Thursday, December 31, 2009

If you are googling around looking for interesting stuff for this blog, like I was, you are likely to run across a girl singer (Anne Clark) who performs as "St. Vincent". I like what she does, but others seem to regard it as weird. It has nothing to do with the Grenadines, but I couldn't resist the coincidence. I couldn't download a video (maybe copyright?) but you can see them on You Tube

Cookbook

I wanted to get Sally something for Christmas that she wasn't expecting, so when I ran across this it was perfect.

It is chock full of traditional caribbean dishes, it has the kind of nutritional information that you'd expect of a book written by a committee of Home Economists, it doesn't require any unnatural ingredients (the caribbean vegetables are generally available in caribbean food stores up north, and some supermarkets), it has lots of good pictures, definitions of spices, and that sort of thing, and it is published by Macmillan (www.macmillan-caribbean.com) so you can probably get it from Amazon if you don't get one down here, and it makes a nice souvenir.

http://www.macmillan-caribbean.com/book.aspx?path=/pages.aspx/generalbooks/food_and_drink/&id=176


Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Treaty of Basseterre

The new treaty is an upgrade on the original Treaty of Basseterre that led to the establishment of the OECS 28 years ago.



OECS Chairman and host Prime Minister Dr. Denzil Douglas described the event as “a day of profound historical import for the Governments and peoples that constitute the OECS”.“It is today that we commit our countries to an even closer and deeper union. And we do this by signing off on a new treaty – the Treaty of Basseterre establishing the OECS Economic Union,” Douglas said as he addressed the hour-long ceremony at the headquarters of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB).Douglas noted that the OECS countries were facing domestic, hemispheric and global challenges with profound implications in the economic, political and socio-cultural; spheres.“And so it is essential; that we seek out and identify ways of increasing our resiliency so as to ensure our continued viability, our continued relevance and our continued successes nationally, regionally and internationally.”

The prime minister said that over the next few months the treaty will be debated and fine tuned within the OECS countries leading to its ratification.Douglas said he regards the signing of the accord as a “fundamental philosophical transformation and political commitment to deepening the level of integration among member states.”The OECS groups the islands of Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, Anguilla and the British Virgin islands (BVI).

These islands, except the BVI, already share a number of institutions including a Central bank and a common judiciary.Montserrat, a British Overseas Territory and a founding member of the sub-regional grouping, did not sign the accord.


“Although the treaty has now been redrafted to allow Montserrat to retain its full membership and all the rights and duties appertaining before the coming into force of the new treaty, Montserrat is not yet in a position to sign on 29 Dec., 2009 because our internal approval process has not yet been completed,” said Claude Hogan, director of regional affairs and trade.’“It is envisaged that when Montserrat signs on to the new treaty it will continue to need entrustments for accession within the union on a case by case basis,” Hogan added.

Article 5.1 of the new treaty also provides that “a member state which is not an independent state undertakes to enact legislation to provide for the reception into its law of the legislation made under this Article.”The new treaty is an upgrade on the original Treaty of Basseterre that led to the establishment of the OECS 28 years ago.The new accord allows for the delegation of certain legislative authority in certain areas to the heads of government and for the formation of a Regional Assembly of Parliamentarians comprising members of the parliaments of the individual islands.In addition, the new treaty gives a “much more defined role” to the OECS Commission in getting the interlocking arrangements between the countries and the OECS.“So these I think are very very significant changes which would lead to more efficient implementation of policy that we have,” said ECCB Central Bank Governor, Sir Dwight Venner, who also addressed the ceremony.

He said since the last meeting of the OECS leaders in Anguilla, six weeks ago, “we have had to fine tune this treaty and we put it in a way that will be acceptable…to make sure that legalities to the treaty were accurate and did not offend the constitutions.“You have to understand that the OECS is a very congenial grouping. When the OECS heads meet it is more like a quasi-cabinet…so the chairman is very much engaged in the running of the OECS and that distinguishes us from other arrangements like CARICOM (Caribbean Community),” he added.

Prior to the signing of the treaty, Grenada’s Prime Minister Tillman Thomas said the recent experience with the global economic situations made it imperative for the sub-region to consolidate and deepen its integration process.“This is a very significant occasion we need to have an authority to bind us in terms of decision making and the new treaty provides for a Commission and also an Assembly,” he said, while his St. Vincent and the Grenadines counterpart, Dr. Ralph Gonsalves said the treaty puts more authority “at the center of the regional integration movement.“

This draft treaty has been under discussion for quite some time…and having initialed it we would then go to our respective cabinets and then at another meeting do the final signature and then make all the arrangements for ratification and parliamentary approval,” he added.Dominica’s Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerritt who missed the ceremony, but was represented by Ambassador Charles Maynard, told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) that he fully supports the efforts to take the sub-region to the next level.“I believe it is a good thing for the region. We can’t be moving across the world talking as small independent nations. We have to work together to bring greater social and economic development to our people.

”Skerritt said he was hopeful that the population of the sub-region would be supportive of this new initiative and that the signing of the treaty would “signal our seriousness about moving the process forward and that hopefully we could have it implemented by June 2010”.But he acknowledged that some OECS countries may be holding general elections between the period of the signing of the treaty and its implementation, but that he is “hopeful that our people can keep it on the front burner”.

http://www.caribbeandailynews.com/?p=3146


On Video

This seems to have worked, with limitations. You may have to fiddle with the controls, and it seems to want to download the whole thing before playing it (which it calls "buffering") but it plays well and clearly when it decides to go. I'll have to do this more often in the future.

Incidentally, I downloaded this from You Tube using a bit of software called "Videobox" by TastyApps (TastyApps.com) which makes downloading videos very easy.

PM at Basseterre

video

This is sort of an experiment, to see if I can upload to the blog a video downloaded from You Tube

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Searchlight Editorial

End of year, end of decade



December 31, 2009 not only marks the end of yet another year, it also signals the end of one of the most momentous decades in human history. For the people of St Vincent and the Grenadines, it has been a ten-year period that has witnessed dramatic political events which have had a significant impact on our socio-economic as well as political development, and which will naturally contribute to reshaping our future in the second decade of the twenty-first century.



The post-20th century began with SVG in social and political turmoil. Like most regimes, the governing New Democratic Party (NDP), then in its record fourth term in office, seemed to have shot its bolt and to have run out of ideas. The country seemed to be adrift with the heavy weight of the Ottley Hall scheme weighing around the country’s collective neck. As the economic squeeze tightened, so did the disconnect between government and the people. This was most dramatically manifested in an ongoing row between public servants and their employer which more and more drew in other sectors of the public. It led to open dispute over increased pay and pension for Parliamentarians, mass demonstrations supported and/or organized by the opposition Unity Labour Party (ULP) and a national crisis. This was resolved only by the Grand Beach Accord in Grenada, the hand-over of power from Sir James Mitchell to Mr. Arnhim Eustace and premature elections in 2001. The rest is now history.



So for almost the entire decade, the Ralph Gonsalves-led ULP has held the reins of power in St Vincent and the Grenadines. There is no doubt that the country has changed much over the past nine years, economically and socially in particular. The revelations in the Poverty Assessment Report and the successes in education and housing attest to the positive strides we have made. In addition, Prime Minister Gonsalves rapidly became one of, if not the leading light, among Caribbean political leaders.



Yet, these developments were not matched in the political field as Dr. Gonsalves and his team were to find out to their chagrin right at the end of the decade. In spite of the early proclamation by P.M. Gonsalves of a “Together Now” policy; national unity has remained as elusive a goal as ever and 2010 meets the nation unable to agree on even as basic a step as a new Constitution to replace the one handed down to us at independence. Political tribalism is as rampant as it was in 2000, fuelled by irresponsible elements, who, rather than uplift and educate, do exactly the opposite.



The result was the debacle which was the November 25 Referendum on the Constitution, undoubtedly, the most important political event of 2009 if not of the entire decade, where St Vincent and the Grenadines is concerned. We now enter 2010 much as we were a decade earlier, politically divided to such an extent that we are detracted from the most critical national tasks of maintaining economic growth and development, eradicating poverty and setting the stage for sustainable economic progress in the 2010 - 2019 period.



The upcoming year is bound to see electoral considerations overshadowing all else as the ULP seeks to recoup lost political fortunes and the NDP strives to turn its successes in the “Vote-No” campaign in the referendum into a “Vote-Yes” for a new government whenever the general elections are called. Let us hope that we do not become all-consumed by the electoral flames so much so that the wider issues requiring urgent attention are neglected. We cannot afford to lose our national focus.



Sunday, December 27, 2009

Captain Hugh Malzac




Ever since 15-year-old powder boy James Forten fought aboard the privateer Royal Louis in the American Revolution, African Americans have served in the country's merchant marine. But it was not until 150 years later that an African American -- Hugh Malzac --rose to the rank of Master.

Malzac was born St. Vincent and the Grenadines in 1886 and went to sea immediately after high school, eventually earning his mate's license. He immigrated to the United States in 1916, and within two years had passed the exams for his master's license, the first African American ever to do so. Having his license was one thing, finding a shipowner that would hire him as captain was another. Malzac spent the next two decades working mainly in the steward's department. He was also active in the labor movement in the 1930s, an activity that would come to haunt him in the two decades later.

With the outbreak of World War Two, Malzac lobbied hard on behalf of Negro mariners, and was eventually rewarded with command of the Liberty ship Booker T. Washington in 1942. It was something Malzac had worked for for two decades, but he almost turned it down because the crew was to be all black. Eventually, the ship's operators gave in and agreed to integrate the crew. Malzac took command, recalling later:
Everything I ever was, stood for, fought for, dreamed of, came into focus that day... The concrete evidence of the achievement gives one's strivings legitimacy, proves that the ambitions were valid, the struggle worthwhile. Being prevented for those twenty-four years from doing the work for which I was trained had robbed life of its most essential meaning. Now at last I could use my training and capabilities fully. It was like being born anew.
For the next five years delivered troops and supplies to both theaters of the war and the occupation. In 22 trips, the Booker T. Washington transported 18,00 troop.

After the war, the ship's operators had their revenge and Malzac again couldn't get command of a ship. Things got worse in the next few years, as lost both his seaman's papers due to the Red Scare of the 1950s and a run for public office. Eventually, a judge restored his papers, but Malzac never commanded a ship again, instead settling for night mate work until the end of his career. He died in 1971.

Time magazine's October 1942 account of Malzac taking command of the Booker T. Washington can be found on it's website.

Malzac wrote a book about his experiences, A Star To Steer By, published in 1963.



Posted by Capt. Rob Earle at 4:01 AM

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Blog Contents

I'm going to start including photographs of things I found of interest, including things I have noted on the web.

If you see something, text or photo, that you think might be interesting to residents or potential visitors to Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, drop me an email and tell me about it.

karlek76@gmail.com


PM says SVG seeking to get off OECD grey list

KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent, CMC – Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves says St. Vincent and the Grenadines is on course to meet a March 31, 2010 deadline set by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
The OECD wants offshore financial jurisdictions, including those in the Caribbean, to establish information tax exchange agreements (TIEAs) with a minimum of 12 countries in order to have their names removed from the OECD grey list.

Gonsalves said that over the past few months, his administration has been engaged in intensive bilateral negotiations with the OECD to implement the internationally required measures.
“At present we have established TIEAs with seven countries, Aruba, Austria, Denmark, Liechtenstein, The Kingdom of the Netherlands, and the Netherland Antilles,” Gonsalves said, adding that discussions were now taking place with Australia, Germany, Ireland, New Zealand, The United Kingdom and the Nordic Alliance.

"By March 31, 2010, countries on the grey list, which have made no or unsubstantial progress, will be dropped to the blacklist and are likely to be subjected to sanctions from the OECD," Gonsalves said, emphasising that the TIEAs must be in accordance with the OECD suggested templates.

The Prime Minister said that being placed on the OECD blacklist between 2000 and 2003 had affected the country's accounting system, including banking relations.

As we don't have corresponding bank relations with the United States to operate as a bank in this hemisphere, you are essentially operating as a savings bank because you are not going to have the extent of the commercial transactions.

So that while we are seeking to make money on the international financial services sector, we have at the same time, --however much it is offensive to us and to our independence and sovereignty--, we have to fall in line and do certain things as a practical matter to make some money and the space and at the same time to hold our indigenous banking sector in some viable way in a sustainable manner‚

In a 2000 report, the OECD identified a number of jurisdictions as tax havens which it said modified their tax laws to attract foreign capital as well as allowing foreigners to establish subsidiaries to evade or avoid the tax laws or regulations of other jurisdictions.

The OECD Global progress report of 19 December 2009, showed that Antigua and Barbuda and Barbados were among the jurisdictions that have implemented the internationally agreed tax standard while Anguilla, the Bahamas, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat, St. Kitts/Nevis, St. Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines have indicated their commitment to the standard.


SVG Videos

Sorry, I should have done my homework. Those videos are included among others relating to SVG on You Tube. If you go to You Tube and search for "Ralph Gonsalves" or St. Vincent and the Grenadines you'll find lots of videos on all sides.

It takes me a while to catch up with the technology. I still like to read speeches.


PM Videos



There are a number of video clips of the PM relating to the funding of the opposition to the recent constitutional referendum available on the site below. The clips are from YouTube so you can probably find them there, but I ran across this site with a convenient collection.

http://cheapconferencecalls.biz/pm-ralph-gonsalves-calls-on-opposition-to-declare-source-of-funding/



Monday, December 21, 2009

Finally, Hot Water

After getting along with electric shower heads for almost twenty years we finally broke down and installed a solar hot water heater on the roof. We now have hot water all the time (even after a couple of rainy days) in both the bathrooms and the kitchen sink.

Since I do the dishes in the evening I really appreciate that hot water in the kitchen. Also the fact that you can adjust the temperature of the shower is its own quiet pleasure.

The water heater was installed by S. G. DeFreitas & Co. Ltd (contact Jimmy Davis at 784-458-4243) and the incidental plumbing and repairs to the old distribution system was done by James Trevor (cell 533-6735). No complaints about anything. The unit was installed in a day and Trevor hooked up the things that the plumbers for the original owners had done badly in a bit over a day.

There's a running joke about craftsmanship in the Caribbean; but these guys know their business and work well and efficiently.

If we'd have known what a pleasure it is to have hot water on demand (and the tropical sun does that really well) and how well it would have been done we'd have put it in years ago.


Sunday, December 20, 2009

PM "humbly" accepts results

St Vincent and the Grenadines' Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves has accepted the wishes of the people following the voting in Wednesday's referendum to adopt a new constitution.55.64% of the voters cast their votes not to accept a proposed constitution, which would have seen Queen Elizabeth being replaced as the country's Head of State. 43.13% voted to change the present constitution handed to the country when it gained political independence in 1979.



Gonsalves told members of the media that he “humbly” accept the wishes of the people but said he was satisfied he was on the right track to introduce a new constitution to the people at this time. 



Gonsalves give some reasons why the people did not accept the new constitution and listed some them as low voter turn out when compared to the general elections of 2005; persons uncertainty about what the new constitution held for them; “fear of the future under the new constitution, induced largely by some unwholesome scaremongering propaganda of the no campaign, an abstention from voting against the back drop against the backdrop of grievances against the government or against their parliamentary representative.”



He said the no voters appear to be largely an ad-mixture of persons associated to the opposition New Democratic Party, which lead the no campaign, and persons who actually succumb to the scaremongering “which turned out to be more successful than we anticipated.” 



Following the defeat of the referendum, NDP Leader, Arnhim Eustace, renewed his call for Gonsalves to resign.



This does not seem to be on Gonsalves' mind as he told the nation his Unity Labour Party was elected in 2005 and the government will continue to do its work. 



“We will continue to pursue the path of economic develop as stated in our policy statement, we will deepened, consolidate our education revolution, the same with the housing revolution, with health and wellness, physical infrastructure, the international airpot and al,l the important policies and projects to which the people have voted this government into office us into office and expect us to pursue,” Gonsalves said.



“We have within the government and within our party some examinations to do. Where there are grievances those grievances must be tackled effectively and where representation has fallen short of the desired level that must improve.” 



Gonsalves said he intends to lead his ULP “successfully” in the next general elections.



He is expected to attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Trinidad where Queen Elizabeth will also be.

... ... ... ... ... ...

Personally, I think that the requirement of a 2/3 majority means that any constitutional changes must represent a consensus of the two parties, which means that it isn't going to happen as long as the parties are like those in the US and the UK where they are always in opposition no matter what the content of the matter. KE


Friday, December 18, 2009

Secret Banking Using SVG Banks

I got sent this email, which explains how to get around the normal transparency of SVG banking by using a shell corporation or foundation based in Panama. The intent is to get around the laws and international treaties of SVG. I suspect that this kind of secrecy is intended for use in a Ponzi scheme or something similar.

If I were involved with the Banking Authorities in SVG I would have a word with the off-shore banks to avoid getting entangled in this sort of scheme. ... ... ... ... ... ... ...

St. Vincent and the Grenadines is a Caribbean island that has been a tax and privacy haven for many years. It is also a popular tourist spot with beautiful beaches and resortsIntroduction - St. Vincent and the Grenadines is a Caribbean island that has been a tax and privacy haven for many years. It is also a popular tourist spot with beautiful beaches and resorts. There is the main island of St, Vincent along with 32 other islands. They are found in the southeastern quadrant of the Caribbean. St. Vincent is a full member of the British Commonwealth. The main financial center is found in the city of Kingstown on St. Vincent Island.

The St. Vincent Bank ? The bank is a 12-year-old fully licensed bank. The jurisdiction practices bank secrecy. The country will not cooperate in any civil matter. The independent and sovereign nation of Saint Vincent Grenadines will at their discretion cooperate in requests for information pertaining to criminal matters. There is excellent protection in civil matters but that is it. For tax matters this is not suggested as a jurisdiction. They are in TAX TREATIES to share information and will do so readily if requested to do so. For criminal matters there are more secure jurisdictions we can get you an account in. We say this because many governments have been known to blow up what should be a civil matter up into a criminal case using crimes like conspiracy, fraud and money laundering. If you have jurisdictional, residential or citizenship issues with police states that like to engage in such fraudulent practices then perhaps you should look at another more secure jurisdiction, which we can help with. This is a jurisdiction good for very casual civil only asset protection.Online Banking - The bank has online banking in English, which includes the ability to send out wires online.Text Messages - The bank also has the capability to send you a text message any time there is any activity with any of your accounts including the cards ? spends, ATM cash pulls, deposits or wires sent out. This is a great security feature.

Currencies ? The bank allows one to bank in any or all of the following currencies: USD, Euro, GBP, CHF, and JPY.

Cards ? The bank will issue you a MasterCard tied to your bank account. The card has a daily limit of $25,000. There is no credit line. It is a debit card with a MasterCard logo tied directly to your bank account. You can also get a Maestro ATM debit card with a daily limit of $2,000. All the cards are denominated in USD.

Requirements ? The bank wants a notarized copy of a passport and a driver''s license. A utility bill or a bank statement as a proof of your residential address. A bank reference letter is the only other requirement. The corporate or foundation paperwork is something we take care of for you so no worries there.

Panama Corporations and Foundations ? We use Panama Anonymous Bearer Share Corporations and Anonymous Panama Private Interest Foundations to open the bank accounts. With personal accounts there is no anonymity since the name of the account appears on all wires in and out. The name of the account on a personal account is your name so it is out there for the whole world to see. With a Panama corporation or foundation the ownership names are not known to the government of Panama and do not appear in any registry or database. This preserves privacy greatly. The central banks, intermediary banks and governments that see the wires cannot determine who owns the corporation or foundation. It is like the old Swiss numbered accounts but uses an anonymous Corporate name instead of a number.

Time to Open an Account ? From the time we receive documents and fees it is about 15 working days.Cost - $1995 for a Panama corporation with a Saint Vincent bank account. Same price of $1995 for a Panama foundation with a Saint Vincent bank account.

Questions ? Inquire.http://www.panamalaw.orgAurelia Masterson writes for http://www.panamalaw.org








Note: This is also on--http://www.docstoc.com/docs/19707273/St-Vincent-and-the-Grenadines-Banking

Thursday, December 17, 2009

PM on Cuba Assistance

ST VINCENT: PM says Cuba to provide more assistance
Posted by admin on 12/17/09

KINGSTOWN, St Vincent, CMC – Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves said Thursday that Cuba would be providing more assistance to St. Vincent and the Grenadines in the construction of an international airport expected to be completed by 2011.

Gonsalves was among leaders from member countries of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Peoples of our Americas (ALBA) that attended a summit in Havana over the weekend.

He told reporters that he held discussions with Cuban government ministers including a senior official of the Civil Aviation Authority of Cuba and that 11 more professionals would be arriving here next year as part of the continued Cuban aid to the island.

Gonsalves also said that he held discussions with officials from the Ministry of Basic Industries resulting in additional technical expertise being made available to St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

“We also made arrangements…for 40,000 tons of cement, 15,000 next year and 25,000 in 2011,” he said.

Cuba and Venezuela are providing much of the assistance to the International Airport Development Company (IADC) that is spearheading the efforts to construct the new EC$480 million (US$179 million) airport at Argyle, an area on the Windward end of the island.

Taiwan has also committed a US$15 million grant and a US$10 million soft loan for the project.

The Prime Minister said there was “nothing dramatic” at the ALBA summit that dealt primarily “with taking stock and consolidating our work in all the areas.”

He said he had presented an overview of the economies of the Caribbean in the absence of Dominica’s Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit, who is campaigning for the December 18 general elections and his Antigua and Barbuda counterpart, Baldwin Spencer, who arrived late in Havana.

He said the review was “pretty much the same review that I gave at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM in Trinidad last month),” Gonsalves said, noting that one of the highlights of his visit to Havana was a two-hour meeting with former president Fidel Castro.

http://www.caribbeandailynews.com/?p=2657


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Barrouaille Whalers




I've mentioned the Barrouaillie Whalers, a group that sings shanties and has sung at festivals in the US and Europe. They have made a CD of shanties and are selling it to benefit "The Barrouaille Whalers Project, Inc." a non-profit organization.
You can buy copies through Dan Lanier at dan@barrwhalers.org

You can hear samples of the shanties at their website: www.barrwhalers.org

The shantymen are: Milton Anderson, George Frederick, Veron Harry, George Marson, Edgar Mulrane and Vincent Reid




Monday, December 14, 2009

How Much Is That In Sucres?

Countries of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) agreed to introduce regional common currency, the sucre.

During the ALBA summit on Dec. 13, nine member countries including Antigua and Barbuda, Bolivia, Cuba, Dominica, Ecuador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Venezuela announced the introduction of new virtual currency in Jan. 2010.

The plan is similar to the European introduction of ecu, precursor of the euro, in 1979.

Sucre will be the virtual currency used to manage debt between the countries while reducing reliance on the U.S. dollar.

On Dec. 12, before the official multilateral agreement, Cuba agreed to pay for a shipment of Venezuelan rice in sucres.

Cuban President, Raul Castro, quoted by the Chinese Global Times, said the agreement is aimed to, "Ease the negative repercussions of the current global economic crisis and is the chief example of our integration dream for Latin America and the Caribbean."

The sucre may be turned in to a hard currency in the future, sources state.


Thursday, December 10, 2009

Obama's Nobel Lecture

Original Content at http://www.opednews.com/articles/Obama-Nobel-Speech--Let-u-by-Barack-Obama-091210-357.html

December 10, 2009
Obama Nobel Speech: We lose ourselves when we compromise the very ideals that we fight to defend.
By Barack Obama

I receive this honor with deep gratitude and great humility. It is an award that speaks to our highest aspirations – that for all the cruelty and hardship of our world, we are not mere prisoners of fate. Our actions matter, and can bend history in the direction of justice.

And yet I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the considerable controversy that your generous decision has generated. In part, this is because I am at the beginning, and not the end, of my labors on the world stage. Compared to some of the giants of history who have received this prize – Schweitzer and King; Marshall and Mandela – my accomplishments are slight.

And then there are the men and women around the world who have been jailed and beaten in the pursuit of justice; those who toil in humanitarian organizations to relieve suffering; the unrecognized millions whose quiet acts of courage and compassion inspire even the most hardened of cynics. I cannot argue with those who find these men and women – some known, some obscure to all but those they help – to be far more deserving of this honor than I.

But perhaps the most profound issue surrounding my receipt of this prize is the fact that I am the Commander-in-Chief of a nation in the midst of two wars. One of these wars is winding down. The other is a conflict that America did not seek; one in which we are joined by forty three other countries – including Norway – in an effort to defend ourselves and all nations from further attacks.

Still, we are at war, and I am responsible for the deployment of thousands of young Americans to battle in a distant land. Some will kill. Some will be killed. And so I come here with an acute sense of the cost of armed conflict – filled with difficult questions about the relationship between war and peace, and our effort to replace one with the other.

These questions are not new. War, in one form or another, appeared with the first man. At the dawn of history, its morality was not questioned; it was simply a fact, like drought or disease – the manner in which tribes and then civilizations sought power and settled their differences.
Over time, as codes of law sought to control violence within groups, so did philosophers, clerics, and statesmen seek to regulate the destructive power of war. The concept of a "just war" emerged, suggesting that war is justified only when it meets certain preconditions: if it is waged as a last resort or in self-defense; if the forced used is proportional, and if, whenever possible, civilians are spared from violence.

For most of history, this concept of just war was rarely observed. The capacity of human beings to think up new ways to kill one another proved inexhaustible, as did our capacity to exempt from mercy those who look different or pray to a different God. Wars between armies gave way to wars between nations – total wars in which the distinction between combatant and civilian became blurred. In the span of thirty years, such carnage would twice engulf this continent. And while it is hard to conceive of a cause more just than the defeat of the Third Reich and the Axis powers, World War II was a conflict in which the total number of civilians who died exceeded the number of soldiers who perished.

In the wake of such destruction, and with the advent of the nuclear age, it became clear to victor and vanquished alike that the world needed institutions to prevent another World War. And so, a quarter century after the United States Senate rejected the League of Nations – an idea for which Woodrow Wilson received this Prize – America led the world in constructing an architecture to keep the peace: a Marshall Plan and a United Nations, mechanisms to govern the waging of war, treaties to protect human rights, prevent genocide, and restrict the most dangerous weapons.

In many ways, these efforts succeeded. Yes, terrible wars have been fought, and atrocities committed. But there has been no Third World War. The Cold War ended with jubilant crowds dismantling a wall. Commerce has stitched much of the world together. Billions have been lifted from poverty. The ideals of liberty, self-determination, equality and the rule of law have haltingly advanced. We are the heirs of the fortitude and foresight of generations past, and it is a legacy for which my own country is rightfully proud.

A decade into a new century, this old architecture is buckling under the weight of new threats. The world may no longer shudder at the prospect of war between two nuclear superpowers, but proliferation may increase the risk of catastrophe. Terrorism has long been a tactic, but modern technology allows a few small men with outsized rage to murder innocents on a horrific scale.
Moreover, wars between nations have increasingly given way to wars within nations. The resurgence of ethnic or sectarian conflicts; the growth of secessionist movements, insurgencies, and failed states; have increasingly trapped civilians in unending chaos. In today's wars, many more civilians are killed than soldiers; the seeds of future conflict are sewn, economies are wrecked, civil societies torn asunder, refugees amassed, and children scarred.

I do not bring with me today a definitive solution to the problems of war. What I do know is that meeting these challenges will require the same vision, hard work, and persistence of those men and women who acted so boldly decades ago. And it will require us to think in new ways about the notions of just war and the imperatives of a just peace.

We must begin by acknowledging the hard truth that we will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes. There will be times when nations – acting individually or in concert – will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified.

I make this statement mindful of what Martin Luther King said in this same ceremony years ago – "Violence never brings permanent peace. It solves no social problem: it merely creates new and more complicated ones." As someone who stands here as a direct consequence of Dr. King's life's work, I am living testimony to the moral force of non-violence. I know there is nothing weak –nothing passive – nothing naïve – in the creed and lives of Gandhi and King.
But as a head of state sworn to protect and defend my nation, I cannot be guided by their examples alone. I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people. For make no mistake: evil does exist in the world. A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler's armies. Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda's leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force is sometimes necessary is not a call to cynicism – it is a recognition of history; the imperfections of man and the limits of reason.

I raise this point because in many countries there is a deep ambivalence about military action today, no matter the cause. At times, this is joined by a reflexive suspicion of America, the world's sole military superpower.

Yet the world must remember that it was not simply international institutions – not just treaties and declarations – that brought stability to a post-World War II world. Whatever mistakes we have made, the plain fact is this: the United States of America has helped underwrite global security for more than six decades with the blood of our citizens and the strength of our arms. The service and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform has promoted peace and prosperity from Germany to Korea, and enabled democracy to take hold in places like the Balkans. We have borne this burden not because we seek to impose our will. We have done so out of enlightened self-interest – because we seek a better future for our children and grandchildren, and we believe that their lives will be better if other peoples' children and grandchildren can live in freedom and prosperity.

So yes, the instruments of war do have a role to play in preserving the peace. And yet this truth must coexist with another – that no matter how justified, war promises human tragedy. The soldier's courage and sacrifice is full of glory, expressing devotion to country, to cause and to comrades in arms. But war itself is never glorious, and we must never trumpet it as such.

So part of our challenge is reconciling these two seemingly irreconcilable truths – that war is sometimes necessary, and war is at some level an expression of human feelings. Concretely, we must direct our effort to the task that President Kennedy called for long ago. "Let us focus," he said, "on a more practical, more attainable peace, based not on a sudden revolution in human nature but on a gradual evolution in human institutions."

What might this evolution look like? What might these practical steps be?

To begin with, I believe that all nations – strong and weak alike – must adhere to standards that govern the use of force. I – like any head of state – reserve the right to act unilaterally if necessary to defend my nation. Nevertheless, I am convinced that adhering to standards strengthens those who do, and isolates – and weakens – those who don't.

The world rallied around America after the 9/11 attacks, and continues to support our efforts in Afghanistan, because of the horror of those senseless attacks and the recognized principle of self-defense. Likewise, the world recognized the need to confront Saddam Hussein when he invaded Kuwait – a consensus that sent a clear message to all about the cost of aggression.

Furthermore, America cannot insist that others follow the rules of the road if we refuse to follow them ourselves. For when we don't, our action can appear arbitrary, and undercut the legitimacy of future intervention – no matter how justified.

This becomes particularly important when the purpose of military action extends beyond self defense or the defense of one nation against an aggressor. More and more, we all confront difficult questions about how to prevent the slaughter of civilians by their own government, or to stop a civil war whose violence and suffering can engulf an entire region.
I believe that force can be justified on humanitarian grounds, as it was in the Balkans, or in other places that have been scarred by war. Inaction tears at our conscience and can lead to more costly intervention later. That is why all responsible nations must embrace the role that militaries with a clear mandate can play to keep the peace.

America's commitment to global security will never waiver. But in a world in which threats are more diffuse, and missions more complex, America cannot act alone. This is true in Afghanistan. This is true in failed states like Somalia, where terrorism and piracy is joined by famine and human suffering. And sadly, it will continue to be true in unstable regions for years to come.

The leaders and soldiers of NATO countries – and other friends and allies – demonstrate this truth through the capacity and courage they have shown in Afghanistan. But in many countries, there is a disconnect between the efforts of those who serve and the ambivalence of the broader public. I understand why war is not popular. But I also know this: the belief that peace is desirable is rarely enough to achieve it. Peace requires responsibility. Peace entails sacrifice. That is why NATO continues to be indispensable. That is why we must strengthen UN and regional peacekeeping, and not leave the task to a few countries. That is why we honor those who return home from peacekeeping and training abroad to Oslo and Rome; to Ottawa and Sydney; to Dhaka and Kigali – we honor them not as makers of war, but as wagers of peace.

Let me make one final point about the use of force. Even as we make difficult decisions about going to war, we must also think clearly about how we fight it. The Nobel Committee recognized this truth in awarding its first prize for peace to Henry Dunant – the founder of the Red Cross, and a driving force behind the Geneva Conventions.

Where force is necessary, we have a moral and strategic interest in binding ourselves to certain rules of conduct. And even as we confront a vicious adversary that abides by no rules, I believe that the United States of America must remain a standard bearer in the conduct of war. That is what makes us different from those whom we fight. That is a source of our strength. That is why I prohibited torture. That is why I ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed. And that is why I have reaffirmed America's commitment to abide by the Geneva Conventions. We lose ourselves when we compromise the very ideals that we fight to defend. And we honor those ideals by upholding them not just when it is easy, but when it is hard.

I have spoken to the questions that must weigh on our minds and our hearts as we choose to wage war. But let me turn now to our effort to avoid such tragic choices, and speak of three ways that we can build a just and lasting peace.

First, in dealing with those nations that break rules and laws, I believe that we must develop alternatives to violence that are tough enough to change behavior – for if we want a lasting peace, then the words of the international community must mean something. Those regimes that break the rules must be held accountable. Sanctions must exact a real price. Intransigence must be met with increased pressure – and such pressure exists only when the world stands together as one.

One urgent example is the effort to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons, and to seek a world without them. In the middle of the last century, nations agreed to be bound by a treaty whose bargain is clear: all will have access to peaceful nuclear power; those without nuclear weapons will forsake them; and those with nuclear weapons will work toward disarmament. I am committed to upholding this treaty. It is a centerpiece of my foreign policy. And I am working with President Medvedev to reduce America and Russia's nuclear stockpiles.

But it is also incumbent upon all of us to insist that nations like Iran and North Korea do not game the system. Those who claim to respect international law cannot avert their eyes when those laws are flouted. Those who care for their own security cannot ignore the danger of an arms race in the Middle East or East Asia. Those who seek peace cannot stand idly by as nations arm themselves for nuclear war.

The same principle applies to those who violate international law by brutalizing their own people. When there is genocide in Darfur; systematic rape in Congo; or repression in Burma – there must be consequences. And the closer we stand together, the less likely we will be faced with the choice between armed intervention and complicity in oppression.
This brings me to a second point – the nature of the peace that we seek. For peace is not merely the absence of visible conflict. Only a just peace based upon the inherent rights and dignity of every individual can truly be lasting.
It was this insight that drove drafters of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights after the Second World War. In the wake of devastation, they recognized that if human rights are not protected, peace is a hollow promise.

And yet all too often, these words are ignored. In some countries, the failure to uphold human rights is excused by the false suggestion that these are Western principles, foreign to local cultures or stages of a nation's development. And within America, there has long been a tension between those who describe themselves as realists or idealists – a tension that suggests a stark choice between the narrow pursuit of interests or an endless campaign to impose our values.

I reject this choice. I believe that peace is unstable where citizens are denied the right to speak freely or worship as they please; choose their own leaders or assemble without fear. Pent up grievances fester, and the suppression of tribal and religious identity can lead to violence. We also know that the opposite is true. Only when Europe became free did it finally find peace. America has never fought a war against a democracy, and our closest friends are governments that protect the rights of their citizens. No matter how callously defined, neither America's interests – nor the world's –are served by the denial of human aspirations.

So even as we respect the unique culture and traditions of different countries, America will always be a voice for those aspirations that are universal. We will bear witness to the quiet dignity of reformers like Aung Sang Suu Kyi; to the bravery of Zimbabweans who cast their ballots in the face of beatings; to the hundreds of thousands who have marched silently through the streets of Iran. It is telling that the leaders of these governments fear the aspirations of their own people more than the power of any other nation. And it is the responsibility of all free people and free nations to make clear to these movements that hope and history are on their side

Let me also say this: the promotion of human rights cannot be about exhortation alone. At times, it must be coupled with painstaking diplomacy. I know that engagement with repressive regimes lacks the satisfying purity of indignation. But I also know that sanctions without outreach – and condemnation without discussion – can carry forward a crippling status quo. No repressive regime can move down a new path unless it has the choice of an open door.
In light of the Cultural Revolution's horrors, Nixon's meeting with Mao appeared inexcusable – and yet it surely helped set China on a path where millions of its citizens have been lifted from poverty, and connected to open societies. Pope John Paul's engagement with Poland created space not just for the Catholic Church, but for labor leaders like Lech Walesa. Ronald Reagan's efforts on arms control and embrace of perestroika not only improved relations with the Soviet Union, but empowered dissidents throughout Eastern Europe. There is no simple formula here. But we must try as best we can to balance isolation and engagement; pressure and incentives, so that human rights and dignity are advanced over time.

Third, a just peace includes not only civil and political rights – it must encompass economic security and opportunity. For true peace is not just freedom from fear, but freedom from want.

It is undoubtedly true that development rarely takes root without security; it is also true that security does not exist where human beings do not have access to enough food, or clean water, or the medicine they need to survive. It does not exist where children cannot aspire to a decent education or a job that supports a family. The absence of hope can rot a society from within.

And that is why helping farmers feed their own people – or nations educate their children and care for the sick – is not mere charity. It is also why the world must come together to confront climate change. There is little scientific dispute that if we do nothing, we will face more drought, famine and mass displacement that will fuel more conflict for decades. For this reason, it is not merely scientists and activists who call for swift and forceful action – it is military leaders in my country and others who understand that our common security hangs in the balance.

Agreements among nations. Strong institutions. Support for human rights. Investments in development. All of these are vital ingredients in bringing about the evolution that President Kennedy spoke about. And yet, I do not believe that we will have the will, or the staying power, to complete this work without something more – and that is the continued expansion of our moral imagination; an insistence that there is something irreducible that we all share.
As the world grows smaller, you might think it would be easier for human beings to recognize how similar we are; to understand that we all basically want the same things; that we all hope for the chance to live out our lives with some measure of happiness and fulfillment for ourselves and our families.

And yet, given the dizzying pace of globalization, and the cultural leveling of modernity, it should come as no surprise that people fear the loss of what they cherish about their particular identities – their race, their tribe, and perhaps most powerfully their religion. In some places, this fear has led to conflict. At times, it even feels like we are moving backwards. We see it in Middle East, as the conflict between Arabs and Jews seems to harden. We see it in nations that are torn asunder by tribal lines.

Most dangerously, we see it in the way that religion is used to justify the murder of innocents by those who have distorted and defiled the great religion of Islam, and who attacked my country from Afghanistan. These extremists are not the first to kill in the name of God; the cruelties of the Crusades are amply recorded. But they remind us that no Holy War can ever be a just war. For if you truly believe that you are carrying out divine will, then there is no need for restraint – no need to spare the pregnant mother, or the medic, or even a person of one's own faith. Such a warped view of religion is not just incompatible with the concept of peace, but the purpose of faith – for the one rule that lies at the heart of every major religion is that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us.
Adhering to this law of love has always been the core struggle of human nature. We are fallible. We make mistakes, and fall victim to the temptations of pride, and power, and sometimes evil. Even those of us with the best intentions will at times fail to right the wrongs before us.

But we do not have to think that human nature is perfect for us to still believe that the human condition can be perfected. We do not have to live in an idealized world to still reach for those ideals that will make it a better place. The non-violence practiced by men like Gandhi and King may not have been practical or possible in every circumstance, but the love that they preached – their faith in human progress – must always be the North Star that guides us on our journey.

For if we lose that faith – if we dismiss it as silly or naïve; if we divorce it from the decisions that we make on issues of war and peace – then we lose what is best about humanity. We lose our sense of possibility. We lose our moral compass.
Like generations have before us, we must reject that future. As Dr. King said at this occasion so many years ago, "I refuse to accept despair as the final response to the ambiguities of history. I refuse to accept the idea that the 'isness' of man's present nature makes him morally incapable of reaching up for the eternal 'oughtness' that forever confronts him."

So let us reach for the world that ought to be – that spark of the divine that still stirs within each of our souls. Somewhere today, in the here and now, a soldier sees he's outgunned but stands firm to keep the peace. Somewhere today, in this world, a young protestor awaits the brutality of her government, but has the courage to march on. Somewhere today, a mother facing punishing poverty still takes the time to teach her child, who believes that a cruel world still has a place for his dreams.

Let us live by their example. We can acknowledge that oppression will always be with us, and still strive for justice. We can admit the intractability of depravation, and still strive for dignity. We can understand that there will be war, and still strive for peace. We can do that – for that is the story of human progress; that is the hope of all the world; and at this moment of challenge, that must be our work here on Earth.

...............

This doesn't have a specific reference to St. Vincent, but there is one general principle that this has to say to us. Just as there can be no peace without an agreement between two parties whose interests seem to be opposed; there will never be a revision of the SVG constitution without an agreement between at least two political parties. It may be that the constitution of 1979 was a cynical construction based on that idea, but, regardless, it exists.

The conflicts of our age are not conflicts between good and evil, they are conflicts between incompatible goods. Which just makes it harder.


Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Caribbean Heads Of Government

Jamaica PM Bruce Golding (back to camera), Guyana President Bharrat Jagdeo and St Vincent & the Grenadines PM Ralph Gonsalves share a joke at CHOGM 2009.

CHOGM=Commonwealth Heads Of Government Meeting

Many more photos can be found on Flickr under the name "COMSEC"


Monday, December 07, 2009

Watchlizard

The watchlizard who's picture didn't make it into the last blog for no reason that I can imagine. He is hanging on to a shadecloth that simulates the effect of the dappled sunlight of a tropical forest.


Today's Orchids


A watchlizard, watching over the Orchids--or, perhaps, waiting for a bug to be attracted to them.


Friday, December 04, 2009

Chic Week In SVG

chic week in St. Vincent and the Grenadines; An itinerary of one island per day for seven days uncovers some treasures and a lot of breadfruit

Friday, December 4th, 2009 | 11:40 am
Canwest News Service

My wildest adventure in the Caribbean recently was in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, where I visited seven gorgeous islands in seven days travelling by local boats and planes. SVG comprises 32 islands in the Southern Caribbean – the last stronghold of the Carib Nation, and thus the last to be settled by Europeans and absorbed into the plantation system. They are the final stretch of Caribbean islands to embrace tourism. Here are my best discoveries.

St. Vincent Mountainous St. Vincent, the largest island, boasts La Soufrière, an active volcano, and lush green crops of exotic plants. A visit to markets teaming with breadfruit, cassava, christophine, paw paw, sorrel, yams, nutmeg, bananas, soursop and dasheen is a must. And don't miss a visit to the Disney set where scenes from Pirates of the Caribbean were shot. We used a Fantasea Tours (fantasytours.com) powerboat (though there are plenty of other powerboat rental firms) and also took in Petit Byahaut, home of the treasure cave in the movie. I recommend Grand View Beach Hotel, a 19th-century cotton drying house, located on eight acres of tropical gardens overlooking the Caribbean.

Canouan is a mere three-square miles of green hills and secluded beaches sheltered by one of the worlds' largest coral reefs. Raffles Resort Canouan is the spot to loll about and golf, gamble, spa or swim. The secluded western side of Canouan, in a protected bay, is a playground for the wealthy.

Palm Island is a small privately owned island. The only place to stay is the charming all-inclusive Palm Island Resort, which features thatch and stone cottages that dot the beach. The topography is all sand and palm trees (over 1, 850 of them). I felt like Robinson Crusoe washed ashore when I was dropped off at the wharf.

Union Island is the unpolished gem, scruffy even, but vibrant with life. Most of the workers from Palm Island live here and so do their goats, chickens and donkeys, which wander the roads. One of its most prominent features is Mount Toboi, at 1,000 feet the highest point in the Grenadines. Union Island is the place to nosh on lobster and conch.

Mustique Tommy Hilfiger, Mick Jagger and Bryan Adams are just some of the stars who have purchased a spot on this private island. The Firefly bar is the place to visit; they have both a Champagne and a Martini Club wherein members get recognized with a T-shirt once they've consumed every version of champagne or martini cocktail on offer. Guests have been known to earn their T-shirts after an extended 14-martini lunch. (Pierce Brosnan, I hear, wanted to earn a T- shirt, but unlike 007, he doesn't drink martinis. He left the task to his son.)

Bequia is very laid back but the watering holes, busy in mid-afternoon, prove this place can rock. Its traditions of boat-building, fishing and whaling are still evident – there's even a joint or two that uses whale bones to decorate the bar.

Young Island Young Island Resort is a rock skip or two from St. Vincent via a three-minute ferry ride across 200 yards of water. It's just 35 acres, and it's possible to rent the entire island and all its 29 double-accommodation cottages for a wedding celebration

http://www.kelowna.com/2009/12/04/a-chic-week-in-st-vincent-and-the-grenadines-an-itinerary-of-one-island-per-day-for-seven-days-uncovers-some-treasures-and-a-lot-of-breadfruit/


Thursday, December 03, 2009

SVG Urges Taiwan Invest


Taipei, Dec. 3 (CNA) Officials from St. Vincent and Grenadines (SVG), one of Taiwan's Caribbean allies, called on companies in Taiwan Thursday to invest in their country and explore its wide range of business opportunities in areas ranging from information communications technology (ICT), to renewable energy and tourism.

The delegation from Invest SVG, a government investment promotion agency, made the appeal at a seminar in Taipei, saying that SVG could serve as springboard for Taiwanese companies to tap into the markets of the Caribbean, Latin American and North America.

"Don't think of St. Vincent and the Grenadines as your only market, think of the world as your market and St. Vincent and Grenadines as your access point," said Cleo Huggins, executive director of Invest SVG.

Huggins said the delegation's visit is aimed at extending the longstanding relationship between her country and Taiwan, attracting foreign direct investment from Taiwan and helping Taiwanese companies explore business opportunities in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, which she described as having a "strong, vibrant and growing" investment climate.

It is an excellent time for Taiwan to capitalize on the investment opportunities in a wide range of business sectors such as agro-processing, light manufacturing, international financial services, ICT industries and tourism development in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, according to Huggins.

The country has a sound regulatory framework, political and economic stability, high educational standards and a skilled labor force of 63,000 people, and offers various attractive incentives from tax exemption to freedom to repatriate funds and the right to own property, she added.
Shirla Francis, director of Invest SVG and Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Telecommunications of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, said that Taiwan, with its world reputation for a strong ICT industry, should explore business opportunities in SVG in areas such as development of computer applications for both the public and private sectors, mobile phones repairs, computer programming, management of information systems and IT security and management.

"ICT is the platform on which sustainable economic development is attainable, as it acts as an enabler in all sectors of the economy, and SVG recognizes that partnerships with our friends can help us achieve an sustainable economy," Francis said.

"I hope the businesses in Taiwan will see the opportunities that SVG, as a small Caribbean island, has to offer. I do warmly invite you to explore some of those opportunities," she added.

Taiwan and SVG have had unbroken diplomatic ties for 29 years.

(By Rachel Chan)


Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Vincychick

You might want to read a vigorous viewpoint on the referendum at:

http://vincychick.blogspot.com


SVG Speaker Visits ROC President




President Ma Ying-jeou met with Hendrick Alexander, St. Vincent and the Grenadines House of Assembly Speaker, on the afternoon of December 1 at the Presidential Office. The president, on behalf of the government and people of Taiwan, extended a warm welcome and deep appreciation to Speaker Alexander on his visit to Taiwan.

The president commented that October 27 of this year marked the 30th anniversary of independence for St. Vincent and the Grenadines. He noted that Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves extended him an invitation to visit St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and that he in turn appointed Examination Yuan President John Kuan as his special envoy in leading a delegation to that nation to extend congratulations. The ROC delegation received a warm welcome and hospitality while there, and the trip was both smooth and a pleasant one, he said. President Ma said that he wanted to specially express his appreciation in this regard.

President Ma pointed out that two years after gaining its independence, St. Vincent and the Grenadines established diplomatic relations with the ROC, with ties between the two now dating back 28 years. The two countries have a deep alliance and maintain close cooperation in the areas of economics, culture, and education, he said. Meanwhile, the government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines has assisted the ROC in participating in Caribbean regional organizations, which has helped to significantly increase the ROC's visibility in the international community and has further solidified Taiwan's friendship with other Caribbean nations, the president said.
President Ma furthermore said that St. Vincent and the Grenadines last week held a referendum on a new constitution, becoming the first nation in the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States to hold a referendum on a constitution. The democratic experience of St. Vincent and the Grenadines has made it a model in the Caribbean, he said, adding that he admires the achievements reached there. The president noted that the ROC drafted its constitution in 1946, with implementation taking place the following year. While the ROC constitution has been in force for many decades, true democratization only began here some two decades ago, he said. Since the government announced the lifting of martial law, the ROC has held four direct presidential elections, and power has shifted between political parties twice. The ROC has finally established its own precious democratic system, the president remarked. Last year, he said, former US President George Bush specially sent him a telegram offering congratulations on his presidential victory and referred to Taiwan as "a beacon of democracy to Asia and the world." This not only affirms Taiwan's democratization, but also further strengthens the ROC's confidence to continue to progress down the road of democracy, he said.

The president said that the new administration has adopted a diplomatic agenda of flexible diplomacy since it took office last year. This policy has been responsible for improving relations between Taiwan and mainland China, enabling the two sides to no longer engage in meaningless contention over diplomatic allies. The ROC, he said, will continue to strengthen its relationships and cooperation projects with its friends and allies, he said. For instance, President Ma said that St. Vincent and the Grenadines has over time selected 24 students to come to study for degrees in Taiwan. These students have all received scholarships provided by Taiwan. President Ma said that he hopes that this scholarship program can be expanded in the future and that the English language curriculums offered can be even more well-rounded, providing students from English-speaking allies more opportunities to complete their academic endeavors and promote bilateral academic interaction.

Speaker Alexander expressed his appreciation to President Ma for taking time out of his busy schedule to meet with him. He also said that the government and people of his nation are grateful to the ROC government for the various bilateral cooperation projects that have been carried out in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, helping to further strengthen relations between the two sides. Speaker Alexander said this visit to Taiwan demonstrates that the alliance between the two will continue to progress. He also made mention of the warmth and hospitality of the Taiwan people. Speaker Alexander, on behalf of Prime Minister Gonsalves, also passed along best wishes to President Ma and the people of Taiwan, adding that he expects the alliance to remain strong for many years to come.

Speaker Alexander, Deputy Speaker Rochelle Forde, and former Cabinet Secretary Bernard Morgan were accompanied to the Presidential Office in the afternoon by Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Javier Ching-shan Hou to meet President Ma. Also in attendance was National Security Council Deputy Secretary-General Ho Szu-yin.

http://www.president.gov.tw/en/


On Caribbean Referenda

St Vincent’s referendum

Posted By Stabroek staff On December 2, 2009

It would not be an overstatement to say that in the view of the governments of these West Indian islands, the use of referenda or special majorities of their parliaments required to change particular articles of their countries’ constitutions, is faced with trepidation. The nightmare about its use stems from the failure of the referendum on federation in Jamaica and its consequent still-birth. The British government made no bones about the necessity for these institutional arrangements, knowledge of which to the man in the street has stemmed in recent times from the discussion on the establishment of a Caribbean Court of Justice to replace the British Privy Council.

The concern of British governments about the importance of the provisions for special parliamentary majorities and referenda came to be increasingly grave, because when many of our countries were attaining independence the British would have seen the fundamental change introduced in respect of the constitution of Ghana, and later on the changes which President Burnham made in the case of Guyana. The leaderships of both countries initially made the case that what were considered non-indigenous provisions of the constitution, or provisions inappropriate to the character of the people, should be dispensed with. But it turned out that the changes led to varying forms of despotism. And in the Caribbean Guyana indeed became, in the eyes of many citizens, the template for what not to do.

In that regard, in both Jamaica and the OECS countries there has tended to be a certain resistance to the removal of the Privy Council as the highest court of appeal, or to do what had to be done to pursue deeper integration than exists today. And governments themselves have hesitated to mortgage their tenure of office to referenda, the provisions of which few of the electorate will have understood in depth, with the referendum then turning into a plebiscite on the government itself. Some observers are therefore convinced that the various initiatives at OECS unity over the years, for example, have succumbed to these fears of governments, the initiatives being abandoned as soon as they came to consider what were felt to be the hurdles of referenda or special parliamentary majorities.

So the Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines, himself both a lawyer and a political scientist, will, we can be assured, have had all these considerations in his mind when he set out to get support for the creation of an indigenously-framed constitution for his country. And he has not been known to throw caution to the wind on such matters, ideologically convinced though he will have been of the rightness of the project. We suspect that it is in this context that he might have felt that he could overcome the two-thirds referendum requirement by first getting parliamentary approval of both government and opposition benches for the authority to pursue systemic constitutional change. This he did achieve. And it is in that context too, that he might have sought the appointment of a member of the opposition New Democratic Party, and a distinguished lawyer and former NDP Attorney General, Mr Parnell Campbell, as Chairperson of the Constitutional Commission; and the well-known legal academic and constitutional lawyer, the Grenadian Dr Francis Alexis as the main drafter of the new constitution.

That effort of consensus-making has clearly not been successful, as the campaign and the subsequent result showed, since the process turned into a traditional battle of the parties in a country known for a certain degree of bitterness in its political life.

Some observers critical of Dr Gonsalves’ methodology have argued that if it was his intention to follow a consensus approach, he should not have had the referendum so close to impending general elections, and that he should have waited for whichever party formed the new government to pursue it. For there has been some recent sentiment in the opposition ranks that they had a good chance of victory at the polls, as the Unity Labour Party was moving to seek a third term at a time when the Prime Minister has been scarred by allegations about his personal life, a degree of high-handedness and many queries about the construction of a new airport in St Vincent (the dream of every Vincentian Prime Minister) at tremendous cost relative to the budget of the country, and in the context of what appears to be persistently declining economic growth.
These kinds of public criticisms have become grist to the mill for the opposition and the sotto voce weapons of their campaign. Their significance took on new strength when the old warhorse and former NDP founder and Prime Minister, Sir James Mitchell, joined the NDP campaign, and no doubt began to influence its strategy. Mitchell would hardly have forgotten the severe pressure which Gonsalves put on him in the 1998 general elections when the ULP obtained 55% of the vote (more than the NDP obtained) but got only 7 of the 15 parliamentary seats. The result was eventually a Caricom-brokered agreement that new elections should be held in 2001, at which the ULP obtained 56% percent of the vote and 12 of the 15 seats, with Mitchell going into retirement.

So the referendum took on all the partisanship of a normal St Vincent campaign, with the NDP asserting the progressive nature of the constitution and a substantial consensus around it, and the NDP basing its campaign on Gonsalves’ alleged mania for power and related political sins. They insisted now, after six years of debate on the matter, that he was really using the referendum, set at that specific time, as a trial run for the coming elections. A sentiment apparently emerging during the campaign within the ULP ranks was indeed that they did not expect to get the required 67%, but hoped for a showing as respectably close to their proportion of the vote in recent elections. This would likely have strengthened the NDP’s perception of Gonsalves’ strategy.
Paradoxically, the intention of the British in requiring referenda and special parliamentary majorities was precisely that it would force the political parties, and in particular the governing party, to reach for a consensus approach as the only way of obtaining the necessary constitutional requirements. But this theory has never matched the practice in the naturally competitive party-parliamentary system which they have bequeathed. Indeed the practice has generally been the opposite of the theory.

In the last fortnight there have been indications that the government and opposition in Jamaica have been privately discussing the need for constitutional reform, particularly in respect of the CCJ, acceptance of which has been hostile on the part of the Jamaica Labour Party, as they have been traditionally opposed to referenda. The Minister of National Security has indicated that a way is being sought to achieve the objective, particularly in the light of critical comments about most of the Caricom countries’ adherence to the British Privy Council, and the Privy Council’s hostility to capital punishment which Jamaicans strongly support.

Article printed from Stabroek News: http://www.stabroeknews.com

http://www.stabroeknews.com/2009/editorial/12/02/st-vincent%e2%80%99s-referendum/

Copyright © 2008 Stabroek News. All rights reserved.


Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Caricom on Bananas

CARIBBEAN: CARICOM critical of double standards by Latin American countries

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, CMC – Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretary General Edwin Carrington has criticised Latin American countries for continuing to push Caribbean banana producers out of the European market even while indicating a willingness to enter into a closer relationship with the region.

Carrington was responding to the latest agreement reached between Europe and Latin America to end their long running trade dispute that will have serious consequences for the African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries.

The ACP group has already accused Baroness Cathy Ashton, the EU’s outgoing trade commissioner, of abandoning Europe’s commitment to tackling poverty as a result of the trade deal that ends a 16-year “banana war”.

Carrington told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) he did not believe that the compensation package being outlined as a result of the new agreement “would be anywhere near the loss that we would be suffering as a result of this new agreement”.

The new accord is expected to be signed this week and slashes import taxes on bananas from Latin America, from Euro 176 Euros (US$262) a tonne to Euro 114 (US$170) over the next seven years,
Carrington said the move by Latin America “raises for me a peculiar question.

“We are in the process of speaking about closer cooperation between Latin America and the Caribbean. We met in Jamaica on the sixth of November…and many of the countries that are party to that discussion… are the same parties whose struggles are pushing as out of the European market, our very limited access to that market in terms of quantity.”

The CARICOM top official said these Latin American countries already enjoy “a massive benefits of the market…and yet we are being pushed out while we on the other side are speaking about cooperation and fraternal relations.

“It does really raise some serious questions in my mind as to how we are going to reconcile those two positions. We in Jamaica on the sixth of November agreed to a meeting in Mexico in February at the level of heads to bring about coordination and harmonization between the Rio Group of Countries and CARICOM.

“We are to be moving into a united way and all I have to say we can only unite can all accommodate each other and provide scope for one another to survive. That to me is a fundamental issue has to be put frankly on the table,” Carrington said.

Carrington recalled that St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves had also raised the issue during a summit in Brazil last year and “a lot of the discussions on fraternal etc were brought to a halt immediately because he said you could not be talking to me in this language and then doing this in terms of policy”.

“I have no doubt that it would be done again,” he said, adding that he was hopeful that the Latin Americans would understand the position of the Caribbean.

“I would hate to believe that the fact that you did something for so many years that you cannot change,” he added.

Last week, ACP agriculture ministers met in an emergency meeting after details of the Geneva Agreement on Trade in Bananas emerged, and issued a strongly-worded statement, warning that “the coming days could spell the end of the era when Europe considered the fight against poverty a priority”.

They said the banana deal is evidence that, in adopting a “global Europe” strategy in the Lisbon Treaty, the EU is abandoning its commitment to countries with which it has had long historical ties.

The ACP ministers said Europe is the only market for most of their fruit growers, who are dwarfed by the larger Latin American producers, such as Ecuador.

As part of the agreement, Europe has offered the ACP Euro 190 million (US$283.6 million) in so-called “banana accompanying measures” to help growers adapt to harsher market conditions and compensate those forced out of business by the liberalisation.

But the ACP ministers insisted that Euro 250 million Euros (US$373.2 million) was the minimum necessary and have also called for the cuts in banana tariffs to be linked to progress in the Doha round of multilateral trade negotiations, which they hope could open up more market opportunities for ACP farmers.


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