A Mercenary By-Election, The Instagram Minister and Farewell to Luke: Sunday, December 7, 2014

I am slipping a little in my posts. As Christmas looms ever nearer, there is a frenzy of activity in Kingston. All I want to do is slow down and laze around… But not yet! The weather is exquisite – calm and reflective as the year draws to an end, with little showers and warm (not hot) sunshine.

The victorious Dwayne Vaz gets a congratulatory smooth from the Prime Minister, who spent a lot of time and energy campaigning for her party in Central Westmoreland. Mr Vaz won the by-election there comfortably on Monday. (Photo: Ian Allen/Gleaner)
The victorious Dwayne Vaz gets a congratulatory smooch from the Prime Minister, who spent a lot of time and energy campaigning for her party in Central Westmoreland. Mr Vaz won the by-election there comfortably on Monday. During the campaign, the Prime Minister called the constituency “PNP Country.” (Photo: Ian Allen/Gleaner)

Hey! Over here! Votes for Sale: One issue made me sit up in alarm this week – vote buying. Yes, you heard me. None other than the General Secretary of the People’s National Party (PNP) Paul Burke said on radio that this had taken place during last week’s by-election in Central Westmoreland, when young PNP candidate Dwayne Vaz was ushered into the seat. Just to note that this practice is, obviously, illegal. Why did the PNP officials present (there were two ministers there, I understand, who were aware of it) report this to the police immediately?  Burke said over-zealous party supporters took it upon themselves to pay people to vote, because they were worried about the outcome of the by-election; he said the dedicated supporters thought the PNP could have had a much smaller majority – or even lost, otherwise… But, “I don’t think it could have been more 500 [bought] votes,” said Burke in a reassuring tone. Maybe less. Mr. Burke, even one bought vote is a crime! There are heavy fines!

When interviewed on the matter, National Security Minister Peter Bunting bemoaned the fact that there was a much more “mercenary” approach to elections these days, compared to the good old days of political tribalism. Nowadays, people want to be paid for transporting party supporters to polling stations, for example. Opposition Member of Parliament Audley Shaw was pretty evasive, too, on radio. I was not at impressed by either of them, although Minister Bunting did say perhaps one should look into it. What? You are Minister of National Security? May I repeat: Vote-buying is illegal and a threat to democracy. Full stop!

The voter turnout was 17 per cent (according to Nationwide News Network) at midday, but rose to 32 per cent by the time polls closed at 5:00 pm. There must have been a heck of a rush in the afternoon, don’t you think? By the way, did the Electoral Office of Jamaica say anything, apart from that the election went “smoothly”? As an observer with Citizens’ Action for Free and Fair Elections (CAFFE) at three general elections and a by-election in Hannah Town, I have seen procedures being very properly observed in and around the polling station. But what happens in the weeks, days and hours leading up to the election? That is what worries me. It truly does.

On December 1, the JLP's Faye Reid Jacobs lost to the PNP's Dwayne Vaz with 6,228 votes to Vaz' 8,720 votes. (Photo: Loop Jamaica)
On December 1, the JLP’s Faye Reid Jacobs lost to the PNP’s Dwayne Vaz with 6,228 votes to Vaz’ 8,720 votes. (Photo: Loop Jamaica)

On Twitter, I asked the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party’s youth arm, Young Jamaica, what they thought about vote-buying. They responded that they strongly condemned it. They put out a statement that “all Jamaicans must roundly reject the efforts of these unscrupulous individuals to use big money to influence the outcome of elections. It is a gross insult to the memory of those who fought for universal suffrage in this country.” Yes, that all sounds very noble, but was the JLP aware of any vote-buying by enthusiastic supporters on their side? I don’t have an answer to that.

Now for the “cleaning” of the electoral list. Oops. The government says it doesn’t have any money to do it! Well, we will put that on one side, for now. Anyway, a new list has been published with 32,431 new names. And according to RJR, Central Westmoreland has the highest number of electors (40,180) – how interesting.

Yes, things look rosy this week for our democracy. The bravely outspoken PNP councilor Venesha Phillips (who, ironically, calls herself a “straight shooter” on her Twitter profile) was with some workers building a ramp on the sidewalk for the Sir John Golding Rehab Centre when a group of men fired at them. Ms. Phillips said at least one gun was aimed at her. It must have been terrifying, but no one was hurt. Why did this happen? Because Ms. Phillips has been accused of giving the work (which is not even a whole lot of work, at all) to Jamaicans who happen to perhaps not support her party. How very sad. Ms. Phillips said she does not use party affiliations as criteria for giving out work. Good. She seems to be a strong woman, pushing against the tide. She had the clear support of her Mayor, Angela Brown-Burke. And both parties put out press releases “condemning” the incident. I understand one man has been held.

Hopeful signs: A young man was recently arrested for filming some police officers. Police Commissioner Carl Williams was not happy and ordered his release. I am also glad that the Commissioner has recently ordered an investigation into the murder of two men in the Savannah-la-Mar police lock-up. Why were knives in there? Following the tragedy of Mario Deane, there were promises to tighten up on the supervision of the lock-ups. How could those in charge of these men and responsible for their safety have neglected to find weapons in the possession of inmates there? I am glad to see Commissioner Williams enquiring into these matters.

Looking like a corny ad for "Come to Jamaica" from the 70s, here is our Minister of Youth and Culture, who enjoys flaunting her body on Instagram on a regular basis.
Looking like a corny ad for “Come to Jamaica” from the 70s, here is our Minister of Youth and Culture, who enjoys displaying her body on Instagram on a regular basis with a Ministry handle. Sorry. Tacky.

A Government Minister or a fashion model?: Our Minister of Youth and Culture and former Miss World Lisa Hanna seems to think there is nothing wrong with advertising her scantily clad, enviably toned body on Instagram on a regular basis. Many Jamaicans love this (largely young males, understandably). But does she really wish to be taken seriously as a government minister, when posting photos of self in a skimpy bikini bottom and wet Tshirt under her handle lisahannamyc ? If this was a personal account, fine. Ms. Hanna should drop the myc part. And perhaps spend more time doing some serious work in Parliament, instead of hours at Spartan Gym.

Luke Somers in Sana'a, Yemen, wearing a Trench Town Reading Centre T shirt.
Luke Somers in Sana’a, Yemen, wearing a Trench Town Reading Centre T shirt, not long before he was captured.

Luke Somers was a kind young American (born in my home town, London). I met him at Trench Town Reading Centre, where he was volunteering, in 2010. The kids clearly loved him. Luke was murdered by Yemeni militants (I will just call them terrorists) who took him hostage in September, 2013. Pierre Corkie, a South African teacher and also a hostage, was killed at the same time, along with several Yemenis. Dear Luke, rest in peace. I hope you did not suffer too much. As Reading Centre supporter Owen “Blakka” Ellis wrote on Facebook, ” Rest in Peace and Rise in Power Luke! Your spirit and your good works live on. “ Trench Town misses you (more about Luke in previous blog post). 

There is so much more to write about. I will try to catch up in the next post. I have not even touched on the PetroCaribe uncertainties, nor the Commission of Enquiry into the incursion in Tivoli Gardens.

Kudos to: 

The co-founders of a small NGO, Feeding of the 5,000, whom I had a chance to chat with at JN Foundation's National Volunteer Symposium on Friday. (Photo: JN Foundation)
The co-founders of a volunteer organization, Feeding of the 5,000, whom I had a chance to chat with at JN Foundation’s National Volunteer Symposium on Friday. (Photo: JN Foundation)
  • JN Foundation, Cuso International and Council for Voluntary Social Services (CVSS) for an exciting day at the National Volunteer Symposium in Kingston. It was uplifting and energizing and the bloggers and tweeters appreciated being invited. We had enormous fun!
  • All the winners at the Caribbean Blog Awards and Social Media Awards, which took place at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel Friday night. I was not able to attend – but was very pleased to see young journalists such as Abka Fitz-Henley of Nationwide News Network recognized. Abka (and others) have a great presence on Twitter.
Alia Atkinson. (Photo: Gleaner)
Alia Atkinson. (Photo: Gleaner)
  • Our Jamaican swimmer Alia Atkinson keeps going from strength to strength. Today she equalled the world record in the 100m breaststroke at the FINA World Short Course Championships in Doha, Qatar. She also became the first black woman to hold a world short-course record since Enith Brigitha of the Netherlands 40 years ago.  Congratulations, Alia! This blog has been watching your progress and bigging you up every step of the way!
The Jamaican Canadian Association put on a Christmas treat for the children. (Photo: Twitter)
The Jamaican Canadian Association put on a Christmas treat for the children: burgers, hot dogs, patties, sweeties…Belly full! (Photo: Twitter)
  • The Jamaican Canadian Association in Ontario, who put on a Christmas treat this weekend for the Jamaican community. Kudos to you and to all the organizations in the diaspora who reach out to Jamaicans at home and in Jamaica itself at this time of year.

My condolences to all the families who are mourning these sad murders. A former police officer was found with stab wounds in his car, which he crashed in St. Lucia Avenue, New Kingston on Friday. His name has not yet been released.

Eric Stewart, 57, Waltham Park Road, Kingston

Norbert Hunter, 20, Waltham Park Road, Kingston

Mosiah Morgan, 28, of Red Ground in Negril, Savannah-la-Mar Police Lockup, Westmoreland

Romario Reid, 20, of Hermitage/Bethel Town, Savannah-la-Mar Police Lockup, Westmoreland

Vanessa Wright, 17, St. Ann’s Bay, St. Ann

Lentille Ellis, 50, Santa Cruz, St. Elizabeth

Junior Shaw, 27, Rose Heights, St. James

Juwan Gordon, 37, Brandon Hill, St. James

 

Mosiah Morgan, one of the two inmates murdered in the Savannah-la-Mar police lock-up.Mosiah Morgan, one of the murdered inmates. (Photo: Phillip Lemonte/Ja Observer)
Mosiah Morgan, one of the two inmates stabbed to death in the Savannah-la-Mar police lock-up. Why were there knives in the lock-up? (Photo: Phillip Lemonte/Ja Observer)

2 thoughts on “A Mercenary By-Election, The Instagram Minister and Farewell to Luke: Sunday, December 7, 2014

  1. Emma, I usually agree with nearly everything you post, but I must say, that final comment about Lisa Hanna strikes me as a bit… catty. And beneath you. “..Spend more time doing some serious work in Parliament, instead of hours at Spartan Gym”???? No, Emma, no. The two things are not mutually exclusive. Don’t buy into stereotypes. A woman can be good looking, and concerned about her appearance, and still be hardworking and efficient and good at her job. If the Minister of Youth & Culture is not doing a good job (and I don’t think she is) her sessions at Spartan Gym are not to blame. In fact, I would think that her workouts probably contribute positively to her focus and energy. When since is physical activity a bad thing? That would be a harmful message to send. Ms. Hanna has slips of judgment, and posting this pic on instagram was one of them. But keeping herself fit, healthy and attractive is not something that should be used to criticise her. Let’s not confuse the issues.

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    1. Haha! Yes, you could be right – I probably was being “catty.” 🙂 My apologies. Problem is that Ms. Hanna herself is promoting a stereotype. And my main point is exactly that – confusing the issues… We are very distracted by her beautiful physique and not focusing on whether she is doing a good job. But I think, as I said, that it is a tactic to gain more popularity as a politician. No, I never said there is anything wrong with going to the gym! I need to go myself!! 🙂

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