1000MW coal-fired plant is a retrograde step, says JET

Coal is the undisputed leader in dirty fuel sources. But beyond the issue of global warming/climate change (burning coal is the number one source of the greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide), coal-fired power plants also release dangerously high levels of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, mercury, arsenic, lead, carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons into the atmosphere, creating environmental hazards both near the plants (i.e smog, respiratory complications, fouled water from coal-slurry impoundments), and far from the plants (i.e acid rain, mercury pollution in rivers and oceans, etc.). And that is only the burning of coal, to say nothing of the mining and transportation of it. (Source: Webecoist)
Coal is the undisputed leader in dirty fuel sources. But beyond the issue of global warming/climate change (burning coal is the number one source of the greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide), coal-fired power plants also release dangerously high levels of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, mercury, arsenic, lead, carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons into the atmosphere, creating environmental hazards both near the plants (i.e smog, respiratory complications, fouled water from coal-slurry impoundments), and far from the plants (i.e acid rain, mercury pollution in rivers and oceans, etc.). And that is only the burning of coal, to say nothing of the mining and transportation of it. (Source: Webecoist)

I am posting below a press release from the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET), strongly opposing the construction of a 1000MW coal-fired power plant in Nain, St. Elizabeth. Such a large plant would cause untold harm in terms of pollution of the earth, sea and air – and consequently our own health. It would also greatly increase carbon emissions, in contradiction of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change that Jamaica recently signed. I will be writing more about this in subsequent blog posts. Let us stick with natural gas and renewables, as clearly stated in the Government’s Energy Policy. Coal is not the way to go! 

Coal-fired power plants are the most polluting form of energy generation. Such a large plant in a largely rural area would cause great harm to the health of residents in surrounding areas, and across the island. (Photo: Reuters)

Coal-fired power plants are the most polluting form of energy generation. Such a large plant in a largely rural area would cause great harm to agriculture and to the health of residents in surrounding areas, and across the island. (Photo: Reuters)

August 3, 2016

Following the announcement of the sale of the old Alpart plant at Nain in St. Elizabeth to Jiuquan Iron & Steel (Group) Company Limited (JISCO) on July 19, 2016, Transport and Mining Minister, the Hon. Mike Henry announced a US$2 billion investment by the new owners at a press conference held last week. Minister Henry also revealed that this new industrial development would be powered by a 1000MW coal-fired plant. Energy, Science & Technology Minster, the Hon. Andrew Wheatley qualified what Minister Henry said by stating that the Government of Jamaica is “looking at” coal as the source of energy. Both Ministers were at pains to assure the public that the environment would be protected.

The Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) strongly opposes a coal plant of this scale for Jamaica due to the harm to human health and climate posed by coal-fired power plants.

The pollutants from coal-fired plants that pose significant risks to human health are sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, mercury and particulate matter. Sulphur dioxide is a trigger for asthma attacks and combines with water vapour to form acid rain – which will also affect crops and soil health in the farming parish of St. Elizabeth and beyond. Nitrogen oxides are a precursor to smog and increase the likelihood of respiratory ailments such as wheezing, coughing, colds, flu and bronchitis. Mercury is a neurotoxin associated with irreversible IQ deficits and neurobehavioral pathologies. Particulate matter, also called PM or soot, consists of microscopically small solid particles or liquid droplets suspended in the air. The smaller the particles, the deeper they can penetrate into the respiratory system and the more hazardous they are. There is a robust association between daily rates of human mortality and levels of particulate matter even when levels are below air quality guidelines. Emissions of these pollutants can be reduced with modern equipment, but this type of coal plant is not cheap to build and does not produce cheap electricity.

JET has spent many years monitoring the effectiveness of environmental management and enforcement in Jamaica and we assert that the environmental regulatory framework in Jamaica is neither capable of nor willing to compel large foreign investors to comply with their environmental permits and licenses. JET has collected ample evidence of this over decades. In fact, the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) still states that it relies on “voluntary compliance” from investors – a strategy which has demonstrably failed.

The harm to the earth’s climate caused by emissions from coal-fired plants cannot be avoided at this stage of technology development. There are projects to capture and store carbon dioxide (CO2) underway and a few plants have already been built, all with massive government subsidies. This is experimental and extremely expensive technology and there is almost no chance it will be employed in Jamaica.

Goal No. 3 of Jamaica’s National Energy Policy, promulgated by a Jamaica Labour Party government in 2009 states: Jamaica realizes its energy resource potential through the development of renewable energy sources and enhances its international competitiveness, energy security whilst reducing its carbon footprint.

A modern coal-fired plant emits 762 kilograms of carbon dioxide (CO2) per megawatt-hour of electricity generated, if there is no CO2 capture. This plant alone would emit roughly 6.7 million tons of CO2 per year, just over half of our 2025 target under the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, which we signed on Earth Day 2016. Meeting our Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) to greenhouse gas emissions under this Agreement would become virtually impossible. Further, the planned energy matrix in the National Energy Policy calls for only 5% petcoke/coal – another case of the Government ignoring its own policy documents.

A coal-fired plant uses large amounts of water, which either has to come from the sea or fresh water supplies. Nain is not close to the sea – is the water to come from the aquifer under water-stressed St. Elizabeth? The Black River? This plant will lock us into an unsustainable and harmful source of energy for at least 50 years.

JET calls on the portfolio minister of the environment, the Prime Minister, to rethink this harmful project. Economic growth in Jamaica can and should be powered mainly by natural gas and renewables, as called for by the National Energy Policy.

Contact:
Diana McCaulay
CEO, Jamaica Environment Trust
469-131

Smog caused by coal pollution in Harbin, China. During this period in 2013, fine particulate matter (PM2.5) reached levels of 1,000 micrograms per cubic meter in some parts of the city, readings 40 times the level of 25 or less micrograms per cubic meter that the World Health Organization considers ideal for human health and more than three times the level of 300 that’s considered hazardous. (Photo: Kyodo News/AP)

Smog caused by coal pollution in Harbin, China. During this period in 2013, fine particulate matter (PM2.5) reached levels of 1,000 micrograms per cubic meter in some parts of the city, readings 40 times the level of 25 or less micrograms per cubic meter that the World Health Organization considers ideal for human health and more than three times the level of 300 that’s considered hazardous. (Photo: Kyodo News/AP)

A Brush with Earl, Blaming “He” and Praying Away Crime: Jamaica, Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Remembrance: Flowers on the simple memorial at Seville Great House in St. Ann for enslaved African ancestors, during the Emancipation Jubilee celebrations over the weekend. (Photo: Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport on Twitter).
Remembrance: Flowers on the simple memorial at Seville Great House in St. Ann for enslaved African ancestors, during the Emancipation Jubilee celebrations over the weekend. (Photo: Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport on Twitter).

It’s August already, and I am writing this accompanied by quick bursts of rainfall and breeze (and a cup of Darjeeling tea). Tropical Storm Earl (which took a while to be named) is passing just to the south of us and getting up some steam for Honduras and Mexico. It has not inconvenienced too many Jamaicans, from all reports (in terms of water, electricity etc). We were quite lucky to have escaped it, and meanwhile our garden is lapping up the rain.

Tropical Storm Earl (the large orange blob) is moving away from us. Tomorrow we might even see some sun!

Tropical Storm Earl (the large orange blob) is moving away from us, and might strengthen. But here in Jamaica – tomorrow we might even see some sun!

Last week was incredibly packed, with many organizations trying to squeeze in events before the Emancipation/Independence holiday began. Now, quite a few holiday events have been postponed, and the Ranny Williams Centre, where government-sponsored celebrations normally take place, is a sad, lonely (and wet) place. The Government seemed to be quite “on the ball” with preparations for the storm. However, I must ask: Why has the social media presence for the Meteorological Service of Jamaica and the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) been so minimal, during a tropical storm? They both have very old-fashioned, cheap looking websites, too – take a look! Please update yourselves, guys. Meanwhile I will continue to rely on Jamaica Weather  ,whom you can reach at any time on Twitter @jamaicaweather. And talking of social media, I was glad to see the Jamaica Constabulary Force tweeting a photo of a young boy who was lost. I wish they would do more of this – inform the public about missing persons, wanted men, roads closed, emergency situations etc – via social media! Guys, it doesn’t cost anything…We will share!

Port Authority has some explaining to do: We are used to stories of alleged corruption and lack of accountability in public entities, revealed on a regular basis by our industrious Auditor General. However my jaw dropped when I heard the revelations on the Port Authority of Jamaica. I already posted the response from the 51% Coalition in an earlier blog, which I co-signed. I wonder what kind of explanation the board of the Authority (and its CEO, the eminent Professor Gordon Shirley) will come up with. But there’s no hurry – our political leaders are on holiday now.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness spoke passionately on the topic of gender-based and other types of violence at last week's launch of the He For She campaign in Jamaica. (My photo)

Prime Minister Andrew Holness spoke passionately on the topic of gender-based and other types of violence at last week’s launch of the HeForShe campaign at Jamaica House. (My photo)

Prime Minister Andrew Holness has upped the rhetoric on violence. He used Emancipation Day to touch on this, declaring: “We have not, as a society, fully overcome slavery, and one element of slavery that still permeates, pervades, directs, influences, conditions and cultures us is violence.” But can we really blame slavery for our violent modern-day society? What about the inescapable nexus between politics and organized crime? The Prime Minister also focused on violence prevention at the launch of Jamaica’s HeForShe on the lawns next to his office last week. I have some issues with the launch event, though I believe the organizers meant well. I found it to be more negative “pointing the finger at the violent male” rhetoric, which I did not understand to be the purpose of the excellent UN campaign. Not that I think we should downplay gender-based violence; I thought He For She had a different focus.

The Hallelujah session attended by hundreds in Spanish Town, who believe that shouting "Praise the Lord!" is going to wish away crime. (Photo: Joseph Wellington/Jamaica Observer)

The Hallelujah session attended by hundreds, who believe that shouting “Praise the Lord!” is going to wish away crime. (Photo: Joseph Wellington/Jamaica Observer)

“Death on crime”: Meanwhile the current and former National Security Ministers attended a meeting organized by the Jamaica Umbrella Group of Churches called Jamaica Pray, when hundreds of mostly women waved their hands and Jamaican flags to pray away crime. If only one could. Someone noted cynically that Minister Bobby Montague is perhaps following in the footsteps of his predecessor Peter Bunting, who famously called for “divine intervention.” I would actually like to see “The Church” in its many manifestations go out into the communities and work on reducing crime – and I am not talking about programs for its own members, but for the many marginalized and vulnerable members of society.

Opposition Spokesman and former Minister of National Security Peter Bunting (left) bonding with the current Minister Bobby Montague. (Photo: Joseph Wellington/Jamaica Observer)

Opposition Spokesman and former Minister of National Security Peter Bunting (left) bonding with the current Minister Bobby Montague at Jamaica Pray. (Photo: Joseph Wellington/Jamaica Observer)

On the political front, former Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller finally declared her finances. This was met with some cynicism. Meanwhile, wearing an orange woolly hat, former Justice Minister Senator Mark Golding easily won his battle with People’s National Party (PNP) rival Colin Campbell for the coveted, comfortable South St. Andrew seat. Senator Golding had the blessing of former Prime Minister PJ Patterson, which irked Mr. Campbell.

Mark Golding celebrates with party workers in St. Andrew South, after being selected as Member of Parliament. (Photo: Loop Jamaica)

Mark Golding celebrates with party workers in St. Andrew South, after being selected as Member of Parliament. (Photo: Loop Jamaica)

Phillip Paulwell considers China to be "the future of bauxite." I was under the impression that bauxite (AND COAL) was a dying industry, but clearly they are the way of the future (forget sustainable development, folks!) (Photo: Nationwide News Network)

Former energy minister Phillip Paulwell considers China to be “the future of bauxite.” I was under the impression that bauxite (AND COAL) were dying industries – but clearly they are the way of the future. Forget sustainable development, folks! That’s a pipe dream! (Photo: Nationwide News Network)

Look to China! So says Phillip Paulwell, who to the annoyance of the current administration seems to be taking some credit for the recent sale of the Alpart bauxite plant in Nain to Jiuquan Iron and Steel Company (JISCO). Mr. Paulwell – who was in China along with Ministers Wheatley and Henry – sees the Chinese as knights in shining armor in agriculture, too. All I can say is that the idea of building a coal-powered plant on our little island is ludicrous. We are having long discussions on this topic on Twiter under the hashtag  #saynotocoalJA (Quote from @simoncrosskill: “What a time to want to upsize Jamaica’s carbon footprint,” in response to an article about melting glaciers. Indeed, does any of this make sense?)

Public Defender Arlene Harrison Henry is concerned about the police treatment of a woman caught on video. INDECOM apparently is not. (Photo: Gleaner)

Public Defender Arlene Harrison Henry is concerned about the police treatment of a woman caught on video. INDECOM apparently is not. (Photo: Gleaner)

“Restraint”: A disturbing video emerged recently, showing two policemen restraining one woman – including pulling her by her hair and kneeing her in the stomach. A policeman allegedly used a curse word at the woman, to which she responded in kind and was arrested. Public Defender Arlene Harrison Henry is not happy, but the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) says the police were doing their best. Puzzling. Do the police get training in how to arrest someone properly (without shooting them, of course)? Martial arts would be the perfect kind of training, seems to me. I used to practice judo – it is pretty effective!

Worries over water: President of the Jamaica Confederation of Trade Unions (JCTU) Helene Davis Whyte, has an issue with the Government’s planned privatisation of the National Water Commission (NWC) and wants to take it up with Minister Horace Chang. Have we been sensitized to the pros and cons of this plan – or is it just going to happen, without any consultation?

Organic farming: The Denbigh Agricultural Show is a regular feature of the Emancipation Day holiday. I hope Minister Karl Samuda is serious about developing organic agriculture, as it has great economic potential (if done right) and I am all for eco-friendliness. I am disappointed to hear that the 64-year-old Denbigh Show (where, years ago, my small son and I had a near-miss with a huge Brahmin bull) has become increasingly commercialized in the past few years, which has put off many from attending. It needs to get back to its roots (literally).

Sewage on the street in Christian Pen, Portmore - a problem the residents have suffered from for months. (Photo: Loop Jamaica)

Sewage on the street in Christian Pen, Portmore – a problem the residents have suffered from for months. (Photo: Loop Jamaica)

Sewage, again: How and why, in the 21st century, should Jamaican citizens be expected to endure sewage flowing through their homes and on the street? Well, parts of downtown Kingston have had this problem for years. Now the community of Christian Pen in Portmore, St. Catherine recently protested their own ongoing problem (over several months). Would the residents of uptown Norbrook and Cherry Gardens be expected to put up with this disgusting situation, I wonder? Well, we know the answer to my rhetorical question!

Guillain Barré Syndrome (GBS) was once a rare disease that none of us had even heard of. Now we are all terribly nervous about it, especially after well-known and politically connected lawyer Delano Franklyn described his struggle with it after contracting the Zika virus. It sounded like hell and he is only recovering now because he can afford the costly treatment, he says. Mr. Franklyn is a member of the PNP, whose supporters are now making some noise about the “crisis” in GBS in Jamaica, complaining that the Holness administration is not providing enough information. Remembering the chikungunya situation of not so long ago, I find this accusation amusing! The Ministry has noted in a press release that it is stockpiling medication and training more personnel to deal with GBS. It’s also advising anyone who has weakness of the limbs during or after having zika-like symptoms to get medical attention. Minister Tufton says GBS patients are actually getting treated for free – at a cost of roughly $1.5 million per patient. It’s amazing to think that Zika has only been officially present in Jamaica for six months and has created such problems. There is a new report on its possible ramifications (even that it may be a form of HIV?) almost every day. It’s unnerving. If you do get Zika (and I had it about two months ago) my advice is: Rest!

Major, major kudos to:

Juliet Cuthbert-Flynn, Member of Parliament and former Olympic medallist, who gave birth to baby Zara on Emancipation Day.

Volunteers from Great Shape! Inc pose for their photo at Sandals Whitehouse in Westmoreland. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

Volunteers from Great Shape! Inc pose for their photo at Sandals Whitehouse in Westmoreland. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

I heard great things about Godfrey Stewart High School in Westmoreland at the JN Foundation School Leadership Summit last week. Now it is to benefit from a Teach the Teachers workshop starting today, sponsored by Great Shape! Inc (a diaspora organization) and the Sandals Foundation. The workshop will focus on computer training, behavior management and language arts.

I met up with the amazing Keisha Hayle, the dedicated Principal of Padmore Primary School in St. Andrew, at the JN School Leadership Summit. Ms. Hayle has worked incredibly hard and made great personal sacrifices to keep the school open. (My photo)

I met up with Keisha Hayle, the dedicated Principal of Padmore Primary School in St. Andrew, at the JN School Leadership Summit. Ms. Hayle has worked incredibly hard and made great personal sacrifices to keep the school open. (My photo)

JN Foundation, who did an amazing job with their two-day School Leadership Summit last week. Both the local and overseas speakers were excellent, and complemented each other in different ways. I was one of the volunteer “live tweeters” and have already posted Jaevion Nelson’s column on some of the issues raised. I really do hope the summit will have far-reaching effects, inspiring school principals to take a new look at the way they administer their schools and relate to students and staff. The current model isn’t working, let’s face it. I will be sharing more on this topic soon.

Nikeisha Sewell Lewis of the Women's Resource and Outreach Centre reveals the five primary areas of concern for Jamaican women, based on consultations with hundreds across the island over the past few months. (My photo)

Nikeisha Sewell Lewis of the Women’s Resource and Outreach Centre reveals the five primary areas of concern for Jamaican women, based on consultations with hundreds across the island over the past few months. (My photo)

The 51% Coalition, Under the hashtag #WhatDoWomenWantJA, the 51% Coalition, with funding from UN Women, partnered with the USAID-funded Fi Wi Jamaica for a Public Forum attended by a diverse audience of approx. 80 women (and men). The Coalition shared the findings of its consultations with seven groups of women across Jamaica, as well as the results of its research on women’s presence (or absence) on public boards. The findings were interesting and the audience discussion (with women from Kingston/St. Andrew, Clarendon, Portland and elsewhere) was sharp – and revealing. More to follow!

Minister of State in the Ministry of Finance and Planning Fayval Williams (left) and Founder of the Caribbean's regional crowdfunding platform. @pitchandchoose Cecile Watson at the launch of FundRiseHER (Photo: Marcia Forbes/Twitter)

Minister of State in the Ministry of Finance and Planning Fayval Williams (left) and Founder of the Caribbean’s regional crowdfunding platform. @pitchandchoose Cecile Watson at the launch of FundRiseHER (Photo: Marcia Forbes/Twitter)

FundRiseHER™ – a ground-breaking initiative of two Caribbean women entrepreneurs -Commonwealth Business Woman Ambassador Valrie Grant and A. Cecile Watson, CEO of pitchandchoose.com, a crowd funding platform; and Arif Zaman, Executive Director, Commonwealth Businesswomen’s Network in collaboration with the Caribbean Export Development Agency. I am really sorry I missed the official launch last Friday, but look forward to hearing more about the success of this venture to support Caribbean women entrepreneurs.

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Yes, women were busy last week (men, what have you been doing?) Finally, kudos to the group of fantastic young women who have founded the #FaceDepression social media campaign, to raise awareness and to reduce the stigma attached to mental health in Jamaica. That stigma is real. The launch last week was beautifully done and much appreciated. Do support them.

My condolences to the families of those Jamaicans who have died violently in the past week or so. These are their names (all except one in western Jamaica):

Oniel McEwan, 38, Palm Grove Estate, Kingston 13

Bertland Gray, 16, Reading Fishing Beach/Montego Bay, St. James

Leon Gillings, 35, Reading Fishing Beach/Montego Bay, St. James

Owen James, 72, John’s Hall, St. James

Duvaine James, 19, John’s Hall, St. James (mob killing)

Oliver Haughton, 20, Negril, Westmoreland

Courtney Legister, 30, Negril, Westmoreland

A Political Highway, GBS Cases Increase, and More Local Government Troubles: Saturday, June 25, 2016

Jamaica gone abroad! Earlier this month the Museum of African Art in Serbia got a taste of Jamaican culture at the Afro Festival Durbar Day 2016. The Consulate, spearheaded by honorary consul Mirko Miljus, served Blue Mountain coffee and sold jerk chicken, as well as T-shirts, caps, magnets, bracelets and other little trinkets. The Consul's wife Jelena even made jerk sauce, which apparently went down quite well.
Jamaica gone abroad! Earlier this month the Museum of African Art in Serbia got a taste of Jamaican culture at the Afro Festival Durbar Day 2016. The Consulate, spearheaded by honorary consul Mirko Miljus, served Blue Mountain coffee and sold jerk chicken, as well as T-shirts, caps, magnets, bracelets and other little trinkets. The Consul's wife Jelena even made jerk sauce, which apparently went down quite well.

What a week. The weather is hot – day and night. The White-Crowned Pigeon (“Baldpate”) is coming to our bird bath in the middle of the day, just to drink. When I refill the baths (making sure all the old water is gone, so as not to breed mosquitoes) the birds are just sitting in the trees watching me. As I turn around they are down to drink and bathe. Water is life! If you have a garden, make sure you put out some water. The birds will soon find it and they will be grateful. Meanwhile, two baby birds fell from the very top of our guango tree this week (one miraculously survived and is now being hand-reared at the wonderful Sevenoaks Wildlife Rescue Centre in St. Ann) – blown in strong winds from a rickety nest built by Mr. & Ms. Smooth-Billed Ani. Phew! And then, this week, there was something called Brexit… I will be talking about it with some others on TVJ’s Smile Jamaica on Monday (7:00 am Jamaican time), if you happen to be watching our local TV. I am still trying to make sense of it all…

Prime Minister Andrew Holness.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness.

Limited release: Prime Minister Andrew Holness, very belatedly, “released his financials to the media” on Friday, June 17. I put this in quotation marks because the words “release” and “media” are not exactly accurate. Are his financials now fully in the public domain? Mr. Holness was fulfilling his promise to do so by March 31 – so, he was a tad late. Well, as they say – better late than never, but now the discussion is: Why did he release them to only three media houses – the Gleaner, Jamaica Observer and the radio station Nationwide News Network (NNN)? And why did it take so long? PM Holness told NNN that he was releasing his last ten declarations to the Integrity Commission, and it took time to go over them to make sure they were correct. Currently he has assets valued at just over JMD$151-million, and liabilities just under JMD$35-million, NNN reports.

Residents of Tivoli Gardens in west Kingston protest with placards during a tour of the area, in April 24, 2015, by the commissioners and lawyers involved in the commission of enquiry. (Photo: Norman Grindley/Gleaner)

Residents of Tivoli Gardens in west Kingston protest with placards during a tour of the area, in April 24, 2015, by the commissioners and lawyers involved in the commission of enquiry. (Photo: Norman Grindley/Gleaner)

A question of culture: Reverberations continue following the publication of the Commission of Enquiry report into the West Kingston Incursion of May 2010 in Tivoli Gardens. Apart from the individuals named in the report (are they planning to resign?) the report highlights major problems with the modus operandi of both the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) and the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) in their assault on Tivoli. I believe the security forces went in there basically to teach the residents of Tivoli a lesson! I am still convinced the JCF needs a complete overhaul from top to bottom. The culture is all wrong. Is there a long-term plan, I wonder, for the JCF? I see a tall building going up next to the old colonial building housing the Commissioner of Police’s office in uptown Kingston. Bigger and better? Why not try implementing more of the recommendations of the Strategic Review of the JCF of 2008? Commissioner Terrence Williams of INDECOM wrote an important piece in the Sunday paper, here: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/focus/20160619/terrence-williams-west-kingston-enquiry-overhaul-army-police-force

A senior policeman said the JCF is dealing with the implications of the report as best it can, although it lowers morale, etc., etc. This is hardly the point, though, is it? The question is not whether members of the JCF and JDF are upset or embarrassed by the report (but they should be). It is: what are they going to do about it? Nor do the peevish comments of some of the defense lawyers help matters. I understand also that the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) has not been generally satisfied with the JDF’s investigative process; it takes a long time for a soldier to be made available for questioning to investigators, for example. Why is this?

Minister of Health, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton (third left), along with (from left) Chairman of the Board of Hardware and Lumber Ltd., Mr. Erwin Burton; Chief Executive Officer, Ms. Donna Duran; and General Manager of AgroGrace, Mrs. Olive Downer-Walsh, at a briefing at the company’s Spanish Town Road offices on Tuesday, June 21. They are observing products being carried by the company which are used in vector control management. (Photo: JIS)

Minister of Health Christopher Tufton (third left), with (from left) Chairman of the Board of Hardware and Lumber Ltd., Mr. Erwin Burton; Chief Executive Officer, Ms. Donna Duran; and General Manager of AgroGrace, Mrs. Olive Downer-Walsh, at AgroGrace offices on Tuesday. They are examining products being carried by AgroGrace to be used in vector control management. (Photo: JIS)

Viral nerves: In the middle of the week some of us suddenly felt nervous on news that there has been an increase in cases of the Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS), which affects some patients with the Zika virus. There are now thirty cases of GBS, most of which Health Minister Christopher Tufton says are zika-related. Eeek! A former GBS sufferer spoke on radio about his serious illness in 2014 following a bout with chikungunya. The Health Ministry website has lots of information and good advice on vector control and so on – but I just wish they would update it with the latest statistics. We don’t all catch the Minister’s announcements while he is making a speech somewhere. It’s good to have a reference point. Meanwhile, four pregnant women reportedly are confirmed to have Zika, and all pregnant women are now being tested.

 Very recently, five workers were injured when a part of the Royalton Negril construction site collapsed. There was a huge fuss, and talk then about Jamaica’s health and safety laws. Now a Chinese worker has died a horrible death on another hotel construction site in Negril,  Are overseas investors simply flouting these laws? What influence do our trade unions have? Can companies like Karisma just bring in any number of Chinese – what is wrong with Jamaican workers? Having said all that, I am very sad at the dreadful death of this worker. It is shocking. Can legal action be taken against the construction company (which I understand is Chinese)? Apparently a large, wobbly-looking crane is now hanging over Negril’s main thoroughfare. Is there any space left there for building, now? I remember my first visit to Negril in the 1980s. It was green and peaceful. Those were the days, gone forever. 

MOCA representatives outside the Manchester Parish Council building. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

MOCA representatives outside the Manchester Parish Council building. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

I’m a little worried about the way in which Local Government Minister Desmond McKenzie is handling alleged corrupt practices at parish councils. Early Friday morning, the homes of several employees of the Manchester Parish Council were raided by the Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency (MOCA) and a lot of documents and computers were taken away. Two were arrested but have not been charged. Large sums in U.S. and Jamaican currency were seized. The Council offices were closed for quite a while. Warrants were also executed at the Clarendon Parish Council, making the Mayor a little nervous. Minister McKenzie, are you being a little over-zealous? However, many support his anti-corruption drive. I hope that the motivation is simply anti-corruption, and not an attempt to unnerve the parish councils, which are dominated by the Opposition People’s National Party (PNP), ahead of local government elections. If it is anti-corruption, I am all for it. I know the diligent Office of the Contractor General is also investigating the award of some contracts at Manchester over the past seven years. After a typically energetic presentation in Parliament the other day, Minister McKenzie is not now commenting on the raids. I know he is very enthusiastic in his work, but don’t want him to overdo things. Perhaps dawn raids are the only way to deal with alleged corrupt officials?

Trafigura shenanigans: Following a case management conference, it was agreed that the appeal should be put off until the week of January 16, 2017. Well done, KD Knight & Co! As you may recall, Dutch authorities want Opposition Leader Portia Simpson Miller, PNP Chairman Robert Pickersgill, and other party officials to answer questions under oath about a 31 million “donation” (or was it a “gift”?) the party received from Trafigura Beheer in 2006.

The awful conditions of sugar workers' housing (called "barracks") in Golden Grove, St. Thomas. It is a much-neglected parish that is really in need of development. (Photo: Jamaica Gleaner)

The awful conditions of sugar workers’ housing (called “barracks”) in Golden Grove, St. Thomas. It is a much-neglected parish that is really in need of development. (Photo: Jamaica Gleaner)

Highway politics: Now in “local government election mode,” Opposition Spokesman-on-Whatever Peter Phillips says he hopes the fixing up of the south coast roadways will be done properly and will be up to scratch. The “six-star General” in Eastern St. Thomas, Member of Parliament Fenton Ferguson came to life and started rallying the troops to “fight” for the South Coast Highway at a party meeting. The following day, the National Works Agency spokesman – a serious and professional young man – was shouted down by a group of rowdy women at a public meeting (with the two Members of Parliament for the parish present – Western St. Thomas is represented by the Jamaica Labour Party’s James Robertson). The meeting was intended to explain plans for the highway. I was told that the people of St. Thomas – an under-developed parish – are simply “frustrated” and that this was just a genuine, non-politically motivated expression of their anger. I have my doubts; the highway has become a political football, without a doubt.

The wrecked Honda Civic motor car that was involved in a crash along the Llandovery main road in St Ann on Tuesday night. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

The wrecked Honda Civic motor car that was involved in a crash along the Llandovery main road in St Ann on Tuesday night. SIX people were in the car; four died in a collision with a truck. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

Talking of roads, I am again disappointed by the JCF Traffic Division. Three people died this week (and one died later in hospital) on the same stretch of road where five were killed in a terrible crash just a week or two ago. They were all employees of the Gran Bahia Principe hotel. When interviewed afterwards, the head of the Traffic Division simply said he wished people would not drive so fast. Moral suasion by the JCF and the National Road Safety Council clearly is not working. This is a notorious stretch of road, where speeding is commonplace; would it be too much to ask the police to have a speed trap there? Not necessarily to catch lawbreakers, but to at least make them slow down. No excuses, now. A little more effort is required, please. Well, a lot more.

Girls’ schools have problems, too: I recently visited the St. Andrew High School for Girls, which has an excellent reputation; it has a lovely, orderly compound. Sadly, there was a stabbing and shooting incident on that same compound, after an awards ceremony, reportedly between a teacher and a parent. Then a fight broke out among students of the Holy Childhood High School (a girls-only Catholic school) on the street this week. Well, the adults continue to set a fine example for the children, don’t they?

Below are the names of the four men killed by the police in Old Harbour Bay in the middle of the afternoon on June 14. One of them was a teenager. The police say they seized three guns. As usual the residents’ accounts differ greatly from that of the police – who always say they were fired on first. One can’t help thinking that these alleged criminals must be really bad shots, because they are the ones who end up dead in almost all cases, while no police officers are injured. The names were released by the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM). Having said all this, the police are doing well with gun seizures in the parish; and there have been a number of murders in the Old Harbour area in recent times. It’s all painful and a tragic waste of young lives. Meanwhile, one man has been arrested and charged with the murder of two American missionaries (a local man, rather surprisingly) and the JCF say the motive for the killings in a sleepy rural area was robbery. They are still looking for one or two other suspects, with assistance from the Federal Bureau of Investigation. I am so sad about the murder of a St. Catherine policeman, and extend my condolences to all the families and loved ones. So many young men, so many.

Javian Watson, 16; Jermaine O’Connor, 31; Carlington Steeling, 22; Kemar Frazer, 26 – Old Harbour Bay, St. Catherine – all killed by police

Sgt. Carlton Morrison, 52, Jamaica Constabulary Force, Brunswick Avenue/Spanish Town, St. Catherine

Michael White, Fletchers Land, Kingston

Garnett Hall, 28, Flanker, St. James

Alex Parkinson, 22, Barrett Town, St. James

Unidentified man, Sundowner Close/Montego Bay, St. James

Neil Griffiths, Catadupa, St. James

Gwayne Morris, 22, Lindos Hill/Whithorn, Westmoreland

Jason Wedderburn, 31, Lindos Hill/Whithorn, Westmoreland

Stanford Anderson, 56, Whithorn, Westmoreland

Conroy Hay, 34, Windsor Heights, St. Ann

Kevin Dennis, 25, Luana, St. Elizabeth (killed by police)

Cleveland Nairen, 62, Gayle District, Manchester

D.J. Bennett, 29, Mile Gully, Manchester

Desmond Lindo, Plum Valley/Buff Bay, Portland

Confident PM, Devastating Desmond and The Ghost of Trafigura: Sunday, May 29, 2016

A huge fire destroyed the 260,000 sq. ft. warehouse at Wisynco in Lakes Pen, St. Catherine. It started on Thursday afternoon and took many hours to bring  under control. Wisynco head William Mahfood tweeted:"I want to thank all Jamaica and our great people for the outpouring of well wishes and love. We will rise and have much to be thankful for." (Photo: Gleaner)
A huge fire destroyed the 260,000 sq. ft. warehouse at Wisynco in Lakes Pen, St. Catherine. It started on Thursday afternoon and took many hours to bring under control. Wisynco head William Mahfood tweeted:"I want to thank all Jamaica and our great people for the outpouring of well wishes and love. We will rise and have much to be thankful for." (Photo: Gleaner)

We’ve been having some lovely rain in Kingston, but on the eastern side of the island rural residents have been struggling with some flooding, landslides, lack of electricity and water and damaged roads… Some real challenges, and a schoolgirl, Brittany Cowell, sadly drowned in flood waters in St. Thomas. I do hope they get help quickly, because the hurricane season is breathing down our necks. This year’s hurricane names are out. Alexis and Bonnie have already been and gone, so on to Colin and Danielle – probably Earl, too. Hopefully we will not get to know Tobias, Virginie or Walter.

How GM mosquitoes work.

How GM mosquitoes work.

The mosquito fogging truck just came booming down the road, leaving chemical fumes in its wake. In neighboring Cayman Islands the Aedes Aegypti mosquitoes (which, as we know, carry the dengue fever, chikungunya, zika viruses plus yellow fever) have developed a resistance to the commonly used insecticide that is used in both aerial and terrestrial spraying. So, over the next nine months the Caymans will be releasing 22 million genetically modified (GM) mosquitoes; they are sterile and the larvae apparently never emerge as adults. Is Jamaica considering this option? Do we know if fogging is still effective here? There are reports of more Jamaicans with symptoms of Zika now (red eyes is one of them) – although still many will not show symptoms.

A surprisingly confident performance: Prime Minister Andrew Holness delivered his Budget speech in a robust and somewhat upbeat manner, and made rather a good impression generally. Of course, it’s always up to the PM to deliver some kind of consolatory nice things after the tough realities of our budget numbers. Yet, I get the sense that he took the wind out of the Opposition People’s National Party’s (PNP) sails (as the IMF did last week by praising Holness’ tax proposals) by going one step further. Despite his one-seat majority, Holness is making some bold moves in the Budget, which have perhaps caught the Opposition on the back foot. Housing and land is always – has always been – a major concern for the less financially endowed among us. Holness took this vexed issue squarely by the horns and in his closing budget speech handed out some “goodies” in terms of National Housing Trust benefits that should really make a difference to people’s lives. The link to the full speech is here: http://jis.gov.jm/prime-minister-hon-andrew-holness-budget-presentation/

Prime Minister Andrew Holness tweeted his remarks at a conference this week: “Government will focus less on announcement and more on implementation.” Our politicians (and others) are of course famous for making grand announcements, followed by little or no action. Many years ago now, a former U.S. Ambassador to Jamaica ruffled some feathers when he commented on this tendency. Let’s hope the PM really does get cracking.

Member of Parliament for East Portland Lynvale Bloomfield gets to work on painting the police station on Labour Day - when huge amounts of paint are bought, all over the island! (Photo: Twitter)

Member of Parliament for East Portland Lynvale Bloomfield gets to work on painting the police station on Labour Day – when huge amounts of paint are bought, all over the island! (Photo: Twitter)

The PNP did, however, have something to complain about, and that is the apparent unfair sharing of funding for Labour Day projects. The Holness administration is under pressure to explain, although Prime Minister Holness asserted quite firmly that he is opposed to any allocation of funds on a partisan basis during his Budget speech. While many Jamaicans worked hard on Labour Day, these accusations (and the rather confused explanation by the JLP) threw a bit of a shadow over the day.

Postponed… like the pre-election political debates.

Postponed… like the pre-election political debates.

The party of postponement? The PNP had planned a tweet chat (#BudgetChatJa) this evening, but at 5:30 p.m. tweeted: “Pls note TweetUp postponed. We’re going to examine some of the issues raised in closing of debate so we can have a full #BudgetChatJA with u.” I wonder why it was postponed. Someone didn’t approve?

 Damian Crawford’s radio show: The former Entertainment Minister’s new talk show, called Str8 Fwd with Crawford starts tonight (May 25) 8pm on  Nationwide. Mr. Crawford has been known to go off on tangents quite regularly, so I think the name of his show may be a bit of a misnomer. We shall see how many detours and cul de sacs he encounters. The number of female voices on this radio station is dwindling, unfortunately.

Damian Crawford is adding to the roster of male voices on Nationwide Radio.

Damian Crawford is adding to the roster of male voices on Nationwide Radio.

Reading the riot act: Local Government Minister Desmond McKenzie gave the Hanover Parish Council a real dressing-down, in person, a few days ago. I think he went over the top, as Mr. McKenzie is prone to do at times. “Over zealous” is a kind way of putting it, perhaps! The councilors must have felt like a classroom full of bad boys and girls, about to get heavy detention. Minister McKenzie has taken over all documents prior to conducting a three-week audit at Hanover; perhaps he is afraid some may disappear. He also says he is going to conduct “in depth” investigations into three other (as yet unnamed) parish councils. He has been “throwing shade” all over the place. In one comment, he said “the people don’t have the stomach” for local government elections, so people can become councilors with just a few hundred votes (let’s remember that local government elections are pending). Meanwhile, the section of the Royalton Hotel that did not collapse may reopen soon, Minister McKenzie says (he’s also keeping a beady eye on another development, the Karisma Hotel).

Horrible crash: Five people died in yet another horrific crash on a stretch of road in Llandovery, St. Ann that is habitually a race track. The minibus in which the five were traveling apparently developed mechanical problems. This gave the traffic police the opportunity to stress the importance of keeping one’s vehicle properly maintained. They are doing a lot of “spot checks” but it has not made any difference whatsoever, so far as I can see. 160 Jamaicans have died in road accidents since the start of the year (149 last year at this time). I am not impressed by the police as far as road safety is concerned. I have seen them myself, looking on while motorbike riders without helmets stop at traffic lights right under their noses. It’s a bit too much to hear them lecturing us on every television newscast, when they are not properly enforcing the laws.

Tourism Minister Wykeham McNeill.

Tourism Minister Wykeham McNeill.

On the political front, the PNP is trying to rearrange itself. As I noted in an earlier blog, Instagram Queen Lisa Hanna has decided to make her move, and tweeted this today. Former Tourism Minister Dr. Wykeham McNeill also plans to throw his hat in the ring at a regional meeting in St. James, replacing Derrick Kellier who is stepping down. The other Vice Presidents currently are Dr Fenton Ferguson, Angela Brown Burke, and Noel Arscott.

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And a terrible fire: Wisynco suffered a huge loss on Thursday afternoon, when its very large warehouse at Lakes Pen in St. Catherine caught fire. It took a long time to get it under control – a lot of plastic and styrofoam went up in smoke. Fortunately though, no one was hurt and no one will be laid off as a result of the fire.

Bank of Jamaica (BoJ) Governor, Brian Wynter (left), responds to a question during the quarterly press briefing at the BoJ’s headquarters, on May 26. Also pictured is the bank’s Deputy Governor, Livingstone Morrison. (Photo: JIS)

Bank of Jamaica (BoJ) Governor, Brian Wynter (left), responds to a question during the quarterly press briefing at the BoJ’s headquarters, on May 26. Also pictured is the bank’s Deputy Governor, Livingstone Morrison. (Photo: JIS)

Eeek! The dollar! It has been sliding rapidly in the last couple of weeks. Since May 20, the Bank of Jamaica has been intervening by selling substantial amounts into the market.

Remember Trafigura? It hasn’t gone away, although I am sure some people would like it to. The case resumes on Tuesday May 31. Dutch authorities still want to question PNP officials of the about a $31-million donation by Dutch company Trafigura Beheer to the party in 2006. Former PNP General Secretary Colin Campbell says he is not worried that the Trafigura case has reared its head again, telling one newspaper that it is “a whole lot of political propaganda [No, it’s a legal matter actually, Mr. Campbell]. “I was the general secretary [of the PNP] and that’s in the past, I took responsibility for it. It was not a personal issue, and as far as my character is concerned, I have shown that I am of sound character and refuse to take part in any wrongdoings like that,” Mr. Campbell said. You can find the August 2010 report of the Office of the Contractor General here: http://www.ocg.gov.jm/ocg/sites/default/files/OCG_Investigation_Trafigura.pdf The Contractor General at the time, Greg Christie tweeted earlier this week: “Former JA PM Simpson-Miller had previously contended that she enjoyed diplomatic immunity and couldn’t be compelled to answer questions.”

CHEC News: Our great friends China Harbour Engineering Company has built a space monitoring” base in Argentina, which is being entirely run and staffed by the People’s Liberation Army. Local media have not been allowed access, according to this report: http://thediplomat.com/2016/05/china-builds-space-monitoring-base-in-the-americas/  which describes the project as “the first-ever tract of sovereign Chinese territory in the Americas.” Is this the first, though? CHEC has also been very busy building those controversial islands in the South China Sea. It will not be busy building the planned Swansea Lagoon project in the UK, however, as was expected. Let us keep an eye on what these people are doing, elsewhere and here.

Predators: The non-governmental organization Children First suffered a terrible blow, when its training centre on Monk Street in Spanish Town was broken into and every item of equipment for its cosmetology and barbering training program was stolen – including three barbers’ chairs. Another non-governmental organization, the TrenchTown Reading Centre, has been sprucing itself up for the summer lately, but also suffered a loss when it was broken into and many large pots of paint etc. were stolen. One can only think this must be someone in the community that committed this crime, or organized it. The community is always “upset” but of course “no one knows” who does these things. They are unknown, preying on organizations that have so few resources and are trying to lift up their own children. It is hurtful and infuriating – compounded by the fact that there is a culture of silence.

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The I’m Glad I’m a Girl Summer Camp will run from July 24 to 30 at Mary Seacole Hall at the University of the West Indies (UWI) Mona campus. It’s a great, empowering event for teenage girls. Nadeen Spence is the organizer and founder of the I’m Glad I’m a Girl Foundation, which is a flourishing mentorship program run by UWI students. It is seeking funds for this annual weeklong residential camp that features a range of activities. If you can make a donation – or sponsor one of the participating girls from a vulnerable community, you can go to the crowd funding site: https://www.gofundme.com/25e9m2rw  or make a contribution to their bank account: Bank of Nova Scotia, Liguanea Branch, I’m Glad I’m A Girl, A/C No. 823285.

Congrats to the Reggae Boyz! They beat Chile 2-1 on Friday night in an away friendly.Big ups to the goal scorers Clayton Donaldson and Joel Grant. Minnows beat one of the South American powerhouses. Cool!

maj-symposium-flyer

Very happy to hear that the Medical Association of Jamaica will this year focus on Emerging Issues Impacting the Health of Older Adults, and has designated the Caribbean Community of Retired Persons (CCRP) as its charity, this year.

Do we give enough thought to occupational health and safety in Jamaica? Dr. Yohann White has written a useful article on the topic: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/healthy-workers-companies-yohann-white-mbbs-phd-dtmh

Despite the politicking over the amounts allocated for Labour Day projects, much good work was done. Here are the Digicel Foundation, Positive Organization and Respect Jamaica volunteers in Trench Town, (with Digicel Foundation's Kemesha Kelly (2nd left) and Foundation Chair Jean Lowrie-Chin (in straw hat). Photo: Twitter

Despite the politicking over the amounts allocated for Labour Day projects, much good work was done. Here are the Digicel Foundation, Positive Organization and Respect Jamaica volunteers in Trench Town, with Digicel Foundation’s Kemesha Kelly (2nd left) and Foundation Chair Jean Lowrie-Chin (in straw hat). Photo: Twitter

 

Why are so many of our women being killed, week after week? And how come there are “gang feuds” in a small rural town like Steer Town? I am sending my deepest condolences to the families of all these Jamaicans who have lost their lives to violence, this week. Sudden loss and trauma is not something you just get over, just so.

Adrian Thompson, 34, Hughenden, Kingston

Fabian Reid-Thomas, 36, Hughenden, Kingston

Melvin Dyer, Spanish Town, St. Catherine

Unidentified man, St. Catherine Correctional Centre (killed by correctional officer as he tried to escape)

Dennis King, 50, North Race Course Road/Mandeville, Manchester

Elvis Walters, 44, Cunningsburgh Road/Aleppo, St. Mary

Samantha Lindsay, 30, Grants Town, St. Mary

Orville Lawes, 40, Providence/Flanker, St. James

Unidentified man, Providence/Flanker, St. James

Lee Anthony Evans, 36, Rose Heights, St. James

Gregory McBean, 40, Steer Town, St. Ann

Shanique Smith, Grange Hill, Westmoreland

Roger Scott, 38, Negril, Westmoreland

Still missing: Popular photographer NIketa Thomas and his cousin, Dwight Brown, have been missing since October, 2015, causing untold stress and major health problems for Niketa's mother. The police report more than 16,730 persons have gone missing since January 2010, of which 1,681 have not been found. (Photo: Jamaica Star)

Still missing: Popular photographer Niketa Thomas and his cousin, Dwight Brown, have been missing since October, 2015, causing untold stress and major health problems for Niketa’s mother. The police report more than 16,730 persons have gone missing since January 2010, of which 1,681 have not been found. (Photo: Jamaica Star)

The police are still looking for the boyfriend of 30-year-old Samantha Lindsay, after she was shot dead in Grants Town, St. Mary on Sunday night. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

The police are still looking for the boyfriend of 30-year-old Samantha Lindsay, after she was shot dead in Grants Town, St. Mary on Sunday night. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

 

 

 

Shanique Smith, mother of three, was shot dead in Grange Hill, Westmoreland. (Photo: Jamaica Star/contributed)

Shanique Smith, mother of three, was shot dead in Grange Hill, Westmoreland. (Photo: Jamaica Star/contributed)

 

“Taxperity,” Life on Planet Poor – and A Surprise Visitor: Saturday, May 21, 2016

Businessman Don Wehby was sworn in as Government Senator on Friday, May 20. He had served as Senator before under the Bruce Golding administration (in 2007). Here he is speaking at the recent launch of his friend and colleague Douglas Orane's new book. (My photo)
Businessman Don Wehby was sworn in as Government Senator on Friday, May 20. He had served as Senator before under the Bruce Golding administration (in 2007). Here he is speaking at the recent launch of his friend and colleague Douglas Orane's new book. (My photo)

What a strange week it’s been – perhaps because I have not been feeling well. I believe I may I have had a touch of Zika (or a recurrence of chikungunya?) I get the feeling these nasty mosquito-borne diseases are overlapping. I seem to get them all! So please, people, take care out there. I am a bad example; I never notice mosquito bites and now that the weather has dried out a bit I am hardly even seeing any of the little buggers. Yet they seem to get me every time. Anyway, slap on your repellent, burn your candles and above all, don’t – don’t – have any breeding grounds around your house!

Health Minister Christopher Tufton must stay on top of the ever-changing pattern of scary diseases, and keep us regularly informed. (Photo: Gleaner)

Health Minister Christopher Tufton must stay on top of the ever-changing pattern of scary diseases, and keep us regularly informed. Daily, if necessary! This is no joke. (Photo: Gleaner)

Some pregnant women are showing symptoms of the Zika Virus, but none are yet confirmed, says Chief Medical Officer Dr. Winston De La Haye. He says “we continue to monitor,” noting Jamaica is part of a PAHO research project on microcephaly. Pregnant women should increase their check-ups and include ultrasound to check on the size of the baby’s head, he added. We would still like to see regular (weekly?) updates on the Ministry of Health website, Minister Tufton! Is that so hard? There are, I understand, now ten confirmed cases of Zika. But I hear from different sources that there are far more suspected cases, and the Health Ministry itself says it expects around 70 per cent of the population to be eventually affected, even if they don’t show symptoms.

And then we have yellow fever – which, unlike the above-mentioned afflictions, does have a vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control tells us: There is no risk of yellow fever in Jamaica. The government of Jamaica requires proof of yellow fever vaccination only if you are arriving from a country with risk of yellow fever.” Several Chinese citizens who arrived in Montego Bay recently were detained because they did not have vaccination certificates. China as well as several other countries does have yellow fever.  Here are the Ministry’s FAQs on the topic: http://moh.gov.jm/edu-resources/yellow-fever-faqs/

Venezuelan president Nicholas Maduro and his wife Cilia Flores Maduro descend the stairs on arrival on a flight from Caracas Saturday night - Contributed photo/Gleaner

Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro and his wife Cilia Flores Maduro descend the stairs on arrival on a flight from Caracas Saturday night – Contributed photo/Gleaner

As I write, the President of Venezuela Nicolás Maduro and his wife have just checked in at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in Kingston. He will be here for a “working visit,” it has been hastily announced. He will be meeting with Prime Minister Andrew Holness and Government officials and holding a joint press conference with the Prime Minister tomorrow (Sunday). He is a brave man to leave his country when it’s in such disarray; hopefully there will still be a place for him on his return. One notes his wife is with him, and also his Foreign Minister, Delcy Rodríguez, and Minister of Petroleum and Mining, Eulogio Del Pino. He may visit Trinidad after he leaves us on Sunday afternoon. This must be something to do with PetroCaribe (which no one seems to talk about, these days). Meanwhile, frantic cleaning up was going on overnight downtown, where President Maduro will visit the Simón Bolívar statue and Cultural Centre.

Sunday morning meeting at Jamaica House with President Maduro. (Photo: Andrew Holness Twitter)

Sunday morning meeting at Jamaica House with President Maduro. Finance Minister Audley Shaw and Foreign Affairs Minister Kamina Johnson Smith are in this photo. (Photo: Andrew Holness Twitter)

Finance and Planning Minister Audley Shaw kisses Opposition Leader Portia Simpson Miller in the House of Representatives. (Photo: Gleaner)

A peck on the cheek: Finance and Planning Minister Audley Shaw kisses Opposition Leader Portia Simpson Miller in the House of Representatives. (Photo: Gleaner)

We really do care about “The Poor”  – not Jamaicans in general, but The Poor that some politicians love to love. Referring to the recent Budget,  Imani Duncan-Price declared in a Gleaner column that tax reform is a delicate balancing act – and this is not balanced.” Suddenly the People’s National Party (PNP) is giving out prescriptions for how tax reform should be conducted – which begs the question… Well, perhaps you know what the question is! Now, whether the current administration can hold it all together – promises and all – is one thing, and remains to be seen. But as usual, Opposition remarks on the Budget always have a hypocritical ring. I mean, don’t they all mess around with taxes, every year, when they’re in power? In her Budget address Opposition Leader Portia Simpson Miller called the Government’s plan “taxperity” (a play on the word “prosperity,” which was heavily used during the Jamaica Labour Party’s election campaign). She also mentioned, not for the first time, that her party replaced 300 pit latrines in schools – proof of that love of The Poor, I suppose. I cannot find a copy of her speech online. I think the Jamaica Information Service should post the speech, however. The Opposition is a part of our Government. There is a summary on the PNP’s website (“Welcome, Comrades!”) but it’s rather inadequate.

Meanwhile, the IMF was back in town and gave the thumbs up to the Government’s tax plans. The officials had skipped a visit because of the elections, so this was two reports rolled into one.  You can read it here: http://www.imf.org/external/np/ms/2016/052016.htm

But growth… What about that elusive creature?

The Trench Town Reading Centre is an oasis of hope in the St. Andrew Southern constituency, the "safe seat" that Omar Davies will be relinquishing this summer. (My photo)

The Trench Town Reading Centre is an oasis of hope in the St. Andrew Southern constituency, the “safe seat” that Omar Davies will be relinquishing this summer. (My photo)

Speaking of the Comrades, some of them are apparently jockeying for position, with Portia Simpson Miller facing a possible challenge to the leadership by the end of the year. Instagram Queen Lisa Hanna called a radio talk show host to inform him that she is considering applying for the position of Vice President when the time comes. Gasp! Also, with the ailing former Finance Minister Omar Davies very likely to step down in August, Colin Campbell is hoping to replace him in his prized “safe seat” of St. Andrew Southern, which includes a large number of The Poor. I recall some years ago when Dr. Davies publicly described the young male residents of his constituency as “irredeemable.” Mr. Campbell is anxious to inherit them. 

Why is garbage still an issue in several parts of the island? There are reportedly major pile-ups of uncollected rubbish in St. Ann. St. Catherine is suffering from a major rat problem, and blocked drains. Is there still a shortage of collection trucks? And what about the problem of illegal dumping? If one is observant, one can see this in various rural parishes (as I noted, and photographed in Hector’s River, Portland a few weeks ago) and rundown residential areas like New Haven, which is almost a garbage dump in itself. Sometimes it’s construction waste. It’s a disgrace; but I realize it’s hard to catch the lazy, careless law-breakers. Take it to the dump! At least the Portland Health Department, it is reported, has launched a probe into reports of illegal dumping in some remote areas, near the resort community of San San.

Cabinet has granted a mobile spectrum licence to a local telecommunications company, Symbiote Investments, to provide internet service in Jamaica.

Politics has always been thoroughly mixed up in our education system. And along with the politics comes, almost inevitably – corruption. So it’s hardly a surprise that a UK professor – founder and director of the Institute for Educational Administration and Leadership -Jamaica cited “influence peddling” as rife in the selection of teachers for promotion to principal in schools. This was one of the key findings of a study Professor Paul Miller, reader in education at Brunel University in the United Kingdom, conducted. Why on earth do Members of Parliament select school board chairmen? Why aren’t teachers promoted on merit? No wonder our students are struggling. Mismanagement is commonplace in our schools; and every year there are angry protests at school gates against school principals – by parents and others with vested interests. Over to you, Minister Reid…

One of the original car chases, from the thriller "Bullitt." Some of our policemen seem to think, and behave, as if they are in an action movie. Yet, they expect the Jamaican people to trust them.

One of the original car chases, from the thriller “Bullitt.” Some of our policemen seem to think, and behave, as if they are in an action movie. Yet, they expect the Jamaican people to trust them.

Living in an action movie: I sometimes wonder whether members of our police force have been watching too many films involving machine guns and car chases. It is completely against the law and police regulations to fire at a moving car, and yet… Senior Superintendent Anthony Castelle and District Constable Rohan Mcintosh were charged by INDECOM with unlawful wounding, unlawful discharge of firearm, and misconduct in a public office. They were granted bail of one million dollars each. They allegedly pursued an illegal taxi (with passengers) along several roadways in Montego Bay, firing at the moving vehicle. After the car stopped and the driver ran away, they “discovered” a pregnant woman in the back seat had been injured. I wondered what her condition is, now. It’s lucky no passers-by weren’t hurt. This reminds me of the Khajeel Mais murder case – but that was a private citizen,  not an officer of the State, who fired at the taxi in which he was traveling. I ask again: What has happened to the Mais case? 

And come to that, why have the police not found the notorious “Duppy Flim”? Why have they not arrested anyone for the murders of the two missionaries? And investigators seem to be struggling in the case of the murder of Corporal Judith Williams.

Sounding a little desperate for good news, the Jamaica Constabulary Force tells us that murders are down by 5 per cent compared to January 1 – May 14 last year; and that reported rapes, robbery, assaults and larceny are all down, too. We have had 409 murders this year, compared to 431 for the same period in 2015. A cab driver was shot dead almost on the doorstep of the St. Andrew Parish Church, traumatizing worshippers. I guess this is one of those “pockets of violence” we hear about. In one night, six people were killed in western Jamaica, CVM Television reports. By the way, if you would like to read more on the crime and violence debate, which continues to drag on in social media, please take a look at my latest article for Global Voices here: https://globalvoices.org/2016/05/17/prepare-for-pushback-if-you-call-jamaica-violent-even-though-it-can-be/  My deepest condolences to all the families of these Jamaicans who have died. 

Lloyd Aitken, Hagley Park Road/Half Way Tree, Kingston

Ronaldo Kinghorn, 19, Mona Commons, Kingston

Rodario Hibbert, 27, Rose Hall/Linstead, St. Catherine

Kay Marie Pryce-Binns, 41, Rose Hall/Linstead, St. Catherine

Unidentified woman, Old Harbour Road, St. Catherine

Rory Forbes, 22, Spanish Town, St. Catherine

Marcus Dennis, 32, Green Bottom/May Pen, Clarendon

Mavis Davis, 63, Ivory Close/May Pen, Clarendon

Michael Williams, 48, Ivory Close/May Pen, Clarendon

Ryan Ramdial, 30, Rocky Point, Clarendon

Daniel Guthrie, Rocky Point, Clarendon

Balford ‘Fire Bird’ Gordon, 56, Mosquito Cove, Hanover

Aletta Brown-Gordon, 45, Mosquito Cove, Hanover

Unidentified man, Pell River, Hanover

Evan Williams, 35, Morgan’s Bridge/Grange Hill, Westmoreland

Devaro Gardner, 15, Bromley, St. Mary

Marcel Sinclair, 38, Reach District, Portland

 

A memorial service for the two American missionaries who were murdered in Albion Mountain, St. Mary on April 30 was held today at the Boscobel United Church. They were remembered for their kindness. Meanwhile, no one has been arrested yet in connection with the murders.

A memorial service for the two American missionaries who were murdered in Albion Mountain, St. Mary on April 30 was held today at the Boscobel United Church. They were remembered for their kindness. Meanwhile, no one has been arrested yet in connection with the murders.

Jamaica, Sunday, May 15, 2016: One Point Five, Men in Hard Hats, Thumbs Down Queen’s School, #SaveGoatIslands

Great Goat Island (foreground) and Little Goat Island in the Portland Bight Protected Area. ONCE AGAIN we hear about the planned mega-transshipment port to be built by China Harbour Engineering Company - which would destroy this and surrounding areas in the Portland Bight PROTECTED AREA. (Photo: Jeremy Francis/savegoatislands.org)
Great Goat Island (foreground) and Little Goat Island in the Portland Bight Protected Area. ONCE AGAIN we hear about the planned mega-transshipment port to be built by China Harbour Engineering Company - which would destroy this and surrounding areas in the Portland Bight PROTECTED AREA. (Photo: Jeremy Francis/savegoatislands.org)

It has been a very busy and somewhat turbulent week – rather like the weather, which is sunshine in the morning and rain in the afternoon, with a bit of thunder and lightning thrown in. We are remembering that one year (and two years) ago, we were already deep into drought conditions. I for one am not complaining. And it’s looking like a bumper mango season!

Opposition Finance Spokesman Audley Shaw. (Photo: Gleaner)

Opposition Finance Spokesman Audley Shaw. (Photo: Gleaner)

Budget on our minds: Finance Minister Audley Shaw opened the parliamentary Budget Debate on Thursday, and you can read the whole thing here: http://jis.gov.jm/opening-presentation-20162017-budget-debate/ Minister Shaw’s delivery was generally good-natured, even humorous at times, and there seemed to less bickering and shouting in the House than usual. That is, until the Minister reached the topic of the “One Point Five,” as it has come to be known. One Point Five, you ask? I am referring to the promised tax break for those earning J$1.5 million and under annually, who pay taxes under the PAYE system. The Minister numbered these at 251,000 workers, a little over half of the total on PAYE. He will implement the much-debated election promise – in two phases, he announced (July 1 and April 1, 2017). I think this will impact a lot of civil servants.

The poor, the poor: Opposition Leader Portia Simpson Miller, and those who support her party, have started talking about “the poor” again. “The JLP hates the poor!” one comrade tweeted.  As journalist Dennis Brooks said, what’s wrong with loving the middle class, too? They’re struggling. But as I write, a minor battle is erupting on Twitter, led by the People’s National Party’s (PNP) Julian Robinson and the Jamaica Labour Party’s (JLP) Senator Matthew Samuda. Head of the University of the West Indies (UWI) Department of Economics and Co-Chair of the Caribbean Policy Research Institute (CaPRI) Dr Damien King has been tweeting a great deal on the topic, including this observation: The $1.5m plan, as financed, is not after all a tax cut. It’s a shift to other taxes of equal value. That’s precisely why it’s good. No debt.”  By the way, many are muttering that, if we are talking about going after tax evaders, perhaps the Minister of Finance could start with some doctors and lawyers (I am not saying all). But there are so many lawyers sitting in Parliament – so maybe that’s a no-go area!

Here's one suggestion for drivers. There are many ways of saving on gas.

Here’s one suggestion for drivers. There are many ways of saving on gas.

A lot of whining is going on about the substantial increase in the gas tax. I would like to suggest, wherever possible, that we might find ways to save and conserve gas? Ease up on the gas guzzler cars, for example; do some car-pooling; plan your trips around town, etc. Perhaps Government officials could set an example in this regard – a highly visible “conservation culture” among politicians and civil servants (not only on gas but in other areas). Just a thought…

The pristine mangroves and dry limestone forest at Great Goat Island. (Photo: Kirsty Swinnerton/savegoatislands.org)

The pristine mangroves and dry limestone forest at Great Goat Island. (Photo: Kirsty Swinnerton/savegoatislands.org)

NOT GOOD! I quivered when I heard Minister Shaw mention “the Goat Island shipping project” as a medium term investment, and something to the effect that it was “on the horizon,” during the budget speech. So once again, the threat not only to Goat Islands but to a major part of the Portland Bight Protected Area has been revived. It all sounds, as usual, rather vague. But we have always been kept in the dark on this proposed destruction of a valuable and important protected area. I am deeply disappointed that it was mentioned. Think again, Minister Shaw. Think again! You will lose much support, including from international donor agencies…

Prime Minister Andrew Holness met with representatives of environmental NGOs on Friday. I notice JET's Diana McCaulay brought gifts (Nuh Dutty Up Jamaica)! (Photo: PM Andrew Holness/Facebook)

Prime Minister Andrew Holness met with representatives of environmental NGOs on Friday. I notice JET’s Diana McCaulay brought gifts (Nuh Dutty Up Jamaica)! (Photo: PM Andrew Holness/Facebook)

But good, I suppose… Meanwhile Prime Minister Andrew Holness posted photos on Facebook of his meeting this week with a group of environmentalists. They all looked very serious, and the PM a trifle nervous, I thought. I would love to have been a fly on the wall. Was this meeting just a social media PR stunt, to show that Mr. Holness is consulting with groups…or will something really meaningful come out of it? Dialogue can never be a bad thing, however – and I like the way the new administration is using social media. But I want to see meaningful action on the environment.

Minister of Local Government and Community Development, Desmond McKenzie (centre), and technical officers from the ministry and representatives of the Royalton Negril Hotel view the collapsed section of the property during a tour on Friday. (Photo: Gleaner)

So many men in hard hats! Minister of Local Government and Community Development, Desmond McKenzie (centre), and technical officers from the ministry and representatives of the Royalton Negril Hotel view the collapsed section of the property during a tour on Friday. (Photo: Gleaner)

A collapse waiting to happen: There fuss and bother over the collapsed Royalton Negril hotel continues. Minister of Local Government and Community Development Desmond McKenzie says he will not comment until a proper report is completed on what happened. While they are checking the “integrity of the structure,” there are other issues. How many floors up is the hotel going? Is it the required distance from the shoreline? There have been numerous breaches from Day One with this hotel, as noted in my previous blog posts. And while there is supposed to be a 30-day stop order, nearby residents in Negril are still complaining about jack hammer drilling on the site, 24/7! What madness is this? It’s all about greed and money.

This photo appears on the Royalton Negril Resort & Spa ("Coming Winter 2017") web page. Is that FOUR stories…or is it five?

This photo appears on the Royalton Negril Resort & Spa (“Coming Winter 2017”) web page. Is that FOUR stories…or is it five? Only four are allowed, or so we understood…

Meanwhile, the intrepid Office of the Contractor General (OCG) has recommended two members of the Hanover Parish Council to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), for suspected nepotism in the award of contracts. The OCG says a special investigation conducted by his office has raised questions of misconduct and breaches of government laws and procedures by People’s National Party (PNP) councillors Lloyd Hill (Sandy Bay), and Anthony Walker (Cauldwell). I am sure we all remember the Mayor had to step down from her position for similar reasons: nepotism, conflict of interest and favoritism in the award of contracts, the OCG noted. I am guessing the DPP will not pursue this though – as she did not with the former Mayor, who remains a member of the PNP and Councilor for the Green Island Division (at least until the next local elections, when the PNP has said she will not be allowed to run as a candidate). I am sure we now know also that the collapsed hotel falls under this parish council’s jurisdiction. Now Minister McKenzie has told the Council to employ two engineers to oversee the Royalton and also the Karisma Hotel construction site in Negril. Ugh.

Thumbs DOWN, The Queen’s School: This school, for reasons unknown, decided recently to chop down a large guango tree (near JET’s Kingston office). I mentioned it in my blog post here: https://petchary.wordpress.com/2016/04/30/climate-change-in-the-caribbean-talking-planning-and-what-not-to-be-doing-after-the-paris-agreement/ Well, one immediate casualty was a juvenile Barn Owl (there was a nest in the tree) which fell into one of JET’s recycling bins! Here is a photo, with JET’s comments. 

From JET's Facebook page: "The young barn owl trapped in one of our recycling bins this morning. We surmise that a huge guano tree which was cut down by Queen's High recently was probably its home. When the tree was being cut, two juvenile owls had to be rescued by @nepajm. Without the tree the owls have lost their habitat. This one has now ended up getting itself into trouble. We expressed our strong objection to the removal of the tree at the time it was being cut, but we were unsuccessful in stopping the process."

From JET’s Facebook page: “The young barn owl trapped in one of our recycling bins this morning. We surmise that a huge guango tree which was cut down by Queen’s High recently was probably its home. When the tree was being cut, two juvenile owls had to be rescued by @nepajm. Without the tree the owls have lost their habitat. This one has now ended up getting itself into trouble. We expressed our strong objection to the removal of the tree at the time it was being cut, but we were unsuccessful in stopping the process.”

The Electoral Commission of Jamaica tabled a report in Parliament last week, the details of which I cannot understand from the media reports I have seen. I read about “anomalies” regarding polling division boundaries and parish boundaries – in 153 polling divisions, across 33 constituencies – and a lack of agreement among the two political parties in two constituencies (St Andrew North Eastern and Trelawny Southern). So those two appear unresolved. I need to understand more about this. Is a copy of the report available yet?

Corrupt police: Minister of National Security Robert Montague did not mince his words when he addressed the Police Federation this week. He focused on corruption (which, in my view, is at the heart of many of the problems we are having with our police force). Minister Montague rightly pointed out that corruption is not just about taking a bribe; he went on to list all kinds of practices (many of which I never knew of). He vowed “fulsome, total and unrelenting” pressure on corrupt police. All lovely words, Minister. Let’s see what action follows.

Minister of National Security, Hon. Robert Montague, in discussion with Chairman of the Jamaica Police Federation, Sergeant Raymond Wilson, at the Federation's 73rd Annual Joint Central Conferences at the Hilton Rose Hall and Spa, in St. James on May 11. (Photo: JIS)

Minister of National Security Robert Montague (right), with Chairman of the Jamaica Police Federation, Sergeant Raymond Wilson, at the Federation’s 73rd Annual Joint Central Conferences  on May 11. (Photo: JIS)

Be careful out there: I read an unnerving report about a woman who jumped from a moving taxi cab in Portmore, St. Catherine, after the driver did not stop where she asked him to drop her. He drove onwards and “looked at me with a strange look,” said the woman. I can imagine the fear she felt. She was injured, took a great risk throwing herself out into the road, but is thankfully recovering. Please be careful, folks..

Kudos and congratulations…

  • My personal “thanks a million” to SSP Millicent Sproul-Thomas of the Half Way Tree Police Station for her assistance and sheer professionalism! It was greatly appreciated!
Managing Director of The LAB Kimala Bennett gave the keynote address at the launch of Hon. Douglas Orane's book on May 12. (My photo)

Managing Director of The LAB Kimala Bennett gave the keynote address at the launch of Hon. Douglas Orane’s book on May 12. (My photo)

  • To Hon. Douglas Orane, former CEO of GraceKennedy and now its somewhat more laid-back chairman, who still has a sharp focus on the future of Jamaica, in particular on youth and education. His book, The Business of Nation Building: Excerpts From the Selected Speeches of Douglas Oranewas launched this week. Although the Governor General and his wife attended, the event was not in the least pompous – but that is Mr. Orane’s style. It also began right on time – most refreshing! The book is in stores now, and half the proceeds will go to GraceKennedy’s Grace & Staff Community Development Foundation. Do go and get yourself a copy – and watch out for my review!
Goalscorer Danielle Carter kissing the Women's FA Cup today. (Photo: Twitter)

Goalscorer Danielle Carter kissing the Women’s FA Cup today. (Photo: Twitter)

  • To the Arsenal Ladies (yes, you know I’m a Gooner, don’t you?) who beat Chelsea to win the Women’s FA Cup today for the fourteenth time! Proud of you!
  • And to Arsenal FC (men) – it’s been a rough season, with many ups and downs, but I am happy that we ended up second and above Tottenham Hotspurs, our arch rivals in North London! I am so proud of you! #GoonerForLife
Olivier Giroud (left) suddenly started scoring after a dry spell, and a hat trick today clinched it! Here he leaps in joy with Nacho Monreal, who assisted him in a goal.

Olivier Giroud (left) suddenly started scoring after a dry spell, and a hat trick today clinched it! Here he leaps in joy with Nacho Monreal, who assisted him in his first goal. (Photo: John Sibley/Reuters)

  • To the EU-LAC Foundation, headed by Paola Amadei, that continues to give support to Jamaica and the region. Its current exhibit and auction of photographs from the JN Foundation (in aid of Eve for Life) is on at Hamburg Town Hall. Read more here: https://eulacfoundation.org/en and follow them on Twitter @eulacfoundation.
  • Jamaica Environment Trust (JET), which held a public forum on plastic waste this week that was standing room only, I understand. I am sorry I was not able to be there but I gather it was a very useful and informative session, with some pointers for the way forward. Kudos to Senator Matthew Samuda, who spoke at the event and who has really put the issue on the map; and to William Mahfood of Wisynco, a firm that has been making tremendous efforts in the area of recycling. Yes, I know improving the system for solid waste management has a long way to go. But let’s stop complaining and get something done! Got to start somewhere, haven’t we!
NEPA trainer Ava Tomlinson with the champion birder for the day, Rihana Holder of Bohemia All Age School, at a special event in Trelawny today. (Photo: Facebook)

NEPA trainer Ava Tomlinson with the champion birder for the day, Rihana Holder of Bohemia All Age School, at the Spring Garden Bird Festival event in Trelawny today. (Photo: Facebook)

  • The wonderful educator and trainer, Ava Tomlinson (Senior Public Education and Community Outreach Officer at the National Environment and Planning Agency – NEPA), who continues to train teachers and students and inspire excitement about Jamaica’s amazing birdlife through the BirdSleuth Caribbean curriculum. Today she was in Spring Garden, Trelawny with the Southern Trelawny Environmental Agency, celebrating the Caribbean Endemic Bird Festival. Did you read my article about a fantastic teachers’ workshop at Seville Great House two weeks ago? You can read it here: http://www.birdscaribbean.org/2016/05/rural-teachers-make-bird-connections-in-seville-jamaica/  Keep up the good work, Ava. I know you really love it!

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  • The Kingston & St. Andrew Corporation (KSAC) has started a new plastic recycling project, which sounds very promising indeed!  They are building an eco-friendly park, to be built with 80% recycled materials. You can drop off plastic bottles, with caps, at the St. William Grant Park (8:30 am – 4:30 pm, Mondays to Saturdays) or at Tile City, 114 Constant Spring Road (10:00 am – 6:00 pm, Mondays to Saturdays). For more information, contact: ksacfamilypark@gmail.com; KSAC Family Park on Facebook; KSAC_FamPark on Instagram. 24 Church Street, Kingston. Tel: 922-2587; 922-4320; 922-8647.
Hard hats and shovels! Minister of Energy, Science and Technology, Dr. Andrew Wheatley (2nd left); participates in the breaking of ground for construction of the Caribbean’s first Net Zero Energy Building on the University of the West Indies’ (UWI) Mona campus on May 10. Others (from left) are: Professor of Caribbean Sustainable Development at UWI, Professor Anthony Clayton; Senior Programme Manager, Energy, Climate and Technology Branch of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Kenya, Geordie Colville; and Emeritus Professor of Chemistry at the UWI, Professor Tara Dasgupta. (Photo: JIS)

Hard hats and shovels! Minister of Energy, Science and Technology, Dr. Andrew Wheatley (2nd left); participates in the breaking of ground for construction of the Caribbean’s first Net Zero Energy Building on the University of the West Indies’ (UWI) Mona campus on May 10. Others (from left) are: Professor of Caribbean Sustainable Development at UWI, Professor Anthony Clayton; Senior Programme Manager, Energy, Climate and Technology Branch of the United Nations Environment Programme, Kenya, Geordie Colville; and Emeritus Professor of Chemistry at the UWI, Professor Tara Dasgupta. (Photo: JIS)

 

  • The Caribbean’s first Net Zero Energy Building on the UWI Mona campus will be under construction soon! This is one building I am happy about! Kudos to the academics and to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) as well as to the Global Environment Facility (GEF) for funding. Kudos to all!

I’m really not sure why the Jamaica Constabulary Force still has no suspects or motives for the murders of the two American missionaries in St. Mary. Their colleagues are now expressing concern that Jamaicans may take the law into their own hands, if they find them before the police do. CVM Television had a very thorough interview with the leader of the Pennsylvania-based mission the other night. There was no trace of bitterness or anger. I am glad to see the police have arrested three men in connection with the brutal rape and murder of 21-year-old Dominique Parnell in Clarendon. One of the “men” is only 17.

Kevin Miller, 42, Gibraltar Hall Road, Mona, Kingston 7

Tanya Williams, 33, Linstead, St. Catherine

Devontae Haughton, 12, Tucker, St. James

Yvette Mclean, 49,  Tucker, St James

Davian Brown, 22, Salem, St. James

Fabian Cooper, 38, Grange Hill, Westmoreland

Jeffery Richards, 29, Wakefield, Trelawny (killed by police)

Rushane Murray, 16, Oracabessa, St. Mary

Jermaine Lakeman, 21, Fort George/Annotto Bay, St. Mary

District Constable Lewis Robinson, Lacovia, St. Elizabeth

A Cocaine “Error,” Much Ado About a Power Cut, Mixed Messages and Contradictions: Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Carnage: Deaths in motor accidents rose to 124 as of April 18, 41 of them motorcyclists. Here curious residents look on in Spanish Town yesterday at what was left of the Nissan Tiida, in which a brother and sister lost their lives a few days ago. (Photo: Rasbert Turner/Gleaner)
Carnage: Deaths in motor accidents rose to 124 as of April 18, 41 of them motorcyclists. Here curious residents look on in Spanish Town yesterday at what was left of the Nissan Tiida, in which a brother and sister lost their lives a few days ago. (Photo: Rasbert Turner/Gleaner)

It’s been a funny sort of week. Not particularly humorous, but some positive developments to report.

JPS boss Kelly Tomblin.

JPS boss Kelly Tomblin.

Obsessed with power: There was a power cut on Sunday evening, which lasted perhaps half an hour for some people, longer for others. It took place across the island; but in some areas (like my mother-in-law’s neighborhood) there was no power cut at all. The Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS) explained what had happened as soon as they had figured it out. Its CEO Kelly Tomblin appeared on early morning television and explained to the best of her ability. What surprised me was that the media seemed practically obsessed, chewing over the story for at least 24 hours. The Office of Utilities Regulation woke from its semi-slumber and demanded a report, which JPS will no doubt provide. End of story…one would think.

An estimated J$1 billion worth of cocaine was seized in Belmont, Westmoreland after a boat chase this week. But there are questions to be answered.

An estimated J$1 billion worth of cocaine was seized in Belmont, Westmoreland after a boat chase this week. But there are questions to be answered.

Proper communication is key: The Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) seems to have had issues with communications for quite some time. I recall years back when the Constabulary Communication Network (CCN) came into being – in 1999. It was headed by Senior Superintendent James Forbes. He was a pretty reliable source of information, and also a policeman. There were some slip-ups, but SSP Forbes was a good spokesperson – rather a “smooth talker,” hosting a television slot which gave dramatic replays of murders. In January 2014 the CCN was “rebranded” as the Corporate Communications Unit, headed by a civilian; it has various “sub-units.” In that same year, sadly, SSP Forbes fell from grace. Now, radio journalist Cliff Hughes (and others) are very concerned at the contradictory reports coming from the JCF related to a huge cocaine bust (600 kilograms!) in Westmoreland – in particular in connection with the arrest and subsequent release of four men. The JCF appears to be confused. Too many sub-units?  Was the first report really a “serious error,” Commissioner Williams? If J$1 billion worth of cocaine arrived on our island, did you not jump in a helicopter to see what was going on? And, please fix your communications strategy!

Questions remain, and I think this incident has been damaging. I would love National Security Minister Robert Montague to make a clear statement on this matter.

Chief Medical Officer Dr. Winston De La Haye.

Chief Medical Officer Dr. Winston De La Haye.

More mixed messages? Now the Ministry of Health and the National Family Planning Board (NFPB) seem to be saying two different things regarding the Zika Virus and pregnancy. Perhaps Dr. Winston De La Haye (Chief Medical Officer) is erring on the side of caution, but he still suggests that women should delay pregnancy and not have unprotected sex. But hold on! Outgoing chair of the NFPB Dr. Sandra Knight says Jamaican women are not taking warnings seriously, but then goes on to suggest that to tell women not to get pregnant at the moment “wouldn’t be the best advice.” Who is right? We have six confirmed cases of the Zika Virus in Jamaica so far, but since only one in four people who contract it actually have symptoms (and would therefore not get tested) how do we know how many cases there indeed might be? Be that as it may, one is left with the impression that Jamaicans are not taking Zika Virus seriously because they are not seeing/feeling it; and we may just have to wait and see in another nine months whether it is in fact a problem. By which time it will be too late.

Opposition Finance Spokesman Peter Phillips' general tone is one of irritation and frustration. (Photo: Irie FM)

Opposition Finance Spokesman Peter Phillips’ general tone is one of irritation, these days. (Photo: Irie FM)

Keeping the tax promise will be a “totally unwarranted shock to the country’s finances,” said Opposition Finance Spokesperson Peter Phillips at a press briefing yesterday, with his customary air of frustration. The Jamaica Labour Party administration needs to speak clearly to the country, he said: “Man up and talk!” Opposition Leader Portia Simpson Miller added that the JLP is simply planning a continuation of her party’s policies – subsequently noting that the JLP has “no clear plan.” I see! Ms. Simpson Miller added that she would like to see less talk and more work on the ground on the part of the government. “The JLP cannot be trusted,” she said, because they have made promises “they have no intention of keeping.” The former Finance Minister also believes the commitments will not be met, and is clearly annoyed at the unrealistic” expectations of the electorate, who were taken in. He forecasts additional taxation.

Confidence soars: Notwithstanding Mr. Phillips’ comments, Pollster Don Anderson says business and consumer confidence is at a 15-year high. What are the factors behind it, I wonder? Simply a change of government? Blind optimism?

More onions: The oft-neglected agriculture sector is reporting success with onions, thanks to an import substitution program initiated last year.

Is “bad gas” here again? Energy Minister Dr. Andrew Wheatley is expecting a final report from the Petroleum Trade Reform committee this week; the interim report didn’t tell us much. There have been hundreds of official complaints from the public, and recently a couple of media reports suggest bad gas is back.

No more public peeing? Local Government Minister Desmond McKenzie has reminded new municipal police graduates that urinating in public is an offense. He wants us citizens to “make up our faces” at men who do this. He says women do it too! That I have never seen…but men have stood and peed into the hedge at the side of our house a few times. Ugh.

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I often express concern about the state of Jamaica’s tourism. However, we must be doing something right. TripAdvisor – about the only travel website I seriously follow – has named Jamaica the third best island in the world, according to visitor reviews, after Maui in Hawaii and Santorini in Greece! Last year, Jamaica was not in their Top Ten Islands list at all. Providenciales in Turks and Caicos came fourth, followed by Bali, Majorca, Mauritius, Phuket, Bora Bora and Fernando de Noronha in Brazil. Read more: https://www.tripadvisor.com/TravelersChoice-Islands

The Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Index places Jamaica at an impressive 10th in the index of 180 countries. This is a slip downwards of one place, but still great compared to the rest of the Caribbean. Costa Rica leapt into 6th place, but generally the Americas fared very poorly – and globally, RSF says “Leaders are paranoid about journalists.” So, we are fortunate. You can find the global rankings here: https://rsf.org/en/ranking_table

Kudos and thank you…

  • To the World Is Our Neighbourhood, a diaspora organization and to Ms. Marva Haye, a former employee of the Savannah-la-Mar Hospital now living in the United States. The organization donated a large amount of new equipment to the Hospital.
Toni-Ann Williams

Toni-Ann Williams (Photo: Matthias Schrader/AP)

  • Congratulations too to two high-achievers! Firstly, 20-year-old Toni-Ann Williams is the first gymnast representing Jamaica to qualify for the Olympic Games. She is a sophomore at the University of California-Berkeley and is actually U.S.-born of Jamaican parents. I do hope that gymnastics will be developed more at home in Jamaica; perhaps Toni-Ann will be the inspiration. Good luck to her!
Chef Andre Fowles is a seriously focused young man. (Photo: Twitter)

Chef André Fowles is a seriously focused young man. (Photo: Twitter)

  • The second achiever is chef André Fowles, who is the first Jamaican-born and the youngest ever chef to compete in the popular “Chopped” show on Food Network Television. He already won in February, won tonight’s competition and will compete in the finals to be Chopped Champion on April 26. Fingers and toes are crossed!
  • Dadre-Ann Graham, sales representative at GraceKennedy, receives the exhibitor award for the Best Environmentally Friendly Exhibit/Product from Metry Seaga, president of the Jamaica Manufacturers’ Association, during Expo Jamaica 2016. (Photo: Norman Grindley/Gleaner)

    Dadre-Ann Graham, sales representative at GraceKennedy, receives the award for the Best Environmentally Friendly Exhibit/Product from Metry Seaga, president of the Jamaica Manufacturers’ Association, at Expo Jamaica 2016. (Photo: Norman Grindley/Gleaner)

  • GraceKennedy won the award for Most Environmentally Friendly Booth/Product at Jamaica Expo last weekend (which apparently went well). I hope they carry this commitment through all the work they do, on an everyday basis.
Therese Turner-Jones is the new Caribbean Regional Head of the IDB. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

Therese Turner-Jones is the new Caribbean Regional Head of the IDB. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

  • Congratulations to Therese Turner-Jones, the Bahamian national who has been serving as the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) Country Representative for Jamaica. Ms. Turner-Jones became the first Caribbean woman and the second Caribbean person to become General Manager of the IDB’s Caribbean Country Department. She will remain in Jamaica, rather than moving to Washington.

Tragic stories abound again as we look back over the past few days. A much-loved local businessman, Trevor Meikle, was shot dead during that power cut – the electronic gate apparently did not work, and a robbery was in progress at the house. How small circumstances can change one’s life! Last night, a young man reportedly with mental health issues seized an M-16 rifle from a policeman outside Olympic Gardens Police Station, jumped into a minibus and was allegedly shot dead by the police. A pregnant woman was shot dead. A young policeman got into an argument at a party, pulled his firearm and was shot dead by a licensed firearm holder. We cannot and must not ignore these stories, or sweep them under the carpet.  These are Jamaican lives, and the deaths of all these Jamaicans affect so many others. There are ripple effects. My condolences to all the families.

Junior Bartley, 44, Matilda’s Corner, Kingston

Odane Bennett, 23, Olympic Gardens, Kingston (allegedly killed by police)

Tanisha Ford, 26, Portmore, St. Catherine

Shawn Baccas, 37, Old Harbour Road, St. Catherine

Derwin Prince, 58, Old Harbour Road, St. Catherine

Anthony Rose, 37,Old Harbour Road, St. Catherine

Andre Carter, 29, Board Villa/Ebony Park, Clarendon

Kamala “Kayon” Hylton, 29, Long Lane, Hanover (eight months pregnant)

Unidentified man, Kerr Crescent, Montego Bay, St. James

Marion Brissett, 64, Bay Road, Little London, Westmoreland

Constable Shane Francis, 30, White River/Ocho Rios, St. Ann

Kevin Barriffe, Galina, St. Mary

Trevor Meikle, 76,  Ingleside/Mandeville, Manchester

Maurice Campbell, 41, Santa Cruz, St. Elizabeth

Media reports suggest that Constable Shane Francis, who was shot dead at a party in Ocho Rios, was implicated in other shooting incidents that resulted in the deaths of a colleague and of a civilian. (Photo: Loop Jamaica)

Media reports suggest that Constable Shane Francis, who was shot dead at a party in Ocho Rios, was implicated in other shooting incidents that resulted in the deaths of a colleague and of a civilian. (Photo: Loop Jamaica)

Firefighter Kevin Bariffe was stabbed to death in St. Mary yesterday, allegedly during a dispute over the death of Constable Shane Francis, who was reportedly a friend of his. (Photo: Loop Jamaica)

Firefighter Kevin Bariffe was stabbed to death in St. Mary yesterday, allegedly during a dispute over the death of Constable Shane Francis, who was reportedly a friend of his. (Photo: Loop Jamaica)

A well-known and much loved local businessman, Trevor Meikle, was shot dead during a robbery as he returned from the airport with his wife and daughter. He is reportedly a relative of former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

A well-known and much loved local businessman, Trevor Meikle, was shot dead during a robbery as he returned from the airport with his wife and daughter. He is reportedly a relative of former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

 

Tanesha Ford, 26, was shot and killed in Portmore this week. She was visiting from Queens, New York. (Photo: Loop Jamaica)

Tanesha Ford, 26, was shot and killed in Portmore this week. She was visiting from Queens, New York. (Photo: Loop Jamaica)