I have been thinking about children this week. The innocent victims of a wave of violence and madness that has swept through the international and local news, without a care for their souls and their small precious lives. Four children killed while playing on a beach in Palestine (not to mention the many others killed, injured and orphaned during the Israeli incursions); three children burned to death in a home in Jamaica, locked in and trapped by metal grilles and dying together in a bath filled with water; eighty children going on holiday, some homeward bound, with parents and family members, with their books and games and soft toys, blown out of the sky by a missile over a troubled area of Ukraine; two children found murdered in a pond in deep rural Jamaica. Why the suffering?
It has been a grim week.
Water panic: A national broadcast last night by our Minister of Water, Land, Environment & Climate Change Robert Pickersgill put us all in a tizzy. The water situation has considerably worsened. As I learned at a UN Development Programme Learning Conference on Climate Change last week (more about that later) last month was especially dire, with the parishes of Clarendon experiencing only 2% of normal rainfall, Manchester 4%, St. Thomas 6%, St. Mary 8% and Kingston and St. Andrew 12% of their 30 year normal rainfall.
The Minister stressed the importance of rainwater harvesting (always much talked about but not implemented in a comprehensive way) and with a note of urgency in his voice, gave out hotline numbers for people to report leaks. I must say I suppressed a cynical laugh when I heard this; for years citizens have complained about water leaks running for days before the National Water Commission (NWC) arrives to fix them. Now it’s “Every drop counts!!!” (three exclamation marks). The usual last-minute “crisis,” after decades of inertia by successive administrations and a lack of long-term planning. But today the NWC tells us the Kingston area (by far the largest concentration of population) should have enough water to last until October. Perhaps if conservation measures had been implemented and adhered to when we had plenty of water in the reservoirs, we would not be worried now. But you know the saying about “You never miss the water till the well runs dry”…
But what it is we see on the horizon? As we all do rain dances and send up prayers, my friend @JamaicaWeather posted this exciting map… We are keeping fingers crossed. I never thought I would welcome a tropical depression or storm, but… Yes, bring it on! (Oh. I just heard it may “dissipate” before it reaches us). Meanwhile, bush fires are spreading in the north coast parish of St. Ann as I write. Sigh.
On other matters…
- The Viber issue is far from resolved. The Office of Utilities Regulation is still considering whether its VOIP system constitutes an illegal bypass, as telecoms firms (for once joining forces) Digicel and LIME allege. The OUR is supposed to make up its mind by the end of the month. Meanwhile, couldn’t it allow Viber to continue for the time being, as was done in Trinidad?
- The slow and painful disintegration of the board of human rights lobby group Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ) has continued over the past few weeks, since the “sex education in children’s homes” débacle. The local media has reported on it quite a bit (and no doubt got the wrong end of the stick a number of times) and I do not want to go into who said what, etc. But I just express the hope that JFJ, which has been so influential in Jamaican society for the last 15 years, will reconstitute itself and continue its valuable and important work. Now Executive Director Kay Osborne resigned immediately after the board chairman. I hope JFJ will take a deep breath, re-focus and start all over again. These things do happen.
- Politricks heating up: I hate commenting on all the party political nonsense all the time, but can hardly avoid it after this evening’s CVM Television newscast. It’s clear that the ruling party has started its electioneering. The first 25 minutes or so of the newscast covered a series of People’s National Party (PNP) meetings over the weekend, including an address by Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller (who mentioned, in passing and very belatedly, the five little children who died recently. It hurt her soul, she said). I was startled, and again disappointed by the Prime Minister’s remarks. She said she feels the pain of “my people” (subjects?) and empathizes with those Jamaicans who are hungry, because sometimes she is hungry. Why? Because she is so busy working she forgets to eat! Hardly the same thing, ma’am. If you had said you remember what it was like growing up poor, then fine. But – you went in the wrong direction.
- Then we had a young Member of Parliament, Mikael Phillips (the son of the Finance Minister) saying, “This is PNP country.” Young Mr. Phillips, you can do better than that. The homophobic rant of a PNP councilor followed (I cannot repeat what he said – his speech was so poor and his reasoning so illogical – but suffice it to say he’s against it).
- Watching economic figures? You might like to take a look at the charts on the excellent diGJamaica website, which breaks down the Government’s planned spending – showing major reductions in almost all sectors. Here’s the link: http://digjamaica.com/blog/2013/04/26/chart-of-the-week-bang-belly-economy-bang-belly-spending/
- To leave…or not: A newspaper report recently noted that at least 7,000 professionals have left Jamaica in the past six years. That is, indeed, quite a few leaving for what they believe will be “greener pastures.” CEO of the Private Sector Organization of Jamaica Dennis Chung has a different view, however. He feels that if some of those professionals had stayed, they could have done very well. “I would rather stay in my country and fix my country rather than stay outside and help to criticize it,” said Chung. “Everything is not just about having a lot of money, quality of life is a lot more important than that.” I must admit that this resonates with me, strongly. But Dennis, were the job opportunities even here for them? We all have to live…
- And the “Heil Hitler” episode? Well, you’ve guessed it. CVM Television took no action, so far as I know, on the sports journalist’s ignorant outburst, and did not issue any apology. It was hardly even the proverbial “nine-day wonder.” It lasted a day or two. I am sure if an overseas sports journalist jumped up on TV and shouted “Hail to the slave masters!” we would never hear the end of it. Meanwhile, the young Member of Parliament Damion Crawford tweeted that it was “no big deal.” I will make no comment (but wonder about our young politicians, in general).
Much more news to tell you, but it can wait for my next newsy post. Meanwhile…
Major kudos to…
- U.S. Embassy Kingston, which is offering free SAT classes for those wanting to apply to U.S. colleges. Email: Kingstonirc@state.gov or call 702-6172.
- I don’t set much store by beauty pageants, although many Jamaicans love them. But congrats to the Miss Jamaica Festival Queen 2014 Anjell Bryan and first and second runners up Sharlene Codner and Honica Ornella Brown. I think this beauty contest has more cultural significance, being linked to the annual Festival celebrations for Jamaica’s Independence holiday. I am sure Ms. Bryan will be great!
- Mr. Glen Christian, Chairman of Cari-Med and Kirk Distributors, for his wonderful support for the Brandon Hill community in Clarendon where he grew up (to the tune of some J$100 million, to date) through the Cari-Med and Kirk Foundation. The Primary School recently received twenty computers and Evelyn Mitchell Infant School received five computers, along with printers etc. The infant school is a state-of-the-art, award-winning school named after Mr. Christian’s mother. This is “giving back”!
- If you feel like a trip to the theater, why not go to the Philip Sherlock Centre this weekend (July 25-27) and take in “Her Last Cry,” written and directed by Dahlia Harris? This is Ms. Harris’ eighth play and her seventh stint as director. Going from strength to strength!
- Creator and director of the online examination preparation system EduFocal Gordon Swaby – a young entrepreneur with a difference – who awarded twenty students who did exceptionally well while using the website http://www.edufocal.com. Congratulations to all!
- Talk Up Yout’ and Respect Jamaica, who organized a very good tweet chat on Nelson Mandela International Day on the topic of respect. Several Jamaican NGOs and individuals joined in a no-holds-barred discussion on how to create a more respectful and caring society.
- The Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), founded by National Hero Marcus Mosiah Garvey on July 20, 1914, which is celebrating its 100th year in existence. Numerous activities to celebrate the centenary will take place this month. Meanwhile, you can follow the UNIA on Twitter (@UNIAJAMAICA).
- Do join us at the WMW Corporate Mingle and Website Launch on Saturday, July 26. It will be an opportunity to meet and support the members of a great women’s organization which is doing excellent work.
It is really good news that murders this year (up to July 13) have declined by 12 per cent compared to last year (520 compared to 590 in 2013). A newspaper report suggests that Jamaica’s total fascination with the World Cup may have had something to do with a dramatic drop in the past few weeks, in particular. Interestingly, the greatest decline in murders is in the parish of Clarendon – where investigators are looking into allegations of a police “death squad.”
In fact, there are NO murders to report since my last post. I am very, very happy about this! Long may it continue…