As Jamaica continues to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of our Independence, I was pondering the nature of our heroes, role models and so on. It is wonderful to praise the successes of our Olympians, and the legacy of our National Heroes (although I am not so keen on the political ones, myself). But there are many other amazingly successful Jamaicans, at home and abroad, in many other fields. Sprinting and politicizing aren’t the only things we are good at. There are Jamaicans who are astonishingly good at what they do, all over the place. And by “success” I don’t necessarily mean winning something, or getting a National Honor. This kind of success is simply being very good at whatever you do. It’s a path you take, a journey you make – and it’s no flash in the pan.
I have been thinking about information technology and the amazing embrace of the digital universe that we now live in. Everything is a click or a swipe or a touch away. It’s beautiful, and for a small island nation like Jamaica, it is empowering. All we need to do now is bridge that tricky old “digital divide;” I see that the One Laptop Per Child program and other initiatives are helping to throw some ropes across that divide globally. We have pioneering men and women in technology in Jamaica, too. Ingrid Riley of SiliconCaribe is one of those who is pushing us along, and there are others.
Now, my husband recently discovered someone, online, and I really want to introduce you to him, dear readers – a Jamaican, an inspiration, an entrepreneurial master of his craft. His name is Lloyd Carney. And he is the same age as Jamaica this year – fifty years old, and indeed a high achiever. “Forbes“ magazine, in an article linked below, says Mr. Carney is “walking the talk” in Silicon Valley as a venture capitalist and IT entrepreneur. Initially, he made use of an interesting concept called the Start-up Common in Silicon Valley. I will have to learn more about the Common. Mr. Carney – currently the CEO of Xsigo (“See-go”), which was recently acquired by Oracle – is good at grabbing firms by the scruff of the neck and infusing them with success. Xsigo’s achievements are connected to Data Center Fabrics and virtualization. I am not a technical person, but I do know that although it is a small firm, it has a product that is greatly in demand. Xsigo is only eight years old.
What have I learned about Lloyd Carney? Mr. Carney was born and grew up in Jamaica – he attended Wolmer’s High School in Kingston – and in 1979 he stepped off the plane in Boston to continue his studies. He started off with medical studies – everyone doing science in those days was supposed to become a doctor, it seems – but medicine was not for him. He ended up obtaining a B.Sc. in Electrical Engineering from Wentworth Institute and a Masters in Business from Lesley College. He then went to work for various computer firms, moved to the West, created Bay Networks and ten years ago began to make great strides, working in top positions at Nortel, Juniper Networks, Micromuse and IBM Netcool, among other IT firms. Fast-paced and flying high.
But Mr. Carney is not just a faceless businessman obsessed with money. He “gives back” to his native country, to Haiti, Africa and to marginalized communities in California, where he lives. He and his wife Carole set up a charitable foundation in 1999, which focuses on healthcare and children. The Lloyd and Carole Carney Foundation supports a house for orphans in South Africa; has donated medical equipment to the University Hospital of the West Indies in Kingston and Black River Hospital; and donated a computer lab to Vaz Preparatory School in Kingston. Mr. Carney also serves on the board of the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Peninsula in California.
The glitz and the glamor of Usain Bolt is enormous fun (although I am afraid he has now become the target of the sleazy UK tabloids, which was bound to happen). It’s exciting and glittery and golden, and it’s Jamaica 50. But my point is: There are many other ways in which young Jamaicans can achieve, with ambition, determination, hard work… and yes, a touch of Jamaican flair and imagination.
Be inspired! Be very inspired!
http://carneyglobalventures.com (Carney Global Ventures website)
http://www.vazprep.edu.jm (Vaz Preparatory School)
http://wolmers.org (Wolmer’s Schools website)
http://www.bgcp.org (Boys and Girls Clubs of the Peninsula)
http://www.forbes.com/sites/petercohan/2012/08/22/lloyd-carneys-profitable-journey-from-jamaica-to-palo-alto/ (Forbes.com: Lloyd Carney’s profitable journey from Jamaica to Palo Alto)
http://www.forbes.com/sites/petercohan/2012/02/15/xsigo-aims-a-dagger-at-ciscos-heart/ (Forbes.com: Xsigo aims a dagger at Cisco’s heart)
http://www.xsigo.com/blog/2012/02/data-center-fabric-xsigo-ceo/ (Xsigo CEO Lloyd Carney explains Data Center Fabric – video)
http://www.siliconcaribe.com (Siliconecaribe.com – Jamaican blog)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20071007/business/business4.html (Jamaican venture capitalist offers business tips on China – Jamaica Gleaner)
Oracle to acquire network virtualisation technology provider Xsigo Systems (siliconrepublic.com)
Oracle Acquires Virtual Networking Concern Xsigo Systems (allthingsd.com)
Youth Using Technology to Combat Child Abuse (petchary.wordpress.com)
In Jamaica, we have been rejoicing. Our Olympic games successes coincided deliciously with the Jamaica 50 celebrations of our fiftieth anniversary of Independence. We had a week or two of sheer enjoyment – not resting on our laurels, but waving them around. But the rest of the Caribbean had much to shout about too. Some extraordinary “firsts” were achieved.
Jamaica actually came second in the Caribbean table of medals overall. Our closest neighbors, Cuba came first. Here is the table of Caribbean medals:
Congratulating Jamaican athletes after the games, Grenada‘s Prime Minister Tillman Thomas said, “Our athletes have proven that hard work and dedication yields remarkable results.” I saw a tweet today comparing a recent beauty contest and the achievement of our (certainly lovely) representative to the achievement of Usain Bolt. I am myself not a fan of this parading of women in bikinis and snazzy ball gowns, and so I may be biased. But truly, how can one compare the incredible sacrifice and determination of any one of the Olympians from whichever country – over months and years – with a woman who goes to the gym every day and then gets dressed up and made up for a competition? They are at two completely different levels.
OK, enough of that. Since we started with Grenada, let us continue with the stunning gold medal won by that country. OK. Grenada is very small. Very small. I do not say it in a derogatory way, but it might take ten minutes to fly across. And in terms of number of medals per citizen, Grenada, with its one gold medal, came way out on top with one medal per 106,500. Yes, that is the total population of the Spice Island, as it is often called (it has lots of nutmeg trees). Jamaica came second in the per-capita ranking and Trinidad & Tobago third. So the density of Caribbean medals is really high. To get the same kind of density, for example, for the United States, which was top of the overall medal table, it would have had to win 2,880 medals. Impossible, of course…
Anyway, enough of statistics. Of the 45 medals won by Caribbean countries (I just did a count and the majority were won by the men), Grenada’s gold is particularly lustrous. Why? Not only because Grenada is very small. But the island’s Kirani James was the first Caribbean athlete ever to win gold in the 400 meters – a distance the Caribbean has not been very focused on. And it was Grenada’s first Olympic medal ever. A gold is a good place to start.
And not only that – the 400 meters was won by three Caribbean men. After Kirani, there was young Luguelin Santos (only eighteen years old, just a year younger than Kirani) of the Dominican Republic with the silver; and Lalonde Gordon of Trinidad winning the bronze. A Caribbean “sweep” of medals. Also a first! Astonishing. (By the way, Trinidad’s 400 meters relay team, including Gordon, also won a bronze medal).
Let’s move on to another remarkable achievement – not in track this time, but out there in the field, where everything hangs on one throw or one jump, flying through the air, up and over and through. And this was 19-year-old Keshorn Walcott of Trinidad & Tobago – yes, another of several Caribbean teenagers who competed and won medals.
Keshorn was the first man in the Western Hemisphere to win a gold medal in the men’s javelin. The event has been dominated by Europeans for decades. Not even the United States has ever won it. In fact, the two Europeans who won silver and bronze – from the Ukraine and Finland – looked slightly bemused on the medal podium, as if to say: how on earth did that happen? Keshorn himself, the World Junior Champion in javelin, seemed remarkably phlegmatic – almost inscrutable – during the contest. Then, after the striking red and black Trinidadian flag had been handed to him, he walked and stood, eyes half-closed, head thrown back, savoring the moment. It had started to sink in.
To me, who can barely throw a stick for the dog across our front lawn, to throw a javelin – which weighs on average over three pounds and is well over eight feet long… To throw something like this, so far – well, it is completely astounding.
And of course, there has been much publicity in Jamaica about the rich rewards showered on both Mr. James and Mr. Walcott in their respective countries. The Trinidadian government has even named a lighthouse after Keshorn. That’s quite something, for a nineteen-year-old. I guess he can go and visit it every now and then and maybe turn the light round or whatever they do. I think it’s rather lovely actually. I adore lighthouses.
Although Cuba still won more Caribbean medals than anyone else, its Olympic performance has been declining in recent competitions. In fact, this year’s medal haul was its lowest since 1976. Why this is, I am not sure. Four of the Cuban medals were in boxing, a field that it has always excelled in. Leonel Suarez, he of the charming smile, was also made of very stern stuff. The men’s decathlon is an incredibly demanding event; I just don’t know how the decathletes manage to compete in ten vastly differing fields and just keep their focus. Leonel did, and won a bronze for Cuba. Two Americans won gold and silver. What I loved was the genuine camaraderie among the three medal winners – fierce competitors, but friends. Having been through all those tests together, over a number of days, of course friendships are formed and respect grows.
At 112 pounds, Yanet Bermoy Acosta may not seem to be much of a handful. But she threw her weight about in Judo. The 25-year-old from Cienfuegos, Cuba was quite something. I have a special fondness for judo, having practiced it myself in my youth – and so I was pleased to see Caribbean medals in this event. Cuba actually won three. Yanet was eventually beaten by a North Korean opponent, Kum Ae An – a special win for that country as it was its first medal.
And then there was perhaps my favorite Caribbean athlete of all, Felix Sanchez of the Dominican Republic. After winning gold in the men’s 400 meters hurdles, Felix was pure emotion. He had been running with a photograph of himself and his beloved grandmother Lillian, tucked into his bib. During a television interview, he showed the photo to the camera – somewhat crumpled, but intact. Of course, in the Caribbean – and especially perhaps in the Hispanic parts of it – grandmothers are especially revered. Felix looked as if he could have talked all day about his relationship with the “abuela” who raised him, but the BBC reporter abruptly ran out of time. By the way, his spikes had the word “abuela” written on them, too. He was running with, and for her. He had heard that she had died on the day of his preliminary heat in London, so he really was running in her memory.
Felix Sanchez was a model of the kind of determination where you grit your teeth and bite your lip and clench your fists hard. At 34, he was the oldest man to win the 400 meters hurdles. He had won the same race eight years previously in Athens, with exactly the same time. He had failed to even make it to the final of the event in Beijing, but fought his way back in London to beat an American and a Puerto Rican. Yes, this was another Western Hemisphere final.
But the emotion. The BBC ironically called the London Olympics the “Crying Games,” and Sanchez probably came close to winning the gold medal for pure emotion. Sobbing, in fact. He had a complete meltdown on the podium – the other two medalists did not know whether they should just look the other way. In the end, after his face completely crumpled, he covered it with his hands.
I really wanted to cry with him. If I had been Dominican, I am sure I would have.
There was so much more to celebrate with the Caribbean athletes: the Bahamas won a stunning gold in the 400 meters relay, for example (I love that light blue kit). I congratulate them all and love their spirit.
P.S. As noted above, most of the Caribbean medals were won by men. Ladies, 2016 in Rio will be your turn to shine!
There are nine Caribbean nations that have never won an Olympic medal. I wish all the best for them for 2016, where I hope their dreams will come true. I am sure the performances of all the Caribbean Olympians must have been an inspiration to them. Who are those nine? Well, OK (and bear in mind there are a few more that don’t have official National Olympic Committees: Dominica, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Aruba, British Virgin Islands, Antigua and Barbuda, Cayman Islands and Belize.
I can see more medals on the horizon, where the blue sky meets the glittering Caribbean Sea.
http://repeatingislands.files.wordpress.com/2012/08/caribbean-medal-performance-london-2012-by-peter-jordens.pdf (Overview of the Caribbean’s medal performances in London)
http://www.spicegrenada.com/index.php/government-news/aug-2012/1482-prime- minister-congratulates-jamaica (Grenada prime minister congratulates Jamaica)
http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/08/13/2950476/the-top-olympic-winner-we-vote.html (The top Olympic winner? We vote for Grenada – Miami Herald)
http://repeatingislands.com/2012/08/06/caribbean-players-doing-great-in-the-olympics/ (Caribbean players doing great in the Olympics – Repeating Islands)
http://repeatingislands.com/2012/08/06/dominican-republics-felix-sanchez-wins-gold-puerto-ricos-javier-culson-bronze/ (Dominican Republic’s Feliz Sanchez wins gold, Puerto Rico’s Javier Culson bronze)
http://timclayton.photoshelter.com/gallery-image/Athletics/G0000gGCpmN.XoBA/I0000Cf6G1yX7M6w (Stunning athletics photos by Tim Clayton including many of Kirani James – copyright)
http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/olympics/19253050 (Lighthouse named after champion Keshorn Walcott – BBC Sport)
http://latino.foxnews.com/latino/sports/2012/08/07/sanchez-wins-2nd-olympic-400-meter-hurdle-gold/ (Sanchez wins second Olympic 400 meter gold – Fox Latino Sports)
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2184634/London-2012-Olympics-Emotional-hurdler-Felix-Sanchez-sobs-winning-title-second-time.html (And the gold medal for sobbing on the podium goes to…)
Former medalists see great future for Caribbean Olympic athletes (antiguaobserver.com)
A Single Caribbean Sports Academy to ensure future World Champions (caribbean360.com)
Caribbean has one of its best Olympic showings (caribbean360.com)
http://petchary.wordpress.com/2012/07/22/3477/ (Gold, Silver and Bronze – petchary.wordpress.com)
http://petchary.wordpress.com/2012/08/02/the-gods-are-smiling/ (The Gods Are Smiling – petchary.wordpress.com)
The London Games: Jamaica (petchary.wordpress.com)
Book Review: Black Meteors – the Caribbean in International Track and Field (newsandviewsbydjmillerja.wordpress.com)
It is less than a week since the Olympic Games ended in London, and I promised myself that I would pay tribute to some of the incredible human beings – from Jamaica, the Caribbean and elsewhere – who gave us so much joy (and sometimes, sadness) during those exhilarating competitions. Before the sunset afterglow starts to fade – the fireworks have already gone. Before the Jamaican flags wave less freely from taxi cabs. Before the repeat showings of Jamaican athletes’ performances, the newspaper columns, tweets and Facebook posts dwindle to nothing. I want to celebrate them one more time.
For the record, Jamaica won four each of gold, silver and bronze, and came 18th on the table of 79 nations that won medals. In terms of medals per capita, Jamaica was second after Grenada. Jamaica was also the second most successful country in the Caribbean at the London Olympics, after Cuba. In track and field specifically – there were 47 events – Jamaica came third after the United States and Russia; in men’s track and field Jamaica was second, in women’s fourth.
I am celebrating here all our athletes, and have just picked out a few because somehow they touched me personally in some way. As I have said several times before, they all gave of their best. Some did better than others, but they all made us proud. I salute them all. They are, in no particular order: Yohan Blake, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Hansle Parchment, Veronica Campbell Brown, Alia Atkinson, Jason Morgan and Kenneth Edwards.
Enough has been said and written about the obvious one: the self-proclaimed legend and superstar, Usain Bolt. But here’s one of my personal favorites – a young athlete who might be considered to have played “second fiddle” to Bolt (although I don’t see it that way) – Yohan Blake. In fact, a friend and I have set up a Facebook page (not only for Jamaicans or those living there – anyone can join) called “The Unofficial Yohan Blake Appreciation Society.” A small but fervent delegation from the UYBAS is planning to welcome Mr. Blake home at Kingston’s Norman Manley International Airport, when he returns in September. Personally, I would like to give him a warm hug.
What’s not to love about Yohan:
- He set up his YBAfraid Foundation last year. With the support of the awesome Jamaican athletics coach Glen Mills and Joseph’s Department Store, Yohan has donated supplies and pledged ongoing support for the Mount Olivet Boys’ Home in rural Walderston, Manchester. You can read much more about the Foundation on his website, ybafraid.com.
- He is, as we know, the winner of two silver and one gold medal in the recent Olympics: silvers in the 100 meters (a personal best time of 9.75) and 200 meters (19.44), and gold in the 4 x 100 meters final. This was his first Olympics. He is only 22, after all.
- He is only the fourth man to win silver in the 100 and 200 meters at the Olympics, and the first since the awesome Frankie Fredericks of Namibia (remember him?)
- As a member of the winning relay team in the 100 meters, Blake ran a scorching third leg. This was the same team that ran in Daegu last year at the World Championships. With Usain Bolt, Michael Frater and Nesta Carter, he helped to break the World Record in 36.84 seconds.
He is a modest young man, not afraid to give credit to both Mills and Bolt for their support. I like that.
My next favorite athlete: Ms. Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce. She was born on in the very difficult inner-city neighborhood of Waterhouse in Kingston.
Why is she so great:
- She was the third woman, and the first non-American, to win the 100 meters in two consecutive Olympics. In 2008 in Beijing, she was the first Caribbean woman to win the event, at 21 years old.
- She is also the second female sprinter to hold both World and Olympic 100 meters titles simultaneously. The dynamic Gail Devers was the first. I should also add that the 2012 American girls were very powerful this year – so this is quite a feat. Shelly-Ann held her own in the 2oo meters too, winning a silver after the amazing Allyson Felix; they congratulated each other with a quick, breathless embrace.
- Shelly-Ann was named as Jamaica’s first National UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador in 2010.
- Shelly-Ann’s face was painted in a mural in her neighborhood of Waterhouse (where she grew up in a tenement yard). She commented in amazement, “The only time they draw your face in a wall where I live is when you are dead.”
- She is just five feet tall and weighs 100 pounds. Oh my goodness – the energy packed into that small frame!
And then there was Hansle Parchment. Who? Said many Jamaicans. Well, young Hansle broke the national record twice in one afternoon last week, winning the bronze medal for Jamaica in the 110 meters hurdles. Two very strong Americans, Aries Merritt and Jason Richardson, came first and second respectively. The 100 meters hurdles is very intense, and not for the faint-hearted. Born June 17, 1990 (barely twenty-two years old!) he tackled it with equanimity. The young man from Cashew Bush in rural St. Thomas, eastern Jamaica, attended Morant Bay High School and Kingston College, and is an undergraduate student at the University of the West Indies‘ class of 2013.
Why Hansle is so cool:
- He ran a terrific 13.12 seconds, but soberly responded after his run that he would have preferred to get below 13. There is more work to do, he says. He has much greater ambitions.
- He is studying for a BSc. in Psychology; that will stand him in good stead, one hopes, since psychology is a key factor in sports. But balancing his studies with training and competition must be challenging.
- He is tall, dark and handsome (six feet five inches tall).
Veronica Campbell-Brown is somebody special. There is so much about her that I admire. A pioneer in the sprint field, she won a bronze medal in London – her fourth Olympic Games. As she prepared for the Games, she watched her favorite tennis player, Serena Williams, win the Wimbledon title. An experienced athlete, Ms. Campbell-Brown (or “VCB” as Jamaicans call her for short) was born in the same western parish of Trelawny as Usain Bolt. She’s a product of Vere Technical High School, a school with a tremendous sporting tradition, which was also attended by a certain Merlene Ottey.
Why is Veronica such a gem?
- She is a serious achiever, with so many “firsts” to be proud of. She paved the way for the young ones – although she is only just thirty years old herself, so hardly ancient! Here are a few of her many milestones:
- First Jamaican to win a global 100 meters title (at the World Youth Games in 1999);
- Youngest ever Jamaican female to win an Olympic medal (at the Sydney Olympics in 2000);
- Most successful Caribbean athlete ever at an Olympic Games (in Athens in 2004);
- First female track athlete to become a UNESCO Champion for Sport (in 2009). A role model for female athletes and for Jamaican women.
- Veronica appears to me to be so grounded. She is not only motivated, but inspired. Indeed, she has written a book, “A Better You: Inspirations for Life’s Journey.”
- She celebrated Global Dignity Day in 2011. See a link to my blog post on this topic, below. It may not be a fashionable concept these days, but the idea of dignity includes respect, honor, decency. The next Global Dignity Day is October 17, 2012. Think about it.
Jamaicans also did extraordinarily well away from the track, of course. Swimmer Alia Atkinson just missed a medal, coming fourth in the 100 meters breaststroke final.
Why does Alia get a pat on the back from me?
- The 23-year-old from St. Andrew is nothing if not ambitious. She really, really wants that Olympic medal. Or medals.
- And to obtain medals, she needs financial help. Her plea was heard by Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, who has promised to provide this. Let’s hope it comes soon, so that Alia can start getting ready for Rio 2016. Good for her, though, for speaking out on this crucial issue.
- Like Hansle Parchment, Alia is a student of psychology – at Texas A&M University.
- She has a sunny smile but a look of stony determination in her eye. Focus!
And last – but not least – two young Jamaican men competed in the Olympics for the first time. Although they did not win medals, they broke new ground and they competed fiercely.
Jason “Dadz” Morgan is a determined man, and the road has not been smooth. He throws discus – not a popular field event for Jamaicans. As a student at Louisiana Tech, he decided to compete for his country.
What makes Jason special?
- Simply put, Jason is highly focused. And as Jamaica’s National Discus Record holder, he knows he is good.
- And, as fellow blogger and Jamaican journalist Dionne Jackson Miller notes (see her post below) he needs financial support, too, to continue.
- The 29-year-old from St. Catherine, who attended Kingston’s Calabar High School – a sports powerhouse – coaches himself. That’s right. Sheer willpower.
- He faces great challenges. He needs that support. He commented to Dionne, “I’m a big man, 6’3”, 288 pounds, and I’m not afraid to say I cry through frustration.” Let’s give Jason and others like him the support they need, so that they can train, perform and compete, without worrying whether they can afford to attend a meet or not. Sponsors, where are you? Jason had none for the Olympics. But he competed for his country.
And lastly, a Jamaican warrior who fought well… 26-year-old Tae Kwon Do competitor Kenneth Edwards.
Why do I love Kenneth?
- Like Mr. Morgan, he was the first Jamaican to compete in his particular field at the Olympics.
- Kenneth fought valiantly against a Chinese giant (six feet seven inches tall) and got the crowd on his side, despite eventually losing the bout. He only just missed an opportunity for a bronze medal.
- He is positive and he says, so confidently, “I think the big stage is next for me.” I believe him.
- There is so much potential in the martial arts field for Jamaica. I don’t just say this because I used to practice judo – in my youth. It’s a great sporting field, encouraging competition and incredible discipline. It also requires enormous skill, strength and precision.
- More power to Jamaica’s Combined Martial Arts Team. Big ups all round!
And finally, I am sorry I could not include all the incredible Jamaican Olympic athletes. These are just a few from the great team that made Jamaica shine. Let’s continue supporting them, even when the gloss has worn off and we return to our humdrum lives…
My next Olympic blog post will be the Caribbean edition! Coming soon to this page.
- Like a Bolt from the blue…Jamaica Jamaica… (anniepaul.net)
- http://ybafraid.com (Yohan Blake’s website)
- Jamaica and The London 2012 Olympics: Reigning Kings and Queens of 100m Jamaica, Gold and Silver for Usain Bolt, Yohan Blake (theislandjournal.wordpress.com)
- This ugly Olympic ‘joke’ (antiguaobserver.com)
- A Single Caribbean Sports Academy – Part 2 (caribbean360.com)
- London 2012 Track and Field Men’s 200m: Jamaica Dominates with Podium Sweep (bleacherreport.com)
- Yohan Blake: Jamaican Sprinter Will Be Second-Best Until Usain Bolt Retires (bleacherreport.com)
- http://moti-athletics-roadtoolympics.blogspot.com/2012/02/one-thousand-reasons-to-love-shelly-ann.html (One Thousand Reasons to Love Shelly-Ann Fraser)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/videos/video.php?id=551 (Family celebrates Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce’s silver medal – Jamaica Gleaner)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120810/lead/lead4.html (Cashew Bush is jubilant! – Jamaica Gleaner)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120809/sports/sports3.html (“It’s a first and I’m happy, but…” – Jamaica Gleaner)
- Weir takes giant leap from couch to podium (dailystar.com.lb)
- http://www.veronicacampbellbrown.com (Veronica Campbell Brown website)
- http://www.globaldignity.org (Global Dignity Day 2012)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120731/sports/sports1.html (“I need financial support” – Jamaica Gleaner)
- http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/olympics/news/PHOTO-GALLERY–Alia-Atkinson-s-100m-breaststroke-finals (Alia Atkinson breaststroke finals photo gallery – Jamaica Observer)
- http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/olympics/news/Ottey-hails-Ja-s-exploits-in-London_12296072 (Ottey hails Jamaica’s exploits in London – Ja. Observer)
- http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/olympics/athletes/ (Team Jamaica – Jamaica Observer)
- http://jasonmorganonline.com (Jason Morgan website)
- http://newsandviewsbydjmillerja.wordpress.com/?s=Jason+Morgan (Come on, Government! It’s not just Alia Atkinson who needs help! – Dionne Jackson Miller blog)
- http://newsandviewsbydjmillerja.wordpress.com/2012/05/31/jamaicas-national-record-holder-discus-jason-morgan-its-lonely-frustrating-and-also-motivating/ (“It’s lonely, frustrating and also motivating” – Jason Morgan speaks to Dionne Jackson-Miller)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120812/sports/sports2.html (Brave Edwards falls short – Jamaica Gleaner)
- http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/latestnews/Photo-Highlights–Jamaica-s-Kenneth-Edwards—Taekwondo (Photo highlights – Jamaica’s Kenneth Edwards, Taekwondo)
- http://www.jamaicaolympics.com/kenneth-edwards (JamaicaOlympics.com – Kenneth Edwards)
- http://www.nbcolympics.com/track-and-field/medals/index.html (Olympic Track & Field Medal Standings – NBC Olympics)
Yes, that was a play on words. I have been so absorbed by the Olympics today that I will be starting (and finishing) my weekly post late. Do forgive me. Our hearts and minds were in London, while our eyes across Kingston and Jamaica were glued to television sets and big screens for the 100 meters final, won by our two “golden boys,” Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake.
Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Ernesto‘s rains drip harmlessly outside, as it passes to the south of us.
- Jamaicans revel in Bolt victory (bbc.co.uk)
- TS Ernesto heads for pass along Honduras’ coast (sacbee.com)
- Jamaica and The London 2012 Olympics: Reigning Kings and Queens of 100m Jamaica, Gold and Silver for Usain Bolt, Yohan Blake (theislandjournal.wordpress.com)
- Usain Bolt’s Olympic 100m triumph triggers jubilation in Jamaica (guardian.co.uk)
- Arrest at the 100m (smh.com.au)
If you are Jamaican with blood running through your veins, chances are that you will have become infected with “Olympic Fever,” a highly contagious disease for which there is no known cure. After the month of August, the symptoms are expected to abate considerably. Until then, like those stricken with dengue fever, you will just have to wait for it to pass…
Please see this fun infographic by scrolling down to the bottom right of this blog – just click on it and it will all come up. I had really wanted it to embed itself in this post but that didn’t seem to work…
- Olympic trials 2012: Usain Bolt beaten by Yohan Blake in Jamaican 100m (telegraph.co.uk)
- Jamaica and The London 2012 Olympics: The Official List of Athletes and Delegates representing Jamaica (theislandjournal.wordpress.com)
- London 2012 Olympics: Usain Bolt arrives in Birmingham (telegraph.co.uk)
- The Jamaican Olympic Team Outfits – “Ugly – Horrible” (newsandviewsbydjmillerja.wordpress.com)
- Gold, Silver and Bronze (petchary.wordpress.com)
- U.S., Jamaica battle for track supremacy (nypost.com)
Presenting my article on Usain Bolt which appears in Newsweek International this week...
Jamaica’s Usain Bolt: Is He Still the World’s Fastest Runner?
Jul 16, 2012 1:00 AM EDT
Will lightning strike again in London? Or have the years of fast living finally caught up with the speediest man alive? A close look at the Jamaican record breaker.
The Twitter messages seemed calculated to drive Jamaica frantic.
Good morning, all. This week’s news was a little lighter, apart from the usual killings (see my “In Memoriam” section). Some things even made me laugh (hollow laughter sometimes, admittedly…)
Firstly, the political representatives who made fools of themselves in the Lower House recently were told to apologize, like naughty boys. The word “sorry” got stuck in some throats and the apologies were a little half-hearted; but one of the new Members of Parliament prepared a speech, waxing quite lyrical on the subject of fish. Yes, fish. This word was thrown about during the fracas in Parliament and seems to have been interpreted (or misinterpreted) as a derogatory word for homosexual (which many of us were not aware of – but it seems that some of our politicians are quite knowledgeable on such matters). Anyway, the promising young politician decided to equate the fish reference with Christianity. His speech was remarkable for its piety. Some journalists were seemingly awestruck by this oratorical flourish. Others were skeptical, like columnist Mark Wignall, who commented, ”Because we have had so few real successes in public life in this country, our media has adopted the style of going gaga over speeches as if we have conveniently forgotten that a speech is just words written on paper and skilfully (sometimes) read or presented.”
The best part of this – and here is the first chuckle of the week – were the skillful Observer cartoonist Clovis’ depictions of a fishy Member of Parliament. Hilarious.
Talking of religion, our favorite home-grown radical priest and missionary Father Richard Ho Lung – founder of the awesome Missionaries of the Poor – seems to have ruffled some feathers with his recent Gleaner columns. Firstly, he took aim at atheists, describing them as selfish, materialistic and responsible for all the world’s ills. (Well, I don’t think atheists bombed those churches in Nigeria, did they? Nor did they commit reprisal killings, there?) An atheist protested in rather a good column – linked below. Let’s have more tolerance of all beliefs, including atheists and agnostics, perhaps? Secondly, the goodly Father reprimanded our two sprinting heroes, Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake. He remonstrated with Blake thus:“Why call yourself a ‘beast’? Read the Book of Revelation.” Columnist Mark Wignall feels he has “gone overboard” this time. I found it all rather funny.
There were a couple of highly confusing items last week, too. Firstly, Mining & Energy Minister Phillip Paulwell announced that the Russian firm UC Rusal planned to close the last of its operational bauxite plants in Jamaica in October with the loss of 600 jobs – in Ewarton, St. Catherine. A wire story report appeared a day or two later in which the firm said they had not yet made a decision on the matter. Things seem to be hanging in the balance; but one feels confident that Minister Paulwell will be able to sort things out with the Russians. He has made the point that two other plants owned by Rusal have been closed now for more than three years. This seems an unacceptable situation to me.
I am finding Minister Paulwell a calm, composed figure, who seems entirely focused on his goals as head of an important ministry that also includes technology. He seems to do his homework properly, updates the media regularly and what is more, he does not waste time trying to score political points. He is getting on with the job, and for that I once again give him kudos. He sets a good example.
Then there was a bit of a fiasco with the so-called amnesty for traffic offenders, which began on July 1 and is set to continue for the rest of the year. It turned out to be quite a muddle. Well, Jamaicans owe their Government an astounding, estimated J$2.5 billion in unpaid traffic tickets. So if they go to the tax office and pay what they owe during this period, they will not be taken to court. It seems, however, that Government records are not in order; motorists are protesting that they are wildly inaccurate and the website has been put on hold for a little while, I understand, while they sort it out. Unfortunately, neither of the links in the Gleaner article below works. Oh Lordy.
I have been venting quite a bit on the environment in a recent blog post – but hold on, here’s more. I mentioned the “mystery fumes” in a recent review. On June 28 (when we were, thankfully, out of town) a number of highway workers and others fell sick after the air was filled with an unbearable smell in the Portmore area. The National Environment & Planning Agency conducted a thorough and detailed investigation, and last week we were informed that the smell was from kerosene being offloaded at Kingston’s seaport. Now the police have been called in to investigate possible illegal activities there. Which is obviously bad, but what worries me is how would we have coped if the incident had been much more serious? Executive director of the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management Ronald Jackson said on television recently that Jamaica really was not prepared for a major chemical leak. The Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica is investigating…
As a cab driver said on television this week, “It’s our right to have clean air.” The man, an asthma sufferer, was complaining about a huge dust nuisance in Cornwall Courts, Montego Bay. Let us be more careful about these things, and try to prevent them from happening in the first place, please. And what was going on at the port that day? I am not making light of the Cornwall Courts issue. Almost nightly on television residents are protesting the huge discomforts of their lives – dust from incomplete roadworks; roads that look more like obstacle courses filled with rocks and huge potholes; raw sewage trickling in the gutters; a bridge that has not been repaired since Hurricane Whoever; no water in the pipes, although they pay water bills. I often feel the residents could do more to help themselves; but I fear that there is simply no money to fix these things.
Now – unless you have been living in a hole in the ground for at least the past year – we all know the Olympics is nigh. In fact, they begin on July 27, just twelve days away. I just have two questions: Why can’t we watch the Olympics on the channel of our choice? And why do Jamaican athletes have to parade around in semi-military uniforms at the opening ceremony?
On the first issue, a regional sports broadcasting firm has “exclusive rights across all platforms” to coverage of the games, and has sold these rights to one television station in Jamaica. Which means that those of us who pay for various sports channels on our cable network will be confronted with a message informing us that the channel is “blacked out” (even if the local TV station is not showing Olympic action). Is this lawful, asks one letter-writer? And why are we deprived of choice (especially when that’s exactly what we pay the cable company for?) Does this mean the promised “Caribbean flavor” of the coverage will exclude events in which there are no Caribbean competitors (and there are many of those?) Some of us want to watch events like diving, decathlon, rowing, etc. Why can’t we watch what we want?
Secondly, Cedella Marley (one of Bob’s numerous children) who is now a fashion designer has produced a range of costumes (approved by sponsors Puma) for the Jamaican athletic team to wear at the Olympics. The reaction among Jamaicans has been mixed, to say the least. When I first saw the photos, I had another good laugh. Ms. Marley has clearly gone back to the seventies and decided to resurrect the styles worn by her father when he was about her age… A kind of “Buffalo Soldier” throwback, complete with military-style khaki and high collars. Are our athletes going to war? There is also a skirt with what looks rather like a ganja-leaf design. Our dear Usain Bolt “looks like a security guard,” a friend commented on Facebook. What do you think, dear readers? There is more on YouTube if you want to see all the designs, and see how you feel. (Meanwhile, Americans are upset at their Ralph Lauren-designed kit, complete with beret - “too European” - and worse still, made in China!)
Talking of Bob Marley, there was another wave of protest after an unsuspecting American scientist (and a huge fan of Bob) enthusiastically named a marine creature after the “reggae icon” (to coin a cliché). What’s wrong with that, you may ask? Well, the creature in question, now named Gnathia marly, is a blood-sucking parasite that infests Caribbean fish and makes them extremely ill. “It’s a diss!” cried fans, who also point out that Bob Marley strongly disliked parasites (of the human kind), as well as hypocrites, bald heads and others. The poor scientist however, thinks this marine version of a tick (ugh!) is a wonderful little creature that contributes much to the Caribbean eco-system. He thinks he is honoring Marley, but the local jury is still out on this one, too.
And talking of reggae music, Opposition Tourism Spokesman Ed Bartlett says he wants Jamaica to have more reggae festivals. Do we really, Mr. Bartlett? We are scraping the barrel trying to find decent reggae acts – the quality and quantity has fallen – unless we recruited some of the excellent African musicians that play reggae. As it is, Reggae Sumfest, which took place this weekend, featured among other acts an American singer called Trey Songzz (not a reggae act), whose latest song “Dive In” extols the joys of oral sex. Yes, I guess we need more of that, don’t we?
Putting aside the trivia for a moment, there were several much more serious stories – quite small and unobtrusive – that popped up in the media and that I found very disturbing, although they seemed not to warrant any widespread discussion in the media.
- In anticipation of a lifting of the ban on scrap metal imports, our rampant thievery continues at local cellular phone sites – J$300 million worth. One “businessman” was found to be powering his in-car stereo system with batteries stolen from one site. How can we move forward with creeps like this in our midst?
- One million Jamaicans live below the poverty line. Yes. One million. What is our population again? 2.7 million?
- A well-known doctor and the mother of a twelve-year-old have been charged with procuring an abortion. When is Jamaica going to review its absurd abortion laws? As noted last week, Jamaica has a very high maternal death rate, and illegal botched abortions have certainly contributed to this. Let us follow the example of Barbados, Cuba and other enlightened Caribbean nations. But I guess the discussion will be hijacked once again by fundamentalist Christians, who do shout very loud…
- The Statistical Institute of Jamaica notes this week that the Jamaican economy registered negative GDP growth (0.1% decline) in the first six months of this year.
- Can the Jamaica Observer and some of its columnists stop trying to stir up sensation and ill-informed debate on the homosexual issue? Let’s cool it. The flood of comments on its website has been removed, probably because many of them were unfit for airplay. Why this semi-hysteria from people who swear that they are “not homophobes” but Christians, with a capital “C”? Where is the Observer going with this?
- The police are still busy killing. See two stories below on the recent death of a 17-year-old high school graduate, and a woman who fears for her son whom the police allegedly pushed into a gully.
- The report of a teenage girl who had a complete meltdown in a small rural court when she was ordered to be kept in a “place of safety” was painful to hear. The close-up footage of the girl’s ankles as she shuffled, barefoot in shackles to a waiting police van was deeply disturbing – reminiscent of slavery. It worried radio talk show host Barbara Gloudon for an entire program on Friday. I shared her emotion. The girl, who reportedly slapped the magistrate (it was a small room) was clearly in trouble and in urgent need of psychiatric help. The fact was, nobody wanted her. She had run away from her father’s house, and her mother could not/would not keep her. One doesn’t know the details of the case, but is locking the fifteen-year-old up in the Fort Augusta Adult Correctional Centre going to help? What was her crime? I hear she is now to get counseling – while in prison (and how long for?)
Condolences and sympathies go out to the family and friends of the following Jamaicans, who were murdered in the past week. I am also concerned for the father of Davian Davis, a sweet child whose body was found in an abandoned car. His father suspects foul play. I could see the grief in his face on television this evening. What really happened?
- Shango Jackson, 39, in Beverley Hills, Kingston
- Dr. Phillip Chamberlain, in Mandeville, Manchester
- Dwayne Rodman, in Grants Pen, Kingston
- Sonia Martin, 47, in Potsdam, St. Elizabeth
Killed by the police:
- Unidentified man, Freetown, Clarendon
- Unidentified man, Freetown, Clarendon
- Unidentified man, Malvern, St. Elizabeth
- Barrington Christie,41, Ashkenish, Hanover
- Sunday Shenanigans: July 8, 2012 (petchary.wordpress.com)
- Sunday Sunshine: July 1, 2012 (petchary.wordpress.com)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120713/cleisure/cleisure2.html (Apologies welcome, but… jamaica-gleaner.com)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120715/cleisure/cleisure1.html (No order in Parliament)
- http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/I-don-t-buy-the-parliamentary-apology_11936727 (I don’t buy the parliamentary apology)
- http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Jackasses-are-aplenty-and-a-pig-in-a-tie-is-still-a-pig_11902491 (Jackasses are aplenty and a pig in a tie is still a pig)
- http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Paulwell-s-mining-lease-signal-likely-game-changer-in-UC-Rusal-controversy_11952611 (Paulwell’s mining lease signal likely game changer in UC Rusal controversy)
- http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Bauxite-surprise—Paulwell-says-he-ll-summon-UC-Rusal-rep-after-plant-closure-denial_11945442 (Bauxite surprise)
- 600 to lose jobs with closure of RUSAL plant in Jamaica (bis.gy)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=38457 (Ticket amnesty bungling)
- Jamaica considers renewable energy – UPI.com (upi.com)
- http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Kerosene-identified-as-mystery-fume_11945588 (Kerosene identified as mystery fumes)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=38504 (Police called in to probe fume emission)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120714/cleisure/cleisure5.html (Restart Cornwall Court road work)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120710/cleisure/cleisure3.html (Goodness, I am an atheist!)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120712/letters/letters4.html (Why can’t cable channels air Olympics too?)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120126/sports/sports7.html (IMC promises record Caribbean coverage of London 2012)
- http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/entertainment/Jamaica-50-Jubilee-plans_11952612?fb_ref=storypage (Jamaica 50 Jubilee plans)
- 50-50 Reflections (petchary.wordpress.com)
- The Jamaican Olympic Team Outfits – “Ugly – Horrible” (newsandviewsbydjmillerja.wordpress.com)
- http://www.jamolympic.org/Home.aspx (Jamaica Olympic Association website)
- Puma pins Olympic hopes on Bolt to speed sport sales (telegraph.co.uk)
- Jamaica and The London 2012 Olympics: Jamaican Athletes representing, Jamaica (theislandjournal.wordpress.com)
- http://www.latimes.com/news/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-marley-parasite-20120711,0,5467109.story (Ocean parasite named after Bob Marley)
- http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/BOB-MARLEY-DISSED-_11938598 (Bob Marley dissed! jamaicaobserver.com)
- http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/The-big-gay-lie_11923183 (The big gay lie: Column by Betty-Ann Blaine)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120710/lead/lead2.html (Father struggles to come to grips with son’s killing)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120710/lead/lead4.html (Clarendon woman’s fear: cops after my son)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120713/lead/lead6.html (Teen assaults RM in courtroom attack)
- http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Brilliant-Krystal–St-Thomas-teen-goes-to-MIT-on-scholarship_11881838 (Brilliant Krystal! St. Thomas teen goes to MIT on scholarship)
- http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/entertainment/Don-t-politicise-Festival_11925601 (Don’t politicize Festival! Says Fae Ellington)
- http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Rotary-Club-launches-programme-to-help-juvenile-offenders_11924826 (Rotary Club launches program to help juvenile offenders)
Yes, we may be short of a lot of things in Jamaica, but we’re certainly not short on sunshine. As the sun thankfully dips behind the rooftops (the sun isn’t thankful, I am) I am just about to start this blog post with very little idea of what has or has not been going on this week. We took three days off away from all media, computers etc (unless you count switching to ESPN for the Euro 2012 semi-finals). Thanks ESPN! (I was quite upset by Italy’s sad defeat at the hands of Spain today, but the Italian team delighted me during the tournament with their creative, attacking play. Spain played like a passing machine, but seemed to wake up for the final). Ah well. The drama is over. We now await the start of the new English Premier League season.
Meanwhile, back on the Rock, shock waves from last week’s “bloody weekend” – including the resurgence of gang warfare in the August Town area of St. Andrew – continued to ruffle the media; and the annual hand-wringing exercise over the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) examinations kicked into top gear. On the former, I feel deeply sorry for the many peaceful and law-abiding residents. August Town is not, to my mind, a typical “inner city” area with all that the term suggests. The first time I visited there about twenty years ago – and I have done so a number of times since – I have felt that it was more like a village. The area is close to the University of the West Indies campus, on the outskirts of Kingston. There are narrow streets, small houses surrounded by low walls, a number of churches, and a bus service into Kingston. It is essentially a cul de sac, so the bus has to turn round and go back. There is the usually-dry Hope River (an escape route for criminals, I understand), and some houses on the other side. There is a primary school with a large yard, and the police station close by. What is most striking is the steep green hills on all sides – so close, so green, with one huge white scar where limestone was quarried. And yet, in true inner-city tradition, August Town has “corners” where young men gather, and is divided into areas called “Vietnam” or “Jungle 12.” And the small community (it really is small) which was ironically named after Emancipation Day on August 1, 1838, has a plague of gangs, mostly (or originally) politically-motivated. Since 2008, residents have been lulled into a sense of false security after the signing of a so-called “Peace Treaty” between gangs; this was negotiated through the efforts of an organization called the Peace Management Initiative (PMI) and the local community organization headed by the well-meaning Kenneth Wilson. I have my severe doubts about these peace treaties; how can they last? Gangs are gangs. Deputy Commissioner of Police Glenmore Hinds, who is in charge of crime, does not believe in them. But Mr. Wilson has, on this occasion, complained that concerns expressed by residents in the area prior to the latest outburst were ignored by the police, who were not “proactive” enough and could have prevented the murders if they had listened.
Enough hot air has been expelled on the topic of the GSAT results to inflate a balloon and carry it half way round the world. Educators and officials, retired and otherwise, have all weighed in with interviews and columns in the media. Should the test be abolished? How can we breach the “social chasm” described by Minister Thwaites that afflicts our educational system (but hold on…doesn’t this afflict every aspect of our society, Minister Thwaites?) Meanwhile, one high school said it simply could not accommodate all the students who had been placed there by the test; and one of the conceptualizers of GSAT is quoted as saying – perhaps rather brutally – “I hear the minister apologizing to schools for being called failing, when in fact they are worse than failures. Some of them should not even exist.” Oh dear. Expect more of the same this time next year.
Speaking of education, one commentator on the Jamaica Observer website commented wryly, “I wish Jamaicans were as passionate about education as they are about two men in pink dresses.” Yes indeed, the “homosexual debate” drags on endlessly, with the usual obfuscation, manipulation, misinformation and religious propaganda. The latter gets plenty of airtime in the media, with religious leaders coming out of the woodwork all over the place with their arguments, and of course their Bible quotations. Thank God for sensible and clear-thinking people like broadcast journalist Dionne Jackson-Miller, who tried to make some sense out of it in her latest blog post (see link below).
The rumblings over whether Jamaica should remain in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) – called by some a “talk shop” – continue intermittently. Speaking to the Sunday Observer today, CARICOM Secretary-General Ambassador Irwin LaRocque intones, “I think the single most important reason for keeping CARICOM alive is to serve the development of our region. It can’t be anything but that.” Well, as young people say… Duh. My italics, by the way – it appears CARICOM is on life support? Well, it is worthy of note that a recent ECLAC survey on Caribbean GDP growth last year (and predictions for this year) pointed out that it was the non-English speaking countries of our small region that have registered – and will register – strong growth. For example, Haiti, Dominican Republic and Suriname – six, 4.5 and 4.3 per cent GDP growth predicted this year; Jamaica, Barbados and St. Kitts & Nevis – just one per cent each. Go figure. By the way, CARICOM’s annual summit for heads of government will meet this coming week; among the “big issues” to be considered this week is – yes, you’ve guessed it. West Indies cricket.
But hey! Summer is here, and the seasonal distractions from the serious issues of the day are multiplying daily. Why worry about regional development, education and so on? It is hot. We all need to chill out. The rich ones will be disappearing overseas in a few weeks’ time – and of course, that includes our politicians. And there is sports. With the Olympics mere weeks away, the National Trials have been taking place over the last few days at the National Stadium – which, strangely, has been three-quarters empty, even for races with superstar Usain Bolt (who was beaten not once, but twice by his reportedly more focused rival and training partner Yohan Blake). Jamaicans adore their athletes; but there seems to have been confusion over entrance tickets. Besides, people probably just don’t have the money to buy them. Much cheaper to watch them on television.
And then, there is Jamaica 50. Of course, I still have questions (don’t we all?) For example, why was an International Reggae Day concert in Emancipation Park suddenly canceled at short notice? Why is the Portland Jerk Festival, which happens every year, a Jamaica 50 event – and such a costly one (J$1,400 at the gate)? Is there a schedule of Jamaica 50 events, and if so where? I tried to download the enlarged schedule pdf document on the Jamaica 50 website (“proudly presented” by the Jamaica Information Service), and got this message: “This is somewhat embarrassing, isn’t it?”
Yes, it is. However, the website did remind me that we are just five weeks, 1o hours, 40 minutes and 18 seconds away from our nation’s fiftieth anniversary. And there is a basic schedule here: http://www.jis.gov.jm/ja50/v2/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/JCDC-CALENDAR-OF-JAMAICA-50-NATIONAL-EVENTS1.pdf. For the month of July, there is Reggae Sumfest; the Festival Song Contest; and other regular annual events. OK, OK… I know, we don’t have any money, but are these really Jamaica 50 events, or just wearing the cloak of Jamaica 50?
Meanwhile, the politicians talk. And talk. Minister of Agriculture Roger Clarke and Minister of Education Ronald Thwaites are the two current Champions of Talk at the moment. Speeches galore. Minister Clarke, an amiable and obese man, raised scattered laughter when he asked his audience whether they agreed that he had thrived (thriven?) on a good healthy diet of Jamaican food. The Opposition Jamaica Labour Party has been largely quiet, apart from Justice and National Security Spokesman Delroy Chuck, who is clear and sharp in his commentary. There is an occasional obscure piece of waffle from the Opposition Leader, who seems to have gone back into his shell. Among other serious issues, Mr. Chuck has asked why the monthly meeting of the National Security Council has only taken place once since the new administration took office six months ago; if this is true, what is the story behind this?
Our Prime Minister is also very quiet, and only speaks when spoken to at the moment, like a well-behaved child in Victorian days. At least, I have seen very little reported.
But let’s give a huge round of applause to our very own Jamaica Defence Force and to all the other participants – including those from overseas – in the Jamaica Military Tattoo 2012. This was only the fifth in Jamaica’s history, and by all accounts our military outdid itself. Congratulations to all involved.
On the arts front, congratulations are also due to the urban arts festival Kingston on the Edge (KOTE) 2012, which took place over the past week. It was an extraordinarily lavish schedule of art in all its forms – grassroots, uptown, downtown, in-between – showing how vibrant and creative our much-maligned capital city truly is. Special congratulations to Veerle Poupeye, director of the National Gallery of Jamaica and her hard-working staff for their ongoing work (and for their monthly Sunday openings); and of course, to Karin Wilson Edmonds and the many others who worked so hard to make KOTE 2012 a huge success. I have to add that this is largely a private sector effort – thanks to all the sponsors and supporters, and may it be even bigger and better next year!
And of course, the sports. Mr. Yohan Blake and Ms. Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce are worthy of special mention for beating the favorites in the National Trials in both the 1oo and 200 meters. But congratulations to all the young men and women who put out all their efforts and the best they have to offer. I am sure those who qualified for the London Olympics will continue to strive and do well for Jamaica.
Let’s round things off with another old and hoary “chestnut”: It’s “health tourism” time again! For the umpteenth time, this wonderful idea (it is a great idea actually) has been taken from the shelf and dusted off, this time by Industry, Investment & Commerce Minister Anthony Hylton. The Jamaica Information Service describes health tourism as “a new growth area with significant potential.” We first heard these words – or something very similar – approximately fifteen years ago. Well, let’s give it another whirl. I am sure the long-suffering “diaspora” will be thrilled to hear about it – or did I hear a stifled yawn from across the waters? Surely not. It’s a new area, folks! Let’s talk about it some more!
Well, dark has descended and I have rambled on too long. We are due for at least a few more days of hot, dry weather, with clouds that drift high above and have no intention on raining on us here in Kingston.
It’s summer, we haven’t solved the mystery of the noxious fumes yet (more on that another time) and…let’s try to have a great week!
My deep condolences to the family and friends of all those who were murdered in Jamaica in the past week. This may not be a complete list, but my thoughts are with all those who are mourning the loss of their loved ones.
- Kemado “Joe” Edwards, killed by the police in St. James
- Unidentified man found in a cane field in Llandilo, Westmoreland
- André, in Barnett Lane, Montego Bay, St. James
- Bryan Morris, 33, in Sheffield, Westmoreland
- Sylvia Beckford, 40, in Sheffield, Westmoreland
- Judith McCauley, 31, in Sheffield, Westmoreland
- Unidentified man killed by the police in Camrose, St. James
- Courtney Willis, in Nuts River, St. Thomas
- Unidentified woman chopped to death in Manchester
- Fabian Buckley, 26, in Duhaney Park, Kingston
- Newton Steer, 40, in Red Ground, St. Catherine
- Hugh Modest, 47, in West Meade, St. Catherine
- Cyril Kelsey, 59, in Leeds, St. Elizabeth
- Norman Noble, 48, in St. James
- Mario Balotelli, One of Soccer’s Most Gifted and Eccentric Players (nytimes.com)
- Gianluigi Buffon: Italy must improve to beat Spain in Euro 2012 final (thesun.co.uk)
- Sunday Songs (petchary.wordpress.com)
- Jamaica National Trials 2012: Seeking emancipation for Veronica Campbell-Brown and Usain Bolt in 200m (theislandjournal.wordpress.com)
- http://newsandviewsbydjmillerja.wordpress.com/2012/06/28/jamaica-and-gays-are-we-homophobic-or-not/#comment-482 (djmillerja.wordpress.com)
- In Memoriam (petchary.wordpress.com)
- http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Peace-dream-shattered (jamaicaobserver.com)
- Minister reassures Jamaicans after 10 killed in bloody weekend (caribbean360.com)
- Blake shocks Bolt in 100m dash at Jamaican Olympics trials (edition.cnn.com)
- http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Mystery-fumes-dissipate_11848158 (jamaicaobserver.com)
- http://www.jis.gov.jm/ja50/v2/ (Jamaica 50/JIS website)
- http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads-112/31081 (Spectacular Military Tattoo: Jamaica Information Service)
- http://www.caribjournal.com/2012/06/18/haiti-led-caribbean-gdp-growth-last-year-will-again-in-2012-eclac/ (Caribbean Journal)
- http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Jamaica-won-t-leave-Caricom–says-LaRocque_11851491 (jamaicaobserver.com)
- http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/The-simple-truth-about-homosexuality-and-same-sex-marriage_11837769#ixzz1zQHZKyR2 (jamaicaobserver.com)
- http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Homosexuality-and-religion-in-our-politics_11817993 (Mark Wignall column)
- http://newsandviewsbydjmillerja.wordpress.com/2012/06/28/jamaica-and-gays-are-we-homophobic-or-not/ (Dionne Jackson Miller blog post)
- http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/The-big-issues-for-this-week-s-Caricom-summit_11837771 (Rickey Singh on CARICOM summit)
- http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/GSAT-defence–Retired-educators-who-conceptualised-exam-say-test-not-the-problem_11804900 (GSAT defense)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120630/news/news1.html (Jamaica Military Tattoo)
- http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads-107/31098 (Health Tourism remarks, JIS)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120629/lead/lead2.html (Sickening fumes…Jamaica Gleaner)
- Bouterse installs CARICOM youth leaders (kaieteurnewsonline.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)