We were reminded last week that Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller is no less a charismatic personality than her mentor Michael Manley. We attended a brief meeting to discuss the abolition of roaming charges in the Caribbean region, initiated by Science, Technology, Energy, and Mining Minister Phillip Paulwell earlier this year. The prime minister was meeting with Digicel Jamaica CEO Barry O'Brien and senior executive Trisha Williams-Singh. (Digicel is a client of my company.)
We commented on the PM's youthfulness, and she explained that her relatives on both sides were blessed with longevity. Mrs Simpson Miller noted the warmth of the Chinese welcome on her recent visit. "They are very keen on Jamaica," she noted. "They told me that people come to tour their Bird's Nest Stadium just because they want to be where Usain Bolt broke two world records at the Beijing Olympics."
The PM said she was overwhelmed by the reception she received at the UN recently and people's high regard for Jamaica. "Of course, everybody asks me why we run so fast, and I tell them that it must be something special in our soil, because we have world leaders in many other fields too."
Having heard the challenges that women face as they strive to make their mark in politics, one can only imagine the struggle of this prime minister to have reached where no Jamaican woman had ever reached before. As I heard her speak about the potential of our children and the challenges to our elderly, I realised that if we achieve the goal of the 51% Coalition -- to have 30 per cent representation of women in our Parliament -- we may further these causes.
I was inspired by noble presenters at the recent 'Leaders to Leaders' conference: US Ambassador to Jamaica Pamela Bridgewater, Member of Parliament Olivia 'Babsy' Grange, Director of Public Prosecutions and Queen's Counsel Paula Llewellyn, IWF Jamaica President Pat Ramsay, and JPS President & CEO Kelly Tomblin. I believe it would be timely for the PM to collaborate with these leaders, the 51% Coalition, the Women's Political Caucus and all women Parliamentarians to seek consensus on the burning national issues of health, education and social welfare. This would be a brave next step for a woman who has cleared so many hurdles in her political life. I believe she can do it.
Dramatic seniors' conference
Nothing prepared me for the emotional calls from elderly Jamaicans for basic respect, basic amenities, basic rights; this on the International Day for Older Persons last Tuesday, October 1. They shared the podium at a conference organised by HelpAge Jamaica, the National Council for Senior Citizens and The Mona Centre for Wellness and Ageing.
One lady spoke of the disrespect the elderly face in our health facilities. While sitting in waiting areas, they hear insensitive young people saying: "Why these old people pack up the place? Why them nuh go home go dead?" Yes, Jamaica, this is what we have come to. She said a lady with a hearing problem did not hear when her number was called, and sat in the waiting room all day. Finally, a hospital worker asked her rudely why she didn't get up and ask. Surely such a person should have been approached much earlier by a concerned worker?
Miss Elaine Sinclair of Linstead spoke on the issues related to housing. Yes, some may have their own homes, but they are barely managing to maintain them. She told us of cardboard where doors should be, tarpaulin where roofs should be.
Mr Kenneth Hemley of the Jamaica Coalition on Rights of Older Persons bemoaned the low pension paid to older persons by the Government, and called for action against employers who were delinquent with NIS deductions. A chart shared with us showed a sad tale of pensions: Jamaica: US$15 per month; Barbados: US$276; Trinidad US$325. It was good that we had launched CCRP Jamaica (Caribbean Community for Retired Persons) to advocate for seniors, but sad that Barbados and Trinidad were so far ahead of us, with membership of 33,000 and 27,000 respectively -- and we see the result of strength in numbers.
I was honoured to speak with the patriotic members of the Jamaica Retired Principals and Vice-Principals Association at Old Harbour High School, led by President Mrs Norma Bernard-Powell, last Thursday. When I shared these stark statistics and the importance of advocacy, several signed up immediately. Our CCRP working team of Dorett Linton, Angela Foote and yours truly will have to keep pounding the pavement so we will have the clout to uplift the very Jamaicans who have sacrificed so much to build our beloved country.
Is Charity Act too tough on NGOs?
Dr Herbert Lowe, generous vice-chair of the Environmental Health Foundation, organised an eye-opening seminar recently on the incoming Jamaica Charities Act. In his keynote address to over 200 NGO representatives, PwC Jamaica Partner Brian Denning advised: "The tax benefits I have mentioned will only be available to your organisation provided that it registers under the Charities Act when it comes into force (which is expected to be by 30 November 2013)." Mrs Cecile Walker-Clarke of Tax Administration Jamaica has proved herself to be knowledgeable and approachable, so NGOs should contact her for clarification.
Dr Henley Morgan, founder of the Agency for Inner-city Renewal, does not believe that the proposed Act addresses organisations which promote social entrepreneurship. I do hope his concerns will be addressed as his model for empowerment is the best way forward for Jamaica.
VCB - relief coming?
We feel relieved that the JAAA Disciplinary Committee has "recommended that a reprimand, without any period of ineligibility, would be appropriate," for Veronica Campbell Brown, considering that the banned substance found was not used for performance enhancement. However, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has said that the IAAF "has the right to appeal against the JAAA's decision". In a statement, they disclosed that "the IAAF has 45 days (from receipt of the decision) to file an appeal. After this period, or once they have made their decision, WADA will have 21 days to decide whether to lodge an appeal". We hope for the best for our beloved VCB, who has been such a courageous and consistent representative of Jamaica.
Congrats StGC Old Boys Awardees
Each year, the St George's College Old Boys' Association honours the memory of graduate Monsignor Gladstone Wilson, acknowledged as one of the finest intellectuals of the 20th century, by saluting distinguished graduates. How proud we were to hear the incredible achievements of this year's recipients, Paul Bitter, Monsignor Michael Lewis, Clovis Metcalfe, and Don Wehby -- phenomenal gentlemen!
Andrew vs Audley
I am cringing daily at the errors both these campaigners are making. I was surprised to get a video link from "Audley Shaw media" bashing... Audley Shaw! And then there are claims and counterclaims regarding a caretakers' meeting called by Andrew Holness. Gentlemen, it's all out there in social media, so let's all just keep calm and carry on with dignity.