Friday, April 20, 2018

Whirlwind of Positivity for Special Needs

Excerpt from Observer column published 16 April 2018

By Jean Lowrie-Chin

The arrival of Special Olympics International CEO Mary Davis, hosted by the Digicel Foundation, ushered in a whirlwind of positivity for the special needs community last week.  

We headed out to Lyssons, St Thomas on Tuesday morning for the opening of the 10th special needs centre in Jamaica, sponsored by the Foundation.  The enthusiasm of Mrs. Jaqueline Wilmot Hendricks, Site Coordinator for Lyssons Special Needs Centre was contagious, as we toured the facilities where there are not only instructions in the basic subjects, but projects that can assist in promoting sustainability.  The students proudly showed off large games boards they had painted – Checkers, Ludo and Snakes & Ladders, that will go on sale soon.

Later that day, we enjoyed the company of our Special Olympians, their staff led by Lorna Bell and Board headed by Alrick 'Alli' McNab, and newly appointed State Minister of Sports, Culture, Entertainment and Gender Alando Terrelonge, coincidentally brother of Emcee and Special Olympics Board Director Paula Pinnock.  We watched the Unified Team of Special Olympians and students from Pembroke Hall Primary engage in a game of bocce – this sees the engagement of students with their intellectually challenged sisters and brothers, promoting respect and inclusion.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness and Minister Olivia Grange received us at Jamaica House, and we are looking forward to a Labour Day collaboration with Minister Grange, "Ramp it Up" as we build more ramps in schools and public buildings.

Our 'Conversations on Special Needs' at the Jamaica Conference Centre last Wednesday, included presentations by Pastor Phillip Johnson, the father of an autistic son, and Radcliffe Richards, the father of a daughter with Down's Syndrome.  They moved us with their passion for inclusion, and their conviction that their children are God-given gifts, who have kindled in them and their families deep love and devotion. 

Senator Floyd Morris, Director, UWI Centre for Disability Studies called on the Government to set an effective Date for the Disabilities Act, passed in 2014, to come into force. Indeed, we learned that countries that do not promote inclusion are losing millions as an increasing number of visitors and investors shop around for special-needs-friendly destinations.  

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Yes, Journalism IS Special - PAJ President Jackson-Miller

As a proud member of the Press Association of Jamaica (PAJ) I endorse this important message from our President. 

Op-Ed on Data Protection Act
from PAJ President

Dionne Jackson-Miller

One of the perhaps predictable responses to calls by the Press Association of Jamaica & the Media Association of Jamaica to exempt journalism entirely from the Data Protection Act, has been to ask  "Who do they think they are?" and  "Do they think they're special?"

The very easy answer to that question is yes, we are! Not as individuals, but because journalism occupies a special, privileged position in democratic countries, because of the tremendous significance of freedom of the press.

Because parliamentarians refused to include a clause protecting the right to a free press in Jamaica's Charter of Rights, the press rely on the right to freedom of expression. But still, the importance of the press as a sub-set claiming protection of that right is undeniable.

UNESCO said on World Press Freedom Day 2014:

"…a free, pluralistic and independent news media, on all platforms, is important for facilitating good governance and transparency. Within the much-broadened media landscape, news media still remain central conduits for ongoing public assessments of the activities of government and other institutions that have developmental impact…Only when journalists are free to monitor, investigate and criticize a society's policies and actions can good governance take hold."

This is a principle that has been recognised by courts, advocacy groups, and inter-governmental organisations for decades.

Jamaica has consistently ranked extremely high on the press freedom index developed every year by the advocacy group Reporters Without Borders, and successive governments have made few overt moves to curtail that freedom. This does not mean we can relax our vigilance, as freedom of expression is easily, and insidiously, undermined.

Having grown up in a country in which we can fire off letters to the editor on every conceivable topic and call up local radio programmes (constrained only by the restrictions of defamation law), not to mention speak our minds at community meetings to political representatives and government officials, it becomes easy to take our freedoms for granted.

In the criticism of Jamaican journalism for not being better than it is, in the rush to dismiss local news output as inadequate and superficial, it's easy to forget how critical it is to have a free and open media. It's easy to forget the good work done, in condemning the poor.

It's easy to forget that Jamaican journalists have been responsible for many important stories about waste and corruption in government, stories about the plight of suffering citizens overlooked and ignored by the systems of government that exist to help them, stories about ineffective and unresponsive government agencies, and that Jamaican media have given a voice to a diversity of views on society and government policy, many sharply critical of government, and have held politicians to account.

This is not an attempt, today, to defend the quality of Jamaican journalism. We can always do better and must always aim to do better.

But what we are doing is critical in a democratic society. So no, the work of journalists cannot be equated to the work of other business operators, for the purposes of the concerns we have raised about the Data Protection Act. These include the certain chilling effect of the criminal penalties, fines and imprisonment, which could be imposed on journalists and media houses, the requirements to register and provide particulars of reasons for the collection and use of information, the lack of protection for journalistic "sources" and the dangers to the financial viability of our media houses.

It's not the same because journalism occupies a special place in democratic societies and discussions about protecting the profession must begin with this realisation.

In October 2017, the Financial Times published an article titled "UK Warns Data Rules Used to Stifle Journalism." The article said, among other things that:

-          " the tactic of invoking data protection rules to squash coverage is also being used against investigative journalism"

-          "editorial legal director at The Times and Sunday Times, said: "We are getting told when we go to subjects for comment that we can't process their personal data, which raises the concern that post-publication we might be mired in a costly action"

-          "some subjects named in the Sunday Times's 2015 investigation into blood doping in athletics — which involved the records of 12,359 blood tests taken from more than 5,000 athletes — tried to use data protection laws to prevent their personal information being released"

"even where unsuccessful, the time and costs involved for media companies in defending such cases could stifle free speech, lawyers warned"

Impacts on the much smaller media houses in Jamaica could be disastrous.

Now would be a good time to tek sleep and mark death.

Dionne Jackson Miller

President, Press Association of Jamaica


--
"A Free Press, Oxygen of Democracy"

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Food for the Poor Easter Prison releases

Sandra Ramsay & and Correctional Services Officials brief freed inmates at last Christmas FFP Prison Release


Excerpt from column 

by Jean Lowrie-Chin 

published in Jamaica Observer 2 April 2018

 

This is the 20th year of the Food for the Poor prison ministry programme which has seen the release of hundreds of non-violent inmates at Easter and Christmas, by paying their fines. Among the 113 released in the region for Easter, were two women from Fort Augusta and three from the St. Catherine Adult Correctional Centre, Richmond Farm Adult Correctional Centre and the Black River Police Station. Each was given words of encouragement, a hot meal, personal care items and money for transportation home.

 

"I prayed for God to provide something new for me and my family, something different for us to start over… a new life," one of the women said through tears. "I believe, with all my heart that Food for The Poor coming here today to pay my fine, is a direct answer from God. Even last night, I prayed and I said, 'God, free me please' and today, I am a free woman."


Additionally, more than 7,000 former inmates also have benefited from Food for the Poor Jamaica's (FFPJ) "Fresh Start Programme" that helps with profitable jobs, such as welding, carpentry and farming. Two young brothers in St. Catherine who previously had their fines paid for by Food for The Poor started a successful car-washing business - FFPJ staff and local police officers are some of their most loyal customers.



A Time for Renewal - Jamaica Cabinet Reshuffle

His Excellency The Most Honourable Sir Patrick Allen, Governor-General (3rd left) and The Most Honourable Andrew Holness, Prime Minister (3rd right) share lens with the newly appointed Members of Cabinet following the swearing-in ceremony at King's House, March 27, 2018. From left are Mr. Zavia Mayne – State Minister, Ministry of Labour and Social Security; Mr. Alando Terrelonge - State Minister, Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport; Mrs. Fayval Williams - Minister without Portfolio, Ministry of Finance and the Public Service and Dr. Nigel Clarke - Minister of Finance and the Public Service. 
- King's House Photo

Excerpt from Jamaica Observer column by Jean Lowrie-Chin 

published 2-April-2018

Last week's Cabinet reshuffle was a signal from Prime Minister Andrew Holness that leadership must respond to the demands of the times. The announcement was followed by the usual kudos and criticism, the right of free speech in our precious democracy. Most of the protests came from the movement of Minister Audley Shaw from Finance to Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries.  However, we wholeheartedly agree with him that this is in no way a demotion. Indeed, it is a powerhouse ministry that can help us achieve that 'five-in-four' growth, by tackling our stunting bureaucracy, supporting our hardworking farmers with game-changing technology and providing enticing opportunities to stanch our ominous brain-drain.

 

The promotion of Minister Fayval Williams to full Cabinet status is encouraging for those of us who have been advocating for more women in public sector leadership. She will be the fifth woman in our Cabinet, joining Minister Olivia 'Babsy' Grange, Minister Shahine Robinson, Minister Kamina Johnson-Smith and Attorney General Marlene Malahoo-Forte.

 

There is a balance of youth and age in the Cabinet, as we welcome the brilliant new Minister of Finance Nigel Clarke and State Ministers Alando Terrelonge and Xavier Mayne, while noting that those astute seniors Ministers Mike Henry and Karl Samuda have been assigned to the Office of the Prime Minister. The hard-working Minister Robert Montague steps across to the substantial Transport and Mining Ministry while the durable Minister Horace Chang takes up the challenging Ministry of National Security. 

 

We should make it our duty to support our Ministers and Members of Parliament (JLP and PNP) in their efforts for the development and protection of our country. Our Opposition is expected to contribute and criticize, but we should never forget our higher purpose of unity for the greater good.


Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Gout de France & Deaf Empowerment

Photos:

Mrs Valerie Facey - Volunteering for the Jamaica Association for the Deaf for over 60 years.


With Claudia Gordon - Jamaica-born first deaf Black Attorney-at-Law in the US and great mentor for Jamaica's deaf youngsters.


On the first day of Spring, March 21, French Chefs the world over celebrate 'Gout de France' (Taste of France) and Jamaica continues to participate.  This year, the gracious couple, Ambassador of France Jean-Michel Despax and Madame Line Despax hosted the event at their residence, with all proceeds going to the Jamaica Association for the Deaf (JAD).  The memorable feast was created by Michelin 3-star Chef Marcel Ravin of Monaco, supported by Jamaica's own Oji Jaja. Kudos to organizers, lead by the longest serving volunteer for the JAD, Mrs. Valerie Facey.

 

I also caught up last week with Jamaica-born Claudia Gordon, who is the first Black deaf woman lawyer in the US. She was head of the Obama White House division for disabilities, and is now a Legal Counsel with Sprint.  This passionate mentor of the deaf is encouraged by their increased integration in the workplace, citing Deaf Can! Coffee as a major success. She looks forward to a greater understanding by Jamaicans that the deaf have their own language and hopes that more emphasis will be placed on empowerment.

 

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Chief Justice Brian Sykes, St George's College Class of 1977

By Dr Lloyd Tenn 

Chief Justice Brian Sykes was sworn in February 16, 2018 after a brief period of confusion within the Government.

Justice Sykes is highly respected within the legal circles. He was a Senior Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions, acted as a Puisne Judge and was called to the Supreme Court Bench in 2006.


At St. George's College, he was known to be a hard worker, producing quality work consistently. He always had insightful views in discussions in and outside of the class room.


Sr. M. Theresa Jackson RSM - fiercely, dedicated Jamaican

The Ministerial History of

Sr. M. Theresa Jackson, RSM  
R.I.P. March 9, 2018


by Sister Susan Frazer - Administrator, Sisters of Mercy in Jamaica


Sister Theresa (affectionally known as T.J.) has had a colorful and varied religious life with 90% of her ministry spent working for her Church, which she dearly loved.

Before beginning her long ministerial duties in Church work however, T.J. also spent time in the following areas:

  • Child care at Alpha Boys' School and St John Bosco for a total of 11 years

  • For a short time at Holy Trinity as Assistant Sec/Bursar with Sr. Philomena who was then the Principal

  • As Financial Manager of the Sisters of Mercy and as Administrator in the Alpha Business Office for a total of 7 years

  • Terry was also actively involved in issues of justice through her membership in the Citizens Action for Free and Fair Elections (CAFFE) to promote peaceful and fair elections in Jamaica


Throughout T.J.'s life, she remained involved and very committed to the life and work of our Sisters in Central and South America through the Latin American Caribbean Conference and support our sisters in CASA (Central and South America).


In 1974 Sr. M. Bernadette Little, the Mercy Superior at the time, volunteered T.J. for what became known as the Rural Lay Leadership Training Team as the Sisters of Mercy's contribution to the Church.  Terry was thrilled.

Terry's involvement in the Lay Leadership Programme caused her to live in a variety of locations throughout Jamaica.   Port Antonio, Linstead, May Pen, Morant Bay and Kingston. In 1980, not finding a Pastor who was willing to work with the Team, Archbishop Samuel Carter, SJ., decided to disband the Rural Team.  

In 1984, after working in a variety of other situations still within the Church community, Terry, along with several other religious from other communities,
Sr. Maureen Clare who is here being one of them, designed a programme on the model of the Laity Training of the Rural Team at St. Michael's Seminary and began with the first group of about 80 participants from Urban parishes.

In 1993 Archbishop Carter approached Sr. Theresa Lowe Ching, the then Superior, to ask if T.J. could be released to take charge of the Archdiocesan Pastoral Centre which he was just about to open on the grounds at St. Michael's Seminary.   So, with Sr. Theresa's approval in September of 1993 she assumed the role of Director of the Archdiocesan Pastoral Centre and Coordinator of the Laity Training Programme run by St. Michael's Seminary.

During the years there were many changes of Archbishops.  Following Archbishop Carter came Archbishop Edgerton Clarke, then Archbishop Lawrence Burke, SJ., Archbishop Donald Reece followed by Archbishop Charles DuFour.  


After many wonderful and fruitful years in Laity training and Pastoral work, it was to Archbishop Charles DuFour that she handed in her resignation in July 2015 after 22 years as Director of the Archdiocesan Pastoral Centre and 32 years with the LLTP at St. Michael's and later, in 1993 as Coordinator of CAREP.  

I say all of this because I believe that T.J.'s work with the Church was often a silent and invisible work.  She was not ordinarily front and centre, and I know she never aspired to be, but I think many did not understand or appreciate the work she was called to do.

To say that T.J. was passionate about being Jamaican is an understatement.  She was "fiercely" Jamaican and let this be known to all who would listen.


Terry stood firm in her beliefs and took seriously the maxim of our Foundress Catherine McAuley, "to have great confidence in what you do and what you think best.  State your opinion and always act with courage."

May we too follow her lead and always act with courage and confidence.

Monday, March 12, 2018

CCRP CENTRAL JAMAICA CHAPTER LAUNCHED

Scenes from last Friday's Launch 

Column for MON 12 March 2018 - Excerpt 

by Jean Lowrie-Chin

Seniors have strength in numbers

Once again, the scenes repeated themselves last Monday – elderly folks being assisted to polling stations for by-elections. The world over, seniors take their role as electors seriously and here in Jamaica, they are an important part of every campaigner's canvas. It is high time that seniors realise their power and ensure that policy-makers give respect and reward to those who have built and continue to make great sacrifices for this country.

Thanks to the work of Professor Denise Eldemire Shearer, the National Policy for Senior Citizens was tabled in the House of Parliament on March 12, 1997 by then Minister of Labour, Social Security and Sport, Portia Simpson-Miller. (https://www.ifa-fiv.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/061_Jamaica-National-Policy-for-Senior-Citizens.pdf)

This comprehensive policy led to the expansion of the National Council for Senior Citizens and the introduction of the Jamaica Drugs for the Elderly Programme.  Corporate Jamaica has also stepped up, offering discounts and special facilities for senior citizens.  While it is understandable that former Prime Minister Bruce Golding has described the fast-growing population of elderly as a 'ticking time bomb' for our economy, Jamaica's seniors are also realizing that there is strength in their numbers. 

At last Friday's launch of the Central Jamaica Chapter of the Caribbean Community of Retired Persons, dynamic seniors, several of them returning residents, discussed the issues that require focus. They were encouraged by award-winning family physician, Dr Owen James, a Board Member of the organisation, to come together and be of one voice for the matters that affect their well-being and security.

First, there was the matter of Property Taxes, as they noted that several Caribbean neighbours offer tax relief to seniors who continue occupying their homes, acknowledging the substantial amounts paid over decades.  What a contrast to our local situation where a 99-year-old man in St. Elizabeth was hauled before the courts last month for failing to pay Property Taxes.

On the matter of security, the Central Jamaica citizens noted the valiant efforts of the Police, and several said they were members of Neighbourhood Watch groups. The returning residents are also members of Percival LaTouche's association, which has provided timely guidance to those seniors who are considered easy prey to unscrupulous persons. They expressed faith in Jamaica – Gloria and Keith Wellington noted, "We are happy to be back home, and we have no intention of living anywhere else."

The residents continue to enjoy touring, mentioning some great experiences in St Elizabeth, Manchester and Clarendon – among them the St. John Bosco weekend entertainment spot where the school's catering trainees serve excellent food; YS Falls, Little Ochie, Jack Sprat, Black River Safari, and Milk River Spa.

Comfortable accommodation for the elderly was a hot topic. Mrs Jean Anderson is calling for developers to create complexes in Central Jamaica similar to the Women's Club in Kingston. Plans are to invite members of the Jamaica Real Estate Developers Association to their next meeting.  Dr Guyan Arscott has mentioned the potential of the 90-plus-acre property around the Milk River Spa. This spa boasts one of the richest mineral springs in the world – such developments would not only be welcomed by residents, but also provide a big boost for health tourism.

The executive members of the CCRP Central Jamaica Chapter are: Mrs Sadie Johnson, pharmacist; Mrs Sonja Allen, retired nurse; Mrs Patricia 'Pesh' Campbell, retired teacher and Mr Leighton Ritch, retired executive of Alcan. We are sensing a new and exciting phase of engagement and advocacy of and for Jamaica's seniors. 


Sunday, March 11, 2018

Taxpayers must raise their voices


Excerpt from Observer column published 5 March 2018 (unedited version)

by Jean Lowrie-Chin

Jamaicans have been stepping up with tax compliance, exceeding the budgeted amount for revenues and grants by 3.9 percent, with Tax Administration Jamaica (TAJ) collecting $390.9 billion for the period April to December 2018.  This was disclosed in the February 2018 bulletin from the Economic Programme Oversight Committee.

The report states, “EPOC notes the significant increase in the number of taxpayers for the period April to December 2017 by approximately 15,000 persons over prior year, as reported by The Ministry of Finance and the Public Service (MOFPS), which has contributed to increased performance in Tax Revenues.” High commendations to the TAJ. 

The Chairman of this newspaper, Hon Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart has repeatedly reminded us that the taxpayers of this country pay for the running of our country.  This includes even the humble folks who buy phone credit – in other words, every adult Jamaican is a taxpayer. 

We should be raising our collective voices at the irregularities announced year after year, administration after administration, by the auditor general, costing the country hundreds of millions of dollars.  Last week, we learned that over half a billion dollars was invested without board authorization by someone employed to the NIS.  Further, Sports Minister Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange raised questions about some $75 million expended by InSports. 

Can you imagine the incredulity of an honest household worker, living on the margin of poverty, when she hears that the money she ekes out to stamp her NIS card is flying about like confetti?  Can you imagine the shock of those coaches and talented school children doing bake sales and car washes to try to get to the Penn Relays, when they hear that millions have sprinted out of the sporting coffers? 

Governance is their watchword: Newly appointed members of the Executive of  CCRP Central Jamaica
Chapter with CCRP Board Directors: (l-r) Jean Lowrie-Chin, Founder & Executive Director
of CCRP, Mrs Patricia 'Pesh' Campbell, Mrs Sadie Johnson, Mrs Sonja Allen, Dr Owen James,
Board Director, CCRP; and Mr Leighton Ritch.
This is an outrage for taxpayers. Last week, I sat down with some kind volunteers to get documents together for an upcoming audit by the TAJ for the Caribbean Community of Retired Persons (CCRP), a company registered under the Charities Act.  This organisation was started nearly eight years ago by my company to advocate for the elderly.  It has been run out of our office, our staff members volunteering to do administration. Happily, we have been careful in our record keeping, providing financial statements at our bi-monthly board meetings, and keeping detailed minutes.

If only these multi-million government agencies were as meticulous as our tiny organisation which has assembled independent board members who pull no punches when it comes to governance.  We do this because we have chosen to serve and if our objective is the welfare of our members, then we must do everything in our power not to jeopardize the reputation of the organisation.  Our board members receive nothing for their service, not even travelling expenses.  We cannot afford expensive weekend retreats at luxury hotels because every cent we get from our modest membership fees must go back into service.

The technology exists to ensure that multi-million-dollar government agencies are professionally run. We have heard too many discussions about but no implementation of a digital platform on which Ministries and their Agencies would report and communicate, optimizing accountability. We have heard of the multiple and expensive trips to study the Singapore model, and yet these sinkholes of waste and corruption continue.

The Jamaican taxpayer must demand more of the authorities. One social media commentator has predicted that the NIS matter would come to naught as people would close ranks to protect their own wrongdoings.  Let us hope this will not happen.  Let the media, working their own long hours and paying their own high taxes, follow this and other such matters, until these ‘clever’ operatives understand that there will be no place for them in an efficient, professional administration.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Lady Allen receives distinguished Haitian Josefa Gauthier


Most. Hon Lady Allen flanked by Digicel Haiti Foundation Chair
Mme. Josefa Gauthier and Digicel Jamaica Foundation Chair
Jean Lowrie-Chin 
Another high point of hope last week was a tour with my colleague, trailblazer and former Haiti Government Minister Josefa Gauthier, Chairman of Digicel Haiti Foundation (I chair the Digicel Jamaica Foundation). We made a courtesy call on Lady Patricia Allen, wife of Governor General Sir Patrick Allen. Lady Allen, an accomplished nurse educator in her own right, shared her thoughts on Haiti’s brave history and the continued struggles of her people.

Lady Allen noted that when she taught at West Indies College (now NCU), there were some 30 Haitian nurses and so she developed an interest in the country and her people. She said she was deeply saddened at the devastating earthquake and admired the resolve to the Haitian people to rebuild their country.

“She is so knowledgeable. What a beautiful and caring lady,” noted Josefa, as she recalled Lady Allen’s conversation, indicating her involvement in several health and education programmes.

We were conducted on a tour of King’s House, by Maxine Francis and Anya Edwards. It was rebuilt after the 1907 earthquake, and Josefa remarked on the similarity of the architecture with Haiti’s presidential palace which had been destroyed in the earthquake. She was impressed to learn that Their Excellencies grow most of their own food right there in the beautiful gardens at King’s House, as they are vegetarians.

A lovely surprise for me was the King’s House Museum, curated by my longtime media colleague, Joy Scott.  We saw treasures from the days of Queen Victoria to the present and were enthralled by Joy’s well-researched narrative. A thought – photographs and reproductions of those pieces for stationery and souvenir items could raise good funds to expand the museum.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Press Association Calls for Immediate Investigation into Assault on Newspaper Photographer by Police

I am distressed to hear of this assault on my gentle colleague, Gleaner photographer Rudolph Brown. I wish him a speedy recovery. Below is a Statement from PAJ President Dionne Jackson-Miller.

Press Association Calls for Immediate Investigation into Assault on Newspaper Photographer by Police


February 14, 2018: The Press Association of Jamaica is calling on the Police High Command and INDECOM to launch an immediate investigation into reports of an unprovoked assault by the police on newspaper photographer Rudolph Brown on Tuesday, February 13, 2018.

Mr. Brown has reported to us that while in the Cross Roads area, he witnessed a commotion apparently caused by attempts by the police to arrest a man. He started to use his phone to record the incident. On being told to stop by the police sergeant on location, he says he clearly identified himself as a member of the media, both verbally and by showing his company ID card which was around his neck.

Mr. Brown says he continued to record the proceedings and heard the police sergeant tell a constable to pepper spray him. He says the police constable sprayed pepper spray directly into his eyes, causing him severe pain and distress, which continued for hours and worsened later in the evening.

The Press Association of Jamaica condemns unequivocally this blatant abuse of force by the police, and calls for an immediate investigation and response by the Police High Command and INDECOM.

Dionne Jackson Miller

President

PAJ



-- 
"A Free Press, Oxygen of Democracy"


Jean Lowrie-Chin

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Solidarity with Yugge Farrell

Solidarity with Yugge Farrell: Regional Statement Amend the Mental Health Act of St. Vincent and the Grenadines NOW 

We the undersigned, condemn in the strongest possible terms, the persecution and mistreatment of Ms. Yugge Farrell by the legal, medical, and political authorities of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. We are in full solidarity with Ms. Farrell and those Vincentians who stand with her.
  
Ms. Farrell was arrested on January 4th, 2018 and charged with the use of abusive language to Karen Duncan- Gonsalves, the wife of Finance Minister Camillo Gonsalves and daughter-in-law of Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves. After pleading not guilty, an application was made by the prosecutor for Ms. Farrell to be confined to the Mental Health Centre for two weeks for psychiatric evaluation, as allowed under the nation’s Mental Health Act. 

However, according to a statement issued by the St. Vincent and Grenadines Human Rights Association (SVG HRA) - an independent Civil Society Organization - there was no apparent supporting evidence or behavior by Ms. Farrell which warranted the prosecutor and magistrate seeking and deciding to commit Ms. Farrell to the Mental Health Center. Furthermore, it appears that medication was administered to Ms. Farrell although the Mental Health Act only speaks to observation and evaluation of persons and does not include any mechanism to oversee involuntary admission and treatment practices. Also problematic is the fact that the Mental Health Center does not currently have trained psychiatrists or psychologists on staff. After the initial observation period passed, Ms. Farrell was detained for a third week and only released on bail on January 29th, 2018. 

The mistreatment of Yugge Farrell raises several serious concerns about the probable abuse of the existing Mental Health Act of St Vincent and the Grenadines. We ask- is commitment to a mental institution for use of insulting language a regular occurrence in SVG? We join the SVG HRA in questioning the validity of the observation report and treatment administered to Ms. Farrell. We note the alleged romantic relationship that Ms. Farrell has publicly claimed with Finance Minister Camillo Gonsalves and caution those who rush to dismiss this incident as simply a matter of ‘love gone bad’ to reflect on the fact that state entities can easily use the excuse of mental instability to vilify, discredit, and institutionalize any critic or person(s) deemed a threat or embarrassment to the established political order.  

As human rights defenders, feminists, and persons who care about well-being and justice in the Caribbean and beyond, we condemn the actions of the judicial and medical authorities of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and their violation of the rights of Ms. Yugge Farrell. We deplore the misuse of mental health policies to oppress individuals and advance goals other than the safeguarding of wellness. Now that Ms. Farrell’s detention in the Mental Health Center has ended, we support calls for an investigation into the decision to detain and medicate her. We support her family members and demand independent medical and psychiatric care for her. 

We stand with the St. Vincent Human Rights Association who urge an immediate review and modification of the existing Mental Health Act so that it becomes compliant with international norms and standards to prevent abuses and protect human rights. 

Finally, we remind the government and authorities of St. Vincent and the Grenadines of their commitment to ensure their citizens’ right to free speech and protection from state persecution. The eyes of the world are watching you.  

There must be no more violations of the rights of Yugge Farrell or any other Vincentian. Amend the Mental Health Act of St. Vincent and the Grenadines now. 

In solidarity, 
 
1. Andaiye – Guyana 
2. Karen De Souza – Red Thread, Guyana 
3. Sherlina Nageer MPH – Guyana 
4. D. Alissa Trotz – Canada 
5. Jospehine Whitehead – Guyana 
6. Angelique V. Nixon – Trinidad and Tobago 
7. Gordon Forte – Guyana 
8. Delores Robinson – GROOTS, Trinidad and Tobago 
9. Tonya Haynes – Barbados 
10. Gina Singh-Trotz – USA 
11. Akola Thompson – Guyana 
12. Anya Dover – Guyana 
13. Indera Persaud – Jamaica 
14. Maya Trotz – USA 
15. Ronelle King – Barbados 
16. Julio Thijs – Canada 
17. Verna St Rose Greaves – Trinidad and Tobago 
18. Dr Nastassia Rambarran – Barbados 
19. Mellissa Ifill – Guyana 
20. Salima Bacchus-Hinds – Guyana 
21. Fatimah Jackson-Best – Canada 
22. Charlene Wilkinson – Guyana 
23. Stephanie Leitch – Womantra, Trinidad and Tobago 
24. Krysta Bisnauth – Guyana 
25. David Khan – Canada 
26. Mosa Telford – Guyana 
27. Jessica Joseph – Trinidad/ St. Lucia 
28. Paige Jennan Andrew – WE-Change, Jamaica
29. Kimalee Phillip – Grenada/ Canada 
30. Lana Finikin – Jamaica 
31. Romola Lucas – USA 
32. Nailah John-Price – Leave Out Violence in SVG, St. Vincent and the Grenadines
33. Shanya Cordis – Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Spelman College, USA 
34. Marcus Day – St. Lucia 
35. Zina Edwards – Guyana
 36. Karen Philip – Trinidad and Tobago 
37. Savitri Persaud – Canada 
38. Roy Kingston – Guyana 
39. Simone Leid – The Women Speak Project, Trinidad and Tobago
40. Ayesha Constable – Jamaica 
41. Kala Ramnath – UK 
42. Oluatoyin Alleyne – Guyana 
43. Naicelis Rozema Elkins – USA 
44. Maggie Schmeitz – Stichting Ultimate Purpose, Suriname
45. Alicia Wallace – Equality Bahamas/Hollaback, Barbados 
46. Derwayne Willis – Guyana 
47. Gerhard Ramsaroop – Guyana 
48. Raquel Thomas- Caesar – Guyana
49. Vidyaratha Kisson – Guyana 
50. Dawn Van Rossum – Antigua and Barbuda 
51. Shonnet Moore – Guyana 52. Lauricia Akeisha Henry – Antigua 53. Michelle Springer – Barbados 54. Chantal Antoine – USA 55. Holly Bynoe – ARC Magazine, St. Vincent and the Grenadines 56. Hilary Nicholson – Video for Change, Jamaica 57. Vashty Maharaj – Central Beat magazine, Trinidad and Tobago 58. Tandieka Johnson – USA 59. Reine Joseph – St. Lucia  60. Peggy Antrobus – St. Vincent and the Grenadines 61. Honor Ford Smith – Canada/ Jamaica 62. Alexandrina Wong – Antigua 63. Marlon Mills – St. Vincent and the Grenadines 64. Marguerite Allen – Jamaica Community of Positive Women, Jamaica 65. Vanessa Lumbley – Jamaica Community of Positive Women, Jamaica 66. Shaneka Allen – Jamaica Community of Positive Women, Jamaica 67. Althea Cohen – Jamaica Community of Positive Women, Jamaica 68. Olive Edwards – Jamaica Community of Positive Women, Jamaica 69. Eunice Graham – Jamaica 70. Beverly Bain – Canada/ Trinidad 71. Jean Lowrie-Chin – Jamaica 72. Erin Greene, CAFRA – Bahamas 73. Ann Maria Diran – Suriname 74. Marsha Hinds-Layne – NOW, Barbados 75. Maria Fontenelle – ECADE, Eastern Caribbean 76. Randall Theodule – St. Lucia 77. Majhon John – Mental Health Provider, USA 78. Maxine Allen – St. Vincent and the Grenadines 79. Cherrise Mcdowall – St. Vincent and the Grenadines 80. Jermain Ostiana – Curacao 81. Diane Cummins – Conscious Exchanges, Barbados 82. Nicole S. Hendrickson – Firecircle!, Trinidad and Tobago 83. Judith Wedderburn – Jamaica 84. Keturah Cecelia Babb – Order of Nyahbinghi, Dominica/ Jamaica 85. Sendy Brown – Canada 86. Arielle Aska – Antigua 87. Patricia Sheerettan-Bisnauth – Guyana 88. Sharda Ganga – PROJECKTA Citizens’ Initiative for Participation and Good Governance, Suriname 89. Mark Jacobs – Guyana 90. Nadeen Spence – Jamaica 91. Nesha Edwards – St. Vincent and the Grenadines 92. Catherine Sealys – Raise Your Voice, St. Lucia 93. Jamela Khan – Trinidad and Tobago 94. Carinya Sharples – Guyana 95. Priscila Francisco Pascoal – Brazil 96. Audrey Roberts – Bahamas
97. Emma Lewis – Jamaica 98. Ruth Osman Rose – Trinidad and Tobago 99. Beverly Nelson – Grenada 100. N’Delamiko Lord – Trinidad/ Barbados 101. Melissa Matthews – Trinidad and Tobago 102. Linnette Vassell – Jamaica 103. Bridget Lewis – Canada 104. Joan French – Jamaica 105. Ulelli Verbeke – Guyana 106. Jean La Rose – Guyana 107. Robert Cuffy – USA 108. Mark Moseley – Guyana 109. Derek Gomes – Guyana 110. Elton McRae – Guyana 111. Andrew Campbell – Guyana 112. John Shevrattan – Canada 113. Shayla Murrell – Barbados 114. Colin Robinson – CAISO, Trinidad and Tobago 115. Sasha Robinson – USA 116. Lisa Outar – USA 117. Bianca Wagner – Bahamas 118. Louby Georges – Rights Bahamas, Bahamas 119. Stephanie Stfleur – Rights Bahamas, Bahamas 120. Jackson Petit – Bahamas 121. Granville Knight – Jamaica 122. Jasmin Renee Wu – JRW Foundation, Trinidad and Tobago 123. Huiming Wu – JRW Foundation, Trinidad and Tobago 124. Celine Leid – JRW Foundation, Trinidad and Tobago 125. Ava Turnquest – Bahamas 126. Kevon Mc Kenna – Trinidad and Tobago 127. Winy Marango – Vanutu 128. Aroona Ramsahai – Trinidad and Tobago 129. Kenene Senior – Jamaica 130. Jean-Claude Cournand – 2 Cents Movement, Trinidad and Tobago 131. Mavis Mainu – Ghana 132. Soyini Ayanna Forde – Trinidad and Tobago 133. Alysia Christiani – USA 134. Namela Baynes-Henry – Rainbow House, Guyana 135. Tamisha Lee – Jamaica 136. Natalie Bennett – USA 137. Jamal Gilbert – Guyana 138. Rupa Singh – Guyana 139. Henna Guicherit – Foundation Women’s Rights Center, Suriname 140. Sandra Latibeaudiere – Jamaica 141. Shirley Pryce – Jamaica Household Workers Union, Jamaica 142. Marion Bethel – Bahamas 143. Carol Narcisse – Jamaica 144. Nadia Sagar – Guyana
145. Peta- Anne Baker – UWI, Jamaica 146. Ruel Johnson – Guyana 147. Nan Peacocke – Guyana/ St. Vincent and the Grenadines/ Canada 148. Roslyn John – St. Vincent and the Grenadines/ Canada 149. Norwell Hinds – Guyana 150. Thomas Eugene – St. Lucia 151. Delven Adams – Guyana 152. Halimah DeShong – St. Vincent and the Grenadines 153. Bianca Wagner – Equality Bahamas, Bahamas 154. Ashlee Burnett – The 2 Cents Movement, Trinidad and Tobago 155. Crystal Brizan – CAFRA, Trinidad and Tobago 156. Danuta Radzik – Guyana 157. Adriana Sandrine Isaac-Rattan – International Women's Resource Network (IWRN), Trinidad and Tobago 158. Jacqueline Hughes – Trinidad and Tobago 159. Terrence Blackman – Guyana 160. Japhet Jackman – Guyana 161. Margo King – St. Vincent and the Grenadines/ Canada 162. Alana Benjamin - Antigua & Barbuda 163. Natasha Yhap – Guyana 164. Clairmont Mali Chung – Stateless 165. Dianne Madray – Let The Women Speak, Guyana 166. Brenda Greaves – St. Vincent and the Grenadines 167. Sebastian Prescod – Canada 168. Sally Erdle – St. Vincent and the Grenadines 169. Maxine Allen – Canada 170. Sharon Watkis – USA 171. Lilian Ferrier – Foundation for Human Development, Suriname 172. M. Jacqui Alexander – Trinidad and Tobago 173. Heather. Y Deane – Past Chairman Mental Health Commission of Barbados, Barbados 174. Help and Shelter – Guyana 175. Leith Dunn – Jamaica 176. Vanda Radzik – Women’s Rights Advocate, Guyana 177. Florence Goldson – Belize 178. Indranie Deyal – Trinidad and Tobago 179. Wintress White – Red Thread, Guyana 180. Joy Marcus – Red Thread, Guyana 181. Halima Khan – Red Thread, Guyana  182. Vanessa Ross - Red Thread, Guyana 183. Susan Collymore – Grassroots Women Across Race (GWAR), Guyana 184. Paul Anthony Odell 185. Joel Simpson – SASOD, Guyana 186. Ann Harvey – Guyana 187. Andrea Weekes – Leave Out Violence Now St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Canada 188. Dennis Atwell – Guyana 189. Letitia Pratt – Bahamas 190. Shorna James – Canada 191. Amory Cumberbatch – USA 192. Jeanette Campbell – Jamaica

193. Sylvia Baker – Bahamas 194. Kristina Hinds – Barbados 195. Nicole Charles – Canada 196. Kaneesha Parsard – USA 197. R. Cassandra Lord – Canada 198. Yusuf Hafejee – Barbados 199. Gabrielle Hosein – Trinidad and Tobago 200. Gralyn Frazier – The Bahamas 201. Susan Mains – Grenada 202. Leslieann Seegobin – Trinidad and Tobago 203. Chelsea Foster – Girls of A Feather, St. Lucia 204. Paul Anthony O’Dell – USA 205. Roberta Clarke – Trinidad and Tobago  206. Kaylorn Jones – USA 207. Marijke Sonneveld – Projekta, Suriname 208. Antonia Meinecke – Germany 209. Jennifer Grant Wilson – USA 210. Mark Dacosta – Guyana 211. Marilyn Rice-Bowen – Past President, Caribbean Women’s Association 212. Vanya Martha David – Dominica 213. Peter Lyte – USA 214. Nathilee Caldeira – USA 215. Foundation Womens’ Rights Center- Suriname 216. Jemma John 217. Rosie Descartes 218. Coreen Irving 219. Tamara J Savoury 220. Cordelia Goodluck 221. Joan Cuffie 222. Ernestine Watson 223. Malaika Slater 224. Summer Lewis-Clarke 225. Cathy Shepherd 226. Shanta Grant 227. Kwame Nkosi Romeo 228. Marcia Braveboy 229. Jennifer Grant-Wilson 230. Jecliz Walker

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Olympian efforts to make Jamaica a place of safety

Observer column for MON 22 JAN 2018
by Jean Lowrie-Chin

The generous  Jamaican Olympic Legend Usain Bolt committed J$1 million to the
rebuilding of Walker's Place of Safety

I can write volumes about our experience thirty years ago with a so-called ‘place of safety’ for children. We had decided to adopt a second child and were told that we could visit the baby boy who was being kept at a ‘place of safety’ until our home could be passed for his relocation as the first step of the process.

We fell in love with the sweet four-week-old, and were concerned that he was so congested and that he was not being changed often enough.  We were permitted to take him to the doctor and filled his prescription.  We brought the medicine, diapers and other items to ensure that he was well supplied.
You can imagine our distress when we discovered by the next day that all the items including the medicine had been stolen.  We had to visit more frequently to give him his regular dosage and change him ourselves.

The facility was a disgrace – we learned to jump up the steps quickly because they were crawling with insects at night.  We were relieved when we could finally take our baby home, so sick that over the next three months he had to be on several courses of antibiotics.

We felt sorry for the manager of the home, a nurse who seemed frustrated in her efforts to manage the staff. Within that year, perhaps due to our and other complaints, that so-called ‘place of safety’, located on the lower end of Lady Musgrave Road was closed.

For us, the story has a happy ending, as our son Noel, now a protective six-footer and a manager in our business, is looking forward to the celebration of his 30th birthday this week.

For Anna Kay Moreland and Anika McCrea, who perished in the fire at the Walker’s Place of Safety last week, their story had the most tragic of endings.  The wringing of hands reminds us of what followed the fire at the Armadale Correctional Centre in 2009 which took the lives of seven teenaged girls.
We are not judging the staff at Walker’s Place of Safety, because we understand that some of these institutions can barely make ends meet with the resources they have.  However, we must judge ourselves who call ourselves leaders in this country.  Whether we are members of the private or public sector, we have to become more committed and passionate about the well-being of our fellow Jamaicans, particularly the most vulnerable of our citizens.

Too little is being done and too slowly – it is up to us to push the envelope on child safety. The donations are important, but these should be followed up with urgent action.  The victims of the Armadale fire had to wait seven long years before damages were awarded. 

‘we are at war with ourselves’

If we do not look to the protection of our children, whether in institutions, at home, in school or on the street, we will never be able to solve Jamaica’s crime problem. If children are ill-treated, we cannot expect humane behaviour from them when they become adults.

In his stirring message at last week’s National Leadership Prayer Breakfast, Rev. Astor Carlyle noted: “Warm and generous are the words our visitors use to describe us, but the homicide figures show that we are at war with ourselves.”

He challenged Jamaicans to move out of their self-serving comfort zones: “when institutions and office bearers of healing and accompaniment misappropriate the trust vested in us to satisfy our selfish lust, then we are a people at odds with ourselves indeed .. a daunting side of the Jamaican reality”.

Since the start of the year, we see the result of our inactivity and insensitivity as we have lost count of the number of murders committed. We support the state of emergency in Montego Bay, but we know it did not have to come to this – too many wrongdoers have hypocritical supporters in high places.  No state of emergency will have long term results if the thug-hugging does not stop.

Step up with sports



Legendary Veronica Campbell-Brown
receives Icon Award from Gleaner
Manabing Director Chris Barnes 
Special Olympian Dave Oddman
receives Award from
Wisynco's Francois Chalifour
Special Olympian Romaine
Austin receives his Award



Jamaica cannot be prouder of our National Sportswoman and Sportsman of the Year, Alia Atkinson and Omar McLeod. At last Friday’s RJR-Gleaner National Sports Awards, they both spoke passionately about perseverance and hard work, faith and the ability to handle failure. McLeod noted that our sports stars were so outstanding that one had to be an international champion to win the Jamaican honour. 

We heartily applauded Veronica Campbell-Brown for receiving the Iconic Award, moved by the tears of this humble but determined warrior of athletics who has earned more medals than even the great Usain Bolt.  We also noted the patriotic dedication of Don Anderson, recipient of the Chairman’s Award, who was Jamaica’s Olympic Chef de Mission for six consecutive Olympic Games.

We applauded loudly for Special Olympian gold medallists Dave Oddman and Romaine Austin, both speed skaters on ice, awarded for their outstanding performances in the 2017 Special Olympics World Winter Games, held in Austria. Austin’s gold was the first ever for a Jamaican performing on ice, related Lorna Bell, untiring Special Olympics Jamaica Executive Director.

Sports for Peace

How then, can we infuse these great qualities to heal our wounded nation? There may be a solution staring us in our faces, as so brilliantly outlined by GraceKennedy CEO Senator Don Wehby. He referred to the Sports section of Jamaica’s Vision 2030, outlining a dynamic national plan for sports, including ‘sports for peace’. This ‘Sports for Peace’ had us sitting up and listening keenly.   

Don Wehby receives a gift of appreciation from
RJR-Gleaner Group Senior Executive Yvonne Wilks O'Grady
“The United Nations recognizes the practice of sport as an instrument for promoting peace,” said Senator Wehby, “and for playing a significant role as a promoter of social integration and economic development. I strongly believe that sports can play a larger role in Jamaica’s fight against crime.”

He made the following points:  
It has an ability to unify people in a way that is unbelievable.  When you look at the crowd that gathers in Half Way Tree when Jamaica is about to perform on the World stage.  Every man woman and child is out there some with their pot covers and all are dressed in their Jamaican colours united to cheer on their champions .. One Jamaica –united with love and passion.

It serves as a positive outlet for the youth providing a channel for expression, building friendships and can deter risky behavior. It shows what can be achieved through hard work, determination, self-belief and fair play. 

It facilitates social development in under-resourced communities. There are so many community sports clubs around Jamaica with opportunities to nurture the interest of the youth and for harnessing talent.  These clubs need visionary partners and financial support in order to become sustainable sources of social reform in their respective communities.  Public-Private partnerships can work when we begin to see these associations as viable business opportunities.”

The power of sports will have North and South Korea marching under one flag for the Winter Olympics – what a message for this tiny country Jamaica.  Let’s get serious about sports for peace.