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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Georgetown not looking good: Partisan strife in Guyana

By Elizabeth Briggs
Research Associate at Council on Hemispheric Affairs

Guyana’s historical ethnic tension between the Indo-Guyanese and the Afro-Guyanese communities is routinely manifested in the political life of the small South American country. In Guyana, the larger Indo-Guyanese segment of the population favors the ruling People’s Progressive Party (PPP/C), while Afro-Guyanese largely support the coalition A Partnership for National Unity (APNU), which was formed in 2011 primarily by the People’s National Congress, as well as the Alliance for Change. In the November 2011 elections, the PPP/C-backed candidate Donald Ramotar was declared the presidential victor, but his party lost its parliamentary majority by one seat for the first time since 1992, giving the opposition alliance of the APNU and the AFC a virtual veto power over the national agenda.

The current tensions between Guyana’s major two parties boiled over during July in the country’s second largest city, Linden, a traditional stronghold of Afro-Guyanese electoral strength and political muscle. On July 18, three Lindeners partaking in an allegedly APNU-supported demonstration were killed and dozens more were injured while protesting the government’s increase of electricity rates in the region. Resulting protests and acts of arson inflicted significant infrastructural damages on the city, including the burning of the One Mile Primary School.

The PPP/C pointed to the protestors, who they believe were incited by APNU agent provocateurs, for the damage. In turn, the APNU has accused the police force, acting under PPP/C influence, of being racially motivated. PPP/C defector Khemraj Ramjattan, now the leader of the opposition Alliance for Change, went as far as stating, “It is my firm view, I can’t prove it, but my firm opinion that there are state agents involved (in Linden) operating under the arrangements of some of the people in senior government offices that are creating these burnings. I cannot believe that Lindeners are going to burn a school that 800 students go to. It has to be state agents doing that. The PPP thrives on these situations and the situation has the capacity to bring back their supporters into their wagon and they want that to happen.”[i]

The state-run Guyana Chronicle fought back against these accusations with an editorial titled “Ramjattan has gone into pure, unadulterated evil,” which accused Mr Ramjattan of treason and adamantly denied any governmental involvement.[ii] Eusi Kwayana, himself a former member of the PPP/C in the 1960s, came out strongly against PPP/C actions in Linden, denouncing their one-party administration and accused the government of a “barefaced and cowardly attack” on critical journalist Freddie Kissoon.[iii]

On August 21 President Ramotar signed a pact with Linden leaders, finally bringing to an end the four weeks of chaos and negating the provocative rise in electricity costs for Lindeners. In response to a request from the Guyanese government that was also approved of by the APNU, a CARICOM committee consisting of Justice Lensley Wolfe, KD Knight of Jamaica, and Ms Dana Seetahal of Trinidad and Tobago will investigate the situation and is expected to announce its findings by the end of September.[iv] It is certain that the late President Cheddi Jagan would have just cause to weep for the rack and ruin of contemporary Guyanese politics gutting the nation’s political life.

[i]“Ramjattan has gone into pure, unadulterated evil.”Guyana Chronicle, August 14, 2012. (accessed August 24, 2012).
[ii] Ibid.
[iii] Kwayana, Eusi. “Letter to the Editor.” Kaieteur News, August 18, 2012. (accessed August 24, 2012).
[iv] CARICOM, “Statement by the Caribbean Community Secretariat on the Recommendation of Commissioners RE: Linden Inquiry.” Last modified August 20, 2012. Accessed August 24, 2012. .

The Council on Hemispheric Affairs, founded in 1975, is an independent, non-profit, non-partisan, tax-exempt research and information organization. It has been described on the Senate floor as being "one of the nation's most respected bodies of scholars and policy makers." For more information, visit or email

August 30, 2012

...the United States is accused of exacerbating The Bahamas' crime problem dumping criminals in The Islands who are not Bahamians ...and should be sent elsewhere


By Korvell Pyfrom
The Bahama Journal
Nassau, The Bahamas

A former high ranking police officer has accused the United States of exacerbating this country’s crime problem by dumping criminals in The Bahamas who are not Bahamian and should be sent elsewhere.

In an exclusive interview with the Bahama Journal yesterday, former Deputy Commissioner of Police Paul Thompson raised concerns about an increasingly large percentage of the criminal population in The Bahamas that is not Bahamian.

Mr. Thompson, a 30-year Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF) veteran, said that the situation is further complicated by the fact that the United States is deporting criminals to The Bahamas whom he says should be sent elsewhere.

Mr. Thompson said the Bahamian government should demand that the US stop sending criminals to The Bahamas who are not Bahamians.

“It appears that anyone picked up in the United States who came from The Bahamas – the person might have stowed away or something else, but as long as the Americans establish that the person came from here, they will send them here,” he said. “They could be Haitian, Jamaican or anything else. Their citizenship has not been established. If they came from here, they are sending them back here and this is something we need to ask the US to stop.”

“The [Bahamian] government should say to the US – stop sending these people to us who are not Bahamian; send them to their country.”

The former deputy commissioner of police reminded that this situation should highlight the importance of creating a proper immigration regime.

He also warned of the precarious position the country places itself in by not reforming its policies regarding processing illegal nationals.

“During the earthquake in Haiti 350 dangerous prisoners escaped – gunmen, rapists and political prisoners escaped. We do not have a fingerprint, a photograph or a name of any of them and we do not know who of them are here and these are things we have to fight,” he said.

Mr. Thompson also called on the government to hold off on its decision to repatriate those Haitian nationals apprehended at sea in waters off Mangrove Cay, Andros last week until first determining whether they were involved in human smuggling.

“At least with the foreigners we have that law deportation. We ask people to leave and put on stop list. This boat with these people in Andros, well that’s a big boat. The owners of the boat, the captain and crew we should seek them out and put them in jail. Those people should go to jail and the remainder of the boat should be seized.”

The vessel carrying nearly 200 Haitians ran aground Saturday from the effects of Tropical Storm Isaac.
Foreign Affairs and Immigration Minister Fred Mitchell has confirmed to the Journal that while investigations in to the incident involving the Haitian nationals is underway, the government was moving forward with its decision to repatriate the 197 nationals to Haiti today.

29 August, 2012

The Bahama Journal

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Haiti, its history, its culture and its people

By Jean H Charles

Its history

Haiti, previously called Ayiti by the Tainos who inhabited the island, was the most populous and the most organized of the chain of the territories of the Caribbean. Their days were changed on December 5, 1492, when Christopher Columbus arrived in a northern bay renamed Bay of St Nicholas because of the feast of St Nicholas on that day. The Tainos received the Spanish explorers with genuine hospitality, offering gold chains to the men. Columbus returned to Spain to inform Queen Isabella of his discovery, leaving behind a crew of sailors.

Jean H Charles MSW, JD is Executive Director of AINDOH Inc a non profit organization dedicated to building a kinder and gentle Caribbean zone for all. He can be reached at:
Within a generation, the population of some one million Tainos was reduced to hundreds. Those who were not decimated through new disease brought by the Spanish men, such as tuberculosis, gonorrhea and syphilis, were destroyed through hard labour, alcohol and plain mutilation.

Yet, the gold exploration had to continue, and a priest by the name of Las Casas, under the pretext of protecting the Taino population from oblivion, obtained from the Queen of Spain, the authorization to grant the right for merchants to seek and bring Africans into the Western hemisphere to labour in the mines.

From 1503 to 1793, almost three hundred years, the black slaves toiled the land, producing sugar, cotton and cocoa that enriched principally the French colonists, who ruled the island with an iron fist.

It was as such until a Jamaican slave by the name of Bookman organized a voodoo ceremony in the northern part of St Domingue on August 14, 1791, to energize the slaves in revolting with the slogan: Better death than return to slavery!

The destruction of the plantations followed, but Bookman was seized and killed. Toussaint Breda, who became later Toussaint Louverture, continued the movement. A well educated and profoundly religious man, Toussaint was aware of the wind of human rights brought upon St Domingue first by the American Revolution in 1776 and later by the French Revolution in 1789.

Through several battles, he defeated first the British, later the Spanish and proposed a French Commonwealth to Napoleon Bonaparte, leading the destiny of the island with prosperity and hospitality for all. His reputation as a nation builder was sterling. Indeed the second president of the United States, John Adams, already trading with the governor of the country, was contemplating advising him to become king of the island.

Bonaparte responded with an armada supported by the third president of the United States, Thomas Jefferson. Through a ruse, where family affection was at the root, two sons of Toussaint were on the boat coming from France, and he was lured into the hands of Rochambeau, Bonaparte’s brother in law, who was the commandant of the naval regiment.

Toussaint was captured, imprisoned and sent to die in a prison in France. He had predicted that the roots of freedom were strong and deep and they would not wither.

Jean Jacques Dessalines took up the revolutionary movement and, within three years, he had succeeded, with the support of other generals such as Henry Christophe and Alexander Petion, to root out all the French soldiers from the island. In a memorable battle on November 18, 1803, the ragtag army of slaves succeeded where Spartacus with his 6,000 men could not accomplish with the Roman Empire some 2,000 years earlier in 70BC.

They rang the song of freedom for all slaves on the island and foreshadowed the beginning of the end of slavery in the world.

This saga was a short glorious moment for Haiti. Two years after Independence Day, on January 1, 1804, Jean Jacques Dessalines was assassinated on October 17, 1806, by his comrades in arms. His ideas of nation building, making Haiti hospitable to all were not the vision of the majority of the other generals. They envisioned the spoils of the colony for themselves only, and their families.

Haiti has never recovered. Through internal revolts fomented by foreign powers such as France, Germany and the United States, with the assistance of, first, mulatto rulers and later poorly educated black generals, Haiti and its people descended into a spiral of ignorance, misery and environmental calamity until today.

The latest one, the earthquake of January 12, 2010, destroyed its capital Port au Prince, as well as sending to death some 300,000 people. This disaster was preceded by 150 years of neglected mulatto governments and recently 50 years of black dictatorial regimes, followed by illiberal democracy that is closer to criminality than good governance.

Its culture

The slaves that climbed the mountains of Haiti after the Independence Day became the Haitian peasants. No one has ever bothered to ask them whether they should have good institutions such as schools and hospitals or decent infrastructure such as roads, electricity and communications. They have preserved intact the African culture mixed with the century’s old acculturation taken from the remaining Tainos and French masters during slavery times. Haiti is at the same time a mosaic of purely African, Santa Fe, USA, and Provence, France, culture.

The aftershock of the Haitian revolution was varied and unnerving as a cause. The Latin American revolution with Bolivar, through the help of Alexander Petion, took place. Abraham Lincoln and Frederic Douglass, inspired by Haiti, brought about the black emancipation. As such, the nation was ostracized by the then world order of slavery.

Only the Vatican, through a Concordat in 1860, accepted to send teachers to Haiti to educate the population. The priests and the nuns did what they could, they provided the bread of good formation to the tiny elite that peopled the cities, leaving behind the masses in the rural areas uneducated and ill advised.

Haiti is today a land of two cultures, the land of Catholic, refined, French-speaking and sophisticated city dwellers, as well as the land of voodoo practitioners, dispossessed former peasants living in squalid condition in shantytowns on the outskirts of prime land near the sea or peasants still forgotten in the mountains surrounding the cities.

Desperate, some have taken the ultimate chance of seeking a more hospitable sky through leaky boats to Florida, The Bahamas and all over the Caribbean islands, in particular, Dominica, the Dominican Republic, going as far as Suriname on firm land in Latin America.

Handy in arts and in art-craft, their production under different labels can be seen in the best hotels and shops on the tourist trail of the Caribbean, except that the label made in Haiti is removed. Good agricultural workers, from a native land that has been eroded by poor soil treatment and tree cutting for charcoal, they are replenishing the landscape of the Dominican Republic, Dominica and The Bahamas with fruit trees and hard wood that could have enriched their own country.

Its people

With a population of 10 million people, Haiti is in the enviable position of Sweden, Finland, Norway or Denmark; except it is not as cold. While the Haitian population is highly creative, it is not as educated and sophisticated as those Nordic countries, as such it miss the key ingredient that could propel the country into full employment and the bliss of growth and development.

It is a young population, eager to learn and pierce the world of modernity. Its adult population is resilient and willing to work hard for its daily bread. But its lack of education will continue to hamper the optimum utilization of its natural talents and the zeal to achieve.

In spite of this deficiency, Haiti, a small island with the proportions of the State of Maryland, has a brand name that goes beyond the Western Hemisphere. It has greatly contributed to the nation building process of several countries, through the utilization of its professional citizens, including the Congo, Brazzaville and Quebec, Canada. The famous Haitians, or celebrities with Haitian origins, include a roster that spans the arts, politics, sports and music. The list includes but is not limited to: E-W Dubois, James Audubon, Pierre Toussaint, Wyclef Jean, Edwige Danticat, Michaelle Jean, Andre Michael (boxer) Jean Michel Basquiat, Garcelle Beauvais, Jimmy Jean Louis, 50 Cent, Pierre Garcon, Jonathan Vilma, Maxwell Garcon.

Haiti experienced an avalanche of help from the nonprofit organizations and from the UN after the earthquake of 2010, but donor fatigue is languishing around because of a lack of good coordination and sound vision from the government. Will this new regime of Martelly/Lamothe deliver the goods to a nation and a people, so eager for so long to enjoy the bliss of hospitality?

It is too early to label the new regime as a Teflon government or a true agent of change that will transform the nation into the Tahiti brand of the western hemisphere, because of its natural and spectacular scenery, or the Bali brand of the Caribbean, because of its many cultural and religious festivals that are the staple of everyday life.

Anyway, Haiti has been too good for the region for humanity not to come to its help with enduring and sustainable tools that will change the lives of so many enduring and eager citizens ready to enjoy the bounties of God on this land that was once called the Pearl of the Islands.

August 25, 2012


Friday, August 24, 2012

Gangs and Violence in Her Majesty’s Prison (HMP) - Fox Hill - Nassau, The Bahamas

As Gangs Infest Prison

By Jones Bahamas

Something is going on in Her Majesty’s Prison in Fox Hill. And ‘that something’ does not have a good smell.

Whatever it is – it comes with stench attached.

We have heard enough and been told enough to believe that the public should have a full, frank and totally truthful accounting of what is going down in that complex.

Prison Superintendent Dr. Elliston Rahming continues to deny a senior prison officer’s claims that a “new breed of criminals” is infiltrating Her Majesty’s Prisons (HMP), but also is quick to add that gang activity is increasing at the state-run facility.

Perhaps this might be the key: Rahming concedes: – One of the new developments is that we now have discernible gang related groupings in the prison. That is a fairly new phenomenon…”

Ah, hah! Echo cries: – we now have discernible gang related groupings in the prison!

Could this not be evidence of some facts that should matter to the neighbors, family and friends of both the men and women in prison and those who work there?

As we have learned, Dr. Rahming said prison officials are making some headway in figuring out just why gang activity is increasing.

We want to know what this means; how are they measuring headway.

We also want to know the facts behind Prisoner Officer Sergeant Gregory Archer’s statement to the effect that a new breed of more violent hardened criminals are infiltrating HMP, making prison officers’ jobs more dangerous.

The tit-for-tat between Rahming and Archer is itself revelatory of a system that is in need of urgent attention from the Minister of National Security and his colleagues around the Table.

This is most urgent.

Notwithstanding Rahming’s sophistry concerning human nature and all that blather of his about how Cain killed Abel where he so brilliantly opined: “I wouldn’t say that there is a new breed of inmates coming into the prison, but certainly the numbers are greater. But human nature has been the same ever since Cain killed Abel; human nature has not changed.

“We have certainly more persons to deal with, but the nature of mankind has not changed.”
The fact of the matter is this: the prison officer is the man in the middle of the mix.

If this man or woman ever becomes convinced that they should concede the fight, the prison would then and thereafter be in and under the command of the men and women in the gangs.

We must have none of this.

We need – as a matter of the most urgent priority – to know whether there is any truth to the word we are getting that speaks to prison realities where cell-phones are bought, sold and used by inmates; where recalcitrant men and women on remand are routinely being subjected to sexual abuse and where – for better or worse – money talks.

Then, there is all that talk about the extent to which the prison complex is pervaded and saturated with violence.

As Archer testifies: “…Despite prison already being a dangerous place to live and work, over the years the jail atmosphere has gotten even worse, mimicking scenes out of movies and the hit American television show Lock Up with the fights getting even more dangerous…”

And yet, Dr. Rahming maintains that Her Majesty’s Prison is safe.

Rahming’s parsing of prison reality would have us all believe that Archer is not lying; that Her Majesty’s Prisons is under control; that officers come to work with the fair expectation that they will return home to their families; inmates can go to bed at night with the fair expectations that, unless the Lord takes them home, they will wake up in the morning and those are signs of a well-run prison.

And then there is more of same: “A prison is not an easy place to run… But, that is not to say that danger is not ever present because it is ever present.”

Then he concludes danger is ever present as underscored by Rahming himself: “I think it’s fair to say that officers, although they work amongst the worst of the worst, they are in a safe environment insofar as one can call a prison safe.”

Quite frankly, we are not impressed.

We need hear no more to conclude that an end should come to this so-called ‘debate’ between Archer who seems to know what he is talking about and the Prison Superintendent Elliston Rahming who seems to have the public believe him when he says what he says.

We need to hear from the Minister of National Security; and we need to know what – if anything – he proposes to do about this mess.

23 August, 2012

The Bahama Journal

Monday, August 20, 2012

Venezuela and the Bolivarian Alliance of the Peoples of our America (ALBA) Back Ecuador in Wikileaks Asylum Dispute

By Ewan Robertson:

Mérida, 17th August 2012 ( – Venezuela and the ALBA alliance have backed Ecuador against “threats” from Britain, after Ecuador granted Wikileaks founder Julian Assange diplomatic asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy in London yesterday.

Swedish authorities want to extradite Assange from the UK to investigate allegations against him of sexual assault.

However Ecuadorian foreign minister Ricardo Patino voiced fears that Assange, whose website Wikileaks often publishes US government secret documents, could face “political persecution” if extradited to Sweden, including being handed over to US authorities.

UK foreign minister William Hague described Ecuador’s move as a “matter of regret,” insisting that “We will not allow Mr Assange safe passage out of the United Kingdom, nor is there any legal basis for us to do so”.

Patino also heavily criticised what he termed an “open threat” by the British government to enter the Ecuadorian embassy by force to arrest Assange. On 15 August he cited a diplomatic letter delivered through the British embassy in Quito, which stated “You need to be aware that there is a legal base in the UK, the Diplomatic and Consular Premises Act 1987, that would allow us to take actions in order to arrest Mr Assange in the current premises of the Embassy”.

“We sincerely hope that we do not reach that point, but if you are not capable of resolving this matter of Mr Assange's presence in your premises, this is an open option for us," the letter continued.


Venezuela called for Ecuador’s decision to grant Assange asylum to be respected, and criticised the British government’s conduct over the issue.

“We hope that the British government respects not only international law but the right to political asylum that Assange has received,” said yesterday Venezuela’s foreign minister, Nicolas Maduro.

Speaking during an official visit in the Dominican Republic, Maduro also expressed his rejection of “the arrogance and predominance that the British government has had in the region [Latin America], directly threatening a democratic and sovereign government and announcing the possible violation of international law”.

Meanwhile, the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA), which includes Cuba, Venezuela, and Ecuador among its members, also released a statement yesterday criticising the British government’s message to Ecuador.

The statement raised concerns that by Britain’s “threats” made “against the integrity” of the Ecuadorian embassy in London, the British government was in danger of violating the Vienna Convention on [Diplomatic] Privileges and Immunities.

Declaring the ALBA’s “unfailing solidarity” with Ecuador, the statement further warned the British government of “the serious consequences for the relations with our countries that will follow in the event these threats are carried out”.

According to Maduro, regional organisations the ALBA, the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) are being “activated…to accompany the Ecuadorian government” over the issue.

UNASUR is set to hold an extraordinary meeting of foreign ministers in Quito, Ecuador, this Sunday. The Organisation of American States (OAS) also held an emergency meeting yesterday to discuss the state of UK-Ecuador relations.

Published on Aug 17th 2012 at 5.30pm

Sunday, August 19, 2012

MERCOSUR: Toward Latin American Integration

By Juan Diego Nusa Peñalver:

JULY 31, 2012 will be recalled in the history of Latin America and the Caribbean as a landmark, a giant step, with Venezuela’s full entry into the Common Market of the South (MERCOSUR), in the first extension of this customs association in the 21 years of its existence.

It will also be recalled as a resounding failure of the imperial policy of the United States in relation to a region which it can no longer dominate at its whim.

For Argentine political economist Atilio A. Borón, from the geopolitical point of view, Venezuela’s inclusion in MERCOSUR after a six-year wait constitutes the greatest U.S. diplomatic defeat since the disastrous Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA).

Beatriz Miranda, columnist in the Colombian El Espectador, defines it as a strategic accomplishment, given that the new entrant concedes the bloc a greater economic and commercial weight. Analysts consider that in geopolitical terms, Caracas’ arrival represents the possibility of increased Brazilian insertion in the Andes and Caribbean and Venezuelan access to the South Atlantic. Thus MERCOSUR is facilitating strategic integration, giving the group an Amazonian, Atlantic, Caribbean and Andean identity, and a strong energy component.

Doubtless, this bold step will affect U.S. interests in the region in the long term, given that it prevents Venezuela from signing a free trade treaty with this country, still set on re-conquering the Bolivarian Republic’s oil wealth.

It is no secret that with Venezuela‘s energy potential – according to the Organization of Oil Producing Countries (OPEC) it has the largest certified oil reserves in the world: 297,570 million barrels – the industrial vigor of Brazil (the sixth largest world economy), and the agricultural potential of Argentina and Uruguay, this regional bloc will acquire a strategic role. Created March 25, 1991 by the Treaty of Asunción, it promotes the free circulation of goods and services, common external tariffs and trade policy, as well as coordinated macroeconomic policies among member states and compatible legislation.

In effect, the United States was unable to prevent MERCOSUR, now including Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Venezuela (Paraguay’s membership is suspended due to the parliamentary coup d’état against President Fernando Lugo), from growing in strength and promoting sovereign economic and social policies in accordance with national interests, far removed from the dictates of the discredited financial institution of Bretton Woods and the anti-democratic Washington consensus.

The U.S. maneuver to utilize the Paraguayan oligarchy, entrenched in the country’s Senate, to block Venezuela’s entry backfired. In fact Paraguay’s suspension and Venezuela’s participation could make MERCOSUR more attractive to Bolivia, Ecuador and other nations in the region.

From the Planalto Palace, headquarters of the Brazilian government, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez emphasized the historic importance of the unity of Latin American countries in terms of promoting their independent development, within which MERCOSUR represents a platform for the changes needed.

"We are exactly in our historic position, our North is our South, we are where we always should have been, we are where Bolívar left it to us to arrive," the Bolivarian leader affirmed during the extraordinary session of the bloc in Brasilia.

What is being reconfigured is a balance which will allow South America to address, on more equal footing, other centers of power such as the United States and the European Union, which have demanded subordination and an anti-national submission to their transnationals.


According to analysts, Venezuela‘s incorporation into MERCOSUR makes the bloc the world’s fifth largest economic power, extending from Patagonia to the Caribbean over an area of close to 13 million square kilometers, linking more than 270 million inhabitants (70% of the population of South America) to form an impressive and gigantic bloc with the largest oil reserves, booming industrialization and excellent potential for food production.

It will have a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of $3.3 trillion at current prices, equivalent to 83.2% of the Southern Cone GDP, and the largest global biodiversity and fresh water reserves, a reality very much to be borne in mind in terms of world geopolitics by the select club of the G-8 and emerging giants such as China and India, two nations which have a more constructive position in international economic relations.

In the internal context, Venezuelan José Gregorio Piña emphasizes that while, initially, the country was only offering MERCOSUR oil and hard currency, "the panorama has changed, given that it can develop its productive potential through a more complete relationship with bloc members, which includes complementary trade, a innovative financial architecture, internal regional investment and the free circulation of persons and jobs, among others."

Caracas has already invited MERCOSUR enterprises to participate in housing provision for the Venezuelan people, with a target of three million family units, as well as conjoint work with the state to promote other social, industrial and agricultural development projects. The new Venezuela wishes to leave behind the private model to which it was subjected by the United States, the only legacy of which was enormous social inequality and widespread poverty.

This effort will benefit from the bloc’s creation of a Structural Convergence Fund to reduce imbalances among its members, in a necessary spirit of solidarity with the less developed nations. "This is an experiment to reduce the imbalances of our countries and promote equitable regional development," stated Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff during the extraordinary summit. She also noted that 40 regional projects have been approved, with an initial start-up fund of $1.1 trillion, good news further boosted by MERCOSUR’s announced expansion of credit to promote the economy of this part of the world.


Given the blows the United States delivered to progressive processes in Honduras and Paraguay, a reaction to Venezuela’s inclusion in MERCOSUR is also anticipated. The country will use any possible means to prevent a united, prosperous and strong South America capable of defying its political hegemony and global economy.

This warning was given by Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who urged the member countries present at the summit "to create, sooner rather than later, the instruments and institutions which will make this new pole of power indestructible and indivisible." The Argentine leader strongly attacked attempts by imperialist nations to weaken South America.

MERCOSUR is thus moving ahead to create the Patria Grande to which Latin American and Caribbean nations rightly aspire.

August 16, 2012

Friday, August 17, 2012

...the Government of The Bahamas is considering proposals for solar energy, waste-to-energy, ocean thermal energy plants and wind... ...The geographic and physical setting of The Islands lends itself to a myriad of alternative energy possibilities

Renewable energy in The Bahamas

thenassauguardian editorial

Nassau, The Bahamas

The Minister of Environment and Housing Kenred Dorsett addressed the House of Assembly on “Planning Our Electric Future”, on Wednesday, August 14.

Wednesday marked the PLP’s 100th day in office, so we were not surprised to hear of a plan to combat high electricity costs and promises of alternative energy production.

But The Bahamas does not need and does not have the time for any more plans; the PLP had five years to devise a plan.  We need action.

Integrating alternative and preferably renewable energy production into our power generation portfolio is certainly the way of the future, but was it not the way of the future years ago?  Diversified energy production — coal, diesel, nuclear, etc. — is not a radically new idea and is practiced in many jurisdictions around the world.

The dramatic rise in fuel prices is no excuse.  Fuel prices have consistently been on the rise for the past 10 years, at least, and we see no indication that OPEC intends to diminish rising profits any time soon.  Blaming high energy costs on the high cost of fuel is a dated argument, for which the past and present governments have only reinforced by building and upgrading power production with additional heavy fuel oil generators.

Any additional investment in heavy fuel generation should not be considered as part of reducing the cost of electricity, unless BEC enters a public-private partnership in which maintenance becomes a priority.  Abaco still suffers inconsistent electricity and it was the recipient of the $105 million new 48MW Wilson City plant.

Bahamians are left to bear the brunt of high costs and low reliability brought on by poor planning and management of operations and maintenance.

The minister went on to indicate that the Government of The Bahamas is considering proposals for solar energy, waste-to-energy, ocean thermal energy plants and wind.  The geographic and physical setting of The Bahamas lends itself to a myriad of alternative energy possibilities.

So why hasn’t The Bahamas invested or been the recipient of private investment in alternative energy?  In an ironic twist of fate, Bahamian legislation is our biggest obstacle.  The government must relinquish absolute control over the national grid to allow for some friendly competition to BEC.

As if amending our existing legislation was not difficult enough, pursuing diversification of energy production in The Bahamas will be encumbered by the announcement of a new sustainable energy unit, new renewable energy legislation, new electricity sector regulation and a new national review plan for cross-island sharing.

The government must be transparent and honest with the Bahamian people.  When will we see public or private investment in alternative energy?  Private industry does not have years to twiddle its thumbs while we form new committees.

Should a renewable project be approved tomorrow, it would take years for such projects to ultimately be built and for new electricity to be put into the grid for consumption.  Action must be taken and quickly.  The time for action is not now, it was yesterday.

It is encouraging that the government has received proposals that intend on saving BEC $100 million annually, though such enormous sums of monetary savings leave us intrigued.  The government need not only approve a single entity for alternative power production but an array of alternatives, as some are bound to fail.

It would be a remarkable feat of the PLP’s tenure if alternative power production from a private entity was to enter the grid and coexist with BEC.  It is possible, but only if the government acts as a facilitator rather than a hindrance.

August 17, 2012

thenassauguardian editorial

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Although abortion is currently illegal in The Islands ...the Bahamian government stated that abortions are performed in The Bahamas on “grounds of foetal deformity and rape or incest well as on health grounds

Bahamas Called Out On Abortions

Tribune Features Write

Nassau, The Bahamas

Although abortion is currently illegal in the Bahamas, the government revealed that it is aware of cases where licensed physicians perform abortions in private and public hospitals for justifiable reasons.

Such abortions are made possible because “the law is interpreted very liberally”, according to a report submitted by the government last month to the international committee of the United Nations governing discrimination against women.

During its fifth periodic report to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the government stated that abortions are performed in the Bahamas on “grounds of foetal deformity and rape or incest, as well as on health grounds”. CEDAW is an international human rights treaty that focuses on women’s rights and women’s issues worldwide, ratified by the Bahamas in 1993.

“Abortions are usually performed within the first trimester, although they are often allowed up to 20 weeks of gestation. The abortion must be performed in a hospital by a licensed physician. Government hospitals bear the cost for non-paying patients,” states the government’s CEDAW report, which is available online.

Despite the report’s detailed account of the practice as it occurs in the Bahamas, the Bahamian government “avoided answering specific questions” posed by the experts on the CEDAW committee about the availability of statistics regarding state-sanctioned abortions, according to observers.

“Their fall-back position that abortions are illegal was inadequate, because the committee was not asking about illegal abortions. The committee was asking for statistics on state-sanctioned abortions, which the government, in its written report, suggested occurs,” said Donna Nicolls, civil society representative for the Bahamas, and presenter of the Bahamas Crisis Centre’s shadow report.

“The Cuban representative on the committee said she was not convinced by the government’s response. She said that normally statistics on illegal abortions are not shown; however, if the state says that abortion can be practised in a safe space, she questioned why the state doesn’t have statistics. If it is being done, certainly a register would be maintained,” said Ms Nicolls, who participated in the forum through the assistance of the International Women’s Rights Action Watch (IWRAW), Asian Pacific.

Former Minister of Health Dr Hubert Minnis said he had “no comment” on the abortion issue, because he was in “Abaco campaigning.” When asked if he was aware of any state-sanctioned abortions from his five years in government, he replied: “No comment.”

A respected medical doctor, who works in the public system, told The Tribune, there are no statistics on abortion because the market for abortions in the Bahamas is underground. The physician said the practice is governed by a “nod and a wink” culture, quietly supported by some licensed physicians.

“Don’t ask, don’t tell,” said the physician, but you can obtain an abortion in the Bahamas for around $750, although the price varies above and below depending on the physician or the location. Access to abortions, he said, is rife with class discrimination.”

“If you have the means to an abortion, it is not a big deal. You can travel, or you can have it done here safely, but if you are a poor woman, then dog eat your lunch. This becomes a massive issue, but how do you deal with this issue, when it is taboo. It is absolutely taboo,” said the physician.

“You have such a strong pseudo-Christian movement that is so hypocritical. Many people are just not prepared to deal with the backlash, despite the fact that quietly they will either perform abortions or see to it that they get done. Some of the most active abortionists who have moved away from it in the later years, you wouldn’t think they have ever performed an abortion,” the physician said.

“Ethical and less than ethical means of abortion exist in the Bahamas. The challenge is that it is not codified.”

Abortion is criminalised in the Bahamas through the Penal Code of 1924. In its “very limited” references to abortion, it allows “for abortions to be lawfully permitted under specific circumstances relating explicitly to the preservation of the mental and physical health of the woman and to save the life of the woman.”

However, the law also states that acts that lead to an abortion or are intended to cause an abortion that done “in good faith and without negligence for the purposes of medical or surgical treatment” are justifiable. According to the government report, the code does not define what constitutes medical or surgical treatment, and in practice, the law is interpreted very liberally.

The CEDAW committee reiterated its “concern” in its concluding observations, and called on the government to “broaden the conditions under which abortions can be legally available.”

Ms Nicolls said she concurred with the committee’s recommendations.

“Women should be able to access legal abortions without question in cases of rape and incest and in other circumstances where a woman’s health is at risk. The law should explicitly provide exceptions in those cases. It should not be ad hoc, or based on a ‘liberal interpretation’. Everyone should have equal access,” said Ms Nicolls.

Melanie Griffin, Minister of Social Services, could not be reached for comment and did not return calls. Barbara Burrows, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Social Services, who was a member of the Bahamas’ delegation, said she would seek answers to written questions provided by The Tribune.

August 14, 2012


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Venezuela leads the world in increasing internet usage ...according to a study by internet marketing research firm Comscore

New Study Claims Venezuela a World Leader in Increasing Internet Usage

By Ewan Robertson

Mérida, 13th August 2012 ( – Venezuela leads the world in increasing internet usage, according to a study by internet marketing research firm Comscore.

The study revealed that between April 2011 and April 2012 the number of people using the internet in Venezuela increased by 62%, ahead of India (34%) and Indonesia (29%).

The findings contrast with Venezuela’s own national telecommunications body CONATEL, which reports that internet access here has increased by 7% in the past year.

According to CONATEL 40.27% of Venezuelan’s have access to the internet, up from only 3.4% in 2000, and there is a higher level of access than all countries in South America apart from Chile (58%), Argentina (57%) and Colombia (50%).

However, by using a new methodology focused on measuring the number of internet users rather than the number of connections, for example in households with a wireless router, Comscore claims that the increase in internet usage in Venezuela is actually much greater.

“Our sources are experts in Venezuela who tell us how internet use is evolving. We also take a census measurement, we take the CONATEL measurements into account, and other media contribute their [internet] traffic data to us,” Comscore director for Venezuela and Colombia, Alex Castro, explained to BBC World recently.


According to digital market research firms Comscore and Digital Trends (TD), increased access to previously marginalised communities has been an important factor in explaining the sharp rise of internet usage in Venezuela.

“What has grown most in [internet] penetration is access by poor; you don’t even need to get the exact number. The poor are connecting to the internet more,” claimed Carlos Jimenez, president of TD.
The government of President Hugo Chavez has introduced a number of policies over the previous twelve years aimed at increasing internet access in Venezuela.

A key initiative has been the Infocentros; free to use internet cafes that now boast a network of 700 centres in low income and rural communities throughout the country. In January the Infocentro Foundation was awarded a prize by UNESCO in recognition for their role in providing access to information technology for traditionally excluded sectors of the population.

Since 2009, the government has also provided almost 2 million Canaima laptops to primary school children in order to incorporate technology use in the education system.

The public telecommunications company CANTV, nationalised in 2007, offers credits and loans to allow lower-income users who solicit an internet connection to buy computers, an initiative that has “born fruit” in increasing internet access, according to Jimenez.

Private television companies offering combined internet and television packages, and a sharp rise in the number of users of cell phones with internet capabilities have also contributed.

Alex Castro further commented that Venezuela’s index of a more equal distribution of wealth has likely been a factor in increasing internet usage among Venezuela’s poorer communities. “When I passed through the poor neighbourhoods of Caracas, it really surprised me that many had Direct TV, and I asked myself “What’s this?” In Colombia for example, we see that the marginal sectors really are just that”.


However, Venezuela is also considered to have one of the slowest internet connections in the world, and is currently ranked on as 157 (at 1,7Mbph) of 176 countries measured by internet speed. Internet connectivity is also still largely limited to cities.

The government is currently constructing 5.796 km of fibre optic cable, with continuing to increase internet access part of Chavez’s Socialist Plan of the Nation 2013 – 2019.


Sunday, August 12, 2012

The 1911 'battle' for Islam in British Guiana

By Raymond Chickrie and Shabnam Alli:

And yes, we won the “battle,” more than 174 years ago when British missionaries in then British Guiana tried their hardest to convert as many East Indian-Muslims to Christianity in the colony, despite the fact that they failed to do so during their reign in Hindustan.

Born in Guyana, Raymond Chickrie was a teacher in the New York City public school system and is currently teaching in the Middle East
The Muslims in Guyana ought to celebrate this year’s Eid (and every day for that matter) with much exuberance as they stood their ground in the face of much cruelty, hardship and many adversities at the hands of their plantation owners.

Had it not been for the adherence to the five pillars of Islam -- Tawheed (belief in one god), Namaz (prayers), Zakat (charity), Rozah (fasting during Ramadhan) and the Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca), Islam may have also suffered a slow ‘death’ in the same manner it was systematically eradicated amongst the enslaved African Muslims during the period of slavery.

The Second Missionary Conference, “On Behalf of the Mohammedan World,” was held on January 23- 28, 1911 in Lucknow, India. The Conference was called for two main reasons to: (a) address the growing fear of the colonialists that the total Muslim population had surpassed the Christians by more than 5 million in the British Empire; and (b) review the progress made, if any, and if not why not, to convert the East Indians to Christianity by the missionaries in the various colonies of the Empire. Among the reports presented during the Conference was a section on British Guiana, Dutch Guiana and the West Indies, detailing (i) the ‘rebirth’ of Islam in the region with the introduction of East Indian indentured servants following the abolition of slavery; and (ii) the impact Islam had on the freed Africans in the region, but especially in British Guiana.

At the Conference, evangelists expressed their deep concern regarding the spread of Islam, claiming that a century’s worth of missionary work in British Guiana will be wasted if drastic steps were not taken to stop the East Indian Muslims in their conversion of the Africans. They recognized the fact that the learned Muslims (like Gool Mohammed Khan) in British Guiana were “skillful debaters” who were well-versed in the Bible and were able to “shake the faith of the uneducated Christians.”

The Conference concluded that the struggle for the future in British Guiana will be a “battle between Christ and Mohammed.” The evangelists regarded the Muslims as a threat and a bad influence on “their people,” in referring to the freed Africans. They noted that in several cases African Christians had “forsaken Christ for the prophet of Mecca”, without any pressure from the East Indians, as the Africans felt a greater affinity to Islam as many of them realized it was once their religion as well.

The evangelists ‘discovered’ that Muslims on the whole resisted conversion to Christianity. Hence, in their annual assessment of Muslims in British Guiana, they labeled them as aggressive, stubborn and organized and that they were a hindrance in their (evangelical) crusade to change the religious demographic of the West Indies.

The greatest shock for the missionaries in British Guiana was the realization, as expressed by Rev. J. B. Hill, of the aggressiveness of the “docile coolie Mohammedans” in their new ‘homeland.’ Case in point, two Muslim jahagis from Bihar who came on the Hesperus in 1838 -- Jumun (age 27) and Phultun (age 28) -- were the first to rebel against the ‘slave-like’ conditions and ran away from Gladstone Estate just days after they were transplanted on the plantation.

While there were other instances of rebellion amongst the Indians, the one that many historians failed to acknowledge was the 1872 Devonshire Castle riots, where about 300 sugar workers (Muslims and Hindus alike) downed tools and confronted their white masters demanding better working conditions and wages. In the ensuing ‘battle,’ five workers were gunned down by the colonial police – two of them were Muslims – Ackloo and Maxid Ally. Then in 1913, there was the Rosehall uprising, where most of the protestors in the forefront ‘battling’ imperialism were Muslims -- Moula Bux, Jahangir Khan, Dildar Khan, Chotey Khan, Aladi, and Amirbaksh – they all stood up against the injustices they were subjected to on the plantation.

Fast forward to the 1940s, when there was an increased demand by the Muslim leadership in British Guiana for funding of Islamic and Urdu Schools. These propositions and requests were articulated in several correspondences by the president of the Sadr Anjuman, Mr R. B. Gajraj and Moulvi M. A Nasir to the British government but with little or no success, they were basically ignored. Christian schools, on the other hand, were heavily funded by the British, whereas the British government consistently “paid” only lip service to the concerns of the Muslims in British Guiana.

On August 21, 1941, the British Guiana Islamic Association (BGIA) called a Special Conference on Education to discuss a uniform system of Muslim religious education in accordance with the requirements of the Education Code of British Guiana. The main speakers on the subject were: Messrs M. A. Nasir (president) and Ayube M. Edun; also, present were K. Ali, S. Shabratee, M.L.R Naboo, and S. M. Shakoor, the Urdu secretary.

Sadly, the recommendations and resolutions that emanated from that conference and subsequent conferences fell on deaf ears – it was the British way of getting back at the “aggressive” Muslims – which ultimately contributed to the demise of the Urdu language, as the Muslims did not have the human or financial resources to fund the teaching of the language.

Muslims ‘fought’ hard to hold on to their religion and culture, despite the fact that a number of them converted to Christianity (including many Hindus). Those who converted were regarded as ‘civilized’ and rewarded with better and higher paying jobs in the public service. Many of them were also given scholarships to study in England as a bonus, while their children were admitted to the Christian schools.

The ‘battle’, however, has not ended; much of the region still needs to embrace this multicultural history. Muslims must not be seen as alien to the West Indies, nor should they be ashamed of their Islamic heritage given present day hysteria towards followers of the religion. More can be done to educate and accept the long presence of the Muslims and their role in helping to shape the socio-economic and political policies affecting the work/lives of the peoples in the region.

Today, the younger generation needs to be educated on our history in Guyana, and appreciate the [righteous] path that their ancestors blazed for them to follow. We share an Islamic history that is rich in many spheres of math, astronomy, physics, literature, architecture and culinary. In fact, many scholars agree that Islamic science and reason led to the revival of the European Renaissance, following the decline of the Roman Empire.

A blessed Eid Mubarak to all our Muslim brothers and sisters in Islam.

August 09, 2012

Saturday, August 11, 2012

The next 50 years of Jamaica Independence

The next 50 years of Independence

By Michael Burke

SO Jamaica's 50th anniversary celebrations are now behind us. We now journey as a nation towards the 100th anniversary milestone via the 60th, 70th, 75th, 80th and 90th anniversary milestones. The joy and happiness at our 50th anniversary celebrations were great. Of course, the naysayers were there but such people exist in every country.

I would have liked to have had even more historical reflections. It is my hope that at future anniversaries there should be more such reflections. I would like to commend the planners of the Jubilee Village and those of the Grand Gala, which were really as next to perfect as possible where only the directors would see the mistakes, if any.

But had I been in the planning committee of the Jubilee Village, I would have suggested an imposing sign that stated that 90 per cent of the displays were showing things that did not exist at the time of political Independence in 1962.

It is also a pity that we have not been able to shake some of the indiscipline that we have inherited. As the crowds filtered out of the stadium after such a wonderful Grand Gala on Independence Day, some technician or other decided that after all the recorded festival music developed since 1962, it was time to play lewd music. They could not even endure 24 hours without slackness!

It should be noted that the joy and happiness is due to the fact that most people like a party, even if they do not exactly understand what is being celebrated or even believe that there should be a celebration. As I mentioned last week, I hope that the older ones will get over their unwarranted shame so that they can truly educate the youth into an appreciation of what life was like in Jamaica in 1962.

But perhaps at the 75th or 100th anniversary, fewer of us will be alive to feel ashamed and the history can be looked at in a more dispassionate manner. Students of history will dig more into the material that exists and will be able to draw their own conclusions. I probably will not live to see the 100th anniversary of Independence (unless I live to at least 108).

But it is still my hope that by then Jamaica will be a republic based on co-operatives that spring from a nation of family units that we are yet to have. And I hope it happens before our 60th anniversary in 10 years' time. After all, we have been talking about this for decades.

Two things I have suggested before, and I suggest again. First, there should be an emancipendence meal similar to the Jewish Agape meal at their annual Passover celebration. Second, churches should have an Octave of Emancipendence or eight days of reflective prayer on Emancipation and Independence, as I have been privately doing for the last three years.

The octave that I developed runs the eight days from July 31 to August 7. It is my hope that others will join me next year. I hope that the octave will become a tradition by the time we reach our 60th anniversary in 10 years' time.

I have also suggested in the past that Jamaica should have an international negotiations conference as part of Independence celebrations. I envisioned having a major conference and staging it somewhere like the various conference centres, auditoriums and conference halls at hotels. We would also go through the negotiations from the days of self-government (half-Independence) to after political Independence when we did several negotiations. This should be not only about borrowing but also about trade.

It seems that if this is to take place it will have to be organised by a few people with vision. Indeed, if I could have done it by myself it would have been done already. I would include all former ambassadors and politicians involved in such negotiations. It would also include those who represented agricultural organisations on negotiation teams in the days when agricultural trade was the economic mainstay of Jamaica. While we should plan for a day when we stop borrowing, negotiation is a skill that we can make money from by teaching it to others.

I also hope that educational programmes will be in place to stop mental slavery. It takes many forms; one is the belittling of the self, especially the black skin of the majority of Jamaicans. It also takes the form of belittling all things Jamaican, although that is not so much a problem as our athletes currently win gold medals. But it also takes the form of erroneously believing that we would be better off as a Bristish colony and that our gains would have come anyway. We need as a nation to unlearn that.

We need to invite nationalistic Caymanians here to express their anger when hearing Jamaicans say that Cayman's economic success is due to their colonial status. The Cayman Islands have had self-government (half-Independence) for more than two decades. Some Caymanians say that the only thing Britain does for them is to pay the governor's salary.

August 09, 2012

Jamaica Observer

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Jamaica, our identity

By Richard Ho Lung, diary of a ghetto priest

We already have an identity, but we do not know it. We're like a wild orchid with graceful lengths of flowers in the rainforest that simply are what we are: beautiful, but without self-consciousness.

What we don't know is easily lost or given away cheaply because we take it for granted. Jamaica and the pearl of great price; Jamaica and its exotic flowers in the mountains, Jamaica, our music and drumming; Jamaica and its strange orchid people - growing naturally, freely, beautifully - only to be seized by strangers.

We don't know who we are; we don't know what's inside of ourselves. We will lose our souls - if we do not grasp our own inner riches and own up to our God-given inner being.

I was curious as a boy born in the countryside of Richmond, St Mary. Who are these lovely people swathed in smiles, chatty and friendly, on the move but never in a hurry. What are those bamboo trees doing gently waving in the sky and wind? Why are the African tulips just blossoming - for what purpose? And the mango trees full of fruit in the wild with no one to eat them?

Rivers, rain and sea - everything glistering gleaming studded with diamonds from the sunlight.
Everybody, everything in the Jamaican countryside pronouncing, 'God! God! God!'

At age 12, I discerned Christ. Everybody was talking about Christ - the higglers, the farmers, the teachers, the children, the mamas and the papas.

When we bathed in the aluminium pan, our nannies were humming softly, "What a friend we have in Jesus." When we misbehaved, we were chastised in Jesus' name. When we skipped rope, it was done to rhymes about the Lord.

Then the telling of the stories of the feeding of the 5,000, the walking on the water, the miracles of Christ's love for the sick and the poor, then His terrible crucifixion, and His forbearance.

I was hurt deeply by His pain and suffering, this Son of the Creator, this Jesus who loves me so deeply and gave me everything.

Christ's value

My inner soul responded to Christ, and now I seek only to serve Him. He is the depth of Jamaica's music and kindness. He is the foundation of our identity, our humour, our optimism and our dynamic drive for meaning, purpose and evangelisation. He is our gentleness, our sternness, our confidence, our strength in suffering, our struggles on our way to grace and dignity as a people.

We must not lose Him. Not for the highways, foreign clothes, foreign music and technology, and advanced but godless education and values.

We don't know it. But the dynamic element in the Jamaican personality - in our athletes, our music and culture, in the best of our political leaders and intellectuals - are rooted in Christ.

Our self-assertion and confidence come from Him. Our God and Saviour who has given us so much has also sustained us all these years.

I have one fear: That we will sell out to foreign gods. I pray that we will know who we are, where we come from, and where we are going, carrying at all times Jesus at the depth of our souls.

Father Richard Ho Lung is founder and superior general of the Missionaries of the Poor. Email feedback to and

August 08, 2012

Jamaica Gleaner

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Why it's bad if Caribbean people don't accept evolution

By Jonathan Bellot

“If I could give a prize to anyone for the single greatest idea,” American philosopher Daniel Dennett said in Darwin’s Dangerous Idea, his study of the significance of Darwin’s theory of natural selection and human evolution, “I would give it to Darwin.”

These are not idle words. While the idea of organisms undergoing gradual changes over thousands or millions of years was not entirely new -- the French naturalist Jean Baptiste Lamarck had championed it decades before Darwin, and shadows of the idea can be seen even in the work of the ancient Roman poet Lucretius and in the ninth-century Islamic writer Al-Jahith’s Book of Animals -- Darwin went further than anyone before him by showing the mechanism by which evolution could occur: natural selection. He showed that organisms adapt to their environments gradually and that all life on Earth -- including humans -- shares a common ancestor.

Think of it like a tree. All life shares a common root, despite having branched off in many directions, and many branches themselves have branches, and while some branches are still functioning, many others have died off. Although evolutionary biology has evolved -- as it were -- a lot since Darwin’s day, particularly with the development of genetics, Darwin himself remains one of the most important and controversial figures in western history.

But evolution appears to remain little-understood or accepted by the general public in many islands in the Caribbean. Bring up the idea of evolution to the average person on the street, and it is quite possible you will receive either a blank stare or hear the idea condemned as anti-religious nonsense.

Some -- and I have seen this a number of times before -- will even tell you the idea of evolution is nothing less than a worldwide conspiracy perpetrated by satanic scientists (the same people who will likely believe, without any clear evidence, that the world is run by a secret organization like the Illuminati or that the 1969 moon landing was a hoax).

Some will even say the whole idea is too silly to be believed, as though the overwhelming number of biologists who support the theory are less conspiratorial than simply foolish.

“If we came from monkeys,” they might say, “why it still have monkeys?” (Of course, this objection is based on a misunderstanding; we are primates ourselves, but we share an ancestor with other monkeys, rather than them simply turning into humans. Think of the tree branch image -- we go back to the same tree limb, but chimpanzees, gorillas, bonobos, and homo sapiens -- we humans -- have branched off in different directions.)

Accepting that all the evidence we currently have supports the theory of evolution (and I must clarify here that the word “theory” here does not mean “unproved”; gravity and electromagnetism are also “theories”) is important. It is one step towards becoming more scientifically literate in a world in which scientific literacy is ever more important, almost regardless of what field you may be engaged in. It will show that we in the Caribbean are not closed-minded or anti-science.

To reject an idea as important and well-accounted-for as evolution is to suggest that you do not trust scientific discoveries and that you are not willing to critically examine the world around you, as well as the history of ideas. Modern-day biology and medicine are often inseparable from evolutionary theory.

Now, even people who study the idea and come to almost accept it may still stop short because they think it conflicts with their religious beliefs. To accept evolution, after all, is to accept that humans were not specially created, but rather simply one product of a long line of blind natural processes. But many religious people have made peace with this.

Some have even refashioned evolution to be “guided” by God rather than altogether natural and blind, such that God intervened at a critical point in the process -- just as God might have, they say, set off the Big Bang (an idea unrelated to evolution). Still others put God as the spark that set evolution going -- since evolutionary theory is only about the process of organisms changing, not an explanation of how life itself first appeared from non-life. (That process is known as abiogenesis.)

Whatever the case, the fact is that many well-educated people of faith do not see evolution as their enemy -- and they should not, since it is well-supported by scientific evidence.

In the Caribbean, very often, we don’t really stop and think about things like this. Or we may start and then stop once we get into tricky territory. At other times, some of us are simply so focused on other things that we do not give adequate -- if any -- time to critically examining the world around us. Instead, we just accept simple answers we may have heard as children.

This isn’t the way a strong society of well-equipped individuals should operate. We should have the courage to boldly question every idea we hold -- including, of course, evolution itself. We must not be afraid to ask questions, to probe into dark tunnels -- and, more importantly, to find answers we may not like on the other end.

This may seem like a minor issue to some of you. But I do not think it necessarily is. Being scientifically literate (as well as literate in many other ways) is important -- and I mean on an individual, as well as a national, level. Those of us who have not considered the issue before, I encourage you to go out and look it up -- and, while you’re at it, to examine every other idea you hold dear, be that idea big or small. What justifies your beliefs? Why do you think the way you do? Are you thinking rationally? Can you really explain how something works that you believe in? To reject an idea, you must at very least first understand it.

Therefore, check out the wealth of information on evolution out there: Jerry Coyne’s Why Evolution Is True, Michael Ruse’s The Philosophy of Human Evolution, Richard Dawkins’ The Greatest Show on Earth, and many, many more, from websites to videos. Search, question.

You may find universes in grains of sand, to paraphrase William Blake.

Jonathan Bellot is pursuing a PhD in Creative Writing at Florida State University, from where he also holds an MFA in Fiction. His work has appeared in a variety of publications, including The New Humanism, Transnational Literature, BIM: Arts for the 21st Century, Belletrist Coterie, Black Lantern Publishing, and on Dominica News Online. He was born in 1987 in Cincinnati, Ohio to Dominican parents and has lived in Dominica since he turned nine.

August 08, 2012


Sunday, August 5, 2012

It’s time we emancipate ourselves from mental slavery... ...None but ourselves can free our minds...

Rethinking freedom in The Bahamas

By Nicolette Bethel

In 1833, the British Parliament passed an Act to abolish slavery in the British Empire. As of August 1, 1834, all slaves throughout the empire were to become free to some degree — if they were under the age of six, they would become free immediately, but if they were over six, they were to be apprenticed to their former masters. Apprenticeship was finally abolished on August 1, 1838.

It is partly for this reason that Emancipation Day is a holiday in The Bahamas. It is a holiday throughout the former British slave colonies of the Caribbean as well — and the reason that Jamaica, for example, chose it as its Independence Day. We don’t celebrate our holiday on August 1, although we remember the date; rather, we have chosen to make the nearest Monday the holiday.

Here, then, together with hot weather, rain, and hurricanes, the summer months bring the twin holidays that commemorate our freedom. As a nation, we have the opportunity of remembering how far we have come, of honouring our ancestors who — slave and master alike — were dehumanized by the institution of slavery and indentureship.

So far, though, we have not made the most of this opportunity. Oh, we celebrate all right. We have a Junkanoo parade on Independence Day, and two Junkanoo parades on the August Holiday weekend. We have cook-outs (what better way to party than eating?) But that’s about as far as it goes. Indeed, considering the amount of time we spend speaking of such things, it’s possible to imagine that if a Bahamian child didn’t grow up watching American television, they might be surprised to learn that Bahamians were once ever slaves.

And yet.

As I’ve written before, slavery is not over in the Caribbean. I’m not talking about the kind of “slavery” that people like to raise when making these kinds of statements — a “slavery” that assumes that every Black Bahamian is subordinate to and poorer than every White Bahamian, that assumes that all Whites were slave owners and all Blacks slaves, that believes that Black Bahamian slaves were captured in African jungles and transported to The Bahamas on slave ships — an image of slavery that has more to do with history as outlined in the ABC miniseries Roots than our own story, which is far more complicated and interesting.

No. I’m talking about the kind of slavery Bob Marley recognized in his own people when he wrote and performed his “Redemption Song” — the mental slavery that continues to dominate our society.

What do I mean by mental slavery? It manifests itself in a number of different ways. There are the obvious — the concept that Bahamians aren’t able to do things very well, and the resultant habit of looking elsewhere for models and expertise; the preference for hiring consultants from abroad to give advice that Bahamian experts have already considered and rejected; the willingness to privilege outside plans for development over local ones; the general contempt for anything home-grown, and the overconsumption of anything from across the sea.

But as common as these tendencies are, I’m thinking of other, smaller, more insidious actions and habits that show the residue of slavery in our everyday lives.

The biggest one is the apparent reluctance of the ordinary employee ever to make a decision. Decisions, you see, require that one take responsibility for those decisions, and if one is wrong, one gets in trouble. The result — particularly in the civil service, but not only there — is that for too many people, there is only one way of doing something.

How many of us have found ourselves in a situation where we make a request that is unusual, that takes a salesperson out of her comfort zone, that surprises her, forces her to think?

The result: roadblock.

Another one, though, that I get to see often in my line of work, is the tendency of many people who are possessed with a good idea to seek first and foremost the kingdom of Government Money. Despite the fact that we live in a society which welcomes millions of tourists every year, in which money flows like water, in which Bahamians as well as visitors are willing to spend good cash on things they enjoy, we seem to believe that our enterprise must first and foremost be supported by handouts from the public treasury.

A third is the paralysis that I also witness, as a manager of a department and as a teacher of students, among people who seem to be waiting for someone to tell them What To Do. They can’t — or won’t — act unless they get an order or a clearance from above.

All of these are examples of the mental slavery from which we continue to need emancipation.

Emancipation, you see, only begins with the awarding of political freedom. It is true that on August 1, 1834, slaves were given the gift of themselves; they were able, for the first time since their enslavement, to own their bodies, their loved ones, their offspring, and their possessions.

But the residue of slavery lingers still. The political and physical emancipation of the slaves didn’t mean that there was a corresponding psychic and mental freedom that came with it. That has to be worked on.

So it’s that time of the year again; it’s our freedom time. Massa’s long gone. It’s time for us to realize that every West Indian who refuses to make a decision, every Bahamian who seeks a handout, every West Indian who looks outside our region for validation, every Bahamian who believes that what we do isn’t good enough, is in need of emancipation still.

It’s time we emancipate ourselves from mental slavery. None but ourselves can free our minds.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Jamaica: ... History, shame and emancipendence

By Michael Burke

WHAT has shame or embarrassment to do with communicating history? And what has this to do with our emancipendence celebrations, particularly in a year when we are celebrating the 50th anniversary of our Independence? One of the unfortunate legacies of certain types of government and economic models is the class system. It has created the misleading belief that some people are better than others.

The Roman Catholic Church teaches that the notion of superiority and inferiority based on class and colour is a sin against the great commandment of "Love thy neighbour as thyself". The said church further teaches that with regard to race it cannot be proved either in scripture or in a science laboratory that any race is superior to the other.

But like any other religious institution, not all Roman Catholics have the same level of understanding. So even within a church that abhors class prejudice, in its doctrine it exists within its borders. And wherever it exists, there is usually a sense of shame on the part of the victims of such prejudice.

Many young people do not appreciate how far we have come since Independence, let alone slavery, because they were not taught what it was like before. Many times their parents do not want to tell them what Jamaica was like as they are ashamed to admit the conditions under which they lived because they were looked down upon and ridiculed by others.

Fifty-two years ago in 1960 when I was six years old, my parents left me and my siblings in the care of our maternal grandmother while they went on tour of New York, USA, England and the European continent. My father heard the following story in England and told us on his return.

A Jamaican living in England where he was courting an English girl (white-skinned, I believe), showed her a picture of Hope Gardens and told her that it was his backyard. After the wedding she wanted to take a trip to Jamaica to see the place. The man was ashamed to tell his wife the truth. But how would his children learn to appreciate his efforts to improve their lives if he was ashamed to tell them where he grew up, even if on Spanish Town Road or Back-o-Wall?

In 1967 when I was 13 years old, I saw a photograph in the Star of a Jamaica Omnibus Service (JOS) bus driver who had received an award for good driving. A cloth badge was sewn to his right shirt sleeve. On several occasions while taking a JOS bus, I recognised him as the driver who won the award. Fourteen years later in 1981, I saw him in Papine. By this time he walked with a limp.

The JOS awardee told me that he was retired. He sat on the stone wall by the Hope Aqueduct next to what was then CAST (now UTech) and told me of his struggles to give all his children a good education by sending them to some of Jamaica's best high schools. He also spoke about attaining the award from JOS.

During the conversation I learnt that the retired bus driver was a Roman Catholic like me and that he had seen me at church. He surprised me by telling the names of his sons because I knew some of them from Roman Catholic circles of which he was very much aware and was the reason for telling me that he was Roman Catholic. He was extremely proud of his eldest son, who by that time had become a senior accountant at a large company in Jamaica and who, I believe, became a chartered accountant.

That top-level accountant today is himself retired from the company where he was employed, although his youngest children are still of high school age. He holds a prominent position in the Roman Catholic Church, particularly in the Archdiocese of Kingston. His father, the retired bus driver, died some years ago.

Less than three weeks ago, I was at a Roman Catholic Church and saw one of the sons of the top-level accountant and grandson of the late retired bus driver. In discussion with him, I told him that I knew his grandfather who had won an award as a JOS bus driver. The boy, about 15 years old, looked at me and asked in a tone of disbelief, "A bus driver, Sir?"

The boy's father had clearly not told him that his grandfather had been a bus driver, which I suspect was for reasons of shame, although I would not say that to the boy. I "polished it off" by telling him the teachings of our church on the dignity of labour.

I will not stand in judgement of this top-level accountant who has not revealed his humble beginnings as the son of a bus driver to his children. How much ridicule - if any - did he endure from upper-class students at the prominent high school he attended? I do not know, although I am aware that no one enjoys being ridiculed.

But how can the young people appreciate the struggles of the last 50 years of Independence, let alone the struggles before emancipation if we do not get over the shame that is totally unwarranted? The only thing that anyone should be ashamed of is sin.

August 02, 2012

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Crime in the Caribbean: What must the region do?

By Anton E. Edmunds

Caribbean governments’ focus on crime has recently taken on increased urgency. Pressures at home from previously silent populations, and visitors and investors alike noting crime as a factor in deciding where they go makes the issue one that can no longer be ignored. While many try to blame crime levels on the deportation of criminals from North America and the UK, the reality is probably closer to home -- the vaunted social fabric of Caribbean countries is frayed.

Anton Edmunds is the President of The Edmunds Group International, LLC. (TEG) - a Washington, DC headquartered boutique consulting firm with affiliated offices in Miami and the Caribbean. More information on the group can be found at
Urbanization and the loss of social and familial community linkages, it is argued by some, is the problem. This combined with underemployment among the youth and a lack of programs that provide skills training for the jobs that are available is also a factor, leaving many increasingly dependent on an informal job market that offers little in terms of a sustainable future.

Weak legal systems, which encourage a sense of impunity by bad actors, are not helpful, and weak border controls that facilitate the inter-island movement of drugs and small arms allow for negative inputs. The use of the region as a hub for illicit traffic of drugs to the US further strains efforts of governments to protect themselves and their vulnerable populations.

In terms of solutions, an increased focus on community development and outreach programs from both the political and corporate elite can help mitigate against losing a generation exposed to limited options for a productive and legal future. That said, corporate social responsibility programming is not yet a fully understood and developed concept in the Caribbean. Finally, adaptation of the traditional school curricula to one that focuses attention on programs that correspond to current needs can be positive.

The above, combined with community policing initiatives that position trained and trusted law enforcement personnel in host communities can serve to ensure that fringe populations feel less divorced from upscale and often enclave centres. An improved and efficient legal system that can leverage social initiatives to train and assist first time offenders can also address recidivism concerns. Introduction of a restorative justice system (successfully implemented in some countries) where it does not exist in the Caribbean may be helpful in this regard.

An interconnected Caribbean region means increased movement of people and goods. The effective sharing of information on crime; persons linked to crime; and the movement of guns and drugs is fundamental for any regional success. A sharing of best practices in this arena and the support of these efforts by donor countries such as the United States is critical. Further to the US-Caribbean partnership on addressing crime, a focus by both partners on the development of modular programs that build on past successes is key; as is the ability of initiatives to survive changes in administrations.

In closing, the Caribbean must become a stronger advocate for its interests and needs, articulating plans for implementation rather than wait for the delivery of fully formed solutions from the US.

The above was a response to recent statements on crime and regional dysfunction in addressing the issue by Trinidad & Tobago Minister of National Security Jack Warner.

July 31, 2012