It’s been one of those weeks that makes you weary. But, we toil on. The New Year (which we welcomed in rather muted fashion) already seems old. However, we were described by one overseas media house as a “gutsy” island. Sometimes one just feels tired. Perhaps it’s the humid, not-quite-ready-to-rain weather in Kingston. Nevertheless, let us press onwards and at least sideways, if not upwards.
Caribbean: A Jamaican appears to be winning a case he filed against the Bahamian Government for continuous harassment and imprisonment without charge by the local security forces – for close to ten years! He has sued the Bahamas for US$27.5 million for breaches of his human rights. His case has been in the courts since 2015.
Cayman Islands has Blue Iguanas, and they are iconic – but somewhat endangered and threatened by invasives. Recently conservationists were very excited about Blue Iguana twins born recently – that is, two babies from one egg!
The Turks and Caicos Islands Police picked up 159 Haitian migrants trying to illegally enter the islands last week. Their boat looks seriously overloaded.
Crime: I heard a police spokesperson describing a recent spate of murders as “gang members killing gang members” in a recent interview. In another interview, the same spokesperson answered every query with the comment that the recent orgy of murders is “gang-related.” I have also heard the Minister of National Security Horace Chang, talking about three murders which took place in 24 hours in Norwood, near Montego Bay (see below), describe the victims (including a man with disabilities) as “innocent,” but attributing the shootings to “gang rivalry.” So then, it is mostly (alleged) gang members – and sometimes citizens who endure the torture of gunfire and insecurity in their neighborhoods get in the way of bullets? Well, the JCF spokesperson said that a senior citizen, for example, had received a bullet that “wasn’t intended for her.” And when the new super quick response motor bikes are deployed by the police in Kingston, will it be a case of motorbikes chasing motorbikes and firing at each other through our crowded streets? What fun that would be!
25 were murdered over the weekend. State Minister Matthew Samuda cited a higher “clear up rate” for murders (45 per cent, although I am not sure over what period); and that 44 guns have been seized this year to date – which is pretty impressive. Add to that number the five guns that were found – again – at the Montego Bay wharf, hidden in a refrigerator, on Monday. What are the laws on arms trafficking in Jamaica, and are they adequate? I fear they are not.
Culture: Some cultural organizations are not giving up the ghost, despite COVID-19. The Olympia Gallery has exciting plans for 2021. A series of panel discussions surrounding the exhibition “And I Resumed the Struggle” will be held on Saturdays this month. An exhibition of 18th and 19th century prints will open on January 20, with reproductions available for purchase. Then a Photo/Word Exhibition entitled “Jamaican Masculinities: Man is Man” by Opal Palmer Adisa (who heads the University of the West Indies’ Institute of Gender & Development Studies) will open on February 8. For more information visit the Olympia Gallery website or call/WhatsApp at 876 927-1608.
Education: The Jamaican Consulate in New York has raised a tidy sum (US$150,000) towards the purchase of tablets and laptops for Jamaican students. This is truly admirable, demonstrating once again the extraordinary commitment and generosity of the Jamaican diaspora. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Education handed over 200 tablets for children in state care. State Minister Robert Morgan said the Ministry is trying to obtain an additional 2,000 tablets and that donations have come from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), and the private sector.
Meanwhile, 76 schools have returned to face-to-face teaching, although more than 100 had been approved in terms of COVID-19 protocols. However, Penwood High School (in the Prime Minister’s constituency) closed on Friday morning. Classes will be suspended for ten days, as one teacher has tested positive.
Energy: USAID has announced a grant of US$4 million over three years for the Jamaica Energy Resilience Alliance led by Cadmus Group LLC. The aim is to boost solar energy usage among Jamaican businesses. This sounds promising.
Environment: The public is invited to make comments and provide recommendations on the draft Beach Access and Management Policy for Jamaica. The Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation held two consultations last week with the media and private sector. The policy’s Green Paper was tabled in the Lower House last October by Minister Pearnel Charles, Jr. Two virtual town halls are planned for January 26 and February 2. Send comments to: firstname.lastname@example.org. The policy document can be accessed HERE ( on the Ministry of Housing and Whatever website). May I ask why there seem to be two ministries now dealing with environmental matters? Does Minister Charles cover two Ministries? I must get this sorted out in my head.
Health: All the cays and islands that could possibly be party venues have now been closed, by the way. The only two still open are the Pedro Cays (about 80 kilometers away) and Morant Cay (about 50 kilometers away), which are mostly home to fishermen, tons of garbage, and dwindling populations of seabirds. I don’t think the hedonistic young Jamaicans – party at all costs – will bother with those.
Human Rights: I always find it very painful to see municipal police destroying the wooden stalls set up by market vendors who are selling in the wrong place, and often confiscating their produce, which they have paid money for. Their goods are often not returned, I have heard. It all seems a great injustice. Now the market vendors in Mandeville are upset – claiming they are turned out and not given enough time to close before curfew. The municipal corporation are denying destroying legal market stalls and say the vendors are outstaying their welcome, so to speak.
The issue of the four men whose fishing vessel was detained at sea and who were arrested and detained by the U.S. Coast Guard last October resounded loudly in the Senate on Friday. Their vessel was destroyed, apparently by U.S. authorities. They were subsequently released without charge and returned to Jamaica on New Year’s Eve. Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Senator Kamina Johnson Smith says discussions are under way with U.S. Embassy officials on certain aspects of the always-controversial “Shiprider Agreement” signed between the U.S. and Jamaica in 1997 to deter drug trafficking from South America (largely) through Jamaican waters to the United States. Meanwhile, a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on behalf of the fishermen will go ahead in the U.S. Minister Johnson Smith told the Senate on Friday that the U.S. Government had apologized during a bilateral meeting on January 6.
The police shot and killed 30-year-old Anthony Wildman in Mount Friendship, Stony Hill, St. Andrew on Tuesday during an alleged confrontation.
Infrastructure: Residents are extremely anxious about the alternative route to the Gordon Town Road, which collapsed last year, claiming that it is steep and dangerous. The Savage Pen road is being paved and should be completed by the end of the week.
People: Sir Hilary Beckles, the Barbadian Vice-Chancellor of the University of the West Indies (UWI), was the recipient of the U.S. National Action Network‘s Martin Luther King Award on January 18 (Martin Luther King Day). Dr. Anthony Fauci will receive the Lifetime Community Service Award for his leadership on HIV/AIDS and infectious diseases.
Bobsleigh woman: I was thrilled to see that bobsleigh is still a competitive pursuit for Jamaicas, and that Ms. Carrie Russell won gold in the Women’s Monobob World Series Bobsleigh in Park City, Utah. She is a former sprinter, by the way! Well done, Ms. Russell!
Reverend Father Easton Lee died aged 89 in Florida. He was a poet, actor, playwright and so much more, who eventually went into the Anglican Church. He was a sweet and gentle man from what I remember, with a delightful sense of humor – as artist, poet and transformational trainer Fabian Thomas shared on Twitter: “Thank you for the joy, laughter, reasonings and rudeniss!!”
Road Safety/Transportation: The Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce & Industry is highly miffed to hear that the planned Montego Bay Bypass project has been shelved until 2022 – while works are still going on elsewhere. “Kingston isn’t Jamaica!” is the plaintive cry. Well, from the look of Kingston’s roads lately, we have nothing to boast about down here. Once again, Montego Bay residents seem to be feeling hard done by. Perhaps the good business people could turn their attention to the levels of crime and corruption in their city. The Chamber President Janet Silvera is also calling for another stimulus package, as COVID-19 continues to devastate the tourism industry.
Two motorcyclists crashed into each other and were killed in Somerton, St. James. So far this year, 17 people (all men) have been killed on the roads – more than half of them motorcyclists.
In western Jamaica, 45-year-old Everton Duhaney was killed when trying to cross the road in Little London, Westmoreland and hit by a truck.
And – after curfew hours – at close to 1:00 a.m., there was a terrible crash on Highway 2000 – the Portmore toll road. The driver of the car “lost control” – that is, he was speeding – and three passengers were killed on the spot, while four others were injured (seven people in one car?) They were reportedly en route from an illegal party in Waterhouse, St Andrew. 34-year-old Jonoi Lewis, the driver, was allegedly drunk and was killed along with two others.
In Montego Bay, a woman was thrown from her vehicle when she crashed on the Ironshore road. She is in critical condition in hospital.
Technology: The Government and private sector are excited about the opening of a Coding Academy. Prime Minister Andrew Holness was enthusiastic and suggested at the opening that Jamaica could become “regional leaders” in coding. How about reducing or eliminating the customs duties on the hardware, now?
It never ends, and it is a terrible indictment of our society. The undercurrent of crime and violence continues.
34-year-old Michael Young, a chef, was shot dead and his girlfriend was injured at his business place in Myrie’s Plaza, Dumfries, St. Thomas on Wednesday night.
Three people were shot dead in Norwood, St. James on Friday evening, and the police imposed a two-day curfew from Saturday evening. Those who died were 47-year-old Donovan Reid (whom his mother described as “dumb”), Nicardo Daley, 20, in an area with the glamorous name of “Hollywood,” and Aubrey Brown, 51, on a street inappropriately named “Irie Drive.” A woman was injured. In an earlier shooting, a 13-year-old boy was shot in the head and is in hospital; I suppose he would be among the “innocent” ones mentioned by the Minister.
77-year-old Estrianna Wilson, a retired domestic helper, was shot dead while sitting at her gate in Quarry, Salt Spring in St. James. 29-year-old music producer Shavion McPherson and 47-year-old Dwight McCallum were also shot and killed at a football match and illegal party in the same area.
Forty-three-year-old Sebastian Reid, a taxi driver, was shot dead while traveling on his motorbike near Salt Spring, St. James, on Saturday evening.
On Monday the killings continued in St. James. 23-year-old Kadian Munroe was shot dead in Flanker, and an unidentified man was found shot dead in a yard in Cambridge. Gunmen fired at a taxi on the Salt Spring main road, but luckily the occupants escaped unhurt.
On Saturday evening, 29-year-old Kevin Rattigan and 57-year-old Anthony Bailey were engaged in conversation at their homes in Prosper Hall, St. Ann. They were both shot dead by gunmen.
Meanwhile, a young man who turned himself in to the police has been charged with the murder of 59 year-old Cynthia Robinson in Trench Town last week.
Nigel Robinson, 21, was shot dead while sitting outside his house on Oliver Crescent in Kingston.
And on a nice Sunday morning, a mother, 52-year-old Ellia Pascoe and her daughter, 32-year-old Notoya Pascoe had just returned from church and were at home in Olympic Gardens, Kingston, when they were shot dead by a gunman.
In Allman Town, a generally quiet area of Kingston, four men were reportedly killed. One of them was 80-year-old Ranford Tucker, a shopkeeper and community elder nicknamed “Dapper,” who had lived there for decades. A man came into his shop pretending to be a customer, and shot him. Three young men – Raheim Brown, 21, Konee Foster, 20, and Marvin Livingston, 20 – were shot on Prince Albert Street, two days later.
Two men were shot dead in Exchange, St. Ann.
All is not well in the Lincoln Avenue area of Kingston, where Kemar Cover was killed last week. 34-year-old Jermaine Lawson, 20-year-old Mark Nation, and 29-year-old Anthony Barrett were shot dead on Lincoln Crescent.