Windrush Day – Poor Timing?

The British government announced that 22 June will be declared Windrush Day. In their press release they stated..

[“A national Windrush Day will take place on 22 June every year to celebrate the contribution of the Windrush Generation and their descendants.”

“The event will be overseen by a body of British Caribbean representatives and a Windrush Day grant of up to £500,000 will be available each year to charities and communities seeking to hold commemorative and educational events.”

“events, including the following:

  • National Service of Thanksgiving at Westminster Abbey
  • AGE UK Windrush 70 tea party hosted by Lambeth Council
  • Phoenix Dance Company performance of Windrush: Movement of the People at Lambeth Town Hall
  • Commemorative ‘platinum’ pin badges designed by Brixton-based design group Champion Agency to be distributed at key Windrush 70 events throughout the country”

Some leaders in the black community has welcomed the government’s plan

“Windrush Foundation Director Arthur Torrington said………..The announcement of a national Windrush Day is a moment of great satisfaction. It will cement in the national consciousness the important contribution of those who travelled from the Caribbean to Britain 70 years ago to build a better life and participate in making Britain a stronger nation.”]

I cannot see any point for this Windrush Day whatsoever. The speed by some in the black community to welcome this announcement is just baffling. Given the current Windrush scandal – exacerbated by PM Theresa May’s decisions – is so far from being resolved anytime soon.

Why now?

Accepting such a token gesture by the government is a scandal in itself. The Afro-Caribbean community should be demanding answers and resolutions to the Windrush scandal, ensure the victims are compensated fairly and find out what the government intends to do to repair the long term damage caused to the many victims.

With all these burning issues still unresolved it is rather bemusing for this patronising suggestion to come up at such an inappropriate time. Again, I am baffled how some have been so receptive to the Windrush Day idea. Some Labour Party MPs have rightly questioned this decision and its timing.

 

  • Exactly how many of these Windrush linked British residents were detained?
  • How many were deported?
  • How many (if any) ended up in mental institutions?
  • How many passed away?
  • Did any suffer major illnesses while in detention or following their deportation?
  • How many lost their jobs and homes?
  • Has compensation terms been finalised?

The public is still yet to know the official findings on the death of Jamaican Carlington Spencer while at an Immigration Detention Centre in October 2017.

This Windrush debacle is the biggest scandal to affect the Afro-Caribbean community in my lifetime.

  • Do we really need the launch of a Windrush Day when victims of the scandal are still suffering?
  • How can we accept this Windrush Day concept from the same people who made the lives of many Windrush residents a 21st century nightmare? 

If you have been following the responses by Ministers and officials at the Home Affairs Select Committee hearings you will know how callous, unprofessional, evasive and careless the department over its handling of this scandal.

Advertisements
Posted in british politics, Caribbean, human rights, Immigration, WINDRUSH | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Seaga’s Highway to Jamaican Immortality?

In Jamaica recently, the North-South Highway (opened in 2016) was renamed after former Prime Minister/Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) leader Edward Seaga. The decision to rename the highway in Seaga’s honour was made by current Prime Minister and JLP leader Andrew Holness. Initial suggestion came from Energy Minister Dr Andrew Wheatley. In February Holness had renamed the state-run PetroJam corporate office ‘The Edward Seaga Building’.

The official Opposition People’s National Party (PNP) was livid at this new highway name-change. The PNP felt that a decade ago – when he was Opposition Leader – Seaga was so dead against the construction of the highway and thus felt insulted by Holness’ decision to honour his former mentor.

Edward-Seaga-1-640x425

l-r Edward Seaga, Patricia Holness, Andrew Holness

Some PNP supporters protested at the renaming ceremony. They suggested that the highway be renamed in honour of former Prime Minister/PNP leader Portia Simpson-Miller. They felt Simpson-Miller was more influential in getting the highway plans into action. Why always politicians eh?

I am not a fan of politicians being planted with such endorsements. I was never a fan when the highway from Kingston to May Pen was renamed after former PM and PNP leader P.J. Paterson back in 2015. It all smacks of political self-adulation of the worst kind.

IMG_20180616_221630.jpg

l-r Omar Davies, Portia Simpson-Miller, P.J. Paterson

Since gaining independence from the UK in 1962, elected Jamaican politicians have had this insatiable urge to name major landmarks after their political buddies and heroes. Their supporters are happy to go along with such partisan endorsements.

Whether it be airports, highways, bank notes, buildings or education institutions political leaders are quick to reward their own in this self indulgent manner. Most of them honoured being men.

[At Petrojam’s renaming ceremony Holness said the gesture to honour Seaga “is our way of saying we love you, we cherish the work you have done and we have to find more ways to symbolise it”.]

These actions gives a sad perception that only politicians are worthy of such grand adulation, when their contribution to Jamaica is no better when compared to others in the field of say education, agriculture, science, sports, music and the arts. We can easily surmise that it is the politicians of the 1960-1990s that created the platform for Jamaica’s decay into today’s violent society.

If you lived through the political violence of the 1970s and 1980s you do have to question if any politician (PNP, JLP or Communist) from that era deserves the highest of public honours.

In 1976, Hasley Crawford won the 100m Olympics sprint gold and the Trinidadian government renamed their National Stadium in his honour. Donald Quarrie won gold and silver (behind Crawford) at the same 1976 Olympics and a minor secondary school in Harbour View, Kingston was renamed in his honour.

Yes, there are few roads named after the occasional sportsperson, educator and musician. Some statues too. Yet it is the political class that seem hell bent to have their names enshrined above any other professional group.

Most local bank notes today are named after politicians. Not one of the many high achieving sport personalities, writers or musicians has come close to having their name on a bank note. But there is hope from the younger generation given what happened to current JLP Cabinet Minister, Mike Henry.

Mike Henry has been Member of Parliament for his constituency of May Pen for 38 years. In 2016, there were plans to rename a school in Henry’s constituency – Denbigh High – in his honour. The suggestion came from stakeholders in the local community. During the consultation process current and past students objected to the proposal under the slogan “Denbigh High Forever, No Change!”

In the end Henry saw this objection and asked for his name to be withdrawn from the proposal. Henry has been indeed one of the very few Jamaican politicians who has spoken out on issues affecting black Jamaicans such as reparations and to legalise medicinal marijuana.

The next new bank note issued should have the name of a person(s) from the music or sporting industry. It’s high time the National Stadium is named after a sporting figure such as Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce or Usain Bolt.

Maybe consulting  the public is to way forward before naming future landmarks. But will the political class have the guts to give up this authority?

We Do Need Other Official Heroes

It is one of the reasons from my school days at Glenmuir High (in Henry’s constituency) that I was never wholeheartedly a fan of the National Heroes ethos in Jamaica, where we have placed only 7 (6 males) people as worthy of Jamaica’s highest award of national recognition.

Why has Jamaica not bestowed National Heroes status on the likes of The Wailers, Usain Bolt, Louise Bennett-Coverley, Mary Seacole, Una Marson, Dr Heloise Lewis, Sir Arthur Wint and some of those Jamaicans who were involved in both World Wars?

If in the 500 plus years of Jamaica’s colonial and independent existence we can only come up with just one female (Nanny of the Maroons) as worthy of Jamaica’s highest recognition, then the island has a serious problem with how its history is being told. Especially as we all know it is our mothers and grandmothers who have been (and still do) the real backbone of Jamaica. Worth noting that none of Jamaica’s current National Heroes was born in the 20th century.

Marcus Garvey was officially named Jamaica’s first National Hero in the 1960s. But can we really downgrade the significant work of his two former wives Amy Ashwood Garvey and in particular Amy Jacques Garvey when compared to Marcus? Both wives are treated in popular culture as footnotes when their own work should be elevated more widely.

As Amy Jacques Garvey once said in 1926..“The Negro woman is the backbone of the race, but it is not natural that white, yellow or brown men will give her full credit for it, when her own men are too narrow-minded to tell it to the world.”

As with the naming landmarks issue, maybe the criteria for achieving National Hero status needs to be reviewed, modernised and allow the public to have their say.

 

Posted in jamaica, jamaican, usain bolt | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Windrush Generation Let Down by All of Us

Quite rightly the Theresa May led Conservative government deserves the public outrage hitting them now over the Windrush scandal.

In 2013, when then Home Secretary Theresa May drafted her immigration policy there was not this tumultuous outrage happening today. But while some raised concerns too many others ignored the severity of May’s proposed legislation.

Even the then Labour Party under Ed Miliband displayed little resistance which was no surprise. As a number of his owns MPs were there in government when Labour developed their own draconian immigration policies to impress the xenophobes.

The idea of making West Indian born long term UK residents stateless was sneaky cruel legislation that should never had passed the first hurdle in parliament. Then Prime Minister David Cameron and his deputy Nick Clegg must take some of the blame as they had the authority to block May’s plans.

  • Should David Cameron also apologise as May has done?
  • Why did it take 5 years for this scandal to finally explode in the government’s face?

Last year I found it hypocritical when there were protests on UK streets over Donald Trump’s immigration policy. Where were they in 2013 and  2014, 2015 2016 when long term UK residents were facing deportation and clear denial of their basic human rights?

So in recent weeks the scandal came to a head thanks especially to The Guardian’s Amelia Gentleman.

The Conservative government’s apology was more corporate than heartfelt. It means nothing and is a clear signal they were covering up their incompetence. Home Secretary Amber Rudd has looked clueless.

In the past such a huge scandal would immediately cost ministers their jobs. But chief architect May and Rudd seems safe. As the Daily Mail, Telegraph, BBC, Murdoch papers, political pundits are helping the government deflect from the scandal. As they fear the collapse of May’s minority government could leave the door open for Jeremy Corbyn. Can May really sack Rudd over a scandal that she and then Immigration Minister Mark Harper championed?

0006LWNU7FKJ1JLG-C122-F4

Rudd and May – new additions to the Home Secretary’s Hall of Shame?

Labour Party Culpable?

Labour Party MP, David Lammy made some powerful remarks in parliament to Amber Rudd which has gone viral. He has been one of the public faces of anger since the scandal broke.

But where was Lammy’s voice in 2013? 2014?…in 2016? when the immigration legislation was going through parliament? Better late than never?

Why did only 6 Labour MPs (incl. Diane Abbott & Jeremy Corbyn) vote against aspects of the 2014 Immigration Bill? Why did the other 250+ Labour MPs abstain? Incl. David Lammy.

BBC 2013: Labour backs Theresa May’s immigration plan.

We can not forget how the Tony Blair and Gordon Brown Labour governments themselves developed immigration policies that were very anti-Jamaican and draconian at times. Some Labour government ministers and MPs were even condemned for their own right wing rhetoric on immigration.

e.g.  Immigration Minister Phil Woolas and Trade Minister Margaret Hodge. Hodge earned plaudits from the far right British National Party.

Despite these underhand anti-Jamaican immigration policies, UK governments have never stopped unashamedly raiding Jamaica for its best nurses and teachers. I am certain this recruitment approach by Britain will again intensify following BREXIT.

The last 17 years has seen some law-abiding Jamaican immigrants dragged from their home or work place and locked up in detention centres for months, only to be released with no further action taken. No apology. No compensation for loss of earnings.

Some of them;

  • such as Carlington Spencer died in detention in October 2017,
  • had their passports confiscated by the Home Office for over 5 years; which made it difficult to find employment or even to just leave to visit sick relatives,
  • lost their life savings thanks to exorbitant fees charged by unscrupulous legal advisers,
  • suffered severe depression,
  • were wrongfully deported long before the current Windrush scandal was exposed.

Silent Voices & Leadership

I am disappointed that too many high profile figures within the Afro Caribbean community kept quiet over the years. But the biggest disappointment for me has been the response by successive Jamaican governments.

Many Jamaicans have been damaged greatly at the hands of the UK’s immigration bullying tactics and you never heard any public outrage from Jamaica’s elected officials with the possible exception of Mike Henry.

Jamaica’s Prime Minister Andrew Holness was asked – recently on British TV – by Piers Morgan about how long was he aware of the Windrush scandal. Holness’ response was “2 months” ago. I was gobsmacked at Holness’ answer, given that Windrush scandal stories were in the public sphere from as far back as 2014. The cases of Neville Mckenzie (2014) and Lloyd Bogle (2015) appeared in the Jamaican media.

If Holness spoke truthfully then he should question the effectiveness of his entire High Commission team in London. Holness must reprimand his own Foreign Ministry for being so out of touch with these serious issues in the UK.

Who is our Joanna Lumley?

Governments in today’s pop culture tend to react swiftly whenever high profile figures, celebrities condemn on any of their policies.

A perfect example was in 2009, when British actress Joanna Lumley stood up for the residential rights of some in the Gurkha community who themselves faced deportation from the UK. Lumley became the public voice for the Gurkhas and used her reputation to great success. She publicly embarrassed then Immigration Minister Phil Woolas and forced a u-turn from the government.

Joanna+Lumley+Phil+Woolas+Gurkha+Campaigners+dI29gVbv0pwl

The Look of Loathe: Joanna Lumley confronts Immigration Minister Phil Woolas over deportation threats to the Gurkhas 

Just imagine the British government’s reaction if a Usain Bolt, a Lenny Henry, a Naomie Harris or a Beverley Knight spoke out forcefully in 2013 over May’s immigration proposals.

Bolt had spoken out against British tax laws and had refused to race in the UK. But David Cameron bowed to pressure and amended the tax laws that allowed Bolt to race there once again. Indeed some of Bolt’s relatives were part of the Windrush generation.

For the past 2 decades too many in the Afro Caribbean community stood still and allowed Labour and Tory governments to demean the contributions of the Jamaican community in particular. A contribution that goes back 400 years.

What Next?

  • Debates in the House of Parliament continues and the Home Affairs Select Committee has started their own investigations with public hearings. In these open forums we are learning more on the incompetence of the Home Office and in particular Amber Rudd; who was clueless of her own department’s removal targets. The victims in all this I am certain will be invited to speak at the select committee hearings.
  • High profile figures from Britain’s Afro Caribbean community need to get more involved publicly. Yes, some may fear being black listed or lose sponsors if they do so. But their voices and leadership is needed on issues such as immigration, deaths in custody, education, jobs, violent and youth crime, reparations, economy or police corruption.
  • The government in the past week has taken steps to correct the injustice petered out to the Windrush generation. Sounds promising but the Afro Caribbean community must scrutinize the governments new proposals, check the fine prints, keep up the pressure and challenge without delay.

5 years was too long for the Windrush scandal to be exposed and shame the Conservative government. But this is not only a scandal for the Conservatives, but also for the Afro Caribbean community.

We should have demonstrated more resolutely from 2013, when it became clear that May’s proposals would affect the Afro Caribbean community the hardest. We didn’t bombard MPs, Ministers and the media with our concerns. We did not protests in our tens of thousands outside Parliament or the Home Office. Our leadership and campaign throughout this episode was pathetic.

We should have fought back stronger with our messaging and activism from when the Jamaica immigrant-bashing first started under the Blair government and has continued up to today.

For that, many of us in the Afro Caribbean community – including me – also need to say sorry to the victims of the Windrush scandal.

Updates since 7 May

  1. Rudd has been replaced as Home Secretary by Sajid Javid who promised to do everything for those affected. But.
  2. Labour Party’s motion for the government to release all the background Home Office papers over Windrush was voted down by the government. Of the the 258 Labour MPs in Parliament only 180 supported the motion, meaning approximately 78 abstainedhttps://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2018-05-02/division/3EF4C05B-49AA-4A0D-B42D-B8704A4429DC/Windrush?outputType=Party
  3. Gretel Gocan, 81, was stranded in Jamaica for nine years after she went to the island for her sister’s funeral in 2009 – and was wrongly refused entry..
  4. The past 13 years Hubert Howard has tried repeatedly to persuade the Home Office that he is in the UK legally, having arrived here in 1960, aged three, with his mother. His repeated attempts to obtain a British passport were rejected, and as a result he lost his job and was denied benefits, leaving him with no money to live on. More significantly, he was unable to travel to visit his mother in Jamaica before she died.” – The Guardian 11 May 2018
home-001.jpg

Kilburn, North West London 1970ish

Posted in BBC, BREXIT, British Labour Party, british politics, Caribbean, Current affairs, david cameron, england, Immigration, jamaica, jamaican, jeremy corbyn, labour party, politics, theresa May, uk politics, un, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

May’s Russian Bluff over Salisbury

The political fallout from the alleged nerve agent Salisbury attack against former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia should never have happened. The diplomatic mess caused by Prime Minister Theresa May is embarrassing. Not that the wider British public would realise this thanks to pro-May coverage in the media.

Accusing the Russian government and expelling diplomats thereafter – based on flimsy evidence – was incompetence of an amateurish level. That the media, Tory MPs and some backbench Labour Party MPs fell for the spin from Downing Street was entirely predictable.

The minute May first disclosed news of the alleged Russia government involvement you knew she was hiding something. The truth. The fact that she was not willing to share any hard evidence with colleagues and Jeremy Corbyn was classic May.

During her time as Home Secretary senior staff would complain of May’s bunker-type mentality and withholding key information and decisions from even her own junior ministers and key relevant staff.

The classic May is – make a big statement then retreat into the background leaving others such as her media friends to spin information to crazy levels.

In Parliament, Jeremy Corbyn, Labour Party leader, was correct to challenge May’s assertions of the Russian government’s involvement. Most of the British media, the government and Labour backbench MPs mocked his stance. Labelling him a traitor, not fit to become PM and a Vladimir Putin stooge.

But Corbyn – like many of us – has seen much too often where  governments and law enforcement officials have got their initial claims on high profile incidents so wrong. e.g. Hillsborough,  Manchester bombing, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Jean Charles de Menenez, Jill Dando, Rachel Nickell, Stephen Lawrence etc.

The minute Theresa May started to use safe terms like “high likely”, “culpable”, “might”.. you knew there was no solid evidence.

There is no way May would have allowed Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson to speak on her behalf if the Russian evidence was solid. Why would May give her arch rival that media space to speak and take the credit for handling this ‘crisis’? Amber Rudd would never had allow it.

Given the alleged foreign state sponsored incident happened on British soil,  Home Secretary Rudd  – who has oversight over national security – has said very little. The last time Rudd directly accused the Russian government was early March. Ben Wallace is Rudd’s junior minister responsible for national security matters, he too has been very silent.

My old Home Office instincts tells me this was a political game that quickly got out control. The fault lies not with Amber Rudd but Downing Street. Hence the silence from Rudd and Wallace: and why in recent days Rudd has deflected from Salisbury and promised to target wealthy Russians residing in the UK.

The reason why the May government is not receiving any flak for this diplomatic blunder is because the media hates Jeremy Corbyn. The media would rather play down a diplomatic incident, than to ever admit that Corbyn’s cautious instincts were correct.

skynews-salisbury-poisoning_4250208

  1. How is it that over 125 countries did not join May and expel any Russian diplomats?
  2. Why did May say that the Skripals’ health was in such danger that they might never fully recover? Only for days later both came out of intensive care and recovering well.
  3. Why has the UK prevented Russian Embassy officials from visiting the Skripals in hospital? Why have they denied a visa to Yulia’s cousin Viktoria to visit them from Russia?
  4. Why has May blocked international observers from inspecting the alleged nerve agent?
  5. Why has May and Amber Rudd  said very little in Parliament over the past 14 days?
  6. Why did Boris Johnson claim that he was told by government scientists at Porton Down that the source of the nerve agent used was Russian? Only for the Chief Executive to deny such claims?
  7. Why has there been no joint press conference held by May, Rudd and Johnson to answer media questions?

The government will never admit to their error of judgment as that would be political suicide. So expect May, her ministers and media pals to play out this false narrative right up to the May local elections.

The public will never know the truth on what really happened in Salisbury and how the May government came to their conclusions.  As the government will invoke “national security” to keep such details from the public for an eternity.

The media and Downing Street will step up their anti-Corbyn attacks. This is understandable given the background of some of May’s closest advisers at Downing Street who include:

  • Robbie Gibb (former editor of BBC Politics and Sunday Politics)
  • Kirsty Buchanan (ex Daily Express)
  • James Slack & Liz Sanderson (ex Daily Mail)
  • Dylan Sharpe (ex Head of PR for The Sun)

Full marks to Corbyn and the Labour front bench for standing their ground and challenging Theresa May directly over Salisbury. After the Iraq lies the public has a right to question their government on any statements relating to serious national security issues.

Since 2002, when it comes to national security matters I rarely believe any official statement by ministers. But the skeptics like me would feel more accepting if the media heard directly from Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu, head of Scotland Yard’s Counter Terrorism and Andrew Parker, head of MI-5.

Labour MPs who supported the government’s assertions – because of their hatred of Corbyn – should be ashamed of themselves. This was not the time for them to make such a decision out of sheer personal spite.

So in essence Theresa May instigated a diplomatic crisis – with the most prolific nuclear power – where the fatalities were a cat and 2 guinea pigs.

The Salisbury affair just does not make any rational sense. May and the media knows it too.

TMP

May vs Putin – Guinea Pig Diplomacy

 

 

 

 

Posted in Boris Johnson, britain, British Labour Party, british politics, Current affairs, england, great britain, journalism, media, russia, UK, uk politics, united kingdom | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Jamaica’s Goat Islands now a Protected Wildlife Sanctuary: Environmentalists & Traffickers Happy

St.Cath

Map of St Catherine, Jamaica

The Jamaican government recently declared the Goat Islands a protected wildlife sanctuary. Thus dashing any hopes of transforming Goat Islands into a major business establishment; such as the proposed logistics hub announced by the previous government.

The government’s decision was welcomed by environmentalists. But for many residents living near Goat Islands – incl. Old Harbour Bay, Old Harbour, Bannister, Bodles, Bushy Park, Colbeck, Spring Village, Church Pen- the news was a blow to an area desperately in need of major investment.

The People’s National Party (PNP) government (2012-2016) made a raft of announcements on plans to establish a multi-billion US dollar transshipment base and logistics hub on Goat Islands and mainland environs of Old Harbour Bay etc.

The proposed logistic hub was said to be pushed by Far Eastern investors. In 2013 then Industry Minister Anthony Hylton said:

“The construction and the build out of the facilities will employ significant numbers and we are talking about projects that span numbers like US$9 billion of investments, a lot of that in physical infrastructure”

My initial reaction was “$US 9-10 billion in the Old Harbour area? This can’t be real.”  But Hylton kept reassuring the media that these plans were authentic.

IMG_2967

Goat Islands

The residents were excited at this major development. Billions of US dollars in investment for any country is a massive. So for this area such a massive venture is bound to be life changing.

For an area plague by high unemployment, increasing levels of violent  crime and growing population Hylton’s statements was much needed positive news.

Today, Old Harbour, Old Harbour Bay and it’s environs is recognised as the fastest growing community in the Caribbean with a population more nearer to 70,000 – far more than most recent official figures (2011) of 35,000.

With the never ending major housing developments, some experts have projected that the combined population could exceed 180,000 by 2030.

Ironically most of latest housing projects is being built on land historically used for fishing and agriculture, with no environmental outrage.

[“Gore Developments Limited has acquired a 475-acre property at Old Harbour in St Catherine from Matalon-owned West Indies Home Contractors (WIHCON) to develop more than 2,000 homes on lands known as Whim and Brampton Farms.” – 2018]

Yes, thousands of houses being constructed, but the local infrastructure, regeneration and economy has not matched this sharp population increase. The area has just one high school that was established in 1969 to cater for 600 students. Today the school population is roughly 2500.

The local health centre has hardly expanded since the 1970s to meet the needs of its growing community. Patients can wait up to 7 hours to get any assistance.

Hub for Drugs & Guns

For 30+ years the coast of Goats Islands and Old Harbour Bay has been  a regular transit route for gun and narcotics trafficking.

Some local traffickers have carved out lucrative criminal careers thanks to the easy flow of guns shipped via Old Harbour Bay from Haiti and elsewhere.

Goat Islands is also widely known as a drop-off point for narcotics coming from South America.

So while environmentalists and pro Goat Islands lobbyists have raised concerns about wildlife, spare a thought for the local community blighted by criminal activity exacerbated by decades of illegal trafficking.

Local men have known to die at sea over a gun or drug deal gone wrong. Some live both in Haiti and Jamaica and use the sea as their main method of transport to enhance their illegal wealth.

Some locals believe that a high percentage of the illegal guns – in today’s violent Jamaica – came through the coast of Goat Islands and Old Harbour Bay. Impacting heavily on the area and nearby parish of Clarendon

Old Harbour Bay is a well known fishing village. But some will tell you that there are days when it is easier to buy a gun than purchase 2lbs of fresh parrot fish.

In one of the most recent murders in Old Harbour the shooter was just 16 years old.

With this history of drug and gun trafficking, the proposed logistic hub was welcome news. Any major development of Goats Islands and the mainland could have modernised the area, making it more secured and monitored. Providing legitimate employment for tens of thousands Jamaicans. Creating real hope.

IMG_2951

Folks heading to Goat Islands

Hub Local Consultations and Next Steps

Following Hylton’s announcements, a number of focus group meetings were hosted by government appointed project planners. The project team advised the community on how best to prepare for these major upcoming developments.

Old Harbour High School had put in plans for students to learn basic Mandarin.

In anticipation of the logistic hub, existing local businesses upgraded their premises. New swanky businesses were being established in Old Harbour. Some came from China.

Locals were attending vocational classes to acquire certificates in their chosen skill in preparation for the employment opportunities.

As popular fisherman Compton Campbell said “My children, my grandchildren need jobs… They need opportunities. I believe this port business will be good for Jamaica.” (source: Jamaica Observer)

Most of the promised “30000 jobs” were said to be on the mainland (coast of Old Harbour Bay and Bushy Park) leaving parts of Goat Islands safe for the current wildlife population.

But as the months dragged on there were no ongoing tangible developments

Did the PNP run scared of influential environmental lobby? 

IMG_2959

View of Goat Islands from Old Harbour Bay’s coast

04345953732ae6cab8ae64342eeada04a1f2a92c11578409419d2039d62d5e0bffa0275e

View of Goat Islands from 3 miles north

 

Hub Dream is Dead

The Jamaica Labour Party won power in February 2016 and months later quietly scrapped any logistics hub plans for Goat Islands. A decision that wrong footed interested stakeholders including the IMF which had days earlier mentioned the Goat Islands hub development in a report.

Too many folks have a misunderstanding of the historical maritime relevance of Goat Islands/Old Harbour and its future potential.

  • Goat Islands and nearby mainland were occupied by the indigenous Tainos.
  • Columbus visited the coast of Goat Islands/Old Harbour Bay and met the head Cacique for the Taino community.
  • When the British chased the Spanish out of Jamaica (17th century) Old Harbour & Old Harbour Bay was initially called Colbeck. Named after Colonel John Colbeck who was assigned the area by the crown.
  • Pirates hid their treasures and livestock (tax avoidance) on Goat Islands
  • Slaves worked and lived on Goat Islands up to the 19th century.
  • The British shipped sugar from there.
  • The first Indian contract workers embarked at Old Harbour Bay.
  • A century ago the American-owned United Fruit Company operated their business on parts of Goat Islands and the mainland in nearby Bushy Park.

As a kid in the 1970/80s Goat Islands was a regular (scary) short boat ride for many of us at weekends and during the summer holidays.

US Navy on Goat Islands

jam-navy01as

© not mine

During the 2nd World War the US had a naval base stationed at Goat Islands. I used to hear stories of the impact the US naval base had on the local economy of Old Harbour Bay and Old Harbour.

Jobs were created. The Americans would go into hills of rural St Catherine and Clarendon and purchased raw materials and food from the locals. The US navy even brought along a string orchestra.

3 years ago, a local historian in Old Harbour showed me aerial photographs – of the US occupied Goat Islands – taken by an English cameraman. In the photos you could clearly see the Goat Islands with structures, barracks, ships, small boats, airstrip etc.

The US left Goat Islands in 1949 but still owned the long term lease.

littlegoatisland

1941 – US on Little Goat Island source: gleaner file

Winners and Losers

  • Credit must go to the environmental lobby led by Diana McCaulay for mounting such an effective and passionate campaign from the start.
  • The PNP government must be blamed for a lousy display of leadership and not backing up their comments with commitment and significant steps.
  • Old Harbour, Old Harbour Bay and extended communities missed out on thousands of jobs.
  • Current JLP government were short sighted in their rush to halt the hub development and protect the whole of Goat Islands. Why did the opposition PNP show little objection to the government’s decision?
  • Business as usual for local gun and drug trafficking?

2017 – 2 Murders in Old Harbour Bay linked to gun trafficking

2015: Old Harbour Bay major gun and drug dealer killed in Haiti

Posted in jamaica, jamaican, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

UK Governments the Real Champions of Pay Inequality?

The brilliant journalist Carrie Gracie has taken a stance over pay inequality and transferred (some said she quit) from her role as BBC Chinese editor to the BBC newsroom team. It was a noble decision but a great loss to those of us who admired her Chinese related reports.

Pay inequality discussions tend to focus on salary differences based on gender. But in the UK civil service pay inequality does exist but not gender related.

UK governments like to lecture other employers on pay inequality . Yet the said governments have allowed unfair pay structures to thrive under their noses for 3 decades across the civil service.

In the 1990s, the Conservative government decided to delegate human resources strategic (incl. pay and salary) responsibilities to each government department to handle independently.

Some government departments used this new found autonomy to bump up salary structures. Some other government departments took a moderate approach and kept their salary scales conservative.

[The less said about how recruitment and promotion practices became corrupted]

This has led to many staff across the civil service performing the same role, in the same grade (sometimes the same building), same length of service, but paid vastly different depending on their government department.

Department of Works and Pensions (DWP) is widely known as one of the most poorly paid government department for admin and middle management grades. DWP is also the most challenging government to work at, especially for frontline staff handling welfare payments and job seekers. Given the abuse they regularly face from the public.

Departments such as the Treasury and especially HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) on the other hand pay their staff vastly better wages. Home Office and Department of Health pay scales are sandwich somewhere between DWP and HMRC.

Simply there is no pay consistency  at admin and management grades across the civil service.

An Executive Officer (EO) at HMRC can earn as much (sometimes more) as a Senior Executive Officer (SEO) at the DWP; even though the latter is 2 grades higher and has far more responsibility and staff to manage.

You would never hear of civil servants transferring permanently to the likes of DWP due to its lower salary structure. Even if such a transfer could mean promotion.

In 2003, Gordon Brown – then Chancellor of the Exchequer – mooted the idea of merging Customs and Excise with the Inland Revenue. Staff in both departments hated the proposal. This was due to long standing cultural animosity that existed for between both departments.

Customs and Excise and Inland Revenue staff did not feel the merger was feasible due to the salary differences that existed between both departments

E.g. Higher Executive Officer at Inland Revenue could earn £6-£10k more than their counterparts at Customs and Excise.

In 2005, Gordon Brown pushed through the merger. In one single month Brown upgraded the thousands of Customs and Excise staff salaries to match their Inland Revenue counterparts. Customs & Excise staff felt happy with the sharp pay increase while some Revenue staff were livid at salary upgrade for their new colleagues.

Some government departments would advertise their vacancies without disclosing the salary for fear of turning off potential applicants.

Yet trade unions and politicians have sat back and watched this unfair pay practice to thrive for decades. While lecturing the private sector on gender pay equality.

But with BREXIT looming now is a perfect time for a universal salary scale to be gradually implemented across the civil service. Pay inequality based on which government department employs you is simply unfair to its staff, future recruits and tax payers.

.

220px-Government_Offices_Great_George_Street

HM Treasury – Facilitators of Pay Inequality?

 

Posted in politics, public sector, UK | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Cyrille Regis: One of English Football’s True Gentlemen

Yesterday we woke up to the sad news that former England footballer Cyrille Regis had died of a heart attack at just age 59.

Cyrille is regarded as one of the trailblazing black footballers in English football from the late 1970s onwards who inspired future generations of black kids to take up professional football.

The first time I came across Cyrille was in the early 1970s. He and my older brother David played football together as teenagers in the North West London area of Kilburn/Queens Park, Brent.

David was a football fanatic. He, Cyrille and other young working class teenagers found solace and camaraderie in sports. They would play a variety of sports in the local parks of Queens Park, Grange Park and Paddington Recreation Ground.

Cyrille and David played local sports alongside future sports stars such as Ricky Hill, Mike and Steve Gatting. David, Cyrille and especially Ricky Hill became local stars in junior football across Brent. For a while David and Cyrille played at the influential Oxford and Kilburn Boys Club.

By the mid 1970s my mum dragged both David and me to live in Jamaica.

But David and I followed Cyrille’s career through British newspapers and magazines (e.g. Football Monthly) sent to us in Jamaica by family friends.

Imagine our delight in 1977 when we saw Cyrille being recruited by top football club West Bromwich Albion. He and other black players Brendan Batson and Laurie Cunningham played together at The Albion.

Having 3 black players in the same team in those days was unheard of in English football and thus caused a media frenzy. As black players in the English professional league was still a novelty.

Cyrille explained that at the time having 3 black players in one team proved too much for some fans who stepped up their racist abuse.

From 1970s – 1990s racism in English football against black players and black spectators was toxic. It just was never a pleasant atmosphere to watch your team in person as rival fans and some from your own club would taunt you at the game and on public transport.

As Cyrille said about his own experience of racism

You’d have up to 10,000 of them chanting racist abuse at you. You’d have hundreds of bananas hurled at you. You’d get called names – the ‘n’ word, ‘you black b******d’. I had a bullet through the post on my first England call-up

But the players like Cyrille, Laurie, Brendan, Ricky Hill, Bob Hazell, Vince Hilaire, Viv Anderson, Terry Connor, John Barnes, Luther Blissett, Garth Crooks, George Berry, Paul Canoville etc became cult heroes to young black kids in England and beyond.

Their efforts to combat racism – without any support from the police and football authorities – must never be forgotten.

Cyrille was a very strong physical player with supreme speed and was a powerful striker of the ball. He was a hard working player.

My dad – an Aston Villa fan for over 60 years – was pleased when Cyrille join the Villa in 1991.

Whatever team Cyrille played for I was delighted whenever he scored goals. As in a way he was one of us. Like the other few black players then in the league I wanted them all to be successful.

When Cyrille won the FA Cup in 1987 with Coventry City, David and I watched the game at our flat in Kilburn – just a few hundred yards from where Cyrille’s football journey started.

At the time David felt so proud and remarked something like  “How many black men from Brent can say they have won the FA Cup… In Brent?”

Cyrille was a credit to football both on and off the pitch. He was calm and easy to get on with. On the pitch he was a nightmare for defenders but off it he was respected by players, the media and fans. Even by some of  those same fans who had made racist chants against him.

Cyrille delved into coaching and also became a football agent. Cyrille’s unassuming demeanour earned him respect by football club owners when he negotiated contracts on behalf of his clients.

The last time I saw Cyrille in person was (with David) roughly 8 years ago at a celebrity charity football match in Hayes, West London that Cyrille organised with his nephew (former footballer) Jason Roberts.

My brother David died in Bedford, Central England in March 2013. In the very last exchange I had with him we spoke about Laurie Cunningham and Cyrille. As David had suggested that I watch a tv documentary on Laurie’s life which featured Cyrille.

Cyrille we will never forget you big man.

Where’s Laurie? In heaven? In hell? In space? He was 33. If I had died in that car crash where would I be…..I had to get some answers and, to cut a long story short, I became a born-again Christian. It gave me a perspective of earthly values and eternity. I hope I see him in heaven.’Cyrille Regis,  July 2017

“I look back over my life and can say that, although I have some regrets I have so much to be thankful and so much to be proud of. I have the privilege to mentor players and men in general, sharing the wisdom I gained through life” – Cyrille Regis, 2010.

501416102

Cyrille and Laurie Cunningham

Laurie Cunningham Day/Leyton Orient v MK Dons  12th Oct 2013

Leyton, East London 2013: L-R Brendan Baston, Nicky Brown (Laurie’s widow). and Cyrille at the unveiling of a plaque in honour of Laurie Cunningham

OKcluggallery8

Oxford & Kilburn Boys Club, NW London where Cyrille played as a teen

QBSQAUL2PJHK7OFHAHLLWKINOM

Laurie, Brendan and Cyrille – West Brom’s own Three Degrees meet their more illustrious Philadelphian counterparts

 

article-1310956-0B1EC373000005DC-402_468x442

Coming home: Brent lad Cyrille winning the FA Cup in 1987 at Wembley Stadium, Brent

Posted in black history, britain, Caribbean, football, london, soccer, sports, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment