It really has been a strange week. Moreover, Kingston has reverted to drought mode, which is not good. Thunder – yes; rain – no…
In the wake of the wave of murders, the people of Rockfort are not co-operating with the police. It’s a case of “See no evil, hear no evil…” If they don’t give any information to the police… Well, they will find it much harder to catch the bad guys and nothing…nothing will change in that community. In a few weeks’ time, the gang activity will get going again, and again they will say nothing, and so on and so on. There were a good few eye-witnesses to last week’s shootings, but not a word (they say it was too dark). But this is not a large community; they must know something. Meanwhile, three of their neighbors are dead and six still in hospital. It could be them next time. The silent ones.
Throwing out cases: I am a little worried about comments made by Justice Minister Mark Golding in the Upper House on Friday. He said he was considering the possibility of legislation to allow cases that have not been tried in the Resident Magistrate Courts for more than two years to be thrown out. Am I unnecessarily concerned? Minister Golding said the idea was to start with the “less serious” cases, but that if it worked, “we will move up from there.” Move up and throw out more serious cases? I am not very good at legal matters, so perhaps I am missing something. If the trial hasn’t even started, I guess… But I am afraid this might be open to abuse, especially considering the shambolic state of our justice system. The backlog is already ballooning. Perhaps someone can enlighten me on this.
The young ones: It seems the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) is seeking to energize its young people. Young Jamaica (its grassroots youth arm, which has been rather dormant in recent years) had a meeting this evening and tweeted a bunch of photos (here’s one). Both JLP leader Andrew Holness and Finance Spokesman Audley Shaw made rousing speeches, I hear.
PetroCaribe looking wobbly: How is Jamaica going to “cushion” the impact of the possible demise of the PetroCaribe oil deal with Venezuela (to use the Gleaner’s expression)? OK, we know Jamaica now has an arrangement to repay part of its debt to Venezuela “in kind” (in clinker) and Jamaica continues to benefit from the oil export arrangement to the tune of some US$500 million annually. Opposition Finance Spokesman Audley Shaw recently questioned the way in which the PetroCaribe Development Fund is being used – for example, to pay J$2.89 billion from the Consolidated Fund into PetroCaribe to facilitate the divestment of the Wallenford Coffee Company! I noted in June that a consultant hired to do a risk assessment on the project had been fired for various reasons; was someone else hired? I also noted in March that the PetroCaribe office, headed by Dr. Wesley Hughes, had just moved into larger, more expensive offices in New Kingston and even taken on new staff. You can find good background on the history and development of PetroCaribe on the excellent diGJamaica website here: http://digjamaica.com/petrocaribe Is Jamaica really prepared for the economic fallout?
Those elusive megawatts: While other countries in the Caribbean and around the world are forging ahead with various power projects – including a push to renewables – I feel we are shilly-shallying about on the vexed issue of the planned major expansion. Why did the Electricity Sector Enterprise Team (ESET) push back the procurement to the first quarter of next year? Am I missing something? Also, why has the amended Electricity Act been similarly delayed?
The global Chinese (secret) land grab: Meanwhile, the Sunday Times of Sri Lanka has been reporting on the controlling stake obtained by Chinese state-owned companies (including the parent company of our China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) China Communication Construction Company (CCCC)) in Colombo’s new Hambatota Port. Sri Lankans have been surprised to learn that an agreement was signed back in 2010, but there were no tenders or prior announcements. Transparency? Nah, not much. The newspaper has not been able to obtain copies of relevant agreements. It also reports CCCC will receive 108 hectares of the Colombo Port City “to cover its investment costs.” It also points to “still unanswered questions on how this project which proposes to give ownership of newly constructed [reclaimed] land to a foreign company would affect Sri Lanka’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, freedom and rights of the citizens and as to whether the judicial structure of the country would apply to the newly constructed area.” Any of this sound familiar?
And how is the logistics hub going? Apart from the threatened transshipment port on Goat Islands of course, which is separate and under the purview of our wily Transport Minister Omar Davies, I am not hearing much about it. I believe Industry, Investment & Commerce Minister Anthony Hylton is the point man, and he seems rather quiet. One person who was a very keen promoter of the hub was the President of the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce, Francis Kennedy, who sadly passed away in a Florida hospital early today. My condolences to his family.
There has been much interesting and useful discussion on the parliamentary review of the Sexual Offences Act. Marital rape has been a particularly vexed issue. As Dionne Jackson-Miller notes in her excellent piece (you can find it on “Opinions,” a page that RJR News is trying to ramp up on its website): “A married woman in Jamaica can only complain that she has been raped by her husband in very limited circumstances.” There is much work to be done here.
And on a sporting note: The West Indies cricket team – once touted as a lovely example of “Caribbean unity,” at least in the former English colonies – imploded recently in India. What a mess, and what were the players thinking? I am not a cricket fan, but was a little surprised to hear that a few days ago there was a football competition sponsored by LIME going on at the hallowed ground of Sabina Park in Kingston, and this isn’t the first time. Cricketers are always so fussy about their grounds – how can kicking a football around help? Or is this a sign of the times? (On the other hand, I understand that the National Stadium, where football is normally played, is in very bad condition. I guess there’s no money for that).
Thank you and “big ups” to:
- The astute and intelligent “veteran” journalist Franklin McKnight, a Fulbright Scholar and former head of the Press Association of Jamaica, who now heads the Irie FM newsroom as well as other journalistic ventures (I wish he was in Kingston though – I rarely see him!) Along with two other terrific journalists, Franklin was awarded the Order of Distinction in last week’s National Honors. The other two are the Gleaner’s first (and so far, only) woman Editor-in-Chief Wyvolyn Gager and Owen James, journalism pioneer, who currently produces and hosts business programs on CVM Television. All three fantastic Jamaicans.
- Supreme Ventures Limited and Sagicor for their generous donations to the Government’s Ebola preparedness efforts. Supreme Ventures will make their cash donation tomorrow to purchase more temperature sensors and other items for use at the island’s airports. Sagicor donated funds for a walk-through fever scanner, to be installed at Montego Bay’s Sangster International Airport, last Tuesday. Thank you SO much for stepping up to the plate! The Gleaner also donated J$1 million to the University Hospital of the West Indies recently – the proceeds of its 180th anniversary walk/run in September. Cool!
Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) for winning the first round of a legal bid to get more information on the proposed transshipment port at Goat Islands in the Portland Bight Protected Area. The judge agreed this week that the Minister of Finance had no authority to issue Certificates of Exemption blocking JET from obtaining documents it requested under the Access to Information Act. It also said the Government should pay half JET’s legal costs. But the Port Authority of Jamaica is the other defendant in the case. It has a whole set of additional arguments. So this part of the proceedings will take place on June 3 and 4, 2015. Yes, I kid you not!
My condolences to those who are mourning the violent deaths of their loved ones:
Unidentified man, Orange Street, Kingston
Jerome Bryan, 25, Twickenham Park, St. Catherine
Christopher Swaby, 47, Alligator Pond, Manchester
Kevin Vidal, 32, New Hall, Manchester
Keno Brown, 29, Lilliput, St. James