We move now into that lovely “in between” period where it is neither Christmas nor New Year. I rather like this feeling of “limbo” – a time to daydream, make vague plans and generally laze around. The weather is calm, blue and utterly perfect. So far, though our post-Christmas mood can be summed up in a hashtag: #NetfliXmas (with the windows wide open to allow the “Christmas breeze” to blow through). Here are a few bits and pieces…
On the roads: It has been a really bad year on the roads. To date, 361 people have died on our roads, compared to 324 in the whole of 2014 and 302 in 2013. Please read Jean Lowrie-Chin’s blog post with road safety tips, and please share! Right here: http://lowrie-chin.blogspot.com/2015/12/10-road-safety-tips-for-holiday-season.html I have also posted a press release separately and wrote about it in my Jamaica Gleaner blog six months ago: http://gleanerblogs.com/socialimpact/?p=2742 The sooner the Road Traffic Act is passed – it should make driving while using a cellphone illegal – the better! Meanwhile, laws such as the wearing of crash helmets by motorbike riders need to be enforced rigorously! As the National Road Safety Council’s Lucien Jones tweeted poignantly, “164 precious young people in the prime of life between ages 20-44 have died our our roads in 2015 #VerySad.”
Another non-beach: I remember stopping by at Puerto Seco Beach in Discovery Bay, whenever we were passing along the north coast with our son (we were all three beach bums, in those days). It was a lovely spot, the water always calm. Now I hear there is almost no beach left, and it is little more than a seaside park. How tragic that all our beaches are disappearing, and has anyone discussed the impact of this on tourism? I understand businessman Kenny Benjamin (who resurrected Hope Zoo) is going to lease it from Jamaica Bauxite Mines – so at least it will be nicely manicured and garden-like. But, with several upscale villas strung around the bay beyond, one wonders if this will become a more exclusive zone, rather than a public spot for all Jamaicans to enjoy? Perhaps a private park? I hope not.
The merger: The RJR Group and Gleaner Company have created a Twitter account, @RJRGleaner, which shares snippets of information on the proposed merger between the two media entities – which is subject to shareholders’ approval on December 30. I am still not convinced that this is in the interests of the consuming public, but media expert Marcia Forbes tells me I should look at it in a broader, more global context. It’s the way things are going. The thing is I don’t want anything to change about the venerable Gleaner – the oldest company in Jamaica. And I have been hearing for some time that there will be layoffs at the newspaper…
Lotto scammer extraditions: Justice Minister Mark Golding has not commented on a recent Associated Press report that the United States may seek the extradition of up to 14 Jamaicans for swindling U.S. citizens out of huge amounts of U.S. Dollars (which created quite an economic boom in Montego Bay, by the way, as well as a huge wave of murders in western Jamaica). Yes, many Jamaican citizens as well as Americans have suffered terribly from this curse.
Sting loses its sting, again: Every Boxing Day there is this dancehall ritual called Sting, which started in 1984. Once a much-anticipated and highly-publicized showcase for the genre, it has become a shadow of its former self. This year it exceeded even its own lousy record; at 6:15 a.m. (daylight) the police came and shut it down. The main acts – deejays Beenie Man, Elephant Man, etc. – hadn’t even graced the stage with their presence yet! Sting must by now have broken the record for the most disorganized, shambolic stage show on Earth. Ah well.
Blood needed: The National Blood Transfusion Service’s stocks of blood are low – again. I am not sure why they don’t have registered regular blood donors (I used to give blood every six months when I lived in the UK) but maybe that doesn’t work so well in Jamaica. Anyway, there are collection centers in all major hospitals. So make this a New Year resolution! It absolutely does not hurt, and one unit of blood can help save the lives of more than one person. For much more information, go to their website at http://nbts.gov.jm
A tribute: Businessman Joseph M. Matalon’s tribute to Msgr. Richard Albert, the “ghetto priest,” is both true and touching. Matalon, who is Jewish, was the first Chairman of St. Patrick’s Foundation, which he and the Roman Catholic Father Albert found amusing. I think we should follow Mr. Matalon’s advice and continue to support the two organizations the priest founded, St. Patrick’s and the Stella Maris Foundation. They do fantastic work.
Special kudos to LASCO’s Top Cop of the Year Detective Sergeant Ava Lindo, who has been very much focused on the pervasive problem of child abuse. I look forward to hearing more from her. There is a lot of work to be done.
What are we doing wrong in terms of crime control? Have we given up on the streets, as a Gleaner editorial put it (“Mr Bunting and Commissioner Williams need to rekindle the faith that they are the right men for the job”)? Our Police Commissioner and his senior personnel are more than capable, but don’t seem to be getting results. Do we need comprehensive reform of our somewhat antiquated police force? Well, our National Security Minister Peter Bunting put it all in the hands of God over the Christmas holidays – which I don’t find reassuring, frankly. He tweeted this, with his hands in the Jewish priestly blessing gesture of the Birchat Kohanim – a version of which was adopted by the Rastafarians. He was giving thanks for no murders in 24 hours!
Oh, but the Jamaica Umbrella Group of Churches has issued one of its rare statements, this time asking criminals to “stop it,” and for everyone to work together for peace. I cannot find a full copy of the statement, and the group does not appear to have a website.
So, as always, I close by sending my deepest sympathies to the families of all those who have been killed in the last few days. Perhaps, instead of talking to God, the Minister could spend more time talking to the victims of crime, and the grieving families – men, women and children – left behind. It might be more beneficial, to all…
Duran Coleman, 26, De La Vega City/Spanish Town, St. Catherine (only his head found – prison escapee)
Terry Ann Steer, 33, Bogue Village/Montego Bay, St. James
Lando Brissett (DJ Sammy), 39, Anchovy, St. James