It’s been a difficult week. You know how sad news sometimes really hurts, while some indulge in the petty and the trivial? At least the gentle rains and persistent showers this week may have washed some of the pain away.
Political pettiness: The debate on the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) remained in the doldrums last week, with Opposition Senators boycotting the hearings of the Upper House in protest at the previous week’s shenanigans – despite the suspension of Opposition Senator Marlene Malahoo Forte having been lifted on Thursday. Long-winded letters have been flying back and forth, from the Leaders of Government and of Opposition Business (Senators A.J. Nicholson and Tom Tavares Finson). Senator Morris is refusing to apologize to Senator Marlene Malahoo (“absolutely no intention… I am not violating any rules…”). Senator Tavares Finson claims there was “no basis in law” for Senator Morris’ actions. Senator Nicholson appears quite unrepentant about the handbag episode (it’s a long story, and extremely tedious).
So, those shiny green leather seats on one side of the Upper House remained empty on Friday, while certain Government Senators enjoyed themselves, castigating the Opposition senators in their absence (the phrase “tissue of lies” cropped up) while their colleagues thumped their desks. At the same time Justice Minister Mark Golding wants the Opposition crew to “do the right thing” and return to the CCJ debate. How are they all going to work together again? One Twitter friend described the Senate recently as a “political junkyard.” I don’t think I will ever regard it in the same way again after this childishness. If you want to consider the complex procedural issues further, do read Balford Henry’s article: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Parliament-in-election-mode_19236463
In the Lower House, where some parliamentarians are still doing some work in between campaigning, plea bargaining legislation is on the table. Interesting.
Some public sector workers are feeling happier at the signing of a wage agreement with the Nurses Association of Jamaica – who had hoped for more but are putting a brave face on things. A few goodies have been thrown in to “sweeten the pot,” such as scholarships, and special “cash back” cards for purchases at selected outlets. The Minister negotiating public sector wages, Horace Dalley (a man with a genial smile) still has the police and correctional service officers to deal with. But now most civil servants have received seven per cent increases over two years.
Oh, and roads are being fixed all over the place! J$100 million worth in the capital city alone. Elections are nigh!
I lost count of the number of times Minister of Health Fenton Ferguson apologized last week. It all washed over my head. I think it is too late for many. His apology for the “babies not in the real sense” comment is on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rzUjeVLTVTA&feature=youtu.be but that comment still rankles. The #FireFenton hashtag is still active. We know no firing will occur, however. Opposition Member of Parliament Daryl Vaz, a self-confessed family man, has taken up the cause of the dead babies and sent a photograph to the media purportedly showing three incubators being transported in Liguanea in the direction of the University of the West Indies on an open truck. Hmm.
When, oh when is the Ministry of Health audit to be released to the public? If ever? We have a feeling much would be revealed, if so. Or has it been leaked already?
Armed students: Minister of Education Ronald Thwaites seemed to be almost celebrating the discovery of a gun and ammunition in the knapsack of a 13-year-old student at Papine High School in St. Andrew. Well, he was celebrating the fact that metal detectors at high schools are working (130 were distributed this term). There is some talk now of extending this to primary schools.
Rallies “tun up”! Meanwhile social media is becoming increasingly flooded with posts by political hacks. On weekends, they try to impress us with the size of the crowds at rallies in town centers. But we all know that people are shipped in from all over the island to attend these get-togethers; and that secondly, it’s actually votes that count. So I remain unimpressed, despite the cries of “Up! Up!” etc.
Oops…I nearly forgot the “big announcement”: Indeed, 10,000 jobs are promised when a new “logistics hub” venture comes on stream. It is to be a 42-acre industrial park in Spanish Town. The first phase of construction will be complete in June 2016, and eventually nine companies will move in. The announcement was made by Dr. Robert Melamede, Executive Director of a new firm none of us had heard of before, Masada Jamaica Limited (where is its website?) and not by Minister of Industry, Investment & Commerce Anthony Hylton.
Dr. Robert Melamede is a “cannabis crusader” from Colorado, it appears (check his Facebook page!) and his firm is the “designated free zone administrator.” But…I have questions. I see GulfRay Manufacturing’s website has no contact information (or any other information). It’s “launching soon”? This firm apparently launched a company called Atlantic Grease and Lubricants in Jamaica last December. OK.
Coincidentally, perhaps, the Rastafari RootzFest (which I mentioned a few weeks ago), to take place November 12-15 in Negril, was launched at the Bob Marley Museum. Justice Minister Mark Golding endorsed the event and said at the launch: “As Minister of Justice, I must encourage all to be responsible in their approach to herb. I know that the Rastafari approach to herb is a responsible approach. We don’t encourage smoking amongst kids, we don’t encourage any form of abuse of this plant, but at the same time we acknowledge that this is a powerful plant than can be used as a force for good.” The World Cannabis Cup, hosted every year by High Times, will take place there.
Moving on… Huge congratulations:
- The Blue and John Crow Mountains were officially launched as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Moore Town (home of the Windward Maroons) in Portland on Friday. Enormous kudos to all involved in the creation of this beautiful and unique area as national park, and the subsequent considerable amount of work involved in its listing as a World Heritage Site. A special “three cheers” to the dedicated scientist Susan Otuokon (please see an earlier blog post), although Culture Minister Lisa Hanna is “humbly” taking much credit.
- Well-known businessman and General Manager of Jamaica National Building Society Earl Jarrett was inducted into the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ) Hall Of Fame 2015 last Wednesday (he’s the 23rd to enter that Hall). Many congratulations to a very kind man, with plenty of vision for Jamaica and an acute business sense! He would like to see more business people in Parliament. Well, there was once an (Independent) Senator Douglas Orane…
- And rather belated congratulations to former journalist (and still a terrific radio talk show host) Ms. Emily Shields, who has been made a partner at human rights attorney Lord Anthony Gifford’s firm – which will now be Gifford, Thompson and Shields. Congratulations to Emily (a fellow Arsenal fan, by the way) and wishing you all the very best.
On Tuesday evening, we heard that Shauna Kay Pitter, a young mother and eight months pregnant, was shot dead. The police are seeking her former partner who was the father of the child she was carrying and who was abusing her. So, not only two innocent lives lost; but also she left behind a grieving “family” – that of the non-governmental organization Eve for Life Jamaica. I will be writing more about this in the next few days. Murders in the parish of St. James (Montego Bay) continue to soar. I extend my sympathies to all who are grieving the loss of their loved ones.
Marsha Smith, 30,Bray Street/Windward Road, Kingston
Kevan Roberts, Bray Street/Windward Road, Kingston
Rushane Grant,Bray Street/Windward Road, Kingston
Wayne Green, 32, Salt Spring, St. James
Kezani Franklyn, Marl Road, St. James
Dwayne Serrero, Marl Road, St. James
Garth Collymore, 28, Hendon Norwood, St. James
Shauna Kay Pitter, Montego Bay, St. James (eight months pregnant)