Category Archives: jamaica

Back to Business with a twist- De retour aux affaires mais avec une pointe de différence

In the week since I have come back from Jamaica, a man’s life has been spared on death row in Texas (!), I have met with the Backstreet Boys, a republican Senator has had to resign for soliciting sex in an airport restroom, Barack Obama positioned himself as the man who could bring change to American politics (as opposed to Hillary Clinton’s experience) and George Bush went with his “A-team” to Iraq to look for some army cheers and some god news from the front line. The carefully staged and well balanced surprise visit (I was almost expecting the commander in chief in army fatigues, he chose black shirt instead) had one goal: buy him so more time. One should actually ask how much more time W can buy with speeches? Somebody should maybe remind him that Al Qaeda was not in Iraq when he decided to invade that country.

World news might be all about George Bush does or does not say (even if Nicolas Sarkozy is apparently trying to change that and to find a role for himself and for his wife on the world stage), but as I am listening to the coverage of election night in Jamaica on 106 Power FM tonight, I manage to forget W. My focus suddenly switched to Kingston. A welcome breathing space. This election night in Jamaica reminds me that I might be back to business but with a twist.

Depuis mon retour de Jamaïque il y a une semaine, un condamné à mort a vu sa peine être commué quelques heures avant son exécution, j’ai rencontré les Backstreet Boys, un sénateur républicain a dû démissionner après avoir avait fait des avances homosexuelles dans les toilettes d’un aéroport de Minneapolis, Barack Obama s’est positionné comme l’homme du changement (par opposition à l’expérience d’Hillary Clinton) et George Bush est allé cherché en Irak des vivats bienvenus pour lui et quelques bonnes nouvelles. Le but de cette visite surprise bien pensée (je m’attendais presque à voir George Bush en tenue de camouflage, il a préféré la sobriété d’une chemise sombre) était de gagner du temps. Combien de temps peut-il encore gagner en répétant les mêmes choses? C’est la question que lu-même doit se poser alors qu’il lui reste encore 16 mois de mandat. Peut-être quelqu’un devrait-il lui rappeler en attendant qu’Al-Qaïda n’était pas en Irak avant qu’il ne lance l’invasion de l’Irak.

Les cycles d’information internationaux tournent autour de ce que Bush dit ou ne dit pas (même si Nicolas Sarkozy est en train de tenter de se faire une place dans les gros titres), mais alors que je suis en train d’écouter la couverture des élections législatives en Jamaïque, j’oublie W. Le coeur de l’information s’est soudainement déplacé pour moi du côté de Kingston. Cette bouffée d’air bienvenue me rappelle soudain que ce n’est pas tout à fait une rentrée comme une autre.

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Trench Town Politics – Politiques à Trenchtown

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On August 24, I was in Trench Town, a ghetto in Kingston made famous by Bob Marley. The reggae star grew up there in the 60es and made his big break on the reggae scene there. I had to work long and hard to gain access to get to Trench Town. To be able to work inside the slum, you need the right contacts and you need to find the cab driver who will drive you there.
Trench Town was an interesting experience for me as a journalist. In these pre-elections weeks, I did not see what I saw in February 2006 in Cité-Soleil, Port-au-Prince’s largest and most violent slum. For the people of Cité-Soleil, the presidential elections that were taking place then were a matter of life and death. René Préval, who was considered to be the candidate of the poor, was a hero for Haitians living in the slums of Port-au-Prince. In Trench Town on the other hand, most people did not seem to believe in politics any more. One could hear in the streets of Trench Town that the elctions will not change anything. People there seem to believe that hope and help can only come from abroad. The problem for them is that Jamaica is regularly overlooked by the major news outlets and people from Trench Town will probably have to wait for a long time for the help they desperately need to lift them out of poverty.

Le 24 août, j’ai effectué un reportage dans Trench Town, le ghetto où a garndi Bob Marley dans les années 60 et où il s’est révélé sur la scène reggae. L’accès à Trench Town a nécessité des jours de travail débuté à New York. Pour pouvoir travailler dans Trench Town, il faut en effet avoir le bon contact et prendre des précautions. Il faut trouver un chauffeur de taxi de confiance à Kingston qui accepte de vous y emmener et être escorté sur place par un « guide ».
Trench Town fut une expérience journalistique très intéressante. En cette période d’élections générales en Jamaïque, le ghetto m’a frappé par sa relative apathie politique. Cette sensation tranchait radicalement avec ce dont j’avais été le témoin en février 2006 à Cité-Soleil, le plus grand et violent bidonville de Port-au-Prince en Haïti. Pour les habitants de Cité-Soleil, l’élection présidentielle que je couvrais à l’époque, était littéralement une question de vie ou de mort. Dans les quartiers pauvres, les gens vouaient un véritable passion à René Préval, l’homme qui est depuis devenu leur président.
A Trench Town, les habitants semblaient en revanche quelque peu désabusés ou du moins peu concernés par l’élection. « Ca ne changera rien », pouvait-on entendre dans les rues du bidonville. Les habitants espèrent de l’aide et des lendemains meilleurs mais semblent avoir tiré un trait sur les deux partis jamaïcains et sur Portia Simpson Miller, la femme qui dirige actuellement le pays. L’aide qu’ils espèrent ne semble pouvoir venir que de l’étranger. Mais la Jamaïque, pays qui n’apparaît que rarement sur le radar des informations mondiales, n’est pas une priorité pour la communauté internationale. Les habitants de Trench Town semblent dans ces conditions condamnés à devoir attendre longtemps cette aide éventuelle.

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After Dean

Dean is long gone but large parts of Jamaica are still without power and running water. People seem to cope well.

After spending three days in the Western part of the island, I was was yesterday deep inside Cocpit Country a tropical forest in the heart of Jamaica. The road to get there was in terrible condition. Once there, I experienced something I had never experienced in my life. All night, they were voices, animal voices. And they were also rasta men spending their day in caves.

I am now back into the civilization, in Ocho Rios where I plan to do one story for my radio series before going to Kingston and Trenchtown, Bob Marley’s historic ghetto.

Jamaica has been an interesting experience so far but you quickly learn that everything is for sale here. For the first time in my professional life, I have had had to deal with people who wanted to sell me their story. I have been to many poor countries around the world but I had never seen that.

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The choice to face Dean

The choice

 

I am on my way to Montego Bay. I am sitting in the plane and see my son looking at me from the other side of the street. I see my wife hoping that I will not get on the plane. It was this morning, a couple of hours ago. I had scheduled this trip to Jamaica a while ago. I am going there to do a series of in-depth radio stories for Swiss Public Radio and to cover the August 27 elections. I had not planned with hurricane Dean. As we left  New York, it was a category 4 storm and was about to become a category 5 hurricane as it was making its way toward Jamaica.

I was suddenly faced with a choice. Should I postpone the trip or get on that plane and head to a place people would desperately want to leave if they could ? I was on the phone to my wife. I knew she did not want me to get on this plane but she would not say it. I made a choice of going and report was I was going to see. If Jamaica is hit hard, the people are going to need aid. And to get that aid quickly, they will need as many reporters as possible to tell the rest of the world what just happened on their island. I covered the aftermath of Katrina in New Orleans two years ago. I remember the rotten smell around the Superdome. I remember the saddest looks on children faces. I remeber the dignity of the people of New Orleans. This morning I thought about it when I decided to board the plane to Montego Bay.

 

My son’s look this morning will help me do my job in the coming days. I firmly believe that it is the choice who makes us who we are. The one I made this morning was difficult. But as I look at faces of the people in the plane around me, I know it was the right one.

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tpinews.com in Jamaica – tpinews.com en Jamaïque

Expect fewer U.S. news on this blog until Aug 28. I will be in Jamaica from tomorrow to cover the elections for the.point.is. news agency, 24heures and Tribune de Genève and do a series of in-depth stories for Swiss Public Radio. I will try to keep a daily blog of the Jamaican elections. This might prove difficult as I will be staying in some remote parts of the island. But please check this blog regularly and and tpinews.com for stories on a country you hardly hear about.

Il y aura pas d’infos américaines sur ce blog jusqu’au 28 août prochain. Je serai en reportage dès demain en Jamaïque pour couvrir les élections législatives pour the.point.is., mon agence de presse, la Tribune de Genève et 24heures. Je vais aussi réaliser une série de reportages pour la Radio Suisse Romande. Je vais tenter de tenir un journal quotidien de la campagne électorale jamaïcaine ici. La démarche risque d’être parfois compliquée car je vais souvent me trouver dans des endroits reculés de l’île mais je ferai en sorte d’être le plus régulier possible. Rendez-vous aussi sur tpinews.com pour des reportages exclusifs sur un pays dont on ne parle jamais.

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