Juliet Holness Jook Out Her Government’s Vaccine Programme

Last week in Jamaica the local media and some supporters of the ruling Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) were apoplectic that government MP Juliet Holness was openly blunt in her criticism of her government’s handling of the COVID-19 vaccination programme.

Some were shocked that Mrs Holness was so open with her comments given she is the wife of prime minister Andrew Holness. Some JLP supporters even thought she was doing the bidding of the opposition People’s National Party (PNP).

Mrs Holness made her comments at both Tuesday and Wednesday’s sittings of parliament’s Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC).

She was severely critical of the approach taken by the technocrats at the Ministry of Health and Wellness for their handling of the vaccination programme.

Dunstan Bryan, permanent secretary at the department, was in for a torrid time from Mrs Holness and also from opposition (PNP) members Lisa Hanna and Fitz Jackson (committee chair) who were equally compelling in their dialogue with those senior government health officials present. 

Jamaica’s vaccination programme has been chaotic from the outset. It has been riddled with constant mixed messages, micro-managing overkill, duplication of processes plus poor planning and co-ordination from the centre. At times headline vac programme seemed to be more of a PR  exercise for the government.

The clearest of example of such PR gimmickry was when government politicians kept rushing to the airport to pose next to the latest consignment of vaccines to arrive on the island.

March 2021 –  Vaccines from India – L-R  Kamina Johnson-Smith; Rungsung Masaku India’s High Commissioner, Andrew Holness , Christopher Tufton.

August 2021 –  Vaccines from the UK – L-R  Kamina Johnson Smith; Asif Ahmad UK High Commissioner, Andrew Holness & Christopher Tufton.

The failures of the vaccination programme highlighted by Mrs Holness was fair and stemmed from the government recently having to dump 60000 expired AstraZenaca vaccines. She was also not impressed by how the Pfizer vaccine was allocated.

This is not the first time Mrs Holness (aka by her initials – J.A.H.) has been publicly critical of her government’s spending and governance. She has been known to provide constructive comments and ask probing questions of government officials at numerous other hearings of both the PAAC and Public Accounts Committee (PAC). She has also delivered blunt criticism to the technocrats in education and works. She is by far the most effective select committee member in the current parliament.

As we all know, in politics things are not always as it seems on the surface.

What was really behind Mrs Holness’ attack on the Ministry of Health?

Was she encouraged to go after the technocrats to distract public criticism of government ministers and the PM?

If things go wrong government politicians tend to blame the technocrats, but if it is successfull who you thinks takes all the credit? The above photos give us a clue.

One interesting outcome from Mrs Holness’ comments about the Ministry of Health this week has been the media silence of the relevant minister – Christopher Tufton. Tufton since becoming the health minister in 2016 is always on TV news far-far too often. But on Mrs Holness’ remarks Tufton has been uncharacteristically muted.

The vaccination programme failing just showed how folly it was of Mrs Holness’ government not to hold regular sittings of the parliamentary oversight body that monitors Jamaica’s COVID-19 programme. This oversight body has rarely met since the general election in September 2020.

For one thing that oversight body should not have been chaired by Tufton for obvious conflicts of interest reasons.

One of the clearest blunders in the vaccination programme was having crowds of all ages queue sometimes for up to 6-8 hours to have their jabs only to be turned away because the vaccines had run out. We have seen places where the vaccines arrived like 3 hours after the vaccination point was opened to the public. There has too much red tape in process and too few vaccination venue sites.

From the very beginning the government should have included local private doctors and pharmacists in conducting vaccine jab. The average Jamaican has an antipathy towards anything government driven especially when it comes to health. But Jamaicans (especially the elderly) do trust their private doctor and local pharmacy.

The PAAC and PAC are probably the 2 most effective arms of government today. Opposition members of those select committees tend to be very effective in its scrutiny of government spending and governance. But lately we are seeing some of the government members of these committees take the relevant public departments to task. This is an unusual development but welcomed.

But what would have made Mrs Holness’ comments and Jamaican politics even more intriguing, is if she had done so during the sitting of all MPs and made those remarks directly to her colleague Mr Tufton’s face.

During the early stages of the government’s disorderly vaccine programme, TV entertainment journalist Anthony Miller sarcastically suggested to Olivia “Babsy” Grange (sports and culture minister) that she could replace Tufton in any future cabinet reshuffle. Maybe Miller was dead serious.

J.A.H. Fireworks

Further Notes

Bryan hits back at Holness’ Pfizer jab – The Gleaner

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Jamaica’s Whitewashing of Lawrence Rowe’s Career Needs to Run Out

The West Indies versus the touring Pakistan 2-tests-cricket-series concluded last month with the visitors winning the 2nd test to level a very entertaining series. Both matches were held at Sabina Park, Kingston, Jamaica.

On the outside of Sabina Park these days is a set of mural images in honour of some of Jamaica’s past and present cricketers. The mural images include the likes of George Headley, Allan Rae, Collie Smith Jr, Maurice Foster, Michael Holding, Jimmy Adams, Stefanie Taylor, Chris Gayle, Jeffrey Dujon, Courtney Walsh and Nikita Miller.

But one face of note missing from the wall is that of former Jamaican and West Indian batsman Lawrence Rowe whose career spanned from the mid 1960s until the early 1980s.

However, Rowe was banned for life from all forms of cricket for touring then apartheid South Africa in 1982/83 with a West Indian rebel squad. Such a tour was in contravention of the 1977 Gleneagles Agreement – signed off by Commonwealth heads of government – that deterred sporting relations with South Africa.

Yagga Rowe

The lifetime ban affected many other top West Indian players  who toured with  Rowe including compatriots such as Herbert Chang, Richard Austin, Ray Wynter and Everton Mattis. Barbados did ban their players for a limited period.

As a kid I saw these cricketers play in Jamaica at the national and local levels. Chang, Austin and Rowe all played for the same club – Kensington – which was just star studded. Wynter was a productive fast bowler for perennial winners Kingston Cricket Club (home ground – Sabina Park) and Mattis (Lucas Club) was then an entertaining stroke player that attacted large crowds.

Early into his regional and global career Rowe lit up cricket with batting that drew plaudits and fanatical fans from across the Caribbean. Rowe’s batting heroics made him an inspiration to up and coming cricketers such as Michael Holding and Vivian Richards.

Rowe was affectionately known as “Yagga”.

Rebels Spun Out

For touring apartheid South Africa Rowe and his rebel team mates were not just banned from all forms of cricket, the Jamaican contingent was ostracised from local society. They were been treated far worse than local criminals of the vilest kind.

The scorning of these players was way too extreme and disgraceful by the Jamaican community. The outrage by the political classes in particular was so  opportunistic and downright disingenuous given their track record on human decency and links to violence. Some of the political class with such questionable records have had landmarks such as schools in their honour. No one speaks out.

This hounding of the players led to some of rebels – upon their return to the Caribbean –  suffering lifelong hardships and mental issues. I felt the bullying by so-called activists was so wrong and the likes Austin was left in the gutter literally. Mattis and Chang had their own emotional and mental challenges which has been well documented and reported on in recent years. Rowe eventually emigrated to the US to get away from the abuse.

Richard Austin: the tragic fall from West Indies allrounder to shoeless street beggar – UK Guardian, August 2020

The political classes across the Caribbean may have be vocal about the South Africa situation. Yet in countries such as Jamaica and Guyana their political and big business leaders were not the best examples of black empowerment for their own black population during this period.

I was disappointed Rowe and the other West Indians went to South Africa but cricket then for top players in the Caribbean was not a well paid profession.

I did not support the lifetime ban. I felt a ban of 1-2 years would suffice.

But I felt that a black team going to play a white South African team and defeating would give some pyschological boost to the African mindset. Also I felt that we needed black Caribbean people on the ground in South Africa to witness and report back to the Caribbean leaders and community.

Money Short

It was common knowledge back then that West Indies teams of the 1970s and 1980s were the best in the world. The depth of cricketing talent was so plentiful that some very good players had no chance of playing cricket for their Caribbean country much less the West Indies.

West Indian cricket administrators in that era did not do their level best to ensure these players were well remunerated and playing enough local cricket to earn a decent living.

During in the 1970s and 1980s West Indian test players sometimes would play just 4-5 test matches in a calender year and that was it. The top non-test cricketers across the Caribbean played just at total 4-5 inter island matches per year.

The financial situation in cricket was so dire that some really talented players left the West Indian game completely. Some went to play league cricket in England some emigrated to North America and gave up the sport.

How was any West Indian professional cricketer – without a lucrative contract in English county cricket- to survive financially?

Many of those West Indian test players survived financially thanks to contracts to play cricket in England and Wales during the summer period. Hence why most of those with such contracts did not accept the offers from Ali Bacher chief negotiator for the South African cricket.

[One of the ironies of that period when South Africa was banned from international cricket was that in English county cricket West Indian cricketers played along side white South African players in the same team.]

The Barbadian cricket officials did not give lifetime bans to their players who toured aparthied South Africa. Thus the likes of Ezra Moseley and Frankyln Stephenson managed return to their professional careers.

Mosley went on to play briefly for the West Indies. He became a respected coach in Barbados before his sudden passing earlier this year which led to glowing tributes from many of his compatriots and mentees including former West Indies captain Jason Holder.

Stephenson went on to have a very successful career in English county cricket becoming one of the top all rounders in the world.

But for some reason too many in Jamaica saw it fit to continue punishing their own rebels. Part of this punishment is to erase their cricketing existence.

It was wrong for the cricketing authorities in  Jamaica to ban the players from earning a living for life from the sport they were good at. A person such as Rowe should have been given the opportunity to coach locally after serving a ban.

Indeed, I was surprised that the cricketers did not mount some legal challenge against the local officials for restraint of trade (I stand corrected).  

What African/Black History?

I remember before the rebel tour commenced that one of the Jamaican players remarked that he knew very little about African history or its politics.

He was right.

Schools and media in the 1970s and 1980s Jamaica barely touched African or Black history in any detail.

Our knowledge of anything African tended to come via reggae music, Rastafari, BBC World News or (if you had access) Newsweek/Times magazines.

Marcus Garvey may have been anointed a National Hero in Jamaica but little was ever done in Jamaican schools to discuss even the basic philosophies of the great man which was about empowerment of black people.

But this was no surprise given the political class had banned a number US-based civil rights activists from entering Jamaica including Malcolm X. Certain black empowered books were also banned in the 1960s. During the Michael Manley government of the 1970s certain reggae songs were banned from the radio waves for its rebellious message e.g. “Fire Burning” by Bob Andy

If Jamaican and Guyanese governments were so pro-black back then why did the former ban the Guyanese historian and Pan-Africanist – Dr Walter Rodney – from Jamaica and was eventually killed by the latter in June 1980?

[in 2016 a Commission of Inquiry concluded that Rodney was assassinated by the Guyanese government of Forbes Burnham. Burnham’s government was well known for brutallising the population through extra judicial killings in order to maintain power. Yet in 1981 Burnham was the most vocal of the anti apartheid Caribbean heads of government and banned England from playing a test match in Guyana because it included Robin Jackman a white South African born cricketer.]

Draw Yagga

Let’s hope the political and cricketing authorities come to their senses, show some backbone and add a mural of Rowe to the wall. Adding a mural of Rowe is not an honour in the grandoise sense but simply a small acknowlegement of Yagga’s existence.

Whitewashing Rowe from the annals of the island’s rich cricketing history does Jamaica and Jamaicans a disservice.

How can Sabina Park ignore a man like Rowe who aguably delivered the greatest batting display in the history of that iconic venue when he score a double century and a century on debut against New Zealand in 1972?

The idea of murals of Jamaican cricketers past and present outside Sabina Park is an excellent move. One that should be copied across the first class cricketing teams to remember the players that once played for them with distinction.

I am sure in time the likes of  former cricketers such as J.K Holt, Vivalyn Latty- Scott, Gerry Alexander, Basil Williams, Patrick Patterson, Arthur Barrett and others  will eventually find their place on the walls of Bina.

Despite not playing for the West Indies I also feel former wicketkeeper/batsman Renford Pinnock deserve an impression on the wall for serving Jamaica with distinction in regional cricket. Umpires Douglas Sang Hue and Steve Bucknor need to be including too.

Just don’t leave Yagga from Bina’s wall of fame.

Useful Sources

Grange erects Jamaica’s Cricket Wall, Walk of Fame as part of mural project

Honouring the dishonourable “Rowe should first offer unconditional apologies for his wrongdoing AND for not apologising before. ” – Gleaner 2011

Branded a rebel: Cricket’s forgotten men “Well, yes I was a mercenary for black people’s cause, because wherever I’ve been, I’ve been an ambassador for my country, my race and the game of cricket. So if that’s being a mercenary, then yes I was.” – Franklyn Stephenson”

Commission of Inquiry 2016 Surrounding the Death of Dr Walter Rodney

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Lee “Scratch” Perry 1936-2021

In the past 18 months Jamaica has witnessed the passing of numerous giants from the golden age of Jamaican music (1960s-1980s). Those that have left us include Bunny Wailer, Bunny Lee, Toots Hibbert, Bob Andy and Dobby Dobson.

Yet this week we lost probably the most influential musical figure of that golden period in the virtuoso music arranger, writer, singer, pioneer and producer Lee “Scratch” Perry.

Lee "Scratch" Perry Black Ark Studio - Wellingtonfineart

Perry’s work was like a musical commentary of his life and observations of society. His productions were fearless, uncompromising and at times uncomfortable for many. His development of dub play with the likes of King Tubby took reggae to its pinnacle that drew global attention and appreciation.

Perry’s music would cover the issues of the day in Jamaica and the wider society such as romance, raw sex, political corruption and violence, film releases, state sponsored murders, religion, culture, education, coliweed, African history, Babylon, local economy and Rastafari.

Some of his productions was friendly banter and sometimes vicious musical attacks against his rivals in the business including Chris Blackwell, Niney the Observer and Coxsone Dodd. But when Scratch attacked producer Joe Gibbs with the song “People Funny Boy” his career really took off and influenced generations to come.

Perry’s wit was unpredictably sharp. He just had a way with words that defied what most of us would call logic because he was stretching the vocabulary to infinite levels.

We will never see the likes of  Scratch again. But how fortunate we are to enjoy his talent for years to come.

Perry’s innovative work continued up to the very end and he was constantly on tour. He would draw huge crowds to his gigs. I was fortunate to see him play live in North London during the 1980s-2000s.

Perry was revered as music royalty in the UK and the tributes on numerous programmes was testament to the impact he had on British culture.

Evidence of Perry’s global influence and appreciation can be heard from below 2 clips this week from Canadian and Australian radio

  1. Reggae icon Lee (Scratch) Perry was ‘a genius in the true sense of the word,’ says Max Romeo – CBC Radio, Canada
  2. Rick Howe joined Jacinta Parsons to remember the man who brought Bob Marley to prominence and was described by Keith Richards as “the Salvador Dali of music.”  – ABC Radio – Australia

Sadly in Jamaica Perry was not that well known or appreciated. You would be surprised how little mention he has had in the local media over the years. Even the local evening news report on Perry’s death was less than 2 minutes and did not even feature a photo of the great man. Thankfully, IRIE-FM’s Mutabaruka last night dedicated his weekly 4 hour evening show Cutting Edge to Scratch.

It is hard to find a Jamaican whose contribution to society that matches that of Perry. He is up there with the giants of culture of any genre in the world.

It is hard to pick a favourite or even a top 50 of Perry’s outstanding work, given many of us have listened to hundreds of brilliant tracks from the great man’s repertoire.

In terms of Scratch’s work with The Wailers, I am big fan of Mr Brown (produced with Glen Adams) and of course his interpretation of Richie Havens’ African Herbsman.

Perry’s production of The Congos’ album The Heart of the Congos is definitely one of the great albums in any form of music. We cannot ignore the brilliance he brought out from Junior Byles, Max Romeo, The Meditations, George Faith and numerous others.

TalkSPORT’s Danny Kelly put it right on his UK radio show over the weekend with his assessment of Perry – “genius”.

RNZ Music Pocket Edition: Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry Special – New Zealand

Island Music Ep115: Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry RIP – ABC Radio

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Summer Olympic Games 2020 – A Late Late Review

It’s hard to believe the Olympics came and went and passed with flying colours thanks mainly to the participants, coaches and volunteers. Before I forget I best jot down some of my moments of the greatest sporting show on earth.

My Moments of the Olympics

Spain’s Ana Peletiero’s (below left) immediate response to her rival and good friend Yulima Rojas’ (right) world record in the women’s triple jump.

The diversity of some national teams. We saw black people representing nations such as  Argentina (women’s volleyball), Japan and Serbia (women’s basketball).

Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce’s stunned face after losing to her compatriot and rival Elaine Thompson-Herah in the women’s 100m final. [What was equally memorable was the silence in some parts of Jamaica immediately after the race. People were in shock that “Shelly lost”. Must be the first time in living memory that a Jamaican wins gold and no pot covers were heard to celebrate the victory – outside of Banana Ground (the victor’s home town) I presume.

Gold medals from the unlikeliest nations such as Tunisia (Ahmed Hanfaoui -swimming), Egypt (Feryal Abdelaziz- Karate) and India (Neeraj Chopra- javelin).

The greater spread of medalists. Athletics medals were won by 43 nations, cycling – 24, canoeing 24, swimming 20 and rowing 18.

Both 400m hurdles finals world records was not surprising. But what was equally impressive in both race was the superb times achieved by many of the other finalists.

Both long jump finals with last round leaps snatching victory. Just loved the camaraderie amongst the athletes and their respective coaches who all joined in to create an atmosphere for each jump.

Russia may be banned so to speak. But many of their athletes took part under the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) banner – whatever that means. Backfired spectacular for the IOC as the Russian national anthem was replaced by a Tchaikovsky piano concerto which may go down as the best national anthem ever played at the Games.

Loved handball, table tennis and badminton. Handball is just an entertaining and underrated sport.

Not having fans did not dampen the atmospheric nature of the events. The only event where the lack of fans made the atmosphere eerie and odd was in football.

Olympics 2020 – Media Review

  • NBC’s coverage was abysmal. You cannot blame the commentators or presenters though as they would have been under instructions from their producers to deliver an act for this piece of crap television. NBC was shocking and so bias in covering certain races live. This was so apparent when NBC did not show one of the women’s 200m semi-finals (athletics) live persumably because there were no Americans in the race.
    • Thankfully the coverage on NBC’s sister channels on cable such as CNBC and USA were far better and allowed the sports to flow smoothly.
  • In Jamaica, TVJ’s coverage and discussion panel during the games was average and was saved by the input of Bruce James and Gillian Russell in the studios and Spencer Darlington over in Tokyo. Jamaican TV media is so small that awarding the media rights to just one TV company means some sports just cannot get shown. I just think Jamaica’s two main terrestrial station (CYM & TVJ) and main cable companies (Flow & SportsMax) should get together, share the rights and spread the sports coverage across their channels. There are people in Jamaica who are not fans of athletics!
  • Jamaica’s best coverage of the Olympics came as usual from radio with Nationwide Radio Network being the best led by the likes of Wayne Walker, Juliet Cuthbert-Flynn (former Olympian and government minister) agent Cubie Seegobin and athletics coaches Michael Carr and Raymond “K.C.” Graham.
  • BBC’s Olympics website was first class. Kept content simple.
  • Michael Johnson again the stand out BBC analyst and showed what NBC has been missing with his succinct and blunt analysis.
  • Special mention on the excellent commentary delivered Jamaica’s Ricardo Chambers of SportsMax which also provided the feed to the Jamaican radio stations. Just brilliant. He doesn’t waste words and always well prepared. Deserves a global platform to showcase his media skills.
  • The photography was just incredible. Below are some of my favourites.

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PNP – Stop the Pantomime

In Jamaica, the ongoing pandemic has halted the island’s theatre industry yet the opposition People’s National Party (PNP) has managed to keep the public entertained with its endless pantomime of infighting and inappropriate comments.

The governing Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) administration and their supporters are sitting back and having the time of their stewardship watching this farce playout scene-after-scene. The wider public and many comrades also stare with dismay at the drama from some of the people’s opposition.

The timing of the recent coordinated resignations of the 4 PNP vice presidents (Phillip Paulwell, Damion Crawford, Mikael Phillips and Wykeham McNeil) was poor but could a blessing in the long term.

But in this digital-active age where organisations are always streamlining to improve its strategies, operations and decision making, why does the PNP need to have 4 vice presidents?

As leader of the PNP Mark Golding needs to front-up and show a ruthless but fair side to his role.

Since his leadership win in 2020 Golding was not given a second to enjoy a honeymoon period. The political knives were obviously out from that Saturday evening when the results declared Golding the successor to Peter Phillips. Lisa Hanna, his leadership rival, was not present at the declaration or at Golding’s swearing-in ceremony. The gap between both factions just got wider and sillier.

The lack of a united front had driven the PNP to lose its way and they have missed numerous chances to put the Andrew Holness administration under sustained pressure given it’s below average performance in certain areas.

But over the weekend the public saw something that was welcoming, Hanna and Golding on the same platform displaying the kind of civility and united front that has been missing from the party for far too long.

But Golding has to do more to enhance his leadership and the fortunes of PNP.

Mini-reshuffle.

  • Despite the governments sluggish handling of health and crime the shadowing of these critical portfolios by those responsible in the PNP has been even worst.
  • Move Hanna from foreign affairs to a more substantial post (education, finance, health or even national security) that raises the profile any the PNP solutions to that portfolio. No point in Hanna (in the lower house) shadowing the foreign minister Senator Kamina Johnson-Smith who is in the upper house). 
  • Senator Peter Bunting (upper house) should not be shadowing national security when the minister Horace Chang is in the lower house.
  • Golding has to shadow Holness thoroughly. Meaning shadowing all the extended portfolios that sit within Holness office incl: economic growth, NHT, HEART NTA and especially roads and works.

·         Develop eye-catch realistic initiatives that would strike a chord with the public in the areas of National House Trust, crime reduction/prevention, early childhood, literacy, cannabis, constitutional reform.

·         Bring proposals to modernise the PNP. E.g. 1 vice president instead of 4. Allow the candidates running for president to do so as a joint ticket with their own VP pick. Having separate elections for both posts is too risky given that the chosen president and VP could be polar opposites in policy and personality.

·    Have a zero tolerance approach to those who make grossly offensive personal comments about JLP members and comrades.

·     Hire an effective and savvy communications director

Golding and Hanna’s presentation of a united front is a step the right direction to take. For the sake of Jamaican politics – no more self-inflicted banana slips please.

Too Late!!

Despite delivering the first female prime minister of Jamaica and having an well establish women’s movement, there is a perception that the PNP in recent years is anti-women. Comments made by senior male PNP figures in recent years has brought substance to such perceptions.

Over the weekend PNP VP aspirants Ian Hayles and Richard Azan stole the headlines with some grossly offensive comments against JLP MP Rhoda Crawford.

It is not the first time that a senior PNP member has used mental health as some laughing matter to attack the JLP. Stop it!

Golding needs to show some authority and kindly ask Hayles and Azan to remove themselves from the upcoming VP slots.

Golding is a smart guy and he must know that Hayles and Azan are not VP material. Hayles in particular has form in upsetting folks with his outdated and juvenile outburst on the political campaign. Hayles with a microphone is a political blunder waiting to happen and will make it difficult for the PNP to shake off its image of a political party in pantomime season.

The JLP has little way of displaying genuinely outrage given their code silence over the recent expletive comments made by government minister Warmington and the physical altercation scandal that force one of their own MPs to take extended leave from being a party member.

Hayles and Azan have since apologised with a statement that is so bizarre and poorly delivered. But the damage has been done. Golding should use this incident to cement his position as a no-nonsense leader who will not tolerate such poor behaviour from any of his senior colleagues, even if they are close allies. Will he?

Hanna and Patricia Duncan-Sutherland, new president of the PNP Women’s Movement, were right criticise the comments made by Azan and Hayles.

Maybe Golding should encourage Hanna and Duncan-Sutherland to replace Azan and Hayles as 2 of the 4 VP aspirants.

Further reading

The Gleaner: PNP women’s group scolds Azan, Hayles over Rhoda Crawford comments

L-R Duncan-Sutherland, Hanna, Golding, Mikael Phillips, Eugene Kelly, Duncan-Price

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Tokyo Olympics – Women’s 200 Metres (hopefully)

The 2020 Summer Olympics finally starts officially this Friday in Tokyo, Japan. But even though sports fans will be looking forward to watching the events it is still hard to fathom that no spectators will be at the venues.

Now, this is no surprise given the COVID-19 crisis has affected Japan greatly despite continued promises from officials that spectators would be allowed. I just thought such a promise was a delaying tactic to ensure the Games went ahead. All the recent opinion polls in Tokyo found its residents were strongly against their country hosting the Olympics.

Despite the billions invested by Japan into hosting the games some contingency/standby measures should have been in place so as to allow other nations to host certain sports especially where spectators could attend.

E.g. The athletics could have gone to Eugene, Oregon (host of next year’s World Athletics Championship) in a straight swop with Tokyo.

We all saw that empty stadia vibe in Jamaica when the great sprinter Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce ran an incredible 10.63 for the 100m. Such a momentous achievement deserved even a few hundred spectators in the stands.

Speaking of Fraser-Pryce, the event I am most looking forward to at the Olympics is the women’s 200m. 

Unlike the male sprint events the women’s 100m and 200 are stacked with quality. The 100m is probably down to who can catch Fraser-Pryce. But the 200m is just another level. There is no clear-cut favourite for the 200m. It is difficult to predict who the 3 medalists will be on the 3rd August.

The big guns for the 200m include:

  1. Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce (Jamaica) – multiple gold medal winner who ran  a personal best of 21.79 when winning June’s national trials.
  2. Elaine Herah (Jamaica) – defending Olympic champion at both 100m & 200m with a best time of 21.66.
  3. Shaunae Miller-Uibo (Bahamas) – unbeaten in the 200m for 3 years until last month and has a best time of 21.74.
  4. Gabby Thomas  (US) – won the 200m at the recent national trials in 21.61, the third fastest time ever recorded.
  5. Dina Asher-Smith (UK) – 2019 world champion at 200m in a personal best time  of 21.88.
  6. Jenna Prandini (US) – came 2nd behind Thomas at the trials in a pb time of 21.89.
  7. Anavia Battle (US) – came 3rd behind Thomas and Prandini in a pb time of 21.93.
  8. Shericka Jackson (Jamaica) –  ran a personal best 21.82 for the 200m at the national trials behind Fraser-Pryce. Recently ended Miller-Uibo’s unbeaten run in the 200m.
  9. Dafne Schippers (Netherlands) – 2015 world champion in a time of 21.63.

It is rare for the women 200m at any championship event to have so many contenders that have dipped below the benchmark of 22 secs which separates world class runners from the good runners.

Schippers is the only one of the above-mentioned athletes whose form has dipped. All the others seem to be improving. Herah is said by her coach to be in the best form of her life. The same can be said of all the main contenders. Fraser-Pryce at 34 is better than ever. Thomas has come from nowhere and Asher-Smith’s  form looks awesome.

Then we can also add to the mix, Marie- Josée Ta Lou (Côte d’Ivoire) who has performed consistently well with a pb of 22.08.

Why are so many fast times in the 200m?

There is an ongoing debate on the advances being made in spikes technology. But I will leave such discussions to the experts to thrash out over the coming weeks.

Let’s hope all these athletes turn up and are not hampered by COVID-19 issues or niggles. But one or two could be physically and/or mentally drained after running the 100m earlier.

This should be a race to get the goose bumps going. The 3 semi-finals alone will be gripping to watch. As none of the top runners can take the semis lightly for fear of not finishing in the first 2 and dread getting drawn in coffin-box lanes of 1 or 2 in the finals.

The running track is likely to be super-fast so let us hope the conditions are perfect for sprinting and maybe a few of these runners will push each other to get close to Flo-Jo’s world record of 21.34.

Whatever happens in Tokyo promoters for the Diamond League circuit must ensure that most of these runners are lined for future 200m this season. Especially as the livewire that is Sha’Carri Richardson will be back from her brief suspension.

200m heats –  2 August (morning)

200m semis – 2 August (evening)

200m finals – 3 August (evening)

Don’t Blink

Update

200m final

1JAMTHOMPSON-HERAH Elaine21.53
2NAMMBOMA Christine21.81
3USATHOMAS Gabrielle21.87
4JAMFRASER-PRYCE Shelly-Ann21.94
5CIVTA LOU Marie-Josee22.27
6NAMMASILINGI Beatrice22.28
7SUIKAMBUNDJI Mujinga22.30
8BAHMILLER-UIBO Shaunae24.00

In the end the race delivered up to a point. Elaine Thompson-Herah was imperious. Shericka Jackson blundered in the heats. Dina Asher Smith withdrew and Shaunae just made up the numbers in the final in order to concentrate on the 400m final which she won. The shock of the race was Christine Mboma running personal best in her three races and kept running pass Gabby Thomas (heats, semis & finals) in the final 60 metres as if the latter was in Nike high heels. The debate will heat up about Mboma’s testosterone levels ahead of next year’s world championship. Will Diamond League promoters invite Mboma to the remaining meets in 2021?

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The Briana Williams/Boldon Coaching Conundrum

Jamaica’s national senior and junior athletic trials – known also as the Olympic trials – concluded recently with some sterling performances especially from the female athletes.

One of the outstanding accomplishments at the trials was that of top 400 metres runner, Shericka Jackson.

Jackson opted out of her usual event to take 2nd place positions in the 100 metres and 200 metres, both in personal best times and thus booking her ticket to Tokyo. Both sprint races were won by the great Shelly-Ann Fraser Pryce with defending Olympic sprint double champion Elaine Herah finishing third.   

In achieving those best times Jackson joined a select group of female athletes to run sub 11 seconds for the 100 metres (personal best 10.77 seconds), sub 22 seconds for the 200 metres (21.82 seconds) and sub 50 seconds for the 400 metres (49.47 seconds).

Many fans and pundits were surprised by Jackson’s performances at the trials. But if you know how her track club MVP operates those observers should not have been that amazed.

Jackson hinted at this new found speed at the shorter sprint distance in May when she ran a then personal best (11.02 seconds) in the 100 metres at a meet held at the National Stadium.

Jackson’s ascendancy at the trials was at the expense of the rising star Briana Williams who many expected to take the third spot in the sprint events behind Fraser-Pryce and Herah.

Williams,19, ran a personal best time of 11.02 seconds for the 100 metres on the same day as Jackson did a similar time in May.

By national trials in the 100m finals Williams’ (who finished 4th) time was 11.01 compared to Jackson’s astonishing 10.82. Williams also made the 200m finals at the trials but did participate.

Williams’ rise has been staggering under the tutelage of Ato Boldon, himself former Olympic sprint medalists and now coach as well as a sports broadcaster.

But in Williams’ two biggest races of her short professional career – the Jamaican national trials of 2019 and 2021 – Boldon was nowhere to be seen in the stands to lend support to his number 1 athlete and most prominent client due to his media commitments.

[In 2019 Williams also failed to make the individual 100m team for the World Championship. She came third in the 100m trials but was reprimanded after testing positive for the banned diuretic hydrochlorothiazide that she took during the trials after feeling unwell.]

Boldon also works a commentator/analyst for NBC in the United States. NBC  covers the annual US National track and field trials with Boldon and the likes of  Sanya Richards-Ross in the commentary booth.

Both the US trials and the Jamaican equivalent happens generally around the same week and thus Boldon was in Oregon providing colour commentary for US TV audiences.

But given Williams’ star quality and potential, should Boldon have been in Jamaica to assist in her preparation for the trials? Yes.

A number of the US-based Jamaican athletes that took part in the trials spoke in glowing terms of the US college coaches who took the time to be there with them  in Jamaica.

Can Williams really have a coach who is not there with her in person for the big races?

This is an issue that the Williams camp will have to consider going forward as there are major championship events coming up annually. The speed at which Jackson has caught up with passed Williams must have taken them by surprise and raise cause for concern.

One thing we know and expect from MVP track club – that farmed out Jackson as the surprise package – is the churning out of more top female sprinters in the coming years.

It will be difficult to see Jackson ever revert to running the 400 metres given from her high school days 200 metres was her pet event. In Hungary recently, Jackson gave Shaunae Uibo-Miller her first defeat in a 200 metres race in over 3 years.

Given how fiercely competitive female sprinting has suddenly become – locally and globally – do not be surprised if the Williams camp decide to change tact in the medium term and opt for a more hands-on coaching setup to help in Briana’s development.

(See how quickly the Jamaican track media fraternity/public has suddenly forgotten Briana’s name since the trials )

There is nothing wrong or disloyal about top athletes changing coaches at such a young age. Maybe Boldon has taken Williams as far as he can. We know there are very good sprint coaches around who may be able to eke out more speed to get Briana into even the top 3 in Jamaica.

Shelly-Ann Fraser Pryce switched coaches from MVP to join Reynaldo Walcott’s Elite Club in April this year. In the twilight of 34 year old Fraser-Pryce’s long career she is now running the best times of her life including sub 22 seconds for the 200m.

We saw at the recent US trials where Sydney McLaughlin, 21, decimated the 400 metres hurdles world record. In a post-race interview McLaughlin praised the work of her new coach the great Bob Kersee.

The 2022 World Athletics Championship will be held next July in off all places Oregon, USA, the home of Nike. As a Nike sponsored athlete Williams will be dead keen to represent Jamaica and her brand in the individual sprint events.

If the Jamaican and US trials are held over the same period next year – which is highly likely – the Williams camp should expect some guarantee from now that coach Boldon will be in Jamaica to help prepare Briana.

It is just not a good look when a young talented promising athlete such as Briana is thousands of miles from her coach during those career defining races.

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Past & Present RJR Crew: In Their Own Words

In order to get the slightest inclination into the history of Jamaica post 1962 there is no more a reliable source than the island’s local radio stations.

So it is welcoming to our ears that Radio Jamaica’s Beyond The Headlines has a segment on Friday evenings (6 05pmish) where host Dionne Jackson-Miller interviews current and former staff of RJR (now known as Radio Jamaica) who have worked for this influential radio station that started operations in the 1950s.

Over the past 12+ months listeners have heard Jackson-Miller interview a raft of journalist and broadcasters including Emily Shields, Cliff Hughes, Winston Williams, Erica Allen, Francois St Juste, Patrick Anderson, Dadrian Gordon, Lance Whittaker, Ed Barnes, Alan Magnus, Barry “The Boogie Man”  Gordon and numerous others including Marie Garth, a voice many of us transistorites had not heard on Jamaican radio-land since the early 1980s.

These 40+ minute interviews provide the listeners with a rare insight into how Jackson-Miller’s guests were initially hired by RJR – some applied, some were headhunted after leaving CARIMAC (University of the West Indies), some through word of mouth and another said she contacted RJR and told management that she had something that the company needed.

We also learn how these journalists/presenters honed their journalistic craft, developed a real passion for excellence and a love for their work and colleagues.

One of the consistent themes made by all of Jackson-Miller’s guest is the appreciation and support they received from many unsung heroes at RJR in  background  whether it be management, production or engineering e.g. Holford “Hol” Plummer, Jennifer Delisser-Lyons, Janette Mowatt, Courtney Sergeant and Dorothy “Dotty Dean” LaCroix.

We also learn from Jackson-Miller’s guests about some of the legendary colleagues that influenced their time at RJR; some of whom sadly are no longer with us today such as Uncle Neville Willoughby, Dorraine Samuels and the irreplaceable Hugh Crosskill Jr.

Jackson-Miller’s interviews with Cliff Hughes and Winston “The Whip” Williams were two of my favourites.

Hughes has a way with words and its delivery that made his conversation with Jackson-Miller  compelling listening such as his description of a near death experience during his coverage of Hurricane Gilbert (1988) with 3 other colleagues.

I did not know that it was Hughes – when at the publicly funded Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation (JBC) – that first commissioned Entertainment Report/ER  3 decades ago as a 5-minute programme  presented by Anthony Miller. Today, ER (now 45 minutes) is required Friday night TV viewing by many with Miller still in the hot seat.

Williams (“Winston from Kingston”) from his early media days in the 1970s and 80s was electrifying backed up by his elocutionary remarks. Williams brought that same vigor and exuberance to his chat with Jackson-Miller. I loved the story of Williams fixing his big afro into perfect position and slapping on some cologne ahead of reading the news – on radio.

These interviews by Jackson-Miller are so essential in capturing the history of Jamaican media from those who were and still at the heart of its development.

For decades Jamaica had 4 radio stations – RJR, RJR-FM, Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation (JBC) and JBC Radio 2. By the 1990s more stations came on board including Nationwide (launched by Hughes), Klas, Hot 102, Love FM, Kool FM,  Power 106 and IRIE FM.

Today, there are 25-30 radio stations (I’ve lost count) including some that are solely online. Many of the presenters across the current radio stations can trace their media roots and inspiration (directly or indirectly) back to RJR.

There is not a more poignant example of the importance of these interviews than when Jackson-Miller spoke to Michael Sharpe  -who sadly left us earlier this year – especially when Sharpe described detail his trailblazing eyewitness coverage of the US invasion of Grenada (1983).

I am sure there are podcast of these interviews somewhere on Radio Jamaica’s One-Spot Media platform.

Respect to Jackson-Miller for this excellent and very revealing segment.


 RJR 65th Anniversary Magazine – 2015

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Passenger Rail Services Returning to Jamaica?

Jamaica’s Transport Minister, Robert Montague, recently announced in parliament plans for the restart of the local rail passenger service on a restrictive access basis.

In a very brief statement on the subject of passenger railways Montague said:

“As for the Jamaica Railway Corporation, Madam Speaker, its workshop in Kingston has been restored and a solar light project there has been completed in order to restart the school train service from Old Harbour and Linstead via Spanish Town. We are working with the Jamaica Hertitage Trust to restore our station houses especially the Old Harbour Station.

In partnership with the JUTC and the Ministry of Education, we are hoping to move our children from Old Harbour and Linstead into Spanish Town by train. Then the JUTC will pick up and drop them off at the various schools in Spanish Town. In the afternoon the reverse will take effect. Along with the students, teachers, parents, health care and other essential workers will be prioritized for this service at first. Last Thursday, the train went to Linstead on a test run. This is not talk, this is a clear demonstration of the will of this government to build back stronger”

Montague went on to state this new plan for the railways was not all talk. Yet I have to quickly question the wisdom of trying to bring in a public passenger rail service and initially restrict who will be allowed on the trains. Red tape nonsense.

The vision from government looks short sighted, piece mealed and chaka-chaka.

One of the most shameful actions by both PNP and JLP governments since Jamaica achieved independence in 1962 was the lack of passion and vision to develop the then passenger rail service which sadly led to its complete closure by the 1980s.

During the previous JLP administration, Mike Henry, then Minister of Transport, in 2011 initiated test runs for passenger rail services to restart in the parishes of St Catherine and Clarendon. But when the PNP took power a year later, Omar Davies (Henry’s successor in the portfolio) quickly abandoned the pilot service.  Silly decision.

Just think, even though there is no passenger rail services in Jamaica yet the bauxite companies still use the said railway lines to transport their material.

Jamaica is flooded with numerous investments from China. Yet, if there is one area of expertise that Jamaica governments should have sought from their Chinese investors was in the development of a modern passenger railway network of railways and rolling stock.

We just need to look at how China has transformed the railways across Africa. Jamaica can look closer to home at their neighbours Cuba, where in 2019 that nation introduced modern passenger railway stock from China.

Speaking of railway expertise, Jamaica was one of the first countries in the world to have railway services in the mid 19th century. In fact that said Spanish Town to Old Harbour route that Montague mentions began operating in 1869!

One of the spin-offs of that period was that many Jamaicans were skilled in the area of railway construction and development and thus their skills were in constant demand across the Americas in the 19th and early 20th century in countries including Panama and Ecuador.

In Ecuador during the early 1900s up to 4000 Jamaicans worked on some of the most treacherous areas of the railway line including the famous The Devil’s Nose. Sadly many lost their lives during its construction and today there is a large cross in a local cemetery to commemorate the deaths of those Jamaicans.

Britain’s railway was saved post World War 2 by the significant input from people from the Caribbean including thousands of Jamaicans. Today, many Jamaicans can still be found at all levels of various organisations that oversee the UK’s railway and tube services from front offices through to senior management.

It is embarrassing that such a high level of railway expertise by Jamaicans living the UK has never been uitilised to its full potential back in their home country.

A modern passenger railway network is needed in Jamaica for so many reasons including getting people out of their cars which could reduce road fatalities and air pollution. Passengers train services will improve the overall efficiency of the economy in getting people from A to B in a swifter and less stressful fashion.

[Those who remember the passenger railways service in Jamaica will know that one thing about trains then – punctual.]

Imagine railway service that links the airport in Montego Bay to its Kingston equivalent and what that would do for the economy?

I will remain optimistic that one day, one sweet day that Jamaica will have the kind of modern passenger railway service it has missed for generations.

Let’s hope an innovative and modern nationwide rail passenger service becomes a centrepiece of the government integrated transport service. As certain parishes continue to get more densely populated a nationwide passenger railway service is needed more than ever.

Given the warm temperatures of Jamaica the government could look into bringing in expertise to develop a railway infrastructure run on renewable energy e.g. solar powered?

Back in the 1970s/1980s rail travel was my favourite mode of transport. In doing so I began to really appreciate how beautiful and scenic the island is from Port Antonio to Montego Bay/Kingston via Old Harbour.

Let’s all hope those folks mandated to deliver a modern integrated transport programme will understand that trains has to be a vital cog in any such system going forward.

More highways for vehicles is not the answer

Useful Sources

Early Jamaican migration to Ecuador and influence

https://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/news/20150821/early-jamaican-migration-ecuador-and-influence

London Underground’s Windrush generation

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Shelly-Ann Delivers Landmark Performance on Jamaican Soil

When Shelly -Ann Fraser Pryce blitzed the 100m last Saturday at 9.15 a.m.ish to obliterate the national record in a pulsating 10.63 it shook the foundations of athletics. In becoming the 2nd fastest woman of 100m ever Fraser-Pryce did something on Jamaican soil that few expected but she had been hinting a possible sub 10.7 mark as one of her goals this year – and you know when Shelly-Ann sets her goals.

But in creating such a jaw dropping landmark Fraser-Pryce may have just have delivered the greatest sporting moment on Jamaican soil of which they have been many over the years.

My own top ten sporting moments that took place in Jamaica land-we-love in no particular order would be:

  • (Boxing) January 1973 at the National Stadium – George Foreman’s annihilating then undefeated and seemingly unstoppable world heavyweight champion Joe Frazier. Probably the biggest sporting event ever held in Jamaica.
  • (Athletics) May 1975 at the National Stadium – Filbert Bayi (Tanzania) broke Jim Ryun’s 1967 mile world record at the National Stadium
  • (Cricket) April 1976 at Sabina Park – India lost to a West Indies team that unleashed a 4-man fast bowling attack that caused havoc. The Indian team failed to bat out both innings due to injuries and fear of injury. It was the turning point for West Indies cricket and began an era of dominance across the globe.  Just a shame the public TV broadcaster – JBC – never kept the tapes.
  • (Cricket) February 1972 at Sabina Park – Lawrence “Yagga” Rowe (West Indies) scoring a double century (214) and a century (100 not out) on his test debut against New Zealand. Rowe had achieved legendary status at regional cricket and after what he did on his debut Yagga became a hero to those including Vivian Richards. The are some in Jamaica who would wish for Rowe’s existence to be erased for his sojourn to apartheid South Africa but no one can take away Yagga’s blazing start to his test career.
  • (Athletics) 2002 at the National Stadium – Usain Bolt winning the World Juniors 200m. Bolt in his own words summed up that moment.
  • (Cricket) April 1981 at Sabina Park – England’s opening batsman Graham Gooch slapped 153 runs against the fearsome bowling of Colin Croft, Joel Garner, Michael Holding and Malcolm Marshall at a strike rate of 72%. It was brutal batting by Gooch with that heavy bat of his.

  • (Cricket) March 1935 at Sabina Park – George Headley’s 8 hour marathon score of 270 against England played a crucial part in part in the West Indies winning their first ever test series.
  • (Netball) March 2002 at the National Stadium –  Jamaica 46 – New Zealand  44 The Sunshine Girls first ever win over the perennial world champion – the Silver Ferns – was a major shock.  For decades Jamaica has been ranked in the world’s top 4 on a consistent basis but had never beaten New Zealand.
  • And Shelly-Ann last weekend. But no spectators were allowed for lockdown reasons.

My own personal favourite was Bayi’s performance as there is something captivating about any front running middle distance athlete who sets their own pace and breaks a world record in the process at the most unlikeliest of venues.

No surprise if the above top ten is revised before the end of June as Shelly-Ann, Elaine Thompson, Briana Williams, Kemba Nelson and other world class female sprinters will be lining up for the women’s 100m (and possibly 200m) at the Olympic trials. Because one thing we learnt for sure from last weekend’s buzz was that 10.5secs for 100m on local soil looks possible.

Plus, we could see at least 4 Jamaican female sprinters dip under 10.9 seconds in the same race should conditions allow.

But to the government, follow the example set by other nations and allow even some of the public medical staff to attend the Olympic trials. Those staff deserve a special day out and Shelly-Ann and co merit even a few fans in the stadium to watch more sparks fly.

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