Sunday Selection: July 15, 2012


Good morning, all. This week’s news was a little lighter, apart from the usual killings (see my “In Memoriam” section). Some things even made me laugh (hollow laughter sometimes, admittedly…)

Firstly, the political representatives who made fools of themselves in the Lower House recently were told to apologize, like naughty boys. The word “sorry” got stuck in some throats and the apologies were a little half-hearted; but one of the new Members of Parliament prepared a speech, waxing quite lyrical on the subject of fish. Yes, fish. This word was thrown about during the fracas in Parliament and seems to have been interpreted (or misinterpreted) as a derogatory word for homosexual (which many of us were not aware of – but it seems that some of our politicians are quite knowledgeable on such matters). Anyway, the promising young politician decided to equate the fish reference with Christianity. His speech was remarkable for its piety. Some journalists were seemingly awestruck by this oratorical flourish. Others were skeptical, like columnist Mark Wignall, who commented,  “Because we have had so few real successes in public life in this country, our media has adopted the style of going gaga over speeches as if we have conveniently forgotten that a speech is just words written on paper and skilfully (sometimes) read or presented.” 

Christian fish symbol
The Christian fish symbol

The best part of this – and here is the first chuckle of the week – were the skillful Observer cartoonist Clovis’ depictions of a fishy Member of Parliament. Hilarious.

Talking of religion, our favorite home-grown radical priest and missionary Father Richard Ho Lung – founder of the awesome Missionaries of the Poor – seems to have ruffled some feathers with his recent Gleaner columns. Firstly, he took aim at atheists, describing them as selfish, materialistic and responsible for all the world’s ills. (Well, I don’t think atheists bombed those churches in Nigeria, did they? Nor did they commit reprisal killings, there?) An atheist protested in rather a good column – linked below. Let’s have more tolerance of all beliefs, including atheists and agnostics, perhaps? Secondly, the goodly Father reprimanded our two sprinting heroes, Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake. He remonstrated with Blake thus:“Why call yourself a ‘beast’? Read the Book of Revelation.”  Columnist Mark Wignall feels he has “gone overboard” this time. I found it all rather funny.

There were a couple of highly confusing items last week, too. Firstly, Mining & Energy Minister Phillip Paulwell announced that the Russian firm UC Rusal planned to close the last of its operational bauxite plants in Jamaica in October with the loss of 600 jobs – in Ewarton, St. Catherine. A wire story report appeared a day or two later in which the firm said they had not yet made a decision on the matter. Things seem to be hanging in the balance; but one feels confident that Minister Paulwell will be able to sort things out with the Russians. He has made the point that two other plants owned by Rusal have been closed now for more than three years. This seems an unacceptable situation to me.

Minister of Mining, Energy & Technology Phillip Paulwell
Minister of Mining, Energy & Technology Phillip Paulwell

I am finding Minister Paulwell a calm, composed figure, who seems entirely focused on his goals as head of an important ministry that also includes technology. He seems to do his homework properly, updates the media regularly and what is more, he does not waste time trying to score political points. He is getting on with the job, and for that I once again give him kudos. He sets a good example.

Then there was a bit of a fiasco with the so-called amnesty for traffic offenders, which began on July 1 and is set to continue for the rest of the year. It turned out to be quite a muddle. Well, Jamaicans owe their Government an astounding, estimated J$2.5 billion in unpaid traffic tickets. So if they go to the tax office and pay what they owe during this period, they will not be taken to court. It seems, however, that Government records are not in order; motorists are protesting that they are wildly inaccurate and the website has been put on hold for a little while, I understand, while they sort it out. Unfortunately, neither of the links in the Gleaner article below works. Oh Lordy.

I have been venting quite a bit on the environment in a recent blog post – but hold on, here’s more. I mentioned the “mystery fumes” in a recent review. On June 28 (when we were, thankfully, out of town) a number of highway workers and others fell sick after the air was filled with an unbearable smell in the Portmore area. The National Environment & Planning Agency conducted a thorough and detailed investigation, and last week we were informed that the smell was from kerosene being offloaded at Kingston’s seaport. Now the police have been called in to investigate possible illegal activities there. Which is obviously bad, but what worries me is how would we have coped if the incident had been much more serious?  Executive director of the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management Ronald Jackson said on television recently that Jamaica really was not prepared for a major chemical leak. The Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica is investigating…

As a cab driver said on television this week, “It’s our right to have clean air.” The man, an asthma sufferer, was complaining about a huge dust nuisance in Cornwall Courts, Montego Bay. Let us be more careful about these things, and try to prevent them from happening in the first place, please. And what was going on at the port that day? I am not making light of the Cornwall Courts issue. Almost nightly on television residents are protesting the huge discomforts of their lives – dust from incomplete roadworks; roads that look more like obstacle courses filled with rocks and huge potholes; raw sewage trickling in the gutters; a bridge that has not been repaired since Hurricane Whoever; no water in the pipes, although they pay water bills. I often feel the residents could do more to help themselves; but I fear that there is simply no money to fix these things.

Now – unless you have been living in a hole in the ground for at least the past year – we all know the Olympics is nigh. In fact, they begin on July 27, just twelve days away. I just have two questions: Why can’t we watch the Olympics on the channel of our choice? And why do Jamaican athletes have to parade around in semi-military uniforms at the opening ceremony?

On the first issue, a regional sports broadcasting firm has “exclusive rights across all platforms” to coverage of the games, and has sold these rights to one television station in Jamaica. Which means that those of us who pay for various sports channels on our cable network will be confronted with a message informing us that the channel is “blacked out” (even if the local TV station is not showing Olympic action). Is this lawful, asks one letter-writer? And why are we deprived of choice (especially when that’s exactly what we pay the cable company for?) Does this mean the promised “Caribbean flavor” of the coverage will exclude events in which there are no Caribbean competitors (and there are many of those?) Some of us want to watch events like diving, decathlon, rowing, etc. Why can’t we watch what we want?

Jamaican athletes designs by Cedella Marley
Poor Mr. Bolt looks like he has seen a ghost; and the girl looks somewhat threatening.
London Olympics 2012 logo
And I know it’s not a Caribbean issue – but the Olympics 2012 logo – what’s with that? Ugh.

Secondly, Cedella Marley (one of Bob’s numerous children) who is now a fashion designer has produced a range of costumes (approved by sponsors Puma) for the Jamaican athletic team to wear at the Olympics. The reaction among Jamaicans has been mixed, to say the least. When I first saw the photos, I had another good laugh. Ms. Marley has clearly gone back to the seventies and decided to resurrect the styles worn by her father when he was about her age… A kind of “Buffalo Soldier” throwback, complete with military-style khaki and high collars. Are our athletes going to war? There is also a skirt with what looks rather like a ganja-leaf design. Our dear Usain Bolt “looks like a security guard,” a friend commented on Facebook. What do you think, dear readers? There is more on YouTube if you want to see all the designs, and see how you feel. (Meanwhile, Americans are upset at their Ralph Lauren-designed kit, complete with beret – “too European” – and worse still, made in China!)

Talking of Bob Marley, there was another wave of protest after an unsuspecting American scientist (and a huge fan of Bob) enthusiastically named a marine creature after the “reggae icon” (to coin a cliché). What’s wrong with that, you may ask? Well, the creature in question, now named Gnathia marly, is a blood-sucking parasite that infests Caribbean fish and makes them extremely ill. “It’s a diss!” cried fans, who also point out that Bob Marley strongly disliked parasites (of the human kind), as well as hypocrites, bald heads and others. The poor scientist however, thinks this marine version of a tick (ugh!) is a wonderful little creature that contributes much to the Caribbean eco-system. He thinks he is honoring Marley, but the local jury is still out on this one, too.

And talking of reggae music, Opposition Tourism Spokesman Ed Bartlett says he wants Jamaica to have more reggae festivals. Do we really, Mr. Bartlett? We are scraping the barrel trying to find decent reggae acts – the quality and quantity has fallen – unless we recruited some of the excellent African musicians that play reggae. As it is, Reggae Sumfest, which took place this weekend, featured among other acts an American singer called Trey Songzz (not a reggae act), whose latest song “Dive In” extols the joys of oral sex. Yes, I guess we need more of that, don’t we?

Putting aside the trivia for a moment, there were several much more serious stories – quite small and unobtrusive – that popped up in the media and that I found very disturbing, although they seemed not to warrant any widespread discussion in the media.

  • In anticipation of a lifting of the ban on scrap metal imports, our rampant thievery continues at local cellular phone sites – J$300 million worth. One “businessman” was found to be powering his in-car stereo system with batteries stolen from one site. How can we move forward with creeps like this in our midst?
  • One million Jamaicans live below the poverty line. Yes. One million. What is our population again? 2.7 million?
  • A well-known doctor and the mother of a twelve-year-old have been charged with procuring an abortion. When is Jamaica going to review its absurd abortion laws? As noted last week, Jamaica has a very high maternal death rate, and illegal botched abortions have certainly contributed to this. Let us follow the example of Barbados, Cuba and other enlightened Caribbean nations. But I guess the discussion will be hijacked once again by fundamentalist Christians, who do shout very loud…
  • The Statistical Institute of Jamaica notes this week that the Jamaican economy registered negative GDP growth (0.1% decline) in the first six months of this year.
  • Can the Jamaica Observer and some of its columnists stop trying to stir up sensation and ill-informed debate on the homosexual issue? Let’s cool it. The flood of comments on its website has been removed, probably because many of them were unfit for airplay. Why this semi-hysteria from people who swear that they are “not homophobes” but Christians, with a capital “C”? Where is the Observer going with this?
  • The police are still busy killing. See two stories below on the recent death of a 17-year-old high school graduate, and a woman who fears for her son whom the police allegedly pushed into a gully.
  • The report of a teenage girl who had a complete meltdown in a small rural court when she was ordered to be kept in a “place of safety” was painful to hear. The close-up footage of the girl’s ankles as she shuffled, barefoot in shackles to a waiting police van was deeply disturbing – reminiscent of slavery. It worried radio talk show host Barbara Gloudon for an entire program on Friday. I shared her emotion. The girl, who reportedly slapped the magistrate (it was a small room) was clearly in trouble and in urgent need of psychiatric help. The fact was, nobody wanted her. She had run away from her father’s house, and her mother could not/would not keep her. One doesn’t know the details of the case, but is locking the fifteen-year-old up in the Fort Augusta Adult Correctional Centre going to help? What was her crime? I hear she is now to get counseling – while in prison (and how long for?)
Let’s end on a happy note. A round of applause, high fives and back-slapping for…
Fredrick Dacres, who won a gold medal in men’s discus at the IAAF World Junior Athletics Championships in Barcelona, Spain……and to all those young athletes who did their best and competed at the Championships, whether they won a medal or not.
United Hands Inc., of Ocala, Florida, who recently provided free medical treatment to 1,500 residents in Jamaica. Almost every week a philanthropic group either from the Jamaican diaspora, a church or simply kind-hearted citizens come from overseas (mostly the United States) to help Jamaica, asking for nothing in return. “Big ups” to them all. Your kindness is appreciated so deeply.
Ian Randle Publishers, who have produced a lovely book “50 Golden Moments” for Jamaica 50. It’s available from info@ianrandlepublishers.com or from the Gleaner library.
Ms. Krystal Johnson of rural Retreat, St. Thomas, who has won a scholarship to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). She got up at 4:00 a.m. every day to go to high school in Kingston. Grit, determination and sheer hard work go a long way – not just brilliance.
Fredrick Dacres
Fredrick Dacres of Calabar High School throwing his discus as only he knows how.
  • Krystal Johnson
  • Krystal Johnson of Wolmer’s Girls’ School, who’s MIT-bound.
The JNBS Foundation, which is helping the equally awesome Stella Maris Foundation to expand its outreach in teaching Information Technology to at-risk youth in Kingston’s inner city. Such important work.
The Rotary Club of Kingston, which is partnering with Children First and others on a program to help juvenile offenders.
St. Catherine Preparatory School student Catherine Douse, who is the daughter of my son’s former beloved teacher Hugh Douse, who was top girl in the recent Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) with 100 per cent in all subjects.
Ms. Fae Ellington for her outspoken reprimand to our politicians not to politicize the cultural event that is our National Festival. Bible quotes aside, I love this comment: “I will not tolerate this foolishness and let this movement and this period go down in stupidity and ignorance. It is time to stop allowing our two political tribes to pull us down into a hole of darkness from which we don’t seem to be able to pull ourselves.” Well said, Ms. Fae!
Have a wonderful week, everyone!
Gnathia marleyi (inset)
Gnathia marleyi (insert) and a Caribbean fish feeling a bit the worse for wear after being infested. Ugh.

Jamaica Observer editorial cartoon July 12 2012

The devout fish departs Parliament (an earlier Clovis cartoon showed the fish entering, to the police guard’s surprise, minus the halo)
MP Raymond Pryce
MP Raymond Pryce makes his religiously-flavored apology in Parliament last week on the topic of fish. (Gleaner photo)

In Memoriam

Condolences and sympathies go out to the family and friends of the following Jamaicans, who were murdered in the past week. I am also concerned for the father of Davian Davis, a sweet child whose body was found in an abandoned car. His father suspects foul play. I could see the grief in his face on television this evening. What really happened?

  • Shango Jackson, 39, in Beverley Hills, Kingston
  • Dr. Phillip Chamberlain, in Mandeville, Manchester
  • Dwayne Rodman, in Grants Pen, Kingston
  • Sonia Martin, 47, in Potsdam, St. Elizabeth

Killed by the police:

  • Unidentified man, Freetown, Clarendon
  • Unidentified man, Freetown, Clarendon
  • Unidentified man, Malvern, St. Elizabeth
  • Barrington Christie,41, Ashkenish, Hanover

8 thoughts on “Sunday Selection: July 15, 2012

  1. Indeed … getting sadder by the minute .. thankful for the few positives that make you still proud to be Jamaican in these times… another week indeed ..that’s almost done! (wish I was exaggerating but I’m not!)

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  2. Thanks as always for the recap! I feel sometimes that I really ought to take an active interest in the day to day happenings .. but there’s so much foolishness going on. it’s appalling.

    No comment on the ‘fishing’ that’s been going on .. jsut have to shake my head and pray these persons who are responsible for our growth and development will learn to conduct themselves in a more fitting matter. What kind of message are they sending?

    The uniforms really don’t scream Jamaican pride and Bolt’s expression is seeming ‘a wah dis dem a put mi inna’ the whole get up looks quite quirky to me.

    And as for the parasite … I really wonder what’s so great about being named after a parasite …. poor legend must be rolling all about in his grave.

    *moment of silence to the ones we’ve lost* Sad that the police ones are usually, mostly ‘unidentified men’ hmmn.

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    1. No, I don’t blame you. My husband is the same – he says there is so much foolishness he just can’t handle it. It stresses me out too… And the behavior of our politicians has reached an all-time low, it seems to me. Yes, Bolt’s expression is quite something in that photo!! He looks like he wishes he was somewhere else, far away… “Quirky” is a good word for the outfit! I am determined to remember those who have died as well as those who are left behind. When I see their faces and their tears on television, almost every night, it fills me with grief and pain. So much suffering. I think the police don’t bother to identify the ones they have killed, right away. But they are supposed to know their names aren’t they, if they have all allegedly committed crimes? (even the 17 year old who had just graduated from JC?) Ah well. Another week begins…

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