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February 2002

WI teachers hunted

West Indian teachers are being hunted. Five hundred of them. The hunter is once again the New York City Board of Education, which has begun the process of recruiting more teachers from the Caribbean. This time in addition to Jamaica , Trinidad and Tobago, and Barbados, newcomers Grenada and Guyana have been added to the hunting grounds. From the very first recruitment, Hot Calaloo warned that this was a very dangerous development and predicted more raids on teachers were inevitable. In our estimation, the Caribbean could not afford the first loss of teachers, so more and more recruitments will make the brain drain problem worse and worse. The teacher shortage in the US is very severe. If only NY City Board of Education recruitment is making such a dent, how much worse will it be when other US jurisdictions come recruiting too? This is a ticking time bomb. When it explodes it may very well take the building blocks of West Indian society.

No one can deny the teachers right to seek a better life, but this could severely cripple the educational development of the Caribbean.

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Guyana ambassador in the US wins Martin Luther King Award

Dr. Odeen Ishmael,Guyana's ambassador in the US has been selected for the prestigious Martin Luther King Legacy Award for International Service. This is one of the top awards of many in the US to honor the memory of Dr. King.
The selection was made by the Committee for the International Salute to the Life and Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King. It is comprised of religious, business, academic,civic, political leaders and diplomats at the national and international levels. And gives three awards. These are The King Legacy Award for International Service, The King Legacy Award for National Service, and the Dr. Dorothy I. Height Leadership Award. (Dr. Dorothy Height is the Chair of the National Council of Negro Women in the United States).

Dr Ishmael is in distinguished company as previous recipients of the King Legacy Award for previous years include General Colin Powell, Senator Bob Dole, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee and former Ambassador of Germany to the United States, Jeurgen Chrobog.

Ambassador Ishmael is also Guyana's Permanent Representative to the Organisation of American States (OAS). In addition to promoting Guyana's interests in the United States, in OAS countries and in a number of international organisations, he has been actively involved in providing leadership for the expansion of distance education in Latin America and the Caribbean.

His research material on Guyanese history on the Internet is heavily referenced by researchers and university students all over the world.

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Jamaica's NCB sold , finally

FINSAC must be breathing a sigh of relief as it has finally sold one of Jamaica's largest banks, the National Commercial Bank of Jamaica. This bank was one of the many financial enterprises rescued by the government of Jamaica through the Financial Sector Adjustment Company (FINSAC). This sale will mark another major step in returning FINSAC entities to private hands and also be a tremendous financial relief to the heavily indebted FINSAC.

The Government's 75% shareholding in the bank has been bought by AIC Limited, a Canadian Mutual Fund company, headed by Jamaican Michael Lee-Chin. AIC has agreed to pay US$2.65 billion for the bank when the deal is finalized , which is expected in mid March 2002.

Mr. Lee-Chin has a 90% shareholding in AIC whose cash flow is estimated at about $6 billion annually. He credits his business success in Canada to the values and principles he learned in Jamaica. He further states that in buying NCB, his mission is to restore a national treasure to its former glory days.

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More Mountain View killings in Jamaica

The killings continue in Mountain View, Jamaica. This, despite the stationing of police in the area and detachments of soldiers and policemen teams. In one of the incidents a group of men came along the avenue shooting high powered weapons randomly about 6:30 pm one day. A woman was killed and another man injured.

About 9:30 p.m. another night, a group of 6 men invaded a wake being held and opened fire. Five persons were shot. Two including a 17 year-old youth died on the spot. And three were admitted to the hospital in stable condition.

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Extortion destroying Jamaica's construction industry

All over Jamaica the crime of extortion is making a severe impact on the building industry. Scores of construction companies cower in fear and concede to the demands of hoodlums. Builders, deliberately unidentified out of fear of reprisals, state that the problem has assumed crisis proportions with contractors forking over thousands of dollars to hoodlums. Some contractors are routinely factoring extortion money as a routine construction cost. Unfortunately most contractors are too afraid to report these threats to the police so these hoodlums are seldom even investigated.

Extortionists have even threatened the life of a priest of the Roman Catholic Church of Red Hills Rd. in St. Andrew. The Roman Catholic Bishop in a radio interview reported that he was forced to remove the priest from the church because extotionists demanded protection money of between J$40,000 to $50, 000 per month or risk his life. Businesses have been reporting that already they have to deal with extortionists who threaten to loot or rob them, which is bad enough, but even a priest! Once again the police said they had not been notified of any threats to the priest. Victims do not to report to the police, obviously fearing that they will not be able to protect them. These are the precise conditions under which extortion flourishes.

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New Security Minister outlines 12 point crime plan

Jamaica's newly appointed Minister of National Security,Dr. Peter Phillips has introduced his 12-point plan to fight crime. Conceding that the battle against crime cannot be won overnight, he promised to focus on

  • reducing urban terrorism,
  • stepping up border security to reduce traffic in guns and drugs from abroad
  • with the emphasis on the use of modern technology
  • strengthening money laundering investigations
  • requesting international assistance from friendly countries with crime fighting expertise
  • target political dons who terrorize and seem immune to prosecution
  • more police and amoured vehicles in addition to better police equipment.

Editor’s Comments: This is a good plan. The recommendations of the National Committee on Crime and Violence are also very good. There are other good plans and even the existing plan is also good. But all these plans depend on police enforcement. If police morale is low and they face hostility instead of cooperation from the public, all these plans will be unsuccessful. The police have got to be suffering from low morale. Despite their attempts to improve their police brutality reputation, they get very little credit and insulting disrespect. And, all this in the midst of a vicious crime wave.
Popular songs bash them. To my surprise Jamaicans for Justice, who have an excellent website promoting the civil and human rights, bash them. Surprisingly I found on their site a copy of the UN Charter on Human rights, a copy of the report of the National Committee on Crime and Violence, but nothing on the Civil Rights and Conduct code for and drawn up by the Jamaica Constabulary. Such an important document and valuable guide so vital to improving police-public harmony was not there. If it was and I missed it, then I apologise.

But the biggest basher of the police is JLP leader Edward Seaga. Furthermore in earlier crisis of violence in west Kingston, he virtually forbade them to enter into his garrison. The real undermining of the police began there and has spiraled virtually out of control since. Bashing police and those warlord tactics will spell the doom of Jamaica.  Such a person does not deserve to be the head of the JLP, much less Prime Minister. The JLP have people of integrity who are more deserving of leadership. So unless the JLP get rid of Seaga as their leader, I think every Jamaican should not vote JLP til he goes. This is the essential first step for ending the crime wave.

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Rural cops at their own expense

In the rural areas of Jamaica, often policemen lack the resources to do their duties so they voluntarily use their own resources, at their own expense and without compensation. Some police stations have no phones, not even phone lines, so policeman use their cell phone. Sometimes, probably often, the one car assigned to a police station is broken down, so they use their own car. Sometimes they even give money to buy food for prisoners or lost persons. There is no mechanism to reimburse them so it is money out of their own pockets. I sure hope the people they serve appreciate it.

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Kmart may be dying but not in Barbados

Kmart became the biggest retailer in the US to file for bankruptcy recently. But, while this might signal it is dying in the US, but not in Barbados. The billion-dollar international retail chain confirmed it was pressing ahead with plans to open a superstore in Barbados next year. Local connections told the Barbados newspapers that they had been assured the funds for the proposed store had already been secured and a top executive was due in the island soon to meet with Town Planning Department officials. Local merchants are dreading the store in the belief that the retail giant will Wall-Mart them out of business.

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Citrus exports from Dom Rep arouse ire

THE JAMAICA Citrus Protection Agency (JCPA) and the Jamaica Citrus Growers Association are up in arms over a move by the Dominican Republic to export fresh citrus to Jamaica and other English-speaking Caribbean countries. The groups' opposition to this move by the Dominican Republic has the backing of the Ministries of Agriculture, Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade.

Head of the JCPA, Peter McConnell, who is also a representative of the Caribbean Citrus Growers Association (CCGA), will join a delegation from the Foreign Affairs Ministry to present Jamaica's position at a CARICOM Ministerial meeting in Guyana at the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED).

Jamaica produces about 4 million boxes of citrus annually, while CARICOM citrus producing nations have a combined output of about 20 million boxes on a yearly basis. About eight million boxes valued at US$30 million are exported throughout the region by CARICOM nations. Mr. McConnell said if the Dominican Republic was allowed to export fresh citrus to the region it would significantly "wipe out a substantial market for CARICOM nations".

Such a move would drive several local citrus farmers out of business, he said. Previously, the CCGA fought off similar challenges from Colombia, Venezuela and Cuba by engaging in intense lobbying through CARICOM, he charged. At present, non-CARICOM territories have to pay 40 per cent duties on fresh citrus to the region.

Mr. McConnell said "Jamaica and the rest of the Caribbean were the most lucrative and stable markets for citrus growers in the region and that could be shattered if CARICOM permits duty free exports of citrus by the Dominican Republic."

Meanwhile, CARICOM and the Dominican Republic signed an agreement about a year ago granting Santo Domingo duty free status in the export of certain products to CARICOM nations. Already, the Dominican Republic (DR) has begun exporting fresh fruits to Barbados and that has further angered the CCGA.

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Caribbean PM’s honoured

How many universities can boast having as many as 7 active prime ministers among its alumni? The university with that distinction is the University of the West Indies. Recently these 7 PM’s were honoured by their alma mater with awards recognising their achievements. At the university's annual gala in New York, top university officials presented the Legacy Award to six of the seven prime ministers. The six Prime Ministers were :

  • Owen Arthur – Barbados
  • Keith Mitchell – Grenada
  • P.J. Patterson – Jamaica
  • Denzil Douglas – St. Kitts and Nevis
  • Kenny Anthony – St. Lucia
  • Ralph Gonsalves -St. Vincent and the Grenadines

The 7th prime minister, Patrick Manning of Trinidad and Tobago, also honoured, did not attend. I think the prime honour belongs to UWI for accomplishing such an outstanding feat, probably unmatched by any other university.

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Letter from a reader

Dear Mr.Phillips,
First I would like to congratulate you on your efforts to unite West Indians. I for one, have sat on the sidelines for too long, and will now take a more active role by your side. Fear not, I'm not the anointed one, just a concerned citizen, who will, as I inform myself of the facts, offer suggestions for a solution. A solution to a very small problem maybe, but am reminded of an old saying, "one one cocoa full basket."
Keep up the good work. I hope you will welcome my humble attempts to become more involved, knowing of course, that I may not always agree with you.
One Love
Fred Campbell

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Jamaican is Brooklyn’s new deputy borough president

Jamaican born Yvonne Graham has been selected to be Brooklyn’s deputy borough president by the borough’s newly elected president Martie Markowitz. She has maintained her strong Caribbean roots. She is the , founder and executive director of the Caribbean Women's Health Association (CWHA), a community-based organisation in Brooklyn. Before migrating to the US, she graduated from the University of the West Indies as a Registered Nurse, Bachelors of Science Degrees in Health Administration and Community Health from St. Joseph's College, and Masters in Public Health from Hunter College, New York.

January is the month when other Caribbean based politicians donned their mantles from sucessful election campaigns in the preceding November.  These include Councilwoman Yvette Clark daughter and successor to her mother Una Clark., Councilman Dr. Kendall Stuart, Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion, Jr., and  Councilman Leroy Comrie Jr. in Queens.

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Rural cops at their own expense

In the rural areas of Jamaica, often policemen lack the resources to do their duties so they voluntarily use their own resources, at their own expense and without compensation. Some police stations have no phones, not even phone lines, so policeman use their cell phone. Sometimes, probably often,the one car assigned to a police station is broken down, so they use their own car. Sometimes they even give money to buy food for prisoners or lost persons. There is no mechanism to re-imburse them so it is money out of their own pockets. I sure hope the people they serve appreciate it.

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"Boom Boom " bus driver war in Guyana

Jamaica and T&T had their battles. Now the battle has moved to Guyana. The police have declared war on loud "Boom Boom" (big music) boxes in minibuses. They have been outlawed because they have been blamed for not only being a noise nusiance but also being directly linked to causing many accidents. Recently 6 minibuses were nabbed. They had been fitted with 250 watt speakers. Three of the drivers were unable to pay the G$30,000 fine and were jailed for 12 days.

"Don't take away my music", albeit very loud music. Minibus drivers are not taking it lying down. They retaliated. The mini-bus operators went on a crippling strike on a number of routes leading out of the capital, Georgetown, in protest. The strike has seriously affected schoolchildren, government and private sector workers, vendors and farmers, especially along the East Coast Demerara, West and East Berbice as well as the Corentyne.

Police have received reports of punctured tires and harassment of drivers of vehicles that chose not to be part of the strike. Those on strike carried placards with slogans like "no music, no work". But the police have reiterated that they intend to bring the "boom boom practice" to an end and will enforce the law for the removal of such boxes playing loud music.

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9-11 impact on BWIA worse than Air Jamaica

BWIA cut commissions
Travel agents in T&T and Barbados are very unhappy as British West Indian Airlines (BWIA) has cut their commissions from 9% to 6%. The airlines said this was necessary because the September bombing of the Twin Towers in the US had so drastically reduced passenger traffic. Other cost cutting measures include laying-off staff both locally in T&T as well as overseas. Despite these measures, the drop in passengers has been so devastating that the airline still anticipate a bumpy financial road ahead.
Of course travel agents already have been facing hard times by the heavy decrease in passengers. In some instances it has been so bad that some have closed shop. Now they face the double whammy of decreased commissions. Worse, other airlines might follow suit. American Airlines had already done so even before BWIA.

Air Jamaica steady
Air Jamaica reports that’s its losses are not as bad as expected and are optimistic about the future. Good, now maybe they can begin to pay the huge overdue debts to the Government.

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Manatees cause anger in child's death in Guyana

Here in America, the manantee or sea cow, is a protected animal. In the little village in Guyana by the Pomeroon River, manatees might need some protection after one is blamed for causing the accidental drowning of a four--year-old girl. Reorts were that a boat in which she was travelling was overturned by a huge manatee and the girl drowned. Manatees are slow, docile, awkward creatures, so it is more likely that the boat struck the slow moving manatee and overturned. However, the grief of the residents has turned to anger and are reportedly on the hunt for manatees, making them really endangered there.

But Dr. Enrique Bassier, an environmentalist stationed at Charity, in the Essequibo, is appealing to residents not to harm the manatees. Efforts are being made to contact the Environmental Protection Agency. Conservation International and Marine Conservationists, Ms. Anette Arjoon and others are working with a view to getting the endangered species removed from the Pomeroon River as soon as possible.

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Viagra impact on voting

Viagara has made an impact. But, will Viagra have an impact on voting? A presidential candidate in Columbia seems to think so. Promising to invigorate Colombians in the struggle against war and corruption, the presidential candidate startled drivers by handing out samples of impotence drug Viagra.

``We want our votes to dose Colombia with Viagra, to lift and to firm up the country, make peace swell, by standing up to the corrupt and stiffening our people,'' presidential hopeful Ingrid Betancourt told Reuters at traffic lights in downtown Bogota.

The 40-year-old Betancourt recently stood down as a national senator to run for president for her New Colombia Party, promising a crackdown on corruption and more success in so-far tortuous peace talks with leftist guerrillas. As a parliamentarian in the late 1990s, she was a leading critic of graft in the administration of former President Ernesto Samper.

Followed by nervous police bodyguards and assistants dangling plastic bags of tablets, the slightly built Betancourt -- wearing a blue, Viagra-coloured T-shirt -- darted from car to car as they stopped at red lights.

``Colombia must rise up!'' exclaimed a scruffily dressed man with curly gray hair after Betancourt gave him a pill.

Editors Comments: Jamaica and T&T might have elections this year. If Viagra works in Colombia, will it be tried in these countries too?

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Jamaica captures Honduran fishing boat

It's a long way from Honduras to Jamaica. But, not far enough to prevent Jamaican navy from capturing a Honduran boat illegally fishing within the Jamaica territorial waters. The judge threw the book at them as they were fined nearly J$2.5 million. Not only were they violating Jamaica's territorial waters but they had also caught a Hawksbill turtle, a protected animal. Another Honduran boat eluded capture, but let us hope the stiff fines are a strong deterrent from further incursions.

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Nurse shortage crisis in Jamaica

As fast as the 128 new nurses graduated in Jamaica, they were grabbed by the system there. This is because the vacancy rates for nurses and other medical practitioners are very high. According to the latest figures the vacancy rates are as follows:

  • enrolled assistant nurses - 42%
  • - pharmacists - 41%
  • registered nurses - 39%
  • public health inspectors - 36%
  • nurse practitioners - 31%
  • public health nurse - 36%

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Gold Cup Soccer 2002

US defeated Costa Rica in the final to win the Gold Cup 2002 in Pasadena, US. Highly touted Mexico, Equador, and defending champions Canada fell by the wayside. T&T failed to survive the first round. They tied Costa Rica 1-1, but fell to lowly Martinique 1 to 0. Martinique’s win advanced them to the quarterfinals where they lost to Canada after a 1-1 tie score was decided by penalty kicks. Haiti did also advance to the quarter final beating Equador to get there but they then lost to Costa Rica 2-1 in overtime. Canada took 3rd place by defeating Gold Cup guest and 2002 World Cup hosts-to-be South Korea 2-1. 


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