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Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago: Bombastic?

Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica have been baring their teeth at each other recently over two major issues. The first is that Trinidad Cement Limited acquired a 43.5% stake in Jamaica's Carib Cement, a move that has not sat well with many Jamaicans, especially following last year’s debacle over cement quality, which resulted in the company having to face an estimated $60 million in damage control costs. In addition to having booming corporate and manufacturing sectors that see regional expansion as a legitimate means of growing business and increasing profit, T&T is perhaps the most resource-rich member of CARICOM – which makes the second issue that much harder for Jamaicans to swallow: Trinidad and Tobago's reneging on a promise to supply Liquefied Natural Gas to Jamaica, which will have a negative impact upon Jamaica's plans to expand the infrastructure for its bauxite production.

In a region that is generally regarded by outsiders to be a monolith, each Caribbean island is quite different from the other, despite shared history and commonalities of language. That said, the Caribbean, as a region, manages to operate quite well when it comes to endeavours like The University of the West Indies and West Indies Cricket (recent events concerning the latter notwithstanding).

The Trinidad Guardian‘s Business Editor, Anthony Wilson, wrote at length about the impasse between the two countries, noting that “The LNG would lower Alcoa’s cost of production at its alumina refinery in Clarendon and as a result of the cogeneration of electricity, some of the LNG will be passed through to Jamaica’s electricity grid, lowering the cost of production in the wider economy. So I do understand Jamaica’s position on this issue. What I do not understand is…the Jamaicans who are commenting on this issue in the newspapers and on radio stations appear not to understand some of the basics of the LNG business.”

But no commentary on the issue has caused as much ire in the blogosphere than a vitriolic piece by Jamaican columnist Dawn Ritch entitled “Bombastic Trinidadians”, published recently in the Jamaica Gleaner. Trinidad Carnival Diary shared her views in a post titled “Bombastic Jamaican”:

I find it quite ironic that a Jamaican is writing about the murder rates in Trinidad and Tobago when theirs is the highest in the region.

Bloggers also seemed insulted at Ms. Ritch's characterisation of the indigenous people of Trinidad and Tobago: “What the Jamaican Government must now have realised are baleful consequences of the Amerindian heritage of Trinidad. They are not Taino but Carib, and those were cannibals. We were not, and it's not part of our make-up. Murderous today, but still not cannibal. The only thing to do with cannibals is drive them out with prosperity. That way we will have the economic independence to buy back that which they have gloatingly captured here on the cheap.”

Roi Kwabena, a self-declared “student of our indigenous heritage”, declares:

I wish to hereby express my disgust for this unsavory commentary by this obviously IGNORANT writer who needs to learn more of the true heritage of our ancestors. The Jamaican Gleaner has woefully proven their inability to promote tolerance in the region.

Blogger Attlilah Springer wrote about Ms. Ritch's article in her own newspaper column, calling it a “crassly racist diatribe…that borders on what I can only think to describe as neo-colonial jingoism”.

Others, including Jamaican Francis Wade, after linking to the Gleaner article, and the fiery discussions that preceded it, have tried to find ways to mend the fences. He has even put forward the idea of forming a Trinidad/Jamaica Business Club.

9 comments

  • I think these issues really highlight the underlying difficulties inherent in attempts by the territories of the Caribbean to forge mutually beneficially bonds intra-regionally.

    However, they also highlight the necessity of such bonds in creating a greater sense of regional identity and interconnection. This in turn might lessen the sense of being “invaded by the other” that each territory seems to feel when other islanders begin to have a significant economic and social presence in their particular island.

    I wonder though, would the reaction to the 43% stake or the reneging of the promise been as vicious had they been at the hands of a Western nation?

  • Prudence Young-Gordon

    I really find it hard to believe that a Jamaican would really say that

    that is like the devil correcting sin

  • Sherry-Ann Serra

    Why is HATE always the popular option? Perhaps because it is the easiest way out for one who knows no better. Ignorance is the mother of xenophobia, hating those whom are not from our village, town, city, country, race, culture… It is indeed quite a shame that many Caribbean people still fail to see the importance of respecting each other for our merits, differences, appreciating our similarities and the need to work together to build a stronger Caribbean for our own future. I am Trinidadian of Carib descent… and… so? People must never be judged by their race, culture or any other physical aspect. This is how wars begin and the reason why this world will never enjoy peace.

  • Sandy Ogawa

    Serra, it is easier said than done. If there’s love then there’s always hatred. Think about it!

  • Brent

    Ms. Ritch should focus on the challenges in Jamaica. The people and government of Trinidad are focused on fostering a productive, modern and plural society. As a Trinidadian, we are doing what we need to do to ensure that our future generations have superior standards of living.

  • […] Unity In her Global Voices post Bombastic?, Janine Mendes-Franco writes, “The Caribbean, as a region, manages to operate quite well when it […]

  • matthew moise

    this situation with jamacia and trinidad on caribcement; the trinidadina is a very agressive creature in business and there are agressively making in roads into all the other west indies island seeking investment and business. are they wrong for doing that …i think not.
    we have been crying out for years as black people that we must come together yet when it is started by some one weather a country or a company we or some that should know and appreciated better tries to stop it.

  • Aaron

    As a Trini I find these comments to be exactly what continue to divide us all. So what hwo is who is who. This is just plan stupid.

  • klopij

    okay people i lovvvveee trini with all my hearth even doe i wasnt born there but my parents and parents parents and so on are from ther.i lived there and i understand how yall think. so im going to opan up my mouth and say saomthing trinidad and jamaica have to much boostin up and pride in a bad way. you no why i say that.alya fight in for cultya caly[so reggae soca steelpan .thing like that trini and jam shud wqant to expresss with the wholeeeeeeeeee world and our cariibean nations.dont yall get it yall like the big brothers to all the carribean islands in betweeen yall. share yall culture . be nice an i here that guyanees and venezulans are crime troulbers in trinida. if its tru them peepl beta chill for i come donng there and busup de palcee.trinidad calm down.jamaica allya and trinidad is gein to recles in passapaassa and dancehall and carnival and fete .shade club chill we can party .what happens in de party stays in de party some man step on your shoes we ready to fight and bow up peeple.think about how every one else is veiwing you guys.

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