The days are galloping along amidst golden sunshine and light showers. The garden is blossoming and as Bob Marley would say, “The weather is sweet.”
A big day yesterday: I am not sure why the scheduled (and announced in advance) press briefing by the National Housing Trust (NHT) could not have been streamed live. Wasn’t it important enough (it has been virtually the only topic of political discussion for the past three weeks or so)? Be that as it may, Chairman Easton Douglas spoke to the press on Monday and declared he would not be resigning. In a defiant tone, he added that the failed tourist attraction, Outameni, was a “tangible living investment” that would bring cultural benefits for the Jamaican people, since the property included a 300-year-old “great house.” The Jamaican public sighed/shrugged/groaned/grumbled. But it came as no surprise. Later in the day, after a long Cabinet meeting, there was the highly anticipated “statement” from the Prime Minister. This simply named the four new board members to replace those who have resigned: a retired actuary (the Deputy Chair, a woman), a teacher, a policeman and a pastor (all three men). And that’s it. That’s it! Again, did we really expect anything more? The two press contacts by Mr. Douglas and the PM had been carefully coordinated. Upkeep on the property, the Gleaner reports, is J$1.2 million per month of taxpayers’ and NHT contributors’ money.
One comment by Mr. Douglas (who told radio interviewers the NHT had purchased Outameni “lock stock and barrel” not long ago) quite amused me. When asked if the NHT was seeking to obtain the intellectual property of Outameni, he responded no, not right now, because “we don’t want to appear to be arrogant and not listen to what the public has to say.” I also said “humph” to myself on hearing him say he was sorry Jamaicans had got the wrong end of the stick, and perhaps we misunderstood his earlier explanation of this (still murky) deal. Sorry Mr. Douglas, yes we are rather dense. Perhaps you could have enlightened us a bit earlier?
Standing orders seem to be moving? And Opposition walked: You may recall Opposition Leader Andrew Holness tabling a second set of questions on Outameni for the Prime Minister to answer last week Tuesday, in the Lower House. Well, he might have expected the Prime Minister to provide answers today, since last week she did respond after just one week to his first set of questions. But today – no, the House Standing Orders came into play. The Speaker of the House ruled that answers are not due until tomorrow as they need “seven clear days.” The House of Representatives will not meet again until next Tuesday, December 2. The Opposition gathered its accoutrements (just threw in that word because it’s nice), got up and left. More sighs, groans etc. from the Jamaican public.
The Prime Minister just doesn’t “get” it on the NHT matter. But it’s not just the Outameni issue. It’s a much bigger governance issue.
Humble pie tastes sweet: If you recall, last Friday Senator AJ Nicholson stood up in the Senate and read out an apology regarding his offensive remark in the same place three weeks earlier. Let’s face it, the previous apologies just did not cut it. The Senator (and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, please note) spoke at today’s high-level breakfast hosted by the UN team in Jamaica for International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, launching Eve for Life’s “Nuh Guh Deh” campaign against the sexual abuse of girls. There were several other speakers, including Babsy “Olivia” Grange representing the Opposition Leader, Information Minister Sandrea Falconer representing the PM, and so on. Some expressed anger at the Senator’s mere presence at the breakfast; but to be fair, he did say he wanted to be involved in activities for the day in his apology – as part of the atonement for his sin. And at some point, when someone apologizes, aren’t you supposed to pause, give a deep sigh and say (however reluctantly): “OK…OK, then…“ Let’s have a little love and peace around here, and hope someone has learned a lesson. But let it not happen again, ever, ever… Please.
Two rebellious women: Something unusual has happened. Two members of the People’s National Party – Mayor of Kingston & St Andrew Angela Brown-Burke and another PNP councillor, Venesha Phillips, have both taken to Facebook to vent their frustration over the Outameni issue, according to one report. Now this really is a rare occurrence. Ms. Phillips reportedly feels the NHT chairman demonstrated “contempt for the people of this country” while the Mayor just wishes the NHT board would “shut up” (I know how she feels).
Do we need policemen at our public hospitals? There has been a string of violent incidents that suggest they are pretty insecure places. A man was stabbed when he and another man he had been having a fight with were receiving treatment in the A&E Department at Falmouth Hospital over the weekend. This follows an attack on a nurse at Mandeville Hospital, and some unreported incidents at Spanish Town Hospital, I hear. Now, in the early hours of this morning, a patient, reportedly mentally ill, attacked a nurse at Kingston Public Hospital. Her colleagues protested outside the hospital. It seems there are several issues here to be addressed. But this is disconcerting.
Two (unrelated) questions: How many people have died from complications from the Chikungunya virus? And can we get an update on the Ministry of National Security’s “Unite for Change” program please?
Kudos! To the Forestry Department, which has successfully prosecuted a man and his son for chopping down 911 (!) trees in the Bog Walk area. Henry and Norman Taylor were sentenced to 100 hours of community service to replant 911 seedlings, and maintain them until the expiration of the community service hours. The deforestation by the two men occurred in the HamptonForest Management Area on a private estate. They were also fined – not much, but the replanting is important.
Go entrepreneurs! I am writing about last week’s Global Entrepreneurship Week activities in my weekly Gleaner Online article here: http://gleanerblogs.com/socialimpact/?p=2358 Kudos to all who participated – especially the students, teachers and others involved in Jamaica Junior Achievement, and to Cecile Watson, supporters and sponsors for Jamaica’s first Women’s Entrepreneurship Day.
Great initiative: 25 girls aged 11 to 15 from schools across Kingston are learning computer coding, under a program organized byJulian Robinson, Minister of State in the Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy & Mining. I like this initiative! This is a collaboration with the founder of Halls of Learning, an innovative young educator called Marvin Hall, who participated in a recent UNICEF dialogue on education.
Crime is down by 20 per cent in three rural parishes – St. Ann, St. Mary and Portland – compared to last year, which is excellent news. Congratulations to the hard-working Assistant Commissioner of Police Ealan Powell, who seems to be making an impact in St. Mary. In St. Ann, however, murders have increased slightly. Portland, always by far the quietest parish, has only had six murders this year.
Nevertheless, my condolences go out to the families of these people who lost their lives since I last posted, four days ago:
David Thompson, 39, Crooked River, Clarendon
Mulgrave Rowe, 74, Manchester
Kenroy Montague, 44,Caledonia Road/Mandeville, Manchester
Aaron McGeahy, 47, Caledonia Road/Mandeville, Manchester
Winston Blackwood, 74, Islington, St. Mary
Three unidentified men, Paw Mountain/Kitson Town, St. Catherine (killed by the police)