ICYMI in Jamaica: October 6, 2020: The Delta Edition

Delta is in the Greek alphabet? Yes – that’s the name of the system (now a hurricane spinning off to the Gulf of Mexico) that passed to the south of us in the past few days. The rural parish of St. Thomas has suffered quite badly from the seemingly endless amounts of rain. A flash flood watch/warning is still in effect until this evening, and it’s been windy and rainy for days now.

A resident of Llandewey, St. Thomas, points to the collapse of a bridge after heavy rains this week. (Photo: Nicholas Nunes/Jamaica Gleaner)

Caribbean: An interesting development in the tiny island of Barbuda’s land rights battle with Antigua: the Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal granted leave on Wednesday for campaigners to take their case to the UK Privy Council, the nation’s final court of appeal. Barbuda has a historic and unique communal land ownership arrangement, but since its devastation by Hurricane Irma in 2017 the Antiguan Government has been seeking to open the island up to private ownership – for tourism development, etc.

Bermuda had called an early election, and this resulted in the ruling Progressive Labour Party (PLP) winning a resounding victory on October 1, albeit with a low turnout (sounds familiar).

Some “low-risk” Caribbean countries are going ahead and reopening to tourism: Anguilla (which currently has no cases of COVID-19) is doing so on November 1, and St. Kitts and Nevis on October 31. Guyana, which has not been doing so well in terms of COVID numbers, will reopen on October 12. Inevitably, they will all have more positive cases. I wish them luck.

All is not well in Guyana’s public health sector, where the Guyana Public Service Union is at loggerheads with the government as it demands better benefits for frontline workers tackling COVID-19. A strike is threatened.

Ambassador Audrey Marks.

Jamaica’s Ambassador to the United States and representative at the Organization of American States (OAS) Audrey Marks has taken over as chair of the OAS Permanent Council. Jamaica is celebrating its 50th anniversary at the OAS this year.

Corruption and Transparency: I was appalled by a report that some Government employees are accepting bribes to help incoming travelers avoid quarantine protocols and avoid the tracking app set up by their employers. US$200 a pop. It appears that the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) is aware and two people have been caught. However, it is a great embarrassment to the authorities, who are rather quiet on the matter.

Once again, there is a cloud hanging over Hanover Municipal Corporation in western Jamaica, where Mayor Sheridan Samuels says there is a smear campaign going on against him and is threatening lawsuits. A previous Mayor, Shernette Haughton, was charged with misconduct in a public office and finally cleared of charges in 2019.

COVID-19: This afternoon Prime Minister Andrew Holness announced new rules for the upcoming National Heroes Weekend holiday, with longer curfew hours (3 p.m. to 8 a.m.) on Sunday and Monday, October 18 and 19. From October 20 to November 1 the hours will be 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. Between now and Christmas, the Prime Minister wants us to behave ourselves. Otherwise, no Christmas treats and parties for us! It’s good that he is looking ahead, considering the levels of indiscipline and continued passion for partying that still prevails. A “Christmas spike” might be devastating.

USAID/Jamaica Country Representative, Jason Fraser presents Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr. Christopher Tufton, with the second share of COVID-19 emergency equipment. Looking on is Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Jacqueline Bisasor McKenzie. (Photo: Jamaica Star)

USAID has delivered the second batch of the US$2 million worth of emergency equipment to the Ministry of Health and Wellness to help in the COVID-19 struggle – including ICU beds, which will come in very useful.

Three private labs (Aldo Micro Laboratory, Technological Solutions Limited and CARIGEN) have been approved by the Ministry of Health and Wellness for COVID-19 testing. It’s not quite clear if or when the additional field hospitals planned will come on stream.

Jerome Keating (right), medical technologist at the Ministry of Health and
Wellness, filling out a COVID-19 form for residents of Waterford on Sunday. Photo: Rudolph Brown/Gleaner

The community of Waterford in St. Catherine has been the target of surveillance activities by the Ministry because of rather high numbers there. It’s quite a densely populated area. Now it is under a special curfew, along with Whitfield Town in Kingston.

There’s a problem in Parliament: an employee, Captain Wayne Blake, has tested positive for COVID-19 and had interacted with many of the parliamentarians at the September 29 sitting of the House. Should MPs all get tested? The Minister of Health and Wellness thinks not, which I am puzzled by. Some eighteen MPs are senior citizens!

On the travel front, the Bahamas will be removing its quarantine requirements for travelers, starting November 1. American Airlines will start next month with pre-testing for travelers to Jamaica, and subsequently to the Bahamas.

Crime: Praedial thieves have been on the rampage in the past few days. The JCF reported that a woman was arrested when they intercepted a car with some goats in the back, in White Horses, St. Thomas. Poor things. Then in Ramble, St. Ann, there was an unpleasant incident when cattle thieves (two lovely calves in the back of the car) were chased by the police and fired at them. Two people have been arrested. In another nasty incident, two alleged goat thieves were attacked by angry residents in Old Pera, St. Thomas. One of them, Jermaine, has since died.

Culture and Tradition: The Poppy Appeal launch is now posted on YouTube by the Jamaica Defence Force. If the JDF gets 10,000 views it can earn money from YouTube towards veteran care. Please like, comment, and share…

Economy: Finance Minister Nigel Clarke has described the 18 percent contraction in our economy as “the worst quarterly decline in Jamaica’s history” – April to June, 2020 that is. This was after the Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN) released the latest numbers – not unexpected. So now, Jamaica is officially in recession. Hotels, restaurants and all service industries have simply plummeted.

The head of the Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters Association, Richard Pandohie, believes the productive sector is key – and a much more diversified economy is needed to recover from the devastation of COVID-19. I absolutely agree with his comments; we cannot depend so heavily on the services sector, he observes.

The grim picture.

Education: The new school year opens (online) on Monday, October 5. Teachers say they are as ready as they can be, after some pretty intensive training in rather a short space of time. The students are definitely going to miss the social side of school. There is also no doubt that Internet connectivity is a major problem for rural students (and it is reported, a shortage of laptops and tablets). Education Minister Fayval Williams exudes an air of calm and empathy, despite having had to move very fast over just a few weeks since the election. She is doing her best, with a good team behind her I think. Her back to school message is on YouTube here.

Human Rights: Residents of Maxfield Avenue in inner-city Kingston claim that 48-year-old fish vendor Errol Caven was carrying a stick, which soldiers on patrol mistook for a gun when they shot him dead on Thursday night. This is in the same area where a policeman was shot dead recently; at the time, it was pointed out that the streets are poorly lit.

The Department of Correctional Services has a twice-weekly dashboard of COVID-19 cases. As of Monday, October 5, it recorded 18 additional cases of #COVID19, including 15 inmates – 12 are at the Tower Street Adult Correctional Centre, 2 at St. Catherine Adult Correctional Centre and one at the Tamarind Farm Adult Correctional Centre. There are 3 staff members – 2 from South Camp Adult Correctional Centre and one at Tower Street. Overall the Department has 22 positive inmates, 6 of whom have recovered. 30 positive cases are among staff members.

The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 at the (Dickensian) Tower Street Correctional Centre in Kingston is now at 14 – that is, 12 inmates and two staff members. For some time now, human rights advocates such as Maria Carla Gullotta of Stand Up for Jamaica have been calling for low-risk prisoners, as Cayman Islands and Trinidad have done (and those at high risk of contracting COVID-19) to be released to reduce the spread of COVID-19. “It’s kind of urgent,” says Ms. Gullotta. This seems to have fallen on deaf ears and the Department of Correctional Services seems reluctant to speak on the matter, although it appears that protocols have not always been observed in the prison. At some point before/during the election campaign, did someone drop the ball on this? I hope the responsible Minister, Matthew Samuda will keep his eye on it! Prisoners are nervous.

Justice: It seems that it is very hard to actually convict someone for being a part of a criminal organisation, under our anti-gang legislation. The long-running Uchence Wilson Gang trial seems to be running out of steam; several of the accused have now been found not guilty – including one who has been in prison since 2017. Something seriously wrong, here!

There have been some terrible cases over the years of pet dogs attacking members of the public. Justice Minister Delroy Chuck has introduced a Bill to protect the public and make owners realize that they need to control their dogs – or there will be criminal penalties.

Wait and see: The Minister of National Security concedes there have been “a few hiccups” in cases prosecuted under the anti-gang laws, which have “raised questions” – so the law may require amendments. is apparently still waiting for the final judgment (and comments from the Attorney General) before deciding what to do about the recent Supreme Court ruling that prolonged detentions under States of Public Emergency are unconstitutional. Legislation in the works over firearm use is “urgent,” says Minister Horace Chang. He seems to have a heavy work load to get through, including an amendment to the JCF Act.

Politics: So, it seems that only Mark Golding and Lisa Hanna are in the hustings for the presidency of the Opposition People’s National Party (PNP). Is that it? If so, I am putting my money on Golding to win; he is more likeable, unpretentious and could grow into a leadership role. Outgoing leader Peter Phillips’ son Mikael is not going to offer himself (although maybe another time?) Perhaps Peter Bunting might become General Secretary of the party, replacing Julian Robinson. Damion Crawford apparently will not be running. They must start rebuilding.

By the way, local government elections are due in November. The PNP’s leadership contest will take place beforehand, on the 7th.

Get out of that canefield! This photo of a billboard that needs to come down is interesting. I am wondering what the bird is, perched in the background. (Photo: Loop Jamaica)

Have the political parties taken down all their election billboards, etc? It seems they are quite slow in doing so! Take them down for heaven’s sake, says the Political Ombudsman.

A difficult discussion has been going on regarding the chairmanship of parliamentary committees. Now the eminently sensible President of the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce Lloyd Distant has suggested that the Government should continue to allow the Opposition to chair all such committees. This was one of several enlightened measures adopted under former Prime Minister Bruce Golding’s tenure, in 2007 (but Golding is disappointed in the lack of activity in four committees). Last Tuesday, the Government announced that committees of Parliament, except for the Public Accounts Committee and the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (which examines current expenditure), will now be chaired by government members of parliament. The recently appointed Leader of Government Business in the Lower House, Ed Bartlett, claims that the performance of the other committees was “abysmal.” Why not leave well alone and make the Opposition do better, then? As Mr. Distant says, the government’s plan is a “slippery slope” leading to less transparency and accountability.

The police car which crashed on the Mandela Highway, in which a sergeant was killed. (Photo: Loop Jamaica)

Road Safety: I was very sad to hear that a woman police sergeant was killed and four colleagues were injured, when a police vehicle went off the road and crashed on the Mandela Highway this afternoon. The sergeant’s name is Maydean Blackwood, of the St. Catherine South Division. So sad!

There was a major crash involving four vehicles, apparently caused by overtaking, on the Bengal main road in Trelawny, in which 23-year-old Jerome Salmon was killed and two others seriously injured.

Tourism: Minister Ed Bartlett has discovered that there is something called “Community Tourism.”

An aerial view of the multi-family dwelling at 9 Evans Avenue in Arcadia,
Kingston. (Photo: Jamaica Gleaner)

Urban Issues: The Kingston and St. Andrew Municipal Corporation (KSAMC) has put a stop order on a large high-rise development in the upscale area of Arcadia, which seems to have got out of hand. The local Citizens Association can take credit for pursuing the matter. Importantly, the new Minister for Urban Renewal and Housing Pearnel Charles Jr says a draft updated urban housing plan is being reviewed before being submitted to Cabinet next month. This is much needed, and I hope it will be guided by astute urban planners such as Professor Carol Archer at UTech.

My sincere condolences go out to all the families of those who lost their lives violently in the past week. They have names, they are not numbers.

Errol Caven, 48, a fish vendor, was shot dead by soldiers on patrol on Maxfield Avenue in Kingston.

Also in Kingston, Raheem Sinclair, a 19 year-old labourer, was killed and man and a woman were injured on Glebeville Avenue.

24-year-old Keyshawn Thomas and 39-year-old Zanisha McKenzie were shot dead at a shop in Waterford, Portmore.

Wendy Harrison was shot dead in the bar she operated in Manchester.

Wendy Harrison, 47, was shot dead in Content, Williamsfield in Manchester, in the bar she operated. Just two weeks ago, a businessman, Dane Simpson, was shot dead at his family’s jerk restaurant in the same area.

There seem to be problems in Manchester, where 58 year old Audley Elliott was walking along the road in Devon, Dunbar when he was shot dead by two men traveling in a car on Saturday evening.

In St. Ann’s Bay, a 63 year-old woman, Pauline Bingham-Brown, was stabbed to death during a domestic dispute, in which her husband and son were also injured.

Businessman Devon Clarke, 58, of Darliston was shot dead on Sunday lunchtime during an attempted robbery in a shop on Rose Street in Savannah-la-Mar, Westmoreland. A security guard, a woman and her baby were also injured by the gunmen, who escaped on a motorbike.

Also in Westmoreland, Ricardo Nugent, alias ‘Stagga’, and 29-year-old Odane Wynter were shot dead at a cook shop in Petersfield, Westmoreland, on Friday night.

Dwayne McKoy outside his woodwork shop in Hampton Green, Spanish Town after the Delta floods. (Photo: Jamaica Star)

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