This week is Education Week. I posted a few of my rather random thoughts on the matter, inspired by yesterday’s visit to a primary school that sits right in the shadow of the General Penitentiary. There are always “feel good” events, much praise for teachers, etc. And major kudos to the private sector for its support for education. And then there are the voices of young people themselves, such as in a letter to the Gleaner, below. The tone is pleading, wistful:
“We the young people are looking for the slightest glimmer of hope to hold on to…Many of us die a little every day on the inside from the knowledge that our true potential may never be realized…On behalf of all the young people out there – the potential leaders, scientists, inventors and innovators – please give us a reason to continue to hold on. We are the future: make decisions now that will give us a true fighting chance.”
The can of worms is open: Since the final publication of the Public Defender‘s interim report on the Tivoli Gardens massacre almost three years ago, things have started happening rather suddenly. On Monday, Cabinet took a decision (which I believe is the correct one) to hold a Commission of Enquiry, on the recommendation of the Public Defender. The question now is, what does the Commission wish to achieve? What do the people of Tivoli Gardens want? We do know that the family of Keith Clarke would really like a public apology from the Jamaican Government – at this stage, it seems so late as to be laughable, but it would help. Mr. Clarke, the brother of a former government minister, died in a hail of bullets at his home in the “upscale” hills above Kingston on May 27, 2010, while the security forces were searching for former Tivoli “don” Christopher “Dudus” Coke. The print media has been delving deeply into the potentially negative political repercussions of such an enquiry; both the Jamaica Defence Force and the Jamaica Constabulary Force
What happened to the PNPYO? Our budding young politicians at the People’s National Party Youth Organization (PNPYO) seem to have had some kind of brainstorm yesterday, issuing a press release on the Tivoli affair and then contradicting themselves. Radio journalist Dionne Jackson-Miller attempted to have a sensible interview with one of them, but we were none the wiser. He didn’t seem to be listening to what she said. In the end she gave up. Meanwhile the Kingston chapter of the organization sought to distance itself from the President’s astonishingly crass press release, in which he referred to those who died in Tivoli Gardens as “casualties of war.” And has been suspended.
Are we policing downtown? For quite a while now we have been hearing about the numerous (daylight) robberies of businesses and individuals. Now the police are reporting quite a dramatic increase. If we are to revive Kingston’s downtown area (the building of Digicel’s new head office has been a pioneering move in many ways) then surely the first thing is to ensure good security? The two main hospitals are especially suffering. Just get more police on the beat down there, for heaven’s sake.
I LIKE Minister Paulwell: I was encouraged to hear Minister Phillip Paulwell speak at GTECH’s donation of computers to St. Michael’s Primary School yesterday. It was refreshing to hear a politician, in a manner completely devoid of pomposity, elaborate a clear vision for the future of technology in education. With sincere enthusiasm, too. He was especially excited about his proposed distribution of tablets to teachers and students; some (like Opposition Senator Kamina Johnson-Smith, below) are not completely sold. It was quite a small gathering at the school, but the Minister connected with his audience – and did not read from any notes. And it’s nice to hear from someone with vision, who doesn’t spout the usual well-worn platitudes. Another gold star for him was his defusing of a threatened gas tanker strike today; he called an emergency meeting with the union, and the drivers went back to work. You’ve had a good week, Minister.
Going downmarket? I was very sad to hear of the closure of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Montego Bay. It is a beautiful property and a luxury brand (virtually the only one left on the island). Now it has been sold to another firm that plans to add more rooms and turn it into yet another all-inclusive. So what the tourism marketing people like to call the “Elegant Corridor” in Montego Bay – a beautiful stretch of road going into the town – will be less elegant in the future. And especially with the recent sad demise of the luxury Palmyra development; I would love to know what is happening with the Palmyra, which fell into financial difficulties. There is one part that is not yet completed. What is the latest on this? I had the pleasure of staying there just before it closed – beautifully designed, splendidly luxurious, it deserved to be filled with well-heeled visitors (and Jamaicans) every night. But it was lonely and sad.
Tourism looking wobbly: It really seems all is not well in the tourism sector. I can’t quite put my finger on why. Junior Minister Damian Crawford said on radio this morning that tourism is down by four per cent up until the end of March, and looks to be down a little in April, too. He explained the downturn on hotels doing refurbishing; but why would any hotel close for that purpose during the winter tourist season? Something doesn’t quite add up. Meanwhile, the Caribbean Tourism Association has predicted a 4-5 per cent increase regionally this year. Several Caribbean countries show increases already this year (Belize, Cayman Islands and others). Barbados is doing worse than us though, presumably because of a slump in the UK market. But… what is the plan?
Those tubers again: The Agriculture Minister seems a nice man, but he tends to ramble. Now he wants farmers to plant more cassava. But I thought that one of his predecessors in a previous administration, Christopher Tufton, was laughed at for his obsession with cassava a few years back? Maybe he whispered the magic word in the Minister’s ear. But there is good news – food exports have gone up over the past year, and imports are just a fraction up. Hold on a minute though – when the Chinese firm Complant took over some sugar estates a few years ago there was much talk of increased production and efficiency. This year production is falling. Why? And Blue Mountain Tea? Well, Minister Clarke, let’s get Blue Mountain Coffee sorted out first, shall we?
Breathtaking… The speed with which a man was charged, convicted and sentenced (to two years in prison) for house-breaking and larceny from a country villa where National Security Minister Peter Bunting was staying over the Easter holiday weekend. That’s just a matter of a few weeks. In the normal scheme of things, this could have taken many months.
Plummeting… Jamaica’s Net International Reserves fell to a thirteen-year low in April. We now have twelve weeks’ worth of money. Financial guru Owen James tells me that things should improve, now that the International Monetary Fund agreement has been signed. Hope so.
The children: We had an interesting Twitter chat yesterday with UNICEF Jamaica and Eve for Life on the sexual abuse of children. Did you know that 33% of girls and 18% of boys aged 10-15 did not consent to their first sexual encounter? And the excellent Live at Seven hosted by Simon Crosskill kept its focus on children’s rights with a discussion with the velvet-toned Youth and Culture Minister Lisa Hanna and the head of the Child Development Agency – the government agency ostensibly in charge of children’s homes. The former seemed defensive at times; the latter was afraid to look at the camera, or anyone – and when asked a question looked nervously at her boss before answering, even at one point asking her for permission to speak. They did not greatly enlighten us. Mr. Crosskill brought in the issue of homeless gay youth; and wrapped up the program with scathing comments on the Christian fundamentalists among us who use the Bible to justify their opposition to gays – citing the numerous other common practices punishable by stoning according to the Good Book. Ha! Good stuff, Mr. Crosskill.
Deepest condolences to the family and friends of the following Jamaicans, who have added to the homicide statistics in the past four days. It is too sad.
Unidentified man, Tower Street, Kingston
Joseph Lyons, 55, Tivoli Gardens, Kingston
Milton Chisholm, 41, Seaview Gardens, Kingston
Killed by police:
Unidentified man, Matthews Lane, Kingston
George Moxam, 25, Waltham Park Road, Kingston
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130509/lead/lead1.html Bruce didn’t trust JDF: Golding sought U.S. aid in verifying Tivoli claims of abuse by soldiers: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130508/cleisure/cleisure1.html Route to a worthy Tivoli enquiry: Gleaner editorial
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/jfj-appalled-at-casualties-of-war-statement-by-pnpyo JFJ appalled at casualties of war statement by PNPYO: RJR News
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130509/news/news1.html Tech boost for St. Michael’s: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Are-Paulwell-s-tablets-the-right-prescription-_14206450 Are Paulwell’s tablets the right prescription? Kamina Johnson-Smith op-ed/Ja. Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130508/business/business1.html Start-ups want mobile money now: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Unlicensed-cable-company-lands-Ja-on-IP-watch-list_14224992 Unlicensed cable operator lands Jamaica on IP watch list: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Ritz-Carlton-leaving–400-jobs-in-doubt_14231797 Ritz-Carlton leaving; 400 jobs in doubt: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=44734 ”Loss of Ritz-Carlton brand detracts from Jamaica’s offering”: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130509/letters/letters1.html Jamaica the modern-day Animal Farm: Letter of the Day/Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130509/letters/letters4.html IMF deal brings an opportunity to build, renew: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Time-for-a-more-promising-future-for-Jamaica_13863318 Time for a more promising future for Jamaica: Gene Leon op-ed/Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/Did-she-say-that-with-a-straight-face-_14217848 Did she say that with a straight face? Letter to the Editor/Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130508/cleisure/cleisure2.html The squinting Prime Minister: George Davis column/Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130509/lead/lead7.html Clarke wants more focus on cassava: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130509/lead/lead4.html Robberies on the rise in Kingston: Gleaner
Yesterday, the tremor of Carnival shook the air. As the tired afternoon faded, the sounds continued, although more muted than earlier. Yes, it was party time again, and my Twitter feed was replete with photographs of festooned and feathered bodies, pouting faces with glitter attached to cheekbones and eyelids. Yes, it’s only once a year…
So on to the week’s shenanigans:
Stop press: The International Monetary Fund has just issued a statement on Jamaica, indicating that all documents are now in order and it is ready to submit Jamaica’s case to its board, which will meet by the end of April. You will find the statement here (note final paragraph): http://www.imf.org/external/np/sec/pr/2013/pr13107.htm
The mystery of it all: Last weekend, a burglary took place at a well-groomed villa in the lush and secluded San San, Portland. Depending on which report you read, a laptop, jewelry and cell phones were stolen – give or take a few items. Depending on which report you read, the stolen goods did/did not belong to National Security Minister Peter Bunting. Depending on which report you read, Minister Bunting was/was not with a female companion/two female companions. They were/were not held up at knife-point while sitting by the pool. The first reports that floated through Twitterland over the Easter weekend told one story. It seemed to be from the San San police, who are but a stone’s throw away from the villa. This report was seemingly quickly overridden by the police High Command, after the Minister himself dismissed the knife-point version of events. Now the local police and residents have reportedly taken a vow of silence. Will we ever know what really happened? Meanwhile, on Friday a man was charged with a “lesser offense” - housebreaking/larceny. The stolen goods were recovered, somehow; many theories about this, too. And where were the minister’s security men? The Gleaner calls it a “lack of clarity” involving, of all people, our National Security Minister.
A “flood tide of disrespect for the nation’s leaders”? This is how veteran journalist Barbara Gloudon described the public and media reaction to the murky “burglary” affair. Respect, as we have noted, is one of those two-way things. When did our politicians last show the people “true respect for all,” as noted in the Jamaican national anthem? Just asking.
Austerity begins at home: One of the intrepid journalists of Nationwide News Network managed to catch the Prime Minister outside a meeting one day last week, and asked her about U.S. President Barack Obama‘s five per cent pay cut. He had the temerity to ask our nation’s leader whether she might be willing to follow the President’s example. After being told that “this is not a press conference,” (?) Ms. Simpson Miller informed the young reporter that she was already making sacrifices. Of what nature, one might ask? Well, she lives at her private home and not at the old colonial Prime Minister’s residence in Vale Royal, Kingston (which already had some $14 million allocated for its upkeep in the new budget). So tell me now, does the Prime Minister not receive allowances for living in her own home, also? Maintenance, security (which is on the public purse – policemen?), wages of household workers etc? Someone, please correct me if I am wrong.
…and in the air: The Prime Minister also informed the reporter that she has foregone attendance at many conferences that she has been invited to, thus saving a packet on overseas travel – which, of course, is always first class. (“I don’t fly econ,” our leader announced during a speech recently. Her Ministers and Government agency heads are still “not flying econ” to Miami and beyond, though?) I would like to know how much has been saved by not attending these conferences?
Can we tone down the tone, please? That aggressive/defensive tone of voice is aggravating and comes across as arrogant. Please talk to us like human beings. Even the media are human beings, although that may be hard for politicians to conceive.
Nuh Go Deh: I don’t usually listen to the pulpit rantings of churchmen on television news, but Pastor Joseph Rose of the First Born Assembly put it succinctly. He told dons and older men: “Leave the pickney alone!” The non-governmental organization Eve for Life has been campaigning for some time about sex with children. Older men watch young teens grow up, discuss them among themselves, and literally prey on the girls. We need to change the hearts and mindset of these men, who encourage each other in this “macho” pursuit. We need to tell them, “Nuh go deh!” (Don’t go there). I fail to understand how forcing young girls – children – to have sex somehow enhances your manliness and your prestige. And make no mistake, very many of these sexual encounters are forced. It is in any event statutory rape and thus punishable by a prison term.
Sitting on the Throne: Our Governor General read the Throne Speech at the official opening of Parliament last week. As usual, the female politicians wore nice dresses and matching hats, and were duly celebrated in the Trivial Pages of the newspapers. Sorry, I mean the Social Pages. The gaggles of supporters of each party outside Gordon House were reduced in numbers and more subdued than usual. But please…may I remind Jamaicans that the Governor General represents the Queen of England? He, and not the Prime Minister, is our Head of State. He simply reads out the speech that is written by speechwriters at the behest of the political administration and handed to him by the Prime Minister. The Queen herself does the same thing in England; she reads out whatever meaningless nonsense the Prime Minister hands her. So why did people say they “expected more” from our GG? The speech is an overview of the Government’s plans and policies for the upcoming year. That’s it.
Vague platitudes? What concerns me, however, is the insubstantial nature of the speech. It starts and ends with platitudes (“The bright colors of our National Flag continue to fly in the face of all our difficulties; constantly reminding us that: ‘The land is fertile, the sun shineth and our people are still strong.’…) There is very little in between. Below are the main points:
- The Government wants “long-term concessionary funding” to fight climate change from the “international community.”
- The Government is worried about violence against women and children, and about car crashes. “We have to work much harder” to reduce the bloodshed, it says.
- The Government will go around the country trying to find out why we are not being nice to each other – an attempt to resuscitate the Values and Attitudes program instituted by former Prime Minister P.J. Patterson. The website, http://www.valuesandattitudes.info is under construction. Indeed.
- Having “terminated” the Liquefied Natural Gas program, the Government will look around for renewables etc. and “let the market determine” fuel costs.
- The Government is going to use more computers and be more friendly to the public.
- Aha! Net billing. That’s a good thing. Thanks, Minister Paulwell.
- Remember JEEP? Well, 18,000 Jamaicans were employed under the program last year. They tended grass verges, mended fences and generally tidied up the place.
- The Government has fulfilled all the “prior actions” required by the IMF (see Stop Press above).
- The Government has agreed with said IMF on a “minimum level of support for social intervention programs for the more vulnerable members of our society.” How minimum is that? Who are the vulnerable?
- The Government will try to be more efficient.
- The Government will do a bit more privatization of state assets. It will also try to pin down that nebulous creature, “The Growth Agenda.” Oh, here it is. Some Chinese projects. And aren’t we way behind with the logistics hub? Sounds like it.
- The meaningful part: More reliable and less expensive electricity.
- The Government is going to try to get more Russian tourists (like it tried to get more Chinese, Indians, Latin Americans…)
- The Government will launch eight agro-parks. What is an agro-park?
- Second meaningful part: The legislative agenda. (What is the Charities Bill all about? Taxing charities? “Regulating” them?)
- The JDF will train 500 youth at risk. And offer them jobs?
- The Government will especially strengthen ties with the almost-failed state of Venezuela, where the Chavez candidate told electors that he has put a curse on all who vote against him in the upcoming elections. But it will continue to hug up its “traditional partners” and seek to “enhance the free movement of Jamaican nationals in CARICOM.”
- Education and health: Nothing much.
- The End.
On Health: Or “‘Ealth” as our Minister would pronounce it… This sector gets a few lines in the Throne Speech. And yet, a few days ago, our doctors fell “sick” in protest at their reclassification exercise, which will result in some doctors being paid less than nurses. The ‘Ealth Minister says he is going to review the no-user-fee policy, after consultations. Well, I am glad he is consulting with the public, but hasn’t the decision already been made on that one? As for the Nurses Association of Jamaica, its tirade on radio Friday night left me open-mouthed. The nurses’ president got so carried away she even suggested that we could do without doctors altogether, because nurses are so much more highly qualified and important! Listen, don’t be silly. We need both. And is the government going to shoulder the cost of anti-retroviral drugs for Jamaicans living with HIV for at least the next two years or so, since overseas funding has now ended?
Is it true? Activist Betty Ann Blaine of the New Nation Coalition is calling for an investigation into the alleged purchase of two luxury bullet-proof vehicles at a cost of $30 million. I really don’t want to believe this and trust it is not true. OK. The Minister of Information says it’s NOT true.
How cool is that: Mr. Dennis Chung, the fresh-faced, straight-talking financial analyst, is the new CEO of the highly influential Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica. Many congratulations to the always cool, unpretentious and all-round decent Mr. Chung. I hope he will still have time for his cycling. I am also hoping this will mean the PSOJ focuses more on energy issues. I know renewable energy is a passion of his, and of crucial importance for our economic development. I understand Mr. Chung is himself almost totally “off the grid” at home.
Good works: Food for the Poor paid the fines of 81 prisoners in Jamaica, Haiti, Guyana and Honduras – 37 in Jamaica, just before Easter. These are inmates who were imprisoned simply because they were unable to pay their fines for non-violent, non-drug offenses. This is something Food for the Poor does regularly at Easter and Christmas. Huge kudos to them.
A passionate advocate: I met with the General Counsel of the U.S. National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) last week. Her name is Kim Keenan and she is passionate about standing up and garnering support for important causes, pressing them forward. In the face of some “ifs” and “buts” from her audience of community activists and students at the University of the West Indies’ Faculty of Law, Ms. Keenan said “You have to make up your mind to be unpopular…It is never popular to challenge the status quo.” I will write more on this. Thank you so much to the U.S. Embassy’s Public Affairs Section for organizing Ms. Keenan’s visit to Jamaica; it was very timely.
My deepest sympathies to the families and friends of the following Jamaican citizens who were murdered in the past week, including one man who was shot dead as he drove in Half Way Tree, as Carnival revelers were preparing to hit the road in Kingston this morning. The man injured a pedestrian and crashed into a light pole, cutting off electricity in the area. I am not sure whether Carnival participants had to dance through or around the yellow crime scene tape.
Wayne James, 42, Half Way Tree Road, Kingston
Unidentified male, age 15 approx., Rockfort, Kingston
Everton Mills, 54, Red Pond, St. Catherine
Kirk Porter, Bog Walk, St. Catherine
Unidentified, Nain, St. Elizabeth
Edgar Clarke, 74, Bogue Village/Montego Bay, St. James
Devoney Morgan, 34, Whitehouse, Westmoreland
Vincent Brown, 42, Negril, Westmoreland
Related articles with local blog posts in purple:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fXMPL0zflGM&feature=youtu.be People and Power: Island of Murder and Music – al Jazeera English
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130402/lead/lead1.html ”Don’t judge victims”: Violence Prevention Alliance head calls for training of police in dealing with abuse complaints: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Understanding-the-right-to-life_14009738 Understanding the right to life: Shawn Wilkinson op-ed/Sunday Observer
http://jamaica-star.com/thestar/20130406/news/news9.html Teacher traumatized by alleged police harassment: Jamaica Star
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130407/cleisure/cleisure2.html Out of the closet, out of Jamaica: Dadland Maye op-ed/Sunday Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Killed-for-naseberries-_13987226 Killed for naseberries? Jamaica Observer
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/childrens-advocate-steps-in-following-assault-on-ward-at-fort-augusta Children’s Advocate steps in following assault on ward at Fort Augusta: RJR News
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130407/news/news1.html Sick doctors get better: Sunday Gleaner
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/health-ministry-reviewing-no-user-fee-policy Health Ministry reviewing no-user-fee policy: RJR News
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130407/news/news2.html Cash crunch grips universities: Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130402/cleisure/cleisure1.html Does Bunting get it? Gleaner editorial
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Portland-police–residents-clam-up-about-robbery-of-villa-where-Bunting-was-staying_14013025 Portland police, residents clam up about robbery of villa where Bunting was staying: Sunday Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130407/cleisure/cleisure1.html Outstanding questions on the villa break-in: Sunday Gleaner editorial
http://jamaica-star.com/thestar/20130406/news/news3.html Files show security minister wasn’t robbed: Jamaica Star
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Playing-politics-and-crime_14004987 Playing politics and crime: Barbara Gloudon column/Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130402/letters/letters1.html Letter of the Day: Don’t make MPs ministers: Gleaner
http://www.jis.gov.jm/images/pdf/throne%20speech%202013.pdf The Throne Speech: April 4, 2013 – Jamaica Information Service
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130407/focus/focus1.html Benchwarmers all? Lawmakers as quick as snails: Martin Henry column/Sunday Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Is-the-Throne-Speech-losing-its-relevance_14012092 Is the Throne Speech losing its relevance? Sunday Observer
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/cabinet-pay-cut-will-not-improve-countrys-coffers-jcsa Cabinet pay cut will not improve country’s coffers – JCSA: RJR News
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/government-making-sacrifices-says-pm Government making sacrifices, says PM: RJR News
http://digjamaica.com/blog/2013/02/18/list-discretionary-waivers/ List: Discretionary waivers: diGJamaica.com
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130403/lead/lead1.html Never again! Clergyman urges Jamaicans to turn back on populist politics: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/It-s-revival-time-Jamaica-_13979313 It’s revival time Jamaica! Jean Lowrie-Chin column/Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130407/lead/lead4.html One in every three tourists is harassed: Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130407/lead/lead1.html Mystery shops and a meddling minister: Sunday Gleaner
http://delanoseiv.wordpress.com/2013/04/05/mrs-simpson-miller-the-exit-is-to-your-left-t-h-i-n-k-jamaica/ Mrs. Simpson Miller, the exit is to your left: delanoseiv.wordpress.com
http://www.imf.org/external/pp/longres.aspx?id=4747 Caribbean Small States: Challenges of High Debt and Low Growth: imf.org
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130407/lead/lead3.html Government to grab $34 billion from state agencies this year: Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130407/news/news4.html Secret deal: NHT paid $4 billion into government coffers last year: Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130407/letters/letters4.html Has the Government gone mad? Letter to the Editor/Sunday Gleaner
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/state-of-duhaney-power-station-worries-jps-head State of Duhaney Power Station worries JPS head: RJR News
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/business/Chinese-Kingston-Hotel-targets-2014-opening_13991690 Chinese Kingston hotel targets 2014 opening: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Gov-t-eyeing-Montpelier-agriculture-lands-for-housing Government eyeing Montpelier agricultural lands for housing: Sunday Observer
http://dailycaller.com/2013/04/02/sen-graham-helps-import-jamaicans-for-work-at-elite-country-club/ Senator Graham helps import Jamaicans for work at elite country club: dailycaller.com
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/It-is-an-anachronistic-law_13922806 ”It is an anachronistic law”: Jamaica Observer
http://anniepaul.net/2013/04/07/why-twitter-is-essential-for-journalists/ Why Twitter is essential for journalists: anniepaul.net
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Food-For-the-Poor-secures-release-of-81-prisoners-for-Easter_14012690 Food for the Poor secures release of 81 prisoners for Easter: Sunday Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Identity-theft–data-espionage-not-covered-by-2010-Cybercrimes-Act_13963999 Identity theft, data espionage not covered by 2010 Cybercrimes Act: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Breathing-life-into–No-Man-s-Land-_13993565 Breathing life into “No Man’s Land”: Sunday Observer
http://go-jamaica.com/news/read_article.php?id=43818 Tarrant principal wins case after school board bungling: Gleaner/Power 106 FM
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Legal-Rebel_14009511 Kim Keenan putting her stamp on NAACP post: Sunday Observer
The squalls of last night are over. I lay in bed with continuous thunder, lightning and sheets of rain falling, assaulting my senses and rendering me sleepless. A cup of strong Blue Mountain coffee is helping to revive me. Thanks for just brushing by us, Tropical Storm Isaac. It could have been a lot worse. Nine silly people traveling through the notorious Bog Walk Gorge (basically, a main road running between a river and a sheer rock face) had to be rescued from the roofs of their cars last night. Now, Sunday morning in Kingston has been bright and breezy; and the lawn has grown by several inches overnight.
So, on to the week that was. It was the usual odd mix of melodrama and “nutten nah gwaan” (for non-Jamaicans, this means “nothing happening”).
First, the drama. The big “C” reared its ugly head (corruption, not cancer – although you could say that one is the other). The case (brought by a police sergeant who should be highly commended and supported) involves a Businessman (or “big man” as we call these powerful men in SUVs), a high-profile Police Senior Superintendent, and an Opposition Politician. I think it is fair to say that these three categories of Jamaicans – businessmen, politicians and the police force – are regarded with the greatest suspicion by the average man/woman on the street. There is always that little corruption? question mark. Trust, or the lack of it, is a terrible thing.
In this case, the Businessman was stopped by the Sergeant for speeding in said SUV, and allegedly offered him a bribe. According to media reports, in a complicated web of negotiations described as “mediation,” the Sergeant was told to discuss the matter with a Senior Policeman, who, it is alleged, “took care of things.” The Politician also intervened, as the Businessman is a great friend of his; he is charged with breaching Section 14(2) of the Corruption Prevention Act while Senior Policeman and Businessman are charged with attempting to pervert the course of justice. The case came to court last week; there were many cynical comments, some shock and some puzzlement that a Businessman should go to such lengths to avoid a mere traffic ticket. Is this how “big men” arrange their lives? There was much excitement outside the courthouse last week when the three accused, accompanied by various family members and supporters, arrived. The Senior Policeman had a very pained and sad look, head bowed, clutching his wife’s hand; the Businessman and his Wife looked cool and well-dressed, in matching designer shades; the Politician appeared happy for the attention and, as usual, talked too much. “I always say, ‘Who God bless, no man curse,’” he cheerfully told an eager television reporter. OK, then.
Now, I felt that the eviction of around sixty people in downtown Kingston a week ago – mostly women and children – was treated rather carelessly by aspects of the media. The focus seemed to be wrong. Since then, commentators have got to grips with the issue to some extent. But listen, folks, this is serious. It’s fine for us to say, “Well, they shouldn’t have so many children…They expect us to support them…I don’t feel sorry for them…They want everything for free,” etc. But why aren’t we addressing the core issue? Does no one want to talk about it? And that issue is poverty. Yes, the p-word. Jamaica Observer columnist Mark Wignall wrote an insightful piece on the matter today – the link is below. He describes the situation of squatting as a “tragedy.” Of course it is. If one-third of your population live in “informal settlements,” - at the mercy of the environment, in unhealthy conditions, preyed on by criminals, and used by politicians as a vote-getting group at election time – what else can you call it?
It is a tragedy. But these are poor people. Somehow it’s all their fault, they shouldn’t be poor. But all is not lost; the politicians “love” them (i.e. love their votes). As Wignall’s colleague columnist James Moss-Solomon notes, “The so-called ‘love of the poor’ is not expressed as a hatred of poverty and a need to eliminate that scourge, but is reminiscent of sharing the suffering of Jesus without wanting to remove the nails if we are able.” Mr. Moss-Solomon was writing in general about that elusive concept of unity - which a number of leading Jamaicans were waxing lyrical about on the Gleaner front page in the weeks before Independence. Unity – and division. See more division below.
In the Nutten Nah Gwaan section: Well, after not much more than a year, the commuter railway revived by the previous Jamaica Labour Party administration ran its last trip through the parish of St. Catherine. Yes, we know the economic reasons for its closure. But this was most disheartening. It was not as if Jamaicans were not using it – they loved it. A CVM Television series focused on reactions to the closure, and the commuters suggested it could have made much more money if it had run to Kingston, or even Montego Bay. In our fiftieth year of Independence, this was somehow not morale-boosting.
Are we in recession? asked an article in the Business Observer last week. Well, the head of the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ) and the Governor of the Bank of Jamaica seem confused, but it’s fair to say, I think, that “nutten nah gwaan” in the Jamaican economy. The PIOJ tried desperately to put some kind of positive spin on what appeared at first report (via the Statistical Institute of Jamaica) to have been negative growth in the first quarter of 2012. Isn’t that a recession, then? It ended up predicting between minus 0.5 per cent and plus 0.5 per cent growth for the September quarter. The looks on their faces said it all. They were not
Mayor of Kingston Angela Brown Burke says she is “working behind the scenes” after coming under fire from the Gleaner in an editorial last week. Like all the others, Ms. Brown Burke made a wonderful speech at her swearing-in in April. We have not heard much from her since… But let’s give her the benefit of the doubt. It’s only been a few months. But it seems we are all impatient…
Meanwhile, our Prime Minister allows her ministers to get on with their portfolios, and does not interfere – so she told a television reporter this week when asked to comment on an issue. Is this the hands-off, autopilot approach to leadership?
“I see a nation that is drifting,” intoned radio talk show host on Nationwide News Network Ronald Mason last week. “There has been eight months of inertia.” I can just hear another famed talk show host, the late Wilmot Perkins, agreeing with him. Mr Perkins would have added, “Things fall apart…The center cannot hold.” Back to Mr. Mason: “I see no motivation, no reassurance from our political leaders.” These comments got the listeners and callers all revved up for a few hours of gloom and doom, last week, I can tell you.
Something is going on at Caymanas Park, where our horse racing takes place. Here are some pieces of information, and you can make out of it what you will. Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of Finance Derrick Kellier announced recently that the Government plans to sell Caymanas, but wants good money for it. Last week, among the many murders (see list of names below) a racehorse trainer was shot in the head by two gunmen who seemed to be waiting for him as he drove into the Park. There is poor security there, it appears – Caymanas is “bruck.” Then, just last night, gunmen broke into the office at Caymanas, held up some staff and stole more than seven million Jamaican Dollars cash. Well, I don’t know. Some things we can never get to the bottom of…
Why am I not impressed?
…By the lovely 2012 Mercedes Benz driven by the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries Donovan Stanberry. Mr. Stanberry went into a convoluted argument in the Sunday Gleaner, explaining why this was a good deal for the Jamaican taxpayer, rather than the usual SUVs that our public servants swish around in. Only J$6.3 million, less duty concessions and other allowances which would lower the cost. Very economical, yes. Perhaps some of that could have gone towards the rebuilding of the Glenhope Place of Safety, a state home for unwanted small children and girls, which was partly destroyed by fire nine months ago. Work there has not even started. The Government is “bruck.” But what am I saying? These are only poor people’s abandoned kids. Like the squatters. They are not priority are they? (Please forgive me – I get too carried away with the sarcasm sometimes!)
…By Member of Parliament for South St. James Derrick Kellier, who did not see what the fuss was all about (his words) when he reportedly recommended that a firm owned by his brother be granted road-works contracts in his constituency, through the often-contentious Constituency Development Fund. The indefatigable Office of the Contractor General is, thankfully, investigating.
…By the dithering over the lifting of a ban on the scrap metal trade. So many hints have been dropped in the media that the ban is to be lifted that the scavengers have pricked up their ears, and got to work. They are being proactive. So far, the scrap metal thieves have targeted the Jamaica Public Service Company, Highway 2000 and telecoms firm LIME; the latter, in particular has recently suffered millions of dollars in losses. What is really happening? I thought that the Minister in charge, Hon. Anthony Hylton, was to make a statement on Friday? Meanwhile, legitimate (one hopes) scrap dealers have been protesting. In May a local think tank, the Caribbean Policy Research Institute (CaPRI), issued a ten-step solution to the scrap metal conundrum. I hope the Minister has had a look at it. A link to the full brief is below…
…By Minister of Tourism Wykeham McNeill‘s announcement this week that its publicity campaign for Jamaica at the London Olympics was a roaring success. Most of us lesser mortal were not privileged to be in London; so we would have to take his word for it. But I hear that “Jamaica House” in London was a fun place to hang out for a drink in the evenings… And also, the one million pounds spent during the campaign was “well spent,” the good Minister told us. What actually came out of it in terms of dollars and cents, business opportunities, partnerships etc? Not sure of the details. Are you? But Information Minister Sandrea Falconer, who chaired the Minister’s press conference, gently chided Jamaicans/the media for “quibbling” over small matters, as questions were asked. Take their word for it. It was money well spent. Perhaps the “small matter” was the unfortunate tweet by Minister McNeill’s junior minister Damion Crawford, who informed us all that he and some Jamaican musicians were having a great time at a London club. Or perhaps it was the people who were part of the delegation to London. I am still not clear why Minister of Agriculture Roger Clarke went, but I am sure he had a nice time, too… Meanwhile, visitor arrivals over the Independence period reportedly grew by six per cent, we are told. Frankly, I would have thought we could have attracted more visitors for Jamaica 50.
…And I have to agree with Observer columnist Jean Lowrie-Chin, who staunchly defends Jamaica’s “Out of Many, One People” motto. This multi-racial concept has come under attack recently from noted academic at the University of the West Indies (UWI) Dr. Carolyn Cooper – who loves to ruffle feathers, and appears to have seized the opportunity to do so as we try to celebrate “unity” on our fiftieth anniversary. Please, Carolyn, can we smooth those feathers down a bit?
Now, Ms. Lowrie-Chin is eternally positive, optimistic and far less cynical than I am – and I love her for it. But she spoke in an unusually strong tone in her column last week: “Will the UWI Mona folks who refuse to accept non-blacks as Jamaicans forgo their salaries and professorial chairs, since they are so heavily subsidised by non-black business owners who contribute significantly to our national coffers?” Now, it seems, UWI’s enfant terrible has taken set on the very small Jewish community in Jamaica, claiming that the history of the Jews’ role in Jamaica’s plantation society and slavery has not been properly aired. (Well, surely everyone in those days was involved in slavery in some way or other, weren’t they?) She is taking the head of the Jamaican Jewish community to task for seeking to defend his people in a letter to the Gleaner editor, accusing him of a personal attack on her. I don’t know where all this is going, and it seems both unnecessary and insensitive; but Dr. Cooper wants us all to face facts about the “out of many” scenario – or at least, her version of the facts. Perhaps she just wants to be controversial… How, I wonder, does this mesh with Dr. Cooper’s recent spirited defense of a certain deejay – now in jail on murder charges – whose claim to fame was the “bleaching” of his dark skin to an unhealthy off-white color? And perhaps she might recall that most, if not all of the Jews who arrived in Jamaica were themselves fleeing persecution in Europe.
Dear, dear. And they say race isn’t an issue in Jamaica!
…Then there are the teachers. Folks, let us just remember that the Jamaica Teachers’ Association is a trade union. Therefore, its mandate is to call for improved wages and conditions for its members – every year, at this time. The fact that – as I keep pointing out – government is “bruck” is neither here nor there to the JTA, it seems. They have rejected a wage offer, and they want their pension arrangements to remain in place. The fact is that pension reform is one of the three issues which the International Monetary Fund wants the Jamaican Government to address as a precursor (or condition?) of negotiations – those negotiations which are scheduled to start in September. Any word from the Finance Minister? Not much. Any word from the Education Minister? Plenty of words, all of which I agree with.
But still, there are some bouquets to hand out this week, I think:
Firstly, to the University of the West Indies‘ Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social & Economic Studies (SALISES) for their week-long reflections on where on earth Jamaica is heading after fifty years, “Fifty-Fifty: Critical Reflections in a time of Uncertainty.” This was the result of a huge amount of research by numerous clusters of academics on a wide range of topics. I plan to write more about this during the week in a separate blog post, but I do applaud SALISES for this ambitious conference – and particularly, for inviting the public to participate free of charge. When I went down there one afternoon this week, the Jamaica Pegasus was throbbing with life, and filled with Jamaicans who wanted to contribute to one debate or the other. I was very pleased to see this. Now I look forward to seeing some action plans coming out of the discussions. As Lee Kwan-Yew once caustically observed, Jamaicans are very eloquent and very good at talking. Now let’s translate this all into meaningful action that will propel us forward…
Secondly, I am proud of the two youth-led groups Help Ja Children and the Jamaica Youth Advocacy Network, who have taken on the issue of Jamaica’s homeless and marginalized (see “squatting” above) with a new online campaign. I would urge you to go to http://www.change.org/petitions/end-the-eviction-and-displacement-of-homeless-jamaicans, read it carefully and if you agree, please do sign their petition and shared it widely.
I heard about the Harris Family Vision Foundation for the first time this week, and have to give them warm hugs on behalf of our children. The amazing part of the Foundation is that it is co-founded by a seventeen-year-old (who has a growth disability) Nekhidia and her fourteen-year-old sister Kimberly. Their parents, Michael and Dasline, have been volunteering in Jamaica for the past twenty years. Among many other activities and donations, the Foundation donated a clinic in Madras, St. Ann on Marcus Garvey’s birthday this year. When asked about her amazing confidence, Nekhidia quoted Garvey himself: “If you do not have confidence in yourself you are twice defeated in the race of life.” What an inspiring family – and, by the way, they live in New York. Thank you.
And last but not least: the wonderful Yohan Blake is now officially the second fastest man in the world ever, after a fantastic 9.69 second run in Lausanne, Switzerland. Do join our Facebook group, The Unofficial Yohan Blake Appreciation Society. It seems there are more female members than males, but we are seeking to address the gender imbalance!
Kudos on the media front: Television Jamaica has greatly improved its website. I never used to visit it, but realize it is now slick, attractive and has easily accessible clips from their highly popular morning magazine program “Smile Jamaica” as well as news, etc. Good going. (A nice interview with Jamaica’s first Tae Kwon Do Olympian Kenneth Edwards is linked below). They have uploaded nearly 600 video clips – something there for everyone.
No one seems to put in a good word for On the Ground News Reports, so I will. They started off as a Facebook page and now have an excellent website at http://www.og.nr/keywords/local-news. If you want news from the street – every detail, including roads closed, car crashes, house fires, sports, security issues (murders) – you name it – this will keep you up to date. It is interactive, so anyone can contribute if they can confirm a story or add further information. You can send them photos from your phone. It’s a unique idea and it deserves to be better supported by us, the Jamaican public out there. If you see or hear of something going on, let them know! They are also on Twitter (@onthegroundjm). Their slogan: “You are the news.”
I like the Observer’s TeenAge weekly, edited and written by teens. It is nicely put together and a good mix of the usual teen stuff – pop music, fashion etc – and more uplifting information relevant to teens. I liked this week’s article on the young journalists’ visit to the Youth Science Forum in Trinidad recently.
Finally, “big ups” to the Jamaican diaspora media, out there. In Florida, there are a few radio stations focusing on Jamaican issues. For example, my Facebook friend Desmond Brown will be discussing whether Jamaicans overseas should be allowed to vote in Jamaican elections (always a tricky topic!) this afternoon on Island Riddim Radio in Central Florida. They do live streaming at www.islandriddimradio.com. Then there is the young Kingstonian Lawman Lynch, now operating out of New York with a newsletter, who is also active in the broadcast media. Greetings to all!
Once again, and on my usual sad note, I offer my deepest condolences to the grieving families and friends of the following Jamaicans, who were killed in the past week. It concerns me that this list appears to be growing a little longer each week – and no one seems to be commenting on this very much.
Killed by police:
Three unidentified men, Norwood, Montego Bay, St. James
Karl Nation, 18, Maxfield Park, Kingston
Nigel Thompson, 18, Maxfield Park, Kingston
Rohan Lewis, 28, St. Ann’s Bay, St. Ann
Joseph Wedderburn, Sine Irwin, St. James
Ralbert Wilmot, 48, Retreat, St. James
Karl Atkinson, 56, Balaclava, St. Elizabeth
Anthony Kirlew, 50, Caymanas Park, St. Catherine
Michael Raymond, 51, Palmers Cross, Clarendon
Bucassa McIntosh, 35, Portsmouth, St. Catherine
Don Riggs, 35, Green Pond, St. James
Donovan Anderson, 37, Green Pond, St. James
Jermaine Gordon, 23, Green Pond, St. James
Melbourne Lowe, 57, Eleven Miles, St. Thomas
Matthew McAnuff, 25, Kingston
Unidentified man, Lincoln Avenue, Kingston 13
Peter Nembhard, Central Village, St. Catherine
Clayton Smith, 39, Bluefields, Westmoreland
Devon Thompson, 41, Islington, St. Mary
Veronica Wizard, 75, Torrington Park, Kingston
Kemar Beckford, 21, Retreat, St. James (mob killing)
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Vaz-steps-aside_12331030 (Vaz steps aside – Jamaica Observer)
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Poor–pregnant-and-homeless_12346438 (Poor, pregnant and homeless – Mark Wignall op-ed)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120826/lead/lead2.html (Birthing poverty: Is two still better than too many? – Sunday Gleaner)
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Help-coming-for-evicted-squatters_12322447 (Help coming for evicted squatters – Jamaica Observer)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120823/lead/lead7.html (Squatter squabble – Gleaner)
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/A-nation-divided-against-itself-must-fall_12340147 (A nation divided against itself must fall – James Moss-Solomon op-ed)
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Gov-t-will-sell-Caymanas-Park-but-not-cheaply–says-Dalley (Government will sell Caymanas Park but not cheaply, says Dalley – Jamaica Observer)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120826/lead/lead9.html (Kirlew marked for death? – Sunday Gleaner)
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Stopover-arrivals-up-6—-Minister-McNeil (Stopover arrivals up six per cent – Minister McNeill – Jamaica Observer)
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/list/31580 (One Million Pounds on promotional activities in London well spent – Jamaica Information Service)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120826/lead/lead4.html (Eyebrows raised over Stanberry’s Benz – Sunday Gleaner)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120820/cleisure/cleisure1.html (Derrick Kellier defends the trough – Gleaner editorial)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120826/focus/focus3.html (Fifty years in dependence – Ian Boyne op-ed – Sunday Gleaner)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120826/focus/focus1.html (Government squandering mandate – Chris Tufton op-ed – Sunday Gleaner)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120826/lead/lead91.html (Glenhope yet to rise from ashes – Sunday Gleaner)
http://www.capricaribbean.org/research/10-steps-scrap-metal-solution-full-brief (Ten Steps to a Scrap Metal Solution- CaPRI)
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/business/Are-we-in-recession_12326791 (Are we in recession? – Jamaica Observer)
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/list/31582 (Jamaica House in London a succes – McNeill – Jamaica Information Service)
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/list/31569 (36,000 additional airlift seats secured from UK – Jamaica Information Service)
http://www.televisionjamaica.com/Programmes/SmileJamaica.aspx/Videos/20346 (Jamaica’s first taekwondo champion – TVJ interview)
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Tribalism-in-Jamaican-politics_12340116 (Tribalism in Jamaican politics – Diane Abbott op-ed)
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Fifty-Fifty–Critical-Reflections-in-a-Time-of-Uncertainty–1-_12343567 (50-50: Critical Reflections in a Time of Uncertainty – Claude Robinson op-ed)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120826/cleisure/cleisure3.html (Persistent Perversity on Jews and Slavery – Carolyn Cooper op-ed)
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Jamaica—still-ahead-of-the-race-curve (Jamaica – Still Ahead of the Race Curve – Jean Lowrie-Chin op-ed)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120823/lead/lead5.html (Phillips firm on IMF wrap-up – Gleaner)
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/teenage/TEENage-visits-Youth-Science-Forum_12312347 (TeenAge visits Youth Science Forum)
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/-Charity-begins-at-home-_12268953 (Charity begins at home – Jamaica Observer)
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/sport/-Beast–unleashed_12338646 (Beast unleashed! – Jamaica Observer Sports)
50-50 Reflections (petchary.wordpress.com)
Sunday Sighs: August 19, 2012 (petchary.wordpress.com)
Jamaica 50 Special: Monday, August 6, 2012 (petchary.wordpress.com)
UN agency calls for full probe into Jamaica murder (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
The title of this blog post is influenced by the fact that I am have become locked into the Euro 2012 tournament for the past three days. I am just watching the passionate Croatians getting the better of the dogged Irish. It has been (and will remain) a complete distraction for me, as I am a hopelessly addicted football (soccer) fan. If I was to give a score for this past week, however, I would say that it might be something along the lines of Jamaican Politicians 3, Jamaican People 1, although the people’s goal was really an “own goal.” And in the case of our home-grown don Christopher “Dudus” Coke – well, the U.S. Government kept a clean sheet, 1-0.
Mr. Coke received a 23-year sentence in a New York court this week, for racketeering and assault. This prompted local journalists to rush down to the tired and dusty Tivoli Gardens neighborhood in West Kingston, where large bullet holes still pock-mark some of the buildings after the security forces’ May 2010 assault on the area. This is where, in the “good/bad old days,” Mr. Coke and his “Presidential Click” held sway. And yet, Mr. Coke’s criminal career, his flight, pursuit, capture, extradition and now incarceration will linger on in Jamaica, like the sickening smell of a dead cat in our garbage bin even after it had been removed. (Yes, our dogs killed a cat one night last week. They have a penchant for hunting. I am sorry, cat-lovers…) The residents’ responses to Mr. Coke’s sentence ranged from angry tears to shrugged shoulders.
Coincidentally, I think, Mr. Mattathias Schwartz of the New Yorker magazine produced another piece on the Tivoli Gardens “incursion” (this is the euphemism used by the Jamaican media for a military attack on Tivoli Gardens, when security forces pursued Mr. Coke and over seventy people were killed). See the link to Mr. Schwartz’s article below. His first article on the Tivoli Gardens attack, published in December 2011, “revealed” information that everyone in Kingston already knew – that a surveillance plane of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security circled over Kingston; embarrassingly, then National Security Minister Dwight Nelson flatly denied what we had all seen with our own eyes. The second Schwartz article alleges that, according to the U.S. Government, the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) “fired mortars” at Tivoli Gardens; and the JDF conceded that indeed they did. “Bombs on Tivoli” shouted the Gleaner’s headline on Friday; and they got another confirmation from the JDF, who noted that the so-called “bombs” did not target people or buildings. Now, the U.S. Government plan to search for Mr. Coke’s assets, amounting to a possible US$1.5 million to be forfeited. It’s all about the Benjamins, as a hip hop artist once said…
The Budget Debate dragged on to its inevitable conclusion: some more tinkering with the taxes, resulting in the Budget, Mark Two. Remember, Politicians vs People and, as always, the Politicians won. The local media dutifully broadcast and reported on two lengthy speeches, firstly by Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller and then by Finance Minister Peter Phillips – redux. In the background, government Members of Parliament twiddled their writing implements, adjusted the collars of their fashionable outfits, browsed their blackberries, and even stuffed food in their mouths. They kept their right hands at the ready though, so that they could thump their desks in thunderous approval of every announcement or political point scored by the speakers. Journalists remained at their posts, putting all other news on hold, tweeting and reporting small chunks of the changes and announcements – all of which could have been neatly wrapped up in a half hour presentation by Dr. Phillips. But, the public and media endured a hesitant, labored (almost tired) presentation, punctuated frequently by witty remarks, muttered insults and loud guffaws from both sides of the house. The Prime Minister, whose speech took place the day before Dr. Phillips’ revisions, consisted of 25% accusing the former administration of creating Jamaica’s economic woes; 35% ranting about child abuse and how “disgraceful” and “shameful” it is; another 25% of interruptions, etc; and about 15% actual substance. As broadcaster Dionne Jackson-Miller complained in her blog, why are these speeches so long?
Some of the “softening” measures adopted in Budget Version Two were the lifting of General Consumption Tax on school books “approved by the Ministry of Education.” Having worked for eight years in the book business, I know full well that we are already approaching the dreaded “school book season,” when anxious parents descend on the bookstores with book lists in hand for the upcoming academic year starting September. Of course, I agree with Mr. Steadman Fuller of Kingston Bookshop, who said on radio last week that the idea of producing an approved book list out of the hundreds of titles that appear on school lists each year by the middle of this month is completely impossible. And is the Bible, which appears on almost every school list, an approved text book? By the way, tax remains on beef patties.
And as for the child abuse issue, as columnist and common-sense businessman James Moss-Solomon observed in the Sunday Observer today, “The poor of this country are no more intentionally depraved than the animals on television that must find ways to survive even as their natural habitat is shrinking.” It’s all a part of the general desperation that afflicts large proportions of the country’s population – including the Prime Minister’s own constituency: Majesty Gardens, for example, which was prominently featured in recent television reports. One could not find a less appropriate name for that place.
Meanwhile, in the Land of Bling it seems anything goes (see link below). Everywhere one looks there are models strutting and posing for Caribbean Fashion Week. Last week I asked where the actual economic value was in this “fashion industry.” How much is it worth – how many jobs in Jamaica does it create? I would love to know…
And last night, our very own sprint champion crashed his car again – just around daybreak in Kingston’s Half Way Tree – just a little fender bender, returning from a “popular party.” He is “at home sleeping” now, his publicist says. The inexorable build-up to the London Olympics seems to go on for ever; surely the athletes’ jewelry boxes must be full of diamonds by now?
But several bouquets are waiting to be handed out… Perhaps the Reggae Boyz would prefer something more macho, but congratulations to Theodore Whitmore and the Jamaican football team for their win in the first game of their qualifying campaign for the next World Cup. Pity you had to let in the Guatemalan goal in extra time, though. But 2-1 is, indeed, a respectable score.
Well now! Ms. Janet Silvera of the Gleaner, always the epitome of Jamaican warmth and hospitality, is the first Jamaican to win the Marcia Vickery-Wallace Memorial Award for excellence in travel tourism.
Talking of Montego Bay (Ms. Silvera’s neck of the woods) I was pleased to learn that its Free Zone is set for a a 50,000 square foot expansion - “bursting at the seams” as my favorite Government Minister Phillip Paulwell put it – and that LIME is to give up the telecoms monopoly in the Zone. LIME Chairman Chris Dehring noted, “This partnership with the Government for the development of the ICT and telecoms services signals our total embrace of competition in the sector.” That is good; and I hope for the sake of competition in Jamaica on the whole that LIME does not suffer further great losses as it competes with Digicel. Excellent work Minister Paulwell too, on moving forward with net billing and awarding licenses to those who wish to sell their excess electricity back to the grid. Woot woot!
A pat on the back for another Minister – Justice Minister Mark Golding – for taking a step in the right direction with the formation of the Major Organized Crime and Anti-Corruption Task Force (MOCA – a new acronym to remember) on Tuesday. This single anti-corruption body makes a lot of sense to me. Let’s hope the whole process does not take too long; a committee is to advise on this matter by the end of the month which is a good timeframe. After that, it will go to Cabinet. This is something that the Contractor General had recommended to the Government and Opposition more than two years ago.
I am also impressed by Jamaica’s first “all-green” residence, somewhere in St. Elizabeth I believe. It is quite a large house, and completely “off the grid” – swimming pool and all.
Another positive… The Independent Commission of Investigation (INDECOM) that investigates police abuses appears to be gaining confidence, since the Supreme Court ruling in its favor.It has taken over the investigation into one of the more disturbing incidents (well, they are all disturbing) – the shooting death of sixteen-year-old Vanessa Kirkland in a car on March 20. Three policemen implicated in the shooting are to face identification parades next week. Meanwhile, the tireless and determined head of Jamaicans for Justice Dr. Carolyn Gomes joined the residents of Jarrett Lane in a peaceful demonstration on Friday evening in protest at the shooting death of Police Youth Club member Kavorn Schue a week ago. Head of the police Community Safety Branch Senior Superintendent James Forbes, a man whose sincerity I do not question, has a very hard job now as he seeks to mend fences in the community.
It’s tough being a talk show host. Ms. Barbara Gloudon patiently endured an onslaught of calls from irate rum-drinkers on Thursday. They were furious about the sudden increase in the price of white rum – which, like rice and peas, chicken and beef patties, is a Jamaican staple. Ms. Gloudon defended herself valiantly – the callers seemed to expect her to explain the many and various prices of large and small bottles. Let’s hope that things settle down and that “unscrupulous persons” (to use Government jargon) are not pricing their goods over the top (and often not handing over the Government tax – this does happen). Yes, you know who you are…
Time is getting on and there is more to talk about of course. Last but not least, however, may I send appreciation and thanks to Miss Jamaica Universe 2012, Ms. Chantal Zaky, who will be supporting the fund-raising efforts of Jamaica AIDS Support for Life (JASL). Ms. Zaky will hold a press conference tomorrow (Monday June 11) at JASL offices on Upper Musgrave Avenue, Kingston at 12:00 noon. Please come along and support. More on this anon, but suffice it to say, for now, that JASL are quietly doing incredible work with those Jamaicans who are most vulnerable to HIV/AIDS and who are routinely marginalized by society. They need much more funds to be able to continue this heroic work. PLEASE support them in any way you can; financial donations will be most gratefully received. Visit their website at http://www.jasforlife.org/html/.
- Euro 2012: Why Can’t America Get Behind the World’s Most Popular Sport? (bleacherreport.com)
- It’s OK to like football and soccer. Really. (independentmail.com)
- Euro 2012: Embrace the Bar Life and Enjoy Games with Fellow Fans (bleacherreport.com)
- As Jamaican Drug Lord is Sentenced, U.S. Still Silent on Massacre (newyorker.com)
- http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2011/12/12/111212fa_fact_schwartz: A Massacre in Jamaica (mattatiasschwartz.com)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120610/lead/lead1.html: Dudus dollars wanted (Jamaica Gleaner)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120608/lead/lead1.html: Bombs on Tivoli (Jamaica Gleaner)
- http://newsandviewsbydjmillerja.wordpress.com/2012/06/07/memo-to-jamaican-politicians-long-speeches-bad-idea/: Dionne Jackson Miller’s blog
- http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Tax-package-softened_11634098: Tax package softened (Jamaica Observer)
- http://www.kingstonstyle.com/2012/06/lisa-hyper-never-the-less-at-cfw-2012/: Lisa Hyper at Caribbean Fashion Week
- http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Population–popularity–and-politics_11649986: James Moss-Solomon column
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120610/news/news4.html: Janet Silvera receives major tourism award
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/videos/video.php?id=466: Anger over Jarrett Lane police shooting lingers
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120605/lead/lead23.html: Deeply wounded (Jamaica Gleaner)
- The British officer who changed policing in Jamaica (guardian.co.uk)
OK, I am going to cheat a bit now, but it is with the full permission of the person I am cheating on – a thoroughly enjoyable and thought-provoking blog – jamaicantillidie.blogspot.com. Apart from his obviously high standing as an Arsenal fan (as the Petchary proudly is), the writer’s commentary on matters Jamaican – especially this “image” we are trying to create – is so spot-on that spontaneous exclamations (“Yes!” ”That’s IT!”) punctuated my reading of the following latest post. Here are excerpts…
- Andrea Palladio: the Architect’s Architect – talk summary (athenebristol.wordpress.com)
- Castles of the Loire (francetravelguide.com)
- Fiesta to go ahead with Grand Palladium expansion
- Sun, sea and stolen sand