We love to use this word “challenging,” don’t we? Well, I would say 2015 has been a challenging year for Jamaica so far, and I doubt anyone would disagree with me. But, we plod on… And some will find respite in the syrupy comforts of Mother’s Day.
Anyone not convinced about climate change – be convinced: Our tropical climate is drying out at an alarming rate. After weeks of dry, windy and increasingly warm weather, the mountainsides of Mavis Bank caught fire. Over 350 acres of valuable forested areas, fruit trees and coffee farms went up in flames. It seems to be more or less under control now, but firefighters have been struggling. Down here in the city, our view of the foothills of the Blue Mountains was obscured by what appeared to be cloud at first, but was soon seen as drifting smoke; we could actually smell it in our yard. A house that belonged to former Prime Minister Michael Manley was burnt down and Blue Mountain coffee farmers have lost an estimated J$200 million.
I have been slightly confused by Minister Philip Paulwell’s announcements regarding the bauxite industry in the past. I understand that production restarted at the Alpart Rusal plant in St. Elizabeth in March after five years of closure, and plans are in place to begin exporting again shortly (well, some time this summer?) This was after Minister Paulwell threatened to revoke Rusal’s license. The company invested a modest amount (US$2-3 million) to reopen. A refinery is to be set up by December 2016, Paulwell announced (of course, this announcement could have been changed/modified by now). The firm has been generous to the community in the past. Let us hope all goes well as it starts up again, albeit somewhat shakily.
Am I the only one who is getting a little weary of the hand-wringing over child abuse? Suddenly all “well-thinking” Jamaicans (I wonder what that expression really means?) are agonizing over it. It’s as if they haven’t known it has been happening for decades- uptown and downtown – like gender-based violence. Youth Minister Lisa Hanna and our Prime Minister made heartfelt pleas this week, but we’ve heard it all before. The PM even trotted out the hackneyed “it takes a village to raise a child” phrase, which has really become a cliché. Isn’t it the Government’s primary duty and responsibility to ensure the safety and security of all its citizens? Now the Prime Minister warns that if this continues, she will bring in “stricter laws.” So stop it! Now! This is not the right approach. You need to plan, strategize, implement. Please read this blog post by a young Jamaican activist, which puts the issue right in perspective: http://mekwireason.wordpress.com/2015/05/04/child-month-rhetoric-or-real-commitment/ Madam PM: Please outline actions you are now taking, not some vague threat about drastic action in the future.
Dr. Michael Abrahams has started an initiative to focus on the protection of our children. As a serious commentator, medical doctor and activist, I respect Mikey’s work and will support his march on Sunday, May 17, starting at 4:00p.m. The route will be from Ranny Williams Entertainment Centre to Hope Road to Trafalgar Road to Lady Musgrave Road and back to Ranny Williams. Dr. Abrahams’ message is: “Please bring your children too. Our group is called ‘Protect Our Children’. Be creative and positive with your placards and banners. The focus is on our children. Please, no pro- or anti-government, pro- or anti-religious, pro- or anti-gay or pro-choice or anti-abortion messages or slogans. We want a unified message to be sent, without any distractions or controversy, that we love our children and are committed to protecting them. I am trying to get t-shirts with our logo on them and will let you know when these become available.”
Paint it Black: Or rather, wear black for the next two weeks in protest, is the Jamaica Teachers’ Association’s instruction to its members. The Government is expected to come up with a new wage offer by the end of the month. Let’s face it, five years is a mighty long wage freeze.
Minister Ferguson: In defense of his performance over the past year or so, Minister of Health Fenton Ferguson told us: “Don’t judge me on Chik v.” But I am sorry, many Jamaicans do, Minister. He also wants the media to praise him for positive news, like getting an elevator back in service at the Kingston Public Hospital, at long last. I understand that three elevators are now fully functional, so operations can proceed. BUT hooray for the signing of an agreement with the U.S. firm Varian Medical Systems to establish two cancer treatment centers in Kingston and Montego Bay equipped with the latest technology. The US$14.5 million project is supported by the National Health Fund, the Culture, Health, Arts, Sports and Education (CHASE) Fund and the private sector. Good stuff.
I am still worried about Anchor Finance (nicknamed “Crown and Anchor,” the name of a Jamaican gambling game), with whom the Jamaican Government recently signed an Memorandum of Understanding “to talk” about the billion-dollar funding of the logistics hub. And what is happening on the energy front? Anyone?
Is the JCF really “not communicating”? The Sunday Observer editorial takes the police to task for not communicating properly with the people and keeping relevant statistics secrets. I disagree. The heads of parish police divisions have been issuing regular reports to the media (such as the one from Manchester printed by the Observer today) and police chiefs across the island seem to give television interviews almost daily. I would say that police spokespersons are noticeably more visible, and certainly more articulate, than in years gone by. Admittedly the Commissioner himself seems to prefer to keep a fairly low profile, but I don’t think this is a major issue, frankly. However, I would certainly like to see more murderers caught and brought to justice (not killed in “shootouts”); and stronger efforts to curb police excesses and establish more respectful relationships with communities.
Meanwhile, kudos to the Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency (MOCA) West, who recently arrested five policemen and a civilian on suspicion of corruption and larceny in connection with the seizure of a boat believed to be used in the illegal drug trade. A number of scammers are now facing justice here and in the United States, too. So let’s give credit where it’s due. I believe MOCA is working hard; doesn’t always get it right, but doing its best.
UK elections: The general election results in the so-called “Mother Country” are perhaps not as irrelevant to Jamaica as Professor Brian Meeks of the University of the West Indies declares. The Gleaner editorial got a couple of things right and some things wrong (I don’t believe the UK Independence Party is primarily racist; its anti-immigrant tendencies are directed at the European Union and the large influx of East Europeans). But I do agree that the results may have more impact in terms of trade and the economy, for example. We shall see.
More fish sanctuaries: I was glad to hear the Minister of Agriculture Derrick Kellier announce the establishment of four more fish sanctuaries in the coming year, bringing the total from 14 to 18 sanctuaries. Some are working much better than others, I understand, but the (half) Minister toured one of the most successful, the Oracabessa Fish Sanctuary in St. Mary recently. Dare I mention the threatened destruction of the sanctuary at Goat Islands?
It’s nice to see John Rapley writing in Jamaican newspapers again, even if he doesn’t live here any more. I enjoyed reading his balanced article today on the Caribbean Court of Justice issue, which has been floundering in political limbo for years now. We have enough hot air in the neighborhood already these days, so why can’t it just be sorted out, once and for all?
Don’t forget! The deadline for the Call for Papers and early registration for the BirdsCaribbean 20th International Meeting in Kingston is Thursday, May 21. For more details on the Conference, browse through the meeting website (BirdsCaribbean Meeting 2015) and visit their Facebook page, or tweet them @BirdsCaribbean. It’s going to be an exciting program!
Very happy to see the USNS “Comfort” making an impact in Jamaica on its weeklong humanitarian mission. Medical staff plan to conduct approximately 100 surgeries on board, and will be seeing 700 patients daily at the National Indoor Stadium and more at a clinic in Maxfield Park (in fact, on Saturday they attended to over 800 in just one day!) So, free health care will be provided for thousands by the time they finish on May 14. They will also be making some donations and doing some refurbishing work at schools and an old people’s home.
Congratulations to Marguerite Orane, a Jamaican now based in Canada, who is a new blogger for Huffington Post! http://www.huffingtonpost.com/marguerite-orane/from-job-to-joy-how-to-fi_b_7121238.html
Bedward Gardens is such a small, and relatively new community: a rocky little spot on the other side of the Hope River’s dry bed. A woman was killed there (not the first murder) and no one is talking. I hope the police will get to the bottom of it all. My deepest sympathies to the families of these Jamaicans who have been killed. It must have been a very hard Mother’s Day for many Jamaicans – mothers, children and fathers, too – who have lost loved ones. Please spare a thought for them.
Gladstone Gayle, 24, Seaview Gardens, Kingston
Donovan Hall, 46, Riverton City, Kingston
Maureen Whittaker, 40, Bedward Gardens/August Town, St. Andrew
Mark Walker, 35, Old Harbour, St. Catherine
“Ratty,” Farm District, Clarendon
Derrick Edwards, Montego Bay, St. James
Everton Mitchell, St. James (killed by police)
Anthony Bailey, 27, Greenvale, Manchester
Oshane, Levy, 21,Greenvale, Manchester
David Nevers, 23, Steer Town, St. Ann
Wesley Reid, 53, Falmouth, Trelawny