Open letter to minister of health, Fenton Ferguson: Stop the chemical attacks against innocent citizens
Dear Minister of Health, Dr Fenton Ferguson,
I write you to ask that you immediately suspend the policy in regard to the Ministry of Health mosquito spraying programme.
This method of constant spraying without warning to residents is an absolute criminal assault, especially against those who have respiratory problems.
It is absolutely necessary that your ministry publicly publish and discuss this spraying programme so that those who believe that their health might be affected by indiscriminate spraying be allowed to exempt themselves from the area at the time that the spraying is to take place. This is the minimum courtesy that your ministry can extend to citizens of this country.
I think it is also the right of citizens to know precisely what is the chemical content of the spray being used so that potential harm to humans can be evaluated.
It is my observation that workers on the vans that do the spraying do not wear gas masks as should be required and this has got to be an absolute assault on their health.
Studies have shown that pesticides used to control or kill mosquitoes are not only harmful to the environment but are potentially carcinogenic for human beings, not to mention the ineffectiveness of this method. Malathion for example is an organophosphate that can cause long term neurological health problems.
Indeed, in other jurisdictions such as the United States, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) demands that there first be a surveillance programme to determine “levels of mosquito activity” and a “community outreach and public education” programme before any such spraying can be carried out. In other words are all communities equal in terms of mosquito threat?
I challenge you to show how or where such a scientific approach has been adopted by your ministry. This is in contrast to your extensive public discussion about the dangers of cigarette smoking and coming regulations regarding carbon monoxide emission from motor vehicles.
It is my experience in the neighbourhood where I live that spraying has been continuing for months and is carried out several times per week. This has got to be totally excessive and is a reflection of the absolute ineffectiveness of this method where killing mosquitoes is concerned.
I urge you minister to immediately suspend this programme and to engage in a public review and discussion.
To ignore this plea, and to continue with this indiscriminate spraying has to be recognized as a chemical attack against innocent citizens and is criminal in nature.
As the one who sets policy, the bucks stops with you, and makes you criminally liable for damage done to citizens.
DEAR Dr Marion Bullock DuCasse
Director, Emergency, Disaster Management and Special Services, Ministry of Health
I am outraged but not surprised to read that you are contending that the chemical malathion that is used to attack people or “fog” them as you call it is “safe”.
According to you, “this is recognised on the safe list in terms of the international health organisation.” Which health organisation are you referring to?
That is as much you can say to reassure people, despite admitting that “it is a chemical and individuals react differently to chemicals; some have an allergic reaction, some might have respiratory irritation, but that does not mean it is something that is not safe for you and is not approved for you”! In other words, ‘this is just a minor inconvenience. Get used to it!’
I urge you to reflect on the implications of the above statement and then perhaps come to a decision as to whether you wish to continue to promote yourself as a doctor and person of science or, whether you shouldn’t start wearing your real hat as a salesperson for the chemical company that produces malathion. (Maybe salesperson for the pharmaceutical companies that produce vaccines that damage our children, as well, since your authoritarian position on that issue is also well known).
Please allow me to inform you that despite your safe label pronouncement, malathion is an organophosphate that can cause neurological damage and is considered carcinogenic by scientists who have carried out studies.
Had you have taken the time to peruse the internet, for example, you would have discovered that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has taken the position that there is “suggestive evidence” that malathion causes cancer. And, that recent studies provide even stronger evidence that commercial malathion insecticide caused breast cancer in laboratory animals, and malathion use by farmers is associated with an increased incidence of a non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma — a type of cancer.
The policy of your ministry of health (so-called) of indiscriminate spraying of people (not to mention the potential damage to bees and the water supply) is in itself criminal given the known health risks of malathion. It cannot be a defence that you keep yourself blissfully ignorant.
I therefore urge you to revisit this matter. I urge that despite your awful powers to legally and lethally attack people with chemicals that you have a moral DUTY to at least inform them as to when you intend to carry out your attacks. Unless, of course, your commitment to the chemical companies is irreversible and the people be damned.
Finally, I think you ought to inform the MOH workers that you employ to carry out these chemical attacks, of the dangers to themselves, and to give them the gas masks that they should be wearing for protection.
In any event, I think these workers have the legal right to take you to court for wilfully putting their health and their lives at risk by not protecting them, and by being deceitful.
SOMETHING is obviously amiss with Owen Ellington’s sudden departure as head of the police force. That is perhaps a secret between himself and his political bosses in the government which may or may never be revealed.
For the moment, however, we need not detain ourselves with speculation. What needs to be focused on is the very incriminating reasons given by Ellington for his decision to step down.
Ellington says he is stepping down because he needs to separate himself from “from the leadership and management of the force prior to the commencement of the upcoming commission of Enquiry into the conduct of the operations of the security forces in Western Kingston and other areas during the limited State of Emergency in 2010″.
The Tivoli Committee has long taken the position that Ellington should either have been fired or done the honourable thing and resign as police commissioner immediately after the Tivoli Gardens massacre.
It took him four years to do the honourable thing while his boss Peter Bunting seems to have been on his knees praying for divine guidance rather than showing leadership. According to Bunting: “He was not pushed out….I was satisfied with his performance.”
The fact is that Ellington should have long been the subject of a criminal investigation into his role as police commander of the Tivoli operations. The fact that the investigating arm of the police did no investigation has to be laid squarely at the feet of Owen Ellington.
Had he resigned immediately it would have been far easier for Bunting to agree with the Tivoli Committee’s demand that not only should Ellington be investigated for the crimes against humanity that were committed by the security forces, but that the matter should be referred to the International Criminal Court.
Having now done the “honourable” thing it might be a little too late since the die is cast. The terms of reference have been decided upon by the government, and there is no indication that there will be anything other than a perfunctory look at Ellington’s role in the whole affair. The commissioners have not been tasked with specifically investigating his role as commander. And the government has given no indication that it is disposed to sending the matter to the ICC.
Additionally, the Tivoli Committee believes that even at this late stage, the example of Ellington separating himself from the management and leadership of the force so as to minimize any obstructionist role that he could play in the enquiry, should also apply Assistant Commissioner Glenmore Hinds. He was the ground commander and now as commissioner he has the power to obstruct and he should also step aside or be fired.
Ellington also cites the need for there to be no perception of him having any “influence” or “interference” with the ongoing INDECOM probe into police death squads operating out of May Pen Clarendon. Like the Tivoli matter, this is also a little late in the day since this investigation has been ongoing on for many months.
It would be interesting, however, to hear what is INDECOM’s perception of the role Ellington has played in their investigations so far, or his involvement in the matter.
Finally, Ellington makes it clear, that Major General Stewart Saunders, former head of the JDF, and military commander of the Tivoli, should also resign or be fired from his post as permanent secretary in the Ministry of National Security.
The same principle applies. As the subject of a potential criminal enquiry Saunders should never have been appointed to this position which gives him opportunity to obstruct and shape the enquiry to suit himself.
In the final analysis, the blame for this fiasco must rest squarely on the shoulders of minister Peter Bunting. He has shown scant regard or concern for the seriousness of the crimes committed in Tivoli Gardens, and this is exemplified in no greater way than his seeming attempt to protect the two major players in that massacre.
We believe that he should also resign or be fired. It is the ethical thing to do.
By getting rid of Ellington, Saunders and Bunting, it may be possible to revisit the terms of reference with a different approach, devoid of the temptation for corruption.
on behalf of the
IF it is true that our “international partners” have evidence against police commissioner Owen Ellington that required revoking his visa and forcing him into early retirement, then obviously the charges must be quite serious and compelling. See Gleaner “External pressure — Int’l partners keep close watch on ‘death squad’ probe; US assistance to JCF under review
It therefore stands to reason that these serious allegations must also involve violation of Jamaican laws as well and would, under normal circumstances, warrant an immediate criminal probe of Ellington by Jamaican authorities. But once again, who are these Jamaican authorities to launch such a criminal probe: the police? the Cabinet? the prime minister? Peter Bunting? the DPP? INDECOM? Complicity is the name of the game.
If INDECOM, for example, is investigating Ellington, which it has neither confirmed nor denied, then it is incumbent on them to say so. Owen Ellington is not an ordinary policeman. He was the head of the Jamaica Constabulary Force and must be held to a higher standard of accountability. The standard used by international partners should be no less the standard used by the Jamaican state.
If for some reason INDECOM believes that it is under constraint to be direct with the people then the government is under no such constraint.
To withhold information from the public and to do nothing about Ellington is to be complicit with whatever crimes Ellington may have committed. If it were not complicit, then the government would be duty bound to comprehensively and truthfully inform the public and to ensure that the relevant arms of the state vigorously investigate Ellington based on the information provided by “international partners”.
Government approach so far indicates that it is complicit, and is defending Ellington as best it can. Otherwise, Ellington’s four million a year retirement would have been blocked, he would have been suspended, and an investigation launched. Or, the evidence provided by international partners, accepted at face value.
By having stuck with Ellington, this PNP government, strengthens the argument, that it like previous governments, orange and green, gives the police and the army the right to commit extrajudicial killings with the full assurance of impunity.
We focus on extrajudicial killings because Ellington himself has opened the door to that discussion by pointing to the Tivoli Gardens massacre and the INDECOM death squad investigation as the reasons why he is leaving. He is inviting an investigation of these matters free from his possible influence and interference. A little too late perhaps.
As the Tivoli Committee has previously stated, Peter Bunting has lost the moral authority to continue being the minister of national security because serious crimes committed by Ellington could not have happened without his knowledge, or his duty to know.
He has protected and succoured Ellington from the very beginning, just as he has done with Major General Stewart Saunders, former head of the JDF, a person of major interest in the Tivoli Gardens massacre. Bunting must go!
INDECOM at this time has a special responsibility to the people of this country and cannot continue with its narrow-minded, legalistic approach to extrajudicial killings.
A public enquiry into the decades-old Jamaican state policy of impunity for police extrajudicial killings must be held. INDECOM has the power to hold such a public enquiry. The policy has to be unbared publicly in order for a new policy and a new culture to emerge.
INDECOM is foolish to believe that it can get past the DPP with any death squad investigation because that body is an extension of the JCF, not the other way around. See — “Death squad holes — DPP to reassess Clarendon murder cases”; “DPP won’t press Canada for ex-cop’s extradition”.
We therefore call upon INDECOM once again, to hold a public enquiry into the state policy extrajudicial killings.
If INDECOM fails the country, it leaves the public with no other choice but to conclude that INDECOM itself is part of the circle of impunity.
It leaves the public with no choice but to label high state officials as complicit with murder and terrorism. The logic of this argument cannot have escaped our international partners.
EMPRESS CHRISTINE LAGARDE — International Monetary Farce – has come to Jamaica to assure her faithful officials that she is mighty pleased with the way they are screwing the subjects in order to make sure that creditors, international and of course local ones, get their pound of flesh.
The JLP grumbled about devaluation but was proud that Lagarde saw them as a responsible opposition — which is exactly what she came to counsel them about — to ensure that her grateful officials (US$400 million loaned so far), loyally support the plan to screw the people, even while allowance is made for a little political posturing here and there. She was not to be disappointed. “I also had the opportunity to meet with representatives from the private sector, labor unions and opposition. I was impressed by the high degree of consensus and awareness on the need to reform Jamaica’s economy….”
The head of the UWI economics department, Dr Damien King, clothed in a demeanour to suggest economic intelligence, introduced Lagarde as only well-trained house slaves can do, masking his intellectual grovelling with common place Economics 101 observations. God bless the poor young minds at UWI being groomed for a future life as Economist clowns.
Lagarde was at her partonizing best, as was to be expected. She approvingly mentioned Usain Bolt and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Bob Marley and Tessanne Chin and Claude McKay — but not Juan de Serras (who was the ultimate Maroon warrior) and Tacky (who terrorized planters in St Mary) and Sam Sharpe (the man who could have been a Toussaint L’Ouverture) and even George William Gordon (Governor Eyre’s constant irritant) — all of whom most symbolize the future — i.e. a non-grovelling, revolutionary struggle against a neo-colonial form of deception and oppression which Lagarde represents.
The highlight of Lagarde’s very polished attempt at deception was of course that she mentioned but never analyzed the “unsustainable” level of debt.
She wants to give the impression that “growth” will result from the grinding sacrifice by the people, and in so far as that happens, all is well. A typical Anancy story if ever there was one.
Lagarde, as the face card for international finance capital, knows that economic growth is possible with a little statistical manipulation, but it is sustainable economic development which the people want, and for which they are being forced to sacrifice, in vain.
For starters the debt will never stop being an obstacle to development unless it is repudiated and all that that implies. Lagarde’s IMF policies is the very antithesis of sustainable economic development and hence for her the idea of repudiation is tantamount to treason.
Thus, she is here to assure her faithful officials never to entertain such ideas which can only come from discontented and ungrateful subjects. Her dutiful finance minister gets it. He shakes in his boots at the thought that repudiation would create a cash economy! [Stated in response to a journalist's question].
Lagarde presents herself as the moderate alternative to potential ingrates because she is also against global income inequality (so she says!); she mouths stuff about the perils of climate change; and of course she wants equality for women; and protection for the poorest (i.e. PATH — wow!); and for that frightened UWI student who sees government cuts potentially hampering his education –she expresses a hope that the finance minister will see education as the path to growth. How enlightening and progressive but what a piece of cant!
The biggest contradiction and even hypocrisy is the fact that the IMF has expressed opposition to US courts scuttling the deal that Argentina made with its creditors after having repudiated their public debt, and forcing creditors to accept a radical reduction in the debt Argentina is prepared to pay them.
Of course that is something not to be publicly discussed as part of the options available to Jamaica.
Despite the carefully crafted show, Lagarde and her Jamaican courtiers may fool a few gullible ones, but not the vast majority of the people who are daily burdened by oppressive austerity measures. The daily cry for justice continues.
No wonder Her Imperial Highness and her courtiers did not want questions asked. Correction, they allowed about four questions which Lagarde waffled over showing that even Gods have intellectual limits.
Common sense tell us though, that the debt is not only unsustainable, it cannot be repaid. It must be repudiated if only for the reason that most of it is odious, illegitimate, or constitute irresponsible lending by those who want to enslave us.
Christine Lagarde is only a show. The real struggle over unsustainable debt that must be repudiated continues.
Campaign for Social and Economic Justice (CSEJ)
THE FOLLOWING are notes for my Sunday May 23, 2010 radio progamme “Looking Back Looking Forward” on Newstalk 93 FM.
UNKNOWN to me at the time (9 AM) prime minister Bruce Golding would that evening declare a state of emergency signalling the beginning of the security forces Counterinsurgency Assault on Tivoli Gardens and west Kingston. Indeed, by the end of the programme (11 AM), I was beginning to get reports of a massive security forces build up in the area and, by the following day, reports of atrocities being committed by the security forces.
THESE Notes are being released to assist with public reflection on the senseless violence unleashed on the residents by prime minister Bruce Golding, National Security Minister Dwight Nelson, police commissioner Owen Ellilngton, and former head of the army Major General Stewart Saunders. Jamaica must not rest until they are held to account for this criminal massacre of innocent people.
HELLO and welcome to Looking Back Looking Forward, a discussion programme, reviewing and highlighting some of the past week’s local and international events.
POLICE COMMISSIONER HARDLEY LEWIN AND THE CASE OF THE RED HERRING CONSTABLE
• The Case of the Red Herring Constable… that is the new twist in this Dudus Extradition matter.
• FORMER Police Commissioner Hardley Lewin says that the police constable formerly known as Constable Doe who gave the US legally obtained wire tap evidence against Mr. Christopher Coke, did so with the permission of the police chain of command.
• Do you understand what that means? It means that whoever above the rank of this constable who gave him the permission to give the wiretap evidence to the US did it with the permission of the Police High Command.
• So logically Commissioner Hardley Lewin must have given the green light for releasing it to the US.
• If that is so, Police Commissioner, why can’t you just be a big man and say: “I Police Commissioner Hardley Lewin, acting as it was my legal authority to do, ordered the turning over of the wiretap evidence against Mr. Christopher Dudus Coke to the American authorities.”
• Plain and simple
• You said you had regular meetings with the Prime Minister and the Minister of National Security: So did you say to them “hey guys, by the way the Americans now have some very damaging information on your good friend Mr. Dudus Coke, which I authorized to be turned over to them.”
• You obviously did not do that Mr. Lewin, because otherwise I cannot see how the Prime Minister would have made such a fool of himself talking about the Americans having illegally obtained the evidence against Mr. Coke.
• But two questions arise Commissioner Lewin: Why did you turn over the wiretap evidence in such a surreptitious way?
• What were you afraid of?
• Because based on the cooperation agreement between the US and Jamaica you had every right to turn over the information.
• But, most important: You could also have taken a decision to indict Mr. Coke under Jamaican laws.
• Why was this not done?.
• Commissioner Hardley Lewin owes the country an explanation.
• The TVJ people obviously did not ask him these questions. Some time ago I tried to get Commissioner Lewin to come on the Evening Edition to have a discussion with me about his role in the matter and he declined.
• Well now that he has decided to go public I am hoping that he will accept my invitation to come on this programme or on the Evening Edition to have a discussion with us about the whole matter. The country wants to know. The country needs to know.
THE MARCH TO WAR IN TIVOLI GARDENS
• SO with the Prime Minister making a 180 degree turn — – authorizing the Attorney General to proceed with the extradition request… without giving any explanation as to why –
• The question is: Who won the first round of the showdown over the arrest of Mr. Coke?
• It is clear that it is not going to be that simple to arrest Coke: His defenders in Tivoli have put up barricades. AND, if the newspapers are to be believed, AND they can’t always be believed, armed men are now openly patrolling the streets of TIVOLI.
• Anywhere in the world … the state would consider this a highly provocative move.
• The state is supposed to have the monopoly on violence and unimpeded access to any area under its control.
• In the case of Tivoli and parts of Denham Town the State does not as we speak have total control they are being challenged by forces loyal to Dudus.
• So who won the first round… I declare that it was a draw.
• First the state, represented by the security forces realize that it would not be good public relations to storm Tivoli, not being sure that Dudus is there; and then go in and do harm to innocent citizens … especially women and children — as has been the case in 1997, 2001, 2005 and 2007.
• That famous Chinese theoretician, Sun Tzu on how fight a war — his sayings are gathered in a book called The Art of War– says
• “He who knows when he can fight and when he cannot, will be victorious.”
• So in that sense the State is TRYING TO WIN THE BATTLE FOR PUBLIC OPINION; FOR THE hearts and minds of the people as the Americans would say
• IT IS biding its time until the right time to move. It is trying to show the public that it is patient; that it is prudent; that it will not move until it has exhausted all peaceful options; THAT it will only move when THE PROVOCATION HAS GONE ON LONG ENOUGH; AND HAS NO other OPTION.
• Armoured carriers are patrolling in the area.. one has been shot at for example … and without any reaction from the army…. so said the NEWSPAPERS.
• So the state is appearing to be reasonable….
• Especially so since the MP for the Area Mr. Bruce Golding has already appealed to the residents to remove the road blocks and allow the police to carry out their lawful duty.
• THE MP is on the side of law and order.
• ON the other hand the embattled residents and defenders are taking a cue from Sun Tzu as well
• According to Sun Tzu
• “The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.”
• So they organized a demonstration with hundreds of women dressed in white
• Essentially those women said… We love Dudus; Dudus is good to us; He sends our children to school; He takes care of us when the state doesn’t; He is a peaceful Man; NO one is taking away our cell phones; We are free to leave and enter into Tivoli ; We love him after God; Leave him alone; We are prepared to die for him.”
• That was a powerful message I thought and so a COMBINATION OF wise PATIENCE ON THE PART OF THE STATE
• Plus THE EMERGENCE OF THESE BEAUTIFUL, LOVABLE WOMEN DEMONSTRATING THEIR LOVE FOR DUDUS /// WANTING only PEACE… BUT WILLING TO DIE FOR HIM //creates a situation where the State CANNOT use the pretext of law and order to UNLEASH violence against them. [EVEN THOUGH THEY DID]
• BECAUSE if they do…. THEY MIGHT WIN THE BATTLE but would have lost the BIGGER war… and that is the danger for the state.
• An unwise precipitous move would give all COMMUNITIES sympathetic to DUDUS for one reason or another the MORAL reason to lash out at the state.
• We must also remember that so far the STATE despite it’s practice and POLICY of EXTRAJUDICIAL killings has been EXTREMELY lucky in not UNITING CRIMINAL gunmen to fight the state…
• They have had no political cause to unite… CRIMINALS are CRIMINALS … they are not POLITICAL …. BUT WHEN THE STATE gives them REASON to become POLITICAL that would be a wish fulfilment for the state.
• BECAUSE without being the least perturbed, the state claims that over 240 gangs or gunmen are firing at them every year, just for criminal reasons — QUITE a lot of shootouts — without there being any political basis whatsoever fir these shootouts. QUITE extraordinary.
• SO for those who want BLOOD and IRON; and for the STATE to show who is the boss… BE VERY CAREFUL that you know what you are doing.
• POOR people in this country whether living in PNP or JLP areas … whether rural or urban… have no reason to love the state because the state DON’T love dem.
• So woe be unto the STATE when it succeeds in uniting poor people as poor people against the state.
• BUT there is another provocative factor. All the major imperialist countries have issued Travel Advisories to their citizens telling them to avoid Kingston or by implication avoid Jamaica .
• And I say that Given the way things are proceeding at the moment these advisories are highly provocative…
• A friend of mine in the States yesterday called me to say that someone had called in to a radio programme to say that a US war plane had attacked Tivoli!
• Totally ridiculous I told him. What would be the basis for that? We are not at war with the United States.
• Well, in another conversation with someone to discuss the situation here and I mentioned the rumour about this US plane attacking Tivoli … AND
• I was told by the person, someone who knows things, that a Contingency Plan had been drawn up by the US government to use a drone plane to carry out certain acts should a hair on the head of any US citizen be touched!
• Is this farfetched do you think? Maybe not…. Considering that there was another report of a US warship off the coast of Portland to pick up US citizens should the need arise.
• But it is not only the IMPERIALIST powers who are ready to push the panic buttom ….
• The Most Honourable Peter Phillips, the Gentleman who is constantly referred to as CIA by Mr. Samuda, Phillips is of course The FORMER MINISTER of National Security, who brought down BULBIE BENNET. REMEMBER he sent congratulatory message to the police for killing Bulbie even before knowing whether this was a shootout or an execution. UNDER HIS WATCH ZEKES was taken down, but NOT DUDUS, IN fact Dudus thrived under his watch. HE is also pushing the panic button.
• In response to the peaceful demonstration by the Tivoli ladies in white the HONOURABLE Gentleman released a statement saying that this demonstration raised the gravest implications for the democratic process in Jamaica /// IMAGINE THAT? That the protest was “THREATENING PARLIAMENT”… IMAGINE with hundreds of policemen on the streets keeping an eye on a peaceful protest… the HONOURABLE gentleman sees this as a threat to parliament!
• The Newspaper report goes on “Phillips said the whole episode suggested that the prospect of the capture of the state by criminal elements was not distant, but represented a clear and present danger to which the Government and the security forces should respond with the support of all well-thinking Jamaicans.”
• Is the HONOURABLE Gentleman trying to prepare the ground work for a US invasion? A US drone attack on Tivoli ?
• Or another Blood bath as happened in 2001?
• I think that all well-thinking Jamaicans should resist this approach as the solution to the problem.
• The state has been captured by the financial elite of this country and Mr. Phillips is not in the least perturbed about that. .. that is not a threat to our democracy
• The state is using economic violence against the people to pay tribute to this financial elite but I haven’t heard the Honourable Gentlemen being concerned about that.
• Clearly for his own reasons the HONOURABLE gentleman is playing a highly provocative role which goes beyond demanding that the Prime Minister tell the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
• This KIND of thinking is the product of seeing everything through the lens of National Security.
• Well thinking Jamaicans need to see the bankruptcy of our political and economic system… as the real problem facing us.
Woe unto them that decree unrighteous decrees, and that write grievousness which they have prescribed. Isaiah 10:1
THERE are three critical, contributing factors to the budgetary crisis facing the government of Jamaica and which played out in the recent imposition and then removal of the bank withdrawal tax. They all lead to the crucial question of which class and/or sector within the class should be bearing the brunt of the debt crisis? And, if that class is not being called upon to do so: why not?
(1) Static or declining government revenues: This is primarily the result of a lack of growth in the economy. Low economic growth is a systemic problem, the result of a distorted social and economic structure inherited from our history as a plantation economy.
How it works: Former plantation economies, for the most part, have been unable to make the transition from being primary commodity producers for the world market to becoming industrialized economies. Once integrated into the world market as a primary commodity producer, the mechanism of unequal exchange (primary commodities embodying a higher value of human labour in exchange for industrial goods embodying less human labour and a higher proportion of mechanical labour) results in a transfer of wealth. This unequal exchange mechanism makes the capital accumulation required for the transition to industrialization almost impossible. Consequently, the “developmental” role assigned to the now neo-colonial State, in the face of a permanent balance of trade deficit, etc. results in a permanent and increasing fiscal deficit, which can only be bridged by borrowing or taxing.
Other factors contributing to low growth or generalized poverty are tax evasion, tax avoidance and government refusal to tax those who can most afford it. The Jamaican economy has grown only marginally over the past forty to fifty years. Wishful or ideological thinking cannot change this reality. Nor is the hogwash about creating a “business friendly environment” a basis for real growth. That is mostly ideological cover for transferring wealth from the poor to the rich, or giving businesses unbridled power to do as they please.
(2) Increasing debt stock: A permanent trade deficit (mentioned above) results in heavy borrowing in order to create infrastructural development and sometimes just to take care of ‘housekeeping’ needs. Corruption, which includes a penchant for building white elephant projects (and there are many in Jamaica), aggravates the debt crisis. It is also a form of waste.
The debt is now at levels where servicing it by taxing the poor threatens to further depress the economy and the already depressed living standards of the people. A radical approach is needed such as debt repudiation and structural economic change. For this to happen there needs to be a sharpening of the class struggle.
(3) Government, which doesn’t represent all the people as is mistakenly believed — it primarily represents the capitalist class — is empowered to choose how best to deal with this debt crisis. It can chose to stop paying the debt (which is not a likely option given its class orientation and servility towards the imperious north). The other alternative is to increase taxes on the poor and the working class which is the normal practice. The coercive powers of the state are designed for that purpose.
However, to overplay that hand runs the risk of political revolt. No one can forget the island-wide protests and gas riots of 1979 and 1999. And borrowing to pay debt becomes untenable once a certain debt, and interest rate to GDP threshold has been reached. Jamaica has reached that point, and hence ineluctable default is not impossible.
Enter the IMF: The IMF, which provides loans to ensure payment to creditors and to pre-empt the possibility of default, has imposed harsh lending conditions on the government. The debt payment burden, by all measures, has been squarely placed upon the backs of the poor and the working class. Supply side economics is the prescription for growth. For example, in the midst of declining revenues, the government, encouraged by the IMF, reduced corporate income taxes while refusing to increase taxes on financial institutions which are making obscene profits. This was exemplified by the aborted “withdrawal bank tax” which exposed the government’s unwillingness to increase taxes on the banks. Nor has reducing corporate taxes shown any sign of inducing increased investments and economic growth. [It never did work during the Reagan years for example and there are plenty studies to prove this.]
It is therefore quite reprehensible for the government and its apologists and capitalist ideologues to the argue that by staying course with this austerity policy it will somehow transform the economy and produce “growth”. How is this growth possible when the IMF itself has already made a bleak assessment of the situation facing countries like Jamaica?
The IMF has concluded that there will be little or no growth in the Latin American Caribbean (LAC) region in 2014. They are predicting “lower commodity prices” . This will be particularly injurious to Jamaica which is heavily dependent on bauxite and alumina exports. There is a glut of bauxite and alumina on the world market (controlled by a few players), and this combined with a so-called “competitiveness problems” (i.e. lack of “competitively” priced primary commodity goods that can earn foreign exchange — the unequal exchange mentioned above) will mean “tightening financial conditions” i.e. lower public spending so that the debt can be paid. Where then is the light at the end of the tunnel?
The government has committed to the IMF that it will stick to the prescribed austerity policies — for example its targeted budget surplus — in order to pay the debt. The minister of finance is quite proud of achieving a surplus in order to turn it over to creditors!
An important sidebar which highlights the government’s servility to the IMF is that it has committed to do all in its power to ensure that no steps are taken which restrict the free conversion of currency. It will “observe the standard performance criteria against imposing or intensifying exchange restriction, introducing or modifying multiple currency practices.” In other words, Audley Shaw can continue to whistle in the wind where his fixed exchange rate proposal in response to devaluation is concerned. This condition is also a broad hint that the IMF will frown on any step taken to prevent, god forbid, capital strike or capital flight should our creditors react negatively to any policy which displeases them. Prostration to the power of the market and a powerful handful of creditors (local and foreign) is the name of the game.
The politics of the bank withdrawal tax
As announced by finance minister Peter Phillips in his budget presentation over 2 billion of the 6 billion increased taxes for the 2014/15 budget was to have come from a bank withdrawal tax. Phillips subsequently tried to claim that this was not a customer tax but a bank tax but which he did not deny would be passed on to the customer. No one was fooled by his attempt at hoodwink and there was an upraor.
Some apologists claimed that this was a collectible tax and a minimal tax which is a better approach than some possibly more painful alternatives. They may be right that it is collectible. But the crux of the matter is not about how painful it is (and it is painful). The point is that the vast majority of the people view the banks as blood sucking vampires and refuse to give them any more blood. They are acutely aware that the financial institutions, generally, are the main beneficiaries of the current debt crisis. Their profits are enormous and a great portion of it represents interest earned from government debt and excessive bank charges borne by customers.
So servile is the government to the banks that once it happily withdrew the withdrawal tax in response to public pressure, no other way was found to tax bank profits. At least, one which would not involve a pass on to customers.
Conclusion: It is claimed by an Observer editorial that the government was prudent in not going ahead with the tax. This supposedly shows that it listens to the people (in concurrence with the explanation by the finance minister); and that is the way to get re-elected.
If that is so then it shows that the people need to sharpen their demands so that they get more effective results next time around rather than giving the government room to cleverly protect the banks and to seek votes.
The following must be considered:
(1) Mere withdrawal of the withdrawal tax is no solution to the debt crisis facing us. The government is unlikely to meet its revenue targets and in due course will be seeking to impose more taxes on the people, not to mention other burdens faced such as high unemployment.
(2) The debt cannot be repaid. Despite claims about having reduced the debt to GDP ratio the debt stock has increased absolutely. Instead of grinding more people into poverty, the people must demand a moratorium on debt payment to stop the oppressive austerity policies being pursued. Such a moratorium would allow for a forensic audit to determine what portion of the debt which is illegitimate or odious, and hence to be cancelled, as Ecuador has done in terms of their forensic audit, and as international law allows in terms of cancelling odious and illegitimate debt.
(5) A moratorium will also allow for negotiations with creditors in terms of how much can be repaid. Argentina negotiated a 60% discount on its debt, Jamaica can do the same and better. The Argentine economy is now one of the fastest growing economies in Latin America.
(6) Tax the rich must become the battle cry going forward. Even the rich are embarrassed at the lack of sacrifice they are called upon to make (Aubyn Hill; Karl Hendrickson; Keith Duncan; etc. have made similar points). And how about their being flabbergasted at the finance minister scandalously allowing them to import more expensive cars and pay lesser duties! But this is not surprising since the first thing the car loving finance minister did on assuming office was to use tax payers’ money to buy himself a brand new US$32,000 car!
(3) A non-negotiable NON-TRANSFERABLE bank tax. This is not a European type Robin Hood tax which appears to be passable on to customers.
Finally, it requires more than a debt moratorium plus increased taxes on the rich, etc. to solve the problems of a bankrupt economic system.
The solutions are political because, as we have seen, the decisions taken as to which class to impose the burdens on are political, class decisions. Economics is politics.
Let us therefore demand a REFERUNDUM — more important than one to decide whether to accept the Caribbean Court of Justice as our final court of appeal, or whether we should repeal the buggery law — on how to solve pressing political issues.
Let us demand a REFERENDUM on whether as a policy, we should radically increase taxes on the rich; suspend debt payment; spend more on the social needs of the people; and establish a system of direct democracy, as the solution to the economic crisis that has forced more than 1.2 million people into abject poverty.
Campaign for Social and Economic Justice.
Dear Justice Minister Mark Golding, Minister of National Security Peter Bunting, Attorney General Patrick Atkinson, et al.
I write on behalf of the Tivoli Committee to raise certain questions in relation to the government’s planned commission of enquiry (COE) into the 2010 Tivoli Gardens massacre.
First of all, we strongly believe that the question of the State’s responsibility for criminal property damage (including theft), and physical injuries inflicted upon residents by the security forces should be the subject of a separate enquiry.
Term of reference (Q) which seeks to find out whether “monies, benefits or compensation were provided by the State to compensate residents of Western Kingston including Tivoli Gardens” is redundant since the present government is in possession of documents which show that the Bruce Golding government accepted State liability by paying out $90 million for funeral grants, market damage, personal property damage etc. to some residents.
We believe that in order to properly determine the remaining number of affected residents (not excluding those who were inadequately compensated), requires extensive interviews, factual verification, and the cross checking of ministry and other data. Such an exercise cannot be properly carried out by an Enquiry which has time limits and which is tasked with unearthing information, among other things, on those responsible for the massacre of so many people.
If it has been detected that there was any irregularity in payments made, the government has the administrative and other means at its disposal to get to bottom of the matter. This is an involved process. And it supports our point of view that this investigation should be done separately, and speedily, to address the suffering being experienced by affected residents.
In addition, the question of compensating those who suffered injuries from security forces sniper fire, and indiscriminate firing of JDF mortar (a criminal act) should, we believe, be addressed and be part of this separate investigation.
We trust that you will recognize the wisdom of this suggestion and make the necessary changes.
Furthermore, we believe that the terms of reference are not in accordance with holding accountable those who had effective command responsibility for the massacre.
As we have publicly stated on numerous occasions, we believe that the two main civilian commanders — former prime minister Bruce Golding and former minister of national security Dwight Nelson, and the security forces commanders Major General Stuart Saunders and police commissioner Owen Ellington — bear overwhelming responsibility and should be the main target of the enquiry. This approach is needed in keeping with established international law precepts on command responsibility.
Finally, we believe that the government should give an undertaking to refer the matter to the International Criminal Court to make a determination based on the evidence unearthed by the enquiry as to whether these individuals have criminal charges to answer under international criminal law.
It is not too late to make the necessary adjustments to the terms of reference both in relation to the matter of compensation and criminal liability.
In addition, we also urge that any commissioner appointed to replace Velma Hylton, should be someone with experience in international criminal law and human rights laws. Otherwise, even with impressive credentials, commissioners without such requisite experience will be unable to address the full scope of what transpired in 2010.
We look forward to your response and the opportunity to engage in dialogue.