After some simply glorious, restorative rain (three or maybe four afternoons of it) we arrived at Mother’s Day, which is a pretty big deal in Jamaica. There were brunches and breakfasts all over town, for those who can afford it. Otherwise, there were family get togethers – which normally involve lots of food. I am sure everyone had a good time, as evening descended and “Game of Thrones” approached. I listened to the first online radio show on BlogTalkRadio, which aims to provide information and discuss issues related to the plans to destroy Goat Islands in the Portland Bight Protected Area to create a shipping port. Excellent, so far.
The big news in the past week was that the fiasco of Energy World International’s (EWI) bid to build a major power plant in Jamaica has been resolved. In some sense. No, people, Energy Minister Phillip Paulwell was not fired, nor did he step down. In fact, he sailed along quite calmly, chatting with journalists with an air of candor and in an intimate, light-hearted style. The message from the Minister to the public was something like, “Yes, I know. My friends, I am so impetuous sometimes, but I know you will forgive me, because I have your best interests at heart. Trust me.” (This is NOT a quote, just my interpretation of his demeanor.) He subsequently spoke during the Budget Debate in Parliament, apologizing to the Contractor General (puzzlingly, this administration seems to have issues with this office) for trying to persuade him to change his tune. You can read the Minister’s full presentation here: http://jis.gov.jm/contribution-20142015-sectoral-debate-minister-hon-phillip-paulwell/
Well, the Prime Minister gauged the mood of the private sector, who met with her (and how did that meeting really go, I wonder?) – not to mention the public mood. She withdrew her naughty Minister from the power plant project. This was the man who not long ago described himself at a press conference as a creature of the law and procedure, accountable only to the Office of Utilities Regulation. Was the Prime Minister’s action an adequate response? Many would say no, and many are still calling for the Minister’s resignation.
EWI’s license is now rescinded and Vin Lawrence is now in charge of an “Enterprise Team” to oversee a new bidding process. Yes, does that name ring a bell? Under the long rule of former Prime Minister PJ Patterson, Dr. Lawrence was amusingly nicknamed “God” because he appeared to control everything, including the Urban Development Corporation (UDC) for seventeen years. Now like a phoenix he has risen from the ashes (like many other PNP stalwarts in recent times) to take over the reins. Reminder: Dr. Lawrence resigned from the UDC post in July, 2006 under the previous Simpson Miller administration, following the tabling of a damning Contractor General’s report on the Sandals Whitehouse Project.
But maybe we do need “God,” this time: The issue of energy is now of such burning importance and urgency that perhaps we really do need the “divine intervention” of which other ministers have spoken so passionately. Dr. Lawrence, supported by former banker Aubyn Hill, may be our knight in shining armor… Who knows?
“Coal power to the rescue”: An astonishing headline in today’s Gleaner, and an indication that indeed, Jamaica is going in the opposite direction to the rest of the world. The World Bank has stopped funding any projects involving coal power; the Chinese are choking on their own pollution, hardly able to see the sun in their almost-unlivable capital city; and we are embracing coal with open arms. Where is our Minister for Climate Change in all this? Does he need a lesson in the damage that coal, specifically, has done to our planet? Its contribution to global warming? Can we talk renewable energy, please?
We are now just hearing about a Memorandum of Understanding – signed three months ago – with a Chinese firm called Xinfa to build a two-million-ton alumina plant in St. Ann – with a coal-fired power plant to support it. So that means at least two coal plants to be built on our little island – one on the north coast, one on the south. The Jamaica Information Service says this “will be fully compliant with Jamaica’s environmental laws.”
Not much of an apology: Member of Parliament Ian Hayles reportedly said sorry to the Prime Minister, at a party meeting not open to the public, for his unpleasant, misogynistic public remarks about Mayor of Lucea Shernet Haughton. He should have apologized to Ms. Haughton directly. And in public.
Guilty of corruption charges: A senior and much-respected policeman, Senior Superintendent James Forbes, was found guilty of corruption charges (attempting to pervert the course of justice) in relation to a really rather ridiculous incident also involving a businessman and a politician. Why on earth did he get involved in this matter of a parking ticket? But then again, was he convicted on the same evidence as the businessman, who was acquitted earlier this year on a no-case submission? The politician is yet to go on trial.
One tweep reminded us recently that now we have the “high-profile” court cases our media so loves out of the way, perhaps we can concentrate on some crucial ones that were postponed so many times – for example, the case of Kingston College student Khajeel Mais, who was shot dead allegedly by a BMW driver in a fit of apparent road rage, almost three years ago.
“Beyond the Negril beach spin”: Ms. Mary Veira, representing a group of stakeholders in Negril has written a column setting the record straight on the issue of Negril’s beach erosion – well worth reading in the Sunday Gleaner. When it comes to the environment, our Government seems to have a propensity for ignoring perfectly good scientific studies and charging ahead into unknown territory; not consulting with stakeholders in the early stages; and holding meetings after decisions have already been taken. I can think of a similar situation elsewhere on the island (guess where?) and fear it will all end in tears.
Our masters at the IMF have extended a deadline for the passing of theBankruptcy and Insolvency Act, but Parliament has reportedly missed it. Is this of major concern? There was apparently some procedural confusion. One hopes it can disentangle itself, as like it or not, we must stick to The Program.
EU grant: On Europe Day, the Government signed an agreement with the European Union (EU) for J$11.5 billion over the next two to five years. A report notes that the EU was the largest source of grant funding for Jamaica. I thought that was China, our Great Benefactors? I hope the money will be wisely spent, to benefit the Jamaican people – as the EU hopes it will. I hope they will monitor the spending of the grants closely.
I’m very confused over this ganja business. The new General Secretary of the ruling PNP Paul Burke held a meeting of the Ganja Future Growers and Producers Association in Manchester this week – attended by a half dozen people. Where is all this going? Is the Government planning to control the “future” ganja trade? That would be a recipe for disaster, in my view. The ebullient Delano Seiveright, who was touting the business benefits of ganja, has gone rather quiet. For an interesting Rastafarian perspective, I urge you to read Barbara Blake Hannah’s latest blog post here: http://barbarablakehannah.wordpress.com/2014/05/11/ganja-the-peoples-heritage/
…and also over Kingston Wharves: For some time, Kingston Wharves has been laying off workers. Now it has received approval for a free zone and will create an “all-in-one, global logistics complex with Special Economic Zone benefits.” No, don’t think manufacturing. I remember seeing hundreds of (mostly) women bread-winners pouring out of the Kingston Free Zone, many years ago; those days are gone. I don’t really have an idea of what a “global logistics complex” would consist of. Do you?
Was she an “area leader”? A Jamaica Observer article about gang violence in “33 Lane” near Kingston’s Waltham Park Road is worth a careful read. There are some interesting comments below, especially concerning a middle-aged woman who was shot dead last month in the lane and labeled an “area leader.” A “concerned reader” notes: “What Jamaica needs to realize, is that until violence reaches your doorstep, until you have seen a loved one battling for life and succumbed to death, until you have been on the ‘ground floor’ and have experience the harsh realities of our ‘ghettos’, then and only then you will see how these family members are suffering, I do hope that the families of these slain and injured people will have the strength to build their lives and in some cases start over again. May their souls rest in peace.” Amen. And nothing is quite what it seems.
The blue paint: And yet again, the police are busy painting out street art in several Kingston communities, in an effort to bring the residents to heel. I have already said my piece on this topic (see the link below from dailyveritas.com). Ironically, the next exhibition to be staged at the National Gallery of Jamaica will focus on…street art. Will there be any left, I wonder?
Negativity will get you nowhere: I read what I thought would be a nice little piece headlined “Easter in Germany,” written by the teacher and football coach at a famous boys’ boarding school (with letters after his name) who also coaches Jamaica’s Under-17 team. The coach described German Easter traditions and activities in the town of Leipzig, where he and his young team were staying, and then wrote: “As much as I wanted to go out and experience some of the action, I chose not to for several reasons, chief among which was the expected unfriendliness of the people and the language barrier.” I was taken aback. Why did he “expect” the people of Leipzig to be “unfriendly” towards him? And does he not know that Germans and other nationalities do make the effort to learn another language and many would quite likely be able to communicate with him? I found this very sad. How can this teacher expect the young men in his charge to learn, grow and embrace the world of sports and culture, if he himself takes such a negative attitude? Is this what he is imparting to the boys to motivate them?
Muchos kudos to:
- Corve DaCosta, who this week launched a vibrant new Jamaican blog site, dailyveritas.com. He is planning to expand it in coming weeks, but has kicked off with some current affairs articles, including one by me on the destruction of street art by the police, here: http://www.dailyveritas.com/current-affairs/the-challenge-and-the-value-of-street-art/ Look out for more good stuff on this website.
- Steven Smith and the organizers of the brilliant “No! to Port on Goat Island, Jamaica” Facebook page for their first call-in online program on BlogTalkRadio this evening. It went very well with almost no glitches and lots of interesting commentary. There is so much to talk about – not only the fate of the highly endangered Jamaican Iguana and the biodiversity of this beautiful protected area, but issues of governance, constitutional rights and so on. Good start!
- The owners of Walkerswood products, New Castle Limited, who have managed to turn this rural-based manufacturing firm around after it fell into a slump. Walkerswood sauces are so delicious – I always used to take some to my parents when visiting, along with Busha Browne’s marmalade. Now the firm is exporting again and increased their profits tenfold last year. So glad to hear!
- #BringBackOurGirls: Senator Imani Duncan-Price and a group of concerned Jamaicans staged a protest outside the Nigerian High Commission over the abduction of hundreds of schoolgirls there. It was a quiet and friendly demonstration, not intended to ruffle feathers. Others, including Opposition Leader Andrew Holness, the I’m Glad I’m a Girl Foundation, and Chargé d’Affaires at the U.S. Embassy Elizabeth Martinez, also posted photos. Let’s not forget our often forgotten, vulnerable Jamaican girls…
- Jamaica AIDS Support for Life, who tested over 1,000 Jamaicans between January and March. See much more about their ongoing programs and achievements, as well as photographs at their website: http://jasforlife.org/html/ They are also on Facebook and Twitter @JASLtweets. Support the great work that they do in any way you can!
- New Providence Primary School, situated in the “Standpipe” area of Kingston, who triumphed in the 2014 INSPORTS/Seprod Limited Primary Schools Athletics Championships over the weekend, beating defending champions Naggo Head Primary School. Well done!
The number of killings by the police has fallen dramatically this year to date (48 compared to 85 fatalities last year), which is very welcome. So it was disturbing to hear that the police had killed four civilians in 24 hours. One hopes this is not the end of what has been a happy respite. There were only four fatalities in March, and eight in April. I congratulate the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) on its hard work and careful reporting. In particular, its Public Relations Officer Kahmile Reid is doing an excellent job with her clear and regular updates.
My heart goes out to the families and loved ones of all those Jamaicans who have been killed in the past week. The situation in West Kingston remains grim.
Unidentified woman, John’s Lane/Fletcher’s Land, Kingston
Garrel Bravo, 20, Racecourse Lane, Kingston 14
Vernon Vanzie, 23, Lincoln Crescent/Kingston 14
Kevin Black, 24, Kingston 14
Bunny Campbell, 54, Hannah Street/Kingston 14
Robert Ricketts, 34, Pink Lane/Kingston 14
Unidentified man, McCook’s Pen, St. Catherine
Mohan Budwari, 45, Thompson Pen, St. Catherine
Hilda Shand, 50, New Longville, Clarendon
Christopher Rowe, 23,New Longville, Clarendon
Killed by the police:
Shaneil Coombs, 23, Rennock Lodge, East Kingston
Roshawn Grant, Rennock Lodge, East Kingston
Unidentified man, Harbour Road/Rockfort, East Kingston