Almost as soon as President Obama flew off on Thursday evening, we all went back to normal. The crab vendors returned to their regular spot by National Heroes Park. There were three murders last night. Yes, I am sounding cynical – but still hoping that some of the inspiration we felt a couple of days ago can last for a little while. But the annual Carnival road march is on tomorrow, and we understand some costumes will have no feathers (what!!) because the Agriculture Ministry has banned the importation of poultry and poultry products. This is simply disastrous!
Road carnage: One hundred Jamaicans have died on Jamaica’s roads so far this year. This is a small increase over last year, which was a pretty bad year. And there have been many serious injuries. CVM Television aired disturbing amateur footage of the wild behavior of passengers on a bus, which subsequently crashed, over the Easter weekend. The driver was over the alcohol limit. Sixteen were injured, with three losing limbs. Last year, according to National Road Safety Council statistics, over 3,500 Jamaicans were killed or injured in road accidents (331 deaths and 819 serious injuries), compared to 307 deaths in 2013. So we are not doing too well.
Well, I did mention on more than one blog post that I thought the public sector wage talks were going to be sticky, and a major hurdle for the Government. On Friday talks ended without an agreement; the trade unions confirmed they had rejected the Government’s 5 per cent offer (3 per cent in year one and 2 per cent in year two). After years of a wage freeze this was hardly surprising. So what next, I wonder.
PJ Highway: The Mandela Highway to May Pen leg of Highway 2000 will be renamed the P.J. Patterson Highway on April 17. Our former Prime Minister (for fourteen years) celebrated his 80th birthday on Friday. I am personally against roads and other lumps of concrete being named after politicians – especially in this country, when I feel I would rather not be reminded of their names. Perfectly happy with Mandela Highway though. And Mandela Park, although the latter hardly deserves his name – it’s a depressingly dirty place in Half Way Tree.
Speaking of former PMs, I heard former Prime Minister Bruce Golding declaring that China has done more for Jamaica than the United States. His administration’s relationship with the U.S. Government went dramatically downhill during the “Dudus” affair. But is anyone taking any notices of Mr. Golding’s opinions? What are we to do with them? Which reminds me – he is due to give evidence at the Tivoli Commission of Enquiry this week.
A tourist attraction? The crab vendors are back and responded graciously to the Mayor and former Mayor’s efforts on their behalf. “We are really grateful and are looking forward to the stalls that will turn our area into a tourist attraction,” says a vendor. I do hope the officials will not disappoint, and will turn this episode into something positive.
Why is Minister Anthony Hylton so quiet? He appears to be working hard, but I am not sure what he is working hard at. The once very vocal logistics hub propagandists have also quietened down. Or have I missed something?
The Commission of Enquiry into the Tivoli incursion is expected to restart this coming week. The Commissioner was sick, and then we had President Obama’s visit, so it did not start as planned last week. One of those church leaders who cares about human rights issues, Father Sean Major-Campbell, wrote an excellent letter about this matter last week, noting the lack of concern that many Jamaicans appear to have for the victims. He concluded: “It is not sufficient to just pray for justice. We must work so that justice, truth, may indeed be ours forever.” No decision has been made on the vexed question of the disclosure of certain sensitive documents and I understand there will be a closed session to consider this on Monday. I must take note of human rights activist Susan Goffe’s comment on this issue: “The definition of what is sensitive must be narrow & genuine,not used as a cover for what is simply incriminating or embarrassing…Closed sessions & subsequent rulings/decisions are a test of the credibility of & public trust in the process,” she tweeted today. Let us watch this space.
During the Obama visit, the very popular singer Chronixx (yes, don’t forget two “x”‘s) disappointed many with his post about the President being a “waste man.” There were comparisons with the rebellious Peter Tosh (a man from another era altogether, who when he hadn’t smoked too many spliffs expressed himself much more sharply and eloquently than this young man). And dancehall deejay Bounty Killer said he was going to ask the President about his U.S. visa, which was canceled in 2010. I’m not sure if he got the chance to do so. Meanwhile our Youth and Culture Minister Lisa Hanna felt it was necessary to post a public video gently reprimanding Mr. Chronixx. I think there are more important things for you to be focusing on in your portfolio, Minister Hanna; the welfare of our marginalized children, perhaps?
Chik v’s lingering effects: Another Jamaican has died as a result of the chikungunya virus at the age of 30 years old. Motor sports competitor Daryl King, who had a heart condition, had contracted pneumonia after suffering from the virus last year. He went to the cinema with friends and passed away suddenly. My deepest sympathies to his family.
Former Contractor General Greg Christie posted a series of tweets this afternoon, which I thought would be worth reproducing here: “There is perhaps no single issue which saps public confidence in govt than this spectre of corruption.”|Jamaican Finance Minister, Sept 12, 2014/Yet, despite this statement the GoJ has done little to address the perception of corruption and poor governance which permeates & haunts it./Jamaica is ranked as one of the most corrupt countries in the hemisphere and as the 2nd most corrupt country in the Commonwealth Caribbean/Last year, 80% of J’cans polled said that the Gov’t is neither transparent nor accountable, and that the PM had made empty promises./Do Jamaicans have reason, therefore, to be cautious about the draft of the Integrity Commission Bill that is currently before the Parliament?/My answer is ‘Yes’./The Bill is weak. It does not go far enough to address Jamaica’s endemic corruption problem. And it should not be passed in its current form./Despite the attempts that have been made by some to project the Bill as a good one, in many respects it’s a step in the wrong direction./The Commission’s structure is impractical and bureaucratic, and its investigative arm is deprived of operational autonomy and independence./The sanctions under the Bill are weak. There are no minimum penalties. Overall, they will do little, if anything, to deter corrupt conduct./Of greatest concern, however, is that several anti-corruption/anti-bribery int’l best practice measures have been omitted from the Bill./Jamaicans are aware that successive administrations, while preaching the anticorruption rhetoric, have failed to effectively tackle the problem./Corruption is not only impeding investment, development and growth in Jamaica, but it’s preventing Jamaica and Jamaicans from attaining their full potential./Only last week, we were told by the U. S. President that Jamaica needs to spur growth as this is the only way to reduce our heavy debt burden./But Mr. Obama also reminded us that countries that are perceived to be corrupt do not attract the investments that are vital for growth./The President’s injunction is timely because our leaders do not talk seriously about corruption when talking about Jamaica’s growth agenda./Jamaican lawmakers, and others, who are against strong anti-corruption reforms, must not be allowed to hold Jamaica to ransom. Too much is at stake!/Jamaicans must insist that tough anti-corruption measures are passed into law, and that the cancer of corruption is excised from our shores. Of course, these were in bites of 140 characters!
Kudos are due…
- Our security forces did a superb and professional job during President Obama’s visit, so far as I could see. The Police Commissioner seemed pleased, too.
- The Jamaican World War II veterans, who met and spoke with President Obama before he laid a wreath at the Cenotaph in National Heroes Park. Those Jamaicans who served during that war are often forgotten and I am so glad that the focus was placed on them – most appropriate. I am sure that Mr. Keith Bardowell, a wonderful Jamaican who passed away last year, would have loved to meet the President. I felt sad that he was not there, too.
A 29-year-old bus conductor has been charged with the murder of the pregnant, 14-year-old Kayalicia Simpson in rural St. Thomas in March. Meanwhile, a baby boy was among the casualties of a gang feud in downtown Kingston, and the police are searching for teenage boys in connection with the murders. How grim is that – it is infanticide now. My deepest sympathies to all the families.
Omar Lindo, 11 months, Charles Street, Kingston
Frederick Jones, 55, South Parade, Kingston
Anthony Stewart, Parade Square, Kingston
Ryan White, High Holborn Street, Kingston
“Flavor,” Bryden Street, McIntyre Villa, Kingston
Audrey DaCosta, 57, New Nursery/Spanish Town, St. Catherine
Terry Alvez, 32, Palmers Cross, Clarendon
Christopher Ranch, 37, Cedar Grove, Manchester