I have named my weekly overview thus because we had some glamor and glitter in the Jamaican news this week. Fun times!
Firstly, our Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller appeared in a long sequined gown at the Time Magazine 100 Most Influential People Awards in New York. She looked composed and glamorous, and her face glowed. Many Jamaicans gushed in the social media and on radio. They were proud that a Jamaican could be so honored, and especially proud that it was “Mama P” (or “Sista P” – which?) who was walking the red carpet. Yes, she looked good, and that is always important. But hold on a minute? Doesn’t Time magazine commend Mrs. Simpson Miller for…. (and Jamaican-American New York Representative Yvette Clarke also, in her short article linked below) …I quote:
Simpson-Miller just began her second stint in six years as Jamaica’s PM, and she’s kicking off the country’s 50th anniversary of independence by calling for the island to sever ties with the British monarchy. More impressive, however, is that she did something few thought possible in one of the world’s most homophobic nations: she called for full civil rights for gays and lesbians. One has to understand Jamaica’s violently antihomosexual history to appreciate her courage, which could resonate throughout the region if she’s successful.
This is, of course, quite erroneous. She did/said no such thing, and if she had said it she would be committing political suicide. This was pointed out by the incisive broadcast journalist Dionne Jackson-Miller, who was a member of the debate panel when the then-aspiring Prime Minister referred to the issue. Since her accession to the prime ministership – not a word on the subject. Our Prime Minister did not call, nor is she calling, for full civil rights for gays. You may read the transcript at Dionne’s link below for confirmation of this. Meanwhile, Ms. Betty Ann Blaine in her weekly column expressed shock at Time’s assertion that Ms. Simpson Miller was a staunch defender of gay rights, pointing out, “Jamaicans are Christians, not homophobes. I for one have no “phobia” for anything or anyone. As a Christian society, it is God’s word that is paramount, and not the dictates of any group, internal or external.” Well, put that in your pipe and smoke it, Jamaican Muslims, Bah’ais, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus etc. So much for religious freedom in Jamaica, let alone civil rights. Others pointed out that conditions in the Kingston constituency represented by the Prime Minister are far from ideal (see below) while she is in her beautiful gown. These people were deemed to be “haters,” as were any Jamaicans who suggested that the Prime Minister might have been selected based on a false premise.
And with the usual Jamaican wit, one letter-writer called Ms. Simpson Miller “The new Time Minister of Jamaica.”
- Portia Simpson Miller looked elegant, and thrilled too.
The second glamorous story of the week was the announcement (by the mother-to-be herself, on Facebook) that the darling of the social media pages and former beauty queen Yendi Phillips is pregnant from her current lover. He is a young man called Chino, who is in the dancehall business; don’t ask me what he does, I don’t know. He strings some electronic rhythms together in a studio, one suspects. Now, Yendi is glamorous and Chino is cute and the son of a “conscious” and well-known reggae singer. So again, they look good, and we do wish them well. But oh, dear. Once again the “haters” are out (can’t someone just get them to shut up? They spoil everything…) They are suggesting that the charming Ms. Phillips is but one in a long line of uptown/downtown “babymothers,” and that dancehall men collect them like notches on their bedposts. Those haters are asking, “Why don’t they get married, first?” Well, we are told by some that marriage is out of fashion, that love is love (and besides, this pregnancy will no doubt boost their careers). So why be so mean-spirited about it? Please note – some eighty per cent of children in Jamaica are born out of wedlock – so one might suggest that this marriage thing is pretty much a lost cause. And as Barbara Gloudon commented on her radio program “Hot Line,” a wedding isn’t a marriage; how true. So again, heated debate in the social and traditional media – was this really news? Again, I will put in a plug for Ms. Jackson Miller’s blog for an interesting discussion on what makes the news – and who makes it.
But yes, it seems this was news. And here are the happy couple in an interview. I wish them (and the baby) good luck.
Moving swiftly on, it appears there were serious matters in the media that warranted some attention. Here’s my Issue to Ponder for the week…
Impotence is something that Jamaican men fear greatly – and our Transport & Works Minister (and former Finance Minister) Omar Davies is no exception. He has created – and Cabinet has already approved – a three-man panel (people of the highest integrity) to oversee the arrangements, contractual and otherwise, for three major infrastructural projects. Minister Davies is a man in a hurry; it is a “fait accompli,” it seems, a done deal. He has, effectively bypassed our much-esteemed Contractor General, Mr. Greg Christie, who by law has oversight of all government contracts. Mr. Christie is a thorough man, single-mindedly dedicated to his work – and never lost for words. When Minister Davies made this announcement in Parliament this week, Mr. Christie was overseas. He must have been chomping at the bit to get home and deliver what one would call a “fulsome” response. And fulsome it was. In a front page report in the Observer, Mr. Christie called the Minister’s new arrangement “a brazen but futile attempt to usurp, undermine and circumvent the lawful government contract monitoring authority and mandate” of his office. Minister Davies has responded that he doesn’t object to Mr. Christie “asking questions,” but that the Contractor General is not the only one who can do so. Hmm. How will this work? Is the Minister on shaky legal ground here? Can a compromise of sorts be reached?
Transport & Works Minister Omar Davies wags a finger...
One question I would like to ask on the matter of corruption is, has the Prime Minister responded “fulsomely” to the letter sent to her in January by Mr. Christie, outlining a comprehensive package of anti-corruption measures that her new administration should consider addressing as early as possible? And further… Is the Prime Minister keeping her promise made during the above-mentioned leadership debate to strengthen the Contractor General’s office, and all other government agencies with anti-corruption oversight? That sharp CVM Television reporter Andrew Cannon reminded us of this earlier last week, posting that clip on Prime Time News (keep up the good work, Andrew!)
Why bother? Should one? Mr. Gregory Mair is the Opposition Spokesman on Industry, Investment and Energy and one of the few Opposition members who has had anything interesting to say since the local government elections – or anything to say at all, in fact. He asked in the Gleaner this week whether Jamaica shouldn’t just leave CARICOM. Jamaica, which is the largest English-speaking country in this grouping (often called a “talk shop”), and the Jamaican people are not benefiting, says Mr. Mair. As the largest island, Jamaica also has an embarrassingly large trade deficit with its small neighbors, especially Trinidad & Tobago. Does Mr. Mair have a point? Online responders mostly agree. Issues like the case of Shanique Myrie (who the Observer still insists was “finger-raped” by immigration officials at a Barbados airport) don’t help, in Jamaicans’ minds – and this case is also being heard in that nation. Is this issue worth keeping on the media front burner, or is it just one of those endless circular conversations?
Concerns: We are a nation of thieves – or if you like “tiefs.” Vandals – no, let’s call them criminals – destroyed J$16 million of equipment belonging to telecoms firm LIME at their cell site in Bernard Lodge, St. Catherine this week – including a new “green” energy-saving device that had just been installed. LIME has been plagued by thieves for years now, mostly stealing gasoline from the cell sites. The green device was supposed to prevent this. You can’t win, can you. When investors read these stories, what do they think?
This is what concerns me when I hear that Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce Anthony Hylton says he is considering reintroducing the now-banned scrap metal trade – but that it would be strongly regulated. The scrap metal tiefs must be rubbing their hands with glee. Is this wise, do you think dear readers? Can we regulate the trade strictly enough?
A zillion congrats are in order this week! Among those receiving “virtual bouquets” from me this week are:
The U.S. Ambassador to Jamaica Pamela E. Bridgewater, the hard-working staff of the U.S. Embassy’s consular section and all others who made possible the erection of an awning to protect visa applicants from the elements. Cheers! I know Jamaicans greatly appreciate this.
The high-flying Norman Manley Law School and its proud Principal Professor Stephen Vasciannie, whose debate team did extraordinarily well in another international competition this week, the Phillip Jessup International Law Competition in Washington, DC – they finished among the top sixteen schools out of a total of 600 globally. One member of the team I must single out for a special Portia-type congratulatory hug is Maurice Smith, a highly intelligent young man who won the U.S. Embassy’s Martin Luther King Essay Competition several years ago, when a student at Manchester High School. Below is a picture of Maurice on a recent visit to the Martin Luther King Memorial in Washington recently. Who could be a better inspiration? Big ups to all!
The Jamaica Manufacturers Association for its Jamaica Expo at Kingston’s National Arena this weekend. My husband visited, and gave it the thumbs up! Great display by the “Bold Ones,” interesting discussions with Solar Buzz – and a great sampling of that new white rum, Rum Fire, produced by the Hampden Estate. I hope that everyone will be doing much more business, as a result of this well-organized trade show.
The Gleaner for its ongoing focus on downtown Kingston’s restoration. Its feature on some of the great old colonial buildings that are being refurbished was inspiring. But let’s remember cities are not just about buildings – they are people, too.
Kudos to Energy Minister Phillip Paulwell for getting on with things. His new bipartisan energy council (is that the correct name?) has already met and he seems very focused on bringing energy costs down. I fully support his efforts.
Brandon Allwood and his group of youth advocates at Help JA Children for their efforts in organizing a March and Rally on May 1 (the first day of Child Month) in support of Jamaica’s marginalized and abused children. Your sincerity, determination and compassion are without question. Come out and support them!
Television reporters Kirk Wright (TVJ) and Andrew Cannon (CVM) for their probing and thought-provoking reports. You are coming up with some good stuff, guys. Kirk’s report on conditions in Majestic Gardens (how ill-named) in the Prime Minister’s constituency, and his conversations with some of the residents, provided much food for thought and discussion. Don’t miss the TV news, people!
Several links related to all of the above are listed below. I confess, though, to having terrible layout issues – so do forgive the assorted “dots” below which I can’t seem to remove. My apologies!
As always, dear readers, I welcome your comments, criticisms, corrections and compliments (maybe, even!) Until next Sunday… (and don’t forget, Thursday May 3 is World Press Freedom Day!)
Professor Vasciannie with the Norman Manley Law School Debate Team
Maurice Smith at the Martin Luther King Memorial in Washington, DC
Opposition Spokesman Gregory Mair has his doubts about CARICOM.
Contractor General Greg Christie also likes to wag his finger
http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,2111975_2111976_2111996,00.html Time Magazine article by Yvette Clarke on Portia Simpson Miller
http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,2107952_2107953_2110149,00.html Time Magazine feature on Portia Simpson Miller
Portia, that Time 100 List and Gay Rights (newsandviewsbydjmillerja.wordpress.com)
Jamaica’s Portia Simpson-Miller and Usain Bolt Nominated for Time Persons of the Year 2012 (repeatingislands.com)
Jamaica gets ‘nudge’ toward repeal of anti-LGBT laws (76crimes.com)
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Sold-out-for-30-pieces-of-silver_11317924#ixzz1tMs5wiRq (Betty Ann Blaine column)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120425/lead/lead1.html: No to impotence
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120110/lead/lead7.html: Christie sends anti-corruption proposal to Simpson Miller (January 10, 2012)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120423/lead/lead9.html: Let’s leave CARICOM – Mair
Sunday Steam (petchary.wordpress.com)
Listen to the Youth! No, Stop… REALLY Listen, Please! (petchary.wordpress.com)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=36740: Vandals set fire to LIME cell site
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/editorial/US-Embassy-s-new-covered-section–good-going-Ambassador-Bridgewater- Editorial on new awning at U.S. Embassy