It’s been a strange week – and a sad one for our household, as our beloved old dog Girly passed away. People who own and love dogs will understand how painful this was (and we now have one lonely young dog, who needs a companion or two and is missing Girly as much as we do). I’ve been a little fixated on world news lately (mostly terrorists and politicians). It is often depressing. Thank God we have got the clown show in Cleveland over with. Personally, I am looking forward to seeing the first woman President of the United States sworn in.
No, it’s not the bridge, nor the roads either: It’s reckless, careless, downright stupid drivers – many without licenses or any concept of the rules of the road – that are causing the staggering number of road accidents and fatalities. I wrote about the Flat Bridge disaster for Global Voices here so I won’t repeat myself. There have been some interesting comments on the bridge on my Facebook page, which you might like to read. But I do believe that “fixing” Flat Bridge is not the answer. Yes, we have some bad roads, and some “hot spots.” But we need to find a way to police the roads efficiently, and Jamaicans need to pull themselves together and drive properly! We’ve lost count almost of the number of deaths on the road this year, but it is around 219. The Flat Bridge accident was not the only one; on Thursday two cars crashed in the early hours of the morning on Dyke Road in St. Catherine. Four people (including a policeman) were killed. Yes, the Traffic Division has “Operation Zero Tolerance” and has handed out 98,000 tickets to motorists since May; but what effect is it having?
Moving right along… The Emancipation Day/Independence Day holiday looms near (I hate that term “Emancipendence”) and I note that our Cultural Ambassador Amina Blackwood-Meeks considers it inappropriate for “any little group to splinter off” and actually do what it feels like doing during the holiday period. She is upset with J-FLAG ; and with “the producers of rum” for having the nerve to put on parties during the period (well, isn’t this when people take time off? Makes sense to me to put on parties when people are on holiday!) As you note, Ambassador Blackwood-Meeks, Jamaican ancestors did indeed “shed blood, sweat and tears” for this very reason: so that the Jamaican people could be free! Even minorities! Thank you! (This reminds me of that Beastie Boys song: “We’re gonna fight for our right to party”!)
But then, perhaps the Cultural Ambassador would prefer the Cuban model for national holidays: Rows of obedient, happy flag-waving schoolchildren singing patriotic songs?
A new Kingston hotel venture: It is always good to hear of a new venture in my beloved city of Kingston. Last week, Jamaican architect Evan Williams and American investor Joe Bogdanovich announced the development of The Renfrew, a four-star hotel in New Kingston, for business and extended stay visitors. I am guessing that the site is on Renfrew Road. For some reason, the planned project has been on hold for a few years, but now completion date is expected to be next year. Meanwhile, I am trying to figure out what is happening to the old Wyndham Hotel, which is apparently being fixed up?
PNP surprises: The People’s National Party (PNP) did a sort of backflip (or bellyflop?) a few days ago. While we thought there might be a robust challenge to the current party leader Portia Simpson Miller at its upcoming conference in September, one of the main contenders, Peter Bunting, has now withdrawn his pending challenge. Surprise #1! Simpson Miller was unopposed for a while, while another ambitious comrade, Lisa Hanna, who had been talking a lot about “renewal,” signed her nomination form. Surprise #2! But, lo! From the shadows strode an enigmatic but dashing figure – Dr. Karl Blythe, another 70-year-old, to challenge the former Prime Minister! Surprise #3! Now the fight is on in earnest! Or is it? PS to Ms. Simpson Miller: Did you not say you would disclose your financials in Parliament, and when was that again?
Zika update: Health Minister Christopher Tufton announced this week that Jamaica would participate in clinical trials to identify a vaccine for the Zika virus. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health is doing a good job of keeping us up to date on the Zika virus. The latest statistics are here (dated July 18). Thank you, Minister and team, and please keep it up!
National Security Minister Robert Montague has found his voice again (and is talking a little too loudly, in my view; turn down the volume a little, please – we can hear you!) While some of his recent remarks have sounded a little off-key to me, he has some interesting ideas. I am very glad, too, that he is not going to throw out the proverbial baby and is going to retain some of his predecessor Peter Bunting’s anti-crime measures – including the Unite for Change program, which shows promise. The Minister held a very well-attended National Conference on Citizen Security in Montego Bay this week and from this it appears he is open to ideas. Good. Keep your listening ear open, Minister Montague!
Six years on (well this is pretty much the norm in our justice system) Reverend Merrick “Al” Miller was found guilty yesterday of attempting to pervert the course of justice – in other words, corruption – in connection with the infamous incident in which he reportedly chauffeured the then fugitive Christopher “Dudus” Coke along the Mandela Highway, post-Tivoli incursion. If you recall, the Reverend claimed he was taking Mr. Coke – who was wearing a ridiculous wig and glasses at the time – to the U.S. Embassy. He will be sentenced on September 15. The judge said he was “less than candid with the court.” Oh dear, Reverend.
The National Gallery of Jamaica has a new board, headed by Tom Tavares-Finson. He is Head of the Senate and a well-known defense lawyer. Is this a purely political appointment? I am told he has a fantastic art collection, and yes, there are many art collectors (especially wealthy lawyers). On this note, why isn’t there greater transparency in the naming of Government Boards? How many have now been appointed, and where can we find a list? (Minister Olivia Grange’s comments on the new National Gallery board puzzle me: “The Minister added that she is confident that Senator Tavares-Finson and the new board he leads will steer the NGJ in a new direction that is in keeping with global trends as it relates to the development of art and galleries.” Was the National Gallery heading in the wrong direction? What are these global trends?)
NO coal please! Russian mining company UC Rusal signed a deal this week for the US$300-million sale of its 1.6-million-tonne Alpart alumina refinery in Jamaica to China’s Jinquan Iron and Steel Company (JISCO). In a separate pact with the Jamaican Government, JISCO agreed to the rehabilitation and expansion of the plant and its conversion to 500,000-tonne-a-year aluminium smelter, industry sources say. This will require a great deal of energy. Don’t even think about it: NO to coal! If so, our claims that we care about climate change will be laughed at!
The Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago came and went this week. He stayed four days on an official visit. He and his Jamaican counterpart have a Framework Bilateral Cooperation Agreement to establish a Joint Commission “under consideration” – but not yet signed. Both countries agreed that CARICOM should do better – yes, indeed. There were some nice speeches, but I am not seeing much substance in the visit, except that Jamaica and Trinidad are friends again. Or did I miss something?
Climate change? Senators yesterday sweated so hard in their jackets that they were eventually allowed to remove them. The Parliament building is suffering from regular low voltage problems. (Cue for a joke here, but I can’t think of one)…
I give full marks to the Government for its clever use of social media. I think this is working well, although opponents may dismiss it as trivial. In light of the current mayhem on the roads, Prime Minister Andrew Holness (@AndrewHolnessJM) tweeted a road safety message. It’s worth following him – other ministers are doing pretty well on social media too (@christufton gets special mention).
On a social media/political note: Contender for the vice presidency of the People’s National Party and acknowledged Instagram Queen Lisa Hanna tweeted this beautiful meme, with the message: Rose: important to antiauthoritarian, socialist/social democratic political parties and used in a fist by Socialist International. Somehow I don’t see the Miss World 1993 as a radical, anti-authoritarian figure. Clearly though, I am wrong; I am sure her campaign manager the formidable K.D. Knight, knows best.
Meanwhile, the murders continue, although our western parishes have quietened down, at last. My condolences to the families and loved ones of all those who lost their lives this week.
Errol Lewin, Old Hope Road, Kingston
Durrant Robinson, 19, Denham Town, Kingston
Winston Jones, 41, Windsor Road/Spanish Town, St. Catherine
Unidentified man, Ewarton, St. Catherine
Michael Richards, 45, Hazard, Clarendon
Jeneisha Bartley, 24, New Paisley, Clarendon
Waldo Biggs, New Paisley, Clarendon
Unidentified man, Bounty Hall/Wakefield, Trelawny
Damion Pettigrew, 33, Grange Hill, Westmoreland