Category Archives: Jamaica

Time to get rid of the Jon crows: The issue of TV coverage of sport

Frustration, even anger, are not unknown emotions to most people. However, when they come and you feel that it’s because of something truly avoidable, they tend to intensify. I was enraged last Sunday (August 16) when I was unable to watch the men’s 100 metres final in the World Championships, from Berlin. I wanted to see history happen, with Jamaica’s Usain Bolt winning as in last year’s Olympics and breaking his world record set then. But, the machinations of a corporation or two who did not see it possible to help me and other people living in Barbados share that moment was all it took for frustration to turn to rage to turn to anger. Canadian Broadcasting Corporationcame to the rescue (oh, thanks, Canada), by cutting away from the ATP tennis at the Roger’s Masters Final in Montreal to show the race with a 15 minute delay.

In the meantime, I had gone ‘back to the future’: I had experienced the race live. An irate Jamaican friend on the phone in my left hand, was listening to me attentively. A friend who worked for VOB on the phone in my right hand, was giving me step-by-step commentary, that I was repeating to my Yardee. “They’re off. Bolt is ahead. Bolt surges ahead. No one in sight. Bolt wins! Bolt. New world record. 9.58 seconds. Usain Bolt…” At the end of my rebroadcast, my Jamaican friend was whooping and hollering, “Yes! We do it! Yes. Praise Jesus. Yes!”

But, why did we need to go back to the 1920s? It appears that Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) had bought the television rights, but Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation had not paid to share those rights. So, we in Barbados lived the ‘hermit’s life on the momentous moment. It was not until Thursday, August 20, that CMC clarified what CBC had done. That was after….Barbados’ Ryan Brathwaite had created no small piece of history for this small rock, by winning the men’s 110 metres hurdles in 13.14 seconds, a new national record (which he had just broken with 13.18 secs. in the semis). Oh dear, Barbados had not been able to see its son have HIS day in the sun. People in Barbados were now very angry–they should have been since Sunday, but different strokes for different folks. “Why we cyan see dis? Why?” was the general call. But, praise CMC for making sure the right person is under the bus.

I love to see Caribbean integration possibilities wither and die: much as I believe that such integration is possible and could be beneficial, many do not. So, better to leave no doubts when you do not believe. CMC? It seems you did the right thing, so I read a correction to my letter below. CBC? Whatever your reasons for not buying the rights, you will be held up in the annals of history for a CRAVEN act. Some would like to suggest that the problem is simply that CBC has a new General Manager, Lars Soderstrom (a former international media consultant), who is non-Caribbean. That has to be too simplistic a view. It is about management generally, remembering that CBC is government-owned. If government is not influencing its policies then perhaps I need to look at the person with line responsibilities. No. CBC failed us–yes, it is personal–when success was so easy: snatching defeat from the jaws of victory–a rare talent. I suspect the capabities of a media company that does not see the need for, or merit in, putting dates on its online material; try a link and see for yourself. Would that the region were rid of craven actors. If anyone says that CBC’s actions were due to financial constraints I will demand a full and forensic investigation of their transactions over the past 12 months. Why? B.E.C.A.U.S.E. they did the same thing for the Beijing Olympics. So, craven then. Craven now. One word to describe them. Jon crow!

My letter, written early on Monday and sent to several newspapers (Gleaner-Jamaica; Advocate and Nation-Barbados), which reads more muted than I was, was published on August 21. Fittingly, the day when they could celebrate their first gold.

I am no politician and hold no political ambitions–never have. But, I want leadership that can feel people’s needs and cater to them. Leaders who are not simply ready to pass by possible moments in our history for reasons that have nothing to do with a gun being held to their heads. I want people who learn from mistakes leading and running institutions in the Caribbean. I DO NOT WANT JON CROWS NEAR ME! I am not carrion and am not to be fed upon as if I am dead and have no feelings. I do feel and I will respond. Jon crows need dead meat to survive. Stop feeding the Jon crow.

Read on, for the letter. My Living in Barbados blog, also has a piece that verbalises in Patois how I felt on the day (‘What a shame!’). Standard English is for ordinary moments. Patois is for expressions from the heart. There is a follow-on piece that tries to share the joy that was experienced when I found live coverage, in a sports bar in Barbados. I did share fully with Jamaicans and Barbadians THE moments when Usain broke the 200 metres record again, and took gold–the day before his birthday. I did see and live through the agonizing tension of the 100 metres hurdles, which after a blanket finish, needed many minutes to declare Ryan Brathwaite the winner. I did glow as Melaine Walker took gold in the 400 metres and laugh myself silly as the mascot took her on a lap of honour only to lapse into a stadium machine and turn Melaine into a pole vaulter. Some of those moments are also on my Living in Barbados blog (‘Rage ain’t nothing but a number’).

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Here is the link to the Advocate letter. The printed text is below, with my correction regarding CMC/CBC inserted.

Where’s the coverage?

8/21/2009

THE joy of Caribbeans – in my case, Jamaicans – winning medals at the 2009 World Championships in Berlin has been a frustrating experience, or non experience to try to share. Those of us in Barbados have once again to endure what seems like a disregard for support for our region.

CMC [correction: CBC] did not buy the television broadcast rights. We have therefore been subjected to the displeasing situation of listening to the events, when broadcast, on radio. Just like in the good old Colonial days. I felt insulted as a national and as person of this Caribbean region.

We have reason to be proud, that our smallness in size and number is clearly no limitation on our ambition and achievement.

But it would seem that that pride is not shared or we will not be allowed to share it ‘live and direct’.

We look at the few symbols of regional unity and most of them are in tatters. We all know we are nationalistic, at least in part. It is natural. But we are also in need of integration and collaboration as a region. The action of CMC [correction: CBC] is to me another nail in the coffin of Caribbean unity. We saw how the region could share in the gains of one or a few nations as if we were all one.

I wont go to the historic racial significance of Berlin, and recall the ignominy faced by Jesse Owens in the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin. (Many readers will only know this from history books, or now, the Internet, see http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/system/topicRoot/Jesse_Owens_at_the_Berlin_Olymp/).

I just note that many black athletes in 2009 have proudly shown solidarity with that moment by emblems denoting Jesse Owens.

All we ask is for CMC [correction: CBC] to show a little solidarity, too.

This was just too much for me.

Dennis Jones

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The JPG version of the printed page is below (Advocate does not archive the print versions of the papers, for legal reasons).

World Champs Letter Advocate Aug 21 2009

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What does it mean to be a citizen?

A number of commentators in various media have focused on the possible legal action against some of the victorious candidates in the recent general election in Jamaica, because of allegations that they might have made pledges of allegiance etc. to foreign powers. This comes from a requirement in the Jamaican Constitution (1962) 40 (2 a), which states that:

No person shall be qualified to be appointed as a Senator or elected as a member of the House of Representatives who-

is, by virtue of his own act, under any acknowledgment of allegiance, obedience or adherence to a foreign Power or State;..

This restriction raises a number of interesting questions about what it means to be a Jamaican citizen. Most commentators have seen this as an issue related to dual citizenship, and I do too.

Dual citizenship is recognized by Jamaica. A useful website on dual citizenship (see http://www.constitution-and-rights.com/dual-citizenship.html) gives the following information:

A person who was born outside of Jamaica before August 6, 1962 and whose father or mother would have become a citizen of Jamaica on August 6, 1962 automatically became a Jamaican citizen. See Section 3A of the Jamaican Constitution.

A person who is married to a Jamaican citizen is entitled to be registered as a Jamaican citizen, regardless of his prior citizenship. See Sections 4 and 7 of the Jamaican Constitution.

Every person born in Jamaica after August 5, 1962 is entitled to Jamaican citizenship, regardless of whether he/she is entitled to the citizenship of any other country. See Section 5 of the Jamaican Constitution.

A person born outside of Jamaica after August 5, 1962 is entitled to Jamaican citizenship if his father or mother was born in Jamaica. See Section 6 of the Jamaican Constitution.

Many of the countries to which Jamaicans have emigrated also recognize dual citizenship, namely Canada, the UK, USA. Many Jamaicans who emigrated have done nothing to change their nationality or citizenship from just being Jamaican, even though they have the option for dual citizenship. Many Jamaicans who emigrated took the opportunity to acquire a second citizenship in their host country for a range of reasons. I do not have figures on either group, but it would be interesting to see what the numbers are. Let us simplify by saying that some of those who obtained dual citizenship have also returned to Jamaica and have the right to vote; again, I have no figures for this group. However, if you can vote as a dual citizen, why does the Constitution make the distinction it does when it comes to holding a position as a Senator or in the House of Representatives?

If there is some concern that those with dual citizenship will somehow serve their constituents and country less than those with only Jamaican citizenship, then take away their right to stand for election completely. Why waste time? But if that is the belief, then also do not let those who are dual citizens vote. Returning residents are being sought and more outreach is being made toward the Diaspora; many of both groups may have dual citizenship and have very strong desires to help Jamaica. But for that overtures to them to make sense then the dual citizenship issue needs to be rethought.

There are also Jamaicans who live abroad who have never obtained dual citizenship but have lost their rights to vote in Jamaican elections. When this issue has been brought up, the general impression I have is that politicians in Jamaica do not want to extend the right to vote to all “Jamaicans” outside the country. I can understand partly this resistance, because in many ways it can complicate the election arithmetic, not least by greatly expanding the electorate, but also giving votes to a body of people who largely do not then reside in the country and have to deal with the immediate consequences of their voting behaviour. Other countries that have given the right to overseas voters tend to be much larger, and their overseas population does not tend to be greater that the population within country. Many Caribbean countries, by contrast, have overseas citizens whose numbers could be close to or greater than the home population.

I think the issue of citizenship and eligibility for political office needs to be rethought, not least to reflect some aspects of current realities.

Jamaica’s elections open a new chapter

The Parliamentary elections, which were held on September 3, have left the country in yet more confusion. The initial results gave JLP a 31-29 seat victory over incumbent PNP, but the PM has not accepted these results and requested recounts. Director of Elections, Danville Walker, said the official recount begins at 9 o’clock this morning. There is every likelihood that the election results will not known for some time and there may be legal proceedings regarding candidates in some constituencies. There are reports of electoral irregularities, which will complicate reaching final results. Amongst these, PM Simpson-Miller had alleged that some members of the JLP had sworn allegiance to foreign powers which, if true, may make them ineligible to hold seats in the House of Representatives; she also alleged JLP campaigning the day before elections (which is illegal) and vote buying. A good blog to look at, Jamaican Lifestyle (see link) is providing some very interesting insights into Jamaican politics, and its economic and social life. I recommend it for keeping abreast of the election developments. Also worth a read is the lead article in today’s Gleaner (see link).

The various surveys had indicated that the election would be close, with JLP having a slight lead, and indications are that PNP suffered the aftermath of Hurricane Dean, with the slow process of relief and repair hitting its image in the public mind. And so it has proved, in what has been the closest election in terms of seats since Jamaica gained universal suffrage in 1944. The Electoral Office of Jamaica said yesterday’s voter turnout was a modest 60.40 per cent. Politcally motivated violence seems to have reared its ugly head in the days leading up to voting and on voting day itself. Whatever the final outcome of the voting, this election will give much food for thought to both sides.

What a difference a day makes: Where now Jamaica?

jamaica-bananas.jpgJamaica was sailing along towards elections on August 27. Opinion pollsters and ordinary citizens were making their calculations about who would come out ahead on voting day. The various debates between PNP and JLP heavy weights, culminating in the debate between PM Portia Simpson-Miller and JLP leader, Hugh Golding, seemed to have given JLP an edge heading towards the last week. Then, buddum!

Nature, who has no votes, but often can be critical in how things turn out, wanted to have its say. A hurricane of enormous proportions started its way across up the string of Caribbean islands, with its eye set on Jamaica. Fast forward. The eye passed the island by, but there was still a devastating impact on several parts of the country. But, outside the concerns of meterologists, the hurricane had changed more than the physical landscape of Jamaica. The electoral landscape was dramatically changed, and now is in a sea of uncertainty.

The PM decided to institute a month long state of emergency as the hurricane knocked out electricity, and criminals seemed poised to create more than a little havoc under cover of darkness. With the hurricane past, but with only 20 percent of the island with power, that state of emergency has not been lifted, even though there have been many reasoned calls for this  (see, for example, The Gleaner editorial of August 21). The editorial was a classic for succintness:

It is essential that this emergency comes to an end immediately. The security forces are clearly on top of the situation. There is no threat to law and order. There is nothing “likely to endanger the public safety or to deprive the community, or any substantial portion of the community, of supplies or services essential to life”. No justification for prolonging the emergency beyond today exists. It must come to an end now.

The PM said that she did consult with the opposition, so wont accept any accusations that she sewed disunity in the nation, and is having no hesitation continuing with the state of emergency.

Meanwhile, a certain confusion has set in about the date of the election. August 27 could not work, not least because the security services and poll workers could not vote this week, as previously expected. News came out that the Electoral Commission had proposed September 3 and that this had been accepted by the Governor General, and that date seemed agreed as a spokesperson for the Ministry of Education and Youth announced that schools would not reopen that day but on September 10, acknowledging that many schools also act as voting stations. (If the original date chosen had been a play on 7,  how could a play on 3s and 9s–with their very different spiritual significance–work?) Cabinet met in emergency session on August 21 to consider a recommendataion that the elections be postponed from August 27 to September 3 and that members of the security forces go to the polls on August 28, one week later than the August 21 date that was first set. But the PM in a national address on August 22, made no mention of a date for the election.

So what now? Part of the confusion is a result of a protocol mix up. The Electoral Commmission should have put its recommendation to Cabinet before handing it to the Governor General. That should be easy to overcome, and presumably is a lesson for the future. Not surprisingly, there are those who feel that more time will help PNP to get the benefits of the hurricane in terms of largesse that will start to flow in terms of dealing with the damage. But, some believe that the continued state of emergency will be a bigger negative than any positive from the largesse, so while that stays in place it will hurt PNP’s chances. While tourism seems to have been able to escaped major damage, that has not stopped a rapid campaign to reassure foreigners that “Jamaica is open”.  The country’s agricultural sector took a big hit, especially bananas. That could factor into fears about economic prospects, at least in some areas in the short run. Rehabilatiton needs will create some possibilities for jobs and some patching up that might sway some but it’s hard to see that this will really matter much to anybody who has had years without something basic like a good road or other social service. In the meantime, the Jamaica Power Service seems to be drawing back from any promises about when it can get power back to most of the island, and until that occurs, it hard to see (sorry for the pun) how the right conditions exist for holding elections.

So, for at least a while the country is really stumbling in the dark and more than a little confused. My own naive opining had been that the longer the time between announcement and election, the worse the situation for PNP: under the British-sytle parliamentary system incumbents are not usually helped by delay. Now, there is confusion and that delay could be good or bad, but much will rest on what is really done with that time. It could be a bumpy few weeks ahead.

Hurricane Dean

treehouse.jpgI have focused my attention on my other blog (Living in Barbados), and the need to pay attention to preparations for Hurricane Dean as it approached Barbados, quickly turned to concern for my family in Jamaica as Dean moved on with greater ferocity towards that island. Gladly, the eye of the storm stayed offshore, but the island still got a beating. Relatives to whom I have spoken today (in Mandeville and Kingston [UWI Hospital) report a heavy battering by rain, with less wind effects. Worst hit areas appear to be those closer to the coasts, with the hurricane taking its toll on trees, but creating less property damage than if the full brunt of the storm had hit the island. I have not heard from relatives in St. Mary, where I hear that fixed phone lines are still down and I have not been able to reach anyone there by cell phone. The Gleaner is keeping a useful hurricane blog going of developments on the island (from where the photo graph is taken), using a range of their reporters.

Bloggers in Barbados have kept a good watch on developments further north, so it’ s worth checking their sites (Barbados Free Press, Barbados Underground, Notes from the Margin) as well as the well-established news (such as CNN, BBC) and weather websites (such as the Weather Channel).

The worst of the present hurricane seems to have passed the Caribbean islands and now heads towards Mexico and the Yucatan peninsula.

Hurricane Dean will make for an interesting few days ahead as Jamaica prepares for elections on August 27. The physical conditions of the country and the need to get things back to normal could make it very difficult to hold elections on that date, but we await further decisions by the Election Commission.

Jamaica celebrates 45 years on independence

Jamaica celebrated 45 years of Independence on August 6. The debate about what the country has achieved since the end of British rule is not one that can have a definitive conclusion. There are enough statistics that show progress in many social and economic areas. There are also many statistics that show a worsening of economic and social development. The country has been under continuous transformation, and that has not stopped. I feel that the conclusions people draw will reflect their political position. There is nothing wrong with that. Continue reading

Conference on the Caribbean: Into the Briar Patch

During June 19-21, in Washington, DC, Caribbean leaders, academics, activists, entrepreneurs, and others will mingle with members of the US government, representatives of international and regional financial institutions, and others with an interest in the region (see link). There will be two side forums on private sector development and the Diaspora.

The Caribbean region has many issues to face. Whether politicians see the issues in the same way as their populations is not clear, but the democratic process will be a guide as elections come along later this year. To me there are several thorny problems that could derail the region’s vision for itself.

First, is the burr of intraregional trade. It has been clear for some time that each Caribbean nation does not view neutrally the arrival of investors from another country. I will cite just the recent reaction in Barbados to the proposed take over by Trinidad’s Neal and Massy of Barbados Shipping and Trading. Generally, people don’t see these moves as strengthening the region’s ability to compete in a broad international environment, but merely as the loss of an important national player to a foreign entity, and as such a bad thing. The economic and financial explanations of possible merits rarely sink into most people’s minds. It is little different, when we consider the movement of labour between the countries. The movement of skilled or other workers from the larger countries (Guyana, Trinidad, and Jamaica) is often seen negatively in the smaller countries such as Barbados. And these movements quickly get tinged with emotive and racist language, citing themes such as “invasions” and “aggressiveness”.  So, what future for regional intiatives such as CSME? There does not seem a readiness to share a common economic space, especially if it means an influx from poorer, more violent, and apparently less stable countries in the region.

Related to this is the prickly question of regional air travel. The region may not really be able to support its own stock of air operators. We have seen the demise of Caribbean Airlines. The merger of Liat-Caribbean Star is underway. Air Jamaica’s future has been called into question, not least by the recent selling of its Kingston-London route to Virgin Airways. The other problem is the high cost of travel within the region, with its related negative impact on tourism. Liat-Caribbean Star charges too much for travelling short distances within the region: the Secretary General of the Caribbean Tourism Organization Vincent Vanderpool-Wallance, has recently called these high fares the “silent killer” of regional tourism. The fact that some of the shareholders (Antigua, Barbados, St. Vincent) in the regional airline also own their main airports, puts a contradictory twist to how to price for international travel, given that the airport investment needs to be recouped. St. Lucia’s government has recently announced that it will no longer finance Liat, and has contracted with American Airlines to provide services between St. Lucia and Barbados. A little friction between the governments over these moves will be no surprise!

A complex and growing issue is the relationship with China. This has the double dimension of which “China” countries decide to work with. Some Caribbean countries are for a “one China” policy and are building deeper relations with the People’s Republic (see Barbados’ PM’s recent visit to Beijing, for example). Others do not wish to follow that road and are deeping relations with Taiwan (see St. Lucia, for example). Some (like St. Lucia) seem to switch with a change of government (see article in Broad Street Journal). The People’s Republic of China has an interesting position at present. It is a member of the Caribbean Development Bank (see link), with its own Director and seat on the Board of Governors. It is becoming a major source of financing in the region, especially of prestige construction projects (such as stadiums and highways). The People’s Republic of China is taking a fast-extending role in the development of poorer countries worldwide (especially in Africa, where this help can also mean access to valuable primary commodities), and has the resources to fulfill this role. It has also become an important source of labour to the Caribbean to help with construction projects. But this latter aspect is coming at a price as local opinion quickly turns hostile when it seems that local labour is being pushed to the side (whether due to proper procedure of suspected underhand dealings). Whether local labour has the skills to compete well against Chinese workers, it is often hard to compete with Chinese companies on price: anecdotal stories of Chinese workers getting US10 a day and having to rumage around to find food and live in what are seen as squalid conditions do nothing to enhance the image of the Chinese worker. The presence of Chinese workers and contractors is not a singular problem in the Caribbean, but part of the emerging impact that the People’s Republic is having on economic developments. It is becoming the dominant international force. Mix this with the pre-existing sense of invasion from foreigners that some are feeling and one does not have to look far to see an unhappy road ahead if somehow the apparent large influx of Chinese workers is not controlled, especially in the smaller islands.

The politicians and others will have more than these issues to think and talk about and I will try to see if some of these reflections can be quickly incorporated into this blog.

Hoping for Leadership in Cricket

Many would have hoped that the Cricket World Cup would have provided a wonderful platform to showcase what the region can do. Yet, we have seen a tournament that had so many missteps that it is hard to believe that the region’s image has not been tarnished. Whatever legacy benefits may be expected, at the current time, these would seem to be distant promises. The world will not really be able to distinguish whether the conduct of the tournament was due to the role of local organizing committees, or to the role of the International Cricket Council. The world is not so interest in cricket to dig deep to know the real reasons. It will simply see the Caribbean as “not being able”.layout1_1_pklpigayle200gk.jpg

Continue reading

Jamaican economic growth and inflation doing better, but budget overruns are worrying, says IMF

The IMF’s latest assessment of Jamaica’s economic performance is very positive (see http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/scr/2007/cr07152.pdf). It notes that the economy registered its best growth for nearly a decade, at just under 3% in FY 2006-7. Equally significant, prices rose by 6 1/2% in FY 2006-7, compared to a recent high of 19% in September 2005. The improvement in agricultural activity helped in both cases. The current account of the balance of payments also improved, helped by increased tourist receipts and remittances. With the help of capital inflows, net international reserves reached historically high levels, at just about US$ 2.3 billion.

However, the budgetary picture remains worrisome, and fiscal targets for FY 2006/07 were missed by a wide margin notwithstanding the overall strong economic context. Continue reading

What the Caribbean in paying for crime

This week, the World Bank in collaboration with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime produced a report entitled “Crime, Violence, and Development: Trends, Costs, and Policy Options in the Caribbean” (see document crimeandviolenceinthecaribbeanfullreport1.pdf). It details and quantifies some of the startlingly terrifying statistics about violent crime in the region, and notes that the solutions are not to be gained from national actions, but need international efforts, especially from the United States of America, from where most of the guns come, and to where most of the drugs traded through the region go.

 The region’s vulnerability to drug trafficking as a transhipment point is a major problem, wedged between the major sources of cocaine in the south and the major consumer markets in the north. Continue reading