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)

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.

Top 10 Sexist and Heterosexist Moments in Caribbean Politics

petchary:

I sometimes wonder if we are going backwards in terms of minority rights and gender equality in the Caribbean. Or rather, in terms of attitudes. This blog post, giving examples of the most appalling behavior by some of our leaders, who should be setting an example, sent me reeling. Take a deep breath before reading…

Originally posted on Feminist conversations on Caribbean life:

Contribute to the final list of top 10 sexist & heterosexist moments in Caribbean politics by leaving your suggestions in the comments below.  Here are what i’ve been able to come up with in no particular order. Thanks to all who sent suggestions via facebook and twitter.

1. Trinidad & Tobago: Minister of People and Social Development claims “severe fatigue” after a flight attendant alleges that he touched her breasts when he grabbed her name-tag and threatened to have her fired because she asked him to stow his luggage correctly.  The Prime Minister then fired him.  Before the dust could settle on this one, police were investigating reports that the Minister of tourism had physically assaulted his former partner, causing her to lose consciousness.

2. Barbados: Minister of Social Care, Constituency Empowerment and Community Development “issued a warning” the staff of the Bureau of Gender Affairs after…

View original 1,181 more words

Choking on Sunday, March 16, 2014

As a combination of carcinogens wafts gently towards the mansions perched on the hills surrounding Kingston (see previous post) we are told, reassuringly, that the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) has activated its emergency plan. ODPEM also tells us to cover our noses, as the accumulated carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide and other chemicals spread across the city. Great. Is this a ploy to soften up the general public, in anticipation of the coal-fired power plant that is planned for our largest protected area?

The Riverton City dump fire still alive and well at sunset today. It has been burning since before 7 this morning.

The Riverton City dump fire still alive and well at sunset today. It has been burning since before 7 this morning.

Whether the fire was deliberately set or not, whether there was not enough water to put it out etc. is neither here nor there. The fact is that our numerous environmental laws and regulations are neither obeyed nor enforced. The government agencies responsible are delinquent in their duties. The head of the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) said just a few days ago that the Riverton City dump that is now on fire is operating without a license and therefore illegal; but that there was no point in issuing a license, as the operators would be in breach of it. The logic of that frightens and baffles me.

A supporter of Mr. Vybz Kartel outside the court house in downtown Kingston on Thursday does not believe in God, but suggests that the deejay ("World Boss") is all you need to get by in life.

A supporter of Mr. Vybz Kartel outside the court house in downtown Kingston on Thursday does not believe in God, but suggests that the deejay (“World Boss”) is all you need to get by in life.

Vybz Kartel (Adijah Palmer) outside court this week.

Vybz Kartel (Adijah Palmer) outside court this week.

Well, the only other big story this week, our local media informs us, is the conclusion of a very long murder trial – that of dancehall star Vybz Kartel. He and some of his followers were found guilty of murder and disposing of the body of Clive Williams, known as “Lizard.” I have hardly commented on it over all these weeks, but it has sucked all the air out of many a newscast, causing me to reach for the “off” button on many occasions. Now over the past three days we have endured the semi-hysteria among some journalists over the verdict; followed by endless analyses and hyperbole about Mr. Kartel’s incredible talent (including his obligatory misogynistic lyrics, one assumes). Some commentators seem to think Mr. Kartel should have been “given a chance.” Others think…whatever. Fact is, some men were tried for murder, and all except one found guilty. And the victim’s family is left to suffer; his sister (who poured her heart out on national radio this week) has been warned not to express her grief and pain publicly any more and is now under police protection because of death threats. At least the media eventually took notice of the human lives affected in all of this.

I guess I am tired of the tabloid sensationalism that is spreading through our journalism landscape (at least in the traditional media). Of course there are some exceptions (such as the solid environmental reporting in the Jamaica Observer). But in general I get more information (and enjoyment) from online commentary and media and blogs, these days. Plus, as we all know, Twitter in Jamaica is always ahead of the local news.

Desmond "Ninja Man" Ballentine and his son Jamel are charged with murder.

The now middle-aged dancehall deejay Desmond “Ninja Man” Ballentine and his son Jamel are charged with murder.

But wait! For those Jamaicans (and media practitioners) suffering from withdrawal symptoms after the thrills and spills of the Kartel trial, another “dancehall star murder” trial is about to begin, I am informed, on April 7… That of Desmond “Ninja Man” Ballentine, who is charged with murder along with his son.

Talking of murder (I wish I wasn’t) it may have escaped some Jamaicans’ notice that Police Constable Collis “Chuckie” Brown has been charged with four counts of murder and two of wounding with intent. He was arrested in January after a search of the Mandeville Police Station, where a number of weapons were found. Congratulations to the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) for their dedicated work. A few years ago, such a thing would have been unheard of.

Good to hear that a Spanish firm called Hospiten is building a new state-of-the-art hospital in Montego Bay. This is in the name of “medical tourism,” I understand.  It is hardly likely that many Jamaicans will be able to get treatment at this private facility, of course.

Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller enters the Montego Bay Convention Centre, flanked by Hospiten's chairman, Dr Pedro Luis Cobiella (right), and State Minister in the Ministry of Industry Investment and Commerce Sharon Ffolkes Abrahams.-Photo by Claudia Gardner

Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller enters the Montego Bay Convention Centre, flanked by Hospiten’s chairman, Dr Pedro Luis Cobiella (right), and State Minister in the Ministry of Industry Investment and Commerce Sharon Ffolkes Abrahams.-Photo by Claudia Gardner

A happy Shanique Myrie leaves the Supreme Court after hearing the Caribbean Court of Justice ruling in her case. – Norman Grindley/Gleaner

A happy Shanique Myrie leaves the Supreme Court after hearing the Caribbean Court of Justice ruling in her case, five months ago. She has still not received her settlement from the Barbados Government. (Photo: Norman Grindley/Gleaner)

I suppose they consider these sunglasses very cool: the grandstanding defense team of Tom Tavares Finson (left) and son Christian. (Photo: Gleaner)

I suppose they consider these sunglasses very cool: the grandstanding “superstar” defense team of Tom Tavares Finson (left) and son Christian at the trial of Adijah Palmer (Vybz Kartel).(Photo: Gleaner)

I am not impressed that the Barbados government has still not paid Ms. Shanique Myrie the J$3.6 million damages awarded after the Caribbean Court of Justice found that it breached her right to enter the country under Article 5 of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas. The Barbadians claim there are still some legal fees to sort out but have promised to comply. I should hope so. Just get on and do the right thing, now. Or are they waiting for our wretched Jamaican Dollar to devalue some more? As it certainly has since the October, 2013 ruling.

Jamaican Internet access according to the UN Broadband Commission for Digital Development, has improved from 31.5 per cent to 46.5 per cent since 2011. Not bad at all, but we still have a long way to go.

Muchissimos kudos to:

  • All participants in the ongoing debate in the Upper House on quotas for women in the public service, which was sparked by Senator Imani Duncan-Price’s excellent presentation (which I published in full here: http://petchary.wordpress.com/2014/03/10/we-have-to-shock-the-system-senator-imani-duncan-prices-presentation-in-parliament-march-7-2014/) Those who spoke on Friday (Senators Angela Brown Burke and Sophia Binns on the government side, and Nigel Clarke and Kavan Gayle on the Opposition side) acquitted themselves well. I was happy to see that the male Opposition Senators – both in eloquent and well-reasoned presentations – supported Senator Duncan-Price. It was a most rewarding and interesting Friday morning. The debate continues on Friday 21st March at 10:00 a.m. at Gordon House. Why not go down there and listen in? But as someone pointed out to me, our Parliament is completely inaccessible for people with disabilities. Yes. 
  • Palace Amusement Company for simply making our weekend with its live HD broadcast from the Metropolitan Opera of New York. The production of “Werther,”
  • Shauna Fuller Clarke for the tremendous success of Jamaica’s first-ever participation in the global MIllion Woman March for Endometriosis on Thursday. Congratulations to all who supported her BASE Foundation. Over 500 Jamaicans attended which was an incredible turnout. Well done Shauna, and all!
Getting ready for the march for endometriosis, which was attended by over 500 Jamaicans. (Photo: Facebook)

Getting ready for the march for endometriosis, which was attended by over 500 Jamaicans. (Photo: Facebook)

My deepest condolences to the families of the following Jamaican citizens, who lost their lives to violence in the past four days:

Louie Cooper, 62, Willowdene, St. Catherine

Fitzroy Miller, Frankfield, Clarendon

Raymore Wilson, 47, Cornwall Courts/Montego Bay, St. James

Desmond Williams, 50, Baxters Mountain/Annotto Bay, St. Mary

Tour bus operator Raymore Wilson was shot dead in front of his wife and child, after they were held up and robbed outside their home in Montego Bay on Friday night. (Photo: On The Ground News Reports)

Tour bus operator Raymore Wilson was shot dead in front of his wife and child, after they were held up and robbed outside their home in Montego Bay on Friday night. (Photo: On The Ground News Reports)

“We Have to Shock the System”: Senator Imani Duncan-Price’s Presentation in Parliament, March 7, 2014

The past few days in Jamaica surrounding International Women’s Day have been powerful and progressive, I feel. Here is a contribution made by Senator Imani Duncan-Price in the Upper House last Friday. It is quite long but offers much food for thought on the need to “jump start” solutions to break down the Persistent Patriarchy and take meaningful steps towards gender equity.

Senator Duncan-Price put forward this Motion to Advance Women’s Leadership in Politics and Decision Making.  The debate will continue next Friday, March 14, and I and other supporters and interested parties intend to be there.

Here is the full, unedited text. Do take a read, share and discuss…

Women and Men Leading in Partnership: The Move Forward for Inclusive Development and Growth

“When women and men lead together, decisions better reflect and respond to the diverse needs of society. Countries and companies with higher levels of gender equality have higher levels of growth and performance.”

Michelle Bachelet

United Nations Women, Executive Director 2010-2013

Mr. President I stand today to lay the basis for the motion in my name which seeks to ‘Advance Women’s Leadership in Politics and Decision-Making’.

Of course, in bringing such a motion to this honorable Senate, I am quite aware and indeed humbled as I stand on the shoulders on the many brave and courageous women who have been the forerunners. I take this opportunity to publicly acknowledge and honor the work of all the Elders and Gender Pioneers/Champions who have worked so hard to get us to where we are today – the women who came together from the days of our people’s enslavement as real ‘Rebel Women’ to make a difference that we the daughters and granddaughters could benefit in truly life-changing ways. We thank Nanny, and all our enslaved foremothers, I thank Mary Seacole, Edna Manley, Aggie Bernard, Amy Bailey, Mary Morris-Knibb, Lady Bustamante, Rose Leon, Valerie McNeil and the team who fought and laid the base in the years leading up to 1974; Lucille Mathurin Mair who led the first Women’s Desk in the Office of the Prime Minister in 1974, Jeanette Grant-Woodham who became the first female President of the Senate in 1984. During the activism of the 1970s, Beverley Manley Duncan – the first President of the PNP Women’s Movement in early 1970’s – led courageously from within the male-dominated political party, and along with other Rebel Women such as Joan French, Linnette Vassell, Judith Wedderburn, Marjorie Taylor, Barbara Bailey, Jennifer Edwards to name a few – I thank all forerunners who linked hands with women across all social classes, who fought for  and won seminal legislation that created a shift in our society – No Bastard No Deh Again; Maternity Leave, Equal Pay for Equal Work.

Mr. President, I say thank you to my mother, Grace Duncan – the Rebel Woman who consistently held on to what she called “irrational hope” seeing to the building of 27 Schools of Hope across Jamaica, in the face of limited resources available – such was her commitment to disabled children and the community – she showed me daily what was possible as she also raised her family with the critical support of our ‘village’ – of which my father, Dr. D.K. Duncan was central – neither of them showed me limitations – only possibilities.

Mr. President, I say thank you to the organizations and leaders that continue the gender work today – Women’s Resource and Outreach Centre (WROC), Jamaica Women’s Political Caucus, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES), PNP Women’s Movement, Fathers Inc, the JLP’s National Organization of Women and Women Freedom Movement, UWI’s Institute for Gender and Development Studies, Young Women’s Leadership Initiative, International Women’s Forum, Women Business Owners and the 51% Coalition to name a few. I am honoured to have so many stalwarts here today with us in the Senate and indeed many young women who are committed to gender equity and equality in decision-making.

And indeed thank you to the Most Honorable Prime Minister Simpson Miller not only for the confidence reposed in me as a Senator, but also for:

having the fortitude and courage to put herself forward as a political representative 40 years ago and having the perseverance to stay the course, and ultimately becoming Jamaica’s first female Prime Minister

And, thank you to our Most Honorable Prime Minister for:

making definitive decisions that have contributed to this Senate being comprised of 28.6% females – the highest ever in our history and very close to the 30% target stated in the 2011 National Policy on Gender Equality – a policy whose frame was initiated in 2004 and which enjoys the support of both political parties.

And Mr. President, I say thank you to my husband Stephen Price – I have to ‘Big Him Up’ as my genuine partner. Our partnership is manifested in our love, our respect, our communication and equality in parenting – his unequivocal support enables me to contribute to national development in this way and I thank him.

My fellow Senators, on this day, March 7th, 2014, the day before International Women’s Day We honor all these women, and indeed the men who supported them, support us as women – we honor them all with love, respect and humility.

Indeed, Mr. President, on this day, the day before International Women’s Day we honor women’s advancement, while diligently reminding of the continued vigilance and action required to ensure that women’s equality is gained and maintained in all aspects of life – and for the purposes of this motion today, specifically we look to the action to ensure that women’s equality is gained and maintained in political leadership and decision-making.

For Mr. President, I move this motion not only as one culmination of 40 years of work – of sweat, tears, and sacrifice. Indeed the time for this motion is NOW, the timing for this motion is imperative because of the nature of the challenges that we face as a country.

These challenging times call for partnerships of no uncertain order.  These challenging times calls for Smart Economics.

So how is this linked to Women in Leadership and Decision-Making?

Gender Equality and Smart Economics

Drawing on various studies and analyses of different countries performance, the World Bank’s 2012 World Development Report states unequivocally that “gender equality is smart economics”.

Let’s explore this. What is Gender Equality?

Mr. President when I say gender equality – I mean men and women working together in partnership with more equal representation – sharing competencies and perspectives critical for effective development results. Gender is a relational concept, looking at men vis-à-vis women, and women vis-à-vis men – it is evidence based and data driven – based on disaggregated data, analyzed through race and class to drive insight and action. Mr. President, Gender equality does NOT mean women and men will or have to become the same. Gender equality does NOT mean that women want to take over from men. It means that the rights, responsibilities and opportunities for girls and boys, women and men will NOT depend on whether they are born female or male.  Gender Equality implies that the interests, needs and priorities of men, women, boys and girls are taken into consideration, because of the diversity of issues faced and how these may impact them differently. Mr. President, equality between women and men is a human right, enshrined in our Constitution and my Motion is rooted in this Fundamental Law.

Indeed, my fellow senators, Gender equality ensures equal opportunity and equality of outcomes which allow for the possibility that women and men may make choices which benefit them and their families, without intervening systemic and structural barriers.

Let me elucidate how Gender Equality ties to Smart Economics:

  • Smart Economics means being responsive to your customer base – in this instance, the women, who in the majority make decisions about expenditure in the market place and who in the majority also, work in our political processes.
  • Smart Economics is essentially what the Most Honourable Prime Minister has charged her team with – Balancing the Books while Balancing People’s Lives – enabling women and men to move from ‘‘welfare to work and from work to wealth creation’.
  • Smart Economics means our best resources, men and women together, are optimally engaged to establish and strengthen the base for growth in our economy.

But how do we get there in a practical way, in an urgent way?  This brings us to Gender Equality. For Gender Equality is Smart Economics!

Let’s think about it – with gender equality, the experiences, abilities and insights of both women and men are a win-win solution for Jamaica. We know that women’s experiences across sectors, as professionals, as consumers, as primary care-givers of children – daughters AND sons – caregivers of the elderly, as managers of family resources, as practitioners of one kind or another will bring different and diverse abilities, expertise and skills to their performances at the different levels of leadership, which men by virtue of their different gendered roles will not.  Men bring other positives to the table. We need both sets of talents for better results! And I think we can all agree that Jamaica needs extraordinary results now.

Indeed, the 2012 World Bank reports unequivocally that

  •  Gender Equality enhances economic productivity
  • Gender Equality improves development outcomes for the next generation
  • Gender Equality makes institutions and policies more representative and so the laws do more for all the different groups of society, especially the marginalized.

In short, Gender Equality is Smart Economics! And no one can deny that Jamaica needs smart economics NOW.

Mr. President, please note that I do not simply hang my argument based on the World Bank’s view, but the actual results tell a powerful and compelling story.

From a private sector perspective, studies published by Forbes magazine and Catalyst (a research NGO) in 2011 indicate that Companies with a higher number of women on their Boards had a “53% higher return on equity, 66% higher return on invested capital and 42% higher return on sales.”

In fact, since women tend to be more risk averse than their male counterparts, other surveys have shown that companies with gender-diverse boards came through the recession faster and better than companies with all-male boards. In addition, a survey of over 600 board directors found that at the board level where directors must take the views of multiple stakeholders into account, women’s more cooperative approach to decision-making created better performance for their companies.

Why wouldn’t we in Jamaica want to create similar conditions and results as a country?

Don’t the taxpayers of our country, don’t the citizens of our country – the voters, who are akin to shareholders of companies, deserve extraordinary results?

We have the power to support this motion and put in place quotas as a structural enabler that can lead to better results – for Gender Equality is Smart Economics. And Jamaica needs Smart Economics now.

The current state of Gender Equality in Financial resources… in Political Leadership

The lived experiences of women and men remind us that patriarchy is alive and well. I wish to emphasize that Patriarchy is not a code for or against men, and does not refer to any individual or collection of men.  Patriarchy is a reference to a kind of society in which men and women are in unequal relations of power which affects relationships in all spheres.  It encompasses the organization of social systems, practices and structures (home, work, churches, political parties, parliaments) in which men and women live and work, and have relations.

And yes Mr. President, in spite of all the gains, in spite of the fact that women are involved in areas previously thought to be non-traditional, it is important to recognize that Patriarchy is alive and well in Jamaica.  So that even when there is a woman as Prime Minister of our country and we have a high % of women in our universities (62% women versus 38% men registered) and 55% of the graduates of HEART in 2012 were women; and women are leading certain arms of Government (like the Judiciary with the Hon. Mrs. Justice Zaila McCalla), patriarchal power “runs things”. The power dynamics of this are real and shape the relationships between women and men in all aspects of our lives. Women are not in equal numbers at the table, in decision-making – equally participating throughout society. Women are still twice as likely to be unemployed or employed in low-paying jobs compared to men in Jamaica[1]. In fact, a 2010 IDB study revealed that on average women in Jamaica at all levels earn approximately 12.5% less than males for the same jobs.

This clearly indicates that notwithstanding the significant numbers of women trained to contribute to the local economy as well as educationally and professionally qualified for strategic decision making positions, the system of equal opportunity and/or rewards remains inequitable. Indeed, the system remains inequitably favorable towards men.

As a percentage, “one or two” women are let in from time to time but the power remains firmly in the hands of male privilege. It’s amazing actually if you think about it, it’s also an example of how systems persist and perpetuate themselves – a few get through so you can always point and say “see – they did it” – but the underlying structure of the system actually has not changed, the patriarchy system is resilient and resistant to change. So we still see contemptuous attitudes and offensive behaviors towards women often manifesting in abuse – verbal, physical, sexual and otherwise.

Patriarchy also harms men by defining manhood, defining what it means to be a man in Jamaica, defining masculinities in ways that drive SOME men and boys into risky anti-social and dangerous behaviors and to, in many ways, devalue education, for example and hurt our families and society.

Mr. President, the patriarchal system is alive in the results we see in leadership representation in politics and perpetuates the system itself.

My fellow Senators, think about this, the participation rate of women in general elections and local government elections as candidates is significantly low and thus the subsequent representation rates of women (those who actually win) are also significantly lower than men. And this reality is one that has persisted from 1944. Indeed, data from the Electoral Office of Jamaica indicates that of the 835 persons elected to Parliament in the 70 years since 1944, only 67 have been females – 8%.

According to the current data for 2014, women now represent a mere 12.7% of the Members of Parliament, 20% of the Cabinet, and 28.6% of the Senate. The  highest ever achieved for the Members of Parliament was 15% and that was in 1997.  This is not good enough.

Indeed, as Michelle Bachelet, United Nations Women, Executive Director 2010-2013 stated,

“When one woman is a leader, it changes her. When more women are leaders, it changes politics and policies.”

Despite the gains, our situation in Jamaica, our results have been persistent. This is not good enough.

  •  Not good enough when women make up 51% of the Jamaican population
  • Not good enough after 50 years of political independence
  • Not good enough after 70 years of Universal Adult Suffrage, when in 1944, Iris Collins of the JLP successfully ran and won her seat as the first female Member of Parliament.

When I researched and analyzed the background to this – the fact is that women accounted for only 35% of those running for political office in the 2011 General Elections. Women weren’t even ½ of the possibility set.  Of the sixty-three (63) seats contested, twenty-two (22) seats were contested by women.   As indicated before, of that 22, only 8 or 12.7% won their seats.

As legislators, as leaders in this Honorable Senate, I’m asking you for just a moment to think about this. I believe we need to be aware of the reality around us that generates this result consistently for over 40 years – it’s the paradigm we grew up in, are living in. And by paradigm, I’m referring to the definition from Landmark Corporation that says “essentially a paradigm defines the limits of the way we perceive or see things”. The figures to-date serve to show that a deliberate and strategic approach must be taken towards improving this imbalance in gender-power and in decision-making given the active role women continue to play in the shaping of politics, its associated institutions and national development. Women must be seen as integral components for effective development planning and this should therefore be reflected in the very numbers which are appointed and elected to higher office.

I ask you to really consider this because it this persistent reality that necessitates the need for temporary special measures – we have to shock the system – we, as women and men, have to rally against this system not only because:

  1. It’s right, a human right that spaces are made at the table for 51% of the population. We need all talents at the table.  And,
  2. All talents being engaged at the table for Jamaica’s benefit as gender equality is smart economics. And Jamaica needs Smart economics now.

Gender Quotas to Generate Gender Equality in Political Leadership and Decision-making

Given the slow speed by which the number of women in politics has grown, the time is therefore now for more efficient methods reach a gender balance in political institutions. Quotas, as a temporary special measure, present ONE such mechanism that has proved to be effective. You see Mr. President, I am not proposing we step into unchartered waters.

In recognition of the persistence of the patriarchal system that men and women have grown up in across the world accounting for low % globally for women in decision-making roles, many countries across the world now have moved beyond mere discussion about the possibility of instituting a Gender Quota/Gender Parity policy as integral to the functioning of the political system, to having ensured the place of women as necessary to the equitable and effective functioning of their democracies.

Countries and case examples are numerous in different parts of the world with different cultures and stages of democracy. Of significant prominence in Europe is Iceland, Denmark, and Sweden. In terms of countries which have emerged not only as newly democratic, but out of situations of war and stark female discrimination –Rwanda, in particular, Cameroon, Zimbabwe, Tunisia and South Africa are all success stories where employing gender quotas of different types has not only improved and cemented a commitment to inclusive democracy, but in particular, has assisted in solidifying the critical role of women in political decision making. This wave of transformation has also moved throughout Latin America. Costa Rica, Panama, Uruguay, Columbia, Brazil, Chile and even the former dictatorship Bolivia have all been proactive in forging ahead with ensuring more equal representation of women in politics at the national and local government level. Closer to home, Guyana is the only CARICOM Caribbean country with a legislated Candidate Quota system, introduced as a Constitutional measure. On each political party list, one third of candidates must be women (they have 30% women in their National Assembly).

This advancing of gender quotas in the political sphere therefore presents a unique opportunity for Jamaica who has often been at the vanguard in international progressive movements to be a part of the process, given the possibility of such a system to be more politically inclusive of women leading to better results for our country. All this as Gender Equality is Smart Economics.

And Mr. President, please be reminded that when I say Gender – that means women AND men, Gender refers specifically to the relationships between women and men, in the many different spaces that they share. WE here can take on the fight for Women and Men recognizing value in both perspectives and experiences. By virtue of the ways in which we are raised, the different experiences and expectations that men and women have across class and race in Jamaica  lead to us as men and women seeing things differently, we have discourse and discussions differently – and both ways are valuable – the combination of both leads to smart economics, smart leadership. Furthermore, Mr. President, we must acknowledge women’s rights as human rights, and that like men, they should be equally present in these decision-making spaces.

As a country, we must find the way make the best use of the capabilities of women at the highest levels of decision making. In the search for our solutions, we must cause changes in the way we organize our society, that is, if we are serious about overcoming current challenges and placing Jamaica on a sustainable path for economic growth and development.  We need a game-changer – we must shock the system!

So how do we get there?

My recommendation: Draft Terms of Reference for Joint Select Committee – bi-partisan and gender balanced

I look forward to the debate in this Honorable Senate on how best to improve the place of women in the political leadership sphere and decision making process.

Let me state unequivocally, as a young woman I started out with the view that the incremental approach, the time-based approach would be sufficient – in time as more and more women were trained, built the confidence, they, we would find a place at the table. However, working in the private sector in Executive Leadership, working in the Political parties in the current political culture, becoming a mother, caring for a dying parent – my own mother – and looking at the systems of support, looking at the decisions made on policies and programmes for public benefit, looking at who has access to power, and who continues to make the decisions and the process for equity in gender in leadership and decision-making, I’ve come to the view that we need a definitive game-changer so more women across different socio-economic classes have an opportunity to pursue whatever aspirations that may have – as we would have effectively addressed some of the barriers.

And please note, Mr. President, this is not because our men are not smart and well-meaning – they just have a perspective that is grounded in their upbringing and experience as men – which is valuable but not balanced nor allows for the full picture for balanced laws, policies and programmes. For remember, the system in which we all live and work is grounded in patriarchy – which inhibits not only women as a group, but also some men based on their social and economic status.  This has contributed to the slow pace at which we have tackled this and other women’s issues over the last 40 years.

Given this persistent situation, I propose that we convene a Joint Select Committee – that is a committee comprised of both Senators and members of the Lower House, 50:50 bi-partisan, and grounded in gender equality. This Parliamentary Committee so constructed can make a practical difference for Jamaica and the time is right given our electoral 5 year cycle, as candidate selections will likely occur within the next 18 months. How can we make an effective difference this time around? A difference that will lead to creating greater gender equality – a difference that will lead to ‘smart economics’. There is no time to wait and we must plan properly for the desired results of inclusive development – indeed Jamaica needs Smart Economics and Smart Leadership now.

I recommend that this Committee seek to:

  1. Identify specific, practical recommendations for the political parties to activate in light of the barriers that women face in engaging the political sphere as leaders as identified in the National Policy on Gender Equality
  2. Review and recommend the types of Temporary Special Measures such as gender quotas, that would work most effectively in our political culture given the objectives of gender equality in political leadership

Given my analysis of the situation, I would ask that the Committee review my proposal regarding the latter. I believe the best way forward is to employ a Temporary Special Measure by way of instituting a Gender Neutral Quota system for the Senate and for the Candidate Slate of Political Parties which ultimately results in the gender composition of MPs in the Lower House. Within this frame, neither gender would fill more than 60% nor less than 40% of the appointed or elected positions in either the Senate or the House of Representatives. Such a move will also ensure that our men, whose contribution is valuable in the governance process are not in turn subject to discrimination.

For the Senate, I believe that a legislated Gender–Neutral Reserved Seat system of 60%/40% should be in place in terms of recommendations for appointments. This goes further than the 30% stated in the National Policy on Gender Equality – this is so because women make up 51% of the population and it takes us closer to true representation.

For the Lower House, to maintain the efficacy of democracy – the right of the people to vote for who they desire to represent and lead them, I do not recommend reserved seats. Instead, I recommend instituting a minimum 40% Gender Neutral Candidate Quota System from each political Party’s slate. This could be legislated or voluntary. In either case though, the rank order of the candidates on the lists would be regulated, so that women candidates are not just placed at the bottom of the lists with ‘unwinnable seats’. Sanctions for non-compliance would also be important to look at.

I recommend that such a system of special measures be instituted for only two terms or for a 10 year period while we also implement the plans laid out in the National Policy on Gender Equality, which seeks to change and improve the systemic problems – the social, political, economic, and psychological barriers which have prevented both men and women from achieving an enlightened understanding of the critical role of women in all spheres of decision-making.

Some will argue that it is the very systemic issues with the wider negative societal socialization about women as leaders which have hindered the gradual progression and accession of more women into representational politics and other positions of leadership external to ‘politics’. It may even be further proposed by some, to just deepen the focus on the socialization and re-socialization of our young men and women in order to address the barriers to female leadership-much of which has been psychological – before or even instead of taking this step of temporary special measures, Gender quotas.

I argue that the data clearly speaks to the reality – the patriarchal reality – and so the system needs a game-changer – the system needs a shock to achieve Gender Equality necessary for more inclusive and effective decision-making. But this game-changer to create that necessary shift MUST be done in conjunction with programmes highlighted in the National Policy on Gender Equality to effectively address the systemic issues.  For if we do not do the latter, when the recommended timeframe for the temporary special measures elapses – the society would not  have fundamentally shifted and provide a consistent flow of female leaders to be present in the Senate, in the Lower House, on Public Boards etc.

And please note, Mr. President, when I speak of quotas – it does not mean giving women space just for the sake of them being women as I do not advocate or support a man getting a position just because he’s in the boy’s club. This is our country’s political leadership – this is decision-making regarding policies and programs and our nation’s resources. As such, I expect that both women and men who put themselves up for representation and those who are called on for duty must meet standards for leadership and qualifications. These standards and qualifications are not dictated by a tertiary degree as that is not the end all be all, but may include experience and exhibited competencies in leadership within their community or other organization(s), they will be critical and analytical thinkers, they will have heart, they will hold that leadership at this level is a privilege, they will hold themselves to high standards of integrity and honesty taking into account the principles of good governance and they will be genuinely committed to the process of development of our Nation.

Conclusion

So Mr. President, I submit that we in this Honorable Senate can take the bold steps to pursue both the necessary long-term changes and the game-changer necessary to create the platform for greater gender equality in political leadership. Let us openly and unreservedly start the deepening of the participatory process. Let us here in this honourable Senate explicitly acknowledge the critical importance of a balanced gendered approach to participatory governance and the decision making process, which will eliminate the notion of a male dominated political system and create a true partnership of men and women working together with all of society benefitting from the insights, talents, resources and skills from a wider cross-section. Let us lift up our women as a group in this Nation – stating unequivocally that Gender Equality is Smart Leadership – and this a means to peace and prosperity for Jamaica, land we love.

Thank you.


[1] In 2007, according to the Jamaica Economic Statistics Database (JESD), unemployment by gender as a percentage of the total unemployed labour force stood at 14.3 percent for women, while unemployment for men was 5.5 percent.  Fast forward to October 2013, unemployment for women has moved to approximately 20 percent, while male unemployment has risen to 14.6 percent, still comparatively lower than that of unemployment of women.

Of Ports, Pinnacle and Paradise

petchary:

I am sharing this first blog post on the First of March from a good friend. She has a keen eye and sharp intellect and is a woman of strong faith, too. I do hope you will follow her – and look forward to the next post!

Originally posted on Thru Red, Gold & Green Spectacles:

Little-Goat-Island--A-S COAL INSTEAD OF CORALS     This week brought the shocking news that the proposed mega-port logistics hub to be build by Chinese company CHEC will include a coal-fired electricity generating plant. If the news of the total destruction of the land, fish sanctuaries and coral reefs is not enough, Jamaican citizens will experience the smoke, ash and waste products from the world’s worst fossil fuel. With all the sunshine and land available, I wonder whether China could not have been persuaded to use some of its millions of surplus solar panels to construct a solar power plant for the controversial project. I wonder too if the proposed ‘Chinatown” city for the project’s Chinese staff will also be powered by this plant.

The smoke rising from the coal furnaces will either blow east to Kingston, west to St. Catherine or directly up to the Sligoville hills, and Pinnacle. It all…

View original 1,215 more words

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)

International Union for the Conservation of Nature writes to the Jamaican Government re: Goat Islands

Please see below yesterday’s press release from the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET). The  International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has expressed deep concern over the proposed transshipment port. It notes that the Portland Bight Protected Area (PBPA) has been recognized as a Key Biodiversity Area (by the Critical Ecosystems Partnership Fund), an Important Bird Area (by BirdLife International), an Alliance for Zero Extinction site, and a Wetlands of International Importance (identified by the Ramsar Convention) and points out that Jamaica is a Party to the Convention on Biodiversity. There have been other pleas, local and international, not to develop the PBPA near to Goat Islands. Will this two-page letter from such an important international institution (co-signed by the IUCN’s Director General and Species Survival Commission Chair) fall on deaf ears, too? 

IUCN Species Survival Commission.

IUCN Species Survival Commission.

The Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) has learned that the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has written to the Jamaican government expressing concern about the proposed port development in the Portland Bight Protected Area near to the Goat Islands.

The letter is dated 29th January 2014 and is addressed to the Minister of Land Water Environment and Climate Change, Hon Robert Pickersgill.  Signed by the Director General [Julia Marton-Lefèvre], the letter outlines the valuable natural resources and ecosystem functions provided by the Portland Bight Protected Area.

The IUCN is the world’s oldest and largest global environmental organization, founded in 1948.  It is a leading authority on biological diversity and sustainable development with more than 1,200 member organizations, including over 200 governments.  Conserving biodiversity is central to the IUCN’s mission, particularly as a means to address global challenges such as climate change and food security.  Jamaica is a member of the IUCN.

JET thanks the IUCN for their interest in Jamaica and hopes the Jamaican Government will take on board the many concerns outlined in the letter, specifically the need for a Strategic Environmental Assessment before any decision is taken about this controversial project.

For further details contact: Diana McCaulay, CEO, Tel: (876) 469-1315

For more on the IUCN, go to: http://www.iucn.org  There is a good page there explaining the importance of biodiversity: http://www.iucn.org/what/biodiversity/about/ and additional information on the Species Survival Commission: http://www.iucn.org/about/work/programmes/species/who_we_are/about_the_species_survival_commission_/

A glimpse of the large, pristine mangrove forest that surrounds the Goat Islands. The vegetation, and in particular the mangroves, provide millions of dollars' worth of carbon sequestration services annually - an important factor in the fight against climate change. (Photo: Max Earle)

A glimpse of the large, pristine mangrove forest that surrounds the Goat Islands. The vegetation, and in particular the mangroves, provide millions of dollars’ worth of carbon sequestration services annually – an important factor in the fight against climate change. (Photo: Max Earle)

 

Goat Islands, Portland Bight Protected Area. (Photo: Max Earle)

Goat Islands, Portland Bight Protected Area, which is designated a Wetlands of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention, to which Jamaica is a signatory. (Photo: Max Earle)

 

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)

More Supporters Every Day: Save Goat Islands

When I last posted an update about support for the campaign to save the Portland Bight Protected Area, including Goat Islands, I noted, “The Jamaican Government remains alarmingly silent on the matter.” Nothing much has changed. We now hear remarks by Government officials that the proposed transshipment port, to be built by China Harbour Engineering Company, is on track and will be considered by Cabinet in the near future. Minister of Transport and Works Omar Davies apparently has a “draft agreement” in his possession. When asked months ago by journalists for a copy of this agreement last year, Minister Davies prevaricated. Of course, the agreement was never made public. In fact, the Government has blocked efforts to get additional information on the planned project through the Access to Information Act (see my recent posts for further information).

Well, I have updated the list that I posted on December 29, 2013 of all the organizations (and some influential individuals) that have come out in support of the campaign. They are in Jamaica, the UK, USA, Cayman Islands, Puerto Rico, New Zealand, Brazil, Belgium, Netherlands, South Africa…even Vietnam.  As I noted before, scientists are part of a global network that knows no borders. They continuously support each other, collaborating on field expeditions and programs (such as the Caribbean Birding Trail, which includes this protected area). If I have made any errors in this list – or have omitted anyone that I should have included – please let me know. As you can see, the list has grown longer. There are more supporters every day!

How can you help? 

Read the Briefing Paper on the Goat Islands/Portland Bight posted by the Jamaica Environment Trust on its new website: http://savegoatislands.org, where you can find updates, articles and much information, including ways in which you can help. The link is here: http://savegoatislands.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/Goat_Islands_PBPA_Briefing_Paper.pdf

Become a member of the Jamaica Environment Trust! Volunteer, or make a donation… Visit the JET website at www.jamentrust.org for more details.

Buy a Save Goat Islands T-shirt – available via the online form in Jamaica (J$1000) or in the U.S. for $15 at this link: https://www.booster.com/savegoatisland. See the Save Goat Islands website for further details.

Share the short animated video “Don’t mess with Goat Islands,” created by Jamaicans. Here it is: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E7wAg7y3h2A (It’s very catchy, I warn you!) Lyrics: Inilek Wilmot; Vocals: Quecee; Music: Jeremy Ashbourne. Animation: NivekPro Animations. A new, beautiful PSA video can also be seen at http://savegoatislands.org/photos-videos/videos/

Thousands of people from Jamaica and around the world have signed the petition on change.org, here: http://www.change.org/petitions/no-to-port-on-goat-island-jamaica-no-trans-shipping-port-portland-bight-protected-area-jamaica?share_id=eqkTTbjcGd&utm_campaign=autopublish&utm_medium=facebook&utm_source=share_petition  If you have not signed it yet, please consider doing so and share with anyone who may be interested. It includes many heartfelt comments from supporters, as well as additional articles and information.

Write to Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller; President/CEO of the Port Authority of Jamaica Professor Gordon Shirley; Dr. Omar Davies, Minister of Transport and Works; and Robert Pickersgill, Minister of Land Water Environment and Climate Change.

Write letters to the newspapers: the Jamaica Gleaner (letters@gleanerjm.com) and the Jamaica Observer (editorial@jamaicaobserver.com). If you are overseas, please spread the word online via the media, etc…

Join the Facebook page: No! To Port on Goat Island Jamaica. It is updated daily with news, relevant articles and updates, including links from many of our supporting organizations – and archived information that you are unlikely to find anywhere else. Please also join the Facebook pages of the Caribbean Coastal Area Management Foundation (C-CAM), the NGO that manages this Protected Area; and of course that of the Jamaica Environment Trust, which spearheads the campaign in Jamaica.

Follow @SaveGoatIslands and @jamentrust on Twitter.

  • 350.org
  • African Wildlife Foundation, Washington, DC, USA
  • Amphibian and Reptile Conservation, Bournemouth, Dorset, UK AND Berkeley, California
  • A Peaceful Planet Facebook page
  • ARKive, Bristol, UK and Washington, DC, USA
  • Avian Research and Conservation Institute, Gainesville, Florida
  • Beautyofplanet.com
  • Betty White (“Golden Girls”), Actress and Activist
  • Birds Caribbean (formerly the Society for the Conservation & Study of Caribbean Birds)
  • Blue Iguana Recovery Programme, Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands
  • Botanical Research Institute of Texas, Fort Worth, Texas, USA
  • Caribbean Bird Festivals, Arlington, Virginia, USA
  • Caribbean Birding Trail
  • Caribbean Coastal Area Management Foundation (C-CAM), Jamaica
  • Caribbean Landscape Conservation Cooperative, Puerto Rico
  • Caribbean Wildlife Alliance, Fort Worth, Texas, USA
  • Centre for Biological Diversity, Tucson, Arizona, USA
  • Chester Zoo UK
  • Climate Progress, Washington, DC, USA
  • CommonDreams.org
  • Conservation International, Arlington, Virginia, USA
  • Countrystyle Community Tourism Network, Jamaica
  • David Suzuki Foundation, Vancouver, Canada
  • Dream Team Divers, Jamaica
  • Earth: The Operator’s Manual – Public Broadcasting Service (PBS)
  • Earth Tribe – Activist News
  • Earthjustice, San Francisco, California, USA
  • Eco-Index, ℅ Rainforest Alliance, New York, USA
  • EcoWatch, Cleveland, Ohio, USA
  • Environmental Defense Fund, New York, USA
  • Environmental Foundation of Jamaica
  • Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide (eLaw), Eugene, Oregon, USA
  • Eve for Life Jamaica
  • Fans of Animal Rights Facebook page
  • Feel Like a Biologist
  • 51% Coalition: Women in Partnership for Development and Empowerment through Equity, Jamaica
  • Fort Worth Zoo, Fort Worth, Texas, USA
  • GoNOMAD Travel, South Deerfield, Massachusetts, USA
  • Greenpeace NZ, New Zealand
  • Herp Alliance, Saint Charles, Illinois, USA
  • Herpeto, Belo Horizonte, Brazil
  • Herpetology, Free University of Brussels (VUB), Belgium
  • HuffPost Green
  • I.F.R.O.G.S (Indigenous Forest Research Organization for Global Sustainability), Stuart, Florida, USA (with reps in other countries)
  • Iguana Specialist Group (ISG) – IUCN Red List
  • Indigenous Environmental Network
  • International Animal Rescue
  • International Iguana Foundation (IIF), Fort Worth, Texas, USA
  • IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (IUCN: International Union for the Conservation of Nature), Cambridge, UK  (the Jamaican Iguana is listed as “Critically Endangered” on this globally recognized list)
  • Jamaica Civil Society Coalition
  • Jamaica Conservation & Development Trust
  • Jamaica Environment Trust (spearheading the campaign in Jamaica)
  • Jamaicans for Justice
  • J-FLAG
  • Misty Mountain Herbs, Jamaica
  • Mockingbird Hill Hotel, Jamaica
  • National Coalition Jamaica
  • NoMaddz Bongo Music, Jamaica
  • North American Reptile Breeders Conference, California, Illinois, Texas, USA
  • Novataxa: Species New to Science, Hat Yai, Thailand
  • One World Wildlife, Stroud, Gloucestershire, UK
  • Pachamama Alliance, San Francisco, USA and Ecuador
  • Panos Caribbean, Haiti and Jamaica
  • Plant Conservation Unit, University of Cape Town, South Africa
  • Project Noah (supported by National Geographic)
  • Queensland Ecotourism Authority, Australia
  • Rainforest Action Network, San Francisco, California, USA
  • Ramsar Convention (the Portland Bight Protected Area is a Ramsar Wetland of Importance)
  • Reptile Hunter
  • Reptile Lovers ACE (Awareness, Conservation & Education)
  • Rock Iguanas Facebook page
  • San Diego Herpetological Society, San Diego, California, USA
  • San Diego Zoo Global, San Diego, California, USA
  • SEEtheWILD, Beaverton, Oregon, USA
  • Seven Oaks Sanctuary for Wildlife, Jamaica
  • Shawn Heflick, Explorer, Conservation Biologist & Wildlife Expert, Palm Bay, Florida, USA
  • Southern California Herpetological Association & Rescue, Fuller, California, USA
  • Stenapa St. Eustatius, St. Eustatius, Dutch Caribbean
  • Stichting Doelgroep Groene Leguanen (SDGL), Haarlem, Netherlands
  • Sustain Jamaica Facebook page
  • Sustainable Earth: A Future for Wildlife and People Facebook page
  • Sustainable Man Blog: http://sustainableman.org/ San Francisco, California, USA
  • The Biodiversity Group, Tucson, Arizona, USA
  • The Biologist Apprentice, Mexico
  • The Climate Reality Project, founded and chaired by Al Gore, Nobel Laureate and former Vice President of the United States
  • The Jamaica Caves Organisation
  • The Nature Conservancy (worldwide), Arlington, Virginia, USA
  • The Ocean Foundation, Washington, DC, USA
  • The Ocean Portal: National Museum of Natural History/Smithsonian, Washington, DC, USA
  • The Rainforest Site, Seattle, Washington, USA
  • The Reptile Report, Denver, Colorado, USA
  • The Wildlife Conservation Society, Bronx Zoo, New York, USA
  • Tropical Herping, Quito, Ecuador
  • Truthout, USA
  • United States Association of Reptile Keepers (USARK), Grandy, North Carolina, USA
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Department of the Interior, Washington, DC, USA
  • Urban Jungles Radio (Danny Mendez), New York, USA
  • Vietnam Herpetology
  • We Are Wildness
  • Wildlife Nature: Facebook
  • Windsor Research Centre, Jamaica
  • World Wildlife Fund

Please support the campaign to preserve and protect the Portland Bight Protected Area, and Goat Islands! It is Jamaicans’ birthright, our natural and cultural heritage…

Thank you!

Photo: Jamaica Environment Trust.

Photo: Jamaica Environment Trust.

Aerial view - end of Great Goat Island top right. (Photo: Max Earle)
Aerial view – end of Great Goat Island top right. (Photo: Max Earle)
Fishermen push out their boat at Old Harbour Fishing Village, Galleon Bay. (Photo: Max Earle)
Fishermen push out their boat at Old Harbour Fishing Village, Galleon Bay. (Photo: Max Earle)
Reflections at Goat Islands. (Photo: Max Earle)
Reflections at Goat Islands. (Photo: Max Earle)
Goat Islands. If the transshipment port is built, this area will be destroyed. (Photo: Max Earle)
Goat Islands. If the transshipment port is built, this area will be destroyed. (Photo: Max Earle)
The pristine (NOT "degraded") mangrove at Goat Islands. (Photo: Max Earle)
The pristine (NOT “degraded”) mangrove at Goat Islands. (Photo: Max Earle)
The view from Great Goat Island. (Photo: Max Earle)
The view from Great Goat Island. (Photo: Max Earle)
Brown Pelicans, Galleon Bay, near Goat Islands. (Photo: Max Earle)
Brown Pelicans, Galleon Bay, near Goat Islands. (Photo: Max Earle)
Students from the University of the West Indies talk to residents of Old Harbour about the proposed plans to build a port at Goat Islands. (Photo: C-CAM)
Students from the University of the West Indies talk to residents of Old Harbour about the proposed plans to build a port at Goat Islands. (Photo: C-CAM)
Representatives of the Planning Institute of Jamaica on a tour in the Portland Bight Protected Area, organized by C-CAM.
Representatives of the Planning Institute of Jamaica on a tour in the Portland Bight Protected Area, organized by C-CAM.
Members of Bustamante High School's Environmental Club and their advisor and coach Dilip Ragoo (third right) gather for a group shot on the banks of Salt River with the Braselletto Mountains rising in the background, after beating Old Harbour High at a World Wetlands Day debate organized by the Caribbean Coastal Area Management Foundation (C-CAM), which manages the Portland Bight Protected Area. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)
Members of Bustamante High School’s Environmental Club and their advisor and coach Dilip Ragoo (third right) gather for a group shot on the banks of Salt River with the Braselletto Mountains rising in the background, after beating Old Harbour High at a World Wetlands Day debate organized by the Caribbean Coastal Area Management Foundation (C-CAM), which manages the Portland Bight Protected Area. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)