Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Friday, February 20, 2015

Time to be ‘unashamedly ethical’

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

Graham Power (3rd from right) with (from left) Jamaica's Director of Public Prosecutions Paula Llewellyn, former JMA President Omar Azan and Executive Director of the National Integrity Alliance Prof. Trevor Munroe
Graham Power pulled no punches from his own self when he addressed a group of business leaders on Friday. The wealthy founder of the Power Group in South Africa, told us that he had been involved in practices “which I was not proud of” in the earlier days of his business. He and other top construction company owners would share information on budgets for tenders, conspiring to inflate figures, pre-planning winners, and sharing the spoils.
Power’s business prospered and he enjoyed a luxurious lifestyle, but he said he experienced “a hunger for inner peace”.  At 43 years old, he made a public commitment to Christ and decided that he would no longer participate in such practices. “My life was turned upside down,” he recalls, after he attended an event held by cricketer-turned-evangelist Peter Pollock in 1999.
When he shared his decision with his fellow executives they became very worried, asking, “Will we survive?” He stood his ground, insisting that if they didn’t agree, he, the 80 percent owner, would be forced to exit the company. Not only did they survive, he related, but they became progressively more successful.
A few years later, Graham Power had “a personal encounter with God, who instructed me to hire a stadium, and hold a day of repentance and prayer.” This event was held at the stadium in Cape Town on 21 March 2001, and there was not an empty seat in the house. Since then, Graham Power has held similar meetings in 220 countries across the globe, using 2 Chronicles 7:14 as the theme: “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
Power appealed to us to “Make a pledge, stand firm and turn the tide.”  He said that he is proud to be South African, and inspired by “our Madiba”, Nelson Mandela who after serving 27 years in prison, came out “with no hatred”.  He is concerned about the plight of our human family, impoverished by corruption: “more than 50 percent of the world’s population living on less than US$2 per day.”
"Our Madiba"

With this in mind, Graham Power founded the ‘Unashamedly Ethical’ movement, which was launched globally in May 2010, complete with a Constitution and an Executive Committee established to oversee the campaign. A pivotal moment in Unashamedly Ethical’s history was March 2013 “when the Western Cape Government in South Africa made their commitment to ethics, values and clean living.” By October 2014, over 5,000 companies committed to being Unashamedly Ethical, and over 100 countries/nations became Unashamedly Ethical signatories.
At the event last Friday, we were given commitment forms and invited to sign an agreement:
  1. To be entirely truthful in all you say.
  2. To be faithful to your family relationships.
  3. To do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but to look out for the interests of others.
  4. To refuse to elicit, accept or pay any bribes and to encourage others to do the same.
  5. To be diligent without being harsh, and striving to be just and fair.
  6. To be a peacemaker.
  7. To do your work wholeheartedly.
  8. To submit yourself to just and ethical governing authorities.
  9. To remember the poor by investing generously and sacrificially in the broader community.
  10. To collaborate with your peers to impact our community and nation.
Signing the document is a real commitment, making one accountable to the Unashamedly Ethical Ombudsman. In fact, says Power, several companies have been suspended due to non-compliance.  This ever increasing list is a wonderful resource for those seeking contractors with solid ethics.  Anyone, anywhere can sign up – simply go online to
Graham Power’s Jamaica tour was well organised by Wycliffe Caribbean, chaired by Oral McCook, and sponsored by several top corporates.  ‘Unashamedly Ethical’ is important to our struggling country, as we are rated 85th on Transparency International’s corruption scale.  A commitment to ethical behaviour, with the above 10 guidelines, will ensure that the millions squandered in corrupt dealings can be used to provide more opportunities for our people. If our leaders through the past decades had been unashamedly ethical, there would have been no garrisons, no dons, no Tivoli tragedy. There is no better time than now, to make our big move to righteousness.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Thank you, Ralston Smith

The Public Relations Society of Jamaica honours one of its founders and leaders, Ralston Smith (seated), who died last week. In the 1990s, when he was the director of communications at the Office of the Prime Minister, his team was (back row from left) Byron Buckley, now communications director, Ministry of Education; Michelle Powell; Maxine Francis, who is now the PR manager at King's House; and Huntley Medley, current director of communications at OPM; Front row Diana Daly, senior secretary at the OPM, and then administrative assistant to Smith, Pauline Thomas.
If you are asking yourself, “Who is Ralston Smith?”, it may be because Ralston was the quintessential PR man, more interested in promoting his client rather than himself.  This brilliant professional who passed away last month, instilled in his colleagues the importance of competence for excellence.  The founder of Jamaica’s first public relations agency, Public Relations Associates (PRA), partnering with the late Desmond Henry and distinguished author Ken Jones, Ralston was active in training and mentoring young PR professionals. 

Ralston Smith CD
In a tribute prepared by Past President Elaine Commissiong, The Public Relations Society of Jamaica states: “The dedication and professionalism that Mr Smith brought to the field of Public Relations helped to establish its reputation in Jamaica as a core part of the management function. The PRSJ notes that his firm but kind hand in training young journalists and others who entered PR during the 1950s to 2000s has ensured a legacy of fairness, attention to detail, and commitment to the role of a communicator … not only in the best of times but also in the most challenging of times.”

Our condolences to his widow Pearl, relatives and close friends of our exemplary colleague. Rest in peace, Ralston Smith

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Will Bob Marley’s dream come true?

by Jean Lowrie-Chin - Observer column for MON 9 Feb 2015

I met Bob Marley in December 1976 - Lennie Gordon Photo

Around the world, millions of every class, colour and creed, marked the 70th Birthday of Bob Marley last Friday.  We had the joy of hearing Shaggy perform a dynamic Marley set, giving his time to raise funds for the homeless at the Food for the Poor ‘Building Hope’ Gala in Boca Raton, Florida.  “Let’s get together and feel alright,” we sang along. Considerable sums were pledged: feeling alright will lead to strong homes for the suffering families in the area surrounding Pon Batay in Haiti.
worked as an engineer at Herman McDonald’s Total Sounds on Retirement Road, and Bob Marley became the soundtrack of our lives.  I have a treasured photo with him, thanks to Lennie Gordon!
However, seeing Bob Marley perform was a totally different experience from listening to his records. At Maple Leaf Garden, he commanded a collective levitation of our spirits – we were walking on air after that concert! Then we heard of Bob’s illness and as he battled on, I took in the purity of “Redemption Song” and realised that this was his swan song, every line a message, every note a cry: “Won’t you help to sing, this song of freedom?.. Emancipate yourself from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds!” Yes, we thank God that Garvey wrote it first, so that Bob could sing it next.
His messages travelled across the Atlantic as Bob’s lyrics became the anthem of freedom fighters in Africa.  But I was still surprised at what unfolded in July 2012 at Jamaica’s National Arena. The Archbishop of Ghana, here to celebrate 500 years of Catholic Witness in Jamaica, and Jamaica’s 50th Anniversary of Independence made the first apology for slavery we had ever heard from an African leader.  I wrote in this column on July 12, 2012:
“I apologise for the acts of my ancestors for selling your ancestors into slavery,” he declared.  “Please join me as we sing…”  At this point I expected to hear a song like “Amazing Grace.”  But no!  Archbishop Palmer-Buckle invited us to sing “Redemption Song”!

“How long shall they kill our prophets while we stand aside and look?” – his strong voice rang through the very National Arena where Bob Marley had lain in state 31 years before.  We, his emotional congregation sang with him, “But my hand was made strong, by the hand of the Almighty. We forward in this generation – triumphantly!”

Archbishop Palmer-Buckle  of Ghana in Jamaica's National Arena - Gleaner photo
And so we sang – every word, every line from beginning to end – while some sisters and brothers stood and raised their hands to punctuate the searing words. And as we ended with, “Redemption song – songs of freedom – redemption song ….”  the healing washed over us and the Archbishop announced, “Now we are connected.”

The sad fact however, is that even as members of our international community have so embraced the message of Marley, too many of his own people remain divided and distrustful.  The successors of the two men whose hands he joined together on that platform in the National Stadium are still playing their game of “divide and rule”, with a few refreshing exceptions. 

The out-and-out political violence may appear to have stopped, but the victimization and vindictiveness have continued.  The thugs still rule in the ghetto yards and re-appear on the campaign buses.  It is good that there is an Indecom to ensure good governance on the part of the police.  Will we ever see such an organisation to monitor the behaviour our politicians?  I believe that CAFFE and the ECJ could collaborate to form such an organisation so that the system that works so well on Election Day will produce winners, not only for party, but also for country.