Some Takeaways from the Ongoing Windrush Scandal

What next for the Afro Caribbean community in the UK following the latest set of deportations? But here are some takeaways from the ongoing Windrush scandal.

  1.  The Conservative Party is definitely back as the nasty party. The current Conservative government’s nastiness and bigotry has surpassed even the era of former leader and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher of the 1980s. This time the hostile environment image will be with them for some time long after Theresa May leaves office. Will those former Tory MPs who left the party this week speak out for the victims? As one them (Anna Soubry) said of Theresa May this week…
    • I think whats really worried me about Theresa, and she has history in the Home Office that supports this, because I’m an old barrister I look at the evidence, and I think she has got a problem with immigration. I really honestly do.”
  2. Jamaican High Commissioner Seth George Ramocan is speaking outIf these are people who have lived here since they were children, they have no connection, no relatives, no one to take care of them in Jamaica, then this for me is a human rights matter,…It is not just the people who are being deported, it is their children, it is their families. Are we acting intelligently, are we creating another set of problems when we do that?” 21 February 2019
  3. Shaun Bailey – London mayoral Conservative candidate for London – has tried to pin the blame of the latest Windrush deportations squarely on Home Office civil servants and has not criticised the government ministers more forcefully. Bailey – dubbed by the Tory media as the Windrush Generation candidate –  has blown any chance of getting a sizable portion of the black vote in next year’s mayoral race, despite the failings of current mayor Sadiq Khan. As Londoners prefer their mayor to have an independent streak and not toe any political party line. Has Bailey discussed the Windrush crisis with the victims, their families or the Home Secretary? 
  4. The Government is dragging their heels in compensating the victims.
  5. The fight for reparations by Caribbean nations over slavery and pre-independence abuses by previous British governments has to stay on the table.
  6. The Afro Caribbean community across the UK has to come together to form a more effective and cohesive lobby within the corridors of Whitehall. If we do not the same crap will just continue.
  7. Diane Abbott  – Shadow Home Secretary – has been eclipse by back benchers such as David Lammy and Yvette Cooper in holding the government to account. Does make you question her suitability to be the next Home Secretary should Labour come to power. I have always said that the late Robin Cook was the benchmark in how an opposition minister should perform their portfolio effectively. Few in the current Labour shadow cabinet have matched Cook’s attention to detail, delivery and impact at the dispatch box and on the streets.
  8. Sara Burke, a London teacher and granddaughter of Windrush immigrants has become a new and welcome public voice in the Afro Caribbean community in the fight for justice. I hope she continues to be a beacon where too too many -including high profile Jamaican-Brits – have stayed silent at a time when their voices should have been some of the the loudest. Special mention to Zita Holbourne for her activist work during this period too.
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Sara Burke – Speaking outside Home Office HQ

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Posted in britain, British Labour Party, british politics, Caribbean, Civil liberties, Current affairs, Diversity, Immigration, jamaica, jamaican, jeremy corbyn, uk politics, westminster | Leave a comment

Petrojam Scandal – Winners and Losers so far

The Petrojam scandal continues to stain the Andrew Holness-led government as more information comes to light of the chaos and incompetence at the publicly run oil entity.

The Auditor General’s report and public disclosures of poor governance at Petrojam has shocked many Jamaicans and indeed damaged the country’s image in fighting corruption.

The ongoing parliamentary select committee hearings into Petrojam and ensuing debates in parliament has forced the government on the back foot for the past year. There is a sense that more startling revelations is still be revealed as these hearings continue in parliament. But for now here are some of the winners and losers of this drama.

LOSERS

  1. Prime Minister Andrew Holness – Despite taking over the portfolio – since Andrew Wheatley resigned as minister of energy in July 2018 – Holness has failed to stem the incompetence and poor governance. His delay of 6 months to appoint a new minister  of energy (Fayval Williams) was unnecessary. Holness allowed a non-disclosure agreement with Yolande Ramharrack to be signed off under his watch and it backfired spectacularly in parliament.
  2. Andrew Wheatley, former Minister of Energy What was he thinking? What was he doing? Will he testify at the PAC select committee hearings?
  3. Petrojam –  A slick of a gravy train – supported by a 20 year old performance management system – that rewards staff incompetence with extraordinary bonuses masquerading as incentives.
  4. Alando Terrelonge, government MP, select committee member: At the PAAC  select committee hearing on July 4 2018 Terrelonge said to Yolande Ramharrack.  “you seem to be a people person, very confident.. You seem to have all the attributes of a HR manager that I would employ…..I can see that shining through”. That statement sounded bizarre at the time, even more perplexing given the revelations that has since come to light.
  5. Sancia Bennett-Templer – As one of most senior civil servants in the government, Bennett-Templer’s performance at the PAC hearings has been bungling. Either she came to the hearings ill-prepared or poorly advised, given she came into the post in late 2018. No surprise last Wednesday when she was transferred out – of the Office of the Prime Minister’s office  – just hours after her latest appearance at the PAC hearings.

WINNERS

  1. Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and Public Administration and Appropriation Committee (PAAC) Both chairpersons – Wykeham McNeil (PAAC) and Mark Golding (PAC) have been excellent in their control of the proceedings. Both committees have done an thorough job in scrutinizing the government officials. But these committees need some fine tuning in how they organise their interviews in order speed up the process. Special mention to MPs Morais Guy and Fitz Jackson for their public grilling of those officials.
  2. Yolande Ramharrack, former HR Manager, Petrojam – Despite being “unqualified” for the post of HR manager she managed to land the job in February 2017, get a bumper pay rise the same day, had her probation period waived and by late 2018 was facing 19 disciplinary charges. But resigned in 2018 with a fat pay settlement. Midas touch.
  3. Everald Warmington, MP, Minister of State & select committee member – Despite being a junior minister in the current government Warmington (as a select committee member) has not held back in his critical analysis of the governments officials at the Office of the Prime Minister’s Office and those from Petrojam. Seeing a junior minister publicly questioning officials from his own government is very unusual in any democratic country. But that’s Warmington for you and it is refreshing.
  4. Juliet Holness, Government MP, select committee memberWith her extensive background in auditing and accountancy I have been impressed by the clarity of her questions and statements during the hearings. Balanced and assured. She has at times even calmed down the boisterous Warmington. This was the Holness who should have been the new minister of energy. Given she has sat through the  hearings and heard first hand of the many failings across the energy portfolio.  
  5. PBC TV – By streaming the committee hearings live on platforms such as You Tube, PBC TV has allowed Jamaicans at home and abroad to see the elected officials at work.
  6. Former Prime Minister Bruce Golding – In 2007 Golding decided to change the rules and allowed the Opposition in parliament to chair select committees. This move was done “in order to strengthen the effectiveness of the Opposition in the House”. The move has given back benchers (from both parties) the authority to really go after the government of the day whenever maladministration is found by oversight statutory bodies.

Going Forward

  • There have been times at the select committee hearings where the style of questioning by MPs gets over complicated. Meaning crucial information gets ignored or misinterpreted during the exchanges.  In order to speed up the process the select committees need to obtain detailed written answers (plus supporting documents) from the relevant officials before they appear at these public hearings. Such a move would cut out repetitive questioning and (hopefully) eliminates mixed messages by the officials. e.g. It should not have taken over 6 months for confirmation of Ms Ramharrack’s salary– she was asked this by MPs in July 2018 and the correct figure was finally disclosed in February 2019!
  • The select committees must make better use of the officials that  appear before them. There is no need for Pamela Monroe-Ellis – Auditor General – to sit through countless hours of these hearings and hardly have any questions. Best to bring Ms Monroe-Ellis in when she is required to testify over a lengthy period.

Still early days into the PAC select committee hearings (Tuesdays 10 a.m.). Expect further explosive testimonies and more fallout.

 

 

 

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Pro-Trump Fox News Presenter Calls for Reparations for African Americans

Last Sunday evening I watched a segment on Fox News that blew me away. Yes, that Fox News.

Firstly the issue was about race in America and the monologue was read by Steve Hilton. But oddly Hilton’s comments did not make any headlines across media circles. Now why was that?

Maybe it was because Hilton was highlighting an issue that even the most ardent pro black activist would agree with some – if not all – of his comments.

Steve Hilton is a fervent supporter of Donald Trump’s administration. Some UK observers would know of Hilton’s time as a senior advisor to then Prime Minister David Cameron. He was a member of the Conservative Party.  Since then, Hilton moved to the US and has embedded himself in Silicon Valley. His wife, Rachel Whetstone, was a former senior executive at Google, Uber and is now at Facebook.

Hilton’s monologue focussed on the US’ wealth inequality that has impacted negatively on African Americans. He explained to his viewers that wealth progression for African American was deliberately blocked by slavery and policies such as Jim Crow, G.I. Bill and the New Deal.

[Hilton knew most of his audience would be angered by this topic but asked them to bear with him as he tried to explain his case.]

Hilton  described how 98% of federal govt subsidies and home loans between 1934 and 1962 – through Home Owners Loans Corporation – went to the white population. He suggested that the US should devise a truth and reconciliation body that would take dramatic steps to bridge the wealth gap for African Americans. Then Hilton mentioned the R word – Reparations.

Now the R word – in relation to  many western hemisphere descendants from Africa – is hardly raised in any quarters these days; whether in the US, UK or even the Caribbean. But reparations is still a burning issue.

Hilton was not pushing for cheques to be handed out like confetti. But that loans should be directed at the African American community to buy homes or start businesses. He suggested remedies such as asset appropriations, community banks, credit unions and asset reparations

Hilton’s monologue was followed by a heated panel discussion led by Tezyln Figaro. As a former Democrat  Figaro said she was tired that her former party – with 90% of the black vote -had done very little in terms of addressing the imbalance of  wealth inequality.

Figaro warned that many African American Democratic supporters will be watching with interest the policies that  2020 candidates bring forward to improve the African American community. Figaro warned that some African Americans will stay at home if the Democratic candidate does not address their concerns with appropriate policy proposals.

It was a welcome sight to see this discussion on prime time Fox News of all places. But the fact that none of the usual media watchers raise Hilton’s segment elsewhere says something about their race baiting attitude. As we know if Hilton had said anything disparaging about African Americans it would have gone viral.

The reaction by some viewers on social media to Hilton’s segment was like a firestorm. Most were livid. See some of the comments below.

  • We will no longer watch Steve Hilton after his agenda on last night’s FOX Network. Agree that he needs to go! He totally disrespected Turning Point USA’s guy to make sure he made his point clear to everyone! One more hour we do not have to waste on FOX! FOX is changing!”
  • “Steve Hilton was talking last night about some sort of ridiculous reparations plan. This is not going to fix the problems in the black community where you have kids who want to get rich quick and have little if any moral compass”
  • “Steve Hilton on FOX NEWS stirring the pot by talking about asset reparations for Black Americans. My response is as follows: FOX NEWS better pay close attention … no sane person will get behind that proposal

How did Hilton come to this conclusion on reparations? He did his own research and learnt the truth about what happened to African Americans over the centuries. Too many anti-reparation devotees based their objections on ignorance and not fully understanding the bigger picture. Some based their assessment of slavery and post slavery abuses on small anecdotes and Roots.

Growing up in Jamaica during the 1970s and 1980s the education system taught us very little about the slavery and its post abolition period which was equally horrendous to the local black population. So we were taught about the British facilitators of the slave trade such as Francis Drake and nothing about the slaves or the black population that developed up to pre-independence in 1962.

I know from years of research that many black Jamaicans were still denied access to education and owning property long after slavery was ended.

When the indentured Indians were contracted to Jamaica to replace the former slaves they were treated far better. Indeed after their contractual duties concluded some of our Indian ancestors were each offered up to 10-12 acres of land should they wish to remain in Jamaica.

I hope Hilton will share his research and analysis with his friends in the British Conservative Party. As the reparation debate in the UK has stalled for far too long.

Many will say time has lapsed and that reparation campaigners should thus move on and get a life. But we have seen descendants of other groups of people compensated for the actions that were done to their ancestors.

E.g. Since 2015 Spain and Portugal have issued over 10000 passports to members of the Jewish community based in countries such as Israel, Turkey, Morocco and across North and Latin America. This gesture was to atone for the “state-led campaigns of persecution against the Jews in the 15th and 16th century known as the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisition.” – Times of Israel – 23 November 2018

So well done to that man Steve Hilton for raising this issue in such an unfriendly environment such as Fox News. The struggle for reparations continues. The knowledge and evidence is out there to support the cause.

 

http://ufdc.ufl.edu/AA00021144/00002

 

Posted in American Politics, black history, Caribbean, Civil liberties, Current affairs, david cameron, slavery | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Jamaica’s Sports Reporting Needs Less Administration Talk

Jamaica is blessed with some of the best sport journalists you will find anywhere across the globe.

In countries like Canada, UK and US many UK sports journalists tend to stay in their lane and focus on just one or two specific sports. So you would never hear ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith discuss or report on English football or the Daily Mirror’s John Cross report in any detail on basketball or lawn tennis.

But the average Jamaica sports journalists brings versatility to their sports coverage and discussions. Most are comfortable discussing any range of (international/local) sports. Whether it be football, cricket, netball, swimming, lawn tennis, boxing, athletics, NFL, basketball and table tennis.

The Jamaican sports journalists’ reputation is so well known and respected internationally that some are called up to cover events on behalf of global media organisations.

But for 2019 there is one request I beg of the local sports media fraternity. In relation to local sports please give more reports to the action/players and reduce the airtime/column inches given to the local administrators.

Currently much of local sports reporting is taken up by political figures, sport administrators and spokespersons for sponsors. Yes, these individuals have a part to play in the development of local sports, but the players are missing out on fair coverage in the media.

You rarely go 5 days without some sports report bulletin that includes interviews/speech clips from the likes of  Olivia “Babsy” Grange, Minister of Sports and Christopher Samuda, head of the Jamaica Olympic Association. Not far behind are the likes of executives such as Billy Heaven (cricket), Michael Ricketts (football) and Godfrey Lothian (table tennis) and Walton Small (school sports!).

These suits seem to suck up much of the airtime which is very unfair on those playing the sports. Sometimes I wonder if these suits use their lofty positions to boost their own image/outside interest and the sport is just a side issue. Whether these suits are doing a good job or not is besides the point; sports reporting should never dedicate so much time to the pen pushers and suits.

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Longville – 2013

Table tennis is a perfect example. In sports reports you will see endless interviews about the sport with its top administrator for the last 6 years, Godfrey Lothian. Lothian is always in the media discussing his strategic plans, launch events, electioneering, board infighting or which overseas meeting he is off to from the airport. But you rarely see reports about the local table tennis players themselves.

The local sports players need more coverage in the news reports as it would give them much needed exposure to fans and possibly increase their own chances of attracting sponsorship.

In the UK, sports media hardly mentions the sports minister. I have no idea who that person is and do not wish to know. The outgoing head of the English Premier League, Richard Scudamore, hardly spoke publicly. He allowed the product (players and managers) to do the talking and publicity.

IRIE FM’s flagship sports show “What’s the Score” seems to be over run with such sporting administrators as their special guest on its 2 hour weekly show. Last week the show had as its special guest Godfrey Lothian (head of table tennis) and the week before Billy Heaven (head of cricket). Both men running for reelection for their respective sporting body. This week the show had as its special guest Mark Neita who is challenging Heaven for the post of head of Jamaican cricket.

When was the last time “What’s the Score” had a table tennis player or cricketer as a special guest?

Decades ago when Jamaica had just a handful of media outlets we knew the names of the top local table tennis. Why? Because the sports coverage mentioned their match reports constantly. These Jamaican table tennis players were not world beaters but they were our local stars in the sport.

Back then we knew of the exploits of local table tennis players such as Sandra Riettie, Orville Haslam, Stephen Hylton, Colin McNeish, Ingrid Mangatal and David Marshalleck. These players drew large audiences, discussions and extra coverage. The media reports back then of the charismatic Desmond Douglas – Jamaican-born English player – also generated much interest amongst young Jamaicans to play the sport.

Those were the individuals who inspired us to take up the sport not the suits.

There is an old saying that the best sports administrators are the ones who stay in the background and let their respective sport do all the talking. There is also a thought that if the suits are in the news constantly, then it could imply that there are underlining problems with the sport they are overseeing. As one table tennis administrator said recently; his sport has become a contact game – in the boardroom.

So to the local media houses – develop a fairer balance that allows the local players more coverage in your reporting. It is just never a good look when the comments from politicians and administrators constantly fill up such sports reports. The local players lose out. So too the fans.

 

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far left Godfrey Lothian, far right Christopher Samuda

 

 

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BREXIT – Deal for Extra Time

British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn should meet prime minister Theresa May privately to discuss BREXIT. In fact he should have pushed for such a meeting months ago.

At one of the most pivotal moments in the country’s history, there is need for extraordinary steps by our elected officials. Corbyn should remove any pre-conditional excuses and see May at Downing Street.

In the past few days May has promised to listen to the views and opinions from across party lines. Finally, after nearly 9 years in government May has realised the importance of hearing voices of those beyond her tiny echo chamber.

2 years ago some civil servants raised serious concerns over May’s initial handling of the UK’S BREXIT plans. There was a sense that her team were not taking the issues seriously or with the urgency desired.

In July 2017, Gus O’Donnell, former head of the civil service said:

There is no chance all the details will be hammered out in 20 months….We will need a long transition phase and the time needed does not diminish by pretending that this phase is just about ‘implementing’ agreed policies as they will not all be agreed.”

Lord Jonathan Marland, a former trade envoy, under David Cameron said :

“My fear is that Whitehall as a whole has really not got the skill set to deliver a really hard-nosed negotiation and I think we have really got to upskill in that area to do it. If you’re too hard on negotiation you don’t win. Any negotiation has got to have something that’s in it for both parties”

As far back as November 2016 frustration amongst civil servants involved in the BREXIT negotiations was common.  Many were angry that – as usual – May’s office had centralised control; that May and her inner circle lacked communication skills and that her team had been too quick to adopt an aggressive approach to anyone offering independent advice.”

May and her advisers are mostly to blame for the current BREXIT negotiation debacle. Her lack of leadership and grasp of the severity of BREXIT has been unforgivable but not surprising.

But I have to also apportion blame to former prime minister David Cameron for not firing May as Home Secretary for her countless insubordination and poor performance – e.g. on immigration and crime. If Cameron had acted then we would never had someone as ill-prepared as May to lead the country’s exit from the EU.

In 2017, Ivan Rogers resigned from his post as UK Ambassador to the European Union. Rogers had earlier warned that it could take up to a decade to ratify a post BREXIT trade deal with the EU. Rogers was realistic in his analysis but that riled the pro-leave campaigners, politicians and media houses.

So Corbyn should swallow his pride and preconditions, meet May and seize the upper hand in taking the UK out of the EU with the best possible deal.

  • Corbyn needs to remember that during his days of supporting Sinn Fein/IRA he was one of few Labour MPs pushing for the then Conservative government to have unconditional talks with the Republican paramilitaries. Let’s face it, those talks and initial devolved government did lead to the most unlikeliest partnerships between Ian Paisley Snr and Martin McGuinness.
  • We saw during the 2008 global economic crisis where then US President George W. Bush sat down together with Presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain to go over what measures needed to be taken to stem the recession.

When it comes to such important issues leaving the BREXIT negotiations in  hands of just civil servants and the Conservative government was a bad idea from the beginning. The level of expertise necessary for such high level negotiations should have been more broadly spread and include those former individuals with healthy diplomatic experiences with the EU.

EU officials have had decades of public ridicule by UK politicians and the right wing media. So the idea of EU leaders rushing to a speedy and fair deal within 2 years to appease the Brits was never going to happen. Not with the likes of anti EU ministers such as David Davis, Boris Johnson at the forefront. This was the EU’s officials revenge to stick it to the Brits – especially the Conservative government who even now has a pompous attitude towards EU officials.

There was never a need for Theresa May to have gone with the late Jeremy Heywood plans to create a BREXIT department and a dedicated Cabinet Minister. Having 3 BREXIT Secretaries of State in the past 12 months is a clear sign it did not go toot well. Which was why a competent Foreign Secretary should have had oversight of BREXIT supported by dedicated junior ministers and former EU ministers from previous governments.

What is keeping May afloat during her calamitous premiership is the media’s collective hatred of Corbyn. No matter how badly May and her team have handled the BREXIT plans, the media seem keener to paint Corbyn as the cause for the negotiation failures.

Corbyn should go into Downing Street with a cross section of Labour MPs but bring a couple top negotiators. I would advise Corbyn to invite the likes Gus O’Donnell and Ivan Rogers.

The optics of Corbyn walking out of 10 Downing Street and giving a press conference at the steps would do wonders for his push to return there more permanently after the next general elections.

The problem with Corbyn and May is that for much of their political careers both have had a lukewarm attitude towards the EU. Until she became Home Secretary May was an ardent euro-sceptic. Watching May go back and forth to Brussels shows a leader in desperation mode. It’s the sort of behavior you would expect to see from a junior civil servant or a runner on a film set.

Now is not the time to draw red lines. If there is need for an extension until the end of 2019 to get a better deal in place then Corbyn and May should agreed to do so. Let the Farages and Boris Johnsons scream their heads off in outrage. It is very clear that the UK is far from been prepared for a smooth transition from the EU.

I for one will miss the UK not being part of the EU for professional, cultural and social reasons. Having worked with public servants from all member nations for 2 decades we did deliver improvement across public services and achieve great success away from the headlines. Collaborating with colleagues in other EU states was a unique experience. The UK public services have gained greatly from those numerous collaborations. But we have to respect the will of the majority who wanted out of the EU.

I have little time for those “Remainers” pushing for a 2nd referendum. It would be a dangerous route to take to ignore the results of the 1st referendum and proceed for a second vote. Some of those “Remainers” are the same folks who told the nationalists in Scotland to shut up and accept the results of the 2014 referendum for independence.

Some of the most vocal  “Remainers” who are doing their best to stop BREXIT need to look in the mirror and accept there are partly to blame for the current position the UK is in right now.

Take for example “Remainers” such as Tony Blair and his chief political surrogates. It was under the Blair government in 2004 where the seeds of BREXIT started to gather momentum. As the then government laughed at those concerned over the EU’s expansion to former Eastern Bloc. This miscalculation over the number of immigrants by the Blair government gave much renewed voice to the anti-EU brigade especially the Daily Mail, The Sun and Telegraph papers. As the pressures on public services to meet the growing influx of EU immigrants was overwhelming for some local authorities.

Which was why as PM (1997-2007), Blair promised a EU referendum but never went through with offering the public such a vote. As Blair knew he had messed up over projections of migration and such a referendum -even then -was too risky.

The rush by the May government to clinch a BREXIT deal by March 2019 was always foolhardy. The UK’s bind to the EU is so entrenched it was bound to take some time to reach a satisfactory conclusion. But today we live in a society where the impatience & disgruntled want results and outcomes last week.

The negotiations for a fair EU deal should have taken at least 5 years and allow input from all concerned parties. The vagaries and peculiarities of the UK links to the EU are just too monumental to dismantle along partisan political lines in the space of two years.

As for the “No Deal” merchants it would be irresponsible for any UK prime minister to walk away without some satisfactory deal. Especially at this late cut-off point of March 29. Britain aint that Great anymore for such bravado swashbuckling maneuvers.

Last week’s motion of no confidence against May’s government – filed by Corbyn and ensuing debate – was uncalled for as there was no way the Tories and the Democratic Unionist Party would give Corbyn such as victory. Corbyn would have been better off organising his team to meet with May.

Both would never admit it publicly – and maybe to themselves – but May and Corbyn need each other to get the fairest possible EU deal across the line. No shame in asking for the UK parliament to agree on an extension until the end of December 2019. Breakups are never straight forward.

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It’s Complicated

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RJRGLEANER National Sports Awards 2018 – Poor Choice for Speaker

This evening’s RJRGLEANER National Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year 2018 event will be held at the Pegasus Hotel.

Now this event is probably Jamaica’s most prestigious awards ceremony. Yes, there is the National honours awards every October on National Heroes Day but this RJRGLEANER sports awards gig attracts more glitz and glamour. It’s Jamaica’s Oscar’s.

So it was quite surprising to read that the guest speaker for this glorious event will be Asaf Ahmad, British High Commissioner to Jamaica.

If there was need for a UK based guest speaker then the organisers should have considered far more suitable options such as the likes of David Lammy MP, former sport stars such as Jeremy Guscott (rugby), Denise Lewis, Darren Campbell, Colin Jackson, Kriss Akabusi (athletics), Lennox Lewis (boxing) or Dr Mark Prince. All of whom are well known and respected after dinner speakers.

Does any representative of the current UK government deserve such a prestigious Jamaican platform?

Given the ongoing Windrush scandal, it’s just poor judgement by the organisers to have asked the local representative of Theresa May’s government to be the main speaker at an event full of Jamaican champions past and present. The hostile environment culture developed by the UK government towards Jamaicans is still there despite the current PR charm offensive by Mr Ahmad on local soil.

Best of luck to all the nominees and special award recipients.

At 16 years of age, her achievements at the junior world stage, may deem her ineligible for tonight’s top award. But my Jamaican Sportsperson of 2018 is indeed Briana Williams.

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No Contest

 

 

 

 

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Jamaica’s Plastic Ban – One Small Step

As from 1 January, the Jamaican government has officially banned a number of plastic items including single-use plastic bags (aka scandal bags), straws, cups and Styrofoam.

No doubt the Jamaican government is following the line taken by others such as the EU, who in 2018 announced the ban of items such as plastic straws, cotton swabs, disposable plastic plates and cutlery. At least the EU’s ban will gradually come into full effect by 2021. The EU also mandated that by 2025, 90% of plastic bottles must be recycled.

(As from this week government departments in Ireland will no longer purchase single use plastics.)

The Jamaican government and the main opposition Peoples National Party (PNP) are all in support of such a ban. Although the PNP have stated that the ban has been introduced too quickly after the ban was initially agreed by the powers that be in September 2018. I have to agree with the PNP.

Both parties believe this ban will boost Jamaica’s tepid efforts at improving the environment. Compared to many other nations Jamaica is light years behind when it comes to applying best practice in environment control and tackling climate change.

Car Culture

While Jamaican politicians are talking tough with buzz words about climate change and banning the use of plastics, they are at the same time widening roads and building new highways across the island. The official reason given for the road expansion programmes is to ease the traffic jams across Jamaica.

In the long term – these road expansions will do more damage to the environment than any pile of small plastic bags would ever do. Jamaica’s physical landscape has changed significantly as a result of these Chinese/European funded road developments. In time more cars will clogg up these new roads.

The answer to such growing traffic congestion would be for a more smarter integrated transport system that includes the use of trains for the movement of cargo and commuters. I have always wondered why there was never been a push to have passenger boat services to and from Kingston ports.

  • In 2018 a report by the Rhodium Group revealed that cars and trucks were the largest source of carbon dioxide emissions in the US.
  • A 2010 NASA study revealed “motor vehicles emerged as the greatest contributor to atmospheric warming now and in the near term. Cars, buses, and trucks release pollutants and greenhouse gases that promote warming, while emitting few aerosols that counteract it.”

The traffic in Jamaica is so horrendous (at times very dangerous) that the head of police traffic management – Senior Superintendent Calvin Allen – appears on local news reports virtually every single week. I kid you not.

In Germany, there is growing consensus for major changes to its car culture to cut emissions. They have plans to reduce the role for individually owned cars and introduce cooperative or coordinated mobility –  a transport system that connects bicycles, buses, trains, and shared cars, all controlled by digital platforms that allow users to commute in the fastest and cheapest way.

Jamaican Railways

Jamaica was one of the first countries to introduce passenger train services in the 19th century. Yet one of the great sins of Jamaican governments since the 1970s was the complete destruction of passenger railway services.

This lack of effort to develop the railway services has now come back to haunt the island with the seismic growth of 4 wheel drive gas guzzlers and the tens of thousands of 2nd hand vehicles imported chiefly from Japan.

In order to control heavy traffic and cut emissions other countries have brought in measures such as congestion charges to force people out of their vehicles on to public transport especially the trains. But as Jamaica has no passenger train service any  idea to reduce emissions from these vehicles is not going to happen soon.

e.g. In the largely populated area of Portmore the government should have insisted on implementing light railway services linked to the capital Kingston.

The only occasion you may hear of a government minister raising the issue of passenger trains is only in terms of boosting tourism.

Plastic Policy

Hopefully the Jamaican political class are not so short sighted if they think a plastic bag ban is a more of  a health/climate hazard compared to monstrosity that is empty plastic bottles.

Ban the plastic bags as much as you like. But do not use climate change as the basis for such a move.

Many Jamaicans need these bags because for one thing they make it easy to carry items. But more importantly plastic bags are useful for storing rubbish discreetly in larger rubbish bins. As in Jamaica refuse collection by the authorities – in many areas – is so infrequent. You can go for months without any refuse collection on your street. We have not had our rubbish collected since late November.

So what some residents now do, to get rid their piled-up rubbish is to (illegally) burn it in their yards. Thus causing more health hazards to their neighbourhood which I find disrespectful, irritating and dangerous.

Recycling

There is no government driven recycling programme in Jamaica. Recycling is still barely mentioned in environment circles. I have never seen or heard of any local recycling deposit sites outside of Kingston.

Next Steps

The next major move has to be the recycling of used plastic bottles which has become an eyesore and inconvenience on our streets. We must do better as a society at how we dispose of plastic bottles. Then again we have to do far better at how we dispose of rubbish generally.

Jamaica has taken in billions of dollars in Chinese investments over the past 2 decades. The government could have invested in Chinese expertise on modernising its railways. Imagine if there were railway services to and from the two major airports?

So until we develop a recycle culture, bring back passenger trains and cut the emissions by reducing our use of gas guzzling vehicles, this plastic ban is just a small step in the right direction.

 

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Make it Happen

 

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