Published on: 9/28/08.
by Rickey Singh
IT IS perhaps typical of human nature that we often become so
preoccupied with our own problems that we either overlook, or worse,
exhibit no caring interest for those whose afflictions are by comparison
It's an attitude that cuts across race, class, nationality,
neighbourhoods, and territorial boundaries.
For example, while the people of Trinidad and Tobago are calculating
their additional cost of living from having to pay TT$1 (BDS 34 cents)
more for a litre of premium gasolene, other citizens in this region are
agonising over the horrendous consequences from hurricanes and tropical
storms within a one-month period that have been particularly cruel to
Haiti and Cuba.
The Turks and Caicos Islands, Jamaica, Dominican Republic, and The
Bahamas have also been affected, to various degrees.
A combination of hurricanes – Gustav and Ike, and tropical storms Fay
and Hanna – have left a nightmare of death and destruction, huge
dislocation of people, and billions of dollars in losses to Haiti and Cuba.
It is, therefore, quite disappointing that in the face of all the
enormous losses and pain inflicted by natural disasters on these two
countries, there are political and social organisations in a few CARICOM
states that seek to exploit local domestic considerations by criticising
relief aid being rushed to these people.
In contrast to such a negative, parochial attitude, Jamaica's quick
responses to the disasters from hurricanes suffered by Cuba, Haiti and
the Turks and Caicos Islands, were quite inspirational.
The Bruce Golding administration was despatching emergency relief aid
and sending technical personnel while still calculating their heavy
losses that have since been placed at about US$206 million (JAM$15
billion) and a death toll of 13.
At the same time, the Trinidad and Tobago administration of Patrick
Manning lost no time in releasing about US$4.02 million (TT$26 million)
in cash assistance to Cuba, Haiti and Jamaica, while coping with the
effects of flood waters at home from tropical storms.
For their part, CARICOM Secretary General Edwin Carrington and Assistant
Secretary General Ambassador Colin Granderson have provided a briefing
to the Community's foreign ministers on their first-hand assessment of
the immense suffering of the Haitian people following a visit last week
In accordance with CARICOM's commitment to seek international assistance
for Caribbean countries whenever seriously affected by natural
disasters, the foreign ministers were expected to ascertain from
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, American responses to countries in
this region hit by the recent hurricanes and tropical storms.
However, given the hostile official American policy towards Cuba, it is
doubtful that any attempt would have been made to raise with Rice the
country's post-hurricane needs for humanitarian aid and economic
More so, the Cuban government of President Raoul Castro has already
rejected what it deemed a contemptuous initial response of some US$100
000 to be sent through non-government organisations, and an offer to
send a team to make an assessment of the destruction and the level of
Cuba's dignity is not to be toyed with, declared its foreign ministry,
by the George Bush administration's effort to propagandise "humanitarian
concerns" with a token aid offer to that Caribbean nation, which is said
to have suffered its worst devastation from hurricanes and tropical
storms, totalling losses of about US$4 billion.
The lives of over three million Cubans, almost a quarter of the
population, have been seriously disrupted by the hurricanes. In Haiti,
at least one million people have been dislocated by the hurricanes and
tropical storms, and are in dire need of emergency relief, including
food, water and medicine. The death toll has been placed at about 800
and at least one million homeless.
The United Nations special envoy to Haiti, Hedi Annabi, said the Haitian
authorities were clearly overwhelmed by the scale of the disaster facing
Yesterday, the CARICOM Secretariat was scheduled to formally hand over
for shipping a 20-foot container with relief supplies for the people of
Haiti. It was part of a coordinated multi-sectoral effort to mobilise
technical assistance, relief supplies and financial resources for the