Don’t you just love…

December 7, 2008

when people do their jobs? Contractor-General Greg Christie has been at it at again, and our favourite company, Jamaica’s Undisputed Trailblazer of Corruption (JUTC), is again under the microscope. Memba seh ah dis a di same smaddy who has been appointed by Golding, only to be slapped and dissed by said Golding how much times about stepping out of line. Of course, that’s only when he tries to do his job, and his sniffing comes a bit too close to home. But the man does not give up, thank goodness. So who and who a resign now, and who fi go a jail, but dem probably not going to hang dem yah smaddy yah. No, dem too nice fi dat.

But wait likkle nuh? A gem caught my eye in today’s reportage:

“The report pointed to breaches in the procurement guidelines and identified the late chairman, Douglas Chambers, as having ignored the rules while awarding contracts to Simber Productions Limited, a firm in which he held majority shares.”

Ca-ca fa’at!! as my grandmother would say. Ah wha’ dis now?! Dem mean the same venerable Douglas Chambers, fi who everybody was up in arms about when dem kill im di odda day? Da’a deh Douglas Chambers?  Yuh mean seh fi im shit did stink to? What a prekkeh!  Well, look out for the admonishments and the how-dare-you’s (Mike Henry tried that one last week; you see how far he got…) as the walls come tumbling down.  I can’t wait for Christie to close the degrees of separation between some of these MP’s and the dirt they’ve been dealing.  I’m also keeping an eye on the cigarette/contraband issue that Danville Walker just brought up.  Ah deh so di ants’ nest deh.

Scurrilous?

November 13, 2008

I read the article. I wasn’t sure that my initial reaction (Bruce needs to learn to use a thesaurus!) was entirely correct, so I looked up the word:

Scurrilous (Adjective)

1. grossly or obscenely abusive: a scurrilous attack on the mayor.
2. characterized by or using low buffoonery; coarsely jocular or derisive: a scurrilous jest.
3 a: using or given to coarse language b: vulgar and evil
4: containing obscenities, abuse, or slander

Hm.

Then I looked up the word that provoked the response:

Nepotism (Noun)

1. patronage bestowed or favoritism shown on the basis of family relationship, as in business and politics: e.g She was accused of nepotism when she made her nephew an officer of the firm.

2. favoritism (as in appointment to a job) based on kinship

3. the showing of favoritism toward relatives and friends, based upon that relationship, rather than on an objective evaluation of ability, meritocracy or suitability. For instance, offering employment to a relative, despite the fact that there are others who are better qualified and willing to perform the job. The word nepotism is from the Latin word ‘nepos’, meaning “nephew” or “grandchild”. (Wikipedia)

I go back and read the article again.

Nope. I don’t see how the trisyllabic word even remotely applies.
Sorry Bruce, the problem is as plain to see as that garishly painted wall. I think that thou dost protest too much. Besides, doesn’t it take nepotist to know another?

Portia-Pot calling Bruce-Kettle Black

Portia-Pot calling Bruce-Kettle Black

If the PNP folks say its there, I can assure you that it’s there.

Apparently there’s a lot of probing going on these days.  But its not at all clear what is being sought.

In today’s account of Missa Steve Sol’ja Killaman*, the soldier who decided to off a few folks just so the other night, today’s Gleaner has this to say:

“The Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) corporal involved in Monday’s shooting at the Double Diamond nightclub in St Andrew was being probed for a similar incident in Manchester.”

Now, I don’t know what all these investigators have been “probing” souljie Steve with, but whatever they were using was not certainly not sufficient to inflict serious discomfort, or to discourage or prevent him from lighting up the nightclub, killing four people and traumatizing hundreds of others.

I suspect whatever “probing” they (the JDF? police? Director of Public Prosecutions?) were doing was just sufficient to stimulate Missa Steve Sol’ja Killaman and to remind him seh dat he is indeed fully protected by the state and its cronies, and that not much will come of his confession that he did indeed shoot and kill the person in Mandeville.

I don’t have time to unpack all of the obvious foot-dragging, corrupt and complicit actions that allowed this power-hungry, mentally unstable person to 1) still be on the payroll and under the protection of the JDF after admitting to and under investigation for murder; 2) to be left under the jurisdiction of the JDF for it to investigate one of its own(!!) and not treated as a civil matter; 3) to continue to be protected by the JDF AND police even after he clearly committed this recent massacre.

But here’s what I do know.  This episode ought to go down as a classic case of how police brutality in Jamaica is aided and abetted by everyone who has had the power of the state to back them up.   Even the DPP should have to answer for this one.

The article goes on to say that, apparently, Steve Soulja’ Killaman’s previous violent misdeeds have now been conveyed to “the investigators now probing the shooting at Double Diamond nightclub located in the Boulevard Super Centre.” Consequently, “The Bureau of Special Investigations and the JDF are probing the incident.”

I hope that in all their “probing” – which frankly, sounds more like schoolboys using sticks to play around in horseshit – they will take note of what occurred after the shooting, as reported in the Gleaner:

“We show the police and soldiers, the man who do the shooting and tell them fi kill him but them just put him in a jeep and drive away with him,” said one alleged eyewitness in an expletive-laden tirade as he demanded justice for two of his friends shot in the incident.

Soldiers on the scene threatened to arrest the eyewitness, but feared further infuriating a large crowd of onlookers.

For hours persons gathered outside the plaza waiting for news on the victims. The bodies were not removed until more than eight hours after the shooting and investigators on the scene refused to comment.”

Ok.  So, no handcuffs. No arrest. Just escorted away. Leave the dead to take care of their own.  Nice.

It nuh tek dem no time fi reach di club an’ fi rescue one o dem bredren, but how long it tek fi smaddy reach di club fi remove di ded body dem?  Inna dis ya hot-hot country?

How is it ok to threaten to arrest people who are obviously displeased at the unprofessional and biased way the “law enforcement officers” have chosen to deal with the situation?

Do we still have questions about whose needs are seen as important around here?

Do we still have any questions about who is seen as entitled to protection and preservation of dignity?

Do we still have any questions about how these (and many other) officers of the state will and do wield their power over and against us, especially when they recognize that we know we are being multiply mistreated and abused in one feld swoop?

I am sure that the people who nearly lost their lives were not in the mindset to have taken pictures with their cellphones, copied down the license plate numbers, or noted any identifying characteristics of the soldiers and police so they could report and shame them for unethical behaviour and sheer cowardice.

As per usual, people like Les Green quick fi ah com call fi’ more policy, this time to restrict licensed firearms to private places.  But how come nobody nuh wa’a deal wid di odder policy dem whe’ dem same police an’ soldier violate all di time: like, just because you are a police or soldier does not mean you have a right to murder people simply because you have a government-sanctioned right to carry a firearm.  How come they never have anything to say about how and when police and soldiers can use and carry their weapons?  While the policy proposal sounds fine on the face of it, law officers are never held to the same standards as civilians.  So how the hell will such a policy do any good and protect us from the ugly hypermasculine rage that men police and soldiers insist on venting on the rest of us, using their positions as excuses to do so? When will they be held accountable?

Meantime, hennybady know whe ‘ Soul’jah Killa-man deh right now? Well, afta’ im lef di ‘ospital whe’ im get fus-cass treatment fi di gun shot dem whe’ im same one gi ‘imself, in probably deh a im y’aad a cock up inna bed an play video game an’ a gi’ long laaf fi pea soup pon ‘im cellie.  An’ every once in a while, him stroke ‘im gun, ready fi fiyah again.

So far, this is what justice looks like for us today.  It need not look like this tomorrow.

* Since the news account refuses to name him, I will.  Until someone can explain the official rules about anonymity and protection of identity, and show that they are applied fairly and systematically across the board, I am going to assume that the mass media is biased towards protecting those with power, and offer my own corrective where I can.

Me an’ Phillip Powell

August 4, 2008

So, di one Mr. Powell from Duncans read mi letter di odda day an’ decide fi come trace me. I was gwáin tell im two wud, but I settled for several. ‘Ear im nuh:

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Dear Editor,
One of the worst curses that human beings have had to endure is jealousy, which our ancestors aptly termed “red eye”. It is a curse that afflicts us here in Jamaica almost as if it were made for us. The clearest example yet of this terrible affliction is a letter in your competitor, The Gleaner, “Sand in our faces” published on July 19.

“Regarding the (illegal) sand mining in Coral Springs, Trelawny, old-time people say ‘tief from tief, God laugh’,” the letter by “Long Bench” says. Maybe I hang out too much with lawyers, but my legal experience tells me that it is libellous to suggest that the investors who lost their sand are thieves, as much as those who stole the sand.

Because The Gleaner is more interested in playing personality politics than in promoting the bigger picture or encouraging national development, it allowed itself to publish this libel against a group of people whose only crime “Long Bench” can pinpoint is their success. The question can be asked, “When has success become a crime?” For crying out loud, we teach our children to strive for success! Should we stop now?

Again The Gleaner allows itself to be used to breach one of the most important journalistic canons – poor taste – when it publishes the letter writer’s bald envy: “Alas, Felicitas Ltd is feeling anything but happy right now. I feel a tremendous sense of loss, but not for these actors.”

That “Long Bench” did not have the courage of his conviction to sign his name to the letter makes it cowardly. The Gleaner makes itself a part of this cowardice and charade, and not for the first time. It scarcely touched the big scandal involving the RIU Hotel when the resort chain illegally built four floors in the direct flight path of the Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay, putting Jamaican and other passengers at risk.

Maybe The Gleaner isn’t playing God at all. Maybe it’s protecting its directors, if any are involved or taking sides against people it does not like. Maybe its staff doesn’t know news when they see it, or maybe its editors are ineffective and don’t know libel when they see it. Whatever it is, The Gleaner has lost its way.

Perhaps the worst thing about the letter is that it has no sympathy for the people of Trelawny who stand to benefit from one of the most spectacular developments of our time. Thirty-six six-star villas get my vote any day. I am willing to bet that the unemployed people in Trelawny agree.

“Long Bench” is long on diatribe and envy but short on solutions. Perhaps it is the sand in his face that is causing his ‘red eye’.

Phillip Powell
Duncans, Trelawny

But, ah just bite mi tongue, swallah mi spit, an’ used my best henglish fi dress im dung:

August 4, 208

Dear Editor:

As I watch the sand mining of Coral Spring being treated in the press as the mother of all environmental thefts, I am also reminded of Phillip Powell’s response (July 22, “Sand in the face also causes ‘red eye’) to my letter “Sand in our faces” originally published in the July 19 issue of the Gleaner. There, in response to my critique of the complicity of governmental bodies and lack of attention given to private developers’ exploitation of the physical environment, Mr. Powell resorted to some now-familiar personal attacks. The threat of the lawsuit (for libel, no less!) and name-calling (grudgeful, red-eye, no ambition, coward, unsympathetic, et al.) alone led to me think that I had been caught in a cussing match in the street, but over what, it’s not clear.

If I am “grudgeful” of anything as Mr. Powell accuses me of being, it is the ability of the Felicitas investors to have such affluence and influence and to use it only for their personal gain. Already, the cast of characters that have been drawn into the “find the sand” mystery rivals any stage production of the national pantomime. But the one thing that is made patently clear, and which Mr. Powell actively ignores, is that not all Jamaican persons are entitled to this level of “response.” We know this, because at the same time that Coral Spring is getting the royal treatment, there are many other cases of sandmining and illegal quarrying that have never been investigated sufficiently, or at all. Apparently, Jamaican citizens cannot learn the lesson enough: being “successful” ie. having too much money and unfettered access to the halls of power, is the key to being listened to around here. And in this scenario, those of us who dare to demand equitable treatment when balancing the needs of developers and citizens, and who ask for greater accountability on the part of the developers are treated as the problem, not part of the solution. It is no wonder that persons like Mr. Powell become so confused when presented with more than one point of view on this issue; daring to point out the misuses of power or to ask questions is treated as being “out of order” and motivated by ill-will. The only other response that we are expected to have is silence. Here Mr. Powell misses an important point; it is our responsibility as citizens to point out when and where unequal treatment is meted out by our institutions, and to ensure that our institutions are responsive to our collective needs, rather than tailor their accountability based on the colour of our skin, the size of our bank accounts or the content of our social networks. Were we consistent in our demands for accountability, fairness and just protection of public goods, then the sandmining at Coral Spring might not have happened at all!

Siding with the elite’s consumption and accumulation practices is a time-honoured, well-honed practice in self-deception in Jamaica. We, the ordinary citizens, are simply supposed to sit and look from the sidelines, clap politely, and then run to offer our assistance at the lowest possible value, and even free of charge. That, of course, is Phillip Powell’s purview; like many others, I choose not to participate in such self-destructive delusions. Neither should the people of Trelawny who he believes are the “victims” in this regard.

I do not now, nor will I ever, choose to side with developers who do not have the interests of Jamaicans – in Trelawny or elsewhere – at the center of their plans. Tellingly, I have not heard of any discussion about the place, Duncans; all the chatter has all been about the sand and what money the developers thought they could make off marketing it as some of the whitest, prettiest sand in the world. For this group of investors, they have demonstrated no commitment to the place. There is not a mention of what they plan to bring to the people of Duncans, Trelawny although numerous opportunities have emerged for them to do so. Instead, we are the ones who speculate about “jobs”; those words did not come from the would-be developers. The place Duncans, might as well not exist. Unless, of course, people start speaking up.

The unemployment issues in Trelawny – complex as they are – will not be resolved by any development in Coral Spring. I daresay, whatever happens there will have a negligible effect on the area. In the Gleaner’s July 23 report, Andrew Desnoes was clear about the priorities of the group: “the beach was the essence of the project.” No beach, no project. I don’t know how their intentions could be made more clear. Trelawny residents have no promise or guarantee that they will get the jobs that might materialize. Nor do they have any guarantees that their quality of life will improve significantly over time. And the one thing people are desperate for now is a guarantee of something better. Sadly, if this project followed the models established by other similar schemes since the 1980s – and there’s no reason to suggest that it won’t – we already have a mountain of evidence that shows how this project will, at the end of the day, use the struggling people of Trelawny as fodder for its ultimate goal: more accumulation of capital.

The questions we choose not to ask about this and other projects are also glaring, as the investigation unfolds. And yet, Mr. Powell has nothing to say about these. For instance, the proposed project is adjacent to a protected area, but only with the sand mining do we hear the first murmurs about the environmental impact of anything being done there. Rather, we hear about the problem of the sand mining, but not the problem of the construction, buildings and long-term use of this particular piece of land. I certainly don’t hear that the investors have any consciousness of how their use was going to create any environmental issues that needed to be addressed prior to any development project. Nor, do I hear of any efforts to partner with any nearby school or community organization and provide resources to develop a strong curriculum on managing and making the best use of what’s left of the physical environment. The citizens of Duncans and Jamaica should be able to access all plans that have been approved, be able to voice their concerns in a public setting, and expect to be listened to with respect by both governmental agencies and developers. However, given the general secrecy with which this and other development schemes are treated, in this instance I see my duty as a citizen to point to the ways in which the sand mining is just a tip of the problem; it is the lack of appropriate governmental oversight to private development schemes which have contributed to the destruction of the physical and social infrastructure. The hunger for more sand is just one manifestation of the problem.
Contrary to the news reports and chatter, the well-heeleed ones aren’t the only persons who lost something; however, their “something” has been given a meaning that we think we understand: millions of dollars. What the people of Duncans have lost is much larger in scope. And yet, if they see fit, the investors will take their money and run, as usual to wherever their fancy takes them. These oversights, if I may call them that, are simply amazing for what they suggest about how the investors value the people and the land on which they are building their fortunes.

I would hope that when we get around to having an informed conversation about the meaning of “success” we are able to make some important distinctions. That is, perpetuating the idea that having a lot of money and power is equivalent to success in Jamaica certainly accounts for why so many of our activities and interactions – from schoolroom to parliament – are informed by corrupt practices. The ethic of “success” that we seem to salute is what produces the various types of don-manship we encounter everyday – whether via Felicitas or in Southside: it is a play-the-system, lie-cheat-and-manipulate-your-way-to-what-you-want, don’t-let-the-little-people-stand-in-your-way ethic of amorality. I hope that Mr. Powell, and most of us readers, are able to distinguish these sources of “success” from those achievements that are gained through ethical practices that include honesty, integrity, a genuine good regard for those with whom one comes into contact along the way, a sense of humility about what one has accomplished and what remains undone, and a sense of accountability to those whose lives will be touched by whatever has been done. I certainly hope that Felicitas comes out on the right side. However, given how difficult it is to get our government officials to see the interests of ordinary Jamaicans as equivalent in importance to the elites who support them, I won’t be surprised if they choose to maintain the status quo. For that reason, I advise Mr. Powell to put on some goggles, as he will need them. The sand is starting to blow hard!

Sincerely,

Long Bench