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.

It’s July So It’s Hot: Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The drought tightens its grip, and World Cup fever is higher than ever in Kingston town. The weekend was sickly hot – and quiet, as we buried ourselves in football. Meanwhile…tons of news! Here we go…

Former Police Commissioner Owen Ellington resigned effective July 1, 2014. (Photo: Gleaner)

Former Police Commissioner Owen Ellington resigned effective July 1, 2014. (Photo: Gleaner)

The Police Commissioner resigned/retired: Commissioner Ellington announced his resignation (or retirement after 34 years) with almost immediate effect. Deputy Commissioner Glenmore Hinds is now Acting Commissioner. Various theories have circulated as to the reason or reasons why. There are question marks. One former senior policeman believes that politics was behind the resignation. Ellington says he is retiring to allow investigations into the alleged “death squad” of policemen in Clarendon to proceed “without any perception of influence or interference on his part.” Meanwhile, one of the suspects in the investigation was arrested in Canada. The Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) will not comment. We will hear more, in due course.

Mme. Lagarde paid us a visit: There was a flurry of excitement last week as Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) arrived in Jamaica. She left lots of statements and speeches in her wake. Here is the text of her speech (in which she quoted St Lucian poet Derek Walcott: “The future happens, no matter how much we scream”) at the University of the West Indies (UWI), The Caribbean and the IMF—Building a Partnership for the Future http://www.imf.org/external/np/speeches/2014/062714.htm  Everyone did their best to read between the lines.

Jamaican broadcast journalist Dionne Jackson Miller (left) interviews IMF boss Christine Lagarde in Kingston last week.

Jamaican broadcast journalist Dionne Jackson Miller (left) interviews IMF boss Christine Lagarde in Kingston last week.

Her television interview with RJR’s Dionne Jackson Miller was remarkably friendly and – yes, frank. “I’m not here on a publc relations blitz but to discuss substantive issues,” said the elegant IMF head, leaning forward in her chair with elbows on knees. Just an odd factoid: Reading her bio, I discovered that the IMF head is a former member of France’s national synchronized swimming team. In another life!

Money matters: No sooner was Mme. Lagarde out of the country than Jamaica sold $800 million of dollar bonds in its first overseas sale since 2011, according to Bloomberg News. The bonds are due in 2025 to yield 7.625 %.

Consultant psychiatrist Dr. Winston De La Haye.

Consultant psychiatrist Dr. Winston De La Haye.

Decriminalize it: Cabinet today approved the bill to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana (ganja). Not all members of the medical profession are happy about it. Consultant psychiatrist and Deputy Chair of the National Council on Drug Abuse – NCDA (a government agency) Dr. Winston De La Haye says,“Each night, on Ward 21 (University Hospital of the West Indies) we see four to five patients who need admission, primarily with cannabis-induced psychosis, and we can’t admit them because Bellevue (the country’s main specialist mental health hospital) is full, Ward 21 is full.” Once legislation is passed, Dr. De La Haye asserts the health system will be even more overburdened. The NCDA only supports marijuana use for religious or medical purposes or scientific research. A bit of a conflict here.

An example of one of the signs held up by church members at Sunday evening's rally. If you can actually make sense of it.

An example of one of the signs held up by church members at Sunday evening’s rally. If you can actually make sense of it.

And the churches were empty on Sunday as the fundamentalist “Christian Soldiers” (see my recent post) – a new group called CAUSE (Churches Action Uniting Society for Emancipation) was on the warpath. Waving Jamaican flags (yes, they are defending Jamaica against evil foreign powers!) they drove from the UWI campus and then packed Half Way Tree in Kingston in their thousands. Perhaps they all got free food and drink, as at political rallies. I am sure they were very happy with the day’s events, and the media duly turned up, so they got plenty of publicity for their anti-gay tirades. One thing we do know – this issue has certainly galvanized our fundamentalist friends, like no other.

An anti-gay church rally at Half Way Tree this evening. (Photo: Abka Fitz-Henley/Twitter)

An anti-gay church rally attended by thousands at Half Way Tree, Kingston this evening. (Photo: Twitter)

St. Thomas, a largely rural parish, has thankfully recorded a big drop in what they call major crimes; murder is 60 per cent down. However, they are concerned at the very high rate of sexual crimes. This is something the God Squad mentioned above are apparently not concerned with.

Dr. Denzil Douglas, Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis, is responsible for health issues in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). (Photo: Gleaner)

Dr. Denzil Douglas, Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis, is responsible for health issues in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). (Photo: Gleaner)

“Cool it”: The Jamaica Civil Society Coalition issued a statement urging everyone to just calm down, noting that we need to turn down the volume knob a touch. St Kitts and Nevis’ Prime Minister (a medical doctor) Denzil Douglas, who is responsible for health matters in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), has also responded in a calm and sensible way to the religious group’s calls for something to be done. He is quite knowledgeable on this topic, pointing to CARICOM’s focus on reducing stigma and discrimination, and noting same-sex marriage has never come up for discussion in the region.

A political twist? Is the anti-gay lobby trying to manipulate things with an eye on the next general election? I hear that Opposition Leader Andrew Holness was welcomed from the podium at Sunday’s meeting – he did not actually speak. Some speakers on Sunday were heard urging those gathered not to vote for the People’s National Party.

Child labor is alive and well in Jamaica – you only have to look at Kingston’s streets to know this. Labour Minister Derek Kellier says 16,240 children are involved, but that is a very conservative estimate. Our “God Squad” does not, of course, concern themselves with such matters. The “gay agenda” is far more pressing. However, I am delighted that Member of Parliament Raymond Pryce invited members of CAUSE to the launch of a new initiative on violence against women. What a smart move. Yes, there are other issues…heterosexual ones.

A Jamaican morgue attendant uses a gurney to wheel a body for an autopsy. The island has no modern national morgue. Photograph: David Mcfadden/AP

A Jamaican morgue attendant uses a gurney to wheel a body for an autopsy. The island has no modern national morgue. Photograph: David Mcfadden/AP

The state of our morgues: Yes, I know this is a grim topic, but the UK Guardian has printed a piece on this subject reported by Associated Press correspondent David McFadden. Why can’t we fix these never-ending problems? This is an old, old story in many ways; about as fresh as the decaying corpses. But as human rights activist Yvonne McCalla Sobers comments in the article, this is an issue that affects the poor and disenfranchised, so has been of no concern to successive governments. Read more here: http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2014/jun/28/jamaica-murder-rate-morgues

Sheer horror:  A few nights ago, CVM Television aired what appeared to be raw amateur video footage of a mob killing in a Kingston community. Women were there. Children were there. The man tried to get up, fell down, twice. As he lay prone they placed tires on him to set them alight, but there was a cry that the police were coming so everyone scattered. It was agonizing, and so shocking I couldn’t sleep that night. Human rights activist Susan Goffe commented online: “What lessons were taught to the children in that crowd, some of whom participated in the mob killing?” I wonder if anyone has been arrested; are the police now studying the video?

Young tech entrepreneur Gordon Swaby says the blocking of Viber and other VOIP services by Jamaican mobile providers is a backward step, and I agree. (Photo: jamaicans.com)

Young tech entrepreneur Gordon Swaby says the blocking of Viber and other VOIP services by Jamaican mobile providers is a backward step, and I agree. (Photo: jamaicans.com)

Blocking VOIP: Both our telecoms providers, Digicel and LIME, have blocked Viber, a VOIP service – and Digicel has blocked Skype – from their mobile networks. I agree with tech entrepreneur Gordon Swaby that this is a huge backward step that will actually stymie many tech startups, app developments and so on in Jamaica. LIME says it made the move “in order to maintain network quality for our customers.” No comment.

The drought: After an almost non-existent rainy season, and with El Niño threatening to reduce the number of storms this summer, government agencies are saying there will be no “significant” rainfall for the rest of the year in Jamaica. This is frightening, but this crisis has been creeping up on us all year. We need more focused media coverage and more information and advice from experts – scientists, not just government officials telling us the dam is 70% empty. And the government has been less than proactive on the water crisis we now face.

A map that our friends at the Jamaica Meteorological Service just tweeted - drought forecast for Jamaica for August.

A map that our friends at the Jamaica Meteorological Service just tweeted – drought forecast for Jamaica for August. Kingston and eastern Jamaica is particularly dry.

“Big ups” to… 

  • Jamaica Constabulary Force, who today tweeted a photo of a senior citizen who was apparently lost. I do wish they would make much more use of Twitter for this purpose – it would be such a good service. They could tweet pictures of fugitives, missing people and much more, and this would encourage citizen participation and support from the general public. I will always retweet, so I hope they will continue.
Tessanne Chin's debut album, "Count On My Love."

Tessanne Chin’s debut album, “Count On My Love.”

  • Ms. Tessanne Chin, whose first album, “Count on My Love,” is doing really well on iTunes. Check it out!
  • The Ministry of Education and its fairly National Parenting Support Commission, which had a public meeting to educate people on  not beating your children (sadly, pretty much a national pastime in Jamaica). It’s a start; there’s a long way to go.
A reading session in Granville, St. James.

A reading session in Granville, St. James. Go to http://www.gofundme.com/a80dy8 to donate for the Summer Arts Workshop in this under-privileged community.

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  • The Granville Reading and Art Programme in St. James needs support for its Summer Arts Workshop. Please look at their crowd-funding site and consider donating something (see photograph for the link).

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  • Two young men, Corve daCosta and Sean Bennett, who organized the brilliantly successful tweet up for Social Media Day on Monday. It was a terrific occasion! I plan to post a few photos tomorrow. The Jamaican “Twittersphere” is vibrant and includes a wide variety of Jamaicans from varying backgrounds and walks of life. It’s a great community. Thanks also to Minister of State Julian Robinson for coming to talk to us about the importance of social media and technology. Minister Robinson is by far the most adept user of Twitter in the Jamaican political sphere. He “gets” it.

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  • A lovely Jamaican children’s book, “Cordelia Finds Fame and Fortune” by Diane Browne, is now available on Kindle here: http://www.amazon.com/Cordelia-Finds-Fortune-Diane-Browne-ebook/dp/B00L04GCIO/ref=sr_1_2?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1404179943&sr=1-2&keywords=diane+browne I remember this from my early book selling days in Jamaica.  Do go and buy!
Olivia "Babsy" Grange, Jamaica Labour Party Member of Parliament and Opposition Spokesperson.

Olivia “Babsy” Grange, Jamaica Labour Party Member of Parliament and Opposition Spokesperson.

Get well soon: Opposition Spokesperson on Gender Affairs and veteran Member of Parliament Olivia “Babsy” Grange was hospitalized today. We are not exactly sure how serious her condition is but hope she will be back on her feet soon!

My condolences for all those left behind, at home and abroad, after the cruel and violent deaths of these Jamaicans. I do not even know the name of the poor man who was killed by a mob last week, so cannot record it here.

Keith Murray (Murrain?), 54, Duncan’s Pen/Spanish Town, St. Catherine

Courtney Manning, Caymanas Bay, St. Catherine

Ian Williams, 16, Gregory Park, St. Catherine

Wesley Hall, 46, Woodford, St. Andrew

Lincoln Jones, 25, Nutfield/Islington, St. Mary

Alverine Huell, 46, Mt. Oakley, Portland

Albert Thompson, 55, Kensington, Portland

Keith Murrain (as the UK Daily Mail spells his name) or Murray was murdered soon after arriving in Jamaica from the UK.

Keith Murrain (as the UK Daily Mail spells his name) or Murray was murdered soon after arriving in Jamaica from the UK.

 

Five Takeaways from the Shanique Myrie Case

petchary:

I am reblogging this post by broadcast journalist Dionne Jackson-Miller, as I only touched on this issue rather superficially in my blog yesterday. This provides good background on what led up to this historic ruling by the Caribbean Court of Justice. Dionne’s blog is definitely worth following! I have learnt a great deal from it.

Originally posted on News and Views by Dionne Jackson Miller:

 

As most people in the Caribbean know by now, the Caribbean Court of Justice has ruled that the state of Barbados breached the right of entry of Shanique Myrie, a Jamaican (and CARICOM) national, when she tried to visit that country in March 2011. The CCJ awarded her damages of B$75,000.00 in non-pecuniary damages and B$2240.00 in pecuniary damages (damages that can be valued). You can read the ruling here and an executive summary here.

Here are a couple of points to note.

  1. 1. The Treaty of Chaguaramas established the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and Common Market and was signed in 1973. The treaty was revised in 2001 to include the Single Market and Economy.  The CCJ emphasized that by virtue of the Revised Treaty, and a 2007 Decision taken by CARICOM Heads of Government, CARICOM nationals now have a right of entry into member states. Yes, a right of…

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