Amnesty, Tax Delinquents and a Bad Back: Thursday, July 24, 2014

Yes, the drought is still on and it’s miserable. Many Kingstonians, uptown and downtown, are without water some or all of the time. We are hanging on by our fingernails, and scouring satellite maps for any sign of clouds. Even more clouds would be nice. We just get burning sun, hotter every day.  So, our lawn looks like a country in Africa where it rarely rains, and where people have to walk miles in search of water.

This photo of Mona Reservoir was taken by the Gleaner on July 3. The water level is lower now.
This photo of Mona Reservoir was taken by the Gleaner on July 3. The water level is lower now.

Transparency is a nice word: But human rights group Amnesty International thinks the Jamaican Government does not have enough of it. Its press release today calls for National Security Minister Peter Bunting to “act with full transparency” on allegations of human rights violations by the police (the so-called “Death Squad”). Amnesty calls Minister Bunting’s refusal to answer some questions on the matter in Parliament “a threat to Jamaica’s international obligations on justice, truth and reparation for human rights violations and send the wrong signal on ending impunity in Jamaica.” Every Jamaican is entitled to know the truth, says Amnesty. Yes, and how often are we given the truth? Will we ever know the truth in this matter? I doubt it, although the media might (might) winkle out a little bit of information here and there relating to Police Commissioner Owen Ellington’s sudden resignation on July 2.

Finance Minister Peter Phillips
Finance Minister Peter Phillips (Photo: Jamaica Gleaner)

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The bad guys: Finance Minister Peter Phillips told Parliament this week that several large companies are avoiding paying their taxes. Two pieces of tax legislation were passed to tighten up on tax evasion yesterday. Opposition Finance Spokesman Audley Shaw believes the new measures are potentially unconstitutional, giving awesome powers to the Commissioner of Taxes. The Private Sector Organization of Jamaica did not see the draft legislation before it was tabled in Parliament but says it will “review” it.

Agriculture Minister Roger Clarke.
Agriculture Minister Roger Clarke.

That plane to Miami: I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that Agriculture Minister Roger Clarke is not well. Like all politicians (without any exception, so far as I know) he has gone to the United States for medical treatment. It is the same pattern with education: which Minister’s child is receiving a Jamaican education at tertiary level? They all take the next flight to Miami (or Toronto, or London). Various ministers’ children return home for Christmas for a nice holiday at home in the sun; then back to college overseas. It seems Jamaica’s health and education systems are just not good enough. Well, I wish Minister Clarke a speedy recovery.

Health Minister Dr. Fenton Ferguson. (Photo: Gleaner)
Health Minister Dr. Fenton Ferguson. (Photo: Gleaner)

Dr. Ferguson taking some flak: An angry letter-writer stated bluntly that Health Minister Dr. Fenton Ferguson should stop profiling at home and abroadasserting that in the public health system “doctors and nurses now resort to carrying basics like toilet tissue, paper towels and their own supply of basic medical items to help patients.” We hear such stories almost daily. And on the political front, Dr. Ferguson is in hot water with the Opposition (and others) for stating baldly at a People’s National Party (PNP) meeting that party workers should be rewarded out of constituency funds. Well, many of us are aware of this practice, too. Nothing new there, either. CVM Television (who must have filmed several PNP meetings simultaneously over the weekend and did some serious editing) reported these comments, as well as the Minister “dropping legs” (dancing) on the platform. He is a very tall man, but acquitted himself rather well in that regard.

Boycotting media houses? I also hear that the same Minister is refusing to give interviews to two high-profile local media houses. I hope this is not true!

The trial of Rev. Al Miller, who has pleaded not guilty to perverting the course of justice while transporting a wanted man (Christopher “Dudus” Coke) allegedly to the U.S. Embassy, has begun this week. It got off to a slightly disconcerting start, but I will write more about it in the next blog. Remind me.

ESET was set up by the Prime Minister and is headed by People's National Party stalwart Dr. Vin Lawrence. (Photo: Gleaner)
ESET was set up by the Prime Minister and is headed by People’s National Party stalwart Dr. Vin Lawrence. (Photo: Gleaner)

I don’t understand Andrew Holness: Our second shortest-serving Prime Minister seems to communicate in short, intense outbursts, and then lapse into silence. I am not hearing a consistent, well-articulated Opposition platform from him. At all. Last month, Mr. Holness expressed a lack of support for the Electricity Sector Enterprise Team (ESET) headed by PNP stalwart Vin Lawrence. The Prime Minister set up ESET in early June to handle the procurement process for a 381 megawatt power plant (yes, you remember the EWI débacle). Mr. Holness said it was poor governance and illegal, and the Prime Minister said the Office of Utilities Regulation Act would be amended to accommodate this. Now, oddly, the Opposition Leader has gone quiet and his Energy Spokesman, veteran politician Karl Samuda, has popped up with a contradictory remark on the issue – which he says is the definitive Opposition position. Get your act together, people!  Any word on this development? No? “Crickets,” as we say.

Lottery scam arrests: The police have arrested an astounding 41 suspects in Westmoreland and Trelawny in the last couple of days. They seem determined to break the back of this horrible scourge, which has caused so much suffering – murders at home, much grief and suicides in the United States – while the scammers buy flashy cars and build mansions. I just hope the police have sufficient evidence to convict, and that those convicted serve long sentences (I don’t mean two or three years). Recently, rather shockingly, several U.S. citizens (all elderly, I believe) have arrived in Jamaica with large sums of cash ready to pay over. The police have interviewed them. Disturbing.

And Minister Lisa Hanna has established a review committee. Another one.

Former President of the Senate, lawyer and lecturer Oswald Harding, Q.C. (Photo: Gleaner)
Former President of the Senate, lawyer and lecturer Oswald Harding, Q.C. (Photo: Gleaner)

Doubts over CCJ: Former Attorney General and lawyer Ossie Harding has doubts about the Caribbean Court of Appeal (CCJ), headquartered in Trinidad. As a former Jamaica Labour Party senator, this might be expected; but his comments are worth considering. After ten years, he asks, what has the CCJ achieved, with the large amount of money invested it (US$100 million seed money)? How does it function? If we don’t want to stay with the UK Privy Council, Mr. Harding also asks why Jamaica could not use its own final Court of Appeal – it has a strong cadre of judges? Questions to ponder.

Jamaican Ambassador to the United States Stephen Vasciannie signs the condolence book for former Governor General Sir Howard Cooke in Washington, DC.
Jamaican Ambassador to the United States Stephen Vasciannie signs the condolence book for former Governor General Sir Howard Cooke in Washington, DC.

Former Governor General Sir Howard Cooke’s state funeral will take place at the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Kingston on August 8, 2014. Sir Howard will be laid to rest at National Heroes Circle.

Congratulations to…

Alia Atkinson at the 2012 Olympics
Jamaican swimmer Alia Atkinson at the 2012 Olympics.
  • Jamaican swimmer Alia Atkinson, who broke the Commonwealth Games record for the women’s 50 meter breaststroke today in Glasgow, on her way to the semi-finals. Brilliant!

 

  • Young high jumpers Christoff Bryan and Clayton Brown, both of whom have qualified for the high jump finals tomorrow at the 15th World IAAF Junior Championships in Eugene, Oregon. Good luck to all our athletes!

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  • The excellent Dionne Jackson-Miller for her powerful “All Angles” program last night on the mob killing of a transgender teen, Dwayne Jones, just one year ago in Montego Bay. It was very balanced but sensitive to the issues, and did not make any judgments. Well done.
14-year-old Amoya Anderson has been missing since October 27, 2013. Have you seen her?
14-year-old Amoya Anderson has been missing since October 27, 2013. Have you seen her? Her mother, Cheryl Morgan, still hopes to see her coming through the gate…

Only one murder to report, and this is remarkable (again!) My condolences to the loved ones of:

Craig Reary, 44, Lucea, Hanover

 

Another missing child: Samunya Bloomfield disappeared one month ago. A J$100,000 reward is being offered for her safe return.
Another missing child: Samunya Bloomfield disappeared one month ago. A J$100,000 reward is now being offered for her safe return.

 

On the road: The news is not so good. The number of those killed on the road (mostly pedestrians and motorcyclists) this year now stands at 175 – 19 more than this time last year. Meanwhile today one Coaster bus was trying to overtake another but crashed into it on the Spanish Town Road in Kingston; twelve passengers were injured. Those buses frighten me – the drivers are often speeding, even racing each other sometimes. Another Coaster bus driver was killed in a crash in Moneague, St. Ann yesterday.


6 thoughts on “Amnesty, Tax Delinquents and a Bad Back: Thursday, July 24, 2014

    1. Well, I think both should have been reported on properly. There were some good letters to the editor about Rohan Daley though. And since then CVM has issued a proper formal apology – last night! Late but better late than never, just before the evening newscast.

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  1. Plenty of reasons exist for not sending children to Jamaican universities, including quality of education. If kids qualify for other institution, then that’s a fair part of the choice matrix. Course options are also not trivial considerations. Many Jamaicans who can choose to send kids abroad earlier, do not do so, and complete secondary education here. That’s a good sign. UWI does stand. UWI’s international standing used to be quite low (see http://www.webometrics.info/en/detalles/uwi.edu). It’s regional standing is much better, though.

    As for Roger Clarke, a friend asked whether he was making use of the many Jamaican doctors who practise abroad. Again, our medicine is not bad, but far from the best. People can come here as medical tourists, of course, but that doesn’t mean that they are getting the best on all counts. Interesting that I met this week a London-born Harley St consultant, who decided to move to the Caribbean for tax reasons. I think he practises there and in Canada, now.

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    1. I have to confess that our son was educated overseas from the age of 14. He got a scholarship to a “posh” boarding school in Massachusetts, which gave him great discipline (it was very strict) and a much broader range of interests. Thanks for telling me about UWI’s improved standing globally. Glad to hear that because I do recall that it had rather low ratings for some time… I don’t know whether any of Minister Clarke’s doctors might be Jamaican – I suppose it’s quite possible! Thanks so much for your comments, Dennis.

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