Saturday, October 12, 2019

Making that magic work for all Jamaicans


Excerpt from Observer column published 29 July, 2019

by Jean Lowrie-Chin

In this Emancipation Week, we give thanks for Jamaica’s beauty, bounty and talent, and the work being put in to share that Jamaican magic with our humble folk, especially women and the disabled.
As we surveyed the huge crowd packed in the Catherine Hall location for Sumfest and listened to the ringing voices of our Jamaican stars, we felt the magic of this country which we are blessed to call home. The next morning, we enjoyed the famous Pelican Grill Jamaican breakfast and drove along the coast to Negril, passing the shaded roadway flanked by the famous Tryall estate, and Round Hill, the quaint Lucea Townhall, the blue sea and sky. 

Résultats de recherche d'images pour « sumfest montego bay 2019 »
Crowds at Reggae Sumfest - Jamaica Observer photo
Oh yes, we slowed and rolled our windows down for the young soldiers at the SOE check points.  Our taxi man Michael who had taken us to Sumfest the night before said he welcomed the SOE. “People complain about the early closing hours, but if you organise yourself you can manage alright,” he said.  “This is cutting down crime, so we have to live with it.”

Sumfest brought a windfall for hotels, restaurants, taxis and the folks who had booths and sidewalk jerk offering. Passing Priory on our way back to Kingston, we were caught in a traffic jam, only to discover that it was the attraction of ‘Pudding Man’ with his long row of dutch pots on coal stoves and topped with more live coals – “Hell a top, hell a bottom, alleluia in the middle”. His puddings have a growing number of fans and trust me, that pumpkin pudding could hold its own on a dessert plate in the finest restaurant.

However, vendors in craft markets continue to complain to reporters that business is slow and the Fern Gully stalls are now being bypassed. Clearly, there needs to be other opportunities for these folks.  I remember the exquisite embroidered linens from the Allsides project – if only this could be restarted so that we can produce unique, easy-to-pack gifts for our visitors. I had heard about a basket weaving project sometime ago but the only baskets I see in our home goods stores are imported.  A few Jamaican online stores are gaining traction – hopefully they will reach out to these vendors.

My friend Clover Baker Brown discovered a skin care product manufactured by Eden Gardens, and when she mentioned to colleagues that she was going to place an order online, she ended up having to order a whole case.  Café Blue has been offering delicious packages of brittle in various flavours – a great favourite to take overseas. Ann Smith and Luciene Morrison created their popular Anilu pudding and cake mixes which are gaining in the export market.  We are blessed with the best flavours the opportunities are endless.

Monday, October 7, 2019

Despite the storm, #BahamasStrong


Bahamas Relief: Jean Lowrie-Chin, Executive Chair of PROCommpresents a cheque for US$3,800 to Food for the Poor Jamaica Chair Andrew Mahfood for rebuilding efforts in the Bahamas. Members of Team PROComm are (from left) Anita Chin, Yvonne Piper, Board Director Hubert Chin, Errol Howlett, Noel Chin, Vaughn Gray, Shana Lynch, and Sandra Lowrie. The funds had been earmarked to build a third Food for the Poor House in commemoration of the company’s 40th Anniversary. The other two Food for the Poor houses sponsored by PROComm were built in Jamaica and Haiti.

Observer column published 16 September 2019

by Jean Lowrie-Chin

Last week we cast our minds back to September 12, 1988 the day that Category 3 Hurricane Gilbert hit Jamaica, lingering over us for about six hours.  We remember the howling wind, tearing around our yard like a prehistoric creature, destroying our trees and threatening our roof. It felt like an eternity. How, we are asking ourselves, could anyone imagine that the Category 5+ Hurricane Dorian would sit stubbornly over Northern Bahamas for over a day. We were overcome with a sense of helplessness when we saw the grim reports, those islands being literally shredded by this monster system.

Bahamian Marion Bethel wrote from the Bahamas during the ordeal: “We are all in shock, numb & devastated at the horrific impact on Abaco from Dorian! As I wrote this it is moving at 1 mile per hour over Grand Bahama, just hovering & wreaking havoc everywhere!  Persons are stranded in homes with rising tides right now!  .. We’re all in wait & watch mode as there is nothing we can do at this time!! Tuesday or Wednesday at the earliest!! This monstrous hurricane a CAT 5-6 moving with wind speed of 185-200 miles plus per hour has savaged & continues to pummel the northern islands!  The strongest hurricane to date in this part of the hemisphere, we’re told!!”

Thank goodness for the strength of that country, whose islands spared by the hurricane could immediately set up relief operations, partnering with regional and international organisations to rescue, shelter and feed some 70,000 families left homeless. Our friend and perennial volunteer Ann Marie Casserly kept us up to date with releases from the Bahamas National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), detailing their planning which included the enrolment of displaced students ages 4 to 19. They were invited “to seek enrolment at one of the government schools .. in any of the unaffected family islands” and were offered medical screening, uniform and lunch assistance, and referrals for counselling services.

Chef José Andrés of World Central Kitchen who had with his team prepared thousands of meals for survivors of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, partnered with scores of Bahamian volunteers to distribute food and water. The nimble Bahamians rightfully used the hashtag #BahamasStrong as they carried out non-stop relief efforts.

Jamaica stepped forward early, with our own Adam Stewart linking his Sandals Foundation and Sandals Resorts International to other tourism concerns who came on board to support this beautiful Caribbean destination. For what will be extensive reconstruction efforts, the Sandals Foundation has partnered with Food for the Poor, an organisation which has years of experience in the fast roll-out of housing solutions in 16 Caribbean countries. 

As they did after the massive Haiti earthquake, members of the Jamaica Defence Force have been dispatched to assist in relief efforts.  I remember being told that in the Haiti operation, it was our JDF soldiers who had fast-tracked the efficient distribution of relief supplies. Canadian High Commissioner Laurie Peters responded swiftly to the JDF’s request for flight support and so the Canadian Air Force has been making multiple trips, taking our soldiers to the hardest hit areas in the Bahamas.

Wake-up call for Jamaica
The destruction wrought by Hurricane Dorian is a wake-up call for Jamaica.  Last week’s flooding after two hours of rain is a warning that we are far from prepared for a big weather event. Let us be clear that the poor folks packed tight in some garrison areas have no sanitary conveniences and a garbage collection problem, so their garbage ends up in gullies.  We cannot be telling people ‘Nuh Dutty Up Jamaica’ when we have them living in sub-human conditions. What would become of their frail shacks and shaky old tenement buildings if they were hit by a major system? Further, there are hotel workers living in such circumstances. How will our tourism industry recover if we don’t plan for their safety ahead of time?
Jamaica has no shortage of goodwill and brain power, but we need to synergize our planning. With efficient engagement among the various ministries and multi-lateral organisations, our country can become a model of resilience. 

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Jamaica on alert but #stillbelieving


Observer column published 19 August 2019

by Jean Lowrie-Chin

We are borrowing Kingston Mayor Delroy Williams’ hashtag #stillbelieving as we reflect on the global economic jitters that have resulted from US-China trade conflicts.  Additionally, the price of aluminum has tumbled and threatens our bauxite industry.  However, we recall the last recession in 2008 when Jamaica was able to weather the storm as we had battened up our financial governance after the Finsac fallout. Indeed, an investor who had initially introduced Flow to Jamaica, noted that it was his Jamaican holdings that had shored him up when Wall Street was tumbling.

Well, as someone who has lived, worked and invested in my country for decades, I continue to be positive on Jamaica, even as I know that we have to be alert to the signals and be careful in our planning. My optimism is further bolstered by an opinion piece by World Bank Vice President Axel van Trotsenburg published in the Miami Herald on May 16 this year. Mr van Trotsenburg refers to our emergence from economic doldrums as ‘a silent revolution’, noting that “Jamaica has shown a macroeconomic turnaround that is quite extraordinary … After decades of high debt and low growth Jamaica has changed its growth trajectory, with positive economic growth for 16 consecutive quarters and growth getting closer to two per cent.”
He continued: “During that period, the Jamaica Stock Exchange went up more than 380 per cent. The credit agency Fitch upgraded the island's debt to B+ rating with a stable fiscal outlook, and unemployment hit eight per cent in January, the lowest in decades.”
He credits this and the previous administration with our serious belt-tightening: “The fiscal turnaround and economic transformation were possible because of the strong commitment across political parties over two competing administrations and electoral cycles. The country also critically benefited from a sustained social consensus for change and the strong backing of the private sector.”
Jamaica Economic Programme Oversight Committee (EPOC), first chaired by Richard Byles, who assumes the post of Bank of Jamaica Governor today and now by Keith Duncan, have played a significant role in monitoring and reporting on the various aspects of our economy.  There is an IMF standby agreement, but Keith Duncan makes it clear: “This is Jamaica’s Plan, not an IMF Plan.”
However, we cannot rest on our laurels.  With a new wave of school-leavers and university graduates in the job market, we have to be creative in supporting business start-ups and employment opportunities. Mr van Trotsenburg notes, “Despite unemployment at a new low, still too many young people are struggling to find a job. For Jamaica to continue to grow and prosper, it also needs to develop the skills for the workforce of tomorrow, especially in the areas of technology and digitalization. This requires a sharp focus on creating the conditions for youths to strive and succeed in the modern business world and close cooperation with the private sector in this respect.”
Digital transformation
Mr van Trotsenburg’s timely advice on technology and digitalization must be taken seriously and acted on urgently. As we type an email and see sentences being eerily completed in our writing style, we understand how much artificial intelligence has insinuated itself into our lives. Indeed ‘google’ is now more verb than noun as it is the library that sits in our smartphone. 
IDB Caribbean Manager Therese Turner-Jones and Minister of Science, Energy and Technology Fayval Williams have challenged us to stay in step digitally with developed countries on whom we depend for trade and investment.
In an address at the Mona School of Business in June, reported by Abbion Robinson in the Jamaica Observer, Minister Williams reminded, “We are in the digital era where the only constant is change. The technological revolution and transformation which are characteristics of the digital age have significantly changed and reshaped the way we operate on a daily basis and in business.”
She concluded: “Our future is digital in many respects and we cannot, at this moment, even begin to fathom the extent and the reach of this transformation … I implore you to equip your business and leaders to evolve with times.”

Here again “the conspiracy of mediocrity” (my words) can rear its ugly head.  Technology-averse managers may exclude bright young workers who can create greater efficiencies for their companies, thus holding back not only promising personnel but also the organisation at large.  This is a time when boards of governance must be vigilant, lest they find themselves endorsing flat-footed response to the business imperative of digital transformation.

I congratulate our Jamaican innovators for setting the pace, including tech pioneer Ingrid Riley, Edward Alexander and Christopher Reckord of tTech, Tyrone Reid of iCreate Institute, Gordon Swaby of Edufocal, Kadeem Petgrave of Educatours and Kemal Brown of Digita Global. They have helped us to see the huge promise of technology – it’s a promise that will take Jamaica to more places than we can ever imagine.

Digitally reaching seniors

Our budget was modest, so we used MailChimp, Facebook and Twitter to promote a new health insurance plan for seniors. It worked. Hundreds turned out for the launch of the new CCRP health plan last Wednesday and we had a continuous stream of applicants for the rest of the week. We have heard of social media platforms being used for negative purposes, but without these, low-budget organisations which seek to do good would be at a disadvantage. 

What we have been noticing however, is that some seniors who have smartphones are using them to make calls only. One lady said, “There was I trying to figure out this WhatsApp and the next thing I know, my friend is calling me to ask me why I sent her a photo of my feet!” Spare some time to sit with your elders and walk them through the nifty apps that will make them more engaged. Load up some of their favourite music as well.

This is Jamaica, my Jamaica


Observer column published 12 August 2019

by Jean Lowrie-Chin

We are awash with patriotism after several weeks of Independence celebrations, topped by the sparkling performance of Team Jamaica at the Pan American Games. We now know the financial status of both our Prime Minister and our Leader of the Opposition, and we have vocal private sector and civic organisations. Our stock market continues on its growth track and we are in the top ten in the world for freedom of the press. Even as we mourn the passing of Doreen Clemetson, Elaine Perkins, Ken Chaplin, Tony Young and Prof Barrie Hanchard, the tributes recounting their accomplishments remind us of our own possibilities. 

We are watching the transformation of our waterfront into a bustling commercial district by day and a relaxing entertainment spot by night. We are transfixed by theatre offerings – the 57th Season of our National Dance Theatre Company had someone commenting after the Kumina finale, “What a performance – Rex Nettleford is smiling down!”  

We checked out the AC Marriott on Lady Musgrave Road with a visiting friend. It was packed and happy, giving off a downtown New York vibe.

We were back in Negril last weekend and discovered a well-appointed new restaurant, Matthews in an upscale shopping centre, and again visited the down-home Public House.  We didn’t venture near the seven-mile beach because Dream Weekend was in session and the traffic was heavy.  All along the palm-tree lined Norman Manley Boulevard was a mix of top hotels, villas, restaurants and countless jerk vendors.

Our challenges

But here is the problem my sisters and brothers. On our way back to Kingston, we passed three road crashes in Hanover, Trelawny and St. Ann, each one worse than the other.  The crash on the St. Ann Highway involved three vehicles, two of which were crumpled beyond repair, and there was a man lying motionless on the ground. On several occasions, we had to move to the soft shoulder to avoid oncoming over-takers. Why does this madness continue? We hear stories about corruption, about a system unable to enforce the law so that notorious taxi drivers are still on the road, terrorizing the rest of us.

Of course, we had to stop at the SOE checkpoints, the youthful soldiers and police polite and patient in the sweltering heat and wondered at the cold-hearted violence which has brought our western parishes and part of St. Catherine to this sorry pass. My morning walks with my neighbours are no more since the incidents of hold-ups near our homes.

The excellent movie ‘Sprinter’, which last week won the Award for Favorite Narrative Feature at the 2019 BlackStar Film Fest in the US, explores the issue of ‘barrel children’ whose parents migrate to provide for their families.  Why were so many families torn apart leaving children without the ritual of family life so important to their formation?

 I remember the terror in a household worker’s eyes when someone suggested that she and her family may have to move to Kingston. She, the mother of three sons said there would be nowhere safe for them; she was fearful that they would become a part of those sad inner-city statistics. Our office attendant lives in an area where she cannot return home after dark. She recounts days when she has had to dodge bullets to get to work in the mornings.

To our leaders, grant true wisdom
We are heartened that Prime Minister Andrew Holness has appealed to all politicians to cut their association with thugs. We all know what has transpired in the past with both political parties: it is an open secret whispered in hushed tones. We know.  So, let us now watch to see which politicians are still surrounding themselves with those cold-eyed gangsters. It is time, leaders, to set your people in the garrisons free. It is time to stop telling your thugs to go burn down the houses of those of another political party.

The energy that has been used to meet with those thugs, to keep citizens under siege, to stir fear in the hearts of parents for their children, could have been used to meet with decent people in constituencies, to create community centres where all could enjoy sports and social events, where young people could be trained.

My past experiences with the Social Development Commission have not been great but I see encouraging postings from one of their top executives, Omar Frith.  Operation HOPE being led by the Jamaica Defence Force and HEART-NTA are giving us renewed faith. 

The challenge for those who step up to political leadership is to set the best example to their fellow Jamaicans and to work to lift up this Nation that they swore on the Bible to lead with integrity.  There were yesterdays of shame and pain and sorrow, but our leaders can transform themselves and their followers with tomorrows of courage and dignity and joy.  They can tap into the discipline of those performers at the Gala, those hard-working farmers at Denbigh, those culinary artists on show, those beautiful children dancing and reciting, those teachers who go the extra mile, and those elders who are nurturing and schooling their grandchildren in the absence of their parents. 

Have a heart politicians – they are the ones who are funding your vehicles, your security detail, your airconditioned offices and parliamentary meetings, your trips around the world. Every time they buy a phone card, they are funding your superior way of life.  You should be serving them gratefully, with every breath that you take.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

THALIA LYN 2019 PSOJ HALL OF FAME INDUCTEE

Founder and CEO of Island Grill, Mrs. Thalia Lyn, O.D. , J.P. has been announced as the Hall of Fame inductee for 2019 – an honour awarded by The Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ).

Mrs. Lyn is the 27th business leader and second woman to be inducted to the prestigious Private Sector Hall of Fame. She is a savvy businesswoman and this selection reestablishes her iconic status as a visionary, underlined by her creation of the indigenous Island Grill chain – which delivers a fast food option which embodies their "Eat Good, Live Good" mantra using Jamaican ingredients - throughout Jamaica and Barbados, from 19 locations.

Mrs. Lyn's contribution to nation building goes beyond her innovation in the quick service restaurant industry. The high regard for her brilliance and entrepreneurial acumen has landed her on several boards and committees. She is currently the Chairperson for the NCB Foundation and a Director of the NCB Financial Group. In addition, handful of the other boards she serves on include, Island Catering Limited (Jamaica & Barbados), Island Grill Holdings Limited, Jamaica Macaroni Factory Ltd. and Port Royal Patties (UK).

Her philanthropic endeavours are diverse and further enhance her legacy. The 2019 PSOJ Hall of Fame is an activist for gender equality and the less fortunate and is credited with procuring immeasurable support for Jamaica, particularly the Mustard Seed Communities- which operates 14 homes across Jamaica, where she serves as Director. She was one of the first signatories to the UN Women Win-Win Program, Co-Patron of the UWI/CB 5K, Director of the Oracabessa Foundation, supporting the Blue Economy and the PSOJ's own Gender & Disabilities Affairs Committee, among others.

Thalia Lyn has over 40 years' experience in the private sector and serves as the Honorary Consul General for Jamaica, Kingdom of Thailand, promoting trade between the two countries. This Immaculate Conception High School past student, was inducted into the inaugural ICHS Hall of Fame. She is a mother of two, a grandmother of four and has been married for 52 years. She furthered her education by securing her Bachelor of Arts from Mahattanville College in New York and completing the Canadian Securities Course. Mrs. Lyn is to be conferred with an Honorary Degree, Doctor of Laws (LLD) by the University of the West Indies in November of this year.

The PSOJ's Private Sector Hall of Fame was established in 1992. The award honours esteemed business leaders who have made significant contributions to the development of the private sector and Jamaica and pays tribute to three important traits – successful entrepreneurship, leadership and character.

Mrs. Lyn joins an esteemed list of 26 previous inductees, including last year's recipient, ICD Group Chairman Joseph M. Matalon and 2017 recipient former Sagicor Group Chairman and newly appointed Bank of Jamaica Governor Richard O. Byles.

The PSOJ Private Sector Hall of Fame Banquet takes place at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel Ballroom on October 29, 2019.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Windrush, Brexit and a ‘Curry Crisis’


Column in the Jamaica Observer published 8 July 2019
by Jean Lowrie-Chin

We learned about the #WidenWindrush campaign from our relative ‘Angel’ Lorraine Young during a recent visit to London. Lorraine and her mother Fay Young serve on a Committee led by her Member of Parliament, Janet Daby, which has been calling for an amendment to the Windrush Scheme which “would provide a route to citizenship for the descendants and family members of the Windrush Generation.”
My husband Hubie Chin with our relatives Lorraine 'Angel' Young and
her Mother Mrs Fay Young, activists for #WidenWindrush, on our visit to the
Houses of Parliament in London

At a Briefing held on June 19 MP Daby explained that the Windrush Scheme had been set up “to address the difficulties faced by members of the Windrush generation, large numbers of whom were prevented from working and subjected to detention/removal as a result of Hostile Environment policies”.  She noted that “it established the basis for the Windrush Taskforce to expedite these cases without fees and ensuring speedy documentation was issued. It is the central practical measure introduced to remedy this important generation had been subject to.”

The briefing noted that the roots of the Windrush scandal started from the discriminatory aspects of the 1971 Immigration Act “which (along with the 1968 Legislation) came into being on the back of a racist backlash to Black and Asian immigration, led by Enoch Powell.”

Note this important point: “The 1971 Act cemented the rights of those who were born British in the colonies and commonwealth and were already settled in Britain, not as full British Citizens, but as people with the right to be treated ‘as if’ they were British Citizens.”

To quote our favourite English playwright, William Shakespeare, “There’s the rub”: the words “as if” meant that the Windrush generation and their descendants would still be regarded as second class citizens.  This is in stark contrast to the privilege granted to residents of “the older colonies” mentioned in the act – namely the USA and Australia, who could easily claim British Citizenship through its Patriality Clause.

Now that there is wide recognition of the Windrush Generation’s contribution to the development of Britain, MP Daly says it is unacceptable that their descendants and family members continue to be subject to removal and detention.

We heard the stories of relatives being detained and threatened with deportations. There are many appeals on their behalf, now pending.

A “BAME Summit” is being planned for later this month as the Committee is concerned about the racist undertones of the Brexit movement.  The Briefing noted, “Brexit lays the basis for another Windrush scandal, and is Britain’s contribution to dangerous growing white nationalism across Europe that physically threatens our sisters and brothers, settled and arriving from Africa, Asia and the Middle East regions.”

Rita Mitra and I at Windrush Square, Brixton
Windrush Square
My friend Rita Mitra was kind enough to take me to Windrush Square in Brixton where I placed flowers at a Memorial to honour African and Caribbean soldiers who had served in World Wars I and II in memory of my dear Dad who served in the Royal Air Force.
Placing flowers in memory of my dear Dad
Joscelyn Lowrie, who served in the Royal Air Force

Rita hosted us at a famous Indian restaurant in Euston called Diwana.  With Indian food being so popular in Britain, folks are concerned about a looming “curry crisis”.

According to a report in the UK Standard, “Curry house bosses told how they felt ‘used’, ‘let down’ and may have been given ‘false hope’ by politicians that quitting the EU would allow more workers in from South Asia to address staff shortages.”

Bloomberg reported on the losses of leading Indian Restauranteur Syed Joynu: “This was nothing like what he was promised in the Brexit campaign he supported … immigration has become tighter, business has suffered, and the workers from eastern Europe he had come to rely on have fled. Getting chefs over to work in Britain’s cherished Indian and Bangladeshi restaurants is near impossible under current immigration laws.”

The report quotes Joynu: “We didn’t realize what would happen after Brexit and thought we’d be better off. If there’s a second vote now, I’d vote to remain in the EU.”

Enjoying Cambridge with Family

In spite of these ripples, we tourists had a great time in England. We had an extensive tour of the Houses of Parliament, courtesy of Lorraine Young enjoyed lunch at the popular Happy Halibut, visited family at Coulsdon and in Cambridge. Imagine, attending the Cambridge Midsummer Fair in its 808th year! The countryside is beautiful, and we felt especially blessed at the sung Mass at the Church of Our Lady and the British Martyrs.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Now that we found love …


Observer column published 1st July 2019

by Jean Lowrie-Chin

As two of Jamaica’s greatest friends, the USA and Canada, celebrated their national milestones here last week, and outlined their continued support for our development, I reflected on the welcome words of Prime Minister Andrew Holness earlier last month when he declared that there had to be an end to ‘donmanship’ and garrison politics.

_DSC3947
Former US Chargé d’Affaires to Jamaica
Eric Khant and Mrs Khant 
At the celebration of the 243rd Anniversary of his country’s Independence last Wednesday, US Embassy Chargé d’Affaires Eric Khant noted, “Our partnership with Jamaica is built on shared values and interests. They include strong security cooperation, building disaster resiliency, expanding economic ties, bolstering democracy and human rights, and making health and education a priority.”

Our Jamaica Defence Force came in for special mention: “At the recent Southern Command Chiefs of Mission Conference, our military leaders commended the professionalism and effectiveness of the Jamaica Defense Force and expressed their commitment to continue working closely with the JDF to enhance security in the region. Our law enforcement agencies collaborate with MOCA, CTOC, FID, JCF, and other Jamaican partners to counter transnational crime that harms both our countries.”

Over US$1.2 billion has been invested by both the American private sector and the US Government towards the development of cleaner and affordable energy sources.  “Going forward, said Mr Khant, “we expect to see more U.S. investments in the energy sector, small and medium size enterprises, especially those owned by women, and in many other areas.”

In the areas of disaster preparedness and health, the US has invested heavily, involving the District of Columbia’s National Guard collaborating with ODPEM, JCF and JDF, and HIV/Zika programmes with our Ministry of Health and Wellness.

Chargé Khant and his wife Mrs Halima Khant have been movers and shakers for Jamaica, travelling throughout the country to affirm their support for Jamaicans of all walks of life. As Mr Khant’s tour of duty in Jamaica winds down, we thank them for their steadfast support not only in security, health, energy and disaster preparedness, but also for an education enrichment programme which has assisted us in surpassing our millennium development goal in literacy at the primary level.

High Commissioner Laurie Peters
Her Excellency Hon. Laurie Peters
Canadian High Commissioner to Jamaica

Last Thursday, Canadian High Commissioner to Jamaica Laurie Peters celebrated Canada Day, the country’s 157th Birthday.  HC Peters gave us a ‘snapshot’ of our countries’ long-standing relations: “Over 300,000 members of the Jamaican Diaspora live in Canada and make valuable contributions to our society; some 405,000 Canadians visited Jamaica last year to enjoy this beautiful country; -- the number 2 source country for tourists; some 3500 Jamaicans are studying in Canada; over 9,000 Jamaican workers participate in the Seasonal Agricultural Workers’ Program every year; and benefit from the recently extended 10-year validity of biometrics; over 1700 members of the Jamaican military have received training with our support through Jamaica’s Centres of Excellence; there are over 35 MOUs between Canadian and Jamaican academic institutions.”

We appreciate Canada’s support of the modernisation of our justice system and the upholding of women’s rights.  “In the pursuit of equality for women and girls; and equity for small states in the global system, Canada and Jamaica are on the same page,” HC Peters noted, “Our global leadership, via our Feminist Foreign Policy and Feminist International Assistance Policy, calls for equality in all our cooperation efforts… Prime Minister Trudeau recently appointed our first Ambassador for Women Peace and Security.”

She said that through Canada’s Department of Defence has “fully commissioned the Operational Support Hub for Latin America and the Caribbean (OSH-LAC) in Port Royal. This “camp in a box” will support countries around the region in the wake of natural disasters.”
She acknowledged Jamaica’s leadership, congratulating Minister Daryl Vaz and Senator Matthew Samuda for activating our single-use plastic and styrofoam ban, noting that Canada will follow suit by 2021.

In the matter of defence cooperation, she applauded the work of former JDF Head now Police Commissioner Major General Antony Anderson and announced that, “building on more than 50 years of defence cooperation, we established this year, the Canadian Defence Unit at the High Commission.”

Today, the Canadian High Commission launches their Call for Proposals for the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives (CFLI). Local organisations should seize the opportunity to submit proposals to fund programmes in gender equality, peace and security, climate change adaptation and environmental protection.

So Jamaica, here we are, enjoying all this support from our northern neighbours. To quote Third World, “Now that we have love, what are we gonna do with it?” We keep talking about a wholistic approach to peace and justice – let us get more homework centres opened, more social workers on the ground, more trained counsellors, CCTV cameras in volatile areas, and swifter consequences for criminal activities. 

Our good neighbours have equipped us well. Politicians now need to prove that they will no longer consort with the underworld, and we call on the NIA and CAFFE to engage the public on this urgent matter.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Domestic workers entitled to protection under the law



by Jean Lowrie-Chin
Presentation at GraceKennedy-Heather Little-White 2017 Household Workers  Awards presented by Hon Shahine Robinson(2nd left), Minister of Labour & Social Security
and GK CEO Don Wehby (3rd left). Cherrilene Williams-Case emerged as the
2017 Female Household Worker of the Year
while Anthony Houston was awarded Male Household Worker of the Year.
Jamaica Observer column published Mon 15 July 2019

International Domestic Workers Day will be celebrated tomorrow, July 16.  Avrie Allen-March, sociologist with the Bureau of Gender Affairs (BGA), noted that “On this day in 2011, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) adopted the Domestic Workers Convention (C189). The Convention lays down basic rights and principles to make decent work a reality for domestic workers.”

Well do I remember that day in 2016 at the GraceKennedy Household Workers Awards ceremony (for which I am happy to be ideator) when president of the Jamaica Household Workers Union (JHWU), Shirley Pryce briefed Prime Minister Andrew Holness on the Convention. When he ascended the stage for his keynote address he declared that Jamaica would adopt this Convention. True to his word, he announced its ratification in September 2016.

Mrs Allen-March explains: “This means that a domestic worker in Jamaica is entitled to the same protections under the law as any other worker. This includes the following: a contract, sufficient daily and/or weekly rest, a salary no lower than the minimum wage, paid annual leave, compensation for overtime work as well as social security contributions.”

I am appealing to media colleagues to mention these rights on the air and to encourage household workers to join the (JHWU) to have strength in numbers. Having served on the panel of judges for the GK-Heather Little-White Household Workers of the Year Awards, I can attest to the dedication of our household workers, women and men. Indeed, they are nominated by their employers who clearly appreciate the years of service they have given to sometimes more than one generation.

From these interviews we learn that household workers are entrusted with keys and funds when their employers travel. We learn that they hone their skills and practice time management. We learn of their compassion in assisting with the care of special needs children and elderly family members. They have noted the kindnesses of their employers, sometimes allowing them to include their children in live-in arrangements.

The ILO Convention requires that a contract be created for the employee and the Ministry of Labour & Social Security has made it clear that once a household worker gives three days or more of service, the employer must ensure that vacation and sick leave are given. With increased NIS benefits we must assist in registration and payment of the modest contributions to the scheme which will provide well needed funds in their twilight years.

To mark International Domestic Workers’ Day, the BGA and JHWU are collaborating to host an Awards ceremony with the theme “Uniting and Celebrating Domestic Workers!” this Saturday, July 20 at the Altamont Court Hotel, where they will be recognizing 27 domestic workers with over 20 years of service with Invisible Giant Awards.

Why am I so passionate about household workers? My Mother would repeatedly sing the praises of Fanny Ricketts, both of them of blessed memory, who stayed by her side during hard times when she had a terminally ill husband and was caring for four small children. When my mother told Fanny that she would have to terminate her employment for lack of funds, Fanny organized with her partner to reap produce from our small farm in Hartford, Westmoreland, and sell them in the market to pay herself. Later we ensured that Fanny would spend her years as an elder in the comfort of her own home.