Boxing Days are designed for doing nothing much. Christmas Day itself can be quite hectic – unless you are so well off that you have servant to direct to do things for you. Today is very low key for us – apart from our three young dogs, who are non-stop hyper. It’s ten days since I last did an update, and apart from Christmas treats and parties, there have been a few news items worth reporting. After this bulletin, I am planning an “Unfinished Business” report – looking back at 2016 to see what questions remain unanswered, what matters are still outstanding (so far as I know…if anyone can update me, I will be happy!) It seems to me that there is quite a lot of stuff hanging out there in limbo, to be dealt with in 2017.
Resignation of Police Commissioner: As noted earlier, Commissioner of Police Carl Williams announced that he would be going into retirement on January 6, 2017. It seems to have been rather sudden, especially since one got the impression from the Commissioner earlier this month that he would in fact be pressing on in the New Year. The problem is, as former Deputy Commissioner of Police Mark Shields has pointed out, anyone in the job is under huge pressure (four Commissioners have resigned in the past eleven years). He points to the fact that Commissioner Williams was very focused on reducing corruption in the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), and made efforts at communicating via Twitter, etc. But did he ever have the leadership qualities, and was he appointed for the wrong reasons in the first place? Might he have served better as a Deputy? Shields also believes a new Commissioner might be found from “outside” the JCF – but many “inside” would be unlikely to agree. Well, he has a point – how will the “culture” in the JCF change if Commissioners are always promoted from the ranks? However, Shields and others brought in from overseas have not, quite frankly, made much impact in the past. I would like to see Deputy Commissioner Novelette Grant, who has been appointed Acting Commissioner for 90 days from January 6, confirmed in that position; she has the support of the rank and file Police Federation, too.
But the People’s Choice for the next Commissioner (according to Facebook and a Loop Jamaica online poll) is…you’ve guessed it – retired Senior Superintendent Reneto Adams, described by one member of the public admiringly as a “duppy maker.” Read these chilling words from the human rights abuser par excellence, who told the Star Williams should have been a minister of religion:
“He is what you call a very quiet, conservative, Christ-like, unruffled person. To be the Commissioner of Police, you have to be aggressive at your task. You have to be assertive at your task. You have to be pushing the bayonet day and night, and the only time you draw back that bayonet is when you will have met upon bones.“
You didn’t mention the twisting of the bayonet, Mr. Adams!
It’s the murder rate, stupid: There’s no doubt that Commissioner Williams is a sincere and honest man. However, as Mark Shields pointed out, the Jamaican people tend to judge a police chief’s performance by the murder rate, pure and simple. The fact that other crimes may be declining, or that the number of police killings has drastically declined, doesn’t count for much in the eyes of the public. If one segment of the population had its way, the police should be making more duppies anyway. The murder figure surpassed last year’s recently and has now reached around 1,300 for the year, with a few more days to go. Last year 1,192 were killed. According to the names I have recorded below, around 30 Jamaicans have been murdered since I last wrote ten days ago. You can do the easy Math… Eleven of these were in Montego Bay and six more in western Jamaica. What is going on over there? Scammers? Gangs? Note: Trinidadians are also agonizing over their murder rate, which has reached 450. With a population of 1.3 million… Well, do the Math again.
Enough of crime. Although one little story struck me, and it reeks of corruption and the idolization of a convicted criminal. An American film maker called Nick Cannon says he collaborated with DJ Vybz Kartel – who is in a Kingston jail serving a sentence for murder – on the script of a film, King of the Dancehall. “Vybz Kartel was not in it but he helped me with the back story,” said Mr. Cannon. “He got his new music in the movie. I ain’t going to reveal how he gets it done, but he gets it done.” Am I missing something here? This almost sounds like the “incarceration” of Pablo Escobar.
Workers’ rights: Gleaner columnist Jaevion Nelson wrote recently about the abuse of workers’ rights in Jamaica – a topic that is hardly discussed. It seems of no importance to anyone that a domestic helper, who has been working in someone’s home all day, walks home alone after dark along dimly lit streets. Nelson is especially concerned about the roughly 96,000 hotel and tourism workers, mostly low paid, who have little provision made for them such as transportation and other benefits. Many are not unionized, by the way.
#sayNOtocoalJA: Take a look at this report and an interview with Energy Minister Andrew Wheatley on Business Access TV. The co-hosts are Kalilah Enriquez and Dennis Chung. Jiuquan Iron and Steel (Group) Company Ltd (JISCO) is operating the plant in Nain, St. Elizabeth, which it bought from Alpart in July, and “using traditional methods” (the use of heavy fuel oil – HFO) to produce bauxite, but is committed to improving the technology, says Minister Wheatley. No proposal regarding the use of coal has been made to the Government. He added that the Government has committed to clean energy (30% renewables by 2030 and 15% by the end of 2017); and that “we are far away from” the industrial park outlined in Parliament by Mining Minister Mike Henry, for which 1,000 MW would be required. Talking about the new Building Code legislation (now long overdue, but “soon come”) Minister Wheatley said “environmental considerations will be a significant part of the approval process” for new developments. He said no assurances were given to JISCO regarding the energy source of the development or anything else. By the way, it’s good to see that the Wigton Windfarm has opened a Renewable Energy Training Laboratory, and will be offering certificates in solar energy. Bit by bit, we are getting there; although I confess I would like to see a big project on stream that would make an immediate impact (and reduce our horrendous oil import bill!)
Dredging in Kingston Harbour: Kingston Freeport Terminal says dredging will begin in Kingston Harbour, which will be deepened to accommodate the new Panamax ships. It will start on January 4 and continue for six to eight months, 24/7. How will this impact the environment, and activity in the Harbour? On the former, I’d say much damage has already been done.
So just today, another young girl was killed, allegedly at the hands of her partner, in Arcadia, St. Thomas; she is among six women who have been killed in the past ten days. Are there particular social problems in our rural areas that we should be looking at? I would say, yes. The never-ending stream of murders in western Jamaica (in particular in St. James) is shocking. Many of those whose names appear below were also killed in disputes with family members. My deepest condolences to relatives and friends, who are mourning this Christmas.
Rohan Douglas, 28, Burke Road/Spanish Town, St. Catherine
Millicent Lindo, 57, St. John’s Road/Spanish Town, St. Catherine
Devon Frey, 20, Commodore, St. Catherine
Carly Hylton, 29, Seven Road/May Pen, Clarendon
Monique Woolery, 27, Norwood, St. James
Jason Anderson, 30, Norwood, St. James
Leo Mitchell, 39, Norwood, St. James
Yorken Silvera, 43, Norwood, St. James
Travis Cato, 17, Coral Gardens, St. James
Jacob Sinclair, 20, Cambridge, St. James
Carly Hylton, 29, Catadupa, St. James
Neika Alexander, 21, Salt Spring, St. James
Leroy Rowe, 45, Barnett Street, Montego Bay, St. James
Unidentified woman, Church Lane, Montego Bay, St. James
Keith Forbes, 21, Montego Bay, St. James
Malik Dixon, Williamsfield, Hanover
Ryan Beckford, 24, Seaton Crescent/Savannah-la-Mar, Westmoreland
Terrion Jones, 21, Negril, Westmoreland
Renell Noble, 21, Negril, Westmoreland
Valerie Bellanfonte, 58, Farm Pen Road, Westmoreland
Kevin Rankine, 38, Farm Pen Road, Westmoreland
Leo Henry, 36, Gran Bahia Principe/Runaway Bay, St. Ann
Loretta Nelson, 33, Nine Miles, St. Ann
Franklin McDowell, 54, Faith’s Pen, St. Ann
Glenroy Scott, Carey Park, Trelawny
Beresford Smith, 76, Woodgrove/Wait-a-Bit, Trelawny
Constantine Reid, Southaven, St. Thomas
Tashoy Barrett, 19, Arcadia, St. Thomas
Leroy Suarez, 33, Windsor District/Rio Grande Valley, Portland