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Rain comes amidst Caribbean turmoil

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March 14, 2010 will be remembered not so much for the celebrations saluting the country’s first national hero but for the rain that fell after about 5 months of prolonged drought. It was a glorious moment. We had for long been awaiting the rain. Few of us could remember a period of drought like this. The weather in fact teased us. There were many days when dark clouds hung over head only to later lift and leave us to the mercy of the heat and the extremely dry weather.{{more}} Many coconut trees had dried up and died. These were trees that had stood for years. This tells its own story and is testimony to the seriousness of the situation. Water had to be rationed in some areas and the Grenadines were, understandably hard hit, reaching a point of crisis. Then the rain came and we rejoiced and some like me wanted to dance in the rain.

As I hoped and prayed for the rain, one thing crossed my mind, the proposed Cross country Road. It was perhaps good that we went through this prolonged period of drought, for hopefully it would have made us more conscious of the value of water which we have been taking for granted even after all the fuss we made about the installation of water meters. The Antiguan based company, “Ivor Jackson and Associates,” in their report, entitled “Environmental Investigation and Cataloguing, St.Vincent Cross Country Road Project” had identified the possible impact of the proposed Cross Country Road on the Country’s water supply. This was among some of the major issues they identified. On page 97 of the Report the authors warned, “Increased erosion and the associated generation of significant sediment and turbidity is an unavoidable consequence of the construction of a Cross Country Road through the upper and middle catchments of river basins. The sediment would tend to clog run-of- river intake structures, increase maintenance cost and reduce the reliability of supply. The increased turbidity can be expected to clog filters and increase the difficulty and cost in adequately treating domestic water.” It suggested that they try to minimise the impact on the water supply by ‘limiting the number of river basins to be traversed…”

The report is ringed with references to the possible impact on our water resources. On page 25 the following is stated- “Water produced by intake fields and their catchments falling totally or partly within the study area represents 76.4 % of water produced yearly”. And it goes on and on with that issue. What is remarkable in all of this is that the Cross Country Road still appears to be an item on the national agenda. Let us hope good sense prevails and that we keep reminding ourselves of our recent drought experience.

Caribbean Turmoil Again

The Caribbean situation continues to stink. The CSME appears to be going nowhere quickly. The EPA matter is coming back to haunt us and then there are, Antigua, Trinidad and Tobago, Dominica and Jamaica. When we thought that the major issue affecting us was the economic crisis, a number of other things have appeared on the regional agenda that would obviously impact on the regional movement. In Jamaica there is embarrassment about the case involving the request by the United States for the extradition of an alleged drug lord. It is alleged that Christopher Coke, the person in question, has links to the party of Bruce Golding and the initial reluctance of Jamaica to accept the extradition request was interpreted by some persons as a result of that relationship. The matter has now been taken to the High Court which will review the US request. The claim that the Jamaican Government was protecting the rights of a Jamaican citizen was in this context seen largely as a smoke screen. So we await the decision of the Court. And now we go on to another decision by the Court. Not in Jamaica, but in Antigua. The Court has declared vacant three (3) seats held by the ruling party, the United Progressive Party. Included among the seats declared vacant is that of the Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer. The Court will again have to decide on this following an appeal by the governing party. But what is amazing is that the decision on an election petition comes more than a year after the elections and the assumption of office by the ruling party. Shouldn’t something be put in place to ensure that election petitions are dealt with speedily? If the UPP loses the appeal, what will be the implication? Would all decisions made by that party be declared null and void? This is a laughable matter and something has to be put in place throughout the region to force the Court to deal speedily with election appeals.

In Dominica, the Opposition Party there has taken a different approach. It is boycotting parliament in protest against the election results. The elected members have already missed two sessions of parliament and a third would lead to their dismissal. They appear to be indicating that they would not enter parliament until their grievances are addressed. This again, we will have to wait to see if the party under Ron Greene sticks to its grounds. Trinidad and Tobago, the land of scandal! Prime Minister Patrick Manning who has grown unpopular and disliked because of his arrogance and mishandling of the country’s affairs, has had to ask the President to dissolve parliament in preparation for a general election, 2 years and 7 months before it was due. He was forced into this position in an effort to avoid debate on a motion of no confidence brought by the Opposition, United National Congress. Information about the report of the Commission of Inquiry into the Urban Development Corporation (Udecott) had been leaking out and would have seriously embarrassed the PM and his PNM party. But he might be going from the frying pan into the fire. It was Dr. Keith Rowley, one of the senior members of his party who noted that the dissolution of parliament would only take the debate from parliament to the streets. What was also probably on the mind of the Prime Minister was the possibility that with the removal of Panday from active politics the road was clear for a coming together of the Congress of the People (COP) and the UNC. The PNM had been benefitting from the split within the UNC. A healing of that rift was likely to negatively impact on the fortunes of the PNM and on Manning who has become a ‘hotbed’ of corruption and arrogance, disliked even within his party. So that is the Caribbean for you but there is more!

Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian.

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