The Riverton Landfill is on fire. We stopped by – how does one ‘stop by’ a landfill fire? emmm…. anyway….here are some of the pictures I got.
The Riverton Landfill is on fire. We stopped by – how does one ‘stop by’ a landfill fire? emmm…. anyway….here are some of the pictures I got.
Here are a few of the human rights stories making news around the world that I find interesting.
1. Reparations could be a step closer for the indigenous Maya Achi community in Guatemala, three decades after hundreds were killed to clear the way for a dam to be built.
The Guardian reports that the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the World Bank financed the construction of the dam and survivors have been calling for the institutions to pay reparations for years.
The fresh hope comes as US President Barack Obama prepares to sign a bill that will, among other things, instruct the World Bank and IDB to report on steps taken to implement the provisions of a 2010 reparations plan.
2. The UK government continues to declare that it will not obey a ruling from the European Court of Human Rights that a blanket ban on allowing prisoners to vote was a human rights breach. The stand-off has led to the Justice Secretary announcing plans to curtail the role of the ECtHR in English law, and ensure the supremacy of Britain’s highest domestic court, the Supreme Court.
3. A UK House of Lords enquiry has heard that the human rights of mental health patients are being breached, as some judges are refusing to hear testimony from such patients, the Independent reports.
4. In one of the latest salvos in the war over judicial appointments in the United States, President Obama is being accused, in a case now before the Supreme Court, of violating the constitution in making recess judicial appointments.
5. A man from a Pacific island failed in his bid to acquire refugee status in New Zealand as the world first climate change refugee. The decision was made last November, but I report it here because it is novel and interesting, and you may have missed it.
There is useful comment on the case here.
As Jamaicans continue to test the still new 2011 Charter of Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, we could see some intriguing cases before the Supreme Court this year, such as the issue of the undated Senate resignation letters, a challenge to the buggery law, and a test of the constitutional provision for the right to a healthy environment. Such cases are important in delineating the limits of a constitution and specifying the protection it offers.
The Undated Senate Resignation Letters
Former Senator Arthur Williams has indicated that he intends to pursue his claim that Opposition Leader Andrew Holness’s use of undated resignation letters to force him and Christopher Tufton out of the Senate violated his constitutional rights. Williams says the letters were intended to be used only in the event of Opposition Senators wanting to break with the party on the Caribbean Court of Justice. If the case goes to conclusion, we could see the court pronouncing on something that lawyers have been arguing over for years – what power, if any, do political leaders have to remove senators who they themselves appointed?
Williams has said he is seeking the following:
“ A Declaration that an undated letter of resignation and a letter authorizing the Defendant to date and use the same which had been signed by the Claimant were used by the Defendant other than for the purpose for which they had been given and therefore were unlawfully used and accordingly are void and of no effect.
A Declaration that based upon the Claimant’s stated position that he would not resign as requested, he had effectively revoked the said letters.
A Declaration that the very fact of requesting these undated letters of resignation from all persons to be appointed as Senators under nomination of the Leader of Opposition is contrary to Jamaica ’s Constitutional scheme.
A Declaration that the undated letters of resignation are void as being inconsistent with the Constitution by seeking to give to the Defendant the right or power to effect the resignation of the Claimant at the Defendant’s volition.
A Declaration that by using the undated letters of resignation for the reason that the Claimant did not support the Defendant in the election for leadership of the Jamaica Labour Party is inconsistent with the Constitution of the Jamaica Labour Party and the Constitution of Jamaica.
A Declaration that the use of the undated letters of resignation on the basis that the Claimant did not support the Defendant in the election for leadership of the Jamaica Labour Party contravenes the Claimant’s constitutional rights to the freedoms of conscience, association and expression protected by section 13 (3), (b), (c ) and (e) of the Charter of Rights.”
Those section of the constitution provide for
(b) the right to freedom of thought, conscience, belief and observance of political doctrine;
(c ) the right to freedom of expression;
(e) the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.
Challenge to Buggery Law
Then there is the challenge to the buggery law brought by Javed Jaghai. Jaghai is seeking a declaration that;
“The right to privacy in the Charter of Rights and/or the right to equality excludes private sexual activity between consenting male adults from being criminalized under the Offences Against the Person Act (sections 76,77,79) or a declaration that private sexual activity between consenting male adults are excluded from those sections of the OAPA as a matter of statutory interpretation;
An order that sections 76 and 77 of the OAPA will continue to govern non-consensual anal intercourse and anal intercourse with minors.”
The sections of the OAPA cited are:
76. Whosoever shall be convicted of the abominable crime of buggery, committed either with’ mankind or with any animal, shall be liable to be imprisoned & kept to hard labour for a term not exceeding ten years.
77. Whosoever shall attempt to commit the said abominable crime, or shall be guilty of any assault with intent to commit the same, or of any indecent assault upon any male person, shall be guilty of a misdemeanour, and being convicted thereof, shall be liable to be imprisoned for a term not exceeding seven years, with or without hard labour.
79. Any male person who, in pub!ic or private, commits, or is a party to the commission of, or procures or attempts to procure the commission by any male person of, any act of gross indecency with another male person, shall be guilty of a misdemeanour, and being convicted thereof shall be liable at the discretion of the court to be imprisoned for a term not exceeding two years, with or without hard labour.
Right to Healthy Environment
There is also the possibility that within the context of the potential transhipment port development on the Goat Islands that environmental advocacy groups may seek to test the significance of Section 13 (3) (l) of the Charter which provides for:
“the right to enjoy a healthy and productive environment free from the threat of injury or damage from environmental abuse and degradation of the ecological heritage.”
This is an interesting provision in the Charter. Environmental rights are regarded as many scholars as so-called third-generation rights (civil and political rights being first-generation rights, social, economic and cultural rights as second-generation) and there is debate as to the extent of their justiciability. Parliament’s deliberate inclusion of this provision in the Charter is therefore interesting, and I will be eager to follow a court case testing this provision.
So stay tuned, interesting days are ahead!
The University of the West Indies and Caribbean Maritime Institute today hosted an all-day forum on the proposed logistics hub.
I couldn’t make all the sessions, but below are some points made by the speakers I heard, and from the session I chaired.
Richard “Dickie” Crawford, Jamaicans United for Sustainable Development:
– It’s important to ensure an EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment) is done as soon as possible.
– We need to move to a situation where there is a 24-hour environmental lobby, not closing the gate after the horse has gone.
– If the environmental lobby has been left out of the action team, now is the time to put them in.
– We need to pick a winner and use the investment from that to build on other aspects
of Jamaica’s unique economy, eg health tourism and medical marijuana.
– One of the most important steps is communication and inclusion of people in the process.
Dr. David Smith, Institute of Sustainable Development, UWI:
– EIAs come too late in the process. In this case we are involved relatively early. If the plans are not written yet, we can ensure that important points are dealt with,
– We tend to keep secrets. We need to use the logistics hub to share information in a holistic way. Bring in the best minds in the country. If you vilify some, you cut off expertise that could help you decide how to do the job better.
Karen Adair: Caribbean Maritime Institute:
– There is much precedent in how logistics hubs are planned (in other areas of the world).
– We don’t pitch environment versus development any more, we don’t say either or.
Michael Witter, Economist, University of the West Indies:
– We are hearing a lot of concern, fear and uncertainty.
– What is causing this unease is that we have a history of export development that has
been unfriendly to the environment and has provided low-paying jobs that have made poverty endemic, eg sugar, bauxite, and tourism which has created these apartheid all-inclusives next to squatter settlements.
– The Falmouth pier has excluded a lot of people, for example, despite the promises.
– Will MSMEs (micro, small, and medium sized enterprises) get a chance to participate in the economic zone?
– In a sense we need affirmative action if we are going to use MSMEs to break the cycle of endemic poverty associated with these mega-projects.
– Should we target high productivity labour instead of cheap labour going forward?
– What are the logistics to involve the farmers and fishers?
Damien King, Economist, University of the West Indies:
– When we hear special economic zone it means an enclave of no taxes that everyone else will have to pay taxes for.
– We need to know why Jamaica has had the worst performing economy for the past 40 years so we can know if a logistics hub will solve the problem.
Diana McCauley, Jamaica Environment Trust
– There are no objections to the logistics hub, the strong objections are to the Goat Islands as the location for the transshipment port.
– The problem with the scoping study is the order in which things are occurring, scoping study to inform Cabinet, then Cabinet is to take a decision, then EIA is to be done.
Dennis Chung, Planning Institute of Jamaica:
– I heard, when divesting Air Jamaica, that would be the end of tourism, (instead) air traffic went up after that.
– We need to change the conversation, when capital hears environmentalists confronting development, capital gets confused.
Alfred Sangster, former university executive,
– We should say to CHEC (China Harbour) that we want your development but we have a better place to put it.
Conrad Douglas, Conrad Douglas and Associates, author of scoping study:
– The entire protected areas system in Jamaica needs to be reviewed.
– At this time there is no description of the proposed project.
– The debate in the media is premature as there is no basis for objective analysis.
– The scoping study is not an EIA so any conclusions about the project at this time are unfounded and fraught with the potential for error.
Brandon Hay, Caribbean Coastal Area Management Foundation CCAM), managers of the fish sanctuaries in Portland Bight Protected Area:
– This is not about iguanas versus development, we are not against development, but
developments have to be located in optimal areas.
– There has not been proper analysis of the alternatives to the Goat Islands, we have been given no information.
– The fish sanctuaries in the Portland Bight area are already showing signs of improvement but data is not yet available.
– The National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) has not lived up to the terms of its delegation agreement with CCAM (agreement delegating to an organization the authority to manage a protected area).
– CCAM is the only delegation authority that has received no funding from NEPA.
Parliament has now devoted two sessions to eulogising and lionising former Prime Ministers Edward Seaga and P.J. Patterson.
The glowing one-dimensional tributes intentionally ignore the negative sides of both men’s political balance sheets. For honest assessments of their leadership, we will clearly have to look further than their desk-thumping friends in Gordon House.
In this post, however, I want to focus on one small thing that P.J. Patterson did, which is likely to be ignored in the academic treatises that will be produced about his tenure.
He created Emancipation Park which has now been open for ten years. It sounds like such a small thing to single out, but it’s one which I think has had tremendous impact. And lest we forget, there was no overwhelming outpouring of support for him at the time.
One reasonable criticism is that it was part of the diversion of National Housing Trust funds away from housing for contributors. It could not have happened if contributors’ funds were sequestered away in a real trust, which is a discussion we really need to have, although it is a step the politicians are unlikely to want to take. That’s because if NHT money were locked away, for use for contributors’ housing only, it would deprive them of their Santa Claus goodie bag.
Would I turn back the clock and leave the NHT funds untouched, and the park the dusty bowl it was? No, I wouldn’t. But I certainly would favour locking away NHT funds going forward.
Having said that, we do now have a beautiful green space in the middle of the city. Joggers and walkers frequent the park in the early morning or afternoon and evening, and friends gather to catch up, and chat. For those who think that only the New Kingston elite use the park, you need to go by and visit.
The park hosts a range of free activities and concerts that draw in Jamaicans from all walks of life, especially on week-ends. (That’s the problem with projects like these, by the way – they are necessary and useful, so you can always rationalise funding them, until you drain the well dry.)
As I mentioned, The National Housing Trust maintains Emancipation Park which is why it has been so successful. At this stage of our (lack of) development), we probably can’t afford an Emancipation Park in every town centre, although we need one. I’m not forgetting Hope Gardens, another beautiful location, more beautiful in its way than the manicured prettiness of Emancipation Park. The point is, we need more such spaces. Is there a model we can look at to create more safe, green spaces with jogging tracks, some benches, a bandstand, and some grass? Because we’re paying for not having them – paying in hospital bills and medication. Perhaps we’re paying the cost in anti-social behaviour as well.
The research is well-known. Access to green spaces promotes mental, physical and social health. One report suggested that the “health gap” between rich and poor can be reduced by creating more green spaces.
The Tropical Medicine Research Institute at the University of the West Indies has reported that nearly half of Jamaicans have been reported as having low levels of physical activity, and are obese or overweight. Many neighbourhoods are either unsafe or unpleasant to walk in. The diseases associated with these risk factors, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension are also well-known. Green spaces could be used to encourage more physical activity, but would, of course, have to be managed to ensure that they don”t become havens for drug dealers and living quarters for the homeless.
So while I will leave a detailed assessment of former Prime Minister Patterson’s legacy as a whole for another occasion, his decision to create Emancipation Park is one which I think, on the whole, was a good one.
PS – incidentally, I also applaud and thank him for resisting the temptation to name it after himself or some other politician!
NB More photos below!!!
On Earth Day here in Jamaica, I watched “One Day on Earth,” an incredible documentary in which filmmakers across the world spent 24 hours taping on 10.10.10, (October 10, 2010) eventually resulting in 3000 hours of video, sculpted into this breathtaking documentary, described as the first film shot in every country in the world.
The result is not perfect. The running time is a little too long, and the ending feels somehow unsatisfying and incomplete.
Nevertheless, the film is a beautiful one, both in concept and in cinematography. Its beauty lies in its diversity, in its multiple portraits of everyday people from all over the world, in the re-discovery of the moving similarities of our lives and the stark and often tragic differences. The sheer audacity and ambition of the project are impressive.
We see, for example, fishermen in different seas simultaneously at work, and the universal joy when babies are born.
In a later shot, however, we witness severe water shortages in Bali and the Congo, where desperate people drink water from animal troughs and contaminated wells, while developed countries like France, Canada and the United States have surplus water being used for decorative displays and recreational parks.
This a story of the tragedy of war and the giddiness of love, of the grandeur of nature and of the pollution of man.
But above all, it is the story of people on earth on this one day.
People like us.
People unlike us.
One haunting image was that of an Ethiopian woman complaining that her daughter wouldn’t get married and preferred to go to school, and that of all her daughters, this one was the least use to her. We were left to imagine the difficulty of this young girl’s life, the pressure from her mother and community to enter an early marriage, and to pray for strength for her, and for someone to help her withstand the cultural mores which threaten to doom her to poverty and servitude. And that was just one brief moment in the film.
The project founders describe the documentary, which is the first in a series, as “creating a time capsule for the whole world to better understand itself.” Similar work was done on 11.11.11 and there will be a third marathon filming on the 12.12.12. It will be interesting to see how the project directors differentiate the sequels. They have set a high bar for themselves.
Conclusion: Well worth watching
Jamaicans who live abroad say it’s not until you live in another country that you really appreciate how lovely this island is. Not me. I don’t need to move thousands of miles away and freeze my a## off to enjoy what’s all around me. Here are just 5 reasons why.
1. Every Saturday morning, the jellyman comes calling. Deliciously fresh coconut water and jelly right at my gate, although I live in the middle of the city. Or as several of my social media friends pointed out, some of us are lucky enough to have the coconuts growing right in our backyards!
2. Gloriously coloured flowers everywhere you turn. Whether you find them in a carefully cultivated garden, or in the form of a random “weed” growing by the roadside, their bright hues are so prevalent it is, actually, very easy to take this feature of Jamaican life for granted.
3. The sea, in all its moods – I felt compelled to stop by White Horses in St. Thomas the other day, just to look at the waves galloping in and snap a quick picture. And then there are our beaches. Sheer bliss! I can never quite understand the delight with which people overseas jump into cold, grey, opaque water, but then, hey, I’m spoiled. Sparkling blue water, (generally) warm, so transparent you can see right down to the sandy, white bottom…that’s a beach!
4. The mountains – majestic, soaring all around us. The UWI Bowl is a great place to really FEEL the presence of our mountains. I climbed to the Blue Mountain Peak once, and will never forget it. It felt like we were on top of the world!
What would you add to this list?
So I joined the masses and did the Sigma Run/Walk/Wheelchair 5K Race. Great event, for a fantastic cause and pushing the healthy lifestyle theme as well. My time? Hey I did it for charity!! Who’s watching the stopwatch? Especially when it becomes clear that you’re not breaking any records!!
I am, however, driven to ask – can we please have a few more bins along the way? Ok, make that a lot more bins. The only stretch on which you see lots of garbage bins is the stretch along Constant Spring and near to Half Way Tree.
For the initial part of the route, after you grab the first set of (very!) welcome plastic bags filled with juice/water/whatever, and the last part, once you pass Half Way Tree, where you may grab another bag, there are very few bins of
any kind. I know there is clean-up afterward, but isn’t there a way to minimise the need for clean-up, so runners/walkers don’t leave a sea of plastic bags in their wake?
After you take a few sips of the juice/water/whatever it is, you then have the choice of running with the unwanted plastic bag in your hand or throwing it onto the ground. Guess what most people do? So while you’re huffing and puffing, trying simply to keep one weary foot going in front of the other (ok, that’s me) you also have to be dodging plastic bags full of juice in case you slide and fall.
I know whatever is done, there will be people who will still just dump the bags on the ground, comfortable that someone will be coming later with a broom and a bin. Still, I don’t think it is beyond us to do this a little better.
It’s not just road races. This is generally the case with most public events/functions in Jamaica. The attitude seems to be, someone will clean it up after so why bother. Well, it looks horrible. And we can do better.