This month has started with a kind of numbing heat. Kingston nights are hot and dark; the days are hot and bright. Those annoying birds, the grackles have brought some screeching offspring into our yard. I chase them away, and it seems to make me feel better.
First things first…The PM is anxious about our athletes’ health: Remember now, Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller is Minister of Sport. She must also be Minister of Defence, but national security is of lesser importance, I guess. Before taking a few days’ vacation, the PM met with a large group of people (you can see some of them sitting round the table in the photo below, which doesn’t even show all of them) to discuss the burning issue of a wellness center for our athletes. Top priority – not child abuse, children in lock-ups, crime and violence, the crisis in education, our failing health system, our failing justice system, the economy…
But the Reggae Boyz… Our national football team is now sadly on life support after its third consecutive defeat in Honduras last night. Moreover, our coach, former player Theodore Whitmore, has resigned. The “Road to Rio” - our World Cup campaign – seems to have faded beneath our feet. Several rather unkind memes have circulated online. I will not rub salt in the wounds by reproducing them here. Fact is, we cannot just throw together a team made up of mostly second- or third-tier overseas-based players. We need a serious national football training program.
Those trips again: I am glad that Opposition Senator Robert Montague stood up and asked a number of questions about yet another trip that I may not even have mentioned: the journey of Mayor of Kingston Angela Brown Burke and her entourage, including Local Government Minister Noel Arscott and various assistants, down to the good old continent of Africa. This is quite separate from the Prime Minister’s excursion (no report card yet, Madam Prime Minister? And yes, we know about the “teachers to Tanzania” concept. Apart from that). Since the good Senator has formally tabled questions, I hope he will get proper answers. The Mayor et al went first to Uganda and then down to South Africa, I understand.
Dollars nah run: My favorite minister Phillip Paulwell wants more people to apply for the (barely) “single-digit” interest rate energy loans. Amazing that 9.5% is considered a really low interest rate in Jamaica, isn’t it? I think that everyone’s running away from getting themselves into more debt at the moment. What does my economic guru Ralston Hyman have to say about this? I will have to listen in to his morning radio program to find out. Confidence in markets is everything. I learnt that during my years in the financial sector. Once it is gone…dawg nyam yuh supper.
And time a-wasting: A great report in today’s Gleaner notes the irritation of employers with the huge chunks taken out of their employees’ working days while they wait in line at banks and government agencies (the two prime culprits, but there are others). Yes indeed folks, in Jamaica you can wait up to two hours for service in a bank, in the middle of the day when you should be back at your workplace. It is utterly ridiculous. I know of one financial institution that my husband and I jokingly call the “sleepy place.” There is a large waiting area – rows of chairs, where customers regularly doze off while waiting. And no matter how many customers they have, there is almost always only one person to serve them. It’s an insult and it is a serious deterrent to productivity.
Oh, and no money for disasters? About two months or more ago (I will have to look it up) I mentioned in a blog post that there was absolutely no mention of budgeting for disaster preparedness. When I raised the issue, someone muttered something about help from overseas. So if we do get hit by a hurricane this year then we can always turn to these kind donors and say “help”? Now the Local Government Minister tells us that “it is apparent that the (National Disaster Fund) is not adequate…” God help us if a disaster hits. I don’t know who else will.
So now gays are “uncontrollable”: You’ve heard about the “uncontrollable” girls, such as those at the Armadale Juvenile Correctional Centre (and elsewhere) who are locked up because their parents (mothers) can’t cope with them. Well, the Jamaica Observer is now describing a small group of homeless young men who have occupied an abandoned house in an upscale area of Kingston as “uncontrollable.” Is it that any group of Jamaicans (young ones) who don’t behave “normally” is uncontrollable? These two groups have something in common: seriously marginalized. At least the newspaper tried to get a more balanced picture this time – actually speaking to J-FLAG and to the police – plus a so-called caretaker at the house.
I’m not very impressed… by radio journalist George Davis’ column in today’s Gleaner. He is trying to be too clever. But I do not think it particularly clever to refer to “a man who presents the major evening newscasts for one of our two major television stations” as homosexual. Why do that to a fellow journalist? Of course, no names mentioned but please!! It’s just tacky.
The meaning of service: The image many of us have of U.S. college fraternities is one of heavy-drinking, partying, crazy students. However, there is another side to fraternities: a tradition of service to others. The photograph below and the blog it comes from epitomizes the “giving back” that these fraternity brothers (Delta Upsilon) from several different colleges and universities are engaged in during a recent trip to Jamaica. The students are refurbishing a school in Westmoreland; I must find out which one. The contribution of these “farriners” - like the ongoing medical missions from overseas – is often greatly under-estimated. OK, I am sure these boys had fun in Negril too – but they also gave their time and energy, freely, to the children of Jamaica. They could have been sitting on their couches at home watching TV. I wish more young Jamaicans would catch on to the power of volunteerism. It is better to give than receive…
Word of the week: “Committed.” I think we (especially any government agency) should give this word a rest. It means “we’re going to do something but we haven’t done it yet. But yes, we think it’s a really good thing and a great idea. But…Not just yet.” Just read a Jamaica Information Service report: “Government committed to the elimination of child labor.” How? When?
And big ups to:
The U.S. Peace Corps volunteers: Since we are talking about service… Below you will find a link to the blog of one volunteer in Jamaica, who is living and working in rural St. Thomas, up in the mountains. The U.S. Peace Corps has been doing great work in Jamaica since Independence.
Ms. Virtue…: I met Ms. Erica Virtue quite a few years ago. I remember bumping into her in the Gleaner newsroom when visiting that worthy media house; and many rambling telephone chats. I have always had a healthy respect for her feisty, often provocative style. Now Erica is doing a weekly video commentary piece on the newspaper’s website, called “Erica’s Edge.“ I love it, and Erica’s biting and sometimes brutal humor. She may rub people up the wrong way sometimes – but she’s a journalist, not a shrinking violet…
…and Mr. Henry: When I first spoke to Darien Henry many years ago, he was an enthusiastic community-based reporter for Irie FM in Ocho Rios. I told him what a splendid radio voice he has. Now, it seems, he is putting pen to paper – or rather, fingers to keyboard. He has written a sensible column on education reform in the Gleaner. I look forward to more from the affable Mr. Henry.
Isle Chixx: Jamaicans eat chicken like there’s no tomorrow, and a relatively new local firm is doing well. They do Cornish hens. Managing Director Alex Antaeus will be opening a Greek restaurant in Kingston soon – so we can start eating healthier!
The Ministry of Justice: For posting the draft terms of reference for the upcoming Commission of Enquiry into the Tivoli Gardens massacre online for all to see. This kind of transparency and public consultation is laudable and I don’t believe this has been done with previous enquiries. You can find the discussion draft at
And you should submit your comments in writing to the Ministry not later than Friday, June 21.
And talking of consultations, I just returned from a complex, lengthy public consultation on the boundaries to the precious Cockpit Country in western Jamaica. More on that in a later blog.
The following Jamaicans have lost their lives violently in the past three days. I extend my condolences, as always, to the grieving families and friends who are left behind:
Errol Irwin, 57, Bog Walk, St. Catherine
Millar Bowen, 43, Bodles Research Station, St. Catherine
Rohan Clarke, 28, Cambridge, St. James
O’Neil Clarke, 34, Stettin, Trelawny
Unnamed infant, Stettin, Trelawny
Killed by police:
Davion Gordon, downtown Kingston
Okeen Edwards, 19, Greendale/Spanish Town, St. Catherine
Related links and articles:
PM wants swift action on wellness center for athletes: Jamaica Information Service
Montague questions local government trip to Africa in May: Jamaica Observer
Security costing taxpayers millions for ruined Goodyear factory: Jamaica Observer
Ruined Sligoville Stadium to be rescued, says Neita-Headley: Jamaica Observer
Bosses seeing red! Long wait in lines keeping their workers off the job: Gleaner
Tick, tick, tick: Jamaicans lose valuable production hours standing in line: Gleaner
Not enough money in the country’s hurricane coffers: Gleaner
”I love UTech, but no”: Gleaner
Dr. Phillips must hold his nerve: Gleaner editorial
100 to 1, makes sense? Jamaica Observer
More takers needed for energy loans: Jamaica Observer
AJ, know your role: private sector fires back at Nicholson after “trade bickering” comments: Gleaner
Jamaica, China dreaming together: op-ed by Chinese Ambassador to Jamaica Zheng Qingdian: Gleaner
CARICOM an old boys’ club: Letter to the Editor from Joan Williams/Gleaner
Why we are glad – and mad! Jean Lowrie-Chin column/Jamaica Observer
Mass exodus! Senator warns teachers may leave in droves: Gleaner
Pay teachers better, then hold bar higher: Darien Henry column/Gleaner
More teachers than vacancies: Gleaner
Look at New York, Mr. Thwaites: Gleaner editorial
Free health fallout: Gleaner
Don’t touch it! say Negril residents: Jamaica Observer
Commissioner of Police knew of plans to settle bribery case, says witness: RJR News
Use human rights to save us: Garth Rattray column/Gleaner
J-FLAG denies abandoning homeless gay men: Jamaica Observer
Those slow to accept gays are not evil: George Davis column/Gleaner
Government invites comments on draft terms of reference for Tivoli enquiry: Gleaner
Judges can’t bail out cops: Peter Champagnie op-ed/Gleaner
High hopes for diaspora conference: Jamaica Observer
The sheltered ones are not yet born: wellreadrobin.wordpress.com
Life in the Valley: April’s Peace Corps blog.com
GSI Jamaica: Why I am a DU: deltaupsilon.wordpress.com
Jamaica is bleeding. I feel it is not only the blood seeping from the veins of those who have been murdered by their fellow citizens – including the police. It is the slow and exhausting drip, drip, drip of life-giving energy from the country. Since I wrote my mid-week update on June 5, I have had a growing sense of this. Maybe it’s the increasing heat of early summer that’s getting to me.
Dead children: The Director of UNICEF in Jamaica, Robert Fuderich, is a forthright man – which I love. He gave a speech this week, expressing distress at the murder and abuse of Jamaican children. So, the head of UNICEF is upset. So are many Jamaicans, by the way. Is the Prime Minister upset, one wonders? She is a woman who, as I have said before, has often expressed her love of children in speeches. Could she have made a statement about the recent shocking murders? Even that? Better still, could she have visited the families and the communities affected, to grieve with them and to express her condolences? I am not demanding that Portia Simpson Miller responds in every case, but a nice appropriate public gesture would have been good. Too late now, by the way.
…and neglected: The National Road Safety Council is expressing deep concern at a huge (400%) increase in child pedestrian fatalities on the road this year. But this does not surprise me. Yesterday, the Gleaner’s front page story reported that children are being dumped on other people to look after, etc. As if this is news? Why don’t we realize that children aren’t adults. They are vulnerable.
Where is the Prime Minister? Have we seen or heard from her since her return from Africa? I have scoured the Jamaica Information Service pages, looked under the Office of the Prime Minister – and find nothing at all that relates to her. Has she made any speeches? Maybe I missed something. No ribbon-cuttings or ground-breakings? Is she sick? Is she on vacation? (I am not trying to start rumors – just trying to explore possible explanations).
Women suffering too: You may have noticed that women are murdered every week. Whatever the motivation – sometimes a jealous lover, other times gang violence – it is becoming increasingly common. I remember when the murder of a woman was a shocking and unusual occurrence – now it’s commonplace. The Jamaica Observer’s Karyl Walker (whom I have criticized recently) wrote a very painful report in today’s newspaper about a young woman who has ended up on the street, abused and unwanted. Can someone please help?
And talking of trips: I know, I am obsessed. As I asked in my last bulletin, what actually took place in Africa? What did the Prime Minister and her large delegation achieve? Since we paid J$8.6 million for the trip, I am still hoping for a report card. But it’s been two weeks or so since they all came home, laden with souvenirs no doubt. So, I don’t hold out much hope. Now, we understand that our amiable Agriculture Minister Roger Clarke will soon be off to China, with a small delegation, at the invitation of the Chinese Government (hopefully the Chinese are paying, so taxpayers don’t need to dig into their pockets again for this one).
Dusting off the begging bowl: Meanwhile, the Finance Minister has just returned from a trip round Europe - he might have to wait for the flood waters to subside, though. I am afraid he may end up getting us into deeper debt (although Europe is not exactly flush with funds at the moment). It’s just a thought, but if we are going for growth rather than plunging ourselves into deeper debt, perhaps a trade and investment team, with a few private sector representatives, would have been be smarter? He has at least commented on the trip, though. See below.
Psychological barrier: On Friday morning word went out that the J$ had reached 100/US$1. It closed slightly above. A collective shudder went through the Twittersphere and radio talk shows. This is the end, we all declared – or the beginning of the end. In theory, of course, the devaluation might benefit us by making exports cheaper. Oh, but…We’re not exporting anything are we? Where is the Jamaica Exporters’ Association? Long time, no hear.
Elusive growth: As Dr. Damien King, economics prof and head of our local think tank CaPRI tweeted a few days ago, “The average growth rate of the world’s poor countries over the last decade was 6%, cutting worldwide poverty by half during that time.” But again – that doesn’t apply to Jamaica, does it? We can’t manage any growth at all, at the moment. None in sight; and more worryingly, no clear strategy for growth.
“We don’t want INDECOM, we want outcome!” The police killed five people, since I last wrote, and in the space of a little over 24 hours. This was the cry of one resident – which made me laugh a little, as Jamaicans have such a way with words. But very serious too. I know that the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) is working as hard as it can but is hampered (by very late police reports, for example) – but can’t blame people for getting impatient.
Another twist: You may be tired of hearing about this saga by now, but just to let you know that Doran “mongrel dog” Dixon is back in the race for the presidency of the Jamaica Teachers’ Association, who have changed their mind and allowed him to run, after all. Meanwhile Mr. Paul “cocaine injection” Adams is not suffering any ill effects (he’s not running, anyway). I only hope that a sensible woman is elected to the presidency. I am tired of the male egos…
Earth matters: You know I am a big fan of CVM Television’s “Live at Seven.” I am glad that the program turned its attention to a whole bunch of niggling environmental issues that are not going to go away – the beach at Negril, for example.
Untouchable Usain: Some of my tweeps have been following the French Open tennis tournament, and were thrilled to see our very own Usain Bolt presenting the trophy to Rafal Nadal. I was a bit surprised. I thought it was usually rather dull officials (or royalty in the case of Wimbledon) who did this. The spotlight is supposed to be on the winner of the trophy – not on the presenter. I am told that Bolt is a “celebrity” so it is acceptable, and we are all proud of his achievements. But celebrities have a habit of popping up all over the place, like Kim Kardashian. I just thought it inappropriate, and upset several people on my Twitter timeline by suggesting that it was. Don’t get me wrong – I love Usain as much as anyone and have often praised him in my blog, but I don’t want it to get to the point where people say, “Oh no – not him again!” whenever he makes an appearance. He is worth more than that.
Still so much good things to say about…
- Dr Jean Beaumont, who has been doing great work as head of the USAID/Jamaica Basic Education Project. What could be more important than reading?
- Health writer Eulalee Thompson, who has a new blog and a new consulting practice. Find her at
- Ambassador Pamela Bridgewater, who delivered a terrific speech on women’s leadership at the University of the West Indies‘ Faculty of Law on Thursday evening. I couldn’t make it, but hear the place was packed. I do have a copy of the speech, which I intend to post on this blog shortly.
- Dr. Rosalea Hamilton for her piece on nine-day wonders – with specific reference to the Richard Azan/Spaldings shops issue. Dr. Hamilton concludes, “It is time we move beyond complaining about our situation and seriously press for governance that is accountable to the people of this country.” Make your voice heard and put some pressure on.
- The Jamaica Medical Mission. We do tend to take this almost continuous stream of visiting medical teams, mostly from the United States, for granted. They often pay their way and sacrifice their vacations etc. to come over here and help Jamaicans who simply cannot afford to access our public health system. They are absolutely marvelous. I know the Jamaicans whom they treat appreciate their work; I hope the rest of us do, too. (This group of 157 doctors, nurses etc comes over every year and will treat at least 3,000 indigent Jamaicans).
- Nice to see an interesting report by environmental reporter Petre Williams-Raynor, now with the Gleaner. Check out her attractive blog, too. By the way, public consultations on the boundaries of our precious Cockpit Country are still ongoing. There is one in Kingston this week – I must check details.
- The Gleaner for two things: Firstly, its editorials have really hit the nail on the head in the past week. It’s worth reading them all. Secondly, on Friday evening its continuous, accurate tweeting of the World Cup qualifying match between Jamaica and the United States was streets ahead of the competition. Sprinkled, too, with marvelous photos from one of my favorite photogs, Mr. Ricardo Makyn. See a couple of the photos below…Hats off!
Petchary’s Pet Hate of the Week: Mosquitoes are plaguing us. Thank God for the electrifying plastic tennis racket – or the zapper, as it’s called in our house.
Petchary’s Quote of the Week: “Children are not just the future, they are the present” – Robert Fuderich, Director, UNICEF Jamaica.
The tragedies continue. Each Jamaican’s death is a tragedy for the families, friends. The following Jamaicans have died violently just in the past FOUR days:
Sophia Smith, 47, Mandeville, Manchester
Dwight Robinson, 28, Seaview Gardens, Kingston
Jerome Anthony Gooden, 33, Seaview Gardens, Kingston
Ricardo Lawes, 28, Seaview Gardens, Kingston
Omar Smith, 32, Seaview Gardens, Kingston
Killed by police:
Unidentified man, Kitson Town, St. Catherine
Junior Guy, Waterloo Villas/Tredegar Park, St. Catherine
André Ledgister, Waterloo Villas/Tredegar Park, St. Catherine
Kemar Thompson, Waterloo Villas/Tredegar Park, St. Catherine
Jevon Reid, 21, Granville, Trelawny
Related links and articles:
World Environment Day: June 5, 2013 (petchary.wordpress.com)
Thanksgiving service for the Jamaican Dollar will be held at… ThinkJamaica.wordpress.com
“Jamaica debt burden a threat to human development” – UNDP: Gleaner
”Don’t panic over sliding dollar”: Gleaner
Final chance for Jamaica, says Financial Times (commonsenseja.wordpress.com)
Minister Paulwell urges Jamaicans to access energy fund: Jamaica Information Service
Port divestment proceeds to dredge Kingston Harbour: Gleaner
Minister Hylton sets record straight on logistics hub: Jamaica Information Service
Anti-gay Christian groups undermine democracy: sonofstmary.wordpress.com
Gay rights activist seeks to challenge Belize and TT laws: newsandviewsbydjmillerja.wordpress.com
Jamaica Observer accused of staging story involving gays: Perceptual Post
Discusion on homosexuality/All Angles/Television Jamaica, June 5, 2013
Homosexuality: Choice or innate: Dr. Tammy Haynes blog
”We have the numbers”: Church leaders confident enough religious Jamaicans in island to prevent change to buggery law: Gleaner
Woman beaten, robbed, raped in Kingston: Sunday Observer
Handling of rape cases irks Montague: Sunday Observer
Allman Town wants closure to boy’s murder: Sunday Observer
G2K writes to OCG regarding dead silent Richard Azan probe: delanoseiv.wordpress.com
Another nine-day wonder? Rosalea Hamilton op-ed/Gleaner
More work needed on Spaldings market probe – Arscott: RJR News
More road blocks in Claremont as residents continue protest: RJR News
Jamaica leading project to address underachievement in boys: Jamaica Observer
Montaque questions Nicholson on status of reported rape cases: RJR News
Condoms aren’t aphrodisiacs: Jaevion Nelson column/Gleaner
The crime of “uncontrollable”: Patrick Lalor op-ed/Gleaner
Cabinet approves new policy for pregnant schoolgirls: Jamaica Observer
UNICEF concerned about child killings: Jamaica Observer
Disabled, elderly should get free health care – CaPRI study: Gleaner
Reading coaches initiative making a positive difference: Gleaner
Dixon back in the race: Gleaner
Animation could mean jobs and serious business for Jamaican youths: World Bank
Trench Town Ceramics and Art Centre – Using art to save the youth: Gleaner
Downtown Kingston vendors protest: Jamaica Observer
3,000 indigents to benefit from medical mission: Gleaner
Petre Williams-Raynor environmental blog
Inside Cockpit Country: Project eyes conservation of key biodiversity areas: Gleaner
Happy World Environment Day!
The first part of this week has been eventful, as always. Here are a few highlights…
Come on now, kids: I am so tired of the childish posturing of members of the Jamaica Teachers Association (JTA) – in particular, Mr. Doran Dixon – that I could scream. The Education Minister is wisely keeping quiet while the former heads of the JTA use up valuable radio and television time with their arguments. Meanwhile the male egos continue to puff themselves up. Which brings me to this thought (and I don’t mean to sound sexist): Could the JTA consider a female candidate next, please? The few female presidents they have had in the past have performed very creditably, I think. And considering that 80 per cent of the teaching profession (at a rough guess) consists of women, why do they always vote in male presidents?
A slightly surprising appearance: Who should pop up in the Lower House today, struggling through a speech, but Junior Transport and Works Minister Richard Azan? I am puzzled as to what has happened to the pending reports on Minister Azan’s misconduct (which he admitted) over the construction of illegal shops at Spaldings Market. What has happened to the Contractor General’s report? He apparently started investigating the matter as long ago as March 6. That’s three months ago! Perhaps the media could enquire. Or perhaps, for them too and as predicted by one highly supportive councilor, it has all blown over. Can we call it a thirty-day wonder?
Report cards, please, anybody? When someone travels abroad for work purposes (or even for pleasure), those left behind generally expect some kind of report on what transpired when the weary traveler returns. National Security Minister Peter Bunting went to a CARICOM meeting with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden. At the same time, a good-sized delegation led by Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller toddled off to Africa for the best part of a week, at a cost of J$8.6 million. They returned last week. Have we, the Jamaican people who funded these trips, received any kind of report on what happened? Any agreements signed? Any discussions on cooperation, etc? Any business transacted? And no, dressing up, going to banquets and making speeches don’t count. But even some photographs would be nice?
Murders upon murders: The murder rate continues to escalate steadily, and apart from an expression of regret from the Youth Minister there has not been a peep out of the aforementioned ministers, Bunting and Simpson Miller. Our Prime Minister, who has often told us breathily that she loves children, has not even expressed sadness at the horrible deaths of two young girls last week. And the National Security Minister – is he still living here?
Health worries: The Minister of ‘Ealth is worried about HIV/AIDS and the expected decline in overseas assistance in this area. Minister Ferguson has good reason to be concerned; virtually all the government’s HIV Program is overseas-funded. He is also worried about an outbreak of gastroenteritis, apparently made worse by a lack of clean water in some areas. Let’s stay on top of this one; and with all the rain we are now having, I would like regular updates on dengue fever cases, too.
Uh oh: The Ministry of Local Government has reportedly set up committees in each parish, so that local parish councils can give out waivers on property taxes to various people/organizations. I have two concerns: firstly, I thought tax waivers had been abolished, per IMF decree. Secondly, isn’t this another lovely opportunity for – dare I say it – corruption? Not necessarily, but you know, benefits for friends?
One a day: That is the record over the past week or so with the police killings. One in Claremont, St. Ann, in which a farmer lost his life, sparked such anger and grief among residents that fiery roadblocks were set up, and the Independent Commission of Investigations could not reach the scene and had to come back the next day. The police couldn’t seem to come up with a story this time about how the allegedly unarmed Mr. Leroy Henry died. A senior policeman visited the grieving family – Leory Henry Snr. sat on his verandah in complete shock.
But now, Petchary gives some kudos:
- Jamaicans are extremely fond of spelling bees, and for many years now Jamaica has been competing in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Maryland, U.S.A., with considerable success. Although our Jamaican champion Christian Allen did not do as well as he had hoped, he says it “made him a stronger person.” Well done, you did your best, Christian! Good attitude.
- Technology Minister Paulwell for presiding over the second, and considerable reduction in mobile phone rates. How could I have omitted to mention this? I do still like this Minister!
- Returning resident Judith Williamson for organizing a dialysis unit in May Pen, Clarendon. Absolutely brilliant! She has overcome yards and yards of red tape for over two years to make this happen. Why can’t the government make it easier for generous and kind individuals at home and abroad to provide much-needed assistance?
- Carol Narcisse of the Jamaica Civil Society Coalition (JCSC), who gave a strong case this evening for the inclusion of J-FLAG in the Coalition, and for the recognition of gay rights in Jamaica. JCSC’s core values include respect for diversity and human rights. Carol quieted down university lecturer Orville Taylor‘s odd posturings; he said that if the anti-buggery law is repealed, then why not allow him to marry his father? Dear me. The reverend gentleman made much more sense than the educator, during this interesting and thoughtful discussion on Television Jamaica‘s “All Angles” on what Jamaicans like to call the “homosexual lobby.” I will post the link when it’s up. TVJ takes a while to put this program on their website.
- Overseas-based NGO Projects Abroad and dedicated Country Director Dr Bridgette Barrett, who have been working assiduously towards the construction of a residential facility for Jamaicans living with HIV/AIDS in Manchester, including a women’s center. I really hope they get all the funding support for this project – they have already acquired the land. Projects Abroad does great work here in Jamaica.
- Last but not least: Youth Crime Watch of Jamaica, a fantastic non-governmental organization. With the support of the University of the West Indies‘ Faculty of Science and Technology, the UNDP and the Global Environment Facility’s Small Grants Program, YCWJ launched its biodiesel initiative – a waste to fuel conversion project. More on this in a later blog! But huge congrats to Edward Dixon, Latoya West Blackwood, Deon Edwards-Kerr, Marlon Moore and all the community members and children involved. So proud of you all!
It has been another grim few days. My deepest sympathies to all those whom the following, murdered Jamaican citizens have left behind in the past four days:
Kenisha Nembhard, 19, Somerset, Manchester
Sheldon Najair, 29, Lakes Pen, St. Catherine
Rudolf Derson, 47, St. Catherine
Leon Bennett, 32, Lime Tree Grove, St. Catherine
Kevin Mussington, 24, Greater Portmore, St. Catherine
“Bentley,” Greater Portmore, St. Catherine
Jenese Burrell, 38, Islington, St. Mary (on May 14)
Killed by police:
Nicholas Whyte, 30, Little London, Westmoreland
Leroy Henry, 28, Claremont, St. Ann
Luke Levels, Glen Road, Kingston
Related articles and links (Local blogs in purple):
JHTA keeps close watch following murder of tourist: RJR News
Tourist killing not the norm: Gleaner
”Falmouth needs a facelift”: Gleaner
Caribbean tourism “barely keeping head above water”: Gleaner
GK unapologetic about executive pay
Whither local government in development? Pauline Gregory-Lewis article/Gleaner
China offers US$3 billion concessionary facility to CARICOM: Jamaica Observer
Send Clayton Hall, Paul Adams et al to Tanzania: The Soloist/Flair/Gleaner
More power for education minister: Jamaica Observer
The other JTA hopefuls: Gleaner
The price of physicians: wellreadrobin.wordpress.com
One step closer: Lease approved for site of proposed HIV/AIDS facility in Manchester: Jamaica Observer
Church won’t bow to gays: Clergyman calls for religious leaders to stand firm against homosexuality: Gleaner
Church stands resolute against buggery backers: Letter from Rev Al Miller/Gleaner
PBCJ in the debate for tolerance: Gleaner editorial
We don’t love poor people: Henley Morgan column/Observer
Jamaicans sell sex abroad: Jamaica Star
Police kill suspect in murder of teenager: RJR News
Rogue cops killing faith in police force: Letter of the Day/Gleaner
Five killed within hours: Gleaner
Ministry of Health establishes International Cooperation Unit: Jamaica Information Service
Nobody stopped to listen: Letter of the Day/Gleaner
Beat down Babylon: Gordon Robinson column/Gleaner
”Dockie” Maragh: committed champion of religious unity: Gleaner
”I am a stronger person”: Gleaner
St. Thomas not ready for Bogle: Gleaner
It’s not who you know, it’s who knows you: stacyannhayles.com
My week got off to a great start with a donation to Eve for Life from the Optimist Club of Sunset, Liguanea on Monday morning. We are indeed tremendously grateful for the gifts donated, and it was a huge pleasure to welcome President Lavern Brown, three members of the Walker family and Patrick Prendergast, a Facebook friend I had never met before! There are indeed some good and kind people in the world. Pictures to follow…
Are they serious? The Bureau of Standards, whose mission is (presumably) to maintain standards for us poor ignorant consumers, has been busy testing more toilet tissue. Remember the #TissueIssue? And guess what? It has found five more brands that are contaminated. This makes…four plus five…nine brands that are on their “No-Wipe” list. Problem is, the Bureau in its wisdom will not reveal the names of this new batch of miscreants, either. It is concerned about lawsuits from the manufacturers. So let’s worry about the manufacturers then. We will just sit there like idiots, in the dark.
Won’t happen again: It is incredibly sad that a World War I cannon has been stolen from a resident of Gordon Town, who treasured this as a memory of old friends as well as for its historical/cultural value. But no, the vampires are at it again, tiefing everything in sight. Presumably this is the scrap metal trade at work again. And speaking of scrap metal, we have learnt that the Transport Authority, in its wisdom, sold hundreds of motor cars that it had impounded for many years, mostly for scrap, in 2008. It says it did not profit from this sale. A representative said that they will make sure in future to obey their own rules – to auction cars every six months. Which they clearly had not been doing.
Murders this month: According to the Gleaner’s intrepid and seasoned crime reporter Glenroy Sinclair, up to May 13 we have already had thirty murders, give or take one or two. What is happening? Some seem to be domestic matters, others gangs, many others robberies. Most of the time, the motive is not clear. One thing we do know is that most of the murders will not be “cleared up” - in other words, solved - although if an alleged murderer is shot dead by the police, I think they count it as a clear-up. February has been the bloodiest month this year so far, with 92.
Random: The violence seems to just leap out at you. A man kills his partner because of jealousy or some argument; a policeman allegedly attacks a schoolboy who was studying with his daughter at his house and caught “in a compromising position” with said daughter; a man is shot dead while trying to rescue his neighbors from their burning house. If you care to look, these random acts of violence and aggression continue, day after day. If not reported in the traditional media, you soon hear on the social media when one of these crimes gets too close to home for one of your online friends – like the discovery of a woman’s body next to the Marcus Garvey Youth Information Centre in St. Ann’s Bay where one of my young friends works. I have shared several links below to individual stories, so you get the picture. These incidents have all occurred in the last two or three days.
Jamaica Blog Day: Anniversaries are difficult times for us all when they are remembrances of things that should never have happened. The pain returns. So it is with two adjoining anniversaries next week: On May 22, 2009, fire broke out at the Armadale Juvenile Correctional Centre in St. Ann in the “Office Dormitory” – a space big enough for five people. At the Commission of Enquiry in 2010, Justice Paul Harrison castigated the then Commissioner of Corrections for taking the decision to house 23 girls in this space. On that night, the girls were locked in, because they had been misbehaving. A policeman who actually threw a tear gas canister in the window allegedly exacerbated the fire. Five girls were killed that night and eleven injured; two more girls died later in hospital. Then, on May 23, 2010, security forces invaded the community of Tivoli Gardens in West Kingston in search of Christopher “Dudus” Coke, for whom there was an extradition warrant. We know that at least 75 civilians were killed and many injured; many still bear the physical and psychological wounds. The interim report of the Public Defender into the matter has just been released, and the Simpson Miller administration has announced that it will establish a Commission of Enquiry. No date has yet been set and we do not yet know the parameters of the enquiry. Jamaican bloggers will be writing about police abuses on May 23rd. If you are a blogger, or would like to post an article on Facebook or elsewhere, please join us. We must never forget. We want to make an impact!
The wonderful world of Twitter: I spend some time every day (and sometimes rather late at night) in Twitterland. It is an extraordinary place. There can be flashes of illumination, surprises, much amusement, even shocks. One of my followers, the wonderful comedian, writer and all-round creative person Owen “Blakka” Ellis received a severe jolt when I retweeted an article recently. I am an inveterate retweeter and like to share provocative viewpoints as well as useful information. The tweet asserted,“Black men think that hypermasculinity, sports obsession, extreme homophobia, sexism and belittling women makes a man, a man”. Now, this damning, sweeping generalization struck poor Mr. Ellis to the core. He responded to the original tweeter, and got slapped down at least twice more. Ouch! And ouch again! This compelled Mr. Ellis to write the article below. For the record, I feel Mr. Ellis had a right to protest and was treated harshly. (Oh, you can follow me on @petchary).
Scrambling for jobs: Figures released by the Statistical Institute of Jamaica this week show a 37 per cent unemployment rate among youth. The overall rate is 14.2 per cent. However, we know that these numbers are even higher in inner city communities and rural districts where jobs are extremely scarce. The large and profitable Jamaican firm GraceKennedy (GK) recently advertised ten internships, and received 780 applications. Yes, the job situation is desperate. As GK’s CEO Don Wehby says, local firms should offer more internships. At least, then, young people would have something on their resumé (how do you get work experience if there are no jobs?)
Boundless patriotism: Meanwhile the great patriot Rev. Stanley Redwood, who just stepped down as President of the Senate, has responded to a very sarcastic article in the Gleaner regarding his pending migration to Canada. Reverend Redwood clearly does not have much faith in the Jamaican education system. He pleads, “Many Jamaicans have sought opportunities for their children overseas. I do not believe there is any shame in seeking the best for my talented children. I am sure you would have done no differently.” But then, it is a fact that most government ministers and members of Parliament do send their children to school overseas; and when they are sick, they go overseas for treatment. They have such touching faith in the Jamaican education and health systems. And in fact, in Jamaica itself. And yet, we must “unite and build…”
The Sufferer: On top of all that, during a speech this week our Prime Minister decided to take up the cross of suffering, pointing out that she is the most criticized person in Jamaica, upon whose head all “negativity” is heaped. This was part of a speech in which she was encouraging her audience to hold their heads up high in the face of adversity. Madam Prime Minister, this air of martyrdom does not become you. In fact, it is embarrassing and unnecessary. Almost as embarrassing and unnecessary as those sinister-looking sunglasses that she has been wearing for years now. Not a good look. Where are her advisors?
The Silent One: I have not seen or heard Minister of National Security Peter Bunting on any newscast recently. Is he OK?
Since Sunday the following murders have been reported. It is heart-breaking. My condolences to the families and friends.
Shelly-Ann Maxwell, 21, Bombay Stud Farm/Bernard Lodge, St. Catherine
Cordel Steer, 22, Bombay Stud Farm/Bernard Lodge, St. Catherine
Unidentified man, George Lane, Kingston
Garth Simpson, 39, Gayle, St. Mary
Janice Burrell, 38, Islington, St. Mary
Leroy Robinson, 54, Little London, Westmoreland
Adina Bell, 36, St. Ann’s Bay, St. Ann
Killed by police:
Desmond McCalla, Bull Bay, St. Andrew
Jamaica Blog Day
Removal of illegal connections to sugar factories to cost government $200 million. No more free light! solarbuzzjamaica.com
Five toilet paper brands pulled due to high levels of bacteria: RJR News
Wanted: Full disclosure in Ritz-Carlton affair: delanoseiv.wordpress.com
Playa replaces Ritz with Park Hyatt: Gleaner
Protest action escalates at COMPLANT: RJR News
BITU head asserts commitment to workers’ rights: Jamaica Observer
New law paves way for government to pass IMF test: RJR News
Exploring logistics hubs: Gleaner
The rightness of the Tivoli enquiry: Jamaica Observer editorial
Let us have a garrison enquiry: Jean Lowrie-Chin column/Jamaica Observer
A look at Jamaica‘s human rights situation: diGJamaica.com
Wanted fugitive killed in shoot-out: Jamaica Star
Two persons killed per day: Gleaner
Gunmen invade community, fire-bomb five houses: Jamaica Observer
Gunman kills hotel worker trying to rescue neighbor: Jamaica Observer
Policeman allegedly attacks schoolboy with pipe iron and gun: Gleaner
Massive MoBay raid: Drugs, cash seized in 11-hour operation; Canadian held: Gleaner
Let he that is without sin cast the first stone: speakmytruthwritemylife.blogspot.com
Residents shocked by chopping death: Jamaica Star
Don’t push gay men into closet marriages: Letter of the Day/Gleaner
Cars sold as scrap metal: Jamaica Observer
”No profit made”: Transport Authority did not gain from sale of impounded motor vehicles: Gleaner
MoBay Mayor lashes out at detractors: RJR News
The Redwood factor: Gleaner editorial
I’m a patriot, but family comes first: Letter to the Editor from Rev. Stanley Redwood
Redwood’s resignation and Vision 2030/The Gavel: Gleaner
Prime Minister urges Jamaicans to assist the most vulnerable: Jamaica Information Service
Prison program providing women with useful skills: Jamaica Observer
Brutal! Judge blames cop for starting deadly fire (February, 2010): Jamaica Observer
Damning declaration about black men: Blakka Ellis column/Jamaica Star
The cost of inaction on climate change: Jamaica Observer
World War I cannon stolen: Gleaner
Dancehall mashing up hell knows: cbcburke9.wordpress.com
Image of the Week: Seaforth’s artistic excellence: diGJamaica.com
We are refreshed by the rain, which has been coming down in oodles for the past few days, every afternoon on cue. It has turned the streets of Kingston into chaos and our lawn into a kind of marshland (previously it was desert). We are nevertheless thankful.
All that wet stuff has not washed away all the silliness that has been going on this week though, sadly. For a start…
The terrors of tweeting: The curse of the tweet has descended on Jamaica. You would think that our public officials would have learned from the sticky situations their overseas counterparts have got themselves into in the not too distant past. But Kingston’s Mayor dipped her toes into these dangerous waters, and got bitten. She used some of her 140 characters to exclaim “What the f!” and went on to complain that two Opposition representatives (including the leader) were appearing on the mid-week television current affairs shows. Now we all know what the “f” in the social media term WTF means (no, it does not stand for “frog”) and the Mayor pretty much acknowledged this in a sort of half-apology during a radio interview with Barbara Gloudon. So let’s move on from that, and the self-righteous indignation. Yes, certainly inappropriate for someone in her position, but let’s not overreact.
The show must go on: Several journalists responded sharply on social media and radio to the Mayor’s accusation of political bias. They pointed out (in fact, one even listed) the number of times they have requested the participation of the Prime Minister and other government officials, who have declined the requests. And the media knows that the show must go on, with or without them. Note: Mayor Angela Brown Burke is a stalwart of the People’s National Party and leader of the Kingston & St. Andrew Corporation, representing the majority party. Mayors are not directly elected in Jamaica – except for the Mayor of the Municipality of Portmore.
More importantly…This is all another manifestation of the uncomfortable relationship between the current administration and the media. Isn’t it? So badly out of sync. If I was the Prime Minister, I would gently relieve the current communications consultants (or whatever they call themselves) of their duties, and start afresh with a new “team.” At the moment, the whole thing is lurching from one faux pas to another. It’s painful to watch. And so unnecessary.
Is the press really free, or just comfortable? And talking of the press, there were some interesting remarks at the Press Association of Jamaica’s breakfast in recognition of World Press Freedom Day on Friday, May 3. The church person I have a great deal of time for, the head of Jamaica’s Anglican Church Bishop Howard Gregory, said he did not think either the current administration or the Opposition would want a Commission of Enquiry into the Tivoli Gardens slaughter, as suggested by the Public Defender and others. Why? Because “the complicity factor operates,” says Bishop Gregory. Both political parties will seek to preserve the status quo (see below) and not rock the boat. Who knows what might come out? It might not look good on either party. Best to just let sleeping dogs lie… or in this case, well over seventy dead Jamaicans. Professor Trevor Munroe of National Integrity Action warned against the “nine-day wonder” phenomenon, which a certain local government councilor predicted for the Azan affair recently. Soon blow over. Don’t let this happen! And broadcast journalist Emily Crooks suggested that her colleagues were “not pushing the envelope” – and were, therefore, quite comfortable compared to colleagues around the world who are harassed, attacked, even killed. We need a more “activist” and investigative press, one feels. Complacency is never desirable. The press must, and should, be prepared to rock that boat until the water slops over the sides.
Thievery reaches new heights: With the theft of over 200,000 liters of airplane fuel from the Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay. Pardon the pun. The mind boggles. How? We wait with bated breath for more news on this… Or else we might just forget to ask?
Houses for the poor: Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller seems mighty pleased with her latest plan to revive the Inner City Housing Project, using funds from the poor old National Housing Trust (NHT) – the gift that keeps on giving. There, you see! She is doing something for the poor, after all. Who said she didn’t love them? Others are not so impressed. Responding to a question on TVJ News earlier this week, 91 per cent of viewers said that NHT funds should not be used to assist non-contributors. In a Sunday Gleaner column today, the irreverent Gordon Robinson asks: ”Why are otherwise intelligent persons twisting themselves into knots to defend this indefensible rape of poor people’s assets?” I think he (and we) know a few reasons why. One must not upset the applecart, as that sage People’s National Party councilor told CVM Television in relation to the Richard Azan/Spaldings Market fiasco. All hail the status quo! Long may it live!
Incidentally, the Prime Minister said she had no knowledge of the councilor’s remarks, when questioned by CVM. Rather surprising. Or not?
What Negril does/does NOT have: We noted recently that the tourist town of Negril is extremely short of water. We also now hear that it has had no fire engine for the past two months, and is dependent on trucks from the town of Savannah-la-Mar, a good twenty minutes’ drive away. A large house burnt down yesterday. As the Jamaica Environment Trust notes, the beach is rapidly disappearing, with the sea lapping at beachside attractions; there are dubious plans to revive it by injecting chemicals into it. Oh, and there is basically no coral reef and no fish – all connected with said dwindling beach, of course. I’m informed, also, that the Negril Recycling Centre, supported by the Sandals Foundation about three years ago, is also non-functioning. The nearest one now is in Montego Bay.
Help JA Children, a local lobby group formed just one year ago and founded by the still-ridiculously-young Brandon Allwood, has started a collection of items for children in state care. The collection drive will go on for the entire month of May (Child Month) at Kia Motors, 2 Chelsea Avenue, in New Kingston. Please go through your cupboards or pop down to the store and donate anything that you can spare – clothes, toys, books, stationery and school items, toiletries… Help JA Children has a Facebook page and is on Twitter (@HelpJAChildren).
Reparations, again: In 2001, our very own Barbara Blake Hannah – a passionate Rastafarian defender of Jamaica’s culture – attended the United Nations World Conference on Racism in Durban, South Africa. The conference made 19 excellent recommendations for ways in which the evils of slavery could be atoned for by, in Jamaica’s case, the British Government. A British Lord, Anthony Gifford – a Queen’s Counsel who practices law in Jamaica and the UK – has campaigned tirelessly on the subject; and so has the Jamaica Labour Party’s Mike Henry. And yet, sadly, little or no progress has been made. Essentially, the British have said sorry, but no. The discussions continue. Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines Ralph Gonsalves spoke for a remarkable 87 minutes (according to tweets from friends who attended) at the launch of a new book on the topic by Professor Hilary Beckles at the University of the West Indies this week. Mr. Gonsalves has offered to host a Caribbean conference on the topic in his country, at which he will no doubt drone on for another 87 minutes. To my mind, this does not advance us any further. What next? Not more words, please? Let’s have action! It is a burning question, it needs to be resolved, and long speeches are not going to cut it.
But then, this is part of the Pontification Syndrome for which Jamaica is well known. We talk too much!
I hate Page 2: In the current socio-economic climate, my dislike for the social pages in the daily newspapers has been steadily growing. I am developing a real hatred for Page Two and Something Extra and all the other nonsense. I think I am going to start a Campaign for the Abolition of Social Pages (CASP for short). Seriously. They are irrelevant, elitist, classist, and actually rather offensive – in light of the fact that when the IMF funds were disbursed, the government had to ask for a special sum up front for “budgetary support.” So they could pay public sector wage bills for April, perhaps? So can we wave goodbye to those people with drinks in their hands, posing for their photo? Goodbye!
Once again, it is very sad to note the names of those who have been murdered in Jamaica since Wednesday, May 1, when I wrote my last review. My condolences to all those who mourn them (and to the family, friends and neighbors of the twelve-year-old girl who committed suicide in rural St. Catherine last week):
Violet Marsh, 63, Temple Hall, St. Andrew
Phillip Bell, 39, Seaforth, St. Thomas
Leroy Reid, 42, Naggo Head, St. Catherine
Constable Michael Townsend, Effortville District, Clarendon
Killed by the police:
Orane Bowman, Clarendon
Related links and articles (local blogs in purple):
PNP members apologize for controversial tweets: RJR News
Controversy in 140 characters: Gleaner editorial
Can you hear me now? Communication problems at Jamaica’s local government level: Perceptual Post
”Our journalists are not killed, but many stories die”: Jamaica Observer
Jamaican journalists challenged to improve standards: Sunday Gleaner
The people vs Portia: Lloyd B Smith op-ed/Jamaica Observer
Jamaica will find it difficult to implement IMF targets, Fitch says: Jamaica Observer
Lack of accountability in the budget debate: Robert Wynter column/Sunday Gleaner
NDX Saves Gov’t $17 Billion in Payments Per Year on Domestic Bonds: Jamaica Information Service
OUR to hold public meetings on request for increased water rates: RJR News
Energy bill reduction falls short of target: Solar Buzz Jamaica
Paulwell’s statement on CAP not true, says Golding: Jamaica Observer
Clarendon Alumina Partners no cost on budget – Finance Minister: Jamaica Information Service
NHT’s Inner City Housing Project causes headache: Gleaner – April, 2010
PM revives housing plan: Gleaner
The great NHT robbery: Gordon Robinson column/Sunday Gleaner
Upgraded facility to benefit St. Mary farmers: Jamaica Observer
Public beaches raise a stink: Gleaner
”Be more selective”: Food for the Poor Jamaica Chair Andrew Mahfood: lowrie-chin.blogspot.com
Britain’s black debt: The logic of reparation: anniepaul.net
Cut the talk and cut the red tape: Sunday Observer editorial
Richard Azan: The story not yet told: Desmond Allen article/Jamaica Observer
Spalding shops: Parish Council knew: Sunday Observer
Beyond Mr. Witter’s windy diatribe: Gleaner editorial
Witter wrong on ICC enquiry: Letter to the Editor from Lloyd D’Aguilar/Gleaner
We want $1 millon each: Tivoli residents put price on their loss: Gleaner
Anglican bishop says government will do nothing about Tivoli report: Jamaica Observer
Jamaica’s image in jeopardy if no Tivoli enquiry says human rights activist: RJR News
”Dudus” should testify – Witter: Sunday Observer
No disciplinary action yet – Albert Corcho: Jamaica Star
Children’s Advocate calls for partnerships: Jamaica Information Service
Give us clarity, Minister Thwaites: Letter from Senator Kamina Johnson Smith/Jamaica Observer
Child’s suicide leaves void in St. Catherine village: Sunday Observer
Revealing Jamaica’s soul: Jamaicans for Justice op-ed/Sunday Observer
Should contraceptives be introduced in schools? Sunday Observer
Contraceptives in schools: Don’t just dismiss it: Sunday Observer
Chart of the Week: Putting All our Eggs in One Basket? Cargo continues to decline: diGJamaica
”Tablets” for a wounded Jamaica: perceptualpost.com
”Time for Penwood to settle down”: Jamaica Observer
Was Penwood stabbing staged for YouTube? Sunday Gleaner
Prisoners party at Tower Street: Sunday Gleaner
Chronic shortage of special education teachers: RJR News
Sports: The opium of our high schools: Lasceive Graham op-ed/Jamaica Observer
Round and around and around and around we go: Tamara Scott Williams column/Sunday Observer
ODPEM gearing up for active hurricane season: Jamaica Information Service
Portrait of an elderly man: lovely artwork from a young man from St. Mary: jablogz.com
Influential Jamaican saxophonist Cedric Brooks dies at 70: Washington Post”
What happened to the Negril Recycling Centre? Undated photo from Sandals Foundation showsHeidi Clarke (third left), director of programmes at the Sandals Foundation, hands over a cheque valued at $320,000 to Carey Wallace, president of the Negril Chamber of Commerce, operators of the Negril Recycling Centre. Looking on are Mark Swainbank of Environmental Resources Management (from left); Junior Gordon, director of the Negril Chamber of Commerce and general manager for Grand Pineapple Negril; Jermaine Robinson, manager of the Negril Chamber of Commerce; and Peter Reid, manager of the Negril Recycling Centre.
It’s warm, bright and it’s Wednesday, which means my mid-week bulletin on Jamaican comings and goings is due. Here goes…
First shops, now houses? I am very sorry that the wonderful charity Food for the Poor, which does so much for Jamaica, has been dragged into a new story of alleged political corruption in South Trelawny. It seems to be a sort of political counterpoint to the Richard Azan saga, since it involves a Jamaica Labour Party Member of Parliament this time. There are claims from residents, an independent local councilor and others that Marisa Dalrymple-Philibert (what a great name!) has ensured the distribution of wooden houses constructed by Food for the Poor to residents loyal to her party. She denies this, and there were some inaccuracies in the early claims, which Food for the Poor corrected. We shall see what happens after Food for the Poor, which is known for its adherence to accountability and transparency, has done its own investigation into the matter. They should conclude this by the end of the week. I’m beginning to think that Members of Parliament should not be involved in the distribution of any kind of benefits within their constituencies. Perhaps, instead, they could live in their constituencies, and represent them properly in Parliament. Let’s get away from the “scarce benefits and spoils.”
The children: Today is the first day of Child Month – a month when the Government pays lip service to Jamaican children. There are various feel-good events and lots of pictures of sweet, laughing children and politicians patting them on the head. But a child in Jamaica is an endangered species, like the African elephant. Children are actively discriminated against. At best, they are ignored. At worst, they are abused, physically, mentally, sexually, and locked up. Many of those in conflict with the law are labeled “uncontrollable,” bad boys and girls who should be “disciplined.” I have written numerous blog posts on children’s rights in the past. Congratulations to Jamaicans for Justice, who today started a series of articles on children’s rights in the Gleaner. See link below.
The Jamaican Child at Risk: And on the first day of Child Month, I read reports about students of Calabar High School attacking a bus driver in Kingston; a 12-year-old girl found hanging from a mango tree; the body of an abducted schoolgirl found in a cane field; and a student of Robert Lightbourne High School in serious condition after being stabbed at the school in rural St.Thomas today.
PM budget speech: Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller made her contribution to the Budget Debate yesterday. Time consumed: well over two hours (her Opposition counterpart spoke for a good three hours!) Perhaps taking a cue from Mr. Holness, the Prime Minister was less confrontational than usual and dropped the hectoring tone for the most part. As a result, it was easier to listen to, without the usual feeding-time-at-the-zoo background noise. She kicked off by professing her love for the poor, mentioned some houses distributed and ground she has broken (in one case at least, with emotion), and used the word “transformation” over fifty times (note to speechwriters: that really is overkill). She wrapped up with several mentions of the word “God” and the usual exhortations to unite and work together… In between, there was little of substance and a lot of fluff (fond as I am of the Sunshine Girls – our national netball team – I don’t see the need to include them in a budget speech).
A couple of concerns: The Prime Minister announced that our new, oriental colonial masters (China Harbour et al) have changed their minds about developing a transshipment port in the Kingston Harbour area near Fort Augusta women’s prison. This decision was made “a few weeks ago.” They have decided to do a bigger, better project somewhere else (“final location undetermined”) in Jamaica instead. This puzzles me and also raises questions about the development of the logistics hub and preparations for the expansion of the Panama Canal. And talking of the hub, what is actually happening now, and what needs to happen by the deadline/s for Jamaica to be competitively “in” on the thing? I have a feeling deadlines are looming, and the Prime Minister proudly announced that party stalwart Professor Gordon Shirley will head a National Taskforce “that will drive the process.” Why in the future – shouldn’t it be happening now?
The NHT again: Yes, another heavy burden will be placed on the National Housing Trust (NHT) this year. The Prime Minister announced that the Trust would have to cough up more for the Inner City Renewal Program and other major projects.
The Tivoli forest: An absolute forest of trees has been cut down for the printing of the long-awaited interim report on the Tivoli Gardens Massacre of May, 2010. We heard that the report would be tabled in Parliament yesterday. This did not happen, since they had not finished printing 63 copies (200 plus pages each). One journalist asked why they couldn’t just use the tablets that Technology Minister Phillip Paulwell had kindly given to each Member of Parliament just recently?
Tweeps find a voice: This morning, broadcast journalist Emily Crooks invited her faithful “tweeps” to comment on the Prime Minister’s speech. So several of us piped up and shared our thoughts on the radio. It was interesting to hear human voices in place of the regular comments on my TweetDeck. Emily and her co-host Naomi seemed rather pleased with us, and we got some compliments about our commentary! Thanks for giving us the opportunity, Em…
Revenge of the security guard: Ambassador Courtney Walsh has refused to accept an apology from the Jamaica Cricket Association for his treatment at the hands of a security guard. He wanted to enter a particular section of Sabina Park, Kingston’s cricket ground and was flatly refused. Now, anyone who lives in Kingston has probably run the gamut of security guards at every business place, government office, shopping plaza or residential complex one might visit. They are extremely poorly paid, work very long hours in poor, sometimes dangerous conditions, and are often grumpy, arrogant and mean. We have to put up with it. They are “doing their job,” as was this particular guard, no doubt. I suppose the phrase “Do you know who I am?” came up. Anyway, the famous sportsman is pretty upset.
Stop press: The interim report on the Tivoli Gardens Massacre has finally been tabled in Parliament this afternoon. Oh, no! I take that back. It wasn’t. Or was it? Yes! It was, and it’s available online, so more trees are spared. Please see the link below. Coincidentally, the New Yorker journalist Mattathias Schwartz writes a follow-up report on the killing of over seventy Jamaicans allegedly at the hands of the security forces, along with a four-minute video. You can find it on the magazine’s online pages. Schwartz visited Jamaica, wrote extensively on the “incursion,” and has now released surveillance footage from the U.S. Government, after filing a lawsuit to obtain it. See for yourself at the link below. And…Today the International Monetary Fund approved Jamaica’s application for a four-year extended fund facility, worth US$958 million. Yay! Now, don’t spend it all at once, will you? You can’t? Oh well… First US$200 million installment coming soon, anyway.
Let’s hear it for the Alpha Boys: I spent some time late last year at the Alpha Boys School in Kingston while volunteering with the JN Foundation. It was Christmas, and the boys were exuberant, energetic and participated in a highly competitive dance competition (Gangnam Style). Congratulations to overseas-based Jamaican artist Michael Thompson, special projects manager at Alpha Joshua Chamberlain, the Bob Marley Foundation and all the other individuals and organizations involved in the Alpha Boys’ revival, including its “rebranding.” The boys will be producing and selling branded shirts; for more details contact Alpha Service Bureau at 930-2200 or email@example.com.
I Believe in Spring Village: A huge pat on the back too, to Randy Finikin of the Spring Village Development Foundation for his great community work over the years; and thanks to the Governor General for his support and the construction of an I Believe Medical Centre under his special I Believe Initiative in Spring Village. You can read more about the program here:
See you on Sunday for the next bulletin!
My condolences to the families of the following Jamaicans, who have been brutally murdered since Sunday, April 28:
Harry Bunwarrie, 28, Thompson Pen, St. Catherine
Sebert Wilks, 70, Bushy Park, St. Catherine
Gerald Wilks, 60, Bushy Park, St. Catherine
Abigail Robb, 15, Clarks Town, Trelawny
Nigel Watson, 38, Somerton, St. James
André Roper, 26, Montego Bay, St. James
Related links/articles (purple links are local blogs):
Office of the Public Defender Interim Report to Parliament Concerning Investigations into the Conduct of the Security Forces during the State of Emergency: Jamaican Parliament (pdf files)
Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller‘s Budget Speech, April 30, 2013: Going for Growth and Development
Who got the houses? Sunday Gleaner
Dalrymple Philibert says house allocations not politically aligned: Gleaner
Food for the Poor Jamaica reaffirms its modus operandi of transparency and accountability: Food for the Poor blog
Government raids Trust to fund major projects: Jamaica Observer
Traces of a massacre: Mattathias Schwartz/New Yorker
From one battlefield to another: U.S. tries two new aerial tools to search for drugs in the Caribbean: Washington Post
Danzil Clarke was clueless: Man who robbed Bunting’s friends was unaware of who his victims were: Gleaner
Thieves jet off with $20 million worth of airplane fuel: Gleaner
Changing dirty diapers on Earth Day: Carolyn Cooper column/Sunday Gleaner
We need a leader like Thatcher: Delano Seiveright blog
Jamaica to receive EU health grant: Carib Journal
Quotas crucial to righting scale of gender imbalance: Linnette Vassell op-ed/Gleaner
“Fewer women screened for cervical cancer”: Gleaner
Where has our sense of community gone? George Davis column/Gleaner
JCA apologizes to Courtney Walsh: Jamaica Observer
Alpha Boys reborn: Gleaner
Sheryl Sandberg‘s “Lean In” and Jamaica: Marcia Forbes op-ed/Carib Journal
Selling dreams and unrealistic hope – Jamaicans being pitched to be an entrepreneur: Jane Nina Buchanan article/jamaicans.com
Sunday Thoughts: April 28, 2013 (petchary.wordpress.com)
Playing Politics With Jamaica’s Future (petchary.wordpress.com)
Maggie and Me: Some Thoughts on Leadership (petchary.wordpress.com)
Dear and faithful readers: I hope you are finding the two-part review more convenient and timely. I certainly find it much more manageable, from the writing point of view! As you will see, I still add a lot of links at the end of the post, so that you can do further reading on the various topics. My two-part news reviews now appear on Wednesdays and Sundays.
The PM and the press: The Press Association of Jamaica (PAJ) met with Information Minister Sandrea Falconer on Thursday to discuss the issue of media access to the Prime Minister. How could this really be an issue? But there you go; it is. As the PAJ noted before, the Prime Minister has not done any “substantive” media interview since taking office fifteen months ago. Minister Falconer said this was not quite true. But sorry – I just don’t remember many “impromptu” interviews. The Prime Minister never does a press briefing alone. She is always flanked by several other protective ministers. I am also wondering about this “Support Unit” that the Prime Minister takes with her everywhere. How many are there and what do they do?
Blast from the past: The final sentence in the Jamaica Information Service press release (link below) caught my eye. “The (Information) Minister was accompanied by members of the Prime Minister’s Support Unit and Head of the Minister’s Taskforce [to keep press in line], Colin Campbell.” Slight raise of the eyebrows there. Mr. Campbell is a former Information Minister, People’s National Party general secretary and Member of Parliament, a man who is (or was) under a bit of a shadow in connection with the 2007 Trafigura scandal (alleged campaign donations to the party). He has been keeping a low profile for the past few years – apart from writing a newspaper article last December attacking the outgoing Contractor General (who, of course, investigates matters like Trafigura). Campbell called the CG “an abject failure.” Meanwhile, I understand the PAJ’s Vice President Arthur Hall says that the organization will not be part of any “protocol” to restrict access to Ms. Simpson Miller. This is, very definitely, the thin end of the wedge, and the PAJ recognizes it as such.
Paulwell announced some things: As I have noted before, I like Minister Phillip Paulwell because he seems to stay focused, generally restrains himself from scoring cheap political points, and actually seems to want to get things done. His contribution to the Budget Debate last week certainly contained much food to chew on. The government has decided not to sell its 45% stake in the hugely loss-making Clarendon Alumina Partners (the bauxite plant), Paulwell announced; although the Finance Minister had said something different. So this is a little confusing. The majority owners, Alcoa and Glencore, have written a report on the matter, that will be made public soon.
Venezuelan grey areas: The future of the long-delayed expansion of the Petrojam oil refinery now seems gravely in doubt, according to Minister Paulwell; the Venezuelan government has been a 49% shareholder since 2006. The death of Hugo Chavez and the election of the so far unimpressive Nicolas Maduro has also raised questions over the PetroCaribe agreement, on which Jamaica and other Caribbean nations are (too) heavily dependent. Minister Paulwell must be feeling very antsy about our socialist friends; Jamaica needs to know what’s happening, ASAP.
On and on and on: Opposition Leader Andrew Holness also made his contribution to the Budget Debate last week. It dragged on all afternoon (three hours). I would like to see all budget speeches shortened to twenty minutes or so. It’s more than possible – just boil down your announcements, package them neatly. There would be no more glazed eyes (and irritating side- conversations) in Parliament. Members would have to sit up and concentrate for a much shorter time. There would be no time for the heckling, aside jokes and guffaws from the other side of the room. Members of the public would be able to tune in and really listen, instead of just having the radio on as a kind of soporific background drawl. Generally, though, the Opposition Leader did quite well, by all accounts. His use of two baskets of groceries, to show how much less we can buy compared to December 2011, was effective and made for good television. He also made ten recommendations to the Government for digging itself out of the economic hole it finds itself in. The speech was remarkably lacking in rancor and political point-scoring. This must have surprised the Government side of the House, who were priming their weapons for battle. The usual insults and “banter” therefore stayed at a manageable level. Good, constructive stuff, Mr. Holness.
Yes, we have drugs: I’ve noticed a remarkable upsurge in major drug busts, lately. Two retirees from Florida have been arrested in connection with the discovery of 350 pounds of marijuana on Navy Island, a beautiful spot just off Port Antonio. 650 pounds of weed was found in West Kingston. 500 pounds of ganja was found in St. Elizabeth, always a productive area. On April 20, a security guard contractor was arrested with a huge amount of cocaine in Montego Bay. Hell, there was even a cocaine find on a Caribbean Airlines flight departing for Florida. Jamaicans are being arrested in the Bahamas and elsewhere on drug charges. One gets the feeling that the “war on drugs” has just been rekindled.
Water, water everywhere: The seaside resort of Negril is parched. During an edition of the call-in radio show “Justice” this week, there was a somewhat futile discussion on what happened to all the water in Negril, how it was being managed, etc. Local residents are upset that water is being diverted to the hotels, and the hotels are upset at having to give refunds to guests who leave because there is no water. Basically, there is not enough to go around. When Negril began developing rapidly some 15-20 years ago (and the Spanish have subsequently moved in with their monstrous hotels) there was concern among some that water, sewage systems etc. might be inadequate. The Powers that Were more or less dismissed these fears in the name of the mighty god of Investment, and we seem to have an insatiable appetite for more tourism rooms. Well, so it has come to pass: no water. Then, of course, there is the disappearing “world famous seven-mile beach” – which can no longer be called seven miles long by any stretch of the imagination. What is the Member of Parliament (also Tourism Minister) doing about all this? He seems to be preoccupied with arguing with his Opposition counterpart about tourism money, at the moment.
Could the Ministry of Foreign Affairs please tell me…? What does the Association of Caribbean States (ACS) do, apart from talk of course? What are its achievements? It has been meeting in Haiti this week. And why do we need to have an Embassy in Ecuador, as Minister of Foreign Affairs AJ Nicholson is suggesting? I thought that diplomatic missions abroad were very costly. What do Jamaica and Ecuador have to offer each other? Is Julian Assange going to be palmed off on us?
More details, please? Of the 4,000 online jobs that the World Bank says it has created for Jamaicans. Wasn’t aware…
Jamaica is slipping: And talking of IT, Jamaica has slipped down the rankings again in the World Economic Forum’s Global Information Technology Report – for the seventh consecutive year. With all that Minister Paulwell and IT entrepreneurs are doing (Ingrid Riley is doing a superb job to stimulate start-ups with her Kingston Beta) we are steadily slipping behind – for example, in network readiness, broadband subscribers, e-commerce, venture capital availability, and (depressingly) math and science education. Can we have some more discussion on this? What has gone wrong? Are we just dragging our feet? What do we need to be doing that we are not doing now?
Maybe the Member of Parliament can pay a visit with her Support Team: I hear the deprived and desolate inner-city community of Majesty Gardens (such a tragic misnomer), in the Prime Minister’s constituency, is “tense.” Perhaps their Member of Parliament can pay them a visit soon, and re-ignite the love.
Tears for Dr. Lewin: I was moved by former Prime Minister Edward Seaga’s very emotional farewell to Dr. Olive Lewin at her funeral yesterday. Dr. Lewin was founder of the Jamaican Folk Singers, cultural explorer and invigorator. She was also, as Mr. Seaga pointed out, an incredibly kind and humanitarian woman who cared deeply about our marginalized and poor children and quietly did much good work on their behalf. Mr. Seaga said, in a voice thick with tears, “I wish I could feel it in my heart that she was fully recognized in her own land.” I agree with him – she was not. No pretty speech from the Culture Minister or hugs from the Prime Minister can make up for that.
Phrases I don’t want to hear for a while: “Divine intervention” and “The relevant authorities.”
Tweet-grabbing: The Jamaica Observer is now reprinting Jamaicans’ tweets, with names and Twitter handles – especially the political ones. I am just wondering what the purpose is. If you look at page 27 of today’s Sunday newspaper you will see tweeters clearly identified alongside their tweets on the issue of the Prime Minister and the press. I suppose the newspaper doesn’t have to ask permission, but… They also have an address where you can “email your views” but must include your Twitter handle. Why?
The Energy God doth protest: A dancehall figure called Elephant Man is protesting against wild rumors that he is gay. This is the worst thing you can say to a macho dancehall man, in a sphere where homophobia still reigns supreme. The orange-haired Elephant Man claims to have “thirty-five pickney” [children] so how could he be gay? The last figure bandied about was apparently 22 pickney. Well, he has lived up to his name of “Energy God” it seems, and got busy. Keeping the population levels up there. So long as none of the pickney have orange hair.
I am very sad to report that the following Jamaicans have lost their lives in the past three days, since my last bulletin. My deepest condolences to all their families. Ms. Ricketts’ other son is also hospitalized. I cannot imagine how the father is feeling. I have noticed how often the names of Jamaicans killed by the police are not reported – or, as below, their nicknames are given. I suppose they are not so important?
Richard Aiken, 19, Beckford Town, St. Mary
Shawn Magnus, 31, Parry Town/Ocho Rios, St. Ann
Patrick Shakes, 51, Catadupa, St. James
Kereisha Ricketts, 34, Newtown, Westmoreland
Jafe Francis, 9, Newtown, Westmoreland
Killed by police:
“Piggy Deer,” Gregory Park, St. Catherine
Related articles (local posts in purple):
Poverty has little bearing on students: Jaevion Nelson column/Gleaner
Change a coming: Energy minister says positive move to reduce electricity rates on the horizon: Gleaner
Four bidders for new power plant: Jamaica Observer
Paulwell pins final hopes for Petrojam on Maduro: Gleaner
Bauxite revival: Gleaner
Jamalco to press ahead with coal plant: Gleaner
Will CAP decision undermine IMF deal? Gleaner editorial
Phillips says public sector agencies to be merged: Jamaica Observer
Paulwell gives tablets to parliamentarians: Gleaner
Students, teachers at 30 schools to get free tablets: Jamaica Observer
Holness blames government for people’s hardships: Jamaica Observer
”We’ve been butchered”: Holness tells government to backtrack on taxes, pitches 10-point formula: Gleaner
Charting a different course: Gleaner
4,000 jobs created for young Jamaicans in virtual economy: Gleaner
Jamaica dips in new IT rankings: Gleaner
New customs tax presents nightmare for small businesses: Jamaica Observer
Give details for the June IMF test: Gleaner editorial
In Caribbean, gridlocked courts hit by crime wave block justice and stall lives: AP/Washington Post
Mayhem on Waltham Avenue in Kingston: Jamaica Observer
”Let’s go get these bad guys”: U.S. sets eyes on scammers: Gleaner
”Dem call it scam, me call it a reparation”: Mark Wilson op-ed/Trinidad Guardian
Rolex probe widens: Gleaner
Greg Christie was an abject failure: Colin Campbell op-ed/Gleaner, December 2012
JPS contractors accused of stealing utility wires, street lamps: Jamaica Observer
American nabbed in Portland drug operation, another on the run: Gleaner
Cops keeping an eye on tense Majesty Gardens: Jamaica Observer
Tivoli residents call on PM to “have a heart”: Gleaner
Tyranny in the ghetto: Gleaner editorial
UNICEF donates vehicle to Eve for Life: Gleaner
”Show love to our children in entire month of May”: Jamaica Observer
Media Association joins PAJ’s call for greater access to public officials: Gleaner
Minister Falconer and PAJ meet on proposed protocol: Jamaica Information Service
719 children missing since the start of the year: Jamaica Observer
Gender-based quotas wrong: Letter of the Day/Gleaner
Anglican bishops reject same sex marriage: Jamaica Observer
Ghastly pit latrines at St. Mary’s:
CDA head says child care facilities audit almost complete: Jamaica Observer
Usain Bolt Foundation announces Samsung camera workshop in Jamaica: Arc Magazine
Divine intervention is the Church promoting peace in the society: Bernard Headley op-ed/Gleaner
Port Maria Hospital gets well-needed lifeline: Gleaner
We had rain! Yes, you know, that wet stuff that makes you wet. It was glorious in Kingston, splashing around for a bit. The cooler temperature is delightful. Our whole garden has woken up again.
The week so far has been fairly quiet. But here are a few things to ponder:
Time for “Man a Yaad”: Opposition Spokesman on Finance Audley Shaw made an interesting contribution to the Budget Debate in Parliament yesterday. As he often does, he alternated between throwaway jibes and humor and heavy, somber pronouncements. In between, he put forward some alternatives, some solutions. This was refreshing. We didn’t really get any from the Finance Minister last week; his “no new taxes” presentation was predictably dull. But then, it’s easier for the Opposition to be more interesting and engaging, whichever one of the parties it is. One just wishes these budget speeches didn’t go on so darn long.
Gloom and doom: As the signing of the agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) finally appears on the horizon – within striking distance now – it seems Jamaican consumers are none too cheerful. Although business confidence is reportedly up a little, 47 per cent of consumers in the latest Jamaica Chamber of Commerce quarterly survey are pessimistic about the economy. There has been a significant increase in gloom and doom compared to a year ago. IMF or no IMF.
“Bun and cheese politics”: This is how the Jamaica Observer’s editorial describes the current style of governance in Montego Bay. I would love to hear a really nice, inspiring story coming out of that city. Please. In particular, the leadership of the current Mayor Glendon Harris (People’s National Party) worries me. The former mayor, the Jamaica Labour Party‘s Charles Sinclair (who is a great deal more articulate than his successor) alleges that at Easter time the Parish Council over which Mayor Harris presides gave $20,000 to each council member to buy bun and cheese; and that it is also funding a Monday night public street dance. There was a bit of a shadow over the Council after the ridiculous and prolonged to-do last year over a Jamaican flag – minus the green – draped above a stage at an official function. Of course, the absent green is the Jamaica Labour Party’s color. That unpleasant little episode remains a little murky to this day, but fingers were pointed here and there…
The renaming of the ‘Ospital: Yes, the ‘Ealth Minister has, at last, spoken on the issue of the renaming of the Cornwall Regional Hospital in Montego Bay. He and the Prime Minister are pouring gallons of oil on troubled waters, stirred up by the aforesaid Mayor Harris. Whose name, you may ask? Why, only that of the man who almost single-handedly brought the hospital into being to serve western Jamaica. Dr. Herbert Eldemire died three years ago. He was Minister of Health from 1962-72 under the Jamaica Labour Party and served as party chairman for a few years; but was never known as a “tribalist.” Cabinet approved the renaming of the hospital in August, 2011. The current administration has said it had intended to proceed with the official renaming soon. This does not seem to sit well with the Mayor, who last week decided to “consult” with Montegonians on the matter. The Prime Minister has intervened and spoken to Dr. Eldemire’s daughter Denise, but it seems it is too late. The family is clearly deeply offended and hurt by the Mayor’s attitude and does not want the renaming to happen; see their statement below. This seems to me petty, reeking of political tribalism. By all accounts, Dr. Herbert Eldemire served his country extremely well. If not for him, the hospital might well not exist.
But no, the forces of political partisanship have won again, and soured what might have been a positive and celebratory move. Then again, maybe it would be best not to name anywhere at all after politicians, anywhere on the island. Not even a lamp post.
FINSAC report: The creation of the Financial Sector Adjustment Company (FINSAC) during the financial crash of the 1990s shattered many lives. This is a known fact. Opposition Spokesman Audley Shaw caused quite a rumpus in Parliament this week when he insisted that the Government must find the J$10-15 million needed to complete and publish the report of the Commission of Enquiry into FINSAC. Of course, there is politics at work here; FINSAC was presided over by the now Transport and Works Minister Omar Davies, who was Finance Minister in 1997. But for heaven’s sake, just find the money please and let’s bring closure. By the way, FINSAC has a nice website in patriotic Jamaican colors:
. I am sure it does not refer to the suicides, family breakups and destitution it left in its wake.
…and the other one: Another painful and shameful episode in Jamaica’s recent history was, of course, the massacre of over seventy Jamaican citizens in Tivoli Gardens in May, 2010. Yes, we are approaching the third anniversary of this horror, and still the Public Defender‘s interim report is not forthcoming. I am beginning to feel sorry for Mr. Michael Peart, the House Speaker, who is now insisting he will receive it by month-end, ready or not.
A little warming: The Prime Minister actually smiled at a journalist yesterday. CVM Television’s Andrew Cannon managed to have a chat with her, while her security man peered over her shoulder. On the Azan matter (which still rankles) the Prime Minister, in a disarming manner, pointed out that there was an ongoing “investigation” (a favorite word) and suggested poor Mr. Azan may “per’aps” have made an error. So no budging in the position there. It also appears that a microphone did not come into contact with Mrs. Simpson Miller’s mouth (a bit of dramatic license there perhaps on the part of the Information Minister). The Prime Minister merely backed away from the over-enthusiastic, unknown reporter; no physical contact. Speaker of the House Michael Peart, in the same TV report, seemed to have also let the cat out of the bag by saying he was unaware of any shooting incident that may have made the PM’s security even more uptight than usual. Did he not get the memo?
…but not so lovable these days? As a result of this public relations fiasco, I find the Prime Minister’s demeanor has become cold and distant. It may be a defense mechanism, but it is really strange and unexpected. She has been making almost no effort to “woo” either the media or the public at large. Her Information Minister is becoming far too schoolmistressy – and so condescending it leaves you breathless. It is all about protecting the Prime Minister from the rest of us, it seems. That’s fine, but can the Prime Minister’s entourage of advisors, support team etc. – whatever they call themselves – just lighten up a little? We are not zombies rampaging across the land. We are ordinary people seeking information! Minister Falconer, try smiling sometimes? The media and the public are not your enemies.
But hey, some awesome things have already happened this week: Top of my list, the donation of a gorgeous, shining white bus by UNICEF to Eve for Life, the non-governmental organization that supports teen mothers living with HIV. As the organization’s chair, I was happy to be able to thank UNICEF for this generosity and for their ongoing support and faith in the incredible Eve family – especially the indefatigable Joy Crawford and Pat Watson, who are so dedicated and hard-working it’s not true. The bus was loaded up with provisions today for the young ladies in Montego Bay – its inaugural trip out of town! SO exciting.
Then there is the current visit of the African American artist Kehinde Wiley, who creates breathtaking (and often huge) canvases of young urban males of various ethnicities in the striking poses of Western art traditions. I remember being stunned by a huge painting of LL Cool J sitting imperiously on a throne, against an ornate background, at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC some years ago. It’s a thrill to have Mr. Wiley here (his first visit to Jamaica) as part of his “World Stage” project. Can’t wait to see the results!
Speaking of art… Don’t forget the National Gallery will be having its monthly free Sunday opening on April 28th. It promises to be fun and stimulating, as usual.
And an intrepid group of Jamaicans has started the ball rolling on what I know will be an ongoing discussion on gender equity in Jamaica and what can be done to redress the balance. According to official figures, 34% of women are unemployed, compared to 10% for men (the actual figures are very likely higher). I have a feeling that the #leaninJA conversation will likely translate into action. Congratulations to Marcia Forbes et al for sharpening the focus!
Question: Is the drug trade on the rise again in Jamaica? See the reports below. I hope not, I really do.
My condolences to the families of the following Jamaicans who were killed recently. I want this to end…
Ann-Marie Campbell, 39, Black River, St. Elizabeth
Barrington Bennett, 61, Highfield, St. Catherine (British national) – last week.
Related articles (local blog posts in purple):
Richard Azan a law unto himself: Letter of the Day/Gleaner
Azan’s specter haunts the Budget: Is PM a coward? Gleaner editorial
Time come, Portia, time come: constructedthoughts.wordpress.com
”White Lady” is back: cops say cocaine trade resurfacing in Jamaica: Gleaner
Men linked to international drug network remanded: RJR News
Marijuana seized on Navy Island: RJR News
Guardsman suspends contractors in wake of multimillion dollar cocaine find: RJR News
PM to intervene in Cornwall Regional Hospital renaming issue: Gleaner
Statement from the Eldemire family regarding the renaming of the Cornwall Regional Hospital: delanoseiv.wordpress.com
Rise above the fray: Letter to the Editor from Lloyd B. Smith, MP/Jamaica Observer
Bun and cheese politics in MoBay: Jamaica Observer
No progress on murder halt: Letter to the Editor/Gleaner
Focus on safety, not war: Letter to the Editor from Yvonne McCalla Sobers/Gleaner
Rev Al Miller faces court in “Dudus” case: Jamaica Observer
Peart insists Tivoli report will be tabled by month-end: Jamaica Observer
Jamaicans enjoy living on the edge: Robert Lalah column/Gleaner
Jamaica hoping for talks on PetroCaribe soon: Gleaner
Entrepreneur reports growth and success in Tel-Aviv: Jamaica Star
Visas, air service hindering Chinese tourists to Jamaica: Gleaner
Reclaiming water: A solution to one of Jamaica’s problems: Jamaica Observer
Pastor says: Use more contraception – calls for use of “morning after” pill… Gleaner
Politicians afraid to tell poor not to have kids – Reid: Gleaner
Teachers learn to use music in class: Gleaner
God’s way not gay: Letter to the Editor/Jamaica Observer
”Mr. Commissioner, oh where art thou?” Akay Hendricks op-ed/Jamaica Observer
”Bang belly” economy: Shaw claims present state of affairs hostile to growth: Gleaner
Businesses more optimistic than consumers ahead of IMF agreement: Gleaner
Pledge FINSAC assets to NHT, Shaw suggests: Jamaica Observer
Shaw rips Government to shreds over incomplete FINSAC report: Gleaner
Women entrepreneurs link with global network: Gleaner
Reggae legend, Toots Hibbert makes on the spot donation towards purchase of vital medical equipment: chatychaty.com
Here’s the second half of the week: April 21, 2013 (petchary.wordpress.com)
Exclusion versus Empowerment (petchary.wordpress.com)
Well, dear readers, the first part of my weekly review can be found here:
Here is Part Two…
“No new taxes”…today: The presentation of the Budget came and went without much fanfare. Local media diligently reported, analyzed and tweeted highlights. But we do know that this annual ritual is…just that. There are likely to be supplemental budgets, adjustments, and the “allocated” amounts may, in fact, never be allocated for their specific purposes, at least not in full. One did however feel irritated by this announcement of “no new taxes” in Parliament. The Finance Minister was duly applauded for it, with the usual loud banging of desks, on his side. The Opposition was not so amused, pointing out that we are still reeling from a huge (J$16 billion) tax package announced in February. And we have a sneaking feeling that there may be more taxes in the offing in the next few months. At least, many callers to radio talk shows seem perturbed about the huge increase in property taxes. We are worried, too. My retired mother-in-law, who is on a pension, has just been hit with a 130 per cent increase. Ours is likely to be similar; and Minister Phillips says properties may be re-evaluated, and taxes increased again on the new valuations.
What about all those who don’t pay? This is just an obsession of mine, but it really bugs me that there are hundreds – nay, thousands – of individuals and organizations out there in society (and you know who you are) who are simply not paying their way. The National Water Commission has just applied for a 19 per cent rate increase, and at the same time we know that huge amounts of water are lost (about thirty per cent I believe) due to theft – and their own carelessness… We know all about the widespread theft of electricity, mainly in inner city communities, many of whom have never paid a “light bill” in their life. And then there are the non-taxpayers. The St. Catherine Parish Council now has to pay for its services – street lights, garbage collection etc – from property taxes only. And it has only ever collected fifty per cent of its property taxes… I wish them luck. Meanwhile, law-abiding Jamaicans have to pay for all this waste and thievery.
At arms’ length: The Prime Minister’s support team kept journalists at a distance as she departed from the Budget debate. For security reasons, it was said. More on this below.
Yes, and the tiefing continues: I thought receiving stolen property was an offense; can someone clarify this please? In any case, the Gleaner reported that a former Mayor has returned a nice Rolex watch he received from a “political activist” who is among five charged with committing a robbery at Swiss Stores in downtown Kingston recently. This is all such inspiring stuff, eh?
Poor farmers: Another kind of thieving that financial analyst Dennis Chung referred to in an interview is what is called “praedial larceny” (a term I had never heard until I came to Jamaica). This means stealing farm produce and livestock, which hard-working farmers have reared and grown. In other words, taking their livelihood away from them. Like Dennis, I cannot understand why this criminal act, which goes on year after year unabated, is not taken more seriously by law enforcement and the courts. Perhaps it is because it affects rural residents, and we really only care about what happens in Kingston and a couple of other towns. I don’t know. But I believe the penalties should be much higher and the pursuit of these criminals should be aggressive and unrelenting. This isn’t happening. And when someone spots an alleged goat thief, an angry and frustrated mob attacks him.
Negative, negative (negative?) Having successfully side-stepped journalists on the way to making a speech, our Prime Minister and leader Portia Simpson Miller referred to the Azan issue. She used the first part of her speech to talk about the prevailing “negative, negative” attitude towards politicians (only one repeat this time – usually it’s two, as in “working, working, working.”) Her stony face and strident tone certainly had a negative effect on me. Why was the Prime Minister so upset?
Young Turks: Veteran journalist Barbara Gloudon is concerned at the prelude to all of this – the post-Cabinet press briefing during which the Information Minister bravely fended off an enthusiastic “tag team” of young broadcast journalists. Minister Falconer wasn’t entirely successful. I described this lively encounter in my Wednesday post. Ms. Gloudon (and government officials, as well as other traditional journalists) are all concerned about this apparent shift in the dynamics of media. But didn’t we all see this new era arriving? Ms. Gloudon writes in her weekly column: “There is very little which does not end up broadcast far and wide, and it doesn’t need old media to do it. Everybody has become his/her own reporter and to hell with the niceties. Everyone has his/her own truth and it can be stretched either way.”
Blame social media: Of course, the dreaded social media is to blame for all this. I trust that no one is thinking of “regulating” it. Russia and China have their own sanitized versions of the social media, while other countries simply throw bloggers in jail, or block the social media. I’m a little concerned – but hopefully with no good reason.
The “gladiators”: The Prime Minister was apparently ruffled at the behavior of our over-zealous “gladiators” as Ms. Gloudon calls them. Ms. Simpson Miller will not comment on the issue of Minister Richard Azan and the seemingly illegal shops, as she says an investigation is going on. The Prime Minister observed, “Why should I make a comment?” adding, somewhat obscurely, “The time has come when we should put country ahead of any personal ambition… I have given all of my adult life to the service of this country…” (Who was she referring to? Over-ambitious journalists? Did she not have ambitions in her long political career, or was it all purely selfless?) The occasion was the opening of a new business showroom. “This should be the news, not anything else!” declared Prime Minister. OK, journalists – you have been told what the news is to be.
Procedure is important: The Prime Minister’s team believe that procedure is important in the interaction between politicians and journalists. Maybe they need to revisit procedures, together.
Laughing it off: Meanwhile, CVM Television’s Andrew Cannon is not letting this go. He did catch Minister Azan and sought to question him, but Azan’s response was, “I sent a release, and that is enough. Have a good evening.” He repeated the last sentence several times and then seemed to find this highly amusing, walking off chuckling with one of his sidekicks. No success for the gladiator there; he did not seem to get the joke. But Mr. Azan seems to have plenty of supporters, mainly members of the People’s National Party. The head of that party’s youth organization (the PNPYO) said it was a “very humanitarian move” to build the shops.
Opening a small can of worms: The #Tissue#Issue has basically remained unresolved. We are really none the wiser. But it seems to have provoked a mini-trade war with Trinidad & Tobago. The issue may go to the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) for resolution. What a tangled web of toilet paper we weave; a bit like that ad when the whole thing unrolls…
Digicel Foundation: The Digicel Foundation is doing so much good work that it’s hard to keep up with them. Their focus on literacy is excellent and commendable. Now they have teamed up with USAID on an enrichment program that will benefit 40,000. We have to keep fighting the literacy fight.
Crayons do count: And most awesomely (is there such a word?) the local Continental Bakery has donated J$50 million – no mean sum indeed! – to the wonderful Crayons Count program initiated by Ms. Deika Morrison. Of course, she is over the moon. I liked what Continental CEO Gary “Butch” Hendrickson says: “We cannot lose another generation of children in this country; we have lost too many.” For more on the program which is a huge enhancer for early childhood education, go to this website:
Congratulations to Ms. Morrison – this is her passion. And kudos to Continental!
Ralston Hyman has a dry style. I love his program on Power 106 FM, “Real Business.” I learn a great deal from it. And it’s streamed live on their website, too.
Sadly, more Jamaican citizens are no longer with us. The following have been murdered since my last post on Wednesday:
Michael Coombs, 50, Spanish Town, St. Catherine
Wentworth Patterson, 50, Spanish Town, St. Catherine
Unidentified woman, 20, Greater Portmore, St. Catherine
Garnett Gray, 29, Waterford, St. Catherine
Silbeta Brown, 52, Hopeton District, Manchester
Kareem Hines, 29, Montego Bay, St. James
Carlton Stone, 39, Montego Bay, St. James
Bryan English, 42, Robin’s Bay, St. Mary
Killed by police
Michael Robinson, 41, Molynes Road, Kingston
Errol Irvin, 22, St. Catherine North
Related articles. Local blog posts are in purple…
The nation welcomes…no new taxes: Gleaner
No new taxes? Shaw accuses Government of deception after Phillips announcement
February tax package no secret – Phillips: Sunday Observer
Full text of budget presentation by Finance Minister Dr. Peter Phillips: RJR News
Phillips can’t say if property taxes will go up again: Gleaner
IMF deal by early May: Gleaner
Beyond the IMF: Ten things we must do to stimulate growth: Michael Ennis column/Sunday Gleaner
Unemployment on the rise: Gleaner
A dry dock facility, seriously? Letter to the Editor/Gleaner from Jamaica Welding Institute
Opposition demands removal of restrictions to interviewing Prime Minister: RJR News
To the 21st century journalists: Facebook Note by Durie Dee
Tag teaming the minister: Barbara Gloudon column/Jamaica Observer
Honorable means honorable: Letter to the Editor/Jamaica Observer
Questions on Azan-Spaldings Market saga: Letter to the Editor/Gleaner from Paul Ashley
Azan, defiance and impeachment: Gary Spaulding article/Sunday Gleaner
Leadership, governance and the reform agenda: Claude Robinson column/Sunday Observer
Runwiddit, again: Tamara Scott-Williams column/Sunday Observer
Poorly-paid politicians: Jamaican political leaders among the worst paid in the region: Sunday Gleaner
Ex-Mayor returns Rolex: Gleaner
Guardsman confirms arrest of a contractor in St. James drug bust: Sunday Gleaner
Arrest warrant issued for Mavado: RJR News
Penwood student didn’t have to die: Sunday Observer
Annual national survey on prisons shows mega increase in career criminals: Sunday Gleaner
If we are to solve our crime problem: dcjottings.blogspot.com
Holness says state must adopt pro-citizen stance: Sunday Gleaner
Colin Mann freed of charges: Jamaica Star
Lessons from Boston – cops want more CCTVs: Sunday Gleaner
The new gun ID fallacy: Gleaner Observer
Government tables CCJ Bills: Jamaica Observer
Gay students overrun school! Jamaica Star
Gender gap still hurts: Entertainers feel there is a far way to go before equality obtains: Sunday Gleaner
Row deepens over renaming of Cornwall Regional Hospital: RJR News
Theft of JPS cables resulted in corporate area water problems: Gleaner
Help coming for 40,000 students: Digicel Foundation and USAID join forces to increase literacy levels: Sunday Gleaner
The toilet paper debate: Gleaner editorial
Toilet paper row dispute between Jamaica and TT heading to CARICOM: RJR News
This is the first of my twice-weekly bulletins. I am attempting to break down my focus on Jamaican happenings into more digestible chunks… Let me know what you think.
The Azan mess: On Monday, the Office of the Prime Minister issued a press release on the matter of the construction of allegedly illegal shops on government-owned land near the Spaldings Market in Clarendon, allegedly under the aegis of Member of Parliament Richard Azan. I use the word “allegedly” because the Simpson Miller administration appears to be retreating behind the quasi-legal argument of “It’s under investigation,” and “He’s innocent until proven guilty.” It’s not the first time the Government has used fake legality to wriggle out of a tight spot. Oh, sorry. The press release said that Minister Azan would remain a minister, pending an investigation by the Office of the Contractor General into the matter; I believe the Local Government Ministry and someone else are also investigating. The press release drew a distinction between Azan’s position as MP and as a Junior Minister in the Ministry of Transport and Works to justify this. This went down like a lead balloon. Disgust, resignation, cynical laughter were among the reactions on social media. The media and public have not stopped discussing it since.
…but no tissue to clean it up: The Bureau of Standards (BSJ) flatly refuses to disclose the names of the four brands (according to their latest release it is now three?) of toilet tissue that are reportedly contaminated with bacterial matter. The Bureau has posted a list of “OK” brands but are still testing. This is just a disgrace. Our tissue at home is not on the list. Is it contaminated? Well, sorry, you can’t have that information…
Corruption is only part of the story: The Prime Minister, in her inauguration speech of January, 2012, pledged a “zero tolerance” approach to corruption. But is the Azan affair simply a corruption issue? Mr. Azan said he had not benefited personally in any way from the Spaldings shops; but that is not the whole issue. This is poor judgment at best; and also a breach of regulations and possibly of the Parish Councils Act. Aren’t our elected public servants to abide by laws and regulations? After all, we ordinary citizens have to obey those laws. We don’t have the luxury of going back afterwards and say, “Oh, sorry, my bad…” Mr. Azan has admitted he made an “error”; therefore, why not at least step aside until the investigation is complete?
“He’s only human”: Yes, Minister Peter Bunting’s tears continue to resonate with some. He lost his mother, yes; he has so much to deal with, poor man. Yes, we are all human. But we elected him to lead, not to cry on our shoulder. Hard-hearted I may be. But if one can’t stand the heat… I would suggest that a man who has had a comfortable middle-class life, with a highly successful investment firm that basically took margins on government paper (nothing too tricky there), is bound to feel out of his depth tackling the complexities of Jamaica’s myriad crime issues. Yes, I do feel sorry for you, Mr. Bunting, because you have admitted failure. I think the Prime Minister should consider finding a new National Security Minister, who is not going to throw up his hands in despair and invoke divine intervention, in public. We need leadership and direction; not a public confessional.
The churches love it: Minister Bunting has certainly got the powerful and influential “Church” on his side. Of course, they agree on the Divine Intervention part. Another Member of Parliament, Mikael Phillips, dropped in a comment in a television interview on the importance of D.I., also scoring brownie points with the evangelicals. Now the Church is going to sit down and meet with Minister Bunting; and they are even considering the novel idea of mediation, according to a church leader. Never heard of mediation before, Reverend?
The journalistic tag team: The Minister of Information conducted the post-Cabinet press briefing today. Our elusive Prime Minister was absent. It was quite a departure from the usual briefing, during which journalists sit quietly and write down, word for word, the pronouncements of the Information Minister and others. I used to think, why not just hand out a sheet of paper to them all and have them duplicate it in the office? But our journalists are getting braver. Minister Falconer’s schoolmistressy voice and stern gaze did not deter a trio of intrepid broadcast journalists (the print media seems a little quiet these days) from besieging her with questions on the Azan issue. It was a little tag team of young men – Abka Fitz-Henley of Nationwide News Network, Andrew Cannon of CVM Television and Archibald Gordon of TVJ. Ms. Falconer remained fairly calm, and tried very hard to shut them down (“I am not going to say any more on this matter…I don’t want to comment further”) but started wading into deep water. It was not pretty, but she struggled through.
The Silent One: One would have thought that the Prime Minister would have spoken on the Azan issue. But no word directly from her. It appears that the Cabinet made a collective decision. Should she not have exercised some leadership here? But no. Silence.
Patriarchy rules OK: At the same press briefing, BSJ Chairman and Professor of Public Health Winston Davidson did not endear himself. He said there was “no need for mass hysteria” (yes, those silly hysterical women worried about vaginal infections) over the #TissueIssue. He stressed his decades of experience in such matters, describing the whole matter as of “minuscule” importance in the scheme of things – like most issues affecting women, perhaps. He said because it is so unimportant, no one should bother trying to file a lawsuit on the matter, or they will lose a lot of money. Meanwhile, the Bureau is hiding behind the “legality” of the matter and apparently fears a lawsuit itself – hence the non-disclosure.
The Silent One again: Could she, as a woman and responsible minister for women’s affairs, have put out a reassuring comment re: the #TissueIssue? No. Silence.
The last word: Thank God for Simon Crosskill, my new feminist hero! He really laid into the bureaucrats on the #Tissue#Issue. “How dare you” exercise this blatant discrimination against women, he said. He suggested that if a product affected men’s testicles (!) the matter would have been addressed very quickly indeed. Marvelously trenchant remarks. But although toilet tissue may have sparked hundreds of witty tweets, the issue of accountability, transparency and serving the public health interest is a very serious one indeed. How can they keep this information from us?
Ganja is not a seaweed: This comment by a Resident Magistrate made me laugh. She was listening to the pleas of a group of accused drug dealers, who allegedly threw their load of marijuana (ganja) overboard. I guess it didn’t sink.
A pat on the back: Last week in Miami, businesswoman and philanthropist Thalia Lyn received the Humanitarian Award from the American Friends of Jamaica, which is headed by the indefatigable former Ambassador to Jamaica Sue Cobb.
In the past three days, more Jamaicans have died, including a senior citizen in Kingston. What a sad world we live in.
Paul Brown, 55, Cabbage Hill/Cumberland, Clarendon
Lauriston McLarty, 93, Gilmore Drive, Kingston
Bundin Roper, 67, Tower Street, Kingston
Unidentified man, Harbour View, Kingston
Rosemarie Taylor, 44, Shanty Town/Bath, St. Thomas
Killed by police
Barrington McAnuff, 20, Lilliput, St. James
Related links: Local contributions in purple! If you pick out the links of interest to you, you will find much more detail on the above riveting stories!
Parched Earth Sunday: April 14, 2013 petchary.wordpress.com
OCG probing construction of shops at Spalding Market: Jamaica Observer
Probe of Clarendon market – official statement: thecrooksofit live journal
Cabinet welcomes OCG probe into Spaldings Market shops issue: Jamaica Information Service
Callow Barnswell, shameless Azan: Gleaner editorial
I had no corrupt intentions, says Richard Azan: Gleaner
Will Azan prove himself to be an honorable man? Letter of the Day/Gleaner
Mayor Barnswell, you just don’t get it! Letter to the Editor/Gleaner
Of a PM’s persistent silence: Letter to the Editor/Jamaica Observer
The PM’s divestment of leadership: Gleaner editorial
Harrison hits out at corruption: Jamaica Observer
15 per cent increase in fatal shootings by the police: On The Ground News Report
”We feel like targets”: Clarendon business circle wary after murders: Gleaner
Farm supervisor gunned down in St. Thomas: RJR News
”A dark night of the soul”: Full text of Minister Bunting’s remarks: Jamaica Observer
Bunting reaffirms his commitment to crime fighting: RJR News
UN must act now for safer world: lowrie-chin.blogspot.com
Swap the Peters: Gleaner/Power 106 FM
Over 20 government employees arrested in motor vehicle license racket: Jamaica Observer
Bunting faces contempt of court action: Jamaica Observer
Jamaicans held for allegedly trafficking ganja: Jamaica Star
JLP dismay! Party officials unhappy with latest Holness move: Jamaica Observer
Shaw upset at being left out of party meeting: Gleaner
Bureau of Standards defends decision to withhold names of tissue brands: RJR News
Toilet paper governance: cucumberjuice.wordpress.com
”Women can take tissue issue to court”: Gleaner
Statement from Ministry of Health on contaminated tissue: Jamaica Information Service
NAJ President has a sick sense of logic: Letter to the Editor from a General Practitioner: Gleaner
Jamaica’s decades of debt are damaging its future: Guardian UK blog
Further slippage: bauxite and alumina industry: diGJamaica.com
Inflation for March soars: diGJamaica.com
International investors very keen on logistics hub initiative: Jamaica Information Service
Demystifying the logistics hub: Gleaner
Unlikely stars: Jamaicans become hugely popular on YouTube: Gleaner (re: fellow blogger/vlogger Carla Moore)
”We want no condoms in schools”: JTA President says distribution would be unethical, illegal: Gleaner
Government optimistic about new funding for HIV programs: Jamaica Observer
18 children benefit from heart surgery: Gleaner
Help for boys of Goodwin Park Hostel: Jamaica Information Service
Who is building Richard Azan’s home ? (commonsenseja.wordpress.com)