Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Romancing the vote

HERE WE GO AGAIN... PM Golding (right) has words with NE St Catherine ex-MP Gregory Mair after announcing the date for the by-election.

Jamaica Observer Column | Monday, May 25, 2009


We should just get used to it and make the best of it: politics is the biggest business in Jamaica. On the positive side, Jamaica is a rock-solid democracy with interesting political personalities that make campaigning the most watched reality show in town.

Unfortunately for them, even our best politicians are projected as one-dimensional talking heads, easy fodder for our headlines. Nothing makes a bigger story than a politician in trouble - unless it is a story about fictitious trouble. But let me say no more as that is a yet unfinished drama.

Local Government Minister Bobby Montague held a press briefing last Thursday about a $10 million trip by a contingent of 75 parish councilors and other officials to a conference in the Bahamas.  In fairness, we should point out that a third of the group paid their own way, though we can hardly wait to see how all the wonderful information they gleaned from this conference will be manifested in a squeaky clean environment.

Later, there was the announcement of by-elections for North East St Catherine, a seat already made famous by the Dabdoub (then JLP) vs Mitchell case after the 1997 general elections, eventually won by Dabdoub in 2001.  Gregory Mair will once again contesting the election for the JLP, while it is expected that the PNP’s candidate will be NWU island supervisor Granville Valentine.

PM Golding quickly responded to the Court’s ruling by announcing an early date, June 16 for the by-election, with Nomination Day being this Friday.  We wait to hear decisions regarding challenges to the status of JLP Parliamentarians Michael Stern (NW Clarendon) and Shahine Robinson (NE St. Ann). 

Voters in these three constituencies must be having visions of wonderful feasts and blandishments when their candidates come a-courting.  Elections put Valentine’s Day in the shade.

I heard one critic declaring that we should have less, not more constituencies to arrive at an odd-number.  Clearly, he wants to deprive some electors of the romancing of their votes. Jamaicans are said to be 'boasy'. But hey, after all the wooing by parties, unions, telecoms companies and furniture stores, you can’t blame us for feeling very, very special!

Putting joke aside, we should know that Marcus Mosiah had a bit of ‘boasy’ in him, but distilled this into confident leadership that would inspire millions in the Diaspora.  His philosophy did not encourage the ‘sufferer’ mentality but rather challenged us not to become ‘a bum or hobo race.’  He disdained ignorance and urged his followers to develop a love for reading.  “If you cannot buy books,” said Garvey, “… go to your libraries and read or borrow them …Use every spare minute you have in reading.”

We want to hear our politicians change their platform rhetoric into this kind of practical, useful advice.  Then we would like them to step from the platform into their constituencies and work with their people, motivating them with a wholesome and moving philosophy. 

But hold on a minute -- isn’t that something every ordinary citizen should do?  We who are too ‘precious’ to get caught up in the hurly-burly of Jamaican politics could indeed mentor a child, or take a hot lunch for an indigent elder, or dig a little deeper to help a community project. 

The word politics is defined in Webster’s dictionary as, “The science of government; that part of ethics which has to do with the regulation and government of a nation or state, the preservation of its safety, peace, and prosperity, the defense of its existence and rights against foreign control or conquest, the augmentation of its strength and resources, and the protection of its citizens in their rights, with the preservation and improvement of their morals.”  

What a task! No matter the excellence of the leader, this cannot be accomplished without the cooperation of willing citizens. Those of us who turn up our noses at politicians, from whichever side of the House they may come, and do not cooperate, have no right to criticise.

As we sit in this warm though sometimes overheated bubble called Jamaica, do we know that over the past month in Sri Lanka, hundreds were killed as a 25-year civil war came to a bloody end?  Over 250,000 of its citizens are now in refugee camps, many of them starving as their numbers have surpassed the UNHCR’s projections.  As the Pakistan army fights to retake the Swat Valley in their Northwestern region from the Taliban, over 800,000 residents have had to flee their homes.  Next door in Haiti, four people have already died from the same weather system that has been inundating Jamaica.  Haiti has lost 85% of its vegetation while thanks to our environmentalists, we have been able to preserve most if not all, of our green hills.

Even in the USA, the rate of unemployment has risen fast, with the basic free healthcare we have in Jamaica, still beyond the reach of many in that wealthy country.  After the Bill to protect credit card holders was passed in the US Congress earlier this week, we learned that the gun lobby had snuck in a clause allowing persons to carry arms into public parks; the lawmakers felt powerless to stop it as the rest of the Bill was too important to ordinary Americans.   This same strident gun lobby has affected the proliferation of guns in our region.

When we look at Jamaica in this context, we can understand why, even as we are tearing down our country, many are tearing up at our history and culture.  We can do our part by helping our politicians to fight a clean fight – Jamaica is worth it.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

We failed them!

'Betta mi did mek her stay pon di road' - These were the words of Prudence Doeman, mother of 15-year-old Shauna-Lee Kerr as she mourned her daughter, one of the five teenagers who lost their lives in the tragic fire at the Armadale Correctional Centre in St Ann. (From today's Sunday Observer report - click on link at right to read story in full at Observer website.)

There will be a Commission of Inquiry into the incident, but the deeper inquiry must happen in the hearts of every Jamaican.

If we had a more caring society, if we had a support system for parents and children in crisis, could these girls have been rehabilitated while remaining in the bosom of their families?

This chaka-chaka approach to the biggest social problem of Jamaica - the breakdown of family - must be addressed. Until we fix that, nothing else can work.

Rest in Peace -
Ann-Marie Samuels
Nerissa Gooden
Rachel King
Kaychell Nelson
Shauna-Lee Kerr

We should have loved you more.

Friday, May 22, 2009

MLK on Ja

MLK Jr on his vist to Jamaica in June 1965
Enjoy this message from Alpha Alumnae Florida Chapter Prez, Patsy Lee (formerly Yee).

A Knock at Midnight: Inspiration from the Great Sermons of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.
-- In this book under the chapter "American Dream"  and in paragraph 13 you will find:

"The other day Mrs. King and I spent about ten days down in Jamaica .  I'd gone down to deliver the commencement address at the University of the West Indies . I always love to go that great island which I consider the most beautiful island in all the world. The government prevailed upon us to be their guests and spend some time and try to get a little rest while there on the speaking tour. And so for those days we traveled all over Jamaica . And over and over again I was impressed by one thing. Here you have people from many national backgrounds: Chinese, Indians, so-called Negroes, and you can just go down the line, Europeans, European and people from many, many nations.  Do you know they all live there and they have a motto in Jamaica , "Out of many people, one people." And they say, "Here in Jamaica we are not Chinese, (Make it plain) we are not Japanese, we are not Indians, we are not Negroes, we are not Englishmen, we are not Canadians. But we are all one big family of Jamaicans." One day, here in America , I hope that we will see this and we will become one big family of Americans.  Not white Americans, not black Americans, not Jewish or Gentile Americans, not Irish or Italian Americans, not Mexican Americans, not Puerto Rican Americans, but just Americans. One big family of Americans."

A Knock at Midnight: <> Inspiration from the Great Sermons of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.

Clayborne Carson and Peter Holloran, ed.s
(New York: IPM/Warner Books,1998)

© The Estate of Martin Luther King,
Jr. <>

Vitamin D 'key to healthy brain'

Time to hit the beach! The sun is the most important source of Vitamin D. (Negril, my favourite place on earth.)

BBC News | 22 May 09 - click on title for full story

Scientists have produced more evidence that vitamin D has an important role in keeping the brain in good working order in later life.

A study of over 3,000 European men aged 40-79 found those with high vitamin D levels performed better on memory and information processing tests.

The University of Manchester team believe vitamin D may protect cells or key signalling pathways in the brain.

The study features in the Journal of Neurology Neurosurgery and Psychiatry.

STGC- Alpha 1959 Reunion



May 28 Thursday 7:00 – 8:30 pm Liguanea Club
• “Meet & Greet” Alumni
• Program Briefing & Explanation
• Cocktails (only)

May 29, Friday 8:30 am Holy Trinity Cathedral

• Mass
Chief Celebrant: Archbishop Lawrence Burke S.J.,
Participating Clergy – Former Teachers and Students

10:00 am STGC Alpha
• Proceed to respective schools
• Principal’s Welcome
• Campus Tour (Teacher Conducted)
12:00 pm
STGC Alpha
• Lunch with Prefect Body
• Head Boy / Girl presentation followed by discussion
• Alumni Presentation of Pledges to school
7:00 pm – 11:30 pm Knutsford Court Hotel
• Cocktails
• “Formal Dinner”
• Keynote Speakers: Dr. Robert Hill,
Hon. Beverley Lopez C.D.,O.J.
• Entertainment – Keith Lyn
May 30, Saturday
9:00 am – 11:00 am Courtleigh Hotel

• “Jamaica – Then & Now”
Panel Discussion:
Moderator – Deacon Ronald Thwaites, MP;
Panelists – Hon. Bruce Golding MP, Prime Minister;
Prof. Patricia Anderson; Mrs. Jean Lowrie-Chin
Prof. Trevor Munroe

Coffee Break

8:00 pm -- Liguanea Club
“Old Times” Party with “Nostalgia Nonsense”
• Soul Shack Disco - Bunny Goodison
• Special Guests:
All Teachers from the Era,
STGC Manning Cup Team 1959 (Winners)


Optional 2:00 pm Caymanas Golf Club

Kingston STGC Golf Tournament (Additional Charge)

City Tour (Additional Charge)


All Events - Alumni

Overseas US$ 190
Local J$ 16,500

All Events – Family – Additional Person

Overseas US$ 100
Local J$ M8,500

Other Events - Individual Prices

Thursday Briefing US$20 J$1800
Friday Day US$35 J$3000
Friday Evening US$60 J$5000
Saturday Morning US$35 J$3000
Saturday Evening US$60 J$5000

Local cheques for payment should be made payable to:

St. Georges College A/c 800 868

and can be sent to:

STGC Alpha 1959 Reunion
Liguanea Club
Knutsford Blvd.

Overseas payments can be made by accessing web site at

Monday, May 18, 2009

Boyne still strong after 22 years

Jamaica Observer column | Jean Lowrie-Chin | Monday, May 18, 2009

(click on title above for link to full story)

I remember the intense teenager seriously engaging my seniors at the Daily News, and commenting, "That guy is bright!" The youngster was Ian Boyne and at the age of 18, he was interviewing the likes of Rex Nettleford, Peter Abrahams and John Maxwell for cover stories in the paper's Xaymaca magazine.

Boyne had always been fascinated by clinical psychology and as a journalist at the then JBC in 1987, proposed to marry both disciplines in the creation of Profile, aired on Sunday afternoons. "I thought, maybe I could use the media to help us to have greater confidence in ourselves," he says. "Countries like Japan and other Asian states which had been viewed as backward were able to succeed because of their culture of cooperation and cultural confidence."

Saturday, May 16, 2009

:-) Pigs flew!

Rosa Parks sat so Martin could walk.

Martin Luther King walked so Barack Obama could run.

People said for centuries that if a Black Man won the Presidency of the United States that pigs would fly

And what do you know?

After his first 100 days in office...

Swine flu.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Not an easy time

HELP THEM TO LOVE BOOKS! Kenisha Hughs reads for children at the Stella Maris Foundation in Grants Pen (Omar Frith photo)

(click on title for link to Jamaica Observer website)

JEAN LOWRIE-CHIN | Jamaica Observer | Monday, May 04, 2009

The scene is being played and replayed in workplaces, bars, and various gatherings across Jamaica. PNP supporters are pointing their fingers at JLP followers and saying, "Look at how your government making poor people suffer." In turn, JLP followers are saying, "All because your government was so bad for 18 years." Some of these discussions are as heated as if we were a week away from a general election.

As both sides continue to bicker, there are those who chuckle, "Been there, seen that" and continue to work as hard as they can, having been strongly reminded by the UFO fallout that indeed, there will never be any such thing as a free lunch.

The series on the family businesses nominated for the 2008 Jamaica Observer Business Leader Awards reminds us that this country still remains the land of opportunity. The big issue now, is how we are going to convince some of our members of parliament that their role should be not to divide, but to build harmonious communities. On the 100th day of her husband's presidency, Michelle Obama rallied the spouses of 150 members of the United States Congress, to volunteer to pack and distribute food for hundreds of hungry children in Washington DC. Say what? Hungry children in the capital of the USA? Trust me, I have driven through those depressed neighbourhoods, virtually cheek-by-jowl with the ritzy DC district.

The New York Times reported Mrs Obama as saying to the group: "It's important for America to see you all here doing this, not as Republicans or Democrats or independents - there's no ideology. It's just all of us people who care about our country and want to make service a core part of the work we do.''

Here in Jamaica, Lorna Golding, wife of our prime minister has created The Jamaica Early Childhood Foundation (JECF) to enhance existing programmes for young children, and recently launched an ambitious environmental project at the School of Hope. (We hope you'll support Mrs Golding's JECF fund-raising concert on Labour Day weekend). It seems that we may have to count on the spouses from both sides of the House to come together and show Jamaica that we are one country, not two tribes plastered in orange and green, constantly warring with each other.

This is not to say that we should not encourage free speech and peaceful protest. I was one of those who sent an email to the PM and minister of finance, petitioning that no GCT be charged on books. I have to believe that there was some slip, somewhere, that would allow a tax to be put on books and no additional tax on liquor or cigarettes.

One of my shining childhood memories of Christmas is of being taken up the escalator in Times Store downtown, and being told by my parents to "choose any book". Joy! No tax should stand between a reader and his books. Nothing can develop the mind as well as the distillation of those lines, into a kaleidoscope of images, a new perspective, and stirring "aha" moments.

Well do I remember Ralph Thompson's call for a better appreciation of poetry in Jamaica. He said it would develop our imagination and attributed our terrible driving habits to our inability to imagine the dire consequences of speeding. (More books and fewer Quad nights for our beloved Usain?)

The tribalisation of Jamaica has happened because we have not educated our people to think for themselves, to read for themselves about their boundless possibilities. If the current leaders in our House of Parliament continue to foment this ignorance and division, then well-thinking Jamaicans must ensure that they will not have the opportunity to warm a seat ever again in Gordon House.

It is an open secret that the crime-producing squatter settlements were encouraged by politicians on both sides who "trucked-in" their votes via the hapless residents of gully sides and zinc-fenced mazes. Every politician who has communities of this description in their constituencies must tell us what they are doing to restore these citizens to a decent way of life.

I have tried to navigate the ragged zinc paths in one such community with a group of donors. In one pathetic little corner was a dirt-floored area with a battered desk and a rusty chair. This, a resident told us, was the "study room". A bright young boy was introduced to us - he did his homework by the street light. And now we will tax a book he may have saved all year to own?

That child, who will not allow his ambition to be extinguished, deserves a leader who will help to bring order and peace to his community. We are no longer moved by passionate speeches in the House: we want to see this passion translated into a better life for the poorest of the poor. When an MP can refuse a donation to build a school because the donor is not dealing with "my people", then that MP is promoting darkness, not light. Let us start blogs and websites, upload photos and videos, and expose these wrongs.

No doubt our new taxes will be a hard blow, but we should know that it is a universal blow and Jamaica is still better off than many other countries. If our leaders were less selfish, we could certainly minimise the hardships being felt by the poorest among us. We understand that the Constituency Fund granted to MPs has strict guidelines. We challenge members of parliament to give the Jamaica Information Service funding updates, so that we can be convinced of your probity and good character. It is not an easy time, so we should not ease up on monitoring how every cent of our taxes is being spent.