Commentary Jamaica Magazine

Jamaica 2003 Year in Review

Written by Phil Dinham

We did this back in 2000, 2001 and 2002. I am back with it in 2003.

Inclusive of Winners and Losers in Jamaican public affairs 2003 and the Future outlook for a promising New Year 2k4.

As the sun sets on the old year, the jamaicans.com family acknowledges its passing by sharing with you the year 2003 in Jamaica, as we saw it… Taking you back in time.

Rewind –in sequence

Clouded by complex questions about the destiny of communal living in Jamaica, 2003 was the year victimisation of the nations children was brought sharply into the public’s eye. From traffic accidents, execution style murders, hospital delivery mix up, child-drug smuggling ring to untold sexual abuses at state children homes. The vulnerable, weak, innocent, babe and suckling were being badly brutalised. The world did take notice, United Nations, Amnesty, Carter centre, Transparency, United States state department, Scotland yard among others featured heavily in rebuking the Jamaican government for its tardiness in bringing human rights violations to an end.

The devaluation of the dollar through much of the early days, weeks, and months continued before hitting rock bottom in the month of May. Unfortunately for many local businesses and individual citizens alike, the Jamaican dollar traded at its lowest ever to foreign counterparts, sinking to a low of near J$ 70- 1 US. The slide was later halted when the Bank of Jamaica intervened in the FX- market. The Ministry of Health (MOH) in the month of April informed Jamaicans that its blood bank systems had failed the nation. The public health crisis brought about a barrage of questions, concerns and cases regarding persons who alleged that they had become HIV-AIDS victims from the contaminated public blood supply.

By June parish council electioneering was in high gear, the disbanded Crime Management Unit (CMU), ratifying of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) without any referendum in form or action became the events that shared mixed emotions. The milestone decisions surrounding the future of the nations judicial system while being top stories in local and international media news rooms appeared to have had little effect on the psyche of the yard based people. Jamaicans for Justice, Bar Association, and Political parties wagered in on the implications of the probable judicial changes, others including the academic and business elites simply “kiss teet” and yawned.

A weak voter turnout near 40 % of the electorate on June 19, 2003, became the second lowest in Jamaica’s history. However small, the island bathed in a brighter and more optimistic shower of green. With Eddie Seaga at the helm, landslide victory for the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), meant the Peoples National Party (PNP) advantage was over in 11 parishes and the KSAC. Many welcomed the news of sweeping changes at the Parish level as a step toward greater balance in the administration of the country ahead of the 2007 General election.

Later in the month, MOH officials once again informed Jamaicans that Montego Bay was among the most progressive AIDS affected cities in the Caribbean region. According to health officials the tourist capital rate of HIV infection had been sending off alarms. This as most Jamaicans were still in denial about the dangers of the potent sexually transmitted infection.

Festive Summer

In July South African President Mbeki visited the Caribbean Community (Caricom) conference in Monetgo Bay. Usian Bolt and Jamaica’s Youth track and field team distinguished themselves as the second best in the America’s and seventh best in the world by winning two gold, three silver and three bronze at the World youth track and field meeting in Canada. Bolt ran a record breaking 20:13 in the 200 metres at the CAC youth meet in Barbados and would for the second year running captured the IAAF youth athlete of the year award.

The World Netball tournament came to Kingston and the Sunshine Girls were amazing. Beating the world at home is no easy feat, that the sunshine girls ranked 4th in the world were soon to find out. The Maureen Hall led local Nep-stars were unable to win the coveted women’s crown ,but, Jamaica finished with an historic best ever 3rd behind Australia and the new champions New Zealand. The Reggae Boyz also had a progressive year moving back to the top of the Caribbean football rankings at 47th in the FIFA world table. The Jamaican senior football team under the stewardship of local Technical Director Carl Brown had memorable victories over El Salvador, Nigeria and a Brazilian select eleven at Kingston’s National Stadium. The Boyz also had their best showing at the regions stellar Gold Cup, a second round birth however landed them a 7-0 drubbing at the Azteca against a credible Mexican team. Losses to Australia and Brazil in England by one goal and a drawn match in Johannesburg against South Africa were also recorded in 2003.

Emancipation and Independence celebrations found Jamaicans in a festive mood. Changes were made to the symbolism of the colours in the national flag. From hardship there are but the land is green and the sun shineth, the gold, green and black now means “The sun shineth; the land is green; and the people are strong and creative”.

The Boonoonous welcome for cultural icon Louise Bennett- Coverley was to make for a week of introspective reflection and thanksgiving. The first Lady of Jamaican culture was presented with various accolades including a national medal of honour for her contribution to Jamaican folklore. A successful International Rastafari Conference groundation and reasoning at the Mona campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI) would precede a huge Reggae Sumfest in Montego Bay.

Soon after, Controversy would grip the nation over calls for the removal of the “Redemption Song” statue. Located at the entrance to the year old Emancipation Park, the 4.5 million dollar monument created by sculptor Laura Facey Cooper to commemorate Jamaica’s 40 th year of independence from colonialism came in for hostile criticism from sections of the populace.

Described as vulgar and immoral, the monument featuring an 11foot nude man and 10 foot tall nude woman was commissioned by a national committee. To depict emancipated slaves washing away the vestiges of slavery while looking up to a future of freedom and prosperity. The public soon settled down when it seemed unlikely that the statue was not going to be taken away. Kingsley Thomas of the National Housing Trust (NHT) within whose portfolio the park falls stated that the statue would only be removed if the Prime Minister ordered its removal.

September worth not remembering

In late September the Prime Minister in unethical candour spurned waves of controversy of his own. At the Peoples National Party’s 65th annual conference in the National Arena, Patterson was deemed to have made disparaging comments while cheapening the image and pride of Jamaican women. In speaking of his legacy, Jamaica’s longest serving PM and his rancid chatter of how he was responsible for providing more man with “gyal” made for ridiculous frenzy across the Land. The crass statement was not only unmeritorious ,but, threaded upon vulgarity and brought the Patterson leadership once again to low levels of Jamaican political annals. The post conference press coverage saw Patterson paying much attention to the trite mishap in exchange for the historic overture of fast track plans to get the Nation ready for Republic status by March 2005. He apologised for the statement while ceasing the moment to tell everyone of his renowned respect for women.

In October rising gun violence on the streets greeted PJ Patterson’s PNP’s first year anniversary to a historic fourth term in office. With scores of police officers either dead or wounded from the new turf wars, 80 people murdered in the preceding month, the violence and carnage once again erupted taking dead aim at the resort towns of Negril, Discovery bay, and Montego bay. Amnesty International, JFJ and the JLP were swiftly on the offensive. The Minister of National Security Peter Phillips flanked by a despondent Commissioner Forbes defended from the gallery. This ignited calls from the business elite for a State of Emergency, travel advisories and black listing of Jamaica by global corporate giants would soon follow but only temporarily as the press releases and damage control officials soon ceased the moment in favour of civility. Signing anti-narcotic and anti-arms trafficking agreements with the USA, Colombia, Panama, UK, and Canada, the Security Minister appealed to the cabinet for 2 billion dollars to further the war against crime in Jamaica.

With the hope of bringing the complement of security officers to 8000, or 2.9 per thousand citizens, the recruitment and training of several hundred more security officers continued across most rural parishes. Civil litigation in favour of former KMTR package bus operator Ezroy Millwood and JLP strong man Eddie Seaga would earn these public figure’s ostensibly huge sums of dollars from tax payers and a media company respectively. Seaga would by year end find himself once again before the Courts ,but, this time on the other side of a civil litigation ruling involving cases against Former Police Chief Harper. The JLP leader was ordered to pay millions, he immediately moved to appeal to the UK based Privy Council. In the matter of libel lawsuits against Businessman “Skeng Don”, an early settlement was reached. and soon Seaga’s voice could be heard all over Jamaican radio in honourable gentlemen’s language espousing an apology to the PNP DON Man from central Jamaica.

It was also in the last quarter of the year that the Courts sort to summons Jamaican constables for alleged atrocities they committed in the past. Amidst much pandemonium Six Jamaican police officers including SSP Renato Adams were charged for the murders of the 7 young men killed in the Breaton St Catherine massacre of 2001. The lawmen were subsequently released on bail awaiting future trial for the controversial killings. The officers, if, found guilty could face life imprisonment or the death penalty. The trial starts in earnest come early January 2004.

Also in November, a Jamaican woman constable was sentenced to life imprisonment after she was found guilty of a 1999 murder of a cosmetologist from St Catherine. The presiding judge, Ray Beckford, described the murder of the young baby mother as brutal. A 12 member jury deliberated for 90 minutes before finding the 33 year old woman constable guilty. She will not be eligible for parole until she serves 35 years in prison.

G2K steals the show

With a wild throng of loyal party members frantically waving their V’s and ringing loudly their bells in celebration, the 60th Anniversary Annual conference of the Labour party in Kingston began early on the morning of November 8th, 2003. At this political gathering, with the help of the populist vote, young James Robertson and Horace Chang successfully challenged before removing incumbent senior party officers Babsy Grange and Edmund Bartlett from key top brass positions.

The extreme facelifts came amidst accusations of a rush toward consumerist spending on the part of Robertson as he was accused of playing “curry goat”—“pork barrel” electioneering while buying his way to victory. Nationally the JLP has been gaining ground while executing the mission of its core G2k technocrats. Recruiting more youthful, highly sophisticated, career politicians than their rival socialist counterpart the Patriots. The results quickly have transformed the green standard bearers into a credible political force for the first time since 1980. Bruce Golding for chairman unopposed after Audley Shaw backed down and Karl Samuda installed as the new General Secretary has signalled that change could well swell up top toward removing Papa Eddie come Conference 2004.

Haven drawn first blood, committing more economic resources to their campaigns ,and, garnering a historic national vote of confidence at the parish council level. Local political scholars were pleasantly surprised with the developments in the JLP for year 2003. The scholars welcomed the change in tide at Belmont road as a measure to the continued organisational strengths on the ground being fuelled by support from the local business community. Political Scientists however warned that the message coming from the streets was that it was way too early to tell how these changes will affect the future direction of a country which remains polarised by a hostile politically tribal culture.

The Freedom of Information’s Act being pursued by the Government of Jamaica (GOJ), gained Jamaica favourable Press Freedom rankings. Jamaica scored 3.3 points (0 being the best and 100 the worst), putting the country at number 21 in the world ahead of developed countries like the United States, Britain, France, Italy, Spain and Australia in the global press freedom rankings of 2003 issued by the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders.

The United States, which is often used as the benchmark for press freedom, received 6 points and was ranked 31st. Their was also good news for the Jamaica Stock Market, as it rebounded in the later months and weeks of the year. Making considerable gains in the month of November, the Jamaica composite by early December with the help of overwhelming super profits by ,Scotiabank -BNS, the market reached historic landmarks while recording new levels.

BNS revealed that it had made after-tax profit of $5.45 billion for the year to October 31, 2003, the highest profit ever reported by any company listed on the Jamaica Stock Exchange. The net income represented a 41 per cent jump from the $3.87 billion earned last year.

Peace Meal Christmas Work in the region of Millions were approved by the Cabinet for the 2003 yuletide season. Before long brawls and unprofessional rhetoric erupted from the chambers of the Jamaican parliament and would share in the headlines of untold terror as another mass Drive -by shooting was being felt in the Old Capital of Spanish Town. The uneasy rapid belching of gun shots fatally kill five in Jobs Lane, this on the eve of Christmas and left the central St Catherine Community in awe about what the New Year will probably mean for them. With rumours penetrating the streets that a “One Order” alliance is being pursued by Local gangs affiliated to both political parties and execution style murders on the increase. The Citizens of Jamaica at home and abroad sense that hard nosed Deportees have joined the ranks of Extortionist gangs and are moving for greater control of the country. The year 2003 could well be the point at which story came to bump, and every thing they say is everything. Or is it going to boil over? Have mercy !*

Winners and Losers for 2003

Loser- Defacto Representative of Government, Omar Davies
In 2003, the difference between the PNP and the JLP was recorded at the local polls. Most die hard socialites were turned off early in the year by what was now 14 years of promises, shameful actions, and ineptness by their representatives.

Rapid devaluation of the local currency, wholesale taxation, rising debt, layoff of public servants and knee-jerk intervention by the Bank of Jamaica in the exchange market left the island anxious and paranoid about the Minister of Finance economic policies.

The stink about Dr. Omar Davies willingness to ensure a victors medal at all cost featured among the intolerable events of 2003. The senior leader of the government and one time contender for the PNP presidency turned off everyone, including those who did not vote in the June Local Government elections. Some believe Omar in 2003 was not only clueless and complacent but worse he was showing much contempt for the people of Jamaica. The nonchalant attitude by Jamaica’s longest serving Finance Minister made him “defacto” representative and the biggest loser of the year.

Davies had confessed to fellow comrades at a political meeting in January how he was responsible for preparing the winning election budget in 2002-2003. Facing heavy criticism from all sectors of an angry society, Dr. Davies bemused the intelligence of the public with theatrics of a con artist. The unapologetic Dr. Omar Davies said every thing but nothing that would secure his credibility as a person or politician.

Jamaicans were outraged by his feeble statements, “He has shown utter contempt for me as an ordinary person listening to him ‘shooting off his mouth’ to his party members. Firstly Minister Davies needs to accept that what he did was wrong and apologise to this nation. Next he needs to retract that pay hike he allowed for himself and fellow parliamentarians. The timing is just plain wrong” said a citizen in letter to Jamaica Gleaner editor.

The Davies controversy brought about shouts of “he cannot be trusted”, “bare faced liar”, “reckless” and “contemptuous”, this by citizens and groups with considerable stake in the country.

Jamaicans were not deceived by his showmanship, the electorate was smart, they recognised the tide to be turning in a number of ways and responded with apathy at the parish polls. The Peoples National Party now forced to go back to the drawing board, without their Fresh Prince at the next national polls will have to come good when they next seek a mandate.

Performance during the next three years will be crucial. Greater professionalism, honesty and decorum is required to lead the new generation of Jamaicans. If this bunch of representatives can’t get it together, change will become unconditional. The people of Jamaica have signalled they will not be taken for granted, neither insult, lies nor injury from wounds inflicted by desperate politicians like Omar Davies will be able to stop the June flood rains of the future if they are to come.

Also among the Losers of 2003. MP’s Ernest Smith and Sharon Hay Webster.
For their emotional pleas in the House of Representatives demanding the implementation of “virginity tests” and “female inverter sterilisation” at Jamaican high schools as tools toward halting the trend of violent crimes and risqué sexual activities, our big losers of 2003, are two ill prepared, naïve and pathetic politicians.

In the heat of an already over charged- explosive summer, back bench junior Health Minister and two time Member of Parliament Sharon Hay Webster and new comer Labour party MP, Ernest Smith, almost provoked the public to wrath. People from every corner of Jamaican society were startled by Jamaica’s intellectual elite failure to come up with rational, coherent, and positive problem solving measures in these post- modern times. “How can a virginity test stop the sexually active from having a natural sexual appetite?” “What of the laws of the country, wouldn’t the state be intruding on its citizens lives unlawfully?” “Who or what gives the politician the right to prevent young women from giving birth in teenage years?”.

Soon after the pronouncements of new radical measures to combat rising STI’s and Socio-cultural pitfalls of crime and violence , call in programs became inundated with questions about the quality of leadership which Jamaica now has in place to manage the nation through its current crisis. Outcry of backwardness, stupidity, and dunce, poured into newsrooms and call-in programs of every station.

Parliamentarians on both sides of the house moved swiftly to disassociate themselves from the unfortunate policy proposals. Others referred to the suggestions as simply alarmist paranoia from liberal politicians whom remain hypersensitive while under pressure to perform in a country which has already have a puzzling and indiscriminate history.

Winners- Trudy Mcleary, Jamaica’s 2003 “Children’s Own” Spelling Bee Champion.
Trudy Mcleary made all Jamaicans proud in June, when she placed third (3rd) in the annual Scripps Howard Spelling Bee competition in Washington D.C.

Of the 251 spellers who entered the 76th annual two-day competition, Miss Mcleary was the only international contestant in the final 10 of competitive action. Sai R. Gunturi of Dallas, Texas, USA was the eventual champion.

The 14-year-old student of Ardenne High School exited the competition when she had failed to spell the word ‘APLUSTRE’ correctly.

“I really, really wanted to win just to make Jamaica really proud, but I think third is good,” Trudy said in an interview with the Jamaica Gleaner, her sponsor to the event. “I guess the pronunciation by the spell master was fine, but I just didn’t know the word,” she added.

This is the fourth consecutive year that The Gleaner has sponsored the Jamaican champion at the Scripps Howard Spelling Bee competition, an indication of the company’s commitment to education of Jamaica’s children.

Incidentally if you still wondering, ‘APLUSTRE’ means the curved ornamented stern of an ancient Greek or Roman ship. Go figure…

Winner Hands Down : Jamaica’s Deejay of the Year 2k3 – Sean Paul Henriques

Sean Pauls long ride on the international charts began in 2002, yet at the end of 2003 he is still holding on, having copped some important Reggae titles.

Sean Paul’s track “Get Busy” did just that for much of the year, keeping Jamaica’s Flag flying high, Sean Paul remained Jamaica’s single biggest export in 2003. An overload of requests on cable channels MTV, BET, VH1, Front Page footage on Vibe, Source, Skywriting magazine led to multiple awards for Mr. Dutty X.

Unit sales for the week of March 22, 2003 placed “Get Busy” and Jamaican dancehall music at number 10 across all genres. According to Billboard’s 100 Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks, Sean Paul stayed ahead of the pace in 2003. His album “Dutty Rock” was #13 on the Billboard top 200 albums for the week of March 22, 2003. The album during that same week had its biggest sales gains on the Billboard charts.

It was February 24, 2003, The Record Industry Association of America (RIAA) certified “Dutty Rock” as a gold album. The RIAA awards gold certifications exclusively to album sales that exceed 500,000 units. To have a better understanding of Sean Paul’s achievement. Dutty Rock was released on November 12, 2002 and was certified in three months.

He told VH1 about his creative exploits “It’s mainly a party song. It’s not all about smoking weed. It’s more like what I do when I’m in a party environment, looking at the ladies passing, realising which one is sexy, which one is going to catch my flow. Realising that I got my dough, let’s bust some Moet. That song is about what I do in a club.” Says Sean Paul

****Notably in August 2k3 Sean Paul’s dutty high octane eXplicit onstage presentation at Reggae Sumfest landed him a summons and later court appearance. He was fined by the judge ( J$2000, US 34) for breaking the civil town and community code of conduct act and was forced to apologise to his beloved Jamaican people for using obscene language to over hype his onstage performance. In late August his Video for “Get Busy” was also nominated for 2 MTV Video Music Awards for “Best Dance Video” and “Best New Artist”. It was also in this month that Sean Paul hit the Top 40 again, this time while appearing in Beyoncé Knowles top charter “Baby Boy”.

In October Sean Paul Dutty Rock (VP/Atlantic) outclassed Beenie Man – Tropical Storm (Virgin), Buju Banton – Friends For Life (VP/Atlantic), Elephant Man – Higher Level (Greensleeves), Wayne Wonder – No Holding Back (VP/Atlantic) allowing him to win the Reggae category of the Source Awards.

Vibe magazine also recognised Sean’s light with three nominations for Beats, Style, Flavor in their music awards. Sean Paul performed LIVE at the years American Music Awards and was also nominated for Favourite Rap/Hip-Hop Male Artist and Favourite Rap/Hip-Hop Album. Best New Artist across all genres in the 2003 Grammy nominations along with the nominations in the reggae category has already consolidated Sean’s position for the closing year into 2004. If he in fact wins any of his Grammy nominations, come February Sean Paul will quickly join a short list of most successful Jamaican music acts in the post modern era of Reggae’s jog through the world.

In Memory of Great Jamaicans who have passed on , may their souls Rest In Peace.

  • Hector Wynter
  • Herman Ricketts
  • Pauline Gray
  • Marcia Davidson
  • Sam Mahfood
  • Ted Dwyer
  • Tyndale Biscoe
  • Louise Fraser Bennett

Winning Jamaican Companies of 2003

  • Supreme Ventures
  • Bank of Nova Scotia- Jamaica limited
  • Mega Mart
  • Round Hill Villas and Resort
  • Walkerswood co-operative food project in St. Ann

Big Corporate Losers of 2003

  • Air Jamaica
  • Jamaica Public Service
  • CVM TV-Hot 102 FM
  • Mcdonalds- Jamaica limited
  • Caribbean Equity Partners

People to watch in 2004

  • Dr. Peter Phillips
  • Edward Seaga
  • Bruce Golding
  • James Robertson
  • Portia Simpson Miller
  • Richard Bernal
  • BOJ Govenor Latibeaudiere
  • Paul Robertson
  • Carl Brown
  • Merlene Ottey
  • Paul Pennicook
  • Aloum Assamba
  • Butch Stewart
  • Herro Blair
  • GG- Howard Cook
  • Public Defender-Howard Hamilton
  • Delano Franklin
  • Commissioner Francis Forbes

Jamaica Futures Outlook
In 2004 World Cup Germany 2006 qualifications begin for the Reggae Boyz. Jamaica’s Olympic team will also take part in their 16th Summer Olympic games, come this June – July in Athens Greece. At the last Olympics in Sydney, Australia; tiny Jamaica with a population of just a tad under 2.7 million won 4 silver , 3 bronze medals to be rated as the fifth best performing sporting team represented at those games. Athens could be Jamaica’s biggest showing yet, the track and field team otherwise called the worlds “Sprint factory” could in fact pull off their biggest showing since Helsinki. All of Jamaica’s relay teams including the Mile- 4×400 Metres- men and women, as well as the two 4×100 Metres quartet are highly ranked. Over the past three years Jamaica has gain much recognition for its talented exploits on the track and most expect 2004 to be a golden medal feast for the island as it beats the entire world to the finishing line.

Politically speaking the Jamaica Labour Party conference in the fall of 2004 should also be a watershed national event, this as front runners for Party Presidential succession should make their hands be known. Charles, Golding, Henry, Smith and Shaw expected to be firmly in the runnings. Young James Robertson could well push the doors open even further with a challenge to Old man Seaga on the conference floor.

The anticipated opening of new Hotels and new flight gateways in the winter season of 2005 should steal the more progressive headlines. Currently on the way, the construction of a 400 room RUI Spanish resort in Bloody bay Negril, over 350 room Sandals resort at White House on the south coast of Westmoreland, Over 900 rooms at Pear Tree Bay North near Discovery bay, ST ANN, and the 400 room expansion of Sunset Beach resort, Montego Bay. Additionally, the renovation of landmark attractions and the opening of Houston , Manchester, and San Diego routes will bring more visitors and jobs to the island of one loving people. More extra judicial deportations in 2004 will also keep the criminal underworld visible on the island of Jamaica. Well over 20,000 deportations from North America and Europe alone in less than a decade continues to lurk in the shadows as possibly the most difficult challenge of all, that of containing crime and violence. Further devaluation of the $ J dollar and failure of Government to forward a working Budget without levying more taxes will also feature as stories we could all do without hearing in this new year.

On behalf of the team players and caste members here at Jamaicans.com, All the best for a pleasant, productive and successful year 2004. It Doesn’t get any better than this….can yuh hear me now!

 

I am the NEWSboY, for the Good Morning news Team. If you have comments or questions hit me up at [email protected] .

About the author

Phil Dinham