on human nature

The faulty cement and subsequent shortage in Jamaica has really ticked me off. Not only does it point to serious quality control issues at Carib Cement Company (who I hope has a large civil suit coming their way) and the Jamaica Bureau of Standards, but once again Mr. Philip Paulwell is at the helm of another major screw up. Now anyone who I’ve chatted politics with probably knows that Paulwell is my absolute least favourite Minister of Government. Ever. The man is inept beyond belief.

Not only does he have a skewed vision of how to go about developing and/or nurturing an IT sector, but the man is a first class fool. Note well: an IT sector is not, is not, about attracting FDI for call centres. Call centres?! Yes, India has a lot of the world’s call centres but they also have a highly educated and skilled population, a thriving middle class and tremendous vision and long term planning – in short they have limitless human capital. Call centres are but a small segment of their IT sector. Just ask an out of work software programmer/tester here where his job has gone and he’ll point to that Asian country with 1 billion people. So if Mr. Paulwell is trying to mimic India, he’s seeing and learning the wrong lessons. So his vision is skewed and when he tries to work towards that vision, he can’t even get it right. He can’t even choose a company on the up-and-up to give a contract to! I’ve lost count of how much money has passed through Mr. Paulwell’s ministry en route to failing oversees companies who can spot a fool-fool Third World politician a mile away and gobble him up.

And then comes the cement business. Boy I tell you this one has hit me personally because my family is involved in the construction industry but there’s so much more at stake her. How could such lax attention be paid to such a critical segment of our already struggling economy? For all the money problems in Jamaica, our construction industry is booming…that was until about 8 weeks ago when it came to a grinding halt. The construction industry is critical to Jamaica not because it’s providing homes for thousand of hard-working Jamaicans but because it provides so many jobs to low skilled Jamaicans. The low skilled workers travel from job site to job site and earn days pay that are crucial to supporting their families. And then there are the semi-skilled workers who work in hardware stores and block factories. Carpenters, masons, plumbers, roofers, hardware stores, they have all suffered these past few weeks. Major projects like the stadiums for the Cricket World Cup in 2007 to the likkle woman in Portmore trying to build a dream for her family have suffered. Not to mention the actual Carib Cement workers, the loss of earnings from halted projects, the loss of money because things had to be torn down and rebuilt…a veritable laundry list. And Mr. Paulwell still has his job?! Unbelieveable.

And I wonder if the faulty cement was identified early enough before it was used in any buildings. How much checking was done on new construction to ensure that some unscrupulous builder, careless homeowner or too-poor person didn’t use the cement regardless of its inferiority? I wonder how long Carib Cement sat on the information for that matter. Needless to say I hope that we don’t get these answers say, when the next major earthquake hits us…

Don’t let me even start on the ethanol as energy conservation initiative illusion!!

As the Minister of Industry, Energy and Commerce (pardon me if it’s not the full title) Mr. Paulwell’s responsibilities have far-reaching implications for all Jamaicans. Time and time again he has failed the country and he needs to go. New PM Simpson-Miller needs to quit grandstanding at churches and posing for photo ops with children and start demonstrating what it means to be accountable – the same accountability that she spoke about in her swearing in speech. PJ didn’t have the balls to fire Paulwell but Sister P needs to get it done. I, like many Jamaicans, was happy when Portia won the PNP President race and became our first female PM; the euphoria that enveloped us all was great and we were all filled with hope that new, fresh and positive leadership was on the horizon. But those feelings have now long run out and I’m not impressed. I understand the politics of calling General Elections and having her own mandate but Portia cannot hide behind that excuse for much longer and certainly not in this case.

Philip Paulwell must be removed from office…fired. He shouldn’t even be allowed the courtesy of resigning.

I was watching Oprah today. The program was about the 50 HS students who won the essay contest about Elie Wiesel’s Night. The book is about Wiesel’s surviving the Auschwitz death camp in Poland during the Holocaust. Seeing the students’ achievements and hearing some of their essays was truly inspiring. But what really made me cry – yes cry, Oprah does that to you sometimes – was when one essay contest winner who had survived the 1994 genocide in Rwanda in which 800,000 people were killed in 100 days was reunited with her parents and ‘new’ siblings. She and her older sister had been separated from their parents and had not seen them since. The sisters spent 6 years in refugee camps in various countries throughout Africa before immigrating to the US in 2000, found out their parents were alive in 2001 but had not had the means to see them…until Oprah promptly flew them to Chicago along with their other 2 children who had been born after the genocide. It was a powerful moment and one that epitomized the true meaning of hope.

But the even more powerful thing about the show was the message of speaking up; of each person using his/her voice in the face of injustice. Our voices need to be raised about the genocide in Sudan. Our voices need to be raised in our own county about the injustices being perpetrated there.

For such a nuff set of people who love to voice an opinion on jus’ about everything, Jamaicans can be remarkably silent when it us who are suffering. Whether about the cement debacle now unfolding and wreaking unspeakable consequences on large but yet invisible segments of our population, or the unacceptable crime rate in our own communities, or the lack of accountability displayed by our elected officials, we have been silent. A view voices on the radio or in the newspaper is no enough nor should we depend on the few to the work to benefit many.

We are not animals living on some rock in the middle of the sea. We are decent people who have only hopes of a stable and successful future but do little together to secure that. Each works hard but none work together. What will it take for us to speak up, stand up, and demand better – together? Or will we succumb to human nature thinking that someone else will do it and nothing continues to be done?

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