I’m not sure if there’s something in the water (or perhaps it’s the shortage) over the weekend, but the last few days things have gone a little “bonkers,” to coin a lovely English phrase. Or perhaps it was the wild and wonderful thunderstorm that moved quickly over and might have turned some Jamaicans’ heads. Who knows…
Something is rotten in the State of…the ruling People’s National Party (PNP). Something has gone awry, hasn’t it; and it’s gone past the usual media habit of making a mountain out of a political molehill. Over the past few weeks, the soup in the pot has been rising slowly. This week it started bubbling and is about to spill over altogether, if they don’t turn down the heat.
“Missing in Action”? Our Prime Minister switched into her most raucous “tracing” mode to refute suggestions she is “Missing in Action” – as a Sunday Gleaner reporter wrote. (Non-Jamaican readers: “tracing” is a very personal kind of tit-for-tat arguing). The problem is that Ms. Simpson Miller does tend to take criticism very personally; perhaps she should just ignore or gently deflect, rather than this ugly tirade. “I am the leader!” shrieked our Prime Minister, “and I lead from the front, not behind!” As for the journalist, he should “check his head.” Our PM has a lovely turn of phrase, doesn’t she.
Contentious stuff: I don’t think there is anything wrong with contenders (or “aspirants” as the media often call them) challenging sitting Members of Parliament as candidates for the “soon-come” election. Our Prime Minister may well have a point when she says it is a part of the democratic process. However, the number of challenges seems unusually high – and so, too, the level of bitterness and aggressive tone of several of these battles in PNP constituencies, involving roadblocks and physical confrontations. Why is this? Is it that the PNP is not too confident of another victory if they go forward with the current bunch? Is it simply an attempt at renewal; or is it that the PM is not exhibiting strong leadership? Surely this sense of insecurity stems from a dearth of such leadership, right at the top? I suspect so. It’s as if everyone is left to their own devices. Rome is burning… or, at least, smoldering.
Bitter defeat: One of the most painful and surprising (to me) ousters has been that of first-term MP and “rising star” Raymond Pryce – a young politician with more enthusiasm and creative thinking than many of his peers. The day after a Pryce supporter (former Black River Mayor Daphne Holmes) took the PNP to court and obtained an injunction preventing the selection process in the North East St. Elizabeth constituency, the party issued a statement apparently on Mr. Pryce’s behalf: he would not be available. His challenger Evon Redman was selected. Many party delegates are happy; many are not.
More bitterness in western Jamaica, where MP Lloyd B. Smith (Deputy Speaker in the Lower House) was given a vote of no confidence by delegates as the upcoming PNP candidate for Central St. James, where he won by a very slim majority in 2011. This sparked an extraordinary outburst by Mr. Smith, an amiable, well-known businessman and so-called “Governor” in the town. The MP said the delegates’ vote smacked of “skulduggery” and corruption, suggesting that lotto scam funds were used to bribe delegates, and so on. But he went further, suggesting that he would reveal all he knows, if he is ultimately defeated in the selection process. And if he wins, he will stay quiet? I would like him to tell all he knows, whether he is selected or not. Think about it, please, Mr. Smith.
I am beginning to wonder if elections will take place this year, after all, in light of the above unpleasantness (and a few other minor skirmishes). Two other relative newcomers, MPs Lisa Hanna and Damion Crawford are also on shaky ground, by the way, and await their fate. I had predicted the final quarter of 2015, and was leaning towards November. But in light of the current disarray in the PNP ranks, perhaps things will settle down by early next year. I am now thinking, perhaps a January election; but your guess is as good as mine!
Putting politicking aside, the nurses are on “sick-out.” Some public hospitals today had not more than a handful on staff, but “emergency measures” were put in place by the Health Ministry to deal with the situation. These measures did not seem to help, as I heard Kingston Public Hospital was a bit of a nightmare. The Ministry reported over half of the nurses did not report for work. They are very angry about long outstanding amounts due to them; but the man in charge, State Minister Horace Dalley, says they will have to wait a bit longer. Neither the nurses nor the police have yet signed off on a wage deal.
Let’s NOT talk about water? There are certain topics that our political leaders are not discussing right now, and one of them is water – I discuss this in my latest blog post on the Gleaner blogs page. Here is the link: http://gleanerblogs.com/socialimpact/?p=2922 “Water is Life, and Life is Precious.” I hear that some schools are struggling with water issues; it’s a very mixed picture. Some apparently got water from private donors; others opened late. Hey! The drought’s still on!
Meanwhile, in Trench Town: The merger between Trench Town and Charlie Smith High Schools appears to have got off to a wobbly start. The school opened one week late (yesterday) and major construction work is still going on. Also the students needed new uniforms. Hasn’t the Ministry of Education had the entire summer to put things in place? The new Charlie Smith will have 1,100 students, forty per cent of whom are former students of Trench Town High, which is to become a polytechnic college. At some point.
Sixty dead buses: A few years back, there was a plan to rehabilitate broken-down Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) public buses with the assistance of Brazilian firm Incaval; a rehab center was to be set up in Montego Bay, with technology transfer from the Brazilians as another aspect of the scheme. I guess this was one of the last administration’s schemes that was summarily thrown out by the new one? Now, sixty – yes, sixty! – buses in various states of disrepair are to be sold off as scrap metal. Meanwhile, could the JUTC persuade its drivers not to drive like extras in a Mad Max movie? They are getting worse and worse. Do they plan to destroy the entire fleet?
I repeat this question: Why are we still selling parrot fish in Jamaica? Rainforest Seafoods are either importing these or getting them from local fishermen and packaging them for supermarkets. The fishing of parrot fish is unsustainable; these fish help preserve what’s left of our coral reefs and create what’s left of our white sand beaches. Stop buying, selling and eating them! Please!
To conclude: This is a simply marvelous drone picture, tweeted by the athlete Warren Weir. It’s his hobby. This is a photograph of Holy Trinity Cathedral on North Street in downtown Kingston. To the left is St. George’s College. Yes, Kingston is beautiful in its way, you know. The Cathedral is just lovely inside, thanks to the Spanish Government, who funded the repainting some years ago. It’s gorgeous. Big ups to you, Mr. Weir!
I am very sorry to always end on this sad note. These are the Jamaicans who have met with a violent death in the past four days. The list of names seems to stretch on forever. The positive part of this is that, once again, killings by the police are considerably fewer (66) – a decrease of thirty per cent up to August 31 this year, compared to last year. The reduction in police killings in 2014 was fifty per cent – from 258 in 2013 to 129! I can only credit INDECOM – and the Jamaica Constabulary Force itself. This is a bright light in Jamaica’s generally very spotty human rights record. Meanwhile, I send my deepest sympathies to the families of all those who have died.
Unidentified man, Sandy Gully, Washington Boulevard, Kingston
John Ross McLaughlin, 22, St. John’s Road, St. Catherine
Alton Maxwell, Caymanas Gardens, St. Catherine
Chavis Clarke, 23, Church Street/May Pen, Clarendon
Romaro Fearon, 18, May Pen, Clarendon
Andrew Ricketts, 31, May Pen, Clarendon
Unidentified man, Claremont, St. Ann
Unidentified man, Golden Grove, St. Ann
Julian Rodney, 26, Bread Lane District, Paradise/Norwood, St. James