Tag Archives: Portia Simpson Miller

#FireFenton – In the real sense

 

This is an urgent matter so let’s cut to the chase: Jamaica doesn’t have leadership…in the real sense.
We have the appearance of governance and leadership. The hype and fluff of a duly elected government with MPs and ministers, and senators and such.
Yes, we may have one leaders leader.
But not leadership.
See, if Jamaica had LEADERSHIP, there is a chance we would have been spared the constant cascade of catastrophe that is our health system.  And with a health system on life support, the lack of leadership has become a matter of life and death.
And death has reached our babies.
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The flashing amber warning lights went off when I first read this article in February 2012. I found the following…curious, to say the least:
“…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…”
Yes, they were referring to Dr. Fenton Ferguson, Minister of Health. Well, to be honest, the jury is still out on whether he can be considered a Minister of Health in the real sense.
Fast forward to 2014 when the Chikungunya Virus (Chik-V) brought the nation to its knees – literally. Jamaica was sorely ill-prepared. But, what made the pain of that entire episode even harder to bear is the fact that the Minister – yes THE SAME “Minister of Health” Minister of Health, Fenton Ferguson – was aware of a possible outbreak TWO YEARS PRIOR (as suggested at the end of this news report). And this – at a Caribbean sub-regional meeting in Kingston in 2012:

 

Believe it.

When, at the time, Jamaicans were sounding off on the fact that the Minister (*sigh*) did not have a grip on his portfolio, Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller’s interpretation of accountability was to have the Minister assist with clean-up activities in her constituency.

Minister (if we can call him that in the real sense) Fenton Ferguson was saved by a broom.

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On October 16, 2015, the nation learned (by way of Nationwide Radio journalist Abka Fitz-Henley), that there was an outbreak of some sort at the Cornwall Regional and UHWI Hospitals; an outbreak resulting in the death of newborns.

As if this bit of news isn’t disheartening on its own, try contextualizing it by the fact that Minister Ferguson is sitting on an audit he commissioned highlighting the sorry state of our health facilities.

The health audit came as a result of the revelation (in May 2015) of Dr. Alfred Dawes, former head of the Jamaica Medical Doctors Association, that doctors were working in unhygienic conditions with limited medical supplies.

In September 2015, Dr. Ferguson disclosed a summary of the findings. No details, because, according to him, “it would prejudice the facilities.” (Jamaica Observer, September 3, 2015)

That was September. Newborns were already dying as a result of a Klebsiella infection outbreak that their parents (and the public) were yet to find out about.

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The writing was on the wall when, in every interview with the press, it was emphasized  that the babies who died were premature. I understand the increased susceptibility to infections in premature babies. What I cannot understand, and WILL NOT accept, is an insinuation and an attitude that suggests that these babies did not have a fighting chance at life at all. Because, you see, they didn’t die because they were premature. They died because of an outbreak of an infection that is associated with other Hospital Acquired Infections (HAIs).

The Centre for Disease Control details how Klebsiella can be spread:

In healthcare settings, Klebsiella bacteria can be spread through person-to-person contact (for example, from patient to patient via the contaminated hands of healthcare personnel, or other persons) or, less commonly, by contamination of the environment. The bacteria are not spread through the air.

Patients in healthcare settings also may be exposed to Klebsiella when they are on ventilators (breathing machines), or have intravenous (vein) catheters or wounds (caused by injury or surgery). Unfortunately, these medical tools and conditions may allow Klebsiella to enter the body and cause infection. – CDC

So, it was just a matter of time before Dr. Ferguson, during his presentation to Parliament on October 27, 2015, said this (ad lib, in response to questions by the Opposition):

 “When babies are born under seven months, their organs are not well developed … . Their immune systems are significantly compromised, so I don’t want anyone to give any impression that these are babies in the real sense…”  (from The Jamaica Gleaner, October 28, 2015).

The Prime Minister’s response in all of this?

“I want to extend sympathies to members of the families, and I hope that the Ministry of Health and the minister will look at the present system to see what needs to be done to ensure that what happened will never, ever happen again.”

The Chik-V outbreak was in 2014. A broom saved Dr. Ferguson then.

And here we are today.

It is not enough for him to say he wasn’t informed. And how would he know? On October 27, when asked if the health audit made reference to newborn deaths as a result of poor sanitization, the Minister responded, “I’ll have to check.”

Wait. Did he not at least read the audit? The public audit HE commissioned and is now treating as his personal diary?

We cannot accept less than a resignation from this man. He accepts responsibility for nothing. His leadership of the Ministry of Health is weak at best – catastrophic if we’re talking in the real sense. Real change in the system must start with a change at the top. We cannot entrust the task of change with someone who refuses to even acknowledge his own responsibility as a starting point for change. A new system cannot be entrusted to someone who has overseen multiple (life-threatening) episodes of a breakdown.

He gotta go.

*****

Nineteen families are now grieving for their babies for whom they had every hope and dream.

It is a grief unimaginable. And it is real.

– @MizDurie, @THINKJamaica

 

(You may also view this blog post on THINK Jamaica’s Facebook page here.)

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

Don’t Forget

The logo for the International Monetary Fund (IMF)
The logo for the International Monetary Fund (IMF)

Editor’s note: This was written and first posted on October 27, 2012, after Mrs. Simpson Miller’s visit to Canada to mark 50 years of bi-lateral relations. The interview to which this piece refers was done by Mr. Cliff Hughes and Mr. George Davis on Nationwide News Network (NNN) on October 25, 2012. The country was just starting to recover from Hurricane Sandy.

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It’s funny.  The Prime Minister finally gives a live interview for the first time in [Lord knows how long…], and it’s on an afternoon when 70% of the country was without electricity.

“Don’t want to be political overseas…”, and so, almost affirming that very comment, Mrs. Simpson-Miller became political.  Without reiterating that the succeeding government had to deal with a recession, she stated that when she left government in 2007 unemployment was down, inflation was down, had investments going… As if to say that what she said in her statement during her visit to Canada had no merit once she was on Jamaican soil; that the veracity of that comment is directly proportional to the insight of the audience to whom it was directed.  In other words, (sarcastically speaking, of course), we’re idiots.

“…but I’m not going to—overseas—speak like I would speak to you now”  So are there two sides to Mrs. Simpson-Miller?  I don’t want to think so.  And does Mrs. Simpson-Miller believe that Jamaica is Las Vegas?  That what is said in a radio interview in Jamaica, stays in Jamaica?  “Don’t want to be political overseas…” – so it’s okay to be political at home?  Is this what Jamaicans deserve?

So, to place all that has been said in that interview into a wider context, I respectfully and humbly say this: Don’t forget.

Mrs. Simpson-Miller reminded Mr. Hughes and Mr. Davis in that interview that the former administration entered into an agreement with the IMF and failed to carry through with it.  Well, I suppose it’s an open secret that one of the reasons the IMF agreement was jeopardised was the public sector wage bill.  According to a Jamaica Observer report on June 13, 2011, in an address on a political platform in Granville St. James Mrs. Simpson-Miller said, “When workers are not happy, the country cannot move forward. No country can succeed and prosper if workers do not feel that they are rewarded for their hard work”.  The Observer reported that then Opposition Leader (now Prime Minister) Portia Simpson-Miller “accused the government of provoking public sector workers.”

Friends, don’t forget.

Three months later later, a Gleaner report on September 11, 2011 stated that “The seven per cent wage increase to public-sector workers has forced a revision of a key fiscal target…”  The report later stated:

 “Under the standby agreement with the IMF, Jamaica had agreed to freeze public-sector wages until the end of fiscal year 2012, including the J$30 billion of increases that would have been payable over five years.

However, under pressure to pay from public-sector unions, the Golding administration has decided to pay out J$9.2 billion of outstanding increases [in 2011].

Fast forward to October 2011.  After raising concerns that the then government would again attempt to impose a wage freeze to fulfill its obligations under the IMF loan agreement, according to a Gleaner report on October 10, 2011, Mrs. Simpson-Miller said “…her Government will change how public sector workers are treated if elected.”

Well, in a Gleaner report seven months later – on May 25, 2012 – Dr. Phillips was reported as saying, “It cannot make sense to break into an empty shop, mek no sense to raid an empty cupboard. There is very little in the cupboard at this point in time,”.  This was during his 2012-2013 budget presentation in parliament.

Funny, because this sounds like what Mr. Audley Shaw, former Minister of Finance, said two years earlier (on October 21, 2010), “I have said it before and I’m going to say it again: we cannot make blood out of stone…”

What’s that again about changing how public sector workers are treated?

(Noticed the difference in tone in the headlines, though? Hmmm…)

Friends, don’t forget.

“Improved” and “Inspired”?

Achievement sticker

When I first heard that Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller would be inducted in the International Women’s Forum (IWF) Hall of Fame, the first thing that I uttered (and sadly so) was, “For what?” Friends, it was an honest question. I wasn’t clear as to the criteria for the award, and when I saw what they were my next (equally honest) response was “But…how?”

I didn’t get it. And to this point I’m still wondering what I have missed. Please, before the choir starts singing their latest rendition of “Bun Badmind” and the like, let me say this: to have become Jamaica’s first female PM is quite an accomplishment, and should  be acknowledged for the achievement that it is. The problem I have, however, is that the conversation tends to stop there. I have said it in a elsewhere, and I’ll say it here: Women did not push to break the glass ceiling just to settle for being mediocre.

It is reported that the award “pays tribute to the impact that women of courage, creativity and passion have made towards improving society and inspiring others” (Jamaica Gleaner, October 17, 2013). How has Jamaica improved as a nation under the leadership of Mrs. Simpson Miller? To what extent, exactly, have we been inspired? Too vague?

Okay, quite simply then – what are we proud of? Is it the dollar that is JMD$105.16:USD$1 (at this moment, because it will change again tomorrow. #Unstable)? Hmmm? Is it the stench of alleged political impropriety that currently plagues members of the PM’s party (herself included *cough* TRAFIGURA *cough* – #DontAskMe)? Is it the jalopy called “JEEP”, or its underdeveloped cousin “JE” (Jamaica Employ)? Is it the plummeting consumer and business confidence? It’s not the 16.3% unemployment, is it (story here)? Or is it her “coy way of dealing with the media” (read: silence). Perhaps it is her regard for those whom she was elected to serve, choosing to speak to them only if it is “absolutely necessary”. (Ugh! Minions! *rolls eyes*) Oh! You know what it is? It HAS to be Jamaicans’ new exotic palette for delicacies such as mongoose and (endangered) crocodiles. Or maybe, just maybe it’s for her advocacy for gay rights, as this video tells us…

Or maybe not. :-/

Speaking of which – remember that TIME Magazine “People of the Year” award? As it turned out, sometime in May 2012 the PM’s press secretary Lincoln Robinson suggested that the premise for which the PM was nominated “did not accurately reflect the prime minister’s response on the issue during the leadership debate prior to the December 29, 2011 general election.” You may find the story here.

So…there’s also that.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed that this isn’t another case of the statement not “accurately [reflecting]” the PM’s intent, response, dream, wish, desire, leadership capabilities…

*catches breath*

But then again…

And as I write I’m really trying to think of what her legacy will be. What will it be???

Jamaica, YOU be the judge.

– @MizDurie, @THINKJamaica

#THINKJamaica #AreYouProudMadamPM #IWF2013

The Writing on the Wall

wall-writing

“Tekel: You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting” – Daniel 5: 27 (The Bible, NIV)

The ugliness of the state of governance in Jamaica was captured in news headlines this week. Back-to-back news reports uncovered the true nature of the beast, which could no longer hide behind platitudes of “commitment to transparency and accountability”.

On Tuesday, September 17, 2013, The Office of the Contractor General (OCG) tabled two reports in Parliament highlighting that two members of Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller’s Cabinet acted with impropriety in recent matters of public affairs.

Richard Azan, Junior Minister in the Ministry of Transport and Works was said to have acted in a “politically corrupt” manner (according to the OCG report) when he made arrangements for, and facilitated the building of ten shops in the Spalding Market without proper authorization.

In a separate report, the OCG concluded that Minister of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining (STEM), Phillip Paulwell, improperly interfered with the bidding process for the right to supply 360 megawatts of power to the national grid.

It’s bad enough that these events actually happened. And a fair expectation of the Jamaican people of these public servants is that they excuse themselves of the honour of serving having brought DISHONOUR to their office. But this conduct is only the tip of the iceberg of contempt for Jamaicans.

The response to these matters of national (and critical) importance by the Government of Jamaica is repulsive. The OCG reports were tabled in Parliament on Tuesday. These reports implicate two Cabinet Ministers. The job of a Government Minister is not a 9-5 one. One could reasonably expect that an emergency meeting would have been called Tuesday evening into Tuesday night (or even early Wednesday morning) in order to address, in short order, a nation that has heard the utterly embarrassing news that TWO GOVERNMENT MINISTERS acted in a manner that dishonoured their office. How could the Government deem it acceptable to tell the nation on Wednesday, September 25, at the weekly Jamaica House Press Briefing that they are not able to comment at this time? Instead, we hear that they are still reviewing the reports, and at least one of the gentlemen (Mr. Azan) is being GIVEN TIME TO CONSULT WITH HIS LAWYERS.

In a CVM TV news report on Wednesday the PM reportedly said “I can’t say as I do not know what is going to happen. It is referred to the DPP so I have to wait and see what happens”. So much for “zero-tolerance approach to corruption”. I guess that was all drivel, then.

But the contempt did not stop there. Mr. Phillip Paulwell did not miss a beat in rebuffing the OCG’s report stating that, “We cannot have the OCG derailing this matter again. It has to go forward” (as reported in The Jamaica Gleaner). Sounds familiar? It should. In April 2012 the Jamaica Gleaner reported that Dr. Omar Davies “has declared the administration will not allow the Office of the Contractor General (OCG) to be a stumbling block in the engagement of private entities as the state moves to take advantage of investment opportunities”. I assume we’re familiar with the court matter that ensued as a result. The OCG is once again viewed by this administration as a stumbling block. Never mind that in the leadership debate of 2011, Mrs. Simpson Miller had promised to strengthen the OCG. Her exact words?

“When I’m returned to power as Prime Minister, I will ensure the strengthening of these institutions like the Office of the Contractor General, and all the institutions having to investigate corruption and deal with corruption when they are reported.” (Jamaica Leadership Debate – comment at 9:15)

And Richard Azan? His response to his matter was, “They [constituents] are in a better place today, and if I was politically corrupt in doing that, I don’t mind it” (as reported in this Jamaica Gleaner report today). Right. So if I am hungry and I walk on a man’s property and steal some mangoes off his tree, as long as I am fed and “in a better place” nutrition-wise, there is nothing wrong, correct? How about if I don’t have a place to live and I see an open property available. It’s been vacant for years and I don’t know of anyone claiming ownership. I can just go ahead and build a little shelter there without authorization – a place to live and call home, right? Because, after all, I’ll be “in a better place”. There’s a place for laws and regulations. I am now beginning to wonder if Jamaica is such a place considering the actions of our own legislators.

But the icing on the cake? The ghost of Trafigura (here is one news report back in October 2006 on the matter, if you needed a quick reminder). Today news broke that “The Constitutional Court has just dismissed an application challenging an order for the Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller and other People’s National Party (PNP) members to answer questions under oath in court in the Trafigura case” (Jamaica Gleaner, September 20, 2013). After all the stench of corruption we’ve had to endure this week, this one comes back to remind us of past misdeeds. It’s like an omen, really.

The writing’s on the wall for your administration, Madame PM.

“You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting”.

TEKEL.

@MizDurie, @THINKJamaica