I see further disservice to the Caricom-led international movement for Reparations for Native Genocide and Slavery coming from the most recent statement by Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Dr Keith Rowley, current Chairman of Caricom.

On Wednesday at the Caricom 32nd Intersessional Heads of Government Meeting, Dr Rowley said inter alia:

“Colleagues, globally, the issue of Reparations for Native Genocide and Slavery continues to find a place on our agenda and is gaining momentum. The Caricom Reparations Commission (CRC) has been at the forefront of this social justice movement and the Region’s Ten-Point Action Plan, which links reparatory justice to economic and social development, has been a guiding light to many human rights and social justice groups around the world.

“I take this opportunity to applaud the CRC on its pioneering work. Many of us have recognised that the road to reparatory justice is likely to be long and arduous.

“However, we must stay the course. To this end, Trinidad and Tobago has recommitted itself to assist the Community in this regard and as a first step has appointed Dr Heather Cateau, Dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Education of The University of West Indies, St Augustine, as its new chairperson to our reconstituted National Committee on Reparations”.

The cavalier manner in which a new head has been announced is less a slight to me and more a disrespect to the entire international movement for Reparations. In addition, after six years in office the PNM administration has said not a mumbling word about the International Decade for People of African Descent, which ends in 2025.

Look at our timeline of meetings with the administration. Having been appointed by Cabinet in 2014 we looked toward to renewed instructions following the change of administration in 2015.

Starting September 8, 2015, the head of the TTNCR appealed by letter and phone calls for the GORTT to give us direction. I was advised by some colleagues, at one point, to have all members resign and /or to form a Non-Government Organisation.

This I opposed since the then acting permanent secretary Ms Frances Seignoret, stated that we should not resign pending further instructions, which never came,

It took one year before we met with Senator Dennis Moses Minister of Foreign and Caricom Affairs on September 12, 2016. The minister promised to meet with us one month later. It never happened.

Following instructions by letter from the Prime Minister, we met with Minister Fitzgerald Hinds on September 12, 2017.

Since then, there has been there has been no feedback.

On December 16, 2020 I met with Senator Dr Amery Browne and PS Ms Reita Toussaint, but again, there has been no feedback.

Fortunately, the TTNCR had continued meeting and presenting reports to the administration because we have a passion for advancing the cause of Reparations.

But does the Prime Minister recognise how much time has been lost by GORTT the because of its previous disengagement from Reparations since the advent of his administration in 2015?

Aiyegoro Ome

Mt Lambert

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The news that the highly transmissible Brazilian Covid-19 variant has been detected in this country adds new urgency to the need to raise our defences against this virus.

Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley’s declaration that this country must now have contingency plans for the event of volcanic ash blowing our way and wreaking havoc within our economy, both of the strictly commercial type as well as in our agriculture, is a reality that we have to face.

WE are in another lockdown because of the behaviour of some of our young people whose main focus is to enjoy life with no worry about tomorrow. 

Recent contributions in the press have joined the consistent commentary of Basdeo Panday on the irrelevance, unrepresentativeness and ineffectiveness of our present system of government. Their conclusions point to the urgent need for constitutional reform.

Reading Caribbean Airlines’s decision to continue its intention to purchase the Boeing jets it has on order had me stunned in amazement. My normal splenetic delivery was silenced for once. My weakly-beating heart almost stopped its puny efforts to maintain my existence on this green earth.

The problem for St Vincent and the Grenadines and other Caribbean small states is that they’re not poor enough.

By standard World Bank macroeconomic measures such as Gross National Income (GNI) per capita, they’re not as badly off as sub-Saharan African countries.

The problem for St Vincent and the Grenadines and other Caribbean small states is that they’re not poor enough.

By standard World Bank macroeconomic measures such as Gross National Income (GNI) per capita, they’re not as badly off as sub-Saharan African countries. It means that when the bank and other multinational agencies decide on the allocation of aid and development dollars, they’re given less access and fewer concessions.

Correctly so, you could argue. The poverty and deprivation I saw in rural Sierra Leone in West Africa were far worse than I’d seen elsewhere, including Haiti. Added to that, the country hadn’t recovered from a brutish civil war abetted by notorious Liberian warlord Charles Taylor—the kind that saw unspeakable atrocities, such as soldiers carving foetuses out of the bellies of pregnant women.

SVG, Haiti and Guyana are underdeveloped countries, but not as much as Sierra Leone. However, regardless of the facts on the ground or the numbers in the computer, the bank recognised that GNI per capita was an incomplete measure of a country’s development.

All countries are rich or poor to degrees that are macroeconomically measurable. But when climate change can wipe out some of them, GNI measures can’t capture that. Additionally, in the case of Caribbean countries, they’re set back decades by hurricanes, as Grenada was by Ivan in 2004 and Dominica by Maria in 2017.

A Caribbean or Pacific small island state can go from middling prosperity to poverty in the course of one natural disaster.

In a report titled “Small States: Vulnerability and Concessional Finance”, the World Bank acknowledged calls by countries in its Small States Forum (SSF) “to include vulnerability as a criterion for accessing concessional resources”.

It said that work needed to be done in defining a Vulnerability Index. That report was in 2018. And yet as I recall, the index was an issue at SIDS 1994—the United Nations Global Conference on Sustainable Development held in Barbados 24 years earlier.

“SIDS” means Small Island Developing States. That is a misnomer, since big states were represented. The sight of Fidel Castro walking into the room and instantly causing a rock star stampede won’t be forgotten.

The World Bank’s Vulnerability Index incorporates “small states” of the SSF, including Namibia and Botswana. Namibia is two-thousand times bigger than St Vincent, four times Guyana, and mineral rich. Their resilience to shocks is much stronger than SVG’s. Why are they even in the small states conversation? This definitional elasticity doesn’t seem helpful to the cause of SIDS.

From SIDS 1994, the UN crafted the Barbados Programme of Action. Top of the list were climate change, and natural and environmental disasters. It’s remarkable that the World Bank was still talking about defining a Vulnerability Index more than two decades later.

Climate change continues to be the main consideration, but the volcanic eruptions on St Vincent should reopen the conversation.

Most Caribbean volcanoes do not seem to be a present danger in the way that La Soufriere in St Vincent is. Mount Liamuiga in St Kitts, for example, is a great hike. When you reach the top, you can descend into the crater.

Nonetheless, The UWI Seismic’s website says that “there are 19 ‘live’ (likely to erupt again) volcanoes in the Eastern Caribbean. Every island from Grenada to Saba is subject to the direct threat of volcanic eruptions”.

In St Vincent, overseas relief kicked in to ease water and other shortages. But short-term emergency measures are not enough.

Here’s the bind in which small Caribbean states find themselves. The World Trade Organisation (WTO) told them that no, they have to compete at market price to sell their bananas and sugar. No more preferential pricing that recognises their disadvantages on economies of scale.

WTO regulatory insensitivity effectively killed these industries. In many Caribbean SIDS, all their eggs are in one basket. If that isn’t acute vulnerability, I don’t know what is.

For Caribbean SIDS, we should have been at a place where development aid allocation matches a universally-agreed index; and we have strategic, joined-up planning/execution from the UN, the World Bank, the IMF and others.

Small states partially compensate by playing geopolitical games of influence. Getting money from China or Taiwan. Throwing in their lot with Japan on whaling, to the consternation of their own conservationists.

It’s not enough.

Last week I wrote about how Montserrat has done since the 1997 eruption. They are a British Overseas Territory, but the British-funded rebuild has been sluggish. In my two visits in 2007 and 2014, little changed. I was told in 2007 that a new airport would be built soon. To date, it hasn’t.

However Montserrat’s former premier Reuben Meade told me last week that “the Brits covered all of our expenses for the volcanic situation during and post eruption”.

“They continue to fund some 60 per cent of recurrent expenditure each year”.

Meade said the task of Ralph Gonsalves, the Prime Minister of SVG, will be hard.

“SVG will need to find a donor to fund the continuing evacuation expenses which will be very high. Their economy will be in freefall for quite some time. It’s going to be tough for them”.

For SVG, mother country largesse is not an option. They’re nearly broke. Even if La Soufriere stops erupting and the pandemic is eradicated tomorrow, they’ll need smarter, long-term development engagement by donor agencies. A true measure of their vulnerability would be a good start.