Colin Riley

Montserrat kicks off ArrowFest 2010

String Band performing during the opening of ArrowFest 2010 at the Montserrat Cultural Centre on Friday, December 17, 2010. (Photo by Nerissa Golden - GIU)

BRADES, Montserrat – Are You Ready? Alright Then! ArrowFest 2010 has begun! On Friday evening, the festival was officially opened at the Montserrat Cultural Centre, which will serve as the main arena for many of the key events this season.

View Highlights here….

Minister of Agriculture Easton Taylor-Farrell who is also a minister of religion, gave the opening prayer and reigning Calypso Monarch Sylvina “Candie” Malone sang the national song.

Throughout the evening, performances were given by the Shamrock Masqueraders and the String Band, with appearances from the contestants in the MonFest Queen and the Sunrise Productions Teen pageants.

Following the passing of the Soca King of the World Alphonsus “Arrow” Cassell MBE in September, the Montserrat Festival Committee (MonFest) renamed the annual cultural festival ArrowFest, to honor the legacy of an artist, businessman and friend who placed Montserrat on the world stage.

Chairman of MonFest Gregory Willock said despite the challenges of the past year, the festival promises to be one to remember. The main concerts and competitions will be held at the Montserrat Cultural Centre, the street parades will take place in the village of Salem, while other activities will happen around the island. This, he said makes ArrowFest an island-wide event. He thanked all of the committee members and private organizations who have been working tirelessly to bring the festival to fruition.

Minister of Education Colin Riley officially opened ArrowFest 2010 and commended the many volunteers who help to make the festival happen annually. “Volunteers give of their time, talent and treasure to help us as we go through the four major festivals in our year…Calabash Festival, the (Alliouagana) Literary Festival, St. Patrick’s Week and ArrowFest.”

Shamrock Masqueraders performing at the opening of ArrowFest 2010 (Photo by Nerissa Golden - GIU)

The official also called for the continued teaching of the masquerade dance and that it must be included in the island’s cultural policy. He admitted to not knowing the traditional dance and desired that every national should learn it and enable its continuity through the ages.

ArrowFest 2010 is primarily sponsored by the Government of Montserrat through the Office of the Chief Minister and the platinum sponsor is the telecommunications provider LIME. Fly Montserrat, Tradewinds Real Estate and the Royal Bank of Canada are also key supporters.

View Highlights here….

Watch ArrowFest 2010 live online on www.zjb.gov.ms.

View pictures from each ArrowFest 2010 event on http://www.facebook.com/pages/Spirit-of-Montserrat/103640209673708.

Ministers discuss Montserrat’s health care, agriculture and housing plans with Diaspora

BRADES, Montserrat – The state and needs of the islands health care, education, housing and agricultural systems were the subject of Wednesday morning’s session at the Montserrat Diaspora Consultations.

Honorable Minister of Education, Health, Community Services and Sports, Mr. Colin Riley provided details on the planned construction of a new hospital for the island and the need for new models to finance Montserrat’s health care.

“We are looking at paying for health care with a different model,” Minister Riley said. The options presented by the minister included the possible development of a national insurance scheme, increasing the hospital fees which are still “below market” and introducing a new management approach to the health care system.

He also disclosed that the plans for the new hospital have been completed. They include a 44-bed facility, with options for expansion to 74; two operating theatres, a casualty with another minor surgical theatre, modern diagnostic rooms, and the technological infrastructure throughout the hospital to keep everyone connected.

The hospital, Minister Riley said is planned for completion by 2013 with the project being done in stages, which would open new buildings as early as 24 months from now.

“We are committed to reducing the rate of movement through the hospital; improving staff training and working on doctor retention strategy,” added the health minister.

Minister of Agriculture, Housing, Lands, and the Environment Mr. Easton Farrell-Taylor told the delegates that the administration was committed to providing more housing stock and the developments at Look Out and Drummonds speak to that effort. Minister Farrell-Taylor added that the department of agriculture was promoting the development of backyard gardening and farming to reduce the island’s dependency on imports.

Jonathan Pond, who represented the Preston Montserrat Association in the UK, said he hoped the government would continue to improve the island’s health care system as older people his age would not be willing to return to Montserrat if it would mean having to travel back and forth for simple medical procedures. He added that the standard of education on the island was at an extremely high standard and hoped that could be maintained. Pond said often students moving to the UK from the island were three years ahead of those there and were not being challenged in the British schools, which often lead to teachers believing they were being disruptive or had other learning difficulties.

The three-day consultation was initiated by the Office of the Chief Minister and included representatives from the Montserrat Progressive Society in New York, Toronto Montserrat Association, and the Preston Montserrat Association in the UK. Two other nationals living in the UK Diaspora also participated in the event.

A final report and a plan for more inclusion of the Diaspora in Montserrat’s development will be prepared and distributed.

ENDS

Photo caption: Minister of Education, Health, Youth, Community Services, and Sports, Colin Riley speaking to delegates at the first Montserrat Diaspora Consultation held at the Montserrat Cultural Centre.

Hospital trust fund to be launched in July

BRADES, Montserrat – The Glendon Hospital Trust Fund is to be launched late July announced Minister of Health Mr. Colin Riley at the Montserrat Diaspora Consultations on Wednesday.

Minister Riley said the fund will be used to support the visiting Medical Specialists Programme, which enables top class physicians to come to the island and offer their services at little or no cost to the public.

“Since we took office there have been four visits by medical professionals from the United States, led by Montserratian nationals living abroad. The trust fund will help to cover the expenses of the doctors while on island and support the work of the hospital to provide specialist care to patients,” explained the health minister.

Minister Riley said the plan is to encourage Montserratians at home and abroad to donate to the trust fund. “We are looking for 1000 nationals in the US, 500 in Canada, 1500 in the United Kingdom, 500 in other parts of the world and 500 at home to each give 50$ in their currency.”

The fund will also accept in kind donations of equipment on behalf of the Glendon Hospital.

A future vision for the fund and the visiting medical specialists programme is to see Montserrat as a destination for medical tourism. Minister Riley said telemedicine offers the opportunity for medical experts to be able to read CAT scan, MRIs and other images and provide diagnosis to the local doctors. “When people visit, they must feel comfortable that the island has a system of medical care that you can have confident in.”

ENDS

Contentious issues were addressed in constitutional talks, says Minister Riley

BRADES, Montserrat – Complete information about the constitutional talks must be given says Minister of Education & Health Colin Riley.

The minister was speaking during the first Montserrat Diaspora Consultations, which ended on Wednesday challenging Opposition Member Donaldson Romeo’s statement that the present administration is rushing the ratification of the new draft constitution.

Mr. Romeo believes that the opposition and also the general public have not been given ample time to discuss the changes to the constitution and the June 29th plan to ratify the order in the legislative council is too soon.

“We were only informed last week that it will be tabled next week and as you have heard from the comments made during the recent radio discussions on the constitution, many in the public are of the opinion that more time is needed,” explained the opposition member.

However, Minister Riley said during the May 2010 discussions with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office officials to discuss the constitution “all contentious issues were addressed and were brought to the table. One example of this was the position that the governor should have the right of call on the consolidated fund. Basically, he would have the right to decide what happens with our budget. We said no way and that this should be the jurisdiction of the Minister of Finance. FCO said they would consider it and the next day it was removed from the draft.”

“Those who were a part of the process should speak completely about what they saw (in those discussions) and not isolate certain issues for effect,” said the minister.

Minister Riley added, “What is contained in the document is the result of the work which has been ongoing since 2001 through consultations on Montserrat and throughout the Diaspora.”

Mr. Romeo told the Diaspora representatives that they can play a major role in lobbying there UK members of parliament on behalf of Montserrat and encouraged them to do so.

Dorothy Greenaway, a national now living in the UK said on Tuesday that this process has been going on long enough and it was time it came to a close. “Since 2001 Sir Howard Fergus has been working on this new constitution. He used to share on a weekly basis in the newspaper the Constitution in Small Doses. To say that the people are not informed is wrong.”

ENDS

Opposition Member Donaldson Romeo. Former Principal of the Brades Primary School and now a UK resident, Ms. Dorothy Greenaway. Both participated in the first Montserrat Diaspora Consultation which took place at the Montserrat Cultural Centre from June 21 – 23, 2010.