An Ill Wind, Arming Against Corruption and A Guide Runner: Sunday, April 19, 2015

“It’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good.” Well, it has been a windy week and our yard has filled with crackling dry leaves. It’s hard to find anything good blowing for anybody, just at the moment.

In photos contributed by relatives (from left) are 35-year-old accounts clerk, Marquis Hamilton; 16-year-old Alex Turner, 14-year-old Ricardo Briscoe and 14-year-old Raymond Givans who were and killed in Clarendon. (Gleaner)

In photos contributed by relatives (from left) are 35-year-old accounts clerk, Marquis Hamilton; 16-year-old Alex Turner, 14-year-old Ricardo Briscoe and 14-year-old Raymond Givans who were shot and killed in Clarendon on Wednesday. (Gleaner)

A terrible tragedy: Everyone has run out of adjectives to describe the murder of three schoolboys and a man in Clarendon on Wednesday night. The nature of the crime and the youth of three of the victims hit the headlines hard, and we are struggling to make sense of it. I now hear the motive for the shooting deaths (or executions?) of three boys returning from the gym and a neighbor may have been in “reprisal” – which really could be anything. The fact is that three young lives have been snuffed out. It is callous and cold. We can’t catch our breath.

Our children: The Gleaner reports today that “at least” 24 children have been murdered this year, to date. There is no doubt that the murder rate this year has been building steadily, and what Minister of National Security Peter Bunting called a “spike” in January (suggesting it is temporary) now appears to be turning into a longer-term trend. But I did a count of the number of children (eighteen years and under) killed this year through the tracking on my blog. My total was 27 (not including these three boys) although this may not be accurate. So I would also say “at least” thirty, 18 of them boys, and two of those killed by the police.

Words… “My heart is full of sadness that such wickedness has become part of the Jamaican reality,” the Prime Minister said. She and Youth Minister Lisa Hanna visited the boys’ families and expressed sympathy. That is, of course, the right thing to do…and say. But won’t there be a next time? More hand-wringing, more tears, no end in sight.

Another teenager who made the news, the alleged would-be traveler to join Islamic State, remains in police custody until Tuesday while more investigations and social enquiry reports take place. I hope this will have a reasonably happy ending.

Former Prime Minister Bruce Golding. (Photo: bbc.co.uk)

Former Prime Minister Bruce Golding. (Photo: bbc.co.uk)

Coming clean: Well, as some had guessed, former Prime Minister Bruce Golding, through his attorney, wrote that it was indeed his, Golding’s identity that former Commissioner of Police Owen Ellington was hiding when he refused to disclose a name to the Commission of Enquiry into the Tivoli Gardens massacre. So the then Prime Minister told Ellington to discuss Christopher “Dudus” Coke’s possible surrender to the security forces with two church men, Rev. Al Miller and Bishop Herro Blair. After early adjournment on Friday, it seems Mr. Ellington will return to the witness stand tomorrow. All of this leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

President Barack Obama "romanticizing" Jamaica by visiting the Bob Marley Museum.

President Barack Obama “romanticizing” Jamaica by visiting the Bob Marley Museum.

Talking of sourness, columnist and government employee Ian Boyne is still chewing over President Obama’s recent visit (perhaps Mr. Boyne should move on now). I am not sure what he expected from a less than 24-hour visit, but he concludes: It’s good to come here, woo our youth, and enjoy that visit to the Bob Marley Museum. But we are not just to be romanticized and celebrated.” I would say perhaps our disillusioned youth are in need a bit of wooing; and I thought we all loved Bob – or don’t you believe in the “romanticization” of Brand Jamaica, Mr. Boyne?  Perhaps you can tell us what was discussed between the President and CARICOM leaders, since no communiqué was released afterwards (I checked with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs)? Could it have included…? (see next item).

I would love to see our Prime Minister armed and ready to confront corruption, like Brienne of Tarth, portrayed by Gwendolyn Christie in "Game of Thrones."

I would love to see our Prime Minister take the lead – armed and ready to confront corruption, like Brienne of Tarth in “Game of Thrones.” A warrior!

The Gleaner editorial and other commentators, reading between the lines, see some of the President’s comments in Jamaica as a subtle hint that the country, and the region, needs to get serious about corruption. The Prime Minister herself pledged to tackle this in her inaugural speech. Were these mere words? The Gleaner wants Portia Simpson Miller to urgently prepare for battle against the insidious enemy. I don’t see her even strapping on her leg armor yet (sorry, I’ve just been watching Game of Thrones, and the women are very empowered in that television saga).

The interior of our unimpressive Parliament, which passed the Disabilities Act last summer but is not in the least disabled-friendly. Even for an able person, the public gallery in particular is cramped and uncomfortable. It might help if the physical environment was improved. Basically, we need a new Parliament building.

The interior of our unimpressive Parliament, which passed the Disabilities Act last summer but is not in the least disabled-friendly. Even for an able person, the public gallery in particular is cramped and uncomfortable. Basically, we need a new Parliament building, which might help our lawmakers to function more efficiently and effectively! 

Malfunctioning: A World Economic Forum (WEF) public opinion survey ranks Jamaica at 3.4 out of 7 in terms of having an effective Parliament. This is hardly surprising, but it’s a little embarrassing to be rubbing shoulders with countries like Bangladesh in this respect. You can find an overview of the Global Information Technology Report 2015 for Jamaica here: http://reports.weforum.org/global-information-technology-report-2015/economies/#economy=JAM It seems many of us are not prepared for what the WEF calls the “ICT revolution.” I would love to think that for Jamaica ICT is “a vector of social development and transformation… improving access to basic services, enhancing connectivity, and creating employment opportunities.” We are not there, yet. Also, let’s have a new Parliament building!

Reminder:  The annual Closed Season for spiny lobsters began on April 1 and ends on June 30, 2015. There are new, tighter regulations, which can be read here: http://jis.gov.jm/public-announcement-annual-lobster-close-season-april-1-june-30/ The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List notes there is insufficient data to determine how endangered the spiny lobster (Panulirus argus) is – but confirms numbers are on the decline due to over-fishing.

What is happening with the proposed transshipment port at Goat Islands, you may ask? Ah, well… Let’s see.

Usain Bolt gives Terezinha Guilhermina a high five after guiding her on a 50m sprint (Photo: Rio 2016/Alex Ferro)

Usain Bolt gives Terezinha Guilhermina a high five after guiding her on a 50m sprint (Photo: Rio 2016/Alex Ferro)

Jamaicans like Usain Bolt really inspire and uplift us – and do we need that! He acted as a guide runner for a blind Brazilian Paralympic runner in Rio last week, and she says he did a great job. This is heart-warming to me.

Broadcast journalist Emily Shields (who has just started her talk show on RJR) speaking at the launch of the "CARIMAC Times." (My photo)

Broadcast journalist Emily Shields (who has just started her talk show on RJR) speaking at the launch of the “CARIMAC Times.” (My photo)

Congratulations to the students of the Caribbean Institute of Media and Communication (CARIMAC) at the University of the West Indies on the launch of their great new print publication, the “CARIMAC Times 2015″ last Friday. The theme was “Watergate” – that is, investigative journalism. The students planned and organized the event themselves, and they were impressive. Special kudos to Rosheika Grant, who coordinated the event. The guest speaker, influential broadcast journalist Emily Shields gave some down-to-earth advice.

The Jamaica Cancer Society is sixty years old this year. It has as its theme “Never Giving Up.” Relay For Life is the overnight fundraiser (June 13-14 at the Police Officers’ Club in Kingston). Please support them in any way you can.

Let's keep telling ourselves this, shall we?

Let’s keep telling ourselves this, shall we?

Meanwhile, we have to keep singing, in the words of Mr. Marley… Oh, and of course, praying. For those who pray.

Today there was a memorial service for Jamaica’s murder victims at the St Andrew Parish Church. I hear the turnout was no more than that for a regular Sunday; but perhaps people were not aware of the service. Be that as it may, we have to get beyond prayers and symbolic gestures to the root of our crime problem, and address it. No more calls for “divine intervention,” please Minister Bunting. Something is not working. Do we need to press the restart button, or have a complete rethink? Do let us know. Meanwhile, we must remember that these are all Jamaicans – human beings, not statistics. My condolences to the families.

Ricardo Jarrett, 35, Mona, St. Andrew

Nathan Dixon, 20, Portmore, St. Catherine

Jamie Ridley, 34, Braeton/Portmore, St. Catherine

Marquis Hamilton, 35, Moneymusk Housing Scheme, Clarendon

Alex Turner, 16, Moneymusk Housing Scheme, Clarendon 

Ricardo Briscoe, 14, Moneymusk Housing Scheme, Clarendon 

Raymond Givans, 14, Moneymusk Housing Scheme, Clarendon 

Clayton Howell, 21, Frankfield, Clarendon

Ricky Ricketts, York District, St. Thomas (killed by police)

Worrell Terrelonge, 27, Morant Bay, St. Thomas

Clayton Howell, a 21-year-old supermarket employee, was shot dead in Frankfield, Clarendon on Saturday evening. (Photo: On The Ground News Reports)

Clayton Howell, a 21-year-old supermarket employee, was shot dead in Frankfield, Clarendon on Saturday evening. (Photo: On The Ground News Reports)

 

Women’s Sector Elects Representative to the Partnership for Jamaica

Twenty-eight representatives from various organisations in Jamaica’s women’s sector met recently to discuss its continued participation in the Partnership for Jamaica (PFJ) and to elect a four-woman team that will attend the meetings on behalf of the sector.

The four women are:

  • Nadeen Spence – President, Young Women’s Leadership Initiative
  • Marcia Forbes – Executive Chairperson, Phase 3 Productions
  • Indi Mclymont-Lafayette – Regional Director, Panos Caribbean
  • Lisa Davis – Cluster Volunteer for Community Capacity Building, Women’s Resource and Outreach Centre

“I look forward to the Partnership working and fulfilling its promise – I expect both women and men to pay close attention to the process of the Partnership to ensure that their voices are heard through their representatives,” said Spence, who is the official representative to the PFJ.

Forbes is the alternate representative and Mclymont-Lafayette and Davis will fill-in in their absence.

The women’s sector meeting comes after the sector initially suspended its participation in the PFJ following its expressed dissatisfaction with the body’s handling of the National Housing Trust/Outameni situation earlier this year.

The election of Spence as representative signals the sector’s intention to continue its participation in the PFJ, whose mandate is to embark on a programme for Jamaica’s stabilisation surrounding growth with equity and sustainable development through social partnership. It involves representatives from government, business, non-government organisations and other civil society groups.

The sector appreciates the importance of the PFJ, and recognises its right to sit at the table sharing the significant perspective of women.

N

Nadeen Spence, President, Young Women’s Leadership Initiative

 

 

Marcia Forbes

Marcia Forbes, Executive Chairperson, Phase 3 Productions 

A Teen Traveler, Worrying Testimony and Not Riverton This Time: Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Mid-week and mid-month, there is much to ponder. The news so far has raised many puzzling questions to which we must be able to find answers.

 Jermaine Barnaby Co-chairman of the Economic Programme Oversight Committee, Richard Byles. (Photo: Jermaine Barnaby/Gleaner)

Co-chairman of the Economic Programme Oversight Committee, Richard Byles. (Photo: Jermaine Barnaby/Gleaner)

Co-Chair of the Economic Programme Oversight Committee (EPOC) Richard Byles is wondering why there isn’t more investment in Jamaica. Why, we have been passing all our IMF tests like good boys and girls! We have proven ourselves, haven’t we? Dear Mr. Byles, I can think of at least two words starting with the letter “c” that might account for this. The first one, corruption, seems to be a word that both public and private sector officials shy away from. When did you last here anyone say it out loud? There is also crime (always a deterrent). Oh, and a third, a friend reminded me – cronyism, which goes hand in hand with corruption.

Missing the mark: Mr. Byles also reported that for the first time since the International Monetary Fund (IMF) program started the Government’s primary surplus fell short by $4.6 billion in February. The Finance Ministry says we will be back on track for the fiscal year 2014/15. However, Government revenues are showing some worrying signs (this was mostly put down to shortfalls in Companies Tax and General Consumption Tax). Let’s remember what President Obama said last week, though. We need economic growth. Growth!

Children's Advocate Diahann Gordon-Harrison. (Photo: Gleaner)

Children’s Advocate Diahann Gordon-Harrison. (Photo: Gleaner)

An ISIS recruit, or not? A fifteen-year-old Jamaican boy was arrested in Suriname on Saturday. He was en route to the Netherlands and, Surinamese authorities alleged, heading onward to Turkey and thence to ISIS. His family’s story (confused and contradictory at times) is that he was going via the Netherlands to see his mother, who lives in the UK, to avoid the visa requirement. The boy from St. Mary (which has a sizable Muslim community) is back in Jamaica and being questioned by the police in custody; his lawyer is seeking his release. He has not been charged with any crime. The Office of the Children’s Advocate is monitoring the situation and looking at whether there is any basis for concern that our disaffected youth might be drawn to ISIS. National Security Minister Peter Bunting, who has made no statement on the case to date, recently dismissed as groundless suggestions by a U.S. Marine Corps General that ISIS was recruiting in the Caribbean. A smooth-talking representative of Jamaica’s Muslim community also denied any knowledge of such a thing. We shall see if this leads anywhere, or nowhere. But don’t underestimate these ISIS people, Minister Bunting!

Perhaps Mr. Byles should take note of President Obama's remarks at the Town Hall Meeting just a few days ago… (Photo: Pete Souza/Collage - National Integrity Action)

Perhaps Mr. Byles should take note of President Obama’s remarks at the Town Hall Meeting just a few days ago… (Photo: Pete Souza/Collage – National Integrity Action)

I ♥ Chocolate: I heard a radio conversation yesterday with an enthusiastic woman who spoke about the potential of Jamaica’s cocoa industry – much neglected over the years, and especially since the closure of the Highgate Chocolate factory. Musson Jamaica acquired Highgate in 2004, but it was wound up in 2007. Just like our Blue Mountain coffee, we constantly hear that our cocoa is among the best in the world; yet we cannot develop it to its full potential. The Jamaica Cocoa Farmers’ Association, formed quite recently, has focused on setting up “micro-factories.” What is the status on these? Meanwhile there is a small local firm called Mount Pleasant Chocolatiers that is actually manufacturing in Jamaica (its products include cocoa butter and spa products, too) so there’s hope.

The Grenada Chocolate Company, a tourist attraction. (My photo)

The Grenada Chocolate Company: Manufacturer, exporter and tourist attraction. (My photo)

Meanwhile, let’s not make excuses. The Grenada Chocolate Company, founded in 1999, produces “tree to bar” organic chocolate, beautifully packaged and exported to Europe, the United States and Canada. With its “green” philosophy, I found the coffee farm and factory an appealing tourist attraction.  So marketing woman – let’s stop talking about the bureaucratic hurdles, produce great value-added products and get some exports going! Problem is we only have half an Agriculture Minister. Mr. Derrick Kellier doubles up as Labour and Social Security Minister. How is that working out for you, Mr. Kellier?

Another squabble has broken out in the increasingly shambolic Jamaica Labour Party (JLPP). This is is unbelievably irritating and just plain stupid. We need a strong Opposition – not one that we all laugh and shrug our shoulders at. Stop!

This was NOT Riverton dump! That's good to know. Phew!

This was NOT Riverton dump! That’s good to know. Phew! The owner of this tyre dump has been charged with operating without a license.

Meanwhile, back at the tyre stack… Bright and early Monday morning, a thick, dark plume of smoke rose above the city. Déjà vu? For residents of Westbrook Avenue near a tyre storage facility (illegal) not far from Riverton City dump it was hell. First, they said, they had a huge mosquito breeding problem from the tyres. Then it was set on fire. Officials “reassured” us that it was not the dump, this time. Tyres burn extremely hot, fast and emit several toxic compounds, including sulfur dioxide. What’s reassuring about that?

Who’s in charge at the NSWMA? The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Local Government, one understands. The Minister said a new board will be in place this week – with a new Executive Director to follow. It now appears that some of his nominees were not accepted by Cabinet so it’s going to be next week, now.

Mario Deane died in custody after suffering severe injuries at the Barnett Street police lock-up in Montego Bay.

Mario Deane died in hospital after suffering severe injuries at the Barnett Street police lock-up in Montego Bay.

The police have charged a third man with the murder of Mario Deane in a police lock-up in Montego Bay last August. Damion Cargill is profoundly deaf and cannot understand sign language. His attorney says he “may not be aware of the charges against him.” This is sad, very sad.

National Integrity Action says the three councilors currently facing charges on various matters should not be allowed to run in local government elections until they are cleared of all charges. Agreed. The People’s National Party’s (PNP) General Secretary Paul Burke does not seem to be quite so sure. It depends.

Former Commissioner of Police Owen Ellington in thoughtful mood at the West Kingston Commission of Enquiry. (Photo: Gleaner)

Former Commissioner of Police Owen Ellington in thoughtful mood at the West Kingston Commission of Enquiry. (Photo: Gleaner)

Worrying: That is how I would describe testimony by former Commissioner of Police Owen Ellington at the Commission of Enquiry into the incursion at Tivoli Gardens. Mr. Ellington emphasized the extreme danger the country was placed in at the time and said it was a good thing security forces had acted to make Jamaica more secure.  What concerned me was his vagueness and inability to recall key meetings between the Golding administration and two clerics, who were apparently serving as “go betweens” between the politicians and the “don” of Tivoli Gardens during this terrible period. The Enquiry will resume on Friday morning.  

Tourism: Opposition Spokesperson Shahine Robinson believes her counterpart in Government is setting his sights too low. He should be aiming higher. Surely Minister McNeill cannot be satisfied with a five percent increase by the end of the season? Ms. Robinson then read out a list of Caribbean countries that enjoyed a far higher increase last year. Grenada, for example, enjoyed over 18 per cent, she informed Parliament; Cayman Islands and Haiti, our close neighbors, over 10 percent!

Shahine Robinson, Opposition Tourism Spokesperson. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

Shahine Robinson, Opposition Tourism Spokesperson. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

Kingston's shipping port.

Kingston’s shipping port.

OK, Minister Hylton has spoken. He told Parliament this week of the US$600 million to be ploughed into the Kingston Container Terminal (which he calls a “gateway project”) under a recently signed concession agreement with the CMA CGM/China Merchant Holdings International-owned Terminal Link (the other two bidders, Singaporean and Emirati firms, lost out). Kingston Wharves plans to invest J$7 billion in building logistics facilities over the next five years. Foreign direct investment has crept up in the past three years – from US$490 million in 2012 to US$707 million in September last year. Does that seem like much to you? Minister Hylton expects this year to be “a lot better.” It had better be.

Have you noticed? There has been a marked absence of police killings in the past few weeks (although one is noted below). Something has changed. I am not sure what the underlying factors are – perhaps more emphasis on community policing, tighter rules on the use of firearms – and the presence of the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM). Better leadership, too? I must commend the police and in particular Police Commissioner Williams, who has not been obviously throwing his weight around but seems to be working well alongside Security Minister Peter Bunting, visiting troubled neighborhoods and so on. But the murder rate… What has happened?

In Kingston gang warfare has broken out downtown. Businesses and workers there are getting nervous. I recall ten or twenty years ago the area was neatly divided into the territories of a PNP “don” named Zeeks (in jail for a double murder for some years now) and his JLP counterpart named Dudus (now incarcerated in the United States). It has become fragmented since, with gangs jockeying for position. There have been casualties.

Special, special big ups to…

Much laughter: Owen "Blakka" Ellis (left) and Michael Abrahams at "Fun and Joke Aside." (My photo)

Much laughter: Owen “Blakka” Ellis (left) and Michael Abrahams at “Fun and Joke Aside.” (My photo)

  • BluMoon Publishing, founded by the intrepid Tanya Batson-Savage, for their exploration of the many and varied nuances of Jamaican writing – and for the creative and lively ways in which their present their growing list of books to the public. Last Sunday morning’s “Fun and Joke Aside” was a good example. I wrote about it in my blog for the Gleaner online here: http://gleanerblogs.com/socialimpact/?p=2617 

My deepest sympathies to the families of those who have been killed in the past four days…

Steven Anderson, 42, Orange Street, Kingston

Nesta Halstead, Salt Pond/Spanish Town, St. Catherine (killed by police)

Unidentified man, Spanish Town bus park, St. Catherine

Unidentified man, March Pen Road/Spanish Town, St. Catherine

Christopher McKenzie, 37, May Pen, Clarendon

 

 

 

Vying for the Throne…in the Pegasus Gardens

I have to admit to being seriously addicted to that television saga to end all sagas (also of course, books by George R.R. Martin)… “Game of Thrones.” 

In my defense, I have always loved fantasy and science fiction since my teens, so this is a natural fit for me. I did catch on to it rather late. But you know what they say about recent conversions. They are always the most fanatical.

Partygoers in high heels and short skirts walking down the hallways of Westeros - a trifle incongruous...

Partygoers in high heels and short skirts walking down the hallways of Westeros – a trifle incongruous…

So as a fully signed-up fan I was delighted to receive an invitation from Flow (our cable company) to a promotional party for the start of Season Five. When I got to the venue, there was already a long line stretching from the “stone gateway” into the depths of the Pegasus Gardens, where more vaguely medieval delights awaited.

Dancing girl with snake...

Dancing girl with snake… There was a belly dancer, too.

The Jamaica Pegasus Hotel pulled out all the stops. We entered the wonderful (fake) world of Westeros through a tunnel lit with flickering wall lights. There was food – a table heaped with fruits, banquet-style, and suckling pig (so delicious but I always feel guilty eating it). There were dancing girls, and fire-eaters. Some of us tried to answer questions posed by the MC (who was wearing a rather modest-sized crown) and  we were repeatedly encouraged to post it all on social media.

Now, in case you didn’t know, “Game of Thrones” is a tale about the lust for power (and all kinds of other lust, too, including blood lust). When the MC asked which family we supported, most of the crowd yelled for Targaryen. Yes, the blonde with the dragons. She is really “in” with the GoT fans, at least in Jamaica. When I eagerly put up my hand for the Lannisters, nearby partygoers looked at me in puzzlement. Really? Really?

A nice banqueting table. There's quite a lot of food in "Game of Thrones," including lemon cakes. Not sure I saw any of those...

A nice banqueting table. There’s quite a lot of food in “Game of Thrones,” including lemon cakes. Not sure I saw any of those…

Because yes, I am a traditionalist, and I feel a core of sympathy for the beleaguered Lannisters – under pressure from all angles. I love the rumpled (and so smart) Tyrion and was a little sorry when he killed his own father on the loo at the end of the last season. Because I liked his tyrannical father too. As for the pretty ones like the dragon’s almost-perfect mother…I think Blondie’s heading for a fall.

I received this lovely glass from the party. It reminds me that my favorite character, the embittered Cersei, drinks too much. It might help if she laid off the wine, but she has a goblet in her hand in almost every scene.

I received this lovely glass from the party. It reminds me that my favorite character, the embittered Cersei, drinks far too much. It might help if she laid off the wine, but she has a gilded goblet in her hand in almost every scene. I think I should enroll her for an Alcoholics Anonymous session.

I truly love the Terrible Twins, Cersei and Jaime Lannister – involved in an incestuous relationship with each other, unfortunately. They are both so tortured and virtually irredeemable, at this point. My real favorite is Cersei, who is like a tightly coiled spring. She is finding it quite hard not to uncoil and snap. When anyone says something nice, she curls her lip in a most unkind way. She is even unkind to her brother/lover – a handsome, but sad specimen with only one hand. She doesn’t have a cheerful bone in her body, poor thing. All her emotions are negative ones.

The wonderful world of GoT. Winter is coming...

The wonderful world of GoT. Winter is coming…

Then we sat down and watched Season Five, Episode One. A nice young man sitting next to me (who was steeped in the stuff) reminded me of a few key points regarding characters, their situations, places etc as it went along. The plot is enormously complex and the locations (gorgeous) keep changing all the time. You really need to focus.

So we all made our way out into the world of taxi cabs and mobile phones and drifting foreign visitors that is the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel. Kingston on a Sunday evening really looked rather boring.

Can I go back to Westeros? Please?

These two are really bad news. Which is why I love 'em.

These two are really bad news. Which is why I love ’em. Oh, Jaime has two hands in this photo.

 

 

 

 

Jamaican Veterans, The PJ Highway and a Featherless Carnival: Saturday, April 11, 2015

Almost as soon as President Obama flew off on Thursday evening, we all went back to normal. The crab vendors returned to their regular spot by National Heroes Park. There were three murders last night. Yes, I am sounding cynical – but still hoping that some of the inspiration we felt a couple of days ago can last for a little while. But the annual Carnival road march is on tomorrow, and we understand some costumes will have no feathers (what!!) because the Agriculture Ministry has banned the importation of poultry and poultry products. This is simply disastrous!

The driver of this bus, which crashed in Trelawny on Easter Day, has been charged with driving under the influence of alcohol. (Photo: On The Ground News Reports)

The driver of this bus, which crashed in Trelawny on Easter Day, has been charged with driving under the influence of alcohol. (Photo: On The Ground News Reports)

Back the very next day… Emily Shields spotted the crab vendors at National Heroes Park. (Photo: Twitter)

Back the very next day… Emily Shields spotted the crab vendors at National Heroes Park. (Photo: Twitter)

Road carnage: One hundred Jamaicans have died on Jamaica’s roads so far this year. This is a small increase over last year, which was a pretty bad year. And there have been many serious injuries. CVM Television aired disturbing amateur footage of the wild behavior of passengers on a bus, which subsequently crashed, over the Easter weekend. The driver was over the alcohol limit. Sixteen were injured, with three losing limbs. Last year, according to National Road Safety Council statistics, over 3,500 Jamaicans were killed or injured in road accidents (331 deaths and 819 serious injuries), compared to 307 deaths in 2013. So we are not doing too well.

Well, I did mention on more than one blog post that I thought the public sector wage talks were going to be sticky, and a major hurdle for the Government. On Friday talks ended without an agreement; the trade unions confirmed they had rejected the Government’s 5 per cent offer (3 per cent in year one and 2 per cent in year two). After years of a wage freeze this was hardly surprising. So what next, I wonder.

PJ Patterson, our former four-term Prime Minister.

PJ Patterson, our former four-term Prime Minister. He said “Goodbye, ta ta, au revoir” to the International Monetary Fund back in 1995. Au revoir literally means “to the seeing again.” And so we did see the IMF again.

PJ Highway: The Mandela Highway to May Pen leg of Highway 2000 will be renamed the P.J. Patterson Highway on April 17. Our former Prime Minister (for fourteen years) celebrated his 80th birthday on Friday. I am personally against roads and other lumps of concrete being named after politicians – especially in this country, when I feel I would rather not be reminded of their names. Perfectly happy with Mandela Highway though. And Mandela Park, although the latter hardly deserves his name – it’s a depressingly dirty place in Half Way Tree.

Former Prime Minister Bruce Golding. (Photo: Gleaner)

Former Prime Minister Bruce Golding. Are his comments helpful in any way? (Photo: Gleaner)

Speaking of former PMs, I heard former Prime Minister Bruce Golding declaring that China has done more for Jamaica than the United States. His administration’s relationship with the U.S. Government went dramatically downhill during the “Dudus” affair. But is anyone taking any notices of Mr. Golding’s opinions? What are we to do with them? Which reminds me  – he is due to give evidence at the Tivoli Commission of Enquiry this week.

A tourist attraction? The crab vendors are back and responded graciously to the Mayor and former Mayor’s efforts on their behalf. “We are really grateful and are looking forward to the stalls that will turn our area into a tourist attraction,” says a vendor. I do hope the officials will not disappoint, and will turn this episode into something positive. 

Why is Minister Anthony Hylton so quiet? He appears to be working hard, but I am not sure what he is working hard at. The once very vocal logistics hub propagandists have also quietened down. Or have I missed something?

The Commission of Enquiry into the Tivoli incursion is expected to restart this coming week. The Commissioner was sick, and then we had President Obama’s visit, so it did not start as planned last week. One of those church leaders who cares about human rights issues, Father Sean Major-Campbell, wrote an excellent letter about this matter last week, noting the lack of concern that many Jamaicans appear to have for the victims. He concluded: “It is not sufficient to just pray for justice. We must work so that justice, truth, may indeed be ours forever.” No decision has been made on the vexed question of the disclosure of certain sensitive documents and I understand there will be a closed session to consider this on Monday. I must take note of human rights activist Susan Goffe’s comment on this issue: “The definition of what is sensitive must be narrow & genuine,not used as a cover for what is simply incriminating or embarrassing…Closed sessions & subsequent rulings/decisions are a test of the credibility of & public trust in the process,” she tweeted today. Let us watch this space.

During the Obama visit, the very popular singer Chronixx (yes, don’t forget two “x”‘s) disappointed many with his post about the President being a “waste man.” There were comparisons with the rebellious Peter Tosh (a man from another era altogether, who when he hadn’t smoked too many spliffs expressed himself much more sharply and eloquently than this young man). And dancehall deejay Bounty Killer said he was going to ask the President about his U.S. visa, which was canceled in 2010. I’m not sure if he got the chance to do so. Meanwhile our Youth and Culture Minister Lisa Hanna felt it was necessary to post a public video gently reprimanding Mr. Chronixx. I think there are more important things for you to be focusing on in your portfolio, Minister Hanna; the welfare of our marginalized children, perhaps?

Daryl King in a 2012 photograph. (Photo: Jarmila Jackson/Jamaica Observer)

Daryl King in a 2012 photograph. (Photo: Jarmila Jackson/Jamaica Observer)

Chik v’s lingering effects: Another Jamaican has died as a result of the chikungunya virus at the age of 30 years old. Motor sports competitor Daryl King, who had a heart condition, had contracted pneumonia after suffering from the virus last year. He went to the cinema with friends and passed away suddenly. My deepest sympathies to his family.

I do recommend the tweets of former Contractor General Greg Christie.

If you are on Twitter, I certainly do recommend the tweets of former Contractor General Greg Christie.

Former Contractor General Greg Christie posted a series of tweets this afternoon, which I thought would be worth reproducing here: “There is perhaps no single issue which saps public confidence in govt than this spectre of corruption.”|Jamaican Finance Minister, Sept 12, 2014/Yet, despite this statement the GoJ has done little to address the perception of corruption and poor governance which permeates & haunts it./Jamaica is ranked as one of the most corrupt countries in the hemisphere and as the 2nd most corrupt country in the Commonwealth Caribbean/Last year, 80% of J’cans polled said that the Gov’t is neither transparent nor accountable, and that the PM had made empty promises./Do Jamaicans have reason, therefore, to be cautious about the draft of the Integrity Commission Bill that is currently before the Parliament?/My answer is ‘Yes’./The Bill is weak. It does not go far enough to address Jamaica’s endemic corruption problem. And it should not be passed in its current form./Despite the attempts that have been made by some to project the Bill as a good one, in many respects it’s a step in the wrong direction./The Commission’s structure is impractical and bureaucratic, and its investigative arm is deprived of operational autonomy and independence./The sanctions under the Bill are weak. There are no minimum penalties. Overall, they will do little, if anything, to deter corrupt conduct./Of greatest concern, however, is that several anti-corruption/anti-bribery int’l best practice measures have been omitted from the Bill./Jamaicans are aware that successive administrations, while preaching the anticorruption rhetoric, have failed to effectively tackle the problem./Corruption is not only impeding investment, development and growth in Jamaica, but it’s preventing Jamaica and Jamaicans from attaining their full potential./Only last week, we were told by the U. S. President that Jamaica needs to spur growth as this is the only way to reduce our heavy debt burden./But Mr. Obama also reminded us that countries that are perceived to be corrupt do not attract the investments that are vital for growth./The President’s injunction is timely because our leaders do not talk seriously about corruption when talking about Jamaica’s growth agenda./Jamaican lawmakers, and others, who are against strong anti-corruption reforms, must not be allowed to hold Jamaica to ransom. Too much is at stake!/Jamaicans must insist that tough anti-corruption measures are passed into law, and that the cancer of corruption is excised from our shores. Of course, these were in bites of 140 characters!

Kudos are due…

Colonel Daniel Pryce salutes US President Barack Obama at National Heroes Park on Thursday. (Photo: Jermaine Barnaby/Gleaner)

Colonel Daniel Pryce salutes US President Barack Obama at National Heroes Park on Thursday. (Photo: Jermaine Barnaby/Gleaner)

  • Our security forces did a superb and professional job during President Obama’s visit, so far as I could see. The Police Commissioner seemed pleased, too.
The late Keith Bardowell, a World War II veteran who gave gallant service to the Royal Air Force, died in October last year. (Gleaner photo)

The late Keith Bardowell, a World War II veteran who gave gallant service to the Royal Air Force, died in October last year. (Gleaner photo)

  • The Jamaican World War II veterans, who met and spoke with President Obama before he laid a wreath at the Cenotaph in National Heroes Park. Those Jamaicans who served during that war are often forgotten and I am so glad that the focus was placed on them – most appropriate. I am sure that Mr. Keith Bardowell, a wonderful Jamaican who passed away last year, would have loved to meet the President. I felt sad that he was not there, too.

A 29-year-old bus conductor has been charged with the murder of the pregnant, 14-year-old Kayalicia Simpson in rural St. Thomas in March. Meanwhile, a baby boy was among the casualties of a gang feud in downtown Kingston, and the police are searching for teenage boys in connection with the murders. How grim is that – it is infanticide now. My deepest sympathies to all the families.

Omar Lindo, 11 months, Charles Street, Kingston

Frederick Jones, 55, South Parade, Kingston

Anthony Stewart, Parade Square, Kingston

Ryan White, High Holborn Street, Kingston

“Flavor,” Bryden Street, McIntyre Villa, Kingston

Audrey DaCosta, 57, New Nursery/Spanish Town, St. Catherine

Terry Alvez, 32, Palmers Cross, Clarendon

Christopher Ranch, 37, Cedar Grove, Manchester

The police in Bryden Street, Dunkirk, downtown after the murder of "Flavor" on Thusday. (Photo: Loop Jamaica)

The police in Bryden Street, Dunkirk, downtown after the murder of “Flavor” on Thusday. According to one resident, the man was killed “close to the border line” between enemy territories. (Photo: Loop Jamaica)

Jamaica’s Poet Laureate to Lead Second Annual Writers’ Retreat in Lime Hall, St. Ann

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Last summer I participated in The Drawing Room Project’s first retreat led by Christine Craig, along with poets from Jamaica, the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. It was an extraordinarily fruitful and enriching experience, and I wrote about it in this blog. This year, the Retreat will be led by our very own Poet Laureate at the Liberty Hill Great House and Spa in Lime Hall, St. Ann from June 5 – 7, 2015. Full details are below. St. Ann residents are especially encouraged to attend and participate. By the way, I was a complete novice last year – and learned so much! APPLY TODAY! – note the deadline is APRIL 30, 2015.

The Drawing Room Project
drawingroomproject@gmail.com   Tel: (876) 793-5970

Jamaica's Poet Laureate Professor Mervyn Morris.

Jamaica’s Poet Laureate Professor Mervyn Morris.

April 10, 2015

“A reading man and woman is a ready man and woman, but a writing man and woman is exact. “

“Liberate the minds of men and ultimately you will liberate the bodies of men.”

– Marcus Garvey

Kingston, Jamaica. April 10, 2015. – The Russian poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko wrote: “Poetry is like a bird, it ignores all frontiers.” On June 5 – 7, 2015, poetry will take flight at the beautiful Liberty Hill Great House and Spa in Lime Hall, St. Ann, Jamaica. Jamaica’s current Poet Laureate, Professor Emeritus Mervyn Morris, OM will lead the Second Annual Drawing Room Project Writers’ Retreat, bringing people of all disciplines and backgrounds to the creative task of expression through poetic forms. The purpose of the workshop is to create meaning from common human experiences. This follows a highly successful inaugural retreat in Highgate, St. Mary in 2014 with poet Christine Craig, which attracted poets from Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Canada and the United States and was widely supported. JN Foundation has already confirmed their support for the staging of this year’s event under the theme art, culture and heritage.

The lush “garden parish” of St. Ann has many tourist attractions, including the famous Dunn’s River Falls. However, it is much more than lovely beaches. It is the birthplace of civil rights activist and National Hero Marcus Garvey and reggae legends Robert Nesta (Bob) Marley and Winston (Burning Spear) Rodney. Christopher Columbus first landed in Jamaica at New Seville, the first Spanish settlement in Jamaica, in 1494. Moreover, it is considered the oldest Taino site in Jamaica, with settlements going back to 650 A.D.

Liberty Hill Great House, Lime Hall, St. Ann

Liberty Hill Great House, Lime Hall, St. Ann

Liberty Hill Great House is a former eighteenth-century pimento plantation perched 1,200 feet above sea level, with expansive views of the Caribbean Sea and a tranquil garden descending the hillside. The retreat will draw on St. Ann’s rich history and cultural heritage with expert talks on the local traditions of Jonkannoo, Mento and the Tainos, epitomizing their tag line Conversations in the Heart of St. Ann. As an additional treat, the venue will host a Sunday afternoon poetry reading event that will also showcase community craftspeople and artists. Professor Morris, workshop participants as well as local and upcoming poets will read from their work on June 7 from 2:30 p.m. This will be free and open to the public and local residents will be especially welcome. For city dwellers, Jamaica Cultural Enterprises will arrange a day trip from Kingston for the occasion.

Mervyn Morris, OM. Is Professor Emeritus of Creative Writing and West Indian Literature at the University of the West Indies and Poet Laureate of Jamaica, a former Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University and a Fulbright Scholar. He was appointed as the first Poet Laureate for Jamaica since Independence in April, 2014. The Poetry Archive describes him as “one of the most resourceful and technically brilliant of Caribbean poets…A supreme poet of the everyday.” His poetry explores the daily struggles of the human condition, often with restrained dry humor and a sense of the irony of life.

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Registration for the Writers’ Retreat is now open online at http://drp.eventzilla.net/web/event?eventid=2139072811 and an early bird special runs until April 17, 2015. The cost of the retreat includes accommodation and meals for residency packages, however, there are also low residency options that do not include accommodation. This is specially to encourage persons in St Ann to attend. 2 such packages are being offered to students in the area in the form of a scholarships. All selection is based on writing submissions.

The submission guidelines for the workshop are as follows:
Submit a writing sample of three poems by April 30, 2015, to drawingroomproject@gmail.com . Each poem should be no more than 25 lines and in Word Document or PDF format. Please include a cover page with contact information and a brief bio (75 words).

Founded in 2007, the aim of the Drawing Room Project Association is to inspire and encourage a deeper involvement in the creative arts, and in particular the literary arts, through workshops, productions and exhibits. Through shared dialogue and information, its ultimate goal is to establish a vibrant network that will nurture emerging and mid-career creative artists.

Last year's retreat with Christine Craig in Highgate, St. Mary.  (Photo: The Drawing Room Project)

Last year’s retreat with Christine Craig in Highgate, St. Mary. (Photo: The Drawing Room Project)

Waah Gwaan Jamaica..??

petchary:

Here are some musings by a Twitter friend, poet and blogger. It’s an overview of the state of Jamaica, in the wake of President Obama’s visit – starting off with the President’s greeting at yesterday’s Town Hall meeting at the University of the West Indies… “Waah Gwaan?” (This may be rather hard to read for my non-Jamaican readers, but see how you get on with it!)

Originally posted on rodneysocampbell:

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Waah gwaan Jamaica,
The place where wi heroes park up,
Fi years it look closed and dark up,
When di foreigners lay wreath,
It get spruce up and look neat,
Den back to di dutty and mark up,
Di youths ago need more teaching,
Dem ah try fi pree pure bleaching,
Nuff man nuh really wah crabs,
Vendor dem nuh play grab bags,
When yuh hear wi talk bout corn,
Wi nuh always mean boil or roast,
Or money fi pop off and boast,
Youths stop seh dem grace man,
Artiste ah style Pres as waste man,
Talk and overstep dem place man,
Big up to POTUS known as Barack,
That’s not just because him black,
Seems him deh pan di right track,
Powerful, but calm and laid back,
Wi know book by Steve Harvey
But don’t know nutten bout Garvey,
When di club cork or di party ram,
No…

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