Every day is hot, dry and windy. I am waiting to hear news of bush fires in the hills, again – like last year, and the year before. The drought is hurting badly; today must have been the hottest day of the year for us – according to the Jamaica Weather website it was 37.5° (“feels like” 41º). Yes, we are feeling it – and other things too – like the pain of another surge in crime.
By the way, I was on television this week! If you want to see a video of CVM Television’s Live at Seven discussion program last night, go to http://www.cvmtv.com/videos.php?type=live7#clip=1555112&time= I was discussing the week’s news on social and traditional media, alongside host Simon Crosskill and colleagues Jaevion Nelson and Raymond Pryce. We covered quite a range of topics, starting with Brexit and ending with Trump – with lots of other stuff in between. I enjoyed talking with these charming and witty people, and hope the viewers enjoyed it too. Do join us again next week, Friday July 8 at 7:00 p.m. Feedback is always welcome! Talking of Brexit, I recorded some of my thoughts in my weekly Jamaica Gleaner blog here: http://gleanerblogs.com/socialimpact/?p=3335
Yes, the crime. It is becoming almost impossible to process properly. We are trying to find answers. The government is (so far) offering none. The Holness administration charges along, talking about health issues, investment, divestment, jobs…and no one is addressing the proverbial elephant in the room. The elephant is growing bigger, and the walls of the room are shrinking. We are talking mostly about the western end of the island – Montego Bay (our “Tourism Mecca”!) and the parishes of St. James, Hanover and Westmoreland – that continue to welter, soaked in blood. The words “lotto scam” appear at regular intervals. So do the phrases “bring back hanging” and “state of emergency” and “enough is enough” and “we can’t go on like this.” Yet, no one seems to have a clue what to do. Police Commissioner Williams held a press briefing in Montego Bay today and said more detectives would be deployed. He is also hoping to install more CCTV – which I do believe can be effective in solving crime. He also toured some crime-ridden areas and asked community members to help the police. Meanwhile, five lottery scammers received light fines and mostly suspended sentences – a slap on the wrist. This won’t help!
The Jamaica Hotel & Tourist Association’s new President Omar Robinson is urging effective anti-crime measures. “Something drastic has to be done,” he says. There is now a curfew in Flanker on the outskirts of Montego Bay – an area that one had thought was starting perhaps to emerge from its problems of crime and violence. At least the Negril Chamber of Commerce is pleased at efforts to employ 87 more District Constables there and in Montego Bay. This should help with security in general in these critical tourism areas.
I repeat: The police force – which is part of our dysfunctional justice system – needs a complete overhaul, from top to bottom. Corruption and incompetence are rife; we know this (those two go together). Does this administration have the political will to tackle this huge problem? I am not hearing much from our National Security Minister. How about a “crime plan”? We used to say there were too many of those, and laugh cynically when a new one was announced. But we are desperate at this point. I think we need one.
A fifteen year-old schoolgirl from the Convent of Mercy Alpha Academy, traveling in an illegal “robot” taxi, was shot in the head, allegedly by the police, on her way to school in downtown Kingston. She is in intensive care; the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) is investigating. The Jamaica Constabulary Force is also investigating, but has not yet confirmed whether it was the police who shot the girl or not. What is remarkable is that she was taken to hospital in the same taxi – which one would have thought was a crime scene! The details of the incident are unclear, but again we are trying to figure out how such a thing could happen. Firing into a car filled with schoolchildren?
“Shameful” garrisons: Justice Minister Delroy Chuck says political garrisons are “deteriorating…going down the drain.” He told a meeting of Justices of the Peace that Jamaicans must think about dismantling them – of course, he did not say how, or when.
Moving wearily on to Opposition Leader Portia Simpson Miller, who told the People’s National Party’s (PNP) National Executive Committee last Sunday that she would be putting herself forward for the post of leader of the PNP (you notice how, unlike other countries I could mention, Jamaican political party leaders do not see any need to step down after losing elections — and this is not the first time Ms. Simpson Miller has lost an election she called). The PNP’s young professionals arm, the Patriots, are not very impressed; the group’s leader Javette Nixon sent some strong tweets, suggesting the party leader was selfishly hanging on to power. Nominations for President and Vice Presidents will run from July 13 to July 20, for those who are interested in applying.
Ms. Simpson Miller (like the Prime Minister) missed her own self-imposed deadline to reveal her financials this week. But she has assured us she is working on it – soon come.
The big economic news is that the Government this week finally signed off on the divestment of the Kingston Container Terminal (KCT) to Kingston Freeport Terminal Limited (KFTL), paving the way for the expansion of Jamaica’s main transshipment port (it’s actually a 30-year concession) to the tune of $500 million. KFTL is a local company owned and operated by Terminal Link Consortium. Kingston Harbour will be dredged and deepened. What does this mean for our endangered Goat Islands? I honestly don’t know. Yet.
Fraud in our parish councils: Two employees of the Manchester Parish Council – one a senior employee and another a carpenter – were charged with fraud (in the amount of over J$9 million, so far).
The next pay cheque: Taxpayers will see a few thousand more dollars in their next pay cheque, as the adjusted income tax threshold came into effect yesterday. You can find out more about your situation from the Tax Administration of Jamaica website.
Conviction #6 for INDECOM: Constable Wayne Hamil was found guilty of wounding with intent of a civilian in Hopewell Square in Hanover on March 24, 2014 (the incident was captured on video). This is the sixth conviction secured by INDECOM. Another policeman was acquitted of wounding during a domestic dispute.
Health Minister Christopher Tufton (who is becoming quite adept on Twitter, by the way – @christufton) made a presentation in Parliament this week, outlining some of his Ministry’s plans. The excellent National Health Fund will be providing more assistance for medication for children and adolescents; and has a pilot project coming up to reduce waiting times in selected hospitals and clinics (too many people go to accident and emergency rooms at hospitals for quite basic medical issues, clogging up the system).
When Minister Tufton moved on in his speech to the need for a review of the amendment to the Dangerous Drugs Act, which relaxed rules on ganja smoking, Opposition members became a little restive. The Minister said the legislation had been pushed through rather hastily and had not taken into account public education on the mental health concerns surrounding ganja smoking, especially for children and adolescents. He said that there had been an increase in ganja smoking of over fifty per cent since the Act was passed. To me, this was not surprising. On a radio program, psychiatrists waffled on the subject and said they weren’t aware of such an increase. There seemed to be a lot of hesitation. I do know this is one thing Chief Medical Officer Dr. Winston De La Haye is not ambivalent about, since this is the field he has worked in for many years. He has seen many young men with ganja-related problems in his office. You can read Minister Tufton’s speech here: http://jis.gov.jm/sectoral-presentation-dr-hon-christopher-tufton/
Congrats to Michael Lawson and Millicent Clunis, winners of the GraceKennedy/Heather Little-White Household Worker of the Year Award. Even better news is the pledge by Prime Minister Andrew Holness that his administration will move to ratify the International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention on Domestic Workers, which entered into force in 2013, as soon as possible. Let’s do it! This would guarantee stronger rights and better working conditions for the approximately 100,000 household workers in Jamaica.
Some nice bits of news came out of Minister Without Portfolio Daryl Vaz’s presentation in Parliament, which I plan to post in full in a couple of days. Meanwhile, you can find the full presentation here: http://jis.gov.jm/sectoral-presentation-hon-daryl-vaz-mp/ Now, with the expansion of the Ian Fleming International Airport in St. Mary and pending improvements to the roads in Portland (the completion of the North Coast Highway) the small but beautiful resort of Dragon Bay may be reopened. It was bought 15 years ago by the Sandals Group but never reopened. I remember many happy days spent there (my sister and friends vacationed there from the UK) and the resort was always booming. This would provide much-needed employment in Eastern Portland. I really hope it happens!
Some drama on the sports front: The athletics trials for the Olympics in Rio have been taking place at the National Stadium. Yesterday, our star sprinter Usain Bolt was forced to withdraw with a hamstring problem. He may still qualify for the Olympics if he can prove his fitness in time; he is scheduled to run on July 22, so that will be the crucial time for him, as he confirmed in a tweet yesterday. In his absence, Yohan Blake won the 100 meters. Elaine Thompson did a superb run in the 100 meters – a national record of 10.70 seconds – ahead of Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce.
Two teenage boys were among the dead in this week’s crime rampage in St. James; six were injured and three killed in Ramble when gunmen fired on a party. In Hanover on Tuesday night, four members of one family were hospitalized after they were attacked at their home in Green Island.
Christopher Baugh, 48, Papine, St. Andrew
Solomon McCalla, 61, Green Acres, Spanish Town, St. Catherine
Fitzroy Baychan, Parnassus, Clarendon
Akeem Howell, 20, Exchange/Ocho Rios, St. Ann
Keria Nelson, 21, Pimento Walk/Ocho Rios, St. Ann
Brian Henry, 21, Mansfield Heights/Ocho Rios, St. Ann
Ackeem Llewelyn, 15, Cousins Cove/Green Island, Hanover
Nicholac Campbell, 27, New Ramble/Bogue, St. James
Adrian Thelwell, 16, New Ramble/Bogue, St. James
Troy Scoville, 28, New Ramble/Bogue, St. James
Margarita Henry, 52, Barnett Oval/Mount Salem, St. James
Carl Hudson, 37, Montego Bay, St. James
“Jamar,” Newlands, Flanker, St. James
Unidentified man, Howard Cooke Boulevard, Montego Bay, St. James
Unidentified woman, Howard Cooke Boulevard, Montego Bay, St. James
Kimoy Harrison, 20, Cambridge, St. James (killed by police)
Patrick Brown, 55, Buff Bay, Portland
Corey Millwood, Lacovia, St. Elizabeth