While some were watching the talent show on television last night (and pretty awful it sounded, too!) or washing their cars and watering their lawns (both illegal activities) our Fire Brigade were working overtime… I have written many times about air quality. Today, it could not be worse.
Fire and water: As I started writing last night, four separate bush fires were burning along the dry ridges of Jack’s Hill, St. Andrew, above Kingston. We could smell the smoke. Helicopters were dropping buckets of water on the fires, but were having to take longer trips to the sea to collect the water; the nearby Mona Reservoir is three quarters empty. Residents heard the loud popping sounds of bamboo trees burning. On Friday, fires had started higher up in the mountains (and are perhaps still burning) in the Mavis Bank area; a house burned down in Westphalia – the highest district in Jamaica – and many crops were burned. This area is so high and the roads so difficult that the fire engines could not even reach up there.
Some need to get their priorities straight: Meanwhile, pastors are really worried about the availability of water for baptisms! And on the other side of the coin, no less than four “water parties” were scheduled for the summer season, as follows: Surfaris (the Water Rave) – water trucks, unlimited water, water guns; The Aquatic Sensation (prepare to get wet, wet and wet) – two water trucks (unlimited water); Hydro Safari – two water trucks, water balloons, water slide; Surf – the Hawaiian Dream – 4,000 water balloons, fully loaded water trucks. Is this sea water? Or water from the reservoir?
Well, the whole island may burn down, but so long as we have church and parties - the ultimate diversions – we are all fine!
Just a couple of questions for the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM): Do the words “disaster” and “emergency” only apply to hurricanes, not extended drought or major bush fires? And secondly: Where were you? Anyway, kudos to TVJ’s Milton Walker for live tweets from the site of one of the fires, to the Gleaner for regular updates – and to Marksman Limited for tweeting tips about fire safety. No thanks to anyone else, including the rest of the media. Sometimes we wish we had our own CNN.
“Sex sells”: Today’s Sunday Gleaner seems to believe that adage. It seems to be operating on the principle that any headline with the word “sex” in it is going to attract lots of readers. OK, so a massage parlor is set up close to a church. So what? Is that really headline news? But the headline writer has a fondness for alliteration. “Sacrilege: Seedy Sex Shop Blooms Next to Sacred Sanctuary.” Nice one.
Its first conviction: The Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) won its first conviction today. Perhaps appropriately, this was the case of eight policemen, who had refused to co-operate with an INDECOM investigation into the fatal shooting of two civilians four years ago. The policemen will not go to prison but will be fined up to a maximum of J$3 million. Former Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) Mark Shields (a British import, now still living in Jamaica as a consultant) said on radio today that INDECOM was one of the best things to have happened in a long time, and I agree. While he was DCP, Mr. Shields said he had seen no evidence of any “hit squads” - but had “plenty of evidence” of murders by the police. He was concerned that changes in the Jamaica Constabulary Force had been generally slow, however, and hoped that all that had been invested in it would pay off, eventually. Why the sudden and precipitous drop in police killings, though (45% this year to date)? INDECOM must have something to do with it.
The gloss has worn off: Our young Member of Parliament and Junior Minister Damion Crawford is disillusioned with the system, and frustrated. He has made presentations in Parliament, he says, and put forward ideas and suggestions; and no one is listening. He will not be running for office again, come next elections. Hearing him speak on radio today, I must say I felt more than a twinge of sympathy. Damion certainly went off the deep end on a number of occasions, showing his lack of experience; but he means well, and it’s a shame that a young politician can get so disenchanted so quickly. Perhaps he has another leadership role in mind.
As the parties announce their candidates (yes, I did mention things are warming up), two of my “tweeps” – the Jamaica Labour Party’s (JLP) ebullient Delano Seiveright and the urbane Floyd Green, have been selected. Mr. Seiveright will contest the St. Thomas Eastern seat against our current Health Minister Fenton Ferguson; young Floyd (who is head of the G2K young professionals arm) will stand for office in South West St. Elizabeth, which his party lost narrowly in the last election. I wish them both the best of luck. They are forward-thinking young men, I do believe.
Interestingly, eight out of ten of the JLP candidates confirmed so far are first timers and mostly quite young. Certainly some of the JLP’s current cohorts are distinctly long in the tooth. No offense, we all get older.
The jet skiers are back: Well, the jet skiers are back after a ban, following a series of incidents resulting in deaths and injuries. The Tourism Product Development Company has them all registered and is presumably monitoring them. Will registration be enough to control the crazy jet ski riders? I mean, lots of car drivers are registered and licensed and still drive like maniacs on the streets. I wish I could be hopeful that there will be no more incidents.
A very belated apology: I understand that CVM Television issued a formal apology on the air a couple of evenings ago, just before the prime time news – for its sports reporter’s Heil Hitler outburst after the World Cup . I am sorry I missed it, so I don’t know the exact wording, but reporter Garfield Burford read it out and it appeared on the screen. Better late than never, but thank you.
Emancipation cometh: Friday, August 1 is Emancipation Day, and August 6 is Independence Day, so things are slowing down somewhat. The two holidays are sometimes combined into one world, “Emancipendence,” which for some reason I find most annoying. I am not sure when my next news blog will appear as this week is looking a little complicated, but certainly – in the next few days.
I have some major bouquets to throw out, now…
- Firstly, all Jamaica’s amazing athletes at the Commonwealth Games. Two in particular – our swimmer Alia Atkinson and shot putter O’Dayne Richards – put in remarkable performances. Ms. Atkinson won a silver and a bronze medal, and Mr. Richards a gold! Now, these are areas in which Jamaicans are not particularly well represented, which makes their victories even sweeter. I am sure they will inspire future generations of Jamaican swimmers and shot putters. There is more to come, and I must not forget of course all the sprinters – especially Kemar Bailey-Cole, who won gold, and Veronica Campbell-Brown, who won a silver in the men’s and women’s 100 meters, with Kerron Stewart getting a bronze in the women’s.
- And if we are talking sport, I have to give a huge pat on the back to the Gleaner photographer Ricardo Makyn, who is taking some really superb pictures in Glasgow. I have posted a couple of them here…
- WMW Jamaica, that dynamic NGO that is engaged in empowering our women and working for gender equity, had a marvelous mingle and website launch on Saturday evening. Congratulations to the awesome Ms. Georgia Love, and especially Patricia Phillips and the rest of the team for putting it together. Check out their Facebook page too! More to follow on this …
- Corve daCosta has got a marvelous blog going. Did I tell you? Well, I shall tell you again. Corve addresses all kinds of interesting topics and is very up to date. He also writes about the obscene “water parties” in his latest post. Check it out: http://www.dailyveritas.com
I am sorry to frighten you with this long list, but I should have known it could not last. The following is a list of all those Jamaicans (all men, except for one women who was murdered on July 18) who lost their lives to violence since my last post, which was I believe four or five days ago. I can only say that this is very sad, and convey my condolences to all their loved ones.
Granville Dyer, 34, Seivwright Gardens, Kingston (mob killing)
Barrington Reid, 17, August Town, St. Andrew
Tevin Pryce, 20, Gordon Pen, St. Catherine
Dwayne Hall, 26, Gordon Pen, St. Catherine
Rohan Knight, 40, Spanish Town, St. Catherine
Delroy Edwards, 43, Spanish Town, St. Catherine
On July 18: Verna Dunkley-Morrison and Owen McCoy, Willowdene, St. Catherine
Lincoln McLean, 34, Wakefield/Smithville, Clarendon
Solomon Williams, 28, Canaan Heights, Clarendon
Mendez Dyer, 70, Foga/Mocho, Clarendon
Roderick Richards, Montego Bay, St. James
Boris Douglas, 49, West Gate/Montego Bay, St. James
Kemar Cross, Capital Heights, St. James
Lyndale Graham, 60, Boscobel, St. Mary
Berkley Bennett, Christiana, Manchester