The weather has been persistently grey, humid and cloudy. Yesterday, our gardener had some actual grass to cut, although our “lawn” remains very thin and will likely never recover. I hear La Niña is arriving. She sounds like a better deal than the male equivalent, but I’d like to know more about how she might affect our region (or not).
The 55-year-old grandson of Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia, Prince Ermias Sahle-Selassie, is here on the fiftieth anniversary of His Imperial Majesty’s visit to Jamaica. He seems to be having a nice time, with Rastafarians of all ages keeping him company along the way – in fact, everywhere he goes. The Prince lives in Washington, DC. Harking back to his grandfather’s visit half a century ago, the Gleaner has produced an excellent online memorial of the visit with old clips and photos, here: http://go-jamaica.com/selassie/#
Battling garbage: Several things have happened in the wake of Earth Day that are at least somewhat hopeful. Senator Matthew Samuda (head of the Jamaica Labour Party’s G2K young professionals arm) plans to file a private member’s motion in Parliament to ban plastic bags and styrofoam (Guyana has already banned the latter; it is what most of our takeaway meal containers are made of). Wonderful! However, William Mahfood, who heads the Private Sector Organization of Jamaica (PSOJ) and is quite involved in plastic bottles, says 75 per cent of styrofoam is manufactured right here in Jamaica. We never knew, did we? Well Mr. Mahfood, if that is so, then why not retool those factories to produce another type of container – something biodegradable, perhaps? Or should we continue to support a non-sustainable local industry just for the sake of it? Let’s do a little more forward thinking here. Think Green Economy!
Not to be outdone, Local Government Minister Desmond McKenzie has embarked on a two-day clean up of several depressed areas of Montego Bay. Cleanups are good but it is the long-term education of the public in sustainable practices and solid waste disposal that’s needed. Plus, some of these areas are probably underserved by government garbage disposal agencies, and that needs to be addressed too – island-wide.
There has been a lot of focus on Montego Bay in the past few days, with the crime rate showing no signs of letting up. A triple murder in the town’s main market brought Prime Minister Andrew Holness and others to the scene. The PM was criticized for posting photos on social media of himself touring the market, greeting vendors and purchasing yams etc in a nice basket, when it had just been the scene of an awful crime. But there’s another way of looking at it. He was perhaps trying to raise the vendors’ morale, an attempt to cheer people up. Lord knows Montego Bay needs a little cheering up, these days.
Kids’ curfew! The police in Montego Bay are pretty much willing to try anything that will help to stem the unrelenting crime wave in the “tourism mecca.” Now Senior Superintendent Steve McGregor has issued a directive for all children aged seventeen years and under to be off the streets by 9 p.m. SSP McGregor is a very hard-working man, and eternally optimistic. Big ups, SSP!
Dennis Chung of the PSOJ is really worried about youth unemployment (a little under 30 per cent nationally, but certainly higher in some depressed communities). It’s the problem that won’t go away. The issue is, he says, that “we are in the information age now and we are still struggling with a labour force that can do nothing more than manual labor.”
Dr. Wayne “Sexual Anarchy” West and his fundamentalist Christian colleagues held a meeting last week, the theme of which was the wicked international agencies that are encouraging the “sexualizing of our children.” Representatives of said agencies attended, and a number of civil society representatives and rights advocates, who stated their case. Now, I believe Dr. W & Co. are seeking to get the ear of Education Minister Ruel Reid (who, ironically, was speaking at a UNICEF event elsewhere that same evening). Minister Reid is known to be a conservative Christian himself, and I understand he is revisiting the issue of the sex education in schools, specifically Comprehensive Sex Education – which created a huge uproar a few years back, eagerly amplified by our local media. It remains to be seen what action he takes. One awaits with interest.
As you know, I write for Global Voices and reported on this topic (with lots of relevant links) here: https://globalvoices.org/2016/04/23/jamaicas-christian-conservatives-point-fingers-at-international-agencies-over-comprehensive-sex-education/ Please read, comment and share if you would like to!
There are two murder cases that are worrying me, for different reasons. Firstly, on July 1, 2011 a Kingston College schoolboy, 17-year-old Khajeel Mais, a passenger in a taxi cab, was killed when a 50-year-old businessman named Patrick Powell allegedly fired at the cab. He was driving a luxury BMW X6 car and in a fit of road rage, it is alleged, pulled out his gun. After firing, he allegedly sped away; and subsequently left the country for a little while. The last time I heard about this oft-postponed case, Mr. Powell (who has been out on J$10 million bail all these years, after the Court of Appeal threw out an appeal by the Office of Public Prosecution) was that he was due to appear in court on March 2. But guess what? It was put off again because of a “glitch” with a prosecutor (Loop Jamaica’s word) and “set for mention” on March 4. Loop News added: “Loop News has been informed that a number of circumstances that have come up recently will result in the trial being postponed.” That report was over seven weeks ago. Meanwhile, a case that caused a considerable stir in the media and public five years ago is no longer of interest to the media, it seems. The “Justice for Khajeel Mais” Facebook page is full of comments like: “Any news?” Well? Any news?
Then there is the case of Dr. Peter Vogel, a Swiss ornithologist, who was found dead at his home at Long Mountain Close, College Common on July 19, 2007. Dr. Vogel lectured at the Department of Life Sciences at the University of the West Indies, Mona and I remember attending a great talk he gave on birds at the U.S. Embassy. His domestic helper and her common law husband, the gardener, were arrested and charged with Dr. Vogel’s murder. They have been in custody ever since. No, they are not “big people” like Mr. Powell. No bail for them. They have already been in jail for over eight years. The trial should have started on April 11 this year. But guess what? The trial was put off until October 3, because “arrangements were not made to bring witnesses from overseas.”
Is this justice for the families of Khajeel Mais and Dr. Peter Vogel? Is it justice for the accused, two of whom will have been incarcerated for over nine years before their trial starts?
The road along the Rio Grande Valley in Portland is beautiful, narrow and winding, with steep slopes on one side above you and steep slopes below, down to the river itself. Along the road there are villages with wonderful names like Ginger Hut. But it is a vulnerable area in terms of geography. Whenever it rains for more than a day or two (and Portland is well known for its rains) there are floods and landslides. Now an elderly couple and their young grandchild are homeless (but uninjured) after a landslide destroyed their house. I hope they get help soon.
Our children at risk: Three stories on the TV news made me unbearably sad, this evening: a six-year-old was shot dead while playing with a parent’s licensed firearm; small children at a basic school were completely traumatized after gun-toting men ran through the school yard firing at each other; and a little boy was knocked down by a driver (allegedly on her cell phone) – who has not yet been charged in relation to his death. His school teacher said the six-year-old was extremely talented at art, and she had been encouraging him. #KeepChildrenSafe
- Big ups to Shelly Ann Fraser-Pryce! She is having a fundraiser for her Pocket Rocket Foundation (focused on sports and education) – a showing of the Jesse Owens biopic with the American Chamber of Commerce. Shelly Ann is from the inner city neighborhood of Waterhouse.
- Big ups to St. Jude’s! Fellow blogger and educator Wayne Campbell posted this recently: “It was most fitting for TVJ’s Kids Say programme to have featured St. Jude’s Primary School on this their 53rd anniversary. I was so pleased at the eloquence of the students, as well as, how knowledgeable they were in expressing their views on a wide range of issues. As a proud past student of this noble institution, I must say congratulations to all the teachers and support staff for your dedication and hard work. Happy Anniversary St. Jude’s! May you grow from strength to strength as you continue to mould the lives of the future generation. Blessings to all involved. #school #education #St. Jude’sPrimarySchool #anniversary”
- Big ups to the Tourism Action Clubs! who were celebrated by Jamaica Environment Trust on Earth Day. An exhibition and awards ceremony took place, with several high schools doing really well (special congrats to the girls of Westwood High School!) The Tourism Action Clubs took on some great projects – including cleanups in carefully selected locations; but as I noted above, we need more than cleanups – and as JET emphasized, the Nuh Dutty Up Jamaica program, a partnership with the Tourism Ministry’s Clean Coasts Project, is not a cleanup program, but seeks to educate the public on our whole solid waste problem. Well done to all!
- Big ups to Professor Verene Shepherd! who has been appointed as an independent expert on the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD). In June 2015, Professor Shepherd became the first Jamaican and CARICOM citizen to be elected to serve on the CERD in its nearly 50-year history.
- Big ups to Billy Wilmot! who as head of the Jamaica Surfing Association has for several years now has been partnering with the Jamaica Autism Support Association (JASA) to help autistic children – a remarkable therapy that actually seems to have such a positive impact on the kids. Mr. Wilmot and his colleagues and fellow surfers do it quietly, with no big publicity.
- Big ups to Minister Chris Tufton! Who responded swiftly to a concern Susan Goffe and fellow tweeters raised regarding an alleged outbreak of the Zika Virus in Old Harbour. Minister Tufton also tweeted: “I am going to use this platform to remind Doctors that if they have suspected cases of ZikV they should IMMEDIATELY send samples for testing.”
The small tragedies continue. Two sisters, Paulette and Janet James, died in a fire of unknown origin in Keith District, Brown’s Town in St. Ann. The police are investigating. As mentioned above, Montego Bay remains what the police call a “hot spot.” My deepest condolences to all the families. This list, covering the past five or six days, is far too long. But have you noticed something? The capital city of Kingston, the most populous area in the country, is not on the list.
What is the Minister of National Security saying about the escalating murders? Can we hear from him, please?
Michelle Murdock, 37, Meadowvale Drive/Portmore, St. Catherine
Patrick Johnson, 49, Meadowvale Drive/Portmore, St. Catherine
Perjohn Robinson, Jobs Lane, Spanish Town, St. Catherine
Everton Samuda, Jobs Lane/St. John’s Road, Spanish Town, St. Catherine
Kellifa Carney, 37, Sydenham Villa, St Catherine.
Phillip Binns, 39, Charles Gordon Market/Montego Bay, St. James
Gregory Holder, 25, Charles Gordon Market/Montego Bay, St. James
Hanson Chambers, 32, Charles Gordon Market/Montego Bay, St. James
Oneillio Bailey, Cottage Road/Montego Bay, St. James (killed by police)
Chevanne Lawrence, 22, Tangle, St. James
Amoya Brown, 15, Claremont, St. Ann
Demari Smith, 25, Claremont, St. Ann
Nicolas Jones, 40, Sunflower Villa/Runaway Bay, St. Ann
Unidentified man, Laughlands, St. Ann
Unidentified man, West End, Negril, Westmoreland
Roydell Anderson, 52, Frontier, St. Mary