Four years ago today, fire broke out at the Armadale Juvenile Correctional Centre in St. Ann. Seven girls – wards of the state – died as a result of the fire, and eleven were injured. It was a real pleasure today to meet some of the girls who survived this horror, and who are doing their best to move out beyond that horror. I think their day was an emotional one but also filled with hope. I will write more about this.
Devaluation of dollar welcomed by IMF: Well, some of us might have figured this out already. The steady drop in the Jamaican Dollar seemed inexorable and there was really very little comment on it from the Simpson Miller administration at the time. It was just…happening. The rest of us were saying, “What is going on? Help!” as it steadily dropped, day after day. Then suddenly the battered J$ (often depicted in cartoons wrapped in bandages and sticking plaster and hobbling on crutches) pulled itself to a screeching halt at 99 or so to the U.S. Dollar. Well, well. Our friends at the Implacable Masters Fund (IMF) approve of this; and, in fact, say they would like to see our dollar plummet a little bit more, stopping at, let’s say… What do you think? Where should it stop? This, by the way, is the “flexible exchange-rate regime” mentioned by the Jamaican Government in its April 17 Letter of Intent to the IMF (the link is below). Flexible is such a nice…flexible word, isn’t it?
I wonder if the Jamaican public can be as flexible as the Jamaican Dollar has turned out to be?
Trinidad start up weekend: Good luck to Ms. Ingrid Riley, our tech entrepreneur and inspirer extraordinaire, who is in Trinidad now at her Silicon Caribe Startup Weekend. 57 pitches! I attended a Jamaica session; it was lively and abuzz with ideas. I love Ingrid’s regional (Caribbean) approach, and wish more of us were doing that…
Duppy story: According to CVM Television news, a certain house in rural St. James is giving some trouble. In case you haven’t been following it, all kinds of drama has been going on in this very ordinary-looking little house. It has created lots of excitement among the local residents, who can be seen hurrying down the path to the house to witness the latest phenomenon. My husband is almost convinced that there’s a real duppy (to my non-Jamaican readers, that is a ghost) – and so am I. A poltergeist, perhaps? A mysterious fire on top of a wardrobe (could be an electrical short circuit, but…) And objects thrown out of the house when it is empty? A local was hit in the head by one such “missile” and bled profusely. Once bandaged up, he felt pretty good, escorted down the road from the clinic like a real celebrity. What’s going to happen next? I hope it’s not all special effects…
Is the JEEP warming up its engine? Remember JEEP – the Jamaica Emergency Employment Programme? We haven’t heard much of it lately, but the Government has now found a way to create jobs by employing people to build concrete walls instead of zinc fences in selected Kingston communities. I suppose the concrete will screen off the poverty better – it will be harder to glimpse the earth-bare yards. But, Mr. Housing Minister, you know it won’t make any real difference. It’s just cosmetic. The same poverty is just a stone’s throw away…
African : It was announced today that our Prime Minister had flown off to Addis Ababa in Ethiopia, along with the Foreign Affairs Minister, four other government officials, plus her support team (I am not sure how many people that consists of – it is always reported in government press releases as a collective noun). They will be back next Tuesday. One of the radio stations this evening stated that the cost of the trip, in recognition of the African Union’s fiftieth anniversary, will be J$8.6 million. I wonder what the Ineffable Masters Fraternity (IMF) thinks of such expenditure. I can think of a thousand different ways in which that money could have been spent for the benefit of the Jamaican people (the Armadale survivors, for example).
Yay! That money could, perhaps, have been spent on a few more real toilets that flush in Jamaican schools. But sixteen schools in western Jamaica must be groveling with thanks that they do, in fact, have real toilets and not stinking, dangerous holes in the ground, any more. Thank God for Petro-Caribe, anyway. Last time I heard – about a year or two ago – around 200 schools still had pit latrines. Hopefully the number has dropped considerably. It is baffling to me that this can still be an issue in 21st century Jamaica. Perhaps this should come before tablets?
Some things bring out the Great Cynic in me: Recent comments by our Finance Minister Peter Phillips filled me with great weariness. Waxing philosophical and presumably not sticking to his notes, the goodly Minister started to wonder out loud why Jamaica is in its current economic state: “How did it get to this? At least part of the answer, I believe, has to do with the nature of our political processes and the absence, up until recently, of effective paradigm oversight and absence of transparency.” What does this mean? Can someone translate? OK, let me try. The politicians have done nothing to create an “effective nation” (the Minister’s words) since Independence (until the current administration came into power). That’s how it “got to this”. By actually not leading (that’s the oversight part) and by keeping the people ignorant (absence of transparency). Something like that, perhaps?
The young and the generous: In a Twitter exchange just last night, my friend Jean Lowrie-Chin reminded me (the Great Cynic that I am) that the younger generations of those “big” families that have chosen to stay in Jamaica have not only prospered, but are “giving back” to their country. She cited young Adam Stewart, who heads the Sandals Foundation. National Bakery has started its “Bold Ones” Project to encourage youth entrepreneurship. And the young Mahfoods have taken up the mantle of the amazing charity that does so much good work, Food for the Poor. Jean is right – I must try to curb my innate suspicion of the privileged and powerful. I wish all of them had such good intentions as these gentlemen, and that they could all give back…more.
Get well soon: I have no doubt that heading the Police Federation, a union that represents the rank-and-file police force, is a highly stressful occupation. The current chair, Raymond Wilson, has actually been a number of years in the post, off and on. Mr. Wilson has been in hospital for the past few days, after suffering a heart attack at a relatively young age. I wish him a speedy recovery.
By the way, I hope the Reggae Boyz thrash that English football team from north London, Tottenham Hotspur, when they play them tomorrow. Oh, how I would love to see that happen! As a dedicated Arsenal fan (in case you didn’t know) I was delighted that the Gunners denied Spurs a Champions League place again when the English Premier League season ended. And I’m quite satisfied with our team’s strong performance this year, after a lousy start to the season…
It is encouraging to learn that “major crimes,” including murders, have fallen. I hope that this trend will continue. But I am keeping in my thoughts the families of the following Jamaicans whose lives have been taken in the past three days.
Dwayne Brown, Ocho Rios, St. Ann
Selvin Hincklewood, Kingston
Killed by the police:
Noel Williams, 42, Rose Town, Kingston
Jerome Spence, George’s Plain, Westmoreland
Related links and articles:
http://www.imf.org/external/np/sec/pr/2013/pr13186.htm IMF concludes staff visit to Jamaica: imf.org
http://www.imf.org/External/NP/LOI/2013/JAM/041713.pdf Letter of Intent to IMF from Jamaican Government, April 17, 2013: imf.org
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/IMF-gives-us-reality-check_14298943 IMF gives us reality check: Jean Lowrie-Chin column/Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130522/lead/lead7.html J$ depreciation an important correction, says Fund: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130522/business/business2.html Phillips, IMF defend “strenuous” fiscal target for Jamaica: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/CHASE-Fund–sports-continue-to-reap-big-benefits-from-SVL_14302742 CHASE Fund, sports continue to reap big benefits from SVL: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130521/lead/lead1.html Child extortionists: Judge, JPs step in as students make thousands of dollars a day: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130521/cleisure/cleisure3.html Tablets in schools, yes, but please…! Oniel Mantack/Op-ed: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/An-assault-against-human-dignity_14308320 An assault on human dignity: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130521/letters/letters4.html Normal school not for teen babymothers: Letter to the Editor/Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130522/cleisure/cleisure2.html Erase the stupid idea of giving students condoms: George Davis column/Gleaner
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/fourth-anniversary-of-armadale-fire Fourth anniversary of Armadale fire: RJR News
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130520/cleisure/cleisure1.html Sounder logic from the other Mr. Thwaites: Gleaner editorial
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130520/cleisure/cleisure4.html Deal with bullies before… Robert Lalah column/Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130521/news/news8.html INDECOM concerned about police records: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Crime-now-at-uptown-doorsteps_14298922 Crime now at uptown doorsteps: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130522/lead/lead2.html More cops to be hauled before courts: Gleaner
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/top-level-probe-into-reports-of-contract-on-lives-of-prosecutor-investigator Top-level probe into reports of contract on lives of prosecutor, investigator: RJR News
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/editorial/What-violence-torn-St-James–nay-all-Jamaica–can-learn-from-Flanker_14299652 What violence-torn St. James – nay all Jamaica – can learn from Flanker: Jamaica Observer editorial
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130522/news/news2.html U.S. to give special training to MoBay firefighters: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Political-parties-alone-can-t-do-it—Phillips_14299845 Political parties alone can’t do it – Phillips: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Is-migrating-Senate-President-a-coward_14296192 Is migrating Senate President a coward? Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130520/news/news1.html G2K wants answers from Contractor General: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130522/lead/lead1.html Shady dealings: Public sector workers under scrutiny… Gleaner
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads/33972 Prime Minister to attend African Union 50th Anniversary: Jamaica Information Service
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130522/letters/letters3.html Stop magnifying wasteful high-rollers: Letter to the Editor/Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130521/cleisure/cleisure2.html#.UZuRJBboiag.facebook Freudian slip or Gordian knot? Gordon Robinson column/Gleaner
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
http://jablogday.tumblr.com Jamaica Blog Day
http://www.solarbuzzjamaica.com/2013/05/removal-of-illegal-connections-to-sugar-factories-to-cost-govt-200m-no-more-free-light/ Removal of illegal connections to sugar factories to cost government $200 million. No more free light! solarbuzzjamaica.com
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/five-toilet-paper-brands-pulled-due-to-high-levels-of-bacteria Five toilet paper brands pulled due to high levels of bacteria: RJR News
http://delanoseiv.wordpress.com/2013/05/13/wanted-full-disclosure-in-ritz-carlton-affair/ Wanted: Full disclosure in Ritz-Carlton affair: delanoseiv.wordpress.com
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130513/lead/lead22.html Playa replaces Ritz with Park Hyatt: Gleaner
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/protest-action-escalates-at-complant Protest action escalates at COMPLANT: RJR News
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/-We-will-not-flinch-_142522042013-05-14T00-04-44 BITU head asserts commitment to workers’ rights: Jamaica Observer
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/new-law-paves-way-for-government-to-pass-imf-test New law paves way for government to pass IMF test: RJR News
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130515/news/news1.html Exploring logistics hubs: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/editorial/The-rightness-of-the-Tivoli-enquiry_14252198 The rightness of the Tivoli enquiry: Jamaica Observer editorial
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Let-us-have-a-Garrison-Enquiry_14251339 Let us have a garrison enquiry: Jean Lowrie-Chin column/Jamaica Observer
http://digjamaica.com/blog/2013/05/13/a-look-at-jamaicas-human-rights-situation/ A look at Jamaica‘s human rights situation: diGJamaica.com
http://jamaica-star.com/thestar/20130513/news/news12.html Wanted fugitive killed in shoot-out: Jamaica Star
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130514/lead/lead8.html Two persons killed per day: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Terror-in-Clifton_14268531 Gunmen invade community, fire-bomb five houses: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Murdered-for-good-deed_14271138 Gunman kills hotel worker trying to rescue neighbor: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=43114 Policeman allegedly attacks schoolboy with pipe iron and gun: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130515/lead/lead1.html Massive MoBay raid: Drugs, cash seized in 11-hour operation; Canadian held: Gleaner
http://speakmytruthwritemylife.blogspot.com/2012/11/let-he-that-is-without-sin-cast-first.html Let he that is without sin cast the first stone: speakmytruthwritemylife.blogspot.com
http://jamaica-star.com/thestar/20130513/news/news10.html Residents shocked by chopping death: Jamaica Star
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130514/letters/letters1.html Don’t push gay men into closet marriages: Letter of the Day/Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Cars-sold-as-scrap-metal_14263174 Cars sold as scrap metal: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130515/lead/lead93.html ”No profit made”: Transport Authority did not gain from sale of impounded motor vehicles: Gleaner
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/mobay-mayor-lashes-out-at-detractors MoBay Mayor lashes out at detractors: RJR News
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130514/cleisure/cleisure1.html The Redwood factor: Gleaner editorial
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130515/letters/letters2.html I’m a patriot, but family comes first: Letter to the Editor from Rev. Stanley Redwood
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130513/news/news1.html Redwood’s resignation and Vision 2030/The Gavel: Gleaner
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads-117/33851 Prime Minister urges Jamaicans to assist the most vulnerable: Jamaica Information Service
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Prison-programme-providing-women-with-useful-skills_14260950 Prison program providing women with useful skills: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Amradale-report Brutal! Judge blames cop for starting deadly fire (February, 2010): Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-star.com/thestar/20130515/features/features1.html Damning declaration about black men: Blakka Ellis column/Jamaica Star
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/environment/The-cost-of-inaction_14223127 The cost of inaction on climate change: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130514/lead/lead6.html World War I cannon stolen: Gleaner
http://cbcburke9.wordpress.com/2013/05/13/dancehall-mashing-up-hell-knows/ Dancehall mashing up hell knows: cbcburke9.wordpress.com
http://digjamaica.com/blog/2013/05/10/image-of-the-week-seaforths-artistic-excellence/ 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):
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/pnp-members-apologise-for-controversial-tweets PNP members apologize for controversial tweets: RJR News
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130504/cleisure/cleisure1.html Controversy in 140 characters: Gleaner editorial
http://perceptualpost.wordpress.com/2013/05/05/can-you-hear-me-now/ Can you hear me now? Communication problems at Jamaica’s local government level: Perceptual Post
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/-Our-journalists-are-not-killed-but-many-stories-die-_14196488 ”Our journalists are not killed, but many stories die”: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130505/lead/lead7.html Jamaican journalists challenged to improve standards: Sunday Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/The-people-vs-Portia_14185042#disqus_thread The people vs Portia: Lloyd B Smith op-ed/Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/business/Jamaica-will-find-it-difficult-to-implement-IMF-targets–Fitch-says Jamaica will find it difficult to implement IMF targets, Fitch says: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130505/focus/focus1.html Lack of accountability in the budget debate: Robert Wynter column/Sunday Gleaner
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads/33766 NDX Saves Gov’t $17 Billion in Payments Per Year on Domestic Bonds: Jamaica Information Service
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/our-to-hold-public-meetings-on-request-for-increased-water-rates OUR to hold public meetings on request for increased water rates: RJR News
http://www.solarbuzzjamaica.com/2013/05/energy-bill-reduction-falls-short-of-target/ Energy bill reduction falls short of target: Solar Buzz Jamaica
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Paulwell-s-statement-on-CAP-not-true–says-Golding_14191572 Paulwell’s statement on CAP not true, says Golding: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads/33758 Clarendon Alumina Partners no cost on budget – Finance Minister: Jamaica Information Service
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20100423/lead/lead10.html NHT’s Inner City Housing Project causes headache: Gleaner – April, 2010
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130501/lead/lead1.html PM revives housing plan: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130505/cleisure/cleisure2.html The great NHT robbery: Gordon Robinson column/Sunday Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/business/Upgraded-facility-to-benefit-St-Mary-farmers_14189002 Upgraded facility to benefit St. Mary farmers: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130504/western/western1.html Public beaches raise a stink: Gleaner
http://lowrie-chin.blogspot.com/2013/05/be-more-selective-ffpj-chair-andrew.html?m=1 ”Be more selective”: Food for the Poor Jamaica Chair Andrew Mahfood: lowrie-chin.blogspot.com
http://anniepaul.net/2013/05/04/britains-black-debt-the-logic-of-reparation/ Britain’s black debt: The logic of reparation: anniepaul.net
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/editorial/Cut-the-talk-and-cut-the-red-tape_14201352 Cut the talk and cut the red tape: Sunday Observer editorial
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/RICHARD-AZAN–The-story-not-yet-told_14191123 Richard Azan: The story not yet told: Desmond Allen article/Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Spalding-shops–Parish-Council-knew_14201657 Spalding shops: Parish Council knew: Sunday Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130503/cleisure/cleisure1.html Beyond Mr. Witter’s windy diatribe: Gleaner editorial
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130503/letters/letters3.html Witter wrong on ICC enquiry: Letter to the Editor from Lloyd D’Aguilar/Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130503/lead/lead3.html We want $1 millon each: Tivoli residents put price on their loss: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Don-t-hold-your-breath-_14198207 Anglican bishop says government will do nothing about Tivoli report: Jamaica Observer
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/jamaicas-image-in-jeopardy-if-no-tivoli-enquiry-human-rights-activist Jamaica’s image in jeopardy if no Tivoli enquiry says human rights activist: RJR News
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/-Dudus–should-testify—Witter_14198889 ”Dudus” should testify – Witter: Sunday Observer
http://jamaica-star.com/thestar/20130503/news/news10.html No disciplinary action yet – Albert Corcho: Jamaica Star
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads/33762 Children’s Advocate calls for partnerships: Jamaica Information Service
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/Give-us-clarity–Minister-Thwaites_14190349 Give us clarity, Minister Thwaites: Letter from Senator Kamina Johnson Smith/Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Child-s-suicide-leaves-void-in-St-Catherine-village_14198680 Child’s suicide leaves void in St. Catherine village: Sunday Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Revealing-Jamaica-s-soul_14198396 Revealing Jamaica’s soul: Jamaicans for Justice op-ed/Sunday Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Should-contraceptives-be-introduced-in-schools_14190754 Should contraceptives be introduced in schools? Sunday Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Contraceptives-in-schools–Don-t-just-dismiss-it_14197942 Contraceptives in schools: Don’t just dismiss it: Sunday Observer
http://digjamaica.com/blog/2013/05/03/chart-of-the-week-putting-all-our-eggs-in-one-basket-cargo-continues-to-decline/ Chart of the Week: Putting All our Eggs in One Basket? Cargo continues to decline: diGJamaica
http://perceptualpost.com/tablets-for-a-wounded-jamaica/ ”Tablets” for a wounded Jamaica: perceptualpost.com
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/-Time-for-Penwood-to-settle-down-_14189985 ”Time for Penwood to settle down”: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130505/lead/lead2.html Was Penwood stabbing staged for YouTube? Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130505/lead/lead3.html Prisoners party at Tower Street: Sunday Gleaner
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/chronic-shortage-of-special-education-teachers Chronic shortage of special education teachers: RJR News
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Sports—the-opium-of-our-high-schools_14192172 Sports: The opium of our high schools: Lasceive Graham op-ed/Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Round-and-around-and-around-and-around-we-go_14192177 Round and around and around and around we go: Tamara Scott Williams column/Sunday Observer
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads/33761 ODPEM gearing up for active hurricane season: Jamaica Information Service
http://jablogz.com/2013/05/portrait-of-an-elderly-man/ Portrait of an elderly man: lovely artwork from a young man from St. Mary: jablogz.com
http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/the_americas/influential-jamaican-saxophonist-cedric-brooks-dies-at-70/2013/05/04/80c5a052-b4e2-11e2-9fb1-62de9581c946_story.html 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: http://www.ibelieveinitiative.org.
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):
http://japarliament.gov.jm/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=945:office-of-the-public-defender-interim-report-to-parliament-concerning-investigations-into-the-conduct-of-the-security-forces-during-the-state-of-emergency-declared-may2010&catid=7:general-reports&Itemid=22 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)
http://www.jis.gov.jm/docs/PM_Speech_Final_web.pdf Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller‘s Budget Speech, April 30, 2013: Going for Growth and Development
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130428/lead/lead1.html Who got the houses? Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=44467 Dalrymple Philibert says house allocations not politically aligned: Gleaner
http://foodforthepoorja.blogspot.com/2013/04/press-release-food-for-poor-reaffirms.html Food for the Poor Jamaica reaffirms its modus operandi of transparency and accountability: Food for the Poor blog
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/NHT-AGAIN_14178454 Government raids Trust to fund major projects: Jamaica Observer
http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/newsdesk/2013/05/video-massacre-in-jamaica.html Traces of a massacre: Mattathias Schwartz/New Yorker
http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/from-1-battlefield-to-another-us-tries-2-new-aerial-tools-to-search-for-drugs-in-caribbean/2013/04/27/43ceea30-af30-11e2-b59e-adb43da03a8a_story.html# From one battlefield to another: U.S. tries two new aerial tools to search for drugs in the Caribbean: Washington Post
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130429/lead/lead2.html Danzil Clarke was clueless: Man who robbed Bunting’s friends was unaware of who his victims were: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130501/lead/lead4.html Thieves jet off with $20 million worth of airplane fuel: Gleaner
http://repeatingislands.com/2013/04/28/carolyn-cooper-changing-dirty-diapers-on-earth-day/ Changing dirty diapers on Earth Day: Carolyn Cooper column/Sunday Gleaner
http://delanoseiv.wordpress.com/2013/05/01/we-need-a-leader-like-thatcher/ We need a leader like Thatcher: Delano Seiveright blog
http://www.caribjournal.com/2013/04/29/jamaica-to-receive-eu-health-grant/ Jamaica to receive EU health grant: Carib Journal
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130501/cleisure/cleisure4.html Quotas crucial to righting scale of gender imbalance: Linnette Vassell op-ed/Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130429/lead/lead4.html “Fewer women screened for cervical cancer”: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130501/cleisure/cleisure3.html Where has our sense of community gone? George Davis column/Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/sport/JCA-apologises-to-Courtney-Walsh_14177824 JCA apologizes to Courtney Walsh: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130430/ent/ent2.html Alpha Boys reborn: Gleaner
http://www.caribjournal.com/2013/04/29/sheryl-sandbergs-lean-in-and-jamaica/ Sheryl Sandberg‘s “Lean In” and Jamaica: Marcia Forbes op-ed/Carib Journal
http://www.jamaicans.com/articles/primecomments/jamaicanentrepreneurshipsellingdreams.shtml 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):
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130425/cleisure/cleisure2.html Poverty has little bearing on students: Jaevion Nelson column/Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130425/lead/lead1.html Change a coming: Energy minister says positive move to reduce electricity rates on the horizon: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Four-bidders-for-power-plant_14144802 Four bidders for new power plant: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130426/business/business4.html Paulwell pins final hopes for Petrojam on Maduro: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130426/lead/lead6.html Bauxite revival: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130426/business/business2.html Jamalco to press ahead with coal plant: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130426/cleisure/cleisure1.html Will CAP decision undermine IMF deal? Gleaner editorial
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Phillips-says-public-sector-agencies-to-be-merged_14152187 Phillips says public sector agencies to be merged: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130426/news/news1.html Paulwell gives tablets to parliamentarians: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Students–teachers-at-30-schools-to-get-free-tablets_14151109 Students, teachers at 30 schools to get free tablets: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Cost-of-living–tun-up-_14143444 Holness blames government for people’s hardships: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130426/lead/lead1.html ”We’ve been butchered”: Holness tells government to backtrack on taxes, pitches 10-point formula: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130426/lead/lead3.html Charting a different course: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=44370 4,000 jobs created for young Jamaicans in virtual economy: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130424/business/business8.html Jamaica dips in new IT rankings: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/business/New-customs-tax-presents-nightmare-for-small-businesses_14137839 New customs tax presents nightmare for small businesses: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130425/cleisure/cleisure1.html Give details for the June IMF test: Gleaner editorial
http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/the_americas/in-caribbean-gridlocked-courts-hit-by-crime-wave-block-justice-and-stall-lives/2013/04/26/ff6984b0-ae9c-11e2-b240-9ef3a72c67cc_story.html In Caribbean, gridlocked courts hit by crime wave block justice and stall lives: AP/Washington Post
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Mayhem-on-Waltham-Avenue-in-Kingston_14152374 Mayhem on Waltham Avenue in Kingston: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130425/lead/lead2.html ”Let’s go get these bad guys”: U.S. sets eyes on scammers: Gleaner
http://ht.ly/kv5ld ”Dem call it scam, me call it a reparation”: Mark Wilson op-ed/Trinidad Guardian
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130427/lead/lead1.html Rolex probe widens: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20121209/cleisure/cleisure3.html Greg Christie was an abject failure: Colin Campbell op-ed/Gleaner, December 2012
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Shock-arrest_14159903 JPS contractors accused of stealing utility wires, street lamps: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130425/lead/lead91.html American nabbed in Portland drug operation, another on the run: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Cops-keeping-an-eye-on-tense-Majesty-Gardens_14131169 Cops keeping an eye on tense Majesty Gardens: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130425/lead/lead3.html Tivoli residents call on PM to “have a heart”: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130427/cleisure/cleisure1.html Tyranny in the ghetto: Gleaner editorial
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130425/news/news2.html UNICEF donates vehicle to Eve for Life: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/-Show-love-to-our-children-in-entire-month-of-May-_14153267 ”Show love to our children in entire month of May”: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130425/lead/lead8.html Media Association joins PAJ’s call for greater access to public officials: Gleaner
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads/33683 Minister Falconer and PAJ meet on proposed protocol: Jamaica Information Service
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/719-children-missing-since-the-start-of-the-year 719 children missing since the start of the year: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130426/letters/letters1.html Gender-based quotas wrong: Letter of the Day/Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Anglican-bishops-reject-same-sex-marriage_14150775 Anglican bishops reject same sex marriage: Jamaica Observer
http://jamlink.com/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=50:ghastly-pit-latrines-at-st-marys&Itemid=191 Ghastly pit latrines at St. Mary’s:
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/CDA-head-says-child-care-facilities-audit-almost-complete_14152607 CDA head says child care facilities audit almost complete: Jamaica Observer
http://arcthemagazine.com/arc/2013/04/usain-bolt-foundation-announces-samsung-camera-workshop-in-jamaica/ Usain Bolt Foundation announces Samsung camera workshop in Jamaica: Arc Magazine
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130425/cleisure/cleisure3.html Divine intervention is the Church promoting peace in the society: Bernard Headley op-ed/Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130426/news/news4.html 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: http://www.finsac.com. I am sure it does not refer to the suicides, family breakups and destitution it left in its wake.
…and the other one: Another painful and shameful episode in Jamaica’s recent history was, of course, the massacre of over seventy Jamaican citizens in Tivoli Gardens in May, 2010. Yes, we are approaching the third anniversary of this horror, and still the Public Defender‘s interim report is not forthcoming. I am beginning to feel sorry for Mr. Michael Peart, the House Speaker, who is now insisting he will receive it by month-end, ready or not.
A little warming: The Prime Minister actually smiled at a journalist yesterday. CVM Television’s Andrew Cannon managed to have a chat with her, while her security man peered over her shoulder. On the Azan matter (which still rankles) the Prime Minister, in a disarming manner, pointed out that there was an ongoing “investigation” (a favorite word) and suggested poor Mr. Azan may “per’aps” have made an error. So no budging in the position there. It also appears that a microphone did not come into contact with Mrs. Simpson Miller’s mouth (a bit of dramatic license there perhaps on the part of the Information Minister). The Prime Minister merely backed away from the over-enthusiastic, unknown reporter; no physical contact. Speaker of the House Michael Peart, in the same TV report, seemed to have also let the cat out of the bag by saying he was unaware of any shooting incident that may have made the PM’s security even more uptight than usual. Did he not get the memo?
…but not so lovable these days? As a result of this public relations fiasco, I find the Prime Minister’s demeanor has become cold and distant. It may be a defense mechanism, but it is really strange and unexpected. She has been making almost no effort to “woo” either the media or the public at large. Her Information Minister is becoming far too schoolmistressy – and so condescending it leaves you breathless. It is all about protecting the Prime Minister from the rest of us, it seems. That’s fine, but can the Prime Minister’s entourage of advisors, support team etc. – whatever they call themselves – just lighten up a little? We are not zombies rampaging across the land. We are ordinary people seeking information! Minister Falconer, try smiling sometimes? The media and the public are not your enemies.
But hey, some awesome things have already happened this week: Top of my list, the donation of a gorgeous, shining white bus by UNICEF to Eve for Life, the non-governmental organization that supports teen mothers living with HIV. As the organization’s chair, I was happy to be able to thank UNICEF for this generosity and for their ongoing support and faith in the incredible Eve family – especially the indefatigable Joy Crawford and Pat Watson, who are so dedicated and hard-working it’s not true. The bus was loaded up with provisions today for the young ladies in Montego Bay – its inaugural trip out of town! SO exciting.
Then there is the current visit of the African American artist Kehinde Wiley, who creates breathtaking (and often huge) canvases of young urban males of various ethnicities in the striking poses of Western art traditions. I remember being stunned by a huge painting of LL Cool J sitting imperiously on a throne, against an ornate background, at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC some years ago. It’s a thrill to have Mr. Wiley here (his first visit to Jamaica) as part of his “World Stage” project. Can’t wait to see the results!
Speaking of art… Don’t forget the National Gallery will be having its monthly free Sunday opening on April 28th. It promises to be fun and stimulating, as usual.
And an intrepid group of Jamaicans has started the ball rolling on what I know will be an ongoing discussion on gender equity in Jamaica and what can be done to redress the balance. According to official figures, 34% of women are unemployed, compared to 10% for men (the actual figures are very likely higher). I have a feeling that the #leaninJA conversation will likely translate into action. Congratulations to Marcia Forbes et al for sharpening the focus!
Question: Is the drug trade on the rise again in Jamaica? See the reports below. I hope not, I really do.
My condolences to the families of the following Jamaicans who were killed recently. I want this to end…
Ann-Marie Campbell, 39, Black River, St. Elizabeth
Barrington Bennett, 61, Highfield, St. Catherine (British national) – last week.
Related articles (local blog posts in purple):
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130422/letters/letters1.html Richard Azan a law unto himself: Letter of the Day/Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130422/cleisure/cleisure1.html Azan’s specter haunts the Budget: Is PM a coward? Gleaner editorial
http://constructedthoughts.wordpress.com/2013/04/22/time-come-portia-time-come/ Time come, Portia, time come: constructedthoughts.wordpress.com
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130422/lead/lead1.html ”White Lady” is back: cops say cocaine trade resurfacing in Jamaica: Gleaner
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/men-linked-to-international-drug-network-remanded Men linked to international drug network remanded: RJR News
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/marijuana-seized-on-navy-island Marijuana seized on Navy Island: RJR News
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/guardsman-suspends-contractors-in-wake-on-multimillion-dollar-cocaine-find Guardsman suspends contractors in wake of multimillion dollar cocaine find: RJR News
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130423/lead/lead7.html PM to intervene in Cornwall Regional Hospital renaming issue: Gleaner
http://delanoseiv.wordpress.com/2013/04/19/statement-from-the-eldemire-family-regarding-the-renaming-of-the-cornwall-regional-hospital/ Statement from the Eldemire family regarding the renaming of the Cornwall Regional Hospital: delanoseiv.wordpress.com
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/Rise-above-the-fray_14138564 Rise above the fray: Letter to the Editor from Lloyd B. Smith, MP/Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/editorial/Bun-and-cheese-politics-in-MoBay_14138493 Bun and cheese politics in MoBay: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130422/letters/letters2.html No progress on murder halt: Letter to the Editor/Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130423/cleisure/cleisure4.html Focus on safety, not war: Letter to the Editor from Yvonne McCalla Sobers/Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Rev-Al-Miller-faces-court-in–Dudus–case Rev Al Miller faces court in “Dudus” case: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Peart-insists-Tivoli-Report-will-be-tabled-by-month-end Peart insists Tivoli report will be tabled by month-end: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130422/cleisure/cleisure4.html Jamaicans enjoy living on the edge: Robert Lalah column/Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=44343 Jamaica hoping for talks on PetroCaribe soon: Gleaner
http://jamaica-star.com/thestar/20130422/news/news9.html Entrepreneur reports growth and success in Tel-Aviv: Jamaica Star
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130424/news/news4.html Visas, air service hindering Chinese tourists to Jamaica: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Reclaiming-water–A-solution-to-one-of-Jamaica-s-problems_14126106 Reclaiming water: A solution to one of Jamaica’s problems: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130423/lead/lead1.html Pastor says: Use more contraception – calls for use of “morning after” pill… Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130422/lead/lead2.html Politicians afraid to tell poor not to have kids – Reid: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130424/news/news2.html Teachers learn to use music in class: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/God-s-way-not-gay_14130077 God’s way not gay: Letter to the Editor/Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/-Mr-Commissioner–oh-where-art-thou–_14138406 ”Mr. Commissioner, oh where art thou?” Akay Hendricks op-ed/Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130424/lead/lead1.html ”Bang belly” economy: Shaw claims present state of affairs hostile to growth: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130424/business/business4.html Businesses more optimistic than consumers ahead of IMF agreement: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Pledge-FINSAC-assets-to-NHT–Shaw-suggests_14138289 Pledge FINSAC assets to NHT, Shaw suggests: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130424/lead/lead4.html Shaw rips Government to shreds over incomplete FINSAC report: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130422/news/news5.html Women entrepreneurs link with global network: Gleaner
http://chatychaty.com/2013/04/reggae-legend-toots-hibbert-makes-on-the-spot-donation-towards-purchase-of-vital-medical-equipment/ Reggae legend, Toots Hibbert makes on the spot donation towards purchase of vital medical equipment: chatychaty.com
Here’s the second half of the week: April 21, 2013 (petchary.wordpress.com)
Exclusion versus Empowerment (petchary.wordpress.com)
Well, dear readers, the first part of my weekly review can be found here: http://petchary.wordpress.com/2013/04/18/midweek-special-a-jamaican-news-update-for-april-17-2013/
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: http://dogoodjamaica.org/crayonscount/ 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…
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130419/lead/lead1.html The nation welcomes…no new taxes: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Shaw-accuses-Gov-t-of-deception-after-Phillips–announcement_14101004 No new taxes? Shaw accuses Government of deception after Phillips announcement
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/February-tax-package-no-secret—Phillips_14115125 February tax package no secret – Phillips: Sunday Observer
http://rjrnewsonline.com/business/full-text-of-budget-presentation-by-finance-minister-dr-peter-phillips Full text of budget presentation by Finance Minister Dr. Peter Phillips: RJR News
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=44217 Phillips can’t say if property taxes will go up again: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130419/lead/lead2.html IMF deal by early May: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130421/focus/focus5.html Beyond the IMF: Ten things we must do to stimulate growth: Michael Ennis column/Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130419/lead/lead9.html Unemployment on the rise: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130419/letters/letters7.html A dry dock facility, seriously? Letter to the Editor/Gleaner from Jamaica Welding Institute
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/opposition-demands-removal-of-restrictions-to-interviewing-prime-minister Opposition demands removal of restrictions to interviewing Prime Minister: RJR News
https://www.facebook.com/notes/think-jamaica/to-the-21st-century-journalists/372179526232136 To the 21st century journalists: Facebook Note by Durie Dee
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Tag-teaming-the-minister-_14100136 Tag teaming the minister: Barbara Gloudon column/Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/Honourable-means-honourable_14083533 Honorable means honorable: Letter to the Editor/Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130419/letters/letters3.html Questions on Azan-Spaldings Market saga: Letter to the Editor/Gleaner from Paul Ashley
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130421/cleisure/cleisure2.html Azan, defiance and impeachment: Gary Spaulding article/Sunday Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Leadership–governance-and-the-reform-agenda_14110492 Leadership, governance and the reform agenda: Claude Robinson column/Sunday Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Runwiddit–again_14101237 Runwiddit, again: Tamara Scott-Williams column/Sunday Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130421/lead/lead4.html Poorly-paid politicians: Jamaican political leaders among the worst paid in the region: Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130419/lead/lead7.html Ex-Mayor returns Rolex: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=44251 Guardsman confirms arrest of a contractor in St. James drug bust: Sunday Gleaner
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/arrest-warrant-issued-for-movado Arrest warrant issued for Mavado: RJR News
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Penwood-student-didn-t-have-to-die_14109184 Penwood student didn’t have to die: Sunday Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130421/lead/lead5.html Annual national survey on prisons shows mega increase in career criminals: Sunday Gleaner
http://dcjottings.blogspot.com/2013/04/if-we-are-to-solve-our-crime-problem.html If we are to solve our crime problem: dcjottings.blogspot.com
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=44255 Holness says state must adopt pro-citizen stance: Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-star.com/thestar/20130419/news/news4.html Colin Mann freed of charges: Jamaica Star
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130421/news/news1.html Lessons from Boston – cops want more CCTVs: Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130420/cleisure/cleisure1.html The new gun ID fallacy: Gleaner Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Gov-t-tables-CCJ-Bills_14100593 Government tables CCJ Bills: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-star.com/thestar/20130419/news/news1.html Gay students overrun school! Jamaica Star
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130421/ent/ent1.html Gender gap still hurts: Entertainers feel there is a far way to go before equality obtains: Sunday Gleaner
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/row-deepens-over-renaming-of-cornwall-regional-hospital Row deepens over renaming of Cornwall Regional Hospital: RJR News
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=44207 Theft of JPS cables resulted in corporate area water problems: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130421/lead/lead7.html Help coming for 40,000 students: Digicel Foundation and USAID join forces to increase literacy levels: Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130419/cleisure/cleisure1.html The toilet paper debate: Gleaner editorial
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/toilet-paper-row-dispute-between-jamaica-and-tt-heading-to-caricom Toilet paper row dispute between Jamaica and TT heading to CARICOM: RJR News
The funeral of Baroness Margaret Hilda Thatcher, the United Kingdom’s first and only female Prime Minister, took place in London yesterday. She was one of the longest-serving Prime Ministers (over eleven years) and one of the most influential political leaders in twentieth-century Europe.
So much has already been written about the “Iron Lady” since her death on April 8. Crowds of left-wingers (many of whom did not appear old enough to have actually experienced “Thatcherism” for themselves) danced and beat drums and bought copies of “Ding Dong, the Wicked Witch is Dead.” I considered this tasteless, but it is their right to free speech. The state funeral was beautifully executed, the coffin piled with white roses, the gun carriage, the slow funeral marching soldiers.
I lived in England during most of the 1970s and 1980s. These were times of a kind of drifting change, often of the “one step forward, two steps back” variety. On returning from living overseas in 1976, I was rather startled by the dreary state of English society. Something didn’t fit. Compared to Japan, where I had been living, there was no vibrancy, no growth. There was endless bickering and many divisions along class lines (nothing new). The freshness and idealism of the sixties and early seventies had long worn off. London was dirty, untidy. There was a strike literally every week – the post office, the trains, and of course the endless coal miner strikes up North.
So along came Maggie, she of the rigid hair-sprayed do, the commanding voice, administering the “painful medicine” like a strict nanny (that phrase may sound familiar, Jamaicans!) It certainly was painful, and prolonged. But I feel that much of the eighties experience in Britain (when things at times seemed turned upside down and then back again) was due to global forces as much as it was to Mrs. Thatcher. She was merely an instigator. Perhaps I sensed this because, for much of that decade, I worked in the international financial markets in London. Everything was booming. It was carried along on its own momentum. We were called “yuppies” (young upwardly-mobile professionals) and were resented by the working class. A young man once threw a brick through our car windscreen in protest. The Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) was also active in the City of London; bomb scares were frequent, and a wine bar near our office was blown up, killing a number of the hated yuppies. In a sense, Mrs. Thatcher exacerbated already existing strife and division in British society. It was all “in your face.” But many of us prospered.
Mrs. Thatcher was a radical. She was hard-right and often divisive. The state was the problem, not the solution, she said. But whatever you might think of her politics and her at times abrasive personal style, the woman had a vision for her country. And she achieved it, dragging England kicking and screaming into the twentieth century. She brought about change. I strongly disliked her foreign policy, in general; although being a Euro-skeptic I am thankful her approach to the European Union was a guarded one. But it’s really debatable how popular she was with the people. Under the Westminster system she did not always have the popular vote. And of course a Prime Minister has more actual power than a President of the United States, as we are fully aware; so she generally got her way.
I spent a few weeks in and around my home town last year, and concluded that yes, Britain has become a much more liberal, tolerant and egalitarian society; or at least, it aspires to be. It has changed dramatically, although I sense a growing societal conflict over the immigration issue. The Thatcher years were the final years of the Cold War, remember; Europe and the world was a very different place. Hard to imagine; it seems light years away.
Should Mrs. Thatcher have forced that medicine down our throats? I believe that, like most medicine, it was necessary at the time. And I believe that a good leader does what needs to be done, whether people like it or not. There are a few lessons in leadership that we could perhaps consider, looking back on the Thatcher era. And one of them is: You don’t have to be universally loved to be a good leader. Leadership is not about being loved. Politicians can kiss babies while campaigning, but once they achieve power they need to get on with the job at hand. I don’t recall Mrs. Thatcher ever telling us how much she loved us; but there is no doubt she loved her country. She proved this by her actions, even if sometimes misguided (I never approved of the Falklands War, but understand why she did it).
Of course, we do admire and love many of our leaders. Nelson Mandela, for example, is loved because of his selflessness and personal sacrifice; and because he stood for principle and stayed true to his principles. Not just in words, but primarily through his actions. He translated his vision into action, creating a new South Africa through the extraordinary power of his leadership. And people followed him, and revere him to this day. If you set an example of integrity and principle – if you demonstrate it through your actions - then you will be not only loved, but respected.
And I am not just talking about pretty speeches. President Barack Obama is one of the most powerful speech-makers I know; but it is by his actions that we judge him.
And talking of speeches, a leader must not ever, ever be seen to give up the ghost. Standing on a platform admitting defeat is simply not an option – whether in an emotional moment or not. President Obama became emotional immediately after the slaughter of innocent children at Sandy Hook and reflected the sense of shock in his demeanor and words. But he never threw up his hands in despair, calling on God to help. He saw this tragedy as a way to propel the country forward into something better; an opportunity in a crisis to make the United States a stronger, more humane society. Whether he will ultimately succeed is yet to be seen; but he hasn’t given up trying. Because he knows what leadership means. If he gives up, if he falters – what will the people do?
“He/she is only human.” Of course, this is true. But leaders are special human beings, and should see themselves as such. They should shoulder that burden. If they are not willing to do it, then leave it to someone else. Weakness is not a desirable or admirable trait in a leader. On this topic, a Jamaican “tweep” commented sagely: “‘Only human’ is an association with humanity to all things weak, negative, finite and limited. We’re also strong, positive and infinitely unlimited!”
Leaders must, must communicate – clearly, regularly, forcefully sometimes if need be. When we first lived in Jamaica, I used to groan when then Prime Minister Michael Manley came on the television for yet another broadcast message: “My fellow Jamaicans…” he would intone. But he was communicating. I am sorry, but the last thing any leader wants to see is a cartoon like this:
And simply put, leaders must obey the rules. It is all about setting an example. You are out there – you have been voted in, elected or selected. You may be a company boss, an NGO head, a Mayor, a parish councilor. But you must – must – follow the rules and regulations, and be seen to be doing so. It’s a bit like the parent-child relationship. If children see their parents smoking cigarettes and cursing profusely, are they going to pay attention when the parents tell them to behave themselves? No, they are going to do as they please. A good leader must set standards and must adhere to them him/herself at all times!
I know many Jamaicans with strong leadership qualities, although I find these are mostly in the private sector, and especially in civil society. Others aspire to be the “boss” or the “big man.” They are happy when they have reached the top. They can be driven around by a chauffeur; they can fly first class. They can wear nice designer suits and have their photo taken in the social pages (which, in my view, should be abolished). They can call their secretary on the intercom and order coffee, sitting in their plush office.
They have “arrived.” But the trappings of leadership are nothing. This is counterfeit leadership, a chimera. This is just a satisfied ego.
Not that leaders should not have an ego; nothing wrong with that. It is a driving force. But it must be used in a positive way. And leadership is about responsibility. First and foremost.
Leaders, be strong. Be humble. Be visionary. Be principled. Be lawful. Be exemplary. Be respectful. Step up to the plate. If you are unable to do so, then step away. It’s not for everyone.
The nation will find it very hard to look up to the leaders who are keeping their ears to the ground.
Those are the words of another famous British Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill. He was also the last Prime Minister, before Thatcher, to have a state funeral (and I, as a young girl, was there with my parents to watch the procession, on a day of biting cold in London). During the terrible wartime years, Churchill – who actually suffered from depression for many years – held his head high and lifted the country with him. And then, after the war, he was no longer needed.
We are only human. And we are only on this Earth for a short time. Let us make our lives count for something.
- ‘Lying here, she is one of us’ (standard.co.uk)
- A fondish farewell to Mrs. Thatcher, Thatcher, Milk Snatcher (newsobserver.com)
- Margaret Thatcher funeral: fans travel thousands of miles to pay their respects (telegraph.co.uk)
- An alternative soundtrack for Maggie Thatcher’s funeral (foreignpolicy.com)
- Lean in, Maggie style (standard.co.uk)
- http://www.winstonchurchill.org All you need to know about Winston Churchill
- http://www.nelsonmandela.org Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory
- http://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/leadership Basics of Leadership
- http://www.forbes.com/sites/glennllopis/2013/02/18/the-most-successful-leaders-do-15-things-automatically-every-day/ The most successful leaders do 15 things automatically every day: Forbes.com
- http://www.theelders.org The Elders: Independent global leaders working together for peace and human rights
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
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/OCG-probing-construction-of-shops-at-Spalding-market OCG probing construction of shops at Spalding Market: Jamaica Observer
http://thecrooksofit.livejournal.com/2338.html Probe of Clarendon market – official statement: thecrooksofit live journal
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/list/33576 Cabinet welcomes OCG probe into Spaldings Market shops issue: Jamaica Information Service
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130415/cleisure/cleisure1.html Callow Barnswell, shameless Azan: Gleaner editorial
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=44128 I had no corrupt intentions, says Richard Azan: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130417/letters/letters1.html Will Azan prove himself to be an honorable man? Letter of the Day/Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130416/cleisure/cleisure4.html Mayor Barnswell, you just don’t get it! Letter to the Editor/Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/Of-a-PM-s-persistent-silence_14077733 Of a PM’s persistent silence: Letter to the Editor/Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130417/cleisure/cleisure1.html The PM’s divestment of leadership: Gleaner editorial
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130417/letters/letters1.htmlhttp://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Harrison-hits-out-at-corruption_14067493 Harrison hits out at corruption: Jamaica Observer
http://www.og.nr/rbt/13479-indecom-15-increase-in-fatal-shootings-by-the-police.html 15 per cent increase in fatal shootings by the police: On The Ground News Report
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130415/lead/lead1.html ”We feel like targets”: Clarendon business circle wary after murders: Gleaner
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/farm-supervisor-gunned-down-in-st-thomas Farm supervisor gunned down in St. Thomas: RJR News
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/A-dark-night-of-the-soul_14082950 ”A dark night of the soul”: Full text of Minister Bunting’s remarks: Jamaica Observer
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/bunting-reaffirms-his-commitment-to-crime-fighting Bunting reaffirms his commitment to crime fighting: RJR News
http://lowrie-chin.blogspot.com/2013/04/un-must-act-now-for-safer-world.html UN must act now for safer world: lowrie-chin.blogspot.com
http://go-jamaica.com/news/read_article.php?id=44105 Swap the Peters: Gleaner/Power 106 FM
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Clampdown-_14068063 Over 20 government employees arrested in motor vehicle license racket: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Bunting-faces-contempt-of-court-action_14053699 Bunting faces contempt of court action: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-star.com/thestar/20130415/news/news8.html Jamaicans held for allegedly trafficking ganja: Jamaica Star
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/JLP-dismay-_14069932 JLP dismay! Party officials unhappy with latest Holness move: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130416/lead/lead7.html Shaw upset at being left out of party meeting: Gleaner
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/bureau-of-standards-defends-decision-to-withhold-names-of-tissue-brands Bureau of Standards defends decision to withhold names of tissue brands: RJR News
http://cucumberjuice.wordpress.com/2013/04/16/toilet-paper-governance/ Toilet paper governance: cucumberjuice.wordpress.com
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130417/lead/lead7.html ”Women can take tissue issue to court”: Gleaner
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads/33583 Statement from Ministry of Health on contaminated tissue: Jamaica Information Service
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130416/cleisure/cleisure5.html NAJ President has a sick sense of logic: Letter to the Editor from a General Practitioner: Gleaner
http://www.guardian.co.uk/global-development/poverty-matters/2013/apr/16/jamaica-decades-debt-damaging-future Jamaica’s decades of debt are damaging its future: Guardian UK blog
http://digjamaica.com/blog/2013/04/15/further-slippage-bauxite-alumina-industry/ Further slippage: bauxite and alumina industry: diGJamaica.com
http://digjamaica.com/blog/2013/04/17/3688/ Inflation for March soars: diGJamaica.com
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads/33580 International investors very keen on logistics hub initiative: Jamaica Information Service
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130417/business/business1.html Demystifying the logistics hub: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130417/ent/ent1.html Unlikely stars: Jamaicans become hugely popular on YouTube: Gleaner (re: fellow blogger/vlogger Carla Moore)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130416/lead/lead3.html ”We want no condoms in schools”: JTA President says distribution would be unethical, illegal: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Gov-t-optimistic-about-new-funding-for-HIV-programmes_14083660 Government optimistic about new funding for HIV programs: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130415/news/news5.html 18 children benefit from heart surgery: Gleaner
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads-100/33570 Help for boys of Goodwin Park Hostel: Jamaica Information Service
Who is building Richard Azan’s home ? (commonsenseja.wordpress.com)
I wrote this article a couple of months ago – in January, 2013. As our Cabinet comes out of its latest two-day pre-Easter retreat, I thought that you might enjoy it, dear readers…
The great Stoic philosopher (and Roman Emperor) Marcus Aurelius commented in his wisdom, centuries ago: “Men seek retreats for themselves, houses in the country, sea-shores, and mountains; and thou too art wont to desire such things very much. But this is altogether a mark of the most common sort of men, for it is in thy power whenever thou shalt choose to retire into thyself…But perhaps the desire of the thing called fame will torment thee. See how soon everything is forgotten, and look at the chaos of infinite time on each side of the present, and the emptiness of applause, and the changeableness and want of judgment in those who pretend to give praise, and the narrowness of the space within which it is circumscribed, and be quiet at last. For the whole earth is a point, and how small a nook in it is this thy dwelling, and how few are there in it, and what kind of people are they who will praise thee.” (From “Meditations,” written between 170 and 180).
Well, the Jamaican Cabinet went into retreat recently – the fourth in its one-year lifespan under the leadership of Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller. This is clearly a common-sense move. When members of a team are running up and down in different directions (in this case, hopping in and out of their costly Toyota Prados, and traveling by air – first class, of course) then it is difficult to bring them all together in one place. The team needs time to reflect and then make its plans, away from the daily routine.
Therefore, on January 10, 2013 the Cabinet went into a three-day retreat – not to a mountainside or a sea-shore, although trips to the north coast have not been out of the question in the past with Jamaican Governments. No, this retreat was in Kingston, at Jamaica House.
The Cabinet was retreating in more ways than one. It was retreating from a growing chorus of concern and criticism from the private sector and civil society. They wanted more information. Now, and rather surprisingly I feel, the Simpson Miller administration has shown that it has a serious communication problem, as the great communicator and public relations veteran Barbara Gloudon commented on radio. Why this is so, I am not sure. It is just not getting through to the people.
So. The Cabinet retreat appears to be a regular quarterly event, and nothing wrong with that. A good idea, in fact. Please note that the previous retreat was only two days long, last October. After that, the Prime Minister told Parliament on October 22: “I am making the commitment to Jamaicans at home and overseas that there will be increased communication on matters of governance.”
Did the increased communication manifest itself in any way? I would suggest that through the end-of-year season, it did not.
So this month’s retreat became a matter of some urgency. The Cabinet needed to tell Jamaica something about the current state of the International Monetary Fund negotiations. There had been increasingly blunt, pointed comments from the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica on the remarkable dearth of information on the negotiations. And in Jamaica, when there is a vacuum it is filled with rumors, growing fear and speculation. The shrill voices on radio talk shows grew louder. Commentators on television current affairs programs, their faces gloomy in the too-bright studio lights, began discussing a “What if?” scenario. Columnists and financial analysts tackled the IMF issue from every possible angle, with precious little material to work with.
None of this is good, not for any political administration. And in many ways, it is especially sad for Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, who has always been considered a tremendous communicator and a great lover of the people – especially the poor and downtrodden of society. Her vibrant and often strident speeches – almost reminiscent of a fundamentalist preacher – have stirred thousands of Jamaicans, especially during election campaigns. Is this magnetism fading?
In fact, I would suggest that a large part of all of this revolves around the Prime Minister’s leadership. Former government minister Christopher Tufton observed in a newspaper column the other day that the Prime Minister probably needs to shake off some of her advisers, and just be herself – go out and lead, firmly. Show some mettle, don’t allow herself to get confused. Just lead!
A week before the retreat, the Prime Minister gave a televised broadcast that had largely disappointed. Unwisely wearing the “Portia” daffodil yellow of the 2011 election campaign, she had given what the media like to term a “report card” on her administration’s first year in office. She gave some details of projects in the pipeline for the next year. Fair enough. But this was not what people wanted. Just before the broadcast, “man/woman on the street” interviews (always, it seems, conducted in the same spot in Half Way Tree) showed that people expected to hear more about “the IMF, the IMF, the IMF” – and jobs. The people were adamant. That was what they wanted.
Perhaps the government was not listening, because Ms. Simpson Miller mentioned the IMF once in passing. And Bible quotes and lyrics from a Jimmy Cliff song, however apt, just did not cut it.
Then there was the post-retreat press briefing, another brave effort to keep the public informed. But there was something wrong. The atmosphere was prickly. The phalanx of Cabinet ministers lined up to talk to the journalists looked less than refreshed from the retreat. The Prime Minister, this time in powder blue, used her warm and pleasant voice well at times. At other times, her eloquence abandoned her and a pleading tone crept in. The Finance Minister looked as if the weight of the world was on his shoulders. While the Prime Minister spoke he fiddled uncomfortably with the papers in front of him. When he spoke, the Prime Minister had a slightly confused look on her face. During question time, the defensive phrase, “I didn’t say that…” crept up, more than once. The other ministers remained largely mute.
We were told that Cabinet had “signed off” on several items required by the IMF. What items, we are not sure. Words sometimes don’t mean much. But body language can tell you a lot, especially when our excellent newspaper photographers capture an expression, a gesture. The sense of discomfort at the press briefing is somehow reflected in the malaise of the people. We are, sadly, really none the wiser.
So, the retreat ended on January 13, and the anxious press briefing has come and gone. Now, ten days later, it is business as usual. In other words, the uncertainty continues. It is as if we are all feeling our way, groping in the dark towards a glimmer of light. It’s a feeble candle that flickers in the wind. And sometimes the wind can pick up some strength, and threaten to blow the candle out.
Let me leave our Cabinet – and our Prime Minister, in particular – with some more wise words from Marcus Aurelius: “Never let the future disturb you. You will meet it, if you have to, with the same weapons of reason which today arm you against the present.”
Stay calm. Empower yourselves. Be strong. Do the right thing for the people of Jamaica!
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130117/lead/lead92.html PSOJ gives Cabinet thumbs up on retreat: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20121022/lead/lead4.html Cabinet Retreat: Government will communicate more, Jamaica will overcome – Portia: Gleaner
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads/32728 Cabinet signs off on measures to advance IMF negotiations: Jamaica Information Service
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads-117/32730 IMF is not the solution to everything: Prime Minister