Tivoli Gardens Report, Homophobic Unpleasantness and UWI Drills Wells: Jamaica on Thursday, June 16, 2016


Well, the week’s not over yet, and it has been pretty intense. News arriving daily, at home and from abroad, has made us sit up and say “What?…Oh, no!” The rain has gone and summer is settling in. I am huddling over the fan. If air conditioning were to fall down from the sky, it would be like manna from heaven to me…

I have mentioned before that I write for a website called Global Voices – so this is a shameless plug for two recent articles I have written: one on the rainbow flag/AG tweet ridiculousness, and another on the “second language” debate. You can find all the articles I have written so far here: https://globalvoices.org/author/emma-lewis/ I think you will find the whole website of great interest – the reports are from citizens and “netizens” like me, who are “on the ground”  – with a focus on online commentary, media, politics, culture, human rights and all kinds of quirky and interesting stuff.

Another famous rainbow in Jamaica: President Obama waves goodbye from Air Force One in this photograph by Pete Souza.
Another famous rainbow in Jamaica: President Obama waves goodbye from Air Force One in this photograph by Pete Souza, after his visit in April of last year.

Rainbows are beautiful: And one appeared arching over Kingston town in the middle of Tuesday, which was when the furore over Attorney General (AG) Marlene Malahoo Forte’s tweet was at its peak. I can only reiterate, as I have done on social media, that I am very disappointed in the AG’s comments on two levels. Firstly, because I expected her, of all people, to have a better grasp of the laws relating to homosexuality in Jamaica. Secondly, because her comment seemed to be a thinly veiled expression of anti-gay sentiment (her personal view, remember), which worried and surprised me. I am also baffled that she was not aware that the rainbow flag was, in fact, being flown on what is “American soil” at the U.S. Embassy. This one tweet worried me very much – coming from someone in her position, whom I know to be a very intelligent and well qualified woman (Harvard graduate, Yale World Fellow, former judge). I had thought her an excellent choice for the position, but now I wonder. I can only feel that this has done her standing in the Government considerable harm; but disagree with lawyer K.D. Knight that she should step down, although I agree with many of his comments.

Meanwhile, members of the public on radio talk shows and social media have waded straight back into the issue of LGBT rights again (the favorite topic of many, including the so-called “Love March” Movement and Associates – who have declared their support for Ms. Malahoo Forte. Surprise!) Callers to Cliff Hughes’ talk show over the past couple of days have taken him to task for his support for human rights in general. To Cliff’s credit he refuses to be bullied and sticks to his guns (an inappropriate phrase perhaps). He was called “brazen” and “ungodly” by a born-again Christian woman on the air today. Will we ever get over this obsession?

Shane Tomlinson, 33, with his parents, Stephen and Corliss in better days. Shane, of Jamaican descent, was killed at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida on June 12. (Photo: wsoctv.com)
Shane Tomlinson, 33, with his parents, Stephen and Corliss in better days. Shane, a singer of Jamaican descent, was killed at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida on June 12. (Photo: wsoctv.com)

There were reports that two Jamaicans may have been casualties at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. One of Jamaican descent (U.S.-born) was identified as Shane Tomlinson, who was lead singer with a band. Here is a very touching report on his death: http://www.wsoctv.com/news/local/northwest-cabarrus-hs-graduate-among-victims-of-orlando-shooting/340441826

Tivoli Gardens Report: I have just reblogged Susan Goffe’s post, in which she shares links to the Report of the Commission of Enquiry into the Tivoli Gardens incursion (or should I say massacre?) just over six years ago. Justice Minister Delroy Chuck tabled it in Parliament on Tuesday, June 14 – and it pulls no punches in its criticisms of actions by the security forces and in its recommendations (yes, I told you it has been quite a week). The report is long (900 pages plus appendices) and I am sure it is going to keep the media quiet as they analyze and dissect it for some time. But what action will come out of it? The Government has set up a parliamentary sub-committee to examine the Report. One hopes that some actions would be taken sooner rather than later. My commendations to the Commission for making the Report available to the public in a timely manner, and online; and for not being timid in their findings. Meanwhile several high profile individuals heavily criticized in the Report are feeling quite nervous, even hanging up the phone on journalists. Minister Chuck said something about feathers being ruffled. I think it may be more than that.

“First 100 Days”: I don’t know where this concept first came from, but I have always considered it a bit of a waste of time. What Government can make major achievements in three months or so, especially when it’s a change of regime? I was asked to comment on what the Holness administration has/has not done after 100 days and I made this point. I added that discussion on plastic pollution is welcome, and I look forward to seeing action on this; it is good to see two agreements on climate change adaptation/disaster preparedness signed with USAID and the Japanese Government; and what I would like to see going forward is Government engaging directly with key stakeholders in communities impacted by environmental concerns on a regular basis; for example, business people and residents in Negril, farmers, Maroons and conservationists in Cockpit Country; and downtown Kingston residents affected by sewage leaks and other infrastructural issues.

Naturalist Wendy Lee shared this on Facebook some time ago: "This, believe it or not, is currently an area designated as a bauxite reserve. It is also the eastern-most section of the Cockpit Country and recommended for protection by the vast majority of people who were consulted under the GOJ's Cockpit Country Boundary Study. It is home to at least 27 of Jamaica's 29 endemic birds and the source of my livelihood as a birding guide." Cockpit Country must be closed to mining and quarrying!
Naturalist Wendy Lee shared this on Facebook some time ago: “This, believe it or not, is currently an area designated as a bauxite reserve. It is also the eastern-most section of the Cockpit Country and recommended for protection by the vast majority of people who were consulted under the GOJ’s Cockpit Country Boundary Study. It is home to at least 27 of Jamaica’s 29 endemic birds and the source of my livelihood as a birding guide.” Cockpit Country must be closed to mining and quarrying!

Speaking of Cockpit Country, I could not agree more with Dr. David Smith of the Institute of Sustainable Development at the University of the West Indies (UWI): the “boundaries issue” needs to be resolved, and soon! It was a decision that the last administration dithered over, and then put off altogether ahead of the general elections. They have left it for the Holness administration. Come on now. Just decide, and make the right decision please. 

JMA is upset: I’m a bit surprised the Jamaica Manufacturers’ Association (JMA) didn’t know what was happening (and what wasn’t happening) at the Factories Corporation of Jamaica (FCJ), which was recently highlighted by the Auditor General. No wonder the much-touted logistics hub was going nowhere fast; wouldn’t the FCJ have been expected to play its part?

Electricity rates going up: The average household will pay 12.8 per cent more for electricity this month. This is linked to the steadily declining value of the Jamaican Dollar, and could impact the inflation rate, which has been kept quite low for the past year or so. The other factor – inevitably – was the increase in Special Consumption Tax on heavy fuel oil. The Jamaica Public Service Company’s (JPS) CEO Kelly Tomblin says oil prices will be going up, anyway. She points out that electricity rates are still 20 per cent lower than June of last year (something the Opposition is not emphasizing in its comments on the matter); and that in the next two months JPS will begin to use Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) to generate electricity at the Bogue Plant, which should help stabilize the price.

Water and light at UWI: Meanwhile, up by UWI Mona campus, a firm called North Star Development has been busy drilling two wells in the hills, which have reportedly produced lots of wonderful water. The wells will be commissioned next month and UWI will no longer get water from the National Water Commission. Who regulates the water quality? Will surrounding areas benefit, or will they be deprived of water? The campus is also negotiating with China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) to build more hideous buildings, and also “to complete a cogeneration plant for the generation of electricity for the campus under a $40-billion deal.” What kind of plant? Heaven forbid coal. The report was brief. I’d like further details.

There was a muddle over announcements that the proposed South Coast Highway is not going to be built after all. State Minister for Works in the Transport Ministry Everald Warmington contradicted Finance Minister Audley Shaw, who said the plan wasn’t going to go ahead to build a toll road from Harbour View to Morant Bay. Today the Prime Minister was forced to call a press conference to explain that yes, Minister Shaw was correct – but that there would be major road improvements along that route. Come on now, guys…

Randy McLaren was a huge hit at the Trench Town Reading Centre's 20th Anniversary party. (My photo)
Randy McLaren was a huge hit at the TrenchTown Reading Centre’s 20th Anniversary party. It was opened in 1993. (My photo)

TrenchTown Reading Centre needs help! I have posted many photographs and reports about the amazing programs at Trenchtown Reading Centre on First Street, Kingston 12 – right over the road from the “Government Yard” where Bob Marley spent his youth. It is now planning its sixth annual summer school, but one of its major donors for its intensive, child-centred, free Summer Program (7.5wks) is unable to support it this year. The Centre needs to raise at least US$5,000. The children live in very challenging circumstances. Hopefully the Centre can meet this goal and continue to give the children nurturing and creative learning experiences, in a positive and safe environment where they can thrive. If you are inspired to reach out with a helping hand, please click on the PayPal link: https://www.paypal.me/TrenchTownReadingC  Every little bit helps! I am not sure how Jamaicans at home can contribute, but will post the information when I have it. Visit the Friends of the TrenchTown Reading Centre Facebook page for much more information. The website is: http://www.trenchtownreadingcentre.com

The TrenchTown Reading Centre has an incredible selection of books for children and adults and really nurtures and empowers the children through reading and the arts. (Photo: Facebook)
The TrenchTown Reading Centre has an incredible selection of books for children and adults and really nurtures and empowers the children through reading and the arts. (Photo: Facebook)

INDECOM is investigating the killing of four men (I believe one of them was not a man, being 15 years old) in Old Harbour Bay by the police earlier this week. There were angry protests by residents. This is very disturbing and as usual, it’s very hard to know what exactly happened. Three guns were reportedly seized from the men, who were immediately shipped off by the police themselves. Someone asked this question, and it’s an important one: After the police have killed someone, why do they take them away themselves? Why isn’t an ambulance used? Another worrying story is the tragic death of a young man in a police lock-up. He reportedly had stab wounds. What happened? When are we going to have CCTV in police lock-ups? Once again, my sad condolences to the families of all those who have died violently since Sunday.

Maria Gayle, 67, Swallowfield Road, Kingston

Jermaine O’Connor, Old Harbour Bay, St. Catherine (killed by police)

Unidentified man, Old Harbour Bay, St. Catherine (killed by police)

Unidentified man, Old Harbour Bay, St. Catherine (killed by police)

Unidentified man, Old Harbour Bay, St. Catherine (killed by police)

Allister Henry, 21, Gimme-Me-Bit, Clarendon

Milton Allison, 31, Heywood Hall, St. Mary (killed by police)

Tamara Mcintosh, 41, Short Hill District/Pedro Plains, St. Elizabeth

Roshane Baker, 26, Black River Police Lock-Up

Kamal Smith, 24, Paradise/Norwood, St. James

St. Mary taxi operator Milton Allison reportedly got involved in a dispute and was shot dead by an off-duty policeman. (Photo: Loop Jamaica)
St. Mary taxi operator Milton Allison reportedly got involved in a dispute at a party and was shot dead by an off-duty policeman. (Photo: Loop Jamaica)
In an apparent murder-suicide, retired policeman Easton Douglas and his lover Tamara
In an apparent murder-suicide, retired policeman Easton Douglas and his lover Tamara McIntosh were found shot dead in St. Elizabeth. (Photo: Ja. Star)

 

The Jamaica Constabulary Force is still searching for a man who drove into the sea at Discovery Bay, St. Ann yesterday evening. He is feared drowned. Police equipment was found in the car. (Photo: Gleaner)
The Jamaica Constabulary Force is still searching for a man who drove into the sea at Discovery Bay, St. Ann yesterday evening. He is feared drowned. Police equipment was found in the car. Was this suicide too? (Photo: Gleaner)

12 thoughts on “Tivoli Gardens Report, Homophobic Unpleasantness and UWI Drills Wells: Jamaica on Thursday, June 16, 2016

  1. Shaw as a spokesperson can’t be worse with announcements as he is now. As it is now, he makes independent announcements. As spokesperson, he would only be making announcements after Cabinet briefings.

    There isn’t a problem with re-thinking the South Coast Highway. But the appearance from Shaw’s announcements is one of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing….which leads back to what Grasshopper alluded to: incompetence.

    It’s actually very important for Holness to ensure his government projects an air of competence. Making Warmington a minister almost in secret was a bad move (Warmington should not be a minister, but as long as he keeps quiet and does some work it won’t be too bad). But Shaw and Malahoo-Forte have the potential to turn off a number of the first-time voters who helped usher him back into Jamaica House. I’ve already heard a few people say that they don’t see why they should vote the JLP back in after this term and that they might have made a mistake in voting them in in the first place!

    I pin it down to a lot of Jamaicans having some very, very unrealistic expectations of what any government of the island can and cannot do. So in my humble opinion they were probably far too harsh on the previous government and are probably being far too impatient and harsh with this government. A lot of them seem to crave the idea that voting in a new set of jokers from the old pack will lead to some changes that can make everything better.

    In truth though for things to get better, some very difficult decisions have to be made because as a nation we squandered what potential we had decades ago and since then we’ve been finding every excuse for it (blaming Trinidad; blaming Caricom; blaming “Babylon”; blaming our slavery past; blaming the fact that we aren’t teaching our children in Patois instead of English; etc). As a result we might well ending up with period of one-term governments as people become fed up and frustrated when their (unrealistic) expectations aren’t fulfilled and more and more people simply stop bothering to vote.

    So at the very least, the prime minister needs to have his team at least appear like it knows what it is doing if he wants to not shed voters come the next election.

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  2. I’m not sure why anyone would think Malahoo-Forte was fit to be AG. The fact that she signed an undated letter of resignation in order to get a Senate appointment and her disgraceful behaviour (especially the bathroom/lunchroom affair) during the CCJ debate should have been reason enough to seriously question her competence as a resident magistrate, let alone as AG or even Minister of Justice had she been so appointed. The undated letter in particular was disturbing because even *I* as a non-lawyer could sense that such a letter would have been of high questionable legality.

    Her tweet merely confirms the suspicions that despite her stellar qualifications, she may in fact be quite clueless.

    And while embassies are actually not the sovereign soil of the country setting up the embassy, they are the property of that country. So it is not sovereign US soil, but it is US property on Jamaican soil and there are certain immunities from local laws associated with embassies. And as property that is not state property, then the property owners are free to express themselves however they want within the bounds of those laws to which they are not immune. And as it so happens there is no law against flying a rainbow flag in Jamaica or expressing solidarity with homosexuals. In fact; homosexuality itself isn’t even illegal in Jamaica to the best of my knowledge…only buggery is. But the buggery law does not prohibit flag flying or expressing one’s views in support of tolerance towards homosexuals and anyone else.

    She should resign.

    Kamina Johnson Smith seems like she would make a better AG (and she is a lawyer), but alas she is already Foreign Minister and we dare not cock up that portfolio by appointing some incompetent person there.

    Holness could do no worse than appoint Marisa Dalrymple-Philibert as AG. Dalrymple-Philibert is a lawyer after all. Plus we get to keep an AG with a double-barrel name.

    Grasshopper also brought up Finance Minister Shaw’s backtracking on his claim (which has been recorded) that the increased SCT was not supposed to apply to JPS but only to fuel for vehicles. As you say Emma, the price rise was inevitable…but the *extent* of the price rise was not (it would have been less had the SCT really not applied to the fuel JPS used) and in any event Shaw’s behaviour suggests incompetence at best and ginnalship and dishonesty at worst.

    On principle he should also resign but most likely won’t, so a competent leader would eventually do a Cabinet reshuffle to put someone like Audley where he best excels – making announcements. He should be Minister without Portfolio and just be assigned the as the government spokesman. Fayval Williams is basically the workhorse in the ministry anyway as she has responsibility for the IMF agreement (something tells me the IMF probably refused to work with Shaw again), so just upgrade her to the “official” finance minister (note neither she, nor Shaw is is the real finance minister at this point; that duty is shared between Dr. Uma Ramakrishnan (the IMF’s Staff Mission Team Head to Jamaica) and Dr. Bert Van Selm (IMF Representative to Jamaica)). At that time making Dalrymple-Philibert as the new AG might also be a good move.

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    1. I understand fully all your points. On Ms. Malahoo Forte’s tweet, I was completely taken aback. Firstly, that she could not (and cannot) see that it’s impossible to separate her “private” and “public” Twitter accounts. Twitter just does not work like that. It may seem fine in theory but it just doesn’t work in practice. I was also alarmed that despite her qualifications she did not seem to understand the laws regarding the U.S. Embassy property and the buggery laws (on which you are correct, of course). I am not sure whether she should resign, but I am not sure either whether she has learned anything from this experience that will make her think and behave differently in the future. Instead of still trying to explain her position (again!), she should leave it, just settle down and go back to her substantive work as AG and MP. That one tweet, that has done so much damage to her career (I suspect) was completely gratuitous and unnecessary. Kamina Johnson Smith is doing a great job, in my view. I don’t know anything about Ms. Dalrymple-Philibert quite honestly. And I don’t have a problem with double barrel names. The Finance Ministry is problematic. All Mr. Shaw’s predecessor did was follow IMF directives, so in a sense nothing much has changed. But I do think Mr. Shaw needs to tread a bit more carefully and think before he talks. Having said all that, I would still like to give them all a little more time – and to suggest they stop rushing at things. Proceed with more circumspection.

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      1. It is not only her career that has been damaged, but Jamaica’s reputation – the tweet story was picked up by CNN, BBC, ABC (Australia I think), The Economist and a bunch of other global media outlets. This shed a VERY bad light on Jamaica in the wake of a tragedy. In just a few keystrokes she may well have undone the hard work of McNeil and Bartlett in the tourism portfolio.

        For that reason alone, Holness should simply sack her if she wouldn’t resign.

        The double-barrel name reference was a joke lol.

        Not much is widely and easily available about Ms. Dalrymple-Philibert, but I think that in itself might means she is a safe candidate for the role – she will likely keep quiet and do her work instead of trying to hog the spotlight as Malahoo-Forte so often does (Malahoo-Forte actually seems to crave media attention now that I think about given her past exploits – not someone who should be given a role like AG).

        As for Shaw and the finance ministry – sure, you are right that all Philips did was follow IMF directives….but that was a vast improvement on Shaw before him, who couldn’t even manage that! We may not like the IMF, but we need them for now and it is VERY instructive that the IMF programme is not in Shaw’s hands. Yet the IMF programme essentially forms the backbone of the Finance Ministry’s policy initiatives for the foreseeable future. So we have a finance minister who has not been given control over the relations with the IMF but relations with the IMF form the bulk of the work for now at the finance ministry…..

        Shaw should be made the spokesperson (and let Mr. Reid focus on the education portfolio with Holness). As long as he remains finance minister, expect more goof up announcements and backtracking of statements that are clearly on record. He did it with the promise to teachers in 2007 and has now done it twice in 2016 with the SCT and south coast highway.

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      2. Yes, I am aware of the international aspects. You have a very strong point there. No one should EVER start a comment: “I sympathize with…” and then continue “BUT…” There is no “but” if you are expressing sympathy and condolences. I don’t think Shaw should be a spokesperson; I could see problems there, since he has already had some issues with announcements! I think he should just quiet down and focus, as I said in my last comments. I don’t see any problem with re-thinking the South Coast Highway; it’s a question of cost, among other things. Of course, now the Opposition is playing politics with it.

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  3. Why shouldn’t the AG resign? The role is to be the government’s principal legal adviser. If the holder shows clearly an absence of the knowledge of the laws, what is the holders claim on the post?

    The increased SCT on heavy fuel wasn’t ‘inevitable’; the finance minister said clearly during his Budget presentation that it would not apply to JPS. He denied he said that; the record’s clear.

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    1. Good point about the AG. Also, a high level of trust comes with the position of AG, in the eyes of the public too. Re: what the Finance Minister said or did not say… I am now confused! I still think it was inevitable that it would have had some impact, whatever he did say (he now says it is 2 per cent of the increase, or something).

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