#BTEditorial – Comissiong’s olive branch on Hyatt puts the ball back in the Prime Minister’s court

Back on July 5, 1775 the continental congress, which served as the Government of the 13 American colonies that later became the United States, approved the Olive Branch Petition as a final attempt by the colonists to avoid going to war with Britain.

The Olive Branch Petition was meant to appease King George III who was facing a rebellion over a number of laws and taxes, which the colonists felt were punitive,

And even as they pledged their loyalty to the crown and asserted their rights as British citizens, they also asked the King to give the colonists their rights by repealing the unjust laws and taxes waged on them.

It is reported that King George rejected the petition without even reading it, and in 1776 the colonists declared independence from Britain.

There are no such dramatic developments in the case surrounding the Hyatt Resort Centric, which has been earmarked for Bay Street, The City, but has been caught in a welter of procedural technicalities.

And only time will dictate the historical significance of the legal action by social activist and attorney-at-law David Comissiong that triggered a series of actions that shot down the US$100 million hotel even before it got off the ground.

However, Mr Comissiong yesterday offered his own olive branch – though not a continental congress type petition – which could dramatically change the course of the Hyatt episode.

Having been involved in a lengthy legal battle with then Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, in his capacity as Minister responsible for Town Planning, Mr Comissiong – who in the latter days of the last election campaign revealed his political colours by openly supporting the Barbados Labour Party – told Barbados TODAY he was prepared to settle the matter if the Mia Mottley administration were willing to meet a couple of his key demands.

From the very beginning, Mr Comissiong opposed the project on environmental grounds and has insisted on an environmental impact assessment, to include town hall meetings with the people most likely to be affected, and he said he was not willing to budge on this demand.

He also wants Ms Mottley to drop the appeal filed by Mr Stuart after a High Court judge ruled that the social activist had a legal right to seek a legal review of the then Prime Minister’s decision to grant permission for the beachfront project.

But Mr Comissiong had also long contended that the planned 15-storey twin structure was out of the question because it would violate the law, which restricts such properties near the beach to five stories. Will he budge on this, or will he demand that the developers produce a new plan that comply with the law?

Interestingly, it was only yesterday evening that Ms Mottley announced she would meeting next week with Hyatt developer Mark Maloney, a man she so viciously attacked during the election campaign that it seemed at times that she considered him a worthier opponent that Mr Stuart.

The meeting with Mr Maloney will be one in a series with the developers of all major projects on the island “to begin to understand where their developments are, what are the obstacles that are currently blocking them, if any, and what are the things that need to be addressed to facilitate it”.

Let’s remind Ms Mottley of what has stalled the Hyatt. After Mr Comissiong’s repeated calls for and EIA was ignored by Mr Stuart, who proceeded to grant permission for its construction, he sought a legal review of the decision, the then Prime Minister challenged his legal standing and lost, therefore he appealed and the matter is still before the court.

Ms Mottley does not need Mr Maloney to explain this to her. It’s public knowledge. Therefore, when she meets with the developer, what will she tell him?

Will she demand the EIA? Will she ask that he resubmits a plan that satisfies the legal standards? While she’s at it, will she order him to take down the structure at Spring Garden Highway and the island at Coverley? Or will it be business as usual? And, how does she intend to reconcile the obvious differences between the needs of Mr Maloney and Mr Comissiong.

There are those who might wish to accuse Mr Comissiong of fetishizing proper process, and who dislike fastidiousness. But he takes his responsibility as a defender of our democracy seriously, and, as we saw with both the Hyatt case and the fingerprinting issue before it, he gets it right legally.

Therefore, his olive branch has put the ball squarely in Ms Mottley’s court and it will be interesting to see how she plays it. Will she, like King George did back in 1775, reject it without even seeing it and risk a lengthy legal battle? And how will be Maloney situation play out?

Mr Comissiong might not have realized it, but by offering her this olive branch he has put the Prime Minister in a situation where she might be forced to perform political gymnastics.

But she must make a decision that is in the best interest of the country. And unlike the popular television game show, Who Wants to be a Millionaire, she cannot ask the host.

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Chef Jason Howard wows New York

The Caribbean Tourism Organization selected Barbadian Chef Jason Howard to share Caribbean cuisine and culture on their behalf during their 2018 Caribbean Week in New York. Howard’s presentations did not disappoint.

Indeed, his Chili Salt-Fish and Corn Roasted Sweet Potato Mash–a dish presented at CTO’s Rum & Rhythm benefit which was a five hour Friday after work scholarship fundraiser, held in at the historic CAPITALE in the Bowery in New York, received many commendations from patrons at the event.

“I am impressed. This is very good,” said Markly Wilson, Director of International Marketing of New York State’s Division of Tourism, after tasting the dish.

Karen Murray from Vermont, who had sampled other dishes before tasting Howard’s dish, openly remarked, “Ooops, I made a mistake. I put my coin in the wrong box.  This dish is a winner. It is light and I can taste the individual flavors.”

When another patron came back for seconds, a soft-spoken Howard told him, “I don’t have any more roasted sweet potato, but I can give you salt fish with some beans. Is that OK?”

The patron nodded and Howard obliged.

Truth be told, persons at the Rum & Rhythm event were also still openly complimenting the dishes Howard created for CTO’s Tourism and Media Awards dinner.

 The soup reflected, in part, one of Howard’s cooking philosophies, the fusion of other cultures and the Caribbean. In this case, a combination of South America and Barbados.

“The Red Snapper ceviche was brought to the dinner table in a bowl. Then we added piping hot eddoe soup to the fish at the table. That’s how the fish was cooked; fresh and not overcooked,” explained Howard.

As Howard and his assistants served patrons, Justin Clarke, his manager was completing media interviews and responding to questions of patrons.

“Howard was a master chef in the United Kingdom. He was one of the top eight and is still striving to win the coveted Michelin Star award.  He has a passion for food and he reproduces many of the things he learned from his grandmother. One of my favorites is a pork belly soup done on a slow cooker. To a large extent, Howard  is self-taught. If you check, you will see that he has an extremely large social media following,” Clarke remarked.

In a published interview, Howard put it this way:

“I think the reason I have gained a lot of response and love from Instagram is that I share everything. Some chefs don’t and they keep everything to themselves but I don’t see the sense in discovering something and not sharing it. People will take my ideas, try them, and not give me credit but my followers will always say something so I don’t have to. Instagram is important because as chefs we need to share our discoveries and then people spread the word about you and more people come to try your food.”

One must now ask, what’s next? Howard began as a porter at a five-star Hotel in St James. He now shares food as art and is linked with Top Of The Deck, a restaurant in St Peter, Barbados. Clearly, if left to Howard, he appears destined to become the “Bob Marley” of Bajan cuisine.

(Walter Edey is a former educator and author who believes that Structural Thinking is the wave of the future.

 E Mail: werus 2642 @ gmail.com.)


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The Windrush generation

The 70th anniversary of the arrival of the Empire Windrush at Tilbury Docks in the UK gives us a fitting opportunity to celebrate UK-Caribbean relations and the invaluable contribution the Windrush Generation has made to British society ever since. From now on, June 22nd will be officially recognized as Windrush Day. The Caribbean diaspora in the UK symbolises the indelible bonds between our two sets of islands.

There is no better example of that contribution than the dedication of people from the Caribbean to the UK’s National Health Service, itself marking 70 years on July 5. Without them, it would not be the institution we hold dear today, providing incredible health care, and envied across the world. Those from the Windrush Generation worked in our essential industries, including public transport, the post office, construction and the armed forces, and are central figures in many communities. Today, their children are civil servants, healthcare workers, business owners, professionals, and leading lights in music, sport, and film. They are key to Britain’s success.

I doubt that there is a corner of Britain that has not been inspired and enriched by the Windrush Generation and their descendants.  From their efforts in reviving our great cities after the war, to Britain’s first black MPs entering Parliament and campaigning for all Britons to have an equal stake in society, they were the pioneering Caribbean racial and social justice campaigners who pushed for legislative and social change calling for a fairer Britain.  And let’s not forget the power of our sporting and cultural heroes, who through their skill, talent and discipline used their gifts to make an indelible mark to help create a proud, united and multicultural Britain.

The Caribbean community has been integral to creating a Britain that is fairer, more tolerant and more at ease with itself in a changing world.  The real beginning of Britain’s contemporary diversity is with those first men, women, and children who made the one-month journey from the Caribbean.

Life held many hardships for those who arrived and the streets were certainly not ‘paved with gold’.  Many were even returning to the UK having already served here during the war.  The fortitude shown as they overcame daunting challenges and built successful lives and businesses for themselves and their families has come to represent a strength in spirit that we continue to see today.  It is an experience and spirit that I personally relate to as it is reminiscent of the challenges my parents themselves faced coming from Pakistan as well as the opportunities offered by their adopted nation.

We all know that the Windrush generation has faced further challenges, with questions raised over their immigration status. The government has taken focused action to assist anyone who may be affected to put right this wrong.

Many in the Caribbean Community came from Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean and stay in touch across the ocean.  The UK continues to enjoy strong relationships with Commonwealth Caribbean countries reinforced by the personal ties of the diaspora. Every year, hundreds of thousands of British nationals come to Barbados and the countries of the Eastern Caribbean to enjoy the beautiful beaches and the relaxed way of life.

The UK is the single largest bilateral donor to the Caribbean. Our investments are helping to make the lives of Caribbean people today better in a number of ways.   Through the UK-Caribbean Infrastructure Fund, the UK is investing over £300 million in critical economic infrastructure across the Caribbean, increasing resilience to natural disasters and climate change, promoting growth and creating jobs.

Following last year’s devastating hurricanes, the UK contributed more than £196 million to help the region’s recovery, moving swiftly to support people in Dominica and Barbuda, as well as the UK’s own Overseas Territories. This includes £19 million, announced at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in April, to strengthen disaster preparedness and resilience across the Caribbean region. We are also supporting the Caribbean’s future development and prosperity with ongoing collaboration on regional priorities such as security and fighting crime.

As we take a moment to consider this momentous occasion, it is my honour, as Minister of State for the Caribbean and the Commonwealth, to join in celebrating the achievements of the Windrush Generation and the role they play in UK-Caribbean relations and making our country the incredible place it is.

(Lord Tariq Ahmad of Wimbledon is the Minister of State for the Caribbean and the Commonwealth in the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office.)

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Celebrating women entrepreneurs

It is finished! At least this cohort.  Last Friday was the graduation of the WINC (Women Innovators Network Caribbean) Acceleration Program which was funded by the Government of Canada under the Entrepreneurship Program for Innovation in the Caribbean (EPIC) and implemented by the World Bank.  I am delighted to see how this program has transformed the lives and businesses of these eleven women entrepreneurs and although some may have experienced a greater impact than others, all have benefitted from being in the program in some way.

We were honoured to have Her Excellency Marie Legault, High Commissioner to Barbados attend and speak to the graduates and guests.  She spoke about her involvement in the Caribbean, which goes back several years, and of Canada’s involvement in the EPIC program in the region. Using statistics concerning women’s issues globally, she emphasized the need for women to achieve equality in the workplace and in business.  She also shared, with humour, one of her own experiences as a woman High Commissioner which is often still perceived to be a man’s role.

Our guest speaker was Ms Debbie Simpson, CEO of Simpson Motors Limited who addressed the ladies about issues that they need to be aware of and look out for as they operate their businesses and employ staff and how to deal with them. Some of the male guests may have been a little uncomfortable with the message, but it reflected the real challenges that women face in the marketplace, especially when they work with men.

I was encouraged to hear the testimonies of three of the graduates who shared the ways that the program helped them. One of them, who has been in business for about twenty years, said that she figured at first, that she didn’t really need the program because she didn’t have the time to spare and she already had a well-established business. Realising that she had she become very insular, basically going from home to business and back, she decided to give the WINC program a try and she was very glad that she did. The monthly sessions provided her with the experience of stepping back from the business and sharing concerns with like-minded women entrepreneurs. As a result, many of them have now become her friends as well as people whom she does business with.

The other two entrepreneurs sang the praises of their mentors, Hudson Husband and Sheryl Whitehall, who helped them to make significant changes in their businesses and even in the way they perceive themselves. The mentoring/coaching is one of the unique aspects of the program and has been tremendously impactful in helping the participants to focus on their particular business needs, something which is lacking in most other types of training. As I said to the audience, “Imitation is the greatest form of flattery” as I have now seen other programs emulating the WINC approach.  Just a few months ago, Caribbean Export launched its WE Export program to provide training and technical assistance for 20 women entrepreneurs across the region and included coaching as part of the program based on the preliminary report of the first WINC program.

So what now?  The ladies are asking if I’m planning to start another program or hold networking and conversations every month. What these questions and the comments I used to get after my Women’s Entrepreneurship Day events tell me, is that women entrepreneurs need a space where they can connect and talk. I have also discovered that many others want to grow their businesses and need help to do so. Unfortunately, the World Bank’s involvement has come to an end, so it is now up to us in Barbados and in the region to continue to help our women entrepreneurs to grow their businesses.

This is imperative because, while there are many women in business, many of those businesses are micro businesses which are sometimes barely meeting their needs. While some may be doing better, in most cases, none of the entrepreneurs have businesses that can run without them. Many of them are of the same type (hair, nails, food) and very few are positioned to significantly increase output or export their products or services. This can be attributed to various issues such as lack of confidence, lack of skills, lack of knowledge, lack of contacts and lack of finances.

Therefore, we have to address these issues so that women entrepreneurs are positioned to grow their businesses, employ people and export their goods and services. We must also help them to innovate and perpetuate the same types of businesses. Above all, we need to help women to create businesses that can operate without them because women, as we all know, are very often the caretakers in the home as well as the ones having to earn income from their business.

The good news is that this is not only an area that is of concern to us in Barbados; it is a global concern. That means we can learn from and work with global agencies to address these issues to help our women entrepreneurs, which will, in turn, help our economy and provide us all with a better quality of life.

Donna Every is an author, international speaker, and trainer. She was the Barbados Ambassador for Women’s Entrepreneurship Day (2014-2016) and is the Barbados Facilitator for the WINC Acceleration Program.

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CARICOM summit needs to excite the people’s imagination

I wish I could say that “all eyes are on the CARICOM Heads of Government meeting to be held from July 4-6 in Jamaica”.  But, CARICOM events have long since ceased to hold excitement for the people of the 15-member community. They hardly get a glance these days.

The prospects CARICOM once had of fostering a regional people with a strong identity and an independent spirit, living and working in a single economic space that brings improvement to their lives, have long since dissipated. 

Therefore, there are no great expectations for this Summit even though it returns to Montego Bay, the site of many historic agreements by West Indian governments, including the February 1947 conference at which a Standing Closer Association Committee was established to draft a federal constitution.

Two agenda items are likely to dominate the meeting. Although, given their common concern, they are likely to morph into one.  They include a discussion of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) and the Report of The Commission to Review Jamaica’s Relations within the CARICOM and CARIFORUM Frameworks.   The Commission was established by Jamaica’s Prime Minister, Andrew Holness, and was headed by former Prime Minister Bruce Golding.

In advance of the meeting, the Golding Report has occasioned disagreement from veteran Caribbean thinker, the Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines, Dr Ralph Gonsalves, over the practicality of some of its 33 recommendations.  More specifically, Gonsalves takes issue with the recommendation on governance of CARICOM and to the proposition that if the CSME is not fully operational “within the next five years”, Jamaica should withdraw from the common market and, instead, assume a “status similar to that held by the Bahamas.”

It is often forgotten the Bahamas and Haiti were never part of the process to forge the CSME and are only involved in the “Community” aspects of CARICOM.

The Golding Report is a Jamaica-centric report.  Describing it as “Jamaica-centric” is not a criticism; it was meant to be a focus on CARICOM in relation to what’s in it – or not – for Jamaica.  That’s the job the Commission did.

Nonetheless, the Commissioners had sufficiently wide experience of CARICOM affairs that, beyond their focus on Jamaica’s interests, they produced thoughtful observations and recommendations for the better functioning of CARICOM.  Although, it should be said that many of them were not new: their value now is that they stimulate refreshed attention especially about making the private sector part of CARICOM’s decision-making machinery.

Hopefully, discussion of the Golding Report in the context of operationalizing the CSME will not cause insurmountable contention between the member states classified as More Developed Countries (MDCs) and Less Developed Countries (LDCs). 

A basis for such a division already exists.  The Golding Commission regards the MDC/LDC differentiation as “unnecessary” and describes, as “the absurd situation”, the fact that the “per capita income of some LDCs is as much as three times that of MDCs”.  The latter observation is particularly ironic given that Jamaica is in the forefront of criticizing international financial institutions for denying it access to concessional financing on the sole criterion of per capita income.  

The Commissioners also overlooked the reality that given their small size and extremely limited natural resources, the LDCs’ capacity for development will always be less than that of the larger and better resourced MDCs, particularly Guyana, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago. 

Further, the present higher level of per capita income in the LDCs than in Jamaica and Guyana is directly related to economic policies administered by their governments and to other factors such as a single currency, a single central bank, tight fiscal policy and a prohibition on printing money to meet deficits.   This circumstance also accounts for Jamaican and Guyanese migration to the LDCs.

Recklessly (even insultingly), the Golding Commissioners described the Citizenship by Investment Programmes (CIPs), operated by five of the six Eastern Caribbean countries, as “essentially a Citizenship for sale programme.” The Commissioners boldly opined that “the potential risks to the Community especially in view of the sophistication of transnational crimes, cannot be ignored.”

Before stating this opinion, the Commissioners might usefully have taken into account that the five Caribbean countries apply several layers of applicant-vetting, including by Interpol.  They might also have considered that Malta and Austria, members of the European Union, also operate CIPs that allow entry to all EU 28-Member States by successful applicants.

Less confrontationally, the Golding Commissioners make a reasonable call for a CARICOM agreement that ensures that Caribbean CIPs should have safeguards and be closely monitored.  That call, without the preceding commentary, would undoubtedly find an accommodating response.

The Golding Report is a very useful document for CARICOM Heads to consider.  But, it is essentially what it was intended to be – a report on Jamaica in CARICOM; it is not a fresh look by all CARICOM countries at how, together, they could deepen the integration process, including by fully operationalising the CSME, to respond to the challenges and opportunities in today’s volatile world.

The Golding report makes one observation with which all governments should agree.  It is that the CSME cannot be expected to work “because it has not yet been functionally established.”

In 2011, CARICOM leaders decided to put the CSME on “pause”.   This was under the stewardship of Freundel Stuart, the former Prime Minister of Barbados, who had the lead responsibility for the CSME.  It has languished ever since.

It is time that the clutch on the CSME be released and for the process to be accelerated.  If the people of CARICOM are to be inspired again to believe in the integration project, the July summit will have to ignite the imagination of the Caribbean people by going beyond the words of a lengthy communiqué and, instead, produce an ambitious plan with robust means of implementation.

In this connection, there is much to be hoped from the fact that Mia Mottley, the new Prime Minister of Barbados, will now assume lead responsibility for the CSME. She brings an impressive track record of accomplishment in Caribbean integration, including her supervision of the single Caribbean space for Cricket World Cup in 2007, and her work in the establishment of the Caribbean Court of Justice.  While she will have to focus on rebuilding her own country’s economy, she also well appreciates the value of economic integration to the fortunes of all CARICOM states, including Barbados.

(The writer is Antigua and Barbuda’s Ambassador to the United States and the Organization of American States.  He is also a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies at the University of London and at Massey College in the University of Toronto.  The views expressed are his own.)

Responses and previous commentaries: www.sirronaldsanders.com


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The power of belief 

If there’s one significant contribution which the former Freundel Stuart regime has made towards a better understanding of the practice of Barbadian statecraft, it certainly would be in the many invaluable lessons which it has unintentionally left on how not to govern.

The Stuart Dems surely made history, to play on the former prime minister’s words at the outset of their ill-fated campaign for the May 24 general election, but it was largely in a negative sense. They have carved for themselves a unique place in Barbadian history, having earned the unenviable rating as the worst Government this island has had so far.

There are two lessons in particular from the experience of the last eight years that stand out. The first underscores the critical point that no government can achieve success without winning and retaining the support and cooperation of key national stakeholders and the general public. “Success” in this context refers to the realization of strategic goals and objectives.

How is success achieved? Through the tried and proven formula of continuous engagement aimed at sharing information and also persuasion to secure buy-in from stakeholders and the average citizen. This is necessary so that everyone has a clear understanding of the role they are expected to play in the pursuit of national development. For the most part, the Freundel Stuart regime governed in silence.

The second lesson relates to the critical role of Government in building and maintaining confidence, not just domestically but also externally, in order to facilitate economic growth which is so vital for a country’s success if it wishes to improve the overall well-being of the people. Without sustainable economic growth, no country can advance as the Barbadian experience of the last eight years clearly shows.

What is obvious, based on their focus during the first three weeks in office, is that the new Barbados Labour Party (BLP) administration, led by Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley, seems determined not to make the same fatal mistakes as the Dems. From the get-go, continuous public engagement has been a defining feature of the new Government’s approach. So too has been building trust and confidence.

It’s a full embrace of an important aspect of modern democratic governance. Governments are elected for the primary purpose of fixing problems which hinder, in various ways,  the realization of the average citizen’s expectation of a better quality of life. Governments, therefore, have a responsibility to ensure that citizens are fully kept abreast of what they are doing in the public interest.

The harsh reality which governments face today, in the context of the media and information age, is that they can choose either to communicate and define themselves or refuse to communicate and open up themselves to the risk being defined by others. Apparently believing that they were still operating in the last century when governments could easily get away with little or no public engagement, the Dems chose the latter to their detriment.

When there is frank and open communication, such as what we have been witnessing since May 24, stakeholders understand where a government is coming from and what is required of them. They also feel empowered and motivated to work together in pursuit of the common good. Most importantly, the government earns trust, respect and goodwill which it seems the Mottley administration is receiving.

Where there is a glaring absence of communication, as was the case under the Dems, outcomes include loss of respect, opportunities, confidence, credibility, trust and important relationships. Poor communication inevitably leads to negative outcomes. Effective communication, on the other hand, inevitably leads to positive outcomes. There is therefore good reason, on the basis of what we have experienced during the past three weeks, for optimism about the future.

Indeed, the case for optimism is buttressed by the emergence of clear signs that the most critical ingredient for reversing the nation’s flagging fortunes - namely CONFIDENCE --- has started to return. The signs are evident within government where there appears to be a new sense of urgency, the business community, labour, international investors and the general population. It represents fertile ground for a resumption of significant economic growth.

A tried and proven formula for building trust and confidence is to demonstrate that one’s word is one’s bond. During the campaign, Miss Mottley promised to abolish the hated ten per cent National Social Responsibility Levy (NSRL), imposed by the Dems, and to restore free education for Barbadians pursuing first degrees at the University of the West Indies. She delivered in three weeks. In contrast, the Dems broke so many promises.

The rapid turn-around in the public mood proves that it was the approach of the Freundel Stuart regime which was at the root of the national crisis. It is amazing, to give just one example, how quickly the south coast sewage crisis, which seemed beyond resolution under the Dems, has been effectively brought under control by the decisive approach of the new administration.

This outcome supports a fundamental point about Barbados that I have always made. It is that a big plus for this country is the fact that Barbadians are intrinsically patriotic and readily demonstrate a willingness to sacrifice or go the extra mile in the national interest once the country is under dynamic leadership.

It is this understanding of Barbados which reinforced my faith in the greatness of our country and our capacity for resilience during the darkest days under the former regime when, at times, it seemed as if we were destined to go the route of utter economic devastation which was the unfortunate fate of a few of our CARICOM neighbours. What the Dems did to Barbados represents an almost unpardonable political sin. Because of the indecisiveness which generally characterized their approach to government, we have lost almost an entire decade, developmentally speaking.

The real tragedy for Barbados is that the Dems took a proud and confident country which was known internationally for punching above its weight and brought it to a point where the citizenry was essentially told that it was okay to settle for mediocrity. Want the evidence? The repeated suggestion in the Dems’ political narrative that ‘better could not be done’. What utter nonsense!

Better is always possible but it has to start with a belief in one’s capabilities to turn what may appear to be impossibilities into possibilities. Indeed, such an attitude has informed my own philosophy and guided my approach towards confronting the challenges of everyday life. The inspiration came from both studying the New Testament teachings of Jesus and also Latin literature.

“All things are possible to him who believes”, Jesus taught us (Mark 9:23). In  Vergil’s Aeneid, a seminal piece of Latin literature, there is a sentence in the text related to the Funeral Games which stands out. “Possunt quia posse videntur,” it reads. Translated, it means: “They can because they think they can” -- the proud motto of the Lodge School.

As we embark in earnest on the task of national reconstruction, it is my hope that Barbadians will similarly draw strength and inspiration from both pronouncements underscoring the power of belief. With confidence in our capabilities and inspiring leadership to point the way, we will be okay. Yes, we will be okay!

(Reudon Eversley is a political strategist, strategic communication specialist and longstanding journalist. Email: reudon@gmx.com)

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The benefits of outpatient hysteroscopy

As technology improves, most of the gynaecological surgical procedures can be done on an outpatient basis safely.

This article looks at the indications and benefits of outpatient hysteroscopy. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (UK) recommends that every hospital should have an outpatient hysteroscopy service. This should be separate from a main theatre service and have a separate facility.

Outpatient hysteroscopy is an established diagnostic test which involves the use of miniaturized endoscopic equipment to directly visualize and examine the uterine cavity. There is no need for formal theatre facilities, general or regional anaesthesia.

It can be done in your gynaecologist’s office with minimal or no discomfort and this results in more than 85 per cent of hysteroscopies being done on an outpatient basis.

Outpatient hysteroscopy can either be diagnostic or operative.

Diagnostic indications for out-patient hysteroscopy include irregular bleeding over 45 years of age, an ultrasound scan which shows polyps (thickening of the lining of the womb), intermenstrual bleeding for more than 6 months, post-menopausal bleeding, ultrasound findings which are equivocal and heavy menstrual bleeding and during investigations for infertility.

Operative indications include the removal of an IUCD, endometrial biopsy(direct), before and after endometrial ablation, polypectomy,  and the removal of fibroids division of uterine adhesions.

Most polyps can be removed with a grasping forceps or scissors or a combination of both or with the use of bipolar cutting instruments.

The ability to have tissue morcellators like Myosure have made resection of sub-mucosal fibroids (fibroids on the inside of the uterus) and polyps possible as an outpatient and is very effective.

The benefits which are numerous for having and outpatient hysteroscopy service include:

1.     Cost savings, there is no need for sterilization of equipment and no significant capital costs for the initial purchase of equipment

2.     Quicker recovery as no general anaesthetic is used.

3.     Minimal analgesia as only non-steroidal analgesia is used

4.     Minimal time off from work

5.     No theatre cost

6.     No large amount of staff

7.     Cost savings for the patient

Contraindications for this procedure include:

1.     Unable to pass or extreme discomfort when passing a speculum

2.     An inability to lie flat

3.     Very large BMI as may be technically difficult

In conclusion,  outpatient hysteroscopy has several benefits in the diagnosis of bleeding disorders and can be used surgically to resect and biopsy lesions in the uterus safely. It avoids the use of a general anaesthetic which has been the norm and it is found to be extremely cost-effective. These cost savings can then be passed onto the patient.

Article is done by Dr John Barker Bsc MBBS MRCOG BSCCP(cert), Dip (Risk Management). Consultant Obstetrician/Gynaecologist at JRB Medical Centre, 7th Avenue Belleville.

His special interests include Gynaecological Oncology, Emergency Gynaecology, Alternatives to Hysterectomy, Out-patient Hysteroscopy, High Risk Obstetrics. 

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Jackie Opel: without honour at home

“A prophet is not without honour except in his hometown and in his household,” is a biblical expression which many artistes could argue applies to them, and by all accounts, it seems to be the case of Jackie Opel and Barbados.

The life of this Barbadian icon paints a picture of a performer who left his homeland to eventually set base in Jamaica where he found fame, minus the fortune, but returned to his homeland and died in the uncertainty of whether his people would accept him.

Born Dalton St Clair in 1937, this man whose name now attracts much reverence in Barbados and abroad, began his entertainment life as a somewhat Broad Street character, as a person who sang in clubs in Nelson Street and who swam out to perform on visiting ships. He moved to Trinidad where he adopted the name Jackie Opel, then settled in Jamaica where he became an integral part of the Ska development. He toured internationally to much acclaim and commanded such heights that the likes of Bob Marley’s Wailers were once turned down at a Jamaican recording studio, Kong, in preference for him.

But by the account of one of his contemporaries, Al Gilkes, on his last night with us before that fatal Bay Street accident of 1970, and prior to a show he had scheduled for the next evening, this entertainer who had become world-renowned was so under-appreciated in Barbados that he wondered aloud to his producer Mark Williams, “Mark you think this thing is going to come off?”

Jackie Opel was the master of Ska and developer and exponent of an indigenous musical genre, of which he told the then entertainment writer Gilkes, “I’ve created a beat for Barbados, and I’m calling it Spouge.”

But Gilkes, a current popular promoter, told a recent lecture and discussion forum on Jackie Opel “There is a lot of fact” in researcher Dr Elizabeth Watson’s conclusion that Jackie Opel was not appreciated by Barbadians.

Gilkes said Jackie Opel’s question to Mark Williams reflected “The doubt he had about whether or not he was supported, or he would get the support.” Jackie Opel’s show was scheduled for the Barbarees Plaza Theatre.

Recalling Jackie Opel’s experiences upon returning to Barbados, Gilkes said, “He struggled for that support. Bajans came out to see Jackie only when he was up against an international artiste. When he was singing against Percy Sledge or Joe Tex or any international artiste, they came to see a Bajan. Whether it was Jackie or not, they came to see a Bajan taking down an international star.”

Historian Trevor Marshall said, “We, as a nation, failed Jackie Opel, from the bottom to the top.”

The lecture at the discussion forum was presented by Watson in the Errol Barrow Centre for Creative Imagination on the musical aspects of the life of Opel and was extracted from her Ph.D. thesis.

This researcher has written ‘bio-discographic’ books on Barbadian musicians, current Government Minister of Culture John King, Red Plastic Bag and ‘Informer’.

Watson said that based on what Jackie Opel saw that Ska did for Jamaica, “Jackie felt that Barbados also needed a sound of its own, hence he created Spouge.”

But the researcher contended that Jackie Opel was unable “to serve as the ambassador for Spouge” because it was launched just before his death.

She spoke of Jamaicans automatically getting into a Ska dance “once you hear that Ska drop” but “I don’t see a similar movement to match Spouge”.

“I think there are class and race issues with the creator and exponent of Spouge. Those were disadvantages.”

She said “To my mind, Jackie Opel was a treasure and a star. He was the leading exponent of two genres in two Caribbean islands and in different decades.”

Watson described Jackie Opel as the first Barbadian “to create a post-independence song signifier. He gathered significant awards in Jamaica and Barbados and is the first Barbadian to be covered by a syndicated music column in the US.”

She added, “Jackie Opel actually had an influence on the Wailers because, in their early days, when they were also known as the Soul Boys, they were associated with Dodd (another recording studio).”

“One of the things the Wailers couldn’t understand is how Jackie was able to write almost on demand. He would go to the studio without a song and by the time it was his turn to record… he had something to sing.”

Watson said that a member of the Wailers, Bunny Wailer [Livingstone], wrote about Jackie Opel on the back of the ‘Wailers and Friends’ album, stating: “The greatest singer that I’ve ever known. He sings anything. Jackie Opel sings ballads. He sings calypso, he sings jazz, he sings blues, and he sings ska. He is a little short guy with bow legs that fit. Sings the highest pitch, the highest note where you would think sometimes it is as if he is whistling.”

With such tributes and recognition abroad, the question remains - why did this son of the soil have to die wondering if he was appreciated at home?

(George Alleyne)

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Special needs school flourishes

The public got the opportunity to visit and see firsthand the operation at The Schoolhouse for Special Needs Inc. which caters for students who are developmentally, physically and intellectually challenged.

During its annual open day, prospective parents, associates in the field, stakeholders and the public got to browse the classroom and interact with teachers and students at its Brittons Hill location.

Principal of the school Yasmin Vlahakis told Barbados TODAY that the school has grown by leaps and bounds since opening in 2006.

“It started with a school of two [and] we now have a roll of 21. Our intention is to work on developing the skills of our students with special needs but while doing [so], we focus on the academics and then we build on life skills on how they take care of themselves.”

She said that the school recently added the Cottage Industry to its curriculum, which focuses on developing career opportunities for students through Art and Craft.

“We are trying to create situations where the young people with special needs mature to find opportunities for themselves, create those opportunities and give them skills [so] that they can earn and be successful in the creative society,” she added.

Vlahakis explained this was necessary because there is no cut off age for students, so they had to be creative in finding things for them to do, “We recognized that we could not keep them in the same routine, we realized that we need to give them some new skills.”

She also noted that she has seen a greater acceptance of people with special needs in Barbados. “It is happening…  the pace has quickened in recent years, but it has been a long slow process. [There is more] awareness that is being shown through media and with this new Government, this sector is a very crucial part of the development of Barbados.”

Minister of Culture John King purchased two of the art pieces that were on display for exhibition and for purchase. Vlahakis commented that the proceeds would go towards the school’s scholarship fund.  (KB)

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Advance into the future

The Class of 2018 at St Gabriel’s School had much to celebrate today as they said goodbye during the school’s 70th anniversary.

The special day themed Advancing into the Future was bittersweet for the graduates who were called to reflect on their time at the school and advance with the morals and values learned over the years.

In her valedictory speech, Imogen Allahar told her fellow graduates that they finally made it, despite some hardships and have built bonds that can never be broken. She named perseverance, proper etiquette and discipline among the life skills learned while at the school.

Allahar said, “We have definitely learned that hard work and smart work will lead to success. St. Gabriel’s school has given us a firm foundation and even though we are sad to leave, we are ready and well prepared to advance into the future.”

The proud principal Angela Blackett told her students to continue in the vein of self-motivation, respect and hard work at their respective secondary schools. “During those years you will continue to build that essential foundation to make you productive and fulfilled citizens for the rest of your lives,” she said.

This year, St Gabriel’s School was among the private schools that produced top performers in the Barbados Secondary Schools’ Entrance Examination (BSSEE). Fifty-six students sat the examination and the averages for Mathematics and English were 84 per cent and 86 per cent respectively. The top boy was Daniel Lashley and top girl was Leanna Cumberbatch.

St Gabriel’s alumnus Dylan Marshall gave the feature address congratulating the 2018 class for reaching the end of one journey along their academic career. The 16-year-old, who was top boy in 2013, encouraged the graduates to reach beyond the stars at their new schools.

Marshall advised, “As you begin your own separate paths... keep with you the drive and ambition for success that has brought you this far. You have all been successful and if you maintain that focus and discipline, you’re only due for even more success.”

Although the transition may seem daunting, he said, “Change can be intimidating especially moving into what is going to be perhaps a very unfamiliar and foreign environment, but I assure you that you’re ready for the challenge.” (KW)

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