Why do we still have a governor general?

Jamaica’s Governor General: Why Do We Still Have One?

In recent weeks, Jamaicans learned just how much they’ll be dishing out as a nation for our expenses.

The Government presented a budget of $710 billion for the fiscal year 2017-2018. Of this $710 billion, it is expected that $225 billion will go to capital spending while the remaining $485 billion will be for housekeeping affairs such as debt repayment.

  These figures appear quite conventional until one sees the money allocated to the Governor General (GG). What’s shocking is that the country is expected to foot a $236 million bill for the GG as it was reported that he is in need of a new vehicle as well as elevator repairs. Jamaicans were informed that the elevator repairs would cost approximately $40 million.

This poses the question: why is $40 million necessary to fix an elevator? Shall we talk about the demand for a new car? Permit me to ask where our dear GG is going, what is he doing, and how often does he go out? Why should the nation be forced to buy a new luxury vehicle?

The reality is that the average Jamaican only sees Sir Patrick Allen an average of 6 times per year. He is seen on our televisions at the Opening of Parliament where he delivers the throne speech, Heroes Day, Emancipation and Independence Day and at Christmas and New Year.

So what exactly does the GG do for the other 359 days of the year, I mean surely the nation deserves to know. A key part of his job description is community outreach — when last have you seen or heard that the GG is out?

Various administrations seem reluctant to remove the Queen as Jamaica’s head of State, thus begging the question, who is truly benefiting from this?

But this is just a random question, why isn’t the Queen paying all these expenses? After all, the GG and his office are all doing her work. So, why isn’t the Queen directly paying them?

Just stop and think for a minute, how much we could do with $236 million dollars as a nation.

Here are some suggestions: Pump more money into the crime plan. Fix the vents at Cornwall Regional Hospital. Invest some more money into education. Invest in low-income housing for this fiscal year – since no money was allocated for this.

Here is the real sad note that I’ll end on; even when the GG retires we will still be paying him millions per year. Kings House has said “upon retirement, the governor-general is entitled to a pension equal to his salary as well as, either accommodation in a government-owned house or housing allowance”.

The nation will also foot the bill for the GG’s secretarial, household helper and gardener allowances. Clearly keeping the governor general is not in the best interest of Jamaica. Now is the time we should follow our neighbours in Trinidad and like them, do away with this costly office.

*Published in the Jamaica Observer on March 2,2017

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‘Everybody’s a star’ thinking breeds fake news

Welcome to the modern era in which social media has made us all some sort of experts.

First, Facebook made us all professional photographers, and later graphic designers, with those ridiculously edited photos. Of course, Twitter cleared the path and made many people social activists. Everybody has become all riled up for some cause, and don’t you dare go against the new ‘norm’; they’ll tweet you into condemnation.

Later, Instagram created way too many models – many who are yet to even do a professional photo shoot (but we are not here to judge). Of course, we can’t not mention the hundreds that proudly have make-up artist listed in their bio and are unable to even correctly choose their own make-up foundation.

 But that’s not all social media has done. It has given a much undeserved rise to ‘fake news’. The term fake news refers to “the deliberate spread of misinformation, via traditional or social media, with the intent to mislead in order to gain financially or politically”. Fake news doesn’t mean that the content doesn’t favour your personal opinion, neither does it mean that one news outlet says something that you don’t like, because we must admit that, in the past, traditional outlets — the trusted ones — have failed us.

However, social media and citizen journalism allow everyone to believe that they are journalists and, in the quick age, they end up posting flawed information. The reality is that the digital age fosters fake news. However, it can be avoided. We can avoid the click bait.

We need to ask ourselves whom is the fake news really benefiting?

For example, the young woman who lied about her ex on Facebook, and was recently charged, what was her goal? Whom was she giving an opportunity to benefit? Whom is the fake news benefiting?

It surely benefits the advertising companies, with all those click baits. Advertising companies only care about the clicks. After all, they’re here making money. But to what dire extent? Consumers of news, who say that they care about news, should take the extra second to look. Open your eyes and look! If you wasted the time to read fake news, don’t waste time and share it. The flooding of the Bog Walk Gorge is an all too familiar instance of fake news making the rounds. As soon as it begins to rain, some idle individual takes the opportunity to dig for the old photo and then create panic. We have this really distasteful way of restoring the dead to life on social media with our fake trends. Recently, we saw where a man who has been dead for about two years was allegedly kidnapping young girls in Jamaica. Imagine how hurtful this was to the already grieving family.

A last brain-teaser for contemplation: Have you ever stopped to think about the origin of fake news? Fake news hurts us all. It slows the actual response time of the security forces as well as it creates chaos in our already chaotic society.

Let’s commit to using social media responsibly. If you are in doubt, just leave it out. Stop sharing what you can’t verify.

*Published on February 23,2017 in the Jamaica Observer


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Big Thank You to NCU Journalism Students!

November 21-24, 2016 was observed as National Journalism Week in Jamaica. As a journalism student at Northern Caribbean University(NCU) , I had the opportunity to organize journalism week on campus.

The week featured noted US Journalist Kevin Smith who spoke to Grief Porn as well our Digital Media Workshop. Present was blogger Emma Lewis who blogged about the event.

Petchary's Blog

Last week we popped up the road to Mandeville (it’s quite an easy trip from Kingston these days, apart from one painfully narrow and potholed stretch of road) – at the invitation of the Communication Studies students of the Northern Caribbean University (NCU).

Jovaney Ashman making a mini-speech that made me laugh. Jovaney Ashman making a mini-speech that made me laugh. (Photo: Andre Heslop, student)

Now, NCU is a private, faith-based institution run by the Seventh Day Adventists (to be precise, by the Jamaica Union Conference and the Atlantic Caribbean Union Mission of Seventh-day Adventists). As such, I tend to think it is rather “straight-laced.” It has its rules. All that being said, visiting there has always been a great experience. Quite recently, in the U.S. Embassy/51% Coalition’s series of events prior to the U.S. presidential elections, we visited NCU and the discussion was lively, sharp and enjoyable.

And so it was last week, as I met with a group…

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Jamaica’s Election 2016: My 2 Cents

It’s election time, or as Jamaicans call it, ‘silly season.’ For many, the  election season brings the opportunity to ‘earn’ an extra $500 or to devour some curried goat. For others, it’s the time to tell Jamaica and the world that you are a  ‘born’ Socialist or Labourite. Silly right? Am I to assume that there are  special babies who, instead of crying at birth, simply chant ‘shower’ or ‘power’ and are  accepted into the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) or People’s National Party (PNP)?

This culture of assigning allegiance to a political party at birth has caused numerous Jamaicans to turn a blind eye to crucial events happening around them. The country’s current system allows individuals to vote  for a  Member of Parliament (MP) rather than the individual they believe best suited to lead the country. As a result of this, party leaders become what I like to  describe as default Prime Ministers.  A question to voters if I may. For those who have a MP who did absolutely nothing until the  election date was announced, why exactly are you cheering this person on? Are you so faithful that you’ll allow them to be re-elected so they can do nothing again until the next general election? As for the challengers, you chose to remain in incognito mode for years, having little to no interaction with the Jamaican people; why then should they vote for you?

The 21st century has often been labelled as the technological era and the age of advancement, yet in the year 2016, there are Jamaican people living without running water or electricity. Quite a few of these individuals are the aforementioned special babies  grown up,  An unfortunate number of these diehard party supporters,  those special individuals who were somehow born into a particular political party, turn a blind eye to the actions, or lack thereof, of Jamaican politicians.

Last November, the country’s two major political parties (the PNP and JLP) signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that stated that they would have a series of debates. (RJR Online News) I saw the debates as an opportunity to see how well the leaders of both political parties could ‘handle themselves’. The New York Times perfectly sums up the purpose of political debates, “First, they are the only event during a… campaign at which the two candidates appear simultaneously, giving voters a unique opportunity to comparison shop. Second, they force overly choreographed candidates to go off-script — hence, the obsessive attention to preparation by candidates and their handlers. third, their dramatic nature ensures that… people will tune in. In an era of media stratification, debates retain the power to generate a collective national experience, one built not around athletic competition but around the future of the country.” With the importance of the debates highlighted, and the MOU signed, one would believe that it would be ‘smooth sailing.’

Sadly, on Wednesday, February 11, the PNP announced their decision not to participate in the national debates , to be held by the  Jamaica Debates Commission. It would appear as though the governing party forgot about two things: 1. the undecided voters, and 2. the fact that they signed a legal document agreeing to participate in the national debates. The national debates provided an opportunity to ‘convince’ the Jamaican electorate to vote for the PNP.

In a series of events worthy of their place on a badly written American reality series, the People’s National Party disclosed their reasons for refusing to participate in the 2016 national debates. The reasons given are as pathetic and petty as you’d expect. Jamaica’s current governing party has refused to participate in the national debates ahead of the February 25 election as they require the full disclosure of Leader of the Opposition, Andrew Holness’ financial statements, particularly those pertaining to his mansion being built in the Kingston area. (http://www.loopjamaica.com/content/pnp-questions-holness%E2%80%99-integrity)

Despite the pettiness of it all, one particular question begs to be asked: why not take it to the debates? After all, you, the governing party were the ones who called the election date, meaning that you had ample to time to request all the information you seek, and by bringing it to the debates, Mr. Holness will not be able to skirt around the issues that seem to be plaguing the PNP. He will simply be forced to answer.

The PNP says they, “have facts that are yet to be proven”, but the last time I checked, facts are simply facts because they have been proven. So, if there is something that the Jamaican people need to know, please inform us.

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Daddy Sumpreme and his Fat Kid

In recent times the entity launched a campaign ‘bruk out a brukness’ -with the eye catching jackpots which promises to give Jamaicans a chance ‘to step up inna life’.

But all I’ve seen is the exact opposite. Thousands gather at gaming outlets long before 10 o’clock daily, as they simply must ‘put in a number’ before the 10:30 draw. When this happens and many of them lose, they hurry about as they must complete the daily cycle , as they try to ‘bruk out a brukness!
As if its a meal plan: individuals are given the opportunity to play 10:30 am, 1 pm , 5 pm and 8:25pm. And like a fat kid, the Jamaica populace who gambles just keeps feeding. But brace yourself, this kid about to be extremely overweight or so you would think; as Daddy Supreme has squeezed in an earlier meal -8:30 am. One would expect that a kid eats 5 meals per day would be fat. But this child eats so much that it is currently suffering from malnutrition. The more it feeds the more hungry it gets.

But the supposedly qualified doctors- our politicians who should be the ones to put us a strict diet are the ones promoting the ‘unhealthy eating’ of the populace. Oh the irony in Jamaica!

A country with limited resource and with many of its people living below the poverty line are squandering the little they have. Why? Because everyone wants that chance to ‘bruk out a brukness’. But the exact opposite is happening! ‘The bruk’ is plunging further into ‘brukness’! It is time for the bruk to either refuse the ‘junk food’ and seek a meal elsewhere or simply stick to three meals a day. In the end the choice is yours.

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