When we listened to Prime Minister Andrew Holness’s announcement early last Friday morning that a state of emergency (SOE) would take immediate effect in the parish of St Catherine, I remembered the instructions of the late Monsignor Richard Albert at Eastertime. We were planning the distribution of bun and cheese to the elderly in the volatile Grant’s Pen area of yesteryear, and he said, “Make sure you go before 8:00 am. The bad men sleep late so they won’t interfere with us.”
And so, the bad men of St Catherine may have had to be awakened to hear that it was too late to try to flee the parish.
Cynical remarks are being posted on social media that there is no solution to our crime problem, but we know there is innovative technology for crime fighting and resolute leadership by the prime minister, National Security Minister Dr Horace Chang, Commissioner of Police Major General Antony Anderson, and Chief of Defence Staff Rear Admiral Antonette Wemyss Gorman.
There is enough blame to go around so let us stop wasting time by talking about who started what and ensure that those cameras and smart systems will stop the criminals in their tracks. Both political parties have a responsibility to their country to accept only ethical Jamaicans in their leadership. This is a time when we as Jamaicans should be finding a way to help heal our country, not tear it further apart.
It was attorney-at-law Peter Mais who, having seen the success of the St Patrick’s Foundation in Seaview Gardens, decided to start the Stella Maris Foundation in Grant’s Pen. Peter laid out his vision for Grant’s Pen to several members of the Stella Maris Catholic Church and got our acceptance to serve on the board. This was 25 years ago, and you can see the difference that this foundation has made, offering HEART/NSTA Trust classes to residents, a daycare centre for the children of students, counselling, and mediation.
It was through the quick action of Anne-Marie Thomas, the Digicel Foundation, and the late Daphne Hewett that we were able to secure the purchase of the building, days before it went to market.
This is social activism at its best. What would have happened to those hundreds of students who graduated from the IT and early childhood training programmes if they were not given the opportunity? And so, this is the question that every successful professional must ask themselves about the community from which they came.
We have notable examples. Dr Lucien Jones has been giving medical care in Majesty Gardens through the St Andrew Parish Church outreach programme and Professor Michael Lee has been overseeing the Our Lady of Hope Clinic supported by Food For the Poor Jamaica on the St Joseph’s Hospital grounds. The Mustard Seed Communities have uplifted Olympic Gardens and beyond. Operation Friendship is legendary.
Nevertheless, there is so much more to be done in the communities riven by violence — church and civil society can lend a practical hand to open paths for honest means of livelihood for citizens. There are frequent stories of gunmen who have given up their lives of violence having been influenced by a loving relative, teacher, or pastor. Let us catch and arrest the hardened criminals, but also catch the vulnerable young men before they land in the clutches of these so-called dons.
SHIRLEY PRYCE’S JHWU – 31 STRONG
Last Thursday we gathered at the Jamaica Household Workers’ Union (JHWU) at Ellesmere Road — facilities granted by the Ministry of Labour and Social Security. It was the celebration of the 31st anniversary of the union of Jamaica’s domestic workers, founded by the indomitable Shirley Pryce, who rose from her career as a domestic worker to an international activist, now holding a master’s degree in labour and workers rights.
It is estimated that there are 57,000 household workers in Jamaica, 6,000 of whom are now unionised. As a judge in the GraceKennedy-Heather Little-White Household Workers of the Year Awards, I learnt from the employers of nominees about the heroism of these workers, mostly women, who raise their families while giving invaluable support to other families.
Elizabeth Tang, general secretary of the International Domestic Workers’ Federation (IDWF), on whose board Shirley Pryce serves, noted that they have on record 600,000 domestic workers from 34 countries. She said Jamaica was one of the first countries to ratify C189 — The Decent Workers Convention, 2011. However, this has not yet been implemented here and in a high percentage of other member countries.
There is anecdotal evidence that the anger against middle- and upper-income Jamaicans is fomented by stories of disrespectful and abusive employers of domestic workers. The JHWU has created two commercials, voiced by their own members, demanding greater respect and condemning the sexual abuse that has been visited on them, especially during the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The JHWU used the occasion to launch a handbook, the JHWU Manual for Household Workers and Employers in Jamaica, outlining the terms and conditions which should be noted in contracts between employees and household workers. It also highlights the rights of workers and includes the services of the JHWU for mediation and training. The digital book is available on its website www.jhwu.org.
Thanks to Minister of Labour and Social Security Karl Samuda for supporting the expanded facilities for the JHWU and assuring the members that he will be advocating for the implementation of both the C189 and C190 (Violence and Harrassment, 2019) International Labour Organization conventions which outline the rights of the domestic worker and assure them of legal protection.
The theme for the event was ‘Domestic Workers Power the Economy — Invest in Us’. We should keep that in mind when we consider that our night on the town is more than one week’s minimum wage. Let us have a conscience for our domestic workers.
CELEBRATING LEONIE FORBES’ 85TH
Theatre colleagues and friends, including former Prime Minister PJ Patterson, gathered at the Little Little Theatre last week to celebrate the birthday of Jamaica’s radiant queen of the stage, Leonie Forbes.
The first-ever fan letter I wrote was to Leonie Forbes after seeing her take command of the stage in Trevor Rhone’s Old Story Time.
The lady of the evening greeted her admirers before she sat in the seat of honour to watch Basil Dawkins’ Hide Your Husband, featuring stars Maylynne Lowe, Earle Brown, and Donald Anderson.
Happy birthday to Jamaica’s theatre icon and blessings to her close friend Alma Mock-Yen who has been a pillar of support for her in recent years. Thanks to Ruth Ho Shing and friends for organising a memorable event.
BOUNTY’S BIRTHDAY BASH
Thousands of fans tuned in for the #madeinJamroc birthday concert last Sunday for Bounty Killer. The dancehall DJ sang Digicel A Fi Mi Cell at the event, ushering in his ambassadorship for the company.
Many years ago, at the airport, I asked him for his autograph for my son and he wrote, “To Noel — stay in school! Best wishes from Bounty.” I met him again as the elegant, white-suited Mr Rodney Price at the French Embassy where he was a special guest at the Hennessy Jamaica 50 event.
Happy birthday, Bounty Killer — stay on the positive path.