2004-09-16 / Caribbean Corner

p.m. manning caricom must act soon on grenada

PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad (AP) – Prime Minister Patrick Manning has said that Caricom will have to act soon to avoid a major social and economic disaster in Grenada if it does not re-cover quickly from the ravages of Hur-ricane Ivan.

Mr. Manning was speaking ahead of an emergency meeting of Caricom heads in Port of Spain on Wednesday at which all Caricom states will be represented, including Grenada whose leader Keith Mitchell will attend in his capacity as Caricom chairman.

At the meeting, the leaders and representatives of countries that were hit by Hurricane Ivan will inform Caricom about the extent of damage in their countries and the sort of assistance that is required.

Mr. Manning said there will be discussions about the implementation of the Caribbean Single Market and Eco-nomy (CSME) in light of the destruction by Hurricane Ivan. He also said that it was within this context that Caricom needed to consider the viability of small island states.

He also spoke about media reports in Trinidad about Grenadians seeking refugee status in Trinidad and other neighboring countries.

“If some economic activity is not started in Grenada soon, we run the risk of a number of Grenadians moving out to countries nearby,” he said.

“They have already started to move out to St. Vincent and the Grenadines and coming to Trinidad and Tobago is going to be an attractive proposition, so we have to move fast and be decisive in our action.”

Mr. Manning said a house building and rehabilitation program could be the first priority given the destruction caused by the hurricane.

He told the press conference that what he saw on Tuesday during a short tour of some of the affected areas in Jamaica clearly illustrated that that coun-try had been spared the major brunt of the hurricane

Prime Minister Manning said his government has allocated $5 million for assistance to all of the territories affected by Hurricane Ivan, including Cuba, where he recently underwent a successful heart operation.

Manning Proposes $30 Million Aid For Ivan’s victims

PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad (AP) – Prime Minister Patrick Manning is proposing $30 million in assistance for countries that have been affected by Hurricane Ivan.

However, a decision on the sum would be finalized when Cabinet meets tomorrow, he said yesterday at a news conference at Whitehall, Port-of-Spain.

“What I am suggesting is a package of $30 million in assistance to the region as a result of the hurricanes,” Manning told reporters.

“The Cabinet will consider that on Thursday (tomorrow), and if the Ca-binet agrees to it in that form or any other form, you will be advised as to how the allocation will be made.”

Noting the destruction that had been caused by Ivan throughout the region, Manning said T&T had already offer-ed financial aid to St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Cuba and Grenada.

He said St. Vincent PM Ralph Gon-salves was willing to offer his country’s allocation to Grenada.

“The prime minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines has been generous in suggesting that the money that T&T had allocated to Grenada and St. Vin-cent and the Grenadines, because of the priority of Grenada, he was prepared for Grenada to have all of it,” Manning said.

“Bad as their problem is, he considers the problem of Grenada to be im-measurably worse.”

Manning said he also received an eye-opener yesterday.

“I received a telephone call from the Bahamas prime minister (Perry Christie) yesterday,” he said.

“He asked me when I was coming to the Bahamas. I was very much taken aback by that, because we were of the view that the Bahamas did not suffer any significant damage.

“What he told me this morning (yes-terday) seems to suggest otherwise and it looks as though even the Bahamas government initially was not quite sure of the extent of the damage that has been caused by the hurricane.”

Manning said there were severe problems in the Bahamas arising out of Hurricane Frances, which preceded Ivan, that Christie would like Caricom to examine.

The PM said he was due to address the United Nations on September 24 and on his way up he would pay a visit to the Bahamas.

“The Bahamas is an essential part of the Caribbean community and we do not have first and second-class citizens in the Caribbean. All are citizens and all must be treated equitably,” he said.

ST. GEORGE’S, Grenada (AP) _ Dozens of hungry people in search of a meal stood outside a shuttered grocery store, as many complained that Gre-nada needs more aid following the devastation of Hurricane Ivan.

The store remained closed Monday due to fears of looting, and police stood guard outside, ensuring the canned food and crackers visible through the windows would stay put.

Some of those waiting outside said they were growing desperate nearly a week after Ivan hit. The storm left a wasteland of ruined homes and shortages of food and water.

“I have no food, I have no clothes. My entire house was destroyed. I have nothing,’’ said Shaheed Bilal, 42, who sat outside gazing at the store from a wheel chair, paralyzed from the waist down by a car accident. “I am now look-ing to steal something in the grocery.’’

Looting broke out on the island after Ivan hit on Sept. 7, and Caribbean troops from countries like Trinidad and Antigua have been patrolling the streets of St. George’s, the capital.

About 90 percent of Grenada’s homes were damaged or destroyed, and many had their roofs blown off. At least 39 Grenadians were killed.

Some relief shipments have been arrived, including a jet that landed Sunday with 20 tons of plastic sheeting, fuel, generators and other supplies from the Geneva-based International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

But a number of residents say they have yet to see any aid and are in urgent need.

“I am concerned about my children because I have no food in the house,’’ said 41-year-old artist Fitzgerald Thomas. “We have been waiting on (aid workers) to bring supplies to us, but until now we have not seen anyone. I have no money to go to the grocery.’’

His home’s roof was blown off, and he said his paintings were destroyed. Thomas said he had been drinking from a dirty tank and eating only simple cakes of flour and cassava.

More aid shipments were expected this week, and the U.S. government flew in supplies last week.

On Monday, St. Lucia announced $100,000 in aid for Grenada and of-fered to accommodate prisoners from the island if needed. Grenada’s main prison suffered extensive damage, allowing about 150 inmates to escape. About 50 remained at large.

KINGSTON, Jamaica (AP) – Pri-vate Sector leaders yesterday pledged support for the Jamaica hurricane relief fund, which has been established by the Patterson administration in the wake of Hurricane Ivan. The hurricane has left 19,000 persons in shelters and billions of dollars in industrial and in-frastructural damage.

At a packed Jamaica House meeting yesterday, Prime Minister P.J. Patter-son told a wide cross-section of business interests that an oversight committee will be set up to manage, control and disburse relief funds.

Telecommunications provider Digi-cel was quick off the mark and yesterday committed $200 million from its foundation to the national recovery fund. Seamus Lynch, group CEO of Digicel, presented a commitment letter to Mr. Patterson.

Following closed door discussions with private sector leaders, Jamaica House issued a statement disclosing that hundreds of millions of dollars were pledged, with several companies pro-mising to make their pledges after consultations with senior directors and board members.

The statement revealed that two bank-ing institutions have promised to make millions of dollars in loans available to the public at special rates as part their contribution to the recovery effort. In addition, many companies have indicated their willingness to provide relief supplies and freight forwarding services either at reduced rates or complimentary.

On Monday, the National Commer-cial Bank announced that it was committing up to $100 million in matching funds, up to October 31, and the lottery company Supreme Ventures has donated $10 million. Jamaica National Build-ing Society has announced a lowering of interest rate for customers seeking hurricane repair loans.

The Jamaica House meeting mandated Raymond Campbell, head of the Bankers’ Association of Jamaica, to invite all authorized deposit-taking in-stitutions operating in the country to open accounts to facilitate members of the public and organizations to make contributions to the hurricane relief fund.

Mr. Campbell later told AP that the private sector group would meet today to determine the details of its support of the national hurricane reconstruction effort.

Prime Minister Patterson noted that it was in everybody’s interest “for Ja-maica to get back on track as quickly as possible”. He went on to argue that the recovery and reconstruction pro-cess must be done “in a manner that does not derail the development train in which we have been travelling over the last few months.” On Monday, Mr. Patterson had named Danville Walker, the director of elections, to head the Office of National Reconstruction.

In the meantime “local donations have been pouring in from all over,” Nadine Newsome, senior director of information and training, reported yesterday. Some of the donations included bottled water from Winsynco Trading Company and Pepsi Jamaica; canned foods from Grace, Kennedy and Com-pany; biscuits and baked items from Continental Bakery and non-perishable items from Kraft Foods, among others.

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