At the moment, I am celebrating Jamaicans. Not “celebrities” – I am not fond of celebrities in general. They serve no purpose, except for filling endless Instagram posts and providing employment for photographers and videographers. They are in a world of their own, one that I am not interested in and not impressed by.
When I write my news posts (one is long overdue, but the news has been overwhelmed by COVID-19) I try to keep a little section for People. However, I often miss people out that I wanted to talk about.
So, here goes – a few Jamaicans who have been in the news lately (one or two, unfortunately, in a negative way, and some in a sad way)…
On the COVID-19 front, our Chief Medical Officer Dr. Jacqueline Bisasor-McKenzie, who is basically an established superstar, continues to work incredibly hard. Lately, another in the formidable all-woman team of leading medical doctors at the Ministry of Health and Wellness, Director of Family Health Services Dr. Melody Ennis (a pleasantly rhyming name) has stepped forward onto the information frontlines. She just never stops, appearing in Zoom meetings and webinars catering to a range of audiences, and conducting dozens of radio interviews on talk shows. Questions (including many from the unsure and the doubting Thomases) are fired at her left, right, and centre. She sweetly answers them all – sometimes saying the same thing is several different ways!
Last night, Dr. Ennis took to Twitter Spaces (which are gatherings of people to discuss a specific topic) for a session moderated by Nationwide News Network’s Ricardo Brooks. By all accounts, it was a great success. Close to 400 attended, and she was at it for two hours. Dr. Ennis’ style, as several participants noted, is clear, calm, and patient. She is very strong on her facts, but has a kind, slightly humorous air. Kudos to her.
No kudos whatsoever to the Reverend Merrick “Al” Miller, of the Fellowship Tabernacle Church and Whole Life Ministries in Kingston. The Reverend has his own website by the way, so you can read up on him. There is an extensive biography, in which he is described as “a friend, pastor & advisor to many of Jamaica’s famous and infamous (both in the private sector & government).” One of the “infamous” was the fugitive gangster Christopher “Dudus” Coke, who was caught in July 2010 traveling in a ridiculous disguise in a car driven by Reverend Miller on the Mandela Highway (the Reverend claimed he was taking the wanted man to the U.S. Embassy to turn himself in for extradition). Reverend Miller was found guilty of attempting to pervert the course of justice six years later. And then there was the incident of the lost firearm, which the man of God left in his car while stopping to pick hog plums from a tree. He received a J$1,000,000 fine for the Dudus affair, $80,000 for the hog plums.
Despite this, Reverend Miller is in line for a National Honour – Commander of the Order of Distinction. For what reason? Read his bio, which fails to mention his two convictions (he is unrepentant on both counts). To cap it all, he has now made this astonishing and ill-timed statement on the rollout of the Pfizer vaccines donated recently the U.S. Government, which are being used to vaccinate high school students: “Allow experiments on adults only. Do not volunteer our children for experiments just because it’s internationally requested or required, because we are bound by an international agreement.” I beg your pardon? “I am mindful that our leaders are under intense international pressure, bound by some unwise treaties and conventions signed,” continues the misguided Miller. I would like to kindly request that the Government revoke this National Honour. Seriously!
Once again, I would like to give a major shoutout to Professor Dr. Denise Eldemire Shearer, to whom my husband and I are personally grateful, as we were able to get our vaccine doses quite early as members of the “vulnerable group.” She has been adept at mobilizing older Jamaicans to take the COVID-19 vaccine. Thank you for all the work you do!
Well, here are two “celebrities” – dancehall deejay and convicted murderer Vybz Kartel (Adijah Palmer) and his media-loving lawyer Isat Buchanan. The former was somehow interviewed on Fox News, but the latter has distanced himself from it all. I wonder who arranged it. It is very embarrassing for the Department of Corrections, and an investigation is under way…
Sports (the Olympics, and beyond) has been the soothing balm (or a needed distraction) for many Jamaicans during these stressful times, and our young women sprinters have excelled. I guess they are considered “celebrities” now, but I hope it doesn’t all go to their heads and that they deal with their success in a mature way.
One young Paralympian, Alberto Campbell, is determined to make an impression in Tokyo, representing Jamaica in the 400 metres track event. The unusual thing about Mr. Campbell is that he was in a home for abandoned boys in Jamaica when he was adopted by an Australian couple at the age of nine. When the size of the Australian contingent was cut, he opted to represent Jamaica and got all the support and encouragement from family and sports officials. Good luck to him!
Huge congratulations to the 17 young Jamaicans who have won Chevening Scholarships from the UK Government to study for their one-year Masters degrees. I extend my special congratulations to Adrian Watson, a young man whom I have known for several years now as a “doer” and organizer of young people, in the climate change and environmental field. He is also a beekeeper (what will happen to the bees when he is gone?) He will be off to the wilds of North Wales, to do his Masters in MSc in Conservation and Land Management at the University of Bangor. Good luck Adrian – we will miss you!
Well, better late than never – but Belize’s Dr Carla Barnett, an economist, is the first woman Secretary General of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). Here is what she had to say at the installation ceremony on August 16. She asked these questions:
How can we close the implementation gap?
Is the Single ICT Space or the Blue Economy or both the remedy to our collective economic ills?
How do we participate as effectively as we can in the ongoing efforts to reach agreement globally on containing global warming to 1.5 to stay alive?
How do we use productively, for the benefit of the wider Community, the relatively abundant lands of our continental Member States?Caricom.org website
Condolences: Sadly, three prominent Jamaican citizens have passed away in the last few days – two from COVID-19.
Professor Gerald Lalor, who died on August 22, was, according to Prime Minister Andrew Holness: “A pioneering geochemist who founded the International Centre for Environmental and Nuclear Sciences (ICENS) in (1997) at the University of the West Indies (UWI)…Professor Lalor led a research team in the identification and preparation of a geochemical map of the elements in Jamaican soils.”
Senior Parish Judge Stanley Clarke died from COVID-19 on August 24. Legal circles are in shock, and the judicial system, already suffering from backlogs, has suffered a number of casualties (including dozens of court officials in quarantine) from COVID-19 recently, resulting in the stalling of many cases.
Dr. Pauline Knight passed away from COVID-19 complications on August 20. The PJ Patterson Centre for Africa-Caribbean Advocacy at UWI, over the signature of former Prime Minister PJ Patterson, posted a long tribute to Dr. Knight, who was a senior director and acting Director General of the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ) for many years. However, former Director General of the PIOJ, Dr. Wesley Hughes, called her “an outstanding public servant who made an amazing contribution in the social policy field. Her work on the Survey of Living Conditions laid the foundation for the reform of our social safety and poverty alleviation strategies.” Local media seemed to define her mostly as the wife of former government Minister, Senator and high profile attorney K.D. Knight. However, she had an amazing career in her own right, which greatly influenced social policy.