In last week's column I appealed to our politicians to dedicate sleepless nights to the issue of public safety and welfare. Well, with the new salary increases they can now afford the best Blue Mountain coffee to keep them awake as they deal with this national crime emergency.
But let us look at the bright side: How can this big payday redound to the Jamaican people?
1) Now they can pay for their own security, freeing up the police officers who chauffeur them around to attend to the security needs of the wider population.
2) They are quite fashionable, so now they can support our fashion industry, wearing only locally designed and tailored ensembles for the opening of Parliament and other high-profile events.
3) Their alma maters can benefit as they can pledge a percentage of their salaries for scholarships and development of schools and universities.
4) They can now afford to hire efficient staff in their constituency office to ensure that projects are fast-tracked.
5) They can create or expand entrepreneurial projects to create good-paying jobs.
In this land of wood and water, it is a shame that so many communities do not have access to running water. Roads in some rural areas are impassable, putting their residents at risk. YouTube's Chris Must List showed the marginal existence of inner-city dwellers, with zinc sheeting creating rusty narrow passages. We hope that with this windfall the public and civil society will not have to be constantly begging and pleading with the political directorate, our public servants, to attend to the basic human rights of their people.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness has assured us that accountability measures are underway: "We have established, and I will announce shortly, a series of accountability measures that the price of this, the cost of this, is accountability. Every single MP [Member of Parliament], all ministers are now committed to ensuring that they earn the salary; they understand that, that this is not an argument that we were not paid well from the beginning and, therefore, on that basis is justification. No, the argument within the MP caucus is that, having got this increase, we must now prove to the Jamaican people, even harder than we were working before, that the increases are justified, and they understand that. They understand that the accountability issues are foremost in the minds of the people and that we must do tangible things."
As humble Jamaicans stretch their dollar to support their families and hide under their beds with trembling children when gunshots ring out, let us see how our revitalised ministers and their ministry teams will bring them the relief they so desperately need.
Women in Local Government
It was serendipitous that the topic for this year's Rose Leon Memorial Lecture, delivered by Dr Lola Ramocan, was The Role of Women in Local Government.
I believe the new salary for parish councillors should attract more women. This is important for achieving gender balance in government. Dr Ramocan named five key challenges faced by women:
1) generally low level of trust in political governance
2) low confidence among women regarding their ability to aspire to political leadership
3) gender balance disparity in political leadership
4) limited advancement of women in politics due to politically motivated violence
5) limited upward mobility of women in local government due to lack of resources
Noting that women only account for 20 per cent of those in local government, she said this was unacceptably small as women bring to the table "representation, diverse perspectives, policy priorities, role models, the balancing of gender equality, and community engagement".
Many thanks to the representatives of the Women's Political Caucus and the Women's Bureau for organising and participating in this event — Merline Daley, Pastor Elaine Jackson, Faith Webster, Hermione McKenzie, Alessandra Chung, Sharon Robinson, Makeda Ramgeet, Gloria Alvaranga, and Marie Thompson. While we dearly missed the late Gloria Leon Millwood, who was a dynamic member of the organising committee, we were heartened that her son Brendon attended the event.
As we call for the teaching of civics in our schools, let us affirm the proven advantage our women offer in promoting integrity and performance.
Special Olympics highlights
The past week was one in which volunteerism was in full force. Last Tuesday Commissioner of Police Major General Antony Anderson, fresh from the impressive Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) expo, hosted the launch of the Law Enforcement Torch Run (LETR) for Special Olympics. Participating uniformed groups and government agencies in this volunteer event, with Jamaica being the first country outside of the US to participate in this worldwide effort, are the JCF; the Jamaica Defence Force; the Jamaica Fire Brigade; Jamaica Customs; and the Passport, Immigration and Citizenship Agency (PICA). We were moved by a poem from special athlete Sheneel Williams appealing for an end to violence.
Jamaicans everywhere can do their part to support our Special Olympics Jamaica (SOJ) athletes heading to the Berlin World Games by joining in national and community Law Enforcement Torch Runs to achieve their target.
Last Friday it was a joy to participate in the launch of the SOJ National Games, with teams representing every parish of Jamaica. Lorna Bell, Allie McNab, and Coleridge Howell organised an amazing event, assisted by parents and volunteers who have made our Jamaica organisation a model for other countries. The Digicel Jamaica Foundation created the Special Olympics multi-purpose courts and stands, where the athletes will compete in basketball, volleyball, and bocce, among other disciplines. Contributors to the SOJ efforts include the CHASE Fund, the Sports Development Foundation, Restaurants of Jamaica, long-standing emcee Fae Ellington, photographer Colin Reid, and the Jamaica Information Service.
The SOJ will be sending unified female and male football teams to the Berlin Games, part of a 65-strong contingent led by Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sports Olivia "Babsy" Grange and the dedicated Sergeant Gladstone Sealy. Kudos to Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Nathalie Palmer-Mair and SSP Charmaine Shand for their contribution to the week's successful activities and the LETR.
The Jamaica Employers Federation (JEF) held their annual convention last week, featuring great speakers on our economic, security, and social issues.
It was an honour to present on the role of mature workers in the business place and share Caribbean Community of Retired Persons' (CCRP) experience with advertising vacancies for companies and receiving plaudits for the "high-quality resumes" which they receive from our members.
I also shared some business opportunities which this growth in the cohort of senior offers:
*Senior friendly real estate developments
*Medical centres retrofitted for their comfort, with in-home services
*Supplies for retrofitting homes
*Mobility aid supplies
*Drivers who give assistance for medical and other needs
*Home repairs and maintenance
*Special offers from restaurants, clubs, and hotels on slow days or off season.
Respect is due to our experienced, dedicated, and ethical seniors — no certificate can replace that!
Jean Lowrie-Chin is executive chair of PROComm and CCRP.
- We welcome reader comments on the top stories of the day. Some comments may be republished on the website or in the newspaper; email addresses will not be published.
- Please understand that comments are moderated and it is not always possible to publish all that have been submitted. We will, however, try to publish comments that are representative of all received.
- We ask that comments are civil and free of libellous or hateful material. Also please stick to the topic under discussion.
- Please do not write in block capitals since this makes your comment hard to read.
- Please don't use the comments to advertise. However, our advertising department can be more than accommodating if emailed: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- If readers wish to report offensive comments, suggest a correction or share a story then please email: email@example.com.