Tag Archives: Haiti

Was the US charge d’affaires surprised by Barbados’ refusal to look after Haitian injured?

Rickey Singh upset about diplomatic breach – Doesn’t mention that Barbados could take in some Haitians

In his current Nation News article US envoy’s ‘pressure’ on Barbados Rickey Singh is all upset that Brent Hardt, the chargé d’affaires of the United States of America for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, went public with Barbados’ refusal to take in Haitian injured.

Here’s some of what Rickey says:

My understanding is that both Minister of Health Donville Inniss and Foreign Affairs Minister Maxine McClean had communicated to Hardt why his request could not realistically be entertained. Then followed the diplomat’s surprising letter which, to say the least, did not accurately reflect the ministerial positions that had been conveyed to him before his written request, as he made known to the media.

The question is, why? When he claimed, as reported, that the “significant medical capacity in the Caribbean” made these countries “well placed” to treat the injured Haitians, was Hardt speaking out of first-hand knowledge or assumption? And which of the other governments in the region had he communicated his request to before, or after, engaging the attention of the Foreign Affairs and Health Ministers of Barbados?

Perhaps when, as I understand, he receives an official written response to his request on behalf of the injured Haitians, we may learn why, in the first place, the Barbados Government had to suffer such an unnecessary inconvenience to explain to a United States diplomat its inability, at this stage, to offer the medical care needed by the injured Haitian earthquake victims. Why push Barbados on the defensive when, like other CARICOM states, it is also currently actively involved in various efforts to help the people of Haiti?

US diplomat Brent Hardt

Aside from the diplomatic faux pas by Mr. Hardt (which I don’t mind at all considering he was trying to save some lives and Barbados said “Let ’em die”), I pose this question…

Could it be that Barbados has spread the “first world, little Britain” propaganda so effectively that Mr. Hardt truly is unable to comprehend our refusal?

Alternatively, might it be that Mr. Hardt is disgusted with Barbados because he, like everyone else on this island, knows that Bajans could easily take in a dozen or so amputees and their close families?

Could Mr. Hardt believe that the government’s refusal is based primarily upon current anti-immigration feelings in the population and other political considerations?

Whatever the reasons for refusal given by the Government of Barbados, the message comes through loud and clear: “No stinkin’ Haitians aboard the good ship Barbados. Not a one. Let ’em die.”

If you think that’s unfair, perhaps we can talk about it over cocktails at the Hilton or during a round at Ape’s Hill. Or, we could meet at the oval and chat while we admire the $300 million dollars we spent on our cricket palace.

Just don’t try to say that the sovereign nation of Barbados doesn’t have what it takes to accept 10 or 12 Haitian amputees and their close families for a year. There’s probably going to be that many rooms empty all year at Time Out at the Gap hotel alone.

Rickey Singh had better know that the Barbados government’s refusal to take in even a single Haitian victim and family has nothing to do with our capabilities.

The US chargé d’affaires knows that too.

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Preparing for the worst – Some implications of a major earthquake on Trinidad & Tobago

Afra Raymond looks Lessons from Haiti

We have all looked on in horror at the scenes of destruction and human suffering, experienced by our Caribbean neighbours in Haiti as a result of the strong earthquake on 12th January.  Coming after the horror and attempts to assist, my mind shifted to the possibility of such a disaster in our country.  That prompted me to attend the seminar organized by the Association of Professional Engineers of T&T (APETT) and the T&T Contractors’ Association (TTCA) at Crowne Plaza on Wednesday 3rd February.  The seminar was excellent and such was the content that this week I am setting aside the other important matters with which I have been dealing.

The Structural situation

We heard several presentations from engineers and the President of the TTCA which set out the structural situation.  Some of the main points emerging there were that we are at significant risk because –

“An approved national building code does not exist at this time, designers use building codes with which they are familiar,” Darryl Thomson, a standards officer at the Trinidad and Tobago Bureau of Standards (TTBS), said during his presentation.

“I would think generally we are not (prepared) and we need to seriously look at what we are doing and change the way we do business where the built environment is concerned,” President of TTCA, Mikey Joseph said.

Past-President of APETT, Mark Francois, told us of estimated multi-billion dollar damage to buildings if a natural disaster were to hit our main cities. “Potential building economic loss … in Port of Spain was of the order of US$5 billion and in San Fernando US$6 billion” Francois said.

Francois went on to make 3 other important points – firstly, as a former British colony, our professionals had used British Standards up until the late 1960s, with the risk to us being that, since the British Isles are not prone, those standards did not take account of earthquakes.  As a result, he stated that major parts of our civil infrastructure, upon which we would rely in a disaster, were not designed or built to withstand earthquakes.  His example of the POS General Hospital being one such structure was sobering.  Secondly, he stated that building plans are being certified by engineers who do not posses the necessary qualifications in structural work and that he had done assignments to re-design some of those ‘certified’ plans.  Thirdly, he dealt with the well-known practice of engaging personnel employed with the regulatory authorities to draw plans for buildings and obtain permission.  This begs the question as to how could a public employee on such a ‘PJ’ fail to pass their own plans.

These quotes were drawn from the Trinidad Express story on Friday 5th February.

The Seismic situation

The speaker on this aspect was Dr. Walter Salazar, Senior Research Fellow at the Seismic Research unit at UWI.  The three main points from his presentation were firstly, that our country is indeed at similar risk as Haiti in terms of a strong earthquake.  Secondly, the most likely areas for the strongest earthquakes are Tobago and the north-west peninsula of Trinidad, particularly Chaguaramus.  Thirdly, we are now overdue for that strong earthquake.

The disaster-preparedness situation

The head of our Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management (ODPM), Col. George Robinson has confirmed, in light of natural public concerns, that our systems are in place to deal with such an earthquake.  Knowing the individual, there is little doubt in my mind that the necessary diligence has been applied to developing solid systems.

What is the likely financial impact?

My concerns as to our level of earthquake-preparedness are rooted elsewhere and that is at the level of the ‘financial safety-net’ upon which we would rely in the event of such a disaster.  Our low national savings rates have long been a concern of economists/financial experts.  We do not save enough money, in the view of these experts, to propel our country’s journey to the next level of national development.  My concern is the implied question of how we would cope with a destructive earthquake.

Add to that the fact that only a small fraction of our buildings are properly insured and a worrying element to the disaster-preparedness picture starts to emerge.

Aside from the structural concerns and seismic risks as outlined above, there is a question as to the nature and extent of our financial safety-net.  Where will we find the money to rebuild?  Our lending institutions need effective systems to ensure that the properties they hold as security are properly insured.

Such an earthquake would also damage our infrastructure – roads, water and electrical distribution systems, drains and so on.

As a consequence, even if your own property is undamaged or properly-insured, you could also suffer from the wider damage.  If your entire neighbourhood is severely-damaged, apart from the issue of loss of life and physical injury, there would be a negative effect on the value of your property.

This issue affects everyone.

Some suggestions

I am suggesting that this is an issue which needs our urgent attention and that the private sector can take the lead.  The Association of Trinidad & Tobago Insurance Companies (ATTIC) and the Bankers’ Association of Trinidad & Tobago (BATT) can take a leadership position here.  One way forward could be for the insurance and banking sectors to agree, in their self-interest, a minimum code for design and construction with APETT and the TTCA.  That would be one way to set a benchmark in terms of proper standards for all financed or insured construction going forward.

In terms of existing privately-owned building owners, the Central Bank should consider adding a component on the importance of proper insurance to their National Financial Literacy Programme.

The other urgent requirement is the retro-fitting of our major public buildings to meet the challenge of these overdue earthquakes.

Thank you to APETT and the TTCA for organising this important intervention.

Afra Raymond is a Chartered Surveyor, Managing Director of Raymond & Pierre Limited and President of the Institute of Surveyors of Trinidad & Tobago.  Feedback can be sent to afra@raymondandpierre.com.

Afra Raymond also writes a blog: Afra Raymond’s blog

Photo courtesy of the Real Hope for Haiti Rescue Center blog

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Unfair cartoon? The Truth? A little of both?

See BFP’s article Barbados refuses request to look after injured Haitians. “Even one is too many for our health care system” says Bajan Foreign Minister.

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Barbados refuses request to look after injured Haitians. “Even one is too many for our health care system” says Bajan Foreign Minister.

UPDATED: January 12, 2011

One year after the earthquake that killed 300,000 and made a million or more homeless we take our readers back to this article, first published on February 8, 2010. Also worth reading is a new Barbados Today editorial Haiti I’m sorry! that says this…

It seems like ages since the appeals for aid disappeared from our landscape. The pictures of aircraft and soldiers from the Regional Security System flying into Haiti with aid have also disappeared. Even more telling, we have heard little to nothing from our CARICOM leaders about Haiti of late. Haiti, never known for being high on the agenda of our leaders, has no doubt slipped further down the list, given that regional integration and Caribbean unity have taken a back seat to the “home-drums-beat-first” mentality of our current leaders.

As far as we are aware, there has not even been a regional attempt to commemorate what must arguably be the greatest human tragedy in this part of the world for centuries.

What’s sad about this is that we must all be aware that what visited Haiti one year ago had not been invited by Haitians; and that every island of this region is as vulnerable to such a catastrophe. In the blink of an eye, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, St. Lucia, any of our islands, can be thrown into absolute misery by an act of nature.

Have a read of the Barbados Today editorial and our original article below and you’ll see that we called it correctly back then. For all the words of our leaders and the hours of non-stop coverage on CBC, Barbados as a country did so little. We and our Caribbean neighbours basically said…

“No stinkin’ Haitians aboard the good ship Barbados. Not a one. Let ‘em die.”

And that, my friends, is exactly how it turned out.

Original BFP article published February 8, 2010…

It didn’t take long to cut through the Bajan veneer of sincerity about Haiti, did it?

Barbados will not take in a single injured patient from Haiti. Not twenty. Not ten. Not five. Not two. Not even one.

Our sovereign nation was formally asked by the USA to take some patients from the hospital ship, the USS Comfort, because the ship is full and people are being turned away to die. We were asked to take critical care patients, but if we couldn’t manage that we were also asked to take amputees in stable condition to free up space and medical resources in Haiti.

Barbados said “No” Continue reading

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Maritime Lawyer Jim Walker comments on the pathetic failure of Royal Caribbean to help Haiti

Royal Caribbean’s Haitian response called “A Sick Joke”

Our article Royal Caribbean passengers frolic in Haiti as the screams from the rubble continue touched a few raw nerves, but BFP isn’t the only blog questioning the cruise industry’s failure to respond with their full might to the mass deaths still happening in Haiti. As a matter of interest, a Google search reveals dozens if not over a hundred critical articles out there so far.

Maritime lawyer Jim Walker runs Cruise Law News blog out of his Miami law office where he specializes in representing crew members and passengers who have been injured, assaulted or otherwise had a bad experience with the cruise line industry.

Mr. Walker is naturally much more knowledgeable about the cruise industry than we are, and even if he is normally on the opposite side of the industry, when you read his articles, you’ll pay attention. Here are some samples from his article Royal Caribbean “Returns” to its Trademarked, Private Fantasy Island of Labadee® – While Haiti Suffers.

The photos are supplied by Royal Caribbean through Mr. Walker. Royal Caribbean probably intended that the photos would be evidence of their worthy response, but we at Barbados Free Press find them totally pathetic…

“In the last few days, Royal Caribbean has made a big deal talking about offloading pallets of food for Haiti. Royal Caribbean’s Independence of the Seas sailed with only 60 cases of food and water  last Friday according to the Royal Caribbean President’s “Nation of Why Not?” blog. That’s just four pallets. The blog has some photographs of the few pallets from the Independence of the Seas – four pallets of flour, tomato sauce, can goods, and water bottles. Four pallets? 

Considering that on a typical seven-day cruise Labadee – Haiti – Royal Caribbean “Private Destination”the cruise ship’s passengers consume over 100,000 pounds of food and 12,000 gallons of alcohol over the course of over a hundred thousand meals- the photograph of the meager provisions sitting on the dock dwarfed by the huge Independence of the Seas seems like a sick joke.”

“Now a million dollars is a lot of money to me and probably anyone reading this article, but it is peanuts for a cruise line like Royal Caribbean.

Royal Caribbean collects around $6,000,000,000 (billion) a year.  And because it registered its business in Liberia and its cruise ships fly the foreign flags of Liberia or the Bahamas, it pays $0 in federal Income taxes. $0.

Why only a million dollars?  That will accomplish little. Even Royal Caribbean’s competitor Carnival promised to send $5 million to Haiti, and it has no relationship with Haiti.  The $6 a passenger deal which Royal Caribbean struck with the leaders of Haiti rips the Haitian people off.  $6 to go into a 260 acre private paradise?  Well established ports in Alaska collect $50 a passenger in head taxes just to step off of the cruise ship.”

Royal Caribbean tosses a few coins to the native swimmers.

“The executives at Royal Caribbean know how to make a hard bargain with Caribbean islands which have little economic bargaining power. CEO Richard Fain cut a deal where for only $6 a passenger (paid by the passenger), Haiti turned over a 260 acre tropical waterfront paradise of Haitian sovereign land for Royal Caribbean to consider it “private property” bearing the trademarked name “Labadee®.” Yes, that’s right.  This is a name that Royal Caribbean trademarked as a variation of the French slave owner Marquis de La’Badie who settled in Haiti in the 1600’s.

Many years ago an article revealed the hypocrisy of this whole endeavor.  Entitled “Fantasy Island:  Royal Carribean Parcels Off a Piece of Haiti,” the article explained that Royal Caribbean began docking in Haiti in January 1986 after the ruthless dictator Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier leased the land to Royal Caribbean.  He thereafter fled to France and the country turned into chaos for the next decade.”

… read the entire article at Jim Walker’s Cruise Law News: Royal Caribbean “Returns” to its Trademarked, Private Fantasy Island of Labadee® – While Haiti Suffers.

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Where is God? – Trapped & Dying in Haiti text, blog for help as the cell phones come back on

Pray for missionaries Licia & Enoch Betor at Ground Zero in Haiti

If you can take reading her words, seeing her photos: Real Hope for Haiti Rescue Centre blog

“We are asking you to pray about..

  • The Rescue Center location.  The damage is getting worse with each tremor that we have.  We need to make some decisions soon.  The kids have been living and sleeping outside since Tuesday night.  We are thinking a new location that is not far away.
  • Infant formula and food for the kids
  • fuel for generator and vehicles
  • the kids in the RC and my kids peace in their hearts
  • some way to be able to get some Haitian cash.  All banks and places we usually exchange money are closed.

I am a wife and mother to three wonderful and wild boys. I have lived in Haiti since 1995 and run a Rescue Center that houses around 60 children that are sick and suffering from severe forms of malnutrition.”

“I do not pretend to understand the suffering that is happening right now in this country.  I know we all feel like we had had enough over the years.  The staff has come in to work. They are praying for their loves ones in town.  They are hoping for news and believing that they will soon here from them.  Mothers and father are weeping for their lost children.  Children are crying for their lost parents.

One of Enoch’s friends was trapped inside his house with his (the friends) two brothers and his mother.  They all died and people were trying to rescue him.  He kept yelling at them to stop and leave him alone.  He wanted to die with his family.

“They asked what they could drop down to him and he asked for a gun to kill himself.”

The reality is even when the outside world begins arrives what can be done.  Most of the city is damaged and needs to be torn down.  Thousands upon thousands of dead bodies are laying all over the place.  We have heard they are digging huge mass graves in the dump area.”

"We are still having patients coming in from Port-au-Prince, most are from the village out here but just live in town. This boy got here yesterday afternoon. He had been trapped under blocks at his house. His right left was broken in two places. He left leg was smashed below the knee. It was cold and turning black. His father walked into the yard and just fell apart. He lost his wife and four other children. He was so thankful that he was able to pull out the son above. He just wanted to go someplace other that back to Port-au-Prince. Then we had to tell him he had to return to the hell he had just left. He son’s leg needs to be amputated for him to survive."

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Haiti destroyed, Airport closed to rescue flights, seaport unusable – How many new Haitian Immigrants is Barbados willing to take?

Anarchy as machete-wielding gangs fight to establish turf, loot.

Obama pledges US$100 million “to start”

US Special Forces Teams seize and secure airport

Two days after the earthquake, current aerial photographs of Haiti show a country a place so utterly destroyed that one wonders if any buildings will be found worth preserving when some assessment is done years from now.

There is no Haitian government emergency response worth talking about. The government and infrastructure were never worth talking about anyway, and I’d bet that the government no longer exists as a real entity. That is the situation being reported from the rubble. Haiti right now is not a country in the organised sense of the word.

Haiti is a place where eight or nine million people are sitting out in the open as aftershocks make it dangerous to seek shelter in any of the damaged buildings still left standing. Most of those who are still alive and trapped deep in the rubble will never see the sun again because it will be weeks before “rescue” teams with heavy equipment and hydraulic jacks make it to them. That’s not me talking, that’s rapidly becoming the message from those in charge of the relief efforts.

Remember how Barbados struggled when one house collapsed into a cave?

We couldn’t rescue five people with everything we had on the island and a special team in from the United States. Now think about Haiti.

(See BFP’s March 17, 2009 article Expert: Arch Cot Cave-In Victims May Have Been Killed By Wrong Decisions, Actions and Inaction By Barbados Emergency Officials)

Reports state that clean water and food are simply not available. Soon even relatively healthy and uninjured people will begin to succumb. If you think that is not what is going to happen, I hope you’re correct. But when I consider what it would take to give every man, woman and child just one bottle of water and a disaster cookie starting tomorrow and every day thereafter… Well, that isn’t going to happen for a few weeks anyway.

The world couldn’t (or wouldn’t) supply every Haitian man, woman and child with a drink of clean water and one meal a day before the earthquake. What makes you think it will happen within a few days now?

Don’t forget: it’s not as if there are warehouses and stores that have adequate supplies if the people could only get to them and dig out what they need. Haiti is was a country were dirt cookies were sold as food right up to the day of the earthquake. Haiti was a country where tons of food aid sat rotting in the sun every day because the charity organisations didn’t have enough money to bribe the government officials to release the containers so the poor could eat. (See BFP’s March 7, 2008 article Tons of food aid rotting in Haiti)

Haiti’s Airport now Closed to Rescue & Aid Flights

(As of Thursday, January 14, 2010 – 22:00 hours local time)

Airport Closed – Port-au-Prince cargo docks “unusable”

“Jan. 14 (Bloomberg) — Rescuers from around the world poured into Haiti, overwhelming its only international airport as the Haitian Red Cross estimated as many as 50,000 people died in the country’s Jan. 12 earthquake.

With little time left to find those still buried in the rubble, rescue teams were stuck at the Port-au-Prince airport and civilian relief flights couldn’t land after its ramps filled with craft, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration said in a notice. The airport also lacked fuel for planes to fly home.”

“…the U.S. Coast Guard said cargo docks in Port-au-Prince were unusable.”

… from Business Week article: Global aid pours in as Haiti searches for survivors

How many new Haitian immigrants is Barbados willing to take?

Alright folks, it’s time for Barbados to put up or shut up.

After the world (read “Primarily the United States of America”) saves as many Haitians as can be saved in the next few weeks, then what?

Haiti wasn’t a country that worked to begin with. At this point, it doesn’t really matter why it didn’t work, but merely shipping in food and shelter isn’t going to solve much in the long run. It may take decades to physically rebuild something from the rubble, but unless Haiti and Haitians develop new cultural and social values and skills along the way – unless they learn to be a workable society – the country will continue to be as close to hell on earth as we have in the Western Hemisphere. (And that was before the earthquake)

So here’s a suggestion: The Caribbean community should agree to take 10% of Haiti’s population from the island and to sponsor the immigrants for five years. The number of Haitian immigrants arriving in each country would be based upon that country’s abilities and space, but in total the Caribbean community would see about a million Haitians immigrating to the various member countries for five years.

During those five years, the Caribbean countries would try to teach the Haitians skills and the cultural values that work. This would relieve significant pressure upon the rebuilding of Haiti, and in five years the 10% of the population would return and hopefully be in a better position to move Haiti forward.

If someone has a better suggestion for rebuilding Haiti, I’d like to hear it.

Meanwhile, let’s ask the question of our fellow Bajans…

How many new Haitian immigrants are you willing to bring to Barbados if that’s what it takes to save people and rebuild Haiti as a working society?

Further Reading

You must read this New York Times op/ed: The Underlying Tragedy

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