This is Jamaica, my Jamaica

This is Jamaica, my Jamaica

Jean Lowrie-Chin

Monday, August 12, 2019

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We are awash with patriotism after several weeks of Independence celebrations, topped by the sparkling performance of Team Jamaica at the Pan American Games. We now know the financial status of both our prime minister and our leader of the Opposition, and we have vocal private sector and civic organisations. Our stock market continues on its growth track, and we are in the top 10 in the world for freedom of the press.

Even as we mourn the passing of Doreen Clemetson, Elaine Perkins, Ken Chaplin, and Professor Barrie Hanchard, the tributes recounting their accomplishments remind us of our own possibilities.

We are watching the transformation of our waterfront into a bustling commercial district by day, and a relaxing entertainment spot by night. We are transfixed by theatre offerings — the 57th season of our National Dance Theatre Company had someone commenting after the Kumina finale, “What a performance! Rex Nettleford is smiling down!” We checked out the AC Marriott on Lady Musgrave Road with a visiting friend. It was packed and happening, giving off a downtown New York vibe.

We were back in Negril last weekend and discovered a well-appointed new restaurant, Matthew's, in an upscale shopping centre, and again visited the down-home Public House. We didn't venture near the seven-mile beach because Dream Weekend was in session and the traffic was heavy. All along the palm tree-lined Norman Manley Boulevard is a mix of top hotels, villas, restaurants and countless jerk vendors.

Our challenges

But here is the problem, my sisters and brothers, on our way back to Kingston we passed three road crashes in Hanover, Trelawny, and St Ann, each one worse than the other. The crash on the St Ann highway involved three vehicles, two of which were crumpled beyond repair, and there was a man lying motionless on the ground.

On several occasions we had to move to the soft shoulder to avoid oncoming overtakers. Why does this madness continue? We hear stories about corruption, about a system unable to enforce the law, so that notorious taxi drivers are still on the road, terrorising the rest of us.

Of course, we had to stop at the state of emergency checkpoints, the youthful soldiers and police were polite and patient in the sweltering heat, and I wondered at the cold-hearted violence which has brought our western parishes and part of St Catherine to this sorry pass. My morning walks with my neighbours are no more since the incidents of hold-ups near our homes.

The excellent movie Sprinter, which last week won the Award for Favorite Narrative Feature at the 2019 BlackStar Film Fest in the US, explores the issue of “barrel children”, whose parents migrate to provide for their families. Why were so many families torn apart leaving children without the ritual of family life so important to their formation? I remember the terror in a household worker's eyes when someone suggested that she and her family may have to move to Kingston. She, the mother of three sons, said there would be nowhere safe for them. She was fearful that they would become a part of those sad, inner-city statistics. Our office attendant lives in an area in which she cannot return home after dark. She recounts days when she has had to dodge bullets to get to work in the mornings.

To our leaders, grant true wisdom

We are heartened that Prime Minister Andrew Holness has appealed to all politicians to cut their association with thugs. We all know what has transpired in the past with both political parties. It is an open secret whispered in hushed tones. We know. So, let us now watch to see which politicians are still surrounding themselves with those cold-eyed gangsters.

It is time, leaders, to set your people in the garrisons free. It is time to stop telling your thugs to go burn down the houses of those of another political party.

The energy that has been used to meet with those thugs, to keep citizens under siege, to stir fear in the hearts of parents for their children, could have been used to meet with decent people in constituencies to create community centres where all could enjoy sports and social events, where young people could be trained.

My past experiences with the Social Development Commission have not been great, but I see encouraging postings from one of their top executives, Omar Frith. Operation HOPE, being led by the Jamaica Defence Force and HEART Trust/NTA, is giving us renewed faith.

The challenge for those who step up to political leadership is to set the best example to their fellow Jamaicans and to work to lift up this nation that they swore on the Bible to lead with integrity. There were yesterdays of shame and pain and sorrow, but our leaders can transform themselves and their followers with tomorrows of courage and dignity and joy. They can tap into the discipline of those performers at the Grand Gala, those hard-working farmers at Denbigh, those culinary artists on show, those beautiful children dancing and reciting, those teachers who go the extra mile, and those elders who are nurturing and schooling their grandchildren in the absence of their parents.

Have a heart politicians: They are the ones who are funding your vehicles, your security detail, your air-conditioned offices, and parliamentary meetings, your trips around the world. Every time they buy a phone card, they are funding your superior way of life. You should be serving them gratefully with every breath that you take.Congrats, national honorees

Congratulations to all who have received national honours this year. Such honours are not only a reward for past service, but inspiration to continue to serve our blessed country. This is a good time to recommit to our national pledge “to work diligently and creatively, to think generously and honestly, so that Jamaica may, under God, increase in beauty, fellowship and prosperity, and play her part in advancing the welfare of the whole human race”.

A first in Jamaica for seniors

It has been a hard-working week for our team at Caribbean Community of Retired Persons (CCRP) and PROComm as we prepare for the first-ever comprehensive group health plan being offered to seniors and elders in Jamaica. The designers of the plan, CGM Gallagher, have offered this to BARP in Barbados, attracting over 5,000 members. The plan is underwritten by Sagicor and has a 14-week introductory offer requiring no age limit and no evidence of insurability; only individuals in hospital or nursing homes will not be eligible.

Our former Governor General Professor Sir Kenneth Hall who has been of great guidance as CCRP honorary board director and will give the keynote address at the launch of the plan this Wednesday at the Police Officers' Club. Please see the advertisement in today's Jamaica Observer and visit the CCRP Jamaica Facebook page for more information.

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