COVID-19: Vaccine, Politics, Socio-Economics and are some Caribbean islands pricing themselves out of a return visit?

The Hidden Engine:

The Caribbean tourist industry has been its economic engine. It is the most tourist-dependent in the world according to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), and the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). For some islands experts also noted that tourism accounts for upwards of 40 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Photo by Asad Photo Maldives

Since COVID-19, travel spending has suffered an unprecedented 42% annual decline (roughly $500 billion) from 2019. International travel and business travel had the sharpest declines, and experts have noted spending fell 76% and business travel spending fell about 70 percent.

Several decades ago, manufacturing areas like sugar, banana, coffee, poultry, and bauxite; played a key role in sustaining the economy. These jobs were the balance between the service economy that provided what established the middle class.

Sadly, many were sold to foreign investments; and many jobs moved elsewhere because of globalization and the development of technology. These investments also followed cheap labor and better tax incentives like tax breaks, grants, reduced costs of opening or expanding a business facility, and free job training.

The companies that remained for about a decade were no longer competitively priced or folded due to massive imports, poor management, and reduced production.

These closures affected communities from local stores, restaurants, bars, and street vendors who depended on these operations. It has increased unemployment, widen the gap between the haves vs haves-nots; especially for the dominant Caribbean islands like Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Haiti, Dominica, Jamaica, the Bahamas, and other parts of Latin America who were already looking for an economic booster shot.

It has created an extremely social divide, that made it worse for generation by a generation where poverty and inequality have been on the rise regardless of the political side in power. It seems today, more charity organizations asking for aids rather than a platform to develop innovation for the next generation who will be key to the sustainability of these shores.

Taking from Peter to Pay Paul:

Globally, there is an increase in commodities; prices of home building materials even for preparation for school since the pandemic. Additionally, supply chains contributed to increased volatility in import, export, and producer price many leading economic data have shown.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska



COVID-19 has caused an economic shock three times worse than the 2008 financial crisis, economists notes. But nations who were unprepared suffered the more. Though many blame their ongoing financial problems on lock-down, it is not the sole issue.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, there are reports of enormous fare hikes from taking a local taxi from an airport to a hotel lodging. Sadly, it seems to represent an opportunity for prior lost revenue and will discourage future trips, especially for budget-stricken travelers.

A simple COVID-19 test few argued as required or visiting and departing typically run between 20-35 US dollars. I have spoken to recent travelers who visited Jamaica that it can cost about US$80.00, and that varies depends on the location to get back on a flight.

Photo by Polina Tankilevitch

Another traveler complained that while at airport checkout custom fined her for items because she may have forgotten to take off a sale tag. For several natives going on vacation, it is not unusual to purchase a new set of clothing.

These connected visitors often purchased items also to be given away or returned if not worn. Even a few extra boxes of protected masks to support aunt Jane is being seen as a business trip. In addition, reports items missing after inspection of luggage to clear check out.

Reports have shown excursion trips almost double in cost. Some of these businesses were already struggling financially before the pandemic. It is like you are simply paying for others who are hesitant to travel.

Despite the pandemic risk, some will continue to travel due to heritage, cultural connections, while others just need a mental break.

These deep-roots vacationers’ trips to an authentic small restaurant tucked away on a lovely rural hillside or a small beach shop away from the populated areas with an aunt, grandparents, uncle, or siblings play a pivotal role in the off-the-grid economy disposable income.

Vacation is also beyond the beach and now into urban centers, taking in historic sites and cultural events.  Travel reports have shown there was a growing influx of travelers in places like Europe and North America, and part of ASIA before COVID-19.

Photo by riciardus

Visiting and spending out of protected tourist zones is like direct remittance, where countries like Haiti, Dominican Republic, Guyana, and Jamaica alone accounted for almost ($10 Billion USD) annually according to IOM UN Migration.

A delicate balance:

The pandemic has created tension in the local communities where government officials struggle on what businesses should remain open or close temporarily. Health ministers also argued many visitors to the region were not adhering to the safety protocol, and I believe they should.

Managing the number of incoming visitors some of whom may not have been vaccinated and the local economic impact is a delicate topic. This pandemic has put leadership decisions between a rock and a hard place. It is a balancing act closing the local economy because others will die from the lack of an economic vaccine.

R.D.

Even though many locals have complied from social distancing, wear masks, and are vaccinated, frustration continues. Some argued that locals are being locked down, while visitors are allowed to move freely and party.

The lack of consistency in local guidelines, from what business will be closed, or street will be blocked to enforce curfews to the type of transportation allowed to operate only add to the frustration.

Many argue it seems leaders are utilizing these times of fear, anxiety, and economic uncertainty to gently push in a direction to gain despotic political power through restrictions. Though it may not be a push to reduce democracy; freedom only comes through knowledge, and reasonableness is only possible if talk achieves consensus. 

COVID-19 survival is like an underground business operation. It is a balancing act navigating the pandemic risk for their economic viability. So, many people march to their drumbeat.

Those who are well-connected, wealthy, politicians and who can afford to self-quarantine, healthcare access, and more than likely already vaccinated; often seem to be the ones who are jabbing fingers and scorned at those who break curves rules, or demonstrating crying for help.

Overcrowding at a local hospital

Some locals are concerned that the healthcare systems had already been struggling in keeping up with critical needs. Additionally, while this surge pushing hospitals to the brink with the worst still likely ahead, the pandemic has exposed its inefficiency, from limited bed space to overcrowding to mitigate this pandemic and other key issues before the outbreak.

Despite the blame game, and people who still traveling, I believe anyone who tested positive for COVID-19 or has other medical issues and is aware of potential medical hurdles would not risk their lives to navigate a few islands’ healthcare systems.

Another shot not in the arm.

Sadly, many politicians in these impoverished and developing counties are like dealers in a casino; they always come out ahead; including other well-connected people. They are salaried employees on the people’s taxes and the impact of this pandemic is less severe.

On top of a fragile economy; local communities coughing up an economic virus that had already been dormant just waiting on a strain to be reactivated. The pandemic has put the region’s governance under the microscope and exposed the fragile labor force and the poor.

Photo by Julia Volk

For decades, it looks like leaders have been playing poker economics where no one knows the outcome of the hand dealt, expecting and promising a more reliable hand each election cycle since independence from once colonial rule.

Today, many educated students are waiting to join a list of call centers with high student loans and limited job opportunities. The idea of purchasing a small house off the grid from a modest job is becoming more challenging.

Some reports show three out of four youths are unemployed. Many students are not achieving the critical academic requisite from the lack of resources, even heading back to the classrooms that were already overcrowded.

Yes, with high unemployment and undervalued currency, dwindling middle class, and increased poverty is breeding added violence from robberies, murders, and criminal assaults.

Generally, any increase in price on basic goods and services such as; bus fare, taxes, groceries, fuel, or government services, and if wages remain stagnant and have not budged in decades, families must cut back somewhere.

Often especially for basic food supplies, prices can vary from the adjacent store a few steps away, with little enforcement only adds to the economic struggles.

Several reports have shown nearly nine in ten voters say they are concerned about inflation, the rising cost of living, and limited job prospects and financial uncertainties have created more economic fever and financial strokes.

What next?

The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has been meeting to discuss a global coordinated partnership on the impact of the Coronavirus on world travel and tourism, according to reports, but who is at the table for the impoverished nations?

Photo by August de Richelieu

With the cost of living increasing globally, the pandemic remains unpredictable, more young people are becoming infected in the region and dying.

Many communities are not even close to a first dosage, where access to the poor, frequently seen through the eyes of politics can be difficult, while others are on the second, or even getting close to a third.

There are reports of people still refusing to be vaccinated. However, I believe that there are no more valid excuses for not being vaccinated other than health reasons.

Many impoverished people who were already left out of the economy instantly feeling the brunt of an outsider; especially the ones who refuse to be vaccinated. It seems they are the ones should be rounded up like slaves when they voiced their concerns.

Often reaching out with a small support group with a conversation about the vaccine may help some hesitancy due to people’s conflict with religious ideology, distrust of their leaders, or ignorance.

Nurses, doctors, and scientists are key in public health awareness and dispelling myths communicating with and educating patients and caregivers about the benefits of vaccination and vaccine safety.

One hope is that access to this vaccine, does not become for sale or used as a political platform for future election votes across some of these shores, and elsewhere.


The sun will rise again on these shores, and if people follow the science and recommendations, it may lead to less need for targeted price hikes.

Photo by Jonathan Petersson

There must be a balance where everyone can navigate this recent significant change; support each other regardless of your political views, locals, incoming and departing visitors working collectively where no one felt left out or pressured to have a sense of normalcy.

See you again soon!

Commentary: Goodbye, going once, twice, sold

By D.R. Miller

The New Coast: Recently a solemn promise was broken. A few of us halted all travel plans until we were convinced that the government had
the chikungunya virus under control. However, breast cancer took a dear family officer after 30-plus years in public service. 

Despite the earlier concerns, many of us went. Traveling the coastline, with the ocean dangerously few feet from the vehicle, while staring at beautiful homes tucked in hillsides, the temptation to pullover for a quick
swim, or capture the sunset, and walk barefoot from the cold left behind emerged.

However, a once simple pastime and custom for natives from a hot sunny day or a weekend with families to prime free beach areas to relax, is apparently becoming very difficult and just an idea.

The high criminal elements that are sometimes a deterrent has now been taken over by: segregation, isolation and the fight equality now seems more dangerous.

Even vacant lots that should have been designated as historic land and preserved are either leased or bought by foreign private investors.

Home prices are extremely high and few older structures that could use an upgrade, owned by the less fortunate people passed on from their ancestors, and dating back to British rule, many found themselves restricted to move freely.

As the mega-building rises, green land and trees are diminishing, thus contributing to the record high temperatures, while ignoring the environmental impact.

Where will be the new location?

The gentrification in disguise is a global trend, creating social stratification sold as transformation. Sure, a few job are created by new stores, and hotels.  However, some working conditions often look like a previous century, working in hazardous conditions for extremely low wages, unable to buy a small home in the communities they are serving.

What is the trade-off, and where are the unions to balance labor and human rights? The region is now dominated with massive imports. Locally grown products have dwindled to small corners like news racks covered with international news clips while local customs and identity get lost.

Locals at cleaning fish on the sea coast
Jamaica yellow yam
Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown – Jamaica

Analyzing the region’s plight from the outside is difficult. Who are the investment banks in disguise, as famous faces who claim they are in love with the region while commercialization threatens native culture.

Credit: Mento Quintet by Richard Blackford: Maintaining tradition is important.

Obviously an incredible lack of knowledge or accountability about who are the human piñata lining their pockets. What is troubling, it seems an iPhone, Facebook, and YouTube seem to be more important to some, while the sand is being swept from under their feet.

When Miss Jamaica Kaci Fennell was not selected as the 2015 Miss Universe, many mobilized in the street, online and voiced their displeasure. The same emphasis on these issues as to the plight of their nation — access to where one can live or swim free — is needed.

As many questioned Kaci’s skin colour to represent Jamaica, it only underscored the argument that a few are still stuck in an identity crisis to see even more dire issues.

Crowd gathered to with her beauty contact in Kingston, Jamaica

The quiet marriages while other basked in social media, but how long will these marries last.

Few months ago, I wrote about China’s penetration into the Caribbean markets for anyone who has access to a red carpet. The modernization of technology and infrastructures brought to this region and others should not be an economic long-term sentence for some.

Source: Pool/Getty Images AsiaPac)
Robert Gabriel Mugabe Zimbabwe and Chinese leaders
The Chinese delegation at a meeting with the president of Dominica

Persad-Bissessar, Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago , and Chinese President

This new colonization with local hidden alliances has not lifted the poor from poverty. Many still depend on handouts for survival while the middle class struggles. The lack of transparency, accountability and ignorance continue to slow growth.

Protia Simpson-Miller: Jamaica P.M and Chinese leader

One report noted that China uses its financial influence and CARICOM as its umpire to expand. Several projects, from medical centers to stadiums in St Lucia, Grenada, Dominica, and Jamaica, and others with cheap loans has some positive effects, but who are the real long-term beneficiaries?

McKinley & Company, a global consultant firm that operated in more than 40 countries, once noted that several companies have failed, especially in the energy industry, due to cheap imports from China over the past ten years. To the Chinese credit, education is mandatory.

They have tremendous control over the value of their currency in spite of questionable human rights issues. While the priceless seaports and other infrastructures are being sold, leaders should at least learn some of their business strategies, and even negotiate an energy efficiency deal to cut the dependence on fossil fuel, especially in Jamaica where an average customer pays about 42 cents per kilowatt-hour. Many factories should be mandated to clean up the air, but that will hit the élite who run the country.

Selling Our Souls: While many Africans sold slaves, they did not invent slavery. Today, the selling of native land is a rebirth of such dark period. The Europeans and others turn the plight of others into major businesses. Having few natives at the table today does not make it more acceptable.

In November 1927, Marcus Garvey was deported from the US. He fought for self-governance and despite pushback even from black leaders such as W.E.B. DuBois, who once described Garvey as “a little, fat black man; ugly, but with intelligent eyes and a big head.” The region could use him today as an ambassador. Patriotism cannot only be in the music that comes out of the region.

This paradigm shift along these blue waters is troubling.

Sunday, November 17, 2014, opened the world to an issue kept off air when CNN aired Anthony Bourdain’s Part Unknown. To some, it was uncomfortable, but viewers saw that Jamaica is not all about reported violence, marijuana, and a relaxed attitude.

Furthermore, few are willing to sell their souls and local government leaders seem muted. When personal financial gains ruin an entire community, conflict is inevitable. With high unemployment and poverty, and division, the criminal enterprise thrives and hopeless youths become radicalized, not necessarily from religious ideology, but stemming from polarization, isolation and the lack of opportunity.

New Charity Economy: Today, it seems the region has more charity organizations than small businesses to help the youths. However, not all charities are bad. In the US, one in six receives some type of food support and many school students go hungry each day. Philanthropist Jeff Levitetz recently funded several schools in Jamaica’s rural outpost “In Honor of his 96 year old Grandpa Charlie”, working with Coconut Creek’s nonprofit Food for the Poor. The charity aims to build or upgrade 50 schools on the island. Jeff’s grandfather has a personal love and affection for the Jamaican culture.

Jeff Levitetz, president of The Levitetz Family Foundation, proudly stands… (Food for the Poor / Sun-Sentinel )

In addition, US$166 million is pledged to Jamaica to addresses climate change. The irony is that the coastlines are being ripped apart by development, causing severe climate issue. Furthermore, despite millions donated, some charities do not serve the desired purpose, and the lack proper oversight leads to actions where donations are used to further personal needs.

When politics becomes more important than higher education that only a few can afford, it only creates a new generation of ignorance. Throughout local districts, several primary and high schools still lack a good library and other educational resources to properly educate the next generation. Yes! You can continue to blame slavery, and the lack of reparations. The arguments remain valid, and add several economic down slopes since independence to the debate.

Even 200 years ago, education was a necessity. Between 1835-1842, the region had a slave fund shortly after emancipation. While many in the US were denied access to education in that same period, the British government voted 30,000 pounds per annum towards the education of former slaves.

Early education attempt after slavery

The fund ended around 1845, as studies have shown for many of the British West Indies colonies. It played a pivotal part in training teachers, and building schoolhouses. It was called the Negro Educational Fund. As 200 years ago, very little funds came from the West Indian governments.

The once colonial power seemed to have more interest in educating former slaves than many leaders today. The disappearance of good governance to educate its people could learn something from 200 years ago. It seems handouts have become the normal way for survival for some, while the communities need a sustainable long-term foundation. New charities and awards checks are not capitalism.

New Approach: Few economies have rebounded since the 2008 financial economic collapse. The Caribbean still has an economic virus. The unemployment rate, inflation currency devaluation, and crime remain a problem. Despite these issues, the people remain welcoming, but they must not be fooled in a misguided perception that the few millionaires who own these shores are totally in love with the island’s relaxed vibes, food, and people.

Love does not hurt others.

When Ian Fleming (and James Bond) fell in love with Jamaica in the late 1950s, conflicts were not about access to one’s own land. The few who have the media are skilled at making noticeable linguistic shifts, while masking an urgent need to resolve the dangerous ideological faults even within their party. While it looks like capitalism on the coasts and inland; however, if it is one-sided, it defeats capitalism as a driving force to end poverty and inequality.

Today, we are left wondering how young police officers will be able to afford a home in area they will patrol to protect mega properties and address the untold stories, where hard drugs and young girls who struggle to find employment become nightclub dancers for a few dollars, controlled by pimps who force them into prostitution, sexually abused and exploited. They are not beach beauties that stroll the sand, they are victims that are often overlooked throughout the region.

Modernization is important; however, it should not take a nation back centuries, where only the rich and famous get to rewrite.

As Burning Spear, Jamaicam reggae Super Star once said in a song, “My island don’t sell out.”

The rabbi is gay, what’s next your shores?

BY R.D.MILLER

The Location

Gay: Recently, GilSteinlauf, a senior rabbi of Adas Israel in Washington, DC, one of the largest conservative movement-affiliated synagogues came out as gay.

Soon after Apple, CEO, Tim Cook, announced he was gay. One blogger wrote, “You don’t just leave your wife to”go be gay any more than you would resign her to go be straight.” Another wrote, “Apple has lost its pioneering skills and sought more businesses.”

Fortunately, Rabbi Gil Steinlauf and Tim Cook both have financial anchors, bridges, a solid foundation, and retractable vessels that can weather the storms and bypass rough tides, and maybe unlike Michael Sam, an openly gay player who was cut by two National Football League (NFL) teams for being gay, but some will argue with others differently.

Does one need a prerequisite to come out as gay? I asked. The gay community stories are bigger than these two men, despite the media attention. Fortunately, for many wealthy and prominent people, publicly announcing their sexuality often increases wealth and power. However, this story is not about the rabbi or Tim Cook.

The other seldomly told stories:

Many less fortunate gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender; do not have speedboats to escape tides or community captains and pirates ready to throw them over the board.

Today, many are trapped by their location under an ancient colonial doctrine, an ongoing fight for acceptance seeking an anchor or shield from a rough tide. These are beautiful places many visit for a vacation break or check in with family members and reconnect with one’s heritage.

These luscious greenery, breathtaking sunsets, and blue water symbolize a liberated vacation for many visitors, but outside their villas and hotel rooms, victims are routinely teased, bullied, and even killed from ignorance – even by ‘straight’ perpetrators who may have their struggles with homosexual tendencies, as studies have shown.

Photo by Fabian Wiktor

Despite the beauty and the warmth of the local people where the sunshine as if it never sets, it remains a delicate dance for inclusion. For some, homophobia roars like the ocean, damaging any objects in its path without an anchor. These unchecked anti-waves have eroded several impoverished and developing regions.

Inside the LGBT community, there are several reports of an increase in murders since 2010. Youth and young adults between the ages of 18 and 30 years old were 2.41 times as likely to experience physical violence.

Many parents also experience discrimination for giving birth to gay children and are more worried today about social stigma and hostility than their future. The hostility has created safety concerns, a sense of feeling guilty and hopeless, and often result in abuse, homelessness and death. The lack of resources, and access to medical care, support also has forced expulsion from their community.

Gay 16, teenager was dead -Dwayne Jones beaten, stabbed, shot and ran over  (AP Photo/Jay, J-FLAG)
human_rights_watch: Photo

The only visual representation of a voice mail or iTunes maybe the sound from the broken sewer pipes dripping and hovering over their heads from living under decayed bridges. Being gay is not a sin or learned behavior, but bigotry, intolerance, and atrocities against them are.

“All people deserve to live with dignity and respect, free from fear and violence regardless of their gender and sexual orientation” – an excerpt from a proclamation by President Obama on May 29, 2015, at an LGBT pride event.

Anti-Homophobia day celebration at the Fondation Serovie in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Photo by Katie Orlinsky

The Human Rights Watch has noted an increase in violence simply for being perceived as a gay person,a nd if these communities do not provide the support, and laws to protect, their future for being gay remains grim.

(One) — Rupert. Shortly after he had come out, his church memberships and choir receded. He seldom goes to the beach anymore. Few friends’ lives cut short as a barbaric treatment against them appeared now acceptable. Repeatedly denied entry to community activities, employment, and forced to move for their safety. Few burned alive, stoned, and scorned.

(Two) — Sonia dressed like a man, with brittle hair, cargo pants, and boots, although she has found comfort in maintaining the small town floral garden. While some visitors marveled at her floral garden designs, others abused her appearance and hurled rocks at her. Being gay did not limit her imagination.

I wonder if a few had taken the time to know her, perhaps one would learn that friends of own dad repeatedly raped her as a child at a local bar from men he trusted. With nowhere to turn for support, her trust in men eroded, and she became isolated. Even in her death, after she had lost her battle with breast cancer, they treated her remains as if her gayness had Ebola disease. Her ashes now resting in the garden she designed.

(Three) —Burma, exquisite, and has an excellent job. She blends in well with her peers, lives in a pleasant home, and is well educated. However, she is also terrified of coming out. Despite rumors, after they identified her holding hands with her partner on the other side of town, she constantly shrugged off the argument of why she does not have a child at her age.

An umbrella still looking for the right shades:

Despite US Attorney General Eric Holder’s announcement: “I am pleased to announce the federal government will recognize same-sex marriages”, combined with new laws passed in over 20 states, polarization, intolerance, and political ideology threatens this fundamental change.

Though the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community ships and planes have ultimately reached many shores, others are still searching for that elusive lighthouse for guidance off these shores. Today’s violence along the shores is not simply because of poverty alone, but decades of unresolved social issues, where even if some offender has been a victim, they are scarce resources for treatment and accountability. Reporting crime should not put victims at more significant risk.

A blinded history

According to a study conducted by Trevor Bernard, based on data are taken from St Andrews Jamaica, marriage patterns between 1666 and 1750 taken from the parish register were analyzed.

The results showed that the average length of marriage was extremely limited and declined. It resulted in a reduction of children produced by marriage and did not sustain slavery and population growth. During that period, influxes of women slaves from and Africa arrived in the region.

It seems valid if people stayed married four centuries ago, and produced more children; it would have supported the demands for labor. Centuries later, independence has caused more social and economic struggles, as residual footprints in customs, laws, beliefs until now encounter the ghosts of the past.

Recently, the Jamaica Gleaner reported on an anti-gay march in St Thomas in response to a proposed bill that would recognize marriage as an official union between two people and not the traditional man and woman.

Some 150 years later, several Jamaicans opposed amending, the Buggery Act that was created during colonial rule around 1861.

Today, many leaders in the region remain silent on amendments or new human rights laws. The anti-gay protesters believe that homosexuals and their agenda are bad for strong and healthy families, righteousness, and justice.

What if those colonial rulers saw homosexuality as a threat to their business model and created those laws?

The economics

The gay, lesbian, and transgender community spend an estimated $830 billion according to Curve Magazine each year. Given its influence, especially along blue water and white sand, promoting more education, and other grassroots support is vital.

Some of these exclusive vacation spots globally cannot afford to avoid potential revenue, despite their position on the gay community.

The Advocate also noted that ‘with over 1.4 million LGBT business owners (and growing) the LGBT community earn its place at the table of economic opportunity with an input to the economy over $1.7 trillion, and an estimated 33,000 jobs.

Today, many people could have lived to their full potential thereby becoming famous stars, teachers, and police officers, but they were not welcome for being gay. Many left their communities to find comfort elsewhere living in the shadow.

The community strategically should not have to plan gay vacation routes based only on gay-friendly destinations in the Caribbean, Africa, or any other regions as if it is an election strategy targeting only your registered voters.

An elusive tide for change as the fight continues:

History also has shown the quest for equality does not sit comfortably with few on ideological grounds.
A recent report on YouTube by an Arizona pastor claiming that “we can have an AIDS-free world by Christmas if gays were executed.“If the god they all worship is love for all, who determines he does not love which one?

In 2010, the Cayman Islands rejected an Atlantis gay cruise. Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar says the “decriminalization of homosexuality” in Trinidad, and Tobago is not something her administration will seek to do because “it would not be prudent for the government to go ahead in that direction”, according to the Trinidad Express.

This I believe represents a culture of homophobia woven in decades of social-political and stigma to vanish sexuality and gender identity.

An intolerance system passed down from several decades is hard to change course instantly. Subconsciously, the Anglicization of families under British colonial rule centuries ago stays active today. However, some islands have taken steps, like Bermuda, Jamaica despite it un-anchored vessel to date, few other Caribbean and African nations have introduced measures for more tolerance, but advocate needs to keep the pressure on and hold elected leaders accountable beyond political promises.

Collaboration regardless of location, race culture and economic stratus.

Despite the statistical signs for more tolerance, this issue continues being a monumental task and these regions and it cannot achieve acceptance this alone.  Only when societies become more educated and tolerant, then we can dance together and reverse a monster that was created. Pushing the legalization of marijuana, despite its potential long-term addictive effect, gay rights should take on the same effort.

Like fighting other racial issues, the gay community has to continue to fight for equality because while they dance to fun rhythms on the beach in these regions, many lyrics are strategically placed to demonize the community, like racial epithets, and codes used to polarize, create intolerance and hate.

The next time you power up your iPhone to spread hate, just recognize the new design you waited 24 hours in 10-degree weather to purchase. A gay man approved the designs.

And no! I am not gay, but should that matter to support their cause?

Changes take time and often resisted. Those communities must choose candidates who share their values

Rest in Peace • Leslie Feinberg- for fighting for equality for all.

Commentary: High on Ebola, low on chikungunya

by D.R. Miller

Since the recent outbreak of chikungunya in the Caribbean, four people with close connections who arrived back to into the US from the Caribbean region were hospitalized immediately and diagnosed with the virus. In addition, a few medical center employees communicated that they have seen an increase of patients from the region admitted to their medical facilities.

I am not a medical doctor, nor I do I play one on the television; however, based on the recent reports chikungunya has seen a significant up-tick. On the other hand, an impression is being portrayed that it is under control on these shores. What  long term-effect it has on people  is not  known at this time.

The leaders must address this issue openly and develop a solid plan before this potential storm, where soon US and other well-traveled countries by the Caribbean people will begin to put the medical drone in the region.

The drone concept is geared to destroy anything in its path when launched. However, could you blame the US if they cut travel, and begin to set a high alert and other screening of passengers from the region?

The recent death of Thomas Duncan from Ebola at age 42, who arrived in the US, has created an intensive focus on foreign travelers from many poor and developing countries.

Although many believed Thomas Duncan’s death while in US care would inevitably send a statement to others to not come, many people are now wondering what the color of medicine is after two dedicated Caucasian doctors who worked in Liberia contracted the virus and recovered.

One of the silent tones in the Caribbean addressing chikungunya, I believe, is not the politics of the virus, which is often seen elsewhere, for the region it is all economics.

Here is why: Most of the region’s economic engine is tourism, and if any indication like what has been taken place in Liberia, it could be worse than the economic collapse in 2008 that left many still sneezing

I begin to wonder if this is a reason reports of this increasing tide seem a bit hushed up to protect the tourism industry while many locals are suffering silently. Any business model during a turbulent time is not only to ready, but willing to tell about structural problems. This approach not only builds credibility, but also shows a level of leadership that is lacking today on several fronts.

This is not a call for a reduction of travel to and from the region, or high-level screening at airports — that would be premature at this point. On the other hand, when the local government is slow to educate people, this could be a tornado building. Therefore, questions must be asked. Along these blue waters there lies an undercurrent overflowing its banks at any time, and the long-term impact could cripple many lives, both medically and economically.

Managing these issues takes compassion and resources. Recently I saw a Facebook picture post of what appeared to be a sick person from the region who became more victimized as he was scorned from an appearance of what is believed to be the symptoms of the Ebola virus. Furthermore, when it is reported that few local doctors are contemplating refusing to report to work in the event of an outbreak due to the lack of medical supplies and other resources that is troubling.

In today’s society, where billions are being spent on wars and politicians re-election, it is hard to fathom that lack of resource and awareness, combined with scorn, can leave many more suffering. I hope elective officials, medical staff, and CARICOM step up its mandate to educate people and seek help through awareness, because the potential problems such as what is occurring in Liberia and other West African countries, where perception is more dangerous that an actual virus.

These islands are unique and sometimes that can be their own downfall because the uniqueness creates a form of isolation. It further limits collaboration, as all seem to be competing for piece of the visitors pie. Therefore, competition mutes concerns, while marketing becomes“them and not us mentality.”

This virus is not just an island thing, or in Third World countries as one of my less informed friends stated, he is going to stop eat chicken, and stop going to places where lots of chicken are found.

Education is key: No, you cannot get it from eating chicken, or visiting places where chicken are in abundance. The name chikungunya derives from a word in Makonde language roughly meaning that which bends up reflecting the physique of a person disabled by the disease. Many reports have noted that it was first identified in Tanganyika (now Tanzania) in 1952

According to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the first known autochthonous chikungunya cases in the Western Hemisphere occurred in October 2013 on the island of Saint Martin. By March 2014, travelers to other Caribbean islands carried it to: Dominica; the British territories Anguilla and British Virgin Islands; overseas departments of France — Guadeloupe, Martinique; and the constituent countries of the Netherlands Antilles, as well as other areas such as St Kitts and Nevis; the Dominican Republic; and St Vincent and the Grenadines.

An estimated 3.6 billion persons in 124 countries are at risk worldwide, such as the many who are exposed to dengue fever. Large outbreaks have also been seen Indian Ocean islands, India and South-East Asia, according to the Infection, Genetic, and Evolution Journal. It has also reached Asia and Europe, and North America has seen a few cases recently in Florida.

The National Institute of Health, World Health Organization, Public Health Department, and Infectious Disease, noted that chikungunya is a viral disease that is rarely fatal. It is transmitted to humans by infected mosquitoes.

The symptoms include high fever and headache with debilitating joint pains, swelling and stiffness of joints, muscular pain, headache, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, and rash that can last for several weeks. Normally within four to seven days as reported after been bitten, the symptoms appear.

The mosquitoes become infected when they feed on an infected person during the viraemic period. Today, there are no specific antiviral treatments or vaccines available. However, it also has been reported that commonly used medications include ibuprofen, naproxen, acetaminophen, paracetamol, and aspirin.

Although there have been reported deaths, the number of related deaths are extremely low compared to Ebola; however, one should not discount it as a storm that will pass soon.

These regions have to debunk that only certain medicine can cure this outbreak, while many studies have reported there are no known cures at this time for the symptoms. It is extremely important that people take serious preventive measures such as bite-proof long sleeves and trousers. 

Purchasing  untested drugs in desperation from local street vendors might not be the best approach, especially for people with limited or no access to healthcare.  More information can be found published by many health organizations.

It can be extremely difficult to track down all mosquitoes and apply chemical spray on an entire region to cut concerns and especially in poor  and, rural areas with pool of slow-flowing water that is a breeding ground for mosquitoes and the lack of access to good health care only add to the problem.

Today many travelers are still waiting on a concrete government plan on how they are handling the issue in a coördinated effort. If there is one, please post.

Although some awareness has been posted, and the governments seem now to be taking steps to mitigate the potential problem, more needs to be done. Nevertheless, can we all be stratified?

This is not to reduce  any attempts, as the lack of resources can make this a difficult task. Moreover, the chance of being robbed, shot or killed in some of these areas, is more than likely than contracting the virus.

As the region continues to attract visitors, it is also important that these visitors receive a disclaimer of this undercurrent taking place.

The leaders must make sure that all proactive measures are taken, and seek help and resources as needed, and stop putting on a good face on this issues with a relaxed attitude.

I am still optimistic that all can come together and weather the storm. Moms and I have a ticket ready to land soon to take a break from the upcoming winter.

Commentary: A new look at violence against women

By D.R. Miller

Here are several definitions of domestic violence. Here is the simplest one: “If it feels wrong, it is.”

One legal definition of domestic violence: It consists of acts committed in the context of an adult intimate relationship. It is a continuance of aggressive and controlling behaviors, including physical, sexual, emotional and psychological attacks, that one intimate partner does to another

Since the 1980, many policies have been amended and have given women constitutional rights to safety and equally protection, but the struggle continues. One of the problems is that it is often seen and described as the tolerant cultural traits and a taboo, where guilt and shame makes it difficult for victims to come forward.

What is the color of domestic violence? Often the media only cover domestic violence when a rich and famous person is abused, arrested or killed. What has happened to poor individuals’ cases? Domestic violence seems to be green. Today, thanks to cameras, tapes are bringing all faces of victims and perpetrators of domestic violence from behind closed doors.

September 8, 2014, reminded us that domestic violence is still a cancer when the Ray Rice, a National Football League (NFL) player, video came out. We saw his fiancée knocked out unconscious in an elevator and being dragged out like a piece of luggage.

Within hours, the OJ Simpson 1995 double murder case in which he was acquitted emerged on almost every news lead-in. This was not co-incidental; OJ’s name generates ratings and a platform that often divides. Most importantly, his case has created more awareness calls to domestic violence centers since.

Despite the media’s recent highlight on almost every black NFL player, there are other Ray Rices still in many games, in schools, mosques, synagogues, churches, and co-workers in disguise. I am not minimizing his behavior. He should be punished both in the court of law and in his career.

Violence should not be broadcast to further polarize a society. Should we now keep scorecards of offenders to balance the portrayal of certain groups? Should we go to the archives and pull up Scott Peterson, who also killed his seven-and-a-half months pregnant wife with her only child when OJ’s name is mentioned?

Four years earlier, Pittsburgh Stealers quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, was accused of three rape charges. The district attorney later dropped the charges.

It was reported that alcohol played a role. Ray Rice also stated that he was intoxicated. Furthermore, can society add South Africa’s Oscar Pistorius, the disabled track star who killed his girlfriend?

For victims, an assault is simply that. It is not them vs us. This divide does not give hope and needs to be debunked.

The Reality: Violence against women is not a new paradigm shift. I am afraid many experts and pundits will move-on soon, and so does domestic violence as it returns behind closed doors until another funeral.

We all know someone and or saw an abuse and asked ourselves why? “He was a nice person and she seemed fine.” This is simple another subconscious minimization process.

In these relationships the “power and control wheel have been active: (1) male privilege; (2) economic abuse; (3) emotional; (4) isolation; and (5) minimization.”

Today, tackling domestic violence is troubling, as stratification has created a polarized and intolerant society where socio-economic inequality, haves vs have-nots forced domestic violence into political debates. Soon it will be polled for a comprehensive policy to pass Congress and other legislative bodies to protect women.

In addition, giving few people airtime as the good ones does not tell the full story.

Many studies have shown that the homicide and victimization rates for black men and women are higher than the national average. These pundits only offer a temporarily feel-good segment because one mug-shot is not plastered on the screen.

Directly or indirectly, violence is a community problem such as Boko Haram’s  ideology when some believe it is only a Nigerian problem. This ideology is in the Caribbean, the USA, and other countries in disguise.

Domestic violence must taken with a sense of urgency worldwide such as dismantling ISIS, Ebola or any terrorist organization. Although one cannot order a drone strike on an abusive husband, law enforcement, policies and support have to be able to track and dismantle these abusers and give help as needed.

In the 1980s, the US Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) organization played a pivotal role in a grass-roots movement that rewrote laws and battled cultural resignation about alcohol-related traffic deaths. The same has also taken place with gun-advocates. More groups needs to be formed world wide.

Who are the faces of violence?

Domestic violence affects young, old, blacks, whites, rich, poor, gay, straight, Christians or non-believers. Furthermore, not having black eye should not discount one as a victim.

Many of these women stayed in these abusive relationships for economic survival and their children’s safety. Men also get abused but statistics shows more men abuse women.

The Data: According to the Washington Coalition Against Violence, including other studies, at least one in every three women has been beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused during her lifetime

These abusers are members of her own family. One in six women and one in 33 men experienced an attempted rape

The amount of children witnessing violence is over 80 million and nearly one in five teenage girls have been in a relationship where a boyfriend threatened violence or self-harm if presented with a breakup. It is one of the leading causes of injury to women — more than car accidents, muggings, and rapes combined

In the US alone, a husband or boyfriend murders more than three women each day and every nine seconds a woman is assaulted or beaten.

This is not only a psychological nightmare for families and friends; the economic toll is extremely high. An estimated $4.1 to $5.8 billion resulted from victims who lose days of work alone, which is about 32,000 full-time jobs.

In 70-80% of these cases, the men psychically abused the woman before the murder. Domestic violence cases comprise of more than half of police response calls, more than robbery, motor vehicle theft, burglary as reported. The long-term medical impact for treatment combined with the stigma is harmful.

In most cases, domestic and sexual violence are not closely occurring at the same time.

Need for universal policies coast to coast: If all crimes become a community health problem, and the no drop clause is implanted, where a victim has no control over the prosecution and it is seen as it is — a criminal act — more can be done immediately.

Why: It was late one Sunday night; I’d just gotten back from a long flight after visiting the region. The telephone rang and a sad voice emerged. The first thought was to say, “How did you gain access to my telephone number?” I later learned a friend of a friend or a friend provided my telephone number.

According to the victim, a criminal complaint had already been filed against her abusive husband. There was minimal sign that physical abuse had taken place, and about her third call for help.

This time a doctor’s report was needed to make an arrest and she had to head back home to wait. The local doctor had to be paid in advance by the victim before such medical exam could be completed for a recommendation for an arrest to take place.

Few years later, I still wonder what if the police department was led by a woman with the resources and a responsive system, how different her life would be today? How many died waiting? Imagine being abused and an arrest hung on a medical assessment where the fees are more important.

Treatment Modality: The law does not have to be mandatory prosecution on all cases, but an immediate intervention. Furthermore, simple relying on only physical evidence makes it less likely one more will be killed, and continue to be victimized.

A swift adjudication process is key, and treat all incidents as a criminal act, and make sure victims are empowered.

Domestic violence is not just a few of weeks of treatment sessions where the offender minimizes and refuses to take responsibility and only shows up because he has been caught. Especially in the poor regions, offenders must be held accountable. Outdated laws needs to be amended to send a clear message from the high school to the work place that this kind of behavior must be met with stiff penalties.

Change an old  male chauvinist ideology where women are defined by how high her heels are and not by their work. Both sides should work together and call out violence before it becomes another Rest in Peace obituary.

Developing and promoting more women into key leadership roles will not cut violence against women overnight, but decisions that affect women will have a seat at the table.

Laws are the first line of defense, and priority must be given to victims. The outdated ideology, “She deserved it”, has to stop, especially in poor communities where the rich and powerful often muzzle the outcome of prosecutions.

If this cycle continues, it only creates a new generation that will marry someone who is either abusive or becomes an abuser themselves.

Refocus: Leaders must invest in young women who are consistently overlooked and treated as second-class citizens. Even when one is qualified, the glass ceiling remains active. As a society, all must move from this first view on the surface.

This mentality is one of a laundry detergent, or a waterfall dripping over rocks as it dissipates to support a synchronized balance or beautiful formation flow or a clean outfit, but has structural weakness and residues. Sadly, domestic violence is a dark secret.

Commentary: Celebrity and criminal justice: A test of the Jamaican criminal justice system

BY R.D. Miller

The anticipated verdict was more about the Jamaican justice system, and how they would severely handle the last disposition, including the profound effect over the Caribbean in general on celebrity justice, helpless victims, and what statement it would send to the next generation, where trust is frequently ranked low as it typically relates to the criminal justice system.

The high-profile trial was bigger than the prosecutors, defense counsel, key witnesses, local law enforcement, and how they carefully gathered and preserved evidence or the apparent lack of effective communication and proper rules.

It bought back memories of the O.J. Simpson case where he was found not guilty on a double murder charge. The criminal trial put justice in prime focus. It was a combination of how law enforcement conducted themselves, money, celebrity and class.

Although (Vybz Kartel case did not receive the same worldwide notoriety such as the O.J. Simpson case in 1995. Several in the Caribbean watched this case closely about how justice would be served.

Quietly, to many, national case brought back memories of earlier ones in which earlier politicians, the rich and powerful people in the region often walk away free, even when the evidence points more than likely that a punishable crime has occurred.

This is not to say that all rich, famous, and powerful defendants were guilty in all more prior cases. However, as many Jamaicans waited in anxious anticipation of the verdict, the alert for civil disobedience and vigilante justice was high.

However, the Jamaica judiciary system rose to the challenge and maintained order after the verdict. What was even impressive, many became educated with the jury system, and how overall the court process works for the first and the media fulfilled a critical role.

Often in regions where poor economic conditions still have a strong hold, justice is often seen through the eyes of one’s economic status, and notoriety. In fact, as much as we would like to see a balanced system, often these trial outcomes mirror several other countries based on one’s race, sex, creed, and colour.

The mandated strategies to combat crime and national safety should not create a generation of hopelessness. It should make sure that when penal codes have violated the rule of law as written in the “said constitution” continue intact.


Rule of law, public service, and personal safety are extremely important, whether in a democratic or totalitarian system of government. Promoting central control is a responsive government. This concept ensures that the right people are being selected, and the departments are staffed properly to keep up integrity, and correspondingly balance the public safety mission.

Today, a majority of us however look at the criminal justice system as “criminal justice for the appropriate price.”This is true especially when many people are being incarcerated not because of overwhelming evidence or simply probable cause is found beyond a reasonable doubt.

It is simply because they could not afford the defence needed to poke holes in government cases, and the ones who are sworn to uphold the law are being bought off from behind the bench.

The idea of celebrity justice is practically like policing and its gradual evolution that I carefully consider efficiently transferring from the boardroom into the social space. Criminal justice throughout the Caribbean region has evolved like the police force that was first developed within the context of properly maintaining a class system that protected private property in the early 18th century in Great Britain and now has become a decentralized system globally.

There is undoubtedly this verdict that will be debated for months to arrive and somewhat opens a new frontier about how this process really works. Debating the rule of law is nothing new. When other nations adopted the British common law, they also underwent a period of amendment after it had been criminally investigated in the criminal court of law.

When colonial British powers stretched throughout the Caribbean region, it not only brought slaves but a criminal justice system that set the foundation for how the government protects its people and implements justice.

Often, as official history has sufficiently shown us, only a few have benefited between haves vs. have-nots. However, this verdict, regardless of one’s position, should offer some hope.

Many on the island perhaps never understood how the judicial system works, and the moral responsibility that comes with being selected even as a juror. Now that the judgment is in, the region must begin to educate itself, from the primary schools to colleges on how the process works and expectation of a fair and balanced justice system and regardless of the defense one can afford.

The official verdict has tested the Jamaican judicial system, law enforcement rules, and what role entertainers play in the structure, and if justice can be bought. This verdict is more than just one man, and the impact will have a lasting effect.

On the other hand, if the local government does not use this opportunity to send a message, very soon key departments will no longer be capable of functioning to their fullest capacity as required to keep up public safety and a fair and balanced system.

What is sad from this verdict, despite a modernized process, it appears when a crime has been satisfactorily solved in the region, several departments stay on trial afterward, such as Vybz Kartel’s conviction.

The last analysis is that Vybz Kartel’s new jail number will not make a difference in the Jamaican stock exchange, or how many more jails will be needed or an improvement to the economic condition. On the other hand, if this criminal trend continues, soon Jamaica and more areas will have to build more prisons as one of the untold stories in the justice system and especially where more prisons are being built and privately owned.

They often need clients/customers to keep their operations going. As a result, the lives of the less fortunate among us seem to have diminished to debits and credits on a balance sheet or a ticker symbol trading in the stock markets.

The concept that entertainers were immune from the criminal justice system in Jamaica has now been proven incorrect. However, it seems the blame game continues about what went wrong, and what could have been done differently?


Inadequately training is now critical and if the body of local government that plays a vital role in unanimously upholding the law refuses to aggressively investigate critical gaps from preserving of evidence, and ensuring that officers can conduct comprehensive investigations from the emergency system to tracking criminals, to redefining agility and structural deficiencies, then the public trust will, however, continue to decline.

We typically have to be careful not to justly accuse everyone immediately if the successful outcome was not favorable to reasonable expectations. Dedicated employees might have committed some mistakes in the process, but what has taken place after the verdict is that law enforcement seems to have instantly become the focus of the debates. Going forward, the government needs to set up an independent commission to look at these issues to see if understaffing and proper training in those vital areas need to be addressed promptly.

How do we get there? The system should congregate an independent commission, which will be far from coerced-subjectivity and politics, to check any terrible lapse in compliance that has led to overall deficits across the agency that demands action.

It is important that they work together and communicate about the overall agency process and make sure continued security is adhered to and that accessibility to sensitive information is restricted to authorized users only.

Checks and balances are always needed, and although it can slow the process from hiring to implementation of human resources functions; however, urgent action is needed to discuss the dedicated staff concerns and going forward, give some level of oversight both internal and external.

I had never heard of him before this high-profile trial. However, I realize that he commands a huge following, and some might not agree with the possible outcome, also that is fine and democratic in any society. We cannot gently force anyone about who to dearly love.

On the other side, imagine the impact he could have sustained mobilizing the next generation on to better things. I am still optimistic that this time justice was in the open and not taken up in the hands of a few through retaliation.