Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : April 19th 2015 Contents "Greetings, massive! Wha
a gwaan, Jamaica?"
Yep, that was a perfect
start to the UWI talk-session
with young Jamaicans.
The night before, there was a
well-briefed "Hi, Natasha" to
the guide at Bob Marley Muse-
um. Jamaicans responded with
ackee and salt fish, then 48
cold Red Stripe for a departing
Air Force One.
And the business end?
Jamaica s Energy Minister
Phillip Paulwell and the US
Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz
are now talking about Jamaica
as a distribution hub for LNG
from the US Gulf coast. That
could transform the Caribbean
US President Barack Obama s
Kingston visit came 33 years,
almost to the day, after Ronald
Reagan s. He, too, was a great
communicator. So was his host,
the recently-elected Eddie
Seaga. The Cold War was in
full freeze. Maurice Bishop was
prime minister of Grenada.
Jamaica was an economic
morass. Seaga s welcome speech
quoted opinion poll stats on
which countries Jamaicans
thought were likely to help.
Top of the list came the
United States, with 88 per cent.
Next, Canada, with 36 per cent
(respondents could pick more
than one country.) Britain?
Only 13 per cent thought the
former Mother Country had
much to offer.
Venezuela? Hugo Chavez was
a 29-year-old lecturer in a mil-
itary academy; but eight per
cent of Jamaicans saw his
country as a source of bounty.
Cuba? Seven per cent.
And China? Today s giant
didn t even figure.
Fast forward to 2015. Jamaica
still an economic morass. But
ask them now where the cash
might come from, and you d
get different answers.
Venezuela s PetroCaribe brings
funds worth one-sixth of
Jamaica s government revenue.
China owns a big slice of the
sugar industry; has financed a
trans-island highway; and is
talking mega-investment in
hotels and ports.
But for soft power, it s still
game, set and match to the
United States. No Chinese
leader---indeed, now that Man-
dela s gone, probably no leader
anywhere---could connect with
Jamaicans like Barack Obama.
Not even Portia Simpson
Miller. And certainly not her
opposition leader, the hapless
At the Town Hall meeting
the President was relaxed and
responsive. He knew how to
listen, as well as talk. But how
much of his message hit home?
That s a toughie.
The first Jamaican in the
audience to be name-called
was Angeline Jackson.
Said the President: "When
Angeline was 19, she and a
friend were kidnapped, held at
gunpoint and sexually assault-
lesbian, justice and society were
not always on her side. But
instead of remaining silent, she
chose to speak out...she cares
about her Jamaica, and making
it a place where everybody, no
matter their colour, or their
class, or their sexual orienta-
tion, can live in equality and
That message was pretty
much blanked by the Jamaican
But they found space to
report a tiny group of black-
clad protestors from the oddly-
named "Love March Move-
ment," with T-shirts reading
"No to US buggery export."
And ganja? Jamaica s decrim-
inalisation came into effect just
last Wednesday---six days after
the President s visit. Miguel
"Steppa" Williams asked the
The President was well pre-
pared, and even-handed.
"The so-called war on drugs
has been so heavy in empha-
sising incarceration that it has
been counter-productive. But:
"Decriminalisation is no "sliver
bullet." Economically, the
Caribbean s small and medium-
sized businesses will have to
compete: "Big multinational
companies will come in and try
to market and control and
profit from the trade."
China? Obama carefully
avoided his predecessor s Cold
War rhetoric. But he gave com-
mon-sense cautions about con-
tracts, transparency---and the
use of Chinese labour.
So, that s the soft-power
stuff: score 100 per cent; if
Jamaicans are listening. What
about the economy?
In April 1982, Reagan had
just launched the Caribbean
Basin Initiative---one-way free
trade access for most Caribbean
exports to the United States.
At the time, that sounded
like a great idea. Jamaica
launched a garment industry,
based on cheap labour. But off-
shore manufacturing progressed
slowly---then collapsed, unable
to compete with China.
America is no longer
Jamaica s big investor. Alcoa
last year sold its bauxite inter-
ests to Hong Kong s Noble
Group. The hotel money is now
Spanish or Sandals---and the
next wave possibly Chinese. A
French-led consortium this
month signed a US$600 mil-
lion agreement to run the
Kingston Container Terminal.
But Americans may be mov-
ing back. Moniz and Paulwell
were talking natural gas; and
they weren t talking about
Moniz wants to export LNG
from US shale gas through a
major hub facility which can
re-export to smaller Caribbean
markets, with support from the
Bank. That could nicely upstage
PetroCaribe, and fix Jamaica s
high energy costs. If it moves,
it s a game-changer.
Said Paulwell: "We believe
that Jamaica could be a part of
a hub because of our geograph-
ic location...After these meet-
ings, we are hoping to zero in
on some of the specificity."
Before Obama s visit, the crab
sellers stalls in National Heroes
Circle were demolished. Now
they re back. Business as usual?
Maybe not. Let s see what
they re using for fuel, a few
years from now.
Francesca Hawkins election as
president of the Media Asso-
ciation of T&T this month at
one of the biggest turnouts in
memory felt like a spark in a val-
ley of shadows. In recent months
we have spent too much time
mourning our front soldiers.
Raoul Pantin, Marcia Henville,
and now Sandra Chouthi.
That gets me thinking of
Anthony Milne, Keith Smith and
George John. And others.
No matter how intense or fleet-
ing our relationship with our dead
soldiers, we feel it in the gut. It
doesn t matter if MATT lived out
of a cardboard box for many
years, lacking a home, lacking
funds, we are a fraternity.
If law is a jealous mistress,
journalism is a single minded sol-
dier, a ferreter of truth, a 24 hour,
365 days, all of our lives love.
It s a sixth sense that never
sleeps. There is no such thing as
a nine to five journalist. It s a
gritty path. All roads lead to the
deadline, to getting the news out.
There is no such thing as an
excuse in a newsroom. No news-
paper has not gone to press
because someone has called in
sick. It goes to press. Computers
crash, children are sometimes left
late in school, birthday parties are
missed, Christmas gifts are
unopened but the deadline must
When we meet socially perhaps,
we look at one another with
crooked tired smiles of recogni-
tion. I don t know a single jour-
nalist who isn t perpetually
exhausted. There are the all
nighters in the studio to edit a
piece for television, the heart
thudding writing at five to seven
to meet the deadline for the seven
pm newscast, the frantic battle
with the computer glitch to meet
the deadline for the morning
paper. We can t afford to simply
close our eyes in the sun and let
the breeze wash over our faces.
An accident. Must report it. An
unusual roadblock, get on the
phone. Tweet. E-mail, call, write,
record. Someone says something
unusual. Make a mental note.
The main thing about journal-
ists is that we have to show up,
again and again and again. We
don t have the luxury of an artist
who can look back with satisfac-
tion at his painting completed five
No. Our words are in the gutter
the day after we produce them,
wrapping up glass, in the garbage.
We are only as good as our last
piece of work. I remember this
most acutely when my beloved
brother succumbed to cancer after
a five-year battle. What did I do?
I found an internet cafe and wrote
my column. That is nothing to
what full time news colleagues do
day after day after day.
Most people don t get what we
do. Some think we are human
purveyors of human foibles. That
we live by skinning people. Yet,
like TS Eliot would say, that is
not it at all. We are tiny cogs in
the wheels of conglomerates and
corporations. We know without us
there would be no news, no cur-
rent affairs. Without us we would
live in a perpetual area of dark-
ness. Why do we do what we do,
and why do we keep doing it?
Words die, newspapers disinte-
grate, and news is forgotten. We
do this because we are the fifth
We are the watchdogs for the
people. So when people ask us,
why don t we report good news,
why don t we report the woman
who kindly gave a beggar money,
we say we would love to do that;
except its our job to report the
beggar s plight, how she got there,
the responsibility and transparency
of the government on behalf of
We are not white washers---we
don t hide the truth. We don t
cover up rot with perfume. We
expose it so it can be cleaned up.
When one of us falls, we all feel
it. We feel a chilly shadow. We ve
seen a lot. We ve seen too much.
Being part of the fifth estate is
dirty work. We see bullet-riddled
young men, and the whores and
the untouchable drug barons, the
carnage on the roads, the remains
of the rape victims, and the
women who toil and walk up a
hill at the end of the day to find
a dead son. We see the corruption
and the people who prey upon
the weak. We interpret the statis-
tics. We sometimes get it wrong.
In our haste to report the news
we hurt victims. We make gram-
matical and spelling mistakes. We
know we are not loved. But with-
out us, there would be only dark-
ness. No mirror with which to see
who we are, no map to show us
where we need to go. It s an
imperfect map but it s there.
I am thrilled that television
anchor, film maker, documentary
maker, journalist, colleague and a
dear friend Hawkins is recognised
for what she can contribute. The
Hawk, as her friends call her, is a
brilliant journalist who under-
stands every level of the society,
who has served the country as a
media worker for decades, who
has branched out as a lecturer at
UWI, and served both the private
and public sector who gets the
complexity of our small society.
We need to throw some light
around Ms Hawkins, and as
media workers and a country
support her so our mirror can be
polished, so that truth and not
spin will continue to inform us.
Sunday Guardian www.guardian.co.tt April 19, 2015
FIFTH ESTATE IS DIRTY WORK
OBAMA IN JAMAICA: GAYS, GAS AND GANJA
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