Well, the past week has been – I would say, chaotic. We point fingers at the Americans and the British madly partying during the pandemic, but we have had some shameful incidents ourselves. What has gone wrong? COVID-19 protocols are being flouted uptown, downtown and in rural areas. Gang violence seems to be on the upsurge in some areas, and tragically two young law enforcement officers were killed. As if reflecting the general mood, we have had more thunderstorms (some quite violent) and now have some kind of system developing on our side of the Caribbean, which may well bring torrential rain midweek. To add to the chaos, a section of the winding Junction Road through the hills of St. Mary fell apart, due to a crumbling embankment.
Agriculture: Our rather new Agriculture Minister, Floyd Green, has launched an initiative to increase milk production at seven educational institutions across the island – from 13.7 million litres to over 30 million litres annually by 2030. How about cheese production?
Caribbean: If you want to learn more about the pros and cons (and risks) of the Citizenship by Investment program embraced by five Caribbean nations, you can read my overview for Global Voices here.
The Club Barbados Resort and Spa has made all its staff redundant and is now closed, due to the pressures of the COVID-19 pandemic. So it continues.
The aftermath of Guyana’s fairly disastrous general elections six months ago continues to linger. The country’s Chief Elections Officer Keith Lowenfield was arrested on Saturday as investigations into election fraud wear on. So it continues.
Trinidad and Tobago has detained a number of Venezuelans who appear to have illegally entered the country. This is nothing new; last year 16,000 Venezuelans were allowed to stay and work.
Discussions began this month on the small island of Barbuda’s bid to secede from its larger sister island, Antigua. The Barbudans have several grievances – some long-standing land issues and some more recent, including permission given for the development of a golf course on wetlands in Palmetto Point (which the Antiguan Prime Minister oddly denied). On September 28, parliamentarians voted “no” to succession.
Children: A video went viral, and as viral videos often do, it shocked many. In the video, a young child (around three years old) apparently being encouraged to smoke and drink alcohol by a man off camera, on his birthday. The police became aware and the mother of the toddler has been arrested, while the child is in State care, for now. I was hoping the man/men in the video had been arrested, too.
COVID restrictions: It’s hard to know whether to put this story in the category of “Crime, “Health” – or “Entertainment.” In the Kingston community of Seaview Gardens, the police who came to shut down a party (well beyond curfew hours) were abused and had stones hurled at them. “Party haffi keep” (we must have parties) the residents cried. A number were arrested.
Then there was another “COVID party” in Parry Town, St. Ann on Saturday night. When a police car came to shut it down and ordered the merrymakers to disperse, the promoter ran away, was eventually detained and in the meantime, said merrymakers decided to smash the police car’s windows. I hope they investigate further and charge some more people.
And burials attract large crowds – as in Barrett Town, St. James, where police arrested and charged a man for illegal firearm possession while dispersing a large crowd that were flouting COVID-19 protocols. Videos were circulating apparently of a post-curfew hours wake in rural St. Andrew, with a large crowd and gun salutes. The police are investigating.
Local Government Minister Desmond McKenzie is really fed up with certain restaurants and cafés in Kingston becoming de facto nightclubs – which are supposed to be closed under COVID-19 rules. One uptown establishment has been closed – but stories continue to circulate about many remaining open after curfew hours (8:00 p.m.) A number of arrests have been made. And still we hear comments about uptown establishments still busy after curfew hours. What’s happening, really?
Even overseas we can’t stick to the rules. A dancehall artist named Dexta Daps reportedly held a “secret” concert in New York where COVID-19 protocols were not observed. I am so impressed.
Crime: Apparently there has been a resurgence of gang-related violence, with outbreaks of shootings in East and West Kingston and in Trench Town.
And for some reason a group of National Water Commission employees meeting with their managers, came under fire at the Greater Portmore Wastewater Treatment Plant in St. Catherine. Thankfully no one was hurt.
Economy: Dolphin Cove, the local firm owned by Mexicans that provides captive dolphin attractions for tourists, says it will be making a profit again by the end of the year. It is operating four of its six dolphin parks. I was hoping that, since the cruise ship industry on which they are heavily dependent is closed, they would not reopen any time soon. The dolphins don’t get a break, it seems.
Seprod Limited is building a large “logistics” campus and distribution hub under one roof at its plant on Marcus Garvey Drive in Kingston. I am glad to see it will use solar energy and water harvesting systems.
Education: Confusion, accusations and muddled statements abound after the release of the preliminary CXC and CAPE examination results. The Minister of Education in Jamaica has called for an explanation of the inconsistent results; an independent team has now been set up to review the CXC grading system. Protests and anger has broken out in several of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) states – in particular, Guyana and Barbados. The saga continues.
Health: It was good to see the new Minister of State for Health and Wellness Juliet Cuthbert Flynn visiting the Victoria Jubilee maternity hospital. She committed to continuing the efforts to improve Jamaica’s record in maternal health and infant mortality. The hospital delivers 600 babies every month – it’s the largest maternity hospital in the English-speaking hospital.
Minister of Health and Wellness Christopher Tufton broke ground and signed an agreement for two 36-bed field hospitals, to be built at a cost of $199 million by Rogers Land Development Limited. This is in addition to the field hospital donated by the U.S. Government, which was officially opened at the National Chest Hospital in Kingston on Thursday.
The SickKids-Caribbean Initiative, a non-profit organization, has set up seven telemedicine facilities in six Caribbean countries, including two in Jamaica at Bustamante Hospital for Children and the University of the West Indies. The program supports children with cancer and blood disorders, while training staff and supporting diagnostic screening and research.
Kingston-born Dr. Naima Stennett believes in giving back, and is combining health, sports and philanthropy as she completes her residency in Family Medicine at the University of Miami at Jackson Memorial Hospital. She will pursue a career in Sports Medicine and aims to work in underprivileged communities. Read much more about Dr. Stennett here.
Much more to say about COVID-19 and last week’s press briefing. I hope to write a separate post on that shortly.
Justice: Dancehall artist Vybz Kartel, whose real name is Adidja Palmer, and co-accused Shawn ‘Shawn Storm’ Campbell, Kahira Jones, and Andre St John were convicted in 2014 for the 2011 murder of Clive ‘Lizard’ Williams. After their appeal was turned down in Jamaica’s Court of Appeal in April, the convict’s lawyers have now obtained conditional leave to go to the UK Privy Council, Jamaica’s final court of appeal. The lawyers are happy.
Politics: Discussion continues to revolve around who will succeed Dr. Peter Phillips as President of the People’s National Party (PNP) and Opposition Leader – and now Finance Spokesman Mark Golding has emerged as a contender. He is tweeting a lot, with the hashtag “On Your Mark” (get it?) and sharing photos of himself with arms folded in business-like fashion. Nationwide News Network’s Abka Fitz-Henley tweeted much of the goings-on at Sunday’s meeting of the PNP’s National Executive Committee. Thrills and spills!
Ms. Lisa Hanna has also thrown her (no doubt very stylish) hat in the ring as a contender for President. Despite barely scraping enough votes together to be re-elected as a Member of Parliament, she is apparently very much in the runnings for the position. She had some question marks hanging over her head regarding the award of contracts for her Christmas employment program. The Director of Public Prosecutions investigated and, according to a statement from the PNP, “exonerated” Ms. Hanna according to the PNP, having been found not to have breached public trust.
The elections will take place on November 7. We wait with bated breath. I am sorry that the solid and reliable Julian Robinson has announced he will be stepping down from the post of party General Secretary. He has since confirmed that he will not be running for President.
Meanwhile, former Mayor of Montego Bay Homer Davis, now a Member of Parliament and Minister of State in the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, has taken on specific responsibilities – for street lights, parochial roads and water. Good luck to him. It’s a challenging ministry.
Road Safety: A popular former footballer for Ruseas High School Warren McDonald, was killed when the car he was a passenger in crashed at the top of a hill at Point, near Lucea in Hanover. This is clearly a “hot spot”: McDonald is the third person to die in a motor vehicle accident along the same roadway in a little over a week.
There will soon be a new hand-held device for the Traffic Ticketing Management System, a pilot program. National Security Minister Horace Chang says delinquent motorists who have not paid their tickets will lose their license. Sounds marvelous. We shall see…
Sports: Elaine Thompson Herah keeps on winning – this time at a meet in Doha, Qatar in the women’s 100 meters.
Tourism: I agree 100 per cent with the article by Therese Turner-Jones, IDB Country Representative for Jamaica and General Manager Caribbean Country Group, on The Urgency of Transforming Caribbean Tourism. As I have said before, it cannot be the “same old, same old.” Do take a read.
Women’s Issues: Jamaica’s karate team has donated to the Women’s Centre of Jamaica Foundation, which provides education, counseling and support for pregnant teens and it looks as if they will continue their support. The Women’s Centres do great work with the girls, the “baby fathers” and their little ones. This is really nice.
These are dark and difficult times. My deepest sympathies go out to the families of all these people who have died violently in the past week.
23-year-old Junior Charlton was shot dead on Beeston Street in Kingston. A man has since been charged with his murder.
A trans (?) male known only as “Gabriel” was shot dead by a licensed firearm holder on Old Hope Road in Kingston when he allegedly tried to rob him on Monday evening. According to this news report, Gabriel “often actually portrayed himself as a cross-dressing thief.” I suspect no one is shedding any tears for this member of an extremely marginalized (and often despised) community. Rest in peace, Gabriel.
An Anglican priest, Rector of St Paul’s Church in Chapelton, Clarendon Larius Lewis, was found dead at his home with hands and feet tied.
Also in Clarendon, a Jamaica Defence Force soldier was shot in the head and later died of his injuries during an anti-narcotics operation at Farquhar Beach near Milk River, when a large quantity of ganja (from the “guns for drugs” trade with Haiti) was found. 21-year-old Private Reneil King was reportedly a local boy; so very sad.
It was a grim week for the security forces, as Police Constable Kemar Francis was shot dead in Whitfield Town, Kingston on Friday night. One of his alleged killers, “Bun Waist,” was shot dead by the police afterwards.
21-year-old Akeem Howard, labourer, was shot dead in Canaan Heights, May Pen, Clarendon.
Ricardo Thomas, 41, who ran an Internet business in the Old Harbour area, was shot dead near his home on Sunday morning. He was described as “a humble and hard-working man.” Why?
In St. Elizabeth, a woman has been charged with the murder of 62-year-old Stafford Wright, who was chopped to death at a house in Cameron Hill.
Some stories are so dreadfully sad. A former welder in his 40s, who reportedly started taking drugs and had mental health problems attacked a policeman with a machete in Park Mountain, St. Elizabeth; the policeman shot him dead. The man’s name was Noel Thompson.
24-year-old Ian Grant was stabbed to death during a dispute in Ocho Rios Market that others tried in vain to end.
38-year-old maintenance worker Veneta Brown was at home one evening in Red Ground, near Montpelier, St. James with her family, when armed men kicked in her door and shot her dead. Why? Is it a gang feud?
A policeman who was grocery shopping foiled a robbery at a supermarket in Hopewell, Hanover, killing one man and injuring another. A customer was seriously injured.
So it continues, on and on.