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Former Prime Minister’s funeral to be held on June 23

Former Prime Minister’s funeral to be held on June 23

by Staff Writer

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Jun. 4, CMC – The state funeral for former Prime Minister Edward Seaga is to be held on Sunday June 23.

The details of the funeral arrangements and related activities were revealed by Culture Minister Olivia Grange on Monday during a media briefing .

The funeral service will be held at the Holy Trinity Cathedral in the Corporate Area.

Grange added that the period of mourning has been declared and will be observed from June 19 to June 22.

“It means that government will not have any social activities; official activities that were scheduled will be postponed where possible; travel by government officials will be limited and the flag will be flown half-mast,” she said.

Ahead of the funeral, Seaga’s body will lie in state at several locations, however, the casket will remain closed at the request of the family.

Seaga’s remains will be interred at National Heroes’ Park.

The government is appealing to the public to also observe “a certain decorum during that period,” she said.

Seaga, Jamaica’s fifth prime minister, died at a Miami Hospital last week Tuesday, following a battle with cancer. 

He died on his 89th birthday.

Seaga, who was prime minister, from 1980 to 1989, also served as the leader of the ruling Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) from 1974 to 2005 when he retired from active politics.

Since his retirement from politics, he has been an honorary distinguished fellow at the professorial level at The University of the West Indies (UWI), and also served as chancellor of the University of Technology, Jamaica.

A lifelong sports enthusiast, Seaga was chairman of the Premier League Clubs Association, one of Jamaica’s governing football bodies, from its inception until 2010. He also served as president of the football club of his former West Kingston enclave, Tivoli Gardens.

Seaga is credited with building the financial and planning infrastructure of the country after independence, as well as developing its arts and crafts, and awareness of national heritage. As a record producer and record company owner, Seaga also played a major role in the development of the Jamaican music industry.

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Body of former prime minister returns on Sunday

Body of former prime minister returns on Sunday

by staff writer

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Jun 1, CMC – The Jamaica government says the body of the late former prime minister, Edward Seaga, is scheduled to arrive here on Sunday, as the region and international community continues to pay its respect to him.

A government statement said that Seaga’s remains, draped in the national flag, will arrive on a Caribbean Airlines flight at the Norman Manley International Airport, escorted by members of the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF).

Edward Seaga (File Photo)

It said family members, including widow Mrs. Carla Seaga and daughter Gabrielle, will be on the flight and that the body of the country’s fifth prime minister, will be received by the Government with the appropriate honour guard in place.

On hand will be Governor General, Sir Patrick Allen; Prime Minister Andrew Holness; Members of the Cabinet; Leader of the Opposition, Dr. Peter Phillips; Members of Parliament as well as other relatives of the late prime minister, who died in a United States hospital on Tuesday at the age of 89.

The government said that Seaga will be accorded a State funeral and that a period of mourning will be announced.

It said condolence books have opened at locations across the island and people overseas will have the opportunity to sign condolence books, which will be opened in all diplomatic missions.

Meanwhile, Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretary General Irwin LaRocque said Seaga was instrumental in reviving the integration movement as host in 1982 to the first heads of government conference after a seven year hiatus.

“The meeting served to reinvigorate the integration process,” LaRocque said, adding that Seaga made an indelible contribution to the development of his country in many spheres.

“Recognised as the longest serving member of the Jamaican Parliament, he was also the youngest ever nominated to the Legislative Council prior to Independence.  His record of service in both the Lower and Upper Houses was marked not only by his passionate oratory but also by his initiation of innovative legislative actions which resulted in significant changes in his country.

“Mr Seaga lent his considerable experience and expertise to the University of the West Indies (UWI), where, upon his retirement from public life, he was appointed as a Distinguished Fellow at the regional institution’s Mona Campus.  The Campus’ Research Institute had earlier been named in his honour.”

LaRocque said that Seaga has done his part and that Jamaica and the region “ have lost a towering figure.”

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MAC Vacancy Notice

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size of govt

How big should our “tax” rates be?

Part 5/2019 (Contribution)

What is the right size for our Government?

BRADES, Montserrat, May 23, 2019 –  As a part of our “fresh, serious, public-spirited conversation” we are currently debating a “transformational” budget, which has a focus on key projects intended to spark private sector-led growth: a breakwater and berth for tourism and a fibre optic cable for the digital and technology sector. According to our Economic Growth Strategy, the target is to sustain a rate of 5% GDP growth for enough time to move beyond dependency. However, that is not the whole story, we also need to think about the right balance of government size and tax rates for our economy over the long haul. For instance, that’s part of why DfID regularly pressures us to reduce the size of our Civil Service. (Hint: It’s not because they are being simply tight-fisted.) So, we need to think about how much government and “taxes” are “just right.”

Now, with no “taxes” there is obviously no government.

No defense, no policing or other services. Pirates, bands of robbers and the like would pop up and make it very hard to operate a successful business unless one has his own private army or navy. Government therefore enforces justice and enables the civil peace, allowing business to thrive. Such government requires “taxes” to pay for it, and for its support for roads, schools, courts, regulation of weights and measures, public health, sanitation etc. That improves the climate for business.

For just one example, there is a very good reason why the Caribbean is now a world-famed region of tropical beach paradises rather than a set of disease-riddled tropical death traps. Yes, that’s where our tourist industry came from: over a century of government-driven, tax-funded public health and sanitation efforts.

But beyond a certain point, too high a “tax” rate and/or too big a government will burden the economy, will discourage investors and will drive away creative, inventive people. That’s why, in the 1970’s Arthur Laffer argued that reducing “tax” rates from such overly high levels may actually increase revenues across time due to improved investment, innovation and faster economic growth. Similarly, Richard Rahn argued that growth rates peak at an even lower point, so that governments should target better long run growth rates rather than the “tax” revenue peak. Laffer’s basic logic is hard to deny, and Rahn also makes good sense.

Now too, “tax” is in quote-marks because taxes can come in various fairly invisible forms. Voters often resist high direct taxes, but higher “taxes” can be hidden by using duties and the like that are embedded in the prices we pay. Governments can borrow money, leading to debt burdens and crowding out investors. Likewise, by “printing” excess money in the short term the economy gets a boost but the purchasing power of money falls. Prices then rise and excess demand for foreign exchange will dry up reserves. Pressure to devalue and panic over possible or actual devaluation naturally follow.  In our region, that is more or less how the Jamaican, Guyanese and Trinidad dollars have fallen to where they now are. The Barbados dollar has been under pressure for years now too. Only the Eastern Caribbean dollar – a regionally managed currency issued by the ECCB – has remained fairly stable.

Another question is, where are the Laffer and Rahn peaks? That has led to various statistical studies and then to onward debates as to how to do such studies and apply the results. On balance, though some studies suggested the peak growth rate happens when Government is 30 – 40% of GDP, it is more often argued that the growth peak is 15 – 25%, possibly lower.  Others suggest, it varies with time and varies from one country to another, though most results fall within the given range.

Also, in the 1890’s Adolph Wagner documented that government size tends to grow faster than the economy, which is well supported statistically.

For, as Governments became more democratic and as economies became more prosperous, they could afford the wider range of government services that people desire and will vote for. Also, as a result of the Great Depression of the 1930’s, it was felt that a larger, more active government helps to stabilise the economy and to make life better for the ordinary man and the vulnerable. That’s why all major economies are now welfare states. However, recent evidence suggests that in more developed economies that tendency for government to grow faster than GDP tapers off (likely, due to voters insisting on curbing government growth).

On balance, at first larger government increases economic growth rates and improves living conditions for ordinary people but after reaching maybe 20 – 25% of GDP, it becomes a drag on growth.

Another challenge is, GDP and its growth rates are not familiar numbers to us, so we tend to underestimate the importance of long-term growth for improving prosperity and standards of living in an economy. But, obviously if there is a bigger GDP-pie to go around, we can all get a bigger share – “inclusive growth.” So, let us pause to look at how different growth rates gradually lead to very different sizes of pie:

What $1.00 becomes after 40 years, at various rates of interest

0.5%
1.0% 1.5% 2.0% 3.0% 4.0% 5.0%
7.0%
$1.22 $1.49 $1.81 $2.20 $3.26 $4.80 $7.04 $14.97

Clearly, faster growth makes a big difference across time. However, in recent years, the Caribbean has struggled to get even 1 – 2% growth, and it usually takes major structural changes and big investments that bring in new high growth sectors to get to the highly desirable 5 – 7% range that former ECCB Governor, the late Sir Dwight Venner was talking about some years ago.  Where also, economic growth varies from year to year around a trend-line, and there is a well known business cycle of 8 – 11 years in which booms and recessions – or even “busts” – come along on a fairly regular basis. Some argue for a longer term, 40 – 70 year generation length cycle led by major technology breakthroughs, termed the Kondratiev cycle. 

In recent years, from 2007 – 9, there was a great global recession at about the same time as a financial crisis and a surge in oil prices that went as high as US$ 145 per barrel then hovered near US$100 for years. Likely, such high energy prices have been a drag on the world economy, which naturally leads to lower tourism etc. So, it is unsurprising that in our region and around the world alike, many economies have been struggling ever since to break through to faster growth rates in the 3 – 5% range, much less 5 – 7%. Our local economy’s planners hope to attain 3.2 – 3.5% this year, apparently due to projects that are coming in. Onward, 5% is possible, if we can get the catalytic projects through and follow up by pulling in serious investments in the tourism, digital and technology sectors.

In Montserrat’s case, we were hard hit by a volcano crisis from 1995 on and lost key infrastructure as well as assets that had been built up over decades from the 1960’s – 90’s. As a result, we depend on a UK-funded grant for about 60% of our recurrent budget and for much more of our capital budget. The Civil Service is our biggest employer and the government sector drives the economy.  Such is not a healthy pattern.

On the other hand, until we have a buoyant, growing private sector, sharp cuts in the Civil Service will only feed further economic stagnation, frustration and depopulation as people flee to the UK. Instead, a balanced policy will first prioritise putting in place catalytic infrastructure that can get our economy moving.

That’s why it is such good news to see that the sea port breakwater and berth, the fibre optic project, solar PV power plant are moving forward.  They will help to fertilise tourism, the digital sector, financial services and the like, and until they are clearly coming through, efforts to attract high quality investors will predictably fail.  It is as our private, productive sector grows that our economy can strike a healthier balance between the public and private sectors.

At the same time, we have to be very careful to remember that the UK’s grant support to our economy is temporary. So, as we seek to improve health, education and social services, we have to bear in mind that one day we will have to pay for such services from our own economy’s sustainable tax base.

As always, prudence and balance leading to well judged timing will be the keys to success. END

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Representatives of the Fisheries and Ocean Resources Unit in Montserrat receive a copy of the EAF toolkit

Anguilla and Montserrat strengthen capacity to mainstream climate change adaptation in their fisheries sectors

CANARI Media Release

commonly known in Montserrat as ‘jacks’

Port of Spain, Trinidad With the start of the 2019 Atlantic hurricane season mere weeks away, many Caribbean islands are already bracing for the possibility of being hit by a tropical storm or hurricane.

One sector which has been particularly hard hit is the fisheries sector. Damage to important fisheries infrastructure and assets such as jetties, boats, and fishing gear can cost Caribbean countries millions of dollars in recovery and lost revenue.

These damages also have a substantial impact on the livelihoods of those who depend on fishing as a main source of income and could be a driving force behind increasing poverty in fishing communities. Other climate related effects such as warming oceans and rising sea levels also have negative impacts on the sector, including loss of important fisheries habitats.

Ensuring that countries integrate climate change adaption and disaster risk management into the policies and plans for their fisheries sectors is therefore vital for protecting important fisheries ecosystems, securing livelihoods and food production and reducing poverty.


Participants at the workshop held in Anguilla, January 22-25, 2019

In January 2019, the Caribbean Natural Resources Institute (CANARI) and the Centre for Resource Management and Environmental Studies of the University of the West Indies (UWICERMES) hosted training workshops in Anguilla and Montserrat with policy makers, fisheries managers, fisherfolk and other key stakeholders to demonstrate how climate change adaption and disaster risk management can be practically incorporated into fisheries management plans. A total of 69 participants from both islands, attended the four-day workshops.

The training workshops used the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries (EAF) toolbox to help participants decide what practical solutions they could apply given their particular circumstances and resources. Overall, participants found the toolkit easy to use. Participants in particular found the section of the toolkit on communication to be very useful, with one participant in Anguilla noting that “communication and the means in which it is carried out among stakeholder groups is critical in fisheries planning.” 


Representatives of the Fisheries and Ocean Resources Unit in Montserrat receive a copy of the EAF toolkit

As a follow-up to the workshops, both Anguilla and Montserrat will take steps to update their fisheries management plans to mainstream climate change adaption and disaster risk management using an Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries. Part of the training also specifically targeted fisherfolk in an effort to get them more involved in stewardship actions that would help protect and conserve the marine habitats upon which they depend, and reduce their vulnerability to climate change impacts. A small grants call was sent out in March 2019 to fisherfolk organisations in both islands for proposals on projects to address climate change adaptation and disaster risk management through stewardship and innovative solutions. The selected projects will launch in June 2019 and end in December 2019.

For further information, please contact: Ainka Granderson, Senior Technical Officer, CANARI at ainka@canari.org or +1-868-638-6062.

About the project:

The training workshops and small grant programme are both key activities under the 3-year Climate change adaptation in the fisheries of Anguilla and Montserrat project (April 2017- March 2020). This project is being is being implemented by the Caribbean Natural Resources Institute (CANARI) in partnership with the Department of Fisheries and Marine Resources – Anguilla, Fisheries and Ocean Resources Unit – Montserrat and the Centre for Resource Management and Environmental Studies of the University of the West Indies (UWI-CERMES). The project is funded by the Government of the United Kingdom from the Darwin Plus: Overseas Territories Environment and Climate Fund under the Darwin Initiative. See here for more information on the project:

Climate Change Adaptation In The Fisheries Of Anguilla And Montserrat (April 2017-March 2020)

About CANARI:

The Caribbean Natural Resources Institute (CANARI) is a regional technical non-profit organisation which has been working in the islands of the Caribbean for 30 years. Our mission is to promote equitable participation and effective collaboration in managing natural resources critical to development. Our programmes focus on capacity building, policy planning and development, research, sharing and dissemination of lessons learned, and fostering regional partnerships.

Ocean Governance and Fisheries

The Caribbean region is ranked among one of the most biodiverse regions of the world.  In the OECS increasing awareness is being placed on marine areas which hold an abundance of natural resources including rich biodiversity, living resources both marine and terrestrial and nonliving resources in the form of mineral and natural products. In comparison to the land area the OECS has many times more marine area as prescribed under the United Nations Framework Convention on Law of the Sea.

While, the OECS has exercised jurisdiction by legislation over the water column and the accompanying living and non-living resources, the benefits to be derived are not fully maximized but nonetheless many resources are utilized. However, many decades of use and exploitation of the marine environment with inadequate resource management programmes has left a growing evidence of degradation of its critical and vulnerable ecosystems. Some of the drivers of this degradation are those activities associated with poorly-planned coastal and urban development, unsustainable tourism, land based and marine sources of pollution, over-exploitation of living resources, removal of keystone species and the proliferation of invasive species.  Notwithstanding, the economic potential of some marine resources remains unassessed or underutilized. These latter resources include, but are not limited to, non-living resources such as petroleum products, marine renewable energy sources, and mineable resources.

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We need a new politics of truth, soundness and national consensus

We need a new politics of truth, soundness and national consensus

Part 4/2019 (Contribution)

Can we move beyond the politics of bitterness, slander, half-truths and insincere promises?

BRADES, Montserrat, May 11, 2019 –  In this election year we have just seen two elected members of our assembly suspended for unbecoming behaviour in the Assembly. Behaviour, of a degree that has been unprecedented for eighty-two years. At the same time, we have had to spend time looking at the FAC’s intent to impose “same-sex marriage” on us, and we saw how a Chief Justice in Cayman, to promote the same homosexualisation, tried to rewrite Cayman’s Constitution from the judicial bench. These unfortunate developments are a wake-up call, a sign that we need a better politics, one capable of handling far more ticklish, potentially explosive issues, and handling them soundly and soberly. 

In short, we need “a fresh, serious, public-spirited conversation on how we will govern ourselves as a nation over the next six years.” (Yes, six years, as we must not waste this year’s opportunities.) A great place to begin that conversation is with our official, national vision statement:

A healthy and wholesome Montserrat,
founded upon a thriving modern economy
with a friendly, vibrant community,
in which all our people
through enterprise and initiative,
can fulfill their hopes
in a truly democratic and God-fearing society

It would be hard to object to this.  So, then, why is there so much bitterness, disrespect, untruth, slander, misleading half-truth and insincerity in our politics?

If you doubt me, consider the case of the local commenter who recently claimed on radio that the UK has done “nothing” for Montserrat over the past twenty-five years. Likewise, think about the one who suggested that in awarding a three percent salary increase (after ten years of no increases at all), the government then took it all back through taxes. As a third, ponder the persistent gap between manifesto promises and what our elected governments do in office. Not once, not twice, again and again.

Obviously, long-suffering British taxpayers have cause to object to such an attitude.  For they pay for 60% of our recurrent budget – which is being debated this coming week (after two delays), typically pay for much more of our capital budget and have paid perhaps £500 millions in support to Montserrat since the volcano crisis began. Added up, that’s about EC$  350,000 for each resident of Montserrat, the cost of a good house.

So, as a first step, if we are to build an improved onward development partnership with the UK, we would be well advised to form a more balanced view of what has been contributed and what has been achieved thus far. Yes, results have been very mixed, but without the £500 millions of support to date, Montserrat would have long since completely collapsed.

Likewise, given a progressive tax structure and that someone else is paying 60% of our recurrent budget (someone, who is not getting big tax cuts), it will be very hard for any future local government to cut local income tax rates significantly until we are paying our own way and are collecting enough to cover cuts from other forms of revenue.  The horse pulls the cart, not the other way around.

Also, let us remember: increased consumption is not at all the same as increased investment.

As sustainable economic growth must come from fresh business investment, our national priority must be the “catalytic” infrastructure that opens the door for private sector investment led growth. Then, we can argue that new business investments hire people and buy services from other businesses, starting with construction. We can then use our longstanding tax incentives to help fertilise new investments.  Tourism and the digital sector are obvious priority sectors. Significantly, government just hired a regional person – do we dare say the now dirtied word: “TC”? – to help us move tourism forward. The good news is, it seems the breakwater and berth and the new fibre optic cable – at last, after at least a decade of too often questionable delays and roadblocks – are on the move.

We can also notice that key infrastructure projects are now clearly moving ahead: the sea port, the fibre optic cable project, the 250 kW solar photo voltaic electricity plant, even the new air traffic control tower for the airport. These projects will open opportunities for investment, and while we remain concerned about long delayed geothermal energy development after learning that the drilling equipment was deteriorated and had to be removed even as DfID closed the project, good news is indeed good news. 

So, we must ask pointed questions of those who act as though good news for Montserrat is bad news for them, while bad news for Montserrat is good news for them.  Instead, a fair-minded critic will be balanced and constructive (not bitterly destructive).

Another concern, is that we must find ways to improve administration and project management so that we actually spend out our budgets. Especially, capital budgets. It’s a good thing that we have a new head of the Programme Management Office.

Again, while, yes the EU money came late (November) it is not good that we were only able to expend 27% of the already small capital programme for the 2018-19 budget by the end of March. Obviously, it does no good to be habitually rolling over capital projects into the next year. This, again, points to the urgent need to continue restoring the Programme Management Office now that a new head is in place. Let us use it to build up capacity to manage, govern and execute projects on time, to international standards such as PRINCE2.

Likewise, we need to ask our politicians and pundits some very hard questions about what a local government beholden to DfID for 60% of recurrent budget and for most of our capital budget can realistically achieve.

It is very clear that when Lord Ahmad announced £30 millions for CIPREG, he admitted the need was more like £50 millions. Premier Romeo seems to think £70 millions is more like it. We must take manifestos far more seriously, thinking hard about what it means to lightly break promises to the voting public. Then, when it comes to spreading nasty stories about politicians etc or when we act disrespectfully in the Assembly, are we simply acting out of disregard for truth, disrespect, delight in damaging reputation, habitual gossip or worse?

Jeremiah has some choice words for us:

Jeremiah 9:4 Let everyone beware of his neighbor,
and put no trust in any brother,
for every brother is a deceiver,
and every neighbor goes about as a slanderer.
5 Everyone deceives his neighbor,
and no one speaks the truth;
they have taught their tongue to speak lies;
they weary themselves committing iniquity. [ESV]

Plainly, we cannot build a sound future through lies and liars. Where, a loaded, misleading half truth is a full lie. (TMR noted for the last election, to lie is to speak with disregard to truth, in the hope of profiting from what is said or suggested being taken as true.)

Let us turn from “advantage,” gossip, slander, disrespect etc. – the politics of bitterness and deception.

Turn, to what?

Perhaps, the five principal goals in our seemingly forgotten 2008 – 2020 Sustainable Development Plan:

I.        Prudent Economic Management

II.      Sound Human Development

III.    Robust Environmental Management and Disaster Mitigation

IV.     Good Governance

V.      A Sustainable Population

Okay, let the “fresh, serious, public-spirited conversation” begin.

Budget Speech- http://www.gov.ms/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Budget-Speech-2019-20.pdf Budget Estimates- http://www.gov.ms/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Budget-Estimates-2019-20.pdf

Budget Speech- http://www.gov.ms/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Budget-Speech-2019-20.pdf
Budget Estimates- http://www.gov.ms/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Budget-Estimates-2019-20.pdf

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Sold Into Sex Slavery

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by Mark Bassant and Hema Ramkissoon

May 18 2019

SOLD A LIE

Maria There­sa, a 19-year-old nurs­ing stu­dent from Tu­cu­pi­ta, saw the promise of a new be­gin­ning.

Like oth­er places in Venezuela, the econ­o­my of her small town in the Orinoco Delta had col­lapsed, caus­ing thou­sands of res­i­dents to flee.

Maria saw her chance when a friend told her about peo­ple who could take her to find a bet­ter life in Trinidad.

Some traf­fick­ers, an or­gan­ised net­work of Trinida­di­ans and Venezue­lans, promised Maria and her friends that they would loan them mon­ey for the trip. When they land­ed in Trinidad, the same peo­ple would find them jobs as hair­dressers or house­keep­ers.

So, one night in Jan­u­ary, Maria climbed on­to a pirogue from a hid­den in­let on the Orinoco Riv­er. About six hours lat­er, she land­ed in an area she be­lieved to be Ch­aguara­mas, where she and oth­er pas­sen­gers on the boat were met by a man they didn’t know. From there, they were tak­en to a house oc­cu­pied by oth­er mi­grants.

For three days, Maria and eight oth­er Venezue­lans were crammed in­to a room where day­light bare­ly crept in. Their pass­ports were tak­en from them and they were fed a di­et of Crix and wa­ter. One day, they had no food at all.

It was on­ly then Maria re­alised that the traf­fick­ers had sold her a lie.

On the third day, the door to her room opened and one of her han­dlers told her to get pret­ty; that some vis­i­tors would be ar­riv­ing soon. Maria was con­fused and afraid but did as she was com­mand­ed.

When a strange man came in and leered at her, she un­der­stood her fate.

“They said that we (were) go­ing to be pros­ti­tutes and if we didn’t like it, it didn’t mat­ter, be­cause they brought us here and we had to do it.”

Dressed in a green track suit, Maria gave this de­tailed ac­count from a safe house in Pe­tit Bourg.

“I would have worked in any job be­cause there is noth­ing in Venezuela. There is no op­por­tu­ni­ty. You can’t sur­vive. But not pros­ti­tu­tion,” Maria said, bury­ing her face in her hands.

BONDAGE DEBT PAID WITH SEX

Venezuela’s eco­nom­ic col­lapse has trig­gered an ex­o­dus of some five mil­lion peo­ple from the South Amer­i­can na­tion. By some es­ti­mates, some 60,000 have sought refuge in Trinidad.

A three-month Guardian Me­dia in­ves­ti­ga­tion has re­vealed how hu­man traf­fick­ers have swooped in to prey on Venezue­lan women seek­ing eco­nom­ic sur­vival. These traf­fick­ers have placed hun­dreds of young women in­to mod­ern-day sex slav­ery.

The net­works in­volve an en­tan­gled web of Trinida­di­an and Venezue­lan traf­fick­ers who smug­gle these women, cor­rupt po­lice of­fi­cers who fa­cil­i­tate the trade and pro­tect wrong­do­ers, and im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cials who of­ten times take bribes to turn a blind eye to the women’s ex­ploita­tion. Un­der­world Venezue­lan fig­ures with il­lic­it arms and Asian crim­i­nal gangs are of­ten part of the crim­i­nal net­works.

The il­lic­it sex trade seems to span the en­tire coun­try, from the re­mote port of Ce­dros to high-ris­es in West­moor­ings, where sex slaves—some as young as 15 years old—are held against their will, locked in rooms and forced to have sex with men. Some vic­tims are drugged so old­er men can have their way with them.

The traf­fick­ers rou­tine­ly take these women to bars and night­clubs in search of clients. The younger the women, the high­er the price.

For a 30-minute ses­sion, traf­fick­ers charge $300, about the price of a doc­tor’s vis­it. The rates dou­ble to $600 for an hour. For the en­tire night, the traf­fick­er pock­ets $6,000.

The women are giv­en a mere pit­tance to sur­vive. They are forced to work night af­ter night un­til their bondage debt is erased; a debt owed to traf­fick­ers for their pas­sage to this coun­try.

These women are trapped in a cy­cle of debt with no re­lief in sight. And the traf­fick­ers find ways to keep the women en­slaved by adding the cost of food, cloth­ing, shel­ter, med­ical and pro­tec­tion fees to the orig­i­nal fig­ure.

SIX YEARS LAT­ER, NO CON­VIC­TIONS

Since the in­cep­tion of the Counter Traf­fick­ing Unit un­der the Min­istry of Na­tion­al Se­cu­ri­ty six years ago, on­ly 56 peo­ple—a lit­tle more than nine a year—have faced the courts for this of­fence, ac­cord­ing to a top law en­force­ment of­fi­cial. To date, no one has been con­vict­ed, au­thor­i­ties say.

In the last six months, po­lice have made some high-pro­file ar­rests, but hu­man rights ac­tivists con­tend that not enough is be­ing done.

The re­cent ar­rests in­clude:

On Feb­ru­ary 6, Com­mis­sion­er of Po­lice Gary Grif­fith lead an op­er­a­tion that res­cued 19 young South Amer­i­can women from two homes in West­moor­ings and a restau­rant along Ari­api­ta Av­enue. The young women, ages 15-18 years, were locked in rooms and made to take drugs and have sex with men for mon­ey. Po­lice al­so round­ed up at least 18 sus­pects for ques­tion­ing. A Chi­nese man, Jin­fu Zhu, and his 23-year-old Venezue­lan ac­com­plice, Solient Tor­res, were lat­er charged with 43 sex charges un­der the Sex­u­al Of­fences Act. The young women, most­ly of Venezue­lan na­tion­al­i­ty, were lat­er tak­en un­der the State’s care and kept in a safe house.

Mere days af­ter this ma­jor bust, a 24-year-old Venezue­lan woman who had es­caped from hu­man traf­fick­ers was re­cap­tured by them in Diego Mar­tin. Po­lice in­ter­cept­ed the al­leged traf­fick­ers along the Solomon Ho­choy High­way in the Clax­ton Bay area. Bat­tered and bruised, the shak­en woman was tak­en to the Wood­brook Po­lice Sta­tion. Akeem James, a 28-year-old spe­cial re­serve po­lice of­fi­cer and 39-year-old Kevin Houl­der a truck dri­ver were lat­er ar­rest­ed .

In Oc­to­ber last year, a 19-year-old Venezue­lan woman was se­vere­ly beat­en in a house in Debe. A video of the beat­ing was post­ed on so­cial me­dia by her al­leged per­pe­tra­tor who be­rat­ed her. A Diego Mar­tin man, Aval­on Cal­len­der was lat­er charged with kid­nap­ping and wound­ing with in­tent.

Au­thor­i­ties ac­knowl­edge that the hu­man traf­fick­ing prob­lem in­volv­ing sex slav­ery is a mas­sive one.

Min­is­ter of Na­tion­al Se­cu­ri­ty Stu­art Young said the res­cue of the 19 women last Feb­ru­ary had trig­gered a flood of tips about il­le­gal ac­tiv­i­ty in­volv­ing hu­man traf­fick­ing across Trinidad and To­ba­go.

THE WORLD TAKES NO­TICE

Sev­er­al in­ter­na­tion­al agen­cies have fo­cused on the sex traf­fick­ing prob­lem dur­ing their in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the Venezue­lan mi­grant sit­u­a­tion in Trinidad.

Melanie Teff, who is UNICEF UK’s se­nior hu­man­i­tar­i­an ad­vo­ca­cy and pol­i­cy ad­vis­er, re­called in­ter­view­ing about 50 Venezue­lan vic­tims who re­count­ed how traf­fick­ers en­trapped them in­to lives of sex and drugs.

In an in­ter­view with Guardian Me­dia, Teff said, “We heard about these women and girls read­ing ad­ver­tise­ments for what seemed like jobs in bars that did not ap­pear to be pros­ti­tu­tion. Their doc­u­ments are tak­en away leav­ing them trapped in a for­eign land.”

Teff said the height­ened de­spair of these Venezue­lan women left them at the mer­cy of heart­less traf­fick­ers.

“They want to sur­vive and send back mon­ey to their fam­i­lies, who they feel a re­spon­si­bil­i­ty to sup­port. If they are not al­lowed a way of be­ing le­gal in Trinidad and To­ba­go, then they are go­ing to be at much greater risk of be­ing ex­ploit­ed,” she said.

‘COPS IN­VOLVED IN HU­MAN TRAF­FICK­ING’

PCA di­rec­tor David West con­firmed re­ceiv­ing many re­ports about po­lice of­fi­cers be­ing in­volved in hu­man traf­fick­ing and hold­ing girls and young women cap­tive.

Young girls are at the mer­cy of rogue po­lice of­fi­cers, West said.

“These young girls do not know the sys­tem and there­fore they are afraid to re­port it,” he said.

West said that the PCA had re­ceived a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of com­plaints in 2019 when com­pared to pre­vi­ous years.

“It is very wor­ry­ing, the sto­ries that the girls tell are…,” West said, paus­ing to com­pose him­self.

A fa­ther of two girls, West said, “I do not wish it on any­body’s daugh­ter, what they have al­leged­ly done to those girls.”

West said vic­tims should know that his agency will in­ves­ti­gate com­plaints against of­fi­cers. “Come to the PCA and we will take their com­plaints and in­ves­ti­gate the mat­ter and bring those per­pe­tra­tors to jus­tice,” he said.

Com­mis­sion­er of Po­lice Gary Grif­fith said he could not com­ment on pend­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tions in­to po­lice of­fi­cers in­volved in hu­man traf­fick­ing.

Grif­fith said he was mov­ing quick­ly to adopt poli­cies to tar­get and stamp out cor­rupt cops with the in­tro­duc­tion of poly­graph tests.

“Like any oth­er kind of il­le­gal ac­tiv­i­ty hu­man traf­fick­ing we will treat through sting op­er­a­tions,” Grif­fith said. “If they don’t (stop),we will get enough ev­i­dence to put them be­hind bars.”

‘YOU’LL BE­COME PROS­TI­TUTES’

Cas­es in­volv­ing Maria and oth­er women im­pli­cate po­lice of­fi­cers who not on­ly held them cap­tive but fa­cil­i­tat­ed sex­u­al ex­ploita­tion of the women.

Maria was adamant that an of­fi­cer was the mas­ter­mind be­hind the hu­man traf­fick­ing ring that held her cap­tive for al­most six months.

An­oth­er woman who was held at the house in Debe, south Trinidad, said a po­lice of­fi­cer rou­tine­ly raped her and forced her to have sex with cus­tomers. “He col­lect­ed and kept all of the mon­ey.”

Guardian Me­dia spoke to their vic­tims…

Like Maria, Ju­marie Car­oli­na fled pover­ty and star­va­tion in her home town of Cara­cas.

She en­dured a nine-hour jour­ney from her home to Tu­cu­pi­ta. Car­ry­ing on­ly a knap­sack, she board­ed a fer­ry to Ce­dros.

A friend from her home town told her of the op­por­tu­ni­ties in Trinidad. The is­land at the South­ern tip of the Caribbean was de­scribed as an ide­al es­cape from the crum­bling Venezue­lan so­ci­ety.

At Ce­dros, she met a man iden­ti­fied as James who picked her up and took her to a house in Princes Town. James told her she would be there for a few days be­fore she could start work­ing as a wait­ress at a near­by bar.

Af­ter three days, one of the traf­fick­ers en­tered her room and raped her. Over sev­er­al days, he re­peat­ed­ly raped her. “He would force me to take (mar­i­jua­na), then rape me,” said Ju­marie, tears welling up in her eyes.

James made it clear that she owed him $1,000 for the trip and would have to work as a pros­ti­tute to re­pay him.

He bought her a back­less hal­ter-top and tight-fit­ting jeans and took her to a well-known San Fer­nan­do night­club fre­quent­ed by men, from all walks of life; hop­ing their mon­ey could buy them a good time with young Span­ish-speak­ing women.

When­ev­er Ju­marie seemed un­will­ing to com­ply with James’ wish­es, he would threat­en to harm her fam­i­ly while bran­dish­ing his firearm, she said.

Ju­marie said she knew she had to es­cape. A taxi dri­ver hired by James to take her to and from the club was her on­ly con­nec­tion to the out­side world. One evening, she asked him how much it would cost to take her to meet a Venezue­lan friend in Port-of-Spain. He agreed to help her.

Af­ter hear­ing Ju­marie’s sto­ry, her friend—de­ter­mined that it would be too risky to keep her—con­tact­ed an­oth­er woman who gave Ju­marie refuge.

But it seemed as though she was un­able to es­cape James’ reach. He sent a se­ries of men­ac­ing mes­sages, show­ing pic­tures of her fam­i­ly mem­bers in Venezuela, she said.

“You can’t hide here and you can’t hide in Venezuela,” he told her via text mes­sage.

Ju­marie had ini­tial­ly agreed to take Guardian Me­dia re­porters to sev­er­al lo­ca­tions where men had abused her. But on the day of the meet­ing, Ju­marie texted a friend, “I’m gone. He will find me.”

She then left on a boat from Ce­dros.

ES­CAP­ING CAP­TORS

One day in Feb­ru­ary, Maria es­caped from her cap­tors when she jumped through a bath­room at a bar in Wood­brook. She ran as fast as she could with no idea of where she was head­ed. She met some Venezue­lans on the street and bor­rowed a phone to con­tact a friend. Maria end­ed up in the same safe house as Ju­marie.

Af­ter ex­chang­ing sto­ries, Maria and Ju­marie re­alised they were vic­tims of the same sex traf­fick­ing ring. They had even stayed in sep­a­rate rooms of the same Debe house rent­ed by the po­lice of­fi­cer.

The sin­gle-storey house, paint­ed in brick red, had raised con­cerns among lo­cal res­i­dents who point­ed out that the house’s win­dows had been plas­tered over and ro­bust steel door kept oc­cu­pants in­side.

Many neigh­bours told Guardian Me­dia how Span­ish-speak­ing women would leave the house at night and re­turn in the wee hours of the morn­ing.

The same house was the scene of sev­er­al ques­tion­able in­ci­dents over the last year, in­clud­ing the vi­ral video of the beat­ing in­volv­ing the Venezue­lan woman.

PO­LICE OF­FI­CER DE­NIES IN­VOLVE­MENT

Both Maria and Ju­marie claimed that an of­fi­cer known as He­mant “Crix” Ram­sumair, who had ties to the po­lice of­fi­cer known as James, rent­ed the Debe home where they were once held cap­tive.

Peo­ple who live in the area said Ram­sumair resided ten min­utes away from the house in ques­tion.

Guardian Me­dia ap­proached Ram­sumair a few weeks ago out­side the Bar­rack­pore Po­lice Sta­tion where he worked. Ram­sumair was asked to ex­plain sev­er­al in­ci­dents at the house, in­clud­ing the beat­ing of the Venezue­lan woman last Oc­to­ber and the use of the prop­er­ty to en­slave Maria, Ju­marie and oth­ers.

Ram­sumair had been sus­pend­ed for some time from the po­lice ser­vice be­cause of a do­mes­tic mat­ter and had on­ly re­cent­ly re­sumed du­ty. He ac­knowl­edged tak­ing charge of the house about two years ago, but said he re­lin­quished it af­ter the beat­ing cap­tured in the vi­ral video.

Ram­sumair dis­tanced him­self from the al­leged beat­ing in­ci­dent at the house and de­nied any part in any hu­man traf­fick­ing ring that in­cludes the in­volve­ment of po­lice of­fi­cers.

He chalked up the in­ci­dent to noth­ing more than a lover’s quar­rel. He said, “That was the guy’s girl­friend and some­thing hap­pened and he could not take it and that is the gist of it. Se­ri­ous­ly.”

While Ram­sumair claimed to have giv­en up rental of the prop­er­ty, lo­cal res­i­dents con­tra­dict­ed that claim.

A rel­a­tive of the own­er, who re­sides in Cana­da, said they had been try­ing to evict Ram­sumair for sev­er­al months now with­out suc­cess.

Asked to com­ment on the as­ser­tions by Maria and Ju­marie and their or­deal, Ram­sumair said: “I would like to see that be­cause I knew all the peo­ple who stayed there. They were my friends. They can’t say any­thing bad. I think I have a good re­la­tion­ship with one or two of the girls I know who came to Trinidad.”

When asked if po­lice of­fi­cers in the area were part of this il­le­gal ac­tiv­i­ty?

Ram­sumair said, “No, that is not so. It could nev­er be so.”

Ram­sumair said he had nev­er been un­der any in­ves­ti­ga­tion for hu­man traf­fick­ing.

Ram­sumair said, “Hon­est to God, I don’t know any­thing about the stuff, that pros­ti­tu­tion thing. My fam­i­ly taught me bet­ter than that.”

In the last sev­er­al months, dozens of Venezue­lan women have en­tered the coun­try in the hope of a new life. Many have been duped in­to sex slav­ery.

Un­like Ju­marie who es­caped, these women re­main be­hind trapped.

Hema Ramkissoon is the top ed­i­tor for the Guardian Me­dia Lim­it­ed broad­cast di­vi­sion. She has been with the com­pa­ny for more than a decade. Hema is the host of CNC3’s Morn­ing Brew pro­gramme which high­lights pol­i­cy and pol­i­cy­mak­ers in T&T.

Mark Bas­sant heads the in­ves­tiga­tive desk at Guardian Me­dia Lim­it­ed. He has more than two decades of ex­pe­ri­ence in jour­nal­ism and is a grad­u­ate of Ry­er­son Uni­ver­si­ty in Toron­to, Cana­da. He has won six Caribbean Broad­cast­ing Union awards for Best In­ves­tiga­tive Re­port­ing in tele­vi­sion.

Posted in Business/Economy/Banking, CARICOM, Court, Crime, Featured, International, News, Police, Regional, Youth0 Comments

DSC_6962a

Margaret ‘Annie’ Dyer-Howe gets elegant homegoing celebration

Rt. Hon. Mary ‘Annie’ Dyer Howe

From related posts – adapted by Bennette Roach

The Right Hon. Margaret Annie Dyer-Howe OE, MBA was finally laid to rest at the Lookout Cemetery following a fitting state-sponsored ‘Service of Celebration…’ for her life at the St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church. She was born on November 18, 1941, and died on the night of April 6, 2019, after a long illness at the age of 77 years.

She was honored for her tireless crusade to elevate women, protect children and uplift the underprivileged. She was remembered for her calm and measured demeanor, generous spirit and quiet dignity. She was celebrated through words, song and even the steel pan.

“She took her beloved country under her wing. And now she flies with the angels.”

The Right Honourable Margaret Mary “Annie” Dyer-Howe O.E. received a bright homegoing Friday at the Roman Catholic Church in Lookout. Following the two-hour-plus service, a procession led by the Montserrat Defense Force, with marching band in tow, made a one-mile trek to the Lookout Public Cemetery. Mrs. Dyer-Howe received a gun salute and was laid to rest as family members, friends and dignitaries sang hymns.

Mrs. Dyer-Howe’s casket was regal as the woman herself, white with gold trim and a hint of the Montserrat madras, draped with the Montserrat flag.

“Miss Annie’s homegoing service was one that truly summed up the woman she was,” says Rose Willock, Dyer-Howe’s longtime friend and a broadcasting legend in Montserrat. “Outgoing, community-spirited in every way and dedicated to her homeland.”

“She empowered women at every level,” added Willock

“She was an ordinary woman who produced extraordinary outcomes,” said Hon. Donaldson Romeo, Premier of Montserrat.

“I have chosen simply to focus on an aspect of her personality that no one who knew her for any length of time could ignore: in all she did, this formidable professional and passionate champion of women’s rights, had a calm, unshakable dignity about her that set her apart,” he said.

He recounted like many others in tribute and recollection: “Mrs. Howe accomplished much as a Minister of Government, but she obviously did not need political office to motivate her forquality service to her island. During the years 1987 to 2001, a gap in her political career, she not only managed the Montserrat Water Authority with distinction, but also co-founded the very successful Howe’s Enterprise and established the Small Business Association. She thus used what was apparent loss, to shift her focus to another area on which to stamp her authenticity and to demonstrate excellence.  Giving to her community and country was always her overriding interest. Mrs. Howe has left much for us to emulate as a nation.”

Mrs. Dyer-Howe influenced just about every sector of Montserrat. Principled, pragmatic and devoutly Roman Catholic, she helped enact social change during a time when women were mostly excluded from prominent positions in society. Due to her efforts, the protocol for acceptance into the Montserrat Secondary School was changed to allow non-affluent students a fairer chance. Mrs. Dyer-Howe argued that students from wealthy families had an unfair advantage because their parents could afford private tutoring.

The Hon Speaker Shirley Osborne while delivering a really powerful tribute, said among so much more, “… there was really never any one name that captured everything she was, everything she represented, everything she brought into this world…

Former Chief Minister Dr. Lowel Lewis, said in tribute: “She also made her mark as Minister of Agriculture, Lands and Housing.

“Mrs Dyer Howe was a lady of dignity.  She knew how to recognize true loyalty and support.  Just a smile and a thank you.  Nothing else was required from her.  And she never expected anything from anybody she helped or was kind to.”

More expressions of her exemplary character as Dr. Lewis also recalls, “She never once said a word to me about the fact that I cut short her last term as a Minister of Government, when I changed to a coalition government with MCAP in 2008.  She understood the reason for that decision.”

Paying tribute on behalf of the St. Patrick’s community. Bennette Roach with Shirley Spycalla, sang in Latin the simple prayer, Pie Jesu (Blessed Jesus, grant her thine eternal rest and peace…). He preceded that with a few words speaking to the special character that she had passed on to her St. Patrick’s community, back in 1983-4 when she promised to correct the wrongs (perceived or otherwise) of the PLM party and strive for better and progress…

Mrs. Dyer-Howe, who was profiled in the book Gallery Montserrat by Sir Howard Fergus, was born Margaret Corbett on November 18, 1941 and grew up in St. Patrick’s in southern Montserrat. She was heavily influenced by her grandmother, who was a district midwife. She attended the St. Augustine School, which was then on George Street in Plymouth, and later taught at the school before migrating to the United States for secretarial training. In 1964, she married businessman and politician Michael Dyer. It was during that union that her political aspirations took shape, spending 16-17 years in that service.

In 1974, Michael Dyer passed away. In 1979, Mrs. Dyer-Howe competed in a by-election in the Southern district for the seat of the late Joe Taylor. She won, essentially reclaiming the seat lost years earlier by her husband. In 1983 she was re-elected and assigned the Ministry of Education, Health, Community Services, Women’s Affairs, Culture and Sports. She became only the second woman (of three elected up to that time) in Montserrat to hold a ministry, following Mary Rose Tuitt in 1970. She married Robert Howe in 1984.

“Miss Annie’s home-going service was one that truly summed up the woman she was.”

Fergus, a longtime friend, was among the luminaries paying tribute Friday. Speaking about Mrs. Dyer-Howe helping to break the female barrier in parliament, he said: “She was No. 2 to wear the toga of a minister, and she did more than warm the bench. She did more than any of her generation to elevate women in skills and consciousness.”

In 2018 she was presented with the Order of Excellence during the Montserrat National Awards for her exemplary contributions to the country.

It was again, Hon. Speaker of the House Shirley Osborne who perhaps summed up Mrs. Dyer-Howe’s legacy best during Friday’s service. “Many of the building blocks of Montserrat were put up, leveled out and cemented in place by this woman.

“So, Montserrat is Annie’s house.”

Mrs. Dyer-Howe is survived by her husband Robert, step-daughter Joycelyn Howe, brother Neville Corbett (aka Dick Martin) and many other family members.

The Right Hon. Margaret Annie Dyer-Howe OE, MBA was finally laid to rest at the Lookout Cemetery following a fitting state sponsored ‘Service of Celebration…’ for her life at the St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church. She was born on November 18, 1941 and died on the night of April 6, 2019 after a long illness at the age of 77 years.

She was honored for her tireless crusade to elevate women, protect children and uplift the underprivileged. She was remembered for her calm and measured demeanor, generous spirit and quiet dignity. She was celebrated through words, song and even the steel pan.

“She took her beloved country under her wing. And now she flies with the angels.”

The Right Honourable Margaret Mary “Annie” Dyer-Howe O.E. received a bright homegoing Friday at the Roman Catholic Church in Lookout. Following the two-hour-plus service, a procession led by the Montserrat Defense Force, with marching band in tow, made a one-mile trek to the Lookout Public Cemetery. Mrs. Dyer-Howe received a gun salute and was laid to rest as family members, friends and dignitaries sang hymns.

Mrs. Dyer-Howe’s casket was regal as the woman herself, white with gold trim and a hint of the Montserrat madras, draped with the Montserrat flag.

“Miss Annie’s homegoing service was one that truly summed up the woman she was,” says Rose Willock, Dyer-Howe’s longtime friend and a broadcasting legend in Montserrat. “Outgoing, community-spirited in every way and dedicated to her homeland.”

“She empowered women at every level,” added Willock

“She was an ordinary woman who produced extraordinary outcomes,” said Hon. Donaldson Romeo, Premier of Montserrat.

“I have chosen simply to focus on an aspect of her personality that no one who knew her for any length of time could ignore: in all she did, this formidable professional and passionate champion of women’s rights, had a calm, unshakable dignity about her that set her apart,” he said.

He recounted like many others in tribute and recollection: “Mrs. Howe accomplished much as a Minister of Government, but she obviously did not need political office to motivate her forquality service to her island. During the years 1987 to 2001, a gap in her political career, she not only managed the Montserrat Water Authority with distinction, but also co-founded the very successful Howe’s Enterprise and established the Small Business Association. She thus used what was apparent loss, to shift her focus to another area on which to stamp her authenticity and to demonstrate excellence.  Giving to her community and country was always her overriding interest. Mrs. Howe has left much for us to emulate as a nation.”

Mrs. Dyer-Howe influenced just about every sector of Montserrat. Principled, pragmatic and devoutly Roman Catholic, she helped enact social change during a time when women were mostly excluded from prominent positions in society. Due to her efforts, the protocol for acceptance into the Montserrat Secondary School was changed to allow non-affluent students a fairer chance. Mrs. Dyer-Howe argued that students from wealthy families had an unfair advantage because their parents could afford private tutoring.

The Hon Speaker Shirley Osborne while delivering a really powerful tribute, said among so much more, “… there was really never any one name that captured everything she was, everything she represented, everything she brought into this world…

Former Chief Minister Dr. Lowel Lewis, said in tribute: “She also made her mark as Minister of Agriculture, Lands and Housing.

“Mrs Dyer Howe was a lady of dignity.  She knew how to recognize true loyalty and support.  Just a smile and a thank you.  Nothing else was required from her.  And she never expected anything from anybody she helped or was kind to.”

More expressions of her exemplary character as Dr. Lewis also recalls, “She never once said a word to me about the fact that I cut short her last term as a Minister of Government, when I changed to a coalition government with MCAP in 2008.  She understood the reason for that decision.”

Paying tribute on behalf of the St. Patrick’s community. Bennette Roach with Shirley Spycalla, sang in Latin the simple prayer, Pie Jesu (Blessed Jesus, grant her thine eternal rest and peace…). He preceded that with a few words speaking to the special character that she had passed on to her St. Patrick’s community , back in 1983-4 when she promised to correct the wrongs (perceived or otherwise) of the PLM party and strive for better and progress…

Mrs. Dyer-Howe, who was profiled in the book Gallery Montserrat by Sir Howard Fergus, was born Margaret Corbett on November 18, 1941 and grew up in St. Patrick’s in southern Montserrat. She was heavily influenced by her grandmother, who was a district midwife. She attended the St. Augustine School, which was then on George Street in Plymouth, and later taught at the school before migrating to the United States for secretarial training. In 1964, she married businessman and politician Michael Dyer. It was during that union that her political aspirations took shape, spending 16-17 years in that service.

In 1974, Michael Dyer passed away. In 1979, Mrs. Dyer-Howe competed in a by-election in the Southern district for the seat of the late Joe Taylor. She won, essentially reclaiming the seat lost years earlier by her husband. In 1983 she was re-elected and assigned the Ministry of Education, Health, Community Services, Women’s Affairs, Culture and Sports. She became only the second woman (of three elected up to that time) in Montserrat to hold a ministry, following Mary Rose Tuitt in 1970. She married Robert Howe in 1984.

“Miss Annie’s home-going service was one that truly summed up the woman she was.”

Fergus, a longtime friend, was among the luminaries paying tribute Friday. Speaking about Mrs. Dyer-Howe helping to break the female barrier in parliament, he said: “She was No. 2 to wear the toga of a minister, and she did more than warm the bench. She did more than any of her generation to elevate women in skills and consciousness.”

In 2018 she was presented with the Order of Excellence during the Montserrat National Awards for her exemplary contributions to the country.

It was again, Hon. Speaker of the House Shirley Osborne who perhaps summed up Mrs. Dyer-Howe’s legacy best during Friday’s service. “Many of the building blocks of Montserrat were put up, leveled out and cemented in place by this woman.

“So, Montserrat is Annie’s house.”

Mrs. Dyer-Howe is survived by her husband Robert, step-daughter Joycelyn Howe, brother Neville Corbett (aka Dick Martin) and many other family members.

The casket of Margaret “Annie” Dyer-Howe is prepared for burial at the Lookout Public Cemetery in Montserrat.

She was honored for her tireless crusade to elevate women, protect children and uplift the underprivileged. She was remembered for her calm and measured demeanor, generous spirit and quiet dignity. She was celebrated through words, song and even the steel pan.

“She took her beloved country under her wing. And now she flies with the angels.”


The casket of Margaret “Annie” Dyer-Howe is prepared for burial at the Lookout Public Cemetery in Montserrat.

The Right Honourable Margaret Mary “Annie” Dyer-Howe O.E. received a bright homegoing Friday at the Roman Catholic Church in Lookout. Following the two-hour-plus service, a procession led by the Montserrat Defense Force, with marching band in tow, made a one-mile trek to the Lookout Public Cemetery. Mrs. Dyer-Howe received a gun salute and was laid to rest as family members, friends and dignitaries sang hymns.

Mrs. Dyer-Howe’s casket was regal as the woman herself, white with gold trim and a hint of the Montserrat madras, draped with the Montserrat flag.

“Miss Annie’s homegoing service was one that truly summed up the woman she was,” says Rose Willock, Dyer-Howe’s longtime friend and a broadcasting legend in Montserrat. “Outgoing, community-spirited in every way and dedicated to her homeland.”

“She was an ordinary woman who produced extraordinary outcomes,” said Hon. Donaldson Romeo, Premier of Montserrat.

He recounted like many others in tribute and recollection: “Mrs. Howe accomplished much as a Minister of Government, but she obviously did not need political office to motivate her for quality service to her island. During the years 1987 to 2001, a gap in her political career, she not only managed the Montserrat Water Authority with distinction, but also co-founded the very successful Howe’s Enterprise and established the Small Business Association. She thus used what was apparent loss, to shift her focus to another area on which to stamp her authenticity and to demonstrate excellence.  Giving to her community and country was always her overriding interest.

Dr. Lowel Lewis
Florence Griffith
Hon Speaker Shirley

“I have chosen simply to focus on an aspect of her personality that no one who knew her for any length of time could ignore: in all she did, this formidable professional and passionate champion of women’s rights  had a calm, unshakable dignity about her that set her apart.

 “Giving to her community and country was always her overriding interest. Mrs. Howe has left much for us to emulate as a nation.”

Mrs. Dyer-Howe influenced just about every sector of Montserrat. Principled, pragmatic and devoutly Roman Catholic, she helped enact social change during a time when women were mostly excluded from prominent positions in society. Due to her efforts, the protocol for acceptance into the Montserrat Secondary School was changed to allow non-affluent students a fairer chance. Mrs. Dyer-Howe argued that students from wealthy families had an unfair advantage because their parents could afford private tutoring.

Jackie Dangler
Wejahna Weekes

The Hon Speaker Shirley Osborne while delivering a really powerful tribute, said among so much more, “… there was really never any one name that captured everything she was, everything she represented, everything she brought into this world…

Former Chief Minister Dr. Lowel Lewis, said in tribute: “She also made her mark as Minister of Agriculture, Lands and Housing.

Easton Taylor Farrell
Premier Romeo

“Mrs Dyer Howe was a lady of dignity.  She knew how to recognize true loyalty and support.  Just a smile and a thank you.  Nothing else was required from her.  And she never expected anything from anybody she helped or was kind to.”

More expressions of her exemplary character as Dr. Lewis also recalls, “She never once said a word to me about the fact that I cut short her last term as a Minister of Government, when I changed to a coalition government with MCAP in 2008.  She understood the reason for that decision.”

Shirley and Bennette
Sir Professor Howard Fergus

Paying tribute on behalf of the St. Patrick’s community. Bennette Roach with Shirley Spycalla sang in Latin the simple prayer, Pie Jesu (Blessed Jesus, grant her thine eternal rest and peace…). He preceded that with a few words speaking to the special character that she had passed on to her St. Patrick’s community, when she promised to correct the wrongs (perceived or otherwise) of her PLM party and strive for better and progress…

Mrs. Dyer-Howe, who was profiled in the book Gallery Montserrat by Sir Howard Fergus, was born Margaret Corbett on November 18, 1941 and grew up in St. Patrick’s in southern Montserrat. She was heavily influenced by her grandmother, who was a district midwife. She attended the St. Augustine School, which was then on George Street in Plymouth, and later taught at the school before migrating to the United States for secretarial training. In 1964, she married businessman and politician Michael Dyer. It was during that union that her political aspirations took shape.

Mrs. Dyer-Howe, who was profiled in the book Gallery Montserrat by Sir Howard Fergus, grew up in St. Patrick’s in southern Montserrat. She was heavily influenced by her grandmother, who was a district midwife. She attended the St. Augustine School, which was then on George Street in Plymouth, and later taught at the school before migrating to the United States for secretarial training. In 1964, she married businessman and politician Michael Dyer. It was during that union that her political aspirations took shape, spending 16-17 years in that service.

In 1974, Michael Dyer passed away. In 1979, Mrs. Dyer-Howe competed in a by-election in the Southern district for the seat of the late Joe Taylor. She won, essentially reclaiming the seat lost years earlier by her husband. In 1983 she was re-elected and assigned the Ministry of Education, Health, Community Services, Women’s Affairs, Culture and Sports. She became only the second woman (of three elected up to that time) in Montserrat to hold a ministry, following Mary Rose Tuitt in 1970. She married Robert Howe in 1984.

“Miss Annie’s home-going service was one that truly summed up the woman she was.”

In 1974, Michael Dyer passed away. In 1979, Mrs. Dyer-Howe competed in a by-election in the Southern district for the seat of the late Joe Taylor. She won, essentially reclaiming the seat lost years earlier by her husband. In 1983 she was re-elected and assigned the Ministry of Education, Health, Community Services, Women’s Affairs, Culture and Sports. She became only the second woman in Montserrat to hold a ministry, following Mary Rose Tuitt in 1970. She married Robert Howe in 1984.

Fergus, a longtime friend, was among the luminaries paying tribute Friday. Speaking about Mrs. Dyer-Howe helping to break the female barrier in parliament, he said: “She was No. 2 to wear the toga of a minister, and she did more than warm the bench. She did more than any of her generation to elevate women in skills and consciousness.”

In 2018 she was presented with the Order of Excellence during the Montserrat National Awards for her exemplary contributions to the country.

Hon. Speaker of the House Shirley Osborne perhaps summed up Mrs. Dyer-Howe’s legacy best during Friday’s service. “Many of the building blocks of Montserrat were put up, leveled out and cemented in place by this woman.

“So Montserrat is Annie’s house.”

Mrs. Dyer-Howe is survived by her husband Robert, step-daughter Joycelyn Howe, brother Neville Corbett (aka Dick Martin) and many other family members.

Keith  Howe
Fr. Mark Schram

Posted in Business/Economy/Banking, CARICOM, Featured, Local, News, Obituaries, Politics, Regional0 Comments

Annie Dyer-Howe

Another icon passes

Rt. Hon. Margaret Annie Dyer-Howe OE, MBA

One of the tributes, coming from the Ministry of Education, Youth Affairs and Sports, following the announcement of the death of Mrs. Margaret Annie Dyer-Howe (Rt. Hon. OE MBA) on the night of April 6, 2019 captured near accurately the woman who had just passed.

She hailed from the village of St. Patrick’s in the south of Montserrat, now devasted and completely overrun by Soufriere Hills volcano, last of Olveston.

Born on November 18, 1940 to be recognised on the way as one of Montserrat’s Icons.

She was assigned a ministerial post with responsibility for education, health, community services, women’s affairs, culture and sports, in 1983, then being reelected after 1979. She later held the post of Minister of Agriculture, Housing, Land etc.

She held many roles in her lifetime, and briefly to name a few, school teacher, entrepreneur, manufacturer, Justice of the Peace, and General Manager at the Montserrat Water Authority, a position she held for many years beginning some time after she lost a legislative seat in the southern district to Bertrand B. Osborne who predeceased her just last year.

Her first ministerial post was that in the Ministry of Education, Health, Community Affairs etc. and it is from then she was mostly remembered and no doubt prompted the Ministry to scribe at her death: “No one can reasonably deny the iconic and heroic stature of this Montserratian who has achieved so much. She was not just a great Montserratian woman and indeed a great Caribbean, woman, but a great champion of the human cause.

As can be expected, and not surprisingly there have been many tributes, some of which we will post on the website online and in the print copy of the newspaper.

Not surprisingly ‘Annie’ as folks my age and know her as well, from St. Patrick’s would remember her, will be afforded a State’s funeral. She will, following her funeral service of remembrance and thanksgiving, at the Roman Catholic Church in Lookout on Friday, May 10, be laid to rest then at the burial site.

Condolences go out to her entire family and the whole of Montserrat who she served. May she rest in peace.

Posted in Business/Economy/Banking, Featured, International, Local, News, Obituaries, Regional0 Comments

Figure 2: Crick’s March 19, 1953 letter, p. 5 with a highlight (Fair use)

The Credibility of God

by

A Special: Part 7

Is the gospel a credible basis for a just civilisation?

When Cayman Chief Justice Anthony Smellie recently ruled[1] to impose same-sex marriage under colour of law in Cayman, some of his underlying points suggested that tradition, religion and linked religious ethics lack basic intellectual credibility and are particularly prone to inequities. Also, in recent years, there has been a flood of articles and voices across the Caribbean that have tried to discredit and dismiss the gospel, the Scriptures that teach it and the churches that bear witness to it. Last September, in answer to one such article,  the below was submitted under the right of reply, but was unfortunately rejected by a leading regional newspaper. Given what is now so clearly at stake and given the foundational importance of the gospel message and gospel ethics, we present the below as a needed first defence of our civilisation.

Over the years, many millions have met and been transformed through meeting God in the face of Christ. This includes countless Jamaicans [and many other people across the Caribbean]. It also includes many famed scholars, eminent scientists and leaders of powerful reformations. Logically, if just one of these millions has actually been reconciled with God through Christ, God must be real and the gospel must be true. (Where, if instead so many are deeply delusional, that would undermine the rational credibility of the human mind.)

However, for some years now various voices have tried to dismissively question God, the gospel and Christians. So, it is not unexpected to see Mr Gordon Robinson writing in the Gleaner[2] recently (on Sunday, August 26, 2018),  about alleged “dangerous dogma promulgated by the Church and its many brainwashed surrogates,” “perverse propaganda spread by Christian churches,” “sycophants” and the like.

Along the way, he managed to ask a pivotal question: “Who/what is God?”

Regrettably, he also implied outright fraud by church leaders: “Either the Church has NO CLUE about who/what God really is, or it deliberately misrepresents God’s essence in order to frighten people into becoming church members and tithing. Nothing else makes sense.”

Fig 1 DNA, Showing the Genetic Code (HT ResearchGate)

In fact, a simple Internet search might give a better answer. For, thinkers such as a Thomas Aquinas or an Augustine of Hippo or a Paul of Tarsus or even a Wayne Grudem[3] or a William Lane Craig[4] have long since credibly addressed the idea of God and systematic theology at a little more sophisticated level than Sunday School lessons or Internet Atheist web sites. In so doing, they have made responsible cases that rise above the level of caricatures of the art on the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling.

We may begin with Paul in Romans 1, 57 AD: “Rom 1:19 . . . what can be known about God is plain to [people], because God has shown it to them. 20 For [God’s] invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So [people] are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”  [ESV]

Here, one of the top dozen minds of our civilisation first points out how our morally governed interior life and what we see in the world all around jointly call us to God our Creator. But, too often we suppress the force of that inner testimony and outer evidence. (This, predictably, leads to unsound thinking and destructive deeds stemming from benumbed consciences and en-darkened minds.)

For one, consider how for sixty years now we have known that the DNA in the cells of our bodies has in it complex, alphanumeric, algorithmic code that is executed through molecular nanotechnology to build proteins, the workhorses of biological life. That’s why Sir Francis Crick wrote to his son Michael on March 19, 1953 that “we believe that the DNA is a code. That is, the order of bases (the letters) makes one gene different from another gene (just as one page of print is different from another).”

Yes, alphanumeric code (so, language!), algorithms (so, purpose!), i.e. intelligent design of life from the first living cell on. Including, us. No wonder the dean of the so-called New Atheists was forced to admit that Biology studies complicated things that give a strong appearance of design. 

1947 saw the advent of the transistor age, allowing storage of a single bit of information in a tiny electronic wonder. We have since advanced to computers based on silicon chips comparable in size to a thumb-nail, with millions of transistors. These microchips and support machinery process many millions of instructions per second and have storage capacities of many gigabytes. Coded electronic communication signals routinely go across millions of miles through the solar system.  Every one of these devices and systems required careful design by highly educated engineers, scientists and programmers. The living, self-replicating cell’s sophistication dwarfs all of these; yet we question the all-knowing God, the author of life.

Figure 2: Crick’s March 19, 1953 letter, p. 5 with a highlight (Fair use)

Next, Mr. Robinson and others inevitably appeal to our known duty to truth, right reasoning, fairness, prudent judgement, etc.  But, where did that inner moral law (testified to by our consciences) come from? Surely, it is not a delusion; or else responsible, freely rational discussion would collapse into nihilistic chaos: might and manipulation (= “power and propaganda”) make ‘right,’ ‘rights,’ ‘justice,’ ‘truth,’ ‘knowledge’ etc. Instead, our conscience-guarded hearts and minds clearly show the Creator’s design that we freely live by the light and law of truth and right.

Such considerations – and many more – point us to the only serious candidate for the source of reality that can bridge IS and OUGHT: the inherently good (and wise) Creator God, a necessary and maximally great being. Who is fully worthy of our loyalty and of humble, responsible, reasonable service through doing the good. Then, we may readily draw out the classic understanding of God described in scripture and studied in systematic theology: all-good, eternal, creator and Lord with sound knowledge and full capability to work out his good purposes in the right way at the right time.

Moreover, what we most of all need to know about God is taught by Jesus the Christ, recorded in scripture within eye-witness lifetime then accurately handed down to us for 2000 years now, at fearsome cost: the blood of the martyrs. Martyrs, who had but one incentive: that they directly knew and must peacefully stand by the eternal truth – cost what it will. They refused to be frightened by dungeon, fire or sword, much less mere rhetoric. Why would thousands die horribly to promote a known lie?

Their record is that Christ is the express image of his Father, Logos – Cosmos-ordering Reason himself, prophesied Messiah, the Saviour who in love died for us on a cross. He rose from the dead as Lord with 500 eye-witnesses, precisely fulfilling over three hundred prophecies that were long since recorded in the Old Testament. (See esp. Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12, c. 700 BC.[5]) He ascended to his Father in the presence of the apostles. He shall return as eternal Judge, before whom we must all account. (Yes, professing and “backsliding” Christians too.) The Bible also records Jesus’ prayer for us: “this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and [“thy Son”] Jesus Christ, whom thou has sent.” [John 17:1- 5, cf. 3:16.]

That is the truth witnessed by the church, whether it was 33 AD in Jerusalem before an angry Sanhedrin, or 50 AD before the laughing Athenians (who had built a public monument to their ignorance of God), or today.  We therefore confidently invite Mr Robinson et al. to join with us in a serious-minded, substantially informed discussion about “who/what God really is” and about why the gospel is just that: God’s good news that brings salvation, blessing and hope for the positive transformation for our nation.


[1]See TMR: https://www.themontserratreporter.com/cayman-islands-chief-justice-smellie-tries-to-redefine-marriage-fails/

[2]Cf. http://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/focus/20180826/gordon-robinson-gospel-according-gordon

[3]See: http://www.waynegrudem.com/

[4]See: https://www.reasonablefaith.org/

[5]See: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Isa+52%3A13+-+53%3A12&version=AMP

Posted in Columns, De Ole Dawg, Education, International, Local, News, OECS, Opinions, Regional, Scriptures0 Comments

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