A Cocaine “Error,” Much Ado About a Power Cut, Mixed Messages and Contradictions: Wednesday, April 20, 2016


It’s been a funny sort of week. Not particularly humorous, but some positive developments to report.

JPS boss Kelly Tomblin.
JPS boss Kelly Tomblin.

Obsessed with power: There was a power cut on Sunday evening, which lasted perhaps half an hour for some people, longer for others. It took place across the island; but in some areas (like my mother-in-law’s neighborhood) there was no power cut at all. The Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS) explained what had happened as soon as they had figured it out. Its CEO Kelly Tomblin appeared on early morning television and explained to the best of her ability. What surprised me was that the media seemed practically obsessed, chewing over the story for at least 24 hours. The Office of Utilities Regulation woke from its semi-slumber and demanded a report, which JPS will no doubt provide. End of story…one would think.

An estimated J$1 billion worth of cocaine was seized in Belmont, Westmoreland after a boat chase this week. But there are questions to be answered.
An estimated J$1 billion worth of cocaine was seized in Belmont, Westmoreland after a boat chase this week. But there are questions to be answered.

Proper communication is key: The Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) seems to have had issues with communications for quite some time. I recall years back when the Constabulary Communication Network (CCN) came into being – in 1999. It was headed by Senior Superintendent James Forbes. He was a pretty reliable source of information, and also a policeman. There were some slip-ups, but SSP Forbes was a good spokesperson – rather a “smooth talker,” hosting a television slot which gave dramatic replays of murders. In January 2014 the CCN was “rebranded” as the Corporate Communications Unit, headed by a civilian; it has various “sub-units.” In that same year, sadly, SSP Forbes fell from grace. Now, radio journalist Cliff Hughes (and others) are very concerned at the contradictory reports coming from the JCF related to a huge cocaine bust (600 kilograms!) in Westmoreland – in particular in connection with the arrest and subsequent release of four men. The JCF appears to be confused. Too many sub-units?  Was the first report really a “serious error,” Commissioner Williams? If J$1 billion worth of cocaine arrived on our island, did you not jump in a helicopter to see what was going on? And, please fix your communications strategy!

Questions remain, and I think this incident has been damaging. I would love National Security Minister Robert Montague to make a clear statement on this matter.

Chief Medical Officer Dr. Winston De La Haye.
Chief Medical Officer Dr. Winston De La Haye.

More mixed messages? Now the Ministry of Health and the National Family Planning Board (NFPB) seem to be saying two different things regarding the Zika Virus and pregnancy. Perhaps Dr. Winston De La Haye (Chief Medical Officer) is erring on the side of caution, but he still suggests that women should delay pregnancy and not have unprotected sex. But hold on! Outgoing chair of the NFPB Dr. Sandra Knight says Jamaican women are not taking warnings seriously, but then goes on to suggest that to tell women not to get pregnant at the moment “wouldn’t be the best advice.” Who is right? We have six confirmed cases of the Zika Virus in Jamaica so far, but since only one in four people who contract it actually have symptoms (and would therefore not get tested) how do we know how many cases there indeed might be? Be that as it may, one is left with the impression that Jamaicans are not taking Zika Virus seriously because they are not seeing/feeling it; and we may just have to wait and see in another nine months whether it is in fact a problem. By which time it will be too late.

Opposition Finance Spokesman Peter Phillips' general tone is one of irritation and frustration. (Photo: Irie FM)
Opposition Finance Spokesman Peter Phillips’ general tone is one of irritation, these days. (Photo: Irie FM)

Keeping the tax promise will be a “totally unwarranted shock to the country’s finances,” said Opposition Finance Spokesperson Peter Phillips at a press briefing yesterday, with his customary air of frustration. The Jamaica Labour Party administration needs to speak clearly to the country, he said: “Man up and talk!” Opposition Leader Portia Simpson Miller added that the JLP is simply planning a continuation of her party’s policies – subsequently noting that the JLP has “no clear plan.” I see! Ms. Simpson Miller added that she would like to see less talk and more work on the ground on the part of the government. “The JLP cannot be trusted,” she said, because they have made promises “they have no intention of keeping.” The former Finance Minister also believes the commitments will not be met, and is clearly annoyed at the unrealistic” expectations of the electorate, who were taken in. He forecasts additional taxation.

Confidence soars: Notwithstanding Mr. Phillips’ comments, Pollster Don Anderson says business and consumer confidence is at a 15-year high. What are the factors behind it, I wonder? Simply a change of government? Blind optimism?

More onions: The oft-neglected agriculture sector is reporting success with onions, thanks to an import substitution program initiated last year.

Is “bad gas” here again? Energy Minister Dr. Andrew Wheatley is expecting a final report from the Petroleum Trade Reform committee this week; the interim report didn’t tell us much. There have been hundreds of official complaints from the public, and recently a couple of media reports suggest bad gas is back.

No more public peeing? Local Government Minister Desmond McKenzie has reminded new municipal police graduates that urinating in public is an offense. He wants us citizens to “make up our faces” at men who do this. He says women do it too! That I have never seen…but men have stood and peed into the hedge at the side of our house a few times. Ugh.

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I often express concern about the state of Jamaica’s tourism. However, we must be doing something right. TripAdvisor – about the only travel website I seriously follow – has named Jamaica the third best island in the world, according to visitor reviews, after Maui in Hawaii and Santorini in Greece! Last year, Jamaica was not in their Top Ten Islands list at all. Providenciales in Turks and Caicos came fourth, followed by Bali, Majorca, Mauritius, Phuket, Bora Bora and Fernando de Noronha in Brazil. Read more: https://www.tripadvisor.com/TravelersChoice-Islands

The Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Index places Jamaica at an impressive 10th in the index of 180 countries. This is a slip downwards of one place, but still great compared to the rest of the Caribbean. Costa Rica leapt into 6th place, but generally the Americas fared very poorly – and globally, RSF says “Leaders are paranoid about journalists.” So, we are fortunate. You can find the global rankings here: https://rsf.org/en/ranking_table

Kudos and thank you…

  • To the World Is Our Neighbourhood, a diaspora organization and to Ms. Marva Haye, a former employee of the Savannah-la-Mar Hospital now living in the United States. The organization donated a large amount of new equipment to the Hospital.
Toni-Ann Williams
Toni-Ann Williams (Photo: Matthias Schrader/AP)
  • Congratulations too to two high-achievers! Firstly, 20-year-old Toni-Ann Williams is the first gymnast representing Jamaica to qualify for the Olympic Games. She is a sophomore at the University of California-Berkeley and is actually U.S.-born of Jamaican parents. I do hope that gymnastics will be developed more at home in Jamaica; perhaps Toni-Ann will be the inspiration. Good luck to her!
Chef Andre Fowles is a seriously focused young man. (Photo: Twitter)
Chef André Fowles is a seriously focused young man. (Photo: Twitter)
  • The second achiever is chef André Fowles, who is the first Jamaican-born and the youngest ever chef to compete in the popular “Chopped” show on Food Network Television. He already won in February, won tonight’s competition and will compete in the finals to be Chopped Champion on April 26. Fingers and toes are crossed!
  • Dadre-Ann Graham, sales representative at GraceKennedy, receives the exhibitor award for the Best Environmentally Friendly Exhibit/Product from Metry Seaga, president of the Jamaica Manufacturers’ Association, during Expo Jamaica 2016. (Photo: Norman Grindley/Gleaner)
    Dadre-Ann Graham, sales representative at GraceKennedy, receives the award for the Best Environmentally Friendly Exhibit/Product from Metry Seaga, president of the Jamaica Manufacturers’ Association, at Expo Jamaica 2016. (Photo: Norman Grindley/Gleaner)
  • GraceKennedy won the award for Most Environmentally Friendly Booth/Product at Jamaica Expo last weekend (which apparently went well). I hope they carry this commitment through all the work they do, on an everyday basis.
Therese Turner-Jones is the new Caribbean Regional Head of the IDB. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)
Therese Turner-Jones is the new Caribbean Regional Head of the IDB. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)
  • Congratulations to Therese Turner-Jones, the Bahamian national who has been serving as the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) Country Representative for Jamaica. Ms. Turner-Jones became the first Caribbean woman and the second Caribbean person to become General Manager of the IDB’s Caribbean Country Department. She will remain in Jamaica, rather than moving to Washington.

Tragic stories abound again as we look back over the past few days. A much-loved local businessman, Trevor Meikle, was shot dead during that power cut – the electronic gate apparently did not work, and a robbery was in progress at the house. How small circumstances can change one’s life! Last night, a young man reportedly with mental health issues seized an M-16 rifle from a policeman outside Olympic Gardens Police Station, jumped into a minibus and was allegedly shot dead by the police. A pregnant woman was shot dead. A young policeman got into an argument at a party, pulled his firearm and was shot dead by a licensed firearm holder. We cannot and must not ignore these stories, or sweep them under the carpet.  These are Jamaican lives, and the deaths of all these Jamaicans affect so many others. There are ripple effects. My condolences to all the families.

Junior Bartley, 44, Matilda’s Corner, Kingston

Odane Bennett, 23, Olympic Gardens, Kingston (allegedly killed by police)

Tanisha Ford, 26, Portmore, St. Catherine

Shawn Baccas, 37, Old Harbour Road, St. Catherine

Derwin Prince, 58, Old Harbour Road, St. Catherine

Anthony Rose, 37,Old Harbour Road, St. Catherine

Andre Carter, 29, Board Villa/Ebony Park, Clarendon

Kamala “Kayon” Hylton, 29, Long Lane, Hanover (eight months pregnant)

Unidentified man, Kerr Crescent, Montego Bay, St. James

Marion Brissett, 64, Bay Road, Little London, Westmoreland

Constable Shane Francis, 30, White River/Ocho Rios, St. Ann

Kevin Barriffe, Galina, St. Mary

Trevor Meikle, 76,  Ingleside/Mandeville, Manchester

Maurice Campbell, 41, Santa Cruz, St. Elizabeth

Media reports suggest that Constable Shane Francis, who was shot dead at a party in Ocho Rios, was implicated in other shooting incidents that resulted in the deaths of a colleague and of a civilian. (Photo: Loop Jamaica)
Media reports suggest that Constable Shane Francis, who was shot dead at a party in Ocho Rios, was implicated in other shooting incidents that resulted in the deaths of a colleague and of a civilian. (Photo: Loop Jamaica)
Firefighter Kevin Bariffe was stabbed to death in St. Mary yesterday, allegedly during a dispute over the death of Constable Shane Francis, who was reportedly a friend of his. (Photo: Loop Jamaica)
Firefighter Kevin Bariffe was stabbed to death in St. Mary yesterday, allegedly during a dispute over the death of Constable Shane Francis, who was reportedly a friend of his. (Photo: Loop Jamaica)
A well-known and much loved local businessman, Trevor Meikle, was shot dead during a robbery as he returned from the airport with his wife and daughter. He is reportedly a relative of former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)
A well-known and much loved local businessman, Trevor Meikle, was shot dead during a robbery as he returned from the airport with his wife and daughter. He is reportedly a relative of former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

 

Tanesha Ford, 26, was shot and killed in Portmore this week. She was visiting from Queens, New York. (Photo: Loop Jamaica)
Tanesha Ford, 26, was shot and killed in Portmore this week. She was visiting from Queens, New York. (Photo: Loop Jamaica)

11 thoughts on “A Cocaine “Error,” Much Ado About a Power Cut, Mixed Messages and Contradictions: Wednesday, April 20, 2016

  1. Until our leaders, legislators, etc understand that a fundamental problem we face as a country is not making available to our children and adults alike information – facts not fiction- about how to have the best understanding as to how our bodies work, to respect our bodies and therefore other people’s bodies we will continue to place the lives especially of women and girls in jeopardy.

    We cannot continue to be held hostage by fundamentalisms which undermine our ability to teach our children and some of us about our bodies – how they work, what to expect and therefore how to protect our bodily integrity. Instead we equate information about sexual and reproductive rights and health with our anti-woman and anti-LGBT stance. Despite all studies in every culture possible to the contrary.

    Of course this is why we have one of the highest early sexual initiation rate – usually coerced, forced, that is rape, incest, etc. As Amnesty International calls their report on this “Just A Lickle Sex..” We have a growing pregnancy rate of girls 14 and under! Surprise at the same time when most countries in our region, including Jamaica have gone backward in how it makes information available to children, students, etc.
    Using the “Christianity Boogeyman!” Christ and God desperately need a Communications Expert I don’t recall either one giving consent to rights violation.

    So of course we will have mixed messages – instead of making women and girls the central feature of the strategy, we have yet again managed to make them the “collateral damage” as the state desperately try not to piss off “so-called Christians”.

    So technically de state han join ‘Church’ – we fraid fe mek contraceptives and heaven forbid safe abortion services available in case we lose de nex election because we a now ‘sex anarchists’!!!

    But nobody nuh waan tek de children with disabilities

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “Just a Likkle Sex” – yes, I remember that report. It is an undermining, just digging away and unless we all become Christian fundamentalists ourselves, we can never be “saved.” You are right, they have merged their anti-LGBT, anti-women (why are they anti-everything?) stance with their opposition to sexual and reproductive rights. All part of the same picture. Vulnerable women and girls are the ones who suffer as a result. We are being dragged backward, because these people have a hold on many decision-makers as well as members of the public. The result is nothing more nor less than an abuse of human rights, in my view!

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  2. There are certainly mixed messages re advice to women about pregnancy and zika. The blanket MOH advice recommending that women delay pregnancy is of limited usefulness in a country where more than 50 % of pregnancies are unplanned & where women often don’t have control over contraceptive use and the decision whether to have sex or not. More information and support is needed. We certainly aren’t taking zika as seriously as we need to, and it is definitely connected to the fact that the majority of people who have it have mild or no symptoms. A dilemma indeed!

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    1. Yes, this worries me. It must be a dilemma for the Health Ministry, too. The Zika virus is so hard to figure out that the public at large are not going to be very engaged on the matter. Perhaps the best we can do is keep those aedes aegypti mosquitoes at bay!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Reading all of this news is so disheartening to us as Jamaicans. What is really happening in our little island. Why so many deaths? Most time, these killings are simply over mere or unimportant differences between persons involved. We need to humble ourselves and prevent these heated conversations which eventually lead to the lost of lives. Not much love is being spread around.

    We all need to pray for our brothers and sisters that have so many uneven temperament. We need to give peace a chance. Lord, you see whats happening in Jamaica. Help us to be more mindful of each others’ feelings. We tend to be oh so selfish thinking only of ourselves and not about each other. More kidnappings and rape seems to be the order of the day. Some of these are happenings are from as young as teenagers. We need to be more vigilant in apprehending these criminals.

    Pray over our children, whether they be our biological, adopted, fostered and guardians. More power in prayer when we pray as a group for one greater good in Jesus’ name.

    Like

    1. Yes, it is tragic isn’t it. I am sorry it is disheartening, but we need to know and understand and try to find solutions. Many say that these disputes, fights and misunderstandings are all due to Jamaicans’ inability to solve conflicts properly. Then of course there are those related to organized crime (such as the lotto scam), which the police need to get a grip on. But in other cases – including rape and child abuse, as well as domestic violence – we need to be our brother’s and sister’s keepers. Especially for the sake of the young ones. Thank you for your response, Eleanor! We will have to find a way.

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  4. Patricia Phillips, MA, SSJD (Ms) (nee Donald) Development Communication Consultant

    Technical Areas -: Gender/& HIV, Organizational /Community Dev., Family Life, Spirituality ………….

    Skills-: Project and Programme Management , Participatory Action / Feminist Research; Strategic Planning / Visioning, Team Building, Facilitation and Training; Writing, Illustrations, Individual & Group Counselling, Mediation, Spiritual Direction

    MA Communication for Social and Behaviour Change (CARIMAC, UWI) BA Theology (UTCWI) (876)455-3650 – Digicel; WattsAp (876) 541-4358 – FLOW cell; WattsAp (876) 632-9235 – FLOW land

    patriciahopeyphillips@gmail.com Skype: pendonald Twitter: @pathopeyp FaceBook: Patricia Donald Phillips

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  5. Don Anderson gave a full account on RJR of reasons for increased optimism in Q1, including a high after elections, but remember this is a continuation of a trend improvement over several quarters.

    Santorini was a previous leper colony, but a lovely spot.

    The police are in a mess in many fronts…Who will be in the pee-police force? Really!!

    I’ll pass the blog on to Therese 😊💃🏿👏🏿

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    1. Ha! the pee-police! Oh dear me. I am very concerned about our JCF at the moment. Thanks for passing my blog on to Therese, and my warmest congratulations to her again! I think I missed Don Anderson’s interview. Well, I heard his voice in the background on the radio – but you know how it is sometimes. I completely tune things out when I am writing! Oh, I didn’t know about Santorini.

      Liked by 1 person

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