Friday, February 17, 2017

A case of life and death – literally

Excerpt - Observer column published 13 FEB 2017
by Jean Lowrie-Chin

Women and men from all walks of life gathered with purpose last Tuesday evening to plan and act with urgency as we grieved the tragic loss of an alarming number of women and children. There is a term “collective grief” which is said to permeate a community or country after repeated incidents of tragedy and trauma. Jamaica is in that state.  This ‘collective grief’ has the potential to immobilise us, even as we strive for the objectives of the Economic Growth Council, five percent growth in four years. 

Therese Turner-Jones, Caribbean representative for the IDB has emphasised continuously the serious effect that crime has been having on Jamaica’s economy.  The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) recently released a four-year study (2010-2014) of 17 countries titled, The Costs of Crime and Violence: New Evidence and Insights in Latin America and the Caribbean”. 

Ana Maria Rodriguez-Ortiz, the IDB's manager institutions for development, noted that Jamaica has the fourth highest impact, losing 3.99 percent of GDP due to crime.  However, crime expert Professor Anthony Clayton says that the indirect cost of crime nearly doubles that percentage.

In a recent report, he notes, "The indirect costs included investments that might have come to this country but didn't because of concerns about crime and corruption. Then there's the loss of human capital - we lose a lot of our skilled people migrating to other jurisdictions. It (crime) has an effect on people's propensity to save and invest in Jamaica. People are less likely to invest if they think that they're going to become the victims of extortion… When you take into account these other costs, then I believe from work that we've done, that you're looking at somewhere just over seven per cent of GDP."

Even as we applaud the work of the Economic Growth Council and the encouraging statistics from Chairman of the Economic Programme Oversight Committee (EPOC) Keith Duncan, we will not be able to make the projected strides without serious funding of programmes to end violence against women and children.  It was disheartening to hear a woman from the Jamaica Association of Transport Owners and Operators (JATOO) defending the heavy tint on taxis, which may be hiding a multitude of sins. Her argument:  the heat as taxi drivers wait for passengers.  Please lady, what is a little heat compared to the brutal murder and rape of your people?
Prime Minister Andrew Holness’ message on his Facebook page on Friday makes it clear: “By Monday February 13th, Public Passenger Vehicles in particular Registered Taxis must remove their window tints. It is already the law!  #SaferJamaica  #ProtectOurWomen  #ProtectOurChildren
The Centre for the Investigation of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse (CISOCA), a branch of the Jamaica Constabulary Force, has identified some of the top abusers as pastors, teachers and police officers.  There are also allegations on social media that this group may include politicians. This is a sad commentary on those to whom our country should look for leadership, protection and ethical behaviour.  This column is calling on the decent members of these groups to create stricter screening and disciplinary actions against those who are sullying their good name. They should be warned that with the growth of social media, evil deeds are going to be exposed sooner or later.
It is alleged that some of the young women who have been abducted and killed may have been used as couriers for scammers whose identities had become known, and that they may have been forced to play this role because of threats to their families. 

Recommendations from 51 Percent Coalition
A release on last week’s meeting from the 51 Percent Coalition stated these pointed recommendations:
-  allocation of funds for a shelter for abused women in every parish by the end of 2017;
-  influencing the Prime Minister, as head of the Social Partnership, to “step up and lead” on the issue;
 - strengthened restorative justice and psychological support for victims;
 - working with youth (counselling and mentoring);
 - strengthened community policing and special training for police;
 - “targeted activism” in schools, communities and the workplace;
 -  and using critical “touch points” such as health services for speedier interventions.”

The statement continued: “Moderated by Indi McLymont Lafayette, the meeting began with a minute’s silence for the victims and survivors of gender-based violence. Head of the Association of Women’s Organizations (AWOJA) Dr. Hermione McKenzie spoke on the dangers of trafficking in women and girls and Maria Carla Gullotta of Stand Up for Jamaica emphasized that sexual abuse is a key factor in so-called “uncontrollable” girls who find themselves in conflict with the law. Glenroy Murray of WE-Change spoke on the Sexual Offences Act, currently under review by a Parliamentary Committee. Patricia Donald Phillips brought a strong statement from women Church leaders.”

We understand that there is a great deal of fear on the part of witnesses, so we need to study the best practices of countries who have successfully tackled these problems so that our Witness Protection System gives confidence to those who want to step forward.  We urge our leaders in every sphere of life to put in the checks and balances that are required for us as a nation to earn the respect of the international community. 


The buck stops at Jamaica House.  It stops there because these are the individuals who campaigned to lead our country and who must now lead the change to transform Jamaica into the safe and secure place that it can be. Members of the Partnership for Transformation Committee are well positioned; there can be no napping because this is literally a case of life and death.

Aloun Assamba gives 2017 Cobb Lecture

Excerpt from Jamaica Observer column published 6th Feb 2017
by Jean Lowrie-Chin
Ambassador Aloun Assamba

This year’s Lecture in the Cobb series during the UWI Research Days held earlier this month, was presented by Ambassador Aloun Assamba, attorney-at-law, CEO of COK-Sodality Credit Union, former High Commissioner, former government Minister and former Member of Parliament.  

The enlightening lecture series was created and sponsored by Ambassadors Sue and Charles Cobb, for in-depth exploration of issues that affect Jamaica’s development. US Ambassador Luis Moreno disclosed at the event, that Ambassador Sue Cobb is so highly respected by the US State Department that an award was created in her name to recognize outstanding US Ambassadors worldwide. During her tour of duty here in Jamaica, Ambassador Cobb founded Jamaica’s Women’s Leadership Initiative and with her family, sponsors the scholarship for rural students.

Ambassador Assamba’s topic was “Education and Healthcare: The Equitable Imperative for Jamaica”.  She contrasted the challenges faced by Jamaica’s lower income earners to those who could afford private medical assistance. For example, a poor person may have to wait all day, just to secure an appointment to see a specialist. In education, she noted that the removal of auxiliary fees had negatively affected the running of schools in which under-privileged children have unequal access to some areas of learning. She said children in deep rural areas have the additional challenge of transportation, resulting in poor attendance. 

Similarly, in the health system she said that the abolition of user fees is hobbling our medical services.  She referred to an incident where an expatriate stayed in the St. Ann’s Bay Hospital for six weeks and on being discharged, asked for his bill. He was told that the hospital had no facility to produce one. 


Ambassador Assamba declared that she was not speaking from any political platform. “Politicians like to talk about free things,” she said, “but I have been there and done that and I have moved on.”  She says that the reinstatement of realistic user fees will level the playing field and called for the data to be gathered via surveys and focus groups to bring a change in the planning for health and education.

Research to find cure for national ills

Excerpt from Observer column published  6 FEB 2017
by Jean Lowrie-Chin

The UWI Research days last week gave us myriad examples of the power of research to improve our lives.  In the areas of medicine, agricultural science, social and environmental research, we can see its impact, and the benefits it would offer to Jamaica’s public sector transformation process. 

At a ‘Policy Research Impact Forum’, Rickert Allen, Senior General Manager at NCB said that his company underwent radical transformation since 2001, turning to research to develop a strategy that would take the once-failing bank to its number one position in Jamaica today. 

“There is a lot of research taking place, but no one is reading it,” said Mona Business lecturer Dr. Kadawame Knife. Interestingly, he noted that although there was not a strong research culture in Jamaica, the Jamaica Constabulary Force was one of the organizations that uses this resource to inform their strategy. I recall a group of young men on Orange Street in downtown Kingston making Clarke’s shoes knock-offs being rounded up, luckily by officers who had been trained in community policing. Instead of locking them up, the policemen recognised their talent and took them to the Jamaica Business Development Centre (JBDC) for guidance.  With the help of JBDC and the Digicel Foundation, they are on their way to becoming young entrepreneurs, and Dr Knife who has been their mentor, can show you the excellent shoes they made for him.

In a spirited contribution, Prof. Dale Webber said that it was the in depth environmental research of the Kingston Harbour done by himself, his wife, Prof. Mona Webber and 25 graduate students that resulted in its rehabilitation.  Their study showed that the bacterial content of the harbour’s water was 250% above the accepted level, resulting in a stop to careless sewage disposal and the construction of the Soapberry facility. Dr. Webber said that his team’s research on the Kingston Harbour was so significant, that an entire bulletin of the Marine Science publication was dedicated to their findings.
Chairman of the UWI Research Days Committee, Professor Denise Eldemire Shearer harks back to a ‘policy wall’ her Mona Wellness Centre created years ago. It was out of this that the life-saving Jamaica Drugs for the Elderly Programme (JADEP) was developed.

We should therefore support the call of the Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN) to co-operate with their personnel who will be interviewing over 4000 families to establish their level of spend, and other key social and financial indicators.  It is only by gathering and analysing this data that planning for Poverty Alleviation Through Health and Education (PATH), low income housing, health and education can produce the results we so dearly want.

We must be clear that this rash of murders and crime cannot end with the treatment of symptoms, but with the use of strategic, energetic social reform to cure this horrible national condition.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

51% Coalition’s Meeting of the Minds Offer Strong Recommendations on Fighting Violence

Participants in the discussion are resolute! 

51% Coalition
WOMEN IN PARTNERSHIP FOR DEVELOPMENT & EMPOWERMENT

February 9, 2017
51% Coalition's Meeting of the Minds Offer Strong Recommendations on Fighting Violence Against Women and Children

"We must use the word 'justice' in every conversation!" declared 51% Coalition member Hilary Nicholson of WMW Jamaica during an energetic "Meeting of the Minds" on Tuesday, February 7, 2017 at the Jamaica Suite, Phoenix Central in Kingston. 

Over 70 women and men packed the room and after over two hours of passionate discussion came up with some strong recommendations including:
-  allocation of funds for a shelter for abused women in every parish by the end of 2017; 
-  influencing the Prime Minister, as head of the Social Partnership, to "step up and lead"   on the issue;
 - strengthened restorative justice and psychological support for victims; 
 - working with youth (counseling and mentoring);
 - strengthened community policing and special training for police;
 - "targeted activism" in schools, communities and the workplace; 
 -  and using critical "touch points" such as health services for speedier interventions.

Moderated by Indi McLymont Lafayette, the meeting began with a minute's silence for the victims and survivors of gender-based violence. 

Head of the Association of Women's Organizations (AWOJA) Dr. Hermione McKenzie spoke on the dangers of trafficking in women and girls and Maria Carla Gullotta of Stand Up for Jamaica emphasized that sexual abuse is a key factor in so-called "uncontrollable" girls who find themselves in conflict with the law. Glenroy Murray of WE-Change spoke on the Sexual Offences Act, currently under review by a Parliamentary Committee. Patricia Donald Phillips brought a strong statement from women Church leaders.

Groups represented at the meeting included 51%Coalition member organizations WMW- Jamaica; Panos Caribbean; Institute of Gender & Development Studies/UWI; WE-Change; AWOJA; Women's Resource and Outreach Centre and Jamaica Network of Rural Women Producers; as well as Children First, Bureau of Gender Affairs, Kiwanis Club of New Kingston, The Positive Organization, the Women Entrepreneurs Network of the Caribbean, Jamaicans for Justice, Girl Guides' Association, Women's Centre Foundation, Jamaica Community of Positive Women, 1 Billion Rising-Ja, Her Flow, Mothers of Jamaica, Great People Solutions, YWCA  Stand Up for Jamaica and the National Family Planning Board.

Release prepared by 51 Percent Coalition

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Nobody’s business but their own?

Yesterday, a Federal Judge in Seattle, Washington ruled that the Executive Order restricting immigration from seven countries was unconstitutional ... it has been temporarily lifted.

Excerpt from Jamaica Observer column for MON 30 January 2017
by Jean Lowrie-Chin

The first seven days of the Trump presidency has been marked by the biggest one-day global protest in history, an executive order to install a disputed oil pipeline, plans to withhold Federal funding for ‘sanctuary cities’, and the detention of two Iraqi men at JFK airport after the US Government introduced a system of ‘extreme vetting’.

The Washington Post reports, “One of the Iraqi men detained at JFK is Sameer Abdulkhaleq Alshawi, 33, who holds a visa that allowed him to join his wife and young child in Texas … The other detainee is Hameed Khalid Darweesh, 53, who had worked as a contractor for the U.S. government in Iraq for about a decade, including as an interpreter for the Army. He and his wife and three children had spent more than two years securing a special immigrant visa, granted to Iraqis who assisted U.S. military forces.”
The Jamaican folk song ‘Nobody’s business but my own’ may persuade us to stay silent, but then there is also another song that reminds us, “No man is an island/ No man stands alone/Each man’s joy is joy to me/Each man’s grief is my own.”
Mayor of Boston, Marty Walsh showed his humanity as he spoke out against the threat to cut funds to US ‘sanctuary cities’.  Such cities are defined as those “that follow certain procedures that shelters illegal immigrants. These procedures can be by law (de jure) or they can be by action (de facto).”
NBC News quoted Mayor Walsh, the son of Irish immigrants: "I want to say directly to anyone who feels threatened today, or vulnerable: You are safe in Boston. We will do everything lawful in our power to protect you. If necessary, we will use City Hall itself to shelter and protect anyone who's targeted unjustly."


While President Trump reaffirms his support of Christians, may he also remember the response of Christ, when He was asked, “Who is my neighbour?”  Jesus’ parable of the Samaritan who stops to rescue someone foreign to him, makes it clear that we have a responsibility to our fellow humans, regardless of race or religion. May Mr. Trump’s spiritual advisors guide him to this realization.

STGC PHOTOGRAPHY……… FLORA PROJECT, 26 January, 2017

Beautiful photographs from the St George's College Photo Club.. shared by STGC Old Boy Dr Lloyd Tenn

STGC PHOTOGRAPHY……… FLORA PROJECT, 26 January, 2017

The students were given pointers with respect to taking great FLORA/ FLOWERS photos. A number of flowering plants were provided and the students were asked shoot. They were also provided with reflectors and background. 

Generally speaking, the students had some difficulty in working in the macro setting. The strong wind also posed a challenge in taking the photo.

Nevertheless, we did get some good ones which we have displayed.

Also included were a few works from recent past students.


STGC Photography Club
AMDG

 


Saturday, January 28, 2017

Stay focused Jamaica!

Excerpt from Jamaica Observer column published 23 January 2017
by Jean Lowrie-Chin

In reflecting on the inauguration of President Donald Trump, a Facebook friend posted, “Today I express gratitude for not waking up in America this morning.” Still, many of our family and friends in the Jamaica Diaspora in the US continue to enjoy a better quality of life than we do in Jamaica.  The heartbreaking news out of Hanover that two small children were shot dead along with their father in what seems to be a reprisal killing, brought Member of Parliament Ian Hayles to tears as he expressed frustration to reporters.

When the cameras panned around the Grand Jamaica Ballroom at the Jamaica Pegasus at those powerful heads of church and state bowed in devotion at last Thursday’s National Leadership Prayer Breakfast, I was reminded of a passage from the Bible – James 2 14-18: What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? … Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.”

Our Jamaican landscape is dense with churches, and so if these churches can respond to this challenge, and call our local leaders into partnership, Jamaica would be a peaceful country.  Church leaders should seek to befriend the 63 Members of Parliament and the 226 Parish Councillors. They should also reach out to the appointees to boards of government agencies, and seek updates from them on how their agencies are serving their country. By inviting representatives of the Health Authorities, Social Development Commission, JAMPRO, HEART-NTA, NHT, NHF to your church council meetings, you may learn of opportunities for church members of which they were not aware. Our church leaders have the potential to be development monitors for Jamaica. 

JCF 150th Anniversary Launch
The Jamaica Constabulary Force had an impressive launch of their 150th Anniversary celebrations last Thursday.  We were reminded of the brains and talent that reside in the JCF as we heard addresses from Acting Commissioner Novelette Grant and award-winning officers, and the excellent performances of the JCF Band and the JCF Choir. The JCF continues to be one of the most philanthropic organisations in Jamaica.  Did you know that in recognition of having the largest youth organisation in Jamaica and annual fundraising for Special Olympics, the JCF received the award for the Most Outstanding Employee Giving Organisation from United Way of Jamaica in 2014? 

The crooks will always want to sow distrust for the JCF, so let us be smarter than them and not use the deeds of a few, to condemn the entire Police Force.  Congratulations on your 150th Anniversary, JCF!

Farewell Obama, Hello Trump

Excerpt from Jamaica Observer column published 23 Jan 2017

by Jean Lowrie-Chin

Within a few minutes last Friday, the United States of America, the most powerful country in the world, said farewell to former President Barack Obama and inaugurated their new President, Donald Trump.  According to the polls, Barack Obama is exiting with one of the highest favourability ratings of recent Presidents while Donald Trump is entering the White House with the lowest since polling on this began 45 years ago. One person on social media quipped: “In a few minutes, the leadership of the world changed hands, from Barack Obama … to Angela Merkel!”
Despite the many negative and misguided pronouncements of President Trump particularly his description of Civil Rights Hero Congressman John Lewis as “all talk and no action”, President Obama assured the media in his final Press Conference at the White House that “we’re going to be okay”. 

For those who found the Trump Inauguration traumatic, the late shows on Friday evening brought comic relief.  There was Trevor Noah suggesting that the low attendance at the event was the result of ‘draining the swamp’ while Stephen Colbert suggested that Trump had ‘put America back to work’ hence the turnout.  Both used the aerial views of attendance at the Obama and Trump inaugurations, which showed that Trump had less than one-third of the turnout that Obama did.

Bill Maher had Steve Olbermann as a special guest, so you can imagine the witty hammering that the incoming president received.  Maher’s guests ended on a serious note:  Americans should be vigilant and active to protect their freedom, and the rights of the most vulnerable in their society. 

Kudos, therefore to the hundreds of thousands who marched in Washington DC, throughout America and in cities across the world for the protection of women’s and human rights.  We should be particularly proud of Senator Kamala Harris, whose father is Jamaican-born for her stirring call to the marchers.

Thank you Barack and Michelle Obama

When Barack Obama won the US Presidential elections in 2008, we draped ribbons with Obama pins over portraits of our children.  For people of colour, the ascent of an African American to the White House represented the realisation of Dr Martin Luther King’s dream and the affirmation of Marcus Mosiah Garvey that when you have confidence, you have won before you have even started.
Of course, we were nervous, because with that cynical ‘birther’ movement initiated by Donald Trump who just recently admitted that he was wrong, we wondered if there would be not only digging, but ‘cooking’ of the facts around this brilliant, exemplary couple.  And so, we breathed a sigh of relief when we saw Barack and Michelle Obama, step out of the White House on Friday morning with their heads held high, their reputation not only intact, but enhanced.

We in Jamaica were at fever pitch when President Obama graced us with a visit in 2015. Below is an excerpt from my column of April 15, 2015

[President Obama] walked into the UWI Assembly Hall and hailed his audience with “Greetings, massive!  Wah gwaan, Jamaica?  … I want to thank the University of the West Indies for hosting us.  Big up, You-Wee!  Thank you.  I’ve been making myself at home here.”
As we awaited his arrival, all the talk was about his visit to the Bob Marley Museum, his singing along to “Exodus” and “One Love”, his reference to his collection of Marley albums… This President touched a special chord when he referred to Usain Bolt and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce: “I get a chance to say hi to Usain Bolt and Shelly Ann Fraser-Pryce. When you have the fastest people on the planet, you’ve got to say hi to them, right?  Because that’s fast. There are a lot of people out there, and they’re the fastest!”  

We do hope President (yes, he keeps his title) and Mrs Obama will visit us soon, so they can feel the love we Jamaicans will always have for them.  God speed, Obama family!


Sunday, January 22, 2017

This rich country, Jamaica

Observer column for MON 16 JAN 2017
by Jean Lowrie-Chin


Sportswoman & Sportswoman of the Year Elaine Thompson
and Usain Bolt receive awards from RJR Group MD Gary Allen
and Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment & Sport,
Hon Olivia Grange
Last Friday and Saturday, we attended The RJR National Sportsman & Sportswoman of the Year Awards glittering with world-beaters; the GraceKennedy Annual Business Conference punctuated by applause for captains of industry Butch Hendrickson and their own CEO, Don Wehby; a prayerful and hopeful meeting of the Associates of the Sisters of Mercy, and a laughter-rich evening with close friends, happy to escape the cold north. Yes indeed, we are ultra-rich in body, mind and spirit.


Special Award to Shelly-Ann
Fraser Pryce from Gleaner
Managing Director Chris Barnes
Special Award to Usain Bolt from
Selection Panellist Dr Carrole
Guntley
Ascending the stage for top awards at the RJR event last Friday were our own Hon Usain Bolt, God’s gift to this country, guided by strong, decent parents, managers and coaches, Omar McLeod, Elaine Thompson, racehorse trainer Wayne DaCosta and world champion swimmer Alia Atkinson.   Yes indeed, Jamaican grit extends beyond the stadium to the Caymanas racetrack and to the water.
Hon Mike Fennell, our age-defying Jamaica Olympics Association President and Chairman of the Commonwealth Games, received the Global Icon Award, and here I must pause to also congratulate his radiant, practical wife Kathleen ‘Peggy’ Fennell who in her own right is a role model for Jamaican women.


Young Athlete Calabar's Christopher
Taylor receives his award from his
School's distinguished graduate Hon.
Mike Fennell
In accepting the Sportsman of the Year Award for the seventh time, Usain Bolt said he wanted to say a special word to the young people of Jamaica: "I am from Trelawny. I never thought I would be on this stage as one of the greatest ever. Hard work pays off so if you want to be great, work towards what you want, never give up. I have gone through a lot but I have never given up once, use me as an example to work to be the best you can be.” Please share this quote.


The guest speaker at the event Olivier Gers, CEO of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) said he was in Jamaica to discover how our small country had been athletic world beaters since 1948.  He recounted the achievements of our greats, and acknowledged the past failures of the IAAF. He said that an independent unit would ensure the success of the Federation’s drive for integrity, and that there would be greater fan engagement to promote the sport.
Paralympian Gold Medalist Alphanso Cunningham
receives a Special Award
Omar McLeod receives Runner-Up
Award from Hon Molly Rhone

As I watched the younger athletes ascending the stage, I remember the words of my good friend the late Hon Neville ‘Teddy’ McCook in the early nineties, “Jean, if you know what was coming, your head would hurt you!”  Well, Mass Teddy, our heads are still spinning as we saw Shelley-Ann Fraser Pryce, always a queen and suffering from an injury, hugging Elaine Thompson after Thompson’s stupendous win of the 100-metre event in Rio.  We were dizzy with delight as we saw the flawless gold medal hurdling of Omar Francis, and that great burst of energy at Champs from People’s Choice winner, Calabar’s Christopher Taylor.
Alia Atkinson receives Runner-Up
Award for Sportswoman of the Year

Reports are that Shelley-Ann Fraser-Pryce said her bronze medal in the event was her "greatest medal ever …By far, I would definitely say that this is my best championship ever, because I knew how hard I worked, I knew the pain and the sacrifices and the tears."


In a similar spirit, world record holder swimmer Alia Atkinson rebounded from her Olympic disappointment to beat the Olympic Gold medallist and equal her 100-metre breaststroke world record, while also establishing a new world record for the 50-metre breaststoke short course. Dignity and perseverance - that is how our Jamaican royalty rolls!

We were honoured at PROComm when Alia attended our Christmas meeting with our scholars from Grants Pen.  Her genuine warmth and listening ear had our team swooning and the young students blushing with pride.  She is now organizing free swimming lessons for them!

A Bold 2017
Butch Hendrickson allows his passion for Jamaica to speak, and at the GraceKennedy event, it spoke clean and clear. Lauding the company for its 95 years of successful growth, its simplicity, unique vision and authenticity, he said the company was a blueprint for success.
He shared his beliefs: “ I believe in the raw value of hard work … in the power of ‘messing up’. After all, it is only from life's mistakes that we can 'get it' so to speak, and do it properly the next time around.”

National Baking Chairman Butch Hendrickson
inspires at GraceKennedy Business Conference
GraceKennedy CEO Don Wehby
leads the dynamic Business Confenrence
“I believe in the passion of patriotism. Love of country, pride in country, commitment to country, “he continued. “I believe in supporting the development of others, reaching out, and helping to realize someone else's dreams. … Our kids are indeed our future. There can be no wasted effort in nurturing them and providing them with all resources available to ensure a rock-solid foundation.”
Butch asked all Jamaicans to step up and do the simple things that are so important and to show more respect and courtesy. He explained the tremendous loss that can result from one single unrepaired pothole, including loss of life. He noted the effects of night noise on children in poor communities, who are deprived of sleep as they try to get an education.  He urged us to remember that “the individual rights of a few cannot obstruct the collective good of a country”

Don Wehby, the company’s CEO personifies the difference between a leader and a boss, as he was unstinting in his praise and challenged his team to be dedicated to the professional development of their younger colleagues, with succession planning intrinsic in their approach.  This is how a small Jamaican company became a global giant – it has never rested on its laurels.

And so, we are constantly reminded of our considerable national resources – our people, our culture, our crops, our strong democracy.  Let us invest our riches to bring everyone.

Standing up for what is right
In the midst of scandals and the very interesting press conference held by president
elect Donald Trump last week, the media both here and abroad is being challenged as never before.  How does one maintain credibility in the face of accusations of “fake news”?

How does a media house balance reporting on the tragic and sordid and the positive and constructive?  Take for example, the still unfolding reports around the alleged sexual misconduct of several local clergymen.  How does one report on this while still ensuring that the excellent work of the majority of our church leaders is not dismissed?  Without those churches, many of our excellent high schools would not even exist, many of our poor and abandoned would have no refuge.

Like Acting Commissioner Novelette Grant, we must be realistic but constructive. At her first press conference last Wednesday, she noted, “We have no miracles. For my 90 days as Acting Commissioner of Police, my team and I do not promise to work miracles. However, what we promise to do is to work together, and continue to partner with key stakeholders.” She thanked those Jamaican citizens who have stepped up to assist the police in solving crimes.  

This is what we all must do:  step up to do our jobs well, and be of help, not hindrance to the many who are working so hard to build and protect our country.




Thursday, January 19, 2017

Press Association Hails the Late Peter Abrahams

Portrait of Peter Abrahams by his late wife,  artist Daphne Abrahams - from Caribbean-beat.com 

RELEASE FROM THE PRESS ASSOCIATION OF JAMAICA 

Press Association Hails the Late Peter Abrahams' Contributions to National Development & Journalism

January 19, 2017: The Press Association of Jamaica is saddened at the passing of veteran journalist, author and commentator Peter Abrahams.

"Peter Abrahams was a brilliant, incisive and analytical writer, whose significant output in the areas of  literature and journalism marked him as a major contributor to Jamaica's national development over the decades," says PAJ President Dionne Jackson Miller.

"Many of us grew up listening to his news commentaries, which always cut to the core of the political and social issues facing the country, offered searing insight, and very often, suggested solutions and a way forward," she added.

His years as Chairman of RJR were exemplified by steadfast support for the newsroom and the journalists who worked there, and he earned many times over the respect, admiration and love of the employees with whom he dealt.

But Abrahams, South African by birth, who adopted Jamaica as his homeland, was also well known internationally, for his contributions to the black liberation struggles, especially through his writing.

"The fact that on the day of his death, at the age of 97, the Gleaner had published a letter by Peter speaking to contemporary issues facing the country is an indicator of how sharp and relevant he remained to the very end," Jackson Miller said.

"We were privileged to have had him with us for so long. There is much that journalists today can learn from Peter's example and work. We are fortunate that he was dedicated to documenting so many of his experiences, which will prove a treasure trove for students of political thought and journalism for years to come," she added.

Contact: Dionne Jackson Miller, 792-3550

"A Free Press, Oxygen of Democracy"

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Jamaica can rise in 2017

by Jean Lowrie-Chin
published in Jamaica Observer column 9 Jan 2017

It is only January 9, and already the headlines here and abroad are challenging our resolutions for a peaceful and happy New Year.  Let us not be distracted from the work we must do, the part each and every Jamaican is called upon to play. 

The issue of crime is occupying our minds.  Betty Ann Blaine has pointed out that the monument to remember slain children has run out of space for the names! We keep saying that Jamaica is 99 percent good people, so here’s a reminder from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr: “When good men remain silent, evil flourishes.”

We know there are credible representatives on both sides of the House.  Would they be courageous enough to join forces and be of one voice in promoting zero-tolerance for any association of their respective parties with so-called ‘dons’?

Would our JLP and PNP leaders have a different approach to crime if they were not surrounded by security officers who drive them everywhere in the cocoon of their high-end vehicles? Government Ministers in countries similar to ours walk, drive themselves around and go shopping with no security detail.  Why should the tax payers of Jamaica to pay so dearly for politicians’ safety when ours is compromised?

Our police officers are understandably under the microscope of oversight agencies, the media and the public, and several have been sanctioned for corrupt or unprofessional behaviour. However, we should commend Dr Carl Williams, who has retired as Commissioner of Police after thirty-three years of impeccable service, and welcome the appointment of the widely respected Novelette Grant as Acting Commissioner. We cannot expect her to work miracles if our leaders are not committed to building a more peaceful society.  Most of the 1350 murders committed last year were gang-related and many others resulted from domestic violence.  Clearly, programmes for unattached youth and wholesome family life require urgent attention.

As we continue to bombard the police with criticism, let us be reminded that the Police Youth Club, started over 90 years ago by a humble police officer, is the largest youth club in Jamaica. Let us also remember that the Torch Run for Special Olympics is a decades-old JCF initiative. Let us hear more about similar initiatives from our MPs and Councillors.

Last week, I called the ever-courteous Supt Daley at Kingston West for assistance to visit my parents’ graves at the Calvary Cemetery in downtown Kingston. When Constables McPherson and Stewart arrived, I was so struck by their youthfulness that I became protective of them, remembering how one of their colleagues was ambushed and killed just a few weeks before in the same neighbourhood. 
“Please stay in your vehicle and keep an eye on us,” I suggested, but they insisted on walking through the very challenging terrain, staying with us as we prayed. (Our mother had insisted on being beside our father who had passed away in 1977, when Calvary cemetery was a much better place.)  The young constables were on a 12-hour shift, and said that depending on the demands, this can stretch to 14 hours.  While we sit in our comfortable couches raining accusations on police, let us spare a thought for these young officers who are creating a courageous barrier between us and the gunmen. Respect is due.

Some gripe, others grow
The happenings of 2016 challenge us to step up.  The brilliant scientist, English theoretical physicist, cosmologist, author Professor Stephen Hawking, wrote an article published in the UK Guardian, headlined “This is the most dangerous time for our planet”.  

“Whatever we might think about the decision by the British electorate to reject membership of the European Union and by the American public to embrace Donald Trump as their next president,” he wrote, “there is no doubt in the minds of commentators that this was a cry of anger by people who felt they had been abandoned by their leaders.”

He described these disaffected voters as “the forgotten … a reminder that we are at the most dangerous moment in the development of humanity.” He called on world leaders “to acknowledge that they have failed and are failing the many.”

“With not only jobs but entire industries disappearing, we must help people to retrain for a new world and support them financially while they do so,” he urged. “If communities and economies cannot cope with current levels of migration, we must do more to encourage global development, as that is the only way that the migratory millions will be persuaded to seek their future at home.”

This brings to mind Jamaica’s nurses who must migrate in order to earn a decent living.  We have been bandying about the phrase, “health tourism” for years, but doing little to make this a reality, one that could provide higher salaries for Jamaica’s internationally respected nurses. 

Professor Hawking believes we can create this better outcome: “We can do this, I am an enormous optimist for my species; but it will require the elites, from London to Harvard, from Cambridge to Hollywood, to learn the lessons of the past year. To learn above all a measure of humility.”

Humility.  The ‘know-it-alls’ know little if the world is in such a terrible state.  How was that Fort Lauderdale shooter bearing arms legally, after his troubling confession to the authorities a few weeks before, that he was hearing the voice of Isis in his head? And here in Jamaica … why are we still selling so many foreign made souvenirs to tourists when talented lives are going to waste?  Why is solar energy still so expensive when tax incentives could ease our need for oil?  Why does the justice system seem to ‘remember’ certain criminals and ‘forget’ others?  We all need to humble ourselves to learn from the best practices of others.

 How will our little country weather the vagaries of world politics? A letter from our newspaper Chairman, Hon. Butch Stewart, speaks of his warm relationship with US President Elect Donald Trump and his expectation that Jamaica will continue to enjoy the friendship of the new US Administration.  This is encouraging, but we should not be over-expectant of anyone’s munificence when we are indeed very blessed in our own natural assets.

It is encouraging that there are three organizations focused on Jamaica’s economic recovery, which benefit from the voluntary work of exceptional business, union and civic leaders. They are the Economic Growth Council (EGC) chaired by Michael Lee-Chin, the Public Sector Transformation Oversight Committee (PSTOC) chaired by Danny Roberts and The Economic Policy Oversight Committee (EPOC) co-chaired by Keith Duncan.  Duncan succeeds Richard Byles to whom we are indebted for his dedicated co-chairmanship with BOJ Governor Brian Wynter, for oversight of the four-year IMF economic support programme which came to an end in November.
Jamaica can rise, not because of any single political entity, but because of the collective resolve of our dedicated patriots.  Join them by being resolute about your own personal commitments – together we can make this our best year ever.