The rain! How glorious it has been – the gloom, the damp grey clouds… I do enjoy this weather, perhaps because it is so unusual in Jamaica. After a year of stressful heat and drought, it is welcome. Once again I have been overwhelmed and too busy, and my comments are late, but before I get started I must mention one thing…
The murder rate: It’s up by twenty per cent overall, totaling 1,112 up to November 26, this year. As we already knew, western Jamaica and the parish of Clarendon have seen the highest increases: 195 killed in St James; Westmoreland has tallied 98 murders compared to 42 last year; and Hanover 58, up from 33 last year. Clarendon has recorded 116 compared to 86 in 2014. I really can’t get my head around these numbers; they terrify me. There has been a 25 per cent increase in murdered children, also – 58 children have been killed since the start of the year compared to 41 in 2014. I want to note that I have tried to record the names of all those who have been killed over this year (and last); however, I have lost track. The media are not recording most of the individual murders; they have clearly given up. The names at the end of today’s blog post reflect only a fraction of those who have died. The Jamaica Constabulary Force reports last month has been the worst so far, with 120 murders (that’s about 30 per week!) with September recording 114.
The “clear up rate” has improved, however, Assistant Commissioner of Police Ealan Powell notes, moving from the low thirties to 49 per cent of all murders. One still has a pretty good chance of getting away with it, though – and I always wonder what the phrase “clear-up rate” actually means. Arrests made? Convictions (I don’t think so)? Cases brought to court and completed (which takes years)? Alleged perpetrator/s gunned down in an alleged shootout (not so common these days, thankfully)? The police also report that a total of 128 firearms have been seized since the start of Get The Guns campaign in September – which is very good news.
The big news (well, you knew it already) is that a week ago we learned that general elections would not take place this year. This had seemed increasingly unlikely, and time was running out. The reasons given were that the Simpson Miller administration did not want to spoil our Christmas season; and secondly, our leaders wanted young people who had registered to vote for the first time to have the chance to exercise their democratic right. Around 30,000 new voters have joined the November 30 electoral list. Is anyone buying this? Of course not. The People’s National Party (PNP) has been through“ups and downs” (many “downs”) lately. I believe its internal polls are not looking very promising, as I have suggested before. The issue of the neonatal deaths in public hospitals was a disaster politically, and it still rankles among the Jamaican public. And discontent remains in some constituencies over candidate selections. So let’s be honest about it: It’s a matter of political expediency. The party has decided its chances of winning the election have lessened, and so it has eased up. Simple. If they thought they could win right now – sure, they would go ahead. Again… Let’s have a fixed election date to avoid this uncertainty!
So, our Prime Minister has not been “touched by the Master,” yet. And the game continues, despite the Prime Minister’s illogical remark: “The guessing and gambling that others are doing can very well stop now. I hear others saying that the elections have been postponed but there was no announcement, so how can there be a postponement?” I don’t recall anyone using the word “postponed.”
We have heard quite a bit of silliness from both sides as the campaign rallies continue. I wish they would just all take an early Christmas holiday (and that includes the plague of tribal activists on social media, radio talk shows etc – give us a break, nuh!) Private sector leaders also want to hear some issues discussed – not whose house is biggest or whose don is baddest, but real issues. I agree.
And how can the parties be campaigning without election manifestos? Where are they, please?
On campaign finance, I suggest you go down to Parliament on Tuesday afternoon (December 1) to find out what is going on with the campaign finance legislation; the Opposition is expected to speak on An Act to Amend the Representation of the People Act 2015. I know that Professor Trevor Munroe and members of National Integrity Action will be filling up the public gallery, so you had better get there early! This is absolutely crucial in the fight against corruption.
Former Mayor is to be investigated, after all: In a somewhat surprising volte face, Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Paula Llewellyn has announced she will revisit the case of the former Mayor of Lucea Shernett Haughton, who allegedly made sure that almost every member of her family benefited from contracts during her tenure, among other alleged breaches of procedures. The DPP had said six months ago she would not be prosecuting Ms. Haughton, despite the Contractor General’s report accusing her of nepotism, favouritism and conflict of interest. Ms. Haughton stepped down as Mayor but remains PNP Councilor for the Green Island Division. We will watch and see how this goes.
The doctor speaks…and has departed: The former President of the Jamaica Medical Doctors’ Association (junior doctors) Dr. Alfred Dawes – he who blew the whistle on appalling conditions in public hospitals – made a startlingly brave speech that rang true for many Jamaicans recently. He said quite bluntly that political cronyism and tribalism has destroyed the health sector, with those in the system appointed to make decisions not putting the interests of the country above their own partisan political interests. “Our divisive politics has destroyed the dream,” said Dr. Dawes. Apart from the two political tribes, he pointed out, there is “a third tribe comprising those whose votes cannot be bought.” Having fired his bolt, Dr. Dawes has already departed these shores to take up a job in the Bahamas, although he says he will be back. In his remarkable speech, Dr. Dawes gave the “articulate minority” and our increasingly vigilant media a boost: “Every time a journalist breaks a story and drags the truth from darkness into the light of day, or every time a hashtag is used as a weapon of change reflects that the checks and balances of a democracy no longer lie with the opposition party of the Westminster system, but with this new mass movement for change.” Hooray!
I am throwing out bouquets to:
- All those journalists who were celebrated at the Press Association of Jamaica annual awards (PAJ) last night. The awards were quite widely distributed among media houses. Some journalists whom I admire were not recognized (I must mention Abka Fitz-Henley of Nationwide News Network, and there are many others who are doing an excellent job) but I hope their turn will come next year. Anyway, congratulations to all, including those behind-the-scenes media workers who make it all happen… And I suppose I must big up myself and Wayne Campbell also – we won Certificates of Merit for our respective blogs! Zaheer Clarke of jablogz.com won Best News, Sports and Current Affairs Blog. This is a new category and I am delighted that the PAJ has decided to include bloggers this year, for the first time! This will encourage many more Jamaican bloggers, I am sure. Special kudos due to Kayon Raynor, who won the UNICEF Award for Excellence in Reporting on Children’s Rights. Here he is with his wife Petre (an excellent environmental journalist, of course) and his award.
- I’d also recommend a blog I recently discovered: http://www.yuhzeen.com – I reblogged an article a few days ago. Do take a look at this fresh, young blog with a focus on social issues and the arts. And for sensible and thoughtful commentary on social issues in Jamaica, read human rights activist Susan Goffe’s blog at http://www.rightstepsandpouitrees.wordpress.com Like many others, Ms. Goffe still has many lingering concerns over several health issues for Jamaica. More on that later.
- All the participants in the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, and the organizers of the various events – too many to mention all by name. I think there was heightened awareness of the issue nationally, although (rather belatedly?) the Bureau of Women’s Affairs launched a “social media campaign” which I have not seen much of, yet. Have you?
- Nurse Marie Clemetson is 86 years old. I had the pleasure of meeting her quite recently at the St. John Ambulance office in Jamaica. She is a lively and beautiful woman. Nurse Clemetson was recently honored by Pope Francis – among sixteen Jamaicans who received pontifical recognition – for distinguished service, at a special ceremony at the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Kingston. Congratulations, Nurse Clemetson.
- Two Caribbean young people were recently elected to the Commonwealth Youth Council, representing national youth bodies from 53 countries. Nikoli Jean-Paul Edwards from Trinidad and Tobago will serve as Vice Chairperson, Policy, Advocacy and Projects while Sujae Boswell from Jamaica will serve as Regional Representative, Caribbean and the Americas.
I discussed the murder rate above, and the fact that I am no longer able to capture the rising numbers of those who are killed on this island every day. Every day. Now, four members of a family have disappeared (the police suspect they may be dead), after a house fire in Lime Hall, St. Ann on November 14. The police have been searching high and low for them without success. They are 57-year-old Joseph Lynch, 43-year-old Lascelle Lynch, 50-year-old Ruth Lawrence and 7-year-old Rimeka Haynes. This is a disturbing case and we await further news.
Osbourne Grant, 48, Orange/Chancery Street, Kingston (alleged police killing)
Lloyd Tennant, Giltress Street/Rollington Town, Kingston
Unidentified man, Palais Royale Exotic Night Club, Ripon Road, Kingston
Devon Barrett, Alexandria, St. Ann
Odane Walters, 21, Annotto Bay, St. Mary
Ocoy Singh, 20, Old Shoes Market, Montego Bay, St James
Darfield Cummings, 29, Lennox Bigwoods, Westmoreland
Ronda Morris, 26, Hopewell, Hanover