I dwelt on politics a great deal in my last post; but there are many other things happening. So let’s put all those shenanigans on one side this time – except, perhaps, to mention that the ruling People’s National Party (PNP) held its 77th Annual Conference over the weekend. Political party conferences mean booming sounds from the National Stadium and buses racing up and down (over)loaded with supporters. The Prime Minister did not announce the election date, but was not expected to.
Chilling revelations, in a strange voice: “Soldier Three” – one of three Jamaica Defence Force officers who were in Tivoli Gardens in May, 2010 – gave terrifying testimony at the West Kingston Commission of Enquiry. The soldier gave details from a remote undisclosed location, in an eerie, muffled and distorted voice that made his story somehow all the more chilling. His face was not shown, just a silhouette. The soldier described how the police allegedly murdered five unarmed civilians in cold blood in Tivoli on May 24, 2010. He said a policeman shot a young man in the head in the “cage” where several men and one woman were detained. The man was sitting down with his hands tied behind him. Blood flowed. Another young man who protested the shooting was then shot dead by another police officer, the soldier alleged. Another policeman, he said, took a young man (a teenager?) from the cage and took him to a house, where gunshots were heard. The policeman returned alone. The police allegedly took two other young men to the back of a house, where shots were heard; the soldier said he saw their dead bodies behind the house afterwards. He also said he saw two policemen laughing together after one of the killings. My blood ran cold.
But look – it’s not as if we didn’t feel in our hearts that terrible things happened in West Kingston in May, 2010. How otherwise could around 80 civilians (we don’t even know exactly how many – some say 100) – mostly young men – lose their lives? It is not easy, though, when our fears are confirmed. Tivoli was truly a nightmare. Even at the time I felt it was a bad dream we were going to wake up from. We didn’t.
The Public Defender is also concerned about what she sees as the intimidatory actions of the police, who visited the community (the “Java” section, DC Avenue) on Friday and questioned residents. The Public Defender visited the area, Lord Gifford told the enquiry today, noting that the Enquiry was at a “very delicate stage.” The police asked questions about two young men who were brothers. They then allegedly went to the nearby May Pen Cemetery and broke open tombs. The attorney for the police said this was all part of “Operation Get the Guns,” which Police Commissioner Williams launched recently, pointing out that a gun and ammo was actually found in May Pen Cemetery that day. I think we may hear more about this; it’s understandable the residents are suspicious, really. INDECOM is investigating. I wish the Commissioner all the best of luck with the new initiative.
Can’t get no satisfaction: The Nurses’ Association of Jamaica head, Janet Coore Farr says:“All we need is some satisfaction.” The NAJ is hoping for something more positive from the Government regarding money owing after a reclassification exercise. As you recall, the nurses went on sick-out last week. One of the many challenges facing the sector, Ms. Coore Farr says, is that specialist nurses, and those with experience, are leaving for the United States in particular, in droves. Those with less experience and training are left behind. In a private hospital, a young nurse recently told me she could not wait to leave for greener pastures. Working conditions and pay in the public sector are far worse than hers would be. The NAJ wants a meeting soonest. And then there’s the Police Federation… Not out of the woods yet.
Seriously, NWC? Seriously? The National Water Commission (NWC) has just announced new water restrictions in several areas of uptown Kingston, which will receive water twice a week with immediate effect. This is unbelievable! Meanwhile, water continues to waste (see this Gleaner photo and caption).
No fire boat in tourist resorts: The Jamaica Fire Brigade says it has no fire boat in Montego Bay, and the one in Ocho Rios broke down two years ago and has not been fixed. Both the towns are cruise ship ports. God forbid there is a fire on a ship. Oh, and by the way, neither the cruise ship port of Falmouth nor the major port of Kingston have fire boats, either. I have been hearing this for years… Why is it not possible to acquire such essential items?
More upheavals in the PNP: Oh, but I promised not to dwell on politics too much, didn’t I. Suffice it to say, for now, that all is not well in some constituencies – including that represented by Attorney General Patrick Atkinson. Some delegates are saying they don’t want him back.
If I said everything there is to say about the PNP conference, and in particular Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller’s speech, this post would go on forever. However, I would like to echo the sentiments of some of my Twitter friends, who would like the media to “fact check” the PM’s speech. Were 60,000 real jobs really created under the Jamaica Emergency Employment Programme (JEEP)? And did the Government really spend J$20 billion on water conservation measures? If so, what measures were those, and why are so many Jamaicans still suffering from water lock-offs and shortages, for the second consecutive year?
Justice delayed: Meanwhile, our justice system totters along. Although the prosecution says it’s ready, defense lawyers in the case of the alleged murder of sixteen-year-old Vanessa Kirkland are not, and the trial has been postponed until February 15, 2016 – five months away! Three police constables have been charged for the murder in March, 2012.
A vibrant discussion is taking place among young Jamaicans on Twitter – to vote or not to vote. A “get out the vote” campaign seems to be gaining some momentum, but time is running out. In order to get on the list for the first time, you must register by next Tuesday, September 30. For further information go to the Electoral Commission of Jamaica website (http://www.eoj.com.jm) and look up “Registration Procedures.” They are also on Twitter @ecjamaica.
Misuse of funds: On August 5, the Agricultural Credit Bank (ACB) conducted an audit of the National People’s Co-operative Bank which gives small loans to farmers. The ACB found that J$665 million was unaccounted for. It transpired that some directors allegedly gave themselves loans, which they defaulted on; they have since been dismissed and the ACB has taken over management of the Co-op Bank for now. The part-time Agriculture Minister Derrick Kellier (he is Minister of Labour and Social Security the rest of the time) said this was just “misuse of funds” and one supposes, no big thing? When are people like these directors actually going to be held accountable? Why no corruption charges or sanctions?
The Private Sector Organization of Jamaica’s William Mahfood, by the way, was careful to correct Justice Minister and Senator Mark Golding, who implied on a political platform that his organization supported and endorsed the Portia Simpson Miller administration’s handling of the economy. Mr. Mahfood noted pointedly that it supported the current regime dictated by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), stressing the Government “must stay the course” in order to work towards growth and increased revenues. There should be “no more ‘run wid it,'” Mr. Mahfood emphasized. I am glad he clarified this; the wrong impression was given by the Senator, who needs to choose his words more carefully when he is on political platforms.
There are a lot of bouquets to hand out. Here a just a few:
- Congrats to Unite for Change (@ufcjm) and the World Bank’s #NextGenderation project (@nextgenderation), who partnered for an excellent tweet chat on Thursday evening on social media, youth and violence. The discussion touched on gender stereotyping in social media, too. If you missed it, you can find the chat at https://storify.com/nextgenderation/setthetrend-chat-sep-17
- Big ups also to SSP Steve McGregor, who despite a 53% increase in murders in St. James this year still persists with his community policing efforts and his work with the youth. I wish him all the very best. I know this is the right approach.
- Thanks to Cliff Hughes, who has been conducting some great interviews with members of Caribbean Coastal Area Management Foundation about the Portland Bight Protected Area. Cliff has a genuine concern for the environment. Today’s interview with fisherwoman Paulette Coley in Old Harbour Bay was very interesting.
Big ups to Usain Bolt, who has donated J$1.3 million worth of his own branded sports equipment to his old school, William Knibb Memorial High School. This is just wonderful. I hope that next time he will donate something towards the school’s academic program. I am sure there are needs in this area.
Did I mention that you should follow Dennis Jones’ blog? Well, I think I did but I am just reminding you. His commentary on the ongoing Commission of Enquiry into the West Kingston trauma of May 2010 is thought-provoking. Go to: https://jamaicapoliticaleconomy.wordpress.com
Seven Jamaicans were murdered in Hanover. What is happening there? Perhaps I should just accept the Ministry of National Security’s “gangs and lotto scam” explanation. Whatever it is, the loss of so many young men is tragic. My deepest condolences to the families of all these Jamaican citizens who died.
André Foreman, 24, Fleet Street, Kingston (killed by police)
Nicholas Spence, 39, St. Simon, Hanover
Nerrick Dias, 27, St. Simon, Hanover
Dalton Haughton, 41,St. Simon, Hanover
Orane Scott, 28, Rock Spring, Hanover
Roshane Murray, 22, Georgia District, Hanover
“Rondeece,” Georgia District, Hanover
Garfield Williams, 29, Point/Lucea, Hanover
Alvin Green, 36, Waltham, Manchester
Unidentified man, Glenmuir Housing Scheme, Clarendon (killed by police)
Howard Rowe, 29, Chapelton Road/May Pen, Clarendon
Okeme Martin, 23, Young Street/Lionel Town, Clarendon