“Game Changers” Galore, An Attack on the Press, and Tweeting with “Uncle INDECOM”: Sunday, August 9, 2015


It’s the weekend after Independence Day. I have had an unproductive and somewhat miserable week, struggling with allergies – brought on, I suspect, by the endless drought. Only the lignum vitae trees in our yard seem to be thriving. I am not, and the yard is now undergoing a desertification process. Even Arsenal Football Club disappointed on their opening match of the Premier League, which they played with their feet on the handbrake, throughout. Most of them are also sporting awful new hairstyles (perhaps that is the problem).

The Walken-esque Evon Redman, who is seeking to take MP Raymond Pryce's seat in NE St. Elizabeth. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)
The Walken-esque Evon Redman is challenging MP Raymond Pryce’s seat in NE St. Elizabeth. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

Come to think of it, this week has been a bit of a mess, altogether. The extended Emancipation/Independence Day holiday seems to have fuddled some political brains. Looking at the political scene, both parties suffered embarrassing scenes at their headquarters, since I last wrote. First there was the PNPTireSlashingEpisode, during which supporters of Member of Parliament Raymond Pryce allegedly slashed three out of four tires on the car of his challenger Evon Redman (who reminds me strangely of the actor Christopher Walken), and all the tires on an independent auditor’s car (mistaken identity). PNP Chairman Robert Pickersgill was very grumpy about it all.

Then there was the WarBoatAtHisWorst débacle at Opposition HQ on Belmont Road, where a very long meeting was taking place to consider Andrew Holness’ future as Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) leader. Member of Parliament Everald Warmington stalked through the parking lot with his neck in a brace, looking like a thundercloud. As press cameras followed him, he turned on journalists and allegedly lunged at a young woman intern at the Gleaner, who had the nerve to take a photo of him. “When we want you, we’ll call you!” Warmington shouted, in between expletives; by his words betraying a typical attitude of politicians towards local media (only useful sometimes). The Press Association of Jamaica (not for the first time) protested the man’s behavior. CVM Television recalled a previous occasion when Mr. Warmington told reporter Kerlyn Brown to “go to hell” and hung up on her during an interview.

Everald Warmington, MP is like the Jamaican equivalent of Donald Trump. (Photo:
Everald Warmington, MP reminds me a little of Donald Trump (although Trump has refused to apologize for his recent misogynistic remarks). If I offend you, that’s your problem! (Photo: Jodi Imani Morgan/Gleaner)

Mr. Warmington appears to be the Jamaican equivalent of the loose cannon presidential candidate Donald Trump. He likes to pick on women, too, it seems. He did post an offhand and unconvincing “apology” on YouTube some time later, accompanied by a sarcastic half-smile and dismissive hand gestures. This was not good enough; but I understand he did visit the Gleaner offices last night, where he hopefully delivered a proper apology in person.

Minister of State in the Ministry of Tourism Damion Crawford
Minister of State in the Ministry of Tourism Damion Crawford, M.P. I would like him to go and look after the interests of his constituents. Please. The small farmers of East Rural St. Andrew  need you, Mr. Crawford  – and Twitter does not!

And then there is young Member of Parliament Damion Crawford (or “Uncle INDECOM” as he calls himself on Twitter). He has written a piece in today’s Gleaner that defies logic and plain common sense. He has supported his stance with a Twitter dialogue that makes even less sense. Read and reflect on this paragraph: “Based on my own paradigm, I find even the concept of INDECOM unacceptable. Please note, I did not say I find the stated objective/s that led to the formation of INDECOM unacceptable, instead, I find the strategy of an independent oversight body for the police force unacceptable.” Well, he is the Entertainment Minister, after all.

Proud and free? Shameful petty politics in Portmore: What an extraordinary display of political tribalism in Portmore, where an Opposition councilor was booed by residents and councilors during the reading of  Andrew Holness’ Independence Day message at a civic ceremony. Some tribalists even walked out. They ought to be ashamed of themselves; Independence Day is not about partisan politics. By the way, when will Portmore hold mayoral elections? Since George Lee passed away in September 2013, there has been an “Acting Mayor.” So much for democracy in the Municipality of Portmore. And what about those boundaries?

Welcome to Twitterland, Finance Minister Peter Phillips!
Welcome to Twitterland, Finance Minister Peter Phillips!

Minister of Finance Peter Phillips will hold a press conference on the PetroCaribe US$1.5 billion debt buyback deal tomorrow morning. The Opposition JLP has been huffing and puffing about the arrangement, but most other analysts appear to think it is a good deal (including, of course, the Government’s regular echo chamber, Ralston Hyman). Our Inter-American Development Bank representative called it a “game-changer” (a catch-phrase that is becoming rapidly over-used). There has been so much analysis and discussion that it has been quite befuddling. But to his credit, Minister Phillips has opened a Twitter account (@PDPhillipsJa). In a series of tweets today he asserts that the buyback will lead Jamaica on a “low interest rate path” and also places the country on a path and trajectory for accelerated economic growth, employment creation and employment.” I hope he will continue tweeting.

Enough of politicians. A friend in Puerto Rico told me this week, “We have three days without water, one with, three without, one with. We expect the rationing to get worse.” Despite some spots on the island getting rain, Kingston remains parched and we are likely to get tighter restrictions, one fears.

These two men now control most of the existing media landscape: RJR Group chairman, Lester Spaulding (left) and The Gleaner's Chairman, Oliver Clarke, exchange documents sealing the deal of the merger. (Photo: Gleaner)
These two men now control most of the existing media landscape: RJR Group chairman, Lester Spaulding (left) and The Gleaner’s Chairman, Oliver Clarke, exchange documents sealing the deal of the merger. (Photo: Gleaner)

An “exciting” move? Another “game-changer”? Well, only from the business perspective, perhaps. I’m not sure how many of us saw this one coming. The revered Gleaner newspaper and the RJR Group announced they were merging, the day before Independence. To many it resembled a takeover by RJR. The two men in charge, RJR Chair Lester Spaulding and Gleaner Chair Oliver Clarke, both used the word “exciting.” These two men (and their two male counterparts, who will be CEO and COO respectively) will control about 80 per cent of our “media landscape.” I am pretty sure this so-called merger (I am not very business-minded, I confess) will inevitably incur layoffs. And it just seems sad to me. The Gleaner is the oldest company in the country (since FINSAC destroyed Mutual Life in 1998) and the oldest media house in the western hemisphere, having celebrated its 180th birthday last year; I don’t like the idea of it being “merged” at all. This deal may have been necessary for both companies’ survival (I don’t know), but it in no way enhances our current media industry. I hear rumors that another possible media takeover is in the works, too…

This, of course makes it even more important for more independent journalists (and online peeps such as myself) to assert themselves. Our traditional media might end up consisting of one or two big conglomerates; a depressing thought. In the media context, competition means quantity as well as quality. I shuddered when I heard that RJR is to take over the Gleaner’s online operations. The RJR website has been a non-user friendly nightmare for years. Its subsidiary Television Jamaica’s new subscription arrangement, 1spotmedia.com (wow! The Lotto Draw is free!) is also a complete non-starter. Help needed!

Where did all this sewage go to?
Where did all this sewage go to?

Are we serious about water, and public health? Here are a few recent stories: Manholes in Montego Bay opened up, allowing gallons of sewage to flow freely on the streets in the center of town. Restaurants, businesses, the public library, the main post office and even the Resident Magistrates Court were badly affected; only the Court managed to stay open. The pipes were “very old.” Things will be back to normal on Monday, until the next crisis (where did all that stinking sewage flow to, I wonder? The sea?) Most public swimming pools in Kingston are not certified by the Ministry of Health. The Amateur Swimming Association says the National Stadium Pool has not yet satisfied the Ministry’s requirements (!) and is among the 30 public pools (out of 37) not approved. Yikes! Most importantly, is the Health Ministry in the least concerned about the fact that many homes and businesses in the city now have very little or no water? Is this not a health concern, especially in densely populated areas? Correct me if I am wrong, but I have not seen or heard any public announcements re: the importance of clean drinking water, washing hands, etc.

Good things have been happening, too. Shout outs to:

Alia Atkinson celebrates her silver medal during the podium ceremony for the women's 50m breaststroke at the FINA World Championships. (photo: AFP)
Alia Atkinson celebrates her silver medal during the podium ceremony for the women’s 50m breaststroke at the FINA World Championships. (photo: AFP)

Our fabulous swimmer Alia Atkinson, who is collecting medals at the FINA World Swimming Championships in Kazan – a bronze in the 100 meter breaststroke and a silver in the 50 meters. Atkinson, who is based at Texas A&M University says, “They [Jamaicans] are all getting ready for the track and field, but some of the headlines are going my way.” And so they should.

Yolanda Silvera and her husband Shane. (Photo: Bryan Cummings/Jamaica Observer)
Yolanda Silvera and her husband Shane. (Photo: Bryan Cummings/Jamaica Observer)

“Rags to riches” stories are always great, but that of University of Technology lecturer and mechanical engineer Yolanda Silvera is extraordinary. Take a look at today’s Sunday Observer for details. Ms. Silvera’s peers ridiculed her for studying under the street light at her mother’s sweetie stall in the rough inner city area of Dunkirk. But I would suggest Ms. Silvera, now pursuing her doctorate, has had the last laugh. Congratulations to her.

  Jamaica's goal attack Shanice Beckford (left) collects the ball ahead of England Eboni Beckford-Chambers during their Newball World Cup match played at the Allphones Arena at Sydney Olympic Park yesterday. England won 54-50. (Photo by Collin Reid courtesy of PetroJam, Supreme Ventures, Courts and Scotiabank)

Jamaica’s goal attack Shanice Beckford (left) collects the ball ahead of England Eboni Beckford-Chambers during their Newball World Cup match played at the Allphones Arena at Sydney Olympic Park yesterday. England won 54-50.
(Photo by Collin Reid courtesy of PetroJam, Supreme Ventures, Courts and Scotiabank)

The “Sunshine Girls” – our netball team, who are battling it out at the World Cup championships in Australia. Netball is a rather obscure game played by former colonies and doesn’t get into the limelight much. I was once in my school netball team; it always irked me that when you get the ball, you have to stand still! Anyway – keep going, girls!

Kelly Tomblin, CEO of the Jamaica Public Service Company, is a no-nonsense business leader. (Photo: Gleaner)
Kelly Tomblin, CEO of the Jamaica Public Service Company, is a no-nonsense business leader. (Photo: Gleaner)

Good move: The Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS) has just signed a deal with the US-based New Fortress Energy, who will provide JPS with Liquefied Natural Gas for its 120-megawatt power plant at Bogue in Montego Bay. The plant is being converted to run on gas instead of automotive diesel oil. Not renewable energy – but a positive move by the company under the positive and decisive leadership of Ms. Kelly Tomblin.

And last but not least, a warm thank you to all the local sponsors of the BirdsCaribbean International Meeting, which ended on July 29, at the Knutsford Court Hotel in Kingston. You were awesome! We had over 220 delegates from 33 countries – lots of energy, hard work and fun, too. See the Birds Caribbean Facebook page for more information, conference feedback and tons of photos!

BirdsCaribbean's Ancilleno Davis (left) and President Dr. Leo Douglas doing a quick appeal for the non-profit organization at the Knutsford Court Hotel.
BirdsCaribbean’s Ancilleno Davis (left) and President Dr. Leo Douglas doing a quick appeal for the non-profit organization at the Knutsford Court Hotel.

Recently, National Security Minister Peter Bunting said that Jamaicans would be equally violent, with or without guns, because we have a “culture of violence.” I am not at all comfortable with this remark – are you? In fact, I find it offensive and it is certainly not true. And is it really helpful at this time of high murder rates and insecurity? Please, have a rethink, Minister Bunting. Meanwhile, my deepest condolences to the families of these Jamaicans, who were murdered so far this month. There has been a 77 % increase in murders in the parish of St. James in the first six months of 2015. 

Lloydel Pennant, 20, May Pen, Clarendon

Nigel Simpson, 20, May Pen, Clarendon

Kemar ‘Nagus’ James, 25, Farm/May Pen, Clarendon

Unidentified man, downtown Kingston

André Parkes, 43, Denham Town, Kingston

Oraine Gilmore, 18, Bond Street, Denham Town, Kingston (possible police killing)

Jamar Anderson, 20, Market Level, St. James

Shasha-Kaye Williamson, 21, Retreat, St Ann

Patrick Campbell, St. Mary

Unidentified man, Cousin’s Cove, Hanover


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