Features

Jamaica Year in Review 2008

Written by Cordella Lewis

 This year, it was the natural resilience of the Jamaican people which helped them overcome social, financial and natural disasters such as escalating crime mainly among young males,the ravages of Cash-Minus and of seasonal hurricanes.Then there were the  sparks? showers? of gold emitting out of Beijing, the achievement of a clothing designer who copped the contract for the Miss World gowns, the local Choir placing 14th (at their brand of Olympics in Austria) out of 96 countries fielding 100 entries. And precedents set for the Obama victory by a long list of home-grown Freedom Fighters -from Bogle through Garvey to Marley - are of such that a small country with a big heart can be proud.

This annual review begins with a bird’s eye view of a few anniversaries which may be worthy of note to diaspora readers.

  • Jamaica Labour Party  – one year as ruling Party
  • JAMAICA – Independence, 46 years since 1962
  • UWI    – 60 years ago, began with 33 medical students,  now 40,000 students, staff complement 5,368.    
  • DINTHILL    – 70 years
  • COK Credit Union   – 40 years
  • OLIVER   – 40 years, Samuels at Large
  • People’s National Party   – 70 years, founded in 1938, latest President 2008, The Hon. Portia Simpson Miller
  • CVM TV   – 15 years
  • GM Challenger    – 100 years as dealers in Jamaica, GM Corporation
  • VMBS  – 40 years

INFRASTRUCTURE

Among the infrastructure which excited public interest this year were the still youthful Trelawny Stadium at Green Park, the newborn Health Centre in Highgate, St. Mary, and the anxiously awaited state-of-the art National Transport Centre in Half-Way-Tree, the busy hub made even more popular by noted reggae exponent Damian Marley.
The stadium roared back into life in the late summer, when the Sports Ministry saw fit to use it as a suitable venue to stage the third leg of the welcome wagons, which showcased the new Olympic champions and related beneficiaries. The health centre provided another opportunity for political one-up-manship when certain dignitaries refused to attend the official opening, citing deletion of important names from its invitation list.
It may or may not be worthy of note that all three were constructed under the aegis of the former government body, now officially existing under the purview of the incumbent.
The transport centrepiece opened on Saturday January 12, or rather, had its ‘zinc-fence’ wraps removed for public scrutiny. The 18,500 square metre hub, structured to facilitate easy travel throughout the Corporate Area, was funded with $4.3b by the Belgian Government and worked on solely by Jamaican construction workers. It accommodates 101 buses that ply 63 routes, 17 shops, 4 kiosks and one food court – an astounding feat in the eyes of a hitherto highly inconvenienced travelling public.
History records that all was done incident free, on time and within budget.
A modern integrated management system is in place to enhance operations and provide real-time scheduling of all buses, both at entry and departure. Buses run by the Urban Transit (JUTC) are equipped with tracking devices to inform centre operators of exact location and position.
New Transport Minister Mike Henry suggested that the hub would be a template for public transport in accordance with First-world service procedures in other major towns and cities. New Prime Minister Orrette Bruce Golding prescribed for commuters a disciplinary approach in maintaining the facilities. Behaviour and conduct, he rightly suggested, should be ‘commensurate with the level of investment that has been made’.
unday Gleaner Writer Howard Campbell in an interesting article (Jan. 13) entitled The Half Way Tree That Was, attempted to show how the new ‘futuristic’ landmark has all but completed the transformation of this historic stopover site. He reminded that several spots familiar to Kingstonians of 25 years ago, such as Chang’s Emporium (the first supermarket in St. Andrew), Miami Store, Aquarius Records, Half-Way Tree Primary School and the Collector of Taxes building, are no longer there.

Other structures impacting urgent public attention included several key bridges, which had been finally dragged from their tenacious moorings by flooding from recent tropical storms. Those needing urgent disaster funding and Bailey bridge interventions included the Yallahs Fording, Harbour View and the famous Flat Bridge in the Bog Walk Gorge.

EDUCATION

Top of the Class, and 101 Citations (not Dalmatians)

The Ministry of Education (MOE) earned kudos this year, with most institutions performing well at most levels of basic, primary, secondary and tertiary learning, be they written, visual, cultural or performing arts. In tandem with the MOE, the Jamaica Cultural Development Corporation (JCDC) and the Human Employment and Resource Training (HEART) Trust maintain a creditable pool of raw talent and training. Then there are the Junior and Senior Schools Challenge Quiz, Science Quiz, Essay Competitions, Spelling Bee and the fairly new and exciting All Together Sing, showcasing secondary school choirs. These enrichment programmes, with timely sponsorship, have lifted the status of both young males in their desperate bid to become ‘rising stars’, and of all creative teachers in the system.
The Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC), which now offers over 30 subjects, and CAPE (its Advanced Level equivalent), have posited above-average exam performances. On viewing the 10th staging of the Caribbean Festival of Arts (Carifesta) in Guyana in August, one came face to face with the same unprecedented levels of success spread across the entire region. Students were gaining up to 15 subjects at Levels One, Two and Three, with popular areas being Computer Science, Accounting, Office Procedures, Sociology, Human and Social Biology, Art and Life Skills.
Teachers who contributed to the success that many migrants have enjoyed, have been rewarded with appreciative gestures for which Jamaica as a whole is grateful on their behalf. People in the Diaspora need to be reminded that many children in Caribbean schools have never owned a computer; can hardly afford books, fares and basic sustenance. Escalating crimes against children have impacted also on those not actually involved, and yet they soldier on. However, it must be acknowledged that various Alumni cells in the USA, Canada and UK do lend commendable support through their efforts.
In terms of initiatives, Top of the Class is a credit-driven project undertaken by the island’s leading newspaper to reward excellence in institutions. Therefore, the 2006-2007 awards began airing from as early as February under the baton of Managing Editor Jenni Campbell, who gave the timely reminder that ‘great things are happening’ on the education scene in Jamaica despite the odds. Her talent scouts went into the highways and byways to seek out all little people in varying attractive uniforms, ties and epaulettes, to interview, record and photograph. Many happy little faces appeared on the pages, and many expressions of hope and ambition were aired in well turned phrases delivered with confidence by children who are comfortably conversant with both English and Patois.
The wide cross-section of committed sponsors were led by Scotia Bank with 101 Citations, through a special Fund which has been making about 15 awards available per year, with 2 for excellence and 3 to cover the Counties. Support comes also from NCB, JNBS, JPS, VMBS, Paymaster and Manpower & Maintenance Services, to name a few. Most of these, and other business entities like Grace Kennedy with their innovative Birthright programme, have well-established initiatives in place.

Jamaica Teachers Union (JTA)
This historic and powerful Association made history in the summer by holding the Government to the demands made for additional salary funding. After lengthy negotiations and a threat of disruptions, a commitment was made to the tune of a hefty J$15b. One Gleaner Editorial with a certain degree of wry humour, expressed the idea that Finance Minister Shaw would soon have to be ‘rummaging around the national coffers’ to find that sum out of a shaky budget. The imagery lends a bit of hilarity to a probably explosive scenario, if the teachers assn. is anywhere as doggedly insistent as that of the nurses.
On the other foot of shoe, it has been an open secret that the young, current Minister Holness as well as a large segment of the public will be expecting a commensurate level of performance from the island’s teachers as soon as the necessary and relevant infrastructure is in place, and in the wake of this ‘rummaging’. 

Scholarships

Meanwhile, the Credit Union arm (JTACCU) issued eight awards consisting of four scholarships and four grants valued at J$470,000 to eight teachers to pursue studies variously in the faculties of Humanities & Education and Theology at both the University of the West Indies (UWI) and the Jamaica Theological Seminary (JTS). Presentations took place in Kingston in September.
Children of JTACCU employees also gained awards, one to the (newly established) University College of the Caribbean (UCC), another to Morant Bay High School. The prestigious D.C Gascoigne Scholarship named for the founder and first president went, by custom, to the applicant gaining most points.

Jamaica-Cuba Friendship Association
Many readers are unaware of the existence of a Jamaica-Cuba Friendship Association (JCFA) which currently is led by local president Lorenzo Gordon and Cuban rep. Jorge Crespo. Its mission to demonstrate solidarity and dedication was recently discussed at its Annual meeting where parents of Jamaicans studying in Cuba met to exchange deliberations.

Literacy
The Ministry of Education acknowledged and rewarded the efforts of Grade five students of Manchester and St. Elizabeth who mastered its new Grade Four Literacy Test. This initiative to present awards to students was launched in an effort to encourage underachievers to perform better, as the previous year had yielded disappointing results. Representative Laurel Brent-Harris made a moving speech exhorting the shared responsibility of the entire community, the importance of seeking experienced teachers to boost the work of those just out of training, and the setting up of appropriate programmes which could be replicated round the island.

UNIVERSITIES

In addition to well established flag bearers UWI and UTECH, the island boasts the Seventh Day Adventist-run NCU, the new Mico University College, the relatively new CCU and UCC, all in all a healthy blend to boost tertiary education. The hallmark has been one of overall excellence.

College Day
The NCU’s new annual initiative dubbed ‘tertiary exploration’ was conceptualised by its Freshman Advisement and Recruitment Dept. to sensitise prospective entrants from high schools across the island on existing options and opportunities. Visiting participants, accompanied by guidance counsellors and principals, were treated to exhibitions, tours, surprises and prizes, as well as musical presentations for which their alumni is already well known.

IMAGINE
The 2007 NCU innovative Imagine Cup team again made history in 2008 by placing third in Seoul. Their CADI (Computer Aided Distance Instruction) software connects teachers, students and related resources, in twelve languages, anywhere in the world once there is internet access

 The same four graduates, Ayson Baxter, Damion Mitchell, Imran Allie and Conroy Smith attended the Computer History Museum in Silicon Valley California to compete with five other teams in a 2-week Accelerator programme sponsored by Microsoft and BT. It brought together the brightest minds in the field of IT to help the world’s top six teams bring their projects to fruition. Jamaica was up against Thailand, Mexico, Korea, Ireland and Poland.

Feast of Lights

In the fall the institution showcased its rich musical talents (concert choir ensemble and steel orchestra) by taking its annual Feast of Lights ceremony outside of the island for the first time in 36 years. It shared stage in Florida with the New England Youth Ensemble (CUC) and New Hope Church of South Florida, in collaboration with Columbia Union College under the auspices of the Alumni chapter of South Florida. Featured guest performers included baritone Curtis Watson.
This year UTECH cemented its international reputation with stunning   performances at the Beijing world championships, thanks to its leading sportsmen Asafa Powell and Usain Bolt out of the MVP training camp located on its campus.

Commemorative 60
The UWI launched its 60th Anniversary and Alumni Week early in the year. According to fledgeling Principal Gordon Shirley, its strategic 2007-2012 year plan is aimed at strengthening its global and ‘regional nature’ through wider inter-campus exchange (of staff and students) and by its extensive research capacity to impact the Caribbean and the wider world. Bearing in mind that besides the University of the South Pacific, UWI is the only one in the world with campuses located hundreds of miles apart, and governed by several different nation states; this is no easy task. There is talk, in its early stages, of extension to the island of Haiti, thus the whole matter of expansion is therefore more commendable than surprising.
On the intra-island scene the 4th outpost aptly called Western Jamaica Campus (WJC), opened near to both the new Northcoast Highway and Sangster International Airport. It began accepting applicants at the start of the year in anticipation of its summer opening. Students from the western side of the island now have the option of access to six B.Sc. and one B.A. degree categories. The Arts degree will cover Media, Public Relations and Communications, while the Sciences will cater to Tourism Management, Hospitality and Entertainment, Management Studies in Accounting and Information Systems, as well as Banking and Finance. Student Enrichment and Community Development offerings (computer lab, concessionaire, a multi-purpose playing court and limited residential accommodation) are to cover both academic and extra-curricular aspects, while part-time components have been built into Hospitality Studies for individuals who already hold Associate degrees in that field.
UWIDITE continues to serve its Caribbean outposts from the Distance Education Centre on the Mona campus.

Distinguished Lecture 
Professor Emeritus Mark Mcwatt, former head of the English Dept at UWI   Cave Hill, was in the island as guest speaker for the Edward Baugh Distinguished Lecture Series at the Phillip Sherlock Centre for the Creative Arts, Mona, on the second weekend of October. The recipient of the 2006 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Overall Best First Book for his collection of short stories, Suspended Sentences: Fictions of Atonement, gave his views on Creative Writing and also acknowledged and showed his appreciation for the award. He also spoke on the direction contemporary writing, music and the Arts were taking in the Caribbean, being drawn out of its centre on past events and roots, towards the emergent present.
Mcwatt who had previously retired for over a year is now back to teaching   Creative Writing at the Cave Hill campus for this year, and recently signed a contract for another book of poetry to be published early next year.

Prestigious Pelican Awards
These prestigious awards founded in 1966, were given in this the institution’s 60th year to five members of their Alumni Assoc. in recognition of excellence, eminence and distinction in their chosen field – Dr. Knox Hagley for medical sciences, Prof. Franklin Knight for education and history, Hon. Dennis Laylor for development, Dr. Henry Lowe for medicinal chemistry and Dr. Muriel Lowe for pioneering work in pulmonary medicine.

Law Awards
In February, three student reps of Mona – Neil Simpson, Nadia Westcarr, Vonique Mason and coach Eulalie Greenaway – won the Lex Caribbean Regional Interviewing Client Competition, which involved teams chosen from the three law schools in the English-speaking Caribbean: the Dupuch LS in The Bahamas, the Hugh Wooding in TT, and the Norman Manley at Mona. The LCRICC, sponsored by a Caribbean commercial firm, is   patterned off the Louis M. Brown International Client Counselling Competition engaged in by 16 countries.
Graduands

At the commencement exercises later in the year, females once again out-numbered males. Of 2,000 graduands in the B.A. programme for example, 1,286 were female and 390 male. Honouree Havelock Brewster, in addressing graduands, invited them to keep their eyes fixed on the rear view mirror, but only so they can better steer ahead.

The Mico University College
Many are still unaware of the change in status, since August 2006 by an Act of Parliament, of this 173-year beacon of learning and leadership, which was a Teacher Training institution for men before going co-ed. It launched its four-year Undergrad. Degree Programme at the start of the academic year as reported in The Sunday Observer’s Career & Education feature.
Late September it hosted both its inaugural matriculation and (annual) consecration ceremony, during which the Pledge was read by its chief female matriculand holding a Bachelor of Education in double option Science.
President of the venerable institution Dr. Claude Packer, himself a past student, expressed pleasure at the limitless possibilities inherent in that   history-making transition period. He lead the charge on responsibility of performance, while Chairman Karl James lauded the increase in registration and the calibre of participants. Past Student and Principal, and Educator Emeritus Professor Errol Miller, was honoured.

Calabash
Writing Scholarships were this year awarded for fiction and poetry to help transform the region’s literary landscape. The summer workshops, held at the US State Department in Kingston, were sponsored to the tune of US$30,000 and brought success to such accomplished writers as Marlon James, who got his book deal for John Crow Devils, Tanya Shirley and Millicent Graham for their poetry manuscripts to be published in 2009.
The annual Calabash series are held at Calabash Bay in St Elizabeth and the current collection of creative work (volume 5) was appropriately dedicated to veteran workshop trainer, author, biographer, reknown Trinidadian journalist, University lecturer and mentor domiciled in Jamaica, Wayne Brown.

ROUND AND ABOUT
Tourism
The former Chairman was given the post of Director with the approval of the Opposition. Minister Bartlett had been navigating seemingly treacherous straits in the face of the obvious downturn in the American economy and a wide spread of voluntary resignations.
Artscene Publications

The DJ scenario was enriched this year in a way no one expected.
Well-known dancehall artiste Moses ‘Beenie Man ‘Davis, with new sobriquet Ras Moses
Not to be outdone, Macka Diamond (who also cast off the old sobriquet of Lady Mackerel in favour of the more precious ore) decided to launch a book colloquially titled Bun Him, a comment on hapless males who have dared to give the Jamaican woman ‘bun’.
Horses in her hair is Rachel Manley’s new tribute in the series to Grandmother ‘Mardie’ Edna, matriarch of the Manley clan.
The inimitable Easton Lee gave us Run Big Fraid, a collection of village tales. Hartley Neita, veteran journalist produced two books in the year of his passing.
And Taurus Riley who engineered the screaming headline ‘She’s Royal’ hit single, later became the spokesman for healthy cranberry juice, no doubt earning big bucks in the process. He was also named the Artist of the Year for the outstanding quality of his music at the local Reggae ‘Grammy’ Awards Ceremony.
, made his debut when he authored his first book –Untold Story – in collaboration with Milton Wray. It was launched at Devon House in July, never mind it taking 11 years to be completed.

Blackout
On Wednesday January 9, the entire island was plunged into darkness. Days later, the ‘shadow’ Minister (not by any means a minister of shadow) Mr. Dean Peart thought that was an appropriate time to publicly upbraid the regulators of the Jamaica Public Service Company Limited (JPSCo) for failure to install the systems necessary to prevent that kind of horrendous electrical outage.

First Female Scuba Diver
In just four years, the Runaway Bay HEART Academy-trained Venecia Williams moved from the kitchens of Sandals Grande Ocho Rios to becoming a dive ‘master’ at the world-famous hotel. Trained by the Water sports Dept., she not only breached a male-dominated domain but is helping in efforts to protect marine life on Jamaica’s north coast. Aiming to become a full-fledged instructor, she said her fascination with the ocean was what helped to shape that choice, and advised other young women to show determination, and improve the art of swimming.

Quadruplets

Jamaica’s first set of quadruplets made their historical appearance by Caesarean Section early in the New Year with the assistance of a team of 17 medical personnel at the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI). On January 24 the 4 girl babies, at 31 and-a-half weeks instead of the normal 36, made their presence felt where the 31 year-old mother wanted one child and the 32 year-old father had wished for two. The bashful but proud father confessed that he would have wanted a boy among them, but felt he was prepared to face the challenges with the help of family members such as his mother and his wife’s mother who were both on hand for the occasion. The couple, married for about six years, had agreed on the use of fertility drugs. However, it was not verified whether the quads were identical at that point or not, but that seemed unlikely, according to the spokesman.

Economic Partnership Agreement
Following on the historic Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) concluded by the Caribbean Forum (Cariforum) and the Dominican Republic with the EU, concerns were raised by Guyana’s President Bharrat Jagdeo about threats of tariff imposition on exports of sugar, bananas and manufactured goods. He gleaned support from the rest of the Caribbean. Caribbean Correspondent Rickey Singh noted in The Daily Observer of January 25 that issues which had been overlooked by leaders, officials or negotiators of participating governments might now have to be subjected to public review.

The Columbus LINK (The Sunday Observer Feb 10, p.11)

TO BE VERIFIED — Jamaica featured in the June 14 to September 14 World Expo in Zaragoza, Spain’s fifth largest city. Caricom countries participated with musical and cultural displays. It was hoped the EPA agreement would help to showcase the Caribbean, strengthen bilateral relations, and increase cooperation in particular in agriculture, health, heritage preservation and Spanish language instruction, according to Spanish Ambassador to Jamaica, Jesus Silva.
The noted Flamenco Dance Troupe also came to Jamaica in March, much to the delight of enthusiasts who were no doubt drawn to its graceful execution and sensuality.

The recent explosion of Spanish investments in the island has also created what the undersecretary for Latin America and the Caribbean in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Javier Sandomingo called ‘a sort of new frontier’ in the Caribbean. Lessons learned here have led to broader ties with the rest of the region, particularly Trinidad where a new embassy has been opened. Says the popular and dynamic Silva: ‘…at the end of the day, you live in a Spanish-speaking environment.’

Initiatives and Projects

In February the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) launched, at a press briefing on the U. N. Conference held in Bali, Indonesia and reported on by The Sunday Observer’s ‘Our Habitat’ (p.12), its US$400m 4-year initiative for Jamaican communities to adapt to climate change. The effort, as part of its Small Grants Programme, will target with through NGOs over a dozen coastal and agricultural sectors.

In order to help combat the evils of crime, violence and drug abuse, a new organisation calling itself JASTYLE, meaning Jamaica’s Solution to Youth Lifestyle and Empowerment, launched a broad-literacy training package in February. Geared at addressing the needs of adolescents, it covers topics such as self-esteem building, parent-child communication and sexual and reproductive health. The package helps NGOs impart awareness of experiences, skills and new concepts with the blessing of the Ministry of Health, the Early Childhood Commission, the Ministers Fraternal and the USAID.

Similarly, a campaign for Peace Month as well as a designated March 4 Peace Day were launched by the Violence Prevention Alliance (VPA) to benefit several communities, starting with a Sports Day and Peace Rally at the Spanish Town Road Depot in St. Catherine and culminating with a major march for Peace in Kingston. Residents in Tawes Pen St. Catherine held a rally at which the Police Superintendent for the parish was invited to read out the names of Most Wanted criminals, and citizens resolved to participate in efforts to curb crime which was making their lives unbearable. One resident ‘testified’ that he had left his bed one night to personally go and extract his son from a gang. He said his desperation and lack of fear paid off and urged others to be pro-active (Friday Gleaner, Feb. 8)

In the fall, the organisation Hear The Children Cry came out against several brutal acts committed against children and babies. Founder Betty-Ann Blaine was supported by wide sections of society who cited drug usage, criminal intent and even demonising as possible causes.

TRADE AND TRAVEL

Air Jamaica
The year began with widely circulated rumours that prime take-off/landing Air Jamaica slots at London’s Heathrow, and brokered by the outgoing administration, had fetched less than attractive prices. They were alleged to have fetched US$5m from Virgin Atlantic in comparison to Alitalia’s whopping 30m. Heathrow, one of the world’s most congested airport hubs, allegedly handles over 67m passengers per year on only two runways. New Minister of Transport and Works Mike Henry, recognising that the intense competition was sending up the value of the slots, ‘vehemently opposed’ the deal, a view which should perhaps have redounded to his credit. But the result of his objection, which included snubbing Virgin boss Sir Richard Branson on his arrival on the island, was that the PM relieved him of responsibility of Air J.
By February, Air J, in a calculated restructuring and redundancy exercise, had cut over 25 permanent Miami staff hours making their status part-time and salaries cut by 60%, effective in March. The ‘bombshell’ was dropped on managers, supervisors and customer service agents alike, some with 30 years of service. Chairman Shirley Williams blamed the fact that the beleaguered airline was losing US$100 m (J$7b) per year in revenue.
The local arm is represented by the NWU which expressed concern at the treatment meted out to those oversees employees whose bargaining rights agreements seemed to have been violated.
(Friday Gleaner, Feb. 8)
Irish investors Airone Ventures Ltd., after expending US$1m in start-up capital to operate an airline, were denied a licence. Both the Civil Aviation Authority and the Transport Ministry were addressing the matter.

Goodyear Ja.
After four decades in the island, first as a retailer and then a producer, the well-known tyre manufacturing company wound up its operations. Tyre production at the St. Thomas plant near Morant Bay had in fact wound down 11 years ago, at which time the company had returned to importation.

HURRICANE SEASON 2008
By mid-year, and especially following on Hurricane Gustav, Minister of Transport Henry was lauded as having done effective work on roads and bridges, including the Bog Walk Gorge and the contentious Yallahs Fording.
Most of that work was severely disrupted shortly thereafter, with much needed assistance coming from Boygues. 

Alternative Investment Schemes

Securities regulator The Financial Services Commission (FSC) in January took a more serious and decisive approach to reining in runaway trading. This was in accordance with the BOJ and acts of Parliament. Contributor Shirley-Ann Eaton sought to remind that all sectors of a free-market economy are regulated to protect the public (Jan. 13); a study done by Caribbean Policy Research Institute (CAPRI) based at UWI disclosed that investors were mostly middle-class. Schemes cited included Olint Corporation, Cash Plus, LewFam Investments and Higgins Warner, which decided to close operations in Jamaica and relocate, allegedly, to a South American country. Creditors to the Cash Plus Group for instance were deemed unlikely to recover J$16b in principal and J$23b in interest due by 2010. Although unaudited financial statements were publicised, not only were cease-and-desist orders issued in the first week of January, but also cheques handed out to investors were not honoured by leading banks involved, Scotia and NCB. With J$5.2m (more than four times the value of the properties) still outstanding on purchase of Drax Hall Estates, the Hilton Hotel and Mainland International, matters remained unresolved until April when the court ruled that the Director of Cash Plus and his brother be detained in lockup for a weekend. Police raided the director’s house in upscale Norbrook and seized equipment and computers. The J$150m sponsorship of Premier Football League disappeared. The decision by Cash Plus to change the status of clients from creditors to preference shareholders (who should be given fixed rates of return based on profits) did not help.
On September 19 clients lined up outside their Kingston offices returned home disappointed because the expected handouts did not materialise. The October court appearance was again deferred to December. Runner-up Olint, now based in the Cayman Islands, with a not-too-low profile, was raided by police. In Jamaica Olint was still awaiting the outcome of court cases, of which it won another round in July.
Meanwhile, the strong, supportive responses earlier elicited from members of the public for scheme operators, wore thin by the end of summer when the spectre of widespread loss was becoming more clearly etched on financial and emotional landscapes.

THIRD BIENNIAL DIASPORA CONFAB
Jamaica Conference Centre was the June venue for the   Jamaican confab, with closing address by Senator Dr. Ronald Robinson, Minister of State in the Min. of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade who saw the two-day event as impressive. 2010 plans include the establishment of a related ‘institute’ and a diaspora bond, to assist in financing worthwhile initiatives put forward by delegates.

SPORTING ARENA

Netball
unshine Girl, 19 year-old goal shooter Romelda Aiken was the sole player to accept a contract offered by the ‘down under’ Trans-Tasman League to four Jamaicans including the vice-captain, two centres and a goalkeeper. The offer followed on the success of the Sunshine Girls at the World Netball Championships in Auckland in November 2007when they pushed England into third place behind New Zealand and Australia, thanks to the astounding capability of Aiken. As a member of the National senior team, she had scored an amazing 252 goals in the six games played, and as the tournament’s top shooter, had impressed watchful scouts. Speaking to the decision to participate in the April-July competitions, she expressed some level of regret at having to be absent from the local Berger Super League Champions and 5-time champion Jamalco, but thought this a “good opportunity” to gain more experience among top players and improve her own game.
In April the Junior Netballers also returned from overseas participation with an unprecedented haul of 25 medals. The Sunshine Girls emerged winner of the Tri-Nation Tournament which took place in Kingston in November, first beating South Africa in the play-offs. South Africa conquered Trinidad & Tobago to qualify to face the ‘Girls’ again in the Finals. This win improved their world ranking.

Football
Capt. Horace Burrell took the reigns of the Jamaica Football Federation from Crenston Boxhill whose 2-year term saw the Reggae Boyz tumble to their lowest ever ranking by the world governing body. This they claimed was due to inactivity at international level, and poor results from games played. To attempt to reverse the slide, immediately after taking up office the ‘big’Captain hired the ‘little’ Brazilian with the ‘big’ heart for a Second Coming. Rene Simoes was to tackle the difficult job of preparing them to qualify for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. Professor Simoes had guided Jamaica to its first World Cup Finals in France in 1998. In his new role as Technical Director, his duty was also to oversee all national teams including females. His assistant to the national teams was Alfredo Montesso who had worked with him previously (1994-2000). Two other assistant coaches hired at US$180,000 each, namely Jose Montesso and Chico Santos shared special attention to goalkeepers.
imoes, hired at US$600,000 per annum touted a Game Plan in which Jamaica would be the first among 35 Caribbean teams to qualify for two (post-France) world cup finals. Motivation and inspiration for both players and fans were high on his agenda.
But friendly internationals against the likes of Costa Rica, Trinidad and Tobago, Mexico, Canada, at the National Stadium and away venues, did not bring the expected euphoria.
Jamaica lost both World Cup Qualifier opening games against Canada and Honduras, and lost again in Mexico. The climb became more difficult, and although winning the last three home games against Mexico, Honduras and Canada, it was a case of “too little too late”. Home-grown Coach Theodore Whitmore held the reins after Professor Simoes was unceremoniously relieved of his duties by the same Captain Horace Burrell who had dangled attractive ‘carrots’ before his eyes, against the better judgment of some leading lights in the football arena. If anyone thanked Mr. Boxhill for trying, it was done in deafening silence. That is the life of a football coach . Jamaica did not make it to South Africa. Jamaican John Barnes was brought in from England ahead of the Digicel Caribbean Cup in December, from which the Reggae Boyz emerged champions. Jamaica has now qualified for the Gold Cup in the USA.

Athletics

Track and Field
The 29th Olympiad of the Games in China brought Jamaica in particular and the West Indies in general to the fore by showcasing the reservoir of home-grown talent. Fastest man in the world, Usain Bolt, competing against countryman and former world record holder Asafa Powell as well as America’s world double sprint champion Tyson Gay, was the first to win gold and smash the world record in the 100m in 9.69 seconds. He went on to establish himself as the greatest Olympic sprinter of all time by winning the 200 m days later in a scorching 19.3 seconds, breaking the 19.8 record held by Donald Quarrie since 1975 and the 19.32 by American Michael Johnson in 1996 Athens. The sprint double was further consolidated when he helped the island’s male relay team capture a third gold medal in the monumental Bird’s Nest Stadium in Beijing. That feat also made him the first man in the 112 year history of the Olympics to break both records and win gold at the same meet.
Bolt and Powell were among 22 elite athletes said to have been targeted by the IAAF testing programme and tested 11 to 13 times, before and during the competition.
In mid November, the headlines blazed ‘Bolt No. 1 Again’ as he was selected Male Athlete of the Year by the IAAF in a ceremony in Monaco.

Another First for Jamaica
Amantha Albert, first female to represent the island in the equestrian discipline, and this was at the Sha Tin Racing Complex in Hong Kong instead of Beijing, due to quarantine restrictions on mainland China;
Ricardo Lynch was the lone qualifier to reach the Olympics after placing 2nd in World Cup Cycling, managed by Vaughn Phang, sponsored by the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica, and coached by German Rene Schmidt at the World Cycling Centre in Switzerland, where the 23-year-old is currently a student.
As the results blazed across the world, veteran head coach of the little known MVP Track Club based at the University of Technology (popularly known as UTECH in Papine) Glen Mills, and by extension assistant coach Stephen Francis, were pushed into the limelight and set to earn accolades. Melaine Walker, who copped gold in the Women’s 400 metre hurdles in an Olympic record of 52.64, was also coached by Francis. Dwayne Jarrett, now based at William Knibb Memorial in Falmouth, had earlier helped to condition reigning Women’s 200m champion Veronica Campbell-Brown first at the formidable factory of sprint Vere Technical, and later, Simone Facey and Aileen Bailey. Pablo McNeil and Lorna Thorpe also helped to coach Bolt as a student at Knibb.
Hall of Fame
At the beginning of the year Maurice Smith, Usain Bolt, Asafa Powell – all deservedly so, had compelling claims on the coveted 2007 Male Athlete of the Year title sponsored by the RJR Group. The Jamaica Sunday Herald noted that they all set national records, with Powell holding world record status then at 9.74. Smith was World Silver medallist at age 28 (on Sep 28), earning the decathlon silver at the Commonwealth Games over the Czech Roman Sebrle at Osaka the year before, then backing up his large score of 8,644 points by winning at the Pan Am Games and placing second in the Talence multi-event meet.

For the record, six other Jamaican athletes were inducted into the Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Athletics Association Hall of Fame at the Hilton Hotel on Friday January 25.
Bert Cameron             World Championship gold 400m at Helsinki in 1983
                                    Olympic silver medal 4x400m at Seoul in 1988
Juliet Cuthbert            Silver medals in 100m, 200m, Olympics Barcelona in
                                   1992; 4×400 relay Atlanta 1996
Devon Morris            4×400 silver medal Seoul Olympics 1988
George Kerr               BWI team, bronze medal, Olympics Rome 1960
Winthrop Graham     National record holder 47.60s in 400m hurdles
                                   Silver medallist (Barcelona) 1992 and 1996; silver
                                  4x400m at Seoul 1988; silver at Tokyo 1991;

                                  bronze at Stuttgart in 1993
Raymond Stewart     Former 100m record holder; silver at sprint relay
                                  1984 Los Angeles Olympics

Already inducted in the CAC Hall of fame in its first year were the fantastic trio Herb McKenley, George Rhoden and Arthur Wint and the late Herbert McKenley, as well as Grace Jackson , Donald Quarrie and the late statistician Richard Ashenheim.

In February Sherone Simpson powered her way to a Grand Prix victory in the women’s200m final in Sidney. The 23 year-old clocked 23.44 in what was dubbed ‘a sporting coincidence’.
Jamaicans continued to blaze trails overseas.
Former Herbert Morrison Tech’s Nickesha Anderson won the 60m for the University of Kansas as best female sprinter in the New Balance Collegiate  meet. Records blazoned on her path for Kansas included 200m bronze at the 2004 IAAF World Junior. In swimming, Shannon March and Michelle-Ann Gabbidon, who had qualified for the Coral Springs Aquacades team and the Aquatics Synchro club, arrived to take part in an Invitational meet at the National Stadium pool in Kingston in the 13-15 duets category. They were commended for well-noted improvement for the April meet. Head coach of the latter was Jamaican born Ashley Johnson.

20/20 Cricket
The widely anticipated series organised in true Stanford style gripped Caribbean fans in a wave of excitement early in the year. Aimed at unearthing and showcasing Caribbean talent in the continued search for glory, it got under way at the new stadium in Antigua. The games were played in the evenings under lights, with the final match being between Jamaica and T&T. The winning fee of US1m, was earned by T&T while Jamaica collected a half a million. Each successful team earned US$10,000 while the best player in the team got US$2,000.

ENTERTAINMENT
Billed as the biggest and best Jazz Fest ever, the 10th staging of the Air Jamaica Jazz and Blues Festival fizzled when fans realised that drawing card, the inimitable and ageless diva, Diana Ross asked not be shown on the video screens across the venue. This backfired on an adoring Jamaican crowd, and President of Turnkey Productions Walter Elmore shouldered some of the blame for what was dubbed the Diana Debacle. The line-up of divas featured Anita Baker, Jill Scott, hot local Etana and for the first time a gospel component with the sibling duo Mary Mary. Anita Baker saved the night with her exhilarating performances. The male component depended on Billy Ocean, Hugh Masekela, Taylor and Lou Gramm to do the honours.
The setting? The Aqueduct, remnant of old sugar works at Rose Hall.
David Smith, the controversial boss of OLINT, was the mysterious surprise sponsor.

The festival not only kicked the year off but also set the tone for the annual 20 year-old street carnival, complete with Jouvert and Mas Camp, all duly imported from the twin-island republic and well advanced in the process of naturalization.

Reggae Month and Awards

Reggae month was launched in February 2008 during Black History Month. Reggae “To Di World” was also did double duty as commemorative of the reggae icon Bob Marley’s 63rd anniversary of birth, with a concert at the James Bond Beach. The three-day gala opening began with feature films, documents and music videos at the Courtleigh hotel. The film festival launched at the Ranny Williams Entertainment Centre and UWI and Island Village, with ‘Africa Unite’ aired at the historic Carib Theatre in Cross Roads and drew a large and appreciative crowd from around the globe, ably represented by screen idol Danny Glover, Rita Marley of the I-threes, James Early of the Smithsonian Institute Centre for Folk life and Cultural Heritage, and led by Prime Minister Bruce Golding. Beenie Man and Junior Reid won the most awards at the IRIE FM Awards held in February. Beenie Man was nominated for five awards and he copped three, Best Dressed Male, Listeners Choice Award and Male Deejay of the Year while Junior Reid won Comeback Artiste of The Year, Reggae Ambassador of the Year, and Best Collaboration of the Year (with Mims and Baby Cham).  
The first Reggae Academy Awards ceremony took place on February 24 at the National Indoor Sports Centre. The Reggae Academy was established through the initiative of the Recording Industry Association of Jamaica, an organization made up of more 30 music companies in Jamaica and internationally.

REGGAE at the APOLLO
Reggae Grammy took place at the world famous New York venue in July right on the heels of Reggae Sunsplash. Several artistes were given the kudos they deserved, while others were granted the opportunity to showcase their talent. It was significant that Soca as a Caribbean expression of cultural extravagance was accorded due diligence. Rising star Taurus Riley was a heavy favourite.
A few more Jamaican divas either by nomination or performance, were brought into its spotlight: Etana, Macka Diamond with ‘Hula Hoop’, D’Angel, and Queen Ifrica with ‘Daddy don’t touch me there’- an obvious and timely remonstrance against incest and the sexual abuse of children.

Oliver Samuels proved once again his love of theatre and the arts in general.
A 40-year career saw him receiving well-deserved accolades for his ready wit and hilarious characterizations and ‘signature lines’ which elicit uproarious laughter from audiences in and around the diaspora. His lead role in current River BottomJamaica Observer Interview in Feb.) has taken him from December ‘07 to August ‘08. Phrases such as ‘comedic genius’ and ‘illustrious acting career’ resonate with the viewing public. In typical modest style, he credits much of his success to the talented young people who surround him and give him the necessary impetus. He likes audiences abroad, likes the idea that so many practitioners are now getting their slice of ‘the bulla cake’, and to be remembered as a good person who wanted to make people laugh. (

Caribbean Modelling and Model Search
Pulse continued its dominance on the stock market of the Caribbean Model Search. Its models have been gracing the world’s catwalks and satisfying the demands of top-flight agencies for nearly 30 years. This year, maturing Supermodel Nadine Willis started the year with a triple hit. First, there was the January launch of her first single daringly titled ‘So What?’ with help from talented music maker Grub Cooper and her brother Donald Willis. Nicknamed Gucci’s Ghetto Queen, Nadine made tracks to the cover of the prestigious Ocean Style magazine in what has been described as an ‘amazing fashion pictorial’, when she appeared nude and pregnant on the front page of the international magazine, having decided to postpone marriage and become a mother for the second time round
Running a close second is the Deweight Peters-led Saint International, which by sheer ambition and effort, has been carving its own space in the prestigious runway industry.

POLITICS

Account was taken of the ruling party’s first 100 days in office. The consensus was that Prime Minister Bruce Golding was making an attempt to live up to his campaign promises, but it remained to be seen what was the way forward, in the light of rising food and fuel prices, and imminent economic recession in the USA. The promise of job creation was not fulfilled; the incumbent had fallen into stupor and their youth support arm The Young Turks had dropped the guard.
As the year progressed, the crime rate escalated despite the appointment of a new police chief and minister of justice. Desperate and hopeful plans drafted by Rear Admiral Hardley Lewin, Colonel Trevor McMillan, assisted by Scotland Yard’s Mark Shields did not stem the tide. As year-end approached, the Hangman’s Noose was once again a reality.
In a recent vote at Gordon house the result was 2:1 in favour. While the matter waited to go to the Senate, St. Kitts and Nevis had restored hanging, and a few other countries were in the processes of re-instatement.
Road accidents and homicides made huge dents in the island’s security and safety for most of the year. On December 14, when people were looking forward to a reasonable holiday season, 14 were tragically killed when their market truck fell over a precipice en route from Portland to Kingston.

The Sunday Observer’s The Agenda of September 28 labelled the Opposition’s bid to choose a new president for their party ‘bruising’ and ‘vitriolic’. The press proceeded to analyse the ‘outcome’ as well as the future of what was seen as a surprise move, when People’s National Party (PNP) delegates from all over the island chose Portia Simpson over Peter Phillips in a tense contest at the end of August. In a matter of days she announced a not-so-new shadow cabinet. However the wide appeal and popularity that Portia Simpson Miller has to the masses did not stop tongues from wagging once again when Phillip Paulwell was seen occupying front-bench space formerly occupied by Peter Phillips, what with so many unanswered accusatory questions on the Trafigura and Cuban Light bulb affairs still hanging over his head.

Individual ministers started the year off on a negative footing in the first quarter. Karl Samuda drew objections from traditional supplier Guyana over an alleged shortage of rice when he purchased rice from the USA. Efforts had to be made to placate our Caricom neighbour and later resume trading.
Kern Spencer drew the ire of the public and the incumbent Party when it was revealed that almost J$300m had been questionably spent under his watch on the Cuban Light Bulb Project which was donated to the island. This occurred under the watch of Phillip Paulwell. Then the dark spectre of the hangman’s noose swung menacingly over both the Parliament (2 to 1) and the Senate, as a ‘unanimous conscience’ vote was sought in the fourth quarter of the year. The outcome? No unanimous decision was taken, and the Leader of the Opposition was notably absent from the debate.

Dual Citizenship
The Jamaican elections in late summer of 2007 brought into sharp focus the effect of dual citizenship on politically appointed posts and representation. Member of Parliament for West Portland Daryl Vaz was challenged by Abe Dabdoub about his right to represent while holding an American green card. As a result, Director of Elections Danville Walker who also admitted to possessing one, also cast what the Sunday Herald of Jan. 5 called ‘legal storm clouds’ over the political landscape. The rules governing US citizenship render perpetrators incapable of working for a salary as long as they reside outside of that country. In mid-April the court ruled in favour of the law, at which time Mr. Vaz made public his intentions to surrender said citizenship. The matter then arose as to whether there would be a by-election or a re-election in the constituencies concerned. Mr Walker surrendered his sensitive post for one at waterfront security.
A notable sideline was that effective January 1 the US non-immigrant visa fee went up from US$100 to US$131, ostensibly to ‘recover increasing costs of security and other enhancements to the process’. Needless to say, the US Department of State claimed the move as a legal requirement to recover such costs by collecting machine-readable fees, and has not ruled out inflation.

Diplomatic
Evadne Coye, a 33-year diplomat with posting in Brussels (Belgium, EU and foundation EPA) hailing from Spring Garden, Trelawny, entered her third year as High Commissioner to Canada with a determination to re-energise diplomatic relations between the two countries rather than ‘tread water’ and fearlessly promote her country. Her efforts to visit the provinces to seek meaningful engagement for skilled and certified workers resulted in a joint initiative to allow construction workers to participate in a Red Seal accreditation programme, before they are recruited for jobs in Canada.
The British Columbia Industrial Training Authority approved the initiative, which will take place through the island’s HEART Programme. 

Preventive Detention
The current system, which stipulates that an individual be charged within 48 hours of detention by the police, was challenged in mid-year to be increased to 60 days. The matter is being deliberated.

Obituaries

Veteran musicologist and entertainer extraordinaire Byron Lee passed on at UHWI, after he was granted national honours.
Reggae entertainer Alton Ellis died of cancer in a London hospital, shortly after performing in the island.
Former mayor of Kingston Marie Atkins breathed her last in December. Atkins, who represented the Waterhouse division as a councillor for the PNP for 30 years, was mayor of Kingston between 1989 and 2003. During that time, she served as chairman of the Kingston and St Andrew Corporation.

Honesty still alive and well
The Gleaner reported that fate tempted legal secretary Dhaima Brookes when she stumbled upon J$1m on the floor in an ATM in the Portmore Mall, St Catherine, on December 28. She explained that as she attempted to draw cash from one of the two ATMs at the plaza, the other machine was being serviced by two Guardsman armoured security personnel. After their departure, she noticed the money bag and alerted a woman who was also using the ATM, and they both rushed with it to the Waterford Police Station.

About the author

Cordella Lewis