It’s hard to be upbeat today, but I will try. A naughty Cockney English singer, the late Ian Dury had a great song called “Reasons to be Cheerful, Part 3” (by the way, his band the Blockheads were so funky). So I will seek his inspiration…
I don’t regularly comment on opinion columns. They are so predictable. (I still bemoan the absolute dearth of women columnists in our two daily newspapers. Are women reluctant to write or air their opinions?) On the Goat Islands issue, the Observer’s Mark Wignall seeks to think and write “outside the box,” (which he usually does), and has provided some food for thought in today’s piece entitled “The Chinese Goat Islands ‘offer’ is non-negotiable.” He’s a bit all over the place and drags the Americans into it, but still. Then there is Ronald Mason’s virulent, sexist attack on environmental advocate Diana McCaulay (he is careful not to name her) in today’s Gleaner entitled “That screeching environmentalist.” A member of the Ruling Jamaican Patriarchy – the status quo that is apparently happily supported by the Gleaner newspaper these days – Mr. Ronald Mason is accusing Ms. McCaulay of getting her “knickers in a wad” (yes, it is that offensive) while writing to the newspaper to correct some assertions in an earlier column of his (here is her letter: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20140226/letters/letters5.html). Shame on you, Sunday Gleaner and shame on you, Mr. Mason.
Meanwhile, a highly qualified environmentalist, Peter Edwards has responded with a letter to the Gleaner. You can read it in full here (I am sure it will be edited, if indeed they publish it at all): http://peteretedwards.ipower.com/other-musings.html Perhaps Peter Edwards, with a doctorate in Marine Studies, and Ms. McCaulay, a Humphrey Fellow, are not as qualified to speak on the environment as our learned Mr. Mason. A related question: is one of our newspapers censoring/removing some online comments? It’s their website so they are entitled to, but this regular practice has been noted.
Dr Edwards remarks: “Mr. Mason, like other cheerleaders of this ill-advised project (by which I mean the plan to dredge and fill the Goat Island for storing heavy cranes and aggregates and NOT the wider logistics hub concept) continues to promote the false argument that it is a bunch of uptown ‘brown’ people, out of touch with poor people’s reality that are blocking progress to save two likkle lizard.” Hit the nail on the head there. This is the kind of divisive tactic that is used repeatedly in Jamaican society. Sex, race, gender, class – it’s all fair game in the eternal “tracing” match. No wonder our society cannot progress.
Enough of the Sunday windbags. I am in danger of becoming one myself! I promised to be cheerful, didn’t I?
Cheerfulness, indeed: Meanwhile, our Environment Minister was observed (and heard) being loudly fêted in the dining room of a Kingston hotel by a group of Chinese people on Friday. Happy birthday, Minister Pickersgill!
The Sound of Silence: That is, the silence of officialdom. I understand that our government has not responded to any letters from international organizations (United Nations, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Birds Caribbean and others) expressing concern over Goat Islands. The IUCN (the largest and oldest global conservation organization, of which Jamaica is a member) wrote a long and detailed two-page letter on the topic, signed by its chairperson. No answer. Similarly, the government agency responsible for environmental protection (oh, and planning) does not respond to the concerns of environmentalists and even ordinary citizens. It just gives out licenses and approvals.
Meanwhile, Ms. McCaulay’s request to appear in front of the parliamentary Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) to discuss the Goat Islands issue has sparked a bit of a row among committee members. Although the PAAC has apparently agreed to allow her to testify, Government politicians on the committee are still objecting (it’s not important, relevant, etc.) Both sides are accusing the other of politicizing the issue and the matter has been referred to the Clerk of the Parliament for procedural advice. I notice the veteran Opposition Member of Parliament Mike Henry (a bit of a maverick) is also stirring things up, as he does from time to time on various issues!
On other matters: This issue seems to be using up all the air in the room, today. My apologies.
The U.S. State Department’s annual Human Rights Report on Jamaica never tells us anything new that we didn’t know before – or at least, that we should have known before. Former Contractor General Greg Christie notes these lines, however: “Despite the Access to Information Act to promote transparency, media accounts indicated that the Government sometimes categorically denied access to information.’ Also: “More than 5,000 civil servants failed to file or filed late or incomplete financial declarations required under the Corruption Prevention Act.” And so on. The word “impunity” is, notably, used in several different contexts. You can read the full document here: http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/humanrightsreport/index.htm?year=2013&dlid=220454#wrapper
- Youth advocate Kemesha Kelly, who will appear on the popular and incredibly long-running television program “Profile” on Television Jamaica this evening. Kemesha is articulate, highly motivated and focused, and truly gives me hope for Jamaica’s future…
- The World Bank, Jamaican Government LIME Jamaica and all those involved in the Digital Jam 3.0 IT training/pitching/empowerment program for young Caribbean people, which reached its climax in Kingston this weekend. I am so sorry I missed it, but loved the tweets and photos. Big ups to Junior MinisterJulian Robinson for his great support for this venture – and good luck to all the young and enthusiastic participants! (Please read my two earlier blog posts: https://petchary.wordpress.com/2014/02/11/more-digital-jammin-the-competitors/ and https://petchary.wordpress.com/2014/02/07/jammin-digitally-the-mentor/)
- The Jamaica Observer has started what seems to be a promising series of articles about people who have settled in Jamaica and made it their home and who have contributed to building the country. Nice idea. The first one is about Guyana-born Anand James, who arrived in Jamaica in 1983 with his wife and now heads a successful company, Caribbean Flavours and Fragrances. I look forward to more inspiring pieces in this series.
Please support! The Alpha Boys’ School is seeking funds to construct a radio and production studio for vocational and classroom training for this historic music school in Kingston, Jamaica – the home of so many Jamaican musical greats. Please contribute what you can (US$1 is the minimum!) here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/alphaboysschoolradio/alpha-boys-school-radio-studio-and-media-lab-proje And here’s a related blog post of mine from 2012: https://petchary.wordpress.com/2012/11/09/the-global-spirit-of-reggae-music/
Quality of Citizenship Jamaica seeks to empower lesbian and bisexual women through education, workshops etc. The organization, which just celebrated its “first birthday” on January 22, needs funding to continue its work in this field and to improve the quality of citizenship of all Jamaicans through its determined fight for LGBT rights and human rights. If you would like to support them please go to http://qcjm.org/yearone/
Five young men have been murdered (including one in the prison in Spanish Town), and another shot dead by the police during a car chase in Kingston, in the past few days. My deepest sympathies to the families. Please don’t forget – they do have families and loved ones. Spare a thought for them, please.
Jesse Crawford, 25, Exton, St. Elizabeth
Jermaine James, 26, Spring Mount, St. James
Travoy Russell, Grange Hill, Westmoreland
Tajay Samuels, Grange Hill, Westmoreland
Lester Donaldson, St. Catherine Correctional Centre, Spanish Town
Killed by the police:
Unidentified man, Hagley Park Road, Kingston
On the roads: Pedestrians continue to be at terrible risk on our roads. In the past few days, a 70-year-old man was struck down and killed in Ocho Rios, St. Ann (yesterday evening). And an eight-year-old girl was struck by a bus while walking near her school, St. Mary’s Prep and Kindergarten School in Montepelier, St. James. Pedestrians, please do take care when using the roads; and motorists, for heaven’s sake look out for pedestrians, especially those who may not be able to walk very fast, and the youngsters. This is so very sad…