In what was arguably one of the most exciting, contentious, controversial and participative election periods at the UWI Mona Guild, Mr. Oshane Grant, the current Games Committee Chairman and presidential candidate, was GRANTED ACCESS to lead the Guild of students for the 2017-2018 academic year. Grant, a member of the Chancellor Hall fraternity clinched the win with 1234 votes to Jerome Palmer’s 1166 votes, Jerahmeel James’s 540 votes, Dontae Drummond’s 339 votes and Joshua Hayles’s 211 votes. A total of 3,490 students voted this year, representative of approximately 19.3% of the Guild of Students. Still not the ideal turnout we would have hoped for in a democratic process like this, but indicative of a slight rise in voter participation which in and of itself is an win for the system
This was an election filled with excitement, contention and controversy and victory would only be promised to the smartest candidate in the pack. The Grant camp in my estimation ran the most effective campaign for the consistency of their message, the concision in their campaign promises and most importantly their ability to mobilize a strong election machinery every day of the season leading up to election day.
Grant’s win is symbolic of the campus’s position to remain Pro-Guild against Anti-Guild candidates like Joshua Hayles and Dontae Drummond. It also symbolizes a return to a status quo of male-led leadership, which has been challenged in recent years by former Guild President Davianne Tucker and outgoing Guild President Mikiela Gonzales. These results would suggest that after two consecutive years of female-led leadership, the campus has signaled a need to resort back to “traditional ways”.
Grant’s vision for 2017-2018 is premised on a seven point plan to improve the overall welfare of ALL students at the UWI Mona. His first point speaks to the pricing of hall accommodation and housing on campus to improve outdated mechanisms to safeguard value for money. His second point addresses the need for greater inclusion of the UWI Western Jamaica Campus (WJC) in the annual sponsorship agreements the Guild brokers with Corporate Jamaica. His third point addresses the lack of opportunities availed to college students to garner valuable work experience which he hopes to change by advocating for internship components to the tertiary curriculum. His fourth point addresses the welfare of the commuting students cohort and the need for greater financial support to be allocated to the guild of students representative as well as the Commuting Students office. His fifth point touches on student entrepreneurship and lobbying the UWI administration to create more avenues for students to engage in business legally on campus. His sixth point speaks to the establishment of a President’s Advisory Council which he wants to offer as a platform to students all across the campus to have an opportunity to actively participate in the decision making processes of the Guild. His final point speaks to the strengthening of alumni relations, especially in providing financial assistance to needy UWI students through an initiative called “Project 5k”.
Overall, I found Mr. Grant’s portfolio of campaign promises to be very practical, relevant, inclusive and achievable. I was disappointed however in the lack of mention about Campus Security and Guild accountability, which I think were some of the major issues this year on campus. But let’s hope he finds a way to weave those critical issues into his master plan for 2017-2018
Etel Williams, the current Guild Treasurer and ex-presidential candidate, offered a message of Hope in his presidential campaign that was consequently denied by the UWI administration. Mr. Williams was disqualified from the presidential race this year for soliciting the help of a non-UWI personnel in his campaign. The UWI defines a non-UWI personnel as anyone who is not registered to study at the UWI Mona in the semester in question. It was reported that Mr. Williams’s campaign manager was not a registered student for this semester and this was in clear violation of the election rules that govern the period each year. Following reports from students, an investigation was launched by the Returning Officer for this year’s election Mr. Athol Hamilton to ascertain whether there is any truth to these claims. After the investigation, Mr. Williams was found guilty and subsequently disqualified.
His disqualification evoked a very emotional response from students within and outside his camp, as the circumstances under which he was disqualified were considered questionable. Students are of the view that it was unfair to single out Mr. Williams for prosecution because other presidential candidates would have broken some election rules, but those reports were somehow overlooked. Some are calling the disqualification a part of a conspiracy by the UWI administration to get Mr. Williams away from the presidency, for reasons unknown. This conspiracy theory, they’ve based primarily on a series of events that led into the election day. Particularly, the printing of ballots and timing between Mr. Williams’s official disqualification and removal of his name from the ballot sheets.
Following the judgement, Mr Williams sought to appeal through the Office of the Director of Student Services and Development Mr. Jason McKenzie. Reports are that this appeal was launched on Friday March 17, 2017 and was officially rejected on Tuesday March 21, 2017. Election day was Wednesday March 22, 2017 and Mr. Williams was on none of the ballots students voted on. The timing between his appeal being officially rejected and the ballots being printed for election day is where the controversy rests; because students are in disbelief that the Electoral Office of Jamaica (EOJ) and the UWI’s International partner from Canada was able to make a change so swiftly in time for election day, especially since the ballots are customarily printed and shipped from Canada. Nevertheless, assurance has been given from the Guild and Returning Officer that due process was followed and these claims of conspiracy are falsified, so we are only left to believe what we know and can prove.
The Way forward
It is unfortunate what has happened to Mr Williams, because of the expenses and efforts that would have already been invested prior to his disqualification. But we must not allow his downfall to disqualify our commendations to Mr. Oshane Grant for a hard fought victory. The Guild of students at present is in a state of disrepute and to grow from this and become stronger the president elect will need YOUR support; whether you were for or against him in the election period. The mandate for 2017-2018 cannot be cosmetic as before, but must focus on strengthening the failing systems of transparency, accountability and efficiency to restore some legitimacy again to the Guild of Students. Congratulations to Mr. Oshane Grant, and the Council elect and best of luck for the upcoming tenure.
There is a revolution brewing in the most unsuspecting of places, the hearts and minds of our women. I have been observing these past few weeks, especially on social media, a renewed sense of urgency to stop violence against women and children. The co-founders of this movement, notable advocates Ms. Nadeen Spence and Ms. Latoya Nugent, have managed to galvanize support from women young and old across the Jamaican society.
To provide some context about this movement, it all started when one of the co-founders, Ms. Latoya Nugent, who goes by the alias Stella Gibson was featured in the media in January 2017 for using a Tambourine to assault, then president of the Moravian Church, Paul Gardner, who was also subsequently charged with carnal abuse. It was this incident that spawned the idea to start an activist group to tackle gender-based violence which came to be known as the Tambourine Army.
Since these women launched their challenge against the system, I’ve observed strong support as well as strong opposition from both men AND women on the issue. Most people, especially the women, seem to be fully behind the cause and have taken to social media to break their silence and speak up! The opposing minority however seems to be indifferent towards the methodologies used and have even gone as far as to question the motives of some behind this movement. They seem to be of the view that the force and aggression will do little for the movement and are suggesting a more balanced, inclusive approach to get a larger buy in from other stakeholders of society.
While in theory that approach should work, in actuality that hasn’t been the case and I commend the women of the Tambourine Army for finally accepting this and choosing to be BOLD FOR CHANGE. There are many issues like gender-based violence affecting us as a nation that we spend most of our time writing letters to the editor about, talking on the radio/TV about or posting on social media and then get frustrated when these methods produce little to no results. Maybe this approach was wrong, but that is something we will have to wait and see as time passes. However, we must acknowledge the courage of these women for trying and fighting; a lesson we all could take away and apply to our personal fights.
I would never pretend to understand or even relate to the pain these women must be feeling; especially the survivors. The overwhelming anxiety for change and the strength to bear that pain and keep it subdued, while the system considers their plight. At some point enough will be enough, and it is not our place to judge them for taking this position now if they feel, the time is NOW.
To my brothers reading this I want you to imagine for a second, you were born into a world where society counted you as inferior before you were old enough to understand what it meant. And imagine a superior group of counterparts whom are knowledgeable of the perceived limitations placed upon you and take advantage of you in the worst of ways to further their agendas of greed, power and pleasure. I’m not certain if that fully captures it, but I’d imagine that’s how our women have felt all these centuries. Centuries of psychological, physical and emotional abuse that constantly gets overlooked because the people beyond this social glass ceiling are all men; looking amusingly at the woman’s effort to try and break it.
This nuh feel right and I would hate for the situation to get bloody before oonu Jamaican people realize this! This issue affects me personally, because I have witnessed for myself the emotional, physical and psychological abuse of the women I grew up with by men who were suppose to be my father figures. Not knowing what to do as a young boy I silently shared their pain, cried with them and prayed with them for better days until I was old enough to know better and to do better! I have been blessed with two beautiful little sisters that I’m worried about honestly. I’m worried they will be forced to pay a gruesome price for their beauty, and have to stifle their potential to fit into a society that fails to see the value in allowing them to just be. This isn’t just a fight for our women and children, but a fight for Jamaica’s sake. We all have a part to play, because we all are affected by this issue; in one way or another.
If the women behind this Tambourine Army believe they have exhausted all avenues of “proper” ways to advocate that they taught us in their schools, then I say do what you must to maintain the fight. If you must shout, then shout; if you must march, then march; if you are attacked with force, fight back with force; but please don’t give up the fight. Your courage and nationalism is not unnoticed and my children and the children of ALL MEN will thank you dearly for your service to Jamaica. History will absolve you.
I remember when the first housing development by 138 Student Living was introduced, and it was then Guild President Lerone Laing who had the responsibility of communicating this to the Guild of Students; which I am almost certain he did through his guild councilors at the time. Most students didn’t have a problem with the development because it wasn’t seen as a threat to the traditional status quo, but just another income generator like the Marlene Hamilton halls of residence; which students at the time understood.
UWI has been running on a billion dollar deficit for years now, and as a result the quality of infrastructure, learning and the overall experience of being a Mona Pelican has diminished. So students understand the need to create income generating projects that will cut away the deficit, and bring the school to hopefully see a surplus. But in doing so, they also expect the University to be stewards of UWI Tradition and make efforts to preserve this; even as they embark on their development projects and initiatives.
What used to be a good idea to most students, started to sound like a scam when news broke that the agreement with 138 Student Living could also mean the demolition of old halls of residence to re-develop new living structures synonymous to the first development, recently named the Leslie Robinson Hall. What made the news even harder to digest was the impression that in this deal, the UWI also agreed to surrender its rights to the land space the current traditional halls rest on for 30 years; thereby giving 138 Student Living autonomous control over the redesign and redevelopment of the traditional halls of residence.
And the thing that smeared faeces all over this deal was the lack of transparency exercised by the UWI administration in inking it in the first place. If this was an administration that put the student’s welfare first then initially when the idea surfaced to redevelop housing on campus, the Guild of students would have been invited to those preliminary talks. The Guild president at the very least, should have been instrumental in the review and evaluation of the contract when it was proposed by 138 Student Living and subsequently given the opportunity to have adequate consultation with his guild of students before the University made a decision.
So I can understand the sentiment fully, when students say they feel UWI has scammed them. There is no way students would have accepted the full terms and conditions of this deal if the opportunity was given for them to directly have a voice. This lack of transparency only highlights a long time dysfunctional relationship between the administration and Guild of students; often times encouraged by the former. And it leaves the Guild Council having to play catch up and explain to their constituents what is really happening, when they themselves are at an informational disadvantage. Maybe it’s a case where UWI is underestimating the ability of their students to participate in major decision making processes; maybe it’s a conspiracy to erode the trust of the Guild of students in their leaders thereby giving the University absolute power over the direction the campus will go; or maybe they’ve just forgotten their duty to cater to the welfare of students. Well whatever the case may be, it’s disheartening and frankly unbecoming of an institution which prides itself as the jewel of tertiary education in Jamaica.
But the UWI alone is not to blame here, because the students and their lack of participation is a major stem in this problem tree. For years, UWI students have sat idly and allowed their student leaders to give them substandard representation and widened the gap between student wants/needs and perceived student wants/needs. This new way of doing things, created and supported by the same students who are complaining, has presented the opportunity for the University to do whatever they want; and maybe that is what has happened with this 138 deal. If UWI were able to scam you out of your right to have a say in how campus housing options will transform for the future, then imagine what they can do with your tuition fees? the curricula that guides your courses of study? Food options? healthcare? Security? Transportation? and the list goes on.
The University has a duty to facilitate a comfortable, enabling and enriching environment for its students through whatever means it deems necessary for sustainability. But the students also have a responsibility to ensure this duty is carried out in a most fair and justified way. The scammer here is not just the UWI, but you the students have scammed yourselves of the right to have the best representation of your interests in major decision making for the campus. Reflect on that.
It doesn’t take an economics pundit to see through the fluff which surrounds the Economic Growth council of Jamaica. Its membership for one, right off the bat, tells you that this isn’t a unit seriously concerned about the ECONOMIC GROWTH of our country; but rather the LOOK of there being a special machinery in place for our economic growth. Let’s take an actual look at the council itself:
You’ll notice, for the most part, it’s nothing but a group of businessmen, lawyers and Investors. And if you’re wondering about Dr Nigel Clarke, he has a doctorate in mathematics (not economics). Another thing which stands out for me is the lack of youthful exuberance on this council. If it’s expected that the youth of Jamaica are to be the successors of any efforts coming out of this project, then why aren’t we represented? Where’s the young economics student to offer a different (and more contemporary) perspective to the discussions on growth? And if this Council is in place then what then was the purpose of creating a Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation? Aren’t we kind of repeating ourselves here? hmm
There are a few people in society today that I’m surprised weren’t tall enough to get on this ride either. Dr K’adamwe K’nife, lecturer of entrepreneurship at the UWI Mona and sustainable development specialist would make sense as an addition to me; Dr Peter Phillips MP, former Minister of Finance and Planning (who also holds a PhD in International Political Economy and Development Studies I might add), and the only man who could offer insight on our growth over the last 4-5 years; Dennis Chung, CEO of the Private Sector Organization of Jamaica to guide offer insight on the structuring of that public/private partnership; Professor Trevor Munroe, Executive Director of the National Integrity Action (NIA) to advise the proper preventative measures for corruption control in the grand scheme of growth; and the list goes on.
What also concerns me is the overarching mission of this council with their “five in four plan” i.e 5% growth over the next 4 years. Is this even possible? Are they saying 5% cumulative growth by the year 2020, or in the year 2020 they expect to achieve growth of 5% after any given quarter? Below is a graph showing Jamaica’s economic growth trajectory over the last 4 years:
As you can see for yourself, According to the Statistical Institute of Jamaica on a quarter-on-quarter basis, the GDP expanded 1.6 percent. GDP Annual Growth Rate in Jamaica averaged 0.58 percent from 2003 until 2016, reaching an all time high of 4.30 percent in the fourth quarter of 2006 and a record low of -4.50 percent in the second quarter of 2009. So if you really think about it, if they can replicate what was done between 2003 and 2016 and add 0.30%, 5% “growth” is possible. But will this really translate to socio-economic development? Rather, is this council AT ALL concerned with the socio-economic development of Jamaica or just boosting the numbers on paper? Because they are basically promising another 4 years just like the last 4 years (only a little bit better to account for the extra 0.30%). Is that what the Jamaican people would consider as growth?
A more believable approach to this would have been to extend the trajectory to about 15-20 years with a memorandum of understanding between the two political parties and civil society groups that just like the vision 2030 development agenda, this growth agenda would remain untouched. Notice also, that the current administration’s campaign for government was hinged on the promise of economic prosperity (growth) for Jamaica if elected. Also notice, that this 5 in 4 plan will conveniently conclude just in time for election season again? *hint*hint*
Finally take a look at the Economic Programme Oversight Committee (EPOC) and the newly convened Economic Growth Council (EGC). Notice any similarities? Why did they recreate the wheel that was the EPOC instead of adopt and reform it? Why is the chair of the EPOC, Mr Richard Byles, not even an honorary member of the EGC? *sips tea*
I want to end my rant with a word of advice to the powers that be reading this and may be feeling uneasy with the revelations: get over yourselves. The growth and development of Jamaica Land we love should not be a tactic to retain power and/or boost the aesthetics of the party which forms government; but rather a social partnership between ALL stakeholders of Jamaica (Rich, Poor and Young ) committed to the long term agenda for economic growth and prosperity. I would also implore the EGC going forward, to dialogue with the youth of our country and get them directly involved in this mission for economic growth. After all, whatever progress or decline that comes from this initiative will be OUR responsibility as youth to carry on. So it makes sense to give us a seat at the table.
I remember I was in lower 6th form at Wolmers when I heard of Khajeel Mais. Though the circumstances upon which I heard of him were unfortunate, one thing was apparent was the level of respect and appreciation he commanded from the teenage community at the time; especially the girls. The details of his alleged murder at the time was unclear to me, and at one point seemed like a rumor with the amount of theories that surfaced. One theory which I can recall was that he (Khajeel) exited the taxi and attempted to provoke the driver (Patrick Powell) and a struggle ensued which led to his subsequent death. Another theory is that there was another person in the BMW X6 which was reportedly the son of Patrick Powell, and the son being familiar with Mais engaged in a verbal brawl which prompted Powell to exit the vehicle and try to intimidate Mais with his firearm; and somehow through intimidating Mais to retire his anger the gun fired off.
So many theories, but none of which point to the truth. One truth we know though is that Patrick Powell is a notable businessman, of what particular trade I wasn’t able to identify but he is presumed to be successful and legitimate in what he does. Powell had fled the island for the United States following the altercation with young Mais, and according to their defense attorney Peter Champagnie, was “lured” back to the island recently following the detainment of his son, Jhanai Powell, for his involvement in the assault of a man in 2009. According to clerk of court Hansurd Lawson in the Corporate Area Resident Magistrate’s Court, it was the influence of the youth’s family that had been preventing his arrest for so long. Peter Champagnie, in his defense of Powell dismissed this claim and asserted that he had not been arrested all along because the complainant had given a vague statement to the police.
What this highlights to me is that the Powells both have a tendency to solve their disputes in less amicable ways (allegedly) and that these men are part of a very powerful and influential family; with the kind of influence that can potentially pervert the course of justice. Criminals and Dons have used their wealth and influence to capture justice before, and with the Police Force being perceived to be one of the most corrupt institutions in Jamaica, it’s not a hard theory to prove. But against all these facts, “facts” and allegations what we know for sure is that: 1) Khajeel Mais is dead 2) eye witness accounts put Patrick Powell at the scene of the crime 3) Powell is a wealthy and influential businessman 4) The media has been sensationalizing this issue to paint Mais as the only victim 5) Witnesses from the scene in 2009 who indicated an interest to cooperate at first, have now been diagnosed with amnesia conveniently dating back to the day of Mais’ death.
There is clearly more to this story that meets our eyes, and as hard as it is to be objective we must try our best in the name of Justice. Let’s watch this case keenly and make conclusions after all the facts have been gathered and presented, and not from personal bias. Personally, I am leaning towards Mais being the victim and the possibility that a struggle did in fact happen between them which led to Mais’s death; but that’s just my theory. I’m still giving Powell the benefit of the doubt because believe it or not, we could all be wrong.