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.
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 (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?
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?
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.
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.
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.
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…
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 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.
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 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, 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!
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