Misremembering Tivoli

Tivoli Gardens, West Kingston, May 2010.
Tivoli Gardens, West Kingston, May 2010.

A blogger friend in Guyana, Mark Jacobs, used this word in the context of a tragic event in his own country: The unsolved murder of a human rights activist just before the general elections of May 11, 2015.

Mark starts his latest blog post thus:

because you have choose to misremember, don’t think everyone else has
to know is pain
and your ignorance will not suffocate me

In the last few days, it has become increasingly apparent to me that Jamaica (and in particular local media) has chosen to misremember the massacre at Tivoli Gardens of May, 2010, in which at least 74 Jamaicans died. It has been six years, and clearly Jamaicans have exhausted their remembering capabilities; and perhaps for many, their compassion. Are we so inured to violence? Is the media so preoccupied with the “here and now” that it cannot stop and look back?

"Marjorie Hinds was out buying food in Tivoli Gardens on the morning of May 24, 2010, when the security forces moved in." Illustration by Owen Smith, The New Yorker. This accompanied an article by December 11, 2011 article by Mattathias Schwartz, headlined "A Massacre in Jamaica."

“Marjorie Hinds was out buying food in Tivoli Gardens on the morning of May 24, 2010, when the security forces moved in.” Illustration by Owen Smith, The New Yorker. This accompanied an article by December 12, 2011 article by Mattathias Schwartz, headlined “A Massacre in Jamaica.”

I spoke to my friend and fellow blogger Susan Goffe, who has followed the proceedings of the West Kingston Commission of Enquiry very closely. Here she is speaking in her personal capacity, not representing any organization:

6 years is a long time for people to be waiting, but in Jamaica the journey to truth and justice routinely seems to be a long one. More than 70 people killed, many others injured and countless others traumatised. And additionally the damage to property. And 6 years on, people are still waiting. As a country, we can pretend to move on, but we will never really be able to without justice for the damage done. Now we are waiting for the report of the Commission of Enquiry, but we must remember that the report is not the end of the process. The process continues beyond the delivery of the report.

The human rights lobby group, Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ), issued this statement on May 20. I am sorry I did not post it earlier, due to my illness. But this is an issue of deep concern:

Jamaicans for Justice logo.

Jamaicans for Justice logo.

Jamaicans For Justice is deeply concerned that after this May 24-26, anniversary of a terrible loss of life, the citizens of Tivoli Gardens and West Kingston will be unable to bring civil action against the Crown for damages it inflicted on them in 2010. This is because of the six-year limit imposed by the Statute of Limitations, of which many attorneys-at-law have advised.

The damages allegedly inflicted were numerous and extreme. They included damage to property, unjust detention, loss of income, severe bodily and psychological injury, profound suffering, loss of life, and trauma that continues among children. It was the community of Tivoli Gardens as well as its individual members that had the terrifying experience of May 2010. By the Office of the Public Defender’s (OPD) count, for example, the number detained without sufficient reason was over 4,000.

The  OPD has given considerable substance to these claims in its Submissions and Recommendations to the West Kingston Commission of Enquiry. It identifies by name 19 persons as having been murdered by security officers and indicates that another 27 of the 74 or 75 civilians who died suffered probably the same fate. As the OPD has emphasized, they had their right to life cruelly violated. This is in addition to many other rights violations by agents of the State.

The Public Defender has accordingly proposed that the Commission of Enquiry recommend, in addition to a public apology by the Government, compensation for the violation of the rights of West Kingston citizens, and that it waive the limit on civil action in settling claims. JFJ supports this proposition and urges an early confirmation of it.

We do not yet know, of course, what outturns will come. In the meantime, we look forward keenly to having the Commission’s Report any day now. We are firmly of the view that West Kingston citizens deserve to be able to take such means as they consider appropriate for assessing all possible claims arising from the State of Emergency of May and June, 2010, West Kingston.

Well, we love to quote our National Hero Marcus Mosiah Garvey – who did mention that we should know and understand our past. This is our recent past. Here is something else Mr. Garvey said, which in a way I find quite relevant:

Chance has never yet satisfied the hope of a suffering people.

Residents carry a wounded man into Kingston Public Hospital during the incursion by security forces in Tivoli Gardens. (Photo: Guardian UK)

Residents carry a wounded man into Kingston Public Hospital during the incursion by security forces in Tivoli Gardens. (Photo: Guardian UK)

The Business of Nation Building: Excerpts from the Selected Speeches of Douglas Orane

Former GraceKennedy Chairman and CEO Douglas Orane (right), formally presents his book, The Business of Nation Building, to GraceKennedy Group CEO Don Wehby. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)
Former GraceKennedy Chairman and CEO Douglas Orane (right), formally presents his book, The Business of Nation Building, to GraceKennedy Group CEO Don Wehby. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

If there is one thing reading this book made me realize, it is that leadership is not a one-way street. It is not a question of driving full speed ahead, with the dazzling light of your vision in your eyes. Rather, it is about taking a steady drive, checking the rear view mirror; remembering that in the mirror “objects are closer than they appear;and ensuring that passengers are secure and comfortable. Sometimes, it may be necessary to turn, slow down and take a look at things, or even take a little detour via the “scenic route.” 

"The Business of Nation Building" (Ian Randle Publishers) is available in all leading bookstores.

“The Business of Nation Building” (Ian Randle Publishers) is available in all leading bookstores.

Hon. Douglas Orane is now a very engaged retiree, but still in many ways behind the steering wheel of our nation. He is a Jamaican who has commanded huge respect over the decades for his leadership in business, politics and public life in general.  Nowadays, although his style may be a little more laid-back (with a spark of humor always just under the surface) his sharp focus remains. He remains focused on Jamaica, and more importantly, Jamaicans.

Mr. Orane has painstakingly put together a collection of excerpts from 200-odd speeches spanning thirty years – now published in a beautiful, glossy bound book by Ian Randle Publishers.  At the book launch on May 12 in Kingston, Mr. Don Wehby, who took over from Mr. Orane as Group CEO of GraceKennedy on the latter’s retirement in 2011, admitted that he was the one who had put the book idea into his head. Mr. Orane, for his part, said he never expected it to be such a challenging task. “It took a long time… But it doesn’t matter if it’s late,” he added. He is right. The themes he discusses are timeless, the issues ever-present; we are still trying to answer the questions he asks.

Managing Director of The LAB Kimala Bennett (a self-appointed menthe of Mr. Orane) was guest speaker at the book launch. (My photo)

Managing Director of The LAB Kimala Bennett (a self-appointed menthe of Mr. Orane) was guest speaker at the book launch. (My photo)

Mr. Orane and his publishers clearly gave much thought to the structure of the book. The excerpts are organized in seventeen topics, covering a range of “big issues.” Short “snapshots” give a quick, helpful background to each extract. The well chosen photographs greatly enhance the pleasure of reading. They capture different aspects of Mr. Orane’s character, family life, his day to day work and some special occasions. In a photo captioned “Learning from Maasai warriors how to leap” during a 2003 trip to Kenya, Mr. Orane is both feet off the ground, arms out at the sides, with an expression of sheer delight on his face. This photo prefaced a section on Globalization. Another photograph is of Mr. Orane visiting a customer – a shopkeeper in rural Jamaica. Mr. Orane is wearing a colorful T shirt and is holding a bottle of a Grace fruit drink in one hand. The customer is wearing a snazzy shirt. I love the expressions on their faces – comfortable, trusting – clearly a solid working relationship. A quote by Mr. Orane accompanies it: “No longer do you think about pleasing your boss. You think about pleasing your customer.” Credits for all the photographs are listed at the front of the book.

Notably, the book begins with an excerpt titled “A Sense of Belonging” (1983) and ends with a piece: “What is a New Definition of Jamaica and Jamaicans?” (2006). It is coming full circle, you might say. The question for Jamaicans,“Who are we, and who do we aspire to be?” weaves in and out of Mr. Orane’s train of thought, whether he is talking about business ethics, education or innovation.

This is a book for anyone who is in business, at whatever stage of his or her career. (Personally, I wish it had included more commentary on women’s leadership; “only a matter of time” was not quite enough for me). There are sections on competitiveness, setting medium and long term goals, productivity, transparency and corporate governance. These offer sensible advice and clear guidelines – business principles, if you will. Mr. Orane’s educational background is in engineering; he first worked as an industrial engineer in the sugar industry. He has the engineer’s pragmatic mindset, and like every good businessman, he is ready to make bold moves. In the mid-1990s, when the Jamaican economy was in the doldrums, he launched the GK 2020 Vision, a long term plan that helped relaunch the company on the international stage. “We need to grow faster than Jamaica is growing,” declared Mr. Orane. Over the next five years (1995 – 2000) the firm had doubled its productivity. “This is no marketing gimmick,” Mr. Orane told Canadian business people in 1998. I get the feeling Mr. Orane is not fond of gimmicks. He’s in for the long haul.

Like every good author, Mr. Orane thoroughly enjoyed signing copies of his books at the May 12 launch. (My photo)

Like every good author, Mr. Orane thoroughly enjoyed signing copies of his books at the May 12 launch. (My photo)

He’s also not an “inward-looking” businessman. He has a strong sense of Jamaica’s place in the world, and so there are several comments to, for and about the Jamaican diaspora, and the opportunities to be found in that big world out there. We cannot stand still, neither in business nor in other aspects of our society, he notes. Probably his experience living overseas  prompted him to see Jamaicans at home and abroad as a big family with a sense of belonging. His vision is of a “Jamaica without borders.”

You will discover, too, a fascinating perspective on Bob Marley. One would think we have all said everything there is to say about our unofficial national hero; but focusing on Marley’s commercial success, Mr. Orane made some interesting points. Yes, Marley was cool, spiritual, wrote great songs, etc. But what made him such a huge global success?  Mr. Orane observed that, while he may have seemed laid-back, “he was a very disciplined man” and a workaholic to boot. He was very good at establishing partnerships, wherever he went; he was always available. He was also a great communicator – in Jamaican patois, no less, but in a way that didn’t parody Jamaican culture but helped people the world over understand. This was a remarkable feat.

Mr. Orane puts his finger on a number of issues that remain “issues” in the problematic sense. At the launch, he did make a wry comment about “déjà vu.” The “lack of private sector-public sector collaboration on the major issues facing the economy” bothers him. He also gets irritated by the concept of “Jamaica time” (a phrase that should be simply abolished, in my view: you are either on time – or late!) Mr. Orane believes this is an indicator that “we are largely an unreliable people.” Ouch! He said this back in 1988. Has very much changed? In 1995, Mr. Orane observed that many aspects of Jamaican society are “tarnished by corruption” – and that we all have a duty and responsibility to take action, report it and “let the chips fall where they may.” Twenty years later, how much farther are we down that road? As for the free movement of Jamaican people, to work wherever they are needed – which he has been advocating for some years, one notes, including as an Independent Senator in 2000 – this is still a hugely relevant issue.

Lincoln McIntyre (right), chairman of the Wolmer’s School Board, makes a special presentation to Douglas Orane, chairman of the Wolmer’s Trust Infrastructure Committee, during last Friday’s launch and inaugural induction of the Wolmer’s Hall of Fame held at the Wolmer’s Boys’ High School Auditorium at Heroes Circle in Kingston. (Photo: Gleaner)

Lincoln McIntyre (right), chairman of the Wolmer’s School Board, makes a special presentation to Douglas Orane, chairman of the Wolmer’s Trust Infrastructure Committee, during the launch and inaugural induction of the Wolmer’s Hall of Fame at the Wolmer’s Boys’ High School Auditorium. (Photo: Gleaner)

Mr. Orane was appointed as an Independent Senator from 1998 – 2002 by Prime Minister PJ Patterson, along with academic Trevor Munroe. He argued at the time for the entrenchment of independent senators in the Jamaican Constitution, pointing out several other CARICOM nations that have this tradition. This was never done; I agree with him that this was a missed opportunity. Be that as it may, governments, he said, should behave like businesses: “Every citizen should demand value for money.” Indeed!

A later section in the book discusses “giving back.” At the launch, Mr. Orane noted he had given much thought over the years to what he called the “ebb and flow of philanthropy,” noting its steady decline in Jamaica. Perhaps Mr. Orane’s ongoing involvement as a Trustee of his beloved alma mater Wolmer’s Boys’ School initially sparked this concern. On addressing the Private Sector Organization of Jamaica when he was inducted into its Hall of Fame in 2004, Mr. Orane asserted simply that “leadership is about giving back to one’s society.” He outlines his take on philanthropy, which I believe he is developing further in his new life of retirement, thus: “As a leader, I am here to create a pathway, a ladder for others to climb to success in the same way that others did so for me. Doing this has become an activity I deeply love and enjoy.” It is not about giving out money and needed items. Rather it is giving of himself, his time and guidance, from his own life’s knowledge and experience, to others; something that is arguably much more valuable than money or things. I love the “pathway” concept. It sounds like mentorship with an extra twist.

Part of Mr. Orane’s vision is for the youth of Jamaica. He gives a scathing assessment of Jamaica’s education system (“grossly inadequate to meet the needs of our society”) in a 1992 excerpt. Much of his critique rings sadly true today. In a 1988 address at his old school, he is worried about a“barrenness” in children’s lives – a growing emptiness, a vacuum that must be filled with something positive, or… Well, how prophetic is that nearly 30 years later? But Mr. Orane’s preoccupation with education is not just words; he mentors forty boys in one of the entry level first forms at Wolmer’s Boys’ School, every year. He helped raise over J$100 million for a new state-of-the-art auditorium and has offered to advise other schools on fund-raising strategies.

Douglas Orane speaks at the launch of his book. (My photo)

Douglas Orane speaks at the launch of his book. (My photo)

Now, we know Mr. Orane is more than “just a pensioner,” as he joked at his book launch. That evening Don Wehby (who, by the way, has just been sworn in as a Government Senator for the second time) gave him a rather emotional endorsement, as his boss, mentor, confidant, friend: “You are a legend – my hero. You’re the brother that I never had!” I had the sense that Mr. Orane is perhaps a reluctant hero, however. The book launch was typical, I am told, of the way he likes things done: No big fanfare or grand speeches. The event started bang on time (no “Jamaica time” here!) and the speeches were not long-winded. Nor were there any “cultural items”! Plenty of books were signed by the author. And, like a good businessman, he made sure we all knew where the books can be bought (every respectable bookstore in Jamaica!)

Mr. Orane has an inclusive vision, as it should be: “I see a bright future for our country, and all of us, when we begin to express the vast potential which exists among us.” Perhaps young Jamaicans, in particular, can follow Mr. Orane’s pathway.

Please note, very importantly, that part proceeds from the book will go to the Grace & Staff Community Development Foundation – established back in 1978. As Mr. Orane suggested, buy a copy or two for your school library. He laughed at his own suggestion: “That’s my sales and marketing function!”

GraceKennedy is working on a new headquarters in downtown Kingston, to be completed by mid-2018.

GraceKennedy is working on a new headquarters in downtown Kingston, to be completed by mid-2018.

 

“Taxperity,” Life on Planet Poor – and A Surprise Visitor: Saturday, May 21, 2016

Businessman Don Wehby was sworn in as Government Senator on Friday, May 20. He had served as Senator before under the Bruce Golding administration (in 2007). Here he is speaking at the recent launch of his friend and colleague Douglas Orane's new book. (My photo)
Businessman Don Wehby was sworn in as Government Senator on Friday, May 20. He had served as Senator before under the Bruce Golding administration (in 2007). Here he is speaking at the recent launch of his friend and colleague Douglas Orane's new book. (My photo)

What a strange week it’s been – perhaps because I have not been feeling well. I believe I may I have had a touch of Zika (or a recurrence of chikungunya?) I get the feeling these nasty mosquito-borne diseases are overlapping. I seem to get them all! So please, people, take care out there. I am a bad example; I never notice mosquito bites and now that the weather has dried out a bit I am hardly even seeing any of the little buggers. Yet they seem to get me every time. Anyway, slap on your repellent, burn your candles and above all, don’t – don’t – have any breeding grounds around your house!

Health Minister Christopher Tufton must stay on top of the ever-changing pattern of scary diseases, and keep us regularly informed. (Photo: Gleaner)

Health Minister Christopher Tufton must stay on top of the ever-changing pattern of scary diseases, and keep us regularly informed. Daily, if necessary! This is no joke. (Photo: Gleaner)

Some pregnant women are showing symptoms of the Zika Virus, but none are yet confirmed, says Chief Medical Officer Dr. Winston De La Haye. He says “we continue to monitor,” noting Jamaica is part of a PAHO research project on microcephaly. Pregnant women should increase their check-ups and include ultrasound to check on the size of the baby’s head, he added. We would still like to see regular (weekly?) updates on the Ministry of Health website, Minister Tufton! Is that so hard? There are, I understand, now ten confirmed cases of Zika. But I hear from different sources that there are far more suspected cases, and the Health Ministry itself says it expects around 70 per cent of the population to be eventually affected, even if they don’t show symptoms.

And then we have yellow fever – which, unlike the above-mentioned afflictions, does have a vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control tells us: There is no risk of yellow fever in Jamaica. The government of Jamaica requires proof of yellow fever vaccination only if you are arriving from a country with risk of yellow fever.” Several Chinese citizens who arrived in Montego Bay recently were detained because they did not have vaccination certificates. China as well as several other countries does have yellow fever.  Here are the Ministry’s FAQs on the topic: http://moh.gov.jm/edu-resources/yellow-fever-faqs/

Venezuelan president Nicholas Maduro and his wife Cilia Flores Maduro descend the stairs on arrival on a flight from Caracas Saturday night - Contributed photo/Gleaner

Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro and his wife Cilia Flores Maduro descend the stairs on arrival on a flight from Caracas Saturday night – Contributed photo/Gleaner

As I write, the President of Venezuela Nicolás Maduro and his wife have just checked in at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in Kingston. He will be here for a “working visit,” it has been hastily announced. He will be meeting with Prime Minister Andrew Holness and Government officials and holding a joint press conference with the Prime Minister tomorrow (Sunday). He is a brave man to leave his country when it’s in such disarray; hopefully there will still be a place for him on his return. One notes his wife is with him, and also his Foreign Minister, Delcy Rodríguez, and Minister of Petroleum and Mining, Eulogio Del Pino. He may visit Trinidad after he leaves us on Sunday afternoon. This must be something to do with PetroCaribe (which no one seems to talk about, these days). Meanwhile, frantic cleaning up was going on overnight downtown, where President Maduro will visit the Simón Bolívar statue and Cultural Centre.

Sunday morning meeting at Jamaica House with President Maduro. (Photo: Andrew Holness Twitter)

Sunday morning meeting at Jamaica House with President Maduro. Finance Minister Audley Shaw and Foreign Affairs Minister Kamina Johnson Smith are in this photo. (Photo: Andrew Holness Twitter)

Finance and Planning Minister Audley Shaw kisses Opposition Leader Portia Simpson Miller in the House of Representatives. (Photo: Gleaner)

A peck on the cheek: Finance and Planning Minister Audley Shaw kisses Opposition Leader Portia Simpson Miller in the House of Representatives. (Photo: Gleaner)

We really do care about “The Poor”  – not Jamaicans in general, but The Poor that some politicians love to love. Referring to the recent Budget,  Imani Duncan-Price declared in a Gleaner column that tax reform is a delicate balancing act – and this is not balanced.” Suddenly the People’s National Party (PNP) is giving out prescriptions for how tax reform should be conducted – which begs the question… Well, perhaps you know what the question is! Now, whether the current administration can hold it all together – promises and all – is one thing, and remains to be seen. But as usual, Opposition remarks on the Budget always have a hypocritical ring. I mean, don’t they all mess around with taxes, every year, when they’re in power? In her Budget address Opposition Leader Portia Simpson Miller called the Government’s plan “taxperity” (a play on the word “prosperity,” which was heavily used during the Jamaica Labour Party’s election campaign). She also mentioned, not for the first time, that her party replaced 300 pit latrines in schools – proof of that love of The Poor, I suppose. I cannot find a copy of her speech online. I think the Jamaica Information Service should post the speech, however. The Opposition is a part of our Government. There is a summary on the PNP’s website (“Welcome, Comrades!”) but it’s rather inadequate.

Meanwhile, the IMF was back in town and gave the thumbs up to the Government’s tax plans. The officials had skipped a visit because of the elections, so this was two reports rolled into one.  You can read it here: http://www.imf.org/external/np/ms/2016/052016.htm

But growth… What about that elusive creature?

The Trench Town Reading Centre is an oasis of hope in the St. Andrew Southern constituency, the "safe seat" that Omar Davies will be relinquishing this summer. (My photo)

The Trench Town Reading Centre is an oasis of hope in the St. Andrew Southern constituency, the “safe seat” that Omar Davies will be relinquishing this summer. (My photo)

Speaking of the Comrades, some of them are apparently jockeying for position, with Portia Simpson Miller facing a possible challenge to the leadership by the end of the year. Instagram Queen Lisa Hanna called a radio talk show host to inform him that she is considering applying for the position of Vice President when the time comes. Gasp! Also, with the ailing former Finance Minister Omar Davies very likely to step down in August, Colin Campbell is hoping to replace him in his prized “safe seat” of St. Andrew Southern, which includes a large number of The Poor. I recall some years ago when Dr. Davies publicly described the young male residents of his constituency as “irredeemable.” Mr. Campbell is anxious to inherit them. 

Why is garbage still an issue in several parts of the island? There are reportedly major pile-ups of uncollected rubbish in St. Ann. St. Catherine is suffering from a major rat problem, and blocked drains. Is there still a shortage of collection trucks? And what about the problem of illegal dumping? If one is observant, one can see this in various rural parishes (as I noted, and photographed in Hector’s River, Portland a few weeks ago) and rundown residential areas like New Haven, which is almost a garbage dump in itself. Sometimes it’s construction waste. It’s a disgrace; but I realize it’s hard to catch the lazy, careless law-breakers. Take it to the dump! At least the Portland Health Department, it is reported, has launched a probe into reports of illegal dumping in some remote areas, near the resort community of San San.

Cabinet has granted a mobile spectrum licence to a local telecommunications company, Symbiote Investments, to provide internet service in Jamaica.

Politics has always been thoroughly mixed up in our education system. And along with the politics comes, almost inevitably – corruption. So it’s hardly a surprise that a UK professor – founder and director of the Institute for Educational Administration and Leadership -Jamaica cited “influence peddling” as rife in the selection of teachers for promotion to principal in schools. This was one of the key findings of a study Professor Paul Miller, reader in education at Brunel University in the United Kingdom, conducted. Why on earth do Members of Parliament select school board chairmen? Why aren’t teachers promoted on merit? No wonder our students are struggling. Mismanagement is commonplace in our schools; and every year there are angry protests at school gates against school principals – by parents and others with vested interests. Over to you, Minister Reid…

One of the original car chases, from the thriller "Bullitt." Some of our policemen seem to think, and behave, as if they are in an action movie. Yet, they expect the Jamaican people to trust them.

One of the original car chases, from the thriller “Bullitt.” Some of our policemen seem to think, and behave, as if they are in an action movie. Yet, they expect the Jamaican people to trust them.

Living in an action movie: I sometimes wonder whether members of our police force have been watching too many films involving machine guns and car chases. It is completely against the law and police regulations to fire at a moving car, and yet… Senior Superintendent Anthony Castelle and District Constable Rohan Mcintosh were charged by INDECOM with unlawful wounding, unlawful discharge of firearm, and misconduct in a public office. They were granted bail of one million dollars each. They allegedly pursued an illegal taxi (with passengers) along several roadways in Montego Bay, firing at the moving vehicle. After the car stopped and the driver ran away, they “discovered” a pregnant woman in the back seat had been injured. I wondered what her condition is, now. It’s lucky no passers-by weren’t hurt. This reminds me of the Khajeel Mais murder case – but that was a private citizen,  not an officer of the State, who fired at the taxi in which he was traveling. I ask again: What has happened to the Mais case? 

And come to that, why have the police not found the notorious “Duppy Flim”? Why have they not arrested anyone for the murders of the two missionaries? And investigators seem to be struggling in the case of the murder of Corporal Judith Williams.

Sounding a little desperate for good news, the Jamaica Constabulary Force tells us that murders are down by 5 per cent compared to January 1 – May 14 last year; and that reported rapes, robbery, assaults and larceny are all down, too. We have had 409 murders this year, compared to 431 for the same period in 2015. A cab driver was shot dead almost on the doorstep of the St. Andrew Parish Church, traumatizing worshippers. I guess this is one of those “pockets of violence” we hear about. In one night, six people were killed in western Jamaica, CVM Television reports. By the way, if you would like to read more on the crime and violence debate, which continues to drag on in social media, please take a look at my latest article for Global Voices here: https://globalvoices.org/2016/05/17/prepare-for-pushback-if-you-call-jamaica-violent-even-though-it-can-be/  My deepest condolences to all the families of these Jamaicans who have died. 

Lloyd Aitken, Hagley Park Road/Half Way Tree, Kingston

Ronaldo Kinghorn, 19, Mona Commons, Kingston

Rodario Hibbert, 27, Rose Hall/Linstead, St. Catherine

Kay Marie Pryce-Binns, 41, Rose Hall/Linstead, St. Catherine

Unidentified woman, Old Harbour Road, St. Catherine

Rory Forbes, 22, Spanish Town, St. Catherine

Marcus Dennis, 32, Green Bottom/May Pen, Clarendon

Mavis Davis, 63, Ivory Close/May Pen, Clarendon

Michael Williams, 48, Ivory Close/May Pen, Clarendon

Ryan Ramdial, 30, Rocky Point, Clarendon

Daniel Guthrie, Rocky Point, Clarendon

Balford ‘Fire Bird’ Gordon, 56, Mosquito Cove, Hanover

Aletta Brown-Gordon, 45, Mosquito Cove, Hanover

Unidentified man, Pell River, Hanover

Evan Williams, 35, Morgan’s Bridge/Grange Hill, Westmoreland

Devaro Gardner, 15, Bromley, St. Mary

Marcel Sinclair, 38, Reach District, Portland

 

A memorial service for the two American missionaries who were murdered in Albion Mountain, St. Mary on April 30 was held today at the Boscobel United Church. They were remembered for their kindness. Meanwhile, no one has been arrested yet in connection with the murders.

A memorial service for the two American missionaries who were murdered in Albion Mountain, St. Mary on April 30 was held today at the Boscobel United Church. They were remembered for their kindness. Meanwhile, no one has been arrested yet in connection with the murders.

Vere Technical High School are Katalyxt’s Winning Youth Innovators!

Guest Speaker Damion Crawford with the winners, Vere Technical High School.
Guest Speaker Damion Crawford with the winners, Vere Technical High School.

I feel so sorry that I missed the final event of the Katalyxt Youth Innovators Awards; I always closely follow the progress of the competition, which lasts throughout the school year. Sponsors were the Development Bank of Jamaica, the Export Import Bank of Jamaica and Katalyxt. The young and enthusiastic Katalyxt team is led by Winsome Minott, CEO of Mint Management and Finance Services Limited, who has a vision for our youth which is tremendously refreshing. Ms. Minott is so right; innovation is the future! Here is the Katalyxt press release (and their photos).

Vere Technical High School Wins 2016 Katalyxt Youth Innovators’ Competition!

Katalyxt is a division of Mint Management and Finance Services Limited with the responsibility of aiding the growth and development of small and medium enterprises in Jamaica. The long-term goal is to develop the Jamaican business community by the identification and training of existing and prospective entrepreneurs, to increase their chances of success. The business development conference is one of the mediums through which we assist individuals to identify critical success factors for businesses and plan effective strategies charting the course for growth and development.

Bridgeport High School, winners of the Creative Arts Award, with Katalyxt's Winsome Minott.

Bustamante High School, winners of the Creative Arts Award, with Katalyxt’s Winsome Minott.

This year marked the 5th staging of our annual Katalyxt Youth Innovators’ Competition which commenced from September to May 2016. The objective of this competition is to engage young innovators third (3rd) to six (6th) form to participate and develop an appetite for innovation. This project seeks to invest in the entrepreneurial potential of Jamaican youths, while instilling in them, the necessary business acumen and preparing students to be movers and shakers of tomorrow’s business industries, be they manufacturing, energy, technology, agriculture, amongst others.

Second place winners Campion College accept their prize from Katalyxt founder Winsome Minott.

Second place winners Campion College accept their prize from Katalyxt founder Winsome Minott.

Students were drawn from Science, Business, and Home Economics clubs to focus on entrepreneurship and enterprise. Thereafter, students and advisors organized team(s) to represent the school, and submit an innovative product or service which has an element of originality. Schools were permitted to submit more than one entry. Products and services submitted were judged based on creativity and innovation, execution of product, marketability, and value added, presentation and design, to name a few.

Judging for the 2016 Youth Innovators’ Competition took place on March 7, 2016 and March 14, 2016 at the Jamaica Conference Centre and the Jose Marti Technical High School Auditorium, respectively. The judges were impressed by the innovative products and services presented; it was a hard decision for the judges, to say the least. However, in the end they came to a decision, and the Top 12 winners for the 2016 competition are:

Ardenne High School; Bridgeport High School; Bustamante High School; Campion College; Edith Dalton James High School; Vere Technical High School; Immaculate Conception High School; Excelsior High School; Penwood High School; Meadowbrook High School; Merl Grove High School; and Wolmer’s Boys’ School.

On May 12, 2016 at the Jamaica Conference Centre, the Top 12 winners were invited to attend the final stage of the competition- Training Session & Prize Giving Ceremony. In addition to the much awaited announcement of winners, the highlight of the event was the guest speaker Mr. Damion Crawford. Mr. Crawford was effective and inspiring as he encouraged winners to follow their passion: “Innovate, because you MUST.” His message was caustic but realistic – jobs that were available 30 years ago, have now been replaced by technology. It is therefore, vital for the graduates to become “job creators and not job seekers.”

The Real Life Youth Entrepreneur, Lacey- Ann Bartley of Bartley’s All in Wood, encouraged the students to pursue their dreams in the face of adversity. She noted that passion and perseverance will take you a long way when starting a business: “Passion and perseverance will take you a long way when starting a business.”

Lacey-Ann Bartley of Bartley's All in Wood shared her entrepreneurial journey with the students.

Lacey-Ann Bartley of Bartley’s All in Wood shared her entrepreneurial journey with the students.

The winners of the 2016 Youth Innovators’ Competition are:

  •  1st Place: Vere Technical High School.    Product: Go Green Vere Technical
  • 2nd Place: Campion College.    Product: Chocolat Masque
  • 3rd Place: Penwood High School.    Product: Pentastic Innovative Works
  • 4th Place: Meadowbrook High School.     Product: Candles by Asha

Other prizes:

  • Sustainability Award: Bridgeport High School.    Product: BioDigester
  • Big Idea! Award (shared): Penwood High School.    Product: Pentastic Innovative Works
  • Big Idea! Award (shared): Ardenne High School.    Product: Energomax
  • Team Leader’s Award: Edith Dalton James High School.    Product: Turnip Facial Scrub
  • Creative Arts Award: Bustamante High School.    Product: Handy Bag

Our 1st place winner, Vere Technical High School received a total grand prize of $30,000.00. The team will be featured in the August/September upcoming eKatalyxt publication, and will have the opportunity to work with Katalyxt’s team of experts to further develop their product.

Katalyxt Jamaica would love to hear from you. If you want to talk to them some more about the program or talk to any of the winning schools, you may contact them at katalyxt@gmail.com  Website: www.katalyxt.info or @katalyxtja (Twitter). Tel: (876) 968-3115.

 

Foreign Affairs Minister Senator Kamina Johnson Smith Reports to Upper House on Recent Travels

Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Senator Kamina Johnson Smith. (Photo: Jamaica Information Service)
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Senator Kamina Johnson Smith. (Photo: Jamaica Information Service)

Senator Kamina Johnson Smith, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, has been traveling quite a bit lately. Today she gave a thorough report  to the Upper House on what she has been doing, and what transpired from her various meetings. In particular, please note the final section, providing an update on the issue of Jamaicans traveling to Trinidad and Tobago. The Minister told fellow Senators that the Government does not support a boycott of Trinidadian goods, which the Private Sector Organization of Jamaica had urged in early April.

Statement to the Senate by

Senator the Honourable Kamina Johnson Smith

Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade

20th May 2016

 Topics: UN General Assembly Special Session on the World Drug Problem;

High Level Signing of the Paris Climate Change Agreement and High Level Thematic Debate on the Sustainable Development Goals, New York 19 – 22 April 2016-05-17;

ACP and ACP-EU Council Meetings, Dakar 25 – 29 April 2016;

Bilateral Exchanges with Trinidad and Tobago, April – May 2016

Mr. President,

Honourable Members of the Senate,

I am pleased to report to this Honourable Senate on my first overseas engagements since my appointment as Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade. Let me express my full appreciation to the staff of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, including those at the Missions overseas, for the excellent support they provided, allowing me to represent our country well at the various meetings.

ungassYash

UNGASS on World Drug Problem and Signing of Paris Climate Change Agreement, New York

It is significant that my first engagement was at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. Notwithstanding our small size, Jamaica continues to make an important contribution to global governance within the multilateral arena. Nowhere is this more evident than at the UN.

UN General Assembly Special Session on the World Drug Problem

With respect to the UN General Assembly Special Session on the World Drug Problem, held from 19th to 21st April, Jamaica joined the consensus, but found that the outcome document entitled ‘Our Joint Commitment in effectively addressing and countering the World Drug Problem’, was not as far-reaching as we would have liked. References to the need for comprehensive and balanced strategies to address the world drug problem, alternatives to incarceration for minor drug offences, the importance of scientific evidence in the evaluation of drug policies, alternative development and demand reduction were, however, among a few advances reflected in the text.

Jamaica voiced its disappointment that the document did not allow countries the requisite flexibility and policy space to design domestic policies in keeping with national circumstances – for example, the recognition of cannabis as a religious sacrament and the safeguarding of religious exemptions. We underscored that “one size does not fit all” and that the medical value of a substance must be determined essentially by scientific evidence-based analysis.

Jamaica therefore called for the establishment of a follow up mechanism to review the global drug control architecture as well as make recommendations on how best to recalibrate the global response in a manner that reflects contemporary and evolving realities. Importantly, Jamaica conveyed its commitment to continued constructive dialogue on the issues.

I also participated in a Special Roundtable to consider new challenges, threats and realities in addressing the world drug problem. I made it clear that the traditional approach to the intractable war on drugs has been ineffective and that there is need for innovative approaches. I further took the opportunity to:

  1. underscore the need for evaluation of the current global framework, given the changing environment and expectations;
  2. highlight changes in Jamaica’s approach to the issue, including amendments to the Dangerous Drugs Act and the positive impacts to date; and
  3. share the challenges experienced by Jamaica arising from the restrictive international framework relating to the scheduling of cannabis and cannabis resin in schedules I and IV of the Single Convention.

SDGS

High-level Thematic Debate on the Sustainable Development Goals

Mr. President,

I also participated in a High-level Thematic Debate on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), organised by the President of the General Assembly and attended by over 100 countries. That Debate followed on the heels of the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development by Heads of State and Government in New York last September.

The SDGs reflect the shared commitment of the international community to tackle a gamut of global challenges through global action. The Debate constituted a call to action, beyond the adoption of the text, and signalled an early step in the journey to 2030. Jamaica’s statement, highlighted the following:

  1. the vulnerability of many Small Island Developing States (SIDS), like Jamaica, to natural hazards, coupled with middle income country (MIC) designation which limits the availability of funding to address its myriad challenges;
  2. the need to strengthen the statistical capacity of SIDS, in order to be able to accurately measure progress;
  3. The need for the development of partnerships, including with the private sector, academia, and international organisations, to secure a future of shared prosperity;
  4. Importantly, the centrality of SDG17 (Means of Implementation), upon which the attainment of all the other goals depends.
The slogan "For the planet" is projected on the Eiffel Tower as part of the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21) in Paris, France, December 11, 2015. REUTERS/Charles Platiau - RTX1YA5M

The slogan “For the planet” is projected on the Eiffel Tower as part of the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21) in Paris, France, December 11, 2015. REUTERS/Charles Platiau – RTX1YA5M

High-level Signing Ceremony for Paris Agreement

Mr. President,

I was honoured to have been among the 175 world leaders and Foreign Ministers who signed the Paris Agreement on Climate Change on 22nd April, which was also observed globally as Earth Day.

Following the Climate Change Conference in Paris in December 2015 , widely considered one of the most challenging and important for humanity, the historical signing of the Agreement by such a large number of countries on its opening for signature, signals the unquestioned commitment of the international community to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) and help ensure the survival of our planet. Jamaica is hoping that this commitment will translate to a limit of less than 1.5°C. in the increase of global temperature.

The Agreement is especially important to SIDS, like Jamaica, which are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, including sea-level rise and coastal erosion. In addition to our national measures, support for ambitious global action remains central to Jamaica’s efforts to achieve sustainable development.

It is also important to note that Jamaica was one of seven (7) small island developing countries elected to meet with the Secretary General of the UN, Ban Ki Moon where we had the opportunity at close quarters to raise our concerns regarding the complexity of modalities to gain access to funds to support adaptation of the matters related to implementation; and to reiterate our concerns regarding the implications of Middle Income Country designation.

"Stopped to chat with these lovely Senegalese students enriching their CVs with experience at ACP conference." (Twitter photo, @kaminajsmith)

“Stopped to chat with these lovely Senegalese students enriching their CVs with experience at ACP conference.” (Twitter photo, @kaminajsmith)

ACP Council and ACP EU Council Meetings, Dakar

Mr. President,

Let me now turn to the 103rd meeting of the ACP Council and the 41st Meeting of the Joint ACP-EU Council that were held in Dakar, Senegal,  between 25th and 29th April 2016, respectively.

The African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States comprising 79 member countries seeks to promote the sustainable development and successful integration of its members into the global economy. It will be recalled that the ACP established a formal relationship with the European Union within the framework of four successive Lomé Conventions and the current Cotonou Partnership Agreement, covering trade, development cooperation and political dialogue.

It is by virtue of its membership of the ACP Group and as a signatory to the Cotonou Partnership Agreement that Jamaica benefits from development cooperation from the European Union.   Over the years, we have received over €1.2 billion in assistance from the EU, representing the country’s primary source of grant funding. It is therefore critical that Jamaica remains fully engaged in the discussions on the future of the ACP itself and the future of ACP-EU relations when the Cotonou Agreement expires in 2020.

The meetings in Dakar allowed both sides to informally exchange views on the future relationship, including a future framework agreement, given the changed global landscape as well as developments within both the EU and the ACP. Formal negotiations on a new ACP-EU partnership framework are expected to begin in 2018. Preparatory to that, however, both sides have already embarked on a process of internal reflections on the future of their relationship. A High Level Panel discussion was also held on 28th April under the theme, ” From Lomé to Cotonou, post-2020: a new perspective of ACP-EU relations”.

Mr. President,

The Meetings in Dakar considered a wide ranging Agenda, including updates on the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs), intra-ACP Programming under the 11th EDF, the trade in commodities, ACP-EU relations post 2020, private sector development as well as preparations for the forthcoming Summit of ACP Heads of State and Government. Jamaica actively participated in the discussions and provided updates on implementation of the CARIFORUM-EU Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), inter alia.

With effect from January 2016, Jamaica assumed the role of EPA High Representative within the Caribbean Forum (CARIFORUM). In that context, I made a presentation to the Council Sessions on behalf of CARIFORUM, on the results of the first Five-year EPA Review initiated in 2014.  The implementation challenges revealed in the Review were of particular significance.  These included the impact of the global financial and economic crisis on the ability of CARIFORUM States to take advantage of the market access and other opportunities under the Agreement. In addition, the investment and trade in services provisions have not so far yielded the benefits originally envisaged.

A highlight for the Caribbean was the decision taken by the ACP Council, on the initiative of Jamaica, for an urgent response to the outbreak of the Zika virus in Caribbean countries. Noting its potential economic and social impact, the Council gave instructions for an appropriate financial allocation to be urgently made from the Intra-ACP resources of the 11th European Development Fund to address this public health crisis. Our Embassy in Brussels is currently pursuing this with the ACP Secretariat which is based there.

With respect to Private Sector development, the discussions highlighted the critical role of that sector in the process of economic growth and development at the national and regional levels. Jamaica reaffirmed the importance of promoting youth entrepreneurship as part of initiatives to encourage a more robust, sustainable and dynamic ACP private sector to foster innovation and add value to the production of and trade in goods and services.

Two political issues are also noteworthy: the Belize-Guatemala border tensions and the Guyana–Venezuela territorial dispute.  The ACP Council adopted a Resolution affirming the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Belize and a further Resolution urging Guyana and Venezuela to, inter alia, participate in good faith in the efforts of the UN Secretary General for the peaceful resolution of the border controversy.  This was the first time that both issues were being brought before the ACP Council.

MInister Johnson Smith meets with EU Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development Neven Mimica at the ACP (Photo: Twitter @MimicaEU)

MInister Johnson Smith meets with EU Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development Neven Mimica at the meeting of the ACP-EU Council in Dakar. (Photo: Twitter @MimicaEU)

Mr. President,

Given the importance of sugar to many ACP countries, Ministers welcomed developments in bilateral talks with the EU, including assurances that the EU Safeguard Mechanism will not be applied automatically, and that the EU will not impose any mandatory Country of Origin Labelling (COOL) for sugar. ACP Ministers also insisted that no intervention be made to increase the supply of sugar within the EU which could undermine the fragile recovery of sugar prices in some ACP Member States.

With respect to Development Finance, Ministers discussed a proposed amendment to the Cotonou Partnership Agreement having regard, in particular, to the provision for financing for short-term fluctuations in export earnings of ACP countries, due to exogenous shocks such as natural disasters.

The Joint ACP-EU Council also had substantive discussions on the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the follow up to the Paris Agreement. In the discussions on Migration and Development, the ACP reiterated its concern regarding the EU’s perceived emphasis on the impact of irregular migration from Africa to Europe. Jamaica intervened to highlight the work being undertaken at the country level, including the development of a National Policy on International Migration and Development. We underscored the importance of protecting the human rights of migrants regardless of their migratory status and acknowledged the significant contribution of migration to sustainable development, including through engagement of the Diaspora. On trade-related matters, we reviewed preparations for the 14th Ministerial Conference of UNCTAD, to be held in Nairobi in July.

Regrettably, it was not possible to have the discussions on the ACP-EU relations post 2020 when the item arose within the Joint Council.  The exchange was therefore delegated to the two Co-chairs and the ACP Secretary General and the EU Commissioner for Development. Notwithstanding the limited participation in those discussions, the two sides, through the Co-chairs, affirmed that a future relationship should be anchored in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development of the United Nations.

8th Summit of the ACP

Central to ACP deliberations was the 8th Summit of ACP Heads of State and Government scheduled for the 30th May – 1st June 2016 in Papua New Guinea. The Summit is expected to provide the political mandate to guide the new orientation of the ACP as well as negotiations for future relations with the EU.  Each ACP region is being requested to designate a Head of State or Government to speak at the Opening Ceremony.

ACP Ministers also received the report of the Eminent Persons Group (EPG) entitled “A New Vision for our Future – A 21st century African, Caribbean and Pacific Group delivering for its Peoples,” which will be presented to the 8th ACP Summit. Chaired by former President of Nigeria Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, the EPG undertook wide-ranging consultations over more than two years within all regions, including the Caribbean and made recommendations to reform the organization and reposition it as a more effective global player. Caribbean representation in the EPG included Mrs. Patricia Francis, former Head of JAMPRO and the International Trade Centre (ITC), and Mr. Bharrat Jagdeo, former President of Guyana.

Mr. President,

The meetings in Dakar also provided an opportunity for me to interact and share experiences with key players within the ACP-EU relationship. In this regard, I had an informal exchange with EU Commissioner for Development, Mr. Neven Mimica as well as brief bilateral meetings with high level officials from Sweden, Italy and The Netherlands. In addition, I had some very useful exchanges with many ACP colleagues, including the Foreign Ministers of Ghana and Kenya.

caricom_single_market_and_economy-csme-logo

Treatment of Jamaican Nationals Travelling to Trinidad and Tobago

Mr. President,

Let me now address recent developments surrounding the treatment of Jamaican nationals travelling to Trinidad and Tobago within the framework of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME).

We note that 326 Jamaicans were refused entry to Trinidad and Tobago during 2015. In the first quarter of this year (Jan – March 2016), 113 Jamaicans were denied entry to that country. Several of them complained, via public media, of mistreatment both at the Immigration point as well as during their stay overnight at the Piarco International Airport while awaiting a return flight to Jamaica on the following day.

Jamaica has sought to deal with the issue at both the bilateral and regional levels.

Bilateral level

Immediately following the recent round of complaints, I wrote and spoke with the Jamaican representative on the Board of Caribbean Airlines and asked that the matter be placed on the Agenda of COTED where it was referred to the Heads Meeting scheduled for later this year. I had very frank and open discussions on the issue with my Trinidadian counterpart, Senator the Honourable Dennis Moses, Minister of Foreign and CARICOM Affairs. I also had the opportunity to meet with Minister Moses on 22nd April at UN Headquarters in New York. The matter was also among the issues raised in bilateral discussions between my colleague, the Honourable Karl Samuda, Minister of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries and Senator, the Honourable Paula Gopee-Scoon, Minister of Trade and Industry of Trinidad and Tobago on 21st April, in the margins of the 42nd meeting of the CARICOM Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) in Guyana. Additionally, our High Commissioner in Port-of-Spain held bilateral meetings with the Trinidadian Ministers of Foreign Affairs and National Security respectively as well as the Chief Executive Officer of Caribbean Airlines Limited (CAL) to discuss the issue. On all occasions, Trinidad and Tobago assured Jamaica of its commitment to resolve the issue as expeditiously as possible.

At the request of the Cabinet, I addressed a letter to Minister Moses on 7th April 2016, expressing Jamaica’s concerns about the CSME provisions for the free movement of CARICOM nationals, with special reference to the high rate of denial of entry of Jamaicans travelling to Trinidad and Tobago; the treatment meted out to Jamaicans by immigration officials and other personnel at the airport; and the lack of proper facilities to accommodate returnees detained overnight, pending return flights to Jamaica.

The letter identified those areas in which it was felt that considerable improvement could be made. I further emphasized the need to find concrete and practical solutions with specific timeframes within which to address the issues as a matter of priority to avoid recurrence. I underscored the fact that the solution should respect the rights and dignity of Jamaican nationals who are denied entry to Trinidad and Tobago.

In a letter dated 27th April, Minister Moses advised me of certain steps to be taken by his Administration, by the latest July 2016, to improve the situation at the Piarco International Airport. These include:

  1. the convening in June 2016 of a customer service training workshop for airport staff, including immigration officials and other frontline employees, such as security and other airport personnel who interact on a daily basis with passengers, including those who are denied entry and detained overnight while awaiting return; and
  2. retro-fitting of a dedicated facility at the airport where persons, including Jamaicans, can be appropriately accommodated overnight while awaiting return flights to their countries of origin.

Minister Moses also indicated that there are on-going improvements of the facilities at the Piarco International Airport for in-transit passengers in general.

The response by the Government of Trinidad and Tobago is viewed as an initial positive step towards dealing with the issue of free movement, which has dominated Jamaica’s bilateral relations with that country over the last few years. Minister Moses has assured me of his continued personal involvement in addressing the issues and commitment to treat with any further problems that may arise.

Regional level  

 Mr. President,

At the regional level, Jamaica also requested that the item “Treatment of CARICOM Nationals Travelling in the Region” be returned to the agenda of the  recent Session of the COTED, which has oversight for the implementation of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME). Under the item, Jamaica called for the full implementation of the decisions taken at the 39th Session of COTED held in November 2014. Those decisions identified steps to be taken by Member States and the CARICOM Secretariat to ensure that the CSME Free Movement Regime operates in the interest of all CARICOM nationals. The steps outlined include the submission of periodic assessments of the Free Movement Regime; the implementation of public education programmes on the Regime, including on the entry requirements for travel to other Member States; the submission by Member States of statistics on the free movement of CARICOM nationals and facilitation of travel; and undertaking analysis of the work done to date on the implementation of the ruling by the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) on the Shanique Myrie case and challenges being encountered in that regard.

Several other CARICOM countries also made statements under this agenda item, highlighting the difficulties that their own nationals face when travelling within the region.

The 42nd Session of COTED also decided, inter alia, that:

  1. Member States should comply with the decisions taken at the 39th Session of the COTED, in particular that the inherent dignity of all CARICOM nationals must be respected and the basic level of treatment, in keeping with international norms and standards, must be adhered to in the event of a denial of entry into CARICOM jurisdictions; and
  2. the CARICOM Committee of Ambassadors should develop a protocol that would outline the steps to be taken in those instances when CARICOM nationals are denied entry into another CARICOM Member State and the assistance that can be accessed immediately before being returned to their home country.

CARICOM States further proposed at COTED that issues relating to the Free Movement of Persons Regime be referred to the next meeting of the Conference of CARICOM Heads of Government scheduled to be held in July 2016.

It is noted that the issue of the Treatment of CARICOM Nationals Travelling Within the Region has also been included on the agenda of the 4th Meeting of the CARICOM Council of Ambassadors which will be held 23rd May via videoconference. Given the importance of the Free Movement of Persons Regime to the overall integration process, we consider it essential that the CARICOM Committee of Ambassadors completes its work on the protocol in good time for consideration at the Conference of CARICOM Heads of Government in July.

The Government of Jamaica remains committed to advancing the interests of Jamaica within the context of the CSME. We will continue to engage other CARICOM Member States on issues of interest and concern to us, through bilateral diplomatic channels, as well as within the context of the CARCIOM regional mechanisms.

I thank you, Mr. President.

Senator the Honourable, Kamina Johnson Smith, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade also visited Mexico City (May 17-18), where she signed a Jamaica-Mexico Agreement on the Avoidance of Double Taxation and the Prevention of Fiscal Evasion with respect to Income Tax. Also signed was an MOU on the establishment of a Mexican Chair at UWI and the renewal of the collaboration agreement between the National Autonomous University of Mexico and UWI. Here she is with the Mexican Foreign Minister, Claudia Ruiz Massieu. The meeting of the Joint Commission coincided with the celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the establishment of Diplomatic Relations between Jamaica and Mexico. (Photo: Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade)

Senator Kamina Johnson Smith, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade also visited Mexico City (May 17-18), where she signed a Jamaica-Mexico Agreement on the Avoidance of Double Taxation and the Prevention of Fiscal Evasion with respect to Income Tax. Also signed was an MOU on the establishment of a Mexican Chair at UWI and the renewal of the collaboration agreement between the National Autonomous University of Mexico and UWI. Here she is with the Mexican Foreign Minister, Claudia Ruiz Massieu. The meeting of the Joint Commission coincided with the celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the establishment of Diplomatic Relations between Jamaica and Mexico. (Photo: Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade)

 

 

Spring Is Busting Out All Over!

Grape hyacinths in a Swedish spring. Always a favorite of mine. (Photo courtesy of John Wyatt)
Grape hyacinths in a Swedish spring. Always a favorite of mine. (Photo courtesy of John Wyatt)

Well, the song is June Is Busting Out All Over, from the gorgeous Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Carousel… It’s a rousing, jolly song, with a macho sort of chorus kicking things off and a lot of energetic (and athletic) dancing in the middle. As in most of these fifties musicals, everyone is well-scrubbed, clean and white, in the original version; and the men do manly things like fishing and boating, while the women bake cakes, wearing aprons. You can watch the entire sequence on dear old YouTube. Here are the lyrics:

Exuberant dancing: the scene from Carousel in which June is busting out.

Exuberant, clean-cut dancing: the scene from Carousel in which June is busting out.

Men]
June is bustin’ out all over!
All over the meadow and the hill!
Buds’re bustin’ outa bushes
And the rompin’ river pushes
Ev’ry little wheel that wheels beside the mill!

June is bustin’ out all over!
The feelin’ is gettin’ so intense
That the young Virginia creepers
Hev been huggin’ the bejeepers
Outa all the mornin’-glories on the fence.
Because it’s June!
June, June, June
Jest because it’s June, June, June!

June is bustin’ out all over!
The ocean is full of Jacks and Jills,
With her little tail a-swishin’
Ev’ry lady fish is wishin’
That a male would come
And grab her by the gills!

[All]
Because it’s June! June, June, June
Just because it’s June, June, June!

[Barbara]
Fresh and alive and gay and young
June is a love song, sweetly sung

[Girls]
June is bustin’ out all over!
The saplin’s are bustin’ out with sap!
Love he’s found my brother, “Junior,”
And my sister’s even lunier,
And my ma is gettin’ kittenish with Pap.

[All]
June is bustin’ out all over!

The cute little lambs of a European spring. Or as my father used to say: "Delicious with mint sauce"!

The cute little lambs of a European spring. Or as my father used to say: “Delicious with mint sauce”!

[Barbara]
June is bustin’ out all over!
The sheep aren’t sleepin’ any more.
All the rams that chase ewe sheep
Are determined there’ll be new sheep,
And the ewe sheep aren’t even keepin’ score!

[All]
Because it’s June! June, June, June
Just because it’s June, June, June!
It’s June! It’s June, June, June
Just because it’s June, June…

[Claramae]
March went out like a lion
A-whippin’ up the water in the bay.
Then April cried and stepped aside,
And along came pretty little May!

May was full of promises,
But she didn’t keep ’em quick enough for some,
And a crowd of Doubtin’ Thomases
Was predictin’ that the summer’d never come.

[Men]
But it’s comin’, by gum!
Y’ ken can feel it come,
Y’ ken can feel it in yer heart,
Y’ ken can see it in the ground,

[Girls]
Y’ ken can see it in the trees,
Y’ ken can smell it in the breeze

[All]
Look around, look around, look around!

[Claramae]
To ladies the men are payin’ court.
Lotsa ships are kept at anchor
Jest because the captains hanker
Fer the comfort they ken only get in port!

[Barbara]
June makes the bay look bright and new,
Sails gleamin’ white on sunlit blue.

[All]
You can hear it comin’!

[Claramae]
June is bustin’ out all over
The moonlight is shining on the shore
And the girls who were contrary
With the boys in January,
Aren’t nearly so contrary anymore!

[Claramae and Chorus]
Because it’s June! June, June, June
Just because it’s June, June, June!

[Ballet]

[All]
On accounta it’s June!
June, June, June
Jest because it’s June, June, June

Quite a lot of lyrics! Well, I am going to date myself horribly now. Although I was quite small when this movie was released (1956), I was fascinated as a child by American musical theater, much of which was translated into films. For me, they were quite magical – and the fact that I didn’t understand half of what they were singing made them all the more fascinating (I didn’t understand American). For me, as a child, they had a Technicolor, dream-like quality. It was another world, far from that of my quiet London neighborhood.

Cowslips, courtesy of my Facebook friend John Wyatt.

Cowslips, courtesy of my Facebook friend John Wyatt.

These songs must be built into my DNA, because over the weekend I was thinking (and singing to myself): Spring is busting out all over…

Well, we don’t have real seasons in Jamaica, I’m afraid. In the tropics, everything is even: It’s generally hot year round – a little cooler for periods, a little wetter for periods. The days are virtually the same length. There is really, honestly, little variety – although Jamaicans will use the word “season” – as in “mango season,” which is round about now. Most leaves don’t fall, many plants bloom year-round. Trees bloom at certain times, but it’s not really regarded as a season.

One of my friend's glorious photographs, from Borstig Prastgard, Sweden. (With his permission)

One of my friend’s glorious photographs, from Borstig Prastgard, Sweden. (With his permission)

I must confess – I really miss the in-your-face season of spring. I do. It did not help that a friend of mine who lives in rural Sweden, and regularly posts exquisite photographs of the changing moods of nature, shared a glorious collection on Facebook of daffodils, daisies, cowslips, forget-me-nots, tulips, grape hyacinths…all glowing in a gentle spring sun. I felt suddenly tearful and longing for northern climes – perhaps forgetting, though, that up north spring has a habit of turning wet and nasty on you, overnight.

Ah, but… In Jamaica, spring is somehow in the air. The birds are convinced of it. It’s a kind of vibration, perhaps. Our neighborhood (that part which still includes trees) has been frantically busy in the past two or three weeks. Our next door neighbor shared some beautiful videos of their Red-Billed Streamertail (“Doctor Bird”) babies, at different stages of development. The fledglings, quivering anxiously on the nest a couple of weeks ago, are now flitting around and guzzling all the syrup out of the bird feeders like pros. A pair of Zenaida Doves (“Pea Doves”) spend half the day chasing each other around in ever-decreasing circles. Don’t they get dizzy?

One of our Jamaican Woodpeckers on his favorite perch, a lamp post. To his right, a Northern Mockingbird is hoping to evict him. (My photo)

One of our Jamaican Woodpeckers on his favorite perch, a lamp post. To his right, a Northern Mockingbird is hoping to evict him. (My photo)

My feathered friends are behaving oddly. One of our Jamaican Woodpeckers appeared at the window earlier today, peering in at me for a couple of minutes. I did not dare move to grab my camera, but as our eyes met, I wondered what on earth had got into him. He actually (literally) stuck out his tongue at me. Similarly, a Northern Mockingbird zoomed past the window several times, back and forth. Was he in a tiff with Mr. Woodpecker? Who knows. Meanwhile, the Smooth-Billed Anis’ nest of two years ago has been reconstructed to three times its previous size at the top of a Julie mango tree. It’s a bit like the Royalton Negril hotel – getting larger by the minute. Will baby Anis emerge?

Are we going to have an explosion of Smooth-Billed Anis, like last year? (My photo)

Are we going to have an explosion of Smooth-Billed Anis, like last year? (My photo)

Then another slightly crazy birder like me described on Facebook how she and her child found a Jamaican Tody’s nest in a bank while on a hillside walk, with accompanying video. The sound effects were muffled human squeals of delight. I want more baby bird videos!

Basically, however, spring in the tropics means it just gets steadily warmer. I am steeling myself for the summer city heat, and the approach of the dreaded hurricane season, just two weeks away.

Ah! That’s another season we all look forward to. Oh, no. We don’t, do we.

This Week Is National Fibroid Awareness Week – And This Is Important

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“Get informed. Take Control. Tell a Friend.”

This was the advice given by Lisa-Ann Ogilvie, Founder of Caribbean Woman Addressing Uterine Fibroids and Project Manager at The Caribbean Events Group. We were at the launch of the first National Fibroid Awareness Week (March 15 – 21) – a friendly gathering with a slightly informal feel, despite the presence of some medical heavyweights in the room. Perhaps it was Ms. O’Gilvie’s uncompromisingly down to earth attitude that helped put us all at ease.

Lisa Ann O'Gilvie has so much energy and warmth. Congratulations to her for this tremendous effort. (My photo)

Lisa Ann O’Gilvie has so much energy and warmth. Congratulations to her for this tremendous effort. (My photo)

As I mentioned, this is a first. Governor General Sir Patrick Allen issued a proclamation on April 15, in which he noted: “I urge all citizens of Jamaica to join with the organizers…in recognizing the national impact of this significant medical ailment.” Her Excellency the Most Honourable Lady Allen is the Patron, and the Minister of Health and the Jamaica National Family Planning Board – Sexual Health Agency (JNFPB-SA) are partners. So is the Jamaica Gleaner; kudos to them for coming on board. Those are the major partners – there are a number of other companies and medical associations also supporting the cause. Well done, Ms. Ogilvie!

It’s a funny thing, but when “women’s diseases” are mentioned, the instinctive reaction is “eew” or “yuck.” Nobody wants to hear about them. People would prefer that any woman with one of these (often very common) ailments would just suffer in silence. Well, nowadays there is absolutely no good reason for this. In fact, there never was. When you consider that three out of four Jamaican women suffer from uterine fibroids, it is quite shameful that it is hardly discussed. The aim of Caribbean Woman is to help remove some of that stigma, to share information on the disease and to encourage more open discussion among the general public and health professionals. There are many positives to this: among other things, it would get the message out that one should go to the doctor and get checked out! Postponing diagnosis and treatment can lead to more health problems. Ultimately, early diagnosis would be also less of a strain on the health system, on women’s lives and those of their families, and on productivity.

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Executive Director of the JNFPB-SHA Dr. Denise Chevannes-Vogel pointed out to us that health issues like fibroids cannot be swept under the carpet. She expressed solidarity with the women who suffer, and urged the medical profession to “speak the language of the people” in educating the public. Jamaicans get very nervous about medical diagnoses and are often in awe of doctors – who do need to cultivate a better “bedside manner,” communicate properly and be more sensitive and sympathetic. From my own experience, I heartily concur.

I understand that black women are much more likely to have fibroids. Professor Horace Fletcher, Dean of the Faculty of Medical Sciences at the University of the West Indies (UWI) said breezily that Jamaicans especially “tend to get very big ones,” giving us some rather extreme examples. Oh, Lord! But not all fibroids need to be treated and not everyone has symptoms. Recurring fibroids that keep growing back will greatly reduce your chances of childbirth, however. Professor Fletcher suggested that if you have fibroids and they are not causing you major problems, wait until you have children first and then deal with them afterwards.

Dr. Clive Lai told us about the Jamaica Midlife Health Society. (My photo)

Dr. Clive Lai told us about the Jamaica Midlife Health Society. (My photo)

Dr. Sandra Knight, the outgoing Chair of the JNFPB-SHA, told us she had an early menopause in her twenties, which was “pretty traumatizing.” I can hardly imagine. She also asked the medical profession to work on giving a “softer touch.” Invite partners to join consultations, she urged; this is a problem that affects couples. Also, Dr. Knight said, “Men ask different questions.” She told us that research is being done into alternative treatments for small, asymptomatic fibroids (dandelion, burdock root and milk thistle are some of the herbal remedies being explored).

Outgoing chair of the Jamaica National Family Planning Board-Sexual Health Agency Dr. Sandra Knight urged doctors to be "softer" when talking to women about health concerns like fibroids. (My photo)

Outgoing chair of the Jamaica National Family Planning Board-Sexual Health Agency Dr. Sandra Knight urged doctors to be “softer” when talking to women about health concerns like fibroids. (My photo)

And what of the men? They have a role to play, all agreed. They worry about their partners’ health, and they must be able to offer support; but they also need to be informed about the disease in order to be able to help.

Dr. Clive Lai is the President Elect of the Medical Association of Jamaica (MAJ). He fully endorsed the campaign, noting that GPs are the first to see patients and must also be sensitized. He told us about the Jamaica Midlife Health Society, an MAJ affiliate, which I confess I was not familiar with. Yes, the Society has a Facebook page!

Terry-Anne Wilson of the Gleaner had been doing some research in that venerable institution’s archives, and came up with an article from 1892 about some research that suggested that electricity might be used to cure fibroids, cancer and other “incurable” diseases. I can’t say I like the sound of that.

Ms. O’Gilvie shared with us that she herself had suffered from fibroids. She became “rotund,” she said, and anemic. At the time she was a dancer at L’Acadco. Everyone was very secretive about it, she said. She refused to have a hysterectomy.

Shelly-Ann Weeks is one of the spokespersons for the week. She changed her lifestyle and avoided surgery for her fibroids. (Photo: Gleaner)

Shelly-Ann Weeks is one of the spokespersons for the week (so is television journalist Janella Precius, who had successful surgery). Shelly-Ann changed her lifestyle and avoided surgery for her fibroids. (Photo: Gleaner)

So what’s happening this week? Things kicked off with a major medical symposium, yesterday  – a full day of scientific presentations at UWI. As the week continues, you will see videos, hear voice PSAs, and find a great deal more content on social media. Another great idea is to have Lunch Hour Meet Up events at workplaces. Some designated Campaign Ambassadors are working on those for every weekday, this week. It’s a great idea to discuss these issues in small groups and get the word to spread – the “each one, teach one” concept. You can find full details of activities at http://fibroidsjamaica.com and by following @fibroidsjamaica on Twitter. There’s a form on the website where you can leave comments and questions, and obtain feedback. Wednesday, May 18 is Fibroid Awareness Day, when a special reference publication will be distributed across the island via the Gleaner. Look out for it!

 

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To round off the week, there will be a free public seminar on Saturday, May 21, 2016, starting at 12 noon at the Karl Hendricks Auditorium, Jamaica College, which will be formally opened by Campaign Patron Lady Allen (herself a former nurse). Do go along, bring a friend and get more information. There will be exhibits, presentations and consultations. And it is not only for men; like all other women’s diseases, this is something that affects the whole family. Bring your men!

Let’s get the discussion going. Let’s dispel those fears.