Burning issues for town-hall meetings


Monday, October 22, 2012    

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AT the traditional Al Smith Fund-raising Dinner in New York last Thursday night, Barack Obama acknowledged that he was less than impressive in the first presidential debate. It was a lighthearted event that is held by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York every four years, just before the presidential elections, and always attended by both the president and his political opponent.

President Obama spoke self-deprecatingly: "As some of you may have noticed, I had a lot more energy in our second debate. I felt really well rested after the nice, long nap I had in the first debate." Governor Romney also had some great lines: "I've already seen early reports from tonight's dinner... Headline: Obama embraced by Catholics, Romney dines with rich people."

Mr Obama worked hard in last Tuesday's second presidential debate to reclaim ground lost in the polls. He was quick to point out inaccuracies in Mr Romney's offerings and scored a coup when Candy Crowley confirmed that he had indeed termed the deadly attack on the Benghazi "an act of terror". We appreciated the sheer theatre of the encounter, a celebration of democracy.

This is the democracy we have preserved well in Jamaica. Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller has embarked on a series of town-hall meetings throughout the island, giving the public and the media opportunities to get answers to some burning national issues. We need to find out why anti-gang legislation is not being fast-tracked and I must agree with fellow columnist Franklin Johnston that we are wasting too much productive time on those drawn-out parliamentary tributes. We are not seeing the deep concern our leaders should be having with crime spiralling and the dollar sliding.

May we suggest that PM Simpson Miller introduce a series of themes for her town-hall meetings and invite some of the experts in the various ministries to give us hard facts? We need to hear the steps her government is taking to fight the monstrous crimes that are making headlines here and via the Internet around the world. We are disturbed by attacks on our innocent children - imagine, the body of a teenager found bound and burning in bushes, and so many missing!

We have been warned that a food security crisis is on the horizon. How is the nation preparing for this? What are the various government ministries doing to protect the Jamaican people, especially the very young and the elderly? Tell us, not in long speeches, but in what you have delivered and what you will deliver within a stated timeline. In the private sector, this is our daily drill and we should expect the same from the public sector funded by our hard-earned taxes.

Could some of the town-hall meetings take the form of debates? Sachin Mitra, the bright son of my friend Rita Mitra, is part of a group of graduates from the London School of Economics (LSE) who have embarked on a worldwide programme called "Debate Mate" involving high school students in various countries, including Jamaica.

Rita sent me a link to YouTube - - which shows a young inner-city Jamaican boy, Rockwell, finding his peace in debating. The children learn a reasonable way to air their opinions and settle their differences. LSE grads travel a long way from England to reach out in Jamaica. Surely, the Social Development Commission should show the young British volunteers that Jamaicans care as deeply about our own as they do.

Well done, Reggae Boyz

We are delighted that our Reggae Boyz made it to the final round after beating Antigua & Barbuda 4-1 last Tuesday as they vie for a place in the World Cup in Brazil. Even when folks were quarrelling with Theodore "Tappa" Whitmore over choices he had made in the Guatemala match-up, I could not bring myself to say a word against Jamaica's World Cup hero. Whenever I hear Tappa's name, all I remember is the utter joy we felt when his long legs scored those two brilliant goals against Japan in the 1998 World Cup played in France. What a match that was! And to this day, for me Tappa can do no wrong. He further endeared himself when we saw the tears in his eyes after our recent sparkling victory.

The final round for the CONCACAF teams will be tough for Jamaica as we are in the company of traditional high achievers like Mexico and a particularly talented Panama team. Then there is the very strong USA, the tough Honduras and the striving Costa Rica. That campaign, to emerge as one of the chosen three, begins in February which gives us very little time to sharpen our game.

Here is what I want the Reggae Boyz to remember: Jamaica has the fastest man and woman in the world, and they trained right here on our blessed soil. There is nothing Jamaicans cannot do if we make up our minds. We have made it to the World Cup before and we can do it again. We know how Jamaicans love their Christmas, but our Reggae Boyz can't get too carried away this time. February is just around the corner. Be brave, Reggae Boyz, we are with you!

Tony Becca's "lovely cricketers"

On Tuesday night as well, that legendary sports journalist Tony Becca, my longtime Daily News colleague, launched his book, Cricket - lovely cricketers. The best of my time. I have admitted to Tony that I don't understand the finer points of the game, but have always read his reports for the beauty and elegance of his prose. Delano Franklyn, who chaired the evening, and guest speaker Pat Rousseau treated us to enticing excerpts from the book.

"To me, cricket is an art," writes Becca. When he thanked the supporters of his book, particularly the main sponsor Glen Christian of CARIMED, he declared, "If you get as much pleasure reading the book as I got writing it, you'll demand that I write another." I am sure we will.





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