Sat | Sep 19, 2020

Alfred Dawes | January 2020 – The Year in Review

Published:Sunday | February 9, 2020 | 12:00 AM
Well done, Koffee.
Rest in peace, Kobe

Normally, we would save year-in-review articles for December or even January of the following year. But January 2020 feels like a whole year by itself so we might as well break with tradition and give the longest month of the year its due.

It was a year of ups and downs, triumphs and sorrows, and at the end of it all, we still don’t know if the world is coming to an end.


2020 had barely begun when we thought World War III had started. The US drone strike on Iranian General Qasem Soleimani, widely regarded as the second most powerful man in Iran, put the world on the brink of war. Iran vowed to retaliate for what is widely considered an act of war.

Oil prices shot up and markets tumbled. Demonstrations in Iran demanded that the leadership act forcefully. In the end, the Iranians unleashed a missile strike on an Iraqi military base used by US forces, but only after calling ahead to warn them in case anyone got hurt.

The accidental downing of a Ukrainian passenger jet was the most tragic story of all. Demonstrations and anger towards America quickly became redirected to those who could have possibly allowed this to happen. In the end, all we ended up with were a slew of WWIII memes and higher gas prices for a while as Iran fell from our consciousness.


Barely had we got over one apocalyptic scenario than we were facing another as the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan threatened to become a pandemic. With the world’s second-largest economy and manufacturer at a standstill as it locked down entire cities to control the contagion, the images coming out of China looked more like a scene from the movie World War Z.

Although no zombie apocalypse, the coronavirus outbreak threatens to spread around the world, leading to deaths and turmoil. How we deal with this not-so-killer virus must be seen as a dress rehearsal of what will happen when a virus the likes of which the world has not seen in one hundred years, the Spanish Flu, spreads around the world killing millions of those it infects.


So many lives were touched by this great, even if they were not a fan. More than just talent, Kobe was living proof that if you work harder than your competitors, you are more likely to be better than they are.

In reminiscing, one rival player told the story of how he wanted to get in an early-morning workout before he played the Lakers. When he got to the gym at 4 a.m., Kobe was already there drenched in sweat. When he was leaving Kobe was still practising. He later dropped forty points in the game.

If it is one thing that Kobe taught me, it is that you have the opportunity to put yourself years ahead of your competition, if you consistently put in more hours in a day honing your craft than they do. With each passing month you would have already put in days of work that they would need to overcome to catch up. Do it again next month and the gap widens. If you are consistent enough, they would need years to be where you are.

I work harder to be a better version of myself because of you, Kobe.

Rest in peace, brother.


The Australian bush fires reached their maximum extent in early January. Environmentalists saw this as evidence that climate change is real and catastrophe closer than we imagined.

One of the fiercest opponents of concessions to environmentalists, Donald Trump, saw his impeachment trial get under way. Only the third US president to be impeached. Unsurprisingly, he was acquitted in a partisan vote.


The news cycle could easily have been dominated by the stench coming from the Auditor General’s Report on the Caribbean Maritime University (CMU) were January not a full year of news. Nevertheless, we await to see how the axe will fall, cognisant of the fact that even in the face of clear evidence, guilty parties have been known to escape justice based on technicalities in cases.

Even if nobody goes to jail, isn’t this enough to demand a new approach in the way the awarding of contracts is monitored? With the virile Office of the Contractor General now rolled into an impotent Integrity Commission, we are only left with the sporadic anonymous whistle-blowers and politicking by the Opposition to highlight corruption after we the taxpayers have already been burnt without any chance of remuneration.


The earthquake that wouldn’t end; the wanton killing of women and children, Vauxhall teacher killed at school, new SOEs and rising murders, policeman run over by a taxi, all punctuated the crosses we must bear in Jamaica, land we love.

In the midst of our daily struggle against crime and violence, we descended further into the tug of war between the US and China. Mike Pompeo’s visit not only created a stir locally but resulted in the Mottley Crew and CARICOM distancing themselves from the participants in the meeting with select Caribbean heads of state.


But all was not doom and gloom for the year.

Rising star Koffee became the first female and youngest winner of the Reggae Grammy.

Port Royal finally saw a cruise ship docking at the historic town and the hopes and dreams of a people who waited for years were finally realised.

2020 has brought new hope with the economic situation slowly improving, even if not as fast as the PR geniuses would like us to believe.

It has been a rough year, but let’s see what the rest of the first year of the new decade (or the last year of the decade) will bring.

All I can say is, Happy February!

- Dr Alfred Dawes is a general, laparoscopic and weight loss surgeon; Fellow of the American College of Surgeons; former senior medical officer of the Savanna-la-Mar Public General Hospital; former president of the Jamaica Medical Doctors Association. @dr_aldawes. Email feedback to and