Following are ten big stories of 2013. How did these stories impact you?
10.Tessanne Chin wins the US talent show The Voice: this was a story that captivated us for the last few months of the year. Social media rallied around #TeamTessanne and Jamaicans everywhere were proud to see one of their own doing so well on a US stage. Tessanne’s ever-present humility, attachment to her fellow contestants, gratitude to her coach Adam Levine and of course, obvious talent made the show a must-watch for thousands every week. As I wrote here, the story is undeniably newsworthy. Having said that, let me anticipate the howls of protest over my designation of this story as number 10. This was the ultimate feel-good, inspirational story. However, it hasn’t and will not, affect any of the pressing issues facing the country, and neither will it impact in any long-lasting way (compared to the other stories on my list) the lives of Jamaicans.
9. Nelson Mandela’s death: The death of the first black President of South Africa resonated around the world. The Jamaican link with the struggle against apartheid made his passing especially poignant for us, and his accomplishments as a freedom fighter and world leader made us think about what leadership and sacrifice really mean.
8. Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller’s leadership: The Prime Minister came under more scrutiny for aspects of her leadership. Her foreign travel, and limited dealings with the press, and interaction with the public through press conferences, public fora, meetings etc. were among the issues discussed.
7. Richard Azan – the state minister’s resignation after being criticized for his involvement in construction of shops at the Spaulding market ignited discussion about governance, the role of Members of Parliament and playing by the rules. His re-instatement by Prime Minister Simpson-Miller was just as controversial.
6 JLP leadership challenge: A bona fide leadership campaign and election in the
Opposition Jamaica Labour Party made news for months. As I said in this article in the Gleaner, the leadership campaign allowed us to start to get a better feeling for Andrew Holness as a political leader.
5. Goat Island development : The proposal to allow Chinese investors to build a transshipment port on the Goat Islands set off a huge public discussion about government decision-making processes, sustainable development, and the importance of protected areas.
4. Children in care of the state: the continued advocacy of children’s rights groups saw them coming into conflict with the government on several occasions. There are few more important stories than how we treat our most vulnerable – children among them.
3. Murder figures rise again – Murder figures are rising again, attributed by the National Security Minister and the Police Commissioner to criminal gangs, and an increase in the drugs trade. There are very few things that concern Jamaicans more, affect the country’s image more negatively, and touch our sense of safety and security every single day.
2. Economy/IMF – the hardships for the average Jamaican as a result of Jamaica’s under-performing economy and the IMF agreement including increased taxes and a sliding dollar continued to hit Jamaicans in the pocketbook.
1. Ban on smoking in public places : for me, this was one of the single most significant stories in 2013. The World Health Organisation reports that 600,000 people die every year from second hand smoke. WHO reported earlier this year that “Tobacco control measures in place in 41 countries between 2007 and 2010 will prevent some 7.4 million premature deaths by 2050.” The Jamaican regulations, although still a work in progress, need to be seen in this context