The Mic Grab, A Beach Victory and Trafigura Resurrected: Sunday, November 30, 2014

I am trying to stick to the same days of the week to post my news updates. It’s not working too well, so much is intervening. It’s a busy time of year, you know. However, you can expect two posts per week, no matter what. The past week has been rather intense, in terms of news.

The flooded Bog Walk Gorge - the main road from the south to the north coast - yesterday. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)
The flooded Bog Walk Gorge – the main road from the south to the north coast – yesterday. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

Delicious rain has enveloped us this weekend. Not so delicious for places like the Bog Walk Gorge, however, where the Rio Cobre overflowed its banks and a number of people were stranded. There are now gates at each end to close the Gorge in times of flooding, as the road runs right alongside the river. It seems these gates were not working too well yesterday (or did I get that wrong?) Why do people insist on driving through the Gorge in heavy rain? Of course it’s a main road, and people are always in a hurry and want to take a short cut. Incidentally, our ubiquitous friends China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) thinks it would be a great idea to dam the Gorge and have got the go-ahead from the Government (who don’t know how to say “no” to CHEC) to conduct a feasibility study. The highly experienced director of the Water Resources Authority Basil Fernandez is highly doubtful. He believes it would be like “constructing a white elephant” and I would give much more credence to his opinion than someone at the National Water Commission eager for “investment.”

The Case of the Snatched Mic: There was a ludicrous and disturbing performance at one of the increasingly rare post-Cabinet press briefings on Wednesday – and in the middle of Journalism Week, no less. Obviously the Portia Simpson Miller administration is feeling the heat on the Outameni/NHT furore, and Information Minister Sandrea Falconer had strapped on her battle armor for this session. Now, the young television journalist (who had already been treated very rudely by a government Senator recently) asked a question, and a follow-up question or two on “that topic.” The Minister put on her haughty air, reminding the journalists that she decides what questions she wants to answer (she can pick, choose and only answer the easy ones?)

The Director of Communications in the Office of the Prime Minister Huntley Medley was appointed two or three months ago. He is a former journalist. (Photo: Gleaner)
The Director of Communications in the Office of the Prime Minister Huntley Medley was appointed less than three months ago. He is a former journalist. (Photo: Gleaner)

The Director of Communications in the Office of the Prime Minister Huntley Medley (who was appointed in September) then appeared and took the mic from the journalist, later signaling for the microphone of another young radio reporter to be muted. The Press Association of Jamaica (PAJ) reacted speedily, observing: “We call on the Office of the Prime Minister to find ways to manage its press conferences other than to have officials physically wresting microphones from journalists. This is not acceptable, and we urge a review of its procedures in this regard.” Medley later conceded he was doing the right thing (in his opinion) but in the wrong way – an illogical comment.

Mr. Medley, when are you going to allow the Jamaican press to actually engage with our Prime Minister? 

Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller does not want Jamaicans to express their opinion on the CCJ via referendum. (Photo: Gleaner)
Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller does not want Jamaicans to express their opinion on the CCJ via referendum. (Photo: Gleaner)

The CCJ debate: Instead of plunging into a parliamentary debate on whether Jamaica should join the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as its final court of appeal, I agree with today’s Gleaner editorial that both sides of the House, quite diametrically opposed on the issue, could sit down together and figure something out. The Prime Minister is for some reason firmly opposed to a referendum on the matter. Considering that a move to the CCJ and separation from the UK Privy Council would need to be entrenched in our Constitution, I believe that the public should be properly educated on what it would really mean for them, and allowed to have their say. I am not particularly for or against Caribbean integration (sort of depends?) but just let the people speak, nuh?

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Oh! I forgot! We are #OrdinaryInarticulateJamaicans, as opposed to the thousands of Jamaicans on Twitter who, according to the contemptuous Minister Pickersgill, are articulate but really don’t count. Please see my previous post on this issue. And of course the vast majority of Jamaicans who, according to the Minister, are inarticulate don’t have any say either, because they’re “dunce.”  By the way, I have met very few inarticulate Jamaicans! And there are more on social media every day.

One of the demonstrators at Kingston's Emancipation Park on Friday evening. (My photo)
One of the demonstrators at Kingston’s Emancipation Park on Friday evening. (My photo)

By the way, I wish Journalism Week consisted of more than a church service at the beginning (I don’t go to church) and an awards ceremony/banquet at the end (this year, two media houses walked away with almost all the awards). Where are the vibrant discussions on the role of the press in a democracy, etc? I hope the new Press Association of Jamaica team will do a bit more next year. Journalism Week needs to engage the wider public – but it appears to be an exclusive thing. OK, fine. So be it.

I took this photo of beautiful Winnifred's Beach in Portland last year when family was visiting. We had a nice little meal down there and relaxation was 100%!
I took this photo of beautiful Winifred’s Beach in Portland last year when family was visiting. We had a nice little meal down there and relaxation was 100%!

Winifred’s Beach in eastern Portland is undoubtedly one of the most beloved chill out spots on the island. It has brilliantly clear water (thanks to a small spring that smells of sulphur), good swimming conditions as it’s quite sheltered, shady almond trees and some nice people selling food on the beach. It’s also relatively free of hustlers. We have spent many happy hours there. This week there was good news about Winnifred’s. After a five-year long legal fight, the Port Antonio Resident Magistrate’s Court ordered the Urban Development Corporation (UDC), a Government agency, to allow free public access to the beach. The UDC had planned to “develop” the land adjoining the beach for tourism. A great victory for the Free Winnifred Beach Benevolent Society. But why should Jamaicans have to fight in court for access to a beach? The Society now plans to control the beach and the environment (including protecting nesting turtles). Good! Wonderful.

An idle game of football at Winifred's Beach. (My photo)
An idle game of football at Winifred’s Beach. (My photo)

Things people are not talking about any more:  Ebola, Chikungunya, dredging the reservoir…Trafigura. Trafigura? Actually, we will be talking about that one again soon, as all next week the Appeal Court will be hearing the appeal by the Prime Minister and senior People’s National Party officials against a ruling by the Constitutional Court. The Court ruled in September 2013 that the politicians should answer questions from a Dutch investigator in open court about an alleged donation by the company to the People’s National Party while it was in office in 2006.  Yes, Trafigura Beheer was the Outameni/NHT of 2006! More to follow…

Commissioner of Police Dr Carl Williams addressing residents of Tivoli Gardens in West Kingston last Thursday. (Photo: Joseph Wellingston/Observer)
Commissioner of Police Dr Carl Williams addressing residents of Tivoli Gardens in West Kingston last Thursday. The Commissioner urged them to help fight crime in the inner-city community. (Photo: Joseph Wellingston/Observer)

West Kingston Commission of Enquiry: The long-awaited enquiry into the incursion by security forces in Tivoli Gardens in May 2010 begins tomorrow, and there has been almost no commentary in the media about it. I don’t know if this is a good or bad thing. An excellent media workshop conducted by the UNDP office in Jamaica in early October was well attended. I am hoping the media coverage will focus on the human rights of those many Jamaicans (we don’t even know the exact number, to this day, but somewhere around 80 Jamaican citizens) who lost their lives, and those still suffering. Sensationalism will not help – in fact, it would be an insult to their memory.

12 countries that hate their government the most:  Jamaica is at #10 in a recent survey. Are we surprised, based on recent public opinion polls? At least, I expect the polls findings would have turned up when Gallup/market.com did their research. Here’s the link: http://www.marketwatch.com/story/12-countries-that-hate-their-government-most-2014-11-03?mod=mw_share_twitter&n_play=547a3a18e4b0c5ee2df53d72 The short commentary notes: Percent approving of government: 20% (tied-ninth highest) Percent believe government corruption widespread: 86% (tied-17th highest) Unemployment rate (2013): 15.3% (16th highest). Financial hardship and economic instability in Jamaica have contributed to the nation’s abysmal government approval rating. Nearly 60% of Jamaican survey respondents told Gallup they did not have enough money for food in the previous 12 months, and more than 15% of the workforce was unemployed last year, both among the higher rates reviewed. Not only was it hard to find a job, but Jamaica has also had one of the world’s highest inflation rates. Last year, 86% of respondents said they believed corruption was common throughout the government.”

Handing out bouquets to:

The ever-glamorous Janet Silvera of the Gleaner always tackles the real issues, with humanity. (Photo: Facebook)
The ever-glamorous Janet Silvera of the Gleaner always tackles the real issues, with humanity. (Photo: Facebook)

The journalists who received awards at the PAJ’s annual Banquet. I would especially like to mention environmental journalist Petre Williams Raynor (now in Lima for the UN Climate Change Conference) and the West’s Janet Silvera. Both write for the Gleaner. 

Petre Williams-Raynor is an excellent environmental writer who works with Panos Caribbean. Congratulations to her on receiving two well-deserved awards from the Press Association of Jamaica.
Petre Williams-Raynor is an excellent environmental writer who works with Panos Caribbean. Congratulations to her on receiving two well-deserved awards from the Press Association of Jamaica.

The UN Country Team in Jamaica for hosting an important breakfast on the morning of International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and all those who attended, especially the private sector – Jamaica National Building Society (Earl Jarrett) and Kelly Tomblin (Jamaica Public Service Company) were well represented by their CEOs, and there were a number of others.

The always excellent Live at Seven team on CVM Television for highlighting the work of Eve for Life last week, confronting the disturbing issue of child sexual abuse head on, but with sensitivity. Very well done and special kudos to producer/reporter Yolande Gyles Levy.

St. Andrew Parish Church.
St. Andrew Parish Church.

St Andrew Parish Church in Half Way Tree, Kingston, one of the oldest churches in the country, celebrating 350 years of its existence. You can read more about the church here: http://www.standrewparishchurch.com/index.html

Food for the Poor donates medication and equipment to help fight the chikungunya virus to the Ministry of Health.
Food for the Poor donated medication and equipment to help fight the chikungunya virus to the Ministry of Health recently at its Ellerslie Pen, Spanish Town head office.

Food for the Poor, which donated seven million 500mg paracetamol and acetaminophen tablets, 2,300 bottles of insect repellent and nine portable pest control foggers to the Ministry of Health, to help Jamaica fight the chikungunya virus. The first handover was in October, and the second donation valued at US$24,851 took place on November 20. Thank you!

19-year-old medical student Danielle Hanson was killed with her passenger, a fellow student, when the car she was driving on Old Hope Road, Kingston, crashed into the curb and then into an SUV heading in the opposite direction.
19-year-old medical student Danielle Hanson was killed with her passenger, a fellow student, when the car she was driving on Old Hope Road, Kingston, crashed into the curb and then into an SUV heading in the opposite direction.

On the road: In the early hours of yesterday morning, on a stretch of road not far from our home, two nineteen-year-old medical students at the University of the West Indies, Danielle Hanson, of Ward Grove, in Manchester and Mikhail Campbell, of Patrick City, in St Andrew, were killed in a car crash. What a waste of young and promising lives. I have never understood why there are never any police “speed traps” on this road.

On the other side of the island, in the rural district of Roehampton, St. James, a water truck crashed into and destroyed a small bar/shop, killing the owner/operator Sadie Kerr and Junior Lawrence, a customer. “We are decent citizens living here, we need water,” said one resident. Lack of water indirectly caused the death of the hard-working Ms. Kerr and Mr. Lawrence. This is a quietly tragic story of struggle, deprivation and loss. My deepest sympathies to the families and community.

Early this morning an RJR (Radio Jamaica) van returning to Kingston from an assignment crashed; six are currently in hospital with serious injuries. Is it speeding? Is it disregard for wet roads? What about seat belts? With 288 people killed on the roads so far this year, it is likely we will reach around 300 fatalities for 2014, which will be a slight increase over last year. Sigh.

Now, I am so sorry and send condolences to the families of these Jamaican citizens who have been killed in the past few days. I note that the police killed two teenagers a few days ago; this hardly got a mention in the media.

Anthony Lawrence, 35, St. William Grant Park/Parade, Kingston

Jerome Collins, 17, Paul Mountain/Kitson Town, St. Catherine and Chris Taylor, 17,  Paul Mountain/Kitson Town, St. Catherine (Killed by police – both listed as unidentified in last post)

Everton Campbell, 24, Land Settlement, Portland

Oneil Scarlett, 33, Red Ground/Negril, Westmoreland

Gary Griffiths, 35, Anotto Bay, St. Mary

Six people are seriously injured after this RJR van skidded on the Spanish Town leg of Highway 2000 around 6:00 am Sunday morning. (Photo: RJR)
Six people are seriously injured after this RJR van skidded on the Spanish Town leg of Highway 2000 around 6:00 am Sunday morning. (Photo: RJR)
68-year-old bar operator Sadie Kerr, also called 'Neva', and Junior Lawrence, were killed when a water truck crashed into the bar and shop Ms. Kerr operated. The driver apparently lost control while driving downhill. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)
68-year-old bar operator Sadie Kerr, also called ‘Neva’, and a customer were killed when a water truck crashed into the bar and shop Ms. Kerr operated. The driver apparently lost control while driving downhill. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)
Everton Campbell was stabbed to death at the age of 24. The mother of his child has been taken into custody. (Photo: On The Ground News Reports)
Everton Campbell of Land Settlement, Portland was stabbed to death at the age of 24 last week. The mother of his child has been taken into custody. (Photo: On The Ground News Reports)

 


6 thoughts on “The Mic Grab, A Beach Victory and Trafigura Resurrected: Sunday, November 30, 2014

  1. On driving through Bog Walk Gorge in the rain, Janet Silvera to,d her harrowing story of her journey that began in no rain but found rain near the gorge. The gates were not closed. Her discussions with Dionne Jackson-Miller highlighted that the current system is not really working fast enough.

    People are still talking about Chik v, including in the UK where cases of people coming back from Caribbean vacations are skyrocketing. It’s also being talked of in Ja in terms of many people dealing with continuing symptoms.

    I thought Journalism Week had more than the bookend PR, but check. Last year PAJ had a conference on press freedom.

    Nice reading, as usual. 😊

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    1. Yes, Bog Walk can flood extremely quickly, so the gate system needs to be really responsive… Yes, I heard people are returning with chik v, but I guess it will not spread because there are no aedes aegyptii mosquitoes in UK, especially in winter! Well, I did not hear of any events during Journalism Week but will double check. I think there should be a public forum of some sort. Engage people, not just an incestuous patting each other on the back! Thanks so much for your comments as always Dennis!

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  2. Trafigura Indeed.The Netherlands are six months late in reporting to their colleagues in the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention on the progress they are making with investigations into alleged corruption by Dutch companies, Did we think that they would eventually just go away in response to our lack of cooperation? It appears to me that the Netherlands has been able to get member countries that have significant interests and influence in Jamaica to say a few words to our government. Think about Jamaica’s vulnerable position financially and international dependency and imagine what pressure Canada, the UK and the US have brought down on the PM. Transparency can and will be enforced externally if not embraced internally. Lesson learning commencing. MUCH more to come!

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    1. Today I read that they have withdrawn their appeal. According to the Gleaner: “Queen’s Counsel K.D. Knight, in making the announcement yesterday in the Supreme Court, disclosed that the appellants will instead pursue an appeal against a ruling made by Supreme Court judge Lennox Campbell, who had started to hear the case. Justice Campbell was stopped from hearing the case pending an order from the Court of Appeal. Knight said his team had discussions and came to the conclusion recently that the Constitutional Court was the wrong venue and that that ruling would be very difficult to overturn. He said they were now awaiting the transcripts in Justice Campbell’s ruling for that appeal to be heard.” I’m trying to wrap my head around this – they are actually still appealing but some legal shenanigans are going on, I think? It seems to me they are in a somewhat shaky position though…

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      1. Treat the two things as separate legal issues. Basically the government lawyers have suddenly conceded that the PM and her colleagues do not have a case in claiming immunity. They could have continued with the Constitutional Court appeal, modifying it by dropping the claim with regards to former minister Colin Campbell and businessman Hinds. If we are operating on the premise that the ultimate objective is to prevent the leader of the PNP having to give sworn testimony in a criminal investigation, this would have been a better tactical move as it would have still kept the Constitutional Court appeal alive regarding the diplomatic immunity of the head of government. An arguable constitutional point and easily worth some additional time in court. As it is, they have simply abandoned their ONLY argument at the door of the court. The Defence only ever does this when trying to get credit AND when faced with insurmountable opposing evidence. The question here is credit with who and evidence from where? There has been zero movement with regards to mutual legal assistance between us and the Netherlands, yet the Dutch reported some months ago that they were making recent progress with their Trafigura investigation. How? The continuing appeal against Justice Campbell’s ruling is now no longer about the substantive legal matter of diplomatic immunity but a procedural one in the Supreme Court about whether they should be required to testify in open court or in chambers.This is not legal shenanigans by KD Knight but an indication that the ground has shifted underneath them. If I had journalist credentials I would be taking my investigation to Canada to see whether any pressure has been applied by that government on Canadian owned assets in Jamaica with any connection to Trafigura.

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      2. Oh, thank you for this explanation. This is incredibly helpful. I am not very good on legal matters… I did suspect “the ground is shifting” but was not sure what this meant for the PNP and where they can go from here. Or is the ball now in the Dutch court? Thanks SO much for this and I hope my other readers who are interested in this will be reading your comments.

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