Worried Wednesday: February 26, 2014


Two completely unrelated matters are of concern to me this week: Firstly, the latest disturbing news on Goat Islands, and secondly, many concerns about the upcoming Tivoli Commission of Enquiry.

Tivoli Gardens, May 2010
Women and soldiers in Tivoli Gardens, May 2010

Tivoli Gardens: The Government has named the commissioners to participate in the Commission of Enquiry into what I will continue to call the massacre at Tivoli Gardens in May, 2010. The ghosts of the 80 – 100 residents of Tivoli Gardens, who were killed during an incursion by security forces, will rise again and hover over their heads. Many of us are very conflicted over whether such an enquiry will bring a sense of closure for those bereaved, injured and traumatized. I hate that word “closure” – justice is the word I am looking for. And I heard that former Prime Minister Bruce Golding says he has no regrets over the horribly depressing chain of events that led to the killings. It all started with Golding seeking to protect his “don.” But he has no regrets and would do it all over again, I hear. How deeply disturbing that is.

Another worrying factor: Why did the Prime Minister’s Office select (after careful research, reportedly) Ms. Velma Hylton, QC as a commissioner? She is an excellent lawyer I am sure, but that is not the issue. Ms. Hylton served as counsel for the commissioners in 2002 at the enquiry into another “incident” in Tivoli Gardens – the gunning down of 27 residents by security forces in July, 2001. Ms. Hylton’s strange comments about women and children being used as human shields were highly controversial at the time, and remain so. Here is one account from the Gleaner, 2002: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20020228/lead/lead4.html. Attorney General Patrick Atkinson has dismissed concerns expressed by the Member of Parliament Desmond McKenzie and others. But why not choose someone who has no connection with previous enquiries? Why choose Ms. Hylton?

Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ) also has reservations about the Terms of Reference for the Enquiry. It is hoping for a “thorough,effective and sober” proceedings. Yes, we owe it to the people of Tivoli Gardens, whose bodies rotted in the sun or in makeshift coffins dumped in May Pen Cemetery. I will post JFJ’s press release in a separate blog post, for those who are interested or concerned with this issue. And those who wish to refresh themselves and get a perspective could read Mattathias Schwartz’s long, comprehensive report on the Tivoli affair in the New Yorker.

This is what a coal-fired power plant looks like. It is extremely harmful to the health and produces a lot of waste - sludge and ash. Where will that go? Can you imagine this on our beautiful Goat Islands?
This is what a coal-fired power plant looks like. It is extremely harmful to the health and produces a lot of waste – sludge and ash. Where will that go? (Can you imagine this on our beautiful Goat Islands?)

A coal-fired power plant: Yes, this is what it has come to now. If you read Minister of Transport and Works Omar Davies’ statement to Parliament on plans to build a transshipment port on Goat Islands, you will notice this: Coal – fired electricity generating plant: Given the high cost of electricity in Jamaica, China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) proposes to establish its own coal-fired generating plant to provide lower cost electricity for the project.”  Just like that. CVM Television’s Live at Seven tweeted last night (and multiple kudos to them for keeping the focus on this issue): Min. Davies doesn’t think there’ll be any objection to a coal fired plant from Ministry of Environment #GoatIslands.” No, because the so-called Ministry of Environment has apparently been gagged. The Minister is silent.

To add insult to injury, today’s Gleaner has produced yet another mindless and semi-literate editorial. It is all ill-informed platitudes and extremely poor writing. It includes the phrase: It [the proposed port] has, however, spawned critics ranging from those conjuring images of Chinese hordes absconding with Jamaican jobs, to kind of neo-Luddian presumption (sic) and biases against industrial development.” The “neo-Luddian” people who are “against development” are those hated environmentalists (who are scientists, by the way, not idiots), who have repeatedly said they are not against development. And the government will not/cannot “balance” things environmentally. Please refer to the articles I posted yesterday. And this quote from an article on environmental destruction in India (also in wetlands): “Expecting coal-fired plants and ecology to coexist in harmony is like hoping for a happy marriage with a pathologically abusive partner.” 

As I have written before, I despair of either the Gleaner or the Observer ever producing a decent, properly reasoned editorial. They seem to have signed a pact to agree with every announced government policy and are incapable of any kind of critical thinking or original ideas – on any topic whatsoever. Gone are the days of the hard-hitting editorials I used to enjoy reading, whether I agreed with them or not. Well, thank God for social media!

Tourism Minister Wykeham McNeill.
Tourism Minister Wykeham McNeill.

Our Tourism Minister has got in on the act, announcing that Chinese citizens will be able to visit Jamaica without a visa for 30 days. He wants to encourage more Chinese tourists, claiming that it is such a huge market that we have to get a piece of it. Last year we had a couple of thousand Chinese visitors. Fine, but I hope that these will be genuine tourists. And a reciprocal move by the Chinese is not realistically going to happen (or I’ll eat my hat!)

So what is new? The gas tanker drivers are “restive,” again. This happens at least once a month, and no one takes any notice any more…

Opposition Spokesperson on Youth, Sports, Culture, Entertainment & Gender Affairs, Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange has raised questions in Parliament regarding the status of the Permanent Secretary in the Youth & Culture Ministry. She says there are rumors. The Ministry is not saying anything at this point.

Digicel's headquarters in downtown Kingston.
Digicel’s headquarters in downtown Kingston.

And rumors persist that our leading telecoms firm Digicel may be moving its headquarters out of Jamaica. Minister Phillip Paulwell says this is not so. Hope not.

Thank you, Jean Lowrie-Chin, for stating how many of us feel in terms of the nexus between crime and politics. In her latest column she says, “It is time that all parliamentarians check themselves and their fellow MPs before they wreck this country!” Yes, please, take a long hard look at yourselves. Do you like what you see?

My deepest condolences to the families and friends of the following Jamaicans:

Dwayne Grigg, 26, Cherry Gardens, Kingston

Rennez Matthews, 32, Caribbean Terrace/Harbour View, Kingston

Peter Pinnock, 31, Caribbean Terrace/Harbour View, Kingston

Rachel Robinson, 15, St. John’s Road/Spanish Town, St. Catherine

Eleto Campbell, 53, Cold Spring, Hanover

Killed by the police: 31-year-old Kamoza Clarke, who was mentally challenged, has died in hospital in Falmouth, Trelawny. Clarke was allegedly beaten with batons by the police in October 2013 and has remained in a coma ever since. Earlier this month two police officers were charged with wounding with intent and two others with neglect of duty. Will murder charges now be preferred?

On the roads: I was shocked to read that a young man who was walking with his cousin near the Canadian High Commission in Kingston was run over by a flatbed Leyland truck, which did not stop. Anyone who witnessed this incident on Tuesday should get in touch with the police. This “hit and run” trend has become the norm. How drivers can do this is incomprehensible.

Kamoza Clarke, 31, a mentally ill man who reports say was severely beaten in the lock-up at Falmouth Police Station on October 19, lies in hospital with severe head wounds. He has since succumbed to his injuries. (Photo: Gleaner)
Kamoza Clarke, 31, a mentally ill man who reports say was severely beaten in the lock-up at Falmouth Police Station on October 19, lies in hospital with severe head wounds. He has since succumbed to his injuries. (Photo: Gleaner)
Bank clerk Dwayne Grigg's body was found in the upscale Kingston area of Cherry Gardens early Thursday morning. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)
Bank clerk Dwayne Grigg’s body was found in the upscale Kingston area of Cherry Gardens early Thursday morning. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)
19-year-old Omarco Martin was crushed to death by a truck in Kingston yesterday. The truck did not stop and the driver is still being sought.
19-year-old Omarco Martin was crushed to death by a truck in Kingston yesterday. The truck did not stop and the driver is still being sought.
Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller comforts Pauline Dennis, mother of athlete Cavahn McKenzie, whose body arrived from Trinidad and Tobago today, February 27, at the Norman Manley International Airport. Looking on is Minister with responsibility for Sports, Hon. Natalie Neita Headley. The junior athlete, who attended St. Jago High School, died after participating in the North American, Central American and Caribbean Athletic Association Cross Country Championships in Tobago last week. (Photo: JIS)
Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller comforts Pauline Dennis, mother of athlete Cavahn McKenzie, whose body arrived from Trinidad and Tobago today, February 27, at the Norman Manley International Airport. Looking on is Minister with responsibility for Sports, Hon. Natalie Neita Headley. The junior athlete, who attended St. Jago High School, died after participating in the North American, Central American and Caribbean Athletic Association Cross Country Championships in Tobago last week. (Photo: JIS)

6 thoughts on “Worried Wednesday: February 26, 2014

  1. Jamaican politics and papers really leave much to be desired. I’ve been using your blog to keep up with Goat Islands news, and I can’t say that I’ve been happy with any of the discussions you post here. Why are we trying to build a coal plant? That’s so incredibly backward and anti-environmental. Our biggest resource is our natural landscape and we’re so hell bent on ruining it.

    As for allowing Chinese visitors 30 free days, how will they be monitored? We are so concerned with opening up our borders for the potential of profit, that we have closed our minds to the certainty that we will be taken advantage of.

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    1. I am going to write more about coal-fired power plants and the incredibly damaging impact of coal on the environment and on humans’ health (if that counts for anything). Backward is absolutely the word – while at the same time our government is saying it is so concerned about climate change! The entire planned project reeks of hypocrisy, double-speak and complete disregard for the health and wellbeing of our environment and our people (we ARE the environment)… The visa thing also boggles the mind. As you suggest, I fear there may be unpleasant and unexpected results…

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  2. Re: Goat Island Project. I totally agree with your comments concerning the editorials (I can now read only The observer’s on line. I refuse to pay $99 USD for the privilege of shouting at the Gleaner’s lousy writing.)

    And those who think a coal-fired electrical plant is desirable had better ask a lot of detailed questions, including where will the waste ash be put? Where will the in-coming coal be stored and under what conditions? How efficient will the burning and scrubbing processes be and who will over-see them? Let’s remember that China currently has some of the worst air pollution on the planet. And many are now questioning the safety of produce grown on land that lies adjacent to factories and power plants, as well as on lands down-wind from these factories and plants.

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    1. Thank you so much for your comments. I truly don’t understand the precipitous decline in quality in the revered Gleaner (the Observer is hardly better, but the Gleaner editorials have reached a new low in my opinion). I am going to write a separate blog post (when I get the time!) on the coal-fired plant. It’s instructive to note that the World Bank has decided it will no longer fund coal-fired power plants, except in “rare circumstances” where there are absolutely no alternatives.

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  3. I understand that the citizens of Tivoli are still seeking justice which is a meaningless concept unless they can explain what they really want from the government. Have we spent time to consider what justice really is? The truth is a commission of enquiry is irrelevant to bring this so called justice to the citizens because the last one did nothing to help but caused a lot of injury to the moral of the country, not to mention the dent in the country’s finances. Millions were spent to conduct this enquiry and no one to this date has accepted responsibility, no one has been criminally charged for their role in the Manatt, Phelps and Phillips Saga. My question is why are we sitting back, allowing the government to scam us with another enquiry?

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    1. Yes, the word “justice” is interpreted in a thousand different ways in Jamaica, of course… I believe that what the Tivoli Gardens residents really want is 1/ for someone to be held accountable and be appropriately penalized and 2/ to be financially compensated. I suspect neither of these is going to happen. But still believe (naively perhaps) that an attempt must be made to right the terrible wrongs that occurred. Based on past experiences (and the last Tivoli enquiry) I suspect though that you may turn out to be right…

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