My Winners and Losers of 2021

My winners of 2021 include:

  1. Letitia James (New York Attorney General) –James took out the Cuomos and in NY politics that is high stakes. Delivered a scathing report on Governor Andrew Cuomo’s handling of care homes during the pandemic. Her department’s report into sexual harassment allegations against Cuomo eventually forced his resignation. Further revelations from her office led to Chris Cuomo’s (Andrew’s brother) firing by CNN. The fact that James (Democrat) has not been lauded by much of the liberal New York media just shows how much push back she has faced – e.g. Not making Time magazine’s top 100 influential people of 2020. Even Donald Trump is rattled by her crusade to find dirt on his organisations. Just needs to watch her back from now on revenge will be in the air .
  2. Naftali Bennett (Prime Minister of Israel) – Bennett’s party won just 7 seats (out of 120) in the legislative elections and yet managed to position himself as kingmaker of an unlikeliest of coalition govts – 8  political parties incl. left & right wing parties plus an Arab party. Becoming PM and ending Bibi Netanyahu’s time in power. Now the most powerful politician in the Middle East – for now.
  3. Rachael Blackmore (Jockey, Ireland) – Top jockey at the Cheltenham Festival and riding the winner of the Grand National.
  4. Emmanuel Tuloe (Liberia) – The teen found $50k and returned it to the rightful owner. A decision that has been life changing
  5. Stephen Francis (Athletics coach, Jamaica) – Coaching the winners of the last 4 women’s 100m winners at the Olympic Games is no mean feat.
  6. Liz Cheney (US Republican Congresswoman) – Has publicly stood up to Donald Trump and his supporters in the party and conservative media over the January 6 insurrection events on Capitol Hill.
  7. Kyrsten Sinema & Joe Manchin (US Democrat Senators) – Joe Biden’s agenda can only go forward with their approval.
  8. Lyse Doucet (BBC) – Her reports “A Wish for Afghanistan” following the fallout over the Taliban capture of Afghanistan was quality journalism.
  9. Madison De Rozario (Athlete, Australia) – Won 2 track middle distances gold at the Paralympics. Also won the New York marathon.
  10. Frances Haugen (Facebook Whistleblower) – Many have tried and failed but Haugen’s disclosures of her time at Facebook forced the company into a retreat and a name change.
  11. Elaine Thompson (Track Athlete, Jamaica) – Repeated her sprint double at the Tokyo Olympics. Took female sprinting to levels not  seen since the late 1980s.
  12. Mia Mottley (Prime Minister of Barbados) – Transitioned Barbados into a republic.
  13. Juliet Holness (Jamaican MP and wife of PM) – Strong performance as a backbencher, committee member and Deputy Speaker of the House of Parliament.
  14. Dr Jacquiline Bisasor-McKenzie, (Chief Medical Officer, Jamaica) – At times the one person from the government that cut through the BS and mixed messaging to explain COVID-19 issues in a simplistic manner.
  15. Emmanuel Macron (President of France) – Positioned himself as the successor to Angela Merkel as the leader of Western Europe. Publicly took on Joe Biden, Boris Johnson and especially Australian PM Scott Morrison in ways not seen in recent years.
  16. Ajaz Patel (Cricketer, New Zealand) – 3rd bowler in the history of test cricket to take 10 wickets in an innings. First one to do so away from home – against India at Mumbai the place of his birth.
  17. Jovan Johnson (Journalist, The Gleaner) – A beacon in  Jamaica’s investigative journalism.
  18. Tsai Ing-wen  (President of Taiwan) Diplomatic wins with the US, EU and Australia becoming more vocal in their support of Taiwan’s growing autonomy despite louder threats from China.
  19. Questlove (Musician, Educator) – His podcast “Questlove Supreme” continues to be one of most relevant repository of post 1960s black culture with discussions with some of the key players  E.g. Chaka Khan, Mariah Carey, Jimmy Jam, Tracee Ellis Ross, Raphael Saadiq and the late Robert “Kool” Bell.
  20. Journalists and technical support @ Amnesty International – Exposed the level of spyware (Pegasus Project) usage by customers of the Israeli company NSO across the globe.

Yet there were some screw-ups along the 2021 landscape incl.

  1. Angela Merkel (German Chancellor) – After 16 years in power she left the political scene to much fanfare. But in those 16 years her government managed the wiggle out of acknowledging properly Germany’s past atrocities in Namibia, despite the UN’s declaration that a genocide was committed. The recent deal by her government to offer a conditional-aid compensation package worth $1.3 billion over 30 years is just insulting.
  2. Boris Johnson (PM of UK) – Bumbling.
  3. Joe Biden (US President) – Afghanistan pullout, Kabul drone strike,  pursuing Julian Assange and Haitian migrants to begin with
  4. Kamala Harris (US Vice President) – Bordering on danquaylism.The recent departures of both her communications director and senior spokesperson just adds fuel to a chaotic performance. 2022 is make or break for her 2024 aspirations.
  5. Donald Trump (former US President) – Whined for 12 months.
  6. Ashraf Ghani (former Afghanistan President) – Sneaked out of his country as the Taliban entered Kabul without even informing his closest associates.
  7. John Kirby (US Defense spokesman) – On the botched US drone strike on Kabul he said “… We acknowledged that there were procedural breakdowns, processes were not executed the way that they should have been. But it doesn’t necessarily indicate that an individual or individuals have to be held to account for that.”
  8. Priti Patel (Home Secretary, UK) – Piss-Poor handling of the Windrush compensation scheme for starters. “What’s become clear is that she [the Home Secretary] is out for herself and only interested in how this plays out publicly. If we worked collaboratively then we could get things done but instead we just have cloud cuckoo land public statements.’ – current senior Home Office official.
  9. Uhuru Kenyatta (President of Kenya) & extended family – Pandora Papers revealed links to 13 offshore companies with assets worth $30m.
  10. Ben Domenech (Founder of the Federalist) – Conservative journalists in the US who does not hold back in slamming liberal related issues. Failed to publicly respond to Donald Trump who publicly described his wife – Meghan McCain – as “low life”.
  11. Fayval Williams (Jamaica’s Minister of Education) – Uninspiring leadership for a portfolio that is at crisis point.
  12. Susan Collins (former Leader of the Opposition, New Zealand) -Demoted  Simon Bridges (her predecessor) from a shadow cabinet post to the back benches. 24 hours later she was gone or as they say in NZ “rolled”.
  13. Xi Jinping (Chinese President) – Crackdown of Hong Kong against on free speech.
  14. US Cable News Host (CNN, MSNBC, FOX) – They and their echo chambers (aka contributors) are some of the best thespians you will find on tv. Emmy Award material.
  15. Jacinda Ardern (Prime Minister) – The stiff restrictions for New Zealanders based overseas from returning home is just way over the top and costly.
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Whatever happened to Jamaica’s Blitz to Remove Tints on Vehicles?

I just hope that the Jamaican authorities – as continue efforts to reduce violent and organised crime – revisit the whole tinting policy on vehicles.

Back in 2016 and 2017 there was a highly publicised campaign by the police especially through their then head of traffic, Senior Superintendent Calvin Allen, to reduce the thickness of the tinting on certain vehicles.

But in 2021 you just get that feeling that the enforcement of this tinted policy has waned.

Whenever a thickly tinted vehicle comes up close to you or parks outside your front gate you can understandably feel apprehensive. You can feel at risk in today’s very violent Jamaica especially with the growth in contract killings.

Such heavy tinting of vehicles gives criminals and their enablers the freedom to carry out their unlawful actions without fear of been recognised.

For one thing it does not make any sense for the authorities to be championing the national integrated CCTV programme known as the Jamaica Eye when these cameras cannot penetrate enough to capture clear images of the occupants of a tinted vehicle under investigation.

These hoodlums and their Illegally firearms do not travel much by foot and rely heavily on vehicles to pursue their devious acts. Tinted ones.

We also know that some thieves use these thickly tinted vehicles to conduct robberies especially of poultry and other farm products. Never forget recently of a goat being picked up off the streets by a teefing driver in a heavily tinted SUV.

Certain crooks are known to prefer the use of stolen tinted vehicles in order to carry out their acts of lawlessness. E.g. kidnapping seems to be more common in recent years.

Time for the authorities to take a zero-tolerance approach and simply stop all forms of tinting on vehicles for say 2-3 years as a crime reduction measure.

Scrap the tint.

Note

Majority of PPV Operators Compliant with Tint Removal – Jamaica Information Service, March 2017 

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Robbie Shakespeare –Reggae General

As a fan of most genres of music, the bass is one of those musical instruments that I have long  appreciated in its various forms, whether it’s the bass playing from

  • Jazz (Paul Chambers, Ron Carter, Butch Warren, Charles Mingus),
  • R&B  (James Jamerson, Freddie Washington, Carol Kaye, Leon Sylvers III, Donald Dunn, Blackbyrd McKnight, Robert Bell, Marcus Miller),
  • Jazzy funk (Paul Jackson, Michael Henderson, Chuck Rainey, Stanley Clarke) and
  • Reggae with the likes of Leroy Sibbles, Val Douglas, Aston Barrett, Boris Gardiner and indeed Robbie Shakespeare who sadly transitioned off in recent days.

The first time I came across the name Robbie Shakespeare was in the mid 1970s when he was part of Peter Tosh’s band on seminal albums such as “Legalize It” and “Equal Rights”. Robbie was the very first Shakespeare I had heard of: William would come along later when at high school.

Robbie’s playing on “Stepping Razor” immediately stood out for me.  But then I heard Robbie’s bass work  on another of Tosh’s later track “Buk-In-Hamm Palace” and that stuck out big time, not that this tune was allowed much airtime on Jamaican radio.

But my enduring respect and admiration for Robbie and his long time collaborator, drummer Sly Dunbar, came through their productions on a number of singles by the group Black Uhuru in the late 1970s/early 1980s.

Those tracks became regular fixtures on Jamaican radio and subsequently on my own turntable, cassette player, CD player etc til this very day, with especially the tracks “General Penitentiary”, “Plastic Smile” “Party Next Door” and “What is Life”.

Robbie was such a regular visitor to London. One time I was chilling on the steps at a spot in South London and leaning on the railings minutes later was Robbie on his own and we did usual Jamaican nod of the head acknowledgement.

I remember joking to Robbie that he (& Sly) and the legendary US jazz funk vibraphonist Roy Ayers should be given the freedom of the London Borough of Camden for the number of times they played at the venues in that part of North West London.

Over the years in Jamaica Robbie was a regular contributor through jingles on the popular “Cutting Edge” radio show on Irie FM hosted by Mutabaruka.

I always felt that when Sly and Robbie created the Taxi label in the early 1980s they gave Jamaican music a major injection as their productions brought a very refreshing approach to the sounds of reggae that was distinctly different from their peers and predecessors. Sly and Robbie’s Taxi instrumental chune is one of the most popular sounds to come out of Jamaica and is played virtually every weekday on Jamaican radio.

My favourite Taxi productions in those early years of the company was the work Sly and Robbie did with Ini Kamoze on the albums Ini Kamoze & Statement.

I’d be lying if I could recall how many times I had seen both Sly and Robbie play live since the mid-1980s onwards.

But 2 of my memorable moments of seeing Sly & Robbie play live were..

  1. Jazz Café, London. Robbie took the mike and sang a raucous duet with the late Bunny Rugs.
  2. Royal Festival Hall in South London has long been accepted as having one of the best arenas for  sound quality and the audience was transfixed when Sly and Robbie played an extended instrumental duet of “General Penitentiary” in complete darkness. Or was it “Natural Reggae Beat”? It was that kind of night.
Chill Out
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Mottley’s Republic – British Throne Flushed Out of Barbados

Who would have thought that Barbados – as from the 30th November 2021 – would become the next Caribbean former UK colony to follow what Trinidad & Tobago did in 1976 and declare itself a republic?

The long standing assumption by Caribbean observers was that Jamaica – with its post-independence history of activism through its music, arts and trade unionism – would have been the next to dump the British royal family’s head honcho as it head of state.

But in Mia Mottley, Barbados has a prime minister (elected in 2018) who continues to move at a pace in positioning her island as one of the stand-out nations in the Western Hemisphere before she demits office. Mottley has hinted that 2 terms in office is enough for her.

Since becoming PM Mottley has transcended Caribbean politics and continues to make her mark on the global stage in ways not seen from a regional perspective since the days of former Jamaican PM Michael Manley, especially during his 1972-1976 term.

The international reaction to Mottley’s speech at the recent COP26 summit in Glasgow was evidence that she stole the event from all the more higher profile political and environmental leaders who were also there.

Whenever Mottley delivers a significant speech she has this genius knack of incorporating elements of the wider Caribbean culture in her comments. In some speeches she has quoted Caribbean literary and musical stalwarts such as Earl Lovelace, Eddie Grant and The Wailers. That wins her brownie points amongst the wider Caribbean public.

Mottely has shown on countless occasions of been fearless in taking on the Western leaders. When former US president Donald Trump tried to drive a wedge through the CARICOM leadership by creating a new  alliance amongst the Caribbean conservative-leaning heads of government such as Jamaica, Mottley publicly called out the US administration in very blunt terms.

Much as Mottley has been widely praised for this republican move some of her fellow Barbadians were not impressed that such a major change to their nation was not first put to a referendum. In the lead up to the last week’s momentous day some in the local media complained of been sidelined by Mottley’s administration in preference to their international counterparts on the ground.

“Republic Is A Sad Move For Nation” – letter to the Star Tribune

Mottley’s decision to drop the stunning news that musician and entrepreneur Rihanna Fenty, 31, will become the next national hero of Barbados was a masterstroke. The decision has drawn mixed reactions especially in relation to Rihanna’s age. But I am not a fan of age being a reason to limit a person’s suitability in attaining a nation’s highest civilian honour.

In Jamaica the political  and media classes are scrambling for a consistent narrative to play catch up and follow Barbados’ step to becoming republic. The pressure has been mounting in recent days for cultural icons Bob Marley and Louise Bennett  to be elevated to national hero status. Will all this recent talk be the usual 9-day wonder?

There is much outrage and embarrassment by some Jamaicans over Barbados beating them to the republican door. But some have also made the mistake of unfairly comparing Rihanna to Marley. But they miss a crucial difference. 

Barbadians loves and appreciate Rihanna in her lifetime. The universal love and appreciation for Bob by many Jamaicans came after his death. Let’s face it the State at the time gave the likes of Marley, Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer (& many other Rastafarians) a truly brutal time.

Jamaican politicians – whenever in opposition – have long promised major constitutional reform such as a republican Jamaica, term limits and fixed election dates. But political amnesia quickly sets in when they get actual power and nothing happens.

But you see some of the Jamaican political and legal classes are still charmed by the British system and do love the pomp and regalia that goes along with it.

When then then Manley administration decided to end the tradition of Jamaicans  accepting gongs such as knighthoods from Buckingham Palace some senior members in his own political party (PNP) were angry.

Only in July this year Jamaican PM, Andrew Holness, was made a member of  privy council.

“Her Majesty The Queen has been graciously pleased to approve that the Most Honourable Andrew Holness, ON, PC, MP, Prime Minister of Jamaica, be appointed a member of Her Majesty’s Most Honourable Privy Council.” –

Governor General, Patrick Allen

Would a leader of government accept the title of Privy Council if he or she had intentions of ditching the monarch?

It is indeed time for Jamaica to take steps towards becoming a republic. But it has to be done through a referendum and not railroaded as Mottley did in Barbados. For one thing the British royal family is still a very influential institution across their former colonies and until those countries remove it as head of state such leverage will just continue.

It is also time to elevate far more Jamaicans to national hero status.  Although I think the term “national hero” is out of date to use for a nation’s highest honour.  For one thing the word “hero” has combative connotations and thus some find it uncomfortable to accept social reformers, sport stars and musical high achievers as on the same level as those official named heroes who fought colonialism.

But times are different now and society has to adapt and confer more Jamaicans to  its highest national award. Society needs heroes from a wider cross section.

How can it be that Jamaica has never given its highest national award to anyone born in the 20th century?

At the last general election Mottley cleaned house with her party (Barbados Labour Party) winning all 30 seats in parliament – 73% of the vote. Given Mottley’s growing influence on the international stage and the recent republican push, it will be interesting to see how she and the BLP performs at the next general election due in 2023.

If Mottley wins big again and maintains that positive profile then she must be destined for even greater things beyond the Caribbean Sea.

Do not be surprised if Mottley is under serious consideration to succeed António Guterres as UN Secretary General.

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State Of Emergency Senate No Vote – Diplomatic Blunder or Government Masterstroke?

The opposition People’s National Party (PNP) has taken a lot of heat after all their senators in the upper house failed to support the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) administration’s intention to extend the State of Public Emergency (SOE) in certain areas into early 2022.

3 of the PNP senators had voted no and the other 5 were absent, although the absentees were at some stage present (1 virtually) in parliament.  

But one thing missing from the subsequent political fallout since the previous Thursday’s vote is the government senators’ handling of the whole voting process. Did the government really want the PNP senators to support the extension or was this a political move to embarrass the Mark Golding-led opposition?

The SOE bill had already passed easily in the lower House of Representatives (MPs) given the huge majority the government enjoys there. But in the senate the government requires at least one vote from the PNP for the bill to proceed.

For some time in parliament whenever opposition senator Lambert Brown rises to make his contribution to any debate, senator Kamina Johnson-Smith, the leader of government business, walks out. Some times Johnson-Smith is followed out by other senators but not all.

(Now, one assumes this brouhaha goes back to the whole backlash over the A.J Nicholson/Johnson-Smith issue- see below)

These constant walk-outs by Johnson-Smith has now got to strange levels. In all the 40+ years I watched parliaments in at least 12 other nations I have never seen kind of behaviour. Yes, parliamentarians have been known to walk out occasionally but not to this unnecessary level.

I raise this issue only because as leader of the government’s legislation business in the senate where you need 1 vote from the PNP why would Johnson-Smith then chose this critical moment to perform another walk out?

Most of the government senators do sit and listen to Brown’s contributions and thus the walk-out lacks credibility for the government leader of the senate.

The one thing about Lambert Brown in the senate is that he is not as partisan as many would have you believe and has been known to vote with the JLP administration on numerous proposed legislations including some previous incarnations of the SOE.

As the Jamaican government’s top diplomat (foreign affairs minister) Johnson-Smith should have swallowed her pride and employed her leadership skills to charm Brown in that moment and sit and listen to his speech. She could have also  spoken to him behind the scenes. By sitting and listening to Brown’s contribution may have moved the voting needle in the government’s direction.

Walking out on such a crucial issue just does not make political sense and that’s why you have to wonder was this just a political chess move to embarrass the PNP ahead of the local government elections in 2022.

If Johnson-Smith was a back bench senator then her walk outs probably would have had such little impact. But as government leader, she has to rise above any ill-feeling towards Brown and front up at all times.

The Jamaican senate is probably the most impressive branch of government. The level of input is certainly of higher standard than their fellow parliamentarians in the lower house.

As for the lower houses of parliament. A week earlier when Johnson-Smith did one of her usual Lammy-Brown-walk-outs, George Wright, her former parliamentarian colleague who is in the lower house was cheered on rapturously by JLP MPs during his contribution to a debate. Wright was kicked out (following public outrage) of the JLP earlier this year over an alleged domestic violence incident caught on fuzzy CCTV.   

Optically it just looks messy in the senate and needs to be resolved.

Useful Sources:

  • Senate Rage: Walkout after Brown labels Johnson Smith hypocrite, liar – Loop Jamaica, 4 July 2021
  • State of Emergency extension blocked after Senate vote – Gleaner, 25 November 2021
  • ‘We need the SOE’ – Gleaner, 28 November 2021
  • Editorial | Tavares-Finson crossed the line – Gleaner, 2 December 2021 
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Rugby Union Players Can Switch Countries, Over to FIFA

The news last week that World Rugby – governing body that runs the sport of rugby union globally –  will amend the eligibility rules and allow its international players to switch and represent another country is a welcome development.

“World Rugby amends rule and allows players to switch national teams” – Guardian 2021

This move by World Rugby is another example of how rugby union continues to modernise the sport in ways that other major sports could learn from or take too long to replicate in some form.

The rule changes by World Rugby means that from January 2022 a rugby union player will now be able to play for a different country after a period of three years in not representing the former country.

In other words, rugby union players can move to play for a nation of their birth their parents’ or grandparents’ birth, but can only switch such commitment just the once.

The biggest beneficiaries of this radical change by World Rugby are male players currently playing for the bigger spending rugby nations such as England, France, Australia and New Zealand but who have ancestral ties to the traditional Pacific island rugby union nations such as Fiji, Tonga and Samoa.

But international rugby players from those big spending rugby nations with Caribbean and African roots will also benefit in the long term; as countries from those weaker rugby union regions continue to develop their international profile especially in the seven a side format.

For years some of the top players from the Pacific islands headed to play domestic rugby in the lucrative professional leagues in England and France. Some stayed long enough to earn call ups to play for England where again the playing fees is just astronomical compared to playing for in Australasia.

During the men’s 6 nations championship earlier this year, for the 5 matches played by England each member of that 28-man squad earned  £75,000 each.

In 2017 when England played home to Samoa the Pacific island players were paid £650 each compared to their host who were paid £22,000 each.

So you can see why any Pacific islander player without any international caps but playing in the English Premiership would opt to play for England in the first place if the opportunity arises.

The move by World Rugby thus would reset such imbalance and give those England players a chance to eventually play for their Pacific island home nations and other emerging rugby countries.

What I would love see now is for other sporting governing bodies to follow World Rugby’s lead and allow players in their sport to switch allegiances as well.

The sports that come to mind mostly is football followed by cricket and athletics. There is some leeway for switching allegiances in say athletics and cricket but it is not as clear cut as the changes being put forward by World Rugby.

For too long in European football the bigger sporting nations have used their spending power to entice young footballers from developing countries to play in their domestic league only to then transition them for their country. Yet knowing full well this is a short-term measure to prevent them from playing for their country of birth.  

In football we have heard the stories from Europe where players have been deliberately recruited for just the 1 or 2 meaningless international games in order to the prevent them from playing for lower ranked nations of their ancestry.

Some European national football administrations and clubs take a dim view of those locally based players who are of African and Caribbean descent and have declared any interest to play for the country of their ancestry or birth.

FIFA – football’s governing body – should follow World Rugby’s example. For one thing such a would create a lot of buzz and speculation and give the emerging nations a real boost to their development.

So from a Jamaican perspective it would be fascinating if we saw Manchester City striker Raheem Sterling – when in his veteran stage – had that chance to switch from England for the country of his early life?

I can imagine if footballer John Barnes in his pomp (1980s/90s) had the chance to switch from England to Jamaica he would have done so. The number of African nations who could benefit from football players in Europe swapping their loyalties is endless.  

In cricket the likes of England have benefited from “developing” players from nations such as the West Indies and South Africa. England would then transitioning these young players into playing for them on the international stage. But then we have seen where some players have been discarded after a few matches and their short-lived international career is done.

Good move World Rugby. The FIFA and their likes can learn from this.

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Women’s Tennis 2015 Onwards – Tough & Unpredictable

When British teenager Emma Raducanu sensationally won the US Open women’s single tennis title at Flushing Meadows recently, the reaction back in London’s media was – as you would expect – over the top.  

Yet you could not blame the media hoo-ha given that the Brits have been desperately waiting since 1977 (Virginia Wade) for a female compatriot to come along and win that elusive grand slam singles title. Given that London is host to Wimbledon the prestigious of the grand slams the UK fans had all but given up on having such a winner from their neck of the woods.

Many in the British media could not hold back their rush to anoint young Raducanu, 19, as the British tennis player they have been waiting for to take over the sport for years to come.

My reaction to that media response was that these trumped-up-wagonists have not taken women tennis seriously over the past 7 years or so. Because if the media sporting football obsessed editors had taken the time to follow the sport they would realise that women’s tennis today is brutally tough, competitive and incredibly  unpredictable.

Only weeks ago at the Indian Wells Masters tournament at Virginia, USA – regarded by some as the unofficial 5th grand slam – was won by Spain’s Paula Badosa described in some tennis circles as a rising star.

Think back to the 2019 US Open singles event when then 19 year old Canadian, Bianca Andreescu (seeded 15) defeated Serena Williams in the final when most expected the latter to win a record 24th grand slam title. The competitive nature of women’s tennis has meant that Andreescu has not made another grand slam final since that momentous win.

Ironically us long standing Serena fans had long expected her glide easily pass Margaret Court’s record of 24 grand slam single titles and get to 30. But the depth in the quality of the game is such that Serena has been left behind by these younger players.

In 2019 when Serena was defeated in the first week at Wimbledon by then 15 year old compatriot Coco Gauff the media said the victor will soon be world number 1. Gauff may indeed get to that lofty position in due course but she has not made any of the quarter finals of the 5 grand slam tournaments she has played.

The thing is since 2015 women’s top class women’s tennis has turned on its head and has become the most unpredictable and competitive gig in all of individual sports.

Conversely, grand slam men tennis title events still revolves around a handful of players especially Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.

From the 1980s to the 2000s the 4 women’s grand slams singles titles (Australian, French, Wimbledon & US) ) each year were won by just a few players.

The 1970s/1980s had Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova virtually sweeping the titles, the 1980s/1990s Steffi Graff won some 20+ titles and from the 2000s onwards the Williams sisters (Serena and Venus) have cleaned up especially Serena.

But since 2015 grand slam single titles have had multiple female winners – Wimbledon has had 5 different winners, French Open 7, US Open 6 and the Australian Open 5.

The women grand slams for that period delivered 16 different winners with the French Open having had 13 different finalists.

In that said period the 27 men’s grand slam singles events had just 7 different winners with Nadal winning 6 and Djokovic grabbing an incredible 13 titles.

Some tennis purist might complain that there is no stand out stars like when Serena, Navrotilova or Graf were in their pomp. But the unpredictable nature of women tennis today is what makes it a more gripping and interesting sport to follow for me these days.

The quality of the matches from the very first round of grand slams and other top tournaments is generally of a high standard. The speed of these female players around the court is just impressive. The power of their ground strokes is relentless and the touches at the net makes for amazing tennis.

Today there is no longer any easy matches from the very first round for the seeded players in these top tier events. Unlike decades ago, it is impossible to predict who will make even the quarter finals of these big tournaments.

Yet the intensity of these matches means there are more injuries and the pressures on their mental well being both on and off the court is being truly tested.

Some tennis stars such as Naomi Osaka (Japan) have had to take an extended break to reboot her energies. But given the quality in depth in the sport there is no guarantee that Osaka can walk straight back in and win multiple grand slam singles titles straight away. Osaka is just one of the very few multiple winners of grand slam women singles title since 2015.

Since winning the US Open Raducanu has found things tricky to even string up a series of wins in minor tournaments.  The US Open was her first and only title on the WTA (Women’s Tennis Association) circuit.

But knowing the British media they will be expecting Emma to win every tournament she plays. Let us hope she ignores all that media brouhaha. Because we know it doesn’t take much for the UK media to turn on Emma should she falter by the time Wimbledon comes round in June 2022.

But do not be surprised if a British female tennis wins a grand slam singles title within the next 2-3 years and her first name is not Emma.

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The Ruel Reid Saga – Chasing Payments

The whole Ruel Reid saga over his secondment terms from his role as principal of Jamaica College to becoming minister of education, youth and information in 2016 was a political scandal that was clearly avoidable.

·        Ruel Reid steps down as JC principal – Observer 20th November 2021

·        Ruel Reid gets $23.3 million settlement – Gleaner 24th November 2021

The fact that it took this long for Reid to finally resign from JC last weekend is an indictment of the leadership, judgement and decision making displayed by the powers that be in local politics, education and business.

Take away Reid’s current issues in the courts following his removal from his cabinet post and subsequent charge for fraud, prime minister Andrew Holness and his close advisers must have been aware that such secondment terms for a public servant was wrong to begin with.

How can senior savy government and political circles think it is good practice to have a public servant such as Reid appointed to a government ministerial position with control and oversight of the industry he is seconded from?

The board of directors at an elite secondary school such as Jamaica College should have made it clear to the government from 2016 that they intend to move on from Reid permanently.

In 2019 it came to light – that despite being a government minister since 2016 – Reid was still residing at the official residence for the principal of Jamaica College. This smacked of poor leadership on the part of Jamaica College again.

But Reid should have displayed some moral fibre of his own and leave JC’s principal’s  official residence of his own accord and allow his (acting) successor – Wayne Robinson – to move in.

I for one was baffled at times of how government minister Reid kept linking himself to JC issues in this period. Such as when Reid’s government committed $JM 20 million to the development of a running track at JC in 2018/19.  

Reid should have been wise enough to stay away from anything to do with Jamaica College. But that’s super-sonic egotism for you.

Even Reid’s permanent secretary at the education ministry should have seen to it that he had no contact with JC. Yet permanent secretaries at the education ministry are another twisted set of sagas of its own in recent times.

Ruel Reid – Centre Stage

What was even more bizarre was when government minister Reid started to go after Keisha Hayle, principal of Padmore Primary who had publicly come out in support of the opposition People’s National Party (PNP)

But Reid is something else. In 2019 he wanted parliament to introduce a code of conduct for educators who are active in politics. (Huh?)

One of the areas Reid was keen on with this suggested code of conduct was the monitoring of the social media activities of politically active educators. This drew outrage and in time was the beginning of Reid’s fall from grace.

  • Reid wants code of conduct for educators in politics – Gleaner Jan, 2019

But the lesson to learn from this drawn-out kerfuffle is that public servants must  quit their full time public sector role if he/she is appointed a government minister or even a paid government advisor.

Such a schoolboy error by all connected is shambolic and says a lot about leadership, accountability and self-interest by those in charge who talk a good game to the youths (e.g. on critical thinking) but do the complete opposite.

One sector in Jamaica that has long been dogged by the perception of corruption, conflicts of interest, favouritsm and maladministration has been education.

Numerous reports from the Auditor General and exposés in the Gleaner have raised questions of how millions in public funds have been administered by senior management officials in the sector.

If the education sector is so riddled with such failings and chaos what hope for the masses of young people facing challenges over literacy and numeracy issues. Especially when lack of public funding can be a major stumbling block to their educational development.

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Ruel Reid, NDa
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T20 World Cup 2021 – West Indies Struck Out

As dreaded by many West Indian fans their T20 World Cup men’s team made a tepid defense of its 2016 title with a wimpish display of poor lazy cricket losing 4 of the 5 matches played in the UAE.

By the way, congrats Australia for winning the tournament.

When the West Indies squad for the T20 World Cup was first announced, quite rightly, there was outrage by many fans and former players across the Caribbean. What first struck many about the squad was how old and out of form many of the selected were in recent years.

The squad resembled a farewell tour for a number of senior players whose stardom had long faded but survived on the international scene due to name recognition.

Leaving out Jason Holder from the initial squad was an insult to the big man. Since 2016 Holder has carried West Indies cricket – in the 3 forms – on his shoulders and his exclusion was senseless.

I have long had problems since 2018 with the West Indies keep hoping and wishing for the likes of Andre Russell, Chris Gayle, Dwayne Bravo and even Kieron Pollard will return to their glory days on a consistent basis. These players had hardly played for the West Indies since 2016.

I defy anyone to tell me when was the last period when Andre Russell has delivered with the bat consistently and successfully for the West Indies in 1 calendar year. Yes, the big man from Bodles, Old Harbour was banned for whereabouts violation and has had numerous injuries but don’t tell me Russell has done anything of significance for the West Indies in recent times with his hard hitting.

Yet selectors and fans will tell you that Russell  is a certain starter as a batter. I don’t get it.

I can throw the same logic at skipper Kieron Pollard. Solid form the Mumbai Indians (waned a bit lately though) but a shadow of himself in the Maroon shirt.

The likes of Gayle and Bravo should have willingly stepped aside and give the young players a chance to develop and shine for the senior squad.

To me picking Andre Fletcher was a sackable offence for Roger Harper, chief selector. It would have been wiser to go for Joshua Da Silva as the backup keeper (to Pooran) given his solid performance in the recent CPL final for the champions St Kitts & Nevis Patriots. But Fletcher?

The selection of Ravi Rampaul was a slap in the face to the younger fast bowlers who stayed and played for the West Indies. Rampaul had given up his West Indies playing ambitions when he signed to be a Kolpak player in English domestic cricket which meant relinquishing any chance of playing for the West Indies. But Kolpak is now dead due to BREXIT. Jayden Seales was a far better option or even Dominic Drakes.

Instead of choosing Gayle the selectors should have gone for someone like Sherfane Rutherford or Kyle Mayers who is a genuine allrounder that plays spin very well, a strong hitter and has a knack taking crucial wickets.

Yes, the winning Australian team fielded players -with the exception of Pat Cummins and Adam Zampa – all  in their 30s. But at least the eventual winners were all fit physically and mentally, ego free and made the necessary adjustments as they progressed through the tournament!! 

Australian and West Indies reacted differently after they were both crushed by England in the early group games.

Board vs Players

The wheels of West Indies T20 cricket began to fall off the minute Carlos Brathwaite and Marlon Samuels took the Darren Sammy-led side to a sensational  win in the T20 final over England in 2016.

After winning in 2016 many of us fans prayed that the West Indies cricketing administration, coaching staff and strategists would not make a cow’s mess of the T20 infrastructure as they have done in the test/ODI arena. How wrong we were.

In 2016 the West Indies T20 team was ranked 3rd. Today the side has slumped to 10th and now has to qualify for the 2022 T20 World Cup in Australia.

I do fear if the West Indian cricket fraternity does not get this act together the likes of Namibia and Ireland will go above them in the T20 rankings.

The relationship between senior players and the Dave Cameron-led Cricket West Indies administration became so toxic right after the 2016 World Cup and the damage was irreparable.

But Cricket West Indies has missed numerous chances in transitioning the younger players into the senior squad team for a sustained period.  

The likes of Nicholas Pooran, Seales, and Shimron Hetmeyer has to be seen as the future of West Indies cricket and the squad constructed around these players. I’m not forgetting Evin Lewis.

Emerging Short Thinking

When the West Indies emerging players squad (a team made up of young players who were not picked by their own nations) won the 2019 regional 50 over tournament, I felt that team displayed the kind of infectious team spirit and energy that you rarely saw in any West Indian international or regional cricket team on the field. These emerging players were dynamic, fearless and played good hard cricket against their more established opponents.

I felt that winning emerging team should have been developed and kept together and play the next couple of years as a team in their own right in both the CPL (Caribbean Premier League) and regional 50 over tournament. Most of the players were under 24 years old.

That emerging team included the likes Jaydon Seales and Joshua Da Silva who have come gradually through to make the test team recently. That winning side also had Dominic Drakes who was the match winner in the recent CPL final for the Patriots. Seales, Da Silva and Drakes should have had more chances to play white ball cricket on a regular basis for the West Indies and be in the T20 World Cup setup.

Like I said back in 2019 bringing back Phil Simmons as coach was simply a bad idea. When Ricky Skerritt campaigned successfully in 2019 for presidency of Cricket West Indies (defeating Cameron) he made it clear that a West Indian coach should be in charge. Such a comment  was just asinine given the plethora of good coaches in the game across the globe.

Windies Tumbled by Rashid & Ali, Slaughtered By Warner & Co.

I was not surprised by how England annihilated the West Indies in their first match of the Super 12 with Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali destroying our batting line-up with ridiculous bowling figures.

But the Windies’ performance in their last match against Australia was more embarrassing for me. They showed no fight and seem to lie down easily for the Aussies to saunter to an easy win. It was as if our players and coaches had no reaction to their dismal display performances in the previous matches.  Yet our players seemed to be more interested in ensuring their senior team mates got a big applause as each left the pitch for (hopefully) the final time.

West Indies batsmen have been dismal for some time when it comes to totting up on the number dot balls. Lendl Simmons’ batting performance against South Africa was the perfect example dot-ball fever. Our batsmen seem to believe it is all about boundaries and nothing whatever the playing conditions.

Maybe the coaching fraternity should bring in fines for the batsmen if they accumulate a certain percentage of dot balls whilst at the crease starting with the regional white ball matches.

England will be touring the West Indies early next year and by that time the senior management and coaching staff must pick a young squad and give them the chance to develop and fight!

The one person I wish suggest could come in for a mentoring position -even for a short period- who be Pakistan’s Shoaib Malik who has become a regular fixture in the CPL for Guyana Amazons. The way Malik has spoken passionately about the young West Indian players he has worked with at the Amazons was so inspiring even to me and those said players have spoken in glowing terms about Malik’s mentoring.

The CPL is certainly failing in nurturing players and needs a few changes to make it more competitive. At times the CPL resembled a carnival. I was not impressed in the latest version when certain top players were unavailable one day only to then turn up days later and play in the IPL.

T20 World Cup – A Powerplay Review

Congrats again to the tournament victors Australia who as usual defeated their neighbours New Zealand in the final. The Black Caps losing Devon Conway (injured) ahead of the final was a crucial blow to their winning chances.

Once the Aussies somehow overcame Pakistan in the semis a win for Aaron Finch’s team was a certainty given the Baggy Greens have had always the Indian  sign over New Zealand in the big international games.

David Warner and Mitchell Marsh showed up big time in the final stages; the West Indian bowlers had given both batters enough slogging practice in that atrocious bowling display.

I give the tournament 8 out of 10. Putting on World Cup right after the IPL was some achievement by the organisers in the UAE.

The group phase was way too long and knock out stage too short.  Too many meaningless matches in the group stage when net run rates gave certain top teams a big advantage when playing the minnows in the latter stages. Afghanistan vs Pakistan was the most exciting match followed by the 2 semifinals.

Winning the toss and batting last due to the dewing conditions proved significant. Maybe playing the semis & final in the daytime would have negated the dew influence and give each team a fairer chance.

16 teams in groups of 4 would be the way forward with the return of quarter finals. Especially when the tournament goes to USA/West Indies in 2024.

South Africa must be kicking themselves for not at least making the semis. India’s relentless effort to keep Ravichandran Ashwin out of their starting line up was cruel.

Pakistan finally defeating India in a major tournament was great for the sport. The team spirit between both teams was touching. Hopefully some of those players will play in each other’s premier league tournaments one day. Especially if held in the UAE or even play together in the CPL.

New Zealand getting to 3 straight finals in the various formats of the sport – with virtually the same players – is a testament to their planning and development of players. They play as a team and in Kane Williamson they have a super captain whatever the format. He keeps the team grounded and their game simple in all phases.

Pakistan’s Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan were my players of the tournament.

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Colin Powell 1937 – 2021

It was in the late 1980s when I first came across the name Colin Powell whilst  reading his name in the UK newspapers when he was part of George H Bush’s administration.

My first impression of the name was that Colin Powell must be a black man or at least Jamaicanish.

You see, Colin was at that time was such a popular Jamaican first name and Powell was a surname rooted mainly from the Jamaican parish of St Elizabeth. If you meet anyone in Jamaica whose surname at birth was Powell then Saint Eliz was generally their parish of roots. Surnames such as Bent, Mullings, Rochester, Salmon and Ebanks also resonate with the said parish or the neighbouring Westmoreland.

Months later I saw Powell’s face for the first time on UK TV news and thought ‘yes, I knew he was black’.  But the reporters were pronouncing his name as Coorllin.

Hear me out, Jamaicans pronounce Colin as Calin. So I was could not help but laugh at how the US and British media pronounced Powell’s forename.

I first heard Powell’s voice during the first Iraq War of the early 1990s as he was a regular fixture on tv news during that period alongside US Army General Norman Schwarzkopf.

I could not help but be impressed by Powell. In his press briefings he came across as assured, serious, commanding and succinct.

From that time I just took a deep interest in Powell’s career.

In the 1980s/early 1990s it was so rare to see a black man in a position of authority in any US administration and Powell’s presence was something to feel fascinated by.

Then I got the confirmation of Powell’s Jamaican roots via the Caribbean press. “Yes, I knew it.”

Colin Powell was one of those public figures that I felt was such an inspiring figure. He just had something about him that I was drawn to.

I was not a fan of the Bush administration (1988-1992) and yet I was proud to see a Jamerican in such lofty levels of government.

I felt even prouder when Powell became Secretary of State in the George W. Bush administration of 2001. He seemed the adult in the room to keep the war mongering Neo-Cons in check. How wrong I was. 

Despite my high regard for Powell, I (like many others ) was disappointed in his crusade for the post 9/11 Iraq War. At the time I was working in the UK government and we were stunned at Powell’s speech at the UN in 2003.

After Powell’s UN speech the mood across Whitehall was downbeat as Powell was seen at the only one who could stop this pointless Western-backed march to war in Iraq.

The UK public was not keen any war with Iraq. We knew the intelligence on Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) in Iraq was a lie. But PM Tony Blair was on mission to suck up to the Bush administration by any way necessary.

The really sad part of Powell’s role was that not even his own intel team at the State Department agreed with the CIA and Vice President’s Dick Cheney’s arguments of WMD in Iraq. Yet Powell went against his own intel team and sided with neo-cons of the Bush administration orchestrated by Cheney, Donald Rumsfield and Condi Rice.

Once his UK equivalent Robin Cook resigned from Tony Blair’s government weeks after the UN speech, Powell should have sensed something was not right about trumped-up case for the Iraq invasion and followed Cook’s noble stance.

It was hard to accept Powell’s poor judgement over Iraq. Even today.

But what we must never forget is that Bush, Blair, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice and the CIA chiefs drove this disaster from the outset and got away with their lies without any retribution. Today, Blair is going around like some world figure providing so-called consultancy to governments with the latest gig being as an advisor to Samia Suluhu Hassan, President of Tanzania.

[Powell’s legacy would have probably been more kinder and enduring had he accepted either the post of Secretary of State or Secretary of Defense from the then newly elected President Bill Clinton in 1993.]

Even though I had a deep disregard for the likes of Bush, Rumsfeld, Cheney and Blair, I still had admiration for Powell.

His autobiography “My American Journey” first published in the late 1990s is an excellent read. If you are of Jamaican heritage you will be immediately gripped from page one of his story.

Much has been commented over the past few days about Powell 13 rules of leadership which he published in the autobiography. Yet, Powell  just did not follow his own leadership playbook when it came the case for the 2nd Iraq War, especially his rule of “check small things”.

But my favourite part of Powell’s autobiography was his and his wife Alma’s emotions when they went to Africa in 1992 for the first time and visited Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Senegal.

In Sierra Leone, Powell said

“As you know, I am an American. I am the son of Jamaicans who emigrated from the island to the United States. But today, I am something more. I am African too. I feel my roots, here on this continent”

But an interesting footnote to Colin Powell’s life and his enduring Jamaican roots.

The usual narrative is that Powell had one sibling in Marilyn Berns. But I am sure Powell had an elder sister who lived and worked in Old Harbour when I grew up there in the 1970s/1980s. Different mother.

From what I was told the sister tried unsuccessfully to get in touch with Powell when he visited Jamaica in 1992.

According to Colin his dad Luther (who emigrated to the US in the early 1920s) never ever spoke to him about his life in Jamaica. Something Colin regretted not pursuing when Luther was alive.

Powell’s extended family in Old Harbour (Powells & Dawkins) and its environs is vast. Real shame he never had a chance to meet them.

Luther Powell died in 1978.

Wark good Colin.

Further Information

Colin Powell Reflects on His Mistakes in This Unpublished TIME Interview

Posted in American Politics, black history, Caribbean, Obituary | Leave a comment