Category Archives: Governance

Time to get rid of the Jon crows: The issue of TV coverage of sport

Frustration, even anger, are not unknown emotions to most people. However, when they come and you feel that it’s because of something truly avoidable, they tend to intensify. I was enraged last Sunday (August 16) when I was unable to watch the men’s 100 metres final in the World Championships, from Berlin. I wanted to see history happen, with Jamaica’s Usain Bolt winning as in last year’s Olympics and breaking his world record set then. But, the machinations of a corporation or two who did not see it possible to help me and other people living in Barbados share that moment was all it took for frustration to turn to rage to turn to anger. Canadian Broadcasting Corporationcame to the rescue (oh, thanks, Canada), by cutting away from the ATP tennis at the Roger’s Masters Final in Montreal to show the race with a 15 minute delay.

In the meantime, I had gone ‘back to the future’: I had experienced the race live. An irate Jamaican friend on the phone in my left hand, was listening to me attentively. A friend who worked for VOB on the phone in my right hand, was giving me step-by-step commentary, that I was repeating to my Yardee. “They’re off. Bolt is ahead. Bolt surges ahead. No one in sight. Bolt wins! Bolt. New world record. 9.58 seconds. Usain Bolt…” At the end of my rebroadcast, my Jamaican friend was whooping and hollering, “Yes! We do it! Yes. Praise Jesus. Yes!”

But, why did we need to go back to the 1920s? It appears that Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) had bought the television rights, but Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation had not paid to share those rights. So, we in Barbados lived the ‘hermit’s life on the momentous moment. It was not until Thursday, August 20, that CMC clarified what CBC had done. That was after….Barbados’ Ryan Brathwaite had created no small piece of history for this small rock, by winning the men’s 110 metres hurdles in 13.14 seconds, a new national record (which he had just broken with 13.18 secs. in the semis). Oh dear, Barbados had not been able to see its son have HIS day in the sun. People in Barbados were now very angry–they should have been since Sunday, but different strokes for different folks. “Why we cyan see dis? Why?” was the general call. But, praise CMC for making sure the right person is under the bus.

I love to see Caribbean integration possibilities wither and die: much as I believe that such integration is possible and could be beneficial, many do not. So, better to leave no doubts when you do not believe. CMC? It seems you did the right thing, so I read a correction to my letter below. CBC? Whatever your reasons for not buying the rights, you will be held up in the annals of history for a CRAVEN act. Some would like to suggest that the problem is simply that CBC has a new General Manager, Lars Soderstrom (a former international media consultant), who is non-Caribbean. That has to be too simplistic a view. It is about management generally, remembering that CBC is government-owned. If government is not influencing its policies then perhaps I need to look at the person with line responsibilities. No. CBC failed us–yes, it is personal–when success was so easy: snatching defeat from the jaws of victory–a rare talent. I suspect the capabities of a media company that does not see the need for, or merit in, putting dates on its online material; try a link and see for yourself. Would that the region were rid of craven actors. If anyone says that CBC’s actions were due to financial constraints I will demand a full and forensic investigation of their transactions over the past 12 months. Why? B.E.C.A.U.S.E. they did the same thing for the Beijing Olympics. So, craven then. Craven now. One word to describe them. Jon crow!

My letter, written early on Monday and sent to several newspapers (Gleaner-Jamaica; Advocate and Nation-Barbados), which reads more muted than I was, was published on August 21. Fittingly, the day when they could celebrate their first gold.

I am no politician and hold no political ambitions–never have. But, I want leadership that can feel people’s needs and cater to them. Leaders who are not simply ready to pass by possible moments in our history for reasons that have nothing to do with a gun being held to their heads. I want people who learn from mistakes leading and running institutions in the Caribbean. I DO NOT WANT JON CROWS NEAR ME! I am not carrion and am not to be fed upon as if I am dead and have no feelings. I do feel and I will respond. Jon crows need dead meat to survive. Stop feeding the Jon crow.

Read on, for the letter. My Living in Barbados blog, also has a piece that verbalises in Patois how I felt on the day (‘What a shame!’). Standard English is for ordinary moments. Patois is for expressions from the heart. There is a follow-on piece that tries to share the joy that was experienced when I found live coverage, in a sports bar in Barbados. I did share fully with Jamaicans and Barbadians THE moments when Usain broke the 200 metres record again, and took gold–the day before his birthday. I did see and live through the agonizing tension of the 100 metres hurdles, which after a blanket finish, needed many minutes to declare Ryan Brathwaite the winner. I did glow as Melaine Walker took gold in the 400 metres and laugh myself silly as the mascot took her on a lap of honour only to lapse into a stadium machine and turn Melaine into a pole vaulter. Some of those moments are also on my Living in Barbados blog (‘Rage ain’t nothing but a number’).

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Here is the link to the Advocate letter. The printed text is below, with my correction regarding CMC/CBC inserted.

Where’s the coverage?

8/21/2009

THE joy of Caribbeans – in my case, Jamaicans – winning medals at the 2009 World Championships in Berlin has been a frustrating experience, or non experience to try to share. Those of us in Barbados have once again to endure what seems like a disregard for support for our region.

CMC [correction: CBC] did not buy the television broadcast rights. We have therefore been subjected to the displeasing situation of listening to the events, when broadcast, on radio. Just like in the good old Colonial days. I felt insulted as a national and as person of this Caribbean region.

We have reason to be proud, that our smallness in size and number is clearly no limitation on our ambition and achievement.

But it would seem that that pride is not shared or we will not be allowed to share it ‘live and direct’.

We look at the few symbols of regional unity and most of them are in tatters. We all know we are nationalistic, at least in part. It is natural. But we are also in need of integration and collaboration as a region. The action of CMC [correction: CBC] is to me another nail in the coffin of Caribbean unity. We saw how the region could share in the gains of one or a few nations as if we were all one.

I wont go to the historic racial significance of Berlin, and recall the ignominy faced by Jesse Owens in the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin. (Many readers will only know this from history books, or now, the Internet, see http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/system/topicRoot/Jesse_Owens_at_the_Berlin_Olymp/).

I just note that many black athletes in 2009 have proudly shown solidarity with that moment by emblems denoting Jesse Owens.

All we ask is for CMC [correction: CBC] to show a little solidarity, too.

This was just too much for me.

Dennis Jones

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The JPG version of the printed page is below (Advocate does not archive the print versions of the papers, for legal reasons).

World Champs Letter Advocate Aug 21 2009

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Time for some cleansing, no matter how unpalatable

An enormous brouhaha has erupted over the use of the word “cleansing”. The problems have evolved not from the use of the word in isolation, but with its usage in conjunction with certain adjectives. The most notable recent usage in the Caribbean region was that reportedto have been uttered by Sir Sridath Ramphal, who used “intimations” of “ethnic cleansing” in commenting on actions associated with the Barbadian government’s change of amnesty policy for Caricom non-nationals. Many people rans straight past “intimations” to the other two words and got understandably angry. They did not see any relationship with the infamous cases of ethnic cleansing, such as in Bosnia or Rwanda. Some even made the charge worse by misquoting, and using “practising” or more active verbs instead of “intimations”. Sir S. was in hot water.

Last week, Barbadian political analyst and pollster, Peter Wickham, added his dollar’s worth (see the Nation, People and Things: Ethnic cleansing nonsense). He said clearly, “I believe Sir Shridath’s comments were entirely out of order and no deliberation on the meaning of “intimation” can rationalise it.” But, he proceeds, “it is also important that these comments be placed in perspective. I appreciate the location of those remarks and am entirely sympathetic to his intentions, although not his methods. He then criticizes the Nation newspaper for some irresponsible journalism and goes back to remind of the unintended results of the changed policy. He closed with, “To him I say, I feel your pain, but let’s not do an injustice to our understanding of the atrocities that have taken place in Bosnia, Serbia and Rwanda by comparing these to garden variety xenophobia in Barbados.”

The Merrian-Webster dictionary has the origin of ‘ethnic cleansing’ in 1991, and defines it as ‘ the expulsion, imprisonment, or killing of an ethnic minority by a dominant majority in order to achieve ethnic homogeneity’. At its most extreme, we have genocide–‘the deliberate and systematic destruction of a racial, political, or cultural group’ according to Webster’s (origin, 1944). But such killing has been rife through the ages and The Bible tells us so.

But, we know that the general activity predates by many centuries the use of this new term. The new term was prompted by war activities in the former Yugoslavia. In the 20th century alone we know of hideous instances of the activity but with different terms. We have Nazi Germany: where areas could be declared ‘judenrein’ (literally “Jew Clean”,  “cleansed of Jews” in the pursuit of Aryan racial purity. We have the former Soviet Union: the Russian term ochistka granits (очистка границ) (“cleansing of borders”) was used in documents of the early 1930s in reference to the resettlement of Poles. We have many other examples around the globe through time–India, Israel, Indonesia–just staying with countries starting with the letter i. I personally lived with the effects of people expelled from Cyprus and Uganda. I wont go back through the centuries, but one only has to think about how some great nations were formed by the mass exodus of certain peoples to see and understand that we are seeing nothing new.

The ‘cleansing’ has its degrees and we can argue long and hard about where on the spectrum Sir Sridath was trying to position what he was observing. He does need to set the record straight. We do not need to go to the most vicious extremes.

But, perhaps mistaking all things to do with cleanliness to be near to godliness, public officials have been wading around without boots that do not leak.

In Trinidad, Caroni East MP, Dr Tim Gopeesingh, used “ethnic cleansing” in Parliament on July 17, but has since tried to explain that he meant ‘silent’ cleansing, in the sense of political discrimination, see Trinidad Guardian report). We now have to move from e-cleansing to ‘political’ cleansing. But, tongues will not be silenced.

In Barbados this week, the opposition politicians have joined in usage of the term ‘cleansing’. Today’s Nation reports that “Dr William Dugiud (sic) claims that UDC workers about to be axed are “highly qualified” and are “capable of doing jobs which some of them have done for nine or ten years”. And he has decried the government’s action as “just political cleansing.” Dr. Duguid (note correction) may find within a few hours that he has done himself no good at all. If the quote is correct, we are heading for a problem just because of syntax. ‘Just’, as an adverb, can mean very recently, only, simply, barely, etc. But ‘just’ as an adjective can mean fair (ie. good, merited, legally correct, etc.) Which ‘just’ did he mean? However you look at it, the good Dr. could be commending the government or condemning the government. I guess he will clarify.

I think smart people should try to say smart things and stay away from terms that are likely to aggravate rather than calm. Poor President Obama learnt that a few weeks ago, with his use of ‘stupid’. As a parent, I forbid the use of such language by my child and chastise my wife too if she uses it; it is not necessary and should be put away. “Loose lips sink ships”, they used to say. Not only ships, I would venture.

Time to think again

Life in the English-speaking Caribbean is much more complicated than it should be. A collection of small islands and nations have struggled to do things that many larger countries have failed to do well, and at a cost that governments would be ashamed to admit. I will just list a few of the more obvious ones that affect daily lives.

First, almost every country has its own currency, and we all struggle with the need to change money every time we travel. Admittedly, the group of islands in the Organization of East Caribbean States have a common currency, which says something about their sense of commonality and willingness to integrate. but, most of the rest of us have to change our national dollars for other dollars. Most of our countries do not have freely convertible currencies, but some countries willingly allow the exchange of currencies: outlets in Trinidad will take the Barbadian dollar and the EC dollar. In Barbados, it is less common to find outlets taking other Caribbean currencies. In many of our countries, the US dollar is readily accepted. Some have argued that the region should adopt the US dollar formally as its currency; most recently, former PM Seaga has proposed that option for Jamaica. Such a move would not be new in the region, but with people who try to be fiercely independent, it would be a hard sell. But, it was no so long ago, though under British colonial rule, that we all used the Pound sterling.

Second, customs and immigration procedures. I am really at a loss to understand why we could not have agreed on common forms for customs and immigration; in fact, most of the forms are minor variants of each other. As a corollary, and perhaps with machine-readable passports it may be easier, could the region not be inventive and have customs and immigrations information generated automatically as passengers check in? Maybe, we could show the world how to do things efficiently. The regional mobile phone companies have seen the benefit of making the region ‘seamless’, by having systems that allow use of phones when you travel without imposing roaming charges while calling within the region. Would it not be wonderful to move from country to country without felling that you needed to relearn and redo everything? It’s enough to have to learn to eat cou-cou, or bammy, or cook-up rice, or crab and dumpling, or conch/lambi, or drink Red Stripe or Carib or Stag or Piton or Kubili or Banks. So, to the powers that be, give the people a little ease, nuh.

Jamaica celebrates 45 years on independence

Jamaica celebrated 45 years of Independence on August 6. The debate about what the country has achieved since the end of British rule is not one that can have a definitive conclusion. There are enough statistics that show progress in many social and economic areas. There are also many statistics that show a worsening of economic and social development. The country has been under continuous transformation, and that has not stopped. I feel that the conclusions people draw will reflect their political position. There is nothing wrong with that. Continue reading

Hoping for Leadership in Cricket

Many would have hoped that the Cricket World Cup would have provided a wonderful platform to showcase what the region can do. Yet, we have seen a tournament that had so many missteps that it is hard to believe that the region’s image has not been tarnished. Whatever legacy benefits may be expected, at the current time, these would seem to be distant promises. The world will not really be able to distinguish whether the conduct of the tournament was due to the role of local organizing committees, or to the role of the International Cricket Council. The world is not so interest in cricket to dig deep to know the real reasons. It will simply see the Caribbean as “not being able”.layout1_1_pklpigayle200gk.jpg

Continue reading

Having problems with regionalism and globalisation

A lot of talk has been generated by the Cricket World Cup (CWC) as an example of how the region can come together and make things successful. But around that talk there are other mutterings or loud shouts that suggest that not everyone sees it this way. Take, for example, the opening and closing ceremonies for CWC. I have heard and read comments that complained that the Jamaicans did not pay enough attention to the culture from the other countries. Recently, some Bajans have been complaining that the closing ceremony did not showcase Barbados, not least because the contract for the final music and dance “spectacle” had been given to a Trinidadian, Peter Minshall. That added to discontent that much of the final event had involved contracts going to foreign companies. Continue reading

What will we learn from CWC? We need honesty and to listen to the critics

ken-gordon.jpgI listened to WICB president, Ken Gordon (see photo), talking on the radio this afternoon. He talked freely about aspects of West Indies cricket management and poor performances in the recent CWC, noting that we played according to the form book, being beaten by better teams. (It’s worth remembering, though, that Mr. Gordon had predicted that West Indies would win the tournament.) But he lamented the manner of the defeats and the absence of a sense of wanting to fight for victory. He spoke about the need to change attitudes and practices in the team and more broadly, and felt that the WICB was a better organization now. We may not all agree on his assessment of the WICB (see recent commentary in The Jamaica Gleaner), the outgoing captain, Brian Lara, or how best to move forward with cricket in the region, it was good for him to speak on these subjects and not immediately duck some of the difficult questions. Continue reading

Signs that discussions about Jamaican economy are maturing: all a matter of trust?

Three articles in The Sunday Gleaner of April 15 suggests to me that there is an interesting change taking place in Jamaica.

The first article, “Judging the Budget Debate“, by Ian Boyne, assesses what qualities can be expected in the discussions, coming ahead of general elections, especially in terms of leadership. He hopes that the leaders focus on substance rather than theatrics. Continue reading

Governance and those who govern

An interesting debate has been raging in Barbados in recent weeks. Since the Tourism Minister stormed out of the studio after the moderator read out an e-mail asking about the minister’s financial situation, there has been a wave of support and criticism for the line taken by the journalist. Continue reading