There is nothing like a vacation, no matter how brief, to improve one's outlook. I heartily recommend a Jamaican getaway where you don't have to worry about those check-in lines and lost luggage. To make things even better, we saw the reports of our athletes' performance in the Diamond League with Usain Bolt creating his usual wonderful excitement, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce firing off like a true "pocket rocket" with Felix and Jeter in hot pursuit, and Yohan Blake delivering flawlessly in the 100 metres. What a rich country we live in!
Acknowledging the wealth of our landscape, talent and ingenuity, our leaders should make the hard decisions to ensure that we ride this tide of favour, the theme of recent glowing speeches. We should take William Shakespeare's words as a warning:
"There is a tide in the affairs of men.
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries."
In her address to the Public Relations Society of Jamaica (PRSJ) last Tuesday, Information Minister Sandrea Falconer observed that for the London Olympics, our nation "had captive audiences to which to sell the achievements of Jamaica". We are willing to take up Minister Falconer's challenge to "to tell the amazing story of Jamaica - a Nation on a Mission with Vision", but we remain hungry for substantial content out of the exciting London encounters.
We want to broaden the conversation as she noted, "with a view to exploring pathways for collaboration as we pursue the national development objective". An important question to be asked in this conversation is, what of the partnership for national development proposed years ago by the PSOJ but still not embraced, in spite of the come-hither glances of successive administrations? For conversations to have focus and positive results, we have to stop playing power games where one political party is not willing to sit at the table and agree on a way forward with the other.
Perhaps we can turn to the international community to help us push the development envelope. Apart from our London dazzler, Jamaica had a big feature in the August 13 issue of Time magazine. There was a double-page colour photograph showing a stately Portia Simpson Miller and a story headlined, "Remaking Jamaica" written by Tim Padgett. The sub-head reads, "As the troubled Caribbean nation celebrates its golden anniversary, its Prime Minister prepares for the next 50 years."
It begins by referencing the Dudus Coke extradition and noting the hope of Jamaicans that PM Simpson Miller "can make the next half-century even better by reducing violent crime and the poverty that spawns it". He quotes the PM as saying sternly: "I've spent my political life fighting all those who bill themselves as 'dons'. If we empower people in their communities and get them jobs, no one like Dudus Coke can capture their hearts and minds and hold them hostage."
Padgett notes Jamaica's challenges: we are among the world's most indebted nations with our debt 129 per cent of our US$15 billion GDP; our murder rate was 41 per 100,000 in 2011 with a five per cent murder conviction rate. If we have such a poor record for murder, I don't know what priority our justice system would give to scrap metal thievery.
We have been seriously damaged by a mediocre education system.
We hope our top teachers will be the role models for a new school year where our pupils will shine, mirroring the enthusiasm of re-energised educators.
Most of all, let Government and Opposition know that they must unite to help Jamaica survive the oncoming economic storm - let us see who will put country ahead of party.
Happy 50th, Trinidad and Tobago!
Carnival, wit and entrepreneurship - these come to mind as we think of our close Caribbean neighbour, Trinidad and Tobago. In fact, we are more than neighbours, we are family - just ask Barbara and Ancile Gloudon and the parents of Ato Boldon. Trinidad's High Commissioner to Jamaica Dr Iva Gloudon is Ancile's niece, a brilliant and generous lady who is a keen advocate for Caribbean seniors.
Sometimes our relationship can be rocky, as those Canada Hall Jamaicans on the UWI St Augustine Campus do their raucous best to outdo their Trini classmates - but then the romances blossom and all is forgiven. One thing we have to admit that the Trinis have over us is the vision to make secondary education available to all on the achievement of their Independence on August 31, 1962. Jamaica would do well also to adopt T&T's no-frills manner: I was impressed to see well-heeled executives lining up with us at a modest Port-of-Spain eatery to get their lunch of "bus-up shut" roti.
T&T's legendary historian CLR James celebrated our own George Headley in his
world-famous classic on cricket and the society, Beyond A Boundary, hailed by his countryman Nobel Laureate VS Naipaul as "one of the finest and most finished books to come out of the West Indies". Of course, no West Indian's education would be complete without Naipaul's works, even if some love to hate him. The wit of Paul Keens-Douglas and Tony Deyal is off the charts.
My friend Professor Emeritus Trevor Jackson, recently honoured for his work in Geology at UWI, Mona, has returned to live in Trinidad after many years in Jamaica. Here are his reflections on his country's 50th anniversary of Independence: "The feeling among the entire population 50 years ago was a very nationalistic one ... Free secondary education provided everyone from all sections of the society, the opportunity to have an education and build an educated society and nation. We have made inroads in the arts, culture and sport... (however) the togetherness in our motto of "Together we aspire, together we achieve" has been forgotten at times. We have kept pace with world technology, and there are improvements in housing and roads over the 50 years... I am proud to be a 'Trinibagonian' and I would never give up my citizenship to another country."