Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Spencer not the first

Kern Spencer joins a small list of sitting Jamaican Members of Parliament who have faced criminal charges.

Political historians agree that in the 1940s Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) MP Cleave Lewis was charged with selling farm work tickets.

They also agree that later another JLP MP, JZ Malcolm, faced a similar charge.

However there is no agreement on whether a former MP for St. Mary North, Wycliffe Martin, was charged while he was in the House following a victory in the 1967 General Election or after he lost in 1972.

But there's no question that J.A.G Smith was out of the House when he was charged and convicted for conspiracy to defraud the Farm Work Programme.

Smith, a Minister of Labour in the JLP administration of the 1980s and his Permanent Secretary, Probyn Aitkin, were charged after investigations into several improprieties and irregularities involving thousands of dollars from the U.S and Canadian Farm Work Programme.

Aitken pleaded guilty on May 8, 1990, and became the main witness in the case against Smith.

Atkin was sentenced to nine months' imprisonment.

Smith, a chartered accountant was convicted and sentenced to a three-year prison term.

He appealed to the UK Privy Council, but lost his appeal.

Kern caged - Politician, associates charged in bulb scandal

published: Wednesday | February 27, 2008

Daraine Luton, Gleaner Staff Reporter

DARK DAYS for former sate minister Kern Spencer began late yesterday evening when the People's National Party (PNP) member was arrested and charged by police for his role in the controversial Cuban light-bulb project.

Spencer spent the night in police lockup and will have to remain behind bars until Thursday, when he is booked to appear before the Corporate Area Resident Magistrate's court. It is expected that a bail application will be made on his behalf then.

Spencer has been slapped with seven charges. He is facing three charges of conspiracy to defraud, one charge for breaching the Prevention of Corruption Act, and three charges for breaching the Money Laundering Act.

Also charged are Rodney Chin and Coleen Wright. Chin is facing two counts of conspiracy to defraud and two counts of breaches of the Prevention of Corruption Act.

Wright, a supervisor at the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica who also worked as Spencer's personal assistant, is charged with two counts of conspiracy to defraud, one for breaching the Prevention of Corruption Act, and four money-laundering offences.

A person who is convicted of breaching the Prevention of Corruption Act faces a fine of up to $1 million and or imprisonment of a term not exceeding two years.

Five-year jail time

A breach of the Money Laundering Act, which involves the transfer of property from Jamaica to overseas, of which Spencer is accused, could bring jail time of up to five years, and a fine of up to $1 million.

Chin, 44, is the managing director of Universal Management and Development Limited and Caribbean Communications Media Network Limited. While Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Les Green addressed journalists on the charges last night, detectives sneaked the embattled member of parliament (MP) and Chin through a side door of the Organised Crime Investigation Division (OCID) building, all this to escape glaring camera lens.

Earlier, Wright had been whisked out of the OCID building by police officers and taken away in a waiting service vehicle. As the police took her away, Wright hid her face with a black cloth which she later buried in her lap as she took her seat on her way to jail.

Last night, Deborah Martin, one of Spencer's attorneys, said they had initiated contact with the police after hearing that he had been charged.

"We heard and we brought him in," Martin told The Gleaner as she left the OCID building last night.

Patrick Atkinson, Spencer's other counsel said: "There is far too much press on this case." He said also: "This is a witch hunt."

Prior to his arrest, Spencer was seen walking in downtown Kingston in the company of Martin.

One man said that "he looked happy, waving and talking to people," along the way.

Spencer, 33, was the state minister in the energy ministry in the last PNP administration. His minister, Phillip Paulwell, placed him in charge of the energy-saving project. The project involved the distribution of four million free Cuban light bulbs islandwide.

Despite the bulbs being free and Jamaica benefiting from Cuban volunteers to whom stipends were paid by their government, it racked up $276 million in expenditure.

Since the allegations first surfaced 118 days ago, Spencer has been under tremendous pressure to resign as member of parliament for North East St. Elizabeth. Two weeks ago, he bowed to the pressure by taking leave as MP. He also took leave from all positions he had within the PNP, which seemingly has given him the cold shoulder.

Grilled by police

Former junior energy minister Kern Spencer walks from the offices of the Organised Crime Investigation Division in Kingston after being interrogated by senior police officers last week. He was slapped with seven charges, including money laundering yesterday. - Norman Grindley/Deputy Chief Photographer

Spencer was grilled by police for two consecutive days last week - Thursday and Friday. The Gleaner was informed that the police were getting ready to arrest Spencer on Monday. The arrest did not take place until yesterday, after he turned up at the OCID for a third time.

The arrest of Spencer comes after scores of interviews and the perusing of documents by the police, the Director of Public Prosecutions, as well as the auditor general and the contractor general.

Energy Minister Clive Mullings, who 118 days ago made the disclosure about the light-bulb project, said that it raised questions of fraud. The PNP had been booted from government one month earlier, ending its 18-year reign.

Contractor General Greg Christie found what he called a possible criminal conspiracy. He said Spencer had undue influence on the project.

The contracts for the distribution of the bulbs were awarded by Spencer to Universal Management and Development Company, which was set up around the same time the bulb distribution project began.

The contracts did not go to tender as required by law. Spencer has defended his decision to employ UMD, saying that an "emergency situation" existed as Cuban volunteers were in the island and no provisions had been made for them.

Because of this emergency situation, Spencer said he turned to Chin, owner of UMD to provide the service. He said this was because he was someone with whom he was familiar.

PNP review

UMD's chief principal is Sherine Shakes, the mother of Spencer's child. Shake's mother, Verdie Mair, was also contracted. She provided catering services.

When the allegations unfolded, the PNP president Portia Simpson Miller had requested that Spencer and Paulwell furnish her with reports on the project.

The details of the report have not been released but former PNP general secretary Donald Buchanan, who sat on the review committee which looked at the report, said that the party was confident that Spencer would be vindicated. His successor, Peter Bunting, said, however, that the chips should fall where they may.

Kern Spencer Charged

Former Junior Minister in the Ministry of Energy, Kern Spencer is now in police custody charged with fraud.

He was charged late Tuesday afternoon in connection with the Cuban Light Bulb scandal.

Mr. Spencer, businessman Rodney Chin and Coleen Wright, a former personal assistant to Mr. Spencer were charged by personnel from the Organised Crime Unit.

The charges follow weeks of investigation into the Cuban Light Bulb scandal.

Defence attorney Deborah Martin told the RJR News Centre that she is now making arrangements to have her client before the court by Wednesday.

She said Mr. Spencer would be kept in custody Tuesday night.

The Member of Parliament for North East St Elizabeth has been under investigation following alleged irregularities under the programme to distribute four million free Cuban light bulbs.

The programme racked up an expenditure of more than $270 million.

Mr. Chin and one of his companies, Universal Management Development Company Limited has been implicated in the light bulb controversy.

Universal Management was the driving force behind the distribution of the energy-saving light bulbs.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Sleepless in Kingston

I went to bed after midnight and had trouble falling back asleep when I woke up at 4 am. It's extremely difficult to get back into my lonely existence after a long stay in Mo Bay.

I guess I am that-lonely in Kingston, an isolation that comes from several things. It comes from living alone in an area in which I somehow feel removed from everyone because it's no longer easy to go hang out by my cousins or friends nearby or vice versa.

It is also true that my dear friend, who I stay with in Mo Bay, has been so wonderful to be around and her family has become an extension of mine.

It also comes from being closer to some really harsh realities: I remain single because I refuse to settle for less than I want, and the fact that what I want at this point isn't on offer. I am not looking for utopia. I just know exactly what I want, and don't want to settle with situations of compromise.

Maybe I have focused too little on God over the past few years and I need to turn to him to fight my battles. I have done a crap job on my own.

The tussle is not physical. It is highly spiritual one and I need to build my spiritual strength, because the worst may have yet to come.

I am so happy that I have cut down on mind altering substances like alcohol. In fact, I hardly drink alcohol again. I think it was primarily due to my lack of disposable income. I cannot afford to go out and have drinks anymore and I dont like the idea of my friends taking the tab. Neither do I have the money to stock wines at home. What has resulted is that I have developed an appreciation for always having a clear mind, and have just done away with people and circumstances that you have to "loosen up" to tolerate. A lot of meeting friends/business associates for after work drinks was simply to cover the loneliness of going home after a long, hard day's work to an empty apartment-yet again. I also dont have those kinds of days and work environments to distress over.

My only problem is the smoking... and its more a filler than anything. I need to eat properly, resume my daily yoga, meditation and devotion, and find my centre and kick the habit for good.

Thank heavens today is Sunday. I am going to church. I need some spiritual food this morning. I need a comforting message.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Montegonian Aspirations

I think I want to move here. I will buy property here one day.

I guess I am just tired of all the frustrations of Kingston.

Just waiting for business to really soar and things to get more stable.

Not feeling very verbose... but just wanted to check in... and say... I am alive and well and giving thanks,

Monday, February 18, 2008

Jackasses in Negril

I went to Negril yesterday for a Donkey Race. Refused to take pics of black people in stupid costumes riding ridiculously adorned donkeys, one of whom even looked pregnant, for the pleasure of hicks vacationing and grown ass flower children with mullets an goatees.



Friday, February 15, 2008

The Other Side of the Lake

"The grass is not always green on the other side of the lake." My stepmother would say that to me repeatedly as I child as I would gaze in wanderlust about all the things and achievements of people whose very accomplishments, seemed to put them on "the other side" of my own middle class existence.

As I struggled through to the end of my childhood as I knew it, to adoloscence, then early adulthood, and then now into supposedly real adulthood, nothing could ring truer.

The grass is not always greener on the other side of the lake.

Today isn't a good day for me.

I guess I should post more on good days so that it doesn't always seem as if I am perpetually in a funk- because I am not. I just have good days and bad days. And today aint so great. My mood has been as melancholy as the weather has been since morning- overcast-hinting rain, but the level of impending downpour still uncertain.

But, alas, I need to get over this heaviness.

I have been very ill. Couldnt keep anything down. My insides are still sore from all the sustained wretching and heaving. And I am tired.

I wanted to get away for the weekend. A Montego Bay getaway. But with my electric bill reaching the equiv of USD$100, I feel like I have to pinch even those dollars.

So maybe quitting my cushie corporate job and struggling on my own wasn't such a smart move after all. What good is having time and flexibility if you never have the money to utililize either effectively?

I feel like my life is meaningless. I mean I know it has meaning to other people, but what about meaning for me? I guess this is why people my age usually fall in love, get married, and have children in search of those blissful moments of "purpose" and "meaning" but outside of turning into a cat lady, what is the single woman's reprieve?

So I wanted to make my own films. So I wanted to go to film school. So I wanted to travel the world and write and film about it.

I also want a damn salary, from which I can pay my bills, invest, and have projected earnings.

I am struggling financially, and it makes my personal struggles that much harder. I am in the struggle alone and that's a bitch.

Money isnt everything, but it sure helps to not have to worry about how the hell I am going to cover this month's expenses.

But I wont despair. This isn't going to last forever. God realised that I still had a bit of growing up to do.

Life is still very disappointing as a grown up. Why exactly did I waste so much energy dreaming of growing up when I was younger?

Dreaming is foolishness. You just have to do what you gotta do to survive, and find out out of what you do and stop damn daydreaming about things over which you have no power to exact with precision.

So... for today, and for the reflection and introspection of this moment, I give thankts. I am one step closer to finding my truth.

The Election

enough said...


Tuesday, February 05, 2008

American Politics

A leader this charismatic only comes along once in a lifetime...

In Jamaica, the equivalent was Michael Manley....

In America....JFK...

Right now..Barack Obama

Only Time

Who can say where the road goes,
Where the day flows, only time?
And who can say if your love grows,
As your hearth chose, only time?

Who can say why your heart sights,
As your live flies, only time?
And who can say why your heart cries
when your love lies, only time?

Who can say when the roads meet,
That love might be ,in your heart?
and who can say when the day sleeps,
and the night keeps all your heart?
Night keeps all your heart.....

Who can say if your love groves,
As your heart chose, only time?
And who can say where the road goes
Where the day flows, only time?

Who knows? Only time
Who knows? Only time


Monday, February 04, 2008

One Day at a Time...

I am not sure if it is getting "easier" to deal with the situation in which I have put myself, or if it's just that I am getting better at suppressing my feelings.

I still want what I want... essentially happiness... and I find I am pretty much happy as I am.

I have my bouts of loneliness, I mean sheer deep longing, and weakened moments when I curl up and cry...and there are times when my own sobs lull me like lullabies to sleep. There are also times when I cry so hard that I cant sleep.

I find that keeping busy is my solace.

I have taken up a sexual fast so I have had to pretty much concentrate on finding my own centre. No need to further confuse my issues by having sex. The truth is that I want love, not sex. Orgasms are easy enough to come by, on a personal note. Its all the other stuff that's hard.

I have been meeting all the wrong people because I have been attracting and only been attracted to those who couldn't make it. It's sad. I think as much as I cry about being alone at 27 (every time I think my age, I think 28. Its hard to remember that I haven't quite reached there yet) I am extremely picky about who I want to be with.

I have already accepted the fact that I could very well wind up an old spinster with too many house pets. At least I will get to travel -well, if I wont have separation anxiety from my beloved pets. Even so, solitude is a small price to pay for not compromising on the things that are important to me.

I have realised that if a man REALLY wants you, 'aint no frigging mountain high enough to keep him from getting to you. If he creates the mountains himself, or walks away at the slightest disturbance, he is just looking for an easy escape route. What's the use in being in a relationship in which you cant say if this could be the day when mister man walks out for good?

I have made so many excuses for this particular man for so long that I have run out of them. And I have also run out of excuses for myself too. Its as though I am holding on to Cinderella's prince and glass shoes, and haven't realised that the coach and horses have changes back into a pumpkin and rats and that the fabulous gown has disappeared and I am back in my dirty rags scrubbing the floor.

I write all this to remember that when I was 21, I fell in love with a man, and when we broke up, I never stopped loving him, and he sorta moved on, we kept on seeing each other, and I have held on and hoping for the day when he will "sort [himself] out and fix things." The thing is that, he hasn't sorted anything out, the situation has only gotten more complicated and nothing has been fixed.

Note to self: when a relationship ends, move the fuck on!!

Now I find myself in a REAL conundrum as I dont even know how to sever the soul ties which have become so strong its unbelievable.

The truth is that even having written all that, I still hope that there is a way and a day that we will be back together. Surely that must be easier than moving on?
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