Jamaica is awash with Easter festiveness. That means partying and music and kites and bun and cheese and fish.
Most of all, it means a four-day holiday, since Good Friday though Easter Monday. I had a discussion during the week about whether Jamaica is secular. The reason for Easter is religious in the minds of Christians and Jamaica celebrates this holiday with much religious fervour–churches are full for services since Good Friday, through ‘Night Watch’ vigils, up to Easter Sunday, when Christians can again sing “Hallelujah!” That’s not what secular countries do. Anyway, let me not walk into that garden now. Let’s look at of what the bun and cheese may remind us. That’s it for the good.
Well, onto the badness. In Jamaica, we had a Budget speech from our very eloquent, hardworking, deep-thinking Finance Minister, Dr. Peter Phillips. For me, the low light had two beams. First, his move to close his budget financing gap with J$6.7 billion of tax measures. Wait a minute! Holy week! This same man had told the country in January that there would be no tax increases this year. Have we moved to another calendar? His fellow Parliamentarians, at least, should haul him back and say, “Varlet! Thou didst speakest unto the people that nary a tax penny would be added to their already heavy fiscal burden. Prithee! Doest thou not remembereth that?” The second beam is a proposal to tax banks on all withdrawals by customers. ALL! Jumping Jehozafat! Trying to sweeten this gall-laden sponge by saying the rate is likkle bit, is not the kind of vinegar given to Jesus and many people are not swallowing it. I have not heard or read or seen one major group come out in favour of this. Some have called it ‘ridiculous’ and ‘pernicious’. Fighting words. A petition against the measure is already circulating on the Internet. I see money leaving banks and what’s called disintermediation. Not what Jamaica needs. I also struggle to think what rationale is behind the measure.
Ugliness is written all over the recent developments at the Alpha Boys’ School. Minister of Youth and Culture, Lisa Hanna, essentially branded boys there as a band of uncontrollable sexual deviants. The Observer cartoonist Clovis stuck in the stilletto with a drawing of a boy escaping the school yelling “Rape!” That was really tasteless. In one fell swoop, the school that has a rich music program and has produced many of Jamaica’s famous musicians, an image was tarnished.
Beyond retrieval? The school feels damaged by all this and some of the boys too, and the Sisters of Mercy issued a statement about “untruths”, not naming anyone. The Minister, feeling that the hat fit, rebutted and said that she’d told the world (and maybe that’s the problem) what she had been told about the school by the Sisters. In a war of statements that is now on, who will walk back? Politicians don’t usually do that and rarely with speed. Maybe Alpha’s problems should never have been publicised as they were was during a press conference. Too late. A lawyer wrote to the press citing knowledge of abused boys at the school and of adults, including clergy, systematically importuning boys into inappropriate relationships. If so, I wondered why that lawyer has not sought to get police involved on behalf of the abused.