Vanuatu: Information About The Island Nation From The ‘CIA Fact Book’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE ‘CIA FACT BOOK’)

 

Vanuatu

Introduction Multiple waves of colonizers, each speaking a distinct language, migrated to the New Hebrides in the millennia preceding European exploration in the 18th century. This settlement pattern accounts for the complex linguistic diversity found on the archipelago to this day. The British and French, who settled the New Hebrides in the 19th century, agreed in 1906 to an Anglo-French Condominium, which administered the islands until independence in 1980, when the new name of Vanuatu was adopted.
History The prehistory of Vanuatu is obscure; archaeological evidence supports the commonly held theory that peoples speaking Austronesian languages first came to the islands some 4,000 years ago. Pottery fragments have been found dating back to 1300–1100 B.C.

The first island in the Vanuatu group discovered by Europeans was Espiritu Santo, when in 1606 the Portuguese explorer Pedro Fernandes de Queirós working for the Spanish crown, spied what he thought was a southern continent. Europeans did not return until 1768, when Louis Antoine de Bougainville rediscovered the islands. In 1774, Captain Cook named the islands the New Hebrides, a name that lasted until independence.

In 1825, trader Peter Dillon’s discovery of sandalwood on the island of Erromango began a rush that ended in 1830 after a clash between immigrant Polynesian workers and indigenous Melanesians. During the 1860s, planters in Australia, Fiji, New Caledonia, and the Samoa Islands, in need of laborers, encouraged a long-term indentured labor trade called “blackbirding.” At the height of the labor trade, more than one-half the adult male population of several of the Islands worked abroad. Fragmentary evidence indicates that the current population of Vanuatu is greatly reduced compared to pre-contact times.

It was at this time that missionaries, both Catholic and Protestant, arrived on the islands. Settlers also came, looking for land on which to establish cotton plantations. When international cotton prices collapsed, they switched to coffee, cocoa, bananas, and, most successfully, coconuts. Initially, British subjects from Australia made up the majority, but the establishment of the Caledonian Company of the New Hebrides in 1882 soon tipped the balance in favor of French subjects. By the turn of the century, the French outnumbered the British two to one.

The jumbling of French and British interests in the islands brought petitions for one or another of the two powers to annex the territory. In 1906, however, France and the United Kingdom agreed to administer the islands jointly. Called the British-French Condominium, it was a unique form of government, with separate governmental systems that came together only in a joint court. Melanesians were barred from acquiring the citizenship of either power.

Challenges to this form of government began in the early 1940s. The arrival of Americans during World War II, with their informal demeanor and relative wealth, was instrumental in the rise of nationalism in the islands. The belief in a mythical messianic figure named John Frum was the basis for an indigenous cargo cult (a movement attempting to obtain industrial goods through magic) promising Melanesian deliverance. Today, John Frum is both a religion and a political party with a member in Parliament.

The first political party was established in the early 1970s and originally was called the New Hebrides National Party. One of the founders was Father Walter Lini, who later became Prime Minister. Renamed the Vanua’aku Pati in 1974, the party pushed for independence; in 1980, the Republic of Vanuatu was created.

During the 1990s Vanuatu experienced political instability which eventually resulted in a more decentralised government. The Vanuatu Mobile Force, a paramilitary group, attempted a coup in 1996 because of a pay dispute. There were allegations of corruption in the government of Maxime Carlot Korman. New elections have been called for, several times since 1997, most recently in 2004.

Geography Location: Oceania, group of islands in the South Pacific Ocean, about three-quarters of the way from Hawaii to Australia
Geographic coordinates: 16 00 S, 167 00 E
Map references: Oceania
Area: total: 12,200 sq km
land: 12,200 sq km
water: 0 sq km
note: includes more than 80 islands, about 65 of which are inhabited
Area – comparative: slightly larger than Connecticut
Land boundaries: 0 km
Coastline: 2,528 km
Maritime claims: measured from claimed archipelagic baselines
territorial sea: 12 nm
contiguous zone: 24 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
continental shelf: 200 nm or to the edge of the continental margin
Climate: tropical; moderated by southeast trade winds from May to October; moderate rainfall from November to April; may be affected by cyclones from December to April
Terrain: mostly mountainous islands of volcanic origin; narrow coastal plains
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m
highest point: Tabwemasana 1,877 m
Natural resources: manganese, hardwood forests, fish
Land use: arable land: 1.64%
permanent crops: 6.97%
other: 91.39% (2005)
Irrigated land: NA
Natural hazards: tropical cyclones or typhoons (January to April); volcanic eruption on Aoba (Ambae) island began 27 November 2005, volcanism also causes minor earthquakes; tsunamis
Environment – current issues: most of the population does not have access to a reliable supply of potable water; deforestation
Environment – international agreements: party to: Antarctic-Marine Living Resources, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 94
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography – note: a Y-shaped chain of four main islands and 80 smaller islands; several of the islands have active volcanoes
Politics Vanuatu has a parliamentary democracy political system which is currently headed by a President who has, primarily, ceremonial powers and who is elected for 5-year terms by a two-thirds majority in an electoral college. This electoral college consists of members of Parliament and the presidents of Regional Councils. The President may be removed by the electoral college for gross misconduct or incapacity. The Prime Minister, who is the head of government, is elected by a majority vote of a three-fourths quorum of the Parliament. The prime minister, in turn, appoints the Council of Ministers, whose number may not exceed a quarter of the number of parliamentary representatives. The prime minister and the Council of Ministers constitute the executive government.

The Parliament of Vanuatu is unicameral and has 54 members who are elected by popular vote every four years, unless earlier dissolved by a majority vote of a three-quarters quorum or by a directive from the President on the advice of the Prime Minister. The national Council of Chiefs, called the Malvatu Mauri and elected by district councils of chiefs, advises the government on all matters concerning ni-Vanuatu culture and language.

Besides a national authorities and figures, Vanuatu also has high-placed people at village level. Chiefs were and are still the leading figures on village level. It has been reported that even politicians need to oblige them. One becomes such figure by holding a number of lavish feasts (each feast allowing them a higher ceremonial grade) or alternatively through inheritance (the latter only in Polynesian-influenced villages). In northern Vanuatu, grades trough feasts are taken trough the nimangki-system.

Government and society in Vanuatu tend to divide along linguistic French and English lines. Forming coalition governments, however, has proved problematic at times due to differences between English and French speakers.

The Supreme Court consists of a chief justice and up to three other judges. Two or more members of this court may constitute a Court of Appeal. Magistrate courts handle most routine legal matters. The legal system is based on British common law and French civil law. The constitution also provides for the establishment of village or island courts presided over by chiefs to deal with questions of customary law.

People Population: 218,519 (July 2009 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 30.7% (male 34,263/female 32,833)
15-64 years: 65.3% (male 72,670/female 69,970)
65 years and over: 4% (male 4,516/female 4,267) (2009 est.)
Median age: total: 24.2 years
male: 24.2 years
female: 24.2 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate: 1.398% (2009 est.)
Birth rate: 21.95 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate: 7.61 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate: NA (2009 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 1.06 male(s)/female
total population: 1.04 male(s)/female (2009 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 49.45 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 51.97 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 46.81 deaths/1,000 live births (2009 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 63.98 years
male: 62.37 years
female: 65.66 years (2009 est.)
Total fertility rate: 2.5 children born/woman (2009 est.)
HIV/AIDS – adult prevalence rate: NA
HIV/AIDS – people living with HIV/AIDS: NA
HIV/AIDS – deaths: NA
Nationality: noun: Ni-Vanuatu (singular and plural)
adjective: Ni-Vanuatu
Ethnic groups: Ni-Vanuatu 98.5%, other 1.5% (1999 Census)
Religions: Presbyterian 31.4%, Anglican 13.4%, Roman Catholic 13.1%, Seventh-Day Adventist 10.8%, other Christian 13.8%, indigenous beliefs 5.6% (including Jon Frum cargo cult), other 9.6%, none 1%, unspecified 1.3% (1999 Census)
Languages: local languages (more than 100) 72.6%, pidgin (known as Bislama or Bichelama) 23.1%, English 1.9%, French 1.4%, other 0.3%, unspecified 0.7% (1999 Census)
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 74%
male: NA
female: NA (1999 census)
School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education): total: 10 years
male: 11 years
female: 10 years (2004)
Education expenditures: 9.5% of GDP (2003)
Government Country name: conventional long form: Republic of Vanuatu
conventional short form: Vanuatu
local long form: Ripablik blong Vanuatu
local short form: Vanuatu
former: New Hebrides
Government type: parliamentary republic
Capital: name: Port-Vila (on Efate)
geographic coordinates: 17 44 S, 168 19 E
time difference: UTC+11 (16 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
Administrative divisions: 6 provinces; Malampa, Penama, Sanma, Shefa, Tafea, Torba
Independence: 30 July 1980 (from France and UK)
National holiday: Independence Day, 30 July (1980)
Constitution: 30 July 1980
Legal system: unified system being created from former dual French and British systems; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal
Executive branch: chief of state: President Kalkot Matas KELEKELE (since 16 August 2004)
head of government: Prime Minister Edward NATAPEI (since 22 September 2008); Deputy Prime Minister Ham LINI (since 22 September 2008)
cabinet: Council of Ministers appointed by the prime minister, responsible to Parliament
elections: president elected for a five-year term by an electoral college consisting of Parliament and the presidents of the regional councils; election for president last held 16 August 2004 (next to be held in 2009); following legislative elections, the leader of the majority party or majority coalition is usually elected prime minister by Parliament from among its members; election for prime minister last held 22 September 2008 (next to be held following general elections in 2012)
election results: Kalkot Matas KELEKELE elected president, with 49 votes out of 56, after several ballots on 16 August 2004
Legislative branch: unicameral Parliament (52 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms)
elections: last held 2 September 2008 (next to be held 2012)
election results: percent of vote by party – NA; seats by party – VP 11, NUP 8, UMP 7, VRP 7, PPP 4, GC 2, MPP 1, NA 1, NAG 1, PAP 1, Shepherds Alliance 1, VFFP 1, VLP 1, VNP 1, VPRFP 1, and independent 4; note – political party associations are fluid
note: the National Council of Chiefs advises on matters of culture and language
Judicial branch: Supreme Court (chief justice is appointed by the president after consultation with the prime minister and the leader of the opposition, three other justices are appointed by the president on the advice of the Judicial Service Commission)
Political parties and leaders: Greens Confederation or GC [Moana CARCASSES]; Jon Frum Movement or JF [Song KEASPAI]; Melanesian Progressive Party or MPP [Barak SOPE]; Nagriamel movement or NAG [Havo MOLI]; Namangi Aute or NA [Paul TELUKLUK]; National United Party or NUP [Ham LINI]; People’s Action Party or PAP [Peter VUTA]; People’s Progressive Party or PPP [Sato KILMAN]; Shepherds Alliance Party [leader NA]; Union of Moderate Parties or UMP [Serge VOHOR]; Vanuatu Family First Party or VFFP [Eta RORI]; Vanuatu Labor Party or VLP [Joshua KALSAKAU]; Vanuatu National Party or VNP [Issac HAMARILIU]; Vanua’aku Pati (Our Land Party) or VP [Edward NATAPEI]; Vanuatu Republican Party or VRP [Maxime Carlot KORMAN]; Vanuatu Republican Farmers Party or VPRFP [Jean RAVOU]
Political pressure groups and leaders: NA
International organization participation: ACCT, ACP, ADB, C, FAO, G-77, IBRD, ICAO, ICRM, IDA, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, IOC, ITU, ITUC, MIGA, NAM, OAS (observer), OIF, OPCW, PIF, Sparteca, SPC, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UPU, WHO, WMO, WTO (observer)
Diplomatic representation in the US: Vanuatu does not have an embassy in the US; it does, however, have a Permanent Mission to the UN
Diplomatic representation from the US: the US does not have an embassy in Vanuatu; the ambassador to Papua New Guinea is accredited to Vanuatu
Flag description: two equal horizontal bands of red (top) and green with a black isosceles triangle (based on the hoist side) all separated by a black-edged yellow stripe in the shape of a horizontal Y (the two points of the Y face the hoist side and enclose the triangle); centered in the triangle is a boar’s tusk encircling two crossed namele leaves, all in yellow
Culture Vanuatu culture retains a strong diversity through local regional variations and through foreign influence. Vanuatu may be divided into three major cultural regions. In the north, wealth is established by how much one can give away. Pigs, particularly those with rounded tusks, are considered a symbol of wealth throughout Vanuatu. In the centre, more traditional Melanesian cultural systems dominate. In the south, a system involving grants of title with associated privileges has developed.

Young men undergo various coming-of-age ceremonies and rituals to initiate them into manhood, usually including circumcision.

Most villages have a nakamal or village clubhouse which serves as a meeting point for men and to as a place to drink kava.

Villages also have male and female-only sections. These sections are situated all over the villages, in nakamals, special spaces for females when they are in their menstruation period.

The traditional music of Vanuatu is still thriving in the rural areas of Vanuatu. Musical instruments consist mostly of idiophones: drums of various shape and size, slit gongs, as well as rattles, among others. Another musical genre that has become widely popular during the 20th century in all areas of Vanuatu, is known as string band music. It combines guitars, ukulele, and popular songs. More recently the music of Vanuatu, as an industry, grew rapidly in the 1990s and several bands have forged a distinctive ni-Vanuatu identity. Popular genres of modern commercial music, which are currently being played in town include zouk music and reggaeton. Reggaeton, a variation of hip-hop rapped in Spanish, played alongside its own distinctive beat, is especially played in the local nightclubs of Vanuatu with, mostly, an audience of Westerners and tourists.

There are few prominent ni-Vanuatu authors, but women’s rights activist Grace Mera Molisa, who died in 2002, achieved international notability as a very descriptive poet.

Cricket is very popular in Vanuatu. There are 8000 registered cricketers. Sport varies depending on the gender of those involved. Volleyball is considered a ‘girls’ sport’ and males play soccer.

The cuisine of Vanuatu (aelan kakae) incorporates fish, root vegetables such as taro and yams, fruits, and vegetables. Most island families grow food in their gardens, and food shortages are rare. Papayas, pineapples, mangoes, plantains, and sweet potatoes are abundant through much of the year. Coconut milk and cream are used to flavor many dishes. Most food is cooked using hot stones or through boiling and steaming; very little food is fried.

Economy Economy – overview: This South Pacific island economy is based primarily on small-scale agriculture, which provides a living for over 70% of the population. Fishing, offshore financial services, and tourism, with more than 167,000 visitors in 2007, are other mainstays of the economy. Mineral deposits are negligible; the country has no known petroleum deposits. A small light industry sector caters to the local market. Tax revenues come mainly from import duties. Economic development is hindered by dependence on relatively few commodity exports, vulnerability to natural disasters, and long distances from main markets and between constituent islands. In response to foreign concerns, the government has promised to tighten regulation of its offshore financial center. In mid-2002 the government stepped up efforts to boost tourism through improved air connections, resort development, and cruise ship facilities. Agriculture, especially livestock farming, is a second target for growth. Australia and New Zealand are the main suppliers of tourists and foreign aid.
GDP (purchasing power parity): $1.01 billion (2008 est.)
GDP (official exchange rate): $560 million (2008 est.)
GDP – real growth rate: 6.5% (2008 est.)
GDP – per capita (PPP): $4,700 (2008 est.)
GDP – composition by sector: agriculture: 26%
industry: 12%
services: 62% (2000 est.)
Labor force: 76,410 (1999)
Labor force – by occupation: agriculture: 65%
industry: 5%
services: 30% (2000 est.)
Unemployment rate: 1.7% (1999)
Population below poverty line: NA%
Household income or consumption by percentage share: lowest 10%: NA%
highest 10%: NA%
Budget: revenues: $78.7 million
expenditures: $72.23 million (2005)
Fiscal year: calendar year
Inflation rate (consumer prices): 3.9% (2007 est.)
Central bank discount rate: 6% (31 December 2007)
Commercial bank prime lending rate: 8.16% (31 December 2007)
Stock of money: $107.1 million (31 December 2007)
Stock of quasi money: $421.8 million (31 December 2007)
Stock of domestic credit: $229.5 million (31 December 2007)
Market value of publicly traded shares: $NA
Agriculture – products: copra, coconuts, cocoa, coffee, taro, yams, fruits, vegetables; beef; fish
Industries: food and fish freezing, wood processing, meat canning
Industrial production growth rate: 1% (1997 est.)
Electricity – production: 46 million kWh (2007 est.)
Electricity – consumption: 39.99 million kWh (2006 est.)
Electricity – exports: 0 kWh (2007 est.)
Electricity – imports: 0 kWh (2007 est.)
Electricity – production by source: fossil fuel: 100%
hydro: 0%
nuclear: 0%
other: 0% (2001)
Oil – production: 0 bbl/day (2007 est.)
Oil – consumption: 660 bbl/day (2006 est.)
Oil – exports: 0 bbl/day (2005)
Oil – imports: 671 bbl/day (2005)
Oil – proved reserves: 0 bbl (1 January 2006 est.)
Natural gas – production: 0 cu m (2007 est.)
Natural gas – consumption: 0 cu m (2007 est.)
Natural gas – exports: 0 cu m (2007 est.)
Natural gas – imports: 0 cu m (2007 est.)
Natural gas – proved reserves: 0 cu m (1 January 2006 est.)
Current account balance: -$60 million (2007 est.)
Exports: $40 million f.o.b. (2006)
Exports – commodities: copra, beef, cocoa, timber, kava, coffee
Exports – partners: Thailand 58.3%, India 18.5%, Japan 11.3% (2007)
Imports: $156 million c.i.f. (2006)
Imports – commodities: machinery and equipment, foodstuffs, fuels
Imports – partners: Australia 20.7%, Singapore 11.8%, NZ 11.2%, Norway 8.5%, US 8.3%, Fiji 8.1%, China 7.2%, New Caledonia 4.5% (2007)
Economic aid – recipient: $39.48 million (2005)
Reserves of foreign exchange and gold: $40.54 million (2003)
Debt – external: $81.2 million (2004)
Currency (code): vatu (VUV)
Currency code: VUV
Exchange rates: vatu (VUV) per US dollar – NA (2007), 111.93 (2006), NA (2005), 111.79 (2004), 122.19 (2003)
Communications Telephones – main lines in use: 8,800 (2007)
Telephones – mobile cellular: 26,000 (2007)
Telephone system: general assessment: NA
domestic: NA
international: country code – 678; satellite earth station – 1 Intelsat (Pacific Ocean)
Radio broadcast stations: AM 2, FM 4, shortwave 1 (2001)
Radios: 67,000 (1997)
Television broadcast stations: 1 (2004)
Televisions: 2,300 (1999)
Internet country code: .vu
Internet hosts: 990 (2008)
Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 1 (2000)
Internet users: 17,000 (2007)
Transportation Airports: 31 (2007)
Airports – with paved runways: total: 3
2,438 to 3,047 m: 1
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 1 (2007)
Airports – with unpaved runways: total: 28
914 to 1,523 m: 6
under 914 m: 22 (2007)
Roadways: total: 1,070 km
paved: 256 km
unpaved: 814 km (1999)
Merchant marine: total: 54
by type: bulk carrier 32, cargo 8, container 1, liquefied gas 2, passenger 1, petroleum tanker 1, refrigerated cargo 4, vehicle carrier 5
foreign-owned: 54 (Australia 2, Belgium 4, Canada 5, Estonia 1, Greece 1, Japan 29, Monaco 1, Poland 7, Russia 2, Switzerland 1, US 1) (2008)
Ports and terminals: Forari, Port-Vila, Santo (Espiritu Santo)
Military Military branches: no regular military forces; Vanuatu Police Force (VPF), Vanuatu Mobile Force (VMF; includes Police Maritime Wing (PMW)) (2008)
Manpower available for military service: males age 16-49: 58,900 (2008 est.)
Manpower fit for military service: males age 16-49: 41,533
females age 16-49: 42,837 (2009 est.)
Manpower reaching militarily significant age annually: male: 2,368
female: 2,272 (2009 est.)
Military expenditures: NA
Transnational Issues Disputes – international: Matthew and Hunter Islands east of New Caledonia claimed by Vanuatu and France

Dozens Killed in Philippine Tropical Storm

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Dozens Killed in Philippine Tropical Storm

Sunday, 17 December, 2017 – 11:30
Some 26 people were killed and 23 missing in the Philippines due to landslides triggered by Tropical Storm Tropical Storm Kai-Tak. (Reuters)
Asharq Al-Awsat

At least 26 people were killed in the Philippines in landslides triggered by Tropical Storm Kai-Tak, authorities said on Sunday.

Some 23 were missing in the eastern Philippines a day after the storm pounded the archipelago nation.

Kai-Tak tore across the major islands of Samar and Leyte on Saturday, toppling power lines in 39 towns or cities and damaging roads and bridges, the national disaster agency said.

“There is a total of 26 people dead from landslides in four towns of Biliran. We have recovered the bodies,” Sofronio Dacillo, provincial disaster risk reduction and management officer, told AFP.

Gerardo Espina, governor of the island province just east of Leyte, gave the same figure for deaths in an interview on ABS-CBN television. He said 23 people were missing.

The national disaster risk reduction agency could not immediately confirm if the 26 deaths in Biliran included the initial three fatalities it reported on Saturday.

Kai-Tak weakened on Sunday afternoon, with gusts of up to 80 kilometers (50 miles) an hour, and was reclassified as a tropical depression, state weather forecasters said.

But disaster officials warned that more floods and landslides were possible and said 15,500 passengers were stranded because ferry services remained suspended in parts of the region.

“I’ve been stranded for three days, sleeping in the bus, and I just want to get home to my family for Christmas,” Eliaquin Pilapil, a 55-year-old farmer, told AFP from a port in the town of Matnog in the eastern province of Sorsogon.

The Christmas holidays are a busy travel season in the mainly Catholic Philippines, with people heading home to the provinces.

The nation is battered by about 20 major storms each year.

Samar and Leyte bore the brunt in 2013 of Super Typhoon Haiyan which left more than 7,350 people dead or missing.

In the Leyte city of Tacloban, Saturday’s storm brought flash floods of up to 1.5 meters (five feet) and strong winds that left the city without power and water, according to its disaster office chief.

“The storm moved so slowly that it brought so much rain to our city. The floods resulted from four days of rain,” Ildebrando Bernadas, head of Tacloban’s disaster risk reduction office, told AFP.

Bernadas said 82 percent of Tacloban’s districts were flooded.

Heavy rains and large waves have stranded at least 11,000 people in various ports in the region, according to the Philippine Coast Guard. More than 10,000 people have fled to evacuation centers, local media reported.

Several provinces were placed under storm warning signals, where heavy rains may persist, the weather bureau said.

Trinidad & Tobago Citizens Continue to Help Hurricane-Ravaged Dominica 

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF GLOBAL VOICES)

 

Clapping Back Against Online Xenophobia,Trinidad & Tobago Citizens Continue to Help Hurricane-Ravaged Dominica 

An MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter from Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 22 (HSC-22), attached to the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1), performs humanitarian aid operations on the embattled island of Dominica following the landfall of Hurricane Maria. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Michael Molina/Released)170924-N-VK310-0009. Via the Official U.S. Navy Flickr Page, CC BY 2.0

In the wake of the devastation left by Hurricanes Irma and Maria, Trinidad and Tobago, along with its neighbours across the archipelago, have banded together under the #OneCaribbean hashtag, sending supplies and other relief to the islands most adversely affected and creating a sense of community.

But solidarity isn’t the only thing that the disaster has inspired. After Trinidad and Tobago’s prime minister, Dr. Keith Rowley, offered accommodation to Dominican hurricane victims whose homes had been destroyed, saying immigration restrictions would be waived for a period of six months, xenophobic comments began to spring up on social media.

With government critics questioning whether the country should be opened up in a period of economic recession, some of the backlash has been perceived as politicalpartisanship. Many netizens were taken aback at the level of hatefulness and wasted no time in calling it out.

Leslie-Ann Boiselle posted this status update on Facebook:

A public status update by Facebook user Leslie-Ann Boiselle, who said, “Seeing such putrid hatred, insensitivity and downright callousness aimed at those who are in dire need is so disappointing.”

And Patricia Worrell added:

I have NO political bias in favour of any party right now. I watch all with cynicism, and listen to the utterances of each with a ton of salt.
Nonetheless, the comments about PM Rowley’s response to the Dominica situation on one political party’s page are stomach turning!
And no intervention by any person in a leadership position in that party to suggest that the hatred expressed on that page, and directed against a suffering people in the name of politics is wrong?
Nah! I think people may have reached an all-time low there!

Historical context

The blog Politics868 likened the reaction to the United States’ reluctance to welcome European Jews on the eve of World War II. Compared with other countries’ responses to recent migrant crises, it argued, “a mere 2000 Dominicans is nothing to get bothered over”.

Attorney Ria Mohammed-Davidson wrote in to blog Wired868, saying:

The visceral responses which this decision has provoked betray an unfortunate lack of awareness of the full panoply of rights contained in the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, particularly the right to free movement under Article 45. This right was further concretised in the 2007 Heads of Government decision which granted to all CARICOM [Caribbean Community] nationals an automatic, six-month stay upon arrival in any Member State.

Facebook user Rhoda Bharath added:

Since the 1770s Trinidad and Tobago, whether as a colony or Independent nation has allowed immigrants through co ordinated programmes.
We have had political refugees.
Labour/economic refugees.
People fleeing religious persecution, wars, poverty.
Post Independendence we continue to have immigrants and refugees for one reason or another of all nationalities.
Immigrants have always been an integral part of our development as a society.
The PM has offered 6 months of safe refuge to our neighbours….and the xenophobia and prejudice I am seeing blows my mind.
Keep rationalising hate and ignorance!
#HurricaneMaria
#TrumpTrinidad

However, Facebook user Dave Williams remembered a time that one former leader of a PNM government — the current ruling party in Trinidad and Tobago — had been less than charitable to Haiti, another of its Caribbean neighbours.

Keith Francis issued an apology on behalf of his countrymen:

Dear Dominica,
On behalf of all of the right-thinking Trinbagonians among us, I apologise for our having here persons who are less charitable and more ungracious in your time of trouble. They do not represent the majority of us. We are collectively better than what you have been made to observe.
You are welcome here, and we will do what we can to help you even as we face challenging times ourselves.
#kthxbye #SeeYouSoon #BeCaribbeanStrong
Luv,
The Me
CC: Antigua, Venezuela, St. Lucia, Grenada, Haiti, and everyone else that small-minded and dirt-hearted Trinbagonians have offended in the past.

Such a myopic stance also struck other Facebook users as ironic, especially considering that Trinidad and Tobago’s national anthem includes the lines, “Side by side we stand, islands of the blue Caribbean Sea”. Originally intended to be the anthem for the failed West Indies Federation, the piece was adapted for Trinidad and Tobago when it became independent in 1962.

A deeper malaise?

Keston K. Perry, writing at Wired868, suggested, however, that the response — while lacking “empathy and consideration” — could also be interpreted as a symptom of “a deeper sense of disenfranchisement that some Trinbagonians may be feeling at the moment”.

He bashed both sides of the political divide, arguing that “the reactionary xenophobia appears to share common strands—perhaps from a feeling of loss of power and control over their material, political and economic circumstances”, and dismissing the view that the reaction was rooted in racism:

While the rhetoric from government ministers has been that the burden of adjustment is being evenly distributed, for many regular citizens and families who have to hustle to survive, that is simply not the case. It is, therefore, possible that the irrational and xenophobic reactions to the PM’s invitation to fellow CARICOM nationals may well be other attitudes in disguise.

The regrettable insensitivity towards Dominicans has to be seen in the wider context of heightened economic insecurity, an instinct by some for self-preservation or the expression of the little power that access to social media affords the have-nots.

Leadership is certainly manifested by showing some compassion to and solidarity with our Dominican brothers and sisters, by offering them some respite and hospitality even for a short period of time. In the wider scheme of things, however, leadership must also take cognisance of the fact that the current economic policy agenda—which favours business interests—has not, even in the best of circumstances, really served the people of this two-island nation.

Banding together

Still, many netizens were having none of it. The hashtag #IStandWithDominicastarted being used on several social media platforms. Journalist Soyini Grey commented on Facebook:

FYI an environmental refugee isn’t a criminal, or criminally-prone. And they may not want to relocate permanently.
Also, immigrants can be good for your economy.
Think, people. Think

Nicole Philip Greene advised:

Pay no attention to the noisemakers and fearmongerers. Do not let them dishearten, confuse or divide you.
There are A LOT of Trinis working quietly doing what they know is right for our neighbours. Giving of time, effort and supplies.
And not just because we know ‘There but for the grace of God…’ but because we still have a heart. We still know what is right.
🇹🇹 🇩🇲 #Hope #BeCaribbeanStrong #IStandWithDominica 🇩🇲 🇹🇹

Stories being shared on social media pages supported this — for every negative comment, there seemed to be many more accounts of generosityheroism, and assistance.

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Relief efforts in Dominica coordinated today by Ministry of National Security Divisons, Caribbean Airlines Ltd and NGOs.

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TTDF rescues family in Dominica. They were living in a car in the middle if nowhere since the hurricane.

Several netizens expressed a desire to host Dominicans in their homes, and more than 100 regional performers got together for the “One Island” concert, held in Trindad’s capital city on September 24, 2017, which was the 41st anniversary of Republic Day. The proceeds of the concert go towards hurricane relief efforts in the region, and scores of Trinidad and Tobago-based churches, schools, charitable and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) continue to send containers with supplies and other relief materials to the citizens of Dominica.

The Global Voices Caribbean team is interested in curating citizen media stories of hope, community and resilience after the passage of hurricanes Irma and Maria. If you have a story, video, or image that speaks to how the Caribbean is bouncing back and banding together during the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season, please hashtag its country of origin and which hurricane affected it, and add the following hashtags: #OneCaribbean, #CaribbeanResilience and #CaribbeanStrong. You can also contact us on Twitter (@gvcaribbean) or send an email to our regional editor at [email protected]

Indonesia’s Mount Sinabung Volcano Blows It Top

(This article is courtesy of the Shanghai Daily News Paper)

OME » WORLD

Mount Sinabung erupts