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Antigua Prime Minister Gaston Browne -740

Prime Minister Browne disappointed at outcome of referendum on CCJ

ST. JOHN’S, Antigua, Nov 7, CMC – Prime Minister Gaston Browne has expressed his “utmost disappointment” at the failure of  his administration to get voters to support the Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as Antigua and Barbuda’s final court.

In a referendum on Tuesday, the preliminary figures released by the Antigua and Barbuda Electoral Commission (ABEC) showed that of the 17,743 votes counted, the “No” vote secured 9, 234 as against 8,509 for the “Yes” vote.

Antigua and Barbuda P M Gaston Browne

Antigua and Barbuda’s final court is the London-based Privy Council and the island had hoped to join Barbados, Belize, Dominica and Guyana as the only Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries that have so far made the CCJ their final court.

The CCJ also operates as an international tribunal interpreting the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas that governs the 15-member regional integration movement.

“We knew that getting 67 per cent of the votes was an extremely daunting task, practically un-achievable without the support of the main opposition party,’ Prime Minister Browne said.

“The support of the opposition was very important to mitigate against the natural inclination of electors to vote no in a referendum and this is a point that I raised during the initial consultation (on the CCJ) ,” he added.

But the leader of the main opposition United Progressive Party (UPP), Harold Lovell said that the results of the referendum should be viewed as a personal assessment of Prime Minister Browne’ stewardship.

Harold Lovell

“This was really a referendum about the prime minister….In Antigua it was a referendum about Gaston Browne and he was not able to bring out not more than 8,000 people …even though they were talking about he is going to command his people to do this and do that”

Lovell said that of the 20,000 odd people who voted for the ruling Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP) in the last general election held earlier this year, “only 8,000 came out and yet he is now blaming the United Progressive Party.

“Our position was take the politics out, let us build a coalition of people and listen to people and go forward with that approach. Cursing people,…calling people  backward, stupid, dunce that type of thing, that’s not how you build a successful coalition,” Lovell said.

He said the UPP would continue to support constitutional reform “and we believe this is a time when we must listen to what people are saying”.

But Prime Minister Browne told reporters that the opposition had succeeding in undermining the desire to replace the Privy Council accusing them of spreading lies and instilling fear in the population.

Browne said the results showed that “no one” won in the end.

“The outcome even though disappointing was not surprising. I am satisfied that my government discharged its responsibility by making the option available to the people of Antigua and Barbuda to make justice available to all at the Apex level and to bring our final court to the Caribbean.

“My biggest disappointment is the impact of this failure on future constitutional reforms. It is unlikely that my government will, in the circumstances and in the absence of political maturity and magnanimity pursue any further constitutional reform in the near future,” Browne said.

ABEC said that 33.5 per cent of the electorate voted in the referendum and that the “No” vote had secured 52.04 per cent with the “Yes” vote gathering 47.96 per cent.

The chairman of the National Coordinating Committee on the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), Ambassador Dr. Clarence Henry, said while he is disappointed in the results “the people have spoken and we accept the verdict.

“The result is a result that demonstrates democracy. The people have spoken and certainly we will need to reflect on the loss. However, I am of the firm conviction that as we move towards consolidation of the regional integration movement, our people whether in St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Grenada or Antigua, the greater appreciation of the institutions that we have created will become even more appreciated, celebrated in order for us to find our place in the global community.”

Henry told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) that it is imperative for the region to “build our Caribbean institutions, no matter the struggles, no matter the challenges and no matter the defeats.

“Head of the Barbados-based Caribbean Development Research Services (CADRES), Peter Wickham, whose organisation had predicted that the “yes” vote would have received the necessary support to take the island into the CCJ, expressed disappointment at the outcome.

“I am not Antiguan but I am disappointed for Antigua and the rest of the Caribbean. I think this is an unfortunate result equally so because the same thing was replicated in Grenada (Tuesday) and I really do hope that in the future we can get back on track.

“But the most I can say is that I am disappointed. I think this is an opportunity for Antigua and Barbuda to have created history and to set a course of a circle of development and ultimately the population said no,” he added.

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Antiguans and Grenadians vote against replacing Privy Council

Antiguans and Grenadians vote against replacing Privy Council

Antigua and Barbuda vote in favour of staying with the Privy Council

ST. JOHN’S, Antigua, Nov 6, CMC – Antigua and Barbuda Tuesday voted in favour of retaining the London-based Privy Council as its final court, according to the preliminary figures released here.

The Antigua and Barbuda Electoral Commission (ABEC) said that of the 17,743 votes counted, the “No” vote secured 9, 234 as against 8,509 for the “Yes” vote.

Voters here had been casting ballots to decide whether to retain the Privy Council or instead move to the Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) that was established in 2001 to be the region’s final court.

Prime Minister Gaston Browne had hoped that Antigua and Barbuda would have joined Barbados, Belize, Dominica and Guyana as the only Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries to be full members of the CCJ that also serves as an international tribunal interpreting the Revised Treaty governing the 15-member CARICOM grouping.

“I have discharged my responsibility to make the option of transitioning from the Privy Council to the Caribbean Court of Justice available to the people of Antigua and Barbuda. I think it is a great opportunity for them.

“ I urge them to go out and vote “yes” …and in any event whatever the decision I will be guided accordingly, but as far as I am concerned I have delivered in the responsibility to make this very important option available to the people of Antigua and Barbuda,” Prime Minister Browne said, soon after casting his ballot on Tuesday.

But the main opposition United Progressive Party (UPP) has said it is not supportive of the move to replace the Privy Council and had urged supporters to vote their conscience.

ABEC said that 33.5 per cent of the electorate voted in the referendum and that the “No” vote had secured 52.04 per cent with the “Yes” vote gathering 47.96 per cent.

The chairman of the National Coordinating Committee on the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), Ambassador Dr. Clarence Henry, said while he is disappointed in the results “the people have spoken and we accept the verdict.

“The result is a result that demonstrates democracy. The people have spoken and certainly we will need to reflect on the loss. However, I am of the firm conviction that as we move towards consolidation of the regional integration movement, our people whether in St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Grenada or Antigua, the greater appreciation of the institutions that we have created will become even more appreciated, celebrated in order for us to find our place in the global community.”

Henry said it is imperative for the region to “build our Caribbean institutions, no matter the struggles, no matter the challenges and no matter the defeats.

“We must redouble our efforts at deeper and fuller education of our institutions and ;place them within the curriculum of our schools in the region,” he told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC).

Head of the Barbados-based Caribbean Development Research Services (CADRES), Peter Wickham, whose organisation had conducted an opinion poll and had predicted that the “yes” vote would have received the required support to take the island into the CCJ, expressed disappointment at the outcome.

“I am not Antiguan but I am disappointed for Antigua and the rest of the Caribbean. I think this is an unfortunate result equally so because the same thing was replicated in Grenada (today) and I really do hope that in the future we can get back on track.

“But the most I can say is that I am disappointed. I think this is an opportunity for Antigua and Barbuda to have created history and to set a course of a circle of development and ultimately the population said no,” he added.

Grenadians vote against replacing Privy Council

ST. GEORGE’S, Grenada, Nov 6, CMC – Grenadians voted for a second time within a two year period, to reject efforts to replace the London-based Privy Council as the island’s highest court.

In a national referendum on Tuesday, the preliminary figures released by the Parliamentary Elections Office (PEO) show that the “No’ vote secured 12,133  as compared to 9,846  for those supporting the efforts to replacing the Privy Council with the Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) that was established in 2001.

The CCJ also functions as an international tribunal interpreting the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas that governs the regional integration movement, CARICOM.

Grenadians voting in referendum (File Photo)

While most of the CARICOM countries are signatories to the Original Jurisdiction of the CCJ, only Barbados, Belize, Dominica and Guyana have signed on to the Appellate Jurisdiction.

The PEO said a total of 79,401 people were registered to vote in the referendum, where the voters were asked to either support or vote against the question “Do you approve the Bill for an Act proposing to alter the constitution of Grenada cited as Constitution of Grenada (Caribbean Court of Justice and renaming of Supreme Court) (Amendment) Bill 2018?”

The country needed a two-thirds majority of the total number of ballots cast for it to join the CCJ.

In 2016, Grenadians voted overwhelmingly to reject seven pieces of legislation, including that of the CCJ, which would have reformed the constitution the island received when it attained political independence from Britain 42 years ago.

They voted by a margin of 9,492 in favour with 12,434 against.

Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell, soon after casting his ballot told reporters that if the referendum fails, there will not be another attempt to replace the Privy Council with the CCJ under his leadership.

Mitchell had said he was “quietly confident” that the two-thirds majority would have been achieved in getting Grenada to join the CCJ.

“I really don’t have a problem with voices who say they want to say no but to concoct false stories to confuse people, for what I reason I don’t know,” he said, “this is not about party, this is about our children and grandchildren”.

The main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC), which initially had supported the move to replace the Privy Council, had urged the population to vote “no” on Tuesday with the party’s interim leader, Joseph Andall, saying that the new position was taken  because members were not satisfied with the process.

“For example, two of the persons who were involved in drafting the Bill are members of the Advisory Committee, therefore they have a vested interest in defending and protecting the bill, it means there is no objectivity when it comes to a discussion regarding discrepancies, flaws or omission,” he said.

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Recently in 2018 Midterms (USA

Recently – US 2018 Midterms

Recently in 2018 Midterms (USA)

SLATE

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The Washington Post

White House suspends press pass of CNN’s Jim Acosta after his testy exchange with Trump

In the next Congress, Republicans will no longer control both houses of Congress, setting up two years of partisanship on Capitol Hill.

White House suspends Jim Acosta’s press pass ‘until further notice’

The White House announced that it was suspending Jim Acosta’s press pass on Nov. 7, accusing the CNN journalist of “placing his hands on a young woman.”

November 7

The White House suspended the press credentials of CNN reporter Jim Acosta on Wednesday, hours after President Trump took issue with questions Acosta asked at a news conference.

The move to punish Acosta by removing his access to the White House is believed to be unprecedented. The Trump administration barred another CNN reporter from attending an open media event in July but until now has not gone as far as removing a credential, known as a “hard pass,” which enables a journalist to enter the White House grounds.

Press secretary Sarah Sanders cited Acosta’s brief physical confrontation with a White House press aide during Trump’s news conference as the reason for suspending his press pass “until further notice.”

During the 90-minute news conference, Trump snapped at Acosta after he asked whether the president had “demonized immigrants” by calling a caravan of Central American migrants “an invasion.” After a lengthy and tense back-and-forth, a female White House intern tried to take the microphone from Acosta.

Acosta held onto it and raised an arm to shield it, in the process making contact with the aide. “Pardon me, ma’am,” he told the woman.

After their exchange at the news conference, Trump told Acosta: “CNN should be ashamed of itself having you working for them. You are a rude, terrible person. You shouldn’t be working for CNN. You’re a very rude person. The way you treat Sarah Huckabee is horrible. And the way you treat other people are horrible. You shouldn’t treat people that way.”

On Wednesday night, Sanders accused Acosta of “placing his hands on a young woman” and said it was on those grounds that Acosta’s press pass was being suspended.

“President Trump believes in a free press and expects and welcomes tough questions of him and his Administration,” Sanders said in a statement. “We will, however, never tolerate a reporter placing his hands on a young woman just trying to do her job as a White House intern. This conduct is absolutely unacceptable. It is also completely disrespectful to the reporter’s colleagues not to allow them an opportunity to ask a question.”

Video of the exchange showed otherwise. On Twitter, Acosta responded to Sanders’s statement with, simply: “This is a lie.”

Appearing on CNN Wednesday evening, Acosta told host Anderson Cooper that he was “just trying to ask a question of the president.”

He added: “I didn’t put my hands on her or touch her, as the White House is alleging. I do think, Anderson, that this is a test for all of us. I think they’re trying to shut us down. I think they’re trying to send a message to my colleagues.”

Acosta said he learned that his access was denied from a text message he received on his phone. When he went to the White House for “one last live shot,” he said a security officer prevented him from passing through an entrance he has used for the past five years.

“I never thought that in this country I wouldn’t be able to cover the president of the United States just for asking a question,” he said.

In a statement Wednesday night, CNN accused the White House of retaliating against Acosta because of his questions.

“In an explanation, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders lied,” the network stated. “She provided fraudulent accusations and cited an incident that never happened. This unprecedented decision is a threat to our democracy and the country deserves better. Jim Acosta has our full support.”

The network also tweeted a video of the interaction “for the world to see.”

Acosta has been one of the most outspoken reporters covering the White House over the last two years, in which he has become a favorite target of insults lobbed by Trump’s supporters, particularly at the president’s raucous rallies.

“I think I’m just covering a story, honestly,” Acosta said in a 2017 interview with The Post about his reporting style. “When the president of the United States calls the press ‘fake news’ and ‘the enemy of the American people,’ ” he added, “I think that’s when you have to get tough and ask the hard questions.”

After news of Acosta’s press pass suspension broke, numerous journalists came to his defense. Jeff Mason, the former president of the White House Correspondents’ Association, said he was seated next to Acosta at the news conference and that Sanders’s characterization of what happened was false.

“[I] did not witness him ‘placing his hands’ on the young intern, as the White House alleges,” Mason tweeted. “He held on to the microphone as she reached for it.”

The White House Correspondents’ Association called the White House’s reaction “out of line to the purported offense” and urged that Acosta’s press pass be restored.

Despite video, right-wing personalities continued to spread online the false allegation that Acosta had been seen “pushing and shoving a female White House aide.”

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Montserrat participating in FCCA conference after a decade.

Montserrat participating in FCCA conference after a decade.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico, Nov 5, CMC – The Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA) Conference opened here on Monday with Montserrat participating in the five-day event after a 10 year absence.

A statement from the Montserrat government said that its participation in the event is a collaborative effort as part of the twinning initiative between itself and the Antigua and Barbuda government.

Premier Donaldson Romeo

The FCCA conference brings together over 100 cruise executives and 1,000 industry stakeholders. It is aimed at fostering a better understanding of the inner workings of the cruise industry, while at the same time, providing an opportunity for attendees to improve their cruise tourism business.

A number of Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders including St. Lucia’s Prime Minister Allen Chastanet and his Barbados counterpart, Mia Mottley are attending the event that ends on Friday.

The Montserrat delegation is being led by Premier Donaldson Romeo and the government statement said that the purpose of island’s attendance is to encourage cruise lines to make Montserrat a port of call in their 2021 cruise schedule.

“The Tourism Division anticipates that this will spin off towards increased ferry day-trip numbers, as some of the large cruise lines that dock in Antigua, depart as late as 8:00 p.m.(local time)  which is ideal for Montserrat to target.

It said that Premier Romeo will also engage in one-to-one meetings with key cruise line officials, during which the proposed port development on the volcano ravaged British Overseas Territory will be a major focus, as well as promoting Montserrat’s unique shore excursions.

The statement said that the Tourism Division will be sharing a booth with the Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority and that the “contingent will have the opportunity to interface with many cruise executives, suppliers and tour operators”.

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The Washington Post

U.S. militia groups head to border, stirred by Trump’s call to arms


Michael Vickers, a veterinarian and rancher in Falfurrias, Texas, says he won’t let outside militia onto his property and he doesn’t think such groups will be trusted by most area landowners. (Dominic Bracco II/Prime/FTWP)

November 3

Gun-carrying civilian groups and border vigilantes have heard a call to arms in President Trump’s warnings about threats to American security posed by caravans of Central American migrants moving through Mexico. They’re packing coolers and tents, oiling rifles and tuning up aerial drones, with plans to form caravans of their own and trail American troops to the border.

“We’ll observe and report, and offer aid in any way we can,” said Shannon McGauley, a bail bondsman in the Dallas suburbs who is president of the Texas Minutemen. McGauley said he was preparing to head for the Rio Grande in coming days.

“We’ve proved ourselves before, and we’ll prove ourselves again,” he said.

McGauley and others have been roused by the president’s call to restore order and defend the country against what Trump has called “an invasion,” as thousands of Central American migrants advance slowly through southern Mexico toward the U.S. border. Trump has insisted that “unknown Middle Easterners,” “very tough fighters,” and large numbers of violent criminals are traveling among the women, children and families heading north on foot.

[Migrant caravan: What Trump’s threats sound like to the Central Americans trudging north]

The Texas Minutemen, according to McGauley, have 100 volunteers en route to the Rio Grande who want to help stop the migrants, with more likely on the way.

“I can’t put a number on it,” McGauley said. “My phone’s been ringing nonstop for the last seven days. You got other militias, and husbands and wives, people coming from Oregon, Indiana. We’ve even got two from Canada.”

Asked whether his group planned to deploy with weapons, McGauley laughed. “This is Texas, man,” he said.

And yet, the prospect of armed vigilantes showing up beside thousands of U.S. troops — along with Border Patrol agents, police officers and migrants — is considered serious enough that military planners have issued warnings to Army commanders.

According to military planning documents obtained by Newsweek, the military is concerned about the arrival of “unregulated militia members self-deploying to the border in alleged support” of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

President Trump’s misleading claims about the caravan of migrants headed toward the U.S. is a mirror image of his 2016 campaign tactics.

The assessment estimates that 200 militia members could show up. “They operate under the guise of citizen patrols,” the report said, while warning of “incidents of unregulated militias stealing National Guard equipment during deployments.”

The military report provided no further details about the alleged thefts.

Manuel Padilla Jr., the top Border Patrol official in the agency’s Rio Grande Valley sector, the nation’s busiest for illegal crossings, said he has not issued any instructions to agents in the field or to landowners whose properties are adjacent to the river. But he plans to meet with community members in the coming week, he said, to address their concerns.

“We don’t have any specific information about the militias,” said Padilla, reached by phone along the border. “We have seen them in the past, and when things start getting really busy, we have to make sure to let the community know they’re out there.”

“But they’re doing that on their own,” Padilla said.

McGauley said that in addition to weapons and camping gear, his group will have night-vision goggles and aerial drones with thermal sensing equipment, capable of operating in darkness. He emphasized that the group would report any suspicious activity to authorities and would heed any instructions from Border Patrol agents or military personnel.

Several landowners in the area said they do not want the militias around.

Michael Vickers, a veterinarian and rancher who lives an hour north of the border in Falfurrias, said that he will not let militia members from outside the area onto his property and that he doubts most area landowners would trust outsiders.

“They are a bunch of guys with a big mouth and no substance to them,” said Vickers, a Republican who heads the 300-strong Texas Border Volunteers. The group doesn’t call itself a militia, although it patrols ranchland to intercept migrants who hike through the brush to attempt to avoid Border Patrol checkpoints. The group uses ATVs, night-vision goggles, spotlights and trained dogs.

“People on the [Rio Grande] have been calling us,” Vickers said. His group is in a “holding pattern,” he said, adding, “We can have 100 volunteers in a hot area in four to eight hours.

“We’ve already talked to a bunch of landowners who wanted to know if we’ll be operating if the Border Patrol can’t be there to keep their property from being vandalized and their crops from being messed up.”

“We’re ready to move,” he said.

Others in South Texas are less enthusiastic.

Lucy Kruse, 96, said immigrants often stop on her property as they walk through the bush country, sometimes breaking into a small cabin to sleep. Her family’s ranch lies amid the thorny mesquite brush, cactus and tawny dry grass 80 miles north of the border.

As the migrant caravans head north, she and other landowners in the area worry that the number of trespassers walking through their ranches will increase dramatically. But many say the militias coming to the area also pose a threat.

“I will not let militia on my land,” Kruse said. “They’re civilians stepping into a situation where the Border Patrol is supposed to be in control and make decisions. They could damage property or harm workers. I would guess they would be trigger-happy. If they shot someone, they might just say the person they shot was reaching for a gun.”

Joe Metz, 80, lives in what looks like a pastoral tropical paradise near Mission, a town of 84,000 in the Rio Grande Valley. Tall, green sugar cane grows beside the wide river, and citrus trees dot the sandy small hillocks away from the banks.

The Rio Grande is less than a mile from Metz’s living room window, and a section of border wall crosses his property. He has watched for years as border-crossers ford the river and walk onto his land, their first step on American soil. The wall has slowed the flow significantly, he said, but between 50 and 100 people a day still cross through the farm next door.

He worries that the caravan, which includes many women and children, will surge through the area, but he doesn’t want armed vigilantes on his farm.

“The militia just needs to stay where they are,” said Metz, a Republican. “We don’t need fanatical people. We don’t need anybody here with guns. Why do they have guns? I have dealt with illegals for 30 years, and all of them have been scared, asking for help. The militias need to stay up north where they belong. We have no use for them here. They might shoot someone or hurt someone.”

But the heir to the state’s largest and most influential ranch disagrees. Stephen J. “Tio” Kleberg, who has lived most of his life on the 825,000-acre King Ranch outside of Kingsville, said that he will allow militia groups on his ranch, which is larger than the state of Rhode Island.

“I think if the [caravan members] get across the river, they need to be caught and sent back,” said Kleberg, who wears a bushy handlebar mustache and chews an unlit cigar.

“Once they get on U.S. soil, they need to be stopped and detained. We don’t have enough Border Patrol, ICE and Highway Patrol to handle them. If we get 2,000 or 3,000 people, we will need the militia,” Kleberg said.

Miroff reported from Washington.

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Regional hoteliers says region losing billions of dollars annually

Regional hoteliers says region losing billions of dollars annually

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Oct31, CMC -The Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) says empty hotel rooms are costing the Caribbean billions of dollars in economic opportunity each year.

CHTA Director General, Frank Comito, said with an estimated 84,000 hotel rooms vacant each night, filling just 10 per cent of them would inject nearly two billion US dollars into the region annually.

CHTA Director General, Frank Comito

“We have the room capacity across most of our destinations to further increase the economic impact of tourism. Focused efforts by the public and private sectors to fill the large amount of unused room inventory will yield considerable results,” said Comito, who is also the CHTA chief executive officer.

The CHTA will host Caribbean Travel Marketplace, the Caribbean’s largest tourism marketing event, in Montego Bay, Jamaica from January 29-31 next year and Comito spoke of the importance of attending the event.

Comito said that research has shown that an additional 10 per cent in visitor expenditures would generate US$628 million more in room revenue each year, plus two-thirds of added spend per visitor on food and beverage, attractions, taxis and ground transportation, retail purchases and local services.

“Filling hotel rooms generates the highest spinoff impact on tax revenues, employment and economic activity compared with all other important categories of visitors, including cruise passengers, renters and yachters,” said Comito.

“If you’re looking for business opportunity to expand and grow in the region you should be attending Caribbean Travel Marketplace,” he said, adding that online registration for the CHTA’s annual signature event is already open and participants can take advantage of the special rates which are available until November 6 this year.

Comito said that CHTA and its regional partner, the Barbados-based Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO)  recently launched “The Rhythm Never Stops”, a marketing campaign which illuminates the Caribbean’s diverse cultures, vibrancies, unmatched natural beauty, and countless attractions and activities all complemented by the incredible hospitality of its people.

““As more people discover all that the Caribbean offers, we’re confident that the region’s popularity will continue to grow.”

CHTA said that Caribbean Travel Marketplace 2019, which is being produced in collaboration with co-hosts Jamaica Hotel & Tourist Association, the Jamaica Tourist Board and the Jamaica Ministry of Tourism, is expected to attract an estimated 1,000 delegates from 26 Caribbean countries, who will meet with buyers from over 20 markets.

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CCJ President - Justice Saunders

CCJ President disappointed in his fellow Vincentians

TORONTO, Oct 31, CMC – The President of the Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), Adrian Saunders, said he had hoped that his elevation to that post would have united people in his homeland, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, in having the institution as the country’s final court.

Addressing a ceremony here to mark the 39th anniversary of political independence for St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Justice Saunders said that it is often an embarrassing situation for him to be explaining to his colleagues from around the world, the position of some CARICOM countries’ to the court that was established in 2001 to replace to the London-based Privy Council.

Justice Adrian Saunders

“I had hoped that with my elevation to the presidency of the CCJ, I would be able to get all parties in St. Vincent and the Grenadines to put aside their political differences and to embrace the court in its appellate jurisdiction,” Justice Saunders told the ceremony over the last weekend.

Speaking at the event organised by the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Organisation of Toronto on the theme “Remembering Our Past – Focussing On Our Future”, the prominent regional jurist said, “if  we are to advance as a people, politics and political tussles are important for a healthy democracy. “But there are eternal core human values that are overarching. Truth, compassion, cooperation, caring, courtesy, empathy, hard honest labour … These are values Opposition and Government alike and indeed, all the people, must promote,” he said.

The Ralph Gonsalves-led Unity Labour Party (ULP) is in support of the CCJ and in July said that the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court had indicated that two-thirds majority support of lawmakers, rather than a referendum is needed to replace the Privy Council.

Gonsalves said he is willing to bring such a law to Parliament but would only do so if he has opposition support.

However, the main opposition New Democratic Party (NDP), led by Dr. Godwin Friday has made it clear that it would not support a move to the CCJ.

In comments earlier this year, Friday, an attorney, said that the electorate had rejected such a move when given a choice in a referendum in 2009, adding that Parliament should respect voters’ choices.

He, however, said that if another referendum is held on the issue, his party would rally its supporters in an attempt to vote it down.

In his address, Justice Saunders said that there is another value that is paramount and is vital for the citizens of the Caribbean “with our fractured experiences of slavery and colonialism.

“That other value is self-belief. A clear sense of ourselves. An understanding of our worth as human beings; an appreciation that we are not inferior to anyone and that we have the capacity to forge our own destiny,” he said.

Justice Saunders said his heart soars when he hears of Vincentians who excel regionally or internationally.

“Because that becomes for me a re-affirmation of our worth, our capacity,” he said, adding that no one shrieked for joy louder than he did when West Indies cricketer Obed McKoy, a Vincentian, bowled Indian cricketer MS Dhoni last week.

“It is, therefore, for me, a source of profound disappointment, that so many people in the region, including Vincentians who I assumed would know better, contrive to find excuse upon excuse to justify the anomaly that, after 40 years of political independence, we are content to have our laws ultimately interpreted and applied by a British institution, staffed with British judges all of whom reside in Britain.

“History will not be kind to those who argue that such a situation should continue,” said Justice Saunders, the third Caribbean national to head the Trinidad-based CCJ.

He said this is no different than a man today wanting St. Vincent and the Grenadines to return to Associated Statehood status, or wanting to write O Level exams from Britain’s Cambridge University instead of the Caribbean Examination Council (CXC).

“For me, it is like choosing Major Leith over Chatoyer,” he said, contrasting the Scottish soldier who served in the British Army, to St. Vincent and the Grenadines sole National Hero, who led a years-long guerrilla war in the 18th Century against European attempt to colonise SVG.

Justice Saunders noted that over 15 years ago, CARICOM established its own final court — the CCJ — and spent US$100 million to guarantee the court’s sustainability.

“… the Court has successfully been operating for well over 10 years serving the needs of Barbados, Guyana, Belize and lately, Dominica; and some people still wish to cling to the Privy Council?” he said, mentioning the CARICOM nations that have replaced the Privy Council with the CCJ as their final appellate court.

“If Chatoyer, who put his life on the line, were alive today just imagine, what would he think of this?.

The CCJ President said when he tries to explain to his colleagues from Asia, Africa and Latin America — as he is “sometimes obliged to do at judicial colloquia” — the “anomaly” of CARICOM nations not having replaced the Privy Council with the CCJ, “it ceases to be an anomaly.

“In the face of the disbelief expressed by my colleagues, it becomes an embarrassment because it is linked directly to our perception of ourselves and the level of confidence we have in our capacity to take full responsibility for our own governance.”

Justice Saunders said he addressed a graduating class at the Cave Hill campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI) earlier this month and he remained confident “that the ill-informed would become better informed.

“That the sceptical would become convinced. I look to the future and I remain confident that, as is the case with, for example, The Caribbean Development Bank, the Caribbean Examinations Council, and The University of the West Indies (to name just a few), the time will come when the CCJ also will be recognised as another of those Caribbean institutions whose vital contribution to the region can almost be taken for granted.

“As we focus on the future, it is essential that we appreciate that we can and must rely on ourselves to forge our own destiny. We can and must build a stronger St Vincent and the Grenadines and an equally strong Caribbean Community,” he said.

Two CARICOM nations, Grenada and Antigua and Barbuda, will hold referenda on November 6 to decide whether to replace the Privy Council with the CCJ as their highest court.

Posted in Business/Economy/Banking, CARICOM, Court, International, Legal, Local, News, OECS, Regional0 Comments

Finance Minister stands by earlier statements on “drug fuelled” economy

Finance Minister stands by earlier statements on “drug fuelled” economy

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Oct 31, CMC – Finance Minister Winston Jordan Wednesday maintained that the Guyana economy was partly fuelled by drugs under the previous administration and brushed aside a request by a leading private sector group to provide evidence of the allegation.

Jordan, speaking at a news conference here, made reference to the request from the Private Sector Commission (PSC) for him to provide it with the evidence indicating that the local economy was partly fuelled by drugs money under the last government.

Finance Minister Winston Jordan speaking to reporters

He told reporters that there were two studies presented by Economics Professor Clive Thomas which pointed to the impact of drug money on the Guyanese economy pre-2015.

“I will tell you this much, where the economy is today is proof positive that the economy was being run by drugs, by significant input from drugs”, Jordan said, adding that when he made his statement in a letter to a local newspaper recently, he did not refer to any private sector body.

“Now if as Bob says who the cap fit, then that’s fine,” he said, adding that his statement was specific to some in the private sector who benefited from nefarious activities.

“I was amazed to be quite honest when I got a letter from that gentleman asking me to provide proof to the private sector. I was amazed”.

Jordan said that he is busy preparing the national budget and other activities of his Ministry and therefore does not have the time to waste on the request from the PSC.

Jordan told reporters that with at least US$300 million being projected for the government’s coffers from ExxonMobil’s LIZA One well during the first year, there will many expected improvements.

“There will be improvements in the cultural, social and economic areas,” he said, referring to the expected revenues from initial oil production in 2020.

But he cautioned that funds will be spent carefully and in accordance with proposed legislation intended to govern the use of the Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF).

This legislation is being finalized by the Ministry of Legal Affairs, with assistance from stakeholders from Commonwealth, Caribbean Development Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank.

Jordon told reporters that the expected funds will be kept in the SWF, then transferred to the Consolidated Fund, before it can be utilized.

He said one area being considered for improvements is the pensions of former managers and other government officials who, as a result of currency devaluations and other factors, receive a basic minimum pension.

Guyana is projecting commercial production of its oil sector by 2020 and according to the government, other areas of priority include infrastructural development, and agriculture, housing and manufacturing sectors.

Posted in Business/Economy/Banking, Energy, International, Local, News, Politics, Regional0 Comments

Skerrit-and-Dominicans

PM vows to defend the rights of Dominicans overseas to vote in general elections

ROSEAU, Dominica, Nov 1, CMC – Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit Thursday said he would defend the rights of Dominicans residing overseas to vote in general elections in the country.

“As long as I am prime minister of this country and from what some people are telling me, it will be for a very long time to come, we shall defend your right under the constitution of Dominica, to vote in Dominica’s election,” Prime Minister Skerrit visiting Dominicans who have arrived here to celebrate the island’s 40th anniversary political independence from Britain on Saturday.

Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit (second from
left)
and members of his Cabinet at the meeting

with overseas Dominicans

The main opposition United Workers Party (UWP) has in the past been very critical of the decision to allow Dominicans residing abroad to come here days before the polls to cast ballots and has accused the Dominica Labour Party (DLP) of being the main actor behind the move.

But Skerrit told the overseas nationals “we will defend your right because it is a right and there is no institution in this country that has any legal or constitutional authority to remove your name on the voters list unless you are a dead person in Dominica because voting is too much of an important, fundamental right.

“People die to vote, people shed blood to vote and we want to go back to the days when only land own

“We making progress and we have to be progressive in our thinking and we cannot go back to old days. Those who want to go back to the old days, will stay where they are and we’ll continue to move forward,” Skerrit said.

While the two political parties generally agree that there is a need for electoral reform in Dominica, they disagree on major points on how to implement such reforms.

Political observers note that the proposed amendments by the DLP government, for confirmation or registration of Dominicans living overseas, in the Registration of Electors Act have become a sticking point

The amendments of the Act reads, “In order to facilitate confirmation in accordance with this part of persons residing overseas, the office of any mission or embassy of the State or any other place approved by the Commission may be designated as a registration office and the registering, enrolment officer and assistant registering officer shall be appointed under the direction of the Chief Registering Officer for that purpose.”

But the UWP has said it is “uncompromisingly opposed” to the proposed amendments which will allow specially designated voter registration offices overseas.

“The United Workers Party is uncompromisingly opposed to the proposed Amendments to the Registration of Elector’s Act seeking to authorize confirmation of persons on the list of eligible voters at specially designated registration offices overseas,” UWP leader Lennox Linton told a news conference in September.

“The explanation we have heard from a government that such action is necessary to protect the right to vote and thereby prevent this infringement of voters living overseas is seriously flawed and absolutely without merit.”

Posted in Business/Economy/Banking, International, Local, News, Politics, Regional0 Comments

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