So, we fight our way back from the Christmas holiday and look forward to the New Year – with some trepidation, perhaps, and the usual fake optimism and determination to do better in 2015. I will resist the temptation to do one of those year-end reviews. Or lists of “The Best/Worst of 2014” that no one ever agrees with. Let’s just get on with things. January 1 will be just another day to be thankful for…
The ruling People’s National Party is looking back with satisfaction on its achievements over the past three years and reminding us in a press release today of its “historic landslide victory” in the general elections of 2011. The PNP lists ten “important developments achieved on the people’s behalf” as follows (and I quote – my thoughts in italics): “The significant reduction in major crimes and criminal activity; the attainment of the targets set out in the Economic Recovery Programme; the restoration of Jamaica’s credibility among our International Development Partners, specifically the International Monetary Fund (IMF); the restoration of positive relationships among our traditional and new partners across the globe (do they mean the US/Cuba détente? Is the PNP taking credit for that?); the continued expansion and development of the island’s physical infrastructure; the maintenance of a comprehensive Social Security programme through PATH and related projects; the successful and ongoing implementation of the Jamaica Emergency Employment Programme (how many new permanent jobs created?); the expansion and modernization of Primary Health Care facilities across rural Jamaica; the establishment of Agro Parks to make the agricultural sector more competitive (I hope the St. Thomas one is doing better than it was a year ago);and the most significant Legislative Reform Agenda over many years (much of it at the behest of the IMF).” There is more…
“A celebration of failure, incompetence, arrogance and corruption” is how the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party’s General Secretary Horace Chang describes the PNP’s three-year anniversary back-slapping. He doesn’t even give them credit for a reduction in the crime rate (I would). Of course, as someone said cynically the other day, “It’s easy to be in Opposition – a different matter when you are in charge”…
Definite cause for celebration is, as noted before, the dramatic drop in police killings this year. It is still one of the highest rates for a country our size in the world, but a little over 100 is a considerable reduction from 258 last year. I credit the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) for this. I also believe National Security Minister Peter Bunting deserves some credit for this as he tries to encourage “softer” policing and community togetherness through the Unite for Change program.
Probably a good thing: Dancehall star Sean Paul has decided to call off his planned New Year’s Eve concert in the Maldives, after threats were published online by a somewhat shadowy jihadist group threatening to kill him as a “major disbeliever.” Sean Paul, who has Jewish heritage, loves to travel to parts of the world where other Jamaican musicians don’t visit and was invited by the Maldivian Tourism Minister. “As a Jamaican reggae musician, I have always promoted love and unity of all cultures, races and religions,” Paul said in a statement. “Unfortunately, the world has reached a point where cyber threats must affect real life decisions…” Right. There goes freedom of expression, again.
My fellow blogger Dennis Jones wrote a strongly-worded piece about the lack of appreciation for Jamaican sportspeople (of the non-athlete variety) in his blog recently, here: http://jamaicapoliticaleconomy.wordpress.com/2014/12/27/storied-existence-how-jamaica-under-sells-its-human-assets/ I heartily agree. The fact that Alia Atkinson (equaling a world record in swimming) and Dustin Brown (steadily working his way up the ATP ranking and now one of the top 100 tennis players globally) are competing in two areas where black people in general (and Jamaicans in particular) are not particularly strong – with one or two exceptions of course – should make their achievements even more admirable. However, the media continue to focus on our track athletes, notably our sprinters. I don’t get it.
Christmas traditions: I just wrote a piece about the disappearing custom of Jonkonnu during this season, only to find a photograph of a group performing on the streets of Annotto Bay, St. Mary. However… Listen, Hallowe’en masks just don’t cut it. Sorry.
Here’s a little unsolicited ad… If your car needs a clean – and if your carpets and sofas at home need a clean – there is a new at-home service available, set up by a certain young Jamaican entrepreneur. I am going to try them out soon. Why don’t you?
I love this…
- Residents of New Harbour Village II Citizens Association in St. Catherine recently collected and donated food and care items to the nearby Sunbeam Boys’ Home in Old Harbour. An act of kindness. I hope the residents will continue to support the 43 boys at the home, perhaps through visits and mentoring.
- The Jamaica Constabulary Force has been reaching out to the citizens of West Kingston, with treats for the children and donations to elderly residents. Big ups to SSP Steve McGregor in particular; he has been put in charge of some very tough urban divisions but I know he is a believer in community policing and works incredibly hard. Keep doing what you are doing!
- Congratulations to Arlene Harrison Henry, who has been appointed the new Public Defender, taking over from Deputy Public Defender Matondo Mukulu, who has been acting in the position for a while. I am sure Ms. Harrison Henry, a redoubtable human rights lawyer, will do an excellent job in this very important position. I would also like to commend Mr. Mukulu for his really solid and proactive work during his six-month stint, including his work on the West Kingston Commission of Enquiry and his joint sponsorship of a radio program with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). Well done.
I am happy at the fairly modest reduction in murders this year, but was disconcerted to learn that five Jamaicans were murdered on Christmas Day alone. Equally disturbing has been the high number of deaths on the road over the season (including four killed and several injured in a bus crash in Westmoreland), bringing this year’s total to well over 300 now.
Lenworth Shelly, 51, Riverton City, Kingston
William Thompson, 19, Mount Salus/Mannings Hill Road, Kingston
Terry Turner, 28, Glendevon, St James
Troy Leslie, 38, Barrett Town, St James
Allan Tucker, 33, Cambridge, St. James
“Tucksy,” Claremont, St. Ann
Jennifer Rhoomes, 58, Orange Hill, Clarendon
Adela Smith, 47, New Market, St Elizabeth
Tavoy Clarke, 28, Bridgewater, Westmoreland