Weekend Review: What’s Happening in Jamaica, June 17/18, 2017

Perhaps a weekend review works better. In any case, it’s two weeks since I last posted an update. There’s much to catch up on! Mostly floods and crime… Please click on the highlighted areas for links to more information…

We have had rain and more rain. We have barely recovered from the floods of mid-May – but another system descended on us this week. The way things are looking, this very wet weekend, many problems are repeating themselves, and in some of the same places. The parish of Clarendon is flooded in some areas. I hope the farmers of Douglas Castle, St. Ann, have been getting help since the last floods. These small farmers are so resilient; I admire them hugely.

A young girl puts herself in grave danger as she crosses the floodwaters in her yard in Rocky Point, Clarendon. Rocky Point is an area especially susceptible to climate change, including sea level rise. (Photo: Jermaine Barnaby/Gleaner)

“Not cholera”: We have heard several warnings that it is unsafe to swim, play and walk through deep flood water – several places still have flood waters that have not receded for weeks. The water is contaminated – overflowing pit latrines and all kinds of other pollution. There was also a warning recently not to use the waters of the Rio Cobre, which is contaminated by raw sewage. Now there is a case of a man admitted to hospital with a bacterial infection caused by cholera vibrio. Chief Medical Officer Dr. Winston De La Haye says it’s not cholera, however; it’s an isolated case that emerged in a blood sample and it’s related to a surgical procedure. Frankly, I don’t understand. Did the man swallow bad water, or did it get into a cut or something?

Where is Mr. Powell’s gun? I am missing something here. During the trial of businessman Patrick Powell for refusing to hand over his licensed firearm to the police, Powell said he did not refuse to do so. So, where is the gun now? Powell was acquitted of the 2011 murder of teenager Khajeel Mais last October. Cases like this reinforce public perception that justice is not for all Jamaicans – only the rich and powerful – and that the system is corrupt.

Crime “monster” is gobbling up everything in sight: Media, politicians and the public have been obsessed with the “crime problem,” as murders continue to soar. It reminds me of a big lion fish, gulping down anything that comes near. And everyone has something to say about crime. Everyone. Up to June 10 there were 630 murders – a 19 per cent increase over last year – with some 40-odd multiple killings. There’s also a 14 per cent increase in shootings. Over seventy per cent of these murders were gang-related, says Police Commissioner George Quallo.

Opposition Spokesman and former Minister of National Security Peter Bunting (left) bonding with the current Minister Bobby Montague at an event last year. (Photo: Joseph Wellington/Jamaica Observer)

Former New York Police Department Commissioner Raymond Kelly is suggesting that Jamaica’s approach to crime should be “data driven” and that a “radical shift” in allocating resources may be needed. Prime Minister Andrew Holness is trying to find a way to budget for it all and National Integrity Action’s Professor Trevor Munroe has some thoughts on this. In a word: accountability! Opposition Spokesman Peter Bunting is talking about police cars, among other things. Yes, there has been a delay in importing used cars for the police. Bunting takes credit now for  “stabilising” the crime rate. Hmm. Commissioner of Police George Quallo held his first press conference since taking up office last Tuesday. He did say the police were “co-operating fully” with the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) – police killings have also increased. Opposition Leader Peter Phillips talked about resources too, and the need for trust. Dr. Phillips did a very creditable job as National Security Minister in a previous administration (2001-2007), founding the Citizen Security and Justice Programme (which is still active) and tackling the illegal drug trade. I thoroughly agree with columnist Gordon Robinson’s take on the matter. He reminds “all those supporters of ‘tough policing’ and ‘abrogation of civil rights’ that the last 40 years prove conclusively these strategies are worthless.” Indeed!

National Security Minister Robert Montague’s remarks have not been particularly helpful lately. It seems that, when under pressure, security ministers become almost schizophrenic, often saying the first thing that comes to mind and contradicting themselves regularly. This is not going down well with the anxious public. Minister Montague’s reference in Parliament to a “massive manhunt” for the killers of a family in Hanover (see below) underlines the fact that short term measures such as curfews and “spot checks” are simply reactive, not strategic or proactive. (Has he “sat down with” Mr. Bunting (and Mr. Fitz Jackson?) yet, as he said he wished to a week or so ago?) Minister Montague also said we should not be “overly concerned” about the high murder rate. He added, to make things worse in my view: “[Be] concerned, yes, because lives are being lost, but when you look at the antecedents of most of those, it is a matter of gang members killing gang members.” Justice Minister Delroy Chuck has also been talking – a great deal – about crime, human rights, and the buggery law. It’s hard to distinguish now what is the difference between his personal opinion and policy. And Tourism Minister Ed Bartlett doesn’t want local media to report crime very quietly – otherwise it upsets the tourists.“No one wants to wake up and see a front-page story in our newspapers stating, ‘Jamaica bleeds'”, he told tourism players this week. Perhaps it’s the sensational stuff that disturbs him. But Minister Bartlett, we do need to know what’s happening. OK?

Councillor Karl Blake, who was shot and injured in an attack on the PNP constituency office. He has not totally ruled out his interest in the South West St. Andrew seat, soon to be vacated by Portia Simpson Miller. It’s odd that the police have not yet found the perpetrator.

No, crime is not a political issue. But even politics has not been untouched. Councillor Karl Blake of the Greenwich Town division was shot and wounded and his assistant, People’s National Party activist Maxine Simpson was shot dead at a meeting at the St Andrew South West Constituency Office on June 4. That’s the constituency of former Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, who is about to step down. Mr. Blake is seen as a possible successor.

Guns and ammo seized: So far this year, the police have seized 375 illegal firearms, 90 more than the same period last year. 7,196 rounds of ammunition were seized – a huge increase on last year too. Staggering numbers announced by Commissioner Quallo!

Several policemen are currently facing murder charges – and one was convicted for the murder of a vendor in Brown’s Town, St. Ann (a disturbing case).

White collar criminals have been busy, too: Document fraud, identity theft etc. are on the rise. It’s all part of the corruption scenario; one example is fake fitness certificates for vehicles, which the Island Traffic Authority is currently battling with. There are solutions, but it may take time.

Another accused scammer: U.S. law enforcement seems to be scooping up a large group of scammers. Another member of the network will be deported shortly. Meanwhile, eight Jamaican nationals and a U.S. citizen, who have pleaded not guilty, will go to trial between July 17 and 19 in North Dakota. There are more suspects on the run, and more awaiting trial in the U.S. We have been told that many of the murders in western Jamaica were related to the “lotto scam.” Is this still the case? Are the gangs funded by the scam? 

Minister of Transport & Works Omar Davies
Former Minister of Transport and Works (and before that, Finance) Omar Davies, who has been in the garrison South St. Andrew seat for decades. He has endorsed Senator Mark Golding as PNP candidate. Omar Davies has never been a very popular politician, except in his own constituency.

Farewell to two “comrades”: Both Portia Simpson Miller and former Finance Minister Omar Davies will retire on June 29. There will, therefore, be two by-elections in two very safe PNP “garrison” constituencies in Kingston (Simpson Miller’s probably the safest of all garrisons).

Remember the Cash Plus depositors? Poor things. There are over 40,000 of them and it seems they are unlikely to get much of their money back – at least, not any time soon. The liquidator of Cash Plus, the Office of the Government Trustee, says the 21,000 claims from depositors is more than the $19 billion due.

I always watch live broadcasts of proceedings in the Upper and Lower Houses of Parliament, when I can. They are broadcast on YouTube by the Public Broadcasting Corporation of Jamaica (PBC). On Friday, the Senate began debate on the Integrity Commission Act; this consisted of a good presentation by Senator Kamina Johnson Smith. After two and a half hours, proceedings were adjourned so that senators could “big up” Usain Bolt.

I am constantly alarmed at the light sentences handed out to men who beat women (under whatever circumstances, it matters not). Here is one example.

Kudos… There are always good things happening!

The Jamaica Gleaner has produced an online magazine with dozens of scholarships available. If you are looking for financial assistance for the upcoming academic year though, you will have to move fast! Deadlines are tight. Here is the link: http://go-jamaica.com/supplement/pdf/scholarshipstogo/#2

A whole heap of garbage for a fairly small but busy area. Best Dressed Chicken volunteers did a clean up at Old Harbour Fishing Village recently.

Best Dressed Chicken – like several other corporate peeps in recent weeks – is taking on environmental issues in a very positive way. I like it!  did a Nuh Dutty Up Jamaica sweep of Old Harbour fishing beach recently. What a haul! They left bins and I do hope that they will be used and that the 150 or so vendors and fishers who use the beach will keep it clean!

Gender Affairs Minister Olivia “Babsy” Grange told Parliament the costing has been done for three emergency regional centres to shelter women who are being abused. I hope it will be speedily approved and that the process can move along at a good pace. It has been years… Many years.

Heather Christian is a dynamic woman and a Manager at the UCC Academy. Do read her article about dyslexia – “My invisible disability.”

U.S. Ambassador to Jamaica Luis Moreno has been a thoughtful, kind and effective ambassador. He is leaving Jamaica on June 30, and he will be missed. Just two things I appreciated about him: his focus on border security, which I believe is critical in the “fight against crime”; and his tremendous support for the current women’s shelter in Kingston. I am sure there are many other instances.

Huge congrats to all the students who took the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) exam, which is quite an ordeal. The results came out on June 10. 79 per cent of the students were placed in a high school of their choice, says the Ministry of Education. P.S. Some kind person or organisation – please give St. Richard’s Primary School a computer lab!

Students of Maryland All Age School looking pleased as punch at the Jamaica Environment Trust’s Schools Environment Programme Awards this week. (My photo)

And speaking of students… Big ups to the wonderful students of Maryland All Age School in Hanover, who are the 2016/17 Schools Environment Programme Champions! I am so impressed by them.

The National Council for Senior Citizens observed World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on June 15 under the theme Understand and End Financial Abuse of Older People: A Human Rights Issue. Yes, our seniors are also targeted regularly by scammers (not only those who have suffered in the United States). Elder abuse is an important – but oft hidden and neglected – concern and I understand that the Caribbean Community of Retired Persons (CCRP) will be raising awareness on the topic in the future.

And three cheers for the Meteorological Service of Jamaica, which is now tweeting daily! Follow them @MetserviceJA

Seniors, Gloria Russell (left) Delores Besant (centre) and Dorothy Cuff, display posters with key messages during an open forum held at Church of God in Jamaica, Kingston, for World Elder Abuse Awareness Day observed on June 15. (Photo: JIS)

Finally …

My thoughts are with the grieving families of all those who have lost their lives to violence in the past two weeks. I cannot imagine the trauma they are all going through.

An entire family was shot dead in Mount Pleasant, Hanover on Monday night. They are 60-year-old taxi operator Curtis Walters, his 34-year-old wife Erica Leslie, their son 16-year-old I-yana Walters and daughter 14-year-old Curtina Walters. This was one of the more recent horrors in our ongoing upward spiral of murders – once again, largely in western Jamaica, with St. James leading the way (over 120 murders so far this year). People are still helping criminals, says Hanover’s police chief.

Also in Hanover, Joel Malcolm, 71, was killed at his home in Malcolm Heights.

24 year old Shantal Dyer was found in a shallow grave in West End, Negril recently. She and her four year-old daughter Orlandi had been missing for several weeks – but the little girl has not yet been found.

Another “gang-related” killing was the murder of three people on June 6 in Barrett Town, St. James. One is Doreen Brown, 59, her son, 24- year- old Wade Weekly; and Clayton Daley were shot dead at their home. Not long after, 25-year-old Nardia Cunningham was shot dead in the same community. The police know all the names of these gangs, and intra- and inter-gang feuds – and yet, the murderers seem so hard to catch.  

Cedric Williams was shot dead at home in Granville, St. James.

Stephen Elvis Malcolm, 24, was shot dead in the Friday midday traffic on Queen’s Drive, Montego Bay – a main thoroughfare. Malcolm had just left the Circuit Court when his car was ambushed. People ran for cover, cars swerved out of the way. I guess, Minister Bartlett, this would not be one for the front pages?

And Adrian Cooper was shot dead at a car wash in Green Pond, St. James. What amazes me is so many of these murders in St. James are in broad daylight.

Carl Thompson, 42 and Pheron Bennett, 19 were shot dead in Salt Spring, St James while standing at a gate in the community.

Residents of Little London, Westmoreland protest the murder of a young woman in the area. (Photo: Philip Lemonte/Jamaica Observer)

INDECOM is investigating allegations that a police officer may have been involved in the murder of 20 year-old Shantel Wright in Westmoreland. More details are here (Wright worked at the Savannah-la-Mar police station).

38-year-old construction worker Dwayne Brown was shot dead in Hague Settlement, Trelawny.

Clarendon has been another murder “hotspot” recently. 18-year-old Gary Chaplin and 21-year-old Oscar Williams were shot dead in the Moneymusk Housing Scheme. Clarendon police are suggesting that some murders are related to the widespread theft of goats!

This would include a triple murder in the parish: 19 year old Shadwayne Watson , 29 year old Dermot Donaldson and 39 year old Eddie Richards, all of New Bowens, Hayes.

34 year-old Latoya Richards, a vendor, was shot dead while sitting at her stall in Ferry, St. Andrew.

Cambre Reid, 18 and Shanoy Henry, 17 (who was eight months pregnant) were shot dead at their home on Brunswick Avenue, Spanish Town.

Patrick Ennell, 42, was shot dead in Gregory Park, St. Catherine.

The bodies of two unidentified men were found on Wednesday in a canal at Bernard Lodge, St. Catherine.

There was a fight at Porus High School in Manchester, during which 17 year-old Renaldo Dixon was stabbed to death. A 16 year-old is in custody.

Kayson Walker, 28, was killed by the police after a stabbing in Caribe Heights, Ocho Rios. The man’s victim, Antonio Bryan, 43, later died of his injuries.

Two unidentified men were also killed by Ocho Rios police – allegedly having stolen a motor car – at the bottom of Fern Gully.

The police also shot and killed Andrew Hunter, an alleged robber at a supermarket in Annotto Bay, St. Mary – on a Sunday afternoon (June 4).

Lincoln Francis, 26, and Norma Jones were shot dead on Red Hills Road in St Andrew on Saturday night.

“Rick” was shot dead on Gibson Road, Stony Hill in St. Andrew.

A policewoman shot dead a man who was trying to hijack her car as she drove along Old Hope Road in Kingston.

The Rockfort area of East Kingston has been having a rough time recently. Theo Hamilton, 24, was found dead on the day he was to appear in the Supreme Court on a murder charge.

Maxine Simpson, People’s National Party, in the constituency of South West St. Andrew.


3 thoughts on “Weekend Review: What’s Happening in Jamaica, June 17/18, 2017

  1. Most of these crimes are beyond the purview of the Police. These criminals have become anarchists mostly by their own choice. Lack of discipline in the homes of these malcontents, no social structure to curb them, and their inability to learn – make a deadly mix of arrogance and ignorance. A lot of them are unemployable, so the government need to put them in a quashi-concentration camp where they work for food, and learn a skill. The island’s infra-structure could do with these energetic hands: namely roads, dams, repairs of public buildings, and any other public works deemed necessary.


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