The past few days have been interesting. I enjoyed a chat on radio this week with fellow blogger and tweep Durie Dee, an overseas-based Jamaican who is visiting the island. We thrashed out a few topics that local bloggers could keep an eye on this year – and write more about. Health issues were high on the list and I also noted corruption (the Trafigura case is still waiting in the wings), as well as the Goat Islands issue and concerns about energy and climate change. You can listen in on Nationwide News Network’s SoundCloud page (which has a lot of interesting stories you may have missed). Congratulations to NNN on continuing to embrace social media – I understand there is a new “vlog” in the making! Sounds interesting.
Events in Paris almost overwhelmed our local happenings this week. There was a statement of condolence from the Prime Minister, following on from the Press Association of Jamaica’s speedy response to the Charlie Hebdo attack. On radio I heard an excellent, balanced discussion with the head of the Muslim community in Jamaica and a U.S.-based cartoonist. The Imam pointed out that social programs his community engages in are never covered by local media – who also tend to wheel out one of the more dubious “representatives” of the Muslim faith currently living in Jamaica for interviews. Focus on the negative about Islam… A pity.
Our local cartoonists chose to ignore the slaughter of colleague cartoonists the following morning. LasMay of the Gleaner eventually posted a cartoon about freedom of expression, but the Jamaica Observer’s Clovis (whose cartoons tend to be a great deal more edgy) ignored the Charlie Hebdo attack altogether. I presume his editor told him to avoid the topic. Even a little expression of sympathy/mourning, perhaps? No, Clovis stuck with problems in the health sector and crime. Is his editor afraid of repercussions? While cartoonists around the world were busy drawing powerful and provocative images in solidarity (which I highlighted in a previous blog) it was hard for our cartoonists to rouse themselves from their complacency. After all, France is far away, right?
There will be a condolence book at the French Embassy (on Hillcrest Avenue in Kingston) open from Monday 12th to Friday 16th January (9:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon). Messages of sympathy can also be sent to: firstname.lastname@example.org. The French Embassy notes: “We shall ensure that all family and relatives of the victims will be given knowledge of your messages.” Please pass this information on.
The “light bill”: After rumors had circulated in the media for a while, the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) confirmed it had rejected a request from the Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS) for a 21 per cent increase in electricity rates. Not only that, it has ordered an average two per cent decrease in rates. JPS boss Kelly Tomblin – who, despite the almost universal antipathy towards our electricity provider is a very likable CEO – took this bravely on the chin, while expressing disappointment, noting this will mean the company will not be able to make planned improvements in its service. Meanwhile, JPS has big plans to convert its Bogue power plant in Montego Bay to liquid natural gas fuel. I believe we, the consumers, will be paying for this investment. Am I right?
Shame on you: The People’s National Party Councilor for the Yallahs Division Constantine Bogle graced our television screens this week; it was not a pretty sight. Mr. Bogle bears the name of one of our National Heroes, who lived in St. Thomas, but there was nothing heroic about his bullying tirade against Deputy Superintendent of Police Charmaine Shand, who sat before him with a colleague. Why was the Councilor so incensed? Because DSP Shand, who is in charge of police operations in the parish, had the nerve to take one of his PNP colleagues in for questioning on a corruption-related matter. How dare she! Not only did Mr. Bogle question DSP Shand’s competence and qualifications for the job, he also dragged what he knew of her personal life, seeking to embarrass and humiliate her as a woman. DSP Shand and her colleague eventually could take no more, and walked out of the meeting.
Kudos to Minister of National Security Peter Bunting for his emphatic reprimand of the councilor. On radio, Minister Bunting called this outburst “most unfortunate.” He added that “launching a personal and sexist attack” on DSP Shand was in his opinion “inappropriate and unbecoming of an elected official.” Moreover, his questioning of her competence was completely unwarranted, the Minister pointed out; St. Thomas has seen a dramatic decline in major crimes in the past year.
Back in the 90s there was much controversy, in Jamaica and across the Caribbean, over the so-called “Shiprider Agreement” with the United States, whereby U.S. law enforcement is allowed to board some vessels in Jamaican waters. Concerns were raised over Jamaica’s sovereignty when the Maritime Drug Trafficking (Suppression) Act took effect in 1998. Now we hear the Act will be amended in order to waive national jurisdiction over those interdicted aboard a Jamaican flagged vessel on the high seas, as well as the vessel itself and its cargo. I foresee there may be some political posturing over this and much talk of sovereignty, again. Are we still worried about giving land to China Harbour Engineering Company (owned by the Chinese Government), by the way? I suspect much more to follow on this.
An ad promoting the Jamaica vs England netball match announced cheerfully: “If you don’t like netball come and see the girls in their shorts …” I suppose they are appealing to our red-blooded Jamaican males. This is the sort of every day, casual sexism that is a part of Jamaican life. Anyway, congratulations to the “Sunshine Girls” who beat the English today in the first of three matches, 56 to 47.
- A lovely Jamaican poet, Tanya Shirley, launched her latest book, “The Merchant of Feathers,” this week and I am so sorry I missed the launch. Do go out and grab a copy – I hear it is fearsomely good!
Here’s another website for Jamaican news, edited by Calvin G. Brown: http://newsjamaica.net. The “In My Opinion” feature is quite nice; readers can comment and write about the news. Take a look.
Ten days into the New Year, there have been close to 30 murders and several people have been shot dead by the police. One of the most shocking was the gang rape and murder of a teenage girl in Ewarton, St. Catherine.
Kenroy Smith, Darling Street Bus Park, Kingston (murdered on New Year’s Eve)
George Green, 49, West Kingston
Unidentified man (“Poley”), Half Way Tree Road, Kingston
Ranel Brown, 21, East Kingston
Dane Graham, 17, Commission Road/Rockfort, East Kingston
Ricardo Stamp, 28, Barbican Road/Russell Heights, Kingston (killed by police)
Ricardo Jones (“Puppy Paw”), Gordon Town, St. Andrew (killed by police)
Okeem Griffiths, 29, Gordon Town, St. Andrew (killed by police)
Cleo-Lisan Griffiths, 17, Charlton Meadows/Ewarton, St. Catherine
Craig Miller, 33, March Pen Road, Spanish Town, St. Catherine
Oral Wright, 17, March Pen Road, Spanish Town, St. Catherine
Clive Johnson, 45, Woodside/Havana Heights, Clarendon
Steve Wray, Westmoreland (Canadian address)
Deborah-Kay Hofferin, St. Mary (U.S. citizen)