Bombarding Tivoli Gardens and New Orleans

Last Tuesday’s Gleaner reported a “Tivoli Bombshell”. According to the testimony of an anonymous soldier, “two policemen, without provocation, fatally shot two unarmed young men while they were bound and seated in a detention area, before marching a third man to a nearby house.”

YoxHmd8JSNyjmTz3bKGs68_9Tum7jPGe23IBGIrngRhCZUYtpRdNAbjtsQIKaI5VsfmFdXQkBUfrKzi4a0g47o0JRO7QWEuX06eWQ1RMW57--dgLbMw2J8Q91rgBGXbwdBGwtEsA4RufF5LIVUUS5w=s0-d-e1-ftWhy is this a “bombshell”? There are two quite distinct symbolic meanings of this explosive word: first, “an overwhelming surprise or disappointment”. The second meaning is “a very attractive woman”. Makes sense. Attractive women are dangerous. They tend to make men explode. If this happens too quickly, it can really be an overwhelming surprise and a shattering disappointment.

The Gleaner’s Tivoli bombshell is definitely not a very attractive woman. And, by the way, Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke, disguised as a woman, was certainly not a bombshell. It was a surprise that he was caught in the company of a man of the cloth. But as Michael Abrahams has so wickedly reminded us in his recent columns, God does move in a mysterious way his wonders to perform.

Fun and joke aside, is it an overwhelming surprise that unarmed young men were allegedly shot dead by the police without provocation? It happens all the time. Not only in Tivoli. Just think of the murder of black men by the police in the US. It’s truly an overwhelming disappointment that the lives of black men seem to have so little value.


soap-operaThen, I wonder if any anonymous policeman or woman is going to testify that he or she saw soldiers fatally shooting defenceless young men. Is the Enquiry going to turn into a soap opera about good soldier versus bad police? I suspect that both police and soldiers are equally guilty of unprovoked assault. Power breeds terror.

Of course, there was provoked assault as residents of Tivoli attacked members of the security of forces in defence of their community. But who provoked first? Where did it all begin? When politicians got in bed with drug lords? When politicians gave youths guns to defend garrisons? When the youths got smart and realised that they could cut out the politicians and run tings?

The Government is spending a lot of money on the West Kingston Commission of Enquiry. In these times of austerity, the budget is J$410.4 million. I wonder what the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the Inter-American Bank think about this expenditure. Will the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth ever come out? Or will it all be a terrible waste of money? But justice must appear to be done. Especially if it is not!


So what do Tivoli Gardens and New Orleans have in common? Just ask Dr Nadia Ellis, a professor of English at the University of California, Berkeley. She’s a distinguished graduate of the University of the West Indies, Mona. Dr Ellis gave a brilliant keynote lecture at the conference, “Community Uprising: Katrina, Resilience, Resistance & Culture After 10 Years”, convened last month in New Orleans and hosted by the Institute of Women and Ethnic Studies.

Dr Ellis’ lecture focused on the militarisation of both New Orleans and Tivoli Gardens after natural disaster (Hurricane Katrina) and manmade catastrophe (hunting Dudus). I wonder how many people still believe – if ever – that Dudus was in Tivoli waiting for the security forces to come looking for him. Was there much more at stake in the invasion of Tivoli than finding Dudus?

tivolia20100531wIn her summary of the lecture, Dr Ellis noted that, “In the wake of the disasters wrought by Katrina in 2005, security forces descended into the city creating a show of force that did little to aid those most affected by the storms. Indeed, cases of extra-judicial killing by the police were alleged and investigated. Five years later in May 2010, Jamaican security forces descended on the community of Tivoli Gardens in an attempt to apprehend a drug lord: 76 civilians were killed. In both these cases communities that were perceived from the outside as hyper-autonomous, culturally problematic, and politically unmanageable were subject to military-style incursion.”


Dr Ellis also highlighted the therapeutic function of music and dance in both New Orleans and Kingston. Like dancehall, New Orleans bounce music helps partygoers recover from the daily stresses of survival. The Katrina conference included a bounce concert by Frederick Ross whose stage name is Big Freedia Queen Diva. It was quite an event.

In a 2013 interview with OUT magazine, Big Freedia explained that “Whatever makes my fans comfortable—to be able to call me ‘he’ or ‘she,’—I’ll allow. I let them have the freedom to choose either one . . . . A lot of people just can’t accept the fact of calling a man ‘she.’ I totally understand that, and it’s never offensive to me, because I was born a man, my preferred pronoun is she—but it’s not a big thing to me.” That’s where the similarity to dancehall stops for sure.

I recently had an unsettling conversation with a bright young man from Trench Town. He said there’s no law and order downtown since Dudus was extradited. He thinks things were much better when the don was in charge. God help us if that’s true. And I don’t mean the temperamental God of the Old Testament.

Lusting After Lisa’s Legs

57223lisa_hannaI really don’t know what all the fuss was about. The minister of youth and culture goes to the beach to cool off after the reggae marathon. She’s wearing a very youthful bikini and a very cultural tee shirt. A perfect photo op for the Jamaica Tourist Board! The minister’s son captures the image and it ends up on the Internet. And, far and wide, both old and new media dissect the meaning of this act.

Even Germany’s highly regarded political magazine, Der Spiegel, carried the story. Spiegel means mirror and Lisa Hanna’s image was held up to public scrutiny: “Debatte in Jamaika: Wie sexy darf sich eine Ministerin zeigen?” (Debate in Jamaica: How sexy may a Minister present herself?). Thanks to my friend Ellen Koehlings, co-editor of Germany’s reggae/dancehall magazine, Riddim, for that translation.

I decided to keep out of the non-debate. Then, out of the blue, a conspiracy theory came unto me like an urgent message from a gossiping angel. These were not glad tidings of great joy. The ratings of the Government are so low, Lisa’s lovely legs were let loose in cyberspace as a deliberate distraction. It was a lust for power, a plot to keep us talking about foolishness instead of important social and political issues.

Just think about it. Class prejudice has been vulgarly displayed at the West Kingston commission of enquiry. The downtown witnesses don’t always understand the uptown language of the commission. I also wonder if any soldiers and police are going to be put in the witness box to be interrogated by the public defender.

Then the prime minister has failed to discipline the minister of health and the chairman of the National Housing Trust. It’s just business as usual. Despite all the calls for the resignation of both men, the prime minister has turned a deaf ear. She must be taking a leaf out of Eric Williams’ book. As prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Williams would shut off his hearing aid when he couldn’t be bothered to listen to his critics.


I don’t suppose the legs of Ronnie Thwaites, Bobby Pickersgill, Peter Phillips, Raymond Pryce, Fenton Ferguson and Lloyd B. Smith, for example, would have excited lust. In general, Jamaican men don’t do well as sex objects. What is good for the goose is not always good for the gander. Men expect women to be buff. But they don’t usually consider it essential to keep themselves fit.

sexObject01Perhaps, Mikael Phillips, Peter Bunting, Julian Robinson and Wykeham McNeill might have stood a chance in the best-PNP-legs contest. But I don’t know if they’ve had much experience in the sex-object business. So female legs were the right choice. But whose?

I think we would all agree that it would have been far too immodest for the prime minister to parade her legs in public. And I haven’t seen the leggy attributes of Ms Denise Daley, the Hon. Natalie Neita-Headley or the Hon. Sharon Ffolkes-Abrahams. So I don’t know how well they would have stood up on the hot legs platform.

Of all the female PNP parliamentarians, Lisa Hanna obviously has the best legs. So she became the chosen vessel. That’s why the picture was posted via the ministry’s Twitter account. It was official business. As a former Miss World, Ms Hanna has had lots of experience showing off herself. Shes comfortable in the role of sex object. She knows she’s hot and she’s not afraid to blaze a fire. Lust comes with the territory.


There’s not a thing wrong with honest, old-fashioned lust. That word has a most unfortunate history. Originally, its meanings were perfectly respectable. Lust was simply desire, appetite, pleasure; sensuous appetite. A lust for life! Its the translators of the Bible who are to blame for making lust sinful.

In 17th century English, the biblical expression, lusts of the flesh, turned the pleasures of the body into something quite dirty. And it wasn’t just sexual passion. I John 2:16, King James Version, declares: “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world”.

In Fundamentalist Christian Jamaica, Lisa Hanna’s hot picture certainly excited lust of the eyes. But the passionate intensity of some of the self-righteous judges who called down damnation on her head makes me suspicious. Could it be that underneath all the apparent disgust there was actually quite a lot of pleasure in the view?

images-1Take for instance S. Hare, whose letter to the editor was published in The Gleaner on Friday, December 26: “The saga of Lisa Hanna’s bikini is thought-provoking, and one must ask, what’s next? A picture of her posing in her lingerie going to bed”? How did Hare get from bikini to lingerie? And did the provoking thoughts stop there? Once you get to bed, the next logical step is . . .

Desire is a very slippery slope. The real issue isn’t that innocent photo. It’s the fundamental hypocrisy of those conflicted souls who both disdain and crave the lusts of the flesh. And as for that damning conspiracy theory! The Government’s sinful plot is only a short-term fix. Not a lasting pleasure!

No Corporate Partying This Year!

weight_of_the_worldLast Sunday, I saw a senior citizen walking on Monroe Road in Liguanea. She looked so weary. She was carrying a bag and it seemed as if it was the weight of the world. I just had to offer her a ride. As we drove off, I asked her how long she’d been walking. She had no idea.

She’d gone downtown to pick up a few things at the market and didn’t have enough money for bus fare. So she’d walked all the way, one step at a time. And she’d stopped frequently to catch up herself. I learned that her name was Joyce. And she told me she’d had a hard life. At one time she had been homeless. But she was now living with her daughter.

I couldn’t help asking Joyce how old she was. As it turns out, she wasn’t all that senior. Chronological age and biological age are sometimes quite different. I was alarmed to find out that Joyce is younger than me. Hard life old yu up fi true! As we parted, I gave her some money. But how long could that last? I knew my small gift was nothing but a Band-Aid for a deep wound.


There are so many more people like Joyce in Jamaica today, barely surviving on next to nothing. Those of us who have houses and cars and jobs don’t always stop to see the suffering that is all around us. Things are very, very tough these days for a whole heap of people.

Cynics will tell you that’s just how life is. So wi come an find it. An wi a go dead an left it same way. Can’t do nutten bout it. No one somebody can’t solve the problem of poverty in our society. So just hold yu corner and do the little you can. And live yu life without guilt.

280px-Jan_van_Scorel_002Even fundamentalist Christians have a way of getting ‘philosophical’ about poverty. They quote Jesus: “The poor you will always have with you.” But that’s just half of the sentence. Jesus wasn’t proposing that we do nothing about poverty. He was actually trying to teach his disciples a difficult lesson about getting their priorities straight.

They were annoyed because a woman had anointed Jesus’ head with expensive perfume. So they said to him, “Why this waste? For this could have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor.” Jesus answered them with a question: “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial.”


It grieves me to admit it. But I speculate that many Jamaicans today are worse off than our enterprising ancestors in the days of slavery. Believe it or not, enslaved Jamaicans had opportunities for making their own money. There was a long-established practice of cultivating provision grounds in their ‘free’ time. And they reaped the benefits of their own labour, selling excess produce. This became the foundation of a very profitable market system.

Coronation Market

Coronation Market

The historian Robin Blackburn reveals in his book, The Making of New World Slavery, that: “The growing proportion of internal commerce and currency in the slaves’ hands was another development encouraged by the provision-ground system which neither planters nor officials could halt.” Blackburn records the estimate that “a third of Jamaica’s currency was in slave hands by the 1770s”.

Almost 250 years later, how much of Jamaica’s currency is now in the hands of the descendants of enslaved Africans? Certainly not one-third! What really happened after Emancipation? And why are we spending so much of the little money we do have on imported food? Instead, we should be supporting the producers of high-quality local provisions.


Chik-V has pauperised us even more than usual this year. So many of us mash up! With productivity down and the cost of everything skyrocketing, it’s going be a very ‘salt’ Christmas for most Jamaicans. I suppose a lot of corporate parties are still being planned. I’m suggesting that all the big companies cut the revelry this year and use the substantial savings for a good cause.

pie-in-the-skyInstead of catering for the employed, who really don’t need a Christmas party, corporate Jamaica could feed a lot of people who don’t have the bare necessities. All the upscale caterers and suppliers of expensive food and drink will not be so happy during this season of austerity. But they can still be employed to provide much more economical food baskets that could be distributed through primary schools and churches.

And if, as individuals, we put on one less party, we could also contribute to the cause. Yes, I know it sounds like pie in the sky. But one step at a time, we all can keep moving in the right direction, if we choose. The only images I want to see on the ‘Who’s Who’ pages this holiday season are scenes of collective social responsibility.

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.


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

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.


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.”


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.


Too Little, Too Late, Sister P!

article-2649672-1E7EF20800000578-911_634x419Almost a year ago, in December 2013, the World Health Organisation reported that chik-V was in the Caribbean. Mosquitoes on the island of St Martin-St Maarten had been infected with the virus and were spreading it to the human population.

Even before that, the Pan-American Health Organisation (PAHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) jointly published in 2011 a vital document, Preparedness and Response for Chikungunya Virus Introduction in the Americas. It warned that “[t]he resulting large outbreaks would likely tax existing health-care systems and the public-health infrastructure, and could potentially cripple some of society’s functioning”.

That’s when the Government of Jamaica should have taken notice and started a public-education programme on the threat of the virus. Before it got here; not now. Why was our minister of health not paying attention then?

The PAHO-CDC document, which is available on the Internet, clearly states its objectives: “the prevention, detection, and timely response to outbreaks of CHIK through surveillance, case detection, investigation, and the launching of public-health actions”.


39871pnp72confn201009219rbThe document highlights the importance of Government sending out information that would “encourage informed decision making, positive behaviour change, and the maintenance of trust in public authorities”. This business of trust is crucial. But how many of us actually trust our public authorities? Even diehard Comrades who have been afflicted with chik-V cannot truthfully say they trust the word of the minister of health.

The Government should have been using both old and new media to spread accurate information on chik-V over the last three years. The PAHO-CDC guidelines acknowledge the fact that an outbreak of the disease can cause “confusion and controversy”. Chik-V has certainly made imaginative Jamaicans chat a lot of nonsense. Like saying it was the plane that crashed off the coast of Port Antonio on September 5 that brought the virus!

I suppose the minister of health will claim that the Government didn’t have the money to launch an expensive media campaign. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has been forcing us to cut back on government spending. But in 2011, when those detailed warnings about managing chik-V were issued by PAHO-CDC, we should have told the IMF to ease off. A crippled workforce cannot possibly be productive.


imagesAdmittedly, the problem of disease control is much bigger than the failure of Government to lead effectively. We can’t leave it all up to untrustworthy Government. Every single citizen must take some responsibility for protecting our neighbourhoods from the threat of disease. Yes, the Government must ensure that gullies are regularly cleaned. But we have to stop throwing rubbish into gullies.

Another environmental issue we have to deal with is abandoned lots that are all-inclusive hotels for mosquitoes, especially when it rains. So here’s my story on that score. There’s an empty lot behind my house and two more in front. On all of them, the grass is at least two metres high. I know only one of the proprietors of these mosquito hotels. I called him a couple of weeks ago about bushing the lot.

I’d heard that he’d recently sold the lot, so I really wanted to be put in touch with the new owner. I couldn’t believe it when he told me that the lot had been sold by a third party and he didn’t know the new owner. So I asked him to let me know who the third party was. He would have to call me back. I heard nothing from him.


Then last week, a woman stopped at my gate to ask if the lots were for sale. I told her I didn’t think any of them was on the market. But I suggested that she talk to the mosquito hotelier I knew. I called him. And story come to bump. His lot was sold, but if he got a better offer, he would consider it!

sin-picture2This is a nice Christian gentleman who must know that it is sinful, if not downright criminal, to be offering for sale property that is supposedly already sold. It seems as if the nice gentleman is pretending he doesn’t own the lot so he won’t have to be responsible for bushing it. Anyhow, he did assure me that he had contacted the owner and it would be bushed by the end of the month. I guess he talked to himself – the first sign of madness.

This is what is so wrong with Jamaica. We are just too selfish. The owner of an open lot doesn’t usually live anywhere near it. So it’s not his or her problem if the lot is an unsightly breeding ground for mosquitoes. Too bad for the people who just have to put up with it; or clean it up at their own expense.

At a press conference called last Thursday, Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller appealed to our better nature. She asked us to help the Government cope with our public-health crisis. She should have done that three years ago. Chik-V batter-bruise wi now. It’s much too late to kiss and make up.

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

Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller and Minister of Health Fenton Ferguson at press conference on public-health crisis

Protecting Tourism At What Price?


Dr. Fenton Ferguson

As late as last Monday, Dr Fenton Ferguson was still claiming that there were only 35 ‘confirmed’ cases of chik-V in all of Jamaica. If the goodly dentist has a public-health inspector to spare, I can prove that a full 25 per cent of these cases are concentrated in just two roads in my neighbourhood!

I have chik-V. My neighbours to my right and left and up the road are also afflicted. That’s four of us. And down the adjacent road, there are at least another five cases. So that makes nine out of 35. And that’s just the ones I know about. Of course, the big trick is ‘confirmed’. We are not ‘confirmed’ cases. We have the symptoms, but that doesn’t matter.

As far as the Ministry of Health is concerned, if you haven’t done a blood test, you and your doctor are just guessing. It could be chik-V, dengue or some mysterious combination thereof. You just can’t be sure. That’s why Dr Ferguson could have kept on pretending for so long that there are only 35 ‘confirmed’ cases of chik-V in all 14 parishes! It’s just a word game.


brandmarkLast Tuesday, I decided I’d had enough of the guessing and spelling. So I told my doctor I needed to do the test. I wanted to be ‘confirmed’, or not, as the case may be. She sent me to Caribbean Genetics (Carigen) located in the brand new building that houses the Faculty of Medical Sciences at the University of the West Indies.

Carigen is on the fourth floor and the main elevators were not working. Already? Why aren’t the elevators being maintained, I wondered. But I was there for a blood test. I was not a professional building inspector. I decided to mind my own business. All the same, I felt uneasy. This was not a good sign.

As a victim of unconfirmed chik-V, I was not prepared to take the stairs all the way up to the fourth floor. Fortunately, the service elevator in the back was working. When I got to Carigen and presented the form for the blood test, I was informed by the receptionist that the test could not be done. There were no reagents in stock. And she did not know when they would be coming in.

She said they could still take the blood sample and the test would be done when the reagents were available. I declined the offer. I had no confidence in tests done on ‘stale’ blood. Of course, this must have been the ‘unconfirmed’ chik-V talking. My response was completely unscientific. In other circumstances, I would have readily taken the receptionist’s word for it: refrigerated blood could remain perfectly fresh for quite a while.

But, in my state of frustration, I was quite prepared to diss science in favour of instinct. And, in any case, my response was no more irrational than Minister Ferguson’s insistence for so long that there were only 35 ‘confirmed’ cases of chik-V in Jamaica. As if that was the whole truth of the matter.


jamaica_tourist_boardI’m not surprised that the minister of health finally confessed last week that he’s been concerned about the impact of chik-V on the tourist industry. That now seems to be the primary explanation for why the number of ‘confirmed’ cases of the disease is so low. Of course, the unavailability of reagents for testing is another factor.

I completely understand Dr Ferguson’s anxiety about scaring off visitors with chik-V. After all, tourism is our bread and butter. But I think he’s underestimating the bravery of potential tourists. One of my neighbours with chik-V told me last week that she was expecting relatives from the UK to come on holiday. She warned them about the virus and suggested that they postpone their trip.

They called their hotel and were reassured that there was no problem. And they’re here, having a very good time. For them, the sting of unpredictable English weather is a confirmed fact. Much more certain than the risk of being bitten by a bad-mind mosquito!

I think the minister of tourism and entertainment should launch an innovative chik-V campaign. On departure, each visitor should be given a farewell gift: a badge of bravery that reads, ‘I survived chik-V in Jamaica’. It could become quite a fashion statement. A whole new meaning of ‘chic’!

lying-410x273Seriously, though, the minister of health needs to be far less concerned about tourists and much more worried about the people of Jamaica. The Government has a much bigger problem than chik-V. And, by the way, the Opposition is an essential part of government. Most Jamaicans simply don’t trust the word of politicians.

The health ministry’s concealment of the truth about the spread of chik-V is just another example of why most of us don’t take politicians seriously. Dem too lie! Half a truth is a complete lie. As one of my wicked friends said, if is one person she waan fi get chik-V is Dr Fenton Ferguson. Then him will know fa sure. There are definitely more than 35 confirmed cases of the disease in Jamaica. If is only one more!

Big Tingz A Gwaan Pon NewsTalk93FM


Frederic Cassidy

Two 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 phonetic 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.

UWI radio station a broadcast news big an broad inna ‘patwa’! Mi rather call fi wi language ‘Jamaican’. Same like how di English people dem talk English, a same so wi talk Jamaican. Mind yu, wi talk English, too. Dem force it on pon wi. An wi tek it fix-fix it up fi suit wi.

Dem old-time African weh di English people dem tek weh an bring ya, dem mix up di English language wid fi dem owna African language dem. An a so dem mek up one next language: Jamaican. An dem pass it down from generation to generation. It a wi heart language. A it wi talk wen trouble tek wi. An wen sinting sweet wi.

HEARD-EVERYWHERE-550x250A disya month NewsTalk93FM start broadcast news inna Jamaican. Monday to Friday inna di afternoon, 12:15 an 5:20. It a gwaan good-good. Nuff smaddy a listen an dem love it kyaahn done. An a no joke sinting. A real-real news. Serious ting.

A di Jamaican Language Unit a UWI response fi di news inna Jamaican. Professor Hubert Devonish a di head a di unit. Im study language an im write book bout it. A some a im student dem a work pon di news: Honica Brown, Peterkim Pusey, Tyane Robinson an Rexandrew Wright.

One a di big problem dem have fi write news inna Jamaican a fi find di rightful word fi di English. Tek for instance, ‘flexitime’. How yu a go seh dat inna Jamaican? ‘Work fi suit di boss?’ Same like how English capture nuff word from Latin an Greek, dem can dis tek over di word dem from English!


Mi tink it plenty better fi try find sinting inna Jamaican fi carry over weh yu waan fi seh from English. Long time now, mi did change over one a di Budget speech from English to Jamaican. Mi seh six out a 10 dollar a fi pay back money weh govament owe. An education get di biggest cut a di ‘wat lef’.

images-1Wen mi go a JIS fi record di programme, dem never like ‘wat lef’. Dem seh mi nah gi di news straight. A talk mi a talk mi mind. Mi a call down judgement pon govament. Dem rather mi seh ‘balance’. But ‘wat lef’ an ‘balance’ boil down same way. Nutten much no lef fi run di country!

Di Jamaican Language Unit have one next programme pon NewsTalk93FM: ‘Big Tingz A Gwaan’. An dem aks Tyane Robinson an mi fi run di show. Inna Jamaican. Wi talk wi mind bout news. An wi bring on guest. Wi do three programme already. It come on Thursday afternoon, 4:30.

Mek mi gi oonu lickle joke. Some a di uptown guest dem can’t chat Jamaican pon radio! A dem yard language. It kyaahn broadcast. Wat a sinting! Marcus Garvey done tell wi: A wi ha fi free wiself from mental slavery. Nobody kyaahn dweet fi wi. Wi head an wi heart ha fi start talk di said same language.


UWI riedyo stieshan a braadkyaas nyuuz big an braad iina ‘patwa’! Mi raada kaal fi wi langwij ‘Jamiekan’. Siem laik ou di Inglish piipl dem taak Inglish, a siem so wi taak Jamiekan. Main yu, wi taak Inglish tu. Dem fuors it aan pan wi. An wi tek it fiks-fiks it op fi suut wi.

Unknown-1Dem uol-taim Afrikan we di Inglish piipl dem tek we an bring ya, dem miks op di Inglish langwij wid fi dem uona Afrikan langwij dem. An a so dem mek op wan neks langwij: Jamiekan. An dem paas it dong fram jinarieshan tu jinarieshan. It a wi aat langwij. A it wi taak wen chrobl tek wi. An wen sinting swiit wi.

A disya mont NyuuzTaak93FM staat braadkyaas nyuuz iina Jamiekan. Monde tu Fraide iina di aaftanuun, 12:15 an 5:20. It a gwaan gud-gud. Nof smadi a lisn an dem lov it kyaahn don. An a no juok sinting. A riil-riil nyuuz. Siiryos ting.

A di Jamiekan Langwij Yuunit a UWI rispans fi di nyuuz iina Jamiekan. Profesa Hubert Devonish a di Ed a di Yuunit. Im stodi langwij an im rait buk bout it. A som a im stuuydent dem a wok pan di nyuuz: Honica Brown, Peterkim Pusey, Tyane Robinson an Rexandrew Wright.

Wan a di big prablem dem av fi rait nyuuz iina Jamiekan a fi fain di raitful wod fi di Inglish. Tek far instans, ‘flexitime’. Ou yu a go se dat iina Jamiekan? ‘Wok fi suut di baas?’ Siem laik ou Inglish kyapcha nof wod fram Latin an Griik, dem kyan dis tek uova di wod dem fram Inglish!


Mi tink it plenti beta fi chrai fain sinting ina Jamiekan fi kyari uova we yu waan fi se fram Inglish. Lang taim nou, mi did chienj uova wan a di Bojit Spiich fram Inglish tu Jamiekan. Mi se siks out a ten dala a fi pie bak moni we govament uo. An edikieshan get di bigis kot a di ‘wat lef’.

Wen mi go a JIS fi rikaad di pruogram, dem neva laik ‘wat lef’. Dem se mi naa gi di nyuuz striet. A taak mi a taak mi main. Mi a kaal dong jojment pan govament. Dem raada mi se ‘balance’. Bot ‘wat lef’ an ‘balance’ bwail dong siem wie. Notn moch no lef fi ron di konchri!

Di Jamiekan Langgwij Yuunit av wan neks pruogram pan NyuuzTaak93FM: ‘Big Tingz A Gwaan’. An dem aks Tyane Robinson an mi fi ron di shuo. Iina Jamiekan. Wi taak wi main bout nyuuz. An wi bring aan ges. Wi du chrii pruogram aredi. It kom aan Torsde aaftanuun, 4:30.

Mek mi gi unu likl juok. Som a di optoun ges dem kyaahn chat Jamiekan pan riedyo! A dem yaad langwij. It kyaahn braadkyaas. Wat a sinting! Marcus Garvey don tel wi: A wi ha fi frii wiself fram mental slievri. Nobadi kyaahn dwiit fi wi. Wi ed an wi aat a fi staat taak di sed siem langwij.

The UWI radio station is boldly broadcasting news in ‘patwa’! I prefer ‘Jamaican’ as the name of our language. Just as the English speak English, we speak Jamaican. Mind you, we speak English, too. They forced it down our throat. An we took it and adapted it to suit our tongue.

Our African ancestors, who were taken away by the English and  brought here,  cut and mixed the English language with their own African languages. And that’s how they created a brand new language: Jamaican. And they passed it down from generation to generation. It’s our heart language. That’s what we use when we’re in trouble.  And when we’re happy.

NewsTalk93FM started broadcast news in Jamaican this month. Monday to Friday in the afternoon at 12:15 and 5:20. It’s a huge success.  Lots of people are listening and they’re really enjoying it.  And it’s not a joke. It’s proper news. For real.

images-3It’s the Jamaican Language Unit at UWI that responsible for producing the news in Jamaican. Professor Hubert Devonish is the head of the unit. He’s a linguist who had written books on the subject.  It’s some of his students who are work on the news programme: Honica Brown, Peterkim Pusey, Tyane Robinson and Rexandrew Wright.

One the big problems they have with writing news in Jamaican is finding the exact translation for the English words. For instance, ‘flexitime’. What’s the Jamaican equivalent? ‘Work fi suit di boss?’ I suppose the translators could simply take over English words in exactly the same way that the English language captured lots of words from Latin an Greek!


I think it’s much better to try to find a Jamaican equivalent for the English expression. Quite some time ago, I translated one of the Budget speeches from English to Jamaican. I said that 60% of the budget is for debt repayment.  And education gets the highest percentage of the ‘wat lef’.

When I went to JIS to record di programme, they didn’t like ‘wat lef’. They said I was editorialising. I was giving my own opinion.  And I was passing judgement on the Government. They preferred me to say ‘balance’. But ‘wat lef’ and ‘balance’ boil down to the same thing. Nothing much is left to run the country!

53-Ways-to-Market-Your-Google-Plus-Hangout-on-AirThe Jamaican Language Unit has another programme on NewsTalk93FM: ‘Big Tingz A Gwaan’. And they asked Tyane Robinson and me to host the show. In Jamaican. We speak our mind about the news. And we have guests on the show. We’ve done three programmes already. It comes on Thursday afternoon at 4:30.

Let me give you a little joke. Some of the uptown guests can’t speak in Jamaican on radio!  It’s their yard language. It can’t go out on air. What a thing! Marcus Garvey has warned us:  We have to free ourselves from mental slavery. Nobody can do it for us.  Our head and our heart must start talking the same language.