Last Sunday of the Year: Sunday, December 29, 2013

It’s that period between Christmas and New Year when some of us get very reflective and philosophical. We look back over the past year, and look forward to the next; so there are endless “reviews” and “previews” in the media and elsewhere. As for me, I prefer to look forward, so no reviews for me. And I am really trying hard to live in the present. Like Arsenal Football Club manager Arsène Wenger, who likes to say that he takes it one game at a time.

Finance Minister Peter Phillips.

Finance Minister Peter Phillips.

More taxes looming? I noted in my last post that the government has hinted at the possibility of imposing General Consumption  Tax on gasoline. The mere mention of it made us shudder. Now the government has told the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that tax revenues have fallen short, so they think they must tax us some more (see the Letter of Intent dated December 3, 2013 on the IMF website). Well, of course tax revenues have fallen; the economy has been contracting over an extended period; imports have decreased; people are not spending. And how is adding more taxes going to help?

Dennis Chung. (Gleaner file photo)

Dennis Chung. (Gleaner file photo)

Now, there’s a very good article by financial analyst Dennis Chung on (a website worth subscribing to) headlined “Jamaica in 2014.” Dennis is quite right. We can’t under-estimate the importance of confidence in almost any economic scenario (something I learned while working in the eurobond sector in London). The government must grasp this concept. Dennis also warns: The government cannot take the path of previous administrations and seek to tax our way out of the problem, as this will only lead to short-term fiscal gain and long-term loss. This has been the path chosen in the past and it has not worked.” But based on the Appendix to the Jamaican Government’s Letter of Intent to the IMF, this is pretty much what it plans to do.

Dennis talks about the two major hindrances to our economic growth: bureaucracy and crime. On the latter issue, former Contractor General Greg Christie has pointed out that the World Economic Forum identified government inefficiency, crime and corruption as major impediments to Jamaica’s economic growth. So let’s keep that in the equation, too.

No to debt swap: Minister of Finance Peter Phillips has ruled out the idea of a third debt swap. Well, of course that is a no-no, Minister Phillips. The private sector, led by Scotiabank Jamaica, made it abundantly clear after the last one that they would not countenance such a thing.

Save Goat Islands!

Save Goat Islands!

Eastern Caribbean floods: Our Prime Minister has sent her sympathies to the islands of St. Lucia, Dominica and St. Vincent and the Grenadines that suffered terribly from a Christmas storm and subsequent flooding. That’s nice, but could we perhaps have sent some assistance? Some Jamaica Defence Force soldiers or other manpower at least?

Relief supplies arrive in St. Lucia from Trinidad & Tobago. (Photo: Press Secretary to the Prime Minister, St. Lucia/Facebook)

Relief supplies arrive in St. Lucia from Trinidad & Tobago. (Photo: Press Secretary to the Prime Minister, St. Lucia/Facebook)

In my last post, I omitted to include a very disturbing story highlighted by Annie Paul on her blog, Active Voice“NOT dead on arrival! No Sir! I will not rest in peace!” tells the tale of a man whom the police thought they had killed in a “shootout.” On arriving at the hospital he sat up and declared himself not dead, meanwhile pointing out the policeman who had tried to kill him. He was then put under police guard in hospital. What has happened to him? Has INDECOM investigated? Read the story at

Deaths on the road: Despite the best efforts of the National Road Safety Council, fatalities on the road will end up higher than in 2012, which was 267 dead. What a terrible waste of lives – mainly through stupidity: overtaking, distracted driving, driving much too fast. Are we still considering legislation on cell phones and driving? I’ve noticed this is so common in Kingston – drivers cut corners, hardly even notice you on the road when they have a phone glued to their ear.

Macka Diamond (right) and Lady Saw in a heated battle onstage at Sting 2013. (Photo: Lionel Rookwood)

Macka Diamond (right) and Lady Saw in a heated battle onstage at Sting 2013. (Photo: Lionel Rookwood/Jamaica Observer)

Sting women: I believe Culture Minister Lisa Hanna told local press that the Boxing Day dancehall event called Sting (now celebrating thirty years) would be family-friendly. How terribly wrong she was. If people want to go to these shows, then it is their choice. But I think it is wrong for government to support any of these shows - whether the so-called Jazz Festival, Sting or whatever. The Jamaica Tourist Board sponsored this one for the first (and hopefully last) time. It’s a private sector thing. Moreover, I don’t want my hard-earned taxes to be spent on two women hurling obscenities at each other in the name of entertainment. I would rather it was spent on school furniture, or perhaps hospital equipment. (Did Minister Hanna attend this event, and if so what did she think about it? At the press conference, putting on her best Jamaican patois, she said: mi haffi deh deh”meaning: I have to be there)!

This was Sting 2013 on Boxing Day, sponsored by the Jamaica Tourist Board.

This was Sting 2013 on Boxing Day, sponsored by the Jamaica Tourist Board and endorsed by Culture Minister Lisa Hanna, who said she would have to be there. Was she? Did she watch this “performance” I wonder?

This question was asked on Facebook recently: “After decades and decades of violent crime in Jamaica, what do you do to protect yourself? I’m not talking about the grills and the burglar alarms and the gated communities and the not walking on the road at night. What do you do to protect your spirit and soul from the news every day of murders and rapes and assaults of men, women and children? When you or those you know have been personally affected, or when it is news reports about people you do not know?” I believe that I wrestle with this question week in, week out. 

Protest signs in August Town after police killed Dennis Levy. (Photo: Ricardo Makyn/Gleaner)

Protest signs in August Town after police killed Dennis Levy. (Photo: Ricardo Makyn/Gleaner)

Revenge? Residents of August Town say that the police killed Dennis Levy on December 20 as an act of revenge for the murder of a District Constable and the injuring of a policewoman a short time earlier that day. August Town is  a small community tucked into the high green hills of St. Andrew near the University of the West Indies campus. It has suffered from gang warfare and political strife in the past; however the crime rate there has decreased this year. “They decided that someone had to die for the police,” said one resident, according to a report in today’s Sunday Gleaner.  

Tiefs continue to flourish: Here’s an interesting photo (from our Prime Minister’s constituency) showing a light post festooned with “throw-ups” – that is, illegal electricity connections. I will not comment except to say that the Jamaica Public Service Company has its work cut out…

Illegal electricity connections in Kingston.

Illegal electricity connections in Kingston.

Kudos to…


Yohan Blakeour lovely sprinter, whose YB Afraid Foundation has partnered with the private sector and individuals to help young people. In particular, the Foundation supports the Mt. Olivet Children’s Home in Manchester. It held some special events and a motivating workshop over Christmas. Big ups to the young man and wishing you great success in 2014!

Principal of the Lethe Primary and Infant School in St James, Anthony Murray (right), accepts the Jamaica Teaching Council/Ministry of Education and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) Leadership in Education Award, from Minister of Education, Ronald Thwaites, at a recent ceremony at the school. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

Principal of the Lethe Primary and Infant School in St James, Anthony Murray (right), accepts the Jamaica Teaching Council/Ministry of Education and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) Leadership in Education Award, from Minister of Education, Ronald Thwaites, at a recent ceremony at the school. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

A young principal, Anthony Murray, who has guided his school (Lethe Primary and Infant School in St. James) to some great results. He recently received an award for his efforts from the government and UNESCO. We do know that there are many dedicated teachers out there! And yes, Minister Thwaites, the Effective Principals’ Training Programme is a worthwhile effort. It is a pity that 49 principals have refused to participate. In fact, it is very unimpressive.

Journalist and producer of the excellent “Live at Seven” show on CVM Television Yolande Gyles Levy, who produced an excellent feature on the fight to save the Portland Bight Protected Area/Goat Islands earlier this year. She gave an update from her perspective on the program on Friday night, as follows: Nothing much has changed. The government, she said is still waiting on a written proposal from China Harbour Engineering Company. Based on that, the government will conduct an Environmental Impact Assessment, which will be paid for by the Chinese firm. Transport and Works Minister Omar Davies spoke on “Live at Seven” about a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the logistics hub. When host Simon Crosskill asked if he could see a copy he said he could – but “Live at Seven” has not seen it yet.

The St. Mary Chapter of G2K (the young professionals arm of the Jamaica Labour Party), who held a Christmas treat for over 100 children from the Annotto Bay community over the holidays. And “big ups” to all those many organizations, both domestic and overseas-based, that brought joy to under-privileged Jamaicans during the period. I hope we will remember all our vulnerable and marginalized groups throughout the year, not just at Christmas.

The murders of two cousins in Clarendon over Christmas has caused much concern and anger, and has been reported widely abroad, since one of the young women, Franciena Johnson was a Brooklyn resident. The police are now suggesting that a jealous boyfriend may have been the cause. Just this weekend in St. James, a young woman and her infant son were murdered; the father of the child is being questioned. There have been so many tragedies involving young women, their infant children and jealous, vengeful partners. I have also noticed that women OF ALL AGES are murder victims, week in, week out – including, this week, a woman farmer in her sixties, in Sherwood Content, Trelawny (Usain Bolt’s home). So much pain. My condolences to all the families…

Renaldo Walton, 25, Parade Gardens (Tel Aviv), Kingston

Marva Henry, 56, Ebony Vale/Spanish Town, St. Catherine

Unidentified man, Ebony Vale/Spanish Town, St. Catherine

Ramon Perkins, 20, Santa Cruz, St. Elizabeth

Eulalee McIntosh, 64, Shaw Park/Ocho Rios, St. Ann

Norman Comrie, 30, Runaway Bay, St. Ann

Melessha Evans, 20, Irwin, St. James

Jeliana Evans, four months, Irwin, St. James

Unidentified man, Springfield, Westmoreland

Fernando Woolery, 26, Red Ground/Negril, Westmoreland

Geraldine Powell, 65, Sherwood Content, Trelawny

Killed by the police:

Dennis “Evian” Levy, 35, August Town, St. Andrew (previously reported as “Heavy Hand”)

Arlene Robinson, mother of Nordia Fearon, holds a picture of her slain daughter, who went missing with Franciena Johnson on the way to May Pen in Clarendon. Her body was found in Salt River. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

Arlene Robinson, mother of Nordia Fearon, holds a picture of her slain daughter, who went missing with Franciena Johnson on the way to May Pen in Clarendon. Her body was found in Salt River. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

Franciena Johnson kisses her boyfriend, who has since been arrested in connection with her murder. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

Franciena Johnson kisses her boyfriend, who has since been arrested in connection with her murder. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)


Summer Almost Done: September 1, 2013

The year seems to be flying past, doesn’t it? We will soon be talking about making sorrel drink and putting up Christmas lights… Meanwhile, “back to school” looms this week!

Minister Hylton’s sticky week: As the heated debate rolls on over the proposed Chinese mega-project in the Portland Bight Protected Area (known generally as the “Goat Island issue”) Industry and Investment Minister Anthony Hylton unexpectedly went and put his foot in it. You know when you get stuck in a quagmire and the more you struggle, the deeper you go? It was a bit like that. Firstly, his office invited local media to a meeting of the Jamaica Exporters’ Association (JEA), where he was guest speaker. The meeting started late (more on that later). The media were all ready to roll when the Minister’s assistant suddenly ordered them to pack up and leave, because the Minister wanted a private meeting. One or two journalists tried to resist, to no avail. But one radio station “inadvertently” left a tape recorder running, recorded all the Minister’s comments and replayed sections of it later that evening. Oops.

The “nauseating” media: On the tape, the Minister referred to the media’s coverage of the Goat Islands issue as “nauseating.” He does tend to mumble at the best of times, but he did not sound in a very good mood at all, making some comments about his colleague ministers that he subsequently sought to retract/explain in a follow-up press conference.

And why was he late? At the “make-up” press conference, Minister Hylton confessed, in an attempt at being disarming, that he was late for the JEA meeting because Usain Bolt was running in an athletics competition and he wanted to watch the race. ” I apologised [to the JEA], we had a laugh about it and I proceeded,” said Hylton. I, for one, am not/not amused. Nor should the good people of the JEA be – they are after all businesspeople, and time is money.

My main problem is: I don’t understand what the logistics hub is, where it is going to be (more than one place?) and how much space it is going to take up. Most of us actually do not know how far the Protected Area itself extends and just talk about Goat Islands. I do know that there are possible alternatives to Portland Bight; and that Minister Hylton (who is in fact responsible for the logistics hub) has already mentioned the Caymanas Enterprise Zone and other places. It’s worth reading today’s Gleaner editorial, too.

I feel we do not have enough information. In fact, more transparency in general is needed. The government has been astonishingly quiet recently on matters of critical importance.

And talking of ignorance… Opposition Member of Parliament for South West St. Catherine Everald Warmington dismissed the Portland Bight as a bit of wasteland of no consequence. We already had former Finance Minister Omar Davies‘ declaration on the primary cause of environmental destruction. Why don’t these people do their homework (or don’t they care about displaying their ignorance?) To quote a Jamaican on Twitter, It is laughable to suggest that poverty is a greater threat to the environment than a bulldozer about to flatten a delicate ecosystem.” And where is our Environment Minister in all this – the one who first mentioned the Goat Islands as a possible site for the development, while in China? Silent.

Why didn’t Minister Hylton go to China? Do we know what actually happened during the five-day visit to China – apart from signing agreements and contracts we don’t know any details of? Why wasn’t there a press briefing by those Ministers who did go there, on their return (including the Prime Minister? But I might as well give up asking these questions.

The Interview: Please see the link below to a rare one-on-one interview (in fact, possibly the only one since taking office) given by our Prime Minister to the China Daily. It is quite clear that she has had no practice. She appears hesitant, almost lost for words at times – seemingly “winging it.” Am I being unkind? Watch and tell me what you think. At least, as Simon Crosskill commented after airing it on his program this week, one thing we do know after watching this: Jamaica has a relationship with China!

Not pressing charges: I do not know any details of the whys and wherefores, but the University of Technology student who was beaten up by security guards on campus last November has decided not to continue with the case. The guards were identified on video tape (widely shared on YouTube) as they vigorously assaulted the young men, who had run to the security post to escape an angry mob accusing him of homosexual activity in a bathroom. The episode was shocking and painful; but UTech has been taking steps since then to reach out and sensitize the student community on such issues, encouraging a more tolerant and inclusive community on campus and in society. I applaud their efforts.

Big ups are due to:

Kate Chappell: One of Jamaica’s intrepid CUSO volunteers, a writer and reporter, with a new online television project - 18 Degrees North. You can view their three-part report on “The New Face of the Jamaican Lottery Scam” at now. Her program on children in adult lock-ups will air on Monday, September 9 at 9:30 p.m. on Television Jamaica and you will also be able to view it online afterwards. You can follow Kate’s progress and her thoughtful commentary at her blog:

Food for the Poor (again): I’m not sure what the government would do without them. I am getting the impression FFP is stepping into the breach more and more often. It has provided J$149 million worth of furniture and equipment to roughly twenty schools, whose infrastructure has deteriorated considerably in the past year – including the well-known Kingston College. Not to mention J$5 million worth of grants to 200 needy students. Once again, I am so impressed by FFP’s ability to come to the rescue.

The Sunday Observer: For today’s excellent coverage and commentary on the “Goat Islands issue.” I particularly enjoyed the Lord Bishop of Jamaica’s column. I love the way the head of the Anglican Church in Jamaica speaks out calmly, eloquently but emphatically on important issues of public life – including corruption and other touchy subjects that most churchmen and women would prefer to avoid. I also loved Michael Gordon’s lovely pictorial; the reporters actually took the time to go out there. Good going, Karyl.

Our young netball team: The photo below says it all! The Under-21 team beat England to win bronze in the World Youth Netball Championship in Scotland. Well done, girls!

A guest columnist in today’s Sunday Gleaner prefaced his excellent piece with these words: Any man’s death diminishes me because I am involved in mankind. - (Devotions on emergent occasions No.17 – John Donne, 1624) It’s my quote for the day. These are the deaths that have diminished me over the past four days:

“Geico,” Sirgamy Beach, East Kingston

Howard Reddy, 27, Spanish Town, St. Catherine

Troy Thompson, 42, Caymanas Gardens, St. Catherine

Unidentified man, Caymanas Gardens, St. Catherine

Elaine Simpson, 52, Ocho Rios, St. Ann

Jonathan Lawrence, 24, Rosemount Gardens, St. James

Clayton Burey, Feldman Corner, St. James

Glenroy Flemming, 32, Grange Hill, Westmoreland

Killed by police:

Ronald Gayle, 22, Gordon Pen, St. Catherine

Dane Ramsay, 28, Green Pond, St. James

2 men, 1 woman, Windsor Heights, St. Catherine – can anyone confirm (I only saw one media report)? No decision on Goat Island: Industry Minister: RJR News UWI academics urge government to find another location for logistics hub: RJR The sacredness of our birthright: Howard Gregory/Lord Bishop of Jamaica column: Jamaica Observer Curry goat or won tons: The right approach to the logistics hub on the Goat Island: On the Ground News Report–Both-sides-need-to-talk_14970536 Goat Islands issue: Both sides need to talk: Jamaica Observer editorial A pictorial journey to the Goat Islands: Sunday Observer The logistics hub: A course in how not to do it: Barry Wade blog Show us the money, Mr. Hylton: Sunday Gleaner editorial Wrong approach to hub concept: Mike Henry op-ed/Jamaica Observer Hylton: Bolt race made me late: Jamaica Observer–I-ll-rebuild-JLP–if-elected-leader_14985662 Shaw: I’ll rebuild JLP, if elected leader: Sunday Observer–Has-the-Gov-t-gone-dumb_14979625 Silence of the lambs: Has the government gone dumb? Letter to the Jamaica Observer Interview with the Jamaican Prime Minister: china Hoteliers skeptical of China outreach without airlift: Gleaner Jamaica treading through its difficulties: Phillips says economic sacrifices starting to pay off: Jamaica Observer Big MoBay raid: Jamaica Observer Telecoms firms lose millions to battery theft at cell sites: Gleaner Eat your own dog food: JHTA president welcomes Hyatt: Jamaica Observer Give ganja green light: Gleaner–St-Hug-s-fuss-over-girl-s-dress_14978219 Muslim family, St. Hugh’s fuss over girl’s dress: Jamaica Observer Close to one in five births in Jamaica are to adolescents: Jamaica Journal Rate of adolescent pregnancy still too high – Health Minister: RJR News Food For the Poor to the rescue: Jamaica Observer When media cease to “nauseate”: The Crooks of the Matter International press body saddened by Samuda’s censorship of tapes: Gleaner

Right, we'll just bulldoze this... A concrete pier here, perhaps... A beach on Goat Island. (Photo: Michael Gordon/Jamaica Observer)

Right, we’ll just bulldoze this… A concrete pier here, perhaps… A beach on Goat Island. (Photo: Michael Gordon/Jamaica Observer)

Starfish, Goat Island. (Photo: Michael Gordon/Jamaica Observer)

Starfish, Goat Island. (Photo: Michael Gordon/Jamaica Observer)

Furniture supplied to St. Jago High School by Food for the Poor. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

Furniture supplied to St. Jago High School by Food for the Poor. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

The Lord Bishop of Jamaica Howard Gregory. (Photo: Gleaner)

The Lord Bishop of Jamaica Howard Gregory. (Photo: Gleaner)

The joyful "Young Sunshine Girls" celebrate.

The joyful “Young Sunshine Girls” celebrate.

Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce Anthony Hylton, M.P.

Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce Anthony Hylton, M.P. (Photo: Gleaner)

MP Everald Warmington, one of our new environmental experts.

MP Everald Warmington, one of our new environmental experts.

Tired Sunday: August 18, 2013


Just like the rain which comes and goes, I feel I have been missing something these past few days. Because the local media has been obsessed with races at the World Championships, other important news items seem to have been sidelined. We are still in holiday mood. And I just feel tired.

How many flew off to China? Meanwhile, our low-key Prime Minister is now “off the island” as we say. We are told she left on Saturday (17th). She is traveling to China for a five-day visit, along with two Ministers, a Permanent Secretary and an unknown number of “support and communications personnel.” Prior to leaving she had a “touch of the flu” according to one of her ministers, so missed a couple of public appearances. I do have some questions though: If she left on August 17, why is she not returning to the island until August 27? That is not five days, that’s ten. And how many people are included in the “personnel”? Did they all fly first class, as the PM always does? What is the cost? Explanations, please – the reports are confusing.

Questions on the economy: I wish someone would tell me why the Net International Reserves are dipping again (according to the excellent and informative diGJamaica)? I thought the numbers had been improving. Is the Bank of Jamaica propping up the Jamaican Dollar again? I am hoping one of my economist friends can enlighten me. Meanwhile, news on the bauxite sector seems more positive, and I am glad that the sale of Clarendon Alumina Partners has finally gone ahead.

STILL upset about chicken back? The criticism of his “chicken back” comments still seems to be bothering our Agriculture Minister. Mr. Clarke brought the topic up again, commenting in a speech aired on CVM News (and another speech reported today) that Jamaicans should “stop buy chicken back for di dog.” This is a new twist, I think. Minister Clarke already explained to us that the Americans are all now barbecuing chicken back. But who is buying chicken back for their dogs? Certainly not those who complained about a shortage. I think we are missing the point again, Minister Clarke. Perhaps we should just drop the subject now. Just let us know when it is available again, and let’s leave it at that.

And perhaps Minister Clarke should be more concerned about the situation at the Chinese-owned sugar factories. His colleagues at the Ministry of Labor and Social Security seem to have failed miserably in bringing the matter of the firing of 100 security guards by the Chinese firm Complant to some kind of resolution. I thought some agreement should have been reached by today, but have not seen an update yet. Maybe I’ve missed it.

Let’s not take our eyes off an investigation regarding the multiple rape case in Irwin, St. James last year. Two men were acquitted of the rape of five women last month, and are demanding an apology. But the concerns are regarding the police handling of the matter. The Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) is to make a statement by tomorrow.

Sports is a lovely distraction: For a while, Jamaicans have been jumping up and down patriotically, praising Javon Francis (who ran a blistering anchor leg to win silver in the 4 x 400 meters relay); the simply wondrous Usain Bolt; and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, who came up trumps again with a gold (the first Jamaican woman to win two gold medals in the athletics World Championships, I understand). We will soon be back down to earth, I guess, sadly; but the unemployed ones were happily partying in Kingston’s Half Way Tree, where a big screen is erected for such events. Meanwhile, with the English Premier League season starting this weekend, this die-hard Arsenal fan is in for the long haul. Week after week, it’s a bit of a contrast to the intense few seconds/minutes of excitement that sprinting brings. It’s an extremely long marathon – which started very, very badly for Arsenal yesterday! (I will say no more).

But Jamaican sports fans’ cup overflowed when the Jamaica Tallawahs won their T20 cricket match at Kingston’s Sabina Park this beautiful afternoon, in a nail-biting finish. I am only faintly interested in the game of cricket, but this certainly rounded off the weekend nicely. As someone commented on Twitter, however, how is Jamaica going to “capitalize” on its sporting prowess? I won’t hold my breath on that one.

Speaking skills needed: Meanwhile, the overjoyed athlete Javon Francis, who ran his heart out, could only say “Mi ‘appy, ‘appy… Big up mi fans.” This is the product of a “prominent” Kingston high school. Some coaching in interview skills is needed (yes, I know he is young, and was excited…)

Apropos of nothing: May I suggest that the Gleaner’s Sunday magazine, Outlook, needs a complete makeover? Only the Profile section, about a young IT entrepreneur, is worth reading. Can we do something radical with it, please?

Again, too late…But I love you, Delroy: Once again, a wonderful contributor to Jamaica’s culture has received a national honor – this time, eighteen years after his death! Sunday Gleaner columnist Ian Boyne is clearly a major fan of singer Delroy Wilson (as I am) and writes a fitting tribute today. His wistful, yearning songs and his silky smooth voice are sheer delight. “I’m in a Dancing Mood” is surely in my Top Ten. If you are too young to know Mr. Wilson, look him up on YouTube!

Yesterday was Marcus Garvey’s birthday: So I think my quote for today must be: “If you haven’t confidence in self, you are twice defeated in the race of life. With confidence, you have won even before you have started.” I am sure that must be our medal-winning athletes’ motto – they have certainly learnt this lesson.

Major bouquets to be handed out to:

  • ALL the Jamaican athletes who worked hard in the World Championships in Moscow. Some were expected to do well, others surprised us; they all did their best. I must say I could do without some of the spiteful Twitter comments about athletes from other countries who did not do so well in races where Jamaicans excelled; but that is what extreme patriotism (call it jingoism) produces, I’m afraid. I particularly liked what Ms. Fraser-Pryce said, “I don’t believe in luck, I believe in hard work.” Well said young lady!
  • Wayne Marshall and Tami Chynn, two young representatives of Jamaica’s entertainment fraternity. They welcomed a baby boy, Jackson, on July 26th. They may not be controversial, flamboyant or anything (and I don’t know much about their music) but I think they are such a sweet (married) couple. Setting a good example for the youth. Congrats!
  • The Beecher Town Give Back Association. These organizations, made up of Jamaicans living abroad who came from humble beginnings, make a difference to the communities they left probably decades ago. Their support and sheer kindness is heart-warming. See the link below for a story about the BTGBA’s philanthropy this year.
  • diGJamaica - as always, for their useful and informative posts. I find the economic information especially enlightening. diGJamaica has launched an essay competition for high school students only on an interesting topic – see link below. Deadline is August 30. Keep digging!
  • Scheed Cole, a young and highly creative entrepreneur (his business is called Props and More) whose life-size camel has been enjoyed by many in the grounds of Devon House (a very popular relaxation spot in Kingston – we have very few of these unfortunately). Camel is made entirely of recycled materials. Sadly, he has been vandalized on several occasions, and so I think his days are numbered.
  • Local children’s book writer Helen Williams, who has written a free e-story for 8 – 12 year-olds. It’s about an inner-city boy who is inspired  by Usain Bolt. You can find it here:
  • And talking of books, great idea of the Jamaica Information Service to launch a book exchange program. Books are really expensive for parents on a tight budget. See details below…

There is so much sadness. The Observer newspaper is particularly good at chronicling the pain of those left behind by the continuous stream of violent crime in this country. The story of Jessica King, a young girl killed in such a picturesque spot in Port Antonio, Portland by her jealous partner who also attempted suicide, is especially poignant. So too, is the continued suffering of the mother of a young child shot dead in Allman Town, Kingston, in January. We all move on to the next news item, but let’s remember that each of these deaths leaves behind lingering sadness and pain.  My condolences to all grieving families and friends. 

Christopher Barrett, Hannah Town, Kingston

Patrick Shaw, Jones Town, Kingston

Mera Medley, Barry Street, Kingston

Doveena Haase, Mavis Bank, St. Andrew

Chadwick Greene, teenager, Mt. Salem, St. James

Omar Watson, 29, Aboukir District, St. Ann

Fabian Murray, 24, Lucea, Hanover

Killed by police:

Alvin Stern, 30, Denham Town, Kingston

Steve Allen, 17, Denham Town, Kingston

Related articles and links: Sugar crop in danger as worker tension grows: Jamaica Observer Need for greater investment promotion: Jamaica Observer editorial Chart of the Week: Alumina vs crude bauxite production 2013, plus industry news: diGJamaica Independence/Back-to-School Essay Competition: “Jamaica at 51: A True Democracy?” Economy update: July 2013 Net International Reserves: Port skills exodus – industries buckle as technicians, truckers flee to Canada: Gleaner Can a job czar do it? Worrying unemployment rate sparks talk on need for a minister to drive growth: Sunday Gleaner Social partnership more heat than light: Robert Wynter column/Sunday Gleaner Citrus farmers switching to sugar cane: Gleaner Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller to visit the People’s Republic of China: Jamaica Information Service UWI begins research on Pedro Cays: Gleaner Holness goes on attack: Asks Jamaica to reject attempts at creating disunity in JLP: Jamaica Observer Leadership contest would be good for the JLP: Sunday Observer editorial Reinvent yourselves, Thwaites tells unemployed teachers: Jamaica Observer The Challenged Chronicles – Five: Letter of the Day: Divine help a sideshow: Gleaner Who is to blame for shaming Jamaica? Gordon Robinson column/Sunday Gleaner Delroy Wilson finally gets “respect”: Ian Boyne column/Sunday Gleaner JIS launches book exchange program: Sunday Observer Sick secularism: Letter to the Gleaner Balancing cross-dressing: Peter Espeut column/Gleaner We won’t ask, no need to tell – Neita-Headley: Gleaner Making a city good for tourists: Grateful mom donates items to Spanish Town Hospital: Gleaner Good times in Beecher Town: overseas residents treat community: Gleaner Happy Earthstrong, Marcus Garvey: Lowrie-Chin Post More bloodshed in West Kingston: Jamaica Observer Jessica King’s final moments: Sunday Observer Rushawn Burford’s mom suffers sleepless nights: Sunday Observer Cops in Shrewsbury triple killing offered bail – relatives of dead men upset by court proceedings: Gleaner INDECOM to probe cops’ conduct in Irwin rape case: RJR News

The incomparable Delroy Wilson.

The incomparable Delroy Wilson.

Eighteen-year-old Javon Francis, who single-handedly brought home a stunning silver in the Moscow World Championships, is from Nine Miles, Bull Bay. (This photo is not from Moscow but an earlier competition).

Eighteen-year-old Javon Francis, who single-handedly brought home a stunning silver in the Moscow World Championships, is from Nine Miles, Bull Bay. (This photo is not from Moscow but an earlier competition).

Children's writer Helen Williams. (Photo from her Facebook page)

Children’s writer Helen Williams. (Photo from her Facebook page)

Lovely couple: Singers Wayne Marshall and Tami Chynn now have a baby son.

Lovely couple: Singers Wayne Marshall and Tami Chynn now have a baby son. Congrats to them!

The mother of Rushawn Burford, who was shot dead in a tenement yard in Allman Town, Kingston in January this year. The community is angry that no one has been arrested for the boy's murder. They think this is because Rushawn is "poor people's pickney"... (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

The mother of Rushawn Burford, who was shot dead in a tenement yard in Allman Town, Kingston in January this year. The community is angry that no one has been arrested for the boy’s murder. They think this is because Rushawn is “poor people’s pickney”… “To be poor is really a crime,” said one. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

Jessica King was a graduate of Port Antonio High School. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

Jessica King was a graduate of Port Antonio High School. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

Cricket lovely cricket: Young Kemesha Kelly waves the Jamaica Tallawahs flag at Sabina Park. (her Twitter photo)

Cricket lovely cricket: Young Kemesha Kelly waves the Jamaica Tallawahs flag at Sabina Park. (her Twitter photo)

This life-size camel, created by Scheed Cole, has been enjoyed by many at the Devon House watering hole in Kingston. However, it has suffered from vandalization and will now be removed. Shame!

This life-size camel, created by Scheed Cole, has been enjoyed by many at the Devon House watering hole in Kingston. However, it has suffered from vandalization and will now be removed. Shame!

The much-discussed, humble chicken back (this at least has some meat on it) - an important source of cheap protein for poor Jamaicans.

The much-discussed, humble chicken back (this at least has some meat on it) – an important source of cheap protein for poor Jamaicans.


"Joy" grieves over the death of her son, seventeen-year-old Steve "Frenchie" Allen, who was killed by the police in Denham Town, west Kingston, on August 17, 2013. (Photo: Jermaine Barnaby/Gleaner)

“Joy” grieves over the death of her son, seventeen-year-old Steve “Frenchie” Allen, who was killed by the police in Denham Town, west Kingston, on August 17, 2013. (Photo: Jermaine Barnaby/Gleaner)

Bringing a smile to your face: Usain Bolt and Warren Weir after finishing with gold and silver medals at the men's 200 meters World Championships in Moscow yesterday. (Photo: Gleaner)

Bringing a smile to your face: Usain Bolt and Warren Weir after finishing with gold and silver medals at the men’s 200 meters World Championships in Moscow yesterday. (Photo: Gleaner)

Relatives and friends of brothers Andrew and Triston Brydson and their cousin Kingsley Green wear T-shirts and carry placards bearing pictures of the trio while standing outside the Savanna-la-Mar Resident Magistrate's Court in Westmoreland Thursday. - Photo: Christopher Thomas/Gleaner)

Relatives and friends of brothers Andrew and Triston Brydson and their cousin Kingsley Green wear T-shirts and carry placards bearing pictures of the trio while standing outside the Savanna-la-Mar Resident Magistrate’s Court in Westmoreland Thursday.The three were shot dead by the police in March. – Photo: Christopher Thomas/Gleaner)


Winding Down the Summer: August 14, 2013

We had an exhausting bout of endless, heavy rain yesterday, and just steamed gently in the sun today. Not bad for mid-week. With the holidays nearly over, Kingstonians are returning to whatever “normal” passes for these days. School hovers on the near horizon. It’s a weary time of year.

Exam fever: Once a year, the media and Jamaican public get all worked up about examination results, the relative performances of high schools, etc. There is little focus on education for the remainder of the year. Education Minister Ronnie Thwaites seems to have ruffled feathers, though, by suggesting to a very large crowd of unemployed teachers that they should volunteer their services meanwhile, with a view to getting a job. Perhaps it wasn’t the right moment to say this, Minister Thwaites – at a government-run jobs fair. There were a lot of long faces, and a lot of muttering. What to do… I hear the second day of the jobs fair went better. Perhaps it was just the lousy weather yesterday.

Crisis? What crisis? Oh, there IS? Meanwhile, Minister Thwaites wants to “avert a Maths crisis” based on the latest dismal results in that subject area, the Gleaner says. But are we on the brink? No, we are already well into the Maths crisis, and we have been for years. Well, at least the good Minister is using that word. Crisis.

So now it’s the Brazilians: We are to expect another wave of tourists from overseas – this time from Brazil. Jamaica’s Ambassador to Brazil Alison Stone Roofe (such a nice woman) is hopeful. But haven’t we heard this from tourism officials before? At one time we were expecting a flood of Chinese tourists; then Colombians; then Indians. Oh yes, and not long ago it was Russians! (How is that going, I wonder?) Meanwhile, our tourism figures are looking less than rosy. The stats for June 2013 showed gains over June in previous years, but there was a 4% decline overall for 2013 over the numbers for 2012.

BBC World Radio (which is on FM in Jamaica) had a fairly lengthy discussion on the recent mob killing of Dwayne Jones, led by their on-the-spot reporter in Kingston. He was sitting in a café on a very rainy morning. Blogger Annie Paul and a representative of the local LGBT community Jalna Broderick spoke on the phone, along with a church leader from Portmore. The local media as well as churches got some flak from both ladies on the phone for paying scant attention to the incident. But as Nationwide News Network‘s Emily Crooks noted on Twitter, isn’t Dwayne’s horrific murder all part of the general atmosphere of crime and violence pervading the country, which our journalists report on every day? However, Emily, this should not be an excuse for not reporting this incident in more depth – as overseas media houses have done. (An Associated Press report on the incident is, of course, all over the Internet on the websites of most major media houses). You can probably still find the many comments on the BBC’s World Have Your Say Facebook page.

And the always thought-provoking “Live at Seven” followed up on an important discussion with prosecutor Caroline Hay (on the myriad difficulties of building a legal case in Jamaica) with a short piece on Dwayne Jones. CVM Television had interviewed him in another context – that of homelessness – some time ago. Images of Dwayne dancing round the room were poignant.

Police to be charged: The Director of Public Prosecutions has finally got around to ruling that two police constables are to be charged with the shooting deaths of three men in Shrewsbury, Westmoreland in March. This is how police killings go in court; sometimes the charges take much longer. The killing of the men (two of them brothers) caused deep anger and hurt among residents. One was a fireman.

Long hot summer downtown: Despite efforts to revive business in downtown Kingston, all is not really well, is it? We hear reports of rampant theft, regular shootings (and sometimes daylight shootouts with the police) and ongoing gang wars. Is downtown really that safe? What is happening with policing downtown?

What is going on in this country? I sometimes puzzle over strange and disturbing stories. On July 8, two brothers in deep rural St. Thomas were shot dead while working on their isolated farm. Now the Gleaner reports that at a wake for the brothers, Herman and Norman Rowe, a fisherman called Snake Eyes pulled a gun on a female relative of the men (at four in the morning). The woman’s husband, who was a policeman, disarmed and arrested Snake Eyes and also took a fourteen-year-old boy who was with him into custody. Snake Eyes and the boy were both from Bull Bay in St. Andrew – a good distance from quiet little Rolandsfield. What is really happening in Jamaica?

And what’s going on in the JLP? I understand there are rumblings in the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), and possible challenges to Andrew Holness‘ leadership. The local media has seized eagerly on this; political rumors are always to be relished. Now on top of that, JLP Member of Parliament for West Kingston and former Mayor Desmond McKenzie says he has received over thirty death threats in the past week! This seems to be a result of the MP’s comments after the tragic shooting death of eleven-year-old Tassanique James and the injury of two women in his constituency on Emancipation Day – August 1.

A shocking story: Fishermen near the town of Port Antonio complained about receiving electric shocks in the water, and guess what? Investigators found an illegal electricity cable running in the water along the shoreline – serving a nearby squatter community. A woman has been found guilty of stealing electricity. You can’t make this stuff up, can you? But the electricity thieves are apparently trying all kinds of tricks, and it’s not just the poorer communities we’re talking about: uptown, downtown, businesses and homes, they are all at it.

The hair biz: Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce has started a new business, selling swags of hair (real hair) to be attached to your own natural hair in various ways. This explains the shocking pink appendage that she wore for her championship-winning run in Moscow. “We retail different types of hair, namely Indian, Peruvian, Brazilian and Cambodian,” says Shelly-Ann. No offense to the lovely ladies of those countries who sell their hair, but I would feel most uncomfortable wearing an Indian or a Peruvian or a Brazilian or a Cambodian woman’s hair.  To each her own, I suppose. What’s worse is the very poor writing in the Gleaner’s “Outlook” article on Shelly-Ann’s “Chic Hair Ja” - as a fellow-blogger pointed out to me. Just because an article is about some light, fluffy, “women’s” topic doesn’t mean it has to be written in a series of ghastly clichés, mixed metaphors and poor grammar – does it?

NEVERTHELESS…Special big ups to:

  • Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, who reclaimed her World Championship status in Moscow on Monday with a great 100 meters win. Both she and Usain Bolt had lost their titles in 2011, but now both have them back!  Huge congratulations to them both.
  • Gleaner photographer Ricardo Makyn, whose photos from the athletics World Championships in Moscow have been quite wonderful. Somehow he captures the essence and the spirit – not just of sport, but of people. Well done, Ricardo! (You can see a selection of his photos of Shelly-Ann’s win at the link below).
  • And to all the students who were successful in the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE) and Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) examinations (in many cases, against all the odds). May all your dreams come true, boys and girls.
  • My “tweep” Ms. Stacy-Ann Hayles, for the launch on Twitter this evening of her brand new website, Stacy-Ann is aiming to empower small business through social media. Get in touch with her and hire her for all your social media strategy needs, advice and campaign development!
  • Michael Abrahams for his delightful video – an overview of Usain Bolt’s career – painstakingly and cleverly done. Michael has a way with words. Very enjoyable. Link below…
  • Fearless columnist Gordon Robinson, who has a great way of addressing issues of governance. In this week’s column Mr. Robinson writes about the fiasco of the confiscated tapes (an incident that occurred while I was away) and the issue of press freedom in Jamaica. He uses Janis Joplin‘s lyrics, among others, to illustrate his point. Nicely done, and sharply to the point.

It has been depressing returning from two weeks away to this unrelenting bloodshed. The deaths of these Jamaicans (since Sunday evening, just three days) leave grief and heartbreak in their wake. Let us spare a thought for the families, left behind to grieve:

Unidentified man, Orange Street, downtown Kingston

Unidentified man, Glenmore Road/South Camp Road, Kingston

Elaine Steele, 37, St. Thomas

Kishane Haughton, 31, Norwood, St. James

Anthony Spence, Glendevon, St. James

Evan Scott Wilson, St. James

Jessica King, 22, Port Antonio, Portland

Lenville Fleming, Grange Hill, Westmoreland

Killed by police:

Owen Lilly, 23, Gimme-Me-Bit, Clarendon Who’s to blame for Jamaica’s shame? The Terrible Tout New IMF Resident Representative in Jamaica takes up post: Finance Minister meeting with IMF team: RJR News Chart of the week: Overall total tourist arrivals for June 2013: Brazilian benefits: Jamaica ready to boost tourism with links from South American nation: Gleaner Stop wholesale distribution of national honors: Gleaner Here’s the right message, Mr. Pickersgill: Gleaner editorial Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce launches Chic Hair Ja: Sunday Gleaner Usain Bolt by Michael Abrahams: YouTube–job-fair_14856342 2,000-pus for teachers’ job fair: Jamaica Observer Review planned for teacher training to avert Math crisis: Gleaner Education Minister encourages trainee teachers to volunteer in the classroom: Jamaica Information Service Act now – for our children: Jean Lowrie-Chin blog Gov’t takes steps to address child behavior issues: Jamaica Observer Photos: Shelly-Ann’s gold world-leading run: Gleaner – Ricardo Makyn’s great photos A visit to Jamaica is a trip to paradise – just ask the locals: San Jose Mercury Portland woman found guilty of stealing electricity using undersea cables: Jamaica Observer Bird boys swoop down for hunting season: Jamaica Gleaner Will Jamaica come out of the closet? Jamaica Observer My gay family did what my parents didn’t: Letter/Jamaica Observer Parents make kids homeless: Letter/Jamaica Observer The 300 were victorious: IAmQuagmire Nothing left to lose: Gordon Robinson column/Gleaner Cops calm Denham Town: Gleaner–gang-war-rages-in-Kingston “Spoilers” gang war rages in Kingston: Jamaica Observer Marked for death: Police confirm threats sent to McKenzie: Jamaica Observer St. Thomas village still in shock over double murder: Sunday Observer

Trained teachers gather outside the Ministry of Education during a job fair in Kingston yesterday. (Photo: Jermaine Barnaby/Gleaner

Trained teachers gather outside the Ministry of Education during a job fair in Kingston. (Photo: Jermaine Barnaby/Gleaner)

Jamaica’s Ambassador to Brazil, Alison Stone Roofe, calls on Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Senator Arnold J. Nicholson, at his New Kingston offices on January 23, 2013 nine months into her tenure to report activities of the diplomatic mission in Brasilia. (Photo: Contributed/Gleaner)

Jamaica’s Ambassador to Brazil, Alison Stone Roofe, calls on Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Senator Arnold J. Nicholson, at his New Kingston offices on January 23, 2013 nine months into her tenure to report activities of the diplomatic mission in Brasilia. (Photo: Contributed/Gleaner)

Police and residents walk to the isolated farm where brothers Herman and Norman Rowe were murdered. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

Police and residents walk to the isolated farm in St. Thomas, where brothers Herman and Norman Rowe were murdered on July 8. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

The Jamaica Labour Party’s Beverly Prince, who won last Thursday’s by-election in the Cassia Park Division of the Kingston and St Andrew Corporation, takes the oath of office at Tuesday’s monthly meeting of the council at its Church Street chambers in downtown Kingston. There seem to be problems within her party, though. (Photo: JIS)

The Jamaica Labour Party’s Beverly Prince, who won last Thursday’s by-election in the Cassia Park Division of the Kingston and St Andrew Corporation, takes the oath of office at Tuesday’s monthly meeting of the council at its Church Street chambers in downtown Kingston. There seem to be problems within her party, though. (Photo: JIS)


Police patrol West Kingston streets earlier this month. (Photo: Bryan Cummings/Jamaica Observer)

Police patrol West Kingston streets earlier this month. (Photo: Bryan Cummings/Jamaica Observer)

Here is a quote from John Lennon and Yoko Ono. Still so important today of course...

Here is an intervening quote from John Lennon and Yoko Ono. 

The hair. (Photo: Ricardo Makyn/Gleaner)

The hair. (Photo: Ricardo Makyn/Gleaner)

Jamaicans celebrate Shelly-Ann's win in Half Way Tree, Kingston. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

Jamaicans celebrate Shelly-Ann’s win in Half Way Tree, Kingston. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce celebrates with her fans in Moscow after her 100 meter World Championship win. (Photo: Ricardo Makyn/Gleaner)

Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce celebrates with her fans in Moscow after her 100 meter World Championship win. (Photo: Ricardo Makyn/Gleaner)

We are Bleeding, and it’s June 9, 2013

Jamaica is bleeding. I feel it is not only the blood seeping from the veins of those who have been murdered by their fellow citizens – including the police. It is the slow and exhausting drip, drip, drip of life-giving energy from the country. Since I wrote my mid-week update on June 5, I have had a growing sense of this. Maybe it’s the increasing heat of early summer that’s getting to me.

Dead children: The Director of UNICEF in Jamaica, Robert Fuderich, is a forthright man – which I love. He gave a speech this week, expressing distress at the murder and abuse of Jamaican children. So, the head of UNICEF is upset. So are many Jamaicans, by the way. Is the Prime Minister upset, one wonders? She is a woman who, as I have said before, has often expressed her love of children in speeches. Could she have made a statement about the recent shocking murders? Even that? Better still, could she have visited the families and the communities affected, to grieve with them and to express her condolences? I am not demanding that Portia Simpson Miller responds in every case, but a nice appropriate public gesture would have been good. Too late now, by the way.

…and neglected: The National Road Safety Council is expressing deep concern at a huge (400%) increase in child pedestrian fatalities on the road this year. But this does not surprise me. Yesterday, the Gleaner’s front page story reported that children are being dumped on other people to look after, etc. As if this is news? Why don’t we realize that children aren’t adults. They are vulnerable.

Where is the Prime Minister? Have we seen or heard from her since her return from Africa? I have scoured the Jamaica Information Service pages, looked under the Office of the Prime Minister – and find nothing at all that relates to her. Has she made any speeches? Maybe I missed something. No ribbon-cuttings or ground-breakings? Is she sick? Is she on vacation? (I am not trying to start rumors – just trying to explore possible explanations).

Women suffering too: You may have noticed that women are murdered every week. Whatever the motivation – sometimes a jealous lover, other times gang violence – it is becoming increasingly common. I remember when the murder of a woman was a shocking and unusual occurrence – now it’s commonplace. The Jamaica Observer’s Karyl Walker (whom I have criticized recently) wrote a very painful report in today’s newspaper about a young woman who has ended up on the street, abused and unwanted. Can someone please help?

And talking of trips: I know, I am obsessed. As I asked in my last bulletin, what actually took place in Africa? What did the Prime Minister and her large delegation achieve? Since we paid J$8.6 million for the trip, I am still hoping for a report card. But it’s been two weeks or so since they all came home, laden with souvenirs no doubt. So, I don’t hold out much hope. Now, we understand that our amiable Agriculture Minister Roger Clarke will soon be off to China, with a small delegation, at the invitation of the Chinese Government (hopefully the Chinese are paying, so taxpayers don’t need to dig into their pockets again for this one).

Dusting off the begging bowl: Meanwhile, the Finance Minister has just returned from a trip round Europe - he might have to wait for the flood waters to subside, though.  I am afraid he may end up getting us into deeper debt (although Europe is not exactly flush with funds at the moment). It’s just a thought, but if we are going for growth rather than plunging ourselves into deeper debt, perhaps a trade and investment team, with a few private sector representatives, would have been be smarter? He has at least commented on the trip, though. See below.

Psychological barrier: On Friday morning word went out that the J$ had reached 100/US$1. It closed slightly above. A collective shudder went through the Twittersphere and radio talk shows. This is the end, we all declared – or the beginning of the end. In theory, of course, the devaluation might benefit us by making exports cheaper. Oh, but…We’re not exporting anything are we? Where is the Jamaica Exporters’ Association? Long time, no hear.

Elusive growth: As Dr. Damien King, economics prof and head of our local think tank CaPRI tweeted a few days ago, The average growth rate of the world’s poor countries over the last decade was 6%, cutting worldwide poverty by half during that time.” But again – that doesn’t apply to Jamaica, does it? We can’t manage any growth at all, at the moment. None in sight; and more worryingly, no clear strategy for growth.

“We don’t want INDECOM, we want outcome!” The police killed five people, since I last wrote, and in the space of a little over 24 hours. This was the cry of one resident – which made me laugh a little, as Jamaicans have such a way with words. But very serious too. I know that the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) is working as hard as it can but is hampered (by very late police reports, for example) – but can’t blame people for getting impatient.

Another twist: You may be tired of hearing about this saga by now, but just to let you know that Doran “mongrel dog” Dixon is back in the race for the presidency of the Jamaica Teachers’ Association, who have changed their mind and allowed him to run, after all. Meanwhile Mr. Paul “cocaine injection” Adams is not suffering any ill effects (he’s not running, anyway). I only hope that a sensible woman is elected to the presidency. I am tired of the male egos…

Earth matters: You know I am a big fan of CVM Television’s “Live at Seven.” I am glad that the program turned its attention to a whole bunch of niggling environmental issues that are not going to go away – the beach at Negril, for example.

Untouchable Usain: Some of my tweeps have been following the French Open tennis tournament, and were thrilled to see our very own Usain Bolt presenting the trophy to Rafal Nadal. I was a bit surprised. I thought it was usually rather dull officials (or royalty in the case of Wimbledon) who did this. The spotlight is supposed to be on the winner of the trophy – not on the presenter. I am told that Bolt is a “celebrity” so it is acceptable, and we are all proud of his achievements. But celebrities have a habit of popping up all over the place, like Kim Kardashian. I just thought it inappropriate, and upset several people on my Twitter timeline by suggesting that it was. Don’t get me wrong – I love Usain as much as anyone and have often praised him in my blog, but I don’t want it to get to the point where people say, “Oh no – not him again!” whenever he makes an appearance. He is worth more than that.

Still so much good things to say about…

  • Dr Jean Beaumont, who has been doing great work as head of the USAID/Jamaica Basic Education Project. What could be more important than reading?
  • Health writer Eulalee Thompson, who has a new blog and a new consulting practice. Find her at
  • Ambassador Pamela Bridgewater, who delivered a terrific speech on women’s leadership at the University of the West Indies‘ Faculty of Law on Thursday evening. I couldn’t make it, but hear the place was packed. I do have a copy of the speech, which I intend to post on this blog shortly.
  • Dr. Rosalea Hamilton for her piece on nine-day wonders – with specific reference to the Richard Azan/Spaldings shops issue. Dr. Hamilton concludes, It is time we move beyond complaining about our situation and seriously press for governance that is accountable to the people of this country.” Make your voice heard and put some pressure on.
  • The Jamaica Medical Mission. We do tend to take this almost continuous stream of visiting medical teams, mostly from the United States, for granted. They often pay their way and sacrifice their vacations etc. to come over here and help Jamaicans who simply cannot afford to access our public health system. They are absolutely marvelous. I know the Jamaicans whom they treat appreciate their work; I hope the rest of us do, too. (This group of 157 doctors, nurses etc comes over every year and will treat at least 3,000 indigent Jamaicans).
  • Nice to see an interesting report by environmental reporter Petre Williams-Raynor, now with the Gleaner. Check out her attractive blog, too. By the way, public consultations on the boundaries of our precious Cockpit Country are still ongoing. There is one in Kingston this week – I must check details.
  • The Gleaner for two things: Firstly, its editorials have really hit the nail on the head in the past week. It’s worth reading them all. Secondly, on Friday evening its continuous, accurate tweeting of the World Cup qualifying match between Jamaica and the United States was streets ahead of the competition. Sprinkled, too, with marvelous photos from one of my favorite photogs, Mr. Ricardo Makyn. See a couple of the photos below…Hats off!

Petchary’s Pet Hate of the Week: Mosquitoes are plaguing us. Thank God for the electrifying plastic tennis racket – or the zapper, as it’s called in our house.

Petchary’s Quote of the Week: “Children are not just the future, they are the present” – Robert Fuderich, Director, UNICEF Jamaica.

The tragedies continue. Each Jamaican’s death is a tragedy for the families, friends. The following Jamaicans have died violently just in the past FOUR days:

Sophia Smith, 47, Mandeville, Manchester

Dwight Robinson, 28, Seaview Gardens, Kingston

Jerome Anthony Gooden, 33, Seaview Gardens, Kingston

Ricardo Lawes, 28, Seaview Gardens, Kingston

Omar Smith, 32, Seaview Gardens, Kingston

Killed by police:

Unidentified man, Kitson Town, St. Catherine

Junior Guy, Waterloo Villas/Tredegar Park, St. Catherine

André Ledgister, Waterloo Villas/Tredegar Park, St. Catherine

Kemar Thompson, Waterloo Villas/Tredegar Park, St. Catherine

Jevon Reid, 21, Granville, Trelawny

Related links and articles:

World Environment Day: June 5, 2013 ( Jamaica narrows trade deficit: Gleaner Thanksgiving service for the Jamaican Dollar will be held at… “Jamaica debt burden a threat to human development” – UNDP: Gleaner “Don’t panic over sliding dollar”: Gleaner

Final chance for Jamaica, says Financial Times ( Minister Paulwell urges Jamaicans to access energy fund: Jamaica Information Service Port divestment proceeds to dredge Kingston Harbour: Gleaner Minister Hylton sets record straight on logistics hub: Jamaica Information Service Anti-gay Christian groups undermine democracy: Gay rights activist seeks to challenge Belize and TT laws: Jamaica Observer accused of staging story involving gays: Perceptual Post Discusion on homosexuality/All Angles/Television Jamaica, June 5, 2013 Homosexuality: Choice or innate: Dr. Tammy Haynes blog “We have the numbers”: Church leaders confident enough religious Jamaicans in island to prevent change to buggery law: Gleaner–robbed–raped-in-Kingston_14442076 Woman beaten, robbed, raped in Kingston: Sunday Observer Handling of rape cases irks Montague: Sunday Observer Allman Town wants closure to boy’s murder: Sunday Observer G2K writes to OCG regarding dead silent Richard Azan probe: Another nine-day wonder? Rosalea Hamilton op-ed/Gleaner More work needed on Spaldings market probe – Arscott: RJR News More road blocks in Claremont as residents continue protest: RJR News Jamaica leading project to address underachievement in boys: Jamaica Observer Montaque questions Nicholson on status of reported rape cases: RJR News Condoms aren’t aphrodisiacs: Jaevion Nelson column/Gleaner The crime of “uncontrollable”: Patrick Lalor op-ed/Gleaner Cabinet approves new policy for pregnant schoolgirls: Jamaica Observer UNICEF concerned about child killings: Jamaica Observer Disabled, elderly should get free health care – CaPRI study: Gleaner Reading coaches initiative making a positive difference: Gleaner Dixon back in the race: Gleaner Animation could mean jobs and serious business for Jamaican youths: World Bank Trench Town Ceramics and Art Centre – Using art to save the youth: Gleaner Downtown Kingston vendors protest: Jamaica Observer 3,000 indigents to benefit from medical mission: Gleaner Petre Williams-Raynor environmental blog Inside Cockpit Country: Project eyes conservation of key biodiversity areas: Gleaner

Dr. Jean Beaumont, the very able and dedicated director of the USAID/Jamaica Basic Education Project. (Photo: Gleaner)

Dr. Jean Beaumont, the very able and dedicated director of the USAID/Jamaica Basic Education Project. (Photo: Gleaner)

Usain Bolt presents the trophy to Rafael Nadal at the French Open today. (Photo: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

Usain Bolt presents the trophy to Rafael Nadal at the French Open today. (Photo: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

Woman in danger: 28-year-old Simone Edwards says she has been robbed, raped and abused on the streets of Kingston. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

Woman in danger: 28-year-old Simone Edwards says she has been robbed, raped and abused on the streets of Kingston. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

UNICEF representative in Jamaica Robert Fuderich. (Photo: Gleaner)

UNICEF representative in Jamaica Robert Fuderich. (Photo: Gleaner)

It was standing room only at U.S. Ambassador Pamela Bridgewater's lecture on women's leadership on Thursday night. (Photo: Marcia Forbes)

It was standing room only at U.S. Ambassador Pamela Bridgewater’s lecture on women’s leadership on Thursday night. (Photo: Marcia Forbes)

Let the game begin! Another great photo of the Jamaica vs. U.S. game, which was quite gripping in its final stages. Final score: U.S. 2 - Jamaica 1.

Let the game begin! Another great photo of the Jamaica vs. U.S. game, which was quite gripping in its final stages. Final score: U.S. 2 – Jamaica 1.

One of the great photos by Ricardo Makyn tweeted by the Gleaner on Friday evening at the Jamaica vs U.S. football game.

One of the great photos by Ricardo Makyn tweeted by the Gleaner on Friday evening at the Jamaica vs U.S. football game.

Junior Minister Richard Azan looks happy! No pressure... (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

Junior Minister Richard Azan looks happy! No pressure… (Photo: Jamaica Observer)


Jamaican Inspiration

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!

Lloyd Carney

Lloyd Carney (Carney Global Ventures website) (Vaz Preparatory School) (Wolmer’s Schools website) (Boys and Girls Clubs of the Peninsula)  ( Lloyd Carney’s profitable journey from Jamaica to Palo Alto) ( Xsigo aims a dagger at Cisco’s heart) (Xsigo Systems website) (Xsigo CEO Lloyd Carney explains Data Center Fabric – video) ( – Jamaican blog) (Jamaican venture capitalist offers business tips on China – Jamaica Gleaner)

Oracle to acquire network virtualisation technology provider Xsigo Systems (

Oracle Acquires Virtual Networking Concern Xsigo Systems (

Oracle’s sixth acquisition this year is virtualization startup Xsigo Systems (

Youth Using Technology to Combat Child Abuse (

The London Games: Caribbean

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:

Caribbean Olympics Medal Table

Caribbean Olympics Medal Table

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.

Kirani James

Kirani James after winning the gold medal in the men’s 400 meters. Isn’t the Grenadian flag beautiful?

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

Felix Sanchez of the Dominican Republic celebrates his win. What passion.

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.

Felix Sanchez on the podium

Felix Sanchez on the podium. A man who is not afraid to cry.

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!

Yanet Bermoy Acost fights with Belgium's Ilse Heylen

Yanet Bermoy Acosta fights with Belgium’s Ilse Heylen, who is on the left with her legs in the air. (Photo: Reuters/Toru Hanai)

Leonel Suarez

Sweet smile from the man from Santiago de Cuba.

Trey Hardee, Ashton Eaton and Leonel Suarez

Trey Hardee, Ashton Eaton and Leonel Suarez: Respect for each other as amazing all-round athletes. The U.S. and Cuba – no politics here!

Oleksandr Pyantnytsya, Keshorn Walcott, Antti Ruuskanen

Keshorn and the Europeans. Weren’t the little bouquets cute?

Keshorn Walcott

Keshorn Walcott: There is both grace and power combined in the javelin throw.

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.

Luguelin Santos, Kirani James and Lalonde Gordon

Luguelin Santos, Kirani James and Lalonde Gordon: a dazzling Caribbean trio of medals. (Overview of the Caribbean’s medal performances in London) minister-congratulates-jamaica (Grenada prime minister congratulates Jamaica)  (The top Olympic winner? We vote for Grenada – Miami Herald)  (Caribbean players doing great in the Olympics – Repeating Islands) (Dominican Republic’s Feliz Sanchez wins gold, Puerto Rico’s Javier Culson bronze) (Stunning athletics photos by Tim Clayton including many of Kirani James – copyright)  (Lighthouse named after champion Keshorn Walcott – BBC Sport) (Sanchez wins second Olympic 400 meter gold – Fox Latino Sports) (And the gold medal for sobbing on the podium goes to…)

Former medalists see great future for Caribbean Olympic athletes (

A Single Caribbean Sports Academy to ensure future World Champions (

Caribbean has one of its best Olympic showings (

Big results from Caribbean athletes in track and field at London Olympics ( (Gold, Silver and Bronze – (The Gods Are Smiling –

The London Games: Jamaica (

Book Review: Black Meteors – the Caribbean in International Track and Field (

Felix Sanchez

Felix Sanchez gently removes the photo of his “abuela” from his bib, after his win.

The London Games: Jamaica

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.

Yohan Blake

Yohan Blake takes a pause during training for the Olympics.

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,
  • 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.

Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce

Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce – I love this photo. She put on her best makeup for the awards ceremony, and her smile was fresh and infectious. No tears, here, not for one moment. Just non-stop smiling.

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.

Parchment family and friends celebrate

The Parchment family, including Hansle’s father (center, in orange) celebrates with friends and neighbors in Cashew Bush – what a lovely name…

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.
Women's 100 meters start in London

Amazing women: The start of the Women’s 100 meters finals in London, including Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Veronica Campbell-Brown (Photo: Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Veronica Campbell and Yohan Blake

Veronica Campbell and Yohan Blake doing a bit of promotional stuff in London. (Photo: Alex Grimm/Getty Images Europe)

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.
Jason Morgan

Jason Morgan, a man of extraordinary determination.

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!
Kenneth Edwards

Thwack! Kenneth Edwards lands a blow on his opponent at the London Olympics.

Kenneth Edwards at London Olympics

Kenneth Edwards goes into battle at the London Olympics.

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.

Alia Atkinson congratulated

An Olympic official congratulates Alia Atkinson after her fourth place finish. (Photo: Ricardo Makyn, Jamaica Gleaner)
Alia Atkinson

Alia in action at the London Olympics.

110 meters hurdles winners

Hansle Parchment (right) with fellow medal winners Jason Richardson (left) and Aries Merritt (center)

Yohan Blake and Usain Bolt

The young one and his “big brother” (in the nicest sense): Yohan Blake and Usain Bolt celebrate in London

Yohan Blake

The “beastly” Blake. Now when you get home, Yohan, go to the manicurist and get those fingernails cut!

London Olympics Closing Ceremony

Unlike some of my fellow tweeters, who yawned their way through it, I enjoyed the Closing Ceremony – or at least fifty per cent of it. But note to organizers: showing billboards and playing two-minute snatches of David Bowie songs is NO substitute for the man himself appearing!

Running late!

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.

Soon come!

Usain Bolt

The marvelous Mr. Bolt immediately after winning the 100 meters gold in London. (Photo: Ricardo Makyn, Jamaica Gleaner)

Yohan Blake and Usain Bolt

Yohan Blake and Usain Bolt celebrate with a bunch of crazy fans! (Photo: Kai Pfaffenbach, Reuters)

Sunday Slide: July 29, 2012

My dear and faithful readers: Why slide? Because everything in Jamaica truly is tilting into a pre-Jamaica 50, Olympic Games torpor. Scarcely anything moved on our street today except the gardener. Even he paused in his work occasionally to gaze dreamily up at the trees, for no particular reason (although it could be that he had spotted our baldpates’ nest high in our guango tree). Yes… It is very warm, the sky is the color of bone china painted with white clouds… And one could easily imagine that Jamaica has not a care in the world.

Guango tree

The beautiful guango tree in our yard – my first attempt at taking a photo with my android phone…

A Jamaican tweeted plaintively this evening: Is there anything else happening in Jamaica apart from dancehall, ATI partying, drinking liquor and idle chatter?”  Well, very little else. Translation: “ATI” is a special breed of party that crops up at this time of year – full name Appleton Temptation Island. The ads, featuring a sultry and curvaceous woman draped around a large snake (or vice versa) urges us to “unleash our wild side,” next weekend, in the tourist resort of Negril, for three days over the Independence Day Weekend (August 3 – 6). Yes, three days of “drinking responsibly.”  Young (and not-so-young) women in what we used to call “batty riders” (short shorts) and bikini tops will gyrate energetically with cute young (and not-so-young) men, holding plastic cups of Appleton aloft and appearing to have a pretty wild time. Their photographs will adorn the social pages the following week. If you want to experience this fascinating phenomenon of Jamaican middle-class social life for yourself – the non-stop, all-inclusive party – the ATI website link is below. Buy yourself a party package today! There, I have given them a good “plug.”

ATI launch

Models give a rather sedate version of what you can expect at Appleton Temptation Island. Where’s the snake?

But hold on, there is Smirnoff Dream Weekend too? Also in Negril? Eleven parties in six days? I’m speechless. As the partygoers will no doubt be after around Day Three.

Well, so let’s start with what didn’t happen this week. There were, so far as I know, no charges laid against the two local politicians who were arrested amidst great drama in early morning raids, on suspicion of their involvement in the horrible “lotto scam.” However, they both appeared in court this week. The Deputy Mayor‘s son pleaded guilty to possession of an illegal firearm, and his father was bailed; the other councilor was charged with illegal possession of…a flat-screen television set. However, although many are declaring that this is an anti-climax of major proportions, we must allow the law to take its course. There may well be more to follow. Let’s stay tuned.

Michael and Jevaughn Troupe

Deputy Mayor of Montego Bay Michael Troupe and his son in the back of a police truck following their arrest.

The Education Minister did not make a flowery speech. Or did he? Please correct me if I am wrong.

Sadly, too, the Tacky Heritage Group’s all-island walk was not completed, after its leader developed blisters on the soles of his bare feet. Derrick “Black X” Robinson was advised not to continue, after walking from Montego Bay to St. Mary, along the north coast. The purpose of the walk was to lobby for Tacky, a Coromantee chief who led slaves to a rebellion in 1760, to be named a National Hero. Tacky really did start a pretty serious rebellion, which lasted for three months. Tacky was killed by a Maroon marksman called Davy, who cut off his head – later stuck on a pole in Spanish Town. Harsh and cruel times.

Water also failed to run in the pipes of many Jamaicans this week. The drought is kicking in, especially in the parched city of Kingston. There are layers of Saharan dust in the atmosphere – still. So, no rain. I was greatly chagrined to be watching a television news report from St. Mary this week, however, to see huge puddles and rain dripping from the roofs. Not fair!

Mr. Robinson and companion on Tacky Walk

The road less traveled: Mr. Robinson and a companion walk for Tacky. The asphalt road clearly burned his feet; wouldn’t it have been better to walk on the grass verge, Mr. Robinson?… Too late, now.

Another non-event: The Government increased the minimum wage by 11 per cent, and those for security guards by 10 per cent, effective September 3. This was, as usual, announced with much fanfare. Considering that the employers of these minimum wage-earners are not getting similar wage rises, and their costs are going up daily, this will serve no purpose except to make some employers consider laying people off. Not that I think the minimum wage is too high – of course it’s not. But it’s a futile exercise.

Parliamentarians appeared rather chilled last week, with one government senator exchanging light banter with the opposition. There was cordial laughter – not the braying sound usually emitted in Parliament, which passes for laughter. In this relaxed mood, the Lower House tabled legislation for Jamaica to join the Caribbean Court of Justice. There is much, much more to be said on this topic. The Opposition – and a sizable number of Jamaicans – believe that this issue should be put to a referendum. This is an issue that will rear its head again soon, for sure. Stay tuned on this one…

The Commissioner of Police announced a 13.3 per cent drop in major crimes so far this year. However, murders (not a major crime?) are up by three per cent. He did tell us that we are “by no means out of the woods” – just in case we all thought we had emerged into the sunlight. Much work still to be done.

Oh, by the way, we are expecting not one, but two African leaders to visit our shores next week for “Jamaica 50.” South Africa’s Jacob Zuma will be here for a three-day visit on August 4, preceded by Nigerian leader Goodluck Jonathan. Some Jamaicans are muttering, “I hope he brings us some good luck, too…some oil, maybe.”

But of course, the major obsession in the past week has been the London Olympics. The extraordinary focus on Usain Bolt as the poster boy of London has made Jamaicans’ hearts swell with pride. Some of us even decided the ugly team kit wasn’t so bad, after all. Excitement reached fever pitch. Then, when a few negative reports slipped in under the radar about Bolt & Co., some Jamaicans became peevish, insisting that the whole thing was a dark (American) conspiracy against the Jamaican team. I think a little perspective is needed, at this point. Yes, it’s wonderful for Mr. Bolt’s image to be plastered over the Houses of Parliament (although I thought that was overkill) – but let’s just remember that there is a difference between a journalist looking for a good juicy story and a public relations practitioner putting a lovely gloss on things.

Usain Bolt

My favorite photo of the irrepressible Mr. Usain Bolt in London, courtesy of Reuters.

Excitement reached fever pitch for the Opening Ceremony, although again there were complaints about the small amount of lens time given to the team. Conspiracy again. One tweeter complained that the camera spent too much time on Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller and Jamaican Ambassador to the United Kingdom Aloun Assamba, when it could have been focused on our soon-to-be-heroes in their Cedella Marley military gear. Complaints flooded in about the quality of the exclusive coverage for Jamaica, which left a great deal to be desired and was almost non-existent for some. But despite some initial bafflement and barely-suppressed yawns from many Jamaican viewers, Mr. Bean was a huge hit and both David Beckham and Daniel Craig provided some marvelous eye candy for yours truly. Despite my nervous disposition, I could certainly pluck up the courage to dash along a fire-lined canal in a speedboat with David. I would even jump out of a helicopter with Daniel. The kids in pajamas were cute, too – but in a very different way of course.

David Beckham Driving Olympic Torch Boat Opening Ceremony

Woo hoo!! The dashing David…

Meanwhile, news in brief:

Three American tourists went missing off a cruise ship, but were found comfortably installed in a guest house not far away.

Several Jamaicans were shot dead, some by the police (see below).

The police destroyed a huge pile of drugs at a secret location.

They also seized large amounts of cocaine, and some guns, in various operations across the island. Kudos.

And major kudos to…

Founder and President of the Institute of Caribbean Studies in Washington, DC, the intrepid Jamaican Dr. Claire Nelson. The White House honored her today as one of nine “Champions of Change” for fostering U.S.-Caribbean partnerships and supporting the Caribbean diaspora. She’s a trained engineer and a proud alumna of Kingston’s St. Hugh’s High School. The Champions of Change program is administered by the U.S. State Department and the United States Agency for International Development.

Mr. Brandon Allwood, Mr. Dominic McKenzie, Ms. Nekeisha Lewis and all the young members of Help JA Children, a lobby group that was established after the horrific article in the Jamaica Observer on child abuse in Jamaica. And to Mr. Samuel The group organized a highly successful and high-profile march in Kingston on May 1. They have now launched a Child Abuse Reporting System (CARS) - a BlackBerry application that allows you to report child abuse on the spot. It is only the second application of its kind in the world, available now and free in BlackBerry App World, approved by Research in Motion, and the first in the region. Of course, as we all know, young people are technology-focused. This is the way to go. I look forward to the app being available for android phones, as I do love my Samsung Galaxy! Shameless ad there…

Founder of Help JA Children Brandon Allwood

A dedicated young man: Founder of Help JA Children Brandon Allwood speaks at the launch of CARS

More on Help JA Children, and the CARS launch, in a future blog post! And meanwhile, don’t forget to party!

On a serious and very sad note…

As is my custom, I extend deepest sympathies to the family and friends of all those listed below (and any others I may have missed) who lost their lives at the hands of others last week. We actually happened to know one of them – a mason, who did some building work for us – who apparently witnessed a shooting, and was killed himself as a result. His nickname was “Concord.” Rest in peace; you died far, far too young.

In Memoriam

Roger Robinson, 37, Rae Town Fishing Beach, Kingston

Paulette Morrison, 15, Majesty Gardens, Kingston

Anthony Johnson, 34, Stony Hill, St. Andrew

Ragland Flemings, 51, Stony Hill, St. Andrew

Derrick Irving, 42, Stony Hill, St. Andrew

Boy, 16, Slipe, St. Elizabeth

Lisha Wang, 28, Mount Salus, St. Andrew

Unidentified man, Port Maria, St. Mary

Killed by the police:

Ferron Baker, 26, Oakland Road, Kingston

Unidentified man, Stony Hill, St. Andrew

Kevon Brown, Hendon/Norwood, St. James

Patrick Wedderburn, Hendon/Norwood, St. James

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