Whining, Excuses and Secrecy: Wednesday, September 25, 2013

It was a nightmarish weekend in the global news, but there were glimmers of hope at home. Just little glimmers…a flickering at the end of a dark tunnel. Maybe.

Mixed signals on Goat Islands: During a rambling and mostly forgettable speech on Sunday at the People’s National Party (PNP) conference, our Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller said her government “will do everything in our power” to make the logistics hub a reality. She mentioned “sustainable development” in the same breath; although I doubt whether many of our politicians actually know what that means in real, practical terms. It’s just another lovely catchphrase. Meanwhile, comments from Chair of the Urban Development Corporation (UDC) and government Senator K.D. Knight, surprised me. He reportedly said at another event: “We [the Government] are just the trustees; it doesn’t belong to us. We must insist on environmental process and constructive views expressed must be heeded.” At least he is listening. Though I am not sure that it gives me hope. But the UDC does actually own Goat Islands.

And I wonder why? A presentation by China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) to the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce (JCC), held at JAMPRO’s offices yesterday evening, did not include the proposed Goat Islands development, which had been advertised in the JCC’s invitation. CHEC representatives just presented a nice PR piece, and stopped. This surprised many businesspeople attending the reception for a CHEC delegation that arrived yesterday. CHEC is a major sponsor of Jamaica’s Engineering Week and a participant in the Jamaica Institute of Engineers conference.

CHEC jobs: By the way (as I know this is an issue for some) the company employs 67% Jamaicans in its projects here (so far).

Should we be worried about the government missing an IMF deadline on tax reform legislation? I must listen to Ralston Hyman’s radio program more often…

Mad bus drivers: Early this morning, three vehicles, including an apparently speeding/racing minibus filled with students crashed into each other in Chudleigh, Manchester. Three students of Holmwood Technical High School and one of the bus drivers died. 22 others are in hospital. This terrible event pushes up the number of fatalities on our roads this year; it is also, I understand, the fourth major bus crash involving students from this school in recent years. The police need to get a grip on this – there is clearly a problem in Manchester. I wish we had those big, solid school buses like they have in the U.S.

Did the PNP really think it appropriate to present an award to then Chairman of the Electoral Commission of Jamaica (ECJ) Dr. Herbert Thompson at the party’s 75th anniversary awards ceremony last week? The Percival Patterson Award, no less presented by PJ Patterson, former PNP President/Prime Minister. What was actually inscribed on the award? Well, yesterday Dr. Thompson resigned. I am among those who believe, in the interests of good governance and balance within this critical organization, that he should step down as a board member too.

The ECJ’s recommendations on campaign financing had a rough ride in Parliament yesterday, with at least two Opposition members raising objections. The matter is now going to a parliamentary committee. What hypocrisy, though. As civil society activist Carol Narcisse says, we don’t want any more excuses! They keep thinking up new ones!

Police killings remain high: Some 172 persons have been killed by members of the security forces since the start of the year, the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) has said. At the end of September last year there were 158 fatalities, so we are well up on last year. The Mayor of Savannah-la-Mar has, by the way, just denied that he advised the police to “shoot first, ask questions later,” as reported in the Gleaner. It is hard to keep a cool head in the face of all the crime, though. But let us try, please.

More thieving: Talking of criminal acts, the level of thievery in Jamaica has reached epidemic proportions. Yesterday, 2,500 customers of the Jamaica Public Service Company were without power, after thieves stole oil from one of their installations. For years, it seems, firms like LIME have been complaining of theft and the high cost of replacing copper wires, batteries and so on. What is going on? Who is receiving/buying/using this valuable equipment? Is it still for the scrap metal trade? The police just don’t seem to be on top of this. It certainly doesn’t encourage potential investors, does it.

Stop whining, young man: Current leader of the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) Andrew Holness is complaining that certain people in the party are “undermining” him, etc., etc. His colleague Audley Shaw is, as we know, challenging him for the leadership position. Please stop whingeing and encouraging divisiveness, Mr. Holness (or are you following a time-honored tradition in the JLP?) The date of the party’s annual conference has now been brought forward to November 3.

Talking of young politicians, I hear some are busy building mansions in Beverley Hills. How nice.

One always hopes that the young politicians will behave differently from the older ones, but alas… I guess they just don’t have great role models, do they?

Ssssshhh… It’s tourism: I wrote recently about serious accidents involving jet skis in our tourist resorts, which appear to have been “hushed up.” Jamaican friends of ours taking a break at a north coast hotel last weekend heard shots fired on the beach. Apparently two boats landed on the beach; the occupants attempted to rob tourists. No injuries it seems. But I must ask: How often are such security-related incidents occurring, and do we feel comfortable about them being kept under wraps? Well, I guess we are protecting Brand Jamaica, right?

A huge round of applause for a bunch of people here:

  • All those engaged in the fight against HIV/AIDS (too numerous to mention) in Jamaica over the last ten or twenty years, who have really made a difference. The number of new infections and deaths in the Caribbean is significantly down. The persistent efforts of government, non-governmental organizations, communities and individuals have paid off. I should not single out any one person or organization, but have to say that I am particularly proud of the work of the President’s Emergency Fund for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), established by President George W. Bush and continued under the Obama administration. I administered the U.S. State Department‘s portion of this Fund for a number of years in Jamaica and I know that it has made – and continues to make – an impact on thousands of lives. Visit http://www.pepfar.gov for more details.
  • Ms. Tessanne Chinwho was the darling of the Jamaican Twittersphere last night as she auditioned in a U.S. network show called “The Voice.” I generally avoid these talent show thingys and this one was predictably tacky, with lots of red leather and shiny chrome and glass, plus squealing audience of course. Some of us were mesmerized by the bald head of a panelist called Cee-Lo, which was covered with tattoos. Others swooned over panelist Adam Levine. Meanwhile, our Jamaican girl sang her heart out. She was amazing (I am not being biased here, honest!) with more than a touch of the Tina Turners. I think she will go far on this show. Jamaicans are truly proud of her.
  • Amber Estates, coffee growers who have landed a deal with Starbucks to sell their Blue Mountain coffee beans online. There is so much potential in our delicious coffee!
  • Senator Marlene Malahoo Forte, who conducts her radio talk show “Justice” on Power 106 FM with great courtesy and thoughtfulness. Recommended listening!
  • Non-governmental and community-based organizations should apply for the GEF Small Grants Program: http://www.youthjamaica.com/content/apply-gef-small-grants-programme
  • And please – if you have not already done so, sign and share the petition to save the Portland Bight Protected Area (Goat Islands) from destruction here: http://www.change.org/petitions/no-to-port-on-goat-island-jamaica-no-trans-shipping-port-portland-bight-protected-area-jamaica?share_id=eqkTTbjcGd&utm_campaign=autopublish&utm_medium=facebook&utm_source=share_petit

Here is something to think about, from Transparency International: Countries that are more open, accountable & uphold rule of law have better education, health, access to clean water & sanitation. 

A teenager was murdered in the inner city area of Grant’s Pen. My condolences to the families and friends of these Jamaicans who have been murdered in the past three days:

Peter McLeod, 16, Grant’s Pen, Kingston

Samuel Shepherd, 53, Molynes Road, Kingston

Garfield Wilson, 45, Waterloo District, St. Catherine

Andrew Walker, 39, May Pen, Clarendon

Killed by police:

Kemar Brown, Victoria Street, downtown Kingston

Related links and articles:

http://jamaicajournal.wordpress.com/2013/09/24/murder-rate-soars/  Murder rate “soars”: Jamaican Journal

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=48178 Murders spike in most police divisions: Gleaner

http://www.indecom.gov.jm/Statistics/Third%20Quarter.pdf Independent Commission of Investigations: Police shooting incidents, July – September, 2013

http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/editorial/Tackle-the-crime-monster–PM_15120007 Tackle the crime monster, PM: Jamaica Observer editorial

http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Gov-t-to-press-ahead-with-logistics-hub–Gov-t-to-press-ahead-with-logistics-hub Government to press ahead with logistics hub: Jamaica Observer

http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Knight-urges–careful–approach-to-use-of-Goat-Islands_15132903 Knight urges “careful” approach to use of Goat Islands: Jamaica Observer

http://go-jamaica.com/pressrelease/item.php?id=2460 China Harbour Engineering Company participates in Engineer’s Week 2013

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130925/lead/lead1.html Whiteman stunned as ECJ chairman resigns: Gleaner

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130925/lead/lead2.html Warmington: We can’t impose any more burdens on the poor – parliamentarians reject campaign finance proposals: Gleaner

http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2013/09/18/caribbean-quality-education-improvements-next-generation How to improve quality of education in the Caribbean for the next generation? World Bank

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130924/cleisure/cleisure1.html Make the shift permanent, Madam PM: Gleaner editorial

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130924/cleisure/cleisure3.html How governance works: Gordon Robinson column/Gleaner

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130925/cleisure/cleisure2.html Richard…the hapless servant: George Davis column/Gleaner

http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Jamaica-on-target-for-IMF-review-Monday–despite-missed-deadline_15134007 Jamaica on target for IMF review Monday, despite missed deadline: Jamaica Observer

http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/business/Blue-Mountain-coffee-grower-lands-Starbucks-deal_15131690 Blue Mountain coffee grower lands Starbucks deal: Jamaica Observer

http://digjamaica.com/blog/2013/09/23/industry-update-summer-tourist-season-prospects-bright-or-not/ Industry update: Summer tourist season prospects bright or not? diGJamaica.com

http://www.ict-pulse.com/2013/09/transformational-nature-ict-advantage-it/ The transformational nature of ICT: Are we taking advantage of it? ICT Pulse

http://www.solarbuzzjamaica.com/2013/09/gone-with-the-wind-blue-mountain-renewables-looks-to-blow-down-energy-costs/ Gone with the wind: Blue Mountain Renewables looks to blow down energy costs: solarbuzzjamaica.com

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130924/lead/lead3.html Nearly 600 arrested in JPS anti-theft campaign: Gleaner

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130924/letters/letters3.html Commish apologizes to Customs boss: Letter to Gleaner

http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads-117/35109 PM says permanent memorial at UN is great and fitting tribute: Jamaica Information Service

http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/To-protect-and-serve To protect and serve: Police building new house for 86-year-old woman in Rose Town: Jamaica Observer

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=48186 Human trafficking trial of businesswoman pushed back: Gleaner

http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads-117/35109 Community members must be more proactive in reporting child abuse – CDA: Jamaica Information Service

http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads/35094 Fulbright Scholar to take part in research exchange program: Jamaica Information Service

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=48206 Caribbean records decline in new HIV/AIDS cases – new UN report: Gleaner

This is one end of the larger Goat Island - which is higher than I expected (700 feet) and consists of dry limestone forest.
Goat Islands in the Portland Bight Protected Area: We are still none the wiser. (My photo from the recent visit of 56 Jamaican environmentalists, scientists and their supporters to Goat Islands)
Jamaican Education Minister Andrew Holness
Opposition Leader Andrew Holness should just get on with debating some issues with his challenger, Mr. Audley Shaw.
A lovely girl with a big voice: Tessanne Chin.
A lovely girl with a big voice: Tessanne Chin.
Senator Marlene Malahoo Forte. (Photo: Television Jamaica)
Senator Marlene Malahoo Forte. (Photo: Television Jamaica)
Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller (left) and Richard Azan, who recently resigned as Junior Transport & Works Minister. (Photo: Gleaner)
Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller (left) and Richard Azan, who recently resigned as Junior Transport & Works Minister. Columnist George Davis would have us sympathize with Mr. Azan, because he cannot tell right from wrong. (Photo: Gleaner)
People's National Party (PNP) President Portia Simpson Miller (left) and former President P.J. Patterson (right) present the Percival Patterson Award to then Electoral Commission of Jamaica Chairman Dr Herbert Thompson at the PNP's 75th Anniversary Awards Ceremony last week. - (Photo: Winston Sill/Freelance Photographer)
People’s National Party (PNP) President Portia Simpson Miller (left) and former President P.J. Patterson (right) present the Percival Patterson Award to then Electoral Commission of Jamaica Chairman Dr Herbert Thompson at the PNP’s 75th Anniversary Awards Ceremony last week. – (Photo: Winston Sill/Freelance Photographer)
Yet  another deadly crash: a truck was involved in today's three-way collision in Manchester. (Photo: Dave Lindo/Gleaner)
Yet another deadly crash: a truck was involved in today’s three-way collision in Manchester. (Photo: Dave Lindo/Gleaner)

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