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Looking back at the 2017 Literary Festival – “Telling Our Stories”

By Cathy Buffonge

For the past nine years the University of the West Indies Open Campus here in Montserrat has been organizing an inspiring Literary Festival. Led by Campus Head Gracelyn Cassell, the Festival is dubbed Alliouagana Festival of the Word after Montserrat’s original Amerindian name, and takes place in November each year. Last November’s Festival was entitled “Telling our Stories” and as the name suggests focused on all aspects of storytelling.

For the first time the Festival teamed up with the Ministry of Education’s Reading Week, and this featured an impressive Book Parade in which children from each school wore costumes depicting storybook characters. The parade started in Carr’s Bay area and ended at the Basketball Complex in Little Bay, with a host of imaginative costumes. In addition some of the visiting storytellers from the “Lit Fest” visited the schools and met with school children for stories and interactive discussions.

The big event on the Thursday afternoon was the Memorial Symposium, continuing the annual lecture series held in recognition of Montserrat’s hero and international singing star, the late Alphonsus “Arrow” Cassell. For the first time the symposium started at 2pm, in order to facilitate school children’s attendance, and this did attract a good number from three schools, some of whom participated well in discussions.

The symposium featured seven resource persons from the Caribbean and further afield, all touching on storytelling from different angles. The keynote speaker was Dr Amina Blackwood- Meeks from the Edna Manley College in Jamaica. In her presentation “Forgetting we-self”, she pointed out that here in the Caribbean we are still singing about “dashing through the snow in a one-horse open sleigh” instead of focusing on themes more relevant to the Caribbean.

Jamaican storyteller and dramatist A-dZiko Simba Gegele, well known locally, told an entertaining story, while Antiguan bookshop owner and reading promoter Barbara Arrindell, a long time supporter of the Festival, spoke on “Presenting our history”, and also played a part in other sections of the Festival.

Other speakers included Nicole Plummer from UWI, Jamaica, who spoke on “Constructing knowledge through storytelling”, Wendy MacBurnie from Howard University on “Filmic folklore and storytelling in Slumdog Millionaire”, and Gracelyn Cassell herself, the main organizer of the Festival,  whose topic was “Hot Hot Hot: Arrow’s story revisited”. Akini Gill from the University of Trinidad and Tobago talked about his personal experience growing up as an unrecognized dyslexic, and how he now teaches children with learning disabilities through music.

Friday saw the official opening of the Festival, starting with a reception hosted by Montserrat’s then Governor, HE Elizabeth Carriere. Welcome remarks at the opening were given by Minister of Health Hon Delmaude Ryan, the official Patron of the Festival, and there was enjoyable entertainment from Montserrat’s traditional Masquerades and from three of our veteran calypsonians, Cupid, Tabu and Belonger.

A highlight of the opening was the launch of two books. Claytene Nisbett presented her book “Life as Josephine”, depicting the life of a young black girl as she grows up in the US and later in the UK. Sarah Dickinson presented her new book “Plenty Mango”, illustrated by her husband, John Renton. In the book she takes a sardonic and light hearted but sympathetic look at many aspects of Montserrat life, with several well known characters being mentioned.

The weekend was as usual full of interesting activities and presentations. A new feature of the Festival was an imaginative dramatization of the children’s book “Who’s in Rabbit’s House?” This was organized and coordinated by Pat “Belonger” Ryan with support from parents, especially Mr and Mrs Rolando Kassie. Children took the parts of the various animals in the story, which was narrated by Hayley-Shai Kassie in front of creative scenery made by parents and the “house” built by Kirk Brade.

Another new and quite challenging event was a spelling and reading competition for children, entitled “Spell-like a champion”. This was sponsored by book publishers Harper Collins, whose first time involvement in the Festival was greatly appreciated, and who generously donated books for the prize winners and other children. The event was coordinated by Barbara Arrindell and librarian Sonja Smith.  

There was also a dramatic event put on by Brandelle Knight and a group of secondary students and these all received books donated by CODE (Canadian Organization for Development through Education) who have been another sterling supporter of the Lit Fest.

An annual feature of the Festival is the prize giving ceremony for the Montserrat Volcano Observatory (MVO) creative writing competition. This year the children, and some adults, competed to write poems on the theme “Restless Earth”. There were over 170 entries, many of them illustrated, so the judges had an extremely hard job, as there was a high standard throughout. Prize winners read their poems to an appreciative audience. The competition was ably coordinated by MVO information/ outreach officer Natalie Edgecombe.

There were several other interesting sessions during the weekend conducted by Sarah Dickinson, Barbara Arrindell, A-dZiko Simba and Nigerian born author/ story teller Atinuke Akinyemi, who kept the audience spellbound. Well known Trinidadian comedian Paul Keens-Douglas wrapped up the Festival with his lively performance “Let’s tell stories”.

As usual a host of interesting books for children and adults, many of them with Caribbean themes, were on sale at the UWI bookstall, and also from Barbara Arrindell’s Antigua bookshop, Best of Books. There was a lovely display of crafts by Juliana Meade, and as always Claude Browne’s bouncy castle was there for the children’s enjoyment.

“Word up”, now an annual event (originally coordinated by Coretta Ryan and her sister, former Festival Queen Sharissa Ryan), was held at the Community College and was reported to be a well attended and lively event, with young people reading and performing their writing creations

I would like to encourage as many people as possible, especially teachers and their students, to attend the Alliougana Festival every year. Most of the presenters come down for just a few days and this is a unique opportunity to listen to what they have to say and interact with them. It was good to have more participation from school children this time. Well done to Miss Cassell and her hard-working staff and volunteers.

Continued funding assistance from the Montserrat Arts Council and the Montserrat Foundation was a great help, as was fundraising in Toronto and Montreal by Mary Glavassevich and Evans Lewis respectively. Thanks too to Radio Montserrat for helping promote the Festival, and to those who provided accommodation free of charge to the visiting presenters. Committee Chair, Gracelyn Cassell extends sincere thanks to the hard-working members of the Steering Committee and to the Sponsors and Partners, old and new for making the 9thAlliouagana Festival of the Word possible.

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Blue Halo

PRESS RELEASE – Blue Halo Initiative

Monday, February 12, 2018 – Stage one of a two-pilot experimental fish trap project, a partnership between the Government of Montserrat and the WAITT Institute which aims to protect the island’s fisheries resources commenced last week.

The project which was carded to begin on February 1st got on the way with the arrival of the material with the exception of a bio-degradable wire on Thursday, February 8th. The materials needed in the construction of the traps are currently in the procession of the lead trap maker for the project Mr Ethan Bonteen, work on the trap has also commenced.

The four apprentices conducting the project have met on several occasions with the Hon. Parliamentary Secretary and project coordinator Gregory Willock. They held discussions regarding the execution of the project while ensuring the final details are put together to ensure a smooth running of the project over the next 12months.

Hon Willock upon the arrival of the trap materials expressed his delight in seeing the project finally getting on its way, “Well I think this is really an exciting moment for all of us. I am just so overwhelmed that the materials to make these fish traps are finally here.”

 

After the completion of the traps, they will be laid and data will be collected to determining if the project is sustainable on Montserrat.

As the weeks and months roll-on, the general public will be further informed on the happenings of the projects. The traps are expected to be laid by May of 2018.

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Is Ministry putting interests before children’s interests, acting irresponsibly, detrimental to school children?

Is Ministry putting interests before children’s interests, acting irresponsibly, detrimental to school children?

12th February 2018

By Email & Hand

Mrs. Delmaude Ryan
Minister of Education
Ministry of Education
Little Bay Montserrat

Dear Minister

I am writing to complain about the closure of all schools in Montserrat from 14th to 16th February 2018 so that teachers can attend. a workshop being held by the Ministry of Education. Unfortunately, this practice has now become an annual event. By disrupting children’s schooling in this way, the Ministry of Education is acting irresponsibly and in a manner that is detrimental to school children. One senses that the Ministry is putting its interests and those of teachers ahead of the interests of the children.

I would be very interested to know whether ministers of education abroad are guilty of the same practice. In the 15 years or so of my education, non  of the academic institutions I attended closed for a single day so that teachers could attend a workshop. That was because teacher training was done either outside of school hours or during the long holidays that teachers enjoy.

I call on you as the Minister of Education to discontinue this practice and hold these workshops outside of school hours. I am confident that in doing so I have the support of a majority of parents in Montserrat. I suggest that you address my complaint publicly and advise that in view of its importance I am placing this letter in the public domain.

Yours sincerely

Jean Kelsick

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Winston Churchill

De Ole Dawg – Part 3: 2018 – We need good leaders for the upcoming storms

Moving beyond “business as usual,” “resilience” and “growth” to needed reformation

BRADES, Montserrat, February 14, 2018 – Today, Montserrat needs not just “resilience” and “self-sustaining growth” but reformation. For, “business as usual” and “go along for peace sake” etc. have not worked. Indeed, business as [nearly] usual in the face of the volcano crisis clearly contributed to our losses twenty-plus years ago.

And no, it was not just “de British” and “DfID.” We, too were implicated and we continue to be part of the problem right down to today. 

But, a reforming leader as a rule has to be “the good man in a storm” – often, a disaster triggered by marches of folly undertaken in the teeth of his earlier unwelcome advice.  On much history, such a leader will be turned to only as a last resort, and will therefore face the challenge of having been right when more favoured figures were wrong. Wrong, at awful cost. And, being newly at the helm when further disaster strikes is always a big challenge.

Sir Winston Spencer Churchill

That is what confronted Sir Winston Churchill[1] on May 10, 1940. The Neville Chamberlain Government actually won the Norway fiasco Parliamentary Debate on the Adjournment, but was fatally weakened. So, Churchill was – reluctantly – resorted to. (For many years, he had been seen as little more than a proved failure and annoying dinosaur past his stale date. He would prove to be the greatest Prime Minister for centuries, at Britain’s “finest hour.” And yes, the phrase is his. Insightful, sound, visionary eloquence was a key part of his leadership.)

Let us therefore again draw on key lessons of history.  It starts on May 10, 1940, Churchill’s first day in office. For, that very morning, Hitler’s Panzers began to roll westwards. France was soon out-smarted and shattered. By June, the British army was only saved by a miracle of evacuation under fire at Dunkirk.  Over the next three months, the Spitfires and Hurricanes of the Royal Air Force backed by a primitive radar system were the slender margin between defeat and survival as Hitlers bombers and fighters came over in daily waves from their new bases in France.

The UK then had to stand alone and take a further pounding until the Japanese attacked at Pearl Harbour, in the Philippines and at Hong Kong in December 1941.  Many more terrible disasters followed. But Churchill stood firm, and with American help multiplied by Hitler’s folly of invading Russia, the tide began to turn across 1942.  Churchill would go on to win the war, but was defeated by Labour’s Clement Attlee in the 1945 election.  It is only in 1951 that Churchill would actually win a UK General Election outright. And yet (despite many flaws and failings), he is rightly regarded as one of the greatest leaders in not only UK but world history.

Clearly, unpopular leadership by one who the “natural” leadership classes despise is a difficult task. For, someone like that has already suffered defeat after defeat in council and will be widely disregarded or even mocked.   That kind of leadership is a delicate, difficult job at best.

To succeed at this time, we have to now acquire a taste for Churchillian reformation leadership, much as we had to learn to eat our veggies. So, to understand it at a deeper level, let us turn to our region’s most common history book for a case study. As, soundly presented real world cases have a subtle richness of detail due to forces in play that a generic model such as SWOT simply cannot communicate on its own. (That is part of why we need to study history.)

Paul, in Acts 27, was the most eminent leader of a controversial Jewish sect. One, that was admitting Gentiles without circumcising them and bringing them under the full force of Hebraic customs and law. He had been pounced on as a turn-coat and was being mobbed in the Temple in Jerusalem in 57 AD, but was rescued by Roman soldiers. He was then held in gaol for two years while undergoing trials and fending off assassination plots. He finally appealed against the Jerusalem leaders to trial as a Roman citizen before Caesar’s seat. Soon, he was on a grain ship full of wheat heading from Egypt to Rome. Adverse winds forced them to stop in Fair Havens, Crete. It was late in the season and the port and town were less than desirable. (Sounds familiar?)

So, there was a ship’s council on whether they could slip 40 miles down the coast to a better wintering port, Phoenix. Paul, already a survivor of three shipwrecks, intervened:

“Ac 27:10 . . .  “Sirs, I perceive that the voyage will be with injury and much loss, not only of the cargo and the ship, but also of our lives.” 11 But the centurion [Julius, a warrant-grade officer in the Imperial Messenger Regiment] paid more attention to the pilot and to the owner of the ship than to what Paul said. 12 And because the harbor was not suitable to spend the winter in, the majority decided to put out to sea from there, on the chance that somehow they could reach Phoenix, a harbor of Crete, facing both southwest and northwest, and spend the winter there.” [ESV]

Clearly, money, bought- and- paid- for technical henchmen and clever words can often manipulate officials and the crowd alike. Paul warned against the folly, but lost the vote.  And soon enough, a gentle south wind came up, so they set out on the 40-mile dash to Phoenix. They didn’t make it, a hurricane-force early winter storm caught them. For two weeks they drifted in increasing despair.  Hope was given up when Paul intervened with a prophetic insight. Shipwreck on an island, and they needed to eat to have strength. On the 14th night, at midnight, they heard breakers at a point near what is now St Paul’s Bay, North side of Malta. Soundings were made, 120 feet, 90 feet as they come in from the East. Danger, in the dark!

Four anchors were dropped from the stern, and they prayed for daylight. On a ruse of anchoring from the bow, the sailors plotted to abandon the passengers. Paul again intervened, and Julius now had learned who is a good man in a storm. Soldiers cut away the boat, and the plot failed. As daylight came, they cut the anchor lines, hoisted foresail and aimed for a beach, running aground on a sandbar. Then, the soldiers wished to kill the prisoners (to prevent escape) but Julius refused.  All 276 souls made it to the beach, as the apostle predicted.

Obviously, we see very different balances of influence at Fair Havens and at St Paul’s Bay. But to get there, Paul had to take an unpopular stance at Fair Havens and lose the vote. For, sometimes, the majority is unsound, and to strike a compromise with popular folly defeats wisdom. Worse, we must ever ponder Jesus’ warning to a nation: because I tell the truth, you do not believe me . . .”

Hard words, yes. But necessary ones as our nation stands at a cross-road. And it is the particular duty of those who stand in a watch-tower to sound the alarm, even at the most inconvenient time.

[1]           See: https://www.gov.uk/government/history/past-prime-ministers/winston-churchill

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High Court judge rules on Facebook posting

High Court judge rules on Facebook posting

There are many fronts of interest for very diverse sections of our community, that this article should receive special attention. This presents not only as this story represents but the understanding of ‘social media’ on a whole. Look out for more on the issues.

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Feb 5, CMC – A High Court judge Monday described as “reckless and scandalous” the postings of a woman on the social media, Facebook, after ruling that unsubstantiated libelous statements had caused a family to suffer “shame and embarrassment”.

Justice Frank Seepersad, who said that the woman, Jenelle Burke, would have to pay to her victims damages and costs to be assessed by a Master in Chambers at a later date, said that the defendant did not dispute that the posts were on her Facebook account but she ran the “Shaggy defence” by saying “it wasn’t me”.

In her posts, which the court heard had may have been seen by thousands of people, Burke claimed that the family in question was engaged in incestuous activities and that the father of the family was a rapist who would engage in sexual relations with his stepson and daughter who is a minor.

The telephone numbers belonging to the family members as well as their photographs were attached to the posts. One of the posts also stated that the minor, who was seven years old at the time, was involved in prostitution at her school.

In court, the unidentified family members denied that the accusations and the High Court heard that the Facebook posts had resulted in officers of the Child Protection Unit visiting the family on one occasion to carry out investigations into the allegations.

The family members who said they were once friends with the woman, said despite making reports to the police, the insults continued and in February last year became aware of the Facebook posts on Burke’s page.

In her defence statement, Burke admitted that the messages were posted on her wall but denied she was the one who did so. She contended it may have been placed there by someone else who may have had access to her account. She said as soon as was saw the posts on her page, she deleted them.

But in delivering his ruling, Justice Seepersad warned that the damage which social media postings can have is significant, as the disseminated material creates a perpetual imprint in cyberspace and “there is no deletion or rectification which can be effected with respect to information uploaded to the World Wide Web, quite unlike a print copy of a book or newspaper, the copies of which could be destroyed”.

He said the reach and permanency of social media is such that extreme caution has to be exercised by its users.

“The law needs to be pellucid, so that all concerned must understand that social media use has to be engaged in a responsible way. Anonymity cannot obviate the need to be respectful of people’s rights and users cannot recklessly impugn a person’s character or reputation.

“Words in any form or on any forum, matter and must be used carefully and not impulsively.  Within the public purview there is a misguided perception that the interaction over social media with flagged friends whether on Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp, Viber, is private.

“This notion has to be dispelled. Such communication once uploaded becomes public and the said communication enjoys no cover of privacy protection. The advent and continued use of social media now results in a circumstance where the rules, regulations, rights, and responsibilities which govern traditional media must be applied.

“Social media ought not to be viewed as an unregulated media forum and anyone who elects to express views or opinions on such a forum stands in the shoes of a journalist and must be subjected to the standards of responsible journalism which govern traditional media,” the judge said.

He described Burke’s Facebooks posts as reckless and scandalous.

“It is difficult to fathom how any right-thinking member of society would contemplate to publish words such as those posted on the defendant’s Facebook account.  Sadly however, far too often, social media is used as a forum to engage in this type of irresponsible and cruel discourse.

“This state of affairs cannot continue unabated and the Court therefore has elected to mould and apply the common law in a manner which gives some degree of protection to citizens. There is entrenched in local parlance the phrase, “You will pay for your mouth”.”

Justice Seepersad said given the technological revolution which now characterises modern life, ”this traditional phrase has to be subject to an update and all social media account holders need to understand that they may now have to “Pay for their posts”, if it is established that their posts are defamatory”.

He said in this case, the defendant did not dispute that the posts were on her Facebook account, noting that she had indicated that the account was set up in 2010 by “named parties who all had access to same.

“She said that she did not publish the posts but removed same when they were brought to her attention.  Social media accounts must be jealously guarded, just like a bank account and access to same should be restricted, as it is a forum where views expressed will normally be attributed to the owner of the account. “One must be mindful that although the account is private, the posts emanating from the account occupy a public space and the content of these posts will be subject to public opinion and scrutiny as will the persons to whom the posts refer. Inevitably, if what the posts contain are malicious falsehoods, then those falsehoods can translate to real-world damage to someone’s reputation.

“A word of caution is also extended to those who knowingly republish or “share” posts containing defamatory content. There must be some measure of restraint, if only to reconsider the accuracy or plausibility of truth in a post before its dissemination which is especially true of sensational and outrageous posts which can possibly cause irreparable harm,” the judge added.

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Caribbean Governments Spent Over US$3 Million On Lobbying, PR In Just Six Months – A NAN First

Caribbean Governments Spent Over US$3 Million On Lobbying, PR In Just Six Months – A NAN First

News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Fri. Feb. 9, 2018: Caribbean governments in 10 countries spent a whopping combined total of US$ 3.5 million in the first six months of 2017 alone on lobbyists and public relations, News Americas has found.

Here’s the breakdown from the latest US government’s FARA (Foreign Agents Registration Act) report from the Attorney General, referenced from most to least in US dollars. The number here does not reflect the spend by the Caribbean Tourism Organization or the Caribbean Tourism Development Company. That reported PR spend, combined for the six-month period ending June 30, 2017, totaled $550,846.

Spend from most to least:

Bahamas

The government of The Bahamas shelled out a whopping $1,223,579.48 for the six-month period ending February 28, 2017 to Hogan Lovells US LLP at 13th Street, N.W. Columbia Square Washington, DC for “legal and government consulting services.” No further details were provided.

British Virgin Islands

The government of the British Virgin Islands shelled out $518,301.91 for the six-month period ending January 31, 2017 to Daniel J. Edelman, Inc. of 200 East Randolph Drive Suite 900 Chicago, IL 60601 for “public relations and stakeholder engagement activities in the United States to promote, position, launch and manage the 100 LIVES Project.”

The government also paid $50,000 for the six-month period ending March 31, 2017 to Hyman, Lester of 3826 Van Ness Street, N.W. Washington, DC 20016 for lobbying and legal and consulting services.

Cayman Islands

The Cayman Islands paid Coyne Public Relations, LLC of 5 Wood Hollow Road, Parsippany, NJ 07054 $204,836.00 for the six-month period ending February 28, 2017 for “public relations and media outreach services” including the development of press materials, media relations, programs, newsletters, and speech writing. At the same time, the government also paid Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, LLP of Four Embarcadero Center, San Francisco, CA $203,226.36 for the six-month period ending January 31, 2017 to lobby on its behalf. This included legislative and public policy advice on the country’s education and advocacy program in the United States.

Trinidad & Tobago

The twin-island Republic of Trinidad & Tobago paid $600,000 for the six-month period ending April 30, 2017 theGroup DC, LLC of 1730 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20006 for lobbying and consulting services, including analysis and strategic counsel regarding the United States policy and political developments of concern.

Jamaica

Jamaica paid up $474,194.47 for the six-month period ending March 31, 2017 to Finn Partners, Inc. at 301 E. 57th Street New York, NY for “public relations” that included “business, grassroots, and business outreach services.”

Dominica

Dominica’s government shelled out $95,000 for the six-month period ending May 31, 2017 to Mercury Public Affairs, LLC of 300 Tingey Street, Washington, DC 20003 for strategic consulting services.

Aruba

For the six-month period ending June 30, 2017, the government of Aruba spent $84,747.07 with Hills Stern & Morley, LLP of 1850 M Street, NW, Washington, DC for “public relations” which included the company assisting the government in arranging meetings and speaking engagements with civic groups while also monitoring and advising on issues and developments affecting Aruba’s economy and trade.

Antigua & Barbuda

The Government of Antigua and Barbuda spent US$32,604.68 with Hogan Lovells US LLP of 13th Street, N.W. Columbia Square Washington, DC for legal and lobbying services for the six-month period ending February 28, 2017. According to the FARA filings, Hogan Lovells represented the government with an application to the National Committee on Foreign Medical Education and Accreditation, to have the U.S. Secretary of Education determine that the island’s medical program accreditation standards are comparable to those used in the United States.

St. Barts

The French Caribbean island of St. Barths paid up $27,185.58 for the six-month period ending January 31, 2017 to Lou Hammond & Associates, Inc. of 900 3rd Avenue, Suite 401 New York, NY 10022 for “public relations.” This included media visits, press releases, and monitored media posts in the United States and Canada on behalf of the island.

Barbados

Barbados had the least spend of any of its neighbors, spending just$890 for the six-month period ending February 28, 2017 with Berliner Corcoran & Rowe, LLP of 1101 17th Street, NW Suite 1100 Washington, DC for “consulting services … related to a potential bilateral investment treaty with the United States and on an opportunity with Argentina to have a Barbados honorary consul.”

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Tourism

De Ole Dawg – Part 2: 2018 – What about tourism?

How can we build on the tourism facts highlighted in the December 15, 2017 Mott-MacDonald Draft Economic Growth Strategy?

BRADES, Montserrat – The December 15, 2017 Mott-MacDonald Draft Economic Growth Strategy document[1] shows that several of our neighbouring territories host about a million tourists per year, mostly as cruise ship visitors. According to this report, St Kitts-Nevis has over a million visitors, with over nine hundred thousand being cruise ship passengers; average spending per tourist is EC$ 354. Antigua and Barbuda’s tourism industry hosts nearly nine hundred thousand, with just under eighty thousand being overnight visitors; the per tourist spend being EC$ 405. For Anguilla, there are a hundred and seventy-six thousand visitors, and per visitor spend is $2020. 

As further background, it is useful to look at the 2012 draft Montserrat Tourism Development Plan[2]:

Prior to 1995, tourism was a significant contributor to the economy, representing between 20% and 36% of the national [economic] output (GDP [= Gross Domestic Product]). With the destruction of a considerable proportion of the island’s natural resource base and infrastructure, coupled with concerns about safety, tourism industry was decimated and now accounts for less that 5% of the economy (GDP).

Despite the reduction of available landscape, Montserrat still maintains its distinctive charm, based on the intimacy of its size, the friendliness of its people, the peace & tranquility, safety & security and the relaxed/easy pace of life. The challenge is to build a tourism industry around these fundamental strengths . . . .

In 2011 there were just over 6,400 stay-over arrivals to Montserrat. In addition there were just under 2,000 excursionists and a similar number of yacht visitors. We estimate total expenditure by visitors to have been about EC$ 17M in 2011, contributing between 3.5% and 5% to the national economy (GDP). The stock of accommodation is just 250 rooms, mostly in villas (146) – virtually the same as a decade ago in 2001.

From the current Mott-McDonald study, we have now grown from about ten thousand four hundred visitors per year c. 2011 spending EC$ 1635 on average, to a bit under sixteen thousand visitors, with somewhat less than nine thousand of these being overnight. Current per visitor expenditure is EC$ 1449.  That implies a total expenditure of about EC$ 22.7 millions. Stay-over visitors fell from about 61% in 2011 to now 56%, reflecting a rise in the relative importance of day trippers; which probably also affects spend per visitor. This pattern suggests the impact of villa tourism and festivals/heritage tourism here, and the potential impact of educational tourism if we could get a full replacement for the American University of the Caribbean. We must note, that while cruise ship visitors normally send at a lower per day rate (and are here for just one day), they still make a valuable economic contribution.

Where, whatever we may prefer, that’s where a good slice of the global and regional tourism markets have gone. 

In effect, a cruise ship is a floating, mobile, highly secure – read that: “safe” – all-inclusive hotel that visits sites in several territories while operating as an attraction in itself. That’s one reason why cruise-ship docks and day tour packages have become so important for regional destinations. So, we are going to have to answer the question, what do we have on our cultural heritage and nature heritage or duty-free shopping “trails” that is uniquely attractive?

This is not an easy questions to answer, but it will help us as we define and refine our tourism product.

[1]           See GoM: http://www.gov.ms/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/Growth-Strategy-Delivery-Plan-2017-DRAFT-.pdf

[2]               See GoM: http://www.gov.ms/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/Draft-Final-Report-6-July-2012.pdf

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EME press conf DSC_3689

Montserrat’s Geothermal Energy “gold mine”?

Thermal Energy Partners of Texas suggests that Montserrat’s accessible geothermal energy resource is potentially 100 million watts

Geothermal energy for Montserrat is not just for the sake of renewable energy, (going green) unless it is the ‘game changer’ it has been touted to be. Hence the question, of significance now.

by GEM

BRADES – As the Government of Montserrat continues its “early market engagement” [EME] for geothermal energy development, on Tuesday January 23rd, it met with Mr Bruce L Cutright[1] of Thermal Energy Partners[2] [TEP], a Texas-based firm that is working to develop Nevis’ Geothermal energy resource. During the press conference held at the Ministry of Public Works, Mr Cutwright suggested that – given the temperature and fluid flow characteristics of Wells Mon 1 and Mon 2 – Montserrat may have up to 100 Million Watts of accessible geothermal energy. He also suggested that US Government research laboratory data indicates that costs for electricity could be reduced up to thirty to fifty (30 – 50) percent.

TEP is therefore offering itself as a potential partner for developing geothermal power in Montserrat on a public-private partnership, commercial basis.

An initial development would be likely to be 3 – 5 million watts. (Montserrat’s current peak electrical load is a bit over 2 million watts.)

When Mr. Cutwright was asked by TMR about the suggested potential reduction in cost of electricity, he explained that based on US Department of Energy [DoE] data, geothermal electricity is commonly produced at a “levellised cost” of US$ 0.05 – 0.12 per kWh [kilowatt hour]. He then suggested that our current costs to produce electricity are about US$ 0.38 – 0.55 per kWh. He further suggested that the reduction in cost to produce electrical energy could then lead to moving the price from about US$ 0.45 – 0.50 per kWh to possibly US$ 0.25 per kWh, hence reduction by a third to a half. However, TMR notes that specific, “hard” numbers will depend on the particular design of the plant to be developed and on various linked financial decisions. Transparency about the process is in the public interest.

Mr. Cutright also indicated that in neighbouring Nevis, TEP has helped to identify a geothermal resource of 100 – 400 million watts and is working with the Government of Nevis in a partnership to develop geothermal energy there. (Official sources there suggest 300 million watts and there are indications that some estimates are as high as 650 million watts.) The proposed initial plant size there is to be 9 million watts.  For Nevis, Mr. Cutright indicated that there is a contract to provide electricity at US$ 0.19 per kWh, of which the Government of Nevis gets US$ 0.025 – 0.030.

Encouraged by developments in Nevis, the Government of St Kitts-Nevis is also looking to develop identified resources in St Kitts and to explore interconnectivity with Nevis as well as possibilities for export.[3] Such export will require undersea power cables, which will therefore be within a few dozen miles of Montserrat.

A September 3rd 2016 Carib Journal article[4] indicates that the Government of Antigua and Barbuda has also signed a memorandum of agreement with TEP towards developing a Organic Rankine Cycle geothermal plant with ten million watts of capacity.

In a related development, Mr. Indranil Ahmed (newly appointed Infrastructure Advisor for Montserrat, St Helena and Tristan da Cunha for of DFID) has indicted that the Mon3 well is not critical to developing geothermal energy in Montserrat. However there is an intent to use one well for reinjection of fluids after heat has been extracted to generate electricity. DFID is committed to the development of three wells, including rehabilitation of the third well, which is now at 2.4 km depth.

 

DFID’s focus going forward is on a public-private partnership engagement towards successfully developing Montserrat’s geothermal resource.

[1]     See: http://www.thermalep.com/leadership

[2]     See: http://www.thermalep.com/about-thermal-energy-partners

[3]     See: http://newenergyevents.com/st-kitts-finalizing-geothermal-agreement-will-explore-interconnect-to-nevis/

[4]     See: https://www.caribjournal.com/2016/09/03/antigua-barbuda-develop-geothermal-energy/#

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Andrew Pearce  sworn in as  Montserrat’s  Governor

Andrew Pearce sworn in as Montserrat’s Governor

By Bennette Roach

Montserrat, welcomed new Governor (designate) Andrew Pearce OBE at a special sitting of the Legislative Assembly at the Cultural Centre on Thursday, February 1 with a little less flair than his predecessor but with the usual pomp and circumstance after the welcome and thank you speeches, and the usual inspection of a guard of honour.This followed his arrival with his wife and one of two daughters the day before, January 31, 2018, at the John A. Osborne airport where he was met by the Ag. Governor Mrs Lyndell Simpson, the Hon Premier Donaldson Romeo, other members of the Legislative Assembly and residents of Montserrat.

The Hon Speaker Shirley Osborne after declaring the special Assembly sitting in her opening welcome remarks, explained the format which would, of course, be different from the normal sitting of the Assembly. Listen to the Hon Speaker Shirley Osborne Welcoming Remarks

Acting Governor Simpson, the substantive Deputy Governor delivered a handing over address in which she spoke appropriate words fitting for the time. “…and never more so than in those times and on those occasions when relationships (have) become fractious and frayed, as you travel the length and breadth of the island over the coming weeks as you get to know and understand the aspirations of our people as you experience the warmth and hospitality, and that special undefinable thing that is uniquely Montserratian, I trust that we will grow on you and you on us and that together we will make significant strides in realizing that vision of a thriving twenty-first century economy, a thriving social and cultural island and empowered public service that is fit for purpose.”

 Offering her support to the Governor, she closed. “In my substantive capacity as Deputy Governor I wish to assure you of my absolute support and I do look forward to working with you. I welcome you to Montserrat and I extended every best wish for a most successful tenure.” Listen to the Honourable Deputy Governer Mrs Lyndell Simpson

Following the reading of the royal warrant of his appointment, the Honourable Ag. Attorney General Mrs Sheree Jemmotte-Rodney then administered the oath, in which Governor Pearce, swore to be faithful and bare true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, her heirs and successors according to law.

The welcoming addresses began with the Hon. Speaker who in her own particular deviating style, noted to the importance of his posting at a time when Montserrat is marking the 250th anniversary of the failed slave uprising in 1768, inviting Governor Pearce and his family to share in the history of Montserrat and its people.In her quickened way of speaking, she addressed the Governor: “Our youngest people want to know what happened in Montserrat between 1768 and 1995… so with technological savvy and creativity of young people, this year March 17th we’re going to remember just for them. It will be an unparalleled opportunity for you to get to know us as a people, for you to get to comprehend some of our concerns and ambitions and understand what truly drives us to continue to struggle to gather the pieces of our broken hearts and rebuild the life that was shattered most recently when the volcano commenced its eruptions in 1995.”

She closed by repeating some she said she told Governor Carriere while welcoming her: “Montserrat is more precious to us than any other thing in the entire world, we feel very strongly, very strongly about our little island and we’re giving everything we have, everything that we have in us to bring Montserrat back to being a place of health, wealth and happiness. We Montserratians are determined to thrive we thank you for having come to join us in the effort and we look forward to working with you side by side shoulder to shoulder as peers as equals to bring this about.” Listen to the Hon Speaker Shirley Osborne

Next on the program the Hon. Opposition Leader Easton Taylor-Farrell addressed the Governor, on behalf of the royal opposition noting that welcome and farewells to Governors have become a routine in the lives of Montserratians and that has become a “part of our tradition.” He then went on to layout to the Governor that as Her Majesty’s representative, it is how he is able to help to move the country forward out of the state of dependency that exists. Listen to Opposition Leader Easton Taylor Farrell

The Hon. Premier had the distinction of ending the addresses. His full address is published elsewhere in this issue, and maybe listened to online at the website: www.themontserratreporter.com or at our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/themontserratreporter/

He packed in as much as he could laying out for the Governor the fact that after nearly 23 years after volcanic activity began in 1995, Montserrat was still steeped in dependency with no sight of climbing out. He said he was looking forward to sharing with him the national vision which is to achieve a modern economy with a friendly vibrant community in which all people through enterprise and initiative can fulfil their hopes in a truly democratic and God-fearing society. Listen to Premier Romeo’s welcome address

His Excellency Governor Pearce responded saying after thanking all for their words of welcome, how he was deeply honoured to be governor of Montserrat. He said, “I will do my utmost to fulfil my responsibilities to the Government and people of Montserrat and the UK Government and to represent Her Majesty the Queen honourably and diligently,” as he announced that, while he had been briefed on the island, nothing prepared him and his family for the first sight of the island as it came into view from the air.

“In the few short months since my appointment was confirmed, I have heard and learned much about Montserrat, its charms and its challenges. But nothing could have prepared my wife and me and our daughter for our first sight of Montserrat as we approached the island yesterday,” he declared.

He noted, the first line of the chorus of the territorial song, “Montserrat, by nature blessed” could not be more appropriate. Adding, “my wife and I feel equally blessed to be here and to be given the opportunity to spend the next three to four years working with you and living among you.”

The Governor gave a brief background of himself and his career.

“I grew up in rural Norfolk in England and am very much still a country boy at heart. I love the natural world and am at my happiest hiking on a ridge top or digging about in a garden. I studied chemistry at university and did a bit of research into new battery technologies before joining the Foreign Office,”

He informed further: “My career saw me finding my lovely wife, Pornpun, whilst on my first posting to Thailand. We have been posted together with our family since to Israel, South Africa, Romania and Thailand again. Most recently I have served as Head of Security for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, a fascinating and demanding job navigating the threats of the Arab Spring, and as Charge D’Affaires in Vilnius in Lithuania.”

After saying he has “enjoyed all my jobs,” and that most importantly for him is, “to do my part in making things better for the Montserratian community,” a theme that kept on in his address, he paid tribute to his predecessor, Elizabeth Carriere, and the work she did in a number of areas.

“I applaud her,” he said. In particular on public sector reform through the Empowering Excellence Programme.

He declared, “A modern, motivated and efficient public service is a cornerstone and driver of a thriving economy and business environment in Montserrat.”

He stressed, “It is through the support, work, creativity and commitment of many other people, both inside and outside the public service.”

But most worthy of note, he said: “It is the people of Montserrat who matter.”

He ended: “Please do let us know your feelings and concerns. We can’t solve everything and cannot do everything, but I will always be keen to listen and learn. And above all I will always do my best to help make things better – simpler, stronger, nicer and happier – wherever

https://www.themontserratreporter.com/governor-swearing-ceremony-speeches-audio/possible.”

Please, those who can, listen to his address and all the others before him by visiting the website: www.themontserratreporter.com the individual speeches are there and so too, you may watch the video of the ceremony. See also TMR Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/themontserratreporter/

 

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IMG_5367

“Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got ‘till it’s gone”

 (Joni Mitchell, from the album BLUE)

Parked down the road from Cudjoe head toward the Pharmacy just after Festival I was caught in one of those familiar and daft car-horn recognition exchanges. I responded to a beep from a car that had just passed even though I had no idea who it was.  My beep triggered a series of replies from people who may have been signalling to me but more likely wondering who had beeped them, blindly returning a greeting.

As I turned my head to spot the initiator, a car pulled up alongside and the smiling face of Cepeke shouted through the passenger window.  “Hey Pete, where’s the beat?”  This was a regular introduction to our conversations, hardly poetry but a solid rhyme.  “Have you called Jimmy Buffet yet?” – another regular jibe designed to remind me of my insecure boast that I knew the Buffets.  Cepeke was winding me up about discouraging his ambition to get JB to come to Montserrat but we continued our short chat – with no signs of impatience from the cars behind – me congratulating him on his efforts over the Festival and remarking that he looked very tired.  Without commenting on my observation he suggested we should get together for a chat and a play soon – I agreed and we shared ‘See you soons’ and ‘take cares’ before he continued down toward the banks in Brades.

That was a few days after the end of Festival and the next day I heard that he had been taken very ill – a stroke, someone suggested – he was paralysed and in hospital and about to be flown to Antigua for intensive diagnostic tests.  The same afternoon, another friend told me his version of the rumours – it was some syndrome that might have been set-off by the ZIKA bug or some such.  Whatever it was, he was in a very bad way and his daughter was summoning the family from their homes across the world to be at his bedside.

I suspect that the virulent rumour mill on Montserrat only ever gets part of the story and even though we may all think we know better now, it would be inappropriate to intrude or speculate on this calamitous tragedy and the indescribable shock his family is enduring as well as what we hope is a premature feeling of loss for all those of who know a little of this extraordinarily kind and talented man.  I know all who pray are praying hard for a complete and speedy recovery but the signs seem to point toward a long and difficult haul during which our friend will need our persistent and consistent support.

Cepeke’s fellow musicians and friends are doing what they can.  A concert to raise emergency funds will show their love and give a little help with covering his own domestic bills and his families travel and accommodation costs.  And there will be discussion about what the authorities do – can they pay or, at least, contribute toward current medical expenses?  Can they provide for a regime of recuperative care once he is passed the worst.  There might be schemes that provide support for public sector workers.  There might be special closeted funds that can respond to one-off humanitarian emergencies but, in truth, the prospects for all Montserratians who come to need top-flight medical care, long term recuperation or post-treatment convalescence are bleaker than ever.

Cepeke’s predicament is not unique but coming as it does almost within days of a set of shamefully negative and demeaning consultant’s recommendations that condemn the future of Montserrat’s medical provision, we are all reeling from a dark realisation that living here is becoming too risky.  How can Montserrat’s loyal and open British people be expected to accept on the one hand, a policy that seeks to encourage returnees to bolster a promised land of economic independence whilst on the other being denied the life-blood of basic social care and attention.

And yes, here we go again, whining on about how badly we are served by the mother country and how little faith we have in our local representatives – all moans that seem to fall on irritated and increasingly deaf ears.  Surely, there is some humanity somewhere in those whose cautious responsibility (and duty) it is to deliver a path to future growth but who seem do it so begrudgingly as to create an impression completely void of genuine caring.

Suddenly, a wake-up call.  An event that illuminates a direct threat to our own future safety. Not to our comfort, luxuriating as we do in what we describe for the sake of our tiny tourist audience as paradise, but a threat that presents a very real dichotomy.  Do we, or those of us with choice to return home for our retirement years, risk the possible consequences of a road or domestic accident, an unexpected stroke or heart-attack without any expectation of life-saving treatment within the ‘golden hour’?  Or should those with a recurrence of a chronic ailment or even of a jittery fall that fractures something inside live in the knowledge that there is no sufficient medical provision nor an airport that can affect a medivac after 6.00pm?  Do we, if we time our medical need carefully, suck up the acceptance of minimal medical provision on island to be flown to another country’s hospital to run-up the unrepayable and unrecoupable bills that accrue?  Or should we just reconcile ourselves to a slow and sunny palliative death in paradise?

That is not over dramatic.  There is an arrangement for six lucky patients a year who can fly sitting up to be transferred to the UK for motherland treatment – but not post-treatment care.  These ‘get out of jail cards’ are restricted to six per year so spare a thought for unlucky number seven who so narrowly misses this cruelly limited allocation.  “Sorry, you’ll have to wait until next year for your chance to avail yourself of the NHS cancer treatment that could possibly put you into remission – just the luck of the draw and your own fault for not being diagnosed earlier in the year”.  “Still, you can look forward to your final years of ever increasing pain-killers in the sun-drenched old people’s home without air-conditioning and actually, we can’t even be sure about the pain-killers.”

And it’s not only the retiree generation who have cause for concern.  Can we really expect the vibrant and eager overseas-trained and educated generation of youthful budding Montserratian entrepreneurs to bring their young families to a place with such uncertain medical protection, never mind the vagaries of economic resurgence.   And will the cluster of ex-patriot sun-seekers with an eye for potential investment be so enthralled with our idyll as to ignore the ever-present gamble of medical uncertainty?

For me, there is great irony in the fact that our friend Cecile ‘Cepeke’ Lake, MBE has provided that wake-up call.  Even more ironical is the role that he has played in the much vaunted key to our ‘touristic offer’.  For the past 20 years, Cepeke has been the pivot around which the annual Christmas Festival (our carnival) has revolved.  The very survival of the Festival culture has relied to an enormous extent upon his energy and exhaustion.  He received an MBE for it.  I’m not sure it was sensible or kind to allow that extraordinary load to rest on one man’s shoulders for so long and whilst there is no blame for how it came to be, perhaps we all share some responsibility for the institutional mind-set that failed to recognise his pressures and relieve his burden.  In a way Montserrat has endured a kind of collective post-traumatic stress disorder since the eruption of the volcano threatened her very existence.  The preoccupation with maintaining “Festival the way it always was” is one symptom of a fear of change that Cepeke was working within. 

The sheer volume of song and lyric writing, co-writing and arranging, rehearsal of his great band, Black Rhythms as well as rehearsing the brass players who always appear for the final of the calypso competition, along with the administrative organising that he coped with in the background is unbelievable.  Around 60 home-grown new songs each festival season and he composed about 30 of them himself, co-writing many others and arranging them all.  Of course, the other musicians in the band had to learn them all and play their part as well, but he directed the process.  He also directed and routined the musicians for the other shows that required a band each year – the regional female calypso shows, most of the Soca Monarch performances rely upon his talent and commitment.  Despite opportunities for other bands to take up the cudgels, none felt confident enough to challenge his acknowledged expertise.

Another irony. The Montserratian Chief Medical Officer was on the radio recently explaining his job in the context of the contentious medical resources review.  The furore over the medical review has been partly generated by the suspicion that there might be back-story more concerned with price than value especially since the suggested direction of travel seems to favour fewer facilities and fewer staff providing a more cost-effective service, a ludicrous notion that no-one believes is serious.  With the deft caution of a former politician, the CMO explained “My job is to find younger people to replace me”.   Maybe that should have been Cepeke’s modus operandi.

Anyway, I have decided not to mention quality and the range of Cepeke’s work nor the list of memorable and often poignantly observant songs that have captured the essence of so many historical moments.  That sort of eulogistic analysis usually comes when someone is getting their flowers (as they say) – which is far from the case now and hopefully will remain a long distant reality.  However, I was asked to suggest a favourite or two to provide a backing for a radio promo we are creating for the ABC (A Benefit of Cepeke) Show on 27th January (Montserrat Cultural Centre, 7.00pm).  The inevitable ‘Pay-Off’ resonates in so many of our national scandals and will get plenty air time in coming weeks.  But for me, the simplicity of “Refugee in me own Country” from the inspiring Muscovada days with Randi Greenaway and Elizabeth Piper-Wade is a prime example of the ‘hardly poetry but a solid rhyme’ cornerstone of Cepeke’s no-nonsense lyrical style which brings a tear of memory to most eyes evoking such remote and challenging times.   Maybe the intoxicating chorus in “Round and Round they Go” will be my second gem.

Let’s hope someone or something can take the stress and worry of cost from Cepeke, his family and all those others feeling similar pressure at a time when they are at their most vulnerable.  In my view, maybe we do need a breakwater, and a proper port and even a bigger airport but nowhere near as much as we need a workable medical facility that can bring back the fundamental assurance of safety, health and well-being . . . or maybe I should start looking for Jimmy Buffet’s address.

© Peter Filleul 2018 – All Rights Reserved

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