“Taxperity,” Life on Planet Poor – and A Surprise Visitor: Saturday, May 21, 2016


What a strange week it’s been – perhaps because I have not been feeling well. I believe I may I have had a touch of Zika (or a recurrence of chikungunya?) I get the feeling these nasty mosquito-borne diseases are overlapping. I seem to get them all! So please, people, take care out there. I am a bad example; I never notice mosquito bites and now that the weather has dried out a bit I am hardly even seeing any of the little buggers. Yet they seem to get me every time. Anyway, slap on your repellent, burn your candles and above all, don’t – don’t – have any breeding grounds around your house!

Health Minister Christopher Tufton must stay on top of the ever-changing pattern of scary diseases, and keep us regularly informed. (Photo: Gleaner)
Health Minister Christopher Tufton must stay on top of the ever-changing pattern of scary diseases, and keep us regularly informed. Daily, if necessary! This is no joke. (Photo: Gleaner)

Some pregnant women are showing symptoms of the Zika Virus, but none are yet confirmed, says Chief Medical Officer Dr. Winston De La Haye. He says “we continue to monitor,” noting Jamaica is part of a PAHO research project on microcephaly. Pregnant women should increase their check-ups and include ultrasound to check on the size of the baby’s head, he added. We would still like to see regular (weekly?) updates on the Ministry of Health website, Minister Tufton! Is that so hard? There are, I understand, now ten confirmed cases of Zika. But I hear from different sources that there are far more suspected cases, and the Health Ministry itself says it expects around 70 per cent of the population to be eventually affected, even if they don’t show symptoms.

And then we have yellow fever – which, unlike the above-mentioned afflictions, does have a vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control tells us: There is no risk of yellow fever in Jamaica. The government of Jamaica requires proof of yellow fever vaccination only if you are arriving from a country with risk of yellow fever.” Several Chinese citizens who arrived in Montego Bay recently were detained because they did not have vaccination certificates. China as well as several other countries does have yellow fever.  Here are the Ministry’s FAQs on the topic: http://moh.gov.jm/edu-resources/yellow-fever-faqs/

Venezuelan president Nicholas Maduro and his wife Cilia Flores Maduro descend the stairs on arrival on a flight from Caracas Saturday night - Contributed photo/Gleaner
Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro and his wife Cilia Flores Maduro descend the stairs on arrival on a flight from Caracas Saturday night – Contributed photo/Gleaner

As I write, the President of Venezuela Nicolás Maduro and his wife have just checked in at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in Kingston. He will be here for a “working visit,” it has been hastily announced. He will be meeting with Prime Minister Andrew Holness and Government officials and holding a joint press conference with the Prime Minister tomorrow (Sunday). He is a brave man to leave his country when it’s in such disarray; hopefully there will still be a place for him on his return. One notes his wife is with him, and also his Foreign Minister, Delcy Rodríguez, and Minister of Petroleum and Mining, Eulogio Del Pino. He may visit Trinidad after he leaves us on Sunday afternoon. This must be something to do with PetroCaribe (which no one seems to talk about, these days). Meanwhile, frantic cleaning up was going on overnight downtown, where President Maduro will visit the Simón Bolívar statue and Cultural Centre.

Sunday morning meeting at Jamaica House with President Maduro. (Photo: Andrew Holness Twitter)
Sunday morning meeting at Jamaica House with President Maduro. Finance Minister Audley Shaw and Foreign Affairs Minister Kamina Johnson Smith are in this photo. (Photo: Andrew Holness Twitter)
Finance and Planning Minister Audley Shaw kisses Opposition Leader Portia Simpson Miller in the House of Representatives. (Photo: Gleaner)
A peck on the cheek: Finance and Planning Minister Audley Shaw kisses Opposition Leader Portia Simpson Miller in the House of Representatives. (Photo: Gleaner)

We really do care about “The Poor”  – not Jamaicans in general, but The Poor that some politicians love to love. Referring to the recent Budget,  Imani Duncan-Price declared in a Gleaner column that tax reform is a delicate balancing act – and this is not balanced.” Suddenly the People’s National Party (PNP) is giving out prescriptions for how tax reform should be conducted – which begs the question… Well, perhaps you know what the question is! Now, whether the current administration can hold it all together – promises and all – is one thing, and remains to be seen. But as usual, Opposition remarks on the Budget always have a hypocritical ring. I mean, don’t they all mess around with taxes, every year, when they’re in power? In her Budget address Opposition Leader Portia Simpson Miller called the Government’s plan “taxperity” (a play on the word “prosperity,” which was heavily used during the Jamaica Labour Party’s election campaign). She also mentioned, not for the first time, that her party replaced 300 pit latrines in schools – proof of that love of The Poor, I suppose. I cannot find a copy of her speech online. I think the Jamaica Information Service should post the speech, however. The Opposition is a part of our Government. There is a summary on the PNP’s website (“Welcome, Comrades!”) but it’s rather inadequate.

Meanwhile, the IMF was back in town and gave the thumbs up to the Government’s tax plans. The officials had skipped a visit because of the elections, so this was two reports rolled into one.  You can read it here: http://www.imf.org/external/np/ms/2016/052016.htm

But growth… What about that elusive creature?

The Trench Town Reading Centre is an oasis of hope in the St. Andrew Southern constituency, the "safe seat" that Omar Davies will be relinquishing this summer. (My photo)
The Trench Town Reading Centre is an oasis of hope in the St. Andrew Southern constituency, the “safe seat” that Omar Davies will be relinquishing this summer. (My photo)

Speaking of the Comrades, some of them are apparently jockeying for position, with Portia Simpson Miller facing a possible challenge to the leadership by the end of the year. Instagram Queen Lisa Hanna called a radio talk show host to inform him that she is considering applying for the position of Vice President when the time comes. Gasp! Also, with the ailing former Finance Minister Omar Davies very likely to step down in August, Colin Campbell is hoping to replace him in his prized “safe seat” of St. Andrew Southern, which includes a large number of The Poor. I recall some years ago when Dr. Davies publicly described the young male residents of his constituency as “irredeemable.” Mr. Campbell is anxious to inherit them. 

Why is garbage still an issue in several parts of the island? There are reportedly major pile-ups of uncollected rubbish in St. Ann. St. Catherine is suffering from a major rat problem, and blocked drains. Is there still a shortage of collection trucks? And what about the problem of illegal dumping? If one is observant, one can see this in various rural parishes (as I noted, and photographed in Hector’s River, Portland a few weeks ago) and rundown residential areas like New Haven, which is almost a garbage dump in itself. Sometimes it’s construction waste. It’s a disgrace; but I realize it’s hard to catch the lazy, careless law-breakers. Take it to the dump! At least the Portland Health Department, it is reported, has launched a probe into reports of illegal dumping in some remote areas, near the resort community of San San.

Cabinet has granted a mobile spectrum licence to a local telecommunications company, Symbiote Investments, to provide internet service in Jamaica.

Politics has always been thoroughly mixed up in our education system. And along with the politics comes, almost inevitably – corruption. So it’s hardly a surprise that a UK professor – founder and director of the Institute for Educational Administration and Leadership -Jamaica cited “influence peddling” as rife in the selection of teachers for promotion to principal in schools. This was one of the key findings of a study Professor Paul Miller, reader in education at Brunel University in the United Kingdom, conducted. Why on earth do Members of Parliament select school board chairmen? Why aren’t teachers promoted on merit? No wonder our students are struggling. Mismanagement is commonplace in our schools; and every year there are angry protests at school gates against school principals – by parents and others with vested interests. Over to you, Minister Reid…

One of the original car chases, from the thriller "Bullitt." Some of our policemen seem to think, and behave, as if they are in an action movie. Yet, they expect the Jamaican people to trust them.
One of the original car chases, from the thriller “Bullitt.” Some of our policemen seem to think, and behave, as if they are in an action movie. Yet, they expect the Jamaican people to trust them.

Living in an action movie: I sometimes wonder whether members of our police force have been watching too many films involving machine guns and car chases. It is completely against the law and police regulations to fire at a moving car, and yet… Senior Superintendent Anthony Castelle and District Constable Rohan Mcintosh were charged by INDECOM with unlawful wounding, unlawful discharge of firearm, and misconduct in a public office. They were granted bail of one million dollars each. They allegedly pursued an illegal taxi (with passengers) along several roadways in Montego Bay, firing at the moving vehicle. After the car stopped and the driver ran away, they “discovered” a pregnant woman in the back seat had been injured. I wondered what her condition is, now. It’s lucky no passers-by weren’t hurt. This reminds me of the Khajeel Mais murder case – but that was a private citizen,  not an officer of the State, who fired at the taxi in which he was traveling. I ask again: What has happened to the Mais case? 

And come to that, why have the police not found the notorious “Duppy Flim”? Why have they not arrested anyone for the murders of the two missionaries? And investigators seem to be struggling in the case of the murder of Corporal Judith Williams.

Sounding a little desperate for good news, the Jamaica Constabulary Force tells us that murders are down by 5 per cent compared to January 1 – May 14 last year; and that reported rapes, robbery, assaults and larceny are all down, too. We have had 409 murders this year, compared to 431 for the same period in 2015. A cab driver was shot dead almost on the doorstep of the St. Andrew Parish Church, traumatizing worshippers. I guess this is one of those “pockets of violence” we hear about. In one night, six people were killed in western Jamaica, CVM Television reports. By the way, if you would like to read more on the crime and violence debate, which continues to drag on in social media, please take a look at my latest article for Global Voices here: https://globalvoices.org/2016/05/17/prepare-for-pushback-if-you-call-jamaica-violent-even-though-it-can-be/  My deepest condolences to all the families of these Jamaicans who have died. 

Lloyd Aitken, Hagley Park Road/Half Way Tree, Kingston

Ronaldo Kinghorn, 19, Mona Commons, Kingston

Rodario Hibbert, 27, Rose Hall/Linstead, St. Catherine

Kay Marie Pryce-Binns, 41, Rose Hall/Linstead, St. Catherine

Unidentified woman, Old Harbour Road, St. Catherine

Rory Forbes, 22, Spanish Town, St. Catherine

Marcus Dennis, 32, Green Bottom/May Pen, Clarendon

Mavis Davis, 63, Ivory Close/May Pen, Clarendon

Michael Williams, 48, Ivory Close/May Pen, Clarendon

Ryan Ramdial, 30, Rocky Point, Clarendon

Daniel Guthrie, Rocky Point, Clarendon

Balford ‘Fire Bird’ Gordon, 56, Mosquito Cove, Hanover

Aletta Brown-Gordon, 45, Mosquito Cove, Hanover

Unidentified man, Pell River, Hanover

Evan Williams, 35, Morgan’s Bridge/Grange Hill, Westmoreland

Devaro Gardner, 15, Bromley, St. Mary

Marcel Sinclair, 38, Reach District, Portland

 

A memorial service for the two American missionaries who were murdered in Albion Mountain, St. Mary on April 30 was held today at the Boscobel United Church. They were remembered for their kindness. Meanwhile, no one has been arrested yet in connection with the murders.
A memorial service for the two American missionaries who were murdered in Albion Mountain, St. Mary on April 30 was held today at the Boscobel United Church. They were remembered for their kindness. Meanwhile, no one has been arrested yet in connection with the murders.

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