Possibility Program in “limbo”

Boys enjoy a game of dominoes during a Digicel-sponsored initiative for at-risk young men in 2013. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)
Boys enjoy a game of dominoes during a Digicel-sponsored initiative for at-risk young men in 2013. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

petchary:

As I have observed before, several Jamaican non-governmental organizations are almost on their “last legs” and struggling from a lack of funds and general support. The Possibility Program, founded in 2001 is a multi-agency partnership offering hope and opportunity to vulnerable boys on the street, and is one of those organizations doing vital work that is crying out for assistance. If you know of anyone who can assist in finding them a new home, please contact them as soon as possible.

Originally posted on Jamaican Journal:

One of Jamaica’s few programs that helps boys get off the streets is in peril after being told it must move out of its current location. The Possibility Program is in “limbo”, says Leroy Campbell, who has run the program since 2001.

That’s because Heart Trust (which partners with Possibility and provides funding) has deemed the building in which Possibility operates as unfit. Indeed, the building is an older structure, located in the HalfWay Tree area. It is noisy due to the constant traffic, and requires some repairs. However, while Campbell says they are searching for a new location, there have yet to be any prospects.

“Heart Trust doesn’t think this facility is conducive to learning. We need a proper layout and the noise is distracting,” Campbell says. They must move by the end of October or Heart will cease to be a partner. They must also up their attendance…

View original 128 more words

Voter Registration, Murders Under-Reported, Sugar Not So Sweet: Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Our Butterfly Bird! Females/juveniles are pale gray with yellow/orange patches on wings/tail
Long tail, often fanned open while foraging.
© Kelly Colgan Azar, NJ, Cape May, September 2010
Our Butterfly Bird! Females/juveniles are pale gray with yellow/orange patches on wings/tail Long tail, often fanned open while foraging. © Kelly Colgan Azar, NJ, Cape May, September 2010

A glimpse of gold this week (not talking about medals this time!): the first “winter visitor” (a female American Redstart) appeared bright and early in our yard on August 31. An early arrival! What’s more, my first glimpse of her was with beautiful yellow butterflies fluttering around her! What a sight.

Register to vote! Gleaner article (and the excellent diGJamaica blog) spells it out for us, so we have no excuse but to go and register. General elections are round the corner, and Director of Elections Orette Fisher says he will be fully prepared by the end of this month. He needs 18 – 20,000 election workers and says selection and training is under way, but they may need more. The Electoral Office of Jamaica has procured about “80 per cent” of the equipment it needs. Now, the voters’ list will be updated next on November 30. Any election run before that will use the May 31 list. Nevertheless, if there’s a December election they will use the November list, so get registered and vote! The link is here: http://digjamaica.com/blog/2015/09/01/how-do-i-register-to-vote-a-step-by-step-guide/

Talking of elections: Is the parish of St. Thomas going to be a campaign “hot spot”? It’s shaping up that way…

The Monymusk sugar estate was sold to the Chinese Pan Caribbean Sugar Company (My photo)

The Monymusk sugar estate was sold to the Chinese Pan Caribbean Sugar Company (My photo)

Sweet and Sour: The Chinese-owned Pan Caribbean Sugar Company, which bought the Monymusk factory in Clarendon some years ago, has laid off over 500 employees over the past two weeks or so; it is not clear whether these are permanent. Recently, almost 600 sugar workers were made redundant in St. Thomas. The negative impact on rural communities will be huge. Pan Caribbean (a subsidiary of the Chinese government-owned COMPLANT) took over the Monymusk, Bernard Lodge and Frome sugar estates in 2011 and has invested around US$180 million in new equipment and training. Despite this, Pan Caribbean’s then CEO admitted last year: “To manage a company in the sugar industry in this country is very difficult.” There was an approximately 20 per cent drop in production last year. The situation is not encouraging, but it might help if we had a full-time Agriculture Minister!

Back to school scramble: The Education Ministry has had the entire summer to prepare for next week’s school opening, but is clearly not ready. A metal detector is to be assigned to each school, and refurbishing, repairs and new furniture are needed in many educational institutions. But now there is a great rush to get organized; quite a few metal detectors have not been purchased yet and will arrive late, I understand. I guess the Ministry just did not have the funds until now.

Police Commissioner Williams, although completely unable to manage our rapidly rising murder rate, seems determined to continue weeding out “bad apples” from the Jamaica Constabulary Force. This is laudable. Now, the Major Organized Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency (MOCA) has arrested one of its own members in a sting operation as he sought a bribe from someone. A few policemen have been caught red-handed lately: this week a District Constable was arrested for forging his superior’s signature on a permit for a dance, and a policeman in Clarendon allegedly tried to break into a home, but was badly beaten by residents.

Minister of Health, Hon. Dr. Fenton Ferguson (centre, standing), observes while Principal of the University of the West Indies, Professor Archibald McDonald (right), and Deputy General Manager at China Engineering Company (CHEC), Qiwu Yang (left), sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for a $60 billion expansion programme at the University of the West Indies (UWI), on August 26, at the UWI Campus. Also pictured is Deputy Principal of the University, Professor Ishenkunba Kahwa (right, standing). Photo: Jamaica Information Service

Minister of Health, Hon. Dr. Fenton Ferguson (centre, standing), observes while Principal of the University of the West Indies (UWI), Professor Archibald McDonald (right), and Deputy General Manager at China Engineering Company (CHEC), Qiwu Yang (left), sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for a $60 billion expansion programme at UWI, on August 26, at the UWI Campus. Also pictured is Deputy Principal of the University, Professor Ishenkunba Kahwa (right, standing). Photo: Jamaica Information Service

China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) recently signed an agreement with the University of the West Indies for a huge expansion program on the Mona Campus, including a 100-room hotel in place of the Mona Visitors’ Lodge and a sports center. The University Hospital will double in size to 1,000 beds. However, I hope the hospital can be maintained and fully staffed, as well as new equipment, beds etc purchased. Is CHEC going to pay for all this, too?

But please, I beg you, CHEC! No more ugly Chinese Gardens, thanks! 

The Prime Minister, in party colors, stands up in Parliament to congratulate our successful athletes. (Photo: Jamaica Information Service)

The Prime Minister, in party colors, stands up in Parliament to congratulate our successful athletes. (Photo: Jamaica Information Service)

As a certain radio talk show host pointed out this week, we know… The Prime Minister continues to sidestep all the tough issues. She has now set up a committee to decide how our glorious athletes from the World Athletics Championships should be honored, when they return to Jamaica with their medals. Of course, this will be a lovely distraction from the rampant crime, unemployment and the fact that the Jamaica Dollar is now valued at US$117.58. But I don’t want to be churlish; the athletes deserve every accolade and kudos – but not to be used as political pawns in the election campaign. They ran the races, not the People’s National Party!

Ms. Galina Sotirova is the new Country Manager for the World Bank in Jamaica. (Photo: World Bank)

Ms. Galina Sotirova is the new Country Manager for the World Bank in Jamaica. (Photo: World Bank)

New people: Galina Sotirova is now in Kingston as the new Country Manager for the World Bank office here. We wish her a fruitful and rewarding posting.

We also have a new Deputy Public Defender, and his name is Herbert McKenzie. He follows in the footsteps of the rather effective and popular Matondo Mukulu, who resigned on July 2. Wishing Mr. McKenzie well!

The debris containment boom at the mouth of the South Gully in Montego Bay. (Photo courtesy of JET/Jamaica Observer)

The debris containment boom at the mouth of the South Gully in Montego Bay. It has been collecting 50 – 70 pounds of plastic per week throughout the summer. (Photo courtesy of JET/Jamaica Observer)

Nuh Dutty Up Jamaica! I meant to mention this in my post on the launch of International Coastal Cleanup Day a week ago. The Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) has a project under way, in collaboration with the Montego Bay Marine Park, to capture garbage carried down the South Gully into the sea. It has been there since the end of May but has not been tested by any major storms or downpours, so JET is not yet declaring it a success; but it has been collecting 50 – 70 pounds of plastic bottles per week for the past three months that would otherwise have ended up on a beach or coral reef. I remember hearing about this method being used in Cuba some years ago now. I really hope this project works and can be expanded.

St Catherine Chamber of Commerce president, Dennis Robotham. (Gleaner photo)

St Catherine Chamber of Commerce president, Dennis Robotham. (Gleaner photo)

St. Catherine businessman Dennis Robotham says gang-riddled St. Catherine “has the potential” to do well business-wise, but business has been trending down recently because of the general economy. No mention of the rampant gang activity, extortion, etc!

Dr. Damien King. (Photo: Twitter)

Dr. Damien King. (Photo: Twitter)

Rainfall and the GDP: I have to quote a tweet from head of the Economics Department at the University of the West Indies Dr. Damien King: “So ‘GDP will be below expectations this year because of the drought.’ We should have been long past the era when GDP depends on rainfall.”

Students from Kingston, Clarendon and St. Elizabeth received scholarships from J. Wray & Nephew.

Students from Kingston, Clarendon and St. Elizabeth received scholarships from J. Wray & Nephew. (Photo: Loop Jamaica)

J. Wray & Nephew is 190 years old, and as part of its celebrations it has awarded 37 scholarships valued at over $7.6 million dollars to children of members of staff and families from surrounding communities for the upcoming school year. I hope they can continue with this. In another example of ongoing corporate generosity, Restaurant Associates Limited (Burger King) awarded over J$3.6 million in educational grants to worthy children – including two swimming scholarships – at their annual award ceremony. Their theme was “Dream to Change the World” – I like that.

Some of the students at the annual Burger King educational awards ceremony. (Photo: Loop Jamaica)

Some of the students at the annual Burger King educational awards ceremony. (Photo: Loop Jamaica)

It deeply disturbs me that the murder rate is soaring, but many murders are hardly being reported, if at all. I know this, for a fact. Case in point: Damion Davis, AKA “D” – shot and killed by the police in Waltham Park, Kingston some time last week. Case in point: “Pitbull” and “Parky,” from the new housing complex at the top of Denham Town known as “Scheme,” shot and killed by gunmen around the same time. Has anyone seen any reports on these deaths? I sure haven’t.

Why is this? Yes, it’s election season so politics are going to grab headlines. But why is the local media seemingly reticent to report these murders? Is it because these are “only” gang-related? Is it only “uptown” or “high profile” murders that are followed up? Why are there no investigative reports, to find out who these sad victims were, why they had to die? Young Shanice Watts’ body was found in a shallow grave near the main road. How did her young life end like this?

And what about those who are not even identified, or their names are not even published in the media? Are their lives (and deaths) of no importance? A report came out that FIVE Jamaicans were murdered in St. Catherine overnight – none of them identified and the same brief report repeated by two or three media houses, with no names given. See the list below. And this is, by my count, eleven murders in four days since I last posted, not including the three mentioned above.

Ricardo Williams, 14, Olympic Gardens, Kingston (Canadian citizen)

Two men, one woman killed in Lakes Pen, St. Catherine

One man killed, LOJ Shopping Centre, Spanish Town, St. Catherine

One man killed, Old Market Street,Spanish Town, St. Catherine

Lumsden Tucker, 45, Winters Pen Road, Spanish Town, St. Catherine

Unidentified man, Frankfield, Clarendon

Shanice Watt, 20, Salt Spring, St. James (now identified)

Leo Hanlan, 40, May Day, Manchester

André McLeod, 22, Bus Park, Mandeville, Manchester

Koran Blair, 24, Bus Park, Mandeville, Manchester

The Ten Commandments of Happiness

Happiness is by choice - not by chance.
Happiness is by choice - not by chance.

“Happiness” is always a difficult word. We never stop pursuing it though, do we – however we might define the word to ourselves. I am posting below a wonderful blog post from Damien Williams (I consider him a good friend), who has just started blogging again after a bit of a hiatus. Having suffered from depression myself for almost all my adult life, this resonates greatly with me. But in general, these are incredibly valuable guidelines for anyone, for a life that will fill itself with happiness. “Trial and error,” as Damien notes, is often the best way to find out.

Here is Damien’s article. I hope you find it helpful. The link is at:  http://dmarcuswilliams.blogspot.com/2015/08/10-commandments-of-happiness.html

10 Commandments of Happiness

I have, in the past, spoken openly about my battles with bipolar disorder (BPD)/depression. It is a dark and lonely place to be. The tendency is to try things to fill that void. I have come to realize over the last 17 years or so of dealing with BPD that the responsibility of my happiness was largely my own. Through trial and error; bouts of self-medicating and medication, I realized the power I had to manage BPD as well as to ensure that I cultivate an atmosphere of happiness in my own life. I have come up with 10 commandments of happiness that I believe will find resonance with very many persons:

1. Thou shall remove all clutter from your life. “Clutter” refers to all those things and people who no longer serve your greater good but are simply taking up space and energy in your life. You do not need those. Get rid of them.

2. Thou shall use your “No’s” generously. Do not be afraid to say ‘No’, especially if you find that requests are always being made of you to do something for someone. Over-extending yourself can be taxing on both your psyche and your resources. Interestingly, using your “No” helps to remove some of the “clutter” that is just sitting there.

3. Thou shall take time for you. Don’t be afraid to take a break. Usually, when we make decisions while “going through” we make a mess and add stress to our lives. Take a break: read a book, go sit by the river or beach or do whatever rocks your boat but take sometime away from whatever is bothering you. When you return, it most likely might be gone or at least you will be in a better head space to tackle it.

4. Thou shall have 2 or 3 friends that you can talk to. Nuh badda wid di crowd. The more friendships you have to manage and give yourself to, the more stressed you will be. select your inner circle wisely and keep that circle as small as possible. That circle will be your support system. To them you can vent, cry and celebrate moments together.

5. Thou shall not compare yourself nor compete with others. Listen to me! Stop trying to be a carbon copy of other people. More often than not, you will make a very poor copy and that will add to your frustration. You do not have to dress, speak, have the same job, education etc. like everyone else. Be you.

6. Thou shall have your own life’s motto that guides you. Some time ago I developed my own motto, “I AM worthy”. The meaning behind the motto itself is quite profound but every time I find myself in a situation that seeks to undermine my own happiness or peace of mind, I remind myself that I am worthy… of happiness…to be loved… to be respected… to be treated right.

7. Thou shall seek to do good. There is an inexplicable joy that is derived from doing good. The good that you do, does not have to be recognized or broadcast on Facebook or Instagram. The knowledge that you have made a difference alone will suffice. Looking back for rewards is what is going to stress you.

8. Thou shall forgive yourself and others. You might have heard it said that unforgiveness is like drinking poison and waiting for someone else to die. That adage is true. The burden of carrying around yourself and others for errant ways is much to heavy. Forgiveness helps to lighten the load. Forgiveness is not forgetting the error, it is remembering that we all are humans (and human err).

9. Thou shall never give up on your dreams. Few things are as debilitating as unfulfilled dreams. So many times, many of us sit and wonder about “shudda, cudda, woulda”. We wonder what life could have been if we did… that is a life of regrets. Pursue your dreams, as crazy and out there as they may seemed but let it never be said that you did not try. There was a little poem we used to say as children that had a line, which said, “try and try again, boy. You will succeed at last.”

10. Take care of your physical body. Bathe. Brush your teeth. Put on some kuskus. Dress up. Exercise. There is a strong correlation between how we look and how we feel. Plus there are numerous studies that show that taking care of our physical bodies through nutrition and exercise and even how we dress helps us to feel happier. When I feel low in spirit, I look for the best thing in my closet (even if I have to wear it twice in one week) or I wear one of my ‘sexy’ underwears (sexy underwear makes me feel bold).

If you obey these commandments, I guarantee you, you will see a difference in your happiness quotient. And, remember, your happiness is a decision that YOU must make.

FOLLOW ME ON TWITTER: @DamienMWilliams
Like me on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/damienmarcuswilliams
Email me for speaking engagements: radicalwalk@hotmail.com
– See more at: http://dmarcuswilliams.blogspot.com

Know Your Right, Know Your Vote, Know Your Responsibility

Unless you have been living under a rock (as they say) you would know that general elections are in the air. Three-quarters of last night’s television news broadcasts consisted of political party rallies (we need to watch these; are relevant issues, important to the Jamaican people, addressed at these rallies, or is it just “ray, ray”?) So now seems the best time to share with you a speech made Professor Trevor Munroe, Executive Director of National Integrity Action and Honorary Visiting Professor at the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute (SALISES) at the University of the West Indies. The speech was given at Port Antonio High School in Portland on July 23, 2015.

Remember, SPEAKING OUT IS OUR DEMOCRATIC RIGHT!

Executive Director of National Integrity Action Professor Trevor Munroe. (Photo: Gleaner)

Executive Director of National Integrity Action Professor Trevor Munroe. (Photo: Gleaner)

This afternoon I want to talk about your vote not only as your right , your responsibility but as your ‘voice’, as a fundamental part of your democratic right to ‘speak out’. In fact when our forefathers won the right to vote, they used it to win the right to speak out in other ways. This was not always so. A hundred years ago we Jamaicans could not speak out, could not speak our mind for anybody to hear. There was no democracy; one newspaper; no radio station; no talk show; no TV; no social media; no right to speak out. In fact, our National Hero Marcus Garvey did speak out. He said that judges who were not fair and not upholding the constitution should be sent to jail. Instead it was he who was sent to Spanish Town prison for three months– for speaking out.

Marcus Garvey

While campaigning for a seat in the legislature in October 1929, Marcus Garvey suggested judges suspected of corrupt practices be impeached and imprisoned. The colonial government did not like this and sentenced Garvey to three months’ imprisonment for contempt of court. According to the book “Marcus Garvey: Life and Lessons,” this dashed Garvey’s hopes of a political career in Jamaica and influenced his decision to move to England a few years later.

No wonder, because at that time none of us in this room would have had the right to vote in those who would make the law. Then only one out of every ten Jamaicans, the few who owned the big properties and big merchant houses – they were the ones who mainly had the right to vote. And alongside them the English colonial rulers in London and the Governor – they made the laws and they made the laws such that we could be sent to prison if we spoke out.

As you know all that changed 71 years ago, in 1944. All adults, one out of two Jamaicans then and now won the right to vote, the first pre-dominantly black people in the world to achieve that milestone. This allowed us, then and now, to choose and remove our representatives, those who had the right to make the law; and our M.P.s changed the law to give us the right to speak out. And that right was further enshrined in the Jamaican Constitution Charter of Rights four years ago, along with the right to vote.

So today you and I can speak out without suffering Garvey’s fate. We can call Cliff Hughes’ Online, Hotline on RJR, Independent Talk on Power 106; we can text in our views on questions asked after TVJ News; we can do the same on LIVE at 7. We can write letters to the newspapers; we can post online comments; we can have our voice heard on the website of the Office of the Contractor General, the Auditor General or the Public Defender. In fact just as the Electoral Office of Jamaica (EOJ) and the Electoral Commission of Jamaica (ECJ) are highly rated internationally because of how they administer the right to vote, so too the level of freedom of speech and freedom of the media in Jamaica is world class, in many years ranking above freedom of the press in America, in England and in many other democracies.

Some of us don’t know this; don’t appreciate nor realize that there are not many countries where you can speak your mind, as in Jamaica, without getting locked up. Others of us know that we have the right to speak out and don’t make use of it. We will shoot off our mouths in the bar, at the bus stop, in the barbershop or at the hairdresser. We don’t feel it makes sense to speak out beyond that.

Others of us, thankfully, are and have been speaking out, getting results, showing that it makes sense – and we need to learn from them. It is because many of us spoke out thirty –six years ago that we got the maternity leave law which means now, today, that no woman can lose her job because she gets pregnant and is entitled to two months’ maternity leave pay while on leave to have their baby. Where that doesn’t happen, it is breaking the law.

Christopher "Dudus" Coke. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Christopher “Dudus” Coke. (Photo: Wikipedia)

It is because so many Jamaicans spoke out , and not only because the Americans demanded it, that the self-confessed criminal don – Christopher “Dudus” Coke is no longer in Jamaica but now serving 23 years in prison.

It is because some Jamaicans spoke out that five years ago the Independent Commission of Investigation (INDECOM) was set up to investigate and prosecute police if and when they kill people without proper cause.

It was because so many Jamaicans spoke out that the old Board of the National Solid Waste Management Agency (NSWMA), which stood by and did nothing while the law was being broken for ten years by the agency in not auditing their accounts – that is why the Board was changed.

It is because so many Jamaicans spoke out that there is now a new Chairman of the National Housing Trust.

It is because so many Jamaicans spoke out, including people from Portland, for signing a petition for Local Government Reform that after twenty years these laws are now being passed; and it is because so many Jamaicans spoke out that we now have a Bill before Parliament to set up a Special Prosecutor for Corruption.

The moral of the story is clear: keep silent, say nothing – and nothing happens to change what you don’t like. Speak out; use your democratic right and things will happen. The more we speak out the more the ‘powers that be’ will have to listen.

Take the issue of ‘corruption in politics’ – the reason why 18% of those not voting, according to Don Anderson’s poll, say they are not voting. Keep quiet, and it shall continue. Speak out, and you can get government to pass the law now before Parliament for a Special Prosecutor for the corrupt; speak out to end the foot-dragging on the law to make it harder for big criminals and big money to buy influence in our parties or over our politicians. Remember he who pays the piper calls the tune.

Contractor General Dirk Harrison (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

Contractor General Dirk Harrison (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

And what about the 26% of those who are not voting ( according to Don Anderson) because ‘ politicians are for themselves’ and they, the people ‘ have not benefitted from either party’? The only way to change that is to ‘ speak out’ – for example, when you see the politician giving contracts to friend and family and not to those who can do the work. Report it to the Contractor General—that’s what people from Hanover did, and they had to change the Mayor.

And the 22% of those who are not voting because they said ‘ there was no difference between the parties’. How is that to change unless those inside the parties speak up to get the party to change; to make themselves different?

And there is much more to speak out against today:

  • Speak out against the wasting of money; for example a billion dollars being spent every year on the NSWMA without any accountability. No wonder Jamaica ranks 109 out of 144 countries in wasteful spending of public money.
  • Speak out to get more done about local government. Under the law we were to exercise our vote in Parish Council General Elections seventeen times since independence. We were only able to exercise this fundamental right eleven times, because different governments put off Parish Council elections. No government must be able to do this again. We must speak out to make the positive Constitutional recognition of Local Government more positive – by preventing any government from postponing Local Government Elections and requiring any administration to hold the local government election every four years.
  • And talking about the Constitution, nine years ago it was agreed that the Electoral Commission should be entrenched in the Jamaican Constitution. We must speak out so that this is done, so that no government can in the present or the future simply abolish the ECJ.
  • And should we not be speaking out to know who are the large tax payers, who according to the Minister are not paying their taxes, making it necessary to cut money spent on clinics, hospitals, schools; yet we publish the names of the students who received loans and are not living up to their obligations to pay back?
  • Most of all should we not be speaking out to get the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to lower the Primary Surplus Target from 7.5%, to ease the burden of paying the debt which we must pay – and not leave it up to American Congressmen to ask the IMF to play fair? I cannot accept that they should be speaking out for me, and you and I keep quiet.

And so I urge you – let us use our voice, our democratic right more effectively to speak out for what is right, to change what is wrong now, in between elections, so that when elections come more of us will see that it make sense to vote in who we want and to vote out who we don’t want.

The Mission of National Integrity Action (NIA) is “to combat corruption and build integrity in Jamaica through the persistent promotion of transparency, accountability in the conduct of government, businesses and the wider society.” For more information on NIA, go to their website at http://niajamaica.org, where you may find a video of this presentation followed by questions and answers with the public. Address: 6A Oxford Road, Kingston 5 or P.O. Box 112, Kingston 7; tel: (876) 906-4371.

 

 

Book Industry Association of Jamaica elects Board of Directors for 2015/2016

The Book Industry Association of Jamaica is forging ahead with renewed vigor. With Latoya West-Blackwood as Chair, I am sure it will make an impact on our national life in many positive ways – especially in the area of literacy. Here is their press release dated August, 2015.

Latoya West-Blackwood is the new Chair of the Book Industry Association of Jamaica (BIAJ).

Latoya West-Blackwood is the new Chair of the Book Industry Association of Jamaica (BIAJ).

Kingston, Jamaica — The Book Industry Association of Jamaica (BIAJ), founded in 1989 as the umbrella organization for all sectors of the local book industry, re-elected its 9-member board at its Annual General Meeting held in May this year.

The new board is headed by Chairman Latoya West-Blackwood of iPublish Consultancy, with Elizabeth Ramesar of The Jamaica Observer serving as Vice Chairman and Company Secretary. West- Blackwood, the youngest Chairman to date, succeeds Dr Norman Marshall of Sangster’s Book Stores, who will now serve as Treasurer.

The remaining directors have been appointed to serve in the following positions:

Damani Johnson (Kingston Bookshop) – Development Initiatives

Candice Carby (Carlong Publishers) – Marketing and Communications (formerly Promotions)

Nigel Walker (Bookzone Limited) – Recruitment & Membership

Tanya Batson-Savage (Blue Moon Publishing)- Special Projects

Franklin McGibbon (Meto Corporation) – Distribution

Kellie Magnus (Jack Mandora) – Publishing

A pressing area of focus for the new board is the strengthening of the association’s engagement of all stakeholders and partners. Raising public awareness regarding the work of the BIAJ is key in securing support for major initiatives and events such as the Kingston Book Festival which serves to generate opportunities for members while exposing Jamaicans to the local, regional and global literary landscape. In accepting the appointment, Chairman West-Blackwood stressed the importance of the BIAJ’s mandate of promoting literacy as a tool for national development. ‘Knowledge and intellectual property are now formally recognized as major drivers of productivity and economic growth. With this in mind, we plan to further engage communities –especially youth – across the island through key activities and increase our collaboration with the Ministry of Education as we work towards the common goal of full literacy,’ she said.

The new BIAJ website will be launched in September. For more information, please contact our Secretariat at:

iPublish Consultancy

Tel. 1 876 618-2037/527-4042

Email bookindustryja@gmail.com/biajchairman@gmail.com

Address: Mona Technology Park, UWI Mona Campus, Kingston 7

 

The Disappeared Ones

Just imagine: Your husband goes to work one day, and never returns? Your teenage daughter goes out to visit a friend, saying “See you later!” and that is the last time you ever see her? Your mother is at home and gets a knock on the door, and when you come home, she is gone? You search and make enquiries and telephone calls. Days, weeks, months – years – pass, and you hear nothing. Life goes on around you as if nothing has happened. Can you imagine?

Today (August 30, 2015) is the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances.

In the past, there have been notorious cases of mass disappearances; under dictatorships in Argentina and Chile, for example. During Argentina’s “Dirty War,” (Guerra Sucia) from 1976 to 1983, roughly 30,000 citizens disappeared under the brutal military regime that seized power during a period of instability. The government called it the Process of National Reorganization. They arrested, tortured and murdered thousands of dissidents suspected of left-wing activities. Hundreds of babies of the “Desaparecidos” were kidnapped and illegally adopted. After democracy was restored, Carlos Menem’s government began an investigation, discovering hundreds of secret detention centers.

Mothers marching in the Plaza de Mayo with cutouts of their "disappeared" sons. Photo by Gerardo Dell’Orto, 1990

Mothers marching in the Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires with cutouts of their “disappeared” sons. The mothers began their protest in front of the Presidential Palace in 1977 and their numbers grew to hundreds of women – week after week. The President apparently called them “Las Locas” (the Crazy Ones), threatened and ridiculed them, but they continued and have been a strong force for human rights.  Photo by Gerardo Dell’Orto, 1990

In Chile, thousands of citizens also disappeared under Augusto Pinochet’s military rule from 1973 to 1990; many more thousands suspected of being political dissidents were also tortured. The Dirección de Inteligencia Nacional (the Chilean secret police) took many people to the Villa Grimaldi, on the outskirts of Santiago, for interrogation. Many were never seen again. In the same hemisphere, in Guatemala, Colombia and El Salvador, many, many thousands disappeared during civil wars.

There is a memorial park (Parque por la Paz) at the site of the notorious Villa Grimaldi on the outskirts of Santiago, Chile. (Photo:http://hostalprovidencia.com)

There is a memorial park (Parque por la Paz) at the site of the notorious Villa Grimaldi on the outskirts of Santiago, Chile. (Photo:http://hostalprovidencia.com)

Europe has not fared better. During World War II, the regimes of Josef Stalin in Russia and Adolf Hitler in Germany are now well known for human rights abuses, including disappearances, on a very wide scale. The Balkans conflict of the 1990s has left thousands of civilians unaccounted for and political leaders are very slow to investigate or to provide reparations to their families.

The International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) has been seeking to identify thousands of missing people in Bosnia since the civil war.

The International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) has been trying to identify thousands of missing people in Bosnia since the civil war. Diggers and bulldozers tore skeletal remains apart in mass graves, destroying evidence. Twenty years after Srebenica, the families are still waiting for  “closure.” (Photo: hmd.org.uk)

Yet if you think enforced disappearances are for the history books, you are wrong. They are as much a feature of life under tyrannical governments across the world as ever; and, as UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon points out, not only governments are involved. Nowadays, armed extremists and terrorist groups are secretly abducting, imprisoning, torturing and murdering. Under any circumstances, the Secretary General reminds us, enforced disappearance is illegal.

And I say these human rights abusers of the past are well known “now” because yes – at the time when these things happened, society in general may have been cowed, complicit or even ignorant of what was happening. Unless their own son or daughter disappeared, of course; or unless they found themselves alone in a dank, stinking cell with a torturer. But life went on. People may not have talked about it much at all – whether out of fear, ignorance or indifference.

Despite ongoing mass protests, the Mexican government has been very slow to investigate the disappearance of 43 student teachers almost a year ago.

Despite ongoing mass protests, the Mexican government has been very slow to investigate the disappearance of 43 student teachers almost a year ago. The leader of a group searching for the students, who had discovered a mass grave in Iguala, was shot dead in Acapulco on August 10.

So now, have things improved in the 21st century? Hardly.“Governments in every region of the world, from Syria to Mexico and from Sri Lanka to Gambia may be holding hundreds or even thousands in secret detention,” says Amnesty International Secretary General Salil Shetty. There have been over 200 forced disappearances in Bangladesh since 2009; these are only the documented ones. In many cases, men dressed in the uniforms of state security forces come to arrest people. Families seeking assistance through the state justice system have had no success. Human rights defenders are regularly harassed and threatened (and as we know, several Bangladeshi bloggers have been brutally murdered).  Amnesty highlights the tragic situation in Syria, where it estimates almost 85,000 people have been forcibly disappeared between 2011 and 2015. Back in this region, official figures say nearly 25,000 people have disappeared or gone missing in Mexico since 2007. Last year, 43 students of the Ayotzinapa rural teacher-training college in Guerrero State were ambushed and kidnapped on their way to an anti-government protest. Three or four of them were killed; the families of all the others are living in mental agony and fear.

"On July 9th, our loved ones have been disappeared, and they include 17 lawyers, their assistants, and law firm staffers, as well as 6 rights defenders," wrote a group of relatives to China's Minister of Public Security Mr. Guo Shenkun.

“On July 9th, our loved ones have been disappeared, and they include 17 lawyers, their assistants, and law firm staffers, as well as 6 rights defenders,” wrote a group of relatives to China’s Minister of Public Security Mr. Guo Shenkun in a letter dated today.

In China, there are the so-called “black jails.” These are secret locations where political enemies – disgraced officials accused of corruption – end up, under the rule of “shuanggui,” an internal disciplinary procedure. In this case the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection is in charge, operating outside the country’s legal system. Often torture is involved; confessions are needed, and information on other possible enemies of the State (read: Party). This is quite apart from journalists, civil society, non-governmental organizations, feminists and anyone else who might be deemed a threat. On July 9th, 17 lawyers, their assistants, and law firm staffers, as well as six rights defenders were taken away. They appeared on television just nine days later, having already been allegedly tried and found guilty of vague crimes. Since then, their families have heard nothing about them.

The families of the lawyers and human rights defenders wrote a letter to the Minister of Public Security today, noting:

At home we fear even knocks on the door. People at the door who claim to be checking our water meter, delivering a package, fixing water pipes are least likely robbers (if they are we can at least call 110), and most likely someone who is a disguised secret police of the People’s Republic of China, and a 110 call wouldn’t get you help. Such fear and panic do not beset these lawyers and their families only; they beset the entire Chinese society.

Here’s another letter. Way back in 1970, James Baldwin wrote the beautiful and powerful “Open Letter to My Sister, Miss Angela Davis.” Angela Davis, the fierce civil rights campaigner, was in jail at the time. Apart from expressing thoughts that are incredibly relevant to the situation in the United States today, the eloquent and masterful Mr. Baldwin had this to say – I picked out a few excerpts:

You look exceedingly alone—as alone, say, as the Jewish housewife in the boxcar headed for Dachau, or as any one of our ancestors, chained together in the name of Jesus, headed for a Christian land…We know that democracy does not mean the coercion of all into a deadly—and, finally, wicked—mediocrity but the liberty for all to aspire to the best that is in him, or that has ever been…If we know, then we must fight for your life as though it were our own—which it is—and render impassable with our bodies the corridor to the gas chamber. For, if they take you in the morning, they will be coming for us that night.”

James Baldwin. (Photo: Ted Thai/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty)

James Baldwin. (Photo: Ted Thai/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty)

Sports Euphoria, a Non-Hackathon, Gangsterish Non-Gangs and Crazy Motorbike Riders: Saturday, August 29, 2015

As summer begins to wane and we enter the hurricane season, I am pausing to send solidarity and good wishes to our friends in Dominica, who have been overwhelmed by Tropical Storm Erika this week. As I write this there have been at least 20 deaths recorded and more are missing. The video footage and photographs of the raging floods are truly frightening.  As for Jamaica, since the storm has dissipated, it is a pleasant blue-skied afternoon…with no rain in sight.

Spare a thought for our brothers and sisters in Dominica, who are suffering in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Erika.

Spare a thought for our brothers and sisters in Dominica, who are suffering in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Erika. A Recovery and Reconstruction Fund has been launched by the Prime Minister’s Office. Go to: http://www.opm.gov.dm/?p=1058 for details on how to contribute.

Stars in our eyes: As predicted, we are all thrilled to bits by the performances of our athletes at the World Championships in Beijing this week. It is a complete, delirious distraction from the stresses of life. We get up early (or, in my case, struggle out of bed) to watch live action, which buoys us through the day. In a week or two, the memories will be fading rapidly. Meanwhile, we enjoy the moment. But is sports supposed to unite us? I asked this question in my Gleaner blog this week. The link is here: http://gleanerblogs.com/socialimpact/?p=2878

TVJ's Kayon Raynor interviews Sherone Simpson, Natasha Morrison,, Kerron Stewart and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce after their 4x100 heat. (Photo: Facebook)

TVJ’s Kayon Raynor interviews Sherone Simpson, Natasha Morrison,, Kerron Stewart and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce after their terrific win in the 4×100 heat. (Photo: Facebook)

West Kingston: A Twitter friend reminded me today that Denham Town in West Kingston is less than a couple of square miles in size, and yet some thirty of its residents have been killed (including women and children) this year. A fifteen-year-old girl was murdered there very recently, and it hardly caused a ripple in the news. What is it about this relatively small corner of our city that garners such indifference among the average Jamaican? I don’t get it. Is it discrimination, class bias or what?

Why do we not care? Angella Smith weeps as she holds a picture of her murdered daughter, 15-year-old Jazianne Cole. (Photo: Ian Allen/Gleaner)

Why do we not care? Angella Smith weeps as she holds a picture of her murdered daughter, 15-year-old Jazianne Cole. (Photo: Ian Allen/Gleaner)

Is Parliament still on holiday? I am wondering why there has not been a post-Cabinet press briefing for at least three or four weeks. Information Minister Senator Sandrea Falconer seems to be missing in action.

Up in the air: What is going on with the air traffic controllers – or rather, their equipment? There was a breakdown this week, just a few days after the ATCs had complained about their aging equipment. The Civil Aviation Authority denied that airspace was closed for 45 minutes on Wednesday, saying that a lightning strike had damaged one of its communication modules and a few flights had to be re-routed.

The Minister does a bit of a “U” turn: Education Minister Ronald Thwaites, whose emphatic rejection of children he described as leggo beasts”  has thought about it, changed his mind and apologized for using this expression. However, he seems to have gone a step further, claiming he is unaware of any gangs in schools (we have been hearing about this for years now). The man in charge of school security says violence in schools declined last year; he does not recall mentioning “gangs” to the media. The Permanent Secretary has chimed in, saying there are “a few groups of children who behave in a ‘gangsterish’ manner…” but no actual gangs. Don’t these people talk to each other? They are sounding confused.

Our Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller at a People's National Party conference last year. (Photo: Gleaner)

Our Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller at a People’s National Party conference last year. (Photo: Gleaner)

I am ready. We are ready. Yes, we get the message: Using her best “tracing” voice, Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller emphasized: “I am ready. We are ready, and I hope they are as ready as we are. If I say we are ready, then other people going start fret because indeed, we are ready.” OK, Labourites; you had better “start fret” now. Ready for what, you may ask? Have you been living under a rock? P.S. Opposition Leader Andrew Holness also says he’s “ready.”

Coconut water: I have a question. A friend posted an article about a firm in Thailand that produces pure, organically produced coconut water that also has a good shelf life, which has been certified as “fair trade,” by the USDA, etc. Just simple coconut water. As I look around, I see coconut trees everywhere in Jamaica. Why couldn’t we do something like this, for export, perhaps with another natural, plentiful product? It is beautifully packaged and well marketed. Go to:  http://www.harmlessharvest.com to read more about how they did it. I’m sure it wasn’t easy, but… We need to stop making excuses. And yes, I know about the coconut yellowing disease…

O’Shane Reid and his friend Shanise Simmonds died Wednesday night in a car crash in St Ann. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

Student leader O’Shane Reid and girlfriend Shanice Simmonds died Wednesday night in a car crash in St Ann. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

The tragic deaths of two bright young people: O’Shane Reid and Shanice Simmonds died on Wednesday night in St. Ann, after their car crashed into a coaster bus traveling in the opposite direction. Strangely, both newspapers focused entirely on Mr. Reid, and not his girlfriend, about whom very little information was given – except that she was about to graduate from the University of the West Indies, where Mr. Reid was pursuing his Master’s degree. Meanwhile, their fellow students are in shock. My deepest sympathies to the couple’s friends and families. In the midst of life…

Speaking of road deaths, no less than 71 motorbike riders have died this year, as of August 22. This is insane; last year 36 bikers died in the same period. When you are on the road you see very few wearing crash helmets, a legal requirement. When are the police going to actually enforce this law? Don’t these bike riders know that they are unlikely to survive a crash without a helmet – why do they take such risks? Are there proper driving tests or are bike riders regulated in any way? They are now rivaling robot taxi drivers for crazy behavior on the road, overtaking lines of traffic and so on. It’s really sad, and frightening.

In flight fight: A fight broke out between two women when a Jet Blue flight from Kingston arrived at John F Kennedy Airport on Wednesday morning. One woman produced an eyebrow razor and the other pepper spray! A few other passengers were injured. How did these passengers get on the plane with prohibited items in their carry-on luggage? The Norman Manley International Airport is investigating – as well it should.

Frederick "Mickey" Hill was shot dead by the police in Negril on November 4, 2010.

Frederick “Mickey” Hill was shot dead by the police in Negril on November 4, 2010.

Policemen to be charged with murder: The Coroner’s Court has ruled that two policemen be charged with the murders of Winston Malcolm Senior and son Winston Malcolm Junior in Spanish Town in 2007. The case has been monitored by Jamaicans for Justice. One of the policemen, Constable Malica Reid, is also charged with the murder of a guest house operator in Negril in 2010; that trial has not yet begun. The wheels of justice turn mighty slowly.

Oh! Remember Outameni? It’s going up for sale! More on this anon…

The "Hackathon."

The “Hackathon.”

Hackathon? Well, not quite… The Ministry of Youth and Culture invited young people (entrepreneurs etc) to attend a “hackathon” with Finance Minister Peter Phillips, so that they could understand what was going on in Jamaica’s economy. It turned out to be more of a forum/town hall meeting than anything else. Local tech guru Ingrid Riley gave us her definition of a hackathon:  A hackathon is an event in which computer programmers, graphic designers, UI designers etc collaborate intensively on a software project.” I don’t think much technological activity of any kind took place, but there was quite a bit of live tweeting going on, if that counts. The basic idea was a good one; a good first try at something interesting.

A section of the audience at the Money Talk Hackathon, from the Jamaican Mommies blog, which provided an excellent overview here: http://www.jamaicanmommies.com/2015/08/youth-money-talk-hackathon-case-for.html

A section of the audience at the Money Talk Hackathon, from the Jamaican Mommies blog, which provided an excellent overview here: http://www.jamaicanmommies.com/2015/08/youth-money-talk-hackathon-case-for.html

So much praise for:

I think Danielle Williams' gold medal this morning came as a delightful surprise for us all!

I think Danielle Williams’ gold medal came as a delightful surprise for us all!

  • Our athletes, of course: Medalists Nickel Ashmeade, Usain Bolt, Veronica Campbell Brown, Nesta Carter, Shericka Jackson, Natasha Morrison, Hansle Parchment, Asafa Powell, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, O’dayne Richards, Elaine Thompson and Danielle Williams. And all the amazing, hard-working athletes who competed and gave of their best. Well done, all!
Alia Atkinson celebrates her silver medal during the podium ceremony for the women's 50m breaststroke at the FINA World Championships. (photo: AFP)

Alia Atkinson celebrates her silver medal during the podium ceremony for the women’s 50m breaststroke at the FINA World Championships. (photo: AFP)

Jamaica's Usain Bolt crosses the finish line to win for the Jamaican team the final of the men's 4x100 metres relay athletics event at the 2015 IAAF World Championships at the "Bird's Nest" National Stadium in Beijing on August 29, 2015. AFP PHOTO / OLIVIER MORIN

Jamaica’s Usain Bolt crosses the finish line to win for the Jamaican team the final of the men’s 4×100 metres relay athletics event at the 2015 IAAF World Championships at the “Bird’s Nest” National Stadium in Beijing on August 29, 2015. AFP PHOTO / OLIVIER MORIN

  • Just prior to our high-profile sportsmen and women doing so well in Beijing, our amazing Jamaican swimmer Alia Atkinson was chalking up another medal-winning performance. Big ups to her! The Texas-based Alia is doing better and better.
  • Then there was Jamaica’s win at the Caribbean Senior Squash Championships. Jamaica fielded a strong men’s team, which came out on top for the first time in a decade! Congratulations, team…
Jamaica's winning chess players.

Jamaica’s winning chess players. Congratulations!

  • And our young chess players! Jamaica recently won at the Central American and Caribbean Youth Chess Festival in Trinidad and Tobago from August 14 to 19, becoming the first English-speaking country to win this prestigious annual chess tournament.
The Jamaican Senior Squash Team emphatically beat Trinidad & Tobago to win the Caribbean Senior Squash Championships in Cayman Islands recently. (l-r): Ashante Smith, Bruce Burrowes, Lewis Walters, Julian Morrison and Chris Binnie. (Photo: Loop Jamaica/CASA 2015)

The Jamaican Senior Squash Team emphatically beat Trinidad & Tobago to win the Caribbean Senior Squash Championships in Cayman Islands recently. (l-r): Ashante Smith, Bruce Burrowes, Lewis Walters, Julian Morrison and Chris Binnie. (Photo: Loop Jamaica/CASA 2015)

  • National Bakery Limited, whose contribution to the Crayons Count initiative in Jamaica has been extraordinary over the past three years (going into four). The company just launched its National Baking Company Foundation and I will be writing more about this; but would like to especially “big up” Mr. Gary “Butch” Hendrickson, patron of the Foundation, for his remarkable generosity. This is corporate commitment to education and development at its very best!
I am a PowHERhouse!

I am a PowHERhouse!

  • WMW Jamaica, which continues its #IAmaPowHERhouse leadership training with a vibrant group of young women leaders of varying ages.  I am looking forward to talking to this group about blogging and online activism next week.
  • Fifty inmates at three of our correctional institutions (Tower Street, St. Catherine and Fort Augusta), who did amazingly well at their CSEC examinations this year with very high pass rates in Mathematics, English, Social Studies and Human and Social Biology. Special kudos to the non-governmental organization Stand Up for Jamaica, which works in the prisons, and the European Union for providing support and funding.

I do not understand why so little attention is being paid to our continually soaring murder rate, and the cause/s or impact it is having in several communities. What is happening in Clarendon? What can we do to make the lives of our citizens better in West Kingston – and in some rural areas as well as the inner city? I am not able to wrap my head around these lists of names once or twice per week. My deepest sympathies are with the families and friends. The hurt and trauma is great. Why haven’t the two bodies found in a car in Duhaney Park been identified, or the two shot dead in Grants Pen? 

Two unidentified men (one a teenager), Duhaney Park, Kingston

Two unidentified men, Fagan Avenue, Grants Pen, Kingston

Unidentified man, Oxford Street, Kingston

Andrea Mundell-Bowen, Golden Spring, St. Andrew

Robert Dickson, 31, Spanish Town, St. Catherine

Levar Hunnington, March Pen Road, St. Catherine

Hugh Nelson, 42, May Pen, Clarendon

Orville Eccleston, 31, Mount Clare, Clarendon

Hugh Brown, New Bowens, Clarendon

Unidentified woman, Salt Spring, St. James

Jameel Scott, 26, Bath, St. Thomas

Andrew Messam, 24, Heathfield, Manchester

Franklin Swaby, 51, Alligator Pond, Manchester

 

Reports are that Andrea Mundell-Bowen was raped and murdered on her coffee farm in Golden Spring, St. Andrew on Thursday night. (Photo: Loop Jamaica)

Reports are that businesswoman Andrea Mundell-Bowen was raped and murdered on her coffee farm in Golden Spring, St. Andrew on Thursday night. Her brother, well-known reggae singer Hugh Mundell, was also murdered in 1983.  (Photo: Loop Jamaica)