Columns

The only way is up

Jean
Lowrie-Chin

Monday, May 01, 2017

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 Someone who was down in the dumps declared to his friends that he was still optimistic “because the only way from here is up”.
Last week was a blow to our national pride as we saw eight Jamaicans accused of scamming elderly Americans being led away in chains to face the US Federal authorities. The communities in western Jamaica should look at last week's extradition exercise as a strong call to take the difficult but necessary steps upwards, ending the fearsome years of scamming and murder that have traumatised too many innocent citizens.
Further, Joshua Polacheck, US Embassy in Jamaica public affairs officer, is warning that there are Jamaican attorneys, on the US radar, who are alleged to have assisted in money-laundering of the ill-gotten gains of the scammers.
It is a sad day when we see our fellow Jamaicans being led away, similarly chained as their ancestors on the auction block of slavery. For us women, the hardest blow was the image of a mother in chains, being extradited with her son, and information that another of her sons had already been extradited under the same charges.
Public and private sectors, church and community leaders should take firm responsibility so entire communities do not end up becoming enslaved by cruel power brokers. It was poor leadership at every level that brought disgrace to western communities. Had these groups been working together, monitoring the initial scamming activities, and nipping them in the bud, we would not have had this shameful and murderous outcome. Instead of ethical leadership, there have been reports that some members of these very groups were either colluding or enjoying the poisonous proceeds.
The Government must now convene a meeting of all stakeholders and share a plan with this nation to convince us that there will be no tolerance for scamming and the murderous gangs funded by the activity. Let church groups show us a plan for crusades and community visits. Let police and communities show us plans for round-the-clock neighbourhood watches so that people can go about their business in peace. It is mortifying to read warnings to American elderly to beware of calls coming from numbers beginning with “876”. Surely this is no encouragement for investors.
Polacheck says the attorneys under the radar “know who they are”. This is a small country, so surely our political leaders would also know their good, bad and ugly. They must expel those who are unfit to take Jamaica to the level of self-respect that the decent people of this country deserve.

Alpha Cottage — 137 years later
Today marks 137 years since the brave Jamaican Jessie Ripoll took in the first orphan at Alpha Cottage on South Camp Road on May 1, 1880. This morning, students of my alma mater, Convent of Mercy “Alpha” Academy will walk on “Jessie's path” throughout the Alpha property, learning more about this remarkable and prayerful woman and her two friends who pooled their funds to answer God's call to serve his suffering people.
In 1890, the Sisters of Mercy arrived in Jamaica to assist Ripoll, who subsequently joined the religious order and became Mother Claver. This shows her awareness of her church's history, as it was Father Peter Claver who ministered to the suffering slaves when the ships made their stop in Cartagena, Colombia. The year 1880 was a mere four decades since Emancipation and there was dreadful suffering among the ex-slaves, who died leaving many orphans.
It was in uncovering the talent of these orphans that in 1890, the Alpha Boys' Band was formed — a cradle for the extraordinary musicians who emerged to participate in the creation of ska, rocksteady and reggae. Alpha Boys' 'graduates' have been the mainstay of major bands, including the Jamaica Military Band. Lennie Hibbert, Tommy McCook, Sparrow Martin, “Dizzy” Moore, Don Drummond, Yellow Man, Leroy Smart, and Dwight Richards are all greats who had beginnings in Alpha.
The institution's impact has spread islandwide and includes the largest high school in the Caribbean, St Catherine High, alma mater of our prime minister and Roman Catholic archbishop of Kingston. It also includes the St John Bosco Boys' Home, which promotes self-reliance and teaches farming, food processing and the culinary arts. I am proud that the chefs at my daughter's café are both graduates of St John Bosco — they constantly refer to the values taught them by the indomitable Sister Susan Frazer.
Thank you, Jessie Ripoll, for your life-saving vision. Happy founder's day, fellow Alpharians.

Mixed feelings at new police chief selection
I admit to mixed feelings at the installation of our new Commissioner of Police George Quallo, who is, from all accounts, an outstanding police officer. However, I remain puzzled as to why, for the third time, the brilliant Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) Novelette Grant had been asked to play an acting role and was not selected for the post. To her credit, DCP Grant was graceful in her response to news of the appointment, and has pledged her full support of Quallo.
Congratulations to Commissioner Quallo, whose achievements as a hard-working officer we do not wish to understate. He announced that the constabulary has established a novel arrangement with Jamaica Post: You can place anonymous information in a sealed envelope, mark the envelope with an 'X', and mail it free from anywhere — it will be delivered to the police.
By tragic coincidence, two police officers lost their lives on the day of the installation. One during an arrest on Constant Spring Road, and the other from injuries sustained after pursuing criminals in our inner city three months ago. Our sympathy to their families and colleagues.
Policing is a tough job, and we must heed Commissioner Quallo's call to support our overextended police force.

EPOC, EGC engagement
Kudos to Keith Duncan, co-chair of the Economic Programme Oversight Committee (EPOC), and Michael Lee Chin, chair of the Economic Growth Council (EGC) for promoting awareness of Jamaica's economy and its challenges. The EGC presentation was televised live, last Wednesday, and members of the Maryland community in rural St Andrew were enthusiastic in their discussion last Thursday with Keith Duncan.

South Africa's National Day


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