January 5, 2007
Red herrings


The two weeks before Christmas saw three proverbial red herrings being drawn across the trail here. The biggest from Howie Prince, Director of NEMO, over the flash floods on December 20 which for a second consecutive year inundated the ET Joshua airport forcing a temporary suspension of operation.

His comment that the Barbados Met Office had not informed St Vincent of the rains and they only knew when the rains started to fall is so pregnant with contradiction, misleading statements, assumptions, a case-load of red herrings and smoke grenades that this entire newspaper would not have sufficient room to take that statement to its logical conclusion but we shall try nevertheless.{{more}}

We know categorically that all directors of emergency services in CARICOM member states are aware of the nowcasting (flash flood forecasting) capacity of the four sub-regional weather forecasting centres: Jamaica, Antigua, Barbados, and Trinidad and Tobago. The short term forecasting requires Doppler Radar capability which is only now being installed in Barbados, Belize, Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago each with a 400 km range which will be networked in association with Météo-France which has radars in Guadeloupe, Martinique, and French Guiana to provide Caribbean-wide coverage for the first time in history. The 9th European Development Fund is providing 13.2 million Euros for the project. Therefore the statement “Barbados never informed us” would mislead people and divert attention from the more relevant reasons.

Let us assume that Barbados did have the technology and Chester Layne and his team did in fact inform Howie Prince to expect 71 mm of rainfall in two hours, then what? Would the airport not be flooded? Would Calliaqua not be blocked? Belair would not have affected? A house in Victoria Village would not have been covered by a mudslide? The gabion walls at the Arnos Vale cricket ground would not be washed away?

A study in the Caribbean around 1999/2000 showed that flooding was a priority natural hazard for CARICOM states. As a result the Government of Japan through JICA invested US$3 million to create the Caribbean Disaster Management (CADM) project whose objectives inter alia were to (1) Strengthen and establish a system for flood hazard mapping and (2) Enhance the capability for community Disaster Management. Four Caribbean states were selected as pilot projects and St Vincent and the Grenadines was one.

Translating all of the above into layman terms it states that if one were to assume that there was no radar or satellite capability there are other early warning systems that the community may use to detect rapid rise in river levels and other telltale signs that a flash flood is on the way. The impeccable Hidetomi Oi of JICA and other Japanese flood hazard experts trained a cadre of Vincentians in flood hazard mapping and community-based early warning detection systems in Mespo. The expected results from this three-year project included them replicating the knowledge and indigenous technologies to other priority areas of the country – such as at the ET Joshua Airport, Calliaqua, Belair, and Victoria Village. It is therefore surprising that after that massive investment in St Vincent, Howie Prince goes into his storage trunk and hauls out a red herring and lugs it across the TV screen which in turn was beamed across the Caribbean. How foolish St Vincent and the Grenadines must be in the eyes of the rest of the region, especially the other CADM pilot sites. Every December the airport gets flooded and still no lessons have been learnt.

An engineering study was also conducted and the answers are available as to how to avoid future flooding problems.

So why act surprised on December 20? Get the engineering works in place!

Tourism Red Herring

When people in society who are regarded as some of the more intelligent and learned among us start making certain knee-jerk reactionary statements, it prompts other right-thinking people to question their sanity.

Hours after the Stacy Wilson killing on December 11 in the Leeward Bus Terminal, photos and videos of the brutality were on the fast-tracked super information highway around the globe. And no sooner were the knee-jerk reactions that these would somehow send a bad PR image about St Vincent and the Grenadines and cause a negative impact on tourism.

Absolute nonsense!

Such a thesis could only be the product of shallow thinking and poor analysis.

There are very few countries in the world where tourism has been impacted by domestic crime. Not even in Egypt where radicals killed 58 tourists in an effort to kill the tourism industry has this stopped visitors flocking in their millions to see the pyramids.

Egypt’s tourism has grown steadily and is now nearly nine million per year.

Jamaica with its high crime rates battles a crime image daily but the tourism arrival rates continue to climb.

It is absolute nonsense to suggest that a domestic fracas, as colourful and graphic as it was, could possibly cripple our tourism industry.

The people perpetrating such nonsense are also spreading rumour, unsubstantiated comment, and trying to create an issue where none exits.

These folk ought to engage their brains next time before putting their mouths in motion.

Religious Red Herring

Similarly, so many Vincentians have been the victims of rape, brutality, and murder but not once has one heard that it was committed as a result of beliefs taught in Christian churches. No! But suddenly a small and vocal group wants right thinking Vincentians to believe that the slaying of Stacy Wilson somehow was motivated by Islamic religious beliefs.

Such comments are mischievous and these persons must be careful not to incite religious intolerance and hatred.

When one hears certain prominent people in society with this ill-founded and irrational line of thinking, one wonders about the depth of their thinking.