Jamaica worries as Kaiser files for bankruptcy
On February 12 2002, the bauxite industry in Jamaica received a jolt. Kaiser Aluminum Corporation announced that the company and its operating subsidiary Kaiser Aluminum & Chemical Corporation and certain of its wholly owned subsidiaries have filed voluntary petitions under Chapter 11 of the Federal Bankruptcy Code in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware.
This has created great concern in Jamaica because the company operates 2 large plants in Jamaica. These represent substantial income and employment for Jamaica and is a foundation of Jamaica’s mining industry. However, the company has reassured that while the filing includes certain US subsidiaries, through which the company holds an interest in foreign operations, the bankruptcy did not include its interests in the Alpart refinery in St. Elizabeth or Kaiser Jamaica Bauxite Company (KJBC), nor plants in Australia, Canada, Ghana and Wales.
The company said that it had taken appropriate steps designed to ensure that its participation in each of its two Jamaican entities, including the funding of certain costs and expenses, "will not be impacted by the filings."
"Kaiser's production and shipment of bauxite, alumina, primary products and fabricated aluminium products will continue without interruption," the company has said. Despite these reassurances, the unions representing the workers and public officials have held meetings, and concern is still high.
Panday threatens civil disobedience in T&T
De pot ah bwoil!
The UNC said if the PNM agreed to those conditions, it would accept Manning as interim Prime Minister, pending new elections. Prime Minister Manning has rejected those conditions. That's when Panday retaliated by threatening civil disobedience protests and vowed that not even going to jail would discourage him.
Now, there is political instability in T&T. The competing parties are significantly divided along racial lines, Manning mainly black and Panday mainly Indians. Civil disobedience could well push this political instability into racial instability. I fear it could well become another Guyana and break out into horrible racial violence. All over the world such violence continues to break out, and it certainly could happen in harmonious T&T.
More than 17,000 deportees in 12 years
During the past 12 years, more than 17,000 persons have been deported to Jamaica including a record 2,529 sent back last year. Deportees have played a big role in the rise in crime. They have become hardened expert criminals in US jails and then deported to be let loose on Jamaican society. Of course, all are not hardened criminals, but some are really victims of the new US immigration law which made the most minor of felonies a deportable offence.
Businesses flee downtown Kingston
The crime wave in downtown Kingston, Jamaica, has been driving businesses out into the suburbs. This creates a double whammy as
In the words of Joy Alexander, Director of Planning and Development Division, "Downtown has become sterile. Although it has all the infrastructure to support business, people are reluctant to go downtown and the underlying problem is crime".
For years, residents of several Kingston and St. Andrew residential communities have been complaining about creeping commercialisation of their areas. In many of these areas, garages, hairdressing parlours, and other small businesses have been set up, contrary to zoning laws. This leads to the decline in housing prices, excessive traffic through communities and increased crime and noise nuisances. In other words "There goes the neighbourhood". Some of the factors responsible for the increasing commercialisation of residential areas are the lack of prohibitive fines and bad traffic planning which encourages heavy traffic flows through communities.
Editor's Comment: Personally, I myself and many others like me, who have been away from Jamaica for many years, return home to find so many areas which held happy memories as residential areas, have now deteriorated into a bunch of junky looking businesses. And, this was before the crime wave, so I can imagine how much worst things will get.
Lawsuit against Omai gold mines in Guyana dismissed
The US$100 million class action ("representative action") proceedings brought in Guyana in connection with the Omai tailings dam failure seven years ago, have been dismissed. In an order released on February 12, 2002, the Honourable Mr. Justice Winston Moore, of the High Court of the Supreme Court of Judicature of Guyana, ordered that the action be struck out for repeated failure to file an affidavit by the plaintiffs.
OMAI Gold Mines Ltd. has honored its duties and obligation to the residents of the Essequibo River who had filed 522 writs representing 881 claimants by settling over 95% of the claims filed for losses or damages. Remaining claims have not yet been paid because the claimants have either not turned up or cannot be located.
Cambior Inc. is an international gold producer with operations, development projects and exploration activities throughout the Americas.
Upscale Jamaican resort water cut off for unpaid bills
In Jamaica, some police stations and even schools have faced the loss of their water supply because of not paying the bills. But, this time it is the upscale expensive Seacastles Beach Resort of Rose Hall in Montego Bay which has left the National Water Commission (NWC) holding the bag. The NWC has cut off their water for non-payment of a bill of J$3.3 million. The scenic properties nestled along the Montego Bay sea coast is owned by Canadian-based Cameleon Hotel Management. They had tried to stave off the cut-off by paying with 2 checks totaling J$1.188 million. The checks bounced. The water was cut off. The company claimed the drop in business caused by the 9/11 terrorism. Really? However, that $3.3 million bill was due since August 2001! Now the company is paying J$300,00 per day to truck water to the 198 -luxury-apartment resort. And of course, they face a lawsuit for the full amount from the NWC.
Political tension hurting T&T credit rating
Trinidad and Tobago’s political tension is now officially hurting the country’s international credit and investment rating. Global credit ratings agency Fitch Ratings, based in New York, has downgraded the operations of the local and by extension the entire country into negative ratings. The bad news was delivered to the Finance Ministry, Central Bank, as well as the local banks, two days before carnival. The report has pegged T&T’s investment grading as BB- down from the BB rating it enjoyed less than six months ago.
Last burn victim of World Trade Center attack released
The last burn victim of the 9/11 terrorist attack of the World Trade
Center has just been released. He is Jamaican Donovan Cowan. He was released
from the New York Presbyterian Hospital, where he had spent 5 months and 10
Banana workers blues in Jamaica
The banana war is over but the fallout continues. In Jamaica, more than 150 employees of Eastern Banana Estates, St. Thomas, a subsidiary of the Jamaica Producers Group (JPG), have been made redundant recently. The company says the move will help them to meet the standard .3 employee per acre ratio which already exists in competing banana producing nations and increase competitively by reducing costs and increasing efficiency.
Eastern Banana will now have made nearly 500 workers redundant in the past three years. And this is the pattern all over the West Indies.
T&T seek end to fish wars with neighbors
Honduran fishermen balk at fines in Jamaica
THE Honduran fishermen who were tried and fined for breaking Jamaica's fishing and environmental laws, still remain in jail. The Honduran embassy claims that the fines are too high. Jamaica is standing firm saying that they will have to pay up or serve the time. The fines amount to $1.5 million for charges ranging from fishing in Jamaican waters without a license, operating an unlicensed boat and fishing during the closed conch season. The captain, the chief mate, ship engineer and more than 80 crew men were picked up by the Coast Guard and the Marine Police on January 16. As a result of the trial, they were fined on January 29 and have remained confined pending payment of their fines.
Queen and Duke visit Jamaica
Jamaica played host to Her Majesty The Queen and His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh. The British royal couple took part in several activities during their three-day visit to the island from Monday, 2/18/02, to the Wednesday.
Record high gold production in Guyana
Last year’s gold production in Guyana reached a record high. Despite continuing low international prices, Guyana's gold output last year reached 456,000 ounces, 3.5 per cent more than a year earlier, according to official figures.
Three-quarters of national output came from one producer. Omai Gold Mines, one of the biggest open pit gold mines in South America. It produced 354,214 ounces, 32,000 ounces more than its production target.
Omai is a $300m venture in which Cambior and Golden Star Resources, both of Canada, own 65 per cent and 30 per cent, respectively, with the Guyana government owning five per cent. It is the single largest investment in Guyana.
However, industry and government officials suggest that further increases in production might not be possible. Current systems used by many smaller miners have led to low productivity, said officials. Omai Gold Mines is troubled by declining reserves that are expected to lead to reduced production, they reported.
Productivity by local miners is also adversely affected by several problems, including a reduction in the quality of ores, poor roads and outbreaks of diseases, such as malaria, in the remote regions.
All the material and equipment has to be transported long distances from the populated coast to the interior, and there are few roads to the areas where the deposits are located, said the officials. Guyana's diamond output last year reached 178,698 carats, 219 per cent more than the previous year. Prime minister Sam Hinds, and who is also responsible for the mining sector, said this increase was the result of the government's success in cracking a Brazilian smuggling ring last year.
Negril beach rescue plan
The world famous Negril beach in Jamaica was badly ravaged by the recent
hurricane Michelle. A group of Cuban experts, led by a doctor of geography,
met with a cross section of Negril officials to plan a recovery plan. Cuban
beaches suffered even worse destruction at the hands of the hurricane.
However, they have successfully repaired the damage, even though it costed
Eat roti or patty and cocoa bread instead of burger and fries
The American diet of hamburger and fries, like the American culture, is sweeping the world. The Caribbean is no exception. However, a new study says the typical American diet of burgers and fries increases your chances of getting Type II diabetes, even if you don't have other risk factors like obesity or a family history of the disease, reports Health Scout News. The latest study, which with 42,000 men was the largest of its kind, compared a diet high in fruits, vegetables, and grains to a "western" diet consisting heavily of red and processed meats, french fries, high-fat dairy products and sweets. Those men on the "western" diet found themselves at a 60 percent higher risk for Type II diabetes, according to the Harvard University study, which appears in the latest issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.
Ja. Govt defiant against homosexuality
Jamaica’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Peter Figueroa, startled Jamaicans with his comments at the Pan American Health Organisation and World Health Organisation conference on AIDS at the Jamaica Grande Hotel in Ocho Rios recently. He advocated decriminalizing of homosexuality and prostitution in order to reduce the rising HIV problem in the island.
"It is a given that social stigma and discrimination drive people underground. If we are to address this epidemic properly, we have to be able to accurately gauge the number of HIV cases across the island. We need to repeal the buggery law that makes homosexuality illegal and we need to decriminalise sex workers," he said.
Of course the Government said an emphatic "No!" Regardless of the merits, anything less would be political suicide as the Jamaica society is rampantly homophobic. They would rather face an increasing AIDS epidemic. Dr. Figuroa is incredibly brave even to suggest it.
Rastas need not apply
The Jamaica Police Force is seeking to add 1,000 members to its ranks in 18 months. However, Rastafarians need not apply. There is no vacancy for them as long as they continue to wear long hair and as long as they continue to smoke ganja. So, the Jamaica Constabulary Force is not about to follow the lead of the London Metropolitan Police Force, who, in its bid to counter perceptions of racism in the Force has made a policy shift. Not only is it allowing Muslim women who are police officers to wear their hajibs and Sikh policemen to wear their turbans, it is reviewing its policy on the length of hair to allow Rastafarians to join the Force.
Massive fraud costing the Govt. of Jamaica
The Government of Jamaica may have lost billions of dollars in tax revenues due to massive fraud at the Land Titles Division of the National Land Agency (NLA). This was revealed in a special report by international consultants KPMG. . The KPMG consultants had originally been brought in to devise systems to tackle the long-standing problems at the Titles Office. Based on this report, Prime Minister Patterson is expected to bring in the Fraud Squad and revenue officials to investigate. Not just individuals have not paid duties but also entire housing schemes.
At the Titles Division, that perception of risk was minimal in the past when it would not have been abnormal for a legitimate transaction to be speeded along by a well-placed payment. The problem is that the "accepted" practice of showing financial appreciation for someone who pushes along a title search had escalated to the point where, documents were being created or falsified for a fee.
Another problem is the undervaluation of property being transacted in order to minimise the 7.5 per cent Transfer Tax, 5.5 per cent Stamp Duty and 0.05 per cent Registration Fee which is charged on the value of the property.
These type of practices are what has pushed tax evasion to become the greatest white collar crime in Jamaica.
In Barbados too
Air controllers strike in Jamaica
AIR TRAFFIC controllers at the Norman Manley Airport in Kingston walked off the job yesterday, protesting against the faulty equipment they have to work with, threatening operations at both international airports.
Transport and Works Minister Robert Pickersgill was meeting with them up to press time last night, in a feverish effort to broker a resumption by today.
The 30 controllers, members of the Jamaica Air Traffic Controllers Association (JATCA), are based in Kingston, but their action would also affect flights in and out of the Donald Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay. Enough controllers stayed on the job along with management to prevent any shut down. The controllers say that they are dissatisfied with their faulty radio equipment, which makes it difficult for them to communicate with pilots. They say that the radios, which are maintained by AEROTEL, a subsidiary of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), have been malfunctioning for the past two years. But, what is really strange is that new $1.1 billion radar equipment was installed last year and never used. The air controllers are scheduled to begin training on this equipment soon. So far there has been no accidents, but last November, faulty navigation equipment and bad weather was blamed for a near accident at the Norman Washington Airport in Kingston. An Air Jamaica plane, on which the Transport Minister was a passenger, missed the airport runway and almost landed in the built up Hope Pastures community several miles away.
Man killed for looking like a policeman
The Seaga-led political campaign in Jamaica against the police deserves blame for a vicious cold-blooded killing recently. Two men held up a minibus on Spanish Town Road near Kingston. They robbed the passengers at gunpoint of cash and jewelry. Michael Thompson, who was sitting in the back if the bus, tried to calm the gunmen in an attempt to keep people from getting hurt. This made the robbers think he was a policeman instead of a good Samaritan and shot him dead and made good their escape. I hope Mr. Seaga sends flowers to his funeral.
Another Marley has been added to the list of Grammy winners. Winning the Best Reggae Album Award at the Annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles was Damian "Junior Gong" Marley, the son of Bob Marley and 1977 Jamaican Miss World, Cindy Breakspeare. He won for his album "Half-Way-Tree’, his 2nd album. The winning album was the first to be released under a distribution agreement between Ghetto Youths International, a company formed last year by two other sons of Bob Marley, Ziggy and Stephen, to encourage promising young acts, and the US R&B label, Motown Records. He won ahead of his elder sibling Kymani Marley, Luciano, Beres Hammond as well as a compilation album from Hawaii entitled 'Island Warriors'. Chalk up a ytotal of four grammies for Bob Marley’s children as Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers won three Reggae Grammies in 1988, 1989 and 1997.
WI 'tek licks' from Pakistan too
The West Indies continued its losing ways by humiliating defeats to Pakistan of both Test matches of their tour there. They were outplayed in batting, bowling and fielding.
Test 1 (Pakistan won by 170 runs)
Test2 (Pakistan won by 244 runs)