Yesterday dawned with a high wind and bright sky, just like the day before, and just like today. The drought presses on, harder. But it was also my birthday, and so I did not write anything. My apologies – I will attempt to catch up, now.
The mood last week seemed to be one of anxiety and uncertainty. I’ve decided to fire some bullet points at you, this time:
- The economy: The IMF saga drags on, seemingly without end. After the first day of its retreat (see below) the Office of the Prime Minister issued a terse press release noting that “Jamaica has successfully completed all prior actions required by the Fund” and has agreed on the 2013/4 Budget. Finance Minister Peter Phillips had told us that the agreement will be signed by the end of the month – in other words, Easter Sunday. This seems well-nigh impossible and Minister Phillips’ comments sound increasingly equivocal and hesitant. And what, exactly, are these prior actions – have they really all been completed? Can we have a list, please?
- The retreat: The Cabinet is about to emerge from its fifth retreat since January 2012 (what they are retreating from?) They have got round to discussing growth and production strategies now – and they really, really do need to come up with a real plan – an urgent action plan.
- The details: We truly get very little detail on our economic state. We are promised more information, after somewhat vague and broad statements are made. We await the Budget debate.
- The spin: We get plenty of “spin” from what a very forthright Gleaner columnist called our “Minister of Misinformation,” Senator Sandrea Falconer. I am not sure if it’s scripted or not, but it seems the Senator cannot resist a kind of defensive spiel. She refers to what she calls inaccurate portrayals of the “truth” by some members of society (perhaps they do monitor the social media, which can’t be comfortable reading). She gives us her version of the facts. I wish she would stop trying to pull the wool over our eyes; it’s easy to do with economic matters, as the average Jamaican doesn’t have a very good grasp of it all. The local media has not been doing a great job of explaining our economic situation (with a few exceptions such as Power 106 FM’s excellent morning program with Ralston Hyman et al). Many of our journalists seem more interested in politics.
- The spin-off of the spin: The Prime Minister is busy making speeches urging us to “unite” as one Jamaican family; and to “strive for excellence.” Madam Prime Minister, give us something concrete. Something to chew on. You are killing us with clichés, Madam. Stop!
- The sacrifices – an update: Government: None, to date. The Jamaican public: “Nuff” (plenty) and more to come. A neighbor of ours en route to Miami noted that the first class cabin had a good sprinkling of ministers and government agency heads; one minister traveled economy with his wife. Our neighbor took the opportunity to glare at them as she passed through. And the Prados are running fine. Thanks for asking.
- The muddle: We, the people, just need to know what’s going on. What is the way forward? The Government is communicating, but not really telling us what we want to hear. A Gleaner editorial suggested that the Government is in a “muddle.”
- The brutality: Since the killing of three men at a tiny shop in Shrewsbury, Westmoreland, the Jamaica Constabulary Force have shot dead at least four more Jamaican citizens and injured a few more in alleged “shootouts.” One of my favorite TV programs, “Live at Seven” on CVM Television, discussed the acquittal of a policeman who appeared to shoot a man lying on the ground – which was aired on television for us all to see – and the older case of “Kentucky Kid” (Robert Hill), a musician who reported threats from the police and even aired video of a beating by the police before they shot him dead in December, 2009. Meanwhile Westmoreland and St. Elizabeth residents have repeatedly set up road blocks in both parishes, and they are still angry. The straight-talking head of the Independent Commission of Investigations, Terrence Williams and the local police chief held a meeting a few days ago. Residents angrily interrupted one police officer – but eventually agreed to wait and see what comes out of the investigations. Mr. Williams knows he must move fast; the police, meanwhile, have been somewhat tardy in sending the required reports to his office. Please watch Michael Abrahams’ YouTube video – link below!
- The Bully: A group of firemen and women staged a peaceful protest in Savannah-la-Mar, Westmoreland last week. One of the men killed by the police was a fireman. With a sinking feeling, I watched the CVM Television report on the demonstration. The police inspector marched out of the police station (they were gathered on the opposite side of the road) and shouted at them that if they obstructed the traffic they would suffer “pains and perils.” To back up his point, he beckoned to three policemen in full riot gear, who stepped forward threateningly. He then stalked back across the road to the police station. I cringed. He did not talk to them as human beings, but as potential trouble-makers. Their colleague had just been gunned down by a policeman. A demonstrator told the reporter, “I think he must be afraid of us,” with a little smile. Are we becoming a police state? Just asking…
- The defense of the prosecutor: Director of Public Prosecutions Paula Llewellyn had a really tough week last week. She must have a skin like a rhinoceros (sorry, don’t mean to be rude – but what I mean is “her back is broad,” as Jamaicans would say). She has been criticized heavily for her handling of the case of alleged fraudster/alleged swindler/alleged Ponzi scheme trickster Carlos Hill of Cash Plus, whose trial began recently. Mr. Hill’s clever lawyers are upset by Ms. Llewellyn’s tactics, but I think I see what she is trying to do. She has tried hard and repeatedly and continuously to explain her approach to several high-profile cases, but everyone thinks they know the law better than she does. She fought back at the Hill lawyers, accusing them of “spreading misinformation” in the media
- The nonsense: A silly report – an opinion poll of sorts – came out midweek asserting that Jamaican women are “happier than men” because they are supported by men. I laughed out loud. A Sunday Gleaner report noted a “rift” in the Jamaica Labour Party over its future leadership. This seems to me less than important, when we have much bigger fish to fry. Put this one on hold for a while, please. You can go back to it later when there is a shortage of “real” news.
- The destruction: At the Annual General Meeting of the Jamaica Environment Trust last week, we were horrified by photographs of large trees chopped down along the once-beautiful banks of the Cabaritta River in Westmoreland – for no apparent reason. Something called “river cleaning”? The riverbanks are now bare. Was this wholesale destruction at the behest of the Ministry of Agriculture really necessary? Or was it a job creation program? Is this the Minister’s constituency?
- The unanswered questions: A student of the College of Science & Agriculture (CASE) in rural Portland last week allegedly set fire to a dorm, causing injuries. A group of students had been reportedly bullying the student for some time, even injuring him in an earlier incident which seems to have been swept under the carpet at the time. What is the story behind this? The student’s parents say he was a quiet and well-behaved young man. Something pushed him too far.
- The inevitable: Thirty Haitians (CARICOM nationals) arrived in a battered boat in eastern Jamaica. They are now being “processed” (a term normally used when inner-city youth are rounded up for questioning and finger-printing, then released). Once the government agencies have finished with them, one expects them to be sent back forthwith. One also expects the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees to express concern at this treatment.
- The good stuff: Earl Moxam’s well-produced Sunday program “It’s a Rap” focused on the small rural communities in Westmoreland and St. Elizabeth where the Brydson brothers and their cousin lived, which Earl visited over the weekend. The personal stories – even a blurry recording of the brothers playing and singing gospel music – were touching, and revealing.
- The “doers”: My Doer of the Week has to be Ms. Deika Morrison, who continues her great work with Jamaica’s youngest citizens through her wonderful program “Crayons Count.” She is dedicated to the education and stimulation of our young children. She is also the brains behind the incredibly informative web resource, diGJamaica.
- The happening things: Kudos to the Alliance Française de la Jamaïque for their Francophone Film Festival, which started on Saturday. The first two films were fascinating. Do join them for more – full details are on the Alliance’s Facebook page and at http://alliancefrjm.org. As a student myself for some time, I can tell you the Alliance is friendly, empowering and a great learning environment. Their new term starts on April 8; why not sign up for classes (all levels accommodated)? Then congrats to the organizers of the first Caribbean Earth Hour on Saturday night. There was a great acoustic concert in Kingston, and I hope that the response was good in Jamaica overall… The Digicel Foundation also sponsored a great event on our breezy Cable Hut Beach – Surfing for Autism – an important fundraiser. Well done to all including the Jamaica Surfing Association. Good, good cause.
- The comeback? Former Prime Minister Bruce Golding made an interesting speech at the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce and asserted he is not interested in running for office again. But he looks much better. He has been unwell and low-key for the past year or so.
- The most outspoken of the week: Former Jamaica Manufacturers Association head Omar Azan pulled no punches on radio. “I have 225 people working with me and their jobs are at risk because of Government policies and this ridiculous IMF business” said Mr. Azan, a picture of frustration.
- The sad news: Goodbye to Leonard, the first friendly face I ever saw at Jamaica AIDS Support for Life. Always smiling, always sweet. He was ailing for some time I understand. We all miss your smile, dear Leonard…
- Unfinished business: We are still waiting for the Public Defender’s report on the Tivoli Gardens massacre of May, 2010…
The weeping and tears continue.
Justice Roy Bloomfield, 21, Waterford, St. Catherine
Diana Taylor, 41, Crescent Park, St. Catherine
Unidentified man, Old Harbour, St. Catherine
Gerland Gordon, 24, Duhaney Park, Kingston
Unidentified man, Riverton City, Kingston
Joyce Marks, in her sixties, New Haven, St. Andrew
Unidentified, Montego Bay, St. James
St. Azar Meade, Lucea, Hanover
Nacisse McDowell, 26, Breadnut Hill/Ocho Rios, St. Ann
Killed by the police:
Odain Campbell, 19, Maxfield Avenue, Kingston
Michael Robinson, 41, Molynes Road, Kingston
Unidentified man, May Pen, Clarendon
Unidentified man, May Pen, Clarendon
Related articles (Local blog links in purple):
http://wgnradio.com/2013/03/18/jamaicas-plan-to-stop-lottery-scams/ Jamaica’s plan to stop lottery scams: Min Julian Robinson on WGN radio Chicago
http://www.caribjournal.com/2013/03/18/op-ed-jamaicas-lotto-scam-problem/ Jamaica‘s lotto scam problem: David T. Rowe op-ed/Carib Journal
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/IMF-delay—Phillips-says–contingent–talks-holding-up-deal-_13895409 IMF delay: Phillips says contingent talks holding up deal: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Electricity-bills-go-up-10–this-month_13895222 Electricity bills go up 10 per cent this month: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=43574 Manufacturers demand clear policy on energy: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130318/letters/letters2.html Go beyond the Buckfield videotape: Letter to the editor/Gleaner
http://jamaica-star.com/thestar/20130319/news/news3.html Residents block roads to protest police killings: Jamaica Star
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=43572 Postmortem for Westmoreland men today: Gleaner
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Er57cuQw_AU&feature=youtu.be Michael Abrahams: Justice – TVJ/YouTube
http://jamaica-star.com/thestar/20130321/news/news1.html Sex orgy or rape? Cops puzzled after schoolgirl changes story: Jamaica Star
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/long-awaited-tivoli-report-expected-in-weeks-peart Long-awaited Tivoli report expected in weeks – Peart: RJR News
http://www.foxnews.com/world/2013/03/20/in-jamaica-slum-dwellers-demand-accountability-for-alleged-abuses-killings/ In Jamaica, slum dwellers demand accountability for alleged abuses, killings: Fox News
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130320/cleisure/cleisure3.html Why the Buckfield case fell flat: Op-ed by Director of Public Prosecutions Paula Llewellyn
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130321/cleisure/cleisure4.html Why the Buckfield case fell flat. Part 2: Op-ed by Director of Public Prosecutions Paula Llewellyn
http://go-jamaica.com/news/read_article.php?id=43587 June 14 hearing for cop accused of killing Frederick “Mickey” Hill: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Hothead-cop_13918625 Hothead cop? Single policeman involved in multiple civilian killings: Sunday Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130324/news/news7.html Police killing almost one person per day – INDECOM: Sunday Gleaner
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Hill_(entertainer) Robert Hill (“Kentucky Kid”): wikipedia including video link
http://digjamaica.com/blog/2013/03/22/crime-in-2013-january-and-february/ Crime in 2013: January & February: diGJamaica.com
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/The-reality-of-crime-and-growth_13917864 The reality of crime and growth: David Mullings column/Sunday Observer
http://newsandviewsbydjmillerja.wordpress.com/2013/03/21/cutting-cabinet-not-symbolism-or-optics/ Cutting Cabinet not symbolism (or optics!) Dionne Jackson Miller blog
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Rotaract-Club-feeds-the-homeless_13877633 Rotaract Club feeds the homeless: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Regional-laws-dealing-with-child-issues-outdated–says-expert_13884333 Regional laws dealing with child issues outdated, says expert: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Family-Planning-Board-head-alarmed-at-number-of-high-school-parents Family Planning Board head alarmed at number of high school parents: Sunday Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130324/news/news5.html What pushed the CASE student? Sunday Gleaner
http://sonofstmary.wordpress.com/2013/03/21/outlaws/ Outlaws at Home: sonofstmary.wordpress.com
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130322/cleisure/cleisure1.html Demanding even more from Jamaica: Gleaner editorial on Inter American Commission on Human Rights
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130322/news/news1.html MAJ, PAJ against cyber defamation law: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130324/focus/focus2.html Falconer minister of misinformation: Gordon Robinson column/Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130322/lead/lead2.html Jamaican women happier than men: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130324/focus/focus7.html Medicine not bitter enough: excerpts from Bruce Golding speech: Sunday Gleaner
http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/jamaica-worries-about-dwindling-number-of-nationals-retiring-on-island-after-working-overseas/2013/03/20/227b9970-912e-11e2-9173-7f87cda73b49_story.html# Jamaica worries about dwindling number of nationals retiring on island after working overseas: Washington Post
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130318/news/news5.html Genesis Academy: Creating a new future for the disabled: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Jamaica–region-way-behind-in-cancer-care–survival-rates_13901520 Jamaica, region way behind in cancer care, survival rates: Jamaica Observer
http://repeatingislands.com/2013/03/21/caribbean-holds-worst-record-for-diabetes-deaths-linked-to-soft-drinks/ Caribbean holds worst record for diabetes deaths linked to soft drinks: repeatingislands.com