Batting for the Environment?

Photo by Max Earle (from The Jamaica Observer)
Photo by Max Earle (from The Jamaica Observer)

On Wednesday, July 23, 2014, The Jamaica Observer carried a story headlined “PM bats for Environment“.

Really?

(Quotes by PM Portia Simpson Miller appear in blue)

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“A healthy seabed is necessary and especially important for island states such as ours in the Caribbean which depend on the quality of the natural environment and derive much of their economic growth from the use of natural resources…”

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“Roger Clarke speaks of “food security” and says, rightly, that we have to produce a larger proportion of the food that we consume instead of importing it, using foreign exchange, which we are not earning. Part of that ‘production’ is our fisheries, which have seen extensive overfishing and precipitous decline of the catch…

“Seagrass beds, mangrove roots, gravel beds and shallow water allow the baby fish, shrimp, etc. to hide and have a moderate chance of avoiding being eaten by adult snappers, jacks, tarpon, grunts, snook, and many others…

“Now, what is to be the extent, and depth, of the proposed dredging of the Portland Bight Protected Area? The Jamaica Environment Trust and the others concerned about it don’t seem to know. Want to bet it would allow Chinamax-class ships with a requirement of about 27.5m (90ft) depth as I would deduce?”

– Howard Chin, “Dredge Elsewhere! Environmental Damage To Portland Bight Outweighs Economic Benefits” (Jamaica Gleaner, September 8, 2013)

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“In this the International Year of Small Island Developing States, and in anticipation of the Third International Conference to be held in Samoa in September, it is critical that the governance of the oceans and environmental protection be strengthened…” 

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“Environmentalists are up in arms over the Government’s decision to defer Jamaica’s application to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) for the Portland Bight Protected Area to be declared a biosphere reserve.

This follows confirmation Friday that the process which had been on track for Jamaica to become only the second country in the English-speaking Caribbean, after St Kitts, to establish a biosphere reserve was derailed by the State, for no good reason according to a number of persons intimately involved with the tedious eight to 10-year application process.

The area takes in land earmarked to be co-opted as part of the port facility if Government goes ahead with plans to use the Goat Islands as part of the proposed logistics hub the Chinese Government is seeking to build in Jamaica…

“‘I am really quite disappointed that after all these years of putting in all of this effort; having all of the stakeholders at different levels agreeing that this was a good idea, that the Government just kind of went behind people’s back,’ the frustrated environmentalist told The Gleaner.”

“Bight Betrayal – Environmentalists Angered As Gov’t Pulls Back On Biosphere Recognition For Portland Protected Area” (Jamaica Gleaner – January 6, 2014)

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“From aqua to deep azure, the ocean’s blues hold secrets and rich resources fathoms deep. It has fallen to mankind to protect, preserve and regulate this sacred resource. This is a phenomenal responsibility — one we in Jamaica take seriously,” 

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“The much-talked about Portland Bight marked its 15th anniversary as a declared protected area yesterday, observed globally as Earth Day.

But this could be its last year with protected status, given Government’s intention to transform the largely undisturbed Goat Islands into a large industrial site to facilitate trans-shipment. Other areas within Portland Bight are also earmarked for the logistics hub project.

That the country’s largest protected area could cease to exist has not escaped conservationists the world over and several organisations, including the Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the International Iguana Foundation, and the World Wildlife Fund, have petitioned the Government to relocate the site.

On the home front, organisations such as Coastal Area Management Foundation and Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) have been at the forefront of the lobby.

In the latest of those moves, JET announced yesterday that it has applied to the Supreme Court for a judicial review of the Certificate of Exemption issued by the Minister of Finance and Planning effectively barring the NGO from accessing requested information on the Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of Jamaica and China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC), the Chinese contractor which will be building the planned Goat Islands port.”

“Portland Bight is 15!” (Jamaica Observer – Wednesday, April 23, 2014)

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Think, Jamaica.

@MizDurie, @THINKJamaica

Here Lieth “Transparency”…

 

 

Editor’s note: This post was originally written and published to THINK Jamaica’s Facebook page on February 23, 2012.

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[Sigh] Where do I even begin?  [Takes deep breath] Okay, allow me to roll back the curtain of memories to January 5, 2012.  In her inaugural address, Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller stated:

“My administration will not engage in a blame-game. We will present the facts to the Jamaican people, based on rigorous analysis. Our approach must be to right the wrongs and insist on accountability. Let us learn from our past, absorb the lessons and go forward. We only need to look back to confirm where we are coming from, and to correct our errors and weaknesses as we look to the future. That is the way of progress.”

 I highlight this portion of the PM’s speech because there is a matter addressed in today’s Jamaica Observer that I would like to bring to your attention.  The Jamaica Observer’s editorial in today’s paper makes for interesting reading. A number of NGO’s raised concerns about oversight and allegations of sexual abuse at Patricia House – a state-run treatment facility for drug addicts.  Though I do not know the full story behind the editorial, this section in particular raises some concern:

 “Asked for his comment on the matter, the health minister expressed surprise that the issue had been made public since he had met with the parties and the agreement was for media silence.”

 As per the Minister’s request, let us have a moment of silence….FOR TRANSPARENCY.

 (In my best Simpson-Miller voice) We will present the facts to the Jamaican people, based on rigorous analysis.”   What…why…HOW could the Minister POSSIBLY think that THAT stance (for silence) is acceptable?  Hmmm?  Anyone?  How?  So does this mean I was correct after all?  There actually IS a rhetoric of silence?

“…the agreement was for media silence.”  What in the world…?!  I fully agree with the Jamaica Observer on this.  I am insisting on accountability.  Mrs. Simpson Miller, in her inaugural address also stated, “The Jamaican people have sent a clear message. They want a more accountable and transparent government which consults them; and, they should expect nothing less”.  We ARE NOT expecting anything less.

 And to make matters worse, this follows a series of new developments that have joined forces in conspiring to kill our friend, “Transparency”.  By way of a Jamaica House briefing, “Jamaica House Live” took a bullet, so citizens will no longer be given the chance to speak one-on-one with the Prime Minister.  By way of Parliament, the Prime Minister’s “Question Time” was given a lethal dose of reality as Madame Prime Minister requires questions to be asked (“wholla”) seven days in advance of a response from her.  That’s right!  Because apparently pressing issues facing our country gives us seven days’ notice before attacking us (like the Riverton Landfill fire, or the spike in murders).

 Brethren and sistren, “Ashes to ashes…”

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@MizDurie, @THINKJamaica

Government by Committees?

 

 

I’ve borrowed the title of this blog post from a Gleaner editorial written on January 31, 2007 (link at the end). The idea to create a list was inspired by tweets by @ArvelLinchpin today. Below is a list of committees formed since this administration came into office. If I’ve omitted any (and I have a feeling I have), feel free to let me know in the comments, or tweet me – @MizDurie.

  1. Diaspora Committee
  2. Sports Tourism Committee
  3. Economic Program Oversight Committee
  4. Committee established to deal with dispute over Pinnacle lands
  5. INDECOM Monitoring Committee 
  6. Committee on Electricity Theft
  7. Climate Change Advisory Committee
  8. Energy Monitoring Committee
  9. Special advisory committee to review UTECH Impasse
  10. Committee to develop measures to manage Pedro Cays
  11. Committee to Review Children’s Homes
  12. Committee to monitor chikungunya virus

As I said, there may be more, but these are the ones I’ve found within the last 45 minutes or so. Please don’t hesitate to alert me to the ones I’ve missed.

Perhaps I’m overthinking this, but it may be helpful (read: more efficient) to have clear and practical procedures and regulations to guide the activities of existing ministries and Government agencies. Or maybe they need to adhere to current procedures and regulations. If these are ineffective, review them (and no, you don’t need to set up another committee to do that). Additionally, it may also be useful to ensure that skills and competencies of those who outfit these ministries and agencies match the needs and objectives of the ministry/agency.

And, as brawta, here is the throwback Gleaner editorial – “Government by Committee“.

The more things change…

@MizDurie, @THINKJamaica