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The first year in office was hectic for the new Minister of Information, Culture, Youth and Sports, Olivia Grange, whose portfolio also includes Entertainment, Community Development, and Women’s and Gender Affairs.
In her wide ranging contribution to the 2008/09 Sectoral Debate titled “Defining Ourselves,” Minister Grange said, “I have the honour to lead this Ministry at a time of social and economic transformation both locally and internationally.” She added that she saw her portfolio responsibilities as fundamental to the nation’s capacity to define itself.
Culture
In the area of Culture, Minister Grange and her team revamped and revitalised the annual Emancipation and Independence celebrations, demonstrating the Government’s commitment to reinvigorate and sustain the meaningfulness and fanfare associated with these national events.
“As a new Government, we are committed to a revitalised Emancipation and Independence celebration and so we have embarked on ensuring that we mobilise the nation and reintroduce some of the activities and events, that were considered important in celebrating and recognising our achievements as a nation,” stated the Minister in an interview with JIS News.
Chief among these was the return of the Festival Float Parade and Grand Gala on Independence Day. The parade, which travelled through parts of Kingston and St. Andrew, featured some 10 floats and costumed groups, music trucks, classic and sports cars, as well as novelty acts, and included a free costume section, where those dressed in the Jamaican colours were able to join in the parade.
It climaxed at the capacity-filled National Stadium, where more than 35,000 Jamaicans were treated to a phenomenal and spectacular evening of entertainment, fireworks, and pyrotechnics at the Grand Gala.
Before this, “not many people [Jamaicans] would have seen pyrotechnics go off. When you watch the Michael Jackson shows, the Janet Jacksons and the Madonnas of the world, we see pyrotechnics on stage.on television. But on August 6, Jamaicans [were] able to see it live and direct at the National Stadium as part of our Independence celebrations,” administrative Director at Jambiz International Lenford Salmon, told JIS News. Jambiz produced the event.
“The Grand Gala was one big Independence party, one big Independence celebration designed for the people of Jamaica, so that they could celebrate in fine style,” Mr. Salmon added.
The success of the Independence celebrations and that of the entire Festival Season, was exactly what the Minister had in mind when she launched the celebrations under the banner of Jamaica Festival 2K8: ‘One Love, One Family.’
Speaking at the launch at Emancipation Park, she said, “Jamaica Festival 2K8 will be like no other, as we strive to re-energise the strength, vitality, and indomitable spirit of our people.”
Through the work of its cultural arm, the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JCDC), Jamaicans were treated to class acts by students whose schools entered the JCDC competitions, and an array of festivities leading up to Independence Day. These included the return of the Festival Song Contest, the World Reggae Dance Championships, Augus’ Fair, and Mello-Go-Roun, which featured the best of current and traditional Jamaican dance, drama, music, and food; the first outdoor hosting of the National Thanksgiving Service, held at Emancipation Park, and a culinary exposition.
Seville Heritage Park in St. Ann, was the site for the National Emancipation Jubilee, and parish vigils were held across the island.
These national celebrations will serve as the perfect prelude for the homecoming celebrations planned for Jamaica’s Athletes who gave stellar performances at the 29th Olympiad in Beijing, China.
As the administration was observing its first 100 days in office, Minister Grange announced that Jamaica was being considered a possible site for the Underwater Cultural Heritage Regional Centre of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). The Minister pointed out that Jamaica was at the top of the list of countries to host the regional centre, which will serve the Caribbean and Latin America.
Meanwhile a $90 million contract was signed for the rehabilitation of the St. William Grant Park in Downtown Kingston.
Miss Grange stated that the Government is committed to the redevelopment of the old business district, adding “we have issued an order preventing any Government ministry, department or agency from moving out of Downtown Kingston to uptown without Cabinet approval. They need to have very good reasons to get approval (to move).”
Information
Minister Grange described as “awesome”, the many developments that took place in the information and broadcasting sectors, especially the “digital switchover” that Jamaica will be embarking on in 2009.
“There will be many challenges but the potential and the possibilities are awesome,” the Minister said as she addressed the digital switchover workshop held in March this year by the Broadcasting Commission, at the Knutsford Court Hotel.
“We must seize the opportunities, which will be provided for high quality content creation, diversification of programming, and the straight financial gains to be had at the micro and macro levels,” she told stakeholders.
The digital switchover, is the name given to the process in which analogue broadcast television in an area, is converted to digital television. The transition is expected to result in the improved quality of digital broadcasts over analogue ones, and the freeing up of valuable spectrum space for other services. The switchover is already taking place across the world, and has been completed in Scandinavian countries such as Finland and Sweden.
The Ministry also made significant strides in the area of public broadcasting, as provisions were put in place to establish a Public Service Broadcasting Radio. Speaking at a post-Cabinet press briefing in June 2008, Minister Grange made the announcement that Cabinet had approved the re-assignment of KOOL FM to the Government.
“[The move is in keeping with] the general policy direction, on which there is broad consensus, to discontinue the participation of Government in commercial broadcasting, and enhance the development of public broadcasting,” she said.
Additionally, the Public Broadcasting Corporation of Jamaica (PBCJ), was able to provide Jamaicans with a full schedule of programming that included all the sittings of Parliament and the Senate live, in addition to other committee meetings. Furthermore, the PBCJ carried an array of other programmes such as news packages, weather, sports, music videos, and cultural entertainment.
During her Sectoral Presentation, the Minister also highlighted a number of programmes produced by the Jamaica Information Service (JIS), for their excellence in promoting the policies, programmes, and institutions of the Government here and overseas.
“The JIS’ flagship programme Jamaica Magazine, on radio and TV has been revitalised with new, more appealing music, and fresh presentational formats. The weekly newspaper Bulletin Board page, has been revamped and made more attractive and reader friendly, and Voice of Jamaica, a five-minute feature presents Government-related news in a creative and dynamic new format,” she said.
She also made special mention of the fact that other countries were impressed with the JIS, to the extent that they wanted to study its operations.
“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 setting up their own Government Information Service,” she informed.
The Office of the President of Botswana, discovered the agency through its award winning website, which in 2007, won for the second consecutive year, the American Black Web Award, for being the best site representing a nation.
The other major highlight for the information portfolio was the participation of a Jamaican delegation at the 7th Conference of Ministers of Information of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). The conference was hosted at Margarita Island, Venezuela, from July 3 to 4.
There, representatives of Jamaica and Venezuela commenced discussions, aimed at establishing a media partnership to exchange news and programmes between both countries.
Youth
Minister Grange kick-started the Youth portfolio of the Ministry in November, with Youth Month 2007 celebrated under the theme ‘I am the Inspiration’, in an effort to challenge the youth of Jamaica to take charge of their future.
Speaking at the launch of the month’s activities at Jamaica House, the Minister said, “we recognised that Jamaica’s young people are advocates for their right to be and become. ‘I am the inspiration’ calls for the youth to embrace the responsibilities that come with these rights.”
From October 31, 2007 to December 2, 2008, the country’s youth were able to participate in a number of activities. These included a National Youth Run, National Church Service, National Marching Band competition, the fifth staging of the National Youth Parliament at Gordon House, International Students’ Day, and the National Youth Organisation Sports Day. These activities culminated with the Prime Minister’s National Youth Awards.
Having challenged Jamaica’s youth to embrace the responsibilities of achievement, the Minister emphasised regional and international cooperation as a way to empower them with the tools, skills, and knowledge, essential for their development.
“As the realities of globalisation become more evident, the need presents itself for the Caribbean community to forge greater alliances and better co-operation to address common threats to our youth, including HIV/AIDS, drug abuse, crime and violence, climate change, human trafficking, and gender discrepancies,” the Minister said.
Miss Grange was speaking at the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), between the National Centre for Youth Development (NCYD), with responsibility for Youth Affairs, and the Department with responsibility for Youth Affairs of the Government of Antigua and Barbuda, at the Ministry’s New Kingston offices on April 15, 2008.
The main aims of the MoU are: leveraging technical expertise towards undertaking a transformational approach to youth development; leveraging economies of scale to promote more efficient youth development work; increasing the level of professionalism of youth development workers; and collaborating on common policies.
Following on this agreement, the Minister, on April 17, signed an agreement with Korea, through the Korean Agency for International Co-operation (KOICA).
She explained that this agreement, which allows Korea to undertake several projects in Jamaica, would assist with the Youth Employment and Empowerment Training project.
“We will see out of this signing, the construction of two youth information centres as well as the provision of computers and computer-related equipment to the National Secondary Students’ Council (NSSC), and also the upgrading of facilities at two youth training sites and upgrading the capabilities of the National Youth Service,” she informed. The centres will be established in the parishes of Westmoreland and Manchester.
In June, Cabinet approved the implementation of a Special Youth Employment and Training Project (SYEAT), of which the MICYS was a major partner.
Speaking at a post-Cabinet press briefing, Minister Grange, said that the project has been designed as a short term labour market intervention to promote youth employment, skills training, and overall youth development, as part of efforts to address the situation of vulnerable and at risk youth in the society.
“It (the project) is expected to contribute to the national goal of increased employment, and is aimed at providing decent and productive work for 10,000 persons at a rate of 2,500 per year for four years,” Miss Grange informed.
Sports
In the area of Sports, the major highlight was the 29th Olympiad held in Beijing, China, in August. Minister Grange was on hand as the Jamaican athletes treated the world to phenomenal, record breaking performances.
At the Bird’s Nest Stadium, she witnessed the World Record (9.69 seconds.) gold medal run by Usain Bolt in the 100m, and described his performance as phenomenal, declaring that the sprinter had ignited the passions of the Jamaican people by delivering the elusive gold.
“I congratulate Usain and expect that he will continue to excel, because he is committed to his sport and himself. We now look forward to his performances in the 200 metres as we believe that he will return another stellar performance”, she said.
Bolt went on to win the 200m gold medal in a World Record (19.30) seconds. Jamaica’s Shelly-Ann Fraser also led a sweep (gold, silver and silver) of the women’s 100m for Jamaica.
The presence of the Minister on hand to offer words of congratulations and encouragement to the athletes, was indicative of the Government’s renewed commitment to invest in sports as an avenue for national development.
Back in June, in her contribution to the Sectoral Debate, Minister Grange said that the Government, through the Sports Development Foundation, had committed $104 million to construct 30 multipurpose courts in communities and schools, including one in an institution for specially challenged youngsters, to benefit the residents of 10 parishes and 14 communities.
The allocation will also go towards upgrading/constructing nine playfields; the upgrading of sports complexes in communities; fencing 11 facilities (courts and playfields); and the rehabilitation of the GC Foster National Sports College and its swimming pool.
Meanwhile, Jamaica said goodbye to legendary track athlete Herb McKenley, who died on November 26. Minister Grange, who chaired the Inter-Ministerial Committee, which organised the sprint legend’s funeral, declared an official period of mourning of three days for the legend, which commenced on December 6 and ended on the day of his funeral, December 8. The official funeral service was held at the National Arena and his body interred in National Heroes Park.
Gender Affairs
In the area of Gender Affairs, the Minister spearheaded a landmark move to have the Bureau of Women’s Affairs, expand its mandate to incorporate men’s issues in a thrust to focus more on gender development and equality.
Additionally, through the ‘Sister to Sister Mediathon’ fundraiser, the Ministry helped to raise millions of dollars, to assist the Women’s Centre of Jamaica Foundation, as well as the Bureau of Women’s Affairs, in its efforts to build more shelters for battered women.