A glimpse of gold this week (not talking about medals this time!): the first “winter visitor” (a female American Redstart) appeared bright and early in our yard on August 31. An early arrival! What’s more, my first glimpse of her was with beautiful yellow butterflies fluttering around her! What a sight.
Register to vote! A Gleaner article (and the excellent diGJamaica blog) spells it out for us, so we have no excuse but to go and register. General elections are round the corner, and Director of Elections Orette Fisher says he will be fully prepared by the end of this month. He needs 18 – 20,000 election workers and says selection and training is under way, but they may need more. The Electoral Office of Jamaica has procured about “80 per cent” of the equipment it needs. Now, the voters’ list will be updated next on November 30. Any election run before that will use the May 31 list. Nevertheless, if there’s a December election they will use the November list, so get registered and vote! The link is here: http://digjamaica.com/blog/2015/09/01/how-do-i-register-to-vote-a-step-by-step-guide/
Talking of elections: Is the parish of St. Thomas going to be a campaign “hot spot”? It’s shaping up that way…
Sweet and Sour: The Chinese-owned Pan Caribbean Sugar Company, which bought the Monymusk factory in Clarendon some years ago, has laid off over 500 employees over the past two weeks or so; it is not clear whether these are permanent. Recently, almost 600 sugar workers were made redundant in St. Thomas. The negative impact on rural communities will be huge. Pan Caribbean (a subsidiary of the Chinese government-owned COMPLANT) took over the Monymusk, Bernard Lodge and Frome sugar estates in 2011 and has invested around US$180 million in new equipment and training. Despite this, Pan Caribbean’s then CEO admitted last year: “To manage a company in the sugar industry in this country is very difficult.” There was an approximately 20 per cent drop in production last year. The situation is not encouraging, but it might help if we had a full-time Agriculture Minister!
Back to school scramble: The Education Ministry has had the entire summer to prepare for next week’s school opening, but is clearly not ready. A metal detector is to be assigned to each school, and refurbishing, repairs and new furniture are needed in many educational institutions. But now there is a great rush to get organized; quite a few metal detectors have not been purchased yet and will arrive late, I understand. I guess the Ministry just did not have the funds until now.
Police Commissioner Williams, although completely unable to manage our rapidly rising murder rate, seems determined to continue weeding out “bad apples” from the Jamaica Constabulary Force. This is laudable. Now, the Major Organized Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency (MOCA) has arrested one of its own members in a sting operation as he sought a bribe from someone. A few policemen have been caught red-handed lately: this week a District Constable was arrested for forging his superior’s signature on a permit for a dance, and a policeman in Clarendon allegedly tried to break into a home, but was badly beaten by residents.
China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) recently signed an agreement with the University of the West Indies for a huge expansion program on the Mona Campus, including a 100-room hotel in place of the Mona Visitors’ Lodge and a sports center. The University Hospital will double in size to 1,000 beds. However, I hope the hospital can be maintained and fully staffed, as well as new equipment, beds etc purchased. Is CHEC going to pay for all this, too?
But please, I beg you, CHEC! No more ugly Chinese Gardens, thanks!
As a certain radio talk show host pointed out this week, we know… The Prime Minister continues to sidestep all the tough issues. She has now set up a committee to decide how our glorious athletes from the World Athletics Championships should be honored, when they return to Jamaica with their medals. Of course, this will be a lovely distraction from the rampant crime, unemployment and the fact that the Jamaica Dollar is now valued at US$117.58. But I don’t want to be churlish; the athletes deserve every accolade and kudos – but not to be used as political pawns in the election campaign. They ran the races, not the People’s National Party!
New people: Galina Sotirova is now in Kingston as the new Country Manager for the World Bank office here. We wish her a fruitful and rewarding posting.
We also have a new Deputy Public Defender, and his name is Herbert McKenzie. He follows in the footsteps of the rather effective and popular Matondo Mukulu, who resigned on July 2. Wishing Mr. McKenzie well!
Nuh Dutty Up Jamaica! I meant to mention this in my post on the launch of International Coastal Cleanup Day a week ago. The Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) has a project under way, in collaboration with the Montego Bay Marine Park, to capture garbage carried down the South Gully into the sea. It has been there since the end of May but has not been tested by any major storms or downpours, so JET is not yet declaring it a success; but it has been collecting 50 – 70 pounds of plastic bottles per week for the past three months that would otherwise have ended up on a beach or coral reef. I remember hearing about this method being used in Cuba some years ago now. I really hope this project works and can be expanded.
St. Catherine businessman Dennis Robotham says gang-riddled St. Catherine “has the potential” to do well business-wise, but business has been trending down recently because of the general economy. No mention of the rampant gang activity, extortion, etc!
Rainfall and the GDP: I have to quote a tweet from head of the Economics Department at the University of the West Indies Dr. Damien King: “So ‘GDP will be below expectations this year because of the drought.’ We should have been long past the era when GDP depends on rainfall.”
J. Wray & Nephew is 190 years old, and as part of its celebrations it has awarded 37 scholarships valued at over $7.6 million dollars to children of members of staff and families from surrounding communities for the upcoming school year. I hope they can continue with this. In another example of ongoing corporate generosity, Restaurant Associates Limited (Burger King) awarded over J$3.6 million in educational grants to worthy children – including two swimming scholarships – at their annual award ceremony. Their theme was “Dream to Change the World” – I like that.
It deeply disturbs me that the murder rate is soaring, but many murders are hardly being reported, if at all. I know this, for a fact. Case in point: Damion Davis, AKA “D” – shot and killed by the police in Waltham Park, Kingston some time last week. Case in point: “Pitbull” and “Parky,” from the new housing complex at the top of Denham Town known as “Scheme,” shot and killed by gunmen around the same time. Has anyone seen any reports on these deaths? I sure haven’t.
Why is this? Yes, it’s election season so politics are going to grab headlines. But why is the local media seemingly reticent to report these murders? Is it because these are “only” gang-related? Is it only “uptown” or “high profile” murders that are followed up? Why are there no investigative reports, to find out who these sad victims were, why they had to die? Young Shanice Watts’ body was found in a shallow grave near the main road. How did her young life end like this?
And what about those who are not even identified, or their names are not even published in the media? Are their lives (and deaths) of no importance? A report came out that FIVE Jamaicans were murdered in St. Catherine overnight – none of them identified and the same brief report repeated by two or three media houses, with no names given. See the list below. And this is, by my count, eleven murders in four days since I last posted, not including the three mentioned above.
Ricardo Williams, 14, Olympic Gardens, Kingston (Canadian citizen)
Two men, one woman killed in Lakes Pen, St. Catherine
One man killed, LOJ Shopping Centre, Spanish Town, St. Catherine
One man killed, Old Market Street,Spanish Town, St. Catherine
Lumsden Tucker, 45, Winters Pen Road, Spanish Town, St. Catherine
Unidentified man, Frankfield, Clarendon
Shanice Watt, 20, Salt Spring, St. James (now identified)
Leo Hanlan, 40, May Day, Manchester
André McLeod, 22, Bus Park, Mandeville, Manchester
Koran Blair, 24, Bus Park, Mandeville, Manchester