Caribbean and Diaspora News in Brief
Grenada 30 years on
Ganja farmer held after press interview
Cubans on dollar changes
Diaspora - A groom's murder, Britain's
Immigration bill, Sparrow released,
Kid Creole and UWI diaspora lit honour
Week ending 25 October 2013
Grenada 30 years on – Thirty years after the US invasion, events have been taking place in Grenada, as well as round-table sessions in the US and in Britain.
In Grenada itself, Grenadian government and other officials, American top military brass and US veterans were attending a mix of events, including a thanksgiving service, wreath-laying and a memorial ceremony.
A statement from US Southern Command described 25 October 1983 as an “intervention…to restore security and democratic institutions in the Eastern Caribbean island state of Grenada”.
It pointed out that “in Grenada, the anniversary is called Thanksgiving Day”.
For more on the 30th anniversary, see the column by David Jessop of the London-based Caribbean Council for Europe which explores changing US-Caribbean relations in the last 30 years.
Just when you think the Caribbean debate over the legalisation of ganja has died down, it raises its head somewhere new and reignites discussion.
Caribbean Intelligence© has been following the debate in political, legal and policing circles, but one recent incident in Jamaica indicated the grass-roots nature of the issue.
The appearance of a farmer in a Jamaica Observer story arguing the case for small-time ganja cultivators led to his arrest.
Ras Puddler argued in the newspaper against legalising marijuana, on the basis that it would put people like him out of business as large growers moved into the market.
The story appeared on 23 October and police arrested him later that day, also seizing a chillum pipe, three pounds of ganja and some ganja seedlings.
For more on the pan-Caribbean debate on legalising ganja, check out our October story.
Still on the ganja issue, the country that has moved the furthest in changing its legislation, Uruguay, has announced its plans and pricing structure for legal marijuana, which will go on sale from mid-2014.
Uruguay’s drug chief Julio Calzada told Spain’s El Pais newspaper that marijuana would be sold at US$1 a gramme.
Mr Calzada said that one gramme would be enough for one large cigarette or two or three slimmer cigarettes.
He told the paper that the idea of changing legislation was not to make money, but to wrest the market away from illegal dealers and cut down on the petty criminal offences that arose from the quest for small amounts of ganja.
Divers seeking the Italian fashion house head, Vittorio Missoni, have retrieved samples from five bodies they have found in plane wreckage in the Caribbean Sea.
Identification of the remains could take up to a month, but Venezuelan officials said luggage found on the plane had indicated that they belonged to Mr Missoni, his family and friends.
The group disappeared on 4 January, when their flight from the Venezuelan islands of Los Roques went missing on the way to Caracas.
Cubans gave a cautious response to the 22 October announcement of plans to phase out the dual currency system as part of continuing reforms.
The value of the locally-used peso will gradually be unified with the higher value convertible peso (CUC), which is currently reserved for Cuba’s tourism and foreign trade sectors.
“I like idea that our ordinary national currency will be used everywhere and that we will not have to change it into CUC to buy things,” one petrol station attendant told America’s NBC News.
“I support the change, but we must check that prices do not rise while wages remain as low as they are.”
London’s Evening Standard reported this week on the murder of a groom at a Jamaican wedding reception.
The paper said that the north London bride had no idea at first why gunmen had burst in and targeted her new husband.
It turned out that the man, whom she had met in a holiday romance while visiting her parents’ home in Jamaica, had owed the men JA$10,000 - about £60 - and they had burst in demanding payment.
“Everybody loved Damelon,” Jacqueline Cousins told the Standard.
“I think it was simply jealousy that he might have left the country and had a life with me.”
There have been growing demonstrations and online protests as British MPs started debating a new bill to toughen up the country’s immigration system.
The legislation aims to cut back on benefit payments for migrants and on the grounds for appeal against deportation to speed up the process.
Activists have pointed out that, while many in Britain’s black community do not believe the legislation will affect them, there are aspects that could have an impact on the lives of people born or living in the UK legally.
- seeks to give police more powers to check the immigration status of driving licence applicants
- requires banks to check against a database of known immigration offenders before opening bank accounts
- and makes temporary residents, including students, pay towards care provided by Britain’s National Health Service.
A demonstration by a group called Movement Against Xenophobia took place outside the House of Commons during the bill’s second reading on 22 October.
Lee Jasper, co-chair of the group Black Activists Rising Against Cuts (BRAC), has been one of the activists using the internet and social media to encourage people to join the protests and to highlight what he called the “nasty, divisive bill set to inflame race relations”.
Good news for Caribbean music lovers at home and abroad as calypso legend the Mighty Sparrow is released from hospital.
Despite being reportedly killed off by one part of the Trinidad press, the undisputed Calypso King of the World was released from a New York hospital and is now in a special therapy facility to convalesce.
Trinidad’s Newsday newspaper (not the paper responsible for the erroneous story alleging Sparrow’s demise) quoted on 23 October from a press release it had received from the family of Slinger Francisco.
The family said: “We wish to place on record our profound appreciation for the continued outpouring of best wishes, prayers and support from the public for the complete recovery of the Mighty Sparrow.”
UK-based Trinidadian author Lakshmi Persaud is one of 19 recipients of honorary degrees from the University of the West Indies (UWI).
Caribbean Intelligence© covered the launch of Lakshmi’s book Daughters of Empire in October 2012.
It reflects on life in Trinidad's Indian community and in London, as well as how people in the diaspora cope with visits “back home” to Trinidad, and explores the subtle prejudices faced by a middle-class family on moving to Britain.
If you speak Creole or Kwéyòl, or if you merely aspire to, here’s a chance for an early Christmas present.
A series for children in the Caribbean and the Diaspora includes language teaching books and study aids for children in Dominican and St Lucian Creole.
“We are seeing the emergence of third-generation Dominicans and St Lucians living in the UK & US now,” said Kwéyòl For Kids founder Trina John-Charles.
“Out of 10 six-year-olds of Kwéyòl descent living in the UK, none were able to say a basic sentence in Kwéyòl when surveyed and less than half could speak any Kwéyòl words at all.”
Born in Britain of Dominican parents, Trina explained: “I heard Kwéyòl in the house as a child, but my parents only ever spoke if they were discussing something they didn’t want us [children] to hear, or when they were talking to their friends.”
“It was embarrassing that all my friends - Spanish, Irish, Greek, Nigerian, Ghanaian, even Welsh – all knew their mother tongues, why didn’t I? This is really what prompted me to learn.”
Oktoberfest En Kweyol is also currently being marked in St Lucia.
Quote of the week
"I welcome it. Every single citizen has won. So do not despair. Elected Councilors, citizens, your vote is sacred." Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bisessar to party supporters on 21 October after the opposition took eight of the 14 corporations in local government elections.