Archive | General

FAC Inquiry Janice

Berating a destructive Submission

Shelley Harris gets the rebuke of Montserrat on her submission to the FAC Inquiry

No other British resident has gone this far!

Former DFID Miss Priti Patel

In the October 19, 2018 issue of the TMR newspaper the Editorial caption read, “We cringe at what the FAC submissions must look like”. We had in our possession a copy of one of the submissions, and were seeking to obtain any others that had been made to include Government of Montserrat (GoM).

The submissions could have been made orally or written; (and we believe both if necessary). On November 7, we noted that most written ‘evidence’ submissions were published on the 6th and accessible at: https://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/foreign-affairs-committee/inquiries1/parliament-2017/inquiry13/publications/

Two were published on Nov 13, while oral evidence was given by our Janice Panton on Nov 12 published 06 Nov 2018 – The future of the UK Overseas Territories – oral evidence | PDF version (247 KB) HC 1464 | (Published 12 Nov 2018) along with Elise Donovan, British Virgin Islands (BVI) Government representative in the UK, and Janice Panton, Montserrat Government representative in the UK.

Janice Panton, Montserrat Government representative in the UK

On Nov 7 having been directed to the above link of the submissions, attention was drawn by a usually reliable source to a submission, by Shelley Harris husband to Nigel Harris of Montserrat Airways Ltd. owners of the airline FlyMontserrat.

The cringe was here and by the next day, the gates opened with the correspondence and the reaction of anyone Montserratian or just a friend of Montserrat.

The written submission was just over three pages long, but the contents became the subject of castigation, on Social media, radio statements, without discussion, except for ‘support’ from Speaker Shirley Osborne and distance statement from her husband Nigel on behalf of FlyMontserrat. That came in for its own criticism as well.

Mrs. Harris in the Statement in which she even denounced The Montserrat Reporter (TMR) and Radio Montserrat. “A free press would help,” she wrote. “Currently the only newspaper (TMR) hardly every(sic) ever comes out and is reduced to just republishing other agency material from off island. The Radio station is frightened to say anything anti-government and much goes unreported unless the speaker can get on air live.”

Attention was drawn to the BBC TV broadcast of the oral evidence being given https://parliamentlive.tv/event/index/e2fd46fe-6270-4c04-a122-da37f8e5724a – on Tuesday 6 November 2018 Meeting started at 2.51pm, ended 4.37pm and was now being rebroadcast on the 8th.

Very quickly following the broadcast, it was noticed, former DFID Miss Priti Patel had stated: “We have also had evidence that the Montserrat Government are completely incompetence (sic) incompetent and waste enormous amounts of money, which comes from the British taxpayer!” then asked, “Is that something you think is true?” The answer was a straight “No.”

Soon after, the Committee Chairman asked Panton: “Is Montserrat sustainable as an individual territory anymore?”

Janice Panton: “I think it could be. If you look at what Montserrat as a territory has to offer…”

This one writer’s observation was directly taken from Harris’ submission. Their first reaction we received, to that and the rest, “she should be deported!” A strong feeling of disgust, suggesting, “In case anyone thought that what Shelley Harris said to the UK government could simply be ignored as the rant of an ungrateful guest in our country.  Think again.”

They cited the questions to Panton noting that Harris said in her submission: “2. Montserrat does not have a functioning government. The current one is completely incompetent and wastes enormous amounts of money – most of which comes from the British taxpayer.” The writer referenced the question (137) in the transcript from Patel as above, noting that “Panton was visibly taken aback by the ridiculous assertion and could only manage to respond; “No. That is not something I think…””

“So, there we have it; every negative word uttered by a woman whose salary is paid by Montserrat out of the mismanaged UK aid funds, is being thrown back in our face verbatim by a ranking member of the FAC… Can you imagine what else the Harris’ say to the UK government officials behind our back…” And showing more serious concern, “And who knows what other rubbish the UK officials take on board as factual,” concluding that “the matter was more serious”, than they thought at first.

There are those who suggested that Harris did not expect or realised that her submission would be publicized, believing, rightly that this was not a first that British residents have done previously and for some time.

This writer said: “When Shelly Harris wants to send secret messages to the FCO to talk about poor governance and waste of tax payers’ money, she would do well to remember that Fly Montserrat has never paid a penny in taxes into the Treasury so far in their entire existence on Montserrat, courtesy of the previous MCAP government.”

Other public comments, substantiated the writer, citing the waiver of taxes from 2009 – 2019: “S.R.O. 24 of 2014 – Exemption: Fly Montserrat Ltd. Is exempted from the payment of corporation tax for a period of five years commencing on 1st April, 2014 and terminating on 31st March, 2019.

Waiver of outstanding corporation tax: Fly Montserrat Ltd. Is granted a waiver of all outstanding tax owed before and up to 1st April, 2014.

This writer goes on to remind, that the MDC put EC$250,000 into the purchase of their 50-year-old aircraft; and, “it was the Government of Montserrat that bought the Medivac equipment for their aircraft;” and more, “They should tell everyone that they get a monthly hand out from the Access Division, yes a big fat check for EC$18,000. With no questions asked.”

No other company in Montserrat is treated so favourably… the writer states.” “Free Money! Help to buy money spinning Assets! and No Taxes!” 

“Yes, indeed Mrs Harris, what a waste of tax payers’ money.”

These questions flowed: How about the government takes your monthly hand out and uses that money in a manner that helps more people in Montserrat, rather than fund your large do-nothing salary?

 How about the FSC and Inland Revenue have a good look at your company’s accounts, which even your directors and shareholders can only take a peek at 10 minutes before your AGM, with no takeaway copies? What are you hiding? Perhaps a full audit of Fly Montserrat is in order! 

“Or better yet, how about you just leave the country?”

‘The Governor you testified is a wonderful chap. He tries to work in your interest. He calls Airport Management to smooth things.Well let me tell you one thing Mrs Fly Montserrat. You and the Governor don’t run this island. There will be never be UK Direct Rule here. Not in my lifetime.So, Thank You. Now everyone knows where you stand.”

Many questioned whether the Government would sit by without comment on the upsetting submission. It was not long before the Premier issued a statement, published in this issue for the benefit of the public. In the Statement which was also issued on radio, he said:

“While, like most, I was appalled at the tone of her unfounded accusations and ill-advised colonialistic suggestions, I must admit that I am not at all surprised.  Her statements clearly show the sort of attitudes and influences behind the scenes that have harmed and hampered Montserrat’s progress for many years.” 

Hylroy Bramble – Labour Speaks

Premier Donaldson Romeo

Visit to listen: https://montserratradioecho.wordpress.com/2018/11/14/wednesday-november-14-2018-a-statement-by-premier-hon-donaldson-romeo-regarding-shelley-harris-comments/

Also speaking out publicly. David Brandt who filed a written submission to the FAC made a statement on radio very critical of the Shelley Statement, noting that the Government is the biggest investor in the airline, while Nigel did not put in a cent (that depends).

Also, speaking out especially on the statement on labour conditions – Hylroy Bramble on his Labour Speaks program. https://montserratradioecho.wordpress.com/2018/11/14/wednesday-november-14-2018-labour-speaks-with-hylroy-bramble/

 

Visit to listen to these two: https://montserratradioecho.wordpress.com/2018/11/14/wednesday-november-14-2018-a-statement-by-david-s-brandt-regarding-shelley-harris-comments/ 

 

Reaction on Social media was also quick and one controversial but somewhat colourful commentator and observer began: “a Big RAZZAH To The Fly M/Rat Lady. Well Done. Take A Bow. All our local reverences to you.I For One Am Happy. Your written testimony to the UK Parliament Committee was outstanding. Yes I know you thought it would be secret. Or were you trying to be a whistle blower. Madame That ship has sunk like Mundo Boat. What we have here is just another ungrateful Visitor.

Yes Mrs Fly Montserrat. We bent over like gymnasts and had you ram your Chanticleer up our rears. I guess you wanted us to imbibe your bahookies too. So when we couldn’t ingest no more of your Crappola. You defamed us in your testimony to the Select Committee.

I hope at least one person chooses another service provider to get to Antigua.

If we had a Government. They could have run the Ferry seven days a week. If we had a Government they would have told you John A Osborne Airport doesn’t belong to you.

 You’re just a tenant.

The Governor you testified is a wonderful chap. He tries to work in your interest. He calls Airport Management to smooth things.

Well let me tell you one thing Mrs Fly Montserrat. You and the Governor don’t run this island. There’ll will be never be UK Direct Rule here. Not in my lifetime.

So Thank You. Now everyone knows where you stand.

But, while more outpouring of anger and disgust at Harris’ submission kept surfacing, her husband as a director on behalf of the FlyMontserrat company issued this: “Flymontserrat would like to make it clear that Statements recently made by Shelley Harris are made by her on an individual basis and not made on behalf of the company.”

This he undid or exposed the real truth and the reason why so many connected her to the company, and not believing anything he or she said afterwards: “The views made by Shelley Harris do not necessarily reflect the views of Flymontserrat.”

The situation is that her husband has expressed publicly and privately, many of the same sentiments and discontent and disagreements towards Montserrat, behaving often in a dishonest and destructive way, always in favour of the progress of his airline.

Meanwhile, Shelley issued a ‘comeback’ statement which she circulated, omitting TMR whom she had misrepresented directly in her destructive submission. That single act of exclusion on her part tells a picture that over time the public will know about. This writer and editor of TMR here takes responsibility for being in the forefront (not in that official capacity) of establishing the very name FlyMontserrat and lots more for an airline that turned out, not to be what had been envisioned and agreed before he was cast aside as one of three directors, the other having walked away from the company very soon after the ugliness exhibited in this saga of FlyMontserrat and its owners soon emerged.

ZJB radio carried a report on Shelley follow-up statement, as they may have received a copy thereof.  The report reflected some of the issues raised and explained from her submission. “The submission to the U.K. parliament to a FAC continues to attract the ire of some people both on Montserrat and in the diaspora. Shelley Harris has issued a statement in her defense.

In her submission to the FAC Mrs Harris launched what some perceived to be an attack on the people of Montserrat, its institutions (media included) and government. Among the statements thought to be provocative is a suggestion that the U.K. government should reduce the ferry service to 10 days of operation a year, productivity in the public service and the inability of the island to govern itself.

“As far as the access issue is concerned, Managing Director of Montserrat Nigel Harris distanced himself from the statement. made by his partner saying in a subsequent statement that the View made by Mrs. Harris did not necessarily reflect the views of the company.”

The report on the matter continued: Editor James White said: “Mrs. Harris in a statement on Tuesday, reveals that a submission to the F.A.C. in her own right was done without the knowledge of anyone in fly Montserrat until after the submission was made… She said she did it publicly because she believed in putting her name to her submission and not hiding behind anonymity Mrs. Harris highlights that being part of our democracy also have duties stressing that the freedom which the forefathers of Monserrat and the U.K. fought for.

(See abstracts of her statement highlighted elsewhere in this issue)

Yet, not every Montserratian agreed that the Shelley was more than offensive, as Shirley Osborne, the Hon Speaker of Montserrat’s Assembly, sprang up in her defence, or FlyMontserrat’s, exposing a natural but in our opinion, unprofessional bias.

Here is more social media reaction, some excerpts, this time to Shirley’s self-expose.

“Low and behold who was the appointed one. A black eye for St Peter’s Village. Bassie would say “a wa happun to mi pickney. A Drum Jam a real Jumbie Dance is needed To get di hex off SHIRLEY OSBORNE. It must be OBEAH not Filthy Lucre to meek shurli tun sell out.  Now me kno how dem brave boys felt on St Patrick’s Day so long ago.

Now Madame Speaker the outspoken defender of all things Montserratian. She is the one (they) chose.

Ms Osborne you claim we should be: Sensible, Strategic, Sophisticated and Objective. Is she throwing big words to fool some of us. Well The Conscience don’t have to look in no Dictionary to find out the meanings.

Let’s be SENSIBLE. Question. Is Fly M/Rat of any benefit to us? Let’s be STRATEGIC. Can we do better elsewhere? Let’s be SOPHISTICATED. We’re not backward ppl as Shelly and Shirley seem to think we are. Let’s be OBJECTIVE. How can we be. A Redneck is calling us Dumb, Corrupt, Lazy and Incapable Of Governing ourselves. And we should keep personal feelings out of it. HELL NO.”

Posted in Business/Economy/Banking, Featured, Features, General, International, Local, Politics, Regional0 Comments

passengers

10 Injured as Fly Jamaica Plane Crash Lands at Airport in Guyana

 

The Fly Jamaica plane crash landed 43 minutes after takeoff. (Credit: Cheddi Jagan International Airport-Facebook)

 

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Friday November 9, 2018 – Ten people were injured this morning when a Fly Jamaica aircraft carrying 120 passengers and eight crew members made an emergency landing at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA) in Guyana.

Officials say none of the injuries are life threatening but did not say which of the passengers, who include two infants, were hurt.

The passengers – 82 Canadians, 35 Guyanese, one Pakistani, a Trinidadian and an American – along with six crew members from Guyana and two from Jamaica, departed the CJIA at 2:10 a.m. and were heading to Toronto, Canada, when the Boeing 757 plane began experiencing technical difficulties.

The flight, which was estimated to arrive at its designation at 6:55 a.m., returned to the CJIA airport where it landed at 2:53 a.m.  Minister within the Ministry of Public Infrastructure, Annette Ferguson meeting with passengers who were on board the Fly Jamaica flight. (Credit: DPI)

“There were no broken bones or other serious injuries reported,” a statement from the Department of Information said. “However, six passengers suffered minor injuries due to the impact to the back of the aircraft. They were rushed to Diamond Diagnostic Hospital.”

Later in the morning, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Shamdeo Persaud said 10 people with a variety of “expected sorts of injuries” were taken to hospital.

“So far, we have five persons who are under investigation further for spinal injuries…They are having further X-rays and so on done,” he said, adding that seven of them were subsequently transferred to the Georgetown Public Hospital because the Diamond Diagnostic Hospital could not handle all of them.

“They weren’t any direct injuries associated with the plane [crashing]; at this point, nothing life-threatening, although we still will look to the results, especially with the persons with spinal injures.  You understand these are some of the expected kinds of injuries when you use a slide to get off of the airplane.”

Arrangements are being made to fly out the passengers, who were taken to a holding facility after the incident, from tomorrow.

The CJIA has been reopened but the Minister of Public Infrastructure David Patterson said travellers should expect some delays.

An investigation is being conducted into the incident. The Guyana Civil Aviation Authority is leading the probe and the United States National Transportation Safety Board, which assists with inquiries under international rules, was notified, officials said.

Investigators at the crash site. (Credit: Cheddi Jagan International Airport-Facebook)

The crash site has been secured by the Guyana Police Force (GPF) and the Guyana Defence Force (GDF).

Posted in Business/Economy/Banking, CARICOM, Environment, Featured, General, International, Local, News, Regional, Travel0 Comments

Collectively We Must Shoulder Blame For Montserrat

Collectively We Must Shoulder Blame For Montserrat

By Claude Gerald

Make no mistake about it.

Political representation is at a low ebb, perhaps at its lowest on Montserrat, since the right to vote in Parliamentary elections.

The fact is the cupboard is empty in terms of quality candidates at the upcoming elections. Things can get more challenging as the choices will be greater now, since all sorts from all quarters realize that based on eligibility and performances of the elected, candidates only need to wash their feet and come, get in, do nothing and be rewarded financially for life.

Parliamentarians who set the island on a strong socio-economic path should be handsomely paid. This keeps them from indulging in mischief. How then does a spouse qualify for a part of the deceased parliamentarian’s emoluments until death? Can a tiny resourced society afford such especially if spouse is a liability? Consider the burden on future tax-payers, since the national productivity is non-existent across all sectors. 

Weaning the dependency on the UK taxpayer is not a serious official policy. A rude awakening is on the horizon as the UK has its steep mountain of domestic issues and its geopolitical power wanes with every passing year.

The prospects of lower grade aspirants to political power are real. The premise on which entry to political office is made is hardly any different to the reason students choose law or medicine as a career, which is to make big bucks at the expense of the gullible. Service to humanity is hardly the central focus in these endeavours and politics must be seen as the avenue that sets the cultural pace for every undertaking on the national stage.

A bunch of parliamentarians, with monstrous self-serving agenda and empty of any passion for real, sacrificial service to country and its people, reigns on Montserrat. There is rarely any real ability or capability to think through national problems. Hindsight, foresight and insight to marshal the present and the future to our sustained benefit is hardly part of their collective portfolio, as gleaned by their discourses in Parliamentary debates, on radio or other pronouncements.  

The peoples’ business is perceptively not on the pecking order. And cannot because persons can only live and give what is truly of their nature: the idea of taking from and not giving to others is the pattern. This attitude has never been a formula for success in human relations at any time in man’s history.  It is central however in determining progress or lack of it in all our ways in this volcanic era.

But in a democracy like ours, parliamentarians are a reflection of the mindset of the electors who dutifully created them and sent them, big salary in hand, to set themselves up, with greed and corruption, never not a part of their business equation in the election cycle.

Collectively we must shoulder blame. We do not value ability. We are personal and petty.  We think low and below. We do not see the wood from the trees. We love a bellyful on nothing. We bribable. We like who we like. Others get baskets full of water. Independent minds get cut down. We do not know that we do not know. We are in a bad state. We call evil good – wearing the church hood.

Many of them are disbelieving that they succeeded at the last election with such ease.  Their ‘red-up and fed up’ mantra worked. Don Romeo was exceedingly popular. In fact Premier Don Romeo is known to have schooled his son to seek popularity as an education is secondary to being acclaimed by the masses. Prosperity then looms. 

Without actually wanting his leadership, others still rallied. He perhaps did not want himself.  But Don despised the thought, rightly so that the opportunistic and bitingly ambitious Claude Hogan, with nothing to distinguish him as worthy of such or much honour, would be pumping his chest – the Lord is Claude – as Hogan salivated profusely and expectantly at the prospect of seeking to upset Don’s first chance at the helm. Don knew the task was too much for him. Down on confidence, he was missing in action from his desk for days after the election – a horrible start.  Given his low pulse readings, he may still.

Premier Romeo better know that he who does not lead will be led by those who have narrow interests, hurting us all. Thus power is given to unelected and duplicitous bureaucrats, many too unfit to make decisions on behalf of the masses but who enjoy the power play for the self-gain, in settings in which he is told what to do and when on national issues.

He was ordered to fire Claude Hogan; sooner would have earned him credit. Similarly was dictated too on the Chairmanship of the Bank of Montserrat; interestingly given to a native Montserratian, who for some thirty odd years still a resident American; and this against the advice of the Manager of the Bank with the awkward logistics of dealing with a Skyping Chairman, who perhaps pulls rank at whim; and with internet irregularities too, all which can spell inefficiency in this light.

The Chairman’s initiation and elevation in the business of the Bank emerged solely on the strength of his blood connections to a famed, politically shifting, Red-UP supporter, with (non-pharmaceutical) expertise, in determining the election prospects of and the policies and machinations of many failed governments in the past; through wide-ranging election gimmickry to win votes for favoured candidates;  from even institutionalized residents, with unstable mindsets, not fully cognizant of their roles in the process;  the only requirement is a mere heartbeat of the infirmed resident for that moment!

When one thinks of this beloved isle, with all its unique underutilized human prospects, its children especially – who escape to be reared in a cold foreign culture, it ushers gut-wrenching sadness. All the possibilities for a bright future that are so wantonly squandered, disappoint and depress.

Does it amount to a hopeless situation beyond redemption?

Claude Gerald is a Social Commentator on Montserrat. Find him at ceegee15@hotmail.com

Posted in Columns, Features, General, Opinions0 Comments

De Ole Dawg – Part 11: A good newspaper is the people’s college

De Ole Dawg – Part 11: A good newspaper is the people’s college

How can we best educate, inform and mobilise ourselves for sound democratic self-government and nation-building?  (Government by gossip, slander and mele will not work.)

BRADES, Montserrat, July 12, 2018 – As we look at social media, listen to street or workplace talk, or even listen to political, policy and economic commentary not only here but across the Caribbean, too often something just does not seem right. Why? The answer comes back: “government by gossip, slander and mele will not work.” Because, such things are not of the spirit of soundness, truth, justice, respect, civility, wisdom. 

We have to do better, a lot better.

How?

The answer comes back: “a good newspaper is the people’s college for nation-building.”

But, but, but, newspapers are old fashioned, dying or just plain boring and dead. Why should we bother with them?

Not so.

What do you mean?

First, a newspaper has to be carefully edited – and because there is time to edit before publication of text in cold black and white. So, a good newspaper is by its nature far more reliable than most other forms of media.

For one, a clever fast-talker can be very persuasive in person or on radio or video, but once his or her words are reduced to cold print they fall apart. Especially if what is said turns out to be bitter accusation, prejudice (“she navel string don’t bury here – so ignore she”), dragging a smelly red herring across the track of truth to distract attention, or setting up and knocking over straw-man caricatures of people and arguments to claim a cheap but misleading victory.

It is not for nothing that the apostle James warned:

James 3:1 Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. 2 For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body . . . .

4 Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. 5 So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.

How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! 6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. [ESV]

In short, properly reported and edited print in a responsible newspaper – sensationalist tabloids and gossipy scandal sheets need not apply – has built-in quality checks that stop the hellish fires of false accusation, gossip, fakery, misinformation, myths mistaken for facts and slander. The same cannot be said for most social media.

Mix in good editorial fact checking and we soon see why “a good newspaper is a first, rough draft of history.” Sometimes, the newspaper report is a “primary source document” for history, a report at the time by a fact checked trustworthy eyewitness, the reporter or correspondent backed up by good editors.

Speaking of history, that brings up why print on paper is so important for permanent record. Newspapers have morgues and libraries have archives. Sometimes, articles are clipped, compiled and cross-referenced in files that are indexed and cross-indexed. This means that in decades to come, reliable at-the-time information will be accessible for researchers and John or Jane Q Public walking in off the street alike. It’s worth noting that a good proportion of the very first book printed with movable type, the Gutenberg Bible, still exists nearly six hundred years later.

Radio and TV broadcasts, once made are gone out into the air at the speed of light. The actual broadcast is not coming back.  If you were not listening at the time, or were distracted for just a moment, too bad for you. And don’t bet on there being a rebroadcast, or that Radio Echo will always catch it.

Programmes can indeed be stored (and archived in the Station or online), but anyone who has had problems with bad tapes or crashed hard disk drives knows how iffy that is.

As for, oh it’s on the Internet, hackers exist and web sites get re-organised. For example, if you use Wikipedia articles to try to track down sources [one of the few things Wikipedia can be trusted for] you will soon see that after three or four years a lot of articles are simply gone.

(Of course, a modern newspaper will also have a strong web presence: articles, clips, photo galleries, video clips, twitter feeds, Facebook promos, etc. The Montserrat Reporter, for example, has been online since 1996 and so it is no surprise that it has one of Montserrat’s biggest Internet footprints, with about a hundred thousand visits per month.)

As for Web Archive and its three hundred billion pages that can be searched by using the Wayback Machine, too often there are disappointing gaps.

(Suggestion: if you find an important article online, save it for yourself right then and there, with its Internet address. Maybe, as a pdf file – that is an archiving format that will be readable decades from now. Print it off and note not only its address but the date you accessed it. Inkjet printers are prone to water damage, so if you can, use laser print on good quality paper. File it properly and index it by date, theme, key issues, people etc. These days, colour laser printing is more than good enough.)

But what about being a college?

Modern, democratic government through elected representatives only became possible when printing was invented and when more and more people learned to read. Newspapers, bills, tracts and widely circulated books emerged, leading to a responsible, informed public. A public that soon began to understand civics and took a serious interest in issues, news and policy debates. An informed, serious-minded, educated public.

By about 1700, that was in place and that is why the first successful modern democracy emerged in 1776. It is no accident, too, that this was when civil rights movements began to emerge. Starting with, abolition of the slave trade, then of slavery.

Newspapers were crucial to forming, informing, educating and keeping a responsible public up to date as modern democracy emerged. And that’s one reason why a good newspaper will have an emphasis on education, from youth up.

Going forward, it is going to be very important for us, the people of Montserrat and the wider Caribbean to recognise, respect, make good use of and consistently support our newspapers.

Where else can we all get a good college-level, sound education in democratic self-government and in leadership so cheaply? 

Posted in Business/Economy/Banking, Features, General0 Comments

Premier’s Statement on July 18, 2018

Premier’s Statement on July 18, 2018

Following is the full statement he made today, first delivered on radio:

Fellow Citizens, Residents and Friends of Montserrat, wherever you may be, today, 18th July 2018, marks 23 years since the Soufriere Hill volcano erupted and changed the lives of Montserratians forever.

Montserrat has been changed, yes, but thank God, not destroyed; has been down but not out.

Solomon tells us that there is a time for everything under the sun, and I firmly believe that today is a time, not to forget the past, but to let it rest for the moment, a time for me to encourage you with some positive news about the present and the future. Therefore, I shall be focusing on a number of priority projects that my government has been working on to help transform our social and economic conditions.

First of all, is the Little Bay Breakwater and Port Development Project. I am pleased to report that we have now started the procurement process for certain consultancy and supervision contracts. You have already heard the advertisement on Radio Montserrat for a Project Coordinator.  This means that we are well on the way to having our first breakwater and safe harbour, the first ever safe harbour in the history of the island.

What does this mean?

It means having the capability to dock cruise vessels, luxury yachts, cargo vessels and the ferry at the same time. It means no more waiting for cement,  flour or sugar because boats can’t dock. It means no more being stranded on the ferry 100 yards off Montserrat’s shore because of rough seas.

It means jobs for taxi drivers, artists, craftsmen and everyone involved in tourism. It means larger vessels and therefore cheaper freight, which should in turn have a positive impact on prices for everyone.

Then there is the Montserrat Subsea Fibre Project, which is now fully supported by DfID. We are at the stage of finalizing the tender documents with the aim of issuing an Invitation to tender within the next month, completing the evaluation of bids by the end of September and hopefully issuing a contract by the end of October.

And if everything goes according to plan, the system should Go Live by August 2019. The days of phone calls being cut because of the internet being too slow, the frustrations of trying, in vain, to watch a video online – all this will be history.

A high-speed connection will also allow us to make history as we set up the first Digi Beach to encourage tech startups in the Caribbean.  My administration has already started to embrace the future of blockchain and cash being digital as we welcomed BITT to our shores.

Regarding the Geothermal Project, which has the potential to provide Montserrat with abundant, clean, renewable energy at a reasonable cost, two wells have already been dug.  The completion of the third well is under negotiation between DFID and IDC drilling company.  The early market engagement for the surface plant was completed and evaluated and the report is being reviewed.  

We are still in active negotiations with the British Government for the completion of this project, as well as that of the new hospital.

On a smaller scale, just under two million dollars was awarded by the end of June 2018, the first quarter of this financial year, for contracts on small capital projects such as: 

  • the canopy cover works to the ferry terminal expansion & warehouse roof repair project,
  • Margetson Home – design & build contract,
  • supply of base material & aggregate
  • the New Windward Sewage Facility design & build contract,
  • Supply of textbooks for the public schools in Montserrat and
  • the breaking down and removal of the temporary wood & steel buildings on the Government Headquarters compound.

Further, other small capital projects are being prepared for procurement. This will include Major Roof works and railing for Block C at the Brades Primary School, and other maintenance works to include resurfacing of Basketball courts, fencing and painting of school plants, etc.

And let us not overlook the countless small projects that have been completed or are underway, particularly in education, health and the environment. To name just a few…

  • construction of a new toilet block, retaining wall and fencing at the Brades Primary School
  • major sewage system repairs and greenhouse infrastructure at MSS
  • white boards, plumbing and Toilet replacements and other critical repairs at the Look Out Primary School
  • completion of the headquarters of the Eastern Caribbean Institute of Tourism at the Montserrat Community College
  • major roof recovering at the Salem Nursery School.
  • various rehabilitation and retrofit medical storage works at the hospital, including installation of ventilation systems, construction of the X-ray plant room and a central sterilizer to be completed during this quarter.   

I also express appreciation to the FCO and the people and government of the UK for the Heliconia Star.  It has already begun to make a difference for our security, safety and resilience. 

These are all little drops of water that together are contributing to an ocean of positive change for Montserrat. 

On the private sector side, many are taking advantage of the concessions under the Homes Built for Sale or Rental Programme. Those who build a house for rental or sale costing $180,000 US or more will not have to pay duty or consumption tax on building materials imported.  And we are already seeing an increase in construction spending and jobs.

I also recently visited the Montserrat Football Association’s construction site where a 32-bedroom Dormitory is underway; important infrastructure for sports tourism valued at 8 million dollars, and which should be completed by next year. 

In addition, it is anticipated that the Montserrat Football Association will be host to several international matches later this year along with the Leeward Islands Cricket Tournaments.  This to my mind will be a great boost to our enterprising citizens with businesses, just as we saw with the recent conferences for fisheries and for Ministers of the Environment, the Leeward Islands Under 17 and Under 19 Cricket tournaments and as we also will see for the Calabash Festival. 

Not too far from the Montserrat Football Association’s football dormitory development, is the 10-unit Art Housing project which is well on the way.

Plans are also in place for the construction of super villas adjoining the Isles Bay Plantation units.  Other similarly promising project proposals are being discussed and negotiated as I speak. I will personally be following them up closely so as to ensure that this demonstration of Investor confidence in the economy is properly supported and facilitated right through to implementation.

As far as relations with Britain are concerned, a key reason for Lord Ahmad’s recent visit to Montserrat in May/June was for him to see firsthand the work that was being done to prepare for this year’s hurricane season as well as to explore ideas for the development of a stronger and more sustainable private sector economy.

As many of you would have recently heard in the media, we are soon to receive additional and much needed equipment provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, so that, should a hurricane hit, our Government can respond in the most efficient and coordinated way.

While attending JMC (Joint Ministerial Council) meetings in London in June, I met with FCO Minister, Lord Ahmad and DfID Minister, Lord Bates, to continue discussions on the Construction of hurricane-resistant housing. Meanwhile, hurricane Beryl turned out to be only a tropical storm bringing us much-needed rain – and thank God for that.

In my meetings with Lord Ahmad and Lord Bates, we also discussed the completion of a critical section of the, and the Provision of Essential Equipment and Plant to properly install telephone posts and repair or construct asphalt-based roads. 

Following this meeting I can now report that I have in my hands a joint letter from FCO and DfID Ministers Lord Ahmad and Lord Bates.  In this letter they committed the UK to providing physical support for Disaster Resilience. They also mentioned that they have been persuaded of the need for the UK Government to provide additional capital investment in Montserrat.  Discussions to develop proposals for these Capital projects are expected to start within the next few weeks with a view to being finalized before the end of the year.

 Projects to be prioritized, discussed and agreed on for the next five years, include:

 construction of hurricane-resistant housing and a new hospital

  • Improved recreational facilities
  • completion of the geothermal project to result in the production of affordable electricity
  • completion of the A1 road project;
  • night flights at John A Osborne Airport
  • Public Service Reform
  • Private Sector Development (with an emphasis on promoting youth and locally driven entrepreneurial businesses, tourism related infrastructure, etc).
  • Government Accommodation
  • New Secondary School Campus, etc

 In June, I attended a Meeting of the United Nations Committee for Decolonization, where I called on the UN to support a Development Partnership Agreement or Memorandum of Understanding between the governments of Montserrat and the UK. 

 This MoU would have a list of priority projects with committed funds and a set timeline for their design and implementation.   I also asked the UN Special Committee to appoint a neutral, technical team to monitor closely progress in the negotiations and implementation of said projects.

 Lastly I requested that the UN send a visiting team to Montserrat as well as to Antigua and the UK to meet evacuees so as to grasp the context of where Montserrat is now and where we want to go to get out of economic dependence. 

These requests as you can see, are in keeping with what I have argued for over the past 4 years and what the FCO and DfID Ministers are now offering to do with a five-year capital programme in the recent joint letter to me mentioned before.

As I said in my statement to the UN last month “It is becoming increasingly obvious to many, that, rather than continuing to keep the island for another 23 years or more on an expensive life-support machine, it would cost the UK tax payer much less in the long run, to invest wisely and intensively in Montserrat now.”    

Nationals, non-nationals, residents and friends of Montserrat, there are many ups and downs behind us, and there will be more ahead. That’s life as we know it in an imperfect world. But it seems to me that we can ad0pt to our situation today, and the hope that we have for tomorrow, the words of Joseph to his brothers about the crisis that had erupted in his own life: “God has turned it into good”. (Genesis 50.20) Can it be that the volcano which many expected to wipe Montserrat off the map, is turning out to be a blessing in disguise?

For us to benefit fully from this blessing however, I believe that we need to adopt Joseph’s positive attitude, trusting God whatever happens; to set politicking aside, unite and pull together and seize the many opportunities opening to us all, wherever we may be, God being our helper.

Thank you for listening and may God bless Montserrat.

Download (PDF, 57KB)

Posted in Advertisements, Business/Economy/Banking, Classified, Features, General, Opinions, Politics0 Comments

Associated Press

4 rescued from Thai cave in risky operation; 9 remain inside

Associated Press

MAE SAI, Thailand (AP) — Expert divers Sunday rescued four of 12 boys from a flooded cave in northern Thailand where they were trapped with their soccer coach for more than two weeks, as a dangerous and complicated plan unfolded amid heavy rain and the threat of rising water underground.

Eight of boys and the coach remained inside the Tham Luang Nang Non cave complex as authorities paused the international effort until Monday to replenish air tanks along the treacherous exit route.

But the success of the initial evacuation raised hopes that all will be out soon, although officials said could it take up to four days to complete.

“The operation went much better than expected,” said Chiang Rai acting Gov. Narongsak Osatanakorn, who is overseeing the mission.

He told reporters that four boys were brought out and taken to the hospital in the town of Chiang Rai, the provincial capital, for evaluation, and the next phase of the operation will resume after about 10-20 hours.

The names of the rescued boys were not released.

His announcement, at a news conference more than an hour after helicopters and ambulances were seen rushing from the cave area, drew cheers and applause.

Narongsak had dubbed Sunday to be “D-day” as the complicated effort was launched in the morning.

He said 13 foreign divers and five Thai navy SEALs were taking part in the key leg of the rescue: taking the boys from where they have been sheltering and through dark, tight and twisting passageways filled with muddy water and strong currents.

Two divers were to accompany each of the boys, all of whom have been learning to dive only since July 2, when the first searchers found them.

Cave rescue experts consider an underwater escape to be a last resort, especially with people untrained in diving.

But Narongsak said earlier that mild weather and falling water levels in recent days had created optimal conditions for an underwater evacuation. Those conditions won’t last if the rain resumes, he said.

After the four boys were removed from the cave, heavy rain started falling.

Authorities have said the monsoons could cause water to rise in the cave. That along with dwindling oxygen levels, added to the urgency of getting the team out. Earlier efforts to pump water out of the cave have been set back by heavy downpours.

Narongsak said Saturday that experts told him new rain could shrink the unflooded space where the boys are sheltering to just 10 square meters (108 square feet).

The next phase of the operation would start Monday after rescue teams replenish the supply of oxygen tanks along the route to ensure the safety of the journey, which takes several hours.

On Sunday night, Thai navy SEALs posted a celebratory note on their Facebook page, saying: “Have sweet dreams everyone. Good night. Hooyah.”

The boys and their coach, whose team is known as the Wild Boars, became stranded when they were exploring the cave after a practice game on June 23.

Monsoon flooding cut off their escape route and prevented rescuers from finding them for almost 10 days.

The ordeal has riveted Thailand and captured the world’s attention. The search and rescue operation has involved dozens of international experts and rescuers, including a U.S. military team.

President Donald Trump tweeted Sunday: “The U.S. is working very closely with the Government of Thailand to help get all of the children out of the cave and to safety. Very brave and talented people!”

To ensure a clear path for getting evacuees to the hospital and to safeguard their privacy, authorities ordered the media to move away from the cave before the boys came out.

The boys sounded calm and reassuring in handwritten notes to their families that were made public Saturday. The notes were sent out with divers who made an 11-hour, back-and-forth journey.

One of the boys, identified as Tun, wrote: “Mom and Dad, please don’t worry, I am fine. I’ve told Yod to get ready to take me out for fried chicken. With love.”

“Don’t be worried,” wrote another boy, Mick. “I miss everyone. Grandpa, Uncle, Mom, Dad and siblings, I love you all. I’m happy being here inside, the navy SEALS have taken good care. Love you all.”

One particularly touching note from another boy said: “I’m doing fine, but the air is a little cold, but don’t worry. Although, don’t forget to set up my birthday party.”

In a letter of his own, coach Ekapol Chanthawong apologized to the boys’ parents for the ordeal.

“To the parents of all the kids, right now the kids are all fine, the crew are taking good care. I promise I will care for the kids as best as possible. I want to say thanks for all the support and I want to apologize to the parents,” he wrote.

One of two ambulances leave the cave in northern Thailand hours after operation began to rescue the trapped youth soccer players and their coach, in Mae Sai, Chiang Rai province, in northern Thailand, Sunday, July 8, 2018. Chiang Rai province acting Gov. Narongsak Osatanakorn, who is heading the operation, said earlier Sunday that 13 foreign and five Thai divers were taking part in the rescue and two divers will accompany each boy as they’re gradually extracted. He said the operation began at 10 a.m., and it will take at least 11 hours for the first person to be taken out of the cave. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)
One of two ambulances leave the cave in northern Thailand hours after operation began to rescue the trapped youth soccer players and their coach, in Mae Sai, Chiang Rai province, in northern Thailand, Sunday, July 8, 2018. Chiang Rai province acting Gov. Narongsak Osatanakorn, who is heading the operation, said earlier Sunday that 13 foreign and five Thai divers were taking part in the rescue and two divers will accompany each boy as they’re gradually extracted. He said the operation began at 10 a.m., and it will take at least 11 hours for the first person to be taken out of the cave. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)
Thai policemen stand guard near a cave where 12 boys and their soccer coach have been trapped since June 23, in Mae Sai, Chiang Rai province, in northern Thailand Sunday, July 8, 2018. Thai authorities are racing to pump out water from the flooded cave before more rains are forecast to hit the northern region. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)
Australian Federal Police and Defense Force personnel arrive near a cave where 12 boys and their soccer coach have been trapped since June 23, in Mae Sai, Chiang Rai province, in northern Thailand Sunday, July 8, 2018. Thai authorities are racing to pump out water from the flooded cave before more rains are forecast to hit the northern region. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)
Chiang Rai province acting Gov. Narongsak Osatanakorn, who is leading the ongoing rescue operation of the soccer team and coach trapped in a flooded cave, talks to media during a press conference in Mae Sai, Chiang Rai province, northern Thailand, Sunday, July 8, 2018. Narongsak said the operation is going “better than expected.” (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)
Australian Federal Police and Defense Force personnel arrive near a cave where 12 boys and their soccer coach have been trapped since June 23, in Mae Sai, Chiang Rai province, in northern Thailand Sunday, July 8, 2018. Thai authorities are racing to pump out water from the flooded cave before more rains are forecast to hit the northern region. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)
Rescuer arrive near cave where 12 boys and their soccer coach have been trapped since June 23, in Mae Sai, Chiang Rai province, in northern Thailand Sunday, July 8, 2018. Thai authorities are racing to pump out water from the flooded cave before more rains are forecast to hit the northern region. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)
Thai police stand guard near a cave where 12 boys and their soccer coach have been trapped since June 23, in Mae Sai, Chiang Rai province, in northern Thailand Sunday, July 8, 2018. Thai authorities are racing to pump out water from the flooded cave before more rains are forecast to hit the northern region. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)
In this image made from video, Chiang Rai acting Gov. Narongsak Osatanakorn speaks to the media during a briefing on the cave rescue plans in Chiang Rai, Thailand. Narongsak says the operation to bring out 12 schoolboys and their soccer coach from deep inside a cave where they have been trapped for two weeks has begun. (AP Photo)
Thai policemen stand guard near a cave where 12 boys and their soccer coach have been trapped since June 23, in Mae Sai, Chiang Rai province, in northern Thailand Sunday, July 8, 2018. Thai authorities are racing to pump out water from the flooded cave before more rains are forecast to hit the northern region. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)
Rescuer working near a cave where 12 boys and their soccer coach have been trapped since June 23, in Mae Sai, Chiang Rai province, in northern Thailand Sunday, July 8, 2018. Thai authorities are racing to pump out water from the flooded cave before more rains are forecast to hit the northern region. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)
Australian Federal Police and Defense Force personnel arrive near a cave where 12 boys and their soccer coach have been trapped since June 23, in Mae Sai, Chiang Rai province, in northern Thailand Sunday, July 8, 2018. Thai authorities are racing to pump out water from the flooded cave before more rains are forecast to hit the northern region. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)
Rescuer arrive near cave where 12 boys and their soccer coach have been trapped since June 23, in Mae Sai, Chiang Rai province, in northern Thailand Sunday, July 8, 2018. Thai authorities are racing to pump out water from the flooded cave before more rains are forecast to hit the northern region. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)
Australian Federal Police and Defense Force personnel arrive near a cave where 12 boys and their soccer coach have been trapped since June 23, in Mae Sai, Chiang Rai province, in northern Thailand Sunday, July 8, 2018. Thai authorities are racing to pump out water from the flooded cave before more rains are forecast to hit the northern region. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)
Media staff leave the area around the entrance of the cave where 12 boys and their soccer coach have been trapped for two weeks, in Mae Sai, Chiang Rai province, in northern Thailand Sunday, July 8, 2018. Thai authorities asked media to leave the area, fueling speculation on Sunday morning that a rescue mission could be imminent. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)
Media staff leave the area around the entrance of the cave where 12 boys and their soccer coach have been trapped for two weeks, in Mae Sai, Chiang Rai province, in northern Thailand Sunday, July 8, 2018. Thai authorities asked media to leave the area, fueling speculation on Sunday morning that a rescue mission could be imminent. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)
Media staff prepare to leave the area around the entrance of the cave where 12 boys and their soccer coach have been trapped for two weeks, in Mae Sai, Chiang Rai province, in northern Thailand Sunday, July 8, 2018. Thai authorities asked media to leave the area, fueling speculation on Sunday morning that a rescue mission could be imminent. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)
In this undated photo released by Royal Thai Navy on Saturday, July 7, 2018, Thai rescue team members walk inside a cave where 12 boys and their soccer coach have been trapped since June 23, in Mae Sai, Chiang Rai province, northern Thailand. The local governor in charge of the mission to rescue them said Saturday that cooperating weather and falling water levels over the last few days had created appropriate conditions for evacuation, but that they won’t last if it rains again. (Royal Thai Navy via AP)
In this undated photo released by Royal Thai Navy on Saturday, July 7, 2018, Thai rescue team members walk inside a cave where 12 boys and their soccer coach have been trapped since June 23, in Mae Sai, Chiang Rai province, northern Thailand. The local governor in charge of the mission to rescue them said Saturday that cooperating weather and falling water levels over the last few days had created appropriate conditions for evacuation, but that they won’t last if it rains again. (Royal Thai Navy via AP)

Posted in Climate/Weather, General, International, Local, News, Regional, Youth0 Comments

America is a nation of narcissists, according to two new studies

America is a nation of narcissists, according to two new studies

 

July 3

Is America a narcissistic country?

On a day when America gathers together to celebrate itself, this seems a fair question. The answer is a resounding yes, according to new research — but some states are more narcissistic than others.

In a study published in the journal Psychological Science, researchers asked more than 2,800 residents how much their home state contributed to the history of the United States.

Residents of Delaware believed on average that their state helped create 33 percent of the nation’s history. Georgians believed their state played almost as central a role, with 28 percent. Texans and Californians — two states famous for their braggadocio — ranked themselves at 21 and 22 percent, which was massive but nowhere near Virginia’s 41 percent and Massachusetts’s 35 percent.

“The question we asked is crazy in one sense, because there’s no correct answer, but it told us a lot about people and what they believe about themselves,” said Henry L. Roediger III, a psychologist at Washington University in St. Louis.

What was universal was the self-aggrandizing view people have when it comes to their own states — a kind of communal selective memory and self-importance that psychologists are just beginning to study and have dubbed “collective narcissism.”

Even folks in state like Kansas and Wyoming — which weren’t part of the original 13 colonies or historical powerhouses — had outsize opinions of their role in American history.


How residents ranked the percentage their home state contributed to all of U.S. history. (Psychological Science)

When researchers added up the average estimations from each state, it equaled a whopping 907 percent. “We thought the numbers would be high, but not this high,” said Roediger, who studies memory theory.

He and the other researchers then had some participants first take a history quiz that emphasized the breadth of American history and the fact that there are 50 states. “We thought maybe if people had their face rubbed into U.S. history it would change the results,” Roediger said. “We thought they would say to themselves, ‘Hmm, none of this happened in Wyoming.’”

The prerequisite quiz had no effect at all.

To create something they call a “Narcissism Index,” the researchers compared the estimations by home state residents to how other people around the country ranked a state. Virginia and Delaware led the nation with the highest levels of collective narcissism, according to their index. New York, Pennsylvania, Georgia and New Jersey followed close behind.


Researchers created a Narcissism Index by comparing how residents rated their home state’s historical importance compared with nonresidents’ rankings. The only outlier was Washington state, which researchers believed was caused by people’s confusion with Washington, D.C. (Psychological Science)

The researchers involved in the state-by-state study attribute the seeming narcissistic behavior of residents to a few factors: that state history is often drilled into residents in school, that people are bad at math when it comes to estimating with small numbers, and a psychological tendency in people to think of themselves as better than average and to associate themselves with successful groups.

In a second study also published last month, some of the same researchers applied this approach on a global scale, asking residents in 35 countries how much their nation contributed to world history.

The results showed an even stronger phenomenon of collective narcissism at play. With 195 countries in the world, residents in every country surveyed had astronomically high estimations of their role in world history.

Even the residents in the lowest-ranked country, famously neutral Switzerland, believed on average that their nation contributed 11.3 percent to global events.

Relatively small countries had outsize estimations of their importance. Malaysians believed they contributed 49 percent of the world’s history. Portugal said 38 percent and Canada 40 percent.

Perhaps surprisingly, the United States — the world’s leading power in recent decades — landed in the middle of the pack, with a self-rating of 29.6 percent, behind Peru, Bulgaria and Singapore.

The leading narcissist in the world, according to the study, was Russia, whose residents on average believed their country contributed 60.8 percent of the world’s history

That remarkable result parallels other studies of Russia in the past decade. James Wertsch, an anthropologist and expert on collective memory, compared how differently Russians and Americans viewed their contributions to World War II. When asked to name the most important events of that war, American students consistently listed Pearl Harbor and D-Day. By contrast, Russian students named events such as the Battle of Stalingrad and the Battle of Moscow. There was almost no overlap between the two groups.

In recent years, psychologists have become increasingly interested in the intersection of collective memory, narcissism and the way it plays out in the real world.

“On some level, you could say this narcissism and collective memory is bad because it can promote racism, nationalism, xenophobia,” said William Hirst, a psychologist at the New School in New York who was not involved in the two new studies. “You might ask why Mother Nature even gave us this kind of memory. But there are advantages to it, as well. It is what promotes common understandings of our past, what grounds our identity as a country or people.”

 

Posted in Features, General, International, Local, Opinions, Regional0 Comments

Sherry Johnson, Florida-based anti-child marriage campaigner who was forced to marry aged 11 in 1971.

‘It put an end to my childhood’: the hidden scandal of US child marriage

The Guardian

In half of US states, there is no legal minimum age for marriage; a 40-year-old man can, in theory, marry a five-year-old girl. But Florida may soon ban the practice for under-18s. We meet the former child brides campaigning for change

Sherry Johnson, Florida-based anti-child marriage campaigner who was forced to marry aged 11 in 1971.
Sherry Johnson, Florida-based anti-child marriage campaigner who was forced to marry aged 11 in 1971. Photograph: Katharina Bracher

Sherry Johnson was 11 when her mother told her she was going to get married. The bridegroom was nine years older and a deacon in the strict apostolic church that her family attended. He was also the man who had raped her and made her pregnant. “They forced me to marry him to cover up the scandal,” Johnson says. “Instead of putting the handcuffs on him and sending him to prison, they put the handcuffs on me and imprisoned me in a marriage.”

Johnson is now 58, but child marriage is not a thing of the past in the US: almost 250,000 children were married there between 2000 and 2010, some of them as young as 10. “Almost all were girls married to adult men,” says Fraidy Reiss, the director of campaigning organisation Unchained at Last.

In most US states, the minimum age for marriage is 18. However, in every state exceptions to this rule are possible, the most common being when parents approve and a judge gives their consent. In 25 states, there is no minimum marriage age when such an exception is made. But now Johnson’s home state, Florida, is poised to pass a law that sets the minimum marriage age at 18 with very few exceptions – thanks largely to her campaigning.

In 2013, Johnson was working at a barbecue stand in Tallahassee when she told her story to a senator who was one of her regular customers. “She listened to me and decided to do something,” Johnson recalls. “She presented a bill to restrict child marriage in 2014, but it failed. That was because nobody understood the problem at the time.

“People thought: this can’t happen in Florida. The minimum marriage age is 18; what’s the problem? But they didn’t know about the loopholes. Between 2001 and 2015, 16,000 children were married in Florida alone. A 40-year-old man can legally marry a five-year-old girl here.”

Sherry Johnson’s marriage certificate.
Pinterest
Sherry Johnson’s marriage certificate. Photograph: Katharina Bracher

Johnson, whose own child-marriage took place in 1971, didn’t give up. She contacted numerous Floridian politicians, told them her story and explained the problem. “It was part of my healing process to tell my story,” she says. Actually, she adds, “I don’t like to use the word story because it ain’t a story. It’s the truth – I lived it.”

Apart from Florida, there are five states in the process of passing laws to end child marriage. It has been a tough battle, says Reiss, whose organisation has been campaigning for laws to be changed all over the country for three years.

“When I began, I thought it would be easy. I thought we would just explain the problem and legislators would jump up and change the law immediately. After all, the US state department considers child marriage a human rights abuse. But everywhere there are politicians who think it’s a bad idea to change the law. You wouldn’t believe how many legislators have told me that if a girl gets pregnant, she’s got to get married. One female Democrat politician asked me: ‘Won’t you increase abortion rates if you end child marriage?’ That left me speechless.”

Last year, 17-year-old Girl Scout Cassandra Levesque campaigned to change the New Hampshire law that allows girls as young as 13 to get married if their parents approve. “My local representative introduced a bill that raised the minimum age to 18. But a couple of male representatives persuaded the others to kill the bill and to prevent it from being discussed again for some years,” she says. “One of them said that a 17-year-old Girl Scout couldn’t have a say in these matters.”

“So they think she’s old enough for marriage, but not old enough to talk about it, says Reiss. “I think that reasoning is terrifying.”

She goes on to outline the harmful effects of child marriage. “Girls who get married before 18 have a significantly higher risk of heart attacks, cancer, diabetes and strokes and a higher risk of psychiatric disorders. They are 50% more likely to drop out of high school and run a higher risk of living in poverty. They are also three times more likely to become victims of domestic violence. Really, child marriage helps no one. The only people who benefit are paedophiles.”

Reiss, who was born in an ultra-orthodox Jewish community, and was herself coerced into marrying when she was 19, says it is “extremely ironic” that laws make exceptions when parents consent to a child marriage or when an underage girl is pregnant. “Because, in many cases, the pregnancy is the result of sexual abuse and the parents are forcing the girl to marry to prevent a scandal. So the law doesn’t protect the child at all. When an adult man has sex with an underage girl, this is considered statutory rape in many states. But when the perpetrator marries his victim, he can legally go on abusing her.”

Fraidy Reiss, director of campaigning organisation Unchained At Last.
Pinterest
Fraidy Reiss, director of campaigning organisation Unchained At Last. Photograph: Susan Landmann

Many child brides come from religious backgrounds and less privileged groups – but not all. Donna Pollard, 34, grew up in a white, middle-class, non-religious family in a town called London in Kentucky, and yet she was married when she was 16. The man was nearly 15 years older. “I met him when I was 14 and going through a difficult time. My father had recently deceased,” she recounts. “He was my mental health counsellor and he acted like I could trust him. He convinced me that we were in love and he said: ‘If we get married when you turn 16, you will have all this freedom and your mum won’t be able to control you any more.’ So I thought I was taking charge of my life by agreeing to this.”

Her mother had no problems with her daughter getting married at 16 and readily gave her permission. “She was glad to get rid of me.”

Pollard remembers feeling very uncomfortable during the marriage ceremony. “The clerk didn’t even look up at me from her computer. She only asked: ‘Which one’s the minor?’ She didn’t assess if I was safe or needed something. He was 30 years old at the time, but nobody questioned the fact that he was so much older. That void of emotion hit me like a freight train. I knew something wasn’t right, but I didn’t feel empowered to speak up and say: ‘I don’t know that I really want to go through with this.’ Nor did I trust my own judgment. I was a troubled teenager.”

Once married, she left school and started working at a grocery store for a minimum wage, soon becoming the breadwinner because her husband stopped working. “He became physically abusive. He was controlling everything I did. In many ways, child marriage and human trafficking are interchangeable terms.”

Pollard left her husband when she was 19 after he tried to choke her in the presence of their baby daughter. “I realised she would grow up normalising violence if I didn’t leave. That’s what gave me the courage.” Looking back, she says that marrying young disrupted her personal development. “I was very good at school. I even received a substantial scholarship for writing achievement. I could have studied creative writing with a grant.”

Johnson says that “marriage put a definite end to my childhood. I was expelled from school and by the age of 17 I had six children. There was no way I could escape. You are not allowed to sign legal documents when you are under 18, so I couldn’t file for a divorce. For seven years, I was stuck with the man who damaged me and continued to do so.

“Child marriage delayed my life. I was never able to attain an education. I am still struggling, trying to survive. Working three jobs as a healthcare provider to make ends meet. And then there’s the pain, the trauma that you have to deal with.”

“We see the number of child marriages going down now, but it’s not going fast enough,” says Reiss. “It’s so difficult to help child brides escape. Our organisation risks being charged with kidnapping because they are under 18. This has already happened to us once. Also, there are very few shelters in the US that accept girls younger than 18. So when girls call us, we have to tell them the help we can provide is very limited. Most of the children who reach out to us for help have tried to kill themselves because they would rather be dead than forced into a marriage. That keeps me awake at night. Something has to change.”

On 31 January, Johnson sat in the public gallery while the Florida senate unanimously passed the bill that will end child marriage in the state (although the bill was subsequently amended to allow pregnant 16- and 17-year-old girls to marry). Several senators talked about her story and thanked her for pushing for the bill. Afterwards, she said that the senate vote helped to heal the pain. “I smile from within to know that children will not have to face what I have been through.”

For more information or counselling on any of the issues raised in this article go to unchainedatlast.org

Posted in Education, General, International, Local, News, Regional, Religion, Youth0 Comments

UNICEF and Education Ministry to launch campaign on discipline

UNICEF and Education Ministry to launch campaign on discipline

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Jun. 22, CMC –  The United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) will be collaborating with the Ministry of Education to launch a campaign on positive discipline.

UNICEF’s country representative, Sylvie Fouet says the evidence-based campaign stems from a conversation the organisation has been having with stakeholders for some time .

“That consultation took place about a year ago and we also involved children themselves. It was important because the way of teaching has to change,” Fouet told the media, explaining that part of the campaign will also help the ministry in its review of its teaching scheme” Fouet told reporters on Thursday.

Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist, Michael Gillis and UNICEF country representative, Sylvie Fouet

Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist Michael Gillis said the organisation started the collection of data in 2014.

That data gave an indication of the kind of discipline being practised. A situation analysis was also done on women on children which indicated what was happening and why it was happening. It was found too that there were key issues in hinterland communities.

“We then followed the lead of the data and then collected the information about indigenous women and children. There is a whole lot of evidence which moved beyond what is happening in school, what is being practised in society.  The positive discipline campaign was really evidence-informed,” he said.

The analysis found that corporal punishment was being practised at a very high level with over 70 per cent of parents administering some form of corporal punishment for different reasons.

“The positive discipline campaign will bring additional tools and ways of disciplining,” he said.

Communication Specialist, Frank Robinson relayed some recommendations that could be adhered to by parents to aid in their discipline technique.

He said, instead of hitting the child, parents can explain why the behaviour is not in keeping with what the parent would like.

“Give the child the chance to understand the severity of the action or behaviour by sitting and talking with the child,” he recommended.

At the same time, he said children need to understand that while they have rights, they also have responsibilities.

“So, it more of an empowerment type methodology in terms of disciplining children and so xfar, what we have seen with parents and schools that practice positive disciplining, we have seen positive changes,” Robinsons said.

UNICEF has already produced a video showcasing the perspective of children on the subject.

A second video is currently being produced that will give the perspective and views of the parents on positive discipline.

Posted in Education, General, Youth0 Comments

IDB launches call for proposals from startups in the Caribbean

IDB launches call for proposals from startups in the Caribbean

 

WASHINGTON, Jun. 20,   CMC – The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) has launched a call for proposals that will reward the most disruptive ventures in Latin America and the Caribbean that are using innovation to improve lives.

The Washington-based financial institution said the selected startups will participate in Demand Solutions Chile, which will take place on November 21 in Santiago, Chile.

Demand Solutions is the IDB’s flagship innovation event that brings together “the world’s most forward-thinking minds to share creative solutions to the development challenges in Latin America and the Caribbean,” the statement said.

In this edition, the IDB said startups can participate in two thematic areas.

In the first, they must provide solutions in four categories related to the cultural and creative industries: Design with social sense: sustainable fashion, smart fashion, urban art, wearable technology; and multimedia that improves lives: videogames, digital content, audiovisual content.

The other categories are: New technologies: 3D printing, blockchain, internet of things, artificial intelligence, machine learning, robotics; and export of services to global markets: production and commercialization of cultural content, export of goods and creative services.

The IDB said the 10 most innovative startups in the creative industries will be selected to participate in Demand Solutions Chile with all expenses paid for one representative per startup.

The first place will receive financial support to continue with its development, the IDB said.

Additionally, the IDB said this edition of Demand Solutions will also reward five startups that provide solutions to water and sanitation challenges in the region.

Since 2009, the IDB said along with Fundación FEMSA it was awarded the Water and Sanitation Prize for Latin America and the Caribbean “to recognize and stimulate the most innovative solutions in the water, sanitation and solid waste sectors.”

The startups interested in participating in Demand Solutions must present a solution proposal to a development challenge before July 15, the IDB said.

It said the representatives must be over 18 years old.

Winners will be notified by mail in early September 2018.

Posted in Business/Economy/Banking, Climate/Weather, Energy, Entertainment, General, International, Local, News, Politics, Regional, Science/Technology, TOURISM0 Comments

Please Support The Montserrat Reporter

This is bottom line for us! Unless we receive your support, our effort will not be able to continue. Whatever and however you can, please support The Montserrat Reporter in whatever amount you can (and whatever frequency) – and it only takes a minute.
Thank you

TMR print pages

Flow Internet Open Gifts

Notice – British American Insurace Company Ltd.

Newsletter

Archives

Bank of Montserrat – Scholarship Offer

FLOW - Back to School

https://indd.adobe.com/embed/2b4deb22-cf03-4509-9bbd-938c7e8ecc7d