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bulletAristide in Jamaica
bulletElections end Byrd dynasty in Antigua
bulletAntigua wins WTO case against US
bulletLead poisoning alarm in Jamaica
bulletHigh court judgment stirs turmoil in Grenada
bulletHelping Jamaica
bulletDominica breaks diplomatic relations with Taiwan
bulletNew  security machines for Jamaica airports
bulletJamaica Government signs sweeping peace pact with unions
bullet  T$T company wins Ja govt's textbook printing contract
bulletJamaica to clamp down on unauthorised importation of refined sugar
bulletCARICOM says Barbados has violated treaty
bulletMeet the People tourism in Jamaica
bulletForeign vs local Jamaican contractors
bulletChicago Fire rebound to oust T&T club soccer team
bulletWI cricket hit bottom against England
bulletDeee…fence! Deee…fence!
bulletJamaica and Iran to cooperate
bulletJ$2 billion profit for Grace Kennedy


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.


cover  For the Life of Laetitia by Trinidad -born Merle Hodge  Price: $10.54
a wonderful book about a young girl in the Carribean, the first of her family to go to secondary school.



April 2004

Aristide in Jamaica

Patterson’s finest hour
While others talked, wrung their hands, and reacted with anger at the deposing and subsequent kidnapping, Jamaica’s Prime Minister acted decisively. He brought the deposed but democratically elected President of Haiti, Jean Bertrand Aristide, back from the isolation and pseudo-prison of faraway Central African Republic to be a guest of Jamaica. The Prime Minister’s personal emissary South Central St Catherine MP, Sharon Hay-Webster, did the honor of escorting Aristide from the Central African Republic. Aristide alighted from the specially chartered plane after a 17-hour flight with an entourage which included the already mentioned Sharon Hay-Webster, Mrs. Aristide, his lawyer Ira Kurzban, US congresswoman Maxine Waters, and TransAfrica founder Randall Roberts.

Aristide has not been granted permanent asylum in Jamaica but is there for about 10 weeks for some R&R and to be re-united with his two little daughters, who were flown to Jamaica from Miami a few days after his arrival.

Predictably, the opposition Jamaica Labor Party, who more and more seems to have a lifeline from the US Republicans, instead of greeting Aristide with warm hospitality, complained about the cost of his visit, that he was just a political distraction and callously demanded his visit be shortened.

Not surprisingly, the US-appointed interim Prime minister of Haiti, Gerard Latortue, angrily broke off diplomatic relations and recalled the Haitian ambassador. PM Patterson responded by reminding Mr. Latortue that he himself had found refuge and benefited from Jamaican hospitality as a refugee. He came to Jamaica in 1963 after Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier came to power, and lived and worked here before going to Puerto Rico.

Prime Ministers Manning of T&T, Gonsalves of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Jagdeo of Guyana were quick to announce their support for Jamaica’s action. The other CARICOM members waited for a scheduled meeting of the Heads of States to announce their joint support.

CARICOM leaders have also jointly called for a UN investigation of the removal of Aristide and for the refusal to accept the rebel government. US ambassador to Jamaica already rebuked PM Patterson for calling for the UN investigation so with US opposition neither the investigation or the withholding of recognition is going to happen.

Of Course, the US via Condaleeza Rice voiced their displeasure at the presence of Aristide in Jamaica.

Permanent Asylum
The right thing for Jamaica to do is to offer, not wait for him to beg for, permanent asylum. Jamaica as a sovereign nation has that right. But, Jamaica is not really a sovereign nation any more. George Bush has seen to that. They would require US permission. So, sadly neither Jamaica nor any other CARICOM country will grant Aristide asylum. But, this American domination is not limited to CARICOM. Nigeria offered Aristide asylum after they sought and got permission from the US. Venezuela also offered asylum independently but this would only speed up US attempts to overthrow their President Hugo Chavez again.

What an outrage when we consider that:

bulletFrance granted immediate asylum to Haiti’s brutal dictator, "Baby Doc" Duvalier for him to live there in the splendor of the looted Haiti treasury.
bulletCanada gave refuge to short-lived dictator General Raul Cedras.
bulletThe US has been refuge for prominent murderers and political torturers of the Haitian people such as General Phillipe Biamby and Emmanuel "Toto" Constant. Of course, the US was happy to grant asylum to dictators the Shah of Iran and Ferdinand Marcos of the Phillipines.

Flash! According to TransAfrica founder Randall Robinson, who accompanied Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide on his historic return trip back to the Caribbean, US National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice is telling the Jamaican government if Aristide is not immediately expelled from the country and anything happens to American forces in Haiti, consequences would be exacted against Jamaica in full force by the U.S.

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Elections end Byrd dynasty in Antigua

In a stunning upset, the Baldwin Spencer led United Progressive Party (UPP)defeated the incumbents Antigua Labor Party (ALP)of Lester Bird. The UPP scored an impressive victory taking 12 of 17 Parliamentary seats, Even outgoing Prime Minister Lester Bird lost his seat. The defeat is even more sensational since the it ended a 60-year dominance of a family political dynasty in Antigua and Barbuda.

The Bird family has dominated politics in Antigua since the 1940s. The late Vere Bird Snr, a former Salvation Army captain, and the founder of the family dynasty, helped form the Antigua Trades and Labour Union (ATLU) during the 1938 labour upheavals across the Caribbean, and in 1945 became an elected member of the Legislative Council in colonial Antigua. Bird became chief minister of Antigua in the 1950s when Cabinet government was introduced and later became premier under a system of quasi-independence, called associated statehood, in the late 1960s.

The new PM, Baldwin Spenser, is a 55 year-old labour activist who has been the opposition leader for a long time. Among his victors is Jacqui Quinn-Leandro, who becomes the first woman to hold a House seat.

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Antigua wins WTO case against US

"Massa God lives!"
It is not a misprint. The mighty USA has been defeated by Antigua. The World Trade Organisation has sided with Antigua and Barbuda that the US policy prohibiting gambling online violates international trade law. The US had imposed this ban to satisfy its powerful casino gambling lobbyists. They were afraid the online casinos, of which three major ones are in Antigua, would give them too much competition for the US gambler.

Of course it might well be a hollow and temporary victory. US officials are angry. The George W. Bush administration vowed to appeal the decision, and several members of Congress said they would rather have an international trade war or withdraw from future rounds of the WTO than have American social policy dictated from abroad.

The decision stems from a case brought to the WTO in June last year by the tiny island nation of Antigua and Barbuda, which licenses 19 companies that offer sports betting and casino games like blackjack over the Internet. Antigua and Barbuda argued that US trade policy does not prohibit cross-border gambling operations, and that the US would be hypocritical to do otherwise because it wants to allow American casino operations to operate land-based and Internet-based subsidiaries overseas.

Ironically the fight was brought by the Byrd government which was defeated in the polls the day before the WTO decision came down.

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Lead poisoning alarm in Jamaica

So far 54 children under 6 years old have been diagnosed and some hospitalized with lead poisoning in the parishes of Kingston and St. Catherine in Jamaica. Testing continues in other parishes, after which health officials and researchers expect the number of cases to mount, pushing the problem way beyond the initial mass discoveries almost 10 years ago in Kingston.

The cases are linked largely to soil contamination caused by smelting and backyard car battery repair. The children are from poor families in low-income areas

The United States Centre for Disease Control (CDC) in 1991 set blood lead levels at 10 micrograms per decilitre as the acceptable standard, but now propose to lower that level. Experts consider a blood lead concentration of 45 a medical emergency. Researchers from the University of the West Indies, Mona Campus, conducted investigation of children in a number of basic schools in these two parishes and found levels ranging from 45 to 60. However, In two of the cases, children had lead levels of 130 and 202. At this level, they are likely to die from the poisoning.

A high blood lead level is believed to cause neurological or brain damage, lower intelligence quotient (IQ) levels, affect fertility and damage the kidneys. Research has also linked lead poisoning to violent and criminal behaviour.

Four government agencies are coordinating a clean-up in affected areas.

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High court judgment stirs turmoil in Grenada

The Grenada revolution of Maurice Bishop grabbed center stage again as a result of rulings by High Court Justice Benjamin in the capital St. George’s recently. The justice ruled that:

bulletthe death sentences imposed on Bernard Coard and 13 others in 1986 for the killings were unconstitutional.
bulletthe commutation by the then Governor General of Grenada, of the sentences to prison terms for the rest of the natural lives of the accused, was also unconstitutional and in breach of the separation of powers, as enshrined in the country's constitution.
bulletthe failure of the court to provide the accused with written copies of the judgment against them since 1992 when they lost appeals against their death sentences, was also unconstitutional.
bulletthat the men should be brought to court in 42 days for re-sentencing. In the process he ordered that they be awarded damages to be assessed by a judge in chambers, and that costs in the sum of EC$15,000 be paid by the State.

Wow! What a bombshell! Grenadians are said to be in major uproar because of these rulings.

The rulings were based on a constitutional motion brought in December, 2002, by Trinidad attorney Keith Scotland on behalf of Bernard Coard and 13 others who had been found guilty of the murders of Maurice Bishop and several others, during the bloody collapse of the People's Revolutionary Government in October, 1983. Bishop was Prime Minister of the revolutionary regime which had taken power in Grenada in a coup against then Prime Minister Eric Gairy in March, 1979. Coard had been deputy Prime Minister but the men had become arch-rivals in a power struggle which ended with the killings, after Bishop had been freed from house arrest on October 19, 1983.

Of the 14 prisoners, the lone woman, Coard's wife Phyllis, has been on extended humanitarian release from prison on grounds of presumed mental and psychological illness. She, herself has been the subject of a play "Sitting in Limbo".

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Helping Jamaica

Letter from a reader about helping Jamaica

Greetings to all,
I read with great interest about the people who helped raise money to help the people of Jamaica. Can I help in the same way? I am married to a wonderful man from Jamaica in whom I love and adore very much.
Please respond to my request, thank you. Peace and one love to you and yours.
Linda Richards

Dear Linda,
Please accept my apology for responding so late. I misplaced your email. I plan to assemble and outline a more comprehensive means of helping Jamaica. In the meantime check and the list of charities on my web page. I also intend to include your letter in the next update as an inspiration to others.
Michael Phillips, Editor

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Dominica breaks diplomatic relations with Taiwan

After 20 years of diplomatic relations, Dominica has broken ties with Taiwan and established diplomatic relations with the Peoples Republic of China. Dominica Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit announced on radio that "''My government in reassessing our external relations came to the conclusion that our policy with respect to Taiwan was based upon unrealistic and fallacious historical interpretation. We have concluded that the clear truth is there is but one China".

Maybe so but the real reason might really be - China has promised over US$100 million in grant aid in the next six years. And US$11 million will be given instantly.  Taiwan apparently could not match that. The PM listed the Windsor Park stadium, the Princess Margaret Hospital - the main health facility, a new high school, university scholarships and the west coast highway as the priority areas to receive assistance from Beijing.

Editor’s Comment: China probably deserves official recognition but under these circumstances it does look like recognition to the highest bidder rather than merit based.

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New airport security machines for Jamaica airports

A NEW automated US$2 million (J$120 million) immigration and control system is to be implemented at Jamaica’s two major airports in May. Using machine readable passports, which Jamaica is already issuing, the system will monitor individual travel patterns and keep check on the authenticity of documents. But fingerprinting is not an immediate requirement This is a precursor to the biometric system, being pushed by the United States, where fingerprints and other personal information will be scanned inside machine-readable passports.

The new automated immigration system is expected to counter terrorist threats and reduce the number of persons leaving the island on forged travel documents. The information captured will also serve as a source of intelligence for regional and international law enforcement organisations.

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Jamaica Government signs sweeping peace pact with unions

The government of Jamaica has signed a peace pact with the Jamaica Confederation of Trade Unions to last for two years. Prime Minister PJ Patterson headed the group of Government representatives who recently signed this landmark peace pact known officially as the Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU). The MOU which resulted from over two months of discussions was arrived at in an effort to save the jobs of thousands of public sector workers who would have fallen victims of government's belt tightening measures.

Under the deal, the Government will refrain from cutting public sector jobs and the workers will forego salary increases for a period of two years, ending March 2006. Mr. Patterson confirmed that without the arrangement, over 15-thousand public sector workers would have lost their jobs.

As part of the agreement, the unions will accept current offers for wage and fringe benefits between April one 2002 and March 2004.

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 T$T company wins Ja govt's textbook printing contract

Jamaica has awarded its annual school textbook printing contract to the Trinidad & Tobago based firm, Eniath Printing Services Limited. Eniath was selected from a field of three candidates, the other two being the Gleaner Company and US based Von Hoffman Corporation. Of the three, Eniath had the lowest bid, worth 48 million dollars. The Gleaner's bid was worth 57-point-six million and Von Hoffman's, 62-point-six million.

According to the education ministry, the National Contracts Commission endorsed its recommendation that Eniath be awarded the contract, and this was approved by Cabinet on February 16.

Eniath's Printing Company Limited was established in 1985, and according to a statement on its website, quickly established a creditable reputation for producing quality school textbooks in Trinidad & Tobago.

For several years, the Gleaner Company was the main producer of Jamaica's primary school textbooks. But in recent years the contract has gone to other firms, with Von Hoffman being last year's winning bidder, with a bid of 51-point-six million dollars. However that contract later became embroiled in controversy when Von Hoffman requested more money from the Government, claiming that devaluation in the Jamaican dollar had thrown its budget in disarray. The government is awaiting the advice of Solicitor General Michael Hylton before deciding whether to grant the request of Von Hoffman.

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Jamaica to clamp down on unauthorised importation of refined sugar

The Government is taking steps to clamp down on the unauthorised importation of refined sugar into Jamaica. The Trade Board announced that effective March 1, importers will need a licence to bring refined sugar into the island. In the meantime, General Manager of Jamaica Cane Product Sales Limited, Karl James, says the new regime will protect the local sugar industry from unfair competition.

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CARICOM says Barbados has violated treaty

The Trinidad – Barbados row continues. The CARICOM council of trade ministers has ruled that the implementation by Barbados of a licensing regime for exports from Trinidad and Tobago violates the CARICOM treaty.

Following Bridgetown's imposition of the licensing regime Port of Spain referred the matter for discussion by the trade ministers, at their recent meeting. Trade minister Ken Valley said the council found Barbados guilty, in breach of article 91 and 92 of the treaty.
Meanwhile food crop farmers in Port of Spain Trinidad are complaining of severe losses and financial pressure brought about by the import monitoring licenses imposed by the Barbados government. The licenses were introduced last month on an expanded list of goods entering the country at the height of a fishing dispute with Trinidad and Tobago Education and Research officer at the National Food Crop Farmers Association Norris Dionarine says thousands of pounds of vegetables earmarked for Bridgetown have gone bad leaving his members suffering.

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Meet the People tourism in Jamaica

For over 37 years the Jamaica Tourist Board's (JTB) Meet the People program facilitates ordinary Jamaicans to entertain visitors to the island in their homes. The Meet the People Pro-gramme has enjoyed long-standing success as a key element in creating a bond between locals and visitors to the island. Tourists often request to meet Jamaicans with whom they share mutual interest in areas such as business, sports, religion and professions.

In Montego Bay, there are over 200 families, who regularly volunteer their time and efforts to entertain visitors who wish to see aspects of the everyday lives of ordinary Jamaicans. Thousands of families have participated in the program since 1967. Hoteliers in the resort areas have been very supportive of the program as they realise the tremendous benefits the program brings to the industry.

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Foreign vs local Jamaican contractors

Jamaica’s Finance AND Planning Minister, Dr. Omar Davies has given foreign contractors employed to carry out projects in Jamaica a better rating than their Jamaican counterparts. He cited contractors from China as an example in which the Chinese bid for a one-year construction project at the University of Technology, and because they were coming from so far, they came late, so they started three months late, but they delivered it two months in advance.

Dr. Davies stated that the Japanese and East Asians posses work ethics which Jamaicans do not have, and so they are able to perform with greater efficiency.

But Don Mullings of the Incorporated Masterbuilders Association of Jamaica (IMAJ) refuted these serious indictments of Jamaican contractors. He said:

bullet"There have been several jobs that have been messed up by foreign contractors and had to be rescued by local contractors who ended up doing a good job and saving this country millions of dollars, embarrassment and otherwise."
bullet"Most of these foreign contractors are in fact paid on time and at the rates agreed. Local companies have always accommodated the tardiness on the Government's part, especially in making payments, have always accommodated problems (such as) inadequate designs but we worked with them because of course this is our country."
bulletForeign contractors are not bombarded with political interference in carrying out their work. He alleged that some are even allowed to bring in cheap labour.

Right now it has come to light that the Government indeed owes local contractors about a billion dollars. The National Works Agency (NWA), which is directly responsible for the supervision of road projects, now says it owes close to a billion dollars to contractors for work done mainly under the National Road Improvement Programme (NARIP). Meetings were arranged after the IMAJ complained that a substantial number of its members were owed millions by the Government, putting them in a difficult position as they struggle to maintain their businesses.

On the subject of labour, Dr. Davies was also critical of Jamaicans. He stereotyped them as lazy who find all sort of excuses not to attend work such as "sick, rain fell, mother dead, grandmother dead" again! He commended Americans for punishing laziness to ensure the job gets done.

Editor’s Comment: Dr. Davies has exposed serious flaws in the Government’s management of contractors. In the State of Maryland and all across the other states of America, contractors receive cash incentives to finish a project ahead of time and must pay a cash penalty for each day the project is late. This is elementary stuff and I am dismayed that the Jamaica government obviously does not do this too. Don’t just blame and stereotype Jamaicans but use well-established professional management techniques to improve efficiency.

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Chicago Fire rebounds to oust T&T club soccer team

The T&T club soccer champions, Jabloteh, clobbered US Major Soccer League runner-ups Chicago Fire by a 5-2 score in the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions Cup quarter-finals in Port- of-Spain. Jabloteh was led by a hat trick from striker Cornell Glen and 2 goals from Kerry Noray. Chicago’s 2 goals were caused by Jabloteh’s carelessness which included an own goal mixup between a back and goalie.

However, Chicago, needing 4 goals, rebounded at home to win out by 4-0 at home on the return.. Unfortunately for Jabloteh, they had to play most of the game with 10 men as one of their players was red carded in the 36th minute. So, Chicage moves on to the semi-finals while the MSL league champs the San Jose Earthquakes were eliminated by Alajuelense of Costa Rica.

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WI cricket hit bottom against England

Test I 
The West Indies were dismissed for their lowest ever Test score, a mere 47 runs. This led to a 10-wicket Test defeat at Sabina Park in jamaica to England in the first Test. The performance was so bad that West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) announced: "(The team) sincerely apologises to the West Indies public for the shocking performance."

1st Innings WI 311 (DS Smith 108, Ryan Hinds 84,); England 339 ( M Butcher 58, N Hussain 58)
2nd innings: WI 47 ( SJ Harmison 7 for 12); England 20 w.o. loss

Test 2
West Indies had only one way to go but up. They did, but not good enough to win but at least was a little more competitive. It was just a little but even that was an improvement. This time England won in Trinidad by 7 wickets.
1st innings WI 208 ( Gayle 65, Harmison 6 for 61); England 319 (Thorpe 90, MA Butcher 61, Hussain 58, Collins 4 for 71)
2nd innings WI 209 (Jacobs 70, Jones 5 for 57) England 99 for 3

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Deee…fence! Deee…fence!

No, this is not a chant to encourage a sports team to maintain a strong defense. It refers to the new Jamaican super highway known as Highway 2000. More specifically dee fence around the high speed highway to keep out animals and people too. Police arrested a man for possessing 57 meters of removed fence recently. He claimed he bought it from three men and the police confiscated another 20 meters in another yard.

Well up to last November, more than 500 metres of the fence had been stolen in the one month that the Highway had been opened and operators then moved to have sections cemented into place to prevent further loss. About 200 metres were removed on November 19, the night before a 24 year-old motorist was killed after his car collided with a black cow.

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Jamaica and Iran to cooperate

Jamaica and Iran are to explore avenues for co-operation in the energy and bauxite alumina sectors, following discussions between Prime Minister P. J. Patterson and President Khatami of Iran. The discussions took place ahead of the 12th Summit of the Group of Fifteen, just concluded in Caracas, Venezuela.

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J$2 billion profit for Grace Kennedy

Some good news at last for a Jamaican company as GRACE, Kennedy & Co. Ltd, 2003 had another great year. The market value of the company soared by 42 per cent from $12.28 billion at the end of 2002 to $17.45 billion at the end of 2003. Additionally, revenues for the year were up by 26 per cent from $19.66 billion in 2002 to $24.77 billion in 2003. Net profit for 2003 was approximately $2 billion up from $1.6 billion.

Its food trading division launched its Diet Tropical Rhythms and Grace Readi-Meals. In fact, all of the Grace owned brands are now sold in 35 countries in the world and record sales of US$33 million, which is an increase of 7 per cent over sales booked in 2002. As icing on the cake, Tropical Rhythms was declared winner of the Canadian Grand Prix New Product Award for 2002-2003.

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