This has been an interesting week. All kinds of discoveries and revelations seem to be popping up in rather unexpected places. It’s election time, and grand announcements are also the order of the day. Oh, and by the way, the drought continues (at least in Kingston). Which reminds me…
Water: How about this idea, Ministry of Water? Regular updates on the state of our water resources and what is being done to ease the pain. Farmers are literally crying in their dead fields. Residents of St. Mary in particular have been protesting all week. Inner city residents are desperate. Also, how about regular updates on what is now being done to ensure a reliable and clean supply of water in the future? Thank you.
The Commission of Enquiry into the 2010 incursion by security forces in Tivoli Gardens resumed this week. The testimony is increasingly harrowing, and hard to listen to at times. Ms. Jane McFarlane, who was elsewhere at the time of the attack, told the agonizing story of her last conversation with her injured nephew over the phone, following which she called the police, directing them to her house and asking them to help him. When she saw his body, she said, half his face was blown away; she feels she betrayed him to the police. On her return to her home, she found every room filled with blood; three family members had been killed there, including her son. One wonders if psychological counseling took place (and whether it has been sustained) since the violence; I would like to know more about this. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a hell of a thing and the Enquiry is leading us into a very, very dark place.
” A thinking man’s election” (and woman’s?) This is how Anthony Hylton (he of the failed “Krauck and Anchor” logistics project) described the upcoming polls, in one of his most fiery speeches yet. If I was living in the depressed community of New Haven, I know what I would be thinking. Mr. Hylton described all kinds of plans for his constituency: a waste to energy project at the Riverton dump; warehouses for the logistics hub at Seaview Gardens; and more! Mr. Hylton has been Member of Parliament (MP) for the area since 2007. What has he done for places like Duhaney Park (a struggling residential area with potholes for roads) and New Haven (where garbage, construction waste and the occasional dead body is dumped)? Well, let the constituents believe in the MP’s promises, if they wish. It’s up to them.
Remarks by Gloria Henry, Montego Bay businesswoman and head of the town’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry, last week made many Jamaicans very uncomfortable. Ms. Henry struggled to put into some kind of context her comment that Montego Bay citizens should not do business “with people who are not giving back to the community” – singling out Chinese business people. She stressed this week that she was referring to difficulty getting support for a specific city cleanup project (and Lord knows downtown Montego Bay needs a cleanup). A side issue (and one that is telling) is that she seemed to make it clear that she was not referring to the long-established Chinese business community in the town, but perhaps to the “new Chinese.” But then, do the new ones owe Jamaica anything? They are here to make money. I feel sure that Ms. Henry’s words have not been helpful; it’s hard to take back that kind of thing.
EU walks away from project: There was disturbing news recently that the European Union, a major funder of the energy services company (ESCO) project in Jamaica, has pulled the plug after very slow progress in implementing the four-year program, due to end in March 2016. No new contracts will be financed. The Jamaica Productivity Centre headed by Dr. Charles Douglas (who took over just a few months ago) has not been very productive, it appears. As if we are not already in enough of an energy quagmire! What say you, Minister Paulwell?
More police officers are being arrested: Despite the appalling crime rate, I still have much faith in Commissioner of Police Williams, and hope that he and his senior officers will hang in there and carry on down the anti-corruption road they are pursuing. Commissioner Williams says he is very concerned about the high levels of criminality and corruption in the Jamaica Constabulary Force, but seems determined to weed it out. This week, the very down to earth Assistant Commissioner of Police Elan Powell confirmed that a police officer was involved in the abduction and murder of Alpha McQueen in Old Harbour, who was taken from his home and shot dead. Police Constable Ennis was arrested and charged with another man just over a week ago. When asked why this had not come to light earlier, ACP Powell said most emphatically: “There will never be any cover up…There is no reason to hide it.”
The PetroCaribe shindig culminated with the opening of the Simón Bolívar Cultural Centre in downtown Kingston. It’s a nice building. I am not sure what is going to happen there – Spanish classes? Lectures? Exhibits? Quite sad though that Member of Parliament for the area, the Jamaica Labour Party’s Desmond McKenzie, was apparently not invited. This is not correct protocol, and looks as if the event was politicized. But then, PetroCaribe and the Venezuela relationship has always been politicized. Former Prime Minister PJ Patterson, inevitably, made a speech at the Montego Bay Summit, ending with the word “Venceremos!!” (yes, two exclamation marks on the JIS website). He says he and his dear friend Hugo discussed the possibility of a Hugo Chavez Academy in Jamaica, focusing on “specialist education in the fields of language, sports, culture, tourism, environment, maritime training and nursing.” Mr. Patterson added: “Work on the discipline and design has already reached the embryonic stage…” We shall see what materializes.
Talking about naming, the Sports Minister announced this week that the Trelawny Multi-Purpose Stadium (which is a misnomer, as it is simply a stadium; the multi-purpose courts have never been built) will be reinvented as the Usain Bolt Sports Academy (Mr. Bolt is a Trelawny native). The Stadium was built specifically for the ICC Cricket World Cup in 2007, at a cost of J$9 billion with a loan from the Chinese government, on land designated for National Housing Trust housing. The World Cup opening ceremony and a few warm-up games took place there. Since then, apart from an annual jazz festival, I believe, it is not used. I understand it is now a “goat pen” and generally considered a huge “white elephant.” Big announcements have also been made to revive the National Stadium (which in my view should be named after Mr. Bolt – he is more than deserving of this honor) – including a National Sports Museum. Where the money is going to come from for all this is not yet clear; another huge loan from the Chinese, perhaps?
All this comes in the wake of the revelation that many of our athletes are really struggling financially. Discus thrower and Olympian Jason Morgan became very emotional when describing how two days before he was supposed to compete for Jamaica at the 2015 World Championships, his supervisor messaged him asking him when he would be back at work. A member of the mile relay team, Ricardo Chambers, has started a Gofundme account to raise funds for next year’s Olympics.
I’m disturbed to see small parrot fish for sale in Kingston, apparently caught on the south coast and packaged. I wrote in my article on Portland Bight and Old Harbour Bay that there are great concerns that the catch of parrot fish should be greatly restricted, as they actually create our beautiful (and disappearing) white sand beaches and protect the coral reefs – and these are too small! Please…stop. No parrot fish, no reefs, no beaches.
Huge “big ups” to the following…
Ms. Suzanne Stanley: An amazingly bright, hard-working young woman who has just been promoted to Deputy CEO at Jamaica Environment Trust (JET). I know that Suzi (whom I have known for longer than I care to mention!) will do a marvelous job. Good luck and more power to her!
Our western resort town of Negril seems to be in a mess. There are all sorts of infrastructural issues, trees being cut down and strange planning decisions. But it is great to see the Negril Environmental Protection Trust (NEPT) recently got together with local partners to do a major town clean up. This is what NEPT says about it: “Negril is in a deplorable condition as it relates to solid waste management. A holistic approach should be taken to combat such an issue. Organizations, community members, individuals and other stakeholders should play their part to improve solid waste management. 84 bags of garbage were collected by NEPT’s team, fisherfolks, members of the Hanover and Negril Rotary Club, community members and a team from Couples Negril. In total the garbage collected weighed approximately 1863 lbs. This was done on September 2, 2015.” Kudos!
Big ups to Emprezz Golding, who keeps going with her television show “Talk Up Yout.” More than a TV show, it is giving a voice to our young people – especially teenagers. I am sorry I missed attending the launch of the new series at the Half Way Tree Transportation Centre this week, but I wish Ms. Golding, executive director and presenter, tons of love and good luck. It’s not an easy thing to take on, by the way; but she is connecting.
The JCF reports that 826 people have been murdered up to September 6 – 200 more than last year. St. James is the most “murderous” parish. Clarendon Westmoreland and Hanover are not doing well either. Now the JCF notes that this year to date more murders have taken place in rural areas than in the “corporate area” – that is, Kingston, St. Andrew and St. Catherine. I don’t recall this ever happening before. What reason has been given for this? I have not heard a convincing explanation, yet. And what IS happening in Clarendon?
Dwayne Phillips, 36, Tavern Crescent, Kintyre, St. Andrew
Andrew Gayle, 24, Collie Smith Drive/Trench Town, Kingston (killed by police)
“Matthew,” Logwood Park/Constant Spring Grove, Kingston (killed by police)
Kerete DeSouza, 30, Narine Lane/Old Harbour, St. Catherine (last week)
Michael Coore, Frankfield, Clarendon
Smith, Frankfield, Clarendon
Winston Reid, 18, Bucks Common/May Pen, Clarendon
Omar Osbourne, 34, Bucks Common/May Pen, Clarendon
Errol Beckford, 61, Gully Back/Canaan Heights, Clarendon
Jane Jones, 54, Gully Back/Canaan Heights, Clarendon
Dwayne Brock, 35, Sandy Bay, Clarendon
Edwin, Montego Bay, St. James
Omar Brown, 19, Retirement, St. James
Leon Clarke, 27, Catherine Hall, St. James
Nathan Joel Alpert, 30, Green Island, Hanover
Rosheen Ferron, 25, Salt Marsh, Trelawny