It’s been such a pleasant week. Half of me wants to get going on things, while the other has a hangover from the holiday and is inclined to laziness. I suspect there are others who are in this bipolar state! However, as expected, things are quickly warming up on the political front. And the weather? We are in a very dry spell, with water restrictions on the horizon.
More fallen trees: I hope that no politicians at any level had anything to do with the disgraceful protests on Monday morning (the day schools reopened after the holiday break) in North East St. Elizabeth. People’s National Party (PNP) supporters of Member of Parliament Raymond Pryce were upset. Very upset. They are not happy with the choice of Evon Redman as candidate in the next elections. The protest caused major disruptions to people trying to get going at the start of the week; also, a number of large trees were cut down. Please, if you must protest, don’t cut down trees! There is enough chaos and destruction already. It’s so sad! And the squabbles continue in the PNP. Young Damion Crawford has quickly gone off the rails again, on social media. We are all so tired of it, now.
BBC World recently ran a short feature on expected “Big Health Stories for 2016.” The reporter mentioned several issues, including obesity, antibiotics, etc. However, no mention of the proliferation of mosquito-borne viruses; but then, it’s not a “First World problem” – yet. BBC World tends to ignore Latin America and the Caribbean at the best of times, mind you. But let’s be clear: the Zika virus is now in Puerto Rico (local, not imported), according to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). As we now know, the virus is linked to babies born with an abnormally small brain (microcephaly) – usually quite a rare affliction. In 2014, Brazil had less than 200 cases of microcephaly; last year it was at least 3,000.It will soon be in Jamaica – sooner rather than later. I did a Storify on the topic. It’s here: https://storify.com/Petchary/the-zika-virus-approaches
I would like to ask Health Minister Dalley: Have the 1,000 volunteers been deployed yet in their anti-mosquito activities? Are funds being disbursed in the anti-Zika effort? Any updates available, as it moves steadily closer? I have seen some good television PSAs from the Ministry, but will they be enough?
“Our Jamaican understanding of the family”: Opposition Leader Andrew Holness spoke at a fundamentalist Christian get-together under the headline “Heal the Family, Heal the Nation.” He supports the “teachings of the Holy Book” as taught to him by his parents, he told the meeting, and whatever the Biblical definition of “family” is. He said the family is under threat from “coercive forces.” The dreaded gays are out to destroy our families! But tell me, Mr. Holness: What is the typical family in Jamaica, today? What is really threatening the traditional “nuclear family” (which hardly exists in Jamaica) with extinction? I can think of a few threats: domestic violence, violence in the community, hunger, poverty, child abuse, incest, illiteracy, unemployment, children bringing up children. Should I go on, Mr. Holness? But then, you are merely pandering to the fundamentalists, aren’t you? Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, who also attended the event, to her credit spoke in more general terms about the importance of family. Of course, but even if the family structure has changed, what’s important is love!
The prices of both bauxite and sugar (two basic commodities on which Jamaica’s economy once depended) have declined drastically in global markets. So…
Bauxite flounders: A number of Clarendon residents protested at the unhealthy living conditions they endure due to their proximity to the Jamalco bauxite plant (Clarendon Alumina Production Ltd). They say the company has not given them the compensation due to them for wrecking their lives (in particular, their farm lands that have been basically dug up). “We don’t get nothing, all we get is hole,” one complained. (Protesters claimed the police were very heavy-handed at the scene of the protests – and we saw this on television). Jamalco, which is wholly owned by the Government of Jamaica, is losing a lot of money. Its 2014 net loss of US$85 million exceeded its 2013 loss of US$55 million. Has the Ministry of Finance now released its audited accounts by the way? And when will we see the March 2015 accounts?
Meanwhile, Noranda Jamaica in St. Ann (the same company which has been nibbling at the precious Cockpit Country, digging access roads and holes next to people’s homes) sent 100 workers home on December 21 (they are now back at work thankfully), and says it is discussing with the unions to make more workers redundant this month – up to one third of the workforce, it seems. The unions are not taking this lightly, but are awaiting the results of discussions. There’s a glimmer of hope, though, in the news that the hideous, toxic “mud lake” near Mount Rosser will be rehabilitated and eventually reforested. I didn’t think this was possible, but we will see. Rio Tinto Alcan (which now owns plants at Ewarton and Kirkvine) is undertaking the work. Oh, but what happened to the “rare earth” to be extracted from it, which Mining Minister Phillip Paulwell excitedly announced a few years back? It was to bring millions to the coffers. I guess it just didn’t work out…
And sugar not so sweet, either: Some Jamaican sugar moguls are not very impressed with the Chinese administration of some sugar estates. They seem rather miffed that the Pan Caribbean Sugar Company (a subsidiary of COMPLANT International), which purchased the Frome, Monymusk and Bernard Lodge sugar estates for US$9 million from the government in 2010, has not revived the sugar industry as hoped – at least, not yet. With the Long Pond sugar factory now closed, its owners Everglades Farms (which bought two estates in the 2010 divestment) now just have their Trelawny estate, which fortunately is producing award-winning and delicious rum.
What happened to the planned divestment of Kingston’s Norman Manley International Airport?
30 public beaches are being rehabilitated around the island by the Tourism Enhancement Fund. Work has started on 16 beaches, so far. I hope that residents will enjoy the beaches and also take care of the facilities!
Chris Gayle finally goes too far: The self-styled playboy and cricketer Christopher Henry Gayle has finally overstepped the mark, with his pathetically sexist comments to an Australian reporter. I did a Storify about it and was tempted to write a blog post, but enough already. Mr. Gayle is 36 years old and a seasoned professional sportsman, but seems to have no concept of what is appropriate. Since he fancies himself a ladies’ man, he could have saved his creepy approach until after the interview. Instead, he embarrassed himself in front of the cricketing fraternity, fans and the world in general. “Don’t blush, baby” (she wasn’t blushing).
It’s a pattern of behavior. Mr. Gayle has been thoroughly cringeworthy for many years, in and out of the public eye. My sister sat next to him at a charity cricket event in the UK years ago, and told me it was an uncomfortable experience. His Instagram posts are, as the Australian press called it, “sleazy”. Gayle seems to be sex-obsessed and fueled by a huge ego – his non-apology made matters worse. But what harm is there in complimenting a pretty woman, many Jamaicans say (including women)? “Oh, it’s a simple joke!” says Gayle – the standard response by people who have just offended someone with their words or actions (whether racist, sexist or exhibiting some prejudice or other). In other words – “I found it funny. If you didn’t, then something’s wrong with you.” What also upset me was that Gayle’s behavior (over the years) just seems to reinforce that dreadful and unfair stereotype (as all stereotypes are) of a black man who only “thinks below his waist.” The stormy reaction in the Australian press may also be due to that country’s extreme sensitivity over sexism – it has quite a history in that area, going way back. My Storify is here: https://storify.com/Petchary/christopher-gayle-s-embarrassment
Here is Jamaican journalist and Press Association head Dionne Jackson-Miller’s take: “Female reporters have to put up with sexist offensive comments all the time. Most are not carried live on international TV so they just act professionally and get on with their jobs. Doesn’t mean they like it or accept it. From lame pick up lines to more sexually explicit comments, to condescending put downs, they put up with a lot. The comments downplaying the Gayle issue from people who should know better indicate a basic lack of understanding of appropriate behaviour in professional settings and the difficulties still faced by many professional women in general and reporters in particular.” Well said.
Now, Bailey’s Irish Cream (a Jamaican favorite) distributed by Red Stripe/Diageo, just put out this online ad. What do you think of it? Reactions are flooding in on Twitter. I am amazed that Red Stripe actually thought this was appropriate. What message are they trying to send? Poor taste, in my view.
On the mend: I am glad to hear that former Health and Foreign Affairs Minister Dr. Kenneth Baugh is now out of hospital, after brain surgery last November. He is recovering, albeit slowly. Meanwhile former Spanish Town Mayor and Jamaica Labour Party candidate Dr. Raymoth Notice was released from hospital, after being shot two weeks ago. Yes, they’re both medical doctors!
No kudos for Gayle, but definitely some for…
LGBT, HIV/AIDS and human rights activist Angeline Jackson, who is now a Certified Life Coach. And still just 25 years old! Here is her blog: http://www.angelinejackson.com/blog Congratulations, Angeline, on your latest achievement!
It’s sad to say goodbye to Head of the EU Delegation Paola Amadei, who will be moving on to Germany. She has been very focused and supportive, especially on women’s issues; BirdsCaribbean is also grateful to her for her support for their 20th International Meeting in Kingston last July. We will miss her kind and gentle presence.
I do love football, and it does not have to be a divisive force. It’s good to see that the Spanish-Jamaican Foundation and Ballaz International have partnered to bring the NGO Coaches Across Continents, which uses football as a vehicle for social change, back to Jamaica for the third consecutive year. Close to 100 football coaches are being trained in Kingston and Montego Bay. Big ups!
The Accompong Maroons, who at their annual peace treaty celebrations vowed to preserve the Cockpit Country, threatened by the aforementioned bauxite mining.“There is more riches here than any bauxite can value,” said Maroon elder Melville Currie. Very well put.
My friends at the National Environment & Planning Agency (NEPA), especially Ricardo Miller, who rescued a very large crocodile in St. Thomas this week (see photo above). Kudos too to the residents, who did not harm the animal, which is a protected species. NEPA encourages Jamaicans who come into contact with a crocodile not to interfere with it, but to call the agency at its Corporate offices: namely (876) 754-7540 or the toll-free hotline at 1-888-991-5005.
I am not sure what has been happening in parts of Clarendon in the first week of the year. National Security Minister is telling us there has been a decline in murders in the past two months, but I am not terribly convinced. And this week, a group of youngsters broke into the house of a 75-year-old woman in St. Ann, perhaps with robbery in mind. The woman was brutally raped. She is suffering “physical pain and mental trauma,” said the local councilor. My heart goes out to her; and also to the families of all those who have lost their lives in the past few days.
Roshane Blake, 22, Chapelton, Clarendon (an alleged robber, killed by a licensed firearm holder)
Lloyd Riley, 76, Frankfield, Clarendon (allegedly killed by thieves trying to steal his cattle)
Dennis Temple, 59, New Ground, Chapelton, Clarendon (shot dead at his home)
David Hudson, Lime Hall, St. Ann
Damion Campbell o/c “Iron Man,” Lime Hall, St. Ann (both these men, police believe, were connected to the case of four family members, who went missing after a house fire on November 14 in Lime Hall)
Mario Hall, 30, Pimento Walk, St. Ann
Carmalita Dinall, 56, Mandeville, Manchester