Let's count blessings, not bodies


Monday, January 15, 2018

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We stepped into 2018 relatively unscathed by the terrible hurricanes which mercilessly pummelled some of our Caribbean neighbours. A tsunami scare on Tuesday lasted only a few hours. However, instead of counting our blessings, we are now counting bodies, the lives of our fellow Jamaicans cut short by violence and lawlessness on our roads.

On this day, celebrating the memory of Rev Dr Martin Luther King Jr, we are in disbelief and disgust over an alleged demeaning reference by US President Donald Trump to Africa and Haiti. However, instead of expending energy on replay, let us use such statements to strengthen our resolve to build dignity and respect in our beloved Jamaica.

We have a long way to go when we consider that some 40 people have been murdered since the beginning of the year, and another 15 lost in motor vehicle crashes. Our crime rate has resulted in an advisory from the US Government to its citizens in Jamaica to beware of travelling to certain areas, and this is posted for all the world to see on their website.

In a discussion last week led by National Road Safety Council Convenor Dr Lucien Jones, Senior Superintendent Francis related his frustration on January 1, when a pay party on the Palisadoes strip caused a traffic pile-up and flight delays at Norman Manley International Airport. As usual, the police have become everyone's favourite beating stick, while the organisers are busily counting their money. We are anxious to hear if it will be the Jamaican taxpayer who will have to foot the resulting fines.

Rain has been pounding the parishes of Portland and St Mary, causing landslides and breakaways. The hardship to citizens, especially the elderly and children, is recounted nightly in the news. Clearly, there is need for more no-build zones in these disaster-prone areas, and urgent attention to housing solutions that will keep our citizens safe and our national budget on an even keel.

We would like to see examples from our fellow Commonwealth countries as we seek justification for the Jamaican taxpayer to cover the salaries of 220 parish councillors and 63 Members of Parliament (MPs). (We understand that the population for constituencies in India is about a million people.) If these individuals were faithful to their oaths of office, this would be the cleanest and most secure country in the world. Indefatigable MPs Daryl Vaz, Juliet Holness, and Julian Robinson have set a great example for their fellow parliamentarians.

Indeed, there are fine leaders in government, business, Church, and civil society who are making heroic efforts to move Jamaica forward. However, there are too many others who continue to participate in what this column has identified as 'the conspiracy of mediocrity'. Cabinet, the Jamaica Umbrella Group of Churches, the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica, and similar organisations should examine global models to ensure better governance of their ministries, agencies and members.

Servant leadership

We are happy to see the strengthening of the Jamaican dollar and the response of some retailers to roll back their prices. We look forward to seeing more of this. We have also noted that business leader Butch Hendrickson has cut the sugar content in his National brand baked products — yet another innovation for the benefit of the country. It was National that, at great cost, converted all its packaging to biodegradable material four years ago, and introduced high-fibre breads which have grown into consumer favourites. Meanwhile, his Little Leaders unit is promoting better early childhood education. Trisha Williams-Singh, chairman of the Early Childhood Commission, has overseen the upgrading of infant schools at record speed. Brian Jardim provides free water from the Rainforest Foods well to the surrounding areas at their Slipe Pen Road location — they have even tiled the collection area to make it friendly.

When leaders arrive at the Jamaica Pegasus hotel on Thursday morning to ponder this year's theme for the National Leadership Prayer Breakfast, 'Return to Righteousness', may they make a pledge to themselves to follow through in service to others. We are not blessed with position or wealth to strut arrogantly, insensitive to the needs of our people, many of whom are living on the edge and angry at their lot in life. We are blessed so we, in turn, can bless others.

Our company has been supporting the National Leadership Prayer Breakfast for over 20 years, and we continue to do so because we believe it helps to strengthen the moral fibre of our country. However, we know that prayer without good works is an offence to our Maker, and so we hope that Thursday's event will be a renewal of our resolve to be better servant leaders.

Renowned futurist Edie Weiner, who gave a brilliant address to Jamaican leaders last year, noted our rather disorderly environment and challenged us to involve community members in projects which would make them feel greater ownership. This was also emphasised in an address by Anglican Bishop of Kingston Robert Thompson quoted in this column last month.

Imagine the communities listed in last week's US Government warnings celebrating their artists, musicians, craft persons, cooks, sports heroes, and volunteers. We would see murals being unveiled around community centres painted by their resident artists. We would have music lessons being taught by talented musicians, some of whom may have 'graduated' from these communities, but are willing to give back.

We would honour community stars at health and gardening fairs, sports days, concerts, and crusades. These achievers would feel worthy and respected instead of simply being votes in the next election. The elderly would be asked to share their knowledge and experiences with younger folks in a programme for unattached youths who require love and mentorship. While we agree that the security forces must uphold and enforce our laws in response to this latest upsurge of crime, we will never have lasting peace if all parties do not work on the ground to promote “true respect for all”.

Farewell, Dorothy Dyce

The National Consumers League is mourning the passing of former chairman, Dorothy “Dolly” Dyce, OD, JP. In a press release, they noted that Dyce was one of the founding members of Jamaica's longest-serving non-government organisation consumer advocacy association, stating that the National Consumers League (NCL) is a privately run lobby group which has been in operation for 51 years and was established to protect the rights of the consumer.

They wrote, “Ms Dyce served on several public boards, whose lobbying efforts helped the establishment of the Consumer Affairs Commission, formerly the Prices Commission, and most recent the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR). The list includes the Anti-Dumping and Subsidies Commission (ADSC), Fair Trade Commission (FTC), and the Bureau of Standards Jamaica — examples of her outstanding contribution to the consumers and citizens of Jamaica.”

Condolence to the NCL, especially to close colleague Joyce Campbell and the family of Dyce, a great example of dedicated volunteerism. May her dear soul rest in peace.

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