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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.


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.



February 2003

Jamaicans must get visas for UK travel

The days when Jamaicans could just buy a plane ticket, board a plane just like boarding a bus, and fly to England, are over. As of midnight (UK time) Wednesday, January 6, 2003, Jamaicans must obtain visas to enter the UK. Previously, Jamaicans traveling to the UK for under six months did not need a permit. The new requirement has been described as necessary to ease the pressure placed on its immigration system by Jamaicans residing there illegally. UK officials cited some pretty damning statistics to justify their decision such as:

  • between January and June 2002, more than 1,500 Jamaican nationals absconded after being granted temporary stay, an average of more than 150 each month. Last year, British Airways recorded the arrival of l,202 unaccompanied minors arriving at UK's Gatwick North airport from Kingston. Only 592 departed.
  • in 2001, six per cent of all Jamaicans arriving in the UK (3,340 out of 55,600) were refused entry (one of the highest figures among commonwealth nations)
  • in the UK's main ports in the run up to Christmas, Jamaicans accounted for around 20 per cent of all passengers refused entry.
  • An estimated 7 to 10 % of the cocaine sold in the UK was smuggled in from Jamaica with as many as 30 passengers per flight probably drug mules.

Prior to this momentous decision, the Government of Jamaica had been locked in vigorous lengthy discussion to prevent this but the immigration abuses made it impossible. On the good side, less Jamaicans will be refused entry and the 2-hour processing delays in lines at ports of entry should be eliminated.

Visa costs range from :

  • 36 pounds for a 6 month visa
  • 70 for 2 years
  • 88 pounds for 5 years
  • 150 pounds for 10 years
  • 36 pounds for a student visa.

However, since then a leading British Black newspaper, the New Nation, has accused the British Home Office of using bogus statistics against Jamaicans. Habib Rahman, director of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants was quoted in the newspaper as saying that the council "condemned the introduction of visas for Jamaicans as another way of controlling immigration from black countries.

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Queen says "No" to reparations for slavery.

Queen Elizabeth II has rejected paying reparations for slavery. Two separate claims were filed, one by the Rastafarian Brethren of Jamaica and the other by the Kingdom of Descendants of Africans in Guyana. The communication from the queen stated that although the slave trade was barbaric and uncivilised, it was not considered a crime against humanity at the time the United Kingdom government condoned it. She said, however, that the UK Government "is looking at ways to commemorate all victims of the slave trade."

Howard Hamilton, Jamaica's public defender and the Rastafarians' legal adviser, said the battle for reparations is not over and for payment the group would settle for the cancellation of Jamaica's foreign debt to Britain, estimated at more than US$109 million.

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Bajan protesters march against war on Iraq

In Barbados just over 100 demonstrators marched to the United States Embassy in Fontabelle, St Michael, in opposition to any invasion of Iraq by United States armed forces.

The demonstration, which was organised by the Clement Payne Movement, travelled along Fontabelle and ended with a political rally outside the embassy. Several demonstrators were from the Muslim community, the Roman Catholic Church and the Rastafarian faith.

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Affirmative Action, Colin Powell and Condaleeza Rice

Once again in a predictable move to gain and maintain white backlash votes, President Bush has intervened to oppose the University of Michigan affirmative action policy in the case against it before the Supreme Court. The decision by that kangaroo court who appointed him president is a foregone conclusion. Affirmative action will lose and Bush will gain votes. Bush claims to support diversity but it is clear that he will kill affirmative action and any policy that is set up to achieve it.

Predictably, as in other decisions, the consequence will be that the University of Michigan will become whiter as minority enrollment will drop. The campus will become even less diverse. But, educators consider a diverse campus a better educational environment than a lily-white one. So, by overturning the affirmative action program there, the courts will make the university a less diverse campus so educationally inferior than before.

Trent Lott was not fired for his statements about Strom Thurmond. He was fired because of his statements on BET TV, that he would support affirmative action. This is why I said at the time, we should do everything to keep Lott. We missed an opportunity there. The significance of Lott’s statement on BET was also missed when Lott promised to support affirmative action. By this statement Lott was admitting that the attack on affirmative action is an anti-black anti-civil rights Republican strategy.

The Lott’s racist statements were of course very embarrassing to Republicans officials but especially black Republicans, like Colin Powell and Condaleeza Rice. Because of our history with racism, we, blacks, have developed a great sensitivity to it and can discern it regardless of how well it is disguised or hidden. So, these prominent black Republicans must realize the awful truth. They must, but deliberately turn a blind eye to it.

Now, right after the Trent Lott episode, Bush celebrates Martin Luther King birthday by opposing affirmative action and announces his intent to re-nominate the once-rejected civil-rights-hostile Charles Pickering to the 5th Court of Appeals. Bush was certainly rubbing their noses in it. A general should have a backbone so it is good to see Colin Powell maintaining a stand in support of affirmative action. Even Rice went out her way to make it clear she supported it too.

How did Bush get into Yale anyway? Lucky thing he is not black or affirmative action would be blamed for a graduate of that prestigious institution who cannot put three consecutive sentences together without an error, who can’t differentiate between prosecute and persecute. If only he was as intelligent as Condaleza Rice or Colin Powell!

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Belafonte slams Bush and Powell again 

Speaking at a Martin Luther King Jr. celebration in Chicago, Harry Belafonte took the Bush administration to task for its civil rights record, saying the president has proven that he's "not our friend." Belafonte said he expects the Bush administration to try to wipe away affirmative action, eliminate a woman's right to choose abortion and pursue a war with Iraq "that makes absolutely no sense."

Belafonte said his fellow son of Jamaican parents, US secretary of State Colin Powell and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, are hurting the cause of black America. "In fact and practice ... you are serving those who continue to design our oppression," he said of Powell and Rice.

Speaking to a packed audience of more than 1,000, Belafonte drew the congregation and dozens of dignitaries, including Illinois Atty. Gen. Lisa Madigan and Illinois Senate President Emil Jones (D-Chicago), to their feet for raucous ovations several times during his 90-minute speech.

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Jamaica Public Defender to pursue deadbeat dads overseas

Deadbeat dads, fathers who do not pay child support, soon won’t be able to hide from Jamaica law in the US and Canada. Howard Hamilton, Q.C., the Public Defender, is to make one of his main projects this year, extending the jurisdiction of the Maintenance Act to make deadbeat fathers in the United States and Canada support their offspring in Jamaica.

Mr. Hamilton says he is working to enable mothers to track down delinquent fathers in areas not now covered by the Act. These include Ontario in Toronto, Canada, and seven states in the USA including New York, Connecticut, and Georgia, sections of which have heavy Jamaican populations, but to which the arm of the Maintenance Act does not extend. The act currently covers all CARICOM states and the United Kingdom, as well as Maryland, New Jersey, Florida and California in the USA, and Manitoba, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland in Canada.

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Montego Bay Airport sold

We are losing Jamaica bit by bit and chunk by chunk. The latest chunk is the Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay. The privatisation juggernaut has swallowed up another prime Jamaican resource as the vital gateway to Jamaica has been sold to foreign multinational corporation. It has been bought by MBJ Airports Limited, an international consortium headed by Canadian-based Vancouver Airport Services.

The new owners will take over March 1, 2003 and immediately begin the US$190 million expansion of the airport including the construction of a new terminal, immigration and custom facilities and additional shops. Departure tax and airline fees are expected to increase to fund the operation. The Government has set up some complicated plan to derive some fees from any excess profits that materializes in the future.

Editors Comment: Soon we will have a nice new gleaming airport, but it will not be ours and never will again. The old decrepid airport did the job and at least it was ours. This is not just sentimentality too. Nowhere else in the Caribbean has an international airport been turned over to foreign corporations. Even in the heart of capitalism, the good ol’ USA, as far as I know, international airports are owned by state or national government. This is not a sale but a sellout! The next time I land at MoBay, it will be with tears in my eyes.

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Shareholders sue BWIA

In T&T, British West Indian Airlines (BWIA) shareholders have taken the airline to court charging it with misrepresenting its December 2000 Initial Public Offering (IPO) of shares. In December 2000, the company set this initial share price at $7.85 which dropped to $2.80 within six months and then to its current low of $2.25. The shareholders believe this initial price was bogus and are seeking a refund of the money they invested to buy shares and/or a forensic audit of BWIA’s operations.

They are also seeking:

  • •Reviews of all contracts entered into by BWIA, its subsidiaries, partners and affiliates.
  • •Up to date management accounts of BWIA and its associates for the years 1995 to 2002, including details of all accounting items. 
  • Whether BWIA has borrowed money, how much, why, from whom and at what rates of interest.
  • Why BWIA’s Initial Public Offering in December 2000 was not underwritten.
  • The meaning of a reported statement by BWIA chief executive officer Conrad Aleong that the reduction in share value was due to the imbalance of supply and demand and the flooding of the market with shares by shareholders of pre-1995.

After Enron, MCI, Global Crossing and other highly respected companies duped their shareholders on the US stock markets, it is highly likely BWIA might have done the same in T&T too.

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Barbados soldiers beat US in soccer to advance

The US Army might kick the hell out of the world in war but not in soccer as the Barbados Defence Force (BDF) soccer team defeated the US Army team 3-2. The dramatic come-from-behind win in Barbados now means that Barbados will represent the Americas at the Military World Soccer Championships in Italy later this year.

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IMF US$4 million loan to Grenada

The Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has approved 4million US dollars in emergency assistance for Grenada in support of the government's efforts to deal with the devastating effects of Tropical Storm Lili, which struck the island on 24 September last year.

The emergency loan, which is being made available immediately, currently carries a charge of 2.51 per cent. It will be repaid in eight equal quarterly installments over 3-5 years from the disbursement date.

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Jamaica Civil Service to provide good cordial service

I remember the ordeal of simply just trying to renew my car license some thirty years ago when I lived in Jamaica. The problem then and now with the Jamaica civil service is that it is not civil. It seems as if their reputation for rude, shoddy, impolite service to the public still exists. It is therefore a very welcome to see the announcement that government policy will be directed to creating good customer service to the public by government agencies.

Prime Minister Patterson has launched Citizens Charters which outline several standards of professionalism and conduct the public should expect. These charters will apply to the Office of the Prime Minister and the Cabinet office with intentions to spread to other government offices.

"Customer service training will remind staff that a customer is not an interruption of our work but the purpose of it and it is our job to exceed their expectations," said Mr. Patterson.

Editor’s Comments: This could be a revolution, a badly needed revolution. Belligerence and surliness has too much popularity, which only poisons the atmosphere. A warm friendly efficient workplace makes for better, more professional and more satisfied workers. We may be a poor country but we will be enriched by friendliness instead of the belligerence for which we are often tagged.

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More reflections on the Conference on Guyana

This conference at Howard University in Washington DC reported in the previous Hot Calaloo update (Jan 2003) did not dispel pessimism. I missed the last sessions on solutions to the racial problem there. I requested reports on this session from key participants but have received none. Nevertheless, one solution proposed was seeking outside help. That was greeted with a resounding "No" which included Hot Calaloo. I have reconsidered and have come to realize that this is indeed a good solution.

The original quick rejection was because the outside help everyone thought of was the US or Britain and if so deserves rejection. The outside help should come from friends, from trusted experts with genuine interests of Guyana or at least impartial. This would definitely rule out US and Britain. For this reason the OAS should be ruled out too, because they are completely under US domination and would subordinate Guyana’s interests to the US wishes. Likewise in the Venezuelan crisis right now, the OAS is a tainted mediator.

Not even CARICOM is a suitable mediator. They are handicapped by diplomacy and the fact that they cannot risk angering a member or potential leader with whom they might have to work with in the future.

Besides, no one in these groups have any skills in negotiation, a common fallacy in international disputes. Leaders of countries are probably the worse to use as negotiators. They are after all politicians, whose skills are getting elected which can be a dirty job. Three persons ideal to serve on such a committee are Rex Nettleford, Vice Chancellor of UWI, an eminent scholar, proven negotiator and a man of impeccable integrity. The other two are Nobel Prize laureate former President Jimmy Carter and Jesse Jackson. Of course the ideal would be Nelson Mandela.

Lets go to Crown heights. Identify the leaders who solved that racial problems there. They have valuable hands on experience. Let us use them on that mediation committee too. They have no axe to grind. I hate to use this cliché, but "lets think out the box!"

Walter Rodney
I think it is so important in solving this race problem to heed the words and warning of the late Walter Rodney, a towering Guyanese martyr:

"You see, we have had too much of this foolishness of race. I'm not going to attempt to allocate the blame one way or another. I think more than one political party has been responsible for the crisis of race relations in this country. I think our leadership has failed us on that score. I think external intervention was important in bringing the races against each other from the fifties and particularly in the early sixties. But I'm concerned with the present. If we made that mistake once, we cannot afford to be misled on that score today. No ordinary Afro-Guyanese, no ordinary Indo-Guyanese can today afford to be misled by the myth of race. Time and time again it has been our undoing."

"Does it have anything to do with race that the cost of living far outstrips the increase in wages? Does it have anything to do with race that there are no goods in the shops? Does it have anything to do with race when the original lack of democracy as exemplified in the national elections is reproduced at the level of local government elections? Does it have anything to do with race when the bauxite workers cannot elect their own union leadership? Does it have anything to do with race when, day after day, whether one is Indian or African, without the appropriate party credentials, one either gets no employment, loses one's employment, or is subject to lack of promotion?"

"It is clear that we must get beyond that red herring and recognise that it is intended to divide, that it is not intended in the interest of the common African and Indian people in this country. Those who manipulated in the 1960s, on both sides, were not the sufferers. There were not the losers. The losers were those who participated, who shared blows and who got blows. And they are the losers today."

"It is time that we understand that those in power are still attempting to maintain us in that mentality - maintain us captive in that mentality where we are afraid to act or we act injudiciously because we believe that our racial interests are at stake. Surely we have to transcend the racial problems? Surely we have to find ways and means of ensuring that there is racial justice in this society?"


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Guyanese and 6 Jamaicans receive Queen’s medals

A Guyanese and six Jamaicans were are among total 16 residents of Toronto, Canada presented with commemorative medals to mark the Queen's 50th anniversary on the British throne. The medals were presented by Scarborough-Rouge River MPP, Jamaican-born Alvin Curling, and Barbara Hall, former Toronto Mayor.

The Jamaicans are Oswin Curling, Evadnie Beckett, Hugh Evelyn, Phyliss Martin, Cynthia Blackman, and Paulette Senior. The Guyanese is Ron Fanfair. Medals were awarded to these individuals for making significant contributions to their community, and to Canada.

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Jamaican teachers being hunted again

Once again recruiters have invaded Jamaica from the US in search of more teachers. This time they are recruiting not only for New York but also North Carolina, and other states. The Jamaica Ministry of Education declared the recruiting illegal because they had not received their permission. Jamaica struck back. According to reports, the Labour Ministry stopped interviewing sessions, began prosecutions and warned at least two overseas recruiters and will not hesitate to prosecute others. But despite the threat of prosecution, reports are that recruiting agents set up shop at both the Hilton Kingston and the Courtleigh hotels in New Kingston. Scores of teachers reportedly turned up to make applications. To make matters even worse , teachers are on the verge of striking for increase in wages.

Dr. Adolph Cameron, the Jamaica Teachers' Association's (JTA) general secretary said that the majority of teachers going overseas do not want to leave Jamaica, but are lured by better economic prospects and because many teachers who are already overseas are achieving dreams they never thought they could such as owning their own homes..

Editor’s Comments: As I predicted and warned before, this is a serious threat to Jamaica and the whole Caribbean. Despite those measures to control recruitment, such recruitment is unstoppable. They could recruit by internet for God’s sake! The Caribbean is in serious danger of losing its best teachers, many of whom are already dissatisfied, because we simply cannot compete with the mighty US and the UK on that economic front. To lose these teachers is to lose our future.

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Trouble brews for bauxite

On January 15, 2003, Kaiser Inc. yesterday announced that nine of its wholly-owned subsidiaries had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the US. These include the legal entities through which Kaiser owns interests in Jamaica.

The company said that from an operating perspective, the Chapter 11 filings were a non-event and said that its Jamaican investments Alpart, the alumina refinery, and KJBC (Kaiser Jamaica Bauxite Company) - were not directly included in the filings. Kaiser added that the filings were not prompted by cash flow concerns, business conditions, or balance sheet issues and should have no impact on the day-to-day operations at Alpart or KJBC, or the rest of Kaiser, its employees, customers, and suppliers

The previous week, Alcoa Inc., parent company of Jamalco, announced that it would speed cost-reduction initiatives at the alumina refinery at Halse Hall, Clarendon and cut some 8,000 jobs worldwide. Alcoa's spokesmen have since addressed local concerns by stating that the decision would not affect jobs in Jamaica, or derail the proposed US$115 million expansion at Jamalco, Clarendon, which has already started.

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Bananas might become extinct

The Caribbean lost the banana war to the US and big multinational corporations. Now the entire world might lose the banana itself. A British scientific magazine is reporting that bananas could disappear within a decade if steps are not taken urgently to develop new disease-resistant varieties. A Belgian scientist leading banana research has warned that diseases and pests are steadily encroaching on the crops and are becoming more and more resistant to preventive measures. The main culprits are fungicidal diseases, Panama disease and Black Sigatoka which has reached global epidemic proportions. Fungicides are proving increrasingly ineffective to Black Sigatoka especially, which seems to keep developing immunity to new fungicides.

The solution might be genetic modification but such would be unpopular with consumers. Researchers compare the current threat to bananas to the potato blight which caused the devastating Irish famine of the 1840s.

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Model police station for Jamaica crime hotspot

THE UNITED States and the Jamaican Government have signed a multimillion dollar agreement to build a model police station in Grants Pen, St. Andrew. USAID, who will fund the project, will spend $300 million over a four-year period on a program to encourage community policing. The project has become a reality more than a year after the Jamaican Government accepted 83 recommendations submitted by the Washington D.C. based Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) team to address the country's crime problem. This proposed model police station is truly remarkable with features such as:

  • It is located in the heart of a major crime hot spot, Grants Pen, is politically polarized and suffers from tremendous poverty.
  • Residents of Grants Pen will have major input into the construction of the station
  • It will be so designed that it will facilitate things like counseling, exercises like community services, such as the processing of passport applications and assisting persons who cannot read and write well.
  • Police personnel who will be assigned to the model station will be hand-picked and will receive special training so they will be able to understand community policing.
  • These specially-trained community-based police will be involved in basic things such as assisting residents, especially the elderly, to understand and read their utility bills.
  • The station will have a state-of-the-art home work center not only for children to come and do homework but also where the bigger children will be encouraged to tutor the smaller ones.

Commissioner Forbes described his final vision as being a community that can be policed without firearms.

Editors Comments: This is one of the most encouraging positive things out of Jamaica. Let us hope that this type of creativity and innovation spreads to other things too like creating model outdoor markets. It is ironic that this model police station came out of a police research team in Washington DC, for as far as I know, there is no such model in DC itself.

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Grenada Broadcasting Network fires workers

In a move intended to cut costs, the Grenada Broadcasting Network laid off 10 workers. Remaining workers went on strike to demand that the company rehire the workers. Instead the company fired 13 of the strikers too. The network is left with 23 employees to run its two radio stations and one TV station.

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Competition killing Cable & Wireless

Cable and Wireless (C&W) has historically monopolized the communications market in former UK colonies especially in the Caribbean. Now that the UK company is facing competition especially in Jamaica, it is rapidly losing market share to aggressive new rival Digicel.

Digicel, which was set up by Irish entrepreneur Denis O'Brien with the ambition of becoming the Vodafone of the Caribbean, has already grabbed a 65% market share in Jamaica, and now plans to roll out its networks on other islands. C&W is suddenly battling for its life as its stock valuation has dropped from US$12.2 billion a year ago to US$1.5 billion.

The C&W report reveals that Digicel's GSM networks had 230 cell phone sites in Jamaica with a further 100 planned by the end of this year. C&W, which uses the older TDMA technology, has only 122 cell sites. So C&W lags technologically, is more expensive and gives inferior service. Finally it is making changes to catch up but it might be too late.

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Strange eerie mysterious fires break out

A fire broke out in a multi-apartment building in Greenwich Town, Kingston, Jamaica. Since that fire, some odd occurrences have taken place that have spooked the residents. Other fires broke out there sporadically for no apparent reason. Many fear-gripped residents were observed removing their belongings from the multi-apartment building because they were afraid of the strange fires. Tales were told of a wet sheet bursting into flames while still hanging on the clothesline. A skeptical TV news team were witness to a bed bursting into flames although no one was in the building. The cause of all these fires, including the original one, is very perplexing as there was no electricity on the premises and there was no cooking at the time of the fires.

Hmmmm...Is it a duppy setting the fires? Nine families have moved out and will stay out until the burning question is answered.


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