I had planned a post for World Oceans Day today – it did not materialize. I hope some Jamaicans celebrated it by doing something for our beautiful Caribbean sea. Well, if not today, then from now onwards. It is far, far more important to us than we may think…
Gender-based violence: The Sunday Gleaner took on the ongoing tragedy of domestic violence in Jamaica for its front page. So far this year at least 24 Jamaicans have been killed by their spouses and at least 39 cases of assault related to domestic violence have taken place – but these are only the cases that have come to the police. Violence against women is far more deep-rooted and widespread than these numbers suggest. I don’t know what the male psychologist is trying to say about violence “on the women side” being on the increase, but agree with the 51% Coalition’s Judith Wedderburn that “it comes down to an issue of power.”
Sunk to a new low: The Sunday Observer took its homophobia a step further this weekend. This is their front page today, with an inside story by Karyl Walker (who edits their crime desk) adding one more layer of bigotry to the newspaper’s “coverage.” Yes, gays are criminals, too! Wearing pink lipstick. But hey, maybe this disproves your belief, Mr. Walker et al, that gays are so “different.” They can be gunmen too like the heterosexuals! Welcome them to the club!
Giorgio Valentini is the World Bank Country Representative for Jamaica, Guyana, Trindad and Tobago and Suriname. He made some interesting comments on Jamaica recently – including the suggestion that the Jamaican mindset is too insular; he sees this in the tourism and agricultural sectors in particular, he says, where players are unwilling to work together for the common good. We really must “think global” (and act global?), Mr. Valentini said.
“Curry” in a bad state: Coronation Market (nicknamed “Curry”) in downtown Kingston, the largest market in the English-speaking Caribbean, is in very poor shape indeed, I hear. Talk show host and Senator Marlene Malahoo Forte recently hosted an outside broadcast from the market; every vendor had a complaint about poor conditions, lack of sanitary conveniences, etc. Walking round the market later, the good Senator was shocked by the appalling conditions – stinking garbage (mostly vegetable matter) in piles, and even two homeless men who live there – one apparently near death. Her description has put me off ever going to shop there.
About three years ago Digicel Foundation pumped millions of dollars into the renovation of about one third of the two-acre site. “Even the greatest cynic, I think, would be impressed with the new Coronation Market,” said the then Town Clerk. Well, we are cynical now… Can’t the National Solid Waste Management Agency (NSWMA) at least clear the garbage? Hardly the “tourist attraction” Digicel Foundation envisaged.
Talking of the NSWMA, I have over two weeks’ worth of garbage outside my gate waiting in vain to be collected. I understand they have “problems.”
Kingston is getting a new hotel: While the Wyndham (former Hilton) Hotel in Kingston remains closed after a fire on March 14, 2013, (and workers protest outside that they have not received payment) its future remains uncertain. Meanwhile, a new 130-room Marriott Courtyard Hotel is shooting up on the other side of Emancipation Park – less than half the size of the Wyndham, which had been up for auction just before the fire. As they say, “what’s up” with the Wyndham?
An uncomfortable story: Clearly at a loss for a real news story, RJR News this week led one of its evening newscasts with a report that a prisoner at Kingston’s Constant Spring police lockup will have to undergo surgery to remove a cell phone from his rectum. So this is the best we can do for news?
The majesty of Majesty Gardens: 150 adult residents of the Prime Minister’s favorite slum, which goes by the gorgeous name of Majesty Gardens, are to benefit from an “empowerment program,” which will basically teach them to read and write as well as “life skills.” What a sad reflection on this impoverished area of South West St. Andrew (Kingston) – a constituency that Portia Simpson Miller has represented for some three decades, now. But the Prime Minister says she is “proud” of being able to help the “most vulnerable among us” – that is, her beloved poor. Meanwhile, CVM Television ran a biting report on the PM’s visit, focusing on a veritable cobweb of wires over the heads of the dignitaries and accompanying police guards – illegal connections to the Jamaica Public Service Co. Did you look up, Madam Prime Minister?
“The top Caribbean country in renewables”: Energy Minister Phillip Paulwell has pronounced that Jamaica will be tops in the next few years. But I have only heard him mention renewable energy as an afterthought in his public speeches. And I am actually becoming a little wary of this Minister’s grand announcements (understandably, right?) But the Minister says Jamaica will have an additional 78 MW of renewable energy from two wind projects (58 MW) and solar (20 MW). We already have 50 MW of wind and hydropower, he says. Three bidders have been selected for the three projects, and let’s hope all the t’s are crossed and i’s dotted in respect of the bidding process. Please, Minister Paulwell!
Smoke and mirrors? A telling article by Gordon Robinson (a lawyer and columnist) suggests we have all been duped. No, Minister Paulwell has not been removed from the power plant bidding process, as we perhaps thought. He has been brought in again by a side door by the Prime Minister, who has made it clear that the Minister will still be involved and “is more in charge of the power plant project than before he messed it up. A politically appointed committee for whom nobody voted; not created by any act of Parliament; and nobody can hold accountable will join together with the Minister to wrest the process from the arms of the independent, lawfully constituted authority.” I’m quoting Mr. Robinson there from his Sunday Gleaner column.
The air we breathe: I have commented on this frequently before, but a relative of ours who lives on the lower slopes of Red Hills showed me a photo of the view every morning from her house. There was a thick layer of smog across the city – more intense on her side, which is closer to the Riverton City dump – but continuing right across to the other side of the city. I must get that photo from her. Down in our house in the middle of town, we cannot see it. But I can smell the pollution in the air sometimes. Has NEPA (or anyone) done a reading of the air quality recently in Kingston? What are we taking into our lungs? Our relative also says that many of her neighbors burn garden waste – a persistent habit of Jamaicans, although our neighbors are not so bad these days – polluting the atmosphere further and contributing to global warming.
At this rate we will soon be wearing oxygen masks!
Meanwhile, booths are fully booked out at the Jamaica Alternative Energy Expo at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel (June 23 and 24, admission free). I have a feeling the place will be packed!
My deepest condolences to the families who are grieving the deaths of…
Keith Blackstock, 42, Mocho, Clarendon
David Waugh, 16, and Tafari Mitchell, 23, in Bryan’s Crescent, Clarendon (both shot dead by licensed firearm holder)
Ramon Alexis Brissett, 26, Rock District, Trelawny (Haitian national)
- The Jamaica Constabulary Force, who captured a most-wanted alleged gangster on Thursday; he had run away from West Kingston to Westmoreland. The important thing is that not a shot was fired during his capture. Police say Ryan “Little Blacks” Bembridge was responsible for much of the recent violence in the area. Congrats to the police, job well done. I understand, too, that some progress is being made with the “lotto scammers” – over 100 charged this year.
- The Jamaican Embassy in Japan, which recently donated nearly US$3,000 each to the United Church-Pringle Home for Children in Carron Hall, St. Mary and the Jamaica National Children’s Home in Papine, Kingston. The money was collected through the Japan-Latin American and Caribbean Ladies’ Association’s activities.
- The National Environment & Planning Agency (NEPA) and especially young Ricardo Miller for organizing “My Croc Adventure and Enviro Fair” at the Hope Zoo at the end of National Environment Week yesterday. Sadly I was unable to go at the last minute, but I hear it was a great success. The aim of the Fair was “to sensitize the general public about the endangered American Crocodile in Jamaica” noting that “in recent years the crocodile population on the island has undergone a rapid decline due to habitat loss, poorly planned developments and wanton killings.”
- All those who supported and participated in the Jamaica Environment Trust’s week-long fund-raising effort – a series of “get fit and go green” sessions at several gyms (and my yoga place, TrueSelf Centre of Being). I hope JET raised lots of money for its ongoing programs as well as the #savegoatislands campaign.
On the road: The amended Road Traffic Act is due to be passed (hopefully) in the next two months; it will include much tougher penalties for traffic offenses, including speeding/dangerous driving. It can’t come a moment too soon, as the carnage on our roads continue. I am glad Vice Chair of the National Road Safety Council Dr. Lucien Jones agrees with my belief that the vast majority of road accidents are caused by SPEEDING. 141 Jamaicans have died on the roads between January 1 and June 6 – an increase over the 125 for the same period in 2013. Meanwhile, there were two hit-and-run accidents, among several other deaths on the road: 54-year-old Ralph Chambers was hit off his pedal bike and killed on the Windsor Heights main road on Saturday, and 76-year-old Evelyn Nicholson died after being hit by a motorcycle as she tried to cross Passage Fort Drive in St. Catherine on Friday.