Yes, it’s been a while… But you know how it is. I have been very busy with one or two projects, while trying to fit them in with the Olympics. To be honest, I have been missing out on the news quite a bit. Oh, and did I mention the heat? I know. Excuses, excuses… So I know there are more stories out there (including our dismal examination results in Maths) but will try to catch up a bit more in the next post.
Jamaica passes its 13th IMF Review: The International Monetary Fund (IMF) paid one of its regular visits recently. The Chief of Mission, Dr. Uma Ramakrishnan notes that the drawdown of US$40 million will be considered by the IMF’s Executive Board and is “tentatively scheduled for September 2016.” The team is concerned about high unemployment (officially at 13.7 per cent) and the need for a stronger “social safety net” but says growth is taking place gradually. Obviously, though, there is much work to be done. The Extended Fund Facility for Jamaica ends in April 2017. One suspects a new one may be negotiated and is already being discussed. The Economic Programme Oversight Committee (EPOC) also sees lots of good indicators, with Mr. Byles saying that it is a “very good cricket pitch” for investors to play on. If they want to play cricket, that is. However, Mr. Byles says we should not become complacent – our debt to GDP ratio is far too high and there is a $16 billion gap that must be filled – hopefully without heavy taxation, although new taxes are “probably very likely,” says Mr. Byles.
Pregnant women with Zik V: The Health Ministry says it is closely monitoring pregnant women who have had the Zika virus and who are due to give birth in September and afterwards. The first pregnant woman to be diagnosed with the Zika Virus was in January, so now is the time. An “expert group” has been identified to deal with any possible cases of microcephaly from these births (can’t these be identified from ultrasounds though?)
Distressing “hit and run” murders: Recently, two police officers have been killed by “hit and run” drivers. Inspector Mark Gibbs was knocked down by a car that he had motioned to stop on the road in Clarks Town, Trelawny. The car has since been found and a man is in custody. A similar thing happened to Police Constable Mark Rose of the Mobile Reserve Division on Job’s Lane, Spanish Town on August 12. What unbelievable cruelty and cowardice.
West Kingston is restive: Gangs have been busy in the Denham Town, Lincoln Crescent, Havana, and Tivoli Gardens areas – not good news. There were roadblocks downtown in the area of Darling Street and Spanish Town Road over the weekend, and police warned us to avoid the area.
What’s happening with agro parks? Opposition Spokesman on Agriculture Dr. Dayton Campbell would like to know. He points out that nine agro-parks were established under the PNP administration and that the sector grew by 13 per cent, with 4,000 acres in production. Dr. Campbell asked some pointed questions on Twitter, and we shall see what the response is.
INDECOM is not impressed…nor am I: The Independent Commission of Investigations has reported a 20 per cent increase in police killings, after declines in the past two years (last year was 99 citizens killed by agents of the State). INDECOM also noted the continuous stream of abuses by the police – unlawful entry into people’s homes without warrants, gun salutes at events where the police are present, and other activities. When is the Jamaica Constabulary Force going to pull itself together? I am very glad to know, however, that the Prime Minister and Derrick Smith, Minister Without Portfolio who is a previous National Security Minister, both asserted that INDECOM is not going anywhere.“The administration gives INDECOM its full support and we appeal to all parties involved to respect each other’s authority. INDECOM is here to stay, so a way has to be found for all to coexist,” said Minister Smith on August 14.
There’s a dark cloud hovering with the publication of an article in the Miami Herald about a certain politician (our newspapers won’t name him, for fear of lawsuits). Former Assistant Police Commissioner Les Green – one of those seconded from the British, and a rather surly fellow I always thought – told the Herald that he had been investigating said politician for trying to arrange two murders, back in 2011. He also said Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Paula Llewellyn had been unwilling to prosecute. So now he and the DPP are in a bit of a tit for tat over it all, with the DPP claiming that he could have gone ahead and made an arrest on his own and Green saying, well he would have preferred a “comprehensive prosecution strategy,” that it was complicated, etc. Nothing will come of all this, I’d say.
“Playing politics”: Well, isn’t that what politicians do? Anyway, these are the words of Opposition Spokesman on Finance Peter Phillips (who appears to be the People’s National Party (PNP) campaign manager again, too). He is uncomfortable with the Holness administration’s pursuit of several PNP-dominated parish councils in recent weeks – files being taken away, nervous employees and so on. Both parties seem a little edgy about local government elections; the date has not been announced yet. Will they take place before the end of the year? One would think so. In general, there are a lot of mixed signals coming out of the PNP. I haven’t made the effort yet to try to decode them.
- The Royal Air Forces Association Jamaica 580 Branch celebrated its 70th Anniversary last week with an awards ceremony and the opening of a special exhibition. It was a wonderful event. I will be writing more about it. Congratulations to all who worked hard to put it together. The Military Band was fabulous, playing old-fashioned tunes that reminded me of my parents (all the older members of my family served in World War II). I have the small book of memoirs by Jamaican veteran James Ferguson, published by Valerie Facey, that was launched that evening, and will be reviewing it soon. Mr. Ferguson told the Jamaica Information Service: “War disgusts me; it makes me want to cry. I don’t like it; wars should be stopped. It is the worst thing that could happen to the human race and the quicker it stops, is the better for all of us.” Well said.
- There was quite a lot of activity for International Youth Day (August 12) this year. Many congratulations to the three winners of the UNFPA’s photo and video competition under the theme The Road to 2030: Eradicating Poverty and Achieving Sustainable Consumption and Poverty Reduction. You can see the winning entries (Jason Whyte of the Clarendon Youth Information Centre came first) here.
- Special kudos to UTech’s Professor Rosalea Hamilton, Project Director of Fi Wi Jamaica, which is actively engaged in public education about domestic and intimate partner violence. The project also seeks to empower women and girls through training, with several partners including the 51% Coalition, Social Development Commission and others. Fi Wi Jamaica is really doing good work. Read this great article by Professor Hamilton here.
- Lots of good things have been happening around the island over the summer. The Philadelphia Mans Basketball League visited Treasure Beach in St. Elizabeth and held a basketball camp for over 500 children, followed by a tournament, at Breds Sports Park. This was in partnership with the awesome Breds Foundation headed by Jason Henzell, who is a real “community person.” Congratulations to all! Follow @BredsFoundation on Twitter for more photos.
- The Early Childhood Commission is holding a Certification Fair for Early Childhood Institutions – teachers, practitioners, parents etc. – on Friday, August 26 at Jamaica College. Please share this information! It will be back to school time soon…
- New shoes needed! And talking of back to school, the National Youth Service launched a shoe drive recently, to collect new shoes for children in needy communities and homes. They hope to collect about 2,000 pairs. Deadline is August 26!
My last news update was on August 6 – Independence Day. During that time, the following Jamaicans have been murdered. Yes, it is a long and sad list. I wonder why I actually do this – but I just want people to know that, in the last two weeks while we have been watching the Olympics, this trauma and suffering has continued. My condolences to all the families.
Earl Reid, 40, Pink Lane, Kingston
Unidentified man, Orange Street, Kingston
Kenardo Hutchinson, 22, Lincoln Crescent, Kingston
Odane Abbot, 23, Lincoln Crescent, Kingston
Morais Harris, 35, Lincoln Crescent, Kingston
Omar Spaulding, 33, Pembroke Hall, Kingston
Alvin Brown, 28, Coronation Market, Kingston
Unidentified man, Hellshire, St. Catherine
“Craig,” Bog Walk, St. Catherine
Elaine Richards, 51, Old Harbour, St. Catherine
Rohan Daley, 49, Old Harbour, St. Catherine
Shemar Plummer, 29, Freetown, Clarendon
Jason McLeod, 33, Palmer’s Cross, Clarendon
Rohan Stevens, 28, Palmers Cross, Clarendon (killed by police)
Opal Rochester-Shand, 43, Milk River, Clarendon
James Stephenson, 22, Lionel Town, Clarendon
Cleon McLean, Four Paths, Clarendon
Durahno Bartley, Gloucester Avenue, Montego Bay, St. James
Bobby Solomon, Gloucester Avenue, Montego Bay, St. James
Richard Williams, Bogue Village, St. James
Comair Elliot, 24, Peel Street, Falmouth, Trelawny
Henry 36, Cedar Grove, Manchester
Alonzo Reynolds, 38, Highgate, St. Mary
Conrad Kenton, 72, Yallahs, St. Thomas
Nicholas Murray, 21, Buff Bay, Portland (killed by police)