Jamaica Year in Review 2009Published Jan 1, 2010
By the last quarter of the previous year, Jamaica had already received clear signals that the new year would bring vast challenges and mixed fortunes.
2009 began with vast global recession triggered by a plunging US economy which was characterised by a ‘tsunami’ of job loss, diminishing dollars and rising prices which was bound to affect the islands.
Jamaica’s newish ‘govament’ (as any ruling body is called by Jamaicans) chose the denial route. Public opinion channelled through its excellent cadre of journalists cited a level of diffidence in the new administration’s approach to public information. The criticisms continued to surface when it found itself hard put to contain a persistently high crime rate and the rising tide of job losses. There was also its perceived lack of resolve in sanitizing the sickly smell of carry-over scandals (political and otherwise) from the previous administration. There were negative reverberations from matters such as candidates with Dual Citizenship ( ID Vaz in Portland and Mair in St. Catherine) causing snap by-elections, the Cuban light bulb Spencer debacle still languishing in court, alternative investment schemes gone ‘awol’ to other islands, all amounting to prize-winning recipes that notarized or itemised impending disaster.
It was all too clear that Jamaicans were going to need all their coping skills, all their resolve and all their natural resourcefulness in order to ‘gwaan’.
We begin with the island’s sixth Governor-General and first Seventh Day Adventist, Dr. the Hon. Patrick Allen who was sworn in on February 26th in a ceremony that went well and which was attended by representatives of Government and Opposition. The public was however left open-mouthed when Prime Minister Bruce Golding cited, at short notice, illness as the reason why the incumbent, Sir Kenneth Hall, would pass the baton. Truth be told, little was the public aware that the hour-glass of duty was emptying for Hall who was to demit office when the PM announced his already selected replacement. People (a well-known cohort now almost exclusively referred to as ‘Persons’) naturally wanted to know how the Sir Patrick, though quite affable, planned to face such topical issues as bestowing kisses on the cheeks of beauty queens (of which Jamaica is so amply blessed), and officiating at civic, social and religious, functions which often fell on Saturdays.
The Northern Caribbean University perhaps in prescience, had already paid tribute by awarding Allen with an honorary degree nine days before.
Then there was the historically momentous inauguration of the first ever democratically elected African American President, Barrack Hosain Obama. This Change Agent event was bound to take centre stage in Jamaica as it did in every small corner of the world. It is well known that a Jamaican entertainer –Coco Tea – had already recorded a Praise Song in Obama’s honour long before Nomination Day. Ah so wi previus bra! And since Jamaicans can always be depended on to stand up and be counted, even in ice and snow (bob-sled-no-problem-mon), many made the pilgrimage to Washington to show solidarity.
It should therefore not be surprising that a number of Jamaicans - artistes, politicos and others including Anthony Johnson, Marcia Griffiths, Etana, noted journalist John Maxwell, local poet Mutabaruka, and wellwishers such as Hyacinth Pike who travelled from the New York suburbs to witness the history firsthand, either merely attended or participated at this once-in-a-lifetime event.
It is also worthy of note that among the gifts President Obama received was a specially hand-crafted quilt by a Jamaican, legal light domiciled in Washington, master quilter Donnette Cooper. She’s the sister of Kingsley Cooper of Pulse Caribbean Modelling Agency and Professor Carolyn Cooper of the UWI Mona campus, both in Kingston. The quilt was exhibited along with other recognised master quilters drawn from the crossroads of far-flung Hawaii, Africa and heartland America.
Another Jamaican resident of Washington D.C. who shared in the honour was noted calligrapher Bev East who has been writing in the local papers for over 20 years. She was given the privilege of reading the signatures of both the new President and First Lady Michelle.
For, yu done know seh, ef a egg we inna de red, an ef a jackit wi inna de pockit, an a dat a gwaan pon ‘What-A-Gwaan’
(WAG is a local vox pop tv programme)
The event presented a spark of hope, not only to the world according to Usain Bolt’s lightning gesture, but to ‘the islands of the sea’ (as American televangelists are fond of labelling the islands in America’s backyard). These include Cuba and Haiti, and migrants living in the Diaspora.
Regretfully, a single mid-year conference convened in Trinidad&Tobago for Mr. Obama to meet Caribbean leaders did not uphold that hope - as yet.
All the Prime Ministers and their self important entourages spent free time in self important little hotels and came back without one-one coco in their baskets. During the year, Jamericans who lost their homes in the foreclosure circus decided to cut their losses and return home. Certain activities showed they had sold belongings, grabbed pensions and come home to build, repair or add to the old family dwelling so that life could gwaan.
MILESTONES of ACHIEVEMENT celebrated in Jamaica such as Anniversaries and Events launched as Outreach for Betterment, usually serve to highlight noteworthy, on-going socially uplifting Activities.
The most outstanding milestone surrounds the fact that Spanish Town (established in 1534) is only 25 years away from its 500 year-old mark, and is undoubtedly one of the oldest cities in the Caribbean. This alone should have garnered more widespread attention and participation, especially since there were scheduled visits – to the old capital - of both the King of Spain and the Archbishop of Canterbury, extremely authentic representatives of the two major powers that engineered Jamaica’s history since 1492. It is felt that both the Prime Minister, who hails from the Parish where his father was a schoolmaster and where he himself served for at least 20 years as councillor, and incumbent Mayor Wheatley, should have found ways to capitalise on this One Moment in Time which will NEVER come back.
Here’s to milestones that associate themselves with the long haul :
475- Spanish Town on July 1, recognised but not adequately celebrated
47 - Jamaica Independence; events of 1962 were in limited focus
50 - Spelling Bee, half century, sponsored by The Daily Gleaner
60 - Jamaica Library Service (JLS), keeping up with Technology
55 - Jamaica Manufacturing /Export (JMA/JEA ), in joint Expo.
29 - National Prayer Breakfast, sponsored this year by VMBS to benefit the Mustard Seed Community and Peace Management Initiative (PMI) Controversial question: is it mere symbolic or meaningful?
45 - National Dance Theatre Company (NDTC) deservedly celebrated
50 - Cuban National Day of Culture, celebrated Oct.24 under new
Ambassador Yuri Gala
40 - PNP founded; homage paid to founder Manley
25 - Stony Hill HEART/ National Trng. Agency for the workplace
40 - Jamaica Stock Exchange, soldiering on
50 - Rotary Club of Kingston, another half century
135- Jamaica National Building Society (JNBS), batting for new century
25 - Creative Production &Training Centre (CPTC ), Caenwood campus
9 - Calabash annual International Literary festival, only one of its kind
domiciled in Calabash Bay Treasure Beach since getgo
38 - Ikebana International Jamaica
11 - (Kingston) Restaurant Week
13 - Annual Observer Business Leader Awards - founded jointly by Moses Jackson and Butch Stewart in 1996, given in June to eight families contributing to economic development in Investment, Entertainment, Hospitality, Banking, Health, Publishing, Janitorial and E-services
PARISH PLUGS AND PLUSSES is presented as a new segment which aims to reveal the best and worst of significant happenings at Parish level.
Capital parish Kingston posited more plusses than any other parish. It began its year with a plus when Orville ( ‘Shaggy’) Burrell along with a handpicked group of ‘friends’, staged a ‘social extravaganza of food and performance’ fundraiser on the lawns of King’s House and managed to raise J$27million towards much needed machinery for the Bustamante Hospital For Children. All is set for that to be repeated in 2010 January.
Regarding the arrival of the Tanzanian leader Jakaya Kikwete, wife Salma and an entourage of 50 on Nov 23, it is not yet clear whether the State Visit will help boost the tourism product in Kingston, Montego Bay or Ocho Rios. Kikwete sought tourism liaison for his country’s wildlife, authentic culture and historical sites. The African leader could indeed be representing what social commentator Francis Jackson saw as the new order of Tanzania (Tangyanika merged with Zanzibar), given that Julius Nyerere represented the old when he visited with Michael Manley in the democratic socialist era of the Seventies. Needless to say, while Kikwete and Golding were refining their objectives, a cultural feast extraordinaire was prepared for him after cocktails at Little Theatre, consisting of the Seaforth Kumina group led by the indomitable Queenie, Kingston Drummers, Tivoli Dancers and the must-have National Dance Theatre and the inimitably talented Professor Nettleford with the evocatively immortal piece, Gerrehbenta.
The Jamaica Upliftment Programme under Milton Samuda renewed a pledge to serve Children’s Homes and Places of Safety for disadvantaged children, many of which, like the Marigold Child Care Centre in Kingston, are already under Government purview. The Ananda Alert Initiative helps to mobilise members of the public to support Police efforts to find abducted children, while full investigation is done when tragedy such as the Armadale fire resulting in the death of six female juveniles, strikes.
Learning for Life is a (computer-based literacy/numeracy) inner-city mentorship programme launched at Hannah Town in March, for the promotion of life skills and partnering with the police in the community
Healthy Men Magazine – launched recently, sponsored by The Gleaner and JNBS to help combat negative perceptions and stereotypes of the male
By December there were positive vibes about investing in Jamaica – a plus idea emanating from Dubai where many Jamaican professionals are currently based.(Bus. Scene)
Also in Kingston old stalwart centurion the Institute of Jamaica through its Department of Public Relations and Development staged not only a centennial Tribute to famed scholar, writer and poet Neville Dawes who started his illustrious career there, but a very welcome Downtown Forum as another way of giving sanction to children from largely underprivileged backgrounds. The forum represented a valiant attempt to renew this series which was originally designed to air issues pertaining to inner city communities but had dried up for more than ten years due to shortage of sponsors. Participating were pupils of the traditionally disciplined St. George’s Girls school which was established and run by Roman Catholic nuns for decades. In their attractively recognisable green plaid uniforms, the girls joined with presenters from the Students’ Christian Fellowship (SCF), the Police Youth Club, and the UWI’s Department of Urban Anthropology. The next outing was supposed to look at how unsavoury lyrics affect the mindset of children.
ponsorship will assist the Downtown Forum to continue into posterity as intended, at the Marcus Garvey-inspired Unity Hall downtown.
On the PLUG side for Kingston, Grace Kennedy reportedly made 80 people redundant over a two- month period, Digicel dropped ten percent or 90 staff members, while the Capital and Credit Group (CCFG) cut 20 staff members.
In mid-January downtown Kingston lost a piece of its history when sections of the old Jubilee Market went up in flames which spread debris along West Queen Street for weeks thereafter. The name ‘Jubilee’ was part of the Praise Song for Queen Victoria who ‘set wi free’ in 1862, so this market has had historical significance since Emancipation.
Montego Bay the North Coast tourist mecca was rocked by crime and violence for most of the year, ending up with more plugs than plus-events. Tourism received the first body blow (plug) to its flagship product the annual Air Jamaica Jazz and Blues festival just when the island’s beleagured national flyer Air Jamaica lost its supply of Air and deflated like a balloon left over from Christmas. Rumours flew thick and fast about Divestment to a British Concern and about the relevant Ministry’s gross undersell of its prime Heathrow bay. Air Jay could not, as a consequence, continue its sponsorship of the popular air-bender Festival (AJJBF) that had become, over the years, the prime, signature tourism-related New Year event on the island. Neither did it help when shortly thereafter, AJ unceremoniously abandoned the popular MIA route in favour of FTL which was said to have had its own run-way shortfall problems the previous year.
The Festival planners Turnkey Productions under Walter Elmore had to ( as the local saying goes) wheel and come again. However, thanks to a slue of oldtime faves and crowd pullers such as Lionel Richie, Chicago, admired new-comers like Matisyahu the Reggae-singing Jew and Estelle the Brit, it all ended with a fair showing under the historic Aqueduct, as compared to last year’s overflow. For 2010 a new online international Band Quest competition will come on stream with live auditions, entries Nov 8 to Dec 5
The Ed Bartlett-led Board stepped up to the dried-out plate (make that arid plateau) in an attempt to find the J$40 million dollar shortfall needed to shore-up the event, but was forced by public outcry to withdraw. In the run-up to the festival, the sector had also been frantically displaying come-hither billboards at strategic locations around the New York tri-state’s Wide-Area-Network (how wan!).
Gone too were high-ace sponsorships with their attendant hospitality booths and towers, one such being OLINT led by David Smith, which had by then moved to TCI before being put out of commission by law forces there.
Minister Bartlett remained on the defensive and that was not the only setback to Tourism in what Wykeham Mc Neil called (Gleaner Sept.17) a ‘shrinking global travel market’ scenario.
After the temporary closure of Iberostar in September the figures had to be re-examined since the traditionally slow months were coming up. Stopover arrivals between January and June which Bartlett said had grown 3.4 percent, did not really mean a rise in occupancy levels, given the corresponding 9.3 percent growth in room stock. Heavy discounting up to 60 % would have meant fall in revenue. But hope resided in Canadian market growth of 28.3 % as against USA and Europe. Competition was expected from Barbados, Bahamas, St. Lucia and Mexico which is pumping millions into recuperating the industry.
Mobay hadd another plug pulled when it earned the dubious reputation of hosting the first ever full blown hijacking in the island and the region. A Canjet airliner bringing vacationers from Toronto on April 19 was boarded by Steven Fray, a disillusioned 22 year old male later diagnosed a paranoid schizophrenic by the island’s leading psychologists. Slipping by security, Fray had demanded cash, and drove terror into the passengers before being overwhelmed, allegedly by a hostess.
After psychological assessment and a trial, he earned a prison sentence of years in October.
Then there was the overreaching young evangelist named Lewis from New York who lured two teenagers into an illicit sexual situation involving money during a weekend break in the grinding soul-saving crusade machinery. He was nabbed, his passport seized, and the crusade ground to an embarrassing halt for fellow preachers. Not a plus for Mobay!
The optimistic staging of a Caribbean Cuisine show at the prestigious Round Hill Hotel and Villas, did not generate widespread benefits to the town, if any. Support for that cookoff came more from executive chefs on loan from associate hospitality sites like Versair, Ciao Bella, Margaritaville and Coral Cliff than from the man-in-the-street. Their local Culinary Federation of Jamaica (CFJ) and Caribbean Producers Jamaica Ltd. (CPJ) consoled themselves by preparing for a Restaurant Week which would no longer be confined to Kingston. (NB this para can be cut as non-contrib)
Then there was the so-called unprecedented success of Mitzie ‘Brown Sugar’ Campbell as the winner of the Digicel Rising Stars competition which seems a takeoff on the American Idol (a local version of Deal or No Deal also premiered on TVJ in September). It might have been a vain hope that her village on the outskirts, Bogue Hill, would receive well needed exposure and rise in self confidence with that victory.
Capital city Falmouth in Trelawny has been gearing up to receive the world’s largest ever cruise ship Oasis of the Seas to its ancient shores come October 2010. Government went ahead with dramatic-sounding announcements to convert the small, modest, historical harbour into a pier to host what they called a ‘world-class’ adventure. Notable journalist and committed environmentalist John Maxwell continued his singular war of words against the destruction ( brutification) of the reefs.
The state-of-the-art multi-purpose stadium at Green Park seemed only to shine after Olympic events. After Beijing 2008, celebrations were staged there for the returning trophy-bearing athletes. Then the locale gradually changed from a Green park to a Grey dustbowl under the shimmering heat of the hottest year Jamaica has seen in a long time. Another post Olympic scaled extravaganza was again hosted there by Culture Minister Olivia Grange for the conquering horde returning from Berlin this year. In the interim, the refusal to allow UTECH to relocate its Papine training facilities to this Green Park locale could have been another plug.
Trelawny itself, a parish of small population and a low crime rate, did not roll over and played dead after the Bolt euphoria dissipated. Citizens felt that even if in the name of Bolt and Veronica Campbell who hail also from that parish, they should have been granted improved roads and water systems at least in the hinterland. At the start of the year the Parish Council, assisted by the National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA), went ahead with modest plans to rid streets of derelict vehicles After notices were served, one zone at least got a 26c tonne compactor and a few trucks to remove 200 of them.
January found approximately 150 workers in Manchester jobless out of Alpart and Windalco aluminium plants, with Alpart later cutting an additional 250 of their non- permanent unskilled workers allegedly to reduce production by 50% to 1.65 metric tonnes due to a fall in demand which had led to stockpiling.
Relevant Minister Derrick Smith had little recourse but to voice his suspicion that the other three bauxite companies would do the same as the year progressed (regressed?).
Old abused capital city Spanish Town had two sets of Very Important visitors within six months of each other but hardly benefited.
panish Town rolled out a royal welcome to King Juan Carlos and Queen Sophia of Spain, Spain’s royal couple who visited the cramped and crumbling streets on the 18th and 19th of February as part of a two-day state visit. The hasty visit could be both a plug and a plus.
It brought wide press coverage to the old capital with its now windowless Olde King’s House and its overcrowded hospital where the visitors sponsored the refurbishing of the west wing. The royal party was met at the Norman Manley airport by heads of state and opposition leaders and made appearances in Parliament, the Institute of Jamaica and Museum. An incisive article written by notable lawyer and entrepreneur Tavares-Finson showed up the flaws of the Institute’s display which relegated the significance of the indigenous Arawak Indians to nonentity.
Cabinet later approved the establishment of an embassy in Spain.
Spain however, has been playing a significant part in hospitality developments taking place on the north coast, albeit with citizens’ complaints about environmental issues.
The town’s St. James Cathedral welcomed the Anglican Consultative Committee (ACC) early in May led by the venerable Archbishop of Canterbury and a raft of well meaning priests from Commonwealth countries, Europe and South America. They were well entertained at various churches and at the Arena, with pomp, ceremony, Sunday best and public communion. A few dissenting voices queried, but not too loudly, whether we were really able to afford such visits without repercussions.
Also in Spanish Town, a giant rally dubbed Thousand Man march (reminiscent of a pre-Obama Million Man march on Washington in 2004), led by popular ‘Fellowship’ pastor the Rev. Merrick ‘Al’ Miller, was a definite plus in moral terms . It garnered huge support in its bid to ‘take back’ the city and parish environs from criminal elements. The outreach and response were reportedly and understandably heartening, recuperative and positive. The presenters on stage effectively utilised music and words of encouragement, largely in the vernacular, to great effect.
That Spanish Town achieved 475 years of rich history turned out to be more of a plug than a plus. A mere token gathering was convened in the historical quadrangle facing the old King’s House (which itself is now in its worst state of repair); and a parliamentary style debate was held involving very few High School students in the area.
Word on the street cited a woeful lack of communication and insufficient efforts to inspire widespread involvement by civic organisations, schools, churches, retirees, groups and individuals.
Port Antonio had little or no plusses.
Milbank is not the capital but it drew more negative attention than all the other towns together by ending 2008 and starting 2009 in deep mourning due to the worst accident in 30 years, after a market truck bound for Kingston ended up at the bottom of a precipice near Fellowship.
Portland the parish situated on the north-easternmost point on the island is usually drenched by north east Trades anyway. Thus it began the new year drowned in both heavy rain and grief as a result of that horrendous pre-Christmas road accident which snatched the lives of fourteen people from that community including that of a ten-year-old boy accompanying his grandmother to purchase his school shoes from her sales. As revealed in the gruesome aftermath, many of the occupants of the ill-fated truck were closely related. The bad state of the roads was blamed on the former government as a bad state of disrepair had existed for an untold number of years. The heartfelt grief was still fresh in the minds of the relatives, well wishers and friends as seven of the deceased were buried in January and another seven on February 1st. The dead were interred in groups.
The last such horrendous accident was when eight families lost their lives to muddy landslide 31 years before. One mother who happened to have been flung clear, was in mid-January still calling aloud to her dead son to ask him by name : ‘yu really gone leave mi?’!
Matters were compounded when the political machinery got into the usual blame-game regarding who should have fixed the treacherous road that had long broken away, but was quickly quashed as disgraceful.
However, one of the earliest on the scene was Prime Minister Golding.
Thankfully, government reps eventually agreed that some of the expenses would be borne by their machinery, counselling was arranged, and plans to repair sections of the roadway were allowed to resurface soon after. The Sunday Observer has been presenting a very worthwhile and democratic ongoing Accountability survey which allows ordinary citizens in all 60 constituencies to rate the performance of their MP’s regardless of party affiliation. Almost a year later on November 23 the survey in that area earned the youthful looking Dr. Rhodd an average of 1 out of 10 marks from his constituents for non-improvement on roads and works.
Not to be outdone, he turned the blame squarely on Central Government.
Also in Portland Michael Lee Chin’s J$20b widespread development project seemed to have presented both plugs and plusses. Earmarked to include the famous Blue Hole and the historic Trident hotel where so many film stars (such as Eddie Murphy, Whitney Houston and their families) have vacationed, repairs came to a halt supposedly due to the economic crisis, but not before a new Courthouse was completed and handed over, to replace the historic but derelict one in the square.
Along the coastal Port Maria corridor in St Mary, temporary repairs being conducted by the National Works Agency also came to a halt on the Kendal to Richmond main road when a large water logged section broke away, reducing traffic to single lane access.
No plusses there.
A vibrant focus on environmental issues began with the 6th staging of Green Expo at the National Arena early June, for micro, small and medium enterprises as part of a perceived corporate responsibility towards protection of eco-tourism, reduced demands for fossil fuels and a range of energy efficient alternatives. Proceedings went forward under the auspices of several stakeholder entities : the Jamaica Conservation Development Trust (JCDT), JTB, JPSCo, Forest Conservation Fund, USAID,UNDP, National Environmental Planning Agency (NEPA), with JNBS as financial advisors, and main sponsor the Environmental Foundation of Jamaica (EFJ).
A growing popularity of the show was attested to by participation of retailers related to construction, vehicular, wellness and tourism industries. The drawing card was a cost-effective life-sized eco-friendly green home out of the Caribbean School of Architecture. It featured solar panels, water-saving devices and a compost bin among other enviro-effects.
At the 4th biennial conference of the Jamaica Institute of Environmental Professionals (JIEP) which preceded the Expo, former ambassador to the UN Anthony Hill suggested that it was up to the media to “address climate change concerns, highlight the work of Govt, PSOJ and NGO’S”. He also questioned Govt’s decision to unfold a new energy plan before acting fully on existing ones.
Meanwhile, a sulphuric acid spill in Kingston Harbour which resulted in a fishkill blamed on Industrial Chemicals was cause for concern before and after NEPA served a Breach Notice on the Company and ordered a cleanup .
Further afield, what was dubbed the Pellew Island dispute sprang up between environmental lobbyists off Port Antonio and a private company’s decision to construct two Balinese style cottages on the island, which is off the coast near the famous Blue Lagoon. The bone of contention was based on the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Report that Pellew is an ‘iconic landmark’ and keeper of sea grass beds and coral reefs to be protected from solid waste and sewage treatment runoff.
Pending is the final decision from NEPA.
Meanwhile, environment watchdog John Maxwell wrote scathingly in The Agenda - that respected and professional pullout, about the ‘savage attack on the history and archaeology’of, or the ‘Brutification’ of, Falmouth, the north coast seaside town at the other end of the island where construction of the much touted cruise ship pier is now underway.
(Sunday Observer Nov.1 p.5)
The Prime Minister dropped an environmental bombshell which went largely unnoticed for there was not a peep from lobbyists, even dear John.
Immediately following an announcement from the Hydel Schools at Ferry that expansion was their goal, he decided to include the whole stretch of wetlands along the Caymanas strip in those plans, ostensibly to help re-locate several other tertiary independent institutions. It was not clear whether his son’s position on faculty, or whether non-inclusion of Jose Marti and G.C.Foster College of Physical Education (the only one in the Caribbean), both situated along the same geographical corridor, would become issues of protest.
Ikebana International St.Andrew chapter rolled out its 38th anniversary at Petroleum Corporation on Trafalgar Road early June under the distinguished patronage of Japanese Ambassador Masahiro Obata and his wife Hiroko and auspices of the Jamaican chapter President, L.C. McIntosh. Showcased were pieces from the 4 Ikebana schools : Ikenobo, Ohara, Sogetsu and Ichiyo – all traditional creative floral expressions based on a lifelong philosophy of closeness to nature.
Ian Boyne’s award winning series Religious Hardtalk continued unabated in controversial, entertaining and eye-opening interviews and discussions. Some would say this year produced fewer weddings than funerals, which in themselves were largely dress parades for the styles decreed by Dancehall.
The Sunday Gleaner of June 7 ran an interesting glimpse into an often overlooked aspect of Rasta faith : why dreadlocked men outnumber women six-to-one. Citing a 2001 Statin census finding, the argument centred around that same contrary situation in other religions. A 2007 Baptist census found women outnumbering men more than 2 to 1 over the previous 4 years, with Pentecostals and Seventh Day Adventists 3 to 1. Scholars of culture consulted were Mutabaruka, Ibo Cooper and Professor Barry Chevannes who placed the Rastafarian ‘de-marginalisation of women’ squarely in the early fifties based on Old Testament notions of male domination. The dub poet also mentioned the kind of ‘patriarchal mindset’ found in the Old Testament, while the musicologist looked at the divergence between Eurocentric ‘feminine fashion’ and that of Africa. All in all, culturally militant/machismo attitudes, without any obvious detriment, except perhaps of the Niabinghi sect, exerted a powerful hold on these perceptions
Church Music with its waning number of Organs and organists, came in for scrutiny in this DVD and CD age, as pointed out by respected playwright and journalist Michael Reckord in his thoughtful and soul-stirring Gleaner article in June. Readers were reminded that Trevor Beckford is the longest serving church organist in Jamaica, and of his 43rd recital at the venerable and historic St. James Cathedral in ye olde capital Spanish Town where he has been chief organist since 1961 and music teacher at St. Jago for 35 years. At age 9 he began piano lessons but taught himself organ 1954 to 61 – a legend in his time.
Youthful organist Dwight McBean who completed his training in England took the opportunity to lament the shortage of trained organists and a low demand for them anyway, and the non existence of church music education for children, as he stirred the ancient keys of the 100 year old organ at the Kingston Parish church at the top of King Street. Thankfully, (despite operating in the age of substitute keyboards) the Jamaica School of Music (JSM) is still functioning as a vibrant arm of the Edna Manley College of Visual and Performing Arts, and there are still notable, though few, instrumentalists around including Barbara Lloyd, John Binns and his pupil
Audley Davidson who currently trains the KC choir.
Fashion is one of Jamaica’s success stories, what with Pulse listed on the local stock market, the unprecedented success of the Caribbean Model Search and the wide appeal of Jamaican models over the years to the world’s leading ‘fashionistas’ in London, Milan, New York and London. We think of Nell Carter, Romae Gordon (now co-Manager of the business), Janelle Mckenzie, (to name a few). Several males have left their imprint on the traditionally female catwalk, one the son of the late Hector Wynter, another the son of a known performing artiste and is also into music. Then there is newcomer Jeneil Williams, one of the younger Pulse recruits who recently made a kind of fashionista history as the lone cat-walker of black complexion doing it for top designers down in Brazil this November.
Caribbean Fashion Weekly (CFW) which accommodates designers mainly from Barbados, Guyana and Trinidad, drew rave revues at their annual showing at the National Indoor Sports Arena. It showcased new segment called Art on the Run to help facilitate the year-old Jamaica Fashion & Apparel Cluster. JFAC also debuted successfully in Brussels in April with a well planned and executed Market Penetration Extravaganza with Jamaica Fashion Collections.
Kingsley Cooper is the man of vision at the helm, who steered this particular ship to extensive acclaim under contract to Jamaica Trade & Invest (formerly, and soon to be once again, JAMPRO).
Not to be outdone, young Deweight Peters’ has pumped Saint International, his own fledgeling fashion agency Saint International which has been making a good showing in London, Paris, New York and Milan, creating lucrative niches for gifted youngsters who might not otherwise have made
the transition to the world of ‘glam’. Combining twin talents of singing and modelling, the son of well known entertainer Pam Hall has also made success on the international scene.
And Novia McDonald Whyte as designated Editor of Style Observer (SO), took a big leap of social courage by starting Fashion’s Night Out in early November for the new breed of ‘fashionistas’ around town.
‘IT’ happened in selected uptown shopping malls that agreed to remain open for several hours later than their normal closing times. The Stylish One claimed her Night Out was no relation to that of Vogue. Word out of fashion circles claimed the pre-Christmas ‘retail insanity’binge was a huge success.
Baking flour prices rose by six percent in February from J$2,470 per 45-kilogram bag, to J$2,620. Also affected was counter flour which peaked at J$2,100 from J$1,920 by seven percent, as stated by the Jamaica Flour Mills. This cost was immediately passed on to the consumers, and this rise on food items has continued unabated through the year.
Despite all that, Fabulous Fashionable Food Festivals continued to titillate taste buds. Not least were the Observer Food Awards staged as usual on the lawns of Devon House in May as well as the popular all-inclusive Kingston Restaurant Week in November. This year’s staging of the Awards was adjudged a successful and ‘unique epicurean experience’ and the most prestigious food event in the Caribbean, while the scope of award was widened to include scholarships to UTECH 3rd year hospitality students. KRW was renamed RW in October, to accommodate wider island outposts such as the Round Hill event, the CFJ and the CPJ i.e bringing the North Coast on board, and removing full spotlight from Kingston.
A new one-of-kind European ‘lifestyle store’ called ‘Ambience’ opened in the Liguanea Post Mall in late summer stocking high-end German crafted china, ceramic and stainless steel culinary ware.
Annual Agricultural favourites as the Denbigh Show, the Trelawny Yam Festival, and a plethora of Horticultural Shows took place at the usual venues of May Pen, Falmouth, Hope Pastures, Mandeville, Black River and Spanish Town.
Add to those the annual jerk and curry fests scattered around the island – ID Lucea, Portland’s Boston Beach, Ewarton, Mannings curry, Alligator Pond (the little Ochi of the South coast) Linstead ackee and Black River shrimp- and there’s ready excuse to escape from the stresses and perils of city life in exchange for lazing on beaches, eating on your feet and with your fingers, and dropping in on the old folks at home out there in the sticks.
On the ‘govament’ side the Minister of Trade had started the year by engaging in an unpopular ‘ricey’ quarrel with our old trading partner Guyana, while Agriculture Minister Tufton talked rice-planting. That particular rice shortage had to be speedily settled in order to avoid local street reaction against ‘soso’ curry goat.
There ensued a ‘patty- exporting argument just before mid-year between Jamaica and Trinidad, a situation which may or may not have precipitated the setting up of an overdue food regulations body, JANAAC, the meaning of which is anyone’s guess.
There was an Eat Jamaican Day ‘celebration’ at the Denbigh showground in September where the relevant Minister announced his ‘holistic approach’ to the problem of praedial larceny, including farmers’ identification of their produce, with receipt book ‘evidence’. The proposed appointment of a Praedial Larceny ‘Co-ordinator’ was greeted with as much sardonic laughter as last year’s ‘Eat casssava’ edict. That may have been the reason why the rider about the Praedial Larceny Committee was drowned out completely.
And just as the St. Elizabeth farmers were ending their objections to faeces-laden fertilizer ( the heady stuff of which political rumours smell while traditional crops like tomatoes and melons rot in fields from shortage of outlet), an army of ferocious and voracious worms arrived like the biblical locust plague, and ate everything in sight.
It can truly be said that those caterpillars from hell came, saw and conquered everything except the ganja plants which the police, playing on the theme of Appearance versus Reality, have steadfastly attempted to wipe out without the success tag.
Retreats and conferences were, in the eyes of the public, non-productive. So was the firing of two Ministers before yearend.
The extradition of ‘Dudus’ Coke hung like a pall over the hills where he lives, overlooking the city, while the uncertainty surrounding leadership was said to be a blow to the crime fighting machinery.
Jamaica could be labelled a rogue state unless, as Mr. Golding ferreted out, US authorities had committed some sort of procedural violation on the extradition request. He’s off the hook for now.
Members of the ruling Cabinet went into a three-day Retreat on the weekend of February 20 with another such retreat planned for two days in March. This gesture was to see how they could adequately address the challenges of the economy. By the start of July they were Washington bound.
The fact that at least 5 officials found their way to Jackson Memorial in 2009 than in any other year suggests that either the respected JMH should consider setting up an off-shore branch near Gordon House or our leaders should consider closing the venerable Kingston Public Hospital WHERE THEY SHOULD HAVE BEEN TREATED if they had maintained its status.
The Minister of Finance Audley Shaw collapsed on the eve of his departure to Washington to discuss IMF loan funding. Derrick Smith, Dwight Nelson and Mayor McKenzie went the same route, as did Chief Justice Zaila McCalla. Desmond McKenzie replaced Smith as Deputy leader in Area Council 1.
Minister Without Portfolio Don Wehby, NGO financier on loan from Grace Kennedy was obliged to soldier on to Washington without Shaw.
As far back as Feb 08 the IMF had warned of tough times ahead for the Caribbean through its website and its managing director, with particular reference to diminishing remittances, decreases in direct foreign investment and in Tourism. Yet after failed attempts to solidify loan portfolios, the entire latter half of the year was still dominated by the IMF talkshop.
US$ 300 million borrowed from the Inter-American Bank had not stabilized the economy, screamed The Herald, before going out of business one weekend and being rescued shortly thereafter.
In September the PNP had their 71st annual conference to ‘assail’ the Government about its performance over two years, and the IMF deal. At least one of their reps was expected to be part of the joint climate change delegation to Copenhagen December 7 through 18.
In December Govt ordered 145 more Volvo chassis buses to boost the 60% so far already in place in the urban transport system.
Columnists and journalists had a field day.
Controversial but professional and outspoken columnist Mark Wignall was one of those who advised caution early in the year. In a January 15 column in the Daily Observer (p8) he chided : “Guided by a foolish political culture and a paternalistic relationship with the people cast in the role of sixth graders which is very far removed from the days of ‘We will follow Bustamante till we die’ they were the last to board the economic reality train”. The hard-hitting article said that the suggestions of Bartlett made by Tourism and Shaw of Finance the previous September that Jamaica would hardly have been affected, were akin to 1950’s ‘country-bus patty-pan’ tactics (read outdated). He suggested they were plying their trade in a microchip, they were having their own painful ‘Palin moment’ and should strive to make up for lost time.
Another writer in The Star (Suss) said the Govt is not from earth.
‘Dem space ship run out gas ya so, an mi a wait fi dem gas up an lef. Straight’.
And, writing in The Agenda at the beginning of March, contributor Sir Ronald Saunders (Sanders?) reminded readers of the Canadian stimulus “hemispheric neighbourhood” package of C$1.5 billion given through Prime Minister Steven Harper and Former PM Joe Clark to 20 Caribbean nations at a Summit of the Americas based on a 2007 commitment. They set the donation down as assistance with the global financial crisis and growing crime rate, as well as safe-guarding democracy and the quality of governance in their ‘own back yard’.
China had also promised to pump billions into the Caribbean and Latin American regions.
Local International Management Consultant Trevor Hamilton had earlier suggested a 30% reduction in the number of civil service organisations, as well as divestment of 300 state- run entities. By April there was in fact 11.4% unemployment according to STATIN, and by the third quarter of the year there were 30,000 jobless even while the situation was being denied by Govt , which is said to have only one intervention programme (PATH) administered through Min of Social Security.
BANK SCENE presented a year of surprises.
The FSC raised alarms, but only after the horses had escaped from the pasture. That’s how they dealt with situations which saw the public duped.
First Global, a GK subsidiary, was able to secure a loan of US $20m from the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation (IFC) of which half would provide ‘onward lending’ to private firms, and half would expand its own capital base. Those preference shares gave IFC the option to become shareholder in FGB.
The CEO of the most successful bank in the Caribbean, owned by Canada, buckled almost to his knees under the Biblical edict How Are The Mighty Fallen, as our elders would intone. Hon. William ‘ Bill’ Clarke was reportedly removed from high office and reduced to feverish negotiations with the parent company. Many naïve Jamaicans were just realizing that the head office was Toronto, not Kingston. Clarke voiced his dissatisfaction with his $85m payoff package the Board of Management in Canada offered after 40 years at the helm of the Bank of Nova Scotia, and insisted that he be allowed to maintain the usual ‘perks’.
A bigger, indeed the biggest shock still awaited Jamaicans when the PM allegedly asked Bank of Jamaica’s Derrick Latibaudiere to demit. Only then was it revealed that he had acquired an ‘unsecured’ loan of some 29million to construct a 53m dwelling in the hills because he did not find the allotted Government property habitable enough for his life style. Former Finance Minister Omar Davies’ feeble testimony as to how that could have happened merely opened up the ‘too-big-to-close’ can of worms crawling around the ‘I-was-too-naïve’ excuse. One editorial suggested that in hindsight there might have been more a tie-of-friendship than a legally contractual-obligation line of action.
The fall of the NCB-funded Superplus group of Supermarkets caused another slue of unanswered questions, while the arrival of the high security J$5,000 note by BOJ on Sept 25 also took many by surprise. The image of Shearer on the front and frangipani blossoms on the back did not prevent the most important judge – man-in-the-street – from critisizing it for its souvenir status, for “as it change it done”.
But perhaps the most surprising year-end news was that both Scotia under its new Managing Director, and NCB had made whopping profits which ran in billions of Jamaican dollars. The citizenry lost again.
Casino Gambling is a concept alien to the man in the street. Religious objections aside, the ordinary Jamaican has always felt it should stay in the hotels where the temptation factor is minimised. Tell him about his Crown and Anchor, and Cashpot is too media-bound.
However, both the new PM and his Tourism Minister tabled a January 13 ministry paper on the new, unpopular Casino Gaming Act. Minister Bartlett called the venture a ‘product diversification’ conceding it was slated for a ‘restricted’ number of participating hotels. That declaration carried a ‘luxury hotel’ rider which could be interpreted to mean that small hotels were not expected to be on the wagon. Golding had also continued negotiations with investors such as Tavistock to which the proposed 8,000-room Harmony Cove in Trelawny had already been handed on a platter by Patterson, and the Palmyra which was to construct a 1,000 room Casino hotel under a Montego Bay-based project blessed with the dubious title of ‘Celebrate Jamaica’.
DISPUTES and Scandals abounded.
Leadership of the Constabulary force came in for disputes doubled and redoubled. The dashing Commander Hardley Lewin was called in shortly after retiring from the Armed forces to take over from , and this was not a popular move, certainly not with the police. This had also come hot on the heels of DSP Mark Shields’s on-again off-again popularity with the police, the viewing and listening public. Les Green on loan from FBI also drew sharp criticisms for his outspoken criticism of corruption in government circles, and then Lewin announced his resignation under rumours of a position pending in the Bahamas, forcing the appointment of Owen Ellington as Acting Commissioner in the interim
E10- the biogas fuel continued to attract uncertainty to the road user.
The nation’s supply of E10 (10% ethanol and 90% gasoline) was said to be on a possible decline after roughly a year on the market. Minister Clive Mullings mistakenly made light of those concerns, citing mere shortage of storage capacity at both the Kingston Terminal Marcus Garvey Drive and the PCJ’s Freeport Terminal Montego Bay.
Perhaps, to throw more light on that fuel would have spelt disaster !
The Sugar Industry had undoubtedly travelled a tortuous route since divestment began September of 2008 causing Jamaicans to strive to remember when last Sugar was sweet.
The year began with The European Union freezing its intended and much needed funding of $7 to the industry (SIA) allegedly because of date overrun. The Daily Observer described the sector as ‘crippled’ and its workers as ‘displaced’ and ‘dangling’. Had the Minister of Finance successfully brokered the deal with Brazilian firm Infinity Bio-Energy (IBE) and other potential ‘partners’, they suggested , the five sugar factories involved (Monymusk, Frome, Bernard Lodge and St.) may have been successfully divested.
The sector had also largely overspent in anticipation, paying out some
$800M to farmers - a travesty attributable to the absence of an Audit Unit. The fallout was said to cause delays in reaping and in repairs to the Frome Plant, and a general decline in sucrose content. Up to mid-year, other attempts had either failed or missed their deadlines.
In late October public objection peaked when the press revealed the millions being paid out to ex-NCB-exec. Aubyn Hill (a whopping 29m) whose job it was to broker said divestment process.
One more Hill to climb, sighed the distraught residents (in their native wisdom).
To Jamaicans SUGAR will no longer be king
Roads, Works and Tourism came in for their share of scandals.
Minister Henry seemed to have been doing a good job getting National Works Agency crews to fix the gullies before the next hurricane. But it came to light that J$60M had assigned themselves to refurbishing a single house which incidentally was formerly occupied by Pickersgill of the PNP. When cornered by the press, Henry claimed he was unable to live ‘in squalor’ and below his standards, and that the money spent had been considerably less.
Bartlett appeared on CVM’s landmark programme ‘Direct’ to field questions about the millions allegedly spent on refurbishing not only his Tourist Board office but the furniture therein, particularlya certain leather armchair. He countered that had he been aware of the extent of the costing, he would have wished it otherwise. However, the matter was further compounded since he ended up purchasing the entire building, all, he said, for the better image of the Tourism Product.
Dual Citizenship as an issue tainted both sides of Government.
The JLP Daryl Vaz was fingered by PNP Abe Dabdoub after which the Court of Appeal approved a March 23 by-election for the people of Portland to decide who should hold the seat in parliament. The Leader of the Opposition intervened by naming Kenneth Rowe ( himself a former JLP) to replace Dabdoub and also called for by-elections to be held in all constituencies. One noted columnist stated his belief that such individuals should “voluntarily step aside”. Vaz won the seat and was promptly whisked away to be Minister of Information in the Prime Minister’s office. Some may have thought that was actually a way to crank the information machinery, because the move effectively cut his much touted house-to-house visits to the nooks and crannies of the wooded Rio Grande valley.
Later in the year, Gregory Mair who was said to hold Venezuelan citizenship, won his seat in the St. Catherine division, but not before promising voters a well needed water tank on condition they would repay the debt themselves.
The telecom scene was challenging, with increased cess on phone calls, phone cards and instruments to the tune of J$1.7M. To compound matters,
a so-called Wireless War which reared in mid 2008 seemed to intensify this year between the island’s three mobile telecommunications providers namely - the British owned Cable and Wireless, the Central American owned Mi Phone or Claro 3G, and the Irish Digicel.
Mi phone complained to Jamaica’s Office of Utilities Regulations (OUR) which is run by David Geddes, about the ‘monopolistic’ behaviour of Digicel which allegedly maintains high mobile call termination rates for cross network calls. Such rates are then passed on to the consumers, forcing them to own more than one phone in order to avoid paying more on cross network calls. Digicel has twice as many subscribers as Cable and Wireless and Claro combined. The Rates Dispute continued when C&W (now LIME meaning Landline/ Internet/M/Email and viewed as ‘sour’) dangled a US$1 million dollar prize carrot across the Caribbean in a bid to boost its popularity. LIME CEO Richard Dodd talked about his company’s ‘devotion’ to the Caribbean and to Jamaica as its core market.
Digicel replied with 14 mini coupes and US$1 million weekly in prizes. Claro settled for 9 BMW C class cars, and posted exclusive rights to sell Apple’s iphones on the Jamaican market.
LIME then pumped US$100 million and J$8.6 billion into the Jamaican market, this 25% of US$400 million to be distributed throughout the Caribbean.
And then there was Lee Chin’s FLOW (deal with the new anagram) which ran headlong into the cloudy stream of communication in an island where chatting is a national pastime.
The dramatic demise of the Superplus food chain belonging to the Chen family caused more than raised eyebrows. Word on the street blamed their brother’s bank for helping to block investment returns which should have come from Cash Plus and suggested withdrawal of patronage. By yearend only a few including the flagship store in Mandeville were not divested.
Alternative Investment schemes remained in the news this year – the bad news. One such which started off the year with a promise of recompense was World Wise who promised to reimburse clients on a phased basis starting in the first quarter. Sightings of frantic and despondent ‘investors’ arriving early to stand in vain in front of padlocked doors were reported in the press.
Both CEO David Smith and his Olint seemingly existed in limbo for a while until he was arrested in the TCI on February 5th and charged with 5 counts of fraud. Charges pressed against Smith, whose brother and wife are partners, included uttering false documents, forgery and theft. (This is after the National Commercial Bank (NCB) last year refused to honour cheques so that ‘investors’ could carry out encashments).
By early May the British Privy Council ruled in favour of the bank.
‘Cash Minus’ was the nickname for the Cash Plus scheme which has been lorded over by Carlos Hill and his brother. Both have continued their trek to and from secret locations to court while their so-called investors wait empty-handed.
The Fiscal Services Commission was the monitoring body set up by Government to regulate such transactions.
People have been wondering why ‘Govament’did nothing to help them, and why there was little insistence that these schemes got legal registration, while Government wondered why gullible persons turned their backs on the rules set by their FSC.
But then, the FSC in its wisdom ‘discovered’ that Government agencies and departments had spent upwards of $900 million on goods and services outside of government stipulations, a lot of which was said to be linked to a small grovelling creature – thought to be extinct - called ‘cronyism’.
Worse scenario, FSC was found to have squandered public funds to the tune of J$50.9 million by way of a raft of irregularities such as procurement breaches, absence of terms of employment guidelines including unauthorised benefits and overpayment, questionable or unjustifiable expenses and a general improper use of funds.
Superbrands Caribbean is a marketing label launched in late May to open up new gateways to international recognition for brands from the region under the watchful eye of Jamaica Trade and Invest. The President stated its aims as demonstrating quality, reliability and distinction as well as economic potential and recognising and maintaining high operational standards. Superbrands already operates nation-branding and company-branding in eighty two (82) countries, with Sandals Resorts already among the top 500.
The Jamaica National Housing Trust and Registrar General went fully on line.
JNHT started the year with total online facilities for refunds of employee and employer deductions and mortgage incomes, in replacement of paper-based transactions. Jamaica National Reggae Money transfer, a subsidiary of JNBS, was hired to disburse such refunds to contributors.
The Trust dished out Best Schemes Awards to Longville Park in Clarendon, Angels Grove in St. Catherine, and Glenco and Blackwood Gardens to the tune of $1m, $700,000 and $250,000 respectively.
The Registrar General Department (RGD) launched its forward-looking Hotel Interface for Marriage Applications (HIMA) software at Couples Sans Souci St. Mary for the island’s visitors. Hoteliers can now manage electronically, marriage licences, certificates, and other relevant procedures such as sponsorship, information and monitoring deposits. This means that selected marriage officers are able to return registers within 24hours as stipulated by law.
They also offer Counselling and Bridal Party arrangements.
It may be said that women took centre stage this year. Collectively, they tried to do good, but were often faced with the bad and the ugly.
Attorney General, Senator the Honourable Dorothy Lightbourne made the announcement early on, and perhaps before the blame games began, that
clearing up an accumulated backlog of cases would cost Jamaica a whopping $103 million dollars annually. Added to that, a seeming reluctance on the part of the Government to give up Coke to American justice, may have laid a toll on the goodly lady.
Affable but tough, DPP Paula Llewellyn faced up to a highly respected but difficult job to which she reportedly brought transparency and efficiency. Except for the Kern Spencer- Rodney Chin case which many felt was allowed to drag out for too long.
Of five newly appointed puisne judges this year including Bertram Morrison, Frank Wong and Martin Gayle, two were women - Marva McDonald-Bishop and Sarah Thompson-James.
First female Chief Justice Zaila McCalla, perhaps following the pattern set by fellow Government officials, collapsed during the reception of Spain’s Royal head. Mrs McCalla was rushed to the University Hospital of the West Indies, making her the first official to accept treatment on home ground.
Hard working but beleaguered Health Minister Spencer faced a difficult year following the PM’s political bid to hand out free medical care which included the abolition of basic registration fees. Reprimanding and suspending a medical heart practitioner (who managed to clear his name a few months later) at the National Chest Hospital for alleged corruption was the least of his troubles. For it took an armour of diplomacy and a long bag of delaying tactics to face the island’s nurses about their re-classification exercises, and to parry blows on the metaphorical playing field with Nurses’ Champion. Edith Allwood Anderson is a deceptively small woman who has traditionally packed a mighty wallop. ‘Nanny’ Anderson has had years of practice, at one time even being re-called to serve the vibrant Nurses Association. The Minister is a young soldier in a battle which upstaged two others: the rudderless but militant Constabulary, and the conservative Teaching force - all on the same quest for overdue benefits. As if that were not enough, Malaria, which had not been detected in the island for over 15 years, appeared at Caymanas Park in February, leading to temporary closure. St. Catherine Health officials rallied to collect blood samples from racetrack personnel. It was noted that even though front desk staff at Caymanas Track Limited (CTL) were cooperative, trainers and their subordinates were reluctant to comply.
The influenza A H1N1 virus or swine flu entered the island during late May, suspected to have been triggered by returning vacationers and assorted visitors. By the end of June, 2 cases had risen to 17 of those diagnosed. The epidemic sent health authorities on the move educating the public about measures of prevention and cure. The outbreak subsequently showed up in pockets like St. Catherine, Kingston and Mandeville, By early July transmission was seen as internal in certain school communities. Schools in Mandeville – excepting Northern Caribbean University - were ordered closed before the normal end of term dates. Special recommendations were made FOR graduation and examination exercises.
The MOH had indeed conducted its business with fair speed and accuracy.
Education Minister Andrew Holness has shown himself to be almost as no-nonsense, in-your-face, cut-to-the-chase, attentive to details and as outspoken as the unflappable mayor of Kingston, Desmond McKenzie – popularly called ‘Bredda Desman’ (behind his back, of course), since in their respective sectors those two gentlemen continued to draw both the ire and the admiration of a cross-section of stakeholders. So it came as no surprise that this youthful leader in the difficult education sector had to retract some of his statements presented without corresponding data. Some were allied to such touchy issues as effectiveness of the current Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT), fixed-term teaching contracts pegged to performance-based remuneration, the National Report, the movement of pupils from Independent to Government schools and other placement issues, criminal behaviour of students, and last but not least, data showing a Jamaica now lagging in literacy skills in the region, and a perceived low performance of some principals as managers.
The Early Childhood Commission (ECC) started the year in an ambitious bid to distribute aids in teaching, health and nutrition to 3,225 basic schools throughout the island. Culture, Health, Arts, Science and Education help and change agency (CHASE), along with the Ministry of Education wanted to reverse a rise in child obesity, hence the added distribution of menu manuals. There is a feeling that after a huge gap, Early Childhood Education is being paid the attention it deserves although there is still a far way to go. The Minister in November endorsed Barita initiative with CEO Rita Humphreys Lewin at the helm, to strengthen that Company’s five year old initiative already functioning in several inner-city Basic Schools.
ECE has also found an established home at its new Institute on the campus of Shortwood Teachers College in St. Andrew, where as a subject it has already been infused into the Curriculum of teachers in training.
The ongoing Education Transformation Programme to instil quality assessment and performance goals in schools is the ‘baby’ of youthful Minister Holness, who has received funding for a variety of Projects, most recent being a US$16M loan from World Bank…..
A task force set up to implement and monitor the stated programme and performance targets was, up to May, led by overseas consultant Frank Weeple. The Transformation Team (ETT) came on stream 2 years before with a mandate to achieve critical development targets such as a National Shared Vision that all students receive quality education by grade eleven; that individual students instead of schools be funded ; that Board and Principal be held accountable; that Principals make the shift from Head Teacher to CEO; that all stakeholders be rendered accountable.
The Report on Millennium Development Goals suggested that achieving universal access did not mean that quality was attained.
Recommendations also included updating the existing 2004 National Report; developing a new two-year Plan by March 2011; providing quarterly updates directly to the Minister; aligning to the 2030 Vision along with the guidelines of the Government’s Planning Institute (PIOJ).
Then there was the Safe Schools Programme which was designed to help cut the disturbing trend of life-taking violence in schools by a re-location system. This is despite PALS (Peace and Love in schools) which came onto the educational orbit over a decade ago but seemed to have been derailed. In fact, Holness found it necessary not only to revise the Education Code but to draft a document addressing strategies for Behavioural Management.
The Prime Minister took a tough-love policy on the matter of violence in schools by reverting to a ‘no democracy’ policy in the way teachers handled students’ disturbing behaviour, despite his Ministry’s opposition to unauthorised corporal punishment. (Note that both men grew up with parents who were practising teachers in a decade when discipline was a hallmark).
And despite the annual battle for better salaries waged at the JTA’s AGM, the PM found it worthwhile to distribute 40 Medals of Appreciation to deserving Teachers, at Jamaica House, in May.
And although the current educational climate that seemed healthy enough, most condemnation was uttered from political platforms (read ‘goat-mouth’) by speakers who themselves can hardly claim to have excelled. There was that much posturing that the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) was placing that many illiterates in our high schools, regardless of the fact that many Principals spent scarce funds publishing the names of students who had excelled in CXC.
This year the focus is on High Achievement in little-known Primary and All-Age schools that are not necessarily urban and which may seldom be in the limelight. Note also the laudable initiatives from the Private sector and approved by the Education Ministry.
We begin with the Louise Bennett Coverley All Age for instance - the new name given to an upgraded Gordon Town Primary.
Guest speaker at this noteworthy function in honour of a true Jamaican ICON was Roderick Rainford who as a former General Secretary of Caricom, former Governor of the Bank of Jamaica and member of the IMF negotiating team, was identified as a past student worthy of that honour.
Achievement in literacy skills was the order of this year’s National Primary Schools’ English Competition, when the champion Kerecia Young hailed from May Pen Primary in the Clarendon capital by winning a trophy and J$50,000 in cash. Teachers were not forgotten as they also received incentives. At the awards ceremony at the Terra Nova All-Suite hotel on Trafalgar Road in May, second place went to Payton Patterson of Jessie Ripoll Primary on Kingston’s historical South Camp Road, while Amelia Dunkley of Burnt Savannah Primary in St. Elizabeth placed third. .
Scotiabank’s Speak Up Speak Out Debating Competition provided scope for rural schools in the Ocho Rios area to expound on, and dramatize HIV and AIDS prevention. Winning school at the quarter finals was Wilmington Primary at their quarter finals in the Ocho Rios area.
Of three initiatives of Western Union’s innovative programme I PLEDGE (I Promise to Lend Encouragement to Develop Growth in Education), one underpins Grade Six Achievement(GSAT) Tests, the other two support the National Reading Week during Education month in May as well as designated Learning Centres, all in association with Grace Kennedy Remittance Services, USAID, and People’s Action for Community Transformation (PACT).
Churches Co-operative Credit Union hosted their annual Parenting Seminars aimed at supporting local charities and financing social outreach projects in recognition that children now grapple with the stark reality of being both victims and perpetrators of criminal behaviour. Between April and June they also partnered with Youth Opportunities Unlimited (YOU) in hosting forums across the island to address topics related to aggression, proactive handling of issues of trust, communication and self esteem.
‘Education is No Joke’ is a so-far successful School Tour Initiative for secondary schools led by popular Reggae and dancehall artistes. On-lookers were fearing certain repercussions, but the performers not only give students a free concert, but assist the administration by utilising both music and speech to inculcate values of study, self worth and conflict resolution.
Hillel Academy is an independent co-ed multi-level institution consisting of Prep and High and not usually in the news, which in mid-May put on a successful Student Assessment Workshop with help from Western Union, for educators drawn from 11 high schools across Kingston and St. Andrew with accent on Science and Mathematics It was indeed a lofty aim to share new thinking and technology so as to ‘empower’ other young minds in Corporate Area schools which are far less equipped.
Hearing and Sight-Impaired students were throughout the island given unparalleled assistance by The Jamaica Library Service (JLS) which provided full Internet access to 100 Libraries island-wide. It placed special focus on HI via screen reader software on 30 computers in all parishes through their own network. This forward-looking venture was sponsored by the Torres Foundation for the Blind International (nicknamed JAWS). It was all part of a thrust to achieve increased usage and universal access to information island-wide, as well as for the visually impaired to send/ receive email, conduct internet research and write programmes using Windows.
Resultant Teacher/Librarian Seminars have therefore been geared to all six regional divisions beginning with St. James, Trelawny and Hanover in November, filtering to all parishes on a phased basis by the end of February.
Tertiary level education was on an upscale swing, what with a number of innovative and resourceful programmes. In terms of gaining access to tertiary institutions overseas it was also a bumper year for Jamaican students 17 and over, who gained both full and partial scholarships worth millions, to prestigious institutions as MIT, Princeton, Yale, Columbia, Brown, Harvard, Cornell, Duke, Stanford and Penn State, according to timely research presented in The Sunday Observer’s Career and Education segment. Reports also suggested that due to strict college budgets, some aspirants, though fully qualified, did not get their first choices.
A staunch facilitator to such efforts is Versan Educational Services presided over the past 13 years by Sandra Bramwell, a graduate of the system and which hosts the GRE annually. Popular subjects included Chemistry, Physics, Information Technology and Maths.
Also, the invaluable help given to Jamaican schools and teachers by a growing number of Alumni based mainly in the USA, should by no means be underestimated.
Episcopal Church in North Miami donated US$ 5,000 to School of Drama in the name of Hon. Louise Bennett.
Not many are aware that Brazil has, since 2000, been offering scholarships to pursue first degrees in a wide range of subjects at its accredited institutions under a Bilateral, Cultural and Educational Agreement with the island. Under this arrangement students pay transportation and board, then complete a year of Portuguese with aid available after the second year.
Privately owned University College of the Caribbean (UCC) which is one of several new institutions on the educational scene, is in expansion mode in New Kingston on lands acquired through the National Housing Trust (NHT). A library and lecture hall are among facilities slated for completion within five years.
The International University of the Caribbean (IUC) is another such also held its own, with branches in all major parish capitals. Both offer new and innovative courses to eager recruits.
It should be worthy of note that Quality Assurance as a concept was positioned into Tertiary Education Week in February. The aim was to focus on better overall college education standards.
The Mico University College opened a new outreach Child Assessment and Research Education (CARE) Centre in St Anne’s Bay to cater to diagnostic reading technologies and testing. It also launched an Early Childhood Centre of Excellence in collaboration with CARE. According to Principal Claude Packer, the focus will be on training, workshops on Counselling and Special Education needs and other ‘best practices’ in data collection, psychological assessment, speech therapy and occupational therapy, all set against a background of prescriptive teaching.
Mico and UWI held annual Research Days on each campus, the former on April 1, with both passing out graduands at yearend.
UWI has been honoured to claim the support of the New York based AFUWI Foundation, a name probably playing on the patois equivalent fiwi.
The accomplishments of graduates and faculty members of UWI continue to be honoured and celebrated by AFUWI which is a Diaspora provider of funding and scholarships to aid its growth.
Incidentally,UWI now offers an undergrad degree in Electronic Engineering at the Faculty of Pure and Applied Sciences at Mona.
The NM Law School took issue with the Government regarding fees, boarding grants and allowances, particularly regarding the Cave Hill campus. Fees have now surpassed the quarter million mark.
NMLS posted excellent results in November, and a student team won the Case Analysis Challenge Trophy sponsored by First Caribbean International Bank, a competition positioned under a Case Study Development Project on Case-writing by the under-writing bank. That happened in June when the all-female team went up against four ‘colleague’ teams in its 3rd consecutive effort and first on home soil.
Yyouthful UWI Principal Gordon Shirley (scion of Mico’s past Principal Renford Shirley-read Shirley Castle in Portland) as well as several of his staff members were awarded national honours at Kings House in October by Governor General Sir Patrick Allen. Shirley made innovative history by awarding his newly conceived Township Challenge Scholarship to a 61 year old resident of August Town in the University’s backyard, as an initiative geared at improving relationships between the University and the adjoining communities. Gordon Town and August Town have been subject to political and criminal flare-ups for a number of years, in direct and painful opposition to the cultural echoes which should emanate from Alexander Bedward after he flew out of the proverbial tree, and from Louise Bennett who resided in the area before migrating to Canada where she eventually died.
University of Technology (Utech) as a vibrant academic foil to UWI, has definitely been in a keenly innovative mood this year. In May it officially opened the Office of Intellectual Property(OIP), first ever of any tertiary institution in the English-speaking Caribbean to the acclaim of a wide cross section of representatives – (remember Utech’s innovative Cultural Park?)
Begun in January, the aim of OIP was to improve on the transfer of knowledge, research, development and intellectual property rights. The guest speaker was, significantly, convenor of the (also innovative) Steel Pan Research Centre at the St. Augustine campus of the UWI.
Utech broke new ground also with the implementation of a Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) project launched, also solely, at its Calvin McKain Library in May, thanks to funding from 3M and FRIDA- a Regional Fund for Digital Innovation in Latin America and the Caribbean. According to UTECH News in the Sunday Observer of May 31(p.1), RFID is ‘automated data-capture technology’ which electronically identifies, tracks and stores specifically targeted information using ‘middleware’ to interpret and replace manual and barcode.
JPS, which has finalised a Partnership Deal with Marubeni in Abu Dabi, this year completed a $9M upgrade on UTECH’S Engineering/Computing Laboratory Power System and Virtual Simulation, putting it on par with (quote) “the most advanced technological universities in the world”.
The Light and Power Company also staged a Science &Technology Expo at Golf View Hotel Mandeville in February to boost the efforts of administrators in surrounding schools.
Another innovation was the Corporate Learning Campus, no doubt largely virtual. This initiative was launched 2 years before to accommodate Utech’s landmark Management Trainee Programme funded by NCB. A possible spinoff was a well needed gift of $300,000 dollars in March to the off-campus National Training Agency (allied to HEART Trust), quite likely so their trainees can participate in the programme.
In late October their new postgrad Diploma gained validation from the accrediting body, the University Council (UCJ).
The initiative set the stage for exemption from other tertiary level courses.
Last but not least, the institution made a bid to transform the semi-derelict and under-utilised J$35M Trelawny Multi-purpose Stadium, constructed with valuable Chinese aid to host the opening ceremonies of World Cup 2007, into their proposed Western campus-cum-sporting facility. Their planning and PR teams sought public support in, among other efforts, a Town Meeting in Falmouth in mid June while awaiting Government’s nod of approval. Despite using the MVP model, under which Usain Bolt was trained, as a springboard-type appeal for this ambitious project which was to benefit the general community thereabouts and overseas, their request was turned down near yearend.
The world of entertainment continued its dominance of the air waves, featuring in particular impressive performances by fledgeling reggae artistes such as Etana, D’angel and Tarrus Riley.
It also continued its fair share of controversy as Vybz Kartel’s ‘daggering’ songs were banned from the air waves in the lead-up to the pre-Easter Road March and revelling. ‘Daggering’ encourages sexually violent posturings to match lewd lyrics which some feel should be banned if so recommended by the Broadcasting Commission . Others feel that banning it in favour of Carnival’s scanty Jouvert costumes and ‘wining’ would be unfair under the circumstances. Chairman Hopeton Dunn would be taking the matter to Parliament for consideration.
In late April news came that The Vybz had been banned from Antigua.
Tage feuds have been creating an uneasy hiatus that has become part and parcel of big stage shows, each ‘star’ performer such as Ninja, Beenie, Vybz –parading with his partisan defendants dressed for the part, lighting up the night sky with flares and colourful epithets, walking the walk and talking the talk ! Vital change could come from the Bountiful war-lord’s declaration that he would no longer participate in stage feuds. His new role was to save planet Jay-Aye from war On Stage.
One such feud between Vybz and Movado moved from stage to street where it rapidly ballooned to monster status even involving ‘schoolers’ sporting Kartel allegiance buttons and epaulettes, and finally forcing the PM to look down at his toe point where both performers had finally come to a stop. After the ‘meeting’ both entertainers agreed to use a joint concert as a peace forum.
More and more dancehall fans have been paying homage to hilarious birthday bashes (even Shebada of Roots Stage productions who is not a DJ jumped on that particular bandwaggon).
Another controversial event occurred in late April, when the revered ‘messenger’ Luciano was apprehended by law forces for harbouring an alleged wanted gunman on his premises as an agent of ‘security’ for his family. He denied the allegations in court up to October.
Entertainment, Music and E? (EME) Awards took place in February at the Jamaica Pegasus, while Reggae Industry Awards Day was July 1.
From a field of six nominated Jamaican entertainers nominated for the Grammy including Lee Scratch Perry, Elephant Man, Sly and Robbie, Heavy D and Shaggy, Burning Spear emerged winner with his album titled “Jah Is Real”. This is Spear’s second such award, his first being for the 1999 album “Calling Rastafari”
IRAWMA, the International Reggae and World Music Awards took place in New York in the spring. This was well attended by leading Jamaican and Trinidadian artistes, some of whom received awards –Beenie Man, Tarrus Riley, Etana, Queen Ifrica, Machel Montano, The Mighty Sparrow and Calypso Rose. Elephant Man, who was nominated for the first time for his “Let’s Get physical” album, and who spoke openly before the award show on how much it would mean to him and hardcore dancehall if he won this most prestigious award, was understandably disappointed.
lated to share an award with Riley, he did not appear at the function.
Jamaica At The Wicket ----- Arnold Bertram
A Child’s Voice - human-interest ----- Michelle Pranger
tories of old-time Jamaica ----- Easton Lee
The Book of Night Women ----- Marlon James
Shaggy Parrot ----- Kelly Magnus
Sprinting into History ----- Delano Franklyn
he Who sleeps with Bones ----- Tanya Shirley
Rungs on my Ladder ----- Eleanor Riley-evangelist
101 Perceptions… ----- Norman Newman
Write Now (calligraphy) ----- Beverly East
The Tie Came Home ----- Veronica Carnegie
The Reggae Boyz, ranked 69 by FIFA, did not finally qualify for the 2010 World Football Cup, and their desperate bid to play South Africa in the run-up did not dispel the resulting gloom. They tied in a friendly with Hosts ranked 85, at the 46,000-capacity Free State stadium at Vodacum Park in Johannesburg, venue for some of the games.
The recruitment of British ace John Barnes of Jamaican parentage early on had sparked some kind of desperate hope in Captain Horace Burrell’s breast, but that seemed to fizz when no fireworks came from the Boyz who played several home and away matches without achieving the competitive edge…..
John Barnes returned to the UK after six months, and was declared bankrupt in another six months. It is not known whether this untoward occurrence had anything to do with his turning his back on an island where obeah is still on the local vocabulary. Go figure.
The Reggae Girlz approached their football obligations with far more aplomb and determination. The team ended up winning seven of their eight matches at home and abroad.
CRICKET, the game, was still reeling from the collapse of Sir Allen Stanford’s Twenty20, which was launched in Kingston a year ago, took a nosedive. According to the worldview of British-based feature writer Diane Abbott of Jamaican heritage, his alleged US$9.2b fraud not only affected cricketing circles universally but cast an unflattering light on Antigua in particular and the Caribbean in general in terms of cricket sponsorships.
The first of a series of Test Matches began on February 7th when the West Indies beat England by 23 runs and an innings at Sabina Park. Jerome Taylor produced a career-best five for 11 reducing the visitors to their third lowest score ever in a test match. West Indies were later disgraced. The second match was abandoned after only ten balls at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in Antigua, as the pitch was unfit for play according to the standing umpire Alan Hurst. Some 8,000 English fans present were disappointed. The fourth match in Barbados ended in a draw.
In August after the coach was fired the team went on strike for three months citing payments and contracts. The second-rate team they had become could do no less than lose the test, one day and twenty20 in Bangladesh, as well as, the Champions Trophy in South Africa. Under a strained truce the full team ended up in Australia to vie in 3 tests leading up to Christmas.
George Headley Centenary in memory and honour of the great cricketer was celebrated at Lucas Cricket Club May 30. Interestingly, before the year ended, his longstanding 79 year Test century record, achieved at age 21, was finally broken by a 19 year-old player from Trinidad and Tobago.
ome superstitious person might ask, Was a silver cord broken at the Lucas celebration?
In vain the Sunshine Girls participated in ‘Best Champion Fitness’ exercises at the start of the year by camping at our coldest venue – Newcastle, in order to mimic the climatic conditions in England which was to host the highly anticipated 3-match International Netball Series tour. They were defeated 3-nil.
On the return of the Brits to Jamaica in March, and in their mid-year bid against New Zealand on English soil, their situation did not improve.
But in October they redeemed themselves by beating New Zealand into 3rd slot with 53-48, their first victory against the Silver Ferns since 2002.
This feat put a golden capping in the 50th Anniversary of the JNA
In February Jamaica won five gold medals at the Special Winter Olympics in Idaho, United States.
TRACK/FIELD was at its most vibrant in 2009, starting with Road To Champs, a new television feature which made its debut on CVM to follow the progress of young up-and-coming talent as well as to feature ongoing performance in local sports. Several landmark events led up to, and buttressed self confidence. Upscale training facilities such as MVP did help, as well as the newly inaugurated Western Relays at the GC Foster College of Sports Angels campus, St Catherine on February 14th., an event which was both highly anticipated and moderately successful
Athlete of the Year
The Sprint Champion of the Year Usain Bolt himself, had ended the previous year on a positive note on being named Athlete of the Year by the IAAF as expected, for his 9.69secs in the 100, 19.30 in the 100 and 200, also having shared in the 4x100 relay team’s victory at 37.10 seconds at the Beijing Olympics in August.
Perhaps in anticipation of his success, Track and Field made its local stage debut when the National Pantomime at Little Theatre (traditionally launched on Boxing Day) obviously took its name “Runner Boy” from his phenomenal exploits. Also, it may or may not have been coincidental that a Hollywood cartoon movie entitled BOLT arrived in cinema houses worldwide around the same time.
Bolt opened the 2009 season in Kingston at a Champs Classic on February 14 and an invitational meet at the UWI on February 21.
The trend of popularity and appreciation continued with the launch of a Usain Bolt website in collaboration with the Sun Island manufacturing company which spear headed his signature collection “The Executive Gift” for men, ladies,and children consisting of items such as polo shirts, caps, underwear and creative collectibles.
However, Bolt’s fan base might have begun to diminish when he made debateable statements about the use of ganja to the German press in April, when he did not perform in a later International meet at the National Stadium, and proceeded to overturn the top-of-the-line BMW (on a trip of dubious motive to the “fry-fish” capital Old Harbour). The car was gifted to him for performance in The Bird’s Nest. Some feared he might have sustained injury to his best sustainable assets, his feet, although the first words uttered out of the Spanish Town hospital were – “I’M OKAY”.
The naming of Highway 2000 after him did not sit well on all palates. One writer hoped the young man would decline the offer. He would not want he statistics associated with his name to include fatalities along the stretch.
But as usual, one comment in patois won out on the English:
“Smaddy can crash pon one road an yuh name it afta him?”
And I quote, ‘What is truth asked Doubting Pilate, but did not stay for an answer’.
Despite injury sustained in 2008, then reigning champion Asafa Powell had lowered his personal best when slight alarm surfaced after he disappointed the home crowd by not running at the April Invitational, and then pulling up at the prestigious Penn Relays in the same month.
The Annual Penn Relay Classics is another reliable forum which has over the years evolved as the premier post-Easter sports event in the Western world, with Jamaica as the Sprint Factory to fuel it The Uof Penn hosted the usual exciting and fulfilling meet with participants drawn from secondary and tertiary institutions, its cadre of visiting talent scouts armed with notebooks, cameras and tempting scholarship offers.
Often the extended rivalry between top-performing Jamaican institutions such as Dinthill, Calabar, Wolmers, Holmwood, JC and KC is played out before and after to an appreciative crowd of supporters and well wishers at the National Stadium Indoor Sports Arena in Kingston.
According to veteran commentator Hubert Lawrence of Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) who has commentated in the Sidney, Athens and Beijing Olympics respectively, members of the national team could harbour hopes of competing well in Berlin 2009,Osaka 2010, Beijing 2011and London 2012. But as we speak the Berlin Experience is already history, for that was where Bolt and the Jamaican Track and Field contingent ignited history and brought the world to its feet in wild outpourings of joy and exultation, with Bolt beating the American Gay to retain the IAAF World Athletics Title for a second time.
The award for female athlete of the year was shared between 200 metre gold medallist Veronica Campbell-Brown and 400-metre hurdles Olympic gold medal champion Melaine Walker
Early February Thomas Hall was awarded driver of the year 2008 at the Caymanas Golf Club from a competitive field of highly skilled performers usually hailing from Jamaica, Trinidad and Guyana.
The Jamaican Hockey team, the “Hummingbirds” played the United States- based team in Bermuda.
POWERFUL WOMEN continued to make history in Jamaica
Claudette Crooks ----- New Company - Money Masters Ltd
Zaila McCalla ----- First female Chief Justice of Jamaica
Dorothy Lightbourne ----- Leader of Government Business
Joy Douglas ----- New chief Urban Development Corporation
Rosalea Hamilton ----- Champion of Entrepreneurial Development
Paula Llewelyn ----- First female Director of Public Prosecutions
Marva McDonald ----- Puisne Judge
arah Thompson-James ----- Puisne Judge
Jacqueline Knight-Campbell ----- JTB guru
andra Glasgow ----- CEO Utech, PSOJ
Audrey Marks ----- Paymaster
Anne Shirley ----- Financial Analyst
Audrey Hinchcliffe ----- Janitorial
Mrs. Malahoo-Forte ----- Judicial
Janet Silvera ----- Mo Bay social luminary
Minna Israel ----- Banking guru
Duncan ----- JMMB
Dahlia Harris ----- Stage and TV personality
Ryan Peralto ----- Politics
Hartley Neita ----- Journalism
Keith Shervington ----- Entrepreneur
Marie Atkins ----- Mayor of Kingston
Lucille Mair Mathurin ----- Seacole Hall luminary
Probyn Aitken ----- Politics
Wayne Brown ----- Writer/Lecturer
Trevor Rhone ----- Eminent Playwright
Wycliffe Bennett ----- The Arts
Philip Hamilton ----- Educator
Michal Pryce ----- TV and Radio Personality
Lady Bustamante ----- Politics and Trade Unionism
Wycleff Bennett ----- Arts