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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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Sheree Rodney

Brandt questions the appointment of new Attorney General

Veteran Attorney at Law David S. Brandt continues to argue for a position he promoted back in 2000 while he was Chief Minister of Montserrat.

The last time we recall he successfully argued for that to be exercised was at the retirement of Police Commissioner John Douglas. His position was that top positions in particular should be offered first to a Montserratian, then someone from the region before going elsewhere.

The policy was very much endorsed in 2012 when several positions became available when it was said that all jobs should be advertised with Montserratians having first option.  That became ‘law’ when persons were being hired to work at the Montserrat Development Corporation (MDC)

This week Mr. Brandt is calling on the powers that be to come out and announce the name of the new Attorney General for Montserrat. This so even after he said a non-national has been confirmed in the post.

It would be of interest to him as he is a lawyer still practising in Montserrat, he says it is for far too long the naming of the new Attorney General has been shrouded in secrecy. 

He spoke to ZJB News that it has been brought to his attention that despite the fact that Mrs. Sheree Jemmotte-Rodney has been acting in that position for over a years. That as a matter of fact should have been for several years.

 Mr. Brandt says that for a whole year Mrs. Jemmotte-Rodney has been advising the Government on civil matters and that it would be unfair to give the position to someone else.

“I would like to say it is not this government’s fault, because two of the three persons who sat on the interview board were foreigners, one from DFID and a foreigner working with the government,” he said. “Mrs. Jemmotte-Rodney was here during the volcanic crisis. She suffered from ash. She had to deal with her young children, sometimes had to move. And here the opportunity comes to be confirmed as Attorney General.”

He points that there’s a rule in the civil service that you must not act for more than three months. “So if you act for more than three months you have the legitimate expectation that you would be appointed,” as he then notes, “when we confirm a foreigner whatever he or she learns she goes with it. Every Attorney General that has acted here in recent times have become judges of the High Court, if we do not promote our people then those who are in certain positions would have to wonder would I reach the top.”

It can be observed that the last Montserratian only a few years ago who was Attorney General in Montserrat on more than one occasion, Miss Esco Henry is now a judge in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

TMR learnt that one of the criteria that was set for the post, seen as a definite point to keep her out, was that the candidate must have worked outside of Montserrat. This is seen as very ridiculous and invoked comments that there is something terribly wrong with the recruitment process in Montserrat. The argument being that the person who we understand (unofficially) is from Trinidad who has never worked in Montserrat (or could it be one of the persons brought in by FCO to work on some matters out of the AG’s office). In addition to the complexity of the matter, we learnt also that on more than one occasion as in this instance at least one of the applicants is working outside of Montserrat in an Overseas Territory, and that person was also overlooked.  Where is the sense the fairness?

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US court asked to subpoena British Overseas Territories security advisor

US court asked to subpoena British Overseas Territories security advisor

Most or all of the stories and articles featured in this newspaper from time to time are for reason that there are matters of important relevance and benefit to Montserrat. The following Caribbean News article bears much relevance and similarities to matters that go on with regards to Montserrat and some circumstances that have thwarted our progress on an individual level and a government level.

If persons and government were to have the guts and the people of Montserrat at heart we would in the not too distant future see situations develop as has been the case in TCI and now Cayman Islands, and elsewhere.

Covington visits Montserrat regularly in his capacity as described in the article and Tony Bates heads the Governor’s office here in Montserrat.

Pic – (L-R) British Overseas Territories security adviser Larry Covington with Royal Cayman Islands Police Service (RCIPS) Commissioner David Baines and Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) official Tony Bates in May 2012

By Caribbean News Now contributor

MIAMI, USA — Attorneys acting for former Cayman Islands premier, McKeeva Bush, have filed an application in the US District Court for the Southern District of Florida seeking an order granting Bush leave to issue and serve a subpoena on Lawrence ‘Larry’ Covington, Britain’s overseas territories security adviser, who was and is a resident of Miami-Dade County, Florida.

The application has been made pursuant to 28 USC § 1782 for judicial assistance in obtaining evidence located in the state of Florida for use in a foreign and international proceeding, namely, a currently pending case before the Grand Court of the Cayman Islands filed by Bush against Royal Cayman Islands Police Service (RCIPS) Commissioner David Baines, former Cayman Islands governor, Duncan Taylor, and the attorney general of the Cayman Islands, Sam Bulgin, for conspiracy and malicious prosecution.

According to the US court filing, the gist of the Cayman action is that Baines, Taylor and Bulgin conspired for Bush to be arrested in the Cayman Islands and charged with the “crime” of using his government issued credit card for personal expenditures. Bush asserts that his prosecution was malicious and/or brought for an improper purpose, which was to remove him from his office as premier of the Cayman Islands in 2012 and render him unable to retain his office in the 2013 elections.

Evidence submitted to courts in the Cayman Islands and the United States for the purpose of obtaining search orders and evidence under mutual legal assistance provisions falsely stated that Bush had breached Cayman Islands government policy by using his credit card for personal reasons. Bush was ultimately exonerated by a jury following a full trial on all of the charges and filed suit to recover damages from the alleged conspirators.

Evidence introduced in the Cayman action is said to demonstrate that Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) was involved in bringing the false criminal charges against Bush.

Specifically, an email dated February 5, 2012, from then governor Taylor to Tony Bates, who was the head of the Caribbean and Bermuda Section in the Overseas Territories Directorate at the FCO in London, stated that “the Commissioner and his team are doing everything they can to expedite matters and are well aware of the potential difficulties if we are unable to get to the point of charging McKeeva ahead of the elections.”

Another email from Taylor to Bates at the FCO reported that Taylor had “tipped off a [media source]” as to where Bush’s charge sheet could be found and inspected so that the media source could “write a piece” about Bush’s arrest.

In yet another email from Taylor to Bates, Taylor suggested that he will be opening a bottle of champagne in celebration after Bush’s arrest, as he remarks in his email, “Not opening any quiet bubbly until after it [charges against Bush] has been confirmed!”

Bush claims that these emails demonstrate that the FCO was heavily involved in the manufactured charges against him.

Covington was the law enforcement adviser for Britain’s Caribbean Overseas
Territories and his role was to provide guidance and advice to the governor and commissioner of police.

The nature of Covington’s role in law enforcement in the UK overseas territories is said to be illustrated by a judgment issued by the Cayman Islands Grand Court, which records the then-governor of the Cayman Islands accepting a recommendation from Covington, described as the law enforcement adviser in the FCO, to investigate allegedly criminal conduct in the Cayman Islands under the code name “Operation Tempura”.

Operation Tempura was an investigation conducted by senior Scotland Yard detectives into alleged corruption and other criminal conduct in the Cayman Islands in 2008, and itself turned into an unmitigated disaster, resulting in a series allegations, counter allegations and recriminations.

The lead investigator in the Operation Tempura probe, Martin Bridger, has steadfastly maintained that the initial investigation by the local police, which involved an illegal entry into the offices of a local newspaper, was discussed with and approved by former governor Stuart Jack, Covington and Bulgin, all of whom issued unconvincing denials.

According to Bush’s attorneys, given this background and the high profile and controversial nature of the investigation and failed prosecution of Bush, there can be no doubt that Covington personally played a central role. There can also be no doubt that he would have created and would have received documentary material in relation to both the investigation and the failed prosecution of Bush.

Specifically, given Covington’s title and role played in the investigation and prosecution of Bush, it is simply not possible that no documents have been sent to, or generated by, Covington during the entire process.

“Although one would have hoped Mr Covington might volunteer his records to assist the defendants to comply with their discovery obligations in the Cayman Islands, Mr Covington has not done so and the other defendants in the Cayman action assert that these documents are not within their possession,” Bush’s attorneys state.

Thus, they assert that Covington is a key person in these proceedings and Bush has therefore applied to the US court to obtain information relevant to the Cayman action, including:

  1. copies of all emails sent or received by Covington (including for the avoidance of doubt archived or deleted emails or other electronic documents) between January
    1, 2009, and December 31, 2014, relating to the intended and actual investigation and subsequent prosecution and trial of Bush, and;
  2. any and all notes, reports, memoranda or other documents of any kind and in any format created between January 1, 2009, and December 31, 2014, that relate to the intended and actual investigation and subsequent prosecution and trial of Bush, his removal from office as premier of the Cayman Islands and/or the 2013 elections.

Bush also seeks that Covington attend a deposition to answer questions as to the role he played in the prosecution of Bush and to explain the documents that are produced.

The relevant court filings are publicly accessible at the US District Court for the Southern District of Florida under case number 1:18-mc-20228-JEM In Re: Application of William McKeeva Bush OBE.


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Grenada Flagg

Grenada celebrates 44th anniversary of independence with eye on general election

ST. GEORGE’S, Grenada, Feb 7, CMC – Grenada is celebrating its 44th anniversary of political independence from Britain with the traditional military parade , a public holiday and Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell keeping an eye firmly on next month’s general election.

“This current generation of Grenadians who have inherited the victories and achievements from slavery to independence, has carried the torch of social progress valiantly over the course of these past years, even more determined to consolidate the foundation for a future of which the next generation will be proud.

Grenada Flagg“On every occasion like this, we must pause, as a nation – to take stock – and to set out a new path for the future. The experiences of the first 44 years have made us even more ready to write the next chapter,” said Mitchell.

He paid tribute to the “many heroes” of the country and that the dreams that gave rise to past struggles still endure.

“This nation, inspired by heroes and built by champions – is rising. Our trajectory is upwards, and we shall not put any limits to the possibilities of which we dream,” he said in his Independence address.

Mitchell, who will lead his ruling New National Party (NNP) into the March 13 general election, said that as the island celebrates 44 years of political independence, “those of us here…must take this country forward with the commitment and determination of those gone before.

“But we must also take it forward with the deep and abiding sense of responsibility that befits our roles as one people, and one nation. We must take this country forward in unity of purpose, patriotism, sacrifice, hard work, and with a vision for its sustainability.”

He acknowledged that Grenada has changed, “is changing and can continue to change for the better, but we have to keep moving forward with this enduring belief and commitment—toward an even brighter tomorrow.

“We must, therefore, avoid risking this once again successful experiment on speculations, promises and innuendos. Instead, we must celebrate the gains we have made and work toward consolidating them,”’ he said in an apparent reference to the campaign promises of the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) that will challenge the NNP for control of the 15-member Parliament.

Mitchell said he is pleased that the country had come together in the last few years to rise out of economic stagnation, saying that such unity among the various stakeholders “has been a model tool, demonstrating what can be achieved when we join hands across this nation.

“Today, our nation and its people are reaping the rewards of sacrifice. The seeds sown by hard toil and sweat are beginning to bear a bountiful harvest of which all must share,” he said, making reference to the socio-economic problems that the island faced when his NNP came to power in 2013 winning all 15 seats.

“Those of us who answered the call in the last five years were not afraid to make the tough decisions, because we knew that in spite of the challenges, Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique must always come before self,” he said, outlining the achievements of his administration over the past five years.

“Our resolve is to continue to build a country that can withstand external shocks, such as those that come with climate change and other man-made disasters. Our resolve is to pass on such a country to our children and grandchildren. Our resolve is to show that we can achieve all of this together, because we have come this far in such a short time by doing it together,” he said.

Meanwhile, Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretary General, Irwin LaRocque has commended Grenada for its unwavering commitment to the regional integration movement.

In a congratulatory message to Mitchell, the Secretary-General lauded the commitment and leadership he demonstrated as Chairman of the 15-member grouping uring the past unprecedented hurricane season. He said Mitchell’s chairmanship of the World Bank’s Small States Forum 2017, served to heighten the visibility of the challenges facing the Small State.

“There is much for Grenada to be proud of as a nation,” LaRocque said, adding that over the years the people have demonstrated “great resilience as they charted a way forward to enhancing their standard of living.”

He said that the theme of this year’s independence celebration “One People, One Country, Our Responsibility,” shows Grenadians collective willingness to work together for the country’s continued socio-economic development.

“The Community looks forward to Grenada’s continued active participation in the work of the Community, and importantly to its leading our efforts in Science and Technology, for which the country has responsibility within the CARICOM Quasi-Cabinet, a critical element of the Community’s Strategic Plan,” LaRocque said.

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spectre - meltdown

Technology Feature: The Meltdown and Spectre computer security challenges: an opportunity for Montserrat?

BRADES, MNI – Almost every personal computer, smart device and smart phone manufactured since 1995 is reported to be vulnerable to at least one of the newly discovered Meltdown and Spectre computer hardware security threats.  This is because, in an effort to speed up computers, designers put in miniature assembly lines inside microprocessor chips, which are the heart of modern digital technology. These “assembly lines” for instruction execution, termed pipelines, then led to speculative and out of order instruction execution.

That is, several instructions are being processed at the same time, like cars on an assembly line. Some of these instructions are guessed at, and if the computer does not “branch” in that direction at a decision point,  the wrong work-in-progress instructions are discarded. 

As a result, in modern digital equipment instructions are fetched, decoded, executed then if they are the right ones, committed to.  But to go to such speculative execution, the computer has stored information about its core state, and if attacking malware (viruses, worms etc) can inspect or guess at the information before it is erased, it can then infer the processor’s state and take over.  For instance, if data comes from a “cache” rather than “main memory,” it will be come up much quicker. However, that is also a clue that private information may also be included in what is cached. Private information can then be readily stolen or the machine can be turned into a zombie under rogue control. 

And, leading IT industry figures have long warned the public that if something so obviously valuable as powerful software or information services are “free” then YOU are the product being sold to someone else. If we are lucky, as marketing research statistics. If we are not so lucky, our personal identity, Internet, social media and online shopping patterns – as well as our secret information – are for sale “to the highest bidder.”

Where, yes, the dodgy sites and social media services out there are obviously even more dangerous now. But we must not think that just because we deal with big name legitimate firms we are safe and 100% protected. Meltdown and Spectre are absolute proof of that. And for sure, when we sign up to those terms of service “nobody” bothers to read, we are often signing up to at minimum being used for marketing research.

Meltdown is so far peculiar to the Intel family of microprocessors. This means it is a problem for most Windows, Apple and Linux computers.

Spectre is a more generic problem that affects processors made by Intel, Advanced Micro Devices [AMD] and the ARM family.  Intel and AMD processors are used in computers (including Apple machines) and ARM is used in many cell phones and other smart devices

Spectre is apparently much harder to solve than Meltdown. 

As we go to press, special free software patches have been released, and it is believed that most of the time they will have minimal impact on performance. However, in some cases half the previous performance may be lost. Also, Intel has had to patch its initial patch as there were problems such as repeated re-booting. Even industrial machines with embedded microprocessors are vulnerable.

Obviously, everybody in Montserrat should make sure to get the security updates with the latest patches.

But, what about the opportunity?

Software patches will do for now, but for cloud and web based server applications etc, there will predictably be a wave of new processors with hardware fixes.  Hardware fixes are going to be faster. We can expect to see that in maybe one to three years.  So, we can expect a wave of new investments in server farms, back office services, call centres etc. When that happens, people will reconsider what they are doing and a small fraction will be open to wider changes.

Over about the same period, Montserrat should have fibre optic cable access and we will be looking to bringing in highly reliable geothermal energy based electricity. So, if we can get just a sliver of the new investments it can make a significant difference for our economy.  Something, to bear in mind.

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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:

[2]               See GoM:

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“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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“It is the people who matter”

“It is the people who matter”

In the last six months and particularly between June – September, something or things happened that characterised the failings of Governor Pearce’s predecessor, Governor Carriere and her service as Governor to Montserrat. Several concerned persons questioned curiously our concerns about her sudden departure which was to some extent abrupt end of her contract of service, and more so our pronouncement of her failings.

There are some who also in addressing the failings of projects going forward towards the languishing plans of development towards the self-sufficiency of Montserrat, have blamed the ‘powers of the Governor’ and the Constitution which they see as bad and believe that a review is urgent for changes.

But we would refer to some of our previous editorials and one where we called on ‘Governor Carriere to apologise to the Premier and people of Montserrat’ on matters which touched seriously on the Constitution. There needs to be some focus on the wording of the Constitution and see that the power is rare and that the word that is used is ‘responsibility’.

Then in our story announcing the appointment of the new Governor, we remarked that “Pearce’s career has been with the FCO which is being seen as a big plus to carrying out his Governorship in Montserrat.” Pointing out his two predecessor Montserrat governors, who were recruited from their career as DFID professionals. We pointed out that Miss Carriere had also shard the view saying: “He brings with him a wealth of experience that I am sure will be of huge benefit to Montserrat.”

In his response to the welcome he had received while outlining his own desires of achievement during his tour of duty in Montserrat Governor Pearce applauded Governor Carriere for what he thought were her achievements, but very noticeably omitted was anything to do with what she had said in her hopes of achievement when she arrived in Montserrat in 2015. “I am delighted to be appointed as Governor of Montserrat. I am also pleased to be returning to the Caribbean, and specifically to help Montserrat achieve sustainable economic development and increased financial independence.”

What stood out for us in his address was how often he mentioned his interest in the Montserrat community and the people. How he hoped to interact. “It is through the support, work, creativity and commitment of many other people, both inside and outside the public service.”

“It is the people of Montserrat who matter.”

 “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.

There was no numeration of 1, 2, 3 etc of achievements, avoiding the trap of discovering that circumstances might prevent those specific achievements.

If he keeps that desire foremost in his mind, he will certainly, just as we expect from his long career should have taught him, to leave Montserrat, should he last the three to four years he hopes to be in Montserrat, things better, stronger, nicer and happier. We did not miss the last words, “wherever possible”, which of course is where the people who he will seek to empower as his responsibilities demand, will be important.

In answer to some of the concerns and questions that have been posed regarding these ‘powers’ that are alluded to be a stronghold on our leaders acting to bring joy to Montserrat in reaching that place of self-sufficiency, once enjoyed, we would refer and ask for discussions for understanding of Section 18, 26, 39 and others dealing with the Governor’s functions and responsibilities. What is required is the knowledge and understanding, respect for authorities, for and by the people involved in exercising ‘responsibilities’.

We do not expect our Governor and those in her functions of responsibility to subtly and deliberately do things, such as firing, stalling and holding up appointments that are detrimental to the progress and development, that they swear to seek.  It is the people who matter. It is the people who are suffering. Or is it only, some!

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U.S. President Donald Trump attends a roundtable at the Customs and Border Protection National Targeting Center in Reston, Va., on Friday.

Trump claims memo ‘totally vindicates’ him in Russia probe

From the description and all the opinions seen, this memo sounds like what Trump calls ‘Fake News’ on the assumption that it is refered to as inaccurate, incomplete; Bombshell, dud, or something in between?
Question of interest: How can anyone who is not yet charged, who claims innocence in a matter being investigated, can be so anxious to claim vindication? Why?

FBI expressed ‘grave concerns’ about memo’s release and called it inaccurate, incomplete

The Associated Press Posted: Last Updated: Feb 03, 2018

U.S. President Donald Trump attends a roundtable at the Customs and Border Protection National Targeting Center in Reston, Va., on Friday.

U.S. President Donald Trump attends a roundtable at the Customs and Border Protection National Targeting Center in Reston, Va., on Friday. (Andrew Harnik/Associated Press)

U.S. President Donald Trump on Saturday claimed complete vindication from a congressional memo that alleges the FBI abused its surveillance powers during the investigation into his campaign’s possible Russia ties. But the memo also includes revelations that might complicate efforts by Trump and his allies to undermine special counsel Robert Mueller’s inquiry.

The four-page document released Friday contends that the FBI, when it applied for a surveillance warrant on a one-time Trump campaign associate, relied excessively on an ex-British spy whose opposition research was funded by Democrats. At the same time, the memo confirms that the investigation into potential Trump links to Russia actually began several months earlier, and was “triggered” by information involving a different campaign aide.

Christopher Steele, the former spy who compiled the allegations, acknowledged having strong anti-Trump sentiments. But he also was a “longtime FBI source” with a credible track record, according to the memo from House Intelligence Committee chairman Rep. Devin Nunes and his staff.

The warrant authorizing the FBI to monitor the communications of former campaign adviser Carter Page was not a one-time request, but was approved by a judge on four occasions, the memo says, and even signed off on by the second-ranking official at the Justice Department, Rod Rosenstein, whom Trump appointed as deputy attorney general.

‘This is an American disgrace’

Trump, however, tweeted from Florida, where he was spending the weekend, that the memo puts him in the clear.

“This memo totally vindicates `Trump’ in probe,” he said. “But the Russian Witch Hunt goes on and on. Their was no Collusion and there was no Obstruction (the word now used because, after one year of looking endlessly and finding NOTHING, collusion is dead). This is an American disgrace!”

 90,550 replies 36,571 retweets 128,068 likes
Replying to

Libs know 45’s a treasonous POS. Dems know. ExGOP know. Non-Brainwashed GOP know. Majority of the world knows. But not Faux News (TRUMP STATE TV/Modern day Tokyo Roses) watching, Fool Aid swilling . Who’s wrong? The world? Or the tiny population of ? 🤔

The underlying materials that served as the basis for the warrant application were not made public in the memo. As a result, the document only further intensified a partisan battle over how to interpret the actions of the FBI and Justice Department during the early stages of the counterintelligence investigation that Mueller later inherited. Even as Democrats described it as inaccurate, some Republicans quickly cited the memo — released over the objections of the FBI and Justice Department — in their arguments that Mueller’s investigation is politically tainted.

‘Picked a bunch of the wrong cherries’

A closer read presents a far more nuanced picture.

“Having decided to cherry-pick, the Nunes team picked a bunch of the wrong cherries for its own narrative,” Matthew Waxman, a Columbia University law professor and former Bush administration official, wrote in an email.

The memo’s central allegation is that agents and prosecutors, in applying in October 2016 to monitor Page’s communications, failed to tell a judge that the opposition research that provided grounds for the FBI’s suspicion received funding from Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee. Page had stopped advising the campaign sometime around the end of that summer.

Trump Russia Probe

The warrant authorizing the FBI to monitor the communications of former campaign adviser Carter Page was not a one-time request, but was approved by a judge on four occasions, the memo says. (J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press)

Steele’s research, according to the memo, “formed an essential part” of the warrant application. But it’s unclear how much or what information Steele collected made it into the application, or how much has been corroborated. Steele was working for Fusion GPS, a firm initially hired by the conservative Washington Free Beacon to do opposition research on Trump. Steele didn’t begin work on the project until after Democratic groups took over the funding.

Republicans say a judge should have known that “political actors” were involved in allegations that led the Justice Department to believe Page might be an agent of a foreign power — an accusation he has consistently and strenuously denied.

‘Grave concerns’ about memo

The FBI this week expressed “grave concerns” about the memo and called it inaccurate and incomplete. Democrats said it was a set of cherry-picked claims aimed at smearing law enforcement and that releasing the memo would damage law enforcement and intelligence work.

For one, Democrats said it was misleading and incorrect to say a judge was not told of the potential political motivations of the people paying for Steele’s research.

Beyond that, though, the memo confirms the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign began in July 2016, months before the surveillance warrant was sought, and was “triggered” by information concerning campaign aide George Papadopoulos. He pleaded guilty last year to lying to the FBI.

Trump says memo on Russia probe vindicates him

The confirmation about Papadopoulos is “the most important fact disclosed in this otherwise shoddy memo,” California Rep. Adam Schiff, the House committee’s top Democrat, said in a tweet Saturday in response to Trump’s assertion that the document vindicated him.

The timing makes clear that other Trump associates beyond Page, who was part of the election effort for only a short period and was not in Trump’s inner circle, had generated law enforcement scrutiny. The memo also omits that Page had been on the FBI’s radar a few years earlier as part of a separate counterintelligence investigation into Russian influence.

The memo focuses on Page, but Democrats on the House committee said “this ignores the inconvenient fact that the investigation did not begin with, or arise from Christopher Steele or the dossier, and that the investigation would persist on the basis of wholly independent evidence had Christopher Steele never entered the picture.”

All should appreciate the FBI speaking up. I wish more of our leaders would. But take heart: American history shows that, in the long run, weasels and liars never hold the field, so long as good people stand up. Not a lot of schools or streets named for Joe McCarthy.

Other details in the memo could also challenge Republican claims of bias. The warrant requested was renewed on three additional occasions, meaning that judges approved it four times.

The memo had been classified because it deals with warrants obtained from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. The White House declassified it Friday and sent it to Nunes for immediate release.

That disclosure is extraordinary because it involves details about surveillance of Americans, national security information the government regards as among its most highly classified. The release is likely to further escalate the conflict between the White House and Trump’s law enforcement leaders. Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher Wray had personally lobbied against the memo’s disclosure, arguing it could set a dangerous precedent.

The memo’s release also comes amid an effort by Trump and congressional Republicans to discredit Mueller’s investigation. His probe focuses not only on whether the Trump campaign co-ordinated with Russia but also on whether the president sought to obstruct justice.

As It Happens -Listen

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Fact check: What Trump got wrong in his State of the Union address

State of the Union under scores why Trump is his own worst enemy

By Mark Z. Barabak

Jan 30, 2018 | 9:10 PM

President Trump gives the State of the Union address in the chamber of the
U.S. House of Representatives in Washington. (Pool Photo)

For over an hour Tuesday night, Presidential Trump vied with pugnacious Trump.

The White House had promised a conciliatory and uplifting State of the Union address, which stood to reason. It’s one thing to inveigh against the mess Trump said he inherited a year ago and another to laud the job he claims to have done cleaning it up.

FULL COVERAGE: State of the Union »

Gone, then, was the wreckage, the ruin and the dystopian “American carnage” he deplored in the glowering speech at his inauguration. Instead, Trump offered a vision of hopefulness and light — for a time, anyway.

“This is our new American moment,” he said loftily in the early moments of his address. “There has never been a better time to start living the American dream.”

But those grace notes were soon overshadowed by an increasingly harsh tone, as though the president couldn’t or didn’t care to contain his more ad-libbed and aggressive self.

He needled Democrats over the partial dismantling of the Affordable Care Act, one of his predecessor’s proudest achievements. He resurrected the controversy over the national anthem and the dissent of kneeling black athletes.

When he spoke of immigration, perhaps the touchiest issue facing a gridlocked Congress, he placed it in a dark frame, with talk of gang violence, of alien intruders stealing jobs and a suggestion of unending “chain” migrants — aunts, uncles, cousins and other family members — leaching taxpayer dollars.

In his closest approximation to an olive branch, Trump said he would support a proposal offering a path to citizenship for 1.8 million children — so-called Dreamers — who were brought to America illegally by their parents. But only, he said, if Democrats would agree to a border wall and other changes in legal immigration they consider anathema.

The result was groans and hisses and boos from that side of the House chamber.

In State of Union, Trump calls for unity in hopes of altering a threatening tide

In State of Union, Trump calls for unity in hopes of altering a threatening tide

Jan 30, 2018 | 9:20 PM

The annual speech to Congress is one of Washington’s most carefully choreographed set pieces, and for portions of it Trump hewed closely to a familiar script

He assayed the state of the union, pronouncing it “strong.” He outlined an ambitious agenda — which lawmakers will mostly ignore — crowed about his achievements, made a feint in the direction of bipartisanship and saluted a large number of invited guests who served as props representing different bullet points (immigration, a strong military, the opioid addiction crisis) of his speech.

It was all terribly conventional, but only to a point.

There were many long sections that could just have easily been delivered at one of Trump’s roisterous “Make America Great Again” campaign rallies, down to the moment when the ranks of Republican lawmakers broke into a lusty chant of “USA! USA!” as the president, chin out, approvingly took in the scene.

The contrast to the last time Trump stood in the well of the House was striking.

Eleven months ago, he delivered a more subdued performance, earning plaudits and generating widespread talk of a presidential turning point or, in that most overused expression, a pivot toward a more staid and conformist style of governance.

Then, days later, Trump was back to tweeting about a “bad (or sick)” President Obama bugging Trump Tower, a figment that roused his political base but instantly banished any Democratic goodwill or notions of presidential normalcy.

Fact check: What Trump got wrong in his State of the Union address

Fact check: What Trump got wrong in his State of the Union address

Jan 30, 2018 | 8:40 PM

Trump has shattered political convention in so many ways that it is difficult to enumerate them all. One of the most significant is this: Although the economy is perking smartly along and Americans tell pollsters they feel better about their financial well-being than they have in years, the president has gotten very little credit.

Indeed, his approval rating stands at a historical low for a chief executive this early in his term, severing the long-standing correlation between economic good times and voter satisfaction.

His speech Tuesday night, with its prime-time prominence and audience reaching in the tens of millions, offered a chance to address that problem. “Over the last year, we have made incredible progress and achieved extraordinary success,” Trump said, reeling off a number of favorable economic statistics.

But much of the address seemed aimed at a far narrower audience.

To a greater degree than any recent president, Trump has used his time in office to appease the relatively narrow slice of the electorate — older, whiter, alienated, aggrieved — that placed him in power, opting not to reach out, bend and seek to broaden that coalition.

His uncompromising performance Tuesday night perfectly encapsulated that approach. Supporters found much to like and detractors plenty to reinforce their contempt.

It is too much to expect any single speech, much less one as politically freighted as the State of the Union, to instantly bridge such a yawning gap. If anything, though, Trump’s provocative remarks seemed likely to push warring Democrats and Republicans even further apart.




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