Too hot! I checked WeatherBug on my phone yesterday and it told me it was 32 degrees Celsius, but “feels like 38.” What! It’s only June… Anyway, today was Father’s Day, and cafés and restaurants around Kingston were doing quite brisk business, I’m glad to say. Big ups to fathers everywhere!
Relaxing ganja news: The big news of the past few days was Cabinet’s announced decision to amend the Dangerous Drugs Act make possession of two ounces (0.057 kilogrammes ) or less of marijuana a ticketable and not an arrestable offense, attracting a fine. While many sectors of society believe this is a great thing, there are many questions. For example, what happens with actually growing the stuff? How much can you grow? Will the police continue to make bonfires in ganja fields? Medical doctors are less than happy, anticipating more (mental) health issues in Jamaica, especially among the young.
From the point of view of human rights (including religious rights – the Rastafarians) I think the decision is welcome; too many people have been harassed, locked up and stigmatized because of one spliff (criminal records will also be expunged, says Justice Minister Golding, who will also head a sub-committee to consider medicinal ganja. The changes be discussed and debated in Parliament, so there may be some adjustments; but the Government is clearly certain this is the right approach, and the Opposition apparently agrees. This is such a popular move and bound to win votes – do I see elections on the horizon?
Alcoa is pulling out: I think I mentioned the somewhat mixed signals we have been getting over the state of the bauxite industry in Jamaica. On Friday the government announced that Alcoa – which has been in Jamaica since before Independence – will depart in two years’ time. Alcoa owns a 55 percent stake in the Clarendon-based alumina refinery Jamalco, and will sell its shares to Noble Resources UK. There will be no redundancies.
Reinstated: Professor Brendan Bain, who was given notice to quit as of today’s date by the University of the West Indies (UWI) as head of the HIV/AIDS training entity CHART, was granted an injunction by the Supreme Court on Friday. So Professor Bain will remain in his post for now, until his case against UWI is heard. This doesn’t seem like a win-win situation for anyone to me – a Pyrrhic victory, I would think, for the good Professor. Well, let’s wait and see.
School book issues: The sight of a young child walking to school, his/her back weighed down by a huge bag full of heavy books, is quite common in Jamaica. The Education Minister recently decided to rationalize the whole thing and put out an approved book list, cutting down the ridiculous number of books schools require. Having worked in the book industry in Jamaica for eight years, I remember those long lists that parents (mothers) brought into the shop. They agonized over which were really needed, and whether they could afford them. So I fully understand Minister Thwaites’ reasoning. Both the Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA) and booksellers are complaining, for various reasons. Can’t win. Commentator Rev Garnett Roper wants the JTA firmly dealt with.
Keeping it in the family? The police seem to be making inroads with their seemingly endless pursuit of lottery scammers. Those arrested are in various age groups and different parts of the island – Montego Bay no longer seems to be the only place where they are carrying on their shameful activities. The police arrested ten people, including a married couple and their two children, in Brown’s Town, St. Ann on Friday.
And I must say, “big ups”…to the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) on several counts: 1) they recently arrested (without gunfire) a most-wanted man, whom they have charged with three murders. The JCF says Ryan “Little Blacks” Bembridge was a hit man for West Kingston gangs. 2) they handled an unpleasant scene in Clarendon yesterday with tact and calm. Hundreds (yes, hundreds) of people converged on a shopping plaza where a man “who was wearing lipstick” was hiding in a store. The police got him out and away from the baying mob safely. (And some people are still telling me “Jamaicans are not homophobic” ? Yeah, right). 3) and importantly…the number of killings by the police is at a bare minimum. This is really, really commendable, especially considering where we are coming from.
Recommended: Kei Miller is a marvelous Jamaican writer, who visited Jamaica recently. He comments on an important issue, and in particular how some (but not all) sections of the media treat with it, in his blog “Under the Saltire Flag.” Mr. Miller has been lecturing in Scotland (hence the blog’s name – did you know only Scotland and Jamaica have saltire flags?) but will shortly venture south to London. Please read his latest, important post called #PleaseTakeOurGirls here: http://keimiller.wordpress.com/2014/06/15/pleasetakeourgirls-they-arent-safe-here-in-jamaica/ We are so worried about protecting our boys from predatory gays, allegedly lurking on every corner. What about our girls – many of whom are “groomed” for sex at an early age, and for whom rape is their first sexual experience? Who have never known love? Are they to continue quietly suffering? Just ask Eve for Life and others.
And the shrill voice of Betty Ann Blaine echoes across the land. Her latest target is the human rights lobby group Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ). She has just discovered that JFJ has an “agenda” (no, we are not allowed to have agendas are we? But doesn’t Ms. Blaine have an agenda?) Now that Professor Bain has been reinstated, I assume the duct tape sessions outside the University of the West Indies will be called off, and sales in hardware stores will plummet. The weather is unpleasantly hot for that sort of thing, anyway. And yes, we all have agendas, including you Ms. Blaine, and that is fine and OK. But we are not a theocracy yet – thankfully!
Meanwhile, the Jamaica Observer has abandoned all pretense at decency and balance, and is now printing stories about “homos” almost daily. What is going on there? Anyone reading Jamaican newspapers from overseas would have to conclude that Jamaica truly is obsessed with the “gay issue.”
Here’s another huge social issue: That of mental health. But that’s not a “sexy” issue. A quiet little Saturday Gleaner report (I’m told no one reads the Saturday papers) notes the concern of businesspeople in the rural town of Port Antonio regarding mentally ill people who are on the streets allegedly attacking senior residents. This is not a little local problem; it’s a huge national problem. Where is the fuss and the concern for our vulnerable mentally ill – and for our seniors?
Muchos kudos to…
- Executive Chairman of VIP Attractions David Hall, winning the Number One Global Travel Lounge of the Year from Priority Pass for “Club Kingston” at Norman Manley International Airport. The company also manages Club Montego Bay. 700 airport lounges were nominated! Congratulations!
- The I’m Glad I’m a Girl Foundation, who held their first symposium and tech graduation program for teenage girls at Mary Seacole Hall yesterday. I am sorry I couldn’t make it but I am so glad that girls are getting some encouragement in this field. There is no reason why IT has to be male-dominated in Jamaica. Good going!
- To all those who gave blood yesterday, World Blood Donors Day. I was a regular donor myself at one time and really… It does not hurt, there is no danger, and you are really helping to save a life! Give blood today!
- Food for the Poor Jamaica, who have donated 16,000 units of IV fluid to the Ministry of Health to help with a dire shortage of this vital substance in our health system. Thank you, Mr. Andrew Mahfood – to the rescue again!
- And all those fathers who are doing their job and doing it well! Hope you had a wonderful Father’s Day!
Does anyone pay any attention to the continued stream of murders that takes place daily? To me, this is immoral – and tragic. My condolences to the families of all of these Jamaicans who have died in the past four days. These are all taken from media reports.
Albert Green, 41, was reportedly asked to deliver a canister of cooking gas to a house in Daniel Town, Trelawny on Saturday. When he arrived there he was robbed and shot dead.
Residents of Job Lane in Spanish Town, St. Catherine, found the headless body of Kevin Cunningham, 34, early on Friday morning.
46-year-old electrician Wayne Lewis was at home with his girlfriend in Gregory Park, St. Catherine on Thursday evening when he heard noises outside. He went outside and was shot dead.
Clive Whyte, 41, a mason, and fisherman Patrick Deans, 43, were shot dead in the early hours of Friday morning. The doors to their respective homes in Monkey Town, near Spanish Town, St. Catherine were kicked in.
Dwayne Brown, a 32-year-old farmer, was chopped to death in Annotto Bay, St. Mary reportedly during a dispute with another man over goats.
The police shot dead Lamar Miller, 20, a suspect in a robbery in Great Pond, St. Ann, on Friday night.
19-year-old Giovanni Asan was stabbed to death during an argument at a football game in St. Mary on Friday. A man turned himself in to the police.
54-year-old Eulis Jones Hamilton, mother of Jamaica Observer reporter Simone Morgan, was shot in the head during a robbery at her home in Irwin, St. James.