Mid-week Mumblings: Wednesday, June 11, 2014

It’s been miserably hot and dry in central Kingston this week so far. 32 degrees but feels hotter, and absolutely no sign of any rain. Sadly, since the fuss about the Meteorological Service of Jamaica’s Twitter account, they have not been tweeting very regularly. Perhaps you manage more than once a day, Met Office? Just saying – it being the hurricane season, and all…

Ummm… Well, as you can see, my household hasn't quite decided which team we are supporting in the World Cup - but let's say these are our Top Three. Our dog outside, meanwhile, is quite unconcerned...

Ummm… Well, as you can see, my household hasn’t quite decided which team we are supporting in the World Cup – but let’s say these are our Top Three. Our dog outside, meanwhile, is quite unconcerned…

Sports fever, but… World Cup fever has suddenly gripped Jamaica, and vendors in Kingston have been doing a brisk trade selling the flags of competing teams. I have spotted several Brazilian flags and a few from Argentina, Germany and the like fluttering from car windows as Jamaicans support their favorites. On the home front though, things have been a little dismal. Our Reggae Boyz football team was soundly walloped by France (8-0) last week. And today, New Zealand emphatically beat the West Indies cricket team by 186 runs in a first-ever win at Kingston’s Sabina Park. The next two test matches will take place in Trinidad (June 16-20) and Barbados (June 26-30). Well, at least Jamaica’s female athletes aren’t letting us down (see below).

Opposition Leader Andrew Holness. (Photo: Gleaner)

Opposition Leader Andrew Holness. (Photo: Gleaner)

Bending the rules? The Opposition Jamaica Labour Party went on the offensive this week, after its leader’s quite unusual assertiveness in the Lower House last week while questioning the Prime Minister. Andrew Holness claims that the current People’s National Party administration is cleverly creating its own alternative system of governance, bypassing the rules and regulations. Is he right? Mr. Holness stated at a press briefing yesterday: “I have reached the point now where I cannot support the Electricity Sector Enterprise Team.” More to follow?

Contractor General Dirk Harrison (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

Contractor General Dirk Harrison (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

“Strengthening the OCG”?  In the December 20, 2011 televised Leadership Debate, Portia Simpson Miller pledged: “In terms of fighting corruption, I will not tolerate any form of corruption in a People’s National Party government and that’s why when I’m returned to power, as Prime Minister, I will ensure the strengthening of these institutions, like the Office of the Contractor General (OCG).”  Something has gone awry, hasn’t it? Why, this administration has already taken the OCG to court!

While it has created an enormous amount of environmental destruction, the bauxite sector is nevertheless a major employer in several rural communities and the closure of plants has resulted in considerable economic hardship in those communities.

While it has created an enormous amount of environmental destruction, the bauxite sector is nevertheless a major employer in several rural communities and the closure of plants has resulted in considerable economic hardship in those communities.

Bauxite woes continue: Now the Managing Director of Bauxite Mining Limited Coy Roache, in remarks at a press briefing today, seemed to blame the OCG for somehow blocking the sale of the Jamaican Government’s seven per cent share in the WINDALCO mining interest to UC Rusal, resulting in an increased debt to Rusal -which now stands at US$21.5 million (the latter was quite a revelation, wasn’t it?) Well, Minister Paulwell has announced the sale of the Government’s share to the parent company for US$11 million, which will go towards the debt. In the same breath the Minister is reportedly “threatening” to revoke UC Rusal’s license if the company does not indicate to him when it will reopen the Alpart and Kirkvine plants. The Minister claims the bauxite sector is looking healthy and that other companies are interested, but is this so? UC Rusal itself, a couple of months back, declared losses of US$3.2 billion. Jamaica is only a small part of its operations. Are they really likely to reopen? Is the Minister in any position to threaten UC Rusal? Meanwhile, the closed plants will soon begin to fall into disrepair. But is this the cue for our knights in shining armor, the Chinese, to roll into town on their steeds? Now  Jamalco (majority owner is Alcoa) is forging ahead and acquiring new lands for mining in Manchester, but says it is not increasing capacity. Its output has improved marginally but is still way below 2009 figures. Hmm.

Businessman Richard Byles, who heads the Economic Programme Oversight Committee.

Businessman Richard Byles, who heads the Economic Programme Oversight Committee.

Energy anxiety: Once again, the chair of the private sector Economic Programme Oversight Committee (EPOC) Richard Byles has appeared on television with a strained look on his face as he stares down a long, shiny conference room table. Mr. Byles’ concern is – yes, you’ve guessed it – energy. Noting that “It’s seven years, about, that we have been bungling this in one way or another,” Mr. Byles points out these kind of shenanigans are not exactly going to inspire potential investors with confidence. As if we didn’t know that. Meanwhile, a manufacturer said on radio this morning that if electricity rates were considerably reduced in Jamaica there would be a flood of investment, with new factories opening.  If. Well, Minister Paulwell says this is what he is focused on – reducing rates “for the Jamaican people.” If that’s his priority, why is he making such a hash of it?

Dr Fritz Pinnock (foreground), executive director of the Caribbean Maritime Institute, addresses the touring party  on Little Goat Island. (Photo: Gleaner)

In very casual clothing, Dr Fritz Pinnock (foreground), executive director of the Caribbean Maritime Institute, addresses the touring party on Little Goat Island. (Photo: Gleaner)

Who is Mr. Cameron? A rather muddled report by Gary Spaulding (who is usually so good) about the Goat Islands issue certainly did “raise questions.” Minister Omar Davies’ chief mouthpiece on the issue, Fritz Pinnock, who heads the Caribbean Maritime Institute, took a group of reporters to Little Goat Island, to prove” to them that the area is degraded, the Americans flattened it for a base in World War II, etc. Notably, Dr. Pinnock avoided the much larger, pristine Great Goat Island, which has been proposed as a special conservation area for critically endangered species and has been prepared for this use in recent years by national and international scientists – and with substantial national and international funding. Oh, the good Dr. Pinnock didn’t mention that? Nor did Mr. Spaulding, who did speak to a veteran fisherman of Old Harbour Bay, Errol Cameron. Mr. Cameron claimed he had worked with” the dreaded “environmentalists” for years; and proceeded to denigrate them. (He is a bit of a mystery. Said environmentalists don’t seem to know him!) But Mr. Cameron did admit that there were fish in the area. According to Dr. Pinnock, there are none. A more detailed report in the Jamaica Observer included Dr. Pinnock’s casual comment that Great Goat Island was just “a further amplification of the bush.” The report (including some silly comments from reporters) would be laughable if it wasn’t so sad.

IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde. (Photo: AP)

IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde. (Photo: AP)

IMF head to visit Jamaica: The Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Christine Lagarde and a delegation will visit Jamaica on June 27-28. The IMF has so far been cautiously positive (if you know what I mean) about Jamaica’s performance to date under its stringent four-year régime. Will this visit simply be a nice pat on the back for Finance Minister Peter Phillips? God knows, we do need some good PR so some encouraging words from Mme. Lagarde would not go amiss, would they.

Special “big ups” to…

Elaine Duncan proudly holds her first place trophy during the GraceKennedy/Heather Little-White Household Worker of the Year awards ceremony held recently. (Photo: Gladstone Taylor/Gleaner)

Elaine Duncan proudly holds her first place trophy during the GraceKennedy/Heather Little-White Household Worker of the Year awards ceremony held recently. (Photo: Gladstone Taylor/Gleaner)

  • The GraceKennedy Household Helper of the Year, 42-year-old Elaine Duncan, who staggered under a huge trophy presented by the company. For those who don’t know, the “helper” is the stalwart supporter of Jamaica’s upper and middle classes, without which they would likely collapse: “unsung heroes” indeed, as GraceKennedy CEO Don Wehby observed. The award is named after Heather Little-White, a wonderful woman who passed away recently and was known for her support for domestic helpers.
  • Ms. Kaliese Spencer, a terrific Jamaican hurdler who is in impressive form at the moment. She just won the women’s 400 metres hurdles at the Bislett Games in Oslo, Norway.
Jamaican hurdler Kaliese Spencer - in fine form.

Jamaican hurdler Kaliese Spencer – in fine form.








An unidentified man was found with gunshot wounds in St. John’s Road, St. Catherine.

The police shot and killed an alleged car thief, Wayne Graham, in Eltham View also in St. Catherine.

A resident of Palmetto, James Brown, 26, was reportedly chopped to death by a mob in rural Woodside, St. Mary; he was accused of rape and several robberies in the area.

46-year-old contractor Owen Bunny (“Frenchie”) was shot and killed in Spanish Town by men on a motorcycle. 

A teacher of Business Studies at Excelsior High School, 40-year-old Nigel Riley, was found dead with his throat slashed on a football field near Old Harbour, St. Catherine.

My deepest sympathies to the families of all those who died violently in the past three days, listed above.

On our roads, the madness continues: A motorist reportedly overtook several cars before crashing at high speed on the Portmore leg of Highway 2000 this morning. His car actually broke up into several parts. The driver is in stable condition in hospital, very lucky to be alive. A motorcyclist on a rural road in Hanover died after overtaking a bus and crashing into an oncoming vehicle. His pillion passenger is seriously injured.

The scene of a motorcycle crash near Green Island, Hanover.

The scene of a motorcycle crash today near Green Island, Hanover.

This motor car burst into several parts after crashing earlier this morning on the Portmore Leg of Highway 2000. - (Photo: Gladstone Taylor/Gleaner)

This motor car burst into several parts after crashing earlier this morning on the Portmore Leg of Highway 2000. – (Photo: Gladstone Taylor/Gleaner)

Sunday Stunner – Early Edition

Last week, all was to be revealed in the overdue Budget, which was tabled in the Lower House on Thursday.  But before we got to that, the week opened with a stunner.

Mr. David Smith

Mr. David Smith, once the darling of the cocktail circuit.

Mr. David Smith is a Jamaican now serving a few years behind bars in the Turks & Caicos Islands, after being found guilty of cheating thousands of Jamaicans, Americans and others of their hard-earned cash (at least US$220 million) through his “unregistered financial scheme,” Olint, which offered fantastically high rates of  interest rates.  The already-rich and powerful, and others less so, initially benefited; but like all Ponzi schemes, inevitably, Olint collapsed.  After a relatively short stint in the Caribbean, Mr. Smith will move for a considerably longer period to a prison in the United States, where he was indicted on 23 charges of wire fraud and money laundering last summer.  Meanwhile, he has informed prosecutors that he donated money to both Jamaican political parties as well as some individuals.  Confiscation orders have been issued in the Turks & Caicos; these are now regarded as “tainted gifts”.  The ruling People’s National Party (US$1.3 million) has prevaricated somewhat, saying it has no record of such a payment, but will look into it.  Former People’s National Party Prime Minister PJ Patterson (US$1 million) speedily denied receiving any such thing.  The Jamaica Labour Party (US$5 million) conceded that it did receive money from Smith/Olint, but is not sure if it was that much.  Jamaica Labour Party Member of Parliament Daryl Vaz (US$50,000) said yes, he did receive money but called it a “political contribution to the constituency.”  A fellow party member, political candidate Sally Porteous (US$100,000) has also been candid.  All this was prior to the 2007 general elections, by the way, when Mr. & Mrs. Smith were welcome guests at top-class cocktail parties across the island, and appeared in the newspapers almost every day in a highly positive light.

How times have changed.  And we shall wait and see.

As for the budget itself, which increased by fourteen per cent, debt repayments took the lion’s share as expected.  Finance Minister Peter Phillips, who returned from an important trip to Washington, DC recently, had already warned us to make “sacrifices.”  Is this the “bitter medicine” of which former Prime Minister Andrew Holness spoke just a few months ago?  Sounds like it to me.  Painfully, justice, education, national security and health all took cuts.  What could be more important than these?

Another piece of news, this time from overseas stunned the Jamaican public last week: President Obama’s quiet declaration in an interview that his views on same-sex marriage have evolved to the point that he can now affirm his support for it.  The reaction in Jamaica was largely negative, judging from comments on radio talk shows and letters to the Editor; although I think some quietly applauded his courage in breaking new ground.  On radio, Ms. Gloudon had to fend off one or two bullying fundamentalists, one of whom accused her of being “sympathetic” to the gay rights cause because she had the absolute nerve to say that we should at least listen to others’ point of view on such matters.  For those in religious straitjackets, I would suggest they consider phrases from the New Testament such as “Judge not, that ye be not judged.”  Or, perhaps, “Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye.”  I am more than ever convinced that if Jamaicans were to vote on issues (which of course they don’t) and had to choose between George W. Bush and Barack Obama, they would choose the former, despite their declared love for “America’s first black President” as the local media call him.  I like the way Canada-based columnist Keeble McFarlane describes President Obama’s declaration: “A declaration of simple humanity.”  Or as a Jamaican mother would say, “‘Im is somebody pickney too!”

Sir Patrick Allen reads the Throne Speech in Parliament

The Throne Speech outlines the Government’s priorities for the new fiscal year. The gentleman on the left is called an Aide-de-Camp (a sort of PA).

By the way, I wonder how the Queen’s representative and Governor General felt while reading out the 2012/13 Throne Speech in Parliament on Budget Day?  He calmly announced that a priority of the Jamaican Government is to basically abolish him, and to establish Jamaica as a Republic within the Commonwealth of Nations.  No more Queenie, whom our Prime Minister has already described as a “wonderful lady,” but… The other priority is to establish the Caribbean Court of Justice as Jamaica’s final Court of Appeal. One expects these two issues to be up there in flashing neon lights for the remainder of this year, and perhaps beyond, generating much political heat and noise.  Will either of these developments, which the politicians appear quite excited about, impact the quality of life for Jamaicans in any way?  I can’t answer that question.  Let us see.

The third Friday of May – starting next week – will be National Children’s Day.  Our Queen’s representative (for now), Governor General Sir Patrick Allen made this proclamation last week.  The National Child Month Committee’s Dr. Pauline Mullings would like to see the day treated like Mother’s and Father’s Day.  Any day for children is welcome – so balloons, sugar cakes and melting ice-cream treats are in order on May 18.

One hundred and sixty-seven years ago (on May 12, 1845) the first group of East Indian indentured laborers arrived at Old Harbour Bay in St. Catherine.  Their descendants, whom you can often meet in rural and sugar-growing areas of the island, celebrated Indian Arrival Day in the pouring rain last Sunday at Chedwin Park.  A great deal of roti was consumed and delegations from Trinidad and Tobago, the United States and United Kingdom mingled with the locals.  Well done, Dr. Winston Tolan of the National Council for Indian Culture for keeping this important part of Jamaican heritage alive.  As he noted, “We are Jamaicans first and foremost.”


Dr. Winston Tolan and visitors

Dr. Winston Tolan and visitors at Indian Arrival Day.

Concerns:  The third murder trial of Milton “Tony” Welsh, a known People’s National Party activist, was rescheduled last Monday and postponed until November 19 – for another six months! – just because the courtroom where it was scheduled to be held was being used.  His $3.5 million bail was extended.  His previous two trials ended in a “hung” jury.  Charges will be dismissed if this happens again.  Welsh is charged with the murder of 21-year-old Damion Hussey following a PNP rally in Golden Spring in January 2006.  Will Mr. Welsh or the family of Mr. Hussey ever see justice done?  Is this justice?

I don’t understand the people who write newspaper headlines.  Why are they so often off the mark?  Do they actually read the article itself?  A small but irritating example came up in the entertainment pages of Monday’s “Gleaner.”  The article, about an American band called The Dubplates, was headlined “Converting California” to their sound system-type music.  The article described the band as “California-based,” then proceeded to quote a band member, who spoke at length about the challenges of being a dancehall/reggae band in South Carolinathe city of Charleston, etc.  Is this sheer carelessness on the part of the writer, the headline writer, or both?  I don’t know why these things annoy me so much.  But they just do.

A couple of days after Teachers Day, a female high school student attacked a guidance counselor at Yallahs High School in St. Thomas, because she claimed he “didn’t like her.”  Teachers work so hard in difficult conditions, and the children who come through the school gates in the morning bring with them a multitude of unknown grievances, psychological hurt and sadness.  I heard Ms. Barbara Gloudon talking to a representative of the Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA) Ms. Ena Barclay, a marvelous primary school teacher, on her “Hot Line” program this week.  Ms. Barclay reminded us that these deprived and needy children need love – at home and in the society.  Many of them are getting precious little of that – why is it in such short supply?  Anyway, kudos to the JTA for organizing a professional development seminar – and for Read Across Jamaica Day, an annual event which brings much happiness and pleasure.  And talking about teachers…

A huge pat on the back to Ms. Jean Porter, Principal of Denbigh High School, for her sterling work since 2008, when she took over from Ms. Joan Wint who had served there for 23 years.  I remember visiting Denbigh High a few years ago, and being very impressed by Ms. Wint’s stern focus on academic achievement, and by the atmosphere of concentration at the school.  Ms. Porter credits the school’s success (it is one of the top ten high schools in Jamaica based on Caribbean Examinations Council results) to team work.

Other bouquets to be handed out to…

Jamaica’s lanky female hurdlers, Ms. Melaine Walker and Ms. Brigitte Foster-Hylton on their gold medals; to Mr. Asafa Powell, Ms. Kaliese Spencer and Ms. Veronica Campbell-Brown for their Silver medals; and to Mr. Lerone Clarke and Ms. Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce for their Bronze medals, at the high-profile Diamond League athletics meet on Friday.  I hope I haven’t missed anyone out.  Congratulations also to U.S. athletes Justin Gatlin and Alyson Felix.  It is only 75 days until the London Olympics begin, and Jamaican athletes are flexing their muscles and feeling the pressure.  I wrote about this in my blog earlier this week; they are doing their best, working hard.  Let us support them, even if they “lose” some races (by “lose” I mean winning a Silver or Bronze medal).

I loved the Gleaner’s special supplement this week – Trailblazers in Medical Sciences.  This included a special feature on the Sir John Golding Rehabilitation Centre, founded by a British doctor of the same name in 1954 to deal with a terrible outbreak of poliomyelitis.  It now helps children with cerebral palsy, adults with spinal cord injuries, and others.  Brave and unrelenting work.

May I express my simple support for Ms. Deika Morrison of Crayons Count, who has energetically taken up the bat for the education and stimulation of our young children; and for Ms. Maia Chung, mother of an autistic son, who set up the Maia Chung Autism and Disabilities Foundation four years ago to lobby for and support Jamaica’s autistic children.  The Foundation is now struggling and Maia has had to curtail outreach activities.  She needs help and financial support!  I am in awe of these two women – both of them an “army of one.”  I wish for them every success in the world.

Maia Chung

The infectiously lively and motivated Ms. Chung, a young woman on a mission.

Another Jamaican, Philip Liu, founded Angels of Love about two and a half years ago.  He works with the Bustamante Hospital for Children in Kingston, having adopted one of its wards.  Kingstonians, next time you are at the Brick Oven buying cakes, at Cafe Blue indulging in your favorite cuppa, or at Little Tokyo for some sushi…remember to drop some change in their collection box.  And they would welcome volunteers, too!

And Mr. Ricardo Williams, one unemployed youth who sought a solution in adversity.  He has opened an Internet cafe in the troubled area of March Pen, Spanish Town.  Ricardo graduated high school six years ago with one subject – Information Technology.  He has one computer, the use of which he rents out for a small fee.  Can someone donate some more computers?  Read more about Ricardo’s efforts at the link below…

One online comment struck me this week:  “Jamaica can be a very “cold” place.  If you are young, old or disabled in Jamaica you are in deep trouble. If you are young and also disabled, may the good Lord help you.”

Why bother: If I see one more full-page photo spread of politicians arriving at Parliament for the Throne Speech, dressed up to the nines, I will rip up the newspaper.  The men were, according to the newspapers, “dapper,” “spiffy,” and “dashing.”  The women were “stunning,” “stylish,” and and so on.  The poor Mayor of Kingston, refusing to join the fashion parade, was severely criticized for wearing a perfectly normal outfit, rather than a designer ensemble.  I am, quite frankly, much more concerned about the politicians’ work in Parliament – on behalf of the people – than I am in whether Senator so-and-so was wearing Dior, Escada or whatever.  Please, no more!

I’m sorry to end on a sad note…. My condolences to the families of…

Senior Superintendent Dayton Henry, who headed the Clarendon Police Division.  I met him once, and was struck by his open, candid disposition and his round-eyed, friendly face.  SSP Henry died suddenly, and I know his colleagues are still in shock.  Not only was he an efficient policeman, who helped to bring down crime levels in the parish – but he was also a kind-hearted man who supported many community projects.

…and of eleven-year-old Ricardo Dove, who was shot dead while sleeping in bed at his home in Bethel Town, Westmoreland.   “It would have been better if they had killed me,” said his father Robert, who was home at the time and found his son’s body soon after gunshots rang out.  My heart goes out to you Mr. Dove, and to the family.  Why?

And so the week comes to an end, as early summer starts to stoke up hot clouds in the sky.  Hurricane season is a few weeks away…

Have a great week!

Ricardo Dove

Ricardo Dove

Related articles and websites:

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120508/lead/lead1.html: Big Olint handouts

http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Political-intentions-and-tainted-money_11433253:  Column by Mark Wignal, Jamaica Observer

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20100822/lead/lead2.html:  Oh God! Oh no! Olint!


Gold, Silver and Bronze (petchary.wordpress.com)

Sunday Storms (petchary.wordpress.com)

Claim Says Jamaica Crook Funded Political Parties (abcnews.go.com)

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120510/lead/lead7.html:  Phillips urges Jamaicans to prepare to make sacrifices



http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120512/news/news42.html:  Indian Arrival Day observed at Chedwin Park


http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120509/lead/lead4.html  Bethel Town child murdered in his sleep




Angels of Love    http://angelsofloveja.org/

Crayons Count   http://www.dogoodjamaica.org/crayonscount


Ricardo Williams (left)

Ricardo Williams (left) outside his Internet Cafe in March Pen.