Features

Jamaica 2004 Year in Review

Written by Phil Dinham

The paradigms within which we operate today are changing rapidly, opening immense challenges and increasingly threatening our sustained survival as a cohesive race of people. Jamaicans have two choices as we face the new year, to see our land as one of enlightening promise or one of stagnant peril. On behalf of the jamaicans.com family together we go back in time, Jamaica Year In Review 2004.

Ivan the terrible

On the evening of Friday, 10th, September, 2004. Jamaicans at home braced for one of the most powerful storms of our times. Hurricane Ivan a dangerous category 5 storm was sitting some 80- miles south east of Capital city, Kingston. The official forecast was for the eye of the storm packing upwards of 150 mph to pass directly over the island. With evacuation orders issued to almost 500,000 people in the 14 parishes of Jamaica, a state of emergency was declared by the Prime Minister.

The mood was one of fear and anxiety. The early reports of 20 foot waves crashing against the coastline was enough to get people to heed the warnings. With winds upward of 120 miles per hour Ivan’s howling winds and drenching rains battered the island throughout much of the night. By morning some folks were breathing a sigh of relief, the eye of the storm had spared Jamaica its fury while hugging the south coast but staying off land. At the end of it all, 18 Jamaicans were dead and the devastation from the storm could be seen from the hillside, river banks to the sea coast. The massive dislocation across the island continued for much of the days and weeks after the storm. The international community, friends and families abroad have since mobilised humanitarian relief along with the private sector and government of Jamaica to get things speedily up and running again.

New record in another murderous year

On the subject of Crime, It all happened in one year. The biggest year yet for Jamaicans to digest. Three hundred and sixty six days of renewed extortion racquets, domestic conflicts, robberies and armed assaults across much of the urban thoroughfare, rural plains and hilly suburbs of the island left over1200 Jamaicans murdered. This as the most wanted man in Jamaica for almost a decade, Joel Adem was arrested and warlord Oliver “bubu” Smith, leader of the famed “One Order gang” was gunned down sparking more gangster attacks. JLP councillor arrested on drug charge, isolated kidnapping deaths, Church pulpit death, buried bandit exhumed and shot multiple times. The extradition of suspected drug king pins Ramcharan and Williams signalled the criminal minds were active and continuing to distort the who we are as a people. Jamaicans of all walks of life wept, mourned, marched, cussed and prayed crime and violence away , but, it simply would not go away.

By June, the minister of security Phillips was seeking new remedies to stem the rising homicides across all parishes. St. Andrew South with 124 murders, St. Catherine North, 103; St. James, 76; St. Catherine South, 71; Clarendon, 52; and St. Andrew Central, 51, were the parishes with the highest homicide rates. Indeed the crime in St. Catherine was such that a whopping 92 per cent of Jamaicans at home and abroad in a Jamaica Gleaner online poll thought the Government should have called a state of emergency for Spanish Town and its environs.

Accounting for over 120 deaths the old capital of Spanish Town was singled out as the epicentre for violence on the island in 2004. With the court house burnt to the ground in the early part of the year, extortionist began imposing their own tax on the business men and clashes between competing gangs switched from night to broad daylight. Gun shot a fire, motorist could be seen abandoning their cars and children fleeing for cover into the lone shopping mall. Mayor of Spanish Town, Raymond Notice, appealed to the security minister and police commissioner to help curb the uprisings. The local member of parliament for St Catherine Central, Olivia “babsey” Grange, in the middle of all the terror, brought in and questioned about the origin of crime in her constituency.

The Jamaican Constabulary Force ( JCF ), while responding to the fearless death squads and drug gangs roaming the country were hard pressed by their superiors to quell the heated tensions. The provision of new equipment’s including new automobiles, new police stations, more bullet proof vests, communication systems, along with increased salaries, and the graduation of several hundred more recruits from the Police Academy, enhanced crime management capabilities of the JCF but hardly impacted the rising homicide rate. By mid year the citizens of Jamaica were searching for answers. So much so, that the appeals from families of the deceased and peoples concerned about their own security prompted the editorials of major newspapers to call for the resignation of the Commissioner of Police, Francis Forbes. The lawmen themselves have much to be concerned about, for there is every indication police officers are being challenged by the armed thugs. With 11 officers killed in the line of duty, this when compared to 14 dead in 2003. The Minister of Security answer to the runaway murder rate has been to call in foreign police.

There were minor successes for the lawmen, in the third quarter the JCF reported a decline in the murderous rampage across western Jamaica. The urban centres of the parish of St. James which ranked among the top three criminal hotspots in 2002, and 2003 had begun trending downward in the crime surveys. The parish statistics were significant, it had seen a 70 % decrease in murders over the same period the year before.

St. James Police say the success was as a result of increased police patrols following the successful implementation of a computerised data base system that helped to determine the areas most vulnerable to criminality. The new system also allowed the police of the second city of Montego Bay to publish a revised most wanted list for the western region.

The launch of new crime units to maintain order and preserve peace among commuters within the tri -city metropolitan public transportation system which encompasses Kingston, Portmore and Spanish Town as well as Montego Bay meant that some 900 police officers had to be transferred to the Transport Authority. At the beginning of the start of school in September, 2004, several hundred more police officers were for the first time deployed to schools across the island.

Changes toward a true democracy.

On the subject of Politics, A temporary row in diplomatic relations between the United States and Jamaica over the intervention in the Haitian Crisis was cause for concern during the first quarter of the year. Mr. Aristide, who had been in exile in the Central African Republic after his ouster from Haiti on Jan. 29, stayed in Jamaica at the hospitality of the Jamaican Government. This to the displeasure of the United States government who took the time to threaten Jamaica for singly taking an active responsibility in regional geopolitics.

Firmly declaring his hands in 2002, letting Jamaicans in on his honest intentions to not seek re-election at the next national polls. The Prime Minister in 2004 stopped short of saying that he would be leaving the Government and making way for a new PNP party leader and Prime Minister of Jamaica in 2005. His overture alone gave “PJay” enough time to hobnob with the Caribbean’s aristocratic elite while closing the gap toward a defining role in Caribbean politics.

A sober and pragmatic decision is now facing an important institution in Jamaican political life. Thanks to Eddie Seaga’s mid year announcement of his pending resignation at the next Jamaica Labour Party’s conference in the fall of 2004. The process of succession toward new leadership in Jamaica’s political arena is now underway. Seaga opened the gates for jockeying among prospective candidates for leadership of the party in July of 2004. The Leader of the Opposition and longest serving Jamaican parliamentarian resignation was received with mixed reactions.

Due to positive local media coverage in 2004 of this event, no Jamaican has been left out of the picture. Business men, grass roots activists of different wings of the labour party, as well as hard lined members of the Bustamante Industrial Trade Union, (BITU), have since worked hard to create the framework of collective reasoning which would steer the JLP delegates in the right direction.

Bruce Golding from the reformist wing of the party officially declared his candidacy at the Jamaica Conference Centre in Kingston on August 10, 2004. The 67 years old Pearnel Charles a senior member of the BITU, brother in law of Golding, and a member of the traditionalist wing of the party remain his only challenger. Old squabbles about the authenticity of the party’s voters list began to railroad the process as the November 6, 2004 conference was officially cancelled. It appears Golding will have to wait until 2005 to become the new president and leader of the JLP.

The delegates of the PNP in 2004 began their forward motion into deciding whom to nominate and elect as their new party leader. Frontrunner Dr. Peter Phillips and Portia Simpson Miller bolstered by national polls indicating spirited grass roots support remain formidable candidates. Dr. Phillips at 54 years a former general secretary of the PNP have attracted an impressive bunch of party insiders including Maxine Henry Wilson and Dr. Paul Robertson to run his campaign machinery. The PNP delegates will decide the new leader and Prime Minister ahead of a new national election in 2007. National surveys conducted in 2004 indicate that the 48 year old Simpson Miller continue to create waves among Jamaican women and ordinary Jamaicans whom believe she has a wonderful heart and the right temperament for the job. Other senior members of the PNP joining the race for Party Presidency are Dr. Omar Davies, Paul Burke, Robert Pickersgill and Dr. Karl Blythe. Due to Hurricane Ivan the PNP conference was also cancelled in Septemebr of 2004.

Pandemonium on Mona Campus

On the subject of Equal Rights and Justice, Any nation who has a vested interest in preserving the moral integrity and justice for all its citizens, has to first maintain it’s standard of values and attitudes at the core. Working against Jamaicans in 2004 were the post- modern liberal philosophies imported from other nations. Primarily concocted to massively improve the economic maximisation of corporate companies.

These maxims of the free trade and free market , globalisation , have served to further divide us rather than help us remain united. Profits at all cost through market competitiveness have virtually made our society into a den of insensitive special interest groups lacking in the compassionate social capital needed to resolve conflicts.

Stoutly recommending that new frameworks be employed in preserving the Constitution of the country and administering the laws of the land. Prime Minister PJ. Patterson urged Jamaicans to support his government’s initiative of rapid overhaul of the nations judiciary.

Mandatory death penalty for murder in Jamaica was abolished in July of 2004, winning a reprieve for more than 60 prisoners on death row, in a historic judgement from nine judges sitting in London. Britain’s Privy Council ruled that Jamaica’s mandatory death penalty for murder convictions was unconstitutional.

Following on, the legal fraternity in the Caribbean reacted positively to the appointment of Justice Michael de la Bastide, a former Chief Justice of Trinidad and Tobago, as president of the proposed Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).

Delroy Chuck, attorney-at-law and Opposition Spokesman on Justice, spoke highly of the integrity and personality of the former Chief Justice.

“I have no problem with the appointment of Michael de la Bastide. He is certainly an outstanding attorney, a distinguished judge and brings a lot of intellect and credibility to the process,” Mr. Chuck said in a Jamaica Gleaner interview.

Arlene Harrison-Henry, president of the Jamaican Bar Association, was equally satisfied with the appointment. “What I have seen and from what we have gathered, he seems to be an erudite gentleman and a distinguished member of the legal fraternity,” she said.

The horrific death, of a 59 year old pro- gay activist Brian Williamson, led to international appeals of outrage from gay rights organisations around the world. Jamaica’s buggery law were once again challenged in international public opinion. Soon Jamaica’s poster boy music ambassadors from the dancehall Beanie Man, Sizzla, Buju Banton among others, being singled out for the promoting of death against gays on the island.

Beenie’s world tour for his latest album was later halted in major European, United States, and Canadian cities. Sizzla on the other hand faced his toughest critics at home. In response to a rise in violence in his domicile community of August Town. The popular singer was given an ultimatum by citizens to leave his home. This after residents alleged that it was his cohort of followers in an around the neighbourhood which was causing crime to encroach upon them. By early September morning Sizzla along with his closest allies were torched out of their judgement yard home ,but, the dancehall singer would not be moved.

A group of August Town residents who had blamed Sizzla for the upsurge in violence gave the entertainer 24 hours to leave town. Sizzla, they maintained must decide “whether he is an artiste or a badman”. Sizzla’s family and friends said his opponents were the problem. “It is our people who die and our house gets burnt down and who are they… we do not hurt a strand of hair on their head” .

Her brother, she said, is not involved with gangs. On the contrary, she said, he and his colleagues were being victimised by men from “Jungle 12” – a neighbouring section of August Town. Judgement Yard – a low-income, mostly Rastafarian community located in a valley close to Papine in St. Andrew “is the last area outside the control of the Jungle 12 thugs”, Collins said.

In September, students of the University of the West Indies, Mona campus were gassed by police officers. This as 800 students of the UWI, Mona marched around the campus demanding the UWI administration to extend the October 15 deadline for students to pay their fees for the 2004/2005 academic year. Angry students padlocked the three main gates of the institution, preventing activities on the campus. The protests stopped classes and the funeral of prominent educator, Professor Gladstone Mills. His funeral’s venue was changed from the vicinity of the Mona campus to Liguanea, the protest was viewed as disgraceful by many persons in the society.

Growth for the Economy

On the subject of the Economy, B ratings by Standard and Poors, positive overview by the IMF, increases in the Net International Reserve, stable currency, growing stock market, new bauxite agreements with overseas partners, entry by Jamaica into the Caribbean Single Market Exchange(CSME). Increased remittances, more direct investments in manufacturing and real estate, lower interest rates meant a good economic year for most business men and women in Jamaica.

Tourism would sustain itself and pull through beautifully, increased rooms, increased arrivals, to increased buyers at trade shows. The Jamaican tourism product, a major industry upon which most Jamaicans continue to build their economic fortunes around was resilient in 2004. New air links and shipping routes, along with aggressive marketing campaigns by a restructured Jamaica Tourist Board, JTB, and Tourism Product Development Company ,TPDCO, were signals the GOJ’s Tourism Action Plan was successfully up and running. North American and European markets have responded as Jamaica’s hoteliers, venture capitalists, entrepreneurs and entire business community have received many happy returns and irie feeling during much of the year.

However the evidence of positive signs that the Jamaican economy had redeemed itself from darker unproductive days were short lived for some. Hurricane’s Charley and Ivan had devastating impact upon the agriculture industry.

More US bonds for sale, a dip in the Jamaican Composite at the local stock exchange triggered much anxiety. With billions of dollars needed to rebuild Jamaican after the hurricanes the commercial banks and lending agencies rallied to the cause. The Minister of Finance did not waiver in his targets of keeping the economic policies fiscally responsible.

On the down side, heavy increases in the Local energy bill, oil and gasoline at the pumps, along with increased tolls for the roadways, widening deficits in local trade balance and post hurricane price gouching triggered much inflation.

Changes in the WTO ruling in favour of the EU meant that preferential agricultural programs for African Caribbean and Pacific ,ACP, countries were again suffering from the tough economic realities of corporate sponsored globalisation. A 33% decline in the price of Caribbean sugar is going to have a significant impact upon the Lesser Developed Countries ,Caricom, single market of the future. By August morning, The Sugar Authority Of Jamaica along with local labour unions from the ACP bloc countries were once more on the defensive. Seeking alternate routes to overturn the ruling. Heavy rains associated with Hurricane Charley disrupted local food supply and forced local hoteliers to import more agricultural products from overseas during the last two quarters of the year.

In 2004, the UN human development index rated Jamaica’s capabilities at managing the strengths and weaknesses of its people as 79th of the 177 countries being monitored globally. This rating remain a setback toward determining if Jamaicans are in fact on a part to solving their most pressing problems toward future development.

Jamaica strikes Gold

In Sports, Jamaica won 5 medals at the Athens Olympics in Greece. The female sprint athletic team won 4 four of the medals of which two were gold, and two were bronze. Veronica Campbell powered to victory in the 200 metres for women. She also anchored the women 4×100 team to a long awaited historic win. Danny Mcfarlene was the toast of the Jamaican men track and field team. He placed second in the men’s 400 metres hurdles. Bronze medals were won in the female 100 metres and the women’s mile 4×400 metres relay.

Local football star Onandi Lowe was officially charged, in England, for attempting to possess crack cocaine valued at £117,000 with intent to supply. He was later granted bail when he appeared at the Wellingborough Police Station in England on the afternoon of July 14, 2004. The Reggae Boyz, were forced to play without Onandi for a good part of the season, JFF president Crenston Boxhill explained at the time that while his federation considered Lowe innocent, retaining him in the national squad would have run the risk of sending the wrong signal to Jamaica’s youth.

The Jamaican striker at 30, is charged with one count of attempting to possess 1.17kg (2.5lb) of crack cocaine with intent to supply. He was bailed and will stand trial on 14 February 2005.

Jamaica’s dream of making it to the 2006 World Cup football tournament came to an premature end on November 17, when they drew 1-1 with the United States to secure third place in the Concacaf group of five. The United States topped the group with 12 points, four more than Panama, who finished a point ahead of Jamaica. El Salvador was last with four points. The top two teams advance to the final qualifying round comprising six teams, three of which will go to Germany in 2006. The Reggae Boyz with dismal showing at the national stadium in Kingston really looked out of it from early on.

 

Winner and Loser for 2004

On the question of Winner and Loser, Contemptuous actions embedded within the PNP’s effort to dominate and control the substance of what is wrong with Jamaica may further have tainted the governments legitimacy. Whenever the GOJ attempted to point fingers at opposing political leaders whom were heavily involved in the drug trade. Three fingers was always point back at them. So superficial, handicap and irrelevant has the Minister of Security become in all this chatter about the war on crime that he is now being lost within the maize of battles in the counter culture drug war zones.

The masquerading of deportee numbers, launching of special crime squads and comparison of global crime statistics have done nothing for improving crime solving rates. Yet it was the embattled honourable gentleman who was on record within the first quarter of the year in an act of predestined cowardice, he Peter Phillips effortlessly labelled 2004 the “Bloodiest year in Jamaica”.

The PNP leader, and equally a huge problem to the malaise in local murder statistics, Prime Minister, P.J. Patterson throughout the year feverishly exploded with concerns of his own just short of echoing Phillips failures. Peter’s fellow comrades at the cabinet level and colleagues who were once some of his most ardent supporters seem to have readily lost confidence in him. Labelling him “the weakest link” would be an understatement. He is the biggest loser of 2004.

If his fellow team mates in the race for leadership remain in denial and not face the facts of the murder statistics. The PNP delegate’s romanticism with Peter David Phillips could make Jamaica’s backward moves of knee jerk prescription and band aid of the Patterson era look like joke. And in this post modern era nobody not joking with politician anymore!

Veronica Campbell
Miss Veronica Campbell became the first ever Jamaican and Caribbean woman to win an olympic sprint Gold at the 2004 Athens games. On Thursday August 25 with lots of local fans behind her Campbell captured the 200 metres. She distinguished herself from her rivals when she ran 22.05 seconds, Defeating American Allyson Felix 22.18 and Bahamian Debbie Ferguson (22.30). “My plan was just to get out there and run the race of my life, I know in the 200, in order to do well, you’ve got to run the first curve hard and that’s what I Did” Said Veronica Campbell after the race.

The result broke a run of four consecutive silver medals for the Caribbean in the woman’s 200 metres. Jamaicans Grace Jackson Small ( 1988) , Juliet Cuthbert ( 1992) and Merlene Ottey ( 1996) and Bahamian Pauline Davis Thompson in Sydney Four years ago.

 

Beloved Jamaicans who passed on in 2004

Hugh Lawson Shearer — Former Prime Minister
Sir Coxanne Dodd — Musician –Record producer
Reginald Ennis –Politician
Winston Anglin — Sportsman
Gladstone Mills — Educator
Lennox Miller — Sportsman
Clint Oneil — Reggae DeeJay and community activist
Errol “ET” Thompson — Sound Engineer

 

Outlook for 2005
Politicking will again be the order of the day. With PJ. Patterson set to retire, the delegates of the PNP could well be choosing his successor in 2005. Expect the new JLP leader Golding to be visible and direct in his bid for unseating the PNP from office. In the run for PNP leadership is the group of 6, five men and one woman. Four are members of the Cabinet. Five are children of the 1940s with one being a child of the 1950s. Dr. Phillips and Dr. Davies will probably make it to the line together, they represent neighboring constituencies. Paul Burke is the youngest of the group, the oldest of the group is Robert Pickersgill. Dr. Karl Blythe is the third oldest of the group, and has served the shortest time as minister. The lone woman in the group has walked this road before, Mrs. Simpson Miller is the second oldest of the group and the longest serving MP, she cannot be left out of the race. In 1992 Simpson Miller was the losing candidate in the paty’s presidential elections which saw P.J. Patterson become Prime Minister of Jamaica.

Crime and the PNP”s future
The security failures of the Peoples National Party (PNP) administration may seem subtle to socialites hunting more power in 2005 and beyond. But Jamaicans are outraged by the bloody holocaust of deaths and more deaths. Failures of bringing an end to the monster crime will continue to haunt all levels of the political arms of the Jamaican government to a point where knee jerk prescriptions and band aids will wear out.

In most peoples mind the rising murder rates which began surging in 1996 escalated to even more unprecedented levels in 2004. The active response from the 15 year PNP government in the wake of rising crimes show that they have been caught flatfooted and are continuously losing grip while slipping over the edge of the precipice.

Failures to manage and control crime in a professional manner is something the world human rights agencies- local human rights organisations have been trying to address in Jamaica to some minor success. Yet as the case of Janice Allen was sent to the Chief Justice government officials in 2004. Shadows of the past appear to be once again be lurking.

We are told by government apologist that failures to respond to a culture of crime in an intelligent and definitive way has been hampered by untold cases of human rights abuses by the police. Yet if you look at this governments response in targeting the origins of crime. Within the last 12 month their rhetoric was loudest when speaking about the subject of stemming the inflows of criminal deportees from overseas rather than securing the streets from the criminal minds. The evidence of which they are now unprepared to follow a study conducted by UWI professors indicating that the deportees are minimal participants in the escalating turf wars.

Whether you support this PNP government or not under their watch as much as 8,000 people have been killed in Jamaica within less than a decade. A high percentage of the persons killed have died at the hands of irresponsible shootings by law enforcement officers. This on an island which is not experiencing a civil war.

 

World track and field Championship 2005
The 2005 world track and field championship will take place in the summer at Helsinki, Finland. Although Asafa Powell had mixed feelings about the Athens, Olympics, He was­ happy to have made the final, but disappointed not to medal ­ to have medal. In 2005, his promise to Jamaicans is to break American Tim Montgomery’s world record of 9.78 seconds. “After the Olympics I just wanted to prove a point, I was the man to beat in Athens, so, I just went out there (in the Memorial Van Damme and Golden League meets) and showed the world what I had in store,” said Asafa Powell.

When asked if the Brussels Memorial Van Damme meet run justified his statement of “I am the best”, Asafa replied: “Yes, I guess everyone sees that right now­ that I am the best because I went out there and ran 9.87 after the Olympics in no wind”.

Windies get ready for World cup Cricket lovely Cricket 2007
Jamaica in 2004 won the right to host the opening ceremony for Cricket World Cup 2007. The announcement of this and the series of matches in the World Cup were made at a ceremony in Montego Bay last summer.

Sabina Park, in Kingston, Jamaica will also host the West Indies team for all its preliminary matches in the first round of the competition, as well as one of the high-profile semi-final matches. The much sought-after final match of the World Cup 2007 tournament has been awarded to Kensington Oval in Bridgetown, Barbados.

About the author

Phil Dinham