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Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago: Bombastic?

Categories: Caribbean, Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago, Economics & Business, Environment, History, Ideas, Indigenous, International Relations, Media & Journalism

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 [1] acquired a 43.5% stake in Jamaica's [2]Carib Cement [3], 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 [4] – 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 [5], 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 [6], despite shared history and commonalities of language [7]. That said, the Caribbean, as a region, manages to operate quite well when it comes to endeavours like The University of the West Indies [8] and West Indies Cricket [9] (recent events concerning the latter notwithstanding [10]).

The Trinidad Guardian‘s Business Editor, Anthony Wilson, wrote at length about the impasse between the two countries [11], 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” [12], published recently in the Jamaica Gleaner. Trinidad Carnival Diary shared her views in a post titled “Bombastic Jamaican” [13]:

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 [14], 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 [15], and the fiery discussions that preceded it, [16] have tried to find ways to mend the fences. He has even put forward the idea of forming a Trinidad/Jamaica Business Club. [17]