PLEASE NOTE: Petchary’s Blog will be taking a short break. My next news update/commentary will be on SUNDAY, AUGUST 4, 2013.
The bristling minister: Minister of Youth and Culture Lisa Hanna was wearing fashionable faded pink, matching soft pink lip gloss, and a lovely necklace at a press briefing today. She also used a lot of alliteration (mainly with words beginning with “d” – “disingenuous, dishonest, dangerous…” etc) in her beautifully modulated voice. But she made her barely suppressed anger (to coin a cliché) quite clear. Why was Ms. Hanna bristling with righteous indignation? She has got wind of an online petition (which I signed and shared on my blog recently) issued by human rights lobby group Jamaicans for Justice, calling on the government to act – yes, act – on the protection of children at risk. The Minister was flanked by the Ministers of Justice and National Security at the briefing, both looking grim-faced. They are upset about the tarnishing of “Jamaica’s human rights image” (loud guffaw from me at this comment; Ministers, you are no doubt aware of the U.S. State Department, Amnesty International and other reports on our highly-polished, gleaming human rights record).
It’s about the children! On radio, JFJ’s Executive Director Carolyn Gomes pointed out that almost all of the Minister’s response in fact reinforced their position, adding, “This is not about the adults. This is not about the government. This is about the children.” JFJ also tweeted their research on the matter, which you can find here: http://jamaicansforjustice.org/download/children_rights_and_abuse/CRWG-%20Media%20Brief,%20Lift%20Up%20Don’t%20Lock%20Up%20-%20Upgrading%20Police%20Lock-Ups%20[for%20posting].pdf
But hold on a minute! Didn’t the National Security Minister (who frowned disapprovingly throughout the press briefing) contribute to the tarnishing of Jamaica’s image by commenting at great length during a somewhat lurid U.S. documentary on Christopher “Dudus” Coke? At least, some people think that he did “Brand Jamaica” a major disservice through some of his comments.
Oh yes, Brand Jamaica: Incidentally, the government’s investment arm, JAMPRO, has started talking about Brand Jamaica again. Does anyone really believe Brand Jamaica exists, apart from government officials and spin doctors? Someone should do a survey – talk to the man on the street.
And talking of The Tarnished Image: The saga of the athletes’ positive drug tests winds its way on. One of the beleaguered ones, Asafa Powell, has returned to Jamaica and is seeking legal advice. One radio station – Nationwide News Network – has been diligently pursuing the issue in all its twists and turns, with various characters making comments, giving statements and contradicting each other (and themselves). Not being a huge follower of the sport (except during the Olympics) I confess I am puzzled and confused at all these people and their various roles. New names keep popping up, including a man whose name begins with X. The plot continues to thicken… The Prime Minister made a statement about the issue in Parliament (she is responsible for sports, but I think she might have expected it to be more fun than this).
A German! So we have a new coach for the Reggae Boyz. He’s German. I hope some of his German-ness rubs off on our team. He must be a man who likes a challenge!
Smokeless: I have to applaud Health Minister Fenton Ferguson’s firm stand on the anti-smoking laws, which came into effect on Monday, July 15. I am sorry, I don’t feel sorry for the cigarette manufacturers. Find another business to go into! The law may seem to have over-reached itself somewhat and may be difficult to enforce, but that’s another matter. The point is that Minister Ferguson made the effort, and has laid the health implications of smoking fair and square on the table. The public service announcement on TV works for me too – set an example for the youth. I do, however, worry at what seems to be the overly broad reach of the law.
What about the ubiquitous ganja smoking? The fine for smoking a marijuana cigarette (still illegal) is J$100. For smoking an actual cigarette (still legal), which costs around J$35, the fine will be J$50,000. This makes no sense to me. Does it to you?
Summer school scare and community tourism: The police killed a man near the Trench Town Reading Centre on Tuesday. This was an actual shootout, not an “alleged” one this time. Although I like the idea of community tourism, when the well-meaning panelists on CVM Television’s Live at Seven this evening discussed lovely community visits to the area (which is, of course, famous for its Bob Marley/Wailers connections) I quietly said “Humph” to myself.
And amongst all the recent drama… The tottering Jamaican economy seems to have slumped into a back seat. At least, the media are hardly commenting on it. Let’s see.
“Big ups” to:
Jamaica‘s youth athletes, who have done fantastically well at the IAAF World Youth Championships and actually gained the most medals of any country. Their achievements have been sadly overshadowed by the doping issues, which broke at exactly the time they were competing in the Ukraine. I hope they don’t feel too disheartened.
Mr. Robert Fuderich, UNICEF’s representative in Jamaica, will be sadly missed by many when he leaves us after four years. The often outspoken, passionate Mr. Fuderich has made a powerful and meaningful contribution to the debate on children’s rights in Jamaica. Above all, he has urged action. I am not sure that he has seen much of that during his four-year stay. We wish him all the very best and good luck as he travels to Uzbekistan next. That will, indeed, be challenging. But thank you, Rob – and please come and visit us again one day!
Ms. Kelly Tomblin, President and CEO of the Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS). I am so glad that JPS has taken on young Jamaicans for summer jobs. One of the painful realities here is that (with so few jobs around anyway) those jobs that are available often ask for experience, which many young graduates don’t have much of. Summer jobs, internships etc all provide that much-needed experience.
The absolutely marvelous writer and poet Kei Miller, who is the 2013 recipient of the Rex Nettleford Fellowship in Cultural Studies at the University of the West Indies. It will be good to have him home again, at least for a while. Kei has been teaching in chilly old University of Glasgow, Scotland. If you have never read anything of his, I really loved “The Fear of Stones and other stories” – or just simply read them all.
P.S. Happy Mandela Day tomorrow. I hope you will be doing something – especially for our children.
For the first half of the year, the police have killed 127 Jamaicans. That’s 21 more than the same period in 2012. My deepest condolences to the families and friends and all those impacted by the violent deaths of these Jamaicans over the past three days:
Ricardo Brown, 19, Maxfield Avenue, Kingston
Garfield Dennis, 44, Troy, Trelawny
Marshall Lyons, 30, Mount Salem, St. James
Killed by the police:
Christopher Hill, 21, Wesley Crescent, St. Ann
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130715/cleisure/cleisure1.html No reason to crucify Bunting: Gleaner editorial
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130716/lead/lead4.html West Kingston address stigma hurts youth – MP: Gleaner
http://www.thestar.com/news/world/2013/06/05/jamaicas_unrelenting_violence_against_children_condemned_by_unicef.html Jamaica’s “unrelenting violence” against children condemned by UNICEF: Toronto Star
http://chatychaty.com/2013/07/trainer-says-asafa-and-sherone-should-stop-using-him-as-scapegoat-for-their-doping/ Trainer says Asafa and Sherone should stop using him as a scapegoat for their doping: chatychaty.com
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads-117/34580 Update from the Jamaica Anti-Doping Commission on adverse analytical findings: Jamaica Information Service
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads-128/34579 Statement to Parliament by Prime Minister Simpson Miller on doping allegations: Jamaica Information Service
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads/34576 Jamaica’s action against child abuse could attract study tours: Jamaica Information Service
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Chinese-under-siege—a-reply-from-Commissioner-Ellington_14691344 Chinese under siege: A reply from Commissioner Ellington: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130716/cleisure/cleisure1.html Time for deep introspection: Gleaner editorial
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Ferguson–Gov-t-has-no-intention-to-reverse-smoking-ban_14691457 Ferguson: Govt has no intention to reverse smoking ban: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads/34578 Ban on smoking: Health Ministry clarifies public places: Jamaica Information Service
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130716/lead/lead2.html Brand Jamaica safe, says JAMPRO: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Seabed-authority-laments-poor-infrastructure_14691302 Seabed Authority laments poor infrastructure: Jamaica Observer