Ugh. I confess I have been so preoccupied by the BirdsCaribbean Conference that recent events have hardly registered, yet. This is perhaps just as well, as it has been utterly depressing. I have also been trying to ignore the clouds’ stubborn refusal to rain on us poor city dwellers, while elsewhere on the island I understand people have had some decent little downpours. I became almost hysterical today when it actually rained determinedly for five minutes – yes, five – and then abruptly stopped. I am concerned about the mental health of myself – and other Kingston dwellers.
On to the depressing stuff now: I hardly know where to start with the murders. Nor, it seems, does the Minister of National Security Peter Bunting, who still has confidence in our Commissioner of Police. There has been an “explosion” of murders in western Jamaica. It’s the lotto scam, yes; but I was under the impression this was gradually being dealt with. There have been arrests recently. Minister Bunting says the scammers have spread out, are not just concentrated in Montego Bay, and that the rewards have become diluted. So are these the death throes (literally)? The scamming started when the call centers opened in our second city. Some, like local Member of Parliament Lloyd B. Smith, believe it’s much more than the lotto scam – it’s the inability to settle disputes, family feuds, and more.
The American connection: Discussions on crime and security in the media often turn to U.S. – Jamaica relations and cooperation. After a young policewoman was gunned down on a public passenger bus on her way home, the U.S. Embassy issued a statement of heartfelt condolences, which was well received. Then the “Yes, but…” comments followed. A Gleaner editorial suggested that “U.S. gun manufacturers ought to share some of the responsibility for the mayhem being created in Jamaica” – along with the U.S. Government. Clearly there are serious issues to be addressed and discussed, and it’s so easy to point fingers. Instead of pontificating on the matter, perhaps our local media could do some in-depth investigative work to find out exactly what is going on. Do we know, for example, what percentage of guns are being smuggled in through our porous coastline (in fishing boats, perhaps) and from where? Is there still the oft-discussed link between some politicians and gangsters? Yes, that has been cited often in the past… Is this still a factor at all?
Is the oft-cited “guns for drugs trade” with Haiti actually a factor? The Prime Minister seemed to indicate this in a speech she made at the United Nations Security Council. You can read her speech on the JIS website (why do we always have to get out the begging bowl though?) What about corruption among police, baggage handlers, security and customs officers etc. at our air and sea ports? Does the Gleaner editorial writer (or anyone else) know the procedures for tracking gun purchases in the U.S.? Are guns and drugs still coming in from Colombia? etc. etc. Can we try and get some facts on the “flow of guns from the U.S.” please? Let’s stop simply repeating pronouncements by security officials and dig a bit deeper.
Minister Bunting booked a flight to Washington, DC to seek assistance. And the US-Jamaica relationship? As they say, “It’s complicated.”
We were extremely upset at the murder of a young policewoman, based in Denham Town, who was on her way to her home in Spanish Town fairly late and was gunned down in the bus. My first thought was, why is she traveling home alone on public transport? She was always vulnerable. Today, her mother collected her Associate Degree from the University College of the Caribbean at their graduation ceremony; her eyes reflected the pain as she kept repeating, “It’s really hard. Really hard,” although she was smiling. Jamaicans often smile in moments of extreme stress (the Japanese do it too). Since then, two more police officers have been killed.
It seems an inappropriate time for the Minister of National Security Peter Bunting to be proposing an oversight body for the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM), which investigates police abuses. The establishment of INDECOM five years ago has, in my view, had a positive effect in curbing the soaring number of extra-judicial killings. There has been a sharp drop in the past two or three years. This has restored some trust among citizens and police in troubled areas (this should help in solving crime, no?) It’s far more important to fix our failing justice system (Minister Golding?) INDECOM head Terrence Williams (whose contract was renewed earlier this week) says he has no problem with it, provided it doesn’t interfere with the Commission’s day-to-day operations. Now the Justice Minister says the body will not be separate from INDECOM but part of it, like a board of directors. I still don’t get it.
Can’t this Government leave well alone? And that includes of the Office of the Contractor General, and civil society organizations, who are also under great pressure. More of that at another time.
PetroCaribe: In an apparent effort to reduce its overall debt burden, Jamaica has decided to repurchase its own debt to PetroCaribe at an apparently discounted value. Jamaica is in the process of issuing bonds with two different maturity periods to raise funds for this purpose. The bonds, which are expected to raise US$2 billion in total, are divided into two separate issues. I have not had a chance to learn much about it (it takes me a while to digest financial news, I confess), but there seem to be mixed views on the move. The ubiquitous financial commentator Ralston Hyman considers it a good move, while Jamaica Labour Party Deputy Spokesperson on Finance Fayval Williams has been vocal in the media, raising some doubts. Ms. Williams is new to politics but is already making her mark (Where is Audley Shaw, by the way? Please remember, I have not been monitoring the news for three weeks…)
Women under siege: An extremely disturbing video has circulated on social media, apparently someone raping a mentally ill girl. (Let’s not say “assault” or “attack.” I prefer to use the word “rape.”) I fail to understand why our Youth Minister is generally so silent on these issues. The ever-vigilant Opposition Senator Kamina Johnson Smith is calling for a speedy investigation and notes the parliamentary committee reviewing legislation has not met for a long time.
A little politics now… “I am a revolutionary!” declared first-time Member of Parliament Raymond Pryce on television at a recent People’s National Party Youth Organization (PNPYO) meeting. Come to think of it, we have not heard much from the PNPYO for some time; have they been muzzled – or has the organization, as Mr. Pryce suggested, been used to get youth galvanized before the last elections, and then sidelined? He may have a point. He and his colleague Lisa Hanna are apparently “under pressure” from other would-be candidates in their rural constituencies. Well, you did know the kitchen would be hot, right?
Tomorrow is the Emancipation Day holiday and the Ministry of Youth and Culture’s slogan proclaims that we are “Proud and Free, Jamaica 53.” I will also quote Gleaner columnist Peter Espeut: “Who is going to step in and emancipate us from political corruption?”
Now, some bright spots!
- When CHEC built up the Palisadoes road along the narrow spit of land linking the international airport to Kingston, it destroyed a long stretch of mangroves, home to seabirds and other life, concreting over a section of the area that was designated a “Wetland of International Importance” under the Ramsar Convention in 2005. Now nearly 4,000 out of 6,000 saplings have already been planted in a restoration project implemented by the National Works Agency in partnership with the University of the West Indies’ Marine Laboratory and Biodiversity Centre at Port Royal, which will maintain and monitor the plants. I would like to think that advocacy on this issue by environmentalists (including a heart-wrenching film by Esther Figueroa of the invading bulldozers, and this blog) may have helped. But didn’t CHEC promise to replace the mangroves themselves?
- The Reggae Boyz beat the United States in a historic semi-final encounter in the Gold Cup. Usually the U.S. and Mexico have it sewn up between them but this time Jamaica made it to the final for the first (and hopefully not last) time and did not play too badly against Mexico, despite losing to them, 3-1. I detected an unfamiliar glint in the Boyz’ eyes; they actually looked like they wanted to win!
- Always happy to see activist youth who care about human rights. So special kudos to UWI student Jherane Patmore, who is incoming president of the UWI Mona Model United Nations (UWIMUN) and is the latest youth ambassador for the Respect Jamaica anti-discrimination campaign. Go from strength to strength, Jherane!
It has taken me a long time to compile these lists. My last post was on July 12, so it is almost three weeks since I last wrote about the tragedy of all these Jamaican lives lost. It is too painful to recount all the sad stories, but I think these lists speak for themselves. Well over 600 Jamaicans have been murdered so far this year, including at least 50 children. My deepest condolences to the families who are grieving at this time.
Kingston/St. Andrew: Constable Lynden Barrett, Wellington Street/Denham Town; Constable Krystal Thomas, Spanish Town Road; Unidentified man, Admiral Town; Kemar Anderson, 27 (suspect in the murder of Constable Thomas), Hunt’s Bay Police Station; Dwayne Scott, 28, Kingston Public Hospital; Calbert Jones, 44, Regent/North Street, Denham Town; Horace Cespedes, 26, Torrington Park; Tamar Davis, Lincoln Avenue/Maxfield Avenue, Kingston 13.
Clarendon: Allayne Watt, 24, Bailey’s Avenue, Bucknor/May Pen; Orrett Wilson, 36, Bailey’s Avenue, Bucknor/May Pen; Laleel McDonald, 17, Chestnut Lane; Haseina Smith, 20, Chestnut Lane; Nardia Jackson, 22, Mocho; Unidentified man, May Pen.
St. James: Kenroy Colquhoun, 27, Albion; Elizabeth Robinson, Harbour Street, Montego Bay; David Dalbert, 42, Cherry Gardens, Norwood; Patrick Williams, 32, Cherry Gardens, Norwood; Phillip Campbell, Matthews Lane, Rose Heights; Kevin Campbell, Matthews Lane, Rose Heights; Unidentified man, Roehampton; Winston Brown, 46, Mount Salem; Two unidentified men, Anchovy (police killing); Shawn Hudson, 31, Norwood; Denzil Gilbert, Norwood; Shandel Wilson, Glendevon; Shantel Edwards, Glendevon.
St. Catherine: Diane Brackenridge, March Pen Road, Spanish Town; Unidentified man, Orange Field District, Linstead.
Westmoreland: Rameish White, 24, Waterworks District; Jovaine Green, 27, Waterworks District; Crawford Brown, 45, West End, Negril; Dushane Grayson, 18, Prospect (police killing); Carlton Crooks, 40, Frome; Denton Hall, 27, Frome; Rose Murray, 53, Little London; Latoya Daley, 25, Little London; Shawn Clayton, 13, Whithorn; Romario Drummond, 20, Whithorn; Theodore Tennant, 22, Whithorn; Demar Doeman, Whithorn.
Trelawny: Lenroy Plummer, 57, Salt Marsh; Unidentified man, Falmouth (police killing); Natalie Brooks, Deeside.
St. Ann: Donovan Morris, 49, Chester; Dwayne White, 52, Ocho Rios; Norniel Beaumont, 34, Top Milford Road, Ocho Rios; Unidentified man, Buckfield, Ocho Rios.
St. Thomas: André Aris, 48, Seaforth.
Manchester: Terrence Green, J.P., 47, Main Street, Christiana.
St. Mary: Unidentified man, Fort Stewart/Enfield; Two unidentified men, Huddersfield.