Friday, November 21, 2014

Outameni … many issues

Observer photo

by Jean Lowrie-Chin | Observer column published 17 Nov 2014

I think financial commentator Ralston Hyman put in well in a radio interview last Friday: if the National Housing Trust (NHT) wanted guaranteed earnings from the people’s deposits for housing, GOJ treasury bills would have yielded them seven to eight percent.  Otherwise, if they were wondering how best to spend $180 million, why not just put it towards building a few well-needed homes for the less fortunate? 

On the same programme, Dr Damien King expressed the feelings of many:  when an employer puts up three percent and an employee two percent of wages towards a Trust to provide housing, it is hard to accept such an odd decision by the Board of the NHT. Humble workers who pay this deduction every month are barely finding enough for rent, while the thought of qualifying for an NHT housing loan is not even within sight.  How painful it is for them to be hearing that their money, held in trust to improve the housing stock of the nation, is being used to save a failing tourist attraction. 

The irony is that there is a dire need in the tourism industry for decent housing for workers.  Last year I related how we met a generous Canadian couple who were so impressed by a hotel worker that they asked to visit his family to see a bit of ‘the real Jamaica’.  Well, they certainly saw it.  The well-spoken young man and his humble, gracious family lived in little more than a shack with primitive sanitary facilities.  They said they paid for the family to spend a weekend at the resort and were moved to see the man’s child marvel at a flush toilet and a comfortable bed.   

So come now my people in politics.  Why can’t you just confess to the fact that you are playing with the lives of the decent, hardworking people of this country, administration after administration, and do better for the people you say you are so interested in serving?  Where is your conscience?
Dr Michael Abrahams posted a poem on Facebook, calling for a peaceful revolution in our country.   

Here are some of the words:
As we put aside our lenses of orange or green
And visualize our situation in black, gold AND green
Peeling off our party masks
And taking our leaders to task
For this is not about two secondary colours
But about us uniting as sisters and brothers
For a common cause...our survival.

Both of our political parties still have some very decent members and so we are calling on these persons to use some of the measures taken by our Jamaica Constabulary Force, to seek out and clean the corrupt and the greedy out of your midst.  The media must not let this one go … we are losing some of our best people because they are losing their faith in Jamaica. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014


Message from Amina Blackwood Meeks ...

It's official. The Governor General of Jamaica, Sir Patrick Allen, has proclaimed November 20, National Storytelling Day. It is the outcome of two years of work by Ntukuma, The Storytelling Foundation of Jamaica. Ananse SoundSplash 2012 concluded with a resolution on a number of actions to raise the profile of storytelling and the understanding of how the oral tradition could be positioned to actively serve the national development agenda. Accordingly, Ntukuma wrote to the Governor General requesting the proclamation. The proclamation was received by Kai Antoinette Thompson symbolically on behalf of the children of Jamaica.

Nov 20 is also Universal Children's Day and has been deliberately included in Ananse SoundSplash, the Annual Storytelling Conference and Festival to honour the rights of our children to culture and heritage.  The Office of the Children's Advocate kindly agreed to collaborate with Ntukuma in the staging of this first National Storytelling Day. The celebrations will be held at the Louise Bennett Garden Theatre, Nov 20, 9am-4pm.
Twelve of the most acclaimed international storytellers and researchers of the oral tradition will join the celebrations.

Ananse Soundsplash is an eight-legged mobile storytelling conference and festival mounted by Ntukuma in collaboration with the Council of Community Colleges of Jamaica. Major sponsors of the 2014 festival are the CHASE Fund, Courts, Office of The Children's Advocate, Jamaica Tourist Board and NCB Foundation.
Once Upon A Time...Is Now.
Live the stories your grandchildren will be blessed and proud to tell.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Tribute to Francis Xavier 'Paco' Kennedy - by his brother Dr. Fred Kennedy

Francis Xavier Kennedy
September 10, 1940 – October 26, 2014

I want to recognize my sisters, Mary Cameron and Liz Sealey who are here today and on whose behalf I speak.  Although we followed careers in education, different from the business route that Paco took, and even though we moved abroad in the 1970s, we all stayed very close together as a family.  I want to thank his wife, Marjory and her family for this opportunity to give a tribute to Paco.

Paco had a special place in the Kennedy family. 

He was born Francis Xavier, September 10, 1940, eldest of five children, of Lydia Loinaz and Luis Fred Kennedy.  From an early age, he was called Paco, which is the Spanish nickname for Francis, given to him so as not to mistake him for his namesake, our uncle, Francis Xavier, my father’s youngest brother. 

My father, Luis Fred Kennedy was the eldest of six siblings who married and all had children.  So, Paco was not only the eldest of his immediate family but of the whole Kennedy clan of 25 first cousins. Paco held a special place in the hearts of not only his immediate family but of his extended families of aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews.  I honor many of these who have travelled from far to pay their last respects. He always made a point of staying in touch, and I know that Marjory had a lot to do with this. 

As an older brother, he was leader of the pack, and maybe because of expectations placed on him, needed to assert his authority now and again.  He would always want to be our parent in one way or another.  On many occasions, he would refer to me as Charles, his son.  How he mistook us I have no idea, the hair alone, you think, would differentiate us.

He had a caring instinct, he’d always take care of business. I can remember getting into difficult straits, stuff I would not want to tell my parents and Paco was the one I turned to. 

Even though we were ten years apart, he included me in many of his activities, and this for a younger brother was a great thrill.  He loved movies, in his later years, taped thousands of them to house a huge library at his home.  When younger, he would ask me to accompany him to matinees at the Carib, Palace and Rialto theatres; every time there was a boxing match in town, we would go together to the Race Course  to see the fight; I learned about table saws and carpentry while sharing his wood work projects; he was an avid tennis player and would invite me often play at Liguanea Club; we would stay up, competing against each other late into the nights, playing table tennis on the back verandah at home; he taught me how to use his BB gun; he let me plan his Bachelor party and asked me to be his Best Man at his wedding.  These are wonderful memories.

Paco was very guarded, closed in many ways.  He had tremendous pressures put on him growing up as the eldest child, expectations to secure his place in the family and in the business.

But I remember so many times when he let down his guard.  I shall never forget the time he hugged me when our Dad died, and we both cried on each other’s shoulders.  I shall never forget the surprise he gave me when he showed unexpectedly for my daughter’s wedding, January of all months in Canada.  I know how much he hated the cold.  And most recently, I shall always treasure the moments he held my hand and squeezed it for the longest time while he lay in his bed at UWI hospital in Intensive Care, unable to speak, but so very much alive in his eyes and facial expressions.

My childhood memories are of him returning in the summer months from boarding school in Washington DC.  Jesuit educated, he left Campion Hall in December 1951, enrolled at St. George’s College until the middle of third form when he moved to the United States to attend an all boys Jesuit Boarding School, Georgetown Prep in 1954.  He graduated 1958 top of his class, famous in the school as the one who tutored all the other boys in Mathematics.  After that, he attended Holy Cross College in Worcester, Massachusetts, but for a short while; he was soon back in Jamaica, to begin his business career at GKCO in 1959.

60 years ago, they did not test children’s learning abilities in schools as they do today, but I am certain that if labels had existed then, he would have been known as a gifted child.  I remember the day his IQ scores came in, they were off the chart, genius level. He had all the characteristics of giftedness:  top of his class, problem solver, highly energetic, impatient, driven, keenly interested in many subjects.  Characteristic of gifted children, he possessed a strong sense of fairness, discerning right from wrong.  The times I remember seeing Paco the most upset were when he sensed someone was trying to cheat him.  He had no tolerance for misinformation, for corruption, for stupidity or for anyone who might be trying to manipulate him or take advantage of him.

This brilliance along with a deep sense of integrity are what made him a keen businessman.  My mother always said he was like Midas, he had the touch of gold.  Whichever company he was asked to run at GKCO, he was able to turn it around to make it profitable.

My father called him a man of the people.  The large numbers of persons here today, the outpouring of love and messages are testimonies of how much Paco was loved.  He was a man who harbored no prejudices, discriminated against no one, made no judgments based on sex, class, race, or religion.  This is why people loved him.  He was a true egalitarian, he worked not to amass great amounts of wealth but rather to do good, to serve his country.  He was fired by this zeal. 

He was the best brother to me, my sisters, Mary and Elizabeth.  He loved our families as his own.  Just as he loved our children, Amanda, Sarah and Julia, likewise I hold dear to my heart his own children, Cathrine and Charles, loving them as my own.  He showed respect and love for my wife, Georgianne, accepted her from the beginning and welcomed her into the Kennedy family.  He loved our eldest daughter, Amanda, whom he called his second daughter, and was godfather to our second daughter, Sarah, both of whom are here today. 

He had a knack for making you feel special.  He would invariably start a conversation with a joke, share that contagious laugh of his, and pat you on the back.  He was a master at lowering your defences.  He loved his family as I am sure he loved every one of you sitting here today. 

“Big boy, you take care of yourself.”  These were the last words I remember him saying when I called him from Canada for his birthday.  He always had a way of “bigging’ up others.

In the communion of saints, I am sure he is with them, somewhere in spirit with my Mom and Dad, with my eldest sister, Celia who have pre-deceased us and with the many friends and family who have gone before us. 

We are sad at his passing but happy for all the good memories of true brotherly love. 

May you forever rest in peace, Paco.  We love you and we miss you.

Fred W. Kennedy
Holy Trinity Cathedral, Kingston, Jamaica.

November 08, 2014

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Glen Christian and Henry Lowe stay the course

by Jean Lowrie-Chin | Jamaica Observer | MON 3 NOV 2014

Glen Christian PSOJ 2
Glen Christian (right) receives his Citation from PSOJ President Chris Zacca
Last Wednesday two brilliant Jamaican men standing on platforms just about a mile away from each other, reminded us why we must never give up on our country.  Glen Christian, who did not own a pair of shoes till he was 13 years old, was inducted into the PSOJ Hall of Fame at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel.  Dr Henry Lowe, whose mother has related to us the early struggles of her family, launched seven new pharmaceutical products derived from Jamaican ganja at his own exquisite Eden Gardens property on Lady Musgrave Road.
Glen Christian, owner of Carimed (also located on Lady Musgrave Road) and Kirk Industries, was described as a man ‘with a heart for people and a mind for businesses.  He explained that he learned the principles of supply and demand from his resourceful mother who would buy produce at farm gates in his native Clarendon, sell them in the market and use the funds to purchase supplies for the small shops in their district of Brandon Hill.  He lost his father at two-years-old, but his mother later remarried Edward Mitchell who was a splendid stepdad.  Photographs of Mr and Mrs Mitchell adorn the Evelyn Mitchell Infant School built by Glen and his dedicated wife Marva Christian at Brandon Hill to honour their memory. 
This is no ordinary infant school – it is actually an amalgamation of four smaller infant schools, and Carimed employee Mrs Cherry Emmanuel (mother of the gifted Judy Emmanuel) has urged me to see it for myself.  The school is a Ministry of Education Centre of Excellence where best practices are ensuring that the young pupils have a great start in life.  The Christians (in name and nature) have also provided a school bus for the children.
Glen Christian was employed as a postman when he first came to Kingston.  The ambitious young man pursued evening studies to qualify for Mico Teachers College, now Mico University.  After graduating, he worked briefly with government and then joined the pharmaceutical department of H.D. Hopwood where he moved their market share from 15 to 85 percent.
At the event, the Christians’ close friend former Prime Minister Bruce Golding related Glen’s start 30 years before, “that glorious history of what we have come to know as Carimed.”  He said Glen had no large amount of capital, but “he knew the chemistry, the background, the pharmacists, the doctors better than anyone else.”  Most importantly, he said, was Glen Christian’s respect for “the human element”, which was affirmed by interviews with several managers who had moved up the ladder at Carimed. 
What a glorious moment it was for Glen Christian, when he became the proud owner of the property and assets at 216 Marcus Garvey Drive – this was the address of the very same Colgate Palmolive where as a postman, years before, he delivered numerous letters. Now you understand why he is so passionate about education, and plans to build another state-of-the-art infant school in Kingston’s inner-city. Congratulations!
Medicanja to go public
Dr Henry Lowe
Meanwhile at Eden Gardens, scientist and entrepreneur Dr Henry Lowe was unveiling seven new products from his company Medicanja Limited, launched only last year and already regarded as a global brand. The products are: rubbing alcohol (CanjaCol), healing oil (CanjaRub), pain-relief spray (CanjaSol), anti-inflammatory cream (CanjaFlam), Arthritis cream (CanjaSolve), sublingual drop (CanjaRelief) and nausea relief sprays (CanjaSure). Next year he will launch more innovative products including glaucoma eye drops (CanjaVase – more long lasting than Canasol), teas (CanjaTeas), and pills (CanjaTabs).
He noted: “The goal and objectives of Medicanja Limited include positive wealth creation, knowledge and technology development and transfer, employment and low cost healthcare products to treat a variety of illnesses – under Brand Jamaica!”
The dedicated Dr Lowe gave us a science lesson as he described some of the major compounds in the ganja plant: “It is to be noted that tetrahydrocannabidiol (THC), the psychoactive component of the ganja plant, has its own therapeutic potential if properly developed in a formulation, especially with cannabidiol (CBD).”
Folks, CBD is truly ‘green gold’.  Dr Lowe told the audience, “CBD is now, ounce for ounce, on par with the price of gold at US$1400.00 per 28 grams. At this time there is not enough CBD to supply the international market. In response, we have developed CBD synthesis, therefore we can make products either using the plants or this alternative…The sale of CBD will be a major part of our operations.”
With companies now registered in the US and Canada, Dr Lowe will be making an Initial Public Offer (IPO) of shares in Medicanja next year, as he and his team of researchers work to score a share of the growing market for ganja-based products. “It is estimated in our business plan that within the next 3-4 years, revenues from the sales and services of over 18 products from Medicanja Limited’s 6 product lines will be in excess of J$48B (US$429M),” he stated.
Observer reporter Terron Dewar wrote that former Prime Minister P J Patterson, who is a member of the Medicanja board, called for the Government to expedite the facilitating legislative framework.  He quoted Mr Patterson as saying: "the benefits to be gained from the expansion of the medical ganja industry are clear, and any further delays will only serve to destroy our competitive edge".