The heat in Kingston this week has been a dictator, beating us all into submission. I have spent the week cowering at home (two inches away from the fan) or hiding in air-conditioned cafés.
And it’s only June. As one Twitter friend just observed: “This rain need fi fall an dun.” (translation for non-Jamaicans: “This rain needs to fall and get it over with.”)
Shock and horror: Friday night frolics for many Jamaicans were somewhat overshadowed by the disturbing news that one of our athletic heroines, Veronica Campbell Brown, tested positive for a banned substance, a diuretic called Lasix (furosemide). Ms. Campbell Brown has won gold medals and broken all kinds of records, and Jamaica has been justifiably enormously proud of her over the past few years. Now, many are in denial, believing that it must be an error, a “set-up” even. Others are pointing at the big, bad United States, which they claim is the sports doping center of the world; the athlete lives and trains there. Many others are just hoping it’s not true. We will have to wait and see.
The Church again: Meanwhile our ultra-conservative, dogmatic, religious anti-gay activists are sharpening their keyboards/pencils and ramping up their opposition to a case that will be coming up soon in court. More details later this month. Long live the Status Quo!* Long live the Patriarchy! Long live the Normal and the God-fearing! *Not talking about the UK pop band of the 1960s…
The death of the animals: I did not mention the horrific slaughter of 32 sheep and 18 goats at a farm in St. Catherine last week. An armed gang invaded the farm and tied up the caretaker, then killed his entire stock of animals and carried away the meat. I commented on the issue of praedial larceny in April, thus (and I might as well repeat it here – nothing has changed: “Poor farmers: Another kind of thieving…is what is called “praedial larceny” (a term I had never heard until I came to Jamaica). This means stealing farm produce and livestock, which hard-working farmers have reared and grown. In other words, taking their livelihood away from them…I cannot understand why this criminal act, which goes on year after year unabated, is not taken more seriously by law enforcement and the courts. Perhaps it is because it affects rural residents, and we really only care about what happens in Kingston and a couple of other towns. I don’t know. But I believe the penalties should be much higher and the pursuit of these criminals should be aggressive and unrelenting. This isn’t happening. And when someone spots an alleged goat thief, an angry and frustrated mob attacks him.” National Security Minister, over to you! (And the meat must have gone somewhere!)
Ganja gone high-tech: So a high-tech marijuana farm was found in a big house on the outskirts of Kingston. Most of the comments seem to be along the lines of “Good for them, you’ve got to make money somehow.” Yes indeed, times are hard. One word of warning, however: a doctor whom I know and respect told me recently that he is seeing more and more young people (not only men) coming to his office with psychoses, directly related to ganja-smoking. Jamaicans (especially those who smoke themselves) believe it is harmless. I believe otherwise.
Ganja conference: Meanwhile, the energetic pro-ganja lobby is holding a Cannabis Conference in September here in Jamaica. This will presumably be an entirely one-sided affair and a platform for Lord Anthony Gifford et al to air their views. I hope they all enjoy themselves. I do agree with them though that using one spliff as an excuse for the police to harass, abuse and imprison a young man is not right and the law could be corrected.
Online=scary: We all know about the dangers of cyber-bullying. It has been going on for a long while, but it seems our police have just caught on to it. Of course, there are many pitfalls and hazards online, especially for young people – some pretty nasty stuff going on. But perhaps the police could figure out a way of using social media to actually find some of the missing persons they think have fallen prey to it. It’s a good way of getting the word out, you know! Tech entrepreneur Ingrid Riley spoke on radio on the topic and sought to point out the many positive aspects of social media. It’s a tool, and as such it depends how you use it, she says. But it’s clear the police regard it as the latest fearsome menace of the modern world.
Tapping the diaspora: The fifth conference with members of the diaspora is opening in Montego Bay. What is the Jamaican diaspora? It is the many thousands, even millions of Jamaicans scattered across the globe, but mostly in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. These conferences are a bit like CARICOM meetings in the jaundiced eyes of many Jamaicans. They are seen as “talk shops,” where all the challenges, issues, problems and possible solutions are aired, and then…what? I would love to see lots of investments and joint ventures and the like flow from these biennial meetings, but it doesn’t seem to happen. Like so many things in Jamaica, we talk and talk – but these confabs are not “fruitful” as politicians like to say. Reality hits. Things are not as attractive as they might sound in a comfortable room, with air-conditioning purring and a good cup of coffee at hand. The two major constraints to the diaspora digging in its pockets and spending its hard-earned cash are still there: crime and bureaucracy. Successive governments have not addressed these issues. It just goes round to round.
Having said all that, I would love to see some meaningful projects and partnerships come out of this conference. Something fruity. Sorry, I mean fruitful.
What IS the matter with the National Water Commission (NWC)? The government agency is reportedly dragging its feet on projects already funded by multilateral donors. They have not yet got off the ground and the excuses are manifold and complex. But listen, the NWC has been stumbling along for years, awash in what seems to be chronic inefficiency and waste, lack of resources and a kind of inertia that results from both. There is talk of privatizing water. Do you think this would help, dear readers? At this stage, I don’t know whether I am for or against it.
No reason to panic: Meanwhile we had the “don’t panic, folks” routine from the Bank of Jamaica this week, over the issue of the declining Jamaican Dollar. As a member of the long-suffering Jamaican public, reeling from the effects of recession, huge tax increases and soaring prices, I don’t feel I can listen to any more of these rationalizations. Not right now, anyway. I’ve had it.
Petchary Awards today go out to:
- The Government of Japan and the World Bank for funding a project to improve the lives of the disabled in Jamaica. I would love to see more of these projects funded that will really help the most vulnerable in Jamaican society. It is an empowerment project – skills training, special education. Very good!
- Javed Jaghai, our articulate (and brave – I won’t say unafraid because I think that is not true) gay rights activist. He tackles the issues head-on. Take a read of his blog post, below.
- The energetic Ms. Tanya Batson-Savage for the launch of a truly delightful children’s book, “Bolo the Monkey” – published by her very own Blue Moon Publishing. Tanya is also to be congratulated for venturing forth full-time into the world of publishing. I wish her the best of luck. Go out and buy the book! Only J$500 in local bookstores… It’s a treat.
- Ms. Stephanie Saulter for her new sci-fi novel “Gemsigns” – I missed the launch last week but wish her all the best with it. Published by Quercus Books in London. Check it out!
- That dedicated microphone wielder Andrew Cannon of CVM Television. His reporting on the vexed issue of customs (fees etc) this week was informative.
- UNICEF’s representative in Jamaica Robert Fuderich (he might as well have a permanent spot on my “honors list”!) again for his refreshingly outspoken remarks this week. After four years here, he is irritated by the divisiveness, finger-pointing and point-scoring going on among those involved in protecting and caring for Jamaica’s children. Please! Let’s work together! And again – too much talk, not enough action. How is all this helping the children?
- Also to UNICEF for sharing a very useful online Directory of Services for Children in Jamaica. It’s in a pdf document here: https://workspaces.acrobat.com/app.html#d=AdnGY2QvUTbKs0C89DBjow
- Finally, to the Rain God who granted our wish… Since I started writing this we have had a deliciously refreshing shower!
Sadly, more Jamaicans have lost their lives to violence in the past few days; two were teenagers. My condolences to their grieving families.
Nathaniel Brown, 18, Old Harbour, St. Catherine
Goston Smith, 27, Woodstock/Claremont, St. Ann
Killed by the police:
Christopher Wilson, 17, Yallahs, St. Thomas
Related links and articles:
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130616/lead/lead1.html Disbelief! Jamaicans line up behind VCB despite positive tests: Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130613/lead/lead1.html IMF rep says without key policy changes, Jamaica will remain in economic rut: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/BOJ-says-fall-of—within-expectation_14490279 BoJ says fall of J$ within expectation: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/business/The-value-of-the-dollar-is-just-a-symptom-of-Jamaica-s-underlying-problem_14488271 The value of the dollar is just a symptom of Jamaica’s underlying problem: Keith Collister column/Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130615/letters/letters1.html Stop lying to us! Sunday Gleaner/Letter of the Day
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads/34238 Focus on Vision 2030 at Diaspora Conference: Jamaica Information Service
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/business/Example-of-excellence-in-the-public-sector_14486846 Example of excellence in the public sector: Dennis Chung column/Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130616/lead/lead2.html Build new schools, government urges overseas Jamaicans – but red tape, crime scaring away investors: Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130613/letters/letters1.html Customs fees oppressive: Letter of the Day/Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/High-tech-ganja-farm-found-on-church-owned-property_14482785 High-tech ganja farm found on church-owned property: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Ganja-lobby-fires-up_14497626 Ganja lobby fires up: Jamaica Observer
http://digjamaica.com/blog/2013/06/13/2013-crime-stats-parish-by-parish-jan-april/ 2013 crime stats parish by parish, Jan-April 2013: diGJamaica.com
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Gunmen-raid-animal-farm_14490972 Gunmen raid animal farm: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130615/cleisure/cleisure1.html Farmers cower as heists continue: Gleaner editorial
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130613/lead/lead2.html Black tank project lacked transparency: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Seaview-High-Home-to-stray-animals-haven-for-criminals_14480144 “Seaview High”: Home to stray animals, haven for criminals: Jamaica Observer
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/court-date-set-for-cops-charged-in-connection-with-school-girls-death Court date set for cops charged in connection with schoolgirl’s death: RJR News
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/cops-involved-in-fatal-shooting-of-st-ann-man-taken-off-front-line-duty_1 Cops involved in fatal shooting of St. Ann man taken off frontline duty: RJR News
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130614/cleisure/cleisure2.html Gays made, not born: Peter Espeut column/Gleaner
http://sonofstmary.wordpress.com/2013/06/13/freedom-to-be-intolerant/ Gay rights clash with the freedom to be intolerant: Son of St. Mary
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130615/cleisure/cleisure4.html Father-child interaction crucial to development: Dr. Sandra Knight op-ed/Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130616/lead/lead8.html UNICEF official: Too many unhelpful quarrels: Sunday Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Police-establish-link-between-social-media–missing-persons_14465683 Police establish link between social media, missing persons: Jamaica Observer
http://newsandviewsbydjmillerja.wordpress.com/2013/06/13/parliaments-sectoral-debate-yawn/ Parliament’s sectoral debate. Yawn. newsandviewsbydjmiller
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Japan-funds-project-to-improve-lives-of-people-with-disabilities Japan funds project to improve lives of people with disabilities: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130616/news/news5.html “You’re moving too slow, NWC” – International agencies say Commission taking too long to implement projects: Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130613/news/news1.html Inside the Cockpit Country: Conservation workers want to end deforestation, pollution: Gleaner