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WIGNALL'S World (Will this be Minister Hylton's great blunder or his 'buss'?) Options
Posted: Tuesday, February 25, 2014 2:44:06 PM

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When is it not okay to bash a politician?


Sunday, February 23, 2014 11 Comments
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PERSAD-BISSESSAR… her tough talk and firmness of purpose are indicative that she fully understands her role as a leader who must not only be perceived to be ‘working and working’ behind closed doors or in Cabinet, but must visibly stand tall in front of her people and effectively represent them on most levels

THE narrative is true in many instances that politicians, especially those living in the wealthy sections of poverty-infested Jamaica (gee, all of them it seems), are driven mostly by ego and, in the main, they tend to use the vote and the campaign cash of their rich friends to eventually fuel their appetites for corruption, wealth and comfort.

The good ones tend either to learn (early) the art of shutting one's mouth or die on the vine, or they toe the line for the overall good of the party they represent. In decent company that is called 'collective responsibility'.

Instances of this were the 2006 Trafigura 'gift' ostensibly to the People's National Party (PNP) and the 2010 Manatt engagement either on behalf of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) but more likely on behalf of the Government of Jamaica being run by the JLP Administration.

But, are there times when we should be gracious, give them some slack and, by way of an exercise of empathy, draw an early conclusion that they have a difficult job if they are serious about it and, were we there, we too would appreciate the 'perks' of corruption, on the basis that corruption may be more a natural human foible than it is an aberration in the psyche of homo sapiens?

Let us begin a brief exploration to see where we the people may be placed in the equation.

Of late I have been very impressed by Trinidad and Tobago's Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar's positive stance on matters affecting her country. In the eyes of many of us in Jamaica, even those who find disfavour with T&T and its gaping trade advantage with Jamaica, her tough talk and firmness of purpose are indicative that she fully understands her role as a leader who must not only be perceived to be 'working and working' behind closed doors or in Cabinet, but must visibly stand tall in front of her people and effectively represent them on most levels.

She knows that she must not only be there in name and position. The name and position must mean something beyond what can be seen, heard and felt in the lives of the people she leads.

Her tough talk and action are always supported by an intellect that can be palpably felt. And readers, please do not infer that when I use the word intellect I am mistaking it for academic qualification and fancy talk that few can comprehend.

To me, academic qualification is merely a first step. When a person or a leader melds academic qualification and training with plain old-fashioned know-how in fixing problems and in generating new directions, plus having a bit of experience, that is the second step. When that person uses the whole to navigate his/her way in trying to understand his/her people, his/her environment in all its phases and the complex processes of global matters with a focus on where those intersect with his country, then that person is an intellectual, especially where the person is able to effectively communicate those ideas to the people.

I admire the lady on two levels. The first is direct, where I can openly see her leadership abilities. The second is disappointment, that gnawing emptiness I feel when I cannot find the same in our own female prime minister right here at home, whether she is in our backyard telling us that she is working, working and still loves us or, on one of her many flights (25 in two years!) to foreign countries.

Most of us played in the political mud

To get back to the subject, when is it not okay to bash a politician, especially when politicians globally (in the age of the Internet where their words and deeds can easily show a mismatch) have never been this lowly rated?

I would say it is at the very moment that we awake in the mornings, take a trip to the bathroom, brush our teeth and then stare in the mirror and quickly conclude that much of the rot that ails this nation is, if not directly caused by us, certainly facilitated by our inaction.

Simple example. In this murderous nation a man in your community is brutally killed. Community members talk among themselves and they know that on the very week the man was murdered he was threatened by another man. In fact, the man who did the threatening had, for the last year, displayed an enmity towards the other that was known by those community members.

You gaze in the mirror and think about going to the police. For a while you stare some more then hiss your teeth and say aloud, without recognising it, "It's not my problem." At that point it is not okay to bash a politician.

You are a policeman assigned to a station near to the community. You are the investigating officer in the murder case. In the morning you, too, gaze in your mirror. "Cho," you say. "I hear little talk about who did it but I just can't be bothered with the legwork and the paper work. In any case, he is just a little no-name man and no one outside of his family circle will make too much noise over the murder. Not my supe, not the community members. Oh well, time to head out to work." At that moment it is not okay for you to bash the politician.

Your parents sent you to school and when the problems began and your mother tried to intervene, you resisted her attempts and those of the school administration. Some days you skipped school and met up with some time-wasters in a lane lined with zinc fencing to smoke ganja. At age 15 your brainpower began its rapid retreat.

You are now 35 years old, illiterate, untrained even in a menial 'skill'. Your girlfriend who you live with on and off has started to 'give you bun' and most days you feel like wringing her neck. She has threatened to do you bodily harm just on her accurate assessments of your thoughts. In the last year, your longest straight period of employment was six weeks, and there is never enough food in the house.

At that very moment when just about everything in your life is a negative and a black hole of despair, it is not okay to bash the politician for your problems.

You are a 66-year-old businessman, and compared to where you were in the mid-1970s when you were 'boxing food out a hog mout', you are now in money heaven. You reached there because you 'took a chance' exporting ganja and you did well at it. Unlike others who spun their initial intake into legitimate businesses and are now well-respected members in good standing among the uptown crowd, you spirited away most of your holdings to Miami and sections of Western Europe and every chance you get, you blame the Government for our underdevelopment.

From your perch in 'Heavenly Heights' in Kingston 6 you keep your lavish parties with your own insensitive kind, where you mock your fellow Jamaicans, call them lazy and only fit to be used, and spin your deals. Those deals do more to add another property to your housing stock abroad and shut down local participation than they include you allowing more of those who were once like you through the gate.

You know what it is to pay gunmen to silence others, so when the murderous criminality creeps closer to the doorstep of your grown children and grandchildren who are still here, you do not get to bash politicians.

And last, dear lady, I know that the piecemeal education you received as a child did not carry you too far as you reached adulthood. But, dear lady, at 38 years old, at whose feet should you place the blame for the six children you have produced for four different men, all of whom are now missing in action? Did the Government give you a special licence to go ballistic on unprotected sex? Did a politician preach to you from his platform and, in the process, convince you that for each additional child you had, you would be adding to the productive capacity of the nation?

Lady, I sympathise with your weaknesses of the night and your inability to say, 'Put this on it', but whenever hard times envelop you and squeeze the last bit of the will you had stored up to avoid another pregnancy, I am sorry, but you do not get to bash any politician.
Posted: Monday, March 3, 2014 3:22:19 PM

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The Chinese Goat Islands 'offer' is non-negotiable


Sunday, March 02, 2014 24 Comments
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SAMUDA… the slow pace at which key investment projects like the Logistics Hub have been moving thus far is serious cause for concern. MAIR… wants the Government to state clearly how the decision on Goat Islands was arrived

There is more than a bit of wisdom in the saying that one should never stare a gift horse in the mouth.

It is like the poor old farmer way back in the day struggling to plough his half-acre after his mule died and he had no other beast of burden to pull his heavy plough. There he is, killing himself in the heat of the midday sun, trying to plough the field with a garden fork. His neighbour, who owns a huge estate, comes riding up with an old draft horse in tow. "Brownie," he says, "a carry a old horse for yu. I'm sure you can use it."

Old farmer Brown steps over to the horse, opens its mouth, gazes inside then says to the big farmer, "Boss, one a di horse teeth rotten." The big farmer looks at him and shakes his head. "Brownie, if a leave here, a tekking the horse wid mi. Yu want him or not?"

Old farmer Brown is no fool. He sums it up quickly. His options are somewhere between zero and extremely limited. "OK, boss, mi wi tek him."

That is where we are now with the Chinese, who wish to increase the size of their economic footprint in the region, which includes Jamaica.

China is now in full forward gear 21st century empire mode. It is at that stage where the pace of its development makes it bigger than its own borders. Those borders cannot contain the positive momentum, and as its products fill the shelves of shops of all sizes in every corner of the globe, like night after the day, the country must physically make its imprint felt where its products are consumed, but first in the most politically and economically vulnerable corners of the globe.

Mixing the statist political approach in their cities at home with elements of the type of capital accumulation practised in the Western capitalist world, China knows that capital accumulation and physical occupation are the hallmarks of every empire, and it would be foolish for it to walk to the edge of the global springboard and not dive off into the great expanse of ocean. It is simply following the historical motions that drive empires.

Jamaica occupies space in one of the vulnerable corners of the globe. The options we have explored, of seriously factoring in the environmental fallout, are now not a moral imperative that we can place in our non-existent bag of luxury. We do not know if the Goat Islands proposal was more a demand and a grab contingent on the Chinese going ahead with present construction in roads and future FDI promises, or if it was our technocrats/politicians who presented them with the sweet but controversial deal.

At the heart of the Government's thrust towards firming up this deal are the obvious ones of the People's National Party's (PNP's) short-term electoral fortunes and maintaining some semblance of social stability via increased employment. The other is that international capital is not seeing Jamaica as an attractive place for the sorts of new investments that we believe are needed to pull more of our people out of poverty over the next two decades.

Only gear must be full speed ahead

Whatever it was, we are now at the stage that even those with eyes wide shut will have to admit that the Goat Islands project has about a 90 per cent chance of going through. Any other layers to final approval that have been promised are purely cosmetic, designed to tamp down the noisemaking, fanning the fumes emitted by the critics.

Although China's lip service in environmental matters has increased, some of us are of the view that what obtains in some of China's cities, especially the heavy smog in Beijing, is the best indicator of where China wants to take Jamaica as it increases its footprint here.

Others who are more charitable to China's causes believe that the smog in Beijing begins with the disadvantage of the capital being on the edge of the Gobi desert and subject to the remnants of dust storms.

We have been told that under consideration is a coal-fired electricity generating plant and, as expected, the debate on 'clean coal' has been reopened. To that, again I ask, what are our options?

Certainly we did not expect the powering of the Chinese operation on Goat Islands to proceed in similar fashion to the snail's pace we have moving with the 360 megawatt power plant. In addition, any manufacturing entities that will be forming the full build-out of the logistics hub will not want to face the uncertainties as to the price they will be paying for electrical energy.

Will the Chinese seek a special permit to generate a stand-alone electric power grid for the Goat Islands operations and the manufacturing extensions that grow out of reclaimed land all the way back to Old Harbour, or will that grid feed into JPS and then resold to the hub operators at prices that will reflect the complexity of the special arrangements?

Again, I ask, what other options do we have? Zero!

Once we are able to fully assimilate all of that, and we know that the environmental lobby cannot be given any more space by a Government that is under extreme pressure to show its 'business-friendly' side and sell its constituents the 'jobs, jobs' chant, we are halfway there.

I say it is not that those of who had criticised the proposal on environmental factors have bowed. Instead, we have stared at the FDI landscape and, seeing no one else dangling US$1.5 billion but the Chinese, we have yielded to seeing the political imperatives of the moment and the tight economic corner into which we have painted ourselves in the last three decades.

Whether we want to give the Goat Islands investment our blessings or not, it is going ahead. Whether we want to see the Chinese as polluters of the environment or not, their language of expansionism, inherent in empire, suits us at this time because our options are few and, in general, the typical Jamaican is not that sensitive to environmental matters.

Apparently, no other location is suitable to the Chinese

As to whether there were other physical locations more suitable for the sort of operations in the proposal, even that is starting to sound a bit irrelevant.

Mr Gregory Mair, Opposition spokesman on works, has the luxury of not being on the side of the Government benches. He wants the Government to state clearly how the decision on Goat Islands was arrived at, and on what basis were other locations rejected, if any such considerations were made.

To be fair to the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) -- the Bruce Golding-led Administration -- it is on record that the JLP Government thought that there were other locations (or at least one other) for the proposed logistics hub build-out and that Goat Islands should be left out of the picture. That may, in itself, tell us that it was the Chinese who had scouted out and picked the islands as their perfect spot and not us making the specific spot as an offer.

But confusion is added to the pot when the JLP spokesman on investment, industry and commerce, Karl Samuda, says in a recent press release: "The Opposition is not entirely surprised that others in the region have made strides on major development projects involving Chinese investors. The slow pace at which key investment projects like the Logistics Hub have been moving thus far is serious cause for concern. This tells a tale of not only vacillation and incompetence on the part of the Administration, but also of a profound failure to bring key stakeholders into its confidence.

"The tenets of good governance, which require transparent and consultative approaches to policy formulation and project implementation, must be uppermost in the mind of the Administration, but they are not excuses for what is actually the Government's inability to effectively manage and execute. The Government must recognise that Jamaica is not the only investment option available to the Chinese, and must ensure that they are able to take up opportunities while maintaining their accountability to the Jamaican people."

While Samuda agrees broadly that there should be transparency, an unlikely approach as governments all over have been notorious in never delivering on that promise time after time, he seems out of synch with Mair, although he has tactfully not mentioned by name Goat Islands in his release.

Mair wants the Goat Islands matter to be referred to Parliament's Infrastructure and Physical Development Committee, that is, further delayed, while Samuda expresses impatience with the Government and cites Trinidad as one of those countries in the region that is moving full steam ahead with its own Chinese investments in maritime facilities/logistics.

Both men seem to be issuing press releases from their personal anechoic chambers.

Although details of the full development have either not been fully formulated or the details are being denied to the public for obvious reasons (the secretive way large international corporate entities operate when they are in consultation with governments), it appears to us that the Chinese intend to embark on a process of land reclamation in the space between the Goat Islands and mainland Old Harbour.

If that does in fact occur, many of the concerns of the environmentalists will have to be adjusted to make up for a changed landscape that may not be at risk environmentally as first thought. In any event, the lizards will have disappeared.

In a part of Jamaica Environment Trust's (JET's) open letter to the minister of works, the following is stated: "The net benefits to Jamaica of this project remain poorly articulated." That, I think, we can agree on.

JET's letter also states: "If we are going to destroy a significant natural area protected under four different Jamaican laws and two international conventions, it should not be for crumbs."

Question: Since when have Jamaican laws been binding when placed beside the immediate social or economic demands of the Government? In reality laws exist to keep the man at street level in a state of coercive fear. To the class interests that exist at the top of the social pyramid (big business/party politicians), the laws are enacted by them to allow them more space for capital accumulation and added power.

As to the two international conventions, please do not expect that anyone in the PNP Cabinet will be prepared to listen to any outsider eggheads telling us what is best for us.

Where JET's letter states, "... it should not be for crumbs", since when has US$1.5 billion been considered crumbs?

Does the US have a position on Chinese influence in the Caribbean?

Years from now we may yet get to see the reams of diplomatic transmissions flowing between American embassies in the Caribbean and Washington in relation to how the Chinese imprint in 'America's backyard' was being assimilated.

A February 22 Helene Cooper article in the New York Times titled, 'In Japan's drill with the US, a message for Beijing,' starts with: 'CAMP PENDLETON, California — In the early morning along a barren stretch of beach here last week, Japanese soldiers and American Marines practised how to invade and retake an island captured by hostile forces. Memo to Beijing: Be forewarned.'

In speaking to the subject of a few islands (outcropping of rocky terrain) in the East China Sea that both Japan and China claim as their own, the article says, 'In the United States military, commanders are increasingly allied in alarm with Japan over China's flexing of military muscle. Captain James Fanell, director of intelligence and information operations with the United States Pacific Fleet, recently said in San Diego that China was training its forces to be capable of carrying out a "short, sharp" war with Japan in the East China Sea.'

Jamaica may have moved a considerable distance from the days in the 1970s when the PNP's Michael Manley flirted with 'democratic socialism', promised to 'walk to the mountaintop' with Cuba's communist leader Fidel Castro, and would issue inflammatory broadsides against the 'forces of imperialism' (read, the USA).

A lot has changed since those Cold War days when many like me believed the CIA — in response to what the US State Department must have seen as the strengthening of the communist and USSR influence in the Caribbean — was in full spy mode in Jamaica in the months leading up the very violent October 1980 election to ensure the ouster of the Manley-led PNP.

In 1823, US President James Monroe in his annual message to Congress warned European powers not to interfere in the affairs of the Western Hemisphere. What eventually came to be known as the Monroe Doctrine eventually guided the foreign policy of the US in its 'adventures' in countries in the region and further afield, and eventually to George W Bush's policy of 'pre-emptive strike' in dealing with countries deemed 'rogue nations' anyplace on the globe.

I am certain that the strategic eyes of the US must be taking a keen look at China's push in America's part of the world, that is, the Caribbean and Latin America. Based on numerous trajectories drawn by economists and futurists, it is estimated that China will overtake the USA and become the top-performing economy in the world by 2030.

No top-performing economy can maintain its stance at the top without wanting to increase its military footprint. Is it possible that the Chinese may, a few years from now, seek 'permission' from us to dock a military vessel or two at a port in Kingston harbour, or maybe the Goat Islands?

Would the Americans countenance that move? I think not.


Will we miss out on the ganja money?


Sunday, April 27, 2014 16 Comments
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A Jamaican ganja farmer shows his illegal patch of budding marijuana plants during a tour of his land in St Ann. (PHOTO: AP)

Two years ago, right after the US presidential election, a reader wrote me the following: 'I just read your recent article on the recently concluded US election and one thing stuck out at me beyond anything else. It is the fact that one of the items on the ballots that Americans were asked to decide on was the legalisation of marijuana. Many of the states, even those in the conservative mid-West of the country, voted not only to legalise marijuana for medicinal purposes, but also for personal use.

'I think Jamaica and the rest of the Caribbean are missing the boat in relation to how we deal with marijuana. I think marijuana, like coffee, bananas, and sugar cane... could become the next big export crop, earning valuable foreign exchange and putting our young people to work.

'The last time I looked unemployment was too high, especially amongst young men. Why not put them to work farming marijuana plantations, with reduced THC content and exporting this to countries that have legalised marijuana for medicinal purposes?

'Most of the marijuana grown in the US for medicinal purposes is grown using technology which removes the majority of the THC content. Why can't we develop this and market it? There are not a lot of alternatives out there in terms of what we can and cannot export, but just as how we regulate our other agricultural exports, ie ackee, coffee, etc, the Government can put stringent rules in place for those persons who are interested in growing marijuana for export.

'There would have to be regulations in place for those persons who wish to develop this. In addition, the Government would have to speak to their foreign counterparts seeing as we have all these treaties etc, but the war on drugs has not helped the Caribbean. It seems a bit hypocritical to me that America is demanding the destruction of ganja farms all over the world, and yet at the same time their people are voting to legalise it.'

The rest, as they would typically say, is history. Two years have gone and America, the country that used to give us assistance in 'the war on drugs', has sold us a six for a nine because we could not see through that powerful country's double-dealing.

It assisted us in severely debilitating our growing of ganja in the 1980s under the Eddie Seaga-led JLP Government while the state of California began its experimentation and huge production upticks and the Appalachian states continued to do what they always did -- grow weed and produce moonshine.

Today, America is ahead of us because when it acts, even though the federal government has real power, the individual states' first responsibility is to secure employment for their constituents, and, any autonomy they possess will be used in that pursuit. Case in point, Colorado, which appears as if they began planning many years ago.

We have begun the talking aspect of the great ganja debate, but of course, the biggest talker is the Government, and the ganja actors will have to wait on the snail's pace of government before they can get their act together.

If the logistics hub is any example, it will be all talk, talk, talk.
Posted: Thursday, May 1, 2014 8:29:48 AM

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Good, Mr Holness, but can you also make pigs fly?


Thursday, May 01, 2014 1 comment
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SEAGA... It takes cash to care (right) HOLNESS... warned of bitter medicine

WHILE there is still some open evidence that the prime minister is poorly briefed on day-to-day matters of governance, or her advisors are afraid to approach her with wellhoned talking points, she was certainly on target when she told us in her recent Budget presentation: “No matter what anyone wants to say, I am prime minister for all Jamaicans.” Thank you for that profound reminder, PM. She hit the nail even more firmly on the head when she said that Jamaicans are asking, “How much more can we sacrifice?” Thanks for arriving on the tarmac and touching down on the grim, earthy reality, prime minister.

Just before that, former PM Bruce Golding, freed from the shackles of representational politics and leadership, drove home a more telling truth when he told a gathering that Jamaica would be experiencing “recession-like” economic conditions for some time to come.

From where I sit, there is nothing happening now that tells me that there will be any change to our economic condition over the next five years. It will be more of the same, if not worse. Leader of the Opposition Andrew Holness, however, lives in a fifth dimension. It is, of course, the ‘duty’ of any Opposition party to make governance as difficult as possible for the party in power. Not that the PNP needs any help with that, considering that only a handful of ministers are actually contributing anything worthwhile to governance and forward-planning and, the prime minister displays almost open indifference to their non-performance. Obviously bruised by previous criticisms of him being too laid back, after the JLP’s internal election he has gone off the rails in wanting to be considered all-inclusive and relevant. What has resulted is a constant stream of press releases to the point of overkill; many of which I simply delete and demote to trash.

As if to better the best that could come from his mouth, at a recent constituency conference in North Clarendon he upped the ante and painted a vision that was not only fanciful considering our resources and our history at getting anything right, but it bordered on just empty talk, the sort of talk that only infects the minds of those who are totally freed from actual governance.

Harking from when he was education minister — a reasonably good one I thought — he said: “I wanted to ensure that all our children are able to read, write, comprehend and communicate. I want another chance to advance that aim; to take our students and make sure they are work-ready, skilled, and able to go on to further education. We are going to launch a revolution in developing our people.

The JLP is going to start the human development revolution in the country.” Yes, that’s right, 52 years after Independence, another political leader, who is being paid by taxpayers, is promising us something that his mentor of years ago — Eddie Seaga — would understand as useless, because he would always remind the nation of the reality that, “It takes cash to care”. Minister of Finance Peter Phillips is so taken up with the burdensome and thankless task of delicately placing the fiscal ducks in a row that he can scarcely provide any room for any of his Cabinet colleagues to draft a growth path, even if they were so inclined.

But, somehow, through all of this reality that is staring us in the face, the Opposition leader is spouting the grand nonsense about a ‘human development revolution’ in the country. Granted, it was all stated at a political conference, where empty promises are never in short supply; but it was about in the same league as him disingenuously reminding those listening to him that, like them, he too had been living in tough times since his adolescence.

Holness, many of those listening to you would immediately switch their tough times with yours. Should some political miracle occur, and the present unpopularity of the PNP lasts until the next elections, Holness knows that we are still likely to be in the cold grip of an IMF regime. Just as how the much-touted Vision 2030 has long become a faded dream, Holness knows that his human development revolution, as a promise, is merely the words of a politician seeking power.

Another part of the press release, ‘JLP will deliver Human Development Revolution — Holness’, stated, “He said the Government must carve a space for people to plan a future not anchored on sweet-mouth promises but solid plans.” Short of promising that he would make pigs fly, Holness is playing the same game that the PNP played on the nation just before the last election; when Simpson Miller promised that an IMF deal would be sealed two weeks after taking power, and the PNP’s advertising during the election campaign was all about the ‘nice times’ that would ‘come back again’ should the PNP win. PNP and JLP in Opposition are all the same until they face the cold, hard reality of actual governance.

To the PNP Government’s credit, it knows, in 2014, that it has no wiggle room to make any fancy promises. The prime minister spoke about over 20,000 jobs, but I think by now the people have grown punch-drunk on these JEEP offerings, and they know which part of the dustbin to place such empty talk — at the bottom, the top and in the middle. And, in any event, more of our people are seeing the prime minister as just another frequent visitor to Jamaica, so her knowledge of their reality is that of a tourist who has the luxury of falling in love with a country that they don’t have to live in.

One would have hoped that, as the PNP dream fades, the Opposition leader would have outlined his vision of how the people of this country could have fared better while taking the ‘bitter medicine’ which he foresaw in 2011. Then he could have painted a realistic picture of the development objectives that were available and the methods by which a government formed by him could sell that to the people and get them on board. To give us big promises with big words is to fill our guts with gas and our minds with the emptiness that we have seen before. If at the next elections the people decide to vote JLP it will be just the same as when the people left the JLP in 2011 and sided with the PNP.

If Holness is now promising us in his human development revolution that pigs can fly, the PNP has long proved that the promise of ‘nice times’ to come back again means we can now take our chicken back to the gates of those Spanish north coast resorts that are regularly visited by government ministers on weekends.

Posted: Wednesday, May 14, 2014 1:15:35 AM

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History will absolve Phillip Paulwell


Sunday, May 11, 2014

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PAULWELL… has the last word on delivering cheaper energy to the people of this country

The herd mentality always follows the path of an exponential curve, beginning slowly then suddenly begins its explosive growth as the moo of the herd shuts down all reasoning and the droppings pollute any attempt at sensible debate.

Last weekend, powerful 'fraternal masters' among the People's National Party (PNP) elite descended on the PNP Cabinet and the prime minister, and the result was the excision of the further inclusion of Energy World International (EWI) in its push to secure the bid it had won to build out a 381 Megawatt LNG-powered electricity generating plant.

Its bid of 12.888 cents per kWh contrasted sharply with those whose bid would have stuck the country with higher light bills. It has now come to light that the next two bidders in line have significantly lowered their offers from as high as 21 cents to 14 cents and 14.5 cents respectively.

The question is, where were these lower bids before? An energy insider gave me a hint.

"There is the possibility the EWI never had any intention of building anything. Just of securing the licence and then reselling it on the world market to someone who could actually deliver," he said.

I thought about that possibility and asked, "But would that not be in the same league as we selling JPS to Mirant and, in essence, giving a troubled company a bailout. If EWI sells the licence, how could the rates it had quoted hold?"

"The Mirant situation was a predatory one and the company took us all for the fools we were. If EWI sold its licence it would be common business practice or ruthless business tactics."

I asked, "How would that redound to Jamaica in the form of cheaper rates for electricity? With JPS and the other bidder lowering their rates suddenly, could EWI have locked in their cheap rates by hedging?"

"You have a point there," he said. "One particular bidder who is now likely to get the deal wanted to lock in the high prices of last year because they knew that with the expansion of shale oil the prices would come tumbling down. The country would have been stuck with higher rates than what EWI was offering.

"EWI sold their plan on the basis that they would take the blow of high prices on the front end to get Jamaica low prices 10 years down the line, at which point they would make a windfall. Think about it. A 20-year contract at 0.1288. If the prices for years one to five are close to 0.20 but then they tumble to 0.05 over the next 15 years but we are still paying 0.1288 they make mad mad money! Our rates come down, they make money, technically everyone wins. They win more than we do, but we have more at stake."

It is appearing to me that Phillip Paulwell and his technocrats must have crunched those numbers to know what would be at stake. For him to have convinced politicians across the aisle like the Jamaica Labour Party's (JLP's) Karl Samuda and Audley Shaw must have meant, in our normally politically tribal and divisive environment, that key persons in the JLP saw the sense in the EWI position.

The position of Opposition Leader Andrew Holness is understandable because he cannot, under any circumstances, make it appear that he is siding with the PNP on any issue, even if he has to break ranks with the very spokesperson he appointed in the JLP to shadow the energy ministry. How can this be so?

Is Mr Holness off on an adventure purely of his own volition? Has he said openly that he disagrees with the position taken by his spokesperson on energy, Karl Samuda? No, he has not, only that he disagrees with Phillip Paulwell with whom Mr Samuda agrees.

Mr Holness is indeed a most confused man.

Minister Paulwell has the last word on delivering cheaper energy to the people of this country. After the prime minister met with a certain 'powerhouse' in the PNP, who is not now elected by anyone, she has turned over the new energy plant build-out to an 'enterprise team' that has no other choice but to act on the template set by Minister Paulwell.

With this enterprise team in place, a little bit more of the PNP has been taken away from the prime minister, and from where I sit it appears that JPS will be getting the contract to build the new generating plant.

Based on what the country knows, either because of unintended consequences of the failed EWI bid or because Minister Paulwell and his technocrats had done their homework, it will be a hard sell for the new player to adopt any other rate apart from EWI's 0.1288.

Major brain drain hitting Jamaica

According to the American Ivy league-educated Jamaican, he was embarrassed to have found himself at age 40 being interviewed by a 24-year-old Trinidadian for a job in the Republic.

"Mark, I was interviewed by a boy. In Jamaica it would have been the other way around. It would have been someone in their 50s or 60s with no new ideas, just holding a job and shutting out new talent," he said.

"So, where are you headed now?" I asked. I quickly followed up with two more before he had a chance to answer. "Where are your colleagues headed and what are the younger ones doing?"

"We are headed out of Jamaica. The region, Western Europe, Canada, the Middle East, Africa." According to him, "The country is being so badly mismanaged, there is a massive movement of talent from the civil service and a similar massive exodus of tertiary-educated people from the private sector. I am not talking about the degree mill at Mona. I am talking about bright people with workable ideas — ideas that cannot find funding or support. Talent between the ages of 25 and 40."

One young woman told me, "This Government is intent on promoting and pushing the jackasses. I don't even know that with a change in political administration anything will change."

An engineer who was recently in the government service with qualifications from MIT was deathly scared to talk to me. Eventually he opened up. "One ministry, a key ministry, has lost six PhDs in the last six months. Petrojam has lost its entire engineering cohort. Talent in the finance ministry is flying away."

This is most troubling. All one has to do is look at the private sector leaders. All in their late 50s, 60s and way over.

After news came that Dr Vin Lawrence was being recycled as head of the enterprise team to lead in the build-out of the new gas-fired power generating plant, a young woman, 27 years old, educated at Cornell with an MSc and on the way out of Jamaica, said of him, "You know they have nicknamed him 'god' because of the awesome power he wielded in the PNP between 1989 and 2006. That man is way up in age. Where is the god of our age group? Who is speaking for us? If we stick out our necks, the old guys cut us down, blacklist us. This country is hopeless, and I have tried with it for five years. I have had enough and I am leaving."

Sexual predation on Grade seven girls

One educator who has been blacklisted told me that when he took over the running of a primary school he was shocked to find out that some of the male teachers had been targeting the girls who were preparing to take GSAT.

"Targeting. What do you really mean by that?" I asked.

"Don't be deliberately naïve, Mr Wignall. Sexually!" he responded.

That teacher gave me a link to a principal running a high school and he told me that there is some evidence that the male teachers even follow up the relationship with the girls when they are in high school. "In my own school, from day one some of the older female teachers warned me to look out for the males and the girls they target from grade seven."

"Why can you not do anything about it?" I asked somewhat angrily.

"The teachers have their friends on the school boards and they cannot be touched, or soon you'll be out of a job," he said. "The board does not want to rock the boat, especially in these non-brand name schools."

"What about the ministry?" I asked.

He laughed. "I know of an instance with another headmaster who is now blacklisted and cannot find a job in teaching. A most competent man. He came to the school as principal, saw the nastiness, went to the board and nothing was done. Then he sent a bag of e-mails to the ministry. Nothing. Then somehow the story broke and the media got hold of it. The ministry incredulously pretended ignorance, made a lot of noise and in the end, the very man who complained and started the ball rolling was made out to be the villain. This country is in a very sick place, Mr Wignall."

"So what are your long-term plans?" I asked.

"I have no long-term plans that involve Jamaica. If I do that I will go mad. November will not catch me in Jamaica. I have a job offer in Canada and I am leaving for where people with sense can appreciate my unique skills."

Vision 2030 is on the way to being a nightmare!

Posted: Sunday, May 18, 2014 3:51:18 AM

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Why Goat Islands will not be saved

Mark Wignall

Sunday, May 18, 2014

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DAVIES… not afraid to have bright people around him

There exists a theorem, implied more than stated, that goes something like this: Developed states can afford the privilege of protecting their environmental spaces and endangered species. Underdeveloped and developing states cannot afford the luxury of protecting those areas.

In the pecking order of development, humans stand out first, or that is the theory. In a country like Jamaica where political decisions have dominated the vast majority of our decisions in forward planning over the last 50 years, whatever chances we had to bring our nation into a fully developed status have been blown, and now, all a politician has to do to scare off the arch-environmentalists is wave around the jobs, jobs, jobs flag and poor people will rise up on his/her behalf.

When the minuscule city state of Singapore was being developed, I am certain that there were many lizards, birds and rare mammals that, had they possessed voices and language that humans could translate, would have raised them loud and clear on their own behalf. Being a small place, had Singapore made a decision to save the species and the spaces it would still be in a backward stage of its development, as Jamaica is today.

The reality is that Singapore is now so well developed that its green spaces and botanical gardens, born out of its very development, would put us to shame. And we are so much bigger in area than Singapore.

The powerful minister of transport and works Dr Omar Davies has been much vilified (and rightly so) in his previous dispensation as the man in charge of the finances of this country. This time around I have been told that he is one of only a small handful of ministers who are unafraid to have bright people around him.

In his recent parliamentary presentation he has pretty much told the nation that the Chinese development on Goat Islands, as a part of what Jamaica hopes to be a huge logistics hub in the region, has been given the green light -- subject, of course, to the environmental noise-makers.

When I use the term 'noise-makers' I am not heaping scorn on this well-needed section of the educated middle class in Jamaica. I am instead saying that their protests will come to naught because the country cannot afford to listen to them and take them seriously. Not at the sorry place where we are now.

We probably could have taken them seriously in the early to mid-1970s if the Goat Islands were on the menu then. At that time the man who created the modern city state of Singapore and in a short time brought it to world-class clout, Lee Kwan Yew, visited Jamaica, saw the socio-economic rot being sold by then PM Michael Manley and knew quite clearly what he would not do.

He must have seen how the thinking class at the UWI Mona Social Science campus degree mill supported Michael's experimentation called democratic socialism and if Lee had copied anything at all, it must have been that in a country where individualism and undisciplined behaviour were almost second nature, those traits had to be brought into some kind of order if they were not to destabilise the common good for the trip over the medium term.

In a country like Jamaica where every 10-year-term plan is faced by the disruptive interventions of elections and reports of corruption, Lee would have known that he would have had to take drastic actions again for the common good, but only if he could have sold his plans and have them bought by all sectors of the society.

As the 'benevolent dictator', he neutered the opposition, the press and the unions and made the country's law-making machine one that worked and had teeth. As I have said in this space before, it must have been a hard sell and was not without its problems.

Most important, it could not have worked in Jamaica. In plain language, as a leader, he read his people and must have known the extent to which he could push their patience before they could see results.

He did just that, and it worked. In fact, the city state is now questioning the retention of some of the very strictures which got the state its successes.

The Chinese are into sabre rattling with Japan and Vietnam, but their one aircraft carrier is not enough to send them off alone on wild adventures on the high seas against the might of the US armed forces. China has invested heavily in the continent of Africa and its footprint in Latin America and the Caribbean is plain. It wants global expansion, and Goat Islands is a small though not insignificant part of that global push.

Jamaica has pushed itself into its present position where its options are somewhere between few and none. Had our leaders scripted a path for us which included strong leadership and workable plans for our development, we would have been much farther along on the path of our overall development. Were our intelligentsia the sort to discern political fluff from economic reality we would be much closer to our ultimate goal.

Poverty and human development are still our calling cards, and it would do us well to grab at the Chinese development on Goat Islands.

The JLP ought to be scared of Paul Burke as PNP general secretary

Although the PNP's Paul Burke is no 'spring chicken', he can hardly be said to be among the PNP's geriatric club where the ideas for development in a fast-paced world have become as calcified as old bones.

In the period leading up the last election in 2011, the JLP were using their people for doing canvassing and not paying them, so they got the quality canvases that they deserved. Also in that period, the JLP were outgunned by the very active PNP enumeration machinery that had been turned on about two years before.

This time around I am informed that the JLP may again find itself out on a limb because it has no active election machinery in motion. With the highly activist Burke on board the PNP train, he is at a spot that, in the public eye, will negate any personal problems that are dogging him at this time.

Such is the nature of our politics. And please, in-between election cycles, forget about items like 'transparency' and 'openness'. Those are just the words coming from politicians, designed to soothe the consciences of the well-heeled, well-dressed (some of whom fought for invitations) as they sit at a ceremony at Jamaica House.

JLP Chairman Bobby Montague has hit out against Paul Burke sitting as chairman of the Social Development Commission (SDC) while occupying the post of PNP gen sec. A part of the press release issued on May 13 reads, "We noted Mr Burke's appointment as general secretary of the PNP, and in particular, the fact that he is now in charge of political strategy and mobilisation of the PNP for election purposes. This is a clear conflict of interest with his role as chairman of a public body specifically charged with responsibility for islandwide distribution of resources.

"Since his appointment as chairman of the SDC we had received complaints of politically branded persons being mobilised for attendance at SDC-supported functions, and already since his appointment as general secretary, we have started to hear of meetings of PNP personnel at SDC locations. Clearly this is wrong, and if allowed to continue, the SDC will become fully and overtly politicised again, as it was under previous PNP administrations, after having had its objectivity and credibility restored under the JLP."

I would have preferred if the press release had even given two examples of the 'objectivity and credibility' of the SDC restored under the last JLP Administration.

The JLP never seems to learn. In the 18 1/2-year run of the PNP it politicised everything. The JLP seems to believe that on a purely political basis, whenever it turns over or cleans up the political errors of the PNP, it is rewarded by the electorate when no such evidence of this reward process exits.

In other words, the JLP exists to create its own electoral demise in a nation where nasty politics is accepted as the norm. Does this mean that I am encouraging the JLP to practiae dirty politics?

No it does not. I am simply saying to the JLP that it must get active in its enumeration exercise and at least match the PNP with something, if not everything.

It is quite obvious that the PNP hopes to win the next elections with Portia Simpson Miller at the helm and have her do a PJ on the nation, that is, leave without being booted and arrange for a successor. Paul Burke is nobody's political fool and he will give full loyalty to Simpson Miller until it is time to turn it over to another man from the east.

Posted: Sunday, May 25, 2014 7:18:45 AM

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Is it OK to be tolerant of gays but be proudly heterosexual?


Sunday, May 25, 2014
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BAIN… should sue the University of the West Indies

Were I recently fired university professor Dr Brendan Bain, I would sue the University of the West Indies (UWI) for every penny that backward-thinking institution doesn't have.

The professor was fired for completing an affidavit used in a court case in Belize in which Caleb Orozco, a gay man, challenged the constitutionality of an 1861 law that criminalises men having sex with men.

From what I have read, empirical evidence would suggest that men who have sex with men have a much greater risk of contracting HIV than those who only indulge in 'normal' sex, that is, a man with a woman, the way sex, especially for procreation (but also recreation), was designed.

Hey, does it take a highly trained doctor to make such a declaration, seeing that unprotected sex in such a despicably foul environment as the anus, a passage meant strictly for defecation, is the perfect place to harbour bacteria, viruses and to the layman, just plain 'germs'?

The increasingly intolerant but very powerful gay lobby wants everyone to be tolerant of their lifestyle, which, as far as I am concerned, is their private business. The drawback is, mere tolerance of their purely recreational romp is not what they seek. What they really want is total silence from every heterosexual while they reserve the right to hit the podium and shoot down every person speaking up in favour of being 'normal'.

Apparently their discontent is that we heterosexuals are miserably failing to see the gay lifestyle as the new normal, so they continue to huff and puff and throw powder puffs, sticks and stones at everyone who fails to come out in support of them.

Riding on the misconception that Jamaica is a violently homophobic place, gays and the gay lobby continue to sidestep the reality that in excess of 90 per cent of violent acts against homosexuals are perpetrated by other homosexuals.

Tolerance for homosexuals has increased rapidly in Jamaica and even in my case, it was just about 15 years ago that I was against the repeal of the Buggery Act. Now, I am in favour of the State allowing men to do whatever they want to do with each other in the privacy of their bedrooms. I have no business peeping through people's keyholes, and I do not want anyone to spy on me when I close my bedroom door.

There are openly gay prostitutes parading in New Kingston at nights in some of the most outrageously foppish outfits, and in the past I have been propositioned. Did I hurl abuse at the gay prostitute? No, I found it quite comical and simply walked away to ponder the new reality of the Jamaica that had taken off in new directions.

Many civil society organisations that have used the gay issue in Jamaica as a human rights issue will, every so often, make their convenient noise on behalf of gays, not necessarily because the community is being wronged, but mostly because powerful, cash-rich North American and Western European groups fund them. It's all about the greenback.

Professor Bain must take out suit or be given back his job. It is no secret that may powerful organisations in Jamaica are peopled with homosexuals in key positions, but because they still cannot 'come out' in a Jamaica that is not ready for that radical culture shock, they use the lobby of their powerful friends abroad to bring pressure to bear on our local players.

Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, in her previous role in 2011 as opposition leader, opened a can of worms when she promised that a government formed by her would 'look at' the Buggery Act. Why did she do it, considering Jamaica's culture? Was that predicated on some powerful gay lobby group pumping significant funding into the People's National Party while it was on the hustings?

If tolerance has its limits, the recent pressure which brought about the firing of Bain will show us that when we bend too far backward to facilitate a group and a lifestyle that wants more than total acceptance, a little bit of 'useful intolerance' is not a bad thing.

The gay lobby wants to make noise while it wants us to embrace the lifestyle but shut up while doing so if praise for them is too hard a call to make.

How will Jamaica survive a mega-tsunami?

According to a May 15 article in the Independent out of Toronto, Canada headlined 'Mega-tsunami for Caribbean region', seismologists have been working on a model which is predicting the biggest ever tsunami in history.

It is predicated on the basis that there will be a volcanic eruption in the Canary Islands, those small islands just off the northwest coast of mainland Africa. Dr Simon Day of the Benfield Greig Hazard Research Centre at University College London has used his model to predict that "... a future eruption of the Cumbre Vieja volcano in the Canary Islands was likely to cause the western flank of the mountain to slide into the sea".

According to the article, "The monster wave generated by part of a mountain collapsing into the sea would be the biggest ever recorded and would be an unstoppable force, travelling at speeds up to 500 mph.

"The massive wall of water will likely make first landfall on the West Saharan coast of Morocco, where the wave could measure as much as 330 ft from trough to crest.

"The greatest destruction was nevertheless expected in the built-up coastal areas of the Caribbean, Florida, and Brazil...

"The tsunami could reach heights of 130 ft to 164 ft throughout the region and travel several miles inland, leaving a trail of destruction in its wake.

"The model predicts that after the landslide the tsunami would travel a distance of almost 155 miles in just 10 minutes and would reach the Caribbean and Florida in eight or nine hours."

According to the scientists, "The collapse will occur during some future eruption after days or weeks of precursory deformation and earthquakes.

"An effective earthquake monitoring system could provide advanced warning of a likely collapse and allow emergency management organisations a valuable window of time in which to plan and respond.

"Eruptions of Cumbre Vieja occur at intervals of decades to a century or so and there may be a number of eruptions before its collapse. Although the year-to-year probability of a collapse is therefore low, the resulting tsunami would be a major disaster with indirect effects around the world."

There is nothing quite as scary as an earthquake, and the Caribbean has been having a few tremors in recent months. I can remember in late 1988 just before the catastrophic Hurricane Gilbert devastated Jamaica, my two brothers and I were at a bar in the semi-rural Mount Salus when the ground beneath us began to shake. I was standing at the big doorway of the bar.

As the tremors seemed to accelerate, all the men inside the bar ran outside while all those who were just outside ran inside. I stood frozen in place, in fear, watching them. In a while all began paying their bills to head home or to pray. Fear was the main currency.

Jamaicans do not know what it is to be struck by a tsunami. It is said by some that when the great earthquake of 1692 struck Port Royal it was accompanied by a tsunami-like wave. The records indicate that the British colonial leaders in North America had issued words of sympathy for what had happened in Port Royal, but nothing they said support the idea that a tsunami was involved.

If there was indeed a tsunami, why was it so specific to Port Royal? Why did it not affect the city of Kingston and have major impact on the capital, then Spanish Town and environs, places within easy reach of a tsunami?

Frankly, I believe that it was sheer liquefaction from the massive quake which saw two-thirds of Port Royal disappearing beneath the sea.

The Goat Islands development would be history

Although there is no need for us to begin heading to the hills in preparation for a mega-tsunami, it is useful to note that should one strike the region it is hardly likely that with significant sections of the South Atlantic coastline of the USA impacted there will be any big aid coming our way.

Kingston and major sections of our built-up coastline towns and cities would be devastated. Portmore would be history.

An engineer who responded to my recent article about Goat Islands told me that engineering considerations alone will make the development a bad one.

"As you might notice, there are not only environmental challenges against the Goat Islands but practical engineering ones as well, such as being flooded by storm surges, as the JPSCo's Old Harbour power plant was during Hurricane Ivan.

"That part of the Bight is often over-run by storm surges. Climate change with the Antarctic ice now melting at a rate of nine billion tons/year, doubling from four years before (source BBC Tuesday), an accelerating rate.

"The proposed bridge may be destroyed by the storm water flow when submerged. Potable water supply, sewage disposal in a swampy area, oil and coal storage, etc must be addressed as well."

When I suggested that the Chinese could be considering the 'reclaiming' of land between the bridge connecting the islands and the mainland, the engineer said: 'Actually, no. They could not block that area by reclaiming it, because that's the place where the Salt Island Creek empties into the sea (look at a map), and blocking it would create a pocket where any vegetation washed down would tend to accumulate.

"'Plus, the minister says in Parliament they've applied in CHEC's request to place a bridge there. Furthermore, the current port location will most likely have to be eventually abandoned, due to the cumulative effects of climate change (sea level rise + storm surges from increased hurricane intensity) being at near sea level.

"When I asked Dr Fritz Pinnock last night if they were going to connect the island with a rail link in addition to the road bridge, he hesitated and said he supposed they should, having just delivered the lecture Logistics 101 wherein it was stressed that the port, the manufacturing areas and the airport should be right beside each other. He gave examples such as Mariel, Cuba, etc (complete with aerial photos) pointing out where the existing ports were abandoned and the thousands of acres were so contiguously available.

"He didn't see the contradiction in having the proposed Goat Island port separated by over 40km from the Vernam Field airport or the manufacturing areas as far away as he proposed...

"Look at the Macarry Bay location which I proposed in the analysis (attached .PDF file from Smith Warner International, port designers, etc), it got more points than Goat Island despite having to dredge a somewhat longer (12km) approach channel for the port because of the ease of land side construction, and other considerations. As well, it is within 4km of Vernam Field with more than 12 sq km ready for logistics facilities, it is connectable by rail overland from the existing Rocky Point spur line, and it is a short run from Highway 2000 to the north (a big plus in my opinion) though Smith Warner did not consider it is that stable -- the land is gradually a gentle slope from the 25 ft contour by the sea to miles inland at Vernam Field at 104 ft elevation, immune to hurricane storm surge and sea level rise!

"Goat Island as a choice of location for the port is just a bad deal, with little in it for us. The nearby land being swamp, Mitchell's Bog included.

"[Fritz Pinnock said the Chinese company that makes a significant part of the worldwide production of port container cranes will be on Goat Island. We simply do not have the internationally qualified workers to weld and otherwise assemble them. The only jobs that we could get in any quantity would be low-paying clean-up crews, and janitorial staff for the offices.

"Are you aware that the straddle carriers at the Port of Kingston have to be constantly repaired due to damage caused by the uneven settlement of the reclaimed land, going on even now? (I'm not too sure about what's happening to the port container cranes.) Just as the reclaimed land at Goat Island will do for the next many years."

The economy is in a slight uptick position but it is ever so delicate. We have no idea when the Canary Islands mountain will collapse into the sea and bring devastation to Jamaica. It could be the next five years or it could be in the next 100 years.

What we need to do is develop the country, rapidly build the economy and generate massive surpluses for any future mega-disasters that are sure to come. Otherwise, we are doubly dead.

Posted: Saturday, May 31, 2014 12:08:01 PM

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The confusing wedding of 'Bebe' and the PNP

Thursday, May 29, 2014 72 Comments
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The slain Kenley ‘Bebe’ Stephens rides a horse during Labour Day activities recently in West Central St James.

WHEN the cold, non-discriminating hand of death reached out for Kenley 'Bebe' Stephens last Sunday evening, his untimely passing had all of the elements of a hit. But it may not have been as untimely as some of us would like to think it was.

The People's National Party (PNP) activist and sub-cultural bon vivant of sorts was shot and wounded in November 2009 and, of course, he lived to tell the tale of his lucky escape. In his final date with life on Sunday evening he was at his gate with two men when a lone gunman approached and shot him then made his exit on foot. Unlike in 2009, when his car and other items were taken, the two men were untouched and nothing was taken, hence my reason for using the word 'hit'.

The question is why would someone want to harm someone who was lauded by PNP MP DK Duncan as having made a "significant contribution to the PNP, through the youth organisation and the West Central St James constituency".

On second thought, that may not be so much lauding Bebe as it is stating a fact.

Another fact, but one more generic and reminiscent of something that would emanate from the National Security Ministry, was stated in a release from the PNP in relation to Bebe's death. "The latest killing confirms that, while strides are being made in the fight against violent crimes and all criminality, we still have a long way in the journey to victory against criminals."

Michael Troupe, PNP councillor for the Granville Division, the stomping ground of Bebe, said: "It is a very sombre mood in Granville, everybody is mourning. Bebe was a very popular man in Granville and the entire St James."

For a man who was quietly installed in the executive of the PNP in the west, why has no one in the PNP executive attempted to canonise him, as we expect someone who made it there would have passed the rigorous integrity test that the PNP assured us would have been the norm in allowing entrance to its hallowed offices? The PNP told us this right before the 2011 election win. Or was the test only for those who were seeking to be elected? Certainly, if the recently deceased Bebe had met all of those tests of good standing and integrity we ought to have expected a much more strident condemnation of his death. Why is the PNP holding back?

In 2012, when Bebe was arrested, Superintendent of Police Leon Clunie said: "Bebe is one of the founders of the illegal lottery scam. He has been living a luxurious lifestyle, yet he has never, from our understanding, been employed in any of the services in Jamaica."

When the senior policeman uttered those words, to the best of my memory, no one in the PNP executive came out in Bebe's defence to say to Sup Clunie that he was making empty talk. So the question must be: how did Bebe move from PNP enthusiast to PNP activist to being PNP vice-president of the West Central St James constituency organisation?

Quite a step up, I would think. The PNP has to answer on the basis that, when Clunie made that statement in 2012, there was no response from the PNP categorically disputing it. No one from the PNP said that it was rumour- mongering.

Outside of the words of the senior policeman on the Lottery Task Force and the general talk on the streets of Montego Bay, nothing, to my knowledge, has ever surfaced to corroborate Clunie's statement. But Clunie is a senior investigator, not given to wild rantings.

As the party in power, and moreso as the party of Norman Manley, a man who was said to be of impeccable character and whose integrity was never questioned, one would not expect that the PNP would want to wait on clearance from the courts, to distance itself from someone whom the head of the taskforce investigating the illegal and oftentimes violent lottery scam described as "one of the founders".

Were the PNP serious about that promissory note to the nation, it would have immediately raised a red flag to its organisational machinery in St James about inviting such a person to sit on its executive.

I can well understand someone new coming along, all fired up in PNP tradition, wanting to be part of its leadership and executive. But, for someone The Star described on November 4, 2009 as "... well-known in the second city for parading around in his car with other flamboyant men while blaring raunchy music", plus having a senior policeman heading the lottery task force saying that the man was a founder of an illegal scam, surely now the PNP was more than warned.

The PNP has a history of being two-mouthed. A few years ago when Heather Robinson left representational politics after loudly stating that she was not prepared to "hug up gunman", that is, utilise as a part of her constituency organisation street 'toughs', there was not a single voice among all the PNP MPs to lend her any support.

Which PNP MP is now prepared to address the words stated by Leon Clunie, even as many are preparing in a few weeks' time to attend the funeral of their fallen hero who must have left behind loved ones to mourn him. They have genuine reasons to shed tears for him.

Which PNP MP is prepared to tell us that there is a time to embrace and there is also another time to cut that embrace with absolute finality?
Posted: Sunday, June 8, 2014 6:55:55 AM

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A fighting Holness and a cool, calculating Portia


Saturday, June 07, 2014
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HOLNESS... his stance in the House last week described as grandtstanding. At right: Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller and Energy Minister Phillip Paulwell in Parliament.

I rarely find myself in the position that I am moved to express agreement with either the words said or a stance taken by Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller.

Last week during a question-and-answer session in the House between herself and Opposition Leader Andrew Holness, I found myself siding with her in the verbal sparring over the failed EWI bid to build out a 381 megawatt gas-fired power plant.

Holness has obviously been released from what some saw as his comatose performance in the post-general election loss to the People's National Party (PNP) in 2011 and his need to prove that he has been re-made as an avenging angel, following his win over Audley Shaw in the race for Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) leadership.

The recent verbal fisticuffs in the House was not so much about the PNP's bungling and bowing to the Office of the Contractor General (OCG) and, more importantly, the way forward (again), as it was about Holness showing those who watched and listened that he has the 'right stuff' needed to make the PNP Administration a one-term Government.

In all areas of his brain, but especially in the forefront of his mind, must rest the imperative to stick to the PNP what the PNP stuck to him and the party he led in 2011. It may be said and even accepted that as much as the JLP under the leadership of Bruce Golding did well enough to stabilise the economy and maintain sound macroeconomic numbers in one of the most difficult periods in the history of the country (2007 to 2009), most other matters that were dealt with were almost designed to make the JLP a one-term Administration.

These were: keeping high-level PNP activists in key civil service positions to undermine the Government, more than a smidgen of governmental arrogance, the prime minister's active involvement in trying to decelerate the extradition of Jamaica's most powerful crime boss, the Government's bungling of the IMF agreement, and a highly public 'trial' of the JLP in the Manatt enquiry.

Once Golding threw in the towel and the party arranged the hurried entrance of Holness to the office of JLP leader and prime minister, the JLP was already a spent force.

That said, it is more than symbolic that to the public, it was Holness, as prime minister, who called the election too early. It was Holness who was prime minister when the JLP in the 2007 to 2011 period became the first one-term Government in Jamaica's history.

On the basis that no one had put a gun to his head and forced him to occupy those posts in the latter part of 2011, and the single one he now occupies as opposition leader, he is forced to own all of what went before and not just conveniently selected parts of it. That is what true leadership imposes on those who dare to go beyond the grand aspiration.

Many JLP supporters would have been proud of him as he stood up like the proverbial Jamaican 'bull bucker', stared down the PM and came across like an arrogant schoolboy unafraid of the imposition of a conduct detention by trying to prove in class that the aged teacher was too much into old, over-worn methods of teaching and theories.

For just a short time it reminded me of the latter part of 2006 when then Opposition Leader Bruce Golding made an ethically sound but politically impossible call for the then PNP Government to resign over the most shameful and embarrassing revelations in the Trafigura matter. Matters which still remain uninvestigated but deliberately stalled by the refusal of key PNP personnel to answer important questions.

What I saw in Holness was not his grand concern for the high electricity rates faced by manufacturers in this country struggling to maintain that nebulous 'level playing field' with their trading partners in the region and farther afield. I didn't see him making out a case for the householder paying a monthly light bill that moves one way while the pay packet remains the same, and what is left over purchases less than the month before.

What I sensed in the opposition leader was not so much a need to get answers to the important questions he asked or even his politically unlikely call to see Energy Minister Phillip Paulwell divested of his post. I saw in him his need to prove that he could stand up to the prime minister, screw up his face, lean forward and shout questions at Jamaica's first female prime minister.

It may have bordered on sheer rudeness, but he has been remade, and in the House, shouting, banging on desks and generally indecorous behaviour are the norm anyway. Plus, JLP supporters need to see him at what they may believe is the top of his game.

As the prime minister calmly answered his questions and sat down, it may have been lost on him that he bordered on winning a battle, even as she turned her face away from him, a much younger opposition leader who could afford a racing pulse beat.

It may be early days yet, but he knows that come the next elections it is likely that the calmer one with the slower beating heart who is herself certainly no stranger to being a combative person where it counts -- on the stump -- may just be setting him up for a war which he cannot win.

The stakes are high, but he knows that after a JLP loss in 2016 it is not so much the nation which will be unwilling to give him another shot at redemption, but inside his own party a long night of long knives will ensure that his continuation is made impossible. He has one shot, and last week's display was all about that crucial date with his political destiny.

The real facts on the energy situation

Planners in the OUR and those in the know, in big business, manufacturing, the 'thinking class,' journalism and a few among the general public recognise that come 2017, 249 megawatts of generating capacity will have to be retired.

This stock comprises Old Harbour units two, three and four, plus the old B6 at Hunts Bay. For years these units have been plastered over, sewn up, parts replaced and kept together somewhere between poorly efficient and highly inefficient. Come 2017, these units must be taken out. The scrap iron industry will be the better off for it.

There is, however, a caveat. The retirement of these units is predicated on the basis that by that time the country will have added 360 megawatts to bring the net capacity addition to 351 megawatts. In terms of the total capacity, the plan is to have the total generation at just below 950 megawatts with a respectable reserve capacity at 42 per cent.

Planners have to take into consideration many factors. Various levels of projected growth in the economy, the price of electricity, the trend in consumption patterns, urban drift and population growth are just some of the most obvious factors that would readily come to the fore.

It would be quite foolish if the JPS has about 950 megawatts of generating capacity with a reserve of 42 per cent, that is a safe margin over the peak demand, and no one came to the economic party. In plain language, the JPS and any other player in the energy generation market wants to sell what they manufacture.

Even the small shopkeeper in a deep rural district knows that if she stocks flour, rice, cornmeal, sugar, chicken back, saltfish, tinned mackerel, toilet paper, kerosene oil, coal, cigarettes, ganja and other goods that move fast, although on most of them the margins may be small, as long as the traffic moves, that is, the consumption patterns remain the same or increase, she may not get rich overnight but she will do a reasonably good job in surviving.

At the same time, she doesn't want to stock her freezer with beef, oxtail and goat meat when the price is guaranteed to automatically suppress the demand for the goods. She doesn't want to tie up her cash in dead stock which actually costs her each day just to keep them marketable while she cannot tag on any increase at the time of sale.

So JPS and any other player would not want to bring added capacity to the table while the economy remains in the doldrums, that is, there is no added wealth in households and business activity remains static. The energy players cannot afford to be caught with dead stock.

At the same time, the Government and its surrogate, the Office of Utilities Regulation, cannot afford a plan that does not include added generating capacity, no matter the extent to which Government brings bad policy to the table which does not attract investment. More importantly, added generating capacity along with cheaper rates will send a very powerful signal that this country is serious about doing business with new investors -- local and overseas.

Plus, the investors who are already here would dearly like to use some of the savings from cheaper rates of electricity to put into new capital investment.

The JLP messed up in 2010 when it bowed to the OCG

A politically weak Bruce Golding with few seats to play with in 2010 and some of the holders said to be citizens of other countries, had to govern as if he was walking barefooted on a concrete floor laid out with many shards of broken glass.

From 2010 onwards, he was susceptible to noise from the Opposition PNP, demands for greater power from JLP insiders with clout and, as agencies like the OCG made it known that it saw the Exmar consortium deal as unsound, Golding had to bow.

Plans made from 2010 were never realised, and just recently plans made for new capacity were again derailed, with the OCG again the destabilising agency.

What may not be known by the man at street level is that over the last four years demand for electricity has been on the decline! On second thought, with business activity at a basic standstill and poverty levels on the rise, this ought not to be any surprise.

Probably the only strong demand for electricity over the last five years or so has been among those who have been stealing it, as a somewhat suppressed anarchy works its way across Jamaica.

The JLP spokesman on energy, Karl Samuda, is in general agreement with the objectives recently taken by Energy Minister Phillip Paulwell, even if he hasn't dotted every i and crossed every t.

One assumes that Opposition Leader Holness appointed Samuda to the post, so, again I must ask the question, how can Holness so strongly question Paulwell's position when his own man has indicated agreement with Paulwell?

If the country has a life beyond the IMF, and it is serious about opening up business and making a firm attempt to link itself with the global supply chain re the logistics hub, energy requirements over the next 15 to 20 years must be based on four per cent growth year over year, at the very least.

Again, that assumes that government policy will indicate that an economic party is to be held and that those policies will automatically create the invitations to potential investors.

Political sparring in the House is a sideshow, and I agree with Prime Minister Simpson Miller that Holness's stance was mere grandstanding.

With a new energy committee formed by an old guard of the PNP, the onus is now on the PNP to prove that it is serious about its new direction, that is, if there really is one. The PNP has only a few months to prove to the nation that any new bidding process will go through to completion.

And if it doesn't, the opposition leader will have good reason to charge ahead, mow down, rail up and go much further than grandstand. His party bowed to the OCG in 2010. The PNP allowed the OCG to derail the EWI deal.

Oh, I forgot, I am sorry. The OCG is in the background just waiting to derail any new deal. Seems that that's what the office is best at.

Meanwhile, the country limps along in its failure to find its collective strength, the kind of strength Jamaicans discover and display once they leave our shores for good.


Lottery scam has enriched a few and destroyed the vulnerable


Sunday, June 01, 2014 17 Comments
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Suspected lottery scammers in Montego Bay being taken into police custody.

IT was in the late 1990s that someone first attempted a scam via e-mail with me. The e-mail said that I was selected in an Internet lottery and had won a two-week Caribbean cruise for two. A phone number was given.

I called the number genuinely believing the e-mail. I gave the sweetly sounding female voice which answered my name and told her what it was about. "Is this genuine?" I asked.

"Oh, very definitely, sir. Would you like to speak to one of our supervisors?" she said.

As I was connected a male voice said, "Are you seeking clarification on the trip or are you telling us that you won't be able to make it?" Then I heard voices in the background as one would hear in an office setting. "Hold a minute, our manager is here, I'll let you speak with him."

In about a minute I was connected to another male voice. The man sounded 'important' and convincing, as if he had a thousand things to do. "Yes," he said. I explained to him. In the background I heard him saying, "Is that the Wignall file? Let me have it."

I waited for a few seconds then he said, "What seems to be the problem, sir?" Again, I said I just wanted to know if the trip was genuine. He told me it was and mine was just one of hundreds that they process for the year. Then he transferred the call to another 'supervisor'. "Sir, thanks for your enquiry. I just need some processing information. I take it you will be carrying along company, your wife or girlfriend maybe?"

"Yes," I said.

"We have two dates in the coming month," she said. She gave me the options and I settled with the latter. "Now, I will need your full name, the full name of the person you will be taking." I gave her the information.

"I'll need your credit card number, sir."

I wasn't prepared to give any such information to any stranger. "I am sorry, I don't have a credit card," I said.

The line went stone dead.

The first time I was made aware that a lottery scam was on in earnest in Montego Bay was in the early to mid-2000s. In 2006 and 2007 when I was spending time at fancy hotels on the north coast I would leave the luxury of the hotel early in the morning, Chupski fast asleep, and head for the grittiest areas on the periphery of Montego Bay.

Downtown Montego Bay has never been one of my favourite places because it is difficult to navigate by car. If one is not familiar with the one-ways, one will find oneself trapped even while trying to leave to head back out.

In many of the depressed inner-city pockets, one name kept on cropping up and the young men who told me were not even hiding it. People pressed into generational poverty and dense inner-city living where everyone knows everyone else's business eventually develop their own cultural mores.

Abstracting light illegally from JPS is a 'duty', and poor people, they say, must live like anyone else. If a few greedy Americans want to believe the lie that they have won US$5 million in a lottery and they are willing to pay over processing fees in collecting, say US$30,000, then let them pay and let poor black people who are smarter than they are get the benefits.

I had a most difficult time trying to find one who would agree that the practice was wrong, and in any case, I played along so that the information kept flowing.

One young man took me to a small hotel where the parking lot was filled with 'crissas' -- brand new cars. But that was nothing strange on the north coast. What was different was the inside of the hotel (about 20 rooms) at the bar where not one white-skinned person was to be seen.

Now, it is not abnormal for some of the smaller, less upscale hotels to be populated with locals stealing some vacation time on the north coast. But at that bar were men, young men, all in a party mood and most dressed quite effeminate and acting very 'palsy-walsy' with each other.

I left after one drink and wandered down to the beach. There were other men there too, curiously, quite young, in their late teens and early 20s, I would guess. The beach area was filled with jet skis and some of the fellows were riding them wildly and whooping in enjoyment.

As I left, the information I had gathered was that the men were scammers and that they had rented the particular hotel for a whole month!

Taking the Lottery win bait

I must confess that I find it mind-boggling that someone with say, US$200,000 in a bank account could part with $150,000 of it, all in an effort to collect a lottery 'win' of US$5 million. The scammers are quite skilled at what they do once they get the lead lists from their conspirators working close to or who are a part of the US system.

They tend to take the collection in bits and pieces, extending the storyline as it unravels. A banking glitch; US$10,000. A processing complication; US$5,000. A new transfer law just announced; US$15,000 and it goes on and on.

At some stage the person who took the bait is so far into it that the thought of cutting all contact and losing all that had been previously sent fades into insignificance as the psychology drives the focus towards what has to be the ultimate prize -- the US$5 million 'won.' They force themselves into believing that 'the win' must be authentic.

While they send more funds, the local fellows whoop it up and spend in wild abandon.

In 2012 we were told by the head of the Lottery Scam Task Force that the scammers were in retreat as the new law enacted in 2009 had them under serious pressure. The reason I have always had faith that that law would yield results is that Jamaica was twinning its efforts with those of the US law enforcement authorities.

The problem with our policing is oftentimes woeful lack of resources. So the long haul that is required to investigate carefully is sometimes either cut short, and no conviction can come from the arrests. In other words, there is a lot of noise at the stage where suspects are arrested but a silent whoosh when they are freed in the courts.

With the US law enforcement agencies, resources are placed behind investigations and it is not unusual for five years to elapse before a solid case is built. In Jamaica our police do not have the resources to spend over that time.

There is another murder around the corner and there are family members stabbing up each other.

Some years ago, in the mid- to late 1990s, I met a man in a bar in the eastern part of the island. He told me he had wanted to speak with me for some time. Previously he had been involved in a popular local vocation that had corruption as its fellow traveller and he was a main player as a professional in the industry. He told me a story of a time in the 1980s when he was involved in exporting ganja.

It was on a remote beachfront and a line and harness had been arranged. By arrangement, a small two-seater Cessna swooped down and using a hook mechanism snatched the package of compressed weed while dropping a briefcase of cash.

As the plane flew off and he collected his cash, which he placed in the trunk of his car on the beach, suddenly there appeared out of the nearby bushes about 12 policemen. He sat in the car as the policemen approached. Arrogantly he told them to keep out of 'big man business'. He said that the first sign he observed that they were confused was when they began looking at each other and at the boss cop.

They ordered him to exit the car. Again he utilised an arrogant stance, doing so somewhat impatiently. "Is what, onnu want, some cash?" Then he went to the back of the car, opened the trunk and extracted a wad of US bills. As he walked back to the open door of the car, he entered, shut the door, started the engine, threw the cash in the air and drove off.

He told me that it was the funniest sight he ever witnessed as he gazed in his rearview mirror and saw the policemen chasing the cash fluttering in the light wind coming off the sea.

US law enforcement agencies will give you rope to hang yourself

At the time I met him, he said he had been caught abroad by the FBI but had been 'turned', that is, they had made a deal with him, had sent him back home and it was his duty to inform on other players who were exporting weed to the US mainland. For that he was paid US$35,000 per year plus bonuses.

As we spoke he glanced nervously around him. From that time until now I have gathered a fair idea (from the outside, at least) of how the US law enforcement agencies operate with our people.

In, say, the Lottery scam, would it not be plausible for investigators to themselves scam a scammer? It would go something like this. Target the one who is seen as the biggest player. Get him behind closed doors. Show him the hard, damaging evidence you have on him. Point out to him the near impossibility of him escaping extradition and a long sentence in a US prison. Cut a deal with him.

And here is the deal. Continue your scamming, but every now and then give us info on one or two others who are trying to upstage you.

There are, of course, dangers involved. If some of the other players should discover your surreptitious deal, you are as good as dead. If important people who have aligned themselves with you should uncover your 'misdeeds', they may wish to see you dead because the thought of you cutting another deal after extradition will give them sleepless nights.

We can recall the pictures of Dudus when he was captured. He bore a look of relief which said that he dearly wanted to be in the custody of the US authorities. The other look spoke volumes of what he thought would have been his fate had he been taken in alone and locked up for an extended period in a Jamaican jail. Curtains!

The lottery scammers are the easiest people for law enforcement agencies to investigate, build a solid case against, arrest and convict. Why? They live too large.

One youngster who was involved was shot dead at 16 and at that age he was worth J$60 million. The scammers operating on the north coast do not do business in Jamaican dollars. It's the greenback all the way.

I agree that the scammers are on the retreat. They have to be. Too much has happened.

-- observemark@gmail.com

Damion Crawford saying many of the right things


Thursday, June 05, 2014 22 Comments
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Damion Crawford saying many of the right things

It is said that people who make no mistakes tend not to make or do anything at all. So within an hour of Jamaica Labour Party Chairman Bobby Montague issuing a press release calling him out for using the offensive term 'dutty Labourites' to describe JLP supporters during a speech to PNP supporters in the East Kingston and Port Royal constituency, Damion Crawford, a People's National Party member of Parliament and junior minister, had issued his apology.

"I would like to apologise unreservedly for a most unfortunate comment that I made at a political meeting in East Kingston and Port Royal in reference to the Opposition. It is clear that I got carried away and reverted to negative language that has been used in the past by both political parties. This ought not to be part of any vocabulary, going forward, by me or anyone else. I pledge to never allow this kind of utterance to escape my lips in the future as I try to make a positive difference in my country."

A small but not insignificant irony is that, even before the apology was considered and digested, the CAPI Facebook page - made up mostly of Labourites - exploded in a most disgusting verbal demonstration of cussing PNP supporters who visited the site. Everything from one's presumed sexual preference to one's imagined lack of material possessions was fair game. The irony was, as the FB vituperation was taking place and the participants were giving full credence to the term used by the junior minister, someone had forgotten to tell them that CAPI meant Citizens' Action for Principle and Integrity.

I no longer visit Facebook, but as the nasty messages were being pushed to my iPhone, as soon as I deleted they kept piling on. The irony totally escaped those blissfully ignorant political fanatics.

Damion Crawford has been doing something that politicians are seemingly afraid of doing - laying out the unvarnished truth to his constituents, spelling out their individual responsibilities and challenging them to be better than they are. The typical Jamaican politician is quite uncomfortable with that, preferring instead to tell the people that 'nice times' will 'come back again', like Mr Crawford's party did in the campaign leading up the 2011 General Election, when not many of the voters under 45 years old knew what nice times meant - either socially or economically.

In a speech made since Crawford made his gaffe, he has been telling his constituents that if their children go to school and waste their time behind the school building "kicking box ball", they have no one else to blame but themselves. Contrast that with the typical politician always on a quest to placate the poor, make them feel sorry for themselves, and promising them that additional benefits will be available for the oversized brood of children some of them will produce.

Crawford challenged one of Jamaica's most sacred institutions — concubinage — when he made mention of two people, each paying $15,000 per month rental, obviously from separate residences, yet they are lovers. To Crawford, should they get married and share one rental, that extra $15,000 would be available for the children's education. Not quite as simple as that, but the principle still holds.

Crawford reached out to his constituents in an effort to make them see themselves as economic forces and financial giants when he said that each of them had the capacity to be the next Butch Stewart, in the Jamaican context - the most stunning example of a self-made man; moving from a man repairing second-hand AC units to being the holder of one the highest valued and rated resort properties in this side of the world.

It is said that when Andrew Holness, as prime minister just before the last elections, told the people the truth about "bitter medicine" to come, the people voted in significant numbers against him. To me, it was much more than that. The JLP was 'spoilt goods' after the Dudus matter and the highly publicised Manatt inquiry. In addition to that, Holness as prime minister was an unknown. How could he have prevailed against the "people's champion", Portia Simpson Miller?

And therein lies the difference. The thing I have noticed about Crawford is that he has that rare ability and capacity to hurl barbs at his own people but to touch their consciences in such a manner that they love him for doing so. Not all politicians are similarly blessed.

Holness cannot do it and get away with it. Portia doesn't have to do it because all she has to do is show up. But Damion Crawford has found a political recipe that he can take to every marginal constituency over the next few months and win the PNP the next local government elections. Well, it is still early days, but one senses that Crawford is not using his delivery as electoral ploy. One senses that he is saying what he has been saying because he senses that it is long overdue in saying. The geriatric politicians will not learn anything from him, but it doesn't matter. Their time is over. Crawford's time is now.

In pure electoral terms the JLP ought to be scared of the likes of Damion Crawford, because they do not have anyone among them that naturally has that political approach. Crawford can step up to his political podium, point out the shortcomings of his constituents; but in challenging them to be bigger than they are at present, they leave the meeting with new ideas and greater possibilities of themselves. Indeed, it may even egg them on more than usual, especially younger voters, to support him and the party of which he is a part.

I am not making out Damion Crawford to be the next great political messiah, but in a nation of people where we have grown used to seeing ourselves as underperformers in our own land, the time, I think, is ripe for Crawford's 'revolution of the mind'.

On Tuesday, when I pointed out to a low-level JLP activist that Crawford had warned his constituents that when he speaks of revolution he didn't want any of them to go out and "sharpen cutlasses", instead, he was talking of a radical change of mindset, my JLP 'bredrin' said: "A lie dat. Di country want some violence!"

"And if your children die in this armed revolution, what then?" I asked.

"Who haffi dead haffi dead!" he said in obvious frustration that his party just can't quite seem to find its political footing at the polls.

I said to him: "When I was in my 20s I harboured much of those thoughts. Right now, I prefer Damion Crawford's style of revolution. My only problem is that, in his party, he may only be an army of one."


Posted: Saturday, July 12, 2014 8:32:07 AM

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Clarity Needed


Sunday, July 06, 2014 25 Comments
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BUNTING… needs to go back to his office and consult with his best scriptwriters (at left) ELLINGTON… will retire after his vacation leave

According to the educator with a PhD in Mathematics, placing every child who takes GSAT in the secondary school system -- from a 'no-name' junior high to top institutions like Immaculate and Campion -- is perpetuating an evil because it does not allow any child to fail.

"I came from a terribly disadvantaged home. Never knew my father, my mother bought and sold everything she could and died early from the stress of it. It was left up to my grandmother who plodded along until the sheer strain of poverty killed her. After that I was bouncing around from uncle to aunt to friend of the 'family' until I as a child found myself homeless. I had to fend for myself on the streets but there was something inside of me which told me that school had to be a part of my childhood," the educator said.

Many of the youngsters he ran around with were themselves from broken homes, and the easiest thing to do was forget about school. "Of course, all of them grew up and became men. The majority of them took up the gun and were eventually killed, either by the police or other gunmen like themselves," he added.

He grew up in the belly of the beast, that is, adjacent to the Kingston waterfront, and attended one of the primary schools which was in shouting distance of the home for the criminally hardened -- that high-walled fortress known as General Penitentiary (GP).

"It was always a joke among some adults when I was growing up. Many said it was the lucky ones from these primary schools who ended up at high schools like KC, Wolmer's or JC. The majority would 'pass' Common Entrance and eventually 'graduate' to GP.

"The first time I took the Common Entrance I failed, but I was quite young. When I took it the second time I failed again. By that time my only option was the Technical Entrance exam which was more difficult but by that time, between the first failure and taking the Technical Entrance exam, I had sharpened up, gained some badly needed focus and realised that my natural strength was in the STEM -- science, technology, engineering and math -- areas. I passed and eventually got a higgler friend to stitch together some uniforms for me so that I would be presentable in school."

His tale is an epic one of living on the streets and surviving beyond all odds, but that is for another time. The focus now is on the usefulness of failing. "At the least, if the child has guidance, firstly from parents but mostly from teachers, the weak points can be worked on. The buzzword in the education ministry is now STEM or even STEAM with the A meaning the arts. The fact is, it is all buzz because there is no money to pay for it.

"We cannot just want to focus on this new STEAM without putting in place the schools that will be equipped to deal with it and the teachers who are properly trained. The way the system is set up now, every child 'passes' and is placed in the secondary school system. The truth is, many of them are ill-prepared for that system. Were they allowed to fail, the necessary stimulation and retraining in their weaknesses would be done in the primary schools. At the secondary school level, it is much too late, and by that time the clash happens between frustrated and confused students and totally confounded teachers."

According to my PhD friend, the worst of it is that the teachers at the primary school level, especially in the socially disadvantaged communities, have no real impetus to put out anything extra because he or she knows every child is going to be placed at some level in the secondary school system.

"That is the real tragedy. Too many of the teachers simply accept that the children 'head tough', so they just go through the motions and none of the children are allowed to fail," he said.

Just recently I examined the GSAT results from a primary school in the 'belly of the beast', that is, in the heart of downtown Kingston. Just under 25 students sat the GSAT and only two were placed at brand-name high schools. The top student, a girl, scored 92 per cent on average and the other, a boy, scored 79 per cent.

Only two students were placed in STEM schools, that is technical high schools, but the marks scored indicate that the two children are far from ready to attend technical high schools.

In Math and Science the average was 62 per cent and 67 per cent, hardly marks that would indicate readiness for those subjects at a much higher level. Students who were placed in junior high scored around 32 per cent on average and the real shock, those who were placed in non-brand-name high schools averaged out at less than 40 per cent.

When a child leaves the primary school system with a 40 per cent scoreline and enters high school of whatever brand, that is a recipe for disaster.

If what the education ministry is saying is that 'John Brown High' will only accept students who scored between 37 per cent and 44 per cent, then if the theory could hold true, specialist teachers could be placed on roster to deal with them. But that cannot be the main aim of teaching in high school. A few remedial classes, yes, but certainly not the main focus of the school.

If 'John Brown High' also accepts students who scored in the high 60 per cent and low 70 per cent, isn't it more the reality that the general teaching will be more in catering to the 37 per cent to 44 per cent until those in the 70 per cent fall to the lower level?

It is an ideal that schools like Immaculate and Campion have made no pretence about. Those schools simply do not accept 'tough-headed' pupils and five years later turn out students who top the exams at grades 12 and 13. The teachers in those schools are all fired up and so are the students. The result of the synergy with parental involvement is a general happiness for all involved until the next headache is presented in finding fees for tertiary education.

On the opposite side of that approach would be the schools that only accept the 40 per cent. The teachers become practised in a destructive rote and the students go along for the ride. Five years later, those students who are still in the system can hardly navigate their way through basic algebra and English Language.

"At the primary school level we must make the decision that ultimately, education of our children must be about making them prepared for a world where, to varying degrees, they will be able to survive as viable adults," said my friend.

"Very few will be able to make the cut to engineers and doctors, so at the primary level we must utilise the 'art of failure' to determine where their individual strengths are. This is where the country needs the intervention of vocational schools."

Security minister has to clear the air

A Gleaner story which stated the Commissioner Ellington was removed from his post because overseas funders of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) had become disillusioned with his leadership in stemming extrajudicial killings is not holding up much water with the man at street level.

"Look how long police a kill man an' a plant gun pon dem an' a seh shoot-out," said one man to me recently. "Den a dat mek dem tek wey him visa?"

I told him that there was no hard confirmation on Ellington losing his visa, and also that maybe the overseas funders who pump significant sums in assisting the JCF had become fed up. "Maybe they needed to send a message to Ellington, but mainly to any other commissioner who came along," I said.

"No sah. Mi nuh believe dat. A something happen sudden or a something whey man an man a check pon from a longer time back," he said in response.

People's National Party (PNP) administrations tend to do a much better job of shrouding controversial developments than Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) governments because it is the nature of the PNP to be more united in attempting to secure its credibility and next win at the polls. In similar situations, the JLP tends to rip itself apart at the seams.

Security Minister Peter Bunting now needs more than divine intervention to get the Ellington removal story painted in a credible light. The rumours are flying every which way and many of them are unflattering. What is obvious is that the initial reasons given by Ellington -- maybe scripted in tandem with the security ministry -- have not 'taken' and cannot hold. The other reason, that Ellington has failed in controlling extrajudicial killings, seems to have been vetted by an embassy in Jamaica.

That, too, has not gripped the public as being credible. One woman on Thursday said to me, "If a di police killing, why the US no ask fah Mr Bunting fi leave fi him post? Why dem nuh tek weh fi him visa? Watch yah. Dem a hide something but dem can't fool wi too long."

Minister Bunting needs to go back to his office and consult with his best scriptwriters. And they need to secure the movie rights to the final production.

With the rumours that more visas are to be revoked, the times are reminiscent of the Dudus saga when visas were indeed revoked. The Americans are very much aware how much we treasure that precious document, whether one is minister of government or fledgling gunman.

I expect that either this weekend or early next week it will all come out in the wash.


The Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Commission responds


Thursday, July 10, 2014 1 comment
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Lottery sales hit nearly $1 b for Sundays, holidays in 1Q

In response to my column of Sunday, June 29 headlined 'How could the BGLC not see this coming?' I made contact with the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Commission (BGLC) to get a fuller picture of what was happening after my article indicated that it appeared that the BGLC was open to offering the newest player on the block, Goodwill Gaming Enterprise Limited, a free pass on the normal due diligence exercises that the commission would be expected to uphold.

I made telephone contact with the executive director of the BGLC and e-mailed him a set of questions which I believed would settle the matter as to whether or not Goodwill was being given a free pass. The executive director and I also had a few telephone conversations in which he expressed more than disquiet that his reputation was being tarnished and the suspicion that there were certain unnamed players in the socio-business landscape who had a vested interest in doing so.

In essence, two distinct things happened. The first is, one person who was named as director of Goodwill but who was apparently excised because of certain problems with the Financial Services Commission called me on the telephone. He said hello and I responded likewise and before we both knew it, the telephone conversation was at an end. Why did he call me?

The more important part of the exercise was the contact I made with Jack Shirley, executive director of the BGLC. He insisted that he was open to all questions and I utilised the opportunity to ask him those questions which I believed would attempt to bring clarity to the matter.

One troubling matter which arose when I wrote the article surrounded the question as to him making a trip abroad which some saw as him taking part in a 'junket'. My question to him was whether this trip was approved by the relevant governmental agencies. I saw documented evidence which indicated that the trip was approved by both the financial and cabinet secretaries.

Another important question was whether he or any other senior member of the BGLC was aware of the court case in Aruba which involved Goodwill Gaming. He answered, 'Yes.'

I made an error in suggesting to him that prior to the licence being offered to Supreme Ventures there was a 'public hearing' instead of a public notice or intent to issue a licence. Because of this I asked him why was there no such similar situation with Goodwill. He stated, "A public hearing is not an international standard or practice for the conduct of granting a lottery licence."

When I asked the question: "In light of the questionable information easily available on two of the directors of Goodwill that clearly disqualify them as fit and proper, what does the BGLC plan to do?" he answered, "We have no documentary evidence to disqualify any licensee's directors."

He stated the following: "The Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Act stipulates the process in the granting of licences and is not influenced by third parties as a precedence. As the public authority the commission must ensure that the decisions it takes in respect of its licences are not capricious, unreasonable or disproportionate and, among other things, can objectively justify a different stance if there are peculiar circumstances which existed at that time."

According to Mr Shirley, for those who believe that something is questionable in the present instance, ...then I do believe that the appropriate course of action is to lodge a complaint to the OCG for the appropriate remedy and I would welcome it."

He said, "The commission has followed scrupulously its guidelines in granting licences for the conduct of lottery games after the conduct of background checks according to international standards. To date three private licences have been granted and neither of the applicants was subject to a public hearing as no such requirement is stipulated or recommended by the BGLA."

In investigations made, one international firm specialising in due diligence checks on potential operators of lottery licences said: "Where operation of a state lottery is franchised to a private operator, rather than a State-owned operator, the UK provides a good example of the fact that a thorough due diligence process is conducted both before and on a regular basis after the licence is awarded. This should be the practice of any responsible regulator.

"Where private lotteries are permitted in jurisdictions with established licensing and regulatory regimes in place, a thorough due diligence process is involved (again, both before and after a licence is granted), although there is no consistency whether:

* notice of the licence application is given to the public and/or

* opportunity is given to the public to object and/or

* hearings are held (whether in private or in public.)"

My contact with the executive director of the BGLC has opened up the door for those who believe that an unfair advantage was being given to Goodwill to make their case either to the OCG or indeed to the very BGLC.

It also ensures that the potential new operators on the block, Goodwill Gaming Enterprises, will be subject to the same public 'openness' as happened with the biggest player on the gaming landscape, Supreme Ventures Limited.

The new openness forces both the BGLC and potential players and competitors to bring their cases forward before the court of public opinion and judgement.

Lastly, when I posed the question to Mr Shirley as to whether the directors of the BGLC were subject to the same due diligence (at the time of their appointment) as would be applied to new lottery players on the block, he replied, "On engagement, all employees' and directors' names are submitted to the Revenue Protection Division (RPD) of the Ministry of Finance for background checks to be conducted as a matter of course."

I expect that the matter regarding Goodwill will take on an openness even moreso than before. Plus, the executive director has said that those who have grouses have the option of making their cases to the OCG.

Posted: Thursday, August 21, 2014 4:26:27 PM

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Politicians hiding the truth about the job market



Sunday, August 17, 2014 30 Comments
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A section of the crowd of applicants who turned up for a hiring exercise in Portmore, St Catherine, recently.

CYNTHIA didn't do too well in school so she was an ideal candidate for a poorly paid job in the back office of a bookshop. Almost two weeks on the job, she has been absent for three days and is about to be told to go home and never return.

Foolish young woman who, at 17 years old, has already prepared herself for stepping down in life. A few months before she was relating to me the horrors of older men making her offers of cash in exchange for sex and also telling me that she didn't want to work as a bar maid. Now, based on her work ethic, it seems that even that job would be too much for her.

"I was having belly pains with my period and I couldn't go to work," she said. As if she didn't already know I told her that her period is a natural part of a woman's life and that she will have to structure her life to deal with monthly cramps.

"Are you planning to be absent three, four days every month and still expect to get paid?" She gesticulates as if to signify 'whatever'.

I told her that landing an eight to four job in these times is like gold. "I know people with two university degrees who cannot find jobs. The world of work is changing and employers are no longer willing to offer on-the-job training. People who land jobs now will have to begin to add value from day one. You were lucky, but you still don't know it."

She then asked me to lend her $6,000 to purchase a mobile phone. "How will you pay me back when you are certain to be fired?" was my query.

"You don't have to worry, I will find it," she responded. I told her that I will lend her the funds, but only when she returns to work and determines that her job is secure. That was two weeks ago and I haven't heard from her since.

Recently, I posed a question to the moderator of the Caribbean Online forum, Trevor Campbell, in relation to the rapidly changing face of employment in the global marketplace.

I said: "I have been following this subject with much interest for a number of reasons. One, no local politician from either the PNP or the Opposition JLP has dared to make an attempt to address this issue.

"Two, as a journalist who operates at 'street level' I have been trying to convey to many young people who constantly approach me either looking for paid employment or just asking about 'weh di wuk deh' and where are the factories in or near their communities to provide them with jobs. It is with much pain that I am forced to tell them that eight to four work is a thing of the past."

With this new global push towards a 'jobless recovery', especially where one robot can replace 10 or so workers, I am wondering if capitalism in this new era is not creating its own demise.

New, increased, robotic production. More efficient production. More goods in the marketplace. So, with a significantly decreased population of viably employed people, who will be the consumers to purchase this huge influx of cheaper commodities? Is everyone suddenly going to have to become a skilled engineer in robotics?

The response is one I believe deserves study by our policymakers, especially those younger ones who know the truth but are being forced to conceal it from a nation of people who are often confounded that job creation is just not happening.

"Mark, your insightful observations and probing questions are on target! In reference to the silence of the politicians on this issue, you might have noticed what Hilbourne Watson and I said in our recent article titled 'Reparations campaign distracts from challenges facing Caribbean' (StaBroek News.com, Aug 11, 2014):

"The fact that the Caribbean intelligentsia and the Caricom leaders are so preoccupied with the past is reflective of a lack of any clear understanding of the process that is unfolding at the global level and what this implies for the future of the region.

"We suggest that the main focus of the Caribbean intelligentsia and the young people in the region should be the discussion of the process that is unfolding, whereby living labour (workers) is being replaced by machines as the latest strategy by capital to increase both the mass and rate of surplus (unpaid) labour. In other words, the aim of capitalists is to produce a greater mass of commodities with less labour.

"Our challenge is to struggle to bring to an end economic exploitation and capitalism. To begin to see this as our real priority could change the terms of discourse and leave behind us the despair and distraction that reparations represent.

"In regards to the implications of the robotics revolution, several of us [on this forum] have made the following points:

"The robotics revolution is laying the material base/foundations for a post-capitalist society. In other words, if we are going to have production with little or no direct human labour, then there will have to be distribution without money, in order for the commodities to be consumed by the majority of the population. This type of economic arrangement would bear little or no resemblance to the process of capitalist accumulation. In other words, while the values of the commodities are determined within the production process (the socially necessary labour time that is required to produce any particular commodity) these values that are embedded within the commodities can only be realised when the commodities are sold/exchanged for money.

"As the study of the history of social change reveals: Economic revolutions set the stage for social and political revolutions. In this respect, the robotics/digital revolution is no different. This economic revolution -- undoubtedly the most far-reaching in human history — is creating a massive global surplus population that are now being viewed as superfluous to the needs of capitalist production. The challenge, therefore, facing the various managers of the capitalist state is how to effectively contain or destroy this population.

"This is perhaps how we can begin to explain what is occurring in places such as Ferguson, Missouri, and the Gaza Strip. In other words, these concrete class struggles/battles are among the birth pangs of a new civilisation that is struggling to be born. Without a sizeable, globally-oriented cadre of highly informed midwives that are capable of explaining, in clear terms, each stage of the birth process, as it unfolds, and are able to provide effective political leadership for these struggles, humanity faces the prospect of sliding deeper and deeper into barbarism.

"I hope this helps to clarify some of the important questions/issues that you have raised."

Dr Cole's dry dock project on target

Amid the political noise and feel-good speeches during Independence, there was the voice of reason and man of action in my friend, Dr Lloyd Cole, convenor/founder of International Dry Dock Services and Allied Facilities. One essential part of an important MOU read as follows:

"Memorandum of Understanding on possession of land between International Dry Dock Services and Allied Facilities & SCJ Holdings Limited

"This Memorandum Of Understanding is hereby made and entered into by SCJ Holdings Limited, with its registered office situated at Lot #12 Innswood, Old Harbour Road, Spanish Town, in the parish of St Catherine (hereinafter called SCJH) of the first part and International Dry Dock Services and Allied Facilities, with its registered office situated at 139 Old Hope Road, Kingston 6, in the parish of St Andrew (hereinafter called IDSAF) of the second part and collectively IDSAF and the SCJH are hereinafter called "the parties" on the 8th day of August of 2014.

"Purpose: The parties are desirous of formalising this Memorandum of Understanding to establish and outline a clear framework of cooperation in relation to the implementation of the Dry Dock Project. This project will significantly impact the country's industrial and economic progress, hence has received strong endorsement from the Government of Jamaica and corporate bodies. The SCJH will be granting IDSAF the right to be in possession of 279.0826 hectares and being part of land contained and registered in Certificate of Title recorded at Volume 1304 Folio 620, and being that area outlined on the attached sketch map in Appendix One of the shape and dimension as appears in said sketch map of lands located in Jackson Bay, Clarendon, to conduct their pre-feasibility studies for the construction of a major commercial marine dock and servicing facility on the said lands.

"The partnership established in terms of this framework agreement and subsequent agreements is an unincorporated association with the exclusive purpose of making the lands available for the implementation of this project."

As always I offer my heartiest congratulations to all involved and especially to Lloyd Cole for moving one step closer to making the dry dock a reality. Dr Fritz Pinnock, executive director of the Caribbean Maritime Institute, another man of action and a straight-talker, wrote to Dr Cole and said: "I greet with the richest blessings. This is to the point and in order. You have my support."

Posted: Sunday, August 31, 2014 8:53:44 AM

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Andrew Holness would make an excellent school principal


Thursday, August 28, 2014
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Andrew Holness speaking with supporters at the JLP demonstration in Half-Way-Tree on Monday condemning the recent increase in bus fares.

ON Monday, when JLP leader Andrew Holness moved outside of his comfort zone, actually stole some time from behind a safe desk, went out into the sunlight, and spoke to a shrunken community of his own political people in Half-Way-Tree, and did so outside of a real upcoming election season, it occurred to me that it was the very first time in his political life that he had ever agitated at the public level for anything.

And he is Opposition leader?

What is it that made Alexander Bustamante the founder of the JLP? His agitation at the level of penning strident letters to newspaper, and his lack of fear in actively and physically standing up at the political podium long before he was 'party political' on behalf of the poor, dispossessed, and voiceless, challenging the ruling authority existing at the time.

What is it that made Norman Manley? The timeliness of him living at the same time as Busta. Let us face it. As much as I believe Bustamante, the consummate rabble-rouser, was the most successful political opportunist that this country has ever seen, had he not been there while Norman Manley, the erudite lawyer, was in his prime, there would have been no need for Manley to be anything other than the best lawyer in the country and make a fortune out of doing so.

But Manley and others founded a political party in light of Busta's activism, practised the art of political posturing on the stage and, with the socio-political synergy which resulted, he was never afraid to give up his professional calling and dedicate his life to something much bigger than himself, but which needed his active involvement in the ultimate outcome.

In other words, in considering our list of heroes, Manley and Busta mutually fed off their respective energies and created their larger-than-life pictures.

But here it is that, with our country once again in economic trouble and mired in social tensions, Andrew Holness and remnants of active Labourites — probably about 1,200 of them — met in Half-Way-Tree to say some things about the increase in fares in public transportation and talk about the evils of the ruling party, and after that many people found they had no interest in what Holness had to say.

Why is it that with such abysmal leadership of the PNP prime minister constantly on display, the JLP leader, younger and said to have the potential of more enlightened ideas, is not able to make even a dent on the political conscience of a majority of Jamaicans?

As the leader of a political organisation who has never fought for any executive position in the party and has never put himself out in the front in any fray in the public domain, should it be a surprise to any of us that he has been as politically impressive as oats porridge is soft and only hot where we can't taste it?

As much as I have believed that our present prime minister has been ill-suited for the job — which she got in her own right in 2011, by way of a majority of voting people endorsing her party — the fact is, her entire political history is one of agitation.

In her youthful days during the 1970s, she was on the streets as a party activist, as a councillor, and as an MP, when guns, ammunitionsand the loud and bloody combination of both made all the difference between an enjoyable political win and an unforgettable, tearful loss.

With a disgusting, sickening and destructive political past of the 'old guard' inside the PNP and the Opposition JLP, it was the hope that a bright 'youngster' like Andrew Holness would have signalled that the country is ready for those who have the capability to take our people to another level of political development.

But how can he do what many people expect him to do when, in fact, the way he was raised politically has made him a political monk.

I use the term political monk not in mockery of the Opposition leader's private or domestic life. I know little of both and I care less about what he does or doesn't do in either.

But Andrew Holness pretty much made his political life in the office of former leader of the JLP Eddie Seaga at the time when Seaga owned a company called Premium with offices in New Kingston. It was there, I believe, I first met David Panton — who long left the party and is now living abroad — and Ian Hayles (who has since crossed the floor to join the PNP).

I may or may not have seen Andrew Holness there in the times when I visited to have brief confabs with Seaga, but even if I did not see him it would not have changed the fact that Seaga was his mentor and Holness was politically made behind the shades where the sun never shone.

Let us face it, Seaga was an agitator par excellence. He knew the streets, understood the language, and although I found him to be a cold man in his relationship with his second-tier leaders, very few of those who criticised him, outside of, say, a Pearnel Charles, could play the public stage like he could.

I say all of this not to endorse a debased politics but to state the hard reality of party politics. Seeing that Andrew Holness was brought up in the privacy, silence and educative gloom of a political library, what should we expect as the next political campaign starts and the politicians in his amorphous party, and those in the ruling PNP, hit the stages, do their best stand-up comedy routines and fight for spaces in our heads?

I expect that at the next election, considering the political trajectory of the PNP leadership, many people will be unhappy. I expect that at the next election, considering the inability of the JLP party leader to inspire the party workers and transmit an energy he never had to the JLP core, many people will be unhappy.

Between those unhappy people I will not necessarily be happy, too, but I expect a PNP win.

Why? The errors made in a not-so-long-off past (2011) to 'parachute upwards' Andrew Holness to JLP leadership at a time in the life of the JLP when its leadership quality and trustworthiness were at their worst. It is my belief that in that panic mode the JLP made an awful choice.

The JLP and Golding took a bright man who would have made wonders in the principal's office and propelled him to lead those who, in other times, would have been leading those mounting a justified demonstration outside the principal's office.

Wrong move!

Posted: Sunday, August 31, 2014 9:14:48 AM

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The poor are being savaged by the dollar slippage



In the last year of his prime ministerial run from the violence-riddled latter part of 1980 to early 1989 the much unloved, highly autocratic and hands-on Eddie Seaga presided over an economy that saw the Jamaican dollar valued at US$0.18.

In 1989, J$100 could purchase basic food and grocery items for a family of five for a week.

In 2014 with the still loved and admired Portia Simpson Miller in charge but seemingly disconnected from active governance, that same J$100 can only purchase four minuscule packets of black pepper. In 2014 the Jamaican dollar is worth, at today's rate, US$0.0089, less than a cent.

Only very few of us will admit that the slippage in matters of governance and the spiral into systemic governmental corruption was given its birth during the disastrous run of the PNP's Michael Manley from 1972 to 1980. No leader was more loved than Michael, and as hands-on as he appeared to be, he was mostly led by his oratorical skills, his gross misreading of the US, and his appeal to Third World causes on the global stages.

One writer, Donald Howell, captured it in poetic tones when he wrote in early June as part of a continuing series of Facebook, "The introduction of Democratic Socialism in 1974 made the period 1974 to 1980 the age of foolishness, the epoch of incredulity, the season of darkness and the winter of despair."

Today, the poorest among us would need $200 to purchase a pound of chicken meat. They would need to find $160 to buy a pound of turkey neck and although they would get back $10 change after buying a tin of mackerel, that same $10 cannot purchase a small packet of black pepper.

Chicken back, at $80 per pound, would give back $20, but again that $20 cannot buy a little packet of black pepper.

Last week I purchased from a little corner shop a small tin of 'bully beef' and a tin of condensed milk. In general I must confess that, unlike Chupski, I do not know the price of many items. I was, however, bowled over when the lady in the shop said, 'Five hundred dollars.' In 1989 the same purchase, which in 2014 can only get me two items, could feed a family of five for five weeks!

Michael Manley was loved to the point of being worshipped. Portia Simpson Miller is loved and is always given free passes by her supporters who place love for her as bigger a priority than the quality of her governance. Seaga in his days was barely tolerated by his ministers and the general population spoke of him as if he was the devil incarnate.

In grassroots terms, as much as Seaga was vilified and even hated, the poor among us could purchase 'bully beef' and there was then no need for the company to manufacture two sizes. Today, that same tin sells for about $500!

Mincemeat and saltfish were staples among the poorest because the food items could 'stretch.' The mince could be cooked up with diced potatoes and carrots and, with 'nuff' gravy, could go a long way with rice. The saltfish could be cooked with chopped cucumbers and the whole could go a far way with boiled green bananas and yam.

Today, mince hovers at around $400 per pound, way outside the reach of the little woman and her three children. A pound of potatoes, if not purchased at Coronation market in the volatile West Kingston, will sell at a corner shop uptown for $140, again, outside of her reach.

A pound of rice at that same shop ($60) would only allow her to purchase half a pound of chicken back to feed her hungry children. If she lives outside of a rural setting, one dozen green bananas would cost her about $130 and a pound of yam $100.

So in 2014, food items that the poor could always fall back on in 1989 — saltfish, 'bully beef,' mincemeat, chicken meat -- are totally out of their reach.

I can remember in late 1971 then Opposition Leader Michael Manley made much of a tin of condensed milk approaching one dollar! He described the increase in apocalyptic terms. Today the poor have grown inured to the high prices and the food items out of their reach. That, of course, is good for the politicians as the nation accepts the numb feeling and struggles to make it to another day.

-- observemark@gmail.com
Posted: Saturday, September 13, 2014 10:27:32 AM

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Say what? A Jamaican commissioner of police with a PhD!


Thursday, September 11, 2014 33 Comments

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WILLIAMS...police commissioner-designate

IN 2004, if anyone white-skinned or coloured told someone else that in the next four years America would elect a black president, that other person would suggest that he get his head examined.

Two years before the Wall Street meltdown was felt throughout the financial centres of Europe, Asia and just about every place else, if someone had said — and a few did — that in the latter part of 2007, and immediately beyond, Wall Street would have thrown a spanner into the global financial network, most others would have declared it as madness.

The fact is, social, economic, and political changes all gnaw away the old order in bits and pieces until a critical mass occurs and, seemingly overnight, the change is upon us. When it is happenning, the curve is almost invisible on the graph.

It wasn't too long ago that commissioners of police were little more than the most powerful enforcers of the political party in power. In addition, many of them were simply men who had slogged it out throughout the ranks for umpteen years. Many had open political biases and, when the time came about, they were placed as commissioner more as a street extension of the party in power than the head of a national organisation whose members swore to serve and protect the public. In reality, they would act to ensure that organised wrongdoers belonging to the 'other side' were kept under pressure -- sometimes under lock and key -- and their side would run riot without any pressure from rank-and-file members of the police force.

I do not want to draw any timeline as to when the change began to 'gnaw at the floorboards', but I believe those readers who have been keen observers of the Jamaican socio-political landscape know the period I am making reference to and the individuals who, in their time, did little to advance the cause of a commissioner of police.

And, here it is, Jamaica -- land of wood, water, ganja, a horde of people acting in concerted indiscipline, with too high a rate of violent criminality, and economic growth only barely peeping at us -- now has a commissioner of police with a PhD!

Dr Carl McKay Williams -- doctorate in criminal justice -- who has been appointed commissioner to replace Owen Ellington -- no slouch of a man himself in his academic credentials -- comes to the post at a time when few of us even knew that people with a degree beyond a master's were even inside the police force.

In the last 10 years there has been a relatively large influx of men and women with multiple university degrees inside the JCF. Part of it, I believe, is that the job market outside of the JCF for those with advanced degrees that are not focused on the science and technology fields have dried up. Many Jamaicans with those academic qualifications seek visas to foreign shores, and most never return.

It must be said, however, that although the JCF is not situated on 'perfection' island, there does exist the psychic satisfaction of respect, and especially long-term job tenure that is fast disappearing from what used to be accepted in the general job market even up to the late 1990s. Things have changed radically.

I do not know Dr Williams, but one ace reporter for one of the daily newspapers who did not want his name called, said to me two days ago: "Carl Williams is not just a bright man in the sense of a sterile university 'brainiac'. He knows his job acutely, and in many of the press conferences that I have attended to question him, he is media savvy in the way he delicately moves away from answering questions that intersect with sensitive operational matters. He is a man who knows what he is about and the responsibility placed upon him."

I asked him, "So why do you not want me to call your name?"

He said: "You would be surprised at how many senior members of the police force are bright, talented, and capable in their jobs. I don't want to make it appear that I am making out Carl Williams as the only talent in the police force."

In 2005, after an outbreak of violence had taken place in Denham Town and Tivoli Gardens (against the police force), I sought refuge inside the Denham Town Police Station after a few Tivoli residents had 'roughed me up'. The conversations I had with many policemen who were battle-ready and didn't seem to be above the rank of sergeant plainly shocked me. I say this because the men were the intellectual equals of any professor at the UWI Mona campus, plus, they were talking to me about pragmatic solutions to many of our crime problems.

It was far from the 'lick dung door, box dung smaddy' method of policing that many of my police friends of the era before saw as the proximate solutions.

So, the change had been on for many years, and knowledge of it eluded us because too many rogue cops were on a personal mission to make their names, as if they were criminal semi-dons. We would see them on camera proudly pumping bullets into people who were unarmed, and the State would eventually endorse their actions by freeing them in the courts of the land.

We have still not been officially informed of the sudden reason for Owen Ellington's resignation, but I accept, based on the information I have pieced together, that US policy in assisting Jamaica's crime-fighting objectives may have had an undue influence in his quick exit.

A key question is, did the panel which recommended Dr Williams to the post of top cop seek the endorsement of senior personnel at the US Embassy before he was named? I ask this question not in any way to tarnish Dr Williams, but to suggest to readers that once Owen Ellington had been impelled to move aside by what appeared to me to be outside influence, it was always a given that whoever occupied the post after him would always be under the microscope.

With all of that, I congratulate Dr Williams, and I am assured by many in the second-tier leadership of the JCF that they have his full support. That is most important.

Outside of childbirth, I do not believe in miracles. Indeed, childbirth is no miracle, just another wonder of human physiology. Dr Williams will be expected to work miracles, but he cannot do more than his ability to gain the support of those he will lead, plus effective official policy from the political directorate. He cannot be our national midwife for the next generation.

Posted: Sunday, November 2, 2014 2:26:57 PM

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High phone bills more a symptom than the problem


Sunday, November 02, 2014 11 Comments

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BROWN... wracked up a $1-m phone bill for last year

THINK on these things. Every five years the People's National Party (PNP) puts together a full slate of 'war councils' and the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) does the same. They are both planning for elections.

At the nerve centre are the two supreme councils at 'PNP party central' and at 'JLP party central'.

Nowadays, with 63 constituencies and headquarters, this total of 128 centres of party political activity or 'war councils' do not attract actual arms, ammunition, and willing murderers as the military arms of the councils did in the turbulent 1970s, part of the 1980s, and in hangover periods immediately following.

Apart from the most extreme garrison constituencies, where the gun has established itself as a cultural marker, most of the fight in the other constituencies today is focused on local funding, organising party workers, delegates and groups, and building it all into an efficient machine to get the vote out on election day.

And, as far as we know or have been told, these gatherings occur every five years because some people called politicians are desirous of winning the right to 'serve' the people of this country. At the constituency level, the win is individual; at party central the win gives the winner the right to seize 100 per cent of the power.

Remember now, the operative word is 'serve'. Let's examine that. At one extreme, serve may mean a man giving up his personal life and dedicating it to cleaning away the necrotic layer of skin and flesh from the stinking sores of the poorest and most forgotten among us -- those served by the likes of Father Ho Lung's Brothers of the Poor.

At another level, a man or woman, flush with cash, either from inheritance or from highly successful business ventures, may decide on a life of philanthropy, or a middle-class householder may find that her economic situation affords her the time to do worthwhile voluntary work among needy populations of our people, such as at the Women's Centre.

But, all of these things are not what the politician does. To him, he is serving at the highest level having been given the honour and privilege of guiding the nation's social and economic path. At its barest, this is contradictory, as people do not, as a general rule, fight with more than tooth and nail to win the 'opportunity' to perform tasks that are thankless, extremely difficult and, based on our experiences, almost doomed to fail in meeting the overall objectives.

It could be that there are some among us with masochistic tendencies -- they love to feel pain. Or it could be that there are some among us who have large egos and so they will do anything to hear themselves speak, see themselves on television, and read about their exploits on behalf of the most exploited in the newspapers.

But it could also have a radically different meaning in terms of why these 128 'war councils' gather every five years. It could mean that at the heart of the objective is a simple grab for power coupled with the ego-tripping, but ultimately embellished with the opportunity to steer State funds into the coffers of those who support the winning side.

It is not necessarily that the funds are to be unlawfully expropriated in the first place. The funds are to be lawfully spent, only that, in a small society where the economy has been flat for many years, it is deemed by those in power that there is not enough to go around; so winning an election gives one the authority to channel the majority of those funds into propping up the economic future of those who support the winning side.

So it is quite likely that whenever a politician approaches you and begs you to vote for him at the next election, 'serve' at its highest ideals does not exist in his political lexicon. It could simply mean that he wants to get the opportunity to control the general direction of this country, especially where it involves being in charge of the purse strings of government.

Or, to put it in its barest sense, he wants raw power, and there is valid reason why he will expend so much time, effort, money and stress to meet that objective. What is not seen is far more profitable to him than what is seen or perceived by the public.

Most of our politicians are given phones by LIME and Digicel

The barest executive working for a Fortune 500 company and cutting billion-dollar deals on a monthly basis must give account for the cost of his telephone calls which are connected to business calls. He must do this because the operative word is business and that is worlds apart from performing duties in a backyard 'dolly house'.

Much has been made of the high spend on mobile phone bills by a few of our ministers, especially the junior minister in the Foreign Affairs Ministry, Arnaldo Brown.

The full minister, A J Nicholson, has long ago given up his 'spring chicken' status and is now fully integrated into the society of limp old roosters; so it is more than likely that A J's bills are minuscule relative to his junior minister, because Brown has to do more of the legwork, plus, more than the possibility, Brown is being shaped for a more grand political future in the Foreign Affairs Ministry, at the country's expense.

What is probably not known to the public is that just about every minister and high official in Government and the Opposition has a fancy cellphone given to them by either LIME or Digicel. The companies regularly give away these phones as promotional material to boost their business, plus there may be other considerations. Once the ministers have these phones, connecting them is entirely left in their hands.

One wonders if the response of the junior minister is indicative of the quandary that there was no separation of his calls into business and personal. While there could be valid reasons for the million-dollar charges, one senses quite the opposite, that the young man did what young people tend to do with fancy phones -- temporarily glue it to their ears to converse on behalf of business, pleasure, comforted by that freedom which comes with knowing that rich daddy will pay the bill.

I really believe that the junior minister tried to come off as being contrite, even though he knew that he was not the one who confessed to the big spend before the bill reached daddy. Minister Brown genuinely sounded like a young child who spilled his porridge and whose explanation to Mommy, when she asked him why he did it, was: "I don't know, Mommy."

Another factor which could have been in operation in the junior minister's mind is his inflated idea as to his own importance to the Cabinet, the country, and the PNP, but that is pure speculation on my part based on my assessment of his response to the criticisms. At this stage we cannot know for sure if it is strictly roaming charges, as he claims, or some other motivating factor.

Of interest is the phone bill spend by the rich ministers. Hard-working Justice Minister Mark Golding, a wealthy man by some measure, had nothing to report, because he pays his own bills. Security Minister Peter Bunting, another wealthy minister, in one of the key posts, had only a piddling bill; not because he talks to no one, but more likely because he pays the major part of his government bills from his own pocket.

What seems stark, though, is a disconnect from what the business (Jamaica) is earning and the seemingly profligate spending on phone bills.

'Arnaldo, baby, why yuh do it?'

'I don't know, Mommy.'

The money spigot is forever on

In my time, I have been out with a handful of ministers of government, and I can say that curtailing expenses, at a ministerial level, has never been one of their concerns.

Certainly, amid the high mobile bills noise, nothing has come to fore to indicate that any ministry had a mobile bill policy on the table or there was some brave and experienced permanent secretary who sent a memo out to ministry personnel, including the minister, on just what was expected on phone bills spend to keep the ministry budget within safe limits. Who would be brave enough to tell a minister that his government phone must only include call costs associated with government business?

I once had a two-hour lunch and a few glasses of wine with a sitting minister of government. When we finished and ended up conversing near to his 'criss' SUV, it was very obvious that the engine had been running all the time. The driver had been out of the vehicle and standing near to a wall in the parking lot of the plaza speaking to a member of the security detail.

Now an SUV tends to have a powerful engine that can get the AC up to speed in less than two minutes, yet it was the thought the vehicle had to be in immediate AC-ready phase for the minister. Grand waste!

At the heart of the waste is a bunch of ego-trippers who are forever indulging themselves in the glow of power. Young male politicians are natural magnets for young women and, just to use myself as an example of a time many years ago when my spending power was 180 degrees better than it is now, the cardinal rule that expenses rise to meet income is true, especially when the onlookers are willing and the one being looked at is more than able.

In the JLP Government of 2007 to 2011, in about 2009 when the global recession was taking its toll on a Jamaica seemingly in recession for ages, then PM Bruce Golding took a 15 per cent pay cut and asked his ministers to accept a 10 per cent pay cut. Although it was purely symbolic, because the savings would be minuscule, the PNP refused to accept a 10 per cent pay cut.

I am constantly amazed at how the PNP smoothly sailed under the radar of criticism on that one. I suspect that if the roles were reversed, and the Opposition JLP had refused to accept that 10 per cent cut, it would have been slain by the media, the people of Jamaica, and the PNP.

When the PNP got away with showing an empathetic side, it indicated its future in terms of what it saw as government. Government to the old socialists meant talking the talk of accountability and cutting costs, but walking the walk in an entirely different direction.

Are there PNP MPs and ministers who still believe that party politics present them with a genuine opportunity to serve their country in a higher cause? Yes, I believe there are more than a few.

Unfortunately, there is no utility value in them joining the soup kitchen line in an economically tough Jamaica, especially when there is more than a perception in the minds of the public that the long money spigot line is where the real action presents itself.

Posted: Thursday, November 6, 2014 12:57:07 PM

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Points: 1,122
People don't usually crack a joke with the word 'rape' in it


Thursday, November 06, 2014 17 Comments

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People don’t usually crack a joke with the word ‘rape’ in it

Some years ago, I interviewed a 15-year-old girl from a Whitehall Avenue community immediately after she had been freed by her captors, this following her being snatched, blindfolded, taken to an unknown location and repeatedly raped for two days.

Based on what she described to me, with another girl on a nearby bed also being raped, I classified the place to which she was taken as a rape factory. At one stage, during a break from the brutal and repeated acts, she felt thirsty and asked one of the men for some water. From where she lay, she saw him open a bathroom door and fill a glass of water from the toilet tank. She had to drink it.

At all stages during the interview the young girl had been crying, and so were many of her relatives. At no time did it occur to anyone that the mood was conducive to cracking a joke about rape.

Senator A J Nicholson is in many ways acting out being the victim of his advanced age; probably his memory has failed him on certain matters having to do with women, and all that entails. This indicates that he has to get out more and rediscover that which will allow him to close the gap between his faded memory and reality.

The first reality is that in a Senate discussion with a female senator once the subject of rape was mooted it was incumbent on him to drop the elder statesman routine and listen more than make comment. When he made his "flexi-rape" comment, I didn't get the sense that Nicholson was encouraging young men to disrespect our women. But certainly the minister must know that too high a percentage of Jamaican men believe that rape and joking about it can exist in the same package.

Did the senior citizen that AJ Nicholson is, and also as PNP senator and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, feel any special responsibility in not being seen to be promoting that rape, even as a mere word, can be used to elicit laughter as he claimed he was trying to do?

There is always a time in politics that a word or two misspoken takes on a life much bigger than originally meant to convey. Again, being a victim of advanced age, Senator Nicholson must have felt that his many years on this Earth had given him the right to say just about anything, and he had also earned to right to get away with it.

I believe that the minister's "flexi-rape" comment was a genuine attempt at a joke, but because the minister has been living in an alternate reality, where his recall factor on many matters may be suspect, he failed to see and latch on to the insensitivity of his comment. Worse, he missed that golden opportunity to immediately apologise.

Many years ago, when I was a teenager, I was being hounded by a schoolgirl with a very audible lisp. My friends were making life hell for me as they would make jokes about my "lis' tongue" girl. I decided that I would simply not respond to her, even as we sat on a bus where she had earlier paid my fare. After a few weeks -- in which she had become most confounded -- she approached me one day at a downtown bus stop and said: "I would like to apologise, and please tell me what ah do wrong." With all the lisps attached to it. I felt terrible, and told her that she had done nothing wrong. We became friends again.

Even if Senator Nicholson felt that he had done nothing wrong, he should have immediately apologised. A J must know that he is a public man and he is not in the back room of a bar with his buddies cracking all sorts of unholy jokes about women.

The public man that he is imposes on him certain strictures. The first of which is, as a leader, his examples are public -- in similar fashion to his foolish utterances. I am certain that the minister didn't want us to believe that he was being flippant on words involving rape and that it can simply be buried under the carpet as a joke.

I am expecting that pretty soon his full apology to the nation will follow.

KC old boys don't need to be lectured to about women

In the decision of the Kingtson College Old Boys' Association (KCOBA) to have a men-only format at its annual dinner the critics invented a 'sky is falling' moment and immediately every KC old boy became a male chauvinist pig.

To the critics, many of whom were themselves KC old boys who mounted atop their steeds to joust at windmills, the matter was not so much that the KCOBA simply elected to have one event in a male-only format, it was much more than that. We were setting back the cause of women for 100 years!

And, of course, the guest speaker, Earl Jarrett, would not allow such a moment to go by and let KC go unpunished. Beginning on a false premise that the KCOBA is somehow stuck in an anti-inclusive groove, he dared to lecture us and talk down to us as if we were mere adolescents.

Even when I parodied the matter in an Observer article, many could not see the joke. So they invented an enemy to be fought against: the unchanging nature of the KCOBA and its relationship with women.

I am not the KCOBA, but as a proud old boy of KC, let me remind the naysayers that many of them are jealous because it is KC boys and old boys who invented the throne upon which we have placed our women.

We took the word chivalry and brought life to it. But as the ladies saw that our stars shone the brightest, and we were constantly showering them in the glow of the sun, lesser men would not have it that way. So they whined and asked their wives: "Honey, what is my view on the KCOBA male-only dinner format?"

If I am any example, KC old boys have always elevated their women, and we have never felt the need to be lectured to and told how much higher up the ladder we should place our women.

This matter of the KCOBA being anti-woman and anti-all-inclusive was all a storm in a teacup. It's all an invention of those who thought they needed something earth-shattering to say.

In all of this, the wives and women of KC old boys are simply saying: "What was that all about? Come over here. I want to whisper something in your ear."

Posted: Monday, November 17, 2014 3:28:08 PM

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Out of money dance moves



Sunday, November 16, 2014 18 Comments

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Dance, prime minister, dance!

OFF into the distance way above the green rib of hills carrying the rains could be heard the low rumble of thunder. On the flat, in the crowded city, it was sweltering as the sun baked the black skins of many confused Jamekyans scurrying around trying to earn a bare-bones living.

Further up the road, Parliament is about to convene at Georgian House. Fireworks were expected as, on the day before, tempers had erupted between Government and Opposition members over the Out-of-Money Likkle Place.

Inside Parliament, the first politician to take the floor was leader of the Opposition, the young Hillsman Holdem of the We Want Power Party (WWPP) otherwise known as 'wi-wi-peas'.

"Mr Speechless, Mr Speechless, I rise on a point of order in dis house of disorder to make a point. And please remember, Mr Speechless, that when I, a young man, rise, I don't fall like some of di ol boy dem in dis honourable house of disorder, especially those in di govament benches."

The benches erupt as of one, but there is an explosion of raw anger on the government benches of the People Love Power Party (PLPP) otherwise known as 'pulps', as Mek Me Ticklesome (otherwise known as Me-Me), senator and minister of foreign flings and dubious trips rises to his creaking feet.

Me-Me: "Listen here, just listen here, don't flex mi sagging muscles! Don't..."

From the Opposition benches: "...Siddung! Siddung!'

The Opposition Leader Hillsman Holdem signals to his colleagues, who are laughing hysterically, to calm down. He speaks again. "Mr Speechless, Mr Speechless, I had no idea that when I did throw di likkle stone inna di pen somebody woulda squeal."

Madness in the house again. The Speechless intervenes. "Senator Ticklesome, please sit back slowly in yuh rocking chair. Nuff respeck Me-Me. Tek yu time. Wi is one." He then directs his gaze to the leader of the Opposition.

"Mr Holdem, I know dat yuh young and yuh good in the lips and strong in di hips. I know dat yu sniff power an yuh will talk until di rapture and, if push come to shove, yuh wil' dance di night away pon di Hip Strip. But I would direct you to keep to di subject at hand and continue to make submissions along those lines. Mi dun talk!"

Opposition Leader Holdem rises again: "Mr Speechless, Mr Speechless, is di honourable prime minister prepared to tell dis House when she knew about Out-of-Money Likkle Place, who told her about what she did not know, and at which point did she decide that she had sufficient information to come to dis House to report on what she did not know, and still don't know, even though we have information dat she know about many tings dat she don't know?"

Dance, prime minister, dance!

Before the Speechless can intervene, Prime Minister Poor Poor People rises to her feet in a huff and shouts across at the Opposition leader: "Hey yout, yuh know me?! Yuh know mi? Me is di only prime minister dat can come to dis House and claim my integrity in full, because me do not have a need to know nutten bout nutten bout any bored member pon any board. Capture mi, Hansard! Mr Speechless, ah feeling di glory, Lord a mercy!

"Yuh tink I don't know seh nuff a di people dem who did tell me which board fi put dem pon inna 2012 a do tings behind my back? I know, but because I don't know, my integrity is intact. So don't get mi bringle, Holdem! Don't draw di thread from mi skirt tail yout!"

The Opposition leader once again takes the floor. "Mr Speechless, Mr Speechless, all di people of dis country, dis House, want to know first of all is which number playing in di next pan. Very critical, Mr Speechless.

"After dat we would like to know how much the National High Illusion (NHI) pay fi di Likkle Place and what is di full details. Di honourable prime Minister did get nuff time fi swat di answers to dis simple term test."

The prime minister gets up again and the thread is running from her skirt tails. Her face is contorted as she gives the Opposition leader only her profile, as if he doesn't deserve her full facial focus.

Prime minister: "Mr Speechless, we may have or may not have purchased di property, but just fi dat bit of renkness a gwine tack on another $20 million pon di bill..."

Opposition leader Holdem jumps to his feet: "Madness, Mr Speechless! I call dis madness..."

Prime minister: "New information coming from the chairman of the Illusion, Mr Road Runner himself has informed me dat another $30 million will have to be added on as we extend the land experience by way of a mini-rail line to the Cockpit Country and eventually undersea to Cuba. Like Pinky an' di Brain we are going to take over di world! Growth is in the air."

Oppostion Leader Holdem is livid. "Mr Speechless, Mr Speechless, I cannot tek dis. I am spinning like a gig and di prime minister spinning faster dan me. Twenty million dollars, thirty million..."

Prime minister: "One more word outa yuh and ah throw in another $50 million! Den ah going to start counting in US dollars. Shut up and siddung! Is our side in power, but I did not come here to go into people board meeting and get bored over fi dem fancy talk.

"Mr. Speechless, I was elected to ensure dat poor people poor but dem happy. I don't have time fi puzzle dem wid tings dat don't concern dem likkle head.

"Holdem want power, Mr Speechless, and 'im want me to run my mout' and run myself outa power. It not gwine happen! Not only dat, but what about di Opposition an' how dem did handle di Likkle Money?

At that point, Mr Peril Gauze, Opposition MP from the east, shoots up out of his chair and says, "Mr Speechless, the former prime minister has informed me dat he was approached and he wrote to then Minister Fat Face in tourism asking if he could assist in finding investors for Likkle Money before dem run outa money..."

The prime minister says sotto voce: "Yuh know a don't like dat bwoy. Too full ah himself."

Gauze continues and peers over his spectacles: "Doesn't matter, Prime Minister. Afta unnu party run food a tek di election, fi unnu tourism section seh di Likkle Money nuh viable. So, is how it go? Is how it go? Mr Speechless, we want to know how poor people money in di Illusion get mix up in di Likkle Money? Wi want answers now or wi gwine shut down di Illusion!"

A sudden chill descends on the House.

At the lunch break, Opposition Leader Holdem is at the bar with an energy drink in his hands. Government Senator Mek Me Ticklesome ambles over to him and says, "Yu tek har too serious, man. Any time wi give har information she seh she not interested and when she fine out bout stuff later she seh wi never tell har. She mean good, so go easy pon har."

Me-Me then leans over and whispers to the Opposition leader, "By di way, a run out a di likkle b..."

In a private office near to Georgian House, the prime minister is huddled with a few senior government people, including her best friend on the board of the Illusion, Mr Farcical Di Gooch, whose best marks in his school days was coming second in his class. Only two were in the class at the back of the school.

"Goochie," says the prime minister, "mi have nuff details, but is what going on? Put some words in mi mout nuh man! Anybody tek any money?"

Di Gooch says, "Nobody no tief any money. Gospel truth. Prime minister, all wi going to do is ensure dat everybody have a different story. Once di whole ting get confusing so dat not even me an you an Road Runner understand it anymore, den wi start to spin it dat is the fault of the Opposition wi-wi-peas."

"Yuh tink seh dat will work?" asks the prime minister.

"A likkle election coming up, an' dat is di politics dat wi know, wi practise and wi live by. It mus' work," says Di Gooch.

"Den suppose wi try all of dat and wi still find dat wi under pressure, what happen when some reporter boy push mike inna mi face?" asks the prime minister. "Yuh know seh me and di question-and-answer ting is not di best of fren. Why dem just won't 'low mi an wait till mi buss a dance a di nex' election and rise up again in di polls? Tcha!"

"Simple, prime minister. Jus reach fi yuh card."

"Which card is dat?" asks di prime minister.

Di Gooch says, "Just tell dem, don't ask you, ask di party."

Posted: Tuesday, December 2, 2014 4:22:09 PM

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Joined: 1/5/2005
Posts: 309
Points: 1,122
Douglas says jump, Portia asks, how high?


Thursday, November 27, 2014 135 Comments

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(L-R) SIMPSON MILLER... seemingly being told what to do, how to do it, and when to act. DOUGLAS... had trumpeted that he had no intention of resigning

IT was almost predictable what the prime minister would have done with the composition of the board of the National Housing Trust (NHT). She kept the main loyalists in place long after they had sanctioned the purchase of a dud company for $180 million, long after she said she knew nothing about what had taken place and, to placate a nation, she topped up the board with four more individuals.

The very day before any of us knew what was about to take place, the chairman, Easton Douglas, had trumpeted that he had no intention of resigning. To us, it had seemed the sensible thing to rid the board of its chairman and those others on it like Lambert Brown and Percival LaTouche whose history told us that they seemed more in favour of People's National Party (PNP) activism than any other pursuit. But, alas...

Strong man, that Douglas, but obviously one who knew how to send more than a national signal to a prime minister who was seen to be struggling with herself on exactly what steps she should take to quell the protests from civil society, the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), and others at street level.

Think on it. The day before the PM is slated to make a big decision on whether to quash the NHT board or do something else, the chairman of that board loudly proclaims that he is not resigning. As the controversy raged, one would have thought that he would have latched on to the expected protocol that silence is golden until his leader made her pronouncement.

Having bellowed to the nation that his position was unassailable and that, by implication, he cared little about socio-political protocol, one sensed that he had a grander plan in action. After his announcement, how could the PM now do anything different? At the very least, he was batting stridently for the retention of his position. And he probably knew exactly what would have been the results of his actions.

All of this tells me that our prime minister is not really in charge of matters having to do with the NHT. That, of course, forces one to ask, what else in government is she not in charge of?

Last Monday, on Facebook, Rachel Manley, daughter of the man under whose administration the National Housing Trust (NHT) was formulated -- the late PM Michael Manley -- wrote the following after Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller had made her decision:

"So that's that. No response to the public, no change in position. And all the talk and hue and cry was for naught. As ever. When it comes down to it, the apathy is as entrenched as the orange and green. Guess she knows that. She's the boss."

What is it that would move the daughter of a man whom many in the PNP would like to make a national hero, to say that about the present leader of the PNP? The easiest answer is probably that she has independence of thought and she is not wrapped up in any colour of any political party -- neither orange nor green.

A few years ago it was eventually revealed via WikiLeaks that Dr Peter Phillips, the man who sits beside the prime minister in Cabinet meetings and is the finance minister in the PNP Administration, in confidential conversations between himself and diplomats at the US Embassy, referred to Portia in 2008 as a "disaster".

In the last few weeks when it was revealed to us that the NHT had purchased the Outameni property for $180 million and that that cheque, according to Lennie Little-White had gone directly to Capital and Credit Merchant Bank, an entity bought

out by Jamaica Money Market Brokers (hmmm?) in

mid-2012, and who had been the creditors of the business that could not find any viability, one of the many questions asked was, why did the NHT believe it could turn around and make Outameni profitable after no one else in the market wanted it? Were there bigger questions at play?

It must be noted that Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller has been the least hands-on PM in the history of this country.

Granted, many have mooted the idea that we do not want to go back to the days of the 1980s when Eddie Seaga was in charge and he came quite close to presiding over every ministry in his administration. But that also poses another question.

What is it that Eddie Seaga saw about governance and totally leaving it up to his cadre of ministers that he has not so far told this nation? Did he see the likelihood and the reality of rot and corruption if there was poor supervision from the top?

It is not a great secret that Prime Minister Simpson Miller is not a big fan of crises. In 2006 when it was revealed that the Dutch firm Trafigura Beheer, which was in the business of lifting Nigerian oil and selling it in the global marketplace on behalf of the Government of Jamaica, had sent a 'gift' or a 'donation' of $31 million to the PNP or, at the very least, to someone in the PNP, it took Simpson Miller 10 days before she could respond to the people of this country.

At about that time when she was under pressure from the media, she uttered the now infamous and astoundingly simplistic words: "Don't ask me, ask the PNP."

The prime minister has told us that she doesn't follow the news, and we can conclude from that that she is not that all interested in 'stuff' that doesn't have her name mentioned in it in a positive light.

What is of greater import, at this time, is the possibility and the likelihood that the PM is not really in charge, and that men like NHT board Chairman Easton Douglas can run his mouth and force her into a position that he knows she must take.

To simply add a few members to an NHT board that is more than figuratively broken is poor leadership, but to the mind of our dear leader, it is good politics.

That members of the PNP have come out stridently against the actions of the PM tells me that these members are already seeing the political and electoral ramifications of her actions. Never one to be seen acting decisively, in the present matter, she has ceded power to someone like Easton Douglas, quite possibly because it has not yet dawned on her that he is no longer a Cabinet minister and she is the political leader of the country.

She has made it seem, all over again, that matters swirl around her and that certain Cabinet members, and even chairpersons of various government boards, can tell her what to do, how to do it, and when to act. In the present instance, it seems that she took her cue from the NHT Chairman Easton Douglas.

Posted: Thursday, December 11, 2014 3:37:22 PM

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Points: 1,122
That disgraceful and disgusting Tivoli Enquiry


Sunday, December 07, 2014 49 Comments

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(L-R) Granville Johnson tells the Commission of Enquiry into the security forces’ operation in Tivoli Gardens in May 2010 that he was shot in his back. Tivoli Gardens resident Colette Robinson shows the spot where she said she was shot during the May 2010 security forces’ operation in Tivoli Gardens. (PHOTOS: MICHAEL GORDON)

If ever there were a more distressing display of class prejudice and a bunch of roast breadfruits, otherwise known as lawyers, trying to prove how much they believe they exist in a better place than their fellow human beings, it could not be topped by what is presently happening at the Tivoli Commission of Enquiry.

Those lawyers, some of them more than figuratively garbed in the ghosts of what they love best about what their colonial masters bestowed on them -- the right, so they believe, to terrorise those who are not so 'learned' as they are -- have set out on a mission. This quest is seemingly to prove to their sorry selves that a few years of education, and more of it in advocacy in the courts of our land, have given them the authority to devolve to a darker time in our past and, like ardent students of Willie Lynch, punch and batter 'lesser learned black people' into the ground.

Some of them are dressed like fops and intonate in an uptown language that is designed to intimidate the poor and those who they believe are not as articulate as they are. Many of them pretend not to know that the very people they are grilling, who believe that corruption runs across the lay of the land, also perceive that our courts and our lawyers are just another part of that tainted fabric.

What particularly galled me as I watched the enquiry on Thursday was the 'unlearned' brightness of two of the witnesses from Tivoli Gardens holding their own and refusing to be intimidated by the uptown lawyers who probably just wanted to complete the day.

Then they wanted to laugh with their colleagues outside the confines of the hall where they were bested, then go home and sip red wine, eat lobster, and take a nap, but not before painfully accepting that their credibility as human beings had long locked into the reality that they had to practice a more than subtle destruction of others to ensure that more lobster meals would be forthcoming.

The great legal mind of the past, and main founder of the PNP, Norman Manley, once said that in accepting a case he never asked a client if he was guilty. Instead, he simply asked him what was it that he had done.

One assumes that many legal minds still try to attach that belief to themselves, but we are jolted to the reality of the gross materialism of the present and the fact that many lawyers are just like auto mechanics. The better mechanics will get most of the cars to work on and, because of the sheer weight of the work, some of the engines and the gearboxes of the older, poorer cars will suffer.

As I watched the enquiry, I was reminded that most of our lawyers who wear their Jamaican blackness across their chests are far from being closeted in their attachment to their QCs (Queen's Counsel).

In which parish of Jamaica is The Queen to be found? If indeed she exists, in which district, small town or capital does she reside? Our lawyers, especially the brighter ones who agree, as an inside colonial convention, to call themselves 'learned', so as to exclude all others in the country, know that the respect that many of our people have for them is based on fear of them and not for a love of the content of their character.

That, of course, is not seen as spooky to them. All they need is a glass of Merlot to wash down that feeling and wallow in the gap where once lay a conscience.

Tivoli witnesses may be carrying us wide

I have had many personal interfaces with residents of Tivoli Gardens, and many of those interviews and associations have convinced me that those residents are quite loyal to the community mantra -- whatever the currency of the moment dictates it should be -- which is another way of saying that in a community that has a small army of gunmen, the residents will say that there is no army and there are no gunmen.

In 1996, when the police shot up the casket of a dead Tivoli gunman named Baugh, gunshots rang out between the security forces and gunmen in Tivoli Gardens.

At that time, I was just venturing into getting into the minds, lives and hearts of the residents of inner-city areas in terms of writing newspaper columns. The great error I made at the time was to actually believe many of the stories that they told me. But it was worse than that. I actually started to deeply believe in and sympathise with the various misdeeds they told me had been perpetrated on them by gunmen from 'the other side' and the security forces.

In time, as my bubble burst, I realised that the keenness that I utilised in approaching their concerns and the human pain I felt in empathising with their state of being -- a voiceless and powerless set of people -- was being seen by them as a weakness in me.

In quick time they sold me lies, sent me east when I asked them to direct me to the west, and worse, when I began to question their motives and point out that I knew they were blatantly lying, they made me know in no uncertain terms that they were prepared to treat me as 'the enemy'.

All residents I spoke to that day in Tivoli in 1996 told me, individually, that there were no guns in Tivoli. At that very time, Tivoli and Denham Town were having a painful political fallout with Rema, and gunmen from both sides where, before, they had been no political divide, began to shoot at each other and to firebomb premises.

That very same day I went into Rema, and as I spoke to about 20 young men there and asked them the same question, one of them said to me, "Ah what type a idiot question dat? Nuff gun deh ah Rema!"

I gained "nuff respec" for the young men from Rema that day, although it was not a place that I found I had a natural inclination to find solace on a Saturday night.

All that said, I believe there is nothing that will come out of the Tivoli Enquiry to credibly inform us as to exactly what took place. The residents are fearful of their own, but they also know and are firmly convinced that the roast breadfruits in their colonial black-and-white neck braces are more their enemy than their friends.

The lawyers at the enquiry are paid to defend their clients, especially the security forces who are more their friends than foes in all respects. Do they not know that the residents of Tivoli Gardens know this? Certainly they cannot be that daft not to recognise that fact.

The thing I most detested was the belief among the roast breadfruits that we could not quite see that they were simply the advocates on behalf of the modern-day plantation, even as they pretended to be easy on the field slaves.

Certainly those lawyers must, by now, have known that they are never seen as the people's friends, when what they best represent to the man and woman at street level are the associates of those who repress them. On that basis, do these lawyers really believe that if they have their way they will be considered as greater on the human cut than those who have long shot at them and rained bullets on their young ones?

Under no circumstances can a State forever exist as Tivoli Gardens did. That it was lawless, there can be no doubt. That it had many guns was never in doubt. But this is where the social gap between that lawlessness and what the residents of a place like Tivoli Gardens and many other inner-city areas believe uptown, and those who represent it, are.

Many residents of Tivoli Gardens know that, even if they are 'proven' a few months from now as being evil and supporting of gunmanship and criminality, not many miles from them are those sipping white wine, eating sirloin and indulging themselves in a much more damaging criminality.

It is obvious that, to uptowners, Dudus was never seen as an angel. That is, at least until the time when the Americans sold us on the fact that he was spoiled goods. Do the modern-day embracers of a colonial past that they proudly wear around their necks not realise this as they grill witnesses at the enquiry? Those witnesses plainly do not like them, never will, and in all likelihood see those lawyers as alien to their lives and, quite probably, detrimental to their daily existence.

Seriously now, what are these lawyers and that impressive commission out to prove apart from burnishing another trophy on a shiny pedestal inside a cool, mosquito-free, uptown penthouse? Even if the lawyers should continue to believe that they are the 'betters' of their 'unlearned' inner-city residents whom they enjoy terrorising in courtrooms across this land and make a cogent case for the security forces, what would be the curve or the trajectory of the betterment of the society in the eyes of people like the residents of Tivoli Gardens?

Well, let me tell you. They will still be in the gutters and the roast breadfruits and the political bosses will still be uptown sneering down at them, the lesser ones.

I saw something quite disturbing last Thursday as I watched the proceedings of the enquiry. I saw lawyers who were considered bright, only because they were operating in a small pond and hence were considered big fish. To me, it went way beyond the colonial throwbacks trying to make another notch on their legal muskets.

They simply were trying to bully some poor people who may or may not have been telling the truth. And, if the people from Tivoli Gardens were playing that game, would there be any significant difference between themselves and what the colonial inquisitors were trying to achieve?

All of this makes it the more idiotic for Lloyd D'Aguilar to have seemingly arranged for his early exit. At the very least he would have been there to hold their hands and buy them spice buns and bag juice as the lawyers trampled on them and pressed them down into the lowest at the bottom of the barrel.

Posted: Thursday, March 19, 2015 1:54:39 PM

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Joined: 1/5/2005
Posts: 309
Points: 1,122
This Gov't is testing the people's patience


Thursday, March 19, 2015 1 comment

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It appears that the days of the 'election budget' may be over and we were not even granted the courtesy of an official announcement from Government. Caught in the vice grip of an International Monetary Fund agreement, with strictures that ensure payback, the Government has no excess of goodies to hand out in preparation for capturing the gullible on election day.

The whipping boy, cigarettes, were taxed, and that is always popular among the majority who do not smoke. More people take buses and route taxis than the number who drive cars so the effect of the gas tax will not be felt by most of our people in the immediate term. But somewhere down the line, given just the right mix of common sense and chaos, even the regulated busman, the unregulated taxi driver may decide to pass on something to the commuting public

A man who stops at a gas station to purchase 20 litres of petrol will be paying at least $140 more, which is more that the cost for a single litre of gas. The tax on electricity bills in excess of 350 kWh per month will not affect the poorer in the society, but those excesses will find a way to work themselves through the system until it eventually affects poorer households.

The PNP Administration doesn't want to start the inevitable mass retrenchment of government workers because that is one of their most faithful blocs of voters. So it pretends that it has a plan to grow the GDP so that the size of government in relation to GDP (as per IMF condition) can be met without the firings.

Many voices have been complaining, and we have been here before. Even now I can remember an 'austerity' budget of the early 1970s. Certainly this is a part of the 'bitter medicine' that former PM Andrew Holness promised would happen after the latter part of 2011. No matter which party took power in an IMF regime, if we were all expecting it, why are acting so shocked and angry?

I think I have an answer to that. The people of this country have always accepted that governments in Jamaica are essentially fountains of corruption. They know that too many politicians use the ballot boxes to feather their own nests and lay the groundwork for many terms in office by which time a small tribe among the chosen few will have become multimillionaires.

But somehow our people, especially the man at street level, share the view that the politician will always find a way to share some of that loot with him. It's a moving target, he surmises, but he will buy the promise that if it doesn't happen today, it will happen tomorrow. So he lives for those tomorrows which hardly ever come until another election is upon us.

At that stage the usual political gimmickry takes over and the party with the best show of that will win.

The man who smokes is highly unlikely to vote out the PNP because it made cigarettes more expensive to him. Sure, he will be angry, and even refer to his own party as 'wicked' just so that he can mesh with the present mood of controlled anger.

At the other end of the PNP Government's thinking, the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce has made the grand announcement that investors are about ready to push US$5 billion into ventures which will constitute a logistics hub.

One gets the sense that we have heard this before. At the same time, if there was some authenticity to this announcement, I can quite understand that agreements of this nature, until they are officially ready for full roll-out, cannot just be blurted out as companies operate in a very competitive environment and one would not want to telegraph any business directions.

We really do not know if the minister is selling us another 'ullo' or he is still crawling in his appeal for something beyond ministerial relevance, maybe even significance. For now, however, he gets to hide behind that cloak of confidentiality, and I am certain he will be asking us to trust him.

While it is said that every government needs a really big project, either government involved as in the China Harbour projects or big private sector roll-outs, as would happen under any logistics hub outlay, the real job-producing areas in the micro and small enterprise sectors continue highly underfunded.

Rev Stanley Redwood, who not so long ago was PNP-installed president of the Senate, until he made a somewhat hurried exit from politics and the country, posted on his Facebook page a few days ago the following:

"In my lower six physics class at MC eons ago I was taught about tensile stress, strain and strength. All I can remember now is that they relate to the amount of pressure a material can absorb and manage. When force exceeds strength, there is deformation and/or breakage; depending on how brittle the material is."

And then, in light of the recently read budget, he asked: "Is there a thing as socio-economic tensile stress?"

Maybe the Government knows how much more we can take before we bend and break.

Juliet Cuthbert-Flynn, the JLP caretaker for West Rural St Andrew, is likely to have a tough time going up against first time, surprise winner in that constituency, Paul Buchanan, as lately Paul seems to believe that he has done enough to merit additional time at the wicket.

In the interim, although very few people in the constituency know her, she has been using social media to transmit some of what she has observed in her travels abroad and especially in the region. On her Facebook page she posted the following, which gives a not unexpected comparison between Jamaica and St Lucia:

"I've been in St Lucia for 5 days now and not one person bothered me to clean my car windscreen. I have watched the tourists walking in the town without being bothered, going along their merry way. The taxis line up in an orderly manner to transport the tourists. Let me not forget the driving here, it's amazing! No bad driving and persons telling each other what to do to themselves. Oh yes, as you approach a pedestrian crossing all cars stop!"

This supports my point that, as a people, as a nation, we Jamaicans are socially underdeveloped, and a large contributor to this is that bad behavior has an immediate utility value in this island. Speak and act decent and one is laughed at. Act like a hooligan and one gets placed at the head of the line.

Posted: Thursday, April 2, 2015 10:25:15 AM

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Posts: 309
Points: 1,122
The rude overreach of a corporate body


Thursday, April 02, 2015 1 comment

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Calabar’s star athlete Michael O’Hara displays a ‘Be Extraordinary’ shirt at the ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys’ and Girls’ Championships held at the National Stadium last weekend. (PHOTO: BRYAN CUMMINGS)

AT one of the greatest annual junior sporting events on the planet, the ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys' and Girls' Championships held at the National Stadium, Calabar High School made it four in a row, while Edwin Allen girls swept the tables as champions with over 300 points.

Excitement at fever pitch doesn't get any better than this, and the 2015 renewal certainly did not disappoint. In a nation where our people have to struggle daily to eke out good news, 'Champs' was just what the doctor ordered; with hotels in the Corporate Area fully booked and an uptick in general commerce felt during the four-day event.

Loyalties between the schoolchildren were no less than it was among those adults who claimed the schools as their alma mater, and it was especially heightened to almost volcanic levels between Calabar, which triumphed, and KC which gave as good a chase as it could.

With LIME and GraceKennedy being the main sponsors, pouring millions of dollars into covering the costs, it was certainly a big let-down to the sponsors and to school administrators when Calabar's star athlete Michael O'Hara, after his win in the 200 metres removed his shirt to reveal one he had on underneath bearing the tag line of Digicel, direct competitor to LIME.

Without even considering that the youngster O'Hara fully understood the implication of his move, that of breaching a trust placed in the competitors as a collective whole by the sponsors, he soon after announced that the unveiling of the Digicel tag line was totally his idea. This, of course, is laughable, if only because O'Hara is still a teenager.

The headmaster of Calabar, Albert Corcho, who must have been doing some very right things with the school over the last few years, did not apparently share the exuberance of the young star. Said Corcho: "We looked at it. We launched an investigation to get to the bottom of it. I've been talking to members of the management team, coaching staff, and they, too, were surprised. So we will be doing investigations with the young man and calling in some of the persons close to him, and we have to get to the bottom of this."

It certainly is no secret that the competition between LIME and Digicel has become 'less friendly' over the last year or so as LIME has began to make inroads in shares of the telecoms market that was once controlled by Digicel.

Digicel is still the market leader, but one would not have thought that the company would have adopted this 'ambush marketing' with a youngster full of potential for greater things in life without apparently sitting down with him and explaining the implications of his actions.

To my way of seeing it, I am prepared to absolve the youngster O'Hara, who has not even begun to approach the learning curve ahead of him in life.

Following on the Minister of Education's attempt to clean up the blatant recruiting of student athletes, where non-brand-name schools are preyed upon and their student athletes stolen by the brand-name schools in the Corporate Area, one would have thought that this type of guerilla marketing would have been the last thing that would be attempted at this time.

Right on the heels of this, The Gleaner carried a story, 'Mother demands that Digicel stops unauthorised use of image of student athlete Raheem Robinson'. Lawyer for Robinson's mother, Churchill Neita, has said that no permission was given to Digicel to utilise his image in full-page newspaper ads. He went on further to state, quite rightly, that it could hurt her son's chance of taking up a scholarship in the US and any career he developed as an athlete.

Athletics is big business, and with Jamaica being the birthplace of Usain Bolt, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, and Champs, it is expected that advertisers will get somewhat bullish on their marketing dollar.

Digicel needs to apologise to the parents involved and also the schools. The people directly involved are basically children who have no fully formed ideas as to exactly what they are embarking on. At one level it is quite welcome to many that corporate sponsors are stepping up, but at another, it cannot be that a sponsor like Digicel would be willing to break the accepted rules by attempting to corrupt the innocence of a child.

ISSA, the JAAA, and various schools administrations need to step in and set the boundaries that the corporate sponsors cannot step over. In the adult world, it is just about every man for himself. Those rules cannot apply to children on the field of sports, and Digicel ought to know this.
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