Thursday, December 10, 2015

This precious jewel, Jamaica

Observer column for MON 7 December 2015
by Jean Lowrie-Chin
Tony Rebel - promoted 'Peace, Love & Unity'
It worries me that some Jamaicans are not understanding what a precious jewel of a country our Jamaica is.  It worries me that last Tuesday evening PNP Supporter Sadie Forbes of Newlands, St. Catherine was murdered; in an apparent reprisal, JLP supporter Jermaine Vassell also lost his life a few hours later, allegedly by politically motivated criminals.  Reports are that someone had mounted a green flag on a post near Ms Forbes’ house, and she had removed it.  Her neighbours and relatives spoke of this good woman who seemed to have received a death sentence simply because of a flag removal.  Then thugs went after the JLP-linked Vassell, who lived in the same community and murdered him. This is madness!

Here we were, celebrating the far way we had come.  Our shop has had the privilege of collaborating with the Electoral Office and Electoral Commission (formerly EAC) since 1996.  In gearing for the December 1997 Elections, we produced a music video to Tony Rebel’s ‘Peace, Love & Unity’, which called for an end to political violence.  The music video featured then members of the EAC, PNP representative Maxine Henry-Wilson and JLP representative the late Ryan Peralto Sr. smiling and hugging.  This was not staged: the video crew was allowed to film part of a meeting of the EAC, and the discussion was on reforms to the Representation of the People Act (ROPA).  In spite of minor disagreements, the EAC was able to arrive at consensus under the insightful chairmanship of William Chin See, and so we saw how well our political parties worked together for the greater good.
We had made such great progress, that after the Carter Centre sent a 55-member team led by President Jimmy Carter himself to monitor the October 2002 general election, that they wrote a report congratulating the Electoral Office of Jamaica and our security forces.  They stated that they were so impressed with the smooth running of the election led by then Director of Elections Danville Walker, and the work of own local CAFFE election observers, that they saw no need to monitor future elections. 
But we know enough to know that both our political parties have not purged themselves of thugs.  We are still seeing tenement yards materializing in the most unexpected places where it seems that the garrison rule-book dictates that you pack them tight to have easy control over political leanings.  In my beloved childhood neighbourhood, I was not allowed to take gifts for orphaned children in a tenement on Dalling Street, a PNP area – a man insisted on collecting the bag for them.  In a JLP area many years ago, a worker in an MP’s office heard him order his followers to “bun dem out!” referring to some PNP sympathisers who had moved in to his area.  She migrated in fear. 
Any politician who is complicit with such behaviour is squandering our country’s great promise. We, the hardworking taxpayers of Jamaica, cannot continue to pay the salaries of the corrupt.  Let any Government worker who has a story to tell, be encouraged by the NIA to tell it in safety, and with the confidence that their expos√© will help us to realise the rich possibilities that abound.
I have seen the post by Senator Floyd Morris on social media, condemning the murder of Ms Forbes, with whom he had collaborated in campaigning for the PNP.  There was absolutely nothing wrong with his condemnation.  I also saw reports of Opposition Leader Andrew Holness distributing Jamaican flags and calling for these to be the only flags to be used in political campaigning. This is a refreshing recommendation which we should embrace, as we work towards a more mature political culture. Let us give credit, wherever it is due. Down with backward tribalism.
Damion Crawford’s courage
Damion Crawford’s recent postings on Twitter seem to indicate that he is ready to throw in the towel with the PNP.  That would be such a loss to the party.  Yes, it is true that he had his awkward moments, but we should judge him by his constructive and ambitious work for his East Rural St. Andrew constituents.   
      I had the pleasure of interviewing him as a fresh new MP in June 2012, and learned that even before he had been elected, he had joined with fellow university lecturers and students to start education initiatives in areas of the constituency.  After becoming MP, he developed a “3-2-1 education plan”, aiming at three CXC subjects per household after five years; two CAPE subjects per household after 10 years; one University Degree per household after 15 years.
      Within months of being in office, Damion had 4,017 students registered in the programme from areas in all 97 polling divisions, tying welfare assistance to their families, regardless of political leaning.  Parents or guardians had to be active in the various schools’ PTA, certified by a letter from the principals.  If they could not pay some of the fees required by the school, a barter system had been put place where goods and services could be offered in lieu of cash. 
He established a HOPE reading club (Helping Our People Excel), Verandah Basic for all age groups, adult classes where soup was offered, and had his ongoing GSAT camps at UWI for over 200 children per year. Crawford’s team bought GO-GSAT modules for the camp, which will provide meals and accommodation.  He recruited over 40 volunteers to teach and counsel.
      However, it seems that this new way of engagement did not find favour with those so addicted to old style politics. Let us hope that the two accomplished and admirable young women, Imani Duncan-Pryce for the PNP and Juliet Holness for the JLP, will embrace Damion’s vision for an empowered citizenry.             We should applaud Damion Crawford’s courage in trying to change the system, and challenge those of influence to take this higher road.  
Mourners display photos of victims
     Small town terrorism
      The shocking terrorist attack in the quiet small town of San Bernardino, California, is a signal that those who have come under the evil sway of extremists are constantly conspiring to keep the free world on edge.  It means, as our security forces have warned us, that nowhere is immune to this threat, and that we should be ever watchful.  The religious harmony in this our beautiful Jamaica, is something to be protected, and we should continue to show tolerance to the peace-loving Muslims in our midst. We should know that psychologists have pointed to the influence of violent video games, which have so conditioned young minds to violence and made them easy prey for the so-called “IS”. Be careful of the toys you allow your children to use, and of the programmes they watch.
Ideator and Sponsor of Jamaican-Made Christmas Butch Hendrickson shows off a lovely Mustard Seed creation offered by Novelette Ferguson
      National’s Jamaican-Made Christmas
      Visitors were impressed by the high quality of Jamaican-made goods at National Baking Foundation’s Jamaican-Made Christmas Expo funded by Patron Butch Hendrickson. It brought a well-needed boost to local manufacturers.  Please seek them out by visiting the National Bakery Facebook page, and give these hardworking Jamaicans the support they deserve.

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