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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Was CARIFORUM wise in rushing into a 'full' EPA?

By Norman Girvan

Recent news on the stalemate in the EPA negotiations in Southern Africa raises fresh questions about the wisdom of CARIFORUM countries in rushing to sign on to a ‘full’ EPA with Europe in October 2008.

According to an article in one of the region’s leading newspapers, the EPA negotiations with SADC -- the Southern Africa Development Community -- are unlikely to meet the latest deadline for conclusion at the end of 2010.

Norman Girvan is Professorial Research Fellow at the UWI Graduate Institute of International Relations at the University of the West Indies in St Augustine, Trinidad 
That will make three years since the expiry of the original deadline of December 31, 2007 for conclusion of a trade agreement to rake the place of the Lome/Cotonou arrangements. We in the Caribbean had been told that this deadline was cast in stone.

One of the main sticking points in the EU-SADC negotiations is EU insistence that “new generation issues” be included in the EPA, even though this is not required under WTO rules. New generation issues include investment, government procurement, competition policy and expansion of intellectual property rights and of trade in services.

The article quotes Namibia’s Director of International Trade as saying that “if we agree to EU demands on new generation issues we would be opening up our economies to very serious problems”. Two major concerns mentioned are the restriction of the right of SADC nations to pursue their own development strategies and the undermining of their regional integration schemes.

Inclusion of these issues was one of the controversial features of the Caribbean’s EPA. Critics had argued that more time was needed to consider the implications of the EPA for development and regional integration.

SADC has apparently also forced the EU to concede ground on its demands for a ‘Most Favoured Nation (MFN) Clause’ whose effect would be to hinder South-South cooperation. The MFN clause was bitterly opposed by CARIFORUM, but the position of European negotiators was ‘take it or leave it’.

Now it seems the Caribbean might have won that battle had they made common cause with the Africans.

CARIFORUM negotiators have always argued that being the first to conclude a ‘full’ EPA with Europe would be an advantage in securing additional development assistance and enhanced access to EU service markets.

It is an open secret, however, that implementation of the EPA by most CARIFORUM countries is well behind schedule because of the onerous legislative, regulatory and administrative obligations and the limited financial means of many countries.

Nearly three years after the conclusion of negotiations, some reassessment of the Caribbean strategy may be necessary; comparing the Caribbean and African experiences.

In addition, the fall-out from the global economic crisis has devastated the financial resources of EU states, which must impact their aid budgets.

And how accessible will European service markets really be, with slow economic recovery and rising unemployment in Europe?

October 30, 2010


Saturday, October 30, 2010

Jaundiced voters all over send politicians messages

Keeble McFarlane

The severe economic crunch of the past few years has left millions of people from Athens to Atlanta in deep financial distress and frightened about the dismal prospects they face. The result has been a miasma of frustration, confusion and unfocused anger which is having an unsettling effect in the political sphere. In short, voters are feeling like the central character in the mid-1970s movie, Network: "Mad as hell and not going to take it anymore!"

Australians voted in June after the then-governing party, Labor, suffered a palace coup. Its leader, Kevin Rudd, had fallen out of public favour and the party held a convention, dumped him and replaced him with his deputy, Julia Gillard, who then called an election. Disenchanted voters rewarded them with Australia's first hung parliament in 70 years. Both Labor and a coalition of the Liberal and National parties each won 72 seats in the 150-seat House of Representatives. That's four seats short of what's required for a majority government. The balance of power now lies with two minority party members and four independents. Labor retained power by gaining the support of four cross-benchers.

The next month, grumpy British voters trekked to the polls and denied the ruling Labour Party a fourth term in office. The party, which had had an extraordinarily successful run under the telegenic Tony Blair, was now run by his very competent but totally underwhelming finance minister, Gordon Brown. He was one of the architects of the efforts by the G8 and G20 to use government stimulus to buffer the worst effects of recession but citizens were not happy about the sluggish response of the economy and the huge debts and deficits piling up. So they gave the traditional Labour and Conservative parties less than enthusiastic support but opened up to the traditional outsiders, the Liberal Democrats.

No party had a majority, so rounds of feverish negotiations began and the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats fashioned a workable deal. David Cameron of the Conservatives became prime minister and he appointed Nick Clegg of the Liberal Democrats as his deputy, while bringing several members of Clegg's party into his Cabinet. They immediately began slimming down the government, social programmes and the armed forces.

Voters are in a cantankerous mood even in well-off Sweden, one of the few countries in the world running a surplus in its national budget. The country is one of the models of the welfare state, paid for, it must be noted, by high taxes. This framework was built by the Social Democratic party, which has formed the government for 65 of the past 78 years and has never before lost two elections in a row. Well, even though they had allied themselves with the relatively new Green Party, they lost the election last month to a centre-right coalition which formed the last government under Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt.

The Social Democrats have lost their magic touch to the Swedes of today, who are more focused on the economy and question their country's generosity to outsiders, like the flood of refugees escaping the misery of war in Iraq. The election brought the spotlight on the Sweden Democrats, a xenophobic, anti-immigrant group some describe as racist, which managed to pick up 20 seats and for the first time gain a foothold in the national Parliament.

Just this week, voters in Canada's largest city, Toronto, displayed their anger. A man who runs a lucrative label-printing business with his two brothers accurately captured the dyspeptic voters' mood and ran with it to a very convincing victory for the mayor's chain of office. Rob Ford, the wealthy man who nevertheless personifies Joe Lunch Pail, ran on the mantra Stop the Gravy Train. Ford had been a city councillor for 10 years and always boasted that he never touched the discretionary allowance every councillor gets to help run their constituencies. He constantly criticised his fellow councillors for their spending as well as attacking such practices as having people on staff to water the plants in the multi-storey City Hall.

Newspapers had a field day digging up his record of bad behaviour, such as calling a fellow councillor "a waste of skin" and another of Italian origin the derogatory "Gino-boy"; verbally abusing fellow spectators at a sports arena and being busted for drunken driving and possessing ganja while on a visit to Miami. But the voters liked his simple message which he stuck to during a very disciplined and focused campaign and forgave him for being himself.

What resonated was his focus on the lack of respect for taxpayers' money and taxpayers themselves displayed by councillors and city staff even as taxes and levies kept going up. In his acceptance speech on Monday night, Ford summed up his approach: "The party with taxpayers' money is over!" Of course, the real task now begins, as this lone wolf former councillor who never made any alliances even with like-minded colleagues will now have to learn to work with others and forge alliances in order to wield his cost-cutting cutlass.

Perhaps the most grumpy voters around are those in the United States, and they vote on Tuesday in what the Americans call the off-year elections. They will choose a new House of Representatives, one-third of the Senate, one-third of the state governors and a host of state, county and city officials as well as numerous referendums.

Much of the frustration and anger is focused on President Barack Obama and his fellow Democrats. A movement taking its cue from a protest in formative years of the nation's history has been making noise from one end of the US to the other. It calls itself the Tea Party and masquerades as a grass-roots movement but most of its supporters are well-off older white men. They clamour for a return to the past, but their detractors point out that the past was one in which discrimination was the order of the day against people who were poor or black, or both. There's considerable overlap between members of the Tea Party activists and the Republican Party, but the mainstream party has an uneasy relationship with the Tea Partiers, some of whom come out with the most ludicrous of suggestions.

Underlying all the dyspepsia and frustration, the bleating about socialism and freedom from big government are real problems: the hollowing out of the country's mighty industrial base, the atrocious behaviour of the big financial institutions causing millions of people to lose their houses and way of life and the growing realisation that, as happened to Britain a half-century ago, their country is losing its pre-eminent place in the world.

Tuesday's vote will significantly change the political picture in Washington, with Republicans regaining control of one, and possibly both, houses of Congress. Then the US will be right back where it was halfway through Bill Clinton's first term, when the leader of the House Republicans, Newt Gingrich, brought the business of government to a grinding halt. Then the fun began.

October 30, 2010


Friday, October 29, 2010

Sex, scandal and society

Barbara Gloudon

THERE'S nothing we love more than a juicy scandal. Bring it on, especially if politics and politicians are in the mix-up and blenda. Our adrenalin gets going when the talk turns to corruption and any kinda ruption, which can prove what we believe -- that politics and politricks walk hand in hand. A recent survey says corruption is diminishing a bit, but let's see before we break out the champagne.

Up North, the three-letter word (S-E-X) is part of the scandal equation not only for errant politicians but for sports persons and entertainment superstars. There's nothing to boost ratings in the media like news of a headliner caught with pants down. (Remember President Clinton and Monica Lewinsky?) Efforts to take the US economy out of its tailspin paled in significance to the lurid coverage of Tiger Woods' dalliance.

Now that he's handed over a hefty chunk of his fortune to his ex-wife and is fighting a slump in his golf game, interest in him has waned considerably. He is not the first US hero to crumble under the crushing weight of a sex scandal. It's happened before and will happen again, so long as women are drawn by the aphrodisiac of fame, athletic physiques, and the possibility of a pay-off.

The groupie phenomenon is prevalent in the entertainment world but somehow, if we're to go by reports, entertainers do not seem to crash as spectacularly as sporting heroes. In our territory (the Caribbean), we are not as concerned about the romantic life of our superstars, not even when they mistreat women. Sadly, very often their staunchest defenders, willing to forgive, are women... The boys pretty much do what they want, thanks to the culture of — "Man haffe do wha a man haffe do — yuh nuh". The word for the boys: "If you can afford it, go for it. Nutten wrong wid gal inna bungle."

On the occasions when we do get a glimpse of the dark side of a hero, we don't quite know what to make of it. The recent exposé by England's notorious SUN tabloid of the alleged boudoir exploits of our Number One name-brand runner-boy, may have excited comment Up There but has barely evoked a whisper Down Here. In some quarters, there seems to be nothing but admiration among "the boys" for our young hero's achievement of having two hot young women fighting over him and the drama played out in the media.

The claim of one of the women that she has received text messages to participate in...shall we say, group activities... is definitely TMI — Too Much Information — for some, but not everyone. I met one person who responded, "All that stuff about threesomes and foursomes, who can prove that he really said it? Who knows if the girl is telling the truth?" Another view was, "So what? If he can manage it, why should anybody be concerned?" Then there are the many variations on the theme: "Youthful exuberance, that is all it is. What do you expect of a 24-year-old, with all that money and all that fame?" Not surprisingly, the foregoing responses came from men. One woman's response was, "I don't believe he would do that."

Should it matter really what this young man or any of our other young achievers do with their private time? Why shouldn't an athlete, an entertainer or anyone else who has attained success, be free to enjoy the benefits of their efforts in whatever permutations they choose? So long as no laws are being broken, should the rest of the community have any right to pass judgement on their private conduct? Not everyone is comfortable with that. What about moral values, role model and all that? Shouldn't we expect a certain level of conduct from people whom we hold up as icons?

Let's face it — arguments based on morality don't get very far here. Check the debates on lewd lyrics, slackness in dancehall and in the electronic media. A popular response is that people should be allowed to do what they want to do. "Leave us alone, thank you, please". That is for everybody except the politicians. So far nobody seems interested in their sex life. We leave that to those Up North. But back to the super-heroes, should they care if we find out what they do when the lights are turned off?

They need to be reminded that it doesn't take much for the cheers to stop. It is not such a long way from today's super-hero to tomorrow's "super-who"? The feeling is that we should not be too hard on "the youths". It's not such an easy thing to go overnight from pickney looking a lunch money and a bus fare, to platinum-card millionaire. It seems almost ungracious to warn about the potholes which can develop along the way.

Since Beijing, many of our young athletes have gained worldwide fame, and with it, healthy financial returns. They have become our new standard-bearers representing the best of JA. We've proclaimed them to be our Brand Jamaica. Should we expect any more of them? For the most part, they have been doing so well. Perhaps it is time for a little word of caution, however, that juvenile over-indulgence is to be avoided at all costs, especially too much information on bedroom olympics.

MR CLINTON CAME TO TOWN: Billed as an evening of intellectual challenge, it could not escape, however, being another high society event. It's the times! How could a former President of the United States of America come to town and we didn't play dress-up and nibble on gourmet delicacies? (Never mind that he spoke about poverty.)

The promoters apparently had their own reason for confining it to a high-end audience with an entrance fee of J$13,000 for regulars and US$1,000 for VIPs, I'm told. That was guaranteed to exclude those who wrestle every day with the soaring cost of chicken and flour. Corporate sponsorship more than took care of both the Bill and the bill. Not surprisingly, the event was an overwhelming success, fully sold out.

Feedback is that some thought the speech was the best thing since sliced bread. Others said they'd heard it all before. Some asked, why did it have to take a visitor (no matter how presidential) to make us sit up and listen to what we've been told often before (for example, urgency of solar energy) but haven't been interested enough to hear? Most said just to be in Bill Clinton's presence was worth it all.

DIS-COVER-UP: Did you see the disguises of the new millionaire winners in the Lotto Jackpot advertisement this week? Talk about Halloween! There's no limit to which some people will go to keep friends and relatives from beggie-beggie!... SING ON, COOL RULER... Gregory Isaacs moves on to the Ultimate Engagement. Another page is turned... The vintage list is getting shorter.

October 29, 2010


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Human smuggling in the US and the Caribbean: A vile and dangerous trade

By Rebecca Theodore

Given the clandestine but booming nature of human smuggling operations in the US and the Caribbean and the enormous social and economic problems that accompany unrestrained immigration, it becomes necessary to understand the context and the factors from whence they evolve.

While human smuggling is considered a covert, illicit activity, it must be seen that the flourishing business of people smuggling in the US and the Caribbean is not only to be understood in the context of globalization and migration or the push and pull factors of escaping poverty, natural disaster, seeking opportunities abroad, economic marginalization for women or conflict and persecution, but also from a combination of weak legislation and lax border controls, to corrupt immigration officials and the power of organized crime. The smuggling of human beings across international borders is growing rapidly and is now a multimillion-dollar activity that is global in scope.

Rebecca Theodore was born on the north coast of the Caribbean island of Dominica and resides in Toronto, Canada. A national security and political columnist, she holds a BA and MA in Philosophy. She can be reached at rebethd@aim.comIf national security is a protection of a way of life compatible with the needs and genuine interests of others and includes freedom from military attack or coercion, freedom from internal sedition and freedom from the erosion of political, social and economical values, then defending a country’s borders is one of the top responsibilities of any government to its citizens. Tensions over the issue of human smuggling reaching a crescendo, now call for regional co-operation and intelligence sharing between US and Caribbean officials to counter the new and sophisticated criminal threat that is rapidly eroding the borders of the US and the Caribbean.

On the correct supposition that security is one the foremost important social service that a government can deliver to its people, America’s failure to do so is not only dangerous, but is now regarded as a sign of weakness around the world; for to surrender a 60-mile stretch of Interstate 8 between Phoenix, Arizona, and San Diego to drug gangs is analogous to going ashore at Normandy on the 6th June 1944 and driving around sightseeing and leaving the enemy the opportunity, flexibility and iniative to attack you when they want.

Edward Luttwak, counterterrorism expert with the Pentagon’s National Security Study Group, says the tri-border is “the most important base for Hezbollah outside Lebanon itself”, proving that terrorist groups such as Hezbollah are now working with drug cartels and the business of human smuggling continues through Central America and across the border without much difficulty. The discovery of tunnels equipped with lights, air-conditioning and railroad tracks, and semi-submersible vessels that evade radar between Tijuana and San Diego not only brings billion dollars worth of drugs into the US, but is the route used by the cartels to smuggle people and begs the question how important is border security and whether it should be taken seriously and also confirms that America has simply lost control of miles of its borderland.

In the Caribbean, Trinidad and Tobago is the most active country of origin and transit point for regional and extra-regional irregular migration to North America and Europe. Information garnered by authorities in the US and the UK have now resulted in Trinidad and Tobago being placed on a Tier Two Listing by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the US Department of State.

The infant government of Kamla Persaud-Bissessar should be particularly concerned about the vulnerability of its borders to transnational organized crime networks and the risk of being exploited by terrorists and its own immigration officials, as the country is not only one of transit and destination, but the growing evidence of the abuse of immigration stamps, issuance of birth certificates, bribery and government passports to foreign nationals, should provoke immediate actions into tabling legislation to deal with the problem of human smuggling.

On this note, if Trinidad and Tobago is to achieve its declared aim of becoming a developed society by the year 2020 and maintain its reputation as the most prosperous country in the Caribbean with the highest level of direct foreign investment and an expanding tourist industry, then the very creed of national security, and all its code of ethics of the public service will be ceaselessly undermined by the corruption of its own immigration officers and some of its notorious elites, as many who are smuggled also belong to the educated middle class from India, the Philippines, and Nigeria and the pattern proceeds like an aggressive cancer as far north to Wisconsin, Alaska, and Canada thus making human smuggling a reality.

In this regard, The Palermo Protocols are also open to scrutiny because, while the trafficking protocol establishes a useful framework for intervention in the enhancement of human rights protection for trafficked persons, implementing measures to provide for the psychological, and social recovery, including cooperation with NGOs, provision of housing, counseling, material assistance, and employment and training opportunities, by contrast, the smuggling protocol contains minimal reference to the protection needs of smuggled persons.

The preamble to the smuggling protocol does not set out the need to provide migrants with humane treatment and full protection of their rights because they have no rights. There are no provisions regarding medical, psychological, or social recovery, as human smuggling is deemed the procurement for material gain, of the illegal entry of someone into a state of which they are neither citizen nor resident, a meeting of the minds and a contract between the smuggled and the smuggler and a criminal activity.

But if one takes the perceptions of the smuggling protocol seriously then, in that context, anyone can participate directly or indirectly in sustaining the trade in humans by turning a blind eye to the injustices they suffer in domestic servitude, forced labor, torture, rape, and all those who at the time of this writing are presently living in hostage-like conditions in drop houses in Canada and the US until their debts are paid.

For this reason, I believe that the smuggling protocol is oxymoronic and duplicitous because if equality is fundamental to democracy, then the protocol tramples upon the very value that it tends to uphold and obscures more than it illuminates because the lives of humans are not mere digits and cannot continue to go by unnoticed. Smuggled people are living, breathing individuals who committed a crime and should be dealt with accordingly by the authorities.

It is therefore imperative to reassess human smuggling and the smuggling protocol in the US and the Caribbean both as a necessary sense of urgency and a calculated framework that guides overall planning. The open hostility and slave-like conditions that smuggled immigrants are presently facing and the authenticity it lends to hecklers abroad, constitute a great danger to our continued existence as a civilized people and political system.

October 26, 2010


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Nassau - NP - The Bahamas: The City of New Providence

The City of New Providence
by Simon

Nassau is often used as a shortcut or synecdoche for New Providence. There is a logic and history behind this: For most of its history the majority of its residents lived in the City of Nassau and its immediate environs. Understandably, they more easily identified with the town in which they lived rather than the expanse beyond the actual and imagined town-limits.

We call residents of Nassau, Nassuvians. Yet, unlike Abaconians, Cat Islanders and Inaguans, what is the demonym for those of us who live at New Providence?

During the 20th century the population of Nassau climbed significantly through a combination of high birth rates among Bahamians and an influx of immigrants from Haiti who also tended to have high birth rates. The influx of Family Islanders also boosted the capital island’s numbers.

Beginning around the middle of the last century, the mutual forces of majority rule and black economic empowerment ignited an urban expansion. With considerable rapidity, the majority of the island’s population shifted beyond Nassau.

Urbanization has engendered many benefits as well as significant challenges for New Providence. These varied challenges include ongoing infrastructural needs in the areas of housing, ground transportation networks, public services and facilities, and reliable utilities, among others.

There are also a complex of sociological challenges including increased crime and violence, social alienation by some and the changing nature of social networks such as neighbourhoods. The environmental and health challenges related to urbanization are also significant.

What we are continuing to get our hands and collective imagination around are a broad variety of interrelated challenges cum master questions. The questions have been provoked by the transition from the City of Nassau to the City of New Providence, a geographical reality and an idea that is coming of age. To face the challenges of urban development, design and renewal, we have to think and plan in terms of an extended city.


A fitting metaphor for this transition is those motorists on New Providence’s roads who drive at a pace more appropriate to some of our more leisurely Family Islands. We can extend the metaphor to those who recklessly go way beyond the speed limit.

Our task is to get the speed and tempo of New Providence right, maintaining much of an island flavour and the capital island’s historic identity while embracing necessary change. In this urban adventure we might borrow a question from I.M. Pei, one of the masters of modern architecture: “Can we make the past serve the present?”

The journey from Carmichael to Saunder’s Beach may now take as little as 15 minutes courtesy of the new road corridor connecting north to south. Many residents from the eastern end of the island commute daily to jobs on the western end and vice versa.

This road network is one of many networks, which, over several decades resulted in New Providence developing into a highly integrated city. This integration will continue to intensify. It will do so in ways not immediately expected.

Even as more of their grandparents and parents retire to the Family Islands, a younger generation of Bahamians, excited about city living, will imagine, design and build the City of New Providence.

Their enthusiasm will extend to Nassau, Over-the-Hill and areas such as Chippingham and the Fort Hill. They will be joined by Bahamians returning home, who, after living abroad, often in cities, may find city living in Nassau more to their taste.

All of these city enthusiasts will not only play and recreate in downtown Nassau’s hotspots, restaurants and other entertainment venues. They will also begin to live in apartments, condos and cooperatives in historic Nassau and its environs.

Imagine, a group of young Bahamian professionals investing in a cooperative housing development somewhere in historic Nassau and its environs. Of course, this gentrification will be driven by more than a passion for city living. It will also be driven by economics, by supply and demand.

As prices continue to climb for suburban property and the amount of that land decreases, younger Bahamians will look to available land in unexpected areas. This will carry over to long-term investments, with younger Bahamians buying real estate in currently lower income areas of New Providence. Over time a number of these areas will be redeveloped.


As we only have so much land at New Providence, we will have to think creatively about how it is developed over time. Critical to that development is the use of urban design to respond to two long-term challenges: crime and urban poverty.

Of course, these challenges will require a myriad of responses from economic empowerment to education. But, the way we refashion and redesign New Providence will make an enormous difference.

Take for example the idea of community gardens. Not only do they provide open green spaces, they also have the potential to renew community life while providing young people opportunities for positive alternative activities.

What if, for example, the government made available to a community association part of the large track of land east of Market Street where City Market once had a store?

The idea would be to use the allocated space as a community garden, where residents from Grant’s Town and Bain Town might grow vegetables and other produce for their own consumption and possibly for sale. Students form C.R. Walker may also be granted some space for that school’s agricultural programme.

Similarly, space for community gardens throughout New Providence may have various beneficial effects. So might land set aside for the development of community centres. These centres would host a variety of functions, including space for the development of local government councils and community development associations.


The centres may also host a broad variety of activities related to the arts, youth development, health and well-being, after-school homework and mentoring programmes and parenting classes, among others.

Of course, all of the aforementioned would have to be properly conceptualized and managed. But if we are interested in genuine urban development and community renewal the way we build will help to determine what we build in terms of community life and a shared future.

Our multifaceted approach to crime and violence will have to include preventing such crime, including through various social programmes and alternative sentencing avenues. These programmes need space in our urban landscape, both imaginative and physical.

Despite the number of gated communities we have built, crime has not abated, and we all remain at risk even in some of the supposedly securer areas of New Providence. In that light, in addition to our protective fortresses, we may consider also using open spaces and community gathering places as crime prevention measures.

The contours of the new City of New Providence are emerging. It will include a blend of historic Nassau and the concept of town centres built during a previous administration of Prime Minister Ingraham. It will also include the unprecedented infrastructural investment undertaken by the current Ingraham administration.

As importantly, it will include the reimagining of New Providence by its residents inclusive of various community-based groups, artists and businesses, all working to fashion at New Providence a city with an outstanding quality of life. If we work hard at it, that quality of life will make New Providence one of the more liveable, coolest, funkiest, and safest cities in the Caribbean.


Monday, October 25, 2010

OAS/Caricom Challenges in Haiti

Facing up to broken aid promises and interferences in Nov 28 poll

LAST Wednesday's (October 20) annual Eric Williams Memorial Lecture, delivered in Miami, Florida, by Jamaica's former Prime Minister PJ Patterson, would have served to further underscore the urgent need for the international community to cut the talk and walk the walk in delivering pledged reconstruction aid for earthquake-ravaged Haiti.

Questions raised among the hundreds in attendance for the lecture pointed to the horrors of life for the people of Haiti, the "mother of freedom in this hemisphere".

Hopefully, the concerns expressed at the event would also serve as a reminder why both the Caribbean Community and the Organisation of American States should speak boldly to the reconstruction aid problem, among other things.

There is also the dangerous politicking that has already led to the unilateral exclusion of some 14 parties from contesting the upcoming November 28 presidential and parliamentary elections.

Before returning to the aid and political problems affecting Haiti, readers should know that the topic for this year's lecture was "The Renaissance of Haiti: A Template for Caribbean Integration".

It was organised by The Eric Williams Memorial Lecture Collection (EWMC), headed by Erica Williams-Connell, daughter of the late historian prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago who led the country into independence and headed governments over a quarter century until his death in office in 1981.

Patterson's assessment

Patterson, known for his deep commitment to regional integration, was chosen as the Caribbean Community's special envoy for Haiti in the wake of last January's unprecedented earthquake disaster.

He knows only too well about the prevailing "words game" over the distressing gap between aid pledges by donors and lack of deliveries in the face of immense suffering of Haitian earthquake victims, and in general the entire population of Haiti. In the circumstances, Patterson was the perfect choice for this year's Eric Williams Memorial Lecture.

He is well aware of the influence of Williams' pan-Caribbean vision that had significantly contributed to the inauguration of the Caribbean Community at Chaguaramas in 1973; and why today's 37-year-old Caricom must remain firmly committed to being a strong voice in the mobilisation of international support for the reconstruction of Haiti.

With respect to the current challenges facing the Haitian people and what functions as their "government" amid the ruins and squalor in Port-au-Prince, it may be useful for the region's public to learn of Patterson's latest assessment as Caricom's special envoy on Haiti.

Two critical issues

It is certainly time that the secretariats of Caricom and the OAS communicate with the region's public, either separately, or through a joint statement, their own concerns over the two very critical, agonising problems affecting the Haitian people -- one economic, the other political.

Desperately struggling to survive amid choking poverty long before their country was devastated by an unprecedented earthquake disaster, Haitians are today anxious to know why it is taking so long -- nine months after their worst natural disaster - for just US $732 million of the promised US$5.03 billion in "reconstruction aid and debt relief" to trickle down to them.

Of particular concern is, why has the administration of President Barack Obama, which had committed itself to an initial US$1.15 billion of the original US$5.03 billion, not yet delivered even a portion of its pledge?

Both United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, and former President Bill Clinton, the UN special envoy to Haiti, continue to openly lament the failures to honour aid pledges in the face of the horrible daily problems of Haitians, who languish in tents where criminality, sickness, hunger and a loss of dignity for many remain a way of life.

The second, and related question, is why are donor nations, among them the USA and Canada, yet to condemn the arbitrary exclusion by Haiti's Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) of candidates from 14 political parties?

Among the parties is Haiti's largest and most popular Fanmi Lavalas, whose founder-leader, ex-President Bertrand Aristide, remains in exile. What would justify this most strange action by the Electoral Council?

With presidential and legislative elections just about six weeks away, there needs to be a proper explanation from the Council, a constitutional and supposedly independent body, which is being funded by the international community to ensure free and fair elections in the interest of democratic governance.

That's why neither the OAS nor Caricom can fail to share their positions on the sensitive issues of lack of aid delivery and the arbitrary exclusion by the CEP of more than a dozen parties from contesting the forthcoming elections.

After all, both Caricom and the OAS have teamed up to monitor the conduct of the Novermber 28 elections.

October 24, 2010


Saturday, October 23, 2010

Baha Mar agreement/Labor issue: China putting the squeeze on The Bahamas; Your country may be next...

China putting the squeeze on The Bahamas; Your country may be next...
By Anthony L. Hall

The Bahamas is having a precedent-setting dispute with China over a development agreement that calls for Chinese men to comprise the vast majority of workers on a $2.5 billion project (Baha Mar) that China is funding.

(FYI: Baha Mar is to comprise six hotels with approximately 3,500 rooms and condominiums, a 100,000-sq-ft casino, 200,000-sq-ft of convention space, twenty acres of beach and water parks, an 18-hole golf course, and a 60,000-sq-ft retail village. Just what the already overdeveloped island of New Providence needs...)

Anthony L. Hall is a descendant of the Turks & Caicos Islands, international lawyer and political consultant - headquartered in Washington DC - who publishes his own weblog, The iPINIONS Journal, at offering commentaries on current events from a Caribbean perspective 
Specifically, China is demanding that this small Caribbean nation issue permits for 8,150 foreign workers, which would amount to 71% of the labor force needed for this project; notwithstanding that The Bahamas is teeming with unemployed men (and women) who are willing and able to do the work.

Of course, for over a decade now, China has been buying up influence throughout the Caribbean to enable it to exercise its economic, political, and, perhaps, even military power to further its national interests without question... let alone challenge. And nothing demonstrated its modus operandi in this respect quite like the way it allegedly bribed (or attempted to bribe) every nation in the region to sever ties with Taiwan: almost all of them, including The Bahamas, duly complied.

But the leaders of every one of these nations knew, or should have known, that, sooner or later, China would seek to use its influence in ways that were inimical to their national interests. And, lest anyone thinks I’m making too much of this, here’s the alarm I felt compelled to sound (again) earlier this year -- in a February 19 commentary entitled World beware: China calling in (loan-sharking) debts. In this case, China was having a dispute with the most powerful nation on earth, the United States, over its relationship, not with Taiwan or any other country, but with a powerless Buddhist monk, the Dalai Lama:

“This episode should serve as a warning to all countries around the world that are not just lapping up China’s largesse, but are heralding it as a more worthy superpower than the United States. Because if the Chinese can spit such imperious and vindictive fire at the US over a relatively insignificant matter like [President Obama] meeting the Dalai Lama, just imagine what they would do to a less powerful country in a dispute over a truly significant matter.

“I anticipated that the Chinese would be every bit as arrogant in the use of their power as the Americans. But I never thought they would use it for such a petty cause. In point of fact here, in part, is how I admonished countries in the Caribbean and Latin America in this respect almost five years ago [in a February 22, 2005 commentary entitled “China buying political dominion”]:

‘What happens if China decides that it is in its strategic national interest to convert the container ports, factories, and chemical plants it has funded throughout the Caribbean into dual military and commercial use? Would these governments comply? Would they have any real choice? And when they do comply, would the US then blockade that island -- the way it blockaded Cuba during the missile crisis? Now, consider China making such strategic moves in Latin America where its purportedly benign Yuan diplomacy dwarfs its Caribbean operations. This new Cold War could then turn very hot indeed...’

“It clearly does not bode well that China has no compunctions about drawing moral and political equivalence between its beef with the US over the Dalai Lama and the US’s beef with it over internet espionage, unfair trade practices, and support for indicted war criminals like President Bashir of Sudan. Because irrational resentment in a regional menace like North Korea is one thing; in a global power like China it’s quite another.”

This brings me back to the dilemma in which The Bahamas now finds itself. To his credit, though, Bahamian Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham seems determined not to sell out his own people quite as blithely as The Bahamas sold out the Taiwanese. For here’s the defiant note he sounded only this week:

"We told the China State Construction Engineering Corporation from the first time we saw them more than a year ago that it was not possible to have that number of foreign workers on a job site with the Bahamian content being so low. Nothing has changed. We've been telling them that for more than a year. It appears that some people either don't take us seriously or they apparently think that we are so desperate that we will do whatever we are asked to do. But our strength is not weakened." (The Nassau Guardian, October 20, 2010)

As we used to say in the schoolyard, “them is fighting words”. It’s just too bad that Ingraham’s principled stand is being undermined by media speculation in The Bahamas that he’s taking it, not to further the interests of the Bahamian people, but to preserve the veritable tourism monopoly now being enjoyed by another foreign developer, Kerzner International.

Never mind that Kerzner’s Atlantis resort happens to be the country’s largest private employer; or that the Baha Mar agreement is fraught with all kinds of other provisions that make a mockery of The Bahamas’s national interests.

More to the point, whatever personal benefits Ingraham may derive from his evidently cozy relationship with Kerzner, there’s no gainsaying the principle at issue; namely, that no matter the developer or financier, the percentage of local to foreign workers on all development projects should be at least 70:30; i.e., in favor of local workers, not the other way around.

It would be one thing if this untenable percentage of foreign workers that China is attempting to impose were limited to the construction period. But we Caribbean natives are now painfully aware that developers have enjoyed such adhesive leverage in negotiations with our government officials that provisions allowing them to stack permanent staff positions with mostly foreign workers as well have become rather boiler plate.

This is why Ingraham’s challenge to China is so precedent setting. And, as the title to this commentary indicates, it behooves all leaders in our region to support, and be prepared to emulate, the stand he’s taking: for together we stand, divided we fall.

In fact, since this is now a very public dispute, I urge regional leaders to publish an open letter of support to show solidarity with Ingraham when he addresses this labor issue with Chinese officials later this month, in China no less...

Finally, to those who may have thought that China would be a more benign hegemon than the US, I offer yet another instructive cliché: better the devil you know than the devil you don’t...

October 22, 2010


Friday, October 22, 2010

Bahamas 2010 Census: The Bahamas' population has increased by 16.48 percent over the past decade

Guardian Staff Reporter

The population of The Bahamas has increased by 16.48 percent over the past decade compared to 19 percent growth during the 1990 to 2000 period, according to preliminary results coming out of the 2010 Census.

Statistics show that the country's population went from 303,611 in 2000 to 353,658 in 2010.

Director of Statistics Kelsie Dorsett revealed yesterday that growth declines in the main population centers-New Providence and Grand Bahama-played a significant role on the slowing of the country's population growth rate.

New Providence saw an increase of roughly 28 percent during the period of 1990 to 2000, but recorded only an 18 percent increase over the last decade.

The island's population currently stands at 248,948 compared to the previous decade's population of 210,832.

Grand Bahama dropped from a 15 percent increase in the previous census period to a 10 percent increase between 2000-2010.

"Even though these two islands still account for a substantial percentage of the population, the growth on these islands has slowed significantly,"Dorsett said.

According to the statistics director, the greatest population decline was found on Cat Island, which recorded a nine percent decrease.

San Salvador saw a major change in its population, going from over a 100 percent increase in the 1990s to a four percent decline over the past ten years.

The director said she believes that significant turnaround is due to the closing of the Club Med resort on that island.

"During the decade of 1990 to 2000 Club Med was up and running, hence all the auxillary services like car rentals, restaurants, etc., and it opened opportunities for people to have businesses and attracted people there. But with the closing, that meant that many people were no longer employed and they sought work elsewhere,"Dorsett said.

Exuma's population has more than doubled in the past decade.

The island's population grew from 3,571 in 2000 to 7,314 in 2010.

Dorsett attributes this population boom to the opening of the new Emerald Bay Sandals resort, among other developments on the island.

She said the trends in Exuma and San Salvador clearly demonstrate the role that economic development plays in population growth.

Acklins and Abaco also saw noteable increases in their populations.

According to Dorsette, statisticians worked painstakingly to ensure the accuracy of the numbers; however, the numbers are still subject to change because of several factors.

The numbers were tallied by hand, and do not yet include necessary adjustments.

"We as statisticians have adjustments to make, because unfortunately there are people out there who do not cooperate, and there are people who may have been away for the entire exercise,"she explained.

"The second and hopefully final round[of counting]will be done electronically when we have actually processed all of the data."

Dorsett said statisticians are currently in the process of coding the data, and no additional details will be available until the entire process is done.

Once the extensive and arduous coding process is done, the director said, information on population by age group, occupation, industry, religion, country of birth, country of citizenship, etc., will be made available.

The director said that the department's goal is to have all the information available within a year at the earliest.

"We will be very far ahead of previous years if we can get it all done within a year. We have set high goals for ourselves and we are hoping that within a year's time we will have all this done,"said Dorsett.



Thursday, October 21, 2010

University of the West Indies (UWI) and PhDs

UWI and PhDs
By Oliver Mills

It was reported in the Jamaica Gleaner newspaper of October 14, 2010, that professor Paget Henry of Brown University in the United States, who is Antiguan born, stated that it is critical for the UWI to graduate more PhDs to teach students at degree granting colleges that are emerging throughout the Caribbean.

The professor stated that the areas should be Caribbean history, sociology, political science, economics, literature and the arts. He added that this self knowledge could only come from artists and scholars trained at the UWI.

Oliver Mills is a former lecturer in education at the University of the West Indies Mona Campus. He holds an M.Ed degree. from Dalhousie University in Canada and an MA from the University of London. He has published numerous articles in human resource development and management, as well as chapters in five books on education and human resource management and has presented professional papers in education at Oxford University in the UK and at Rand Africaans University in South Africa.But what is the professor really suggesting? Is he intimating that these emerging degree granting institutions lack sufficiently well qualified lecturers in these areas? Again, is he saying that a masters degree or a post graduate specialist diploma are insufficient to teach at the level of these degree granting institutions? Or, is he stating that the UWI needs to, and is not graduating sufficient PhD students, and therefore needs to increase the completion and graduation rates of PhD students?

On the surface, this suggestion appears quite straight forward, but on close examination it is highly complex, as well as quite revealing concerning not only what is being done, but what should be done. It also implies that the degree granting institutions have sufficient persons with masters degrees, but what is now badly needed is more people with PhD qualifications. This is far from being the case, since many degree granting institutions do not have every staff member with a masters qualification, even though many may be working towards achieving this credential.

The further factor is that many degree granting institutions in the Caribbean only offer first degrees. Very few offer masters qualifications, unless it is done in collaboration with institutions within or outside the Caribbean. So what seems to be initially required, is to improve the quality of the first degree, so that it articulates with the higher requirements of other institutions abroad, particularly for persons pursuing higher studies. This is very important, since many students from some Caribbean institutions who go to schools in the United States, often have to either repeat the first degree, do make up courses, or spend an additional year, and score a particular grade, before they are accepted into the programme of their choice, even if their first degree is in the particular area.

I know personally of a Caribbean student who went to a North American institution with an upper second class honours degree in library science, but was told that her course concentration was insufficient to gain direct entry. She had to do a number of undergraduate courses over the period of a year, before her first degree was recognized as equivalent to that offered by this institution. The issue seemed to be that since the first degree in the Caribbean took three years, the degree at the foreign institution was a four year programme. After completing the additional year, the Caribbean student was allowed to enter the masters programme in library science. It means that some Caribbean institutions have to examine their first degrees in terms of equivalency with that of other institutions. We live in a global society that is highly competitive and connected, and so we need our institutions to offer qualifications that are accepted globally, and not just in the island where they are, or in the region.

There are also cases where Caribbean students with masters degrees who have applied to certain North American institutions to doctoral work in the area of their masters, were required by the institution they had applied to, to redo their masters programme, because it was not regarded as being at the level acceptable by that institution. Even in a certain European university, students with a first degree from their home institution who applied to do a masters programme were told they had first to do a post graduate diploma in the area with a “B” average, before they could be accepted, and those with masters who wanted to do a doctorate were told they had to do either the M.Phil. first, or do one year of this programme, and present an acceptable research paper of a particular quality, before being considered for a doctoral programme.

The whole issue here, is that before we can talk of graduating more PhDs, we in the Caribbean have first to critically and systematically look at our first degree and masters programmes in terms of global equivalency, so that when our students apply abroad to other institutions, they would not have to spend additional time and money repeating what they thought they already had in the bag. Degree granting colleges in the Caribbean therefore need to buck up, and look not only at the commercial aspect of their programmes, but their international currency. An important feature of their programmes should be what the student, after pursuing a course of studies is capable of doing. Does the programme fit appropriately with the job market and requirement of the wider society? And, does the programme ensure that the student would have acquired entrepreneurial knowledge and skills to not only qualify for a job, but to create and innovate new products and services to the benefit of the economy and society?

When the professor used the term ‘graduating more PhDs’ it gives the impression of the UWI being a factory, which churns out products, where, irrespective of quality control, still come out with certain defects, such as the student not being equipped with the right match of performance skills, along with not being educated with respect to how to transfer knowledge fit for purpose. It is not simply a matter of graduating more PhDs, but giving students a quality education reflected in a PhD. This means that supervisors of students must be highly credentialed, and must have published widely in local, regional and international journals. It also means that the work produced must be either highly original, or there is a creative reinterpretation of work already in the market, providing a new and different perspective, which not only adds further weight to the area, but gives it a new and transformative applicability. It is not a rehash, or a commentary.

Furthermore, when professor Henry says that the areas should be Caribbean history, the social sciences, literature and the arts, and adds that self-knowledge could only come from artists and scholars trained at the UWI, he misses the point and purpose of education completely. Education aims at a transfiguration of the human personality through the quality of the subject areas. It seeks to create thinkers, open-mindedness, and a cultured and humane people. What the professor does not say is how these areas would meet the criteria just suggested. He seems to be saying that more PhDs should be awarded in these areas. But why these, as opposed to others? Is this a reflection of his bias for these areas? Of the PhDs awarded in these areas, how have they helped the Caribbean economy and society? Have they given the emerging degree granting institutions further status and pull, with respect to students’ interest and competence? What about management studies? How many persons who have already done a PhD in any of the areas mentioned by the professor, have opted to work at these institutions?

When the professor further mentions that self-knowledge can only come from artists and scholars trained at the UWI, he fails to realize that self-knowledge is personal, based on the interactions of the individual with society, how he or she interprets these, and the responses that are given. You do not acquire self-knowledge from others. It is an individual, psychological thing that emerges from our transactions within the environment and not from entities external to us who bestow it on us. Artists and scholars can provide insights, based on their own analysis, but they cannot infuse self-knowledge into us. Self-knowledge is authentic to us. To also say these have to be trained at the UWI, is the ultimate fallacy. Any genuine institution anywhere which exposes us to the best that has be thought and taught, qualifies to facilitate the development of our intuitions, but not award us self-knowledge as the professor seems to think.

I am sure after further reflection, the professor would enhance his perspective on the issues he has promulgated, and arrive at a conclusion that is more rational, informed, and objective.

October 21, 2010


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) needs two justices, including a president

CCJ needs two justices, including a president
by Oscar Ramjeet

The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) has been in operation for five-and-a-half years as a final appellate court, with only three countries on board, and already it is on the hunt for a new president and another judge, and one has already retired.

Guyanese Duke Pollard reached the age of 75 and went into retirement after being given a three-year extension.

Oscar Ramjeet is an attorney at law who practices extensively throughout the wider CaribbeanPresident Michael De La Bastide, who celebrated his 73rd birthday on July 18 this year, will go into retirement mid-next year and the CCJ has already placed advertisements in the region’s media inviting applicants who have served as a judge for five years or more in a court of unlimited jurisdiction in civil and criminal matters in the region, the Commonwealth or in a civil law jurisdiction.

Applicants are also being encouraged from persons who have been engaged as a practitioner or teacher of law for not less than 15 years in a member state of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) or in some part of the Commonwealth or in a civil law jurisdiction.

The CCJ notes that the tenure of the president is for a "non renewable term of seven years or until age 72, whichever is earlier.”

The lone female judge in the regional court, Desiree Bernard, will be 72, and if she does not get an extension, the CCJ will have to get a replacement and the question is if the Regional Judicial and Legal Services Commission will look for another female to fill the slot held by Justice Bernard who had several firsts -- the first solicitor to be appointed a judge, the first female to be appointed a judge in Guyana, first female to be an appellate court judge, also chief justice, and the first woman to be head of the judiciary in the Caribbean when she was named Chancellor of the Judiciary in Guyana more than a decade ago.

The regional court has the most modern technology in several areas -- for video conferencing, research, and even presentation in court -- and it is very unfortunate that after such a relatively long time only three countries have joined the court. It seems to me that the other countries have breached their agreement with the Caribbean Development Bank since they agreed to go on board within a reasonable time.

Although most of the countries have not abolished appeals to the Privy Council, so that the CCJ can be their final appellate court, the CCJ can still determine their issues in its original jurisdiction.

I am surprised and disappointed with Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago because these two countries were in the forefront in the late 1980s and early 1990s towards the setting up of the court. I recall the attorneys general of these two countries, Oswald Harding of Jamaica, and Selwyn Richardson (now deceased) of Trinidad and Tobago, were moving around the region lobbying governments to join the CCJ, and it is unfortunate those two countries have not yet done so.

Trinidad and Tobago’s new prime minister, Kamla Persad Bissessar, said that she will seek a referendum from the electorate before doing so. This is a bit baffling because it was the UNC administration under Basdeo Panday which was pushing for the court -- hence the reason why the court is located in Port of Spain.

Former Commonwealth Secretary General, Sir Shridath Ramphal, who has been advocating Caribbean integration for five decades, said in an interview with me that, if the CCJ collapses, the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) will fail.

Ramphal joined with four other eminent CARICOM nationals, former Jamaica prime minister, PJ Patterson; former CARICOM secretary general, Alister McIntyre; Dominica's president, Nicholas Liverpool; and University of the West Indies Vice Chancellor Sir George Alleyne, all recipients of the Order of the Caribbean Community (OCC), the highest award in the region, in calling on the other regional governments to rid themselves of the Privy Council and join the appellate jurisdiction of the CCJ.

The latest call for the other regional governments to join the CCJ came this week from another distinguished Caribbean jurist, Patrick Robertson, president of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, who said that the regional governments should have abolished appeals to the Privy Council since the day they became independent states.

So far, only Guyana, Barbados, and Belize have abolished appeals to the Privy Council. Let’s hope that the others will soon come on board.

October 19, 2010


Monday, October 18, 2010

Chile mine rescue exposes precarious working conditions

By Rafael Azul

The collapse of the San Jose gold and copper mine that trapped 33 miners for 10 weeks 2,300 feet below ground has focused attention on the safety of operations at Chilean mines.

Over the past 30 years, the mining industry, which accounts for 40 percent of Chile’s gross domestic product, has profited from the high price of copper, gold and other commodities while keeping costs low by neglecting safety and accelerating the exploitation of its mining workforce.

Before the mine collapse, the San Jose mine was a relatively small underground operation, which extracted gold and copper. Annual revenues at the mine exceeded US$20 million. As a result of the latest collapse, the San Sebastian Group, which operates San Jose, filed for bankruptcy in September. This move places a question mark over the company’s ability to provide the compensation it has promised to the trapped miners, plus back wages owed to the other 300 workers at the mine.

In fact, the San Sebastian Group is demanding that the Chilean government first unfreeze US$10 million in assets as a condition for compensating the miners, effectively holding hostage the compensation owed the workers in its dispute with the government.

News reports indicate that the miners and their families are suing the mine owners and the Chilean government for US$27 million over conditions in the mine. Brunilda Gonzalez, mayor of the town of Caldera, located near the mine, reported that the miners and their families are “furious” that the San Jose mine was reopened in May 2008 with no improvements in safety following the death of a mine geologist in 2007.

The reopening of the mine, with no improvements to safety, was justified then as a response to increasing Chinese demand for copper and gold. Under these conditions, both the government of then president Michelle Bachelet, and the San Sebastian Group management, concluded that the lives of miners were a small price to pay relative to the expectation of high profits.

While mining in Chile is generally dangerous, this mine in particular has a history of mining accidents that have killed and injured workers. In 2004, the miners union petitioned for the closure of the mine over its dismal safety record. The petition was driven by the death of miner Pedro Gonzalez from a rock fall. The union’s demand was denied by a Chilean appeals court. In 2007, before the closure of the mine, workers at the mine once again petitioned for its closure, following the death of three miners. Once again, the petition was denied by the courts.

Earlier this year, in July, falling rocks at San Jose severely injured a miner, Gino Cortez, whose leg had to be amputated. Cortez maintained that elementary safety measures, such as installing a safety wire mesh on the roof of the mine to prevent rocks from falling, were never undertaken. While the 33 miners were waiting to be rescued at San Jose, another worker was killed by falling rocks at a separate mine.

The San Jose mine incident exemplifies what has happened to mine safety in Chile since the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. Under Pinochet, in the name of regulation and free market capitalism, virtually all safety regulations were dismantled. A key player in that process was current president Sebastian Pinera’s older brother, Jose Pinera, minister of labor in 1980. Jose Pinera was tasked with creating a labor code that would not interfere with big business profits. In the name of a more flexible labor code that would stimulate economic growth, he abolished labor rights that had been won through decades of bitter struggle by the Chilean working class.

The labor code established in 1980 continues to be the law of the land in Chile today. As a result, fully 50 percent of Chile’s working class has no stable employment. At least five of the 33 miners rescued from San Jose fall under this category.

In line with this policy, which ignores mine safety and denies workers their basic rights, a succession of “Concertación” governments, in which the Socialist Party has shared power with the Christian Democracy since the end of the dictatorship, the Chilean government has yet to ratify the International Labor Organization’s 1995 agreement on mine health and safety. Convention 176 commits mining nations such as Peru, Mexico and Chile to undertake a modicum of health and safety measures and to commit themselves to the elimination of mine deaths by creating a national policy on health and safety, which includes regular inspections as well as provisions to protect miners from retaliation from exposing violations.

The latter is a real problem in Chile, where workers are routinely sacked for complaining about their working conditions. Despite the inadequacy of the ILO agreement, only 24 countries have ratified it. In additional to Chile, the ILO agreement has been ignored by other major mining nations such as Australia, Canada and Russia.

Since the turn of the century, some 350 miners have died from mine accidents in Chile, a number that may well be an underestimation. According to Dick Blin, a spokesman for the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers’ Unions (ICEM), worldwide some 12,000 miners die every year, well above official figures. The under-reporting of mine fatalities is most glaring at small mines, such as the one at San Jose.

In a radio interview, Marco Canales, president of the Chilean Labor Federation (CUT), pointed out that the labor rules that were implemented in 1980 by Jose Pinero are still in effect. Canales said that the country lacks minimal mining regulations. He pointed out that health and safety violations are also rampant in agriculture, where workers are subjected to dangerous chemicals.

Even in cases where regulations exist, they are poorly enforced and when a violation is discovered, mine management often finds it cheaper to pay fines than to fix the problem. This applies as well to mine violations that result in injuries or deaths. Canales also pointed out that there is insufficient training for miners. Two of the 33 miners rescued at San Jose had been recently hired with no mining experience.

At the same time that the CUT denounces conditions in mining and other industries, it is silent about its own role. Over the last 20 years the CUT has been fully integrated into the structure of the Chilean state and as such has been largely incapable of bringing about the repeal of Pinochet’s labor laws.

In 2008, as the effects of the global financial crisis were affecting the price of copper and bringing about increasing unemployment, the CUT channeled working class anger into the blind alley of one-day protests, making it possible for the Chilean government to attack education and pension rights and to block increases in the minimum wage. Unemployment in Chile exceeds 8.5 percent, with a 20 percent jobless rate for young workers.

Such conditions make many Chilean workers highly skeptical of assurances by the Chilean government that changes will be implemented.

18 October 2010

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Commonwealth: No slippage from upholding human rights

By Sir Ronald Sanders

The following is an excerpt from a speech delivered by me to an Economic Forum at the Guildhall in the City of London held by the Commonwealth Business Council.

A British newspaper carried a story on October 10 suggesting that the Commonwealth Secretariat had abandoned its commitment to defending human rights. The newspaper based this story on a "leaked document" in which Commonwealth Secretary General Kamalesh Sharma is alleged to have told his staff it is not their job to speak out against abuses by the 54 member states.

The Secretariat responded publicly by saying: "There is no memo directing staff not to respond to reports of human rights abuses. There was an options paper for discussion among senior managers about how we could strengthen our human rights pronouncements and encourage the buy-in of member governments to address concerns."

Despite the Secretariat's firm statement, the story was picked up by a section of the media in Australia and has been the subject of a lively e-mail discourse among many people who are deeply concerned about the image and substance of the Commonwealth.

This question of human rights in the Commonwealth and the role of the secretary general have occupied the attention of the Eminent Persons Group (EPG) of which I am a member, as we fulfil a mandate from Heads of Government to produce a report that would strengthen the Commonwealth and make it fit for purpose in the decades to come.

The EPG has focused some attention on the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG), which was established to protect Commonwealth values and principles and to take action against member states that indulged in serious or persistent violations of them.

Like many others throughout the Commonwealth, the EPG has been concerned that, thus far, CMAG has acted only when there has been an unconstitutional overthrow of a government, but has not dealt with other serious or persistent violations of other declared core values of the Commonwealth.

The EPG would like to see further empowerment of CMAG to take up the full gamut of its remit.

We are aware that CMAG has been reviewing its own work and that it has developed a position, but in considering our own view of CMAG, while we will take CMAG's review into account, we will not consider ourselves bound by it.

As people outside the day-to-day interplay between governments, we feel we can bring a level of distance and independence to the scope of the work that CMAG should be undertaking, and we can suggest objective criteria by which its scrutiny of a member state should be triggered.

We regard the secretary general's "good offices" role as equally important in relation to violations of Commonwealth declared principles.

Prevention is better than cure.

But we recognise that this role is under-resourced and requires not only wider machinery to alert the secretary general to potential problems, but also a mechanism that goes beyond government permission, to set the machinery in motion.

In other words, action by the secretary general to employ his 'good offices' role to correct infractions of the Commonwealth core values should be undertaken within member states automatically and should not have to await the agreement of the government concerned.

However, there needs to be a clear understanding of what we mean by 'human rights'.

In the Commonwealth, there are some organisations palpably more concerned with the wretchedness of the weak under despotic national regimes than they are with the degradation of the poor under inequitable international structures.

'Human rights' for these organisations means the former, not the latter.

But human rights in the Commonwealth must embrace both, and do so with equal passion.

The Commonwealth must see its commitment to the universality of human rights as including strong opposition to the denial of civil and political rights anywhere in the Commonwealth.

The Commonwealth will lose its credibility if it abstained on such human rights denials or was thought to be indifferent to their emergence within its member countries.

In this regard, we will likely recommend that, as the chief executive officer of the Commonwealth Secretariat, the secretary general should immediately speak up publicly when there are serious violations of the Commonwealth's core values.

In making this recommendation, we will not be breaking new ground; we will simply be reiterating and reinforcing a principle long established.

The issue that clouds a clear Commonwealth posture on this matter is that of 'interference in internal affairs'.

But there is a difference between meddling and taking an honourable stand, and the latter must not be avoided where human rights violations are so gross or systemic that the line against 'meddling' has been crossed.

The Commonwealth confronted this issue over South Africa as early as 1960, and very specifically over Idi Amin and Uganda in 1977. In the latter case, even the UN Human Rights Commission stalled in condemning the Amin Regime on arguments about 'interfering in internal affairs'.

At the 1977 Commonwealth Summit, the Commonwealth was strong in its condemnation. After the Commonwealth had condemned Amin, the UN HRC followed suit.

I think it is true to say that all of the members of the EPG are convinced that the Commonwealth's business as much as business in the Commonwealth will be conducted in much larger measure and with far greater economic benefits if human rights, in the widest meaning of the term, are respected and upheld throughout its member states.

And let me say with no fear of contradiction that Secretary General Kamalesh Sharma shares this view with the EPG.

We are convinced that problems of poverty, inadequate health and sanitation, education and infrastructural development are most effectively and sustainably addressed within a framework of democracy and good governance.

Upholding human rights in the broadest understanding of this term must remain central to the Commonwealth's activities.

Responses and previous commentaries at:

Sir Ronald Sanders is a consultant and former Caribbean diplomat.

October 17, 2010


Saturday, October 16, 2010

Kamla and the Caricom serpent, Brady fights back, OCG, red mud


Caricom does not want Jamaicans to move freely in the islands.They don't want our homophobia, idle, lewd and violent conduct. We do not like it, why should they? The EU Directive on free movement to the UK landed in 2004 and by 2006 EU citizens were flocking to London. Trinis, Lucians, Bajans, etc, will move freely in Caricom - not us. As a group we are feared! Even the big US and UK can't cope with our offal, and to our chagrin they deport us daily! Caricom works well as friend, coordinator - CCJ, negotiations and "fluffy" things - not growth.

Caricom is becoming a beggar brand - lots of chat, jobs for old boys, no help for our economy or poverty. The core market is small, distant, and as we have half its people and debt we can sink it! Do the maths. We are a big market for them, they are a small market for us. Will the advocates say how CSME will help us? Can we entrust CSME with our economic future? No! We know little of CSME. Will chairman Bruce publish the accounts now? Caricom is not transparent - there's no freedom of information and CSME is flawed. What works in Europe may not work here. Caricom needs a "root and branch" review of all operations, structures, governance and the 1962 and 1973 premises which underpin it. We need to see figures before we cough up more money. We invested 38 years and billions. Where has the money gone?

What's with Minister Tufton and the JMA? Why lobby PM Kamla Persad-Bissessar to make Trinis pay 10 times what they now pay for energy so JMA can export there? What if Kamla asked Bruce to put up the water bill so she can sell us some? The iniquitous light bills we hate, we want Kamla to lay on Trinis! This would raise energy and all other prices for Trinis! A wicked, grudgeful, badminded and stupid act; she must raise prices for her people so we can make a profit! The real politics of poverty - we won't rise to the challenge, so we try to bring Trinis down to suffer with us - voila, we are equal! Is this unity? Friendship? No! We must stop whingeing. Get productivity up, costs down, or lobby Bruce to forgo the same revenue that Kamla forgoes to give her people a break. They see our true colours! Screw Trinis so we can get ahead - I weep for CSME! Scotland gets benefits from its North Sea gas. No UK or EU member protests. It's their gas. Scottish patriots even want to cut ties so they can get the full benefit for their people. Will T&T leave CSME? With friends like us they need no enemies! Tufton and the JMA must lobby the US and UK to raise energy prices for their citizens; tell China to pay workers a living wage so we can compete with them? "Duppy know who to frighten!" Kamla, as a UWI graduate, educator and lawyer, please "run dem bwoy" and let them know "Jancro chrisen 'im pickney firs'!" Selah!

The Maastricht treaty in 1992 took the EU to its present state. CSME will introduce EU-type controls by stealth, but it does not have the frisson of contiguous states, unity in war or wealth to make it work. EU law is superior to its members' laws via the issue of Regulations - binding and applicable with no variation; Directives - the local law must be changed in a given time and its Court of Justice - rulings are binding on individuals and countries. We had the CCJ, now the Council of Ambassadors; we are getting there.

Last week saw Directives to the UK that all EU citizens must have equal rights to housing, health care, employment and benefits in the UK as UK citizens. This will cost UK taxpayers a bomb and new Directives arrive every day. France is told not to deport Roma (gypsies) despite their disruptive behaviour! Can you imagine CSME ordering us not to deport Haitians or to give them free housing and other benefits? Or direct T&T to raise fuel prices to its citizens so Jamaicans can profit? Riot and revolution! CSME is taking supra national control by stealth and we must stop them. CSME is good politics but bad economics. The EU Directive on caged birds in the UK means farmers must buy new "enriched cages" by 2012 to give hens more space - a multi-million pound sterling investment. English eggs will cost more and they can do nothing. CSME must not be allowed to restrict, impair, pre-empt, limit, dictate or control any aspect of our economy. It is a power trip and a trough of foreign loans and grants. What is our share of Caricom debt? Will Governor Wynter tell us? More anon. My Caricom whistleblower is fearful. CSME's agenda is control, not growth. Does it have top business brains as Gordon Shirley's? No! We must vet the new secretary general; if a businessman, we have hope; an international or local civil servant and its politics! Our economic future still lies with our Greater Antilles neighbours whose markets are close and 10 times larger than Caricom's.

OCG: The "politics plot" to erode the OCG's credibility is being played out slowly but relentlessly. I admire the DPP, yet she gave comfort to the plotters by being triumphalist rather than demure and professional. Tufton and his PS know better. The wrongheaded media think it's a contest. Their duties are different. OCG proposes and the DPP decides if the three "horse-taring man dem" with big lawyers should be jailed! Can you tell your bank you made a "genuine mistake" when you get papers, discuss them and sign them under oath with a JP? Wow! Boys, put on your "dunce cap" and sit in the corner!

BRADY: The Brady letter says who met Bruce, when, where, the brief, the money part and who told whom to hide the role of government. Brady is a heavyweight and can win but he will settle and save their skins! At least we know the truth.

RED MUD. I hope ODPEM is in Hungary to help and learn from the spill of bauxite offal. This toxic soup destroyed villages, killed people, spread its poison and they are now detoxing all tributaries into the Danube. The CEO of Mal Zrt, the bauxite firm, was also arrested. What a "prekeh"! Are there lessons for us? Stay conscious!

Dr Franklin Johnston is an international project manager with Teape-Johnston Consultants currently on assignment in the UK.

October 15, 2010


Friday, October 15, 2010

My annual Columbus Day tribute

By Anthony L Hall

In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue. When he landed he must’ve thought, phew. But where he landed, he hardly knew….

Of course, he thought he had landed in “the Indies”; so, in typical European (imperial) fashion, he named the (Caribbean) natives he met (er, I’m sorry, “discovered”) ashore “Indians”. The rest, as we say, is HIStory.

Anthony L. Hall is a descendant of the Turks & Caicos Islands, international lawyer and political consultant - headquartered in Washington DC - who publishes his own weblog, The iPINIONS Journal, at offering commentaries on current events from a Caribbean perspective“They would make fine servants … With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want.” (Medieval Sourcebook)

This entry from Columbus’s own journal shows what he intended to do from the outset with the hospitable and unsuspecting Tainos who greeted him upon his arrival. It’s only one of the many reasons why eminent historians are finally beginning to cast a critical, if not accusatory, eye at the hagiography his voyages have enjoyed throughout history.

Here, for example, is how Howard Zinn frames this corrected version of history in A People’s History of the United States 1492-Present:

“To emphasize the heroism of Columbus and his successors as navigators and discoverers, and to de-emphasize their genocide, is not a technical necessity but an ideological choice. It serves -- unwittingly -- to justify what was done… The easy acceptance of atrocities as a deplorable but necessary price to pay for progress (Hiroshima and Vietnam, to save Western civilization; Kronstadt and Hungary, to save socialism; nuclear proliferation, to save us all) -- that is still with us.”

All the same, Americans have been celebrating Columbus Day for centuries. Yet it wasn’t until 1971 that the US Congress declared the second Monday in October a federal holiday in honor of this sea-faring Italian.

Many other countries throughout the Americas, most notably here in the Caribbean, mark a similar holiday in his name. But a few of us just consider him a glorified pirate -- with apologies to Blackbeard … and to Captain Jack Sparrow.

October 15, 2010


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The vulnerability of small states in the Commonwealth Caribbean

By Ian Francis

The vulnerability of small Caribbean states was first raised at the 1979 Commonwealth Heads of Government Conference in Lusaka, Zambia, by former prime minister of Grenada, Maurice Bishop. This matter had received overwhelming support from countries such as Australia, Canada, Guyana, Jamaica and a host of other Commonwealth nations at the conference.

So impressed by Grenada’s vision on this issue, then President Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia was in the process of planning a state visit to the Cooperative Republic of Guyana and immediately made the decision to include Grenada on his list for a state visit.

President Kaunda’s visit to Grenada came approximately six months after the March 13th revolution and, with the assistance of the protocol machinery from the Guyana Ministry of Foreign Affairs, President Kaunda visited Grenada and was deeply touched by the welcome he received. Though late, both former Prime Minister Forbes Burnham and Foreign Affairs Minister Rashleigh Jackson must be recognized for the role played by these two outstanding regionalists.

The recent government of Grenada saga with Taiwan’s Sewang, One World affair could have been avoided if the nation’s elected and appointed representatives were fully conversant with Taiwanese foreign policy tactics and desire in the Caribbean Commonwealth. It is not a hidden fact that Taiwan’s pursuit to secure a diplomatic beachhead in the region is waning, with mainland China forging ahead on its diplomatic, cultural and economic ties. This being the case, Taiwan will leave no stone unturned in order to compete with the mainland in the region.

It is quite evident that the state of Grenada had an established relationship with the Sewang Group dating back to 1993.During this period, Grenada and Taiwan had very strong diplomatic relations and Grenada was always seen as a regional Taiwanese base from which the Taiwanese conducted their diplomatic and other tactics to undermine mainland China.

Therefore, it was not surprising to see the signature of former Deputy Prime Minister Gregory Bowen on correspondence between Sewang and the government of Grenada that addressed potential private sector investments.

The recent contact by representatives of this pariah group with appointed and elected officials of the current government and the signing of a memorandum of understanding attest to the ongoing saga that has now erupted into close scrutiny and the attention of the Grenada public.

The memoranda of understanding (MOU) signed between the Taiwanese pariahs and the government of Grenada seems to be merely a document that expresses a convergence of will between two parties and outlines a plan of action for the future. It is abundantly clear that the MOU(s) currently being referred to are not a binding contractual agreement(s), although there are clear indications that the current government of Tillman Thomas was under the impression that things can happen “in the future”.

As a senior foreign service officer lamented, “It is shameful and embarrassing because officials in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs were not consulted. The MOF could have told Finance to tread cautiously due to our diplomatic relations with mainland China.”

With all of the above, these past and current situations stem from the ongoing vulnerability of small states like Grenada. Like many other small states in the global community, they are stricken with national debts; there is growing pressure and expectation of the population for the state to deal the socio-economic factors of its population and one of the key platforms for national development in these states is Foreign Investment.

Investment players are fully aware of these pressures and, given their deceitful and dishonest skills, they prey and pounce on small states, especially within the Caribbean Commonwealth, knowing full well of their vulnerability and the existing lack of appropriate tools that can be applied to weed out these global pariahs.

Dating back to 1967, shortly after statehood was granted by the United Kingdom and the election of the Grenada United Labour Party under Eric Gairy, many global pariahs arrived and offered all forms of goodies, which were never delivered. Similar occurrences took place during the ill-fated People’s Revolutionary Government of 1979-83. Unfortunately, many of the duped stories were not publicized due to the control of the media at the time.

The saga continued under the various coalition governments led by Blaize, Braithwaite and Brizan. While many of the foreign investor fallacies under these leaders were not published or exposed, sources that were close to these administrations have indicated that global pariahs were active but nothing materialized.

It is quite obvious that under the NNP-led administration, the situation became more atrophic, during which time the global pariahs extracted government guarantees at some local financial institutions and acquisition of prime properties. These situations occurred all under the desire of national development through foreign investment to address local socio-economic ills.

The recently elected Tillman Thomas administration continues to face such a dilemma and might have gone a little further to demonstrate to the population that they can get things better done than their predecessors. Hence, the Sewang One World affair has returned to haunt the current administration.

In my opinion, the Sewang World affair should be a further lesson to Caribbean Commonwealth nations. The advent of new technology tools which are being applied throughout the global community gives rise to additional schemes to which our vulnerable nations and people can become victims.

There are many across the global environment whose desire and exploration to prey on vulnerable small states are evident, they are quite skillful in locating and identifying local people with close political connections as their representatives.

Government officials must become more aware and develop the necessary transparent tools to circumvent and expose those who seek to exploit the situation.

Ian Francis resides in Toronto and writes frequently on Caribbean affairs. He was a former Assistant Secretary in the Grenada Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

October 13, 2010


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Nuclear terrorism in Venezuela - a new security threat for Latin and the Caribbean

By Rebecca Theodore

If the notion of terrorist organizations using nuclear weapons, especially suitcase nukes, is a threat to American rhetoric and culture, then it is evident that Chávez’s anti-US rhetoric and support for Iran's nuclear program heighten concerns about Venezuela's pursuit of nuclear power in Latin and South America and seepage into the Caribbean as well.

While it may be true that the Treaty of Tlatelolco prohibits the possession of nuclear weapons in the Caribbean and Latin and South America, and any move taken by Venezuela to pursue nuclear weapons would go against existing international law, it must be remembered that the doctrine of ‘The enemy of my enemy is my friend’ still prevails in the promiscuous bedchambers of politics. The birth of a nuclear-armed revolutionary troublemaker in the United States’ own backyard thus empowers Iran’s strategic interests in its quest for nuclear supremacy.

Rebecca Theodore was born on the north coast of the Caribbean island of Dominica and resides in Toronto, Canada. A national security and political columnist, she holds a BA and MA in Philosophy. She can be reached at rebethd@aim.comIn response to critics who claim that it was nuclear weapons that changed the course of conventional warfare since the advent of World War II, that radiation sources treat disease in humans and medical products such as syringes, intravenous tubings and catheters are all composed of radiation materials, on the other side of the dubious coin, the risk of nuclear reactors far outweigh the consequences, as terrorism radioactive materials could make terrorists inclined to attack nuclear reactors, disrupt critical inputs, i.e. water supply for the safe running of a nuclear reactor.

Combined with theft of nuclear waste, the acquisition and fabrication of fissile material for nuclear bomb and complete takeover of nuclear-armed submarines, planes or bases, the presence of nuclear terrorism in Venezuela becomes a serious security problem for Latin and South American and Caribbean nations.

Associated Press reports lend credibility to the idea that Venezuela is interested specifically in nuclear weapons and not just civilian nuclear. The recent seizure of containers by Turkish authorities going to Venezuela from Iran labeled “tractor parts” which, according to one Turkish official, "was enough to set up an explosives lab” is evidence enough to indicate that Chavez is indeed seeking nuclear offensive weapons.

While there is no reason to doubt the sincerity of Chavez’s political and economic reform pledges to give the poor a greater share of the country's oil wealth, the idea of developing his own indigenous nuclear infrastructure should also be closely monitored, as not only is there compelling evidence that Venezuela’s government and banks, with the help of the Ahmadinejad government and Iranian shell companies, are providing Iran with uranium mined in southeastern Venezuela; but Moscow’s assistance in training nuclear scientists and helping Caracas with the construction of several nuclear power plants should hasten security concerns for Latin and South America and Caribbean states.

In this light, Chavez’s fanaticism should not only be looked at as the pursuit of an aggressive foreign policy in Venezuela, or the attraction and attention for international recognition as a major regional (global) player but as a grave part of a campaign of military offensive power.

Although Chávez' reform program was aimed at redistributing the benefits of Venezuela's oil wealth to the lower socio-economic groups by using it to fund programs such as health care and education, it is clear that it has taken a different turn with its development of neighborhood militias, modeled after Cuba's Communist apparatus, garnering support of more South American countries for the cause of liberation from American imperialism and imploring Iran’s help for ballistic missiles in exchange for oil -- a blatant violation of United Nations Security Council's economic sanctions and a total insult to international law.

While European and American leaders can use the tool of crippling sanctions to stall and reverse Iran's pursuit of nuclear activity, this is not the case for Venezuela because in Venezuela there is no lack of oil resources. The country has sufficient reserves based on current production estimates, to last more than a century. Therefore, Venezuela is not using this tactic to attain economic and trade benefits as Chavez’s vitriolic diatribes about nuclear weapons are aimed at increasing his own narcissistic and egoistical ambitions and counterbalancing US influence in the Caribbean and Latin and South America.

It follows that, if the first step in the mitigation of nuclear terrorism is the serious and rapid effort to build intelligence capabilities, then regular monitoring of ports in Venezuela must be intensified since Caribbean ports are absorbent and, geographically speaking, Caribbean islands such as Trinidad and Tobago, Curacao, Aruba and the leeward Antilles lie near the Venezuelan coast, thereby making Venezuela as much a Caribbean country as it is a South American one.

Evidence suggests that South America is now a hideout and breeding ground for the world’s most dangerous terrorist organizations, including al Qaeda, Hezbollah and Hamas. Pockets of South America, including areas in Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador, hostile to US ideologies, are rapidly becoming launching pads from which the world’s most lethal anti-American entities could strike immense havoc to Latin and South American and Caribbean states.

Added charges that Iran-backed Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon setting up cells in Latin America and Venezuela issuing permits that allow Iranian residents to travel freely in South America and the rest of the Caribbean should arouse concern to intelligence officials in the US and the Caribbean basin as a direct security threat is now in effect.

It is also worth noting that the nature and motivations of terrorism has changed since the fatal morn of 911. The growing numbers of nuclear smugglers, Soviet bloc military and intelligence personnel in Latin America peddling their trade, and the constant disappearance of enriched uranium from sites where they were produced and stored should cause security alarms because the availability of fissile material in the hands of lunatics, even at the high prices that it is offered today can transform the desire for nuclear weapons into a short order notice, propelling our imaginations back to Khrushchev’s long range missiles in Cuba or Pyongyang’s link in the daisy chain.

The Obama administration’s utopian ideals for a world of peace and security without nuclear weapons lag in the distance if Venezuela’s nuclear ambitions are not taken into account. The presence of nuclear terrorism in Venezuela opens the floodgates for the need for real security arrangements to ensure the security and stability of Latin and South American and Caribbean states.

October 11, 2010