As usual, political issues are threatening to swamp much of our media coverage. But there is a lot more going on that gets relegated to the back pages…
“Fighting corruption is a national priority”: So says Finance Minister Peter Phillips. I am sure his supervisors at the International Monetary Fund were glad to hear these words. But these are just words. Don’t we need actions to prove the truth of this statement?
Well, I am quoting below a series of tweets from former Contractor General Greg Christie. Yes, you can say quite a lot on Twitter! You can judge for yourself whether the Jamaican Government is doing a good job in “fighting corruption.” Take a minute and read…
“Jamaica’s Finance Minister has publicly acknowledged that the fight against corruption remains a national priority for the Jamaican Government. But has the Jamaican Government, in its day to day conduct, been demonstrating this?The fight against corruption begins with exemplary political leadership from the government of day. It is defined by an inflexible adherence to the rule of law & best practices in good governance. But Jamaica is yet to see this from the Government. The conduct of Dr. Omar Davies comes quickly to mind. He sought to block the Office of the Contractor General (OCG) from scrutinizing the Jamaican Government/China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) $600m highway contract. The OCG is Jamaica’s leading Anti-Corruption Agency. Its mandate is to ensure that there is no impropriety or irregularity in Government contracting. When Dr. Davies failed to secure the support of the Jamaica Supreme Court, he publicly challenged the Court’s ruling. The Government, not to be deterred, at the insistence of Davies, then expressed its intent to use its powers in the Legislature to defang the OCG. Recently, the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) was arbitrarily stripped of its regulatory oversight functions over the transport sector.This is a sector which also falls within the ministerial portfolio domain of Dr. Davies, Jamaica’s Minister of Transport, Works and Housing.There is also, at present, a Jamaican Mayor who is facing criminal charges for misleading the OCG. Despite this, he remains in office. If the Government is really serious about tackling corruption, then it, along with all of its Ministers, must begin to walk the talk. They must not talk about fighting corruption. They must, by their actions, adhere to the highest standards of good governance. The Government must also demonstrate that the proposed Anti-Corruption Bill is not a window-dressing facade.T he Bill must be strong enough to bring about a radical change to the endemic corruption that is perceived to be now pervading Jamaica.”
Mario Deane’s family needs funds to pay for his funeral in St. James next Sunday. Family members reportedly refused offers of assistance from the Government. Well, the Government has in no way accepted responsibility for Mr. Deane’s death, despite agents of the State supposedly having responsibility for the welfare of those in its custody. Attorney General Patrick Atkinson has said rather coldly that the matter is being investigated, two men have already been charged with Mr. Deane’s murder and the Government will basically wait and see. Donations to assist the family can be made at Scotia Bank – Account number 823837.
And on legal matters, the Government has got into a bit of a muddle over insolvency and bankruptcy legislation. Our aforementioned supervisors, the IMF, have given us a month-end deadline. It has become so complex, with so many amendments, that at this late stage the Government has decided to table a completely new bill in Parliament. Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce Anthony Hylton hopes to introduce the new bill on Wednesday; he must be a man in a hurry.
Our Health Minister has put out a nice op-ed on chikungunya in all the newspapers, pointing out that it’s “all hands on deck” to prevent the virus spreading. He should have published this weeks ago. Yes, it is true that a certain amount of politicking by the Opposition has gone on around the issue, but the Minister should not just be reacting to that. He owes the Jamaican public clear and open information on the matter. The Minister also gives out numbers to contact (which we should have all known about from Day One): 922-8619; 922-8622 and 1-888-663-5683 (1-888-ONE-LOVE), Monday to Friday. You can also report cases to parish health departments.
Wait until 2017…0r 2018: Erica Virtue is reporting in the Sunday Gleaner that patients must wait until 2017 for surgery at the Kingston Public Hospital – these are mainly orthopedic surgeries. But those dates are mostly taken, so by the end of the year it will be 2018. Surgeries are often canceled because of a broken-down elevator, which has failed for the 20th time this year according to the report! However, emergency surgeries do get precedence (one would hope).
I see and hear some odd things on local media, these days. Some pronunciations that are so strange that I don’t even recognize the word the newsreader is wrestling with. The latest is a protest march in “the pelting sun.” CVM Television, I thought it was the rain that pelted. I could write an entire blog post each week about the desecration of the English language that goes on daily. But it would bore you (and me) to death, I am sure!
Minister Farrakhan is coming! Again… The 81-year-old leader of the Nation of Islam will be returning to our shores. No doubt many Jamaicans will embrace him – something I have never understood, since his background (and religion) is so far from the Jamaican experience. Oh, I forgot – he had a Jamaican father (whom he never knew, by the way). This time he is planning a “Million Man March” on Sunday, October 19. Who will be marching? What is the purpose of the March? How will it benefit Jamaicans? How will it benefit the Nation of Islam? Is it a recruiting drive?
And what is the Kingston Metropolitan Region Resort Board? I never heard of it before. Anyway, James Samuels, who heads it, says Kingston is going to earn J$150 million from it. OK, so all the hotels will be booked. Thinking about leaving town that weekend.
Perhaps the Love March will join. This group of energetic (mostly young) conservative evangelicals, who believe in “the family” and “sexual purity,” had a march a few days ago. They claim to be “non-denominational” (?) and “all love Jesus,” but they sound rather confused to me. They don’t seem to approve of sex, that is for sure.
Funeral of Roger Clarke: Former Agriculture Minister Roger Clarke was buried in Westmoreland yesterday, on a wave of clichés and platitudes from the politicians, and a tide of genuine emotion among his party supporters, friends and family. He was undoubtedly a very well-loved man. But, Madam Prime Minister, what does “a great Jamaican patriot” really mean? I am always wary of that word patriot.
The Gleaner has had some great op-eds over the past few days – especially the Saturday edition, which was its birthday. Take a read of Kelly McIntosh’s column on “Putting Productivity Back Into Work,” and Gordon Swaby’s commentary on “New Media Must Pick Fights They Can win.” Good stuff.
And please don’t forget my own weekly article on gleanerblogs.com! The series is called “Social Impact” and you can find it here: http://gleanerblogs.com/socialimpact/ There’s a new article up every Tuesday… Please share, and comment. I would love to have your feedback.
The winners of the Gleaner’s 180th anniversary 5K Run/Walk today, Kirk Brown (first male) and Chris-Ann Lewis (first female) – and all the great participants, young and old who came out on Saturday morning. The Gleaner’s Managing Director Christopher Barnes notes: “On the afternoon of Saturday, September 13, 1834, the very first edition of The Gleaner, and Weekly Compendium of News was published and made available at Water Lane in Kingston.” Congratulations again to the “Old Lady of North Street” on its 180th birthday!
Distinguished journalist and a mentor to many, Ms. Fae Ellington, who celebrated her fortieth anniversary in the profession with a blood drive! She collected 87 pints in Kingston this weekend, and the drive will go island-wide on Tuesday. I wish I could donate blood but for various reasons cannot. I hope all who can will support! The Blood Bank is always in need…
Another terrific journalist, Dionne Jackson-Miller, who is new President of the Press Association of Jamaica (PAJ). Helene Coley-Nicholson (who was so kind to me recently when I was conducting training at the PAJ and still fighting flu!) is the First Vice President and the awesome Karen Madden (a Chelsea Football Club fanatic, but I won’t hold that against her) is Second VP. Rohan Powell is the new PAJ Secretary. A powerful female triumvirate at the helm!
Cash 4 Books, a husband-and-wife outfit in Kingston’s Southdale Plaza that sells secondhand text books for a fraction of the price, easing the burden on parents. Robert and Nicola Desnoes buy and sell books for the current school year that are on the Education Ministry’s book list, and also source them for customers. They are open weekdays from 9:00 am – 5:00 pm. Tel: 876-397-1909 E-mail: email@example.com and find them on Facebook.
Barbara Blake Hannah, writer, filmmaker, cultural activist and Director of the Jamaica International Reggae Film Festival, who has won a story competition and will be special guest and presenter at the International Film Festival Summit in Austin, Texas from December 7 – 9. I know Barbara will make the most of every moment! Meanwhile, check out her new historical novel “The Moon has Its Secrets” – available on Amazon and Kindle.
Do go see… The Jamaican Folk Singers’ 2014 Season at the Little Theatre in Kingston. They are (and always have been) simply wonderful!
The Government reports a “fifteen per cent reduction” in murders so far this year, compared to 2013. This is wonderful news, although I am slightly puzzled. The lists at the end of my blogs have been quite long this year, apart from a few weeks during the summer. I think murder rates in some parishes have declined considerably, while others are high – for example, St. James and certain parts of Kingston. Although it seems to me that the distribution is fairly even, across the island. This is just from looking at the lists on my blog… Well, my condolences go out to those who are mourning these Jamaicans who have been murdered in the past four days:
Junior Salmon, Negril, Westmoreland
Kenty Thomas, 47, Montego Bay, St. James
James Sorrell, Falmouth, Trelawny
Peter Wallace, May Pen, Clarendon