Sunday, March 14, 2010

Workshop, interviews and political dilemmas

This week work included finalising the activities for the DRF 2 day workshop, interviewing candidates for Youth Peace Facilitator in Spanish Town and meeting with a visiting consultant for one of the funding proposals submitted. In the wider sphere the political environment has been more active with extreme measures to satisfy the demands of the IMF, interesting dialogue about the US extradition request of "Dudus", allegedly one of the Influential Men previously described and the finalising of the sale of Air Jamaica to Caribbean Airways.
Workshop planning is coming together, with the help of many and the use of only one checklist! The venue is booked, the menu confirmed, invitations issued and accepted, the agenda developed and the budget adequate, thanks to CUSO-VSO. Next weekend will be the proof of our success, and I am hopeful it will be a stimulating and engaging two days.

The trip to Spanish Town to participate in interviewing for a Youth Peace Facilitator position was an interesting excursion mid-week. Spanish Town is one of the oldest cities in the Caribbean and still has remnants of each of the colonising powers of its history. Narrow winding streets, lined with old buildings reminiscent of either Spanish or British architecture, make getting around in a car quite challenging. Walking is not much easier as the pavements are narrow and lined with old stone drainage gullies completely inadequate for the current dense population. However, it is full of commerce and bustle, street vendors with fruits and vegetables from the surrounding country, household wares and electronic goods. Taxis wending their way impatiently through streets too narrow for quick passage, hands on horns and yelling warnings out of the windows. The sun streaming down and the streets steamy in the humidity. Occassionally an old stone building confronts one with the reality of how much history is held within this busy, vibrant, though struggling town.
The interviews were quite different in content to those I have conducted in Canada and included questions about comfort and strategies for venturing into local, warring communities. As well, the dominance of Christianity as a way of life was evident in the number of candidates who openly referred to faith as part of their guiding philosophy.

On April 1st many of the tax hikes and cost increases required to access the most recent IMF loan will be implemented. This apparently includes a hike of over 100% for bus fares. Needless to say the only segment of the population on which this has an impact is those with the lowest incomes. It will likely limit the ability of some children to attend school and will reduce the available income for many for basics such as food and clothing. Once again those most vulnerable are being victimised.

The request to extradite Mr Coke (Dudus) generates much discussion and illustrates the role of the "dons" within the communities. Many believe he is the protector of the Tivoli community and if removed there will be more bloodshed and unrest, others believe that the harm to Jamaica's reputation if being seen to protect allegedly violent criminals has far-reaching consequences and others talk about an attempt of interference from an "imperial" power in the internal issues of Jamaica. All note the link Mr Coke has to the current political party in power and recognise this is a true political dilemma.The complexity of the power relationships in Jamaica is quite baffling and the way through and out is hard to see.
I have not been entirely pre-occupied with work and the politics however as this week both my daughter and my brother confirmed they will visit in April. April will be a month of fun!

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