Saturday, February 18, 2012

Cabinet reshuffle had nothing to do with failure – PM


KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – The changes to the Cabinet announced yesterday was not a as result of failure of the ministers or their ministries affected, according to Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves.

Gonsalves announced that effective next Monday, Housing Minister Clayton Burgin will become Minister of Health, Wellness and the Environment while outgoing Health Minster Cecil “Ces” McKie will be reassigned as Minister of Tourism, Sports and Culture.
Montgomery Daniel will be transferred to the Ministry of Housing, Informal Human Settlements, Lands and Surveys and Physical Planning. He will leave the Ministry of Agriculture for the first time since he was elected to Parliament in 2001.

Tourism Minister Saboto Caesar will become Minister of Agriculture, Industry, Forestry, Fisheries and Rural Transformation.
Senator Elvis Charles will be transferred from the Prime Minister’s office to become Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism, Sports and Culture, with special responsibility for Sports and Culture.

Gonsalves said yesterday that the ministers have been reassigned so that they can have different experiences.

Responding to a journalist’s questions about whether the particular ministers were transferred because of failure in their current ministries, Gonsalves said ‘No” and noted that he has reshuffled his Cabinet several times since coming to office on March 28, 2001.

“It is good for ministers to be reassigned and have responsibilities,” he said.

He said that Burgin, who has been a parliamentarian and Cabinet member since 2001, has been minister of state in ministry of education, minister of education, minister of transport and works, and minister of housing.

“He is a man with great experience [in] different ministries. He is now in the Ministry of Health,” Gonsalves said.

He further said that Mckie has been doing “a very good job” at the Ministry of Health and has had a lot of accomplishments after one year. “He has put many important things in place there. But Ces would be happy, too, from his personality standpoint, to deal with Tourism and Sports and Culture. In fact, … when I put him in Health, people said they thought he was going to get Sports and Culture.

“Now, different time: different things. Now, I have judgements to make. I know where the issue are being – where some of the issues, we are putting some emphasis on as we are going forward,” Gonsalves said.

He said that Caesar has been doing “a tremendous amount of work” in Tourism and Industry.

“And you know there is a lot of revamping taking place in Vincyfresh, producing a number of commodities and Saboto is also a natural for the Ministry of Agriculture. He is in a rural constituency,” Gonsalves said.

He further noted that Daniel has been at the Ministry of Agriculture for 11 years. “It is good for him to have another area of work. He has a lot of work to do in the area of Lands, Informal Human Settlement and ‘Gomery is an individual who attends to a lot of detail like that. He will also do that.

“He has the support of the Housing and Land Development Corporation as the big housing programme — we are currently negotiating monies for a big housing push again. Clayton has done a lot of the basic work with the people at Housing and Land Development Corporation,” Gonsalves said.

Frederick Stephenson will no longer have ministerial responsibility for Sports and Culture.

Gonsalves said that Stephenson has been doing “very good work”.

“But the portfolio, when you look at the size, it was kind of spread and there was a fair amount of detailed attention that has to be given to Sports and Culture – a number of regional meetings and so on and so forth. I want to ease some of that,” he said.
Stephenson will now have ministerial responsibility for National Mobilization, Social Development, the Family, Persons with Disabilities, and Youth.

He further said that Charles has done “well” at the office of the Prime Minister’s office and a reassignment to the Ministry of Sports and Culture will “widens his experience further”.

“If you listen to my narrative and as I explain it, there is a consistency,” Gonsalves said.

“I am the chairman of Cabinet. I know what is taking place in every ministry and I like the different ministers to have different experiences and strengthen their capacity. I know we have done a good job here in these reassignments,” Gonsalves said of the reshuffle that came 14 months to the day his Unity Labour Party was re-elected to a third term in office.

“Of course, there are some persons who are going to say why didn’t he reassign Tom to here or Mary to there. Of course, unfortunately for those person, they don’t hold the office of the prime minister and they don’t know how I want to see the government shaped in going forward,” he added.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Presiden Ma & Camilo Gonsalves

President Ma Ying-jeou, right, shakes hands with Permanent Representative to the UN for Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Camillo Gonsalves, center, at the Presidential Office on Tuesday as the UN ambassadors for the Dominican Republic, left, and the Gambia look on.
Photo: CNA

Kenton Chance interviews Camilo Gonzalves:

Kenton Chance interviews Camilo Gonzalves:

Camillo Gonzalves Negotiating with Taiwan

TAIPEI, Taiwan – Vincentians will soon hear the details of the outcome of negotiations between their ambassador to the United Nations, Camillo Gonsalves, and government officials here.

Gonsalves is among three ambassadors from countries with diplomatic relations with Taiwan holding talks with the government here on the future of Taiwan-China relations and bilateral cooperation on the heels of President Ma Ying-jeou’s re-election in January.

The Vincentian envoy held discussion with Ma and Minister of Foreign Affairs Timothy C.T. Yang in separate meetings on Wednesday. In addition to Ma’s approach to Taiwan’s relationship with China – which considers the island a renegade province – they also discussed Taiwan’s work on the international airport under construction in St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) and other bilateral matters relating to the country.

“You will hear announcements in the very near future about new areas of cooperation in agriculture, in micro credit to farmers,” Gonsalves said in an I-Witness News/iMaculate iMagez interview on Wednesday.

“Well, I don’t want to steal any of the minister’s thunder on these matters but we have furthered some new agreements in those areas and discussed new ways in which Taiwan and St. Vincent and the Grenadines can partner,” he further stated.

He mentioned additional scholarship, assistance with renewable energy, and training in information communication technology.

Gonsalves also met with the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC), which handles Taipei-Beijing relations. The MAC is seeking the assistance of Taiwan’s allies to secure greater participation in U.N. processes on climate change, the World health Assembly and other international bodies.

The central purpose ambassadorial delegation’s visit was for Ma to brief them on his cross-strait relationship policies. The delegation includes a representative from The Gambia and the Dominican Republic.

“The previous administration, under President Chen [Shui-bian] had a more confrontational approach when it came to cross-strait relations,” Gonsalves said.

Gonsalves said that during the Chen year, SVG and all of Taiwan’s allies were at the forefront of calling for Taiwan’s independence.

“President Ma had a different approach. He wanted what he calls variable diplomacy and has a more conciliatory approach to China.”

With the Taiwanese people having approved, via the election, the change in policy, Ma wanted to discuss with the diplomats “his interpretation of the election result — what it meant for the future of cross-strait relations, and how he would like his allies to assist him in the implementation of this variable diplomacy”.

Gonsalves highlighted the differences between advocating on Taiwan’s behalf under the Chen and Ma administrations.

We will go to the general assembly, we will bang the table and we will say Taiwan has to be part of this assembly. But now, President Ma’s approach is far more subtle and far more nuanced.

“So we have to have a consistent engagement with the international community to make sure that Taiwan has the ability to participate more meaningfully.”

During the meeting, Ms also stressed that he values Taiwan’s relationship with its allies even more now and that all previous commitments would be honoured in the same manner. Ma also mentioned the tacit agreement between Beijing and Taipei not to try to woo each other’s allies, Gonsalves said.

“It is not anything that the Chinese and the Taiwanese have written down, but they are trying to build trust with each other at this moment. And we appreciate that because, clearly, Taiwan and China, the cross-strait relations is a potential flashpoint for violence and President Ma has decided to take a long view that it is now time that those two countries must build trust with one another.”

Gonsalves therefore said that the allies do not anticipate a continuation of the gamesmanship in which each state tries to woo the other’s allies.

Ma told the diplomats that just as Taiwan is engaged in business with mainland China, he would not feel slighted if the allies do the same.

“But he also made it clear that we are even more important than we were before because in this rapprochement, he has to maintain the fact that Taiwan has international friends and allies that recognise it. Because, in the negotiations that they engage in, Taiwan has to negotiate from a position of strength. And we, as allies of Taiwan, are part for that strength that they have.”

Australian scholarships coming

Gonsalves’ visit to Taiwan comes two weeks after a similar trip to Australia. He said that the outcome of that visit would be announced through the appropriate government channels.

“… there is a scholarship programme in place where Vincentian students who are accepted to Australian universities are entitled to have their tuition, their board, and their transportation paid for by the Australian government,” he, however, offered.

He said Australia is trying to sensitise the international community about the work it is doing in peacekeeping and peach building and the furtherance of sustainable development. The country also inquired about SVG’s recovery after Hurricane Tomas in October 2010.

Gonsalves also laid the groundwork for further visit by higher officials from the SVG government.

“We are in the Commonwealth. We share values, we share language, we share cricket, we share all kinds of things but we have not been as strong allies as we could be. So part of it was fact finding, part of it was Australia introducing itself to parts of the world that it doesn’t traditionally deal with and part of it was sort of putting down the marker, that we would like to see stronger relationships,” Gonsalves said.

Facebook from Svg Mission via Kenton X. Chance

Monday, February 13, 2012

Regional Parliment

Prime Minister of Grenada, Hon. Tillman Thomas; Prime Minister of  St. Kitts and Nevis, the Right Hon. Dr. Denzil Douglas; Premier of the British Virgin Islands, the Hon. Dr. D. Orlando Smith;  Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Dr. the Hon. Ralph Gonsalves; Prime Minister of St. Lucia. Dr. the Hon. Kenny Anthony; Secretary-General of the OECS, Her Excellency Dr. Len Ishmael;  Prime Minister of  Antigua and Barbuda, Dr. the Hon. Baldwin Spencer; Prime Minister of Dominica, the Hon. Roosevelt Skerrit and the unidentified Representative of Anguilla at the 54th Meeting of the OECS Authority in St. Lucia. (OECS photo)

BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS, FEBRUARY 12TH2012 (CUOPM) – Heads of Government of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) have endorsed a common tourism policy, establishment of a public and private sector consultative process and set a date for the operationalization of the OECS Regional Parliamentary Assembly.
According to the communiqué, issued at the end of the recent 54th Meeting of the OECS Authority, the leaders agreed on the issue of the Growth and Development Strategy for the OECS, the sub-regional leaders urged its speedy completion within a broad-based consultative framework in view of the critical economic challenges being faced by the region within the context of the uncertain and unstable global environment. 

Heads endorsed the OECS Common Tourism Policy as a guide to collective action geared to the development of Tourism in the OECS Economic Union as well as the establishment of a regional consultative process in the OECS involving the public and private sector to articulate and drive an agenda focused on recovery, growth and development for the region over the next two to five years.

Heads directed that this process should entail consideration of detailed proposals and approaches for a Consultative Forum for public/private sector engagement and collaboration to help consolidate gains from the OECS Economic Union. They further directed that this task should be completed by the 56th Meeting of the Authority in November 2012.

Heads received a progress report on the enactment of the Revised Treaty of Basseterre Establishing the OECS Economic Union (EU) into the domestic law of Member States and the attendant challenges faced by some Members in this regard.

“OECS Heads of Government also received an update on the status of implementation of the regime for free movement of citizens. The meeting considered examples of best practices and lessons-learned as useful guides towards full implementation of the OECS EU. The OECS Heads of Government urged all Member States to complete the procedures necessary for enactment of the Revised Treaty Bill, accession to the Revised Treaty and fulfillment of the ratification process,” said the communiqué.

The Meeting which was chaired by St. Lucia’s new Prime Minister, Dr. the Hon. Kenny Anthony considered and approved a proposal for a study to explore all possible modalities for receiving citizens’ grievances incurred in the implementation of the Revised Treaty of Basseterre, including existing mechanisms such as the Office of Ombudsman.

They noted that while the establishment of such a mechanism was not a requirement of the Revised Treaty it could provide a means for OECS citizens to seek redress outside of the existing structures at the national level, including the court system with its characteristic rigidities.   

Heads considered a proposal for operationalisation of the OECS Regional Parliamentary Assembly, and mandated that further work be done with a view to inauguration of the Assembly by June 18, 2012.

Eastern Caribbean leaders met with their Commissioners from Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada, St. Lucia, St. Kitts and Nevis and St. Vincent and the Grenadines to discuss the role of the Commission within the governance structure.

They recognized that this was a new body which had the potential to become a model for other integration movements.  They agreed to examine all the national and regional mechanisms that would ensure the efficient functioning of this body.  The Commission was mandated to ensure that the other governance structures became operational according to the deadlines set by the Authority.

Heads of Government reiterated that the free movement of persons was vital to the success of the OECS Economic Union and all agreed that it was necessary to put in place the mechanisms for hassle free travel.

“They stressed the need for more training programmes for immigration and customs offices.  The Heads stressed that the economic union was put in place for the benefit of all OECS citizens and that the Governments would remain committed to that goal,” said the communiqué.

The OECS Heads of Government considered an approach towards good governance of the OECS maritime space and the Authority agreed on the establishment of an OECS-wide approach to commence work on the development of a regional integrated ocean governance framework, inclusive of the development of a draft ocean policy framework and action.

Member States agreed to the establishment of an OECS Maritime Governance team and to identify and mandate a lead national agency to participate in this process, working closely with the OECS Secretariat in leading and coordinating activities at the regional level.

Saturday, February 04, 2012

LIAT Survives?

Thursday, 02 February 2012 15:22

Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves says shareholder Governments of the Regional Airline LIAT have come up with a short-term plan to ensure the survival of the airline.

Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer and Prime Minister of Barbados, Fruendel Stuart met in Barbados for a meeting yesterday to discuss the way forward for the airline.

Dr. Gonsalves told Members of the Media today that the shareholder governments have come up with a number of options to keep the cash strapped carrier servicing the region.

Dr. Gonsalves says the issue of fleet renewal and fleet expansion also came up for discussions.

He says that last year, the airline lost an estimated 46 million EC dollars for the year, compared with a loss of 20 million dollars the previous year.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

U.S. information center named for Paul Robeson

by: SUSAN WEBB february 1 2012

At a ceremony last week, the United States Embassy in Jamaica named its Information Resource Center for the African American singer-actor-activist Paul Robeson.

Ironically, 52 years ago, the State Department revoked Robeson's passport because of his outspoken opposition to U.S. Cold War policies abroad and Jim Crow racism at home, his activism on behalf of labor and civil rights, and his association with the Communist Party USA. The action was a blow aimed at Robeson's international role as a performer and advocate for peace and the common interests of working people throughout the world. After an eight-year struggle, and the waning of the McCarthy witch-hunt era, the State Department restored his passport in 1958.

The idea of naming the information center for Robeson did not originate with the State Department. The embassy in Jamaica says it was the result of an essay contest among Jamaican high school students to name the center, in observance of Black History Month. "The aim of this competition was to have the IRC named after the historical figure selected in the winning essay," the embassy says on its website. "The legendary Paul Robeson was the character highlighted in the winning essay." The essay, titled "The Soul of a Continent," was written by high school student Kathy Smith, who is now a first-year law student at the University of the West Indies.

It would be interesting to know what discussion take place among State Department officials on the matter, but evidently the Robeson naming - so unthinkable five decades ago - got a green light from Washington.

The Jan. 23 embassy ceremony in Kingston, Jamaica, was timed to coincide with Robeson's death 36 years ago.
Robeson's granddaughter Susan Robeson, a documentary filmmaker and chair of the Paul Robeson Foundation, unveiled a plaque at the entrance to the information center commemorating her grandfather.

She recalled Paul Robeson's campaign against racism in the U.S. and friendship with the Soviet Union that resulted in him being banned from performing and travelling abroad, the Jamaica Observer reported.

She also noted the warm reception her grandfather received during his 1948 visit to Jamaica, where 80,000 gathered to hear him sing and "embraced him as a man of the people."

"There were five basic principles that guided his life," Susan Robeson said. "Strive for excellence, be the best
you can possibly be through hard work and discipline, aim for perfection instead of just being as good as or better than someone else; success without advancing the interest of our people as a whole was worthless; the pursuit of knowledge is a quest that never ends; have the courage of your conviction and be willing to make sacrifices to do the right thing; And when life gets tough, step into it, not away from it."

U.S. Ambassador Pamela Bridgewater said Robeson used culture as a tool and platform to fight injustice, the Observer reported.
"Paul Robeson faced many challenges throughout his life, but he remained a sterling and shining example of patriotism, pride, elegance and humility," Bridgewater said.

In 2003, after a six-year grassroots petition campaign, the U.S. Postal Service issued a postage stamp commemorating Robeson's life.

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Travelogue about St. Vincent and the Grenadines

hirty-two gorgeous Caribbean Islands dot the seascape, all vying to one-up each other in terms of tranquility. St Vincent is the largest in the group, home to the capital, Kingstown. This lively town is a throwback to colonial times with cobblestone streets and has a French and British colonial history. While the official language is English, most speak Vincentian Creole.
Known as Saint Vincent, it was originally named Hairouna “The Land of the Blessed” by the native Caribs, whom aggressively prevented European settlement on Saint Vincent until 1719. Prior to this, formerly enslaved Africans, intermarried with the Caribs and became known as Garifuna or Black Caribs. Between 1783 and 1796, there was conflict between the British and the Black Caribs, More than 5,000 Black Caribs were eventually deported to Roatán, an island off the coast of Honduras. Slavery was abolished in Saint Vincent 1834. Today the local beer brand is called Hairoun.
Popular music in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines includes big drum, calypso and soca, steelpan, string band music, quadrille and bele music plus traditional storytelling.
Once you get off busy St Vincent and into the mesmerizing Grenadines, everything changes. Gone are traffic, the hustle and bustle, the pavement. All you’re left with is a smattering of tiny Caribbean Island waiting to be explored. Just the name St Vincent and the Grenadines evokes an emotive response with visions of exotic, idyllic Caribbean Island life. And the fantasy rings true. Imagine an Caribbean Island chain buried deep within the Caribbean Sea, uncluttered by tourist exploitation; white sand beaches on deserted islands, sky-blue water gently lapping the shore and barely a soul around.
In Bequia (beck-way), beaches stretch out before you, the pace of life slows to a crawl and the desire to go home vanishes. You’ll find unassuming budget hideaways, where you can escape from the world. One must visit the “Moon Hole” residences!
It is popular with the yachting set; the boats in the harbor originate from all over the globe and are a testament to the allure of the area. Underrated beaches line the coast and sublime Scuba Diving is on offer just below the surface. One of the best dives await you there!
You can spend time on the posh Caribbean Island of Mustique where renting a house for the week will cost more than buying a luxury car. The super-rich, film stars and burnt-out musicians, this Caribbean Island is the exclusive playground of the überaffluent, is visited by the well heeled, those lucky enough to have inherited a small fortune, starred in a Hollywood blockbuster or fronted a band like the Rolling Stones.
These Caribbean Island’s have enchanted sailors for centuries, were once the realm of real pirates but now they are the stomping grounds of the Pirates of the Caribbean.