Asot Michael gives Tribute to Ms. Rachel Jerome Henry Ruchards

TRIBUTE BY THE HONOURABLE ASOT A. MICHAEL, AT THE FUNERAL FOR MS. RACHAEL JEROME HENRY RICHARDS

ON

THURSDAY, 30TH APRIL, 2015

AT THE ST. ANDREW’S ANGLICAN CHURCH LOCATED AT FORT ROAD

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Good afternoon, Church.

Farewell to you and the youth I have spent with you.
It was but yesterday we met in a dream
You have sung to me…and built a tower in the sky.
But now our dream is over… and we must part.
If in the twilight of memory we
should meet once more,
we shall speak again together, and you
shall sing to me a deeper song.
And if our hands should meet in
another dream, we shall build
another tower in the sky.”

Friends and family, these are the parting words of Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet, poet of the poor Kadisha Valley in northeastern Lebanon.

He was one of the spiritual artists of the western world.

Today, we have gathered to bid farewell to Rachael Jerome Henry Richards, whom I loved dearly and whose love for all in her family is legendary. She was kind and generous, calm and caring, unflappable and unpretentious. She possessed the generosity of a Saint and the firm hand of a Mother Theresa. God has blest us by sending her to be our adult guardian and peacemaker; and, we thank the Almighty for his everlasting goodness.

It is often the case that the love which flows among the members of a household or a family can indeed be traced to those at the very pinnacle of that family. Love often obeys the law of gravity, percolating downwards effortlessly. But, human love can also generate outwards and upwards, flowing against the tide just as easily, whether there are barriers or defenses. Rachael was able to cause love to spread out in every direction. She was loved, as she loved others; strangers loved her and she shared great joy and glad tidings with those she encountered. For her the season of Christmas was every day.

On behalf of my own family, I begin by expressing condolences to the family of Rachael Jerome Henry Richards. She was an extraordinary woman whose death has left the community, the Constituency of St. John’s Rural East and this country poorer.

To the entire family of Ms. Richards, her children, her grandchildren, her relatives and friends, I want to assure you that I feel your pain. I feel the emptiness, the pain, the disappointment which naturally accompanies death. Death always robs families of loved-ones and, no matter the age of the deceased, the pain and emptiness are almost always beyond endurance. It is our belief in God and the promise of a better life in the hereafter that help to soften that pain. We feel your pain.

Our presence here, in God’s House, is intended to convey the assurance that we all need God when death strikes its final blow.

But death has not struck its final blow. The children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren are a part of the living memory of our Rachael. She did as God commanded. Our sister was the beloved mother of five children.

Like the Antiguan woman then and now, she was very strong. She became the matriarch of her family and ensured their well-being.

Rachael, whom was like a second sister to my mother, Mrs. Josette Michael, worked closely with my family for over twelve years. My mother when recollecting on Rachael’s time with us, would speak of her with great fondness. She was one of the most kind-hearted, generous, honest, sincere person you will ever know. It was a sad but joyous day, my mother used to reminisce, when Rachael left our employ to pursue greater opportunities to support her beloved children.

Rachael embarked on the most unlikely, but in the end most rewarding career part as an employee of Her Majesty’s Prison, where she worked diligently for over thirty (30) years. I think many of Rachael’s co-workers could testify to her character. She considered her position in the Prison as her “niche” in life. She loved the responsibility it gave her, the opportunity to learn and self-improve – either through experience or the trials she endured in order to do her job better – and she loved the people that she worked with.

Rachael’s dedication and perseverance shone through in everything she did. Her commitment to her work and to her friends will be greatly missed. Rachael’s love and devotion to her family will always be dearly remembered. Her examples of love, caring and determination lives as an inspiration to all of us.

Our religion also seeks to comfort us in death.
Those of us who are Christians believe that faith in the Almighty will cause us, on Judgment Day, to see that faces of our loved ones who have gone before. We believe that to love God, to do good works, and to live a life of charity will cause God to look favorably upon us after death, and that as a reward for goodness, we will see God’s face.

If this is indeed the formula for everlasting salvation, then I am compelled to believe that Rachael Henry Richards has already been welcomed into the arms of her Jesus. She has seen God’s face.

When Rachael was an infant, born on April 30th, 1938, sugarcane and cotton were all around us. Antigua and Barbuda was one huge patchwork of sugarcane and cotton plantations. Poverty was also everywhere, since wages and salaries were meager.

Rachael’s parents could only pray that she might have an opportunity at moving beyond Primary School. Rachael’s future was limited by the opportunities available then.

The transformation of Antigua and Barbuda from a place of extreme poverty to a modern developing island-state began in the earnest after 1976. The transformative years brought greater wealth and greater opportunities. Rachael wished for her children to make the best of the opportunities. And they did!

The value of a person’s life to her family, community or nation is often not measureable until the moment of death.

Human culture, the world over, has a tendency to focus on valued human traits at the moment of death. Rachael is no exception. We remember her energy and her forthrightness, her strength and determination

Today, as we grieve over Rachael’s passing, we recall the strength, the determination, the faith, the love, the unyielding dedication to her family, and their love for her. We recall her struggles, her victories, her many successes.

We may have suffered a great loss. But, she fought the good fight, she did God’s will, she pressed forward to make the best of the opportunities available for her children, she was exemplary in so many ways. She will forever be remembered.

May God continue to bless her and keep her, and may his face shine upon her, and be generous unto her. May he lift up his countenance upon her and give her peace, now and forever.

And so, we must take her death as a sign and symbol that we do not know the hour of our final parting. It may be sudden. It may be long. It may be now, it may be later. But whatever and whenever, we must know that those who would sum up our lives must confidently say, that we worked by the sweat of our brow and with the brow of our brain to change the world. That for sure, and in sum, was true of Rachael Jerome Henry Richards as it is true of all truly remarkable men and women.

In one of the well-known songs which we sing at funerals, the songwriter recalls:

Death, like an ever rolling stream, bears all its sons and daughters away
They fly forgotten as a dream dies at the close of day.

Rachael Jerome Henry Richards will continue to live on in our memory. May the God who guided us in our years as an oppressed people, continue to guide her footsteps in the other life.

And when the earth shall claim your wings, then shall you truly dance.

Dance Rachael, my dear Rachael dance on!
May her Soul Rest in Peace.

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YIDA INTERNATIONAL GROUND-BREAKING CERMEMONY

Honourable Asot Michael Minister of Tourism, Economic Development & Energy Government of Antigua and Barbuda

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Gaston Browne

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kenneth kwok

YIDA INTERNATIONAL GROUND-BREAKING CERMEMONY
Barnacle Point
Thursday 30th April 2015

Good morning everyone. A special good morning to:

His Excellency Governor General Dr. Sir Rodney Williams
Honourable Prime Minister Gaston Browne
Honourable Leader of the Opposition, Baldwin Spencer
Honourable Members of Cabinet
Honourable Members of the Senate, President of the Senate
Honourable Members of Parliament, Speaker of the House
Members of the Diplomatic Corps
Distinguished Members of the YIDA Group
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen

“What is the hurry?” This question was asked of Prime Minister Gaston Browne mere hours following his swearing-in ceremony at Government House on the morning of June 13, 2014. What is the hurry? It was a question asked because a Memorandum of Understanding was negotiated within hours of ascending to the exalted post of Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda.

More investments, more jobs and lower taxes had been the mantra of the Antigua and Barbuda labour Party throughout the election campaign in the months prior, and the leaders of the Party meant every word of it. We knew that months would pass between signing a Memorandum of Understanding and having a backhoe dig the first foundation. We had no time to spend dilly-dallying. Time is of the essence.

It was China’s great philosopher, Confucius that said, “In a country well governed, poverty is something to be ashamed of”.

It is with Confucius’ great wisdom in mind – – and our great pride in our country’s advancing policies to develop through broad partnerships a wealthy, creative and progressive nation – – that I address you as part of this Groundbreaking Ceremony for Yida International Investment Group’s Antigua Special Economic Zone.

I am confident that The Antigua Special Economic Zone will become an engine for economic growth and will strengthen linkages in our local service economy. This is development at the national level, and the country and the Zone shall work together to ensure that benefits reach every local business, every family and every child in Antigua and Barbuda because our government adheres to Confucius’ philosophy so, “this is a country well governed”.
I want to congratulate the YIDA Group and the Prime Minister for moving swiftly as you set about to create thousands of new jobs and to develop a part of Antigua that has remained outside of the economic boundaries of our fair land. Lawsuits intended to jettison development and to slow the pace of progress shall not deter this Labour Party administration. Let the dogs bark, VC Bird Snr. used to say, but the ABLP wagon keeps moving on.

The plans for our development take into account the fragility of our environment and the attractiveness of that environment to tourism development in the first instance. When fewer than 25 mangrove plants are moved to allow for a pontoon bridge to be re-established—so that supplies can reach an island—that is not evidence of wrongdoing.

The plans revealed by the YIDA Group to turn an under-utilized piece of valuable real estate into a venue for generating thousands of jobs, does not involve harm to the eco-environment. I congratulate the YIDA Group for taking into account the high regard which this administration displays for both the environment and job-creation. They are twin pillars of our development agenda.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

The Guiana Island project will enlarge the number of hotel rooms, but it will be much more than a hotel. Making Antigua a hub for the YIDA Group’s strategy of growing its investments in the Americas, will mean more office space, more cargo and traffic, more jobs for our youth, and more economic activity following years of economic decline.

We are in a hurry. While the grass grows, this administration must keep the horse from starving. We are engaged in a greening and cleaning campaign, employing hundreds of workers in beautifying Antigua. A country that is tourism-dependent must pay very close attention to the aesthetics. We undertake this investment in beautification for the benefit of residents and tourists alike.

The YIDA Group brings the high level of appreciation for beauty and elegance that is so very much on display in the great historic city of Beijing. Our aim is to make Antigua and Barbuda places of outstanding beauty, charm and elegance. The YIDA Group understands the need for this significant element in business and pleasure.

I therefore join in pledging the full support of the Ministry of Tourism in this drive to expand the offerings to our visitors. As the Minister responsible for energy, I also applaud the YIDA Group for its planned reliance on a lot of solar power. The faith placed in Antigua and Barbuda, its government and its people is justifiable. You will find eagerness, cooperation, willingness and support at every juncture during the execution of this project. The YIDA Group has made a wise choice. We applaud you.

The Antigua Special Economic Zone is designed to provide fiscal incentives to facilitate the business operations of investors within designated areas. It will foster Antigua and Barbuda’s national economic development and lead to prosperity and improvement of people’s living standards, inside and outside of the Zone.

Simplicity, speed and smooth transactions are important aspects that many investors consider in making business decisions. It is for these reasons that we have established this Zone.

Through the Cabinet and Parliament of Antigua and Barbuda, the 2015 Antigua Special Economic Act shall be legislated and passed. It will provide for drastic simplification of procedures, approvals, clearance and documentation of investment-related matters.

The Antigua Special Economic Zone will be a model for efficiency and success and will be managed by a highly competent team that is committed to facilitating investment activity on behalf of Antigua and Barbuda. A team of individuals has been selected to administer policy incentives and resolved issues by replacing “red tape bureaucracy” with “red carpet treatment”.

We have set forth several growth and policy objectives for the Yida International Investment Group’s Antigua Special Economic Zone as follows:
Increased trade and export up to USD 40 million per year
Growth of investment up to USD 300 million per year
Long-term job creation up to 1,320 jobs per year
Local businesses revenue generation up to USD 450 million per year
National income diversification up to USD 660 million per year

All this will lead to the creation of an Economic Tiger that will be the powerhouse of the region and transform the destiny of our country.

The Government of Antigua and Barbuda is encouraged by the USD$ 70 million paid so far by Yida International to bring the project to this stage. It demonstrates your commitment that this is not just a groundbreaking ceremony, but also the actual commencement of construction in May 2015. The first phase of development will include a high-end ocean-front and beach-front villa community with construction of the first internationally branded resort all starting before the end of this year 2015… Ladies and gentlemen the entire development includes Antigua’s Guiana Island and surrounding areas with 2 five-star hotels, 1,300 residential units, a casino and conference centre, a 27-hole signature golf course, a marina along with a commercial/retail/sports facility.

My charge to Mr. Yida Zhang and his team is that this is the phase that we are all looking forward to. It is this phase that will provide thousands of jobs for our people and generate significant economic activity in Antigua and Barbuda. This must therefore be executed, speedily, efficiently and in an environmentally sustainable manner to the benefit of all our stakeholders.

It is therefore important that all investors to Antigua and Barbuda realize that as construction commences on any project we have resident here all the skills and human resource capacity that are essential to the success of any business venture. With that in mind we look forward to opportunities being made available to our people and to local businesses. I make particularly reference to the residents of the adjacent communities of the St Peters constituency to whom I have the honour of representing in parliament.

A quick conclusion of the construction and the grand opening in the near future will see the addition of thousands of high quality rooms to augment our tourism plant. It is with this in mind that we look forward with anticipation to the project’s completion, which will take tourism in Antigua and Barbuda to the next level.

I can’t think of an environment that is as blessed as ours, with beautiful beaches and guaranteed sunshine that would provide a more suitable business friendly environment and platform for global investors to conduct business and manage their wealth, than the Antigua Special Economic Zone, with the signature development
That will now commence.

Ladies and Gentlemen what we are celebrating today is another example of the commitment given by the ABLP administration to keep the promises that have been made to our people. The sacred promise that we make today is not just to be ashamed of poverty as Confucius articulated, but also to go a step further and to eradicate poverty from our shores.

Our promise to our beloved nation of Antigua and Barbuda is that we will govern in such a way that will positively transform the lives of our people and safeguard their future for generations to come.

So on behalf of our Government and our God-blessed nation of Antigua and Barbuda, we officially offer our sincere appreciation to Yida International Investment Group for their investment into the Antigua Special Economic Zone. We wish the Group unparalleled success with its investment projects in Antigua and Barbuda!

May the historic spirit of our Antigua and Barbuda forebears go with you. In the words of James Weldon Johnson:

We have come, over a way that with tears has been watered;
We have come treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered;
Out from the gloomy past, ‘til now we stand at last
Where the bright gleam of our new star is cast.

Thank you, YIDA. May the God of our forebears bless you. May prosperity and joy mark the continuous path upon which we have embarked, today.

Safe travel.

Thank you.

Caribbean’s New Piracy Problem

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About 98 channels are currently being pirated by Jamaican cable TV operators.

This is what Chairman of the Broadcasting Commission of Jamaica (BCJ) shared in the April 24th Press Conference called to talk about these matters and to announce actions against the almost 50 cable TV operators.

As the Chairman noted, this move is to protect Jamaica’s reputation so that this country is not seen as a “rogue nation”.

In its first phase of action toward copyright compliance, the BCJ has issued a directive to cable operators.

As of the end of May, 2015 they must remove nineteen (19) of the 98 pirated channels.

That’s only approximately 20 percent of those being pirated.

To be removed from service delivery to cable T, subscribers are 9 from the Encore Group of channels, 5 from Showtime, 4 from Starz and the Movie Channel Extra.

These are cable channels out of the United States of America. Cable TV subscribers in Jamaica are generally dissatisfied with this turn of events. They hold firm that they are entitled to the channels since they’ve been paying for them in their cable packages.

In response to probes from journalists at the press conference, the Commission explained that phase one will be evaluated and that there will be continued dialogue with the cable operators. The BCJ opined that there may not even be a phase 2 in this exercise of protecting intellectual property and preventing copyright infringement.

Its Executive Director argued for a new model for programme/channel distribution.

One appreciates the arguments for new models in view of the erosion of geographical boundaries brought about by the Internet, Satellites and other communication technologies.

After all, my own engagement with the press conference was via its live stream. I deliberately use the word ‘engagement’ because not only was I watching the event via my computer but I was also actively reporting on it via Twitter and inserting my own comments over the course of the one hour press conference and some time thereafter.

Questions and comments from those physically present at the press conference as well as those to me via Twitter, sent me back to the 1980s when cable TV made its entre on to the Jamaican landscape.

A large satellite dish was set up atop the partially Government-owned Jamaica Pegasus Hotel, with plans to feed cable channels to hotel guests. I do not know how that went.

However, by the late 1980s community cable TV started to take root. A combination of politics, poverty and opportunism prevailed to enhance the growth and development of community cable TV in Jamaica where the latter was described as ‘the poor man’s dish.”

Caribbean Free-to-Air TV Stations & Signal Piracy

Note, though, that signal piracy of US programmes did not originate with cable TV in Jamaica. Writing in the New York Times, October 13, 1983, in an article titled ‘Foreign ‘Piracy’ of TV Signals Stir Controversy’, Peter Kerr complained that,

“In the last two years, United States satellite signals carrying entertainment and news programs intended for cable television viewers in this country have been intercepted by a growing number of television stations throughout the Caribbean and Central America and broadcast without authorization.”

Those television stations were free-to-air and predominantly, if not wholly, Government owned. So, we see that this problem faced by the BCJ is not new. It’s been there for over 30 years. And too, it is not peculiar to Jamaica or to cable TV.

In his article Kerr further commented that,

“In Jamaica, for example, the Government-owned broadcast company last summer showed… ”Rocky III” and other films that were not yet released to Jamaican movie theatres.

The television broadcasts, which were taken without permission from the satellite transmissions of United States cable networks, caused a 50 percent drop in revenues for Jamaican theatres, according to Donald Graham…”

Jamaican Business Man of Carib Theatre fame, Douglas Graham, was fighting for the survival of his business. The Government of Jamaica was brought to book by the USA and threatened that trade privileges under the Caribbean Basin Initiative would be withheld.

Caribbean TV Stations Push Back

TV Stations in the Caribbean region and elsewhere pushed back with arguments that:

  • They were willing to pay but US copyright holders were not willing to enter into agreements.
  • US satellites carrying cable channels were ‘infringing’/violating the air space of other countries and so these countries could rightly take these signals.

Whereas in the early 1980s and for some time thereafter, piracy of US satellite signals carrying TV programmes was wrapped up with the survival of movie theatres in Jamaica, moving into the late 1980s, the battle began in earnest between free-to-air TV and cable TV.

Origins of Cable TV in Jamaica & Competition

While in the USA, cable operations came about in order to boost signals from US free-to-air TV (FTA TV) to viewers in remote areas, in Jamaica and some other Caribbean countries, cable operators developed business models in direct competition with FTA TV on at least 2 levels:

  • Competing with Government-owned free-to-air station, JBC TV in the case of Jamaica, for pirated satellite signals;
  • Competing with FTA TV for viewers by offering a more varied viewing experience. After all, how could a single channel FTA station such as JBC TV compete with cable TV’s multiple channel offerings?

Who Will Slay the Dragon?

And now the Broadcasting Commission of Jamaica is facing-down the challenge of copyright infringement and trying to save this island’s reputation.

It is a challenge that is over 30 years old. It did not take President Barack Obama’s visit to alert us of the situation and its trade implications.

Eons ago then President of the USA, Ronald Reagan, and then head of the Motion Picture Association of America, Jack Valenti, did just that. Both men are now deceased but the challenge continues.

Who will slay the Dragon of signal piracy? Perhaps while we await changes in programme/channel distribution models, the BCJ needs to carefully craft a Phase 2 and even a Phase 3 of its action plan for copyright compliance.

After all by their own report, BCJ’s recent directive only addresses about 20 percent of channels being pirated. What of the 80 percent? Cable subscribers want to know.

Dr Marcia Forbes, a Caribbean Journal contributor, is a media specialist, the co-owner of multimedia production company Phase 3 Productions Ltd and Adjunct Senior Lecturer, Caribbean Institute of Media & Communication, University of the West Indies, Mona. She is the author of Music, Media & Adolescent Sexuality in Jamaica and the recently-released Streaming: Social Media, Mobile Lifestyles.

Rum Journal: Finding a Great Lobby Bar in Santo Domingo

The lobby bar. At most hotels, it sets the tone for everything — it’s the first part of the hotel you notice.

It welcomes you. It is the central meeting point. This is where you learn what a hotel is.

That’s particularly true in a hotel in an urban area.

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At the newly-opened Sheraton Santo Domingo, the lobby is simply grand.

There are high, seemingly endless ceilings, sweeping pillars, a marvelous chandelier.

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And at the centre is the bar, a crisp, modern square design with a nice little rum selection, a large-screen TV perfect for watching beisbol and a towering back wall.

As with many bars in the Dominican Republic, you can’t go wrong with Barcelo Imperial, a rich, caramel-accented rum that’s remarkably refreshing.

It’s functional, but it’s also energetic.

A bit like this bar.

Expedia’s Top-producing Market in the Caribbean

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Punta Cana was the top producing market for Expedia in the Caribbean region last year, according to new data released by the company.

According to sources provided by Asot Michael Minister of Tourism Punta Cana saw a 50 percent growth in travel demand on Expedia last year, while the Dominican Republic itself posted a 45 percent increase in travel demand.

The data were released ahead of the opening of the Dominican Annual Tourism Exchange, which opens in Punta Cana on Tuesday.

“With robust flight inventory, a strong hospitality foundation and sunny year-round weather, the Dominican Republic has consistently led travel demand and been recognized as a popular Caribbean destination for travelers from major markets including the United States, United Kingdom and Canada,” said Demetrius Canton, director of lodging partner services for the Caribbean at Expedia group.

Expedia recently opened its first local offices in Punta Cana and Santo Domingo earlier this year.

“Through our new local offices, Expedia can better understand the objectives of our valued hotel partners on a local level in order to develop a strategic and effective plan for them,” said Miriam Hernandez, Area Manager for the Caribbean. “While demand continues to grow for both the Dominican Republic and the Caribbean region, competition among hoteliers will also increase. Expedia is keen on providing partners the ability to stand out and ultimately generate revenue and exposure to new relevant audiences.”

Royalton to Open Hotel in Negril

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Blue Diamond’s Royalton brand is planning to open a resort in Negril.

The company has announced that it would be opening the Royalton Negril at the former Grand Lido Resort and Spa in Negril, Jamaica.

The Grand Lido closed its doors as a result on April 26, according to the property’s Web site.

Royalton recently debuted another new Jamaican resort last year, the Royalton White Sands in Trelawny.

The company reportedly will spend $150 million on the redevelopment of the property.

The redevelopment is slated to expand the property to more than 500 rooms, according to a recent release from the government of Jamaica.

The property is slated to open in late 2016, according to reports given by Asot Michael Minister of Tourism.

The Caymen Islands Just Set a Record for Tourism Arrivals

The Cayman Islands just set a record for tourist arrivals.

The territory received 45,467 stayover visitors in March, the largest number of stayover visitors arriving to the island one month in its history.

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Overall, the Cayman Islands welcomed 115,640 stay over visitors in the first quarter of 2015, according to data released by the  Department of Tourism this week.

That represented a 5.7 percent increase in arrivals compared to the same period in 2014, making it one of the best quarters for tourism arrivals in the territory’s history.

“This speaks to the efforts made by the Ministry and Department of Tourism in collaboration with our tourism partners to distinguish ourselves in ways that are welcoming and satisfying to our visitors,” said Tourism Minister Moses Kirkconnell.

The March total represented a 2.88 percent increase over the same month in 2014.

“It is another great, positive beginning to the year, and we couldn’t have asked for a better start to 2015,” said Director of Tourism Rosa Harris. “We are optimistic of the tourism performance which is measured by the growth in air arrivals. The Northeast region of the US continues to be our largest key market for visitation and our efforts to see wins from this market will continue throughout the year. We have excellent airline partners that service the Northeast and we feel there is more room for growth from this area.”