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bulletManning wins again in T&T general elections
bulletDual citizenship issue plague Caribbean politicians
bulletJamaican Practical nurses flock to seek jobs in Canada
bulletMalaysian plywood firm refuses to pay Guyana fine
bulletSri Lankan peacekeepers in Haiti sex scandal
bulletJamaican women workers outdo males too
bulletCaribbean to promotes itself as one tourist destination
bulletPoor maintenance degrade hospitals in Jamaica
bulletGuyana's president praises Cuban medical cooperation
bulletVanity Fair rates "Harder They Come" 3rd greatest soundtrack ever
bulletJamaica Comissioner of Police quits
bulletUN/World bank report calls for a special deportee office
bulletPreventing Negril from eroding away
bulletBarbados movie for American Black Film Festival
bulletCrackdown on illegal gas stations in Jamaica



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by Michael I Phillips

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cover River Woman by Donna Hemans ... $16.10
  The Rio Minho in Jamaica provides much more than a setting for this potent, accomplished debut by Jamaican-born Donna Hemans.


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a wonderful book about a young girl in the Carribean, the first of her family to go to secondary school.



November 2007

Manning wins again in T&T general elections

Preliminary reports indicate that incumbent Prime Minister Patrick Manning will lead his Peoples national Movement Party to a convincing win in general election held on November 5. These reports give the PNM 26 seats to 14 for the opposition United National Congress.

Manning’s People’s National Movement and the opposition United National Congress are formed largely along racial lines, divided between those of African and East Indian descent. The Congress of the People – a self–styled multiracial party launched a year ago by Winston Dookeran, a former leader of the opposition United National Congress party – sought to challenge the old order. Dookeran had vowed to increase the minimum wage and boost aid for the roughly 16,000 households living below the poverty line.

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Dual citizenship issue plague Caribbean politicians

In this year of political fever in the Caribbean, dual citizenship has become a big issue. The issue of eligibility to run for office if a candidate has sworn allegiance to another country raises constitutional concerns .

In Trinidad claims are being made that Vanant Barath is a citizen of the United Kingdom, while Dr. Kirk Meighoo is a citizen of the United States. Barath is running for the St Augustine seat and Meighoo is running for the Chaguanas East seat. Meanwhile in Jamaica, two of the successful JLP candidates - Shahine Robinson of North East St. Ann and Daryl Vaz of West Portland - are among those being targeted by the PNP to have their seats declared vacant.

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Jamaican Practical nurses flock to seek jobs in Canada

The Ministry of Labour held a job fair for 50 jobs in Canada for practical and enrolled nurses. About 250 enthusiastic applicants turned up. Many voiced dissatisfaction with working conditions in Jamaica. They complained of poor pay and disrespect on the job.

There are approximately 1,000 enrolled nurses in hospitals across the island. Enrolled nurses function under the directive of registered nurses and assist in giving injections, among other things.

Practical nurses, under the supervision of nursing and medical staff, carry out many functions including assisting in preparing patients for treatment and examinations, sterilising and packing instruments for theatre and responding to signal bells/lights to determine patient needs, among other things.

Another job fair
A few days later, the Ministry of Labour and Social Security through its Canadian Overseas Employment Program (COEP) held another job fair for a variety of jobs in Canada. Recruiters from six different Canadian-based companies, seeking to address labour shortages in the construction, hospitality and the health care service sectors in British Columbia, conducted interviews with Jamaican workers at a job fair held at the weekend.
Approximately 170 workers, who were screened and pre-selected by the Ministry, turned up for interviews with the Canadian employers on day one of the fair. In the batch were 30 certified construction workers, comprising pipe-fitters, welders, and carpenters, as well as a group of certified practical nurses.

Canadian industrial construction firms, JV Driver, which has been active in the forestry, oil and gas industries in British Columbia and Alberta, and LEDCOR Construction, came with expectations to find 300 and 100 workers, respectively.

Two nursing services contractors, Interior Health Authority and the Good Samaritan Society, sought to fill vacancies for practical nurses on a pilot project basis, while Hotel Manteo screened for 22 hotel workers. Commercial window washing company, SunValley Windows, interviewed 15 persons pulled from the COEP database, for job openings. The collaboration between Jamaica and Canada to provide certified, skilled workers to British Columbia came out of an initiative by the Economic Development Commission (EDC) for Central Okanagan to fill labour needs in the province, as the result of an aging population.

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Malaysian plywood firm refuses to pay Guyana fine

The Barama Company Limited (BCL), a Malaysian timber company, has refused to pay a $480,000 fine to the government of Guyana, which accused it of under-reporting the number of logs harvested from local firms. Not only refusing to pay, but it threatens to cut production and layoff workers.

Guyana has accused the timber company, owned by Samling Global Limited of Sarawak, Malaysia, of deliberately and systematically failing to report some of the trees harvested in northwestern Guyana, near the border with Venezuela, and illegally excluding logs it purchased from its total production report.

Two Guyanese field monitors have been dismissed and others are under investigation for possibly turning a blind eye to Barama's operations, according to the Guyana Forestry Comission (GFC).

In their refusal to pay, BCL appealed to the GFC to hire internationally-recognized auditors, forestry consultants and other experts to investigate the issues, and determine the breaches, fines and suspension in a fair manner. They claim that the penalties imposed by GFC are severe, unclear, and arbitrary.

The company, however, conceded there were a number of anomalies including unintentional mixing of tree tags between areas, and harvesting in areas where permits were still being processed. Even though the company has a stockpile of logs, it warned that both the fines and suspension of the forest concessions could force the company to cut production and retrench some of its workers.

Barama, one of several Asian timber companies logging in Guyana, was awarded the concessions nearly 20 years ago. Then, it enjoyed a 10-year tax holiday, paid almost no royalties to the Guyana government, and was granted the right to log lands that had been inhabited by indigenous groups. Part of its forestry area includes land in what was the notorious settlement of Jonestown, where U.S. cult leader Jim Jones led more than 900 followers to their deaths in 1978.

The Forest Stewardship Council, which sets international standards for sustainable logging, suspended Barama's certification for its 1,408,470-acre section of western Guyana in January after concerns were raised over its practices. But certification was reinstated in August after the company made adjustments, according to FSC records.

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Sri Lankan peacekeepers in Haiti sex scandal

More than 110 Sri Lankan peacekeepers serving with the UN mission in Haiti are to be sent back home over charges that they sexually exploited people, including minors, in the impoverished nation, the United Nations said Friday.

The accused from Sri Lanka's 950-strong contingent in the UN mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) "will be repatriated on disciplinary grounds on Saturday," UN spokeswoman Michele Montas said in a statement. Montas said the action was ordered "following allegations of incidents of sexual exploitation and abuse by members of MINUSTAH?s Sri Lankan Battalion stationed in a number of locations in Haiti."

Montas said MINUSTAH had requested the OIOS investigation and said Sri Lanka also sent a high-level national investigative team from Colombo, including a female investigative officer.

"The United Nations and Sri Lanka take this matter very seriously and reiterate their shared commitment to both the Secretary-General?s zero-tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse and to best practices in peacekeeping," the UN statement said.

"The United Nations and the Sri Lankan government deeply regret any sexual exploitation and abuse that has occurred, despite their efforts to ensure the highest standards of conduct and discipline," it added.

The case is the latest to hit UN peacekeepers who have been embroiled in similar incidents in Ivory Coast, the Democratic Republic Congo (DRC) and Liberia. The UN -- after turning a blind eye for decades to cases of sexual abuse by its peacekeepers -- recommended in 2005 that erring soldiers be punished, their salaries frozen and a fund established to aid any women or girls made pregnant.

This was part of a "zero tolerance" policy regarding sexual misconduct, including a "non-fraternization" rule that bars UN peacekeepers from having sex with locals. The policy was adopted after revelations in December 2004 that peacekeepers in DRC were involved in the sexual abuse of 13-year-old girls in exchange for eggs, milk or cash sums as low as one dollar.

Most of the nearly 100,000 troops serving in UN peacekeeping operations around the world cannot be disciplined by the world body as they are answerable to troop-contributing countries, UN officials said.

Under Brazilian command, MINUSTAH currently deploys 7,054 troops and 1,771 police officers in Haiti. The mission began after then-Haitian president Jean Bertrand Aristide fled an uprising in February 2004. Its main troops contributors are: Brazil, Uruguay, Sri Lanka, Jordan, Nepal, Argentina and Chile.

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Jamaican women workers outdo males too

The last issue of revealed that only 18% of UWI students are male. It is not because they are on the job. Unfortunately, Jamaican men are being outperformed on the job too by women in Jamaica so badly it is becoming a serious crisis.

According to Jacqueline Coke-Lloyd, executive director of the Jamaica Employers' Federation many of Jamaica's working men are engaged in low-end jobs. She says that employers prefer to hire females, even in positions as gas-station attendants, because "females tend to be more reliable".

Women are considered more dedicated, more punctual, more committed, more serious about their jobs and come across better in job interviews.

So men are being shoved out of not only low-paying jobs but also professional ones. According to the Statistical Institute of Jamaica, over 40,000 more females than males are employed as professionals, officials and technicians. Other indications of the crisis are:

bulletThere are over 62,000 more females working as clerks than males.
bulletThere are 21% more females in the workforce with degrees
bulletOver 70 per cent of persons in management are females.
bulletSTATIN figures show that of the 697,800 men in the labour force, that is, they are above the age of 14 and are either working, looking for work or available for work, 549,500 or 79 per cent have passed no CXC or CSEC subjects.

The only occupational groups in which men outperform women are craft and related industries, plant and machine operators, and agriculture and fishery.

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Caribbean to promotes itself as one tourist destination

Caribbean islands, separated by diverse languages and cultures, are developing a single regional brand to promote the tourism industry that drives most of their economies. The new campaign, whose logo presents the word "Caribbean" in a rainbow of colors, aims to reverse a decade-long decline in the region's share of international tourism, said Allen Chastanet, chairman of the Caribbean Trade Organization also St. Lucia's minister of tourism and civil aviation. The trade group plans to replace the government tourism ministers who now sit on its board with marketing professionals and will allow for a broader regional emphasis.

Caribbean tourism, which drives most of the region's economies, grew at an average annual rate of less than 3.5 percent over the past 10 years, compared with 4.5 percent around the world, the trade group's statistics show. Efforts to promote the region gained urgency earlier this year, after many countries reported declines in visitors from the United States, which began requiring travelers to carry passports on trips to the Caribbean, Mexico and Canada.

The publicity campaign has already begun in New York City and Toronto, where billboards for individual Caribbean islands were recently replaced with ads for the region. At least twice before, the region has tried to market itself as a whole.

The previous efforts collapsed over financing disputes. The current push has the support of the cruise industry and the Caribbean Hotel Association. A meeting of government leaders is being planned for May or June to further discuss funding. The campaign will not require any island to sacrifice its individual identity. The more than 30 countries that belong to his trade group will in fact be asked highlight their heritage. In St. Lucia there are plans to refurbish its main port and convert old fishing villages into tourist havens.

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Poor maintenance degrade hospitals in Jamaica

Despite billions of dollars spent to rehabilitate several hospitals in the 1990s, currently, many of these facilities operate under the burden of poor infrastructure and non-functioning or missing medical equipment. Even facilities built or renovated a year or more ago lie idle due to a lack of equipment.

Falmouth Hospital, which was upgraded for the Cricket World Cup staged earlier this year, are also in a poor state. An accident and emergency (A&E) unit, which was built for the opening of the cricket tournament in March this year, is yet to be opened and equipped.

Spanish Town Hospital - despite a $52 million refurbishing of a building to house a new accident and emergency unit, it is still incomplete more than a year later, and the initial cost has increased beyond 15 per cent.

The May Pen Hospital, constructed 10 years ago as part of the $16-billion Health Service Rationalisation Project under the direction of the Urban Development Corporation (UDC), is now under severe infrastructural strain. Apparently it was built on a swamp, resulting in severe settlement problems. Sections of the building are cracked, while poor drainage systems on the compound lead to flooding of the operating theatre when it rains heavily. The male medical ward also has been out of use since the passage of Hurricane Dean, and the administrative section of the hospital has been abandoned since Hurricane Ivan in 2004 because the roof over that section has still not been repaired.

Cornwall Regional Hospital - Sixty-one million dollars has donated by the National Health Fund to have the windows and elevators fixed, but that is yet to be done; so too, is the planned upgrading of the hospital's air-conditioning system, and refurbishing of the kitchen and laundry.

St. Ann’s Bay Hospital- It was also rehabilitated under the UDC managed project in the late 1990s is also currently in a poor state, particularly in the nursing quarters.

Up to late last year all hospitals in the southern region of the island were in need of millions of dollars worth of equipment. The Kingston Public and Spanish Town Hospitals lead with a need of at least US$2 million worth of equipment each. Among the needed equipment were operating tables, x-ray machines and CT scan machines. It is not clear how much of those equipment have been acquired since last year, but sources in some hospitals tell The Sunday Gleaner not much has changed.

Among reasons given for the deterioration are insufficient maintenance and inefficient work because the service is now being performed by contractors instead of hospital maintenance workers. The poor maintenance of hospitals; weak management systems and medical staff shortage are among the main issues highlighted in a October 2007 draft plan of the health sector prepared by the Planning Institute of Jamaica. The draft is part of the agency's 2030 National Development Plan.

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Guyana's president praises Cuban medical cooperation

 Guyana's President Bharrat Jagdeo has expressed his gratitude to the Cuban government for its support in the field of healthcare and highlighted the excellent work of the Cuban doctors poviding service in a newly-opened hospital in his country.

The inauguration of the hospital, located on the eastern shore of the Demerara River and staffed with 28 Cuban healthcare professionals, is part of Guyana's National Strategic Health Plan, aimed at providing healthcare to all Guyanese through 2012. 

Jagdeo said that Cuba has a long history of helping his country. He further added, "That support is increasing now and I am sure that the presence of Cuban healthcare professionals here and their influence in the health sector will give a significant boost to our capacity to offer better healthcare services throughout Guyana."

The Demerara hospital is the first in a series of new health centres planed and is part of cooperation efforts between Cuba and Guyana.

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Vanity Fair rates "Harder They Come" 3rd greatest soundtrack ever

The highly-regarded Vanity Fair magazine has rated the soundtrack of the Jamaican movie "The harder They Come" as the 3rd greatest ever. The movie of course starred Jimmy Cliff and made him an international star. The top rated soundtrack was Prince’s "Purple Rain" followed by the Beatles" A Hard Day’s Night at number two.

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Jamaica Comissioner of Police quits

The Jamaica Commissioner of Police Lucius Thomas has retired from the force. Highlights of his life include:

bulletHe was born in the parish of St. Ann in 1949.
bulletHe joined the Jamaica Constabulary Force in 1969, at age 20.
bulletServed in Mobile Reserve as a young rookie and the Kingston Central Division. He spent over 25 years at Special Branch.
bulletHis first promotion was in 1977, when he was promoted to corporal; six years later he became a sergeant. He was rewarded again four years later when he was promoted to Inspector. In 1989 Thomas became Assistant Superintendent, Deputy Superintendent in 1991, full Superintendent in 1996, Senior Superintendent in 1998 and Assistant Commissioner in 1999. In 2001 he was promoted to Deputy Commissioner in charge of the crime portfolio.
bullet In 2005 he was promoted to Commissioner of Police.

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UN/World bank report calls for a special deportee office

A joint report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the World Bank has recommended that Jamaica establish an Office for the Resettlement of Deportees, to help reduce the possibility of deportees resorting to a life of crime when they return home. It cited the CARICOM Regional Task Force on Crime and Security recommendation for the establishment of an office which provides counseling and offers assistance in finding jobs, locating housing and using social services.

It also recommended that industrial countries, such as the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom, provide subsidisation for the reintegration of deportees into the society.

In a section of the report entitled 'Criminal Deportation and Jamaica', a case study looked at several studies and statistics surrounding deportation of offenders in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom and how it is linked to criminality in Jamaica. According to the report, between 2001 and 2004, Jamaica absorbed an average of 2,700 convicts a year from the three countries mentioned.

The document, however, said that, according to data available, it could not be established that deportees contribute significantly to crime in Jamaica. It, however, said that "in small countries it does not take a large number of offenders to have a large impact, particularly if they assume a leadership role in criminal gangs on their return. Specifically with regard to drug trafficking, their transnational connections and criminal experience could make criminal deportees well suited for this role."

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Preventing Negril from eroding away

The Kingston-based coastal engineering firm Smith Warner, which conducted a one-year study on the beach strip, indicated that it could take up to US$54 million to restore the seven-mile beach, which has been undergoing dramatic rates of erosion.

However, the Chief Executive Officer of the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET), Diana McCaulay, is worried about the planned restoration program of the Negril Beach in Westmoreland because a number of key environmental issues have not been addressed. She said the resort town is overdeveloped and that there are other long-standing environmental issues impacting the beach, which must be addressed for the restoration to be successful. Some issues which she identified include:

bulletNegril has surpassed its carrying capacity
bulletthere are problems of poor water quality
bulletthe removal of seagrass beds
bulletpoor run-off.
bulletimproper planning
bulletpoor regulation by the responsible enforcement agencies.

The Smith Warner report findings:

bulletBeach erosion in Negril has been between one to two metres per year.
bulletThe erosion has been triggered by storms, unplanned seagrass removal, sea level rise, poor water quality, tourism, overfishing, agricultural runoff and coral-die off among others.
bulletCoral reef, health and fish populations have declined.
bulletSand production is low with only 200 to 2000 cubic metres annually.

Recommendations for correcting the problem:

bulletBeach nourishment;
bulletTwelve near-shore breakwaters;
bulletExtension of the existing reefs

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Barbados movie for American Black Film Festival

Hit For Six!, the popular Barbadian movie, made its international debut at the American Black Film Festival in Los Angeles. Written and directed by West Indian communications specialist Alison Saunders-Franklyn and produced by Blue Waters Productions, Hit For Six! is the first film from the Caribbean island of Barbados to be featured at the festival.

Hit For Six! is a fictional account of a West Indian cricketer who fights a match fixing charge. He learns about love while struggling for his last chance to play in a major global tournament and earns the respect of his estranged father, a former great West Indies player.
The movie features an all-Caribbean cast and crew, including popular MTV Tempo host, Trinidadian Jeanille Bonterre; British-based Trinidadian actor, Rudolph Walker; lead actor Barbadian Andrew Pilgrim; Canadian-based Barbadian actress, Alison Sealy-Smith; and Barbadian actress Varia Williams.

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Crackdown on illegal gas stations in Jamaica

The Government has announced a crackdown on illegal gas stations all over Jamaica. This seems to be quite a challenge as it is estimated that there are more than 100 illegal gas distribution points in Kingston and St. Andrew alone. Over the last nine years, more than 20 petroleum-related accidents were reported. Several premises were also destroyed as a result of fires which started at illegal service stations.

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