Reality check for beautiful Jamaica


Monday, November 06, 2017

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A woman from the American south described her homeland as “aesthetically beautiful with a dark reality”. The same can be said of our breathtaking but brutal Jamaica.

Last week, UNICEF Country Representative Mark Connolly laid out the facts — Jamaica is ranked in the top-five countries globally for violence against children under four years old, and is one of the top 10 countries for murder of adolescent females.

So, as the Jamaica Labour Party Government celebrates its well-fought victory in the St Mary South Eastern by-election, and the PNP secures its St Andrew seats, let our leaders now focus on the statistics of child abuse, adolescent murder, and the resulting high crime rate which continue to haunt Jamaica.

Professor Maureen Samms-Vaughan has provided us with data showing that children who receive corporal punishment and are abused will end up becoming violent adults.

Tragically, for over five decades, communities have been subject to life-threatening political violence in certain 'garrison' constituencies. Family members are afraid to cross from one street to the next to visit relatives as they could be entering territory 'belonging' to one political party or the other. Young girls are still being 'sent for' by so-called dons, and helpless mothers must choose between being burnt out of their residences and the brutal abuse of their innocent daughters.

This column has repeatedly asked why organisations such as Jamaicans For Justice have never spoken out against this practice. In a recent Jamaica Observer column, security expert Jason McKay noted that this skewed approach had turned criminals into victims. Corporate Jamaica will now have to step up and demand better from politicians. Why support a system that is eroding your bottom line, resulting in astronomical costs for security and low productivity?

Businesspeople cannot plead ignorance of the reality. They have workers who must get home before dark, because it is too dangerous for them to be outside after a certain hour. They get the phone calls from workers who are hunkered down and cannot leave their homes because there are gunshots flying around them.

Imagine the trauma to children in such households. They become beating sticks for their stressed-out parents and guardians, who are constantly under pressure, watching their backs. They see the dignity of their parents destroyed by selfish politicians who demand unconditional loyalty backed by the threats of the neighbourhood thugs. And then we wonder why we have such low turnout from younger voters.

We are hearing encouraging words from government representatives towards ending corporal punishment in schools. Citizens' Action for Free and Fair Elections and National Integrity Action can strengthen the promotion of justice and peace by having regular town hall meetings encouraging frank discussion and upholding exemplary leadership.

We know there are well-thinking politicians on both sides of the House and we are reminding them of the great power they have to change the status quo. I am encouraged by Senator Kamina Johnson Smith's explanation of the importance of having a national identification system — so Jamaica can take our rightful place in this digital world. It will also be invaluable in our crime-fighting efforts.

Special Olympian care

Our Special Olympians are Jamaicans with intellectual disabilities and, thanks to their dedicated Executive Director Lorna Bell, they have been enjoying even greater opportunities to participate in international sports and maintain good health. Such programmes nurture our own humanity, reminding us that every single human being deserves our respect and compassion. With 4,300 participants in 10 sports, and generous volunteers from health and security services, our Special Olympians have been reaping even more medals in international competitions.

Over the past weekend volunteers and some 70 athletes gathered in Treasure Beach for a Healthy Athletes Training & Screening programme to support their fitness. We were proud to hear Jamaica being described as a trendsetter by Javier Vasquez, director, Global Health Programmes for Special Olympics International. For this reason, representatives of 10 other countries in the region were invited to participate.

The first supporters of our Special Olympians were the Jamaica Constabulary Force, who conducted a 'torch run' to raise funds for Special Olympic Jamaicans. In 2002, the now-retired Assistant Commissioner of Police Neville Wheatle asked if Digicel could assist. Digicel Chairman Denis O'Brien, who was also chairman of the Ireland Special Olympics World Games being held for the first time outside of the US, readily agreed and the Digicel Foundation has continued to be a lead sponsor.

At the press launch last week, we saw UNICEF, Digicel, Special Olympics International, Sports Development Foundation, Jamaica Olympic Association, Lions Club International, and the Law Enforcement Torch Run gather to support our Special Olympians. This is the level of synergy we need to tackle larger-scale issues in our country.

Congratulations, friends!

Heartiest congratulations, National Continental Baking chairman and leading philanthropist Gary “Butch” Hendrickson, who received a second honorary doctorate, this time from the University of Technology, Jamaica. It is a fitting honour for a man who has tirelessly supported new manufacturers via his Bold Ones programme. Additionally, he has invested hundreds of millions in early childhood education.

Congratulations also to the courageous Dr Floyd Morris, who last Friday marched for his doctoral degree at The University of the West Indies. Floyd became blind while attending high school in St Mary. In a previous column we spoke about Floyd Morris's journey and the despair he felt as a teenager sitting at home unable to take part in regular classes. He said he used to listen to Dorraine Samuels and one day decided to call her and share his plight. He said Dorraine encouraged him to come to Kingston and enrol at the School for the Blind. Her kind counsel helped to set him on a path of high achievement. We should never hesitate to listen and guide young people. Blessings to you, Dorraine Samuels.

Pat Ramsay's IWF award

There was an omission in last week's column. The first Jamaican recipient of the IWF 'Woman Who Made a Difference' Award was none other than the IWF Jamaica Forum Founding President Pat Ramsay. She received this award at the San Francisco Conference five years ago when US Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi was inducted in their Hall of Fame. Pat is a great mentor and was the prime mover of our successful IWF Cornerstone Conference held in Montego Bay.

Farewell, Sushil Jain

It is hard to believe that the ever-supportive financial guru Sushil Jain is no longer with us. Those who served with Sushil on the board of the Tony Thwaites Wing learned much from his advice on financial management and investment. When I founded the seniors' organisation Caribbean Community of Retired Persons, Sushil Jain was one of the first people to sign up and volunteer his services to our members. He conducted our financial management seminar and his advice was so important that it is still carried on our website. Sushil Jain has left a legacy of sound guidance. Our deepest sympathy to his beloved family. May his great soul rest in peace.




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