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May 2002

New elections soon in T&T

PRIME MINISTER Patrick Manning has asked the President to adjourn Parliament and announced Trinidad and Tobago will hold fresh elections within six months ­ the third in three years. Manning made the decision after the twin-island nation's two main political parties failed for two days to elect a Speaker of the House.

The dispute is rooted in a tie in the December general election that reflects the oil-rich Caribbean nation's split on ethnic lines between those descended from Africans and those descended from East Indians.

"We have seen enough to convince us that the Opposition had no intention of electing a Speaker and so we thought that the interest of Trinidad and Tobago will be best served by ending the Parliament and holding new elections," Manning said Saturday.

He asked President A.N.R. Robinson to prorogue Parliament, which would allow it to be reconvened should an agreement be struck within the six-month period before elections must be held. Manning stopped short of asking for Parliament to be dissolved, which would require elections almost immediately.

On vote after vote former Prime Minister Basdeo Panday's United National Congress party and Manning's People's National Movement cancelled out each other's votes during the election for a Speaker. A majority of votes is needed.

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Jamaica hospital overwhelmed by drug smugglers

Drug smugglers have created a new problem in Jamaica. The emergency room of the biggest hospital in Jamaica, Kingston Public Hospital, (KPH) is being overwhelmed by drug smugglers. These smugglers’, called "mules", mode of smuggling cocaine is via belly. The "mule" fills a few condoms with cocaine and swallow them before boarding international aircraft for the target country, usually the UK. The flights are mainly at night, and many "mules" are caught prior to departure, ending up in the KPH emergency room at the busiest time there. And busy they are indeed, treating things like gunshot wounds and all sorts of injuries which are products of the current wave of violence there.

Most of these "mules" are women in their early 20's. In a recent week, the police captured 75 suspects. The smugglers are given x-rays and laxatives when drugs are detected. The "mules" take up limited beds and resources during the several days it can take them to expel the condoms. Occasionally, smugglers die when the condoms leak. For these risks, it is estimated that the smugglers receive $1,700 to $4,255. However, some never get paid, but are threatened and harassed at their destination. Who can they complain to? Not the police.

The dreaded "profiling" is used to apprehend suspects. The Jamaica police boast of the sophistication of their profiling techniques citing as evidence of its accuracy as in one day alone of 50 selected, 25 were positive. But, my question is what about the 25 innocent ones who were subjected to such indignity? But is there any other way to deal with this severe problem?

These "mules" have become a serious problem in the UK too. The number of foreign women in British jails has increased 37 percent in the past year, and half are Jamaicans. The problem there has become so serious that Britain has considered requiring visas for Jamaicans to visit there. Jamaica's National Security Minister, Peter Phillips, has proposed instead, the posting of Jamaican police in British airports to identify smugglers.

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Importees to run Cable and Wireless in Barbados raises concern

For well over a decade, the Cable and Wireless branch in Barbados has been run by Barbadians. Suddenly the communications giant announced that they were importing two men for the two top posts, the posts of president and executive vice president of the Barbados operations. To make way for these two, the British company announced that the Barbadian vice president was retiring and that the other was "taking the opportunity to exit the company." The Barbados government said "Not so fast" and pointed out that no application for long-term work permits had even been received by the Immigration Department, much less granted.

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T&T, Barbados fishing war continues

Trinidad and Tobago coast guard vessels captured Barbadian fishermen in disputed territory of T&T. Upset over Trinidad and Tobago's treatment of the Barbadian fishermen, Barbados' Prime Minister, Owen Arthur, said that Barbados would embark on a general review of its economic relationship with the twin island republic. T&T's ambassador to CARICOM apologised to Barbados for the action taken by its Cost Guard and police. However, this apology upset the Tobago fishermen. They instead commended the T&T Coast Guard and police for their action and have demanded a voice in any future fishing negotiations with Barbados or with any other countries.

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More Honduran fishermen fined in Jamaica

Just a few months ago, Honduran fishermen were captured, arrested, jailed and fined for illegally fishing in Jamaican territorial waters. After much wrangling with the Honduran ambassador and the payment of stiff fines, you would think that would act as a deterrent. Obviously it did not because once again Honduran fishermen have been captured, jailed and fined for illegally fishing in Jamaica's waters. More than $2 million in fines were handed down this time on the 104 fishermen for breaches of Jamaica's fishing and environmental laws.

Their fishing equipment and more than 1,000 kilograms of conch, a large quantity of lobster and a hawk bill turtle found in their possession, were confiscated. The hawk billed tutle is a protected species. Also impounded was the unlicensed fishing vessel, 'Captain Hank' in which they were held.

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Bombing, protests on Vieques resume

A protest movement that burgeoned last year has lost support since the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States, but small bands of demonstrators protested recently outside the Navy camp that encompasses the firing range.
Navy military police arrested five women from the Puerto Rican Independence Party who entered Navy ground in the pre-dawn darkness, hours before planes began dropping inert bombs in the first exercises since October. As they were taken away, the intruders pumped their handcuffed fists into the air and shouted ``Navy get out!'' in Spanish.
Like some of the nearly 1,000 protesters who have broken into Navy land to thwart the bombing exercises in the past two years, the women will be charged in federal court and serve jail sentences for trespassing, said Jorge Fernandez Porto, the Independence Party's environmental adviser.
An anti-Navy night vigil attracted about 200 people on Vieques, and about 80 people took part in a car cavalcade.
Puerto Rico Gov. Sila Calderon, who was elected largely because of a promise to force the Navy to leave immediately, now says she backs a deal, endorsed by President Bush, for the Navy to leave by May 2003. However, a U.S. law passed after Sept. 11 says the Navy can use Vieques until it finds an alternative.

Opponents of the exercises say they harm the environment and health of Vieques' 9,100 residents. The Navy, which has used the firing range for decades but stopped using live ammunition after the guard's death, denies that claim.
Activists occupied the range for a year after the accident, preventing exercises until they were forcibly removed by U.S. marshals. The campaign surged last year when activists including Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and the Rev. Al Sharpton were jailed for entering Navy land, but support has waned since Sept. 11 amid accusations that it is anti-American.

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Jamaican promoted to UN Ombudsman

Once again a Caribbean citizen has distinguished herself as United Nations Secretary General Kofi Anan has announced the appointment of Patricia Durrant as United Nations Ombudsman. The appointment is at the Assistant Secretary-General level.
A career diplomat since 1971, Ms. Durrant has been accredited as Permanent Representative of Jamaica to the United Nations since 7 June 1995.
At the United Nations, Ms. Durrant positions includeor have inckuded:

  • President of the High Level Committee on Technical Cooperation among Developing Countries (1999-2001);
  • Vice Chair of the Preparatory Committee for the Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly on Population and Development (1999);
  • Jamaica's Representative to the Security Council (2000-2001).
  • Current Chair of the Preparatory Committee for the Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly on Children;
  • Current Chair of the Consultative Committee for the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM).

Ms. Durrant holds a Bachelor of Arts degree and a Diploma in International Relations from the University of the West Indies as well as a Diploma in Overseas Development Studies from the University of Cambridge, United Kingdom. In addition Ms. Durrant has received special awards which include:

  • In 1992 the Order of Distinction in the rank of Commander (C.D.)
  • In 2000 the Order of Jamaica (O.J.) for services to Jamaica in the field of international affairs.
  • In 1998, she was honoured by the University of the West Indies as one of its Distinguished Graduates, on the occasion of the University's fiftieth anniversary.
  • The Distinguished Achievement Award from the World Association of Former United Nations Interns and Fellows.

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EU Says U.S. abusing WTO rules

After the US brought suit against Caribbean bananas and relenlessly pursued its case to the detriment of the Caribbean, now they face charges. A group of major trading nations on Friday accused the United States of "systematic abuse'' of World Trade Organization rules in its use of import tariffs to protect domestic industries.

At the end of two days of consultations with U.S. government of officials, representative from the European Union, Japan, South Korea, China, Switzerland and Norway said they had made no progress in persuading Washington to drop tariffs of up to 30 percent imposed on steel products last month.

The move provoked the EU and 10 other countries to demand compensation while Brussels decided to impose similar tariffs to protect its own steel industry, an action that infuriated the United States.

In a joint statement, the six complainants said they were concerned about Washington's "systematic abuse of safeguards instruments'' - rules that allow a country to raise tariffs temporarily to give domestic producers time to restructure.

They pointed out that the WTO has ruled against the United States in six previous disputes relating to safeguards.

In this case, the tariffs were imposed even though there has been no sharp increase in imports in recent years, and the United States failed to take into account other factors that might have damaged the U.S. steel industry, they claim.

They also are upset that the Bush administration's move specifically excludes Canada and Mexico, Washington's partners in the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement. The United States claims it is acting in line with WTO rules and has so far rejected all requests for compensation.

The complaining countries added that if they could not reach an agreement with the United States, they will ask for a panel of trade experts to rule on the issue. That request could be made as early as May 6, though it might take a year for the ruling to be issued.

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T&T doctors end 6-day strike

The 280 state-hired doctors recently ended a 6-day strike which had left Trinidad and Tobago hospitals poorly staffed and patients waiting for hours for treatment. The doctors were demanding equal pay with the 325 doctors contracted by regional authorities. The strikers demanded parity as their salaries were hundreds of dollars less per month. The strike ended when the Government promised to raise salaries. The doctors will receive a series of travel, housing and other allowances which is estimated will equal what the contracted doctors receive. The government had called the strike illegal, had got an injunction to force the doctors back to work, but shortly after made the offer to the union.

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Caribbean in midst of FIFA fraud allegation

The World Cup, that international soccer spectacle that captures the emotion and attention of a worldwide audience as countries vie to become the champions of the world, will take place in mere weeks. But stealing the spotlight from the competition is a raging feud and charges of fraud and financial mismanagement. The Confederation of North America, Central America and the Caribbean Football is in the middle of the allegations. The president of FIFA, Sepp Blattner, is up for re-election due just before the start of the World Cup finals. He is alleged to have mismanaged, bordering on fraud, millions of dollars in FIFA funds. The Swiss, Blatter, is running for re-election against Cameroon's Issa Hayatou. An audit has been demanded and is underway. However, critics contend that Blatter is abusing his position to kick out his critics and lining the audit committee with his supporters. 

The president of CONCACAF is Jack Warner of T&T, who is a strong supporter of Blatter. Critics charge that Warner rigged the presidential election for Blatter in Paris in 1998. Then it is alleged that when the Haitian representative was prevented from attending because of a dispute with his Government, he reported that in advance to Warner. When the vote was held, instead of an absent vote by Haiti an English response of yes was received for Blatter. Now proxy voting is not allowed in FIFA elections nor did the legitimate Haitian representative authorize such a vote. It turns out that the mystery vote was cast by a Mr. Neville Fergueson, not from Haiti, but from T&T and a friend of Jack Warner. On a previous occasion of FIFA's 1996 congress, Haiti was once again absent. But a vote was recorded for them with a "Oui" to the roll call vote. This time the unauthorized vote was given, not by a Haitian, but by the girlfriend of Horace Burrell, the Jamaica representative and a close supporter of Jack Warner and Sepp Blatter.

Questions were also raised when Warner obtained the current World Cup TV rights to the Caribbean. However, with strong support from the Caribbean and the US representatives, Jack Warner was easily re-elected to a fourth term as president of CONCACAF by a landslide 36-2 vote a few weeks ago, beating back a challenge from a Mexican. To criticisms raised, CONCACAF vice president and former head of US soccer, Alan Rothenburg responded " should recognize the incredible contribution made to the enormous growth of soccer on and off the field by Sepp Blatter, Jack Warner and Chuck Blazer."

Jack Warner has already won re-election, but in a sharply divided camp, it remains to be seen if Blatter will be as sucessful in elections set for May 29.

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Divorces rise as marriages fall in Jamaica

The Statistics Institute of Jamaica reports that the year 2001 saw the greatet increase in jamaica. The 1,691 divorces represent an increase of 50% and is the largest granted in any one year. In previous years, divorces have been declining.

The Institute also reported a dramatic decline in marriages from 27,028 in 2000 to 22, 391 in 2001. This led to a fall in marriage rate from 10 per 1,000 in 2001, from 10.4 per 1,000 in 2000 and a high of 11 per 1,000 in 1999.

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Opening of Bog Walk bridge in Jamaica

One of the most famous bridges in jamaica has finally been replaced. For decades the old heavily-travelled bridge known as Flat Bridge defied storm and flood. But finally it developed a crack and became unsafe for motorists, For over a year the motoring public and business community in Bog Walk suffered because there was no bridge. The new bridge cost over J$1 million and took about a year to build. The compact Bailey Bridge as it is called is the first of its kind in the island. It is about 150 feet long. Recent floods have played havoc with many Jamaican bridges. The government plans to build 40 islandwide in the next 5 years. Work has started on 9.

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Minister of Housing in Jamaica resigns

Housing Minister of Jamaica, Dr. Karl Blythe, has resigned. His resignation followed the release of the Angus report which implicated him in alleged corruption and mismanagement at the National Housing Development Corporation, particularly its Operation Pride program. The Minister vehemently denies any wrongdoing and will work to remove any blemish to his integrity and will concentrate on activities on the political front.

Prime Minister P.J. Patterson named Donald Buchanan, formerly the Minister of Labor and Social Security, to replace Mr. Blythe. Deputy Transport Minister Dean Peart will replace Mr. Buchanan, and Fenton Ferguson will move from the agriculture ministry to fill Mr. Peart's former position.

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Water lock-off angers crafts market vendors

Angry vendors of the Kingston Craft Market stormed the offices of Metropolitan Crafts and Markets with a very seriuos complaint. They had no water. It had been locked-off. The city council, the Kingston and St. Andrew Corporation, which runs the market had not paid the water bill. They owe a whopping sum of more than J$18 million so the National Water service is demanding payment before water service is restored. A spokesman for the Market said this amount was not for just the craft market but included markets at Papine, Cross Roads and Constant Spring markets too. They too have their water disconnected for non-payment. Over 200 people work at the Kingston Craft Market, most of them women. These markets are a vital aspect of the Jamaican way of life and such a predicament is virtually indefensible and flagrantly irresponsible.

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Carnival Cruise lines to pay $18 million for pollution

Cruise Lines ply the Caribbean in more and more numbers. These massive floating hotels unfortunately have a potential for serious environmental damage. This is why the following report is of great concern for the Caribbean.

Carnival Corp., the world's largest cruise ship operator, pleaded guilty to ocean pollution and will pay $18 million in penalties. The company admitted discharging oily waste into the ocean and falsifying records to hide the dumping and avoid spending millions of dollars on proper waste disposal, prosecutors said.

``To ensure a clean, safe environment, we must take a zero tolerance approach,'' said Guy Lewis, the U.S. attorney for Southern Florida. ``Our children and children's children deserve no less.''

Miami-based Carnival said it had taken responsibility and cooperated fully with the U.S. investigation. `Under terms of the plea agreement, Carnival will pay a $9 million fine and contribute $9 million to environmental groups for anti-pollution projects, prosecutors said.

Carnival said in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that it received a subpoena in August 2000 from the U.S. attorney's office in Miami in connection with its environmental practices.

Rival Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., the second-largest cruise- ship operator, paid fines of $18 million in July 1999 and another $9 million in 1998 for pollution violations.

Carnival paid $2 million in 1998 to settle charges that its S.S. Rotterdam dumped oily water into the ocean.

It seems Caribbean waters are extremely vulnerable to such pollution as the Caribbean governments do not have the investigative resources nor powers of enforcement.

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Haitian police arrest ex-dictator as he is released from prison

Police arrested former military dictator Prosper Avril at the gate of the National Penitentiary, just minutes after he was released from prison.

Avril, who held power from 1988 to 1990, was freed by an appeals court that found the government had acted arbitrarily and illegally when it arrested him last year for plotting a coup. He was arrested again, this time charged with complicity in the 1990 slayings of about a dozen peasants killed by soldiers.

''Why are you doing this?'' the 65-year-old former lieutenant general shouted, as police handcuffed him, said his lawyer, Reynold Georges.

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New agreement between ALCOA and Jamaica govt

Alcoa World and the Government of Jamaica have announced that they have reached an agreement to invest $115 million to expand the Jamalco alumina refinery in Clarendon, Jamaica. Jamalco is a 50/50 relationship between Alcoa and the Government of Jamaica with Alcoa as the managing partner.

The Government of Jamaica also announced the removal of the 28-year-old levy on bauxite from Jamalco, effective in 2003 when the expansion is expected to be completed. The expansion will increase the capacity of the Jamalco refinery by 25% making it a 1.25 million metric tons per year refinery. The removal of the levy along with the expansion will lower costs at Jamalco by approximately 30%.

Alcoa began operations in Jamaica more than 40 years ago with bauxite mining. In 1972 the company began alumina refining there, and in 1988 it completed an agreement that made the Government of Jamaica a 50% owner of the operations.

Alcoa is the world's leading producer of primary aluminum, fabricated aluminum and alumina, and is active in all major aspects of the industry. Alcoa's aluminum products and components are used worldwide in aircraft, automobiles, beverage cans, buildings, chemicals, sports and recreation and in a wide variety of industrial and consumer applications, including such Alcoa consumer brands as Alcoa(R) wheels, Reynolds Wrap(R) aluminum foil, and Baco(R) household wraps.

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WI cricket gains some respect but trail India 1-0

The West Indies cricket is gaining some respect from the 2 test matches played against the touring Indians. In the first test, they amassed a score of 501, a score reminiscent of the glory days. However rain ruined the match without even the first innings completed. Captain Hooper topscored with a magnificient 233, followed by fellow Guyanese Chanderpaul before their home crowd with 140.

In the 2nd Test, The WI made a strong comeback after trailing by 94 runs in the first innings. With victory seeming in their grasp, the rally faltered and they ended up losing the match by 37 runs in front of a very disappointed crowd in T&T. They have not won yet, but they are at least competitive.

Test 1 at Bourda, Guyana
WI 501 (Hooper 233, Chanderpaul 140, Sarwan 53); India 395 for 7 (R, Dravid 140 n.o., Tendulkar 79, V Laxman 69)

Test 2 at Queen's Park Oval, T&T 
India won by 37
India 339 (Tendulkar 117,Laxman 69 n.o., Dravid 67, ); WI 245 (Lara 52, Hooper 50)
India 218 ( S Ganguly 75 n.o., Laxman 74, Dillon 4 for 42) WI 275 (Chanderpaul 67 n.o., Gayle 52)

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Star-studded Caribbean conference invites all

Register now to attend:
Caribbean Realities "Bridge to the Future"
conference, Friday June 7th – Saturday June 8th at Charleston, South Carolina featuring an impressive collection of speakers including: 

  • Lester Bird, Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda
  • Ralph Gonsalves, Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Philip Paulwell, Minister of Technology, Jamaica
  • Compton Bourne, President, Caribbean Development Bank
  • Lionel Hurst, Ambassador, Antigua and Barbuda
  • Dennis Antoine, Ambassador, Grenada
  • Ellsworth John, Ambassador, St. Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Richard Bernal, Director General, Caribbean Regional Machinery Shaping Western Hemispheric Policy on Trade
  • Professor Rex Nettleford, Vice Chancellor, University of the West Indies
  • And many other experts

Click here for registration information and more details
(Thanks to Pauline Ford-Caesar for passing this and other information to Hot Calaloo)

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