I am not good at the “kmt” thing. In Jamaican social media slang this means “kiss my teeth” – a sound of irritation made when the tongue meets the front teeth. There were several occasions this week when I did a mental “kmt.” However, the cooler weather – bright sunny mornings and rainy afternoons – is suiting me just fine. The garden is looking really green, for the first time this year; and I just saw my first winter migrant – a female American Redstart (the “Butterfly Bird”). So, thank goodness for sweet Mother Nature.
“KMT” moment #1: The Reverend Al Miller, who was found guilty of attempting to pervert the course of justice, received a J$1 million fine (the maximum fine – one that he paid immediately). In July 2010, Reverend Miller drove a man wanted in the United States, Christopher “Dudus” Coke, in disguise into Kingston, purportedly to turn him in to the U.S. Embassy. Despite trying to elude the police, they were caught. A second “KMT” was when fellow clergyman Bishop Herro Blair decided to get in on the self-serving act, weeping outside the court room after Rev. Miller’s sentencing, and telling journalists that he was also asked to intercede with Coke – before Rev. Miller – and “it could have been him.” Please give me a break, Bishop Blair! For me, the whole episode reeked of hypocrisy, but I am told Rev. Miller performs great services for Jamaica, so perhaps I am being uncharitable. His many supporters have been praying for him – and hey, the prayers worked! No prison time for Al. One quite perturbing detail in this case (Rev. Miller was found guilty in July) was that then Commissioner of Police Owen Ellington did not testify in the court case. As for the whole business of clergymen working with the police to bring in wanted men – I truly have my doubts about this. Let the suspects turn themselves in with their lawyer. Following Bishop Blair’s tearful outburst, the current Commissioner of Police is planning to meet with him and other reverend people, to discuss “ambiguities” in the police-churchmen relationship, and to develop “protocols.” Yes, there are ambiguities, all right!
Talking of extradition… Fourteen extradition requests from the United States are now pending; eight Jamaicans appeared in court on September 13, having been indicted in North Dakota on 48 counts of wire fraud, 15 counts of mail fraud, and one count each of conspiracy and attempting to commit wire fraud. More to follow…
“KMT” #2: Today is the second day of the People’s National Party’s (PNP) annual conference. The results of the first day were predictable: PNP President Portia Simpson Miller was emphatically returned as the leader of a party that may possibly remain in opposition for some time to come. The “contest” between her and Dr. Karl Blythe, who had wheeled himself out of semi-retirement from the public eye to challenge her, was really a non-contest from the start. The real drama was the Vice President elections, in which Mayor of Kingston Angela Brown Burke, Tourism Spokesman Dr. Wykeham McNeill, the former (disastrous) Health Minister Fenton Ferguson (who got the most votes!) and former Local Government Minister Noel Arscott were elected. The “renewal candidate” Lisa Hanna was soundly beaten, apparently because Region Three headed by Phillip Paulwell voted against her.The results were met with varying levels of derision and disgust by many of my Twitter friends. Some younger comrades appeared mortified. Simpson Miller gave Hanna an unavoidable hug (do those hugs mean anything?) and told her “her time will come” (when? Ten, twenty years’ time perhaps?) She also commended Dr. Blythe for his “bravery.” Was the Opposition Leader being sarcastic?
Positive noises: The Economic Programme Oversight Committee (EPOC) seems happy about tax revenue, which it says continues to do better than expected – about $7 billion above the amount targeted in the budget. The Tax Administration of Jamaica appears to be doing a good job. The most notable performers were General Consumption Tax (GCT), PAYE and company taxes. The NIR is at $2.5 billion, which is encouraging for the end of September’s target, says EPOC’s Richard Byles.
A third cellular license: There is some controversy over the award of a third cellular license to Symbiote Investment Limited, as announced by the Prime Minister on September 13 – despite a negative report from the Office of the Contractor General in 2009. I must read up more about the history of this but I am trying to understand how and why this happened.
Privatizing garbage collection? I’m not sure if this is the way to go, but Local Government Minister Desmond McKenzie says this is still on the cards. More garbage trucks are expected early next year, meanwhile. Those living in the hills around Kingston have noticed quite a bit of smoke over the general area of Riverton dump over the past few days. What’s going on there? Is there any movement on the planned waste-to-energy project now, Minister McKenzie? We need an update.
Meanwhile, while touring the Marcus Garvey Drive area, where major flooding took place recently, the Minister in his sternest voice announced that anti-litter laws are to be strengthened and additional police officers are being trained to enforce said laws.
I’m glad to know that the National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA) has identified the firm responsible for the illegal garbage dump in Bedward Gardens, August Town. Please name the firm, NSWMA, and prosecute them! Let’s see some real action in enforcing all our environmental laws! I know that some are being blatantly broken, especially in regard to protected species.
And talking of protected species: Is it true that weekly “crocodile feasts” are taking place in Westmoreland, apparently with law enforcement turning a blind eye? Well…?
Talking of flooding, the Negril River overflowed its banks recently and its contents flowed through the grounds of a high-profile resort and into the sea. The river is polluted. Trash blocking the drains has made matters worse, say government agencies; however, I’ve learned that the new road and sidewalks are also very poorly designed. What a mess!
Plans for Portland: The ever-cheerful Tourism Minister Ed Bartlett has announced great plans for the parish of Portland (just as I was about to write a separate post about the ongoing decline and decay there), including “health and wellness tourism.” I have heard about a “Portland revival” so many times before that all I can do is heave a weary sigh. Let’s see what happens, but I’m not holding my breath.
Do you remember Countryman? He was a real person – a Rastafarian fisherman from Hellshire, St. Catherine – who became a bit of a star in the 1983 film of the same name, directed by the late Dickie Jobson and produced by Chris Blackwell. You can watch the film on YouTube here. The opening scene, where he is fishing from his canoe by moonlight (with Bob Marley’s Natural Mystic playing) has always stuck in my mind. It might seem a little corny nowadays; but it would completely “sell” you on Jamaica, even if you didn’t smoke weed! I was very sad to hear that Countryman has died, in Hellshire. Is Jamaica the same as it was, in those gentler days? Certainly, Hellshire is not. Rest in peace, Countryman. You were loved.
There’s a special event coming up in Montego Bay (October 24 – 26) called FOROMIC XIX 2016. It describes itself as “Latin America and the Caribbean’s most important annual event on microfinance and entrepreneurship.” FOROMIC has a particular focus on microfinance, aiming to show “that serving low-income households and small businesses is possible, sustainable and profitable.” Over 41 countries are expected to attend as well as experts in microenterprise, small and medium enterprise, representatives from financial institutions, entrepreneurship associations, governments, NGOs, academics. This is an Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) project now in its 19th year, this time with the support of the Jamaican Ministry of Finance and Planning. More details here.
Major big ups to:
Shomari (not sure if I got the spelling right), a young man I met at the University of Technology. He goes round the campus selling small packets of fruit, carefully wrapped, to students at $100 apiece. A piece of pawpaw and a banana, for example. If you see him, buy something from him. He is trying hard, and he knows a lot more about customer service than many of the bored receptionists and passive-aggressives salespeople I know. Great entrepreneurship!
The U.S. Embassy, UTech and Seth Gitner: Seth (Associate Professor at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Syracuse University) was presenter at two sessions on multimedia storytelling. I attended with PR practitioners, photojournalists, social media practitioners and a bunch of bloggers like myself. I learned a great deal about photography, video, vertical social media (SnapChat etc). and about all kinds of technology and new apps (we had fun in the Sculpture Park with a new gadget that does 360° video). I’m going to get more creative and try some video too…In fact, it may have inspired us bloggers, as my fellow blogger Dennis Jones is now doing Facebook Live sessions! Thanks a million to the U.S. Embassy’s Cleo Walker for organizing the sessions, which I would say were a great success; and to Andrew P. Smith of UTech’s Media and Communications Department.
Jamaica Environment Trust (for providing the energy, organization and inspiration in bucketfuls!) and all those organizations involved – service clubs, businesses large and small, non-governmental organizations, community groups, schools, colleges, even families – in the International Coastal Cleanup Day yesterday. As I noted in my earlier post, it was very encouraging to see so many young people involved, and working hard. One day a year is not enough, and we need of course to address the root causes of the problems (as a reader just pointed out to me!) However, the day offers an invaluable opportunity for the spirit of volunteerism to thrive – and for those involved to learn and understand more about our environmental challenges first-hand. Many thanks to Tourism Minister Ed Bartlett for stopping by, and congratulations to all!
Businessman Anthony Chang, a former Fulbright Scholar and former President of the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce, who has always been very modest about his achievements and his contributions to “nation-building.” I am happy to see he will receive a national honor on National Heroes Day, next month. Mr. Chang also worked hard in helping to set up the Jamaica Debates Commission – what a pity the People’s National Party eschewed this option during the last election campaign.
Malgorzata Wasilewska, who is the new Head of Delegation of the European Union to Jamaica. She has worked in the field of conflict resolution and peace building. These sound like excellent skills, and I wish her all the very best!
The Jamaica Association for the Deaf, who will be highlighting the importance of sign language during the coming week, which is International Week of the Deaf.
Commissioner of Police Carl Williams, who despite the enormous stress of his job and the at times almost overwhelming crime rate, has recently sought to raise his own personal profile and connection with the Jamaican public. I missed his recent “ask me anything” Twitter chat. This week, I think he did quite well in a one-on-one, nearly hour-long interview with Simon Crosskill on CVM Television’s Live at Seven.
Once again, our children are suffering from crime and violence on a daily basis. Recently, a six year-old girl was shot and wounded in March Pen, near Spanish Town. She’s now out of hospital, I am glad to say; but I cannot imagine the trauma. As for the Spanish Town Bus Park, at regular intervals we hear reports of shootings there. What is being done? Shouldn’t there be a police presence there at all times? Meanwhile the list of Jamaicans murdered in the past week is quite terrifying. My deepest condolences to all the many people who are mourning their deaths. When will it end?
Steve Allen (Frenchie), West Kingston (killed by police)
Unidentified man, downtown Kingston
Unidentified man, Church Street, Kingston
Cordettte Lewis, 69, West Street, Denham Town, Kingston
Shamahi Henry, 20, Oakland Avenue, Kingston
Maden Fraser, Parade Gardens, Kingston
Waid Shaw, Duhaney Park, Kingston
Natalie Smith, 36, Central Village, St. Catherine
Humroy Bennett, 55, Reynolds, Clarendon
Wayne Nicholson, 34, Chapelton, Clarendon
Shakera Roberts, 16, Newcombe, St. Elizabeth
Ricardo Wallace, 26, Elderslie, St. Elizabeth
Brian Chambers, 24, Greenland, Hanover
Ricardo Morgan, 22, Greenland, Hanover
Michael Smith, 24, Long Bay/Barrett Town, St. James
Vinroy Drummond, 22, Barrett Town, St. James
Kingsley Williams, 33, Glendevon, St. James
Obrien Nelson, 23, Flamstead, St. James
Lincoln Atkinson, 23, German Town, St. James
Conroy Johnson, 24, Hampton, St. James
Conroy Jarrett, Adelphi, St. James
Dugal McLeish, 29, Anchovy, St. James
Warren Hodges, Wakefield, Trelawny
Rev. Delroy Bingham, Cardiff Hall, Runaway Bay, St. Ann
Wayne Henry, 45, Jeffrey Town, St. Mary