#Jamaica, October 14, 2019 — Ten years ago, Jamaica recorded its highest murder rate within a decade with some 1,680 homicides in 2009. Ten years on, and two years after a murder count of 1,616 people (second highest in 10 years), the country is trending downward, significantly.
It is widely believed that the Jamaican Government’s bold interventions curtailed the killings and the murder count has decreased in some areas, like St. Thomas by 32 percent.
It is still heartbreaking that hundreds of people have died to violence of some kind in what is the third largest English speaking country in the Western Hemisphere and the largest one in the Caribbean, but many take heart in the fact that based on trends, one can surmise that likely 300 people will not be killed.
So, what happened to cause this reduction?
The answer is bold initiative including declaring a State of Public Emergency (SOE) in several crime-ridden districts and parishes – St. James, Hanover and Westmoreland are among them – and that meant curfews and other drastic controls and powers were enacted for those areas. Not only did the Jamaican government do it once, but over and over again in both 2018 and 2019 because, they say, it is working and has not hurt tourism.
Loop News Jamaica reported in October 2019 that Dr. Horace Chang, Minister of Security is completely persuaded that the State of Public Emergency has saved lives, when social programmes did not.
“The first time we had a significant fall that has saved well over 200 Jamaican lives and stopped the mayhem and slaughter on the streets of Montego Bay, that was the introduction of the state of emergency,” the security minister explained while speaking at a Violence Prevention and Peace Building Symposium.
Also in October, it is reported that those SOEs, were extended.
Jamaican Prime Minister, Andrew Holness in addressing the House of Assembly about the need to extend the SOE in south St. Andrew Police Division, presented statistical reasoning.
“It is a solution that has yielded results, and we are well aware of the challenges and the downsides to the SOEs,” he added that despite skepticism, “We have saved, by virtue of the collective action of this House by putting in place the SOE: 30 lives. There were 51 shootings in the 84 days before the SOE – that is down to 27.
Murders in the area were cut by half said the Prime Minister.
Reporting on the national impact of the SOE, PM Holness in a Jamaica Information Services news report said: “We have started a process of bringing down our murder rate from 1,600 in … . We have now brought it down to 1,280 [in 2018] and if we continue, we will bring down our murder rate to below 1,000.”
Jamaica leads the Caribbean region in murders, has seen a spike in gun violence in 2019 and reports are that 70 percent of crime is linked to illegal drugs.
The State of Public Emergency gives the security forces temporary additional powers, including powers of search, arrest and detention. Security forces can also curtail operating hours of business, restrict access to places and detain individuals without a warrant.
Hurricane Nicole – A symbol of climate injustice
By Deandre Williamson
Caribbean Climate Justice Journalism Fellow
#TheBahamas, November 29, 2022 – With the trauma of Hurricane Dorian still lingering, Abaco and Grand Bahama residents braced for Hurricane Nicole as they experienced another unfair blow of climate injustice.
As sea levels rose, triggering storm surges and flooding, the northwestern islands of The Bahamas were placed under hurricane watch. For many, this signaled that the fight for climate justice must continue.
Some residents on those islands evacuated their homes and fled to shelters hours before Nicole made landfall in The Bahamas on Nov. 9 as a tropical storm and strengthened to a Category 1 hurricane with winds up to 75 miles per hour.
“The wind was manageable. It wasn’t as bad as we thought. In our area we got maybe a limb or so that blew down. The power was out for a while, but thank God, we made it through it,” Abaco resident Mark Anthony Swain said.
Although the impact of Hurricane Nicole was minimal when compared to Hurricane Dorian in 2019, climate change is the underlying cause of the intensity and frequency of hurricanes in recent years.
When Nicole exited The Bahamas, the “all clear” was given, but the country isn’t clear from future hurricanes and the devastating effects of climate change.
However, it’s clear that The Bahamas and other Small Island Developing States (SIDS) need climate justice because they are hit hardest by the impact of climate change, are the least responsible and together bear next to no responsibility for the climate crisis.
While the Government of The Bahamas is fighting for climate justice, residents of Abaco and Grand Bahama are calling for more to be done to mitigate the impact of climate change.
Swain, who also experienced Hurricane Dorian, said the countries that are major contributors of carbon emissions in the atmosphere should do more to assist smaller countries in fighting climate change, so when hurricanes and other natural disasters occur, the smaller countries will be able to maintain themselves.
“I think these other countries that are contributing to the climate challenge that we are facing should be held responsible and accountable in that regard,” Swain added.
China, the United States, Russia, India and Japan are the top five countries with the highest carbon emissions in the world.
Grand Bahama resident Randy Deleveaux, who was on the island during Hurricane Nicole, agrees that more should be done concerning the climate crisis because The Bahamas is in a hurricane zone based on its geographical location.
“We know that every year rain, sun or shine, it appears as if we are going to have a hurricane, whether it’s a major one or not a major one,” Deleveaux said. “As a matter of fact, even though the ones we consider not major, we still have to take more necessary precautions because Dorian taught us we can’t take nothing for granted.”
Deleveaux suggested that the government should ensure that every household is equipped with storm shutters, floatation devices and life jackets.
“There are so many things that the government can do and persons can do in relation to hurricanes because we always have to prepare,” he added.
“Every time we have a hurricane coming, persons have to run and scrap for plywood to put on their windows. We need to move from that and be able to properly prepare.
“Look at our coastal erosion and stuff like that because of the hurricanes. I remember one time you could go on the beaches and see sand, now some of these beaches don’t have no sand like that because of hurricanes and we’re not even looking at the impact that is having on our coastal and marine life. We don’t replace the sand. There is so much things we can do.”
Loss and Damage
But no matter how large or small a hurricane measures on the Saffir-Simpson Scale, there is always loss and damage associated with a storm.
According to Prime Minister of The Bahamas Philip Davis, during the Caribbean Regional Heads of Government Meeting in Preparation for COP27, more than 50 percent of The Bahamas’ outstanding debt can be linked to the impacts of the hurricanes between 2015 and 2019.
The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), in its damage and loss assessments (DaLA) synthesis, noted that The Bahamas has lost more than $4.2 billion over the past seven years as a result of Hurricanes Joaquin, Matthew, Irma and Dorian.
Abaco and Grand Bahama are still rebuilding from Hurricane Dorian and, although minimal, the damages from Hurricane Nicole are being assessed.
Prime Minister Davis was in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt attending COP27 when Hurricane Nicole passed through the northwestern Bahamas. At COP27, he called on world leaders to get real about ensuring that loss and damage are compensated for.
“We do not have a significant carbon footprint in the world. Yes, we do have a significant carbon sink in the world. But yet still, after this hurricane has passed, who’s going to have to pay for the recovery, reconstruction and for normalizing the lives of my people?” Davis said in a video interview.
Climate justice fights for solutions to the climate crisis that would result in reduced emissions and industrialized rich nations sharing the burden of the crisis by helping SIDS handle the severe effects of climate change.
Swain lost his home during Hurricane Dorian and there are others who also lost their homes and some are still living in trailers in Abaco.
Without insurance, Swain is rebuilding his home, but the progress is slow.
He explained that the Disaster Reconstruction Authority and other NGOs promised to help him, but they haven’t delivered on their promises as yet.
“We will, out of pocket, try to do some things to get us along,” Swain said.
Hurricane Dorian caused a housing shortage in Abaco and the demand for a home is great.
According to Swain, because of the demand and desperation to find a home, the rent in Abaco is skyrocketing.
“You can find the average apartment, two bedroom, going for no less than $1,500. In some instances it’s over $2,000,” he said.
After negotiations and hearing the pleas of Small Island Developing States, COP27 closed with the announcement of a loss and damage fund to compensate countries impacted by climate change. This is a huge step in the fight for climate justice.
This story was published with the support of Climate Tracker’s Caribbean Climate Justice Journalism Fellowship.
Member, The Bahamas Press Club 2014
Caption: Flooding in Abaco caused by Hurricane Nicole. (Photo/Abaco resident)
Police Academy Commissioner Shot Dead in Haiti
By Sherrica Thompson
Reports from the police are that Harington was shot dead on the grounds of the police training facility in a gang-controlled neighbourhood in the country’s capital of Port-au-Prince on Friday, November 25.
The spokesperson for the National Police of Haiti (PNH), Inspector Garry Desrosiers, in confirming Friday’s killing, said the commissioner was “shot in the head not far from the Academy” and the attackers “stole his [Harington’s] vehicle and kidnapped his driver.”
Harington’s killing is the latest in several attacks against law enforcement in Haiti. The killing also happened at a time when international leaders are trying to help Haiti’s political leaders control the surge in gang violence in the country.
The police have not released any information on who might be responsible for the commissioner’s death.
St Kitts and Nevis Welcomed the World’s Largest Cruise Ship
By Sherrica Thompson
#StKittsandNevis, November 29, 2022 – The twin island of St Kitts and Nevis is about to chart its busiest cruise seasons yet as the world’s largest cruise ship, the Wonder of the Seas, made its inaugural call to Port Zante in the country on Thursday, November 24.
About 6,495 guests arrived on the ship, with 2,259 crew members on board.
The oasis class ship was welcomed by Prime Minister Dr. Terrance Drew, who led a delegation on board last Thursday to host a brief plaque exchange ceremony.
“You have confidence in the destination by adding St Kitts and Nevis to your now largest vessel, the Wonder of the Seas, with a passenger capacity of 6,988,” the Prime Minister said.
The Chief Executive Officer at the St. Kitts Tourism Authority, Mr. Ellison Thompson, said the ship’s visit was a result of the country’s comprehensive negotiations with stakeholders.
“The destination’s ability to secure a vessel with a 6,495-passenger capacity today, November 24, is the result of comprehensive negotiations between the Ministry, the Authority, and cruise lines. As a result, we are gradually seeing the fruits of our marketing and strategic efforts, and we take pride in celebrating such a momentous occasion,” Thompson said.
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