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From July 2001  Hot Calaloo update



September 2001

Jamaica National Ganja Commission says "Legalize it"

Jamaica's National  Commission on Ganja has recommended an end to criminal sanctions for adults who use marijuana (ganja) in small quantities for private, personal use, and as a sacrament for religious purposes.

The seven-member Commission, chaired by Professor Barry Chevannes, Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of the West Indies (UWI), yesterday made its 74-page report to Prime Minister P. J. Patterson available to the media, advising that ganja use be decriminalised under specific conditions.

The report stressed that decriminalisation should exclude use by minors, or by anyone in public places.Its recommendation for decriminalisation was heavily influenced by perceived shortcomings in the criminal justice system.

The report argued that it was "unjust" to administer serious punitive sanctions against users of small quantities of the drug, adding that not only have these sanctions resulted in a major source of disrespect and contempt for the entire legal system, but they had failed to serve as a deterrent to ganja use.

"Administering the present laws as they apply to possession and use of small quantities of ganja not only puts an unbearable strain on the relationship of the police with the communities, in particular the male youth, but also ties up the justice system and the work of the police, who could use their time to much greater advantage in the relentless pursuit of crack/cocaine trafficking," the report said.

Support from local organizations
THE NATIONAL Council on Drug Abuse (NCDA) and the Medical Association of Jamaica (MAJ) have both come out in support of the recommendation of the National Commission on Ganja to decriminalise the substance for private, personal use. "The Council is going along with the general feeling throughout the world that you should not be deemed a criminal for smoking a spliff," said Dr. Charles Thesiger, NCDA chairman and senior lecturer in Community Health and Psychiatry at the University of the West Indies (UWI).

US says "Don’t you dare"
A US embassy official was quick to respond to the report. The US is opposed to any decriminalization and will probably decertift Jamaica if she goes through with it. This is quite a severe threat as countries which do not receive certification and those that are decertified lose most of their foreign assistance from the United States. Furthermore, the US is required to vote against any assistance to that country from major multilateral lending agencies, including the World Bank, the Inter-American Development bank and the IMF. 
Between 1992 and 1998 the US has provided $7.8 million to Jamaica for ganja eradication.

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Partisanship, loyalty & politics (Part 2)

Letter to A Reader
Dear Michael M.,

First of all, please accept my thanks for the compliments you paid Hot Calaloo. I deeply regret that my article did not convince you that JLP leader, Edward Seaga, is a menace to Jamaica especially since you seem to be a reasonable intelligent person. Jamaica needs help from reasonable intelligent JLP supporters in removing the Seaga menace.

I have no partisan political agenda. I am alarmed and desperately worried for Jamaica. I work with a civil engineer who is a refugee from Liberia. Almost daily I am made aware of the anguish and despair that he suffers from the destruction of his country. And, this once proud country, a model for Africa, is in shambles now, not much safety, law, order, respect for private property, with industries decimated, police intimidated by thugs, ineffective to protect or simply non-existent, roads, utilities and most services neglected. I am worried because he tells me the unrest in Jamaica is exactly how the destruction of Liberia began! You might think it cannot happen in our Jamaica, but the truth is it is already happening.

Lets face it. These recent events was not just a riot. It was a coordinated insurrection of thugs against the police and army of Jamaica. Police found themselves in many instances up against superior arms, automatic weapons, and fired by snipers using women and children in private homes as shields. Police station was bombed. There are refugees of this violence who have had to abandon their homes because the police can not protect them as they are in the control of thugs.

People have expressed amazement at the speed, inventiveness and islandwide appearance of these roadblocks. Even an old abandoned bus appears out of nowhere to be used as a roadblock. Many of these roadblocks were manned by mobs that rained violence on innocent people who were only trying to go to work to earn a living or simply going about their business. One mob stoned a policeman to death for trying to clear the roadblock, not in war torn west Kingston, but in far away sublime St. Ann!

How could the roadblocks spring up so fast and all over the island? How could the assorted materials to block the road be so readily available? Even an old abandoned bus showed up out of nowhere as a roadblock! Old tires to set ablaze! How come all the mobs that man them are so effective, vicious and menacing? The most logical explanation is that these roadblocks are not spontaneous at all but must have been a callous deliberate coordinated plan. 
Roadblocks have become very popular. There is method in that madness. Lets look to motive.Someone is benefiting from this and as long as that person continues to benefit, these roadblocks will continue to spring up. But who benefits from :

  • that mayhem
  • that disruption of business
  • the chaos
  • the inability of the Government to really control the situation
  • bringing the Government to destitution in repairing the damage
  • the international embarassment and economic consequencies

These things could bring down the Government. Edward Seaga and only Edward Seaga  benefits. That's who. I am sure Mr. Seaga could not risk telling the officials of his party about this plot. As they say "if I tell you, I might have to kill you." The many reputable JLP officials of integrity would never go along with it and might be so appalled that they might even blow the whistle on it.

Yes, fear is also an important component of the Seaga plan. Civic organisations, PSOJ, the churches are silent or utter vague innocuous generalities. If I were living in Jamaica, I would be afraid to write this article too.

Even now violence continues in west Kingston. Refugees continue to flee their homes. Lives continue to be lost. Police cannot protect these citizens, because they dare not venture in these JLP garrisons. They themselves are vulnerable to these snipers with machine guns and hiding behind innocent women and children again. And if the army is used to try to flush out these thugs, there is a strong likelihood that Seaga once again will call out his henchmen to shut down and embarrass the island with roadblocks.

These refugees are entitled to police protection regardless of how poor they are. In the past and even at this very moment we have seen these gang wars uproot hundreds of people from their homes to set up temporary residence in makeshift camps inside police stations, or taking refuge with friends and relatives outside. Inside the police station temporary home, they are reduced to begging visitors for help, while they wonder when they will be able to return home. If this spreads to all over the island, including the upscale suburbs, you know what we will have Michael M.? Liberia!

Yes, Michael M. , Liberia is already in Jamaica, but on a small scale and it is getting bigger, alarmingly bigger. I am old enough to remember a Jamaica in which the police hardly ever carried guns, and you could walk the streets of downtown Kingston late at night without fear. I want that Jamaica back but I realise it is unrealistic. So Michael M., unless Seaga is repudiated and replaced by one of the many reputable JLP officials as leader, the degeneration of Jamaica into Liberia will continue.

 I have strong suspicion but no proof Mr. Seaga instigated this uprising. But there is compelling evidence that Mr. Seaga exploited the unrest for political gain. It is an indiputable fact that he did not lift a finger to stop it. Is that acceptable for a leader of the JLP? Wouuld Sir Alexander Bustamante, Hugh Sheare, Donald Sangster see Jamaica terror-struck, battered and wounded this way and not lift a finger to help? Would you Michael M.?  Of course not. That is why he is unworthy to lead the JLP. But he is very powerful and I am sure the JLP executive is impotent to remove him. So the responsibilty falls primarily on JLP members. The only way to remove him is to not vote JLP in any election in which Seaga is the JLP leader. I hope he does the noble thing and resign.

Yours truly,
Michael Phillips, Editor

(In next issue, we see how the intimidation, and undermining of the police keeps Jamaica sliding to Liberia)

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  Teacher exodus update

As reported in the August update of Hot Calaloo, the New York Board of Education came a-recruiting in the Caribbean and garnered 600 teachers there. Since that time these teachers are settling in fine in New York city as most:

  • Have received Social Security numbers
  • Have been fingerprinted
  • Have received special training on how to deal with violence
  • Have been certified

Jamaica blunders
The largest contingent came from Jamaica, about 300 teachers. The Jamaica Minister of Education, Burchell Whiteman, blundered badly when he played down the exodus as not affecting the Jamaican schools. He has since changed his tune and this very school year saw Jamaica scrambling to fill vacancies. Measures they have taken include

  • importing teachers from Cuba.
  • extending an invitation for retired teachers to come back to the classroom.

It is amazing that the Minister could have erred so badly. The fact is this exodus is just the beginning of what could be catastrophic for schools in the Caribbean. These teachers will do an excellent job in New York and will of course earn a higher standard of life than their counterparts left in the Caribbean. These left behind will want the good life in America too, and not just New York but many other states will want them. The teacher shortage in America is expected to get worse so demand for Caribbean teachers will increase.

Now, these new teachers signed 3-year contracts to which Jamaica’s Minister blundered again. This time he announced that at the end of the three years they would not automatically get their jobs back. The fact is they won’t need to get them back. I am sure that they will have their contracts extended. It was another blunder because it was a disguised threatening statement. At such a critical time, when teachers so vital to the future of Jamaica, are being seduced away, is not the time for such harsh statements. There is a lot at stake here and the Minister has made too many serious blunders. First, the serving of letter announcing the dismissal or forced retirement of 300 teachers in November was a body blow to the morale of teachers. Inevitably this escalated the bad blood between the Minister and Jamaican teachers. This along with the siren song of New York Board of Education could leave Jamaica in an educational lurch. Teachers need to be treated and respected as the valuable resource that they are. A Minister who has alienated the teachers as Mr. Whiteman has, is unlikely to engender enough confidence in the teachers to overcome the coming crisis. Jamaica will desperately need a Minister who can work harmoniously together with the teachers. It seems obvious to me that the Government will have to replace or reassign Mr. Whiteman before he blunders again.

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Nursing shortage hits Jamaica

Jamaica is reeling from a nursing shortage. The shortage at the country’s largest trauma center, Kingston Public Hospital, has closed down several critical functions and caused others to be operating below capacity. Nurses have been so overworked that they are dropping from exhaustion. Recently a nurse at KPH collapsed after working three consecutive shifts. At the Victoria Jubilee Hospital too, which delivers an average of 50,000 babies per year, it is reported that two nurses recently collapsed on duty from exhaustion.

These two hospitals, so important to Jamaica are located in an area which has deteriorated badly and is close to areas of violence in Kingston. So, nurses do not want to work there because of the working conditions, threats of violence, high stress and little job satisfaction.

There is an especially severe shortage in ophthalmology, but training for nurses in that specialty was not available in Jamaica. Specialist training for other areas in short supply could not be accessed because of lack of funds. But, training for registered nurses in critical care, operating theatre techniques and accident and emergency is available in Jamaica.

The Ministry of Health has said that the sector has been operating at 75 per cent for several years. Government's recognition of the nursing shortage has resulted in the recruitment of nurses from Cuba and Nigeria to complement those graduating from the Kingston School of Nursing and the University School of Nursing. A health official said three times the number of current graduates of approximately 120 per year, are needed to bring the sector up to its full capacity.

At the same time the recruitment of experienced nurses continues, and more than 600 nurses have left the island in the last five years.

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  Privatisation lesson from Argentina

A cure-all that's under fire
For many politicians in the Caribbean, Latin America and the Third World, foreign money was supposed to cure all ills. New capital would lead to new factories, creating jobs and spreading wealth that could be reinvested in local economies that would produce products for international trade. Greater physical well-being would lead to greater political freedom and growth in public participation and democracy. The vision is generally called the neoliberal model, linking economic and political development.

It is a vision that is increasingly being challenged in forums from Seattle to Genoa and in the streets of Buenos Aires, Argentina.

In the 1980s in the Caribbean and Latin America, the hope was that new trade and privatization would open borders that had been closed by protectionist policies. On the block went lumber mills in Brazil, telephone systems in Argentina, electric utilities in Colombia and hundreds of industries in Mexico. 
The purchases were supposed to bring competitive markets, lower prices and greater wealth to even the poorest parts of society. In many cases, it didn't work out that way in the poor countries of the Caribbean but obviously neither for a rich powerful country like Argentina.

Argentina’s experience
Argentina's privatization effort was launched by former President Carlos Menem, who had his roots in the pro-union and left-leaning Peronist Party. He did a political about-face and embraced the free market, in large measure because he needed to end the hyperinflation that was draining the government.

Desperate for cash, Menem sold off state-owned companies, often through presidential decrees. In a number of infamous cases, the sales were greased with bribes and other forms of official corruption. Today, dozens of Menem's relatives and former ministers are under arrest or investigation. Menem, whose term ended in 1999, was placed under house arrest in June on arms-trafficking charges.

During the privatization project, little was asked of buyers in terms of long-term investment. Perhaps the most notorious example is that of Aerolineas Argentinas, the national airline.

According to government and corporate records, in 1991 the company had 28 airplanes, the largest pilot training center in Latin America and luxury offices from New York's Rockefeller Center to Rome's Via Veneto. The airline was valued at $636 million and had an operating profit of 5.6 percent. It was sold through a presidential decree to Iberia Airlines, then owned by the Spanish government, for $260 million in cash and $1 billion in bonds. Sources familiar with the deal say the Menem government allowed Iberia to use the planned sale of one of Aerolineas Argentinas' own Boeing 747s as part of its down payment.

The company, once one of the region's largest carriers with numerous routes to Europe, the United States and Australia, was then picked apart. Iberia executives — several of whom have since been charged with corruption and dismissed from the company — sold off the Argentine carrier's flight center, its prime retail offices around the globe and all but one of its jets. In Europe, most Aerolineas Argentinas routes were eliminated, essentially turning the carrier into a South American feeder for Iberia's hub in Madrid. The shell of what is left of Aerolineas Argentinas is on the verge of liquidation, saddled with $950 million in debt.

"Iberia sucked out most of the assets for their own purposes," said Andres Ricover, a Buenos Aires-based air-transport specialist. "There was deliberate mismanagement, funneling out Aerolineas Argentinas resources until the company was done in."

Even so, privatization also helped modernize Argentina. Before reforms, for instance, it took two or three years to get a telephone installed in Buenos Aires. It now takes a few hours. Additionally, the sale of the electric company — one of the few done through a bidding process — improved service dramatically, ending severe power shortages that plagued the country during the late 1980s.

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Caribbean rum threatened

Now the most lucrative market for Caribbean rum, the US, is threatened. These Caribbean producers have been operating under the special trade protection from the US. Now congress is debating allowing South American rums the same protection. It is feared that the Caribbean rums cannot compete as their Sout American counterparts have the advantage of more sugar and molasses, cheaper labor and lower energy costs.
It is estimated that the industry provides $160 million in foreign exchange and supports 10,000 jobs throughout the Caribbean.

Editor’s Note: A perplexing question that I have asked economists, Government Ministers and similar experts  is "Since devaluation makes a country’s products cheaper for exportation, how come, despite the precipitous fall of the Jamaican dollar in the past 20 years, probably more than most Caribbean countries, Jamaican rum continues to be the most expensive here in the US?"

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Worms in the calaloo

Hot Calaloo could be in trouble. Insect pests in the form of worms have eaten through several acres of calaloo throughout the parish of St. Catherine in Jamaica. The little green worms seemed resistant to pesticides and farmers affected are bemoaning their loss.

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WTO sanctions for US threatened

The shoe might be on the other foot as the European Union (EU) is threatening sanctions against the US. The European Union has announced that it would seek more than $4 billion in trade sanctions unless the United States amends a tax-credit program for American corporations that the World Trade Organization has declared violates international law.

The WTO judgment, reached by a panel of experts last month and made public recently, found that billions of dollars' worth of special tax breaks offered to Microsoft Corp., Boeing Co. and hundreds of other U.S. exporters amounted to an illegal subsidy that discriminates in favor of American products.

The decision comes at a sensitive time for the world's biggest commercial powers. They are struggling to resolve festering bilateral disputes and reach agreement on an agenda for a new round of global trade talks while the economies of the United States, Europe and Japan suffer from a steep downturn.

US threatens retaliation
The United States has warned the EU that pursuing the course of multibillion-dollar trade sanctions would provoke a wave of retaliatory measures by Congress that could disrupt global trade and plunge the world into an economic crisis.

U.S. Special Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick has likened any EU sanctions of that magnitude to "dropping a nuclear bomb" on the global trading system.

The Bush administration must now decide whether to appeal the decision, change the tax law or face sanctions on exports to Europe. Under WTO rules, the United States has 60 days to file an appeal. "We are weighing our options," said Richard Mills, a spokesman for the U.S. trade representative.

Earlier this month, chief executives of major U.S. companies that benefit from the law urged President Bush to appeal any negative ruling to buy more time to negotiate a solution.

Remember the banana war
The United States has generally backed the authority of the WTO as the court of last resort in trade disputes. In several key cases -- notably over banana imports -- the WTO has sided with the United States against the European Union. Now, the EU contends that the United States has the responsibility of bringing its tax regime into line with world trade rules.

The Bush administration has come under sharp criticism from European allies for its unilateral approach in challenging several international treaties, including those governing climate change, biological warfare and missile defense systems.

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Guyanese complain about Bajan officials

Guyanese are complaing that they are treated unfairly by Barbados immigration officials and are often denied entry into the country. It has become so grave a concern that it is an item for the upcoming CARICOM meeting of Heads of State. It is reported that the Guyanese Foreign Minister has written to his Barbadian counterpart on the subject.

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Students in Jamaica denied US visas

SEVERAL students in Jamaica who have been accepted at schools in the United States were disappointed when the United States Embassy denied them students' visas. It is reported that as high as 8 out of every students were turned down.

The students tell tales of being dismissed without having their documents checked, or being asked personal questions or for items which the school does not require.

Other students say the consular officers asked them for SAT scores (Scholastic Aptitude Test results required by most American universities), even though their schools accept Caribbean Examination Council results.

All the students had already paid the first term's fee of between US$1,700 and US$2,500 and went to the embassy with receipts and other documents.

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Caribbean Athletes excel in World Champs

Once again Caribbean athletes proved they are a force to be reckoned with in the recently concluded World Athletics Championships in Edmonton, Canada. As per usual, Cuba was the top Caribbean team , finishing 4th overall, behind winners US, followed by Russia, and Kenya. Cuba won 6 medals including 3 gold. Jamaica finished 12th with 5 medals, 1 gold, 2 silver and 2 bronze. Results involving Caribbean athletes are as follows:

World Champs Results

200m 2nd Chris Williams (Jam.); 3rd Kim Collins (St. Kitts)
400m 1st  Moncur Avard (Bah);3rd Gregory Haughton (Jam.)
110m hurdles 2nd Anier Garcia Cuba; 3rd Dudley Donival (Haiti)
400 m hurdles 1st Felix Sanchez (Dom Rep);
Long Jump 1st Ivan Pedrosa (Cuba)
4x100m relay 3rd  T&T
4x400 2nd Bahamas; 3rd Jamaica

200m 2nd Debbie Fergueson (Bah)
400m 2nd Lorraine Graham-Fenton (Jam.)
400m hurdles 3rd Daimi Pernia (Cuba)
4x100m relay 3rd Jamaica
4x400 1st Jamaica

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Janelle Atkinson wins  swimming Goodwill Games medal

Jamaica’s Janelle Atkinson became the first ever representative of the English-speaking Caribbean to win a swimming medal in the Goodwill games.
The 18-year-old took the silver in the women’s 800 meter freestyle. The event was won by Yana Klotchkova of the Ukraine and the American Adrienne Binder.
Atkinson won 5 gold medals in the Central American and Caribbean games in July, but missed the world championships because of knee surgery.

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Jamaica, T&T and US lose World Cup games

The first weekend in September was a bad one for the English speaking half of the CONCACAF qualifiers. The all played at home, and all went don to defeat. US lost to Honduras, but still remain in 2nd place with 13 points.
T&T lost to group leading Costa Rica 2-0. However, in my opinion they dominated the game. Dimunitive dread-locked T&T’s Dwarika looked unstoppable again.
Jamaica lost at home, the "office", for the first time since 1994. They led early 1-0, but as happens so often, they seemed to go on the defensive and their game gradually deteriorated. In the second half, they conceded the midfield to sag back and defend. Mexico welcomed that tactic and were rewarded with 2 goals. Mexico deserved the victory as the Reggae boyz just did not display the urgency and hustle so important a game required. They dropped to fifth place and have a mathematical chance of advancing if they win the three remaining games. So now it’s on to 3rd place Honduras on Wednesday Sept 5. And they will have to win without Onandi Lowe, Goodison and Darryl Powell.

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Sandals plan 3rd Hotel in Cuba

Gordon "Butch" Stewart, chairman/owner of both Sandals, the biggest Caribbean hotel chain and Air Jamaica has announced the setting up of a third Sandals hotel in Cuba. The Sandal Hicacos Resort and Spa will be ready for business in March of 2002. Sandals Beaches Varadero opened in Marc 1999 was the first and the brand new 5 star 404-suite resort is the second.

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Jamaica ambassador promoted but…

Jamaica’s ambassador to Washington, Dr. Richard Bernal, has been promoted to the Regional Negotiating Machinery (RNM) of CARICOM. He succeeds Sir Allister McIntyre who resigned earlier this year. The RNM was set up 4 years ago to give the Caribbeam a ‘single voice’ on the international trade arena.It has offices in London, Brussels, Washington and Barbados. It’s chief negotiator is Sir Shridath Ramphal.
However, there is a serious drawback. It is heading towards financial crash because many Caribbean countries fail to pay their dues. The arrears total about US$600,000 with the debts in US dollars by country as follows:

  • Jamaica - $38,000
  • Suriname and Dominican Republic - $473,875
  • Turks &Caicos - $2,225
  • Montserrat - $7,117
  • Guyana - $23,000
  • St. Vincent and the Grenadines - $19,000

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Sumfest star performers charged with profanity

Snoop Dogg, Ja Rule and Grammy award winning reggae star Beenie Man, were charged with using indecent language, "bad wud", in the recent Sumfest music festival in Montego Bay, Jamaica. The summons were served to their agents since the performers had already left the island, They are scheduled to appear in court on September 27.


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