Saturday, March 28, 2020

Jamaica still counting our blessings

Observer column published 23rd March 2020

by Jean Lowrie-Chin

So here we are on lockdown, working remotely and watching the unrelenting spread of this global pandemic. Some are describing this as Mother Nature’s revenge. In the wake of warnings about climate change and global warming, they say that skies are clearer. But this is little comfort to those mourning the loss of their relatives and friends. When we have natural disasters, we appeal to developed countries for help and they are generous in their response. Now we pray fervently for them as they grapple with unbelievable challenges to their health services.

We in Jamaica are still counting our blessings. We are heartened by the hands-on approach taken by Prime Minister Andrew Holness, Health & Wellness Minister Dr. Christopher Tufton, Chief Medical Officer Dr Jacquiline Bisasor McKenzie, Permanent Secretary Dunstan Bryan, other Government Ministers and indeed JLP and PNP MPs, Councillors and caretakers. Our healthcare workers are heroic, working long hours to keep us well. Our security forces are not only on SOE but also on quarantine duties.

Corporate Jamaica has stepped in to provide well-needed support to the less fortunate. Food for the Poor has been assisting with food distribution to the communities in Bull Bay under quarantine. Banks are extending due dates for mortgages and loans and the NWC has assured that they will not be disconnecting water supply for unpaid bills.

The reports of careless behavior on the part of an entertainer are troubling and so we are happy that, as of Saturday night, Jamaica’s airports and ports will no longer receive passengers, though folks are free to fly out. I am concerned that an airport worker noted a lot of hugging taking place on the last few flights in from New York on Saturday. People, we have to understand that this is a highly contagious virus! We each have to take responsibility for our behavior and practise social distancing. Let us have a heart for our health personnel who are working night and day.

As we avoid unnecessary commuting, we are happy that there is a website where one can visit local doctors digitally - . Kudos to Dr Mike Banbury and his colleagues for creating this site which we understand has daily visits increasing tenfold.

It is important that our at-risk elderly citizens are receiving special attention. The National Health Fund is extending prescription quotas so they can stock up on their meds.  Sagicor who underwrites the CCRP Health Plan for seniors have assured that they will cover illnesses associated with this pandemic.

Our local media have left no stone unturned in keeping the public well-informed. Of course we are riveted by the international reports of this global crisis, but please ensure that you check in with local newscasts to know what is happening closer to home, and to offer any assistance you can, even if it is a phone call to a lonely elder.

Outstanding Budget presentations

We applaud Prime Minister Andrew Holness and Finance & Planning Minister Dr. Nigel Clarke for their outstanding contributions to the Budget Debate.  It was gracious of the PM to acknowledge the work of Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips in our struggle for economic well-being. The PM, a former Education Minister gave us encouraging news on the merger of the Heart Trust and the Jamaica Foundation for Lifelong Learning, now HEART-NSTA which will see over 150,000 enrolled this year. Their NVQJ programme offers courses up to graduate and post-graduate levels, an affordable way to get quality education.

The PM noted the significant investment of Michael Lee-Chin and Gassan Azan in agriculture; timely initiatives to shore up our food security. Still, we must salute our diligent small farmers and fisherfolk who have produced consistently despite the hardships they face. We appreciate the timely lowering of asset taxes and the reduction of GCT announced by Dr. Clarke. 

Thank goodness for the leadership of the Economic Programme Oversight Committee (EPOC) co-chaired by PSOJ President Keith Duncan and Bank of Jamaica Governor Richard Byles. Their deliberations and reports have helped to keep the various players on their toes and now, even in the face of this crisis, the credit rating agency Moody’s is optimistic about Jamaica. 

The Jamaica Observer noted, “the the agency said compared with other Caribbean islands, Jamaica's vulnerability to tourism is moderate.” The Moody’s release stated: “While we expect growth to slow from declining tourist arrivals, the effect on Jamaica's external accounts will be partially offset by the high import content of tourism earnings, which will reduce the country's import bill. Moreover, lower oil prices will also have a positive effect on Jamaica's current account … We believe that the country has sufficient fiscal and external buffers to cope with a shock in the tourism industry, limiting the immediate credit negative effect.”
We can be proud of the stewardship of our leaders as well as the support of our private sector, and non-governmental organisations. Together, we shall overcome.

Can we do this for crime?
I am seeing calls on social media that we need to use this same emergency approach to our crime problem. We must. There is speculation that some politicians still have alliances with so-called ‘dons’, hamstringing our national security efforts. Well, now that we see all hands on deck for the pandemic, let us see which hands will not come on deck for crime.

The police remain everyone’s favourite beating stick, because it distracts us from those who are under the radar stoking criminal behavior. Why don’t we have CCTV in our crime-ridden communities – is it because there are some who do not want their comings and goings recorded?

The Police Youth Club is the biggest youth club in Jamaica: after their long, dangerous hours of fighting crime, our police still make time for the youth in their communities. If our 63 MPs and caretakers and our over 200 parish councillors decide to support this initiative and strengthen their alliance with the police, we could witness a sea-change in security.

Let us use the same will for Jamaica’s wellness to create the long-awaited peace for our people.

Phenomenal Rev Dr Carmen Stewart

We have fond memories of  Rev Dr Carmen Stewart’s wisdom when served on the National Prayer Breakfast Committee.  The more we learned about her achievements, the more we realised what a trailblazer she was as a Pastor and national leader.  Dr Stewart was the first woman Custos of St. Andrew, and first woman Deputy Governor General.

She was Pastor for over 50 years at the Pentecostal Gospel Temple at Windward Road, and founder of the Wilbert Stewart Basic School in memory of her late husband. Rev Dr Stewart served on several national committees, and was an honorary tutor at the University of the West Indies. She received countless awards including one of the highest National Honours, the Order of Jamaica. We extend condolences to her family and close friends. Rest in Peace phenomenal Rev Dr Carmen Stewart.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Jamaica steps up to battle Covid-19

Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton (centre) speaking at the press conference on Tuesday (March 10) at the Ministry’s offices in New Kingston. Seated beside him are: Permanent Secretary, Dunstan Bryan (left) and Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Jacquiline Bisasor McKenzie.
Excerpts from Observer column published  MON 16 March 2020

by Jean Lowrie-Chin

“This feels like wartime,” says my friend, as we discuss our stocks of various meds and supplies. Yes indeed, we are in a war against an invisible enemy, but we can be grateful that the Jamaican government has taken timely steps to safeguard our health.

We have been in Covid-19 preparedness mode for a good two months. Health & Wellness Minister Christopher Tufton, Chief Medical Officer Dr Jacqueline Bisasor-McKenzie and team have been sharing prevention information religiously.  My friend who has strong connections with the health sector said that in January she knew of moves being made to stock up on the necessary meds and hygiene items.  There have been advertisements on traditional and digital media about hand-washing and other precautions to be taken. Press briefings held by the Minister informed us of the first two cases and subsequently, six additional cases. 

Prime Minister Andrew Holness’ press conference last Friday was comprehensive and reassuring.  The participation of his Cabinet members demonstrated that he had all hands on deck. We can understand the quarantine measures set up in the Six Miles and Seven Miles area of Bull Bay where ‘Patient Zero’ had attended a funeral, and her father and a close friend have now tested positive for the virus.  Let the two-week incubation pass so that, if present, other cases can be identified.
We are particularly impressed with the measures being taken to protect the residents of the 13 Government infirmaries islandwide. We learned from Local Government Minister Desmond McKenzie that of the 3,500 residents, 98 percent were high-risk and therefore provisions are being made for a good stock of medications, hygiene supplies and isolation areas.

Building of additional accommodation will take place at some of these infirmaries for some 50 ‘social patients’ in our public hospitals.  Who are these individuals? They are fully recovered patients who have been abandoned by their families. It makes one nervous for the elderly in our communities during these trying times. Some of them may be terrified of commuting to get supplies. We can check on such neighbours to ensure they have their supplies and call them regularly, as loneliness can lead to depression.

Our days worker arrived in gloves last week.  We explained to her that it was safer not to wear gloves generally, but to observe a strict handwashing and hand-sanitizing regimen as gloves will carry germs and can give a false sense of security. As has several other organisations, last Friday we decided to have our team members at PROComm and CCRP work remotely, as several of them use public transportation and we would not want them to have that level of exposure.

It took a while for some church leaders to see the light, but thankfully it is happening. Now pastors are advising their elderly members that they should stay away from church services.  My friend in New Jersey says his Roman Catholic Archdiocese has suspended Mass. We have to remember, “God helps those who help themselves.”

We cannot thank the members of our essential services enough for their dedication: medical personnel, the security forces, the fire department, power and telecoms providers. As we gear for the challenges in our health system, we thank the Government of Cuba for assisting with medical personnel.  May we ‘flatten’ the curve of this virus by taking personal responsibility in safeguarding ourselves, our families, our workplaces and our churches. Wash your hands and keep your distance.

IDB’s Turner Jones on digital transformation

As we plan to work remotely for the next fortnight, we recall the repeated calls of IDB’s Caribbean Regional Manager Therese Turner Jones that we need digital transformation in our businesses, government agencies and educational institutions to maximise efficiency and keep in step with our global partners.
Jamaica Observer business reporter Kellaray Miles quoted her at a recent event: “Most firms in the Caribbean region, about some 19 per cent or less than one in five, rely on any kind of research and development to grow their businesses — that's an appalling number!”
“It’s coming,” she declared, “artificial intelligence or over the Internet — we are not applying new and innovative ways of doing things to the ways businesses are operating in the Caribbean.”
Turner-Jones noted, “It's not about mastering 15 or 23 CXCs as they do in Guyana, that's not really a good way of educating our kids for the future. Kids for the future need to be global citizens, knowing how to be multilingual, digitally literate, and able to collaborate and work with each other in teams.”
This applies to Jamaicans of all ages. We see constant complaints from seniors about long waits in banking halls, so we need to help them understand the convenience of online banking.  CCRP Board Director and retired civil servant Vilma McDonald attests to the ease with which she not only does banking but also pays her utility bills online. This Covid-19 situation should motivate us to download those apps and make good use of our smartphones.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Useful Covid-19 Prevention Tips!

A Jamaican living in China sent this message to my friend:

I woke up today to see that Jamaica has reported it's first eight case of Covid-19. As someone who has been living in China during the epidemic, I know Jamaica cannot implement all of the same precautions as China to contain it - not because of our government, but because of differences in residential structures and technology. 

But here is what you can do as an individual, in addition to washing your hands:

1. When you get home, leave your shoes at a designated spot. Don't walk around inside your house with shoes you wore to go out.

2. Change your clothes when you get home, especially if you took the bus/taxi. 

3. Wipe down groceries/shopping bags with disinfectant wet wipes or lysol. Wash fruits and vegetables properly before eating them, especially things like lettuce which we eat raw.

4. Don't use AC often since it circulates the air. Same for AC in cars and especially taxis! Here in China, we are encouraged to ventilate offices and homes everyday. Keep windows open, let fresh air come in.

5. Strengthen immunity, get Vitamin B and C supplements.  Eat more fruits and veggies. 

6. Please take extra precautions if you have to go to the airport to meet relatives/friends who are flying in to the country! Airport bathrooms - not a good idea!

7.  Sanitize hands/wash them after handling money, like when you go to the market and exchange a lot of bills and when you get back change from taxi drivers. 

8. Clean your car! Wipe down the seats, spray a little lysol. Even if you don't give anybody a drop, don't you go to work and sit in the office? Don't you go to the grocery and lean up against the cashier lane? Plus, sometimes the groceries go in the backseat. Contamination can happen like this. 

Finally, if you catch Covid-19, don't think of it as the end of the world. Take your pharmacy meds and bush medicine, quarantine yourself, and chill. Make a joke about it. Laughing about the situation is better than being depressed about it. You is ah Jamaican! Jamaicans are strong people! Nuff love

And from me:
 Don't forget social distancing! 
Stay away from all types of gatherings.

Saturday, March 14, 2020

The power and plight of Jamaican women

Observer column published March 9,  2020 

by Jean Lowrie-Chin

After women leaders shared their thoughts at an event kindly hosted by French Ambassador Denys Wibaux, Nigerian High Commissioner Janet Olisa extended a challenge.  She noted that Jamaican women having made bold strides, should seize the power they have to make the changes we wish for in our country. She favourably compared our record for women’s equality with that of her own country and urged us to maintain our momentum.

Human rights activist Dr Carolyn Gomes, Director of Public Prosecutions Paula Llewellyn and historian Professor Verene Shepherd reminded us of the heroic struggles of our women in their determination to forge a better future for their fellow Jamaicans – from Nanny (we were told that the correct title should be ‘Nana’), to Mary Seacole, to Louise Bennett, to Rose Leon.

In acknowledging the continued struggles of women enslaved by poverty, WMW Jamaica co-founder Hilary Nicholson reminded us that they did not choose this way of life and it was up to us to help them find a way out of it. “Have you informed your household worker that there is a Union that she can join?” she asked.  She asked us to remember the plight of the elderly poor, that there were generations of women locked in a cycle of poverty, living under the same roof.

In the instance of a teenage mother who was charged for negligence after a fire took the lives of her child and two others, social entrepreneur Yaneek Page asked about the responsibility of the father, to which DPP Llewelyn noted that, in this case, ‘the law is an ass’ for this omission, as responsibility is ascribed only to the caregiver at the time of the incident.

As we consider the number of missing children and young people including the heart-rending case of UWI visually-impaired student Jasmine Dean, the under-age ‘shottas’, the attacks on our teachers, the crime and road crash statistics, we must ask ourselves, how are we going to, as Paula Llewellyn says, “connect the dots” to safeguard our people?

The answer must be a joint resolution for excellence, unity and integrity. Some businesses discriminate against women who are mothers, but those who have mothers in their employment discover that they are the most organised and disciplined, because they are time management gurus.

Then there is the continued issue of sexual harassment.  We await the ‘Act to Make Provision for the Prevention of Sexual Harassment and for Connected Matters’ aka the Sexual Harassment Act which is being piloted by Minister Olivia Grange. Let us be aware that, like the backlash on women after the #metoo movement, this is not going to be an easy road for the Minister. Those of us who consider ourselves as influencers should step up and strengthen the cause.  

Imani Duncan-Price on Patriarchy

Imani Duncan-Price, PNP Chairman of the Central Kingston constituency and this year’s presenter of the 2020 Rose Leon Memorial Lecture last Monday, declared that “patriarchy is alive and well” in Jamaica.  She called for more women in leadership, describing the position taken by herself and JLP Senator Kamina Johnson Smith as members of the Joint Select Committee on regulations for the Integrity Commission.

“There was a clause regarding withholding information on an investigation until it was complete – I call it the anti-Greg Christie clause,” she said. “I recall Senator Kamina Johnson Smith and I argued against that clause (along with the then Contractor General Dirk Harrison). But in the end it was maintained by votes from both parties. My memory may be dim, but we were the only voices on that matter and we are female. And today it haunts us in Jamaica and must be changed. This is why a critical mass is important – we need more female politicians so get the ‘backative’ to fight for the things you know are right.”

She described two suggestions as her ‘big ideas’: longer school hours, citing the Finland model, with greater participation of social workers, and ‘reproductive independence for young women’, noting that condom use is still not widely practised.  Hopefully, the emphasis on discipline and values she proposes as part of this proposed expansion of our educational system will promote a more responsible attitude to sexual behaviour in all students.

Our responsive NHF

However, we cannot agree with Mrs Duncan-Price’s statement that “the health care system has since fallen apart where people can’t even get Panadol.” At a stakeholders meeting called by NHF CEO Everton Anderson last Friday, we learned that last year the National Health Fund covered 2 million prescriptions at a cost of J$4 billion. They have partnered with 476 pharmacies, and since 2011 have end-to-end operations, handling procurement, distribution and dispensation.

Mr Anderson noted that the NHF same-day card service has been expanded to 21 locations islandwide and that a single digital platform has been created to process the NHF, JADEP and the planned National Health Insurance.

As soon as news broke on the emergence of Covid19, Mr Anderson said the NHF was pro-active in contacting all their suppliers globally to procure certain recommended pharmaceuticals.

Our seniors organisation, CCRP, wrote on behalf of a member to ask that drugs for Parkinson’s Disease be added to the NHF list and as a result, a specialist on the condition has been contacted, so we are hopeful that this will materialise soon.  CCRP representative at the meeting Dr Winston Dawes, is concerned that some pharmacies are reluctant to honour the JADEP cards; Mr Anderson said that the NHF will institute performance contracts to monitor unethical behaviour.

“A Force for Good”

At the launch of the Law Enforcement Torch Run (LETR) for Special Olympics Jamaica, Commissioner of Police Major General Antony Anderson noted that the over thirty years of support of our special needs family by the JCF, reminds us that they are “a Force for good”.

In this Women’s Month, let us note that this positive aspect of our security forces is reinforced by the outstanding women who have dedicated their lives to protect their fellow citizens. We applaud the smooth management of the LETR event by Senior Superintendent Stephanie Lindsay and Inspector Natalie Palmer, and recall the contribution of amazing SSP Rosie McDonald-Barker, Supt Ionie Ramsay and DCP Novelette Grant.

SSP McDonald Barker was head of late PM Manley’s security team.  Later, she went on to win the hearts of the residents of Grant’s Pen, quelling political tension, and was so beloved that she was asked to be Godmother of several babies in the area! 

Supt Ionie Ramsay, as the first woman motorcycle cop, stamped her courage into the consciousness of Jamaican women. She remains a symbol of strength and determination, now immersed in outreach activities in her community.

DCP Novelette Grant, my fellow ‘Westmorelite’ remains a force to be reckoned with, even after her retirement. She has lectured here and abroad on the issue of domestic violence, and will be a presenter at the American Chamber of Commerce of Jamaica (AMCHAM) event tomorrow, on the topic “When Domestic Violence Comes to Work”.




Monday, March 2, 2020

Balancing acts here and abroad

Excerpts from Observer column published 13 January 2020
by Jean Lowrie-Chin

As we looked at a line-up of members of the PSOJ executive at a recent press briefing, it was clear that the organisation is no longer what it was dubbed several decades ago: “Privileged Sons of Jamaica”.  Flanking President Keith Duncan were VP Mariame McIntosh Robinson, PSOJ CEO Makeba Bennett-East and Executive member Eva Lewis. Other members are VPs Jackie Sharpe and Jeffrey Hall, and Treasurer Vikram Dhiman.  Here we have the gender balance that has proved to be an important factor for the development of countries and organisations. 
We were encouraged that after the Jamaica Stock Exchange was criticized for their heavily male slate of speakers for their upcoming conference, two women were added, though a better gender-balance would have been desirable. This is a worldwide issue. Kasie Hunt, host of the MSNBC programme, ‘Kasie DC’ recently returned from maternity leave and while thanking her employers for generous benefits, noted that fellow her American women did not have it as good.  Indeed, she said that while men’s pay went up after they became fathers, women’s pay went down when they became mothers.
After many years in business we can say that the mothers on our team have been the most organised and professional.  Balancing home and office helps women to develop time-management skills. We also found that they took the least number of sick days.  Perhaps it is because mothers (and dedicated fathers too) adopt a healthier lifestyle after the arrival of their children. We are shortsighted if we believe it is an inconvenience to give parents time-off for PTA meetings and other important school activities.  Where will our country be if we in business do not encourage our workers to be good parents? A gender balance in leadership will bring better understanding of such issues.
The Sussex announcement
New mother, the Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle has hinted at challenges as the first mixed-race woman to join the British Royal family in recent history.  Racist, time-wasting tabloids and the paparazzi whose hounding had led to the tragic death of Meghan’s late mother-in-law Princess Diana, have caused so much anxiety that it is no wonder that Meghan and Harry have announced their decision to no longer fulfil duties as “senior royals”.
If the racists keep hounding the Duchess, will her son Archie also be subjected to such insults? These concerns would make any parent seek solutions for a safe and peaceful family life.
Fae Ellington shared a column by author Afua Hirsch in New York Times, headlined ‘Black Britons Know Why Meghan Markle Wants Out’. Hirsch notes, ‘Both she and Harry appear to have gained crystal clear vision as to their reality. It’s no wonder the couple want to leave and — as the coded statement that they want to raise their son, Archie, “with the space to focus on the next chapter” seems to suggest — protect him from the bile to which they’ve been exposed.’
She writes, ‘Those who claim frequent attacks against the duchess have nothing to do with her race have a hard time explaining … the fact that she has been most venomously attacked for acts that attracted praise when other royals did them.”
Hirsch concludes, ‘Her treatment has proved what many of us have always known: No matter how beautiful you are, whom you marry, what palaces you occupy, charities you support, how faithful you are, how much money you accumulate or what good deeds you perform, in this society racism will still follow you.’ Very sad indeed.

Mending Hearts at Bustamante

Well do I remember that sunny day, nine years ago, when representatives of Digicel and the Ministry of Health broke ground at the Bustamante Hospital for the building of a Cardiac Unit to commemorate the company’s 10th anniversary. In partnership with the National Health Fund, Chain of Hope, the Shaggy Make a Difference Foundation, Sagicor and Gift of Life, the facilities including the painstaking installation of a well-needed catheterization lab was finally completed in 2018.

It was great to catch up last week with Chain of Hope CEO Emma Scanlan whose organisation invites international medical volunteers to heal tiny hearts worldwide. Since 2018, 246 infants and young children have received free heart surgery, valued at over J$9 million each at the Bustamante Unit. The team which performed surgeries over the past week comprised the Unit Director, Jamaica’s own Dr. Sherard Little and medical personnel from UK, Guyana, Norway, Denmark, Italy, Canada and the United States.   

I have had the pleasure of sitting in the waiting area with anxious parents and sharing their relief when Dr Little emerged to assure them that the surgery went well, and their child would be restored to good health.  Emma noted that the children heal quickly, much to the delight of the dedicated doctors and nurses at the Unit.

“A remarkable outpouring of compassion”

Observer column published MON 6 JAN 2020
by Jean Lowrie-Chin

Happy New Year to all!  Let’s start off with a story that should boost our spirits for 2020.  A group of students last month taught us an important lesson in restoring hope, and we thank Winford Williams for carrying this report on ‘Onstage’, shared with me by Dr. Clover Baker-Brown.
In what Winford described as “a remarkable outpouring of compassion”, we learned that student Devonte Pearson at Jonathan Grant High School noticed that his friend Omar Lindo was upset but reluctant to speak. “What happen?” he asked. “Talk to me nuh man!”
‘Financial Minister’ Devonte then learned that a fire had destroyed Omar’s home and belongings, so he got together with five other classmates, ‘Spokesman’ Paris Francis, Daniel Peart, Dane Taylor, Al Francis and Javin Jameison and they embarked on energetic fundraising in the school and on the streets, collecting $72,000 in three days.
Paris said they made sure they were ‘properly attired and disciplined’ on the street and when they shared their project with market vendors, they received donations of produce.
Popular radio personality and attorney-at-law Khadine ‘Miss Kitty’ Hylton heard about the students’ initiative and decided to host a handover at the school, inviting other corporate sponsors to assist. She confessed to being ‘in tears’ as the students shared their fundraising experiences.
This column has already described the positive and resolute approach that Principal Dr O’Neil Ankle has towards his charges.  He said the caring students remind their fellow Jamaicans that “there are young people who are not selfish and willing to help their fallen brother.”
Dr Ankle continued, “Just a few days ago I had a chat with the male population [of the school]. I told them of my expectation - I want them to become real men in a country that is short on real men. There is hope for them to be better persons, better than others in their communities, better than their parents.”
What was touching was the humility of the students. Paris Francis declared, “It’s God’s work.”

Progressing from ‘quick fixes’
Driving through downtown Kingston a few days before Christmas, we were stunned by the wall-to-wall and sidewalk-to-sidewalk display of goods. It was a challenge to navigate the area surrounding St. William Grant Park.  We were worried; clearly there were more sellers than buyers. Then we learned that entertainment events would be allowed to run till 4 am in the mornings over the holiday season, causing great concern in tourist and residential areas.
These moves are responses not just to score votes but to put some quick bread on the tables of some very hungry families. Politicians will explain that even with an uptick in our economy, ‘while the grass is growing, the horse is starving.’  They are bombarded daily by their constituents who cannot keep up with the basic cost of living.  Thus, we have a deluge of minibuses and taxi drivers, aggressively filling vehicles, then driving crazily for the next load.
We have to progress from these ‘quick fixes’ which promote lawlessness, discomfort and danger, to strategic plans which will give our people the opportunity and dignity which they deserve.  Human resource expert Jacqueline Irons shares my concern that the teachings of Marcus Mosiah Garvey are not mainstreamed in our school curriculum. The book ‘Marcus Garvey said…’ by the late Ken Jones is a curated collection of our National Hero’s teachings under various headings, easy to navigate even for primary school students.
Ken Jones also shared quotes about Marcus Garvey from other world leaders, including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr: “He was the first man on a mass scale to give millions of Negroes a sense of dignity and destiny.” The lack of such dignity and destiny is what is robbing us of a peaceful environment in which we can prosper, in which people will want to invest.
We love the lines from Bob Marley’s ‘Redemption Song’: “Emancipate yourself from mental slavery; none but ourselves can free our minds.”  Those are actually the words of Marcus Garvey.  No matter the focus on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), if we do not help our young people to step up in dignity, we will be forever looking for unsustainable quick fixes. Let us knuckle down and create sustainable plans to give our people dignified and productive alternatives.  “Where there is no vision, the people perish,” Garvey warned.

Thank you Hon Pine-McLarty
Hon Dorothy Pine-McLarty, the first woman to chair the Electoral Commission of Jamaica (ECJ), has retired after serving the organisation as an independent member for 18 years, including the last six as Chair. The ECJ and the Electoral Office of Jamaica are organisations of which we can be proud, overseeing and conducting our General and Local Government as well as internal political party elections.
Mrs Pine-McLarty has been a strong and wise leader, earning the respect of her colleagues and the leadership of the two major political parties. She describes her sojourn as ‘a unique and humbling experience.’ For women, she was a role model, having achieved excellence in the legal profession, in her service to boards of major organisations and as an exemplary wife and mother.
It has been a privilege to serve the ECJ and to collaborate with this brilliant lady whose dedication, patience and sense of balance remind us that these feminine qualities make women well-equipped to steer any ship. Mrs Pine-McLarty has been a mentor to many, unstinting in her instruction and advice.
We salute this distinguished woman for her outstanding contribution to the bastion of our democracy and wish her a happy retirement.

Congratulations Sister Mary Andrew
We were greeted at Sister Mary Andrew’s 80th birthday party by this evergreen nun beating pan along with her fellow members of the Stella Maris Steelband. The administrator of the Consie Walters Hospice in Vineyard Town and an innovative educator and composer, Sister Andrew was lauded by Archbishop Kenneth Richards, Archbishop Emeritus Donald Reece, her mentor Sister Cecilia, family members led by her brother Horace Campbell, friends and students.
Emcees Dr Aggrey Irons and Velia Espeut commented on her loving but firm hand while Dr Owen James related her original way of delivering discipline to her students.  Sister had been assigned to teach at a school in St. Kitts and had difficulty getting the attention of her skittish students, even after she meted out punishment. After appealing to their parents to no avail, Sister decided to give the parents lines and other duties whenever their children misbehaved. Lo and behold, the children were transformed into veritable angels, no doubt by the warnings of their embarrassed parents.
Studies have been done on the longevity of nuns, and Sister Mary Andrew is a prime example of their virtual agelessness. We wish her many happy returns of the day as she continues in compassionate service to her people.

A peaceful life for every Jamaican

Observer column published  MON 4 November 2019
by Jean Lowrie-Chin

The State of Emergency under which has been declared for some areas of Jamaica still leaves our decent citizens vulnerable.  We agree that it is necessary, but we are appealing for more ‘joined up Government’ to ensure greater safety for them.
An ancillary worker we know shared what had transpired the night before in the inner-city community where she lived.  A house in her community had been firebombed.
“They throw gas oil on the four corners of the house and light it, and then they shoot up around the house,” she said. “The grandmother and the four grandchildren living there escape by the grace of God. They had to throw the children over the fence. Pure gunshot all over the place. Lord God!”
“The children in the area going to school next morning just trembling like this,” she said, holding out her hands and shaking them. She said the area is under the current State of Emergency and luckily the police kept closer watch after the incident so she could finally have a reasonable night’s sleep, not diving under the bed repeatedly in response to the gunshots of previous nights.
We simply cannot allow our humble hardworking folk to continue living like this. Crime in lower income areas is dumbing down our country.  Children cannot thrive in sleepless fear, they cannot study if the previous night’s shooting leaves them shaking at their desks.
The ‘Jamaica Moves’ Campaign has caught on islandwide.  Now the ‘Live Good’ Campaign must be handled with the same enthusiasm and funding with input from every Government Ministry.  Further, every MP, political caretaker and parish must be called upon to be open and active in their condemnation of thuggery. They should also decide to spend less time on campaigning and more time serving their respective communities. That remains the best way to sway voters.
Since witnesses are fearful of giving information, there should be no delay in implementing the technology available to create the evidence required to bring criminals to justice.

Farewell Tarania ‘Plum Plum’ Clarke
When children grow up in troubled environs, they may adopt aggressive, violent ways, especially  if they do not receive guidance at home.  This may have been the case for that ‘friend’ of Reggae Girl Tarania ‘Plum Plum’ Clarke who stabbed her to death in an altercation over a cell phone.
Reggae Girls Coach Hue remembers how respectful 20-year-old Tarania was and the bright future that she had. She was Captain of the Waterhouse football club and was to take up a scholarship at the Daytona College in January of next year.
A social media post from sports reporter Karen Madden noted: “Plum Plum was a star from her Excelsior days. No surprise when she was drafted to Waterhouse & #ReggaeGirlz youth & senior programme. She got a huge break in recent Olympic Qualifiers & scored twice. A talented player & a nice girl. This is heartbreaking #RIPBalla #TaraniaClarke.
What a sad loss.

Special Congrats Bruce James

When professionals share their comfortable lives with the less comfortable area of sports, the results can be magnificent. We saw that in a previous colum I wrote on Norman Peart, who relocated to Kingston to accommodate advanced training for a young Usain Bolt.
And so, we laud Bruce James, who was recently awarded the Order of Distinction ‘for sterling contribution to the development of sports in Jamaica, especially in track and field’. Bruce has a successful career in banking, but moved by the need for “a Jamaican post-high school training option for athletics as one did not exist” he, Stephen Francis, Paul Francis and David Noel decided to form MVP. Bruce notes, “Our goal then and now is to prove that Jamaican coaches, Jamaican managers and Jamaican facilities can develop Jamaican athletes to be the very best in the World.”
No doubt, MVP’s guidance has assisted in making one of their charges, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce a model of diligence, integrity and ambition for her fellow Jamaicans.
Bruce James shared, “My involvement in athletics started when I represented St. Andrew Preparatory School at Prep Champs. At Wolmer’s, my love for the sport was nurtured including being the Captain of the track team and earning an athletics scholarship to Florida State University (FSU). At FSU I earned my BSc and MBA and was also the Captain of the Track Team for FSU in my Senior year. Upon returning home I decided to give back to the school and sport that had given me so much by serving as the Manager of the Wolmer’s Boys’ School Track Team.”
It must have been a bitter-sweet moment for Bruce James and his daughters who last year lost their beloved wife and mother Pascale. Congratulations Bruce - stay strong.

Thalia Lyn – PSOJ Hall of Famer
Thalia Lyn’s colleagues of the International Women’s Forum were euphoric last Tuesday when we witnessed her induction into the PSOJ Hall of Fame. She is only the second woman, the first being Lorna Myers, to have been bestowed this honour.
Thalia’s many accomplishments as entrepreneur, diplomat and gender activist have been shared far and wide However, what stands out for me is Thalia’s and her husband Michael’s dedication to the upliftment of their fellow Jamaicans. These include projects for Mustard Seed, scholarship programmes, sponsorship of sporting events and their soup kitchen. They have set a fine example for their family members, including grandson Matthew Lyn, founder of the WIND Club which recently completed the building of five Food for the Poor homes in Jamaica.

Negril Chamber’s Recycling Project
The Negril Chamber of Commerce, led by Nola Stair, have taken the initiative to establish the Negril Recycling Centre in the Whitehall community. Wisynco kindly collects the large bags of plastics for recycling. The project had a setback due to fire, but the Digicel Foundation has stepped in to repair the building and provide electrical equipment for a planned glass-crushing machine. They will be able to get guidance from the New Horizons Outreach Ministries in St. Catherine whose recycling programme has yielded beautiful tiles and counter-tops. The Negril Chamber is looking forward to having the plant’s electrical connection up and running, so we are asking JPS if they would expedite – this will result in more employment for residents of the area.

Evening with Spain’s Carmen Paris
Accompanied on piano by Uruguayan musician Diego Ebbeler and on percussion by the renowned Madrid-Parisian musician Jorge Tejerina, the award-winning Carmen Paris sang and danced her way into the hearts of Jamaican audiences in Kingston and Montego Bay. Gratitude to Ambassador Josep MarĂ­a Bosch Bessa, Embassy of Spain, the Spanish-Jamaican Foundation and TSK for their sponsorship of this free concert.
Please read Emma Lewis’ excellent review of the concert
headlined “Carmen Paris: Her Voice Conquered Us” - .

Monday, January 13, 2020

Nadine Sutherland's 40th Anniversary

Excerpt for Jamaica Observer column published 13th January, 2020

by Jean Lowrie-Chin

December 13th, 2019 marked 40 years since Nadine Sutherland at 10 years old, won the first Tastee Talent Contest. At a recent event organised by Images LLC and hosted by Tastee CEO Patsy Latchman-Atterbury at the company's Board Room, Nadine is quoted by Jamaica Observer Entertainment writer Howard Campbell: "To Tastee, my destiny has been so intertwined with you. You are a representation of a corporate entity of Jamaica who invested back into the people so a Nadine Sutherland can stand here right now. So, I really want to thank you 'cause you did change my life; you did give me a platform. I'm a country girl singing 'round the area; I met Bob Marley, I met Peter Tosh; Sangie [Davis] wrote my songs. It's like a Cinderella story, so I'm forever thankful to you."


I believe MP Ann-Marie 'Action Ann' Vaz is forever thankful to Nadine for 'Action' which became the theme song and her moniker for the campaign which won her the East Portland seat.


In spite of her remarkable career, not only in music but also in education, Nadine remains humble and engaging. Perhaps because she is not given to the hype of stardom, Nadine Sutherland does not get the kudos she deserves. Wise and generous, Nadine spreads positivity on her social media pages.


Happy 40th anniversary to a woman whose music has given rhythm and colour to our lives, and whose professionalism is inspiring.  No one stays current for four decades without courage and perseverance. Congratulations Nadine Sutherland – keep shining my friend!




Friday, December 20, 2019

The Rockhouse Foundation's Model School in Savanna-la-mar

Rockhouse Foundation President Peter Rose and aspects of
the Savanna-la-mar Inclusive Infant Academy
Journeying through our country last week, one cannot help but fall in love all over again with our lush green hills and the kindness that has kept Jamaica going.  Come with me to the Savanna-la-mar Inclusive Infant Academy on Lewis Street, built by the Rockhouse Foundation with ongoing support from the Foundation and Ministry of Education, Information and Youth. 

The President of the Foundation Peter Rose walked us through the beautiful, airy spaces where happy children ran to hug us and enthusiastic teachers and therapists described the close attention paid to their charges.

This mixed ability, full inclusion model school has a population of 115 children, 30 percent of whom have ‘a diverse set of special needs.’ The remaining 70 percent of children are selected by what Peter describes as a ‘straight lottery’, to avoid favoritism in any form. The Foundation plans to further expand the school, provide a daycare centre and eventually, primary-level classes.

The high wooden ceilings of the village-like layout provide natural cooling – construction workers from the community were engaged for the project and there is creative artwork celebrating their participation.

 The well-equipped therapy room is where Halleah Addiman brings hope and healing. One child, brought in the arms of her parents, can now navigate the corridors of the school. Speech Language therapist Ann-Merita Golding provides services to the school, and described her work with the children, some of whom have needs beyond just articulation.

We noted the carefully planned meals – for snack time, the children enjoyed bowls of fresh fruit.  The pupils are provided with nutritious breakfasts, snacks and lunches, thanks to the involvement of the Rockhouse executive chef.  

The Rockhouse Hotel, the popular boutique hotel and restaurant on Negril’s West End, along with its ownership team does the heavy lifting for the Foundation, organizing overseas fundraisers with its legions of fans network of loyal donors. The Foundation also contracts buses to take the children to and from school.  Instead of purchasing sets of sometimes expensive books, the Foundation underwrites all photocopying of lessons for the children.

Such a great model - thank you Rockhouse Foundation!