Archive | Opinions


Application to inspect election ballots to be heard in new law term

KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent, Jul 13,  CMC – The application by lawyers for the main opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) to inspect documents from the December 2015 general elections as part of the two petitions filed to challenge the outcome of that poll, will not be heard before mid September.

When the matter came up for hearing on Wednesday, it was adjourned to a date to be fixed by the Registrar of the High Court in the new law term.

criminal-justiceThe current law term ends this month.

Justice Esco Henry, who is presiding over the matter, also gave a six-point order outlining actions that the parties must take and their timeline.

Ben Exeter, who was the NDP’s candidate in Central Leeward in the 2015 general elections, has filed a petition challenging the outcome of the elections there.

His colleague, Lauron Baptiste, the NDP’s candidate in North Windward, has mounted a similar challenge in that district.

Electoral officials say those constituencies are among the eight won by the Unity Labour Party of Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves to secure a fourth consecutive term in office while the remaining seven seats went to the NDP.

When the motion to inspect the ballot boxes and other election documents came up for hearing on Wednesday, there was a long delay to allow for three foreign lawyers who have joined the government’s team to be called to the Vincentian Bar.

After they were seated, the court having processed their documents, which the judge noted were “hurriedly filed”, Senior Counsel Douglas Mendez of Trinidad and Tobago, who this month took over from Dominican Anthony Astaphan, SC as lead counsel for the respondents, asked for an adjournment.

He said he was requesting an adjournment, hopefully, to later this month, to give the respondents an opportunity to file affidavits in response to the petitioners’ request to inspect the election documents.

The petitions, which have been before the court since December 2015, will go to trial after a ruling by Justice Henry on June 30 that they are not invalid, as the respondents had claimed.

After that ruling, Astaphan said he has been battling ill health for some time and cannot continue as lead counsel, since he also has a backlog in Dominica.

Mendez told the court that it was only after the June 30 ruling by Justice Henry that the parties knew that they had to proceed to the next stage.

He said he was approached not long after that ruling, but, when questioned by Justice Henry, said he could not recall the exact date when he was retained, but said it was one or two days after the June 30 ruling.

Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves had announced on June 30 that the legal team for the respondents was in consultation with Mendez.

Mendez told the court on Wednesday that there hasn’t been enough time to take instructions from the respondents.

He said he was asking for a seven-day adjournment to be able to file affidavits and respond to the motion.

Lead counsel for the petitioners, Queen’s Counsel Stanley “Stalky” John, told the court that he had no objections to the seven-day adjournment, providing that the matter definitely proceeds then.

He noted that Mendez had referred to the petitions being before the court for more than 18 months.

John said he was making this point to say that a lot of time can be saved if disclosure is made.

But Justice Henry was having none of it and told John that that is a discussion that could take place in the corridors among the parties.

Kay Bacchus-Baptiste, who is lead counsel for Baptiste, said that his legal team intends to file a similar application to inspect the ballots.

John further told the court that submissions related to the application to inspect the ballots were first filed on March 4, 2016 and served on the respondents shortly after.

He said that while they were discontinued because of a ruling of the court, the new application would rely on the same submissions.

Mendez told the court that he was not aware of those submissions.

Justice Brian Cottle, who had later thrown out the petitions as improperly filed, had ruled that allowing the parties to inspect the ballot boxes would amount to a fishing expedition.

He had further claimed that doing so would allow the inspector to determine how electors voted, a claim that has shocked the nation, but upon which electoral officials have refused to comment.

The law terms end in July and the judge said that she has to attend the annual judicial conference from July 26 to 29, adding that she doesn’t think that the court can entertain the motion before the new law term.

Mendez also said that he had commitments in court in Trinidad that would make him unavailable for a few days towards the end of this month.

Among other things, by inspecting the ballot boxes, Exeter is hoping to determine whether 769 ballots from four polling stations in Central Leeward were validly cast.

The petitioners also want to determine whether the counterfoils for such defective ballots were endorsed by the initials of the presiding officer.  .

Exeter’s lawyers have laid out a number of grounds to support their motion, noting that their client has complained of undue return or undue election of Sir Louis Straker, who has been declared the winner of the Central Leeward seat.

They say that by inspecting the ballot boxes, it may be determined that Sir Louis was unduly elected or returned and that the election was void, or that he, Exeter, was duly elected and ought to be returned.

The lawyers are asking the court for an order for scrutiny and recount in respect of the defective ballots to which the objections were made by Exeter and/or his representative/agents.

A lawyer for the petitioners has told iWitness News that “the pivotal objective of the petitions is to establish that the form of the ballots was illegal and that as a result the sanctity of the secrecy of voting was compromised and that hundreds of illegally cast ballots were counted in contravention of the Representation of the People’s Act and regulations made under that law.

“Both the Supervisor and the Returning Officer for Central Leeward have each filed sworn affidavits admitting to the latter fact. The petitioner, Exeter, has filed a motion seeking inspection of the ballots, scrutiny and a recount as part of the trial process.”

Posted in Court, Local, News, Politics, Regional0 Comments

Jimmy Henry

Agriculture Minister resigns

 CASTRIES, St Lucia Jul. 12, CMC – Agriculture Minister Jimmy Henry has resigned following reports that he was recently  stopped and searched at the George Charles Airport .
Jimmy Henry
Jimmy Henry

Henry, who announced his resignation Wednesday, in a video  on social media, said he decided to step down for personal reasons.

” I have decided to tender my resignation with immediate effect from the senate and as a Minister. Due to these personal matters at this time, I am unable to give the attention necessary to my Ministerial duties,” Henry said.

He thanked his supporters in his east coast village of Dennery and said he would continue to maintain a keen interest in the community.

However, former government minister  and talk show host, Richard Frederick has alleged that Henry was stopped at George Charles Airport and questioned about an undisclosed sum on money in his possession.

But National Security Minister Hermanguild Francis, on Tuesday, denied knowledge of any such investigation regarding Henry and suggested that the allegation is political mischief.

In response, top cop, Milton Desir, told reporters that he gave no order to investigate Henry, who had previously declined to comment on the matter – until now.

Henry contested the Dennery North seat in the last general election and lost to Shawn Edward of the St Lucia Labour Party.

Unconfirmed news says that Henry was earlier stopped at the airport and questioned over moneys he had in his possession.

Posted in Local, News, Politics, Regional0 Comments

Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit

Prime Minister to sue member of Election Commission

ROSEAU, Dominica, Jul. 12, CMC – Lawyers for  Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit of Dominica  say they will be filing a lawsuit against a member of the Election Commission for statements made on a radio programme that they determined to be defamatory .

Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit
Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit

The lawyers had written to Hillary Shillingford demanding a “prompt reaction and an apology  in terms to be agreed by him and his attorneys”.

The lawyers gave Shillingford a deadline of  July 5 at 12:00pm and also demanded payment of compensation and costs.

It was also noted that if Shillingford failed to meet the demands, a lawsuit would be filed.

The lawyers also demanded a retraction and apology from the management of the radio station Q95fm .

The radio station was given the deadline of July 7.

The legal team said if this was not done, legal proceedings will also be instituted against them.

According to the head of the Skerrit’s team of lawyers, Senior Counsel Anthony Astaphan, during a radio programme June 27, Shillingford made statements that implied that the Prime Minister abused his office.

“The words meant and were understood by the listeners of Q95 Radio on live radio and via the internet to mean that our client misused and abused the office and Prime Minister and Minister of Finance and unlawfully in breach of his duties, diverted and used public moneys and in particular moneys intended for use at the Princess Margaret Hospital, for the illegal and unlawful purpose of paying for the transportation of supporters in the Diaspora to travel to Dominica to vote.”

Hillary Shillingford
Hillary Shillingford

These allegations are not only completely false , disc hones and lies manufactured by you, but are premised on a factual impossibility,” the lawyers said in a letter to Shillingford.

In an interview with the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC), Astaphan said the Prime Minister has now decided on “zero-tolerance”.

“The Prime Minister of  the Commonwealth of Dominica has decided that after many years of tolerance and patience and non-stop smear campaign against him by the leader of the United Workers Party and his supporters and members that he appoints through various commissions  – he has decided on zero tolerance on matters such as this.”

Astaphan said the Prime Minister had no alternative to instruct his legal team to write Shillingford and a case will be filed in a matter of days

“This foolishness must stop – this prostitution of the freedom of the media, freedom of press and freedom of speech that you can use it as a platform to manufacture lies ad spread fake news and false news repeatedly has to stop. – somebody has to take action , and we are moving forward,” Astaphan said.

Posted in Court, Legal, Local, News, Politics, Regional1 Comment

Guyana fire M

Guyana prison on fire, one prison officer dies

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Jul 9, CMC – The Guyana government Sunday night sought to assure citizens that the situation at the country’s main prison in the capital was under control and that inmates from the burnt facility were being transferred to other institutions across the country.

Prison officials confirmed that six prison officers were taken to the Georgetown Public Hospital (GPHC) where prison warden, Odinga Wickham, succumbed to gunshot wounds, two are in critical condition and three are stable.

Guyana fire M“As we speak a joint and entire search of the facility was being conducted to ensure that all persons have been removed from the prison,” said the Director of Prisons, Gladwin Samuels, adding that he had not received any reports of any prisoners dying.

Samuels said that of Sunday, the prison accommodated 1,018 prisoners.  Sixteen months ago, 17 prisoners died at the same facility following a fire there.

The police have issued wanted bulletins for two prisoners who escaped following the fire at the Camp Street facility saying they are wanted for murder and escaping from lawful custody.

They hve named the two as Uree Varswyke aka Malcolm Gordon and Mark Royden Durant aka Royden Williams C/D “Smallie”.

President David Granger urged citizens to practice safety and precautionary measures and that law enforcement officers are working along with members of the joint services to recapture those who have escaped custody.

 “Well the government is acting quickly to ensure that the prisoners are caught but more important, that those prisoners who were previously accommodated at the Georgetown prison are kept in a secure place and this is our task overnight on this Sunday night and by Monday morning they will be in secure accommodation so Guyanese will be assured that there are not going to be prisoners roaming all about the city or the countryside.

 “Troops were deployed from the Guyana Defense Force, special police were deployed from the Guyana Police Force, the fire service was deployed and of course the prison service responded immediately so there was immediate response from all four of those services.” President Granger explained.

The President said that it is hoped that within the next 24-36 hours all prisoners formerly held at the Georgetown Prison will be relocated. These prisons include The Lusignan Prison, Timehri Prison and the Mazaruni Prison.

Public Security Minister, Khemraj Ramjattan, told a late night news conference that the prisoners will be secured for the next 48 hours at the Lusignan prison, while efforts intensify to locate those prisoners on the run.

“We are in the process of providing the necessary things to make them comfortable and make arrangements for them to be placed in other prisons around Georgetown. We are getting some tents and extra lighting in Lusignan, it’s a closed off area.”

He said that simple measures were also implemented such as installing more closed circuit television security systems which led to prisoner officers being caught colluding with prisoners on previous occasions.

 “A lot of them for possession for narcotics and they have served some time. There is an early and a late release date, but if you have good behaviour you can have remissions from me….We have to ask the Chancellor to start the process of going to prisons to do situational analysts to see how many remands are there and if their (prisoners) families can pay their bails.”

The Minister assured that the Camp Street prison will be rehabilitated as soon as possible with additional staffing and full capacity.

Director of Prisons, Gladwin Samuels said that the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) were activated at the prisons as the events unfolded.

He said he had received two phone calls on Sunday afternoon informing him of the fire and that a prison officer was taken hostage and there were reports of gun shots being fired.

The sections which are referred to as the ‘wooden prison’ at the corner of the Durban and John Street, and Prison Chapel at the corner of Bent and John Street, were on fire. The incident started at the two locations simultaneously.

Samuels said that from “his perspective the two wooden buildings were completely gutted and prison sports club that was been used as a holding area was set on fire and destroyed.

“The Fire Service was there but the fire quickly spread to other buildings, which the assistance of other agencies, we immediately activated the Evacuation Procedure whereby the brought prisoners to a safe area outside, all of the prisoners that they have access to and that were readily available”.

Posted in Crime, Featured, International, Local, News, Police, Politics, Regional0 Comments

Burke et al

Opposition legislators stage walkout during debate on incentive bill

by Linda Straker

ST. GEORGE’S, Grenada, Jun 27, CMC – Opposition legislators staged a walkout on Tuesday protesting the ruling by the President of the Senate, Chester Humphrey, that the presentation of the leader of the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) Nazim Burke to the Hydrocarbon Incentive Bill was irrelevant.

Opposition Senator, Keith Clouden who represents farmers in the Upper House of Parliament, joined Burke and the other NDC legislator in walking out of the Chamber.

Burke et al
NDC leader Nazim Burke (center) flanked by opposition Senators who walked out on Tuesday (CMC Photo)

The walkout followed the decision by Humphrey to accept the “point of relevance” concern raised by the Leader of Government Business, Simon Stielle, on the grounds that Burke’s contribution was not relevant to the legislation.

Burke, however argued against the move but Humphrey said he was in agreement with Stielle that the contribution was not relevant to which Burke responded by saying he will say nothing further on the Bill.

“If you have nothing to say take your seat,’ Humphrey told the NDC leader, who then proceeded to pack his bag and walk out of the Chamber followed by the NDC’s Franka Bernardine and Clouden.

The third NDC legislator, George Vincent, was not present during the walkout having earlier indicated that he would be missing the sitting.

Clouden later told reporters that his action was indeed a protest to the treatment of Burke during the debate. “Yes, I am protesting,” he said, with Bernardine adding “all of us have something to say and we cannot say it”.

The Hydrocarbon Incentive Bill, which was approved by the House of Representatives earlier this month, seeks to provide incentives for companies that will be engaging the hydrocarbon exploration.

It defines hydrocarbon exploration investment as any business activity surrounding or involving exploration and scientific research to determine the existence of a natural deposit of crude oil or natural gas in Grenada or the quality, quantity or composition of crude oil or natural gas extracted from a natural deposit in Grenada.

It excludes an investment that generates any profit from a transaction involving crude oil or natural gas, or any product of crude oil or natural gas, extracted from Grenada.

To qualify for the incentives a company should have investment to a certain amount and that amount according to the bill not exceeding EC$50 million (One EC dollar =US$0.37 cents).

Other incentives include a 100 per cent waiver on Customs duties machinery and equipment; spare parts machinery and equipment and a maximum of six motor vehicles.

The waiver will also apply to networking elements and computer hardware and software as well as   building materials and infrastructure materials, for the purposes of a qualifying investment.

Posted in Local, News, Politics, Regional0 Comments

Grenfell Tower: Kensington MP calls for inquiry head to be replaced with ‘someone who can understand humans’

As TMR said before – so many similarities to what have gone on since Soufriere Hills volcano began erupting in Montserrat in 1995, just days less 22 years; going on even now. Serious how some mistakes continue to be perpetuated today in our dealings! They need to be dealt with.
By Danny Boyle and Helena Horton 
© PA The retired judge leading the inquiry into the Grenfell Tower disaster should stand down because he will not have “empathy” or “understand human beings”, the local MP has suggested.

Emma Dent Coad, the Labour MP for Kensington, joined calls for Sir Martin Moore-Bick to be replaced as head of the inquiry, saying he could not understand what people had been through.

“How anybody like that could have empathy for what those people have been through, I don’t understand”,  she told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

All the latest news, views and opinion on the Grenfell tragedy

“A technocrat is really not what we need right now. We need someone who can understand human beings and what they’ve been through.”

She added: “I don’t think he should do it. I don’t think there will be any credibility. Some people are saying they are not going to co-operate with it so it’s not going to work.”

Her comments came as it emerged that Sir Martin is prepared to consider the “broad” causes of the fire amid concern from survivors’ groups over its scope and leadership.

Video: Grenfell inquiry head should be ‘in real world’ (Sky News)

 Sir Martin previously indicated his investigation would be limited to the causes of the deadly fire, why it spread so quickly and how it could be prevented in future.

But survivors suggested they were prepared to abandon the process unless the parameters were broadened to consider systemic issues, such as why residents’ concerns about fire safety were allegedly ignored by authorities.

A source said the former Court of Appeal judge was looking to scrutinise issues tracing back to building regulations at the time the block was erected.

“He is very happy to look at why there were warnings that weren’t listened to, these were the allegations,” the source said.

Slideshow: Dramatic pictures of the Grenfell Tower blaze in London (Reuters) 

Flames and smoke billow as firefighters deal with a serious fire in a tower block at Latimer Road in West London. London apartment block fire

It is understood the inquiry into the blaze, which killed at least 80 people, will be a “broad interpretation of what caused the fire”, which extends beyond the “physics of what happened”.

Sir Martin’s appointment has been met met with concern by survivors, with a group called BME (black and minority ethnic) Lawyers 4 Grenfell writing to Prime Minister Theresa May to say her choice was “astonishing”.

The open letter, signed by the chairman of the Society of Black Lawyers Peter Herbert and the president of the Association of Muslim Lawyers Ismet Rawat, said: “Your lack of consultation has increased the mistrust of both the Grenfell community and the wider community and led to firm opposition of the appointment of Sir Martin Moore-Bick.”

And Sue Caro, a co-ordinator for the Justice 4 Grenfell group that represents survivors, said: “Our view is the whole thing needs to start again – there is no confidence in the process.”

Meanwhile, judges have been told to issue tougher sentences for gross negligence manslaughter in the wake of the Grenfell disaster.

There have previously been no set sentencing guidelines for the offence but the longest sentences were usually for less than ten years. 

Now the Sentencing Council has moved to tell judges that they can hand out prison terms of up to 18 years in the most serious cases.

It comes as the nominee to lead the embattled council handling the Grenfell Tower fire fallout is expected to pick her cabinet on Tuesday after promising “change” moments after her selection by the local Conservative party.

The Tory group on Kensington and Chelsea Council nominated Elizabeth Campbell to take over from Nicholas Paget-Brown, who resigned on Friday amid fierce criticism of the council’s response to the Grenfell tragedy.

In her first public statement, Mrs Campbell said she was “truly sorry” and pledged to “heal the wounds” in the community.

“The first thing I want to do is I want to apologise,” she said. “This is our community and we have failed it when people needed us the most. So, no buts, no ifs, no excuses – I am truly sorry.”

She continued: “As new leader, I will appoint a new cabinet tomorrow and things are going to change.”

Mrs Campbell, who quit as a long-standing member of the council’s cabinet in May, said she would ask Communities Secretary Sajid Javid for help.

Mrs Campbell must be formally elected by a meeting of the full council and a spokesman for the authority said the next scheduled meeting was on July 19, although an emergency one could be called earlier.

One Tory councillor, who did not want to be named, said her election was a “formality” and Mrs Campbell was now leader of the council “in practice”.

Ms Caro said she had no confidence in the leadership of the council and called for it to be dissolved.

She said: “It’s like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. They have shown they are not fit to run a council or deliver the services that are needed and I don’t really think it matters who is the leader.”

Posted in International, Local, News, Politics, Regional0 Comments

German soldiers carry the coffin of late former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl during of a memorial ceremony at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, July 1, 2017. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

World leaders bid farewell to Germany’s Kohl a force for European unity

By Wolfgang Rattay | SPEYER, Germany

Leaders from the United States, Russia and across Europe paid tribute on Saturday to former German chancellor Helmut Kohl as the architect of German reunification and a driving force for European integration.

Kohl, who died on June 16 at 87, was lauded at a ceremony at the European Parliament as a dedicated European who abhorred war by former U.S. President Bill Clinton, Russia Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and other figures.

A funeral service was held later on Saturday with 900 invited guests at Speyer Cathedral, where as a teenager Kohl found shelter from World War Two aerial bombings.

His casket was flown by helicopter from Strasbourg to his hometown Ludwigshafen before being carried by boat up the Rhine to Speyer, one of Germany’s oldest towns where Kohl took former world leaders including Clinton, George H.W. Bush, Mikail Gorbachev, Boris Yeltsin and Margaret Thatcher for private meetings.

“Helmut Kohl gave us the chance to be involved in something bigger than ourselves, bigger than our terms in office and bigger than our fleeting careers,” Clinton said in Strasbourg of the man who was German chancellor from 1982 to 1998 and oversaw German reunification in 1990.

The two-hour memorial in Strasbourg, a city that has often changed hands and now lies in France, symbolised the role Kohl played in reconciling the two erstwhile enemies France and Germany while driving European integration forward.

A blue European Union flag was draped over Kohl’s casket in Strasbourg. A German flag later covered the coffin in Germany, where thousands watched from the streets as his coffin moved through Ludwigshafen and later from the banks of the Rhine.

“He was the architect of the world order,” said Medvedev of Kohl, who skilfully negotiated reunification with communist East Germany with then-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. “In Russia, we’ll remember him as our friend — a wise and sincere person.”


The resting place of many rulers of the Holy Roman Empire, itself a Europe-spanning polity, Speyer Cathedral was seen by Kohl as a symbol of European unity.

“Helmut Kohl was a German patriot and a European patriot,” said Juncker, a former Luxembourg prime minister and close friend of Kohl who switched between German and French in his tribute. “We’ve lost a giant of the post-war era.”

Chancellor Angela Merkel, who served as a minister under Kohl in the 1990s but later had a falling out over his role in receiving $1 million in illegal campaign cash donations, remembered Kohl as an at-times controversial figure with numerous enemies.

“I could tell you stories as well,” she said. “But all that paled in comparison to his life’s achievements.”

Merkel said Kohl had changed the lives of millions across all of Europe.

The ceremony concluded with the German national anthem and excerpts from Beethoven’s 9th symphony “Ode to Joy”, used as the anthem of the European Union.

The proposal to hold a European ceremony was enthusiastically advocated by Juncker, and by Kohl’s second wife Maike Kohl-Richter, who survives him.

His sons, however, boycotted the Cathedral’s funeral mass, because their father will not be laid to rest alongside Hannelore Kohl, his wife of decades.

(Reporting by Erik Kirschbaum and Thomas Escritt in Berlin; Editing by Jeremy Gaunt and Helen Popper)


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Former PM Simpson Miller bows out of politics

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Jun 28, CMC – Former prime minister Portia Simpson Miller has told legislators that they owe it to themselves to do what is best for Jamaica as Prime Minister Andrew Holness led the praises for her long tenure in Parliament.

“We have a responsibility to do what is in the best interest of the Jamaican people,” Simpson Miller, 71, said in her last speech Tuesday as a legislator.

“This parliament is the bedrock of our stable democracy and our free society. It must celebrate the best of Jamaica. It must project what makes us a great people,” she told legislators, as the parliament paid tribute to the seventh woman to be elected as a legislator and the first woman to head a government here.

Portia Simpson Miller

Simpson Miller, who lost the last general election to the Holness’ Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) in February last year, is expected to  hand in her letter of resignation as the Member of Parliament on Wednesday.

The former leader of the People’s National Party (PNP) has since been named as Honorary Distinguished Fellow of The University of the West Indies (UWI),

In her speech, she thanked the colleagues with whom she had served over her 35 years in Parliament for their support. Simpson Miller said the people of St Andrew South Western helped to make her what she is and her life would always be intertwined with theirs.

“It has been quite a journey. I have endured it all – the ridicule, the victories, and defeats. But I have stood tall and remained focused,” she said, adding “I have consistently been able to do so out of the fundamental belief that good will always overcome evil.”

She also paid tribute to the late leader of the Trade Union Congress (TUC), Hopeton Caven, who lost the St Andrew South Western seat twice to the JLP candidates before she won it in 1976 at her first attempt.

Simpson Miller also credited former Prime Minister Michael Manley’s “belief and confidence” in her, which led to him assigning her to several portfolios and thanked former prime ministers Hugh Lawson Shearer and Edward Seaga for giving her support in her early years in politics

.Prime Minister Holness said she had indeed a “truly phenomenal career” and that she was not only the seventh woman to be elected to the House of Representatives, but was Jamaica’s first, and to date, only, female prime minister.

“This was no ordinary feat, and you are no ordinary woman,” Holness said, adding that the former prime minister had also been a voice for the poor in society.

“I have studied you in that regard. I have observed how you have operated, and I am saying to you on your retirement that you don’t have to worry, there is a new defender of the poor people of Jamaica,” Holness said.

Opposition Leader Dr. Peter Phillips said that Simpson Miller’s presence in Parliament embodied all that was good about Jamaica, while others focused on what is wrong with Jamaica.

“We, the members of this honourable House and Senate, have a responsibility to place on record our appreciation of her outstanding contribution so that future generations may become aware of her tremendous contribution to the building of the nation,” he said.

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Prime Minister announces Cabinet reshuffle

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Jun. 29, CMC- Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley has made changes to his Cabinet – effective Thursday, that will lead to the reassignment of some government ministers.


Trinidad & Tobago PM Dr. Keith Rowley

The release, issued early Thursday said Prime Minister had informed President Anthony Thomas Aquinas Carmona, of the reassignment of Fitzgerald Hinds from the Ministry of Public Utilities  to Minister in the Ministry of the Attorney General and Legal Affairs to assist the Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs .

Hinds, a former member and trainer in the police service is an experienced attorney at law with a master’s degree in constitutional law and will remain a member of the Cabinet.

In a release early Thursday, the Prime Minister said Marlene McDonald will be appointed Minister of Public Utilities with responsibility for the business of the Government.

In another move,  Ayanna Leeba Lewis as a Senator was revoked  and Allyson West will be appointed Senator and Minister in the Ministry of Finance, to assist the Minister of Finance.

The release added that  Nicole Olivierre will be appointed Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Energy and Energy Industries.

A swearing in ceremony is expected to take place on Friday at President’s House.

The last Cabinet reshuffle  –  the first of Rowley’s administration took place on October 31, 2016 and saw Members of Parliament Nicole Ollivierre, Ancil Antoine and Sarah Budhu being relieved of the Energy Ministry, Public Utilities Ministry and Government Senator portfolios, respectively.

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Ronald Sanders

CMCFeature: CARICOM Pride turned to Gloom

By Sir Ronald Sanders*

WASHINGTON, Jun 23, CMC – Three weeks ago, I and many other committed Caribbean integrationists, declared that the unity displayed by CARICOM countries at the Organization of American States (OAS) on May 31 “was a moment for unbridled pride”.

What happened on Monday June 20, just days later, shattered that sense of pride as CARICOM countries not only reversed their unity, but displayed their differences in public on a live internet streaming watched worldwide.

The first occasion, as the second, was a ‘Meeting of Consultation of Ministers of Foreign Affairs’ of the 34-member OAS to discuss the situation in Venezuela.  At the meeting on May 31, CARICOM countries presented a draft declaration, agreed by CARICOM leaders, which was an alternative to an existing draft backed by a Group of 14 countries (G14), led by the US, Canada, Mexico, and Peru.

Ronald Sanders

The G14 draft, called ‘the Peru draft’, was interventionist in its tone and content and defied the Charter of the Organisation and its rules.

Both St Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves and Antigua and Barbuda’s Prime Minister Gaston Browne decried the interventionist and interfering overtones.  They were right, and Bruce Golding, the former Prime Minister of Jamaica was wrong in chiding them.

In trying to justify ‘interference’ in Venezuela, Mr Golding drew a comparison to the Caribbean’s involvement in the fight against Apartheid in South Africa.  I believe that, upon reflection, Mr Golding, for whom I have a great deal of regard, would consider that comparison to be most inappropriate.

Because a few CARICOM countries had been encouraged to support the ‘Peru draft’ and the solidity of CARICOM was being threatened, CARICOM leaders convened a special meeting on May 29 to try to rebuild solidarity.

In doing so, they produced a new draft declaration which they instructed should be used “in the negotiations for the final text which will be considered by the (resumed) OAS Ministerial Consultation Meeting”.  These instructions were contained in the CARICOM Secretariat Savingram No. 340/2017 of May 29 with which the draft of the leaders was conveyed to all Heads of Government and copied to all Foreign Ministers of CARICOM countries.

In other words, the draft declaration from the leaders was not – as it could not be – a declaration which would be imposed upon the other 24 members of the OAS. They themselves said it was a unified position to be used “in the negotiations for the final text” which all 34 governments of the OAS would consider.   The CARICOM leaders’ draft and the “Peru draft” were both considered at the May 31 meeting, but each failed to command the support of two-thirds of the membership (23 votes).

The Meeting of Consultation then did precisely what CARICOM leaders wanted, they agreed the two texts would be used “in the negotiation for a final text”.

Ministers of all the OAS countries present at the 31 May meeting then asked their Ambassadors to negotiate a final text using the CARICOM leaders draft and the “Peru” draft as the basis for their discussion.   Contrary to what has been alleged, Ambassadors did not seek to arrogate to themselves any “authority to amend or rescind an authoritative decision of the (CARICOM) Heads”.

Indeed, they were acting in compliance with instructions from Ministers who were themselves acting fully in concert with the decision of leaders as conveyed in the CARICOM Secretariat Savingram No. 340/2017.

In pursuance of those instructions, CARICOM Ambassadors to the OAS elected three of their number to negotiate with three of the representatives of the G14.  On the CARICOM side were the Ambassadors of Guyana as current Chair of CARICOM, Riyad Insanally, the Ambassador of Barbados, Selwyn Hart, and me as the Ambassador of Antigua and Barbuda.

For the G14, the negotiators were the Ambassadors of Peru and Brazil and the interim representative of the United States.  Two things are important to note: first, the CARICOM negotiators insisted on using only the CARICOM leaders’ draft for negotiation; we rejected the “Peru draft” outright on the basis that it was too interventionist in its tone and content: and second, every CARICOM Ambassador was fully informed by red-lined texts of each stage of the negotiation with the request that they keep their governments abreast of the outcome of the negotiations, which, at all times, was subject to approval by governments.   The same process was followed by the G14.

To be fair to the G14, they demonstrated a great deal of flexibility, despite opposition in their own camp to the acceptance of discarding the “Peru draft”.

At the end of the negotiations, all but four paragraphs of the CARICOM leaders draft remained as written; and of the four other paragraphs, very little of substance was altered except to identify matters to which the government and opposition in Venezuela had agreed as reflected in published communiques from mediators, including the Pope’s representative.

Until Prime Minister Gonsalves, wrote and published his letter of June 16 to his colleague leaders, no CARICOM country had raised any objection to the negotiation or its outcomes.   Indeed, several governments contributed language to the negotiators for the text.

When CARICOM Ministers convened on the morning of June 20, prior to the resumed meeting of the OAS Ministers of Consultation in the afternoon, it was assumed that all CARICOM countries were on board on the negotiated text, except for St Vincent and the Grenadines.  Several had indicated their support in writing or orally.

At the CARICOM Ministers meeting, ably Chaired by the Barbados Foreign Minister, Maxine McClean, the Minister representing St Vincent and the Grenadines, Camillo Gonsalves, made clear that his government was not supporting the negotiated text.

Ministers and other representatives were then asked by the Chair if any of them were of the same mind as St Vincent and the Grenadines. Not one demurred.   The CARICOM negotiators were then instructed to meet the negotiators for the G14 to settle the final text which we proceeded to do in good faith, having advised that St Vincent was not part of the agreement in the exercise of its sovereign right.

Only after the negotiation was completed with little time before the start of the resumed Meeting of Consultation did Suriname indicate that it could not support one sentence in the agreed declaration.  That sentence, which had been shared with all CARICOM representatives throughout the negotiation, called for “the reconsideration of the Constituent Assembly (in Venezuela) as presently conceived”.

As it turned out that sentence, for whatever reason, became the basis for four other CARICOM countries to publicly and without notice, break ranks and declare their lack of support for the single negotiated document.  CARICOM was split asunder, and the negotiations, that had been conducted on behalf of all, then seemed to have been conducted in bad faith.

The final text would have expressed the collective concern of all OAS states about the situation in Venezuela, call for an end to violence and for the government and opposition to return to dialogue, to address the need for food and medicines, for respect for human rights, the rule of law and democracy including representative democracy and declare the OAS ready to provide assistance to meet the serious challenges facing Venezuela.

The representative of St Vincent then re-introduced the draft that CARICOM leaders had offered “for negotiation of a final text” as his government’s draft declaration.  Therefore, CARICOM countries found themselves in the awkward and embarrassing position of having to vote on two drafts – one of which had been intended by CARICOM leaders for negotiation, and the other that had been negotiated with fidelity to the fundamental principles enunciated in the CARICOM leaders’ draft.   The other OAS countries looked on aghast.

In the final vote of all the OAS countries present, the St Vincent draft secured only eight votes in favour, while the negotiated draft garnered 20 yes votes.

Again, neither draft secured the 23 votes necessary to be adopted and the meeting adjourned as it began with no declaration, but with a severely wounded CARICOM and a paralysed OAS.

I abstained from both votes as did the representatives of Grenada and Trinidad and Tobago.  As I explained at the meeting after the vote, I had negotiated in good faith for CARICOM with a CARICOM draft whose principles were steadfastly maintained.

The final negotiated declaration was non-interventionist and had nothing that could reasonably be regarded as “interfering”.  In good conscience, once the CARICOM centre collapsed, I could not vote for a declaration for whose achievement I had worked in the interest of a cohesive CARICOM stance. The pride I felt just 20 days before dissolved into profound disappointment and a gloomy mood.

CARICOM is the weaker for all this, and it will not easily recover the soft power and respect that comes from 14 acting as one.

*Sir Ronald Sanders, is Antigua and Barbuda’s Ambassador to the United States and the Organisation of American States.  The views expressed are entirely his own.


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