The last few days have been…well, interesting. High drama on the football front, with the spectacular collapse of the Brazilian team at the hands of Germany and the subsequent struggle resulting in a penalty win for Argentina. At the beginning of the tournament I bought three flags: one for Brazil (husband is a Brazil lover, like many Jamaicans); one for Germany – whom I expected to win; and one for Argentina – my sentimental favorite. Now the last two are in the finals!
Opposition Spokesman on National Security Derrick Smith.
Ellington’s retirement: Since the weekend speculation and rumor has been increasing, in the absence of any statement from the ruling People’s National Party administration. The Opposition National Security Spokesman Derrick Smith has tabled five questions for his counterpart, Minister Peter Bunting, in Parliament. These are key questions, including whether “international partners” (read: the United States) have imposed an arms embargo on Jamaica and are invoking the Leahy Act in relation to police homicides. The Government has denied knowledge of this, or are not willing to say.
Much of the speculation swirls around a connection between the Police Commissioner’s sudden departure from office and the ongoing investigation of an alleged police “death squad.” Not sure if I mentioned: A policeman under suspicion of involvement in the alleged death squad was arrested in Ajax, Toronto, Canada by the Toronto Police Fugitive Squad on Friday, June 27. The following Monday Commissioner Ellington announced his resignation. It’s not clear whether Constable Witney Hutchinson will be extradited from Canada in connection with a 2011 murder.
Summer holidays starting early: So far as I know, Parliament is not yet on recess, but at least two ministers are on vacation. One is Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, who took a holiday after the CARICOM meeting (do we know what happened at that meeting, apart from a couple of speeches? Any decisions taken, apart from decisions to form task forces, committees and discuss further…?) The PM is due back on Friday. The other vacationer is our Youth and Culture Minister Lisa Hanna, who is in Brazil. I wonder what the attraction is there.
Bank of Jamaica.
Stepping in: The Bank of Jamaica announced that it would be intervening yesterday for a day. The slide of the Jamaican Dollar had accelerated this week. The J$ made a modest recovery on Thursday and closed the week at J$112.69/US$1. Recent comments by International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde during her visit her about the “over-valuation” of the J$ (she noted that it had some way to go) surely did not help. Its slide has picked up speed since then. But still, Private Sector Organization of Jamaica head Christopher Zacca has just told us to “stop talking down the dollar” and produce, so I’d better shut up.
EPOC meets: Do you want to know what the Economic Program Oversight Committee (EPOC) has been doing? I’ve discovered that details of all its meetings can be found here: http://www.digjamaica.com/imf/epoc
Former Governor General Sir Howard Cooke sworn in by Prime Minister Michael Manley in 1991. Sir Howard died on July 11, 2014. (Photo: Gleaner Archives)
Death of Sir Howard Cooke: This evening we heard that former Governor General Sir Howard Cooke passed away, aged 98. He was a school teacher and a long-serving People’s National Party politician and government minister. He was Governor General from 1991 to 2006. Here a fellow blogger pays tribute:https://elmaestrodixon.wordpress.com/2014/07/12/walk-good-sir-howard-1915-2014/
Victoria Jubilee Hospital. (Photo: Gleaner)
Hospital crisis: Nurses walked out of the Victoria Jubilee maternity hospital in Kingston yesterday. Why? There was no water. There’s a severe drought – yes, but aren’t hospitals priority for water supplies? Can you deliver babies without water? Water was subsequently trucked to the hospital. Meanwhile, the University Hospital of the West Indies has postponed many surgeries due to a shortage of operating theaters; a friend’s elderly mother has been there for about two weeks now waiting for an operation on her broken hip. But hey, it’s not just Jamaican hospitals that are struggling; Barbados’ main hospital ran out of supplies recently. The UK’s much-touted National Health Service is now 100 million Pounds Sterling in the red and is “on life support.” We will all have to try and keep ourselves healthy. Preventative medicine!
The drought bites harder: The National Water Commission in Clarendon (the worst hit by the drought) is only trucking water directly to paid-up customers who call them. In St. Elizabeth supplies at the Santa Cruz market are dwindling and prices rising rapidly as farmers are producing less. And so on. Government officials are now mulling over ideas they should have mulled and put into practice years ago.. “Oh, that would be a good idea,” etc.
Faith Webster, Executive Director of the Bureau of Women’s Affairs, whose life has been on hold for quite a long time now and who is fighting her suspension on half-pay in court. (Photo: Gleaner)
Witch hunt? Faith Webster, Executive Director of the Bureau of Women’s Affairs and a hard-working and long-serving public servant, was indicted by the Public Service Commission three weeks ago and thirteen charges have been laid against her following an internal audit. We don’t know what these charges are, but the Supreme Court has granted Ms. Webster leave to appeal against them and ruled that no further disciplinary action be taken against her until the appeal is heard. What is happening here? Why was Ms. Webster pushed out?
Senator Kamina Johnson Smith gets kudos from me for keeping the focus on vulnerable women and girls in particular. (My photo)
Much needed review: A parliamentary committee has begun sitting to review the Offences Against the Person Act, The Domestic Violence Act, and the Child Care and Protection Act. There were over 800 reported cases of rape in 2013; but the real number is much higher as many cases are still unreported. I hope that once the deliberations are over there will be some changes to the sentencing for acts of violence against women, children and the elderly – especially sexual violence. The Upper House passed a resolution put forward by Senator Kamina Johnson Smith calling for this review. Kudos to her.
More silly nonsense: State Minister Damion Crawford decided to make another rather nonsensical speech to party supporters this week. He asserted that former Prime Minister and Opposition Leader Andrew Holness is not “brighter than me.” What actually is the point of such a personal comment? If you have nothing helpful to say, perhaps it would be best to say nothing. But Minister Crawford does have a point; he has been chafing at the “old style politics” of patronage for some time. The problem is, the childishness has tended to overwhelm his more serious discourse. Breaking news this evening is that the much-heralded first “Rasta yute” Member of Parliament and former head of the PNP Youth Organization has informed his party that he will not seek re-election next time around. So that is that.
Kelly Tomblin, CEO of the Jamaica Public Service Company, is straight-talking, always accessible to the media – but, I sense, more than a little frustrated with the current situation, these days. (Photo: Gleaner)
“My biggest customer doesn’t like to pay its bills”: Kelly Tomblin, CEO of the Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS), complained recently; her body language expressed frustration. The Government owes JPS about J$2 billion for street lights alone. When asked about Ms. Tomblin’s comments, Local Government Minister Noel Arscott observed, in his usual nonchalant style, that she was being “disingenuous,” adding drily: “Yes, we would like to pay our bills, but… [we cannot].” About 20 per cent of our street lights are not working.
Local Government Minister Noel Arscott. (Photo: Gleaner)
Oh! And what about the mayoral election in Portmore, Minister Arscott? No word on that? Last time I checked, it was well overdue. The current Acting Mayor has been serving for nine months since the death of Mayor George Lee. The Municipalities Act states the Deputy Mayor should act for not longer than six months, so this situation is now in breach of the law. Is the Act to be amended, and if so when? Will the next mayoral election take place some time next year, when local elections are due? Is this democracy?
A stationary mystery: CVM reported this week that a police car is parked in the middle of May Pen, near the clock, with its wheels propped up with rocks to stop it moving. Oh yes, it’s been there about a month like that, said local residents. Has there been an explanation? Is it silently monitoring activities in the town? Hmm..
Old Harbour News
New media arrivals: Cliff Hughes started his new talk show on Power 106 FM (you can find it streamed online) on Monday. So far it has been enjoyable, refreshing and positive, with some insightful one-on-one talks with newsmakers, as well as the regular call-in people. I recommend the online Old Harbour News, a website that I discovered only recently; it’s actually about a year old. It is also on Twitter (@oldharbournews) and Facebook. It has local news, but some well-written stories and things you might have missed. Here is one story (a sad one) about an autistic child who perished in a fire recently; his mother blames the lack of water in the rural area of Planters Hall: http://www.oldharbournews.com/index.php/news/item/204-if-we-had-water-my-baby-would-be-alive-today And the Sunday Statement makes its debut on August 31 – Jamaica’s third Sunday paper. Want another way to get your news online? There is the new Loop Jamaica, which taps into social media feeds and provides a flow of Jamaica news, here: http://loopjamaica.com A very attractive and user-friendly website.
The beautiful parrotfish grazes off coral reefs, keeping them healthy. Don’t eat them! They are getting fewer.
Fishy tip: Let’s stop eating parrot fish; they protect what is left of our coral reefs. And let’s eat lion fish; I am told they are succulent (and they are a destructive invasive species).
The lion fish looks very fancy but gobbles up reef fish voraciously. In turn, we humans should eat more of them. When the spines are removed I am told it is very tasty.
“Three cheers” for:
Industry, Investment and Commerce Minister, the Hon. G. Anthony Hylton (right) and JBDC CEO, Valerie Veira are all smiles as they present JBDC Entrepreneur of the Year Award to Lacey-Ann Bartley. The official presentation was made to Bartley at the Ministry of Industry, Investment & Commerce. (Photo: Facebook)
Lacey-Ann Bartley, the Jamaica Business Development Corporation’s (JBDC) Entrepreneur of the Year. A young woman who is going far! I first introduced my readers to Lacey-Ann as one of National Bakery’s “Bold Ones” (if you do a search you will see a couple of articles I wrote on this great project). Lacy-Ann does great things with wood! You can find Bartley’s All in Wood on Facebook, at (876) 348-0934; email: firstname.lastname@example.org and at http://www.bartleysfurniture.com.jm/
The Mandela Essay Competition from JN Foundation. DEADLINE IS MONDAY, JULY 14!
The JN Foundation, which goes from strength to strength with its many and varied range of activities. Its volunteers are a force to be reckoned with! Want to learn more? Read their quarterly newsletter here: http://issuu.com/jnfoundation/docs/jnf_newsletter_july_2014_final/0 The deadline for the Foundation’s Nelson Mandela Day Essay Competition is Monday, July 14! To submit your entry, go to: https://www.facebook.com/JNFoundation/app_432976163386165
Daniel Sturridge with a representative of Digicel, which supported the launch of his charity foundation in Jamaica in June, 2013. (Photo: Gleaner)
Daniel Sturridge, the Liverpool and England national footballer (who scored against Italy in the World Cup) who will host his second annual Daniel Sturridge Foundation Family Fun Day tomorrow (Saturday, July 12) at the Constant Spring Football Field. Sturridge has Jamaican grandparents. Thank you, Daniel!
Public Affairs Intern Sybil Lewis, from the University of California at Berkeley shares tips with students while Rodje Malcolm (left), Jamaican studying at Morehouse College, listens. (Photo: U.S. Embassy)
The U.S. Embassy in Kingston, for its annual pre-departure seminar for Jamaican students going to study in the United States last week. This session always provides much useful (and practical) information for outgoing students; about sixty of them came to the Embassy last week, and parents too. If you need advice on studying in the United States, please email kingstonIRC@state.gov or call 702-6172.
The refurbished Montego Bay Civic Centre is home to National Gallery West, which also has space for performances and a bistro. The effort has received strong support from the Montego Bay Arts Council, headed by hotelier Josef Forstmayr. (Photo: Facebook)
The National Gallery of Jamaica, which officially opened its National Gallery West in Montego Bay today. Opening hours are Tuesday-Sunday 10 am-6 pm; admission free until September 30, 2014. Kudos to the Tourism Enhancement Fund of the Ministry of Tourism for making this happen, with the support of the Montego Bay Arts Council. As noted before, I am pleased with the Ministry’s support for Jamaica’s visual, written and performing arts in all its forms.
The sad list of names is shorter, again, and for this we must be thankful. My condolences to all those who mourn. I would also like to know the condition of a 16-year-old girl, who was reportedly thrown from a car in Trafalgar Road, New Kingston on Tuesday night. She was found to have a gunshot wound to her back and was rushed to hospital. I hope she is recovering from this terrible trauma.
Unidentified man, Asquith Street/Jones Town, Kingston
Kawayne Mitchell, 19, Marlie Mount Primary & Infant School, St. Catherine
Lavena Robinson, 48, Springfield, St. Catherine
Fidel Smith, 48, New Market, Westmoreland