A heroine for our time
THE TV news report was about an ambitious young man from Orange Villa, Orange Street, who was shot dead allegedly by the police at his cook shop last Monday. We saw a young lady step up to the microphone — Shakelia Jackson-Thomas — speak in grieving but measured words about the tragic death of her brother Nakeia Jackson.
The next day, we heard the articulate young woman on Nationwide news calling on the police to show respect to all Jamaicans. Remaining calm, she repeated this on Cliff Hughes' Impact, joining via video a discussion with Commissioner of Police
Shakelia said she had a choice of where she could live, and uses her downtown address with no apologies. "I am a product of the area and I am still proud to live there," she stated. "I am looking for the Nakeia Jackson Act," said Convent of Mercy Academy (Alpha) and UWI graduate, calling for innocent young men to be protected. She spoke of her hard-working father who set an example to her brother — "someone who worked for honest bread".
She said that police should show respect no matter the community in which they were working. The commissioner assured her, "I am Commissioner for all Jamaica." He said that INDECOM's investigations had the full backing of the JCF. He spoke of the training in citizen interaction conducted for his officers, and that there was no excuse for them to be disrespectful to anyone.
Commissioner Ellington noted that crime was trending down in recent times, but he did not want to dwell on this, as gangsters tend to view such announcements as a challenge to escalate their activities.
On the same programme, UTech security head Bobby Finzi-Smith remarked on the brazenness of criminals — his metaphor of them as roaches that no longer hid from the light, but had taken over the kitchen was jolting indeed. Then former senior police officer Reneto Adams analysed our crime problem as the result of poor leadership over the past 40 years being "unable to direct, control the people coming up".
We were relieved that the programme ended on a positive note, with Finzi-Smith suggesting that the authorities work to educate their "captive audience" as they could actually shorten their prison terms if they obtained four CSEC passes, including mathematics and English.
Unfortunate 'naming' of schools
Anyone involved in the education system will tell you that bad behaviour is found at every school, sometimes in children from so-called good families. It was therefore unfortunate that certain schools were described as 'breeding grounds' for criminals based on a survey. Since the majority of criminals in Jamaica have not been brought to justice, and there are some notorious characters who have attended schools that were not on the list, we could even extrapolate that many of those now behind bars locally are the less-hardened criminals. This would make for a rather interesting piece of investigative journalism.
We empathise with the distressed principals and teachers of the listed schools, many of whom have to be providing far more than education to their students who sadly come from dysfunctional homes and communities. One police officer told me how a grandmother had begged him to take her grandson into the police youth club "to keep him away from bad company". The child had neither mother nor father in his life.
I would encourage the faculties of those named schools to join together and help create measures to promote greater parental accountability in the raising of children. I am sure that the Ministry of Education, still one of our most dynamic ministries, would embrace this approach.
I recall the address by the late Dr Manley West when our agency handled the launch of Canasol in the 80s for Federated Pharmaceuticals. He was effusive in his praise of the security forces who allowed him to have possession of ganja, as he and his colleagues created the amazing drug which is said to be one of the most effective treatments for glaucoma. Subsequently the team also developed the drug Asthmasol from the plant, the manufacture of which continues to this day under the leadership of Dr West's partner, Dr Albert Lockhart.
Last December, our trailblazing Jamaican scientist Dr Henry Lowe launched a new company to promote the medicinal compounds in ganja, pointing out that, in developing Canasol, Jamaica became the first country in the world to have created a commercial product from ganja. He said it would be unfortunate if our country did not grasp the opportunities offered by "a booming multi-billion-dollar industry in Europe, Canada and the United States". He noted that Canada's hemp industry is valued at over US$2
Since then, the state of Colorado in the US has legalised the recreational use of marijuana, and we notice several foreigners "knock, knock, knocking on heaven's door" — Jamaica that is; we are told this is the home of the finest. The authorities have been making positive statements and we hope that the ordinary Jamaican will be able to benefit from a properly regulated market for the product.
It seems we no longer have to fear the disapproval of the US. Reuters reporter David Ingram wrote last week: "US treasury and law-enforcement agencies will soon issue regulations opening banking services to state-sanctioned marijuana businesses, even though cannabis remains classified an illegal narcotic under federal law, Attorney General Eric Holder said on Thursday."
"You don't want just huge amounts of cash in these places," Mr Holder is quoted as saying. "They want to be able to use the banking system. And so we will be issuing some regulations, I think very soon, to deal with that issue." The report advised that: "Washington state is slated to launch its own marijuana retail network later this year, and several other states, including California, Oregon and Alaska, are expected to consider legalising recreational weed in 2014."
Our savvy seniors
The seniors organisation, CCRP, Jamaica has been holding a series of workshops funded by the US PEPFAR programme, to raise HIV-AIDS awareness. At last Saturday's event — with Rosie Stone and Ainsley Reid, both of whom are living with HIV — participants spoke of their realistic approach to relationships. One lady said she told a prospective suitor that they would both have to attend the doctor's office to be tested, and quickly ended the relationship when the gentleman refused.
The final workshop will take the form of a wellness social this Thursday at the Mona Visitors' Lodge, UWI, from 10:00 am. Our seniors can be great community and family advocates for the prevention of HIV-AIDS, so please call CCRP Jamaica (www.ccrponline.org) 926-6740 to register, free of charge.