A Sunday check-in, and plenty going on it seems. The Jamaican obsession with health issues continues unabated.
A double whammy: Last week, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) in her wisdom dropped two long-running, highly publicized cases involving the deaths of civilians and the police. One was the murder of an entertainer called Robert Hill (“Kentucky Kid”), who was shot dead in 2009 at his Kingston home. The DPP decided to drop the case against three police officers and two civilians because of lack of evidence – although the Coroner’s Court ruled finally in August that they should be charged for his murder. Now, Mr. Hill had posted videos on YouTube, talked to the media and human rights groups, told everyone he was being threatened by the police after a disagreement with them over a motor accident. The DPP said she had to go along with the police claim of a “shootout.” It would be “unethical” for her to pursue it further, she said. Unethical.
Secondly, a case of major concern – the alleged abduction and murder of two young men in Kingston (ten years ago) by two policemen – simply outraged me. The DPP decided to drop this one because, having consulted with the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Justice on the budget – it was too expensive to continue. Earlier this year, when there was a hung jury in the case, the judge ordered a retrial. But no, can’t afford it, sorry. Now, if Parliament had done the regulations attached to legislation (passed nearly two years ago) on video evidence being provided by witnesses in court, it might have happened (a room has already been set aside for this, but no – regulations not done yet). The Gleaner responded with an excellent editorial: “Justice kicked in the gut.” Twice.
The DPP came on radio with a long monologue with her legalese. But the fact is, Madam… When was a policeman successfully prosecuted for murder? Between 2000 and 2010 there were 2,220 Jamaicans killed by the police. Two policemen were convicted (none since 2006). Then again, what is the clear-up rate for murders in Jamaica? (And I don’t mean killing a wanted man in a “shootout” either – that is not a “clear-up.”) I think it is not much more than five per cent of murders are solved annually. Jamaica’s justice system is a disaster. And yet there are people clamoring for the death penalty?
“There’s no justice in JA. None, none.” So said the mother of one of the young men abducted on the Washington Boulevard, Kemar Walters. Who can say otherwise?
Not wanted: The song and dance about Jamaicans being turned away at Trinidad’s airport, allegedly ill-treated and disrespected, has started up again. The Trinidadians now claim there are 19,000 Jamaicans living illegally in their country, without work or fixed abode. Since Trinidad’s economy consistently performs better than Jamaica’s, and there are likely more opportunities, it is not surprising that Jamaicans want to try their luck there. And there is supposed to be something called freedom of movement among countries in the Caribbean Community. There have been some rather tactless comments on both sides, and many Jamaicans feel the Trinidadians are “dissing” them again. Still, now the two countries are supposed to be having “immigration talks” (didn’t that happen a few months ago?)
And definitely not wanted: So then detained Trinidadian Muslim leader Yasin Abu Bakr at Kingston’s international airport as he was coming in for a shindig with the creepy Louis Farrakhan which took place today at the National Arena. Mr. Abu Bakr was not amused and apparently became “boisterous” when they tried to send him back on a commercial flight, “in the interest of public safety.” So the man was put in detention and deported on Friday via private plane at a cost to taxpayers of J$4 million. The National Security Ministry explained: “Under the circumstances, it is the country (in this case Jamaica) which refuses to land a passenger that is required to pay for the return flight.” Why Louis Farrakhan would want to hold his “Million Man March” in Jamaica anyway is beyond me. I am not sure what benefit it will bring Jamaica; incidentally, the Nation of Islam has a local HQ in Portmore, St. Catherine. (Reminder: Abu Bakr and others attempted to overthrow the Trinidadian government in 1990, taking some parliamentarians hostage. 24 people were killed). Oh, enough already… I wonder though if the Farrakhan visit caused any more cost to us taxpayers, apart from (indirectly) the four million?
Other unwanted ones: Anyone from Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone. Jamaica followed some other Caribbean countries (St. Lucia and St. Vincent/Grenadines and others) and imposed a travel ban on travelers from these three countries on Thursday. This coincided with a major “scare” (yes, there had to be one) the day before, when a U.S. citizen traveling from Liberia was allowed to go to his hotel in Montego Bay after being cleared through the airport (he had no symptoms). Oh, and back to the Muslims: A Guyanese Muslim leader, Gerald Perreira, who heads the Black Consciousness Movement Guyana, was taken off a flight in Antigua en route to Jamaica. He is planning legal action!
Panicking professionals: Meanwhile, at Mandeville’s public hospital, a Nigerian man who turned out to have food poisoning vomited in the waiting room, causing hysteria. According to Gleaner sources, some of the medical staff locked themselves in a room when they heard his nationality and refused to treat him. I really hope this is untrue. Yes, it is true that the promised training for medical staff has not yet taken place (see below); and presumably they do not have the protective gear either. But they should have also been trained to support and help the patient, first and foremost; so put whatever gear you have on, isolate him and calm people down. Don’t panic! But then, recently a man died after many hours on a waiting room floor in a public hospital, so it seems helping patients may not always be a top priority. Something needs to be done about all of this!
Taking the lead: The Prime Minister held a meeting, and read out a statement about Jamaica’s Ebola preparedness – or, at least, plans to prepare. The text of her statement is here: http://jis.gov.jm/statement-prime-minister-action-relating-health-emergency/ It is simply marvelous that our PM has finally sat up and paid attention to the growing concerns over the chikungunya virus, which got carried over into a near-panic over Ebola. We will wait and see what actually happens. For some reason the so-called Information Minister, Sandrea Falconer, is “monitoring” the too-little-too-late cleanup operations across the island, to remove mosquito breeding sites. J$500 million has been allocated for this purpose, apparently. Commentator Gordon Robinson gives some interesting historical background in his latest blog post, here: http://theterribletout.wordpress.com/2014/10/14/ready-for-the-big-one/ – asserting, for example: “Almost every modern outbreak of dengue can be traced to Jamaica’s abysmal public health practices (1963/64 when the first 1500 cases were confirmed here; 1968/69 and 1977).”
Can we all calm down and get a little perspective on Ebola, please? I know the government’s (non)performance on chikungunya does not exactly fill one with confidence, but in many ways I am more concerned about its ongoing, lackadaisical approach to public health in general. The Ministry of Education has finally roused itself and decided to use the upcoming half-term break to clean up the compounds of 300 schools (why not all schools?) No rush, take your time… Meanwhile two teachers and a student have died at Vere Technical High School due to the virus – they all had existing medical conditions, but I think we need to pay attention.
200 communities fogged? So we are told, but certainly our community (and nowhere near it, that I know of) was not on the list. Not that spraying chemicals around the place is the most effective way of fighting mosquito infestation. There needs to have been – over decades – attention paid to public and environmental health. Which was not done. I recently noted the horrific state of lands close to the Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston – a smoking garbage dump (illegal), piles of waste along the seashore and clear attempts to burn toxic material (aerosols etc). And yes, I took photos. The problem is far deeper than a few quick clean-ups organized by politicians and supporters.
Also, how many (residential) communities have raw sewage flowing in the street? Yes, raw sewage. How does this balance out with our new-found zeal for “cleaning up”? I have seen several television reports in the past few weeks. Riverton Meadows (how inappropriately named) is one such community, represented by Industry, Investment & Commerce Minister Anthony Hylton, where raw sewage has been flowing through the residents’ yards for months. Has this been addressed, or will it be?
As for the local opinion polls… One People’s National Party (PNP) Member of Parliament told me that polls are only a “snapshot.” This is true, but the recent Gleaner polls are pretty scary snapshots for the PNP, I would think. The “Comrades” must be concerned at the lack of trust and confidence in their government – in particular the apparent slump in their talisman Portia Simpson Miller’s popularity. 80 per cent of those polled, according to today’s results, say the Government has not kept its promises and is lacking in accountability and transparency. Ugh! But are our polls really reliable?
Thank you to the husband of our Prime Minister, Portia Simpson Miller, for donating four thermal sensors (to detect high temperatures) for ebola screening at the airport. They are all in Kingston, though; I think we need them in Montego Bay as soon as possible, so hope they will “soon come.”
I heard that there was a double murder just up the road from our house in Kingston last night. However, the local media don’t seem to have reported it yet. After all, it’s a holiday weekend. In any event, I extend my condolences to the families of these Jamaicans who have lost their loved ones:
Shamar Salmon, 33, Allman Town, Kingston (killed by police)
Natoya Sloley, 29, Montego Bay, St. James
Karl Fletcher, Tower Hill, St. James
Tyrone Cunningham, 38, Over River, St. James
Latoya Birch, 23, Culloden, Westmoreland
Peter Faley, 29, Seaforth, St. Thomas