I often get the sense in Jamaica that things are repeating themselves, over and over. It’s a bit like a revolving door: People (and problems) come in, stay for a little while and then go back out through the door, only to come straight back in again just when you thought they had gone. It’s been a revolving door kind of week.
Gas prices: The saga continues. The state-owned Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica (Petrojam) held a press briefing today to explain their pricing mechanism “simply.” Well, of course it was far from simple. Petrojam and the Government want to have a “dialogue” with the public, they say. I think the public is thoroughly confused and irritated. Jamaicans just want to see meaningful price reductions at the pumps; and want to know why Petrojam seems to raise prices with alacrity whenever the price of oil goes up. That is the perception out there.
The “dollar slide”: (There was an old carnival song called “dollar wine”) Today, despite the intervention of the Bank of Jamaica, the Jamaican Dollar traded at J$115.52/US$1. Is this what our friends at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) want? In our current economic situation, is it important, or not?
Dead children: Yes, I am sorry to put this so starkly, but a five-year-old girl was found murdered today; she is the youngest murder victim so far this year, to my knowledge. At least seven teenagers have already been killed this month. Our youth are an endangered species. On that topic, I wrote about our vulnerable small children after visiting the Jewish Cemetery on Orange Street this week. Here is my article: http://gleanerblogs.com/socialimpact/?p=2459
Upper House to debate ganja law…Oh, and the Tivoli Commission of Enquiry: Our Minister of Justice has been under some pressure in recent weeks, with the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) foaming at the mouth over A) the surprisingly high cost of the Commission of Enquiry into the Tivoli incursion; and B) the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ). I am leaning on the side of Minister Golding on both counts. A coroner’s court to investigate the deaths of (at least) 77 Jamaicans is obviously not feasible and would be tremendously slow and costly. I do agree with the JLP that the CCJ should be put to a referendum for the public to vote on whether Jamaica should join it or not (but referendums are also costly and it’s not going to happen, people). It is a known fact that the alternative, the UK Privy Council, is enormously costly. You notice how often I have used that word? Yes, everything has its price, I am afraid. You can take it or leave it…
Ah yes, the ganja law: The Upper House will debate the Dangerous Drugs (Amendment) Act, 2015, which seeks to decriminalize ganja for medicinal, religious, and private/personal use (Minister Golding is a Senator, that is why Upper House). The Bill will be tabled tomorrow. A Cannabis Licensing Authority is to be established and the Government will seek to discourage the abuse of ganja by, for example, adolescents. Well, good luck with that one, Minister Golding. We know that many adolescents already abuse ganja. Don’t we? A 2012 survey by the National Council on Drug Abuse showed that eighty per cent of boys with anti-social behavior used ganja. Alcohol and ganja abuse is quite common in our high schools; both are already easily available and will remain so.
Breaking News (sort of):
Out of jail! I was astonished to learn that one of our chief fraudsters (there’s more than one) David Smith, of the failed Ponzi scheme Olint, is out of jail in the Turks and Caicos Islands. He served less than four years out of his six-year sentence. Just to refresh your memory, Smith was convicted of defrauding thousands of investors of more than US$220 million, pleading guilty to 18 counts of money laundering, four counts of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. One assumes extradition proceedings will commence to have him shipped off to the United States, where he should then serve a 24-year sentence. Yes, he cheated Americans and Jamaicans.
Which reminds me: Can anyone give us an update on Carlos Hill, another alleged Ponzi scheme operator? I have no idea whether (or when) his trial date was fixed, after numerous delays. So far as I know, he is still out and about in Jamaica while his court case languishes. Unlucky for David Smith that he swindled American citizens; otherwise he might well have gotten away with it. He was arrested in 2008. Where are we now? Oh, 2015?
Fact check needed? Minister of Youth and Culture Lisa Hanna told a panel of UN officials in Geneva this week that it takes six months to one year to adopt a child in Jamaica. Really? That is not what I have heard, unless something has radically changed recently. Does the UN do a fact check? I assume our Minister has to provide data to back her claims.
The endangered Hawksbill Turtle in the photograph was caught in a fishing net in what I think is supposed to be a marine sanctuary in the tourist resort of Negril. Divers rescued it, but it died later. The Jamaica Environment Trust notes: “Lost and abandoned fishing gears, including “ghost nets”, pose a major threat to marine animals when they become entangled in the gear and drown or die of exhaustion or starvation. Entanglement can also cause serious and often fatal injuries to flippers.” What are we doing to our endangered animals? How can we continue to kill them either carelessly or deliberately, and not pay the price – sooner or later?
Huge bouquets go out to:
- Ms. Yaneek Page, entrepreneur extraordinaire, who has won an award from Enterprising Women Magazine! She will collect it at an awards ceremony in Florida in March. The annual Enterprising Women of the Year Awards recognizes the finest women entrepreneurs in North America and beyond. Nominees must demonstrate that they have fast-growth businesses, mentor or actively support other women and girls involved in entrepreneurship, and stand out as leaders in their communities. Congrats, Yaneek!
- Quality of Citizenship Jamaica, which celebrated its second birthday today. QCJ says it expanded its vision last year to include members of the transgender community in its programs, providing workshops and training which empowered the lesbian, bisexual and trans (LBT) community in areas of self-defense, legal knowledge and documentation of human rights violations. You can find QCJ at @qcjwomyn on Twitter, on Facebook and at http://qcjm.org and you can read the article I wrote last year: https://petchary.wordpress.com/2014/03/27/quality-of-citizenship-jamaica-offering-support-for-a-neglected-community/
- Read “The Caribbean Glass Ceiling” by businesswoman Marcia Forbes in the Caribbean Journal – a nice online read, by the way, along with “Repeating Islands,” an essential Caribbean blog with a cultural focus. Dr. Forbes points out that (despite the fact that Jamaica has the most female managers in the world according to a recent survey) most women get stuck at the middle management level. Males are still firmly in charge at the top. Here’s the link to Dr. Forbes’ piece: http://www.caribjournal.com/2015/01/19/the-caribbean-glass-ceiling/
Dr. Elizabeth Ward of the Violence Prevention Alliance is very concerned that more needs to be done in crime prevention in our rural areas. As you have probably noticed, homicides may have declined in parishes like St. James and Clarendon last year, but they are still a major concern and Dr. Ward believes more resources and greater effort is needed in rural Jamaica. Just today, Security Minister Peter Bunting toured the small town of Annotto Bay in St. Mary – a parish that has already seen several disturbing murders this year. One gets the impression that even in these areas, the “no informers” culture is prevalent, as it is in many inner-city areas. Commendations to Superintendent Stephanie Lindsay in St. Mary by the way – she is most articulate. And my sympathies to the families of:
Pete Ebanks, 24, Williams Street/Montego Bay, St. James
Allan Edwards, 52, Irwin Heights, St. James
Sharon James, 45, Beacon Hill/Spanish Town, St. Catherine
Unidentified man, Angel Grove/Spanish Town, St. Catherine
Akeem Henry, Job Lane, Spanish Town, St. Catherine (killed by police)
Stephen Codner, 43, Newport, Manchester
Unidentified man, Golf View Club/Brumalia Road, Mandeville, Manchester
Crystal Coleman, 5, Frontier District/Port Maria, St. Mary