Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A World Phenomenon

Did you know that Jamaica has the only phenomenon where a lighted flame burns under water? Not only is the flame there, but people actually cooked on it. This phenomenon is at a place named Windsor near Marcus Garvey’s statue in St. Ann’s Bay.

This is a very impoverished area with a horrible road and lots of garbage strewn along the river bank. I can’t remember ever seeing so many young children anywhere in relation to the number of houses.

I get the impression that the person on whose land this phenomenon exists is standing in the of progress for when I asked him why he has not approached an organization like TPDCO to get it developed as a proper attraction, he scoffed at the idea saying dem wi just tief it.

Anyway as the story goes, about 80 years ago, this old lady was burning out wasps in a tree, when the paper she had lighted fell into the water and it blazed up. This created a lot of excitement in the area and over the past few years, geologists from the USA have visited thinking there is natural gas in the area. None was found and the conclusion is that it is sulpher coming up into the spot, (like on matches) which is creating the phenomenon. This flame can be blown out and lighted by simply passing a lighter over the section.

The man who claims the spot has now fenced it around and charges people to come in and have a sulpher bath in the tepid water. The place has a lot, more potential however.

I had stopped there last week to show it to my grandson Shadrach who is on vacation from USA, this attraction. We had spent a wonderful two days at Royal Decameron, an all inclusive in Salem where I had made a hog of myself.

But what the heck, life is just for living.

The Clydesdale ride

Ok, let me state up front, we did not go to Clydesdale. Nor sir, where we went on Sunday 25th July had some of the worst roads I have ever seen in my life. This was all part of the Blue and John Crow Mountain range where bad roads are the regular feature. In Jamaica, road maintenance is a no no so whenever you go to areas where there is heavy rainfall and frequent landslides you know what to expect. So we never reached the final destination since the road to that section was virtually impassible, we were told.
It was a great outing however. Those mountains with their numerous shades of green, the mist kissing the hills, the absolutely gorgeous colours of the wild plants and the sprinkling of modest homes, some perched precariously on the hillside, are always a welcome sight. Not to mention the cool, pure, refreshing mountain air such a distinct contrast to what we breathe daily down here.
The road up to Gordon Town and Guava Ridge was reasonable. Then we started a non stop climb on horrible roads but through quiet, scenic, sparsely populated and quaint villages whose names I have forgotten except for the fairly large village of Content Gap.
We celebrated Michelle’s birthday two days early by cutting a delicious carrot cake donated by Betty in a bus stop along the way. That is where the fit ones also had their breakfast but people like myself who do not believe in starvation, had eaten the Juci breakfast that Chris (the driver) bought for us.
Incidentally, Andrew who had also jumped into a vehicle part way, reminded us that the 25th July was the 1st anniversary of our hike to the Blue Mountain peak when his girlfriend sprained both her ankles and he being super strong, carried her down the mountain on his back.
When we got to St. Peters which is a virtually abandoned village just below Clydesdale and we were advised not to go any further as they road to Clydesdale was unpaved and almost impassible. We were shown an alternate swimming spot in the Yallahs River which incidentally has its origin in that area, and all but me the cold enjoyed a swim.
In the meantime I tried to hike up to Clydesdale but when I got to a fork in the road, did not know which one to take so returned.
At St. Peters I was bombarded by residents who griped about the neglect by the MP and the fact that Chestervale youth camp was closed and that is where most people used to work or sell their supplies. That I was told was the reason for the deterioration in the area.
They also advised us not to return the way we had come as those roads were too bad and suggested that we go via Silver Hill to Section, Newcastle and Irish town. That too was a pleasant route and apart from the bad spot between St. Peters to Silver Hill, the roads were very much better.
Of course by then, the fun loving ones had joined me in vehicles while only the round the islanders rode all the way home.

Good Ideas Dr. Phillips

Why is it that only when politicians are in opposition that they have great ideas to move this country forward? Hearing excerpts of Dr. Peter Phillips’ contribution in parliament recently reminded me of how much I used to respect and applaud Mr. Golding when he was in opposition!(when talk was cheap!)

However, if Dr. Phillips does all to forward the proposals he made, I promise to forgive him for having been a senior minister with immense power for decades yet doing nothing stop the reality that “those who play by the rules get shafted which he recognized and articulated .

Anyway, the entire country and especially the vocal and influential civil society need to support Dr. Phillips’ suggestion that the Electoral Commission develop fit and proper” criteria for persons running for office at both the local and central government levels. Do we need anything more than the recent declaration by the police that they took an alleged member of the Clansman gang who had run on the PNP’s ticket in 2007into custody during the state of emergency to realize how urgent this need is?

Do we really understand the implications of this or are we such a hypocritical society that we are prepared to continue hugging up people of questionable character the minute they are “elected” even garrison style?

I would suggest we go even further however for some dons and other such people are smart enough not seek power for themselves but influential enough to determine who represents their constituency or even parish and end up as legislators. Or are we forgetting the several media reports to the effect that Dudus had rejected Babsy Grange and Desmond McKenzie to be the MP for West Kingston and gone with Golding!

It is not only in the garrisons that this type of influence is being wielded however for I can recall media reports in both Manchester and St. Ann to the effect that the “mid island don” and the powerful one in St. Ann had endorsed candidates from time to time. Shouldn’t one criterion be that those endorsed by the dons be also not considered “fit and proper”? For we need to strike while the iron is hot and before the electorate forgets the nine months during which every stumbling block was put in place to try and prevent Dudus’ extradition?

Dr. Phillips also endorsed the suggestion of the Contactor General that the integrity Commission, Corruption Commission and Contractor General’s office be amalgamated to become an effective Corruption fighting institution. Civil Society also needs to add their support to this suggestion for apart from the contractor general office, the others are not being effective although they have enormous powers. In calling for this Dr, Phillips made the point that although a public officer files reports before the Integrity commission, it was revealed that on his approximately $2 million per annum salary, he is building a $50 million dollar home. This type of allegation is not at all uncommon and it reinforces the urgency for proper action and not just window dressing to deal with corruption. And while they are at it, they should ensure that the ”fit and proper” means loyalty to Jamaica only, no exceptions for Commonwealth citizens.

After watching political developments in this country for some forty years, I have come to the conclusion that they only time we get ideas from the legislators to make this country a better place is when they are in opposition but that should not prevent us the electorate from embracing them, regardless of our particular political preferences. For Jamaica can never move forward if we in civil society also act as cultist at every turn.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Bowden Hill Waterfall

Now I accept I should always listen to Michelle Lowe when she gives an impression of a ride. For after hearing her say that the hill leading up to Bowden hill School was as bad as that going to Peter's rock, I should have gone the easy route with Charles.

But no. I wanted to know the other way to the waterfall and boy did I suffer! I have not for years seen such a long continuous hill. Well that is not quite true as I have seen them but never been crazy enough to try riding up! The only saving grace was that it was overcast so one did not have the pelting sun to contend with. But not since Peters Rock have I pushed my bicycle so much instead of riding!

Every time I thought we had reached the top of the hill, there was another. However I should have been expecting it as when we had turned on to Airy Castle road in Stony Hill and I inquired from a man if the hill was bad he said it was "one rass hill" and it was! And guess who I ran into on the way up just after we crossed over that dilapidated bridge spanning the wag water river. Alvin Mightly, my good friend and the alternate telephone operator and jack of all trades at Power 106. That's his area told me.

The route was strewn with mangoes, lush plants and the beautiful bamboo covered valleys and hillsides were to be enjoyed, but I couldn't because of the suffering to get over that hill.

Anyway, we did reach the tiny village eventually and you know what struck me about Bowden hill district? It only had one church. I have never seen a village in Jamaica with one church before. My conclusion is that those who live there must be nice, decent people. I say this as I usually find most church goers to be the most scheming backbiters under the sun so the less churches there are, the better the people!

But I deviate as I was speaking about our expedition to Bowden hill waterfall on Sunday 18th July.

When we reached the school we discovered that Howie our ride director, had not made arrangements to get the guide to take us to the waterfall which was in the bushes. So we headed off with him as the guide. Actually he would have led us straight there had he not been so easily browbeaten by a woman! For when he reached a fork along the thick overgrown track, I insisted that going left was the correct way.(When will I ever learn that going left is the wrong way?)

Well after that we walked and walked and walked and walked but no waterfall. Some fainthearted hikers wanted to just enjoy sitting in the river but someone suggested that we go back and try Howie's way. In the meantime Michael and Howie decided to follow the river back hoping to find the waterfall along the way.

Well we went Howie's way, found the waterfall and had a wonderful time just in time to get more water from above via a heavy downpour.

I do not know if Howie and Michael have found it yet or even if they found their way back home, for up to when we drove off, there was no sign of them!

All I know however is the next time we are going to that waterfall, there is no way I am going to ride over Bowden hill but instead will take the tried and true route via Hermitage road to the dam.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Government run companises versus private ones.

According to the Gleaner of July 14th, now that the free light in Tivoli is no more, "Tivolites rush to regularise with JPS". This is great news because for too long those of us who play by the rules have been shafted by having to pick up part of the cost for utilities being used by the free loaders in the garrisons. For it is well known that in most garrisons, in return for keeping members of parliament in power without them ever having to campaign or even do anything to alleviate the terrible conditions in those areas, the people get free utilities.

What worries me though is that after almost two months of the state of emergency, we have no news that similar measures are being taken in the other fourteen garrisons, Is it only in Tivoli that the change is to be made?

And what about the National Water Commission (NWC), how come they are not making similar efforts to "regularise" the situation where free water is the order of the day? Is it because the NWC knows that whenever they can't pay their debts they can get the government to write off the billions as they have done in the past? Or is it because they find it easy to make up their shortfalls by simply overcharging and threatening the lives of legitimate users?

The difference in approach here once again demonstrates why government run organisations always end up being a charge on taxpayers. Since the buck for the operations of the NWC stops with the minister of Water and Housing Horace Chang, may I use this medium to pose the question to him as to why the NWC is not taking any steps to ensure that those who use expensive potable water, pay for it.

I wonder when those who play by the rules and are constantly being shafted, will rise up and say no more?

I only hope that when the JPS starts to make further windfall profits from bringing in revenue from the garrisons this will be reflected in the bills of those of us who play by the rules.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Murder capitals of the world

Why was anyone shocked at the revelations made by former Commissioner of Police Lewin?

For the benefit of those who were in Mars over the past few weeks, during a television interview, Lewin said that within 15 minutes of telling the Minister of Security that Christopher Coke aka Dudus, would be extradited to the USA, the information was leaked to the wanted man! But the actions of the JLP government in regard to the request for Dudus' extradition would have told us from day one that the government was doing everything to protect this alleged criminal for the prime minister himself had said preventing the extradition was something he was staking his political reputation on. In fact he went as far as to say that if the Minister of Justice signed the extradition papers she should sign her resignation the same time! So wouldn't leaking the information before hand to Dudus that his extradition was requested be just a normal part of the procedure as far as they were concerned?

Of course, Golding did not admit that he was doing this because Dudus was the senior enforcer for the party who was needed for elections, but instead said he was doing it to protect the human rights of a Jamaican citizen. Ha! From I heard that I knew Jamaica had reached the pit for in the two plus years that Golding had been prime minister, never had his government done anything to protect the human rights of a citizen but rather abuses, especially at the hands of the police, had increased.

I think it was that one statement about protecting human rights that got me really mad and brought me to the realisation that politics in this country had reached rock bottom.

Oh yes, the PNP likes to gloat but have their actions been any different? Of course not for both our parities are indeed criminal organisations competing to see who is better at samfying the public. For don't forget that when George Flash and Tony Brown (the father of a senior PNP executive member) were wanted for the murder of permanent secretary Ted Ogilvie, the party which was then in power, arranged for them to be skirted away to Cuba where they spent 20 years, enough time for witnesses to disappear! And one could point to other acts where both parties have protected their own private criminals, (who is paying the multi million cost to defend the don from Golden Spring who was arrested for killing a man eating his dinner at home in Stony Hill, when the bus in which he was travelling from Peter Phillips' presidential launch, stopped in that town?) .

In Jamaica, politics and criminality are walking hand in hand to the mountain top and if civil society does not remain resolute that we will no longer put up with it, we will continue to be in the top three countries that enjoy the notoriety of being "murder capitals of the world"

Monday, July 5, 2010

Erasing the corruption stain

Over the weekend Gary Spaulding had an interesting article entitled Erasing the corruption stain in which he outlined the task that Burchell Whiteman and others have in trying to clean up the PNP's tarnished image.

I hail this thrust by the PNP for the reality of Jamaican politics is that its either they or the JLP that will form the government and the JLP having lost all moral authority, they recognise that the apple is within their grasp.

Apparently too, they seem to understand that in order not to be swept to power only by their tribalists and thus having to face a very rocky road to get support or consensus from the rest of us, they must give the thinking public a reason to trust them, hence this sudden interest in integrity and weeding out corruption.
However, if this new body is not to be only a face card, before they even do anything else, they must demand answers to the Trafigura affair and share those answers with the public. For in the same way that the public will not be appeased until all is told about Mannat, Phelps & Phillips , neither will they be until all the gory details about the underhand deal with Trafigura are told. For while it is well known that Trafigura gave the PNP $30 million and were given a contract that the then ruling party would do something for them, what we can't find out is exactly what was promised to them. Was it that they would be allowed to dump their toxic waste in Jamaica? Was it that the contract to pull Nigerian oil would be renewed without competitive tender? Or did it have something to do with the destruction of the cockpit country in an effort to find more bauxite?

These both international scandals in which the ruling parties which formed the government at the time have been involved have only reinforced in the eyes of the world, the perception that Jamaica is nothing but a corrupt banana republic.

Also, if this integrity body is to be credible, they must do a better job than previous bodies in selecting who will be allowed to represent the party in an election. For since the 2007 election, the police has been showing great interest in two of their candidates for involvement in gangs. What would have happened had these two candidates been elected to parliament6 to make laws to affect the rest of us? This matter simply cannot be swept under the table.

Then there is the issue of MP Sharon Hay Webster brazenly remaining in parliament while admitting to being a dual citizen, a direct breach of the constitution.
What is this integrity committee going to do about this grave breach and insult to the integrity of Parliament?

Unless this commission is really serious about dealing with such issues, it will turn out to be nothing but a face card and once again voters will be left with a choice between a corrupt black dog and a corrupt monkey.