The past few days have been “smh” days. As you probably know, dear readers, “smh” means “shake my head” in social media parlance. The accompanying emoticons might vary from that baffled one with mouth open to the one with tears flowing copiously. This would apply to both local and overseas news.
#SpeakUpUWI: There has been growing anger over the heads-in-the-sand attitude of the administration of the University of the West Indies’ (UWI) Mona campus regarding the sexual harassment of female students (who make up 70% of the population). While UWI officials were busy denying that it was actually a problem in any way at all – or, at least, only a small problem – two female students were attacked (stones were thrown at them) by male students of Chancellor Hall last Tuesday. One student suffered serious head injuries. Other male students and a security guard nearby reportedly did nothing to help. One alleged attacker has had his bail extended and will return to court on April 7. The President of the Guild of Students is permanently located at this hall; does the Guild not expect to have a female head any time soon? The current President issued a somewhat belated and (to my mind) wishy-washy press release, commenting: “We do leave it in the capable hands of the Law and pray that justice is served in due course.” This is also the hall where the Panty Tree stands. Yes, the Panty Tree. I learned about this for the first time last year. Is it still there or has it been hastily dismantled, I wonder? Let me know!
I have heard many instances of harassment and stalking of women students for years. Were they all reported? Perhaps not all. But for the administration to close its eyes and ears to it is an utter disgrace. It has already backfired on them. The role of the campus security also needs to be closely examined. Meanwhile, women continue to live in fear.
What a fiasco: The mess in the Upper House, created by Opposition Leader Andrew Holness’ ill-conceived “resignation letters,” was made worse last Friday. The session started late and did not last long. Senate President Floyd Morris decided not to allow Senators Christopher Tufton and Arthur Williams to speak at the session! Those appointed to replace them, Nigel Clarke and Ruel Reid, stayed away. Did President Morris not understand the Supreme Court opinion, or the Attorney General’s advice? It seemed pretty clear to me, and I am no lawyer – but perhaps I am missing something. Anyway, in an “abundance of caution,” it seems, the Senate President is going back to the court to get a definitive word, because apparently the Court’s view that the appointment of Messrs. Clarke and Reid’s appointments were “unconstitutional, null and void” is not clear enough. So until the Court has spoken further (how long will this take?) all four senators affected will remain in limbo. Will it be possible for the ordinary business of the Upper House to go ahead under these circumstances?
We have Mr. Holness’ underhanded tactics to thank for this horrendous mess. The episode with the letters spoke volumes to me about the quality of his leadership. I still believe he should resign. I know this will not happen. With the many intelligent and highly able men and women in the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) working hard and making good contributions (including Young Jamaica and G2K), this muddle is all the more pitiful. And deeply embarrassing for all the Opposition Senators, who should of course never have gone along with Mr. Holness’ ruse in the first place.
Talking of the JLP, Floyd Green is stepping down as head of G2K (a largely effective organization, in my view) and turning to representative politics. He will be the candidate for the South West St. Elizabeth constituency in the next general election. I wish Mr. Green all the best; he is a young man with good ideas and has a vision for his party – but is not happy with the current confusion.
Meanwhile, two politicians were in court today: I didn’t expect much to come of either of these corruption trials. In the case of Opposition Member of Parliament Daryl Vaz, a prosecution witness (a policeman) today said he couldn’t remember anything, so was of no use. Thus Mr. Vaz was acquitted – no surprise. Last year, Mr Vaz allegedly sought to persuade a senior policeman to assist a businessman, who was stopped for a minor traffic offense and was accused of trying to bribe a police officer. The senior policeman was convicted of attempting to pervert the course of justice; the businessman, whose action precipitated the whole thing, was acquitted. The second, older case involves the Mayor of May Pen Sean Barnswell, who is accused of attempting to intentionally deceive the Office of the Contractor General. No word on this one.
Culture clash? I understand all is not well on some of the construction sites where Jamaicans are working for the Chinese. We still do have labor rights, here…
Sad to say goodbye: To the Rev. Glen Archer and to Annabella Proudlock – both amazingly dedicated people who contributed enormously in different fields. For Rev. Archer, it was surely hard work to persuade adolescents to endure the rigor of school quizzes and spelling bees. There must have been a lot of “carrot and stick.” A marvelous man! He had been suffering from renal failure for the past few years and undergoing dialysis. According to one report it was only when he caught the chikungunya (“chik v”) virus last December that his health took a serious turn for the worse.
Annabella came to Jamaica from England in the 1960s after a career as a fashion model (she was a beautiful woman, with a quiet husky voice and a big smile – and beautiful on the inside, too). She worked with Operation Friendship for many years, then acquired the lovely Harmony Hall near Ocho Rios in 1980, which she helped transform into an art gallery. Harmony Hall became a center for Jamaican art over more than thirty years. It is a place of happy memories for me and my family. Annabella encouraged the little-known “Intuitives” such as Allan Zion, Ras Dizzy, Deloris Anglin, Michael Parchment and many others. Just before she died (on Valentine’s Day, after a long battle with cancer) she attended the opening of the Jamaica Biennial 2014. Her love of art (and Jamaica) remained strong. We will miss you dearly, Annabella.
“Big ups” are in order:
To doTERRA’s Healing Hands Foundation, which has donated J$5 million to Farm Up Jamaica for improvements to an organic onion farm in New Forest, Manchester – including a solar drying facility. doTERRA is a Utah-based organization, which was involved in a successful ginger-planting project in Westmoreland last month. I like the sound of this ongoing partnership.
To the World Bank for its focus on violence prevention. I attended a fascinating videoconference last week (thanks to Gerry McDaniel for the invite!) which I will be writing about shortly.
To the Medical Association of Jamaica, currently enjoying the celebration of their fiftieth anniversary, but not resting on their laurels! Despite (and because of) the huge challenges facing our health sector, there is an important focus on private sector partnerships.
To human rights activist Susan Goffe, who has been diligently tweeting from the West Kingston Commission of Enquiry. Both former National Security Minister Dwight Nelson and former Attorney General Dorothy Lightbourne (like the former Prime Minister Bruce Golding before them, last week) seem puzzlingly unaware of what was going on around them before, during and after the incursion of security forces into Tivoli Gardens. Mr. Nelson seems not to have received any reports from anyone about anything. Someone must have been in charge! As I said at the beginning…smh!
As always, there are so many deeply sad stories behind the violent deaths of these Jamaican citizens. Stephan Hanson was a student of Holmwood Technical High School, who got into a fight with another student in the town of Mandeville and was stabbed to death. My deepest sympathies to the families.
Sheldon Johnson, 36, East Street, Kingston
Unidentified man, Oak Glades complex, St. Andrew
Marvin McLeary, 30, Spanish Town, St. Catherine
Oma Johnson, 59, Thompson Pen, St. Catherine
Harold Stewart, 54, Peterkin District, Clarendon
Oral Morse, 34, Rosewell, Clarendon
Stephan Hanson, 16, Mandeville, Manchester
Demario Pryce, 18, Cold Spring, Hanover