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February 17 2014

February 14 2014

Carnival Love Songs From the Caribbean

The celebration of Valentine's Day in many Caribbean territories is usually overshadowed by Carnival, so the Global Voices Caribbean team thought it might be fun to marry the two concepts – pun intended. A few of us have chosen our favourite soca love songs, along with a few lines as to why we think they're appropriate for V-Day…

Our new author Jason Nathu‘s pick is “Flirt” by Farmer Nappy:

The lyrics perfectly capture the unspoken Carnival rule that it's okay to “‘tief a wine” – parlance that means all dancing in the spirit of the festival is fair game…because it's only for a moment and all in good fun:

There's no reason to take off the wedding ring
This is the season for the wining
The only thing you could make me take off tonight is meh shirt
‘Cause all I wanna do is flirt…with no strings attached
When ah hold on, ah go wine like dat
That sweet wok nah bother me
It doh make me guilty…

Jason explains:

In Trinidad and Tobago, there is a popular song that says ‘A little wine (dance) never hurt nobody'. To me that's something that's uniquely Trinidadian, that we can enjoy each other's company and flirt good-naturedly.

Author Matthew Hunte, who hails from St. Lucia and is known for his dry wit, says:

I think Valentine's Day is treacly and saccharine so this is the obvious choice…

Baron‘s This Soca is for You epitomizes the poetic Valentine's Day sentiment, which is made even richer – or more predictable, depending on where you stand on the sentimentality tolerance scale – by the singer's melodic vocals, which slip off his tongue as slowly and as sweetly as molasses:

From the moment I saw you I know we were meant to be
From then on to this day there's no regrets
There's no-one else in this world to spend this life with me
So to you, I pay all my respects
God bless the day that I found you, baby
With you by my side and your love to guide me
Honey, baby, doux doux…this soca is for you

Of course, I had to put in my two cents’ worth – and because Jason already covered flirtation and Matt made his case for romantic love – I thought I'd go for love of Carnival – and nothing says that for me like David Rudder's ode to Calypso music:

Can you hear a distant drum bouncing on the laughter of a melody?
And does the rhythm tell you ‘come, come, come, come'?
Does your spirit do a dance to this symphony?
Does it tell you that your heart is afire?
And does it tell you that your pain is a liar?
Does it wash away all your unlovely?
Well, are you ready for a brand new discovery?
Calypso, calypso, calypso music…

Isn't that what love – at least the highest form of it – is supposed to do? It's meant to be transformative, to make you better, more joyous, to bring you closer to who you really are. In the Caribbean, our love of Carnival gets us pretty close. Happy St. Valentine's Day!

St. Lucian Chef Nina Compton Still the People's Champ

Saint Lucian chef Nina Compton, daughter of the late Prime Minister John Compton, was recently the runner-up for the 11th season of the cooking reality show Top Chef. Nicholas Elmi eventually won, but Compton's participation on the show was a major topic of discussion on social media, particularly in the online group Saint Lucians Aiming for Progress.

The group organized a public screening of the Top Chef finale at the Derek Walcott Square in the middle of the island's capital. Many observers were surprised that Compton was not named the winner, but she did manage to clinch the “Fan Favorite” award and the US $10,000 prize that went along with it – an indication of the high level of online support she received. After the show, Compton was named a “culinary ambassador” by Saint Lucia's Minister of Tourism, Lorne Theophilus.

Compton received massive support over Twitter via the hashtags #TeamNina, #TeamGreenFigAndSaltFish, #Team758 and #NinaNation. Some users of the microblogging service voiced their displeasure with her second place finish, but most were more concerned about congratulating her on her success:

One Twitter user sardonically suggested that Compton could have won she had used his suggestion:

Trinidadian fashion designer Anya Ayoung-Chee, who won the fashion competition Project Runway in 2011, also tweeted her support for Compton:

January 10 2014

PHOTOS: Christmas Flooding in the Eastern Caribbean

On Christmas Eve several islands in the Eastern Caribbean, including Dominica, Saint Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, were affected by a tropical wave that resulted in several hours of rainfall, severe flooding and over a dozen deaths.

Many people were trapped and stranded because they were making last minute preparations for Christmas celebrations.

Saint Lucia, which still bears the scars from Hurricane Tomas in 2010, saw extensive flooding and the destruction of several bridges in the south-west of the island, isolating some communities. At least five deaths were reported, including one police officer who died in the course of a rescue effort.

A section of the Anse Ger Road in Saint Lucia collapsed

Terminal of the Hewanorra International Airport in Vieux Fort, Saint Lucia

Terminal of the Hewanorra International Airport in Vieux Fort, Saint Lucia

In the online group St. Lucians Aiming for Progress, several people, particularly from the diaspora, organized to send relief to those in need. Many questioned the public information (or the lack thereof) relayed by the National Emergency Organization and the Meteorological Office prior to the storm.

Wayne Vitalis was very critical of Saint Lucia's emergency management:

Martinique's Met Office denies radar malfunction; St. Lucia's Met Office denies radar malfunction …….. But some Lucians deny incompetence. The Lord cannot help us with that! NEMO must answer for what they told the nation, not to mention the chaotic/non-response to guiding and coordinating the nation's response to the disaster. 

Ananias Verneuil wondered if the fact that the storm came outside of the recognized hurricane season (June to November) could explain the response:

In my opinion this system came after normal hurricane season and therefore it was not considered to be cyclonic. In this regard, we all were caught with our pants down. It was a trough that contained unusual amount of rainfall that could not have been estimated before the down pour.

Minerva Ward sarcastically responded that it was unfair to expect the emergency services to be at work during the Christmas season:

Now I beginning to find yall real rude and outta place to expect NEMO and the Met Office to be working on Christmas Eve! Don't you'll know Christmas week everyting in government shut down. Yall actually expect government employees to be working?? The ppl must have been out on their shopping day you'll deh stressing the ppl with a stupid little upper level trough. Yall really expecting a lot!! So what if the whole country washes out to sea, it's Christmas and u dun know how tings run in St Lucia.

Fred Walcott felt that it would be prudent to find out what happened in the neighboring islands regarding the storm warning:

How did the other islands fare? Did they receive adequate notification? Were they prepared? What, if any, was the impact if they did receive adequate notice? This not an attempt to absolve NEMO or any other agency responsible for alerting the public. With enough notice people in flood prone areas can be persuaded to move to higher ground, companies can elevate their sensitive gear above known flood levels and cover same with damp-proof material. etc, etc. pre- Disaster mitigation procedures can be initiated. Like the island all utilities should have a disaster plan and execute regular disaster drills.

 

Runway of the Hewanorra International Airport.

Runway of the Hewanorra International Airport.

The Piaye Bridge in the south-west of Saint Lucia was washed away.

The Piaye Bridge in the Southwest of Saint Lucia was washed away.

Part of the Vieux Fort highway,which had been originally been constructed as part of a U.S. base in the 1940s, collapsed

Part of the Vieux Fort highway,which had been originally been constructed as part of a U.S. base in the 1940s, collapsed

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Gas Station in Bexon

House in Bexon

House in Bexon

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Flood damage in Bexon

Canaries Bridge , part of Saint Lucia's West Coast Highway, was washed away.

Canaries Bridge , part of Saint Lucia's West Coast Highway, was washed away.

While there was flooding in Dominica, the self-proclaimed land of 365 rivers, there has been no report of casualties. However, Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit has estimated that the rehabilitation works would cost approximately EC$45 million dollars.

Elmshall Bridge in Dominica

Elmshall Bridge in Dominica

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Flooding in Roseau, Dominica

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Mudslide in Citronnier, Dominica

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Streets in Dominica filled with mud,

In St. Vincent, initial reports were that eight people (including children) died as a result of the storm, with some people still being reported as missing. The storm damage was particularly severe in the North Leeward region of the island. According to media reports, the E.T. Joshua Airport and the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital were both surrounded by water. The Grenadines escaped serious damage.

Caratal Bridge in Georgetown, St. Vincent.

Caratal Bridge in Georgetown, St. Vincent.

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Flood damage in Georgetown, St. Vincent.

 

Flood damage in St. Vincent

Flood damage in St. Vincent

 

House in Rose Bank Where Five People Died.

House in Rose Bank Where Five People Died.

The photos above are used with the permission of Tamiko Sabrina, Johnson Jkube James, Linus Cauzabon, Natalia Bhajan, and Yukanka Daniel.

Reposted byniklash niklash

December 12 2013

The Caribbean Ponders the Legacy of Nelson Mandela

With nearly a week gone since the announcement of Nelson Mandela's death, Caribbean bloggers have had time to process their thoughts on his life and his legacy.

St. Lucia-based Caribbean Book Blog noted that the island joined the international community “in celebrating the life of one of the world’s most beloved and revered leaders”:

Among the many virtues for which Nelson Mandela will be remembered is the way in which he was able to transcend politics, race and class, and recast himself in the role of a sagacious elder and father figure to all and sundry, even other political leaders and heads of state…

Nelson Mandela, photo by Festival Karsh Ottawa

Nelson Mandela, photo by Festival Karsh Ottawa

The post recalled Mandela's 1998 visit to St. Lucia, to attend the 19th Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community:

Mandela’s humility, grace and charisma were evident…During the visit [he] attended a youth rally hosted in his honour. In his typically warm, affectionate style he charmed the youths and embraced them as they came up to greet him. Dispensing with protocol, he laughed and danced with them. He then offered them some inspiring words of wisdom and encouraged them to use education as a tool to become leaders. He urged them not to be discouraged by poverty.

The blog also reiterated Mandela's agreement with the notion that CARICOM has been at the forefront of the apartheid struggle; it ended by quoting Mandela's parting words to the St. Lucian people:

‘St Lucia is one of the most beautiful places I’ve visited. Its beauty is breathtaking. I know that one day I will die for a very, very long time but visiting St Lucia seems to guarantee to me that it will take some time before death prevails over me.’
He uttered those words in all seriousness. Fifteen years later they seem to have been quite prescient.

Jamaican diaspora blogger Can a Jamaican Take Cali? said that Mandela's example helped to shape his own life:

I remember vividly walking around my house singing ‘Free them President Botha’ the song that as a kid I was taught as part of the ‘struggle against apartheid'. Quick history Botha was the head of South Africa in the 80s and his government kept up a brutal crack down on Mandela, his ANC brethren and blacks in general. It has always bothered me that Botha was able to live out his life without ever going to prison – I really believe he should have died in prison, just as many of us feared Mandela would. To my knowledge Botha never apologized for apartheid, I find that hard to stomach but if Mandela could forgive him…maybe I should.

He also hoped that more young people would learn about Mandela's struggle:

Nelson Mandela always struck me as a man of poise, graciousness and strength of character, I sadly do not think enough of today's youths know who he is and honor and respect him enough. Hopefully his death, like much of his early life will renew in young black youth a sense of purpose a sense of internal pride and maybe just maybe a moment of deep reflection.

Mandela statue outside Drakenstein prison, in silhouette; photo by HelenSTB

Mandela statue outside Drakenstein prison, in silhouette; photo by HelenSTB

The synchronicity of honouring Mandela on the occasion of World Human Rights Day was not lost on Jamaican litblogger Geoffrey Philp, while Breezeblog, from Bermuda, commended Mandela for leading by example:

If you or I were imprisoned unjustly for 27 years, much of it in solitary confinement, as Nelson Mandela was, we’d probably come out bitter and hellbent on exacting revenge on those responsible.

In the UK in the late 1970s, when I was in my teens and early 20s, many of my generation were seething at that injustice and the evils of the South African government’s apartheid system. Indeed, at a time when the right-wing National Front was on the rise, we were pretty worked up about racism in general. If we weren’t taking part in Free Mandela marches or concerts, then it was an Anti-Racism or Anti-Nazi League rally. We vilified those businesses or sportsmen who broke government sanctions and went to South Africa.

But if we believed that Nelson Mandela would one day be released, I don’t think any of us would have predicted that he would become the country’s first black President and that instead of spearheading the ANC in bloody retribution against their oppressors, he would lead an astonishing and courageous reconciliation that helped heal a bitterly divided nation and avoid almost certain civil war.

Nelson Mandela was already a hero of mine before he left prison. His dignity and humility after his release made him, in my eyes and those of millions of others, the greatest human being of our lifetime whose ideals and integrity put every other statesman in the world to shame.

Interestingly, the post also explored other opinions:

There were many other South Africans who viewed Madiba differently, as I found out when I finally got to visit the country in 2010 for the World Cup…As far as Frankie, the tough white lady who ran the guest house just outside Johannesburg where we stayed, was concerned, Mandela was still
‘a bloody terrorist'. Having grown up in a racist family and been violently assaulted in her own home by black criminals, Frankie feared and distrusted all blacks, viewed the ANC government as corrupt crooks and believed South Africa was going to hell in a hand basket.

The blogger, Chris Gibbons, was careful to note that:

Mandela’s Rainbow Nation is an incredibly complex country where racial and tribal divisions will take generations to heal, if at all, and the gap between the manicured wealthy suburbs and the grinding poverty of the townships remains jaw-droppingly vast.

But what Mandela did was to start South Africa on that journey, to offer hope where none existed and show that by working together and putting aside their differences, people can achieve truly remarkable things.

Another Bermudian blogger, Catch a Fire, felt that:

The best way to honour Mandela – the myth if not the man – is to renew the commitment to building a better world and launching a second liberation struggle.

This next liberation struggle is as relevant to Bermuda, the Caribbean and everywhere as it is in South Africa.

This second liberation struggle must overcome the covert and structural racism which still haunts our lands and even at a global level; it must also be a struggle against the colonialism of the mind, of colonial mentalities.

Even more, this second liberation struggle must be against a socio-economic system – capitalism – that threatens to consign whole generations and populations to the dust-heap, that thrives on war and that poisons our very planet, all in the pursuit of profit and not in the pursuit of realising our human potential.

Nelson Mandela sculpture by Marco Cianfanelli; photo by Fr Lawrence Lew, O.P.

Nelson Mandela sculpture by Marco Cianfanelli; photo by Fr Lawrence Lew, O.P.

Ivan Garcia offered a perspective from Cuba:

Madiba leaves as a legacy a master class of how to do politics in difficult times.

The current statesmen should take note. Mandela was not perfect. He was labeled a communist and disruptive, and until 2008 the FBI had him on their list of ‘terrorists.’ But he knew how to maneuver in the turbulent waters of a nation where state racism prevailed, in the intrigues of his party, the African National Congress, and to achieve the miracle of national unity in South Africa.

The colossal undertaking began in jail. From a cell in Robben Prison, where for 27 years he was behind bars, until 1994 when Madiba became president, he understood that in conditions of political fragility, his mission was to make sure that everyone saw themselves represented in the first democratic government of their country.

He was a president for all South Africans.

In his five years in office, Mandela sat chair of his magnificent policy. His ethics, honesty, and transparency were his hallmark. He was a partner of one and all, without ever compromising his political perspective. A man of diplomacy and respect for others.

His great friend in the Americas, Fidel Castro, retired from power, could also learn some lessons in transparency from Mandela’s conduct.

The post then compared the two leaders:

No one can doubt the sincere friendship that joined Castro with Madiba. But the two statesmen are nothing alike in their methods of achieving national harmony. If Fidel Castro had been like Nelson Mandela, he long ago would have been sitting at the table to negotiate with his political opponents.

First he would have visited with the dissidents. Then with the White House. If Mandela had been Castro, the embargo would be ancient history. That ability of Mandela’s — to adapt to changing times and live with democratic rules — is something the former Cuban president does not have.

In Cuba we would have needed a Nelson Mandela.

Diaspora blog Capitol Hill Cubans agreed that despite the friendship between the two, “Fidel Castro is the anti-thesis of everything that Mandela represents”:

Castro himself heads an undemocratic, apartheid regime.

However, to Castro's chagrin, upon being democratically-elected as President of South Africa, Mandela rejected everything Castro stood for.

Mandela could have taken the path of Castro or Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe. He could have become ruler-for-life, confiscated the nation's vast wealth and made it his personal fiefdom.

Yet, Mandela chose the path of human rights, free markets and representative democracy. Moreover, he refused to serve more than one-term.

There is no greater test of a man than when he is given power.

Haitian bloggers were full of praise for Mandela. Le Coin de Pierre [Fr] compared him to Toussaint Louverture:

Ils ont eu le même idéal de liberté et d'émancipation de l'homme noir.

They had the same ideal of freedom and emancipation of the black man.

HaitiRozo called Mandela the leader that “brought the world together” and The Haitian Blogger posted a poem that urged readers to remember Mandela as he was, because the struggle still continues.

Trinidadian diaspora blogger Afrobella wrote a hopeful post, structured around some of Mandela's most famous quotations, which suggested ways in which all of us can live a life more like Nelson Mandela's:

We have lost one of the world’s greatest. We have lost a man who changed the world. We have lost one of the most iconic human beings, a living symbol of freedom and hope and the power of change. The weight of that loss cannot be understated.

He was a troublemaker for peace. He achieved so much and inspired so many. Now that he has passed, we can only pray that he rests in peace and power, and that his life’s legacy will continue to be one of inspiration, greatness and equality for all.

In the wake of Nelson Mandela’s death, I can’t help but consider the ways we could live up to such a legacy. Mandela’s shoes are so big, you might wonder what a regular person could do to fill them. I say, measure your life in terms of your intentions and your steadfastness, and celebrate Mandela’s legacy by speaking out for what’s right, leading by example, and sticking to your ideals.

September 20 2013

St. Lucia: Hair's the Issue

[The Principal] believes that if he allows this…long haired boy, who never did anything wrong at the school, to enter the classroom, then chaos will prevail…[but] by resisting the simple, inevitable change, HE is falling into the trap of the being the agent of Chaos.

The FLOGG BLOGG is incensed over the unconstitutional behaviour of his Alma Mater.

August 07 2013

The Politics of Language in St. Lucia

In Saint Lucia, the election of former Tourism Minister Allan Chastanet as political leader of the opposition United Workers Party has brought issues of language, culture and class to the fore.

Chastanet's perceived lack of fluency in creole (also known as “Kweyol” and “Patois”) has been deemed by some to be a major liability for his political career. The discussion of this issue in the Facebook group St. Lucians Aiming for Progress (S.L.A.P) was vigourous:

Wilson Jn. Baptiste felt that many of those criticizing Chastanet had problems just mastering English:

Some of you all cannot even write a complete sentence in English but you are the same ones complaining that Allen Chastanet cannot speak patois.

Poet Kendel Hippolyte believed that the situation of creole needed to be placed in a wider context:

The discussion could broaden out and have a better context perhaps if it took on board a few FACTS: (1) that Kweyol is an international language – Martinique, Guadeloupe, Cayenne, Dominica, Haiti, Seychelles, Mauritius and among small sections of the population in Trinidad, Grenada and Venezuela (someone also told me Brazil but i've never verified that); (2) that in terms of number of speakers, it is second in the Caribbean – after Spanish; (3) that all languages – English included – begin as purely oral and take on the component of literacy to the extent that the society responds to the initiative, from whatever source, to popularise literacy in it. Wales is an outstanding example. No one else in the word speaks Welsh, so it is not an international language. And a generation ago, it was considered a dying language. Now, due to the initiative to systematise and teach the writing system, written Welsh is everywhere: road signs, newspapers, textbooks etc. And not at the expense of English either. In fact, there's the unusual phenomenon of the younger generation being fluent and literate in the language that some parents cannot speak, much less write. And i'm not writing of what i've heard or read, but what i've seen. There's a far better case for this happening with Kweyol than there was for Welsh. The reasons it's not happening has much more to do with our pathetic, second-hand U$A notions of development than anything else.

Uriah St. Juste thought that anyone seeking to hold such high political office in St. Lucia should be fluent in creole:

Personally I think a person putting themselves up to be prime minister of Saint Lucia should be fluent in patois. There are many folk in our the nation who are functionally illiterate in English. While they may understand a few basic sentences in English, complex ideas expressed in English are beyond them. They are usually left in the dark when leaders only communicate in English. This is why in 1997 the Labour Party changed the rules of parliament to include creole as well as a means of communicating when doing the people's business on their behalf especially when they could now listen and watch, a thing they could not do before and a significant number of persons were left in the dark. Do we really want to go back to those days?

Amatus Edward was of the opinion that people who can only understand creole would be unlikely to grasp such complex issues anyway:

If you come across anyone who can't understand English and only understands Kweyol; they are still doomed to the knowledge level of basic english as the kweyol that they know does not capture the complex issues that you referred to. For example, if your grand dad does not understand the word ‘computer’ and does not understand what it is in english, he would not know it in Kweyol as his kweyol vocabulary would not have a word for it.

So the people whom you all claim can only understand kweyol would still be lost as there are (sic) quite bit that you can't translate to them in the kweyol that they know, not the new kweyol vocab that only the readers of english know.

Urban Dolor suggested that the issue was more about cultural awareness as opposed to language skills:

I don't think this is all about whether Mr. Chastenet can speak/understand/ Kwéyòl. I think more of it has to do with whether he has the experiences that would have allowed him to speak (or at least understand) that language. Now if he has not been exposed to the experiences that allows a person to become a Kwéyòl speaker I think it would be extremely difficult for him to understand the lives of Kwéyòl speakers. If he has the experience but chose not to learn the language then that may well be saying something else – he is either unable to learn [languages] quickly or he is condescending – I don't think either of these augers well for him.

Dolor continued:

The Corollary of what I have offered is that even if Mr. Chastenet were to take crash courses in speaking Kwéyòl he would still be handicapped without an ability to understand the experiences that would have shaped the lives of the Kwéyòl speaker. Why should we have a leader who is incapable of empathizing with a significant portion of the electorate?

Ian Charles wondered if there might be a double standard:

Sigh, this ‘can the white Saint Lucian man speak patios’ argument is a very pointless argument. I know MANY people, MANY PEOPLE who are black Saint Lucians and cannot speak more than patois cuss words. How many northern kids can speak a word in Patois?Juk bois has on occasion, gotten upset with his guests for not being able to speak patois! For me, the important issue is whether AC can identify with the circumstances, realities and challenges of the people he seeks to represent. If no, and if that is critical, then what of the argument that persons who did not hail from a community cannot or should not run that constituency in an election? I thought the reason for the latter was that those persons did not know the people or could not identify with them. Lastly, I think the unability of AC to speak fluent patois is excellent. It has placed an important cultural issue on the front burner. But if speaking creole is integral to our claim to true lucianism, then shouldn't we ALL be able to? And if Chastanet decides to take classes, what of the other black Saint Lucians who can't speak patois? Also, if AC learns Patois, would that then satisfy our requirements for representation? I see this as a case of be careful what you wish for!

Jan Lawrence took the position that ultimately all that matters is results:

You don't necessarily have to be poor to empathize wii (sic) people and most importantly work to change things, you don't have to speak patois for your message to get across. Less talk, show me what you have done and a plan for what you can do. And a PM is not a standalone figure, let the reps go out to their constituents passing along the message in whatever ‘language’ bet (sic) suited but again it's…in the doing. Anyone with a platform can promise anything but shoe (sic) me results and then we have reason to talk. And results can be understood in any and every ‘language'.

July 09 2013

Caribbean: Tropical Storm Chantal

Tropical Storm Chantal has caused the temporary closure of some regional airports and the cancellation of flights. The Bajan Reporter has the latest.

May 18 2013

Is Saint Lucia's Jazz Festival Worth the Investment?

The end of this year's Saint Lucia Jazz and Arts Festival, especially in the context of the country's ongoing budget debates, has led many netizens to wonder about the economic impact of the event.

In the Facebook group St. Lucians Aiming for Progress (S.L.A.P), Wilson Baptiste held out no hope that the festival would ever turn a profit:

Should the St. Lucia Jazz be classified as a social program like STEP, NICE, SMILE, HOPE? As a result, this will remove the expectations of generating a surplus for the island's tourism industry.

Mainstage, Sunday; photo courtesy Lucian Jazz.com, used with permission.

Mainstage, Sunday; photo courtesy Lucian Jazz.com, used with permission.

Iain Sandy felt that managing the festival had its own benefits apart from creating revenue:

On a serious note, the execution of a Jazz Festival with all its moving parts, its external components and the risk of experimenting with the festival, was no easy feat. We must understand that we are still a young nation and have not had exposure and experience in many areas. As a result, we will make errors and we will go over budgets in executing these events. Therefore, with this backdrop, we should all commend the Jazzereras for an outstanding Jazz 2013.

Moko Jumbies; photo courtesy Lucian Jazz.com, used with permission.

Moko Jumbies; photo courtesy Lucian Jazz.com, used with permission.

Commendations aside, Anderson Queto wondered how profitable the festival actually was:

Hey…does anyone know if we made back the $8M spent for Jazz?

Kimani Goddard responded:

The Jazz Festival is an event held to create a multiplier effect in the economy that would not otherwise not be there at this time of year. It creates business opportunities in several sectors of the economy that go beyond what government spends in terms of social and economic impact. Breaking even in terms of gov't expenditure plus the multiplier effect I mentioned before should be considered successful.

 Leigh Allan suggested that more could be done to spread the benefits of the festival:

Does Jazz have to make a profit, break even or make a loss? I think jazz when it was created way back when was designed to fill up hotel rooms with tourists that would spend in and around jazz events. I'd be happy if more locals got a piece of the pie and opportunities to profit and participate in the events. This season was great mostly because it allowed more communities to benefit at the actual events than ever before. Hopefully in the future Jazz events will be held in even more communities and include even more locals.

R. Kelly; photo courtesy LucianJazz.com, used with permission.

R. Kelly; photo courtesy LucianJazz.com, used with permission.

The Jacksons

The Jacksons; photo courtesy Three Media, used with permission.

The images in this post are by LucianJazz.com and Three Media, all used with permission.

April 26 2013

Chronicler of Saint Lucian History Remembered

Historian and conservationist Robert Devaux was laid to rest this week, having passed away on the morning of April 16th 2013, after a battle with cancer. St. Lucian netizens have been paying tribute to a man many consider to be an environmental hero and national visionary.

A founding member of both the Saint Lucia Research Centre and the Saint Lucia National Trust, where he served as president for many years, Devaux also authored several books on the island's rich history, the last of which was 2012′s “A History of Saint Lucia”.

A biography posted by Tony Williams on the Caribbean Book Blog highlighted Devaux's contribution to to research in Saint Lucia:

Born in Castries in 1934, Mr Devaux devoted most of his life to studying and documenting the history of St Lucia and the island’s natural habitat and ecosystems, as well as its rich and diverse cultural heritage. He was a strong advocate for the preservation of the island’s archaeological sites and its historical relics. Along with other local environmentalists he played a major role in helping to raise public awareness of the importance of environmental conservation and the protection of St Lucia’s unique ecology, wildlife and and landscape.

The post also touched on his archaeological work:

A former field engineer, Mr Devaux was an avid participant in archaeological digs. He is credited with re-discovering numerous historical sites, including the ruins of early Arawak and Carib settlements and the forest hideouts of the Brigands, former runaway slaves considered to be the island’s first freedom fighters because of their resistance and rebellion against the brutal oppression of French and British colonists and planters in the mid to late 18th century.

The Facebook page for Lighthouse Road Publications, which was established to publish “A History of Saint Lucia”, also included information about Devaux's work:

In 1961, Devaux founded the St Lucia Research Centre (incorporated in 1994), producing dozens of research papers on a wide range of topics, usually following a request by government, corporate or private entities for information on (occasionally obscure) details of St Lucia's past. The decades of meticulous research spent on those papers were put to good use in ‘A History of St Lucia', which Robert co-authored along with Jolien Harmsen and Guy Ellis.

According a tribute posted to Facebook, Devaux worked hard to protect Saint Lucia's heritage, even when it sometimes seemed futile:

Sadly, he spent too much time fighting to be heard. Imagine how much more of our heritage would be preserved for future generations if there were more people like him. He lost some of his hardest-fought battles: when he tried to stop the development between the Pitons, he was relieved of his duties on the board of the Development Control Authority; his proposal to create a wetland at La Tourney was shot down by the Port Authority; and his effort to save the east coast trail (four miles of trail that he built single-handedly) fell on deaf ears when the developers of Le Paradis started talking.

The tribute continued:

He had a vision for St. Lucia – one that put conservation and heritage preservation on par with development. He was a realist: he never tried to prevent development; instead he preached sustainable development. He never rejected a project without suggesting an alternative that would accomplish similar economic goals without compromising the nation’s heritage. He despaired of how much we have squandered, but he would want us to fight for what little is left of our beaches, our rainforests, our wildlife, and our historic sites. He believed that it is our duty to make our little piece of the world a little better. He certainly did that.

Robert Devaux was the recipient of several awards, including being named an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1991.

April 15 2013

Who Owns St. Lucia's Beaches…Citizens or Celebrities?

St. Lucians can usually visit any beach they choose, but thanks to a recent celebrity wedding, the beach surrounding a local resort was deemed off limits, raising longstanding questions about beach access and the cost benefits of large resorts.

The catalyst to the discussion was actor Matt Damon's renewal of his wedding vows to his wife Luciana Barroso. The event, which included several other A-list celebrities, took place at the Sugar Beach Resort near the town of Soufriere: Damon booked the entire high-end, 78-room property. As a result, not only beach access, but also fishing activities in the area were restricted; netizens had a lot to say about the move.

In the Facebook group St. Lucians Aiming for Progress the debate was raging, with some arguing that it was no big deal, especially since the island would benefit from the international attention, while others like Iain Sandy, saw the restriction of access and bringing the island further down a slippery slope:

You know… As someone born in the Caribbean who did not appreciate what I had until I lived away from it for 30 years or so, I'll tell you that I understand those who don't get it. I've met a lot of lucians who can't remember the last time they went anywhere near the beach (or the mountains for that matter). I can tell you that I've also been in countries where the hotels have managed to own, or to make it extremely uncomfortable for locals to access beaches… and it always starts with ‘just’ one beach. It always starts with ‘you people need to understand we are getting revenue'.

Minerva Ward wondered about the priorities of those who made the decision:

What is the priority? The privacy of celebrities who visit St Lucia? The economic benefits of celebrities visiting St Lucia vs. the social cost? The possible airtime St Lucia can gain from from a celebrity visit? The economic losses to locals who are displaced or whose businesses are disrupted from a celebrity visit? The protection of our rights as St Lucians despite the perceived or potential benefits? Do we discard our constitutional rights as St Lucians to make a celebrity happy? Who makes that decision and under what law do they have that authority? What is the priority for you?

She added that if locals begin to resent the tourism industry, everyone will suffer:

There is a theory in tourism called the Index of Irritation that a tourist destination goes through: Euphoria-> Apathy-> Annoyance-> Antagonism. We have to be very careful, when we intrude on the rights of citizens, impact their income, place the desires of tourists [above] their own or not control the negative social impacts of tourism, that we do not quickly reach the stage [of] Annoyance and Antagonism. Then we will truly be shooting ourselves in the foot as the friendliness and hospitality once displayed to visitors will turn into annoyance, hostility and even possibly crimes against tourists.

Amatus Edward felt that the issue was being overblown and that the compromises being made were nothing new:

Tourism is a service organization and we are giving up alot of things to get the money. It is nothing uncommon for us to be giving up rights for the sake of money. There is no stench. We are splitting hairs.

What is a weekend? Some of you have not been to the beach in years. What [if] it was a stormy weekend? We are shooting ourselves in the foot. Grow up my sisters and brothers.

Paul Clifford felt that those who were saying the exposure would be worth it were missing the big picture:

This isn't about a few dollars compensation for fisherpeople & water taxi operators living a hand-to-mouth existence… this is about Lucians being cut out of Tourism Industry development… limited to service industry jobs, ‘managers’ of outside interests.

Leo Robinson thought that no matter what, there will always be tradeoffs:

This is nothing new. If we want to play in this business on a big scale, these are some of the inconveniences we have to deal with. There is a price to pay for everything. Nothing comes free. If we drilling for oil, we have to be prepared to deal with the pollution and the oil spills. If we attract huge sports events, we give the government the authority to shut down public roads, schools, etc. Who call the shots, not me, not you. We gave the government the authority to do that when we elect[ed] them to be custodians of the country. My right to go to the beach to build sandcastles to me is a selfish and small matter, when we dealing with the greater good for the country. There are many other beaches on which I can go and build sandcastles.

Shazi Chalon argued that areas are restricted for economic reasons in other places all the time:

The biggest money earner in New York is the movie industry…on any given day the subway, the streets, entire areas are blocked off for the movie crew and actors from a people who value their freedom of movement, without any complaints from the citizens of the Big Apple!!!

Leigh Allain felt that not enough notice was given for the restrictions

None of us would be talking about this if the Soufriere population was told in advance. If locals were informed early no one would care because everyone would have had more than enough time to make other plans. Everyone would right now be wishing the happy couple the best and thanks for the publicity and early notice of their plans. Imagine planning and paying a guide to trail the Pitons and only upon arrival you find [it's] boarded up because someone is making a movie or documentary? The REAL DANGER AND THREAT is that this is just the tip of the iceberg which someday will mean the Pitons, National Park and beaches will all be fenced up and guarded from locals and foreigners unless they pay and I don't mean small fees but hotel day passes etc. Traveling abroad I learn[ed] to appreciate just driving to the beach and having a good time in St.Lucia without going through a hotel and security, which only happens after I shell out money.

Gerry George said that the beach closure was less of an issue than, the protocol that was needed:

It should be perfectly ok to close off the beach whenever and wherever required. HOWEVER, there should be a standardized and clear procedure for doing so. This should involve consultation and notices to the potential affected persons (stakeholders), and payment of the necessary licenses and permits to the relevant stakeholders. There would also be compensation if necessary for those disadvantaged (whose livelihoods will be negatively impacted). Those compensation levels would be negotiated and handled also by the relevant custodians. They should also be made to comply with the standard requirements of crowd gatherings…emergency requirements, police/security presence, etc. The point is that there may be times when resources (streets, etc) may be made unavailable to the general public, and there should be rules and procedures by which this is done. This has noting to do with celebrity status, and so we should not rely on adhoc rules made up on the spot. Also, the hotel should not be the one to make the decision of closing the beach, [nor] should [it] be the one [to] profit from its closure (a guest paying them to close it) at their discretion, as the beach is not their exclusive property.

March 26 2013

How Will St. Lucia's Civil Servant Strike Turn Out?

Earlier this month, the Civil Service Association (CSA) in Saint Lucia rejected the government's offer of a 4.5% increase in salaries, along with benefits. The CSA members put forward a 9.5% increase and have threatened industrial action if their demands are not met. The various unions representing the police, nurses and teachers accepted the government's offer, even though they, along with the CSA, are part of the Trade Union Federation (TUF). Just about a week ago, the CSA began strike action – and the impasse has dominated online conversation in the country as netizens discuss issues like the size of the public service, St. Lucia's debt burden and the state of the trade union movement.

Patricia LaForce criticized the public servants who have been showing up at work, for their lack of solidarity:

I do not think it is right for members of a union to not go on strike when there is a legal strike. You cannot remain a member of the union and cross the picket line. My work is important to me but so is the communal responsibility as a member of a trade union; I expect support from my trade union and so I feel it as a duty to provide them with the support through this strike.

Nyla Mondesir, on the other hand, felt that individuals should make their own choices:

Not every union member stands in solidarity with the union. It is also their right to not strike if they don't support the reason for it.

Julian Williams countered that some who refuse to take part in the strike would also be beneficiaries of the action:

Patricia, what about that. You are a member of a union that is demanding a 9% wage increase and its assumed that you also need or deserve a 9% wage increase. Part of the legal bargaining process is a resort to strike action to strengthen the union demands for that wage increase. You didn't attend union meeting[s] and didn't vote for strike action that will lead to an increase. Therefore you don't have to strike because you did not vote for strike action. If the wage increase is implemented, Patricia would definitely be entitled to a 9% monthly salary increase. Question: Assuming that the salary increase is implemented, would you be that sincere and subtract the 9% increase from your salary every month and return it to the treasury since you never voted to strike?

There was also a response to a government press release which included a reminder to the CSA that the government was not obligated to pay persons who did not show up for work – but Rosie Martha Gaspard wondered why the union considered this a threat and didn't just use its own funds to compensate the workers:

 Where di money gone? whereeee? I have been paying my union dues now for 20 plus years so you mean if I do not get paid by my employer the union has no money to pay me not even a cobo? that is the question to be asked now! in the event that the GOSL just decides not to pay what is going to happen?

Ruth Albert responded:

Thank you, God that I'm not a member of any union. Praise Jah!

Jadia Jn. Pierre-Emmanuel , the government press secretary, was careful not to take a position on the matter but felt it was wrong to downplay the importance of unions:

I think it is unfair to simply dismiss the union, it's (sic) role and importance because of their handling of the current impasse. There needs to be, in my mind a review of how WE do things. I am careful not to offer any opinion pieces given the current situation, but I beg you, do not lose faith in the union or any agency who's (sic) role is to protect the rights of the worker, based on the current situation.

Augustin Charles sought to the correct the perception of those who claimed it would be unprecedented for a government to withhold payment from striking workers:

 In 1979, I was a young public servant who took part in the historic 59-day strike.I didn't get any pay during the strike period and I fully understood that Gov't was under no obligation to pay. Thanks to the largesse of Allan Louisy/SLP Administration who won the elections and went in to fulfill a campaign promise to reimburse us. We welcomed it.

Peter Thomas felt that the union should have known that the government wasn't obligated to pay workers during the strike:

Any trade unionist worth his or her salt would have studied the labor code to be in a position to better counsel their membership and also to challenge the employer when elements of the code are being violated. The government has the prerogative to invoke the ‘no work no pay’ policy but hopefully prudence will be the government's watchword and decide against it. The government should not appear to be excessively punitive and send a message that a legal, though ill-advised, industrial action by a trade union must be met with a heavy hand.

He added that it may be time for the union to reconsider its position:

On the other hand, the union having overplayed it's (sic) hand, with this strike should not expect to stay away from work for an indeterminate amount of time and expect that courtesy from the government. While it would be hard for the union to capitulate at this stage they need not make a bad situation worse by foolish intransigence.

Caron Tobiere wasn't sure that the union was strong enough to force the government's hand on the issue of paying striking workers:

Historically striking workers have been paid because the union was able to negotiate that as a condition of workers returning to work. That was possible because the union was strong enough to do that …. I am not convinced that this time around the same position holds.

She continued:

When have you ever heard a union leader in St Lucia say ‘workers are on strike’ – and not have a plan in place, something that continues to galvanize workers – picketing etc; usually the phrase is ‘industrial action'. There has always been hesitancy in saying ‘strike’ because leaders are aware that once you confirm that, the ‘no work, no pay’ policy can come into play.

Amatus Edward suggested a solution:

IS THIS A GOOD COMPROMISE? Government goes ahead and award[s] the increase but amortizes the payment of the backpay over the next trienium (sic) with the first payment falling due before Christmas this year.

The strike is now entering its second week and the discussions continue.

February 25 2013

Caribbean: One Billion Rising

On February 14th, various groups throughout the Caribbean participated in the global “One Billion Rising”campaign. The campaign called for women across the world to dance together in protest of violence against women (the “one billion” is in reference to a statistic that one in three women will be assaulted or raped in their lifetime):

When One Billion bodies rise and dance on 14 February 2013, we will join in solidarity, purpose and energy and shake the world into a new consciousness. Dancing insists we take up space. It has no set direction but we go there together. It's dangerous, joyous, sexual, holy, disruptive. It breaks the rules. It can happen anywhere at anytime with anyone and everyone. It's free. No corporation can control it. It joins us and pushes us to go further. It's contagious and it spreads quickly. It's of the body. It's transcendent.

The feminist collective Code Red highlighted some of the events on its blog and compiled a photoset from various events all over the region.

Barbados hosted two One Billion Rising events. One event was held at Heroes Square in Bridgetown and was organized by the One Billion Rising Barbados Planning Committee, which is an umbrella organization for the SAVE Foundation, the National Organisation of Women, and UN Women.

One Billion Rising, Heroes Square, Bridgetown, Barbados

One Billion Rising, Heroes Square, Bridgetown, Barbados

One Billion Rising, Heroes Square, Bridgetown, Barbados

One Billion Rising, Heroes Square, Bridgetown, Barbados

Another event was held at the University of the West Indies’ Cave Hill campus, inside the Guild of Students Union. This event was organized by the Institute for Gender and Development Studies.

One Billion Rising, University of the West Indies, Cave Hill, Barbados

Women of Antigua (WOA) organized the One Billion Rising event there; it took place at Lower Redcliffe Street, St. John's.

One Billion Rising in St. John's, Antigua.

One Billion Rising in Lower Redcliffe Street, St. John's, Antigua.

The event in Grenada was organized by the students at St. George's University. There was also a spinoff yoga event hosted by Groundation Grenada at Camerhogne Park.

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One Billion Rising, St. George's University, Grenada

In Guyana, Stella's Sisterhood of Support and Service Foundation (S4) organized the event, which took place at the Promenade Gardens in Georgetown. The Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination also participated.

One Billion Rising, Promenade Gardens, Georgetown, Guyana

One Billion Rising, Promenade Gardens, Georgetown, Guyana

One Billion Rising, Promenade Gardens, Georgetown, Guyana

One Billion Rising, Promenade Gardens, Georgetown, Guyana

In Saint Lucia, the One Billion Rising event was organized by the victim's advocacy group PROSAF and was supported by the  They Often Cry Out (TOCO) Foundation, which continued its annual Clothesline Project.

One Billion Rising, Derek Walcott Square, Castries, Saint Lucia

One Billion Rising, Derek Walcott Square, Castries, Saint Lucia

 

There were also gatherings at the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine, Trinidad and in downtown Nassau in the Bahamas.

Code Red shared a comment which questioned the use of dance as a critical component of the One Billion Rising campaign:

I wish every Feminist initiative, everywhere around the globe, wholehearted success. But… I have a seeeerious problem with the ‘Let’s All Dance!’ focus for the
‘One Billion Rising’ event. Could someone tell me WHY – and in a way that makes pellucid sense to me, WHY Women, in their seemingly chronic male-designation as Abuse Fodder, would choose the carefree, spontaneous, *celebratory* act of …dance: to (somehow?!?) symbolize the One Billion Rising initiative?

Code Red continued:

The whole things seems miscued, somehow; it appears – at least to me, like some desperate psychological ‘buffer’ being enacted by Women globally, to try to distance themselves emotionally from what I have NO FEAR in stating as The Harsh REALITY: i.e., WOMEN’S RIGHTS IS ON A STEADILY DOWNWARD CURVE!

Patrice disagreed with this position instead arguing that “…not every action, event, initiative or strategy is designed to have the same impact or achieve the same goals”:

One Billion Rising is meant to raise awareness. In talking about One Billion Rising, I have had the opportunity to share information and statistics which have startled, alarmed and disgusted people. People are more aware and this awareness can impact the conversations they have and entertain, the political candidates they endorse, the demands they make of their leaders and the overarching climate of the country.

She added:

As for the dancing, I do not see the dance as a dance of ignorance and distraction. The dance is not to make mockery or to make light. Indeed, many of the dancers will be the women who are still burning. The originator of the movement herself burned physically and sexually at the hands of her father for years. I see dancing, especially as woman, as rebellious. So many political wars are fought on and around women’s bodies that, as a woman, taking control over your body and bucking tradition by moving it, wiggling it, shaking it, bouncing it and simply owning, embracing and enjoying its movements in that moment, can be a powerful experience.

Damali and Karen Robinson also discussed One Billion Rising on their podcast “Ennufff.”

 

January 25 2013

Hotel Development near the Pitons Raises Concerns in St. Lucia

A planned hotel development near the Pitons in Saint Lucia has fueled more debate about the way to balance development with cultural and environmental concerns.  The proposed “eco-luxury” development is “Freedom Bay”, which plans to include a five-star hotel in addition to private residences.

Nobel Laureate Derek Walcott has been a vocal critic of untrammeled development, particularly in this sensitive area, which has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. He addressed this latest issue while speaking to reporters at the launch of Nobel Laureate Week:  

‘Where is this hotel going to be located?' Walcott demanded. ‘Have they begun it yet? When are they starting? And exactly where is this place? Will you see it in any projection of Petit Piton? And nobody has objected to it? They have not objected to it in parliament? So the deal was approved by the Saint Lucian government. I am ashamed of my country because that’s whoring and you can quote me on that. If you are telling me right, that there is going to be a hotel built at the base of Petit Piton, visible as a hotel, then that is whoring and I am ashamed of my country. There can still be time for protest but what can you say when a country approves of its own disfigurement?'

The Pitons, St.Lucia; image by alexbooker, used under a Creative Commons license.

The Facebook group St. Lucians Aiming for Progress, seemed to be the hub for online discussion about the issue. Leigh Allan wasn't sure about the extent to which hotel developments are worth it in the long term:

This is going to bring some jobs and that's great! St.Lucia can really do with more employment opportunities. I'm just curious as to how many of those jobs will be blue collar or white collar? Also on the topic of hotels have we sorted out the issues with some hotels not paying taxes for many years without consequences or are they using their employees jobs to not pay taxes owed to government. We also need to think about when if ever a government in St.Lucia will once and for all make it so that beaches belong to the people of St.Lucia and not the hotels?

Christopher Simmons suggested that the project is a land grab by speculators and not a major development:

Plain and simple. We have just handed over to foreign white speculators one of the most lucrative piece (sic) of real estate in the world. This project is no more than a luxury condo development and not a world established resort hotel. Therefore the positive impact on the economy will be minimum. I can tell you that that pierce (sic) of real estate will change hands and be sold for million (sic) more during the next 10 years. 6 senses are not hotel developers or investors, they are a hotel management company operating a few average resorts in the Indian Ocean…Due to transparency let the people of St.Lucia know what was paid for the property and the terms of contract, concessions etc. What use the poor excuses of Jobs?

Nadia Causabon was concerned about the loss of the nation's patrimony and proposed that the development be moved to a less sensitive area:

How much of our culture will we lose by losing access to that beach? You should demand to find out what kind of access you will have on that beach once construction starts. If you have never used that beach I hope you didn't just have an ‘its not in my backyard so it doesn't affect me' thought! How much of our heritage will we lose? How much of our patrimony have we lost? Can we get it back?
What can you do? I urge you to write to planning, ministers and the developers, call the talk shows and other media houses to let your voice be heard.
What I would like to see is for this development to relocate to another area in St. Lucia outside of the PMA. GOSL acquire what was sold to the developer, develop what was deeded into a beach park and sell the rest of the land back to natural born St. Lucians giving first priority to people from Soufriere. AND a moratorium on SELLING any other piece of St. Lucia to foreigners, consider leasing land instead.

St Lucia - view of the Pitons from Anse Chastenet; image by heatheronhertravels, used under a CC license.

Dr. Jimmy Fletcher, Minister for Sustainable Development, Energy, Science and Technology Government, confirmed that the Freedom Bay development is within the Heritage Site 

The Freedom Bay Development falls within the Pitons Management Area. I believe what the Permanent Secretary said is that it falls within Policy Area 4 of the PMA. The Hyder Report or the Pitons Management Area and Soufriere Region Integrated Development Plan (November 2007) establishes 7 Policy Areas and prescribes the levels of development that should take place in each of these areas.

Fletcher then indicated what types of development were allowed in the area:

Both these areas allow for trails and minor interpretation works. Policy Area 3 is the coastal area (Jalousie and Beausejour) and there are 3 different scenarios possible: (i) a restrained approach that calls for no new buildings or infrastructure. However, building refurbishment and minor leisure developments in hotel complex are allowed; (ii) a balanced or intermediate approach that allows leisure and residential developments in selected locations subject to EIA; and (iii) a Permissive Approach that allows leisure and residential developments subject to EIA. Policy Area 4 comprises the Remainder of the PMA, which is where the Freedom Bay project will be located.

 

He went on to say that ultimately any development is subject to an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA):

The Restrained Approach for this Area allows for built development and infrastructure only for limited community, residential and agricultural needs and minor leisure and tourism development and the processing of local agricultural produce. The balanced or intermediate approach for Policy Area 4 allows, in addition to the concessions for the Restrained Approach, development in or adjacent to existing villages or in plantations, e.g. plantation hotels, subject to EIA. The Permissive Approach for Policy Area 4 allows development in new locations subject to EIA.

Setting Sun - St. Lucia - Pitons - View; image by Jason Michael, used under a CC license.

Dane Gibson reiterated the point that not all developments are worth the cost and linked to this 2010 profile from the Telegraph newspaper in support of his point:

While I acknowledge there is almost a certain desperation on the part of government and some of our people to improve and maintain economically the lively hoods of St Lucians we must be very careful that it should not come at the cost of selling our Natural Heritage for thirty pieces of silver

Gibson joined Nadia Causabon in suggesting that the development be moved to another location on the island:

The proposed concept and model is being offered by Sixth Senses and Freedom Bay can be done on a Conway site if done correctly. Let them build, let them build and responsibly, but let them build somewhere else on the island and preserve our Natural Heritage and Legacy.

Amatus Edwards, in reply to Gibson, added:

It is my view that lands of commercial and agriculture nature that is own (sic)by government should never be sold - only leased. Government should also move in and seek to acquire properties like this one and do a better job at sustain-ably managing it that (sic) this aging man.

October 16 2012

Saint Lucia: Bananas as a Renewable Energy Source?

A 2011 blogpost on the use of bananas in the creation of biofuel has inspired Dane Gibson to ask some questions about the renewable energy sector in the small Caribbean country of Saint Lucia.

In The Power of Bananas, Laura Eco had outlined an energy enterprise project:

The project is being implemented by Applied Renewables Caribbean and aims to use the waste generated by St Lucia’s banana trade to produce environmentally friendly energy. At the same time, it will enable local banana farmers to supplement their income by selling the waste from their crops.

Banana tree

Bananas As A Renewable Energy Source?
Image: MrTopher Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

In a post on Facebook page St Lucians Aiming for Progress- S.L.A.P on 13 October 2012, he asked:

Dr Anthony recently stated that many persons had come knocking on his door with presentations of renewable energy initiatives. What steps has government taken to follow-up and do the necessary due diligence to entertain energy alternatives in St Lucia? What steps is the government going to take to alleviate the volatility in the electricity prices to make it more attractive to foreign investors? With the scheduled closing of the Hess Refinery would it be possible to look into turning part of the refinery into an energy renewable plant of some sort seeing that nothing new is being presented to St Lucians. Just a few suggestions to explore to get the life blood of the nation pumping again.

Jimmy Fletcher, who is currently Saint Lucia's  Minister for the Public Service, Sustainable Development, Energy, Science and Technology, responded to Gibson first by addressing the work of Applied Renewables Caribbean, the company referenced in the blogpost:

The Ministry of Sustainable Development, Energy, Science and Technology has been working with Mr. Ken Aldonza to move this excellent initiative along. I visited his plant in Vieux Fort over four months ago, and following that visit my ministry has been working with Mr. Aldonza to try to secure additional funding for his project. As Minister for Energy I also wrote to the National Development Corporation, NDC, to try to secure one of NDC's empty factory shells at a rent-free or rent-subsidised rate so that Ken Aldonza could shift his operations to a more spacious and convenient location.

Fletcher gave assurance that the government was working to expand the renewable energy sector and promised to report on the progress made :

At some point in the near future we will provide greater detail on the actions that we have taken to encourage the development of a renewable energy sector and to encourage the use of more energy-efficient devices and appliances. So, rest assured, there is much going on to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels for energy and to ultimately reduce the cost of electricity for Saint Lucians.

In a comment Nadia Cauzabon suggested that the government look to biogas as an alternative fuel for farmers:

The Power of Pig Poo: Two models of low-cost biogas digesters have been piloted in Saint Lucia in Soufriere, Dennery, Laborie, VFort and Micoud. The gas produced can be used for generating electricity for a farm or tied to the grid, lighting, for cooking and even to ripen bananas. Minister Jimmy Fletcher, I would like the ministry to assist farmers who already have digesters installed utilize the gas to produce electricity.

She pointed out that biogas could also be used domestically:

The ministry can also even explore use of digesters for households. We have the know how in the Caribbean in Jamaica where CASE converted the septic tank for a boys school into a digester and the gas was used for cooking. In the 1990's a GTZ project piloted steel-dome type digesters. One farmer in Bois D'Orange used the gas produced for cooking at his home. In the last two years he decommissioned his digester and had to purchase a tank of cooking gas for the first time in over 15 years.

Cauzabon also implored the government to make sure that farms don't pose a risk to public health:

Also, I would like your ministry and ministry of Agriculture mandate all pig/animal farms MUST have some form of waste management (digester, compost or otherwise) to clean up the waterways in Saint Lucia. The levels of faecal bacteria in some rivers are off the charts and pose a significant health risk to human lives. Some communities have a real problem with gastro-intestinal cases which is most probably directly linked to poor potable water quality.

In responding to Cauzabon, Fletcher expressed regret that more progress hadn't been made in this area:

Nadia, it is unfortunate that we have not made more progress with biodigesters. When I worked in the Research and Development Division in the Ministry of Agriculture (1990s) there was a lot of interest in both biodigesters and solar dryers and there was quite a bit of work going on in the region on improving the technologies. I remember the GTZ project in the 1990s and also the work done by Professor Clem Sankat and others at UWI on solar dryers. Two years ago, when I was at the OECS, I started a dialogue with UNIDO on assisting with the manufacturing of solar dryers in Saint Lucia. All of this is to say that I agree with you that we have to explore all practicable applications of renewable/sustainable energy and provide support for the uptake of these technologies. In the case of biodigesters, you are absolutely correct, they have the added positive benefit of assisting with the vexing issue of waste management on the farm.

While happy with the possibilities for the development of biofuel, Jana Auguste is concerned about its sustainability:

while I am thrilled that renewable energy initiatives live in SLU, as a sustainability wonk, I remain apprehensive about the use of food as bio-fuel feedstock for reasons I hope are obvious…..land-use, cost etc.

Former Minister of Agriculture, Ignatius Jean also has some questions about this possible initiative:

Good idea. However, now that the banana is no longer “green gold” how do you propose to attract former producers back into production of bananas for methane? What price will the banana and all its parts thereof, receive from the energy generation plant? This is not about romanticism. Currently the generating capacity of LUCELEC is upwards of 66 Kw, what are the targeted projections by this new idea?

Much like Jana Auguste, Jean is concerned about the sustainability of biofuel production and sees other sources of renewable energy as preferable:

Given the high cost of production of bananas and the consequent and attendant risks and “bad practices of production” I have more more confidence in geothermal, solar and wind.

October 11 2012

Saint Lucia's New Value Added Tax Jumps at Citizens

Beginning October 1, 2012 the government of Saint Lucia imposed a Value Added Tax (VAT) on good and services. In doing so, Saint Lucia became the last member of the Caribbean Community to adopt VAT. In the months and weeks leading up to the deadline, various stakeholders expressed doubts about the country's readiness for VAT, citing concerns about the the new equipment and accounting systems which were required; uncertainty about the exemptions and of course the major question of whether the country should even being attempting this during a difficult economic period. During the first week of the implementation of VAT, it was a popular topic of discussion on social media.

On Facebook, in the group “Saint Lucians Aiming for Progress”, Ethelbert James felt it was unreasonable for citizens to make demands on the government without also paying the taxes that allow it to fulfill those demands:

when a goverment borrows money from foreign or commercial banks, it adds to the national debt.when a goverment borrows from the NIC,it is a headache.but when the citizenry wants road infrastructure,housing, etc,goverment have to find the resources to do so.just to assist in the development of our country by giving 15% of our own money,it is like hell came on earth.goverment gives 100% to make sure we are safe,proper roads,proper working environment,better schools,proper amenities, etc,etc,etc.do st.lucians want the goverment to keep on borrowing and borrowing,where as we can play our part. we have to help our selves now. the taxes we are paying before vat collectively cannot sustain this country. so now the question before us is ask not what can our country do for us,but what can we do for our country.

Baywalk Mall

Baywalk Shopping Mall in Saint Lucia. Photo by missmeng on Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Nicholas Leo reiterated this point and added that many of the people complaining have no problems with paying VAT in other countries:

I have tried to stay away from the senseless chatter about the implimentation of VAT in St Lucia, but after seeing so many ignorant statements about the tax, I asked myself this question; how many of these same Lucians who now complain have visited the US and Canada, paid taxes on almost everything yet they would not complain. The taxes that we pay on these items in these foreign countries go towards paying for their infrastructure, paying down their deficits/debt and running their public institutions. Had the UWP won the last election, VAT would have been introduced in April of this year, yet now King and company are trying to fool Lucians yet again. Lucians this is the 21st century, VAT is an inescapable inconvenience

Fairness and taxation

Yogi Sandy Dale Flavien felt that Saint Lucia needs to revisit its tax code, particularly with regard to the rate of corporate taxes:

The huge Elephant in the ROOM is that Corporate taxes are too low, There are no dividend taxes, capital gains and interest tax - all not in the tax code. These tax code issues have to be solved. St. Lucia is only Caribbean Island, and maybe one of few places in world without these taxes. Rich and expats do not pay their fair share !!! govt must fix that - 80 -100 million right there

Leigh Allan was upset that some sectors of the business community, most notably the hotel sector, were seeking exemptions from the VAT:

It is Morally wrong, Ethically wrong and just plain Unfair for some industries to pay and or charge VAT while others don't. If the Hospitality Industry doesn't want to pay and charge VAT then the Poor, Underprivileged, Wealthy and everyone else can do the same. Those that don't pay their taxes but receive subsidies and concessions need to be sorted out. No double standards please, Not in 2012!!

Nadia Cauzabon asked consumers to be vigilant and to make sure that they were not being taken advantage of:

Citizen Watch: In a small bid to get St. Lucians just a bit more conscious of their power as a consumer, I would like all members in this forum and living in St. Lucia to start monitoring prices of items in Saint Lucia. Get a file sheet, draw up a table, write a list of about 20 commonly used items in your household and write the price of each item every month to track changes. Dig out your old bills to get pre-vat prices. Or better yet, do it in a spreadsheet in excel. Use one file sheet/spreadsheet for each company. Then you can provide ‘data' to the VAT office or other regulatory office to REPORT if you suspect consumers are being ripped off by any establishment.

In the blog Damajority.com, Jerry George compared the attention paid to the implementation of VAT to the devotion shown to the West Indies cricket team:

let’s face it…Plain and Simple, St. Lucians are just “bava”… all that talk about VAT..bla, bla, bla…most of us aint take time to understand VAT…so bla, bla, bla…same thing with West Indies Cricket team…we are “Hot and cold” about support for the Team…only when St. Lucians want to support West Indies…just let West Indies lose…you will see!!! “BAVA”… First I though VAT roro was still going on…when I look Looshans watching West Indies on every TV set available…and cheering to thy kingdom come! Eh Bien…West Indies mantjé bay zòt batmanntjè (heart attack)

Prime Minister of Saint Lucia, Kenny Anthony attempted to clarify some issues on his Facebook page:

…we have always been paying taxes on medicines but we never saw the actual taxes before. Now we do and the taxes jump at us. However, the Government was mindful of the likely impact of VAT on medicines. We secured the agreement of Caricom to remove the Common External Tariff (Duty)on pharmaceuticals for a period of four years, that is from May 01, 2012 to April 30,2016.So there will be no duty on medicines. Medicines will, therefore, attract just VAT no duty. What has happened is that many of the stores are still selling items imported prior to September with duty already paid on those items. In days to come, we all should see a reduction in the prices of medicine as the old stocks get depleted and new stock is imported without the payment of duty.

September 21 2012

Saint Lucia, St. Vincent: Going to Canada? Got to get a Visa!

Early last week, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) imposed visa requirements for entry on five countries, including two from the Caribbean - Saint Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines:

‘Beginning at 12:01 a.m. EDT today, citizens of St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines (St. Vincent), Namibia, Botswana and Swaziland now require a visa to travel to Canada,' Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney announced.

For the first 48 hours, or until 11:59 p.m. September 12, 2012, citizens of these countries who are in transit to Canada at the time the visa requirement takes effect will be able to receive a Temporary Resident Permit on arrival in Canada, free of charge, if they are not otherwise inadmissible to Canada.

‘We continue to welcome genuine visitors to Canada,' said Minister Kenney. 'These changes are necessary to protect the integrity of Canada's fair and generous immigration system by helping us to reduce an unacceptably high number of immigration violations.'

The statement contained a brief explanation for the new policy:

A key reason why the government has imposed visa requirements on St. Lucia and St. Vincent is unreliable travel documents. In particular, criminals from these countries can legally change their names and acquire new passports. In some instances, people who were removed from Canada as security risks later returned using different passports.

The Government of Saint Lucia expressed disappointment at the decision stating in a press release that:

…it deeply regrets that the Canadian Government did not give it an opportunity to address the concerns regarding the claims of ‘unreliable travel documents' allegedly held by some Saint Lucians.

While St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves felt that the reason for the visa requirements was the excessive refugee applications from citizens,  Vincy View cited the Consul General, who believes immigration fraud is to blame:

…SVG Consul General in Canada Steve Phillips has stated that the main reason behind the visa restrictions on Vincentians is immigration fraud, in which certain people come to Canada with passports baring false names, after being deported from Canada.
Phillips further noted that there have been several instances of immigration fraud by Vincentians, with the Canada Border Services Agency making constant reports on the issue.

Vincy View also noted that Phillips himself has written supporting letters for refugee status applicants:

Both Opposition and Government officials in SVG have wrote letter supporting refugee claims. Steve Phillips, SVG’s consul general in Canada, in 2008 wrote a letter to support the refugee claim of domestic abuse victim Leila Brown-Trimmingham, who feared for her life in SVG…

At Bajan Reporter, Vicky Augustin spoke to a source within Canadian immigration and found out the problems were longstanding and that the goverments had been informed of the impending action:

There has been an unacceptably high number of asylum claims from St. Lucia with about one and a half percent of the population of the country making asylum claims in Canada over the past five years.

For months the Government of St Lucia has recognized the problem of immigration violations out of St Lucia. These problems have gotten worse, not better.

Julian Williams felt the decision of the Canadian authorities was inevitable:

During Prime Minister's Trudeau's rule, every English speaking Caribbean country enjoyed that non-visa agreement with Canada. But Jamaica was the first casualty in the late 80's with their drug pushing and violent crime. Then later it was Guyana and Trinidad and Grenada who lost the privilege after review of their falling GDP and their crime statistics in Canada. But it was the trinis who brought that frivolous refugee status application in the equation. Now its St Lucia and St Vincent.Only Antigua and St.Kitts /Nevis enjoy that non-visa privilege and I wish them well in safeguarding it.

Williams also criticized what he considers the poor representation of the Caribbean by its diplomats overseas:

And the OECS High commission was closed last year! Go figure the impression that was conveyed when our Caribbean constituency voluntarily abandoned their constituency! I wondered how those same Caribbean diplomats would have handled a situation if revocation of the non-visa agreement also meant stripping them of their diplomatic status or passports!

Abeni saw the visa requirement as burdensome and suggested that Vincentians find somewhere else to visit:

With the economic downturn  being felt Vincentians have been packing their bags and heading northwards to Canada. Some rather than applying themselves to being productive citizens have found themselves in trouble with the law and subsequently deported. From my vantage point both political sides have valid points but I suspect they would rather die than give any such concession. So now visas are needed and the form is so discouraging that persons may not even want to bother applying. For example, applicants must list the names of all their siblings-half, full, step along with their DOB and occupation. Hmmmm, given the dynamics of the Caribbean family that list could get very long!

Darby Etienne also wondered what role the closing of the OECS High Commission played:

Could it be that as a result of closing the High Commission of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States in Ottawa, Canada which served both St. Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines lost their diplomatic stripes and the respect of the Canadian government? Or is it that their reliance on their consulate offices, in Toronto, lacked the mandate to deal with diplomatic issues thereby placing them at the end of prejudicial anger?

July 31 2012

St. Lucia: The Power of Words

David Cave writes a tribute to his mentor, the Saint Lucia poet Kendel Hippolyte: “Indeed, Kendel showed me first hand that there is real power in words.  Words evoke emotions, conjure images, analyse, interrogate, bring back memories, experiences and transport and even return a student to his mentor and friend.”

July 24 2012

St. Lucia: New Direction for Carnival?

The Choiseul Powerhouse reviews Saint Lucia's 2012 Power Soca Monarch competition: “Suppose I told you before that St. Lucians were fed up with the Trinidadian-invented ‘Rag and Flag' syndrome which has over the years supersaturated our Soca shows, would I have been vindicated by the outcomes of our just concluded Carnival? Did we see some evidence pointing in that direction?”

June 20 2012

St. Lucia: Our Own Stories

Nkrumah Lucien reviews Davina Lee's debut feature film The Coming of Org: ”It is indeed important for us to tell more of our own stories, too reflect adequately on ourselves not to reproduce images of ourselves tailored by others and to steer away from cliché and the narrow uncritical Hollywood stereotypes.”

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