This month has started with a kind of numbing heat. Kingston nights are hot and dark; the days are hot and bright. Those annoying birds, the grackles have brought some screeching offspring into our yard. I chase them away, and it seems to make me feel better.
First things first…The PM is anxious about our athletes’ health: Remember now, Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller is Minister of Sport. She must also be Minister of Defence, but national security is of lesser importance, I guess. Before taking a few days’ vacation, the PM met with a large group of people (you can see some of them sitting round the table in the photo below, which doesn’t even show all of them) to discuss the burning issue of a wellness center for our athletes. Top priority – not child abuse, children in lock-ups, crime and violence, the crisis in education, our failing health system, our failing justice system, the economy…
But the Reggae Boyz… Our national football team is now sadly on life support after its third consecutive defeat in Honduras last night. Moreover, our coach, former player Theodore Whitmore, has resigned. The “Road to Rio” – our World Cup campaign – seems to have faded beneath our feet. Several rather unkind memes have circulated online. I will not rub salt in the wounds by reproducing them here. Fact is, we cannot just throw together a team made up of mostly second- or third-tier overseas-based players. We need a serious national football training program.
Those trips again: I am glad that Opposition Senator Robert Montague stood up and asked a number of questions about yet another trip that I may not even have mentioned: the journey of Mayor of Kingston Angela Brown Burke and her entourage, including Local Government Minister Noel Arscott and various assistants, down to the good old continent of Africa. This is quite separate from the Prime Minister’s excursion (no report card yet, Madam Prime Minister? And yes, we know about the “teachers to Tanzania” concept. Apart from that). Since the good Senator has formally tabled questions, I hope he will get proper answers. The Mayor et al went first to Uganda and then down to South Africa, I understand.
Dollars nah run: My favorite minister Phillip Paulwell wants more people to apply for the (barely) “single-digit” interest rate energy loans. Amazing that 9.5% is considered a really low interest rate in Jamaica, isn’t it? I think that everyone’s running away from getting themselves into more debt at the moment. What does my economic guru Ralston Hyman have to say about this? I will have to listen in to his morning radio program to find out. Confidence in markets is everything. I learnt that during my years in the financial sector. Once it is gone…dawg nyam yuh supper.
And time a-wasting: A great report in today’s Gleaner notes the irritation of employers with the huge chunks taken out of their employees’ working days while they wait in line at banks and government agencies (the two prime culprits, but there are others). Yes indeed folks, in Jamaica you can wait up to two hours for service in a bank, in the middle of the day when you should be back at your workplace. It is utterly ridiculous. I know of one financial institution that my husband and I jokingly call the “sleepy place.” There is a large waiting area – rows of chairs, where customers regularly doze off while waiting. And no matter how many customers they have, there is almost always only one person to serve them. It’s an insult and it is a serious deterrent to productivity.
Oh, and no money for disasters? About two months or more ago (I will have to look it up) I mentioned in a blog post that there was absolutely no mention of budgeting for disaster preparedness. When I raised the issue, someone muttered something about help from overseas. So if we do get hit by a hurricane this year then we can always turn to these kind donors and say “help”? Now the Local Government Minister tells us that “it is apparent that the (National Disaster Fund) is not adequate…” God help us if a disaster hits. I don’t know who else will.
So now gays are “uncontrollable”: You’ve heard about the “uncontrollable” girls, such as those at the Armadale Juvenile Correctional Centre (and elsewhere) who are locked up because their parents (mothers) can’t cope with them. Well, the Jamaica Observer is now describing a small group of homeless young men who have occupied an abandoned house in an upscale area of Kingston as “uncontrollable.” Is it that any group of Jamaicans (young ones) who don’t behave “normally” is uncontrollable? These two groups have something in common: seriously marginalized. At least the newspaper tried to get a more balanced picture this time – actually speaking to J-FLAG and to the police – plus a so-called caretaker at the house.
I’m not very impressed… by radio journalist George Davis’ column in today’s Gleaner. He is trying to be too clever. But I do not think it particularly clever to refer to “a man who presents the major evening newscasts for one of our two major television stations” as homosexual. Why do that to a fellow journalist? Of course, no names mentioned but please!! It’s just tacky.
The meaning of service: The image many of us have of U.S. college fraternities is one of heavy-drinking, partying, crazy students. However, there is another side to fraternities: a tradition of service to others. The photograph below and the blog it comes from epitomizes the “giving back” that these fraternity brothers (Delta Upsilon) from several different colleges and universities are engaged in during a recent trip to Jamaica. The students are refurbishing a school in Westmoreland; I must find out which one. The contribution of these “farriners” – like the ongoing medical missions from overseas – is often greatly under-estimated. OK, I am sure these boys had fun in Negril too – but they also gave their time and energy, freely, to the children of Jamaica. They could have been sitting on their couches at home watching TV. I wish more young Jamaicans would catch on to the power of volunteerism. It is better to give than receive…
Word of the week: “Committed.” I think we (especially any government agency) should give this word a rest. It means “we’re going to do something but we haven’t done it yet. But yes, we think it’s a really good thing and a great idea. But…Not just yet.” Just read a Jamaica Information Service report: “Government committed to the elimination of child labor.” How? When?
And big ups to:
The U.S. Peace Corps volunteers: Since we are talking about service… Below you will find a link to the blog of one volunteer in Jamaica, who is living and working in rural St. Thomas, up in the mountains. The U.S. Peace Corps has been doing great work in Jamaica since Independence.
Ms. Virtue…: I met Ms. Erica Virtue quite a few years ago. I remember bumping into her in the Gleaner newsroom when visiting that worthy media house; and many rambling telephone chats. I have always had a healthy respect for her feisty, often provocative style. Now Erica is doing a weekly video commentary piece on the newspaper’s website, called “Erica’s Edge.“ I love it, and Erica’s biting and sometimes brutal humor. She may rub people up the wrong way sometimes – but she’s a journalist, not a shrinking violet…
…and Mr. Henry: When I first spoke to Darien Henry many years ago, he was an enthusiastic community-based reporter for Irie FM in Ocho Rios. I told him what a splendid radio voice he has. Now, it seems, he is putting pen to paper – or rather, fingers to keyboard. He has written a sensible column on education reform in the Gleaner. I look forward to more from the affable Mr. Henry.
Isle Chixx: Jamaicans eat chicken like there’s no tomorrow, and a relatively new local firm is doing well. They do Cornish hens. Managing Director Alex Antaeus will be opening a Greek restaurant in Kingston soon – so we can start eating healthier!
The Ministry of Justice: For posting the draft terms of reference for the upcoming Commission of Enquiry into the Tivoli Gardens massacre online for all to see. This kind of transparency and public consultation is laudable and I don’t believe this has been done with previous enquiries. You can find the discussion draft at http://www.moj.gov.jm/sites/default/files/pdf/Discussion%20Draft.pdf And you should submit your comments in writing to the Ministry not later than Friday, June 21.
And talking of consultations, I just returned from a complex, lengthy public consultation on the boundaries to the precious Cockpit Country in western Jamaica. More on that in a later blog.
The following Jamaicans have lost their lives violently in the past three days. I extend my condolences, as always, to the grieving families and friends who are left behind:
Errol Irwin, 57, Bog Walk, St. Catherine
Millar Bowen, 43, Bodles Research Station, St. Catherine
Rohan Clarke, 28, Cambridge, St. James
O’Neil Clarke, 34, Stettin, Trelawny
Unnamed infant, Stettin, Trelawny
Killed by police:
Davion Gordon, downtown Kingston
Okeen Edwards, 19, Greendale/Spanish Town, St. Catherine
Related links and articles:
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads-117/34209 PM wants swift action on wellness center for athletes: Jamaica Information Service
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/latestnews/Montague-questions-Local-Govt-trip-to-Africa-in-May Montague questions local government trip to Africa in May: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Security-costing-taxpayers-million–for-ruined-Goodyear-factory_14447506 Security costing taxpayers millions for ruined Goodyear factory: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Ruined-Sligoville-Stadium-to-be-rescued–says-Neita-Headley_14435373 Ruined Sligoville Stadium to be rescued, says Neita-Headley: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130612/lead/lead1.html Bosses seeing red! Long wait in lines keeping their workers off the job: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130612/lead/lead3.html Tick, tick, tick: Jamaicans lose valuable production hours standing in line: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130612/lead/lead5.html Not enough money in the country’s hurricane coffers: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130610/lead/lead9.html “I love UTech, but no”: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130611/cleisure/cleisure1.html Dr. Phillips must hold his nerve: Gleaner editorial
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/business/100-to-1–makes-sense-_14465183 100 to 1, makes sense? Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/business/More-takers-needed-for-energy-loans_14471505 More takers needed for energy loans: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130610/lead/lead1.html AJ, know your role: private sector fires back at Nicholson after “trade bickering” comments: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130610/news/news1.html Jamaica, China dreaming together: op-ed by Chinese Ambassador to Jamaica Zheng Qingdian: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130610/letters/letters2.html CARICOM an old boys’ club: Letter to the Editor from Joan Williams/Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Why-we-are-glad—-and-mad-_14451547 Why we are glad – and mad! Jean Lowrie-Chin column/Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130610/news/news5.html Mass exodus! Senator warns teachers may leave in droves: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130611/cleisure/cleisure3.html Pay teachers better, then hold bar higher: Darien Henry column/Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130611/lead/lead5.html More teachers than vacancies: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130610/cleisure/cleisure1.html Look at New York, Mr. Thwaites: Gleaner editorial
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130611/lead/lead1.html Free health fallout: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Don-t-touch-it-_14451904 Don’t touch it! say Negril residents: Jamaica Observer
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/commissioner-of-police-knew-of-plans-to-settle-bribery-case-says-witness Commissioner of Police knew of plans to settle bribery case, says witness: RJR News
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130610/cleisure/cleisure3.html Use human rights to save us: Garth Rattray column/Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/J-FLAG-denies-abandoning-homeless-gay-men_14447331 J-FLAG denies abandoning homeless gay men: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130612/cleisure/cleisure4.html Those slow to accept gays are not evil: George Davis column/Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=45647 Government invites comments on draft terms of reference for Tivoli enquiry: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130610/cleisure/cleisure2.html Judges can’t bail out cops: Peter Champagnie op-ed/Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/High-hopes-for-Diaspora-conference_14464778 High hopes for diaspora conference: Jamaica Observer
http://wellreadrobin.wordpress.com/2013/06/10/the-sheltered-ones-are-not-yet-born/ The sheltered ones are not yet born: wellreadrobin.wordpress.com
http://aprilspeacecorpsblog.com/2013/06/10/life-in-the-valley/ Life in the Valley: April’s Peace Corps blog.com
http://deltaupsilon.wordpress.com/2013/05/17/gsi-jamaica-why-i-am-a-du/ GSI Jamaica: Why I am a DU: deltaupsilon.wordpress.com