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Gegory Willock

It was certainly messy

Hon Speaker, Shirley Osborne, with clerk in Legislative Assembly session
Seating in opposition Hons. Easton Farrell, Dr. Sammy Joseph, Dr. Ingrid Buffonge and Gregory Willock

Aware that TMR (The Montserrat Reporter) had not given full coverage under the headlined “…Assembly mess,” in the March 29, 2019 issue, we had prepared coverage for publication under caption “It was certainly messy” following full investigation. Time went by, but as of last weekend the time came for an answer following postponement of earlier sittings, when the matter(s) was dealt with in the Assembly held on April 25, 2019.

The result – apologies, and suspensions from sittings.

In last week’s TMR issue we headlined the week’s share of mess both in the UK and in Montserrat, both in different proportions. Montserrat being much less, affecting only the territory but coming nevertheless from the highest level possible in parliament, the Legislative Assembly (LegAss).

We addressed the matter briefly in the Editorial where we suggested from the brief information available last Friday immediately following the poor conduct of the Legislative member Dr. Ingrid Buffonge, in her fifth year after being elected in the last 2014 General Elections, supported by the Hon Gregory Willock, a fact he constantly seeks to deny.

Dr. Buffonge has reportedly said that her remarks were not directed to the Speaker, and was unaware that her microphone was still turned on. But irrespective Hon Speaker Shirley Osborne has explained that she, “… used language that is just absolutely not acceptable here. And upon being asked to apologize to the house choose instead to leave.”

With Dr. Buffonge’s supporter of her failed motion against the PDM government last year, Hon Willock was seemingly in support and joined Dr. Buffonge who rather than, or refusing to apologise as Speaker Osborne said she was asked to do, walked out.

Earlier in the sitting the Speaker had admonished members from both sides that they should be mindful of how they interrupt a speaker., This is usually done by a member drawing attention by saying, “On a point of order…”

This time the speaker had interrupted Dr. Buffonge who was speaking to a Supplementary bill to approve additional funds for health care, for relevance. She was stating her repeated continue d dissatisfaction with the way the Ministry of Health had been functioning. But the Honourable Speaker told Buffonge, “I find what you are saying very interesting, however, I’m having great difficulty making the connection, the relevance of what you are saying to the bill on hand. —would you in maybe twenty words or so explain the connection before you go on?” she asked of the member.

Dr. Buffonge responded by saying, “Madam Speaker, I’m really struggling to have a voice in parliament with you being super controlling. I find that nobody else gets the treatment that I get.”

At some point soon after Dr. Buffonge among other words uttered the offending words, and after being asked to apologise, reportedly said goodbye to the House and walked out. She was followed by Willock leaving the Hon opposition leader with Hon. Dr Sammy Joseph.

A stunned public wait for the next move on the issue. Meanwhile the Hon Speaker is reported to have said, ‘The standing orders allows the House to name and suspend members. What I will recommend to the house, and what the House will take on in response to the behaviours of those two persons this afternoon, is something we will discuss and respond to and address appropriately at the next sitting.”

And so, here we were on Thursday, April 25, 2019, as the questions asked prior, e.g. “Could parliamentary member be facing possible suspension during the next sitting of the Legislative Assembly?”

The Hon Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, Shirley Osborne having convened the sitting on the 25th, to address parliamentary issues, as she opened: “Unfortunately for us, the very first order of business this morning, is that we are required to respond to and resolve a matter brought forward from the last sitting of the house, which took place on Friday March 29th.”

It ought to have been surprising, even if not shocking, especially to those who were still willing to downplay the events, claiming worst happen in other parliaments when the speaker continued after addressing the Hon members’ “the very first sitting of what would grow to be called the Montserrat Legislative Assembly was held in 1937, and in its 82 years of existence the house, as far as we can tell from researching into the written records and consulting with current and former parliamentarians, nothing has ever occurred in this august and venerable house that even remotely compares to what unfolded in this place on March 29, 2019.”

The Speaker continued her introduction of the matter on hand:

“Not surprisingly, this Honourable House – and this Chair – were quite unprepared to respond immediately, knowledge of Standing Orders being not quite the same as familiarity with the remedies it provides for dealing with matters so entirely unfamiliar to this Chair and this House.

The entire House recoiled in disbelief and reacted with shock at the untoward and alien occurrence and the house was suspended briefly, in accordance with Standing Order Number 3 (2) which reads, simply: “(2) The Speaker may at any time suspend a meeting.” So that I might confer with the Clerk and Standing Orders for the appropriate response.

“In the interests of clarity, therefore, and so as to ensure that all who have an interest in the workings of the Montserrat Legislative Assembly are provided with the facts, on record, in replacement of misconceptions resulting from ignorance of the rules of the House of Assembly and in response to the opportunistic misrepresentations of the facts, I shall briefly recap.”

She went on to do that in terms some of which appear here in this issue and before. She mentioned however, circumstances and events that took place prior to the March 29 meeting where she said: “…I made a plea to the members to not repeat the unfortunate and unbecoming behaviours of the previous sitting.” She said she made these comments after asking the radio not to broadcast what she was about to say to the members. The essence of this is that what happened that day was a situation which just got far worse than imaginable.

After the brief suspension on March 29, the Speaker reported: “I advised the House that I would confer further with the Clerk of the Assembly, seek wider advice and report back at the next sitting with appropriate rulings and directions for the House,” adding, “As is proper and indeed best practice, Madam Clerk and I, both, have also, separately, sought advice from our colleague clerks and speakers in other jurisdictions.”

Thus she began: “I have done so. My considered ruling, therefore, is this.” Only that before the ruling, she went on with much more explanation of the honour and culture surrounding the rules, existence, control and conduct of the house, much of which most if not all members would have been exposed to before, formally or otherwise, excerpted thus.

“The Montserrat Legislative Assembly is governed by generally accepted rules – Standing Orders, custom, codes of conduct and the authority of the Speaker – …the House is the proverbial “nation unto itself”, within which the members enjoy Privilege with a capital P, or a set of privileges available to no others else in our society. For this reason, also, is it incumbent upon them to never violate this high honour.

“These orders, rules, customs and codes, in conjunction with The Montserrat Constitution Order 2010, oblige members to always – and assiduously – uphold the honour and dignity of the House, to be ever careful to never engage in conduct that might be damaging to the reputation and integrity of the House as a whole or of its members generally, in whichever situation they might find themselves…”

 “Under Standards in public life, the Constitution reads,

106.— (2) In the exercise of their functions Ministers, members of the Legislative Assembly and public officers shall uphold and conform to the highest standards in public life

These orders, rules, customs and codes of conduct exist –

“to assist all Members in the discharge of their obligations to the House, their constituents and the public at large by –

  1. establishing the standards and principles of conduct expected of all Members in undertaking their duties;
  2. setting the rules of conduct which underpin these standards and principles and to which all Members must adhere, and in so doing
  3. ensuring public confidence in the standards expected of all Members and in the commitment of the House to upholding these rules.

After all that and much more, questioning on the way:

“With what authority, for example, would a teacher at MSS be able to reprimand a child for disrupting the class, or for cursing and swearing in the classroom, if Members of Parliament are seen to be allowed to do this in the House, with impunity?

Would we consider it acceptable for congregants to speak “badwords” in our churches?”

Then – “My office as Speaker allows me the authority to advise members and, at this moment, I advise the House that there is campaigning and politics and there is administering and governing.

“I further advise members that, in this House, the guide ought best be, above all other considerations, effective administration and good governance for the benefit and advancement of the entire populace.”

And eventually laying out the ‘charges’ having named before those who have caused them to be brought. “Honourable Members, the matters under consideration are, in general, a violation of the Standing Orders of the Assembly, and specifically:

“disruption of house proceedings;
disregard for the authority of the Chair;
violation of the dignity and honour of the House;
unparliamentary language;
leaving the House without the permission of the Speaker;
and grave misconduct in the House, including abuse of the parliamentary privilege regarding speech.”

Accordingly with the authority of the Speaker. “All of these being behaviours prohibited by the ,

She also cited the Standing Orders from which the charges derived Standing Order Nos. 39, 40, 4, 49, 78 (1), 49 Section 2.

It is my recommendation, therefore, that the violations of the Parliament by these two members be responded to in this manner:

“that Mr. Willock renders an apology to the House, withdraw from this present sitting and be suspended for one sitting hereafter.

“That Dr. Buffonge renders an apology to the House, which must be in writing and with notice, withdraw from this present sitting and be suspended for two sittings hereafter.

The question to be put is, therefore, Honourable Members, whether the House accepts these recommendations.”

It may be surprising to note that the opposition with one member absent voted against the motion, with the two ‘charged’ not being able to vote, the motion carried with the government side voting in favour with one abstention.

Reports, unconfirmed and being checked speak to continuing awkwardness and misbehavior, which may cause further citations. The matter may not be over. The budget presentation is carded for the next sitting of the house likely to be May 155. The two members will be absent.

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Annie Dyer-Howe

Another icon passes

Rt. Hon. Margaret Annie Dyer-Howe OE, MBA

One of the tributes, coming from the Ministry of Education, Youth Affairs and Sports, following the announcement of the death of Mrs. Margaret Annie Dyer-Howe (Rt. Hon. OE MBA) on the night of April 6, 2019 captured near accurately the woman who had just passed.

She hailed from the village of St. Patrick’s in the south of Montserrat, now devasted and completely overrun by Soufriere Hills volcano, last of Olveston.

Born on November 18, 1940 to be recognised on the way as one of Montserrat’s Icons.

She was assigned a ministerial post with responsibility for education, health, community services, women’s affairs, culture and sports, in 1983, then being reelected after 1979. She later held the post of Minister of Agriculture, Housing, Land etc.

She held many roles in her lifetime, and briefly to name a few, school teacher, entrepreneur, manufacturer, Justice of the Peace, and General Manager at the Montserrat Water Authority, a position she held for many years beginning some time after she lost a legislative seat in the southern district to Bertrand B. Osborne who predeceased her just last year.

Her first ministerial post was that in the Ministry of Education, Health, Community Affairs etc. and it is from then she was mostly remembered and no doubt prompted the Ministry to scribe at her death: “No one can reasonably deny the iconic and heroic stature of this Montserratian who has achieved so much. She was not just a great Montserratian woman and indeed a great Caribbean, woman, but a great champion of the human cause.

As can be expected, and not surprisingly there have been many tributes, some of which we will post on the website online and in the print copy of the newspaper.

Not surprisingly ‘Annie’ as folks my age and know her as well, from St. Patrick’s would remember her, will be afforded a State’s funeral. She will, following her funeral service of remembrance and thanksgiving, at the Roman Catholic Church in Lookout on Friday, May 10, be laid to rest then at the burial site.

Condolences go out to her entire family and the whole of Montserrat who she served. May she rest in peace.

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bitt

Montserrat makes first moves to Digital Payments

Last year, the Government of Montserrat (GOM) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Bitt, a Barbados based fintech company, to create a digital payments ecosystem in Montserrat. The goal is to achieve financial inclusion and reduce cash usage. Both objectives are parts of the overall development strategy of Montserrat and the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB).

Following the historic signing of a partnership between the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) and the Barbados-based fintech firm BITT in February 2019 to launch the digital dollar, the Government of Montserrat (GOM) announced recently a pilot project to test the use of the DXCD on island.

Bitt has been working with the Government of Montserrat and other domestic stakeholders, such as the private sector, commercial banks, and the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB), to create a digital payments ecosystem in Montserrat.

GoM is inviting the public to participate in a progressive initiative aimed at boosting financial inclusion and improving the ease of doing business in Montserrat and across the Eastern Caribbean. This initiative is both historic and essential to the future socio-economic well-being of the people of Montserrat.

As Premier Romeo announced, upon signing the MOU, “The people of Montserrat will benefit from increased financial inclusion, and a significant reduction in their need for cash to make payments for goods and services, or as a means of saving. Anyone with a smartphone, tablet or computer, will now be able to conduct these domestic transactions securely, efficiently, and, digitally.”

While highlighting the importance of creating a digital payments ecosystem in Montserrat, Premier Romeo added that, “The use of cash, as we all know, has risks and costs associated with it. It costs money to print money, and saving cash ‘under the mattress’ and walking around with cash can be risky.” He further stated that “the need for cash for everyday transactions like purchases, or sending money locally to your loved ones, would be eliminated, as you would be able to use Bitt’s mMoney mobile wallet for free peer-to-peer transfers of money using your smartphone, tablet or computer.”

The digital payments ecosystem, once implemented, will include a number of free services. Consumers need only to download Bitt’s free mMoney mobile wallet app from Google Playstore and Apple Appstore to access the free services including: sending money to loved ones locally or within the ECCU, paying for goods and services, and adding funds to their wallet, and cashing-out of the wallet at participating merchant/tellers. 

The Government of Montserrat is inviting members of the public service to volunteer to participate in this important pilot rollout of Bitt’s money solution.

For further information click the link https://www.bitt.com/assets/Montserrat_Bitt_Communiqué.pdf:

Related: https://www.themontserratreporter.com/are-digital-wallets-coming-to-montserrat/

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Figure 2: Crick’s March 19, 1953 letter, p. 5 with a highlight (Fair use)

The Credibility of God

by

A Special: Part 7

Is the gospel a credible basis for a just civilisation?

When Cayman Chief Justice Anthony Smellie recently ruled[1] to impose same-sex marriage under colour of law in Cayman, some of his underlying points suggested that tradition, religion and linked religious ethics lack basic intellectual credibility and are particularly prone to inequities. Also, in recent years, there has been a flood of articles and voices across the Caribbean that have tried to discredit and dismiss the gospel, the Scriptures that teach it and the churches that bear witness to it. Last September, in answer to one such article,  the below was submitted under the right of reply, but was unfortunately rejected by a leading regional newspaper. Given what is now so clearly at stake and given the foundational importance of the gospel message and gospel ethics, we present the below as a needed first defence of our civilisation.

Over the years, many millions have met and been transformed through meeting God in the face of Christ. This includes countless Jamaicans [and many other people across the Caribbean]. It also includes many famed scholars, eminent scientists and leaders of powerful reformations. Logically, if just one of these millions has actually been reconciled with God through Christ, God must be real and the gospel must be true. (Where, if instead so many are deeply delusional, that would undermine the rational credibility of the human mind.)

However, for some years now various voices have tried to dismissively question God, the gospel and Christians. So, it is not unexpected to see Mr Gordon Robinson writing in the Gleaner[2] recently (on Sunday, August 26, 2018),  about alleged “dangerous dogma promulgated by the Church and its many brainwashed surrogates,” “perverse propaganda spread by Christian churches,” “sycophants” and the like.

Along the way, he managed to ask a pivotal question: “Who/what is God?”

Regrettably, he also implied outright fraud by church leaders: “Either the Church has NO CLUE about who/what God really is, or it deliberately misrepresents God’s essence in order to frighten people into becoming church members and tithing. Nothing else makes sense.”

Fig 1 DNA, Showing the Genetic Code (HT ResearchGate)

In fact, a simple Internet search might give a better answer. For, thinkers such as a Thomas Aquinas or an Augustine of Hippo or a Paul of Tarsus or even a Wayne Grudem[3] or a William Lane Craig[4] have long since credibly addressed the idea of God and systematic theology at a little more sophisticated level than Sunday School lessons or Internet Atheist web sites. In so doing, they have made responsible cases that rise above the level of caricatures of the art on the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling.

We may begin with Paul in Romans 1, 57 AD: “Rom 1:19 . . . what can be known about God is plain to [people], because God has shown it to them. 20 For [God’s] invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So [people] are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”  [ESV]

Here, one of the top dozen minds of our civilisation first points out how our morally governed interior life and what we see in the world all around jointly call us to God our Creator. But, too often we suppress the force of that inner testimony and outer evidence. (This, predictably, leads to unsound thinking and destructive deeds stemming from benumbed consciences and en-darkened minds.)

For one, consider how for sixty years now we have known that the DNA in the cells of our bodies has in it complex, alphanumeric, algorithmic code that is executed through molecular nanotechnology to build proteins, the workhorses of biological life. That’s why Sir Francis Crick wrote to his son Michael on March 19, 1953 that “we believe that the DNA is a code. That is, the order of bases (the letters) makes one gene different from another gene (just as one page of print is different from another).”

Yes, alphanumeric code (so, language!), algorithms (so, purpose!), i.e. intelligent design of life from the first living cell on. Including, us. No wonder the dean of the so-called New Atheists was forced to admit that Biology studies complicated things that give a strong appearance of design. 

1947 saw the advent of the transistor age, allowing storage of a single bit of information in a tiny electronic wonder. We have since advanced to computers based on silicon chips comparable in size to a thumb-nail, with millions of transistors. These microchips and support machinery process many millions of instructions per second and have storage capacities of many gigabytes. Coded electronic communication signals routinely go across millions of miles through the solar system.  Every one of these devices and systems required careful design by highly educated engineers, scientists and programmers. The living, self-replicating cell’s sophistication dwarfs all of these; yet we question the all-knowing God, the author of life.

Figure 2: Crick’s March 19, 1953 letter, p. 5 with a highlight (Fair use)

Next, Mr. Robinson and others inevitably appeal to our known duty to truth, right reasoning, fairness, prudent judgement, etc.  But, where did that inner moral law (testified to by our consciences) come from? Surely, it is not a delusion; or else responsible, freely rational discussion would collapse into nihilistic chaos: might and manipulation (= “power and propaganda”) make ‘right,’ ‘rights,’ ‘justice,’ ‘truth,’ ‘knowledge’ etc. Instead, our conscience-guarded hearts and minds clearly show the Creator’s design that we freely live by the light and law of truth and right.

Such considerations – and many more – point us to the only serious candidate for the source of reality that can bridge IS and OUGHT: the inherently good (and wise) Creator God, a necessary and maximally great being. Who is fully worthy of our loyalty and of humble, responsible, reasonable service through doing the good. Then, we may readily draw out the classic understanding of God described in scripture and studied in systematic theology: all-good, eternal, creator and Lord with sound knowledge and full capability to work out his good purposes in the right way at the right time.

Moreover, what we most of all need to know about God is taught by Jesus the Christ, recorded in scripture within eye-witness lifetime then accurately handed down to us for 2000 years now, at fearsome cost: the blood of the martyrs. Martyrs, who had but one incentive: that they directly knew and must peacefully stand by the eternal truth – cost what it will. They refused to be frightened by dungeon, fire or sword, much less mere rhetoric. Why would thousands die horribly to promote a known lie?

Their record is that Christ is the express image of his Father, Logos – Cosmos-ordering Reason himself, prophesied Messiah, the Saviour who in love died for us on a cross. He rose from the dead as Lord with 500 eye-witnesses, precisely fulfilling over three hundred prophecies that were long since recorded in the Old Testament. (See esp. Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12, c. 700 BC.[5]) He ascended to his Father in the presence of the apostles. He shall return as eternal Judge, before whom we must all account. (Yes, professing and “backsliding” Christians too.) The Bible also records Jesus’ prayer for us: “this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and [“thy Son”] Jesus Christ, whom thou has sent.” [John 17:1- 5, cf. 3:16.]

That is the truth witnessed by the church, whether it was 33 AD in Jerusalem before an angry Sanhedrin, or 50 AD before the laughing Athenians (who had built a public monument to their ignorance of God), or today.  We therefore confidently invite Mr Robinson et al. to join with us in a serious-minded, substantially informed discussion about “who/what God really is” and about why the gospel is just that: God’s good news that brings salvation, blessing and hope for the positive transformation for our nation.


[1]See TMR: https://www.themontserratreporter.com/cayman-islands-chief-justice-smellie-tries-to-redefine-marriage-fails/

[2]Cf. http://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/focus/20180826/gordon-robinson-gospel-according-gordon

[3]See: http://www.waynegrudem.com/

[4]See: https://www.reasonablefaith.org/

[5]See: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Isa+52%3A13+-+53%3A12&version=AMP

Posted in Columns, De Ole Dawg, Education, International, Local, News, OECS, Opinions, Regional, Scriptures0 Comments

Mitchel Anguilla

Connecticut Man Facing Charges In Anguilla Over Death Of Resort Worker

April 23, 2019 – Lisa Rozner, Local TV

https://cbsloc.al/2vhodI9

DARIEN, Conn. (CBSNewYork) – A Connecticut man is accused of killing a hotel worker on a Caribbean island while on vacation with his family.

Scott Hapgood

A family vacation on the British island of Anguilla ended with an arrest and accusations of manslaughter for 44-year-old Scott Hapgood, of Darien.

Last week the island’s police department arrested the father of three in the death of 27-year-old hotel employee Kenny Mitchel. Mitchel worked at the luxury Malliouhana Resort, where Hapgood was staying.

Kenny Mitchel

A death certificate shows Mitchel, also a father and husband, died of suffocation and blunt force trauma to the head, neck and torso.

Hapgood’s lawyer reportedly alleges his client was acting in self-defense.

A judge in Anguilla initially denied bail but then allowed Hapgood to walk free on bail equivalent to about $75,000.

His neighbors didn’t want to go on-camera, but were shocked and say Hapgood is a kind man. They say the family has three children in elementary and middle school.

Hapgood works at UBS Financial Services Company. A representative there would only say they were following the situation closely.

As for Mitchel, his family tells CBS2 he’s a native of Dominica and was a peaceful man from a devout Christian family. Among those he leaves behind are a daughter, who they say was his pride and joy.

Hapgood is due back in court on the island Aug. 22. His lawyer allegedly told a local paper there that he has every intention to clear his name.

Posted in Court, Crime, International, Local, News, Obituaries, Regional, Youth0 Comments

CNN: WH Ordered Trump Admin Officials to Boycott WHCA Dinner

CNN: WH Ordered Trump Admin Officials to Boycott WHCA Dinner

CNN: WH Ordered Trump Admin Officials to Boycott WHCA Dinner

By Theodore Bunker    |   Tuesday, 23 April 2019

The White House has ordered officials in the Trump Administration to boycott the annual White House Correspondents’ Association dinner, CNN reports.

The dinner usually acts as a chance for journalists and the people they report on can meet and mingle. News outlets pay for tables and extend invitations to members of the administration, legislators, government officials and the odd celebrity. Typically, a comedian is hiring as the featured speaker for the event, but the WHCA opted to invite author Ron Chernow this year instead.

White House Cabinet Secretary Bill McGinley reportedly issued the order Tuesday morning, after President Donald Trump announced earlier this month that he will skip this year’s dinner with members of the press, as he did last year and the one before.

“The dinner is so boring and so negative that we’re going to hold a very positive rally” in Green Bay, Wisconsin, Trump told reporters.

The president has repeatedly decried the news media as the “enemy of the people,” since entering office.

Olivier Knox, the president of the White House Correspondents’ Association, told CNN when asked about the boycott: “We’re looking forward to an enjoyable evening of celebrating the First Amendment and great journalists past, present and future.”Related Stories:

Read Newsmax: CNN: WH Ordered Trump Admin Officials to Boycott WHCA Dinner | Newsmax.com
Urgent: Do you approve of Pres. Trump? Vote Here in Poll

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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.

Posted in Crime, Featured, General, International, Local, News, Obituaries, Regional, Religion0 Comments

DSC_4864  web

First Montserrat Graduate of Sandhurst Military Academy, returns


(l-r) HE Governor, Hon. Premier, RMDF Officers –
Alvin Ryan, Darion Darroux, Peter White, and
Glenroy Foster

His Excellency Governor in hosting a brief welcome home ceremony at the Governor’s Office for 2nd Lt. Darrion Darroux, who completed his commissioning course at the acclaimed prestigious Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst a few weeks ago. In his welcome, the Governor claims his love for and interest in the military.

And, perhaps in a small way, the media as well, as with champagne and grape juice and other sparkling white drink, and some appropriate eats, (no doubt geared at the military personnel) he welcomed the small group of officers as he congratulated and toast young 2nd Lieutenant Darion Darroux upon his return from a successful completion of the military training course in the UK.

The Governor in brief remarks opened: “I’m a real huge fan of the Royal Montserrat Defence Force (RMDF)…They’re spot on for Montserrat – a group of people who help us when the chips are down.”

Governor Pearce noted that 2nd Lieutenant Darroux embodied self-discipline, the desire for personal development and service to the public and how the officer had impressed the British armed forces minister Mark Lancaster on his visit to the island last year. Lancaster was also in attendance at the graduation ceremony.

(l-r) HE Governor Pearce, Lt. Darroux and Premier Romeo

Premier Romeo was also on hand to welcome and congratulate the young man, noting that the senior officers in the RMDF were extremely proud of Darroux’s success, which was their achievement as well.  The Premier said he was a “model” of what the RMDF has done for the people of Montserrat…not just in disaster and to train youth but to become men and women of substance.

“I am extremely proud of this opportunity to congratulate you on achieving a first…this opportunity to congratulate you also proves that we need to support more and respect more, the work of the RMDF,” he said.

“I saw the development of an individual that is absolutely impressive, he is a model like many others, of what the RMDF has done for the people of Montserrat and for individuals. Not just during disaster time, not just to train youths, but to train them to become men and women of substance,” Romeo added.


Capt. Alvin Ryan, CO Peter White, Lt. Glenroy Foster and Lt. Darrion Darroux,

Major Alvin Ryan, who leads the local force, joined in the toasts. He said he sleeps well at night knowing that people like Officer Darroux are in the ranks of the organisation, which is over 100 years old. He thanked Defence advisor Colonel Anton Gash who continues to deliver for Montserrat.

Gash was instrumental in recent upgrades of uniforms and other equipment at the RMDF. He also facilitated the officer’s attendance at the military school.

Darroux responded and told the small gathering, that it was a privilege to have been trained at Sandhurst, which he counts as a personal and professional accomplishment. He said he wanted to deliver training to help better the young people in Montserrat and also the soldiers and start to make the change we need in Montserrat.

The young officer, who works at the Integrated Border Security United, began his para military career with the Montserrat Secondary School Cadet Corps, said proudly: “I’m privileged to have trained and commissioned from the Royal Military Academy…it’s quite an accomplishment for me personally and professionally and I’m just happy that I got to spend some time there and to better myself in terms of my training professionally and myself as a person.”

Posted in Featured, International, Local, News, Youth0 Comments

Answering CJ Smellie: “neither tradition nor religion could form the ‘rational basis for a law’”

Answering CJ Smellie: “neither tradition nor religion could form the ‘rational basis for a law’”


Is our God-fearing, Christian “tradition” outdated,  oppressive and irrational?

BRADES, Montserrat, April 6, 2019 –  In trying to establish what has been called “same-sex marriage”[1]  Cayman Islands Chief Justice Anthony Smellie, QC reportedly held[2] that  many inequities have existed in the name of tradition but neither tradition nor religion could form the “rational basis for a law.”  That is but an inch away from implying that the God-fearing, Christian faith that is the Caribbean’s dominant tradition is inevitably oppressive, outdated, ill-founded and/or irrational. Likewise, the historic legacy of Parliamentary Democracy in the Westminster system[3] with separation of the powers of government – the legislative, the executive and the judiciary – may also seem to be just as outdated. 

Such perceptions will not be left unanswered, even though this requires some fairly challenging steps of thought. Justice Smellie and others have forced the matter.

First, we must answer the attitude that one can tell the truth by the clock: what is old (or old-fashioned) is at best suspect. However, truth is not told by the clock, but by what is sound. Where,  well documented experience – history – is a key means to access what is sound.  Yes, slavery, racism, exploitation, oppression and other age-long painful evils and errors are in our past, but so are the conscience-guided reformation principles and movements that created a legacy of liberty and established constitutional democracy in our region. Where too, the Common Law and the linked Westminster system of Parliamentary Democracy under rule of law are historically anchored, time-tested traditions that build in many centuries of hard-bought experience and sound lessons in liberty and self-government. Failure to recognise, appreciate, acknowledge and respect that is not a credible context for sound reform.

Similarly, the foot of the cliff we fell over because we acted unwisely is not the best foundation for building a better future. For example, if we could go back to 1986 – 88, would we treat the Wadge-Isaacs report on volcano hazards in Montserrat in the same way? What should we have done differently between 1995 and 2003? What are we hearing today that we would be well-advised to heed (but may not take seriously)?

Likewise, it is often fashionable nowadays to denigrate the Christian religion and faith in God, the gospel and scripture. All of these are commonly dismissed as irrelevant, outdated, irrational emotional crutches or even as “fairy tales.” More broadly, “faith” and “reason” are often seen as opposites, so only what is “secular” and “modern” is responsible, sound, scientific, progressive and rational.  However, if we probe almost anything we accept as truth or knowledge (say, A), we will see that it has some sort of basis (say, B). But, why accept B? C, then D etc. We thus come to Agrippa’s three unwelcome alternatives:

[i] an endless (= “infinite”) chain of warrant we cannot complete, vs.

[ii] question-begging circularity, vs.

[iii] accepting a finitely remote, but unprovable start point (= a point of faith). 

Of these the first two fail immediately, forcing us to the third approach. The question we face, then, is not whether we have “a point of faith,” but in what/who and why.

Worse, we have seen many scientific revolutions that overturn older schools of thought – often, one funeral at a time. History has to be regularly updated or even revised. After Kurt Godel,[4] we know that the major axiomatic systems of Mathematics are not utterly certain; even while it is obviously self-evident that 2 + 2 = 4 etc.

Do we then throw up our hands and say, we cannot know anything for sure so we know nothing at all? No, even that is a (self-refuting) knowledge claim: we know that we know nothing. Oops.

Instead, we turn to reasonable, responsible faith. That is, we unavoidably have a “faith-point,” first things that we are willing to trust as credibly true but cannot prove – the “first principles” and “first plausibles” through which our proofs, arguments, knowledge and decisions are built. We may then compare alternative faith-points (“worldviews” is the technical name[5]) on [i] reliably covering the facts, [ii] logical coherence and [iii] explanatory power; towards the “best.”

Where also, there are a few plumb-line, self-evident truths we can use to test our thinking. For instance, it is undeniably true that error exists, which is thus certainly known, though humbling (as, we may err). So, worldviews that suggest that we cannot cross the ugly gap between our inner world of thoughts and how things seem to us and the outer one of how things actually are in themselves, fail.  Similarly,  we can be confident: truth says of what is, that it is; and of what is not, that it is not.  

Likewise, St Paul astutely asked: “even . . . [for a] pipe or harp, except they give a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is piped or harped?” [1 Cor 14:7, KJV.] That is, without clear distinct identity we can neither think nor communicate. A first, inescapably true law of thought: A is A. Where: if A is confounded with what is not-A, there is only needless confusion and chaos.  (Which, should already ring a few warning-bells.)

Of the live worldview options before us, millions can testify that it is not at all unreasonable or irresponsible to trust the inherently good and utterly wise creator God, the veracity of the gospel of Jesus and the life-transforming insights of scripture.

Turning to the scriptures,[6] we meet there the voice of the Creator God, proclaiming the end from the beginning, establishing a covenant people, accurately prophesying the messiah to come hundreds of years ahead of time. A messiah who would be a despised, rejected wounded healer unjustly put to death but rising in triumph and bringing many souls to salvation. In the gospels, we see just such a Messiah,[7] one who was despised and unjustly crucified but rose from the dead with five hundred witnesses who could not be silenced, and now with millions across the Caribbean and world whose lives have been touched for the good by that risen Christ.

It is this same Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth, who taught us:

“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.]

Here, we see “tradition,” “religion,” “history” and the obvious complementarity of the two sexes jointly testifying to what marriage is at root, a law of our morally governed nature that is prior to any human government and its decrees. Therefore, as government did not invent marriage, its officers cannot use the magic of words to “modify” or “update” or “add to” it as they please under colour of law. Government is not God.

Until very recently, this was generally recognised and respected by legislatures and judges alike.  So, given the contrast between an ages old law anchored on the naturally evident creation order that founds stable human society and radical judicial novelties, which should we see as “reasonable,” why?

Now, too, is what is old inevitably suspect, likely to be oppressive, discriminatory, violating of “rights”?  To ask is already to answer: no, we also do not tell good/evil by the clock but by what is right. Marriage, as that which recognises and honourably binds men and women through natural and complementary differences vital to nurturing the next generation is clearly not “discriminatory.”   So, that our laws have hitherto recognised the law of our nature that is literally written into our maleness and femaleness is a reflection of reality, not “oppression.”

To suggest otherwise is blatantly morally unsound and chaotic. As, we are now beginning to see. E


[1] See, TMR https://www.themontserratreporter.com/what-is-marriage/

[2]See https://caymannewsservice.com/2019/03/legalises-gay-marriage/

[3] See http://australianpolitics.com/democracy/key-terms/westminster-system

[4] See https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/goedel-incompleteness/

[5] See https://www.thefreedictionary.com/worldview

[6] See https://www.biblegateway.com/

[7] See http://vimeo.com/17960119

Posted in Columns, Court, De Ole Dawg, Legal, News, Opinions, Regional1 Comment

Solar pv handover

Is this end of Geothermal Energy development?

“No!” says Premier Romeo, also Minister Lewis – as solar energy emerges

https://www.themontserratreporter.com/bright-openings-for-2019/

Solar Energy Released

Even coming on the heels of the pulling out of Icelandic drilling equipment from the compound encompassing the MON3 well, the drilling site for the continuing project of “Unlocking the Geothermal Potential of Montserrat” and the news of the report that end of the project, Montserrat on Monday celebrated a milestone in the “green” renewable energy development.

Premier Romeo as he thanked the European Development Fund, EDF 10, for major funding, with other funding, “sourced through our own Ministry of Finance; and as always, this was supported by DfID,” opened his remarks at the handing over ceremony of the completed 250 kilowatt solar project to Montserrat Utilities Limited (MUL).

“Today is a milestone for Montserrat, as we formally commission our 250-kilowatt Solar, photovolt type powerplant. It’s good news to know that it is now on grid, and it represents 10% of our load demand. MUL now has a renewable energy driven powerplant that is capable of carrying about 10% of our peak load.

“As we go forward. Plans are in place to add a further 750 kilowatt of solar PV capacity with some battery back-up. When this is in place we will have one megawatt of solar PV capacity which can supply about 40% of our current electricity consumption. We will not stop here, clearly. For as we continue to explore green energy, like the rest of the world, we will keep an eye on wind, biofuels, electric vehicles, and of course, geothermal.

“On geothermal, we have already two wells that have proven capacity to support our needs. And, a third well that has unfortunately met with technical difficulties. However, we are still moving forward to develop this form of green energy, through working with partners to bring geothermal power plant in place,” he said.

He noted: “Thanks are due to – through hard, persistent work the Ministry of Communications and Works, the consultants, STANTEC and the contractor SALT Energy, all led by Hon Lewis, the plant was successfully completed within the EDF 10 deadline.”

ZJB reported that on Monday, in the history of electrical generation on Montserrat, Hon Energy Minister Paul Lewis, handed over the completed 250 kilowatt solar project to MUL, during a special ceremony at the MUL car park at the station.

The project is the realisation of Mr. Lewis and the government’s vision to see solar become a key contributor to Montserrat’s green energy production capabilities.

It is anticipated, the report continued, that with the inclusion of the 250kilowatt solar into the National grid, there will be an expected reduction in the fuel surcharge. And eventually lower MUL’s consumer bills. The 250kilowatt solar project.

The reported noted this is the first phase of the eventual one megawatt solar PV project as planned. The next stage will be the 750kilowatt solar PV project with box for storage and as Minister Lewis explains the aim is to incorporate other sources of renewable energy into the national grid.

Meanwhile Kendal Lee the Managing Director of (MUL) outlined that the historic storage integration of solar power into the national grid is in line with the vision of the company.

He explained that the consensus of a staff meeting some years ago was that the company should become the greenest provider of utility services in the Caribbean, and, now he concedes that the reintroduction of renewable energy generation into company’s electricity portfolio shows that they are heading in the right direction.

European Union (EU) officer Kyle Walrond who was present at the handing over ceremony cemented the EU’s committment to supporting the renewal of energy and the sufficiency sustainable development as [Montserrat] like other territories in the region progress to agreeing economy.

The EU rep noted, “As you know we are committed to support the effort that goes toward mitigation of climate change worldwide and every step, small or big towards our common goal of making peace with our planet. This occasion marks yet another milestone in our countries’ development. As Montserrat forges ahead with its goal of transitioning from a fossil fuel based energy sector to a renewable based energy sector.”

He revealed that the  EDF program will also assist the government and its goals to replace conventional street light with LED lighting, solar lighting for roads and other infrastructure matters adjacent to main powers will also be installed with support from the European Union.

The last time the company utilized renewable energy as part of its generation mix was from 1989 through to 1995. When it operated 2 – 100 kilowatt vectors wind turbine machines at St. George’s Hill.

Posted in Business/Economy/Banking, Energy, Environment, Featured, Local, News, Regional0 Comments

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