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Our dazzling, puzzling Jamaica

Jean
Lowrie-Chin

Monday, February 12, 2018

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Our tiny Jamaican delegation to the PyeongChang Winter Olympics dazzled at the opening ceremony. We were watching the colourful but rather staid marches of the various countries when our team rocked into the stadium doing what I am told by my son is the LOL created by the Tuff-A-Lie dance group. Jamaica's flag-bearer Audra Segree led bobsled team members Jazmine Fenlator, Carrie Russell, coach Sandra Kiriasis and skeleton slider Anthony Watson.

As the Jamaicans danced their way into the hearts of the audience, the internet lit up. In the Time magazine story, headlined 'The Internet Is In Agreement. Jamaica Won the Best Opening Ceremony Entrance', writer Raisa Bruner noted, “The Jamaican Winter Olympics delegation may be (understandably) small, but in the eyes of viewers it sure is mighty. The athletes from the island nation made a huge first impression upon their entrance at the opening ceremony in PyeongChang this year, with onlookers quickly naming them as gold-medal-status thanks to their energetic coordinated dancing, in which they turned the normally staid march into a party of their own.”

Entertainment writer Dylan Kickham had a humorous headline in the Elite Daily: 'Jamaica's Opening Ceremony Entrance Already Won the Olympics. So Everyone Can Go Home'.

“It's always fun to watch all the nations march into the Olympics opening ceremony,” he shared. “Yes, because it can be a beautiful time of unity and national pride, but also because there is always some standout moment during the march. And this year, Jamaica's joyful entrance was the moment that totally stole the show.”

The man who personifies Jamaican joy, Usain Bolt, has showed the world how we can excel and still be so very cool. Many of us can identify with this because of the loving leadership we enjoyed at home from good parents or guardians, in the classroom and on the sports field. Those of us who know love exude it in our attitude. Top performers will tell of that parent, teacher, coach, or mentor who made them believe in themselves and whose exemplary lives lit up their confidence.

The Jamaica puzzle

This is the Jamaica conundrum: So much to celebrate, yet so much that is creating despair. There are some quick ways to check on our nation's vital signs — the conduct of road users, the cleanliness of our environment, the condition of our roads, crime statistics.

The challenge to our leaders is to spend more time solving our nation's problems, and less time on politicking; more time on doing and less time on posturing. This is a small country, and the latest Economic Programme Oversight Committee report indicates that there is an increase in the budget for social spending. So, with good governance, we can address our marginalised people and get to the youth before the gangsters do.

The writing is on the web: No politician will be able to hide negative associations, so let this be the signal for those leaders of character and courage to stand up to their less admirable colleagues and set higher standards. The only corruption we hear about is that in the police force — everyone's favourite beating stick. It is a convenient distraction from the unsavoury actions of too many others. Let us all take a good, hard look at ourselves and see how we can be a part of a well-needed national renewal.

P

Professor Archibald McDonald is one of those Jamaicans who has contributed meaningfully, as he explained his concern for The University of the West Indies students of humble means who deserve a chance to further their studies. Speaking at the annual American Friends of Jamaica (AFJ)/Cobb Family Lecture last Thursday, the UWI Mona pro vice-chancellor and principal disclosed that the university, having set up a cost-saving water supply system, will now be building a power co-generation plant that should save the university $350 million a year and help to bring down the cost of tuition. Further, The UWI will be able to earn foreign exchange, having been recently approved for US students to study there under Federal funding.

The lecture, which has been funded by former US ambassador to Jamaica, the phenomenal Sue Cobb and her family since 2007, promotes research and innovation. Professor McDonald referred to a study he had published several years earlier entitled 'Trauma – A Time for Decision', in which he predicted the increase in murders from 2006 to 2018 having studied the statistics from accident and emergency facilities in the 23 government hospitals. He noted that violence-related incidents and road traffic crashes cost Jamaica 36 per cent of the annual health budget and, with other indirect costs and loss of productive time totalling US$1 billion, it amounts to seven per cent of our GDP. He said that the combination of community and hard policing offered by the zones of special operation programme was welcome, and that we should pattern the successful New York crime-fighting approach of zero tolerance.

He said that drug use was of great concern, as 66 per cent of road crashes were drug-related, with cannabis being detected in 55 per cent — statistics he said “those with vested interests are reluctant to embrace”.

It is timely that the new Road Traffic Act was passed in the Lower House last Tuesday, thanks to the efforts of the National Road Safety Council led by Dr Lucien Jones, Transport Minister Mike Henry, and Jamaica National CEO Earl Jarrett. There is so much in this for public discussion. Watch this space for more.

Solid US-Jamaica relations

The Cobb Lecture took place the day after the visit to Jamaica of US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who commended Jamaica in our efforts to end lottery scamming. “It is in both of our countries' interest to work together to investigate crimes, share intelligence, conduct asset seizures where legal and appropriate to do so, and bolster existing anti-corruption and anti-gang programmes,” he pointed out.

The relationship between our two countries was underlined at the Cobb lecture by Christian Redmer, political and economic chief at the US Embassy in Jamaica. He referred to our “people-to-people ties”; our Jamaican Diaspora in the US “who contribute mightily”; the over three million US visitors who come here annually; and the generous AFJ, led by Wendy Hart, whose board includes the past US ambassadors to Jamaica. The AFJ has raised millions to fund health and education for Jamaica and we are grateful for their unstinting support.

Webster Memorial MORE conference

Congratulations to Webster Memorial's Ministry of the Retired & Elderly (MORE), chaired by author and public relations expert Elaine Commissiong. I was happy to participate, as Caribbean Community of Retired Persons chair, in their informative conference last Friday, along with the National Council for Senior Citizens and others. The vibrant seniors who were in attendance are a reminder that our retirees are dynamic nation-builders who have much to offer up and coming Jamaicans.

lowriechin@aim.com

www.lowrie-chin.blogspot.com

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