The Sunday Stumble – premiere edition


It’s All Fool’s Day, and I’m embarking on a little project which I hope you, dear readers, will find enjoyable and stimulating, rather than foolish.  I’ve been mulling it over all day and finally decided to go ahead – but subsequent editions will, I hope, appear a little earlier.

The Sunday papers arrive with a slap in our driveway every week, and I have become accustomed, in my previous life before retirement, to scouring the weekend newspapers, sifting through the dross and picking out some significant nuggets.  So, why not continue, with a different, more critical mindset?  I would welcome feedback and suggestions from you, readers… But let me just take a stab at it.  Here goes… The Sunday Stumble, in its blue-dappled-sky, lazy-evening-sun Sunday, April 1 edition.

Blue Ribbons for Kids - Prevent Child Abuse

The Story to Ponder:  The Sunday front pages are not necessarily the best place to find stories of substance and import – but this one simply cannot be ignored (nor have Jamaican Facebookers ignored it in their comments today).  It leaps out at you from the Sunday Observer front page and grabs you by the throat (or maybe punches you in the gut, or somewhere else).  The response – or reaction – is visceral, as well as emotional.  It is the distressing issue of child abuse, and specifically sexual abuse.  A young pediatrician, Dr. Sandra Knight, describes in agonizing detail several such cases that she has encountered and treated.  I will not go into those details myself – you can read them, although you may need to pour yourself a stiff drink afterwards (in fact, I might advise you to have something beside you before you start reading, to calm yourself).  As one Facebook friend said, it is “gut-wrenching” stuff.  But it is not enough to react with horror and throw up one’s hands and call the perpetrators “wicked.”  In fact, some Jamaicans have called the article mere sensationalism.  And admittedly, the huge headline “Horrific!” with a closeup photo of a child’s tears, and the rather lurid graphic on the inside pages (for some reason, bathed in red light) is verging on the tabloidesque.  But, I feel, it is necessary to shock people first (those people who would rather pretend it does not exist) – then have a down-to-earth and practical discussion as the emotions subside.  One commentator said, well – what is the doctor doing about it?  Strange to point the finger at her – she is doing her job, treating the children, making sure they get professional help and that the case is investigated.  (I happen to know her well, and know that she is dedicated and very caring, and understands the issues; nor is she a “melodramatic” person – but wouldn’t you be shocked if you saw these poor children yourself?) Oh…and what are our leaders doing?  Nothing.  What is the “average Jamaican” to do about it?  That is the question.  Overall, though, I think this article was necessary and important.  The journalist, Ingrid Brown, is a well-trained and serious reporter and I think it is unfair to call her “lazy” and “sloppy” because she did not interview hundreds of other people.  Yes, of course there is more, much more, to be said on this topic; and I hope Ingrid will report on solutions in the coming days and weeks.  What do you think, dear readers?  Child abuse is by no means unique to Jamaica.  What is being done in other countries that we could learn from?    http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Horrific_11166833  (the comments on the website are somewhat ill-informed; the Centre for the Investigation of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse is, in fact, a branch of the police, and they are always called in when the children are brought to hospital).  Did you know April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month in the United States?  Do you think this would help in Jamaica?

Why bother:  The newspapers (and television stations over the past week) have been churning out endless postmortems of the local government elections, which took place last Monday and appear to have been of very little interest to anyone except the “die-hearted” supporters of either party.  We are regaled with stories of how the victorious People’s National Party is so well-organized, how the “bruised and battered” (cliche upon cliche) Jamaica Labour Party must reinvent itself, etc etc.  This minority government managed to pull out less than 35 per cent of the Jamaican electorate for the local elections; the people have spoken with a barely suppressed yawn.  And believe me, the media will have forgotten all about the winning and losing candidates within a few weeks; they will appear occasionally on television, looking harassed and sweating profusely, when some bridge has broken or a community protests about a lack of water for the past twenty years.  Been there, done that.  Are you as cynical as me, dear readers?

Mayor George Lee of Portmore
Mayor George Lee of Portmore

The return of the Mayor The Observer’s Desmond Allen wrote one of his sharp little biographical sketches in the Sunday Observer, this time on the newly returned, directly elected Mayor of the Municipality of Portmore, Mr. George Lee.  As usual, there was much to read between the lines.  At the end of the article, I had to ask myself, “What has he done in the service of the people?  What has he done for Portmore and indeed, for Jamaica?” Yes, his life has been a series of challenges and conflicts, but all within the context of his party.  He was involved in a politically-fraught strike at the former Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation in the 1960s; in the 1980s he “worked assiduously to return the PNP to power in Jamaica”; and fought hard to get Portmore – the largest town in the English-speaking Caribbean, with a population of around 170,000 – declared a Municipality.  To what end?  I am just asking because I am not sure what being a municipality actually means to Portmore.  How does it affect residents’ lives?   http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/George-Lee—Mr-Portmore–is-back_11174031  Portmore residents, how do you feel about it?  What do you expect of your new Mayor?

JCF grouses: A young lecturer at the Department of Management Studies, University of the West Indies Dr. Kadamawe K’nife (yes, a tricky name – he is usually called simply “Knife”) conducted a study funded by USAID that looked into how policemen and women feel about their jobs.  There is supposed to be an ongoing “strategic review/reform/modernization” process in the police force, but where is it going?  Issues regarding promotions and transfers, as well as resources, linger on.  Commissioner Ellington may have put his finger on the promotion issue when he suggested police see promotion as a “reward” rather than an opportunity to perform and hold responsibility at a higher level.  More details, please!  A copy of the study would be good.  Will look for it online…

Commendations:  

To the Junior Chapter International (Junior Chamber?) for their HIV testing and awareness program in Majesty Gardens, Kingston last week, and to the Jamaica Red Cross, Wisynco and Singer for their support of the event…

For Superintendent Leon Clunie, who conducted some raids in Hanover, western Jamaica over the weekend and arrested twenty people suspected of involvement in the lotto scam that has affected hundreds of American citizens.  “High-end vehicles” were seized, paid for by little old ladies in Kansas and Maine who unwisely gave their life savings to these parasites…

For the Norman Manley Law School team that won the Frankfurt International Investment Arbitration Moot Court Competition last month (what a mouthful that was – let’s say the FIIAMCC for short).  And to their coaches, Professor Stephen Vasciannie, Jermaine Cae, Dorcas White and Celia Middleton…

Triumphant Calabar

For the 100-year-old Calabar High School, which overcame its humiliation after the “ratification” episode to win not only the Schools Challenge Quiz, but also the Boys Champs.  For those who don’t know, the school was actually closed several weeks ago as the rats had taken over; they were sitting at desks, writing graffiti on the walls and fighting in the schoolyard, just like regular schoolboys… The opportunities for humorous puns and jokes were seemingly endless, and of course Jamaicans love to play with words.  But the school fought back and proved themselves.  Boys’ and Girls’ Champs is the annual high school athletics meet, which this year resounded with the deafening, mind-numbing sound of vuvuzelas…

For Edwin Allen High School girls who built up an impressive lead very quickly and vanquished their opponents in the Girls…

For those who won awards from the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce last week; in particularly Beverley Scott of the Family and Parenting Centre, for Community Service – a lady in Montego Bay with a big heart.

Condolences:

To the families of six people who died in car crashes over the weekend.  Fainting, grieving mothers by the side of lumps of distorted metal by the roadside.  Why can’t we just take care?

Concerns:

Why don’t we have a public morgue after thirty years?  Could we have a “Public Morgue for Jamaica 50” event?

A warning:  Don’t stone owls!  For a start, it’s illegal and you can receive a pretty hefty fine or a year in jail if found guilty of hunting, injuring or molesting these birds.  The most commonly injured is the Barn Owl – it is ghostly white and often called the Screech Owl.  I believe superstitious fear must be the motivation behind the stoning of these birds.  I love to hear the creaking of their wings at night as they pass over the house.  Although these birds are not considered threatened globally, the Jamaican Owl is endemic to the island and not found anywhere else.  They have a unique position in our ecosystem and should be protected and preserved.  Call NEPA (1-888-991-5005) or JSPCA (929-0320) to report any incidents of harm to these precious birds.

The beautiful Jamaican Barn Owl
The beautiful Jamaican Barn Owl.

Those are my random jottings for this Sunday (more disjointed than I had planned, but interrupted by visitors and phone calls!)  I would welcome your thoughts, as always.  


15 thoughts on “The Sunday Stumble – premiere edition

  1. Pingback: Petchary's Blog
  2. Sadly, there’s not much to be learned from Canada on the subject of making child abusers pay for their crimes. Here a hockey coach whose perversions sullied the lives of countless children received a paltry two year sentence. One of his victims, who suffered at his hands for years as a child, called it “a travesty”. He was right.

    One question: Why would anyone want to stone an owl?

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    1. Two years is a travesty indeed. It just sends the wrong signal when the penalty is so dreadfully low. That is terrible. But I don’t think it’s much better over here – and the conviction rate is so low and the justice system grinds slowly, so people get away with it. Ah, re: the owls… I am going to write a post about that momentarily! Some others have asked… I will attempt to explain…

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    1. Thanks, Jack. Like people all over the world, I wade through the Jamaican Sundays with a mixture of exasperation (at times), occasional pleasure and often some boredom… But there is always something worthy of discussion, and the child abuse story jumped out at me. It has caused a huge stir in Jamaica, and there are now Twitter campaigns and planned meetings, petitions to the PM, etc… So there may actually be some action, for once! (Jamaicans are very good at talking)… And I intend to be involved in whatever that is. Will keep readers posted…

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  3. I found your Sunday Stumbles an interesting peek into life in Jamaica. The child abuse article is particularly distressing. Why is it that some people are so quick to denigrate the reporting rather than the insidious crimes themselves??

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    1. I know. There was a huge response in the social media to this article yesterday – but some of it just appeared to be “shooting the messenger.” I couldn’t understand that. One Jamaican even attacked the doctor herself (whom I happen to know personally and she is very dedicated). Sorry to say that Jamaicans can be divisive. BUT having said that, it does look like an issue that people are actually uniting around, so there may be some action taken.

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  4. Very nicely done! I like the commendations, concerns etc. Good job at summarising and bringing thoughtful analysis. Looking forward to more.

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    1. Thanks, Tanya. It needs a lot of refining, but I will get it right in the next week or two! I plan to focus on one “big” story (the child abuse one was the obvious choice this week) and will try to do a bit of follow up where possible on some of the stories. Thanks for your encouragement and look out for an Easter Sunday edition!

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