Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Jersey Overseas Aid Commission 2015 Projects







The Jersey Overseas Aid Commission launched its 2015 projects last night. I've always thought that Jersey's approach to overseas aid is an excellent one.

There's a line I always remember from "Goodbye Mr Chips" when Chips' wife Katherine admonishes him with the words - "You can't satisfy your conscience by writing a check for a few guineas and keeping them at arm's length."

That is something which JOAC never does, as the volunteers literally roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty in the projects. It's that element of direct contact which is important, both to keep a real link with those countries we are helping, and also the experience of being out in the field, helping other human beings, will impact positively on those who volunteer.

I saw that the projects were being launched, and contacted Senator Paul Routier, who very kindly let me have the details of the projects as listed below in advance of the launch, so I could prepare this blog (my blogs are usually prepared the night before).

The work of JOAC is on their website, and otherwise publicised, but I wanted to just ensure that it went to a wider audience still.

Beliefs

The Jersey Overseas Aid Commission has the following list of beliefs listed on their website:

· It is our moral duty to care about other people and to help them help themselves;

· It is our duty to our children and grandchildren to address issues of poverty which may in the long-term threaten global security;

· It is the States’ duty to meet existing international obligations. Jersey is a signatory to Agenda 21, www.un.org/esa/dsd/agenda21/, which is a comprehensive plan of action to be taken globally, nationally and locally by organisations of the United Nations System, Governments and Major Groups in every area in which human impacts on the enviroment, committing Jersey to moving to a target of overseas aid funding which is comparable with that of other nation states.

That the great need for overseas aid is illustrated by the following:-

· There are 1.7 billion people who continue to live in extreme poverty

· Over 925 million people were undernourished in 2010. This equates to 13.6% of the estimated world populationof 6.8 billion. Nearly all of the undernourished are in developing countries. Every 3.6 seconds one person dies of starvation. Usually it is a child under the age of 5.

· Some 40 million children are living without access to basic healthcare

· More than 30% of children in developing countries - about 600 million- live on less that USD 1 a day

· 10 million people aged 15-24 are infected with HIV

· Two thirds of the worlds 800 million illiterate adults aged 15 and over, are women

The Commission helps by both emergency funding towards help in disaster areas, and work on the ground.

Bangladesh 2015: Community Works Project

The aim of the Bangladesh 2015 project is to build additional classrooms, latrines, headmasters office and staff room at Little Stars Primary School in Muktaram Village which is in the Kurigram district in Northern Bangladesh. The Kurigram district has a population of approx. 2 million people, 17 rivers and its main crop is rice. This will be the third visit for a JOAC team. A team visited the school in April 2012 to help build classrooms and a team visited in 2013 to help construct a health clinic.

Zambia 2015: Community Works Project

The aim of the Zambia 2015 project is to build additional classrooms, latrines, and staff accommodation at Ng’andu Primary School in Mukuni Chiefdom of the Southern Province, Zambia. The school was opened in 1938 and although it has had some renovation work done it is one of the oldest in the area. Many of the children attending are orphans as a result of the high incidence of HIV/Aids in the area.

Uganda 2015: Community Works Project

The aim of the Uganda 2015 project is to build nursery classrooms, latrines, and staff accommodation at Sermon on the Mountain Primary School in Luweero, Uganda. A team of JOAC volunteers helped to build primary classrooms, admin offices and a kitchen block at this school in 2007.

Applications

Application forms are available to download from the website :
www.jerseyoverseasaid.org.je

Or by contacting Karen Nisbet on Tel 865801 or email knisbet.joac@hotmail.com.

Application forms will also be available at The States Greffe Book Shop, Mourier House, St Helier.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Looking After the Pennies










"Thousands of pounds of tax payers’ money is to be spent wining and dining States Members at a black tie dinner next week. Following years of cutbacks, tax rises and job losses across the Island, dozens of politicians and their partners - even those who are retiring or failed to get re-elected - will be treated to a night of fine food at Jersey’s luxury La Mare Wine Estate - all at the public’s expense." (Jersey Evening Post)

I have signed this petition, but this blog posting is a “disclaimer” as while I am in some sympathy with the petitioners, I nevertheless find a simple, black and white, good or bad, binary judgement to be too simplistic.

I would also note in passing that this event also took place in 2011, when there was also an economic downturn, and when GST was set to rise to 5%. The Jersey Evening Post took no stance then against this, no headline editorial, no thundering denunciation of any kind. Why has the mood changed? Is this a change in editor? Or is it that the JEP is moving its headlines more towards tabloid sensationalism?

Moreover, I do not object in principle to the idea of having some kind of celebratory meal to thank long term States members who are leaving the House. I do not think such an event should not happen.

I've signed it, but after much thought. I have no issue with giving long term States members a leaving "do", as after all that often happens at many companies, although usually it is a "go dutch" occasion except for the leaving member who have their meal paid for by the rest.

But quite a lot of companies usually pay for a Christmas "do" for their staff. The staff have to pay nothing (except extra drinks) for those; usually bottles of wine on the table are included.

Now such events do not usually include the spouse or partner of the members of staff, as that would bump up the cost significantly. Back in the 1980s, spouses and partners were normally invited, but increased costs in the private sector have largely curtailed these expenses. They have made economies, while still celebrating.

As Philip Ozouf has pointed out in his statement, some of those present are long serving, and receive no pension, and have served the States selflessly for many years. This is their “gold watch” meal. I think they deserve some kind of tribute to be paid to that.

But since we are into Tennerfest territory, a good sized Tennerfest meal for sitting States members, even at £20 (towards the top of the range) would only amount to £980, perhaps £1,500 inclusive of bottles of wine.

I could do them a disservice, and perhaps La Mare are doing a Tennerfest deal, but I doubt it, or we would have heard!

So it is not having a dinner, it is the level of expense - and including partners, and not going for a budget option, that concerns me more than anything. It is not a case that - as I would like to have seen - we will do this, but we must balance it with prudence because these are hard times.

Now as Sam Mezec has pointed out, in the grand scheme of things, £5,000 is not a huge sum of money. But he fails to see the significance of small things in the larger scheme, just as Marie Antoinette, in the apocryphal tale, failed to see that it wasn’t the cake that was important, it was the attitude that went with it.

It is, I believe, a shame that while still holding the event, no gesture had been made towards economy, That would have been a sensible “via media”, sending a signal that the States were both giving due respect to long serving States members, while at the same time showing the public that they too could make economies. It would send out the message “We share your world, and we have also cut our cloth to suit the times”.

It would be a symbolic gesture, but a gesture that would be worth making, none the less. As the maxim has it, “look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves.” I would have welcomed that kind of gesture.

And in that respect, Philip Ozouf has certainly taken the initiative in stating that he will be reimbursing the cost for himself and his partner to attend the function. He states that he does not expect any other people attending should feel the requirement to pay their way, which I think is quite right, but he has made that symbolic gesture, and it will be interesting to see if more members follow suit, or at least reimburse part of the cost.

Symbolic actions may not seem important to some, but I think that like Caesar crossing the Rubicon, their importance should not be underestimated. In times of economic stringency, the States should avoid anything which perhaps appears profligate, and might engender a politics of envy.


Postscript

Deputy John Young who unsuccessfully stood for "promotion" to the Senatorial benches said that the meal should go ahead, but that politicians and former politicians should put their hands in their pockets, not dump the bill on the taxpayer.

"I do not think that the event should be cancelled, but I do think that Members should pay for themselves," he said.

"I'd like to go to say goodbye to the people that I've worked with, but I shall be paying for myself and my wife. If they won't take it, I'll make an equivalent donation to charity. It's up to Members what they want to do, but I will certainly be communicating with them and saying that."

Monday, 20 October 2014

Old Faces in the States










Some people have commented on this election that it is the “same old faces” in the States. That’s not entirely true, as there has been an influx of new members since 2011 across the board, although only one Senator as a new States Member, two new Constables, and a smattering of new Deputies.

But it is very much the case that most of the faces in the States are old faces. The average age of the States member is 53 ½ years old, while the median age (with as many members below as above) is 55. The average is just that bit lower than the median because of a few younger members pulling it down.

If we look at age bands, we see a heavy bias towards the older age range, with most States members being over 50.

20-29: 2
30-39: 5
40-49: 3
50-59: 24
60-69: 15

In the UK, Andrew Marr has said recently that MPs should not enter the House of Commons until they reach the age of 40. While there are some under 40 in our States, it would appear that the electorate favours Marr’s suggestion.

The greatest range is the Deputies whose ages range from Sam Mezec at 23 at the lower end of the range to David Johnson at 68 at the upper reach.

Although the Senators have a much narrower age range than Deputies, the average is only slightly higher at 55, while the median is 52 ½, slightly lower. The breakdown by banding is given below:

40-49: 2
50-59: 3
60-69: 3

The Senators range from Philip Ozouf at 44 to Sir Philip Bailhache at 68.

And so we come to the “golden oldies”, the Constables, who are clearly in the older age ranges. It was difficult to track down Michael Paddock’s age, as he declined to give it. Fortunately for my statistics, his age 3 years ago did appear in the JEP questions to candidates in 2011, when he faced an election for the post of Constable of St Ouen.

The youngest Constable is Juliette Gallichan at 52 and the oldest is Sadie Rennard at 69. The median is 58 ½ while the average is 59 2/3. The banding is as follows:

50-59: 7
60-69: 5

So while it is not the same old faces, it is definitely the case that most States members fall into an older age bracket from upper middle age (50-59) to near pension age (or indeed perhaps pension age).

And what of the three members of Reform? Their ages are 23 (Sam Mezec), 35 (Montfort Tadier) and 64 (Geoff Southern).

Their average age is 41, while the median is 35.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

The Icon of St Brelade



















The piece for this Sunday is from an edition of the 1994 “Pilot” magazine, in which Michael Halliwell, Rector of St Brelade, gave a meditation on the icon of St Brelade, which you can still see if you visit the church today.

This icon is not to be confused with the modern set of paintings of icons done for all the Island’s Parish Churches, and pre-dates it.

On a personal note, I always prefer religious icons to statues. Statues are very static, whereas icons are replete with symbolism, and are not meant to be realistic depictions of the world, but to draw us into exploring the inner world by means of the outer.

The Icon of St Brelade
By Michael Halliwell

Our Church at St Brelade has recently been given an icon of its patron saint.. It is based. on a collage made, after much prayer, by a group of young Christians of our church, and was executed, also. after much prayer, .by Brother Anselm, a monk of Alton Abbey.

Icons are not very familiar to Western Christians; a special kind of Christian art, they perhaps can be likened to a poem. in a visual form, in which the believer writes the words. Inevitably icons will mean different things to different people,, but certain factors will strike the observer right at the outset.

In this icon, firstly we: see Brelade with his head back, looking over his shoulder to the Father, listening to his voice and doubtless affirming his desire to do his will.

Secondly we may note the cross, on his breast, affirming his trust in salvation through Christ.

Thirdly we see that there are steps leading off to the right, perhaps signifying the willingness of the saint to be led by the Spirit.of'God wherever he maybe called in his mission.

Fourthly we may note that he has taken off his shoes and hold them in his hand. Like Moses of old he stands on holy ground, sanctified .by prayers and containing a place of worship where especially, but not exclusively, he meets a holy God.

Who were these Celtic men and women and what motivated them as they travelled the seaways of Western Europe? They went firstly to seek God wherever they might find him. The monastery served -as.a powerhouse for their mission, and there the worship of God was .offered as a top priority. To be allowed to leave the monastery as a "pilgrim" was a very special privilege, and it required the spiritual discernment of the abbot to recognise the call. In this context Brelade, or Branwalader, was the first to bring the faith to these shores

What was their message?

When Patrick, who was actually a Scot, picked a clover leaf to explain to the Irish princesses the mystery of the Holy Trinity, he was not just propounding a formula, but touching on a real and deep mystery. The Celts were firmly trinitarian, holding the threeness and the oneness of the mighty God, thus perhaps enabling themselves to hold together other great truths which others might seek to oppose.

The first leaf stood for THE FATHER.

These people had a very great love and reverence for the Creator and his creation. They discerned his hand in all his handiwork. The hymn "How great thou art ..." echoes these sentiments. These Christians can teach our generation a new respect for the world in all its fragile beauty. They call us to fight pollution of all kinds, the exploitation of lands and people. They can teach us respect for human beings, made, as each one is, in the image of God. When the great monastery was built at Lastingham the brothers spent the 40 days of Lent fasting and praying to cleanse the site from its pagan associations, and. when they came to Jersey to the bay named after Branwalader and his companions, they will have prayed for the cleansing and healing of the land, turning over the standing stones and building a. house, of God on the site. One and possibly two such stones have been identified, buried horizontally under the foundations of the present church.

The second leaf stood for THE SON.

These Christians had a deep love and reverence for Jesus, by whom they knew themselves saved from the darkness of :the paganism which surrounded them.. Their whole lives were given to the establishment and deepening of their relationship with him. They had a constant awareness of the need to go apart, in a world that even then was overwhelmingly busy, to the lonely rocks and islands amongst which they lived, in order to hear him. From this flowed a deep desire to make him known, but this was no aggressive evangelism, no railroading of folk into the kingdom. On his journeys the great northern saint. Aidan would ask those whom he met "Are you a Christian??' If they answered "Yes, he would say "May I help you to become a better one?" If they replied "No;" he would say "May I help you to become one?" We could not find a better way for evangelisation in our day;

The third leaf stands for THE SPIRIT.

These Christians were noteworthy for their constant openness to the Holy Spirit - 'their advocate, guide; and strengthener. This leads to an awareness of God's desire to communicate, with them; which he did through dreams, prophecy, words of wisdom and knowledge. This alertness to the Spirit was not a special programme for a particular group of people, but the normal way of life of Christians who knew their entire dependence on God and his Holy Spirit. It is often recounted of them: that they would set ail in their tiny coracles and allow themselves to be driven wherever wind and tide may carry them! Perhaps they seem, to have succeeded because they waited for God's prompting before deciding on which tide to sail!:

In this spirit, they engaged in spiritual warfare, which would often mean silent contemplative prayer late into the night or in the early hours of the morning, holding up the world and its lostness to God. The Church badly needs more of such people today.

Because these Christians lived before the two great divisions which rent Christendom asunder, the great division of East and West in the 11th century, and the upheaval of the Reformation in the 16th, they tended to see many of these concerns in another, more primitive light, and perhaps they reveal .some of its agonisings as less relevant to the central thrust of the Gospel message than we are sometimes led to believe. 

In many ways they reveal, in their life and mission, a harmony and balance of the catholic, evangelical and charismatic elements in Christianity which our contemporary Church needs badly to recover if it is to speak with relevance to our generation.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Dark Shadows

Today's poem is a rather bleak one, rather despondent in many ways, for which I offer no apology. We have only to look out at today's world, and see the suffering, the cruelty, the evil, and see that sometimes life is dark, bleak, and without much hope, and the forces of darkness seem triumphant.

Dark Shadows

Shadows fall from Sauron's hand
In Minas Morgul, behind the gate
And darkness covering the land
Hope stifled by such fickle fate
 
The Nine Riders bringing fear
Night cries coming from above
Threatening all that we hold dear
All the Shire, and those we love
 
The Balrog comes in blazing fire
An evil left from Morgoth's day
Crushes hope, a creature dire
Leaves us bereft, in sad dismay
 
Yet we wait in hope for returning king
And an ending of that evil ring

Friday, 17 October 2014

A Walk Around La Pulente















One afternoon during the Easter holidays this year, Katalin and I decided to walk around La Pulente headland. It is at the extreme south of St Ouen's Bay, a jutting out rocky coast, with a path that leads around to Petit Port Bay. It's a lovely walk, with lots of wild flowers, and the bramble bushes are thick with blackberries in the Autumn.















There's a good view of La Rocco Tower from La Pulente. This was a Jersey Round Tower, built rather in the style of a rook in a chess set, and unusually not on the coast, but in the middle of St Ouen's Bay, with a circular protective wall. They were built under the Governorship of General Gordon Conway as part of a strategy to defend Jersey's coastline against attack by the French after the French revolution. It was completed in 1796 and named Gordon's Tower but the name never really took. Instead its popular name came from the large rock on which it is built.















As ever on the path, there are benches to sit, and often they are dedicated to the memory of individuals. This one contains the maxim "rest your body and refresh your spirit". In a world so full of haste, that is surely important to remember.

















This is not my photo, but Katalin and I have seen the odd glimpse of a green lizard at La Pulente. It is one of the places in Jersey where they can be found. The Jersey States website has this to say about them:

"Jersey is the only area in Britain where green lizards occur naturally. The species is amongst the largest in Europe with adult males reaching lengths of between 30 to 40cm (16 inches). Adult males are distinguished from the females by a larger head and a blue throat. The throat of a female green lizard is yellowish green. The breeding season takes place in April and May. Between 5 and 20 eggs are produced in June and July. The clutch is then hidden beneath vegetation or soil and warmed by the sun. The young emerge in September."




The coast goes round to Petit Port, a pleasant bay, with lots of rock pools at low tide. There used to be a well known restaurant called "The Sea Crest" owned by Julian Bernstein here, and I remember going once, and being struck by the waiter's very apposite name of Sergio Parmesan. The Sea Crest served good food, and I went there a few times.

It was also the place where the Nicholas and Elizabeth Newall were dining with their sons on the night that they were murdered. They vanished without trace, and it was not until much later that Roderick Newall confessed to their murder, and burying the bodies at Greve de L'Ecq with his brother's help.

Later the property was developed into flats, which is the white building that you can see by the nearest coast.




There is a path which takes you across the top of the headland, and there is La Sergente, probably one of the oldest Neolithic sites in Jersey. Katalin is pictured standing in the circular part, which would have been topped by a "beehive" structure of small stones.

We always like to visit this sacred site, whenever Katalin is in Jersey. Like many neolithic sites, it is built high up, so there are also good views of Corbiere lighthouse.
















The original excavation in 1923 found a large amount of rubble within that was probably the fallen remains of a corbelled, bee-hive shaped vault. The style is unique to the Channel Islands.

It is sited on open land west of Le Parcq de L'Oeillière, with a line of sight to La Table des Marthes.

Mark Patton noted that the corbelled vault required a rock such as schist, which fractures to give long, flat slabs, and in Jersey, the available rock was not suitable. Consequently, while La Sergenté is the earliest passage grave in Jersey, it collapsed soon after its construction, because of the unsuitable building materials available, and was not repeated elsewhere in the Islands."(Patton 1987a).















There are some rather nice steps back down to the coast, and back to where I had parked the car. The best way to visit La Pulente is to go round, then up, visit the dolmen, and down the other side. Then you descend to some wonderful views of St Ouen's Bay.


I have, I notice, forgotten to mention the rather impressive German bunker on the headland, and it can be seen in the background of this very nice photograph of Katalin holding a small wild flower.


Thursday, 16 October 2014

Nick Le Cornu Holds Seat














You are probably thinking that I’ve got that wrong. After all, the election results are as follows:

Judy Martin, 946, Russell Labey 811, Scott Wickenden 476, and Nick losing with 311.

JEP last night:

“Deputy Nick Le Cornu becomes one of the briefest-serving States Members after losing his seat in the Chamber, just eight months after being elected in a by-election. He may have paid the price for a controversial Tweet about St Peter Deputy Kristina Moore, which saw him sacked from the Reform Jersey party”

And the Bailiwick Express said recently.

“The hustings are over, the campaigns are drawing to an end, it can only mean one thing - some of Jersey's £46,000 per year politicians will wake up tomorrow morning as States Members for the very last time...”

In fact, this is not the case. The States of Jersey Law tells us this:

(1) Senators and Deputies shall be elected for a term of 4 years.
(2) Notwithstanding the term of office stated in paragraph (1), a Senator or Deputy shall retire on his or her place being filled by an ordinary election.
(3) The places of Senators and Deputies are filled upon the persons elected at the ordinary elections taking the oath of their office.
4) This Article is subject to Article 6A.

And Article 6A says:

(1) There shall be held, in the period of 7 days beginning on 15th October 2011 –
(a) an ordinary election to elect 4 Senators, for a term expiring upon the persons elected as Senators at the ordinary election in October 2014 taking the oath of their office;
(b) an ordinary election to elect Deputies, for a term expiring upon the persons elected as Deputies at the ordinary election in October 2014 taking the oath of their office.

This means that Nick Le Cornu will hold onto his seat until the new States members take their oath of office in early November.

So legally he does still hold his seat….. for a few weeks, anyway!

In 2011 when the States continued with the old House debating the budget.

But as far as I am aware, the States will not be sitting after the election, so he will never be taking his seat in the House again.