Monday, November 30, 2009
From The Diaspora
Posted By Stabroek staff On November 30, 2009 @ 5:01 am
The rejection of Republican status by St Vincentians (and the people of the Grenadines) in a free and fair referendum comes as no surprise, but the large percentage of voters who backed the move was a surprise to some people. St Vincentians I spoke with in NY expected their compatriots on the island to reject the proposed new constitution that called for a complete break from England and the Privy Council as the final court of appeal.
But many of these NY-based St Vincentians did not expect almost half the population would support a constitution that calls for increased powers for the Prime Minister and the replacement of the Queen as head of state by a President.
The referendum needed 67% of the votes to be approved but only garnered under 45%. Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves put his reputation on the line and committed several million dollars to promote it to win the vote. The ruling ULP campaigned for the constitution while the opposition NDP campaigned against it. Analysts used the outcome of the last general elections to make a projection of the outcome of the poll. But as I indicated in a letter last week, the economy has been sliding and many people have lost their jobs. In addition, St Vincent has seen a large increase in outmigration. So, it was not realistic for the ULP to expect to duplicate its 55% support from the 2005 general elections, much less the required 67% needed to adopt the constitution.
There was a heavy turnout for the vote even in heavy downpour of rain, as both sides got their supporters out.
The referendum lost 44% to 56%, a complete reversal of the 2005 vote. People are fearful of giving increased powers to the head of government. What St Vincent and the rest of the Caribbean need are not more powers for their rulers but more aid for development. Cementing, instead of breaking, ties to the developed nations should be the focus so they can get more financial assistance.
The outcome suggests that Gonsalves will find himself in political trouble at general elections due in a year unless he takes measures to shore up his base. He told reporters that he harboured no sense of dejection and felt he was on the right side of history to completely dispense with the British. Obviously, the voters didn’t agree. People just don’t want to break from the Queen as their head of state, recognizing the benefits that flow from England into the island and the large number of islanders who make Britain their home.
Although Gonsalves lost the referendum, he must be credited for allowing the voters, instead of the political elite and MPs, to decide on their political future. He must also be applauded for not holding a fraudulent plebiscite as happened in Guyana in July 1978. The leaders of other Caricom states should follow his lead when tinkering with their country’s constitutions and appelate courts.
Yours faithfully, Vishnu Bisram
Article printed from Stabroek News: http://www.stabroeknews.com
URL to article: http://www.stabroeknews.com/2009/letters/11/30/no-surprise-in-st-vincent-referendum/
Sunday, November 29, 2009
Letter From PCV in Georgetown
Dear Friends and Family,
Over the past year I have been volunteering my time and efforts at Georgetown Secondary School in the community where I live in St. Vincent. In many ways a challenging work assignment, GSS suffers from various problems that also affect other “country” schools (those farther away from the capitol, Kingstown) — lack of qualified teachers, an abundance of remedial level students, less resources, poor discipline, and in general, a tangible feeling of hopelessness to tackle the many issues. In particular, my school has an alarmingly high proportion of students who enter secondary school unable to read. Last year, there were approximately 200 students designated as “remedial readers” and most of these students were reading at a 2nd grade level or below. (Note that although Vincentians speak an English-based dialect at home, Standard English is taught in all the schools, from Primary school upwards). There are at least a dozen students who I am working with now who don’t know all of their letter sounds, something typically mastered in Kindergarten. Because of the large class size, noise level, and chaotic nature of the school, it is incredibly challenging to remediate these students in their regular classroom.
I have felt since arriving here that computer-based reading remediation would be an excellent approach to both captivate and hold the attention of these low-performing, easily distracted students and to provide a way to differentiate instruction based on skill level. In an exciting step forward, this past year the school received a grant with which they were able to purchase 20 new computers to create a lab in the lower school. Unfortunately, in this grant there was no money allocated towards software or headphones. Still, for the past 3 months I, along with the remedial teachers, have been bringing the remedial classes to the lab for 1 hour per week to use a phonics software program which I downloaded from the internet. Although the program is “kiddish” in content and light on actual instruction, and despite the fact that it is difficult to hear the sounds on the program without external speakers or headphones, I still feel it has been a huge success. When the students go to the lab they are quiet, working continually, and I often hear them congratulating themselves when they master an activity. Their behavior is like night and day when compared to trying to teach them in their classroom. The experience has solidified my opinion that computer-based remediation can have a great effect on the students at GSS, in their behavior and attitude, reading performance, and confidence level.
Starting in January I am planning to use trial versions of two different highly regarded remedial reading software packages with a select group of struggling readers. To do this, all of the students need to have headphones for their assigned computer, something which the principal has told me there is no money available for. Because I’ll be visiting home for two weeks during December, I am trying to get enough headphones donated during that time that I can bring back a full set to be used at the school when the term starts back in January. If you would be willing to fund a pair of headphones as a Christmas gift for my remedial students, it would be much appreciated. The school headphones are about $15 each, and donations can be made through this blog site on the right side of the page.
In addition, one of the reading remediation software programs that I am interested in trying out with our students, Academy of Reading, offers a special program through which a student living anywhere in the world can link up through the internet with a computer in Canada to use the software for a year on their school computer. The cost for a student to use Academy of Reading for 1 yr. through this special linkage program is $80 per student. If you are interested in sponsoring one of my students, you can also make a donation through our blog site. Once I determine the exact group in January, I would be happy to send you a picture of your sponsored student, as well as information about that student and how they are coming along in their reading.
I know that times are tough right now, but even a small donation can make a big difference to the struggling readers that I work with. I want to thank all of you for the love and support you’ve shown Steve and I during the 1st year of our great Peace Corps adventure. When we’ve gotten frustrated or felt overwhelmed, we’ve relied greatly on the strong friendships and close bonds that we have back home to get us through.
LESSON FOR JAMAICA
by CLAUDE ROBINSON
Source: Jamaica Observer
Published: Sunday, November 29, 2009
Queen Elizabeth II arrived in Trinidad and Tobago last Thursday for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting to what must be good news for the monarchy: The people of St Vincent and the Grenadines had voted decisively in a referendum to retain her as their Queen and head of state.
The "No" vote of 55.64 per cent was a huge rebuff for Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves who may have timed the vote to coincide with the Queen's presence in the Caribbean, hoping that an affirmative "Yes" would have been a triumphal way to say goodbye to a powerful symbol of British colonial rule.
While the referendum results are of primary interest to the people of St Vincent and the Grenadines, it is also significant for other regional countries, especially Jamaica where political administrations have wrestled with the same constitutional question the Vincentians have just settled.
A yes vote would have allowed St Vincent and the Grenadines to join Trinidad and Tobago, Dominica and Guyana as the only Caribbean Community (Caricom) countries to sever constitutional ties with Buckingham Palace and select their head of state from among their own people.
Guyana has an executive president, which makes Bharrat Jagdeo head of state and head of government; while Dominica and Trinidad and Tobago have 'ceremonial' presidents with effective power remaining in the hands of the prime minister.
Since the 1970s Jamaica has been engaged in a tortuous constitutional reform process, including breaking ties with the Queen as head of state and establishing a republic similar to Trinidad's. However, the issue has never been put to the people as successive administrations remain spooked by the 1961 referendum against West Indian federation promoted by Norman Manley and the People's National Party (PNP) and opposed by Alexander Bustamante and the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP).
One of the questions arising from last Wednesday's referendum result is the extent to which Caribbean people wish to retain links to British symbols. Or was it simply a statement on the stewardship of Prime Minister Gonsalves?
The referendum would have replaced the St Vincent constitution in force since independence in 1979. The "No" vote of 55.64 per cent was well short of the required two-thirds threshold.
How could Prime Minister Gonsalves have got it so wrong? What happened since the last general election in 2005 in which he and his Unity Labour Party (ULP) got 55.26 per cent of the vote and 12 of the 15 seats in Parliament?
In the campaign leading up to the vote, the prime minister stressed that although he had nothing personally against Queen Elizabeth II, it was time for Saint Vincent to stop having a monarch as its head of state: "I find it a bit of a Nancy story that the Queen of England can really be the Queen of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines."
According to some St Vincent watchers, the referendum result may be a reflection of some unease among voters for the prime minister's reputed affinity towards executive presidents Hugo Chávez of Venezuela and former Cuban leader Fidel Castro.
However, that view was contradicted by the campaign rhetoric in which Mr Gonsalves asserted that the proposed constitution for Saint Vincent and the Grenadines would not have created an executive president because that would give the office holder too much power in the small country, he said in an interview reported in the Trinidad Express.
On the other hand, the Opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) advocated for a "No" vote on the proposals, disputing Mr Gonsalves' assertion that a "Yes" would reduce the power of the prime minister, increase the power of the Opposition and strengthen the country's democracy.
Lessons for Mr Golding
What lessons can Prime Minister Bruce Golding draw from the outcome in St Vincent as he contemplates the idea of a referendum to determine whether Jamaica should adopt the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as the country's final court of appeal, replacing the British Privy Council?
As it stands, Jamaica can adopt the CCJ as its final court of appeal without a referendum, according to expert opinion.
However, in order to entrench the court in the Jamaican constitution the people of Jamaica must agree in a referendum. The argument is that because the Privy Council is now entrenched in the constitution, any court that replaces it would also have to be entrenched.
While I support the CCJ as our final appeal court, I also believe that this matter must be put to a referendum, given divided opinion on the issue.
These divisions may have been sharpened last week by the Privy Council ruling in favour of Mr Ezroy Millwood and the National Transportation Cooperative Society. Some will view the judgement as justice, finally, for the beleaguered franchise, while others may regard it as an imposition by 'foreign' judges that will cost taxpayers some $1.85 billion.
Of course, one way of securing a predicted outcome in a referendum is where the two parties - governing and opposition - agree on the matter to be decided and neither would seek to take advantage of the other. But even here the outcome may not be assured.
Speaking with Beverley Manley on Hot 102 the day after the losing the vote in St Vincent, Mr Gonsalves indicated that the two parties had earlier agreed to support the "Yes" vote. His clear implication was that the opposition had backtracked.
News out of St Vincent offered an explanation for the change of heart: NDP leader Arnhim Eustace opined that the two sides had failed to reach an agreement on a number of fundamental issues, including the Integrity Commission, the Human Rights Commission, the ombudsman, and the Electoral and Boundaries Commission.
In other words, the opposition appeared to have tied its support for a "Yes" vote to other issues of human rights and accountability, which it considered important. Or they may have smelled that the government was politically vulnerable.
Thus, another lesson is that a referendum is not always about the specific item on the ballot paper and can easily become a statement on the performance of the government. Simply put, referenda are fraught with political danger.
In the context of the current economic challenges faced by all governments in the region, voters are concerned about the ability of incumbents to increase opportunity, improve living standards and maintain social peace. Opposition parties are sniffing power.
Finally, it may also be that a majority of voters want to retain their connection and find no problem with an anachronism of a governor general as the Queen's representative in Jamaica instead of being a symbol of the Jamaican people.
It is also significant that the vote came as the 53-member grouping of Britain and its former colonies spread across the globe was meeting in Port of Spain trying to find relevance in the new balance of power in the world.
In these circumstances, Mr Golding is unlikely to test the waters about entrenching the CCJ any time soon. On the larger issue of changing the Jamaican constitution to have a president as the Jamaican head of state, we can, in the famous words of former prime minister PJ Patterson, 'forget it'.
Posted by Deidre S. Powell at Sunday, November 29, 2009
Saturday, November 28, 2009
Caricom Says Vote OK
CARICOM observer mission pleased with referendum
November 28, 2009
The CARICOM Observer Mission yesterday said it was pleased with conduct of the National Referendum on the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Constitution Bill 2009 held last Wednesday.
Nearly 56 percent of voters rejected a referendum that would have replaced the British monarch with a president chosen by Parliament, according to preliminary results released early Thursday by the elections commission. Both of the country’s parties want to replace the queen with a president as head of state. But opposition leaders had urged voters to reject the proposed constitution, arguing it did not sufficiently reduce the powers of the prime minister, who would remain as head of government. They also said citizens rather than Parliament should elect the president.
The vote came as Queen Elizabeth II is on a rare visit to the region to attend a Commonwealth summit in Trinidad.
The CARICOM Referendum Observer Mission said in a statement yesterday “the results of the Referendum reflected the will of the people and their commitment to the democratic process.”
The Observer Mission also complimented the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines for “maintaining a peaceful environment and participating in this historic process.”
The main objectives of the Mission were to observe and monitor the conduct of the Referendum and in particular, the activities on the polling day, including the counting of the ballots.
In general, the management of the polling stations was good, the mission stated, noting that the referendum officials managed the polls impartially and competently and it was obvious that the voters were adequately informed about the voting procedures.
The day of the referendum was incident free, the mission stated, pointing out that voters were generally orderly and patient.
“There were no signs of intimidation of voters nor was there any campaigning inside and outside of the polling stations.”
The Mission will submit its findings, analyses and recommendations in a report to the Secretary General of the CARICOM Secretariat.
Friday, November 27, 2009
More Remarks on the Referendum
Friday, 27 November 2009
The Conscience Vote, Rebellious Women and other Post-Referendum Matters
"Beware the Terrible Simplifiers"
"They have learnt nothing and forgotten nothing."
Charles M. de Talleyrand
On 25th of November 2009 the Vincentian people declared that they did not want the 2009 Constitutional Reform Bill. Fine. Now that the process is over there is much to ingest. There are many things floating around my head as observe the reactions of various sectors of the population to the results.
On one hand there are those who are elated for several reasons. Firstly, they believe that the people have spoken and democracy has prevailed. Secondly some are elated because they believe that they have taught the comrade a lesson in humility, by rejecting his "gift" to the people of Sin Vincent. When I think about this I recall Ophelia returning Hamlet's gift and bemoaning "Rich gifts wax poor when givers prove unkind." Yet another set are elated or more so relieved because they believe that they have staved off our descent into dictatorship and communism.
On the other hand there are those who are weeping and gnashing their teeth, declaring that the country has suffered a huge setback at the hands of ignorant, backward "No" people, NDP people, illiterate, uneducated untutored people. Some sectors are no doubt worried that the perhaps the political tide/worm is turning against the incumbent. Which I believe is a legitimate worry, especially considering the 12% gap between the No and the Yes votes, especially considering that had this been a general election the incumbent would well have lost 11 of the 12 seats they now hold. Yes I can see why the "No" vote would be worrying for some.
I am neither elated or upset with the results. To my estimation, the 50,000+ voters (out of 70,000+ registered) turned out on the 25th came out with purpose and for that I am glad. I believe that this turn out is higher than in the election 0f 2005 which suggests that the people were mobilised and energised enough to exercise their right to vote.
I am, though, saddened that the process of constitutional reform has suffered such a blow. I feel, have felt and will support the thrust for a new constitution in St. Vincent and the Grenadines and I hope that this process will not be shelved. I also hope that a sincere scrutiny will be applied to discover why the process failed in the way it did. I hope that the powers that be will not be like the French Aristocrats, the House of Bourbon, who would have learnt nothing and forgotten nothing from the Storming of the Bastille in 1789. Considering the reactions, the very visceral reaction of the people on the streets of Kingstown, Campden Park and Sion Hill, Chateaubelaire and elsewhere, it may well be "of with their heads" next time.
This is not a threat. It is a simply musing on the logical extreme of current mood of the people. And it is this mood that was obviously misread by the political strategists of the day, and even one self-proclaimed "Don of Politics".
Throughout the campaign I watched with ire and sometimes with apathy, as the "Yes Campaign" deployed the tactics that the incumbent ULP has used in the two previous elections: the many entertainment shows and rallies, the posters, the billboards, the belittling promises, the arrogance, the nauseous self-aggrandisement, the extravagance, the waste. In my mind, while I knew fully that this was about constitutional reform I found it difficult to ignore the similarities between this campaign and the campaigns for government of 1998, 2001, and 2005. I imagine that many other persons would have noted these similarities as well. So if the people who are watching were unable to make the distinction, and in some cases voted along party lines, I find it hard to blame them, or tag them as being uneducated and backward the way many of the resident and non-resident Vincentian Bourbons have.
I also hope that the Vincentian Bourbons apply careful scrutiny to the way in which their "intellectual" message was not reaching many. I witnessed ads, from both sides, where people were expounding on what the constitution meant to them. In many cases, the speakers outlined very personal responses to the whole process, which some, "the Bourbons", summarily dismissed as representative of an uneducated, dull or ignorant mind. I marveled at the considerable gap between the House and the people featured in these ads. In my estimation these people are saying that the issue of constitutional reform does not fit within their hierarchy of needs, that the powers that be are not doing enough to address their needs, yet they want to divert their attention to a matter that only vaguely registers in their daily comings and goings. Call it what you will. But to look down at them, to underestimate their experiences is to make a colossal mistake. To do this is to terribly simplify their experiences and their world view.
To underestimate their intelligence and the intelligence of the "No" voters is to make an even greater error, it is in fact to be guilty of hubris. The number of "No" votes is not a simple reflection of a political party position. To think this is to retreat to a castle of smoke and mirrors and refuse to truthfully engage reality. Many of us, myself included, voted our conscience. We read the document, tried to make sense of it, compared it with the old document, the 1979 one, saw where it was improvement, saw where it wasn't, saw where it left us with an uneasy feeling in the pits of our stomachs and, having been forced to chose Yes or NO to the WHOLE thing, voted where our conscience guided us. If you ask us we would have much preferred to vote by sections and were patient enough to see it through. But no-one asked us, not really. Not in the end. Simple adjustments to language might have eased out consciences but by September 3rd it's too late. Our consciences could not be swayed, we could not have slept at night voting against our consciences. We simply couldn't.
In Praise of the Militant Women of the Referendum
I am tempted to unleash my anger at the arrogant pseudo-intellectuals of the Vincentian House of Bourbon. But instead I will let the words that drop from my mouth be as rich as diamonds and sapphires in praise of a neglected section of this whole campaign -the women. In the polling stations of East Kingstown, for example, only two of the agents for the NDP were men. This is only one constituency but it would be safe to say that women are the "back-bone" of the political machinery of this nation. Sadly they are often overlooked for their involvement in the process. I want to acknowledge the contribution of four women in particular .
Mrs. Anesia Baptiste: for her role in lifting the discussion of the reform process and for providing an alternative outlet, other than the political parties, for information on the document. I will admit that I do not always agree with her methods or even some of her philosophical positions, but she will undoubtedly be remembered for her role in educating the people on their rights. For that she is to be admired.
Nurse Margaret London: for her role in legally challenging the unconscionable spending of public funds on the Yes-Campaign and for proving that non-legal minds were more than capable of dissecting the document for consumption. She also highlighted the dangerously ambiguous "High Treason Clause" which many people had not realised was in document and which gave many of us pause.
Ms. Paulette Williams: for showing us that the church's involvement in this debate could be healthy and enlightening. I caught a few of her church's discussions on the television and followed with my copy of the document in hand, and came away a bit more aware than I was before.
Last but by no means least:
Mrs. Annis Bailey-Providence:
A woman of undeniable strength and courage. A woman whose steadfast commitment to the mobilisation of the people, to the laws that govern electoral matters and whose undying and unselfish commitment to her belief in the betterment of the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines sees her getting up 4am each election for the last 20 years, working as a polling agent, keeping the process honest, whether her party wins or loses. A woman for whom I have tremendous admiration.
These women would not want us to hoist them on pedestals, but we must acknowledge their contribution and the many others like them who history may well gloss over. I see them as inspiration for our nations young girls and boys for their commitment to a movement bigger than themselves.
These are my many thoughts post-referendum day. However, I can guarantee you that they will not end with this blog post.
Yours soberly at 10pm on a Friday night in the aftermath,
Posted by Empath at 15:06
Labels: Home thoughts, Human Calculator, Philosophizing, Politics, St. Vincent
Many of us, myself included, voted our conscience. We read the document, tried to make sense of it, compared it with the old document, the 1979 one, saw where it was improvement, saw where it wasn't, saw where it left us with an uneasy feeling in the pits of our stomachs and, having been forced to chose Yes or NO to the WHOLE thing, voted where our conscience guided us. If you ask us we would have much preferred to vote by sections and were patient enough to see it through. But no-one asked us, not really. Not in the end. and i think that this subsection of the voting public made up a larger percentage than we can imagine... to denigrate or speak slightingly of US (because this is where i fall) is to grievously insult rather a lot of people... and to suggest that "no" voters were easily led is to suggest that those of us with minds of our own have no significance in the grand scheme... thanks for this post kandake... thanks for sharing your thoughts and thanks for highlighting the role of women in this struggle... someone referred to miss baptiste as a "game changer" (i think it was jerry george) and i completely agree - her clearly non-partisan insights truly helped me at times when i was confused... like you, i may not agree with all of her philosophical foundations, but i am in awe of her gumption and her steadfastness in standing up for her convictions - not enough of us do that in this country and she is to be highly commended...
27 November 2009 18:46
Letter From The Diaspora
Letter: Who have eyes to see, let them see
Published on Saturday, November 28, 2009 Email To Friend Print Version
Wednesday, November 25, 2009 was indeed a sad day for the people of St Vincent and the Grenadines.
I do not now see how it would be possible for us to ever have Constitutional Reform in SVG. From here on in, regardless to what leaders urge, the people will vote along party lines in any future referendum, thanks to James Mitchell, Eustace and the NDP.
Take warning Comrade Ralph, Mitchell will remain active and the unofficial leader (in the back room aka war room) of the NDP right into 2011.
The NDP will temporarily secure peace among its fighting factions. They will leave no stones unturned in their effort to unseat Comrade and the ULP. Last Wednesday's massive referendum win gives them momentum.
A proposal to significantly improve our 1979 Constitution was voted down "hand over fist" and the ULP now finds itself in real political hot water.
Although Comrade has provided good governance over the past nine years or so, Wednesday's referendum results indicate there is urgent need for ULP candidate change in many constituencies. But with elections just about one year away, time may not be on Comrade's side for Comrade's much promised renewal of his party.
Mitchell returning to take control of his party (as back room king) poses even greater problems for Comrade. Mitchell proved in the last few weeks of the referendum/2011 election campaign, that, not only can he still energise the NDP core but he can still convince large numbers of disenchanted Labour supporters to stay at home. He can boast that he asked the people to "trust me" and just that they did.
The NDP needed only 34% to win yesterday's referendum. They secured a whopping 57% and won in 13 of the 15 constituencies. As I see it: this speaks volumes.
Comrade must now put the Labour back into the Unity Labour Party or face another sound defeat in 2011.
The ULP should start listening to all Vincentians. Some may recall my comment of June 21, 2009 titled "Constitutional Referendum or Referendum on De Comrade".
Who have eyes to see, let them see.
T Wade Kojo Williams, Sr
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
KINGSTOWN, St Vincent, CMC – Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves says the rejection of the new constitution during Wednesday’s referendum now allows him to call a general election here as late as 2011.
“In the new constitution, I would have had to call the election at the date, sometime between September 28 next year and December 28. Now, I am not so encumbered so by saying no, they have freed me from a restraint.
So, there is a lot more time then for the government. Whether we use up all the time would depend on a host of factors. There will be no political accidents,” Gonsalves said.
He said under the present constitution that was handed down to the island 30 years ago when it gained political independence from Britain,” the next election can come like a thief in the night, or it can be made in the fullness of time.
“That is what the current constitution gives the Prime Minister the right to do.”
The government fell far short of the 66.7 per cent required to change the constitution and the main opposition New Democratic Party (NDP), which had mounted a “Vote No” campaign, said it was pleased that 55.6 per cent of the electorate had rejected the document following Wednesday’s referendum..
NDP leader Arnhim Eustace as well as political commentators here said that the results of the referendum signal a decline in popularity of the nine-year-old Gonsalves administration.
“Whether the government can recover and rebuild is left to be seen.
Everybody seems to suggest it’s a political vote, and if it is a political vote, it’s serious stuff,” said attorney and political commentator Andrew Cummings said, adding that the government should examine its policies ahead of the next general election.
He said the referendum was an “exercise in democracy…this is a referendum on the government, both parties have time to re-think their positions”.
Eustace said the results of the referendum showed that the population was against “poor governance”.
“I regard the vote as a rejection of a number of government policies and programmes and the attitude they have displayed to the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines over these last years and they (people) are sending a message ….we have heard it clearly and we will do what is necessary …. We will help him resign.”
He said as a result, the Prime Minister should call a general election.
“Prime Minister Gonsalves, your mandate to guide the future affairs of this country lies in tatters. In advocating for early elections in 2001, you claimed to have been guided by the voice of the people when over 50 per cent of the people had voted for you in 1998.
“I ask you, therefore, Sir to be consistent with your reasoning. Hasn’t the majority voted against you now? Answer their clarion call: resign and call fresh elections,” he said.
But Gonsalves said that while the result of a referendum represents a “minor setback” in his government’s development agenda, there is no rush to go to the polls early.
The Prime Minister said that this is based on the fact that the voter turnout during the referendum was 7,000 less than in the general elections of 2005, when over 58,000 persons voted compared to just over 51,000 on Wednesday.
He also said that many persons had chosen not to vote on Wednesday.
“The no voters appear to be largely an admixture of the NDP base and some, who have actually succumb to the scare mongering, which turned out to be more successful than we had anticipated,” he said, adding “the government will continue to do its work in accordance with its mandate, delivered overwhelmingly on 7 December 2005”.
“We will continue to pursue the path of economic development as outlined in our policy statement on the building of a modern competitive many sided post colonial economy, which is at once local, national, regional and global.
“We will consolidate our education revolution and expect the same for the housing revolution with health and wellness, physical infrastructure with the international airport and all the important policies and projects for which the people have voted this government into office and expect us to continue to pursue,” Gonsalves said.
The impression I got was that the opponents of the referendum were opposing the Prime Minister rather than the idea of a new consitution. The headline on the Vincentian, in particular, seemed to be more like "nyeah, nyeah" than the relatively factual headline on Searchlight.
But then politics is more obviously personal on St. Vincent than I'm used to; and journalism is a branch of politics.
I suspect that one might get better results in the U.S. style of doing one subject at a time.
After The Referendum
An upbeat-looking and sounding Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves told reporters here yesterday he harboured no sense of dejection, but rather felt energised by the process which rendered a significant victory to his opponents in the referendum on Wednesday.
The results saw the ’Yes’ campaign Gonsalves led, calling on Vincentians to support the project for constitution reform, lose comprehensively, getting 44 per cent of the votes cast.
The ’No’ campaign, led by the opposition New Democratic Party, got 56 per cent of the votes. The opponents also got some 3,000 more votes than were cast for the NDP in the last general election, held in December, 2005.
It means the campaign led by Dr Gonsalves’ United Labour Party lost the popular vote in the historic referendum.
’I do not feel dejected. I feel energised in the knowledge that in time this will be accomplished,’ Dr Gonsalves said during a news conference in the Cabinet Room at the Office of the Prime Minister.
’We lost on referendum day, but I am convinced that we are on the right side of history,’ he had said earlier, talking about what he called ’the noble exercise’ upon which he had embarked.
Several factors led to the results on Wednesday, he said, listing four of the major ones. These, he said, included the fact that among the electorate there was ’fear of the future, uncertainty about the constitution, grievances of government supporters with issues about its performance and an admixture of NDP support and those who succumbed to the scaremongering of the ’No’ campaign.’
He said it was a fact that the opposition managed to bring out more voters than his side, adding that while he congratulated them for that, he felt certain the leaders had to consider the effect of this on the country.
He said they would now have to search their consciences, as well as consider appropriate responses to the questions which were going to come from their children.
’They wanted to give the ULP a political black eye, but in the process have held meaningful change hostage to political manoeuvring.’
Going back over the history of the British granting of the Independence Constitution to St Vincent and the Grenadines in 1979, including the clause which called for the near impossible two-thirds majority for success, Dr Gonsalves then returned to what he saw as the significance of Wednesday’s enterprise.
’They (those he identified as the former colonial masters) never ever imagined that we would attempt to challenge the colonial hegemony which they imposed on us.’
Describing the task as ’a political Mt Everest,’ a phrase he has developed for describing the huge effort required to secure passage of the referendum, he said further that ’we have shown that we possess the intellectual capacity, leadership and courage to challenge those assumptions.’
’The nobility of this effort will never ever be extinguished,’ he said.
Repeating the assertions he made all through the public campaign for public acceptance of constitution reform, Dr Gonsalves said the issue would now revert to ’the back burner for the time being,’ while his government would return to the task of delivering on the mandate it got from the people in the election four years ago.
This included, he said, significant reviews of the government’s programme of delivery of services to citizens, and attention to the concerns which may have led some of them either to stay home on Wednesday, or to vote ’No’ on the referendum.
His party would be particularly keen to find out from those of its supporters who did not vote, Why? And for those who voted ’No’ because they wanted to send the government a message, ’I get the message,’ he said.
He was asked to respond to the conclusions drawn by some commentators on referendum night that the results represented a significant moral defeat for him and the government, and therefore he should consider calling fresh elections.
No, he said. ’Instant commentary does not guide me, because I am convinced it is not imbued with the required heft or wisdom.’
Calling elections, he said, was a process that was ’more involved than selecting a date to marry a prospective bride,’ adding that contrary to what some may read into the referendum results, ’the ’No’ vote has freed me of a constraint.’
By this he meant that under the existing constitution the Prime Minister can move to dissolve parliament and call fresh elections as and when he feels, whereas the proposed new constitution would have placed restrictions on such prerogative. It would have meant that elections could not be called under four and a half years after the last polls.
He could feel the buoyant mood among the leaders of the opposition and some of its supporters, he said, ’but I make a distinction between mood and strength’.
’I assure this nation and all those who know me well that my spirits are in no way dampened.’
’I have no sense of defeat,’ he said. ’I have been engaged in a noble enterprise. I have tried. We have put down the marker,’ he said, saying the fact that 44 per cent of the voters spoke in favour of a new constitution for the first time in the 30 years since the country became independent, could not be ignored.
He was confident that number would grow, he added.
As the news conference ended, Dr Gonsalves said he was heading to Port of Spain for this weekend’s Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. There, he said, he wanted to make the point that ’financing for development’ should get significant attention, not to be drowned out by considerations over climate change.
Thursday, November 26, 2009
In the few days before the voting a great mass of expensively printed posters appeared with the message "Vote 'NO'."
I'm cynical enough to believe that nobody puts that much money in a referendum without expecting to get something out of it. In the US the Republicans are voting no because they believe that Obama is serious about egalitarianism and they want to hurt him any way they can.
Is there somebody on St. Vincent who hates Ralph that much?
St. George’s, November 26, 2009 – Vincentians have decided to remain with the Constitution adopted when their country gained Independence from Britain in 1979. They have rejected a proposed new one that was drafted by Grenadian Constitutional Lawyer, Dr. Francis Alexis.
In a referendum held yesterday on the proposed new Constitution, the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines voted 55-point-six-four percent against it. The “Yes’’ side garnered just over 43 percent support.
St. Vincent, like Grenada and most other English-speaking Caribbean countries, is a constitutional monarchy with Britain’s Queen Elizabeth the Second as titular Head of State, and with the Privy Council in London as the final appellant court. The proposed new Vincentian Constitution had called for changes to those arrangements, among others.
Many Grenadians, including Foreign Affairs Minister Peter David and Information Minister Senator Arley Gill, believe that even with the referendum loss, a momentum has been set for continuation of the discussion on the need for Constitutional change in the Caribbean.
Both ministers commended Vincentian Prime Minister, Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, for what they describe as his bold and courageous effort at Constitutional reform in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Layou Petroglyph Park
The Ministry of Tourism has commissioned another of its tourism product; the latest is the Layou Petroglyph Park. This site was officially handed over on Friday 20th November 2009.
It is the tenth of fourteen sites to be opened under the European Union – Government of St.Vincent and the Grenadines Tourism Development Project.
Parliamentary Representative, Hon Louis Straker said the public must protect the site because it is part of our National Heritage. He noted that the site must be preserved so that the history of it would not be lost. He further stated that he is happy that there are provisions under the proposed constitution that deals with the protection and preservation of our historical heritage.
Straker urged the local organisation and the Ministry of Tourism to maintain the facility. He noted that sometimes these facilities are constructed but are never properly maintained. The Minister noted that the facility can bring economic benefits to persons in the community. He expressed gratitude to the Ministry of Tourism and urged all Vincentians to work together to preserve the site to make it one of the best in St.Vincent and the Grenadines.
Meanwhile the Tourism Minister Hon. Glen Beache said their aim is to promote these sites so that persons can use the information as an education tool. He said sites like these are important for education and local tourism. He noted that Government cannot maintain all these sites on its own therefore there would be an admission fee to these sites. He noted that there must be rules and regulations at these sites in order for them to be properly maintained.
The Tourism Minister noted that the Ministry of Tourism will continue to market St.Vincent and the Grenadines and develop its product. He further stated that the Ministry has done a tremendous job in developing these sites. Beache said every Vincentian is a stakeholder in the Tourism Industry. He noted that we have lagged behind in development and now is the time to be at the forefront of history in the Caribbean.
NY Times on Vincy Referendum
Even the New York Times notices the Vincy Referendum
November 25, 2009
St. Vincent Contemplates Cutting Ties With Queen
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent (AP) -- Voters in the Caribbean nation of St. Vincent and the Grenadines decide Wednesday whether to break their ties with Britain's monarchy, even as Queen Elizabeth II is making a rare visit to the region.
A two-thirds majority in the referendum is needed to adopt a proposed constitution that would replace the charter in place since independence from Britain in 1979.
If the charter is approved, St. Vincent and the Grenadines would join other Caribbean nations that have enacted new constitutions in recent months, including the Dominican Republic and the Cayman Islands.
The proposed constitution would remove the British monarch as the head of state and create a president nominated by the two political parties. Among other changes, it would establish a new court of appeals to replace Britain's Privy Council, which is now the highest court of appeal for the island nation.
Both the governing Unity Labor Party and the opposition agree the islands should become a republic. But members of the opposition New Democratic Party are encouraging voters to reject the charter because they say it does not sufficiently reduce the powers of the prime minister, and they want the president to be elected by voters, not selected by Parliament.
The country would remain a member of the Commonwealth, the organization of Britain its former colonies.
Queen Elizabeth, who visited Bermuda on Tuesday, is in the region to attend a Commonwealth summit in Trinidad on Thursday.
Elections supervisor Sylvia Findlay told local media there are 97,000 registered voters, but the list contains an undetermined number of people who have died or moved away.
Monitors from the 15-nation Caribbean Community trade bloc, the Organization of American States and the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States planned to observe the referendum.
Monday, November 23, 2009
A shortage of ripe bananas on the Grenada market has resulted in the Marketing and National Importing making a decision to temporarily import the fruit from neighbouring St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Roderick St Clair, Marketing Manager of the MNIB, the main distributor for bananas said that farmers here are unable to supply the required 28,000 pounds per week for the local market as well as the 500 boxes need for a supplier in Trinidad.
The temporary measure will be for a period of three months in the first instance.
Sinclair says based on assessment of farms MNIB is confident that the farmers who supply the Board with bananas will be able to return to acceptable production for the local market by then.
Sunday, November 22, 2009
Rickey Singh :Too much, too late?
THE court battle to block a national referendum taking place this Wednesday (Nov 25) on a new constitution for St Vincent and the Grenadines may turn out to be a case of too much, too late. Last Wednesday (Nov 18) a High Court judge chose tomorrow (Monday) to begin the hearing of the petition filed by a four-member "no vote committee" seeking to block the referendum, called to either endorse or reject the proposed new constitution.
The committee members, known to be associated with the parliamentary opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) of Arnhim Eustace, are contending that it was unlawful, discriminatory and immoral for state funds to be made available only to the "yes vote" campaigners of the governing Unity Labour Party (ULP) of Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves.
Lawyers for the state, on the other hand, plan to outline why the application to fund the "no vote" referendum campaign should be dismissed as being without merit, frivolous and vexatious.
At stake for the government is the big challenge of securing a "yes vote", with two-thirds of the eligible electorate, for the new post-independence constitution.
Among its significant features will be the end to a governance system with the British monarch as Head of State and replacement of the Privy Council with the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as the country's final appellate institution. Empowerment of the parliamentary opposition is also another major provision.
The immediate challenge is for the government's legal team to succeed, either tomorrow (Monday) or on Wednesday, in getting the presiding judge to grant a customary seven-day period for a response to the petition filed by the "no vote committee".
It is the prevailing view in legal circles that it would be consistent with established practice for the judge to allow the argument in favour of the respondent.
This therefore means that while the legal battle is being waged in the High Court in Kingstown on Wednesday, Vincentians will be casting their ballots at polling stations on referendum day - for or against the new constitution.
The question being discussed in political and legal circles is whether this scenario amounts to a national issue of too much, too late.
Too much, that is, to ignore parliament's stamp of democratic approval for the new constitution to be endorsed, or rejected, at a national referendum; and too little in terms of an apparent feeble effort - no known militant, focused opposition, and at a comparatively late stage, to block Wednesday's historic decision by the electorate.
Although approved by a two-thirds parliamentary majority last September 3 in the 15-member House of Assembly, a two-thirds majority is also required at a national referendum for the new constitution to come into force.
The government's response to its opponents has been that the new constitution was approved by a two-thirds majority after widespread national consultations on constitutional reform.
The parliamentary opposition NDP was involved, it said, in both the constitution reform process as well as the parliamentary debates for approval of the new constitution that is now the subject of Wednesday's referendum.
As argued by Prime Minister Gonsalves, funding for the educational campaign on constitutional reform was borne by the state with help from the Organisation of American States.
"Now that the required two-thirds parliamentary majority approval of the new constitution was obtained, I find it strange for the government to allocate state funds for the NDP to oppose the decision of the National Assembly," he said.
Gonsalves' NDP opponents, for their part, have dismissed his argument as engaging "in sheer political sophistry". Nevertheless, clarification has been lacking on why the clamour for state funds in support of a "no vote" campaign was not made during the House debate on Wednesday's referendum.
When told about the moral argument contention of the government's opponents on the sharing of state funds for the referendum campaign, Prime Minister Gonsalves claimed that the NDP had "fallen under foreign influence to create confusion" and was now "panicking" because of the nature of its campaign that "engages in superficialities rather than one of substance".
He said he was "very optimistic" for a required two-thirds "yes" vote (approximately 67 per cent of the voting electorate).
At the last general election of December 2005, the incumbent ULP secured 55.26 per cent of the valid votes and 12 of the 15 seats compared with the NDP's 44.68 per cent vote and three seats.
Friday, November 20, 2009
Garifuna Mass in LA
GAHFU is celebrating the arrival of Garinagu not only for Belize but also for Guatemala with a traditional Thanksgiving Mass this Saturday November 21 @ 9am Mother of Sorrows Catholic Church located on Main Street corner of 87th in Los Angeles. Mr. Ellis Garifuna Choir and Drummers, Ms Martha Martinez' Garifuna Culture Group, Ms. Georgette Lambey Youth Dance Group, The Garifuna Settlement Day Group and Hermandad Livingstena will be all united to celebrate as one as it happened last Saturday at Nativity Catholic Church. After the mass, there will be a big celebration across the street as we take the Yurumein Procession to the Mejia's House for a day of entertainment, Garifuna food and Guwie Possey Band live, Garifuna Drummers and Dj music. Admission is free and donations collected for food and drinks will go towards The Mejia's International Grand Ball Group. For more information please (323)898-6841 or visit the website below.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
OAS to Observe Referendum
Kingstown - Nov. 19, 2009 -- The Deputy Chief of the OAS Observer Mission, which will be observing the November 25th Referendum is expected to arrive here this week to co-ordinate the logistical arrangements for the full mission.
Yndira Marin was in the state last week, along with the Chief of Mission, Stephen Gryner, to look at preparations being put in place for the holding of the Referendum here on November 25th.
The team met with Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonslaves, Leader of the Opposition, Arnhim Eustace, Minister of Electoral Affairs, Rene Baptiste, Supervisor of Elections, Sylvia Findlay-Scrub and members of the National Monitoring and Consultative Mechanism.
The head of Mission, Stephen Gryner is expected to arrive here this weekend, while the remaining thirteen members of the team are expected to arrive about a day or two before the Referendum.
The Caricom Secretariat is also preparing to send an Observer Team to St. Vincent and the Grenadines for the November 25th poll.
I have to confess that, in recent days, I have been using some third-party software called "Blogo" to prepare these bits and pieces for publication. The amazing thing about Blogo is that it works!
You may or may not think the content of this blog is wonderful, but there's certainly more of it because it is easier to put together.
November 25 -
An opportunity to demonstrate our maturity as a nation
20.NOV.09 On Wednesday of next week, the voters of St. Vincent and the Grenadines will have their first experience in dealing with a referendum, a popular vote on a single issue. Ever since the introduction of Adult Suffrage in 1951, we have been voting for individuals or parties, in specific constituencies, where there has been a wide range of issues, which would influence voting patterns and choices. The referendum, voting for or against the Constitution Bill 2009, is a novelty for us all, requiring a clear focus and a level of maturity based on understanding of the issue before us.
That issue is whether the electorate is in favour of changing the present Constitution of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and its replacement by its amended and updated version, the Constitution Bill, approved by Parliament on September 3, 2009. The Bill itself is the end product of a process which commenced with the adoption by Parliament of a Resolution on October 8, 2002, in favour of constitutional reform, which gave birth to the Constitutional Review Commission (CRC) to spearhead the reform process over the last six years.
The most significant features of that Resolution and the work of the CRC itself were: (i) bipartisan agreement to proceed and participate, and (ii) the considerable involvement of civil society, representatives of that sector being dominant in the CRC. At the end of it all, however, one can only express disappointment in both the degeneration of the unified approach into a politically partisan one and the consequent sidelining of civil society influence on the outcome.
What should have been a straightforward matter of endorsing a made-in-SVG Constitution has instead become a “with us” or “against us” campaign, with both parties in Parliament launching thinly -disguised “Yes” and “No” committees to carry out what for all intents and process seems to be a dry run for the next general election. That is now an undeniable fact, even if one wants to argue about who is to blame for such a sad state of affairs. What is worse is that six years after the virtually - free distribution of over 10,000 copies of the current Constitution, and following countless hours of public discussion on, it as well as the soliciting of views about its amendment, there is still so much ignorance on the subject.
It is heart-rending to hear people mouthing concerns and fears about a whole set of side issues which have absolutely nothing to do with the choice before us. Those who refrained from making positive input into the proposed Constitution are today strewing the ground with boat loads of red herrings and confusing people in the process. This is not a referendum on the performance of the government but a sacred opportunity for us to shape the laws which would govern our affairs for years to come.
If truth be told, even taking into consideration reservation and alternative views, we are yet to hear any convincing argument against the reform of the present Constitution or to see any reason advanced that the Constitution Bill 2009 is less beneficial to our country than the one we got in 1979. We will never all agree on all aspects of any Constitution proposed but we need to make a balanced judgment. That decision must be based on a comparison of the proposed Constitution with the one we have at present, and not with any other one, real or imagined. It is an occasion for informed choice, not for emotionalism or political partisanship.
Come November 25, let us all demonstrate that as a nation, we have the maturity and common sense to make the right choice and to continue along the path of democratization, good governance and social and economic development.
Millenium Bank Auction
NORTH CAROLINA, United States, November 19, 2009 -
Almost US$70 million in assets belonging to a former Caribbean banker accused of ripping off more than 375 investors, have hit the auction block.
The cars, art, jewels and wine fine of the missing 58-year-old William Wise of the St Vincent and the Grenadines-based Millennium Bank have been ordered auctioned in a move to recoup some money to repay investors.
The Rockingham-based Iron Horse Auction Co. of North Carolina is conducting the auction, which began yesterday, under a federal court order.
The Securities and Exchange Commission has alleged that Wise used the bank as a front for a Ponzi scheme in which he stole nearly US$70 million from over 300 investors from July 2004.
Millennium Bank has apparently been marketing its financial products to wealthy US citizens since 2004, and described itself as a subsidiary of a Swiss bank, United Trust of Switzerland SA. The investors, lured by the prospect of high investment returns offered by banking offshore, happily snapped them up.
Clients were asked to send checks to the Caribbean, where they were forwarded to California, the SEC said. The money was then deposited in a Las Vegas bank account opened by some of the conspirators.
Only US$3 million of the collected funds was returned to investors, according to the SEC.
No charges have been filed in the case, but after the SEC sued Wise and others in March, the courts froze all of his assets. Auctioneers hoped to raise more than US$400,000 from the sale. (Caribworldnews)
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Fund for Females In Politics
WASHINGTON, United States, November 18, 2009 - The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) has approved a regional grant of up to US$2.25 million to support initiatives to increase political participation by women from Latin America and the Caribbean, especially Afro-descendents and indigenous women.
Entitled 'New Horizons: Toward Increased Political Participation by Women', the project has been approved by the IDB at a time when women have gained access to the region's highest political posts. Michelle Bachelet was elected president of Chile in 2005; the following year Portia Simpson Miller became Jamaica's prime minister; and in 2007, Cristina Kirchner became president of Argentina by popular mandate.
In barely two years, from 2005 to 2007, the number of women holding posts as ministers in Latin America rose from 15 per cent to 24 per cent of the total, the IDB noted.
"The presence of women in the legislative branches has also grown in a sustained way, in part because 12 countries in the region have adopted a quota system for candidate slates that sets a minimum for women. The number of women congressional representatives in Latin America and the Caribbean has climbed from seven per cent in 1990 to 19 per cent in 2009," it added.
Despite these advances, a recent IDB study found that gender equality is far from being a reality and the growing number of women in public positions does not include indigenous or Afro-descended women, even in countries where these groups represent a substantial proportion of the population.
"This project will make it possible to finance strategic measures aimed at strengthening effective participation by women in areas of decision-making that affect their lives and the lives of their families," explains IDB project team leader Gabriela Vega.
The grant, which comes from the new IDB Multidonor Gender and Diversity Fund created in May 2009, will finance a variety of initiatives over a three-year period.
It will also finance initiatives to help create exchange networks; facilitate the transfer of ideas, strategies and resources; and develop awareness of why it is important for women to participate in decision-making. In addition, the funds will finance academic research about women's leadership, modernization of the State and mechanisms to strengthen women's leadership and participation though public policy and multilateral banking operations.
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Note From The Publisher of SFI Books
"Today, I believe people are ailing. Contemporary culture is plagued by the passion to possess: "more is better" is the prevailing philosophy. We are constantly being told what to do and how to think; the market place is crowded with things to buy and things to do; opinions about what to buy, what to do and why; images of how to look and how to be. The complexity of rushing to achieve and accumulate more and more overwhelms us. The result: we are less collected, more reactive, true happiness and peace of mind elude us.
Why, then, am I choosing to enter an already overcrowded and over-communicated market place?
Because I also believe it is our urgent duty to rouse ourselves to fresh reflection about what is worthwhile and what is not. But now, these reflections must be grounded in better critical-thinking capacities. I would like to see people awaken and become more conscious and better equipped to navigate this crowded field of moving targets and make better choices in building real prosperity. Real prosperity, for me, means wholeness; prosperous lives are lives that are not only financially secure but peaceful and serene as well. So I have embarked upon the task of making critical reflection fashionable."
Inga Rhonda King
The Nature of Belonging: Another New Book Published in SVG
Author: Vonnie Roudette
Publication date: 2009-11-30
Cover Type: Paperback
A Collection of Short Essays Beautifully interspersed with Roudette's Poetic Drawings from Nature
Vonnie Roudette received an MA in Manchester, UK and spent 3 years at Kyoto Arts University, Japan, researching traditional aesthetics. She worked for Japanese designer Issey Miyake before returning to the UK to practice as a freelance designer where she was also a part time Art lecturer on a BA Textiles course (Manchester UK,) and Foundation Art Course(Reading, UK). Her design experience includes: theatre design (UK), film and video (London, St. Vincent and the Grenadines), textiles (Italy, Japan, London).
Since 1992 she has designed and taught creative educational programs for children and craft producers (St. Vincent and the Grneadines, St. Lucia, St. Kitts and Nevis), and was handcraft development consultant in St Vincent to the OAS Heritage Tourism Project, ‘96-2000. In 1996 she co-founded SVG CREATE, an NGO of artists and craft producers. She is a certified farmer (St. Vincent and the Grenadines, 1997) and manager/design director of Fibreworks Inc., a craft factory in rural St. Vincent established in 1997. and is trained in natural building techniques in Colombia, Ohio and Mexico (2003).
Vonnie currently teaches A level Art and Design at St Vincent Community College and coordinates Hand2Earth, a rural educational sustainability lifestyles youth project in Penniston, St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
SVG Calls for Fighting Drugs
By Nelson A. King
Published: Wednesday, November 18, 2009 9:11 AM EST
St. Vincent and the Grenadines has called on the international community to demonstrate the “necessary political will” in cooperating against the global problems of narcotic drugs.
In addressing the United Nations General Assembly recently, Ambassador Camillo Gonsalves also highlighted the interrelations between drug trafficking and other developmental problems.
He also said there is “need for consideration to be given to transit states that lie between the drug producing countries of South America and their primary markets in North America and Europe.”
In debating the U.N. Report of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, Gonsalves, the eldest son of Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, noted that the St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ economy was once been based on a “thriving banana-export business to the United Kingdom.”
But, he added that with changes “initiated by the World Trade Organization and the United States, which “does not grow a single bunch of bananas,” the island’s economy has since “plummeted.”
“The resulting unemployment, poverty and social upheaval spawned a destructive drug industry,” the U.N. envoy said.
“And ‘ancient old-growth’ rain forests are subsequently decimated to make ways for cannabis herb fields, run by criminal enterprises with headquarters often in other countries,” he added.
“St. Vincent and the Grenadines is now one of the Caribbean’s major marijuana producers,” he said, quoting a UNODC report that points to the Caribbean as having a murder rate higher than any other region in the world.
“The tragic statistic is specifically tied to the illicit drug industry,” Gonsalves said.
He lamented that his country only has “a few hundred, largely unarmed law enforcement officers, which face the challenge of policing armed drug gangs,” adding that the judicial system is “crowded with drug-related cases.”
Gonsalves pointed out that the Report of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs recognizes “the multifaceted challenges faced by transit states.”
He, therefore, called for increased technical and financial assistance to states most directly affected by the world’s drug problem.
“This is, indeed, a global problem,” he said. “And the human and financial costs of combating it cannot be borne by states like ours, which are essentially transit points for drugs on their way to North American and European markets.”
At the same time, Gonsalves said the “interconnectedness of the world drug problem to other global issues must be acknowledged and addressed.”
“Surely, it is preferable for international trading regimes to carve out exceptions and export preferences for what are essentially de minimis producers of legitimate agricultural goods than it is to force them to choose between unemployment and the production of illicit cash crops,” he said.
Copyright © 2009 - Caribbean Life
Monday, November 16, 2009
New Book Published in SVG
And Who Do You Say You Are: Journey To An Authentic Life
Denise L. Peroune, Ph.D.
One of the hallmarks of successful organizations is the harmony between who they say they are and how they behave in the marketplace. Awareness of their core values and using this knowledge to influence decision making, plays a significant role in engendering this harmony. And Who Do You Say You Are: Journey to an Authentic Life shows how one institution began the journey to rediscovering itself as it recalled what it was all about—its reason for being.
As with institutions, so with individuals. And Who Do You Say You Are: Journey to an Authentic Life uses the principles that guided the institution in its own journey, to create a path for individuals to do the same—to identify their personal values.
Many voices clamor for our attention, each presenting a model enticing us to create our very own destinies. Individuals with whom we interact routinely from peers, colleagues, mentors, to parents, siblings, friends, children and spouses, all vie for our attention as well as our commitment to their message. Knowing our core values provides us with invaluable internal tools—a compass for direction and a barometer to accurately read our environment. As we use these tools we can be more intentional about the choices we make and achieve greater success in creating meaningful, authentic lives.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
With more than twelve years experience in higher education marketing, Denise L. Peroune observes that as organizations define their core values and position themselves authentically, an environment is created where creativity and innovation reside and performance is enhanced. While her practice is at the level of the organization, her desire is to equip individuals to arrive at a similar place of authenticity, where they too can live meaningful and empowered lives. She holds the Ph.D. in leadership and education with a specialization in human resource development from Barry University, Miami Shores, Florida; a graduate diploma in international relations from the Institute of International Relations, St. Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago; and an undergraduate degree in economics from the University of the West Indies, Trinidad and Tobago. Dr. Peroune resides in Atlanta, Georgia, USA.
Posted 11/16/09 Caribbean News Net
KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent, CMC – Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves Monday raised the possibility of foreign interference in the upcoming referendum for a new constitution for St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Vincentians go to the polls on November 25 in what the government hopes will be a “Yes Vote” to change the 30 year-old constitution that had been handed down to the island when it gained its political independence from Britain.
But the main opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) which is urging voters to reject the new constitution, has also accused the government of using State resources to finance its campaign
But Gonsalves told reporters that the Opposition Leader Armhin Eustace had travelled to St. Kitts and Nevis over the last week as part of the efforts to secure a “no vote” in the referendum.
“Ask Mr. Eustace why he went to St. Kitts… to see his friend John Cato. Who pick him up at the airport, what he did in the hotel room, whom he met…did he bring back money, from whom, if anybody, or did he make arrangements to bring back money,” Gonsalves told a news conference.
“I dare him to say he did not go there on the Saturday morning because I knew the hour when he went. I am not Prime Minister as a Sunday school child…,” he added.
“We must show them on referendum day that we are independent minded people, proud and we are not better than anybody, but nobody is better than us.
“The exercise we are engaged in is one of self affirmation, self confidence, self belief, it is a political virtue of self mastery in solidarity with one another under the serenity of Almighty God,” he said, adding that as a social scientist he is also aware of their modus operandi.
“I will not allow them to hoodwink the people of this country,” Gonsalves said, adding that the foreign elements were providing support to the opposition party in the hope of benefitting from an economic citizenship progarmme in the future.
“Citizenship of this country we view in the government and the “Yes Campaign” as the highest office in the land. The office of citizen is higher than that of Governor General or President…Prime Minister, Chief Justice.
“It is the office that unites us as a community of nationals in a geographic landscape and seascape with a fundamental law called the constitution building a viable society…”.
The Prime Minister said he was making it abundantly clear that his government is against economic citizenship insisting that the passport of St. Vincent and the Grenadines “will never be for sale”.
“What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world but suffers the loss of his own soul,” Gonsalves told a wide ranging news conference, adding that local citizens shared no vision, or common thread with a person born in Europe who had used money to obtain a local passport.
“Okay the government gets some money, but you know who makes the most money, the intermediaries, the lawyers and those who set it up for them,” Gonsalves said recalling that when his Unity Labour Party (ULP) came to power in 2001, it found a national budget in which the former government had indicated that the country would have received EC$12 million (US$4.4 million) from the economic citizenship programme.
“We have taken the high road on this issue. There is no way that an issue of economic citizenship can be salvaged by this government,” Gonsalves said noting that this is among the reasons why his government had gone to Parliament to repeal the Economic Citizenship Programme Bill of 1996.
“We are fundamentally opposed to selling our passport. The idea for us of selling citizenship is…wrong,” Gonsalves said noting that his country welcomed foreign investment.
The Prime Minister said that any investor who came here “establishes a business, invests his money, has a track record, gets permanent residence” and then applies for citizenship would be considered.
“That is a different thing than somebody coming to give you EC$75,000 (US$27,770), for your passport…and to have rogues and vagabonds among them buy your citizenship.
“The people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines will understand what is at stake,” he said, noting that the opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) was raising the issue as the country prepares to vote in a referendum on November 25 for a new constitution.
“It is desperation,” he said.
Some Caribbean countries including Dominica had entered into the economic citizenship programme in a bid to supplement scarce financial resources.
Meanwhile, Gonalves has called on churches and other religious groups here to hold a “Day of Prayer” on November 29.
“You notice I am not prejudging the results of the referendum. The exercise of constitution making has been a healing one. We were together from October 2002 until the end of July 2007 and that united and uniting process survived a contentious general election in December 2005,” he said.
SVG PM News Conference
Press Conference in SVG by Prime Minister Gonsalves
November 16th, 2009 | Author: admin
The Prime Minister of St.Vincent and the Grenadines the Honorable Dr. Ralph Gonsalves held a press conference today with regards to some new developing information.
What is this new information?
Basically the press conference was a call out to the leader of the opposition, the honorable Arnhim Eustace of the New Democratic Party, the prime minister wants Mr Eustace to disclose how is the NDP ”Vote No Campaign” being funded. He has brought to the attention of the people of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines that there is a possibility that a company, Strategic Communication Laboratories (http://www.scl.cc) , a company from UK is somewhat behind the no campaigns in St.Vincent and the Grenadines for the NDP and he just want the opposition leader to deny or confirm this information.
He also disclosed that Arnhim Euastace hurriedly made a trip to St.Kitts over the weekend. Why?, is the question asked by the PM.
Also, the prime minister stated that if the referendum is passed successfully on Wednesday 25th, there will be bank holiday on Monday 30th November 2009.
Caribbean drifts from Europe
Caribbean drifts from U.K., France
Financial crisis gives autonomy push momentum
Peter Goodspeed, National Post
The Caribbean was once a jewel in the empires of France and Britain, a source of riches from sugar to slavery.
While both empires have long since gone, the last vestiges of colonialism remain in far-flung corners of the Caribbean, such as Martinique, Guadeloupe, the Cayman Islands and the Turks & Caicos.
But the global financial crisis has transformed these island paradises, hurting local economies, damaging tourism and destabilizing off-shore tax-havens. Now it is driving calls for constitutional change, political reform and more autonomy from the mother countries.
From the French overseas territories of Guadeloupe and Martinique, which were rocked by two months of riots over rising food prices this year, to the British-held Caymans, which last week adopted a new constitution appointing their first prime minister, change is stalking the Caribbean.
Two days before the Commonwealth's heads of government meet in Trinidad & Tobago on Nov. 27, the 32 islands that make up St. Vincent & the Grenadines will vote on a draft constitution that eliminates the monarchy and replaces the Queen with a president elected by the National Assembly.
On Jan. 10, Martinique and French Guiana, situated on the northern coast of South America, will hold referendums on whether to seek more autonomy or a change of status within the French Republic.
Last week, Nicolas Sarkozy, the French President, introduced a package of 137 new measures to expand autonomy in France's 11 remaining overseas territories.
The move is intended to assuage discontent that boiled to the surface this year when protests, strikes and riots swept Guadeloupe and Martinique. Locals were upset by soaring prices for imported food and fuel in territories where salaries are generally lower and unemployment considerably higher than in mainland France.
Now, Mr. Sarkozy is seeking to adjust France's relationship with its overseas territories by giving them representation in his Cabinet, more control over their own affairs, the right to take part in international negotiations and the ability to join regional organizations.
The reforms do nothing to alter the territories' overall relationship with France, but they are signs of growing turmoil amid the tattered remnants of empire.
Britain, like France, is struggling with its imperial past. Residents of the Turks & Caicos in the eastern Caribbean are indignant after the British Foreign Office dissolved their parliament in August and restored direct rule from Britain. London said local leaders were guilty of "political amorality and immaturity and general administrative incompetence."
In the aftermath of the worldwide financial collapse, the Turks & Caicos government ran short of cash. It was soon discovered former premier Michael Missick had misspent millions on everything from a bulletproof car to four-wheel-drive Land Rovers for his Cabinet ministers, a jet and lavish parties.
Gordon Wetherall, the islands' Governor, calculated the tiny country of 30,000 people had US$70-million in unpaid bills and another US$60-million in outstanding loans.
Officials in London feared they might have to bail out other overseas territories. At least five British territories in the region -Anguilla, Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, the Caymans and the Turks & Caicos -- have built their economies around the financial service sector, establishing themselves as tax havens for the rich and headquarters for hedge funds.
Bermuda is the world's third-largest centre for reinsurance and has no income tax, no profits tax and no capital gains taxes. The government's main income comes from import duties and licence fees.
The Cayman Islands are the world's leading centre for hedge funds and a major wholesale banking centre, doing much of the U.S.'s overnight banking.
A recent World Bank report estimates financial services account for almost 45% of the Caribbean's gross domestic product.
Not surprisingly, the worldwide financial crisis hit some island economies hard. Tourism went into a nosedive; revenues from the financial sector withered; unemployment rose; remittances from family members overseas fell; and foreign direct investment dried up.
When the Cayman Islands suddenly found itself running short of cash, it asked the Foreign Office to approve a US$485-million bank loan to bail out the tiny territory's nearly bankrupt government.
But London balked, insisting it wanted to see a financial plan first and suggesting the islands should raise taxes to improve their finances.
That sort of move is anathema to Caribbean tax havens.
Last week, McKeeva Bush, the Caymans' new Premier, travelled to London to lobby against attempts to tinker with the islands' finance system. He also complained Britain was trying to micromanage their economy.
"The current Labour government has chosen to sour relations in order to use Caymans' tax situation as a distraction from their own," he told opposition Conservative MPs.
"It was unanimously agreed that the current U.K. government does not appreciate or understand the value of the Cayman Islands or the other overseas territories and that a 'more grown-up' attitude was required," Cayman Finance, the body representing the islands' finance industry, said after the meetings.
Still, fears are growing that political and economic upheavals might push some Caribbean countries into becoming failed states that could be dragged into the regional drug trade.
The Caribbean financial centres have also come under attack from the Group of 20 leading economic countries who want off-shore tax havens to begin closing some of the loopholes that cost them millions each year in lost revenue.
But any tightening of global financial markets could reverberate through the Caribbean for years to come.
"It's a fact that when global crisis occur, small vulnerable economies tend to pay a disproportionately high price," Denzil Douglas, the Prime Minister of Saint Kitts & Nevis, told the United Nations General Assembly this fall.
"Few if any foresaw the winds that would be contrary, the storms fierce and the course ahead so challenging," said Rufus George Bousquet, the External Affairs Minister for St. Lucia.
The developing countries of the Caribbean are still struggling to find the safety of calmer waters, he added.
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