The Jamaican Political “Party”

The Orange Party in Half Way Tree. (Photo: PNP/Twitter)
The Orange Party in Half Way Tree. (Photo: PNP/Twitter)

Warning: This page contains an excessive amount of the color Orange. But it could just as easily be the color Green. Interchangeably. The colors of the Two Tribes. Tweets are in purple.

Here's an orange "bag juice" to kick off with.

Here’s an orange “bag juice” for starters.

On Sunday, January 31, the center of our country’s capital city was closed off for seventeen hours. The area was bristling with police and security guards. Kingston residents who wanted to visit their aged aunt, go to church or (heaven forbid) go to work, were severely inconvenienced.

Why? Because…party time. We Jamaicans take parties seriously. Especially our political parties. Nothing must get in the way of a good time. We were about to be invaded by a horde of flag-waving, vuvuzela-tooting, ganja-smoking, gyrating, window-hanging, high-on-life-and-other things political supporters of the Orange variety, hanging out of Coaster buses that swayed all over the roads at high speed. I heard reports of supporters coming from Montego Bay terrorizing other drivers. Why don’t the police have any control over these buses from hell? Before every big rally they talk about “no protruding body parts” (which sounds slightly rude) but hey – the body parts protrude all over the place, as usual.

The occasion was a People’s National Party (PNP) rally, during which the Prime Minister was expected to announce (with expected fanfare)…wait for it…the election date!! I decided not to watch this awe-inspiring, historic moment on television, but resorted to my old friend Twitter. Now, as some people know, I spend far too much time on Twitter – and when big occasions are afoot, it is especially amusing/fascinating/annoying. I was not disappointed.

Heading for Half Way Tree on a beautiful Sunday evening. (Photo: Marcia Forbes/Twitter)

Heading for Half Way Tree on a beautiful Sunday evening. At least they were on foot and not a threat to other drivers. (Photo: Marcia Forbes/Twitter)

The usual clichés were trotted out as the Orange Tribe filled up Half Way Tree. Wow, what a crowd. Half Way Tree RAM. This is the biggest crowd EVER. They all say the same thing, every time, knowing full well that the parties bus their supporters in from every corner of Jamaica for the party. The supporters (many of whom may not even be registered to vote) are promised a meal: two small pieces of chicken or spoonful of curry goat and a huge serving of rice in a polystyrene box, plus a Red Stripe. And, of course, a fun time rubbing shoulders with fellow supporters.

The ritual begins. (Photo: Irie FM/Twitter)

The ritual begins. (Photo: Irie FM/Twitter)

They might even see themselves on the big screen – or on TV. As a friend put it, the true enjoyment of these rallies is “not for the folks in TV-land.”  This struck me as profound. So. The middle class (who may or may not still exist), uptowners and people with little energy for parties (like me) sat home and watched the less privileged among us partying, with those who would control them standing proudly above them on the stage.

By the way, this is the typical response of a “die hearted” (in Jamaican parlance) party supporter of either Tribal persuasion: “A reporter asked a PNP supporter earlier “why do u support the PNP” his response “CUZ MY MOTHER WAS A DIE HEARTED PNP N ME NAH SWITCH.” End of conversation. Substitute “JLP” on another occasion.

Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller proves her fitness for office by running onto the stage.

Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller proves her fitness for office by running onto the stage. Two of her less agile Ministers look on, rather glumly.

So much for the supporters. As for the performers (because party rallies are as much dramatic performances as parties) they had fun too – at least, for a while. By the time the Prime Minister came on stage (running) some of them looked a little frazzled. It was a long day and a long night. But parties are marathon affairs in Jamaica – not for the faint-hearted, at all. We take them seriously.

By the time the Prime Minister made her announcement (after 10 p.m. and after a one-hour speech aimed at “hyping up” supporters) the speeches had been dragging on for two or three hours at least. The crowd was looking ragged and some of the dignitaries on stage could barely stand up straight. The witty Dr. Michael Abrahams quipped: “I would not be surprised if the election date is announced to be February 31.” Another tweep commented that at this time of night the Prime Minister should be preparing for bed (in an extremely funny Jamaican way). Instead the organizers “have har inna cold air at late hours.” Jamaican humor is amazing, and best enjoyed in patois. 

Happy orange partygoers. (Photo: Gleaner/Twitter)

Happy orange partygoers. (Photo: Gleaner/Twitter)

Some of us at home were suffering. Dr. Abrahams said he felt he was losing brain cells rapidly. It’s the same kind of experience you have when watching awards shows, except the participants weren’t half as glamorous and didn’t wear pretty frocks. How long could they spin it out? The speeches got worse and worse. Dr. Peter Phillips expounded on “which party could people trust.” Dr. Phillips, I hate to say this – but the words “trust” and “politics” really don’t sit comfortably together, do they? Perhaps he wasn’t listening to what he was saying, but one junior minister reportedly said: “More people get raped under the JLP than under PNP.” Perhaps he was inspired by his senior minister, who controversially spoke about rape a few months ago? Ugh.

A PNP supporter scratches out the color of the opposing Tribe on her vuvuzela. (Photo: Gleaner/Twitter)

A PNP supporter scratches out the color of the opposing Tribe on her vuvuzela. (Photo: Gleaner/Twitter)

Some of my tweeps are even more cynical and embittered than me. One commented: Jamaica is still clearly 3rd in the priority of these people. 1. Party 2. Mek sure it’s not the other party 3. Jamaica (if it list at all).” There were many comments along these lines. Or perhaps it’s just that I follow some miserable people who don’t know how to have fun? The cynicism increased after the Gleaner tweeted a photograph of a supporter scratching out the green on his/her vuvuzela, which bore the colors of the Jamaican flag. Green is the Other Tribe’s color, you see. An inspiring moment, indeed. And by the way, those horrible things should be banned!

Last seen at the Total gas station in Half Way Tree… a black Octa drone belonging to MediaBlue Caribbean. Could the thieves kindly return it?

Last seen at the Total gas station in Half Way Tree… a black Octa drone belonging to MediaBlue Caribbean. Could the thieves kindly return it?

Meanwhile, three drones operated by MediaBlu Caribbean were given permission to zoom over the sea of Orange. The firm tweeted that several men approached them with the intent to rob them, but the police did not assist. They are still missing one of the three, which was stolen just after six in the evening, after it flew low over the crowd. This is disgraceful. Give it back!

Then there was the music, without which the party wouldn’t be a party. Many felt this was the best part. The “Selecta” did well, interspersing appropriate and relevant snatches of popular songs in between almost every phrase of the Prime Minister’s speech. He excelled himself. Or perhaps overdid it, whichever way you want to look at it.

Peter Bunting's meme. Note raised fist. I wish they would do away with this anachronistic fist waving, and with calling each other "Comrade" too. But it ain't going to happen!

Peter Bunting’s meme. Note raised fist. I wish the PNP would drop this anachronistic fist waving and calling each other “Comrade” too. But it ain’t going to happen!

So, on to February 25. As someone on Twitter put it, and I quote: “Portia will have a double celebration on the 25th, 40 years in politics and her third time as PM!! #boomshot.” Well, it might be a #boomshot for the Prime Minister. What about us Jamaicans (or “my Jamaican people” as Portia put it) – is it a #boomshot for us? Or is this whole thing an exercise in extreme self-aggrandizement?

So, as the Big Day approaches, I have a message for young Jamaicans (and the older ones, too), pinched from a tweet by Kendrick Lamar (which might be a quote from someone else, but it’s a good and relevant one): “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change the way you think about it.” 

One of my tweeps had the final word. Why all this fuss over the election date announcement? All the expense, the many hours spent making noise, when we could all have had a nice quiet Sunday evening at home?

“She could’ve just tweeted it.” 

Precisely. Roll on, fixed election dates.

A Few Good (Jamaican) Men of 2015: Saluting You!

 

Jamaican men may, from time to time, get a bad rap. Sometimes (as in the case of the God’s-gift-to-women, egotistical Christopher Gayle) it is probably deserved. But – you know something? There are some wonderful Jamaican men out there, doing fantastic work, all over the island. I am mentioning just a few in this quick blog, but I know many more. So, this is by no means an exclusive list. And there are many more whom I don’t know, but hope to meet in 2016. Here are just a few marvelous men who inspired me last year. Many have overcome great challenges to reach where they are today. They are not in any order (not even alphabetical really!)

Oh, and I will be sharing my Badass Women of the Year in a subsequent post!

Michael Abrahams (Photo: Blue Moon Publishing)

Michael Abrahams (Photo: Blue Moon Publishing)

  • Michael Abrahams, gynaecologist, Gleaner columnist, poet and social commentator, has been described as an “enfant terrible” by a fellow columnist. He is provocative, and likes to shake things up a little. Nothing wrong with that, say; we need it. Plus he has great compassion (always supporting good causes, and in particular human rights concerns) and humor – two worthy attributes. @mikeyabrahams
  • Dennis Jones is a fellow blogger and retired international economist, with a dry British humor and a fondness for puns. You can find his commentary on Jamaican society at http://jamaicapoliticaleconomy.wordpress.com Dennis is also on the board of the Caribbean Community of Retired Persons (CCRP), a nonprofit organization for fifty-plus people founded in 2009 (http://www.ccrponline.org). Please support CCRP – and join them if you fall in their age group. As a member myself I know there are many benefits. @dennisgjones
I very much like this photo of prize-winning Jamaican author Marlon James.

I very much like this photo of prize-winning Jamaican author Marlon James. It just shows his character. And I like the button earring.

  • Marlon James is, of course, a celebrity now, having recently won the 2015 Man Booker Prize for “A Brief History of Seven Killings. He’s a hugely original thinker and has a sublime and sensitive imagination. I wish I could take those leaps. He has kept his sense of humor, thank God. I also share a love of Nick Drake and the old hippie band Love, with him. I admire Marlon for his courage. Yes, courage; an underrated and often unnoticed trait. @marlonjames5 but he is more often on Facebook.
Spoken word performer Randy McLaren, the "Kriativ Aktivis." His heart is in the right place.

Spoken word performer Randy McLaren, the “Kriativ Aktivis” and Branson Centre Entrepreneur.

  • Randy McLaren is a cheerful, funny young man from Kingston’s inner city, full of an electric energy that transmits itself to his audience. He is a dub poet, a vibrant performer (I will never forget his performance at Trench Town Reading Centre’s 21st birthday party!) and has a strong and genuine sense of social justice. His music is intended to bring messages of unity, love and empowerment. Randy is also an entrepreneur. His Bresheh business (find it on Facebook) produces custom-made, really cool backpacks for Jamaican youth (see http://www.bresheh.com and 893-9713). @RandyMcLarenRM  @pickbresheh 
Customers examine samples of Randy McLaren's wonderful Bresheh backpacks. Jamaican schoolboys love 'em!

Customers examine samples of Randy McLaren’s wonderful Bresheh backpacks. Jamaican schoolboys love ’em!

  • Damien Williams is, I know, a great teacher and a young man of faith. Despite many personal challenges, this Grenadian (I think of him as Jamaican although he has a lovely lilting accent!) is erudite, courageous and versatile, and a great defender of human rights for the most vulnerable. He also sings (beautifully) and has the best smile in the known Universe… Courage is about getting up every morning and facing a new day, as someone said.
Executive Director of J-FLAG Dane Lewis. (Photo: J-FLAG)

Executive Director of J-FLAG Dane Lewis. (Photo: J-FLAG)

  • Dane Lewis is the Executive Director of J-FLAG, and one of the kindest people I know. Compassion is his middle name. He also has a nice little chuckle. He has stood up to the arrows and darts of viciousness and bigotry for years, and yet has brought together an amazing young team that supports its LGBT clients with commitment, and each other with caring. Yes, bigotry is real; so is love. @equality_JA
Sheldon Shepherd/Nomaddz.

Sheldon Shepherd/Nomaddz. (Photo: Facebook)

  • Sheldon Shepherd is such a bright and talented young man, along with his fellow musicians in Nomaddz – an entirely original band that can play in almost any genre – real musicians, no electronic beats for them. They write their own (highly original) material; and best of all, they are kind, generous, low-key supporters of the NGO Eve for Life, supporting the most vulnerable of young women. I love these young men for that! @nomaddzshepherd @NoMaddz
Dennis Chung - economic analyst, accountant and author - is CEO of the PSOJ and wears other hats, too. Gleaner file photo)

Dennis Chung – economic analyst, accountant and author – is CEO of the PSOJ and wears other hats, too. Gleaner file photo)

  • Dennis Chung is like a breath of fresh air to me. He has no “airs and graces,” and I find his commentary on Jamaica’s economic landscape refreshingly clear and straightforward. He is a fitness fanatic and bike rider (as I was, once! When my bike was stolen, my heart was broken). Happy New Year, Dennis! @drachung
The marvelous Mr. Frith. (Photo: Facebook)

The marvelous Mr. Frith. (Photo: Facebook)

  • I have known Omar Frith, J.P. for years. I also know he is a young man to watch. From humble beginnings himself, Omar has worked in the field of community development (especially with youth) for years, starting at an impossibly early age with the Stella Maris Foundation in inner-city Grants Pen, Kingston. Now, amazingly, he is the Jamaica Labour Party candidate for North West Manchester! This may sound like a political endorsement, but it’s not intended as such. All I know is that Omar is a young man of outstanding talent, humanity and integrity (and a family man). @Frith01
Cliff Hughes in a chirpy mood. (Photo: Nationwide News Network)

Cliff Hughes in a chirpy mood. (Photo: Nationwide News Network)

  • Cliff Hughes, from inner-city Jones Town, is a one-of-a-kind journalist and businessman. He is highly professional, but sharp as hell. I have watched him develop for years as a media entrepreneur with his own business, his own style. He mentors and nurtures bright young journalists like Kalilah Enriquez, George Davis and the intrepid Abka Fitz-Henley (my Journalist of 2015!) on the ground-breaking and influential Nationwide News Network. His radio call-in show on Power 106 FM draws a steadily growing audience. He can be tough when needed, he has his own opinions, but he is always fair. Most importantly, he listens. I also greatly appreciate Cliff’s support for and understanding of environmental issues; and his ongoing commitment to human rights and democracy. He is also very accessible on social media: @cliffhughes106 and @cliffnationwide
Leo studies a skin of a Vincentian parrot at the American Museum of Natural History. This species is threatened with endangerment, in part due to strong pressure from wildlife poachers. (Photo: NCEP blog)

Leo Douglas studies the skin of a Vincentian parrot at the American Museum of Natural History. Caribbean parrots, and the links between conservation and communities, are his special areas of study. (Photo: NCEP blog)

Scientists are just fantastic. So, last but not least is Dr. Leo Douglas, the Jamaican President of BirdsCaribbean (the largest conservation nonprofit organization in the region) and currently a Smithsonian Fellow at the National Zoological Park at Smithsonian. Leo is enthusiastic, warm-hearted and really enjoys working with young people, sparking the same passion he feels for birds and conservation. He plans to focus more on the impact of climate change on our threatened biodiversity in the region, this year. Although he’s not on the island at the moment, he comes and goes and is always with us in spirit!  @accesleo1 @BirdsCaribbean

My final conclusion: Jamaican men and women are magnificent. Be inspired! End of story.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Refreshing New Health Minister, Children in Crisis and Vaz’s Vybz Upset Everyone: Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Looking Christmassy… Devon House in Kingston.
Looking Christmassy… Devon House in Kingston.

It’s Christmas Eve, and the streets of Kingston have turned into a turgid struggle of humans and cars for the past two weeks. I don’t know whether everyone is simply running around in ever-decreasing circles or whether this frenzied traffic has meaning and purpose; are people actually spending money this year? As for me, I have the strongest urge to retreat to our home, a green haven where white-winged doves coo and the dogs loll around in patches of sunshine. Perhaps we can hibernate, and re-emerge in that “in-between” Christmas/New Year week?

I have been one of those rushing-around people, which is why this bulletin is really  late. My apologies! So this post will be a little disjointed. I am just noting a few things here and there, and will have missed some. I will do more catching up in later posts.

Dwayne Vaz, MP, has really upset and offended many Jamaicans. What a shame.

Dwayne Vaz, MP, has really upset and offended many Jamaicans, and let down many of his colleagues. What a shame. His apologies (more than one) have not helped, and I think he just got a tap on the wrist.

Mr. Vaz and Vybz Kartel: You may recall that a young man called Dwayne Vaz was elected Member of Parliament for Central Westmoreland, following the sudden demise of Agriculture Minister and MP Roger Clarke. We didn’t know much about Mr. Vaz at the time; now, during the never-ending election campaign, he has made his mark. But not in a good way. At a People’s National Party (PNP) rally a week ago, Mr. Vaz accused the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) of complicity in a fire that had occurred earlier that day at the office of Deputy Mayor of Montego Bay Michael Troupe. The police had not determined the cause of the fire. Mr. Vaz then carefully orchestrated a song by dancehall performer (and convicted murderer) Vybz Kartel called “Wah Dem Feel Like,” which is basically an incitement to violence. Mr. Vaz apparently is fond of the murderer’s songs and uses them at rallies from time to time (music plays a crucial role on such occasions).

This incident has me worried: Will the recently appointed Political Ombuds(woman) Donna Parchment Brown – an astute women of considerable standing – have the power to actually sanction any politician who transgresses during the campaign? Already, she is having some difficulty in convincing political representatives that they should remove flags (and painted sidewalks!) in their party colors. It is not against the law; so is moral suasion the only tool Ms. Parchment Brown has in her toolkit?

And the flags are still a problem: My heart sank as I listened to a recent interview with the two politicians vying for the Eastern St. Andrew seat on radio recently. One (the incumbent Member of Parliament André Hylton) simply pointed fingers at his Opposition challenger, Fayval Williams. A newcomer to politics, Ms. Williams disappointed me by sounding rather laid-back about the green flags and green paint, which her supporters chose to decorate one neighborhood. This is in a constituency where politically-motivated violence has flared up so many times in the past – in August Town, a relatively small but divided community. The politicians’ half-hearted response to the situation was most disheartening. Take down the flags! 

Health Minister Horace Dalley (centre) greets youth volunteers before the start of the Ministry of Health Youth Workers Sensitisation session: ZIKV Preparedness Enhanced Vector Control Programme at the Jamaica Conference Centre in downtown Kingston. (Photo: Rudolph Brown/Gleaner)

Health Minister Horace Dalley seems such a decent and sensible man. Here he greets youth volunteers before the start of the Ministry of Health Youth Workers Sensitisation session: ZIKV Preparedness Enhanced Vector Control Programme at the Jamaica Conference Centre. (Photo: Rudolph Brown/Gleaner)

The new Minister: One can’t help but be impressed by our new Health Minister, Horace Dalley. Since taking over from Fenton Ferguson last month, Minister Dalley has done everything right that his unhappy predecessor did wrong. He has been communicative, proactive and forward-looking. For example, he has recruited 1,000 youth healthcare workers to conduct a “zik v” prevention program island-wide. Keep going, Mr. Dalley – you are on the right track. (Incidentally, the zika virus is scary. It is spreading fast across Latin America and will likely reach us, come 2016…) I’ve noticed quite a few mosquitoes around, so urge all Jamaicans to be vigilant about breeding sites (and buy a zapper for your home!) Looking back at the damning audit on public hospitals, Minister Dalley believes it is hospital management that must take responsibility for the terrible conditions – not central Ministry officials. He added that some might disagree; yes, they might, Minister Dalley! But importantly he said: “Our people who run the system have no accountability,” and that this has worried him in the five weeks since he took over. Refreshing candor!

Alarming news: Brazil is investigating more than over 2,400 suspected cases of microcephaly (brain defects in newborn babies) and 29 deaths of infants this year, according to a Washington Post report. This is a huge increase in the quite rare brain condition over the previous year and they suspect a connection with…you’ve guessed it…zik v.

The planned “rebooted” power plant in Old Harbour Bay has hit a snag. The company selected to undertake the project, Abengoa from Spain, has just gone bankrupt. The Jamaica Public Service Company is now negotiating with a new bidder, which I believe is a Chinese firm. US-based firm New Fortress Energy will supply natural gas for the 190-megawatt Combined Cycle plant. Meanwhile, the link to the Environmental Impact Assessment is on the NEPA website, here: http://www.nepa.gov.jm/new/services_products/applications/eias/index.php

Mangrove trees in a lagoon at sunset in the Portland Bight Protected Area of Jamaica. (Photo: Robin Moore)

Mangrove trees in a lagoon at sunset in the Portland Bight Protected Area of Jamaica. (Photo: Robin Moore)

Speaking of the Portland Bight Protected Area, the head of the Port Authority of Jamaica Gordon Shirley spoke to Nationwide News and said the “logistics hub” (which people still often and wrongly conflate with the planned port in Goat Islands) was still a key element of the government’s growth agenda. He was primarily talking about the proposed dredging of Kingston Harbour and development of the Kingston Terminal. The government has a large contract now (around US$7 million) with the French company Soget to implement a “port community system.” Honestly, I’m not sure what that is, but I will try to find out more.

Abuse of inmates: Things seem to have gone downhill at the Tower Street Correctional Centre. There are reports of the consistent and regular beating of prisoners (apparently by a search team known as “The Squad,” which it is alleged also confiscates prisoners’ belongings and does not return them). Jamaicans for Justice and Stand Up for Jamaica, which works on rehabilitation programs in the prison, have expressed great concern, noting: The severe beating of inmates at the Tower Street prison and the inaction of the Department of Correctional Services have reached an intolerable level.” 

The return of the “leggo beast”?: In our schools, too, there are beating problems. A teacher at Melrose Primary and Junior High School reportedly used a PVC pipe to beat a student, who was also dragged on floor. Another teacher at St. Richard’s Primary School has been charged with assault occasioning actual bodily harm. Nevertheless, Jamaica Teachers’ Association President Norman Allen’s remarks in the local media did not impress me. He waffled and prevaricated over the issue of corporal punishment in schools (“it works for some but not others”). Moreover, he seems to prefer secrecy. Don’t discuss the matter widely in the media, he suggests, as children will be listening and will behave even more badly (like “leggo beasts,” one supposes).  He is pointing the finger at parents, but meanwhile tells members not to beat students. Please, let’s just ban corporal punishment in schools! What is the problem? The Education Ministry has recommended a lot of “alternative measures” to “discipline” students. So just use those!

The reverse of the coin is the problem of violence in schools. Most incidents are swept under the carpet. I am aware of several cases that have never made the local news, presumably because the schools don’t want that kind of publicity. My fellow blogger (he won a Certificate of Merit at the Press Association of Jamaica Awards) Wayne Campbell wrote about this recently in his blog (at http://wayaine.blogspot.com) and also in the Gleaner here: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/news/20151222/jungle-classroom. We can’t ignore all of this, because it won’t go away.

This has been Jamaica's tourism marketing slogan for the past two years or so, and it does not appeal to me. I much prefer the previous one - "Once you go, you know."

This has been Jamaica’s tourism marketing slogan for the past two years or so, and it does not appeal to me at all. I much prefer the previous one – “Once you go, you know.”

The usual tourism hype is under way. Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay had 98 flights going in and out on December 22 – “An absolute record,” say tourism officials. 17,500 passengers arrived and departed. There were people kitted out in gold polo shirts labeled “Jamaica, Home of All Right.” This “All Right” phrase is the Jamaica Tourist Board’s slogan, which I consider pretty lame. There is an arrangement with Thomson for passengers to arrive and get on cruise ships; so they won’t be staying. Never mind, we are trying. And is it unfair of me to call it “hype”?

Dr. Kenneth Baugh (a former Health Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister), remains in intensive care at the University Hospital of the West Indies after brain surgery, which was apparently successful. I really hope he makes a full recovery. It is quite unusual for a politician to actually have surgery in Jamaica, I think. Most of them hop on the next plane to Miami. Dr. Baugh is such a charming man, wonderfully well-mannered.

Big ups… So many!

Entrepreneur extraordinaire Yaneek Page (left) with fashion designer Keneea Linton-George - Jamaican designed and made! (Photo: Facebook)

Entrepreneur extraordinaire Yaneek Page (left) with fashion designer Keneea Linton-George – Jamaican designed and made! (Photo: Facebook)

  • It’s great to see new businesses springing up, and here is one at the new 80 Lady Musgrave Road commercial complex in Kingston – a place well worth visiting, if you have not done so already. It’s a nice hangout spot with several restaurants, a pharmacy and more. So good to see local entrepreneurs – if you have an eye for fashion you should drop by and take a look at Keneea Linton-George’s newly opened store!
Educators identifying birds in Spring Garden, Trelawny during the BirdsCaribbean/NEPA training program. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

Educators identifying birds in Spring Garden, Trelawny during the BirdsCaribbean/NEPA training program. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

  • BirdsCaribbean and the National Environment & Planning Agency (NEPA) partnered in training educators from Trelawny and St. Ann on how to use birds to teach the importance of nature conservation. The project used Cornell University’s specially adapted BirdSleuth Caribbean curriculum. Special “big ups” to Ava Tomlinson, who taught at BirdsCaribbean’s first ever children’s bird camp at Hope Zoo in July; and the hard-working Deleen Powell of NEPA. This is important work!
  • Chairman of the National Solid Waste Management Agency (NSWMA) Dennis Chung is taking things in hand, after this year’s disastrous fire – one in a series. He is working with Local Government Minister Noel Arscott to tighten things up at the 120-acre Riverton City dump, with a fire suppression system installed. All tires at the dump will be moved to an unnamed location within a month, and much tighter security has been established. It’s a good start.
Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS) CEO Kelly Tomblin and Region Central Director Roger Kennedy give children a push on the swing in their new playground. (Photo: JPS Foundation)

Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS) CEO Kelly Tomblin and Region Central Director Roger Kennedy give children a push on the swing in their new playground. (Photo: JPS Foundation)

  • Children must play. And playing is learning. The JPS Foundation recently donated a complete new playground to the York Town Basic School. It was opened on December 10 and designed by the imaginative and talented sculptor/designer Scheed Cole. It’s also “green,” being made entirely of recycled materials. Lucky kids!

Many more kudos are due in ensuing blogs…

Electric madness: Members of the St. John’s Road community in St. Catherine were irate recently, accusing JPS of cutting off their electricity. JPS responded in writing that the outages were due to the high level of illegal connections in the area, which results in blown transformers. They have now installed their seventh new transformer there in six months (at US$4,500 a pop). Apparently over eighty per cent of residents obtain electricity illegally. This is crazy!

A “Get the Guns” update: The police announced that after three months of effort, their Get the Guns campaign has yielded 157 illegal guns and 1,960 rounds of ammunition. This is an alarming number of guns – but good going, anyway. There were very few casualties incurred in the process of seizing the weapons. I hope the police intelligence has improved (I see signs of it, I think). Unsurprisingly, the largest percentage of weapons (34 per cent) were taken in our new crime capital, St. James.  I’m also impressed that the police have hauled six alleged members of East Kingston’s Burgher Gully Gang up in court, charged under the anti-gang legislation in connection with murders, shootings, robberies, extortion and other crimes. The gang’s alleged leader goes by the innocuous nickname of “Pepsi.” The Major Organized Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency (MOCA) is working hard. (But what of the Ministry of National Security’s Unite for Change program? How is that going?)

TV news omitted to mention that a well-known businessman, Mark Perkins, who was shot and seriously injured, is on Member of Parliament Lisa Hanna’s campaign team (her “road manager”). He had just popped home in the village of Walkerswood, St. Ann when gunmen pounced on him and shot him five times. They also stole his licensed firearm. Mr. Perkins owns a pleasant little rest stop in the village called Lyming. His wife and children were, thankfully, unharmed.

Dr. Raymoth Notice, former Mayor of Spanish Town, blew the whistle on

Dr. Raymoth Notice, former Mayor of Spanish Town, blew the whistle on a number of problems at the St. Catherine District Prison while serving as prison doctor from 1998 – 2001.  (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

Another man with political connections, the former Mayor of Spanish Town and JLP Councilor Dr. Raymoth Notice was shot and injured at his home in Bog Walk, St. Catherine in what appears to have been a robbery. I wish him a speedy recovery and hope the shooting will be thoroughly investigated.

The car in the sea. (Photo: Irie FM)

The car in the sea. (Photo: Irie FM)

Another disturbing piece of news relates to a car chase in rural St. Thomas. The car drove some way into the sea before giving up. It was driven by Rameish Simpson, who caused a stir a few years ago when West St. Thomas Member of Parliament James Robertson took him to hospital after a gun fight he was involved in. Simpson was subsequently acquitted of gun charges (and again in 2011 after a witness failed to show). Simpson’s car allegedly contained an Uzi sub machine gun and some ammunition (his lawyer denies this). Simpson has now been charged.

This is supposed to be a photo of Marlon Perry, aka "Duppy Film," who is wanted by the St. Thomas Police for the murder of two policemen. However, word has it that he bleaches his skin, so he may be several shades lighter than this by now. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

This is supposed to be a photo of Marlon Perry, aka “Duppy Film,” who is wanted by the St. Thomas Police for the murder of two policemen. However, word has it that he bleaches his skin, so he may be several shades lighter than this by now. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

More drama and tragedy in St. Thomas: Last night, two policemen were shot dead and a civilian injured while they were playing a game of dominoes at Poor Man’s Corner, a somewhat lonely seaside spot which one passes through after descending a steep and winding hill. Corporal Kenneth Davis was a member of former Prime Minister Edward Seaga’s security detail, but Mr. Seaga believes his death has “nothing to do with any politics.” Constable Craig Palmer was attached to the Kingston West Police. The aforementioned MP Robertson suggests this was a “reprisal,” and that there have been “open threats against the police” in the parish. Was this a contract killing? Let’s see how the police investigation goes. They are seeking Marlon Perry as a prime suspect.

Many Jamaicans have died violently since I last wrote. Here are just some of those I would like us to remember. Many families will be sadly missing brothers, sisters, husbands and wives this Christmas. My heart goes out to them. Meanwhile, Senator Kamina Johnson-Smith says our children are “in crisis” – murders of children have increased by 36 per cent up to December 12 this year – and that the Government is simply not taking this seriously. It has not reconvened a committee set up to review four pieces of legislation to protect children for a whole year. 60 children have been murdered this year, 35 of them in the 16 – 17 age group and 44 of them boys. Despite protestations by the Prime Minister and Youth Minister Lisa Hanna – are our children really a priority concern?

And where are the four family members who disappeared in St. Ann after their house was burned down? I have not heard any news at all… What a sad world.

Danjay Robinson, 22, Fleet Street, Kingston

Dwight Gillespie, 30, Foster Lane, Kingston

Christopher Birch, 33, Harbour View, Kingston

Eric Morris, 16, Grants Pen, Kingston

Ray Charles Brown, 52, Willowdene, St. Catherine

Verona Clark, 33, Linstead, St. Catherine

Raymond Reynolds, 44, Bridgeport, St. Catherine

Christopher Thomas, 41, Green Crescent, Linstead, St. Catherine

Phillip Richards, 33, Mitchell Town, Clarendon

Lloyd Riley, 76, Frankfield, Clarendon

Pastor Audley Coleman, 57, Toby Heights, Clarendon (geography teacher at Glenmuir High School)

Shevaughn Chambers, 18, Cornwall Courts, Montego Bay, St. James

Teenage boy, 17, Adelphi, St. James

Benjamin Stephenson, 21, Spring Mount, St. James (killed by police)

Delores Vernon, 61, Barnett Street, Montego Bay, St. James

Corporal Kenneth Davis, 52, Poor Man’s Corner/Yallahs, St. Thomas

Constable Craig Palmer, 33, Poor Man’s Corner/Yallahs, St. Thomas

Deandre Vanhorne, 2, Frome, Westmoreland (died in an alleged arson attack)

Software developer Christopher Birch, was shot dead in front of family members during a robbery attempt at his home in Harbour View, Kingston. A Wolmer's Boys' School alumnus, Birch co-founded KRAAS Images, a Jamaican stock photo business.(Photo: Loop Jamaica)

Software developer Christopher Birch, 33, was shot dead in front of family members during a robbery attempt at his home in Harbour View, Kingston. A Wolmer’s Boys’ School alumnus, Birch co-founded KRAAS Images, a Jamaican stock photo business.(Photo: Loop Jamaica)

 

35-year-old security guard Sydney Brown shot dead his girlfriend Verona Clark, 34, during an argument in Linstead town square. He then shot himself. (Photo: Loop Jamaica)

35-year-old security guard Sydney Brown shot dead his girlfriend Verona Clark, 34, during a heated argument in Linstead town square. He then shot himself. (Photo: Loop Jamaica)

 

52-year-old Ray Charles Brown, a psychiatric nursing aide, was shot dead during an attempted robbery at his home in Willowdene, St. Catherine. His wife, also a health care worker, was injured. (Photo: Loop Jamaica)

52-year-old Ray Charles Brown, a psychiatric nursing aide, was shot dead during an attempted robbery at his home in Willowdene, St. Catherine. His wife, also a health care worker, was injured. (Photo: Loop Jamaica)

 

Flagging Us Down the Road

Flags are symbolic, aren’t they. We humans get emotional over symbols, and we certainly do about flags. In many parts of the world, the national flag is something to be treated with respect. If it is torn, dirtied, damaged or (heaven forbid) deliberately destroyed by someone who despises what it stands for, then we get extremely upset.

Bree Newsome takes down the Confederate Flag from a pole at the Statehouse in Columbia, South Carolina, June 27, 2015. REUTERS/Adam Anderson Photo

Bree Newsome takes down the Confederate Flag from a pole at the Statehouse in Columbia, South Carolina, June 27, 2015. REUTERS/Adam Anderson Photo

Earlier this year, for example, the Confederate flag was the subject of much pain and heartache – as it has been over decades, as a symbol of slavery. A woman activist climbed a flagpole in Columbia, South Carolina a few months ago and took down the flag, the week after nine African Americans were murdered by a white racist who revered it. South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley subsequently called for the flag’s removal, saying that while it was an important part of South Carolina’s past, it “does not represent the future of our great state.”

The extreme right-wing, anti-immigrant English Defence League use the English flag (St. George's Cross) in all their demonstrations. (Photo: David Hoffman)

The extreme right-wing, anti-immigrant English Defence League uses the English flag (St. George’s Cross) in all its demonstrations. (Photo: David Hoffman)

 In the UK flags have become an issue in recent years, symbolizing the schizophrenic nature of modern Britain. The Union Jack, representing the United Kingdom, is not only replaced by the English flag (St. George’s Cross) at sporting events, where appropriate. It is often used by extreme right-wing nationalist groups such as the English Defence League; the message is “England for the English” – keep out foreigners, including immigrants of course as well as the Scottish, Welsh and Irish. Speaking of the Irish, in Northern Ireland flags have been one of the toils of division in its turbulent history, splitting the populace along sectarian (religious) lines.

Sometimes I wish flags would remain a thing of the past. As historical symbols, they are fine. But they should not define the future. I have problems with the flag obsession. Flags are often used in ways that are less than desirable. They inflame passions, create divisions, and take on a life of their own; they are often more than mere symbols.

Were Sadie Forbes (left) and

Were Sadie Forbes and Jermaine Vassell killed because of political tensions created by flags? 

I was furious (yes, furious) today to see, as we drove along Mountain View Avenue, a fresh crop of political flags attached to light posts along half the length of the very long road: orange for the People’s National Party (PNP) “territory,” green for the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) enclaves. This is after, just a few days earlier and not too far away, two Jamaicans were murdered in Newlands, a section of Portmore in St. Catherine, after one woman, Sadie Forbes, a 44-year-old PNP activist, allegedly became angered by a JLP flag posted near her gate and took it down. She was killed, and another man killed in retaliation – or so the rumor goes, although many aspects of the murders have not been confirmed. Political tensions are now high in the area, and the political representatives were summoned to a meeting with our new Political Ombudswoman Donna Parchment Brown. Was this all started by a piece of colored cloth?

I hurriedly took photos on my cell phone from the car as we drove along Mountain View this afternoon. My husband was anxious that someone would see us and confront us, so I took the photos almost “undercover.” The quality of the photos I took is, therefore, not good. But you get the picture. I was told also that there are political flags in Mona Commons, near the University Hospital of the West Indies; the entire town of Lucea, Hanover; and along the main road between Negril and Lucea. I understand the Hanover flags are due to a political rally there this evening; men were seen climbing trees to hang flags, today. Will they be taken down afterwards?

Why should decent residents in less wealthy areas (you never see political flags in the wealthier uptown areas of Kingston) put up with

But then again, our orange and green flags do in fact represent something. Something very sad and destructive: The political tribalism and “garrisonization” of Jamaica, which has made a mockery of our democracy. This is a travesty, and if Donna Parchment Brown does her job well, these flags must be taken down, and remain down.

These are flags of division. We don’t need that.

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The Touch of the Master, TMZ Politicians and the Youth are Klicking: Saturday, November 21, 2015

Yklick Jamaica had an interesting #FollowtheVote at Half Way Tree Transportation Centre yesterday and a Youth Forum today.  (Photo: Respect Jamaica)
Yklick Jamaica had an interesting #FollowtheVote at Half Way Tree Transportation Centre yesterday and a Youth Forum today. (Photo: Respect Jamaica)

It’s been a week of trying to pull themselves together for the Portia Simpson Miller administration, after the disastrous neonatal episode. And it’s been a couple of weeks of me trying to get my act together, after some long diversions. But I’m back. Sort of. Still although the following may seem a little out of date, most of it is still worth mentioning. So, here goes.

politicalsusslogo

“Political suss”: I am sick and tired of the so-called election campaign at this point (I say “so-called” because it is just a lot of empty noise, to me, signifying nothing). I am weary of the barrage of political tweets (go ahead and support your party, but don’t expect me to retweet any of it). Then there are the ridiculous antics at party rallies (the embarrassment of octogenarian Mike Henry, for instance, doing a sexy “wine” on stage). It’s all too much. The “he said, she said” atmosphere is really getting to me. In a way it’s not surprising, then, that the Gleaner has started a Saturday feature called “Political Suss” – a vacuous, ill-conceived attempt to spin something exciting and “gossipy” out of the current shenanigans in various constituency selection processes. Who knows, they might be able to dig up some juicy scandal along the way – an extra-marital affair, a dubious business deal, a relationship breakup…? No, this is not TMZGleaner editors, and our politicians are not the Kardashians; this is actually a serious election, with much at stake. So why encourage tittle tattle? I know Saturday papers have low readership, but please!

In any event, what is really happening on the election date front? While the frenzied (and largely ineffective) social media activity continues (why not try engaging Jamaicans on the issues, dear politicians?) it is not at all clear, after all, that the elections will be held this year. We are running out of time. Did the People’s National Party (PNP) not like the results of its internal opinion polls? There seems to be a lot of contentiousness over several PNP seats, with gaggles of supporters protesting about one proposed candidate or another, on an almost daily basis. Does the PNP want to wait until things settle down? And what if they don’t settle down? While the party’s campaign manager Peter Phillips has been insisting that the elections will take place this year, it seems less and less likely.

Let’s have a fixed election date: Last Sunday, our Prime Minister told us (via a political rally): “You will be appropriately informed when my master touches me and she ‘my daughter go nigh'” regarding the election date. So, no worries, God will tell her when. I find this, actually, quite offensive. It is trivializing a serious matter (again) – playing with the election date, while the nation holds its breath (including investors, businesspeople and security forces, among others). The Electoral Commission of Jamaica is in favor of it. Why should we be subjected to this nonsense?

Minister of Health, Hon. Dr. Fenton Ferguson (seated, right); and Associate, Harold Morrison and Robert Woodstock Associates, Lisa Seivright (seated, left), sign copies of a contract for the design and equipping of maternal and neonatal high dependency units within the public health sector, during a ceremony at the Knutsford Court Hotel in New Kingston on Tuesday (November 3). Also pictured in the background (from left) are: British High Commissioner to Jamaica, His Excellency David Fitton; Head, Delegation of the European Union to Jamaica, Ambassador Paola Amadei; Deputy Director General of the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ), Barbara Scott; and Permanent Secretary in the Health Ministry, Dr. Kevin Harvey. The contract signing falls under the $3 billion (€22 million) Programme for the Reduction of Maternal and Child Mortality (PROMAC), funded by the European Union (EU), which is aimed at reducing the incidence of neonatal and maternal deaths in Jamaica.

Signings always look good… This one falls under the $3 billion (€22 million) Programme for the Reduction of Maternal and Child Mortality, funded by the European Union, which is aimed at reducing the incidence of neonatal and maternal deaths in Jamaica. (Photo: Jamaica Information Service)

EU to the rescue: The European Union (EU) quickly stepped in with a contract signing worth J$253 million for the design and equipping of maternal and neonatal high dependency units in several public hospitals. The EU’s Head of Delegation Paola Amadei said at the signing that the contract signing is “in a wider context…supporting the worldwide efforts in attaining the targets set under the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which are completing their cycles this year.” As I have noted before, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in Jamaica reported that Jamaica is well behind on the two MDGs related to maternal health and child mortality. Curiously, UNDP Jamaica also noted on its website that “data collection in infant mortality faces significant administrative challenges.”

Why this lack of good, available data? That is a question that the World Bank is tackling now with its project in support of the Open Data in the Caribbean, the benefits of which are many. More anon on this.

Supporters met former Health Minister Fenton Ferguson outside Parliament recently, and gave him a baby to hold. (Photo: Loop Jamaica)

Supporters met former Health Minister Fenton Ferguson outside Parliament recently, and gave him a baby to hold. (Photo: Loop Jamaica)

Health audits released: At last, the health sector audits ordered in May by the Minister were released – one for each region. They do not make for comfortable reading. Links to all four reports are on the Ministry website: http://moh.gov.jm/regional-health-authorities-audit-reports/ in case you missed them. Take a deep breath! I have expressed concern over how well the decentralization of the Health Ministry has been working. This is something that should be revisited. Is the Ministry simply in need of a huge administrative overhaul? Although not among recent concerns, the report on the Victoria Jubilee Hospital in Kingston (which delivers around 8,000 babies annually) is utterly alarming to me.

Chief Medical Officer Dr. Marion Bullock DuCasse, Permanent Secretary Dr. Kevin Harvey and (former) Minister of Health Fenton Ferguson before a press briefing recently. (Photo: Gleaner)

A trio under fire: Chief Medical Officer Dr. Marion Bullock DuCasse, Permanent Secretary Dr. Kevin Harvey and (former) Minister of Health Fenton Ferguson nevertheless look quite relaxed before a recent press briefing. (Photo: Gleaner)

A “firing” or a reshuffle? The Prime Minister announced that Health Minister Fenton Ferguson would be relieved of his post. But…hold the applause…he was appointed Minister of Labour and Social Security, instead. Key officials at the Ministry – Chief Medical Officer Dr. Marion Bullock DuCasse and Permanent  Secretary Dr. Kevin Harvey – remain firmly in their places. The jovial former State Minister Horace Dalley, who has been very busy with public sector wage negotiations, has taken over at the Health Ministry while still keeping an eye on negotiations (he’s not out of the woods on that one yet either, since civil servants are very disgruntled about the non-payment of promised overdue allowances). Minister Dalley has been doing a bit of “housecleaning” and meeting with the parents of the babies who died, which is commendable.

The new Minister of Health Horace Dalley is seeking to pour oil on troubled waters. (Photo: Gleaner)

The new Minister of Health Horace Dalley is seeking to pour oil on troubled waters. (Photo: Gleaner)

It must be a relief for Derrick Kellier, who has been juggling two ministries and can now focus on Agriculture and Fisheries. And a relief for Minister Ferguson! Wow. He has just been moved out of the line of fire. A Jamaica Information Service release said: “In announcing the changes, the Prime Minister said she has listened to the recent discussions and expressions of concern, some of which could have the effect of distracting from the very important focus of economic and social reforms.” Madam, I would not characterize the babies’ deaths and extremely worrying revelations on our health care as a distraction.

All the damage control was far too late. Timing is everything in public relations. The Ministry should have released the audits months ago, and fired the Health Minister weeks ago. Yes, fired. Now he just has a less stressful job! I suspect Minister Ferguson will be rather quiet for a while, now, but he had to have the last word…

Minister Ferguson on the defensive: I don’t know why he bothered; people are so fed up with him. But the former Health Minister decided to defend himself and his record. He was “bold enough to take on big tobacco” through the Tobacco Controls Regulation legislation of 2013, he said. Bold? Jamaica ratified the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in 2005 and legislation was somewhat overdue. And to complain that when something goes wrong, it’s the Minister’s fault? “Everything that happens, is Minister Fenton…CHIKV come, is the minister; hand, foot and mouth disease come, is the minister,” Ferguson whined to the press. Oh – please. The buck stops with the Minister. It does. It does, whether you like it or not. I suspect his political career is now on the wane.

Opposition Leader Andrew Holness is kicking up a storm on campaign platforms, BUT… (Photo: Gleaner)

Opposition Leader Andrew Holness is kicking up a storm on campaign platforms, BUT… (Photo: Gleaner)

Opposition Leader Andrew Holness is getting angry. His performance on the campaign stage has been infused with passion recently. Yet, why am I not convinced? Half of the time, he is slightly off the mark. He did not endear himself to the “Articulate Minority” of Jamaica (I count myself as a proud member) by telling us to put down our cell phones etc. and vote. What makes him think that the growing Twitter army does not habitually vote? I know that many do. But perhaps they think about their vote a little more carefully before putting their “X” on the ballot sheet. You got a bit carried away there, Mr. Holness, and I for one did not appreciate these comments. With the ruling party mired in internal disputes and public relations débacles, is the Opposition going to make a mess of things again? I would not be at all surprised. Mr. Holness’ recent tweets have also been – well, childish and shallow.

Youth Minister Lisa Hanna tries to get connected. (Photo: Jamaica Information Service)

Youth Minister Lisa Hanna tries to get connected. (Photo: Jamaica Information Service)

Youth Minister Lisa Hanna has spoken up about the violent deaths of so many young people, reflecting on the recent murder of Shanique Walters in uptown Kingston. It is Youth Month, and the Minister is doing a school tour called #IamConnected. I’m not getting this hashtag. Who is connected, and to whom (or what)? After a meeting with at-risk youth in May Pen I attended recently, I am convinced  – the connectedness is barely happening. Much more needs to be done, out there on the street.

“Take your hands off our heritage sites!” If Dr. Roosevelt Crooks of the Ocho Rios Resort Board had been in my living room this evening, I would have jumped up and hugged him. Dr. Crooks is furious at the activities of the infamous China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC), which has got carried away again as it finishes the North-South Highway and has diverted from its planned route, thus endangering (and indeed damaging) an eighteenth century waterwheel. Dr. Crooks spoke about heritage tourism (good). In my last bulletin I expressed concern at the disrespect for, and downright thieving of Jamaica’s heritage. I hope the situation can be rectified. This is not the first time CHEC has played fast and loose with regulations and the Jamaican environment, and been reprimanded.

Talking about highways, we were shocked recently to learn from the Auditor General (and how often are we shocked by her reports!) that the National Road Operating and Construction Company (NROCC), which operates Highway 2000 has accumulated huge debts in the past six years, amounting to J$71 billion – not the $300 billion first reported! The Auditor General’s office apparently made a ghastly error there, but it’s still pretty high, isn’t it?

Education Minister Ronald Thwaites

Education Minister Ronald Thwaites is not very impressed by the Early Childhood Commission’s performance over a decade. Did the Ministry not know about these inadequacies before, though?

What has the Early Childhood Commission (ECC) been doing for the past ten years? No wonder Education Minister Ronald Thwaites is annoyed. At least 2,494 early childhood institutions in Jamaica have been operating illegally without a registration certificate, says another Auditor General report. I thought the idea of the ECC was to raise and maintain standards in basic schools. However, one hears that it is woefully understaffed. What a pointless exercise. Sadly, this kind of thing happens quite often. A lovely government unit is set up with specific and laudable goals, only to be run into the ground and unable to fulfill its mandate due to lack of resources.

Kids in the trunk?! I did not know about this, but the Transport Authority is “cracking down” on illegal taxi cab drivers, who put children in the trunk of their car so they can fit more passengers in. Whatever next…

I am glad for the following…

Jamaica's 2016 Rhodes Scholar, Sherona Forrester, describes herself as "holistically developed." (Photo: Ricardo Makyn/Gleaner)

Jamaica’s 2016 Rhodes Scholar, Sherona Forrester, describes herself as “holistically developed.” (Photo: Ricardo Makyn/Gleaner)

  • The new Rhodes Scholar is amazingly “well-rounded.” She is a “Reggae Girl” (in other words, a member of the national women’s football team), she has a First Class degree (a double major in Economics and Statistics) from the University of the West Indies (UWI), where she also obtained a Distinction in her Master’s degree in Economics. At UWI she also captained the women’s basketball and netball teams! She is a remarkable young Jamaican – I am sure she will do very well at my alma mater, Oxford University.
Donna Parchment Brown, the new Political Ombudsman, was sworn in on

Donna Parchment Brown, the new Political Ombudsman, was sworn in on November 16. (Photo: Jamaica Information Service)

  • I am also happy to see a new Political Ombudsman appointed (or Ombudswoman). Her name is Donna Parchment Brown, a lawyer and dispute resolution specialist. She was appointed Custos of St. Andrew in February this year; she will step down from that position now. After her predecessor, the largely incompetent Bishop Herro Blair resigned in 2013, there was talk the position might be abolished. I hope the new appointee will keep a close eye on the conduct of our politicians, before, during and after the elections.
Jehmu Greene told Jamaican youth: "Success in life is not about 'luck' but about taking advantage of your opportunities." (Photo: feminist.com)

American activist Jehmu Greene told Jamaican youth: “Success in life is not about ‘luck’ but about taking advantage of your opportunities.” (Photo: feminist.com)

  • Kudos to all those Jamaican individuals and organizations who are really seeking to provide guidance and to address the many complex issues affecting our youth head on. There is a new youth group called #yklick that held some interesting youth forums this week. Today’s discussion, sponsored by the U.S. Embassy and UNICEF Jamaica in partnership with Respect Jamaica, was streamed live on YouTube. The former head of MTV’s “Rock the Vote” campaign, political commentator and activist Jehmu Greene – the daughter of Liberian immigrants by the way  – and a number of Jamaican youth speakers gave the young people excellent tips and wise advice on advocacy.
  • Finally – kudos to the Marine Police, who have been rather successful in the past two weeks; this week they seized a 32-foot vessel, hundreds of gallon of marine fuel, and arrested five men, one of whom is wanted for murder. I wonder if they are using their new boats.

It has been ten days or so, so I expected to garner a long list, but this is so sad. My deepest sympathies to the families of those who have died – I am afraid some of them are not named in the media, although perhaps in subsequent police reports.

Two unidentified men, Peter Lane, Kingston

Two homeless men, Orange Street, Kingston

Ernest Dunbar, J.P., 58, Knollis/Bog Walk, St. Catherine

Romaine Williams, 20, Monk Street, Rivoli/Spanish Town, St. Catherine (killed by police)

Unidentified man, Spanish Town Police Station, St. Catherine (killed by police)

Dawn Doyley, 50, Thompson Town, Clarendon

Naseive Binger, 33, Old Paisley/May Pen, Clarendon

Kirk Fisher, 44, Cherry Tree Lane/Four Paths, Clarendon

Daniel Anderson, 6, Belair/Runaway Bay, St. Ann

Two unidentified men, Melrose Hill, Manchester

“Benjie,” George’s Plain, Westmoreland

Garfield Allen, 43, Hartford, Westmoreland

Onecka Samuels,Hartford, Westmoreland

Travaughn James, Seaton Crescent/Savanna-la-mar, Westmoreland (killed by police)

Eugenie Moody, Norwood Gardens, St. James

Angella Scarlett, Railway Lane/Montego Bay, St. James

Damian Miller,Railway Lane/Montego Bay, St. James 

Tisha Sterling, 25,

Roy Burry, 61, Morant District, St. Thomas (October 22)

Rohan Hamilton, 45, Long Bay, Portland (killed by police)

 

Six-year-old Daniel Anderson was found dead in a gully in Belair/Runaway Bay with a chop wound to his head on November 16. (Photo: Nationwide News Network)

Six-year-old Daniel Anderson was found dead in a gully in Belair/Runaway Bay with a chop wound to his head on November 16. (Photo: Nationwide News Network)

 

20-year-old Oshane Fowler ("Little") was shot dead in Sandy Bay, Clarendon on November 4 while walking along the road. He was reportedly one of two identical twin brothers. (Photo: Loop Jamaica)

20-year-old Oshane Fowler (“Little”) was shot dead in Sandy Bay, Clarendon on November 4 while walking along the road. He was reportedly one of two identical twin brothers. (Photo: Loop Jamaica)

 

The Childish Senate, The Cannabis Cluster and Congrats to an Arsenal Fan: Sunday, November 1, 2015

It’s been a difficult week. You know how sad news sometimes really hurts, while some indulge in the petty and the trivial? At least the gentle rains and persistent showers this week may have washed some of the pain away.

Political pettiness: The debate on the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) remained in the doldrums last week, with Opposition Senators boycotting the hearings of the Upper House in protest at the previous week’s shenanigans – despite the suspension of Opposition Senator Marlene Malahoo Forte having been lifted on Thursday. Long-winded letters have been flying back and forth, from the Leaders of Government and of Opposition Business (Senators A.J. Nicholson and Tom Tavares Finson). Senator Morris is refusing to apologize to Senator Marlene Malahoo (“absolutely no intention… I am not violating any rules…”). Senator Tavares Finson claims there was “no basis in law” for Senator Morris’ actions. Senator Nicholson appears quite unrepentant about the handbag episode (it’s a long story, and extremely tedious).

Minister of Justice Mark Golding

Minister of Justice Mark Golding

So, those shiny green leather seats on one side of the Upper House remained empty on Friday, while certain Government Senators enjoyed themselves, castigating the Opposition senators in their absence (the phrase “tissue of lies” cropped up) while their colleagues thumped their desks. At the same time Justice Minister Mark Golding wants the Opposition crew to “do the right thing” and return to the CCJ debate. How are they all going to work together again? One Twitter friend described the Senate recently as a “political junkyard.” I don’t think I will ever regard it in the same way again after this childishness. If you want to consider the complex procedural issues further, do read Balford Henry’s article: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Parliament-in-election-mode_19236463

In the Lower House, where some parliamentarians are still doing some work in between campaigning, plea bargaining legislation is on the table. Interesting. 

Sweetness and light: Minister with responsibility for the Public Service, Ministry of Finance and Planning, Horace Dalley (left) embraces 2015/16 Lasco Nurse of the Year, Treveen Palmer-Miller, during Friday’s launch of the ‘Team Jamaica Valucard’ for government workers. (Photo: Gleaner)

Sweetness and light: Minister with responsibility for the Public Service, Ministry of Finance and Planning, Horace Dalley (left) embraces 2015/16 Lasco Nurse of the Year, Treveen Palmer-Miller, during Friday’s launch of the ‘Team Jamaica Valucard’ for government workers. (Photo: Gleaner)

Some public sector workers are feeling happier at the signing of a wage agreement with the Nurses Association of Jamaica – who had hoped for more but are putting a brave face on things. A few goodies have been thrown in to “sweeten the pot,” such as scholarships, and special “cash back” cards for purchases at selected outlets. The Minister negotiating public sector wages, Horace Dalley (a man with a genial smile) still has the police and correctional service officers to deal with. But now most civil servants have received seven per cent increases over two years.

Oh, and roads are being fixed all over the place! J$100 million worth in the capital city alone. Elections are nigh!

Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller toured the second leg of the North-South Highway, to be opened in the first quarter of 2016. I'm sure she would love it to be completed before the elections! (Photo: Bryan Cummings/ Jamaica Observer)

Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller toured the second leg of the North-South Highway, to be opened in the first quarter of 2016. I’m sure she would love it to be completed before the elections! (Photo: Bryan Cummings/Jamaica Observer)

I lost count of the number of times Minister of Health Fenton Ferguson apologized last week. It all washed over my head. I think it is too late for many. His apology for the “babies not in the real sense” comment is on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rzUjeVLTVTA&feature=youtu.be but that comment still rankles. The #FireFenton hashtag is still active. We know no firing will occur, however. Opposition Member of Parliament Daryl Vaz, a self-confessed family man, has taken up the cause of the dead babies and sent a photograph to the media purportedly showing three incubators being transported in Liguanea in the direction of the University of the West Indies on an open truck. Hmm.

Yes, Jamaicans are still very upset about the issue of the 19 babies who died in the neonatal units - and perhaps, even more, the way in which the whole matter was (mis)handled by government officials. This is one of many social media posts.

Yes, Jamaicans are still very upset about the issue of the 19 babies who died in the neonatal units – and  by the way in which the whole matter was (mis)handled by government officials. This is one of many social media posts.

When, oh when is the Ministry of Health audit to be released to the public? If ever? We have a feeling much would be revealed, if so. Or has it been leaked already?

I am not sure whether this photograph taken by Daryl Vaz, allegedly of incubators being transported under insanitary conditions, is of significance.

I am not sure whether this photograph taken by Daryl Vaz, allegedly of incubators being transported under insanitary conditions, is of significance.

Armed students: Minister of Education Ronald Thwaites seemed to be almost celebrating the discovery of a gun and ammunition in the knapsack of a 13-year-old student at Papine High School in St. Andrew. Well, he was celebrating the fact that metal detectors at high schools are working (130 were distributed this term). There is some talk now of extending this to primary schools.

A People's National Party rally somewhere. (Photo: Twitter)

A People’s National Party rally this weekend. (Photo: Twitter)

A Jamaica Labour Party rally. (Photo: Twitter)

A Jamaica Labour Party rally this weekend. Compare crowds, if you wish! But who cares? (Photo: Twitter)

Rallies “tun up”! Meanwhile social media is becoming increasingly flooded with posts by political hacks. On weekends, they try to impress us with the size of the crowds at rallies in town centers. But we all know that people are shipped in from all over the island to attend these get-togethers; and that secondly, it’s actually votes that count. So I remain unimpressed, despite the cries of “Up! Up!” etc.

Chairman of the Logistics Hub Task Force, Eric Deans explains an item in the memorandum of understand signed for the concession agreement between Masada Jamaica Limited and GulFray America’s Manufacturing Limited at Terra Nova Hotel on Wednesday. Looking on is Bob Melamede, Executive Director of Masada Jamaica Limited (left); president of the Jamaica Promotions Corporation (Jampro), Diane Edwards; general manager of CNAICO Liu Xiaoda; president and CEO of CannabisScience, Robert Melamede; board chairman of the Caribbean Maritime Institute (CMI), Joan Spencer-Ernandez; executive director of CMI, Fritz Pinnock and managing director of GulFray America’s Manufacturing Limited, Martin Scott. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

I thought Minister Anthony Hylton might be in this photograph. The caption mentions two people called Robert/Bob Melamede in this (erroneous) caption…”Chairman of the Logistics Hub Task Force, Eric Deans explains an item in the memorandum of understanding signed for the concession agreement between Masada Jamaica Limited and GulfRay Americas Manufacturing Limited. Looking on is Bob Melamede, Executive Director of Masada Jamaica Limited (left); president of the Jamaica Promotions Corporation (Jampro), Diane Edwards; general manager of CNAICO Liu Xiaoda; president and CEO of CannabisScience, Robert Melamede; board chairman of the Caribbean Maritime Institute (CMI), Joan Spencer-Ernandez; executive director of CMI, Fritz Pinnock and managing director of GulfRay America’s Manufacturing Limited, Martin Scott.”(Photo: Jamaica Observer)

A draft map of the free zone development, including a "cannabis cluster," a Chinese car assembly plant - and housing (for whom?)

A draft map of the free zone development, including a “cannabis cluster,” a Chinese car assembly plant – and housing (for whom? Surely not Jamaican workers).

Oops…I nearly forgot the “big announcement”: Indeed, 10,000 jobs are promised when a new “logistics hub” venture comes on stream. It is to be a 42-acre industrial park in Spanish Town. The first phase of construction will be complete in June 2016, and eventually nine companies will move in. The announcement was made by Dr. Robert Melamede, Executive Director of a new firm none of us had heard of before, Masada Jamaica Limited (where is its website?) and not by Minister of Industry, Investment & Commerce Anthony Hylton.

Dr. Robert Melamede's Facebook photo. He will administer the Spanish Town Freezone.

Dr. Robert Melamede’s Facebook photo. His company will administer the Spanish Town Freezone.

Dr. Robert Melamede is a “cannabis crusader” from Colorado, it appears (check his Facebook page!) and his firm is the “designated free zone administrator.” But…I have questions. I see GulfRay Manufacturing’s website has no contact information (or any other information). It’s “launching soon”? This firm apparently launched a company called Atlantic Grease and Lubricants in Jamaica last December. OK.

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Coincidentally, perhaps, the Rastafari RootzFest (which I mentioned a few weeks ago), to take place November 12-15 in Negril, was launched at the Bob Marley Museum. Justice Minister Mark Golding endorsed the event and said at the launch: “As Minister of Justice, I must encourage all to be responsible in their approach to herb. I know that the Rastafari approach to herb is a responsible approach. We don’t encourage smoking amongst kids, we don’t encourage any form of abuse of this plant, but at the same time we acknowledge that this is a powerful plant than can be used as a force for good.”  The World Cannabis Cup, hosted every year by High Times, will take place there.

Moving on… Huge congratulations:

  • The Blue and John Crow Mountains were officially launched as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Moore Town (home of the Windward Maroons) in Portland on Friday. Enormous kudos to all involved in the creation of this beautiful and unique area as national park, and the subsequent considerable amount of work involved in its listing as a World Heritage Site. A special “three cheers” to the dedicated scientist Susan Otuokon (please see an earlier blog post), although Culture Minister Lisa Hanna is “humbly” taking much credit.
Earl Jarrett and his family after being inducted into the PSOJ Hall of Fame last week. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

Earl Jarrett and members of his family after being inducted into the PSOJ Hall of Fame last week. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

  • Well-known businessman and General Manager of Jamaica National Building Society Earl Jarrett was inducted into the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ) Hall Of Fame 2015 last Wednesday (he’s the 23rd to enter that Hall). Many congratulations to a very kind man, with plenty of vision for Jamaica and an acute business sense! He would like to see more business people in Parliament. Well, there was once an (Independent) Senator Douglas Orane…
Attorney at law and journalist Emily Shields speaks at the launch of the CARIMAC Times 2015 in April, 2015. (My photo)

Attorney at law and journalist Emily Shields speaks at the launch of the CARIMAC Times 2015 in April, 2015. (My photo)

  • And rather belated congratulations to former journalist (and still a terrific radio talk show host) Ms. Emily Shields, who has been made a partner at human rights attorney Lord Anthony Gifford’s firm – which will now be Gifford, Thompson and Shields. Congratulations to Emily (a fellow Arsenal fan, by the way) and wishing you all the very best.

On Tuesday evening, we heard that Shauna Kay Pitter, a young mother and eight months pregnant, was shot dead. The police are seeking her former partner who was the father of the child she was carrying and who was abusing her. So, not only two innocent lives lost; but also she left behind a grieving “family” – that of the non-governmental organization Eve for Life Jamaica. I will be writing more about this in the next few days. Murders in the parish of St. James (Montego Bay) continue to soar.  I extend my sympathies to all who are grieving the loss of their loved ones.

Marsha Smith, 30,Bray Street/Windward Road, Kingston

Kevan Roberts, Bray Street/Windward Road, Kingston

Rushane Grant,Bray Street/Windward Road, Kingston

Wayne Green, 32, Salt Spring, St. James

Kezani Franklyn, Marl Road, St. James

Dwayne Serrero, Marl Road, St. James

Garth Collymore, 28, Hendon Norwood, St. James

Shauna Kay Pitter, Montego Bay, St. James (eight months pregnant)

A Health Ministry Mystery, Getting the Guns and Kicking Out GBV: Sunday, October 18, 2015

The Caribbean Court of Justice.
The Caribbean Court of Justice.

Things have quietened down a little in the past few days – or are some issues just simmering under the surface? Time will tell. Anyway, the stress of drought is over and the weather has been close to perfect. Gardens are flourishing and the sunlight is softer. Long may it last.

People's National Party Members of Parliament celebrating the passage of the CCJ bills, while Opposition members sat stone-faced. (Photo: Jermaine Barnaby/Gleaner)

People’s National Party Members of Parliament celebrating the passage of the CCJ bills, while Opposition members sat stone-faced. (Photo: Jermaine Barnaby/Gleaner)

CCJ debate: The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) is up for discussion again in the Senate, after the passage of three enabling bills in the Lower House. The Minister of Justice made a speech about it on Friday – here is the link to it: http://jis.gov.jm/media/Statement-to-Senate-CCJ-Bills-16-10-2015.pdf  Personally, I am ridiculously torn on this issue; I do believe that a referendum would have been the correct way to address the issue of our final court of appeal – but only after a pretty thorough public education program. Most Jamaicans know little about the CCJ, the Privy Council and legal issues in general, which is perhaps why so many have this reverence for lawyers. I don’t think the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) has made a good case against the CCJ, however. They have lost this one, and probably rightly so.

An unhealthy situation: The Ministry of Health seems to lurch from one crisis (or potential crisis) to another. What is worse, it seems unwilling or unable to enlighten the public on what exactly is happening, with the result that the public don’t trust the Ministry any more. Our health officials have tripped up (and just about caught themselves) over the mosquito issue – the plague that descended on us after the rains. With a wave of the hand, the Ministry told us not to worry about them, because they aren’t the kind that spread disease. What! We should always worry about mosquitoes, I would say, and it is unwise to tell a largely not well-informed public not to do so. My friend and fellow blogger Kate Chappell’s comments sum it up : https://jamaicajournal.wordpress.com/2015/10/16/mosquitos-no-threat-this-year/ Well, the MoH back-tracked a little to say it was doing its utmost to reduce mozzie population levels, actually working with two other ministries to increase “fogging.” The air is now filled with toxic smells. I would rather just shut out the mosquitoes, myself. All doors/windows should be closed at dawn and dusk!

A mystery “infection:” Now the MoH is flapping around over the reported deaths of four new-born babies at the University Hospital of the West Indies’ Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. The Ministry has not confirmed the deaths and has denied there is a “mystery bug.” Now it’s a “mystery infection.” Mystery? Because the MoH has so far not disclosed the real reason for the not-bug and one suspects major damage control. Now, what commonly causes infections in hospital? Is it not lack of hygiene?

Would we have known anything about this “infection” if Nationwide News Network had not reported it?

Chik v-related deaths continue: A former Gleaner correspondent died of a heart attack recently, aged 64. A relative said he contracted chikungunya (Chik V) last year and never fully recovered, suffering all kinds of health issues. How many times have we heard this? If Mr. Elgin Taylor had not had Chik V, would he be alive today?

Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller. By the way, the PM has recovered from her bout of laryngitis. (Photo: Bryan Cummings/Jamaica Observer)

Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller. By the way, the PM has recovered from her bout of laryngitis. (Photo: Bryan Cummings/Jamaica Observer)

Polls upon polls: Some media houses are running public opinion polls on the state of our two political parties. They are not telling us much, except that the People’s National Party (PNP) and its leader Portia Simpson Miller are not as popular as they would like to think. But then, the Opposition JLP is not making as much progress as it would like to believe it is, either. If you want to follow the twists and turns of the sometimes contradictory opinion polls, you are welcome to. More importantly, a potential election date is still up in the air. I had anticipated the final quarter of this year – perhaps as soon as next month – but am not the only one to have second thoughts. There’s a faint possibility (in my view) it could be early next year.

A lot of guns got… Kudos to our poor beleaguered police force, which has managed to seize 68 guns and 800 rounds of ammunition since Commissioner Williams launched his “Get the Guns” campaign a little over three weeks ago. These have been obtained largely without violence and with some arrests made. The Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) also seems to be making concerted efforts to break the Haiti-Jamaica link, which seems to be an issue with gun smuggling. Jamaica has a very porous coastline of course, with many small bays and beaches. It’s not an easy task, but the boats recently donated by the U.S. Embassy should help.

The late Kenroy Lloyd Stephens ("Bebe"), a PNP activist, was called "The Godfather of Scamming" in a CNN report recently. (Photo: Loop Jamaica)

The late Kenroy Lloyd Stephens (“Bebe”), a PNP activist, was called “The Godfather of Scamming” in a CNN report recently. (Photo: Loop Jamaica)

…and more focus on the lotto scam: Since the horrifying murders of six family members in Hanover recently, the lotto scam is once more in focus. I was astonished to see extremely light, non-custodial sentences imposed on several convicted scammers in our local courts recently; maybe they were able to give information to the police on others. Perhaps, maybe. Now, it has become quite clear (as if we did not already suspect this) that some police officers, local politicians and even pastors are – or have been – involved. Surprise! One high-profile PNP politician in St. James (who was killed last year) was said to be one of the “founding fathers” of the lotto scam.

Do you want a candid insider’s look at our education system? Then I suggest you follow Wayne Campbell’s blog. He writes about all the issues. Just recently, Wayne was shot and injured by a toy gun fired by a student in his class while his back was turned. The school did not even ask the student to apologize to him. Here is his account: http://www.wayaine.blogspot.com/2015/10/violence-in-classroom-personal-account_12.html This comment particularly struck me: “The classroom has become a battle ground where a toxic and crude version of masculinity exists which robs our male students of their full potential.” We ignore these issues at our peril.

The lion fish looks very fancy but gobbles up reef fish voraciously. It can be found on the Jamaica Invasive Species Database.

The lion fish looks very fancy but gobbles up reef fish voraciously. You can find it on the Jamaica Invasive Species Database.

Invasive species database: The Institute of Jamaica’s Natural History Museum through its Jamaica Clearing-House Mechanism has created an online database of invasive species at http://apps.licj.org.jm/jamaica-invasives/  developed by the Invasive Species Information Network of the Inter-American Biodiversity Information Network. The IoJ’s partner on this very important project is the National Spatial Data Management Division.

Speaking of biodiversity: LoopJamaica posted a long “news” story a few days ago regarding a lizard, which caused panic in a Stony Hill household and was killed. The killing was described in gory detail and a horrible photograph of the lizard cut into pieces posted with the article. The lizard was apparently a galliwasp. This is awful reporting! It is encouraging cruelty to wild creatures and sheer ignorance. Shame on you, Loop Jamaica! 

National Security Minister Peter Bunting (left) and Police Commissioner Dr Carl Williams at the scene in Hanover where six members of one family were killed in an attack police linked to the lottery scam. (Photo: Adrian Frater/Gleaner)

National Security Minister Peter Bunting (left) and Police Commissioner Dr Carl Williams at the scene in Hanover where six members of one family were killed in an attack police linked to the lottery scam. (Photo: Adrian Frater/Gleaner)

Our gently sliding dollar: Here is a graph, which a Twitter friend posted today. It speaks volumes. I wish I could explain why this is happening, but monetary stuff is not exactly my forte. I also have no clue how this steady slide in our currency can be arrested, or even just slowed down a little.

This graph is depressing. I am sure that it does matter that the Jamaican Dollar continues to depreciate. But what to do?

This graph is depressing. I am sure that it does matter that the Jamaican Dollar continues to depreciate. But what to do?

Kudos:

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  • All those entities and individuals involved in the ongoing #KickOutGBV campaign, through a series of events, tweet chats etc. This is far more than a mere hashtag, however. Gender-based violence (among heterosexuals and in the LGBT community) is an issue not to be overlooked – but action must be taken. Jamaica AIDS Support for Life will host a tweet chat on the topic on October 21 at 6:00 p.m. (If you are not on Twitter, all I can say is – why not?) Well done to University of the West Indies (UWI) Model UN, which teamed with Respect Jamaica last week to address this complex topic. The event was very well organized and well attended by young men and women, with a high level of participation.
President of the UWI Model UN Jherane Patmore addresses the forum on Gender-Based Violence in the Caribbean, which took place last Thursday at UWI. (My photo)

President of the UWI Model UN Jherane Patmore addresses the forum on Gender-Based Violence in the Caribbean, which took place last Thursday at UWI. (My photo)

Kemesha Kelly at the recent farewell tea party for Chevening Scholars at the British High Commission. (Photo: Twitter)

Kemesha Kelly at the recent farewell tea party for Chevening Scholars at the British High Commission. (Photo: Twitter)

  • The very impressive youth activist Ms. Kemesha Kelly, who will be traveling to London next weekend for the “Week of Women UK 2015.”  On Twitter, Kemesha says she “will be networking and participating in high level discussions with influential women on issues such as youth advancement, gender equality,” with human rights also on the agenda. I know Kemesha will represent Jamaica extremely well!
  • Knutsford Express, a company that is providing a much needed (and much appreciated) coach service around the island.  It doubled its profits in the last quarter compared to a year ago. The service relieves one of the stress of driving, especially for the longer routes. For details go to: http://www.knutsfordexpress.com – and I would recommend booking in advance!
  • A guava seedling at the Forestry Department. (Photo: Twitter)

    A guava seedling at the Forestry Department. (Photo: Twitter)

    Pleased to see more government agencies making use of Twitter in a positive way. Special “big ups” to the Forestry Department (@ForestryDeptJa), which has been sharing photos of different species of tree seedlings (which they sell incredibly cheaply at their office); and the Ministry of Finance (@MOFPJA) engaged us on the sudden, soaring Customs duties now being forcefully applied (@jacustoms).

Our weather men are happy. The Met Office has a new weather plotter and printer (there's probably a more fancy name than that). Photo: Twitter

Our weather men are happy. The Met Office has a new weather plotter and printer (there’s probably a more fancy name than that). Photo: Twitter

My sincere condolences to the families and loved ones of the following Jamaicans, who have lost their lives in the past few days. Perhaps one day there will be no list. 

Unidentified man, Sandy Gully/Seaview Gardens, Kingston

Marlon Clarke, 33, Waltham Park, Kingston

“Jackopoint,” St. Benedict Heights/Harbour View, Kingston

Delvin Martin, 25, Nugent Street/Spanish Town, St. Catherine

Zico Williams, 30, Bay Bottom/Old Harbour Bay, St. Catherine

Brian Wallace, 48, Woods/Bucknor, Clarendon

Unidentified man, May Pen, Clarendon

Leon Grant, 26, Tangle River District, St. James

Oral Campbell, 38, Beeston Spring, Westmoreland

Taneisha McCool, 32, PetCom Gas Station, Morant Bay, St. Thomas

Nicholas Reid, 50, Port Kaiser, Manchester

Jason Stewart, 31, Goshen, St. Elizabeth

Taneisha McCool was shot dead yesterday evening at the gas station where she worked in Morant Bay, St. Thomas. (Photo: Loop Jamaica)

Taneisha McCool was shot dead yesterday evening at the gas station where she worked in Morant Bay, St. Thomas. (Photo: Loop Jamaica)

 

Photographer Nicketa Thomas of Nikfotoworks.com is still missing.

37-year-old photographer Nicketa Thomas of Nickfotoworks.com is still missing. He was last seen on Monday, October 5 . He is also a frequent visitor to Barton, Old Harbour, where his mother lives. Nicketa’s cousin Dwight Brown is also missing.