At least, it is in Kingston, and not a drop of rain in sight.
Corruption, anti-corruption: I am simply going to quote former Contractor General Greg Christie on this: “Jamaican MPs and Cabinet members who are against aggressive anti-corruption reforms must not be allowed to hold the country to ransom.” Who are these people, I wonder? Meanwhile, Justice Minister Mark Golding says work towards creating a single anti-corruption agency is proceeding apace. Of course, one hopes that it will be a functioning, efficient and effective agency, when it finally appears.
“Occupy Pinnacle”: A robust discussion continues in social media over the fate of Pinnacle, the hilltop homesite of Rastafari founder Leonard P. Howell. Reverend Garnett Roper (who is now a public servant as well as heading the Jamaica Theological Seminary) has come up with what I believe is a workable solution: to create a theme park-style attraction focusing on Rastafari, which has played a key role in promoting “Brand Jamaica” through reggae music (who doesn’t recognize the red, gold and green?). It could be a private-public sector project promoted to attract visitors from near and far. Rev. Roper thinks this would be “a remarkable opportunity to right some historical wrongs.” Yes, in the past there has been much injustice. Anyway, I think this could work out well for all concerned. Compromise is definitely a possibility. But of course whatever is created must retain its authentic cultural integrity.
Talking of “Brand Jamaica”: The Jamaican bobsled team is once again a huge hit. The Government has done very little to support them officially (apart from a short press release congratulating them on qualifying for the Winter Olympics in Sochi) but hey – the New York Times, Miami Herald, ESPN, NBC, ABC, BBC and more have been writing great stories about them and following their every move. The bobsledders raised the funds for their trip to Sochi in just a couple of days via crowd-funding (showing the strength of their global support) and have had to ask people to stop sending money, as they have more than enough! Why the Government’s lukewarm interest? This is tailor-made stuff. Remember “Cool Runnings,” Mr. Tourism Minister, JAMPRO et al? The 1993 Disney movie made well over US$150 million and the soundtrack was a major hit. Nuff said. (Follow the team on Twitter @Jambobsled for great photos and updates!)
INDECOM (the Independent Commission of Investigations) is operating at only 60 % of the staff that it needs to deal with hundreds of cases of police abuses (including extra-judicial killings, which were up last year). Why can’t they be given the needed resources? This is much less than what the Bureau of Special Investigations received (that was INDECOM’s ineffective predecessor). INDECOM has achieved some modest results during its short term of existence, but against the odds. I wish them all the best and hope they will get the support they deserve.
More huge loans: Forgive me for asking, but is the way out of our debt problem to continue borrowing vast sums of money? The Government have signed two big ‘uns lately: US$140 million from the Inter-American Development Bank for “enhancing fiscal administration of the economy” ; and an even larger loan from the Chinese Government, our new best friends. I guess the IMF is cool with all this, right Minister Phillips?
Last week was Diplomatic Week, which means that representatives of fifty-odd countries that have diplomatic relations with Jamaica get together for a heavy dose of Jamaican Government presentations and cocktails. Transport Minister Omar Davies (yes, he has reappeared, finally) told the diplomats about plans for a network of roads and the logistics hub. The Minister said the “bits of the puzzle are coming together.” Yes, it’s a puzzle, all right!
Solar solutions? The non-resident Israeli Ambassador to Jamaica Bahij Mansour has expressed interest in assisting with the logistics hub. What I would really like to see is Israeli assistance with solar power and water conservation projects; they are world-leading experts in these fields, and God knows the responsible ministers are doing virtually nothing in these areas of any significance.
Kingston cruise ships? Minister Davies also mentioned the possibility of Kingston becoming a cruise ship port. Is this the reason why the Kingston port is being expanded? I think not. Well, a hell of a lot of work will have to be done on downtown Kingston before this could be at all feasible.
Teens in trouble: Several articles in today’s papers are enough to make you break out in a cold sweat. Chair of the National Family Planning Board Dr. Sandra Knight (a terrific and knowledgeable lady) tells us that “transactional sex” (for benefit/gifts) is on the rise; more young people have multiple sex partners and most are not bothering to use condoms; abstinence programs aren’t working; and more and more teens are becoming addicted to porn, with home-made sex videos circulating on mobile phones. And of course, with all this happening, the abuse of children aged 11 to 15 years is increasing. A total nightmare.
At last! A female (guest) columnist in the Sunday Gleaner, Suzanne Leslie-Bailey, and she does a good job of telling the middle-class to “get off their verandas and get involved in the political process, raise their voices on the issues, and demand that politicians be true servants of the people!” Thank you.
“Dem can gwan run up dem mouth…” So said our Prime Minister on video regarding those who have been criticizing her many overseas trips. For those who don’t understand Jamaican patois… Oh, it’s not worth the bother of translating, actually.
Major kudos to:
Suzanne Leslie-Bailey and Floyd Green, two young people who have been appointed Deputy Spokespersons for Tourism and Labour/Social Security, respectively. Go out and make a difference!
Palace Amusement Company (again) for bringing us the wonderful Live at the Met HD Series from the Metropolitan Opera of New York. It is a joy to go down to the Carib cinema and immerse ourselves with other happy opera lovers. I have reviewed a couple of them – including Dvorak’s “Rusalka” - which will be encored at the Palace Multiplex, Montego Bay and the Cineplex in Kingston on February 16 at 11:30 a.m. Next up is “Prince Igor” on March 1. Can’t wait!
The makers of the “Jamaica Happy” video, using Pharrell’s funky, catchy tune: This is a gem of a short video (wish it was a bit longer!) – beautifully produced, with real Jamaicans in real locations. The boys who dive at Kingston’s waterfront, the cool uptown girls, a motor mechanic among his cars, a young man on his cell phone in New Kingston… Lovely! It will bring a smile to your face. This is Jamaica, minus the fake Jamaica Tourist Board hype. Watch and share widely: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bFugJzhrsUM
New York-based photographer and philanthropist Wyatt Gallery (who has Jamaican connections), who gave us a preview of his exquisitely beautiful book, “Jewish Treasures of the Caribbean,” in Kingston last week. Collector’s packages are available. For more information, go to Wyatt’s website at: http://www.wyattgallery.com.
Businesswoman and communicator extraordinaire Marcia Forbes, whose two-part series on the logistics hub is enlightening. She keeps it clear and simple, minus the hype of the Jamaican Government’s PR on the planned mega-development. Here are Ms. Forbes’ cogent comments on the proposed transshipment port at Goat Islands: “Jamaicans are concerned that in addition to environmental degradation, with possible flooding of surrounding land mass and losses to fisher-folks and their families as a result of situating a Logistics Park within the Portland Bight, there will be no meaningful job creation. They fear that the Chinese will bring many of their nationals, not only those with ‘special expertise’ and that the jobs of which Professor Shirley speaks may never really materialize.” Read more at the Caribbean Journal website: http://www.caribjournal.com/2014/02/07/marcia-forbes-understanding-jamaica’s-logistics-hub-part-2/
The number of deaths in incidents involving the police seems to be steadily growing. I am not sure what is going on here. How can National Security Minister Peter Bunting be preaching “unity” and “working together to fight the monster of crime,” in the full knowledge that every such killing further erodes the level of trust between the police and citizens? The Police Commissioner’s response to the latest killing – the death of a woman in downtown Kingston while the police and gunmen were allegedly involved in a gunfight – was inept and hypocritical, to say the least. He said, well this is what happens when gunmen fire at police and they must stop doing that. Hmmm. My deepest sympathies to those who are mourning; Ms. Stone leaves behind five children.
Dekalda McKenzie, 25, Ziaidie Gardens, Kingston
Oneill Washington, 30, Portmore, St. Catherine
Rema Arthurs, 67, Greenvale/Mandeville, Manchester
Duane Powell, 33, Salt Spring, St. James
Brandon Gordon, 23, Norwood, St. James
Killed by the police:
Kevin Davis, 19, Regent Street, Kingston
Jacqueline Stone, 44, Oxford Road, Kingston
Adrian Knight, Bethel Town, Westmoreland
On the roads: 26 Jamaicans have died on our roads this year, already. Now, how do eight people fit into a Nissan Sunny? Two people died when this car crashed in Petersfield, Westmoreland: 37-year-old Nichola Graham and 20-year-old Lavern Gordon. The car must have been unstable and going too fast – no other vehicle was involved. And the media have just caught onto the fact that a talented young man, Jason Cruickshank, 28, was killed while crossing the road a whole week ago along the Jacks Hill Road in Kingston. The truck that hit him did not stop. Another car that followed also hit him, and did not stop.