This week has again been a “What’s wrong with the world/Jamaica/everywhere?” sort of week. At home, we had the horror of the murder of a little girl, reportedly left home alone; several police killings; and the usual mayhem on the roads – including the deaths of six people who ended up in the waters of the Rio Cobre in the early hours of yesterday morning. On Friday, downtown was on edge after the police killed a 19-year-old in Tivoli Gardens. And overseas, more horrors: terrorism in the beautiful Riviera town of Nice and overnight chaos and more deaths in Turkey. Those are just some highlights. As someone commented on Twitter last night: “Go home, 2016. You’re drunk.”
(Not) policing our roads: The head of the Police Traffic Division talks a great deal in local media; he tells us all about the thousands of tickets issued to indisciplined drivers. Yet, there is no improvement to the situation on our roads. There is lots of PR, but the police are nowhere near getting a handle on the problem. Accidents recur at the same “hot spots.” Another overloaded, unlicensed, speeding minibus crashed this week, with four dead. Has the policewoman who owned the minibus that crashed in St. Ann been charged, now?
Did we all let go the handbrake on HIV/AIDS? There is disturbing news from UNAIDS, as the 2016 International AIDS Conference gets under way in Durban, South Africa. The Caribbean region has seen a nine per cent increase in new infections between 2011-15, says UNAIDS. The rest of the world isn’t doing too well, either; several regions are seeing new adult infections rising, or not declining. You can read the full report here: http://www.unaids.org/en/resources/documents/2016/prevention-gap
Shock and horror: A little girl’s body was found, with chop wounds, in rural St. Ann; a man has been arrested for her murder; her parents have been charged under the Child Care and Protection Act. Poor little innocent, allegedly left at home alone with her twin brother. The parents have been kept in custody because of threats to the mother. We are all busy wagging our fingers in horror and condemnation. Minister for Gender Affairs Olivia “Babsy” Grange and her counterpart Lisa Hanna expressed shock. What is the true story behind this, and what are the social issues we need to confront? Once the hand-wringing dies down, what will happen?
Here’s a message from Eve for Life – please read and think about this: “What will move Jamaica beyond ‘the knee jerk’. When will we value our children, when will acknowledge the scourge of childhood sexual abuse? When will we place the ‘girl child’ as a key population for protection, against sexual exploitation (of all forms). When will funds and programmes be comprehensive with the victims as the central focus? Social Media Ad Campaigns are NOT enough. Public platform Campaigns are NOT enough. ‘Nine day wonder’ outcries are NOT enough to address the cultural norm that allows men preying on little girls, if they don’t ‘really hurt or kill them’. As an organisation we will not be ‘politically correct’, Government, Civil Society, Jamaica. This is one thing we can get right, if we do it right. #nuhguhdeh Please don’t let another child like little Nevalesia Campbell die alone before you say something. If you know a child who is neglected, abused or abandoned then act now: call 1-888-PROTECT! http://ow.ly/1ZJL302a9Xn #BreakTheSilence #KeepChildrenSafe #nuhguhdeh” (From a Facebook post)
Minister Grange told Parliament the work of the Joint Select Committee tasked with amending several pieces of legislation relating to violence against women and children will be resumed and completed in the “shortest possible time.” She says the focus of her Ministry will be on vulnerable women and girls, especially in the context of crime. Fighting words, and I really hope some progress will be made in this area. Lisa Hanna pointed out that and referred to the “underbelly in the society that we are afraid to look at.” A good intervention by her, I thought. Now ladies – let’s get to it and put together meaningful protections for our children. You can read the Minister’s presentation here: http://jis.gov.jm/sectoral-presentation-hon-olivia-babsy-grange/
We are still talking about crime – almost incessantly. At a Gleaner forum this week on “Fixing the Force” the issue of corruption was barely addressed – at least, not in the report on that discussion. Why do we think the lotto scam is still flourishing and even, it seems, expanding to other parts of the island? This is only a small place. After all these years, why is it still a problem? Who commits all these murders across western Jamaica, apparently lotto scam-related? The justice system, including the police force, needs cleaning up and fixing from top to bottom. Let us start somewhere! Enough talk; the powers that be know what needs to be done.
Death of a Tivoli teen: At 7:30 a.m. on Friday morning, the police were “carrying out an operation” in an area of Tivoli Gardens called “Bumps” and “accosted a group of men,” who ran away. They entered an apartment block and went upstairs to the home of 19-year-old Kevin Gordon. The police say Gordon was shot inside the apartment during a “confrontation” and a gun taken from him. Television footage showed everything in the room turned upside down, with blood and what looked like a spent shell on the floor. The crime scene was not preserved, apparently. No yellow tape. It’s not clear at all what the sequence of events was, but the Tivoli police post and the Denham Town Police Station reportedly “came under attack.” There were protests on Spanish Town Road and we were all advised to avoid the area for the entire day.
Why is Tivoli Gardens always singled out as a Den of Evil, constantly patrolled by police and soldiers? Why are its residents constantly vilified by members of the public, as if they are aliens from outer Space? Aren’t they Jamaicans too?
The Negril breakwater: Not everyone is happy with the Government’s decision not to go ahead with the proposed breakwater in the tourist resort of Negril. Opposition Spokesman on Water and Climate Change Ian Hayles (also Member of Parliament for Western Hanover, including part of Negril) issued a sharp statement on July 13, accusing the Holness administration of “dithering” over the issue and a lack of knowledge of environmental issues. Both he and the other Member of Parliament, Dr. Wykeham McNeill, now Opposition Spokesman on Tourism, insist that doing nothing is not an option. Mr. Hayles tells civil society groups not to “celebrate indecision and indecisiveness.“ Two quick things: Firstly, deciding not to go ahead is, in fact, a decision; and secondly, who said nothing would be done? There are alternatives, such as beach nourishment, which will be explored and carefully weighed up. Also, letting nature take its course might also be the wisest choice. But millions of U.S. Dollars were involved in the project – so not all “stakeholders” are going to be pleased.
I saw an announcement from Tourism Minister Ed Bartlett that Jamaica is discontinuing visa requirements for citizens from several Latin American countries: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Colombia, Ecuador, Panama and Peru – as well as some European countries, including Poland. Many thousands of Colombians and Brazilians visited Aruba in 2014, for example, said Minister Bartlett. Well, Aruba’s tourism arrivals have been booming in recent years, growing by over fourteen per cent last year. It is a lot closer to the South American mainland, too.
“Pathetic” transparency in Chinese companies: A new Transparency International (TI) report gave Chinese companies the lowest rating in “emerging markets,” noting: “Nine companies – among them eight from China and one from Mexico – score 0 per cent.” China Communications Construction Company (CCCC) the parent company of China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC), was among these. CHEC says the report’s findings are “baseless and false.” But hold on – how much do we know about CHEC’s operations in Jamaica, really? For years there has been a veil of secrecy over plans for a transshipment port at Goat Islands, for example. You can read the full TI report here.
Kudos, kudos, kudos (lots of sports connections here):
- To dancehall veteran Beenie Man (Moses Davis), who is sponsoring equipment for Toni-Ann Williams, Jamaica’s first female Olympic gymnast. He is also sponsoring a junior gymnast, 11-year-old Asasia Malcolm, for the next four years. You could say he is doing a #HeForShe thing!
- Talking of sports, big ups too to sprinter Yohan Blake, who has been supporting the Mount Olivet Boys’ Home in Walderston, Manchester for some years now. He recently took five of the boys on a 12-day trip to France through his YB Afraid Foundation and his French sponsor and business partner Richard Mille. This is very cool, Mr. Blake!
- To the community builders at Boys’ Town, who launched their 4th Annual Boys’ Town T20 Community Cricket League on July 13. Good luck to all the teams!
- Two Jamaican entrepreneurs – Valrie Grant, Founder of GeoTechVision and A. Cecile Watson, Founder of PitchandChoose.com – who recently launched FundRiseHER™,the first Commonwealth crowd funding initiative, to target Caribbean women entrepreneurs. FundRiseHER™ was announced at the recent CARICOM Heads of Government Meeting, by Valrie Grant, the Commonwealth Woman Entrepreneur of the Year, A. Cecile Watson and Arif Zaman, Executive Director, Commonwealth Businesswomen’s Network in collaboration with the Caribbean Export Development Agency. Let’s go and raise some funds! Congratulations to all on this initiative!
- Member of Parliament Juliet Holness, who has started a new agricultural project for small farmers in her constituency, AgriHope. Most of the farmers have small plots of land, and should make the most of them. “My constituents are into subsistence farming, (so) the determination was to use these acreages to grow high-value crops. Using small greenhouses, you would be able to produce and earn and take care of your family from that,” says Ms. Holness. It seems a sensible idea.
- National Integrity Action, which is continuing its community outreach with the sponsorship of the Southern Conference Community Basketball League. This was launched at Arnett Gardens Basketball Court last week, and I’m really sorry I couldn’t make it. I know I missed a treat, but plan to catch up with them soon!
- WMW Jamaica, who did a great job with a presentation of the Caribbean section of the Global Media Monitoring Project (GMMP) for journalists and for civil society representatives. The discussion with the diverse and attentive audience was quite vibrant. I shared my thoughts on my Gleaner blog (Social Impact) here and you can read the full report here, broken down into regions also.
The Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) charged five policemen this week in connection with the shooting of an Alpha Academy student in downtown Kingston on June 30. The girl is recovering after surgery. She was shot in the head while traveling in a taxi cab. Meanwhile, it seems that the number of police killings has been slowly rising. My deepest condolences to the families of all those listed below, who have lost their lives to violence in the past week. It’s always such a sad list of names.
George McGregor, 30, Water Street/Allman Town, Kingston
Kirk Francis, 37, Old Hope Road, Kingston
Collette Hibbert, Kingston Mall, downtown Kingston
Kevin Gordon, 19, Tivoli Gardens, Kingston
Omar Morrison, 28, Spanish Town, St. Catherine
Wesley Clarke, 45, Granville, St. James (killed by police)
Byron Brown, 75, Lacium, St. James
Kamali Hall, 18, Glendevon, St. James
Kemmy Richards, 27, Williams Street/Montego Bay, St. James
Nevalesia Campbell, 3, Orange Hill/Browns Town, St. Ann
Phillip Wolfe, 38, Little London, Westmoreland
Daniel McCarthy, 24, Snow Hill, Portland
Adrian McDonald, 27, Hope Bay, Portland (killed by police)
Shayne Thomas, 34, Hope Bay, Portland (killed by police)