There have been one or two surprises in the past few days: a big rain shower in Kingston, for example, and the Reggae Boyz’ 3-2 loss at home to Nicaragua in a World Cup qualifier. But it has been mostly an “I told you so” week. Predictability rules.
As if we didn’t know things were bad: Following numerous complaints, newspaper exposés and credible reports from all and sundry, the Ministry of Health decided to conduct an audit (or rather, a review) of the public health system. As if the Ministry didn’t know or suspect it, it found the allegations (and the actual facts) to be true – including the revelations by the Jamaica Medical Doctors’ Association (JMDA) not long ago about the awful conditions they work under in public hospitals.
Good going: Meanwhile, Senator Marlene Malahoo Forte (Jamaica’s only Yale World Fellow, by the way) is showing her mettle. She’s Opposition Spokesperson on Health and did a good job this week, both at a press briefing called after the health audit was announced; and at a party meeting in St. Thomas (the Health Minister’s constituency), where she stood her ground while severely heckled by a group of People’s National Party (PNP) supporters. The meeting ended amicably. Senator Malahoo Forte is proposing a National Health Insurance scheme (not sure about this).
The Education Minister announces it has provided 200 water tanks for schools but is there any water to fill them? And these two photographs tell a story, I think… “Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health says schools experiencing great difficulty accessing water may have to be closed until the situation is normalized” – quoting Irie FM News. What?
Political tensions: Local media houses are very much focused on one or two tussles taking place in some constituencies, ahead of the elections. This is rather to be expected, and since I don’t know the internal affairs of the political parties (nor am I that interested) I don’t want to comment. What I would like to say is that I hope the Members of Parliament have time not just to discuss all the wonderful things they have done (fix up a clinic, etc) but talk about issues affecting their constituencies, honestly and openly: infrastructure, health, unemployment. And they need to be working with all their constituents, not just party supporters and diehards!
What is happening at the National Workers’ Union? Can a trade union go bust? Or is it just a bit of power play going on? Perhaps the PNP, to which it is affiliated, can sort things out.
Bolívar gets wheeled out again: During the PJ Patterson era, the Jamaican Government fell in love with Venezuela. At one point I was concerned that our Prime Minister was going to start wearing a red beret à la Chavista. Nicolás Maduro is not enjoying as much popularity as his predecessor, and is not holding it together very well at home; the Venezuelan economy is crumbling and crime is rising rapidly. However, the Latin American hero Simón Bolívar remains a rallying point for the country. Mr. Maduro (who rules by decree and has the Opposition Leader locked up in jail) has been having a nice time at China’s recent display of military might and is now enjoying the PetroCaribe Summit in Montego Bay, where the agreement was first signed. Everyone will make a speech.
Now, Bolívar happened to write a letter while in exile in Kingston, Jamaica – exactly 200 years ago – in response to an Englishman, Henry Cullen, a friend of his living in Falmouth at the time. It was what we would now call an “open letter.” Bolívar spent less than a year in Jamaica, during which time he survived an assassination attempt and made fairly unsuccessful efforts to get the support of the British Government for his military campaign. We already have a nice statue of El Libertador near National Heroes Park, and with a fitting sense of history, the Simón Bolívar Cultural Centre will be opened in downtown Kingston (close to where Bolívar stayed on Princess Street) with much pomp and ceremony (and no doubt, more speeches). Oh, if you want to know what Bolívar wrote, here is an English version of the Carta de Jamaica of September 6, 1815: http://faculty.smu.edu/bakewell/BAKEWELL/texts/jamaica-letter.html He was just 32 years old at the time, by the way, and already learning that liberating a continent doesn’t come easy.
Women bloggers in the making: It was a real pleasure to talk to a vibrant group of around thirty women at another session in WMW Jamaica’s PowHERhouse workshops. My intention was to inspire them to start blogging and to use a blog as a platform for advocacy! I urged them to find their passion, their special focus – and get started, reminding them that a blog post does not have to be a 2,000 word essay! Just recently, long-time tech blogger Ingrid Riley commented on the need for “more Caribbean blogs of substance,” and I support her 100% on that. See this link: http://www.siliconcaribe.com/2015/08/18/call-to-action-the-need-for-more-caribbean-blogs-of-substance/ Another veteran Jamaican blogger, Jamaipanese, is planning a Caribbean Blog Carnival; if you are a blogger, look it up and register on the Facebook page.
I am pleased to see the Press Association of Jamaica has included a Blog category in its annual awards this year. Is this the sign of greater recognition? I do hope so.
Fourth Digicel Run: Digicel Foundation will hold its fourth annual Night Run/Walk on Saturday, October 10 starting at 7:00 p.m. at the Digicel headquarters downtown. Participants in the race can complete their registration online at http://www.runningeventsja.com and enjoy an early bird rate of $1000 until September 10, 2015, or pay $1500 thereafter. Registration will close on September 28. Beneficiaries this year include a number of special needs organizations, as well as the Special Olympics team. Last year’s event raised J$6.9 million.
Opposition Spokesman on National Security, Derrick Smith, says there has been a 20% increase in the murder rate, when compared to the same period last year. Some 800 people were murdered up to the end of August. Smith says the parishes of Trelawny, St. James, Hanover, and Westmoreland are responsible for 257 of them. So far as I know, National Security Minister Peter Bunting has not commented on the matter, much. He must be distracted. Meanwhile, in the four days since I last wrote this commentary, twelve Jamaicans have been murdered. Three per day on this little island. My condolences to all those who are mourning, this Sunday.
Naraine Waugh, 34, Pine Street/Maiden Road, Kingston
Unidentified man, Haywood Street, Kingston
Pastor David Roper, 39, Mud Town/Papine, St. Andrew
Tyrique Hall, 32, Linstead, St. Catherine
Joseph Taylor, 24, Bypass Savannah, Newmarket, St. Elizabeth
Jason Daley, 24, Bypass Savannah, Newmarket, St. Elizabeth
Unidentified man, May Pen, Clarendon
Jerome Malcolm, 24, Glendevon, St. James
Unidentified man, Cornwall Court, St. James
David Folkes, 39, Greenwich Acres/Mammee Bay, St. Ann (on August 24)
Sean Clarke, 37, Newton Street, Falmouth, Trelawny
Lebert Campbell, 56, Port Antonio Market, Portland