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Friday, September 30, 2011

Jamaica: God understands Patois

By Devon Dick


On Sunday, Jo-Ann Richards, former missionary to West Africa and the Americas, proclaimed at the Boulevard Baptist Church, on the observance of Mission Sunday, that God understands Patois. Apparently, God speaks even in Patois. She read a passage of the Bible in Patois, spoke at times in Patois and sang in Patois. This is very important to her in the quest for the evangelisation of Jamaica.

Richards related a visit to a USA centre for world missions which had Jamaica listed, not as a Christian country, not as well evangelised but as an underevangelised place. This was a shocker to many, when popular folklore has it that Jamaica has the most churches per square mile. How could anyone claim that Jamaica is under-evangelised? It is because the criterion used is based on the availability of the Bible in the language of the people. And in that context, Jamaica has been found wanting.

The mother tongue of the majority is Patois, but most versions of the Bible are in English. Richards claimed that most Jamaicans think in Patois but it would be on the rare occasion that there would be a reading in Patois in a church. Even at Miss Lou's funeral, the service was in English! And she was an advocate for giving Patois respectability.

Patois is taking Great Britain by storm and the youths of England understand and use Patois. It is known that many Japanese who do not speak English understand the Patois in the reggae music. But so often Patois is ignored in church save and except when it is evangelistic time, or during open-air meetings.

This disregard for Patois started in colonial times. Part of the colonising strategy is to impose language, religion and values on the conquered. K.D. Smith, in a letter to the editor on August 13, requested: "It would be great if Pastor Dick followed up with an analytical article about Eurocentrism and its influence on Christianity in Jamaica."

Eurocentrism in Christianity has led to us having mainly English hymns being sung, rarely the Negro spirituals and not many songs in Patois. It has led to English being the major means of communication, and oftentimes the images and illustrations are European or North American. In my book, The Cross and Machete, it states that the Native Baptists fought for the use of Patois in the Church and warned of the emphasis on classical education and English pronunciation.

Unknown tongue

The Native Baptists were not against the use of scholarship, except when its display became like an unknown tongue to the congregants. They believed it was futile for a preacher to speak in a language that the congregation did not know or understand. The Native Baptists defended the use of simple speech, which was not 'clothed in elegant language' and diction. They insisted on 'plain preaching'.

In the 1840s, Robert Graham, 'a free man of colour', came under the tutelage of Joshua Tinson, English Baptist missionary at Hanover Street, Kingston, and Graham insisted on plain speaking. Tinson had wished to "instruct him in pronunciation and English grammar", but Graham refused because he "believed Mr Tinson's way of pronouncing words was the way in England" and he "was sure his method was the Jamaica method, and the way best understood by the people".

He was correct, as later when Englishmen Thomas Harvey and William Brewin visited Jamaica in 1866, they concluded, "Much of the literature which is so attractive to our population at home is neither interesting nor very intelligible to the people of Jamaica ... the topics, the allusions, the local colouring, are unfamiliar."

Since God understands Patois, and the majority of people understand and speak in Patois, it is time the church services reflect that reality.

Devon Dick is an author and pastor of Boulevard Baptist Church. Email feedback to

September 29, 2011


Thursday, September 29, 2011

Lessons from PM Bruce Golding for CARICOM leaders

By Dr Isaac Newton

I was surprised, but not disappointed, when Jamaica PM Bruce Golding announced his plans not to seek re-election. He did not give the impression of being afraid of his people’s verdict at the polls. He appeared calm and uncomplaining.

Dr Isaac Newton is an international leadership and change management consultant and political adviser who specialises in government and business relations, and sustainable development projects. Dr Newton works extensively in West Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America, and is a graduate of Oakwood College, Harvard, Princeton and Columbia. He has published several books on personal development and written many articles on economics, leadership, political, social, and faith-based issuesYet, he strikes me as a leader who could face down the roars of opposition voices with openness and resolve. In reciprocity with others, and in an attempt to transcend limits, he says farewell.

Golding stands in contrast to most CARICOM leaders, who act as if they have a divine right to lead. They hold on to power even after the people have rejected them at general elections. In an age of social media where society is increasingly democratized, CARICOM leaders must know when to quit. The recent events in Libya are a case in point. Paradoxically, with all the sacrifices made to acquire power, power is mesmerizing -- when you get it, you want to keep it for life.

Perhaps Golding is a fallen giant who collapsed under weight of his own undoing. But his early retirement could be seen as a tribute to mature leadership that slows down the opposition without hurting the Jamaican people.

“The challenges of the last four years have taken their toll and it was appropriate now to make way for new leadership to continue the programmes of economic recovery and transformation while mobilizing the party for victory in the next general elections.” (Caribbean News Now, Sept 26, 2011).

Taken at face value, these sobering words dramatized the PM’s critical moment. They portrayed him as a thoughtful navigator capable of adjusting to the changing political landscape. As I reflect on the unspoken issues that forced the shift from wanting to retire two years into a second term, to giving up prime ministerial power, I surrendered to speculation.

The pursuit of power contains mixed motives. I know that dismounting from it unleashes even more turbulence. Let me tease out possible causes and practical lessons from Golding’s farewell.

Possible Causes

Option One. The PM both perfectly read the affection of his people and deeply discerned their resilient temperament for new wine in new wineskin. He decided that he cannot serve two masters -- the people and the position. He bowed to his love for the people over his desire for the position.

Option Two. He considered the facts beyond anecdotes and polls and strategically set the Jamaica Labour Party on the best winning pathway. After he examined the internal processes that play a critical role in shaping eventual outcomes, he resorted to the wisdom of an intelligent and ethical leader.

Option Three. Golding might have surveyed the bruising political reality on the ground that threatens to unravel positive gains. He decided that departure would memorialize his legacy on the one hand, while on the other hand, it may increase his chances to fight another day.

Option Four. The PM accepted the constraints that age, health, emotions, and quality of life issues have on leadership effectiveness. He also believes that democracy is refreshed when new leaders are given leeway to sprout. Consequently, he renewed his vow to put God ahead of country, country before party, and party in front of self.

Option Five. His decision combined two or more of the above options, tied to a host of unknowns, which may be left for the frankness of a vivid prime ministerial autobiography.

Practical Lessons

Lesson One. In politics, timing is everything. Most leaders have a better grasp of when to enter the scene than leave the place. If leaders hesitate to go because they feel that others are incapable of continuing the dream they worked so hard to execute, they are self-absorbed. But overstaying is a much greater risk. It kills goodwill, stifles internal talent, tarnishes accomplishments, and hinders the growth of the party. In sum, “the fullest of time” is more about establishing an exit strategy than sticking it out.

Lesson Two. Intelligent leaders focus on retirement legacy. Through mastering deliverables, they empower the next generation to reach toward their vision of the possible. Such leaders consciously support subordinates to do greater things that they could ever do in their tenure. They know that success cannot be gained by individual effort alone. Therefore, they reward responsibility and increase talent. The core of their leadership competency is to ensure that their parties thrive after their exodus.

Lesson Three. Transformational leaders create healthy party structures. This is vital for continued success. Golding’s decision to step aside will be punctuated by several possibilities. He is leaving behind a stable culture of innovation and confidence. His departure will create a power struggle vacuum that will haunt the party. The next leader will emerge from a transparent meritocracy or through a set of bureaucratic hurdles.

Lesson Four. Performance, not popularity, should be the judge of leadership tenure. When leaders are self aware, they are motivated by excellence instead of ego. Regardless of Golding’s motives and motivations, some critics may argue that he is too addicted to power to leave without a just cause. Others may claim that the reality facing him was quite surmountable. If Jamaicans are better off now than when he first arrived, and they can imagine the future in the superlative, the PM would have partially fulfilled his mandate.

I am not aware of any scientific polls that showed that Golding would have lost had he chosen to run again. He was the right fit for Jamaica during times of fiscal pressures and social stresses. Some Jamaicans feel he has done the country damage with dark scandals. Others believe he is a miracle worker, given the challenges he faced. Despite divided loyalties, a great CARICOM leader takes nation-building initiatives, and chooses a dignified exit instead of a dishonorable existence.

September 29, 2011


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Bahamas: Not only does the Privy Council make available to Bahamians some of the world's most able and experienced judges, it does so at no cost

tribune242 editorial

Nassau, The Bahamas

IN MAY last year the Arbitration Act and the Arbitration (Foreign Arbitral Awards) Act was introduced in an attempt to put the Bahamas in a competitive position for recognition as an international business centre.

The hope was to establish the Bahamas as a dispute resolution centre within five years to settle -- outside of the court system -- both domestic and international matters.

And so now is not the time to even consider abolishing the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council --our highest court of appeal, sitting in London -- which is one institution that -- in addition to the proposed arbitration services -- gives an aura of stability to our local judicial system. If the Bahamas is to be considered a stable jurisdiction to attract international business, the Privy Council is one institution that grounds us in legitimacy. As one Bahamian lawyer put it: "It is one of the most respected courts in the world and brings international currency to our court system."

Together the five Law Lords have more than 100 years of legal experience to draw on. In addition -- removed from local politics, and petty prejudices -- litigants have confidence that their disputes are being treated objectively. This independence and removal from local contamination certainly inspires respect in the system, something that our own courts are lacking.

One would be surprised at what weight the existence of the Privy Council carries when an international business is being considered for relocation to the Bahamas. Businesses not only want a stable government, good communications, and efficient staff, but a sound judicial system. To business leaders this is of paramount importance.

Our local courts are made to look impotent when adversaries can so play the system that one side in the dispute cannot get a hearing to present his complaint.

In a recent international case, a lawyer pointed to what appears to be developing into a serious case of "judge shopping". It would seem that the case can't get off the ground because the judges are being toppled like nine pins. Already three judges have stepped down from the case, and a fourth has been called on recuse himself -- soon there will be no judges left to try the case. From an outsider looking in, it appears that our court system is being made to look impotently foolish.

Of course, there is still the Privy Council. When the local courts fail, the respected arbiter of justice stands solid to pick up the pieces. Bahamians would be foolish to agitate for its removal.

Not only does the Privy Council make available to Bahamians some of the world's most able and experienced judges, it does so at no cost.

In December 2006, the Judicial Committee made history when for the first time in over 170 years it left its permanent London home to hold a five-day sitting in the Bahamas. The five Law Lords were here again for a sitting in 2007 and 2009.

There are those in the legal fraternity who have suggested that the Bahamas give up the Privy Council and throw its lot in with the recently established Caribbean Court of Justice. Established in 2001 and based in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, this court is in its embryonic stage. It has not been established long enough to have a track record or attract the international recognition that the Privy Council has had for hundreds of years.

If the only reason for opting for this court is to hope that our "Caribbean brothers" will see eye-to-eye with us on capital punishment is indeed to play Russian roulette with this country's future. As explained in this column yesterday, many Caribbean lawyers are also moving away from capital punishment in favour of life imprisonment.

Of course, the weightiest consideration of all is the cost. The Bahamas would have to make a financial contribution to be able to use the services of the Caribbean court.

And the creation of a local court to replace the Privy Council cannot even be considered. It would be financially prohibitive. Already we do not have enough lawyers to staff our present legal institutions.

The Attorney General's office, which is inundated with cases going back years, is seriously understaffed. The courts cannot keep up with the work load that they already have. A country as small as the Bahamas would never be able to pay what would be required to attract our best lawyers from their private practices to sit on a high court bench. And even if we could there are not enough of them to match the calibre and resources of the Law Lords of London.
It is now time for Bahamians to appreciate what they have and start building on already well laid foundations.

September 28, 2011

tribune242 editorial

Monday, September 26, 2011

Bahamas: Despite escalating crime, career criminals are being released on bail by the courts - many of them contributing to the rising crime figures by retaliatory murders

Public supports Turnquest's comments on judiciary

tribune242 editorial

Nassau, The Bahamas

EVERYONE in authority has been creeping around on cats paws evading a subject that is agitating Bahamians. Despite escalating crime, career criminals are being released on bail by the courts - many of them contributing to the rising crime figures by retaliatory murders.

Finally, National Security Minister Tommy Turnquest had the guts to call a spade a spade. Speaking at a West Nassau Rotary meeting on Thursday, Mr Turnquest said, while not wanting to encroach on the independence of the judicial system, it was his opinion that some judges were far too "liberal" when it came to granting bail to career criminals and those accused of serious offences. He believed that this practice contributed "greatly" to the country's escalating crime problem. He is correct in this belief and he has the support of both the police and the public.

How can any government control a crime situation when as quickly as an accused person with a violent criminal record is taken before the courts he is given bail and returned to the streets looking for trouble -- and, in some cases, the elimination of witnesses who might testify against him.

Pushed under questioning about bail by a Tribune reporter, Mr Turnquest was provoked into uttering a statement that he later regretted. "Liberally they have administered that -- it concerns me greatly -- if we had a system as they do in New York, where judges are elected, many of them would have been chased out of town."

Although he retracted these words, Bahamians would not have done so -- they would have agreed with him.

We also agree with Chief Justice Sir Michael Barnett that these particular words were "unfortunate."

"I'm always concerned," said Sir Michael, "when people attack the judiciary because persons have to be careful in what they say, so as not to undermine the public confidence in those of us who serve in judicial office."

We also agree with this statement, but only in so far as the judiciary understands that it too has to be responsible in its judgments to protect a community in crisis. We agree with the community that many judicial officers have failed them. The courts are not responsible for the country's crime -- there are many causes going back many years --however, no one can deny that there are times when the courts have been part of the problem. It is true that the judiciary should not be criticised, but on the other hand they should be careful not to give legitimate cause for criticism. The legal fraternity should certainly understand that responsibility is not one-sided.

However, what is most unfortunate in all of this is that a serious matter has become political. This certainly does not help.

In criticising Mr Turnquest in Friday's Tribune the PLP statement said: "By its own yardstick, the FNM has compromised the independence of the judiciary by failing in the past two years to review judicial salaries as is required by the Judges Remuneration and Pensions Act."

Is the PLP perchance insinuating that until judges' salaries are raised they are not going to perform satisfactorily? If so, this statement is the highest insult that can be made to the Bench.

What is interesting is that when the PLP was the government, its attorney general and minister of legal affairs was making the same complaint as Mr Turnquest.

This is what Minister of Legal Affairs Allyson Maynard Gibson in her fight for "swift justice" had to say on May 19, 2006:

"Today I reiterate that the Swift Justice initiative, the assurance that offenders and would be offenders will be swiftly caught, swiftly tried and swiftly punished, will greatly contribute to breaking the back of crime and the fear of crime.

"Law-abiding people in The Bahamas have every right to expect that they will be safe in their homes and as they go from place to place on our streets."

And then she said: "The Commissioner of Police has already indicated his concern about the disturbing trend of serious offences being committed while people are out on bail.

"In conversations with Magistrates, those before whom most Bail applications are made, they said they are often shocked to see how many people whose request for bail was denied by them (Magistrates) are back before them requesting bail for another offence committed while out on bail. These people had gone to the Supreme Court and been granted bail."

Here we have lower courts pointing the finger of blame at a higher court. We don't recall hearing at that time that Mrs Gibson was undermining the court system by her revelations. Why now that the tables of government have been turned?

Mrs Gibson then gave examples of persons on bail who had gone on to commit other crimes while awaiting their day in court. She also shared statistics on crimes using firearms.

As a result she proposed an amendment to the Criminal Law Miscellaneous (Amendment) Bill, 2006, to take care of the magistrates' complaints against Supreme Court judges. She proposed that there be a "new section 8A to provide for a right of appeal to the Court of Appeal by the prosecution or a person (accused or convicted), as the case may be where bail has been granted or refused to that person by the Supreme Court or where an application by the prosecution to revoke bail has been denied.

"This right of appeal by the prosecution," she said, "is particularly important as statistics have shown that persons, while on bail take not only the opportunity to abscond but more importantly to commit further crimes. The police have indicated that persons out on bail sometimes interfere with witnesses either by themselves or through their acquaintances."

This was the opinion of the PLP when it was the government. This is also the position of the Ingraham government. The difference is that Mr Turnquest had the temerity to express the problem in blunt terms on Thursday.

Prime Minister Ingraham will now address the issue in a state broadcast on Monday, October 3.

September 26, 2011

tribune242 editorial

Sunday, September 25, 2011

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti: Amnesty International demands justice for Duvalier “victims”


PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Friday September 23, 2011 – Amnesty International says political will is needed from Haiti's new administration to bring former President Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier to justice for human rights abuses committed under his regime.

Special Advisor Javier Zúñiga told a media conference here on Thursday that there is sufficient evidence to prosecute Duvalier for the widespread arbitrary detentions, torture, deaths in custody, killings and disappearances that took place during his 1971 and 1986 rule.

As the report was being released at a media conference, dozens of pro-Duvalier supporters marched in, accusing the organization of divisiveness and lacking credibility.

The human rights group had provided Port-au-Prince's Public Prosecutor with documented evidence of human rights abuses committed during the former president’s rule, following his return to Haiti in January this year, after 25 years in exile in France.

Duvalier has been indicted by Haitian authorities for embezzlement, theft of public funds and crimes against humanity committed during his presidency.

"The cases of human rights abuses we documented in Haiti are likely to be only a small proportion of what really happened during Duvalier's rule. We will probably never know the true extent of the horror, but carrying out effective investigations will go a long way towards delivering justice," Zúñiga stated.

"Investigating crimes against humanity after Duvalier's return is not only the first step towards justice and reparation for the victims of human rights violations, but it is also a historical opportunity to start building a Haitian state that once and for all protects and upholds human rights in Haiti."


Saturday, September 24, 2011

JAMAICAN CULTURE: Lost in translation - Is the Patois Bible a waste?

Lost in translation - Is the Patois Bible a waste?
By Franklin Johnston

With every new rendition of the Bible it is diluted. What did the KJV's "thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's ass" mean 2,500 years ago? What's my neighbour's ass now? car, donkey, meat and transport in one? Did this apply to all or just those with no ass?

Translation across centuries, cultures and languages means much is lost and things assumed based on what we now know. Abrahamic faiths — Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Rastafari -- all lose authenticity as they lose touch with the Torah. We have Christianity in all flavours to suit every taste and some are the ego trips; emotional excrescences of men who do not know the roots of the Church and don't care as long as they make money. The Old and New Testament were translated from Hebrew and Greek many times. With those rendered from English versions new errors are made and old errors perpetuated. Much is lost in translation.

The Bible Society of Jamaica translated the gospel of Luke in patois but not from Greek. Millions were spent, and to be fair and open, they should name the translators, sources and all involved. The Bible is our heritage, not words on paper for academics, patois actors and playwrights to render as they like. Translators are scholars of the original languages and manuscripts, the new language, comparative exegesis, and the task calls for a sense of the spiritual, history, meditation and insight. We need assurance of the integrity of the process!

The book is titled Jiizas di Buk We Luuk Rait bout Im; to us The Book of Luke. Patois is our heritage, culture; rich, colourful, fluid; ours to use and change, not by linguists who rule how it must be spoken. No patois police! Let patois be free wherever it may be! I bought a copy in Hagley Park Plaza.

I was told it was for the poor man who speaks patios only, yet costs a day's pay! Why would a poor man buy a Patois Bible which he can't read when he can get an English Bible free; he can't read it either? The cover and paper are flimsy, but we love a well bound Bible in the front room to write our births, deaths and "run duppy".

The cover picture is patronising; better if it were a Clovis cartoon! The section in English titled "How to read Jamaican" deals with "consonants, vowels and symbols". So a man illiterate in English buys a book in patois, but as he is illiterate in patois too, the writers put the rules to read it in English, Wow!

This Patois looks like Dutch or Afrikaans and has nothing in common with Miss Lou's patois which is what we speak. Check these stanzas:

"Wha wrong wid Mary dry-foot bwoy?

Dem gal got him fe mock,

An when me meet him tarra night

De bwoy gi me a shock!

Me tel him seh him auntie an

Him cousin dem sen howdy

An ask him how him getting awn.

Him seh, 'Oh, jolley, jolley!"

— Extract from "Dry-foot bwoy" by Louise Bennett.

Now compare it with an extract from Jiizas de Buk we Luuk rait bout Im:

"1 Tiyafilas Sa, Uol iip a piipl chrai fir ait dong di sitn dem wa apm mongks wi. Dem rait it dong siem wie ou dem ier it fram di piipl dem we did de de fram di staat, si di sitn dem wa apm an we priich di wod".

— Patois Bible St Luke Chapter 1, verses 1-4. May 2010.

This can't be right! It looks like nothing we know. I will stick with Miss Lou!

FIELD WORK IN THE UK. I used a captive audience of Jamaicans and I also went to Brixton to accost some between NCB branch and the Post Office. I wore a suit with Her Majesty's ID on my chest. Many, relieved I was not Border Agency, co-operated fully. But this is informal and the experts must show us their work. Here's what some people said of "de Buk":

BRIXTON. I asked each person to read "de Buk" to me. Some said: "A wah dis? Me neva see nuttin laka dis" or "Oh this is the Patois Bible, I like it" or "A Rasta tings dis, lang time it fe cum!" Most could not read it and those who did read the instructions first and mouthed each word slowly. Most people liked the idea of the book and some asked for a copy.

CAPTIVE AUDIENCE. The illiterate ones couldn't read it. Some say "is Polish" as it looks like writing they see every day as they live with Russian, African etc. Some 80 per cent of the foreigners who speak English understand our patois. English speaking British illiterates could not read it though many use patois slang; a man with degrees read haltingly, said it used English phonetics and if I left the book he would master it in a week. Africans who spoke no English could not read it. One savvy Nigerian said the words were contractions, variations, broken English. I said it was an Akan or Twi based dialect. He said firmly "Then do not corrupt our languages further, give them a Bible in Akan!" I was quiet! A lady who translates patios says court officers understand our prisoners but details matter in Law and so "im did a badda, badda mi an mi get bex an juk juk im" she translated as " after much provocation by my girlfriend I lost my temper and stabbed her". She tells the Court the "im" is not a man and "badda, badda" is a repitition of the word "bother" which shows intense feeling and "juk juk" means multiple stab wounds. Sadly "Jiizas di buk" means nothing to these men!

The bible society has excellent motives but their "Jiizas buk" may undermine ancient churches, scholarship and mislead many. Jesus reasoned with scholars on faith and the Torah. Few apart from Jewish, Anglican, Catholic scholars can do this now. Many "faith entrepreneurs" can't read the founding articles of the faith. The unintended consequence of removing the Bible from a prayerful scholarly tradition is men now think they can do with it as they like. The "Church of Blessed Patois" coming soon to a community near you! Sadly the Patios Bible does not advance our patois, literacy or faith! Stay conscious my friend!

Mrs Enid Golding was a legend to those of us who did teaching practice and classroom observation in her school. In her day she was a reference point on "best practice" for UWI Prof Gordon Shirley. Heartfelt sympathy to PM Bruce, Trevor, Douglas and their families.

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

September 23, 2011


Friday, September 23, 2011

Approximately 25 percent of the persons who have contracted HIV/AIDS in The Bahamas throughout the years have been Haitian nationals, says - director of The Bahamas National HIV/AIDS Centre, Dr. Perry Gomez

Gomez: 25% of HIV/AIDS cases are Haitians

By Royston Jones
Guardian Staff Reporter


Nassau, The Bahamas

Approximately 25 percent of the persons who have contracted HIV/AIDS in The Bahamas throughout the years have been Haitian nationals, according to director of the Bahamas National HIV/AIDS Centre, Dr. Perry Gomez.

“We know over the years that that population has contributed about 25 percent of the data,” he pointed out during an event at the U.S. Embassy, during which grants were awarded to the HIV/AIDS Centre and six other organizations involved in the HIV/AIDS fight.  They were awarded grants that totalled over $48,000.  The purpose of the grants is to promote HIV/AIDS prevention and reduce the stigma attached to those living with the disease, according to U.S. Ambassador to The Bahamas Nicole Avant.

Dr. Gomez further pointed out at the presentation that there are persons in the Haitian community, as well as the Bahamian community, who are not aware that they have contracted the disease.  As a result they do not seek help or alternatively seek help too late.

"The point about this exercise is to increase the knowledge of the people in the community," said Gomez. "If they are familiar with what we are doing with our services, they will more readily present and come earlier, rather than coming in the 11th hour.”

The slogan 'Know Your Status' was chosen by the Bahamas National HIV/AIDS Centre because a person can be HIV positive for as long as 15 years and not be sick, whilst still potentially transmitting the disease, said Gomez.  He added that the language barrier between English and Haitian creole speakers is believed to be another factor that contributes to persons, within the Haitian population in The Bahamas, avoiding HIV/AIDS testing.

“We [have been] trying to get more and more of our staff in the clinics to learn [Haitian] Creole over the years,” said Gomez.

The Ambassador's Fund for HIV/AIDS Prevention and the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) have partnered to make the grants possible.  PEPFAR is a U.S. government initiative that annually awards small grants around the world in support of local projects that help to save the lives of those suffering from HIV/AIDS.

The other grant awardees include The Bahamas AIDS Foundation, Her Majesty's Prison, the Grand Bahamas Red Rose Ball Committee, the South Eleuthera Mission, Youth Ambassadors for Positive Living and Bahamas United Limited.

The Bahamas National HIV Centre plans to use the grant to establish a 'Train the Trainers' program, according to Gomez.  The project aims to educate bi-lingual speakers within the Haitian community on HIV prevention, transmission and treatment so that they may teach others within their community.

The U.S. Embassy has partnered with all segments of Bahamian society to help increase testing and counseling for HIV, to improve HIV/AIDS data collection, to build capacity in delivering quality services and to raise awareness, according to Avant.

“We believe that the work supported by PEPFAR resources will result in a cumulative, positive and enduring impact on the national public health system by increasing health services for all Bahamians, especially those on the Family Islands,” said Avant.  “This is a global fight and there is no retreat and no alternative, until we reach every person whose life has been touched by HIV and AIDS and stem the spread of the disease.”

The PEPFAR agreement will provide The Bahamas with more than $5 million in U.S. assistance over the next several years to support the efforts of HIV/AIDS prevention.

Sep 22, 2011


Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Bahamas police are doing their job, but the Bahamian courts are soft on law breakers

Tough laws promised to keep criminals in prison

tribune242 editorial

Nassau, The Bahamas

AN EXASPERATED Police Commissioner yesterday called for stiffer penalties for law breakers.

He said that criminals were not taking the law seriously because punishments were too light. In other words criminals were just playing a catch-me-if-you can game with the police, while wreaking vengeance on society.

The Commissioner was asked by the press whether the police were doing enough to stop the bloodshed -- which with 100 murders made Bahamian history over the weekend. As we wrote this column last night a report flashed across our screen that two more persons- a man and a woman- had just been shot in Nassau Village. They were taken to hospital - the man in serious condition, the woman stable.

One could almost see the Commissioner biting his tongue at yesterday's conference as he tried to gingerly skirt the reporter's question.

He said police officers were arresting the suspects, but after a person was charged it was out of their hands and up to the courts. He said he did not want to speak on the issue in too much detail.

He might not want to elaborate on what is a sore point in police ranks, but we shall do it for him.

The answer simply put is: The police are doing their job, but the courts are not.

Let's look at a five-day period to give our readers some idea of what is happening.

Between July 12 and 17th this year 39 prisoners were released from HM Prison by the courts.

Of this number 22 of them were in prison on remand. The courts gave them bail and released them.

Of these, six were charged with murder and at least three of them went before the magistrate's court with a well established criminal record.

Also among the 22 released onto the streets within a five-day period were persons charged with attempted murder, conspiracy to murder, armed robbery, rape, housebreaking, possession of firearms and drugs, causing grievous harm, fraud and forgery. Many of them have prison records, most of them for violence. Four of them were fitted with electronic monitoring devices.

Examining their records it is obvious that they have been sent back into society without any hope of finding a job or earning an honest crust of bread to keep them alive until their court date. And so what do they do?

We leave it to our readers to answer that question. It is easy to connect the dots and understand what is happening in the country. Commissioner Greenslade has already connected the dots, but does not want to talk about the picture they present -- at least not in public.

In an England gone soft on law breakers, a sudden outbreak, mainly by youth, of rioting and destruction last month, quickly brought legislators to their senses. Vowing to stop the "slow-motion moral collapse" of his country, Prime Minister David Cameron demanded stiff penalties for law breakers. The courts immediately responded, so much so that the weak-hearted are sniffling that the law is going too far. But Cameron is taking no nonsense. He has vowed to introduce laws to "crack down on lawlessness and promote a responsible society."

He directed his cabinet to look for ways to combat a "broken society" in which "fathers had abdicated responsibility for their children, schools had given up on discipline and crimes had gone unpunished."

The courts' harsh sentences were intended to reflect the authorities' anger at the looting, burning and murder that raged through London and spread to other cities.

For example, a mother who was given a pair of shorts stolen by a rioter was jailed for five months, a student went to prison for six months for stealing a box of bottled water worth about $4, while a man was jailed for four years for posting a message on Facebook to encourage people to start a riot. Courts also remanded defendants in custody until their court hearing.

Mr Cameron was pleased that the courts had sent a tough message by stiff sentences. Across the country courts were working extra hours to deal with the offenders, which moved into the thousands.

Police Commissioner Greenslade wants sanctions tough enough to make persons afraid to carry a gun in this country because they would know that they would be removed from their family and friends for a very long time.

Since the courts don't seem inclined to step up to the plate, when the House of Assembly returns from its summer break on October 5 government plans to introduce a number of new Bills to prevent violent, repeat offenders from getting bail.

"We hope that we will provide some teeth, some additional resource, to keep these criminals behind bars," said National Security Minister Tommy Turnquest.

Some Bahamians are so agitated by the seeming indifference of the courts, that they are now suggesting that maybe there are those in the system who are trying to embarrass the government.

The situation is bad, but we hope that it is not that bad.

September 20, 2011

tribune242 editorial

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Long-term Caribbean growth requires more than current China links

By The World Bank

Robust growth over the past decade in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) has had one new, key driver: China. The region’s relationship with the Asian giant has proved to be a critical source of stability, both during the global economic crisis of two years ago, the greatest since the Great Depression, and even the current market turmoil that is rolling across Europe and the United States.

So far growth forecasts for LAC have remained positive between 3.5 and 4.5 percent for 2011 and 2012 and inflation rates are expected to stat between 6 and 7 percent this year. Perceptions of sovereign risk continue to be relatively low for the region. In fact, in an unprecedented development, markets now perceive that the sovereign debt default risk of several countries in LAC -- including Chile, Colombia, and Peru -- is lower than that of France.

While the consequences of the current global uncertainties are largely out of the region’s control, it is no time to remain idle. One central question for the region today is whether it can make the most of its relationship with China to turn its recent vigorous recovery into sustainable robust growth for the future. To better understand such prospects, the World Bank’s Chief Economist’s Office for the region has issued a new report, Latin America and the Caribbean’s Long-Term Growth: Made in China?

The study takes an in-depth look at the China-LAC relationship, particularly as it compares to Japan’s interactions with East Asian economies from the 1970s to the 1990s. The report concludes that China’s role in Latin America will need to adapt and evolve if it is going to have a lasting, positive impact.

“There is little evidence that China can play a role in fostering productivity growth for Latin America and the Caribbean,” according to the World Bank’s Chief Economist for the region, Augusto de la Torre. “In this new context of lackluster economic performance in the U.S. and Europe, one key question is whether LAC can leverage its deepening connections with China and turn it into an important source of long-term growth.”

The golden years of the East Asian Tigers were characterized by large flows of intra-industry trade and foreign direct investment from Japan, with significant distribution of technology and knowledge more broadly. The first decade of China relations with Latin America have lacked much of that promising exchange.

China has become the principal trading partner for some large LAC countries. Trade between China and these nations, has revolved around the exchange of the region’s abundant natural resources for low-tech goods from China that are labor-intensive to produce. This type of trade typically limits the potential gains from technology and knowledge sharing.

That is not to say that there have been no gains from the commodity boom in the region, the report emphasizes. Some bright spots show that certain commodity sectors in LAC are benefiting from technological innovation and generating local, quality employment. Extensive networks of local businesses in Peru and Chile, for instance, are benefiting from their ties to mining extraction and salmon farming, respectively, while agricultural producing countries in the Southern Cone have showed new technology deployment and productivity gains.

Until these favourable conditions become more widespread, however, it is difficult to expect that the region will finally begin narrowing the gap with advanced nations. LAC’s growth performance over the 20th century was rather dismal – with per capita income remaining largely steady at 30 percent of the U.S. In contrast, East Asian countries saw their per capita income, which was only about 15 percent that of the U.S. in the 1960s, rise sharply and steadily to reach more than 70 percent of the U.S. by 2010.

The very fact that the region is confronted at this stage with inflationary pressures arising from strong economic activity is a clear reminder that the region tends to bump against “structural speed limits” at comparatively low growth rates.

While the high-performing economies of emerging Asia can sustain annual growth rates in the 6-9 percent range without inflationary consequences, in most of LAC the non-inflationary growth rates that can be sustained over long periods hover below 5 percent.

Some of the factors that help explain these differences in growth potential include:

-- LAC’s road density has declined 15 percent since the 1980s, while it has expanded 30 percent in the Asian countries.

-- LAC’s electricity installed capacity was about 17 percent below that of the Tigers in the 1980s. Now it is almost 50 percent below.

-- LAC’s percentage of population with tertiary education has risen from 9.5 percent in 1990 to 14.2 percent in 2009, but it pales relative to the Tigers, which has gone from 10 to 20 percent in the same period.

On the other hand, De la Torre explains “LAC has developed vibrant democratic systems that in the long term can contribute to ensure that progress in these key areas is sustainable.”

In addition, some of the key external conditions to raise LAC’s growth rate sustainably above the world’s average are in place: large and growing countries with strong demand for LAC exports; high commodity prices; and low world interest rates. Seizing the opportunity on this favorable environment will require a well-designed and adequate policy mix that maintains macro-financial stability while fostering productivity, the report concludes.

September 21, 2011


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

"Deputy Prime Minister Brent Symonette's admission over his family interest in a company awarded a Bahamas government contract is a 'constitutional crisis" ... What a lot of political hogwash!

tribune242 editorial

Nassau, The Bahamas

"DEPUTY PM's admission over contract is a 'constitutional crisis'" reads the headline on page 7 of today's edition. The article claims that the Bahamas is now constitutionally compromised because Deputy Prime Minister Brent Symonette has admitted -- as though it were ever a secret -- that his family has an interest in a company awarded a government contract.

What a lot of political hogwash! It's now election time -- silly season-- and the Opposition is trying to either knock out or neutralise as many politically strong opponents as it can - the most important of which, of course, is the team of Ingraham and Symonette.

According to Mr Symonette this is an "election attack" by the PLP. We agree.

We understand that a survey of sorts was taken to discover whether the team of Christie and "Mother" Pratt could beat Ingraham and Symonette. The finding was that it could not. It is believed that neither can Christie and "Brave" Davis. Ipso facto, government's lead team has to be broken up. The chisel has now been put to the base of Mr Symonette, and chipping away has started.

We find it highly amusing who is among those leading the charge against Mr Symonette on a matter of conflict of interest, integrity and ethics. There is no space to go into details here, but those who want to understand our sarcastic amusement should read from pages 103 to 109 of the Commission of Inquiry Report (Volume I) December, 1984 into "the illegal use of the Bahamas for the transshipment of dangerous drugs destined for the United States of America."

It is claimed that Mr Symonette's admission of a conflict has not only doomed him, but should remove him from the seat of government.

The admission to which George Smith, former Exuma MP and minister in the Pindling cabinet, and Loftus Roker, also a former cabinet minister from the Pindling era, refers is announced as though it were a new revelation. It is not. The public -- ever since Mr Symonette's resignation as chairman of the airport board in 2001- has had full knowledge of the fact that although Mr Symonette personally owns no shares in the company in question --Bahamas Hot Mix Co., Ltd - his children's trust does.

As a matter of fact Mr Symonette, a highly successful businessman, owns shares in many companies. Are all of these companies to be denied a right to bid on government contracts, because some member of Mr Symonette's family might own shares? How many Bahamian jobs are being jeopardised by such a policy? We agree that when such matters come before Cabinet, Mr Symonette should step aside to remove any suggestion that his presence has influenced a vote. But we do not agree that he should be removed as deputy prime minister just because certain politicians want to entertain sinister thoughts.

Bahamians must remember that this is a small country. Our problem is that we have too many lawyers and not enough successful businessmen in the House. And although on every declaration that he has to make -- and which is public -- Mr Symonette lists all of his interests in the various companies, his success is used against him. No wonder persons, who really have something to offer this country and who should be serving in parliament, refuse to volunteer.

If we had more MPs with the business acumen and the means to do for their constituencies what Mr Symonette does for St Anne's, this little Bahamas would be a better place.

But many Bahamians with much to offer are discouraged when they see the mean-spirited behaviour of petty politicians, particularly against successful persons like Brent Symonette. No wonder they want nothing to do with politics. To them it is a dirty game, best to be shunned.

The company that the PLP are now railing against is Bahamas Hot Mix, founded in 1984 by a group of Bahamian businessmen with construction backgrounds.

It is one of only two hot mix plants -- with the exception of government -- in the Bahamas.

It is the only business of its type with international accreditation.

It has about 255 well paid Bahamian employees -- all earning about $35,000 a year -- who between 7pm and 5am nightly, when most Bahamians are asleep, are now out repairing sewer pipes on Bay Street to make ready for the road improvement programme for downtown.

Were these Bahamians, who also have families to feed, to be denied this government job, just because Mr Symonette's children's trust hold minority shares in their company?

And was the Treasury to forego a savings of about $200,000 on this contract because Mr Symonette is being judged by the low standards of others?

We think not. We shall return to this subject tomorrow.

September 19, 2011

tribune242 editorial

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Bahamas is in a "constitutional crisis" due to the admission by Deputy Prime Minister Brent Symonette that his family has an interest in a company awarded a Bahamas government contract... claims former Bahamian Cabinet minister and Exuma MP George Smith

Deputy PM's admission over contract 'a constitutional crisis'


Nassau, The Bahamas

THE admission by Deputy Prime Minister Brent Symonette that his family has an interest in a company awarded a government contract has placed the country in a "constitutional crisis", claims former Cabinet minister and Exuma MP George Smith.

Mr Smith said that according to article 49 of the constitution, a member of the House of Assembly must resign his seat if he becomes interested in a government contract.

He said an exception can only be made if the MP did not know he had become interested in such a contract, or if he formally disclosed the interest to the House and asks Parliament for an exemption.

This should take place "while he is still only interested in such a contract, and before it is actually entered into," according to Mr Smith.

"That is enshrined in the constitution, our most sacred document."

Mr Smith's comments echo those of another former PLP Cabinet minister, Loftus Roker, who said the deputy prime minister should resign or be fired for the appearance of a conflict of interest. The row comes after comments Mr Symonette made about his family's interest in Bahamas Hot Mix, the company awarded the contract to pave roads under the New Providence Road Improvement Project.

Road works

Mr Roker, a former minister of Immigration in Pindling administration, said: "I believe Mr Symonette, (the) deputy prime minister who is one heartbeat away from leader of this country, is in conflict of interest insofar as these road works are concerned.

"As a minister he is restricted in the jobs he can have in this country. He is not like anyone else and he chose to be a minister, nobody put a gun to his head to make him a minister.

"Mr Symonette should resign as minister before (Prime Minister) Hubert Ingraham is forced to fire him because on his own words, in my view, he is in conflict of interest".

In response, Mr Symonette said the call for his resignation was an "election attack" by the PLP.

"The PLP operatives have decided to target me. Don't come with this foolishness just because election time is coming. The PLP operatives are obviously starting their attack on me because they're scared they have nothing else to hang their election hat on and come back to same old tactics they had years ago, he said.

Last week he explained his connection to Bahamas Hot Mix and said his family's interest in the company has been public knowledge for years.

"I do not own any share in that company. The shares are owned by my children's trust, but that is public knowledge. I have investments in many companies in this country. Does that mean that I should not enter politics? I don't think so," Mr Symonette said.

"Bahamas Hot Mix got the contract, not because of me but because they are recognised and well-known road builders in the Bahamas. They are qualified to get the job. If there is a bidding process should they not bid? I am a Bahamian and I am entitled to jobs in the Bahamas just like everyone else."


He added: "Yes, I happen to be a shareholder but I am a shareholder in many companies. So because I have personal wealth does that mean I cannot be a Member of Parliament? Why is he attacking me? There were ministers under the PLP government who got contracts that could be called 'special interest' but no one made a big deal about that."

Mr Symonette has also publicly said his family's connection to the company is not a conflict of interest.

September 19, 2011


Sunday, September 18, 2011

In order to put agriculture and the modern Bahamas in proper focus we must start from the very beginning

Bahamian Agriculture, an overview. Agriculture series, part 1


Nassau, The Bahamas

RECENTLY, much has appeared in the media about agriculture, with senior politicians, pundits, veterinary intellectuals and the regular armchair philosophers making their comments and putting forward opinions.

However, I have seen no comment from the actual farming community about the status and future of farming. This may shroud the real issues involved, and so confuse the general public with rhetoric and other fancy words.

Before the reality becomes smothered I feel that as a genuine 'paper farmer' I can probably help cloud the issue even further.

In order to put agriculture and the modern Bahamas in proper focus we must start from the very beginning.

This first part deals with historical anecdotes and notes which cover geographical, topographical and climate issues, and basic soils and water availability. I have not included dates because these instantly put off any student of history.

However a journey into the well documented archives of our country will verify many of my statements.

In the beginning was the Lucayan, the Arawak, the Taino, peoples who should go down in history as the true Bahamians, and the only people who have sustainably harvested their food from the environment throughout this archipelago.

Unfortunately these people did not survive to modern times.

Since the arrival of the Europeans, and to the present day, no people in the Bahamas have truly subsisted on the products of the native environment.

Subsistence production during the many very lean years after settlement, relied on non-native species for the major food sources.

These introduced species include cassava, sweet potato, yams, pigeon peas, red beans, sheep, goats, and all poultry. Even the wild hogs of many islands were introduced as domestic breeds before going feral.

The early settlers on several occasions had to appeal to their colleagues on the US mainland for help with staple supplies to prevent starvation on many of the inhabited islands.

The purchase of the Bahamas by the proprietors, and the establishment of plantations on many of the more southerly islands, became short lived, because the thin dry, arid soils were unable to supply sustainable commercial harvests.

In most cases these plantations were abandoned to the slaves and servants to eke out a kind of subsistence involving the sea, and slash and burn methods of coppice (black land) and sandy (white land) cultivation.

To many of the islanders, the Nassau capital may as well have been in Lima, Peru, because communications and transport were non-existent.

The northern pine islands were not exploited to any degree agriculturally, mainly because the pine land was inaccessible, and the 'cap rock' was unworkable with traditional hand tools and manual labour methods. The pine areas were thus appropriately named "The Barrens", even though fresh water was close at hand.

Even the arrival of the Loyalists with their plantation approach resulted in a common survival in which the whites were no better off than their black brothers. All struggled to survive.
The Bahamas went through many years of the most basic provision for sustenance in order to stave off debilitating hunger, and the early church missions often rescued locals from imminent starvation.

Up until the 19th century, church and religious annals take account of the destitution and malnourishment existing in much of the settled Out Islands.

Less than 100 years ago, arrangements were made by the Colonial Service to accommodate workers through contracts in North America. All types of Bahamians took advantage in order to survive the depression and the Second World War.

Many of these migrant workers earned the name "American Boy" after returning with adopted American mannerisms.

Even today there is no continuity of agricultural production over the traditional "lifetimes of farming" experienced in other parts of the world such as Africa and Europe.

There was however a brief spell in our history when agriculture seemed destined to become a major contributor to the economy.

During the early to late 1800s, pineapple and citrus production became a major source of foreign revenue for the islands.

Farming in Eleuthera, Cat island, and southern Abaco became very prominent; as it did in the eastern part of New Providence.

Produce exported to North America and England made significant contributions to the islands' welfare.

However, the rise of Hawaiian pineapple and Florida citrus plantings soon put paid to that flourishing industry. A one cent tax was levied on each imported fruit, thus protecting the US producers.

After the end of the Second World War, the English government introduced the Colonial Development Corporation to various islands in order to foster growth through agricultural entrepreneurship.

The pineapple project on the best land in south Eleuthera failed because mechanisation removed the red soils and introduced raw limestone.

This area would later claim fame as the 'Charolais Ranch' that provided the US with it's prized French cattle breeding stock.

The Andros project failed because the fruit and vegetable land selected behind fresh Creek was a summer swamp when the rains came, and no number of pumps could keep the growing area dry.

It is ironical that here the water was pumped away from the crops, and not to them. Rice would not even grow in the perimeter canals and drainage ditches.

In addition, produce shipped out from Andros by barge did not even survive the journey to Nassau.

Over the years, attempts have been made to introduce sugar cane, large citrus groves, dairy, egg and poultry production to a non-existent agricultural sector.

Some survived for a number of years but mainly because protection against competition was the rule of the day.

In the modern era with the advent of Bahamian accession to the WTO and the apparent barring of protectionism in any form, bleak prospects for agricultural enterprise are looming on the Bahamian horizon.

Many feel disillusioned and upset over the lack of governmental input in order to save the tradition of farming in the country.

The reality is that apart from subsistence production purely for survival, the Bahamian agricultural sector is a myth and a non-contributor to any recognisable part of the economy.

In fact, since majority rule Bahamians have been actively encouraged to move away from agricultural and menial work into tourism and financial services. Today the perception is that agriculture is demeaning and subservient work, close to being on welfare.

The introduction of more modern technology has recently accounted for some apparently successful start ups, and renovated enterprises in Andros.

The use of more modern techniques, even basic ones like efficient irrigation, can dramatically improve yields.

Management of soil fertility and pest control are equally important. These issues will be dealt with in the following article.

September 17, 2011


Saturday, September 17, 2011

Belize celebrates 30 years of independence but major challenges still lie ahead

By Wellington C. Ramos

This September 21, 2011, will make 30 years since Belize became independent from Great Britain but Belize still has major challenges ahead that it is grappling with, such as crime, gangs, political victimization, drugs, poverty, unequal distribution of wealth, lots, land, nationalism, dual citizenship rights and the Guatemalan dispute.

Born in Dangriga Town, the cultural capital of Belize, Wellington Ramos has BAs in Political Science and History from Hunter College, NY, and an MA in Urban Studies from Long Island University. He is an Adjunct Professor of Political Science and HistoryAll these issues continue to plague Belize and make it difficult for our country to develop rapidly. Belizeans are not as nationalistic as the Jamaicans are to their country. One of the reasons for this is because Guatemala is still claiming Belize and some Belizeans think that this claim will remain an everlasting dispute until we give Guatemala some land.

Another reason is that there are many Belizeans who are trying to obtain a lot or piece of land and haven’t gotten any, despite all the efforts they have made to obtain them. Yet, they are witnessing foreigners coming into their country taking, squatting and purchasing lands to live and do farming. People identify themselves with land and when they have it, they will be more than willing to put their lives on the line for it.

Our government should now begin the process to make sure that every natural born Belizean be given a piece of land so that he can live with his or her family and grow food to support them. This will also increase Belizean nationalism because they will have something tangible to attach themselves to.

I left Belize to come and live in the United States thirty-three years ago. When I first arrived in New York City, there was a group called the “Freedom Committee” that was being chaired by Mr Compton Fairweather. This group held weekly Sunday meetings at the basement of a Methodist Church on Ocean Avenue in Brooklyn. Alongside of him were his officers: Muriel Laing, Walford Young, Derrick Staine , Leotin Staine-Lewis, Mary Stuart-Flowers, Mr Trapp and several others. The room was packed with mostly elderly people.

These officers would give speeches about their lives when they were living in Belize and how beautiful Belize is. The main purpose of this group was to make sure that Belize remains a free country with all its territory intact. At the end of the meeting, I would go around and engage in discussions with some of the people in the audience and, to my surprise, many of these people were not prepared to go home and some of them had no intentions of returning to Belize and live.

In addition to this organization, there was a “Telephone Belize News” where Belizeans could call every Tuesday at midnight to get updated news, entertainment events and death announcements. Belizeans from all over the country looked forward to this day to make their telephone calls. After years of service to the community, Mr Fairweather retired and went home to Belize to live. The association and the Belize News no longer exist and Belizeans are still talking about the news but have not done anything to replace or upgrade it.

Prior to the independence of Belize, the two main political parties in Belize held different positions. The United Democratic Party wanted independence with a defenbe guarantee from Great Britain. The People’s United Party wanted independence with or without the guarantee and felt that, with world opinion on their side, Belize will survive.

The prime minister of Great Britain at the time, Margaret Thatcher, wanted to get rid of most of Britain’s overseas territories. She felt that the countries created a huge financial burden to the British government and its people.

The Belize prime minister at the time, the Honorable George Cadle Price, was told by the British that Britain will leave their troops in Belize for an indefinite period of time. A couple years after, the British government started to withdraw their forces out of Belize and the Guatemalans started to reclaim Belize up to this day.

Today, Belizeans are living with this constant threat from Guatemalans, who cross the border at will and come into Belizean territory and occupy lands to establish new villages. In addition, they trespass on Belizean soil to steal Mayan artifacts and other valuables from the country. The Guatemalan military does nothing to stop their citizens from crossing the border to come into Belize.

The Belize and Guatemalan governments signed an agreement in the year 2008, to make efforts to send their border dispute to the International Court of Justice. In this agreement, both countries pledged to conduct a referendum in their respective countries to ratify the agreement. If any of these two countries fail to ratify it, then the whole process will be stalled.

The Guatemalan congress just recently ratified it, after the Belize government did so months ago. It will be up to these two governments to now bring this agreement to their people for a referendum vote. Both countries will be having elections soon and whether these governments would like to bring this controversial issue to a vote by their people is still left to be seen.

In the meantime, Belizeans will be jumping and parading all over the country this year but when the jumping up and parades are finished, Belize will still be in the same position it was in before it celebrated this year’s independence.

Belizean nationalism can only come through implementing an ongoing nationalism program to educate our children and people. First, they must be proud to be Belizeans and have reasons to state why being a Belizean is a lot better than being anything else.

For me, I am proud to be a Belizean because this is the country of my birth. The American government can always take away the citizenship they gave to me but the Belize government cannot. In fact, I dare any Belizean to try and take away my citizenship rights and privileges.

Belizeans living in the Diaspora should start thinking positive about Belize especially with what they are experiencing living in America today. If they do not want to have anything to do with Belize, it might be a decision they will regret later on in their lives.

I have placed my life on the line for Belize when I served in the Belize Police Force and have served in the American armed forces to prepare myself to defend my country if it is invaded by Guatemala or any other country on earth. While victory against the enemy might seem impossible, I would not be able to carry on with my life if I stood there and did nothing to be invaded by another country.

A true citizen is one who is willing to pick up arms and shed his or her blood in defence of his country. If we can get more Belizeans to think like this, our country would find a way to solve this dilemma.

This year we heard from three of our country’s prime ministers and they touched on the poverty in Belize but failed to mention that the African Belizeans, Garifuna and Creoles make up the majority of the poor and those who are leaving Belize to come to the United States.

When the Garifuna people were engaged in farming and fishing back in the old days, their poverty rate was low. Giving the citizens land to grow their own food will eliminate poverty in Belize and this is the time to implement such a desperately needed program for our idle black youths in Belize’s cities and towns.

September 17, 2011


Friday, September 16, 2011

Thoughts on Jamaica's 50th anniversary


The approach of the 50th anniversary of Jamaican independence provides an appropriate time to review and perhaps revise the way Jamaica is governed. Thinking about the structure of government does not require the approach of a significant year, but anniversaries are always an opportune moment for assessment. How has the country done in the past 50 years since it took control of its own affairs? What institutions are not working at all? What is working well? What could be made better?

One place to start is with the constitution hastily written in 1961 to respond to the self-made emergency following the unexpected collapse of the West Indian Federation that was carefully designed to shepherd a number of Caribbean units into an awkward form of independence. But the principal goal of the federation was to relieve Great Britain of the administrative costs of empire. British Caribbean independence was not designed to secure the future happiness and well-being of the citizens of the Caribbean. To guarantee their goal, the British promised that any territory that felt it could make it on its own was free to do so. With the premature collapse of the federation, Jamaica, along with Trinidad and Tobago, opted for independence and needed constitutions to legalise the process.

In 1776 the British North American colonies initiated the idea of a written constitution as a prelude to political independence. It was a rationale for change that tried to do two things. The first was to synthesise some core values and guiding principles of just government. The second was to lay out the guidelines for structuring and regulating the good society. Since then every group of citizens wishing to construct a modern state has outlined its history, culture, hopes and expectations in a form of written constitution. That is what Jamaica did in 1961.

The Jamaica constitution quite properly tried to capture what it felt were the basic values and principles of the country at the time. In that it did a good job. It recognised that Jamaica was a demographically diverse country with roots in Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas. It had a culture that was an eclectic and creolised blend of the various peoples who made the island their home over centuries or who had recently arrived. Jamaican culture was not like a pizza with a choice of exotic toppings. Rather, it was like a delicately constructed cake with discernible ingredients all delightfully melded together. That conviction is reflected in the island's motto, "Out of many One people" as well as in the symbolic colours of the national flag. That intrinsic diversity is still exalted as a desirable virtue.

Jamaicans also hold a deep respect for popular democracy, deriving from its curious history. Jamaica was not always a democracy. Indeed, the original British representative legislature was neither representative nor democratic. But neither was the British Parliament before the Great Reform Act of 1832. Fortunately for Jamaica, the English residents who structured the government of the colony after its capture from the Spanish in 1655 were not the viable critical mass needed to develop and retain the sort of bourgeois proclivities of the white property holders in British North America. The Jamaican legislature accepted free non-whites and Jews as bona fide members as long as they met the eligibility requirements. They were not happy with the result but they had no choice.

Then in 1865 the Jamaica Assembly did a remarkable thing. Rather than expand its representation it abolished itself. That was a lesson in self-preservation that was not lost on the masses. Political control, it learned, was the most important instrument in ensuring social cohesion and common justice. By the time that Jamaica began universal adult suffrage in 1944 a popular democracy was being practised widely by hundreds of organisations across the island. Teachers, small farmers, dockworkers and various other groups of workers formed mutual aid associations hoping to improve their common condition.

Jamaican democracy is founded on the unswerving conviction that the legitimacy of any government rests on the overt approval of the people expressed in free, fair, and open elections. The government is not only responsible to the people; it is also the principal protector of those people. It is benefactor and surrogate parent. This conviction crosses all social and economic divisions and ties the elites to the masses, unlike many other countries where governments are divorced from the people. When governments work well it results in genuine accountability. Governments that fail to meet the expectations of the people are usually rejected at the polls.

The weakness in this apparently sound principle of government resides in the written constitutional form that privileges the two founding political parties, the PNP and the JLP, which have controlled the political process since 1944. As constitutionally structured, especially in a first-past-the-post electoral system, parties other than the PNP and the JLP do not have a fair chance of winning sufficient representation to form a government. These parties have been monumental failures since 1962. Yet a good constitution should cater to a wider representation of views than just those of the PNP and the JLP.

As Jamaica approaches its 50th anniversary, now is as good a time as any to rethink the constitution. What Jamaica needs is a responsive procedure that results in the greatest good for the greatest number of its citizens. Because democracy is not a perfect form of government - there is no perfect form of democracy - then from time to time it needs to be modified and re-calibrated to serve the majority of the people. Nothing could serve the people of Jamaica better than a major discussion in the next year about the constitutional basis of its government and how it may be improved. As the poet Tennyson wrote: "The old order changes yielding place to new; and God fulfils himself in many ways lest one good custom should corrupt the world." Change is inevitable. Jamaica's present and future depend on periodically reconciling its political institutions to its new realities.

September 14, 2011


Thursday, September 15, 2011

Bahamas: The gas retailers are slaves to big oil and so is the Bahamian government

No mercy from oil giants

Tribune242 Staff Reporter

Nassau, The Bahamas

Just over twenty years ago, the notorious regime of the Medellin Cartel came to an end, when a long series of gun battles resulted in Colombian police killing drug leader Pablo Escobar. Mr Escobar was said to be a violent mercenary responsible for the murder of hundreds of government officials, police, prosecutors, judges, journalists and innocent bystanders. He was the last survivor in the powerful drug cartel, infamous for its violent past and of smuggling cocaine into the United States.

This article is not about cocaine or drug cartels; however, it is useful to understand what the Medellin Cartel represents to understand the extent of the oppression felt by petroleum retailers in the Bahamas in relation to their petroleum bosses, Esso, Shell, Chevron and the Freeport Oil Holdings Company, Ltd. (FOCOL).

"The Medellin Cartel, you know they are notorious for killings and murders; they have more heart than oil wholesalers in the Bahamas. They have more love for their victims than oil companies have love for the Bahamas," claimed one gas retailer, who wished to speak anonymously.

Take Esso, for example, owned by the most profitable country in the world, Exxon Mobile. Esso is "king" in this town, said one government source.

Esso owns the only jetty at Clifton Pier that pumps oil from the barges into racking trucks for distribution. Esso collects millions in transfer fees from the largest wholesaler, the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC), along with all of the other private wholesalers, for use of its jetty. In turn, according to Leslie Miller, former Minister of Trade and Industry, the oil company pays the government a pittance of $10,000 annually to rent the sea bed. He said the Bahamas is the third largest consumer of oil in the English speaking Caribbean.

That is right, according to Mr Miller, Esso pays the Bahamian people $10,000 a year, to run an extremely profitable business at one of the most important historical sites in New Providence. It pays $10,000 a year to operate a business that routinely contaminates the air quality and the sea quality at one of the most sacred old sea ports in New Providence. And the Bahamian people, the government included, are powerless to do anything about it. What does that say about the notion of Bahamian sovereignty?

This fee dates back more than 40 years, according to Mr Miller, during the era of the United Bahamian Party (UBP) government. It has gone unchallenged since, he said. When he got wind of the situation as minister and agitated for change, Mr Miller said he was shortly after transferred from trade and industry to agriculture and fisheries. This unsurprising move is indicative of the powerful external forces at work in Bahamian politics.

Esso is reputed to charge the highest rents, between $15,000 and $24,000 per month, and the highest franchise fees, 8 per cent, at its retail sites. One retailer claims that it is cheaper to rent square footage for a store in New York City, one of the most expensive cities in the world, than square footage on Bahamian soil to franchise an Esso service station.

The franchise agreement is a noose around the neck of Bahamian business people, dictating everything from stock levels, operating hours, dress codes, layout of the convenience store, and products to be sold. One retailer said his service station makes no money between 1am and 6 am, but he is forced to stay open and pay people to watch a building because his "slave masters" say so.

There is supposed to be a fundamental separation between the wholesale business and the retail business, according to the national investment policy, say retailers; however, in practice, the separation is a lie.

When Chevron took over from Texaco a few years ago, retailers say this relieved some of the burden on Texaco retailers, because they no longer took out a percentage in franchisee fees, but word has it that Chevron is currently being sold again, so there is no telling what the future could hold.

"Nothing is at the discretion of the dealers. They are basically powerless. They are puppets for the oil companies," he said.

Retailers incur all of the costs of site maintenance, including equipment repair, landscaping, plumbing, electricity, water, staffing.

The oil companies mandate that their retailers pay exorbitant fees for "useless" customer service training. Even though the oil companies insure their buildings and equipment, they mandate retailers also pay insurance: not for security reasons, but so that the oil companies can obtain a lower rate of insurance on their payments.

To alter the conditions of a franchise agreement for a gas retailer would mean closure, because the oil companies could yank their equipment and close up shop, leaving the retailer saddled with debt to a bank that ultimately cares only about getting paid.

The list of complaints goes on, and they are relevant, not only to Esso, but all of the oil companies, including Sun Oil Bahamas, which uses the Shell brand under license. Retailers claim, "The sunshine boys took over from the Bay Street boys and carried on the same old tactics." FOCOL is owned by a mixed bag of political types with Franklyn Wilson and Sir Orville Turnquest among the shareholders. Sun Oil Bahamas is a subsidiary of FOCOL.

These views, nonetheless, stand in stark contrast to views expressed by others, like the former energy minister, who cautioned me not to be fooled by the crocodile tears of gas retailers.

Mr Miller pretty much labelled some of them as "greedy scoundrels" who could not be trusted, because, in his view, their constant cries for margin increases are unfounded.

One gas station owner said about three years ago he was able to make $200-$250,000 in annual profit. At that rate of profitability, Mr Miller suggested there was nothing wrong with the margins. Another gas retailer said those profit levels are the stuff of fantasy today; in less than one year his overdraft with the bank quintupled. There is no doubt, retailers carry a heavy load. They virtually subsidise the industry, said one source. With so much debt to contend with, it is not easy to get out, and with no power, it is hard to survive.

Although full of enthusiasm and insight, Mr Miller speaks with an embittered heart. He said he was able to bring about $80 million worth of savings in the pockets of Bahamian consumers, for which he is very proud. But he admits, in the face of very powerful forces working against the interests of the Bahamian people, he failed to create fundamental change in the local industry. At almost every turn - Liquefied Natural Gas, Petro Caribe - his efforts were rejected by the Bahamian people, the Bahamian government and various unseen, external forces.

Mr Miller claimed that the United States' government, through the Embassy in Nassau, was one of those powerful forces working counter to the interests of the Bahamian people. They would pressure the Bahamian government to back off the oil companies. Naturally, the US Embassy in the Bahamas is here to secure the interests of its citizens and corporations, the latter being more important, despite the rhetoric.

It is claimed that oil companies are so powerful globally that they even have the American government, senators and congressmen included, slaving for them, inside and outside their own country. Imagine how much power the Bahamian government, much less the local gas retailers, would have in face of those geopolitics.

Profit margins are only one part of the debate. The more fundamental argument is about the nature of the relationship between wholesalers and retailers. Any reasonable analysis of the Bahamian oil industry, weighed with global oil politics, would determine there is an inherent lack of equity with the current structure, and local gas retailers get the shortest end of the stick. There is no arguing the need for fundamental change in the Bahamas.


Successive governments have tried to patch up the problem, but no one has yet been able to bring about the kind of fundamental change that would really work in the best interests of the Bahamian people, business owners included.

Minnis Service Station on Market Street is one of the few independent stations around. It started out as a Shell retailer, about 50 years ago, operating as such for about 21 years. Mr Minnis said at that time black people did not know much about business and they were "given a sip of water and made to believe they had a gallon."

He owned his property on Market Street, but not having the resources or expertise at the time to set up a gas station, he entered a lease agreement with the oil company to develop the land. Once complete, he said the oil company leased the business back to him. After 21 years, he said he decided that he no longer wanted "a job" working for big oil. He wanted to provide "a service" to his people under the dictates of his own business.

So Mr Minnis said he refused to sign anymore lease agreements and set out to become an independent gas retailer. Shell came and packed up all of its equipment, its signs and compressor, and refused to sell gas to Minnis Service Station without a lease agreement. After a solid business relationship for 21 years, Mr Minnis said he was left out in the cold and all because he wanted to develop himself in a manner that suited his own best interests.

At times, Mr Minnis said he would have to work a deal with a friend, who owned a nearby station, to get gas for his tanks.

Mr Minnis said his views are from "the stone age," but how he sees it the global economic system has people "trapped in a cage."


Corporations have replaced the old colonial masters and the old slave masters, he said. Within the system, some people are made to believe they live in a mansion, and if they work really hard they can own it, when all the time they are simply trapped in a cage, in the dungeon of the master's house. That is the farce of the petroleum industry and the West World, said Mr Minnis.

The gas retailers are slaves to big oil and so is the Bahamian government.

One gas retailer said the industry progressed over the years away from independent stations, because the oil companies saw an opportunity to make more money. He said in the decades prior to the '60s and '70s, the retail industry was operated mainly by white Bahamians who owned independent stations. The oil companies only profited from the sale of fuel, which is the only thing they rightly should, according to retailers.

Not being satisfied with this model, the oil companies sought to buy out the retailers and set up their own competing retail outlets. This way, they could collect rent, franchise fees and profit from the sale of oil.

Government regulation facilitated the wholesalers, because a long-standing moratorium on retail licenses forced interested business people to obtain franchise agreements through wholesalers in order to operate a retail outlet.

Some 50 years later, independent retailers are almost a thing of the past, in New Providence, where the big oil cartels reign supreme. The independent model is applied in the Family Islands today, presumably because the oil companies do not have an interest there.

According to one source, one of the reasons for the moratorium on retail licenses was the proliferation of service stations. He claimed this is yet another side effect of wholesalers having their fingers too deep in the retail pot.

Wholesalers get their money up front, so they are not concerned about the market being flooded with service stations. The risk and the burden of debt lie on the retail operators.

If the government were to regulate the industry properly, retailers claim it would bring about consolidation and eventually level out the number of stations. Those remaining stations would become more viable and more profitable, said a retailer.

As for resources and expertise, retailers claim wholesalers no longer need to do it all. Bahamians have sufficient expertise and access to financing to develop their own service stations. And if wholesalers moved out of the picture, they could do so profitably.

Bahamian retailers say wholesalers, whether foreign or Bahamian owned, need to get out of the business of retailing. Wholesalers should stick to the business of oil exploration and import, and leave retailing to local businesses. Retailers claim there is a consensus that independent gas retail is a better option for Bahamian businesses.

September 12, 2011


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

WikiLeaks, foreign policy and OECS trade policy unit findings are too much for the Diaspora

By Ian Francis:

In the North American Diaspora, there is always a thirst for forward looking news from the Caribbean region. This thirst for progressive policy news is often bolstered when it is learnt that our regional governments are actively coordinating foreign policy management, searching for export markets and trade collaboration in Canada and, most important, attaining a factual and global understanding that the United States has lost its world policing status. Many new players have emerged and it is time to take cognizance.

WikiLeaks and the Comrade

Ian Francis resides in Toronto and is a frequent contributor on Caribbean affairs. He is a former Assistant Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Grenada and can be reached at info@visminconsultancy.caMy last article a few days ago on this medium addressed the ongoing WikiLeaks saga as the Bridgetown based US Embassy ramped up its poor and unqualitative analysis and observations about certain political leadership in the region. It was my intention in this article to refrain from further comments on WikiLeaks; however, I have been stalled due to the many unsubstantiated mischief or allegations allegedly being made against Prime Minister Gonsalves. Let me make it clear, although I have known Comrade Gonsalves for a long time, as a social commentator, I hold no biases but can only comment to what I perceive as wrong against a duly elected prime minister. It shows that the policy of hate, spite and mischief is evident and alive in St Vincent and no doubt in other CARICOM states.

It was my understanding three years ago that, when certain allegations of sexual misconduct against the prime minister surfaced, the allegations were dealt with in the necessary respective judicial jurisdiction where a final resolution was rendered. Further ill-founded and mischievous complaints emerged including one from Canada, which resulted in a rather quick retreat by the various complainants. Several other whining and concocted stories against the prime minister, a minister of government and senior officer of the Royal St Vincent Police Force bore no fruits and were described as mischief and speculative.

What is very interesting in this whole episode is the apparent weight and recognition given to three local mischief makers by the United States government. As I learned of the plots, cell phone conversations and begging requests made to the United States Embassy, I could not but helped ask myself, is St Vincent and the Grenadines an independent nation? Are the three mischief makers or character assassins against the prime minister considering themselves to be firm anti-imperialist and anti-colonialist? Lastly, how can any serious lawyer engaged in such an important issue not understand that DNA tests are conducted in a very specific manner and the possibility of contamination could play a very important role in advancing key evidence? I found it imperative to raise these important questions with the view of understanding that one of the three smarties who are destined to destroy the Comrade will see it fit and necessary to respond to my article.

CARICOM foreign policy coordination

It was only three weeks ago that great fanfare and hope was displayed in Georgetown, Guyana, when a respected and able Irwin La Rocque of Dominica assumed command of the CARICOM Secretariat. It was even more satisfying to me when I read excerpts of the welcome address accorded to the secretary general by Prime Minister Douglas of the Federation of St Kitts and Nevis. In his capacity as current chair of the Community, he heightened the need for more foreign policy coordination within the region by the Secretariat and entrusted Mr La Rocque with many other tasks to be pursued by the Secretariat.

In my view, Prime Minister Douglas’s remarks were appropriate, realistic and established a tone and supportive launching pad for the new secretary general. Unfortunately, as the date approaches for the next United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) and the varying lobbying efforts are in place by the United States to influence a note by CARICOM states on the Palestine resolution, there are now serious concerns about Prime Minister Douglas’s welcoming remarks about foreign policy coordination in the region. There are even stronger concerns on my part about which way St Kitts will vote on the resolution, as current media reports indicate that Grenada, St Kitts and St Lucia are likely to break ranks with the long standing CARICOM position on supporting the call for an independent Palestine state.

While the foreign policy conduct of St Lucia and Grenada will never be a surprise, I am a bit concerned about St Kitts for two reasons. My respect and observation of Dr Douglas as a deep thinker and no-nonsense leader, and Cuban trained medical doctor, Dr Assim Martin, who recently represented St Kitts in Israel on a recent fact finding mission.

I must add that I was not surprised at the comments attributed to Grenada’s Foreign Minister Karl Hood in the Jerusalem Post. His professed ignorance and lack of knowledge of the Palestine issue was not surprising and his eagerness to get media publicity in Israel further attest to this minister’s individual shallowness on foreign policy issues. Grenada has always been a strong supporter for the creation of a Palestine independent state. This is why, in 1979, Grenada gave formal diplomatic recognition to the PLO and at the same time maintained diplomatic relations with Israel, thus supporting the latter’s right to exist.

As the voting period becomes closer, the CARICOM Secretariat cannot shrug off its responsibilities for a foreign policy coordination strategy on the PLO. It was done before and it is important to allow this consistency to continue. If Grenada feels that it cannot support the resolution, it should immediately break diplomatic relations with the PLO, thus paving its way to vote no, given Bridgetown’s warning, Hood’s recent junket in Israel and foreign policy ignorance.

St Lucia’s behaviour is not surprising. Their approach to foreign policy management stalled four years ago when they booted out mainland China for a return of a renegade province known as Taiwan. In addition, in recent months when the St Lucia crime environment escalated, King’s only solution was to suggest assistance from Israel. Since nothing further was heard about this, it is not known whether Israeli agents are on St Lucia’s soil, thus making it mandatory for King and his hooligans to vote against the PLO resolution.

Therefore, there are still many unanswered questions to the current chair and secretary general of CARICOM.

1) Will the Secretariat be engaged in foreign policy coordination at the United Nations when the resolution is introduced calling for a Palestine state?

2) What is the current state of foreign policy coordination with respect to CARICOM states recognizing one China?

3) Is foreign policy coordination within the Secretariat selective, which leaves individual member states to do their own thing when it is in their interest?

The concept of foreign policy coordination is very confusing to me.

The OECS Trade Policy Unit

During the last year, I addressed many trade related issues related to Canada and the OECS within the context of the CARIBCAN trade agreement. My concerns have always stemmed from the fact and knowledge that that were deficiencies and much more work on an effective trade strategy was necessary if trade and investment opportunities are to be realized and sustained between Canada and the OECS. My concerns were often challenged by Trade Policy Unit personnel, as they felt that my comments and opinions were not fair. Their challenge to my articles increased after their successful rum tasting event and Quebec’s Liquor Board’s consent to grant provisional trial rights for alcohol products from St Lucia.

However, the recent Trade Policy Unit junket held in Antigua last month released transparent and long known information. The release of their technical study on trade between the OECS and Canada requires no further comments except to ask the Castries-based unit the following questions:

1) With the recent closure of the OECS diplomatic mission in Ottawa, what are the alternative plans to ensure an OECS trade enhancement presence in Canada?

2) Now that the OECS Trade Policy Unit has released a technical study that shows little or no trade development capacities between Canada and the OECS, what specific strategies will be advanced by the Unit to build and strengthen trade capacities?

3) Can the Trade Policy unit shed some more light about potential ICT products that can be exported from OECS countries to Canada?

4) In light of the results from your Unit’s technical study, will your unit continue to rely on the Trade Facilitation Organization (TFO) to build trade relations between the OECS and Canada or will be you are exploring the participation and involvement of real Canadian trade stakeholders in your anticipated trade capacity building initiatives?

5) What does the future hold for the development and sustainability of an effective trade strategy between Canada and the OECS that involve diverse sectors and stakeholders?

My articles and opinions are not designed to provoke or challenge the functionality of regional institutions. However, trade and investment impact on diverse interests and may be the time has reached when the Trade Policy Unit needs to embark upon new strategies that will engage a broader spectrum of individuals and institutions.

September 14, 2011