UWI’s New Ganja Plantation, A Cable Debacle and a Sign Disappears: Friday, April 24, 2015

Well! In just a few days since I last wrote, we have seen some interesting developments. I have been dashing up and down the city in the ever-growing heat (is it really still only April?) but will backtrack a little now and go over some of the mini-dramas that have occurred meanwhile.

Minister of Science, Technology, Energy, and Mining Phillip Paulwell is assisted by principal of the University of the West Indies, Mona, Professor Archibald McDonald (left), and Government MP Raymond Pryce in planting the first legal ganja tree on the university’s campus. Standing at left is Minister of Justice Senator Mark Golding. (Photo: Aston Spaulding)
Minister of Science, Technology, Energy, and Mining Phillip Paulwell is assisted by principal of the University of the West Indies, Mona, Professor Archibald McDonald (left), and Government MP Raymond Pryce in planting the first legal ganja tree on the university’s campus. Standing at left is Minister of Justice Senator Mark Golding. (Photo: Aston Spaulding)

Hyper-ventilating: Government ministers and academics alike became wildly excited over the planting of some ganja plants (from an unknown source) on the University of the West Indies (UWI) campus on Monday. UWI and the University of Technology are now licensed to grow the plant for research purposes under the new ganja legislation. Rastafarians milled around in the background puffing on spliffs. By the way, what is the position with smoking ganja in public? Do the laws against public cigarette smoking apply to ganja too? The Minister of Justice was there, and he seemed quite happy to be second-hand smoking. The ministers were over the moon, in fact. Minister Paulwell called it a “wonderful day.” Professor Archibald McDonald went over the top; “amazing” and “historic,” he gushed. He said he could “live with the odd case of psychosis” (suggesting that as a surgeon he was qualified to pronounce on this). He is not a psychiatrist, however; and psychiatrists will tell you it is more than the “odd case,” Professor.

I am going to say this now, without hesitation: There is going to be much confusion, misunderstanding and  many complications arising from this law. I could write a long list of possible pitfalls, and suspect we will fall into most of them! Let’s see  how things stand in a year or two; but I am not optimistic. And why, oh why was there no public education campaign before – before, not after – the law was passed?

Cable viewers in shock: A number of Jamaicans (especially city-dwellers who can afford cable television) are distressed to learn that 49 local cable companies are showing 98 channels – yes, 98! – illegally and without a license (and charging customers for them). They must delete 19 of these by May 31, says the Broadcasting Commission. It’s hard to know why this was an “open secret” for so long, and why NBC, for example, took so long to take our local cable providers to task. This is a huge and “blatant” (NBC’s word) violation of copyright laws, which a number of people in Jamaica have been aware of for some time. Wasn’t the Broadcasting Commission, which is now doing a copyright audit of all media platforms,” aware of it?

Consumers are asking: What next? A return to local stations and locally produced content? Some kind of alternative? Increased rates if licenses are obtained? What angers many is that cable companies have been knowingly charging us all for unlicensed content! But are we (albeit unwittingly) accomplices in the crime? Apparently the issue was raised at a meeting with trade representatives of the Obama administration during the President’s recent visit. To those who said the trip was all froth…Perhaps not so much. Basically it’s a trade issue, and reflects badly on the Jamaican Government.

Intrepid human rights lawyer Anthony Gifford. (Photo: Gleaner)
Intrepid human rights lawyer Anthony Gifford. (Photo: Gleaner)

“I reject that, sir”: Former Police Commissioner Owen Ellington has resolutely repeated the phrase this week at the Commission of Enquiry into the Tivoli Gardens massacre. His expression hardly changed as Anthony Gifford quietly pressed him on how the 74 Jamaican citizens killed in 2010 met their fate. He rejected the Public Defender’s findings that 35 were shot in the back; it was only 14, he said. He was reluctant to confirm statements provided by 31 police officers that the Jamaica Constabulary Force fired over 1,000 rounds of ammunition on entering this small residential area; but conceded that no police officers were killed and was not sure any were even injured.

Commissioner Sir David Simmons (second right) touring Tivoli Gardens this morning. (Photo: Gleaner)
Commissioner Sir David Simmons (second right) touring Tivoli Gardens this morning. Residents received him warmly. (Photo: Gleaner)

Today, the Commissioners toured Tivoli Gardens. Residents welcomed Sir David Simmons (whose command of the proceedings has been exemplary, in my view). “There’s nothing like going and seeing for yourself,” said Sir David, who called the tour “touching.” Residents are apparently unimpressed by Mr. Ellington’s testimony and claim up to 200 Jamaicans were actually killed, not the “official” figure of 74. An exact figure is not known.

A fake document: Then there was the revelation that a May 13 document purported to be the Governor General’s declaration of a state of emergency and presented by the Office of the Public Defender to Parliament was counterfeit! It referred to “Professor Sir Patrick Allen.” Our dear GG is not a professor. The original correct document is available; but where did this come from; who did it?

The Commission of Enquiry is taking a break until May 26, and may continue until December, it is now reported. This is a considerable extension.

Speaking of documents, I confess to being baffled by the way in which a much-touted US$5 billion investment in Jamaica’s logistics hub is being handled. A pretty substantial amount, right? Yet, almost overnight it seems, the Ministry of Industry, Investment & Commerce signed a non-binding Memorandum of Understanding (“to talk,” our Information Minister says) with Krauck Group, Krauck Systems and Anchor Finance (about which questions have been asked). It can be terminated within 30 days if the proposed funding package is not approved by the Government. It is not a partnership or a joint venture, the MoU says. On radio, Minister of Finance Peter Phillips seemed oddly evasive and waffling over what must be a huge game changer for Jamaica’s economy. Minister Paulwell adamantly refused to comment. Does this deal have their support?

Dennis Chung is the new chair of the National Solid Waste Management Agency. I wish him good luck! (Gleaner file photo)
Dennis Chung is the new chair of the National Solid Waste Management Agency. I wish him good luck! (Gleaner file photo)

Two boards: Setting aside (for now) the Auditor General’s (AG) deeply disturbing report on the National Housing Trust (NHT), the board has a new Chairman, Dr. Carlton Davis, a veteran bureaucrat. There is a need for an “experienced, steady hand,” said one journalist. You’re telling me, but I am sorry that some board members who had refused to resign during the Outameni scandal are still there. The AG’s report notes the NHT bought large, expensive tracts of land which it is unable to build on and ignored advice from technical staff. The infamous Outameni purchase is a case in point. If you have the stomach for it, the report is online here: http://www.auditorgeneral.gov.jm/files/u5/NHT_PERFORMANCE_AUDIT_REPORT_April_21_2015.pdf. Dr. Davis, who did a stint as Chair 25 years ago, says he was asked to get NHT “focused on its founding mandate in 1976.”  

Dr. Carlton Davis, a former Cabinet Secretary among many other official positions, is the new Chair of the National Housing Trust. (Photo: Gleaner)
Dr. Carlton Davis, a former Cabinet Secretary among many other official positions, is the new Chair of the National Housing Trust. (Photo: Gleaner)

I am more optimistic about the new board of the National Solid Waste Management Agency, chaired by the astute and sensible Mr. Dennis Chung, who is Executive Director of the Private Sector Organization of Jamaica and an accountant; this is important bearing in mind that financial mismanagement seems to have been an issue under former Executive Director Jennifer Edwards. The interim Executive Director is a Jamaica Defence Force retired Colonel, Daniel Pryce.

Chik V lingers: I recently mentioned the case of a young man who had died of heart failure recently, after suffering from the chikungunya virus (and resultant pneumonia) last year. Damear Munroe, a fourth-former who had the sickle cell trait, died earlier this month. He had been very ill since contracting chik v last term.

Andrew Holness looks like he is having fun at the Magnum Kings and Queens contest recently. (Photo: Loop Jamaica)
Andrew Holness looks like he is having fun at the Magnum Kings and Queens contest recently. (Photo: Loop Jamaica)
St. George's College student Damear Munroe died on April 9, leaving his twin brother Damoli. (Photo: Loop Jamaica)
St. George’s College student Damear Munroe died on April 9, leaving his twin brother Damoli. My sincere condolences to Damoli and to his family, who must be missing him very much. (Photo: Loop Jamaica)

Jamaica is a funny place! Here are two examples: Mr. Kern Spencer, a former Member of Parliament and junior ministry was charged with corruption and money laundering in 2008 (he was cleared six years later after numerous court delays). Mr. Spencer is now producing a TV reality show “geared towards giving the world an idea of what the typical lifestyle of a Caribbean family is.”  A sort of Kardashian show without the whining California accents. Then Opposition Leader Andrew Holness was a guest judge at the Magnum Kings and Queens dancehall event. Was this an effort to shed his somewhat stiff and nerdy image? A little extreme, perhaps!

Gone! The PJ Patterson Highway sign. (Photo: Twitter)
Gone! The PJ Patterson Highway sign. It will soon be replaced, we are assured. I hope the next one doesn’t go missing. (Photo: Twitter)

Try this new blog for size: Jamaicans generally do not take to satire very well, but perhaps we are acquiring a taste for it. After all there is rich and fertile soil for this brand of humor in Jamaica (I have to keep my tendency towards sarcasm under control when reading some news stories). Some of my friends on Twitter are enjoying this new blog: http://ungratefulsoup.com  Take a dip; it might give you a good chuckle.

Ouch!  Someone stole the ‘PJ Patterson Highway’ sign, just a few days after a section of Highway 2000 was renamed to honor the Former Prime Minister. Was this politically motivated? Was it for scrap metal? Or was it done just for a lark, or out of sheer spite? We shall probably never know.

Kudos to the Jamaica Information Service for posting a number of key documents on its website. This is a first, I think. And, last but not least…

Major kudos to Youth Minister Lisa Hanna for raising the issue of abortion rights. This is a political hot potato, like LGBT rights (the Prime Minister has already dropped that one; it was burning her fingers). No doubt the Righteous Brigade will be girding their loins for battle, but this is an important and relevant issue that we cannot keep sweeping under the carpet for fear of upsetting the fundamentalists. Can we move into the 21st century and address it properly and without hysteria?

This has happened every week for some time now, but once again we are mourning the violent death of one of our younger citizens – this time a 12-year-old girl. My deepest condolences to Jamilia’s family and to all those who are grieving at this time. The cycle of hurt and trauma continues.

Jamilia Johnson, 12, Williamsfield/Riversdale, St. Catherine

Fabian Cooper, 23, Bucknor, Clarendon

Unidentified man, Logwood, Hanover

Kevin Warlo, 34, Flanker, Montego Bay, St. James

Kenardo Hemans, 23, Rose Heights, St. James

Wilmot Smith, 44, Salt Spring, St. James

A teenager sits at a candlelight vigil for the three teenagers and one man who were murdered last week in Monymusk, Clarendon. The police have released two men they were questioning in connection with the killings. (Photo: Loop Jamaica)
A teenager sits at a candlelight vigil for the three teenagers and one man who were murdered last week in Monymusk, Clarendon. The police have released two men they were questioning in connection with the killings. (Photo: Loop Jamaica)

 

Angry residents set the home of Jamilia
Angry residents set fire to the home of twelve-year-old Jamilia Johnson, whose body was found in bushes in St. Catherine three days after she disappeared. The family had to flee the area under police protection. Residents accused them of neglecting Jamilia. (Photo: Loop Jamaica)

 

Kenardo Hemans, 23, was shot dead at 3 p.m. in Rose Heights, St. James, while returning home from a walk to the local shop. (Photo: On The Ground News Reports)
Kenardo Hemans, 23, was shot dead at 3 p.m. in Rose Heights, St. James, while returning home from a walk to the local shop. (Photo: On The Ground News Reports)

3 thoughts on “UWI’s New Ganja Plantation, A Cable Debacle and a Sign Disappears: Friday, April 24, 2015

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.