It’s been ten days of high drama (and a good few thunderstorms to go with it). I have been so busy dashing up and down. Time to take stock, and time to slow down, over the weekend, as my health has been letting me down again. What a week!
Where to start? Well, the upset and anger over the UK’s offer of a prison in Jamaica and Prime Minister David Cameron’s dismissive “move on” comment over slavery reparations continues; the two are inextricably linked. The anger was, I think, re-ignited by a press release discovered on 10 Downing Street’s website and dated September 30, headlined “UK signs deal to send Jamaicans home.” Of course it’s designed for home consumption. The main point though is that the PM’s office describes the agreement as a done deal – simply, an “agreement” and not a “Memorandum of Understanding,” which is not what the Jamaican Government had told us. It’s a little puzzling that it took our local media several days to find this release. Sounding like the tough guy, David Cameron commented: “It is absolutely right that foreign criminals who break our laws are properly punished but this shouldn’t be at the expense of the hardworking British taxpayer.” Here’s the link: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/uk-signs-deal-to-send-jamaican-prisoners-home
Petitions and protests: There are now several online petitions against the prison “gift,” and a protest took place outside Parliament. Well, not right outside, because another ancient colonial law prohibits any kind of demonstration within 100 yards of Gordon House, which is quite a long way. The point is though, the Jamaican public is making its feelings known. Here is one petition link, which has reached almost 15,000 signatures: https://www.change.org/p/david-cameron-mp-jamaica-needs-schools-and-hospitals-not-a-25-million-prison-david-cameron?source_location=petition_footer&algorithm=promoted&grid_position=4 There are a couple of others.
Suffice it to say: The visit of Prime Minister Cameron last week was a public relations disaster. The confusing statements regarding media access were but a small part of it. To see the House of Representatives applauding PM Cameron was a hard one for many Jamaicans to swallow. Although much of the resentment was directed at Mr. Cameron, PM Portia Simpson Miller did not come out of it looking good. She left it to her Ministers (Peter Bunting and Mark Golding, in particular) to staunchly defend her administration’s apparently weak-kneed approach.
The state of our prisons: We all know they are in very poor shape indeed, with little possibility of rehabilitation for the inmates. This was clearly illustrated at a forum organized by Jamaicans for Justice earlier this week. But local media houses were quite miffed when, in an effort to show the parlous state of Tower Street correctional facility (the General Penitentiary), the Ministry of National Security took a tame videographer along to film the interior of the prison along on a “tour” with the state-owned Jamaica Information Service. No other media houses were invited. The video was then sent to them for their evening newscasts. It was quite clear, too, that some of the footage was of parts of the prison that were no longer occupied. Not the right approach.
Former PMs take the stage: Meanwhile, two former Jamaican Prime Ministers strode confidently onto the stage: P.J. Patterson and Bruce Golding. Mr. Patterson seized the opportunity to look “statesmanlike” (he loves to wear that hat, with “wise elder” stenciled across it) and wrote a letter to PM Cameron (I expect he will receive a polite, non-committal reply, recognizing his concerns; nothing more). You can read Mr. Patterson’s excellent letter here: http://nationwideradiojm.com/pdf-pj-lashes-david-cameron-in-open-letter/ Yes, it is well written and touches on all the key “sore points.” However, why did this letter not come from Ms. Simpson Miller? Did she just leave it to him to speak for her and her Government? Or is PJ writing on behalf of the Jamaican people? Mr. Patterson is an experienced lawyer, and good with words; however, I for one will never forget that he dragged Jamaica’s economy down into the mire (through FINSAC and the accumulation of enormous debt) during the 1990s, with Finance Minister Omar “run wid it” Davies as the ringmaster.
Likewise, Prime Minister Bruce Golding has been pontificating, giving media interviews and holding forth on security issues. Looking back at Christopher “Dudus” Cooke and the deaths of at least 70 Jamaicans in Tivoli Gardens (Golding’s own constituency at the time) I think that’s the last thing he should be talking about. No, seriously: please take a back seat, Mr. Golding.
I would like Portia Simpson Miller and Andrew Holness to speak for themselves on sensitive issues. Former PMs – please go and sit down.
Much more can be said on all of this, but that is for another time. Meanwhile, more health fears have surfaced. Whether rumor or not, people are talking about the zika virus (zikV) – a cousin of the dreaded chikungunya virus (chikV). Health Minister Fenton Ferguson sternly denies that zika exists in Jamaica, and that it has only so far been recorded in Brazil. This may be scare mongering by the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party, which has commented on the matter. But the problem is that after the chikV outbreak last year, which the Health Ministry made every effort to downplay, many are not inclined to trust Minister Ferguson’s word on mosquito-borne diseases. It’s a year since I caught chikV, and recent health episodes suggest I may not be over it yet.
Are we really ready for the logistics hub? While the fate of Goat Islands, still threatened with a transshipment port, still remains a mystery, I had a horrible experience at the Kingston docks recently. The whole area is congested, dilapidated, hugely potholed roads – and bad-tempered officials. Utter chaos! So when I heard the Minister of Industry, Investment & Commerce say that a recent visit to Kingston Wharves that it “leaves no doubt in my mind that the Jamaica Logistics Hub is alive and well,” I wondered if he was talking about the same place. Kingston Wharves is investing J$2 billion in the construction of a warehouse and logistics facility, which is fine. However, I am also concerned about the air traffic controllers, who are still restive. We had to close our airspace again this week from 11:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m.
Glad to see that two sewage treatment plants are to be upgraded, under the Caribbean Regional Fund for Wastewater Management (CReW). Funding is through a special arrangement that involves the Global Environmental Facility (GEF), Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
And major congratulations to:
- The Jamaica Household Workers’ Union, which celebrated World Day for Decent Work on Wednesday with the women’s sector, kicking off their campaign to get the Jamaican Government to ratify the International Labor Organization (ILO) – as promised. You will hear more on this.
- Yolande Gyles Levy, CVM Television reporter/producer, has started blogging. Yolande is a strong human rights advocate, and it is great to have new bloggers arriving on the scene. Here is one she wrote on the prison controversy: https://medium.com/@jahmekyagyal/12-reasons-not-to-accept-the-uk-prison-transfer-agreement-cddc88868888 Keep it up, Yolande! This is a great start.
- Dean Morris, a young entrepreneur and founder of #thevinelist. He gave an inspiring talk, with practical tips to a group of budding entrepreneurs at the Katalyxt Youth Innovators’ Competition at José Marti High School yesterday. Register on his website (http://www.thevinelist.com) and they will search for items you may need, in Kingston or elsewhere.
- The Child Development Agency (CDA), which has put the issue of bullying firmly on the table, and in an inclusive manner which is appreciated. It has been holding consultations after the publication of its report “Investigating the prevalence and impact of peer abuse or bullying” and has assembled a working group to design a system to reduce the incidents of bullying, and peer abuse among the nation’s youth. Good work.
- Jamaican writer/poet Pamela Mordecai, whose first novel “Red Jacket” is on the short list of Canada’s prestigious 2015 Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize. Keeping fingers crossed!
- Rainforest Seafoods, for donating J$8.5 million to the We Care Foundation towards the purchase of a bronchoscope for the Cornwall Regional Hospital in Montego Bay. The company has donated a total of J$23 million, the proceeds of its annual Seafood Festival. Really wonderful private sector support!
- Young media entrepreneurs Tyrone Wilson (eMedia Interactive Limited) and Javette Nixon (Point Global Marketing), who have entered into a merger agreement. When two dynamic young men set up business together, it can only be a “win-win.” Looking forward to hearing more!
This chart shared by Yolande Gyles Levy may shed some light on the situation regarding murders in Jamaica. Jamaica overall had a murder rate of 45 per 100,000 of the population by September 19, 2015 – a total of 605. But that was in September; it must be closer to 700 now. Shockingly, the parishes of St. James (116), Hanover (90) and Westmoreland (70) were way higher than the rest of the country – higher than Kingston and St. Andrew, which is by far the most populated part of Jamaica. What does this tell us? I am not sure, but National Security Minister Peter Bunting is adamant that it is all connected to the notorious lotto scam that originated in St. James.
This list of names is shocking, disturbing, and far too long. This week alone, at least nine women have been murdered, including two sets of sisters. Six family members were shot dead and their house set on fire just last night. This list goes back to October 1.
JoAnn Bulgin, 36, Dumfries, St. James
Kenneth Taylor, 63, Glendevon, St. James
Anthony Lawrence, 21, Montego Bay, St. James
Kline Higgins, 54, Railway Lane/Montego Bay, St. James
Unidentified man, Rosemount, St. James
Jermaine Donaldson, 38, Nelson Road/Waltham Park Road, Kingston 13
Unidentified man, Florizel Glasspole Boulevard/Harbour View, Kingston 2
Nicardo Taylor, St. John’s Road/Spanish Town, St. Catherine
“Beech,” Brooklyn/Thompson Pen, St. Catherine
Sean Henry, Glengoffe, St. Catherine
Jahnelle Howell, 18, student of Vere Technical High School, Land Lease District, Clarendon
Felicia Bryan, 22, (Jahnelle’s sister)Land Lease District, Clarendon
Shomari, 23, Effortville, Clarendon
Unidentified man, Rocky Point, Clarendon
Unidentified man, Sandy Bay, Clarendon (killed by police)
Jamala Barnaby, Grade 11 (male) student, Brown’s Town High School, St. Ann
Dion Foster, 28, Comfort District, Manchester
Tashi Foster, 31, Comfort District, Manchester
Linnett Bloomfield, 63, March Town, Hanover
Kerry-Ann Bloomfield, 36, March Town, Hanover
Mark Bloomfield, 40, March Town, Hanover
Alliah Mahabee, 17, March Town, Hanover
Davian Mahabee, 15, March Town, Hanover
Brian Mangaroo, 29, March Town, Hanover