Politics, Leadership and Governance, Social Commentary

My Two Cents: Access Granted, Hope denied #GuildElections2017

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In what was arguably one of the most exciting, contentious, controversial and participative election periods at the UWI Mona Guild, Mr. Oshane Grant, the current Games Committee Chairman and presidential candidate, was GRANTED ACCESS to lead the Guild of students for the 2017-2018 academic year. Grant, a member of the Chancellor Hall fraternity clinched the win with 1234 votes to Jerome Palmer’s 1166 votes, Jerahmeel James’s 540 votes, Dontae Drummond’s 339 votes and Joshua Hayles’s 211 votes. A total of  3,490 students voted this year, representative of approximately 19.3% of the Guild of Students. Still not the ideal turnout we would have hoped for in a democratic process like this, but indicative of a slight rise in voter participation which in and of itself is an win for the system

This was an election filled with excitement, contention and controversy and victory would only be promised to the smartest candidate in the pack. The Grant camp in my estimation ran the most effective campaign for the consistency of their message, the concision in their campaign promises and most importantly their ability to mobilize a strong election machinery every day of the season leading up to election day.

Grant’s win is symbolic of the campus’s position to remain Pro-Guild against Anti-Guild candidates like Joshua Hayles and Dontae Drummond. It also symbolizes a return to a status quo of male-led leadership, which has been challenged in recent years by former Guild President Davianne Tucker and outgoing Guild President Mikiela Gonzales. These results would suggest that after two consecutive years of female-led leadership, the campus has signaled a need to resort back to “traditional ways”.

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Grant’s vision for 2017-2018 is premised on a seven point plan to improve the overall welfare of ALL students at the UWI Mona. His first point speaks to the pricing of hall accommodation and housing on campus to improve outdated mechanisms to safeguard value for money. His second point addresses the need for greater inclusion of the UWI Western Jamaica Campus (WJC) in the annual sponsorship agreements the Guild brokers with Corporate Jamaica. His third point addresses the lack of opportunities availed to college students to garner valuable work experience which he hopes to change by advocating for internship components to the tertiary curriculum. His fourth point addresses the welfare of the commuting students cohort and the need for greater financial support to be allocated to the guild of students representative as well as the Commuting Students office. His fifth point touches on student entrepreneurship and lobbying the UWI administration to create more avenues for students to engage in business legally on campus. His sixth point speaks to the establishment of a President’s Advisory Council which he wants to offer as a platform to students all across the campus to have an opportunity to actively participate in the decision making processes of the Guild. His final point speaks to the strengthening of alumni relations, especially in providing financial assistance to needy UWI students through an initiative called “Project 5k”. 

Overall, I found Mr. Grant’s portfolio of campaign promises to be very practical, relevant, inclusive and achievable. I was disappointed however in the lack of mention about Campus Security and Guild accountability, which I think were some of the major issues this year on campus. But let’s hope he finds a way to weave those critical issues into his master plan for 2017-2018

Hope Denied

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Etel Williams, the current Guild Treasurer and ex-presidential candidate, offered a message of Hope in his presidential campaign that was consequently denied by the UWI administration. Mr. Williams was disqualified from the presidential race this year for soliciting the help of a non-UWI personnel in his campaign. The UWI defines a non-UWI personnel as anyone who is not registered to study at the UWI Mona in the semester in question. It was reported that Mr. Williams’s campaign manager was not a registered student for this semester and this was in clear violation of the election rules that govern the period each year. Following reports from students, an investigation was launched by the Returning Officer for this year’s election Mr. Athol Hamilton to ascertain whether there is any truth to these claims. After the investigation, Mr. Williams was found guilty and subsequently disqualified.

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His disqualification evoked a very emotional response from students within and outside his camp, as the circumstances under which he was disqualified were considered questionable. Students are of the view that it was unfair to single out Mr. Williams for prosecution because other presidential candidates would have broken some election rules, but those reports were somehow overlooked. Some are calling the disqualification a part of a conspiracy by the UWI administration to get Mr. Williams away from the presidency, for reasons unknown. This conspiracy theory, they’ve based primarily on a series of events that led into  the election day. Particularly, the printing of ballots and timing between Mr. Williams’s official disqualification and removal of his name from the ballot sheets.

Following the judgement, Mr Williams sought to appeal through the Office of the Director of Student Services and Development Mr. Jason McKenzie. Reports are that this appeal was launched on Friday March 17, 2017 and was officially rejected on Tuesday March 21, 2017. Election day was Wednesday March 22, 2017 and Mr. Williams was on none of the ballots students voted on. The timing between his appeal being officially rejected and the ballots being printed for election day is where the controversy rests; because students are in disbelief that the Electoral Office of Jamaica (EOJ) and the UWI’s International partner from Canada was able to make a change so swiftly in time for election day, especially since the ballots are customarily printed and shipped from Canada. Nevertheless, assurance has been given from the Guild and Returning Officer that due process was followed and these claims of conspiracy are falsified, so we are only left to believe what we know and can prove.

The Way forward

It is unfortunate what has happened to Mr Williams, because of the expenses and efforts that would have already been invested prior to his disqualification. But we must not allow his downfall to disqualify our commendations to Mr. Oshane Grant for a hard fought victory. The Guild of students at present is in a state of disrepute and to grow from this and become stronger the president elect will need YOUR support; whether you were for or against him in the election period. The mandate for 2017-2018 cannot be cosmetic as before, but must focus on strengthening the failing systems of transparency, accountability and efficiency to restore some legitimacy again to the Guild of Students. Congratulations to Mr. Oshane Grant, and the Council elect and best of luck for the upcoming tenure.

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Social Commentary

The Upcoming Revolution most people didn’t expect: The Tambourine Army

 

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There is a revolution brewing in the most unsuspecting of places, the hearts and minds of our women. I have been observing these past few weeks, especially on social media, a renewed sense of urgency to stop violence against women and children. The co-founders of this movement, notable advocates Ms. Nadeen Spence and Ms. Latoya Nugent, have managed to galvanize support from women young and old across the Jamaican society.

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To provide some context about this movement, it all started when one of the co-founders, Ms. Latoya Nugent, who goes by the alias Stella Gibson was featured in the media in January 2017 for using a Tambourine to assault, then president of the Moravian Church, Paul Gardner, who was also subsequently charged with carnal abuse. It was this incident that spawned the idea to start an activist group to tackle gender-based violence which came to be known as the Tambourine Army.

Since these women launched their challenge against the system, I’ve observed strong support as well as strong opposition from both men AND women on the issue. Most people, especially the women, seem to be fully behind the cause and have taken to social media to break their silence and speak up! The opposing minority however seems to be indifferent towards the methodologies used and have even gone as far as to question the motives of some behind this movement. They seem to be of the view that the force and aggression will do little for the movement and are suggesting a more balanced, inclusive approach to get a larger buy in from other stakeholders of society.

While in theory that approach should work, in actuality that hasn’t been the case and I commend the women of the Tambourine Army for finally accepting this and choosing to be BOLD FOR CHANGE. There are many issues like gender-based violence affecting us as a nation that we spend most of our time writing letters to the editor about, talking on the radio/TV about or posting on social media and then get frustrated when these methods produce little to no results. Maybe this approach was wrong, but that is something we will have to wait and see as time passes. However, we must acknowledge the courage of these women for trying and fighting; a lesson we all could take away and apply to our personal fights.

I would never pretend to understand or even relate to the pain these women must be feeling; especially the survivors. The overwhelming anxiety for change and the strength to bear that pain and keep it subdued, while the system considers their plight. At some point enough will be enough, and it is not our place to judge them for taking this position now if they feel, the time is NOW.

To my brothers reading this I want you to imagine for a second, you were born into a world where society counted you as inferior before you were old enough to understand what it meant. And imagine a superior group of counterparts whom are knowledgeable of the perceived limitations placed upon you and take advantage of you in the worst of ways to further their agendas of greed, power and pleasure. I’m not certain if that fully captures it, but I’d imagine that’s how our women have felt all these centuries. Centuries of psychological, physical and emotional abuse that constantly gets overlooked because the people beyond this social glass ceiling are all men; looking amusingly at the woman’s effort to try and break it.

This nuh feel right and I would hate for the situation to get bloody before oonu Jamaican people realize this! This issue affects me personally, because I have witnessed for myself the emotional, physical and psychological abuse of the women I grew up with by men who were suppose to be my father figures. Not knowing what to do as a young boy I silently shared their pain, cried with them and prayed with them for better days until I was old enough to know better and to do better! I have been blessed with two beautiful little sisters that I’m worried about honestly. I’m worried they will be forced to pay a gruesome price for their beauty, and have to stifle their potential to fit into a society that fails to see the value in allowing them to just be. This isn’t just a fight for our women and children, but a fight for Jamaica’s sake. We all have a part to play, because we all are affected by this issue; in one way or another.

If the women behind this Tambourine Army believe they have exhausted all avenues of “proper” ways to advocate that they taught us in their schools, then I say do what you must to maintain the fight. If you must shout, then shout; if you must march, then march; if you are attacked with force, fight back with force; but please don’t give up the fight. Your courage and nationalism is not unnoticed and my children and the children of ALL MEN will thank you dearly for your service to Jamaica. History will absolve you.

 

-G.B

 

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Social Commentary

My Two Cents: 138 ways to scam a UWI student

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I remember when the first housing development by 138 Student Living was introduced, and it was then Guild President Lerone Laing who had the responsibility of communicating this to the Guild of Students; which I am almost certain he did through his guild councilors at the time. Most students didn’t have a problem with the development because it wasn’t seen as a threat to the traditional status quo, but just another income generator like the Marlene Hamilton halls of residence; which students at the time understood.

UWI has been running on a billion dollar deficit for years now, and as a result the quality of infrastructure, learning and the overall experience of being a Mona Pelican has diminished. So students understand the need to create income generating projects that will cut away the deficit, and bring the school to hopefully see a surplus. But in doing so, they also expect the University to be stewards of UWI Tradition and make efforts to preserve this; even as they embark on their development projects and initiatives.

What used to be a good idea to most students, started to sound like a scam when news broke that the agreement with 138 Student Living could also mean the demolition of old halls of residence to re-develop new living structures synonymous to the first development, recently named the Leslie Robinson Hall. What made the news even harder to digest was the impression that in this deal, the UWI also agreed to surrender its rights to the land space the current traditional halls rest on for 30 years; thereby giving 138 Student Living autonomous control over the redesign and redevelopment of the traditional halls of residence.

And the thing that smeared faeces all over this deal was the lack of transparency exercised by the UWI administration in inking it in the first place. If this was an administration that put the student’s welfare first then initially when the idea surfaced to redevelop housing on campus, the Guild of students would have been invited to those preliminary talks. The Guild president at the very least, should have been instrumental in the review and evaluation of the contract when it was proposed by 138 Student Living and subsequently given the opportunity to have adequate consultation with his guild of students before the University made a decision.

So I can understand the sentiment fully, when students say they feel UWI has scammed them. There is no way students would have accepted the full terms and conditions of this deal if the opportunity was given for them to directly have a voice. This lack of transparency only highlights a long time dysfunctional relationship between the administration and Guild of students; often times encouraged by the former. And it leaves the Guild Council having to play catch up and explain to their constituents what is really happening, when they themselves are at an informational disadvantage.  Maybe it’s a case where UWI is underestimating the ability of their students to participate in major decision making processes; maybe it’s a conspiracy to erode the trust of the Guild of students in their leaders thereby giving the University absolute power over the direction the campus will go; or maybe they’ve just forgotten their duty to cater to the welfare of students. Well whatever the case may be, it’s disheartening and frankly unbecoming of an institution which prides itself as the jewel of tertiary education in Jamaica.

But the UWI alone is not to blame here, because the students and their lack of participation is a major stem in this problem tree. For years, UWI students have sat idly and allowed their student leaders to give them substandard representation and widened the gap between student wants/needs and perceived student wants/needs. This new way of doing things, created and supported by the same students who are complaining, has presented the opportunity for the University to do whatever they want; and maybe that is what has happened with this 138 deal. If UWI were able to scam you out of your right to have a say in how campus housing options will transform for the future, then imagine what they can do with your tuition fees? the curricula that guides your courses of study? Food options? healthcare? Security? Transportation? and the list goes on.

The University has a duty to facilitate a comfortable, enabling and enriching environment for its students through whatever means it deems necessary for sustainability. But the students also have a responsibility to ensure this duty is carried out in a most fair and justified way. The scammer here is not just the UWI, but you the students have scammed yourselves of the right to have the best representation of your interests in major decision making for the campus. Reflect on that.

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Social Commentary

My two cents: x6 murder trial – Who is the real victim here?

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I remember I was in lower 6th form at Wolmers when I heard of Khajeel Mais. Though the circumstances upon which I heard of him were unfortunate, one thing was apparent was the level of respect and appreciation he commanded from the teenage community at the time; especially the girls. The details of his alleged murder at the time was unclear to me, and at one point seemed like a rumor with the amount of theories that surfaced. One theory which I can recall was that he (Khajeel) exited the taxi and attempted to provoke the driver (Patrick Powell) and a struggle ensued which led to his subsequent death. Another theory is that there was another person in the BMW X6 which was reportedly the son of Patrick Powell, and the son being familiar with Mais engaged in a verbal brawl which prompted Powell to exit the vehicle and try to intimidate Mais with his firearm; and somehow through intimidating Mais to retire his anger the gun fired off.

So many theories, but none of which point to the truth. One truth we know though is that Patrick Powell is a notable businessman, of what particular trade I wasn’t able to identify but he is presumed to be successful and legitimate in what he does. Powell had fled the island for the United States following the altercation with young Mais, and according to their defense attorney Peter Champagnie, was “lured” back to the island recently following the detainment of his son, Jhanai Powell, for his involvement in the assault of a man in 2009. According to clerk of court Hansurd Lawson in the Corporate Area Resident Magistrate’s Court, it was the influence of the youth’s family that had been preventing his arrest for so long. Peter Champagnie,  in his defense of Powell dismissed this claim and asserted that he had not been arrested all along because the complainant had given a vague statement to the police.

What this highlights to me is that the Powells both have a tendency to solve their disputes in less amicable ways (allegedly) and that these men are part of a very powerful and influential family; with the kind of influence that can potentially pervert the course of justice. Criminals and Dons have used their wealth and influence to capture justice before, and with the Police Force being perceived to be one of the most corrupt institutions in Jamaica, it’s not a hard theory to prove. But against all these facts, “facts” and allegations what we know for sure is that: 1) Khajeel Mais is dead 2) eye witness accounts put Patrick Powell at the scene of the crime 3) Powell is a wealthy and influential businessman 4) The media has been sensationalizing this issue to paint Mais as the only victim 5) Witnesses from the scene in 2009 who indicated an interest to cooperate at first, have now been diagnosed with amnesia conveniently dating back to the day of Mais’ death.

There is clearly more to this story that meets our eyes, and as hard as it is to be objective we must try our best in the name of Justice. Let’s watch this case keenly and make conclusions after all the facts have been gathered and presented, and not from personal bias. Personally, I am leaning towards Mais being the victim and the possibility that a struggle did in fact happen between them which led to Mais’s death; but that’s just my theory. I’m still giving Powell the benefit of the doubt because believe it or not, we could all be wrong.

 

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Social Commentary

At what point should your relationship become social? (if at all)

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I used to be all over social media with my girlfriend. This was back then when I was young and foolish, I remember I’d write on her wall and she’d write on mine or make suggestive status updates with the intention of catching hers and my friends attention. Unfortunately (or fortunately?), we’re not together anymore, for varying reasons WHICH I WON’T GET INTO. However, I will admit to social media having an impact on that relationship; both negatively and positively, and it’s from that experience in particular that I learnt how to handle myself and my emotions on this new platform of expression (and the various platforms that followed Facebook). For me, in terms of positives it taught me the value of self respect, boundaries, privacy and really appreciating my partner in an unconditional way. On the flip-side, it highlighted a very dark irrational side to my psyche that only seems to surface in an emotionally pressuring environment and it took away my attention from where it should have been initially: on her; it distracted me. If you’re reading this, I’m sorry.

So from all of that right now where I am, I have learnt to gauge social media usage like a thermometer and use it for what it was originally intended to be: a channel. Just another channel of socializing with the aim of bringing us closer together as a world. I don’t believe posts, tweets and mentions should be the tool for keeping your partner happy; even if it is, it should be kept at an absolute minimum. Also, lest we forget that humans are innately bad-mind, vindictive and “red yiye” in nature and the same way they don’t want you to do anything personally or professionally progressive, is the same way they don’t wanna see you happy (subconsciously of course). So to avoid those energies coming my way and the hearts of so many good people in the world becoming filthy on accord of our human nature, I keep my thing on a level.

But I thought it would be interesting to hear the views of others on this; because it is a hurdle we all have to cross at some points in our relationships. At what point should the relationship become social? (if at all). Here are the views of some Jamaicans:

Makeda:

Ahhm depends on the person, I saw on an episode of Steve Harvey’s talk show that people give and receive love is 5 different ways.
Days gone by relationships on a whole were much more private but the world was smaller, overall it is an understanding of yourself and partner that determines how much you post
 So back in the day holding hands and kissing aka PDA was huge, now posting who your with on social media is the “new platform” to show love.
So if yahll are private it’ll play a minor role to your comfort, if unnuh have more public, bold personalities, possibly a bigger role but at the basis people need to understand the dangers of social media and use it to their liking accordingly.

Jaye:

“..personally don’t think there’s anything wrong with you know letting the world/ people know that you love someone.. but there shouldn’t be a ‘relationship’ made of it. If you get what I’m putting down 🤔”

Nick:

“We live in the era where social media is more deeply rooted as a platform for expression, so understandably people feel the need to share their affairs with the world. I think it’s still okay to make your relationship status known on social media as you choose. However, the affairs of your relationship should not be over social media, that’s the part you keep private.

So to answer the question now, I think your relationship and social can share a connection within certain boundaries. Why boundaries? You simply don’t want your relationship to become everyone else relationship, so you keep those boundaries observed.”

Brodey:

“..social media should not have any integral parts in my relationship other than communication… itz merely a conduit for keeping the link with your significant other or loved ones or it is used to establish a link (look a girl to have a relationship with)… if social media is used more integrally, such as showing affection and so forth, it may lead to damaging repercussions. Posts that reflects affection towards another (girl in my case) may provide ammunition in times of turbulence, especially if you a deal with another girl( the other girl snooping and then may start page the wifey or vice versa). The other one is that once those affectionate posts and blogs are publicized,  it can be saved and later used against somebody who don’t want to remember or have any evidence coming to the forefront of them ever dealing. Also the less ppl know about your business, the more you’re better off… so no post to explicitly show affection, for me..”

Fuju:

“Relationships shouldn’t be influenced by what we see on social media. Often times we just see stills/pictures,but we don’t see the bigger “picture”. We don’t see the sacrifices that it took to get to that place of love that we see displaying in front of or eyes. And on the flip side we don’t see beyond the facade, we can’t see the girl physically abusing her bf and him verbally abusing her. We can’t see the abortion that she did without consulting him on the matter.

Relationships on social media should not be taken as “gospel” or instructions on how to live your life, or the type of relationship you should have. It should only serve as an example that love exists.”

Melzetta:

“Being that im a private person i keep most of my intimate moments private. I use my SM accounts to talk about issues that affect me or people around me. You wont find me posting relationship arguments etc. However its a good spying tool lol but im also not that person to lurk on my significant others page loool I dont think SM should play a major role in the relationship as it can be considered private space – my partner still has the right to being his own individual. “

What stands out from these responses for me is this notion that social media is a spying tool, and for those reasons I guess some don’t believe their relationship should get social any at all. And I don’t blame them, cause both men and women are guilty of this; guilty of blowing something small and innocent into epic proportions of nonsense. Why is that me mentioning or retweeting a certain person more than I do my other followers should suggest unfaithfulness? Why can’t I post a picture with a friend of the opposite sex without the usual comment “A she that mi boss? *cool face emoji*”? Why can’t I make a random, emotional paragraph post without that awkward “is there something we need to talk about?” conversation before bed? when since we get so petty  and dependent on social media for assurance? My God.

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Social Commentary

My two cents: Andrew Holness, the “Champion bwoy”

 

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Now, I had my doubts about Andrew’s leadership capabilities at first, just like everyone else did I would imagine. I mean, those undated resignation letters last year highlighted a very impulsive and arrogant opposition leader that I couldn’t picture as my Prime Minister. Then the general elections came along, and a transformation was made that I dare say is probably unprecedented in our political history.  Andrew’s image moved from being this stiff, impulsive, emotion-less juvenile politician to a very calculated, controlled, fervent and mature-looking leader whom consequently won the hearts of the Jamaican people.Upon victory, he proclaimed himself the champion boy, a direct reference the Dancehall artiste Alkaline’s hit single “Champion bwoy” which the electorate gobbled up cravenly.

He seemingly has also won over the respect and approval of his naysayers within the Jamaica Labour party, as challenges to his leadership these days seem to be a thing of the past. It’s still early, so we can’t say anything too conclusive about his leadership as yet, but the bangarang unfolding within the Peoples National Party (PNP) in recent months has definitely made him more favorable in the eyes of the electorate; a fact which his publicists exploit every chance they get.

He has made some good moves recently, I’ll agree; especially in delivering on some of his promises that we were anticipating; particularly his $1.5 million tax break. But there’ still a lot more that needs to be done before he gets assigned a passing grade. Public relations are on point yes, but that alone won’t translate into votes 3 and a half years from now. I’m still waiting to see how he will address unemployment (especially among youth) with more sustainable fixes and not another call center. I’m very interested to see how he and his economic council will handle the IMF programme which I might add was under excellent management by the former Minister of Finance, Dr Peter Phillips. Crime and violence in our country is climbing like a wildfire, and I’m eager to see the plans he has up his sleeve to remedy this problem. You see, being young, likable and good with communicating to the people is only 40% of the job. The other 60% is governing the country. Let’s watch how he governs.

 

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Social Commentary

Fenton must Go, no second chances!

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I find myself seriously questioning Madam Prime Minister’s competence with this recent decision she has made to keep former Minister of Health Dr Fenton Ferguson in the leadership of our country after the HOT MESS he has left our Health Care system in. Clearly, the PNP administration is not intent on securing another term in office by keeping Fenton in politics. It is an absolute insult to the intelligence of the Jamaican citizenry to allow a man, who has declared publicly that the lives of those premature babies who died under his leadership did not matter, to still have a hand in deciding how our country ought to be run.

If unemployment rate stands at 13.2% as of April 2015, 32% of which is Youth Unemployment, then why should we now trust this man to manage our Labour and Social Security?? Is it that Labour and Social Security is an easier task than Health Care, so it is presumed therefore that he will manage? Does Fenton possess some hidden skills in human resource management that could assist in lowering our unemployment rate? Madam Prime Minister, please enlighten us. HealthministerspeaksE201410

According to the Office of the Prime Minister, Mrs Simpson Miller made the Cabinet changes after listening “to the recent discussions and expressions of concern, some of which could have the effect of distracting from the very important focus of economic and social reforms”. Correct me if I am wrong, but is this implying that our economic program is more of a priority than the health and welfare of Jamaican citizens? And could we not infer from this that it is possible our resources have been limited in it’s distribution to the Health Ministry over the last 4-5 years, to meet the demands of this tight economic program?? just some food for thought.

Madam Prime Minister must have been privy to the rate at which our healthcare system was deteriorating over the last 4-5 years; assuming our government is as transparent as the Jamaican constitution would expect them to be. I believe these 19 babies that died as a result of the system, are just a small fraction of the thousands that have died in the last two decades due to negligence of our government. We only know of 19 because our media houses lack the capacity to keep track of every tragedy. If the parents of these deceased babies are wise, they will proceed to file a civil lawsuit against the state for their gross negligence of the Health Care in our country; which has led to death of these babies and many other before them.

For the record, I am not trying to make the Opposition party favor any more in the eyes of the Jamaican electorate, and this is not a stunt to discredit the PNP in light of the election season. Get your hopes down Mr Holness, this is not a gift to you. But I believe wrong is WRONG, and right is RIGHT; and what you have done Madam Prime Minister in allowing Fenton to stay is WRONG. Dr Ferguson ought to be dismissed from public life indefinitely, not given a second chance. If those 19 children cannot receive a second chance at life, I do not see why any mercy should be extended to him.

In light of these revelations about our system, I have to wonder: Is Jamaica on its way to manifesting its vision of becoming the place of choice to live, work, raise families and do business?? How do we pretend to be excited about living and raising our future families in a country that neglects the standard of healthcare provided to its citizenry? How do we stay optimistic in finding employment after formal education when our current economic program makes no room for a surplus to be achieved; essentially stifling the growth of our economy and keeping unemployment either static or growing? How do we participate in a political process that continues to serve the interests of the party in power and not the interests of the people at large? Sighs…

  • G.B
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