September has been a hectic month for me – but today, being Sunday, I am slowing down a little to admire our garden. It is flourishing for the first time in the entire year, after a series of afternoon thunderstorms this week brought heavenly rain! Give thanks. It’s been a “mixed bag” week but I have several things to be hugely thankful for, including…
#GoatIslandsSaved: As noted in a previous post, Prime Minister Andrew Holness shocked us all (in a good way) the other night by tweeting his response to a question in New York on the fate of Goat Islands, in the Portland Bight Protected Area (PBPA), which for over three years now has been hanging in the balance. Once again, I congratulate Diana McCaulay and her team at the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET), who were in the vanguard of the #SaveGoatIslands campaign. There were many other supporters of course, and in particular I want to commend the work of Ingrid Parchment and all at the Caribbean Coastal Area Management Foundation, who work so hard every day in their management of the PBPA, the largest protected area in Jamaica. They are doing an excellent job. The Gleaner muddied the waters somewhat, just a day or two before the Prime Minister’s tweet, by suddenly waking up to the fact that the logistics hub has been mentioned in every Jamaican Government Letter of Intent to the International Monetary Fund for years now. The latest was dated August 30, 2016 (do read it, it’s got a lot of information in it). So, the Gleaner reported that the Government was to go ahead at Goat Islands. Ah! Since then, the Prime Minister visited the area. Perhaps someone omitted to remove the language in the IMF letter, who knows. Listen to the audio of the Prime Minister’s announcement in New York here.
For those who are trying to catch up on the Goat Islands issue, I would refer you (once again) to JET’s excellent website, and to many earlier blog posts I have written over the past three years. The website includes documentation and information on alternative locations (the subject of a study), which many have asked about. The work has been done!
Crime is scaring us: The murder rate has reached new and perilous heights – especially in the parish of St. James, but other parishes (Clarendon in particular) are reeling. Even quiet little Portland has had a few killings. What is happening? I agree with Opposition National Security Spokesman Peter Bunting that we should have a high-level summit on crime, to try at least to understand and to come up with a multi-stakeholder action plan. This should include not only the private sector (including the tourism sector, which is getting nervous) and the below-mentioned Economic Growth Council (EGC) – which has addressed the issue of crime in its new report – but also of course civil society, including youth and women’s groups. The Police Commissioner has been communicating, the Minister of National Security not so much. The Minister has, however, called out the national reserves. Neither of them support a state of emergency, but curfews have been imposed in some St. James neighborhoods. We, after all, do not have personal bodyguards. What happened to Mr. Bunting’s Unite for Change program – which I believe showed promise? Well, perhaps the opening of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) office at the U.S. Embassy will help. We are biting our nails.
Nice report, now for some action! Jean Lowrie-Chin kindly tweeted the September 25, 2016 report of the EGC today. It makes for a good read and is beautifully designed, etc. But as Jean notes: “Now to get it done”!
Big Apple PM: Well, apart from the Goat Islands announcement, Prime Minister Andrew Holness seems to have done rather well in New York – and his social media team did a great job of publicizing it. Live tweets, live video on Facebook and simple photo ops (including one with Barack and Michelle Obama) flooded our social media timelines. Although some people seem to find this kind of engagement a little over the top, most appreciate it (I certainly do). You can read the Prime Minister’s speech at the UN General Assembly here. Another big gold star for the Prime Minister in New York was the ratification of the ILO Convention C 189 (also known as the Domestic Workers Convention). This is a tremendous moment for Ms. Shirley Pryce of the Jamaica Household Workers Union, who has worked so hard for this cause, with the support of the 51% Coalition. “We are committed to the protection of rights of the most vulnerable among us and to ensure the welfare of domestic workers within the framework of our determination to promote a decent work for all,” the PM said.
Pardon for Marcus Garvey: It would be an incredible achievement for both President Barack Obama and our Prime Minister – but most of all, a victory for the Jamaican people – if our National Hero Marcus Garvey could be posthumously pardoned by the U.S. Government for his wrongful 1923 conviction for mail fraud. We wish this could happen before President Obama steps down. The Holness administration is really pushing for it. “The time has come when he should be exonerated…and that time is now,” the PM said. Here there is clearly the influence of former Prime Minister Bruce Golding’s son Steven, President of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) in Jamaica. You can sign and share the White House petition link here.
The media became completely distracted by the sudden death of a schoolboy footballer in the early moments of a football match. Dominic James, the 19-year-old captain of St. George’s College football team, collapsed and died, apparently from heart failure at a televised match against Excelsior High School at Stadium East in Kingston on Tuesday. It was a very sad event and there was an outpouring of condolences and sympathy – followed by a burst of moral outrage after one journalist over-zealously tweeted a part of his death certificate, showing that he died of heart failure. Mr. Abka Fitz-Henley of Nationwide News Network did apologize.
Another sad death this week was that of journalist Ingrid Brown, aged only 39. Ingrid was a sweetheart, and an absolute professional. I always enjoyed working with her; she did great coverage of HIV/AIDS and women’s issues and was an excellent writer.
At least 15 people were killed in and around the “tourism mecca” of Montego Bay in the past week! Many of these murders took place in broad daylight, on main roads, etc. – including the murder of a school bus driver in the town, when two students were injured. Some schools sent children home early. I have not captured all the names of the victims here, I realize. We can put it down to gang activity and scamming – yes, but we have to tackle the root causes of these activities. Meanwhile, my heart goes out to the families and friends of all these Jamaicans who have passed. And this is an incomplete list, tragically…
Unidentified man, Sir Florizel Glasspole Boulevard, East Kingston
Oral Palmer, 35, Effortville, Clarendon
Conroy Nelson, 33, Effortville, Clarendon
Winston Palmer, May Pen Market, Clarendon
Unidentified man, Hellshire, St. Catherine
Unidentified man, Port Henderson Road/Portmore, St. Catherine (mob killing)
Alvin Clarke, 44, Creek Street, Montego Bay, St. James
Keith Morgan, 21, Church Street, Montego Bay, St. James
Bobby Clarke, Ironshore, Montego Bay, St. James
Franklyn Lawrence, 43, Union Street, Montego Bay, St. James
Adrian Anglin, 32, Spring Mount, St. James
Robert James, 35, Mt. Salem, St. James
Kemoy Nelson, Mt. Salem, St. James
Conroy Campbell, 49, Cambridge, St. James
Ricardo Nelson, 27, Long Bay, St. James
Michael Smith, 24, Long Bay, St. James
Unidentified man, Green Island, Hanover (killed by police)
Desmond Ferguson, 44, Main Street/Lucea, Hanover
Asan Anderson, 43, Drapers Heights, Portland
Leroy McCoy, 48, Drapers Heights, Portland
Joan Patterson Fitzgerald, 51, Hope Bay, Portland
Javelle Bakers, 31, Orange Park/Golden Grove, St. Ann
Kelly Robinson, 48, Higgin Town, St. Ann
Cecil Taylor, 46, Highgate, St. Mary
Unidentified man, Santa Cruz, St. Elizabeth