From March 2001
Ruling Party Wins Guyanese Elections
The Peoples Progressive Party/Civic (PPP) of Bharrat Jagdeo won the elections again. The international observers certified the elections again. The opposition Peoples National Congress/Reform (PNC) protested the elections and cried foul again. So, let the crime and violent protests begin! And, so they have.
The PPP collected 209,301 votes to 164,074 for the PNC. This gave the PPP 35 seats in the National Assembly to 27 for the PNC. The Guyana Action Party/ Working Peoples Alliance (GAP?WPA) cornered 2 seats and the party with the best acronym, ROAR (Rise Organise and Rebuild Guyana) got 1.However several days after the election results, the Election Committee amended the vote count in a rural region and awarded a seat to the United Force Party (TUF), and reduced the PPP by 1 to 34.
But, before the PPP could celebrate their third consecutive victory, the PNC challenged the results in court claiming voter irregularities. Not only in the courts, but what has become a sickening tradition, they took their protests also to the streets in the form of violent threatening mob action. Racial tension has gripped the country. Several hundred protestors broke down police barriers and marched around the High Court chanting anti-Government slogans for 3 days in a row. Army and riot police were kept busy and even had to fire shots in the air. Stores and schools were forced to close.
So, after a wait of 8 days, the Court cleared the way for Bharrat Jagdeo to be inaugurated president. Jagdeo - a 37-year-old Russian-trained economist - was a former finance minister and first became president after Janet Jagan, the winner of elections in 1997, stepped down for health reasons in 1998. In his inauguration speech he called for reconciliation, something so badly needed in this racially divided country. Lets hope people of all parties there and all that truly care about Guyana work toward this goal. So far, I see no evidence that organisations and institutions, like churches, civic organisations, overseas Guyanese organisations, etc. , are doing anything to promote this goal and that's a real shame.
Since Bruce Golding founded the National Democratic Movement in 1995 to challenge the two traditional political parties in Jamaica, it has failed to win a single seat. Recently, their candidate for by-election in the parish of St. Ann barely mustered 700 votes out of approximately 15,000 votes cast. This was the last staw for Golding and days after the election he resigned as head of the party. His departure is probably a death blow to the party, as they are unlikely to find a replacement with Goldings credentials. To form the NDM, he had quit the opposition JLP, where he was not only the party secretary, but a likely successor to Seaga as party leader. He was popular and well respected. But, that was not enough to put a dent in either the JLP or PNP and has underlined the futility of a third party suceeding in Jamaica.
There has been some criticism of his quitting, but in my opinion he gave it his best, but it became obvious that his mission was doomed.
In America, also, third party does not have a chance of challenging the Democratic or Republican parties. Just like in Jamaica, even with a highly respected leader, Ralph Nader, as presidential contender, they failed to get 5% of the vote in almost every state. At least Golding was able to attract both JLP and PNP supporters away, but Nader pried loose Democrats only. So, ironically, a vote for Nader, weakened Democrat Gore, and was indeed a vote for Republican Bush. Furthermore, if the voting power of the Nader forces grows to 20% in the future, it will ensure Republicans will dominate American politics more and more.
Wha fi do?
Continued protests paralyse Haiti
Pro-government demonstrators shut down Haiti's capital, Port au Prince, as they burned tires and blocked intersections in the city in angry response to an opposition campaign against President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's new administration. Police and media reports said it was the fourth day of protests by supporters of Aristide. He was inaugurated in February for a second term but has failed to quell political unrest despite pledges he would work toward reconciliation with the opposition. Protesters are responding to a "mobilization" campaign by the leading opposition parties, and are calling for the arrest for treason of lawyer Gerard Gourgue, who has been declared the country's "parallel president" by the 15-party opposition bloc Democratic Convergence.
Gonsalves Sworn in as new PM in St Vincent
Not all incumbents in the Caribbean have been re-elected. Lawyer/politician Dr Ralph Gonsalves, was sworn in as Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines for a five-year term. Dr Gonsalves led the Unity Labour Party (ULP) to a landslide victory in Wednesday's general election by winning 12 of the 15 seats contested. The incumbent New Democrat Party (NDP) won 3 seats under the leadership of former Prime Minister Arnhim Eustace who barely held on to his seat.
Trinidad's PNM seeks funds for court cases
Trinidad and Tobago's opposition party has called on supporters to dig deep in their pockets to assist with the huge legal fees it has to pay lawyers for cases before the court. "We were discussing the need as a poor party, a poor person's party, the people's party to find funds to meet the costs of much of the litigation," Vice-Chairman of the People's National Movement (PNM), John Donaldson, said at the weekend. The PNM has hired top ranking lawyers to represent them in election petitions which are seeking to oust two members of the ruling United National Congress (UNC) from parliament on the grounds that they were not legally elected.
I wonder if they considered dropping the case? It’s a longshot and might save a bundle of money.
OUR POLITICAL SYSTEM, THE REAL VILLAIN
Editor's Note: All the articles above dealt with the problems and failings of democracy. The fraud, violent protests, mob action, intimidation, un-ending litigation and murder associated with recent elections in Jamaica, Guyana, T&T, most of the rest of the Caribbean, and all over the world are no surprise as this article written in 1990 (and published in the Gleaner) will show.
The political system has failed Jamaica and failed miserably. The political parties basically have identical objectives and even the means of achieving these are not too different. But what is the result? Lousy. Why? In order for political parties to succeed they must subordinate all other objectives to stay in or gain power. Everything else is secondary. So while one party diverts the lion share of resources, money, skills to keep power, the other (or others) does the same to wrest that power away. This struggle thus diverts valuable essential and limited resources from the primary objective - the betterment of the country and its people.
Another one of the consequences of this struggle for power is the inevitable division and polarization of the people. The more severe the struggle the more severe the division. Struggles for political power in Jamaica has been characterized by ruthlessness and viciousness and the polarization it has created has surpassed tragic proportions.
We have become preoccupied with the threat of "outside influence". I admit that this is a matter of some concern but it is the existing political conditions that enables this "outside influence," or just the charge of "outside influence", to turn Jamaican against Jamaican. In reality there is virtually no chance that some foreign Communist, Nazi or the worst type of terrorist will lift a finger to harm even one of our citizens. The real terrorist threat comes from our own Jamaican, whipped up by some misguided political partisanship. How many of our citizens have been victimized, terrorized and even killed because of this. Just as blacks are deprived of access to some areas in South Africa, political zealots bar citizens from some areas right here in Jamaica because of differing political views. Is this freedom? Is this democracy? Certainly not!
We are quick to blame individual politicians for the ills of the system. Consequently, politicians in general now have a badly tarnished image and are widely held in low esteem. From my personal experience, almost every person that I knew before they entered politics, did so with idealism and a genuine interest to better the lot of his fellow man. And I saw them change. Their idealism is the first victims of the system and if they want to survive they are forced to compromise or completely abandon it. Of course, if they had no idealism to begin with, they are in a better position to succeed. No, all politicians are not bad. I contend that it has to be the political system that creates a survival battle in which good intentions often becomes an oppressive handicap and has to be discarded. The political system and not the individual politician is the real villain.
We have got to face the facts. This parliamentary democracy has spawned these monstrous aberrations despite its good intentions. Its constructiveness has been superceded by destructiveness. In its present form, it no longer serves the needs of Jamaica but aggravates them. But parliamentary democracy is considered the best of existing systems of government. What then?
Since all existing systems are unsatisfactory, discard them all and search for a new one. Let's be bold and innovative. Let's not be bound by traditional bias and the misguided reverence for the existing parliamentary democracy system. It's no easy task, but I am confident a better system can be found and must be found. We owe it to Jamaica.
But Jamaica is not unique. All over the world, existing political systems have made their own citizens their own worst enemies. A new system of government can save the world from this scourge. So the stakes are high, but as long as we accept existing systems, we are doomed to continue.
More precautions against foot-and-mouth
Foot-and-mouth disease is highly contagious, but is not a threat to public health, as it does not affect humans. In Britain, over half a million cows and other livestock have been slaughtered, then incinerated or buried to stem the epidemic. Cases have been reported not just in France, the Netherlands, Germany and the other parts of Europe, but also as far away as Saudi Arabia, and Argentina. So far no cases have been reported in the US, but there have been some scares.
A reader writes about "patois" as 2nd language
I agree with your note on the article about
patois in NYC schools. We certainly were taught "standard
English" in school and I can remember teachers appalled at kids
addressing the class or the teachers in patois. I can still hear the
reprimand and them saying, "Speak English," making us repeat
what was said/asked in proper English. No way, English is a second
language to the English-Speaking Caribbean.
(Reply to article in March Hot Calaloo "Patois gets language status in NY City schools")
CARICOM countries sugar production tops 300,000 tons
Production of sugar by the member countries of the Sugar Association of the Caribbean (SAC) surpassed the 300,000 tonnes mark at the end of February, it was announced yesterday. The statement from Caroni Limited, Trinidad and Tobago's lone sugar company, said these countries reached a cumulative total of 330,626 tonnes between July 2000 and February 2001. Producton for the month of February was 102,215 tonnes, of which:
Shaggy pon top
Jamaican songster Shaggy has joined the distinguished company of Elvis Presley, Diana Ross, and the Beatles. How? They all have had two singles in the top five at the same time, a very rare occurrence in pop music. Shaggy, Mr Boombastic, is the first to do this in the 21st century. His "It Wasn't Me" was on the Billboard Hot 100 chart at No. 2. His "Angel of the Morning" a reggae remake of the Merrilee Rush and the Turnabouts hit in 1968 and also Juice Newton in 1968, is No. 5. His album from which these two songs come, Hotshot, is really a hotshot as it has been No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart for three weeks.
In cricket, Walsh thrives, WI dives
In the second Test match against South Africa, West Indies paceman Courtney Walsh, made history by becoming the first to capture 500 test wickets. In the second inning of that match, he took 6 for 61, to achieve another milestone, the 22nd time he has taken 5 wickets in his test career. His bowling seemed to have put the WI in a strong position to win. But, once again the batting faltered, allowing South Africa to win and take a 1-0 lead in the 5-Test series. For the details see scores below:
Test I (Draw)
TEST II (SA won by 69 runs)
Jamaica excels in World Indoor Champs
The fleet-footed women of Jamaica were at it again as Jamaica excelled in the World Indoor Track and Field Championships in Lisbon Portugal March 9-11 this year. Jamaica captured 5 medals to place third overall. The US with 15 medals topped the medal count with Russia second with 14. Juliet Campbell and Sandie Richards won gold for the 200 and 400 respectively. A List of some Caribbean winners are as follows:
Trinidad PM Basdeo Panday released from hospital
Trinidad and Tobago's Prime Minister Basdeo Panday was discharged from a state-run medical facility where he spent one night after complaining of chest pains. The prime minister's physician Dr Rasheed Rahaman said Panday was in very good health but needed some rest. Dr Rahaman said Panday suffered a reoccurrence of pains related to angina pectoris which had been treated in 1996. Panday also had heart surgery some years ago.
EU funding to help displaced banana farmers
Agricultural officials will unveil details of a European Union (EU)-funded program to assist Dominica banana farmers who have been displaced because of changes in the marketing arrangements and increased competition in the industry. The National Authorising Officer in the Ministry of Finance, Edward Lambert, said the Dominica government and its partners in the sub-region recognised the need to improve the competitiveness of the banana industry as a matter of priority.
The Antigua government has announced plans to lay-off 1,200 non-established workers temporarily from April 1. Three months later they should be eventually retrenched as part of the governments plan to trim wage expenses by 20%. At least 250 of 800 workers who have reached the retirement age of 55 are reported to have received forced retirement letters. The Antigua Trades and Labour Union is opposed to this and is set to meet with the Government to propose alternatives to ease the economic crisis in a different way.
Kaiser bauxite exports from Ja to double
Jamaica expects substantial benefits from improvements to the Kaiser's Gramercy Plant in Louisana, US. It has been modified to process monohydrate bauxite, which is abundant in Jamaica. Previously the plant had concentrated on the less costly trihydrate. The new plant will make the monohydrate more competitive by reducing production costs by US$40 per tonne from US$190. The plant has been re-opened with this new processing capability in late 2000 after it was demolished by an accidental explosion in July 1999. Jamaican exports are expected to double.
Caribbean Countries struggle to fight drug trade
In a recent report by the US State department listed several Caribbean countries as major trans shipment centers for illegal drugs. Countries named include: Jamaica, the Bahamas, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, St. Kitts and St. Lucia. Basically, these countries have too little resources to battle these rich well financed drug operations. The report goes on to say that Jamaica has replaced Haiti as the No. 1 for the flow of cocaine, with 79 tons moving through the island in 2000 compared with 34 the year before. Nevertheless, all these countries except Haiti, received US drug certification for cooperting with the US drug effort. Haiti has not been snationed yet, as the US is making allownces because of Haiti's government instability. Puerto Rico is identified as the major entry point into the US since shipments from there is not checked by customs.
US college baseball team to train in Cuba
The Haverford College baseball team will be boarding an Air Jamaica plane for Cuba for spring training. The entire trip was arranged by the untiring efforts of a sophomore Sara Wolfe. She had been to Cuba five times before, including two summers. She first went there as a high school student for seven weeks to study Spanish. The trip has been approved by the US Treasury Department Office of Foreign Asset Control.
Interest on FINSAC debt - J$14 billion
Jamaica's Finance minister announced in the Parliament that just the interest alone on FINSAC is a whopping J$14 billion. FINSAC is the public corporation that rescues failing but relatively indispensible private companies, by buying them out, make them solvent or at least saleable, and tries to resell them to other private entities. They have rescued a number of prestigious hotels, commercial banks, and major insurance companies in this way. They have shored up public confidence, but obviously at a very high price. The Minister pointed out that every dollar spent to service the debt is a dollar taken away from roads, hospitals and education. This debt seems to be rivaling foreign debt and between them could not leave anything at all for roads, hospitals and education.
FINSAC got some relief from Trinidad and Tobago. The Royal bank of Trinidad and Tobago has acquired Jamaica's Union Bank from FINSAC. The bank will now become the Royal Bank of Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica Limited. Job cuts are expected among the bank's 24 branches. Royal Bank will pay J$1 billion up front and J$600 million over the next two years. …just a small dent in the debts of FINSAC..
Jamaica trade gap with T&T widens
Last year Jamaica imported US$401 million worth of goods from Caricom countries but exported a paltry US$48 million. The trade deficit with Trinidad and Tobago alone is US$274 million. Jamaica businessmen are reportedly trying with the aid of JAMPRO to penetrate the T&T market. Favourable response to Jamaican jerk meat, ornamental fish farms have been reported, but sounds like they have a long way to go.
Castro nominated for Nobel prize
A left-wing Norwegian politician has nominated Fidel Castro for the Nobel Peace Prize. He based his nomination on the fact that Cuba, despite being a small poor country, has still managed to send doctors, engineers, and aid workers to developing countries. There are 132 nominations this year for this Norwegian award. The awards committee does not reveal the nominees, but some become known because those backing them announced their choice. Another nominee, that has grabbed attention is soccer, yes , the game of football!
Colon Powell: Cuba sanctions should remain
The US Secretary of State, Colon Powell said that sanctions against Cuba should remain. I suppose there are severe limitations to his Jamaican roots, to make such an unconscionable statement. This is simply indefensible in face of the worldwide condemnation of US sanctions and the complete isolation of that position in UN General Assembly vote year after year after year. Let us hope that Powell does not degenerate into another Clarence Thomas, the US black Supreme Court justice.