Month: May 2016

Why police brutality is wrong

Recently a video showing JCF members manhandling a dead body has made its rounds online. It was for the most part greeted with disgust at the act of tossing the body like a leg of goat and disdain for the police for again showing zero regard for people’s rights to decency even in death.

Now however we have been greeted by the persons who say that no tears must be shed for the individual as they were accused of engaging in a shootout with the police, I humbly and respectfully say that they miss the point.

The disgust at this incident and the reason why human rights organizations rail up whenever a person is wantonly killed by the police is because it sets a precedent.

People are creatures of habit, and if we tell the police that for whatever reason it is ok to do extrajudicial killings in certain circumstances and then back them to the hilt while the force hierarchy stalls investigations while making excuses it is only a matter of time before that becomes the standard operating procedure.

This can be seen plainly in Jamaica where extrajudicial killings were first used in a major way when violence flared up in the 70’s, and now we have a force that shoots first and rarely if ever asks questions. What more proof do we need than the two officers accused of shooting wantonly at a car wounding a female passenger? That is the product of decades of extrajudicial killings, a shoot first ask questions later mentality and a group who feels too big for its britches.

Human Rights are just that, human and the groups speak on behalf of the worst of society because how you treat them is a barometer of how you treat the rest of society. While the groups haven’t helped themselves optics wise by mainly being vocal on cases involving alleged criminals there work is important and should continue along with that of INDECOM, for while all officers aren’t bad there is a culture of aloofness and basic disregard for civilians that needs to be changed. Hopefully this latest incident will be the catalyst for change and not another nine day wonder.

Wildlife trafficking

Jamaica is endowed with many natural wonders, some beautiful beaches, lovely rivers and falls, and a picturesque landscape. Lost in all this however I feel are (indigenous) animals , rarely do we see advertisements covering our manatees or turtles, you will however be advised of the crocodiles and dolphins.

The lack of animal safety laws rubs me the wrong way. Not only because I like both flora and fauna, but more importantly the nations bottom line is being affected.

The illegal trafficking of animals is a multi billion dollar industry and one that affects Jamaica. We have much wildlife that is indigenous here and which on the international black market fetch a pretty penny. Crocodiles, turtles and birds are perfect examples of animals that are routinely trafficked, spirited away as babies to go to fulfill some persons ego trip.

Apart from trafficking we also have the illegal hunting that has a detrimental effect on our birds, mining in all sorts of ‘protected’ land that will destroys the habits of animals forever. That coupled with the over fishing will destroy fish stocks for future generations the wildlife that we have become numb to and allow to be abused.

I say all this however not to be a tree hugger or sound like a hippie. To put it plainly there is a massive amount of money to be made from the environment through eco tourism. Eco tourism is no longer a fad and is now a multi billion dollar industry, and as seen by Costa Rica if done right can be a real money spinner.

If Jamaica is serious about tapping into all that tourism has to offer then eco tourism must be on the cards. With some of the most beautiful falls and forests in the Caribbean (albeit diminishing forests) we should be looking to exploit that market.

Eco tourism would also be a great job promoter I believe. It would bring jobs to areas such as St Mary and Portland, where tourism is at a standstill and to St Thomas where it is almost nonexistent. These jobs would be as guides, caretakers, drivers, chefs and everything else that the tourist industry needs.

This can be done, the option is not the environment or the money, we can have our cake and eat it too in this case. This administration states that it is thinking outside the box, it has talked a good game and it seems to be attempting to walk the walk, hopefully the tourism minister who seems to be receptive to new ideas looks into it. Jamaica’s environment and its coffers could do with the break.

Pedestrian safety

Over the past twenty years Jamaica has seen a massive influx of cars. Wether new or used every year seems to greet us with an ever increasing amount of vehicular traffic, accompanying this however we have also seen a spike in road fatalities.

As a person who enjoys walking it is easy to see why each year we see dozens of pedestrians mowed down. With roads built so narrowly so that cars fight for space at the peril of the pedestrian, with sidewalks either nonexistent or so damaged forcing pedestrians to walk in the road and with pedestrian crossings not repainted in a timely fashion is it any wonder pedestrians are dropping like flies?

Like most things in life however the blame lies on both sides of the aisle, with the pedestrian, the motorist and the state.

The state needs to take blame for the poor conditions that it constantly leaves the road in. Just looking at how our roads are designed and maintained it is clear that pedestrians get no love or thought (see the few crosswalkls on Waterloo road as an example).

The motorist needs to take some blame too as not all of them are not saints on the road. How often do we see drivers speeding up while persons are attempting to use the crosswalk? How often do we see drivers lost in there phones oblivious to pedestrians crossing the road? And how often do we see drivers absolutely disregarding stop signs and lights that are there to ease pedestrian traffic along with motor traffic?

And finally the pedestrian needs to take some of the blame too. How often do we see pedestrians running in the middle of the road when the light is green? How often do we see pedestrians straggling in the road like goats taking there own sweet time? And finally how often do we see pedestrians blatantly disregarding the crosswalks and instead crossing where they feel like?

We all need to take the blame and we all need to fix it. The state must ensure that crosswalks are up and visible and have the police actively enforce the road code. The drivers need to obey the road code and pay attention while driving on the road and the pedestrians need to follow the rules, usr crosswalks, wait there turn and stop at green lights.

We need to do this and do this fast. Road fatalities coupled with our murder rate leaves far too much blood shed and potential unfulfilled not to mention leaves families grieving. Let us put an end to it, lowering road fatalities can be done and is low hanging fruit for success, I only hope that we act soon because too much blood is being shed on our roads.

Interesting times at Hope Road

The recent sounds coming out of PNP hq are very interesting to see what with the heated campaign to replace Dr Omar Davis and the subtle but obvious race to replace Portia Simpson-Miller as party leader.

There are two things however that seem to have been overlooked by most people. The first is that the race for ‘jungle’ is a proxy race for the PNP presidency. Mark Golding is joined at the hip to Bunting and if Golding wins the seat expect him and his delegates to vote for Bunting. That would be two sets of delegates firmly in favour of seeing Bunting take the throne. Collins Campbell on the other hand is a seasoned veteran and card carrying member of the old guard. If Campbell were to get the seat I would be shocked if he didn’t put his political weight behind Peter Phillips who is being heavily backed by the old guard and Paulwell.

The second interesting thing that has gotten little in-depth coverage is that of the young Turks. With Lisa Hannah now explicitly stating that she is only looking for the vice-presidency of the party we have to ask what is happening there? With Lisa being so vociferous and vocal in the parties need for youth in top positions I can’t see her being satisfied with a token vp position.

Could it be that the Turks are indeed coalescing around a candidate? Patrick Roberts comments on Julian Robinson running for the party leadership still hangs in the air and was met with no outrage or spin by the Robinson camp. We also have Crawford who is still very active within the party and he will have a larger platform with his radio show, who will he throw his support behind?

That they as individuals (the Turks) have given up on aspirations of power and change within the party is unlikely. Another unspoken possibility is that of the Turks aligning with Dr Phillips. I do not agree with that tactic for two reasons, firstly Dr Phillips is a product of the old guard and the PNP members want a shakeup, and secondly while he has his times he doesn’t think outside the box enough as seen with the IMF program where we passed as a nation but we the individuals barely felt the effects of it.

Maybe the young Turks are running an insurgent campaign, the average party member is miffed to put it mildly and the young Turks represent the best chance for them to get the change that they want within the party so for the sake of the party faithful who for too long have been sold a dream by the party leadership I hope that the young Turks are not giving up but campaigning in silence.

Corruption real and perceived

Corruption is rampant in Jamaica, just ask anyone on the street and they will tell you tales of being personally bribed by cops or they know of friends bribed by JP’S. Corruption is apparently so rampant that we have all but forgotten the scandals that were Trafigura and the overpriced bridge to nowhere.

But is it that bad and who is to blame? The answer to the first part of the question is yes, it is that bad. When cops routinely bribe persons at traffic stops, when persons in the tax department take a ‘smalls’ to speed up the process and when judges are occasionally bought off we have a serious problem.

As it relates to who to blame the answer is us, the everyman. We are to blame for the rampant corruption because for too long we either benefited from it or for whatever reason did not voice dissatisfaction sooner. These people did not drop from the sky, the police officer comes from a community, but we as a nation have all indulged corruption for so long that it is now strange to find an honest person.

Corruption doesn’t only mean the theft of large sums of money, something as simple as someone skipping you is a corrupt act, something simple as a cop lying to get a known thug off the street is corrupt. We indulge these little things at our own risk, silence in face of corruption breeds confidence in the corrupt parties and leads them to be more emboldened and do bigger corrupt acts.

Corruption eats away at society, it destroys confidence in the state and leaves people vulnerable to the desires of unscrupulous persons. Corruption leaves us a nation and individuals poorer in the pocket when it results in higher taxes because that is an almost surefire way for the state to collect revenue. It affects our kids when shady characters indulge them in the act of cheating at school or mentally corrupting them with money for ‘loving’.

We as a nation have some serious thinking to do, are we serious about fighting corruption and who will take the first step? The current administration and opposition state they are against all forms of corruption, let us see.

In the likely event that a road contract is done shoddily, the government should take the mater to civil court. In cases of cops planting evidence lock them up and JP’S peddling influence strip them of the title. This would go a long way, because not only would it make the corrupt stop and think, but the people would see that the state is serious about tackling corruption, and as most politicians know, perception is far more influential on an individual than reality.

Good marketing

The election is over, the administration has settled and the budget has been read, the JLP seems to be holding its own so far, however we still seem to be in campaign mode with one party in particular buying up much ad space.

The JLP is playing a smart game so far. Many critics said the tax plan as was originally presented was not feasible and as such the general public grew ever more suspicious that this was a ploy to win the election. However with the budget being read and the tax reform (note not the promised break) the JLP has something to speak of, a job (partially) complete.

This is something to be proud of if you barely squeezed an electoral victory by one seat and with the local government election coming up the JLP needs to remind people just why they voted for them in the general.

Spin, that is the name of the game in politics, making the average look extraordinary and making a half fulfilled promise look like a wholly kept deal. That is the art of politics and that is what we see this JLP administration doing in its infancy.

During the Patterson years the PNP wan known for it spin and its way with words, now we see a party that lost an election partly because it failed to communicate and herald there achievements (yes they had some) loudly and earlier.

That is on the PNP, but kudos to Andrew and the JLP hierarchy for learning from there opponents mistakes. With the mobile app (the PNP app is still down), a constant harping of the campaign slogan (poverty to prosperity) and a barrage of information being disseminated to the people, if they lose the local government election they really have no one to blame but themselves. However it is refreshing to see a party and a leader care so personally that people get the message, PNP take note.

Is CARICOM serious?

I am proudly and unashamedly a regionalist. I see it as a practical answer to many of our individual problems as nations as well as a coming together of family as it were. However I am also a realist and as such am forced to ask the question is CARICOM fit for purposes and is it serious?

We have in the Caribbean a plethora of natural resources, from oil to diamonds and yet instead of our regional manufacturing heads coming together to make the best deals for there respective nations manufacturing base and regional manufacturing base we instead choose to go it alone.

Instead of Trinidadian oil being used to benefit regional manufacturing (like in the setting up of an aluminum plant) they instead use shady trade practices that leave everyone paying more for oil. Instead of the free movement of people to work and for leisure we have immigration authorities turning persons back for no real reason apart from national stigma.

Instead of regional industrialists pondering how to better link the resources of the group so we can all benefit with hear talk of boycotts. If Jamaican manufacturers were serious they could do that, purchase companies in varying fields that are really all interlinked so that profits manufacturing knowledge may return to Jamaica.

Instead of actively trying to fix the hot mess that is Haiti we instead leave it to outside powers with no idea of the history, present or culture of Haiti then we act surprised when the mess remains.

However the biggest mark against CARICOM is Cuba. For forty years CARICOM has been in existence and for forty years they have called for and end to the unjust embargo against Cuba. However it was all lip service, as opposed to serious integration with Cuba we instead rely on them for the odd scholarship and nurses (both of which are appreciated).

However a nation that historically similar to us and that close should have been integrated from before. We could have used there discipline and do without attitude in CARICOM and in return we could have shown them (the leadership) that democracy isn’t to be feared.

Unfortunately we have blown that opportunity and I fear we may never get it back. CARICOM as it is now is useless, too many needless arguments, too much envy/stigma and far too much doublespeak from politicians. If regional unity is to be found in any form then CARICOM must be disbanded and a new well thought out regional entity take it’s place, if not we will continue to be used as chess pieces used by great powers as they aim for regional supremacy.

West Kingston renovation

Horace Chang stating that west Kingston downtown ( a JLP old stomping ground and constituency) is in appalling conditions as it relates to housing and other facilities is nothing new, that area has been an eyesore for some time. It is also not new for proclamations of the government getting ready to fix these issues, these are statements that have been uttered before.

However something feels different with this administration, whether real or perceived people are willing to watch and give them an oh so small chance because they claimed to be different.

In that vein I call on the government to not only fix the stronghold of Tivoli and let the rest of town rot, let us not play partisan politics with what boils down to people’s living conditions. Hopefully this administration does the right thing and fixes downtown, be it Tivoli or Tel Aviv political affiliation should not come into play when it comes to fixing these places.

Acting in this light would benefit not only Jamaica and Kingston on a whole but would also bode well for the politicians. It would show that they have matured beyond partisan lines and that they view us as a united people and not votes to be got. It would also benefit the JLP in the selfish way in that they may even win over votes of persons in PNP constituencies.

The JLP under Andrew claims to be practising a different type of politics, here in the volatile and partisan city of Kingston they have a chance to show it. Will they sure up there own power base and share spoils amongst there political brethren, or will they try to ensure as many people benefit? We watch keenly.

The American pivot

We sit here almost sixteen years since George W Bush was elected president of the U.S. and in that time Latin America and the Caribbean have flourished.

It is no coincidence that during this southern American Renaissance our neighbors to the north were really not paying us any mind, they were involved in interventions further afield, ‘breaking the shackles of taliban oppression’ in Afghanistan and bringing ‘democracy’ to Iraq. During this time the people’s of southern America experimented with governments of different flavours, some as in Venezuela, hardcore socialists, in Ecuador a flat left wing (but not extreme) government and what can only be described as a democratic socialist government in Brazil.

During this time the nation’s of the region experimented with different trade partners, mainly China. Regional matters were also spoken of in an open way, now no longer as fearful of what the U.S. would say. One such example was the Cuban issue. For nigh on sixty years Cuba had been unjustly excluded from the OAS and almost to a man Latin America backed the US stance, however during this brief respite from American domination the OAS voted to reintroduce Cuba and if America wouldn’t play ball they would be collectively frozen out and shamed publicly.

But all of that is changing. Ever so quietly, the U.S. has made a pivot to the Americas in an attempt to reassert there authority over there ‘backyard’.

This could first be seen openly in Jamaica during the Bruce Golding years. They were having discussions about selling the port to the Chinese, all was going along swimmingly barring a few usual bumps. Then out of the blue, when it looked like a deal was but a few months away we backed out. Why, may you ask did a nation up to debt to its eyeballs scuttle a multi billion dollar deal?

Convenient wikileaks cables show us that the U.S. pressured the Jamaican government to scuttle the deal because it was seen as an existential threat to U.S. regional hegemony.

This pattern was to be repeated. In Honduras we saw and continue to see the U.S. openly endorsing the coup and the government it installed, in Argentina we see state department money flowing through the ruling parties coffers which aided them greatly in seizing power after a lengthy political exile While Venezuela, who’s ruling party really hasn’t helped themselves in the recent past and especially since the passing of Chavez, sees an opposition that is finally united and still flush with U.S. capital.

That this should happen should not surprise us, the U.S. has and will forever view Latin America and the Caribbean as it’s backyard and plaything, that is not new. What is interesting is that the US is doing the maneuvers in a silent way.

No longer do they use death squads and military coups, now they use parliamentary instiimpeachments to try topple them like in Brazil or opposition parties are financed to the hilt by US ngo’s that openly preach neo-liberalism.

The US is trying to regain its stranglehold on the Caribbean and Latin America and as seen by recent happenings in Brazil they will stop at nothing and will do anything along with there cronies.

However spanners have been thrown in the machine. Venezuela is solidly split in half as can be seen in the violent protests for and against Maduro, Brazil is embroiled in protests for and against Dilma even after her unjust impeachment and the majority of parliamentarians who brought forward the motion of impeachment face serious corruption allegations all while the Argentinean president is facing increasing pressure due to the Panama papers leak. Latin America is finally having the discussion about American influence and how much they should have and it’s oligarchs are staunchly against it.

This discussion will not be a quiet one, too much money, honour and blood is involved but is a discussion that needs to be had nonetheless. America has ruled the Americas unchecked for almost a century, Latin America for longer, they have done a lot of good and a lot of bad in the region but yet we as a people and individual nations have had no say, something must give.

The usual suspects will chime in saying that the US is doing nothing or at most nothing wrong, these are the same people who refused to believe that the CIA was responsible for Allende or destroyed El Salvador, but as seen with the wikileaks cables nothing stays in the dark forever, a change is on the horizon.

Education upliftment

It is a well worn statement that education is the key and that statement is true today as it was when first coined. However the question has to be asked do we take education seriously, and do we take our educators and training them seriously?

The Mico university college is one of the oldest teachers college’s in the English speaking Caribbean, however to enter this prestigious institution one simply needs five CSEC subjects. Let that sink in for a moment, the person teaching your child about economics or mathematics needs only five CSEC and not CAPE subjects.

With the minimal qualifications and paltry pay is it any wonder that teaching attracts those ‘looking a work’ while alienating those who both love teaching and are more qualified?

Now I am by no means suggesting that our teachers must hold PhDs in order to teach and I accept that there is no fat on the calf for a pay increase, but we can and must be creative. If we actually take the education of our children then we need to raise the required standard need to enter teachers college, it is just obvious that a substandard teacher will in the end bring down the students they are teaching.

As it relates to the salary, while that can’t be changed at the moment we can be creative with benefits. Teachers could get greater housing allowances, greater allowances for children studying, greater transportation and food allowances. All of these are measures that can be taken if creative thinking and bold action is taken.

A simple cut in the salary or the MPs and PM could see tonnes of money saved to use for this venture. Conference calls are used for deal making in fortunate 500 companies, is Jamaica too good for this cost cutting measure? Cuts in the salaries of political appointees such as the the head of NSWMA and NWA could also be used to fund this venture.

Money is wasted in the courts when one has to wait on paper documents, stamps and seals all of which could be done via computer. Money is wasted in the tax offices again with paper and needless duplicate stamps and money is wasted when contracts are given to shady contractors who do shoddy work that requires more money being spent to fix the damage caused.

The money is there, lots of money is wasted in the corridors of government and creative usage of it could see us not only answer our teacher question but also that of the police and nurses. The question again remains are members on both sides of the aisle ready to make the sacrifices to not only mirror the sacrifices of the people, but to also show that they are ready to be leaders.