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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.



June 2003

Creditors seize BWIA planes as bankruptcy looms

BWIA is experiencing extreme financial turbulence from which it might not recover. Some contend that the Trinidad and Tobago airlines is already bankrupt.

The crisis erupted in mid May when the International Leasing Finance Co (ILFC) seized two of the planes that it leased to BWIA. BWIA Chief Executive Officer, Conrad Aleong requested US$5 million from the T&T government to get the planes released. The government supplied it in the form of a US5 million letter of comfort. But guess what? The planes were not released. Instead the BWIA CEO said they needed another US$500,000 more. Furthermore the remaining five  planes were threatened with seizure as other creditors feared the airline was bankrupt and were demanding BWIA pay up their bills too. Government officials were angry with the CEO as they felt he had misled them.

Although the Government is a minority shareholder since privatization of the airline, it took over negotiations with the creditors in a desperate attempt to save it from losing the remaining five aircraft. The airlines’ debts total US$100 million but the Government is hoping to restore the creditors confidence in BWIA and demonstrate a viable plan back to solvency. Thanks to some last minute negotiations the Government was able to convince the creditors to return the two seized planes and not seize any more until September 30 2003 while they put in place a new reorganization plan for the running of the airline company. So for now BWIA still flies.

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Wild ride of the Jamaican dollar

The merry month of May saw the Jamaican dollar taking a wild ride which left the Government and businessmen especially holding their breath. The dollar cleared the $60 mark for the first time ever on May 8 2003 and continued to plummet, despite the Bank of Jamaica's (BoJ) reported intervention in the foreign exchange market. By May 18 according to data released by the BoJ, the highest selling rate of the U.S. dollar at the close of trading just days after was $72.50, with the lowest being $59.50 to an average of 71.50. The Boj responded by selling an undetermined amount of US dollars from the country’s Net International Reserves to supply foreign exchange to the market. This worked and the dollar rebounded from the 71.50 to 65.47. Even with that improvement, the Jamaican dollar has lost 30 percent of its value since the beginning of 2003, according to government figures.
A weaker currency is particularly troubling to Jamaica, which relies heavily on imports whose prices fluctuate with the exchange rate. Last week, some nervous manufacturers -- who import their raw materials -- started to hold onto their inventories and shied away from pricing their goods for fear of losing money, said Clarence Clarke, president of the Jamaica Manufacturers Association. Also, close to 60 percent of the country's budget goes toward paying off the national debt, and a devalued currency makes that payment costlier.

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Caribbean sugar preferences in trouble

The preferential price that the Caribbean countries receive for sugar from the Eurpean Union (EU) is coming under fire and might soon go the way of its banana preferences. These preferences currently apply basically to certain former colonies of the Caribbean, Asian and Pacific (ACP) countries. The EU pays them about 9 US cents per kilogram for cane sugar, compared to less than 3 US cents per kilogram on the depressed world market.

Brazil, Australia and Thailand have argued that, in favouring ACP countries in sugar purchases, the EU discriminates against larger producers that are not in the group. Caribbean countries export nearly 430, 000 tons of raw sugar to Europe each year, with Guyana and Jamaica accounting for more than half. Meetings are underway in Belgium between Ministers of 77 ACP countries to discuss this serious challenge.

Editors Comment: At those depressed world prices, sugar is just not profitable to produce. Instead of challenging preferences from former colonial masters, all sugar producing countries should unite to find means of obtaining a fair price for sugar on world markets. Once again Hot Calaloo calls for an OPEC for sugar.

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Hot Calaloo in Jamaica – Competitiveness

Even before I went to Jamaica the free trade and globalisation proponents have been saying that the panacea for Jamaica’s prosperity in the wonderful free trade market that lies ahead was the dire need to be more competitive. All Jamaica has to do is embrace the new technology, upgrade our labour force to greater efficiency and increase our productivity and we would be able to compete with the rest of the world. 'Protect your industries no more, become more competitive and you will flourish' is the message. All over Jamaica this message was reverberating especially on talk radio and most recently by Jamaica’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

To the many Jamaican farmers who have endured praedial larceny, usurious loan terms, bad roads to transport their products, expensive machinery and tools and even more obstacles, but to still produce bounteous crops, only to see them rot because cheap imports have made them unsaleable, this message really sucks.

The fact is that to expect Jamaica and other Caribbean countries to compete on the world marketplace, not so much for export markets but for their own local market, is unfair because they are not competing on a level playing field. Their unique local obstacles imposed upon them by a cycle of poverty, an undercapitalization if you will,  has to be taken into account.

In some countries, the industries go to extremes to level the playing field. They employ slave labor in the cocoa fields of some African countries. Some South American countries have allowed multinational corporations to submit their banana workers to dangerous pesticides in their plantations. Some desperate Asian countries allow big corporations to employ their people under sweatshop conditions. Some rich powerful countries even subsidize their industries, actually pay their rich farmers to grow products so that they have lower production costs and can undermine world prices by selling it cheaper. And all these are ok with the World Trade Organisation and the free trade proponents. At least there are no sanctions against it. But let a country like Jamaica try to protect its poor farmers by a tariff on its competing imports, and the threat of WTO sanctions is likely to descend on it.

To be sure, becoming more competitive will help in Jamaica. Already, local producers are competing with each other, under the prevailing conditions, for the local market. So they already have the profit motive to be more competitive.

Finally, right here in America, wherever the big powerful non-union sweatshop-products-toting Wallmart juggernaut moves into an area, small stores for miles around can not be competitive enough, so they fade away and die. We cannot let our small countries fade away and die.

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Defective police car kills officer in Jamaica

Police in Jamaica operate under some really harsh conditions. Not only the criminals can kill them but they risk death even from their own equipment.

The dire need for operable police cars had fatal consequences for the police station at Runaway Bay in Jamaica. It recently caused the death of a police inspector there. No the defective vehicle did not have a crash. It caught fire and the inspector who was driving it at the time eventually died from the second degree burns he received. This was the only vehicle assigned to that area and residents assert that it was inoperable many times forcing the use of private vehicles to respond to calls. Consequently response times range from 30 minutes to an hour. The residents also claim that hoodlums have been capitalizing on the situation to target small business in the area.

The divisional Police superintendent for St. Ann parish, who assigns vehicles in that parish, admits that there is a chronic shortage of vehicles, but points out that nevertheless there has been a significant reduction in crime in St. Ann. The eleven stations in his division have at least one vehicle.

Other basic equipment woes
In Kingston the sole truck transporting prisoners to court broke down. Result – no trials that day. A policeman explained that ordinarily there are three tucks to transport prisoners to the various courts in the Corporate Kingston area but a year ago two of them broke down and have not been repaired since then.

Even more basic than that, firemen in Port Maria received a donation of 10 mattresses to relieve the deplorable bedding at the station. They were donated by Dr. Morais Guy, the central St. Mary MP. They need a completely new fire station but it is unlikely that one will be donated.

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Persecution of illegal immigrants Ashcroft style

The notorious US Attorney General, John Ashcroft, continues to use the pretext of terrorism to impose his personal draconian measures to deny civil rights. The Attorney General declared in a precedent setting rule that illegal residents with no known links to terrorism can be detained indefinitely on national security grounds.

Ashcroft's decision came in the case of David Joseph, an 18-year-old Haitian among 216 boat people who made a dramatic landing in Miami last October. With authorities in pursuit, the refugees scrambled ashore and scattered along a major roadway. An immigration judge ruled that Joseph could be released on $2,500 bond to live with his uncle while the government decided on his application for political asylum. That determination was upheld by the Board of Immigration Appeals, an administrative panel that usually functions as the top referee in immigration cases. The board rejected arguments by several government agencies that Joseph's release could jeopardize national security by encouraging mass migration from Haiti. But Ashcroft invoked the Attorney General's prerogative to overturn board decisions.

Ashcroft’s decision seemed to be directed mainly at Haitians as application to the thousands of Mexicans who cross the US border illegally every year does not seem feasible. Of course refugees from Cuba, conversely, are not arrested at all but continue to receive red carpet treatment. But unequal justice to black people is no stranger to the US.

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Bahamas intercepts 140 Haitian boat people

Bahamas intercepted a boat containing 140 Haitians and repatriated them 4 days later. The US embassy in Haiti said the migrants had practically no chance of reaching their US destination, since the boat was not seaworthy and the passengers lacked food and water. Many migrants sell all their belongings to pay the fare which can cost US$1,000. So, if they don’t make it, they return home with nothing. The Haitian National Migration Office process the returning migrants and give them each about US$3.50 to pay their bus fares back home. An estimated 60,000 Haitians are living illegally among the 360,000 Bahamian citizens, many of whom are hoping to earn enough money to eventually make it to the US.

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More PE in Jamaican schools to fight obesity

There are too many fat people in Jamaica too. This has raised health concerns with more than one-third of all adult men between 25 and 70 years being overweight or obese and two-thirds of their female counterparts also falling in this category. The Ministry of Health is proposing to increase physical education (PE) throughout all the grades of schools to help fight the growing problem. This instruction would not just include the typical PE activity but also instruction about healthier lifestyles.

Recent studies by the U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show the number of overweight children in that country has more than doubled in the last three decades, 5.3 million, or 12.5 per cent, of Americans between six and 17 are overweight or obese as a result of leading more sedentary lifestyles.

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JTA makes big compromise

The Jamaica Teachers Association (JTA) had demanded a 30% salary increase for the six-month period April 2002 to September 2002. After negotiation with the Government, the JTA delegates agreed to accept a 3% increase. Several teachers have expressed disappointment with their delegates’ decision. Salaries for October 2002 to March 2004 are being calculated to compare with 75 per cent of the salaries of those in the private sector under a realignment exercise.

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Caribbean Court of Justice moves closer

The word out of the recent Foreign ministers of CARICOM is that the long-awaited Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) should be ready to handle cases ranging from civil disputes to murder by November (2003). The court will replace Britains’s Privy Council as the final appeals court for many former British Colonies and will have the right to uphold death sentences. With the high crime rate including many vicious murders, Caribbean nations have been frustrated with the Privy Council’s long-standing pattern of overturning death sentences on appeal. However, in Jamaica, the opposition Jamaica Labour Party of Edward Seaga opposes the CCJ and is fighting against it.

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Harsh justice for false rape accusation

High drama took place in the circuit court in Jamaica recently. A 14-year-old school girl alleged that the 24 year-old defendant had sexually assaulted her. Later the girl recanted her testimony. The accused man burst out into tears of joy and the jury was instructed to and found the defendant not guilty. But the real bizarre story took place afterwards.

First, the judge, Chief Justice Lensley Wolfe, advised the accused man to join a church before the end of the day and give over his life to God because, if the jury had found him guilty, he would have received a long prison term.

Not bad. But he then the judge accused the 14-year-old complainant of being a liar, told the girl’s parents that she was not going home with them, but would be sent to a place of safety and had her locked up in a cell to await the arrival of a probation officer.

Attorney-at-law Valerie Neita-Robertson, on hearing of the girl's plight, represented her as a friend of the court and when court resumed, implored the Chief Justice not to send her to a place of safety. Mrs. Neita-Robertson informed the court that the girl was already in a counseling program and her grades had improved significantly.

She said the girl had exams the coming  that Thursday and Friday and going to school from a place of safety would affect her. She stressed that the girl's parents were in court and were willing and able to take care of her.

The Chief Justice, after hearing Mrs. Neita-Robertson's plea, instructed the police and the probation officer to take the girl to the Family Court. The judge of the Family Court, after conducting a hearing into the matter, released the girl into the care and protection of her parents.

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Honduran fishermen arrested again

It seems the Honduran fishermen just keep coming back to Jamaica. This time over 100 Honduran fishermen were arrested for fishing in Jamaican waters off the south coast. One hundred and twenty nine Hondurans, 112 adult males and 17 juveniles, were arrested but  the juveniles were not charged. This is the second Honduran boat seized this year by the Jamaica Coast Guard. The Honduran boat was not the only boat fishing illegally but the others got away.

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DREAM act needs our support

There is actually a bill in the US Congress to help illegal immigrants and it needs our support. This Act, S.1291 Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act represents a bipartisan effort to provide immigration relief to undocumented young people who have spent their formative years in the United States, who have graduated from high school here, and who can demonstrate good moral character.

The only crime these young people have committed is that of living with their mothers and fathers. They have a human right to pursue their own dreams and not to be punished for their parents’ actions. The DREAM Act does not provide them with any special rights. It merely eliminates the artificial barriers that currently prevent them from achieving their full potential. It seeks the restoration of state right to determine residency for in-state tuition and higher education benefits

The DREAM Act repeals Section 505 of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRIRA), under which any state that provides in-state tuition or other higher education benefit to undocumented immigrants is forced to provide the same tuition break to out-of-state residents. Repeal of section 505 would restore to the states the right to determine their own residency rules.

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Charles Rangel urges us to " come up with a plan"

One of the most faithful supporters in the US Congress, congressman Charles Rangel, addressing attendees at the Annual US/Caribbean Legislative Forum on May 22 in the House Office Building in Washington DC, urged the Caribbean to ‘come up with a plan’ and he will support it.

Other congresspersons including Kendrick Meek, Congressman Gregory Meeks, Congressman Major Owens, Congresswoman Barbara Lee and Maxine Waters, all members of the Black Caucus, all showed up not to just participate but also to lend support to the Caribbean cause.

"Come up with a plan." Does Caricom have a plan? I think we need to come up with a plan rather than reacting to the plan that others make for us. Our plan so far seems to be reacting to other’s plan. So we react to CBI (Caribbean Basin Initiative), to free trade issues, the upcoming FTAA (Free Trade Association of the Americas) and so on.

Do we in the Caribbean have a plan to eliminate poverty in 10, 15, 20 years? Or a plan to reduce it by 25% in 5 years or….? The reality is that our Caribbean leaders are so busy keeping our heads above water that they are really hard-pressed to ‘come up with a plan’. But, ‘come up with a plan’ they must and knowing that they have the support of the Black Caucus is a valuable asset and comfort.

Once again the Institute of Caribbean Studies, under the dynamic leadership of Dr. Claire Nelson, put on a stimulating and very comprehensive forum. In addition to the congresspersons, there was a good mix of ambassadors, academics and community activists manning the panels. A wide range of current problems were discussed covering critical issues including trade, HIV/Aids, and the crisis in Haiti.

Was that lady a CIA plant?
A curious thing happened during the Haiti discussion. Congresswoman Maxine Waters had just given a rousing address during which she highlighted the plight of Haitians because the Bush administration had held up millions of dollars in aid for which Haiti was entitled. She had to leave right after her speech to attend House business as the House was in session. Immediately after her departure, a woman rose to address the roundtable panel on Haiti. She claimed that she had served four Haitian presidents and that when Aristide was reinstalled she had gone to Haiti with him and Maxine Waters with "tears in her eyes". A hush fell on the room as she made a passionate denunciation of Aristide for the deplorable conditions charging him with corruption, fraud, drug smuggling and even echoed Ashcrofts ‘Haiti is the gateway for terrorists" charge. Many previous speakers had ridiculed Ashcroft’s charge as just a callous ploy to abuse Haitian refugees seeking asylum in the US. This woman supported the terrorism charge by stating that the leader of the 9/11 attacks, Mohammed Atta was not only married to a Haitian but had also lived in Haiti! It had a stunning effect on everyone there.

Later that evening, I reflected on her comments. What four Haitian presidents did she serve? Papa Doc, Baby Doc…., obviously not Aristide. A credibility problem invaded my thoughts. It did not seem plausible. I rushed to the Internet. Mohammed Atta was not married. He had lived in Germany but he had not lived in Haiti. It was lies, all lies. Why? Who was that woman? Was she a CIA plant? One never knows, do one?

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"How can I help", reader asks

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

Linda Richards 

Editor’s Reply: This is a very meaningful letter to Hot Calaloo. One of the main objectives of Hot Calaloo is to inspire readers to help out back home. So this letter is especially gratifying. Your letter also make us realize that we need to give more specific information on how to help out back home. The Aiding the WI section on the Hot Calaloo Homepage is not enough. We immediately contacted the Jamaica Embassy for a list of charitable organizations and this list will be published in the next Hot Calaloo update. More information will be forthcoming and Hot Calaloo invites readers to supply any additional information on ways to help.

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Join Aids Walk Caribbean in Brooklyn on July 13

The only Aids walk ever for Caribbean people is being sponsored by the New World Creation Resource Center, Inc. (NWCRC). NWCRC is a nonprofit organization established 1994 in Brooklyn, New York to serve communities in the United States and around the world.

AIDS WALK CARIBBEAN was created in response to the rapid spread of HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean and Caribbean communities in the USA. The purpose of the walk is three fold:

  1. To raise funds for organizations providing services to Caribbean both in the USA and in the Caribbean.
  2. To raise awareness about HIV/AIDS, as well as it's impact on Caribbean in the USA and the Caribbean region.
  3. To mobilize the Caribbean community to come up with a comprehensive strategy to address the HIV/AIDS related issues both in the USA and in the Caribbean.

For more information see:

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Jamaican places 3rd in US Spelling Bee

Trudy McLeary of Ardenne High School in Jamaica did her country proud by finishing 3rd in the 76th annual two-day Scripps Howard Spelling Bee competition in Washington DC.  She showed a lot of poise and confidence even though she did not win, falling to the weird word ‘aplustre’ which means the curved ornamented stern of an ancient Greek or Roman ship. Where did they ever come up with that word? Actually I feel responsible for her not coming higher as I inadvertently turned on the TV just at the moment that word was asked. I obviously put ‘gozum’ on her. Nevertheless third out of 251 contestants is a noteworthy accomplishment. But, you really had to see her on TV.

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A victory at last for WI

The West Indies salvaged some pride by defeating Australia in the last of the 4 game Test match series. They thus avoided a whitewash as the Aussies had won the first three. It was a very exciting match which saw a very unusual thing as both teams scored 240 runs for the first inning. Australia went back in to bat and piled up what seemed to be an unbeatable score of 417. No team in Test cricket had scored that many runs in the second innings so things looked bleak for the WI. However with centuries by Sarwan and Chanderpaul and a defiant 47 not out by newcomer Omari Banks the WI scored the winning total of 418 for 7 in a very exciting nail-biting finish.
1st Inning: Australia 240 (Lawson 7 for 78); WI 240 (Lara 68)
2nd Inning:  Australia 417 (ML Hayden 177, J Langer 111, Dillon 4 for 112); WI 418 for 7 (Sarwan 105, Chanderpaul 104, Lara 60, Omari Banks 47 n.o., Lee 4 for 63)

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Carib athletes shine at Prefontaine Grand Prix track meet

Caribbean athletes impressed at the recent prestigious Prefontaine Grand Prix meet in Eugene Oregon. Kim Collins took the 100 m in fine style with T&T teenage sensation Darrel Brown 2nd. They beat an international field that included some of the world’ fastest. Jamaica’s Brigitte Foster took the 100 m hurdles against an impressive field that included US star Gail Deevers. For some results:
100 m 1 Kim Collins St Kitts & Nevis; 2 Darrel Brown T&T
400 m 1 Tyree Washington US; 2 Michael Blackwood (Ja); 3 Gregory Haughton (Ja)
110 m hurdles 1 Larry Wade (US); 2 Dudley Dorival (Haiti)

400m 1 Ana Guevara (Mex); 2 Tonique Williams (Bahamas; 3 Ronetta Smith (Ja)
100 m hurdles 1 Brigitte Foster (Ja)

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