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Montserrat reopens its borders but discriminates on Quarantine

No gathering today would look like this one – the good old days of Plymouth

The following release headed as follows really does little more than remove the requirement to apply for ‘permission’ to enter Montserrat. “It’s still so easy to be a COVID-19 criminal…”

THE GOVERNMENT OF MONTSERRAT RELAXES SOME COVID-19 RESTRICTIONS

No restrictions on the number of persons allowed to gather, Border Reopens, No quarantine period for Fully-Vaccinated Persons among other changes

Thursday, March 31, 2022 – The Government of Montserrat has made some significant relaxation adjustments to the COVID-19 suppression regulations since the implementation of these measures in 2020.

As of today Thursday, March 31, 2022, at 5:00 a.m. the Public Health (COVID-19 Suppression) (No.3) Order, (S.R.O 19 of 2022) took effect bringing an end to restrictions on the number of persons allowed to gather in a public place and removing the ‘Allowed to Enter Category’ which previously stipulated who is permitted to enter Montserrat, among other changes.  

Persons traveling to Montserrat are no longer required to fill out an online declaration form for permission to enter.  The pre-travel online declaration form is only required to be completed and submitted by non-resident technicians who are unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated.

As it relates to an individuals’ COVID-19 status, the new regulations maintain the requirements for persons entering Montserrat to present a negative COVID-19 test result.  The negative test result document must include all the information previously stipulated regarding the laboratory details; full name, address, and date of birth of the person tested; the date the test was conducted and it must now also include the date the sample was taken. 

The pre-entry requirements are as follows:

  • A person who intends to enter Montserrat shall take a COVID-19 test no earlier than three days prior to entry into Montserrat.

(2)  The following persons are exempted from this requirement:

(a)  a child under five years of age;

(b)  a person entering Montserrat in circumstances related to a medical evacuation; and

(c)  a person who has been granted permission by the Minister to enter Montserrat for the purpose of aiding with preparations for a disaster or after a disaster,

The owner of a vessel or aircraft must ensure that persons traveling are in possession of a copy of a negative PCR COVID-19 test or a negative RNA COVID-19 test or else the owner will be committing an offence.

Persons arriving on Montserrat are required to answer all questions asked by the Medical or Health Officer and may be required to undertake health checks and screenings.  Individuals who are fully vaccinated must provide the Medical or Health officer with proof of their vaccination status. If this evidence is not provided, then the individual will be regarded and treated as not being fully vaccinated.

A fully vaccinated person is required to be tested for COVID-19 on entry into Montserrat.  If the result indicates that the person is not infected with COVID-19 then the individual is not required to self-quarantine or isolate. However, if the test result is indeterminate (unknown/inconclusive) then the fully vaccinated person must go directly home, place of occupancy, designated quarantine facility, or place of isolation and shall remain there to await the results of further COVID-19 tests.

If further testing reveals that the fully vaccinated person is infected then he or she is required to self-quarantine or isolate until:

(a) he/she is not infected with COVID-19; or

(b)  he/she leaves Montserrat.

The regulations for a fully-vaccinated person will also apply to a fully-vaccinated non-resident technician.

Persons not fully vaccinated – entry into Montserrat

Individuals who are unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated upon arrival after undergoing the necessary COVID-19 screenings are required to go directly to his/her home or place of occupancy, designated quarantine facility, or place of isolation and self-quarantine for 10 days.

Between eight and ten days after entering Montserrat the individual will be tested for COVID-19 to determine if he/she is negative and can therefore be released from quarantine on day 10.

If the individual is required to leave Montserrat before the 10 days have elapsed, then he/she will be allowed to do so.

Not fully vaccinated – Non-resident technician

The previously established COVID-19 testing requirements for a non-resident technician who is not fully vaccinated to be tested within 24 hours of entry into Montserrat remain in place.

Prior to entering Montserrat, the unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated non-resident technician is required to apply to the Minister of Health for approval to enter Montserrat before submitting the online declaration. To apply for approval, an unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated non-resident technician should send an email outlining details of intended travel to Montserrat to mehcsmail@gov.ms.

The non-resident technician who is not fully vaccinated is not required to self-quarantine but must be guided by the following:

  1. only be in a public place for the purpose of traveling to and from the place where he is undertaking work as a non-resident technician;
  2. wear a mask at all times while at the place where he is undertaking work as a non-resident technician;
  3. practice social distancing while at the place where he is undertaking work as a non-resident technician; and
  4. remain at his place of occupancy at all times except when traveling to and from the place where he is undertaking work as a non-resident technician.

All persons entering Montserrat are required to pay the requisite fees for the COVID-19 test(s), where applicable.   Additionally, antigen tests have been added to the list of COVID-19 tests accepted for entry into Montserrat; the other two are RNA and PCR. However, antibody tests are not accepted.

Persons who enter Montserrat under the current order will not be allowed to switch to the new order S.R.O 19 of 2022.

Protocols for Children  

The new SRO also makes amendments to regulations pertaining to children.  Under the new order, if a child under the age of 18 enters Montserrat, the child will be treated like the adult who accompanied the child when entering the island.  Additionally, a child two years and under is not required to take a COVID-19 test.

Protocols-Bus drivers and taxi operators

As it relates to bus drivers and taxi operators, the new order stipulates that the owner or driver of a bus or taxi shall place or cause to be placed a hand hygiene station in a conspicuous (visible) place at the entrance of the bus or taxi.  The owner or driver must also mandate that passengers use the hand hygiene station before entering the bus or taxi; ensure regular refilling of containers or regular refilling and maintenance of the equipment at the hand hygiene station and ensure that a passenger wears a face covering in a bus or taxi.

Under the new SRO, face-coverings are still mandatory in public places, hand hygiene stations are still mandatory at the entrance of public and private buildings; restrictions on visitations to a patient in the hospital, a residential care facility, and a detainee in prison remain in place, except with permission or prior approval from the Heads of these institutions.

Previously established protocols for the operation of business establishments such as bars, restaurants, religious establishments, hair salons, spas, and other similar businesses, gyms, and sports clubs are no longer in place.

S.R.O 19 of 2022 will expire on Wednesday, August 31, 2022, at 5:00 a.m.

S.R.O 19 of 2022 is available on the Government website, under the Attorney General’s page. The S.R.O. can be accessed at the following direct link:  

Public Health (COVID-19 Suppression) (No.3) Order (www.gov.ms)

Additionally, please note the date of effect for S.R.O 19 of 2022 was amended in S.R.O 22 of 2022.  A link to the amendment order is provided below:

Public Health (Covid-19 Suppression) (No. 3) (Amendment) Order (www.gov.ms)

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Criminalising Christian worship when it is needed most is counterproductive

Criminalising Christian worship when it is needed most is counterproductive

February 19, 2021
Bennette Roach

It is out of constant thoughts of how the overall management, particularly with reference to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic which has appeared to be poorly conducted in Montserrat.

This may not be so evident perhaps to the larger majority of persons, some of whom simply suffer through the difficulties, while others cruise by enjoying the juicy fruits of the poor or mismanagement, corruptible on the way.

We address this from time to time and even recapture what we have said in previous articles, but there is something which is very striking in the protocols, guidelines and rules brought under the long emergency powers given to a single Minister. One such matter refers to the relegation of the power of worship among the ‘people of faith’ in their respective churches. Instead, these should be done via discussion and agreement with the churches who will guarantee protocols that will assist in avoiding possible setbacks.

Following are excerpts from a letter written by a pastor of a church in Canada with regards to the Orders

“Dear fellow Albertans,

It goes without saying this has been an incredibly difficult 11 months. The effects and ramifications of COVID-19 on our precious province are not insignificant. We sympathize with everyone who has suffered loss in this time, whether it be the loss of a loved one, or loss stemming from government lockdowns (such as economic loss or suffering as a result of being denied necessary health care).

Given the attention our church has received in recent days, we want to address the broader public on our reasons for gathering as a local church. What follows is not a theological defense.

We have already addressed that sufficiently and it is primarily and predominantly obedience to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ that has shaped our stance. Instead, what follows will shed light on our approach to what is being called a “pandemic.” The reason we put “pandemic” in quotes is that the definition of a pandemic was changed about 10 years ago. At one time, a pandemic was defined as an infectious disease that resulted in a certain percentage of excess deaths over and above normal annual averages. The definition was changed in connection with H1N1 to remove this threshold. Ten years ago, COVID-19 would not have qualified as a pandemic. In fact, not even close.

When COVID-19 first appeared, we shifted to Livestream and abided by most of the new government guidelines for our gatherings. But when the first declared public health emergency ended, we opened our doors and returned to nearly normal gatherings on Sunday, June 21st, 2020. We did so recognizing COVID-19 was much less severe than the government had initially projected.

In early July, it was brought to our attention that two separate individuals had attended our gatherings on two consecutive Sundays and subsequently tested positive for the virus (both cases being unrelated to each other). At that time, we did our own internal contact tracing (prior to AHS notifying us of the exposure), many of our congregants were tested, and it was determined that no transmission of the virus had taken place. Out of an abundance of caution, we shifted exclusively to Livestream and shut down all other ministries for two weeks (14 days). We did this to mitigate any further spread of COVID-19. When it was evident that no further spread had taken place, we resumed our nearly normal gatherings. Since then, we have gathered as a church each Sunday without incident (28 Sundays to date).

Having engaged in an immense amount of research, interacting with both doctors and frontline healthcare workers, it is apparent that the negative effects of the government lockdown measures on society far surpass the effects of COVID-19. The science being used to justify lockdown measures is both suspect and selective. In fact, there is no empirical evidence that lockdowns are effective in mitigating the spread of the virus. We are gravely concerned that COVID-19 is being used to fundamentally alter society and strip us all of our civil liberties. By the time the so-called “pandemic” is over, if it is ever permitted to be over, Albertans will be utterly reliant on government, instead of free, prosperous, and independent.

For those who can, read the full letter at: https://notthebee.com/article/canadian-church-releases-an-insanely-eloquent-statement-on-liberty-and-covid-after-their-pastor-is-jailed-for-preaching?fbclid=IwAR30mjnixISuidQlQWb-r1VuswZSvujLVi4VnmzekgUx-QHf7acCT_QS3jc

Posted in COVID-19, Editorial, Local, News, Regional, Religion0 Comments

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MOHSS Youth department promotes youth potential

L-R: Meliek Richards, Beryl Ray Idiaghe, Kenita Barzey, Aaliyah Giddings, Alicia Giddings, Otis Miller and Anderson Alerte

As part of their mandate – “wanting to offer more to the youth of the island, thus in an effort to help them reach their full potential, the Ministry of Youth Affairs held a Non-Denominational Bible Quiz on Sunday, February 23, 2020, at the Arts and Education Centre in Brades.

Mrs. Helena Dorsette

The event was surprisingly not very well attended, a lament by Mrs. Helena Dorsette who was one of the main organisers from the Ministry, but the participation was good.

The Ministry touts in offering the background to the event – “The Bible is one of the oldest texts in the history of the world! There have been few books as widely read, studied or debated. It offers fun learning, incredible information, and guidance for daily living.

On Montserrat, there are many programs geared at attracting the youth and other persons in the communities. Some involve Dancing, Revelry, Pageantry, Sports, Gospel Music, Education and more.

 The Department of Community, Youth and Sports Services (DCYSS) has played a pivotal role in bringing many of these programs to fruition, or in collaborating with groups and/or organizations involved.

l-r: Beryl Ray Idiaghe, Kenita Barzey, Meliek Richards, and Anderson Alerte

This Non-Denominational Bible Quiz came as a result of a desire to offer more to the youth of the island. “In our effort to help them reach their full potential, it would be remiss of us, domiciled in this Christian Community, not to include a Biblically-based program which can only lend itself to the benefit of the persons involved,” the department youth leaders wrote.

They say that the main objectives of the Non-Denominational Bible Quiz is to create a level playing field on which every youth can meet and play without fear of discrimination.

Consequently, it is hoped that the youth involved in this program will be interested in encouraging their peers to get involved as well so that this could become an Annual Event.

Nadia Browne

Miss Nadia Browne moderated excellently while Youth and Community Development Officer Ms. Nicole Hixon performed the awarding of the trophy and prizes to the winners, and Youth and Community Development Worker Mrs. Dorsette carried out duties of organiser, director,  providing pertinent information and closing comments.

Ms. Nicole Hixon delivers winning trophy to the Giddings

Following are the results of that DCYSS’ Non-Denominational Bible Quiz results.

Beulah Wesleyan Holiness Won with 270 pts.

Ortis Miller with Alicia and Aaliyah Giddings

Aaliyah Giddings had the highest point of all = 140pts

Alicia Giddings had 130pts

Church of God of Prophecy – and House of Refuge & Deliverance tied for 1st Runner’s Up with 260pts

Kenita Barzey and Beryl Ray Idiaghe each had 130pts each for the Church of God of Prophecy; while Ortis Miller who alone represented House of Refuge and Deliverance, answering 26 questions. He earned 130 pts in each round for a score of 260 pts.

Which meant while the other contestants had 13 questions each, he had to answer 26. In round one he had 130pts and again in round two – 130pts.

Seventh-Day Adventist was 2nd Runner’s Up with 230pts. Meliek Richards had 120pts. Anderson Alerte had 110pts

Posted in Education, Local, News, Regional, Religion, Scriptures, Youth0 Comments

DOMINICA-ELECTIONS-Roman Catholic Church condemns verbal attacks on Bishop and Cardinal

DOMINICA-ELECTIONS-Roman Catholic Church condemns verbal attacks on Bishop and Cardinal

By Peter Richards

ROSEAU, Dominica, Dec 4, CMC – The Roman Catholic Church Wednesday, condemned the verbal attack on Bishop Gabriel Malzaire and Cardinal Kelvin Felix even as supporters of the main opposition United Workers Party (UWP) continued their fiery protest mainly in the northern section of Dominica ahead of Friday’s general election.

“We, the Catholic Clergy of the Diocese of Roseau consider it an act of disgrace and disrespect not only to head of the Catholic Church in Dominica but to the clergy and the lay faithful as well,” the Church said in a statement, condemning the verbal attack on the two religious officials, who were on their way to the airport.

Cardinal Kelvin Felix

“While we recognize the dissatisfaction and passion associated with the issue of electoral reform and political positions in general, we believe that there are more humane and civil methods of expressing concerns and resolving conflicts,” it said, adding that Bishop Malzaire and Cardinal Felix were “subjected to insults and embarrassing questions”.

The protesters have been calling for electoral reform including the issuance of picture identification cards, and a cleansing of the electoral lost and in the statement, the Roman Catholic Church said that

It had spoken on “numerous occasions” about electoral reform.

It recalled a statement made by Bishop Malzaire in his New Year’s Day homily in which he said “of concern to many here in Dominica, especially during the past days is the issue of electoral reform.

“It is a long-standing issue which is impacting and affecting our society.  It is imperative therefore that those responsible, move with some alacrity to see that all is put in place for the appearance of free and fair General Elections, which are due this year.  Brothers and sisters, we are duty-bound to do all in our power to maintain a just and peaceful society,” Bishop Malzire said then.

The statement said that more recently, the head of the Catholic Church made reference to the Code of Conduct prepared by the Dominica Christian Council and the Association of Evangelical Churches, reminding the population “our duty as clergy is to recognize that our basic obligation is to promote unity in our communities,” and “to refrain from saying or doing anything likely to be interpreted as partisan politics”.

Meanwhile, soldiers attached to the Barbados-based Regional Security System (RSS) have arrived here to assist in maintaining law and order.

But Thomas Letang, a member of the Electoral Reform Group here, told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) that the presence of the RSS members would not solve the issue. Because they can’t be here forever.

“If people believe that the way you solve the problems in respective countries is by bringing guys in uniform to really get people scared that itself has to be revisited. What you want is to look at the cause of the problem and to address that problem.

“I am saying what is happening in Dominica now, if the government had listened to people and had done something about electoral reform there would have been no need to bring any regional security force here to do anything,” he said, taking also a swipe at the regional integration movement, CARICOM.

“I always say to myself what it is that these guys discuss when they meet at this table,” he said, noting that “while Dominicans were making noise for electoral reform, CARICOM said nothing,” he added.

Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit, who is seeking an unprecedented fourth consecutive term in office, has criticised the UWP and called on its leader, Lennox Linton, to publicly condemn the acts of violence that have so marred the campaign for the elections.

Skerrit is leading the Dominica Labour Party (DLP)  and he told party supporters on Tuesday night that the protests are part of the opposition strategy to disrupt the polls.

“They can try what they want, they can do what they want, they can jump high, they can jump low, there will be elections in Dominica on December 6.”

The United States in a statement on Wednesday said that the reports of political violence in Dominica in recent weeks “are incongruent with the history of stable parliamentary democracy in the Eastern Caribbean.

“Free, fair, and transparent elections are hallmarks of any good democracy and an indication of good governance and leadership.  Equally so, the conduct of peaceful campaigns, rallies, and demonstrations beforehand and the acceptance of the will of the people after a fair vote are intrinsic parts of democracy,” Washington said in a statement issued by its Embassy in Barbados.

The Electoral Commission said it is prepared for the elections on Friday and the Press and Public Education Officer, Elias Dupuis, told CMC that 74, 895 persons are eligible to cast ballots at the 255 polling stations across the country.

He dismissed reports that the Commission had been unable to cleanse the list as called for by the opposition parties saying “with regards to our laws, for any registered elector, it guarantees them the right remain registered until their name is deleted because they would have violated four specific provisions, one of which is the unfortunate case of death.

“Another significant one is the five year limit (in that) you have to be out of Dominica. I understand that much of the contention has been that particular five-year issue but as far as the Electoral Office is concerned we do have to respect the right of any duly registered voter whose name exists on the voters’ list on an election day to be given the right to cast their ballot.

“We are going to ensure that we keep to the law with regards to that and we want to be respectful of anyone’s right to cast their ballot to exercise their franchise,” he said, adding that the laws were created to enfranchise people and not necessarily to disenfranchise people”.

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Church leaders urged to exercise restraint in their opposition to anti-sodomy laws

Church leaders urged to exercise restraint in their opposition to anti-sodomy laws

by staff writer

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Nov 15, CMC – The organisers of the Intimate Conviction Conference series are urging Caribbean church leaders to exercise restraint, even if they express their opposition to ending laws that criminalize consensual same-sex intimacy.

In a statement which was also signed by Jamaican attorney Maurice Tomlinson, a leading gay rights and HIV activist in the Caribbean, the organisers said they were inviting the Church leaders in response to heightened rhetoric by some Caribbean churches opposed to cases challenging anti-sodomy laws.

Maurice Tomlinson (File Photo)

“As organizers of the Intimate Conviction conference series, we note with alarm the heightened and sometimes hostile anti-LGBT rhetoric that is being generated by some religious leaders across the Caribbean, which is in response to current and impending challenges to regional anti-sodomy laws.

“As people of faith, we believe that Christians should show the world how to respectfully disagree.  We are therefore troubled that some of the language being used by clerics who oppose decriminalization will incite violence against LGBT people,” the statement noted.

It said that “as such, we are urging all Caribbean bishops, pastors, and priests to exercise restraint, even if they express their opposition to ending laws that criminalize consensual same-sex intimacy.

“In addition, we would like to invite persons, on whatever side of this debate, to join us for the next Intimate Conviction conference from April 24-26, 2020 in Barbados”.

The organisers said that this global dialogue will continue to examine the role of churches in anti-sodomy laws that started with the first conference in Jamaica in 2017.

They said that any Christian leader from any denomination who wishes to make a presentation at this conference, should contact Tomlinson, who is the coordinator of the conference by November 22.

“We have a limited budget and can pay for some presenters to join us from outside of Barbados. So, we welcome robust and respectful regional deliberations on this matter,” the organisers added.

“As Caribbean Christians, we pray that this public dialogue will help our region to achieve greater harmony and understanding and in the meantime, we urge careful and critical discussions of this very topical issue by all stakeholders.”

Posted in CARICOM, International, Local, News, OECS, Regional, Religion, Scriptures0 Comments

rasta protest march6

Police accused of wearing masks at ‘stop and search’ ‘routines’

Police tactics under complaint scrutiny

During this past week, an investigation has been launched into allegations made initially on social media, and accordinly from direct complaints about the approach taken by Officers while conducting stop and search procedures, here.

It is alleged that some officers of the RMPS, have been taking an aggressive approach when conducting stop & search activities. Some persons also claim that officers have been wearing facemasks, while carrying out these activities, and were not wearing ‘police’ uniform.  

Following now, is our first knowledge of the ongoing situation which is not from Social media, but as indicated.

Around the middle of the month our attention was drawn to an article by a colleague Jeevan A. Robinson – MNI Media | Date: 15 September 2019 – Montserrat | What is Happening at the RMPS? MNI Media Writes an Open Letter to the Gentlemen In Charge of the Royal Montserrat Police Service

It is further understood that names and identification as to who these Officers were, was refused when requested, Robinson said.

He continued that “The purpose of MNI’s open letter to you both today, as the two in charge of the RMPS, is not to offer condemnation; as I am almost certain that the aims of your role are to ensure that the island is served efficiently and appropriately by the Officers that make up the Police Service on Montserrat. However, MNI is sure you both are aware of recent instances where members of the public have been voicing openly, via social media, their concerns over the treatment they have experienced when interacting with some your Officers.

The article drew attention to a specific post on Facebook which we followed and found as follows: Trevon M Pollard 

September 15 at 1:45 AM · 

“Moments ago I was attacked by Four police officers Two from the previous batch released from the Montserrat Police Service and Two from the recent one all wearing dark clothing, except one in uniform they used indecent language, some threatening language such as you better watch yourself, you do not know what you have done , one also said Karma is a bitch, on not finding anything in my car they tried all kind of ploys to get me to attack one of them . One recruit as I was leaving threw himself on the bonnet of my car to say, “you want to knock me down that is assaulting an officer.” I am calling on the powers that be to take the necessary course of Justice as I made a formal report minutes ago.”

The MNIMedia editor in his article reported that he checked, as most journalists are expected to with stories that appear on social media, with Pollard.

He continued in his articled ‘open letter’, “It is known that factually the RMPS do conduct stop and search on members of the public. You have a job to do and that is understandable.

On the night Mr. Pollard was stopped and searched, it is understood that he was informed that he was suspected of having Cannabis (marijuana) in his possession. 

However, is it standard practice that RMPS Officers pull over citizens wearing face masks? Are these standard issue gear for your Officers? 

Is it also standard issue that your RMPS Officers should be wearing studded gloves that can inflict undue harm whether intentionally or unintentionally on members of the public with whom they come into contact?

Rastas marching up goverment headquaters

See the full article at: http://www.mnialive.com/articles/what-is-happening-at-the-rmps-mni-media-writes-an-open-letter-to-the-gentlemen-in-charge-of-the-roya

The information that came from this was shocking enough and got us all here asking questions with ZJBNews also picking up on the story and reporting later.

What we discovered was even more surprising particularly that before and after the Commissioner reacted on ZJB radio there have been similar and worse complaints before, regarding the conduct of the police with the public in fairly recent times. We were surprised to learn that several of these complaints had been made to the police before that which caused the media to call for answers.

One returning and visiting Montserratian woman complained of being aggressively hustled out of her car and accused of having too many persons in the car, never knowing whether these were indeed police. She did launch a complaint but was too shaken to ask for IDs etc or names of the person carrying out the stop. Another woman complained of being harassed having been stopped three times within a short space of time and asked the same question even after she had complied by taking her driver’s license and registration records to the police station, the first-time round.

Some similar complaints from persons who have been accosted by who they realise are police officers, later, sometimes after skirmishes or unpleasant exchanges with who they discover were police officers, wearing masks. The police were often, mostly in plain clothes and there was at least one person who said that there was in one instance an officer in uniform, but who hid initially, making identification of the alleged police officers.

The Commissioner when challenged with the issue initially was cautious but spent much time explaining the police functions require them in carrying out their protection of the law to behave in a certain way, that is in keeping with the law, pointing out that no one is above the law. Eventually on the matter of the masks, he said that they are not part of the police kit.  Later speaking with ‘Basil on the Breakfast show’ last Friday, he reported that an internal investigation is on the way. He requested that persons with evidence of the same experience to contact ‘the police, through whatever means they chose.

We discovered that several persons who experienced the ‘stop and search’ accompanied by reportedly unusual and aggressive behaviour, even suffered loss.

Some persons claiming themselves to be members of the Rastafarian community who gather around the Carrs Bay area in Montserrat, also complained that the police had been behaving improperly, impose and trespass on their constitutional rights.

Hearing little and fearing no positive response following their complaints they were eventually moved to protest, launching a march today, which was being planned since Wednesday, to the Governor’s office, with placards and chants: “Police in masks? Terrorists! What we need? Justice! And who are we? Rastafari!

Outside the Governor’s office, spokesperson Karen Allen with whom I had spoken the Wednesday, spoke briefly pointing out the concerns centering around how they feel their constitutional rights have been abused. There they requested and met with the Governor and the Police Commissioner.

At the Governor’s press meet on the Wednesday 26th, we raised the issue of the recent complaints of the unconventional activities and behaviour of the police and the discomfort and distrust the public was beginning to express. With time running out, he responded that he had great confidence in the Police Commissioner who he said was handling the situation as described earlier. He startled us however, that regards to the masks, denying the allegations, “there were no masks he said, they were police gear…”

We will update this report as to the outcome of the Rastas’ protest march which included one of the stops and search victims who lost property, and the subsequent meeting with Governor Pearce and Commissioner Foster.

Posted in Crime, Culture, Featured, Local, News, Police, Regional, Religion0 Comments

A view of St. Sebastian's Church, damaged in a blast in Negombo, north of Colombo, Sri Lanka, on Sunday (Chamila Karunarathne - AP)

Sri Lanka blames local Islamist extremist group for Easter bombings that killed 290

(Adapted)

By Joanna Slater , Amantha Perera and Shibani Mahtani April 22

Explosions at churches and hotels in Sri Lanka killed 290 people and injured more than 500 Sunday. This is what we know so far:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/video/world/this-is-a-very-cowardly-attack-sri-lanka-blasts-leave-hundreds-dead-on-easter-sunday/2019/04/21/eaecd2dc-9c42-482f-9e09-e3ea06a3372a_video.html

● Government says attack carried out by National Thowheed Jamaath, a local Islamist militant group, with suspected international assistance.

● Churches were attacked by suicide bombers as worshipers gathered for Easter services.

● Prime minister says elements of government had prior intelligence of attacks.

● At least a dozen of the dead were foreigners, including from India, Japan, the United States and Britain.

● The Sri Lankan air force said it defused an explosive near Colombo’s main airport.


‘This is a very cowardly attack’: Sri Lanka blasts leave hundreds dead on Easter Sunday

Coordinated explosions targeting churches and hotels in Sri Lanka killed more than 200 people and injured more than 450 on April 21. (Drea Cornejo, JM Rieger/The Washington Post)

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Sri Lanka on Monday accused a local Islamist extremist group, the National Thowheed Jamaath, of being behind a string of Easter bombings against churches and hotels that killed at least 290 people.

Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne said the group, which roughly translates as National Monotheism Organization, perpetrated the attack using suicide bombers against three churches and three hotels, adding that it likely had international links.

“We do not believe these attacks were carried out by a group of people who were confined to this country,” he said. “There was an international network without which these attacks could not have succeeded.”

He also called for the police inspector general, Pujith Jayasundara, to resign because security agencies had received a report warning of attacks by this group against churches and hotels weeks before.

Sri Lanka’s President Maithripala Sirisena said he would seek “international assistance” in the investigations into the serial blasts. Intelligence agencies have reported that “international organizations” were behind these “acts of local terrorists,” said a statement from his office. The statement also said that the government would implement anti-terrorism measures that give additional powers to police, effective at midnight.

Attention is now focusing on why and how the government and security forces were unable to foil the coordinated bombings. Two officials provided The Post with the three-page intelligence report that the health minister alluded to, in which a senior police official warned of potential suicide attacks by the same Islamist extremist group.

Sri Lankan security forces officers secure a site believed to be a hideout of the militants following a shootout in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on Sunday. (Eranga Jayawardena/AP)

The report also identified several members by name, including its alleged leader, Mohamed Zaharan. Mujibur Rahman, a member of Sri Lanka’s Parliament who was briefed on the report, said it was based on input from Indian intelligence agencies.

The highly coordinated attacks left the island nation reeling, a crushing blow after almost a decade of peace since the end of Sri Lanka’s civil war. 

In that time, tourism in Sri Lanka had been steadily growing, the country transformed by the apparent end of instability, bloodshed and frequent suicide bombings over the 26-year war. 

A huge number of the dead were worshipers at St. Sebastian’s Church in Negombo, north of Colombo; officials reported at least 104 dead there. A church in Batticaloa on the island’s eastern shore was also attacked.

In Colombo, the three high-end hotels attacked included the Shangri-La and the Cinnamon Grand hotel. An official at the Sri Lankan air force said an explosive was defused close to the city’s main airport, the Bandaranaike International Airport, on Sunday night, probably an additional target. 

At the Shangri-La Hotel, the blast occurred in a restaurant as guests were having breakfast. Investigators who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the press said that two suspects had checked into a room at the hotel earlier in the morning and gave local addresses to hotel staff.

A curfew has been imposed from 8 p.m. Monday night until 4 a.m. the next morning.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe told reporters Sunday that some government officials had prior intelligence about the attacks but did not act on it.

“Information was there,” he said at a news conference. “This is a matter we need to look into.”

[Sri Lanka timeline: How eight explosions wrought devastation on Easter Sunday]

The security apparatus in Sri Lanka is controlled by the president, Maithripala Sirisena. Relations between him and the prime minister have been at a low point since Sirisena tried to oust Wickremesinghe from office late last year, launching a political crisis. 

Rahman, the member of Parliament briefed on the report, is affiliated with country transformed minister and said Wickremesinghe “had the letter in his hand” when he met with lawmakers Sunday, referring to the notice. 

“He told us that the Indian intelligence had conveyed threats of possible attacks. Two possible dates were mentioned, April 4 and 11,” Rahman said. “Part of the problem is since the October 26 coup, the prime minister has not been invited to the security council meetings, so we don’t know what is being discussed,” he added.

Police arrested 13 people in connection with the bombings, and three police officers were killed during a raid at a suspect’s house. 

Images of splintered pews and bloodstained floors played across local television screens Sunday as the enormity of the attacks, launched on the holiest day of the Christian calendar, became clear.

From the altar of St. Anthony’s Church in Colombo, the Rev. Joy country transformed out at worshipers packed into pews and standing along walls for Easter Sunday.

Nearly halfway through the Mass, as the congregation stood to recite prayers, he heard an enormous blast and saw what he described as a fireball.

The explosion was so powerful that it blew off much of church’s roof, sending debris raining down on the people below.

As the smoke cleared, he saw a terrifying scene: scores of wounded and dead, crying out in pain and fear. At first, Mariyaratnam was motionless with panic. “I was thinking, ‘How could such a thing happen in a place of worship?’” he said. “We are still in shock.”

Delicia Fernando, 52, was sitting toward the front of St. Anthony’s Church in Colombo with her son and two daughters. Her husband Ravi preferred to stand at the back of the church. Her first impulse after the explosion was to run, but then she and her children turned back to look for Ravi. They found him crushed under debris from the roof, his body pierced with shrapnel.

Sitting in the living room of her parents’ home near the church, she said she had never experienced anything like this violence, not even at the height of the country’s civil war.

A view of St. Sebastian’s Church, damaged in a blast in Negombo, north of Colombo, Sri Lanka, on Sunday. (Chamila Karunarathne/AP)

Though a majority of the dead were Sri Lankan, at least a dozen were foreigners including people from India, Japan, Britain, the United States and Turkey. The unidentified bodies of 25 people believed to be foreigners were at a government mortuary in Colombo.

The dead included “several” Americans, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said. He blamed “radical terrorists” for the attacks. 

Sri Lanka is a predominantly Buddhist nation, but it is also home to significant Hindu, Muslim and Christian communities. While there has been intermittent conflict between religious groups — including threats to Christians — nothing remotely like Sunday’s attacks had occurred.

Blasts ripped through three churches in Colombo, Negombo and Batticaloa at approximately 8:45 a.m. Sunday as worshipers were gathering for services, police said. 

Ruwan Wijewardene, the state defense minister, said the attacks were carried out by suicide bombers. Six of the attacks occurred between 8:45 and 9:30 a.m.

There was a seventh blast at a banquet hall about 2 p.m. and an eighth at the house raided by police around 2:45 p.m.

The deadliest attack was at St. Sebastian’s Church in Negombo, known as “little Rome” for its Catholic presence. Also targeted was St. Anthony’s Shrine, Kochchikade, the largest Catholic congregation in Colombo, and Zion Church in the eastern city of Batticaloa.

Two people at the Shangri-La Hotel described a powerful explosion that made the ground shake just before 9 a.m. Photos showed broken windows and shattered glass on a street next to the hotel.

Sarita Marlou, a guest at the hotel, wrote on Facebook that she felt the impact of the explosion in the hotel’s flagship restaurant all the way up on the 17th floor. She described seeing pools of blood as she evacuated the hotel.

Also targeted were the ground-floor Taprobane restaurant at the Cinnamon Grand Hotel and the luxury Kingsbury Hotel.

[Sri Lankan government blocks social media and imposes curfew following deadly blasts]

Three police officers were killed in a clash at a home in the Dematagoda area of Colombo, police said. They had gone there to interrogate an individual.

Pompeo condemned the attacks “in the strongest terms.”

“Attacks on innocent people gathering in a place of worship or enjoying a holiday meal are affronts to the universal values and freedoms that we hold dear, and demonstrate yet again the brutal nature of radical terrorists whose sole aim is to threaten peace and security,” he said in a statement.

A victim’s relative mourns at the police mortuary in Colombo. (Dinuka Liyanawatte/Reuters)

In an updated travel advisory issued late Sunday, the State Department warned that “terrorist groups continue plotting possible attacks in Sri Lanka,” citing threats to tourist sites, shopping malls, hotels, places of worship and other public areas.

Sri Lankan authorities blocked Facebook and the messaging application WhatsApp in an attempt to halt the spread of false and inflammatory messages. Security was heightened at churches across the country, and the streets of Colombo grew quiet and deserted as the curfew took effect.

Wickremesinghe, the prime minister, condemned “the cowardly attacks on our people today” and urged the country to remain “united and strong.”

The SITE Intelligence Group, which tracks extremist activity online, reported Sunday that Islamic State supporters were portraying the attacks as revenge for strikes on mosques and Muslims.

Yousef A. al-Othaimeen, head of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, “strongly condemned” the “cowardly attacks [on] innocent worshipers and civilians.” The OIC represents 57 predominantly Muslim nations.

People in Sri Lanka expressed a sense of disbelief at the eruption of violence. Biraj Patnaik, South Asia director for the human rights group Amnesty International, said Sri Lanka has witnessed rising hostility toward Christians and Muslims in recent years, including repeated attempts to disrupt prayers at churches. But the scale of Sunday’s attacks, he said, was “shocking and unprecedented.”

The bombings were the worst violence to hit Colombo since 1996, when a blast at the country’s central bank killed nearly 100 people. That attack was carried out by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, or Tamil Tigers, which waged a war for a separate Tamil homeland in Sri Lanka’s north for more than 30 years.

Messages of condolence and condemnation on Sunday poured in from around the world.

Pope Francis during his Easter address called the attacks “horrendous” and expressed a “heartfelt closeness to the Christian community, attacked while gathered in prayer, and to all the victims of such a cruel act of violence.”

“I entrust to the Lord all who so tragically died, and I pray for the wounded and all those who suffer because of this traumatic event,” Francis said.

Mahtani reported from Hong Kong. Rukshana Rizwie in Colombo, Niha Masih in New Delhi and Chico Harlan in Rome contributed to this report.

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jimmy Carter quote on homosexuality

Answering Mr Carter on homosexuality, Christian teaching and “real” Christianity

Is the traditional Christian view of homosexuality out of line with what Jesus taught?

(A special, part 4)

BRADES, Montserrat, March 22, 2019 –  In recent days, The Reporter has learned of the displayed recent remark by former US President, Mr. Jimmy Carter. Others have said much the same, and the matter must be firmly answered as we address the recent push to homosexualise marriage in Montserrat and other UK Overseas Territories.

The basic idea is that Jesus never said anything about homosexuality (or associated topics) so on charity we should just set aside all of that stuff about Sodom and Gomorrah in the Old Testament and dismiss or radically “liberalise” whatever Paul of Tarsus may have written.  In the background, is the impression that big-S Science has shown that homosexuals, transgenders and the like were born that way, and that their behaviour does no harm to the community so we should stop stigmatising (“condemning”) them.

However, something has gone seriously wrong. 

For one, any sound Christian will know that  “all Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for instruction.” So, if we see someone trying to drive a wedge between Jesus and the Old Testament and also between Jesus and the Apostles he sent out, that is already a direct proof of their serious error. Darkness in the place of light level error. Instead, we are to follow the whole counsel of God’s Word as soundly understood, not what we pick and choose to suit ourselves. That’s why Peter warned against those who would wrench the Scriptures to their own ruin.

We must not forget, the radical agenda does not stop at any particular point. If the complementarity of the two sexes is rejected and marriage is redefined as we please, “gender” is up for grabs too. Recall, some of the dozens of “genders” we have been hearing about: “Aerogender: a gender that is influenced by your surroundings” and “Agenderflux: Being agender and having fluctuating feelings of masculinity or femininity, but NOT male or female” – obvious absurdity that disregards our naturally evident creation order. If one claims that darkness is light, he then will claim that light is darkness too. If good is deemed evil, evil will be said to be good. If what is sound is dismissed, absurdity will be proclaimed as deep truth, right and rights.

Worse, whoever posted Mr Carter’s claim said, “This is what a real Christian sounds like.” Far from it.

Today’s activists do not have the right to decide what the Christan faith is, and who is or is not a true Christian. That was settled a long time ago, by Jesus and the Apostles he sent out, recorded for us in the Bible. So, let us turn again to the clarity and good sense that Jesus taught about marriage, family, men, women and sex:

“Have you never read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘for this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined inseparably to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, let no one separate.” [Matt 19:4 – 6, AMP.]

This is the naturally obvious creation order for men, women and families, the foundation of sound civilisation. We tamper with that at our peril. And already, it is not just “transgenderism” it is teachers being forced to lead even four and five year olds[1] in the UK into gender chaos. That’s why 600 children were pulled out of a school in Birmingham in protest. Let’s notice how it is the parents (not the educators pushing dubious agendas) who are being challenged:

“Parents have come under fire for reportedly withdrawing 600 children from Parkfield Community School today in a row over LGBT lessons. The move from the fuming Muslim mums and dads comes after they claimed their children were being ‘brainwashed’. The pupils were taken out of classes as the row surrounding LGBT lifestyles being taught openly in the classroom escalated. Some reports suggest as many as 80 per cent of the children at Parkfield Community School in Saltley have been removed – around 600.” [Birmingham Live, March 1, 2019.[2]]

The article explains:

“The No Outsiders programme was started by the school’s gay assistant head teacher Andrew Moffat. Mr Moffat MBE has been criticised by parents for piloting the programme, which is run alongside sex and relationship education (SRE) lessons. Its ethos promotes LGBT equality and challenges homophobia in primary schools. Books now being read by pupils at Parkfield Community School include Mommy, Mama and Me and King & King – stories about same-sex relationships and marriages.” [TMR: Notice, the assumption that objections to homosexual behaviour and trying to redefine marriage against Creation Order are driven by “phobia” – i.e. irrational fear and bigotry. That’s slander.]

Is that where we want to go, here in Montserrat? Birmingham proves that this is what lies down the path the FAC now wants to lead us into.

In answer, we may read a solemn warning:

“Luke 17: 1 Jesus said to His disciples, “Stumbling blocks

[temptations and traps set to lure one to sin]

are sure to come, but woe (judgment is coming) to him through whom they come! 2 It would be better for him if a millstone [as large as one turned by a donkey] were hung around his neck and he were hurled into the sea, than for him to cause one of these little ones to stumble [in sin and lose faith]. [AMP]”

But, but, but, don’t their genes make them do it?

No. As we already noted in the first article in this special series:

“. . . no complicated human behaviour has ever been shown to be actually determined by our genes. We are not mindless robots. The search for gay genes has unsurprisingly clearly failed despite the impressions given by the media and by ill-advised education. Instead, we are responsible, morally governed, conscience-guided. This clearly includes our sexual behaviour: our sexual attractions, acts and habits are under moral government. Of course, our impulses and behaviours can sometimes trap us in addictive, hard to escape patterns of life that are unwise, ill-advised (or even outright irrational), abnormal, damaging, disease-spreading, insanitary, destructive.

Common sense speaks again: such people need help.”

In Romans 1,[3] the Apostle Paul teaches us that when nations turn from God their thinking becomes twisted and moral breakdown follows. This includes many different types of ruinous folly and sin, including the warping of our sexuality. He also tells us how by God’s grace, we may overcome grave, enslaving, destructive sins:

“1 Cor 6:9 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit or have any share in the kingdom of God?

Do not be deceived; neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate [by perversion], nor those who participate in homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers [whose words are used as weapons to abuse, insult, humiliate, intimidate, or slander], nor swindlers will inherit or have any share in the kingdom of God.

11 And such were some of you [before you believed]. But you were washed [by the atoning sacrifice of Christ], you were sanctified [set apart for God, and made holy], you were justified [declared free of guilt] in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the [Holy] Spirit of our God [the source of the believer’s new life and changed behavior]. [AMP]” “And such WERE some of you . . .” But, by God’s grace, there is hope, there is cleansing, there is transformation. And, that is the genuine gospel message, from AD 30 to AD 2019 and beyond.


[1] See: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6766643/Birmingham-Muslim-parents-withdraw-600-children-Parkfield-Community-School-LGBT-lessons.html

[2] See: https://www.birminghammail.co.uk/news/midlands-news/how-birmingham-reacted-parents-withdrawing-15910307

[3] See: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Rom+1%3A18+-+32&version=AMP

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Governing Montserrat 2019 – 2024

Contribution – Part 1/2019

Is “folly-tricks” and “melee as usual”  good enough for Montserrat, going forward?

by 

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BRADES, Montserrat, January 15, 2019 –  Everything is now under the shadow of the upcoming elections; due by September (or a little later).   So, let us look at how we may best govern Montserrat over the next six years: 2019 – 2024.  Yes, six years – we have to get on with actually governing and building the future even while an election looms. Where, obviously, “folly-tricks” and “melee as usual” cannot solve our serious governance, capacity-building, social stabilisation, resiliency, and economy-rebuilding challenges. Gross exaggerations and one-sided accusations multiplied by unbalanced news coverage only serve to distort, polarise, stir up needless anger, misinform and mislead.

We must first remember:  Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition – yes, that is the formal name – is supposed to be an alternative government, ready to take over at need. Fair comment: we are failing that test.

(That’s why a visiting expert has warned some of our more strident political voices that winning an election through attack politics is one thing, but building a sound governance consensus for the future is quite another.)

Obviously, while the current Premier has his failings, “is Don’s fault” cannot be the correct diagnosis for everything that is wrong after nearly twenty-four years of crisis and challenges. Similarly, Montserrat is not “dying.” Given the painful journey we have been on since July 18, 1995, our economy is not “dead,” or “the worst ever,” etc., etc. It is not true that every “foreigner” – fellow Caricom citizens! – just wants to get a UK passport and go off to greener pastures; and many who have done that provided years of service to the country.

Yes, we face many challenges, there are many errors, we have to do better.

But, the politics of polarisation, targetting scapegoats, exaggeration, half-truths, drowning out or silencing the rest of the story and of outright slander are not the way forward. So, those who have insisted on “folly-tricks” and “melee” despite repeated correction here at TMR and elsewhere have no excuse; they know better – or should know better. By insisting on the wrong way because they thought it gave them an advantage or because they were too angry to think straight, they have exposed the sad fact that they are simply not ready to lead Montserrat going forward.

Yes, we clearly have a leadership gap.

No-one is going to ride up as a shining knight on a white horse and single-handedly, magically save us from all of our troubles, not even if the MVO, SAC and Emergency people declare next year, that the eruption is over. (What about the apparent, roughly thirty-year cycle since 1897 – 98? As in 1935 – 37, 1967, 1992 – 97 etc. If it is real, a new disturbance could be due within six or so years. This, too, we have to frankly face.)

Come together should be the buzz phrase. We are the ones who have to come together, find a way to build consensus (despite our differences and disagreements) and actually work together as Team Montserrat. We must realise that the reason why crabs are in a barrel together is to be put in the same hot, boiling pot. 

That’s why “crabs in a barrel,” pulling one another back down as usual cannot work.

For just one example, did we notice that on December 18th last year, while we were debating here in the Assembly, Lord Ahmad was before the UK Foreign Affairs Committee? Did we see that right after the imposition of a public beneficial ownership register was put on the table, the very next issue raised was: similar imposition of “same-sex ‘marriage’ . . .”?[1] (In other words, when our elected members struck a “compromise” with the FCO in 2010 such that the first “rights” to be protected in the 2010 Constitution Order are “sex” and “sexual orientation”[2] while in Section 10 it asserted the “right to marry a person of the opposite sex” and thus to “found a family,” that was just a temporary pause for those pushing the radical sexual agenda.)

How are we going to deal with new colonialism by passing laws in the UK to impose whatever they want on us – on whatever excuse?

Especially, given our post volcano disaster challenges which put independence off the table for a long time to come? And, that even if we get a few seats in the parliament, we would most likely be drowned out amidst 600-plus seats?  (The American Colonists figured that out in the 1770’s.)

The only credible option is something far too many of our politicians, pundits and media voices have derided and mocked time and again: yes, the UK-acknowledged, legally binding force of The UN Charter, Article 73. We are Geographically distant, ethnically distinct and culturally diverse from the UK, and Europe, which is/are therefore duty-bound to respect our own democratic decisions, such as the 2010 Constitution Order compromise.

Where, as a right is a moral claim for respect and support, to properly claim a right, one must plainly first be in the right. For, no-one can have a right to demand that another taints conscience or damns his or her soul before God by supporting and encouraging evil.

(That’s why Jesus taught that one who causes a child to stumble into sin would have done better to have drowned instead. Where, obviously, Jesus did not issue an invitation to hate, vigilantism or violence. It is also why we see in the Revelation, that warning about how a devillish tyrant will one day order that no man could buy or sell save he take the infamous soul-damning mark of disloyalty to God. Caesar cannot demand from us what properly belongs to God alone: the loyalty of our souls.)

One step towards progress would be to humble ourselves and admit that Premier Romeo has been right to focus on the legal force of Article 73 and on the linked first call OT’s have on the UK aid/development budget.

Indeed, that “first call” is precisely why FCO and DfID support our recurrent budget year to year with a 60% grant, and are supporting the new Economic Growth Strategy and the work-in-progress “£30-plus million” five-year capital programme. It is also why sea port and airport developments are being funded and it is why DfID has been funding Geothermal exploration and development. It is why a new standby generator has just been put in place at the new ZJB building above the Carr’s Bay corner.[3] It is why STANTEC consultants have now arrived, to take charge of building the new port breakwater and quay. It is why as the new year dawned, those two trucks carried the new airport control tower “cab” from the sea port up to the airport – and yes, that is how it got stuck in the tunnel until somebody let air out of the tyres of the trailer.  (And, once we have a better control tower and lighting, night flights will be possible – a tourism opportunity. Also, that would allow medical evacuation flights on fixed-wing aircraft. [Attitude check: Why were we so caught up in how “it got stuck in the tunnel” and seemingly overlooked the tourism and improved health services opportunities?])

Article 73 is also why the subsea fibre optic cable is still on the table despite a bad press in the UK tabloids. It is why the new ZJB building and other government facilities have been funded – despite delays and serious project management problems for many years. It is why we are still working together towards a proper hospital and social housing, despite all the delays, confusions and finger-pointing debates. It is why roads, bridges and other civil works are steadily being funded.  And much more.

It is initiatives like these which will open up opportunities for economic growth and sustainable, inclusive livelihoods, high quality jobs and general prosperity.  So, it is time for a new conversation on how we can best move forward together under our national vision. The time for “crabs in a barrel” as usual is over. 


[1] See Q221 vs. Q237: http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/foreign-affairs-committee/the-future-of-the-uk-overseas-territories/oral/94446.html

[2] See Section 2:http://constitution.gov.ms/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/monstitution-order-oct-2010.pdf 

[3] See https://www.themontserratreporter.com/honourable-premier-donaldson-romeo-2019-new-year-statement/

The Montserrat Reporter needs support


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Sherry Johnson, Florida-based anti-child marriage campaigner who was forced to marry aged 11 in 1971.

‘It put an end to my childhood’: the hidden scandal of US child marriage

The Guardian

In half of US states, there is no legal minimum age for marriage; a 40-year-old man can, in theory, marry a five-year-old girl. But Florida may soon ban the practice for under-18s. We meet the former child brides campaigning for change

Sherry Johnson, Florida-based anti-child marriage campaigner who was forced to marry aged 11 in 1971.
Sherry Johnson, Florida-based anti-child marriage campaigner who was forced to marry aged 11 in 1971. Photograph: Katharina Bracher

Sherry Johnson was 11 when her mother told her she was going to get married. The bridegroom was nine years older and a deacon in the strict apostolic church that her family attended. He was also the man who had raped her and made her pregnant. “They forced me to marry him to cover up the scandal,” Johnson says. “Instead of putting the handcuffs on him and sending him to prison, they put the handcuffs on me and imprisoned me in a marriage.”

Johnson is now 58, but child marriage is not a thing of the past in the US: almost 250,000 children were married there between 2000 and 2010, some of them as young as 10. “Almost all were girls married to adult men,” says Fraidy Reiss, the director of campaigning organisation Unchained at Last.

In most US states, the minimum age for marriage is 18. However, in every state exceptions to this rule are possible, the most common being when parents approve and a judge gives their consent. In 25 states, there is no minimum marriage age when such an exception is made. But now Johnson’s home state, Florida, is poised to pass a law that sets the minimum marriage age at 18 with very few exceptions – thanks largely to her campaigning.

In 2013, Johnson was working at a barbecue stand in Tallahassee when she told her story to a senator who was one of her regular customers. “She listened to me and decided to do something,” Johnson recalls. “She presented a bill to restrict child marriage in 2014, but it failed. That was because nobody understood the problem at the time.

“People thought: this can’t happen in Florida. The minimum marriage age is 18; what’s the problem? But they didn’t know about the loopholes. Between 2001 and 2015, 16,000 children were married in Florida alone. A 40-year-old man can legally marry a five-year-old girl here.”

Sherry Johnson’s marriage certificate.
Pinterest
Sherry Johnson’s marriage certificate. Photograph: Katharina Bracher

Johnson, whose own child-marriage took place in 1971, didn’t give up. She contacted numerous Floridian politicians, told them her story and explained the problem. “It was part of my healing process to tell my story,” she says. Actually, she adds, “I don’t like to use the word story because it ain’t a story. It’s the truth – I lived it.”

Apart from Florida, there are five states in the process of passing laws to end child marriage. It has been a tough battle, says Reiss, whose organisation has been campaigning for laws to be changed all over the country for three years.

“When I began, I thought it would be easy. I thought we would just explain the problem and legislators would jump up and change the law immediately. After all, the US state department considers child marriage a human rights abuse. But everywhere there are politicians who think it’s a bad idea to change the law. You wouldn’t believe how many legislators have told me that if a girl gets pregnant, she’s got to get married. One female Democrat politician asked me: ‘Won’t you increase abortion rates if you end child marriage?’ That left me speechless.”

Last year, 17-year-old Girl Scout Cassandra Levesque campaigned to change the New Hampshire law that allows girls as young as 13 to get married if their parents approve. “My local representative introduced a bill that raised the minimum age to 18. But a couple of male representatives persuaded the others to kill the bill and to prevent it from being discussed again for some years,” she says. “One of them said that a 17-year-old Girl Scout couldn’t have a say in these matters.”

“So they think she’s old enough for marriage, but not old enough to talk about it, says Reiss. “I think that reasoning is terrifying.”

She goes on to outline the harmful effects of child marriage. “Girls who get married before 18 have a significantly higher risk of heart attacks, cancer, diabetes and strokes and a higher risk of psychiatric disorders. They are 50% more likely to drop out of high school and run a higher risk of living in poverty. They are also three times more likely to become victims of domestic violence. Really, child marriage helps no one. The only people who benefit are paedophiles.”

Reiss, who was born in an ultra-orthodox Jewish community, and was herself coerced into marrying when she was 19, says it is “extremely ironic” that laws make exceptions when parents consent to a child marriage or when an underage girl is pregnant. “Because, in many cases, the pregnancy is the result of sexual abuse and the parents are forcing the girl to marry to prevent a scandal. So the law doesn’t protect the child at all. When an adult man has sex with an underage girl, this is considered statutory rape in many states. But when the perpetrator marries his victim, he can legally go on abusing her.”

Fraidy Reiss, director of campaigning organisation Unchained At Last.
Pinterest
Fraidy Reiss, director of campaigning organisation Unchained At Last. Photograph: Susan Landmann

Many child brides come from religious backgrounds and less privileged groups – but not all. Donna Pollard, 34, grew up in a white, middle-class, non-religious family in a town called London in Kentucky, and yet she was married when she was 16. The man was nearly 15 years older. “I met him when I was 14 and going through a difficult time. My father had recently deceased,” she recounts. “He was my mental health counsellor and he acted like I could trust him. He convinced me that we were in love and he said: ‘If we get married when you turn 16, you will have all this freedom and your mum won’t be able to control you any more.’ So I thought I was taking charge of my life by agreeing to this.”

Her mother had no problems with her daughter getting married at 16 and readily gave her permission. “She was glad to get rid of me.”

Pollard remembers feeling very uncomfortable during the marriage ceremony. “The clerk didn’t even look up at me from her computer. She only asked: ‘Which one’s the minor?’ She didn’t assess if I was safe or needed something. He was 30 years old at the time, but nobody questioned the fact that he was so much older. That void of emotion hit me like a freight train. I knew something wasn’t right, but I didn’t feel empowered to speak up and say: ‘I don’t know that I really want to go through with this.’ Nor did I trust my own judgment. I was a troubled teenager.”

Once married, she left school and started working at a grocery store for a minimum wage, soon becoming the breadwinner because her husband stopped working. “He became physically abusive. He was controlling everything I did. In many ways, child marriage and human trafficking are interchangeable terms.”

Pollard left her husband when she was 19 after he tried to choke her in the presence of their baby daughter. “I realised she would grow up normalising violence if I didn’t leave. That’s what gave me the courage.” Looking back, she says that marrying young disrupted her personal development. “I was very good at school. I even received a substantial scholarship for writing achievement. I could have studied creative writing with a grant.”

Johnson says that “marriage put a definite end to my childhood. I was expelled from school and by the age of 17 I had six children. There was no way I could escape. You are not allowed to sign legal documents when you are under 18, so I couldn’t file for a divorce. For seven years, I was stuck with the man who damaged me and continued to do so.

“Child marriage delayed my life. I was never able to attain an education. I am still struggling, trying to survive. Working three jobs as a healthcare provider to make ends meet. And then there’s the pain, the trauma that you have to deal with.”

“We see the number of child marriages going down now, but it’s not going fast enough,” says Reiss. “It’s so difficult to help child brides escape. Our organisation risks being charged with kidnapping because they are under 18. This has already happened to us once. Also, there are very few shelters in the US that accept girls younger than 18. So when girls call us, we have to tell them the help we can provide is very limited. Most of the children who reach out to us for help have tried to kill themselves because they would rather be dead than forced into a marriage. That keeps me awake at night. Something has to change.”

On 31 January, Johnson sat in the public gallery while the Florida senate unanimously passed the bill that will end child marriage in the state (although the bill was subsequently amended to allow pregnant 16- and 17-year-old girls to marry). Several senators talked about her story and thanked her for pushing for the bill. Afterwards, she said that the senate vote helped to heal the pain. “I smile from within to know that children will not have to face what I have been through.”

For more information or counselling on any of the issues raised in this article go to unchainedatlast.org

Posted in Education, General, International, Local, News, Regional, Religion, Youth0 Comments

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