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News and Views by Dionne Jackson Miller

pointed commentary on current affairs in Jamaica and the Caribbean

Month

July 2012

The JPS Case – Summary and Analysis

 

photo by DJ Miller

Dennis Meadows et al v Attorney General of Jamaica, Jamaica Public Service and Office of Utilities Regulation  (before Sykes J.)

Summary: The Court ruled that whereas the license granted to the Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS) is valid, the term of the license which grants it exclusive rights to transmit electricity is not valid. The Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) did not act unlawfully in the matter.

Issues: statutory interpretation,  Pepper v Hart, exclusive license,  “always speaking” statutes

Analysis

There has been much jubilation over the Supreme Court decision in this case. In my view, such celebration is premature. My conclusion is entirely apart from the fact that this case is almost certainly going to be appealed,

What the court said was that as the statute now stands, the Minister does not have the power to grant an exclusive license which will prevent other applications from being considered.

The court specifically points out two ways in which this problem (if it is seen as such) can be overcome.

  • The court says that although the government may indeed have a policy of preferring single licensees, the Minister must still consider other applications, and then make a decision on those applications in accordance with policy. The court says that since the Act allows the Minister to grant more than one license, other applicants have a legitimate expectation that their applications will be genuinely considered. In other words, the Minister can grant a license to one applicant, and may have a policy that only single licenses will be granted. However, the Minister must still genuinely consider any other applications that may be submitted.
  • The other solution for the government would be to amend the relevant statute, that is the Electric Lighting Act, to give the Minister the power to implement the government policy of having single licensees, that is, give him the power in law to grant exclusive licenses.

Therefore, I would argue, no matter what the higher courts may decide that the law states, the critical issue here is going to be whether the government decides to stick with its current policy or whether it wishes to change tack. If it does wish to maintain its policy of a single licensee, then it simply has to make the changes alluded to in the judgment and proceed.

It may indeed be that the government decides to use this case as an opportunity to change its policy, but we should await that decision before breaking out the champagne.

 

Photo by DJ Miller

Facts:

The claimants sought the following declarations from the Supreme Court:

1. That the 20-year all-island exclusive electricity license granted by the Mining and Energy Minister to JPS under section 3 of the Electric Lighting Act on 30th March 2001 is illegal, null and void and of no effect. The license was extended for an additional seven years.

2. That the JPS is therefore operating without a license as required by law;

3. Alternatively, that section 3 of the Act does not empower the Minister to disenfranchise the prospective right of any person to apply for a license to transmit electricity whether for personal, public or commercial purposes;

4. That the grant of an exclusive right to JPS on the recommendation of the OUR constitutes an unlawful fetter on the discretion of the Minister and subsequent Ministers in granting a license to transmit electricity under section 3 of the Act and/or conduct the business of the transmission of electricity;

5. That the OUR acted unlawfully in recommending the grant of an exclusive license by the Minister;

6. That the all-island license is contrary to the provisions and spirit of the Fair Competition Act.

Decision

The Court refused the 1st, 2nd, 4th and 5th declarations, and the 6th was not pursued. The significance of the judgment lies in the Court’s decision to grant the 3rd  declaration, that the Minister did not have the power to grant an exclusive license.

The License

The license gave JPS an exclusive right for the first three years of the license to develop new generating capacity,  and the exclusive right for the duration of the license to transmit, distribute and supply electricity. The license was granted on 30th March 2001 for a 20-year period and extended for an additional seven years.

Statutory Interpretation

The case hinged on the interpretation of the relevant provisions of the Electric Lighting Act, an 1890 statute.

Sykes J. summarised the principles of statutory interpretation, that is the rules which govern how legislation is interpreted, which have been known as the literal rule, golden rule and mischief rule.

He stated that context has become an important aspect of statutory interpretation.

“…as time has gone on it has come to be recognized that the process of interpretation of statutes is more nuanced than previously acknowledged. Language, we now know, only becomes better understood if the context is known.

“It used to be that before the court could look at the context to interpret a statute, there had to be some ambiguity. This has now gone by the way.”

Another principle is that a statute is “always speaking” meaning that courts must interpret and apply a statute to the world as it exists today, and that it must be interpreted in the light of the legal system as it exists today. Sykes J. stated that the court expressly adopted the “always speaking” principle, although admitting to some potential problems.

“Admittedly the always-speaking principle is open to the accusation that it is a surreptitious method of judicial updating of legislation which has not been amended by the legislature. This court will acknowledge that there is always that danger but that should not deter the courts from applying old statutes to new circumstances that were not in the minds of the legislators provided that words can reasonably accommodate the new circumstances. Where this can be done without altering the substance of the legislation then the courts should do this even at the risk of being accused of amending the statute.”

 “This court expressly adopts the always-speaking principle. This court sees no reason why in the twenty first century we should be shackled by what the legislators in 1890 thought. Social and economic considerations have changed considerably. Jamaica was a colony at that time but is now an independent country with a growing population which means an increasing demand for the supply of electricity. The priority of a colonial government in the nineteenth century may not be the priority of a democratically elected government under universal adult suffrage in the 21st century.  In 1890 the Governor was obliged to govern in the interest of the United Kingdom. In 2012, the government is elected by Jamaicans to govern in the interest of Jamaicans.”

The Electric Lighting Act

The judge said that it is important to say what section 3 of the Electric Lighting Act does not say.

“It does not say that one person cannot be granted an all-island license. Neither does the Act say that the Minister must grant multiple licenses to a multiplicity of persons. Also the Minister is not prevented from granting more than one all-island license. Indeed the Act could hardly have said any of these things because the Minister cannot know how many applicants there will be.

“The section permits the Minister to grant licenses to a person to supply electricity within any area. On the face of it, persons and companies can receive licenses for any area. There is nothing to say that the areas cannot be contiguous to each other.”

The Meaning of “Area”

There were submissions as to whether the Minister had the power to grant an all-island license as the Act speaks to the Minister being able to grant a license “within any area.” The claimants argued that area meant something less than the whole and therefore an island-wide license could not be granted. But Sykes J. did not accept this submission and ruled that:

“…section 3 gives the Minister a discretion to grant to one person an all-island license for generating distributing and supply electricity. The section also permits the Minister to grant more than one all-island license to generate, transmit and supply electricity. The Minister may also grant more than one license for a part of the island. In the 21st century there is no compelling reason to interpret area to mean only something less than the whole.”

Can the Minister grant an exclusive license?

The Act allows the Minister to grant licenses, and to impose regulations on the license. The court said that since the statute allows for multiple providers of electricity, anyone who wishes to do so should be able to apply for a license.

“If this is so, then it means the Minister needs to hear and consider that application even if he has a stated policy on the matter. He is free to declare the application in accordance with the policy but that policy should not be so inflexible that it prevents applicants from having their applications genuinely considered.

“It is one thing to say that a decision will be made in accordance with a policy but it is quite another to grant a license to a previous applicant in terms which effectively guarantee that no other application will be considered regardless of its merits.

“The statute does not give the power to the Minister to grant a license on terms which effectively bar any other applicant from being considered. This, in the opinion of this court, is the problem with the current license to JPS. The Minister has committed himself and his successors to a situation in which there is no possibility of change for the required twenty years (which has been extended) even if technology or a new company has a better and cheaper way of of doing some of what JPS is now doing.”

The judge noted that the sequence of events demonstrates the “dangers of the Minister’s approach” noting that an initial 20-year license was extended for another seven years. If that approach was correct, the court asked, what would prevent the Minister from granting a 100-year or 200-year exclusive license?

The court said that since the Act contemplated that applicants have a legitimate expectation that their applications would be genuinely considered

“The legitimate expectation arises from the words of the statute. They have the right to apply. To have the right to apply without a further right to have it genuinely considered would be meaningless.”

The court said, therefore, that while the Minister may have a policy regarding granting licenses, and then after hearing an applicant,  declines to grant a license in light of the policy, this will not be wrong once the Minister has exercised an “honest and bona fide exercise of discretion.”

What is not permissible, is adopting a position which would result in other applicants not being considered at all.

The court noted that JPS stressed the significance of its investment in the provisions of electricity but said that:

 “…as important as economic considerations are, the rule of law is even more important. Since we are developing a society based on the rule of law then the law must be followed. The Minister cannot exercise a power that in law he does not have.

The way out of the problem (if it is seen as a problem) is to amend the law to give the Minister the powers he needs to implement the policy of the government.”

 

The Role of the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR)

The claimants argued that the OUR had recommended an exclusive license and had therefore acted contrary to section 4 (3) (a) the OUR Act which states that the OUR “shall undertake such measures as it considers necessary or desirable to (a) encourage competition in the provision of prescribed utility services.”

The opening words of the license stated that the Minister was granting the license “having regard to recommendations of the OUR” but did not specify what the recommendations were.

In fact, a letter dated March 15, 2001 the OUR expressed its opposition to the Minister’s proposal to exempt JPS from the Fair Competition Act, but the Minister ignored the recommendation. The Court therefore held that the OUR had done nothing unlawful.

The Use of Parliamentary Records and Pepper v Hart

The claimants attempted to rely on Pepper v Hart, a House of Lords case which dealt with using statements in Parliament to help interpret statute. Sykes J. indicated his discomfort with that case, and with the concept of using a statement made by one Minister in Parliament to try to interpret what the Parliament as a whole intended in passing a statute.

Pepper v Hart is not a case which should be followed without extreme care and caution…It is well known that ministerial, assignments are often the product of political considerations rather than  the person’s actual expertise in a particular area. The Minister may not know much about his portfolio prior to his assignment. His statements to Parliament are often prepared by advisors and senior civil servants, Sometimes the legislation comes after extensive public discussion. All this shows that Pepper v Hart is not without difficulties and should be avoided.”

 

 

 

Forget Politics and Crime – It’s Olympics Time in Jamaica!

The Olympic Flame during the Opening Ceremony ...
The Olympic Flame during the Opening Ceremony of the 2004 Summer Olympics, held in Athens. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I remember vividly where I was when Danny McFarlane won his silver medal in the 400 m hurdles in the 2004 Olympics – inside the bookshop at the University of the West Indies, where everybody in the store gathered around the mounted TV cheering ourselves silly as Danny did that little awkward looking hop over the hurdles, one by one, until he dashed across the finish line in second place.

The reason I remember so clearly is that we were there with an American, who while indulgent, was clearly a little bemused at this show of national solidarity for a single athlete.

It was the same thing when we watched Jamaica’s Reggae Boyz playing Japan in the 1998 World Cup.

English: Logo of the Jamaica Football Federati...
English: Logo of the Jamaica Football Federation and its representative teams. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I work in a newsroom and cannot remember a time before or since when the phone stayed silent for over an hour.

But that’s what it means to be Jamaican. One athlete can inspire such pride that we start a local newscast declaring that this is “Deon Hemmings Day”, as CVM did after Hemmings became the first Jamaican woman ever to win Olympic gold in 1996.

Although I am a little concerned about the over-hyped expectations for these Games as I said in my post here, the truth is that sports at this level brings out the best in us.

For the next two and a half weeks everything will recede in importance, the usual troika of issues making the newscasts – crime, the economy and politics – all that will fade into insignificance as we stay glued to the TV and discuss the merits and demerits of the various athletes participating.

Even in the sports in which we are not traditionally strong, we’ll be glued to the TVs, watching the sheer beauty and strength of those who have trained for years to have their moment in the sun.

We’ll go around wearing our national colours, and smiling at strangers  -unusual in urbanised Kingston!

It’s hard for a citizen of a large developed country like the US to understand the immense pride we feel when we see little Jamaica up there with the best in the world. As Miss Lou would say “we heart swell big.”

Jamaican Flag
Photo from Wikimedia Commons

It shows us that we can be world class, that despite the disastrous failures we have had in some areas, our lackluster economy, the distressing crime levels, the havoc our politicians have wreaked over the years, that we are still the stuff of which excellence is made. Simply put, our athletes give us hope, and inspire us to achieve in our own lives. For that, I thank them.

Big up Team Jamaica.

 

 

What the Standing Orders (Jamaica) Say About Questions That Should NOT Be Asked

Gordon House
DJMiller photo

 

 

From time to time, we hear objections to questions being asked in the Jamaican House of Representatives, on the basis that they are not in keeping with the Standing Orders. In my last post here, I looked at what the Standing Orders say about the manner of asking questions in the House.

In this post, let’s continue to look at how questions are to be asked (or not!)

Section 16 PROHIBITS asking questions that:

  •  raise an issue already decided in the House, or which has been fully answered during the current session, or for which an answer has already been refused;
  • seek information about matters which are, by their nature, secret;
  • raise issues that have come up in a Committee, but which have not yet been reported to the House in a  report;
  • raise matters related to a Commission of Enquiry or which are within the jurisdiction of the Chairman of  a Select Committee;
  • raise matters dealing with the character or conduct of any person except in his official or public capacity;
  • reflect on the decision of a Court of Law, or which is likely to prejudice a matter being tried before a Court;
  • reflect on the character or conduct of any person whose conduct can only be challenged in a substantive  motion under section 35, which deals with the conduct of speeches;
  • ask whether statements in the press, or made by private individuals or unofficial organisations are correct;
  • for which the answer can be found in an official publication;
  • which refer discourteously to, or seek information about the internal affairs of any territory within the Commonwealth or a friendly foreign country;
  • deal with the actions of a Minister for which he is not responsible to the legislature;
  • seek, for matters of argument, information of past history;
  • raise questions of policy too large to be dealt with in the limits of answer to a question.

A question shall not solicit an opinion, or the solution of an abstract legal question or a hypothetical proposition.

Many people believe that it is time for a comprehensive review of the Standing Orders, and we will look at that in the future. Watch out for my next post on the Standing Orders. Which, if any, of these would you want to see revised?

Jamaica and the London 2012 Olympics – Want to Help Our Athletes? Back Off!

London 2012 banner at The Monument.
London 2012 banner at The Monument. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Olympic fever is now at a level never before seen in Jamaica.

That’s great and how it should be. The Olympics Games are, as far as I’m concerned, the greatest show on earth (sorry, football fans!)

The problem I am having, though, is the unrealistic expectations. It is understandable on one level. After all, our athletes gave Jamaica’s best ever performance at the Beijing Olympics, at a level that electrified the world –led by the wonderful, colourful, charismatic record breaker Usain Bolt.

Usain Bolt in celebration about 1 or 2 seconds...
Usain Bolt in celebration about 1 or 2 seconds after his 100m victory at Beijing Olympics 2008, breaking the world record. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Then came the World Championships in Berlin and Daegu, and we cemented our place on the world stage – and painted targets on our backs. The loud-mouthed American Justin Gatlin has been talking about taking down the Jamaicans.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/06/25/oly-us-athl-atm-idUSL3E8HP1C520120625

Justin Gatlin in Helsinki, 10th IAAF World Cha...
Justin Gatlin in Helsinki, 10th IAAF World Championships in Athletics, after he won 100 Metres. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s all part of the hype and the trash talking that goes along with most sports. If we’re honest, it’s part of the fun.

Unrealistic Expectations

But all the media hype about gold gold gold is having a more dangerous effect. It’s raising expectations, which were probably unrealistic to begin with. All that talk of gold is making us think nothing else is worth cheering for.

I watched to my shock, Jamaicans in Half Way Tree watching races at the World Championships, walk off without making a comment or cracking a smile if Jamaicans didn’t stop the clock in first place. Only gold is worth cheering for apparently. It’s not a new attitude, though I think it’s getting worse. I remember being perplexed some years ago to hear a radio announcer grudgingly congratulate a relay team although they “only” got a bronze.

We are a country of 2.5 million or thereabouts, with a PHENOMENAL record of achievement.

We have won over 50 Olympic medals so far, almost all in track and field (special big up to David Weller – Olympic bronze in  cycling, Moscow, 1980).

I checked the medal table for the Beijing Olympics.

Gold Medal Jamaican Men's Relay Team
Gold Medal Jamaican Men’s Relay Team (Photo credit: Reese the Law Girl)

Jamaica came in 14th IN ALL with our 11 medals, six of which were gold. The nations that placed higher? Largely economic powerhouses and developed countries  – China, USA, Russia, Great Britain and N. Ireland, Germany, Australia, South Korea, Japan, Italy, France, Ukraine, the Netherlands and Kenya.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/olympics/2012/medals/historical-medals-beijing-2008/countries

But that doesn’t mean that we will always do that well, either in terms of total medals or in their colours. The London 2012 Olympics will see 205 countries sending over 10,000 athletes to participate in 26 sports, with 39 disciplines, and 300 events.

http://www.london2012.com/mm/Document/Publications/StategiesPolicy/01/24/75/49/FactpackMay2012_Neutral.pdf?t=1336753281382

Elite Sports

Do the math. How many athletes will actually be able to make the finals of their events, and then medal on top of that? This is elite sports at its best. Which is why we need to temper our expectations. Cheer on our athletes, of course!

But this ridiculous Jamaican attitude many of us have that only gold medals count has got to change.  For any athlete, making an Olympic team means you’re among the best in the world. We need to recognize that and applaud all those who are in London wearing our black, gold and green, whether they make the finals or not, whether they medal or not.

http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/olympics/news/Remember-our-competitors-in-field-and-other-events-

And as we wait impatiently for the track and field to begin , let’s not forget to cheer on our athletes also representing Jamaica with much less hype and fanfare – Samantha Albert in equestrian

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/07/18/oly-eque-jam-albert-adv-idUSB86373020120718

Kenneth Edwards in taekwondo

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20111210/sports/sports3.html

and Alia Atkinson in swimming.

http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/sports/Atkinson-makes-Olympic-qualifying-time_11622971

Then we need to give an extra loud cheer to anyone who makes it to the finals of their events. Stop for a moment. These are the best of the best, now competing among themselves. To actually get a medal? That’s a dream come true.

What does a bronze medal mean? That you are third best in the world! Silver – second in the world! Cause for celebration indeed!

To say it takes hard work and determination to even make it to the Olympics sounds too inadequate to describe what all these athletes have gone through. National record holder in the discus thrower Jason Morgan, spoke to me about that, and you can read my post on him here.

English: Olympic medals revealed in Trafalgar ...
English: Olympic medals revealed in Trafalgar Square, London (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Back Off!

Unrealistic expectations only burden people, and that includes athletes. So want to help them? Back off  with the constant calls for gold, which, with the best will in the world, they may not be able to deliver.

Of course we all want to see our athletes win as many gold medals as possible.  We want them to perform at their best and fulfil their potential. We’ll be disappointed if realistic hopes and expectations are not fulfilled. But that’s the key word. Realistic. All I’m asking  is that we be realistic and temper our expectations.

Good piece on an important issue, and that begs for follow up. Thanks for this

CucumberJuice

So I finally dug this post out of one called Stanford! When I saw him get a response to his persistence I pounced…poor thing…but I’m tenacious, as he no doubt now realizes (and you’re welcome for the space, Stanny!).  And this is why I kept at him: every so often I’d see @stannyha tweet to @NEPAJamaica about some smuggled rare parrots.  At first I thought it was a random thing but then I saw the tweets again…and again…and again.  And I began to smile.  I LOVE it when us “ordinary” Jamaicans focus on an issue and demand answers from the folks in charge.  Yes, these are “just parrots”…but they’re not “just parrots.”  (Kinda like Twitter.) Big or small it’s important to us to demand action to protect the nation’s and citizens’ rights…to demand the action that is required to protect our country.  Stanford does just that, I think, and I hope NEPA…

View original post 1,213 more words

What the Standing Orders (Jamaica) Say About Asking Questions

The uproar which took place recently in the Jamaican Parliament, which of course you would have read about here, actually originated with a question being asked by the Member from North West St. Elizabeth J.C. Hutchinson, of Agriculture Minister Roger Clarke. It has been accepted by all concerned that the Standing Orders of Parliament were breached during the resulting pandemonium (and how!) But what do the Standing Orders actually say?

The Standing Orders of the House of Representatives (there are separate Standing Orders for the Senate) have very detailed provisions governing how questions should be asked of Cabinet Ministers.

http://www.japarliament.gov.jm/images/pdf/STANDING-ORDERS-OF-THE-HOUSE.pdf

In the first place, section 14 states that a question can be put to a Minister in relation to any subject within his area of responsibility.

The way in which those questions may be asked, however, is strictly regulated.

Let’s take a look at section 16. This provides that:

–       The right to ask questions is subject to some general rules. The sole judge of the interpretation of those rules is the Speaker.

–       Questions may be asked to get information on a question of fact within the Minister’s portfolio, or to ask for official action.

–       Questions are not to include the names of any persons or any statements of fact, unless they are necessary for the question to be understood.

–       If a question contains a statement of fact, the Member asking the question is responsible for its accuracy.

–       No question can be based on a newspaper report or unofficial publication.

–       Members are not to address the House upon a question, and a question is not to be the pretext for a debate.

–       Each question should only refer to one subject and questions are not to be excessively long.

–       Questions are not to contain arguments, inferences, opinions, imputations, epithets, hypothetical questions or ironical expressions

You can also check out my first post on the Standing Orders.

Next Time – what kinds of questions are not permitted

The Jamaican Olympic Team Outfits – “Ugly – Horrible”

Cedella Marley, junto a Usain Bolt, presentó l...
Cedella Marley, junto a Usain Bolt, presentó la vestimenta PUMA de Jamaica (Photo credit: sitemarca)

The comments in the title are  not mine, they are two of the hundreds that have been made about the Jamaican Olympic outfits in the past few days.

I’m wading into dangerous waters here, not being a fashionista! Not even close. So let me hasten to say this is more about the reactions to the designs done by Cedella Marley (yes, Bob’s daughter) for the Jamaican Olympic team, than the designs themselves.

I can’t remember there EVER being this kind of reaction to an Olympic outfit. In fact, I was hard pressed to remember what any Olympic outfit has ever looked like, until an Olympian posted that she liked these a lot better than the yellow blazers they always used to wear at the opening ceremonies (very hazy picture in my mind now of said yellow blazers)

There has been an outpouring of negative reaction to the photo of track star Usain Bolt in a pair of yellow trousers, trimmed with black, coupled with a green top also trimmed with black, as he stands beside a female model in a print skirt with indecipherable yellow designs (leaves? crayfish?) on a black background, and a black top with  green trimmings. Hey, don’t knock my descriptions! I told you I’m not a fashionista. Let me just show you the picture.

The comments have been overwhelmingly negative. Here’s a tiny, tiny sample.

“Future style! Think Star Trek! Come on folks, going where no country has gone before!”

“Looking too futuristic. Does not reflect Jamaica. Not saying I hate it, but I don’t like it, especially for Jamaica 50.”

“It makes Usain look like an overgrown schoolboy from Mars, accompanied by a female prison warder from Pluto.”

‘Mi nuh like it! I really don’t think it truly represents the vibrant spirit and unique persona of the Jamaican team. It really appears to be a space age police uniform”

Some people do like them, saying they are “fashion forward” and in line with the current “colour blocking craze” and  “military style” (comments from conversations I’ve had with fans of the outfits who say that the critcs just don’t know style. Maybe they’re right.

After all, the fashion folks at the Huffington Post loved them, raving about the “fabulous new uniforms designed by Cedella Marley” and unequivocally stating that:

“…while the sleek uniforms were created with optimal performance and comfort in mind, they are super stylish to boot. We’re loving the flashy prints, flattering silhouettes and saturated Jamaican flag colors represented in every piece.”

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/14/cedella-marley-jamaica-olympic-uniforms_n_1597152.html

By the way, that story also has a slide show of the entire collection, so you may want to check it out if you haven’t seen it yet.

And some Jamaicans like them as well. There are also comments like this, albeit much fewer:

“You know what, they are cute, picture them walking in with our flag at the opening ceremony, we will stand out!”

But why do we care?

Well, in case people haven’t noticed, Jamaicans have become fiercely interested in our track and field athletes in particular, since the super success of the past decade. Many more Jamaicans are now following track and field, debating Asafa’s performance as I said in my post here, following Usain’s personal life as I commented on here, and feel tremendously buoyed by our successes on the international scene.

This is to be welcomed, of course. It’s good for the sport, it’s good for the country, and it’s (usually) good for the athletes. I can remember thinking in years gone by that I would like to see athletes endorsing products instead of models. Now we see images of our athletes everywhere.

But you can’t have it both ways. That level of interest will apply to everything related to track and field. That includes uniforms the fashionistas say are cutting edge, but many Jamaicans just see as ugly. I know we are also sending athletes to the Olympics in taekwondo, the  equestrian events, and swimming, but I doubt there would have been this much interest over what our equestrian athlete was going to wear (no offence!)

And we’re an outspoken people. If we don’t like it, we’re going to say things like:

“I think these are the worst designs of all time. These nuh mek it at all.”

Would it be better if we all decided to throw our weight behind the designs, like them or not? I don’t think so. Chalk it up to my profession, but I’m big on freedom of speech and spirited debate.  If we don’t let it be known when we think things aren’t being done right, there won’t be any change next time.

I’ve heard people asking what the athletes think. I haven’t heard yet, but you know what? Even if all the athletes came out en masse and said they love the designs, this is not just about them. They are there representing Jamaica. This may be a little uncomfortable for Ms. Marley and the folks at Puma, but it’s our national team, We have a right to voice our opinion. And we certainly are doing so!

So what do you think? Do you like the designs?

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CARICOM Heads of Government Summit – Spinning Their Wheels

Flag of the Caribbean Common Market and Commun...
Flag of the Caribbean Common Market and Community (CARICOM) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

I just read the communique coming out of the CARICOM annual Heads of Government summit.

The document dutifully details, in all of 9 paragraphs, comments at the opening ceremony.

 

http://www.caricom.org/jsp/pressreleases/press_releases_2012/pres185_12.jsp

There’s a paragraph each on the award of the Order of CARICOM (to Mr Kamaluddin Mohammed, Trinidad and Tobago, known as Mr. CARIFTA, and who “played a leading role in laying the foundation for the Community’s social, trade and economic cooperation structures, including the Single Market”) and the 8th Annual CARICOM 10K race (I never even knew they had one, but for the record, it was won by Cleveland Forde of Guyana and Tanya Nero of Trinidad and Tobago).

Bear with me here, I’m going somewhere with this.

An Amendment to the Agreement Establishing the Caribbean Knowledge and Learning Network Agency (the what? ) was signed by Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada and Suriname, and the Secretary General of the UN sent greetings.

They discussed the global economic situation, but don’t seem to have made any decision on what to do. They did however, agree “on the need to develop a Caribbean Investment Programme to support the efforts at stabilization and growth as well as competitive production.”

What the hell does that mean? Did they decide to establish the programme or not? It sure doesn’t sound like it. They agreed that we need a programme. Maybe after another couple of summits they’ll get around to agreeing to actually establish one! And then one day, actually establish it. (If they did so agree, the writers of the communique should be more specific, I don’t take anything for granted especially when interpreting comments from politicians)).

Map of the CARICOM countries that have a singl...
Map of the CARICOM countries that have a single market (CSM) CARICOM members part of CSM CARICOM members not part of CSM CARICOM associate members (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

They looked at the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) and endorsed the agreements reached at the Meeting of the Prime Ministerial Sub-Committee on CSME on 3 July 2012.

Now, I have no idea what the Prime Ministerial Sub-Committee decided, since the reports of statements made at the press conference after the meeting were full of vague nothings like this:

“”What came out of this meeting though, is a firm commitment to the CSME project, [and] it is conceded that we have some challenges to meet. We have not moved as quickly as we would have wished… There are some knotty problems which continue to bedevil us, but we must continue to wrestle them to the ground by doing some sensible prioritising.” That from Barbados Prime Minister Freundel Stuart,  who chaired the meeting.

http://www.caribbeannewsnow.com/headline-CSME-moving-ahead,-says-Barbados-PM-11614.html

The Communique helpfully adds that “With regard to the Single Economy, Heads agreed on specific elements of the Work Programme and Timetable for implementation in the short to medium term.”

The Heads also, according to the Communique, spoke about economic joint ventures, BAICO/CLICO,  children and youth, HIV/AIDS, UWI, CARIFESTA, Haiti, external trade, border issues…..

They noted…they recognised…they were updated…they welcomed…YAWN!!!!!

I’m being impolite I know, but I am bored with the CARICOM Heads of Government Summit. (I covered it once or twice, and never, ever want to do so again. Lurking outside meeting rooms and sprinting after Prime Ministers with delusions of grandeur to beg a comment or two, and then attending press conferences where little or nothing is said is not my idea of a productive use of my time.)

CARICOM Prime Ministers get together twice a year and spin their wheels. Let me be clear, I am not one of those who believes that there is no value in CARICOM. There is a lot of valuable work being done and regional co-operation taking place in areas like health, education and security.

The Heads of Government summit, however, is a grand waste of time. While the technocrats work all through the year, when the Heads get together the point is to make those political decisions which are needed to move matters forward. I don’t see that happening.

I’m not alone. James Moss-Solomon, that consummate regionalist, has been also sounding increasingly weary and impatient at the inactivity of the Heads of Government.

http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Caricom–Rain–no-play_10938301

Two of the  big issues in the region right now, are the cost of energy in Trinidad and Tobago and its impact on regional trade, and the Caribbean Court of Justice. Were either  of those discussed at the Summit? I don’t know, what I can tell you is that there was no mention of either in the communique.

The oil refinery at Pointe-à-Pierre
The oil refinery at Pointe-à-Pierre (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Instead, an organization that gets little enough done in English is now requesting “the conduct of a study to examine the possibilities and implications, including costs, of introducing French and Dutch.”

The Heads apparently did not endorse Trinidad and Tobago’s proposal to accede to the CCJ on criminal matters only. I say apparently, because there is no mention of that important issue in the communique. The Barbados Nation’s editorial comments on its surprising absence from the communique.

http://caricomnewsnetwork.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=7542&Itemid=457

Is it really surprising though?

And are we surprised at the growing apathy towards CARICOM and ignorance of its work?

I don’t think CARICOM is either irrelevant or outdated. But our leaders certainly go out of their way to make it appear so.

What’s Wrong With Our Jamaican Parliament?

Inside the Parliament of Jamaica
Inside the Parliament of Jamaica (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

How is it that some of the legislators  we elected to the Jamaican Parliament  are incapable of disagreeing on thorny issues without getting into a chaotic and abusive shouting match?

Jamaica’s Parliament is probably one of the most ordered places in the country, theoretically at least, in that there is a detailed set of rules (the Standing Orders) that govern almost every aspect of behavior in both Houses of Parliament.

They cover situations ranging from the language to be used (“the English language”) the need for Petitions to the House to be “properly and respectfully worded” to what should happen if two Members rise to speak during a debate (“the Speaker shall call upon the Member who first catches his eye”).

http://www.japarliament.gov.jm/images/pdf/STANDING-ORDERS-OF-THE-HOUSE.pdf

And to make it even more puzzling, many Parliamentarians are lawyers, who are trained to disagree agreeably, to call your opponent in court “mi learned friend” even when you think he’s a pompous ass, and to defer to judges with a polite “Guided, Milady” even while you plan your appeal on the grounds of the judge’s mistakes.

Others are successful professionals in other fields, or business operators, and would never, ever think it okay to respond to critics or opponents in the way we see them do in Parliament.

I wrote a post shortly after the new session of Parliament began, entitled “It’s Not Church!” The crux of my argument was that while we want civility, that can co-exist with lively exchanges, banter and spontaneity.

Unfortunately, that is not what we are talking about here. It is clear when someone has lost control or is refusing to exercise any self-control and that, too often, is what we see in the Jamaican Parliament. It is also clear when the comments and shouting have crossed the line into abuse.

http://m.jamaicaobserver.com/mobile/news/Hell-in-the-House—Parliament-ends-sitting-in-confusion–disorder_11881968

Isn’t there something wrong with a display that would result in some of the following comments:

“But this fiasco on TVJ News showing the sectoral debates is EMBARRASSING. Look at these grown – leaders of our country – squabbling.”

Or this…

“Seriously??? This is our parliament?”

And don’t tell me anything about physical brawls in the South Korean Parliament, eye-popping as those are.

Taiwan knows a thing or two about Parliamentary fights as well.

But you know what? I don’t care what they do in Taiwan and South Korea. We expect more from our legislators, dammit. We’ve seen the destruction,  misery and death that politics has caused to our people and country, and we’re sick of it. We are now demanding better. We’re demanding more.

But while our politicians stand in Gordon House and mouth platitudes about a new way of doing things,  when it really counts, some of them prove to us again and again that they don’t have the slightest idea what those words really mean.

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