Sometimes Jamaicans can get a bit heated when discussing social and political issues however the BBC World Questions Kingston event proceeded smoothly.
The event, which was held at the Spanish Court Hotel’s Valencia Suites on January 15, hosted an audience of public officials, business owners, university students, and media professionals. In my opinion, this was the low point of the event as a more diverse audience would have allowed for a more balanced conversation.
The event is part of BBC’s roving public forum series on pressing socio-economic issues faced by global citizens in different parts of the world. The entire discussion was recorded live by the BBC so the local media in attendance were not permitted to record most of the proceedings.
There was a panel convened to discuss Jamaica’s future guided by a select number of questions solicited from the attendees and moderated by BBC’s Jonny Dymond. At intervals members of the audience were privileged to comment on issues raised.
The panel consisted of Minister of Foreign Affair and Foreign Trade, Kamina Johnson Smith, Poet Laureate of Jamaica Lorna Goodison,
Professor of International Business at the University of the West Indies, Alvin Wint, and former Minister of National Security and Opposition spokesperson on Industry, Commerce and Competitiveness, Peter Bunting.
Before the live taping of the panel discussion, we mingled over cocktails and appetizers while drafting questions for the panel.
The questions were vetted by the BBC team and 6 were chosen. The topics covered slavery and colonization, crime, reparations, the cannabis industry and Jamaica as a cultural superpower. However, in the interest of time, 2 questions were left unanswered. If time had allowed, I would have asked about China’s growing presence and investment in Jamaica and the supposed threat it poses to our nationhood.
The answers were balanced, for the most part. However, the highlight of the night was a heated debate between Peter Bunting and Kamina Johnson Smith when the issues of corruption and the Petrojam scandal were raised. Opposition Minister Peter Bunting, in his comments, highlighted the fact that the government has yet to meet with the Public Accounts Committee regarding the Auditor General’s report on Petrojam Limited.
In her response, Minister Kamina Johnson-Smith pointed out the fact that the Jamaican government took responsibility and implemented changes, for example, the resignation of the Energy Minister. She then challenged Bunting to comment on the controversial ‘lightbulb’ and ‘the Netserv scandal’ under the former administration. This challenge was met with murmurs from the audience and the host quickly moved to the next question.
I enjoyed hearing the panelists comment on the concerns raised by the audience. The host, BBC’s Johnny Dymond was very charismatic and kept the questions and conversations flowing while being humorous at the same time.
The event was properly planned and executed flawlessly by the BBC team, however, there were some attendees who expressed concern that the audience was not a fair representation of the Jamaican populace but rather a crop of the well-to-do and middle-income earners in the island. In response, Dymond explained that the event was heavily promoted on social media. Listen to the full programme on the BBC World Service website.
Take a listen and let us know if you think all the issues were addressed.