Sunday, February 27, 2011

The wrong side of the Law?

A week in which the culmination of much planning led to people coming together, but no definitive word on funding from the Ministry of Education. The guilty verdict for Buju has distressed many and the enquiry into the engaging of a US law firm to lobby in the Dudus extradition is the most watched "soap opera" in the country.

The representatives from the various organisations supporting the implementation of Parents' Places came together for their second meeting. It was extremely well attended despite the absence of reminder calls, showing the extent of the commitment the partners have in trying to get the Parents' Places on the ground. The interest in effective implementation strategies is bringing a number of people to the table and the discussions are rigorous and informative. There is an emerging recognition amongst international develoment funders as well as government ministries that simply training people as an implementation strategy has not worked and many are searching for more effective strategies to ensure the limited dollars for change and new programmes provide the greatest impact. The Global Implementation Conference in August feels timely. The meeting provided a clear set of next steps both for the long term country-wide implementation as well as for the initial and immediate implementation of the first five or six Parents' Places.

On Friday all the staff and volunteers of DRF came together for the 2nd Annual Building Organisational Capacity Workshop. The partnership between DRF and CUSO-VSO brings a signficant number of resources to DRF (currently there are 7 volunteers with at least one additional one to join in the next month). This provides many opportunities but also some challenges as it is critical for the volunteers to work as a team. Given we all arrive at different times it is hard to ensure all have the same understanding of our role in the project but the annual workshops contribute to developing a common understanding. The day was not all work but provided a great opportunity to catch up with old friends, meet new members of the DRF team and experience the talents of the team beyond their job requirements. Singing was as usual a dominant part of the day with a re-worded rendition of One Love (the Marley classic, with apolgies to Bob) to ONE TEAM, and a performance from our Flanker, Mo-Bay colleagues, The Flanker Folk, to end the day. Over 60 people attended and the level of participation in discussions and the material that came from the dicsussions suggest it was a very successful day.

The news that BUJU had been found guilty of drug and weapons charges in the US brought a strong reaction. There is concern that Jamaica's young men get targeted as a result of their reputation, and a strong sense that they do not get a fair hearing. Buju is an artiste with a very large following, seen to be one of the major performers bringing Jamaica's talent to the attention of the world and the reality that he faces a lengthy incarceration has angered many. The trial has raised many of the issues that Jamaicans must face, the reality that drugs and guns are a significant element of the lives of many young men, the impact of the inflamatory lyrics performed by Buju a decade ago and the reputation that a number of Jamaicans are preceived as ignoring the laws of the US, the UK and Canada not only in the spheres of guns and drugs but also within the context of immigration, work permits and visitor requirements. These are issues that not only affect the young men who may be involved in illegal activity but all Jamaicans who experience greater difficulty in acquiring visas and increased costs and a heavier requirement of proof of legitimacy when they wish to visit or migrate to another countries. The burden of the reputation created by the few is unfairly carried by the many.

The other major news story is the Mannatt-Dudus Enquiry which is offering great oratory but remarkably little information! The careful or simply evasive responses from those being questioned do more to confirm the skepticism and distrust generally felt about the government and politicians than offering candid even if damaging responses. No-one doubts there were attempts to ensure the links between Mr Coke and both poltical parties would be kept far from the public eye, but perhaps there was a glimmer of hope that a fresh start could be made if the truth was shared at the Enquiry. Such has not been the case.

Next week is Peace Week and I am hoping I can devote most of my time to youth programme activities, not the least of which will be pushing hard for a positive decision from the Ministry and the Peace Advocacy Event at the Eastern Peace Centre on March 4th.

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