Category Archives: Trinidad

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.

International Health Travel: Possibilities for the Caribbean?

A fascinating book was published recently, entitled Patients Beyond Borders (see also http://www.patientsbeyondborders.com/), written by Josef Woodman. Mr. Woodman gives us the benefit of three years’ research into medical facilities available to foreign travelers in a range of countries. He has produced what is described as “Everybody’s Guide to Affordable World-Class Medical Tourism”.  Mr. Woodman has spent more than three years researching contemporary medical tourism, interviewing patients, practitioners, administrators, government officials and specialists in the field, while conducting an extensive analysis of safety records, accreditations, success rates and consumer trends. giving potential health travelers the most up-to-date information, pros, cons, considerations, and step-by-step instructions for a successful and cost-effective journey. More than 150,000 Americans travel abroad for healthcare each year to a growing number of highly accredited institutions catering to the American public. Navigating the various countries, hospitals, medical centers, travel agencies and brokers can be a daunting task when facing an important health decision.

Patients Beyond Borders was written to narrow the field to the best possible choices, providing the American consumer with an unbiased and informative guide to a fast growing healthcare phenomenon. It has hundreds of well-researched, safe treatment options for affordable healthcare in 22 destinations worldwide. Though aimed at Americans, the book should be a valuable resource to many other nationalities who wish to search for alternative health care options outside their national borders. This subject featured in a recent article in The Economist (March 10, 2007): “Medical tourism: Sun, sand and scalpels”. Continue reading

My Caribbean neighbour is not my friend

As the Caricom heads of government start their 28th conference in Barbados, the gathering storm in Barbados around a possible take over of its largest company, Barbados Shipping and Trading (BS&T) has to be a important signal in the move toward making the Caribbean Single Market Econbst.jpgomy more than a slogan. In Barbados, news broke in mid-May that a major conglomerate from Trinidad (Neal and Massy) planned to take over the most important of Barbados’ nationally-owned companies (BS&T) sent shock waves through the island and the meter measuring national fear of foreign invasion shot up into the “danger” zone (see cartoon from The Nation). When, several days ago, a hostile counter bid was made by another Trinidadian entity, Ansa McAl, which already had singificant investments in Barbadian companies, Bajan concern about being taken over by Trinidad got feverish. 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

Scrap the West Indies cricket team!

lara.jpgGet rid of the regional side and let the individual countries play as nations. Why do we want to hold onto a side that represents a group of nations? We don’t have that for football, where Jamaica and Trinidad have shown themselves good enough to qualify for the FIFA World Cup. We don’t have it for athletics, and whether individual islands or the whole region cheers for world records by Jamaica’s Asafa Powell, he can be taken as a West Indian without having to represent a team with any such name. We don’t see it in swimming, or tennis, or netball, and we could go on. Continue reading