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April 2002

Farrakahn reconciles with Jews in Jamaica

A momentous event took place in Kingston Jamaica. So far I have not seen it in the media here in the US. I have not seen it in the regular international media. But, it happened in Jamaica. Louis Farrakahn, the controversial leader of the Nation of Islam not only reconciled publicly with the Jews in Jamaica but was a special guest in the synagogue there in Kingston. It was a moment of international significance but the world press was silent. Congratulations to the Jewish leadership in Jamaica. They have showed up the hypocrisy and fraud of the rest of the world and this has been a crowning achievement for which Jamaica should be proud.

The fact is that Minister Farrakahn  (whose father was Jamaican) has held out the olive branch to Jews in America before and they have rejected him. Most conspicuously was at the time of the Million Man March on October 16 1996. He made every effort then to reach out to the Jewish establishment then. They shunned him and the media acted as if it never even happened. The fact is that the Jews did not want reconciliation. The media did not want it nor did they want people to know of his attempts. It did not fit into their plans to continue to demonize him. Do we really need more evidence how the media manipulates and distorts the news? They are not to be trusted.

Surely minister Farrakahn has said some very vile things about the Jews. But, he has said some equally vile things about Jesse Jackson. But, for the Million Man March, Jesse and he stood together in reconciliation as brothers and have remained so. So also could have been the case with American Jews. Isn’t this what religion is all about, reconciliation, redemption, bringing adversaries together, the lion lying down with the lamb? Can you imagine the impact if the American Jews had done then, what the Jamaican Jews have now done in Jamaica? Are you really surprised it did not happen? Not in America! Congratulations again Jamaica!

( Click here for the Louis Farrakahn speech in the Synagogue in Kingston Jamaica.)

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Globalisation brings catastrophe to Caribbean in 7 years

Sound the alarm! Catastrophe is coming!
Political stalemate in Trinidad and Tobago and election hysteria rises in Jamaica. This is penny-anti stuff compared to the brewing catastrophe that globalisation will bring the Caribbean in 7 years. Caribbean leaders get lots of blame for the worsening conditions in their respective countries. The fact is they are pretty powerless to do anything about it as globalisation comes marching in. And, because of it, by 2009 Caribbean countries will see their guaranteed EU footholds for their exports - including coconuts, bananas and sugar - shrink to nothing. While free European market access was promised to 48 countries considered the world's poorest, 14 Caribbean nations were left out. Most of the agriculture in the Caribbean has been developed on the basis of special trade preferences, and experts contend that none of these industries can survive the international marketplace. None!

The Caribbean's once-lucrative plantations are now dwarfed by bigger, more efficient farms in places like Brazil and Indonesia, and they're starting to become casualties in the march toward globalized markets. As cash-short Caribbean governments struggle to push crop diversification and the processing of local crops to create marketable goods, farms are faltering and their workers are threatened with losing their livelihoods.

In the background, this is a region where the drug trade is a lucrative option, and there are fears more people will be lured into illicit businesses. The Caribbean's farm output is insignificant in world markets, but agriculture is a vital source of employment and income in the region.
The 144-member World Trade Organization is beginning talks on reducing industrial nations' big subsidies for their own farmers, but it's almost certain that will benefit emerging agricultural powerhouses like Brazil more than the Caribbean's growers.
The Philippines produces 400 times more coconuts than Trinidad's annual crop of 25,000 tons. Its coconut plantations cover an area six times bigger than the entire island of Trinidad.
A typical scenario, the land is tilled by just one aging tractor, machetes are used to extract copra, a rusty oven dries the white flesh and a few truckloads - some 18,000 pounds - are shipped off every two weeks down rutted roads. Mounds of coconuts are often left to rot
For the Caribbean, the survival battle heated up after recent WTO rulings brought an end for 27-year-old trade preferences that the European Union gave to farm produce from 71 former colonies in Africa, the Caribbean and Pacific.
Anthony T. Bryan, who heads the University of Miami's North-South Center, says only alliances with deep-pocketed multinational companies can help Caribbean growers. Some solution!
With banana production declining 50 percent in the last decade, and some farmers switching to marijuana, the Windward Islands hope to revive farming by concentrating on small-scale market niches. St. Vincent, St. Lucia, Dominica and Grenada are looking to export organically grown fruit to a British supermarket chain.
For sugar the outlook is decidedly grim. Puny production volume, high costs and antiquated equipment are the Caribbean norm.
In Trinidad, Barbados and Jamaica, sugar industries with sky-high costs hang on only thanks to heavy subsidies from politicians reluctant to anger cane-farming constituents.
But not even price supports can hold off competition. Trinidad's coconut farmers have even lost business to Guyanese coconuts within a Caribbean free trade bloc, forcing many smaller estates to close. Vietnamese rice is beating out Guyanese rice in Jamaica.

The sad fact is that CARICOM is failing to protect even trade among members. Even the vaunted British Commonwealth risks becoming irrelevant if it cannot protect trade among members. I know that is not its mission, but what value is it if it does not concern itself with such a life and death issue?

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Trinidad president agrees to stay on in office

President A.N.R. Robinson has agreed to stay on as president of Trinidad and Tobago for at least six months while politicians attempt to resolve the three-month-old election dispute. Robinson, 75, could stay on longer if his health allows -- and if a dispute over the Caribbean islands' governmental elections is not resolved by then.
Robinson, a former prime minister, was elected president in 1997. His five-year term was scheduled to end on March 18. An Oxford-educated lawyer, Robinson had open heart surgery in 1998 after collapsing at an independence parade.
Opposition politicians headed by Basdeo Panday are objecting to his continued presidency. Both Panday's United National Congress and Manning's People's National Movement won 18 seats in inconclusive December 10 general elections. At the time, Panday agreed to accept whomever President Ray Robinson named as prime minister, but when Manning was appointed, Panday was furious, and rejected the pact. He is demanding fresh elections by July 8 and power-sharing until that time.
Both calls have been rejected by Manning, who has promised new elections by July 2003.

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Caribbean countries cooperate to nab druglord

A joint investigation by US, Cuban, Colombian and Jamaican police led to the arrest of a major druglord. This cooperation was crucial in cracking the network spun by drug kingpins. As a result of joint intelligence passed on to Cuban officials, they arrested Bustamente Bolanos, the head of a Colombian drug cartel. He had lived in Montego Bay, Jamaica for some time before leaving for Cuba on January 6 of this year. He went by the name Rafael Martinez in Jamaica but used a Venezuelan passport with the name Alberto Pinto Jaramillo for his trip to Cuba. He is considered to be one of the key operatives in Jamaica of Samuel Knowles. Knowles, who is an alleged drug kingpin, is serving time behind bars in the Bahamas. He has been linked to several high profile persons in Jamaica, including senior police officers.

During the investigations, a number of Knowles' assets valued at millions of dollars were seized by the narcotics police. Knowles is expected to be extradited to the United States and his testimony could have serious implications for several persons overseeing his affairs in Jamaica.

Bolanos is considered to be responsible for thousands of kilos of cocaine coming from Colombia to Jamaica. We believe we busted one of his major shipments at Belmont in Westmoreland last year," the Jamaica narcotics chief Supt. Williams said.

Last October, a record 2,700 pounds of cocaine with a street value of $339 million was found at a house in Belmont, Westmoreland. Supt. Williams stressed that Bustamante Bolanos is expected to co-operate with the authorities and if he does, several high profile businessmen in Jamaica could be arrested.

A statement issued by the Cuban Foreign Ministry said the accused works with a major group of Bahamian drug traffickers and that he had escaped from a prison in Santa Marta, Colombia, about 10 years ago while serving a sentence for money laundering. It was also discovered that he was being sought by the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).

Meanwhile, as investigations continue into the Colombian/Jamaican drug link, senior detectives at the CIB Headquarters in Kingston are now probing the circumstances under which a Colombian national was abducted in downtown Kingston two weeks ago by gunmen and a ransom of US$500,000 subsequently paid for over his release.

According to the police, the Colombian is the owner of several houses and boats in Jamaica. They say he is an illegal alien, living here for some time and working closely with the criminal underworld.

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PM’s chopper flattens pit toilet

The rural community of Hermitage/Bethel in Westmoreland Jamaica was honored by a visit of Prime Minister P.J. Patterson. It was an auspicious occasion for the purpose of handing over Operation-Pride home-building lots. As you can imagine it was a happy day for the proud recipients.

In the midst of the Prime Minister’s speech, a JDF helicopter sent to take him back, arrived on the scene. At first it aroused curiosity for probably no one in the community had ever seen a helicopter close-up, if at all, before. Mr. Patterson lost some of his audience as a few people sneaked out of the tent where he was speaking to view the incoming chopper. Soon he lost all his audience as the helicopter came closer and the roaring din it created drowned out his speech. He was not amused. He became angry at the unceremonious interruption. The pilot circled seeking a place to land. But the horrible din the helicopter created was now not the only problem. The propellers of the helicopter generate a lot of wind, a lot of wind. It seemed like a mini hurricane. Chaos reigned. The ceremony was completely disrupted. After 15 minutes the helicopter descended, blowing the leaves off a nearby tree as it did. It landed at the community playing field about a mile away from the ceremony at the Bethel Town Primary and Junior High School. But, even more damage was done.

A distraught woman sought out the PM to complain that the chopper had blown the roof off her house, blown down the majority of her fruit trees, mainly banana, and had completely destroyed her sole sanitary convenience, a pit latrine. For thanks to the helicopter, the wind blew and the pit latrine flew. She demanded compensation.

It was not reported, but I hope the toilet was not occupied at the time. I think it will be a while before those villagers forget the visit to their village of that JDF helicopter.

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Privy Council bars mandatory death penalty

HUNDREDS of prisoners on death row in the Caribbean may escape execution after a landmark ruling by the England’s Privy Council that the mandatory death penalty for murder is unlawful. In a unanimous decision, five law lords sitting as the Privy Council yesterday struck down as unconstitutional the automatic death penalty in seven Eastern Caribbean countries. Ruling in three murder appeals, Lord Bingham of Cornhill, the senior law lord, said that the mandatory death sentence was to treat an offender "as no human being should be treated".

The law lords ruled that the automatic death sentence — which takes no account of the circumstances of any particular offender — breached the respective constitutions of the countries concerned. It said convicted killers should have the right to address a jury, give evidence and call witnesses to testify before they are sentenced. The Privy Council ruled the death penalty should be decided by a jury not a judge. Their ruling carries particular weight politically because it confirms a similar judgment last April by the Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal, and does not involve the Privy Council overturning a local court. The Privy Council consists of 5 members of Britain’s House of Lords and is the final court of appeal for many Commonwealth countries.

The decision came after a six-year legal battle waged by British lawyers. It directly affects the mandatory death penalty in Belize, St Kitts and Nevis, Antigua and Barbuda, St Lucia, St Vincent, Grenada and Dominica. In the first test case, Berthill Fox, a former Mr Universe with dual British nationality, was convicted in May 1998 in St Kitts and Nevis of murdering his fiancée and her mother.

The second was brought by Peter Hughes, a prisoner in St Lucia, who was convicted of the murder of Jason Jean in November 1993. In the third case, Patrick Reyes, under sentence of death in Belize, was convicted in April 1999 of the murders of a neighbor and his wife after a boundary dispute.

Human rights lawyers in the region applauded the Privy Council's decision, as did London-based Amnesty International, which said it was a ``welcome step toward an execution-free Caribbean.''
However, Caribbean leaders do not see it that way. The ruling likely will increase the resolve of 10 Caribbean countries to form a regional supreme court and scrap their 170-year relationship with the Privy Council, which they accuse of hindering local efforts to enforce the death penalty.
Although some countries have gone nearly a decade without an execution others reintroduced hangings, arguing they serve as a strong deterrent to increasing violent crime, much tied to drug-trafficking. Countries such as the Bahamas and Trinidad and Tobago have carried out recent hangings, with Trinidad executing as many as 10 men in 1999.

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More bad news for Ja economy

The last quarter of 2001 was a very bad one for Jamaican economy. The Economic Update and Outlook publication released the grim statistics of economic decline for the period. The major culprit for this decline is the 9/11 terrorist attack on the US and the war in Afghanistan. During that period of October to December 2001 compared with the same period for the preceding year, there was:

  • A massive loss of US$80 million in tourist expenditure
  • A whopping US$141.6 million decline in goods exported
  • Tourists arrivals were 452,258, down by 17% .
  • Agriculture output declined by 7.1%, much of which is attributed to floods in October and November which destroyed large areas of cultivation island-wide.
  • Total bauxite exports fell by 15.5%.
  • Bank activity improved as loans by local banks increased by 14.1%.

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No passports needed

Within the last month people in the eastern Caribbean will be able to travel within their region without passports. The eastern Caribbean Governments have agreed to freedom of movement within the islands as a first significant step towards creating an economic union that will clear the way for an eventual political union. The countries involved include Antigua, Dominica, Grenada, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and St. Kitts-Nevis. Earlier moves were troubled by concerns about the impact of free movement on unemployment and on usually weak social services.

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Political gloom but energy boom for T&T

There might be a political stalemate in Trinidad and Tobago, but the energy industry is boooming. Encouraged by recent oil and gas finds, energy companies are moving ahead with plans to expand significantly Trinidad and Tobago's already substantial energy-based industries.

A European consortium is finalising proposals to the government of the Caribbean state for an almost five-fold expansion in the export of liquefied natural gas (LNG), with investments totalling about $2.5bn. Investors also want to spend $1 billion to produce ethylene.

Patrick Manning, prime minister of the country  is keen to expand production of LNG, and has spoken of greater LNG production than the consortium is planning. The impending negotiations between the consortium and the government will focus on Atlantic LNG, a $1billion venture producing 3 million tonnes a year. The plant is being expanded by the addition of two units with cumulative capacity of 6.6 million tonnes a year, which are scheduled to be commissioned by the end of next year.

The consortium, which includes BP, Repsol of Spain and British Gas, is proposing to the government a fourth unit with a capacity of 4.8million tonnes a year that would begin production in three to three and a half years. Mr. Manning has said he would like to see a further two units installed.

Earlier concerns about the inadequacy of gas in Trinidad and Tobago to feed the LNG plants and meet other domestic demands have been eased by several significant finds. In one of the most recent, BHP Billiton discovered offshore deposits of about 1 billion barrels of oil and 2,500bn cubic feet of gas. This followed a big find by BP. Encouraged by this, the government intends to offer more exploration licences this year.

Demand for gas in Trinidad and Tobago is expected to reach 4 billion cu ft a day by 2010, against the current 1.5 billion cu ft. The country has 32,600 billion cu ft of proven, probable and possible gas reserves.

Trinidad and Tobago's energy exports will be increasingly aimed at the US market. The output from Atlantic LNG's first unit is being sold on the North American and European markets. Tractebel is taking 60 per cent for the US, with Enagas, a subsidiary of Repsol, taking the rest for the Spanish market. When the second and third units are commissioned, Enagas will take the majority, with the rest being sold on the US market.

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Trinidad & Tobago Government Wants to Increase royalties

The Trinidad and Tobago government wants to renegotiate an increase in gas royalties with BP which would dramatically increase state revenues. Energy Minister Eric Williams said the country lost US $100 million in revenues as a result of a decision by the former government not to renegotiate a gas contract with BP. A committee has been set up to hold discussions with BP for a review of the natural gas royalty schedule. "This discussion has a real potential to increase the rent that is due to the citizenry and the nation," he told a recent cabinet meeting. Williams said the arrangements arrived at with the company, then known as Amoco, were extended by the last government although an increase in royalty was due. Prime Minister Patrick Manning said BP has been made aware of government's intentions and that the responses from them were "very positive."

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Panday threatens to block election of Speaker

The political stalemate in T&T continues and it seems even more turbulent times lay ahead. Basdeo Panday, leader of the United National Congress (UNC) party in T&T has vowed to block the election of a speaker when the country’s Parliament convenes on April 5. According to the former Prime Minister, there will be craziness. Mr. Panday said the party’s only objective is to ensure that elections are held, and if there is no speaker there will be no parliament, forcing Prime minister Manning to hold fresh elections.

Sources reveal that the blocking plan will include the nomination by the UMC of up to 20,000 persons for the post of speaker, all of whom the UNC would then vote against.

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"Stop thief, naked thief!"

Two men entered a supermarket in Kingston Jamaica and shoplifted some items. Upon leaving the market one escaped but the other was caught. Obviously a fastidious thief as his ‘valuable’ loot consisted of 2 bottles of lotion, 4 cans of deodorants, and 2 bottles of ointment. But, the thief had a cunning escape plan up his sleeve. Soon he had no sleeves at all as he stripped himself completely naked and slipped out of the clutches of his pursuers and fled. A hot pursuit followed. It must have been quite a spectacle. The naked thief ran into a nearby house but was eventually caught and turned over to police.

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Jamaica to import natural gas

Jamaica will be receiving assistance from Japan and Korea to facilitate the importation of natural gas as fuel. This will be in the form of liquid natural gas (LNG). LNG is expected to reduce the island’s dependence on crude oil, which lessens Jamaica’s competitiveness in the international market. It is getting wide support from officials in the energy and economy sectors. Most of them even offered Jamaica financial and expertise support to introduce the program. It is estimated it will cost over US$200 million. The Ministry of Energy will next embark on a pre-feasibility study to investigate the possibility of introducing it by 2005. In addition to increased energy efficiency, LNG is environmentally friendly and will be 25% cheaper than importing crude oil.

Editor’s Note: Trinidad has just discovered large reserves of natural gas. Hmmmmm…..


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