Right Steps & Poui Trees


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Remembrance Day 2018: Jamaica

Things come to your notice in a variety of ways, some of them unexpected. I was reminded of the Remembrance Day ceremony at National Heroes Park by a Ministry of National Security tweet on Friday.MNS tweet re JDF Remembrance Day rehersal - 9-11-18

Today being the hundredth anniversary of Armistice Day and never having been before, I decided to go to the memorial ceremony. There was adequate parking at National Heroes Park, and as I walked inside the entrance, I was encouraged to make a donation to the Annual Poppy Appeal, which I did.IMG_20181111_194635_resized_20181111_074759473 - Remembrance Day 2018 poppies

While I was waiting for the ceremony to begin, I saw a gentleman walking around with poppies and heard him telling someone at the end of the row I was sitting in that he was 85 and that people called him the Poppy Man. I intended to speak with him at the end of the ceremony to ask his name, but unfortunately I didn’t see him later.Remembrance Day 2018 ceremony

The National Memorial Service was scheduled to start at 10:55am, with the official arrivals beginning earlier.

 

(This is a link to a copy of the full programme for the Remembrance Day 2018 service.)

Arrivals

 

Time, like an ever rolling stream,

Bears all its sons away

– O God, our help in ages past – Opening Hymn

Period of Silence & The Last Post

 

(The period of silence commences and ends with a one-gun Salute. The Last Post is sounded by the JDF buglers.)

The Exhortation was read by Mr Gerald Manhertz, who I was told after the ceremony is 90-years-old and is one of the few living Jamaicans to have served in World War II.Remembrance Day 2018 f

Remembrance Day 2018 - The Exhortation

The National Anthem was sung before the Wreath Laying Ceremony.Remembrance Day 2018 - Jamaican flag

Justice, Truth be ours forever,

Jamaica, Land we love.

– National Anthem

Wreath Laying Ceremony

His Excellency The Governor General Greets the War Veterans on Parade

Once the ceremony ended, there were the official departures…

Remembrance Day 2018 o

…after which people milled around, talking and taking photographs….Remembrance Day 2018 p

I am glad that I attended the Memorial Service today. Acts of remembering are important to a society. P1340943 Remembrance Day 2018

 

 

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Lightning Over Kingston & A Few Other Things To See

I was up in the hills with family last week, in the Blue Mountains, probably my favourite place in the world. One night I sat on a balcony, watching lightning flashing over Kingston just after sunset. I called my granddaughter to come and see & she climbed up on my lap to watch with me. After the first flash of lightning lit up the sky, she said, “More!” I explained to her that the lightning doesn’t come when we want it to, but that if we sit patiently and watch, we might see it again. And we did, a few more times. P1340070 sunset with lightning 10-10-18

There are so many smaller things to see also, like new mango leaves in the morning rain…P1340164 new mango leaves in morning rain - 10-18…moss growing on roof shingles…P1340111 - roof shingles and moss 10-18…and cat tails (Acalypha hispida) sparkling with dew…P1330902 - cat tails 10-18

My love for the Blue Mountains goes back to childhood summer holidays, when we used to spend time at the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) camp at Newcastle. It was possible to rent some of the cottages and my siblings, cousins and I remember those times as magical.P1330982 - Newcastle 10-18Just part of Jamaica’s Blue Mountain range…

Blue Mountains panorama 10-18


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Fire at Walker’s Place of Safety: More Information Needed

On January 16, 2018, a fire at the Walker’s Place of Safety resulted in the death of two  teenaged girls who lived at the institution, Ornieka McCrae and Anna Kay Moreland . I have made three Access to Information (ATI) requests to the Child Protection & Family Services Agency (CPFSA), formerly the Child Development Agency (CDA), for documents containing information about the specific circumstances which led to the death of the girls. All three requests were responded to in a timely manner, but unfortunately have provided very little detail about the circumstances which led to the children’s deaths.

The CPFSA report (CDA Report – Walkers POS), which indicates it was submitted on February 15, 2018, a month after the fire, contained this information about the death of the girls:

CPFSA Walker's Feb 2018 report

Page 10

CPFSA report Walker's Place of Safety 2018 p.11

Page 11

CPFSA report Walker's Place of Safety 2018 p. 13

Page 13

The CPFSA report says that “the Fire Department…advised that an investigation has been launched into the cause of the fire.” The Jamaica Fire Brigade’s Final Fire Report (Jamaica Fire Brigade Final Fire Report – Walker’s Place of Safety – March 16 2018) is the result of that investigation, I assume. It had this to say about the death of the two girls:

Walker's Fire Brigade report p 1

General Remarks – page 1

Walker's Fire Brigade report p 2

General Remarks – page 2

Walker's Fire Brigade report p 2b

Origin and Cause – page 2

I found it difficult to accept that this was all that the CPFSA had in terms of specific information on the circumstances surrounding the death of two children in State care and made a third request for relevant information. I received the following response:

“With regards to your request below, please be advised that the only documents the CPFSA has relating to the death of the children in the fire at Walker’s POS are the Jamaica Fire Brigade Report and the CPFSA Walker’s report for which you have already obtained copies.” July 3, 2018

It cannot be that this represents the entire documentation of an incident in which two girls in the care of the state died. I am at this stage assuming that some other department of government has further information documented and I will be making additional ATI requests. For example, are there any statements by staff at the facility regarding what happened that night? Were any of the children who survived interviewed and their accounts documented? Thankfully thirty-four of the thirty-six children escaped safely, but surely we must want to find out why two children did not.

 


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One Coconut Tree at Sunset

I normally take photos of this coconut tree at sunrise. I must have taken hundreds of photos of it over the years…against spectacular red skies or pink clouds…or lit by sunlight as the sun comes over the mountains…or in silhouette…sheltering doves or baldpates or on one occasion a very steely-eyed johncrow. But today I photographed the coconut tree, not as the sun was rising, but as it was setting…coconut tree 12-9-18

This meant that I was standing on my roof with my back to the setting sun…P1330295 coconut tree…seeing coconuts at various stages of development…P1330297 - coconut tree…some very small ones, just starting out….P1330298 - coconut treeAnd all the while, behind me, the sun continued to set…dig


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No Written Rules Banning Sleeveless Dresses: An Access to Information Story

I look at the Gleaner this morning and see that the issue of the banning of women wearing sleeveless dresses is again in the news here in Jamaica. The Gleaner’s editorial entitled “Dressing Sleeveless in Jamaica” was sparked by social media commentary pointing out “that women in Jamaica could not dress like Mrs May to enter several government departments and agencies, including hospitals, prisons and schools.” This was a reference to the UK Prime Minister’s sleeveless attire in a formal setting during the official visit of the US President.PM May - Trump visit 7-2018

But we don’t have to go that far afield to show the disparity between what is accepted in a formal setting and what will get a Jamaican woman barred from entry to do business in some government entities. We only need to look at our own Governor General’s wife at the swearing-in ceremony of PM Andrew Holness at King’s House in 2016. She, like a number of women who attended, wore a sleeveless dress, which was perfectly acceptable attire for that very formal occasion. Yet wearing that same or a similar dress, I would risk being barred from entering some government ministries or agencies.

Back in May this year, someone shared the classic story of her elderly mother, a woman of high standing in the field of education in Jamaica, being barred from attending a meeting at the Ministry of Education recently because she was wearing a sleeveless dress. Undeterred, she returned to her car, tore a hole for her head in a sheet of The Gleaner newspaper, returned with her arms covered in this way and was allowed to enter!

I have been interested in this issue for a number of years and have written a couple of blog posts about it and decided that I wanted to actually see the regulations that guided this sleeveless ban. So I made a request under the Access to Information Act to seven Ministries for

“any regulation/guideline/protocol/etc documenting the Ministry’s prohibition of female members of the public wearing sleeveless dresses or blouses entering the Ministry to do business.”

I also made this request to one Executive Agency.

I made my initial requests on May 29 & 30. This week I received the response from the last of the bodies. Not one produced any document prohibiting the wearing of sleeveless dresses or blouses by female members of the public.

The Ministries & Executive Agency and Their Responses

The Ministries and Executive Agency I made ATI requests to were

  • Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment & Sport
  • Ministry of Education, Youth & Information
  • Ministry of Finance & the Public Service
  • Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Foreign Trade
  • Ministry of Health
  • Ministry of Justice
  • Ministry of Labour & Social Security
  • Registrar General’s Department

I selected some of these Ministries and the Registrar General’s Department because they have featured in sleeveless banning complaints in the past; the other Ministries were included just to extend the range. Their responses are as follows.

Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment & Sport

June  5, 2018 – “In response to your request stated below under the Access to Information Act, I am not aware of any documentation from this Ministry regarding any regulation/protocol or guideline for the prohibition of female members of the public wearing sleeveless dresses or blouses entering the Ministry to do business.”

Ministry of Education, Youth & Information

June 8, 2018 – “The Ministry of Education, Youth and Information (MoEYI) is pleased to grant you access. Please see attachment Visitors Dress Code.”

MOYC Visitors Dress Code ATI 2018

On June 11, 2018, I made two subsequent ATI requests. It is now more than 30 days since I made these requests and I haven’t received either an acknowledgment of them or any documents in response to them.
“1. I note that this document does not include “sleeveless dresses or blouses” in its list of prohibited wear. Is there any document that does?
2. The document sent seems to be a photograph of a framed notice at the Ministry. It includes the words “Signed Human Resource Management and Administration. Ministry of Education. 2009”. Are there any documents (minutes, memos, letters, reports, etc) relating to the issuance of this notice and the establishment of the dress code for visitors policy on which it is based?
Please regard this as a formal request under the Access to Information Act.”

Ministry of Finance & the Public Service

July 9, 2018 – I am somewhat heartened by the indication that the Ministry of Finance is currently reviewing its “practice of restricting access by females who wear sleeveless blouses or dresses”.

MFPS ATI response 9-7-18 sleeveless dresses

Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Foreign Trade

June 15, 2018 – “I hereby acknowledge receipt of your request dated Wednesday, May 30, 2018. The Ministry however, does not have any documented regulation prohibiting female members of the public wearing sleeveless dresses or blouses when entering the Ministry to do business.”

Ministry of Health

July 3, 2018 – “Please be advised that we have undertaken the necessary research to respond to your request for any “regulation / guideline /protocol/document which guides the Ministry’s prohibition of female members of the public wearing sleeveless dresses or blouses entering the Ministry to do business”.

To date no document has been identified or located. It appears that this is an unwritten policy that has been carried on over many years.
In pursuit of a concrete response we have sent the request to the Cabinet Office and continue to await their response.”

Ministry of Justice

June 22, 2018 – “Reference is made to your Access to Information application below, please be informed that no documents were found in support of your application.

Ministry of Labour & Social Security

July 11, 2018 – “Thank you for your application under the Access to Information Act, wherein you requested the Ministry’s Dress Code to enter its offices. Please note that the ministry in keeping with other Government entities established a Dress Code Guideline for its customers. The Dress Code prohibits:

  • Camisoles
  • Tube Tops
  • Merinos
  • Short Shorts
  • Mini Skirts
  • Low Cut Garments exposing the Bosom
  • Tights
  • Sheer (see through) Garments
  • Pants below the waist

It should be noted that persons are not prohibited from entering the building, as long as the clothing is not excessively revealing. Steps are also being taken to review this guide bearing in mind the Ministry’s stakeholders.”

The list included in the Ministry of Labour & Social Security’s response is displayed on printed posters at the guard house at the gate and in the lobby of the Ministry. It is delightfully ironic that the poster in the lobby has a piece of masking tape affixed to it, on which is written the word “sleeveless”!MLSS dress code poster 7-18 - sleeveless

Registrar General’s Department

May 30, 2018 – “The Registrar General’s Department does not have any formal regulation/guideline/protocol documenting the prohibition of female members of the public wearing sleeveless dresses or blouses.

We do however follow the general rule of most Ministries and Hospitals, which prohibit the wearing of alter backs, tube tops and spaghetti blouses.”

On May 30, 2018, I replied making a follow-up ATI request:

I’d like to make a request under the Access to Information Act for a copy of any document (memo, correspondence, minutes, report, etc) in the possession of the Registrar General’s Department that sets out “the general rule of most Ministries and Hospitals, which prohibit the wearing of alter tops, tube tops and spaghetti blouses” referred to in your email, which you advise that the RGD follows.

On June 11, 2018, I received the following reply: “The Registrar General’s Department does not have a written document, but there is an unspoken, unwritten dress code which is in force.

Please note with regard to Dress codes each organization sets its own policy, which can be written or unwritten. It differs and is dependent on the organization.

Our unwritten policy encourages our customers to dress in such a way, that shows consideration for other members of the public.”

(I remain somewhat puzzled at how the dress code can be efficiently communicated if it is both unspoken and unwritten!)

Concluding Comments

So there you have it. A small sampling of government entities.

  • 8 entities requested via the ATI Act to provide documents setting out “any regulation/guideline/protocol/etc documenting the Ministry’s prohibition of female members of the public wearing sleeveless dresses or blouses entering the Ministry to do business.”
  • 6 out of 8 indicated that they had no such document.
  • 3 of those 6 gave some background or context for the unwritten sleeveless ban policy/practice.
  • 1 of those 6 made mention of some of the prohibited garments.
  • 1 of those 6 indicated that they had referred the request to the Cabinet Office for a further response.
  • 2 of the 8 entities sent the list of garments prohibited by their dress code. Neither of those dress codes specifically prohibited sleeveless dresses or blouses.
  • 2 of the 8 entities indicated that they were currently undertaking a review of the existing practice.

It is time that this practice – unwritten, unspoken (?), unjustified, whatever its origin – be officially abandoned and those Ministries and other government entities applying it recognise that a woman in a sleeveless dress or blouse entering their precincts will not bring government business to a screeching halt.

P.S.

A note on camisoles, tube tops, halter tops, spaghetti blouses mentioned by those dress codes supplied…they are different from sleeveless dresses and blouses.sleeveless collage

P.P.S.

Donkey seh di worl nuh level. I guess the Ministry of Education hesitated to apply the sleeveless ban to a former government Minister. No Gleaner newspaper needed to cover her bare arms?

Tweet 31-3-16 Flloyd Green & Lisa Hanna at Min of Ed

March 31, 2016 tweet


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A Venerable Mango Tree: On A Sunday

The morning after Gilbert had raked its eye across Jamaica’s spine, blasting through decades of complacency and careless wishes to experience a real hurricane, I went to see how a nearby neighbour was doing. Part of his roof was sitting in our front yard and when I got to his house, I could see that all of the roof had been blown off during the storm. He was all right, he said. He and his sister, both of them quite elderly, had retreated to the only part of the house with a concrete slab roof and his family had called and were on their way to help.

IMG_20180701_141815_resized_20180701_043513289 (1) Bombay mango tree

But, he told me, I could expect the next mango season to be a bountiful one. The hurricane would have pruned branches, shaken up the roots and new life would be coursing through the trees that had survived.

And he was right. The massive old Bombay mango tree in our back yard has never borne fruit as abundantly as it did in the post- Gilbert season. Not in the thirty years since Sept 1988. IMG_20180701_142833_resized_20180701_043207897 Bombay mango tree

It was an old and venerable tree even then. Older and even more venerable now. It has had encounters with subsequent storms that have brushed past since. IMG_20180701_143203_resized_20180701_042947057 Bombay mango treeThis year hasn’t been a very good season for the old Bombay tree, in fact. Relatively few in number, with a high incidence of worms in the ripe fruit.P1310264 Bombay mangoes

The height of the hurricane season is still to come.

I don’t believe that there have to be storms for there to be good crops, not literally or figuratively. But my Bombay mango tree may be aligned with my old (long deceased) neighbour’s words.IMG_20180701_143311_resized_20180701_042805015 Bombay mango tree


The Sky One Evening

Yesterday evening I went up on the roof to watch the sun go down, something I often do. By the time I got there, the sun had already set, but the sky remembered!dig

Every sunset is different. Even the same sunset sky goes through many moods, vibrant shades of orange giving way to subtle shades of pink.Pink sky at sunset 2

Eventually all sign of the sun is gone, leaving the night to electric lights and Venus…P1310214 night lights