Jamaica’s sick politics: corruption clear to see

To note that Jamaican politics is sick doesn’t take deep thought. Economists are supposed to be able to spot trends. Two events don’t mark a trend but you can start to following the line. If corruption is a downward trend in social development, then this line is pointed steeply downward. Why? Corruption and criminality.

Lloyd Smith (MP for Central St James) want straight there: he had made clear, in June, that corruption at all levels of society, including the government, made his position untenable.

Will Lloyd B good on his threats?
(Listen to his interview on Nationwide Radio.) More recently, he talked about “…several anomalies, skullduggery, and acts of corruption that took place…” in the local selection process. “What is happening here is scandalous, and I will make my overall objections.” He noted that, should the executive of the PNP fail to listen to and address his concerns, he would be prepared to go public, possibly to the detriment of the party: “If the party does not act swiftly to address this situation, then I am prepared to go public … I am prepared to go public and some of what I will go public with might be earth-shattering … because what happened here today was a travesty of democracy … . What happened here today was not democratic … The democratic process was hijacked.”

Why make it conditional, Lloyd? Surely, that’s a corrupt stance. We may get to know more, soon, because Mr. Smith decided to withdraw from the process. Who’s worried and quivering at the knees? He’s reportedly had death threats, since his statements. Police are supposedly investigating those. But, I’ve not heard of anyone investigating his corruption claims. Mr. Smith’s actions do smack of crying wolf. At best, he wanted to leverage what he claimed to know for a better personal outcome. At worst, he’s already been captured by the process.

Was Lloyd Smith baying at the Super Blood Moon?
Was Lloyd Smith baying at the Super Blood Moon?
Then, we have the case of Lydia Richards, eventually not contesting the nomination for South East St. Ann, with sitting MP and Cabinet minister, Lisa Hanna.

Lydia Smith
Lydia Smith
Ms. Richards claimed that the delegates list was corrupted, including dead people (some deceased more than five years ago) and people who had no idea they were on the delegates list. In a letter she sent to Paul Burke, she blamed him as PNP General Secretary for ‘facilitating the criminal actions that have resulted in the fraudulent voters list sent out from your office for the selection conference in our constituency’. She also alleged various forms of fraudulent practices, including removing the names of people or groups critical of the sitting MP.

Nevertheless, the selection process went ahead at the weekend, and the single candidate standing was ‘nominated’. Interestingly, the turnout was less than 50% (468 delegates out of 1000), which suggests several things: the support for the one candidate standing wasn’t that strong, or in fact the dead or ignorant couldn’t be present, for obvious reasons.

At least in this case, it seems that the allegations of corruption may be investigated, following reports that the Office of the Contractor General is probing several councillors, as well as possible misuse of public funds.

Most ordinary people in Jamaica believe that politicians work with a modified dictionary; it contains the opposite meanings of common words. So, ‘integrity’, for instance, means being devious and crooked; ‘truthfulness’ means ability to lie through one’s teeth.

If these instances are not to be proven to be vindication of such views, then business as usual, and sweeping things under the carpet, or smoothing it over in closed rooms, can’t be the order of the day. Then again, it just may be.

West Kingston Commission of Enquiry: The Bard of Stafford on stage 

Last weekend, several Jamaican high schools competed at The Little Theatre in the finals of the Jamaica Shakespeare Schools’ Championship, which was won by Campion College, for their rendition of Macbeth, one of whose highlights was the three witches as dance hall queens.

Perhaps, they need to cast their eyes on some of the runnings at the West Kingston Commission of Enquiry, which this week took on more drama and intrigue.

Is that a D’Aguilar I see before me? Commission Chair, Sir David Simmons and ‘Mr. Lloyd’ (as he was referred to by one witness) are not besties, busom buddies, or any kind of guy friends. Down with bromance. Up with bromide.

After the “gallant” Sir David hinted last week that material regarding “inappropriate” comments by Mr. D’Aguilar, about witness statements, would be reviewed and sent to the DPP to determine if Mr. D had committed any criminal act based on radio interviews, Lloydie upped the ante, like a battling toaster DJ. He wrote a scathing letter to The Gleaner, with some uncomplimentary comments about Sir David, alleging a seeming lack of impartiality, which the paper published. That publication seemed odd because the comments seemed slanderous or libelous, and Sir David noted that. ‘DJ Lloyd’ took to Twitter and said “bring it on”, after Sir David indicated he may sue. [The letter has since been removed from The Gleaner’s website, and I won’t include a screenshot of it, here.]

One thing that bewilders me about the attempts by ‘DJ LD’ to discredit the Commission is why so much time, energy and legal fees are being paid to be part of what he calls ‘kangaroo’ proceedings.

Enter ‘Lady Macbeth’. Lawyers have tasks to perform. Cross examination of witnesses seeks to test the credibility of witnesses. The problem is that in doing that, lawyers may often seem callous. So it was with Mrs. Valerie Neita-Robertson (VNR), representing the JCF, and questioning Marjorie Williams on her account of the alleged killing by police of her two sons. The witness had broken down in tears several times as she recalled the events.

Marjorie Williams reliving the killing of her sons

She’d complained at one stage that “Mi belly hurting me,” and proceedings had stopped several times to let her compose herself. It was tear-jerking to watch and hear; even one attorney seemed in tears.

But, along came ‘Lady Macbeth’, piercing eyes focused on her target, and hoping to exonerate her clients.

Not Valerie Neita-Robertson in person…but in persona?
Not Valerie Neita-Robertson in person…but in persona?

Though she poked holes in the testimony, it was notable that VNR never sought to contest that the police killed the boys, or where the incident happened–the graphic picture of a blood-stained doorway with one of the boy’s slippers wasn’t challenged as being the scene of the deaths.

She sought to establish ‘reasons’ for their being killed, such as being ‘shottas’ (slang for gunmen). But, again, she never showed evidence or claimed that guns had been fired from the boys’ home. That lack of counterclaim seemed telling. So too was Mrs. VNR’s attempt to sully the witness by alluding to the fact that she had chosen to affirm, not swear on the Bible, which is a choice. She got short shrift from Sir David on that, who almost went into a Hamlet-like soliloquy on what that did not matter. She also suggested that Ms. Williams had colluded with two soldiers to build a story of police killings.

Hamlet, a role fitting for Sir David Simmons?
Hamlet, a role fitting for Sir David Simmons?

Many people watching cannot see the role of the lawyer as distinct from displays of personal likes and dislikes for witnesses. Mrs. VNR has become the butt of much vilification, I suspect.

Comic relief. Shakespeare often adds some comic characters or scenes to add both light relief or make some serious points, using humour. Attorney Michael Williams (Tivoli Committee) unwittingly fills that role, occasionally. His junior status often gets exploited but he often stumbles but not fall. This week he had all rolling when he admitted that he had a long list of questions for a witness due to be called. His regular nemesis, Linton Gordon (JDF), looked over at Mr. Williams’ notepad and added “…and he’s still writing…” The room rolled with laughter.

Can you hear the bugle blowing? Political issues are a mere side show

Almost a week ago, most of Kingston was awash with orange.

How green is my garden? Not at all! PNP Conference in full flow
How green is my garden? Not at all! PNP Conference in full flow

The ruling PNP was having its 77th annual conference, at the National Arena. Now, my take on much of Jamaican politics is such that it makes more sense to me to have the two parties compete on the track near the Arena (perhaps, in a series of sack, or egg-and-spoon, races–nothing too complicated, you understand), or on the netball courts beside the Arena (first team to score five baskets), or just simple tug-of-war, and decide that the winner of the ‘Political Games’ should lead the country for the next five or so years.

Much as I like to think about how politics and policies can be used to affect people’s lives, my general (call it jaundiced) impression is that these are not the things on which many politicians are letting their heads weigh. Maybe, I get that impression from the kind of deliveries that I hear so often. It’s perhaps unfair to the PM to single her out, but she does have a huge lead in the (t)racing stakes. Last weekend, she silenced her critics with one withering short phrase: “Shut up!” That’s it? No 10-point manifesto? Wow! “One Portia Simpson! There’s only one Portia Simpson! One Portia Simpson…” “Champion! Champion!” music-notes

We are not yet in the habit of holding politicians to account. In keeping with much of our culture, we love to run with whatever we hear, as if it’s truth that cannot be challenged. I’m not going to run with it, so to speak, but challenge what was said; so much of it seems worth taking a closer peek. I’m just going to look at a few choice phrases and pose some questions, not even bothering to go way back in time, but just using news that has come out at about the same time, or recently:

The PM said (my emphasis): “Don’t talk to us about progress. Don’t talk to us about work. We are workers, we are performers; we get the job done.”

  • Progress? How does one explain the clear environmental degradation, as shown by the (1) constant state of decay in national infrastructure, as shown by recurrent water problems and dams that should have been repaired or replaced decades ago, or (2) a waste management system that perennially puts at risk the health of much of the capital as it goes up in flames?
  • Performers? Perhaps, we live in a ‘mummers’ play, where all is pantomime, not real. (1) At the end of the school holidays, we see and hear of schools that are unprepared for the new academic year, because they did not address known problems from previous years, and consequently put at risk those who should be taking advantage of public provision. The case of Clan Carty High School sending home 600 students this week, because of lack of furniture (much of that reportedly damaged, long ago). (2) We have a public agricultural bank that seems to have been operating as a piggy bank for officers of the institution. Wasn’t’ transparency and accountability amongst the platforms on which election-winning promises were made? Backing up a little. (3) NHT and the Outameni fiasco.
  • Get the job done? I drive on roads that are patched several times a year, and each year, when the rain comes, the thin top coating gets washed away, and the pot holes reappear like perennial plants. (Just yesterday, taking the lightly trafficked road through Benson Gully, I saw the process happening in front of my eyes, as torrential afternoon rain fell, and the marl came out of the patching and started to roll along the roadway.) I must have missed a trick, in not understanding how this represents ‘getting the job done’. Getting fleeced, repeatedly, maybe. I know from personal experience about the regular shortage of basic medical supplies. It should not have taken an audit of the regional health authorities to unearth that fact is as obvious as a gumboil.  Union representatives (BITU President, Senator Kavan Gayle) put the risks in another light: He is reported to have said that these details are important in protecting health sector workers from the anger of both the public and their patients. (1) “Some workers we represent not only fear exposure to diseases while working in these facilities without protective gear, but every day they have to face the wrath of angry patients and relatives,”(2) “Workers, such as our dedicated pharmacists, fear the threat of legal action from patients and their families from issues such as the use of outdated medicines,”.

Whatever my personal political views, I would like to think that the media, would be able to at least mount some sort of reaction; it’s not just a job for a partisan Opposition party. When the ruling party president says that the party stands on its record of performance and renews its mission to move Jamaica “forward, onward and upward” that should be a wake-up call for the scribes. Hello? Anybody at home?

In the meantime, while meaningful analysis waits its turn, we can at least enjoy the bickering and back-biting that is going on in the ruling party. It’s quite a sight. As I said, earlier, maybe the solution to political fighting is to let people really fight it out. Sell tickets. Back your winner. Blow your vuvuzelas for Lisa, or Damion, or Raymond; throw tomatoes and seat cushions for Dayton, DK, or Lloyd. Let people pay good money, to see something entertaining. Let Flow or Digicel-SportsMax fight to buy the rights for the live coverage, and give us some good knockout entertainment.

Unite for a change? (Courtesy Jamaica Observer)
Unite for a change? (Courtesy Jamaica Observer)

West Kingston Commission of Enquiry: A who fah t’ing dis?

Is the norm in the Commission of Enquiry controlled confusion? That impression comes easily because we rarely get to see in full, or nearly full, the proceedings of many official bodies. We tend to hear about what they do, see their reports, and ponder what really went on. Now, we get to see up and personal the often bumbling and ponderous nature of a lot of official work. I lost count of the number of times this week proceedings stalled at the outset because documents were not ready or each group was not looking at the same set of documents.  We had evidence that included discharge papers for a man who claimed to have been in detention for several days, yet the document showed he went in and out the same day. He was wrong? The paperwork was sloppy? All of this may reflect the normal workings of bureaucrats at all levels, who just can’t seem to get it done right. Sometimes, it’s purely trivial; other times, it could be critical. Time keeps on slipping…

For all the legal training that has gone into the many attorneys who operate in the Enquiry, it’s clear that some of them haven’t mastered that essential skill called ‘listening’. That’s usually bothersome in its own right, but becomes more so when they struggle to waste time asking about things that are already clear. Maybe, they were too busy composing complicated questions to focus on the simple pieces of information they already had in hand. That aspect took on a somewhat different tone, this week, as the Commission chair several times had to help the young, inexperienced attorney for the Tivoli Committee (Michael Williams) how to proceed or to compose questions for the witnesses. It got to the stage, by week’s end, where Sir David couldn’t resist being sardonic when asking if the lawyer appreciated what he’d done, for the n-th time.

The other feature that’s struck me was how the lawyers are somehow falling over themselves because they have lost, or never learned, the art of phrasing simple questions, or statements. In this case, it grates because it’s clear that many witnesses have the hardest time following the simplest of dialogue. Sometimes, the number of clauses and sub-clauses would lose the best trained people in language. When the chair has to ask that a question be broken down into several pieces, you know that he’s seen the danger. It’s part of that being too clever for their own good? Maybe, they should be paid retainers only if they can work in plain language. But, it also shows up that chasm that comes between (too) much learning and (too) little learning–the over-literate and the largely illiterate can only meet in the land called ‘simplicity’.

The proceedings this week were again not free from drama, most of it to do with the goings-on inside the conference room, but some of it resulting from activities outside.

When the Enquiry is over, someone should look again at the dynamics of Jamaican society that have been brought into stark view. One of them is the clear distrust and fear of the security forces, at least by this group of residents. (As I write, there’s a press report of armed police and soldiers going ‘on searches’ yesterday in Tivoli, asking about two young men whom a soldier this week suggested was killed by police during the May 2010 episodes.) But, it’s not Tivoli residents alone, because we’ve heard it and seen the cause of that fear many times. Brutality has been part of the JCF for decades, so let’s not get all Puritanical and say that it has no basis in fact that police beat people for what seems like no, or little, good reason. (If it’s any saving grace, it seems to be a problem with police forces in many countries.) Two sides of that are the tendency of police officers to act first then ask questions after, if at all. The other side is for citizens to expect to be forced to do things and to comply, often with little or no questioning. Those two things tend to reinforce each other. When your community exists in what seems like a state of siege, then it’s easy to see that warmth between the two sides if often missing.

That lack of empathy was clear when witnesses were being asked about why they did not take buses out of Tivoli. One woman (Minette Lindsay) said that rumors spread fast and residents didn’t take bus as they’d heard that people were being taken away and killed. It came again when a witness said he was ‘not from Tivoli’ because he knew that Tivoli residents were being beaten. (He was really not from there, but worked in one of the shops, ‘Top Ten’, that featured as a point of violent encounters.)

Another feature that really hit a low point this week is seeing people struggle with processes that are alien to them and intimidating, maybe, even authoritarian. Whether it’s the many people who took statements, often with specific and limited questions, the answers to which are now being used as testimony in this Enquiry. When a witness said she was not asked about an incident, or to go deeper into the details, one has to remember that some of the information gathering was simply to determine claims for property damage. So many witnesses give the impression that bureaucrats came and did their jobs. With little explanation? With little consistent procedure? Summarizing comments in Patois into an acceptable form of English? Reading that back to people who are clearly barely literate: they often signed because they were given a paper to sign, after it was read back. We can’t go back an rewind those processes, but they’ve tainted what is going on now.

Lawyers have had a field day with insinuation this week. Whether it’s Mrs. Neita-Robertson (JCF) casting aspersions on a mother who claimed she was on the road looking to help people, while her young children were indoors (with some 5-6 other adults). Or, wondering why a women went to do that while (able-bodied) men stayed indoors–ignoring the clear evidence that young/able-bodied men were being targeted by the security forces. The implication was that this was the behaviour of someone collaborating with criminals, especially as she later claimed to ‘know’ that such behaviour had happened in past police operations in Tivoli (women on the streets with bags to collect spent shells, or weapons dropped). (Her claim to direct ‘knowledge’–on top of her “I live in Jamaica” bluster) was questioned strongly by Lord Gifford (Public Defender’s Office). Some of the witnesses rebuffed this well: “My bag is for my money!”

It also came when Linton Gordon (JDF) referred to ‘Tivoli Warriors’, which Michael Williams queried as a new term ‘of art’, and the Commission chair agreed that it was new to him, too. Gordon knows his terms well, so choosing a term that clearly depicts a soldier or combatant seems less than a slip of the tongue. He never retracted the term.

Sir David, despite his association with Jamaica, not least through his wife, has struggled with the Patios this week. He got tripped up by a reference to ‘pon chart’, which to his Barbadian ear came over as ‘pine cart’, and so it became for him (made of, carrying, he’ll have to explain). He was stumped, royally (and he loves his cricket analogies) when a witness spoke of “my heart gone”…(meaning he was terrified). But, he recovered well, when a witness referred to a young girl as “she body fine” (meaning small).

The in-session ‘drama’ included testimony from a remote location, with distorted voice of ‘soldier 1’, a JDF serviceman who alleged that JCF officers killed civilians in cold blood. The testimony was not such a big bombshell, as the soldier did not see, but heard, activity then found bodies in the area from where police had gone. It also included many witnesses from Tivoli not showing up to give testimony: that caused one day to go by without any testimony and another session to end at lunchtime. The problem of getting witnesses to appear is widespread, and many have commented at the seeming ridicule that the witnesses face is one simple reason. Clearly, some have concerns, too about personal safety, and that has led to several giving testimony but not appearing on-screen.

Outside the sessions, we’ve seen and heard a war of words between Lloyd D’Aguilar (Convenor, Tivoli Committee) and the media. He got into a Twitter rant with Nationwide Radio’s Abka Fitz-Henley, concerning claims by some witnesses that statements prepared by him from their testimony did not accurately reflect what they had said. One witness even went as far as wondering if he couldn’t read and write. You can read for yourself below the Twitter exchange.

Screen Shot 2015-09-16 at 11.34.55 AM

Screen Shot 2015-09-16 at 11.35.44 AM

Anyway, the Twitter exchange moved onto a taped radio interview, with D’Aguilar again trying to clarify what he had done and how he felt about the proceedings. He went a little further, though, and referred to supporting evidence in a testimony that has yet to be heard by the Commission. That was brought to the attention of the chair, by Linton Gordon, at the end of Friday’s session, in an exchange that also included comments about the conduct of attorney, Michael Williams, on the matter of finding that a witness’ testimonies had discrepancies (suggesting William should have given back his retainer). (Williams explained to the Commission that he had thought, initially, that Gordon’s concerns were about this week’s testimony of JDF soldiers. While Williams stated he had not shown D’Aguilar, or anyone else, statements from the JDF witnesses who are to give testimony under secure conditions, he indicated that he discussed the statements, as is his duty to his client in preparing to address the witnesses.)

The Commission chair expressed his serious concern about the D’Aguilar interview, and said the Commission would seek to obtain transcripts of the two interviews done by D’Aguilar on Nationwide News Network as well as the verbatim evidence of the witnesses “about whom the comments were made”. He said the entire package would then be turned over to the office of the DPP.

Finally, some of Jamaica’s quant traits get played out nicely during the Enquiry. Take, for example, simple civilities. It’s usually the case that courts have their traditions of how witnesses and attorneys address the judge. Some of that has inevitably carried over to the Commission, given the prevalence of legal bodies that guide the proceedings. But, we also see how ordinary Jamaicans deal with people in authority. “Yes, sir” or “Yes, ma’am” are still common phrases in ordinary life. Sometimes, we get the twisting of that in quite natural ways, as when Ms. James (an elderly witness) referred to attorney Debra Martin as “darling dear”. The cameras were not on Ms. Martin’s face at the time, but I could imagine her eyes widening and her brows raising as if she’d just been addressed by her elderly aunt.

Tivoli Commission of Enquiry: The show goes on, but it’s a bit toxic

I’m not ashamed to admit my fascination with the proceedings of the West Kingston Commission of Enquiry.

We have the interplay between lawyers, some of which is tedious, and some of which verges on the ridiculous, as with the young ‘pupstart’, Michael Williams (Tivoli Committee) trying to one-up, seasoned attorney, Linton Gordon (JDF). This time, MW, got caught up with being baited as a “gallant and learned friend” and thought it would be evened out by constantly referring to LG in the same terms. After a few rounds of that, Commission Chair, Sir David Simmons, made it clear that it was juvenile and ‘we’ were getting tired of it. The poor young lawyer, filled with lots of enthusiasm but less experienced in the cut and thrust of the court room, was sent back to the ‘freshers’ room’ to clean shoes.

Sir David has been exercised a few times, already, about press coverage of the commission. This week, he was miffed, quickly, when the contents of a so-called in camera (meaning off-camera, or closed-door) session was quickly aired in the local mass media. The world got to know that three JDF officers had given statements that they had seen JCF personnel kill civilians ‘in cold blood’ and would be giving testimony to the commission soon. Sir David did not like that the closed session had been leaked, and wanted the ‘sieve’ holes to be closed, quickly.

The other interplay that fascinates me is the choice and timing of when ‘gallant and learned friends’ go for the Patois vernacular, rather than using standard English. It’s clear that many of the residents from Tivoli who have testified do not operate well in standard English. This shows up in simple ways as when certain terms that have more precise meanings are used in a different way–common in Jamaica, but a problem when one is trying to get a clear picture of what story is being told. A few examples:

  • ‘house’ to mean home (even when referring to an apartment), so ‘mi house top’ is not the roof, but the ceiling of an apartment;
  • ‘hands’ meaning everything from the shoulder down

Occasionally, an attorney will use a few words of Patois to make things clearer, but generally sticks with standard English. So, what got into Linton Gordon and made him do almost all of his cross-examination of Annette Marshall in Patois? It made them seem more like friends? It put her at ease? She certainly responded by giving a ‘show’ that had lots of vivid images of how she saw things in Tivoli: “A Prezi run t’ings.” “Mi know Dudus!” not like friends, but he helped with school fees, etc. She didn’t have to struggle with the big words lawyers like to through out, and when she talked about “Passa passa”, most in the courtroom, including Sir David, by his own admission, knew exactly what she meant. I haven’t quite figured out this strategy, but just note that it’s not consistently used. No conspiracy theory…yet.

Someone noted, and I tend to agree, that the treatment of witnesses this time round seems less abrasive than in previous sittings. I’m not sure if that reflects the content of these witnesses’ testimony, much of it to do with violent actions by the security forces that was not contradicted, but which lawyers needed to put into some more benign context. One instance related to why the JDF should have shot a motor bike (which the witness said was “not provoking” anyone), which then exploded and set fire to his car. The JDF lawyer proposed that this was not wanton, but an attempt to deal with a booby trap. The witness rejected that firmly, stating repeatedly that no other booby trappings were present, and that the bike was in the yard, off the road. Many of the witnesses also seemed better prepared to ‘deal with’ the lawyers, as when Romaine Walker at one stage said he was “no forensic pathologist”, when asked by Gordon if he knew that bullet fragments were found in one of the people he said was killed by mortar fire. I think “Boom!” is appropriate.

Romaine Walker, also gave a vivid account of ‘bombs’ falling near his home, and how he saw three people lying injured in the area where he claimed the bomb had fallen. He showed his torn pants, from that day, which he was wearing to testify. He later testified about the tail of a mortar shell that a friend had found, and later passed to the Office of the Public Defender. Questioned about why his friend hadn’t come forward with this evidence for about two years, he gave plausible reasons.

Romaine Walker, testifying how 'bombs' landed near his home
Romaine Walker, testifying how ‘bombs’ landed near his home
Some of the testimony has been harrowing, especially that of Jane McFarlane, who had left her home and came back to find it looking like “a slaughter-house” (recalling that her “mother used to do butchering”), with blood on floors, walls, and furniture. She was especially distressed because she’d reportedly been in conversation with her son by phone, and called 119 for help, only for the son to be killed after that. She said she lives with the constant dread that her call for help led to her son’s death. The pictures taken of the inside of the home, after she returned were really of a bloody stained interior, and it would hard to imagine living there after. Yet, she did, telling of how she needed to clean and wash out the home. But, what kind of people leave another person’s home that way? State or gangster, that’s inhuman!

Before that, we’d heard from Marjorie Hinds that “Something ketch mi; the bomb…It lift me up an fling me out in the road.” She woke up in Kingston Public Hospital several days later, with multiple injuries. When pictures of her injuries were shown the first time, she broke down. But, on a resumption, she made clear that she was ready to see the pictures. She claimed she could no longer work, even though a medical report stated she had no permanent injuries. Mr. Gordon tried to use that to rebut, but got well rebuffed by Ms. McFarlane.

We get some good insight into how some Tivoli residents see the running of Jamaica. Annette Marshall’s declaration that Jamaican people’s biggest problem is the politicians, both PNP and JLP, and that the politicians help support the dons, probably resonated with many. It was clear that compensation was expected, but also notable that “no amount of money can take away the pain and terror”.

By definition, much of the interplay is between attorneys and witnesses. However, some of that verges on no simple attempt to agree on facts, but attempts by lawyers to discredit witnesses. Many people expect empathy by lawyers, but that may often run counter to what needs to be established for the client. Take some of the exchanges between Ms. Valerie Neita-Robertson (JCF) and Ms. Jane McFarlane. Ms. McFarlane had left Tivoli early during the weeken on May 22, then returned to learn that several of her family had been killed and seen her house looking like a slaughterhouse. Reasonable people find it hard to understand that anyone could question the cations she took to try to ‘rescue’ some of her family. She was the one needing to decide what to do. But, that was part of Ms. Neita-Robertson’s approach. It may be effective in raising doubts about the credibility of her story, but it probably made the lawyer despised in many eyes.

We have the weekend to absorb this latest round of sessions. I need the time to detox, a little.

PM announces radical changes for Jamaican Olympic Games team

In the wild national euphoria spurred by the Jamaican athletic team’s performances in Beijing, PM Portia Simpson-Miller has announced a bold step, to both unite the nation around its politicians, but also show that not only can they talk the talk, but they can walk the walk.

She has made the bold step of suggesting that the next major international championships, slated to be the Olympic Games in Rio, will see Jamaica field a team made up of not-able legislators. She told the nation “Do not let me hear your groans and negativity that this team of bright-eyed and bushy-tailed children of the soil cannot bring back as much glory as our youths did from Beijing. It’s truly a *meddlesome*, bunch so have no fears.”

Though the press corps were stunned, the PM took no questions, as she ran off to her next training session with coach Glen Mills. “Run, Portia, run!” could be heard in the corridors of Vale Royal.

PM runs from press briefing to start another training session
PM runs from press briefing to start another training session
We’ve just received a sneak preview of the preliminary names of the likely team, together with the short biographical notes.

Team captain: Portia Simpson-Miller-running women’s 100, 200 metres, 4/100 relay (lead off leg or back straight). Always gets a fast start on her opponents, and is known to love running so much, rumour is she will go to Rio on foot. Asked if she will be copying Shelly Ann Fraser-Pryce’s hair styles, the PM was heard to utter “Green is not my colour.”

Women’s 400 metres, 4/400 relay: Lisa Hanna has shown she *has legs* to canter away from the field. Though willing to also try the 400 hurdles, Ms. Hanna has decided to listen to her captain’s wishes.

Marathon: Dr. Peter Phillips, having shown that he’s up for the long haul, and using the economy of effort, will be the sole representative in the men’s event.

Men’s 5,000/10,000 metres: A.J. Nicholson has been selected, and has already issued barbs on Twitter to Britain’s Mo Farah that “This Jamaican is ready to take on “a little joke” runner pretending to represent Great Britain!” Farah has reportedly sent back an equally barbed tweet.

110 metres hurdles: Few will doubt Omar Davies’ ability to fly over all the hurdles, and  *run with it* to gold.

400 metres, 4/400 relay: Rev Ronnie Thwaites will be the politicians’ ‘donkey man’. A natural ‘leggo beast’, who can also walk on water, and has enough divine intervention to see off the stiffest of late challenges.

*Discuss*-throwing: Damion Crawford: A *lock* on the team, says the PM. He won the national trials and tribulations, by a full head of hair. We know this man always has words to throw around.

Shot-put: Peter Bunting seems to have few rivals in this event at world level, and will take with him several international firsts as regards *putting shots*. Unlike other team members, he will go with his private physician, Dr. Carl Williams, who understands more  about *shottas* than can be written in a book.

50 km walk: The PM has decided to show bipartisanship, naming Andrew Holness for this event, given his astonishing walking ability–out of Parliament, in protest of bus price *hikes*, and through garrisons.

Javelin: In another bipartisan move, the PM named both Delroy Chuck and Everald Warmington for this event. Delroy’s selection is obvious. Everald came into the reckoning with his recent innovation for the event, being able to flip the javelin using his middle finger alone.

Long jump, triple jump: On the women’s side, Sharon Hay-Webster will double up in these events for Jamaica, though rumours are she is still being approached by the US team for its roster. For the men, Bruce Golding has been encouraged to come out of his self-imposed exile to once again lead the Jamaican effort in the *bored*jumps.

High jump: Raymond Pryce has shown that he is more than ready for this event, and the bar has not yet been put high enough for him to falter.

Warmington could revolutionise the javelin throw with his middle finger flip style
Warmington could revolutionise the javelin throw with his middle finger flip style
Team doctor: Dayton Campbell will ensure that the team is not subject to any bad drugs and will ensure that no *bad blood* tests befall the team. He will be keeping close eyes on how the ladies perform in the steamy environment that is Rio.

DNQ (did not qualify): Sadly, the PM notes that several Cabinet members will not be making the team, after a series of *false starts* in their events or nagging injuries.

  • Dr. Fenton Ferguson (still *hospitalised* and suffering joint pains from recurrent attacks of Chik-v);
  • Robert Pickersgill: a sudden attack of *water on the knee* has floored ‘Bobby’, who will be heading for treatment at Milk River Spa and Noisy River.
  • Anthony Hylton, who had hoped to be a *hub* of the team, and at least run the *Krauck and Anchor* leg of a relay, is left pondering how things went so wrong with his training after such a bright start to this career.

The JAAA top officials were unavailable for comments at the time of writing, as they were still checking out duty free items as they fly back from Beijing.

It’s unclear at this stage, if the PM would leave the running of the country in the hands of new Ambassador Extraordinary, Lord Usain Bolt.