Friday, November 20, 2015

Hatred is endangering our world

Observer column for MON 16 NOV 2015 by  Jean Lowrie-Chin

Aung San Suu Kyi - from website
This horrifying attack by the so-called “IS” against France, is a powerful reminder to leaders everywhere of the danger of hatred.  Psychologists are still trying to unravel how a state became so convinced that Jews were their enemies, that six million children, women and men were systematically murdered by the Hitler-led administration less than a century ago.

Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of Myanmar’s (formerly Burma) National League for Democracy, told the media, after her party’s recent landslide victory that the deep-seated divisions in her country will take time to heal. Suu Kyi had been kept under house arrest for ten years by the country’s military, after campaigning for democracy.  In 1991, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her principled activism, described by the Nobel Chairman as “an outstanding example of the power of the powerless.” Suu Kyi’s victory proved what she had written years before: “love and truth can move people more strongly than any form of coercion.”

This leads me to appeal to our Jamaican leaders, to remove the vitriol from their campaigns.  If you have enough accomplishments and solid plans for Jamaica, why use your campaign platform for these personal attacks against each other?  PSOJ President William Mahfood remarked recently that he had hoped to see greater political maturity from our leaders as they gear for the upcoming General Elections.  With the world in such a state of fear and disarray, how wonderful it would be if we could say of Jamaica, “We speak peace in every corner of our country” and mean it!  Then communities would not be so divided that people cannot cross certain roads, just a few metres from their homes.

We are still proud that we have come a far way through the establishment of our Electoral Commission of Jamaica (ECJ), preceded by the Electoral Advisory Committee (EAC).  Both political parties are represented on the Commission and they should work to make this political maturity a reality.  Who knew that as members of the ECJ, Senator Tom Tavares-Finson and Minister Peter Bunting have travelled together to regional electoral conferences to share Jamaica’s electoral best practices?

The next great step would be full adherence of all political representatives to the Political Code of Conduct that bans any association with corrupt and violent practices. Hatred feeds on negative behaviour, and endangers the lives of the innocent.  Let every pastor who preaches the love of God, rebuke any anti-social behaviour they see from our leaders and their party faithfuls.  Let them engage our politicians in church services and prayer meetings, to cool their tempers.

Similarly let all religions of peace lead the world away from those that are purveyors of intolerance and violence. In France, and in too many other states, we see the danger of hatred. Thank goodness, we also see in the hundreds who lined up in Paris on Saturday to donate blood for the victims, and those who gathered at the sites of the bombings, their undying fidelity to their motto, “Liberté, égalité, fraternité” – liberty, equality, fraternity.  Out of our shared grief, let us find the courage to make this a safer, better world.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Little Bay Turtles have hatched!

Residents of Little Bay, Negril, are delighted that these turtles have hatched on their beach ... here are the photos courtesy of Robert Cartade. 

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The clout of PM Simpson Miller

Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller

Observer column published 9 November 2015 by Jean Lowrie-Chin

I believe that if Portia Simpson Miller had listened to herself more, and to others less, her administration could have accomplished much more.  Recalling her victory speech after she won the last General Elections, this column observed in our piece headlined “The people spoke for Portia” : ‘one should never underestimate the political clout of that grassroots veteran Portia Simpson Miller…flashing her famous smile, and hugging her candidates one after the other, we saw a woman practised in the way of politics, hitting all the right notes ... She thanked among many, "Comrade PJ Patterson", her helper Marva and Andrew Holness who had called to congratulate her, saying that "he was very gracious"… The prime minister-designate appealed: "Work with us as we will be working with you. [There will be] consultation and dialogue... we will hide nothing from you. all business persons, you have a Government that you can trust."’
We had a similar experience several years before when the PM’s handlers had refused to have her debate, but agreed to have her address the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica.  At the conclusion of her speech, she received a standing ovation.
The Office of the Prime Minister website quotes PM Simpson Miller’s address at the swearing in of her Cabinet on January 6, 2016: “We must respect and include the people. We must exercise zero tolerance to corruption. We must work tirelessly to promote the rights, welfare and wellbeing of all Jamaicans …I am signaling today that this administration will take a zero tolerance approach to corruption, and that we will move quickly to strengthen the existing mechanisms to fight corruption, and will exercise our minds to finding new and innovative ways to stop the waste of public resources … I want to remind you that it is about the people of Jamaica, not about yourselves or a political party.”
Then I recall her coming off script and saying to her Cabinet, “Get to work now!” with a passion  that could not have been pretense. What has transpired since then reflects who took her seriously, who did not, and who could not.  Really, when are we going to ensure that the skill sets of a minister match the demands of the ministry?   
While we accept that former Health Minister Dr Fenton Ferguson had a heart for the people, clearly the systems put in place to ensure the proper running of our health sector were sadly wanting.  Has this ministry in particular and our Government in general, been hiring political friends who are ill-suited for the roles they are expected to play?  Is this why the Finance Minister may be experiencing push-back from his fellow Cabinet members when he tries to implement governance measures?
The transferring of Dr Ferguson to another ministry, without demanding immediate upgrading of the facilities in our public hospitals gives the public no comfort.  The sickening details of the audit must be addressed and the public must see the honourable PM, her new minister and the responsible officials touring health facilities.  This will give them far more credibility than the political campaign that they are currently conducting. I believe the Prime Minister cares – she must now take her own advice, and that of honest non-political Jamaicans, to do what is right for her country.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Crime Alert

Received from a friend today...

There is a new number plate hijacking trend. Hi-jackers follow you to a parking lot, after you leave your vehicle, they remove your number plate and wait. When u come back and drive off, they follow you. They then overtake you, displaying your number plate out of their window as if if you just lost it and they want to give it back to you.
When you stop to get your number plate back, guns come out and they take the car. Maybe even take you and your car. It's a very well rehearsed and organised plan and everything happens very quickly. Other motorists may not be aware whats happening as you stopped the car yourself. Pls alert others to this danger!!! Don't keep this news. Spread it.


Saturday, November 7, 2015

Jamaica will “rock and roll”

Inspiring leaders - Denis O'Brien, Earl Jarrett and Don Wehby - Jamaica Observer composite

by Jean Lowrie-Chin - Jamaica Observer column 2 November 2015

With the double-speak of politicians from both sides of the House, we’ve been having a tough time trying to “keep our heads when all about you are losing theirs”, in the words of Kipling.  Thank goodness for the encouragement last week from some outstanding leaders who continue to be committed to Jamaica, putting their millions where their mouths are.

Denis O’Brien believes that “this country will rock and roll”; Don Wehby says, “We have set our foundation, and we are building!” Earl Jarrett declares, “I remain optimistic about Jamaica. My optimism is grounded in the nature of the Jamaican people and their ability to be creative and industrious.”  

It was fitting that Digicel Chairman Denis O’Brien was recognized by the Government of Jamaica with the Order of Jamaica on Heroes Day, and last Friday, received the Honorary Doctorate from The University of the West Indies.  He spoke passionately about Jamaica, explaining to the graduates in his commencement speech, “The proudest part of all of that we have achieved over the years is that, as a company, we have our roots here in Jamaica. Without hesitation, Jamaica is the cornerstone of Digicel growth and development of all our 32 countries.” He named outstanding Jamaicans and UWI graduates who have contributed to the company’s growth: Lisa Lewis, Harry Smith, Ken Mason, Keith Smith, Donel Miller, Earl Manning, Michelle Williams, Fabian Williams, Jackie James and Sean Latty.

Since 2003 when Denis first sponsored Jamaica’s Special Olympics Team to compete abroad, he has been ensuring that places like the Step Centre, Naz in Montego Bay, Abilities Foundation among myriad projects to promote special needs, education and entrepreneurship.

How did this man, in the Fortune Top 200 of the World’s Richest, become so passionate about his fellow humans?  “My mother [Iris O’Brien] is a serial protestor,” he told his audience. “She took issue with President Reagan’s foreign policy towards Nicaragua in the 1980s. On the very day I sold my business in Ireland in 2000, my mother ordered me down to the Russian embassy to protest against the treatment of the Chechens.”

He continued: “As a child, she taught me about Africa and the developing world and, because of her, my siblings and I felt a bond with those less fortunate … This philosophy has travelled with me to this very day – as far as I am concerned, capitalism is broken. The greed that led to the Wall Street crash of 2008 reinforced that.”

The dedicated philanthropist observed, “Ninety-five percent of multinationals do nothing to give back to the developing world where they make their profits... If the truth be known, I admire social entrepreneurs far more than entrepreneurs – because they make the biggest impact on society. Looking after the people who in our busy lives we can’t look after, is surely the noblest cause.”

Denis lauded Jamaican exemplars: “In this country, you are blessed with a rich seam of social entrepreneurs – people like Father Gregory from Mustard Seed, Michael Barnett from New Horizon Outreach Ministries and  Jason Henzell of Jakes Holdings.”

Denis O’Brien assured the graduates that those with a leaning towards social entrepreneurship “will probably end up being far happier than many of your peers in the commercial world for one reason; helping those that can’t help themselves is way more fulfilling than making money.”

Don Wehby’s global strides

Stephen Hill’s Annual CIN Lecture in New York was delivered on Thursday by Don Wehby, the visionary young CEO of the 93-year-old GraceKennedy Group.  His Lecture, spiced with warm Jamaican music, and bracing videos of our athletic exploits had his audience riveted.

Starting with a 1922 balance sheet which recorded such assets as a mule and dray cart, this Jamaican giant GraceKennedy now has companies in the US, Canada, the UK and Ghana.  However, it has not neglected the land of its birth.  Recalling the watchwords of former legendary Chairman and CEO Carlton Alexander, “If it’s good for Jamaica, it’s good for GraceKennedy,” Don decided that his company should discontinue the importation of pepper mash, and partner with local farmers to produce this all-important ingredient.

“We made contact with several local farmers and told them basically, that we wanted to enter into partnerships with them where they would steadily supply us with quality products and we would not only buy from them on a consistent basis, but assist them with training, with inputs such a fertiliser, as well as loans to expand their farms,” he said. “Those partnerships have worked out so well, that we now have enough pepper mash for our own production, AND are now exporting not only to other Caribbean islands, but to our own factory in Wales, and as far away as Sweden!”

His company’s partnership with Western Union has also made them world champions, even as they have made champions of Jamaica’s household workers! Don noted that the two Foundations run by the company have funded the education of thousands of children for decades.  GraceKennedy is also the biggest sponsor of our world-famous Boys’ and Girls’ Championships. “That’s where some of our greatest track and field stars were made!’ enthused Don. “US$1M might seem like a lot of money, and it is, but to us it is not an expense, it is an investment in Jamaica’s future.” 

Earl Jarrett, PSOJ Hall of Famer

We packed the Pegasus Ballroom for the induction of Earl Jarrett in the PSOJ Hall of Fame.  This gentle dynamo is one of the humblest leaders we know.  In the words of PSOJ President William Mahfood, “Earl Jarrett has worked assiduously to earn trust, not just from his customers, his executives, his team members at the JN group, but across the breadth and width of Jamaicans here and abroad.” He was also commended for his voluntary work with the Jamaica Cancer Society and the National Road Safety Council. In his reply, Earl thanked Jamaica National Chairman Oliver Clarke and colleagues for their support.
A dedicated nationalist, Earl Jarrett noted, “A common issue that I have found in our society is: the low level of trust that exists across sectors …A starting point for building trust is to share power and decision-making.”
He said that while the private sector employs over 90 percent of the Jamaican workforce, “only 22 percent of our Parliamentarians are business persons …The history of business direction in Jamaica is directly correlated to power and laws. Many will remember the passage of laws and how the movement of investment lag behind Policy.”    He therefore suggested stronger representation from the private sector in Government”. 
Imagine having the strategic thinking and compassionate spirit of such business gurus guiding Jamaica’s policies – this suggestion should be welcomed by those who declare that they put country ahead of party.