First off… The rain has been glorious. We almost feel human again. It is cooler, and we are hoping that some of the rain will have fallen in our watershed areas and made its way down to one of Kingston’s two reservoirs.
Water: This word crops up in almost every news item, and in every Kingston conversation: “You have water?” is a popular opening line. Whether we have more rain or not, many Jamaicans will still have no water in their pipes. Some areas of Kingston have had none for several days; others, especially outside Kingston, may not have had water for weeks. Meanwhile, there are concerns that trucks may be selling untreated water (even river water – although I haven’t seen a river with much water in it for a while) and this poses health concerns. I am very surprised that the Health Ministry has not issued any directions regarding clean water, hygiene tips etc., considering that our most densely-populated area is now under water restrictions.
After all that…the teachers accept: After much defiant posturing over the last few weeks, 150 delegates of the Jamaica Teachers’ Association, a powerful union, voted at their annual conference today to accept the Government’s seven per cent wage offer, by a reasonably large margin. Although they have accepted, that doesn’t necessarily mean they are happy, one gets the feeling; there are unresolved issues. They will have some improved benefits. This leaves the medical doctors, nurses and police still to be resolved. I suspect they will come into the fold, however reluctantly.
Uncomfortable: Having lost some of their officers to violence in recent times, the Jamaica Constabulary Force now has to deal with the high-profile arrests of two officers, who were apparently committing crimes, in the past two days. A policeman allegedly on leave was caught by two security guards as he tried to rob a business in St. Elizabeth, wearing one of those tams with fake dreadlocks! Another was caught in a sting operation while extorting money from a motorist in St. Catherine. A senior policeman says that the JCF is working on an ongoing basis to weed out dishonest policemen. The corruption seems never-ending and the police continue to struggle with a lack of co-operation and distrust from the citizenry. I urge the police to continue along this difficult and arduous road.
And then there was a riot: One example of this distrust was the anger of residents in Savannah-la-Mar, Westmoreland immediately following the deaths of a man and his son. Local people allege they were killed by the police, judging from their actions immediately after the shootings, which took place close to the hospital. The police categorically deny that they were involved and have a suspect in custody for the murders. Residents set fire to an ambulance that was out of commission, and a couple of buildings on the hospital compound. The parish of Westmoreland seems to be constantly on edge. Why is this? Is it the continuous under-development and lack of opportunities in rural areas? Or do we put it all down to lotto scamming activities, as National Security Minister Peter Bunting suggests?
I beg your pardon? Member of Parliament Damion Crawford went completely over the top at a political rally at the weekend and called a Commission of Parliament (yes, you’ve guessed it, INDECOM) an “enemy of the state.” I understand he retracted the statement later on. But what is this all about? What motivates Mr. Crawford to castigate INDECOM almost daily? Is he pandering to the police or to a certain segment of the electorate? And I wonder what Minister Bunting thinks about his “comrade’s” utterances?
The Duncan Dynasty: Hanover Member of Parliament Ian Hayles dared to challenge veteran politician D.K. Duncan for a regional chairmanship in the People’s National Party (PNP). Isn’t that the cut and thrust of politics, though? Now, the sister of Senator Imani Duncan Price is a candidate to run against Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) veteran Ruddy Spencer. Mr. Spencer should be taking a back seat anyway; it’s about time, although the older ones seem very reluctant to step down, on both sides of the political fence. Anyway, Ms. Patricia Duncan Sutherland calls herself a “facilitator” and is seeking to bring a fresh approach to politics. It’s going to be a hard sell.
So elections are just around the corner, it seems – I think they might take place in the last quarter of this calendar year. Peter Phillips told a gathering at the weekend to “get ready.” The Opposition JLP is, in its usual manner, trying to get its act together as best it can (and it’s not good enough, in my view). The PNP is busy having arguments and patching them up again as quickly as possible, to present a “united front.” Both parties have severe credibility issues – especially the JLP. Some followers appear restive; PNP supporters in Central Kingston, for example, are expressing dissatisfaction with their MP, Education Minister Ronald Thwaites. Has he not been giving out enough freebies, lately? I wonder, though: Will anyone feel inclined to vote for any of this lot, apart from the diehards that is? What do they have to offer?
Back to school worries: Talking of education, the new school year looms, with the usual pressures for parents who can barely afford the ever-growing costs of sending their children to school. I would like to put in a special plea for the vulnerable children of the young women (most living with HIV) who are supported by the non-governmental organization Eve for Life. Eve is collecting and purchasing books, uniform and stationery for the children in Kingston, Montego Bay and in northern Jamaica. The children are greatly in need. If you would like to make a donation in cash or kind, you can call Eve for Life at (876) 342-6107 or 754-3954, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. This would be greatly appreciated.
JUTC breakdown: Something is going wrong at the Jamaica Urban Transit Company (and just when I thought Mr. Colin Campbell was doing a pretty good job as Managing Director of the state-owned bus company, which has had a checkered career). There were two awful accidents downtown (caused by reckless driving) that resulted in the deaths of two vendors; another bus ended up in a gully – thankfully no injuries there. There seem to be maintenance issues – a bus filled up with smoke a couple of days ago. As for the drivers, someone commented on tweeter that they saw one texting while driving, recently. Pull yourselves together! Fire some people! Do whatever it takes!
Notes on our National Heroes: Columnist and lecturer Dr. Carolyn Cooper made some wry comments on the 150th anniversary of Paul Bogle’s march from the village of Stony Gut to Kingston (which was August 12) to plead for ethe rights of the people of St. Thomas. Dr. Cooper comments: “Paul Bogle died for the cause of black empowerment. So did George William Gordon. How many of our politicians today, whether PNP or JLP, would put their lives on the line for their constituency? How many would walk 45 miles to make a case on our behalf? How many of them could walk 45 miles? Or even 4.5 miles?” Because of our politicians’ large girth, she doubts any of them would make it. Oh dear!
Then Monday, August 17 was the anniversary of Marcus Mosiah Garvey’s birth in St. Ann’s Bay in 1887. At least every two or three years someone raises the issue of his birthplace being refurbished and made into a national heritage site. Now it’s Youth and Culture Minister Lisa Hanna’s turn to make this grand announcement. Former Prime Minister Bruce Golding broke ground for this in 2011, I do recall. I am not holding my breath; but I think this is long overdue. Perhaps the veteran roots reggae singer (and my favorite) Winston “Burning Spear” Rodney, who was born in the town, could make it happen. Just a thought; his Garvey songs are true classics.
And a note on the donkey: You may recall my recent blog post, mourning the deaths of Cecil the Lion in Zimbabwe, and of a humble donkey at the hands of a Chinese worker in St. Ann, closer to home. I understand that a senior Jamaican veterinarian, who watched the video, has opined that the donkey was killed quite humanely, and would not have suffered. This might make us feel a little better, I suppose. Only a little, in my case.
“Big ups” and thank you’s to: UWI Leads, the University of the West Indies’ leadership program (“not a club”), which held its Student Leadership Conference last week and invited me to speak about “Finding your activist voice on social media.” We had a great discussion and I was impressed by the bright young people I met (special mention to members of the UWI Actuarial Society). I tried to tie in my thoughts on activism (and how social media can be used as a tool for that purpose) with reflections on key elements of leadership. I hope it all made sense.
Also to Ingrid Parchment of the Caribbean Coastal Area Management Foundation (C-CAM), who took me on a fascinating tour of some parts of the Portland Bight Protected Area a few days ago. I learned a great deal and discovered what I think are often called “hidden gems” – both the cultural and the environmental heritage of the area. I will be writing much more about this trip.
And huge congratulations to nine young Jamaicans, who have received Chevening Scholarships to study for one year in the UK: Oroyo Eubanks, Assistant Superintendent Gordon Ellison, Adley Duncan, Lavere Henry, Jerome Cowan, Sherika Whitelock Ballingsingh, Grace Lindo, Melissa Townsend and Rashawn Thompson. As posted earlier on this blog, applications are now open for the 2016/2017 and details are available at http://www.chevening.org/apply
The last few days have been terrible in the parish of Clarendon. Unfortunately I have not found the names of all the victims there, but will try to find them and post them next time. I do not want our Jamaican citizens, who have lost their lives in tragic circumstances, to be unnamed. My deepest condolences to all those who mourn their passing.
Romario Dixon, 21, Plantation Heights, St. Andrew
Daniel Thomas, 20,Plantation Heights, St. Andrew
Unidentified man, Halse Hall, Clarendon (body found by a passer by off the main road, concealed in an illegal garbage dump)
Glendon Rose, 51, Sandy Bay, Clarendon
Unidentified man, Frankfield, Clarendon (shot dead in a community called Railway)
Unidentified man, Osbourne Store, Clarendon (among a group of men playing dominoes)
Leon Cooper, 43, Old Harbour, St. Catherine
Unidentified man, Central Village, St. Catherine
Ricardo Sinclair, 43, Savannah-la-Mar, Westmoreland (alleged police killing)
Ajani Sinclair, 18, Savannah-la-Mar, Westmoreland (alleged police killing)