Who Owns Jamaica’s Beaches?

UnknownEaston Douglas once took up a very big job that’s still not finished. I suppose it was much harder than chairing the board of the National Housing Trust. A board of ‘yes’ men and women makes things really easy for a chairman. This is particularly true if it’s a ‘bagasse’ board, accountable to no one.

As minister of environment and housing, Easton Douglas announced in 1995 that the Government had started to develop a policy for controlling access to Jamaica’s beaches. Nothing much has come of this promise after almost two decades. We are still stuck with a 1956 Beach Control Act.

According to that pre-Independence law, the Queen of England owns our beaches: “all rights in and over the foreshore of this Island and the floor of the sea are hereby declared to be vested in the Crown”. But even that outdated act does acknowledge the fact that the rights of the public have to be protected against selfish private-sector interests.

images-1Hotel owners, for example, can apply for a licence to operate ‘private’ beaches. But the act makes it absolutely clear that “licence shall not be granted under this section unless the Authority has certified that the issue of the licence is not likely to conflict with the public interest in regard to fishing, bathing, recreation or the protection of the environment”.

Now this ‘Authority’ is the very same Natural Resources Conservation Authority (NRCA) that appears to have given its stamp of approval to the Housing Agency of Jamaica (HAJ) to sell off protected public lands on Long Mountain to private developers. So I really don’t have much faith in the capacity of the NRCA to protect the public interest.

CONSPIRACY THEORISTS

Two Sundays ago, I watched that episode of Anthony Bourdain’s travel series, ‘Parts Unknown’, which focused on Jamaica. Avoiding the well-known all-inclusive hotels in and around MoBay, Bourdain turned to Portland, where Jamaica’s upscale tourist industry started. And he didn’t paint the usual portrait of the island as ‘paradise’. He got it right.

Bourdain documents the sharp lines of division in our society. The programme wasn’t aired on CNN in Jamaica. Conspiracy theorists immediately came up with a wicked explanation. It was because Flow is owned by Michael Lee-Chin. He came off so badly in the show that he stopped the company from airing it.

When I checked with Flow, I learned that CNN sends targeted feeds to different markets. We get the Latin American and Caribbean feed. Bourdain’s show is not on our feed. It’s now on Vimeo.com.

Hopefully, either TVJ or CVM will negotiate the rights to air the episode. We all need to see it. It’s not a pretty picture of our country. The landscape is beautiful and the food is appetising. But the disparity between the rich and poor is rather ugly.

‘WHAT KIND OF PERSON”?

Perhaps Michael Lee-Chin should have been much more cautious about exposing himself to Bourdain. This is how Bourdain introduces him: “There are those who believe that the area can come back; that it must come back. That the future is in hotels and resorts and restaurants for wealthy visitors as it once was.

trident-castle“Take this place, for instance: the Trident hotel. Expensive, luxurious! Best of all, I’m the only guest. Oh, did I mention that it comes with a castle? What kind of person would own a building like that? Who? Why? Then this man arrived and kind of answered that question. All of this belongs to Michael Lee-Chin. Local boy-turned-billionaire. One of the richest men in the world. And my host. He’s invited me for dinner.”

With guests like Bourdain, you don’t need gatecrashers. Down the road at GoldenEye, St Mary, Chris Blackwell, another host, gets the full Bourdain treatment. It’s a case of show me your friends. This is how Bourdain puts it: “When Blackwell heard I wanted to visit the local fishermen, he hooked me up with his good friend, Carl, to accompany me.”

Apparently forgetting that this wasn’t a B movie, Carl Bradshaw acts quite ugly. One of the insistent fishermen tries to tell the truth as he sees it. Blackwell’s ‘development’ plan for Oracabessa will create major problems: “This going belong to di tourist. . . .  The native here don’t have no beach in a few months time.”

“JUST STOP BOMBO KLAAT TALK!”

Bradshaw menacingly responds, “Wi no care ’bout truth, man. Wi kill people fi truth, man.” And he shouts down the middle-aged fisherman, “Yute, yute, just stop talk! Mi seh just stop bombo klaat talk!” Bradshaw forces the fisherman out of the interview. And then descends into a pseudo-philosophical rant on “tolerance”!

The star of Bourdain’s show is Cynthia who, with her partner Dennis, runs a cookshop on Winnifred Beach in Portland. It’s the only public beach for miles. The Urban Development Corporation (UDC) tried to capture the beach for private use, promising that the public would still have access. Cynthia’s response is completely understandable: “We don’t trust them. So we do not believe what they say.”

The Free Winnifred Benevolent Society took UDC to court. Last month, before Bourdain’s travel show aired, they won the case. Their heroism is a part of Jamaican culture we definitely know. The barbed-wire fences that block public access to so many beaches around the island must be torn down. With no regard for Missis Queen and her untrustworthy deputies, we must claim the right to sovereignty over our own beaches.

wiinifred-beach-campaign

Jamaicans Abroad Too Poor To Come Home?

On a visit to the US some time ago, I got into quite an argument with a Jamaican who wants to come back home to live one of these days. This is a man who truly loves his homeland. One of the clearest signs of his passion for Jamaica is this truly spectacular garden sculpture on his front lawn.

bustamante-children-hospital-kingston-jamaicaIt’s a map of the island, at least 10 metres long, with rivers and hills and valleys and signposts. The works! It’s a remarkable tribute to yard. I wonder what his neighbours think about this arrogant display of insular pride. Not that their opinion would matter to him. After all, it’s his yard. And his Jamaica!

So hear how the argument started. The gentleman of the house announces that he’s getting ready to send a gift of money to the Bustamante Hospital for Children. He’d solicited contributions from Jamaicans living in the US. Then he begins to ‘mouth’ one of his friends for not making a donation.

FOR THE CAUSE

He next turns to me and solicits my gift for the cause. I jokingly say that I live in Jamaica and that is contribution enough. Well, as the Trinidadian comedian Paul Keens-Douglas would ask rhetorically, “Who tell me say dat?” My man is not amused. He pours out his soul. Living in Jamaica is no sacrifice. He’s a college professor and most of his peers in Jamaica are living far better than him.

Then he says, “Just look at the size of the houses for lecturers on the campus of the University of the West Indies!” He obviously hasn’t been inside many of them. Most are quite run down. The university can barely afford the upkeep of its housing stock. I beg my upset host to please not start on UWI lecturers. Many of them are living in institutional housing because they can’t do better.

And, in any case, those ‘big’ houses were not built for the natives. They were designed to attract (white) expatriates in the early days of the university. It’s only the grace of God that has blackened the campus. And as the campus got blacker, the houses got smaller. The racial politics of housing is quite visible. The natives needed to learn to ‘small up’ themselves.

TAXED TO DEATH

So my host launches a new line of attack. Guess why house prices are so high in Jamaica? It’s because Jamaicans are trying to dig out the eye of returning residents. They have no conscience and are mercilessly exploiting ‘foreigners’. I should have just agreed with him. But I don’t. I argue that the exorbitant cost of housing has little to do with returning residents.

esttaxI suggest that it’s much more basic than that. Everybody is trying to gouge out everybody else’s eye. And that includes the Government, acting under the watchful eye of the International Monetary Fund. We are being taxed to death at every turn. Then I pointed out the fact that it’s only a few people who are really living big in Jamaica.

Not many people have legal incomes that can cover the cost of the palatial residences that are as huge as the egos of their occupants. People in the know can buy their houses cash. But most of us don’t want to know what those people know. So we continue to live as best as we can. In fact, it’s only poor people who still believe in mortgages.

ACKEE TREES IN FLORIDA

All the same, my frustrated professor does have a point. Most middle-class Jamaicans living abroad cannot hope to reproduce their lifestyle in Jamaica. This might seem absurd to those of us here who can barely make ends meet. But housing is, in fact, a major problem for some returning residents.

Owning a house in the US is no guarantee that you’ll be able to afford a replacement in Jamaica. Suppose your house in the US is worth $300,000.00. You foolishly sell it and come home. Can you find a comparable house for $35,000,000.00? You’ll be lucky to get a modest town house for that price in a ‘safe’ neighbourhood.

And just think of a basic commodity like a car. This is not a luxury in the US. If, as a returning resident, you decide to bring your car home, you suddenly discover that you are not wealthy enough to import it. Its value has increased by 54 per cent, the rate of duty. True, this is much better now than in the dreadful days of 100 per cent duty on cars under 3,000cc and 260 per cent duty on cars over. But still!

ackee3As a wannabe returning resident, you do the maths and you realise that you are not wealthy enough to ever live in Jamaica again. So you settle for the occasional visit. And you smile every time you remember that ackee trees are flourishing in Florida. Home is where you can afford to live.

And, to be honest, it sometimes grieves you to think that Jamaicans still expect you to keep on sending remittances that you can hardly afford. It is they who should be sending you money so you can save up to return home. But, at core, you are a true yardie in exile. So, no matter what, you will continue to do all you can for Jamaica. From a distance!

‘Outameni’ One Next Crosses

JLUTwo spelling systems are used for the Jamaican language below. The first, which I call ‘chaka-chaka’, is based on English spelling. The second, ‘prapa-prapa’, is the specialist system designed by the Jamaican linguist Frederic Cassidy. It has been updated by the Jamaican Language Unit at the University of the West Indies, Mona. After the two Jamaican versions, there’s an English translation.

CHAKA-CHAKA Spelling

Wa mek Govament tek poor people money go buy Outameni? Dem no got enough crosses? Dem waan more? Housing Trust claim seh dem buy Outameni fi build up Trelawny. Di people dem weh lucky fi get Housing Trust house no got plenty place fi go breeze out. So a dat mek Housing Trust turn tour operator? No sah!

No get mi wrong. A no ongle foreigner fi enjoy wi nice-nice country. Jamaica people supposen fi walk bout all bout fi wi owna yaad. Wen mi a pikni, a one time fi di year wi go pon church outnin! One time! Wi lef Kingston go a Porto Seco beach. An if wi lucky, wi go a Castleton Garden couple time. Nuff a wi lef Jamaica gaan a foreign an wi no know di whole a fi wi lickle island. Dat well bad.

‘The Outameni Experience’ did set up fi mek money offa di tourist dem weh come a Falmouth pon cruise ship. But Outameni never get nuff foreign tourist. An some a dem weh do go fi di ‘Experience’ no like it to dat – ascorden to Trip Advisor website. Ongle seven smaddy write wa dem tink bout Outameni. One seh ‘excellent’; two seh ‘very good’; two seh ‘average’; one seh ‘poor’; an one seh ‘terrible’.

‘A RIP-OFF, A SCAM, A SHAME’

outameniHear wa di ‘terrible’ smaddy seh: “The $36 admission price per person is the first red flag. The attraction had hoped to take visitors through the “History of Jamaica”, and that it does…. [sic] As a High School Project for “Jamaica Day”, [sic] but to invite the public to come and pay US$ 36.00 is a rip-off, a scam, a shame. At $10-$15, it may be more palatable, and get more visitors.”

Dis a wa di ‘excellent’ smaddy seh: “During a recent visit to Jamaica, some friends of mine who live on the island took me [on the] Outameni Experience. I was amazed and moved at what I saw – especially as the daughter of a Jamaican father. I cried and laughed and danced and felt so connected to my culture. It was an awesome experience and a must see for everyone!” Look like da woman ya never ha fi pay di 36 dollar.

Di ‘terrible’ smaddy mek one good point: “I did note that although 2 Cruise ships were docked in Montego Bay, and 2 Mega Cruise ships were docked in Falmouth, Outameni had only myself and a bus-load of pre-school children. And Pre-school, and primary school children is [sic] exactly what Outameni would most entertain. The Jamaican Ministry of Education should take note of this, and encourage more school visits … .”

So it look like seh Housing Trust buy Outameni fi set up school! Housing Trust money fi build house. Mek Trelawny people go walk bout Jamaica as dem please! Housing Trust can’t force nobody fi go a Outameni. It nah go work. Housing Trust a sell out poor people. Dat a one next “rip-off, a scam, a shame”. An wi a talk bout nuff-nuff more money than 36 dollar!

PRAPA-PRAPA SPELIN
Wa mek Govament tek puor piipl moni go bai Outameni? Dem no gat inof kraasiz? Dem waahn muor? Ouzn Chros kliem se dem bai Outameni fi bil op Trelawny. Di piipl dem we loki fi get Ouzn Chros ous no gat plenti plies fi go briiz out. So a dat mek Ouzn Chros ton tuor aparieta? Nuo sa!

37031249

Castleton Gyaadn

No get mi rang. A no ongl farina fi enjai wi nais-nais konchri. Jamieka piipl supuozn fi waak bout aal bout fi wi uona yaad. Wen mi a pikni, a wan taim fi di ier wi go pan choch outnin! Wan taim! Wi lef Kingston go a Porto Seco biich. An if wi loki, wi go a Castleton gyaadn kopl taim. Nof a wi lef Jamieka gaan a farin an wi no nuo di uol a fi wi likl aislan. Dat wel bad.

The Outameni Experience did set op fi mek moni aafa di tuoris dem we kom a Falmouth pan kruuz ship. Bot Outameni neva get nof farin tuoris. An som a dem we du go fi di ‘Experience’ no laik it tu dat – azkaadn to Trip Advisor websait. Ongl sevn smadi write wa dem tingk bout ‘Outameni’. Wan se ‘excellent’; tuu se ‘very good’; tuu se ‘average’; wan se ‘poor’; an wan se ‘terrible’.

A RIP-OFF, A SCAM, A SHAME

Ier wa di ‘terrible’ smadi se: “The $36 admission price per person is the first red flag. The attraction had hoped to take visitors through the “History of Jamaica”, and that it does…. [sic] As a High School Project for “Jamaica Day”, [sic] but to invite the public to come and pay US$ 36.00 is a rip-off, a scam, a shame. At $10-$15, it may be more palatable, and get more visitors”.

Dis a wa di ‘excellent’ smadi se: “During a recent visit to Jamaica, some friends of mine who live on the island took me [on the] Outameni Experience. I was amazed and moved at what I saw – especially as the daughter of a Jamaican father. I cried and laughed and danced and felt so connected to my culture. It was an awesome experience and a must see for everyone!” Luk laik da uman ya neva ha fi pie di 36 dala.

Di ‘terrible’ smadi mek wan gud paint: “I did note that although 2 Cruise ships were docked in Montego Bay, and 2 Mega Cruise ships were docked in Falmouth, Outameni had only myself and a bus-load of pre-school children. And Pre-school, and primary school children is [sic] exactly what Outameni would most entertain. The Jamaican Ministry of Education should take note of this, and encourage more school visits … .”

So it luk laik se Ouzn Chros bai ‘Outameni’ fi set op skuul! Ouzn Chros moni fi bil ous. Mek Chrilaani piipl go waak bout Jamieka az dem pliiz! Ouzn Chros kyaahn fuors nobadi fi go a Outameni. It naa go work. Ouzn Chros a sel out puor piipl. Dat a wan neks “rip-off, a scam, a shame”. An wi a taak bout nof-nof muor moni dan 36 dala!

ENGLISH TRANSLATION

Why has the Government used poor people’s money to buy Outameni? Don’t they have enough troubles? They want more? The Housing Trust claims that they bought Outameni to develop Trelawny’s infrastructure. Those people who are lucky enough to get a house through the Housing Trust don’t have a lot of entertainment venues in the parish.  So that’s why the  Housing Trust has gone into the business of operating tours? No, no!

falmouth-jamaica

Falmouth

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not only foreigners who should enjoy our beautiful country. Jamaicans should take in all the sights. When I was child,  we used to go on annual church outing!  Once a year!  Wi would go from Kingston to Porto Seco beach. And if we were lucky, we would go to Castleton Gardens a few times. Lots of us have travelled abroad and we haven’t been to all the parishes of our small island.  That’s a real shame.

‘The Outameni Experience’ was set up to make money off cruise ship passengers coming into Falmouth. But Outameni didn’t attract that many foreign tourists. And some of them who did go for the ‘Experience’ didn’t like it all that much – according to the Trip Advisor website. There are only seven comments about Outameni. There’s one ‘excellent’; two ‘very good’; two ‘average’; one ‘poor’; and one ‘terrible’.

‘A RIP-OFF, A SCAM, A SHAME’

Here’s the ‘terrible’ comment: “The $36 admission price per person is the first red flag. The attraction had hoped to take visitors through the “History of Jamaica”, and that it does…. [sic] As a High School Project for “Jamaica Day”, [sic] but to invite the public to come and pay US$ 36.00 is a rip-off, a scam, a shame. At $10-$15, it may be more palatable, and get more visitors.”

Here’s the ‘excellent’ comment: “During a recent visit to Jamaica, some friends of mine who live on the island took me [on the] Outameni Experience. I was amazed and moved at what I saw – especially as the daughter of a Jamaican father. I cried and laughed and danced and felt so connected to my culture. It was an awesome experience and a must see for everyone!” It looks as if this woman didn’t have to pay the 36 dollar entrance fee.

4038221-7476578304-35885The person who gave the ‘terrible’ review did make a good point: “I did note that although 2 Cruise ships were docked in Montego Bay, and 2 Mega Cruise ships were docked in Falmouth, Outameni had only myself and a bus-load of pre-school children. And Pre-school, and primary school children is [sic] exactly what Outameni would most entertain. The Jamaican Ministry of Education should take note of this, and encourage more school visits … .”

So it seems as if the Housing Trust has bought Outameni to set up a school!  Housing Trust funds are to be used to build houses. Let Trelawny residents tour Jamaica as they please! The Housing Trust can’t force anyone to visit Outameni. That can’t work. The Housing Trust is selling poor people short. That’s another “rip-off, a scam, a shame”. And we’re talking about far more than 36 dollar!

KC Old Boys Desire Male Sex

Dr. Patrick Dallas (left) and Dean Nevers at the 2014 dinner

Dr. Patrick Dallas (left) and Dean Nevers at the 2014 KC Old Boys’ Association dinner

I have great respect for the KC old boys who have proudly come out and made their sexual preference absolutely clear. The female sex is not for them.  In 2012 and 2013, the KC Old Boys’ Association tried to make it with women at their annual dinner. They concluded that the experiment had failed. This year, under the leadership of Dr Patrick Dallas, the old boys decided to stick to themselves.

It’s quite understandable. For five or even seven years, at a crucial stage of their sexual development, these KC old boys spent five days, every week for most of the year with their beloved classmates. They fought and made up. They played games on and off the field. And they embraced each other in victory and defeat.

These old boys have become big men, in theory. They have big jobs, big houses, big cars and big debts to prove it. But many of these big men are still just little boys dressed up in adult clothing. They long for the good old days on North Street when being a KC boy promised to make life so easy. It entitled you to an eternity of privilege.

It must be quite difficult for these old boys to adjust and learn to enjoy the company of women – their natural inferiors. It’s not a skill at which they’ve had much practice. Their mothers and sisters don’t count. They’re family. Quite inappropriate for certain forms of exploration! And female teachers don’t make good role models. They lack the right equipment.

Some of these old boys may eventually get married to women. But it now seems as if they don’t really enjoy associating with the female sex. It’s just not to their taste. They certainly don’t want to wine and dine with women. They may occasionally do so on the down-low. But definitely not in public!

DELUSIONAL WOMEN

UnknownI don’t understand why some women are so angry with the KC old boys for publicly admitting that they want to play with themselves at their annual dinner. That’s their choice. They have a right to their sexual preference. Delusional women believe they can channel the sexual desires of men. That’s just straight self-deception. No woman, no matter how hot she thinks she is, can force a man to want her – if he’s all wired up for men.

The unwilling man may, occasionally, go through the motions of pleasing women for a peaceful life. But if his heart is not in it, he’s likely to suffer from penile failure. And though it’s quite possible to fake orgasm, it’s impossible to fake erection. If the man is not psychologically prepared to play ball, not even Viagra can help him. And only God can save him from the vanity of a determined woman who thinks her charms ought to be enough to seduce him.

I much prefer a man to come clean with me. It saves a lot of time and work. Instead of getting all hot and bothered at the pleasurable prospect of making it with this gorgeous man, I can just relax. Nutten nah gwaan. The man is not for me. We can have great conversations and even go out together. But we done know; there will be no going in. Or goings-on!

ignorance-is-not-blissAnd ignorance of the truth is definitely not bliss. Just suppose you’re a woman who’s been invited to the KC old boys’ dinner by one Mr Fortis. You accept, on the assumption that your old boy actually enjoys your company. On the night of the affair, you’re dressed to puss back foot and you know you’re looking good. But after a while, you notice that Fortis not paying yu bad mind.

Female intuition kicks in and it comes to you in a cold flash. Much to your vexation, you realise that you’re actually an unwelcome intrusion. Your old boy’s body may be next to you but his eyes are roving the room, looking for the real objects of his desire: his faithful companions from way back when.

HIGH-SCHOOL BUDDIES

KC-LOGOThe origin of that word ‘companion’ is Latin. ‘Com’ means ‘with’ and ‘panis’ means ‘bread’. So, literally, a companion is someone you eat bread with. And that includes patty and box juice. Your heartical brejrin. No woman can come between a man and his bonafide high-school buddies. Plural. No matter how hard she tries. The brave may fall but never yield!

All the same, several old boys don’t approve of that backward move to exclude women from the annual dinner. These are the real big men who have definitely grown up. They have no intention of leaving their female companions at home while they go off to live in the past with their high-school buddies. After the old boys’ dinner, they’ll want to share bread and bed with their woman.

Kingston College is the ‘brother’ school of St Hugh’s. On November 22, we’ll be having our 115th anniversary banquet. We’re including men. It’s such a pity some KC old boys don’t seem to understand that it’s in their best interest to associate with women, the superior sex. Good sense just might rub off on them. It takes a new kind of old boy to get it.

Defending Slackness At All Costs

Prime Minister and Minister of Health at press conference on public health crisis

Prime Minister and Minister of Health at press conference on public health crisis

So the prime minister, who is also the minister of defence, is perfectly satisfied with the performance of her minister of health. She has every confidence in Dr. Fenton Ferguson. It doesn’t seem to matter that the nation is in a perilous state: pop down, mash up, largely due to the incompetence of the minister of health and his technocrats in handling the chik-V crisis.

Yes, I know; this is my fourth column on the virus. And if you substitute chik-V for Ebola, you can also count last week’s column: why there’s no vaccine for chik-V. It’s the same story. Victims of chik-V are poor people in Asia, Africa and now Latin America and the Caribbean. They can’t guarantee huge profits for pharmaceutical companies.

The current estimate is that it takes 10 years and 1 billion dollars to develop a vaccine. Who is going to pay for that? Pharmaceutical companies are committed first and foremost to their shareholders. Don’t be fooled by the nice things they say about wanting to save lives. They are not evangelists. It’s all about the bottom line.

That’s why pharmaceutical companies are now insisting that they should be let off the hook if the new vaccines they are rushing to develop for Ebola turn out to be dangerous. They want to be indemnified. Damn! The word ‘indemnify’ is of Latin origin. ‘In’ means ‘not’ and ‘damnus’ means ‘loss, damage’. So the pharmaceutical companies want to be absolutely sure there’s no loss even if there is damage!

DAMN WITH FAINT PRAISE

30536443-out-of-control-words-over-a-red-3d-arrow-breaking-through-a-maze-wall-as-mismanagement-of-an-issue-pThe prime minister appears to have indemnified Dr. Fenton Ferguson against the spectacular losses the Jamaican economy has suffered over the last several weeks because of the mismanagement of the chik-V crisis. According to the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ), approximately $6 billion and 13 million man hours have been lost because of the virus. I suppose those ‘man’ hours also include women.

Dr. Ferguson has been given a clean bill of health, it seems. The prime minister claims that he has “done nothing wrong”. Could she be pulling a fast one on us? I’ve always insisted that our prime minister is much more astute than her detractors would like us to believe. If I were Dr. Ferguson, I would be very worried about being commended for doing nothing wrong.  That’s next to nothing. It sounds a lot like being damned with faint praise.

Wikipedia defines that turn of phrase in this way: “Damning with faint praise is an English idiom for words that effectively condemn by seeming to offer praise which is too moderate or marginal to be considered praise at all. In other words, this phrase identifies the act of expressing a compliment so feeble that it amounts to no compliment at all, or even implies a kind of condemnation”.

I can just hear the kissing of teeth: Dat a no wa Sister P mean. She a defend Fenton Ferguson slackness fi true. She nah condemn im. OK. So I’m reading far too much into the prime minister’s words. But whether she intended it or not, her statement that the minister of health has done nothing wrong can quite reasonably be interpreted as condemnation.

In this chik-V epidemic, which might very well have knocked out at least 60 per cent of the Jamaican workforce, it’s simply not good enough that the minister of health has done nothing wrong. What has he actually done right? What kind of leadership has he provided to help us cope with this disaster? Has he not completely failed at his job? And shouldn’t he be forced to resign?

WHO ATTENDED CHIK-V WORKSHOP?

th_alarmed_faceI was alarmed to discover quite recently that in May 2012, a training workshop on chik-V was held right here in Kingston at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel. Convened by the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the workshop brought together participants from 22 countries across the region.

The workshop focused on “Preparedness and Response for Chikungunya Virus Introduction in the Americas in the context of Dengue”. In 2013, PAHO published a report confirming that “the participants elaborated a draft preparedness, control, and response plan for CHIK outbreaks in the Caribbean sub-region, focused in 3 main components clinical management and epidemiology, laboratory diagnostic and vector control” [sic].

The report carefully documents the agreed plan of action:

  • “PAHO will communicate with Ministries of Health to convey the importance of preparing for the introduction of CHIK.
  • Participants of the training course will promote sensitization of Senior Health Staff at the country level (Minister, CMO, PS).
  • Each country Ministry of Health will review existing plans and develop country-specific programs based on the framework developed at meeting.
  • Each country Ministry of Health will evaluate the capacity of current dengue surveillance and response programs as a background for CHIKV introduction”.

Chikungunya-Poste-IV-413x256I would very much like to know who from our Ministry of Health attended that training course. And did they “promote sensitization” of the minister of health, the chief medical officer and the permanent secretary? Apparently not! With more than two years’ warning, what, if anything, did the minister of health do to prepare the country for chik-V? Not much. Doing nothing wrong is unquestionably not right. It’s slackness, plain and simple. And that’s indefensible.