Thursday, October 30, 2014

Testing times …can we pass?

by Jean Lowrie-Chin | Jamaica Observer column | 27 October 2014
Governor General David Johnston and his wife Sharon pay their respects at the National War Memorial shortly after the honour guard take their posts Thursday October 30, 2014 in Ottawa.
Photo - Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

Last week’s events in peaceful, picturesque Canada have stunned us.  One friend wrote, “We have lost our innocence.”  Imagine, on Monday in Montreal, a radicalized man crashes his car into two soldiers, killing one.  Then on Wednesday, a gunman kills a soldier guarding a memorial in the Canadian capital of Ottawa, and charges into the Parliament Building, firing away.  Fortunately, the Sergeant-at-Arms was armed with more than the golden mace he usually carries, and was able to cut down the gunman before he could cause even greater tragedy.   

Some locals are saying that this is exactly why Minister Bunting gave a platinum farewell to Abu Bakr who was in Jamaica reportedly to spend his birthday with family members.  Security expert Robert Finzi-Smith was supportive of the Minister’s move and wrote on Facebook: “If he is shackled and returned … the potential repercussions would utterly destroy our tourism product. $4 million cheap at the price. Add to that that millions of US dollars were spent in the hospitality industry in Kingston over the past three weeks based on the bookings at hotels and guest houses in Kingston.”
Trinidad's Minster of National Security Gary Griffith (left) and Yasin Abu Bakr
The story of Trinidadian Shane Crawford who went to fight for ISIS is a wake-up call for leaders.  Published in the Trinidad Express and in the Jamaica Observer, the report by Asha Javeed who interviewed Crawford’s mother Joan, with whom he lived in Enterprise Village, Chaguanas, reveals a young man who “was prompted by the inadequacy of what his life had become in Trinidad and the need to find a greater purpose.” 
And so, in spite of multiple causes of ‘greater purpose’ in the Caribbean region -  children to be nurtured and educated, elderly to be protected – Crawford and over forty other Caribbean young men are now fighting in Syria. Their leadership could not offer them any good reason to remain and work for their own countrymen.
Violence in Jamaica
In Jamaica, our terrorists are in our garrison communities, turning the lives of humble Jamaicans into a living hell, even as our well-guarded politicians condemn their behaviour.  My first reaction to Clovis’ cartoon of the politician sending off Abu Bakr while embracing the Don, was one of revulsion.  However, well do we recall that when former MP Heather Robinson declared that she would not be pursuing representational politics because of the ‘don-man’ links, no one stood up to show solidarity with her.  Not one – neither her own colleagues in the PNP nor members of the JLP. 
If only our leaders could give us more reason to trust and believe in them.  Youth unemployment is a problem even as the Sunday papers are filled with advertisements offering various types of jobs.  Employers find that while there are excellent individuals applying for jobs, there are too many others who are sadly unemployable.  Until our leaders can find it in their hearts to give more time to solving the country’s problems and less to hunting for power, our problems will continue. 
Public Forum on ChikV and Ebola
Having been doubling up at our office because of what we have dubbed “musical ChikV”, I am curious to hear when we can expect the end of this painful phase in our business.  I am glad that ChikV did not destroy Mark Wignall’s sense of humour: his conversation with Ms Aedes Egypti in last Thursday’s column was amusing, even as we felt his pain.
Dr Shane Alexis
Further, in Jamaica’s quest to be ‘ebola ready’ Health Minister Fenton Ferguson visited Cuba last week to gain expert assistance.  He was accompanied Medical Association of Jamaica (MAJ) President Dr Shane Alexis, who had studied medicine in Cuba and should be of great service to the Minister with not only his language skills, but also his brilliant approach to problem-solving.
The MAJ will be holding a public forum tomorrow at 5.30 pm at the Courtleigh Auditorium with the topic "ChikV and Ebola – analyzing their impact on Jamaica's Health and Economy," to be addressed by the Minister, PSOJ Executive Director Dennis Chung and visiting experts.
As unpleasant as it was, the experience of Jamaica-based Nigerian Dr Bob Banjo, when he arrived at Mandeville Hospital with suspicious symptoms which thankfully turned out to be food poisoning, was a wake-up call for our regional health managers.  New York City set a great example when they responded efficiently to their first ebola case – Dr Craig Spencer, who had been working with Doctors Without Borders in Guinea, West Africa. However, reports on Friday are that even at that high state of preparedness, nurses are calling in sick for fear of contracting the disease.
While we hope it will never arrive at our shores, let us educate and prepare ourselves.

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