From February 2001
Former President Clinton has been getting an onslaught of criticism for his pardon of Marc Rich. But, we can expect no such criticism from Jamaica, for Marc Rich is considered a friend of Jamaica. According to the Jamaica Gleaner newspaper in a recent article by senior reporter Balford Henry quoted in its entirety:
INDICATIONS ARE that recently-pardoned American commodities trader Marc Rich will again be involved with the rescue of the local bauxite/alumina industry by purchasing the assets of Alcan Jamaica Company.
A House Panel on Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C., opened hearings yesterday into the motives behind Clinton's pardon of Rich, amid a report that the last-minute pardon were granted without the usual Justice Department scrutiny.
A 10-year agreement between Marc Rich & Co. and the Government of Jamaica expired in 1996 and a new agreement to 2002, was signed with its successor company Glencore, which offered more flexible and favourable pricing arrangements.
Under the current agreement BATCO (Jamaica's Bauxite and Alumina Trading Co. Ltd.) sells some 250,000 tonnes of Jamaican alumina annually to Glencore on a basis which allows the parties to establish prices annually and an additional 100,000 annually using various pricing mechanisms.
Because of the Government's problems with financing its budget, several forward sales arrangements have been made with Glencore which, sources say, have left the country heavily indebted to Rich's Swiss firm and could impact on its negotiations with Glencore over the local Alcan assets.
The Government signed an agreement with Glencore in 1999 for the sale of alumina for the five years, 2000-2004. Dr. Omar Davies, Minister of Finance and Planning, told the House of Representatives in November 1999, that the agreement was to sell Jamaican alumina at fixed prices as a loan to help finance the 1999/2000 budget.
Norman DaCosta, the NWU spokesman on bauxite/alumina, says the union will be meeting with Glencore's representatives on February 23 to discuss how the sale will affect the workers. He said he had no doubt that the change would affect jobs at the company.
It is possible that the Kirkvine plant, which is considered aged and short on space, technology and raw material for expansion, will either close or change to producing hydrate. However, he says that a feasibility study of the Ewarton plant suggests that it has the proximity and resources to expand.
However, it is uncertain what Glencore will do about the workers on the 15 dairy, beef and horticultural farms owned by Alcan Jamaica Company. That will certainly depend on how Glencore, the world's largest commodities dealers, look at trading beef, dairy and horticulture in addition to metals and oil.
Jamaican company to manage operations
After 55 days, the constitutional crisis in Trinidad and Tobago is over. T&T President A.N.R. Robinson finally approved the seven Government senators, which Prime Minister Basdeo Panday had appointed. The president had refused to certify them, because they had been losing candidates in the recent general elections.
Jamaica’s most beautiful plants, including crotons, ixora,
bougainvilla as well as some fruit trees and legumes like gungo and
cherries, face a stubborn, deadly new pest. These insects are similar to
the "Mealy bug". They are called "white flies" but
their real name is "ensign scale". They have invaded Kingston
and St. Andrew mainly, but have been reported in about 4 other parishes.
They hide under a waxy shell, which protects them from insecticides. The
Ministry of Agriculture recommends gardeners to continue using
insecticides for three or four applications. If the insecticides are
ineffective, gardeners should clip off infected branches and either burn
them or wrap them in plastic and place in the sun for the heat to kill
them. The Ministry considers the real solution is importing another bug
from the US which is a natural predator of these "flies". This
was done in Kenya and financing is being sought to introduce such a
project in Jamaica.
Mad cow disease is bad enough, but we have witnessed the devastation that the outbreak of hoof and mouth disease is having in Europe. Although so far the disease has shown up only in the UK, the burning of thousands of cows has not been limited to England only. But France, Germany and other European countries have done so. Unlike mad cow disease, foot and mouth disease does not affect humans. However, because it is so extremely infectious:
But, the world is a neighborhood, a shrinking neighborhood. Is the Caribbean safe? So far it seems safe, but some countries are taking precautions. Caribbean countries which have imposed bans on account of hoof and mouth disease include Grenada and Bermuda. Not just beef, but pork, lamb, and even chicken from the UK are included.
But, the world is a neighborhood, a shrinking neighborhood. Is the Caribbean safe? Caribbean countries have already taken precations against mad cow disease. (See Caribbean takes precaution against mad cow disease (Jan 7, 2001)} To add to this, the NAFTA countries, US, Canada and Mexico, banned canned beef and beef products from Brazil because of mad cow disease. St. Kitts, Antigua and Barbuda, and St. Lucia were among those that joined that ban and St. Lucia was on the verge. However, the NAFTA has lifted the ban and Caribbean countries are expected to do likewise.
178 Earthquakes hit Jamaica last year
According to seismologists in Jamaica there were 178 earthquakes in the past year. However, only 15 of them were likely strong enough to be felt by the public. There have been major quakes in Seattle, Washington, USA, El Salvador and other parts of the world. With this prevalence of quakes, could Jamaica be due for the "big one"?
These little quakes should serve as a reminder and hopefully not a harbinger of Jamaica's vulnerability to earthquakes. Considering this, it is alarming that a major quake of the magnitude of the one that recently struck El Salvador, measuring 7.6 on the Richter scale, could be even more devastating in Jamaica. The earthquake in El Salvador killed 683 and destroyed 38, 628 homes.
Guyana prepares for elections
The Guyana Parliament was dissolved on February 15 in preparation for general elections on March 19. The governing Peoples Progressive Party/Civic did not complete its full term. This was because of an agreement brokered by the CARICOM heads of government forced by the opposition Peoples National Congress 6-month long and often violent protests. These protests almost shut down the capital Georgetown and ripped the country apart racially.
For years they have called it The Trinidad and Tobago Carnival. But this year's is simply called "The Sparrow Carnival". It's in honour of 65-year-old Grenada-born calypsonian Slinger Francisco, better known as The Mighty Sparrow, who has dominated the world calypso stage since the 1950s. Sparrow on Ash Wednesday joined Belize's "Father of Independence", George Price, and Third World health spokesman/motivator Dr. George Alleyne, head of the Pan American Health Organisation, in receiving CARICOM's highest award - the Order of the Caribbean Community (OCC).
Belize Prime Minister Said Musa reported that there were positive signs in recent talks with Guatemala. However, he went on to add that Guatemala continues to insist on claiming large portions of Belize territory, so one has to wonder if there was really much progress. At least if they are talking, they are not fighting. In a fight tiny Belize would be no match for Guatemala.
Former Trinidad and Tobago local Government minister, Dhanraj Singh, has been charged with murder. Singh, 41, was fired from the Basdeo Panday administration last October. He also faces over two dozen fraud charges involving millions of dollars. The murder victim was a local government councillor. He was killed over a year ago. He had written letters to PM Panday, reporting a threat to his life from a high-level official in Panday's government. Singh is the second person charged in the murder.
In an obvious elaborate scheme, thieves forged the signature of Jamaica's Governor-General, Sir Howard Cooke and withdrew more than J$700,000 from his bank. According to Gleaner reports, thieves got hold of checks, forged the Governor-General's signature 6 times and lodged the checks in an automatic Teller machine in Kingston. The checks were credited to an account at the Ocho Rios branch. The money was subsequently withdrawn from the account which he operates jointly with his wife. The bank has since closed that account and opened another joint account for the couple. Meanwhile the police are puzzled how the thieves got Sir Howard's bank account number, checks, and other confidential details about his account.
(Article written by Hot Calaloo editor Michael Phillips in 1993)
What is the most popular fruit eaten here in America. Yes, it is the banana. Traditionally, throughout the West Indies it has been the major agriculture crop second only to sugar. However, banana wars with Latin America loom as a threat to a tradition, to a way of life.
I remember that first morning many years ago. I was just a boy of about ten spending my summer holidays in the countryside, the little Jamaican north coast port of Oracabessa. On that memorable morning, I looked out the window of my uncle's house which offered a spectacular panoramic view of the harbour . There "it" was, almost filling the entire harbour and landscape. "It" was the "banana boat." To my young and tender eyes it seemed massive, magnificent. It could have well been the luxury liner, the Queen Mary, instead of the Jamaica Producer. It had come in overnight.
The sleepy little port was transformed into a hum of activity. I was excited. It seemed to me everyone in the town was somehow involved. The mood was festive. The smell of money, no doubt. Trucks overladen with bunches of banana, wrapped in banana leaves, steadily streamed into port. Since Oracabessa was not a deep water harbour, the "Banana boat" could not come up to the dock, but had to drop anchor outside. So the "six-hand,seven-hand bunches" had to be loaded assembly-line style by vigorous perspiring men unto small boats which carried them out to the "Banana boat". As the men worked they sang. Of course, it was not reggae, which was decades away in the future. It was not even calypso, but traditional Jamaican work songs. songs like Day-O, Hill and Gully, and Sammy Dead. This continued non-stop way into the night. I still remember looking out from the veranda on that starlit night with fascination as the flickering lights of the flotilla of tiny banana-laden boats made their way to the huge ship.
That summer I really came to know the banana. From the short stubby "Chiney" banana to the slender but durable Lackatan to the robust Robusta and Gros Mitchell. Do you remember ripe banana fritters, fried and boiled green bananas? How about mackerel and banana rundown also known as "Dip and Fall Back"? I even had "banana water" to which was attributed all sorts of nutritional powers. But, I hated banana porridge.
But will the banana trade in the West Indies survive? Sadly, the prospects don't seem good. The fight is being waged primarily by the Windward Isles, who are especially dependent on this for employment and foreign exchange. They are up against powerful multinational corporations with banana plantations in Latin America. The bottom line is that these Latin American countries are able to grow it cheaper and these Caribbean countries must depend on the protected market of the UK. But, the UK is not as independent as it used to be now that it is a member of the European Common Market (EC). So far, Britain has been barely able to beat back the attacks of other EC countries led by Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands as well as the Latin American producers against this protected market. I, myself, am surprised at the fight Britain has put up on behalf of the Caribbean countries even though it means more expensive bananas for the English consumer. Upcoming General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT), and LOME talks are expected to take dead aim on this protected market again.
I went back to Oracabessa recently. The "banana boat" has long since abandoned it , lured away by a deep sea port elsewhere. Instead, on the distant horizon, occasionally a tourist-laden luxury ocean liner can be barely discerned heading probably to or from nearby Ocho Rios. Or, from time to time small boats can be seen dropping or retrieving their fish pots, but their message is " Oh yes we have no bananas, we've got no bananas today." Tourism has had some impact, but the town remains a sleepy fishing village. Unemployment seems high. Of course, traditional work songs no longer fill the air. That day, I could not help but notice a man clad in a flamboyant gold and black sequined dance-hall costume. In the background I could hear a sound system blaring with its deep thumping bass as its dee-jay music extolled " ...gal yuh body good, it good like a gold......"
Privatisation is alive and well as the Jamaican government has announced the Atlanta-based Mirant is to purchase the Jamaica Public Service Company (JPSCo), the country's major electricity supplier, paying more than $200 million for an 80 per cent stake. Prime Minister P.J Patterson told Parliament the sale should be concluded by the end of March. Mirant, formerly Southern Energy Inc, will pay the government US$201 million for 80 percent of the state-owned company. The government will retain the remaining 20 percent and name three members to the nine-member board. The new majority owners will invest a further US$500 million, mostly in increasing generating capacity over the next 10 years.
Move over Ebonics as Jamaican patois and other Creole speech of the Caribbean are to be treated as separate languages by the New York State Education Department. Dr Karl Folkes, a linguist and Field Instructional specialist with the Office of Bilingual Education, Brooklyn, New York see this as a personal triumph. This ruling will require school districts to formally identify, test and place students from the Commonwealth Caribbean in programs geared at teaching English as a second language. Dr Folkes believes Caribbean students should be taught in their native patois or Creole, a benefit Spanish speaking students already have.
The Jamaican-born Dr.Folkes, supported by the large New York-based Jamaican community, contends because of the difficulty with "standard English" many patois speaking students end up in special education. So they expect students to perform better in schools.
Editors Note: As far as I know, schools in Jamaica not only
teach in "standard English", but serves to improve and upgrade
the language. I have to respect Dr. Folkes for his credentials and
expertise, but still I see serious problems ahead. Jamaican patois is
different from patois from other Caribbean countries. Patois has no formal
rules. Where will the trained teachers come from?
The pending layoff of 300 teachers in Jamaica cannot have helped teacher morale. So when a seminar recruiting teachers for jobs in the US was held, teachers turned up in droves. The Visiting International Faculty Program, a US -based non-governmental organisation held two sessions in order to fill only 30 positions, but teachers packed the room to the max each time.
Hooper named WI cricket captain
Jimmy Adams is not only out as captain of the West Indies cricket team for the upcoming series with South Africa, he is not on the team. Carl Hooper, the stylish Guyanese batsman, who cut short his retirement from international cricket was selected by the WI Cricket Board. Ironically, he retired after the Lara-led WI team was white-washed by South Africa 5-0. Apparently leadership is not a high priority in the Boards judgment.
Jamaica soccer on top
Under 20 Reggae Boyz make World Cup Finals
"Ah wha happen to the Galliwasp?" That’s what Dr. Byron Wilson and Dale McGinty , a curator of the Nashville Zoo want to find out as they searched Jamaica for the Galliwasp. The Jamaican Galliwasp is a lizard which lived all over the island but so far they could not even find one single one. They could not even come up with a picture of the Galliwasp and had to use a picture of a Haitian Galliwasp to show people as they asked if they had seen any. They want to study it, but so far the scientists have come up with nothing.
They describe the lizard as about three foot long. I myself recall seeing Galliwasps when I was a boy, but it certainly was much smaller than three feet. Have you ever seen a Galliwasp?