Jamaica is at war with criminals

Jamaica. A layman’s crime plan.

With a population of approximately 2.7 million, Jamaica has maintained one of the highest murder rates per capita in the world for decades. Successive governments have been unable or unwilling to manage the growth in indiscipline & disorder, endemic corruption or the daily slaughter of its citizens.

Jamaica has recorded 25 murders in the first 4 days of 2018, or 6.25 murders per day.

Jamaica recorded 1,616 murders for 2017, 266 or 20% more murders than 2016.

Jamaica’s 2017 murder count equals a rate of 58 murders per 100,000 inhabitants.

It’s the 3rd highest ever, surpassed only in 2009 (1,683 murders) and 2005 (1,670 murders).

Grim Reaper

In the absence of any communicated crime plan [albeit it was a condition of the appointment of the Police Commissioner], with the stratospheric growth of indiscipline & disorder, and with what seems an unstoppable murder rate, I propose the following ‘Crime Plan’ as a layman, albeit a corporate security professional and practitioner for the past 23 years.

  1. Establishment of a working group comprised of leaders of industry, members of both political parties, heads of the JCF and JDF and security & other professionals. Group not to exceed 12 persons.
  2. Communication via media, main stream and social, of the working group and its aims and objectives – to include social work to be implemented plus plan outline to tackle crime, murder rate and indiscipline. Time frame to be included for social deliverables and implementation of plan.
  3. Identification and communication via local media, mainstream and social, of areas known as hot-spots.
  4. Cost analyses of each identified area to determine expenditure needed for social & infrastructural updates and beautification programme.
  5. Sourcing of required funds.
  6. Installation in each identified area of converted 40’ container as control post for police & military personnel. A three-shift system with eight persons per shift. Two vehicles per post. Each post equipped with CCTV, communications and all other required equipment.
  7. Selection of three teams of 40 personnel each from the police and military formed on the likes of the Untouchables created to deal with the mafia crime wave in the US. Fully resourced in terms of equipment, vehicles, communications etc. Team leaders report directly to the working group and the Untouchables are outside of the scope of any other oversight group.
  8. Start of infrastructural and beautification programmes in each identified area employing local people, managed by a civic & cross-functional political party team selected for each area.
  9. Identification and public naming of each of the reported 258 gangs in existence and their area of operations. Public naming of known individuals in each gang.
  10. Gangs and individuals are to be named as outlaw or terrorist organisations or individuals.
  11. Communication via all local media, mainstream and social, that all named gangs and individuals are to report to a given control post within 48 hours.
  12. Public communication via all local media, mainstream and social, of the implementation of a 72 hours to a safer Jamaica plan in all major towns and thoroughfare intersections. This is the implementation of the Broken Windows Theory and Zero Tolerance for breaches of legislation enabling taking back all public spaces from criminal elements. More details on 72 hours can be found at http://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/focus/20151011/72-hours-safer-jamaica. I include an excerpt from the recommendation by Martin Henry: ‘Our security forces, with full respect for human rights, on a day not to be announced, must move to take control of the town centres and commercial hubs and transport centres of our major townships by sheer presence. Almost as a military operation. They must control with presence the known urban crime hotspots. They must take out of circulation crime leaders and gang leaders on even minor but stickable offences. They must police the softer quality of life laws as well, which will not only improve quality of life but send a massive national signal of seriousness of intent in restoring law and public order… in 72 hours, three days, for a start, Jamaica can visibly start to become a safer place. With measurable reductions starting to happen in murders, extortion, scamming, praedial larceny, robberies, traffic violations, public transport violations, vending violations, environmental breaches, noise abatement violations. The whole gamut of crime, lawlessness, and disorder.’
  13. Implementation of 72 hours to a safer Jamaica.
  14. Communication via all local media, mainstream and social, of a reward system for handing in or providing reliable information on the whereabouts of the known and named gangs and individuals. Reward system to start at JMD$1M per individual. Information to be channeled directly to a selected group of established civic society personnel for dissemination to the three teams established as the Untouchables.
  15. Launch of Untouchables to bring in the outlaws.

Jamaica gangs

 

 

Jamaica no problem?

GOOD COPS.

With thanks to Vincent Gordon for his story. November 2017. Kingston, Jamaica.

A couple nights ago I was stopped on the airport road by a police team, doing routine security checks. I checked out okay.

I loved how they approached me. And it was clear they did not want me to just drive off. Me being me when I am in a good mood, and knowing that I was a few minutes early, we got into talking about crime, the current major flare-up in Bull Bay and even the recent shootings of some well-known armed murderers.

police-stop-and-search

On INDECOM both men said that they see nothing wrong with INDECOM. They are doing their job. They just want them to be fair. I agreed. It was refreshing to hear, since some would suggest that all policemen are against INDECOM or fear them.

Then one of them said something that perhaps was my takeaway from the discussion:

  • “We all know the ones doing the shootings and we know the dons. Citizens tell us. But when we take them in, we cannot hold them because no witness will come forward for fear…and we do not have any evidence except the eye-witness. What can we do? It is frustrating that we do the work to bring them in and they just laugh at us and walk right back out”.

Sad. Seems to me that we need to find a way to “hold them” when we catch them… current methods won’t work. It is too witness-dependent.

mountain-view

Young, intelligent officers. Wanting to laugh, to share with those they serve…a need to unload perhaps for understanding, perhaps just to show that all of them are not cranky.

And in that moment, I loved them! Loved how angry they are at how little help they receive. How brave they are to go hunting even when the shots from automatic weapons ring out – searching for them. They are afraid. But they go in. That is what courage is!

 

One of them has a young daughter. Every day he pledges to himself to go back home to her. Every single day.

Unbidden, I gave them a “change” to buy a couple Red Bulls…so that they stay awake as they search for the enemy. And I told them that when a criminal confronts you with a weapon, shoot first. Live! For your family.

Tynemouth Beach

Jamaica’s BIG 2017 Opportunity

Opportunities for the Government and Opposition – the Minimum Wage Act and reducing income inequality

Ahead of its 2016 Annual Meeting in Washington DC, the World Bank called for a new push to tackle inequality after warning that the gap between rich and poor risks thwarting its ambition of eliminating extreme poverty by 2030.

Of note, in a World Bank ranking of 141 countries, Jamaica is ranked at number 106, with only 35 countries more unequal than Jamaica.

working poor

The University of the West Indies economist Dr Andre Haughton argues that Jamaican government policy directs resources towards supporting firms rather than supporting households; this trickle-down approach is a source of inequality in Jamaica, so much so that over the years, up front and in your face Jamaican government policy has increased inequality, which suits those in power.

Nowadays Jamaica’s inequality seems normal, but only because we have got used to it, just like we have got used to our yearly 4th highest murder rate per capita in the world.

Jamaica’s inequality ranking shows clearly why we are where we are, a country on the edge of a cliff, with successive administrations doing very little to alleviate the conditions of those on minimum wage.

The review for an increase in the minimum wage [National Minimum Wage Act; National Minimum Wage Act (Industrial Security Guards)] is one of the greatest opportunities for the JLP government to show the poor in Jamaica, and the world at large, that we are serious about reducing this inequality. After all, when in opposition the now Minister of Finance had stated clearly that it would go to JMD$8,200 for a 40-hour week, representing a JMD$2000 per week uptick. NOTE, minimum wage was last raised at the beginning of 2016 and nearly 2 years later the people of Jamaica are still waiting. In the meantime everyone has seen and felt the increases in the cost of living. Not only that, but the Poverty Index stated that 21% of our people live below the poverty line [just over JMD$3,100.00 per week].

For this administration to accept the flawed [YES, they are flawed] recommendations of the minimum wage review committee for an increase of only JMD$434 per week [JMD$86.80 per day – not even one way bus fare], would demonstrate clearly their actual lack of caring/compassion for those on the minimum wage, and show a self-centred desire to ensure that they can continue to have their army of helpers, gardeners, nannies, cheap workers et al.

One of the JLP’s tactics at the last elections was the tax break [I will not discuss the “no new taxes” promise here]. At the end of the day the tax break actually benefited less than 300,000 [actual data shows 251,792] working people. Yet a just and fair increase in the minimum wage would benefit over 500,000 people easily, improving the lot of the marginalised in our split society.

money imageAnd for the PNP opposition? Your silence on what the review committee has proposed in the mainstream media is deafening. You need to wheel and come again, and do so quickly. Your history is the party of the poor, for the poor and with the poor. Your lack of public communication to date on the review and recommendation of a JMD$434 per week increase will effectively help to keep the people in poverty, those same people whose rights you claim to champion; thus you are supporting and perpetuating the income inequality that exists in Jamaica.

And before I hear that an increase of JMD$2000 per week in the national minimum wage will create unemployment, I state without hesitation or apology that this is a fallacy, regardless who you are – whether economist, financial guru, believer in market forces, supporter of state intervention, owner of a security company or a householder.

A fair & just increase in the minimum wage will create greater consumption, productivity and a boost in morale and self-worth. What it will also create is a slightly better off population, some who will be able to work 4 days a week instead of 5.

Raising the Minimum Wage Boosts the Economy
• Raising the minimum wage does not kill jobs. Leading US economists have found that increases in the minimum wage have no discernible effect on employment, including employment in high-impact sectors like restaurants and retail.
• Recent experience in US cities that have raised their minimum wages provides further support. San Francisco increased its tipped minimum wage to USD$12.25, before tips, and experienced positive job growth in the leisure and hospitality industry the following year.
• Raising the minimum wage increases consumer spending and boosts the economy. In the US a study by Doug Hall and David Cooper estimated that a USD$2.55 increase in the minimum wage would increase the earnings of low-wage workers by USD$40 billion and result in a significant increase in GDP and employment.
• A raise in the minimum wage predominantly benefits low-wage workers, precisely those most likely to put additional income directly back into the economy, kick starting a virtuous cycle of greater demand for goods and services, job growth, and increased productivity.

What does it mean?

For households, you may have to reduce your helper’s/gardener’s/nanny’s hours/days per week while ensuring they are no worse off than before, without the raise making you miss your monthly car payments/supermarket shopping trips/bar bill payments/extra curricular activities/holidays etc.

For firms utilising security personnel, ensure you only use registered security companies [registered by the Private Security Regulation Authority], and understand that a good and decently paid guard will have far more interest in the security and safety of your employees, contractors, visitors and assets than one who is struggling to make ends meet.

For those who have not read Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, please feel free to Google and learn. His pyramid is below, where too many people sit in the larger red base.

maslow

 

The argument that a JMD$2,000 increase will create unemployment is also one perpetuated by the registered security companies, who are already under siege from the many illegal and unregistered cheap firms operating in the industry, firms who do not even pay the present minimum wage or the legislated allowances.

min wage photo

As someone who has worked in the security world for the last 22 years, it may create temporary unemployment [I should say temporary contract breaks/shortened hours per week, as security officers are for the most part individually contracted to their security firm and are not employees]. One of the resources that short sighted companies cut after a wage increase is security. But the cut is short lived, as shortly after a minimum wage increase and the corresponding reduction in security personnel, most firms go back to the numbers that are adequate and effective for their operation. Or they suffer from losses far greater than if they had kept the right numbers of personnel.

And thus, both the JLP Government and the PNP Opposition have a great opportunity:

  1. To show Jamaica that it really is prosperity for all and not just for a few;
  2. To push for a greater equality of income for some of the marginalised in our society.

What will it be?

scales

 

 

 

Outsourcing labour

When a company outsources labour, is this corporate greed? Or corporate survival?

What is ‘Outsourcing’

Outsourcing, also known as contracting out, is a practice used by some companies to reduce costs by transferring work to third party contract suppliers rather than completing it with employees. It is regarded as an effective cost-saving strategy when used properly. It is where a business process (payroll processing, claims processing), operational processes, and/or non-core functions (facility management, distribution, security, safety) are contracted to another party.

Labour photo 3

Outsourcing results in cost savings from lower labour costs, taxes, insurance premiums and reductions in the cost of production. Outsourcing can also be a way for a company to avoid government regulations or mandates, such as those around the environment or safety.

Where a local Jamaican company is also part of a global entity, there are set benchmarks that have to be achieved, whether in waste reduction, reduced water consumption, energy minimisation, safety incidents & breaches, and the all-important and topical official company headcount.

And a lot of global entities use production per employee, exclusive contractor numbers, to determine the benchmark for the ‘right’ headcount based on the size of the business.

This in itself seems a fallacy, as ultimately the management of the company dictates what the contract worker does, regardless of the third-party contract supplier providing the labour and a ‘supervisor’ [creating the illusion that contract workers are being managed externally].

For global public limited companies who have now to report on corporate social responsibility in annual accounts, international standards speak to the numbers of Full Time Equivalents [FTEs]. And as per the standard, apart from regular employees on a company’s payroll, FTE numbers include contractors.

  1. Temporary [including 1-day temps], contractor, sub-contractor, agency, seasonal and migrant workers, drivers, service providers, and vendors or other workers who receive day-to-day supervision by the company.
    • Day-to-day supervision exists when the company supervises both the result of the work and how the work is done. In other words, day-to-day supervision exists where the company directly manages the individual or supervises both the output/product [i.e., the result of the person’s work], and the means, methods, sequences, and processes by which the work is performed [i.e., how the work is done].

What I have learnt over the years is that it is certainly not open to debate that outsourcing/contracting out provides lower labour costs, even when contractors are doing the same jobs/tasks/processes as employees, and without any benefits that accrue to employees.

The Jamaican Context

Labour photos 1

  1. Many contract workers sign an annual agreement and are forced to take a 2-week contract break every year, without pay. This is so the company can claim they are ‘contractors’ and not employees, as per requirements of local Employment legislation. Some of these ‘contractors’ have worked for many years, some for a couple of decades, with the same third-party contract supplier. Should they really be considered a contractor?
  2. For most contractors in Jamaica, there is no vacation leave with pay, no sick leave with pay, no redundancy payments if the firm collapses, no company pension scheme, and very little human resource intervention by the company paying the third-party contract supplier for the labour.
  3. For the most part [there are a few exceptions], each contract worker is expected to file and pay their own statutory deductions as self-employed individuals. There are therefore no company contributions to NHT, NI etc.
    • Of note, there is a massive loss of tax revenue in outsourcing. If the Tax Authority wanted to collect this revenue, then an audit of those third-party contract suppliers [just request a list of contract firms from all major local & global {operating in Jamaica} companies], would show the millions lost over the years.
  4. If a third-party contract supplier loses the contract, there is no legislation to safeguard their contractors by ensuring they transfer to the new company now awarded the contract – in the UK, TUPE [Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) regulations], exists and is very clear on the process to be followed and the preservation of employees’ and third-party contractors’ terms and conditions when a business or undertaking, or part of one, is transferred to a new employer.
  5. Where meals may be subsidised for employees, most companies do not subsidise meals for their contract staff, or ensure in contract agreements that the contracted firm does so [though contracted office staff may be an exception to this in some cases].
  6. Uniforms and safety equipment [safety shoes etc.] are normally provided to employees; the majority of contractors have to buy their own.
  7. Contract workers are easily terminated due to the absolute lack of interaction/involvement of most company’s Human Resource Departments. All that is required is a verbal communication/email/letter from the responsible company representative managing the contract firm stating they do not need 10/20/30 people the next day or the next week. What happens to the 10/20/30 contract workers selected to stay home? No pay.
  8. Outsourcing can easily create a two-tier system amongst employees and contractors [even those working side by side], with a number of employees regarding their contractor colleagues as inferior, second-class citizens, perpetuating a classist work environment that should have no place in a modern day developing economy.
  9. There are firms who have nearly as many contracted workers as they do employees.
  10. There are some, especially within the single largest grouping/type of contract service, where 99% of the workforce is comprised of contractors.
  11. A lot of the principals of third-party contract suppliers are not respected by their workers. They are perceived as negotiating cheap wage rates to get contracts, paying inadequate wages while enriching themselves from the sweat and labour of others.
  12. Most contract negotiations [especially in large and globally linked companies] are conducted and championed by trained procurement specialists. A part of their role, and sometimes their salary/incentive package, is contingent on negotiating with suppliers so the company pays as little as possible for contracted services/supplies. And though best value does come into the equation, procurement specialists are trained to start with least cost.

Labour photo 2

So back to the questions about outsourcing or contracting out labour.

Is it corporate greed?

Is it corporate survival?

 

 

 

Clear, Hold and Build – Jamaica’s last chance?

Clear, Hold and Build – what does it mean, and will it work in Jamaica?

With the 4th highest per capita murder rate in the world [once at number 1], the island of Jamaica and its 2.7 million population are about to experience a crime plan just approved by the Government, the Opposition and the Senate called Clear, Hold and Build.mountain-view

And no matter what anyone may want to say, Clear, Hold and Build is foremost a military plan. The plan has the support of many in the island, people who are frustrated at what is taking place in this ‘land of wood and water’, and the seeming inabilities of past & previous administrations to tackle the root causes. Not to forget our image abroad as the “Two Jamaica’s”, an island awash with corruption in both the public and private sector.

The seriousness of crime in Jamaica cannot be underestimated, as in one recent 24-hour period, 20 people were treated at the Kingston Public Hospital for gunshot wounds, causing the hospital administration to go public with the costs to the economy and the scarce resources that were no longer able to cope with the slaughter that is taking place.

I thank Wikipedia and David H. Ucko, associate professor at the College of International Security Affairs, National Defense University, and an adjunct fellow at the Department of War Studies, King’s College London for their writings on the subject matter.

I also hope that the Government of Jamaica, the Opposition and the Senate have read and fully understand about Clear, Hold and Build, as if all three elements do not work hand in hand, then Jamaica will have lost its chance for real development and growth. We will continue as we have always done, at the edge, with a sharply divided population with one of the highest income disparities in the world.

Clear, Hold and Build.

Clear, Hold and Build is above all a military strategy that has been used in conflict zones, and where opinions on its success are divided.

Clear and hold is a counter-insurgency strategy in which military personnel clear an area of guerrillas or other insurgents, then keep the area clear of insurgents while winning the support of the populace for the government and its policies. As defined by the United States Army, “clear and hold” contains three elements: civil-military operations, combat operations, and information warfare. Only highly strategic areas are initially chosen for “clear and hold” operations; once these are secure, the operation gradually spreads to less strategic areas until the desired geographic unit [county, province, nation] is under control. Once an area has been cleared, local police [rather than military] authority is re-established and government authority re-asserted.

The clear and hold strategy was first developed by Sir Robert Thompson and the British Army during the Malayan Emergency from 1948 to 1960. It was also widely employed by the British during the Mau Mau Uprising of 1952–1960. The strategy was also implemented by General Creighton Abrams as part of the “pacification” effort conducted by the Republic of Vietnam and the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War (at which time the strategy became widely known) and was used as a counter-insurgency tactic in Algeria, Greece, the Philippines, and South Korea. The strategy was used extensively by the United States and its allies in the Iraq War.gas-riot-1

Several critical elements of the clear and hold strategy have been identified. One element is to secure support for the strategy at all levels of the traditional military forces. Experience in Vietnam has shown that traditional military forces dislike the limited role they play in the clear and hold strategy, and may successfully advocate for a more traditional war-making role. Another challenge is that the strategy takes time, which a government may not [for various reasons] have. The strategy also requires significant numbers of on-the-ground “clearing” combat and “holding” police forces. Thompson and others have also argued that clear and hold operations can only be successful by isolating the population from insurgents, but some strategists point out that this can have deleterious effects on public support for the government and its policies.

Counterinsurgency theory underlines the uniqueness of each insurgency, yet also advances an approach that is to apply across time and space. Termed clear-hold-build, the approach involves clearing contested territory through security operations and then holding that territory so as to isolate and defend it from insurgent influence. The build phase, finally, involves economic, developmental or governance-related activity intended to increase the legitimacy of the counterinsurgents and the government they represent. Done successfully, clear-hold-build allows the government to increase the territory under its control. The insurgents, meanwhile, lose both physical space and their link to the population, without which they are gradually rendered irrelevant or are simply defeated.

On a very abstract level, the sequencing and logic of clear-hold-build are sound. Yet implementing this approach is anything but easy.

Often, it is assumed that with the insurgents gone, a harmony of interest naturally prevails around the good cause of the counterinsurgents. In reality, each locality brings a unique web of competing interests, which unless carefully understood, are likely to thwart attempts at peace. The complexity is compounded where the government at the heart of the counterinsurgency campaign is viewed as corrupt, unaccountable or predatory – in such environments, clear-hold-build may not be viable, at least not without concerted reform.

What is really at stake is nothing less than reversing societal breakdown, all the while in the midst of ongoing war.

Wherever this approach is to be tried, its implementation must be suffused with an understanding of the political economy of armed conflict: the patronage networks, the functions of violence, and the distribution of privilege and power, both at the local and state levels.

moon

In other words, proponents of clear-hold-build have a tendency to wish away the very problems that cause insurgency in the first place: a lack of government legitimacy, split loyalties among the population, and contested governance among a range of armed political groups.

Clear-hold-build has emerged as an antithesis to the “conventional” approach typically adopted by militaries facing insurgency —an approach dominated by the use of military force, raids, and body counts. Clear-hold-build challenges this approach by framing counterinsurgency as a fight for the support and loyalty of the relevant populations. Yet, beyond its exhortation for a secure environment and cooperation with local communities, it can provide few specifics. It is inevitably – as theory – more relevant for the questions it raises than for the answers that it cannot possibly provide. It is a subtle distinction, but one with fundamental consequences for how this approach is used and for the results that it may yield.

Where does this leave clear-hold-build? Some might argue that its problematic track record is itself grounds for its dismissal. Still, it is difficult to envisage a successful counterinsurgency campaign that would not in some way involve the steps of clearing, holding and building, probably in that order.

The key lies in not mistaking the approach for more than what it is. Clear-hold-build is not a strategy and must not be confused as such—arguably this has been the tendency in Afghanistan. As Hew Strachan notes, “as soon as strategy allows the expectations of theory to lessen its grasp of what is really happening it has allowed theory to be its master rather than its tool.” As a framework for analysis, clear-hold-build is an empty shell that must be filled with the specifics of the case. Only when suffused with this type of knowledge can it be the foundation of a campaign plan, one informed by available means, local opportunities, and a theory of victory.

Jamaica, can we make this work?

black_clouds_dark

 

 

 

Something you do well

Bradburys Jamaica

cropped-tynemouth-beach.jpgThis is something I found on my laptop from 2011. Nice easy read for a Sunday afternoon.

Choose something that you do well and find a way to make the fruits of your efforts available to those around you.

By providing real value to others, you expand the treasures in your own life.

Take something you do well and find a way to make it enjoyable. The more you enjoy what you’re doing, the more effective you’ll be.

20160615_134525

Find something you do well and teach it to others. The more you can duplicate your efforts, the more value there is for everyone.

Look at something you do well and consider the real, lasting sense of fulfilment it can bring. Remember that life is about making a difference.

The things you do well provide you with the opportunity to give of yourself in real and meaningful ways.

That’s an opportunity you…

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Bohemian Rhapsody

moon

Trailer Hijack

It was a hot Wednesday afternoon and Jay learnt that a trailer carrying 1152 cases of Heineken had been hijacked and taken to Bohemia, a community in the hills bordering Trelawney & Manchester. All Jay could keep thinking about was the song by Freddie Mercury of Queen, Bohemian Rhapsody…up until the phone call, he didn’t even know there was a place in Jamaica called Bohemia.

Bohemian Rhapsody indeed. As Jay spoke the first 4 lines of the song, he wondered if Freddie Mercury had spent any time in Jamaica recording music… “Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy? Caught in a landslide, No escape from reality”.

P, Mitch and Jay immediately set out from the plant and learnt that Police had already been dispatched to the area. The tractor head and trailer had been found by the GPS system, recovered and three men plus a car held.

Several phone calls later they arrived at Bohemia, a sleepy village high up in the mountains that had come alive that day with excitement. Driving in, Jay saw Sales and Logistics colleagues from Manchester and Police from Cave Valley and Alexandria. There were about 100 people milling around, shouting “Boss Man, leave the beer with us”.

hills

The trailer had been emptied of its contents and some of the product had been stored in the back of a broken down old rusted truck parked by the roadside; more was also stored in an old collapsing shop perched on a hill’s edge; and some product had already been taken to Cave Valley Police Station for safekeeping & evidence. Jay still doesn’t know what happened to the evidence.

rs-trailer

They couldn’t start loading the product onto a sales truck as they had to wait for the Crime Scenes Police to arrive and take whatever forensic evidence was available. They took a couple of hours to get to Bohemia as they were working a crime scene in St Mary.

Bohemia has to be the coldest place in the island; people in the community wore hoodies and coats. All Jay could think of was where to get a cup of coffee. The cold made his teeth chatter so they sat in the car for a while, every now and then nodding off, condensation clouding the windows. Every now and then Jay would open a window and look outside. If anyone had told Jay that somewhere in Jamaica could be this cold at night, he would have told them to stop lying.

One man challenged them and kept saying they should just leave and give the people the beer. He had a firearm stuck in his waist. Mitch, P and Jay stood their ground, faced by the man and a crowd of about 50 people. The Cave Valley Police came back from the station after securing the van load of Heineken. They quietly told them about the man with the firearm and after the Police spoke to him, they informed Jay that he was a Policeman who lived nearby. Jay thought, this illiterate is a Police Officer?

Crime Scenes arrived and began their forensic gathering. Photographs, measurements, more photographs and more measurements – it seemed as if they would never finish. Jay worked alongside them to learn.

Once Scenes of Crime had gathered their evidence, the team started to load the product stored in the shop onto the sales truck.

rs-truck

It was so cold and the crowd was growing, young men standing menacingly around the truck in their hoodies. It reminded Jay of the thug fashion in the UK.  And how he thought the UK had failed its people. Jay was tired, annoyed, cold, and hungry. All he wanted now was a hot cup of coffee.

The truck was not being loaded fast enough so Jay went into the rickety shop and started throwing cases through a large open window, just to stay warm and speed up their departure. He soon worked up a sweat, glad for the warm up exercise [who needs a gym?]. Jay kept thinking he was the only person carrying and had to safeguard all their people, so he kept moving faster and faster. He just wanted to be out of there before the crowd got too excited or someone stirred them up to start looting the truck.

collapsing-house

Once the shop had been emptied, they moved to the old broken down and rusted truck parked nearby with cases packed inside the back. One of the young men who had helped them load the truck from the shop asked if he could help again. Jay said yes, challenged once more by the Policeman who kept telling them to leave the beer. He was laughing at the young man helping them, saying he wasn’t going to get anything from them but hard work.

When the men had finished loading the product they were ready to move. They talked a bit and decided to leave a few cases for those who had helped them. The Policeman grabbed one of the cases from the young man who had been the most helpful and sauntered off laughing, so they gave their ally a couple more and watched him until he was safely out of sight.

They drove out behind the truck and the empty trailer, on the way to the Manchester Depot. They had only been able to recover 375 cases of Heineken.

truck-2

When they got there, there was still no coffee, it was now midnight, and they were all tired, thirsty and hungry. And still cold. And Jay was running out of cigarettes!

But they were all glad to be away from Bohemia safely. They started their journey back to Kingston…Phil Collins on the radio – ‘just another day in paradise’.

Over the next few days the investigation revealed that the hijack had been engineered by the driver himself along with a forklift operator, who had taken a day off just to assist with the hijack.

And when Jay looked back at the nine trailer hijacks the company has suffered since 1996, only two have been genuine. Seven have been engineered by the driver himself.

As the Good Book says there is nothing new under the sun.

NIGHT SUN 2001.

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It was a Wednesday evening. Jay had left work and stopped at Rib Cage on Constant Spring Road, picking up a half baby back ribs & fries and was heading home when the call came in. Gunmen had cut the fence by the Gulf perimeter and were moving the cases of empty glass bottles stored there. This was the second time this week, and the fourth for the month, and always as the sun was just going down.

Jay turned around and powered the car, a 2.4 litre brown Datsun Crown and headed back to work. Fifteen minutes later he pulled in from the road. He was glad the barrier was open, as the car hit the entrance bump and leapt into the air, landing on all four wheels under the barrier, instead of crashing through it. Jay drove around to his office and ran in for a couple of spare clips, and drove quietly to the Gulf with the lights off.

In those days, they used radios for communications. Jay called the Security Control Room and asked someone to bring him a radio. After a few minutes, he heard a whistle behind him, it was Big Man with the radio. Big Man gave him the radio and Jay started asking some questions. When he got no answer, Jay looked behind him, but Big Man had disappeared, back to the Control Room to watch on the cameras.

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Jay walked quietly amongst the cases and containers, listening intently for any sounds. There were containers parked next to the west wall and he crept up carefully, all the while listening and looking. In the distance, Jay saw men on the other side of the fence, packing cases they had removed from the site. There was a lookout standing on the corner with an AK47 in his hand.

The Control Room called Jay and told him to come back. Jay smiled and told them to call the Police, but the Police were already on their way. Big Man said they were getting help from the army with a helicopter.

Jay waited, quietly, firearm in hand. He carried a Walther P99. The men were still the other side of the fence, moving about slowly, packing cases. Jay knew he could do nothing but wait patiently. He could not fire at the men as they were not a danger to him or anyone else. The firearm law in Jamaica was strict.

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Jay moved nearer to the west wall and nearer to the gulf corner, taking shelter now by a wheel of a container, speaking softly to the Control Room, asking for the location of the gunmen. They were still beyond the fence. but Jay didn’t want one of them climbing the wall and seeing him.

And then in the distance the sound, blades cutting the night air, the helicopter was near. And then the sky and ground lit up. Night Sun was here.

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The gunmen first stood frozen as the light glared onto them, and then shots firing from the ground as the entire Gulf Corner became day. It was as if the midday sun had appeared in seconds.

Jay watched as the intruders started running in all directions, leaving the cases of empties on the ground where they had stacked them. The blue lights of Police cars could be seen along the old train line by the mangrove, trying to cut off their escape, while Night Sun circled.

Shots, more shots, then only the light and the “whoosh, whoosh, whoosh” of the helicopter blades.

Two Police cars came down the road to where Jay was standing and officers came out heavily armed. They all moved to the fence line and into the open land.

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And then it was over, Night Sun moving over the bushland and mangrove, trying to find the men, the sound of the Police sirens and the lights of the blue flashing beacons along the old train line. No more shots.

Jay walked back to the Crown, ready to eat his spare ribs & fries. They were all over the floor. He was hungry.

When Jay got back to the Control Room the Superintendent from Hunts Bay was reviewing the camera data. Jay told her this had become a twice weekly event, and they talked about what they could do to stop these men. She said she would send a combined Police and Army team on site in the evenings. For two nights, the team hid amongst the cases of empties and containers. No sign of the gunmen.

On the third night, the gunmen came back, Jay watching them on the cameras, seven men, all armed. Some cut the fence while one man used a handmade wooden ladder and starting scaling the wall.

Jay moved down to the gulf. The man with the ladder was now standing on top of the wall, straddling the razor wire, an AK47 in his hand. A Police Officer took aim, called out and while the man was raising the AK, the officer fired and the man fell inwards, hanging in place upside down, one leg tangled in the razor wire, the AK falling in the dirt and sand.

As he was struggling to free himself a soldier walked up to the hanging man, pulling him roughly off the razor wire, the soldier jumping in the air with his helmet in his hand, bringing it down on the gunman’s wounded shoulder. The man screamed. Blood flowed from his shoulder. The soldier shouted at the Police Officer, telling him he was too hasty, he should have waited until all the gunmen were inside so they could have dealt with them properly. Jay knew what that meant.

Shots were firing and Jay saw another man in the open land go down and then get up again and start running, staggering to get away. Shouts of “Don’t move” and the occasional shot broke the night’s stillness. And then it was quiet.

Three days later Jay was told that one gunmen who got away later died in a country hospital from his wounds, and the the razor wire man lived and gave up his colleagues.

After that there was a long peace at the Gulf.

ROAD BLOCK

Remembering the GAS RIOTS of April 1999

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It started at about 9:30 am on the Monday morning, April 19, 1999. Just like that. Jay remembered it well as he had just walked away from the Main Gate and got to a site check point when everything outside the plant went crazy.

News from all over the island was that people were blocking roads, lighting old tyres, rubbish and derelict cars in response to the government imposing a tax on gas. People came out in their thousands, everywhere, all over the island. Total lock down.

Jay went back to the Main Gate and out onto the road. But not far. What a scene. Looking left towards Six Miles and right towards Three Miles, all he could see were hundreds of people moving garbage, old iron, tyres, tree stumps & derelict vehicles, placing them in the road and throwing gas on what could be lit. The smoke from burning tyres was acrid, and people had rags over their lower faces.

Vehicles started driving any side of the three lane carriageways they could, just to try and get away from the mayhem. Fires were burning all along the roadway, people gathered at each side off the main, throwing more debris into the road.

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A car pulled up outside the Main Gate and a man started putting old tyres across the road, blocking the exit. Jay ran out into the road with M and took up the tyres before the man could light them on fire, and the man drove through the entrance gate and started swearing at them. Jay told him to go block the road elsewhere, so the man took up the tyres and placed them in his car and drove off, telling Jay and M what they could do to themselves!

They met and discussed options. Everyone decided that the business should close and everyone be sent home but the question was how. With the roads blocked all over the place, how could they ensure safe travel for everyone?

Gunshots were firing off everywhere. As far as Jay could see along Spanish Town Road there was chaos. Neither the Police nor security firms were able to move around. People driving on the road were in a panic, wanting to get away no matter how. They had called in the trucks that had already left the plant for the day. They all came in safely, the big rigs stopping at the nearest depot in the country.

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A car was forced to stop just down from the Main Gate exit. There was a baying crowd around the car, scavengers, pushing and shoving and rocking it back & forth. Jay and M rushed out, pushed through the crowd and brought it back into the plant. The driver was a visitor (born in Jamaica but living in the UK ) with his wife and two young children, and they were panic struck. Jay took them into the plant and down to the canteen, and for the rest of the day fed them and looked after them. They had started out for a peaceful weekend on the North Coast, their first holiday in Jamaica as a family together.

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Shortly afterwards a bread truck was stopped by the crowd at the same place, and within minutes was looted and set on fire. The driver got away safely, leaving the burning truck where it was, people running down the road with loaves of bread, laughing.

A call was made to a contractor who lived across the road. He used to be a community leader for one of the political parties. Jay told him they wanted an escort to take people out safely by convoy. Thirty minutes later, he turned up with about 40 men from his community. They were on bicycles, motorcycles and foot. There were two cars as well.

The first convoy drove out, about 65 cars in all, heading for Half Way Tree. Jay put the UK “visitor” and his family in the middle of the convoy. Constant phone calls told him everyone got out and home safely, the visitor in his hotel.

An hour later the “soldier” escorts returned, all smiles and noise, and a second convoy left the plant with about 50 cars, heading for Portmore and Spanish Town. Who didn’t drive a car was given a ride. Everyone got home safely.

Jay and M went through all the offices to ensure everyone had left. Jay stopped short at the door to the Conference Room – eight overseas auditors working away on their laptops, oblivious to what was happening outside. Their host had gone out with the first convoy and had forgotten all about his guests. Jay called D Man who brought the minibus around. The auditors were driven back to their hotel in New Kingston, D Man leaving the minibus at the Half Way Tree Police Station and walking home all the way to near Three Miles.

And then for those who were left. There were about 40 employees and they walked the plant shutting down everything. It was now early evening and Jay wanted to get everyone away and safely home. The security personnel and a few key utilities people stayed.

At about 6:00 pm they were ready to leave, and hit the road. This time they were on their own, they were the convoy, and Jay drove towards Six Miles, leading the way. When they got to the traffic lights at Seaview Gardens there were hundreds of people in the road. The Police were there and the 18 car convoy pulled up at the lights, awaiting instructions. The Police started clearing the road of the crowd, pushing the crowd back with batons and rifle stocks, and waved us on. It was a relief.

As Jay came parallel to Wray & Nephew a barrage of gunshots came from Waterhouse. Passengers ducked down in the cars. BB who lived in Waterhouse cried out, and didn’t bother coming out the Land Cruiser. At the Weymouth Drive intersection Jay pulled to the front of the convoy and blocked oncoming traffic until they had all passed through. They drove over & around road blocks; drove on sidewalks where they couldn’t continue on the road. Once they had everyone safely home or in their community, Jay headed home, dropping BB on Hope Road when he saw a rubbish collection truck and knew the driver. Demonstrators had punctured the truck’s tyres but the driver hadn’t stopped.

That night the GM decided they should all be at work the following day. Jay said there would still be chaos on the roads, and that if they were serious everyone needed to move early and be at the plant no later than 6:00 am, as the looters would more than likely be sleeping after their night’s activity. Any time later than that and the streets would be in turmoil again.

Sure enough the roads were quiet at 6:00 am on Tuesday morning – about 30 employees came to work. At the Main Gate a security officer who had been standing there the evening before showed us a scar on his shoulder and a warhead – someone had fired a bullet into the air and it had come down and grazed his shoulder.

By 9:00 am the chaos started again, gunshots firing randomly in the city. The GM called a meeting and asked what the plan of action should be. Jay almost laughed and said they all needed to go home, and called the contractor from Cockburn Pen.

Twenty minutes later they headed through the Main Gate. Jay drove an old Toyota Land Cruiser and took up the rear. The contractor and the GM were at the front. They skirted through debris, burning cars, tree trunks & utility poles, tyres and old refrigerators & freezers. Using both sides of the road and the sidewalks when needed. By the time they got to Three Miles Jay had four people hanging onto the Cruiser – one sat on the hood, one held onto the back, two were standing on the running boards, one each side of the van. With the weight on the running boards and the back bumper the Cruiser was almost looking up at the sky.  The ‘soldier’ sitting on the hood of the Cruiser was singing away and shouting at people on the roadside, “Free up the blocks, free up the blocks”.

Every road block they came to all the way up Hagley Park Road was pulled aside to allow them free passage, with shouts from the demonstrators “Let the people through, let them through”. The convoy swung from one side of the road to the other, all the way to Half Way Tree. Conditions weren’t as bad there and the escort left them.

The following day the plant remained closed. Jay went out scouting on the road, through Liguanea, Old Hope Road, Cross Roads and Red Hills Road, Washington Boulevard and along Spanish Town Road and back up Hagley Park Road. There were still many signs of the damage done over the previous two days. Bulldozers and trucks were on the roads trying to clean up what they could. Police and soldiers had re-taken the streets. Everywhere was calm.

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It was back to business on Thursday. Three whole days of production lost, and the tax on gas rolled back to what it was before. Was this people power, or frustration, or political manipulation, or poor decision making by a Government strapped of cash?

Or an insight into socio-economic conditions faced then, and still being faced now, by Jamaica, land of wood and water? Jay sensed the jury is still out deliberating.

New Year 2017

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As 2016 draws to a close,only two days and a few hours to go, and we reflect on all its challenges, changes and opportunities, let’s make some great resolutions for 2017.

I am the eternal optimist and see opportunities in every incident, in every crisis. Now is not a time to ease up and relax, now is a time to dare, to act and to endure.

“In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer”. Albert Camus.

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It doesn’t matter what others do better than you, beat your own record every day and you will be a success. Pace, perseverance and perfection.

The only way to miss the success is to miss the opportunities that are in front of us.

Be confident and be that success.

Make your words [your thoughts] be manifest and come to life.

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My personal resolutions for each and every day are quite simple and are taken from Winston Churchill: “To have the courage to stand up and speak and the courage to sit down and listen, to never submit to failure, and to never be comfortable with mere personal successes or acceptances”.

There is a saying “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing”. I would like to add that evil will also triumph when the good SAY nothing.

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Author Anna Sewell [March 30, 1820 to April 25, 1878] put it another way: My doctrine is this, that if we see wrong that we have the power to stop, and do nothing, we make ourselves sharers in the guilt.”

Carry this into our home, play and work life and we will see it’s doing WHAT’S RIGHT, THE RIGHT WAY, AT THE RIGHT TIME, EVERY TIME, for each other and for this land we love.

eiffel-towerStay aware, stay secure and stay safe throughout the year.

Together we can.

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