We’ve been having some lovely rain in Kingston, but on the eastern side of the island rural residents have been struggling with some flooding, landslides, lack of electricity and water and damaged roads… Some real challenges, and a schoolgirl, Brittany Cowell, sadly drowned in flood waters in St. Thomas. I do hope they get help quickly, because the hurricane season is breathing down our necks. This year’s hurricane names are out. Alexis and Bonnie have already been and gone, so on to Colin and Danielle – probably Earl, too. Hopefully we will not get to know Tobias, Virginie or Walter.
The mosquito fogging truck just came booming down the road, leaving chemical fumes in its wake. In neighboring Cayman Islands the Aedes Aegypti mosquitoes (which, as we know, carry the dengue fever, chikungunya, zika viruses plus yellow fever) have developed a resistance to the commonly used insecticide that is used in both aerial and terrestrial spraying. So, over the next nine months the Caymans will be releasing 22 million genetically modified (GM) mosquitoes; they are sterile and the larvae apparently never emerge as adults. Is Jamaica considering this option? Do we know if fogging is still effective here? There are reports of more Jamaicans with symptoms of Zika now (red eyes is one of them) – although still many will not show symptoms.
A surprisingly confident performance: Prime Minister Andrew Holness delivered his Budget speech in a robust and somewhat upbeat manner, and made rather a good impression generally. Of course, it’s always up to the PM to deliver some kind of consolatory nice things after the tough realities of our budget numbers. Yet, I get the sense that he took the wind out of the Opposition People’s National Party’s (PNP) sails (as the IMF did last week by praising Holness’ tax proposals) by going one step further. Despite his one-seat majority, Holness is making some bold moves in the Budget, which have perhaps caught the Opposition on the back foot. Housing and land is always – has always been – a major concern for the less financially endowed among us. Holness took this vexed issue squarely by the horns and in his closing budget speech handed out some “goodies” in terms of National Housing Trust benefits that should really make a difference to people’s lives. The link to the full speech is here: http://jis.gov.jm/prime-minister-hon-andrew-holness-budget-presentation/
Prime Minister Andrew Holness tweeted his remarks at a conference this week: “Government will focus less on announcement and more on implementation.” Our politicians (and others) are of course famous for making grand announcements, followed by little or no action. Many years ago now, a former U.S. Ambassador to Jamaica ruffled some feathers when he commented on this tendency. Let’s hope the PM really does get cracking.
The PNP did, however, have something to complain about, and that is the apparent unfair sharing of funding for Labour Day projects. The Holness administration is under pressure to explain, although Prime Minister Holness asserted quite firmly that he is opposed to any allocation of funds on a partisan basis during his Budget speech. While many Jamaicans worked hard on Labour Day, these accusations (and the rather confused explanation by the JLP) threw a bit of a shadow over the day.
The party of postponement? The PNP had planned a tweet chat (#BudgetChatJa) this evening, but at 5:30 p.m. tweeted: “Pls note TweetUp postponed. We’re going to examine some of the issues raised in closing of debate so we can have a full #BudgetChatJA with u.” I wonder why it was postponed. Someone didn’t approve?
Damian Crawford’s radio show: The former Entertainment Minister’s new talk show, called Str8 Fwd with Crawford starts tonight (May 25) 8pm on Nationwide. Mr. Crawford has been known to go off on tangents quite regularly, so I think the name of his show may be a bit of a misnomer. We shall see how many detours and cul de sacs he encounters. The number of female voices on this radio station is dwindling, unfortunately.
Reading the riot act: Local Government Minister Desmond McKenzie gave the Hanover Parish Council a real dressing-down, in person, a few days ago. I think he went over the top, as Mr. McKenzie is prone to do at times. “Over zealous” is a kind way of putting it, perhaps! The councilors must have felt like a classroom full of bad boys and girls, about to get heavy detention. Minister McKenzie has taken over all documents prior to conducting a three-week audit at Hanover; perhaps he is afraid some may disappear. He also says he is going to conduct “in depth” investigations into three other (as yet unnamed) parish councils. He has been “throwing shade” all over the place. In one comment, he said “the people don’t have the stomach” for local government elections, so people can become councilors with just a few hundred votes (let’s remember that local government elections are pending). Meanwhile, the section of the Royalton Hotel that did not collapse may reopen soon, Minister McKenzie says (he’s also keeping a beady eye on another development, the Karisma Hotel).
Horrible crash: Five people died in yet another horrific crash on a stretch of road in Llandovery, St. Ann that is habitually a race track. The minibus in which the five were traveling apparently developed mechanical problems. This gave the traffic police the opportunity to stress the importance of keeping one’s vehicle properly maintained. They are doing a lot of “spot checks” but it has not made any difference whatsoever, so far as I can see. 160 Jamaicans have died in road accidents since the start of the year (149 last year at this time). I am not impressed by the police as far as road safety is concerned. I have seen them myself, looking on while motorbike riders without helmets stop at traffic lights right under their noses. It’s a bit too much to hear them lecturing us on every television newscast, when they are not properly enforcing the laws.
On the political front, the PNP is trying to rearrange itself. As I noted in an earlier blog, Instagram Queen Lisa Hanna has decided to make her move, and tweeted this today. Former Tourism Minister Dr. Wykeham McNeill also plans to throw his hat in the ring at a regional meeting in St. James, replacing Derrick Kellier who is stepping down. The other Vice Presidents currently are Dr Fenton Ferguson, Angela Brown Burke, and Noel Arscott.
And a terrible fire: Wisynco suffered a huge loss on Thursday afternoon, when its very large warehouse at Lakes Pen in St. Catherine caught fire. It took a long time to get it under control – a lot of plastic and styrofoam went up in smoke. Fortunately though, no one was hurt and no one will be laid off as a result of the fire.
Eeek! The dollar! It has been sliding rapidly in the last couple of weeks. Since May 20, the Bank of Jamaica has been intervening by selling substantial amounts into the market.
Remember Trafigura? It hasn’t gone away, although I am sure some people would like it to. The case resumes on Tuesday May 31. Dutch authorities still want to question PNP officials of the about a $31-million donation by Dutch company Trafigura Beheer to the party in 2006. Former PNP General Secretary Colin Campbell says he is not worried that the Trafigura case has reared its head again, telling one newspaper that it is “a whole lot of political propaganda [No, it’s a legal matter actually, Mr. Campbell]. “I was the general secretary [of the PNP] and that’s in the past, I took responsibility for it. It was not a personal issue, and as far as my character is concerned, I have shown that I am of sound character and refuse to take part in any wrongdoings like that,” Mr. Campbell said. You can find the August 2010 report of the Office of the Contractor General here: http://www.ocg.gov.jm/ocg/sites/default/files/OCG_Investigation_Trafigura.pdf The Contractor General at the time, Greg Christie tweeted earlier this week: “Former JA PM Simpson-Miller had previously contended that she enjoyed diplomatic immunity and couldn’t be compelled to answer questions.”
CHEC News: Our great friends China Harbour Engineering Company has built a “space monitoring” base in Argentina, which is being entirely run and staffed by the People’s Liberation Army. Local media have not been allowed access, according to this report: http://thediplomat.com/2016/05/china-builds-space-monitoring-base-in-the-americas/ which describes the project as “the first-ever tract of sovereign Chinese territory in the Americas.” Is this the first, though? CHEC has also been very busy building those controversial islands in the South China Sea. It will not be busy building the planned Swansea Lagoon project in the UK, however, as was expected. Let us keep an eye on what these people are doing, elsewhere and here.
Predators: The non-governmental organization Children First suffered a terrible blow, when its training centre on Monk Street in Spanish Town was broken into and every item of equipment for its cosmetology and barbering training program was stolen – including three barbers’ chairs. Another non-governmental organization, the TrenchTown Reading Centre, has been sprucing itself up for the summer lately, but also suffered a loss when it was broken into and many large pots of paint etc. were stolen. One can only think this must be someone in the community that committed this crime, or organized it. The community is always “upset” but of course “no one knows” who does these things. They are unknown, preying on organizations that have so few resources and are trying to lift up their own children. It is hurtful and infuriating – compounded by the fact that there is a culture of silence.
The I’m Glad I’m a Girl Summer Camp will run from July 24 to 30 at Mary Seacole Hall at the University of the West Indies (UWI) Mona campus. It’s a great, empowering event for teenage girls. Nadeen Spence is the organizer and founder of the I’m Glad I’m a Girl Foundation, which is a flourishing mentorship program run by UWI students. It is seeking funds for this annual weeklong residential camp that features a range of activities. If you can make a donation – or sponsor one of the participating girls from a vulnerable community, you can go to the crowd funding site: https://www.gofundme.com/25e9m2rw or make a contribution to their bank account: Bank of Nova Scotia, Liguanea Branch, I’m Glad I’m A Girl, A/C No. 823285.
Congrats to the Reggae Boyz! They beat Chile 2-1 on Friday night in an away friendly.Big ups to the goal scorers Clayton Donaldson and Joel Grant. Minnows beat one of the South American powerhouses. Cool!
Very happy to hear that the Medical Association of Jamaica will this year focus on Emerging Issues Impacting the Health of Older Adults, and has designated the Caribbean Community of Retired Persons (CCRP) as its charity, this year.
Do we give enough thought to occupational health and safety in Jamaica? Dr. Yohann White has written a useful article on the topic: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/healthy-workers-companies-yohann-white-mbbs-phd-dtmh
Why are so many of our women being killed, week after week? And how come there are “gang feuds” in a small rural town like Steer Town? I am sending my deepest condolences to the families of all these Jamaicans who have lost their lives to violence, this week. Sudden loss and trauma is not something you just get over, just so.
Adrian Thompson, 34, Hughenden, Kingston
Fabian Reid-Thomas, 36, Hughenden, Kingston
Melvin Dyer, Spanish Town, St. Catherine
Unidentified man, St. Catherine Correctional Centre (killed by correctional officer as he tried to escape)
Dennis King, 50, North Race Course Road/Mandeville, Manchester
Elvis Walters, 44, Cunningsburgh Road/Aleppo, St. Mary
Samantha Lindsay, 30, Grants Town, St. Mary
Orville Lawes, 40, Providence/Flanker, St. James
Unidentified man, Providence/Flanker, St. James
Lee Anthony Evans, 36, Rose Heights, St. James
Gregory McBean, 40, Steer Town, St. Ann
Shanique Smith, Grange Hill, Westmoreland
Roger Scott, 38, Negril, Westmoreland