Goodness! A whole week has flown by, and a roundup of our news is well overdue. It’s been a slightly hectic week and I am attempting to “refocus.” Our yard is also full of mangoes (the Bombays are coming into their own), bees…and heat. Phew. I’m searching for a nice cooling thunderstorm. Or a place with A/C.
The agonizing continues: The People’s National Party (PNP) have still not quite got over their election loss. More than three months have passed, yet they are still chewing it over. This week, they wanted the whole of Jamaica to know the results of their investigation into how on earth they could possibly have lost! So, they held a press conference. Julian Robinson (who seems to be the only Comrade whom everyone trusts, thus elevating him to being the spokesman for just about anything) talked endlessly to the media. Why was the President of the party not at the press conference?
I don’t understand why Jamaicans are getting so hot under the collar (especially our friends at the University of the West Indies) about a statement made by the Prime Minister. I guess I must have read it differently than others, but what he said makes perfect sense to me. Why not make Spanish an official second language? Why not make learning Spanish compulsory in schools? The PM made this suggestion against the background of recent talks with Cuba, which of course is opening up rapidly – commercial flights to and from the United States got the green light this week. The Cubans are, no doubt, learning English; an agreement between the two countries on language training seems a good idea. But somehow it has got all muddled up with a debate on patois, which almost every Jamaican speaks anyway. It’s time Jamaicans get serious about learning foreign languages. As a linguist myself I am always puzzled that they are given such low priority, especially considering that our closest neighbors are all Spanish-speaking (and a little French wouldn’t do any harm, either). We live in a global village – it’s a cliché, but true!
West Kingston Commission of Enquiry: The final report was sent to the Governor General on Friday afternoon. I wonder how long it will take before we, the public, have details? Sir Patrick Allen is away at the moment, so on his return it will be waiting for him. Public Defender Arlene Harrison Henry made several recommendations – including that then Chief of Staff of the Jamaica Defence Force should face criminal charges. One wonders whether any of these will be taken on board.
Court histrionics: Former government minister K.D. Knight, Q.C. is what they call a “larger than life” character. He can be so witty, so smart – and very aggressive at times, almost bullying. He has always been this way. This last week, while representing his PNP comrades in court on the Trafigura matter, he went too far in my view. Mr. Knight is among those highly-paid defense attorneys who sweep into court, aiming to put the fear of God into witnesses. They put on an exaggerated dramatic show; anyone who has actually seen this in court, as I have, will know what I’m talking about. That is what their clients pay them to do. It is not right though, in my view, to turn to the judge and say one is going to ignore his ruling, and that one is going to be “very hostile” towards him, as Mr. Knight did. The case was to have been settled (perhaps) last Monday, but it was not to be. After more than ten years, lawyers for the former Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller et al have managed to get yet another delay. What must the Dutch investigators be thinking? After all, it’s not that our politicians are on trial; why then the histrionics and posturing? Why not just get it out of the way? Why not just answer the darn questions in open court? This article really accords with my thoughts on the matter.. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/The-Trafigura-case-a-matter-of-bad-PR-for-Jamaica_63214
Zika update: The number of confirmed cases has risen to 21, but as Health Minister Christopher Tufton says, suspected cases are far higher. I’m a little concerned about 13 cases of Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS) – a rather nasty and sometimes fatal auto-immune disease – but am told that since it’s not contagious, it’s not a worry. But if it is connected to Zika…?
And watch out! Our energetic and at times over-zealous Local Government Minister Desmond McKenzie is out and about, with the word “clean up” firmly imprinted on his brow, seeking out mosquito breeding sites, illegal garages (good), and under the campaign has been removing large items – old cars, furniture and appliances – in several inner-city areas. Keep going, Minister!
Compassion is key: I love the idea of volunteers making themselves available to help patients in recovery, through what Health Minister Christopher Tufton calls a “Compassionate Care” program. Getting over a serious illness such as cancer is just as much about psycho-social support as it is medical care. I would be definitely willing to volunteer for this! I have seen lonely people in the hospice where my father was a patient, who just needed someone to cheer them up. Volunteers would sit and chat with them, bring them a “cuppa tea,” etc… The Minister is quite right, though. Many health care workers do not show that caring, and have been known to shout at suffering patients, women in labor, etc… This is welcome, anyway.
Former Mayor of Lucea Shernett Haughton is having a few more problems. She has been charged with failing to file statutory declarations for 2012 and 2013, after the Commission for the Prevention of Corruption reported her to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). Her attorney says she was just a few years late in filing them. The Office of the Contractor General is also investigating the sale of a Toyota Prado to the former Mayor.
Talking of corruption… What on earth has been going on at the Factories Corporation of Jamaica? Auditor General Pamela Ellis Monroe has uncovered all kinds of goings on. It’s hardly surprising that the much-touted logistics hub has remained elusive for years, come to think of it, with so many irregularities. After the audit, the FCJ reported an unnamed attorney (why unnamed?) to the Fraud Squad, for not returning J$70 million from the sale of a property. But that’s not all. Money has been wasted left, right and center, according to the AG’s report.
Our vulnerable children: Big ups to junior minister for youth Floyd Green, who has begun a strategic review of children’s homes; this is to be completed in December in time for the next budget. The plight of our children in state care is one of ongoing concern; I’m glad Minister Green mentioned children with special needs – just one of the areas that must be addressed. USAID Jamaica is also funding the Transitional Living Programme for Children in State Care Project, which I think is well worthwhile. I am really sorry USAID Director Dr. Denise Herbol will be leaving – I believe this month. She has been terrific, and very down to earth.
“Zero Tolerance” (ZT) is one of our favorite expressions when discussing law enforcement. Now the police Traffic Division are claiming accidents have been reduced, after issuing 33,500 traffic tickets in the past month during “Operation ZT.” 166 Jamaicans have died on our roads this year, 48 of them motorbike riders (glad to hear they have at last prosecuted some for not wearing helmets). There is so much lawlessness on the road that they will simply have to keep up the pressure, day after day. While they’re at it, why not start looking at JUTC bus drivers? We are not impressed by their driving habits. They all need to go back to training school – Minister Henry, over to you, and before you start expanding JUTC services outside Kingston, as you plan to do? Yes, the Transport Minister hopes to have buses rolling into Clarendon in September as part of a pilot project.
EPOC man Richard Byles sounded quite jolly at a press briefing this week. Tax revenues for April were above target, he noted, and both the primary surplus and Net International Reserves are ahead of target. “I think it is (safe) to say that Jamaica remains on track with the International Monetary Fund programme, and this is excellent news,” said Mr. Byles – who rarely smiles, but the tone of voice was, I would say upbeat.
Smoking dumps: Just when we thought it was safe to breathe again, we are apparently still suffering from smoking dumps. One at Myersville in St. Elizabeth caught fire last week (deliberately set?) and television footage showed garbage strewn openly across a wide area – including tires. Please fix this problem, National Solid Waste Management Agency!
Farewell… In a strange turn of events, two well-known Gleaner journalists passed away within three days of each other – suddenly, and both relatively young. I first met Glenroy Sinclair when he was a crime reporter – he was meticulous in his work, and never reported in a sensational way. I really liked him. Then he became Assignment Editor, and I understand he used to mentor many younger journalists along the way. He was a completely lovable, kind and sweet man – apart from being a damn good journalist. I did not know the political editor Gary Spaulding very well at all, but he was equally highly respected. Glenroy was 49, Gary 53. This is ridiculously young, but I do know Glenroy worked incredibly hard, perhaps too hard. My deepest condolences to all my friends at the Gleaner, and to Glenroy and Gary’s respective families. Jamaica – and the world – has lost two wonderful journalists.
There is no doubt that crime (violent crime) is a huge thorn in our side. It is creating a huge, infected wound, and needs to be removed. Now a foreign national has been killed while walking down the road with his girlfriend and his father, in the tourist resort of Negril. The residents say very little has been done to enhance security in the town, despite motorbike riders racing up and down the road, robbing people. Also, the two American missionaries were murdered in a very quiet rural district on April 30/May 1, but the police are only now saying they are seeking two suspects (no description, or anything). It’s a little baffling to me. Have the murderers escaped overseas, I wonder? Meanwhile, Commissioner of Police Carl Williams emphasized that ALL lives are valuable – not only foreigners’ lives – while visiting the Canadians to offer condolences. I am glad he did that. The police have seized 12 firearms in the past 24 hours (six in St. James, that crazy parish where over 100 Jamaicans have already been killed this year) and arrested two gang members in Spanish Town – which is good news. My deepest sympathies go out to all the families. How much longer can we go on like this, though? Answers are needed.
Ramone Cummings, 24, Denver Crescent, Maverley/Kingston (killed by police) and his twin brother…
Rameish Cummings, 24, Denver Crescent, Maverley/Kingston (killed by police)
Garnett Hall, 25, Caribbean Estates/Portmore, St. Catherine
Unidentified man, Buck Town/Spanish Town, St. Catherine
“Peter,” Mitchell Town, Clarendon
Unidentified man, Mango Walk/Montego Hills, St. James
Unidentified man, Spring Mount/Niagara District, St James
Romaine Myers, 29, Barrett Hall, St. James
Orrett Hutchinson, 44, Barrett Town/Mount Zion, St James
Rohan Atkinson, 33, Prospect, Hanover
Kimberly Brown, 27, Prospect, Hanover
Oliver Hayles, 35, Bethel Town, Westmoreland
Robert Gunn, 22, Horse Pass/Bethel Town, Westmoreland
Clinton Wedderburn, 60, Herring Piece/Grange Hill, Westmoreland
Ralph Blair, 55, Grange Hill, Westmoreland
André Palakia, 35, West End/Negril, Westmoreland (Canadian national)
Ilroy Bennett, 26, Phantiland, St. Elizabeth
Robert Riley, 42, Coffee Walk/Jeffrey Town, St Mary