The PNP Does a Wobbly, Marlon James Makes a Killing, and What Color Are Mosquitoes? Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The last few days have been surprising, and interesting. One of the pleasant surprises was that we are celebrating the first Jamaican writer to win the Man Booker Prize, Marlon James. A bit of good news here and there can’t do any harm; God knows, we need it.

The Bogue Power Station in St. James. (Photo: Jamaica Public Service Company)
The Bogue Power Station in St. James. (Photo: Jamaica Public Service Company)

Positive energy news: There is good news from the Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS), which has officially launched a multibillion-dollar project to convert its 120-megawatt plant in Bogue, St. James into a dual facility for automotive diesel oil (ADO) and liquefied natural gas (LNG), partnering with U.S. company Fortress Energy, which will supply the plant with LNG. Minister Phillip Paulwell hopes discussions with the U.S. Government will result in Jamaica becoming a hub for the distribution of LNG to neighboring islands. He is also “committed” to lowering energy costs for Jamaica. Good to know he’s still committed.

“Too few jobs and too much crime”: This was the predictable result of a public opinion poll published by the Gleaner this week as the two issues weighing on the minds of the Jamaican people, as they have been for years. Seventy per cent of Jamaicans believe the Government is doing a poor job at reducing crime, and over half of those polled blame the Government for water shortages.

Re-opening: Sixteen of the nineteen early childhood institutions affected by hand foot and mouth disease have now reopened. Well at least that “crisis” is over. On to the next one?

The Mexican Karisma group took over what used to be Beaches Sandy Bay in Negril and turned it into the luxury Sensatori Resort.
The Mexican Karisma group bought what used to be the all-inclusive Beaches Sandy Bay in Negril and turned it into the luxury Azul-Sensatori Resort. 

More good news (I think): On the tourism front. A Mexican company called Karisma Hotels & Resorts says it plans to build nine hotels – yes, nine! – with more than 4000 rooms, in Jamaica over the next eight to ten years. The development will take place in Llandovery, almost the only undeveloped stretch of coastal land in St. Ann (228 acres and over a mile of beachfront) with beautiful sea views as you drive along the main road between Priory and Salem. Karisma already took over a small property in Negril, which has been doing well and is being expanded. Funding is not yet in place for this venture, so we shall see. But if it goes ahead, this will mean more beaches blocked from public use, and more green space replaced with concrete. The whole of the north coast will be concrete soon…

These supporters of Andrea Moore in East Portland are expressing their annoyance at her being replaced, in Port Antonio yesterday. (Photo: Gareth Davis Snr., Gleaner)
These supporters of Andrea Moore in East Portland are expressing their annoyance at her being replaced, in Port Antonio yesterday. (Photo: Gareth Davis Snr., Gleaner)

The PNP “does a wobbly” – again: There are strange things happening in the ruling People’s National Party (PNP). All the constituency representatives are in a retreat on the north coast today; hopefully they will return having enlightened themselves and each other. Now, just last night the constituency office of Raymond Pryce, Member of Parliament for North East St. Elizabeth (who has just been de-selected as candidate for the next election) burned down; it may be the work of arsonists. I can’t quite see the logic to this, but it’s clear Mr. Pryce still has enemies, despite his impending departure. Then there is the “re-selection” (if you can call it that) of Dr. Lynvale Bloomfield, MP for East Portland, who was recently voted out by delegates. Dr. Bloomfield is back, and supporters of Andrea Moore, whom delegates selected, are not happy campers. We are all a bit surprised, I think, by the endless bickering, protesting and confusion in the PNP ranks. It’s rather unusual.

Teachers are leaving: The school year has just started, but recently recruiting agencies from the UK have visited Jamaica. They just recruited 21 teachers. Another 43 were recruited in June for this school year; 87 were employed in previous trips to Jamaica. This may not seem like high numbers, but one wonders whether these are the best qualified who are leaving to work in the UK. Some Jamaican schools are still seeking to fill vacancies, I understand.

The "black" mosquitoes. (Photo: Facebook)
The “black” mosquitoes. (Photo: Facebook)

A biting issue: Residents of Portmore are in a frenzy about the huge numbers of mosquitoes that have appeared, coinciding with several days of rain after our long drought. They are not normal, they cry! They are big and black! (What color are mosquitoes, normally?) The residents are demanding that the Government do something – that is, go around fogging the neighborhood on a daily basis – which is extremely harmful to the environment, their health and to other creatures, and has only a temporary effect. I would suggest arming themselves with zappers, applying insect repellent and keeping all doors and windows closed at dawn and dusk. The Opposition is expecting a resurgence of the chikungunya virus any minute now. Fear-mongering, perhaps?

But hold on… Wasn’t Portmore built on dumped-up wetland – swamp, if you prefer that word? The natural habitat of mosquitoes? OK.

Mangrove trees in a lagoon at sunset in the Portland Bight Protected Area of Jamaica. (Photo: Robin Moore)
Mangrove trees in a lagoon at sunset in the Portland Bight Protected Area of Jamaica. This is the area that China Harbour Engineering Company intends to turn into a transshipment port, destroying Goat Islands in the process. (Photo: Robin Moore/National Geographic)

I am trying to read between the lines of a Jamaica Information Service report (no photograph), which notes  that the Vice President of China Communications Construction Company (CCCC), the parent of China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) visited the Prime Minister, who then “witnessed the signing of an extension to the Framework Agreement for the Development of a Transhipment and Logistics Facility in the Portland Bight Area.” The final framework agreement to build a transshipment port in the Portland Bight Protected Area (JIS omitted a key word) was signed over a year ago; now CHEC needs another year (from August 1, 2015) to analyze data collected, etc.  What does this mean? I have a few theories. Let’s see if we can find out more about this matter, which has of course been shrouded in mystery for years now. Save Goat Islands!

Keith Clarke trial postponed: It was with a heavy heart but a sense of inevitability that I learned that the case against three Jamaica Defence Force soldiers for the murder of accountant Keith Clarke has been put off, yet again, since the Commission of Enquiry into the Tivoli Gardens massacre is ongoing. Mr. Clarke was gunned down in his upper St. Andrew home in front of his family during the stressful period when the search was on for Christopher “Dudus” Coke in May, 2010. The court case has been postponed several times and is now scheduled for February 8, 2016. What a travesty, and how painful this must be for Mr. Clarke’s family.

Three cheers for…

This year's shortlisted authors: (from left) Sunjeev Sahota, Chigozie Obioma, Hanya Yanagihara, Anne Tyler, Tom McCarthy and Marlon James. (Photo: BBC)
This year’s shortlisted authors for the Man Booker Prize for Fiction: (from left) Sunjeev Sahota, Chigozie Obioma, Hanya Yanagihara, Anne Tyler, Tom McCarthy and Marlon James. (Photo: BBC)
  • Marlon James, a man who can weave a story with dazzling imagination and skill, and who with great humility and some surprise accepted the Man Booker Prize for Fiction (just about the most prestigious literary prize, after the Nobel) on Tuesday – the first Jamaican writer to do so – for his book “A Brief History of Seven Killings.” There was an outburst of happiness and pride among Jamaicans on social media, although it appears not many had actually read any of his three novels. Some tempered their expressions of delight when they learned Mr. James is openly gay. Still, now he’s an instant celebrity. It’s very unusual for us to be praising a writer – and a very good thing. Marlon strongly deserves it in his own right, but he will also, I believe, inspire a new generation of Jamaican writers. Thank you, Marlon, and well done. You have found yourself and it’s wonderful. (On finding yourself, you could read his poignant New York Times article, written earlier this year, on leaving Jamaica: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/15/magazine/from-jamaica-to-minnesota-to-myself.html?_r=2
The deadline for the SXSW Accelarator is November 6, 2015.
The deadline for the SXSW Accelarator is November 6, 2015.
Some of the 10 boats that were officially handed over to the Jamaican Government by the United States on display at the Office of the Police Commissioner on Old Hope Road in St Andrew yesterday. (Photo: Norman Grindley/Gleaner)
Some of the 10 boats that were to be officially handed over to the Jamaican Government by the United States today on display at the Office of the Police Commissioner on Old Hope Road. (Photo: Norman Grindley/Gleaner)
  • The U.S. Government for donating ten motor boats to the Jamaica Constabulary Force to help fight crime along our coastlines. U.S. Ambassador Luis Moreno seems to be very focused on the issue of crime, speaking publicly about it at some length last week. We should heed Ambassador Moreno’s warning that crime is hampering investment. Can this be disputed? The National Road Safety Council, the National Health Fund and CG Eagle Motorcyles Ltd also recently donated seven motorbikes to the JCF.
  • The National Environment & Planning Agency (NEPA), which ensured the arrest of a man recorded on video skinning alive an endangered and protected Hawksbill Turtle in Alligator Pond, Manchester not long ago. The video went viral and caused widespread horror at the cruel act (I actually could not watch it). If found guilty, the man faces a fine of $100,000 or 12 months’ imprisonment. I am glad NEPA pursued this and hope they continue to protect our endangered species.
The Jamaica Observer editorial cartoon today suggests that the non-custodial sentences for lotto scammers recently are because of political corruption. I do hope not.
The Jamaica Observer editorial cartoon today suggests that the non-custodial sentences for lotto scammers recently are because of political corruption. I do hope not.

National Security Minister Peter Bunting told a money laundering conference yesterday that murders related to the lotto scam could reach 200 by year-end (which would be perhaps one-fifth of total). The Minister says the scammers are infiltrating rural areas, making once quiet country districts more dangerous than Kingston these days. I am not particularly impressed that five scammers convicted recently received suspended sentences – no jail time – and fined amounts that would probably be “peanuts” to them. Meanwhile, the JCF’s “Get the Guns” campaign has reaped some rewards, with seven guns and ammunition seized in just one day recently. And yet, the murders continue…

District Constable Ashley Howard, Slipe Road, Kingston

Marlicia Malcolm, 18, Logwood, Hanover

Alvin Sapleton, 33, Race Course, Clarendon

Unidentified man, Long Bay, St. James

Logan Patterson, 52, Darling Street, Savannah-la-Mar, Westmoreland

Rodjae Turner, Friendship Pen/Morant Bay, St. Thomas

Shana-Kaye Ewen, 27, a resident of Gilbraltar Lane in Grants Pen, St Andrew, has been missing for about a month now. She was last seen on Mannings Hill Road in Kingston. (Photo: Loop Jamaica)
Shana-Kaye Ewen, 27, a resident of Gilbraltar Lane in Grants Pen, St Andrew, has been missing for one month now. She was last seen on Mannings Hill Road in Kingston. (Photo: Loop Jamaica)
Family members of Nicketa Thomas
Family members of popular photographer Nicketa Thomas gather in Cassia Park, Kingston yesterday to hand out flyers. Nicketa has been missing since the evening of Monday, October 5. His car was found in the area and it is feared he has been abducted. PLEASE contact the family or the police if you have seen or heard anything. (Photo: Loop Jamaica)

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