Outameni One Confusion, A Sea of Green and A Distinguished Judge: Tuesday, November 18, 2014


The political temperature continues to soar, despite cooling showers recently. One particular issue has dominated the news this week. A political “snowball” effect… Or rather, a very murky fog that seems to be enveloping…yes, you’ve guessed it…

Outameni: Inevitably, considering the mess and confusion since the Prime Minister’s “explanation” in Parliament a week ago, lots of stuff has hit the fan over the last few days regarding the National Housing Trust’s (NHT) highly controversial purchase of the Outameni Experience tourist attraction. Oh no – sorry! The Prime Minister told Parliament it wasn’t the attraction – it was the “property” (all of nine acres) that was bought. Don’t we also need to know at what point the PM became aware of the Outameni issue (considering that the NHT

Cecile Watson was dismissed as Managing Director of the NHT in November, 2013 - for an allegedly unauthorized expenditure for the refurbishing of NHT's offices. (Photo: Gleaner)
Cecile Watson was dismissed as Managing Director of the NHT in November, 2013 – for an allegedly unauthorized expenditure for the refurbishing of NHT’s offices. (Photo: Gleaner)

Two NHT board members resigned yesterday: trade unionists Senator Kavan Gayle and Helene Davis Whyte. So the NHT board is shrinking; remember four members resigned earlier this year, following the firing of NHT Managing Director Cecile Watson for allegedly spending too much money on her office furniture (how very ironic that seems in retrospect) just over a year ago. We are still not sure exactly why they resigned.

Opposition Spokesman on Finance Audley Shaw in full flight at Sunday's Jamaica Labour Party Annual Conference. (Photo: Gleaner)
Opposition Spokesman on Finance Audley Shaw in full flight at Sunday’s Jamaica Labour Party Annual Conference. (Photo: Gleaner)

Then Outameni’s creator and former operator, Lenbert Little-White – perhaps best known for his television soap operas – has been speaking to the media (perhaps a little too much). He tells us that two Outameni transactions were debt write-offs (some J$76 million I understand), noting there was no controversy over them at the time. The company recorded losses every year of its operation. Mr. Little-White reportedly denied accusations by  Opposition Finance Spokesman Audley Shaw that he wrote to the Prime Minister; he said he just threatened to, until the NHT Chair Easton Douglas took him on one side and told him to hold off, for now.

Businessman and former operator of Outameni, Lenbert Little-White.
Businessman and former operator of Outameni, Lenbert Little-White. (Photo: Gleaner)

Mr. Little-White also accused Shaw  – who fulminated on the topic at the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) Annual Conference on Sunday – of being motivated by issues of color and class. “People who look like me…” etc etc. Unfortunate. And poor Mr. Little-White became rather angry during a radio interview with interviewer Cliff Hughes, after another confusing interview. Well, confusing to me, anyway. But having said all that, I think the concept of Outameni is rather a good idea. Is it going to be dismantled by the NHT, now? No wonder Mr. Little-White is so disappointed and upset. He is a creative person and I believe still owns the intellectual property. There has not been much discussion about this aspect of the purchase, although the PM mentioned it in Parliament.

Is our leader leading? Journalist Cliff himself asked of Portia Simpson Miller: “When is she going to realize she is Prime Minister?” I already said I was also baffled by certain turns of phrase she used in her comments in Parliament last week. “I am told…and so on. I am sorry, but Prime Ministers don’t normally use this kind of language, do they? It almost sounded like:“Well, I was told to say this…” I think a leader gives instructions, rather than taking them!

Members of G2K at the Jamaica Labour Party Annual Conference on Sunday. (Photo: Twitter)
Members of G2K at the Jamaica Labour Party Annual Conference on Sunday. (Photo: Twitter)

A “sea of green”: This is how enthusiastic JLP supporters described their Annual Conference in Kingston on Sunday. Twitter friends gave the G2K leader Floyd Green high marks for an inspiring speech. It was also encouraging to see so many young people there; the party’s youth arm, Young Jamaica, is reinventing itself with a burst of energy. But a high turnout of supporters and inspiring speeches do not an election victory make. JLP leader Andrew Holness was not quite focused enough in his speech.

A vendor protests after her goods are confiscated by the police in downtown Kingston. (Photo: Gleaner)
A vendor protests after her goods are confiscated by the police in downtown Kingston. (Photo: Gleaner)

I am glad to see the Acting Public Defender has taken up the issue of vendors’  goods being confiscated by police – and apparently they are donated to children’s homes. Apparently, no proper records are kept. There are also health and safety concerns for the children in giving them perishable goods with no record of their origin. And I have always thought it was so unfair to confiscate all the goods the vendors – entrepreneurs – have purchased with their own money. The vendors pay fines for selling on the street or in non-designated areas, but their goods are not returned. Do these struggling entrepreneurs have to start from scratch?

London-based Jamaican writer Kei Miller keeps his finger on the pulse of Jamaican society in his admirable blog. Spurred by a vapid, insensitive video by a former Jamaican beauty queen (who even seemed to find Chik V amusing; not for those Jamaicans who have suffered and even lost family and friends as a result) Mr. Miller has now jumped in and tackled the ever-sensitive, ever-present issue of race (and class) in Jamaica in his blog, here: http://underthesaltireflag.com/2014/11/16/the-brownwhite-jamaican-and-the-right-to-take-offence/ And do read the very interesting and varied responses from Jamaicans of various complexions. These issues won’t go away in post-colonial Jamaica, it seems. Fifty years later…they are still real.

Speaking of blogs, please do read my latest on Gleaner Online, entitled: “Pay Our Mothers, The Producers of Quality Citizens.” You can read it here: http://gleanerblogs.com/socialimpact/?p=2343 Thanks and kudos again to the 51% Coalition and Friedrich Ebert Stiftung for a stimulating and challenging “reality check” from women’s activist Joan French.

Lacey-Ann Bartley has a wonderful selection of gift ideas… Take a look at Bartley's All in Wood Facebook page...
Lacey-Ann Bartley has a wonderful selection of gift ideas… Take a look at Bartley’s All in Wood Facebook page…

Christmas is coming! And why not Buy Jamaican this Christmas? There are lots of great artisans out there – like the creative young entrepreneur Lacey-Ann Bartley, for example, who is Managing Director of Bartley’s All in Wood. The firm manufactures, designs and sells 100% Jamaican, handmade, wooden, traditional and contemporary furniture and jewelry. Lacey-Ann holds a Master of Science Degree in Government from the UWI, Mona and is the recipient of the Jamaica Business Development Corporation 2014 Entrepreneur of the Year Award.

And let’s get on with the kudos, now: 

Jamaican writer Marlon James on the front page of "Publisher's Weekly."
Jamaican writer Marlon James on the front page of “Publisher’s Weekly.”

Speaking of young Jamaican writers, many congratulations to U.S.-based Marlon James, whose novel “A Brief History of Seven Killings” continues to receive glowing reviews. The esteemed Publishers Weekly recently listed the novel as one its Top Ten Best Books for 2014, and Mr. James appears on the publication’s front cover for November 3. To read many more reviews of the book go to this link: http://repeatingislands.com/2014/11/16/marlon-james-a-brief-history-of-seven-killings-one-of-pws-10-best-books-of-2014/

Justice Patrick Robinson. (Photo: Gleaner)
Justice Patrick Robinson. (Photo: Gleaner)

Justice Patrick Robinson (the father of my Member of Parliament and State Minister Julian Robinson) was yesterday elected as a Judge in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) after a somewhat tough battle. He will serve for a nine-year period beginning in February 2015. Justice Robinson is the first Jamaican and only the second Caribbean national to serve in the ICJ since it was established seventy years ago. It’s a tremendous achievement!

INDECOM Commissioner Terrence Williams (left) shakes hands with the U.S. Embassy's Charge d'Affaires
INDECOM Commissioner Terrence Williams (left) shakes hands with the U.S. Embassy’s Charge d’Affaires at the recent donation of a van and equipment. (Photo: U.S. Embassy)

Thanks to the U.S. Embassy for funding vans and crime scene equipment for the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) and microscopes for the National Forensic Science Lab. And also to the U.S. and Canadians for funding a Polygraph Unit at Twickenham Park Police Academy. This is the kind of practical assistance we need when fighting crime and creating a more secure Jamaica.

Speaking about crime, it is good to see that murders remain much lower this year than in 2013. Long may it continue until the end of the year and beyond! My condolences to Mr. Johnson’s family.

André Johnson, 27, Comfort District, Manchester

 

National Security Minister Peter Bunting (seated) looks at equipment donated by the U.S. and Canadian diplomatic missions to the National Forensic Science
National Security Minister Peter Bunting (seated) looks at equipment donated by the U.S. Embassy to the National Forensic Science Laboratory. (Photo: U.S. Embassy)

2 thoughts on “Outameni One Confusion, A Sea of Green and A Distinguished Judge: Tuesday, November 18, 2014

  1. Emma,

    Outameni may be a good idea–the world is full of them–but it was a business failure–the world is full of them, too. Using public money to bail it out beggars questions. (Those who contend it was not a bail out just want to pretend that a bail out is not a bail out. Ask DBJ what it was doing.) Using funds really meant for housing solutions beggars more than that. Having debts written off by banks is also problematic, but those are business decisions that are usually subject to good internal reviews, which doesn’t rule out political influence. But, of all the worthy cases for bail out why was Outameni so high on the list?

    The PM is clearly not a good decision maker or manager. Her ‘strengths’ lie elsewhere. Her own portfolio is not well administered by her. One has to wonder about the quality of her advisers and how they have interpreted their roles. She also seems to preside over an administration where lax oversight is more norm than exception. That’s a tinderbox waiting to explode. NHT may be the spark. The PM is also giving credence to her ‘doing less with more money’ remarks. The ‘debate’ over whether Jamaica is or isn’t a failed state keeps being fueled by failures of the state to function well and in the public interest.

    I’ve read Kei’s blog but not seen the video. The comments on the blog are mainly good and interesting in showing that many views are possible on the sensitive issues he raises. I’ve no reason to think that 50 years of independence in Jamaica would even scratch a little away from what might have been created over centuries in a much wider world. On the issue of who has rights to take offence, Lennie Little-White’s appeal for his slice of the right for bail out sits in an interesting position.

    Nice read, as usual.

    Like

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