The minister gets his army
...and The Queen gets condolenceSunday, April 18, 2021
That some 84,000 plus people stood in line and waited to receive their vaccination during the blitz period April 11-14 is a heartening indication that the populace is coming out of its slumber and is ready to enlist in the action teams fighting down COVID-19. This column has long spoken of the need for a call to arms that would galvanise all our people to get behind the campaign to fight the enemy as one united team. This against the convoluted orchestration of misinformation and self-opinionated noises we hear coming largely from social media.
For 365 days and more Minister of Health Christopher Tufton has appealed, warned, nudged, advised, instructed, and sought to arm the nation in the struggle to repel this unwanted visitor. Through it all we remained largely complacent, maskless, and reckless, abandoning the army and leaving the front liners to carry on the fight. But last weekend was a turnaround, as Jamaicans finally got up from in front of the TV, left our homes in droves, and registered to turn the tide on COVID-19.
Its early days yet, but the blitz paid off in terms of numbers as well as stirring a response to duty's call — an action item in our national anthem we have largely ignored since it was written in 1962.
The day after receiving the jab some of us showed off our vaccination cards, exchanged experiences, and lied a little about not feeling any effects. We even commiserated with those who missed out on the opportunity. I confessed to a slight stiffness and pain in the old joints, but licked these back with a couple Panadol pills, rest, and a glass or two.
The success of this vaccine blitz, as well as the tight discipline enforced during the lockdowns, has given Jamaica more hope that the fight is ours to win, and left us with a conviction that we can work together to lick this thing.
The death of Prince Phillip in the UK has provoked worldwide sympathies and respect, coupled with a sense of loss of an image distinguished by dedication, loyalty, and love for his wife of 73 years, and mixed with pleasant memories of his ability to get along with peoples of all races, colour and creed.
I am no royalist, but confess to an avid interest in the antics of the British Royal Family — never mind the symbolism, the political insignificance, and the lack of relevance to our social and historical realities and environment. I am both amused and fascinated by the pageantry, the spectacle, the pomp and ceremony, and I admire and marvel at the precision and meticulous planning of the British when managing their ceremonial events.
Various leaders have, at politically opportune moments, sworn off against the constitutional monarchy system of government adopted by Jamaica which positions the Queen of England as the symbolic head of State. The controversy arises particularly whenever a new prime minister takes the oath of office or, as occurred last week, when our Government sends a note of condolence to the titular head of State.
I have strong feelings against a continuation of that state of affairs, but I am not going to allow it to affect my admiration for British 'ceremony'.
We like to quarrel about the relationship with the monarchy, but when The Queen shows up a jolly good time is had by all. In spite of all the protestations, Jamaicans of all persuasions, including some of those firing away at the prime minister on Facebook for his condolence message, have been known to fall over one another for a chance to be invited to a King's House reception.
When the young queen and the duke first visited Jamaica first, in 1953, I was invited to one of the functions. Never mind that I shared the invitation list with 20,000 other schoolchildren who were trucked into Kingston for a rally in honour of The Queen at Sabina Park. We stood for hours in long lines stretched across the cricket field, waving our tiny red, white and blue Union Jacks (the British flag), and singing Rule Britannia, Linstead Market, and “Dis long time gal me never see you”.
Yessir, cheer we did. More than 5,000 turned out to welcome Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip as their British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) Stratocruiser landed at Montego Bay airport on November 25. Hundreds of thousands lined the 120-mile route to Kingston as the royal motorcade stopped or slowed down at Falmouth, Discovery Bay (where she officially opened the Queen's Highway), St Ann's Bay, Ocho Rios, Moneague, Linstead, Bog Walk, and Spanish Town.
The programme went smoothly, but not without moments of humour and incident. Radio Jamaica's Roy Lawrence shocked listeners with his famous glitch when he announced during a live broadcast that Sir Hugh Foot, the governor, had lifted his foot to The Queen. Years later, Louise Bennett had us laughing at recollections of the nose veils, long gloves, scissors-tail, bustle frock, and fedda hats “jus a show off on royalty”.
Prince Phillip had a reputation in Jamaica of slipping away from the protocol line while on royal visits here to do something unorthodox and out of the range of his staff. Believe it or not, I got close to offering him a Red Stripe on another visit in 2006 when I wrangled an invitation to the reception at King's House. My wife and myself wondered away from the handshaking line (Yes, we were 'presented') to the Portland parish pavilion which, separate from the other parish presentations, offered jerk and cold beer as their traditional offerings.
Quite overcome by the occasion I made a beeline for the cold drink drum pan, only to hear a voice behind me, “I say, can you tell me why this seems to be the most popular booth here this evening?” I turned around to see Prince Philip, who had obviously bolted from the royal line to break the monotony. My wife, who is an expert on culinary matters, responded, “It's the spice, Your Highness.”And then, looking straight at me, she pointedly added, “...and the jerk”.
In utter confusion, I started to offer the Prince a cold one, only to see him quickly whisked away and back into the line by whomever. Just think, if we had been able to have that drink, this column would have been able to tell so much more about the famous Prince Philip's gaffes.
United Way and St Vincent
As a result of the volcanic eruption of La Soufriere our neighbours on the island of St Vincent and the Grenadines have been experiencing unspeakable loss, displacement, and suffering. The small island is being battered daily. Even as you read this tons of volcanic ash, an oppressive heat wave, rubble, sulphuric odours, and sheets of molten lava and mud that can move more than 120 miles per hour has been destroying homes, farms, communities, streets, anything in its way. Families have to be fleeing from one point to the other to try and get away from the almost daily eruptions, which have spilled as high as six miles into the air. This is all alongside the COVID-19 problems facing them.
Congratulations to the United Way of Jamaica (UWJ) for coming forward to assist through its networks, working with the Jamaica Red Cross and the Women's Leadership Initiative and the many others who can assist with immediate relief, inclusive of cash or kind donations, as well as the logistics of delivery. The situation is grim as there is constant need for water, bedding, protective gear, sanitary products for babies, help for the elderly, and shelter and infrastructure needs.
UWJ has a distinguished record of achievement in facilitating disaster response, including raising funds and providing resources to assist in any way possible within and across our borders. I recall its support to the Haiti Earthquake Rehabilitation Fund, hurricane restoration works, COVID-19 care packages distribution, and partnerships with the Red Cross and others.
The UWJ/St Vincent & the Grenadines Disaster Relief Fund has been opened at National Commercial Bank, Duke Street, on the United Way of Jamaica account #061048596, all for a worthy cause.
Lance Neita is a public relations consultant, writer, and community relations expert. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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