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JANUARY 2001 update


February 2001

Reggae Boy Killed in Crash

Within hours after helping Jamaica to tie Bulgaria 0-0 in a friendly international soccer match on Sunday Jan 29 at the National Stadium in Kingston, Jamaica, Reggae Boy, Stephen "Shorty" Malcom, was killed in a car crash. Another reggae boy, Theodore Whittmore, who was driving the car, and another passenger , were injured and hospitalised. They are in stable condition and are expected to recover. The accident took place near Duncans in the parish of Trelawny. According to the police report, Whittmore lost control of the car when the back tire blew. The car mounted the bank and eventually tuned over. The top of the vehicle caved-in onto the seats, killing Malcom on the spot.

The 31 year-old Malcom was first selected on the national team in 1991 and was a member of Jamaica's historic Reggae Boyz team, which qualified for and contested the 1998 World Cup Tournament in France. Ironically, in 1988 months before the 1988 World Cup, Malcolm and Whittmore and two other Reggae boys, Durrent Brown and Warren Barrett were injured and hospitalised by a car accident just 8 miles from the identical accident spot.

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Constitutional crisis continues in T&T

Trinidad and Tobago President Robinson and Prime Minister Panday are still at odds over Robinson's refusal to appoint seven defeated candidates of the ruling United National Congress in last month's general elections to the position of government senators. Instead of resolution, relationships have worsened with a wide range of charges, denials and countercharges. President Robinson accused Panday and Maharaj of engaging in a "campaign of harassment" against him with a view to "driving him out of office in disgust

The Panday government denied it and made their own charge. They charged that the opposition party was in collusion with other groups to topple his government, some by violent means. "The government has received information that certain groups are amassing arms recently smuggled into the country, for what is believed to be a violent attempt to take control of the country," Panday told parliament in announcing that he was taking over the National Security portfolio. The portfolio had remained vacant because of the continued refusal of President Arthur Robinson to appoint defeated ruling party candidates in last month's general elections to the position of senators.

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Jamaican attorney appointed to Int'l Court

MR. CHESTER Stamp, a 38-year-old Jamaican attorney-at-law, has been appointed senior prosecutor of the International Court of Justice, in The Hague, Netherlands. He took up duties on January 2. One of Mr. Stamp's functions will be to prosecute war crimes, supervising a staff of 18.
There were about 1,000 applicants for the job and Mr. Stamp was chosen as the most suitable applicant. Most of the applicants were from the United States. Mr. Stamp, who is a graduate of the Norman Manley Law School of the University of the West Indies.
Mr. Stamp attended Jamaica College, Kingston. He graduated from law school 15 years ago. He was first employed by the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions as a Crown Counsel. He left in 1992 and went into private practice, working from offices in Kingston and May Pen, Clarendon.
Another Jamaican, Mr. Patrick Robinson, Deputy Solicitor-General, is a judge at the International War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague.

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Chiquita Bananas announces bankruptcy

God lives!
Chiquita Bananas has announced that it is on the brink of bankruptcy. This is the company that has led the fight to take away the Caribbean banana trade with Europe by filing and winning a suit with the World Trade Organisation (WTO). This suit has resulted in sanctions against the European Union for their trade preferences of less than 5% of the total banana trade with the Caribbean.

Now Chiquita claims it is unable to pay an $862 million debt and will have to discontinue bond payments and restructure its obligations over the coming months. But, guess where they place the blame? They blame the EU preferences. Caribbean and EU officials have dismissed that as "totally ridiculous". Obviously this is a ploy to further undermine the Caribbean trade. They have since followed up that with launching a lawsuit against the European Commission, challenging European banana import quotas. They make the preposterous claim that this has cost them US$1.5 billion. Obviously, Chiquita does not think the US sanctions are enough. Their lawsuit accuses the European Commission of failing to reduce trade barriers in response to the 1997 WTO ruling.

Of course, Chiquita must be feared. By its lobbying and major contributions to both Republican and Democratic parties, it has built powerful allies. Their will has become US policy. It is not surprising that it won another lawsuit recently. This time it was against the Gannet Co. Inc. for an article published in its Cincinnati Enquirer newspaper. Chiquita pocketed a cool US$14 million in an out-of-court settlement for the article which purported to expose the shady business practices of Chiquita in its banana plantations in Central America.

The real reason for Chiquita’s money problems is:

  •  it has steadily lost market share to its major competitor and co-conspirator against Caribbean bananas, Dole. Dole has overtaken it to become the worlds leading banana grower.
  • It was hurt badly also by hurricane which wiped out hundreds of acres of banana plantations in Central America.
  • It has had labour problems as unions have been fighting to improve the near-slave wages the company has been paying its labourers and harsh working conditions. For example in 1998 the company met in Guatemala City with union leaders representing workers in 5 countries which was the first meeting in 99 years!

World banana perspective
In 1996 world production of bananas was around 400 million tons. Bananas compete with grapes for second place behind citrus, both accounting for 13-14% of total world fresh fruit production.

World trade is dominated by three companies, Dole Foods, Chiquita Brands and Fresh Del Monte Produce, with over 100 years’ presence in banana plantation production in Central America and Colombia, and together controlling 65% of world exports. They are followed by the Equadorian company Noboa, which controls another 10%, and the European company Fyffes, which controls some 6-7%.

Chiquita Brands International - for many decades known as the United Fruit Company - was until recently the biggest banana company in the world, with over 30% of world trade, although this has fallen closer to 25% during the 1990s. The company marked its 100th birthday on March 30th 1999. Chiquita grows bananas on its own plantations in Panama, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras and Colombia. Recently, the company has started to develop plantations in the Asia-Pacific region (Indonesia and Australia) too.

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The Wrap-Up (Final Part in the series)

Caribbean Organisations are called upon to play a greater role in organising the Caribbean community to have more voice in the political process here in America. In these times it is not only crucial for the community itself, but also for the benefit of our Caribbean homelands. This final part of the series will consist of a checklist of suggestions for these organisations.

Don't wait for meetings - Instead of depending solely on typically poorly attended meetings, take advantage of big crowd pulling events like a concert, park festival, or carnival, to include special booths or tables for :

  • citizenship drive even if only handing out forms, literature, counseling or the whole package
  • voter registration - so we have a voice in local and national politics
  • membership registration for the organisation, and not just a sign-up sheet
  • petition signing for any issue which affects Caribbean residents or the Caribbean itself
  • including on the program itself a brief update on current issues that affect our community here or back home

Friendly - make it a happy group in which meetings and functions are friendly, especially reaching out to new members to make them feel welcome and want to come back.

Harmony - seek to establish harmony by constantly trying to minimize, if not eliminate completely, bickering and infighting.

Use Community Resources 

  • seek out media publicity, often available for free, such as free community announcements on radio( not only on Caribbean Radio programs too), newspapers, and even TV
  •  disseminate information on free citizenship classes held in the community by other organisations or agencies
  • free meeting halls.

Network - seek to reach out to other organisations to gain strength and greater effectiveness for mutual benefit. For example if more organisations combine on a citizenship drive, they could extend the drive over longer periods by doing something as simple as organisations alternating weekends of service. 

Information - this is the information age and organisations need to do more to keep members informed about relevant issues. A newsletter is the best way of doing this but most organisations do not produce one.

Evaluate Effectiveness - constantly look at what you do and evaluate if it could be done better in the future.

Budget - budget is essential to plan and prioritize program.

Keep records - keep records so that time will not be wasted re-inventing the wheel.

Goals - set measurable goals, such as - increase membership by 10% each year, register 200 voters or new citizens, raise $2,000 in funds etc..

Modernize - take advantage of the computer age constantly seeking ways that may be used to improve the organisation and seek expertise right in the Caribbean community. For instance use email and computer database.

Reorganize- do not be afraid to reorganize the duties of your executives so that items on this checklist are taken care of.

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More unwanted pregnancies likely in the Caribbean

One of the first acts by newly selected US president GW Bush is likely to affect the Caribbean. His decision to ban funding for organisations that support abortions could eventually trigger unwanted pregnancies in the Caribbean, Chief Executive Officer of the Caribbean Family Planning Affiliation, Dr. Tirbani Jagdeo, said recently. "The impact of (the new policy) is that the amount of family planning and education service work that we do will be cut back, more people will make mistakes and the demand for abortions would increase," Jagdeo said. "Unfortunately, a lot of that demand is going to be satisfied through unprofessional or unsafe means and that might very well increase the number of people who suffer from botched abortions".

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Judge rules  Guyana elections null and void

A High Court judge declared Guyana's 1997 general elections null and void because of fraud - but said she cannot order a change of government. About 30,000 registered voters were barred from casting ballots because they did not possess special identification cards. Justice Claudette Singh ruled Monday that lawmakers, who had approved the voting rules, had acted beyond their authority. Singh also said there was evidence of missing ballot boxes from opposition strongholds. But she said she could not order a change of government because there was no proof the alleged irregularities swung the vote decisively in the government's favor. The ruling People's Progressive Party, which won a second term at the election, did not immediately respond to the ruling. The charges were filed in 1997 by the opposition People's National Congress. In any event, new elections are due within weeks.

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PNM wins election in Tobago

Patrick Manning's People's National Movement (PNM) won the recent Tobago House of Assembly elections. The PNM, the major opposition party in Trinidad and Tobago, won eight of the 12 seats at stake in this 116 square mile scenic holiday island. The National Alliance for Reconstruction (NAR), which had dominated the Tobago House for 20 years and had held 10 seats in the last assembly, picked up only four seats. The United National Congress of Prime Minister Basdeo Panday which contested the Tobago poll for the first time failed to gain a seat. The People's Empowerment Party was also rejected by the voters.

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UN awards Jamaica's PM medal for promoting food security

PRIME MINISTER P.J. Patterson was presented with the Agricola Medal of the United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) for his efforts at promoting food security locally, regionally and internationally.

The award was presented by Dr. Jacques Diouf, director general of the FAO. Dr. Jacques said that the Government had always been committed to the promotion of food security and the achievement of food for all Jamaicans -- a commitment that was reflected in the numerous initiatives advocated to this end within the country. He said the country continued to be committed to the implementation of the World Food Summit Plan of Action (1996) and to the struggle against hunger and undernutrition at the local, regional and international levels. He also lauded the Government for hosting the Telefood Concert at James Bond Beach in 1999.

The FAO head pointed to the "massive" domestic food crop and marketing program being implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture and said it was deserving of special attention. He also cited initiatives to restructure the problem-plagued dairy and sugar industries, the expansion of extension services and the restructuring of the Jamaica Agricultural Society as crucial to the Government's drive towards food security. "The FAO publicly recognises these efforts on the part of the Government and people of Jamaica," Dr. Diouf said.
The FAO's pledge is to eradicate hunger in all countries, beginning with the reduction of the number of under-nourished people by half no later than 2015.
The PM is in distinguished company as past winners of the Agricola Award were Pope John Paul II, French President Jaques Chirac, Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien and Ghana's President Jerry Rawlings.

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Jamaica Govt. to remove over 300 teachers

In what seems like drastic action, the Jamaica government has given over 300 teachers their marching orders. The ministry based this decision on estimate that the secondary schools in the island are overstaffed by 300 to 350 teachers. This notification was made in late November by the Ministry of Education. These named teachers had three options:

  1. Apply for a new job at another school which is understaffed
  2. Undergo retraining to teach new subjects. The Ministry will retrain them.
  3. Take early retirement

Already 50 teachers have been served 3-month notices, during which time they can decide on which alternative to choose. Twenty have disputed their notices and a team has been formed to review their cases and make recommendations by the end of February. Others have opted for early retirement.

The Jamaica Teachers Association has expressed concern, citing that some teachers with 20 years experience will have to pull up roots and relocate or lose their jobs. The JTA is seeking legal advice on this issue.

Some students have also come to the defense of their teachers. At Dalton James Comprehensive High School, students wrote on placards, instead of books, and lashed out at the Ministry of Education and the school board. They claimed 10 of their best teachers were dismissed and charged victimization by the board. The school principal also came under fire and her method of selecting the teachers was challenged.

The ministry is urging retraining particularly in early education as there are shortages in that field. But, this will mean relocating, disruption, and loss of seniority and similar benefits.

Editors Note: As a former teacher in Jamaica myself, I am alarmed at this. What type of hiring policy created this overstaffing problem? Schools are not losing numbers, but increasing often beyond their original capacity, so need for teachers should not drop but increase. If it is a move to weed out bad teachers, it should be done on a school by school basis and be and ongoing process rather than from some far-away centralized entity in a sensationalist mass removal process.

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US admits using depleted uranium arms in Vieques, PR

 A debate is raging in Europe that depleted uranium, a  slightly radioactive heavy metal used in armor-piercing ammunition, could cause cancer. Such weapons were  used by NATO-backed forces during fighting in the Balkans. Some European soldiers on duty during this campaign have contracted cancer since and have blamed the depleted uranium. NATO has maintained that there is no scientific  evidence that exposure to weapons containing depleted uranium posed a significant health risk. The EU is not so sure. So, they are conducting a study  into health risks which is to be completed by February.

Now Puerto Ricans have even more reason to be angry. The Navy has admitted firing 263 depleted uranium-tipped bullets, of which it recovered 57, on the training range on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques. But, the Navy said it was an accident, noting that it's against federal law to use those armaments on such exercises. Of course one has to wonder if it is so safe, why is it banned in the US? Puerto Rico's government plans to ask the European Union to include the U.S. Navy bombing range on Vieques in its investigation of the effects of depleted uranium.

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Jamaican commuters paying huge sums for transportation

Some commuters in the rural areas of Jamaica are spending as much as J$600 a week or 40 per cent of their salaries on transportation, as reported by the Jamaica Gleaner newspaper. The newspaper said there were no set fares or a regulated bus system for public transportation in areas outside of the Kingston Metropolitan Transport Region (KMTR) and the Montego Bay Metropolitan Transport Region (MMTR). Jamaicans living in the countryside, it said, rely on route or robot taxis and minibuses to get around, and, being privately owned and unregulated, market forces determine the fares.

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El Salvador adopts US dollar

It is over two years since Jamaica rejected the revolutionary idea of accepting the US dollar as its official currency as a means to stabilize inflation and boost the economy. Since then, Equador has adopted this measure and now there is a new kid on the block, El Salvador.

Salvadorans kicked off the new year with a new dollar-based economy and mixed feelings as to whether the greenback will improve life in this impoverished Central American nation. The Central Bank sent millions of dollars to banks around the country to prepare for the new rules, which allow the dollar equal status with the national currency, the colon, for buying goods, paying salaries or doing business. It also stocked automatic teller machines with dollars and supplied supermarkets and gasoline stations with rolls to make change. The government published announcements in the country's major newspapers explaining the currency conversions - set at 8.75 colons per dollar - to prepare residents. The measure, approved in November by congress, is part of a trend in the region.

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Clinton bars suit against Cuba

Just before leaving office, President Clinton suspended for another six months a law that would let Americans sue people using U.S. property confiscated after Fidel Castro took power in 1959. The right for American companies and citizens to sue in U.S. courts is in a law Congress approved in 1996, but the legislation gave the president authority to waive or enforce the provision at six-month intervals. Clinton has exercised the waiver authority since the law was approved, much to the annoyance of Cuban-American lawmakers and the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Jesse Helms, R-N.C., co-author of the legislation with Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind. The Helms-Burton act was designed to discourage foreign investment in Cuba by punishing foreign companies investing in property confiscated from Americans. Even US allies have blasted this law as unfair and unjust, but we can count on Colon Powell and President GW Bush to enforce it.

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Former PNP Vice President, Viv Blake dies

Former vice president of Jamaica's ruling People's National Party (PNP) Vivian Blake, died at the University Hospital Thursday night, relatives said yesterday. Blake, who had suffered a series of strokes earlier this year, was 79. Referred to in some circles as the best prime minister Jamaica never had, Blake was elected to the House of Parliament in 1967 in a by-election which saw him winning the North East St Elizabeth seat in South-Central Jamaica.

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Jamaica Police's Citizens Charter

"I have stated repeatedly that the security forces spearhead the fight against crime and violence, but they cannot succeed by themselves. A partnership is required, the forging and endurance of such a partnership require a relationship between the police and citizens, based on mutual trust"

These were the words of Jamaica's Primie Minister, PJ Patterson as he launched the Jamaica Constabulary's "Citizens Charter". The document will facilitate the judging of the police by their performance and inform citizens of their rights.

The Prime Minister called on all law-abiding citizens to join in partnership with the police in the fight against crime and violence. He challenged senior police officers to lead by example and provide good leadership. He said there had been a groundswell of support and enthusiasm for the program and tangible improvements in customer service at several state institutions.
K.D. Knight, National Security Minister, said the charter was a significant accomplishment of the JCF as it moved to change its policing strategy to one that involved partnership with the citizens.
This charter is very timely as confontations between the public and the police continue all over the island.

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Bernard Coard defends wife against criticisms

Mrs. Phyllis Coard , the wife of the jailed former deputy Prime Minister of Grenada, Bernard Coard, is still back in her homeland, Jamaica, receiving treatment for cancer. Mrs Coard has been granted a second six-month release from the Richmond Hill Prison where she, her husband and several other former People's Revolutionary Government and Army personnel are serving life for the 1983 murder of former Prime Minister Maurice Bishop and some of his Cabinet members. Recently Mr. Coard. has hit back at Opposition Leader Michael Baptiste for publicly criticising his ailing wife's temporary release. Coard has released a two-page statement knocking the Opposition Leader for his ongoing attacks on her.

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Air Jamaica face back taxes charge

AIR JAMAICA has been summoned to the Montego Bay Resident Magistrate's Court on January 25 for failure to pay $300 million in travel tax which is owing to the government for the years 1999 to 2000.
The summons was filed by the Collector of Taxes for the parish of St. James. This is the second time within the last five weeks that the company has been summoned to court over outstanding travel tax.
On December 13 Air Jamaica was summoned to the Kingston Civil Court after if failed to pay over $184 million collected in travel tax in respect of four months last year. The penalty on the arrears was $60 million.
Air Jamaica paid $30 million into court and had promised to pay $60 million before the end of last year. It had said that a planned cash raising exercise was close to being finalised and some of the funds would go towards paying the travel tax.
The company was unavailable for comment yesterday but the finishing touches on the proposed US$45 million cash-raising exercise was apparently still being done. The latest summons which was issued last month states that the Air Jamaica Acquisition Group, chaired by Sandals Resort boss Gordon "Butch" Stewart, was being taken to court for travel tax collected at the Sangster International Airport, St James.

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BP's chief sees gas overtaking oil in Trinidad

Chairman of BP Trinidad and Tobago, Robert Riley, has said that natural gas could become the main revenue earner for the country in the near future over the oil sector. Riley told manufacturers  that while gross income from crude oil produced by BP has been declining, revenues from natural gas has been on a steady rise. Trinidad and Tobago has been an oil-producing country since 1909 and crude oil has been the principal driver of the economy since then.

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Ottey, Freeman sparkle at Millrose Games

Jamaica's 40-year-old veteran Merlene Ottey and Michelle Freeman sped to important wins at the 94th Millrose Games at the famous Madison Square Garden (MSG) on Friday night.
The evergreen Ottey whipped a quality 60-metre field including Bahamian Chandra Sturrup and Olympic medallist Tayna Lawrence of Jamaica, while Freeman won her fourth consecutive women's 60-metre hurdles title at the meet.
There were top three finishes as well for Jamaicans Brigitte Foster and Charmaine Howell.
Ottey, winner of eight Olympic and 14 World Championship medals, won her 60m race in 7.20 seconds, beating American Chryste Gaines (7.31). Sturrup, the reigning Pan Am and Commonwealth Games 100m champion, was third in 7.34 with Lawrence, a bronze medallist at the Sydney Olympics last year, fourth in 7.36.
It was the first Millrose Games victory and first MSG appearance in 15 years for Ottey, who was determined to do well.
Freeman, a former world indoor champion, retained her 60m hurdles title in 7.98 seconds ahead of American Melissa Morrison, with Jamaica's 2000 Olympic finalist Brigitte Foster third in 8.19.
Howell was second in the women's 800m in 2:06.29, with American Jearl Miles-Clark, a five-time 400m champion here, winning in 2:05.42.

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Keep Adams as WI cricket captain

After the disastrous results of the current Australian tour by the West Indies cricket team, some are unhappy with the captaincy of Jimmy Adams. They contend that his batting has been too inconsistent, his tactics have not been great and he seems unable to inspire the players. The names of consistent batsman-wicket keeper Ridley Jacobs and even new-returnee-from-retirement Carl Hooper has been proposed.
Of course, Carl Hooper is completely ridiculous. He was a problem player, a leader of the infamous strike before the South African tour a few years ago, and had abandoned WI cricket at its time of need.
Ridley Jacobs would also be a big mistake. The fact of the matter which lots of people don’t realize, is that the captaincy is quite a burden, especially at a dismal time like now for WI cricket. The pressure would probably deteriorate Ridley Jacobs' batting too. It took its toll on even the mighty Lara.
I think the pressure from being captain has weighed down the performance of Adams. He would be a better player without it. But, he seems to be a fighter, has experienced the pressure at the worst of times, so I am confident he will improve. Therefore, I think right now he is the best man for that heavy responsibility, and he needs our strong support in order to excel and lead WI cricket back to the top.


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