Reshuffling, Rousing Up and Reading Reports: Jamaica on April 2, 2018


It’s April 1, and I got fooled by one or two tweets today! Also, of course for those who celebrate it, it’s Easter Day. Large quantities of bun and cheese are being eaten, as I write. I am trying to catch up a little on the news, so here goes…

Caribbean: Haitian photo-journalist Vladimir Legagneur disappeared on March 14, after leaving for an assignment in Grand-Ravine, an area plagued by gang violence. The National Association of Haitian Media is very concerned that police investigations have yielded little or nothing and Haitian journalist colleagues marched through the streets on March 28, demanding answers.

There was quite a fuss at the Organisation of American States (OAS) recently when Trinidad & Tobago voted against Dominica’s request for a two-year fee waiver, in the wake of the island’s devastation by Hurricane Maria last year. How mean! Now T&T’s Minister of Foreign and CARICOM Affairs Dennis Moses is in the hot seat, with many calling for his dismissal.

The border dispute between Guyana and Venezuela has been going on for decades. Now Guyana has filed an application to the International Court of Justice in The Hague on the matter. Perhaps the recent discovery of oil off the Guyanese coast has precipitated this.

Children: Remember the January 16 fire at the Walker’s Place of Safety, in which two children died? The cause of the fire was an electrical short circuit, according to the fire report. I am not sure whether it is now being rebuilt, but there have been quite a few corporate and private donations for the new home.

Climate Change: Congratulations to Una May Gordon, Clifford Mahlung and the team at the Climate Change Division, who recently completed its Third National Communication (TNC) for submission to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). That’s a heck of a lot of work!

Corruption/Transparency:  The U.S. State Department’s International Narcotics Control & Strategy Report (INCSR) is an annual document that reports on progress (or lack of it) in combating drug trafficking and money laundering. This year’s Jamaica report stresses the entrenched corruption on the island – as it has done for aeons; and the inefficiency of our court system – as usual. The INCSR doesn’t tell us anything we didn’t know already. It makes for depressing reading. Among other points it makes is the inadequate use of the Proceeds of Crime Act  Is Jamaica dragging its feet?

Crime: The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) reports a 67 per cent success rate in convictions for murder and sexual offences, last year. Is that good? I feel it could be better. Problem is – how many Jamaicans were murdered last year? A mere 82 were actually taken to court in 2017, and 55 convictions obtained…Hundreds more cases await.

More Enhanced Security Measures: Or, if you prefer, a State of Public Emergency – this time, for St. Catherine North (which includes Spanish Town), which has had the highest murder rate this year and is still, as ever, plagued with gangs. The Prime Minister announced this on March 18 (there have been zero murders since), and last week extended it until July 3 (which some think is too long). Here is an excellent timeline. Are these measures effective, or wearing thin? It cannot be denied that murders in St. James have fallen dramatically – by about 7o per cent – but…

In the Upper House, Opposition Senator and former National Security Minister K.D. Knight got all worked up about the lack of a “crime plan” – to the extent that he wants to “rouse up” the people if one does not appear in public before the end of April. There have been many crime plans, most of which have had limited success. I found Senator Knight’s tone quite strange, almost hysterical; not his usual measured tones, and I have watched quite a few Senate sittings live on YouTube.

59 men and 7 women were deported from the U.S., just before Easter. Buju Banton has to wait a few more months (see below).

Culture and Tradition: If you are in New York, do check out Jamaican visual artist and professor at New York University Jacqueline Bishop’s new exhibition, By The Rivers of Babylon, at the SRO Gallery in Crown Heights. On until April 22! Bishop will be reading at the University of Colorado this week.

I know it’s Carnival season (culminating in next Sunday’s Road March in Kingston). So, merriment is the order of the day. However, Saturday night’s blasting from Eden Gardens (supposedly a calm, peaceful health spa) until 3:00 a.m. was a bit too much. Have some consideration, please. I thought 2:00 a.m. was the cut-off time on weekends?

The much-revered deejay Buju Banton is due to be released from a U.S. prison in December, and deported. However, can this be true? Will his first concert after his release really be held in Trinidad? Jamaican fans are not amused. There are reports, too, that he will be commanding big sums of money for his appearances. Well, we shall see. He will certainly find the popular music scene has changed dramatically in the nine years that have passed since his arrest in Florida.

Economy: The Business Process Industry Association of Jamaica says the BPO sector is going to double. Around 30,000 Jamaicans are now employed in the sector, up from 12,000 in 2012. Nevertheless, many younger Jamaicans don’t regard work in the sector as a “real job.” I have heard negative comments about working conditions in call centres. But…a job is a job? The BPO push reminds me of the low-paid Free Zone jobs (mostly for women) of yesteryear.

A new town will be built in Bernard Lodge, St. Catherine, on sugar lands between Kingston and Spanish Town, the Prime Minister has announced. I totally agree with his suggestion that high rise and high density is probably better than suburban sprawl.

Education: It is very good that our latest Chinese benefactors, Jiuquan Iron and Steel, is sending a large number of Jamaicans to be trained in China. However, I hardly saw one woman in the group photo. What about women in STEM?

Environment: The destruction of lignum vitae trees at a well-known street corner in Kingston over the weekend was like driving a stake through my heart. I wrote about what I see as the deforestation of Kingston in my Gleaner blog post hereOne tree remains. I have since learned that the lignum vitae – which bears Jamaica’s National Flower – is not protected by Jamaican law, despite being listed on the CITES species list (Appendix II) and cannot be exported (but can, it seems, be chopped down). Please stay tuned, as I shall pursued this further.

Whither the Green Economy? I attended the Second Caribbean Green Economy Conference took place in February, 2015 in Kingston; and the launch of the Green Economy Scoping Study in March 2016. There were many speeches and interesting discussions on both these occasions, but since progress has been slow. I agree with Eleanor Jones of Environmental Solutions Ltd. Let’s ramp it up!

Foreign Affairs: Since Jamaica assumed presidency of the African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States on February 1, Minister of Foreign Affairs & Foreign Trade Senator Kamina Johnson Smith has been incredibly busy. The Cotonou Partnership Agreement between the ACP and the European Union expires in February 2020 and a lot of preparations are under way in CARIFORUM – which is all the Cotonou signatories except Cuba. Minister Johnson Smith is also tackling some sticky trade issues. Kudos to her – she is doing a tremendous job. I hope that Pearnel Charles, Jr. (who, in the recent reshuffle, has been assigned to her Ministry) will be able to take some of the burden of work off her back. I’m also happy to see that more women are being deployed in key diplomatic posts: Ambassador Cheryl Spencer is Jamaica’s new Permanent Representative to the United Nations (UN) and its Specialized Agencies in Geneva, Switzerland.

Health: As Health Minister Christopher Tufton battles with the six-headed toxic fume-breathing monster that is the Cornwall Regional Hospital, he has done well in launching the much-needed Compassionate Care Programme. He concedes that “the perception is more negative than positive” regarding customer service in our public health sector.

Deaths on the road are declining this year. I hope this will continue! 72 people have died in 61 fatal crashes so far this year (it still seems a high number to me, but this is a 9 per cent decrease). I like the ideas of the Back-to-Basics Motorcycle Safety Mission. There are a number of safety and security issues around the ubiquitous motorbikes. Read more about Back-to-Basics on their Facebook page.

I believe it’s generally true that women’s health has been given less attention over the years. I think that’s changing. According to a 2015 epidemiology report, young Jamaican women aged 15 to 19 years are four times more likely to contract HIV/AIDS than men. A WHO/PAHO workshop introducing new guidelines to deal with this issue took place last week. Meanwhile the 2016 Ministry Of Health HIV Epidemiology Report shows just over 2,000 newly diagnosed or reported HIV cases, up from 1, 222 new cases in 2015. Around a quarter of these are Jamaicans aged 20 – 29 years.

Human Rights: I am writing a three-part series on the recent visit of three women from Brazil, Jamaica and the United States with a team from Amnesty International, to highlight the struggles of families left behind after a member has been killed by the police. This is my first article in which Shackelia Jackson, sister of Nakeia, tells her story for Global Voices.

The Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) says lawyers for the Commission have filed documents before the Appeal Court seeking leave to go to the Privy Council to appeal its decision two weeks ago, which I wrote about here.

What is going on in Jamaica’s police lockups? Jamaicans for Justice says it has been swamped with complaints of alleged police abuse, including torture. There are currently 16 lawsuits pending. Check out JFJ’s short video Lost in Lockup here.

In the case of Mario Deane, who died after being beaten in a police lockup in Montego Bay in 2014, a court has decided that Marvin Orr and Adrian Morgan, two of three inmates charged, are fit to stand trial, paving the way for the case to proceed. On April 20, the parish judge is also to make a decision on whether three policemen charged with manslaughter have a case to answer.  I wrote about this case in 2014 here…

Three (still unidentified) men were shot dead by the police during an alleged shootout on Good Friday in Sunderland, St. James (the parish has been under a State of Emergency since January 18). Two guns were retrieved.

The police also shot dead two men in separate incidents in downtown Kingston – the first a “wanted man” on Sunlight Street, Trench Town.

Nigel Tulloch, 38, a resident of Salt Pond, was shot dead by the police in an alleged confrontation in Spanish Town.

The family of Desreen Morris, who was found dead in a police holding area while awaiting her court appearance in Half Way Tree, Kingston, is becoming very anxious over the length of time it is taking to get a postmortem – it has been one month so far. Jamaicans for Justice is working on this case.

Politics: And the long awaited reshuffle shuffled! In general, the changes were well received – sensible and carefully thought out, I think – particularly bearing in mind that some Ministers are getting on in years, and also that two Ministers (both women) are in poor health at the moment. I believe Minister of Gender, Entertainment, Culture and Sports Olivia “Babsy” Grange is still in hospital;  Social Security Minister Shahine Robinson has not been well. So, new State Ministers have been appointed: 40-year-old Zavia Mayne to support Minister Robinson, and 41-year-old Alando Terrelonge to Minister Grange’s outfit. Good luck to them both!

Two Ministers (Karl Samuda and Mike Henry) have been put out to pasture in the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), which someone remarked must be getting a little overcrowded and might be renamed “Old People’s Ministry.” That’s unkind. With no disrespect to the elders, it is probably time to move on, now. Minister Henry hasn’t taken his removal from the Transport and Mining Ministry very well; he still had several projects to pursue. Minister Without Portfolio Horace Chang has been moved out to the heavyweight Ministry of National Security, and Robert Montague has now taken Mr. Henry’s place.

The biggest move was the appointment of Dr. Nigel Clarke as Minister of Finance – Rhodes Scholar and mathematician, who recently won his seat in a by-election. So where has Audley “Man a Yard” Shaw gone? To the Ministry vacated by Samuda, the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries. The ebullient Mr. Shaw is pretty gung-ho; many moons ago, he worked at the government marketing arm, JAMPRO. I think he recognises that this Ministry could (and should) be the “engine of growth.” Agriculture and fisheries has been in the doldrums for too long, and I think Minister Shaw could turn it around.

I hope the politicians, whatever their age or party affiliation, have taken note of the latest Latin America Public Opinion Project (LAPOP) conducted in January, in which 27.9 per cent of Jamaican respondents said the government could breach human rights in order to fight crime and a much higher percentage  would welcome a military regime of some sort, if needed.

And then political tribalism lifted its ugly head again. Old-school politician Rudyard Spencer, at a party meeting, was recorded telling his followers (mostly farmers) that they would be OK, because the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) had a Jamaica Labour Party member (former state minister Michael Stern) at the helm. The Opposition, National Integrity Action (NIA) head Professor Trevor Munroe – and many Jamaicans – were extremely unhappy. Eventually, radio journalist Cliff Hughes squeezed an apology out of Mr. Spencer during an interview. I would have preferred a formal, official apology, if possible in Parliament. Prime Minister Andrew Holness seems to have just given him a slap on the wrist. That sends the wrong signals. I also find the practice of appointing party stalwarts as heads of agencies (“jobs for the boys/girls”) offensive, and wish it would stop.

Young politicos: Broadcast journalist Cliff Hughes interviewed three young people on his radio programme recently. One was the new President of the almost moribund People’s National Party Youth Organisation (PNPYO), Krystal Tomlinson – a bright young woman, with a public relations background, which will be useful. Kudos, Krystal! As I noted in a recent blog post, young political people must have their own generation’s interests at heart. They sounded too much like younger copies of “political analysts” – no new thinking. Maybe that will come?

Why are highways always in the news? The Prime Minister’s recent announcement that the North-South Highway is to be named after the ageing former Prime Minister and head of the Jamaica Labour Party Edward Seaga has not gone down very well, overall. The reasons were not convincing to me, either.

Technology: Do you remember Caricel Jamaica? The telecoms company (Symbiote) that was granted a Domestic Mobile Spectrum License by the Holness administration, despite the Contractor General’s urging that they should not do so, and concerns expressed by international partners over the principals. Well, Technology Minister Andrew Wheatley told Parliament last week that the Government had begun the revocation of said license, on the recommendation of the Office of Utilities Regulation, as it had not complied with the conditions of the license. Symbiote last year sold its controlling interest to a South African company. A messy, somewhat murky business!

Tourism: The unstoppable Minister Bartlett has recently acquired a floating cruise ship pier for Port Royal, which it is hoped will be a new cruise ship destination.

Kudos!!

  • To the three women’s organisations that won awards from the U.S. Embassy last week: Eve For Life, Her Flow, and Youth Can Do IT. Cheers to Public Affairs Officer Jeremiah Knight (a man with Jamaican heritage) for the concept for Women’s History Month. Eve for Life is especially dear to my heart, but all three have specific goals that I hope they will be able to achieve with the funding.
  • Youth Can Do IT – a team of University of Technology and University of the West Indies students – emerged winners of the United Nations International Telecommunications Union World Summit on the Information Society Hackathon against Hunger Competition, held in Geneva, Switzerland from March 19-23, 2018. Huge congratulations to them!
  • To the British Council in Jamaica, headed by Olayinka Jacobs Bonnick, which has definitely taken on a new lease of life and has an exciting slate of programmes lined up. Kudos to the team, and a special shout-out to Caribbean Media Officer Kiwayne Jacobs, who has been involved with an excellent programme to provide books in Braille to the blind and several other initiatives.
  • To young Jamaican artist Ebony Patterson, who has already won three awards this year for her work: The 2017 Tiffany Foundation Biennial Grant, the prestigious United States Artists Award and the Stone & DeMcguire Contemporary Art Award. Ebony is preparing for a major solo exhibition in Miami. Read here an interesting article by Dr. Veerle Poupeye, immediate past executive director of the National Gallery of Jamaica.
  • To veteran journalist Fae Ellington (I am not sure she would want to be called that!) who has taken over the popular interview programme Profile on Television Jamaica, following the passing of Ian Boyne, who hosted the programme for years. She is fabulous!

Between March 14 and April 2, these Jamaicans have lost their lives to violence. It pains me especially when senior citizens are killed. It also seems so sad when blood flows in places with lovely names like Sunlight Street, Flower Hill, Rose Heights… My deepest condolences to the families left behind.

Clarendon: 42-year-old labourer Jermaine Lewin was found in bushes with gunshot wounds.

Vendor Kemu Cunningham, 33, was shot and killed during an incident on Main Street, May Pen.

An unidentified taxi driver was found along the Bustamante Highway with his hand and mouth gagged.

Hanover: Farmer Desmond Hamilton, 48, was found shot dead on his farm in Rejoin District, Sandy Bay.

Kingston/St. Andrew: Two men were killed and two injured in a drive-by shooting on Mayfield Avenue, Kingston.

33-year-old Dwayne Prince was shot dead at a house in Cassia Park, Kingston and three others injured.

21-year-old Dillan Martin of Golden Heights, Kingston 14 was shot dead in Denham Town. Two men were shot dead in Denham Town, which is in a Zone of Special Operations (ZOSO).

Chef Andrew Bennett, 27, was shot dead in his cook shop on Chapel Lane, West Kingston.

A businessman and licensed firearm holder shot dead a man who was allegedly breaking into his vehicle in Ellesmere Drive, Half Way Tree.

Store manager Phillip Dillon, 55, was shot dead at his store in Half Way Tree.

Horace Anderson was shot dead on Pink Lane in downtown Kingston.

Dean Andre Jack was found shot dead at his home in Oxford Street, downtown Kingston.

The police also shot dead two men in separate incidents in downtown Kingston – the first a “wanted man” on Sunlight Street, Trench Town.

Manchester: Geovanni Richards, 17, was stabbed to death by another boy during an argument in Great House Drive, Mandeville.

St. Catherine: Chef Rico Farquharson was stabbed to death in Clifton District, Portmore.

Nigel Tulloch, 38, a resident of Salt Pond, was shot dead by the police in an alleged confrontation in Spanish Town.

St. James: Three men were shot dead by the police during an alleged shootout on Good Friday in Sunderland, St. James (the parish has been under a State of Emergency since January 18). Two guns were retrieved.

Retired police officer Enos Clarke, 68, was shot dead in his cab in West Gate Hills.

Keiono Brissett, a 37-year-old unemployed man, was shot dead at his home in Lilliput.

Kevin Kerr, 22, was shot dead at his home in Spring Mount.

Clifton Clarke, 22, was chopped to death at his home in Flower Hill.

Junior Raymond, 50, a chef, was shot dead in Rose Heights.

St. Mary: Bus operator Michael Walker, 47, was robbed and chopped to death in Retreat.

St. Thomas: Shopkeeper Eugene James, 74, was found this morning at her home in Duckenfield, with her hands tied, mouth gagged and throat slashed.

The body of 36-year old Latisha Bravo was found in a shallow grave in Duhaney Pen, St. Thomas. Her boyfriend had reportedly confessed to her murder.

Trelawny: Vendor Danito Batiks, 38, was shot dead in Hague Settlement.

Retired cane cutter, Oliver Atland, 75, was attacked and killed at his home in Long Pond Village, Clark’s Town.

Westmoreland: Lavern Poyser, who was pregnant, was shot and killed at her home in Morgan’s Bridge.

25-year-old bike taxi operator Jermaine Godfrey was shot dead in Grange Hill Square.

30-year-old Sheldon Miller was found with hands and feet bound behind a church in Race Course, Grange Hill.

 


4 thoughts on “Reshuffling, Rousing Up and Reading Reports: Jamaica on April 2, 2018

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