May 26, 2010

Jamaica bleeds for our "war on drugs"

The chaos in Kingston is symptomatic of the failure of US-led cocaine prohibition. This tragic violence must force a rethink

The tragedy unfolding in Jamaica is symptomatic of a wider crisis of organised crime, armed violence and political corruption caused by a failed "war on drugs". The tangled political and economic roots of the problem run very deep.

Caribbean nations were born from the violence of chattel slavery and rebellion, colonial domination and the struggle for liberation and self-determination. The postcolonial flight of capital and structural readjustment have been compounded by the end of transatlantic trade agreements that have led to the collapse of the region's agricultural economic base. High levels of unemployment and extreme marginality have been the result for many communities.

By accident of geography, the Caribbean islands sit uncomfortably between the Andean coca producers and the cocaine consumers of North America and Europe. Although the Caribbean routes account for only a small proportion of the cocaine traffic (estimated by the UN to be worth as much as $125bn), the islands' physical location, unprotectable coastlines and transport links to the metropolitan centres of North America and Europe make them an ideal jumping-off point for the traffickers.

The "war on drugs" was supposed to destroy coca production, stifle trafficking and eliminate cocaine use in the US and beyond. It has achieved none of these things. Instead, supply and demand are resilient, and so the "harsh medicine" of drug prohibition has created a lucrative clandestine market with entirely predictable iatrogenic side-effects of political corruption and armed violence. The collateral damage is all too evident across the region – most obviously in Jamaica, but also in Trinidad, Guyana and many other places on the Caribbean rim that have seen gunshot murders escalate to levels equivalent to a bloody civil war.

Jamaica's problems are particularly acute. Political violence can be traced back to the 1940s at least, and escalated at key moments throughout the 20th century, most notably during the 1980 election when guns were funnelled into the island from the US – allegedly by the CIA – to arm the leaders of the "garrison communities".

In the poorest Kingston constituencies, the two main political parties – the Jamaica Labour party and the People's National Party – continue to vie for power, with more than 90% of voters turning out for one or other of the parties. Local politicians and the "dons" exert control but also inspire loyalty among their constituents. In the past, the dons worked as enforcers for the politicians, but they have now accumulated an independent economic power base from drug- and gun-running, protection rackets and corrupt government contracts.

The attempt to extradite Christopher "Dudus" Coke to the US to face trafficking charges has turned from farce to tragedy. At first, the government, led by JLP Prime Minister Bruce Golding, prevaricated, no doubt mindful of Coke's connections to the party and his ability to deliver votes, but also the power of a man whom many people think of as a godfather who can deliver security and other goods. Bowing to both domestic and external political pressure, the government's attempt to execute the arrest warrant has so far left at least 44 people dead – without delivering Coke.

Sadly, loss of life at the hands of the authorities is far from rare. Last year, the Jamaican police killed more than 250 people – deaths denounced by human rights groups as extrajudicial executions.

In the short term, there is an obvious need for the authorities to work to restore peace to the affected neighbourhoods. This is going to require fortitude, but also restraint. Preservation of life and the minimal use of force in pursuit of peace and safety should be the guiding ethos, even while the situation remains volatile. Too many lives have been lost already and the danger of escalation is clear and present.

The challenge for the Jamaican people, after that, is to understand the roots of political corruption and armed violence and seek ways to disentangle organised crime from politics, business, the state and civil society more generally. Removing guns and corruption from the body politic is not going to be easy and cannot be achieved by military firepower: war on the streets of Kingston is the problem, not the solution. It will require a peace process akin to the Northern Ireland experience, perhaps with truth and reconciliation, and certainly with some means to decommission weapons and demobilise the young men in corner crews who define themselves as "soldiers" fighting on the front line of garrison communities.

There is a wider challenge facing the region and the international community. The "war on drugs" has not only failed, but positively promotes corruption and armed violence – not only in the Caribbean, but also across Central and South America, West Africa and in the inner cities of Europe and North America.

Could the tragic loss of life in Jamaica bring the world to its senses? People are sick of warfare. We should instead direct resources to building a lasting peace.

The Guardian

Ben Bowling

May 25, 2010

If I keep this in, it will poison me...

I am not quite sure if I have the appropriate words but if I say nothing, I fear all the angst I have trapped in my heart and mind will poison me. Now, I'm no politics and public affairs guru but I am a born and raised Jamaican and there are certain indisputable truths re: the situation currently taking place in my island home. I'm not even going to get too specific because I don't even think the issue is related to the situation currently taking is a result of a culture of denial and stigma that has existed in my island home for as long as I have been alive (and certainly, before).

I am angry at us. Me, you, all Jamaicans. The Jamaican citizenry. I mean, how long have we lived with, ignored, sometimes benefited, or suffered at the hands of corruption on the island? I know only too well that when reported, the victims are ignored or silenced. However, what if by some miracle, literal and definitely spiritual (because only GOD can help), we all decide to say NO. Regardless of the outcome. No to the shady cops. No the extortionists. No to the slippery slimy politicians. No to the connection to help you get off from paying some fee/tax/fine/ticket. JUST #$%! NO. What if? What if we stop frickin' inheriting our political alliances? What if? This is not damn sports day. This is our future.

When I hear of the Jamaica of my parents and realize the damage that can occur in just one generation, I could weep. As a babe, I still had the opportunity to experience the well advanced rail transport system. My parents can talk of the number of well-equipped hospitals/health care facilities, the excellent tradition our small island had in academic, athletic, and cultural achievement (& to a lesser degree we still do due to blessings I tell you and not because we value and support the talents we've been entrusted with). Not to mention the richness of our soil and the beauty of our island, natural and man made.

There's more in me but I am spent.

See why I have nothing to say? Because people with the power to say something and actually effect change always sit silently or feel sorry for 'those people' in times of war but when everything quiet down, do nothing. Because we aren't being shot at, because we survived another flare up, and of course there's Hawkeye/Kings Alarm/gated communities/friends in high places to protect us. No one is piling bodies of our family and friends feet high because none of us have to live in or loot in or fight in/against or die in the ghetto. So, when it is all over, we go back to work and play, and the struggle continues in the rural and urban ghettos of Jamaica. More children. More frustration. More injustice. More poverty. More sickness. More starvation. More death. More sadness. More anger. Less opportunity. Less education. Less self worth. Less value.

May 24, 2010

PLEASE, let us not forget!

From the Sunday Herald - Even if Bruce Golding does not resign he has lost the moral authority to continue as Jamaica’s Prime Minister. This is underscored by the unprecedented numbers of national organisations either calling for his resignation or expressing disappointment in the handling of the Christopher Coke extradition and the Manatt, Phelps & Phillips issue.

DelanofranklynNever in the history of Jamaica’s parliamentary democracy, since it was first introduced in 1944, has a Prime Minister ever been called upon by so many national organisations and a wide cross section of civil society to tender his resignation.

The call for Mr. Golding’s resignation is even more pronounced given the fact that 15 years ago when he formed the National Democratic Movement (NDM) Mr. Golding spoke about a new approach to governance.

When he explained in 2002 his reasons for going back to the JLP, he was at pains to point out that if given the opportunity he would lead the process of transforming Jamaica’s party political landscape and the system and nature of Government. As a result of these pronouncements he was able to sway many of the persons and institutions now calling on him to resign.

Promises made

In 1995 he said that there must be a severance of the link between political representatives and those who do not uphold the rule of law.

Yet, by 2010 he is being perceived by many inside and outside of the country as preventing the extradition of a person wanted for gunrunning and drug trafficking.

In 1995 he said that what Jamaica needs is a Cabinet of no more than 14 persons. Yet, by 2007 when he became Prime Minister, he formed a Cabinet consisting of 18 persons.

In 1995 he spoke about the importance of a non-partisan and effective civil service bureaucracy. Yet, by 2008 having disagreed with the proposal for the appointment of Stephen Vasciannie as Solicitor General by the Public Services Commission (PSC), he caused the dismissal of all members of the said PSC.

He forgot that at the launch of the NDM on October 29, 1995 he lashed out against the central feature of Government when he said: “The central feature of the Westminster system is the enormous concentration of power in the Executive and more particularly in the hands of the Prime Minister, which undermines the real purpose of Parliament and deprives the people of effective representation.”

In 1995 he spoke about the importance of dialogue and openness with public bodies, particularly those critical to the operation of a successful Government, the teachers, nurses, and the security forces. Yet, by 2010 he unilaterally broke off bargaining and negotiation with the said organisations, resulting in a standoff between these organisations and his Government. In 1995 he said, which he repeated in 1997, that nominations to the position of Ambassadors and Directors of Statutory Boards and Public Corporations should be made by the Prime Minister and approved by the Members of each House of Parliament. Thus far, Mr. Golding has ignored this promise.

Role of the judiciary

The most earth shattering about-turn by Mr. Golding, however, is how he has dealt with the Coke extradition affair. In October 1995 Mr. Golding said: “‘We (NDM) are committed to the effective separation of powers between the Executive, the Legislative and the Judiciary… The Prime Minister should be responsible for the control and direction of policy, which would include the executive management of the State services as well as Budget preparation and implementation…

The judiciary should be responsible for adjudicating questions of law and interpreting the provisions of the Constitution.’

Yet, in March 2010 in defence of a person whose extradition is being sought by the United States Government under an extradition Treaty between the USA and Jamaica, Mr. Golding has sought to use the Executive to usurp the functions of the judiciary by saying that the evidence against the person was ‘illegally obtained’ and, therefore, inadmissible in a court of law.

Mr. Golding was wrong in law because illegally obtained evidence is admissible in court so long as the evidence is relevant to the point or points in issue. If Mr. Golding had sought to uphold his views expressed 15 years ago, he would not have found himself in his current predicament.

Politics and crime

The extradition affair as well as the way in which Mr. Golding has sought to deal with the Manatt, Phelps & Phillips issue raises the fundamental issue of the relationship between our political parties and political leaders with alleged criminals, criminals and criminality.

It was on this point that Mr. Golding was most strident between 1995 and 1997, when he called upon the people of the country to rally behind him in his effort to de-link the relationship between politics and crime.

In November 1995 he said, “This custom” must be rooted out of Jamaican politics and that he would be doing everything if given the opportunity to dismantle garrison politics in Jamaica. At the time Mr.

Golding had lots of support for what was termed his “principled position.”

He had the support of wellknown persons, for whom I have a lot of respect such as, Bishop Herro Blair, Tony Hart, Howard Mitchell, Reverend Ralston Nembhard, Peter Thwaites, David Wong Ken, Robert Russell, Dr. Andre´ Foote, Wayne Leahong and Wayne Chen.

Today, Mr. Bruce Golding has apparently turned his back on his former principled position and by extension those who were with him in 1995 to 1997. Not only did he grab the garrisoned West Kingston constituency with both hands, but he is now using his position as Prime Minister to lead the defence of a man who former Prime Minister and Member of Parliament for West Kingston Edward Seaga, having given then Commissioner of Police certain information, went on to say as reported on September 29, 1994:

“He is a gang leader (and that) none of what is happening in West Kingston (violence) could have happened without his vesting.” Continuing, Mr. Seaga said, “I have no control over these fellows — I have no control over these 13 men who have a pattern of brutality that I will not tolerate…

They have blown off the leg of a young girl who at 20 years old has to walk with crutches; they have killed two sons of one lady within three days; they have killed a sevenyear- old, and nine-year-old boy.

They sent 15-year-old boys with guns into the Rema Community in order to chastise, in order to mete out what they call justice.” If this is the case, how can Mr. Golding exercise any moral authority in the fight against crime and violence staking the land? How can Mr. Golding speak with convincing authority about breaking the link between politics and crime? How can he successfully wage a battle against Jamaica being perceived, unfortunately and embarrassingly as a ‘narco state’?

Source of funds

The extradition of Mr. Coke is being sought by the US for gunrunning and drug trafficking.

Mr. Golding at first denied knowledge of the law firm Manatt, Phelps & Phillips being hired either by the Government or the JLP to lobby members of the US Government on behalf of Coke.

Mr. Golding, thereafter, under pressure from the Opposition and national organisations, admitted that as Leader of the JLP he sanctioned the deal. He also stated that the funds to retain Manatt, Phelps & Phillips were paid by the JLP. It would be interesting to find out who were some of the donors to such a cause. Of course, Mr. Golding ought not to have a difficulty with this, as in regards to funds raised by political parties, he said in 1995, albeit speaking about campaign financing:

“Political parties should be required to disclose to the Electoral Commission the source of financial contributions or the monetary value of contributions in kind which, in any one year exceeds twenty five thousand dollars ($25,000) in the case of individuals or two hundred and fifty thousand dollars ($250,000) in the case of organisations or corporate entities.”

Mr. Golding’s recent backpedalling on the Manatt, Phelps & Phillips affair has mortally wounded his position as Prime Minister. It is unbecoming of a person who had pledged that he would do everything, if given the opportunity, to break the link between politics and alleged criminals. Now is the time for all of those who believe in this ‘principled position’ to speak up and speak out, including those who rallied around Mr. Golding between 1995 and 1997, when he was ‘new and different’.

Delano Franklyn is an attorney at law, author and a former Government State Minister of Foreign Affairs & Foreign Trade.

Harder they come...

This diet is harder than I thought. Summertime was not the best choice.

I did pretty well last week but the weekend was horrid. I even made Oreo cheesecake bars...who does that on a diet? At least I only had one. I leave the rest to the skinny minnies. Even though my eating wasn't so good, I did go to the gym 4 times. Not too shabby. This week I can only make 3, so I don't know if there's weight loss hope for me next week.

So get to the point Shumpy. Ok, ok. I lost a whopping 1 lb LOL. I feel like one of those biggest loser contestants trying to break a barrier. Most of them are trying to get under 300 lbs or 200 lbs - things aren't so rough with me but if I could do another 5 lbs off, I'd be somewhat content.

May 19, 2010

word love: Lilian

Airy, fairy Lilian,
Flitting, fairy Lilian,
When I ask her if she loves me,
Claps her tiny hands above me,
Laughing all she can;
She'll not tell me if she loves me,
Cruel little Lilian.

When my passion seeks
Pleasance in love-sighs
She, looking thro' and thro' me
Thoroughly to undo me,
Smiling, never speaks:
So innocent-arch, so cunning-simple,
From beneath her gather'd wimple
Glancing with black-beaded eyes,
Till the lightning laughters dimple
The baby-roses in her cheeks;
Then away she flies.

Prythee weep,
May Lilian!
Gaiety without eclipse
Wearieth me,
May Lilian:
Thro' my very heart it thrilleth
When from crimson-threaded lips
Silver-treble laughter trilleth:
Prythee weep,
May Lilian.

Praying all I can, If prayers will not hush thee,
Airy Lilian,
Like a rose-leaf I will crush thee,
Fairy Lilian.

by: Alfred, Lord Tennyson (English poet, 1809-1892; Lilian first printed in 1830)

I love lyrical poetry. My mind is simplistic and often is attracted to whimsy.

May 17, 2010

Take the good, take the bad...

Bad news first.

::HUGE sigh:: Day 14. Nada this week...not even 1 lb. Nothin. But it's ok. I'm still encouraged. Just gotta keep at it.

Now the good stuff.

I had a fab (but busy) weekend - friends are so fun & so are great hussys - and saw 3 movies...1 at the movies, 2 from Blockbuster.

Precious - I've been wanting to see this ever since I heard about it. As usual it took me months to finally get to it. It was good. Gripping. Sad. Mo'nique did an excellent job. I can't imagine that being anyone's reality but the sad thing is, it probably is. If you haven't, you should see it. It will be worth your time.

Leap Year - Ok. I won't recommend it to you because I don't want y'all mad at me lol. But I loved it. I like to spend time watching mindless romance. No suspense, no plot thickening. Just plain ole romance. I'm just that kind of girl. I liked it. It's no Australia or Clueless (hehe)'ll be on ABC Family or WE one day is my point.

Robin Hood - Now, this was a good movie. Right up your Braveheart, Gladiator alley. Go see it. One thing though, I thought there would be more robbin' the hood. Like seriously, it was like a before he became Robin Hood movie because he didn't become Robin Hood and have his men till a good hour and 40 after the movie began. I fell asleep 3 times in the movie. Not because it was boring but because it was past my bedtime. I never fail to amuse myself.

Then from last week, I forgot to say I watched Iron Man 2. It wasn't that good. But as far as sequels go, it wasn't three three bad. You wouldn't be mad if you paid money to see it. I promise. Cause Robert Downey Jr and Mickey Rooney make a good pair.


May 10, 2010

Day 7

4 lbs down!

I couldn't be happier & more motivated to keep at it. Check my sidebar ticker out :) If you click on it, you'll see all the gory details.

So how's the diet going? Slowly but surely. I did have a huge black and white cookie, and overate a bit on Sabbath (who doesn't) but I was always mindful so I made adjustments to my diet. Just like instead of having all my banana chips at one sitting, I've separated the bag into 3 servings. Progress, people.

Gym? I did exactly 3 times this week. I wanted to go on Sunday but life wouldn't permit and I'll be busy again this coming Sunday so we'll see...can I tell you, I introduced Hugh to kick boxing & now he knows true pain...teehee, he had to skip out half way. Like his sis though, he's a glutton for punishment and ready for more this week.

May 9, 2010

sweet sundays: My mother

I never have words for my mom. I can't. I don't know how to express the overwhelming feelings that swell through me and to the center of my being when I think of her, who she is in general, who she is to others, and all she means to me. If I could bundle it all up and throw it out, it would result in instant world peace, end to starvation, plus rainbows and hearts a-plenty. Basically, overwhelming love, respect, and admiration.

Devon House, Kingston, Jamaica mid-1980s
I'm not saying she's perfect. But she is perfect for me. We don't always agree but somehow we always settle on level plain. I think it is because she loves me so much. Not to be presumptuous but I imagine having a child at 24 years of age in the early 1980s in a fairly traditional culture couldn't have been easy. Not even if you happen to be an educated, strong, modern thinking, and highly opinionated woman (and boy, is she ever opinionated! haha). I like to imagine she determined that despite the unknowns, her little Shumpy would exist, be the apple of her eye, and she has always made me feel that way. Yup, even after the mango of her eye (her true fruit love) and the papaya of her eye (another fruit I know she loves) came into the picture - my sibs won't appreciate the description.

my 21st birthday. my mother, the consumate party planner.

My wedding day, Dec 2006. my mother, my rock & support.

I am 27 and am yet to be weaned off my mom. Of course physically we've been living in separate countries for 10 years, and I can totally physically manage day to day living without her - I have always enjoyed my own company, and manageable bursts of others. But that's because I have her love and support bolstering me...I am yet to become emotionally independent of my mom. I think of her everyday, and I remain content just knowing she is breathing and safe somewhere (though I'd like for it to be closer to me).

Let's take a break from all the soppy crap. My mother is a remarkable woman. She is an active and advancing worker. Never settling for mediocre and always demanding excellence from herself and her staff. She went on to achieve her masters degree after having a child (that would be me), and has since continuously advanced in her field. She continues to seek knowledge, participating in conferences and seminars internationally. Further, she is well rounded. She is an active participant in her church community, and gives back to society everyday. Not only by raising semi-normal children (no criminals, all sensible, and caring persons - quite a feat in todays day and age), but also by being a great wife, aunt, sister, daughter, and friend, and by giving of her time and efforts to the community. But don't count her out! She is no staid old woman. My mom not only looks young and is fit (still competes in foot races on the beach with her kids *smile*), but also has rhythm, plays a decent game of monopoly, an impressive game of scrabble, can cheer on her alma mater in sporting events with the gusto of a teenager, has the most refined taste in clothing and accessories, and still knows how to kick it back in the country with a pan of mangoes. She does it all with effortless elegance and style. From the boardrooms of Kingston, New York, Toronto, and London; to churches, rural and urban; to Ivy League institutions; to squeezing 7 into my little one bedroom before my wedding; to stylish hotels in Europe; to Disney World with her kids; to cutting it up on the dance floor of a family wedding; to good ole Sligoville. She is the epitome of an international super mom.

My mother is the best example of nurturing I know. Yes, I had to get back to the sentimental. She is so good at taking care of her children I cannot imagine the day we will need to take care of her. I wonder if I'll be as good at it as she was. I sure hope so. She deserves it. For all the support, understanding, and love she's given me. Allowing me to share good news, vent, laugh, yell, hug (aka squeeze the life outta can get violent), kiss (she and I have a kiss-bite on the cheek hybrid), and just be myself with her (even when she doesn't agree) has helped me become the woman I am today. As long as she lives I know I'll always have a champion in my corner.

& that's all I need.

I'll never be alone as long as I live because of who she is.
She has always held my hands in love & support, and always will...

I love my mommy.

--Happy Mother's Day to all the fantabulous moms out there--

May 7, 2010

girly fridays: relaxed or natural?

Does it matter?

There are a few theories out there but I'm gonna focus on the two that insult me the most:

1. Black women with relaxed or processed hair aren't proud of their heritage
2. Black women with natural hair look unkempt and ugly

First, all the sensible women out there know there's nothing to be done about changing your heritage. You can't walk into a salon, or your local beauty supply store and buy a new history/culture/heritage. You are who you are. If you look anything like me, you can't hide it lol.

Second, I love to see women embrace their natural texture. I think they look as beautiful and very well put together as any other woman who is careful about her appearance. I have friends who are natural who look fantastic (same for those who are relaxed) and the assumption that leaving our hair the way it grows out of our head as God intended is unattractive, is insulting to me.

I am black and my hair could be short, long, relaxed, natural, or I could be bald. That has absolutely nothing to do with the pride I have in my heritage. Yes, there are women who have issues with their hair and their identity as black people - that kind of insecurity stems from a number of places and is way more complicated than a relaxer. I understand that and I'm sorry for them. For me, hair is cosmetic. I want my hair to look good (I have a personal definition of that which is totally subjective and that's okay). Good looking hair is healthy, shiny, flattering to the wearer, and visually appealing to me. Bad looking hair comes in relaxed and natural. Trust me lol, I've seen it. & so does unkempt and unattractive. Matter of fact, all of that comes in various shapes, colors, and textures.

I have contemplated going natural before and truth is, in the good ole Jamaican slang, mi nasty and I can't bother. I honestly don't think I could comb it. The only possibility out there for me currently is locs and I don't like the commitment it requires. At all. But you never know. My mom just went natural...maybe she can teach me a few things. In any case, I will go natural eventually (the non locs type). My natural hair (which I miss - we haven't seen each other in almost 2 decades) is quite the demanding lady. She's very fussy. I plan to reacquaint myself with her one day.

I believe in detaching your self image and worth from physical appearance. I think long hair or short, relaxed or natural, women can have beautiful hair and be proud of it. An extension of that could be our obsession with whether we're busty or not, wide hips or no, nice shape or no, too tall, too short, too skinny, too fat, too dark, too light, nose too flat, lips too big....we can never be exactly what we desire on the outside (well, we can make a mockery of ourselves trying to pay for it) but we can work with what we got and make it happen!

In any case, we can always be exactly what we desire (& what God desires us to be) on the inside and at the end of the day, that is what matters the most.

May 5, 2010

word love: hymn

God be in my head, and in my understanding;
God be in mine eyes, and in my looking;
God be in my mouth, and in my speaking;
God be in my heart, and in my thinking;
God be at mine end, and at my departing.

-Sarum Primer, 1558

I love hymns. They are a comfort to me, and this week has been crazy here in my homeland (#1, #2, #3, and #4), and in the land of my birth (#1 , #2, #3, and #4)...don't get me started. People are sick. This world is twisted, sad, & unsafe. So I take a deep breath and just regroup.

May 3, 2010

Day 1

Ready Vicky???

LOL. Okay, we're off! It's day 1 of our May challenge. For the month of May, we are doing a modified special K diet and exercise (3 times per week) regimen to lose weight and tone our bodies.

What's a modified special k?

*One healthy correctly portioned meal for lunch/dinner
*Two Special k (cereal or shake)/cornflakes/oatmeal/healthy low calorie meals per day
*Healthy snacks throughout the day
*Plenty water
*Little to no sugar

There you have it. So every Monday morning, I'll weigh in and update my ticker (see below & on side bar). School is out and I have no reason to not be able to do this challenge successfully. I don't really need to lose 20lbs (more 15) but if I do, that gives me room to expand (teehee).

May 2, 2010

sweet sundays: sunshine

Summertime is upon us. Doesn't the brightness that greets you in the morning lift your spirits? God is amazing. Enjoy nature. Go out in the sun and soak in the wonder of it all. Take a deep breath.

I know, I know. The cancer risk etc. but hey, your body needs a little vitamin D sometimes :) I'm an island girl so I apologize for my disdain for sunblock. I know our bodies need it but I'm a regular ole' sunflower.
"A day without sunshine is like, you know, night"
Steve Martin