Jamaica is supposed to be celebrating Bob Marley’s seventieth birthday today. Marley is getting plenty of “blessings,” as Kingston is drenched in rain. Oh – I would also like to sincerely wish media entrepreneur Tyrone Wilson a happy birthday, too! Tomorrow evening there will be a concert with some Marley sons (I am not sure which – there are quite a few to choose from) and others, at the downtown Kingston waterfront. And yet another Marley statue… My favorite is still the Christopher Gonzalez one that was shipped off to Ocho Rios because no one liked it. It’s the only one that portrays Marley’s spirit. I think we have enough Marley statues now, perhaps?
Women under siege… I’m tired of this nonsense now. Here are just four very recent examples of the disrespect (and far worse) meted out to women and girls in our society. On Monday a policewoman, whom the Resident Magistrate in Brown’s Town, St. Ann decided in her wisdom was in contempt of court, was placed in a holding area with several men. They proceeded to sexually assault her. What the hell! I am glad to see the Police High Command is taking this atrocious incident seriously and conducting a full investigation, while the woman is receiving counseling.
Secondly: A man was charged with “having sexual intercourse” with a minor – in other words, with a child (child abuse!). It is quite possible (a recurring issue with underage girls) that this was forced sex. The man received a two-year suspended sentence. What is the point? Thirdly: A mother of two (her young daughter is disabled) was killed by her abusive spouse, who hanged himself. I can hardly bear to read these stories of abuse ending in tragedy. Her common-law husband was apparently jealous of her growing independence; she had set up a cosmetology business, working long hours and had moved to her sister’s house.
Fourthly: The University of the West Indies (UWI) is rushing to deny last Sunday’s front page Gleaner report on “Halls of Horror” – admittedly an over-the-top headline. I understand, from those who know, that UWI has been in denial on the issue of sexual harassment and even assault of women on campus for a considerable length of time. But most of the incidents I have heard about over the years were not reported to the police and so not investigated properly or prosecuted. UWI issued a defensive statement, asserting there is insufficient data to back up the Gleaner’s allegations. But they know it happens, although not “wide-scale.” UWI used the cliché “a microcosm of society” to explain that some of its students behave in an anti-social manner. Another cliché was “zero tolerance” for sexual harassment. And yes, they have a policy in place and run workshops. So I guess we are going to continue burying our heads in the sand, until something dramatic happens, the problem becomes “wide-scale” and urgent action is taken. Question: Are women safe at UWI? I understand the security guards do their very best. But problems there are. Let’s not pretend.
This is embarrassing: A Constitutional Court ruled today that Opposition Leader Andrew Holness did something unconstitutional – in its words, “inconsistent with the Constitution, contrary to public policy and… accordingly null and void.” If you recall, former Senator Arthur Williams challenged Holness’ use of undated, pre-signed (!) resignation letters, that Williams helped draft (?) in having Williams and former senator Christopher Tufton removed from the Senate. Excuse the brackets, but the whole thing seemed so nonsensical in the first place. Why did the senators sign undated letters? Didn’t Holness think this would backfire on him (personally) at some point? And that’s exactly what has happened. Holness has dug himself a hole and jumped straight into it. If he’s not careful, his opponents inside and outside the party will start shoveling earth into it. If you want to wade through the whole thing, Nationwide News Network kindly shared the court’s decision here: http://nationwideradiojm.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Judgment-Daye-McDonald-Bishop-Batts.pdf What is not clear is whether the two senators appointed in Williams’ and Tufton’s place will now have to step down. Holness says not, but lawyers seem to disagree on the subject (as lawyers are wont to do). Not only Holness, but his party has truly messed up.
Ganja law passed in Senate: The debate in the Upper House today on the decriminalization of ganja (or whatever you want to call it) seemed to go all over the place, but they eventually passed the legislation (with five amendments). It will go to the Lower House for further debate some time in March. As I mentioned before, the question of Rastafarians’ use of the weed is a tricky one; not only will they have to prove they are Rastas (through membership in a Rasta organization) but also will have to obtain a license. I guess the “fake Rastas” (entertainers, rent-a-dreads etc) will have to prove they actually hold religious beliefs, besides flashing their locks. Opposition Senator Marlene Malahoo Forte called the legislation “very, very badly drafted, and incomplete”.
JPS decides to appeal: The Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS) has been mulling over the Office of Utilities Regulation’s (OUR) decision not to grant it an electricity rate increase. It has decided (reluctantly, CEO Kelly Tomblin says) to appeal. In a long series of tweets, JPS explained: “The primary objective of the Appeal is to ensure that Jamaica has a strong energy sector that can fuel economic growth,” going on to talk about “equity.”
So I hear the Students’ Loan Bureau is giving priority to students studying Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics – the so-called STEM subjects. This seems sensible to me. Don’t we have enough Sociology graduates struggling to find work? The cynical response is that all these STEM students, once qualified, will be shipped abroad. Be that as it may…
The Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) held a press briefing on Wednesday. A rather staggering number of police officers are now facing murder charges, INDECOM reported. Fifty-three. Yes, fifty-three! The fear of prosecution must certainly have been a factor in the drastically reduced number of extra-judicial killings in 2014 (from 258 in 2013 to 129).
Drug routes: Sharing with you a map of Caribbean drug-trafficking routes. Is it my imagination, or does Venezuela seem to be a bit of a hub, these days? A go-fast speedboat to Jamaica does seem quite a trek, though.
Pulling no punches: Businesswoman Yaneek Page is refreshingly outspoken at all times. At the launch of an entrepreneurship competition at UWI last week, she chastised the Government for continuing to put up bureaucratic hurdles, citing the example of a pepper spray she has been developing for the past five years, with an investment of J$1 million. I spoke to Yaneek and fellow-striver Erica Wynter about their challenges (and successes) recently: https://petchary.wordpress.com/2015/01/29/keeping-the-faith-the-bright-energy-of-entrepreneurs/
Major “big ups” to:
The Spanish-Jamaican Foundation, which paid the CSEC Spanish Oral Exam fees on behalf of all students (over 4,000) slated to take the exam in St. Mary, St. James, Hanover and Trelawny. Spanish Ambassador Aníbal Jiménez Abascal also gave students at Mt. Alvernia High School in Montego Bay a “pep talk” about the importance of learning languages – at least one. I could not agree more! Having a language gives you that competitive edge, and Spanish is the most useful in this part of the world.
Justice Patrick Robinson, sworn in today as the first Jamaican to serve on the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
The Old Harbour Development Area Committee, a community-based organization, which recently signed a one-year lease to manage and maintain Colbeck Castle, taking over from the Jamaica National Heritage Trust. If the Committee does a good job it will be eligible for a much longer lease. It is encouraging to see the development of community tourism in St. Catherine and in nearby Clarendon, an area with a rich cultural heritage.
Jamaica Environment Trust which launched its “Nuh Dutty Up Jamaica” public education campaign in support of the Ministry of Tourism’s pilot Clean Coasts Project, this week. Special, special kudos to the Tourism Enhancement Fund, which is funding it in full. Island Grill, headed by the dynamic Thalia Lyn, are producing eco-friendly containers; and Agricultural Chemicals, are providing branded bins (which I hope will be emptied regularly); and Diageo/Red Stripe. As for young Russhaine “Dutty” Berry – he was a delight, the perfect “Ambassador” for the campaign! Here is his very funny video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sOKC3-tkKGc Non-Jamaican readers, I am not sure you will understand it all!
UWI Medical Science Complex: UWI’s Mona campus really seems to be improving the quality of their product by investing a large amount in medical sciences. This makes sense to me. If they want to prioritize and save money they could at the same time “retire” some other departments that are less than effective, and focus on medicine, law and the sciences. Just my thoughts.
There were 97 murders in January (including ten women/girls, five teens and a little girl aged 3); plus at least eight killings by the police (one or two are disputed). This is not happy news, representing a 31% increase over January 2014. And now, in February, the following Jamaicans have been murdered. I extend my deepest sympathies to the families, who are grieving:
Jamieke Smith, 16, Fletcher’s Land, Kingston
Dennis Roye Wright, 49, Kingston 11
Jodian McNair, 28, McCook’s Pen, St. Catherine
Logan Taylor, 36, Bog Walk, St. Catherine
Unidentified man, Shelter Rock, St. Catherine
Unidentified man, Mt. Salem, St. James
Delano Campbell, 32, Norwood Gardens, St. James
Carlton Reid, 54, Seaforth, St. Thomas
Daniel Montaque, 71, Frome, Westmoreland