A Doctor’s Dilemma, “Worsening” Corruption and Too Many Bus Drivers: Jamaica, Monday October 16, 2017

Today is National Heroes Day and #BigUpJamaica Day (a nice initiative of Fi Wi Jamaica). This review is in a somewhat different (and hopefully more concise) format, so I hope it’s easier to get through. I’ve divided it up into topics (some may overlap, I realise). Click on the highlighted sections for more information… And take a look at the photo gallery below, too.

Caribbean: Kudos to the Airports Authority of Jamaica, which has donated J$9 million to Caribbean hurricane relief via the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM). By the way, ODPEM has a cut-off date of October 17 for its Help Impacted Islands Initiative.

Climate Change/Environment: I just wrote about the Youth Climate Change Conference 2017 and want to specially big up the Jamaican youth delegation, as well as the local organisers, presenters and speakers: Gerald Lindo (USAID); Dainalyn Swaby (Ja-REEACH), Ambassador Sheila Sealy Monteith, among others.

Corruption: Transparency International (TI) just released its Global Corruption Barometer: People and Corruption for Latin America and the Caribbean. The survey in 20 countries shows 62% believe corruption has grown worse in the last year (68% of Jamaicans); 53 per cent believe their governments are not doing enough to combat it (Jamaicans are evenly split on this one); and 29% who had used a public service in the past year said they had to pay a bribe (21% of Jamaicans). And how familiar is this? Police, elected representatives and local government (in that order) were considered the three most corrupt institutions.

Is something going on with the Housing Agency of Jamaica (HAJ)? Two rural housing projects have been referred to the Major Organized Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency (MOCA) because of major cost overruns.

My thoughts: Corruption is a difficult thing to measure. There is a lot to digest, compare and consider in this report. Why do more than two thirds of Jamaicans think corruption has grown worse in the past year? I hope that National Integrity Action, the local chapter of TI, will explore further. On the HAJ matter, let’s see how investigations go. However, PM Andrew Holness was unusually heated over it in his comments on political “hypocrisy.” It seems to me the political temperature has been raised by quite a few degrees. More stormy weather ahead?

Crime: Seven alleged lottery scammers were arrested in St. James and Westmoreland on October 7. Well done, Major Organized Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency (MOCA) and other agencies involved.

Two men have been charged with the killing of five members of a family in Spanish Town, one year ago.

Patrick Powell, the man acquitted of murdering teenager Khajeel Mais in 2011, was ordered to pay his family J$2 million plus damages by the Supreme Court. Khajeel’s sister is reportedly unhappy. He is currently serving a nine month prison sentence for failing to hand over his gun (which disappeared some time ago) to investigators.

My thoughts: This case, and all its ramifications, literally made me feel sick (still does). The smell of corruption is just so strong.

Culture/Tradition: Last week Culture Minister Olivia “Babsy” Grange opened the debate on clearing the names of four National Heroes and all their supporters, who still have a criminal record from colonial days. It’s called the National Heroes and Other Freedom Fighters (Absolution from Criminal Liability in Respect of Specified Events) Act. The four are: George William Gordon, Marcus Garvey, Paul Bogle and Sam Sharpe.

My thoughts: This is a really welcome move. It’s a “feel good” move. I also give credit to Irie FM’s Ka’Bu Ma’at Kheru and other Pan Africanists, who have campaigned on this issue. 

Quotes from National Heroes Day messages:

We must make a concerted national effort to always promote our proud heritage among our people, particularly our youth. They need to know, embrace and treasure our Jamaican history and culture, and face the challenges of the future with confidence, optimism and hope. – Prime Minister Andrew Holness

This Jamaica, however, can only be built by a political leadership that places the highest premium on integrity; and which is committed to the highest standards of public service while recognizing the importance of a partnership with the people they serve. – Opposition Leader Peter Phillips

Was that part about leadership a little “dig,” Dr. Philllips?

Environment: The Cockpit Country decision is due in the next two weeks at latest, I believe. Over to you, Prime Minister.

Health: Minister Chris Tufton has been very busy and talking a lot, lately. May Pen, Mandeville, Spanish Town, St. Ann’s Bay, and Kingston Public Hospital are up for infrastructural improvements, he has promised.

Human Rights/Justice: Justice Minister Delroy Chuck says he has submitted the report from the West Kingston Compensation Committee to Cabinet. Over a thousand claims by residents of Tivoli Gardens were reviewed.

INDECOM is investigating the killing of two “wanted” men by the police on October 11 in alleged shootouts. See below. A man was also killed by police off Mayfield Avenue; and a mentally ill man was shot dead at the Portmore “100 Man” police station (hopefully INDECOM is investigating).

Journalism/Social Media: Special kudos to Global Reporters for the Caribbean, and National Integrity Action and COMET II (USAID-funded), who all combined forces for community journalism training, conducted by Kate Chappell and Zahra Burton. Please read my interview here.

Professor Anthony Clayton of the Institute of Sustainable Development at the University of the West Indies (UWI) talks about all kinds of things. He is the Gleaner’s next new favourite academic, after Herbert Gayle, of course. Professor Clayton now embraces “fearless journalism.” He says “We, more than ever before, need honest and incorruptible media outlets to do the kind of detailed investigative journalism that we need.” Do tell us how this can be done, sir.

P.S. Have you got the Nationwide News Network mobile app yet? It’s very handy.

Money: Congratulations to our Finance Minister Audley Shaw, who received Finance Minister of the Year (Caribbean) Award from Global Markets, the newspaper of record for the IMF, IDB and other annual meetings.

Another mayoral crackdown: Kingston Mayor Delroy Williams joins a long line of his predecessors, all of whom tried to recoup fees for advertising and holding the many entertainment events that take place across the city. Surprisingly, it’s the “big boys” who find ways of avoiding payment of fees.

My thoughts: A lot of this is greed and ginnalship. Pay up, guys! That way we can see better services and badly needed infrastructure in the town.

Politics: With three by-elections scheduled for October 30, there was a heavy media focus from Day One on the constituency of South East St. Mary, won by the People’s National Party (PNP) by a mere five votes in the last election. The other by-elections are in PNP “garrisons” in Kingston, which the party is quite complacent about – a simple “handover” to the inheriting PNP representatives, Mark Golding (St. Andrew South) and Angela Brown Burke (South West St. Andrew). There was a sudden twist in St. Mary, when PNP candidate Dr. Shane Alexis, a political neophyte, revealed in a radio interview that he was a Canadian (Commonwealth) citizen and had, moreover, not applied for Jamaican citizenship despite living in Jamaica since he was a toddler. The Electoral Office of Jamaica has intervened in the ensuing political row to clarify that the young doctor was properly nominated; and to confirm that he was temporarily the owner of a Grenadian passport too, because of his mother’s birth, which expired a few years ago.

Meanwhile, it was all smiles when the candidates (both medical doctors) signed the Political Code of Conduct with the Political Ombudsman.

The other issue is the alleged manipulation of works by the ruling Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) in the constituency – firstly road works (claim dismissed by the Prime Minister) and now involving the National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA) cleaning up.

Thumbs down to Everald Warmington, M.P., who made some very undemocratic remarks on the political hustings.

My thoughts: Politics can be dirty. The PNP made a terrible political faux pas by not revealing Dr. Alexis’ citizenship earlier, but then – they must have known the JLP would seize on it. Dr. Alexis, with his chubby face and rumpled hair, seems a nice well-meaning young man. He has been thrown into a shark tank, but it could have been avoided. Perhaps not the best choice of candidate, although young and appealing in many ways. The issue of the citizenship law is a completely separate matter that the Government admits will have to be debated at a later date. Meanwhile, the St. Mary race is still likely to be a tight one. All these well-timed works must be investigated thoroughly. And the Prime Minister should comment on Warmington’s remarks.

Rural areas: Local Government Minister Desmond McKenzie visited Port Maria, St. Mary recently and was not impressed. No market, no fire station…

My thoughts: Port Maria has always seemed a neglected parish capital. I agree with the Minister; there needs to be more focus on community development. But please do something! Footnote: the town is very low-lying and flood-prone. Much greater climate change awareness is needed in the area!

Social Issues: 44 year-old Doreen Dyer of St. Thomas, who was recorded on video beating her daughter with a machete some time last year, was granted bail on October 11. She will return to court on November 15 on child cruelty charges. The video went viral on social media and renewed the heated debate on child abuse and corporal punishment. The Children’s Registry reports 3,639 cases of physical abuse of children, an increase from last year. Counselling psychologist Dr. Patrece Charles makes some telling comments in this articleI agree with the Children’s Advocate; a recent radio interview with the child in the video was quite inappropriate.

My thoughts: I wrote about this matter for Gleaner blogs here. 

Technology: What is the Government doing with the old Jamintel building (which I noticed had got a coat of paint)?

Transport: The Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) is heavily overstaffed, according to the Holness administration. Transport Minister Mike Henry is apparently trying to sort things out. Feathers are ruffled.

My thoughts: The way the JUTC was first established in 1999 and staffed (largely with political sympathisers, it is said) was always dubious. The current Opposition Leader Peter Phillips was Minister of Transport and Works at the time (1998-2001). There seems to be a serious disconnect now between the Ministry and unions, which is unfortunate. This administration is under pressure from the IMF to ‘rationalise” the public sector. This could be a nasty fight.

Youth: Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) recruiters are concerned about bleached and tattoed youth with “ludicrous hairstyles.” The JCF says around 300 people leave the JCF annually (why?)

My thoughts: Don’t make excuses. Please, JCF, ask yourself why you are unable to attract more youth (bleached or unbleached).

In the past three years, 1,419 children (including 46 girls) have been involved in major crimes, says Head of the Area One Police, Assistant Commissioner Donovan Graham, who is also worried about the bleaching.

My thoughts: I wish these police officers would not engage in hyperbole when they get behind a microphone. “Three young men with the milk still coming out of their mouth”… Rather than sensationalise the issue, I would like to see them talk about practical actions that can and should be taken.

These are not statistics. These are Jamaican citizens. My condolences to the families:

Patrick Myrie, 20, otherwise called Zeeks, was shot dead in Lewis District, St. Ann. Police suggest he was shot during a dispute. He was found by residents with a loaded gun in his pocket, which was handed to the police (they did not have anything good to say about Myrie, who was recently released from jail).

Vanessa Murray, 25, a bartender, and Aldin “Mac” Smith were found dead in their home in Mansfield Heights (“Afghanistan”) – a large “informal settlement” near Ocho Rios, St. Ann.

76-year-old William Patterson was stabbed to death, apparently by a man of “unsound mind,” while digging a grave in Ocho Rios, St. Ann.

Garth Anthony Stewart, 33 and Paul Lewis were shot dead by police on October 11. Both were “wanted men,” the JCF reports. Stewart was killed inside a  house in Cane Cannon District, Westmoreland; he had reportedly threatened a pastor at a funeral service earlier. A woman caught in crossfire was injured. Lewis, allegedly a member of the St. James based G-City Gang, was shot dead in Old Harbour, St. Catherine. A gun was taken from him.

30-year-old Bryan Blackwood was shot dead in Savannah-la-Mar, Westmoreland. He was reportedly playing ludo.

60 year old Clement Foster, a goat farmer, was shot dead in Spring Park, St. Elizabeth.

52-year-old fisherman Noel Usherwood was shot dead and three injured after gunmen invaded a bar in Johnson Town, Hanover.

23-year-old Kingsley Gunter was shot dead by a licensed firearm holder on a bus on Spanish Town Road, Kingston. He was attempting to rob passengers. A gun was seized.

Teri Ann Morris, 30, was doused with acid while sleeping at her home in Greenwich Farm, Kingston. Her eight year-old daughter was seriously injured. Morris’ former boyfriend has been charged with her murder.

Police shot dead an unidentified man on Gem Road/Maxfield Avenue in Kingston.

A mentally ill man was shot dead at the Portmore “100 Man” police station.

 


6 thoughts on “A Doctor’s Dilemma, “Worsening” Corruption and Too Many Bus Drivers: Jamaica, Monday October 16, 2017

  1. Another informative read Auntie Emma! I too laud that very important move by Minister Grange ( and also the Pan Africanists who have championed the cause) re expunging the criminal records of our heroes…

    Like

  2. Again I thank you for a very informative blog…corruption seems to be spiraling everywhere..and it is so hard to measure-so obvious to many.

    Like

    1. Yes – it’s obvious and then again not so obvious. National Integrity Action (most of whose members are young people, students etc) are trying to tackle it head on. The battle is not an easy one though. When people say the word “corruption,” they often have different things in mind… Different definitions, different situations.

      Like

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