A groundswell of patriotism

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A groundswell of patriotism

Jean Lowrie-Chin

Monday, August 10, 2020

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Someone posted a message on social media on the morning of August 6 declaring that it was Jamaica's day and that we should come on board to celebrate our amazing country. Throughout Independence Day, greetings in black, green and gold took over our screens with some wonderful sayings, including, “I didn't ask to be Jamaican; I just got lucky!'

I am reminded of what US senator and recent presidential Democratic nominee Kamala Harris said in her Instagram Live session with author and comedienne Sarah Cooper, both of whom are of Jamaican heritage: Jamaica is “a very big country on a small island”.

We decided that nothing would stand in the way of our enjoyment of the 58th anniversary of our Independence. The morning started with the wonderful news of deserving Jamaicans who had received national honours and awards, among them outstanding friends and colleagues Antoinette Aiken, OD; Archbishop Kenneth Richards, CD; the late government minister and Member of Parliament Shahine Robinson, CD; the late Delano Forbes Sr, CD; Keith Duncan, CD; Brian Jardim, CD; Oliver Samuels, CD; Garfield Grandison, CD; Patrick Hylton, OJ; Tom Tavares Finson, OJ; and Brian Wynter, OJ. Please visit this Jamaica Information Service ( JIS) link for the full list of honorees: https://jis.gov.jm/media/2020/08/Honours-and-Awards-listing-2020-1.pdf .

When you hear people tearing down this great country, please refer them to the citations below the names of these members of our Jamaican family, our nation-builders. They are people of excellence, and if we emulate rather than denigrate this country would be unstoppable.

Our festival songs played all day and thanks to Minister Olivia “Babsy” Grange and the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission we enjoyed an excellent 'Jamaica Independence Extravaganza' on television and on the Web, so that Jamaicans all over the world could participate.

Congratulations to the phenomenal recipients of the Jamaica Reggae Music Icon Awards: Marcia Griffiths, Ken Boothe, and Orville “Shaggy” Burrell.

Zoom links showed some lively folks dancing away in their living rooms and waving their flags. The passion of our Diaspora for Jamaica is always moving.

National Consensus on Crime

This spirit of hope was underpinned by the long-awaited signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on the National Consensus on Crime by Prime Minister Andrew Holness and Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips last Monday. We owe a debt of gratitude to the working committee of stakeholders led by Lloyd Distant. We are grateful for the responsiveness to the year-long process by Minister of National Security Dr Horace Chang and Opposition spokesperson on national security Member of Parliament Fitz Jackson.

The MOU aims at dismantling and eliminating criminal gangs; normalising and reintegrating troubled communities; preventing corruption, collusion, and money laundering; and reforming and modernising the police and justice system. It states agreements on a monitoring and reporting mechanism. Other signatories to the MOU include the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce, Jamaica Council of Churches, Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ), Jamaica Confederation of Trade Unions (JCTU), and Jamaica Umbrella Group of Churches.

'Chicken merry, hawk deh near'

Full of Independence joy, we were rocking away to the live show when a message appeared on Public Broadcasting Corporation of Jamaica (PBCJ): “Standby for a press briefing with PM Most Hon Andrew Holness.” We had a feeling of trepidation as we remembered our grandmother's warning, “Chicken merry, hawk deh near.”

The prime minister outlined in grim terms the fact that a pastor in Clarendon, who had recently returned to Jamaica from the US, had been conducting services without following the prescribed protocols for churches. This had resulted in members of his congregation falling ill with COVID-19, resulting in a quarantine being declared for the district of Sandy Bay in Clarendon. Furthermore, in St Thomas, an elderly woman who had been called to a church to pray over someone who was suffering from COVID-19, caught the virus. A section of St Thomas was also placed in quarantine. In that one single day, 30 people were diagnosed with COVID-19, and the following day we had one more death and 29 more individuals diagnosed with the virus.

The result of this careless behaviour is that the Minister of Local Government Desmond McKenzie will now have to review some of the guidelines for gatherings, especially for funerals. The Government is on the horns of a dilemma: How to keep the economy going while keeping the country safe.

PSOJ President Keith Duncan has opined that the country cannot afford a total lockdown, but that there had to be consequences for companies and individuals who do not follow the protocols. Also, he called for more public health aides to be involved in the monitoring of communities.

Beirut misery

On Wednesday our timelines lit up with a huge explosion in Beirut, Lebanon. Over 2,000 tons of ammonium nitrate blew up from a fire started by sparks from a welding job. So extensive was the damage that over 150 people have lost their lives, 5,000 have been injured, and 300,000 people have been left homeless.

Reports are that a ship carrying the chemicals from Georgia in Eastern Europe to Mozambique was forced to dock in the port of Beirut in 2014. The dangerous chemicals were offloaded and stored in a facility at the port. Letters had been written by concerned citizens about this hazardous material sitting dangerously close to densely populated neighbourhoods. It is alleged that the letters had not been answered and so the chemicals remained there for six years, becoming increasingly unstable.

The scenes from the aftermath of explosion are heart-rending: Family members frantically searching for relatives still buried under the rubble, hospitals overflowing with patients, and business owners hopelessly surveying their damaged surroundings.

We understand that the international community had for years been criticising the Government of Lebanon for corruption and poor governance. That spark which destroyed a city is a stark reminder to leaders everywhere. Now the world must assist this traumatised country to rebuild.

Happy 50th, Archbishop Dufour

Yesterday Archbishop Emeritus Charles Dufour celebrated his 50th anniversary of ordination as a Catholic priest. Ordained August 12, 1970, he has moved congregations throughout Jamaica with his spirited homilies and his meaningful projects. He was installed as bishop of the Diocese of Montego Bay in 1995 and was appointed the sixth archbishop of Kingston in Jamaica by Pope Benedict in 2011.

A dedicated Jamaican, Archbishop Dufour's social engagements include the Peace Management Initiative, of which he was the first chairman (March 2003 – February 2008); the Parliamentary Salaries Commission; the Police Civilian Oversight Authority, of which he was appointed chairman in 2008 by then Governor General Sir Kenneth Hall; and the Good Shepherd Foundation, of his own establishment and patronage.

He is an inspiring example of servant-leadership for God and his people. We wish him a blessed 50th anniversary and many more to come.

lowriechin@aim.com

www.lowrie-chin.blogspot.com


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