Happy birthday, Mr. Garvey! Celebrations have been taking place at our National Hero’s former headquarters, Liberty Hall on King Street. It’s been an edgy sort of week. No rain fell in Kingston this week. The drought has returned, and so has the heat. The holiday mood is steadily evaporating.
One thing that has not returned is garbage collection. The National Solid Waste Management Agency (NSWMA), for which we pay quite high property taxes, told us on the phone last week that we would have a collection on Friday. We have not seen even a fleeting glimpse of the truck, since.
Mario Deane still haunts us: Since my August 10 article (“Holiday Disturbances”), the tragic story of Mario Deane, who died on August 6 after a severe beating in the Barnett Street police lock-up, has taken several twists and turns. The two men who were charged with Mr. Deane’s murder, it transpires, were both mentally challenged. Marvin Orr’s lawyer described him in court as “schizophrenic” and a drug abuser. He was denied bail and is seeking psychiatric treatment. Adrian Morgan is also reportedly mentally challenged and is undergoing psychiatric treatment; he did not appear in court last week. On Friday, a third man, who is hearing impaired, was charged. Now Mr. Orr was in turn reportedly beaten by inmates and hospitalized. Two more inmates have been charged with assault.
The plight of the other inmates in the lock-up came into focus. How are the mentally ill and those with other disabilities treated in custody? There are many concerns here, too. Many.
Another death in custody: Yesterday, a man who had been sick for some time (but was not in hospital, for some reason) died in the Hunt’s Bay police lock-up in Kingston. Dudley Davis, 54, who reportedly had a heart condition, had been awaiting trial for fraud and was hospitalized for a few days, then sent back to the lock-up. The police say they tried to have him bailed but friends and family could not meet the conditions set by the court for bail. They were seeking to transfer him to the Horizon Remand Centre when Mr. Davis died.
Justice delayed: In December 2009, entertainer Robert Hill (“Kentucky Kid”) was shot and killed at his Ivy Green Mews home in Kingston. Almost a year later, the Coroner’s Court began an enquiry into his death. Last Thursday, August 14, the Court ruled that three policemen and two civilians be charged for Hill’s murder. Now the case must go to the Circuit Court for trial. The terrible part of this case (as if all police killings are not terrible) was that Hill had made numerous reports that he was being harassed and threatened by the police, after a dispute resulting from a motor vehicle accident in July, 2009. The police visited his house several times and physically abused him and his pregnant wife. Mr. Hill filmed these incidents and posted them on YouTube. Jamaicans for Justice, in a release, noted that it “represented the family of Robert Hill during the coroner’s inquest, as it has done for over 100 families of deceased persons in the past two years. The organisation is heartened by INDECOM’s work in this matter.” It expressed a wish for a speedy outcome to the case. Justice delayed is justice denied.
And the Prime Minister’s silence on the Mario Deane issue has upset many Jamaicans. The Opposition has commented on it. “Loving the poor is not enough” said Senator Kamina Johnson Smith. The Prime Minister has made no comment whatsoever. Is she just a figurehead these days? The only time she really seems to come to life is at political party meetings in front of an entirely receptive audience. Otherwise, she sticks to formal events only. Breaking news: The Prime Minister just “broke her silence” I hear… after eleven days. Details later…
Note: Since Mario Deane’s death, the police have killed four more Jamaicans in alleged shootouts.
Who is “un-Jamaican”? The State Minister for Tourism Damion Crawford, as discussed in my blog post earlier today, has gone and put his foot in it again. He is sinking deeper into the mire. One of the questions arising from Kei Miller’s excellent blog post (and Mr. Crawford’s poorly written response) is “What does it mean to be Jamaican?” As we ponder this, I would like Mr. Crawford to get on with his job, and behave like an adult. Enough already!
The White-Crowned Pigeon (local name: Baldpate) is a large and beautiful bird. It is a “Near Threatened” species on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List, but in Jamaica it is still on a short list of “game birds” that upper-class Jamaicans (including a number of politicians and their friends) can go out and shoot at in various parts of the island for a few weeks each year. Now the National Environment & Planning Agency (NEPA) has issued a very surprising release regarding some baldpates that have been fitted with electronic trackers. This is a project of BirdsCaribbean. I am a member. Last summer in Grenada I met representatives of the Florida-based Avian Research and Conservation Institute, which fitted the trackers with the aim of determining whether they migrate between Jamaica and other islands – Cuba or the Caymans (Baldpates are strong, fast flyers). NEPA asks the shooters (who started this weekend and will end their slaughter on September 21) to look out for the birds and offers them money to return the trackers if they shoot them! How can they allow this! This is a funded scientific research project!
Speaking of our endangered environment, the head of the Caribbean Maritime Institute Dr. Fritz Pinnock today took a large group of journalists and members of the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce to Goat Islands, in the Portland Bight Protected Area. The trip apparently included some sort of lecture; looking at the photos on Facebook, I didn’t see anyone taking notes, however. A little jaunt for the media, who will no doubt produce something insubstantial and un-researched on the destruction of the Protected Area for a transshipment port. Meanwhile, a Chinese company has been fined more than half a million U.S. Dollars for environmental breaches in a designated nature reserve near Cancun, Mexico, where it built a “Dragon Mart” shopping mall. There are other examples around the world.
Publicity stunt? Tyson Fisher (whose deejay name is Ikon) climbed Zip FM’s radio tower in the busy Half Way Tree area of Kingston last week. Why? He said the station wasn’t playing his song. He was charged with creating public mischief and released. It appears that this was not an attempted suicide (which was the initial fear) but an attempt to get publicity for his song; and, he said, to highlight the plight of other struggling entertainers. Everyone wants to be a deejay these days. Some comments were rather harsh and unsympathetic. I found it sad, and worrying.
“My Kingston” – a feature in the Sunday Observer which I always find highly pretentious (“What cologne are you splashing?”) – this week features the interesting Jamaican writer Roland Watson-Grant. He suggested a “Ministry of Imagination” for Jamaica. What a cool idea. And I can think of several possible Ministers too, who might do a great job. P.S. Do go out and buy Mr. Watson-Grant’s novel “Sketcher” – a piquant coming-of-age tale.
Petchary is on Gleaner blogs: By the way, I am now writing an exclusive weekly article for the Gleaner Online at gleanerblogs.com. The series is under the heading “Social Impact.” You should see my fourth article online tomorrow or Tuesday. Enjoy, and please comment on the page! Thank you.
Huge bouquets go out to:
Teachers and students of a number of high schools that have produced much better than usual results in CSEC Mathematics (a 13% increase over last year). Schools such as Bridgeport High in St. Catherine and Cornwall College in St. James have seen dramatically improved results this year, and “non-traditional” schools Papine High, Mona High, and Pembroke Hall High did particularly well. But as usual we must approach the initial figures with caution. Only 56% of those eligible to take the examination were actually enrolled for it – an increase of two per cent registered over last year, mostly canceled out by “no-shows.” And the overall pass mark was only 55% among those who did take CSEC Mathematics. We’ve got a long way to go, but it’s a start, Minister Thwaites.
National Youth Orchestra of Jamaica and all who made it possible for their “Dream Tour” of Canada to come true. The Orchestra has performed in Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal to enthusiastic audiences. The young musicians have had an exciting summer. This five-year-old classical music education program for at-risk youth is really a valuable one, and I hope it goes from strength to strength. Congratulations to the Canadian High Commission and to all who contributed to the fund-raising effort (including a great fashion show in June that I wrote about) that made it possible for the 25 children to go to Canada! You can read more about them at http://www.nyoj.org.
Book Exchange: The Jamaica Information Service (JIS) has started a back-to-school book exchange.To make your donation, visit JIS at 58A Half Way Tree Road,send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 929-1919. Excellent idea!
Food for the Poor: Who have come to the rescue again with the donation of 16,000 packages of intravenous (IV) fluids to the Ministry of Health, where there’s has been a worrying shortage. Thank you so much once again!
Randy McLaren: The dub/reggae poet’s powerful “docu-poem” (“Armadale: Children on Fire”) about the fire at the Armadale Juvenile Correctional Centre in which seven girls died has been short-listed for the 2014 World Summit Youth Award. Randy is the only shortlisted candidate from the Caribbean. Good luck, Randy!
Here are two recommended Jamaican books online: Children’s author Diane Browne recently published “Ebony and the Auntie of the Starlight: A Caribbean Cinderella Story” is available from Amazon on Kindle here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/BOOM7CY050
Barbara Blake Hannah, a terrific writer, has also just published an e-book! Her novel “The Moon Has Its Secrets” was published on August 6, and is also available on Amazon Kindle.
The U.S. Embassy and in particular Public Affairs Intern Sybil Lewis for their highly successful Youth Poetry Slam at the Embassy last Thursday. I will be writing a bit more about this great event shortly.
All those who attended, and helped spread the word about a benefit for a stalwart of Jamaican theater and film, Franklin “Chappy” St. Juste, who has been ill and swamped with medical bills. Chappy is on his way to recovery now, and your support made a difference!
Murders in July may have been at a ten-year low, but it seems to me that this list is very long. It covers one week. My condolences to all those who are grieving these violent deaths.
Two unidentified men (alleged robbers) killed in an alleged shootout by the police, Brighton, Westmoreland
Roosevelt McGregor, Mannings Hill Road, Kingston
Ricardo Hines, 27, Salt Spring, St. James
Mervyn Blake, 50, Montego Bay, St. James (homeless man)
Two unidentified men, Irwin, St. James (accused of stealing a bus) – killed by police or security guards?
Xavier Williams, 34, Orange Bay, Hanover
“Asia,” Dover Beach, Annotto Bay, St. Mary
Rock River, Clarendon – two unidentified men killed
Anthony Pink, 18, Moores, Clarendon
Unidentified man, Moores, Clarendon
Dwight McPherson, 32, Carowmena District, Westmoreland
Ryan Broderick, 30, Boscobel, St. Mary
“Jah Jah,” Old Harbour, St. Catherine
Orville Lee, 36, Foreman’s Hill/Moneague, St. Ann
Lynette Graham, 42, Faith’s Pen, St. Ann