderson at her farm in St. James. (Photo: Janet Silvera/Gleaner)

Rachel Anderson at her farm in St. James. (Photo: Janet Silvera/Gleaner)

22 civilians have already been killed this year in incidents involving the police. If we continue at this rate, we will surpass last year’s figure of 258 Jamaicans killed in 2013. And teachers at Kingston’s Dunrobin Primary School are grieving over the murder of their colleague Janice Atkinson-Reid, who was found murdered in her Portmore home on Wednesday. As always, I offer my deepest sympathies to all who mourn.

Gevin James, 29, Montego Bay, St. James

Killed by the police

Ryan Gibbs, 25, Crescent Road, Kingston

Gilbert Gillings, 28, Crescent Road, Kingston

Rayon Spence, 30, Bethel Town, Westmoreland

Bridget Brooks-White (foreground) and Cheryl Taylor-Turgott, teachers at the Dunrobin Primary School, are in tears during a counselling session yesterday, as the school family mourns the death of Janice Atkinson-Reid, who was a teacher at the school.

Bridget Brooks-White (foreground) and Cheryl Taylor-Turgott, teachers at the Dunrobin Primary School, are in tears during a counselling session yesterday, as the school family mourns the death of Janice Atkinson-Reid, who was a teacher at the school.