What’s Happening in Hispaniola? Viewpoints From Grenada, Jamaica and the Bahamas

Hispaniola? Where’s that? Some may ask. Oh, it’s that huge island, nearly 30,000 square miles in size and the second largest island in the Caribbean, divided into the Creole-speaking Haiti and Spanish-speaking Dominican Republic. It is the island that Jamaicans do not visit that often, perhaps because of the language and cultural barriers; perhaps because of lack of interest. Who knows. Anyway, Haiti is a mere 190 kilometers to the east of Jamaica; but I suspect many Jamaicans know more about New York or London or Miami than they do about either of these countries that lie on our doorstep. Interestingly, Haiti closed its Embassy in Jamaica over three years ago. Please note that Haiti became a full member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) in 2002, and the Dominican Republic is an observer at CARICOM and a member, along with CARICOM’s fifteen member states, of CARIFORUM, an economic/trading bloc that has had a somewhat uncertain track record.

Now, things have not been going at all well between the Dominican Republic and Haiti recently, and the profoundly worrying situation there has caused some ripples throughout the region. Below is a blog post by Jamaican journalist Dionne Jackson Miller (you can read it at newsandviewsbydjmillerja.wordpress.com/2015/06/20/uncertainfuture-caricom-and-the-dominican-republic/) followed by a much longer piece from the Groundation Grenada blog by the Bahamian Angelique V. Nixon and Guyanese Alissa Trotz, which also addresses the unsatisfactory situation in the Bahamas. This is at groundationgrenada.com/2015/06/12/where-is-the-outrage/.

Immigration and the accompanying human rights concerns is a growing, very disturbing global issue these days, affecting every continent. It seems to me, though, that the situation in the Western Caribbean smacks of xenophobia and racism, and that the Governments involved need to knock their heads together and find a decent, humane solution. This is absolute nonsense in the 21st century, and the actions of the Dominican Republic Government are an embarrassment to the whole region.

Meanwhile, CARICOM (as is its wont) blusters, puts out one or two disapproving statements – and does very little else. Like Dionne Jackson Miller, I would love to learn that they, too, are looking at solutions that will help their oft-beleaguered member, Haiti.

Dionne Jackson Miller.

Dionne Jackson Miller.

#UncertainFuture – CARICOM and the Dominican Republic

It’s encouraging to hear Jamaican Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Minister A.J. Nicholson explain that CARICOM has not been silent on the latest developments in the Dominican Republic, where thousands of people of Haitian descent, stripped of citizenship by a 2013 ruling of the DR’s Constitutional Court are now in fear of forced eviction to Haiti.

While encouraging, though, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to say I want to hear more, and more loudly.

Senator Nicholson addressed Jamaica’s Upper House of Parliament on Friday and explained that CARICOM placed on the agenda of a June 11 high-level meeting of CARIFORUM (CARICOM plus the Dominican Republic) and the European Union the human rights violations being committed against Dominicans of Haitian descent.

He said that “both sides agreed on the importance of the principles of the protection of the status of citizenship and the presumption that persons shall not be rendered stateless. The meeting also agreed that consideration would be given to proposals for “appropriate benchmarks and monitoring mechanisms” to be presented by CARIFORUM.”

Senator Nicholson also noted that at the 26th Inter-Sessional Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community held in The Bahamas in February, CARICOM Heads had decided that “the Chairman of CARICOM should engage with the EU High Representative on the Community’s concerns with regard to the Dominican Republic.”

The meeting also issued a statement expressing “grave concern a number of recent developments affecting grievously Dominicans of Haitian descent and Haitian migrants in the Dominican Republic. The process of regularisation of Dominicans of Haitian descent arbitrarily deprived of their nationality by the Dominican Republic Constitutional Court ruling of September 2013 expired on 1 February 2015. Government Officials indicated that it would not be extended despite the fact that only a very small number (6937) of the persons affected were able to apply in time, leaving a large number estimated to be over 100,000 vulnerable to expulsion.

“This distressing development needs to be placed in the context of the judgement of 22 October 2014 of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights which called for the nullifying of all the dispositions resulting from the ruling on nationality and for the reversal of the ruling itself. The Community reiterates its condemnation of the DR Government’s repudiation of international law.”

I have seen CARICOM’s statements on the issue and welcome the expressions of condemnation. The diplomatic efforts to get the EU on board should strengthen CARICOM’s position, and it is hoped will continue, and that we will see a coalition of outrage grow, and press the DR to reverse its current unjustifiable actions, and negate the Constitutional Court ruling which has left thousands of people stateless.

But call me greedy. I still want more from CARICOM.

It shouldn’t be that we have to be calling for the regional grouping to state its position. I want to hear voices from CARICOM raised in international fora, not confined to statements published discreetly on the CARICOM website, and for which you have to search closely and diligently.

I don’t want to wait for a single Foreign Minister (no disrespect Senator Nicholson) to elucidate the group’s position. Glad as I am to hear of the efforts that have been taking place, the voices I want to hear in public are those of the region’s Prime Ministers. PM Ralph Gonsalves is now the lone voice representing CARICOM in the media on controversial issues. What will happen when he retires?

The first time I wrote about this issue I was complaining about the lack of a strong position from CARICOM, and again it was PM Golsalves who was speaking for the region. CARICOM did come through with a much stronger position but the group never appears to have a strong committed voice and leader (apart from PM Golsalves.)

The main problem is that the current crop of CARICOM Prime Ministers is a generally disappointing lot, seemingly perpetually so caught up with domestic crises and petty parochial politics there appears to be little inclination to assume that position of regional stateman or statewoman willing to speak on the world stage.

On this, I would love to be proven wrong. I really would.

Angelique Nixon (Photo: Groundation Grenada)

Angelique Nixon (Photo: Groundation Grenada)

Where is the Outrage? – Tenuous Relations of Human Rights and Migration

It seems we are at a breaking point with state treatment of Haitian migrants and persons of Haitian descent, particularly in the Dominican Republic and The Bahamas. Beyond the issue of people being rendered stateless, there are disturbing reports about abusive treatment and human rights violations in The Bahamas’ detention center, mass deportations from the Dominican Republic, and the separation of families in both places. Haitian migrants and their children remain some of the most vulnerable people, and this continues to be more evident in the recent changes to immigration enforcement policies in The Bahamas and Dominican Republic. These grave conditions for Haitian migrants and people of Haitian ancestry across the Caribbean bring starkly into focus the tenuous meaning of rights and who gets to access protection. Further, pervasive xenophobic attitudes towards certain migrants, and specifically anti-Haitian sentiment, remain an underlying yet clearly serious concern facing us as a region.

In the opening months of this year, there were reports of possible lynchings of two Black men in the Dominican Republic. Videos also surfaced of the public humiliation and beating of a Black man and woman, which some have linked to anti-Haitian sentiment on the island (Reginald Dumas, On Being Haitian, Trinidad & Tobago Express, 10 & 11 March 2015).

Furthermore, reports from the Bahamas (end of 2014 into 2015) have raised serious concerns about the treatment of Haitian migrants and issues of citizenship. Specifically, these include: the rounding up of Haitian or Haitian descended children and persons (those undocumented as well as those seeking citizenship); the poor and inhumane conditions of the detention facility; reports of abuse by immigration officers; the content of the policy and reforms to immigration law; the deadly slow pace of resolving citizenship for persons who apply at age 18; and the targeting of Haitians in the enforcement of changes in immigration policy.

Alissa Trotz (Photo: Groundation Grenada)

Alissa Trotz (Photo: Groundation Grenada)

While some of these concerns are not new, the enforcement of the new immigration policy has been the source of recent concerns. In November 2014, the Ministry of Immigration in The Bahamas announced its new policy that calls for all non-citizens in the country to carry their passports and proof of residency, while children born to non-citizen parents must have a school permit. Since the enforcement of this policy, there have been reports of mass raids in known Haitian communities, and hundreds of people have been held in an overcrowded detention facility and then deported. This new policy has raised urgent questions about whether it will violate the rights of children – who technically by law are entitled to attend school (every child living in the Bahamas has a right to an education, and the country is also party to the Convention of the Rights of the Child). Children born to non-nationals are not automatically citizens but rather have to apply at 18 for status. While the Bahamas government has insisted that they won’t be “infringing on children’s rights,” official statements have emphasized that the Bahamas will be acting in accordance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and that children will also be educated pending decisions on whether they are ‘repatriated’ (this is the terminology used by Bahamian state officials) or allowed to remain on the island.

But it’s unclear how the policy will be enforced and particularly what will happen to children unable to produce a student permit come September.

Bahamian lawyers and human rights groups have responded to this policy change and immigration enforcement in several ways. Fred Smith, President of the Grand Bahamas Human Rights Association (GBHRA), has led a campaign against the government and called on international human rights agencies to respond. He asserts that the “government’s mass round-up policy is unconstitutional and a flagrant violation of the fundamental concept that individuals are innocent until proven guilty.” Describing the government’s approach as “institutional terrorism, if by that term we mean an inhuman and degrading policy designed to strike fear in the hearts of an entire community,” Smith argues “they are breeding ‘Haitian hatred’, racism and discrimination. It seems The Bahamas is now into ethnic cleansing.”

While the term ethnic cleansing may seem extreme to some, its use by Fred Smith draws attention to what he names as a ‘shock and awe’ policy. Rather than address immigration issues on a case-by-case basis, since November, migrants in the Bahamas have faced nighttime raids, separation of families, and overcrowding in the detention center. There are widespread reports of abusive treatment of migrants (of women migrants in particular) inside the detention center and during the process of “apprehension” and “deportation.” One incident that received major attention (with several articles in the Bahamas’ Tribune and Jamaica’s Gleaner) was the rape of a Jamaican detainee by a senior immigration officer, who was eventually put on leave.

This story has raised awareness about some of the issues at the detention center and with the horrific treatment of migrants, and in her case, she was held by immigration even though she had papers (spousal permit); she has brought charges against the state. The reports that haven’t received media attention are equally disturbing, as is the silence around what some describe as a targeting of people of Haitian descent and their children. Recently, a Bahamian-born woman of Haitian descent was denied maternal care in the hospital and her child denied access to school (Ava Turnquest, reporting in The Tribune, 12 & 28 April 2015). She has since filed for legal action over the immigration policy and violation of her and her child’s rights.

On 30th January, the New York Times published an article titled “Immigration Rules in Bahamas Sweep up Haitians,” which highlighted the stories of people being deported and children being deprived of status, while it also made some comparison to the rest of the region (glaringly missing, though, was any comparison to the United States’ policies on immigration and constant deportation of Haitians and ill treatment of migrants in detention centers around the country, a state of affairs described vividly by Edwidge Danticat in her 2007 book, Brother, I’m Dying).

The New York Times article provoked strong responses in Bahamian newspapers, including one that highlights the Minister of Immigration’s dismissal of the article as based on exaggerated claims and accusations from civic activists.

On 13th February 2015, however, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights granted a submission for precautionary measures filed by the Caribbean Institute for Human Rights (ICADH), the International Human Rights Clinic of the Inter-American University of Puerto Rico, School of Law, and Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights on behalf of over 200 detainees being held at the Carmichael Road Detention Center in Nassau, The Bahamas. The Commission’s analysis concluded that the situation was serious and urgent and that measures were indeed necessary to protect persons from irreparable harm. And the Commission sent a list of requirements of response and action to the government of the Bahamas (Resolution 4/2015). (See the full text of the resolution here)

On 20th March 2015, representatives from The Bahamas government were asked directly about these issues and more during the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) hearing on the human rights situation of migrants in the Bahamas held. (All the hearings are available online and open access through the OAS website.) The petitioners (including Grand Bahamas Human Rights Association and the Caribbean Institute for Human Rights) presented their findings, which included reports of discrimination and ill treatment of persons being held in the detention center and rounded up in mass raids. They also discussed developments since enforcement of the new immigration policy, and how the government’s push to make amendments to immigration law after the implementation of new policy can been deemed unconstitutional. In their submission, petitioners also raised the issue of intimidation and threats to human rights defenders.

The Bahamas government was represented by the Minister of State in the Attorney General’s Ministry, who strongly refuted the petitioners’ report, defended Bahamas’ history of respect for human rights, insisted that the state has not violated human rights of migrant persons, and claimed that the detention facilities are in good order with provisions in place to charge officers who violated the rights of detainees. They also informed the Commission that the policy will now include the implementation of a “belonger’s permit” which would allow persons born in the Bahamas without status to stay in the country (i.e. children born in the Bahamas to non-nationals have the right to apply for citizenship at 18). They contested the notion that these children have a “right” to citizenship (since the Bahamas has Jus Sanguinis rules: citizenship is determined by having one or both parents who are citizens and not on birthplace), and they insisting that such children were not being denied the right to attend school; hence the new policy would not be violating any rights. The state also offered an invitation to the Commission for a country visit.

Not surprisingly, these two reports offered strikingly different understandings of what is happening on the ground to migrant persons and to people of Haitian descent in particular. Further, they disclose very different views on “rights” to citizenship, how this actually works in the Bahamas and who is targeted by these new policies and possible changes to immigration law. What is clear, regardless of the position of the Government of the Bahamas, is that migrant persons of Haitian descent are the most vulnerable and there are serious and urgent concerns about the detention center and how the policy is being enforced.

Commissioner Tracy Robinson is Rapporteur on the Rights of Women at the IACHR. (Photo: IACHR)

Commissioner Tracy Robinson is Jamaican. She has been serving a four-year term as Rapporteur on the Rights of Women at the IACHR since January 1, 2012. (Photo: IACHR)

After the representatives of the Bahamian state presented their report, Tracy Robinson, Commissioner and country rapporteur for the Bahamas, specifically called for state response to the following concerns: official efforts to prevent violence against migrants; the granting of due process and interpreters for migrants being detained; issues at the detention center in terms of overcrowding and ill treatment; and access to the detention center for human rights defenders. Noting that “[t]he state has a duty to exercise due diligence to prevent the violence as well, not simply to prosecute it when it happens,” Robinson also raised important questions in relation to the standing of the new policy viz existing immigration law and how the Bahamian state would address concerns raised about violations of rights and citizenship.

Rose-Marie Belle Antoine is President of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). She has dual St. Lucia/Trinidad and Tobago citizenship. (Photo: IACHR)

Rose-Marie Belle Antoine is President of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). She has dual St. Lucia/Trinidad and Tobago citizenship. (Photo: IACHR)

In her concluding remarks, IACHR President Rose-Marie Antoine reprised the Commission’s concerns regarding the criminalizing of persons through this new immigration policy and the targeting of persons suspected of being non-nationals. She asked about the use of enforcement and exactly how the policy/law will be implemented and the use of detention for persons who do not have passports on them. The gender dimension of citizenship was also explicitly identified as bearing specifically on ways in which this new immigration policy/law would render persons “stateless” (a child born in the Bahamas with a Bahamian father is automatically granted citizenship, whereas if a Bahamian woman is married to a non-national, their child is not granted citizenship but rather has to “apply” at 18). The state was asked to respond to these issues and allegations in writing and in due course. The official Bahamian response was brief, noting that the overcrowding of the detention center was “situational,” insisting that the Bahamian Government does provide due process for migrants, and indicating that a written report that responded to the other queries would be forthcoming. (The hearing is available on the OAS website: here)

Meanwhile, following the Dominican Republic’s Constitutional Tribunal Ruling 168-13 and change of citizenship policy in September 2013, in May 2014, the DR passed Law 169-14 that established “A special set of rules for persons born in the national territory who are irregularly registered in the Dominican Civil Registry, and rules about naturalization.” The regularization plan, originally giving people just 18 months to request Dominican citizenship for children born to undocumented migrants, came to an end in February and was extended for another 90 days (amidst opposition from the right) to 15th June 2015. The government has announced that no more extensions will be granted. When the final deadline is reached, it means that overnight thousands of Dominicans of Haitian descent will be rendered without status or the right to stay in the country of their birth. This is widely regarded as a violation of rights to citizenship as birthright is stripped away from people who are most vulnerable (Haitian migrants, Haitian Dominicans, and their children). And with this policy change, the DR will be able to legally deport Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian ancestry – which they have already been doing for years – even as they depend on their labor and exploit their limbo/stateless status. The Dominican government has claimed that there would be no mass deportations and the approach will be on a case by case basis; in late May it was reported that the foreign affairs minister of Haiti (Lener Reneaud) met his counterpart from the Dominican Republic (Andrés Navarro), to finalise a “Protocol for deportations” (thanks to Arturo Victoriano for clarification and translation).

All this has happened in spite of CARICOM’s response and civil organizations’ protests and petitions. And the June 15 deadline looms, with barely any notice across the region and internationally (with the exception of the Huffington Post and independent media.

In 2013 and 2014, there was a lot more attention to the issue; several critiqued the ruling and offered context for understanding the tenuous history and relationship between Haiti and the Dominican Republic (for example, see Richard Andre’s interview with Junot Diaz and Edwidge Danticat in Americas Quarterly, and Myriam Chancy’s powerful reflection published and shared on several sites including CaribVoices, The Haitian Times, and Repeating Islands, among others.). The authors of this article have both written about these issues (including Angelique Nixon’s article titled, “Limbo Citizens or Stateless People?: Human Rights, Migration, and the Future for Dominicans of Haitian Ancestry“, carried on Groundation Grenada’s website, and Alissa Trotz in two columns for the Stabroek Newspaper in Guyana). Following a successful campaign by activists/academics/academic-activists in the region and diaspora, CARICOM denounced the ruling and also delayed the DR’s bid for entry into the regional organization.

As Myriam Chancy argues, the ruling creates and reinforces civic death for Dominicans of Haitian descent as well as Haitian migrants across the region (and for Haitian migrants around the region): “This issue of creating civic death is what we need to most be alarmed about in the face of increasing social and economic inequality, forced migration, and environmental challenges facing the region; we are living in uncertain and dangerous times. And while we don’t want to support or replicate neocolonial paradigms upon each other in the region, we must find ways to hold each other accountable for any violations of human rights; and I would further argue that we must find more ethical ways to deal with migration and rights across the region, especially for our Haitian brothers and sisters” (“Apartheid in the Americas: Are You Haitian?” 24 October 2013). Chancy’s poignant remarks resonate even more clearly in this moment.

The ruling and subsequent enforcement of change in citizenship status have been widely regarded as a political and humanitarian crisis in the DR. And with the recent abuses and mass roundups of Haitians in the Bahamas (a situation that CARICOM seems unable to find a response to, despite being in the country for its 26th Inter-Sessional meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government where an explicit commitment was made to the organization’s ongoing no business as usual policy with the DR), it seems the region is far from finding more ethical ways to deal with migration and citizenship rights. What is striking indeed, is the similarity not only in the rhetoric between the Bahamian and Dominican governments but also in the solutions being proposed.

While there has been some media attention to these issues across the region, and even some international reports, there has been a surprising silence and lack of outrage. Certainly, human rights violations around immigration and detention centers are far from new news. But there are several troubling questions that should prompt our concern, outrage and commitment to change. It is clear that people of Haitian descent continue to be targeted unjustly and overtly in new immigration policies as they are scapegoated as “the problem” underlying social ills in various contexts (as migrant communities so often are). It is also clear that women migrants in detention need serious and dire attention, as more reports of violations at the detention center in the Bahamas have surfaced in the past few months (from the case of the Jamaican woman who filed charges in April to most recently reported in the Tribune on 9th June, another immigration officer was suspended following an accusation and investigation of “inappropriate conduct.”)

With recovery efforts still underway in post earthquake Haiti, this assault on migrants and persons of Haitian ancestry urgently underscores just how much work there is left to do across our Caribbean. It is time to call out anti-Haitian sentiments and xenophobia that underpin much of the migration and citizenship issues in the region. It is time to forge and create responses that are regional in focus and promote solidarity and solutions grounded in social justice. It is time to find better ways of dealing with migration, citizenship, regional movement, and labor. And it is time to develop stronger and intersectional approaches to these issues that take into account class, gender and other differences and inequality.

We must keep visioning a just future – one with dignity and freedom for Haiti and Haitians all over the world, for all migrants who have similar experiences, for the Caribbean and all Caribbean people – in which we come together across our differences to create and build regional solidarity.

Sentilia Igsema (2nd R, seated), born in 1930 in the Dominican Republic to Haitian immigrants, poses with four generations of her family outside their home in Batey La Higuera, in the eastern Seibo province, October 7, 2013. REUTERS/Ricardo Rojas

Sentilia Igsema (2nd R, seated), born in 1930 in the Dominican Republic to Haitian immigrants, poses with four generations of her family outside their home in Batey La Higuera, in the eastern Seibo province, October 7, 2013. REUTERS/Ricardo Rojas

Our Youth Must Be “The Next Voice for the Environment”: JET’s Schools’ Environment Programme

Due to our family visitor duties (albeit very pleasant duties) I have missed several events. Here is one important one. Over the years, the Jamaica Environment Trust has persevered with its programs that seek to educate our children on a range of environmental issues. It is interesting that the rural schools have done particularly well this year. Congratulations to all!

“Who will be the next voice for the environment?” asked President of the Press Association of Jamaica, Dionne Jackson Miller of the students in the audience at the Jamaica Environment Trust’s (JET’s) Schools’ Environment Programme (SEP) Awards on Tuesday, June 23. Mrs Jackson Miller, the keynote speaker at the awards ceremony, charged students participating in JET’s flagship environmental education programme to be the voices of their generation on environmental issues. “Who saw pictures of the Riverton fire earlier this year?” Mrs Miller asked the children in the audience, “and who was most affected? That’s right, the children – so it is up to you to speak out about the environmental issues which affect you.”

President of the Press Association of Jamaica and guest speaker at the event Dionne Jackson Miller speaks to students of Sandy Bay Primary & Junior High School about their research on the medicinal uses of plants. (Photo: JET)

President of the Press Association of Jamaica and guest speaker at the event Dionne Jackson Miller speaks to students of Sandy Bay Primary & Junior High School about their research on the medicinal uses of plants. (Photo: JET)

The SEP awards highlighted and rewarded the work of schools participating in the programme, the longest running of its kind in Jamaica. Delivered in 31 schools across the island in the 2014/15 academic year, SEP guided teachers and students in campus-based activities they undertook through their schools’ environmental clubs. In early June representatives from the environmental education community traversed the island judging 12 of the top performing SEP schools. Each school was assessed on the four SEP thematic areas: greening, solid waste management, environmental research and the strength of the environmental club. Ten outstanding schools were then chosen to be awarded for their efforts in SEP in the awards ceremony which took place on Tuesday. The participating schools greeted sponsors, JET members and other specially invited guests at the event with a fantastic display of their creative environmental projects to kick off the ceremony. Displays included research projects on environmental issues affecting their school communities, energy conservation and community outreach.

Students of Vista Preparatory School in St. Ann explain the importance of Parrot Fish to Andrea Stephenson of Total Jamaica. (Photo: JET)

Students of Vista Preparatory School in St. Ann explain the importance of Parrot Fish to Andrea Stephenson of Total Jamaica. (Photo: JET)

“It seems to me that it is up to all the young people who have been part of these environmental education programmes – not just run by JET, but by many other organizations – to bring about a different future,” said JET CEO, Diana McCaulay addressing the students in her opening remarks. Greetings were brought on behalf of the main funders of SEP, the Natural Resources Conservation Authority by Peter Knight, CEO of the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA), who applauded the work being done by JET and the SEP schools. Ms Paula Duncan, Total Jamaica’s Human Resources Manager spoke on behalf of all the SEP corporate sponsors commenting that they were proud to be a supporter of a programme which produced such amazing environmental projects by participating schools.

A student from West Indies Preparatory School in Manchester shows CEO of the National Environment & Planning Agency Peter Knight some tomatoes grown in the school's vegetable garden. (Photo: JET)

Students and teachers of Mount St. Joseph Preparatory School and Holland Primary School  with representatives of NEPA and Total Jamaica showing off their Champion School plaques. (Photo: JET)

Following an enjoyable performance by St Michael’s Primary of a dub poem entitled “Nuh Dutty Up Jamaica’, SEP awards for the 2014/15 academic year were announced. Special prizes were awarded to Pisgah All Age, St Elizabeth, Mar Jam Preparatory, St Ann, West Indies College Preparatory, Manchester and St Michael’s Primary from Kingston for commendable achievements in their environmental clubs outside of the SEP thematic areas. Sectional prizes were then awarded to Maryland All Age, Hanover for Greening, Pimento Hall International School, St Ann for Environmental Research and Vista Preparatory, St Ann and Sandy Bay Primary, Hanover for their community outreach projects. The prize for SEP Champion School was declared a tie by judges and went to Mount St Joseph Preparatory from Manchester and Holland Primary from St Elizabeth.

A student from West Indies Preparatory School in Manchester shows CEO of the National Environment & Planning Agency Peter Knight some tomatoes grown in the school's vegetable garden. (Photo: JET)

A student from West Indies Preparatory School in Manchester shows CEO of the National Environment & Planning Agency Peter Knight some tomatoes grown in the school’s vegetable garden. (Photo: JET)

JET sincerely thanks all our environmental education sponsors, without whom this work would not be possible.

St. Michael's Primary School in Kingston performs a dub poem "Nuh Dutty Up Jamaica" at the Schools Environment Programme event on Tuesday. (Photo: JET)

St. Michael’s Primary School in Kingston performs a dub poem “Nuh Dutty Up Jamaica” at the Schools Environment Programme event on Tuesday. (Photo: JET)

 

 

Stories of the Year, Best/Worst Ministers and Prices at the Pumps: Tuesday, December 23, 2014

This will be my last news post before Christmas. You can expect another one after I have recovered from the surfeit of food and drink that is yet to come. I am looking forward to Boxing Day and to those empty few days drifting up to New Year, when I can collect my thoughts, make pointless resolutions to do better, etc.

In my last update, I omitted to mention the most important non-event of the month: the December 16 meeting of the Partnership for Jamaica, chaired by the Prime Minister. Shall we leave it at that? Status quo firmly anchored in place…

The horrible chikungunya rash. "Chik V" turned out to be a far more serious matter than we were led to believe.

The horrible chikungunya rash. Remember? I do, although it was on my arms and legs, but not feet. “Chik V” turned out to be a far more serious matter than we were led to believe.

Now local media are indulging in the inevitable end-of-year roundups. Broadcast journalist Dionne Jackson Miller has listed her Top Five Stories of the Year, in ascending order: #5 The firing of Professor Brendan Bain by the University of the West Indies over his remarks in a Belize court on decriminalizing buggery; #4 The summer-long drought and water shortages; #3 Government’s decision to reform marijuana laws; #2 The killing of Mario Deane in custody; #1 Yes – it had to be chikungunya! Do you agree with Dionne’s choices?  Personally, I do not believe the NHT/Outameni issue has been laid to rest. A new board will be appointed in April. And there are many related issues that may well resurface.

Radio talk show host Cliff Hughes also did a quick poll yesterday on the three best- and worst-performing government Ministers this year. Education Minister Ronald Thwaites (although with a “basket to carry water”) came out pretty well, as did Justice Minister Mark Golding and Finance Minister Peter Phillips (who must get credit for his unswerving focus on passing International Monetary Fund tests, if nothing else. Go to the top of the class, Minister).

National Security Minister Peter Bunting. I think he can point to real results this year. (Photo: Gleaner)

National Security Minister Peter Bunting. I think he can point to real results this year. (Photo: Gleaner)

I would add National Security Minister Peter Bunting. There has been a steady decline in murders (albeit numbers are still too high), a new Police Commissioner who seems to have his head screwed on right so far, and a precipitous drop in police killings. The police seem to be making real dents in the lotto scam, and prosecuting people. And astonishingly police officers have been charged and at least one even convicted of murder! The community outreach efforts continue (Unite for Change). There are real results Minister Bunting can point to. Speaking of INDECOM, the Police Federation still has a beef with them; they want the Government to set up an oversight body” to monitor the way they do their job. And who will oversee the oversight body? A meeting with the Justice Minister has been postponed until after Christmas. I am sure Minister Golding will be fair and measured in dealing with this matter.

Minister of Transport & Works Omar Davies

Minister of Transport and Works Omar Davies, who has been determined to block any information on the planned transshipment port that will destroy Goat Islands and a chunk of a declared Protected Area.

As for the worst performers: I would say Minister Fenton Ferguson for his mishandling of the chikungunya epidemic, Minister Omar Davies for a disgraceful lack of transparency on the Goat Islands issue and Minister Derrick Kellier for doing pretty much nothing as far as I can see (and now he has two ministries!) Worst of all, I am afraid, would be the Prime Minister. Any pretense at leadership, transparency, decisiveness, connecting with the Jamaican people (apart from her party supporters), holding ministers to account etc. has all gone out of the window. It’s tragic. I so wish it were not so.

Fuel prices down…far enough? There is a bit of a war of words over whether the price of gasoline at the pumps has come down sufficiently considering the drop in global oil prices. The Private Sector Organization of Jamaica’s (PSOJ) new head William Mahfood says the state-owned Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica (Petrojam) has not passed on price reductions over the January-November period, according to PSOJ research. Petrojam says its prices are not related to crude oil prices but to foreign currency fluctuations andUS Gulf Coast Reference prices.

Many Jamaicans suffer from a little-known but serious addiction to Milo, the "drink of champions." Sadly, it will not longer be manufactured on the island...

Many Jamaicans suffer from a little-known but serious addiction to Milo, the “drink of champions.” Sadly, it will not longer be manufactured on the island…

A white elephant in the making? I wonder what is the average daily use of the twenty-kilometer stretch of the North-South Highway from Linstead to Moneague, launched with much fanfare in August. Perhaps someone could ask Mr. Zhongdong Tang, General Manager of the Jamaica North South Highway Company Limited whether he thinks the investors, the Chinese government-owned China Communications Construction Company (parent of China Harbour Engineering Company, which built the road) will recoup their money from tolls any time soon. J$1000 seems a heck of a toll for a large truck to drive twenty kilometers. Are trucks using it? Private cars? Tourist transportation? I would love to know. Are any of our beautiful and expensive highways – the key to development, we are told – well used?

Mixed economic news has emerged recently:

  • The Government is delighted by a Forbes Magazine report listing Jamaica as third in the Latin America/Caribbean region, after Costa Rica and Mexico, for doing business. They seem to have based their report on other global reports in which Jamaica came off well. Forbes lists Jamaica as 64th out of 146 countries surveyed, which doesn’t say a lot for the region really. But it is a bit of good news to hang on to. Here is the report: http://www.forbes.com/best-countries-for-business/list/
  • Yay! Jamaica passed its sixth IMF test. The Executive Summary of the IMF’s Sixth Review, Jamaica’s fiscal performance is“on track” (we have checked all the boxes diligently) and “economic activity is slowly picking up.” But “risks to the program remain high,” the future of PetroCaribe was mentioned as a worrying factor and the “social consensus for pushing ahead with reforms may be difficult to sustain.” You bet it will be. The government wage bill was also mentioned – yes, the teachers are starting to make noises and the Government made it clear in October that there will not be a 2015/17 wage freeze. The Sixth Review can be found here: http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/scr/2014/cr14359.pdf
  • Meanwhile, Nestlé Jamaica has decided to cease manufacturing the much-loved drink Milo here in Jamaica; it’s cheaper for them to manufacture it in Malaysia (so far away!) and ship it in. So there are redundancies just before Christmas, including 215 workers laid off at the Pan Caribbean Sugar Company (owned by the Chinese) who operate the formerly state-owned estate at Bernard Lodge. What is going on there? Which company is to take over management? Why is the company planning to evict some fifty families, who have lived on the estate for many years? Where are the trade unions?
  • All smiles: Minister of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining Phillip Paulwell (left), addressing journalists at a press conference at the Office of the Prime Minister on Monday. Also pictured are: UC Rusal Country Manager, Igor Dorofeev (second left); and Chairman of the Electricity Sector Enterprise Team (ESET), Vincent Lawrence. Mining will resume at Alpart in January 2015. (Photo: JIS)

    All smiles: Minister of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining Phillip Paulwell (left), addressing journalists at a press conference at the Office of the Prime Minister on Monday. Also pictured are: UC Rusal Country Manager, Igor Dorofeev (second left); and Chairman of the Electricity Sector Enterprise Team (ESET), Vincent Lawrence. Mining will resume at Alpart in January 2015. (Photo: JIS)

    Back on the plus side, mining operations at the Alpart bauxite/alumina plant in Nain, St. Elizabeth are to resume next month (at what level, one wonders?) The refinery will officially re-open in December, 2016. If you recall, I noted in July that Mining and Energy Minister Phillip Paulwell threatened to rescind the license of UC Rusal, owners of the Nain and Kirkvine refineries, if they did not restart operations within six months. Well, five months later some kind of mining will begin at Nain; the Kirkvine refinery remains closed for now. (Opposition Spokesman Karl Samuda made another baffling statement on the topic, but let’s not bother with that).

I have found Opposition Mining and Energy Spokesman Karl Samuda's recent pronouncements quite puzzling, recently. Or perhaps I am just dumb?

I have found Opposition Mining and Energy Spokesman Karl Samuda’s recent pronouncements quite puzzling, recently. Or perhaps I am just dumb?

It’s the festive season, but sadly some Jamaicans are wreaking havoc with others’ lives. My sincere condolences to all those who are mourning these young men – among them a fourteen-year-old boy…

Damion Orrett, 32, Waterford, St. Catherine

Akroy Sterling, 26, Land Top, Hanover

Jermaine Thomas, 31, Friendship, Trelawny

Demario Gayle, 14, Seaton Crescent, Westmoreland

Junior Daley, 21, Grange Hill, Westmoreland

Trashing Court Cases, Land Grabbing and Hubbing: Sunday, October 26, 2014

It really has been a strange week. Moreover, Kingston has reverted to drought mode, which is not good. Thunder – yes; rain – no…

In quieter times: A rainy day in Rockfort, where I attended a meeting of the business community with Youth Opportunities Unlimited. (My photo)

In quieter times: A rainy day in Rockfort, where I attended a meeting of the business community with Youth Opportunities Unlimited. (My photo)

In the wake of the wave of murders, the people of Rockfort are not co-operating with the police. It’s a case of “See no evil, hear no evil…” If they don’t give any information to the police… Well, they will find it much harder to catch the bad guys and nothing…nothing will change in that community. In a few weeks’ time, the gang activity will get going again, and again they will say nothing, and so on and so on. There were a good few eye-witnesses to last week’s shootings, but not a word (they say it was too dark). But this is not a large community; they must know something. Meanwhile, three of their neighbors are dead and six still in hospital. It could be them next time. The silent ones.

Minister of Justice Mark Golding

Minister of Justice Mark Golding

Throwing out cases: I am a little worried about comments made by Justice Minister Mark Golding in the Upper House on Friday. He said he was considering the possibility of legislation to allow cases that have not been tried in the Resident Magistrate Courts for more than two years to be thrown out. Am I unnecessarily concerned? Minister Golding said the idea was to start with the “less serious” cases, but that if it worked, “we will move up from there.” Move up and throw out more serious cases? I am not very good at legal matters, so perhaps I am missing something. If the trial hasn’t even started, I guess… But I am afraid this might be open to abuse, especially considering the shambolic state of our justice system. The backlog is already ballooning. Perhaps someone can enlighten me on this.

Young Jamaica gets fired up… looking really serious in this tweeted photo!

Young Jamaica gets fired up… looking really serious in this tweeted photo!

The young ones: It seems the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) is seeking to energize its young people. Young Jamaica (its grassroots youth arm, which has been rather dormant in recent years) had a meeting this evening and tweeted a bunch of photos (here’s one). Both JLP leader Andrew Holness and Finance Spokesman Audley Shaw made rousing speeches, I hear.

Former Financial Secretary and Chair of the PetroCaribe Development Fund Dr. Wesley Hughes (Photo: Gleaner)

Former Financial Secretary and Chair of the PetroCaribe Development Fund Dr. Wesley Hughes. He has often said he expects the arrangement to continue. No problem?  (Photo: Gleaner)

PetroCaribe looking wobbly: How is Jamaica going to “cushion” the impact of the possible demise of the PetroCaribe oil deal with Venezuela (to use the Gleaner’s expression)? OK, we know Jamaica now has an arrangement to repay part of its debt to Venezuela “in kind” (in clinker) and Jamaica continues to benefit from the oil export arrangement to the tune of some US$500 million annually. Opposition Finance Spokesman Audley Shaw recently questioned the way in which the PetroCaribe Development Fund is being used – for example, to pay J$2.89 billion from the Consolidated Fund into PetroCaribe to facilitate the divestment of the Wallenford Coffee Company! I noted in June that a consultant hired to do a risk assessment on the project had been fired for various reasons; was someone else hired? I also noted in March that the PetroCaribe office, headed by Dr. Wesley Hughes, had just moved into larger, more expensive offices in New Kingston and even taken on new staff. You can find good background on the history and development of PetroCaribe on the excellent diGJamaica website here: http://digjamaica.com/petrocaribe Is Jamaica really prepared for the economic fallout?

Former chair of the Urban Development Corporation, Dr Vincent Lawrence chairs the Electricity Sector Enterprise Team (ESET).

Former chair of the Urban Development Corporation, Dr Vincent Lawrence chairs the Electricity Sector Enterprise Team (ESET).

Those elusive megawatts: While other countries in the Caribbean and around the world are forging ahead with various power projects – including a push to renewables – I feel we are shilly-shallying about on the vexed issue of the planned major expansion. Why did the Electricity Sector Enterprise Team (ESET)  push back the procurement to the first quarter of next year? Am I missing something? Also, why has the amended Electricity Act been similarly delayed?

The global Chinese (secret) land grab: Meanwhile, the Sunday Times of Sri Lanka has been reporting on the controlling stake obtained by Chinese state-owned companies (including the parent company of our China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) China Communication Construction Company (CCCC)) in Colombo’s new Hambatota Port. Sri Lankans have been surprised to learn that an agreement was signed back in 2010, but there were no tenders or prior announcements. Transparency? Nah, not much. The newspaper has not been able to obtain copies of relevant agreements. It also reports CCCC will receive 108 hectares of the Colombo Port City to cover its investment costs.” It also points to “still unanswered questions on how this project which proposes to give ownership of newly constructed [reclaimed] land to a foreign company would affect Sri Lanka’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, freedom and rights of the citizens and as to whether the judicial structure of the country would apply to the newly constructed area.” Any of this sound familiar? 

Francis "Paco" Kennedy, President of the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce, died in Florida Sunday aged  74. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

Francis “Paco” Kennedy, President of the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce, died in Florida Sunday aged 74. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

And how is the logistics hub going? Apart from the threatened transshipment port on Goat Islands of course, which is separate and under the purview of our wily Transport Minister Omar Davies, I am not hearing much about it. I believe Industry, Investment & Commerce Minister Anthony Hylton is the point man, and he seems rather quiet. One person who was a very keen promoter of the hub was the President of the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce, Francis Kennedy, who sadly passed away in a Florida hospital early today. My condolences to his family.

There has been much interesting and useful discussion on the parliamentary review of the Sexual Offences Act. Marital rape has been a particularly vexed issue. As Dionne Jackson-Miller notes in her excellent piece (you can find it on “Opinions,” a page that RJR News is trying to ramp up on its website): “A married woman in Jamaica can only complain that she has been raped by her husband in very limited circumstances.” There is much work to be done here.

The DIGICEL/JFF Grassroots programme continued with the staging of a festival at Sabina Park on Saturday, September 27th. (Photo: Jamaica Football Federation)

Football on a cricket pitch: the DIGICEL/JFF Grassroots programme continued with the staging of a festival at Sabina Park on Saturday, September 27th. (Photo: Jamaica Football Federation/JFF)

And on a sporting note: The West Indies cricket team – once touted as a lovely example of “Caribbean unity,” at least in the former English colonies – imploded recently in India. What a mess, and what were the players thinking? I am not a cricket fan, but was a little surprised to hear that a few days ago there was a football competition sponsored by LIME going on at the hallowed ground of Sabina Park in Kingston, and this isn’t the first time. Cricketers are always so fussy about their grounds – how can kicking a football around help? Or is this a sign of the times? (On the other hand, I understand that the National Stadium, where football is normally played, is in very bad condition. I guess there’s no money for that).

Thank you and “big ups” to:

Left to right: Owen James, Wyvolyn Gager and Franklin McKnight.

Left to right: Owen James, Wyvolyn Gager and Franklin McKnight.

  • The astute and intelligent “veteran” journalist Franklin McKnight, a Fulbright Scholar and former head of the Press Association of Jamaica, who now heads the Irie FM newsroom as well as other journalistic ventures (I wish he was in Kingston though – I rarely see him!) Along with two other terrific journalists, Franklin was awarded the Order of Distinction in last week’s National Honors. The other two are the Gleaner’s first (and so far, only) woman Editor-in-Chief Wyvolyn Gager and Owen James, journalism pioneer, who currently produces and hosts business programs on CVM Television.  All three fantastic Jamaicans.
Richard Byles (third right), president and CEO of Sagicor, and Wayne Brown (second left), also of Sagicor, present a cheque to National Security Minister Peter Bunting (left); Jennifer McDonald, CEO of the Passport, Immigration, and Citizenship Agency; Health Minister Dr Fenton Ferguson (second right); and Dr Kevin Harvey, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Health. The funds, handed over during a ceremony at Sagicor's New Kingston head office, are to be used to purchase a fever-scan machine for installation at the Sangster International Airport. (Photo: Gleaner)

Richard Byles (third right), president and CEO of Sagicor, and Wayne Brown (second left), also of Sagicor, present a cheque to National Security Minister Peter Bunting (left); Jennifer McDonald, CEO of the Passport, Immigration, and Citizenship Agency; Health Minister Dr Fenton Ferguson (second right); and Dr Kevin Harvey, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Health. The funds, handed over during a ceremony at Sagicor’s New Kingston head office, are to be used to purchase a fever-scan machine for installation at the Sangster International Airport. (Photo: Gleaner)

  • Supreme Ventures Limited and Sagicor for their generous donations to the Government’s Ebola preparedness efforts. Supreme Ventures will make their cash donation tomorrow to purchase more temperature sensors and other items for use at the island’s airports. Sagicor donated funds for a walk-through fever scanner, to be installed at Montego Bay’s Sangster International Airport, last Tuesday. Thank you SO much for stepping up to the plate! The Gleaner also donated J$1 million to the University Hospital of the West Indies recently – the proceeds of its 180th anniversary walk/run in September. Cool!
  • The western bay at Little Goat Island is rich with seagrass. I have seen this for myself. (Photo: Kirsty Swinnerton)

    The western bay at Little Goat Island is rich with seagrass. I have seen this for myself. (Photo: Kirsty Swinnerton)

    Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) for winning the first round of a legal bid to get more information on the proposed transshipment port at Goat Islands in the Portland Bight Protected Area. The judge agreed this week that the Minister of Finance had no authority to issue Certificates of Exemption blocking JET from obtaining documents it requested under the Access to Information Act. It also said the Government should pay half JET’s legal costs. But the Port Authority of Jamaica is the other defendant in the case. It has a whole set of additional arguments. So this part of the proceedings will take place on June 3 and 4, 2015. Yes, I kid you not!

My condolences to those who are mourning the violent deaths of their loved ones:

Unidentified man, Orange Street, Kingston

Jerome Bryan, 25, Twickenham Park, St. Catherine

Christopher Swaby, 47, Alligator Pond, Manchester

Kevin Vidal, 32, New Hall, Manchester

Keno Brown, 29, Lilliput, St. James

August Town Tragedy, Absence from Custody and Less With More: Wednesday, September 24, 2014

My apologies for the hiatus. The past week has been very busy, and I have been doing quite a bit of writing elsewhere! See below…

Police vehicles parked in August Town yesterday near where Constable James Grant was shot dead on Monday. (Photo: Michael Gordon/Jamaica Observer)

Police vehicles parked in August Town near where Constable James Grant was shot dead on Monday. (Photo: Michael Gordon/Jamaica Observer)

The death of a policeman: I once knew August Town quite well. It’s at the end of a road that passes by the University of the West Indies campus. So close is it to the ivory towers of academia that there have been well-meaning efforts over the years (spearheaded by the late Professor Barry Chevannes) to “uplift” the community. Nevertheless, it continues to struggle with a legacy of politically-instigated violence. It is now mainly gang violence, while the politicians mostly do some posturing. It has been relatively peaceful for a while, but yesterday a policeman was shot dead in African Gardens, one of the less developed parts of August Town  (which is tucked into a deep valley in the hills; it is effectively a cul de sac). The news is disturbing and sad and I hope does not usher in a new wave of troubles in the area, where many hard-working people live. This is the first killing of a policeman this year; the last time a policeman was killed was in October 13 in Montego Bay.

Senior Superintendent of Police Dayton Henry died suddenly

Senior Superintendent of Police Dayton Henry died suddenly in May 2012; rat poison was found in his system.

Last October, I wrote: “There has been a significant increase in murders in Clarendon this year. I remember spending time in May Pen several years ago, when businesspeople and local officials were congratulating the head of operations in Clarendon Senior Superintendent of Police Dayton Henry on a steady decline in the violent crime rate. The 46-year-old Mr. Henry died, suddenly and mysteriously, last year; tests concluded that he was poisoned, and an investigation was reportedly under way. Since his death, the murder rate has climbed again.”  The Coroner’s Inquest into SSP Henry’s death concluded this week, with the court finding he was “systematically poisoned” but unable to determine who was responsible. The police continue their investigations. It might be of interest to know that as a Deputy Superintendent Henry worked in the Internal Affairs and Anti-Corruption Division. And just today, the preliminary enquiry of two of the twelve police officers charged in connection with an alleged “death squad” in Clarendon began in court.

Kamoza Clarke, 31, a mentally ill man who was severely beaten in the lock-up at Falmouth Police Station on October 19, 2013, lies in hospital with severe head wounds. He died from his injuries. (Photo: Gleaner)

Kamoza Clarke, 31, a mentally ill man who was severely beaten in the lock-up at Falmouth Police Station on October 19, 2013, in hospital with severe head wounds. He died from his injuries. (Photo: Gleaner)

Kamoza Clarke case in court: We recall another tragic case of a death, this time in the Falmouth Police Station lockup – that of Kamoza Clarke, last year. Three policemen facing murder charges and two charged with neglect of duty arising from his death (a beating sustained while in police custody last October) had their bails extended when they appeared in court today. District Constables Alwayne Eccleston, Desmond Lawrence, Tristan Turner and Onecko Brown, and Sergeant Derrick Henry will return to court on November 26 – a number of documents in the case are still outstanding.

Senior Superintendent of Police Egbert Parkins says he has "no reason to believe" that police officers told Fahdeen Ferguson he could leave.

Senior Superintendent of Police Egbert Parkins says he has “no reason to believe” that police officers told Fahdeen Ferguson he could leave. The police insist he escaped.

The plot thickens:  “‘Im just walk weh… Nobody nah look fi ‘im.” So says the mother of Fahdean Ferguson, the young man, reportedly a witness for the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) in the case of Mario Deane, who the police still maintain escaped from custody. Ferguson turned himself in at INDECOM’s office in Montego Bay yesterday. INDECOM are now calling Ferguson’s situation “absence from custody,” rather than “escape.” I mean, what actually happened? Did the police really tell Mr. Ferguson he was free to go after the identification parade? If so, why? Or was he just confused? Will we ever know the truth?

Chronixx: His outburst on Instagram prompted a response from the Minister of Culture.

Chronixx: His tirade against politicians on Instagram prompted a response from the Minister of Culture.

The singer and the Minister: The popular singer Chronixx posted on Instagram this week. He was very upset about the fact that Jamaica has no live venue for reggae music. He asserted the music is the main reason why people visit what he calls the “beautiful island of bankruptcy.” He had a dig at the politicians and their diehard followers, too. Culture Minister Lisa Hanna responded on Instagram (she seems to spend a lot of time there) and I think she won Round One – her response was quite a put-down. She ended her message: “Stop blaming and lumping all politicians together. It’s unfair and untrue. Blessed love.” Hmmm. Blessed love?

Youth and Culture Minister Lisa Hanna recently undergoing the ice bucket treatment in her office. All shared on social media, of course.

Youth and Culture Minister Lisa Hanna recently undergoing the ice bucket treatment in her office. Widely shared on social media, of course.

The PM made a speech: Our Prime Minister made a two-hour speech at the annual gathering of the comrades – the People’s National Party (PNP) conference, over the weekend. The Jamaica Observer printed her full, unedited speech here: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Prime-Minister-Simpson-Miller-s-presentation-at-the-PNP-s-76th-Annual-Conference There was much amusement over her gaffe about “doing less with more money” (of course it should have been the reverse) and her galloping run up to the platform, security officers and fellow party members in tow (running is a habit of hers). Some commentators (and the Opposition) expressed concern that she did not address issues that have been deeply troubling the Jamaican public recently, such as Mario Deane’s death, the chikungunya epidemic and rising food prices. But should we expect much from a speech on a party platform?

Member of Parliament for Central St. James and Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives Lloyd B. Smith speaking at Mario Deane's funeral in Montego Bay on Sunday. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

Member of Parliament for Central St. James and Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives Lloyd B. Smith speaking at Mario Deane’s funeral in Montego Bay on Sunday. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

Speaking of Mario Deane, Opposition backbencher Everald Warmington set the cat among the pigeons (as he likes to do from time to time) in Parliament this week. He suggested the PNP administration was to blame for Deane’s death, shouting after the retreating Deputy Speaker of the House Lloyd B. Smith: “… For the police to throw him inna jail and say is a mad man and a deaf man kill him, I say you as a Government killed the man innocently and try to hide it.” Somewhat ironically perhaps, Mr. Smith, who had just adjourned the session after failing to quieten Mr. Warmington down, is the Member of Parliament for Central St. James. He spoke at Mario Deane’s funeral on Sunday.

JEEP funds have been found, suddenly ($140 million) for “selected projects” at the local government level. In case you have forgotten, JEEP is the Jamaica Emergency Employment Programme. Opposition Finance Spokesman Audley Shaw wants the money shared equally among parish councils; he is concerned about partisan sharing of the funds. I also wonder whether this largesse is connected at all with the fact that local government elections are not far away.

Jamaican writer Olive Senior speaking at the Institute of Jamaica on Sunday. (My photo)

Jamaican writer Olive Senior speaking at the Institute of Jamaica on Sunday. (My photo)

My recent articles: My weekly article on gleanerblogs.com is out. I wrote about the remarkable lecture on Sunday by prolific Jamaican author Olive Senior in connection with her latest book,“Dying to Better Themselves: Colón Man and the Panama Experience.”  Kudos to the National Library of Jamaica; the lecture was very well attended. Link to my article is here: http://gleanerblogs.com/socialimpact/?p=2226\

I have also written a couple of articles on Corve daCosta’s lively blog site, Daily Veritas: One on the recent referendum in Scotland (http://www.dailyveritas.com/news-commentary/indyref-the-morning-and-the-night-after/); and another on the chikungunya muddle (http://www.dailyveritas.com/news-commentary/jamaicas-outbreak-of-chikungunya-and-why-over-3000-jamaicans-may-have-it/) Daily Veritas has a delightful mix of articles – something for everyone, I would say. Do read!

I also have a new paper called “Flight of the Petchary” with a collection of articles, photos and videos that I put together and add to on a daily basis. You may subscribe to it by email, and you can read it here: https://paper.li/Petchary/1410819482

And commendations are due to…

The U.S.-based Diaspora charity, Mind, Body and Soul Health Ministries, which organized a group of Indian and American doctors to perform 225 cataract surgeries at the Mandeville Hospital from September 15-19, also donating a special opthalmology machine that assisted with the operations. The group’s work cut the hospital’s waiting list by more than half. Absolutely wonderful!

The Cockpit Country is an incredible water resource, feeding large rivers such as the Black River and Great River.

The Cockpit Country is an incredible water resource, feeding large rivers such as the Black River and Great River.

Windsor Research Centre and environmental activist Esther Figueroa, who have been rolling out a major public education campaign on the enormous value of the Cockpit Country to Jamaica (for a start, it supplies forty per cent of Jamaica’s fresh water!) A weekly feature on Cliff Hughes’ Power 106 FM program started today (it’s every Wednesday at 12:35 p.m. and well worth a listen). I learned a lot today.

Diane Browne, children's author.

Diane Browne, children’s author.

Two other blogs I would like to mention: Author Diane Browne writes about Caribbean children’s literature on her blog; her latest post is about folktales and her latest e-publication is “Ebony and the Auntie of the Starlight, a Caribbean Cinderella story.” http://dianebrowneblog.blogspot.com

The excellent broadcast journalist and newly-elected President of the Press Association of Jamaica Dionne Jackson Miller is writing in RJR’s opinion section, along with colleagues. You can find her latest post, “State funding for politics parties?” here: http://rjrnewsonline.com/opinion/state-funding-for-political-parties

Justice matters: I have not commented much on this, although there is much to say. I recommend a strongly worded piece on another Jamaican blog that I see developing nicely: http://jablogz.com/2014/09/when-there-is-no-justice-rebellion-becomes-law/ There is much to think about. Kudos, too, to the fearless journalist Cliff Hughes, who has regularly highlighted particularly egregious cases of human rights abuses and miscarriages of justice over the years and continues to do so. He often reads from reports by the excellent Gleaner court reporter Barbara Gayle, whose work I would also like to highly commend. The reports are real eye-openers.

ngj_sunday_opening_sept-28_2014-01

Veerle Poupeye, who is celebrating thirty years living on the island. She is doing a terrific job as Executive Director of the National Gallery of Jamaica, bringing it into the public eye with initiatives like the free “Last Sundays” of each month, which are always really enjoyable. Why don’t you drop by on Sunday, September 28?

I extend condolences to all those who are mourning the murder of the following Jamaican citizens:

Police Constable James Grant, 35, African Gardens/August Town, St. Andrew

Jesse James, 24, Westmore Gardens, Spanish Town, St. Catherine 

Mario Duhaney, Central Village, St. Catherine (killed by police)

Robert Barrett, 45, Anchovy, St. James

Lebert Jones, 70, Crofts Hill, Clarendon

Curious onlookers at the cordoned-off area in August Town, where Constable James Grant was killed yesterday. (Photo: Gladstone Taylor/Gleaner)

Curious onlookers at the cordoned-off area in August Town, where Constable James Grant was killed. (Photo: Gladstone Taylor/Gleaner)

Corruption, Religious Marches and Indomitable Women of the Press: Sunday, September 14, 2014

As usual, political issues are threatening to swamp much of our media coverage. But there is a lot more going on that gets relegated to the back pages…

Finance Minister Peter Phillips. (Photo: Jamaica Information Service)

Finance Minister Peter Phillips. (Photo: Jamaica Information Service)

“Fighting corruption is a national priority”: So says Finance Minister Peter Phillips. I am sure his supervisors at the International Monetary Fund were glad to hear these words. But these are just words. Don’t we need actions to prove the truth of this statement?

Greg Christie, former Contractor General.  (Photo: Gleaner)

Greg Christie, former Contractor General. (Photo: Gleaner)

Well, I am quoting below a series of tweets from former Contractor General Greg Christie. Yes, you can say quite a lot on Twitter! You can judge for yourself whether the Jamaican Government is doing a good job in “fighting corruption.” Take a minute and read…

“Jamaica’s Finance Minister has publicly acknowledged that the fight against corruption remains a national priority for the Jamaican Government. But has the Jamaican Government, in its day to day conduct, been demonstrating this?The fight against corruption begins with exemplary political leadership from the government of day. It is defined by an inflexible adherence to the rule of law & best practices in good governance. But Jamaica is yet to see this from the Government. The conduct of Dr. Omar Davies comes quickly to mind. He sought to block the Office of the Contractor General (OCG) from scrutinizing the Jamaican Government/China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) $600m highway contract. The OCG is Jamaica’s leading Anti-Corruption Agency. Its mandate is to ensure that there is no impropriety or irregularity in Government contracting. When Dr. Davies failed to secure the support of the Jamaica Supreme Court, he publicly challenged the Court’s ruling. The Government, not to be deterred, at the insistence of Davies, then expressed its intent to use its powers in the Legislature to defang the OCG. Recently, the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) was arbitrarily stripped of its regulatory oversight functions over the transport sector.This is a sector which also falls within the ministerial portfolio domain of Dr. Davies, Jamaica’s Minister of Transport, Works and Housing.There is also, at present, a Jamaican Mayor who is facing criminal charges for misleading the OCG. Despite this, he remains in office. If the Government is really serious about tackling corruption, then it, along with all of its Ministers, must begin to walk the talk. They must not talk about fighting corruption. They must, by their actions, adhere to the highest standards of good governance. The Government must also demonstrate that the proposed Anti-Corruption Bill is not a window-dressing facade.T he Bill must be strong enough to bring about a radical change to the endemic corruption that is perceived to be now pervading Jamaica.”

Mario Deane died in custody after suffering severe injuries at the Barnett Street police lock-up in Montego Bay.

Mario Deane died in hospital after suffering severe injuries at the Barnett Street police lock-up in Montego Bay.

Mario Deane’s family needs funds to pay for his funeral in St. James next Sunday. Family members reportedly refused offers of assistance from the Government. Well, the Government has in no way accepted responsibility for Mr. Deane’s death, despite agents of the State supposedly having responsibility for the welfare of those in its custody. Attorney General Patrick Atkinson has said rather coldly that the matter is being investigated, two men have already been charged with Mr. Deane’s murder and the Government will basically wait and see. Donations to assist the family can be made at Scotia Bank – Account number 823837.

Industry, Investment and Commerce Minister Anthony Hylton.

Industry, Investment and Commerce Minister Anthony Hylton.

And on legal matters, the Government has got into a bit of a muddle over insolvency and bankruptcy legislation. Our aforementioned supervisors, the IMF, have given us a month-end deadline. It has become so complex, with so many amendments, that at this late stage the Government has decided to table a completely new bill in Parliament. Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce Anthony Hylton hopes to introduce the new bill on Wednesday; he must be a man in a hurry.

Our Health Minister has put out a nice op-ed on chikungunya in all the newspapers, pointing out that it’s “all hands on deck” to prevent the virus spreading. He should have published this weeks ago. Yes, it is true that a certain amount of politicking by the Opposition has gone on around the issue, but the Minister should not just be reacting to that. He owes the Jamaican public clear and open information on the matter. The Minister also gives out numbers to contact (which we should have all known about from Day One): 922-8619; 922-8622 and 1-888-663-5683 (1-888-ONE-LOVE), Monday to Friday. You can also report cases to parish health departments.

Health Minister Fenton Ferguson touring the Kingston Public Hospital. (Photo: Norman Grindley/Gleaner)

Health Minister Fenton Ferguson touring the Kingston Public Hospital. (Photo: Norman Grindley/Gleaner)

Wait until 2017…0r 2018: Erica Virtue is reporting in the Sunday Gleaner that patients must wait until 2017 for surgery at the Kingston Public Hospital – these are mainly orthopedic surgeries. But those dates are mostly taken, so by the end of the year it will be 2018. Surgeries are often canceled because of a broken-down elevator, which has failed for the 20th time this year according to the report! However, emergency surgeries do get precedence (one would hope).

I see and hear some odd things on local media, these days. Some pronunciations that are so strange that I don’t even recognize the word the newsreader is wrestling with. The latest is a protest march in “the pelting sun.” CVM Television, I thought it was the rain that pelted. I could write an entire blog post each week about the desecration of the English language that goes on daily. But it would bore you (and me) to death, I am sure! 

Louis Farrakhan, Leader of the Nation of Islam since 1978.

Louis Farrakhan, Leader of the Nation of Islam since 1978.

Minister Farrakhan is coming! Again… The 81-year-old leader of the Nation of Islam will be returning to our shores. No doubt many Jamaicans will embrace him – something I have never understood, since his background (and religion) is so far from the Jamaican experience. Oh, I forgot – he had a Jamaican father (whom he never knew, by the way). This time he is planning a “Million Man March” on Sunday, October 19. Who will be marching? What is the purpose of the March? How will it benefit Jamaicans? How will it benefit the Nation of Islam? Is it a recruiting drive?

And what is the Kingston Metropolitan Region Resort Board? I never heard of it before. Anyway, James Samuels, who heads it, says Kingston is going to earn J$150 million from it. OK, so all the hotels will be booked.  Thinking about leaving town that weekend.

Perhaps the Love March will join. This group of energetic (mostly young) conservative evangelicals, who believe in “the family” and “sexual purity,” had a march a few days ago. They claim to be “non-denominational” (?) and “all love Jesus,” but they sound rather confused to me. They don’t seem to approve of sex, that is for sure.

A good comrade: Patricia Williams holds a custom made wreath at former Minister Roger Clarke's funeral, held at the St George's Anglican Church in Savanna-la-mar, Westmoreland on Saturday. (Photo: Janet Clarke/Gleaner)

A good comrade: Patricia Williams holds a custom made wreath at former Minister Roger Clarke’s funeral, held at the St George’s Anglican Church in Savanna-la-mar, Westmoreland on Saturday. (Photo: Janet Clarke/Gleaner)

Funeral of Roger Clarke: Former Agriculture Minister Roger Clarke was buried in Westmoreland yesterday, on a wave of clichés and platitudes from the politicians, and a tide of genuine emotion among his party supporters, friends and family. He was undoubtedly a very well-loved man. But, Madam Prime Minister, what does “a great Jamaican patriot” really mean? I am always wary of that word patriot.

The Gleaner has had some great op-eds over the past few days – especially the Saturday edition, which was its birthday. Take a read of Kelly McIntosh’s column on “Putting Productivity Back Into Work,” and Gordon Swaby’s commentary on “New Media Must Pick Fights They Can win.” Good stuff.

And please don’t forget my own weekly article on gleanerblogs.com! The series is called “Social Impact” and you can find it here: http://gleanerblogs.com/socialimpact/ There’s a new article up every Tuesday… Please share, and comment. I would love to have your feedback.

What is this beautiful place? Great Goat Island, described as a dump where nothing lives by some government officials. (Photo: Max Earle)

What is this beautiful place? Great Goat Island, described as a dump where nothing lives by some government officials. It is fringed with pristine mangrove forest. (Photo: Max Earle)

Congratulations to…

Managing Director of the Gleaner company Christopher Barnes has a few words of gratitude for 80-year-old Lillian Palmer who was a participant in the Gleaner 180 5K Run/Walk in Kingston. - (Photo: Jermaine Barnaby/Gleaner)

Managing Director of the Gleaner company Christopher Barnes has a few words of gratitude for 80-year-old Lillian Palmer who was a participant in the Gleaner 180 5K Run/Walk in Kingston. – (Photo: Jermaine Barnaby/Gleaner)

The winners of the Gleaner’s 180th anniversary 5K Run/Walk today, Kirk Brown (first male) and Chris-Ann Lewis (first female) – and all the great participants, young and old who came out on Saturday morning. The Gleaner’s Managing Director Christopher Barnes notes: “On the afternoon of Saturday, September 13, 1834, the very first edition of The Gleaner, and Weekly Compendium of News was published and made available at Water Lane in Kingston.” Congratulations again to the “Old Lady of North Street” on its 180th birthday!

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Distinguished journalist and a mentor to many, Ms. Fae Ellington, who celebrated her fortieth anniversary in the profession with a blood drive! She collected 87 pints in Kingston this weekend, and the drive will go island-wide on Tuesday. I wish I could donate blood but for various reasons cannot. I hope all who can will support! The Blood Bank is always in need…

Here's a photo of the new PAJ President Dionne Jackson Miller at Fae's blood donation drive! (Twitter pic)

Here’s a photo of the new PAJ President Dionne Jackson Miller at Fae’s blood donation drive! (Twitter pic)

Another terrific journalist, Dionne Jackson-Miller, who is new President of the Press Association of Jamaica (PAJ). Helene Coley-Nicholson (who was so kind to me recently when I was conducting training at the PAJ and still fighting flu!) is the First Vice President and the awesome Karen Madden (a Chelsea Football Club fanatic, but I won’t hold that against her) is Second VP. Rohan Powell is the new PAJ Secretary. A powerful female triumvirate at the helm!

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Cash 4 Books, a husband-and-wife outfit in Kingston’s Southdale Plaza that sells secondhand text books for a fraction of the price, easing the burden on parents. Robert and Nicola Desnoes buy and sell books for the current school year that are on the Education Ministry’s book list, and also source them for customers. They are open weekdays from 9:00 am – 5:00 pm. Tel: 876-397-1909 E-mail: cash4booksja@gmail.com and find them on Facebook.

Ms. Barbara Blake Hannah

Barbara Blake Hannah.

Barbara Blake Hannah, writer, filmmaker, cultural activist and Director of the Jamaica International Reggae Film Festival, who has won a story competition and will be special guest and presenter at the International Film Festival Summit in Austin, Texas from December 7 – 9. I know Barbara will make the most of every moment! Meanwhile, check out her new historical novel “The Moon has Its Secrets”available on Amazon and Kindle.

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The Jamaican Folk Singers.

The Jamaican Folk Singers.

Do go see… The Jamaican Folk Singers’ 2014 Season at the Little Theatre in Kingston. They are (and always have been) simply wonderful!

 

 

The Government reports a “fifteen per cent reduction” in murders so far this year, compared to 2013. This is wonderful news, although I am slightly puzzled. The lists at the end of  my blogs have been quite long this year, apart from a few weeks during the summer. I think murder rates in some parishes have declined considerably, while others are high – for example, St. James and certain parts of Kingston. Although it seems to me that the distribution is fairly even, across the island. This is just from looking at the lists on my blog… Well, my condolences go out to those who are mourning these Jamaicans who have been murdered in the past four days:

Junior Salmon, Negril, Westmoreland

Kenty Thomas, 47, Montego Bay, St. James

James Sorrell, Falmouth, Trelawny

Peter Wallace, May Pen, Clarendon

27-year-old Bonnie Hardware, of Falmouth, Trelawny and Hartford, Connecticut, USA, has been missing from her home since Wednesday. Please call Falmouth Police or 119 if you have seen her. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

27-year-old Bonnie Hardware, of Falmouth, Trelawny and Hartford, Connecticut, USA, has been missing from her home since Wednesday. Please call Falmouth Police or 119 if you have seen her. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

Bus operator Peter Wallace was shot dead and a twelve-year-old male student of Denbigh High School was shot in the back in May Pen, Clarendon last week. (Photo: On The Ground News Reports)

Bus operator Peter “Mitchy” Wallace was shot dead and a twelve-year-old male student of Denbigh High School was shot in the back in May Pen, Clarendon last week. (Photo: On The Ground News Reports)

Amnesty, Tax Delinquents and a Bad Back: Thursday, July 24, 2014

Yes, the drought is still on and it’s miserable. Many Kingstonians, uptown and downtown, are without water some or all of the time. We are hanging on by our fingernails, and scouring satellite maps for any sign of clouds. Even more clouds would be nice. We just get burning sun, hotter every day.  So, our lawn looks like a country in Africa where it rarely rains, and where people have to walk miles in search of water.

This photo of Mona Reservoir was taken by the Gleaner on July 3. The water level is lower now.

This photo of Mona Reservoir was taken by the Gleaner on July 3. The water level is lower now.

Transparency is a nice word: But human rights group Amnesty International thinks the Jamaican Government does not have enough of it. Its press release today calls for National Security Minister Peter Bunting to “act with full transparency” on allegations of human rights violations by the police (the so-called “Death Squad”). Amnesty calls Minister Bunting’s refusal to answer some questions on the matter in Parliament “a threat to Jamaica’s international obligations on justice, truth and reparation for human rights violations and send the wrong signal on ending impunity in Jamaica.” Every Jamaican is entitled to know the truth, says Amnesty. Yes, and how often are we given the truth? Will we ever know the truth in this matter? I doubt it, although the media might (might) winkle out a little bit of information here and there relating to Police Commissioner Owen Ellington’s sudden resignation on July 2.

Finance Minister Peter Phillips

Finance Minister Peter Phillips (Photo: Jamaica Gleaner)

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The bad guys: Finance Minister Peter Phillips told Parliament this week that several large companies are avoiding paying their taxes. Two pieces of tax legislation were passed to tighten up on tax evasion yesterday. Opposition Finance Spokesman Audley Shaw believes the new measures are potentially unconstitutional, giving awesome powers to the Commissioner of Taxes. The Private Sector Organization of Jamaica did not see the draft legislation before it was tabled in Parliament but says it will “review” it.

Agriculture Minister Roger Clarke.

Agriculture Minister Roger Clarke.

That plane to Miami: I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that Agriculture Minister Roger Clarke is not well. Like all politicians (without any exception, so far as I know) he has gone to the United States for medical treatment. It is the same pattern with education: which Minister’s child is receiving a Jamaican education at tertiary level? They all take the next flight to Miami (or Toronto, or London). Various ministers’ children return home for Christmas for a nice holiday at home in the sun; then back to college overseas. It seems Jamaica’s health and education systems are just not good enough. Well, I wish Minister Clarke a speedy recovery.

Health Minister Dr. Fenton Ferguson. (Photo: Gleaner)

Health Minister Dr. Fenton Ferguson. (Photo: Gleaner)

Dr. Ferguson taking some flak: An angry letter-writer stated bluntly that Health Minister Dr. Fenton Ferguson should stop profiling at home and abroadasserting that in the public health system “doctors and nurses now resort to carrying basics like toilet tissue, paper towels and their own supply of basic medical items to help patients.” We hear such stories almost daily. And on the political front, Dr. Ferguson is in hot water with the Opposition (and others) for stating baldly at a People’s National Party (PNP) meeting that party workers should be rewarded out of constituency funds. Well, many of us are aware of this practice, too. Nothing new there, either. CVM Television (who must have filmed several PNP meetings simultaneously over the weekend and did some serious editing) reported these comments, as well as the Minister “dropping legs” (dancing) on the platform. He is a very tall man, but acquitted himself rather well in that regard.

Boycotting media houses? I also hear that the same Minister is refusing to give interviews to two high-profile local media houses. I hope this is not true!

The trial of Rev. Al Miller, who has pleaded not guilty to perverting the course of justice while transporting a wanted man (Christopher “Dudus” Coke) allegedly to the U.S. Embassy, has begun this week. It got off to a slightly disconcerting start, but I will write more about it in the next blog. Remind me.

ESET was set up by the Prime Minister and is headed by People's National Party stalwart Dr. Vin Lawrence. (Photo: Gleaner)

ESET was set up by the Prime Minister and is headed by People’s National Party stalwart Dr. Vin Lawrence. (Photo: Gleaner)

I don’t understand Andrew Holness: Our second shortest-serving Prime Minister seems to communicate in short, intense outbursts, and then lapse into silence. I am not hearing a consistent, well-articulated Opposition platform from him. At all. Last month, Mr. Holness expressed a lack of support for the Electricity Sector Enterprise Team (ESET) headed by PNP stalwart Vin Lawrence. The Prime Minister set up ESET in early June to handle the procurement process for a 381 megawatt power plant (yes, you remember the EWI débacle). Mr. Holness said it was poor governance and illegal, and the Prime Minister said the Office of Utilities Regulation Act would be amended to accommodate this. Now, oddly, the Opposition Leader has gone quiet and his Energy Spokesman, veteran politician Karl Samuda, has popped up with a contradictory remark on the issue – which he says is the definitive Opposition position. Get your act together, people!  Any word on this development? No? “Crickets,” as we say.

Lottery scam arrests: The police have arrested an astounding 41 suspects in Westmoreland and Trelawny in the last couple of days. They seem determined to break the back of this horrible scourge, which has caused so much suffering – murders at home, much grief and suicides in the United States – while the scammers buy flashy cars and build mansions. I just hope the police have sufficient evidence to convict, and that those convicted serve long sentences (I don’t mean two or three years). Recently, rather shockingly, several U.S. citizens (all elderly, I believe) have arrived in Jamaica with large sums of cash ready to pay over. The police have interviewed them. Disturbing.

And Minister Lisa Hanna has established a review committee. Another one.

Former President of the Senate, lawyer and lecturer Oswald Harding, Q.C. (Photo: Gleaner)

Former President of the Senate, lawyer and lecturer Oswald Harding, Q.C. (Photo: Gleaner)

Doubts over CCJ: Former Attorney General and lawyer Ossie Harding has doubts about the Caribbean Court of Appeal (CCJ), headquartered in Trinidad. As a former Jamaica Labour Party senator, this might be expected; but his comments are worth considering. After ten years, he asks, what has the CCJ achieved, with the large amount of money invested it (US$100 million seed money)? How does it function? If we don’t want to stay with the UK Privy Council, Mr. Harding also asks why Jamaica could not use its own final Court of Appeal – it has a strong cadre of judges? Questions to ponder.

Jamaican Ambassador to the United States Stephen Vasciannie signs the condolence book for former Governor General Sir Howard Cooke in Washington, DC.

Jamaican Ambassador to the United States Stephen Vasciannie signs the condolence book for former Governor General Sir Howard Cooke in Washington, DC.

Former Governor General Sir Howard Cooke’s state funeral will take place at the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Kingston on August 8, 2014. Sir Howard will be laid to rest at National Heroes Circle.

Congratulations to…

Alia Atkinson at the 2012 Olympics

Jamaican swimmer Alia Atkinson at the 2012 Olympics.

  • Jamaican swimmer Alia Atkinson, who broke the Commonwealth Games record for the women’s 50 meter breaststroke today in Glasgow, on her way to the semi-finals. Brilliant!

 

  • Young high jumpers Christoff Bryan and Clayton Brown, both of whom have qualified for the high jump finals tomorrow at the 15th World IAAF Junior Championships in Eugene, Oregon. Good luck to all our athletes!

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  • The excellent Dionne Jackson-Miller for her powerful “All Angles” program last night on the mob killing of a transgender teen, Dwayne Jones, just one year ago in Montego Bay. It was very balanced but sensitive to the issues, and did not make any judgments. Well done.
14-year-old Amoya Anderson has been missing since October 27, 2013. Have you seen her?

14-year-old Amoya Anderson has been missing since October 27, 2013. Have you seen her? Her mother, Cheryl Morgan, still hopes to see her coming through the gate…

Only one murder to report, and this is remarkable (again!) My condolences to the loved ones of:

Craig Reary, 44, Lucea, Hanover

 

Another missing child: Samunya Bloomfield disappeared one month ago. A J$100,000 reward is being offered for her safe return.

Another missing child: Samunya Bloomfield disappeared one month ago. A J$100,000 reward is now being offered for her safe return.

 

On the road: The news is not so good. The number of those killed on the road (mostly pedestrians and motorcyclists) this year now stands at 175 – 19 more than this time last year. Meanwhile today one Coaster bus was trying to overtake another but crashed into it on the Spanish Town Road in Kingston; twelve passengers were injured. Those buses frighten me – the drivers are often speeding, even racing each other sometimes. Another Coaster bus driver was killed in a crash in Moneague, St. Ann yesterday.