Late again! Sunday, April 13, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Portia Simpson Miller

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

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

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

Sunset in Port Royal. (My photo)

Sunset in Port Royal. (My photo)

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

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

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

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

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

Special, special thanks and kudos to:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Dion Watt, Canaan Heights, Clarendon

Irvin Campbell, 17, Little London, Westmoreland

George Ricketts, Wentworth/Port Maria, St. Mary

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

Charles Bryan, 38, Montego Bay, St. James

Kirk Millington, 33, Montego Bay, St. James

Killed by police:

Kirk Rose, 37, Alexandria, St. Ann

“Junior,” downtown Kingston

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

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

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

A Lively Week: Sunday, March 30, 2014

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

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

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

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

Vybz Kartel going into the courthouse last week.

Vybz Kartel going into the courthouse last week.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Former banker Dunbar McFarlane.

Former banker Dunbar McFarlane.

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

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

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

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

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

Big ups and thanks to:

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

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

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

Supreme Ventures logo.

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

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

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

Jamaican jazz guitarist Ernie Ranglin.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shanice Williams, 27, Hopewell, Hanover

Peta Rose, 64, Lumsden, St. Ann

Rushawn Myers, 20, Port Antonio, Portland

Lebert Balasal, 61, Little London, Westmoreland

Killed by police:

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

Unidentified man, Alexandria, St. Ann

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

Police Constable Christopher Foster died in a tragic car crash.

Police Constable Christopher Foster died in a tragic car crash.

Top 10 Sexist and Heterosexist Moments in Caribbean Politics

petchary:

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

Originally posted on Feminist conversations on Caribbean life:

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

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

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

View original 1,181 more words

Leadership Embracing Diversity

The University of the West Indies’ (UWI) Regional Headquarters, with its pale blue roof, is quite grand on the outside. Inside, it is beautiful and functional. Last Thursday afternoon, we walked through a cool hallway lined with paintings of past heads of the University to the spacious room where the “Great Leadership Debate” was about to begin.

Prizes included book tokens and other goodies.

Prizes included book tokens and other goodies.

The debate was coordinated by UWI Leads, an organization that helps to develop leadership skills among the students. It started in 2010 and supports several programs: Quality Leadership; The Live and Lead program; The Leadership Exchange Program; The Peer Leaders Program and the Leadership and Service Program. UWI Leads members were clearly visible in their red polo shirts; peer leader Adriel Howell served as a soft-spoken and charming chairperson.

UWI Leads

UWI Leads

For this debate, now an annual fixture in the calendar, UWILeads partnered with the LGBT rights group J-FLAG, under the theme “The Role of Leadership in Responding to Vulnerable Communities.” But this was not the exact topic under debate, which was: “This House would prosecute employers for all forms of discrimination.” The four competing teams had to prepare their arguments in just fifteen minutes after the topic was presented to them. A tall order, indeed.

J-FLAG logo

The J-FLAG logo includes the colors of the Jamaican flag (black, green and gold).

This was “an English parliamentary-style debate,” so there was a Prime Minister and his Deputy (University of Technology), an Opposition Leader and his Deputy, and then an additional team on each side of Parliament, so to speak – including a Whip. There was a team of adjudicators, and a moderator who was very strict. I was startled by the occasional sudden handclap from the judges and the moderator in the middle of a presentation, and to be honest didn’t understand the purpose of that. I tried to focus on the arguments. Sometimes one side tried to interrupt and the speaker would say, “Not accepted at this time!” and continue.

The room was "standing room only."

The room was “standing room only.”

After Program Director for UWI Leads Nadeen Spence had welcomed everyone (and the room was full by now) UWI’s Deputy Principal, Dr. Ishenkumbah Kahwa mentioned the importance of self-development. Education is not just about grades, he reminded the mainly student audience. He recalled his interview for a Fulbright Scholarship, and his surprise that some volunteer work he had been involved in seemed of greater importance to his interviewers than his paper qualifications.

The all-male panel of judges.

The all-male panel of judges.

One of the entities endorsing the debate was the U.S. Embassy in Kingston, which has been particularly strong in its support for LGBT rights. Public Affairs Officer Christopher Degnan informed the audience that there will be a special event at the U.S. Embassy on Friday, April 11 at 2:00 p.m. with LGBT rights activists Dennis and Judy Shepard – the parents of the 21-year-old University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepherd who was murdered in 1998 because of his sexual orientation. The event, “Erase the Hate: Promoting Respect and Social Tolerance,” will include a film screening of “The Laramie Project.”  More on this later.

The "Prime Minister" speaks. Apologies for the rather distant photographs  - we did not want to get too close to the speakers for fear of distracting them.

The “Prime Minister” speaks. Apologies for the rather distant photographs – we did not want to get too close to the speakers for fear of distracting them.

Ms. Rose Cameron, Director of Student Services and Development at UWI, stressed the importance of “peaceful discussion” rather than the shouting matches that too often occur. Debates such as these “break down boundaries,” Ms. Cameron suggested.

“Equality for all,” declared the “Prime Minister” (from last year’s champions, the University of Technology) as he opened the debate. There is no doubt that he and his very sharp Deputy had a much easier task than the Opposition; it’s hard to justify discrimination of any kind in the workplace. Non-discrimination, the PM and his colleague contended, would help to create a “more harmonious society,” especially important in a country like Jamaica which is seeking to develop itself.” There should be a public education program on discrimination; and clearly, an environment that  creates happier employees and greater productivity. The prosecution of employers does not, of course, guarantee that victimization will go away, but it sets a precedent and establishes boundaries. Later, the PM and his deputy stressed that the government has a “moral responsibility” to protect the vulnerable in society; they must have a sense of belonging. Employers, too, must follow the same philosophy; they have a duty to the public at large.

An "Opposition" member speaks.

An “Opposition” member speaks.

The Opposition battled valiantly – and at times, incoherently. Affirmative action was the answer, they suggested, not prosecution; but they did not clarify how this would work in practice. The Deputy Opposition Leader had a sudden fit of nerves and had to return to his desk after failing to present his argument (or even to finish a sentence). This was unfortunate, provoking comment from the audience – who were, for the most part, well-behaved, although there were waves of mutterings and the odd, pointed remark from a person in the back row.

The problem was this: Neither side effectively addressed that question “How?” They put forward (and repeated) several nice-sounding phrases. There was quite a bit of philosophizing, and the tone of the debate was admirable. But the discussion never got down to the strategies and implementation. Perhaps that would have been too much to ask. Each presenter had just seven minutes to speak, and with only fifteen minutes of preparation beforehand it would have been hard to flesh anything out. The matter of what kind of fine employers would incur did arise, along with the suggestion that a Ministry board could set up a quota system.

The winning debater from UWI Western Campus. He spoke with a flourish.

The winning debater from UWI Western Campus. He spoke with an emphatic flourish.

There were dozens of tweets from the audience and the organizers before, during and after the event. “Talks about vulnerable minorities should not stop” now that the debate has ended, said one. Another tweet said, “When you assume a leadership role, don’t be partial in your representation.” Who will speak for those vulnerable groups, if our leaders do not defend them? In closing, Rasheen Roper, the Coordinator of the UWI Leads (Gold) Program, commented that “leadership has no day off,” adding that “we need to extend ourself beyond what is safe.” Were we adequately challenged to do so, I wonder?

The winners pose for their picture.

The winners pose for their picture.

Who won, you may be asking? Not surprisingly perhaps, the “Government” side won – in the shape of UWI’s Western Campus team, who had come all the way from Montego Bay. Their presentations were energetic and focused. UTech came second. The two “Opposition” teams did not fare so well: UWI Mona Campus came third, and The Mico University fourth.

As the U.S. Embassy’s Christopher Degnan pointed out, “The vulnerable do not simply disappear, if we refuse to see them.” There is a great deal more to say on this subject. This debate was a valuable and useful exercise, but just scraped the surface.

May the discussion continue.

P.S. I wasn’t too happy with the gender balance, by the way. Out of the eight debaters, only two were women; and all five judges were men. Please, UWI Leads, do better next time, please.

Some quotes on leadership from UWI Leads:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, concerned citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead

“The most dangerous leadership myth is that leaders are born – that there is a genetic factor to leadership. That’s nonsense: in fact, the opposite is true. Leaders are made rather than born.” – Warren Bennis

“A leader is a dealer in hope.” – Napoleon Bonaparte

 

 

Fresh Sunday, March 23, 2014

We’re feeling a little freshened up after a nice shower. We give thanks.

The increasingly tabloidesque Sunday Observer kicks off its front page with a somewhat dubious story about a pastor accused of deliberately “spreading AIDS” (the latter word in huge red letters in the headlines). Moving quickly on, I have found a couple of good articles on…

I recommend the tweets of former Contractor General Greg Christie.

I recommend the tweets of former Contractor General Greg Christie.

The C-word: A lot of public officials and others have been gathering in the Cayman Islands this week to discuss what to do about corruption. The issue has been analyzed to death, and still no one has a solution. Or do they? Former Contractor General Greg Christie has come up with a 21-point plan to deal with corruption.  He suggests that Caribbean governments pursue “remedial counter-measures.” He also uses the word “immediately.” In my view, that word is not in the vocabulary of our political leaders, who have little or no interest in addressing the issue any time soon. While they are still trying to figure out what corruption is, though, do follow Mr. Christie on Twitter (@Greg0706). He will enlighten you.

Bishop Howard Gregory.

Bishop Howard Gregory.

I also applaud Anglican Bishop of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands Howard Gregory - one of the very few church people who talks about issues that are actually relevant. He insists that the Church play a heightened advocacy role on corruption (I see absolutely no sign of that happening, apart from his own utterances). He points to an issue that is always an irritant to Jamaicans: “Very often when public figures have allegations of corruption laid against them, they are quick to point out that they have not broken any laws. It is…important to understand that corruption is not just about laws, but is at base about ethics and morality in governance and social relations.” Well said, Bishop Gregory! He hits the nail on the head and his language is forthright.

And the last word from our Prime Minister: “On my watch, I pledge that we will reject governmental extravagance and be vigilant in eliminating corruption.”  (Inaugural speech, January 5, 2012).

Priorities: The Church raised the dreary old issue of a flexible work week, huffing and puffing about how disappointed it is with the Government. Of course, whether people take a day off on a Saturday or a Sunday is so much more important than corruption. Successive administrations have tried and failed to push this issue through to a sensible conclusion; the poor Labour Minister Horace Dalley must be fed up to the back teeth. The umbrella group of churches is now accusing him of avoiding them. All they want is for the right to rest and worship on specific days of their choice to be enshrined in law. Meanwhile the International Monetary Fund is breathing down the Government’s neck to get the thing sorted out (after several years of wrangling!) Enough already!

The Energy Monitoring Committee is headed by investment banker Peter Melhado. (Photo: Gleaner)

The Energy Monitoring Committee is headed by investment banker Peter Melhado. (Photo: Gleaner)

Lingering doubts: The private sector-led Energy Monitoring Committee (EMC) is confirming my doubts over the Office of Utilities Regulation’s (OUR) seemingly hurried decision to award a license to Energy World International (EWI) to build a major power plant. I wondered if the OUR is under some political pressure, and I think we should remain concerned. The EMC feels that EWI has still not provided enough financial information.  So what next?

Dennis Chung. (Gleaner file photo)

Dennis Chung. (Gleaner file photo)

On economic matters, you should always read Dennis Chung’s clear-eyed articles. They appear in Caribbean Journal online. In his latest article Dennis notes that public sector bureaucracy, coupled with inefficient and poor service, must be tackled to boost productivity. Here it is: http://www.caribjournal.com/2014/03/21/transforming-jamaicas-public-sector/

And what next on the Tivoli Gardens Commission of Enquiry? One supposes that the Government is scouting around for a replacement for the unsuitable Velma Hylton. Hoping for an update soon. I am generally feeling uncomfortable about the affair, which has certainly got off to an inauspicious start. The Opposition Jamaica Labour Party’s equivocation and contradictory comments do not bode well either.

Questions: Should garbage collection be privatized? What has changed after last weekend’s major dump fire? What will change?

Media star: Former Senior Superintendent of Police Reneto Adams, who once headed the controversial Crime Management Unit, appeared in a short television report on Al Jazeera English called “Island of Music and Murder” (oh, doesn’t that sound nice). Although retired, Mr. Adams is not shy of the limelight and we have to listen to his pearls of wisdom on how to solve our crime problem at frequent and regular intervals. At least now in interviews we can actually see his eyes; for years he wore dark glasses, even in television studios.

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And talking of human rights, there are two big events this week. Tomorrow (Monday 24th) at 6:30 p.m., the Jamaica Environment Trust and Caribbean Coastal Area Management Foundation will host a community meeting in Old Harbour Bay Square on the planned Goat Islands development. It’s my birthday so I don’t think I will be able to attend, but please come and support and spread the word! Nationwide News Network will broadcast from the event.

On Thursday, March 27 from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. there will be the University of the West Indies’ “Great Debate” - a partnership with J-FLAG – on the topic “The Role of Leadership in Responding to Vulnerable Populations.” Students from three Jamaican tertiary institutions will participate. Not to be missed! And don’t forget to watch the interview with UWI’s debaters on “Smile Jamaica” (Television Jamaica’s morning show) on Tuesday morning!

The fearsome Reneto Adams in full battle gear. Some Jamaicans actually believe he should be our National Security Minister. If that happened I would be on the first plane out of here!

The fearsome Reneto Adams in full battle gear. Some Jamaicans actually believe he should be our National Security Minister. If that happened I would be on the first plane out of here!

Carnival Minister: Minister of Youth and Culture Lisa Hanna considers it entirely appropriate to share a photo of herself on Instagram, dressed in her skimpy Carnival costume, displaying what some online observers consider an enviable set of abs. Ms. Hanna clearly spends a lot of time and attention in the gym tending to her body. I hope she spends as much time tending to the young Jamaicans, many in desperate straits in juvenile correctional centers, that are her responsibility.  But I suppose once a beauty queen…

On some other political matters, I repeat: The level of political corruption and victimization in government agencies is appalling. I will say no more.” Sometimes, your face just does not fit…

 Major congrats to:

A Phase Three Productions truck ready for action. The multi media firm is celebrating 30 years.

A Phase Three Productions truck ready for action. The multi media firm is celebrating 30 years.

  • Phase Three Productions, a family firm working in the television and the wider media that has lasted thirty years through tough economic times. Congratulations to Dr. Marcia Forbes, husband Richard and son Delano for their hard work and focus on high standards. Last year alone, Phase Three produced over 500 hours of local content. Wishing you continued success!
JN Foundation volunteer Neville Charlton tries to figure out what to do next during first aid training over the weekend.

JN Foundation volunteer Neville Charlton tries to figure out what to do next during first aid training over the weekend.

  • The JN Foundation, which offered its volunteers free first aid training over the weekend. The Foundation is expanding and growing in all directions, and don’t forget its great “I Support Jamaica” program, which allows supporters to lend or donate to projects or small entrepreneurs.  I urge you to take a look and contribute what you can!  https://www.isupportjamaica.com
  • The Star – the Gleaner’s tabloid sister paper that comes out in the afternoons – is know for its strange, sometimes rather unpleasant headlines. Here’s a funny one though: “Cow escapes police custody.”

It is always very sad to list these names, but as always I extend my sympathies to the families who are left to mourn:

Jamario Ferguson, 15, Kingston 12

Melissa Duffus, 35, Logwood, St. Thomas

Anthony George Hudson, 25, Richmond District, St. Mary

Kevin Graham, 48, Claremont, St. Ann

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

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

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

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

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

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

Michelle Bachelet

United Nations Women, Executive Director 2010-2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gender Equality and Smart Economics

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

Let’s explore this. What is Gender Equality?

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

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

Let me elucidate how Gender Equality ties to Smart Economics:

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

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

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

Indeed, the 2012 World Bank reports unequivocally that

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So how do we get there?

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

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

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

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

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

I recommend that this Committee seek to:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

Thank you.


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

Of Ports, Pinnacle and Paradise

petchary:

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

Originally posted on Thru Red, Gold & Green Spectacles:

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

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

View original 1,215 more words

Sunday, February 23, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kudos to:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grace Virtue

Grace Virtue

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rupert Robinson, 44, Majesty Gardens, Kingston

Ricardo Finlay, 18, Majesty Gardens, Kingston

Akeem Campbell, 19, Point, Hanover

Ian Wells, 36, Lucea, Hanover

Carlene Young, 16, Hague, Trelawny

Unidentified man, Gore Tuca/Portmore, St. Catherine

Sonia Gayle, McCooks Pen, St. Catherine

Franklin daCosta, 52, Grants Town, St. Mary

Orlando Cunningham, 20, Foga Road, Clarendon

Lloyd Robinson, 80, Four Paths, Clarendon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IUCN Species Survival Commission.

IUCN Species Survival Commission.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

More Supporters Every Day: Save Goat Islands

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

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

How can you help? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Follow @SaveGoatIslands and @jamentrust on Twitter.

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

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

Thank you!

Photo: Jamaica Environment Trust.

Photo: Jamaica Environment Trust.

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