Political bias undermines the integrity of the University of the West Indies

Open letter to Matthew Peters, President UWI Student Guild, St Augustine campus

“The fact that you could openly admit that there were persons with whom you surround yourself, who flagrantly scorned the inclusion of any government member in the panel, clearly reflects a bias in your organizing committee.”

Mr. Matthew Peters
President
Student Guild
The University of the West Indies – St. Augustine Campus

Dear Mr. Peters,

An Election Poster by any name! (click for large)

An Election Poster by any name! (click for large)

I do hope that this email does not intimidate you in any way, but as many of the persons copied can attest to, this style of ‘blogging’ has become a habit of mine in an effort to transport the art of debating into the 21st century. I would also like you to know that I have blind-copied government officials in this email as well, however, following the cause célèbre that was ‘emailgate’ I feel it is now necessary to preserve the identity of these email addresses lest another unfortunate incident such as that should fabricate.

It is actually in keeping with this philosophy that I approached your good self that fateful evening, only yesterday, to convey my opinion of your planned forum on the proposed budget currently being debated in the august halls of Parliament. Now for those who may not already be aware, The Student Guild at The UWI St. Augustine Campus in conjunction with the ‘Heliconia Foundation for Young Professionals PNM Youth League’ (sic), will be hosting a Post Budget Forum on Wednesday 17th September, 2014. This forum, which is being held on campus, will feature the following panelists:

  • Dr. the Hon. Keith Rowley, Leader of the Opposition and Member of Parliament for Diego Martin West;
  • Dr. the Hon. Lester Henry – Opposition Senator;
  • Mr. Matthew Peters – President of the Student Guild; and
  • Ms. Melissa Pulchan – Youth Speaker.

I had previously been unaware of the event when I happened to glimpse the handbill fluttering upon the wall it was hastily stuck against, as if trying to escape its glue-bound confinement. Upon further inspection I experienced an agglomeration of emotion all attacking me at once, while simultaneously wondering if it was real. To my dread, indeed it was real, a printed notification announcing a political meeting to be held in the once hallowed and respected halls of The UWI campus under the guise of academic forum. One need only to examine any of the dozens of flyers currently littering the hallways on campus to arrive at this determination. For those unable to do so in person however, I submit a photo of the flyer, attached to this email, for your own perusal.

Why would the picture of Hon. Dr. Rowley, featured across a quarter of the face,  so glamorously display his balisier tie, given that it’s the PNM’s official logo? Why else would the panel consist of only members of the PNM? And why collaborate with the Heliconia Foundation, which is rooted firmly within the ambit of the PNM? If there was any doubt that the PNM propaganda machine had been stagnating, this clearly proves otherwise. Continue reading

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Filed under Corruption, Education, Political Corruption, Politics, Politics & Corruption

Barbados hotel investment collapsing as government concessions to Sandals set the expected standard

level-playing-field

Barbados tourism investment ‘level playing field’

Adrian Loveridge - tourism expert, hotel owner

Adrian Loveridge – tourism expert, hotel owner

It reminds me a little of the rather repetitive ‘ad’ aired on local radio, ‘how low can you go’. There are almost always consequences for the failure to implement policies and address the overwhelming concerns of an entire industry.

Therefore it was inevitable that it would manifest itself in the shortest possible time. The Daily Nation article published last week ‘Jobs on Hold’ graphically demonstrates the dangers of attempting to invest, upgrade and re-open one of our many closed hotels, in a climate that lacks a level playing field.

If the reporting was accurate, then a potential 320 jobs, $4 million refurbishment plan, $5 million in foreign exchange and getting 145 improved rooms back into the marketplace for the upcoming critical winter season is now beyond possibility. That could represent a further loss of almost 300 airline seats per week, which may play a crucial part in helping fill and ensuring the sustainability of the two new Delta flights from Atlanta and New York starting early December.

An enhanced Amaryllis would have also helped bridge the gap of product quality offerings from when Sandals is scheduled to re-open its doors in late January 2015.

What I find so incredulous is that did our policymakers not think through that no substantive investor in their right mind would speculate millions of dollars into new or improved plant, before having in place the unimpeded similar concessions that Sandals extracted.

I also think that as a matter of urgency, some analysis needs to be done by the Central Bank of Barbados to see in ‘real’ terms if foreign exchange generated by our accommodation sector, that is retained in the country has fallen in a desperate attempt to replicate Sandals policy of collecting revenue offshore.

If in fact this figure is down there will be further negative implications in terms of taxation collected and payable to Government through VAT and any corporate taxes payable.

These issues have to be addressed now if there is any realistic chance in returning our tourism sector to growth and lifting it out of the current prolonged period of arrival numbers stagnation.

The longer the administration delays universal implementation of all the pledged concessions, the closer is the risk that more hotels will close.

As a destination, we currently hold the record for the most failed tourism accommodation properties within the Caribbean.

Later this week the Minister of Finance has kindly consented to address the third quarterly meeting of the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association. It would seem like this would be an ideal forum to declare that the promised ‘permanent’ legislation is now in place. Only then can the entire industry start rebuilding a sector that clearly is experiencing prolonged and severe distress.

Using the Minister’s own recent ‘instant coffee society’ analogy, as the pot has been on the boil so long already and the expectations have evaporated, it will not be the beverage of choice for me this Thursday.

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Filed under Barbados, Barbados Tourism, Economy

The ‘Grand Corruption’

afra raymond CMMB

by Afra Raymond

The recent scandals at LifeSport, Eden Gardens, THA/BOLT, CAL, CL Financial and of course, the Beetham Water Recycling Project, all show the extent to which the Treasury is being targeted by well-connected parties.

There is a constant stream of allegations of ‘Grand Corruption’, which is little surprise in our society in which an unsupported allegation is so often used to discredit an opponent. There is no comfort to be had in that observation, since the other reality is that thorough investigations and prosecutions are only done against ones political enemies, inside or outside the ruling party. That is the sobering reality in our Republic, in which we should all enjoy equal rights and be held to common standards. Different strokes for different folks, just like back in the ‘bad-old-days‘.

It seems to me that the defining question, in terms of whether the various financial crimes are taken seriously, is whether the accused persons are ‘members in good standing‘, so to speak.

The extent to which our Treasury is protected from being plundered by criminal elements is a serious question which should concern every citizen, given that the Public Money in the Treasury belongs to us as citizens and taxpayers. The frequency with which these financial crimes are overlooked is nothing less than scandalous, as any of the Auditor General’s Reports in the previous decade would attest. Permanent Secretaries approving payments in breach of financial regulations; payments made with no documents (leases, contracts or agreements) on file; failure or refusal to produce documents as required by law upon the Auditor General’s request and so many other types of lawbreaking. The same types of conduct is also rife in State Enterprises, which is why so many of the larger ones are unable to produce accounts as required by the very Ministry of Finance which sets those rules and continues to fund them.

The wicked part is that these Public Officials are virtually never charged with breaking the law or made to face any other serious consequences for their misbehaviour in Public Office. We need a new beginning in terms of how we handle the reality of our country’s wealth and its intentionally-degraded laws for controlling how our Public Money is used. A big part of that would be a political dispensation in which full investigations and prosecutions were the norm, especially when key members of the ruling party are the target of allegations.

Our budgeting process now shows all the signs that our system of Public Financial Management is ineffective in dealing with the seasoned criminals who are hard at work helping themselves to our money, whatever the political party in power. At that level, at least, there is little evidence of discrimination.

… read the full article at Afra Raymond’s blog For a Few Dollars More

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Filed under Corruption, Politics, Politics & Corruption, Trinidad and Tobago

Barbados prisoner John Lepp on hunger strike – held for 3 years without trial. Has lost 70 pounds since arrest.

Barbados Free Press received the following from a relative of John Lepp. We researched online and found a Barbados court docket from 2011 for Mr. Lepp. That’s all we know.

Here is the message as we received it…

WRONGFULLY IMPRISONED MAN ON REMAND FOR 42 MONTHS WITHOUT TRIAL NOW ON HUNGER STRIKE AT HM DODDS PRISON, BARBADOS.

Mr John Lepp has been imprisoned wrongfully within Barbados’ HM Dodds Prison for three and a half years, held on remand without a fair trial. He has now sanctioned a hunger strike, drinking only water until his case is heard fairly and he is released from the hell he was so wrongfully endured.

The conditions he has been living in are appalling, so much so that Mr John Lepp relates it to ‘living like dogs’. These conditions are described as being worse than the convicted criminals who are actually serving time. Whilst held on remand he has been fed a malnourished diet of bread and water everyday for three and a half years. The results of this underfeeding can be seen in the 70lbs he has lost since being taken into custody in 2011. This is COMPLETELY UNACCEPTABLE.

Mr John Lepp is serious and vowing on all grounds that he will see the hunger strike through until the end in a fight for his human rights with the hope of achieving a fair trial. Much like the Raul Garcia case, John Lepp will not stop and will put his life on the line in order to bring his awful, appalling and utterly inhumane treatment to an end.

It seems that those who are left on remand are stripped entirely of their human rights and merely forgotten about. Thus it is now clear that Mr John Lepp’s voice may only be heard through the extremity of a hunger strike.

THIS MUST BE STOPPED.

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Filed under Barbados, Human Rights

A bit ‘o Barbados history: Walter Tull, first black British Army officer died at Somme Valley, France 1918

Walter_Tull

“There were military laws forbidding ‘any negro or person of colour’ being commissioned as an officer, despite this, Walter was promoted to lieutenant in 1917.”

Royal Mint to issue coin to honour the first black British Army officer

Walter Daniel John Tull was born on April 28, 1888 in Folkestone, Kent, England – the son of Barbadian carpenter Daniel Tull and Kent-born Alice Elizabeth Palmer. Orphaned at about seven years old, he was raised in an orphanage. The start of World War I found Tull doing quite well as a professional footballer, but he volunteered to serve and in 1916 fought in the Battle of the Somme, rising to the rank of Sergeant.

You have to understand that a negro/person of colour was not allowed to command white soldiers, but because of the need and Tull’s talent and earned respect, he was placed in charge of white soldiers and eventually promoted to lieutenant.

Tull was machine gunned to death on March 25, 2918. According to reports, several of his men (white soldiers all) tried to recover his body but could not due to the battle. His body was never found and Tull remains on the field of battle with thousands of his comrades.

There are efforts to recognize Walter Tull with a statue or a belated medal, but perhaps the best recognition is for Bajans to tell his story to others.

For the interested, here is where you can find a little more depth and details…

Wikipedia: Walter Tull

Walter Tull Sports Association: Who is Walter Tull?

The Guardian: Walter Tull, the first black officer in the British army, to feature on £5 coin

Our thanks to our old friend Christopher for reminding us of Walter Tull.

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Filed under Barbados, Culture & Race Issues, History, Military, Race

Three weeks since garbage collection in Callender Gardens

Typical roadside wildlife: The not so rare Genus "plasticus baggis trashisus"

Typical roadside wildlife: The not so rare Genus “plasticus baggis trashisus”

The Solid Waste Tax is in effect and I had hoped that what I am experiencing now would not occur. It has now been 3 weeks garbage in my area (Callender Gardens, Christ Church) has not been collected. However just a stone throw away garbage has been collected in Callender Court every week.  I cannot fathom the method which which they are operating.

I am wondering when  they will collect the garbage since the increase of trash is quite evident daily. Thanks.

(Name withheld by BFP editor)

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Filed under Barbados, Consumer Issues, Environment

Barbados government okays Communist Party of China to educate young Barbadians

china-barbados-flag-sm

Barbados’ Minister of Education Ronald Jones gushed with fawning excitement at the unveiling of a plaque to announce that the Communist Party of China will now be teaching our young people their version of China’s history, foreign affairs and human rights. Press release here

China’s Ambassador to Barbados, Wang Ke, was smiling too because he knows that the Chinese Communist Party’s access to our Bajan youth will be on an exclusive basis – with no opposition or human rights groups allowed to spoil the party at the new Confucius Institute to be established at UWI’s Cave Hill Campus.

Teaching adherence to the Chinese Communist party line is a basic requirement by the ChiComs if Barbados is to receive the construction funds and ongoing operational costs from China.

China has built hundreds of these institutions all over the world, that according to various news stories, act as propaganda and espionage centres for the communists.

Don’t expect too many discussions about Tibet, China’s harvesting of organs from executed political prisoners, China’s slave camp system, new African colonialism or government persecution of Christians.

Just take that money and run!

Because… when you’re broke and begging you have no independence left at all.

from Wikipedia Criticisms of Confucius Institutes

“The Confucius Institute (CI) program, which began establishing centers for Chinese language instruction in 2004, has been the subject of criticisms, concerns, and controversies during its international expansion.

Many such concerns stem from the CI’s relationship to Chinese Communist Party authorities, giving rise to criticisms about undermining academic freedom at host universities, engaging in industrial and military espionage, surveillance of Chinese students abroad, and attempts to advance the single-party state Chinese government’s political agendas on controversial issues such as Tibet and Taiwan. Additional concerns have arisen over the institutes’ financial and academic viability, teaching quality, and relations with Chinese partner universities.

Confucius Institutes have defended their establishments, comparing them with other cultural promotion organizations such as Alliance française and Goethe-Institut. However, unlike the Alliance francaise or Goethe-Institut, Confucius Institutes are managed by the Chinese government and operate directly on university campuses, thus giving rise to unique concerns related to academic freedom and political influence. Some observers have noted that CIs are largely limited to teaching cultural and language programs, and the institutes’ staff tend to self-censor with regards to political and controversial subjects as human rights and democracy.”

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Filed under Barbados, China, Education, Human Rights