The Jamaican political life: what’s integrity got to do with it?

So, you think you want to enter local representational politics on this wonderful little island: that’s holding a public office, where you’ve been selected by the people in a certain geographical area. You are there to serve them. Now, that’s something important and you must not forget it. They may know you well, already, or they will get to know you.

Now that you’ve decided to step into public life, little about you, personally, can be shielded by notions of being a ‘private person’. You should expect your past to be scrutinized and your present will always be on view. Ideally, you’ve lived a wholesome life and all your gains have come from lawful means. 

However, if there are things in your past that might cause some to question your integrity, then it’s a good idea to clear up early any possible misunderstandings–better done before you offer yourself for selection. It looks better and is better. If you can document things, officially, to remove the questions, better still. 

Now, whatever your age, you have a past. It’s a truism to say “I was young”, but youth is not an excuse for all past deeds of dubious flavour. 

I wouldn’t worry too much about the usual childish pranks, like putting your cat’s tail in the toaster, or putting crumbs and honey in your sister’s pillowcase when you were out camping, or the time when you thought pouring orange juice into ‘Old Man Nesbit’s tractor would ‘teach him’ a thing. I would worry about the time you took things without permission that weren’t yours or your immediate family’s and got money or goods in exchange. 

Those early sexual encounters happen and hopefully they were pleasant for you and all concerned. Remember the social mores of your area, and understand that not everyone will see libertine ways as ‘normal’. If there were any offspring from these encounters make sure you know that and them, and be ready to stump up for their care, if–Heaven forbid–you had been a tad derelict, there. Do that with generosity: you had your fun, now pay for it.😊👍🏾

My personal view is that it’s good to come clean and do it early. Take away the planks along which someone may make you walk. 

I’d also check that you’ve not done things or set up your affairs in ways that will look strange when compared to policy positions you and your colleagues may espouse. Financial arrangements are especially important here. Remember, many people don’t know or understand the difference between financial ‘planning’ and ‘management’ that just help you get the maximum benefits that are your due, and ‘salting away’ suspiciously your money. Things like using ‘offshore’ accounts that give tax advantages that most cannot get often look bad. Simply put, why don’t you want to put your tax payments at the full disposal of your nation? Or, how how do you rationalize making another country or territory richer and gaining financially from that? Just think about it. Financial diversification is often good, but remember not all heads can grapple with the look and feel it. 

But, if the probing and grubbing that may come is not your cup of tea, I’d suggest you content yourself and serve the people in some other way. Stay private. 

We have few formal provisions to oblige you to take any of these precautionary steps before you enter the fray, and only a light financial reporting requirement once elected at the national level. However, you should consider stepping ahead of the crowd and not let that be your fig leaf.

So, I hope this little primer is helpful. You’re about to embark on good things and the many slings and arrows of outrageous fortune won’t be aimed at you, if you’ve followed these simple tips.


Letting the kinder, gentler side shine through in Jamaica

Almost daily, we are assaulted by stories and images of carnage on this island: from road crashes and their injuries and deaths, to killings and batterings that often defy reason in their savagery, to verbal threats between politicians. Yet, many of us know that those acts are committed by only a few, but they dominate our consciousness. The many cries for change are often met by little if any clear actions in the directions away from savagery. Yet, the possible steps are not hard, the demonstration effects could be large.

Take, for example, calmer attitudes on the roads. What have we tried? Mainly, I see, attempts to warn and punish by speed traps that cause motorists to calm their rush, at least near the traps. Some get caught and the JCF reported recently the 10s of thousands of tickets issued in operation ‘zero tolerance’. Bravo! But, we know that once past the traps, those who want to speed go ahead with that with impunity. Plans to use surveillance cameras are afoot and that may be one of those things that change the risk:reward of speeding. But, other ways exist that also improve conditions for most.

Many cities curb motor traffic at weekends. Rio closes part of its main roads along Copacabana Beach on Sundays. Result? You get bikers, walkers, joggers, vendors plying health juices, people sitting in a quieter space, enjoying the lack of competition with cars. A few weeks ago, the French Ambassador to Jamaica posted pictures on Facebook of a car-free Champs Elysees in Paris on a Sunday. Yesterday, driving away from Ottawa, I saw something similar. 

Ottawa, where parts of the highways are clised on Sundays
What prevents us from trying that in Kingston or other towns? Will? Money? Ideas? As a thought, couldn’t part of New Kingston get that treatment, say between Trafalgar Road-Knutsford Boulevard through to Emancipation Park. Traffic is already much lighter on Sundays, so limiting access to shared lanes shouldn’t cause much inconvenience. But, what a difference it could make for people to know they could stroll freely. Encourage artists to come and display their works, that could include acoustic musicians. We know vendors want to flock to crowds and we shouldn’t bar them, but with certain limitations. Many ways of doing such things have been tried; we don’t need to redesign the wheel, but we could give it a Jamaican feel. Thinking caps on!

Though logistically different, it could also be tried on a stretch of the highway leading to Montego Bay. Access to hotels and their amenities creates some challenges, but none that seem in surmountable. Thinking caps on, again! 

Let’s try it along the Kingston waterfront, as done for the Digicel 5k. What a joy it could be to stroll there, again!

These are just a few thoughts about trying things that shift our mindset. In much the same vein, the re-introduction of outdoor cinema in Kingston changes social entertainment options away from current offerings. It may not succeed, but it’s an attempt. 

We won’t become different overnight. But, we’ve let the dark side dominate too long. Let’s try things that let in our lighted side!

350 Words Or Less: Where Are We With #Zika Outbreak in #Jamaica?

Right Steps & Poui Trees

Last night I was very puzzled when I took a look at PAHO/WHO’s Zika – Epidemiological Update  for April 28, 2016. These updates are posted weekly on their website.

paho who zika alerts page with borderPAHO/WHO Epidemiological Alerts and Updates

In the section on Incidence and Trends, the April 28 Update had the following about Jamaica:

paho who update 28-4-16 jamaica borderpaho who update 28-4-16 jamaica A with border

Where exactly do we stand in terms of the Zika outbreak in Jamaica? This report seems to be saying that the outbreak here began in October 2015 (EW 39), when there was one reported suspected case. The highest number of suspected cases (162) was reported in the first week of February 2016 (EW5), with decreasing numbers of suspected cases susequently. Is this pattern agreed by the Ministry of Health (MOH)? If so, what does this mean in terms of expected incidence of zika? And if not, what does the MOH say about where we are in terms of the…

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Who makes the news?

Yesterday, I had the real pleasure to attend a ‘stakeholders launch’ of the Regional Report on the Global Media Monitoring Project (GMMP) 2015. The event was held at the wonderfully beautiful Alhambra Inn, in ‘famous’ Tucker Avenue, in Kingston–a great place for reflective thinking and discussions. The GMMP has been going on since 1995, and has moved from covering 71 to 114 countries.

About 30 people were attended, and Marcia Moriah Skevrin was the MC (‘mistress of ceremony’, I presume); Hilary Nicholson, of WMW Jamaica, walked us through the data; Judith Wedderburn (WMW Jamaica) held our discussion together. The focus was really about how genders are presented differently in media reports, and how that presentation may differ if ‘reporters’ are male or female. What we learnt was that many of our gender stereotypes are reinforced, and only modified a little if women handle the reporting.

Hilary Nicholson, energetically exploring the data.

Marcia Moriah Skevrin taking questions

Alhambra Inn: vintage, sedate, calm
What kind of gender disparities are evident? Men predominate as newsmakers and voices in the news. Women tend to be interviewed less than men (ratio of 1:4). Women are often portrayed as ‘victims’; their social status is often devoid of reference to a skill or trade or profession, ie women are likely to be referred to as ‘mother’ or ‘wife’, rather than teacher or engineer, while men tend to be referred to by titles/profession. That seems to reflect that men have had and retain the positions of control, and those require identification in media reporting. This global view is reflected in the Caribbean, and Jamaica, too, with a few slight differences; for instance, women featured much more in news in Jamaica in 2015 than in the rest of the region, and we can assume that our female PM explains much of that.

Government ministers and national politicians feature far more than other groups in news reports. That’s not surprising, to me, given that public officials are often duty bound to report on their activities, and are more accessible and seeking to ‘make’ news. But, politics and economics are also deemed more ‘newsworthy’.

Some of the disparities are subtle, while others are glaring. Women get close to ‘parity’ in news in coverage of crime and violence, though are still less featured than men (40/60 percent). Women feature proportionately least in politics and government stories (20/80 percent).

The data don’t allow one to draw conclusions about motives, but we know that ‘sex’ sells, and if the stereotypes of women get more eyes peering then it wont be set aside.

What’s also interesting is that perception matters a lot. Men and women don’t see things the same way and dont react the same way to portrayals of themselves. Oddly, perhaps, women can be as ‘bad’ at portraying themselves unfavourably.

Would things change much if the leadership in newsrooms changed? Would it change if those women in positions of national power forced or demanded more changes? We’ve not seen enough of either situation to know much, though it seems that so far it doesn’t lead to dramatic change. As Jamaica moves from having its female PM and Britain heralds its second female PM, we can look and see how they have and will change gender coverage in the news. For a start, the Jamaica Gleaner didnt waste time focusing on Theresa May’s shoe selections yesterday.
Screen Shot 2016-07-14 at 7.43.19 AMAdmittedly, this feature was not part of ‘news’, but on a ‘social’ page, but I ask you, did we get to find out if David Cameron wore Bruno Magli or Cole Haan or was a simple Church brogues man?

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