The Ides of March: Sunday, March 17, 2013

Actually, the Ides of March were on Friday, March 15, just two days ago. We often hear the phrase “Beware the Ides of March,” without even understanding the sense of it. Blame Shakespeare. As a former student of Latin language and literature, I can assure you that the Romans were a highly superstitious lot, and very fond of omens. Reading animals’ entrails, birds, the weather, and all that. This period was not short of prophets of doom – and we have a few of those around ourselves, here in Jamaica.

Julius Caesar came to a sticky end in the Ides of March. The soothsayer did warn him (by the way, what IS a sooth?) Image from crystalinks.com.
Julius Caesar came to a sticky end in the Ides of March. The soothsayer did warn him (by the way, what IS a sooth?) Image from crystalinks.com.

It’s true that things are not looking rosy, in general. We were overwhelmed this week (and we knew it was coming) by the broadcast of a documentary on AXS TV on the “lotto scam,” narrated by Dan Rather, who visited Jamaica earlier this year. Segments were aired on CBS News and NBC News, and it was heavily publicized through Mr. Rather’s (and others’) social media outlets. Segments were, of course, aired on local television – including an interview with a young scammer in Montego Bay, who ran away when the journalist revealed that they were U.S. media. His face was clearly shown. I am not sure if you can download the full program somewhere – I’m not finding it online.

Dan Rather - "Rather Outspoken."
Dan Rather – “Rather Outspoken.”

I understand that Mr. Rather is planning further investigations, so this may not be the end of this negative publicity. National Security Minister Peter Bunting had a sense of foreboding about this one, and rightly so. Since the testimony, and the documentary, there has been much discussion about the impact on so-called “Brand Jamaica.” Now, to me, Brand Jamaica is a fabrication of the politicians and tourism officials. How attractive is Brand Jamaica to ordinary Jamaicans, one of my friends asked on Twitter this week – “that is the real measure.” Indeed, but that is for another discussion. The government has naturally been scrambling to do “damage control,” according to local media. No reported “fallout” – yet.

Photo: bewareof876.com. Jamaica's telephone area code is 876.
Photo: bewareof876.com. Jamaica’s telephone area code is 876.

But, why do the Americans have to clean up our mess again, other Jamaicans are asking? There are odd echoes of the “Dudus” affair… The same level of discomfort and a kind of humiliation. We are the bad guys, again. We are a very small nation, and we feel it. Yes, we take it to heart, even if we pretend not to.

Kim Nichols, the daughter of a victim of the lottery scam, testifies before theUS Congressional Special Committee on Aging. (Photo: Gleaner website)
Kim Nichols, the daughter of a victim of the lottery scam, testifies before the U.S. Congressional Special Committee on Aging. (Photo: Gleaner website)

Meanwhile, the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging, headed by Democrat Bill Nelson of Florida, sat on Wednesday to consider the matter, at the urging of advocacy groups such as the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP). Minister Bunting had submitted written testimony. The recorded conversations between the criminals in Jamaica (what else can you call them?) and their sad, distressed elderly victims in Maine and other U.S. states; and the television interviews with them and their families – all made me cringe. It was very, very uncomfortable to watch and hear. A feeling of collective guilt infused many of the discussions on the matter – on radio talk shows, many expressed shame and at the very least, embarrassment. “Jamaica, the Nigeria of the Caribbean” was one online comment. We wondered how these old people could be so lonely, happy to hear the sound of a human voice even if it was that of a stranger with evil intent (I actually do consider the scammers evil, not a word I use lightly). Some called them “gullible” and “suckers” which I find unkind. Elderly people are vulnerable, almost like children.

Sun, sea, sand, scams, corruption... A beach in what we used to call the "tourism mecca" of Montego Bay. (Photo: tripadvisor.com)
Sun, sea, sand, scams, corruption… A beach in what we used to call the “tourism mecca” of Montego Bay. (Photo: tripadvisor.com)

My questions are: Why was the lotto scam allowed to continue for five or six years without any effective action being taken by the Jamaican government? Was the legislation – which the Senate will debate next week – only put together at the behest of the U.S. government? Who was/is benefiting from the lotto scam? Local politicians, businessmen, who exactly? Will they be brought to book? We all knew that Montego Bay has been booming for the last few years…How long will it take to extradite even one Jamaican – and how many are actually involved? Was someone “higher up” orchestrating the whole thing? Will the IT/call center business ever recover? Why was the local media, with some exceptions, unwilling to investigate over these past few years – were they under pressure?

According to at least one Opposition member, tourism is already in decline, even without all this unpleasantness. This is not good for our foreign exchange inflows, and I had heard that stopover visitors are seriously lagging behind cruise ship arrivals, even in the current winter tourist season. Suggestions are that cultural issues and environmental degradation are having a negative impact on visitors. Brand Jamaica is a tarnished mirror, in which we can hardly see ourselves any more, no matter how hard we try to wipe it clean. Let’s forget it.

Get Happy in Jamaica! Jamaica Tourist Board marketing.
Get Happy in Jamaica! Jamaica Tourist Board marketing.

 

And we should forget this one – quickly. Jamaica Tourist Board, what were you thinking? Here’s the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P9KSiitCnXg (Mr. Nicolaisen, I don’t blame you – you are an actor and you are making a living, but...)

There is no doubt that the lotto scam comes under the heading “organized crime” and must be dealt with accordingly. Extradition to the United States is fine in my book, so long as they are given a fair trial and brought to justice. And talking of organized crime, what is going on in west Kingston, the former domain of the aforementioned extraditee Christopher “Dudus” Coke? I hear rumblings that a new power structure is in place. If you visit Coronation Market regularly, you may have seen the signs.

The refurbished Coronation Market in west Kingston. (Photo: National Consumer League Jamaica website)
The refurbished Coronation Market in west Kingston. (Photo: National Consumer League Jamaica website)

Meanwhile, the police have taken a Kingston businessman into custody and he could face numerous charges, including murder and money laundering. But he doesn’t have a name – so he must be a “big man.” I am sure if he was from Arnett Gardens or Denham Town, we would all know his name, address and aliases right away.

Jamaican manufacturer Omar Azan. (Photo: Gleaner)
Jamaican manufacturer Omar Azan. (Photo: Gleaner)

Talking of foreign exchange: some local manufacturers are among those complaining about a shortage of foreign exchange. Former head of the Jamaica Manufacturers’ Association Omar Azan says the banks have waiting lists, and he was not able to get all the U.S. Dollars he needed to import raw materials. If this is a growing trend and it continues, there will be layoffs as production is cut. Opposition Finance Spokesman Audley Shaw already notes a “thriving black market” – he has been banging on about this for some time. More doom and gloom (if possibly exaggerated…in Audley Shaw’s somber tone…)

Former junior energy minister Kern Spencer and his personal assistant Coleen Wright in September, 2007. (Photo: barbadosfreepress.wordpress.com)
Former junior energy minister Kern Spencer and his personal assistant Coleen Wright in September, 2007. They both face money laundering, fraud and corruption charges. (Photo: barbadosfreepress.wordpress.com)

Do we need to be reminded of the “Cuban light bulb scandal” It occurred during the previous People’s National Party administration, resulting in a corruption trial that is still not concluded. But hey! The program to provide free energy-saving bulbs from Cuba to poor households through Minister Phillip Paulwell’s energy ministry is back! That’s all we needed. Former junior minister Kern Spencer (who cried in Parliament when his Opposition counterpart accused him) has had his trial successfully postponed a number of times; he was first arrested over five years ago.

A jolly photo of Mr. Simon Crosskill here; but actually his CVM Television program "Live at Seven" tackles some serious issues.
A jolly photo of Mr. Simon Crosskill here; but actually his CVM Television program “Live at Seven” tackles some serious issues.

Well, I was on television myself last week. I appeared on CVM Television’s “Live at Seven.” I hope some of you were able to watch the program, which focused on whether pregnant teens should be “excluded” (in other words, kicked out) of high school or allowed to continue their education before and after giving birth. As Chair of Eve for Life Jamaica, I am firmly of the latter view. Education is empowerment, and many of these girls have suffered from rape, abuse, incest and are being punished for it. My co-panelist, the President-elect of the Jamaica Teachers Association, suggested that everything was fine and the girls can, at principals’ discretion, return to school (or a different school) afterwards. He also said that the state-funded Women’s Centre of Jamaica was most effective in supporting these vulnerable girls. In other words (as is often the case in these discussions on the media) one would be led to believe that all is hunky dory, and the system works perfectly… Unless one knew better, of course. In columnist Barbara Gloudon’s words, “It is the girl who must pay the price.” See her take on the issue, below…

Eve for Life at our recent celebration of five years in operation. For more information on the organization and its work, please contact me!
Eve for Life at our recent celebration of five years in operation. For more information on the organization and its work, please contact me!

More on this in another blog. Suffice it to say I was nervous as hell, this being my first television appearance; but I was impressed by Mr. Simon Crosskill, host of the program, and his great young production team. An excellent program. You can find the latest edition online here: http://www.cvmtv.com/videos_1.php?id=921&section=live7 – updated daily.

A young lady I know and think highly of was also a guest on Power 106 FM’s youth program yesterday. Ms. Kemesha Kelly, who comes from a humble family in rural St. Ann, is a former Miss Jamaica Festival Queen. She is highly intelligent, enthusiastic and a terrific role model for girls. As usual, Ms. Kelly was overflowing with energy during her interview, discussing the “SWAG” (Something Worthwhile a Gwaan) initiative that she spearheads at the Marcus Garvey Youth Information Centre in St. Ann’s Bay. (A common refrain among youth is “Nutten Naah Gwaan” (nothing is going on). The project needs more funding support; if you are a local business or individual who would like to help, get in touch with Kemesha (or me).

The bright and beautiful youth activist, Kemesha Kelly. (Photo from her Facebook page)
The bright and beautiful youth activist, Ms. Kemesha Kelly. (Photo from her Facebook page)

When asked about the main challenges for Jamaican youth, Kemesha noted employment opportunities (lacking); crime and violence – youth are so often the victims and the perpetrators; and access to higher education, which she considers crucial. She is an aspiring human rights lawyer. I wish her all the very best…

Calabar High School celebrates wildly at the National Stadium. (Photo: Garfield Robinson/Jamaica Observer)
Calabar High School celebrates wildly at the National Stadium. (Photo: Garfield Robinson/Jamaica Observer)

More young people doing great (amazing) things: Over the last few days, the hotly-contested 103rd ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys’ and Girls’ Athletics Championships has taken the National Stadium by storm. Records broke left right and center, to the deafening sound of vuvuzelas (yes, they are still in use over here, unfortunately – we could hear them from our house!) Many congratulations to Calabar High School, who again came out on top, with two other Kingston boys’ schools, Jamaica College and Kingston College hot on their heels. The girls of Holmwood Technical High School overtook Edwin Allen High School, with St. Jago High School girls in third place – all, interestingly “out of town” schools in Manchester, Clarendon and St. Catherine respectively. Many, many congratulations to all! As someone observed, our successful athletes always rise above the divisiveness of Jamaican society. Do we care what political party they support, or which area of Kingston they come from? Of course not! They have transcended that political tribalism that breeds nothing but mediocrity.

Holmwood athletes celebrate. (Photo: Garfield Robinson/Jamaica Observer)
Holmwood athletes celebrate. (Photo: Garfield Robinson/Jamaica Observer)

And congratulations to all the winners of the Prime Minister’s Youth Awards. Special congratulations are due to Kimroy Bailey, a young engineer and fellow (award-winning) blogger who is highly focused on alternative energy. Let’s encourage those young people, in the sciences and other fields, who are doing the hands-on stuff and trying to raise awareness! We need those ideas. And action.

Kimroy Bailey at the wind farm. (Photo: kimroybailey.com)
Kimroy Bailey at the wind farm. (Photo: kimroybailey.com)

P.S. Just a word to journalists, especially the younger ones who are sometimes a little hurt when they are criticized. “Everyone tells us how to do our job,” one complained last week. Well, I for one will continue to criticize. As purveyors of the media product, you should also listen to what we – your consumers – have to say! I still maintain that there are far too many errors of spelling, grammar and pronunciation (some of them really embarrassing). And I also feel that browsing through the social media, commenting on what so-and-so is saying about such-and-such and reading it out, doth not good journalism make. It’s different if you are organizing feedback on a specific issue; fine. Otherwise, it looks like you are wasting time, and it’s irritating. It’s also not news – unless you suspect that the social media is more newsworthy than what your own radio/television station or newspaper produces?

Residents protest the killing of three men by the police in Shrewsbury, Westmoreland. (Photo: Phillip Lemonte/Jamaica Observer)
Residents protest the killing of three men by the police in Shrewsbury, Westmoreland. (Photo: Phillip Lemonte/Jamaica Observer)
The grieving mother of Cameka Duhaney of Lucea, Hanover. (Photo: Phillip Lemonte/Jamaica Observer)
The grieving mother of Cameka Duhaney of Lucea, Hanover. (Photo: Phillip Lemonte/Jamaica Observer)

This has been another week of terrible grief. The killing of three family members (including a fireman) in Westmoreland has traumatized the community where they live – and where they were setting up a small business, a cook shop. Residents of the lovely town of Lucea were horrified by a terrible murder/suicide (the suicide taking place in a busy public shopping plaza) which seems to have been the result of a woman trying to end an abusive relationship. My deepest condolences to the families, friends and neighbors. Whole communities in shock. We will all need group counseling, soon…

Omario Bryan, 17, Havannah Heights, Clarendon

Winston “Charlie” Dawkins, 63, Osbourne Store, Clarendon

Sean Powell, 31, Spanish Town, St. Catherine

Shane Stanley, 37, Green Acres, St. Catherine

Unidentified, Dyke Road/Portmore, St. Catherine

Unidentified, Dyke Road/Portmore, St. Catherine

Cameka Duhaney, 23, Lucea, Hanover

Sydney Smith, 43, Lucea, Hanover

Killed by police

Andrew Brydson, 28, Shrewsbury, Westmoreland

Tristan Brydson, 24, Shrewsbury, Westmoreland

Kingsley Green, 38, Shrewsbury, Westmoreland

Related articles:  Local blogs in purple

http://www.cvmtv.com/videos_1.php?id=900&section=live7 Live at Seven on teen pregnancy/March 12, 2013: CVM Television

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RznaKL7n1Ss Javed Jaghai talks about human rights in Jamaica: youtube.com

http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads/33241 Olympian Warren Weir among nominations for PM’s Award: Jamaica Information Service

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=43373 Police Federation awaits word from Cabinet: Gleaner

http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Cops-kill-fireman–brother-and-cousin_13873042 Cops kill fireman, brother and cousin: Jamaica Observer

http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Murderous-rampage-in-Lucea_13877726 Murderous rampage in Lucea: Jamaica Observer

http://www.axs.tv/blogs/just-hang-up-the-phone-march-12-2013/ Just hang up: AXS TV

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130311/lead/lead5.html Defense attorney troubled by lottery scam law: Gleaner

http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads-112/33244 Government pushes public awareness on lottery scam impact: Jamaica Information Service

http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/govt-dismisses-claims-of-being-slow-in-addressing-lottery-scam?utm_source=rjr&utm_medium=news Government dismisses claims of being slow in addressing lottery scam: RJR News

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=43472 Opposition supports extradition of scammers: Gleaner

http://www.aging.senate.gov/hearing_detail.cfm?id=340977& United States Senate Special Committee on Aging – Hearing on Lotto Scam: http://www.aging.senate.gov/ – Video and audio here: http://www.aging.senate.gov/hearing_detail.cfm?id=339898&

http://anniepaul.net/2013/03/15/doubletake-first-mattathias-schwartz-now-dan-rather-what-ails-jamaican-media/ Doubletake: First Mattathias Schwartz, now Dan Rather – what ails Jamaican media? anniepaul.net

http://chatychaty.com/2013/03/dan-rather-talks-about-investigating-the-jamaican-lottery-scam/ Dan Rather talks about investigating the Jamaican lottery scam: chatychaty.com

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130315/letters/letters2.html Americans continue to clean our house: Letter to Gleaner

http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/editorial/Make-the-scammers–lives-hell_13860009 Make the scammers’ lives hell: Observer editorial

http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads-122/33255 Debate on lottery scam bill to continue on March 21: Jamaica Information Service

http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Lottery-scammers-are-not-operating-alone_13865327 Lottery scammers are not operating alone: Mark Wignall column/Sunday Observer

http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Eradicate-the-culture-of-impunity-around-the-lottery-scam_13872254 Eradicate the culture of impunity around the lottery scam: Claude Robinson column/Sunday Observer

Dudus Part#2 – The Jamaican Lotto Scam extradition requests. (commonsenseja.wordpress.com) Dudus Part 2: The Jamaican lotto scam extradition requests: commonsenseja.wordpress.com

http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/dpp-advises-police-to-charge-world-wise-operators DPP advises police to charge World Wise operators: RJR News

http://www.caribjournal.com/2013/03/15/jamaica-waives-visa-requirements-for-eastern-european-tourists/ Jamaica waives visa requirements for Eastern European tourists: caribjournal.com

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130313/letters/letters4.html Gangster country: Letter to the Editor/Gleaner

http://jamaica-star.com/thestar/20130313/news/news2.html Cops fight at police station: Jamaica Star

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130317/lead/lead2.html Businessman held in money laundering, murder probe: Sunday Gleaner

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130317/lead/lead5.html Help needed: West Kingston’s plea: Sunday Gleaner

http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/fears-of-a-child-trafficking-ring-dismissed-by-police Fears of a child trafficking ring dismissed by police: RJR News

http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Baby-Madda–story-come-back-again_13865068 “Baby Madda” story come back again: Barbara Gloudon column/Jamaica Observer

http://rhrealitycheck.org/article/2013/03/12/an-open-letter-to-caribbean-men-from-caribbean-women/?goback=%2Egde_118853_member_223341878#sthash%2EIhg06iZI%2Edpuf An open letter to Caribbean men from Caribbean women: rhrealitycheck.org

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130316/lead/lead6.html Nicola Hamilton on a mission to empower women: Gleaner

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130314/cleisure/cleisure3.html Do homosexuals have a place in Jamaica? Jaevion Nelson column/Gleaner

http://jamaica-star.com/thestar/20130316/news/news1.html Men beaten for “funny behavior”: Jamaica Star

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130315/letters/letters4.html Haitians were treated fairly: Letter to the Gleaner from Jamaican immigration chief

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130311/lead/lead2.html New China road deal: Gleaner

http://delanoseiv.wordpress.com/2013/03/12/tourism-in-major-decline-concerns-about-crisis/ Tourism in major decline: Concerns about crisis: delanoseiv.wordpress.com

http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/rural-st-andrew-water-sources-fall-short-of-who-guidelines Rural St. Andrew water sources fall short of WHO guidelines: RJR News

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130313/lead/lead4.html Residents say bills too high: Gleaner

http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/controversial-cuban-light-bulb-project-to-be-reintroduced Controversial Cuban light bulb project to be reintroduced: RJR News

http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads-103/33221 Growth in export earnings: Jamaica Information Service

http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Only-25–of-NHT-contributors-have-benefitted-in-37-years_13863877 Only 25% of NHT contributors have benefitted in 37 years: Jamaica Observer

http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/Too-many-hypocrites-in-Jamaica_13800895 Too many hypocrites in Jamaica: Letter to the Editor/Jamaica Observer

http://jamaica-star.com/thestar/20130313/news/news1.html 68-year-old killed in shark attack: Jamaica Star

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130316/business/business3.html Turning trash into treasure: Biochar oven: Gleaner

http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/trip-to-chavez-funeral-no-cost-to-government Trip to Chavez funeral no cost to government: RJR News

http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Politicians-must-sacrifice-too_13626549 Politicians must sacrifice too: Francis J Mafar op-ed/Jamaica Observer

http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Manley-Duncan–Shift-to–a-sacred-place-_13805888 Manley-Duncan: Shift to a “sacred place”: Jean Lowrie-Chin column/Jamaica Observer

http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/magazines/allwoman/Change-is-possible—change-is-happening_13805613 Change is possible and change is happening: All Woman/Jamaica Observer

http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/What-can-we-do-when-the–mother–school-system-fails_13782498 What can we do when the “mother” school system fails? Tashion Hewitt op-ed/Jamaica Observer

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130316/lead/lead3.html The wisdom of Old Folly – St. Ann residents unite for model community: Gleaner

http://carolynjoycooper.wordpress.com/2013/03/13/michael-freestylee-thompson-exhibits-at-the-university-of-the-west-indies-museum/ Michael “Freestylee” Thompson exhibits at the University of the West Indies Museum

http://www.tallawahmagazine.com/2013/03/home-front-christopher-john-farley.html Christopher John Farley keeps an open mind in life and art: Tallawahmagazine.com

 


12 thoughts on “The Ides of March: Sunday, March 17, 2013

  1. Loved this post … well .. you know … but especially the spot light on the young people. They really give me hope! Congrats on your interview as well sorry i missed it. i do agree that education is key for them. I know there are a few places that offer continued education after the baby is born.

    Like

    1. Thanks so much. Of course, the youth are making themselves heard. I hope the older people are listening! They tend not to, I am afraid. But young people are challenging the status quo, and seeking answers (and even, solutions). I am going to write more about the teen pregnancy issue this week – just need to settle down and write!

      Like

      1. That is quite true. Hope it has positive impacts soon though! Will look out for that… do understand. Hope you find the motivation and inspiration soon 🙂

        Like

    1. Ummm… I am not sure. I was a bit low-key at times but when I got to speak I made my points, I think. I am going to write more on this topic (all the things i didn’t get a chance to say!!) It wasn’t bad for a first attempt. Thanks anyway for the pat on the back!

      Like

    1. Thank you Aisha! No – hardly the answer to Oprah! Although I wouldn’t mind, if I could earn as much as her! As for you, you are going from strength to strength. Many congratulations on your move!

      Like

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