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Sectoral Debates 2008 - The Hon. Olivia Grange

Release Date: 
Tuesday, June 17, 2008 - 13:45

Defining Ourselves

Mr. Speaker, Members of this Honourable House, I consider myself privileged to make this contribution to the Sectoral Debate and to outline the activities of the departments, divisions and agencies which fall within the portfolio of the Ministry of Information, Culture, Youth & Sports with responsibility for entertainment, community development and women’s and gender affairs.

Privileged, because I have the honour to lead this Ministry at a time of social and economic transformation both locally and internationally. And privileged, because the portfolio responsibilities can perhaps be best described as fundamental to our capacity as a nation to define ourselves.

The twenty-four departments, divisions and agencies which fall within this Ministry are all, as I will detail, integral to the process of national definition: that is, determining who we are as a people.

Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members, at the outset let me thank the Honourable Prime Minister for the confidence he has displayed in entrusting me with this awesome responsibility. I assure him that with the support of a dedicated staff and the encouragement of my political colleagues, we will play our part in effecting the transformation and creating the society that informs the vision and mission of our political movement. That vision, as you are aware, is to create a better way for a better Jamaica.

We are much taken these days, and rightly so, with the promotion of Brand Jamaica. Jamaica is a powerful brand.

What other country of two point seven million people enjoys the world-wide name recognition that we do. Whether it is through the record-breaking successes of our sportspersons, the vibrancy of our music as expressed by Bob Marley,Jimmy Cliff and others which enabled Reggae to penetrate all corners of the world, the piquancy of our cuisine, the sheer physical beauty of our country or the audacious, bold creativity of our people?

Yes, Brand Jamaica is powerful, built as it is on the contributions of those who went before: from the fierce resistance of the maroons to the fearless assertions of a new world religion through Rastafari to the fervent and passionate diverse expressions of our religious affirmations to iconic figures such as Marcus Garvey, Mary Seacole, Herb McKenley, Claude McKay, Norman Manley, Alexander Bustamante, Louise Bennett, and the many others in the pantheon of those who have helped us to define ourselves.

The task of my Ministry, Mr. Speaker, is to create the platform for the further definition of the Jamaican character that will allow us to become the best we can be and maximize our capacity to earn from all that we are.

Mr. Speaker, we define ourselves by what we know, i.e. by the knowledge we amass and have at our fingertips. And then again, we define ourselves by our lifestyle, by the ways in which we interact with each other and with the world. We also define ourselves through the generations we produce by way of the nature and forms of our investment in these generations. We further define ourselves in the quality of our leisure, in what we do when we have nothing to do, as well as in areas in which we historically demonstrate success (our competitive advantage) and our willingness to invest in these areas.

Finally, we define ourselves by the type of society we create, the nature of our interactions and governance at the level of the community including, as Marcus Garvey said, in how we treat our women, and, I would add, our men.

The goal of my Ministry, then, Mr. Speaker, is to integrate the portfolio areas in order to define ourselves by fostering and generating the type of lifestyle and quality of being, that will provide us with hope and sustainable prosperity.

Mr. Speaker, let me now focus on our policies and programmes.

Information

I have often reflected on the truism of a statement once made by Kofi Anan, former United Nations Secretary General, and I quote: “Knowledge is Power; Information is liberating; Education is the premise of progress in every society, in every family.”

Mr. Speaker, if we agree with Mr. Anan that knowledge empowers and that information liberates, and that by converse, ignorance debilitates, then our quest for self definition must relate to our engagement with information as one of the fundamental platforms on which we will build our capacity as a nation.

In this regard, I am quite aware of the significant role our Ministry can, and must, play in ensuring that the information highway is soundly constructed and will allow our people a safe and smooth

ride to individual and collective development. It must be able on the one hand, to support and ensure an accessible, accountable, responsive and transparent government and, on the other, to be a major part of the network that links us to facts and features about one another, the world we live in and the infinite subjects which impact and shape us.

Access to Information

In this regard, therefore we are committed to the Access to Information programme of action. Not only is it a signal of responsible and responsive governance but it is also the foundation for the construction of the definition of who we are. We are what we know, especially by virtue of how we understand and use what we know.

To this end we have increased the financial support given to the Access to Information programme by over 13%1, as part of the Government’s strategy to encourage more people from all walks of life, to directly access government documents. We recognize that it is essential to our progress as a nation to ensure that more persons are part of the paradigm of participatory governance which underpins our cherished democracy. We hold as a sacred value, that all citizens are members of the knowledge-based society we are creating, - a society that will fuel our nation’s growth and sustain our development.

Review of the Access to Information Act

With the wind of change propelling us forward, Mr. Speaker, in February of this year we named thirteen (13)2 distinguished members from both Houses who will comprise a Joint Select Committee established to review the Access to Information Act.

The Review Committee along with members of civil society will deliberate together and ensure that we build on what is right, and where the journey so far has shown that it is necessary, we will direct that we change the course.

Public Education

I am prepared to champion the call central to the Act, for good governance, accountability and transparency.

Every citizen, regardless of age, gender, class or creed need to exercise his or her right to know and the right to access official government documents - for “Participation Is Power”.

This is a message, Mr. Speaker, which will ring loudly in every community from one end of the country to the next in ring tones that will resonate with the solid and positive response of our modern democracy: Yes to knowledge, yes to self empowerment, yes to community development, yes to gender equity and advancement, yes to youth upliftment, and yes to fundamental change from within Government, for the better and for all…. Mr. Speaker, the change has begun. We are defining ourselves and becoming better persons and a better people.

In the year ahead, Mr. Speaker, you will continue to see our change agents reminding our people of this through public education campaigns in the nooks and crannies of our cities, communities and villages as our people carry out the tasks of everyday living, that they can make a difference and take this country to extraordinary heights by their own actions.

Mr. Speaker, it will be education through graphic displays. You will see us through vibrantly painted advertisements on the rear of taxis in the parishes of Kingston and St Andrew, St Catherine, St Elizabeth, St James and St Ann, reminding everyone to Get Information, Know It, Use It well…for in Government there is now official information at your fingertips.

You will see us in television and newspaper advertisements, but as a complement to that, the whole island will hear the various radio dramas demonstrating how critical decisions can be best made from a platform of information or how knowledge can assist the process of dispute resolution or social transformation.

The Access to Information Unit will be more visible this year across the island in Primary and Secondary Schools, Colleges, Universities, Libraries, Private Sector Organizations, Non-Governmental Organizations and Service Clubs. The Unit will be conducting face to face sensitization sessions with displays informative exhibits. We hope to touch everyone, Mr. Speaker, because everyone counts. The change is on underway.

The Access to Information Tribunal

The continued dedicated service of members of the Access to Information Appeal Tribunal3 has been an important part of ensuring that the Act is properly applied and that Jamaica builds its own jurisprudence. I therefore take this moment recognize and thank the members for executing their function with exemplary commitment and excellence.

Advancing in Partnership

Mr. Speaker, the Access To Information Programme is a model for advancing successful partnerships with others: bi-partisan, inter agency, and partnership with stakeholders from within society, as well as regional and international partnerships.

Mr. Speaker, I had the distinct honour of leading a small team to the Carter Centre’s International Conference on “The Right to Know”, chaired by the former President of the United States of America, Jimmy Carter, and with approximately one hundred and twenty five participants representing forty countries. I was invited to present on the challenges and successes of the ATI Regime in Jamaica. We are viewed as leaders in the western hemisphere in this regard and our presentation on the subject was ranked first, another big boost to the definition of the international image of Jamaica.

We have offered support to our Caribbean brothers and sisters in Antigua by sharing our expertise in the subject as they themselves prepare to meet the challenges and opportunities of implementation.

The ATI programme, can be viewed as a celebration of our better selves and there will be even bigger and better accomplishments as we move forward. We are devoting budgeted sums to improve the physical, technological, administrative and human resource requirements for administering the Act in over two hundred public sector entities.

We recognise that, going forward, we must put in place mechanisms that allow for real time monitoring of requests and how these requests are dealt with by public authorities through use of the technologies. At the end of the day, we want to ensure that we are a more competent, efficient and knowledgeable society.

In this regard, we have already received preliminary signals of interest from two multilateral agencies for grant funding to facilitate the strengthening of our capacity to monitor the implementation of the programme and to support our efforts to upgrade records management systems across Government. We will be exploring these possibilities, for advancement in these areas. Mr. Speaker, the transformation continues.

The Communication Network

Mr. Speaker, if self definition is to be fostered by using knowledge, then it follows that we must have some level of influence over content. In other words, we must seek to ensure that positive, wholesome information and images are placed within the domain of what our people should know.

One of the negative residues of post colonial, post slavery societies like ours is that much of what we know have been determined by others who have sought to control the format, form, nature and content of the information we receive. This control of the network of communication has greatly impacted how we have traditionally defined ourselves. Our people have developed unhealthy complexes that the new thrust for self definition must eradicate and fundamentally change.

It is in this vein that we have determined that we must ensure that the communications network we have established are adequately resourced and properly configured to provide the kind of knowledge experience that will promote the type of society we are seeking to define.

I turn now to the network that we own, which are as follows:

    The Public Broadcasting Corporation of Jamaica (PBCJ)
    Creative Production and Training Centre (CPTC), and
    Jamaica Information Service (JIS)

Mr. Speaker, I want to draw attention to the emphasis this Government has placed on providing the fuel which will make the vehicles of information within the Government apparatus work effectively and contribute to the process of collective definition.

Firstly, I must highlight that after assuming responsibility for the administration of Government in September 2007, we immediately set about identifying resources to ensure that the people of Jamaica who are living in Jamaica can see, hear and know how business is conducted on their behalf in the Houses of Parliament. Two months later, on November 6, 2007, we facilitated the purchase of state of the art equipment for the Public Broadcasting Corporation of Jamaica (PBCJ), which now carries the proceedings of Parliament live to the country. This development has fostered greater interest in, and understanding of, issues of national importance as more Jamaicans tune in to the proceedings. Again, Mr. Speaker, the transformation continues.

Since then, the Corporation has expanded its staff and refurbished more of the property which it owns to meet the demands of the next exciting and crucial phases of its growth. Within this financial year, Mr. Speaker, we will take the quantum leap to live coverage of Parliamentary proceedings not only to Jamaicans locally but to our valued citizens in the Jamaican Diaspora who have consistently taken great interest in, and been an integral part of, our development.

You see, Mr. Speaker, our self definition must include the large number of Jamaicans and persons of Jamaican heritage all over the Jamaican Diaspora who carry the banner of interest, dedication and tangible economic contributions. And let us not forget that our Diaspora is well established and far-reaching as, consequent to our migratory patterns over the years, we are to be found all over the world. As Alma Norman wrote in Jamaica Wanderers:
Oh anywhere you care to go – You’ll find Jamaica men (and, I add, women)

Yet, we did not and will not stop there, Mr. Speaker. The country will note that the Ministry through the Jamaica Information Service has put in place a communication mechanism that enables Jamaicans overseas to be an integral part of the Prime Minister’s monthly call-in programme Jamaica House Live. Not only do we want to be seen, heard and understood, but we want to see, hear, understand and never lose sight of - or touch with - Jamaicans who we serve with humility and pride. Now, Jamaicans everywhere can communicate with their leaders at all times.

Mr. Speaker, we had promised Jamaica that if they put their trust in us we would not break our covenant with them. We promised that the most efficient use of Government assets and resources would be made, in service to this fine nation. We promised an end to fragmented efforts and approaches in favour of harmonized, rationalized, joined-up governance.

It is with that in mind, Mr. Speaker, that government as a stated policy has come out of commercial broadcasting. KOOL FM is now being placed in this Ministry to make Public Service Radio a reality early within this financial year. That means, Mr. Speaker, that when Parliament and other events of national importance are underway those who do not have television will still have access to live coverage of these proceedings.

To all the loyal listeners and supporters of KOOL FM let me hasten to say that this will not mean that the station will (pardon the pun) lose its ‘cool’. As with all things, we will have to make some changes to go forward, but we will not proceed without taking your views into consideration as to programming.

In the same vein, Mr. Speaker, the mandates, functions and operations of the government’s media network (the PBCJ, the CPTC and the JIS) are being further examined and honed to guarantee efficiency and effectiveness, in the dissemination of information which is accurate, balanced, timely, relevant and, importantly, is delivered in products and forms of the highest quality. We also intend to increase the volume and quality of local content available to the viewing public as part of the preservation and promotion of our cultural heritage, cultural industries and national cultural identity.

As a corollary, Mr. Speaker, there will be greater focus on training more Jamaicans in our fine traditions of mass communications and the associated artistic craft. I am impressed with the strides the CPTC has made in this area. I highlight in particular the Media Technology Institute (MTI) which is the training arm of the CPTC which has now received ‘Registration Status’ and is therefore recognized as a tertiary institution.

The MTI is in the process of having its diploma programme accredited by the University Council of Jamaica and its new Chairman tells me that it is poised to be the premier training institute in the region in the field and is working strategically this year, towards achieving that goal.

Similarly, sharpened focus is being given to the programmes produced by the CPTC which must be cutting edge in quality and content. The CPTC has been challenged by me to create productions for television in ways that will enhance domestic industries and promote the production of a wide range of local goods of international standard for the consumption of the people. Our people will be able to see more of ourselves in a positive light in media networks which will provide ground for positive self definition.

The increased budgetary sums voted to these institutions this year is in recognition of the need to re-tool and upgrade our public assets and infrastructure and enhance standards and productivity levels. They in turn, I assure you, are aware that to whom much is given, much is expected.

Under this administration we intend to see the tremendous potential and power of our voices, images and talent captured in film, and other components of the cultural industries unleashed, made to flourish and play a significant role as a catalyst for significant economic growth in this country.

The studio of the CPTC is newly refurbished and ready to host major productions for the local and international market. The PBCJ Television studio, the largest in Jamaica and radio studios are being fully restored, and upgraded, to be an important wave as the tide turns towards meeting our destiny on the world’s centre stage of activity. Mr. Speaker, the promised change is at hand.

As the Ministry works towards achieving our vision of the efficient and effective dissemination of information for the empowerment of our people, and seeks to attain the broader objective of social transformation, the Jamaica Information Service (JIS), which is 45 years old this year, has a central role to play.

The JIS is the principal government Agency mandated to promote the policies, programmes and institutions of the Government of Jamaica. This has been the case since the Agency was created in January 1963 out of the re-organised Government Public Relations (GPRO) entity. Despite variations to its name, structure and mode of operation over the years, the JIS mandate is to be the standard bearer for public information relating to the activities of Government.

It is to do so within a framework of collaboration with all the other information-related entities which fall under the umbrella of the MICYS. These include the PBCJ and the CPTC. Already, at the level of the CEOs, discussions are taking place for the formalization of Memoranda of Understanding to cover information and resource sharing, as well as other possible synergies, in the performance of their respective duties.

Members of this Honourable House will recall that the JIS was transformed into an Executive Agency in 2001 as part of the Public Sector Modernisation Programme. As an Executive Agency the JIS is responsible for earning a significant portion of its annual budget from offering non-core services primarily within the public sector. These are services outside the normal news coverage and distribution of materials to the electronic and print media. The ability of the JIS to improve its promotion of the policies, programmes and institutions of the Government of Jamaica here and overseas is directly linked to its profitability as a business.

While there are several areas of improvements being discussed with the Agency’s management, over the past year, the JIS has sought to consolidate the structural, service delivery and income generating gains that have come with Executive Agency status.

    In March 2007 The JIS formalized a system of providing public information services to all major offices of the State including the Office of the Governor-General, the Office of the Prime Minister and the Parliamentary Opposition and designated a senior public relations practitioner at the level of a director to co-ordinate the Agency work on behalf of these offices.
    With respect to public information, The JIS’ flagship programme Jamaica Magazine on radio and TV has been revitalized with new, more appealing music and fresh presentational formats.
    JIS-sponsored Government of Jamaica time signals are now aired on five radio stations, giving short facts on various government programmes, policies and institutions.
    A new Voice of Jamaica 5 minute feature, which presents Government-related news in a dynamic and creative new format, made its debut in prime time on a major television station (TVJ) on June 11 and is scheduled to be aired during Prime Time on another TV station (CVM) at 7:49 pm on Wednesday, June 18.
    The weekly newspaper Bulletin Board page has been revamped and made more attractive and reader friendly.
    The JIS website (www.jis.gov.jm), which serves as a valuable portal linking the world with what’s happening in Government in Jamaica, continues to see improvements. In 2006 and again in 2007 the JIS website won the American Black Web award for being the best site representing a nation.
    Only recently the Office of the President of Botswana dispatched a high level team to Jamaica to learn more about the operations of the JIS in preparation for the setting up of their own Government Information Service after discovering the JIS through the Agency’s award winning website.
    For persons who miss the JIS radio and TV programmes on your favourite radio or television station, these programmes are now streamed on the JIS website. The JIS continues to expand its capacity to deliver live streaming of major Government of Jamaica events and activities on its website.
    As I mentioned earlier, since January the Agency has undertaken technical production for the Prime Minister’s monthly call-in programme – Jamaica House Live. The Agency continues to handle the arrangements for the airing of this important programme on ten radio stations; and coordinates the involvement of three private sector companies, which facilitate overseas calls into the programme as well as the worldwide distribution of audio and video.
    The JIS has begun a process of protecting its photo, video and audio archives.
    Significant work has been undertaken to physically secure the video archives, while funding is being sought to acquire an integrated digital archiving and retrieval system to incorporate its research library, audio, video and photo records.
    I am in discussion with the JIS about initial steps being taken to locate, identify and ultimately return to Jamaica and the people of Jamaica, an invaluable storehouse of treasures in the form of film and video materials that was sent overseas for storage since the time of the Government Public Relations Office in the 1950s, the early years of the JIS in the 1960s, during the time of the API of the 70s and even as recently as the 1990s. This exercise will require some delicate negotiations and significant costs for the transfer of materials to appropriate formats – but it must be done.
    Much attention has been placed over the past year on training with staff members exposed to hands-on training in Jamaica, China, Ecuador, Trinidad and Tobago, El Salvador, Panama and Barbados.

Some Improvements for 2008-2009

    The JIS is now putting in place the necessary staffing to provide a more strategic approach to supporting the public relations and public information needs of Government Ministries.
    The Research and Publications function of the Agency is currently undergoing major restructuring to ensure timely updating and publishing of various publications on Government projects and policies, as well as, information on the history of our country and our people.
    An advisory Board has been put in place to provide advice and support to the CEO of the JIS in the efficient and effective delivery of public information and to assist in the Agency’s corporate development.
    There is currently a major thrust to bring Government of Jamaica programming to more community cable channels in Jamaica and overseas.
    At the same time, the JIS’ extensive network of Regional offices across Jamaica and its overseas locations are to be reviewed to boost their capacity and bring government information into every nook and cranny of the country and increase Jamaica’s presence overseas. A special communications programme has been designed.

Among the initiatives to be implemented as a part of the integration and community relations functions overseas are:

    The expansion of the data base to include second and third generation Jamaicans and others who have an interest in the affairs of the nation
    Distribution of a weekly electronic newsletter focusing on the programmes being undertaken by the Government of Jamaica
    The distribution of a monthly [printed newsletter
    The arrangement of regular interviews in main stream media for the Prime Minister and members of the Cabinet
    The provisiobn of a reliable stream of information about Jamaica and investment opportunities for potential investors
    The arrangement and hosting of regular community forums attended by Jamaican diplomats, visiting members of the Government and heads of agencies
    Organizing and promoting the annual celebration of Jamaica’s Independence Day
    The facilitation of close working relations amongst schools and community groups to share our rich heritage with young people of Jamaican background
    Recognizing and celebrating the achievements of Jamaicans overseas
    Facilitating and assisting visiting professionals including artists, athletes and other ambassadors to interact with the Jamaican community overseas.

Capital Budget

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to report, as I alluded to earlier, that, while budgetary constraints prevented us from allocating to the JIS all the resources the Agency requires at this time, the Agency has been allocated 63 Million Dollars for capital expenditure for 2008-2009. This is a significant increase on the $15 million allocated in the financial year 2007-2008 under the previous government

The Role of the Jamaican Archives and Records Department

Mr Speaker, Members of this Honourable House will recall that we discovered towards the end of 2007 that the Audio Archives of the Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation (JBC) had been violated over a period of time. A devastating moment in our history, for we know that we move forward always on the pillars of our treasured past of which those archives were an invaluable part.

As Jamaicans, we will always rise again, though, Mr. Speaker. You know that we will continue our search to recapture what was taken from us and through the generosity of spirit that characterizes us as a people, we will rebuild from our individual collections a Museum as a tribute to our pioneers and as a gift to our children and our children’s children – a gift which will be shared once again, with the world.

Mr. Speaker, I must tell you that the donations of materials from Jamaicans at home and abroad and the International Community have already started pouring in. I take this opportunity to renew my appeal to musicians, Jamaicans, friends and family of Jamaicans all, to help make this a reality.

Let me also use this forum to say, Mr. Speaker, that in immediate response to this matter resources were identified to move the remaining items of those archives to a more secure facility. The Committee established to review the systems that were in place has made recommendations to me. These recommendations are being analysed and pursued. My thanks to the Committee for the sterling contribution they have made in the public service at a moment’s notice on a completely voluntary basis.

The Jamaica Archives and Records Department continues to give invaluable support to government entities in the management of their records and is sacred ground to researchers.

The Audio Visual Unit of the Archives remains a tremendous asset through their care and preservation of the former JBC Audio Visual Collection. This is now showcased on PBC Jamaica, bringing to the forefront the rich and diverse productions of the early years of broadcasting in Jamaica featuring many of our legends. We have therefore, Mr. Speaker, increased the monetary support to the Archives by over 15%.

The Broadcasting Commission of Jamaica

Mr. Speaker, one of the principal roles of all media is to keep pace with the global technological evolution. As such, it must contribute actively to building a knowledge-based society as well as shaping and preserving our identity and wholesome values. This has implication for an important part of the work that Government must do: the creation of a regulatory framework.

While scrutiny of our budget readily offers evidence of the focus on the accessibility of the various forms and genres of information and high quality media output, I now pause to mention the work of the regulatory body, the Broadcasting Commission, which is self sustaining and pursues its statutory mandate in support of these ideals I just enunciated.

The Commission will be carrying out important assignments throughout this year aimed, among other things, at bridging the technological divide within our country and between Jamaica and the rest of the world. I wish to highlight that the Commission has been and will be examining and making recommendations with respect to the global issue of ‘Digital Switchover’ which assumes great importance for us as our major trading partners, including the United States of America, are in the process of concluding their preparations to change the technology responsible for broadcasting.

These changes have implications for our continued ability to readily access information in the future. Much focus will therefore have to be given in the upcoming year to ensuring that we keep step with these changes so that there will be no barrier to sharing in the common wealth of knowledge, power and progress to which our citizens have a rightful claim.

Mr. Speaker, every household will be informed about the need to begin making arrangements to eventually convert their cable boxes and other domestic receiving equipment from older analogue to the more current digital receiving systems. The process will proceed on a phased basis and in line with initiatives already being taken by some local broadcast and cable providers.

Mr. Speaker, this issue of ‘Digital Switchover’ will be a dominant part of the media policy agenda from now until the switchover is complete. The transition to digital technology in the form of High Definition Television and digital radio is already underway across the globe and we in Jamaica must determine our own time and pace for the inescapable transition.

A process of wide consultation has already begun on the standards and methods for achieving this major milestone in media to leverage all the capabilities and benefits that digital switch over offers. This includes better access to the global market as a result of more efficient spectrum allocation for broadcasting, a richer media experience, and multiple commercial opportunities.

I am also proud to say that we are now embarking on an era of higher levels of competition in the Cable Sector, as promised. A call for applications has now been made for entities able and ready to provide island-wide Cable Services. Simultaneously we have received and granted applications made by existing Operators to expand their service area. We are on a determined path to foster infusion of investment in the sector and preserving and promoting competition. Mr. Speaker, the change is on in earnest.

Additionally, I am pleased to announce that legislation is currently making its way through the Houses of this Parliament to introduce new categories of Broadcasting and Cable licences, including Independent Programme Provider (IPP) Licences. The award of these IPP Licences will see some programme providers having access to advertising revenue in keeping with Regulations which are being developed. This, Mr. Speaker, is also another important prong in ensuring that there is no fetter to the Jamaican ingenuity and creativity.

At the same time, advertising revenue will not be granted to licensees whose programming are inconsistent with the policy goals which include the promotion and preservation of wholesome content which speaks to the Jamaican experience and culture or is produced by Jamaicans. We are determined that there must be a return to the celebration of correct values and attitudes. I say, Mr. Speaker, let it begin with each of us!

Mr. Speaker, the Broadcasting Commission has now concluded wide consultations on many pending issues and concerns which has helped them to revise a plan of action around more rigorous monitoring and enforcement of programming standards as they relate to careless or gratuitous screening or airing of content in breach of the Act, especially relating to inappropriate exposure of children to sex, violence, profanity, dangerous drugs and substance abuse.

We will be reviewing the range of sanctions available to the regulator and to the Minister, including the introduction of financial sanctions, which can act as a deterrent to licensees operating in the breach.

The Commission will also focus attention on public education, media literacy and consumer empowerment. For example, we are getting ready, Mr. Speaker, to deal with the corrupt practice of payola that has far too long stymied the music industry and robbed the talent and the people of the best in music and its returns to the artist and the country. Mr. Speaker, a major change is taking place!

The Cinematograph Authority

I could not conclude this segment of the presentation, Mr. Speaker, without paying tribute to the five members of the Cinematograph Authority who, on a largely voluntary basis, devote two days a week to view movies originating in Jamaica and those coming into our country to provide ratings to protect the vulnerable in our society from unsuitable content.

Mr. Speaker, the Authority has set some ambitious goals for itself with initiatives meant to expand operations, reach, activities and impact island-wide. In this context, an island-wide public education programme is being designed which envisages collaboration with others of our agencies. I was struck and moved by the passion and commitment of the newly constituted Authority. They wrote me recently with a raft of recommendations for reform and for expanding their role, reach, and impact.

In their closing paragraph to me they wrote and I quote: “The Authority is mindful of the importance of the functions with which it is charged and believes that….it should be well positioned to play an increasingly greater part in the overall thrust to influence a change in the attitudes, values and mores of our people that would rekindle, motivate, promote and foster transformation of the moral and social conscience of our society and ultimately resonate in the rebirth of a gentler, just, compassionate and more caring nation”.

Mr. Speaker, the quest to define ourselves has caused us to focus very seriously on the creation of a platform for effective engagement of information that will provide a smooth advance on the part of our people. Mr. Speaker, as our Prime Minister often reminds us “We are too blessed to be stressed and far too rich to be poor!”

This now takes me to another of the principal portfolios of my Ministry: Culture.
CULTURE

“One of our most valuable assets which traces our past, defines us as a people and influences our future.”

Mr. Speaker, this is the way in which the Jamaica Labour Party appropriately describes culture in our Manifesto 2007. Culture is the way of life of a people. It is the repository of all our aspirations, thoughts, traditions and values, ways of being, doing and thinking, as well as our institutions. It encompasses our belief systems, world views and forms of recreation and entertainment. Our culture constitutes a viable economic sector for our country. Together all this has influenced and determined the nature and quality of our very existence and must inevitably play a major role in any thrust to define ourselves.

So, Mr. Speaker, we intend to create “a better way for a better Jamaica” by seriously engaging our culture and making it the central motif of our development programme. Our culture, music and sports is at the centre of Brand Jamaica; our impact on the world. The Ministry of Information, Culture, Youth and Sports is well positioned and poised to deliver in this area. We boast a Culture and Entertainment Division and a host of solid agencies offering dynamic programmes in culture and entertainment. We have plans and have begun to expand, energize and enhance the entire field of activities through the introduction of new and revitalized programming this year and beyond.

Issues such as crime and violence in schools and in the wider society are not just under the burden of the Ministries of Education and National Security. In order to arrest these problems we must accept the need for social and economic transformation both of which can be underpinned by the development of culture and entertainment. In this vein, the Ministry is engaged in a series of programmes and initiatives that are aimed at developing and promoting culture as identity and culture as industry.

Culture as Identity

First of all, a better Jamaica must be created on the platform of a more dynamic and charged citizenry that understands their role, responsibility and purpose in the thrust for national development. Our mission in the Ministry is to promote social transformation through the construction and preservation of positive cultural identity among our people. The productivity of our nation can only be assured through the unleashing of the energies of a people who recognize and appreciate their heritage and cultural integrity.

Through the work of agencies like the Institute of Jamaica and all its Divisions, the Jamaica National Heritage Trust, the National Library and the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission and led by the Ministry, we have sustained and enhanced programmes geared at the promotion of cultural identity and diversity within our country. In this regard, we have promoted research and mounted exhibitions for the enlightenment of our people.

Up to late last year and early this year, our agencies have mounted several exciting and educational exhibitions. These include some that have been linked to the celebration of the Bicentenary of the Abolition of the Slave Trade such as Materializing Slavery by the Museums Division of the Institute of Jamaica and the National Gallery, as well as Campaigners for Freedom and Africa and the Diaspora: A Two Way Journey by the African Caribbean Institute of Jamaica. In addition, the National Gallery mounted an exhibition of the works of the first recognized artist in Jamaica, Isaac Mendes Belisario, with his illustrations of Jonkunnu and other cultural manifestations of our ancestors.

The aim of all these exhibitions is to bring knowledge and appreciation to the wider public by way of an engagement with artifacts, artwork and depictions of our past journey, thereby fostering pride and positive self image. In Materializing Slavery, for example, the public was able to explore the memory, trauma and representation of slavery in Jamaica.

The Belisario Exhibition at the National Gallery has been a co-production with Yale University and is a must-see for all Jamaicans for its illustration of the life of our ancestors. Let me also invite my colleague Members of Parliament to view these meaningful exhibitions.

Another area of activity relevant to this aspect of the Ministry’s work is in the area of community outreach. In recognition of the vital role played historically by communities in both individual and collective development, agencies have been mandated to focus on taking the cultural history and interpretations to the people. Our major target was, of course, the children.

As a part of this endeavour the JCDC working in tandem with the Ministry of Education (through the Culture in Education Programme) and the Citizenship project in the Ministry of National Security has begun introducing Culture Clubs across the island in schools and community groups. The process has begun with the establishment of a number of clubs in St. Elizabeth and the aim is to use these clubs to engage students in research and other activities for the promotion of knowledge in cultural content and, of course, of pride in their culture and heritage and ultimately self definition.

In another area, the Junior Centres of the Institute of Jamaica (East Street, Portmore and Half Way Tree) have expanded their programmes and together with Liberty Hall have engaged hundreds of children in deepening their knowledge and appreciation of our cultural achievements. In the Junior Centres, the children and their parents (hundreds of parents have asked to participate in these activities) have experienced much that has been positive reinforcement of cultural values. There has been drumming, storytelling, dance, speech, drama, art, reading and papermaking.

In fact, one student, 13 year old Jevon Eccleston, was one of 350 individuals worldwide, awarded a diploma from among 7,500 entrants in the 13th International Art exhibition for Children and Young People held in Finland.

In the case of Liberty Hall, there has been tremendous success as again children and their parents participate in daily homework and computer literacy sessions. For example, over 100 adults ranging from age 20 to 82 successfully completed 18 weeks of computer literacy classes. They also learned logo creation, website development, photo journalism and sound editing, all based on the philosophy of the Right Excellent Marcus Mosiah Garvey, that …“education [should] serve as a medium by which people are prepared for the creation of their own…”.

Also, at Liberty Hall, there has been this past year the establishment of the Kingston Downtown Inner-City Computer Centre and Community Outreach Project, funded by the Organization of American States (OAS). This Ministry would like to commend and thank our partners from the OAS for their contribution, through which we were able to purchase computers, literacy software, multimedia and other equipment as well as to employ two part-time teachers for one year.

Mr. Speaker, Liberty Hall: the Legacy of Marcus Garvey, beckons us all to visit and experience the only multimedia museum of its type in the Caribbean where by the touch of a screen you can access three hours of footage on Marcus Garvey.

Let me now turn to another area related to the promotion of cultural identity in which there has been a lot of activity and for which we have been justly proud.

Mr. Speaker, Jamaica boasts by the standards and definitions of UNESCO two living indigenous communities: Rastafari and Maroons. I am proud of our engagement with these two communities over the past year, especially since September 2007.

Mr. Speaker, one of the issues that have plagued many of our communities is that of organization. In many communities there have been conflicts or disorganization or simply lack of unity. Our efforts in the promotion of identity have therefore focused on unity, organization and capacity building, recognizing the invaluable contribution of these communities to our cultural identity and history.

In the case of Rastafari, the Ministry has, through dialogue with various mansions and individuals, the government has been greatly assisted in moving forward on the resolution of some matters related to Rastafari.

I did not hesitate in assisting a delegation to attend the opening of the Smithsonian exhibition, “Discovering Rastafari”. I was unable to attend but I was ably represented by Stephen Golding, the PM’ son who traveled with the delegation.

In terms of the Maroon community, the Ministry worked assiduously with the Council in promoting organization and unity in the staging of their activities. The Council is very organized and comprises each Maroon Chief: Colonels Peddie (Accompong), Sterling (Moore Town), Lumsden (Charles Town), Prehay (Scotts Hall).

Additionally, the Ministry in association with JCDC assisted in the staging of the 269th anniversary of the Signing of the Maroon Treaty, Accompong, January 6, 2008. The effort on our part was to create a greater awareness of the significance of the event within the wider population and to assist the Maroon community to enhance the product with activities and artifacts indicative of the maroon culture and history in order to promote greater opportunities for self knowledge, wealth creation and social advancement.

Of great significance are the series of discussions and workshops that have been held with both communities in regard to traditional knowledge and indigenous property rights, through JIPO and with the assistance of my Ministry. The idea is to place our indigenous communities on a greater platform for wealth creation and income generation through a process of enhancing their capacity to earn from their intellectual property.

Mr. Speaker, as my colleagues are no doubt aware, in the case of property rights where the ownership is by indigenous communities, there is need to establish organizational constructs such as the Rastafari and Maroon Councils for the negotiation and consolidation of these rights and facilitate collection of income from the use of these properties by persons. We wish to commend WIPO for their support in this cause. Both Rastafari and Maroons are now more strategically positioned to benefit from their cultural industries.

This leads me to one of our principal agencies in the area of cultural identity consolidation: the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission. The JCDC continues in its role of enhancing national development through the unearthing, development and showcasing of the talents of the Jamaican community.

Annual events such as Drumfest, the Deaf Dance competition, Miss Lou Celebrations, Bob Marley Week and the Children’s Gospel, and others continue to enjoy widespread support. The programmes of the JCDC continue to impact the lives of Jamaicans of all ages and locations across Jamaica, as they participate in the training and development provided, and showcase their skills and talents in the Annual National Festival of the Performing and Visual Arts, and other events staged by the Commission. The energies and interests of our people must be focused on the positive elements of our culture. In this vein, the further energizing of the celebration of our Independence and Emancipation Day is pivotal.

Mr. Speaker, we are actively promoting a process of revitalising and repositioning the Annual National Festival of the Performing and Visual Arts. This year a total of 7,968 entries have been received so far. This does not include entries in the Visual and Literary Arts areas and it is our determination to increase these figures by next year.

Also, while we recognize the powerful product we have in the Festival of the Arts, especially for schools, which have been the mainstay of the festival, we are also determined that with the help of the SDC we will ensure that more youth clubs and community organizations are included in the near future.

This is very important to the construction of identity and the definition of self. In this regard, I have given instructions for the Culture Division, the JCDC and the SDC to collaborate on the re-establishment of Parish Development Foundations as a platform for the generation of strategic and integrated activities that would foster pride, patriotism and self knowledge at the level of communities.

We are returning the Festival to the communities with their wealth of knowledge and volunteerism. It is my belief that if we achieve integration of the work of the JCDC and SDC field officers in culture and sports at the community level, we will be able to achieve a level of community involvement which will engender peace, harmony, solidarity and prosperity in our country.

Jamaica Festival

This year we are ensuring that the celebration of Jamaica’s Independence 2008 will again reflect the pageantry, glitter and glamour befitting the occasion. It is our conviction that how we celebrate our achievements can impact on how we see ourselves and promote the feeling of well being that is necessary for greater productivity. We are what we celebrate.

Emancipation and Independence celebrations in 2008 will be held in all parishes. The national celebrations will have as its centrepiece ‘Jamaica Festival 2008’, which will run from July 31st to August 6, Independence Day.

August 1st, Emancipation Day will be marked by an Emancipation Jubilee at Seville Heritage Park in St. Ann, put on by the Jamaica National Heritage Trust and the National Emancipation Jamboree to be held in Emancipation Square on August 1 and “Augus Mawning” Fair and Jamaica Night Concert at Ranny Williams Entertainment Centre, also on August 1. There will also be Parish Emancipation vigils across the island.

The Jamaican Festival will showcase the best in all areas of our culture under the theme One Love…One Family.

Jamaica Festival will feature the return of old favourites such as the Festival Song Competition, Festival Fashions, Bandwagon Road Shows and Festival Trains, National Culinary Exposition, the Independence Festival Float Parade and Grand Gala, as well as the National Visual Arts competition, the Festival Queen Coronation show and the Jamaica Gospel Show. There will be other initiatives to include the entire island in the festival celebration.

The National Thanksgiving Service will be held in Emancipation Park and will include a Gospel celebration as we give thanks to God for our nation.

Parish Committees

A process of re-energising the Parish Committees has begun and will result in increased and more focused cultural programming in the parishes.

Evenings of Excellence

Parish winners in the Performing Arts Festival will be featured in Evenings of Excellence to be held in each parish, throughout June to early July.

These Evenings will allow parents, teachers, family and friends of parish awardees the opportunity to see the creative talents of their loved ones. I would like to encourage my colleague MPs to be present at their Parish ceremonies and share in the achievements of your constituents.

National Visual Arts Competition

The collaboration with the JCDC, the National Gallery and the Tourism Enhancement Fund in the staging of the National Visual Arts Competition will occur for a second year. The exhibition will be located in the National Gallery and will run for four weeks. This tri-partite partnership will be encouraged for the future and I wish to commend my tourism colleague for his support.

Establishment of a National Symphonic Orchestra

As part of the Independence activities, the JCDC will invite a group of outstanding instrumentalists to come together in the style of a National Symphonic Orchestra for performance in the National Grand Gala. This is based on the noted expertise of many persons, particularly young persons, who are excelling in this formidable area. Of course, names like Nadje Leslie and Jessica Yap, as well as the Immaculate High School Orchestra come to mind.

The plan, ultimately, Mr. Speaker, is to establish a National Symphonic Orchestra as a permanent part of the national landscape of artistic expression. For this purpose, it is our intention to seek funding for its staffing, development and production. We believe that Jamaica, with its wealth of talent, should have such an institution and we will work with the Edna Manley College School of Music on this project.

Venues Development

Despite the vibrant nature of the Jamaican cultural and entertainment product, however, there is the need to provide comfortable and adequate spaces for our people to experience the best elements of our arts and culture as well as to be able to create and promote high level cultural offerings. Currently, several of our spaces are in disrepair, the most pressing of which is The Ward Theatre – a symbol of both heritage and creativity.

Venues development is also linked to the concept of self definition. We cannot develop a cultured society if our people cannot experience the excellence of our cultural offerings or if there is no reasonable location for them to do so. We are often the environment we live.

As such, the Ministry is actively engaged in a venues development programme which will see collaboration with international entities in an attempt to raise funds toward restoring The Ward Theatre, as well as engaging in strategic development of other venues.

In the case of the Ward Theatre, we are to move with urgency in the following actions:

    Engagement with international donor agencies and through bilateral arrangements in an effort to raise funds for the restoration of the Ward, for example France and Poland.
    Approach to local businesses and funding agencies for support for the Ward
    Move to include the Ward Theatre within the national budget of one of the cultural agencies for sustainable financing and development.

The Ministry commits to embark on this major but important task within this financial year. We would like to thank the Tourism Enhancement Fund for the support it has provided and look forward to working with the TEF in future ventures toward this significant gift to the people of Jamaica.

Mr. Speaker, on another note in relation to the need for venues, with the continuous encroaching of piracy on the music industry, the paradigm has shifted toward live performances as one of the major modes for earning income. Jamaica must be able to capitalize on this through the staging of festivals and concerts which can engage an international audience. This kind of growth will have significant impact on employment and tourism. The development of new and refurbishing of old venues must be related to this reality for social and economic transformation.

Heritage Preservation

The nation’s heritage represents one of its most valuable treasures, which if lost creates negative mark on its psyche. In this vein, the work of the Institute of Jamaica and the Jamaica National Heritage Trust has been pivotal to the preservation of Jamaican heritage. Furthermore, these agencies have been attempting to continuously engage the wider public with this heritage. Jamaica’s rich heritage also offers great economic potential through heritage tourism. However, in order to capitalize on this, there is need for greater intervention.

Chief among the initiatives is the Heritage Trails project which will see a series of storyboards being erected at variously significant sites across the island. The first set will constitute the Spanish Trail and includes signs at New Seville, Rio Bueno, Spanish Town and others. The Heritage Trails project speaks to the power of heritage to enhance the tourism product and provides Jamaicans and visitors with a path to understanding the nation’s rich cultural heritage and the roads traveled throughout the island’s development. It allows for the discovery of ancestral pride as well as the negotiation of the process that can lead to reconnections with the past.

The JNHT will also continue to manage and develop business possibilities through the numerous heritage sites. As such, development is scheduled to take place at the following:

    Roxborough
    Seville Heritage Park
    Fort Charles, Port Royal
    The Rio Nuevo Battle Site
    The Spanish Town Iron Bridge
    Emancipation Square, Spanish Town

Despite this however, it must be recognized that there appears to be a growing disconnect between our youth and the nation’s history. For this reason, we are determined to use the Culture Clubs and other outreach activities to enhance the knowledge of our sites and monuments among our youth.

Legal Deposits

On a related note, we must bring attention to the Legal Deposits Act of the National Library of Jamaica. It is very important that we also capture our heritage in the cultural industries. We have many prolific writers and composers and wish to commend those who have donated material to the National Library through Legal Deposit. Of significance are the Reggae artists who continue to do so. Our quest to set up a Reggae Museum as well as to bring knowledge and pride to our children reside in our ability to display for them the excellence of our natural and national heritage.

Jamaica’s international image

It is well known that the image of Jamaica has been historically linked to its culture. It is true that we are currently faced with a battering of that image from the problems we are experiencing with crime and violence. However, the Ministry is increasingly determined to be pro-active in the maintenance and enhancement of our image internationally though culture. In this regard, the Ministry has engaged in serious actions to develop and enhance Jamaica’s internationally-acclaimed cultural industries through international cooperation and the pursuit of strategic partnerships with developed and developing countries as well as international agencies and donors for the positioning of our cultural products globally. Accordingly, the Ministry retains its position at the forefront of international deliberations on cultural policy and cultural industries development in an effort to ensure that Jamaica’s interests are promoted in all strategic scenarios in order to:

  • maintain Jamaica’s leadership and advocacy roles in regional and international culture and entertainment through active involvement in strategic meetings and events to ensure that Jamaica’s interests are promoted and sustained
  • promote strategic partnerships and activities to position Jamaican culture, artists and products in the global market for competitive advantage through involvement in festivals, workshops, co-productions, trade fairs, etc.
  • enhance Jamaica’s image abroad in support and expansion of Brand Jamaica through promotion of activities in the Jamaican Diaspora, the Caribbean, Africa, Europe and the rest of the world
  • activate Government’s cultural agreements

Leadership Activities in CARICOM

Mr. Speaker, in my portfolio areas, Jamaica continues to take a leadership role at the regional and international levels.

    Our country now holds the Chairmanship of the Regional Cultural Committee (RCC) of Directors of Culture. Directors meet annually to determine the regional agenda for cultural action and development. This year the focus was on the need to establish a Task Force on Cultural Industries, Resolution of issues related to Free Movement of Artists and Cultural Workers, The revamping of CARIFESTA.
    Participation in meetings related to trade negotiations: Jamaica’s input in negotiations in support of the Caribbean
    Regional Negotiating Machinery (CRNM) has been largely responsible for ensuring that culture is given due consideration in trade negotiations.
    Additionally, I have just been asked by CARICOM to champion the cause of cultural industries development at the regional level.

Leadership in the OAS

    Jamaica’s role as Vice Chair of the Inter American Committee for Culture has afforded us a strategic position to influence the budget and projects approved by the OAS. Projects have included financing of cultural industries, discussion with the World Bank and IDB on the use of intellectual property as collateral for financing arrangements, youth and social inclusion.
    Through this engagement, Jamaica was able to benefit from training in Canada of two officials of the Division in Cultural Information Systems in November 2007. The Ministry of Canadian Heritage shared the costs and provided training at a Knowledge sharing Workshop in Ottawa, Canada for two members of the Division. It is our intention to build a Cultural Information System for the promotion of development in culture.

Leadership in UNESCO

  • Jamaica’s leadership in UNESCO was enhanced through my presence at the General Conference in October. Based on discussions with the director General and Assistant Directors General, we were able to promote our involvement on several committees, including consideration of Jamaica as the regional center for the location of the Convention on Underwater Cultural Heritage.
  • Jamaica continues its role in the promotion of the following Conventions: Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, Convention on the Safeguarding of the Intangible Heritage of Humanity, Convention on the Underwater Cultural Heritage.
  • Within the framework of the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, we are actively pursuing through participation in the Intergovernmental Committee the establishment of an International Fund for Cultural Diversity through which developing countries like Jamaica will be able to access funds for the development of our cultural industries.
  • As a member of the Executive Board, we are strategically placed to influence the direction of the organization and have begun to do so. The placement of UNESCO matters in this Ministry has facilitated much of the work that has to be done. Following the meeting in Paris and subsequent visit of Pierre Sane, Assistant Director General for Social and Human Sciences to Kingston, Jamaica has been invited to host a conference on Sports for Peace and Development in September 2008. This conference will be very important for UNESCO as it will lead to the establishment of a strategy for sports and physical education with the objective to better integrate issues of social, community and rural development policies at the local, national and international levels.

Leadership in the African Diaspora

Jamaica played a lead role in the deliberations on issues related to the promotion of activities within Africa and its Diaspora. We have participated in meetings in Barbados, Brazil and South Africa, contributing always to the elaboration of the Action Plans.

In April 2007, Parliament held a three-day debate on the issue of Reparations, in which several members from both sides of the House participated and shared their views. At the end of the debate, it was decided to estbvalish a Parlaimentary committee to have further discussions of the matter and take decisions. The Committee met once before Parliament was prorogued prior to the 2007 general elections. The Cabinet has recently discussed whether a new Parliamentary Ccommittee on Reparation should be established. The decision was taken to instead appoint a Reparations committee with broad membership of both Parliamentarians and the general public so that the matter can be fully and publicly aired and a decision taken on how Jamaica will pursue the matter. I will shortly announce the names of the members of this committee.

In 2001, the UN World Conference on Racism presented in its final report a list of 19 recommended forms of Reparations to be made by former enslaving nations to the descendants of enslaved Africans. I am circulating a list of these recommendations for easy reference.

I must place on record, my appreciation of the apologies for slavery that have been made by the Anglican, Roman Catholic and Baptist Churches as a part of the international observation of 200th Anniversary of the End of the Transatlantic Slave Trade.

Leadership in Culture and Trade matters

    The Ministry has participated actively in consultations on protocols and agreements related to trade in cultural services. For example, the Ministry has given support to the deliberations on the recent European Partnership Agreement. Trade in culture is seen by us as vital to the development and enhancement of cultural industries and the work that must be done in areas such as cultural tourism, culture and development, intellectual property concerns and cultural financing.

Special Events

Action in this area reflects the recognition that the staging of major and strategic events can foster and enhance development of our cultural industries. There are many countries that recognize the importance of events to the enhancement of the image of a country as well as to promote actions related to increased employment solutions and the creation of a dynamic and vibrant culture sector. Further, events tourism linked to festivals and the staging of stellar events is one of the fast growing areas of the sector.

The following events have been executed:
Official Visit of Captain Barrington Irving, August and October 2007
When news broke of the achievement of a young Jamaican-born pilot, Captain Barrington Irving, who flew around the world in a record-breaking flight, the Ministry was immediately asked to organize a series of events in his honour.

The events included a welcome reception at the airport on his arrival, a motorcade across the Corporate Area, visits to official events taking place during the Independence period, and a tribute ceremony at Emancipation Park, Kingston and in Montego Bay. He returned to Jamaica in October and received a national honour. The events were very successful and a wide cross section of Jamaicans turned out to honour this outstanding young man.

Other Events

We have not only planned and executed a series of events but have also responded to a growing number of persons who simply want to execute events in Jamaica. The period has therefore been very active and overwhelming but we have managed to implement all our activities with energy and pride.

The following represent the events most recently executed:

  • Sister to Sister Concert. The Sister to Sister Telethon, created to raise funds for the Women’s Crisis Centres, represents the synergies that exist and are being strengthened in the Ministry to effect greater social and economic transformation through strategic partnerships. The Sister to Sister concert was engineered through collaboration among the Ministry, members of the entertainment industry (in particular women in the industry, though men were welcomed as well) and the Women’s Bureau.
  • The target was J$10 Million and it was a joy to see women of all classes and creed working together at the telephone to raise funds for sisters in distress. Even if the target had not been reached, the effort would have been worthwhile for the symbolic message that it sent to the society at large. The creation of Sister to Sister signals the Ministry’s intention to use culture and entertainment to tackle the gender related problems facing our society. Of course, it is important that we recognize that by gender we mean both men and women.
  • Reggae Month. The declaration by the Hon. Prime Minister and subsequent proclamation by the Governor General of February as Reggae Month sparked a wave of activity and excitement. Across the nation there were concerts, award ceremonies, exhibitions, conferences, symposia, as Jamaicans found ways to celebrate our most significant cultural product: reggae. The Ministry led the way and also provided logistical support for the staging of the 1st Reggae Academy Awards. The creation of a Reggae month is among the strategies geared at energizing the cultural industries, especially the music industry but with the knowledge that this will also generate growth in the related industries such as fashion. By creating a month in which Reggae is celebrated, Jamaica re-stakes its claim on our world-class music. Though Jamaica is acknowledged as the cradle and birthplace of Reggae music, over the years the globalization of the music industry has resulted in Jamaica’s having a minimal share of the world-wide worth of the reggae industry. The creation of Reggae Month is a deliberate strategy to celebrate reggae and the impact it has had on our nation while simultaneously stimulating the development of the reggae brand. I promise this august House that next year’s staging of Reggae Month activities will be bigger and better, befitting of our country’s principal product.

ZONING

Mr Speaker, the recent stringent enforcement of the night noise act by the police has created a number of unintended socio-economic consequences:

    Commerce is being stymied – tailors, hairdressers, vendors, concessionaires, performers, suppliers of products (food, drink, containers, ice, confectionary) and promoters are all losing significant income. The multiplier effect of this loss of income will be significant.
    We need to recognize that for many in this chain, their main or only source of income, is under threat. They will have no option but to resort to alternate means of earning which can lead directly to an increase in crime and vagrancy.
    Dances, parties and other forms of entertainment are the only release for many who find life hard. As such, events collectively are the valve on the pressure cooker that is our society.
    For many, attending dances and parties is what keeps them away from a life of crime, mischief and idleness.
    We must recognize that anything that affects the entertainment industry, directly affects the tourism industry and by extension the nations survival. Every year hundreds of thousands of tourists come to our shores and spend much needed hard currency to experience our culture and music. Do we want to put a stop to this?

In addition, there has been increased resentment against the police, which hinders them in carrying out their duties effectively.

Against this background, we need to look on the situation realistically to not throw out the baby with the bathwater, but create a situation where there is greater order without stifling the entertainment industry.

Like everywhere else in the modern world we have to find ways to make our existing infrastructure work harder around the clock and earn more to the betterment of all. This is why there are cities that “don’t sleep” like New York, Chicago, Miami, London, Las Vegas, Japan, Toronto and more. This is achieved by creating Entertainment Zones. In parallel, it is important to have zones that do not generally support “night noise activities” like suburban neighborhoods.

The key to an entertainment zone policy working is recognizing that a balance needs to be struck between certain rights and needs of citizens for peace and quiet, as well as the rights and needs for entertainment. It is also important that respect for “peace and quiet” should not apply just to entertainment promoters, but also churches and other groups which have events. With this in mind there have to be areas where formal entertainment activities are allowed and sanctioned and others where they are not.

At the centre of consideration for an entertainment zone, is the extent of noise and the nature of the environment surrounding the source of the noise. Of greatest concern then, are open air events from which sound travels to disturb nearby residents that do not wish to hear what is happening at the event. It is particularly important to ensure children are not disturbed on the eve of school days.

In addition to noise disturbance, content is also important. In general terms open air events with significant noise factor should not feature profanity, the promotion of violence and explicit sexual description. Of course this would not apply to closed venues, which do not impact on people outside of the venue.

Based on the relatively compact nature of communities in the island we will have to embark on a tiered zone approach with respect to open air events, which features zones with:

     No restrictions
    Some restrictions
    Complete restriction of activities

Details of the demarcation of zones and associated regulations are currently being developed for decision by Cabinet and eventual adoption by the relevant authorities.

     Reggae Film Festival. The Ministry took responsibility for the staging of the first ever Reggae Film Festival. The film festival featured most of the films made in Jamaica and elsewhere which featured this significant genre. Conceived initially by Barbara Blake Hannah, the film Festival brought together Reggae film makers from all over the world. Films were presented at Emancipation Park and the Courtleigh Auditorium to great acclaim.

My Ministry shall pay as much attention to film making as all other aspects of the creative industries, so as to capitalize on the great indigenous industry began 35 years ago with THE HARDER THEY COME.

JAMAICA FILM ACADEMY

The Reggae Film Festival made us realize that it should nlot be an end itself, but should lead to a special initiative to encourage and assist Jamaicans to make our own films about our own culture.

We therefore inducted six film pioneers to the formation of a Jamaica Film Academy with a mandate to cionme together and dscribe the plan the Ministry should follow to achieve trhese opbjectives. They are Chris Blackwell – producer; Carl Bradshaw – actor; Sally Henzell –widow of Perry Henzell; Franklyn ‘Chappi’ St. Juste – cinematographer; Trevor Rhone – screenplay writer; Cynthia Wilmot – documentarist.

I intend to have our film industry earn more profits and royaltiesd for films made by Jamaicans.

I intend to see a change in the statistic of 150 films made in Jamaica last year, only 15 were made by Jamaicans.

I hope to put an end to the practice where some of Jamaica’s intellectual property and cultural history is being captured on film by non-Jamaicans without any benefit to us. If this situation continues, soon Jamaica may have to purchase footage in order to duplicate its own history on film.

Film is big business. As we seek measures to secure Jamaica’s creative copyright and protect our cultural expression and history from being exploited by others with no gain for ourselves. I think we all agree it is time to be proactive in making our own productions to place our film industry on par with Hollywood, Bollywood and Nollywood.

Labour Day. Under the theme Eat What We Grow, Grow What We Eat, Labour Day 2008 was a great success as everywhere Jamaicans got involved with this effort aimed at ensuring food security. The national project was shared between Buff Bay High School and Tranquility All Age School in Portland. At both schools, we must commend the students and school administrations for their work and involvement and salute the work done by Member of Parliament Daryl Vaz. Across the country Parish Councils got on board with parish projects. Again we salute all Mayors and Secretary Managers of Parish Councils. I also commend all my colleagues Members of Parliament for their support. Logistic support and direction came principally from RADA, JDF, SDC and 4H. We must credit the Hon. Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Christopher Tufton for his vision that gave birth to the focus for Labour Day. We also want to assure him that we will continue the work. The jingle has now become a song and the music video is being produced as we speak. We cannot ignore the fact that food is tied to culture and a part of our identity. Food and the cultural industries have great potential for the country’s economy.

Launch of Rototom Sunsplash. Jamaica’s cultural and tourism economy got a boost when the Rototom Sunsplash Team from Italy journeyed to Jamaica to launch the 15th staging of Rototom Sunsplash European Reggae Festival. The Press launch was held at Strawberry Hill and the group also visited Port Antonio, Ocho Rios and Montego Bay. The event is set for July 3-12 in Italy.

The Ministry is currently in dialogue with the organizers of the festival for their participation in Reggae Month 2009.

Cultural Industries

The cultural industries, though often ignored in development initiatives, represent a great potential for economic growth for Jamaica and much of the developing world. Jamaica has great competitive advantage in this area, which must be seen as the future for the nation’s social and economic transformation. Already our music industry is recognized globally as among the most dynamic and vibrant, and other industries, such as fashion, food, film, visual arts, performing arts, etc are on the threshold of international development.

The creative sector has great scope for development. Its income streams come from three areas of outputs: goods such as books, CDs, DVDs, paintings, jewelry, etc.; services such as live performances, audiovisual production services, etc.; and intellectual property rights including royalty income, licensing fees, collective administration, digital rights management. Further, cultural industries are dynamic because of the synergies they have with other sectors such as Manufacturing, Education, Trade, Finance, Tourism, ICTs, and Agriculture.

According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development’s (UNCTAD) 2008 report on the creative economy, in the period 2000 – 2005 international trade in cultural goods and services experienced the unprecedented growth rate of 8.7%. In terms of creative content, recorded music sales was US$33 billion while digital music retail sales was US$9 billion in 2005. In 2002 economist Michael Witter estimated the size of the international market for reggae as US$60-75 million. Finally, with its key subsectors listed as the recording industry, live performances and festival tourism, the Jamaican cultural industries are estimated to earn US$80-100 Million and employ approximately 15, 000 persons.

In addition, as outlined in the UNCTAD study, many of the businesses that originate in the cultural industries are often small and operated from a family unit. This means that the cultural industries are particularly poised to influence community regeneration and social inclusion. Traditionally, our cultural industries have been economic alternatives for many of the marginalized in our society.

Yet, in spite of all this, developing countries like Jamaica are not benefiting from the potential of their cultural industries despite the richness of our cultural expressions, talents and diversity. In the midst of all this, it is an accepted notion that the global demand for Caribbean creative industries is growing and provides good returns on investment. This is supported by a most recent WIPO-sponsored study concluded by Vanus James titled Contribution of Copyright and Related Rights Industries to the National Economy of Jamaica. In this study it was outlined that investment in the copyright and related industries provides an approximated $6 return on each $1 invested whereas the traditional industries such as sugar, bananas etc provides significantly less return.

Several critical factors on our domestic agenda for the entertainment and cultural industries in Jamaica include the need for urgent and focused attention to the strengthening capacity and synergies within domestic industry associations, increased relevance in the training and education of youth and industry practitioners, negotiation of collective management arrangements and mechanisms for Jamaican owners and creators of copyrightable works, development of the entertainment and cultural industries.

The cultural industries, despite the very limited governmental help have significantly contributed to the country’s economy. In 2006 a World Intellectual Property Office study on the music industry indicated that there were 4000 performers including musicians, radio and TV hosts, sound system selectors, dancers and singers. Additionally there were approximately 300 individual contractors in film and 20 companies in film production.

In light of all this, there is some very significant work that needs to be done and under my watch my Ministry has started to set the wheels in motion. The Ministry is currently seeking to create an Entertainment and Cultural Industries Council (ECIC) to facilitate structured development of the cultural industries in Jamaica.

Development of the cultural industries will of course include the continued collaboration with other ministries and agencies. The nation must be poised to fully capitalize on the economic potential of our industries which generate intellectual property. As such, the mission and role of the ECIC will be outlined as follows:

Mission

To enable the growth and development of cultural industries in Jamaica through policy development, management of the Cultural Industries Enhancement Fund, and harmonization of the work of cultural institutions for contributing to national social and economic development.

Role

The ECIC will develop strategies and programmes to promote the creative capabilities of the nation and contribute to national development through funding, promotion and development of the cultural industries, by:

    providing funding/financial assistance to artists, art and cultural organizations as well as to those who develop and promote the arts and culture;
    offering advice and information on the arts and culture to the Government and others
    publishing research and information as an advocate for the arts, artists, culture and cultural industries practitioners
    undertaking a range of projects to promote and develop the arts and culture in association and partnership with others.

Along with the music industry, Jamaica has much to gain from exploring the potential of our traditional knowledge as well as the products that are unique to Jamaica and can be protected through the crafting of geographic indicators. We must begin to fully realize the full economic value of having created Blue Mountain Coffee and jerk seasoning, etc. No longer will we allow others to create imitations and brand them as authentic. Development in these areas continues through strategic collaboration among local and international agencies.

Additionally the eroding effects of piracy and elements such as payola on the development of the music industry must be arrested in order to maximize the economic input of intellectual property. My Ministry has already begun to engage members of the entertainment industry through the varying industry associations, in order to create a strategy which will create an environment in which our creators can benefit from the fruits of their creativity, rather than becoming the victims of pirates.

The development of the cultural industries is also pivotal to the Nation Branding process. Throughout the developed world numerous countries and cities are engaged in branding themselves based on their strengths. Without any effort on the part of government, the citizens of Jamaica, through their great levels of creativity have crafted an identity of Jamaica as a space for culture and creativity. It is, therefore, incumbent on us to further develop on this through deliberate strategies which strengthen and enhance our cultural products.

Reggae Museum

As a part of this, Mr. Speaker, I wish to inform this honourable House on the work now in progress to create a Reggae Museum. While our agencies have been engaged in impressive levels of research and documentation, there is need for a space to house the artifacts of our history, not just keep them in storage, but make them accessible to a proud and grateful nation. The Reggae Museum will represent all the struggles and achievements of Jamaican music and showcase the energy and vibrations of the Jamaican ethos. It will provide the world with a point of focus for the appreciation and experience of the authentic product, reflecting the history, reality and flair of the greatest exponents. I am pleased to announce that Mr. Herbie Miller has committed to the task of setting up this museum and the work has already begun in earnest to point the world to where it all began, the very source, the heartbeat of the Jamaican people.

Mr. Speaker, it is my intention to find a space for the establishment of entertainment and creative industries incubators for the many young people who are constantly seeking an opening into the business of culture. These incubators will have specific and measurable outcomes, such as the making of videos or training in performance or songwriting, etc. There is a gap that we must fill for our own security and prosperity. In so doing, it is my intention to provide a better way for Jamaican youth.

Mr. Speaker, we intend to work closely with our CARICOM partners to build regional industry associations and festivals for the marketing and positioning of our cultural products. In particular, we want to start with CARIFESTA, the Caribbean Festival of the Arts. In the leadership asked of me, I intend to find a way to establish this mega festival as the number one opportunity for regional cultural marketing for Caribbean cultural products.

In addition, Mr. Speaker, in direct relationship to development in this area, I have already instructed my Ministry that we must facilitate growth in the sector. We will be hosting an international cultural industries seminar that will examine all avenues for development. We will be looking at the Caribbean Single Market and see how the Free Movement of Artists and Cultural Workers will assist our cultural practitioners to add value to their cultural products.

In terms of the Cultural Industries Enhancement Fund, it is our intention to establish this mechanism by the end of this year. Later on this month, we will be having a special concert called Get Ready to Rock Steady, which will celebrate this very powerful genre of Jamaican music as part of a Canadian programme to create a film. Our intention is to use the funds accrued from this project to launch the Fund. Latterly, we will find mechanisms and strategies to increase the income of the Fund, which will be used to capitalize an industry in dire need of financing.

There are some other programmes on the horizon. We have had approaches from an organization in France called Cultures France. They have expressed interest in financing special industry development projects for Jamaica. One such is the plan to stage in Paris next year a special event A Touch of Jamaica in France. The details of this programme are being worked out and you will be informed further on this and other related measures.

YOUTH, SPORTS AND COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT

Mr. Speaker, I now turn my attention to the areas of youth, sports and community development.

Mr. Speaker, in defining ourselves first for ourselves and then for the world, it is my intention at this point of my presentation to link into the context of the definition of Jamaica articulated as part of Jamaica’s 2030 vision, viz. “JAMAICA: A PLACE OF CHOICE TO LIVE, WORK, RAISE FAMILIES, AND DO BUSINESS.”

Mr. Speaker, we know that in order for our vision of Jamaica to materialize we must engage with the Community as the focal point of our development process.

In this regard, as I take this unique opportunity and privilege to address my fellow parliamentarians and the people of Jamaica, I want to assert that my portfolio responsibilities of youth, sports and community development are all vehicles for national development and for promoting economic growth, sustainable prosperity and peace.

For the period 2008/9 the strategic objective of my Ministry with respect to Youth, Community Development and Sports is:

To build stronger and more united communities through empowerment of our youth and development of sports through a process of supportive partnerships between Government, civil society and business.

At this point, it may be important to recognize all the players in civil society: the church, non-governmental organizations, businesses, special foundations, and individuals). In addition, civil society gets good support from international development agencies, which therefore play a large role in building communities and upholding their traditions.

Mr. Speaker, Jamaica has historically been known for its community development institutional structures and the centrality of volunteerism to action at the community, village and district levels.

We must acknowledge the work done by the previous administration to move the process forward by adopting new participatory approaches that can lead to more effective community development processes.

However, we would have been better served if these processes were adequately maintained and further developed. So while the expectations were raised within Communities, the implementers did not walk the talk.

As a result we have inherited community development initiatives that are fragmented, disjointed and weak in their operation and impact. Mr. Speaker, there are some elements that we can build on and so we are now engaged in a process to promote an integrated community development policy in which all the various interventions and programmes are linked into the overall vision of Jamaica.

This will result in community partners and stakeholders being involved in more coordinated efforts and actions with more persons having a say and supporting a common theme of community advancement.

Mr. Speaker, I crave your indulgence as I highlight some of the initiatives, interventions and programmes being implemented during this period of 2008/2009.

Community Development

We are all aware of the African proverb that it takes a community to grow a child. It also follows that in defining ourselves, we will need to consider the typology of the communities we are a part of. We are where we live, and this has been used by many of us to the detriment of communities. For example, we speak glibly of inner city residents or uptown people or country people, often defining these groups by some association or conurbation associated with the area. For this reason, we have engaged the following actions as part of the community development thrust:

  • Community audit and assessment. Mr. Speaker, I have asked community development officers to carry out an auditand assessment of existing community structures. The idea is to be able to develop and strengthen these community structures to enable them to benefit from the partnerships that will be necessary if we are to achieve the strategic objectives we have outlined. The community structures must be able to facilitate the interventions that will be required for community enhancement. The Constituency Development Fund (CDF) is one such programme.
  • Strengthening local partnerships. Mr. Speaker, our effort here has been to strengthen the partnerships established with other Ministries, Department and Agencies, civil society (at all levels), private sector groups, churches, local citizens’ organizations, umbrella NGOs, and others. This goes toward the resolution of the fragmentation and the gaps that exist. You see, Mr. Speaker, a community, though a singular unit, is still a complex of individuals, groups, approaches, systems, etc. serviced by a variety of entities who need to engage with each other. So that the SDC must co-operate with the JCDC or with MIDA or RADA or Institute of Sports, if we are to achieve sustainable community development.
  • Enhancement of international partnerships. Mr. Speaker, we have also had longstanding relationships with international development agencies that have continued to support our community development programmes and who continue to demonstrate their confidence in us by supporting our community development initiatives. At this point, we have embarked on a process of re-energizing and re-fashioning some of these partnerships in order to ensure more efficient and effective delivery of our programmes and initiatives.
  • Community Research and planning. Mr. Speaker, planning and research are a hallmark of our community development programme. During this fiscal year we will strengthen our partnerships with key local universities, other local agencies such as the Statistical Institute (STATIN), Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ), environmental agencies such as NEPA, NLA, and others. The objective of these partnerships is to complete community profiles developed for 80% of the 785 communities including the development of community maps. We are assured, Mr. Speaker, that planning without knowledge gleaned from in-depth research and analysis will not contribute to sustainable prosperity at the level of the community.

We would like to encourage private and public sector entities that are involved and interested in planning and programme development to partner with us through the SDC to ensure that we are working for a common purpose and using the most appropriate data base.

     Community Mobilization. Mr. Speaker, communities are diverse social units and they need to be mobilized for achievement of their goals. Our administration recognizes that communities need to be mobilized in preparation for programmes and projects implemented in the communities by this government. Economic ventures, community policing programmes, inner-city development through JSIF, agricultural, cultural and many other initiatives outlined by my fellow Ministers, will require an active and repetitive process of community mobilization if success is to be assured.

Mr. Speaker, I reiterate that in this area of Community development my Ministry has an important role to play as the fuel for the engine that must drive the development process. We are responsible for the information, the culture, the community and the most vibrant and active member of any community, the youth.

The Ministry of Information, Culture, Youth & Sports is positioned to play a critical supporting role in seeing to the implementation and or coordination of social intervention programmes as it has the largest group of field officers across the island who are involved in community development. The Social Development Commission have assigned community and parish officers across Jamaica, Insports has sports officers posted around the country, the National Centre for Youth Development also has deployed Youth Empowerment Officers in all regions. Additionally, the Bureau of Women’s Affairs and the Women’s Centre which focuses on pregnant teenagers, as well as the Possibilities Programme for Street Boys have social workers in place. This cadre of community specialists operating within intersecting networks across the island, effectively streamlined in their operations, will give new focus and mobilized partnership with the police to:

     be a catalyst for positive behaviour changes among individuals and communities; and
    contribute to the building and restoration of peace in Jamaica.

YOUTH

Mr. Speaker, we all accept the universally held view that the immediate future of our country rests with our youth. I believe the statistics show that 6 out of every ten persons in Jamaica are under 30 years old and half of that number would be less than 15 years old. This means that an awesome responsibility has been placed on the shoulders of our young people.

The focus of this Ministry that I have been privileged to head therefore is to create the environment that will enable our young people to be good stewards and guardians of our future. Yes, we define ourselves by the generations we produce and the responsibility and respect we accord to the generations. If we get this right, the transformation will be assured.

Our task then, Mr. Speaker, is to create institutions and mechanisms for the engagement of our youth so that they can become the bearers and inheritors of the best elements of who we are.

National Youth Centres

One of the initiatives of this administration has been to continue to establish Youth Information Centres throughout Jamaica. However, more that information, the purpose of these centres is to create spaces and opportunities for youths to be able to increase their participation in their own as well as national development.

Mr. Speaker, these centres are equipped with computers and operate in the style of cyber cafés where young people access information in a healthy and youth-friendly atmosphere. Some of the areas of interests are reproductive health, career development guidance, scholarships and employment opportunities. Young persons are also facilitated to work on their school assignments, and to conduct research.

The YICs also serve as a focal point for youth organizations and for planning of programmes primarily targeting 15-24 year olds. In other words, Mr. Speaker, we recognize that there are not enough community spaces for young people to meet or to interact meaningfully with each other and with adults. The YICs serve then as places for the meeting of the minds, hearts and hands in gainful and meaningful engagement.

The services are provided at no cost to the users and, in addition, training programmes such as entrepreneurial development and other relevant areas are provided and facilitated through the centres. The centres are managed by a team of youth empowerment officers, who are trained to respond to the varying needs of the youth.

Access for youths with special needs

Mr. Speaker, the centres are friendly to all youths including those with special needs. Too many times in development programmes we forget that not all of us are similar and that there are those among us who have special needs. In this regard, care has been taken to ensure that the YICs are equipped with Braille keyboards, ramps for the disabled and the equipping of sanitary facilities that provide ease of access for the disabled.

Development of new centres

There are currently 3 centres in existence– Portmore, Kingston and St. Mary. I am pleased to announce that the Portland centre is now ready to be opened. In the case of St. James, the work is nearing completion.

During this fiscal year we will be establishing one new centre. But rest assured, Mr. Speaker, that within the next three years all parishes will have a centre to service the youths. Funding is committed to establish centres in St. Thomas, St. Elizabeth and St. Ann. The St. Ann centre is the one slated for establishment in this fiscal year. The other two will be ready by the first quarter of next year.

These centres will be established in existing government owned facilities and will be youth ready at a cost of approximately J$15Million. We would like to recognize the international agencies that continue to support us in these ventures.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to bring to the attention of this honourable House and to the Jamaican people that in April of this year the Government signed an agreement with the Government of Korea at a value of J$37.4M for the development of an additional two centres for the parishes of Westmoreland and Manchester. We anticipate that these centres will be ready by next March.

We have also initiated discussions to identify financing for the development of centres in the parishes of Hanover, Trelawny, St. Catherine, Clarendon and St. Andrew.

YOUTH CLUBS

Mr. Speaker, this Ministry has been working tirelessly to promote the various aspects of youth development. During this fiscal year we will be further strengthening and promoting the development of Youth Clubs.

Mr. Speaker, we all know the value and contribution of youth clubs to community development, especially for young persons who have left the formal school system. In this fiscal year 200 youth clubs will be targeted for support. A small subvention totaling approximately J$5M will be made available so that these Clubs can receive some support to assist in the planning and development of their programmes and plans. We are hoping that such clubs will receive about J$25,000 as seed money to enhance their efforts to raise other funds for their activities. Of course they will have to bring us their development plans for assessment in order to qualify for the support. The National Centre for Youth Development (NCYD) will manage this fund.

In addition, Mr. Speaker, the full complement of youth empowerment officers that are in place will be engaged in supporting the work of these youth clubs throughout the parishes. Of course, based on my own insistence on an integrated approach, they will also work with the SDC and JCDC officers to ensure that the programmes in these clubs receive maximum support.

Mr. Speaker, this is not all that we are doing. There are several other programmes that are being strengthened during this year and the young persons through their various associations are being encouraged to make full use of these opportunities. For example, there are the Youth and Student Leadership Programmes, such as the Jamaica Youth Ambassadors, and the National Secondary Students Council.

These leadership programmes provide a platform for young people to define themselves as future leaders, making decisions for their own lives and actively engaging in the national development programme.

The Youth Ambassadors have opportunities to interface with national and regional institutions and leaders in real-time interactions for development. CARICOM Youth Ambassadors have real opportunities to examine the affairs of this important regional integration mechanism and make contributions to its enhancement.

The National Secondary Students Council provides the platform for young people in secondary schools to practice and define the nature of our democracy. They receive training and other support as they engage their principals, teachers, parents and School Boards in the implementation of democratic practices. Mr. Speaker, you will understand that this goes a far way in ensuring that our own democratic institutions are safeguarded.

We encourage our young people to enlist the aid of the technology at their fingertips to make the seemingly impossible possible. We support their full participation in their communities and their ability to shape and define the communities of which they are a part. And, more significantly, Mr. Speaker, we want them to practice good living by being their neighbour’s good neighbour.

Finally, in the area of youth development we have started the process of reviewing the national youth policy recognizing that we live in a very dynamic world where things are ever changing and we must constantly try to be current and adjust to the situations.

Mr. Speaker, I am determined as Minister to provide real opportunities for our youth to prosper and feel good about themselves. I am quite aware, for example, that many of them want to be the next Bob Marley. While I am assured that everyone cannot be Bob Marley or Sean Paul, I know that there are still many who could be, if they get the opportunity. Many of our boys who we call marginalized simply want a boost. I recall my own work with stars like Shabba Ranks who, with a little assistance, went on to fame and glory.

Mr. Speaker, only about a month ago, I had the joy of sending Mr. Colin Virgo to Canada to participate in a forum to use Culture for Social Inclusion among young people. I want to tell my young people, Mr. Speaker, that I am here for them.

Let me in closing this section highlight the work that has been done in this area by my own young Parliamentary Secretary, Senator Warren Newby, a young man of vision and committed leadership.

SPORTS DEVELOPMENT

Mr. Speaker, I now turn to an area which has provided ordinary Jamaicans in recent times with exciting opportunities for self definition. How can we forget when the Reggae Boys made it to France? How can we not recall the spontaneous outpouring of patriotism and pride as we all defined ourselves through that wonderful achievement?

Only two weeks ago that feeling surged in me and all those Jamaicans who found ourselves in the Reebok Stadium in New York, as well as Jamaicans at home and abroad, as our own Usain bolted like lightning and thundered down the track to a blazing world record.

Yes, Mr. Speaker, we define ourselves in moments like those and we are reminded of the prowess and resilience of the Jamaican character. The two fastest men in the world; and the extraordinary achievements of Veronica Campbell; that is some definition.

Mr. Speaker, my Ministry is committed to a renewed focus on sports as an element of national definition and transformation, as recreation and leisure as well as in terms of the economic benefits to be derived from it.

We look at Sports first of all in the context of re-engaging communities, as a tool of the social transformation process. In this regard, our work is to provide opportunities for our people to recreate themselves through community sports. We must build small stadia, netball and basketball courts, football fields, cricket pitches, etc., so that our people can at the end of a day simply have fun. Communities need spaces for simple pleasure and we need to find ways to provide more of these for our people.

Mr. Speaker, through the work of the SDC and sports officers, we are putting in place programmes to unearth and develop talent at all levels. We are committed through the school and community sports programmes to make sports and recreation an integral part of the Jamaica healthy lifestyle programme. We all know that sports builds character, helps us in time management and reduces conflict, contributes to healthy relationships and friendships. Sports is a school for life. It has a language of its own. Those who learn it come to be defined by it.

Upgrading of Sports facilities & Re-engaging Communities

Mr. Speaker, through the Sports Development Foundation we are upgrading sports facilities and building new ones based on the role played by sports in re-engaging communities.

All across the country we have seen sports play this role of providing healing in fractured communities, or as a bridge where there is political or other divide on which all groups of persons may cross safely from one side to the other, or as reflections of community aspirations.

For the period January to December 2008 the government through the SDF has committed J$104M for the following:

    Construction of 30 multipurpose courts in communities and schools including one in an institution for the specially challenged youngsters. This initiative will benefit residents of 10 parishes and 14 communities.
    Upgrading/construction of 9 playfields
    Contribution towards the upgrading of sports complexes in communities
    Fencing of 11 facilities – courts & playfields
    Contribution to the GC Foster National Sports College and rehabilitation of the swimming pool.

Mr. Speaker, in addition to the upgrading of physical facilities the national sports federations, athletes and other community groups are primary beneficiaries of financial and other support through the SDF.

The Government through the SDF and other government institutions is supporting many of our international sporting events and facilitating our athletes to participate in overseas activities. The impact of this type of commitment is reflected in many ways across the sports arena. This contribution continues to provide the fodder for our much-needed veneration and self acclamation in the various spaces in which our athletes and sportsmen and women compete.

Mr. Speaker, I want to use this opportunity to say to our fellow Jamaicans: We must encourage residents of communities to do their part to ensure that these facilities in communities are cherished and cared for because they are ours to use.

We cannot continue to spend scarce resources rebuilding the same facilities.

Management of National Sports Facilities

Mr. Speaker, as with the culture facilities, we are establishing mechanisms for the management of our sports facilities to ensure that they are properly and adequately maintained. In this regard, I have determined to put in place management teams noted for their acumen and skill and have required of them regular updates regarding the state and status of these facilities. I now outline the following:

The Independence Park Limited has responsibility for the management and maintenance of the facilities at Independence Park. It is the mandate of IPL to operate the facilities as a vibrant entity, provide assistance in events planning to the clients of the complex, coordinate security and other logistical support.

Mr. Speaker, countless number of Jamaicans use these facilities. This year we aim to continue the work of upgrading and maintaining the facilities. We want them to be our nation’s pride. The resources of the Government are limited but we are committed to working with Jamaicans to provide a better way and a better Jamaica and this must be reflected in the state of our spaces for recreation and advancement.

I have also asked IPL to oversee the management of the Trelawny Stadium. We are putting in place a structure and mechanism for the orderly and efficient administration of the facility which will include scheduling and marketing of this rather expensive facility. As we speak the facility is ready to host one of the games in the Road to South Africa.

Proposed initiative

Mr. Speaker, we are having discussions on how we can best preserve and showcase our distinctly rich heritage in Sports.

After so many years of outstanding achievements, our athletes and teams have a collection of artifacts and properties of the highest quality, memorabilia, multimedia products, works of art, interactive exhibits, that our people need to experience as part of the thrust to define ourselves.

My Ministry intends to integrate our culture and sports portfolios, the two portfolios that are the most formidable elements of Brand Jamaica, in establishing a Sports Museum. Mr. Speaker, the Trelawny Multipurpose Sports Complex property has been earmarked for the development of a multipurpose sports and entertainment complex. Ideally located in the northwestern end of Jamaica where there is an absence of quality sports facilities, this facility offers opportunity for the creation of the type of structure to house and showcase this heritage.

Mr. Speaker, I look forward to working with our partners on this project.

Anti doping Programme

Mr. Speaker, as we are all aware, there is international pressure everywhere to deal with the challenges of doping in sports. All over the world, countries are being called upon to treat with this as a matter of national security and priority.

We have established the Anti-Doping Commission and in an effort to implement the International Convention Against Doping in Sports the Government of Jamaica has carried out the following:

    Finalised the Drafting of legislation Against Doping in Sports
    Established the Anti-doping in Sports Unit with Budgetary allocation for the administration of the Unit
    Established a Board to administer the Unit and manage the programme
    Revised the Jamaica Policy Against Doping in Sports

Development Cooperation

Mr. Speaker, Sports plays a significant role in development cooperation. As one of the principal areas of proven competitive advantage, most of the deliberations on development strategies and assistance in bilateral treaties or with multi-lateral agencies feature some actions in support of co-operation in sports.

At this point, there are bilateral agreements in place that are being implemented and others are being negotiated. These agreements facilitate greater co-operation between countries and provide additional opportunities for our athletes and others to take up academic scholarships overseas, improve on their skills in their various sports disciplines and build their careers.

Mr. Speaker, we are now also actively negotiating for more Jamaican sportsmen and women to have placements abroad in commercial ventures such as has happened in the case of the Reggae Boys and some of our elite athletes.

In other areas, Mr. Speaker, we are working closely with the University of Technology to further enhance its facilities in order to be able to offer more opportunities for international programmes targeting Caribbean and foreign athletes.

In the area of school boy sports, we have been in discussion with ISSA regarding disciplinary matters, organization and the strengthening of the programmes at that level. We are also in discussion with Prep and Primary Schools sports planning for the use of sports for the promotion of discipline, conflict reduction and resolution.

Development of a National Sports Policy for Jamaica

Finally in this area, Mr. Speaker, in order for Jamaica to truly benefit from all the initiatives outlined, these programmes must be implemented in a coordinated and integrated approach with respect to planning and execution. This can only be possible if there is a broad established framework in which we plan and there is an understanding of the common goal and purpose.

In recognition of this, this Ministry has started the work of developing a dynamic and effective sports policy. We have started the ground work with some of the initial data being collected.

However, we know that we must have a process where all our Jamaican people will make their contribution. We are now planning for this to ensure that we get the views and opinions of everyone in an ordered and orderly fashion.

Mr. Speaker, it is our intention to have wide-ranging consultations in every nook and cranny of Jamaica in recognition of the role sports has always played in our everyday existence and in how we define ourselves.

Mr. Speaker, I want to share with my fellow Jamaicans that commercial sports can be a leading industry in Jamaica, without neglecting any other area of our vital economy. Jamaica has a well earned place and a high reputation in this industry and we can market our products. We can export our talents. See how many Brazilians are playing in Europe and bringing a fee to their home club and country? Mr. Speaker, the possibilities are endless.

Sports has the potential to be one of Jamaica’s leading industries, and this is where we will be going. We will be creating the framework for this venture and will seek the support and partnership of private capital and the will of all of the Jamaican people for the exploitation of our sports capital for national advantage. With proper planning, administration and development of sports, the transformation is assured.

Women’s and Gender Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I now turn to another of my portfolio responsibilities; women’s and gender affairs. It is said that you can judge a society on the basis of how it treats the young and the elderly. To paraphrase Marcus Garvey, a society is also defined by the way it treats its women. Unfortunately, violence against women and girls continues to be a troubling issue in our society.

The Bureau of Women’s Affairs is addressing this issue through a programme of public education, which includes workshops, seminars and other means, targeted at schools, communities, and aimed at both urban and rural groups.

As a part of this effort, last year the Bureau on International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, hosted an event under the theme “Women and Men speak out: End Violence against Women.” This was followed by sixteen days of activism against gender violence with the Bureau hosting several events in a number of communities.

The Bureau is also engaged in initiatives to eliminate trafficking in persons. It is actively involved in efforts to prevent the offence, protect the victims and prosecute offenders as well as reverse the country’s negative image with respect to trafficking due to the Tier rating by the United States Government.

The Women’s Centre of Jamaica Foundation for which I also have Ministerial responsibility, is particularly engaged in promoting a new approach to the problems associated with teen-age pregnancy, primarily the interrupted education of the young mothers. The Foundation operates seven main centres and eight outreach stations across the island.

At these centres and outreach stations, the Foundation conducts its core programme, which is to find school placement for teen mothers, seventeen years and under, who have dropped out of school because of pregnancy. Attached to these centres and outreach stations are day care facilities and nurseries for the children of the young mothers.

Mr. Speaker, teen age pregnancy is a problem not only for the young girls, and so, the Foundation conducts counseling sessions for the baby fathers, for their parents as well as the parents of the young mothers.

For the 2008-2009 period the mandate of the Foundation is to have a reduction in teen-age pregnancies, to educate our young people about condom use, and to educate them about HIV/Aids, and other sexually transmitted diseases.

Mr. Speaker, Members of this Honourable House, I have given you insights into the thinking which informs the strategies that we are pursuing at the Ministry of Information, Culture, Youth & Sports. With the help of the dedicated and hard working team, the encouragement of you my colleagues, and the support of the Jamaican people our attainment of the goals which we have set ourselves is assured.

Mr. Speaker, our thrust will be the building of capacity, the construction and consolidation of positive identity, the celebration of diversity and the promotion of our entertainment and cultural industries. Our singular aim ultimately is the creation of a better way for a better Jamaica through social transformation and economic advancement. As Right Excellent Marcus Garvey affirmed:

There is a world of opportunities awaiting us, and it is for us through unity of will and purpose, to say we shall and we will play our part upon the great human stage of activity…. We shall cause men to regard us as equals in achievements, in industry, commerce, politics, science, art and education. We shall make of [Jamaica] a mighty nation.. and cause our children to call us blessed.

Thank you.

 

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