Alia Atkinson, Personality of the Year
Devon Dick, Columnist
The year 2014 was a challenging year dominated by the disastrous symptoms associated with the chikungunya virus which, according to the Don Anderson poll, affected 87 per cent of Jamaicans. However, the good news of the year was 26-year-old Alia Atkinson's achievements against great odds.
Such achievements ran counter to a popular stereotype of being too old; debunked pseudo science of wrong body type and motivated people of African origin worldwide.
She was a model of determination and hard work in the pool, having competed in the 2004 Olympics, placing 25th in the 2008 Olympics and 4th in the 2012 edition. On land, she displayed decorum and modesty. In 2014, she had the greatest impact for good on Jamaica and the Jamaican psyche with her gold-medal swim and also for becoming the first person of African descent to share a world record in 100m breaststroke.
Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller showed leadership in being the driving force some two years ago in granting $20 million to Alia Atkinson to prepare for meets and the 2016 Olympics. The PM also showed leadership in listening to civil society in abandoning the process concerning the 360-megawatt energy project and also in not taking the advice of civil society to change the National Housing Trust board.
Peter Phillips, minister of finance, must be commended for passing four more difficult International Monetary Fund tests.
Decriminalisation of ganja in small amounts
Mark Golding, minister of justice, continues to lead the legislative process with bills on the economy and the decriminalisation of smoking small amounts of ganja. Omar Davies oversaw the successful completion of the Mount Rosser toll road and 100,000 motorists are using the bypass monthly. In addition, improvements and changes have taken place at the cash-strapped JUTC. Peter Bunting, with divine intervention and changing in approach, has seen approximately 16 per cent reduction in major crimes.
Delano Seiveright is the young politician of the year with his early warning about the spread of chik-v and who was berated as an alarmist, but was later proved right. In addition, Seiveright was at the forefront of calling for ganja reform. Andrew Holness, as opposition leader, was probing in his questioning of the PM, which is an important role, but there needs to be more from his Aubyn Hill-led economic advisory committee. Audley Shaw was able to milk the NHT double-talk on the acquisition of the Orange Grove property and brought to the attention of the public information that was not forthcoming.
Then there was the elevation of jurist Patrick Robinson to serve on the International Court of Justice, having previously served as president of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.
There were other contenders, including Nicholas 'The Axeman' Walters who is in the spotlight in a brutal sport of boxing as a world champion, and Kaliese Spencer for being dominant in winning Diamond League and Commonwealth gold in 400-metre hurdles, a technically challenging event.
Richard Byles, CEO of Sagicor, leads this public-listed company with more investments in the hotel industry, and also offers public service as co-chairman of the Economic Programme Oversight Committee with regular and insightful comments. Recent Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica Hall of Famer Glen Christian leads his family business, acquiring The Federated Pharmaceutical for US$14 million and the purchase of the Claro building in New Kingston which is now in the Business Processing Outsourcing, employing 400. Christian is also a philanthropist who helps significantly in early-childhood education.
Alia gave us a great Christmas present. The Christmas message of God becoming flesh means that human beings have talent and the capacity to fulfil their God-given potential, and Jamaicans can be the best with proper application, facilities, support, and encouragement. Alia has been an inspiration to Jamaica and the world and is the Personality of the Year.
Rev Devon Dick is pastor of the Boulevard Baptist Church in St Andrew. He is author of 'The Cross and the Machete', and 'Rebellion to Riot'. Send feedback to columns@ gleanerjm.com.