Jamaica — tapping into our greatness
At last week’s Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters Association (JMEA) expo trade show, legendary business leader Audrey Hinchcliffe noted the microbusiness start-ups which were participating in the show and expressed her hope that they will receive the necessary support to be sustainable.
“I know how difficult it is to step out and keep the business going,” said the chair and founder of the Manpower & Maintenance Services Limited Group (MMSG) and former president of the Jamaica Employers’ Federation. “We have to help them to grow and create opportunities for others,” she said.
From small displays of candles and personal care products to the sophisticated displays by long-standing manufacturers, utility companies, and entrants in the renewable energy space, we felt a buzz of hope and expectation for better times. There was also a space for vendors of fresh produce — and we know ours are the best.
Companies that had planned for the long term continue to dominate: Wray & Nephew, National Baking, GraceKennedy, Rainforest Caribbean, Red Stripe, Wisynco, McIntosh Bedding, financial institutions, and of course, Hinchcliffe’s MMSG, at which she recently passed the baton to the new CEO Don Gittens after 33 years of leadership.
However, as a Trinidadian colleague and I walked through a compound with several mango trees, she looked at the good fruit strewn on the ground and said that would never happen in Trinidad or Guyana. “We make mango chow and chutney. I know people who have built houses from making mango products,” she said. We who boast that we have the best-tasting produce in the world are just not exploring ways to process and preserve them. Just as Ann Marie Smith and Luciene Morrison have found a way to create the Annilu delicious Jamaican cake and pudding mixes by partnering with the Scientific Research Council, let us see if the Ministry of Agriculture can foster similar initiatives with our farmers.
The Cabinet Curve
Leaders have to stay on the learning curve as our management consultants Francis Wade and Dale Pilgrim Wade keep reminding our team. Last week they put us through the wringer, applying their scientific approach to succession planning and tasking each participant as leaders for our transformation approach. We came out assured but exhausted.
Change is not easy, so we can only imagine the rigorous process the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) Administration must have gone through to make the recent changes to the Senate and expected movements in the Cabinet. We see our Government leveraging its influencer network in the appointment of special envoys: business leader Adam Stewart for tourism; UK-based Theresa Roberts for culture and arts; and Lloyd Carney and Dushyant Savadia for technology.
Last Friday the Senate welcomed Dr Dana Morris Dixon and Abka “Watch This Space” Fitz-Henley, replacing Senators Natalie Campbell-Rodriques and Leslie Campbell, who had tendered their resignations.
Both Karl Samuda and Audley Shaw will be demitting their ministerial offices and we thank them for their service over many decades. I am touched by the smoothness of these transitions, a good look for the Government.
Politics and decency
In respect of less cordial occurrences, let us be careful of the face Jamaica shows the world. The harsh and recently vulgar words in the political space have gone viral. International onlookers do not view these scenes as JLP or People’s National Party (PNP), they see them as Jamaican.
The most disturbing was the recent harassment of media workers at the PNP headquarters because one was wearing green clothing. Additionally, in a video recording we heard a man threatening rape and the explanation for this was that it was “banter” between party activists. Describing a threat of rape as banter is disgusting and objectionable.
The parties have now distanced themselves from Jamaica’s gang warfare, but neither of them can deny that they had a part in planting the seeds that are now putting us on a caution list for US visitors. Let’s not argue about US issues — this is our issue. We need the resolve of our restructured Government to build back decency into Jamaica’s politics and make every Jamaican community safe again. They should be having sleepless nights until they get this done — sleepless until their fellow Jamaicans can sleep in peace.
One grandmother in the inner city sent a voice message to her employer that after a night spent being bombarded by the sounds of gunshots she would be delayed as she had to keep watch before venturing out. She had held her three-year-old granddaughter in her arms throughout the night and the child was still trembling. This country needs healing, and all who step up to lead should know they have a national emergency on their hands.
Farewell, Gloria Millwood
When I received an invitation from Merline Daley, head of the Jamaica Women’s Political Caucus, indicating that the Rose Leon Lecture would resume this year, I looked forward to seeing my dear friend and colleague Gloria Millwood, daughter of the legendary Rose Leon. I had tried to call Millwood over the Christmas holidays, but the numbers rang out, so I called Merline to check if she had a new phone number. That is when I received the devastating news that Gloria had passed sometime ago.
I found a number for her Florida-based son Gary Millwood and we discussed her unheralded contribution to nation-building. Gloria continued the two businesses founded by her late mother, Leon’s Beauty Products and Leon’s School of Beauty, for decades. She served on the executive of the Jamaica Manufacturers’ Association (JMA) and was the protocol-savvy presence of the JMA and Jamaica Exporters’ Association (JEA) as she presided over the Expo VIP Suite in the 1980s and 1990s.
She was also president of the Lay Magistrates’ Association of Jamaica, the Jamaica Federation of Women, and created the Rose Leon Memorial Trust to raise funds for the Jamaica Political Caucus, the organisation which mentors political aspirants regardless of their party alliances.
Millwood, who was predeceased by her husband “Bibsy” Millwood, is survived by her sons Gary and Brendan and granddaughters Spencer Rose and Sydney. We will pay tribute to her this evening at the Rose Leon Memorial Lecture being delivered by Dr Lola Ramocan on ‘The Role of Women in Local Government’.
Rest in peace, dear Gloria.
Sister Maureen Clare’s Legacy
The following tribute was shared by Kim Mair, president of the Immaculate Conception High School (ICHS) Alumnae Association: “It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Sister Maureen Clare Hall, OSF, who served as principal of ICHS for 28 years. She dedicated her life to education and touched countless lives during her time here.
“We are deeply grateful for her service and will always remember her kindness, wisdom, and unwavering commitment to our school and its students.
“Please join us in honouring her memory and keeping her in your prayers during this difficult time.”
I had heard stories of the strictness of Sister Maureen Clare, but I met her after retirement and found her to be a warm and wise lady. You could see the grace of God shining from her eyes.
Rest in peace, Sister Maureen.
Jean Lowrie-Chin is executive chair of PROComm and Caribbean Community of Retired Persons (CCRP).