Delicious rain fell in the wake of the Boys’ and Girls’ Championships at the National Stadium. The discordant ring of the vuvuzelas (a once-popular invention Jamaicans apparently still cling to) has receded, the busloads of students have careered off into the distance. It is cool and it is relatively calm. But local journalists are still chewing over one aspect of the largest high school track and field event in the world…
An “extraordinary” fuss: Speaking of “Champs,” our local media houses is obsessed with a story of so-called “ambush marketing” by Digicel. The telecoms firm announced on Saturday that the brilliant up-and-coming sprinter Michael O’Hara of Calabar High School was its new Ambassador. Digicel’s fierce competitor LIME was the major sponsor of the Championships. After winning a race, O’Hara removed his Calabar jersey to display Digicel’s slogan “Be Extraordinary” emblazoned across his chest. This was considered unethical. I call it…marketing. O’Hara is now claiming it was his own idea to reveal the slogan, anyway!
The following stories that emerged this week are of much greater concern to me than Digicel’s marketing tactics, but apart from the politics stirred much less comment:
- A schoolboy stabbed a twelve-year-old classmate to death during a fight over a bench at Barrett Town All Age School in St. James. I agree with the child’s mother: There should be security checks on every student at the gate. And that should apply to every other school in the country, in my view.
- After a meeting lasting 3 1/2 hours on Monday, Jamaica Labour Party Members of Parliament confirmed Andrew Holness as Opposition Leader. Seven reportedly voted against and thirteen for Mr. Holness. As expected, there were staunch declarations of “unity.” The media was busy putting two and two together to figure out who voted against “Anju” (who was himself busy quoting extensively from the Bible at a political gospel concert on Sunday).
- The International Monetary Fund (IMF) completed the seventh review of Jamaica’s economic performance and approved an additional US$39 million worth of debt for the Jamaican Government. Their release is here: http://www.imf.org/external/np/sec/pr/2015/pr15147.htm The IMF emphasizes the need to strengthen the financial sector, broaden the tax base, step up public sector reform and impose public sector wage restraint (a regular refrain).
- A young man who was mentally ill was allegedly killed by the police in Olympic Gardens, Kingston. Very, very sad on so many levels.
- There was a huge seizure of guns and ammunition yesterday when a vehicle was stopped by the police in Trelawny. Spread out on a table, the arsenal looked terrifying. Where did these guns come from, and where were they headed?
- The lawyer for the former Mayor of Lucea, Shernet Haughton, says she “did nothing wrong,” despite the Office of the Contractor General’s report that revealed pretty extensive nepotism, favoritism, conflict of interest, irregularity and impropriety in the award of government contracts. It appears that Ms. Haughton’s spouse, sisters and a brother along with daughters and a son, as well as a brother and sister-in-law all benefited from said contracts. Keeping it in the family. It is depressing that the former Mayor is adamant says she is not resigning as a councilor. Ms. Haughton has been asked to appear before the People’s National Party (PNP) Integrity Commission, which will report by April 20 (I am making a note in my calendar). There should be a long line outside the Commission’s door, but one is selective, you understand. But Ms. Haughton was voted out of office by her own party, this time. No closing ranks.
- The Senate continues to be an interesting place. The two original Opposition Senators, Christopher Tufton and Arthur Williams, were welcomed back last Friday after their sojourn in the wilderness. Then another Opposition Senator, the “likkle but tallawah” Marlene Malahoo Forte (a Yale Fellow, by the way) was not allowed to speak in the Budget debate on her portfolio of Health (and there’s quite a lot to talk about there). The Senate President apparently thought she was going on too long.
I thought the scrap metal trade was regulated? I feel sorry for the amiable former journalist Elon Parkinson, now PR man for the telecoms firm LIME, when he talks about the continuous and regular theft of wire from LIME installations. The thievery often causes major disruptions in Internet and telephone service. Someone, somewhere is benefiting from this. Can’t the police get a handle on it? And I thought the scrap metal trade was properly regulated nowadays? It wreaked havoc several years ago until it was completely shut down by the former Jamaica Labour Party administration. Is Minister Anthony Hylton making any effort in this regard? Does he consider the persistent targeting of a major telecoms firm by thieves might possibly deter other investors? I don’t know how LIME puts up with it.
Today firefighters left the Riverton dump, suggesting the fire there is now extinguished. But do we know enough about the air quality test results? Have they been properly explained and clarified to us? Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) thinks not. I certainly feel none the wiser, and now it is all allowed to blow over (until next time)? That can’t be right. Meanwhile, the Health Ministry has withdrawn its case against the Ministry of Local Government. Moving on…
Bad food: Now there are shocking reports that rotten meat obtained from the dump is being sold in downtown Kingston. And, today, a fish kill in Portmore was announced! Warnings are going out not to eat any of this stuff, and an interminable discussion on Twitter focused on “how could one ever be poor or hungry enough…?” Yes, one could.
NEPA is busy: The National Environment & Planning Agency (NEPA) served notice on the NSWMA for its inability to manage the waste on the distant Pedro Cays – a scattering of small islands used by fisherfolk that have no sanitary arrangements, landfill etc. NEPA has also just warned J. Wray & Nephew, the rum company, for polluting the North Elim River at Appleton Estate. How disgraceful! This is by no means the first time rum companies have polluted waterways. There is no excuse.
These “entertainment zones”: The Gleaner’s Melville Cooke wrote an excellent piece about the proposal to “zone” certain areas. I know that all-night street dances provide income for many communities – but senior citizens, young children and the sick and frail also live there. Can they co-exist with dancehall music until 4:00 a.m.? That is just one issue – there are many others that need to be worked out.
The President’s pending visit – rolling out the “black carpet”: That is how a friend on social media described the suddenly beautiful surface of Marescaux Road in Kingston, going right into Crossroads. Is President Obama perchance going to be traveling that way? The National Works Agency says it’s coincidence that they are fixing the road. Yeah right, say my cynical online friends. A pity though that we tend to only clean up our yard when overseas visitors are coming; I recall the speedy makeover to our roads ahead of Pope John Paul II’s visit some years ago. Now, road works are even going on at night, I hear (a very unusual occurrence).
I have a bunch of kudos to hand out…
- The Major Organized Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency (MOCA) is working hard. MOCA did a number of raids on several locations in Kingston today. We wait to hear more, and I commend them for their pursuit of public sector corruption. Meanwhile, they are in hot pursuit of lotto scammers and more arrests have been made.
- The hard-working Greig Smith of the Office of the Children’s Registry, who is visiting schools and talking to students directly about self-respect and protecting themselves from sexual abuse. His is a challenging job.
- Our Jamaican fast food chain, Island Grill will introduce recyclable containers instead of plastic ones for its (a sponsor of Nuh Dutty Up Jamaica) Thanks and well done to Thalia Lyn and her team! Island Grill is one of the sponsors of JET’s “Nuh Dutty Up Jamaica” campaign.
- Portmore HEART Academy’s solar power installation is already reaping dividends. Good to hear! Well, Portmore is often called the Sunshine City…
- Three lecturers were promoted to professorships at the University of the West Indies Mona Campus recently: Dr Colin McKenzie of theTropical Metabolism Research Unit; Economist Dr David Tennant; and historian Dr. Matthew Smith, who has published several works on Haiti, and is also a Fulbright Scholar. Congratulations to all!
And plaudits to two Jamaican bloggers today: Young Francine Derby wrote a sad, thoughtful piece on an emotionally abusive relationship, from her own experience. I am sure it will be helpful to many; look for the warning signs! Here’s the link: http://francinederby.com/2015/03/30/the-other-side-of-abuse/
Big ups to the dynamic Cecile Watson for her very first blog post, here: https://acecilewatson.wordpress.com/2015/03/28/end-the-silence-the-courage-of-millenials/ in which she praises the “emancipated millennials” for their openness and honesty about women’s health issues that have previously been taboo.
As a reader reminded me recently, every death is a tragedy. My deepest condolences to the families of these Jamaicans who have been murdered in the past few days.
Romero Earrier, Luke Lane, Kingston
Richard Reynolds, Olympic Gardens, Kingston (killed by police)
Kemar Turner, 33, March Pen Road/Spanish Town, St. Catherine
Shaheem Lewis, 12, Barrett Town All Age School, St. James
Robert Williams, 29, Bevin Avenue, Montego Bay, St. James
Kirk Porter, 28, Spalding, Clarendon
Unidentified man, Discovery Bay, St. Ann
Richard Jones, 46, Spring Village, St. Mary