Notes From The Margin

March 20, 2008

Hello? Hello? Police Emergency Hotline Out of Order…

Buried in the middle of the paper today was a story that the Royal Barbados Police Force’s emergency hotline number was out of order…. yes it did ask people to call another number, no I can’t remember what it was, no I don’t think that someone having and emergency and requiring police assistance would be able to find the number.

Does anyone else think there’s something wrong with this?

Perhaps someone should define the meaning of the word “emergency” for the telephone company!

Marginal

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March 13, 2008

1984 – UFOs Place Barbados Defence Force on Full Alert – THIS REALLY HAPPENED!

We were going to do a story on the Caribbean Early Warning radar system but our google of “Barbados Radar” brought up a declassified US State Department Report on UFO reports and Barbados was one of the countries mentioned!

What follows is a story that reads like a thriller, with the Defence force placed on Red Alert in full battle dress with loaded weapons (including the Cadet Corps). Coast Guard units were deployed to protect the harbour and Police officers were placed on guard at beaches that might be subject to a sea landing.  The Trident was deployed to check for sea traffic but did not find any.

The then Prime Minister Tom Adams called the US Charge D’affaires to find out if the radar contacts were US aircraft which they weren’t. There was a Soviet naval exercise taking place but that was over on the other side of the Caribbean Sea near the Yucatan. The BDF’s Cessna aircraft was deployed to see if it could visually identify the objects but reported finding nothing. Two further aircraft with civilian pilots were on standby if needed.  Around 4.00am the objects were moving away from Barbados in the general direction of Martinique. The Defence Force stood down around 7.00am.

Up to now, there is no generally accepted explanation for what it was on the radar that caused the fuss.  Funny what you can find on the net when you look isn’t it?

Marginal

The full text appears below…
1.   (C) ENTIRE TEXT).

2.   SUMMARY:   THE LATE NIGHT APPEARANCE OF UNIDENTIFIED OBJECTS ON BARBADOS RADAR SCREENS PROVOKED A SERIOUS DEFENSE AND SECURITY ALERT. OBJECTS REMAINED VISABLE ON RADAR FOR MORE THAN AN HOUR AND A HALF, FINALLY DISAPPEARING OUT OF RANGE TO THE NORTH. PRIME MINISTER CALLED CHARGE D’AFFAIRES TO CONFIRM THAT THERE WERE NO U.S. MILITARY OPERATIONS GOING ON IN THE AREA. THIS WAS CONFIRMED TO EMBASSY BY NATIONAL MILITARY COMMAND CENTER.  SO FAR, THERE IS NO CONSENSUS OR AN EXPLANATION FOR THE PHENOMENON. LEADING HYPOTHESES ARE ATMOSPHERICS AND TECHNICAL MALFUNCTION. BUT CONSIDERABLE SUSPICION REMAINS THAT SOMETHING VERY WORRISOME OCCURRED. BARBADIAN RECOLLECTIONS OF REPUTED “MERCENARY” INVASIONS IN 1976 AND 1980 HAVE BEEN PIQUED.  PRESENCE OF SOVIET FLEET IN THE
CONFIDENTIAL

CONFIDENTIAL

(more…)

March 2, 2008

Troubling Developments In Grenada

On of the more troubling stories to cross the Margin’s radar recently is this story out of Grenada where from what is being said it would seem that police were caught spying on an opposition party planning meeting.

 Grenada’s opposition party has accused the Keith Mitchell administration of spying on a private meeting of its executive and wants Scotland Yard to investigate the allegation.

The National Democratic Congress (NDC) claimed that a police officer was caught secretly recording a closed-door meeting and pointed fingers at the Prime Minister’s New National Party (NNP) as the ones behind the move.

But the NNP has denied the spying allegation.

Of all of the islands of the english speaking Caribbean, Grenada has had one of the most erratic relationships with democracy. Having gone through years of mis rule under Gairy, the Revolution and invasion (or intervention) by the United States military.  In spite of all of the foregoing, Grenada has developed today  into a flourishing and stable democracy.

For the coming election on the Spice Isle the stakes are higher than ever, for the first time in a while it looks as if there may be a real chance of the Government changing.  On the night of the Barbados election we made the statement that the true test of democracy is when the result of the election is accepted by supporters of all parties the winners and the losers.  If anything is allowed to cast doubt on the integrity of the electoral process in Grenada the consequences may be significant.

On an island with Grenada’s bloody history, democracy is too fragile to take anything for granted.

Marginal

 

 

February 25, 2008

Do We Need A Caribbean FBI?

Faced with rising crime rates, Caribbean governments have struggled to keep pace. However at a time of challenging economic conditions and soaring levels of indebtedness, many Caribbean police forces are overwhelmed, underpaid, and under-equipped. This is particularly the case in the smaller economies of the OECS (you will note that I did not say “smaller islands”) The Caribbean with it’s inadquately equipped security forces, and many islands with inlets and coves make the chain attractive as a route for drug traffickers to move narcotics to the metropolitan markets.

The wealthier economies in the region have attempted to strengthen their security apparatus however, they are often faced with criminals who have more sophisticated equipment than they do.  The problem is compounded by the lack of financial assistance for security ( a mindset that is slowly changing).

It is against this background that Trinidad Prime Minister Patrick Manning recently proposed the development of a Pan Caribbean law enforcement agency.

Patrick Manning said a well-trained, equipped regional force with the power to legally operate in any CARICOM country would be part of the answer to combating the crime situation – one which he insists is being driven by the illegal drug trade.

“Many of us in the Caribbean today are challenged by the unacceptable levels of criminal activity in our country, most of which are now spurred by the global traffic in illegal drugs. The trade in illegal arms and gang warfare lead to an unacceptable level of homicide in our main urban centres,” he said, while delivering the keynote address at the recent University of the West Indies (UWI) Mona Campus Commemoration Dinner in Jamaica….

…..Mr Manning said his country had sought to stem the flow of illegal drugs and arms into the country through initiatives which he believes will eventually rid the country of the drug trade, such as round the clock surveillance of the twin island republic’s largely unprotected coastline. But he also noted that the pattern in the past demonstrated that when the operations of drug lords are interrupted in one country they move to another.

“(That) pattern emphasises the need for multilateral efforts among ourselves and with the wider world. Failure to effectively deal with the issue of crime could stymie the economic and social development of the Caribbean,” he said.

Mr Manning further urged CARICOM heads to spearhead the process of greater cooperation in the sharing of intelligence among police forces to head off migratory drug smugglers.

In theory this sounds like a great idea, and we on the margin support it generally. However would such a “federal” force be allowed to operate? To often in the Caribbean there are rumours (and we  aren’t prepared to say they are only rumours) of “certain people” in certain countries being untouchable, would a CFBI be allowed to go after them?If they were it would open an interesting can of worms.

Would the criminals arrested by this federal force be prosecuted in local or regional courts? For example we have many cases of witnesses in Trinidad being murdered before they can testify, we also have rumours of corrupt judiciaries in some countries, would people arrested by the “Federales” have a likely chance of getting convicted in a local court?

When you look at the implications of a Caribbean Law Enforcement agency, it’s not as simple as it might appear at first blush. For it to be really effective it would have to be part of a Pan Caribbean judicial system.

Marginal

February 23, 2008

Once Again Stn. Sargeant Reid We Disagree!

One of the more disturbing stories in the media this week comes from statements made by Station Sargeant Hartley Reid who is the First Vice President of Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations of Barbados (CTUSAB). We’re sure that Sargeant Reid is a committed individual who is passionate about his job and his Union affilliation, but these comments left us shaking our heads.

“The problem we have in Barbados is that not even half the workforce is unionised . . . . As low as 30 per cent of all workers are unionised, this is true.

“You could understand the struggles which the unions have in this country because they have 70 per cent of the workers who are benefiting from the subscriptions and the work of only 30 per cent,” first vice-president of the 14-member Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations of Barbados (CTUSAB), Station Sergeant Hartley Reid, said in an interview.

“I am happy that this issue has come to the fore at this early stage of the new Democratic Labour Party administration because they will now have to take a position on unionisation and the rights of the workers.

“I have long called for legislation which says that every worker should be unionised. There is a reason for it. When a worker is not unionised you have a situation
where the employers take advantage.

“They are offered whatever salary there is and the workers have no recourse. Workers are exploited left, right, and centre; late payment of their salary or
wages; shifting of their employment conditions; sometimes they have no conditions at all,” he said.

The CTUSAB vice-president argued that with “all the anti-worker practices by unscrupulous employers” any legislation enacted by Government regarding mandatory signing up would mean that it would no longer be a requirement that “50 per cent plus one” of a company’s employees for the union to be recognised.

“It would mean that even if one person is unionised in employment that the union of their choice would come in and bargain on their behalf,” Reid said.

He said that this move would also strengthen the ombudsman’s role because he would be responsible for overseeing the operations of the trade unions.

“That can easily be done. Governments must stop hiding behind democracy, by stating every worker has a democratic right to be a member of a union or not. They are perpetuating a system where persons are continuing to live a parasitic life where they would benefit from the contributions and efforts of a few,”
he said.

We on the margin have to admit that we never thought we would see the day that a trade unionist would argue for doing away with Freedom of Association! The question that we would have to ask Sargeant Reid is as follows:

If all employers are as bad as he says in the above quote, why have trade unions not been as successful in attracting more members?

Now we aren’t denying that there are employers out there whose management practices date back to the plantation era, but surely if they were all as bad as this…

“They are offered whatever salary there is and the workers have no recourse. Workers are exploited left, right, and centre; late payment of their salary or
wages; shifting of their employment conditions; sometimes they have no conditions at all,” he said.

Then we would be seeing a much higher proportion of Unionization in the population.
Perhaps what is even more disturbing about the above statement is that it comes not just from a trade unionist but from a police officer. If this is the thinking of someone who is charged with safeguarding our democracy, perhaps we should all be concerned.
Marginal
For our earlier comments on Stn. Sargeant Reid see below:
With Respect Sargeant Reid… We Disagree

January 22, 2008

Our Thoughts On The Cabinet

PM Thompson showed the first inkling of his plans for the new term by naming a cabinet which is bolstered by some of the brightest brains in the island. We on the margin are particularly pleased to see Darcy Boyce being named to the cabinet as his skill set fills the most obvious hole in the qualifications of the elected cabinet.

Another interesting move was divorcing the International Transport ministry from the Tourism ministry and placing back with Transport and Works. The previous BLP administration had considered international transport to be the handmaiden of tourism with a focus on attracting new airlift. It will be interesting to see what new direction this brings.

International Trade, Foreign Affairs, and International Business have been joined under one Minister and one Junior minister. While we can understand the linkage, given the importance of International Business to the economy, we would have been more comfortable with it being given the exclusive focus of one minister. However we will have to see what results this brings.

Perhaps the most surprising omission was that of a Deputy Prime Minister while we have seen comments on Barbados Underground that the post exists only in tradition (let’s be clear it was the opinion of a commenter not David or one of the BU family) we on the margin view the post as having considerable importance. The Deputy Prime Minister runs the country in the absence of the PM. This is true when the PM travels or (God Forbid) becomes incapacitated or dies in office. It would be easy to dismiss the latter scenario as unlikely except for the fact that it has happened twice already.

However apart from the above comments we think that Mr. Thompson’s first cabinet appears to be a credible, well thought out team. The most obvious weakness has been adequately supported and it is clear that he has put his best brains in charge of the key ministries.

We wait to see what changes in policy will come from this new configuration.

Marginal

January 10, 2008

Politicians, It’s One Week Before Elections, Do You Know Where Your Vote Is?

With one week left to go before elections, Barbados is in the grips of one of the most intense election campaigns in recent memory. The two parties’ campaigns appear to be evenly matched, and evenly funded, and to a certain extent evenly supported. We on the Margin have been watching the silly season unfold in all its glory, and we have to admit we are unable to predict a winner at this stage.

Yes, if you listen to Waiting In Vain and Royal Rumble and the other party hacks that inhabit the blogosphere, they all predict a resounding victory for their particular party. But having spent the last week talking to many people, we think that both parties are “Whistling past the graveyard”. For as much bluster as either side makes we’re not sure that either of them has captured the hearts of the electorate.  Barbadians are looking at both parties with a skeptical eye and the hard truth is that this election could go either way.

What we have noted that this campaign has been more about accusations and counter accusations rather than issues. We would like to see some serious discussion about both parties’ visions for the next five years. While we wish that we could say that we thought we would get such reasoned debate in the next next week, we really don’t think so. We think that this next week will get wilder and dirtier with each passing day.

We on the margin would urge Barbadians,  think long and hard about both parties before you go into the polling booth. Whoever you choose is entirely up to you, but be sure to participate, be sure to cast your x. Be sure to treat that decision with the seriousness it deserves.  Hopefully we will all be better off for your doing so.

Marginal

December 31, 2007

In Support of Adrian Loveridge

We indirectly received a copy of Adrian Loveridge’s letter to the Prime Minister regarding the near constant death threats that appear online from BFPE. We have published the letter as part of our blog not because we support Mr. Loveridge in all aspects of everything he does, but on the principle that there are some things that should never be tolerated.

BFPE has issued threats and hurled racial invective since they began. They purport to be Government supporters but it is not altogether clear that they are, as they are an embarrassment to the Government. (Or to any organisation that they support) While the threats have to a large degree been directed at BFP, who have the benefit of anonymity, a large portion of them have been directed at Adrian Loveridge, who has had the temerity to disagree with and criticise the Government on several issues.

While some may advance the argument that BFPE is a harmless looney who is not to be taken seriously, we on the margin know that if those threats were directed at us we would take them very seriously. People standing at our funeral wringing their hands and saying “I didn’t think he was serious…” would be very cold comfort.

Mr. Loveridge should make a formal report to the police of the death threats, and also Mr. Arthur should make a public statement condemming the threats. Not to do so, sets a dangerous precedent in Barbadian politics, where we have been fortunate not to have a history of violence.

There should be zero tolerance for the behaviour exhibited by BFPE and its cohorts. And because of this we are publishing Mr. Loveridge’s letter.

Marginal

The Right Honourable Owen S. Arthur, Prime Minister

Sir,

Two days ago the brother of the Chief Justice, Mr. Peter Simmons, telephoned me at our hotel to voice concern about any possible linkages between himself or brother, and what can only be described as almost daily death threats against myself and wife. Most of these death threats and similar vows to burn down our hotel have been placed on two very popular blogs: Barbados Free Press and Barbados Underground. Barbados Free Press recently advised that they have identified at least one of the death threats to IP: 69.73.212.201 timed at 10.39pm (GMT) on 28th. December 2007

I understand that with the assistance of the Police and Cable and Wireless, it is possible to trace the sender (s) of these deeply offensive threats which are often linked to pornographic websites and contain explicit vile comments.

While, we may not entirely share the same views on every subject, I am sure you would not condone this sort of behaviour and I would respectfully ask for your assistance to initiate a Police investigation into this matter.

I promise you my full co-operation to track down this person (s). During the nearly 20 years of residence on Barbados, my wife and I have tried to make a useful contribution to our field of endeavour, tourism.

Of the 106 hotels on Barbados rated by the worlds most visited website, TripAdvisor, Peach and Quiet, is currently ranked #2, which are entirely based on actual guests comments.

I thank you for considering this matter and wish you and your family a healthy and happy 2008.

Adrian Loveridge

29th December 2007

Sent to info@primeminister.gov.bb at 0512 hrs 29 December 2007

December 26, 2007

Delays, Lost Luggage, Chaos at Check In on LIAT – The World’s Most Expensive Low Cost Carrier!

One of the consistent themes of conversation this Christmas is the Worlds Most Expensive Low Cost Carrier LIAT. Across the Caribbean people are still waiting for luggage with Christmas gifts and just their basic necessities to arrive. Many of them are hoping their luggage will arrive before they have to go back home (on TWMELCC) when it probably will be lost again.

Those of us on the margin, can only comment on the chaos at the check in counter in Barbados which required Airport Security and Police to be called to keep order. It should be noted that this disorder stemmed from the fact that none of the passengers having the remotest idea what was happening with their flight. To the observer it appeared that the logic was whoever pushed their way to the counter got checked in. Whoever didn’t; got left.

No effort was made by LIAT to tell passengers where they should queue. No staff member out front, no indication on the fancy new flat screens above the check in, not even a note written in marker on paper and stuck where people could see it. Calls to all LIAT numbers were met with either no answers or voice mails which gave the obviously irrellevant flight schedule. The chaos at the check in could have been avoided by simply telling people what was going on.

Yes we on the margin can appreciate that LIAT was struggling to move the back log due to industrial action by it’s cabin crew, however how they managed that back log was pathetic and inexcusable. The staff members appeared to be carrying out the same processes as if it were a normal day, when it was clearly anything but. Having let things got out of hand they had to resort to airport security and police to restore order.

It should be noted that we have only good things to say about how the police and the security officers took control of the situation in a professional manner without needing to resort to strong arm tactics.

LIAT’s shareholders need to ask some hard questions about what is being done with their money. We now have a monopoly carrier that treats its customers with disdain and charges higher prices while insulting our intelligence by telling us they are a “low cost airline”

Marginal

September 18, 2007

The Stupidity of Barbados Free Press Exposed

We on the margin were all very disturbed by post over on Barbados Free Press that we read earlier today. It involved threats against a well known commentator:

Making threats against a person is against the law. With the information in the post, Mr. Loveridge could conceivably go to the police and have them track who had the Caribsurf IP address at the time. BTW the location of Tudor Street discussed in the subsequent comments is not relevant to anything other than as a placeholder for Bridgetown in Google Maps.

It is unfortunate that the Blogosphere in Barbados has evolved into almost a wild west environment. We’ve already written our thoughts about Barbados Free Press, however Barbados Free Press Exposed represents the worst example of cyberthuggery that one can think of. There is no attempt to engage in discussion (which we had hoped is how BFPE would have developed) it is simply brutish, abuse. The output of BFPE is so bad, that the opinion has been voiced that it may well be DLP supporters trying to make the BLP look bad.

Whoever is behind BFPE, they seem to have missed the point that to swamp the BFP with abusive comments only leads persons thinking that there is credence to what is posted on BFP. After all, if it was absolute nonsence no one would devote so much time and resources to shut it down would they? Dale Carnegie had a saying that “No One Kicks A Dead Dog” and that is what is being played out here. Far from stifling BFP, BFPE is making their case for them.

This post may well land us on BFPE’s s**t list. However we believe that our record of fairness and balance stands for all to see. IF (and we stress that word) the political directorate is involved with BFPE, they should know that it is rapidly becoming an embarrassment not only to themselves but to Barbados as a whole.

The operators of BFPE need to think and try again.

Marginal

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