“Was Kartel ordered to pay restitution?”

My colleague and founder of investigative journalism television program 18 Degrees North, Zahra Burton, wrote this column about restitution and access to information in Jamaica. It appeared in the Jamaica Gleaner on Monday. We worked on a story on this topic, which should air shortly. Check it out here.

Security concerns and response

I went to visit the security department yesterday to report my car being broken into last week. The initial security response was unsatisfactory. The woman I met with yesterday showed me the report they took, and told me there’s not much they can do. She also explained the reasons behind a lack of proper lighting. And she said it can often be the security guards themselves who are the culprits.

She suggested I write a note to the University’s president, Prof. Stephen Vasciannie, which I did. I was not expecting a response.

Within 11 minutes, he had responded. Here is the response, in full:

I am very sorry to learn that you have lost property to thieves on our campus.  I am also sorry to learn that the matter has not been handled in a manner that gives you any confidence.

I share the concerns you mention in your letter, and in particular, the question of lighting on the campus.  I have sought to have this addressed on previous occasions, but have so far encountered bureaucratic inertia.  I will redouble my efforts.

I will convey your concerns to the relevant members of the University, including especially persons directly responsible for safety, security and the state of the plant.  These concerns will be given urgent treatment.

Again, I am sorry about your loss, and very much hope that we can take measures to enhance your sense of security on campus.

Yours sincerely,

Stephen Vasciannie

I appreciate the quick response and hope it yields some action. I have spent a lot of time on many different university campuses, and believe that they are and should be a place of striving and a certain sense of innocence. Of course, this is difficult to maintain with so many people coming and going, but at least an effort to protect the community should be made.

Dark clouds over Utech


In my Fundamentals of Journalism class, I assign the students “beats.” They must write stories related to this “beat.” One of those is crime, and this week, a student submitted a story about four car break-ins on the University of Technology campus last semester. While I appreciated the idea, I told her it was “old news,” as it happened months ago, and that she must find a new angle.

Well, I could now provide her with that fresh angle. Last night, I had a lecture that ended close to 9pm. I headed out to my car, which was parked in a well-trafficked area. A busy area, yes, but not well-lighted. I have to use the light on my phone to make sure I don’t fall down, as many lights are not working, and the sidewalks are degraded and cracked in many areas. Being an old pregnant woman, I definitely don’t want to fall.

As I was walking to my car, I noticed a truck blocking it, running with the lights on. Then I noticed several security guards standing around my car. I thought it strange but went to unlock the car. After I did so, one of them asked, “Is this your car?” I said yes. They then pointed out the smashed back window. I immediately knew someone had stolen my iPod. I had left it in the cup holder. I usually don’t leave anything in the car, but yesterday I forgot.

The thief had smashed the small “pivot” window in order to access the IPod. And glass is all over the baby’s car seat.

Soon a group of about eight security guards amassed at the car, all standing around, not doing much, staring at me. One man identified himself as in charge of security told me that the lights went out right around this area a couple of weeks ago. They have made a request to have them fixed to no avail. They said they noticed the broken window on a regular patrol.

I am wondering how nobody noticed the incident at the time. It must have made quite a bit of noise. Another person in charge eventually showed up, told me to take pictures of the car and didn’t say much else.

Nobody took a report. Instead they wrote down my name (how will that help anything?) and advised that I go to make a report at the Papine Police Station. “They could get fingerprints,” someone said. I refused, as I did not feel safe driving up there alone at nine o’clock at night.

I have been wondering about campus security for awhile now. Female students say they are not afraid on campus, but that they are afraid to take taxis. One student was held up last semester by knifepoint, and another group was held up last week by gunpoint, all their bags stolen.

On campus, authorities can do more to protect students and their belongings. More lights, more patrols. Off campus, that is another matter. I am just grateful nothing worse happened.


Trump trolls Bolt

Somehow Usain Bolt was dragged into President Trump’s trolling net. Mr. Trump was referring to an interview Bolt was doing after a 2012 Olympic race. He asked to pause the interview for the national anthem. Mr. Trump used this as an opportunity to further enflame the debate surrounding athletes protesting during the U.S. national anthem. To date, I don’t believe Bolt has responded.

Completion of Community Journalism Training Program


On Sunday, we had the closing ceremony of the Community Journalism Program, which I have written about here. We had some community journalists, as well as many members of the communities in which USAID COMET II and NIA work. The turnout was “oversubscribed,” as one organizer put it, but the day went very well. We presented each of the nine pieces that were published or will be published, and discussed them with a panel, which included the NIA’s legal advisor, gender specialist Nadeen Spence, a youth activist and Rodje Malcolm of Jamaicans for Justice. And it seems another round of training will be underway at some point, as many new faces in the room expressed an interest in participating in learning how to be an investigative journalist.

Nature’s construction


Nature’s construction is amazing. I’ve been thinking about that watching the coverage of the devastation wrought by the hurricanes in the Caribbean. Jamaica has been lucky, other islands, not so. Thoughts and prayers are with the people who lost everything. Nature will rebuild itself, humanity will take longer.