My apologies for the hiatus. The past week has been very busy, and I have been doing quite a bit of writing elsewhere! See below…
The death of a policeman: I once knew August Town quite well. It’s at the end of a road that passes by the University of the West Indies campus. So close is it to the ivory towers of academia that there have been well-meaning efforts over the years (spearheaded by the late Professor Barry Chevannes) to “uplift” the community. Nevertheless, it continues to struggle with a legacy of politically-instigated violence. It is now mainly gang violence, while the politicians mostly do some posturing. It has been relatively peaceful for a while, but yesterday a policeman was shot dead in African Gardens, one of the less developed parts of August Town (which is tucked into a deep valley in the hills; it is effectively a cul de sac). The news is disturbing and sad and I hope does not usher in a new wave of troubles in the area, where many hard-working people live. This is the first killing of a policeman this year; the last time a policeman was killed was in October 13 in Montego Bay.
Last October, I wrote: “There has been a significant increase in murders in Clarendon this year. I remember spending time in May Pen several years ago, when businesspeople and local officials were congratulating the head of operations in Clarendon Senior Superintendent of Police Dayton Henry on a steady decline in the violent crime rate. The 46-year-old Mr. Henry died, suddenly and mysteriously, last year; tests concluded that he was poisoned, and an investigation was reportedly under way. Since his death, the murder rate has climbed again.” The Coroner’s Inquest into SSP Henry’s death concluded this week, with the court finding he was “systematically poisoned” but unable to determine who was responsible. The police continue their investigations. It might be of interest to know that as a Deputy Superintendent Henry worked in the Internal Affairs and Anti-Corruption Division. And just today, the preliminary enquiry of two of the twelve police officers charged in connection with an alleged “death squad” in Clarendon began in court.
Kamoza Clarke case in court: We recall another tragic case of a death, this time in the Falmouth Police Station lockup – that of Kamoza Clarke, last year. Three policemen facing murder charges and two charged with neglect of duty arising from his death (a beating sustained while in police custody last October) had their bails extended when they appeared in court today. District Constables Alwayne Eccleston, Desmond Lawrence, Tristan Turner and Onecko Brown, and Sergeant Derrick Henry will return to court on November 26 – a number of documents in the case are still outstanding.
The plot thickens: “‘Im just walk weh… Nobody nah look fi ‘im.” So says the mother of Fahdean Ferguson, the young man, reportedly a witness for the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) in the case of Mario Deane, who the police still maintain escaped from custody. Ferguson turned himself in at INDECOM’s office in Montego Bay yesterday. INDECOM are now calling Ferguson’s situation “absence from custody,” rather than “escape.” I mean, what actually happened? Did the police really tell Mr. Ferguson he was free to go after the identification parade? If so, why? Or was he just confused? Will we ever know the truth?
The singer and the Minister: The popular singer Chronixx posted on Instagram this week. He was very upset about the fact that Jamaica has no live venue for reggae music. He asserted the music is the main reason why people visit what he calls the “beautiful island of bankruptcy.” He had a dig at the politicians and their diehard followers, too. Culture Minister Lisa Hanna responded on Instagram (she seems to spend a lot of time there) and I think she won Round One – her response was quite a put-down. She ended her message: “Stop blaming and lumping all politicians together. It’s unfair and untrue. Blessed love.”
Hmmm. Blessed love?
The PM made a speech: Our Prime Minister made a two-hour speech at the annual gathering of the comrades – the People’s National Party (PNP) conference, over the weekend. The Jamaica Observer printed her full, unedited speech here: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Prime-Minister-Simpson-Miller-s-presentation-at-the-PNP-s-76th-Annual-Conference There was much amusement over her gaffe about “doing less with more money” (of course it should have been the reverse) and her galloping run up to the platform, security officers and fellow party members in tow (running is a habit of hers). Some commentators (and the Opposition) expressed concern that she did not address issues that have been deeply troubling the Jamaican public recently, such as Mario Deane’s death, the chikungunya epidemic and rising food prices. But should we expect much from a speech on a party platform?
Speaking of Mario Deane, Opposition backbencher Everald Warmington set the cat among the pigeons (as he likes to do from time to time) in Parliament this week. He suggested the PNP administration was to blame for Deane’s death, shouting after the retreating Deputy Speaker of the House Lloyd B. Smith: “… For the police to throw him inna jail and say is a mad man and a deaf man kill him, I say you as a Government killed the man innocently and try to hide it.” Somewhat ironically perhaps, Mr. Smith, who had just adjourned the session after failing to quieten Mr. Warmington down, is the Member of Parliament for Central St. James. He spoke at Mario Deane’s funeral on Sunday.
JEEP funds have been found, suddenly ($140 million) for “selected projects” at the local government level. In case you have forgotten, JEEP is the Jamaica Emergency Employment Programme. Opposition Finance Spokesman Audley Shaw wants the money shared equally among parish councils; he is concerned about partisan sharing of the funds. I also wonder whether this largesse is connected at all with the fact that local government elections are not far away.
My recent articles: My weekly article on gleanerblogs.com is out. I wrote about the remarkable lecture on Sunday by prolific Jamaican author Olive Senior in connection with her latest book,“Dying to Better Themselves: Colón Man and the Panama Experience.” Kudos to the National Library of Jamaica; the lecture was very well attended. Link to my article is here: http://gleanerblogs.com/socialimpact/?p=2226\
I have also written a couple of articles on Corve daCosta’s lively blog site, Daily Veritas: One on the recent referendum in Scotland (http://www.dailyveritas.com/news-commentary/indyref-the-morning-and-the-night-after/); and another on the chikungunya muddle (http://www.dailyveritas.com/news-commentary/jamaicas-outbreak-of-chikungunya-and-why-over-3000-jamaicans-may-have-it/) Daily Veritas has a delightful mix of articles – something for everyone, I would say. Do read!
I also have a new paper called “Flight of the Petchary” with a collection of articles, photos and videos that I put together and add to on a daily basis. You may subscribe to it by email, and you can read it here: https://paper.li/Petchary/1410819482
And commendations are due to…
The U.S.-based Diaspora charity, Mind, Body and Soul Health Ministries, which organized a group of Indian and American doctors to perform 225 cataract surgeries at the Mandeville Hospital from September 15-19, also donating a special opthalmology machine that assisted with the operations. The group’s work cut the hospital’s waiting list by more than half. Absolutely wonderful!
Windsor Research Centre and environmental activist Esther Figueroa, who have been rolling out a major public education campaign on the enormous value of the Cockpit Country to Jamaica (for a start, it supplies forty per cent of Jamaica’s fresh water!) A weekly feature on Cliff Hughes’ Power 106 FM program started today (it’s every Wednesday at 12:35 p.m. and well worth a listen). I learned a lot today.
Two other blogs I would like to mention: Author Diane Browne writes about Caribbean children’s literature on her blog; her latest post is about folktales and her latest e-publication is “Ebony and the Auntie of the Starlight, a Caribbean Cinderella story.” http://dianebrowneblog.blogspot.com
The excellent broadcast journalist and newly-elected President of the Press Association of Jamaica Dionne Jackson Miller is writing in RJR’s opinion section, along with colleagues. You can find her latest post, “State funding for politics parties?” here: http://rjrnewsonline.com/opinion/state-funding-for-political-parties
Justice matters: I have not commented much on this, although there is much to say. I recommend a strongly worded piece on another Jamaican blog that I see developing nicely: http://jablogz.com/2014/09/when-there-is-no-justice-rebellion-becomes-law/ There is much to think about. Kudos, too, to the fearless journalist Cliff Hughes, who has regularly highlighted particularly egregious cases of human rights abuses and miscarriages of justice over the years and continues to do so. He often reads from reports by the excellent Gleaner court reporter Barbara Gayle, whose work I would also like to highly commend. The reports are real eye-openers.
Veerle Poupeye, who is celebrating thirty years living on the island. She is doing a terrific job as Executive Director of the National Gallery of Jamaica, bringing it into the public eye with initiatives like the free “Last Sundays” of each month, which are always really enjoyable. Why don’t you drop by on Sunday, September 28?
I extend condolences to all those who are mourning the murder of the following Jamaican citizens:
Police Constable James Grant, 35, African Gardens/August Town, St. Andrew
Jesse James, 24, Westmore Gardens, Spanish Town, St. Catherine
Mario Duhaney, Central Village, St. Catherine (killed by police)
Robert Barrett, 45, Anchovy, St. James
Lebert Jones, 70, Crofts Hill, Clarendon