There’s a lot going on in Jamaica. Yes, always a lot going on. A sleepy backwater, we are not.
Transparency anyone? Obfuscation is a great word, isn’t it. So I am going to use it here, because it describes the current government strategy of confusing and obscuring the Goat Island issue. For example, an expected presentation on the logistics hub by the Port Authority of Jamaica at a scheduled meeting of environmentalists on Wednesday at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade was unexpectedly canceled. There is a general sense of unease that we are not getting the full story on other things, too. Former Trade Minister under Michael Manley Mark II, Claude Clarke, writes a weekly Sunday column. Today his plaintive cry is, “Can we be honest on the economy?” On the logistics hub (whatever that is – what is it, exactly?) he writes that it “has more to do with a conveniently positioned piece of real estate than with Jamaica’s productive attractiveness.” You only have to look at China’s other plans for the region to see where we fit in. And the logistics hub, wherever it is situated, will likely be “more of an enclave activity” than anything else, Mr. Clarke believes.
Talking of confusion: The Jamaica Information Service finally released a document giving details of what actually happened during the Prime Minister and entourage’s visit to China several weeks ago. Better late than never. The Prime Minister’s statement in Parliament on September 11 is less confusing and more detailed than the vague document subtitled “Partners in Progress.” Not sure how equal that partnership will turn out to be. See what you make of it all in the links below.
CCCC and CHEC: May I remind you, dear readers, that both the China Communications Construction Company (CCCC) and its subsidiaries, including China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) are on a World Bank blacklist due to fraudulent procurement practices? This is a fact that can be verified on the World Bank website. CCCC will be opening an office in Kingston shortly, we are told.
You couldn’t be more wrong, Ma’am: Ms. Tamara Scott-Williams, a Sunday Observer columnist, has become strangely incensed about the campaign to save the Portland Bight Protected Area (including Goat Islands) from a Chinese mega-project. Ms. Scott-Williams has again dug into her arsenal and come up with some vitriolic stuff. Ms. Scott-Williams – actually yes, one did care about this area before. It has been carefully managed by a non-governmental organization consisting of trained scientists for years. A fish sanctuary right around the islands was set up just three years ago, with full government support. The Portland Bight Protected Area has received support from various overseas/international agencies and governments over the years. Did you know any of this? Perhaps you should listen to what well-trained and educated people have to say about the area.
And yes, there were 56 of us, including a number of scientists, and people who just wanted to see for themselves. There were elderly and young people, families, couples. If you had come, you too might have learnt something from our guides. Oh, and by the way, you would have seen that its beaches are not dirty. They are quite pristine and lovely. And we were not allowed to land there so had no choice but to circle round. The Urban Development Corporation, which administers the islands on behalf of the Jamaican people, is now only issuing permits to the islands.
Taking a different tack: The government switched tactics this week, with both Minister of Transport and Who-Knows-What-Else Omar Davies and the Prime Minister warning us that if we don’t hurry up and get this logistics hub thing under way, Chinese investors will lose interest and go elsewhere. So let’s just skip the Environmental Impact Assessment, cobble together a quick report touting all the benefits (which the Jamaican public will probably never see a copy of) and get it over to Cabinet for the rubber stamp…by next month.
And elsewhere in the Caribbean: Interestingly, exactly the same scenario is playing out in Guyana. See the Stabroek News editorial link below, re: a great rush to get things signed, and an extraordinary vagueness and lack of information on huge projects. Among several examples the editorial notes: “The intended Marriott Hotel which is being built by a Chinese construction firm is a fortress of secrecy…” And I know the Prime Minister told us not to be xenophobic, but the article wonders why only Chinese workers are employed on the Marriott worksite. And over in Nassau, Bahamas, another huge hotel under construction is reportedly employing (only?) Chinese workers numbered at “1,500 but could peak at 3,500 as construction moves into high gear.” The workers “have their own air-conditioned housing complex on site, complete with kitchens and small shops. Signs in Chinese remind workers that ‘working safely is a touchstone’ and that Baha Mar is ‘green construction and a safe operation.'” Go figure.
West Kingston, again: Every time the police say they have it under control, violence in west Kingston flares up again.
One handcart vendor: At a meeting arranged by the Kingston & St. Andrew Corporation to discuss licensing for handcart operators, only one handcart man turned up, sitting in a huge room in front of an assortment of councilors. It was quite funny. This nice elderly gentleman agreed to be licensed. The Mayor’s plan to license and charge fees to the operators in downtown Kingston is just a waste of time and an insult to these hard-working men. And yet we can’t license jet skis, which plough through our seas killing and maiming the occasional hapless swimmer.
Sad story: We read and hear many stories of poverty and deprivation, probably the tip of the iceberg. The Sunday Observer often seems to unearth these cases of extreme need. In the latest one (link below) a woman is languishing with nine children (who often go hungry) in a tiny two-room house in rural Jamaica. I wish that local political representatives could have identified this need and referred them to an organization like Food for the Poor (which does amazing work in rural Jamaica) – before it is splashed all over the Sunday papers. I don’t blame the media for highlighting the family’s plight, though. But do wish action should be taken earlier…
Major “big ups” to…
- The Help Jamaica Medical Mission, a group of 25 overseas-based doctors and specialists of Jamaican heritage who are conducting free medical clinics in Jamaica this month. As we know, it costs a great deal of money to go to the doctor these days – and the cost of medication is amazingly high. Many do not have health insurance. So these good people are doing an amazing service for the less wealthy among us. They usually see hundreds, even thousands of patients. “Here you actually get to do what you went to medical school to do. The real medicine is to see someone smile. That is what feels good to me,” says one of the doctors. Thanks to you and to all the medical missions that come regularly to Jamaica. They certainly take the pressure off our struggling and over-burned health system, too.
- Mr. Daniel Thwaites, Sunday Gleaner columnist. I have been thoroughly enjoying his writing lately – his sharp wit makes me laugh out loud. And I agree with him, seriously. I wish the birds targeted by these upper St. Andrew people in “bird bush” would start evolving and shoot back! Wonderful stuff. Do read.
- Award-winning health journalist and psychologist Eulalee Thompson published a really good e-book, “Live Well,” on August 1. It’s available on Amazon and at Sangster’s Bookstores locally. Let’s get healthy and stay healthy!
- UNICEF Jamaica and co-sponsor National Baking Company for the “Talk Up Yout” tour with TV host Empress Golding. The tour just kicked off at Tivoli Gardens High School. The National Centre for Youth Development and the Jamaica Youth Advocacy Network are also involved in these discussions on young people’s most challenging issues. Excellent! You can see and hear much more on UNICEF Jamaica’s Facebook page.
- Michael Abrahams for his lovely poems – humorous and positive – on matters of national interest. His latest is a tribute to the ebullient Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, our star athlete. See link below! Thanks for bring a smile to our faces, Michael!
- All those who participated in yesterday’s visit to Old Harbour Bay and Goat Islands. Special heartfelt thanks to Jamaica Environment Trust’s Diana McCaulay, who led us, and the Jamaica Civil Society Coalition’s Carol Narcisse, who provided full support. Next steps? Stay tuned…
My deepest condolences to all the family and loved ones of those who have died violently in Jamaica in the past four days. Especially to the mother of the Johnson brothers in Portmore, whose heart is undoubtedly broken.
Bar owner, Beeston Street/Love Lane, downtown Kingston
Two unidentified men, Darling Street, downtown Kingston
Patrick Samuels, Mannings Hill Road, Kingston 8
Dexter Johnson, Waterford/Portmore, St. Catherine
Kemar Johnson, Waterford/Portmore, St. Catherine
Suroya Bromfield, Cayamanas Estate, St. Catherine
Trimaine Clair, 28, Mandeville Police Station lock-up, Manchester
Related articles and links:
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=47973 US$39.5 million Wallenford Coffee Company deal: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130915/cleisure/cleisure2.html Can we be honest on the economy? Claude Clarke column/Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130913/lead/lead6.html China Harbour looking elsewhere: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/PM-says-undue-delay-might-turn-off-logistics-hub-investors_15066318 PM says undue delay might turn off logistics hub investors: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jis.gov.jm/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=-102 Prime Minister’s visit to China: Partners in Progress: Jamaica Information Service
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads-128/34998 Prime Minister’s statement on the official trip to China: Jamaica Information Service
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/environment/than-answers-on-logistics-hub_15056182 More questions than answers on logistics hub: Sunday Gleaner
http://www.stabroeknews.com/2013/opinion/editorial/09/02/beijings-money/ Beijing’s money: Stabroek News editorial (Guyana)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130913/cleisure/cleisure2.html Puss inna bag: Peter Espeut column/Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/What-on-earth-is-the-Government-thinking_15044479 What on earth is the Government thinking? Letter to the Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/environment/-We-will-pay-to-save-COCKPIT-Country- “We will pay to save Cockpit Country“: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Don-t-be-distracted_15075385 Don’t be distracted: Tamara Scott-Williams column/Sunday Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130915/cleisure/cleisure4.html If only the birds could shoot back: Daniel Thwaites column/Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130913/lead/lead7.html Kern, Wright settled million$ loans, court told: Gleaner
http://www.stabroeknews.com/2013/news/regional/09/14/jamaica-power-company-importing-solar-wind-mills/ Jamaica Power Company importing solar, wind mills: Stabroek News
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads/35026 Senate to debate changes to Terrorism Prevention Act: Jamaica Information Service
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/How-do-you-feel-about-giving-back-to-Jamaica-_15075562 How do you feel about giving back to Jamaica? Sunday Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Media-urged-to-be-more-sensitive-to-gay-men_15052997 Media urged to be more sensitive to gay men: Sunday Observer
https://petchary.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=8451&action=edit&message=10 OCA sues Government over Armadale: Sunday Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Campbell–I-applied-for-JUTC-top-job_15072712 Campbell: I applied for JUTC top job: Sunday Observer
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/full-text-of-audley-shaws-speech Full text of Audley Shaw‘s speech: RJR News
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Shaw-vs-Holness—the-criterion-is-winnability_15077009 Shaw vs Holness: The criterion is winnability: Daryl Vaz column/Sunday Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130915/news/news2.html Social partnership success critical to PNP’s fortunes – MP: Sunday Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Why-so-many-security-personnel-at-Gordon-House-_15077008 Why so many security personnel at Gordon House? Sunday Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130915/news/news1.html High school scorned: 100 of the 240 students placed at Tarrant High have not shown up for class: Sunday Gleaner
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AkdgcJE5UMY&feature=youtu.be Shelly-Ann by Michael Abrahams: YouTube
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/St-Ann-children-go-to-bed-and-school-without-food_15009208 St. Ann children go to bed and school without food: Sunday Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Portia–champion-of-the-poor_15030720 Portia, champion of the poor: Jamaica Observer
Let’s Save Jamaica’s Portland Bight Protected Area (petchary.wordpress.com)
It’s “Build, build, build”: August 25, 2013 (petchary.wordpress.com)
Everything is Connected… Cockpit Country and Goat Islands (petchary.wordpress.com)
A Boat to Goat Islands…on Saturday (petchary.wordpress.com)
Save The Goat Islands In Jamaica (thedrylandtourist.wordpress.com)