H h M w at Gs Ile. L at oa i
Horses in the Meadow at Gros Islet, St. Lucia Derek Walcott Oil on board Circa 2001
A Sense of Infinity
Interlocking Basins of a Globe
celebrates Derek Walcott
As part of its Caribbean Nobel Laureates celebrations,
The UWI pays tribute to Derek Walcott with an academic
conference titled Interlocking Basins of a Globe. Several
aspects of the work of the 1992 Nobel Laureate will be
discussed at the St Augustine Campus by various experts
in January 2010.
The list of eminent international scholars who have
confirmed their attendance includes such well-known
names in Caribbean scholarship as Laurence Breiner,
Paul Breslin, Kenneth Ramchand and Rhonda Cobham.
The gathering will hear a keynote address delivered by
Professor Emeritus Edward Baugh who, in 2007, edited
Derek Walcott's Selected Poems and whose work on Walcott
is legendary. Other featured speakers include Professor
Emeritus Gordon Rohlehr and Dr Jean Antoine-Dunne
whose work spans both literature and film.
Walcott, who was recently named professor of poetry
at Essex University, will read from his work during the
The Nobel Laureates series was conceived as a gift to
the nation and thus the entire conference is free and open
to the public. (SeePage 5)
* Joseph Stiglitz
A Trove of
* National Herbarium
At Home in Exile
* Funso Aiyejina
THE UNIVERSITY OF THE WEST INDIES ST. AUGUSTINE CAMPUS
SUNDAY 27TH DECEMBER, 2009
SUNDAY 27TH DECEMBER 2009 UWI TODAY 3
Eng. Alvin Lutchman, Immediate Past Chairman of the IEEE Trinidad and Tobago Section,
The Faculty of Engineering of The UWI
hosted the fourth public seminar on 'Project
Management Practices in the Caribbean' on
November 21, 2009.
The Seminar sought to facilitate the
region-wide awareness of research and
development in Quality and Innovation
Management Practices. In the two sessions, the
following topics were discussed: "Electronic
Government Management and Applications,"
"Implementation of a Work-Out program using
the General Electric approach," "The Health
Care Professional and Project Management,"
and "Project Management for e-Learning in
It was organised in collaboration with
the Technology Management Council (TMC)
and Education Society (EdS) Chapters of
the IEEE Trinidad and Tobago Section, The
Association of Professional Engineers of
Trinidad and Tobago (APETT), and The
Project Management Institute Southern
Caribbean Chapter (PMISCC).
The Seminar was facilitated by Professor
Kit Fai Pun of the Faculty of Engineering,
UWI. Eng. Alvin Lutchman, the Immediate
Past Chairman of the IEEE Trinidad and
Tobago Section, welcomed participants.
The four invited speakers, Ms Tracey
N. Edwards from The Ministry of Planning,
Housing & The Environment, Mr Andre Persad
of Svitzer Marine (Trinidad and Tobago) Ltd.,
Dr Celia M. Poon King of the Faculty of
Medical Sciences, and Dr Ruel L.A. Ellis of
the Faculty of Engineering, UWI, shared their
experience on project management practices
in the Caribbean context.
As moderator of a panel discussing current
Challenges for economic growth at the Business
Forum that was part oflast month's Commonwealth
k kHeads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), I took
L I the opportunity to emphasize the importance of
developing knowledge-based economies.
Knowledge has taken on a more central role
in modern approaches to economic development.
Large payoffs from new knowledge, especially
where there is patent protection, encourage
entrepreneurs, industries and government agencies to invest in research
and innovation, with intellectual leadership and technical support from
universities and research centres.
Knowledge as a product is premised on an economic theory of
abundance, rather than scarcity, as is the case with natural resources that can
become depleted over time. In fact, information, knowledge, innovation and
technology can be shared exponentially and further developed and grown
through awareness and application. The concept of location can either be
dispersed by using technology or reinforced with a deliberate strategy to
intensify the concentration of knowledge via the creation of research centres,
science and technology parks and business clusters.
My CHOGM message, while addressing the issues of knowledge, research
and innovation at the macro level, was reinforced by my own commitment as
Campus Principal, to advancing the research and innovation imperative for
the St. Augustine Campus. With research and innovation as one of the core
strategic areas in the 2007-2012 Strategic Plan of The University of the West
Indies, we have begun reviewing our approach as we move towards increasing
the relevance, impact and recognition of the work we do at all levels.
Clustering our research into a few, targeted multi-disciplinary areas will
allow us to focus our expertise and resources in a concerted manner, and serve
as an incubator for new ideas and knowledge that support policy formulation,
innovation systems and development at all levels.
As a regional university, we are well positioned to lead in this area
and will continue to enhance our research agenda, strengthen our research
networks, and actively pursue research grants, which together will support
vigorous research and scholarly activity, the cross fertilization of ideas and
the development of innovation systems that are central to knowledge-based
Professor Kit Fai Pun of the Faculty of Engineering presented an appreciation plaque to a guest speaker,
Dr. Celia M. Poon King, at the seminar.
CLEMENT K. SANKAT
Pro Vice Chancellor & Principal
Professor Clement Sankat
DIRECTOR OF MARKETING AND COMMUNICATIONS
Mrs. Dawn Marie De Four-Gill
Ms. Vaneisa Baksh
The UWI Marketing and Communications Office
Tel: (868) 662-2002, exts. 2013. 2014
Or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
F7 7 FROM THE PRINCIPAL
4 UWI TODAY- SUNDAY 27TH DECEMBER 2009
& Endowment Fund
BY VICTOR COWAN, SECRETARY
UWI DEVELOPMENT AND ENDOWMENT
The Trinidad & Tobago Fund was launched in April 1989
with its primary objective being the establishment of a
Development & Endowment Fund which would enable
the University to provide scholarships at the undergraduate
and post graduate levels, to alleviate the financial hardship
of deserving students and to facilitate student interchange
between the campuses.
The Fund was also designed to help research in
selected areas, to facilitate the endowment of Chairs and
Lectureship in key disciplines, and to financially support
Managed by a committee comprising a chairman
and members representing business, the UWI Alumni
and The University, the Fund has sought and obtained
financial support from corporate Trinidad and Tobago,
professional associations and through committee projects.
That combination of resources has elevated the Fund to
the position of major contributor of financial assistance to
students on an annual basis.
"The Fund was also designed to
help research in selected areas,
to facilitate the endowment of Chairs
and Lectureship in key disciplines, and
to financially support capital projects."
Whereas donors identify their disciplines of choice for
their scholarships and bursaries, students from all faculties
are eligible for bursaries offered by the Fund and they
recognize academic achievement as well as financial need.
These bursaries complement the Government's payment of
fees and assist in accommodation, academic material, food
and travel expenses.
When one compares the 15 bursaries offered in 1992
with the quantum leap to 160 currently on offer, it is clear
that nineteen years of the UWI Fete and the five renewals
of the UWI Golf Challenge have been very successful fund-
raising vehicles. In addition, prudent management of funds
under investment provides the assurance of sustainable
funding as is to be expected from an endowment fund.
Though our main focus has been the provision of
bursaries, we also take pride in having provided the seed
money for the construction of the highly utilized UWI SPEC
building and securing project funding for the Department
of Chemistry as well as the School of Education.
What is in it for us? The Chairman and members give
generously of their time and resources and derive satisfaction
from the success of our initiatives but, occasionally, polite
thanks from a grateful student or parent go to another plane.
On one occasion, a student who had been awarded abursary
sent hand written "Thank You" cards to the entire Board. It
was a poignant moment for us all.
Victor Cowan, Secretary
UWI Development and Endowment Fund
In a feature carried in the March 2009 issue of UWI Today, it
was inaccurately stated that Dr David Chadee Senior Lecturer
in the Department of Life Sciences, of The University of the
West Indies,was the recipient of a TT$1.5 million grant from the
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for research in mosquito
management. The grant from the Gates Foundation was not
awarded to Dr. David Chadee but was, in fact, awarded to
Professor Dawn Wesson, Department of Tropical Medicine,
School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, while Dr
S David Chadee was a sub-contractor of the project.We apologise
, for the error.
<.i n1h'iln f*
0 CAMPS NEW
SUNDAY 27TH DECEMBER 2009 UWI TODAY 5
Interlocking Basins of a Globe
BY DR JEAN ANTOINE-DUNNE
At the gate, Petit Valley, Trinidad Derek Walcott Watercolour Circa 1981 (courtesy Margaret Walcott)
Derek Walcott, Poet Laureate, essayist, dramatist, painter,
journalist and filmmaker will be the focus of a celebratory
academic conference in his honour from 12th to 15th
January at The University of the West Indies, St Augustine.
The academic conference entitled "Interlocking Basins of
a Globe" has been scheduled to dovetail with St Lucia's
Nobel Laureate Week held every year during the week of
the birthdays of Walcott and Arthur Lewis.
On January 23, Walcott marks his eightieth birthday,
and the conference includes elements of the many facets
of his work, including his pioneering contribution to
Caribbean drama. Professor Bridget Brereton will chair
a special panel comprising long-standing members of the
Trinidad Theatre Workshop, which he founded in 1959.
The list of eminent international scholars who have
confirmed their attendance includes such well-known
names in Caribbean scholarship as Laurence Breiner, Paul
Breslin, Kenneth Ramchand and Rhonda Cobham.
The gathering will hear a keynote address delivered
by Professor Emeritus Edward Baugh who, in 2007, edited
Derek Walcott's Selected Poems and whose work on Walcott
is legendary. Other featured speakers include Professor
Emeritus Gordon Rohlehr and Dr Jean Antoine-Dunne
whose work spans both literature and film.
Panellists will discuss topics such as "Walcott's Ghosts
and Confreres" and "History as Muse" and Walcott's
contribution to Caribbean intellectual thought. The
dramatic works as well as the often-quoted Nobel speech,
7he Antilles, will be further illuminated through a repeat
performance of the Department of Creative and Festival
Arts' production "Fragments" and there will be a special
Secondary schools event on Friday 15'.
One of the unique inclusions in the multi pronged
programme is a mini film festival of Walcott's own films.
7he Haytian Earth made for television and produced by
Timmy Mora and The Rig directed by Walcott and filmed
by Christopher Laird as well as Yao Ramesar's film, The
Saddhu ofCouva, which is narrated and directed by Walcott,
will all be screened. These are works that are rarely shown
and they should certainly give an added dimension to the
Walcott who now spends much of his time travelling
through Europe and the Americas when not in St Lucia or
Trinidad will be present. These journeys form the subject
of his latest major poem, The Prodigal (2004), a work that
also mourns the death of Walcott's twin brother, Roddy. The
movement between here and elsewhere is also one of the
themes of the visually magnificent book Tiepolo' Hound
which celebrates the life and work of another Caribbean
artist, Camille Pissarro, whose voluntary exile to Paris
influenced the French Impressionist movement.
Walcott will read from his work during the
6 UWI TODAY- SUNDAY 27TH DECEMBER 2009
N,.I,,l Prize winner [-,ph sliIIII
Almost two weeks before world leaders converged on
Copenhagen for the Climate Change Summit, 2001 Nobel
Prize winner Joseph Stiglitz, spoke of the importance of
broadening the indicators used to measure the growth and
development of a country.
Throughout the Distinguished Open Lecture held
at The UWI St Augustine Campus in November, the
Columbia University Professor underscored the need for
more efficient, transparent indicators, including measures
of environmental and resource depletion, to reflect the
well-being of a society.
A self-described "theorist", the former World Bank
Senior Vice President, held the attention of the audience
in the standing-room-only Daaga Auditorium for over an
hour; without power point slides, charts, or even a video
Focusing on 'Economic Performance and Social
Well-Being, Stiglitz underscored the constraints of using
traditional statistical tools that focus on an average, in
terms of income and production, but do not reflect "typical
experiences and what people care about.'
He argued that national leadership had a responsibility
to identify the key indices of economic activity, in keeping
with the overall concerns of the population. In resource-rich
countries like the USA and Trinidad and Tobago, where
the natural resources are being depleted, he stressed that
there was a need for a more comprehensive assessment of
"The measure...becoming poorer, should reflect that
resource depletion and environmental degradation...It's
very important that the stats that we gather reflect what
people care about.'
He gave a particularly striking example of the Gold
Mining Industry in Papua New Guinea, where industry
development led to a spike in the GDP and profits for
foreign investors but negatively affected the population,
with the pollution of the environment, including rivers,
and the loss of income for locals, with a heavy impact on
the fishing industry.
"If you don't have good stats, it's like driving blind: you
don't know where you're going...If your stats don't provide
an accurate description of what's going on, you can make
some bad decisions."
BY ANNA WALCOTT-HARDY
In his relaxed, conversational style, he made the topic
of economics and accounting, not only interesting, but
relevant. From Keynes to Bernanke, Reaganomics to the
global economic crisis, his witty anecdotes distilled hard
core theories into real-world situations that connected with
It seems that his views had connected with French
President Nicolas Sarkozy, who appointed Stiglitz to head a
Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance
and Social Progress to look into the production of more
relevant indicators of social progress. The Commission is
chaired by Joseph Stiglitz and advised by Amartya Sen.
The Nobel Laureate may be lauded as being prophetic,
for as far back as the 1990s, and even earlier, he predicted
the rather rapid decline of the US economy. He reported that
although many of the statistics may not have reflected this,
more Americans were worse off in 2008 than in 2002-the
rich were getting richer and the gap between middle and
wealthy widening. Over time, accounting procedures
were weakened, combined with poor risk management by
financial institutions and more money being invested in
a housing "bubble" than in healthcare, education and the
In 'Dealing with Debt: How to reform the Global
Financial System', an article published in the Harvard
International Review (Volume 25, 2003) his call for reform
was on target.
"Something is wrong with the global financial system.
One might think the system would shift money from rich
countries, where capital is in abundance, to those where
it is scarce, while transferring risk from poor countries to
rich ones, which are most able to bear it. A well-functioning
global financial system would provide money to countries in
their times of need, thereby contributing to global economic
stability. Through an orderly bankruptcy procedure, a well-
functioning global financial system would grant a fresh start
to those who cannot meet their debt obligations, giving
creditors an incentive to pursue good lending practices,
while ensuring that borrowers able to repay loans do so. The
current global financial system does none of these things."
Having received his PhD from MIT in 1967 and
having taught at MIT, Stanford, Yale and Oxford, then
being awarded the Nobel for his work on the analyses of
markets with asymmetric information, his understanding
of the global markets is not surprising. For Stiglitz the
question was not whether the crisis would occur, but when
"Observers in the early 1990s, however, lauded the huge
flows of private capital-at one point exceeding US$300
billion-from developed to developing countries, heralding
a new era in which the private sector would supplant the
need for public assistance. But this was a hollowboast. Even
then, it was clear that most of the money went to a few
countries, most notably China, and virtually none to the
countries that needed it most, such as those in sub-Saharan
Africa. Nor was the money spent in desperately needed
sectors like healthcare, education, and the environment.
Developing countries could attract firms to extract their
natural wealth--provided they gave it away cheaply enough.
There was far less success in attracting investments that
would create new jobs. Worse still, much of the money was
speculative-hot money-coming in while the going was
good, but fleeing the moment matters looked less rosy."
A storyteller at heart, during the UWI lecture, Stiglitz
turned to a somewhat politically incorrect scenario to
underscore the point of the limitations of GDP. Two
scenarios: the first is the story of a couple that stays at home,
cooks dinner using crops from their very own vegetable
garden and enjoys a quiet evening; high contentment or
happiness factor, but low GDP levels. The second scenario
is of a professional who eats dinner at a fancy restaurant
etc., goes in search of ahemm) entertainment, then returns
to another venue to enjoy a few drinks, has a car accident
while driving home and ends up in the hospital; high GDP,
but surely a much lower happiness factor and definitely
lower on the scale of social well-being.
Stiglitz, who was key in the development of the 1995
Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change,
cited the UNDP's Human Development Index (HDI) as one
alternative to the GDP. He pointed out, "If you care about
education and health, then the GDP doesn't accurately
measure what you care about'.
However, the question many ask is: how do we measure
our happiness? This Stiglitz touched on briefly during the
dynamic open forum hosted by Dean of the Faculty of Social
Sciences, Dr Hamid Ghany. But that's another story.
8 UWI TODAY- SUNDAY 27TH DECEMBER 2009
collection. His staff also aided in producing several volumes
of the Flora of Trinidad and Tobago.
Yet, the emergence of The UWI and the Faculty of
Agriculture brought a change in focus, away from botany.
Flora studies were discontinued and the value of the
Herbarium declined. At that time, running the herbarium
with no specific budget also proved to be an expense too
W hefty for the Department to continue. As a result, then
Head of Department, EW Cope, proposed a financial take-
over of the Herbarium by the government. In 1973, the
Herbarium was declared a national asset and the collection
was designated the "National Herbarium of Trinidad and
Tobago" in an agreement with the Ministry of Planning
and Development, where the Ministry would finance the
National Herbarium indefinitely, while the University would
administer the funds through the Bursary.
In 1976, Dr. Charles Dennis Adams joined The UWI
Department of Botany and Plant Pathology as an ecologist
and taxonomist. He successfully attempted to revive plant
research in Trinidad and Tobago by employing a Graduate
Curator for the Herbarium. In 1980 this post was approved
by then Dean of the Faculty of Agriculture, Professor John
Spence, and Yasmin S. Baksh was appointed to the post. This
was the first and only time that the position has been filled
as, 29 years later, the now Mrs. Yasmin S. Baksh-Comeau still
holds her position as the Curator of the National Herbarium
of Trinidad and Tobago.
More than a century later, what began as a register
for local flora has expanded to include other regional
plants. The National Herbarium also provides botanical
information to scholars. Since 1980, the Herbarium has
hosted around 15,000 new visitors and has answered
requests for information about plants, plant identification
and field assistance. Its staff has identified over 20,000 plant
specimens and added 20,000 new accessions to the same
Accession book begun in 1887 by the Herbarium's founder,
John H. Hart. There are now over 70,000 specimens in the
One Friday at the end of November, seven students stood
at the head of a conference room and gave presentations on
their work, marking the conclusion of their three-month
internship with the National Herbarium of Trinidad and
Tobago. This was the Herbarium's first attempt at hosting an
internship and just one of its accomplishments this year.
Housed at The UWI's St Augustine Campus grounds
since 1947 (even before the inception of The UWI), the
Herbarium is, today, one of the University's treasures.
The Herbarium has its beginnings in the establishment
of the Royal Botanic Gardens in 1818. Whoever held the post
of Superintendent of the Royal Botanic Gardens collected
specimens from the flora and put them into storage, but
no one organized their collection so that it could be used.
In 1887, John H. Hart became the fifth Superintendent
and noticed his predecessors' collections "tied up in brown
paper parcels, put into out-houses, bed-rooms, closets, with
no arrangement, or catalogue to guide anyone as to their
contents. As a result 90% of the specimens were destroyed
A herbarium is a collection of dried plant
specimens mounted on sheets of acid free
archival paper, labelled with the botanical name
of the plant and other relevant information
about it and filed systematically.
(Mrs. Baksh-Comeau, Curator National Herbarium
of Trinidad and Tobago)
Outraged, he proceeded to preserve, poison, mount
and catalogue the salvaged specimens, some from as early
as 1844, in an Accession Book, which continues to be
used by the Herbarium today. The specimens were then
stored in specially designed cabinets. This led to the formal
establishment of the Herbarium in October 1887-122
Originally it was held at St. Clair, in the offices of the
Department of Agriculture, where it provided botanical
information to the nearby Royal Botanic Gardens, the
Department of Agriculture and the Forestry Department.
The Herbarium's clientele expanded with the institution
of the Imperial College of Tropical Agriculture (ICTA) in
1924, when its collections were used by Professor of Botany,
E.E. Cheesman, and his associates, WG. Freeman and R.O.
Williams of the Department of Agriculture, to compile a
book, Flora of Trinidad and Tobago, published in 1928.
In July 1947, to facilitate expanding botanical research
and publication, the Herbarium was transferred to ICTA
in St. Augustine. The collections were held in the Plant
Pathology Department until 1953, when the Herbarium
was moved to its own purpose-built room in the newly
constructed Sir Frank Stockdale building, where it still
resides to this day.
In 1960, the University College of the West Indies took
over the St. Augustine Campus and ICTA was incorporated
as the Faculty of Agriculture. The task of managing and
financing the Herbarium was allotted to the Department of
Botany and Plant Pathology, headed by Professor of Botany,
J.W Purseglove, until 1967. During that time Professor
Purseglove assigned members of his staff the duty of
collecting plant specimens and maintaining the Herbarium's
SUNDAY 27TH DECEMBER 2009 UWI TODAY 9
The Accession book began in 1887
Over the past 28 years, the Herbarium has served
The UWI directly, by becoming a major resource for four
PhDs and six Master's in Philosophy theses, with emphasis
on Systematics, Ecology and Conservation of the flora in
Trinidad and Tobago.
The National Herbarium has worked with globally
recognized institutions, including the Royal Ontario
Museum in Canada, with which it undertook a study of
the vegetation history of Lever Pond, Lake Antoine and
Grand Etang in Grenada. It has also held workshops and
training sessions on plant identification, funded by the
Inter-American Institute for Cooperation in Agriculture
(IICA), the Commonwealth Science Council (CSC) and
the Organization of American States (OAS).
The Herbarium also benefits from exchanging and
loaning specimens to Universities and herbaria abroad for
a major rw ation and
expansion 'andm its inuiiber
.ias illw rcased.
scholarly studies since these institutions, in turn, update
specimen data and record it in any resulting publication.
Thus, plant specimens from Trinidad and Tobago are spread
all over the world, from Sweden and Germany, to The Royal
Botanic Gardens, Kew in England and the Smithsonian
Institution in Washington D.C. The Herbarium is then
provided with a copy of the publication for its library. It
also receives scholarly books in exchange for specimens.
Selections from the Flora Neotropica series were obtained
from the New York Botanical Gardens. Books and periodicals
have also been donated to the National Herbarium from the
Smithsonian Institution, the Fairchild Tropical Garden in
Florida and Michigan University.
Within the past five years, the National Herbarium's
facilities have undergone a major renovation and expansion
and its number of staff has increased. It has also taken on
the task of digitising its entire collection. To date, between
20,000 and 23,000 specimens have been digitised.
In September 2005, the herbarium embarked on the
Oxford/UWI Darwin Project with the University of Oxford
in England. This project was funded 265,000 by the UK
Darwin Initiative and endeavoured, according to a press
release by the University of Oxford, to "create a detailed
vegetation map of the islands and link the plant collections of
Oxford and The UWI for the first time online." The National
Herbarium's online plant database will also be linked to
other collections around the world.
A small team, led by Mrs. Baksh-Comeau and
including Oxford professors Dr. Nick Brown, Ecologist, Dr.
Stephen Harris, Taxonomist, and Dr. William Hawthorne,
Conservation and Forest Ecologist, made its way to Tobago
where it began a national inventory of the flora on both
islands. This project, aiming to develop a Biodiversity
Monitoring System for Trinidad and Tobago, proved to be
"a very comprehensive and extensive survey," Mrs. Baksh-
Comeau said. Approximately 247 plots were explored and,
though the team expected to uncover an estimated 10,000
new specimens, their search gave rise to 25,000 specimens
between 2005 and 2008. The specimens were then taken
to the herbarium, where 90 per cent of the species were
identified, data-based and stored as voucher specimens.
Mrs. Baksh-Comeau said the Oxford/UWI Darwin
Project opened up new areas for research, "particularly
in the area of conservation of threatened and endangered
species in our flora'. She hopes to collaborate further with
the University of Oxford, "to extend the project to the small
island states in the Caribbean," she said.
In September of this year, an internship was established
with the University of the Southern Caribbean and eight
students set out on a three-month long journey with the
National Herbarium. Their taskwas to mount 250 specimens
each and within the first two months, each person had over
100 specimens mounted, with one person having already
crossed the 250 benchmark. By the end of the internship,
over 1600 specimens had been mounted.
On that Friday, as the interns gave their final
presentations at the Herbarium in front of a small audience
including Head of the Department of Life Sciences and
Agriculture, Professor John Agard it was clear how much
they had gained. Mrs. Baksh-Comeau said that she
particularly noticed the vast improvement in their technical
skills, transformed from "all thumbs, to all manipulative
"As a pioneering exercise, (the internship) was a
success," she said. "It was very worth the adventure and
risk that we took"
Now that some of its major endeavours have finished,
WATER COLOUR PAINTINGS
The National Herbarium ofTrinidad andTobago has
also served as a repository for private collections.
Among these, is a collection of 147 water-colour
paintings of local wild flowers done by Major G.D.
Gregson,which was donated to the Herbarium by
his family in 1955.
For convenience the collection is divided into 4
SThe native flora, with samples from the major
plant divisions -
SThallophyta (algae and fungi)
S Bryophyta (liverworts and mosses)
Pteridophyta (ferns and fern allies)
S Spermatophyta (gymnosperms and an-
The plants introduced into the country as
ornamentals or for cultivation, or by chance.
The West Indian collection, which includes
samples from Belize,Guyana and Suriname,as
well as the islands of the Eastern Caribbean,
most of which were acquired by exchange.
The special collection of Theobroma and
Herrania species, inherited from the Anglo-
Columbian Cocoa Collecting Expedition of
1952-53 to the tributaries of the Amazon and
Magdalena rivers in the Andes by staff from
the ICTA Cocoa Research Scheme.This is the
only collection of its kind in the Southern
Hemisphere, and will be useful in relation to
the cacao germplasm collection held at St.
(National Herbarium of Trinidad and Tobago website:
new adventures beckon. A study on lichen biodiversity in
Trinidad has already begun and Mrs. Baksh-Comeau has
her own list of plans. She remains hopeful about moving
the facilities into a new purpose-built building and would
like to see it upgraded to the status of a regional herbarium,
particularly to benefit the SIDS (small island developing
states) in the Caribbean. Also on her list is the development
of a virtual field herbarium, the expansion of the reference
collection and, in the near future, DNA barcoding of
specimens for quick identification.
10 UWI TODAY- SUNDAY 27TH DECEMBER 2009
The biotechnology revolution provides
the opportunity to develop our strengths,
conquer our weaknesses and grasp
numerous opportunities. Genetics
Professor Pathmanathan Umaharan asks:
Are we up to the challenge?
Biotechnology is the use of biological organisms or
biomolecular processes towards developing products and
processes of scientific and/or commercial value. Interpreted
in this broad sense, the definition covers a range of different
technologies such as genomics, proteomics, genetic and
protein engineering, genetic modifications, DNA typing,
cloning of plants and animals, biopesticides, biofertilizers
as well as fermentation technologies.
Biotechnology is regarded as one of the dominant
general purpose technologies of the 21st century, just
like printing and the steam engine were considered the
general purpose technologies of the 19th century and the
computer technology the general purpose technology of
the 20th century. Biotechnology therefore represents a
revolution with unprecedented ramifications for mankind.
Biotechnology is already influencing every sphere of
human activity agriculture, human and animal health,
conservation and environmental remediation, industrial
applications and forensics. It is envisaged that biotechnology
will yield an endless parade of products that can enhance
existing industries or spawn new ones.
Simply put, there are two aspects to the biotechnology
revolution. The first is the use of biotechnological
applications to achieve competitiveness of existing strategic
industries in a sustainable manner. The second is the
creation of new knowledge industries though innovation
and knowledge manipulation, which has to go hand in
hand with intellectual property protection and licensing
systems. This will be the higher end of the biotechnology
revolution and many countries are diverting their resources
into genomics and proteomics.
In small countries such as ours where resources are
scarce, developing existing resources into marketable
knowledge products is important. Costa Rica, for instance,
has linked its biodiversity conservation efforts with
biotechnology strategy so that biotechnology can be used
to exploit the benefits of biodiversity and create wealth for
the country. The biotechnology policy of Kenya outlines bio-
resource development through indigenous bio-prospecting
as an important strategy for development. Brazil has the
strongest bio-resource development programme in the
Latin America and Caribbean region, where the biological
resources are being systematically screened for chemicals
and genes. Genomics is also vigorously being pursued
in strategically important areas. Many of these products
are licensed to pharmaceutical, agricultural or other
manufacturing companies for commercialization.
Trinidad and Tobago falls within an extremely
biodiversity rich region. It is critical therefore that our
resources are commercially exploited. Developing novel
varieties using our biodiversity may provide an opportunity
to supply planting material throughout the tropical region,
similar to the efforts of Thailand and Taiwan in orchids.
Due to the multiethnic origin of the population in Trinidad
and Tobago, there is an immense wealth of indigenous
knowledge of plants and their medicinal uses. Developing
the capacity to isolate the chemicals and genes from
indigenous organisms (plants, animals and microbes) as
well as to scientifically screen derived products for various
pharmaceutical activities utilizing our traditional knowledge
is one way of capitalizing on our strengths. We can develop
new products and processes that can be patented and
marketed. Knowledge development in strategic areas can
lead to providing services to the entire region. Furthermore,
developing the capacity to identify tropical pathogens in
plants and animals or the diversity among tropical species
using biotechnological approaches can lead to a testing
service for the tropical region.
In an increasingly globalised economy, competitiveness
is vital. Furthermore, in small island states like ours,
the ecosystems are extremely vulnerable and hence
development goals should be pursued in a sustainable
manner, without compromising the resources for future
generations. Biotechnology enables possibilities to achieve
competitiveness in a sustainable manner in any sphere of
human endeavour. It is critical that we develop strategic
areas for development and pursue them vigorously-be
it in agriculture and horticulture or in the manufacturing
Developing a biotechnology industry requires the
involvement of the state, the private sector, universities
In small countries such as ours where resources are scarce, developing existing resources
into marketable knowledge products is important.
SUNDAY 27TH DECEMBER, 2009 UWI TODAY 11
For biotechnology to flourish, a critical mass of scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs, capable of moving the
country forward, should not only be trained, but also be provided space to work in a collaborative environment.
and research institutions and financial systems. Trinidad
and Tobago is one of the region's forerunners in developing
intellectual property legislation to facilitate innovation
and creativity. Further, the University of the West Indies,
St. Augustine Campus and the University of Trinidad and
Tobago have multidisciplinary research staff trained in a
range of technologies. Yet, while these strengths exist, there
is no science and technology policy that can provide focus
and resources in strategic areas of research and development.
Such a policy-through an appropriate resource provision
mechanism-can bring the necessary players from
the stakeholders together. A science and technology
policy should be coupled with a biotechnology policy
so that strategic development of industrial applications
of biotechnology will be pursued through appropriate
programmes and projects. At present the Caribbean is
developing a biotechnology and biosafety policy and it is
imperative that our local policy dovetails into the regional
policy so that the region can function as a harmonised
economic space. A Cabinet-appointed committee has also
developed a draft biosafety policy, which is at present before
the cabinet. A safe biotechnology environment is important
to foster the growth of biotechnology and is a step in the
Present development models require that the private
sector work alongside the University/research institutes in
industrial parks so that there is a close direct link between
research and development. Such ventures require venture
capital sources. The right tax environment should be created
for the private sector and venture capitalists to become
partners in biotechnology efforts.
The single most important weakness for biotechnology
is in the area of human capacity development. For
biotechnology to flourish, a critical mass of scientists,
engineers and entrepreneurs, capable of moving the
country forward, should not only be trained, but also be
provided space to work in a collaborative environment.
The technological gap between the developed world and
the developing world has been identified as the single
most constraint to biotechnology development, and is
continuing to widen, as new biotechniques are developed
at an enormous rate.
The United Nations Industrial Development
Organisation (UNIDO), recognizing the weakness of
developing countries in this area established two international
centres for genetic engineering and biotechnology (ICGEB)
with the objective of transferring technologies to member
countries. Trinidad and Tobago being the only member
country in the CARICOM, is well poised to benefit from
these programmes. The UWI is organising the first capacity
building workshop on 'Bioinformatics" in collaboration with
ICGEB in January, 2010. Many biodiversity-rich developing
countries have established bilateral collaborative efforts
with developed countries to allow access to biodiversity
in exchange for technology. Building a biodiversity centre
and documentation system is important to create interest
and facilitate negotiation. This can lead to a number of
collaborative development projects. Other countries,
recognizing the weakness of systems locally, have established
collaborative institutes in the US, where local researchers
work with their counterparts in the US, towards developing
local products and processes, which will benefit the local
economy. These are some of the alternative routes pursued
by developing countries and we should find the best strategic
path for Trinidad and Tobago.
The University of the West Indies offers an undergraduate
programme in biology with a specialization in biotechnology,
and is also developing an MSc programme in Biotechnology
and biosafety. The University of Trinidad and Tobago also
has a BSc programme on Biotechnology. The University of
the West Indies has embarked on two ambitious research
programmes in collaboration with stakeholder institutions
towards utilizing our anthurium and hot pepper genetic
resources towards developing elite varieties, so that we can
not only become major suppliers of the product but also
propagules of these crops, throughout the entire tropical
Professor Pathmanathan Umaharan is Professor in Genetics, Department of Life Sciences, The University of the West Indies, St. Augustine.
12 UWI TODAY- SUNDAY 27TH DECEMBER 2009
at omein exile
Funso Aiyejina was in Nigeria in July 2009 to deliver the CBAAC Annual Lecture. Olu Obafemi,
a former school mate of his, posed a number of questions to him. This is an edited excerpt of the conversation.
Funso, without doubt, you are one of the very
accomplished Nigerian writers in the Diaspora.What
has been the major impetus for your writing? What
stokes the fire of your creative imagination?
Personally, I think of myself as a minor writer. And I am
not trying to be modest. True, my poetry has won a number
of prizes, including the Association of Nigerian Authors
Poetry prize and my fiction has won the Commonwealth
Prize (Africa), but when you compare my productivity with
some of the other writers of our generation, my harvest,
while being qualitatively healthy, is meager.
Although I have been living away from Nigeria for the
last 20 years, Nigeria continues to be the main impetus for
my writing. I am very passionate about Nigeria. I carry
Nigeria in my head wherever I go. I have developed rituals
to ensure that this is the case: I listen compulsively to
Nigerian music; I create near equivalents of Nigerian
cuisine; my wardrobe is essentially Nigerian; and I
consciously and subconsciously think in Nigerian
languages and images. My writing continues to be a
conversation with Nigeria either as ii. I, !.. i I..,\
always loved as the inspiration fo ih..,i i ..- .J I
as the land that I have grown to h..,1i !i. !..1h1!., I.
become the great country I think it l.., I I p.- 1I i I ..i,
to become. Nigeria is the land of mi. J p p., Ii u111 \1
the land of the always coming bui i, \ i ..ui i,
nirvana. Nigeria is a culturally vibi..,!l ... I I\ iN il h
many courageous citizens who, with I IJ J ..1 c! hII..li
could achieve great things in life. N!, i ..1 ia !i..! ni I ,Il
home of the manypeople I call frienJ, pI.I pl i !I~ Ii
school with, people who shared a he p. !.I .. 1I I ii l ulu. I
with me as children, adolescents and adults. Nigeria means
the world to me and has remained the primary source of
my creative materials. Even when I write about other places
or topics that may be non-Nigerian, my informing vision is
always Nigerian. The centrality of Nigeria to my imagination
has now become even more obsessive. I am at that point in
life when I feel that what I will do in the future is no longer
as important as how I interpret the past I have lived and how
that interpretation helps me to understand the quality of my
lived life. You know you are growing old when you become
more interested in going to visit the landscapes of your past
than in visiting new landscapes. I find myself doing a lot of
that these days-anxious to visit my childhood landscapes
either imaginatively or physically.
What has beenyourexperienceasa Nigerian writer
living abroad, and in the West Indies in particular?
What are your regrets and what added values does
living abroad give to your creative enterprise?
Exile concentrates the mind on home. Exile accentuates
the good, the bad and the ugly about home. I am constantly
doing a comparative assessment of situations-placing
situations abroad side by side with situations in Nigeria.
What are my regrets? First of all, because of the
primary reason behind my relocation to the West
Indies, I do not have too much of what one may
call regrets. While my decision to relocate out of
Nigeria was in part informed by the sociopolitical
and economic mismanagement of Nigeria and
the obvious fact of the harassment of dissident
!!ilellectuals by the military dictatorship which
.,..verned Nigeria, my choice of Trinidad and
I.. bago as a place of refuge was informed by the
.la t that my wife is from Trinidad and Tobago.
1 i her way, one of us would have had to live
a ..iy from his/her home country. She had lived
ii, Nigeria for eight years before we relocated to
l!!dad and Tobago so I did not see anything
S11 ..1i !,. in my going to live in her country. What I find
p..ii il i I hat the choice was necessitated by the failure of
N i, !..' ..i! id was not an entirely voluntary choice. I do not
: i" '
SUNDAY 27TH DECEMBER. 2009 UWI TODAY 13
Nigeria means the world to me and has remained
the primary source of my creative materials. Even
when I write about other places or topics that may be
non-Nigerian, my informing vision is always Nigerian.
The centrality of Nigeria to my imagination has now
become even more obsessive.
(From left) Nigerian sons: author Funso Aiyejina, playwright Olu Obafemi, and poet, Odia Ofeimun at the National Theatre, Lagos, Nigeria.
regret living in Trinidad and Tobago but I regret the fact that
it was a choice dictated by the failure of Nigeria. One would
have loved a situation in which one could split one's time
between the two countries. My children have no relationship
with Nigeria more so because their mental picture of Nigeria
is influenced by my very unromantic assessment of Nigeria.
I once asked if they would like to visit Nigeria and one of
them said no thanks, not after all the things they had heard
me say about Nigeria.
What do I miss most about Nigeria? I miss the writerly
camaraderie that we had developed and that was driving our
productivity in the '70s and the '80s. I miss the intellectual
quarrels and the literary banters; I miss the dialogues that
existed between Ibadan, Ife, Ilorin, Zaria, Nsukka, etc.
But the special aspect of my exile that has been a bonus
for me is informed by the fact of my place of exile-the
West Indies. Africa is very present in the West Indies and,
as a result, I have a feeling of being at home there. My
involvement in the culture of the West Indies has been very
deep and that has made it easy for me to feel at home there.
I am aware of the deep seated influence that West Indian
literature has had on my own writing. I am sure that if some
scholar were to do a serious study of my work, they are likely
to come up with an understanding that whatever depth there
may be to it my work owes a lot to the combined influence
of the best of African literature and culture and the best of
Caribbean literature and culture.
What has been the general level of reception of
you in the West Indies? Do you feel like an alien? Are
As a person, I have been embraced by the Trinidad and
Tobago society. I am a much favoured son-in-law. Much of
that, if I may say so myself, has more to do with my own
willingness to embrace and respect the society than the fact
of my being Nigerian. I feel very much at home in Trinidad
and Tobago. Not too many people know me as a writer in
Trinidad and Tobago. I have to take some of the blame for
that though. Friends have accused me of being too self-
effacing. I think there is some truth to that assertion. Most
people know me as a facilitator of creative writers. I am a
co-facilitator of one of the region's major writers' workshops,
The Cropper Foundation Creative Writing Workshop which
will be celebrating its 10th anniversary next year. Along the
same tradition that I had started at Ife, I also introduced a
tradition of public readings for Caribbean writers through
a project called Campus Literature Week which has now
run for 11 years and which led me to eventually introduce
a postgraduate degree programme in fiction writing (Master
of Fine Arts) which has already graduated a number of
fiction writers. For Campus Literature Week, each year, a
major writer is invited to come on campus as Writer-in-
Residence for two months.
Long before you left Nigeria, you had been a
socially committed artist, involved in the struggle
for social justice within the academia. In fact, we
both suffered detention as union leaders.What is the
place of the creative writer in the political fortunes
of his country? What should be the level of social and
political commitment of the writer?
I believe that every human being should stand for
something. What you stand for, however, will be dependent
on your upbringing and the level of your personal courage
and intellectual sophistication. I don't expect everyone to be
a Wole Soyinka who can work effectively with groups or as a
one-man army. But every one of us is capable of contributing
something, no matter how small, to facilitate the demise of
dictators and corrupt leaders. I am impatient with those who
surrender their future to some external power. I believe in
helping external powers, no matter how omnipotent, with
realizing whatever miracles they have designed for us. I
believe in plowing the land and planting the seeds at the
appropriate time before kneeling to pray for good harvest.
Of course, because of the writer's command of the means
of verbal and literary communication, we would expect that
he/she would speak for the voiceless and centre-stage the
voices of those who have been consigned to the margins by
our men and women of power and wealth.
Are you looking forward to a return home or is it
Home for me is where my family is. In that sense I am
very much at home in Trinidad and Tobago. Will I return
to Nigeria to live on a permanent basis? I doubt very much.
When I retire in about five years' time, I can see myself
returning home for short stints to teach or run creative
writing workshops, especially at Ife, a place with which I
have deep seated connection.
Funso Aiyejina is Professor of Literatures in English and Dean, Faculty of Humanities and Education, The University of the West Indies, St. Augustine. Trinidad and Tobago.
SUNDAY 27TH DECEMBER, 2009 UWI TODAY 15
GLIMPSES OF A VISTA
BY LOUIS REGIS
Raymond Ramcharitar's collection of stories is described
in the blurb as having "a truth-telling honesty that does
not disguise the compassion of a writer for whom the
island still means a good deal'. Even before this, the blurb
writer invites us to believe that "The tone of the collection
ranges from the lyric-Trinidad as an island of great natural
beauty-to an arresting grungy steaminess with dark
comedy in between'. This beauty of landscape is obscured
by the overwhelming degeneracy of the manscape. What
the blurb describes as "an arresting grungy steaminess" is
really an oppressive pervasive degeneracy of some elements
and sectors of island life. Ramcharitar's island people,
as perceived by the protagonists of the stories, are either
the degenerate descendants of the French Creoles, white
and black, or debauched expatriate women, or ignorant
Africans or backward-looking conservative Indians.
The grotesques, whom earlier writers have portrayed
with a satirical reductivity, have now been exposed sans
humanity as irredeemable degenerates or lost devotees of
an incomprehensible religion and lifestyle.
The blurb understates the truth when it advertises
"a collection much concerned with the flesh-often in
trangressive forms, as if the characters are driven to test
their boundaries-and with the capacity of its characters to
reinvent themselves in manifold, and sometimes outrageous
disguises." Far from this, transgressive sexuality seems the
order of the day in certain circles, according to The Island
Quintet, which presents figures, some recognizable to me
under their deliberately transparent masks. In its own way
The Island Quintet purports to retail some of the island's
recent political and social history, offering an account which
culls details from the larger whole.
My major problem with the content of the collection
is that the stories are smothered in the background. Too
often a story stops as the author sketches in background
information which is intended to explain characters, events
and relationships in the story. Too often too the story is lost
in the background and not developed as fully as it can be.
The first story "The Artist Dies" for example opens with
the narrator's staring out over the faces of the handful of
individuals who attend the ceremonies marking the death
of the Artist. Each of these individuals has a past-generally
one of transgressive sexuality-and a relationship to the
Artist-one in which excessive or transgressive sexuality
plays some part. Ramcharitar sketches these pasts and
relationships at some cost to the flow of the story. I am not
sure if the final statement, "This life is nothing but a sport
and a pastime; when we wake, we remember nothing," is a
commentary on the lifestyle of the Artist and his chosen
playmates or the author's commentary on life.
I am not sure of the conclusion to the story "The
Blonde in the Garbo Dress" which features a confusion
of mirrors. We are presented with a sense of pastness of
the present and the presence of the past all blighted by the
depravity-there is no better, indeed no other word of the
white women past and present. I am not sure whether the
simultaneous declarations of pregnancy by the two women
signal parallelism or continuity.
"New York Story" presents the Colo family, Indo-
Trinidadian peasants who, by trickery and luck, have
relocated to New York where they perpetuate the wretched
folkways of their past on the island. Patriarchy (including
sodomy of a daughter-in-law), favoritism, ignorance and
false sophistication are features of this lifestyle which it is
implied is characteristic of some debased rural Hindus.
The narrator, who in his own way, is as bad as the Colos,
becomes the beneficiary of the generosity of a John Gotti
type mafiosi whose life he saves. Safe now from the threat
of deportation, the narrator imagines himself betraying his
erstwhile hosts to the INS and exulting in their downfall,
all save the much-abused Sarah and her child. Certainly the
dark humour mentioned in the blurb is in evidence here,
although the fiendish glee with which the narrator fantasizes
the discomfiture of the Colos argues for something more
sinister than dark humour.
"The Abduction of Sita" is a hopelessly bleak story. The
presence of dual narrators and the interplay between them
and other characters makes for an interesting narrative
technique but the inorganic ending featuring Sunil's sexual
sadism and Maryse's sexual masochism overwhelm the
literary technique. It is almost as if the author is saying
that there is only one way in which characters like these
"Froude's Arrow," the last story, promises an arresting
story centered on Froude, the mulatto who occupies a
middle ground between white and black. In this story,
however, the basic ethnic stereotyping and sexual
transgressivity developed in other stories are present as the
picturesque Asiatic comments detachedly on the supposed
white and black liberals, the artistic community, the
journalistic fraternity, the sex-starved female expatriates,
the ignoramus painter Mokombo Cojo, the leading light
in the Africanist movement and so on. While these are
accepted as the core principles of the worldviews of the
collection's protagonists, whether in Porto Spana, London
or New York, the story focuses on Froude who engages his
dividedness by engaging in a public polemic with himself
by resurrecting to some extent the comments of James
Anthony Froude and the response of JJ Thomas. Our
Froude plays the role of the British historian and has his
sister Jenny respond under the nom de plume JJ Thomas.
This is an interesting way of presenting dividedness but the
revelation that Froude is homosexual leaves me wondering
if that socially unacceptable condition is ipso facto sufficient
reason to discredit his perspective. Interestingly, Froude like
the Artist of the first story thinks that the young Asiatic male
he possesses and perhaps transforms is also homosexual. I
am not sure if this is merely an example of the "dark humour
in between" as described in the blurb.
As far as I can read, The Island Quintet offers only a few
glimpses of the compassion advertised by the blurb. My own
sympathies are with the parents of the Artist, with Sarah of
"New York Story" and with Jenny, and with the parents of the
protagonist in "Froude's Arrow," all essentially good people
caught up in a corruption which leaves them bewildered. I
suspect that they need their own stories to offset the trauma
that is presented as normalcy on the island.
A brief review like this is inadequate for any judgement
on the blurb declaration to the effect that, "In writing The
Island Quintet Ramcharitar establishes himself as a truly
significant Caribbean voice'.
Louis Regis is a
graduate of The UWI,
St Augustine, where he
currently teaches West
Indian poetry and
Elements of Drama.
He is also a calypso
researcher who has
pili'lishicd four books
on the Calypso.
16 UWI TODAY- SUNDAY 27TH DECEMBER 2009
UWI CALENDAR ofEVENTS
JANUARY 2010 MARCH 2010
Interlocking Basins of a Globe
Nobel Laureate Derek Walcott
Tuesday 12 to Friday 15 January, 2010
The Learning Resource Centre,
UWI St Augustine
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AFUWI's 13th Annual Awards Dinner
Thursday 28 January, 2010
The Pieire, New York City, USA
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UWI TODAY WANTS
TO HEAR FROM YOU
..I lI I I, l I. | I hI.I I 1 I I I I, I .-1 I I1 Il I
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St Augustine Campus, UWI
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Saturday 27 February, 2010
Four Seasons Hotel,
21 Avenue Road, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
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