This is going to be short and sweet, as time is pressing. Times are hard, but at least the weather is kind to us; we have had delicious showers and sunny interludes, and I can spend some time in the garden without burning up. Thank you, O Rain God!
Running out of patience: We knew this was coming, didn’t we? I have been pointing to it since last year. Public sector wages. Now our teachers, police officers, healthcare workers and other public sector employees are at the end of their tether. After a very long wage freeze, the Police Federation (representing rank and file policemen/women) is asking for a 100 per cent increase, rejecting the paltry five percent over two years offered by the Government. Representatives met with the Police Commissioner, who apparently reminded them of their duty to the country, etc. So police officers are reporting sick this week; the Jamaica Defence Force, trainees and senior officers are expected to try and hold the fort. National Security Minister Peter Bunting has told them to go back to work, reminding them they are an “essential service.” Minister for the Public Service Horace Dalley poured his heart out in a somewhat emotional television interview, saying the government’s hands are tied; they are not “uncaring.” But I cannot help but sympathize with the workers; for example, why aren’t the police getting overtime pay?
A common complaint: The Government does come up with money pretty quickly when needed (for example, the fixing of roads etc. before President Obama’s visit). Well, haven’t we seen other examples of this?
“Who is the Minister of Growth?” a prominent teacher asked on a radio talk show this morning. Well all our ministers should be; the Finance Minister is too busy playing numbers games and passing International Monetary Fund (IMF) tests. But eventually, without growth where is Jamaica’s future? What is our strategy? Is it grasping at straws and hoping China Harbour Engineering Company will do it for us? I notice many small businesses and entrepreneurs setting up shop; but where is the purchasing power? Where are the opportunities for those who aspire to a better standard of living? The banks are doing pretty well, however!
Is the “Crown and Anchor” sinking? (Crown and Anchor is a well-known gambling game in Jamaica). After his grand announcement in April regarding two possible investors for the logistics hub, and a Memorandum of Understanding signed with Krauck Systems and Anchor Finance, Minister Anthony Hylton has backed right away from the matter. It is now for Cabinet to decide. Is the Crown and Anchor sinking (the anchor hasn’t caught firmly on the seabed, one suspects)? Is the logistics hub still a chimera, a mirage shimmering on the horizon? We should find out soon.
Class prejudice rears its ugly head: Facebook tends to be toxic. Social media can inflate issues like a balloon, which eventually bursts. A well-known socialite posted a rant, complaining about her uptown neighbor’s alleged loud parties and dirt bike escapades on the street. The neighbor is our athletics hero, Usain Bolt, who comes from a humble rural background, of course. The socialite was quite vitriolic, and has caused some upset. Let’s face it though – classism is alive and well in Jamaica! And as I said before, I wish they would scrap the social pages in newspapers!
Mario Deane case delayed: The preliminary hearing for the three police officers charged with manslaughter, misconduct in a public office, and perverting the course of justice in the case of Mario Deane, who died after a severe beating on Independence Day 2014 (August 6), has been deferred to August 18. Our Minister of Justice, so far as I can see, has done nothing whatsoever to improve the workings of our tottering justice system, which is what he is there for. Someone, please tell me I am wrong?
Yes, let’s revive National Heroes Park: I agree with Member of Parliament Ronald Thwaites, who wants the dusty wasteland that is our National Heroes Park transformed into a “downtown Emancipation Park.” We have a pretty uptown park. This is an even larger space, a part of which the Ministry of Finance has turned into a parking lot. Another part is the beautifully manicured area where the Heroes’ monuments are. The rest is a dirty, worn, empty space. Some serious tree-planting is in order (flowering trees like poui or poor man’s orchid). Time for the Finance Ministry (which is surrounded by tenement yards) to fix up its surroundings!
Communities living in fear: The crime situation is not improving at all. Some multiple killings (for which the motives still seem unclear) have left rural communities nervous. Although Kingston has a bad reputation, this is not entirely fair. The parish of St. James (including Montego Bay) has taken over the “top spot” for murders – a dubious distinction indeed – largely due to gang activities I believe, and not apparently affecting tourism (or is it?)
I am ending here, although there are more burning issues that I could address. Jamaica continues to be mesmerized by the ongoing FIFA saga and the involvement of Caribbean sports officials to a greater or lesser degree. The crowning embarrassment was Trinidadian football official and politician Jack Warner holding up a printout of a fake article from “The Onion,” a satirical online publication, and using it to attack the United States.
The death toll continues mercilessly. The murders of three men in their 60s and 70s playing dominoes at a shop (two of whom were brothers), and another man on the road in St. Elizabeth has been another high-profile shocking crime (one hears this might have been related to extortion attempts). But there are many sad stories, daily. My deepest condolences to the families, friends and all who mourn at this time… This is the list for the past eleven days or so.
Unidentified man, Waltham Park, Kingston: Alleged robber who had just robbed a bus passenger found dead with gunshot wounds.
Jermaine Peterkin, Port Security office, Kingston: Robbed and shot dead near the entrance to the office, where he worked.
Shakir Brooks, Barbican, Kingston: Shot and killed by armed robbers.
Norman House, 39, Matthews Lane, Kingston: Resident shot dead, another man wounded.
Ricardo Medley, Chestnut Lane, Denham Town, Kingston: Allegedly shot dead at his home by the police on May 22. Residents protested his killing.
Unidentified man, Molynes Road, Kingston.
Ricardo Roberts, August Town, St. Andrew: A man wanted by the police. Details unclear.
Sheldon Stewart, 33, May Pen, Clarendon: Taxi operator shot dead while on his route from May pen to Bucknor.
Enoch Bailey, 41, May Pen, Clarendon: A teacher at Bustamante High School, shot dead as he got out of his car on arriving home.
Delvin Anderson, 25, Frankfield, Clarendon: Shopkeeper was shot and killed inside his shop.
Ezra Wright, 73, Claremont, St. Elizabeth: Playing dominoes at a shop…
Archibald Brown, 60, Claremont, St. Elizabeth
George Brown, 57, Claremont, St. Elizabeth
Morris Anderson, Claremont, St. Elizabeth
Nikazahree Gordon, 35, Philadelphia District, St. Ann
Nollie, Pimento Walk/Ocho Rios, St. Ann
Maurice Cox, 16, Lime Hall, St. Ann: Shot dead while “playing with a gun” with other teens.
Kirkland Blake, 33, Rose Heights, St. James
“Peck,” Rose Heights, St. James
Abraham Walters, 41, Albion, St. Thomas: A businessman who was shot dead in his car.