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Dr. J.A. George P. Irish a fallen icon

Dr. James J.A. George P. Irish

With an event such as the passing of such as Montserratian Dr. George Irish in the USA, the information moves very quick far and wide, especially in today’s information ‘age’, socially and otherwise.

So it was, that after this information was shared on December 23, 2018, requesting, “Urgent intercessory prayer for Dr. Irish (George).  He was taken to Einstein Hospital, (New York…He needs a miracle. .and we believe God!  Let’s pray.”

Later news on confirmation from reliable sources, it was reported that he was stable and that the diagnosis that had been circulated (as happens in Social media) was incorrect.

Nothing further until the sudden news on the evening of February 12, 2019, “It is with painful/aching hearts we announce the passing of “DR. GEORGE IRISH (Dr. JAGPI)” our beloved brother and friend.  We have all prayed and asked the Lord to heal him….but HE is in control and does all things well….therefore we all say AMEN TO HIS PERFECT WILL.”

The name “Dr. George Irish,” has always been and immediately the following day was mentioned by everyone who may even just remember having heard of him for somewhere before.

As reported, Premier Donaldson Romeo on Wednesday led Montserrat in “mourning the death of the national icon, Dr. George Irish, who died at the age of 76 years late Tuesday.”

“I, like most Montserratians, am saddened at the passing of the Right Honourable, Dr. James Alfred George Irish, OE, son of the soil and National Icon. Whether known to some as educator, social activist, trade unionist, politician, musician, artist, singer, orator, or Man of God, in each and every aspect he has left an indelible mark on us individually and collectively,” Romeo said, speaking as the majority would.

“As we mourn his loss may we hold on to and be comforted by our God, who Dr Irish himself chose to love, serve and represent as a Pastor and Man of God,” he added.

Beginning to recall his memory

In brief, as at some time soon, a full memorial of the icon will be presented, Irish was the first recipient of the Ph.D. degree in Spanish from the University of the West Indies (UWI).

He also taught at the university as well as at the Universidad Autonoma de Santo Domingo (UASD) in the Dominican Republic, and in the United States at the City University of New York (CUNY) where he served as Professor of Caribbean and Latin American Studies.

In a poem, Sir Howard Fergus, who co-wrote the Montserrat National Anthem with Irish, said “in this sickly season when the smell of death pervades the atmosphere, the passing of Professor Irish creates a sad and gaping hole deeper than six feet”. (Presented in this issue)

“George has left us and has left much. At a time when “icon” is liberally distributed as klim in our impoverished childhood, it seems beggarly to so endow him, I dub him a Montserrat avatar which carries spiritual overtones, in honour of his enormous gifting which he generously invested in his island home, attracting meagre appreciation; his legacy is wide and long,” Sir Howard, who served as acting Governor of this British Overseas Territory, wrote in a poem. (See poem in this issue)

Irish was also the founder of the Montserrat Allied Workers’ Union and the Montserrat Cooperative Credit Union. He was also the author of more than 25 books. (See later)

Shirley Spycalla
a celebrated soprano opera soloist, singer,  in a Social media comment wrote briefly:
 “Dr Irish was an impressive Music Director of the Emerald Community Singers back in the day.”

Montserratian Journalist Toni Frederick-Armstrong Remembers Dr. George Irish remembers in a memorial, “I am honoured to have known him…even as a child I think I always understood that he was a pretty ‘big deal.’” (See in this issue)

The local campus of the UWI also filed a tribute to the late Dr. JAGPI. (See citation here)

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Bright openings for 2019

Reporting from the middle of January, in his New Year Message, the Hon. Premier Donaldson Romeo announced a list of ‘Breakthroughs’, many of which were to be happening even as he spoke.

Minister Lewis with consultants and related MCWL staff after a press briefing

 But a question loomed. Is this really happening?

 TMR has set about keeping track of the “breakthroughs” pondering whether they are leading up to an economy transforming “breakout” that has shattered the Montserrat resistance that has kept it back from April 1996, when Sir Nicholas Bonsor brought the message from the UKG (Her Majesty’s UK Government) that they are satisfied that Montserrat can go on but in the north of the Island.

The Premier had spoken to a list which included, for one, can be seen the Carr’s Bay bridge with wait in line at the temporary traffic lights. Public Works had been waiting for the concrete to gain strength as it hardens through chemical reactions.

Carrs Bay Bridge

Bridge nears completion – workers report suspect on its width

Reporting now up to date, the skepticism about what might be wrong with the bridge has been borne out, when the suggestion that the bridge was not wide enough going into the future. It has been reported that two trucks could not safely cross on the bridge, observed from a test conducted last week to the dismay of workers on the bridge.

It is noted now as we lamented at TMR earlier and continuing, that the dismissal of the Head of the Project Management Office (PMO) Carl Gomersall is being felt in any delay with any development.

If things were a little further along, by Carr’s Bay corner a few days into the new year, one would have seen two tractor-trailers in a convoy, coming from the Port and going up the Davy hill. One of the loads was so tall they had to lift electrical cables as it passed.

Tunnel blockage

Transported Cab for new air traffic tower stuck under runway tunnel

Then, when they got to the tunnel under the runway at Geralds, it got stuck, delaying traffic and passengers rushing to check-in no later than 4.00 p.m. for their 5.30 flight to Antigua and onwards. If you look at the tunnel’s roof, you can see the scrape mark. Traffic was blocked until it was noted that it was possible to pass the trailer with the air traffic cargo. The wait then as they soon figured to let air out of the tires to get things going again. The mysterious “cab” for the new air traffic control tower is there, near the terminal building, covered in white protective material.

Following up is the next question is, when will construction and upgrading begin? When will we get new lighting, etc., and when will the airport be open for night flights that widen tourism opportunities as well as allow for medical evacuations by night?

The road to Cudjoe Head and Brades from St. John’s thru Barzeys

Realigned corner at Barzey’s ghaut and bridge still under construction

 Down in Barzeys, the new 20-foot wide road and bridge etc. are indeed in place. This provides a second access road between St Johns and Salt Spring, Cudjoe Head, and Brades, which improves resiliency in case the Brades main road is blocked.

Fibre optic preparations continue
On the first major corner down the Brades main road, there are now continuing signs with the trench for terrestrial fibre optic cable has moved ahead with traffic obstacles now moved off the road.

Now, Montserrat is another step closer to be reconnected to the Caribbean’s subsea fibre optic network. (See related story – release: GoM Issues RFP for the Montserrat Submarine Fibre Optic Cable Project Pg 14

a diagram of undersea-internet-cables-Ccaribbean

The feeling is that Montserrat since ‘yesterday’, needs inland fibre optic cables to make full use of the subsea fibre optic cables that assuredly had been agreed and funded.

 High bandwidth digital access up to at least 10 million bits per second will open up many opportunities for new industries and jobs in the digital sector. Of course, those who know are already asking and reminding; what are our educators doing to equip our children and youth for this dynamic digital sector of the global economy?

Solar energy – visible progress

workers lay panels – first day of installation

Going down the hill and passing by the recently opened Agriculture building and the MCWL building, now visible on the entire roof where MonTobacco resides, as well as the roof of the new house for MUL new electricity plant, are Solar photovoltaic panels.

 In a press conference on Wednesday, January 16, 2019, TMR and other media learned that panels were being installed Public Works Workshop’s roof and on MUL’s roof for the newly opened power Plant. These are the panels for the 250 kW – “kiloWatt,” that is 250,000 Watt – first phase solar energy powered power plant that must be completed by March to meet an EDF 10 deadline.  250 kW is about 10% of the island’s peak electrical load.

In the press conference on MCWL officials and consultants suggested this phase may provide about 3% of our overall annual electrical energy requirements. It was also suggested that the “levelised cost” of electricity from the first phase plant will be about US$ 0.05 – 0.06 per unit of energy, the kiloWatt-hour, kWh.

What the island pays for is kWh, and currently, MUL has to pay up to EC$ 1 million per month for the fuel used to provide that energy. This cost is what appears in our bills as a fuel surcharge.  It was also clarified that thanks to EDF 10 grant funding from the EU which covers capital costs, the effective cost to us is US$ 0.025 per kWh.

Over the next several months the second phase of 750 kW is to follow and it will have battery storage.  It is to be funded through EDF 11 funding which must be spent by the end of 2020. The use of battery storage will help to cushion fluctuations in PV electricity supply due to clouds passing over etc., and depending on funding may help to provide additional energy after sunset of up to ½ hour to 2 hours. The 1 MW – mega Watt, 1,000,00 Watts – of PV capacity may provide up to 10% of our overall electrical energy consumption. The intermittency of many renewable energy sources is a reason why many engineers in the Caribbean region are concerned about power grid system stability once RE is 15 – 20% of the grid’s power plant base.

The second phase, 750 kW solar PV plant is to be located at a different site, and the PV electrical power will give emergency backup for essential service facilities so that they will be kept going in event of an island-wide blackout. Informed speculation, therefore, suggests that it will be located near the hospital, airport and emergency department, with ZJB Radio Station being down the road in Davy Hill. The airport is thus a likely site.

This plant will improve the resiliency of our electrical supply, especially for essential services.


However, during the press conference, officials indicated that onward developments with geothermal energy will be announced fairly soon. It is now assumed that it is geothermal energy that will be able to replace the bulk of fossil fuel use to provide electrical energy. As geothermal potential has been suggested to be up to 100 MW, this will also be the source that can support considerable economic growth and especially the growth of the digital and tourism sectors. The brief optimism is that Government of Montserrat (GoM) and the UK, are getting ready to take every step to expedite the delayed, or paused development of geothermal energy.

ZJB Radio

Although there has been no formal announcement it is not difficult to note the change in sounds when listening to ZJB radio. By now as we wait for the announcement, the sounds indicate that the ZJB building is occupied and staff having to move in are functioning in continuous broadcasting quite seamlessly it would appear. Interruptions will now be in the past as their new generator arrived and contractors were seen at work, installing it.

FAM visit for budget talks

l-r: Hon. F.S., Hon. Premier, DFID team

On Monday, January 14, Government hosted a joint DfID, joined by Foreign Commonwealth Office, forming the UK delegation, holding the opening ceremony for the annual Financial Aid Mission (FAM) talks. Last year, the theme seemed to have been points of conflict. This year, Premier Romeo, HE Governor Pearce and the DfID spokesman sang off the same hymn-sheet. Yes, we need capital investments and a programme of £30+ million is on the table for the next five years.

Governor Pearce discussed how the various UK and EU aid projects add up to £60 – 70 million, as Premier Romeo continues to press for a social housing initiative. The hospital project is on the table. Roads and other civil works continue to be needed.

On the recurrent side, it seems that the UK target is 60% (as usual now) support and doubtless intense debates continue between GoM officials and the UK, line item by line item. The hint is for a hope that as the economy takes off, gradually we will shoulder more and more of the costs to provide the services we rely on day to day: health care, education, relief to the vulnerable, policing, fire and rescue, prison, courts, law, legislature, cabinet, post office, agriculture, environment, finance, law, customs, immigration and so much more.

Little Bay port and breakwater

Back at the MCWL building’s conference room, on Tuesday, January 15, the media was introduced to a preliminary design for the breakwater and berthing project for the seaport. Winners of the project, Stantec consultants of Canada and Barbados were present (led by Harold Westermann who recalled working on the Plymouth Jetty in the early 1990s) and presented the proposal.

Immediately, initial stakeholder consultations were launched, and the environment and social impact analysis got underway. A design is to follow, a permanent GoM project manager is to be appointed, a consultant serving as the coordinator is to also be appointed and once technical design work is completed construction is to begin. The timeline for construction suggests the fourth quarter of this year, to be completed by about the end of 2020.

The seaport and airport developments, as well as fibre optic cables, will go a long way towards breaking the access constraints that contribute to high costs.

There will be more detail of the press conferences and ensuing discussions in due course.

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Police investigating kidnapping of six fishermen allegedly by Venezuelans

Police investigating kidnapping of six fishermen allegedly by Venezuelans

by staff writer

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Jan 30, CMC – The Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) Wednesday confirmed that it is investigating the kidnapping of six fishermen allegedly by Venezuelan nationals but said it would not comment on whether or not a US$200,000 ransom had been demanded.

Police Commissioner, Gary Griffith, speaking on a radio programme here, said that the situation has been complicated by the fact that the Trinidad and Tobago nationals are believed to be held in the South American country.

“We at the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service are doing all that is required. It is a very difficult situation. Initially reports are that they (those kidnapped) were actually outside of our waters when it is they were actually held by these individuals.

“It does not take away the fact that these are citizens of Trinidad and Tobago and there is a concern. It puts us in a  very difficult position to do much more than we are doing because of the situation where they are not in Trinidad and Tobago waters., Griffith said, adding “I am not saying our hands are tied, there’s a lot that we are doing from our end.

“Hopefully there will be something positive by the end of this,” he added.

Media reports here said that the kidnappers have given the relatives until Friday to pay the ransom or face the prospect of the hands of those detained being chopped off.

A photograph of the six men, identified as Jude Jaikaran,16; brothers Jason, 38, and Jerry O’Brian, 36; Ricky Rambharose, 35; Brandon Arjoon, 29; and Linton Manohar, 36, has been circulating on social media showing them sitting on the floor while being surrounded by men pointing machine-guns at them. The photo was sent to relatives on Monday.

In an audio clip that is also being circulated on social media, the families are warned that the kidnappers intend to make good on their demands.

Griffith was asked to confirm whether a ransom had been demanded.

I am sorry but I will not be able to make any revelations pertaining to this while the investigations are still ongoing,” he told radio listeners.

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Acting CJ Roxanane George-Wiltshire

Guyana court rules motion of no confidence against government, valid

Acting Chief Justice, Roxanne George-Wiltshire

CNS – Feb 1, 2019 –Acting Chief Justice, Roxanne George-Wiltshire, Thursday ruled that the motion of no confidence passed in the National Assembly on December 21 last year that brought down the David Granger led coalition government is valid, paving the way for fresh regional and general elections to be held later this year.

Under the Guyana Constitution elections must be held within 90 days of the motion of no confidence being passed.

Attorney General Basil Williams has since given notice that he intends to appeal the ruling. In a near four-hour ruling,

Justice George-Wiltshire also said that anyone who holds dual citizenship as envisaged by Article 155 of the Guyana Constitution “should not and could not be” a member of the Guyana Parliament.

Justice George-Wiltshire was delivering her ruling in the three matters regarding the validity of the successful opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) motion of no confidence.

She had earlier this month heard the arguments in the cases “Compton Reid vs The Attorney General, Persaud and The Speaker of the National Assembly; Christopher Ram vs The Attorney General and Speaker of the National Assembly and the Attorney General vs The Speaker of the National Assembly and the Opposition Leader.

The matters arose after the then government back bencher, Charrandass Persaud, who holds both Guyana and Canadian citizenship voted with the PPP in the 65-member National Assembly where the coalition government had previously enjoyed a slender one seat majority.

Williams had said there was a miscalculation of the majority of all elected members as required under Article 106 (6) of the Constitution for the government to be defeated on a vote of no confidence.

He had also asked the court to determine whether Resolution 101 is constitutional and effective and passed in accordance Article 106 (6) of the Constitution, arguing that the failure to obtain 34 or more votes breached article 106 (6) of the Constitution and was unlawful and the certification by the speaker by issuing Resolution 101 could not be conclusive.” But in her ruling in which she made the differentiation between a “simple” and “absolute” majority, the Acting Chief Justice said if all 65 members voted, the majority is 33.

“Therefore, in the case for the requirement for a majority of all the elected members of the National Assembly, at least 33 votes ought to be obtained to meet that requirement. If 55 members are present, a majority of all members of the National assembly will still be 33. If only 45 members are present, a majority of all the elected members of the National Assembly is still 33 and even if 23 members are present, the majority of all the elected members of the National Assembly is still 33.”

She said as a result “the no confidence motion is carried, the requisite majority is obtained by a vote of 33 to 32. The President and the Ministers can’t therefore remain in government beyond the three months within which elections are required to be held in accordance with Article 106 of Article Seven unless that time is enlarged by the National Assembly in accordance with the requirements of said Article 106…”

Justice George-Wiltshire as a result the other questions raised by the applicants “are rendered moot” adding “this court cannot set aside or defy a ruling that was validly made …in (keeping with provisions) of Article 106…of the Constitution, nor can it stay in force a resolution validly declared in accordance with the same provisions of the Constitution”,.

She said while a court can intervene “this can only be done if the National Assembly act unconstitutionally.

“This is not the case here. So therefore, the ruling of the Speaker that the no confidence motion debated in the National Assembly on the 21 December 2018 was carried by a vote of the majority of all the elected members of the National Assembly is thus lawful and valid being in accordance with the requirements of the …Constitution”.

Earlier, the acting Chief Justice ruled that “anyone who holds dual citizenship as envisaged by Article 155 and therefore falls into this category…should not and cannot be a Member of Parliament” and as such the declaration sought in terms of paragraph one and two of the request for leave are granted.

“Therefore I hold and therefore declare that the second respondent is not qualified for election as a member of the National Assembly by virtue of his own act and acknowledgment of allegiance, obedience and adherence to a foreign power to wit, the sovereign state of Canada in contravention of …of the Constitution of Guyana,” she ruled.

The Acting Chief Justice said “it is also declared the second respondent was on the seventh of April 2015 disqualified from being nominated as a member for the National Assembly of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana”.

On the issue of dual citizenship, the Acting Chief Justice said that the provisions in the Constitution seek to preserve for membership of the National Assembly “persons who only hold Guyanese citizenship and who would not have voluntarily taken an oath of allegiance to another country.

“While some may say that this does not permit the fullest participation of diaspora Guyanese in the political leadership of Guyana, this is not for this court to pronounce on. The Constitution is clear,,” she said, adding “as until it is amended to provide otherwise, the Constitutional provision must be adhered to. “Any change to reflect a different view may be undertaken by way of constitutional amendment if the public and their parliamentary representatives so inclined”.

The government had also argued as to whether section 5 of the Constitution (Amendment) Act, 2000 (No 17/2000) is constitutional and not inconsistent with article 70 of the Constitution.

The Attorney General had said that the framers of the Constitution in article 70 (3), having guaranteed an elected government, a five years term of office which five years term is protected by entrenchment by the requirement of 2/3 of all the elected members of the National Assembly voting to reduce that 5 years, could not at the same time have intended that a future Parliament were to be permitted to abridge or curtail the enjoyment of that five years, by introducing into the Constitution via a provision that is not entrenched at all a process called a ‘vote of confidence.”

But in her ruling the judge disagreed with the argument. The coalition, A Partnership for National Unity (APNU), came to office in 2015.

| Caribbean News Service

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President Trump signs measure to reopen the government

President Trump signs measure to reopen the government

The longest ever shutdown of the U.S. government is over.

President Trump tonight signed the continuing resolution that provides funding until Feb. 15. 

The bill was signed in private tonight, without reporters present.20 hr 13 min ago

Where the shutdown stands now

Both the Senate and the House approved a measure to temporarily reopen the federal government. The plan — which President Trump announced earlier today — will fund the government through Feb. 15.

What happens now: The measure is heading to Trump’s desk for his signature. Once it is signed, it will put an end to the longest government shutdown in US history.

You can follow the latest on the government shutdown here.21 hr 15 min ago

Trump insists “this was in no way a concession”

From CNN’s Liz Stark

President Trump tonight is trying to push back on the way today’s agreement to reopen the government is being portrayed.

He tweeted moments ago:I wish people would read or listen to my words on the Border Wall. This was in no way a concession. It was taking care of millions of people who were getting badly hurt by the Shutdown with the understanding that in 21 days, if no deal is done, it’s off to the races!”

House votes to reopen the government

From CNN’s Phil Mattingly

Win McNamee/Getty Images

The House of Representatives just passed a continuing resolution to fund the government until Feb. 15.

The measure was passed by the Senate earlier today. Now, it heads to President Trump’s desk for his signature.23 hr 33 min ago

This is the role Nancy Pelosi played in reopening the government

From CNN’s Liz Landers 

Win McNamee/Getty Images

Over the past few days, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has been in “constant contact” with Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer as he had discussions with Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell on a path forward, according to a senior Democratic aide. The two regularly consulted as those discussions proceeded.

Throughout this shutdown, Pelosi made clear that the first step would be to reopen government and only then conduct negotiation. This aide says it was “a position the President finally embraced today.”

This aide pointed to the 11 votes to reopen government since the Democrats took control on Jan. 3 as a key part of the strategy by Pelosi. To do so many appropriations votes — starting with the individual Senate Republican bills — ultimately led to “unsustainable pressure on Senate Republicans.”5:25 p.m. ET, January 25, 2019

McConnell told Trump he didn’t know if GOP could keep holding the line

From CNN’s Manu Raju


Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell spoke with President Trump twice on Thursday — and Trump made the decision late Thursday that he wanted the shutdown to end, per a person familiar with their conversations

The first call came after a contentious Senate GOP lunch where Republican senators vented frustration at Vice President Mike Pence about the lack of strategy to get out of the shutdown. McConnell told Trump that it was unclear how much longer he could get GOP senators to hold the line — especially if there were another round of votes to end the shutdown.

A few hours later, Trump called McConnell back with a new perspective: Trump made clear he wanted the shutdown to end, which led to the deal that was approved by Congress Friday.

What’s unclear, according to the source, is what exactly got Trump to change his mind in the intervening hours between their two phone calls.

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Washington Post

Zero $$ for the wall – Inside Trump’s shutdown turnaround

President Trump departs the Rose Garden of the White House after announcing the end of the government shutdown on Friday. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

By Philip Rucker , Josh Dawsey and Seung Min Kim

January 25. 2019

His poll numbers were plummeting. His FBI director was decrying the dysfunction. The nation’s air travel was in chaos. Federal workers were lining up at food banks. Economic growth was at risk of flatlining, and even some Republican senators were in open revolt.

So on Friday, the 35th day of a government shutdown that he said he was proud to instigate, President Trump finally folded. After vowing for weeks that he would keep the government closed unless he secured billions in funding for his promised border wall, Trump agreed to reopen it.

He got $0 instead.

Trump’s capitulation to Democrats marked a humiliating low point in a polarizing presidency and sparked an immediate backlash among some conservative allies, who cast him as a wimp.

Elected as a self-proclaimed master dealmaker and business wizard who would bend Washington to his will and stand firm on his campaign promises — chief among them the wall — Trump risks being exposed as ineffective. ‘We have reached a deal’: Trump says shutdown will end

President Trump on Jan. 25 announced that a deal had been reached to reopen the government, ending the longest partial government shutdown in history. (Reuters)

“He was the prisoner of his own impulse and it turned into a catastrophe for him,” said David Axelrod, who was a White House adviser to President Barack Obama. “The House of Representatives has power and authority — and now a speaker who knows how to use it — so that has to become part of his calculation or he’ll get embarrassed again.”

Trump’s quest for at least some portion of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border is not over, however. Friday’s agreement only temporarily reopens the government, providing a three-week ­period for Congress to negotiate a longer-term spending agreement. The president said he would continue advocating for his signature campaign promise and threatened to again shut down the government or declare a national emergency to use his unilateral powers to build the wall if Congress does not appropriate funding for it by Feb. 15.

“Let me be very clear: We really have no choice but to build a powerful wall or steel barrier,” Trump said Friday. He also tweeted in the evening that his decision “was in no way a concession.”

But when Trump stood alone in a bitter-cold White House Rose Garden on Friday afternoon to announce that the government was reopening with no money for the wall, he punctuated five weeks of miscalculation and mismanagement by him and his administration.

This account of Trump’s stymied pursuit of border wall funding is based on interviews with more than a dozen senior administration officials, Trump confidants and others briefed on internal discussions, many of whom requested anonymity to speak candidly.

For weeks, Trump has sought an exit ramp from the shutdown that would still secure wall funding, and for weeks his advisers failed to identify a viable one.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) address the media at the Capitol on Friday. (Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post)

Trump repeatedly predicted to advisers that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) would cave and surmised that she had a problem with the more liberal members of her caucus. But she held firm, and her members stayed united.

“Why are they always so loyal?” Trump asked in one staff meeting, complaining that Democrats so often stick together while Republicans sometimes break apart, according to attendees.

As for their negotiations, Trump and Pelosi had not spoken since their Jan. 9session in which the president stormed out of the White House Situation Room. In a meeting with some columnists on Friday, Pelosi was asked why she thought Trump had not created a more potent nickname for her than “Nancy.” She replied, according to a senior Democratic aide, “Some people think that’s because he understands the power of the speaker.” House Speaker Pelosi signs bill to temporarily end shutdown

The House joined the Senate in passing legislation to end the partial government shutdown by temporarily funding federal agencies on Jan. 25. (Reuters)

Trump and his advisers misunderstood the will of Democrats to oppose wall funding. Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, emerged as the most powerful White House adviser during the shutdown and told colleagues that Trump’s plan for $5.7 billion in wall funding would get Democratic votes in the Senate on Thursday, astonishing Capitol Hill leaders and other White House aides.

Kushner, who Trump jokingly says is to the “left,” pitched a broader immigration deal and had faith that he could negotiate a grand bargain in the coming weeks, according to people familiar with his discussions. He pitched a big deal to Latino groups this week and also with members of the Koch network, the people said.

Trump, who fretted about the shutdown’s impact on the economy and his personal popularity, cast about for blame and pointed fingers at his staff — including Kushner — for failing to resolve the impasse, according to aides.

At a meeting Wednesday with conservative groups, the president accused former House speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) of having “screwed him” by not securing border wall money when Republicans had the majority, according to one attendee, Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies. He said Ryan should have gotten him money before he left but he had no juice and had “gone fishing,” according to two attendees.

Ryan had warned the president against a shutdown and told him it would be politically disastrous, according to a person familiar with their conversations.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and other Cabinet members listen as President Trump announces the end of the government shutdown. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

All the while, Trump vowed he would never capitulate to Democrats. At the Wednesday meeting, “he said there would be no caving,” Krikorian said. “Everybody who spoke up applauded him for not caving, but warned him that any further movement toward the Democrats’ direction would be a problem.”

White House aides had been monitoring Transportation Security Administration data on airport security delays and staffing levels several times a day. Officials said Thursday that the situation was worsening and would probably force the end of the shutdown.

But events at the Capitol on Thursday are largely what triggered Trump to conclude that he had run out of time and that he had to reopen the government, his aides said.

Trump lost control of his party as fissures emerged among exasperated Republican senators. Six of them voted Thursday for a Democratic spending bill, and others privately voiced frustration with Vice President Pence and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) during a closed-door, contentious luncheon.

“Everyone who saw the floor action realized we were basically at the same place where we began and we needed a different solution,” a White House official said of Thursday’s votes.

McConnell called Trump on Thursday to say that the shutdown could not hold because some of his members were in revolt. The president did not commit to ending it in that call, but he phoned McConnell back that evening to say he had concluded the shutdown had to end, according to a person with knowledge of the conversations.

Under attack from some Republican colleagues, McConnell told senators on Friday that Trump had come up with the idea for a three-week deal — and that the president would be announcing it.

When Rep. Peter T. King (R-N.Y.) visited the White House on Thursday, he said Trump was in a “pragmatic” mood, mentioning the failed Senate votes and saying he wanted to make a deal.

Pence and Kushner presented the president with several options that would reopen the government, according to a White House official. They included using his executive authority to declare a national emergency and redirect other public funds for the wall, an option Trump said Friday he was holding in reserve. Trump also briefly considered a commission that would study a wall, according to a senior administration official.

On Thursday night, the president grew annoyed at Mick Mulvaney when the acting White House chief of staff talked with him about policy prescriptions for the next three weeks and what an eventual deal might look like, according to one person familiar with the conversation.

Administration officials began immediately on this next phase; Mulvaney and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen met privately with a handful of Republican senators at Camp David on Friday evening to start discussing what a border security agreement might look like, according to multiple people familiar with the gathering.

On Thursday night, the president grew annoyed at Mick Mulvaney when the acting White House chief of staff talked with him about policy prescriptions for the next three weeks, according to one person familiar with the conversation. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

Ultimately, aides said, Trump was willing to table debate over wall funding because he is convinced he can win support from some Democratic lawmakers over the next three weeks.

Friday’s agreement allows for a conference committee made up of rank-and-file members from each party to negotiate border security funding, which White House aides said they believe will enable more flexibility than existed during Trump’s stalemate with Pelosi.

A senior White House official said the administration’s negotiating team has received “dozens of signals from Democrats that they are willing to give the president wall money,” but declined to name any such lawmakers.

The administration may have been referring to a letter written by freshman Rep. Elaine Luria (D-Va.) and signed by more than 30 House Democrats, which merely called for a vote on Trump’s border security proposal once the government reopens.

But “that vote would obviously fail in the House,” one senior Democratic aide pointed out. “This is just pathetic spin.”

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said, “The poll numbers tell a very stark story, but it’s only part of the more enduring longer-term effect on the president’s credibility. He essentially held America hostage for a vanity project and a campaign applause line that the American people saw clearly was never worth shutting down the government to achieve.”

Trump’s approval ratings have fallen in most public polls, including a Washington Post-ABC News survey released Friday that found 37 percent approve of his presidency and 58 percent disapprove.

Trump risks further angering independent voters who do not agree with the prolonged shutdown and conservatives who disapprove of him caving after 35 days with no win.

[‘Trump caves’ or ‘Genius’: Right wing splits after Trump ends shutdown with no wall funding]

Conservative commentator Ann Coulter, whose criticism of Trump in mid-December helped inspire the president to shut the government in protest over wall funding, registered her disapproval of his Friday decision.

“Good news for George Herbert Walker Bush: As of today, he is no longer the biggest wimp ever to serve as President of the United States,” Coulter tweeted.

For months, Republican senators had been trying to warn Trump against a shutdown. Last June, Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.) and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), the chamber’s point person on Homeland Security funding, met privately with Trump not only to tout their bipartisan border security spending package but also to nudge him away from a confrontation over the wall.

“I just said, ‘Shutdowns are miserable,’ ” Capito said Friday, recounting that Oval Office conversation. “The last one was miserable. And this one was double miserable, and so, you know, maybe you have to live through it to really get the sense of it.”

King faulted the conservative Freedom Caucus, led by Reps. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) and Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), both Trump confidants, for steering the president in the wrong direction.

“I hope he ignores them for the next three weeks,” King said. “It’s the charge of the light brigade. It’s the valley of death.”

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Commentary: Exit Brexit … stage right?

By Anthony L Hall

January 18, 2019

Anthony Hall

I am on record dismissing Brexit as just a sham sold by shysters, full of lies and presumptions signifying no deal.

I refer you to such commentaries as “EU: Britain Trying to Have Cake and Eat It Too,” January 29, 2013, “Brexit: Forget Leaving, Britain a Greater EU Contagion If It Remains,” June 22, 2016, and “On Brexit Plan, EU to UK, No Way! September 24, 2018.

More to the point, I warned that Prime Minister Theresa May’s plan to execute Brexit was a non-starter — not only in the EU but even in the UK. Here is the foreshadowing I offered in “Brexit: Having Cake and Eating It Too,” July 24, 2018.

Her [Chequers] White Paper is just a formal version of the idea May floated earlier this year for a ‘managed divergence’ from EU rules. But it should have been instructive that, according to the March 8 edition of The Economist, the EU dismissed it back then as cherry-picking that would undermine the single market.

To be fair, though, in proposing her managed divergence, May was just doing what her predecessors did. …

I’ve been decrying Britain’s ill-fated efforts to negotiate one-foot-in/one-foot-out deals with the EU for years. Therefore, I see no point in delving too deep into Brexit’s murky waters here.

It should suffice to know that at least half of the Britons who voted for Brexit can’t even name the EU’s four ‘indivisible’ freedoms, namely the free movement of goods, capital, services, and people. This, despite the fact that Britain’s attempt to divvy up these freedoms (e.g., by cherry picking to allow goods but restrict people) has been the most animating feature of the Brexit debate.

More to the point, this prevailing ignorance is why so many Britons, across the political spectrum, have been calling for a second referendum (a.k.a. a mulligan) before any UK-EU divorce settlement is executed. …

Britain is fated to end up an island unto itself Cake and marooned in the global sea by the foolish, ignorant pride Brexit reflects. Even worse, as Obama famously warned (and Trump hinted), it will find itself at the back of the line of weak and relatively poor countries trying to strike trade deals with the world’s biggest trading blocs, including the American-led NAFTA, the Chinese-led ACFTA, and yes, ironically enough, the German-led EU.

Given that, this came as no surprise yesterday:

Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal has been rejected by 230 votes — the largest defeat for a sitting government in history.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has now tabled a vote of no confidence in the government, which could trigger a general election.

(BBC, January 15, 2019)

May is now a dead PM walking. The only question is whether a vote to end Brexit (viz. another referendum) passes before a vote to end her career (viz. another leadership challenge or general election).

Mind you, the only honorable thing to do after such a humiliating defeat is to resign. No doubt every previous prime minister would have done just that. Exhibit A is David Cameron, her predecessor who resigned after triggering this Brexit mess with his ill-fated referendum in June 2016.

Therefore, it speaks volumes about how far Brexit-crazed Britain has lost its way that resigning seems to have not even occurred to May. Remarkably, even the members of her own Conservative party — who voted for her historic humiliation — seem perfectly happy to sit and watch her wither away … stage right.

  • Anthony L. Hall is a Bahamian who descends from the Turks and Caicos Islands. He is an international lawyer and political consultant – headquartered in Washington DC – who also publishes a current events weblog, The iPINIONS Journal, at


Related commentaries:
EU to UK: no way

* This commentary was originally published at The iPINIONS Journal on Tuesday, January 15

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May survives vote, but Britain remains in Brexit deadlock

Prime minister invites party leaders to discuss alternative deal but sticks to red line

Heather StewartJessica Elgot and Peter Walker

 Theresa May survives no-confidence motion by 19 votes – video

Theresa May has survived as prime minister after weathering a dramatic no-confidence vote in her government, but was left scrambling to strike a Brexit compromise that could secure the backing of parliament.

In a statement in Downing Street on Wednesday night, the prime minister exhorted politicians from all parties to “put aside self-interest”, and promised to consult with MPs with “the widest possible range of views” in the coming days.

She had earlier announced that she would invite Jeremy Corbyn and other party leaders for immediate talks on how to secure a Brexit deal, although Labour later said Corbyn would decline the invitation unless no-deal was taken off the table.

A day after overwhelmingly rejecting her Brexit deal, rebel Conservatives and Democratic Unionist party (DUP) MPs swung behind the prime minister to defeat Labour’s motion of no confidence by 325 votes to 306 – a majority of 19.

The prime minister immediately extended her invitation to opposition leaders, having pointedly declined to do so earlier in the day.

“I would like to ask the leaders of the parliamentary parties to meet with me individually, and I would like to start those meetings tonight,” she said. Corbyn responded by urging May to rule out no-deal.

In her late-night statement, the prime minister said: “I am disappointed that the leader of the Labour party has not so far chosen to take part – but our door remains open … It will not be an easy task, but MPs know they have a duty to act in the national interest, reach a consensus and get this done.”

The Scottish National party’s leader in Westminster, Ian Blackford, met May on Wednesday night, and the Liberal Democrat leader, Vince Cable, also accepted her invitation.

Blackford later wrote to May, urging her to make a “gesture of faith” to show that she was serious. He said that the SNP would take part in cross-party talks if she was able to confirm “that the extension of article 50, a ruling out of a no-deal Brexit and the option of a second EU referendum would form the basis of those discussions”.

With just five days to go before May must make a statement to parliament setting out her Brexit plan B, Downing Street continued to indicate that she was not ready to budge on her red lines, including membership of a customs union.Advertisement

Conservative politicians are deeply divided about how May should adapt her deal to win over hostile MPs.

The South Cambridgeshire Tory MP, Heidi Allen, said: “I thought she was incredibly brave [after the Brexit defeat] and it felt like she got that we need to change. But today it was: ‘I’ll talk to people, but my red lines are still there.’ And that’s not going to work at all.

“Maybe the prime minister needs a little bit longer but she has got to reflect: stop pandering to the hard right of my party and start talking to those of us who have been working across parties for months. We’re a functioning, collaborative body already. She just needs to tap into us.”

Some cabinet ministers clearly indicated the need for flexibility, with the justice secretary, David Gauke, warning that the government should not allow itself to be “boxed in”, and Amber Rudd suggesting a customs union could not be ruled out.

Labour has not ruled out tabling further no confidence votes in the days ahead, in the hope of peeling off exasperated Tory rebels and triggering a general election. But on Wednesday night other opposition parties sent a letter to Corbyn, which said they expected him to honour his promise to back a public vote if Labour failed to get an election.

A Lib Dem source suggested they may not back future no confidence votes if they felt it was a way to evade the issue. “We will support any real opportunity to take down the Tories with relish. We will not be party to Corbyn using spurious means to avoid Labour policy, by pursuing unwinnable no confidence votes,” the source said.

The DUP was quick to stress that without their 10 MPs, the government would have lost the confidence vote, and called on May to focus on tackling their concerns with the Irish backstop.

“Lessons will need to be learned from the vote in parliament. The issue of the backstop needs to be dealt with and we will continue to work to that end,” said Nigel Dodds, the DUP leader at Westminster.

May’s spokesman said a no-deal Brexit could not be ruled out. However, the Daily Telegraph claimed to have got hold of a recording of Philip Hammond speaking to business leaders on Tuesday night in which the chancellor said the threat of a no-deal could be taken “off the table” within days.

May’s spokesman suggested a customs union was not up for discussion: “We want to be able to do our own trade deals, and that is incompatible with either the or a customs union.”

After meeting party leaders, May is expected to extend the invitation to opposition backbenchers over the coming days, as well Tory Eurosceptics.

“We want to find a way forward and we are approaching this in a constructive spirit,” May’s spokesman said. “We’ve set out the principles but clearly there is an overriding aim – to leave the European Union with a good deal – and we are open-minded.”

Civil servants and political staff are likely to attend the meetings, and ministers can direct civil servants to draw up more concrete plans where necessary, but the talks will not have the same formal status as coalition negotiations.

Wednesday’s vote followed an ill-tempered debate in which Corbyn accused May of presiding over a “zombie government”.

“It is clear that this government are not capable of winning support for their core plan on the most vital issue facing this country. The prime minister has lost control and the government have lost the ability to govern.”

Labour’s deputy leader, Tom Watson, wound up the debate for his party by saying May would for ever be known as “the nothing-has-changed prime minister”.

“No one doubts her determination, which is generally of an admirable quality, but, misapplied, it can be toxic,” he said. “And the cruellest truth of all is that she doesn’t possess the necessary political skills, empathy, ability, and most crucially, the policy, to lead this country any longer.”

The environment secretary, Michael Gove, responded with a robust speech widely regarded at Westminster as a leadership pitch, praising May’s “inspirational leadership” and attacking Corbyn on issues from antisemitism to foreign policy.

“If he cannot protect the proud traditions of the Labour party, how can he possibly protect his country?” he asked.

One former Labour MP, John Woodcock, who resigned from the party after being investigated over sexual harassment claims, abstained from the vote, saying Corbyn was “unfit to lead the country”.

Had the motion passed, MPs would have had 14 days for an alternative government to emerge that could command a majority in the Commons, or a general election would have been triggered.

Corbyn is now likely to come under pressure from party activists to move towards supporting a second referendum. A group of more than 70 Labour MPs announced on Wednesday morning that they were backing the call for a “people’s vote”.

Labour’s formal position, adopted at its conference in Liverpool last year, commits the party to press for a general election. Failing that, all options are on the table, including that of campaigning for a second referendum.

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Government and opposition agree to expeditious conclusion of matters surrounding no-confidence vote

In an atmosphere of cordiality, both parties, committed to working together on all matters relating to the protection of Guyana’s sovereingty, regardless of internal political issues


GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Jan. 10, CMC –  The Government of Guyana and the Parliamentary Opposition have committed to work towards concluding  matters surrounding the December 21,  vote in the National Assembly, which is currently engaging the attention of the court.

This was disclosed in a joint communique issued by both parties following the meeting on Wednesday.

According to the communique, the two sides met in an atmosphere of cordiality and committed to working together on all matters relating to the protection of Guyana’s sovereignty, regardless of the internal political issues.

Discussions focused on two broad areas as set out in an agenda put forward by President David Granger. These included the Constitutional and Legal situation, which involves the functioning of the National Assembly and Regional and General Elections.

The President indicated that the Government and the Opposition, by agreement in the National Assembly, can enlarge the time for the hosting of the elections beyond the 90 days contemplated by Article 106 (7) of the Constitution.

Opposition Bharrat Jagdeo   called for the National Assembly to only meet to deal with issues connected with the provision of essential services by the State and all matters related to the preparation of General and Regional elections.

However, Granger stated that it is lawful for the Government to engage the Court, to bring clarity to the provisions of Article 106 (6) and 106 (7) of the Constitution. Pending the conclusion of the legal proceedings, Parliament, he said, remains functional.

The Head of State emphasised that the Government is legal and that it must govern without any limitations on its authority. He further stated that there is no provision in the Constitution which imposes a limitation on the Government to perform its lawful functions.

The parties then identified Minister of Social Protection, Amna Ally and Opposition Chief Whip, Gail Teixeira to enquire into the readiness of GECOM.

Both parties expressed their willingness to meet to ensure the management of the various issues facing the nation.

 Granger, in an address immediately following Wednesday’s meeting, said the two sides will examine the hosting of the elections within the administrative capabilities of GECOM and deemed the meeting “fruitful.”

I would say in conclusion, that we have had a successful engagement, both the leader of the Opposition and the President are concerned about the situation. We would like to assure the public of Guyana that we are working to a solution which they will be satisfied with, the public interest is our paramount concern.”

US group welcomes agreement between president, opposition in Guyana

Meanwhile, the Brooklyn, New York-based Caribbean Guyana Institute for Democracy (CGID) that wrote to the Speaker of the Guyana Parliament, Dr. Bartland Scotland, requesting that he considers annulling the vote of no confidence that brought down the in the David Grange coalition government. has welcomed the agreement between Guyana’s President David Granger and Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo “to create a climate of détente in Guyana”.

This came after, as reported above, Granger and a ministerial delegation met Wednesday with Jagdeo and a delegation from the opposition People Progressive Party (PPP) to discuss current political developments in Guyana. 

In keeping with Article 106 (7) of the Guyana constitution, they also agreed to remain in consultative engagement on the continued functioning of government and the Parliament.  

Article 106 (7) of the constitution states that “Notwithstanding its defeat, the government shall remain in office and shall hold an election within three months, or such longer period as the National Assembly shall by resolution supported by not less than two-thirds of the votes of all the elected members of the National Assembly determine, and shall resign after the President takes the oath of office following the election.” 

CGID said on Wednesday that it “hopes that the opposition will also adhere to this provision as prescribed.

“CGID welcomes this development,” said Richford Burke, CGID president.

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EU disburses First Economic Development Tranche of EC$17.55M to Montserrat

2018 Hurricane Maria exposed some areas of weak resilience

Jan 9, 2019 – Caribbeean News Service – The European Union has disbursed EC$17.55 million (€5.72M) to the Government of Montserrat (GoM) as the First Fixed tranche under the Multi Sector Sustainable Economic Development Budget Support Programme.

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The assistance is inclusive of an emergency top-up payment of EC$1 million (€320,000) as additional support to help with the economic recovery of Montserrat after Hurricane Maria struck in September 2017.

The overall objective of the Budget Support Programme is to assist in setting Montserrat on a path of sustainable economic development, based on its 2017-2021 Medium Term Economic Policy (MTEP).

The assistance is expected to support Montserrat’s renewable energy thrust and new port development to facilitate accessibility to the island. It is also geared towards enhancing the country’s tourism industry as well as improving the business environment and more inclusive private sector development.

The European Union Delegation will continue to support Montserrat’s efforts to create a coherent, comprehensive and sustainable policy framework that will ensure sustained and inclusive economic growth in the long term.

The EU welcomed the determination of the Government of Montserrat to increase economic resilience through strategic sector projects and mainstreaming resilience in all policies. This includes ensuring adequate building codes and standards in order to mitigate socio-economic losses in the event of natural disasters.

The EU Delegation expressed satisfaction to the Government of Montserrat as it continues to show progress and commitment towards prudent Public Financial Management (PFM), good Budgetary Transparency reforms and the pursuit of stable macroeconomic policies.

The overall programme (Grant) of the current 11 European Development Fund intervention is approximately EC$57.35 million (€18.72M).

The programme is expected to run until 2022, with EC$54.30 million (€17.72M) earmarked for multi sector development as budget support.

Montserrat also benefits from regional EU assistance for Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs).

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