The Independence Olympics, Mario Deane and Ministers’ Words: Jamaica, Saturday August 6, 2016

Happy Independence Day to all who are celebrating! It’s very quiet in Kingston, but no doubt a few parties will break out later on. I was happy to attend a “Rae Town Oldies” party at the residence of the Spanish Chargée d’Affaires two days ago, which was huge fun (and, of course wonderful oldies in several genres – my favorite being ska and blue beat!) Tropical Storm Earl is still hanging around in Mexico quite determinedly. Thankfully, temperatures have been cooler since he passed by. Please note: I have embedded some links in this post so if you click on the underlined areas you can read more.

A great photo by Ricardo Makyn of the Gleaner taken during the beautiful Opening Ceremony in Rio.
A great photo by Ricardo Makyn of the Gleaner taken during the beautiful Opening Ceremony in Rio.

And now, the huge distraction and “hype” of the Olympics is here. I wrote two articles about Jamaicans’ love affair with the Games for Global Voices this week. You can find them here and here. Last night was delightful, tweeting with friends while watching the lovely Opening Ceremony. My space on the couch is reserved for the next two weeks and my productivity is likely to steadily decline as the Games progress. I tend to get hooked.

Independence Gala at the National Stadium this evening. (Photo: Ministry of Culture/Twitter)
Independence Gala at the National Stadium this evening. (Photo: Ministry of Culture/Twitter)

But it’s Independence! And the annual farce of the National Honours and Awards Ceremony took place at King’s House this morning. You might be shocked at my use of that word, but to me it’s an old colonial throwback, the status quo patting itself on the back. I am not saying that those who receive awards are not good people (although I understand politicians get their medals automatically) but I think we should get away from all of this. Let’s celebrate Independence in a different way – something new and exciting, that will engage our bored and disenchanted youth. Now the Stadium is filled with people watching a rehash of last year’s celebration, and the year before’s celebration. But I guess this is what people want; the same thing every year?

Ministers’ words: Why do Government officials do this? Mining Minister Mike Henry’s announcement at a press briefing on the planned industrial zone in Nain, St. Elizabeth (in which he referred to a coal-fired power plant more than once) was clear as crystal. (Please see my previous post for the response from Jamaica Environment Trust). Then Energy Minister Andrew Wheatley tells those Jamaicans who are expressing grave concern that they need to “get their facts straight” as no application has yet been made for a coal plant. So, are we to wait until it is approved, by which time it will be too late? “The proposal is for a coal fired plant,” says Minister Wheatley, adding the technology appears to be “relatively clean.” Minister Wheatley, there is no “clean coal” and the slightly cleaner coal technology is much more expensive. “WE WILL NOT DO ANYTHING DETRIMENTAL TO THE ENVIRONMENT,” said the Energy Minister, adding that it’s “not the final sign-off”  on coal (so what was signed, then?) Perhaps both the Ministers need to tell us the facts and communicate properly instead of speaking so dismissively. Keep us informed; no obfuscation. Meanwhile, a huge coal-fired plant would be a disaster and yes, it would be detrimental, “clean” or not.  #saynotocoalJA

Mario Deane's mother protests on the two-year anniversary of his death. (Photo: Twitter)
Mario Deane’s mother Mercia Frazer protests on the two-year anniversary of his death on INDEPENDENCE DAY. (Photo: Twitter)

Second anniversary of Mario Deane’s death: On Independence Day, 2014, Mario Deane, 31, died in hospital after allegedly being beaten by inmates in the Barnett Street police lockup in Montego Bay. He should have been given bail when someone came with surety, but was at least temporarily denied it because he had an argument with one of the police officers. The case is crawling through the courts, with ridiculous delays over trivial matters. One of the accused was deemed unfit to plead recently as he is mentally ill. Mario’s family staged a peaceful protest on the anniversary of his death, supported by human rights activists.

No charges: The Director of Public Prosecutions has ruled that no criminal charges be filed against the policemen caught on video trying to subdue a woman in Gordon Town, St. Andrew accused of resisting arrest – kneeing her in the stomach and dragging her by the hair. Meanwhile some internal investigations will take place.

Seen Dr. Chanique Cousins? Please call 119 or the Mandevile Police at 961-5538 if you do. (A tweet from @JamaicaConstab)
Seen Dr. Chanique Cousins? Please call 119 or the Mandevile Police at 961-5538 if you do. Dr. Cousins has been missing for more than a week. (A tweet from @JamaicaConstab)

But hooray! The Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) Twitter account has sprung to life. A young doctor is missing (with her boyfriend) and @JamaicaConstab tweeted her photo and telephone numbers to call. The JCF could do so much more regarding missing persons, wanted men and the like. I hope they continue to build their presence. They even tweeted the Police Commissioner’s Independence Day message.

JAMAICA IN INDEPENDENCE: Industrial waste in an open gully in Seaview Gardens, a few yards from people's homes. (My photo)
JAMAICA IN INDEPENDENCE: A close up of industrial waste in an open gully in Seaview Gardens, a few yards from people’s homes, where children were playing. This had a thick crust on top, liquid underneath, and a sickening smell. (My photo)

Meanwhile, on Independence Day, someone tweeted me from Seaview Gardens: Seaview Gardens is a disaster waiting to happen. People get sick here daily. Every child suffers from asthma… I am upset that they are calling the fixing of a sewer pipe an Independence gift. Utter rubbish.” I took some photos during a tour of the area last year. No one should even be living there, and the Member of Parliament should be held accountable – as well as the nearby polluting factories. But environmental laws are not obeyed!

Someone’s making money: Meanwhile, the head of Jamaica Customs Major Richard Reese is very happy at all the money they have collected in the first quarter of this financial year (April to June): Over J$44 billion!

Congratulations are in order!

Youth activist Kemesha Kelly just got into the Rio mood… (Photo: Facebook)
Youth activist Kemesha Kelly just got into the Rio mood… (Photo: Facebook)

To several young Jamaican women I know, who will soon be leaving us for new opportunities (and hopefully returning in a year or two!) Bright sparks Nicolette Bryan of WE-Change and Kemesha Kelly of Respect Jamaica have both won Chevening Scholarships to study in the UK for a year. The awesome Jordanne Edwards of Respect Jamaica is going off for two years on an Erasmus Mundus Scholarship in Europe. I wish them all the best, and we will miss their energy!

I took this photo of Jordanne Edwards (second left) and Respect Jamaica colleagues a few days ago. Congratulations, Jordanne and enjoy your studies abroad!
I took this photo of Jordanne Edwards (second left) and Respect Jamaica colleagues a few days ago. Congratulations, Jordanne and enjoy your studies abroad!
Nicolette Bryan (left) of WE-Change was a great volunteer at the BirdsCaribbean international meeting in Kingston last year. (My photo)
Nicolette Bryan (left) of WE-Change was a great volunteer at the BirdsCaribbean international meeting in Kingston last year. (My photo)

And special, huge kudos to young entrepreneur Latoya West-Blackwood, who has just been selected into President Obama’s 2016 Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative Professional Fellows Program in October/November this year. Congratulations Latoya!

Founder of iPublish Jamaica and hard-working entrepreneur Latoya West-Blackwood will be a Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative Professional Fellow. (Photo: Facebook)
Founder of iPublish Jamaica and hard-working entrepreneur Latoya West-Blackwood will be a Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative Professional Fellow. (Photo: Facebook)

It is very sad to see, at this holiday time, that so many people have lost their lives violently in the past few days. I am not sure what is happening in Lionel Town, a small town that always seems rather sleepy. Who knows. My deepest condolences to all their families.

Leopold McIntosh, 80, Maxfield Avenue, Kingston

Paul Allen, 20, Maxfield Avenue, Kingston

Joseph Anderson, 33, Spanish Town, St. Catherine

Gary Heslop, 42, Spanish Town, St. Catherine

Shemroy Plummer, 28, Free Town, Clarendon

Dalton Grant, 32, Lionel Town, Clarendon

James Stephenson, 23, Rocky Settlement/Lionel Town, Clarendon

Conroy Harris, 35, Brown’s Town, St. Ann

Nadine Perry, 44, Cessnock, Hanover

Unidentified man, John’s Hall, St. James

Winston Codner, 58, Great George Street/Savannah-la-Mar, Westmoreland


4 thoughts on “The Independence Olympics, Mario Deane and Ministers’ Words: Jamaica, Saturday August 6, 2016

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