It’s been a whirlwind ten days or so, which is why I am late. It has not been an easy month for Jamaica, especially in terms of crime and what the media like to call “crime-fighting.” We are facing another challenging year, it seems.
Energizing: Caribbean countries attended a Caribbean Energy Security Summit in Washington and issued a Joint Statement (full of the usual “recognizing” and “recalling”) on January 26. Jamaica signed off on its “commitment” to plans for “climate-resilient” clean energy (so what’s this about a coal plant at the proposed mega-port at Goat Islands, which Minister Davies mentioned oh, so casually some time last year?) OK, and let’s not forget the “open, transparent, competitive and criteria-based processes” whereby said energy is obtained. That would be nice, wouldn’t it? Anyway, despite wincing at Vice President Joe Biden’s mini-sermon on corruption (Joe tends to “go there” when other politicians are afraid to discuss certain topics) Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller and Phillip Paulwell were happy at the VP’s announcement that the 34-megawatt (MW) greenfield wind farm being built by US-owned BMR Energy in St Elizabeth is to receive a US$90-million capital injection by way of a loan through a tripartite arrangement among the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), the International Finance Corporation (IFC),) and the Government of Canada. Another good development is the HEART Trust’s plan for a new training program in renewable energy. Encouraging! The Joint Statement and Biden’s speech can be found on the White House website.
The dismissive Minister Davies: Meanwhile Transport and Works Minister Omar Davies says it’s not true the Government has been withholding information on the proposed Chinese megaport on Goat Islands. How can he even say that when it is blocking information requests at every turn! In an interview with Irie FM (kudos to them for pursuing several important environmental issues across the island) The Minister reportedly said “the project will go ahead as long as certain requirements are met, to include environmental assessments and recommendations from the National Environment & Planning Agency (NEPA).” He also claims the Government has been too free and easy in declaring Protected Areas. Well it was your colleague who declared the Portland Bight Protected Area with much fanfare on World Wetlands Day, 1999, did he not, Minister Davies? Under the Natural Resources Conservation Authority Act? Is it not a Wetland of International Importance, declared under the Ramsar Convention in 2006? The Minister also cynically commented that since a Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS) power plant was not far away from Goat Islands, well we could mash up the area some more… Why not just expand the environmental destruction?
Not a shadow cabinet: This week Jamaica Labour Party leader Andrew Holness introduced a 19-person council – not a shadow cabinet, as they will not be preparing to take over portfolios should the occasion arise. It seems like a good idea. He is trying to bring up some of the less experienced Labourites. Then Mr. Holness, please let the old dinosaurs (Samuda, Charles and the octogenarian Henry, for example) gently retire now please!
And a “plot” surfaces: Now, almost coinciding with this announcement, an alleged “plot” to kill poor Mr. Holness and JLP General Secretary Horace Chang has emerged. The media are excited about it, it seems, although they have virtually no details. Most of my friends on social media have yawned, and moved on. Whether this plot is actually real or not remains to be seen. The police reportedly “can neither confirm or deny” the “plot.” And, perhaps not surprisingly, the alleged “plotters” are supposed to be Labourites. “Okey dokey, then!” as Jim Carrey would say…
The curse of agricultural thieves: Michael Thompson, a distraught farmer in Brimmer Hall, St. Mary, asked how he was supposed to pay his lease and his bills, or buy his fertilizer, now that thieves have taken his crop of bananas and coconuts. Mr. Thompson went on to warn mothers and girlfriends who know their spouses are involved in crime to tell them to stop, or terrible things will happen…
Anger in Westmoreland: Talking of terrible things, the district of Little London in Westmoreland flared up (literally) yesterday after the death of a bike taxi operator, who died allegedly at the hands of the police. An estimated 30,000 tons of sugarcane was destroyed when protesters set light to the fields, and the main road to Negril was blocked in several places. The residents say Kemar Powell was beaten to death; the police say he was trying to escape them and crashed into a light pole. The stories are confused, and Powell’s family are a little vague. But these stories beg the question…
Is rural Jamaica, so long ignored, on the edge? Do we pay enough attention to what is really happening in rural communities?
More questions: What has happened to the “passports for cows” project to combat praedial larceny? What is happening in the Trafigura case?
A painful accident: It’s a fairly common sight on Jamaican roads – a person in a wheelchair actually making his way along the road in the traffic – not on the sidewalk. It always worries me. Why does this happen? Because our sidewalks are very rough, full of obstacles or non-existent. A resident of Cheshire Village, a small community for the physically challenged, 39-year-old Marlon King, was killed by one of our huge city buses in Papine, near the University Hospital of the West Indies. Mr. King was a strong advocate for Jamaicans with disabilities and an entrepreneur. In fact, he has appeared on Yaneek Page’s “The Innovators” television show. People (including local councilor Venesha Phillips) are now wringing their hands over his tragic death. Despite the fact that many physically challenged people live in the area, the sidewalk there is blocked by a row of light poles and piles of rubble of some sort. This should have been sorted out years ago. But do we care about our disadvantaged minorities? That’s a rhetorical question, by the way.
Road block: A large truck jackknifed on Mount Rosser, blocking it for several hours. Now the road is steep, narrow and winding so many vehicles were trapped for hours on the hill, unable to turn around. But wait! Don’t we have the North-South Highway, opened with much fanfare last summer? Wasn’t it intended to avoid this kind of misery? Why wasn’t this truck using the Highway? I understand many trucks are not (it is $1,000 each way for that short stretch). As noted before, I believe the Highway is heading for Jamaican White Elephant status, like the Sligoville Multi-Purpose Stadium in St. Catherine, built by the Chinese “as a gift to the Jamaican people” in 2007, and now used only by foraging goats and cattle egrets. And what of the Trelawny Stadium?
A royal drama: Jamaicans love beauty contests. This is a well-known fact. So when the sleek, slender figure of Jamaica’s Kaci Fennell stepped out in the Miss Universe competition, a fairly large segment of the population fell at her feet in adoration. There is no doubt she is a really beautiful girl; I am sure she will do well in a modeling career. She stumbled in the question segment and came fifth. A respectable position but patriotic Jamaicans were furious. They were all convinced she had won, should have won, did win. I think we’ll all get over it…right?
Too many frocks, not enough song: The over-hyped American singer Mariah Carey was given the thumbs down by most Jamaicans after her performance at the so-called Jazz and Blues Festival in Montego Bay (which has nothing to do with jazz or blues, of course!) She talked too much, trotted off stage at regular intervals to change her dress, and (worst of all) lip-synched. Apparently she can’t hit those high notes any more. Well in that case, dear Mariah, you should either adjust your repertoire or gracefully retire? The Festival apparently redeemed itself when a singer called Charlie Wilson, whom Jamaicans had never heard of, brought the house down! Phew!
Moving right along… Congrats are due to a number of people!
- Senators Marlene Malahoo Forte and Kamina Johnson Smith, who have taken on weighty portfolios (Health and Education/Youth, respectively) in the Jamaica Labour Party’s new expanded “Shadow Cabinet” that is more of an advisory council. Glad to see some other women in the mix: former athlete and political newbie Juliet Cuthbert, who will assist Senator Malahoo Forte; Suzanne Leslie Bailey, deputizing in Foreign Affairs and Trade; Fayval Williams, who remains Deputy Finance Spokesperson; and Shahine Robinson and Olivia Grange, who retain their regular responsibilities.
- Big ups also to Katalyxt Business Development. It is headed by the enthusiastic Winsome Minott, who always hosts interesting and valuable events and has a leaning towards the creative arts too. I enjoyed this week’s roundtable session on technology and growth, with Junior Minister Julian Robinson, financial expert Ralston Hyman, the Exim Bank’s Jerome Newton and Parris Lyew-Ayee of Mona Informatics.
- Looking forward to hearing more about the Rotaract Club of St. Andrew’s major project. The Club is aiming to provide needy kids in Primary School across the island with proper running shoes! “Like” them on Facebook!
- Something else to look forward to later in the year is BirdsCaribbean’s biennial Meeting, to be held in Jamaica this year! More details to follow soon…
- The JN Foundation’s first Social Enterprise Summit was an amazing gathering – congratulations to the hard-working JN Foundation team headed by the always down-to-earth Saffrey Brown, with Warren Gordon a highly efficient social media organizer! The Social Enterprise Business Initiative (SEBI) is funded by USAID Jamaica, and kudos to Director Denise Herbol and her team… You can read more on my Gleaner blog: http://gleanerblogs.com/socialimpact/?p=2469
- Superintendent Stephanie Lindsay, the first woman police chief in St. Mary, is composed, articulate and professional if you have ever seen her speak on television. I wish her all the best in her efforts to keep crime under control in the rural parish.
And on that topic, Minister of Youth Lisa Hanna has expressed horror at the recent murders of several children. Another 14-year-old was found dead in St. Mary this week; the cause of death is as yet unknown. A newborn baby was found in a garbage bin in Ocho Rios. Our young people are so much at risk, with so many sad stories it is almost overwhelming: For example, 18-year-old Stacy-ann Borough allegedly jumped into the Rio Cobre and drowned recently, after becoming distraught and distressed because her family had abandoned her. But Jamaicans are genuinely frightened by the alarming crime rate, and neither Security Minister Peter Bunting nor Police Commissioner Williams were very convincing when speaking in public on the topic of the eighty-plus murders this month. Minister Bunting says the majority have taken place in one police division, St. Catherine North. The murder rate has been 3.2 per day, which is entirely unacceptable. This list is unbearably long and my hearts go out to all the families in mourning and traumatized by these terrible deaths. Each Jamaican’s life is precious, for God’s sake…
Ralston Daley, 37, Molynes Road, Kingston
Unidentified man, Molynes Road, Kingston
Andy Morrison, 23, Luke Lane, Kingston
Cleon Thomas, Jacks Hill, St. Andrew (killed by police)
Rushane Smith, 24, Waterford, St. Catherine
Michael Morgan, New Nursery, Spanish Town, St. Catherine (killed by police)
Ricardo Nicholas, New Nursery, Spanish Town, St. Catherine (killed by police)
Floyd Gregory, 39, Board Villa,Spanish Town, St. Catherine
TWO Unidentified men, Cotton Piece/Ewarton, St. Catherine (during robbery, killed by licensed firearm holder)
Carmen Richards, 50, Lopez Heights/Ewarton, St. Catherine
Kemar Powell, 23, Little London, Westmoreland (ALLEGEDLY killed by police – death under investigation)
Santoya Campbell, 14, Frome, Westmoreland
Kevin Parnell, 35, Catadupa, St. James
Winton Persaud, 50, Bottom Cambridge, St. James
David Anderson, 35, Slipe District, St. Elizabeth
19 thoughts on “A Mini-Sermon from Joe, Dismissive Dr. Davies and Rural Jamaica on Edge: Friday, January 30, 2015”
Been “offline” 4 a while on vacation. Thanks Pechary for bringing me right up to date – from the good ( wind farm and investments therein) to the bad ( crime rate is horrendous) and the ugly oops beautiful ( on beauties – which guess I’m in the minority – really not into beauty competitions – am of the old time unpopular feminists ) .The ugly was Marlon Kings o so tragic and preventable death – I might have met thus young hero in my days as ED with Combined disabilities association but not 100% .
Dear Pat: Thank you so much for your comments! I completely agree with you (as another old time feminist I guess!) on the beauty contests. I cannot see what justification there is for them in the 21st century. Completely meaningless. It is very, very sad about Mr. King. Now already those who could do something about fixing that sidewalk are backing off. I guess they are waiting for another tragedy to happen… Thanks again for visiting my blog!
Been “offline” 4 a while on vacation. Thanks Pechary for bringing me right up to date – from the good ( wind farm and investments therein) to the bad ( crime rate is horrendous) and the ugly oops beautiful ( on beauties – which guess I’m in the minority – really not into beauty competitions – am of the old time unpopular feminists ) .
Just a note to say that Wigton Windfarm, the largest wind energy facility in the English Speaking Caribbean, currently has 38.7MW of generating capacity which means it’s already larger than the 34MW wind farm which is being built by BMR Energy in St Elizabeth. In addition, Wigton is adding 24MW in capacity which will bring its total capacity to 62.7MW by 2016, which will be almost double the size of the BMR facility.
Thank you so much for this. I really should insert this information into my article. I have visited Wigton Windfarm in the past and was so very impressed! Thank you very much for this important information.
Re: Road Block – Seems crazy to me that more people would not use the new North-South Highway. If you place any value at all on your time this would be a given. 14 minutes from Linstead to Moneague? Try doing that on the Mt. Rosser route.
I know, it’s not logical. People give all sorts of reasons. I saw a TV report where truck drivers were saying it’s too expensive, they don’t want to pay the J$1,000.
if someone doesn’t speak up for the ones who have “no or little voice,” then they have little chance… thank you for setting an example and speaking up for them.. i admire you amiga. z
Thank you and so great to hear from you, amiga! 🙂 Yes, we have to keep speaking. This was such a sad story because this man was such a strong advocate for his community, despite the challenges. Hope you are well in beautiful Ecuador!
have you been following the ‘mora’ murder trial in costa rica? we’re very discouraged with the verdict: http://www.ticotimes.net/2015/01/27/delays-and-blunders-a-timeline-of-the-jairo-mora-murder-trial-in-costa-rica
Oh, yes – I did see something about it. It was so tragic, a young man doing such wonderful work! I will have to read about it properly. What on earth happened with the trial? Was it corruption I wonder?
it looks as if lots of people dropped the ball(s) misplaced evidence, etc. the details of the murder are so sad, and a bit spooky for anyone who has ever walked a beach at night to help protect the sea turtle eggs.
That is terrible. I am afraid to say perhaps someone was paid off and there was a cover-up of the evidence. I am sure it must have been damaging to the eco-tourism industry, too – such a shocking case…
That’s very sad to hear about West Moreland. This is an area where I have family and my parents are from.
I can’t figure out what’s happening there – since last year. It is a PNP stronghold since way back when, but like many rural areas it seems lost. Some of the “rural” areas even have “inner city” characteristics in terms of unemployment, crime etc… Very sad.
In your opinion why is this happening?
Unemployment, especially among the youth. Increase in gang activity. Perhaps gang members migrating from Montego Bay area… I understand lotto scammers have also been active in the parish in recent years. I also suspect poor community policing and political leadership too (it’s almost a “rural garrison”).
My goodness, Jamaica is a just an island and yet look at what is happening to it.
Yes. Just an island. And yet it is such a glorious Sunday here… The weather is perfect. Ugly and beautiful at the same time!