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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Tivoli Aftermath - A Short Recap

Some semblance of normality has returned to the majority of Kingston today, some four days into the joint military police operation in Tivoli Gardens. The official death toll given by the Jamaica Constabulary Force has risen from 44 to a shocking 73 by this morning. Even though for the most part the bullets have stopped flying, those remaining alive in Tivoli Gardens are still experiencing a measure of restriction as the police and military are still occupying the community.

The media was finally allowed to enter Tivoli Gardens today on a restricted tour of the community as they were only allowed to visit certain areas and film only designated portions of the infamous Dudus stronghold. The walls of the buildings told the tales of the gun battle that engulfed the community. The voices of the residents was filled with anger, some with sorrow and some with desperation. However, amidst of all this, the wanted Christopher "Dudus" Coke has still not been captured as confirmed by the police and the Minister of Information. So the search continues and even produced an early morning operation in the upscale neighbourhood of Kirkland Heights resulting in the death of one man.

However, despite the relative calm and appearance of normalcy, the incidents of the past few days which brought the city to a stand still remains on the minds of the entire Jamaica. A somewhat tense air hovers over the city despite the well anticipated rain that has descended on the parch earth of the city. Already 11 wanted men turned themselves  in within 24 hours of the police publishing a wanted list, but hopefully more good comes out of this tragic incident.


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Voicemail Member O'Neil Has Died

In the midst of a higher death toll of forty four (44) civilians, released by the Public Defender this morning, Jamaica has learned about yest another death. O'Neil Edwards of the locally popular group Voicemail, after a long battle for his life, succumbed to his wounds this afternoon.

It was reported that Edwards was ambushed and shot repeatedly, at least five (5) times, as he attempted to open his gate after returning home about 1:00am on May 10, 2010. He was discovered by neighbours and was rushed to the hospital where he has since been battling for his life. Since the incident, several local entertainers and fans help a public prayer vigil in Half Way tree to show their support for O'Neil and in hopes of some kind of recovery.

The attack on O'Neil, a popular entertainer, certainly shook many members of the music fraternity as well as fans  and violently demponstrated the far reaching grasps of criminality in our society. The grief will go even further, now that he has passed. Our entertainment industry has lost one of its prominent talents. The group Voicemail will never be the same, his family and friends as well as countless fans will no doubt see and feel the loss. Condolences to his family and friends.

Here are a few videos of the popular songs from the group:


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Kingston Still In Turmoil!

It is the third day since the State of Emergency was called for the city of Kingston and St. Andrew and since then, the violence, tension and battle between the security forces and gunmen has only escalated with casualties. The joint police and military forces made their way into the fortified and well defended garrison of Tivoli Gardens on Monday and was greeted by the expected heavy gunfire from those defending the Dudus stronghold, now termed by some as the Repuplic of Tivoli. However, the gun battles were not limited to just the Tivoli area, as it seemed that the entire Kingston was yesterday engulfed into this war between criminals and the security forces. Sporadic gun battles dotted the Kingston metropolitan area, in neighboring communities, however it also spread to the distance community of Red Hills Road and even as far as sections of Spanish Town.

The continuous gun battles have now claimed many victims since it started from both sides. the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) has reported that twenty six (26) civilians have been confirmed dead. The News has also reported that two (2) police officers in a gun battle in Mountain View and one (1) JCF officer and three (3) Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) soldiers have also been killed in the gun battle in the Tivoli Gardens operation. The Kingston Public Hospital (KPH) which has been treating many of the victims of this war, has not been spared the trauma of the gun battles as it too, despite the heavy contingent of security forces, heavy gun fire nearby sent patients and personnel scampering for cover. Residents of Tivoli Gardens and nearby communities have been calling in on local television stations and radio stations, now in desperation and fear due to the heavy exchange of gunfire between the security forces and gun men loyal to Dudus and painting a picture of the dire situation facing these embattled communities.

The standoff between the security forces and these armed criminals continues today in the affected regions and doesn't seem to be ending anytime soon. Several business places in the countries capital especially ones in and near the affected areas remain closed. However, the overseas exam board which oversees the Caribbean Examination Council (CXC) and the General Certificate of Education (GCE) exams as well as the Ministry of Education has insisted that students who have exams today should still sit them, but report to alternative locations. No doubt having to sit an exam in these conditions will affect the performance of the students that have risked their very lives to attend these exams. The reality of the danger these students face was reinforced this morning in the Marescaux Road area, which is surrounded by Wolmer's  and St. Hugh's High Schools, when gunshots rang out while students were sitting their exams.

As the battle rages on and the security forces fight to regain control from these highly armed criminals, stability is still a goal to be achieved and normalcy a dream being pursued. It is a harsh reality, but at this rate more blood will be shed and more tears will fall in this battle for control and the apprehension of the wanted Tivoli "president" Christopher 'Dudus' Coke. We can only hope that this will end shortly and that the city can once again bustle with life and that some good will come out of this battle between our security forces and the many criminal elements that grip our capital.

Sources: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Emergency! Kingston on Lock Down!

A road to Tivoli Gardens. Photo by David Madden

Immediately after the standoff between the Jamaica Government and the United States Government over the extradition of Christopher "Dudus" Coke ended, another standoff begun between the security forces and the determined supporters of the West Kingston area leader Dudus. After mounting pressure by the United States government, its justice department, and local bodies Bruce Golding on Monday bowed to the pressure and ordered the signing of the extradition order for the alleged drug kingpin Dudus. This immediately triggered an automatic defense move by Dudus loyals in the Tivoli community who mounter roadblocks cutting off entrances to the community and causing an early shutdown of businesses in the Kingston metropolitan area. However, that was juts the beginning of things to come!

The tension continued to grow as a arrest warrant was issued for Dudus and the security forces as well as countless Dudus supporters geared up for the arrest of the infamous area don. A precursor to the events that were about to unfold was seen when  a large contingent of women dressed in white marched as far as Gordon House in protest of the extradition and arrest order that was issued. The protesting Dudus supporters chanted that Dudus should be left alone as he is the provider and protector of the Tivoli Gardens and some adjoining communities. Some went as far as saying, "Jesus died for us, so we will die for Dudus". But things were still set to only get worse.

Tivoli Gardens, Kingston Jamaica. Photo by David Madden

The tense moment here in the city of Kingston and St. Andrew has grown even more over the past week and is at its worse so far. The Gleaner reported has reported that today, shots have been fired in the Tivoli community, a police officer in the Hannah Town community has been shot and injured and the Hannah Town police station has been attacked and set ablaze forcing the security forces there to abandon the building. These events and the increasing tension has resulted in the issue of a State of Emergency being called for the city of Kingston and St. Andrew, commencing at 6:00pm this evening! As the pursuit of the wanted Christopher "Dudus" Coke intensifies, the tension and resulting seemingly inevitable civil unrest and bloodshed seems more of a reality. As I type this post I can even hear the sounds of helicopters flying in the distance, a surreal confirmation of the reality gripping this city, this country.

Tivoli Gardens, Kingston Jamaica. Photo by David Madden

I hope this issue is resolved quickly with minimal blood, or miraculously no bloodshed. This country is already in a critical state and the instability and overseas perception arising from this situation will only further serve to plunge us into even deeper into our unfortunate predicament. In the mean time I will continue to follow the situation on the news and try to stay in the relative safety of my residence.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


Blue Mountains Jamaica

Last Sunday I made my very first trip to the Hollywell National Park in the Blue Mountains. Despite being born in Jamaica and living here for all of my life, I have never ventured to the cool lush Hollywell National Park. So when one of my fellow photographers invited me to go on a shoot with him up to Hollywell I jumped at this opportunity with no hesitation or reservation! The trip to Hollywell is not for the faint of heart, as the road is very narrow, with several break aways and is frequently patrolled by the huge Catherine's Peak trucks. However the beauty and cool temperature of Hollywell is well worth the adventure. The trip to Hollywell consisted of a few stops along the route do to shoots with the models, one at a small stream and the other at New Castle.

I didn't get to go exploring the tracks of the national park on this trip as we did arrive a bit late and our first half hour was spent in dense fog. However, I did manage to squeeze off a few photos at the spot where we spent our time. This visit however, has prompted my curiosity even more and I do plan to make another trip up there to fully explore its beauty, maybe be even an overnighter. I hope I can get a few models too to go with me so I can get some real creative portraits along with the landscape photos I want to take. After that next trip to Hollywell I am hoping to make that challenging climb to the peak! Here are a few photos I took at New Castle and Hollywell National Park. You can visit my flickr stream for the portraits.

New Castle Jamaica Defence Training Camp

New Castle Jamaica Defence Training Camp

Hollywell National Park

Hollywell National Park

Hollywell National Park

Hollywell National Park

Hollywell National Park

Hollywell National Park

Friday, May 07, 2010

My Photos Are In China!

Photo: Jamaica Trade and Invest (JTI) Click on the photo to enlarge.

In a recent post I mentioned that some of my photos were selected to be in the Jamaica Trade and Invest (JTI) photo collage at the World Trade Expo in Shanghai China. Well I finally got a photo of the collage that is currently being displayed for six months in China. I only see about four of the photos (circled in red) that I submitted, but it was good to know that my work has made the international scene. Also it is good to know that my work could be used to promote Jamaica. That's all I will really gain from it, as well as some form of credits for my work and some measure of recognition... I guess, since I am not getting paid for it.

However I was upset to see that they spelled my name incorrectly on the credits! I mean I know my name is unusual, but in a case like this you would think the organizers would ensure they have the correct spelling for the photographer's name! Also I notice, I may be wrong, but they credited someone else with a photo that appears to be mine (see photo with '?'). So my moment of photographic achievement has been marred by the oversight of these people who were in charge of putting together this collage. i expressed my disappointment to the contact person at JTI, who apologized and said she would see what can be done to rectify the situation, but I highly doubt anything can be done at this stage.

Now with this down, I am concentrating on the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JCDC) Festival Photography competition. I don't have any photos so far that I can consider a winner. However, the deadline is May 14, 2010 so I kinda have a little time. If I can't come up with a winning photo by near the deadline I will have to work with one in my catalogue and hope it will impress the judges. But I really do want to enter this year as I have never entered before and I want to exposure, recognition and of course some money! So hopefully I can submit a photo that the judges will like and select as winning photo.

Hey I just got an idea! (literally) Maybe you can help me select a photo, just in case I cannot come up with a winning concept! OK, here we go, just run through m photos on my flickr page at and tell me which photo you think is a winning photo. Looking forward to seeing your choices!

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Good Bye Air Jamaica

Photo By Levar Gardon

So as of the eve of April 30, 2010 the pride of the Jamaican sky, the Lovebird, the Jamaican national airline, Air Jamaica is no more. The government of Jamaica has once again succeeded in selling off another piece of Jamaica, another product of this country which defined it's individuality. I admit it has been a burden on the pockets of tax payers, but it is sad to see an icon of Jamaican nationalism go, and not just phased out but to be turned over into the hands of another country just as so many other local companies.

However I will not sit and lament on the shortcomings of the ones who instead of leading the country, are merely running it to the ground with their selfish, corrupt practices. Instead I will say a farewell to our national carrier and reminisce on the days when Jamaica had it's own pride in the sky, it's own name in the skies, it's own national airline. It was not always smooth going traveling with Air Jamaica, but it was our national carrier and as a somewhat patriotic Jamaican I always opted to fly Air Jamaica... even though most of the time it resulted in my cursing and ranting on my blog about their never ending delays (here, here, and here). Nevertheless, it had a great safety track record compared to other airlines, and that was a big encouragement to endure the lengthy delays that the average Air Jamaica customer had to endure. I will never forget though the in-flight meals which I enjoyed, maybe because I was so famished after their customary delays, the free headsets for the in-flight music and movies and of course the complementary champagne they used to offer... which they always mix with orange juice at my request.

Despite the protest of many Jamaicans, staff members and even the attempt of a pilot and staff conglomerate to buy the airline, it is now official that Caribbean Airlines has purchased our national carrier and Air Jamaica shall be no more. Within six months it will only be a faint memory and be replaced by the name and colours of the Trinidad based Caribbean Airlines. The employees of the former Air Jamaica have received their redundancy cheque, including a former coworker who left my department at what was Cable and Wireless Jamaica (now LIME) to work at Air Jamaica. I saw him at Mega Mart on Saturday and could only welcome him to the Unemployed Club and wish him all the best. My like hate relationship with Air Jamaica has come to an end. So I guess this is my farewell to the national carrier of the island of Jamaica, my farewell to Air Jamaica. Good by Air Jamaica, you will always be in our memories and in the hearts of so many Jamaicans here in Jamaica and abroad.