Tue | Apr 16, 2024
2021 YEAR IN REVIEW

NEWS |Part 2: A 12-month walk down memory lane

Published:Monday | January 3, 2022 | 12:07 AMEdmond Campbell/Senior Staff Reporter
A youngster walks past the collapsed road at the entrance to the Harbour Heights community in St Andrew. The roadway was devastated by rains associated with Tropical Storm Grace, which resulted in a ruptured water main.
A youngster walks past the collapsed road at the entrance to the Harbour Heights community in St Andrew. The roadway was devastated by rains associated with Tropical Storm Grace, which resulted in a ruptured water main.
Last Supper: The table at the R Hotel’s District 5 restaurant where Floyd Green, Andrew Bellamy and others indulged in a maskless fiesta on September 14, a no-movement day.
Last Supper: The table at the R Hotel’s District 5 restaurant where Floyd Green, Andrew Bellamy and others indulged in a maskless fiesta on September 14, a no-movement day.
Commodore Antonette Wemyss Gorman takes charge of the Jamaica Defence Force this month. Her appointment was announced last September.
Commodore Antonette Wemyss Gorman takes charge of the Jamaica Defence Force this month. Her appointment was announced last September.
The Government withdrew the national award it bestowed on popular pastor Merrick ‘Al’ Miller after public backlash.
The Government withdrew the national award it bestowed on popular pastor Merrick ‘Al’ Miller after public backlash.
A firestorm was ignited over the pricing strategy for the Ruthven Towers, a high-end development by the National Housing Trust in the Corporate Area.
A firestorm was ignited over the pricing strategy for the Ruthven Towers, a high-end development by the National Housing Trust in the Corporate Area.
Mario Antonio Palacios Palacios.
Mario Antonio Palacios Palacios.
Claire Grant, general manager of Television Jamaica, celebrates with the victorious Friendship Primary team after they won the 2021 staging of TVJ’s Junior Schools’ Challenge Quiz. The team members are (from left) Alaina Smith, Teon Hughes, Damonesh Cl
Claire Grant, general manager of Television Jamaica, celebrates with the victorious Friendship Primary team after they won the 2021 staging of TVJ’s Junior Schools’ Challenge Quiz. The team members are (from left) Alaina Smith, Teon Hughes, Damonesh Clunie and Monneesa Daley.
Last January, an aircraft crash-landed on a beach in Rocky Point, Clarendon. The occupants fled the area.
Last January, an aircraft crash-landed on a beach in Rocky Point, Clarendon. The occupants fled the area.
Richard Currie was elected the youngest chief to head the Maroon enclave in Accompong Town, St Elizabeth.
Richard Currie was elected the youngest chief to head the Maroon enclave in Accompong Town, St Elizabeth.
Bunny Wailer died in March 2021.
Bunny Wailer died in March 2021.
Moses Davis (right), more popularly known as dancehall artiste Beenie Man, and his attorney, Roderick Gordon, leave the St Elizabeth Parish Court on May 17, 2021 after following an appearance relating to breaches of the Disaster Risk Management Act.
Moses Davis (right), more popularly known as dancehall artiste Beenie Man, and his attorney, Roderick Gordon, leave the St Elizabeth Parish Court on May 17, 2021 after following an appearance relating to breaches of the Disaster Risk Management Act.
Former NCB Manager Andrea Gordon is escorted into the Supreme Court in downtown Kingston on Monday, May 31, 2021 to be sentenced for simply larceny after she pleaded guilty to the charges.
Former NCB Manager Andrea Gordon is escorted into the Supreme Court in downtown Kingston on Monday, May 31, 2021 to be sentenced for simply larceny after she pleaded guilty to the charges.
Chief Medical Officer Dr Jacquiline Bisasor-McKenzie (left) accepts the RJRGLEANER Honour Award for Public Service from Gleaner Editor-in-Chief Kaymar Jordan.
Chief Medical Officer Dr Jacquiline Bisasor-McKenzie (left) accepts the RJRGLEANER Honour Award for Public Service from Gleaner Editor-in-Chief Kaymar Jordan.
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Here’s a synopsis of some of the other major stories for 2021:

January

05: Jamaica and, by extension, the Caribbean lost one of their most gifted entrepreneurs who built an all-inclusive hotel empire that spanned the region, despite having no prior experience in that sector. On January 5, Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart hung up his sandals and walked off into the sunset with footprints of a prodigious legacy left behind.

23: The nation grieved the passing of former Reggae Boy and the country’s leading goalscorer for the national senior football team, Luton Shelton, after ailing since 2017 with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

25: A deregistered plane bearing the Mexican flag, which was believed to have been on a smuggling mission, crash-landed in Rocky Point, Clarendon, on January 23 but to date, its passengers are yet to be found.

25: Ken Allen, the journalism giant whose probing mind, searing wit, and stentorian voice were hallmarks of a near-seven-decade career at The Gleaner, passed away at the University Hospital of the West Indies on January 23 after a long ailment. He was 87.

February

18: The exposure of personal data for tens of thousands of Jamaican and international travellers on the Government’s much-touted JamCOVID web portal triggered fears that the breach could threaten confidence in the Holness administration’s proposed National Identification System.

22: Forty-year-old Richard Currie defeated a colonel who spent 11 years at the helm to become Accompong Maroons’ youngest chief. The MBA graduate of Mona School of Business and Management vowed to pursue an economic revolution, infrastructure development, improved water systems, expanded entrepreneurial skills, as well as family-oriented education. Currie had a rough year, punctuated with confrontations between himself and the police as well as between him and some residents, who accused him of being a dictator.

24: Patients had to sit out their stay in the corridors at Cornwall Regional Hospital receiving oxygen – stark imagery of the scale of Jamaica’s coronavirus crisis which, at the time, was choking public healthcare facilities.

24: Standing tall above young coders from 70 other countries, 11-year-old Jamaican innovator Dominic Darby won the top prize in the international XPRIZE Code Games Challenge. One of 17 winners from across the world, young Darby was awarded ‘Best in Class’ and a cash prize of US$1,000 for his video game entry, using MIT’s Scratch coding software, in the junior division.

March

3: Three-time Grammy Award winner and reggae icon Bunny Wailer died on March 2 at the age of 73. Born Neville Livingston, the acclaimed singer of the Wailers fame – a group he formed with the late Peter Tosh and Bob Marley – had often been described as the more spiritual and mystic of the trio.

7: In early March, Jamaica’s major hospitals were teetering on the very thin edge of collapse, as some had either run out of oxygen stock or were dangerously low amid rising COVID-19 hospitalisations and the resulting demands for the life-preserving element.

22: As the Government sought to rein in a runaway wave of COVID-19 infections, face-to-face classes were shut down for all students, and lockdowns were imposed for three weekends, from March 26 until April 12.

April

1: A carnival-like splashing of at least $3 billion of taxpayers’ money from a ministry with responsibility for Jamaica’s poorest dominates the findings of a 2018 audit of the National Insurance Fund Resort Management Company Limited. The audit raps the National Insurance Fund resort management arm for unjustified payments, shoddy records, and lack of value for works.

May

18: Declaring that not even the king is above the law, a judge fined dancehall artiste Moses ‘Beenie Man’ Davis $150,000 or 35 days in jail when he appeared for sentencing before the St Elizabeth Parish Court, having previously pleaded guilty to breaches of the Disaster Risk Management Act.

31: Andrea Gordon, 52, the former senior manager at the National Commercial Bank who admitted to swindling $34 million from the financial institution, was sentenced in May to a total of seven years and six months in prison.

June

In early June, Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett revealed that more than 80 per cent of the country’s tourism workers who had been laid off as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic had returned to work. An average of 170,000 people are employed directly in the tourism industry, which generates the lion’s share of Jamaica’s foreign exchange, and which was stifled when the country closed its borders to incoming passengers in March 2020.

23: After being subject to strict lockdowns since the onset of COVID-19 on Jamaica’s shores in March 2020, Prime Minister Andrew Holness released a pent-up entertainment and creative industries to stage parties and other events. However, the prime minister warned that adherence to the health protocols would determine the longevity of the new measures.

July

07: Two parliamentarians and six public officials were referred for prosecution for allegedly providing false information to the Integrity Commission in their statutory declarations. In its annual report, which was tabled in Parliament, the Integrity Commission also reported that two parliamentarians and six public officials are currently being investigated for illicit enrichment.

09: Jamaica’s Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Jacquiline Bisasor-McKenzie and the cadre of workers on front-line duties during the 16-month fight against the spread of COVID-19 were the big winners at the RJRGLEANER Honour Awards Ceremony in July.

22: Two public bodies – the Airports Authority of Jamaica (AAJ) and a subsidiary – violated government regulations in their $443-million investment in start-up private equity firm First Rock Capital Holdings, the finance minister, Dr Nigel Clarke, told his parliamentary colleagues as he answered questions from St Andrew South East Member of Parliament Julian Robinson.

August

09: As COVID-19 cases climbed across the island, plunging the country into a third wave of the virus, the Ministry of Health reported that all large hospitals had exceeded their capacity for admissions.

10: Less than seven weeks after the initial opening up of the entertainment sector, the Government pulled the plug as the island felt the effect of a third wave of COVID-19, with high levels of hospitalisations, climbing infection rates, and mounting death toll.

17: “We are in grave danger, to put it bluntly.” That was the assessment of Medical Association of Jamaica President Dr Andrew Manning as the island saw a record-high 46.1 per cent positivity rate in COVID-19 testing on August 14, as reported by the health ministry.

17-18: Jamaica escaped the full wrath of Tropical Storm Grace, but the weather system left a canvas of catastrophe as it glanced the island’s northeast, leaving roads littered with downed utility poles, homes swamped, vehicles disabled, and with sparking electricity wires providing a freakish light show.

20: The Government announced seven no-movement days as the third wave of COVID-19 heightened, on the confirmation of the deadly Delta variant in the country. With the exception of persons in the essential services and critical businesses, Jamaicans were subject to lockdown on August 22-24, 29,-31, and on September 5 – a move the authorities had hoped would have tamed the then average positivity rate of around 39 per cent.

September

16: Jamaicans voiced their discontent loudly over a video that showed Agriculture Minister Floyd Green among a group of people without masks during a birthday celebration on a no-movement day at the R Hotel in New Kingston. Pressure mounted on the Government and Green was forced to resign from the Cabinet. Jamaica Labour Party Councillor Andrew Bellamy, who was also in the video, quit the board of the South East Regional Health Authority and resigned from all committees he chaired at the Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation.

16: Firebrand nurse and trade unionist Edith Allwood-Anderson, whose acerbic rhetoric rattled political negotiators and charm salved their wounded egos, passed away after a long illness.

20: Thirty-three alleged members of the ruthless Clansman Gang faced the court in a trial believed to be the largest anti-gang court case in the English-speaking Caribbean. The alleged gangsters, including the reputed leader of the One Don Gang – a splinter of the St Catherine North-based Clansman – 31 other men and a woman are being tried under the Criminal Justice (Suppression of Criminal Organisations) Act, 2014, better known as the ‘anti-gang legislation’, for allegedly being part of a criminal organisation in a judge-only trial.

22: A damning report from the auditor general found that the board of Nutrition Products Limited (NPL) had failed in its oversight responsibility and that former Chairman Ewart Gilzean had ignored his fiduciary obligation and duty of care. According to the auditor general, NPL paid $143 million to companies and individuals connected to board members and management staff to provide transportation, repairs and maintenance, sanitation, and other services.

24: In what has been described as a seismic shift in one of the society’s most powerful symbols of patriarchy, the Defence Board announced the appointment of Commodore Antonette Wemyss-Gorman, 48, to head the Jamaica Defence Force. Her appointment takes effect in January 2022.

October

07: In October, a Gleaner probe revealed that brazen criminals in inner-city neighbourhoods are renting captured or abandoned premises, fully loaded, free of utility charges for electricity and water, to interested persons and are profiting from encroachment on Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS) infrastructure. The St Andrew South police say they have received reports of this practice in various communities where residents, including gangsters, have trespassed on the grid of the light and power company.

07: The Andrew Holness administration withdrew the national award it bestowed on popular pastor Merrick ‘Al’ Miller, bowing to mounting public pressure over the decision amid the clergyman’s criminal convictions and his unrepentant attitude.

13: The National Identification and Registration Act, 2021 received the nod from the Lower and Upper Houses of Parliament. The previous 2017 controversial law was struck down as unconstitutional by the court.

24: Long-awaited regulations to give effect to the Disabilities Act, 2014, received the nod from the Senate in October. The legislation is now set for implementation on February 14, 2022.

26: Advertising mogul and Executive Chairman of MacMillan Advertising, Robert Anthony MacMillan, died. He was 73. MacMillan Advertising is one of the longest established advertising agencies in Jamaica, founded by Robert’s father, Dudley MacMillan, back in 1929.

November

09: Amid public backlash on the high-end Ruthven Towers apartment complex in New Kingston, the National Housing Trust has defended its pricing strategy, arguing that the unit costs – which range between $27.7 million and $37.7 million – reflect skyrocketing construction prices, its location, and access to amenities.

17: Two weeks after the health ministry resumed administration of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, under strict guidelines that only children age 12 to 18 and people due second doses would get the jab, it has backtracked on that restriction, expanding the group to include people 50 and older.

22: Sixteen-year-old Sorika Picart, who was slain in bizarre circumstances at her home, was among 12 persons killed over 24 hours, in a psychological blow to the states of emergency imposed nine days ago to rein in the runaway murder rate. Five of the dozen murders occurred in three of the seven police divisions in which the security measure was activated amid killings that are 10 per cent higher year-on-year.

20: Ruel Reid, former headmaster of Jamaica College, walks away with $23 million in a controversial negotiated departure from the institution. Reid was on secondment as minister of education when a massive scandal involving the Caribbean Maritime University (CMU) and the ministry forced him to resign. The former minister, his wife Sharen, their daughter Sharelle, along with CMU President Fritz Pinnock and Brown’s Town division Councillor Kim Brown Lawrence are facing fraud and corruption charges.

30: Veteran attorney-at-law Nancy Anderson, who died on November 28, is lauded for her fierce advocacy for human-rights causes, especially for the vulnerable who languished on the margins of society. Anderson, an American migrant, was a leading voice for the Independent Jamaica Council for Human Rights whose firmness in championing the fight for fundamental rights contrasted with her mild-mannered personality that radiated warmth.

December

02: The disappearance from the Kingston Central lock-up of a Jamaican fugitive who is wanted in St Lucia for murder and gun crimes, triggered a high-level corruption probe in early December. The mysterious escape of Orville Purnell, 27, also gave rise to an expansive probe on a series of escapes from police lock-ups that has raised alarm and concern among the High Command.

02: Statesman and advertising pioneer Professor Arnold Foote died at his home in St Andrew at age 87.

As founder and CEO of Advertising & Marketing (Jamaica) Ltd (AdMark) in 1964, Foote was the power behind what was to emerge as one of the leading agencies in Jamaica. He also played an instrumental role in the establishment of CARIMAC at The University of the West Indies and held several positions in the diplomatic community, first as honorary consul general to Turkey then later assuming the deanship of the Consular Corps and the presidency of the CARICOM Consular Association then, the World Federation of Consuls.

03: Senior statesman and former head of government P.J. Patterson issued an impassioned plea to Prime Minister Andrew Holness and Opposition Leader Mark Golding to transcend partisan borders and capture a historic landmark by relinquishing the monarchy and establishing a republic when the country celebrates its diamond jubilee in August 2022. Patterson’s appeal came even as Barbados removed Queen Elizabeth II as its head of state and became a republic on its 55th anniversary of independence. The former prime minister told Messrs Holness and Golding that it would be repulsive to contemplate the celebration of the nation’s diamond jubilee, where Jamaica’s Constitution rests on an Order in Council dating back to July 23, 1962.

13: Quhaine James, a four-year-old boy who was battling for life after being shot in the head during a drive-by attack by gunmen that killed one man, later succumbed to his injuries. Carlton Brown was also murdered in Bunnan Gully, a community along Mannings Hill Road in St Andrew.

16: In a thrilling finale of the TVJ’s Junior School’s Challenge Quiz, the Spanish Town, St Catherine-based Friendship Primary defeated Creative Kids Learning Academy of St Andrew, 25-16, to claim top honours in the 2021 staging.

31: A judge rules that the authorities here should enforce a November 27 order signed by National Security Minister Dr Horace Chang for the deportation of Colombian ex-soldier Mario Antonio Palacios Palacios to his homeland, much to the disappointment of Haitian authorities, who have been fighting to have him extradited to their country to answer to the accusations that he was a key player in last year’s assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moise.

The suspected assassin was captured in central Jamaica four months after Moise’s assassination and was kept in isolation at the high-security Horizon Adult Correctional Centre in St Andrew since October 21, when he completed a five-day sentence for illegally entering the island.

edmond.campbell@gleanerjm.com