Sun | Jan 20, 2019

What they did

Published:Thursday | January 1, 2015 | 12:00 AM
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator AJ Nicholson
Lisa Hanna
Easton Douglas,

The New Year has begun and no doubt there will be numerous steps and
missteps taken by public figures over the coming months. But do you
remember all that they did during the past 12 months? Here are just a
few of the things people did in 2014.

Portia Simpson Miller, Prime Minister of Jamaica

The prime minister was criticised in some quarters for what was perceived as a high travel bill. In Parliament, Simpson Miller revealed that between January 2012 and December 2013, members of her Government had racked up a bill of J$117.8 million. Simpson Miller defended the frequent overseas trips, saying they were beneficial to the island by attracting investments and maintaining partnerships.

Andrew Holness, Leader of the Opposition

According to a Gleaner-commissioned Bill Johnson poll, some Jamaicans expressed the belief Holness would do a better job as prime minister. Holness was favoured by a nearly 2:1 margin. The poll was conducted among 1,208 residents of Jamaica and had a margin of error of plus or minus three per cent.

The Reverend Father Sean Major-Campbell,  Christ Church in Vineyard Town, Kingston

Major-Campbell openly embraced and showed love to members of the lesbian, gay and transgender community during a service on Sunday, December 7. He washed the feet of two lesbians and subsequently allowed a testimonial from a transgender individual, appealing for greater understanding of human sexuality.

Dr Peter Phillips, Finance Minister

Despite criticism from some sectors, Jamaica continued to pass its International Monetary Fund quarterly reviews. Phillips received plaudits for leading the country's economic reform programme. He pointed to indicators that Jamaica's inflation was within the targeted range, and the current account deficit continued to narrow.

Earl Witter, Former Public Defender

Witter demitted office on April 6 after nearly eight years in the post. Witter was heavily criticised for his delays in completing a report into the police-military operation in West Kingston in 2010. Witter then, in a letter dated December 1, wrote to acting Public Defender Matondo Mukulu, expressing regret at recommending him to act in the post. In the letter, which was copied to the governor general and the speaker of the House of Representatives, Witter accused Mukulu of promoting himself for the job and expressed doubt in his (Mukulu's) ability to serve in the post at that time.

Dr Fenton Ferguson, Health Minister

Ferguson had to lead the country's fight against the onset of the chikungunya virus that, according to Don Anderson studies, affected nearly 90 per cent of Jamaican families. Ferguson also had to assure the public the Government was doing everything to prevent the deadly Ebola disease from reaching Jamaican shores.

Professor Brendan Bain, Director of the Regional Coordinating Unit of the Caribbean HIV/Training Network (CHART)

Bain was fired after gay and human rights groups wrote to the University of the West Indies saying his testimony in a Belizean court was in conflict with the leadership of CHART. Bain had given evidence in a case where a gay man had challenged the constitutionality of the law that makes it criminal for men to have sex with men. Bain testified that there is a higher degree of HIV and cancer among men who have sex with men. However, he took out an injunction in June barring his termination, and filed a lawsuit against the university, claiming a breach of his constitutional rights.

A.J. Nicholson, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade/President of the Senate

The veteran politician heard calls for his resignation as senate president after his "flexi rape" statement during a sitting of the Upper House. Nicholson was listening to the debate over the flexitime bill when he made the statement. He withdrew the comment, issued an apology and then presented another, acknowledging the initial one was inadequate.

Professor E. Nigel Harris, Vice-Chancellor of the UWI

Harris fired Professor Brendan Bain as director of the Regional Co-ordinating Unit of the Caribbean HIV/Training Network (CHART) after 35 advocacy groups had written to the university about the doctor's testimony in the case of Caleb Orozco, a gay man who challenged the constitutionality of an 1861 law in Belize that criminalises men having sex with men. Harris and the University of the West Indies (UWI) were heavily criticised for 'bowing' to the groups. UWI defended the decision, saying Bain had lost the confidence of the community CHART serves.

Dr Carolyn Gomes, head of the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities (CVC) Coalition

Dr Gomes resigned as a board member of Jamaicans For Justice (JFJ) following public outcry over the group's involvement in an explicitly worded sex-education programme that was distributed to 120 children in six privately-run children's homes. Dr Gomes admitted the content she developed for the sex-education programme was delivered to caregivers at the children's homes without JFJ's board approval, but she denied developing or delivering the controversial gay or anal sex content of the books.

Easton Douglas, Chairman of the National Housing Trust (NHT)

Douglas defended the purchase of the Outameni attraction in Trelawny by the NHT. He said the purchase was a clear, well-considered, social investment, much like Emancipation Park which the NHT developed and operates in New Kingston. Like most members of the board, Douglas refused to resign despite protests from sections of the society. Detractors of the purchase argued it is outside of the NHT's mandate.

Lisa Hanna, Youth and Culture Minister

Hanna was chastised and commended for posting a picture of herself wearing a bikini. Those criticising the former Miss World felt she should not have used the same page on which she posts ministry activities. Others felt the attire was too revealing for a woman in her post. However, an equally vocal group felt Hanna did nothing wrong and had every right to dress as she saw fit.

Vybz Kartel, entertainer

In March, the popular entertainer was found guilty of the murder of Clive 'Lizard' Williams along with three co-accused, Shawn Campbell, Kahira Jones, and André St John. A fourth co-accused, Shane Williams, was acquitted of the charge. Kartel was later sentenced to life in prison, where he must serve 35 years before being eligible for parole. Kartel and his co-accused appealed the ruling.

Owen Ellington, Former Commissioner of Police

Ellington took many by surprise when he resigned from the post and retired from the Jamaica Constabulary Force after 34 years. According to the National Security Ministry, Commissioner Ellington took the decision to separate himself from the leadership and management of the police force before the start of the Commission of Enquiry into the conduct of the operations of the security forces in Western Kingston and other areas during the 2010 State of Emergency.