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Raúl Castro defends more unity and integration Cuba-Caricom

Raúl Castro defends more unity and integration Cuba-Caricom

Antigua and Barbuda, Dec 8. 2017 – Cuban President Raúl Castro today called for unity in diversity, integration and genuine cooperation among Caribbean states to face common challenges and problems of the region and the world.

In a speech on the opening day of the 6th summit of his country and the Caribbean Community (Caricom), the head of state also warned of the dangers that loom and increase over the human species.

“How can we face the challenge of moving towards development in the midst of the deep economic, social, political and environmental crisis that this hemisphere and the world is suffering?”, Raúl Castro asked the Prime Ministers of Antigua and Barbuda, Gaston Browne, and Granada, Keith Mitchell.

“The dangers for the survival of the human species increase. The consequences of the application of concepts not universally accepted as ‘humanitarian intervention” and “responsibility to protect”, are used to cover interventionist and aggressive actions that threaten international peace and security”, he said.

Such situations, the Cuban president said, “call us to defend international law and the full validity of the purposes and principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations”.

Raúl Castro considered that the Caribbean countries should be articulated to demand a fair action by the industrialized powers in order to mitigate and adapt the effects of climate change, “particularly with financial resources and technology transfer”, he added.

Likewise, he said, “we should agree on approaches to the 2030 agenda for sustainable development and, especially, to collectively face the mechanisms of domination imposed on us by the unjust international financial system”.

In his address to the other leaders of the 14 nations of the regional body, the Cuban president expressed the will of Havana to promote and promote ties with its neighbors in various areas.

“I reiterate Cuba’s invariable position of supporting, in all circumstances, the right of small island states and developing nations to receive special and differential treatment in access to trade and investment”.

“We will continue to receive Caribbean students in our universities. The 5,640 young people of the Caribbean who have been trained and the 695 who are currently studying in them”, he emphasized.

Likewise, the Cuban leader considered that the thousand 762 Cuban collaborators present in all the countries of Caricom, of whom 1,469 in the health sector, “are part of Cuba’s contribution to the development of the Caribbean peoples”.

We intend to advance in the development of trade and investments. Between 2014 and 2016, commercial exchange grew by 70 percent. This year marches at a good pace, assessed.

He added that the “broad and diverse” participation of Caribbean companies and agencies in the recent International Fair of Havana augurs greater growth in that regard.

“We welcome the implementation in January 2018 of the Second Protocol to the bilateral Trade and Cooperation Agreement, a document that expands tariff preferences granted by Cuba and facilitates access to our markets”, said President Raul Castro. (PL)

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Opposition Leader Kamla Persad Bissessar and Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley

Government critical of Opposition over defeat of Anti-Gang legislation

PM Rowley: “And we’re seeing an exponential rise in gang activity,”

 

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Dec 7, CMC – The Trinidad and Tobago government Thursday blasted Opposition legislators after they failed to provide the necessary support for the Anti-Gang Legislation that the authorities said was needed to deal with the rising gang activities in the country.

Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley told a news conference that all objections to the bill had been addressed and amended before it was put to the vote and accused the Opposition of supporting criminality by objecting to the legislation that had required a two-thirds majority in Parliament.

At the end of it all…there was not a single impediment standing in their way…every single thing they raised including the (comments by the) Chief Whip (David Lee) (were addressed).

Opposition Leader Kamla Persad Bissessar and Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley

“On December 7, 2017, in the wee hours of the morning, (Opposition) refused to use their vote to defend the lives of the people,” a visibly upset Rowley told reporters.”

“The business of Trinidad and Tobago was gutted and undermined. We have a scourge of gang activity in many if not most of our communities, there are thousands of families where the quality of life is being severely impacted by illegal activity.

“For some inexplicable reason, our colleagues in the Parliament found it difficult or impossible to convert the scourge of gang activity into an illegal activity,” he added.

The Anti-Gang Bill 2017 seeks to make provision for the maintenance of public safety and order through discouraging membership of criminal gangs and the suppression of criminal gang activity and for other related matters.

It seeks to make it an offence to be a member of a gang, to be in possession of a bullet-proof vest, to participate in, or contribute to, the activities of a gang, to support or invite support for a gang, or to harbour or conceal gang members or recruit persons to a gang.

The legislation also contains a ‘retaliatory clause’ which protects persons who have left gangs from retaliatory actions by gang members.

Opposition legislators voted against the bill that had first been introduced here during the term in office of the People’s Partnership government headed by Kamla Persad Bissessar.

Former Legal Affairs Minister Prakash Ramadhar abstained when the vote was taken during the early hours of Thursday morning and has promised to outline his position at a news conference  on the weekend.

Rowley told reporters that he had spoken to the Lee seeking to determine the objections of the Opposition saying that the main opposition United National Congress (UNC) was seeking to benefit from the crime situation in order to attain power.

“Kamla Persad-Bissessar and her UNC gang and cabal voted to maintain that status quo….so that crime and criminality can remain a chronic state of affairs, so that those politicians can point to the crime and call Trinidad and Tobago a failed state and hope that you will be disgusted with those in office and put them in office

“That is the most cynical, wicked and pernicious act,” Rowley said, adding that citizens should hold their representatives to account.

“You put them in office and you have to get them to work for you, because right now they are working for themselves. I could not believe…I served with people who would do something like that.”

Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi, who had earlier told legislators during the debate that between 2014 and this year, gangs in Trinidad and Tobago had increased 129 per cent and gang members have increased 60 per cent,

“And we’re seeing an exponential rise in gang activity,” he said, noting that in 2014 the acting Police Commissioner had said there were 92 gangs with 1,500 members.

“In 2016 it grew to 172 gangs and 2,358 members – today it’s 211 gangs and 2,458 members,” he said, adding that gang-related murders totalled 998 between 2010 and this year and the number of gang-related guns seized stands at 4,674.

According to Al-Rawi an estimated 1,195 firearms were seized since 2016 alone, reiterating that the number of gangs and their members in the nine police divisions ranging from 49 (Western) to nine (Eastern). There are also 221 members in the Witness Protection Programme, he noted.

Al- Rawi said that when the bill was first introduced here by the previous government, 463 were arrested under the law during the 2011 state of emergency (SoE).

Speaking at the news conference Al-Rawi said he was ‘shell-shocked’ by the Opposition’s behaviour, saying “we went over it bit by bit…when we came to take the final vote… all 21 PNM (People’s National Movement) members present voted yes. When we came to the vote from the Opposition it started with no…a big fat no.

“Suffice it to say it was shell-shocking to see what happened yesterday after 14 hours of work,” he said, telling reporters that he had observed that some Opposition legislators were in disagreement with the decision adopted by the Opposition Leader.

“I saw the look on the faces of those opposite me last night. I saw shock. I saw fear, I saw disgust. I saw a member of the UNC bench have some very heated words with his leader and storm out of the Parliament,” Al-Rawi added.

Prime Minister Rowley said his government would continue to seek to criminalise gang activity and will seek to use other laws in the interim in order to crack down on gang activity.

“I realised that Opposition was hell-bent on not making gang activity in Trinidad and Tobago an illegal act….we have one hell of a problem because Opposition has decided to come down in support of criminality in Trinidad and Tobago.”

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Opposition leader calls on Premier Romeo to resign

Opposition leader calls on Premier Romeo to resign

Mr  Easton Taylor-Farrell

leader the Hon. Easton Taylor Farrell has been leading the questions and criticisms of the current Donaldson Romeo led Peoples Democratic Government (PDM) calling on him to, “consider taking the high road of decency and tender his resignation…”

Farrell before his recommendation expressed his concern that, “Three years into the life of this parliament – this government has nothing to show, as a matter of fact their action have pushed the countries development back between ten to fifteen years…”

He explained, “Some of these projects and systems were agreed to by our major funding partner DFID, while others were designed to attract foreign direct investment hence the reason for the Montserrat Development Co-operation (MDC). An institution set up and funded by DFID for eight years to play a key role in the development trust for Montserrat.”

The Opposition leader was speaking at the recent Legislative Assembly as he continues with what one commentator says to TMR, should be fact checked, especially that it is coming out of LegAss.

“This madam speaker was closed down with advisement of this administration. The project implementation unit set up to ensure government projects were delivered on time and within budget and to ensure that monies for projects were not left unspent year after year but this too was closed by this administration. But as shown by the government’s performance over the three years, probably there was no need for the project implementation unit after all,” Hon Farrell said.

He continued by drawing comparison between his MCAP, the previous government and present PDM regarding development on the ground. He spoke of how quickly they (MCAP govt) got housing moving by government and the private sector without any assistance from DFID…

He said, “the previous administration began rolling out projects, a vast difference to what we’re seeing today. Three years into the life of this parliament and this government has nothing to show, as a matter of fact their action have pushed the countries development back between ten to fifteen years.”

In conclusion he said, “Madam speaker If this government is unable to fulfill its mandate and if the Honorable Premier cannot assure the people of this country that he will be able to implement some of his transformation projects within the next year, my advice to the Honorable Premier madam speaker is that he should consider taking the high road of decency and tender his resignation…”

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Rescue

Top of the week Regional round-up

Sailing vessel sinks – two rescued

CASTRIES, St. Lucia, Nov 18, CMC – Two people were airlifted to safety via helicopter  after their sailing vessel – ‘Tyago’, sank between St. Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
RescueThe marine authorities reported that a search for the two began late Thursday.
Two ships in the area – the French flagged ‘Club Med 2’ and the Liberian registered container vessel ‘San Cristobal’, took part in the search and rescue operation along with the  French navy frigate ‘Ventose’.
The two men, whose identities have not been released, were hoisted to safety by helicopter after spending  five hours in the water clinging to a cooler.

 

 

Prince of Wales tours hurricane ravaged BVI

The Prince of Wales, Prince Charles made his first visit to the British Virgin Islands on Saturday for a first hand look at the devastation caused by Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

photo credit : BVI news
photo credit : BVI news

Accomanied by British Member of Parliament Penny Mordaunt, Secretary of State for the Department for International Trade, the Prince briefly toured Tortola and met local communities to hear about the ways they have been recovering since the BVI was hit by the hurricanes.

Charles also visited the Youth Empowerment Project (YEP), “which has fought back since the storms to get up and running.

“There, he met some of the young people who have been a part of new support programs, which encourage them to talk about storm experiences and equip them with practical life skills to cope with difficult living conditions,” said the BIV Government in a statement late Saturday.

Prince Charles who is also the President of Red Cross, visited the local branch where he was introduced to a  several volunteers, including Deniese Gardener, “who risked her life in the middle of the storm, along with two others, to rescue a local woman.

This was Prince Charles’ first official visit to the BVI  and the first Royal visit since the Duke of Gloucester in March 2012, the statement said.

“I was honored to welcome His Royal Highness to the Virgin Islands to show him the devastating impact of Hurricanes Irma and Maria,” said Governor Augustus Gaspert.

“Their destructive force was unprecedented, and the lives of many on the island are still challenging. But, with the incredible community spirit and support from friends overseas, we are now on the road to recovery.

“It has been inspiring to see the resilience of our community over these last two months, and it was my pleasure to share this and a few stories of the heroic acts since then with His Royal Highness,” the governor added.

“It is important that the Virgin Islands, our challenges and our recovery remain at the front of people’s minds around the world,” Gaspert continued. “There is still a lot to do, and I continue to work with the premier to ensure we progress with the recovery plan.”

Caribbean island-nations take climate response into their own hands

BONN, Germany, Nov 19,  CMC – Caribbean and other island-nations, with no time to lose, are taking climate response into their own hands.

Following two weeks of negotiations on bolstering the Paris Climate Change agreement, leaders on Friday said their hopes that island issues would take center stage have mostly been dashed.

Climate ChangeThe New York Times reports that almost none of the measures to help their countries adapt to the impacts of global warming have been resolved, and few delegates said they were hopeful the final hours of talks would bring decisions.

“I’m anxious, and I’m fearful,” said Prime Minister Allen Chastanet of St. Lucia.

“It can’t be that a prime minister’s only resource is to get down on his knees on the side of a bed and pray.”

From rising seas to the loss of fresh water, islands are among the most vulnerable nations to global warming, the Times said, noting that hurricanes, expected to become more ferocious with climate change, pummeled Caribbean island-nations into crisis this summer.

Hurricane Irma destroyed nearly every car and building on the the island of Barbuda and swelled the population of Antigua overnight as thousands of Barbudans sought shelter. Hurricane Maria knocked out power across the United States Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico and left Dominica in tatters.

Small islands also are among the smallest contributors to climate change, producing less than 1 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions and leaders of the industrialized world said they owe some recompense for the disasters these vulnerable nations will suffer in the years ahead.

“The very thing that makes them wealthy is contributing to our vulnerability,” said Prime Minister Gaston Browne of Antigua and Barbuda. “It’s only fair that they provide some level of compensation.”

But it’s reported that hopes are waning that Caribbean island-nations will see a major increase in financial support to help address the consequences of climate change.

On Friday, here created an expert group to formally include the issue of helping vulnerable Caribbean and other countries with immediate needs, known as loss and damage, in the United Nations climate process.

But the Times said “there is no money attached to it, though, nor means to raise any.”

So far, it said the biggest news came midweek, when Germany and Britain announced funding for a long discussed partnership to promote insurance coverage   in island-nations vulnerable to disasters.

“It can help people recover from floods or cyclones. But it doesn’t help against slow onset events like sea-level rise — no one will insure against that,” said Harjeet Singh, global head of climate change for ActingAid.

He also noted that many of the details of the new insurance proposal were still vague, like how much relatively poor island countries would have to pay in premiums.

The UN Climate Change Conference (COP23) wrapped up, with delegations expressing a renewed sense of urgency and a need for greater ambition to tackle climate change.

The conference, which ran from November 6-17, was chaired by Fiji, an island-state particularly affected by the impacts of climate change. The Fiji Presidency announced an agreement on a Gender Action Plan, highlighting the role of women in climate action.

Apart from negotiations among Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) , the UN said several new climate action initiatives, commitments and partnerships were announced by states and non-state actors in the areas of energy, water, agriculture, oceans and coastal areas, human settlements, transportation, industry, and forests.

Climate finance and climate resilience were also at the center of the discussions at the conference, the UN said.

It said more than 20 countries, including the Canada, Finland, France, Mexico, and the United Kingdom, launched a new global coal alliance aimed at achieving the rapid phase-out of existing traditional coal power and at placing a moratorium on any new traditional coal power stations without operational carbon capture and storage.

The conference took place one year after the entry into force of the Paris Agreement. The agreement, which was adopted by the 196 Parties to the UNFCCC in December 2015, calls on countries to combat climate change by limiting the rise of global temperature below 2 degrees Celsius and strive not to exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius, the UN said. On Friday, 70 Parties have ratified the treaty.

A week before the opening of the conference, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) announced that the levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere surged at “record-breaking speed” to new highs in 2016.

The UN said COP23 will be followed by a series of summits and conferences on climate change, which are scheduled ahead of the UN Climate Summit in September 2019, including the “One Planet” summit to be convened by France next month.

The “One Planet” summit focuses on financing, a gathering in California, bringing together non-State actors, and the COP24 in Katowice, Poland, in December 2018, the UN said. Brazil has offered to host COP25 in 2019.

Britain providing more aid to hurricane ravaged Caribbean countries

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Nov 20, CMC – Britain is providing more financial assistance to Antigua and Barbuda as well as Dominica to help recovery and long-term reconstruction on the islands following the devastation caused by Hurricanes Irma and Maria in September.

International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt, who accompanied Prince Charles on a visit to the two hurricane ravaged countries over the weekend, set out a new £15 million (One British Pound=US$1.32 cents) package for Dominica and Antigua and Barbuda. Dominica will receive £12 million and Antigua and Barbuda three million pounds.

Maria 55
Hurricane damage in Dominica (File Photo)

The visiting British government official said this in addition to a further £15 million recently allocated to the affected Overseas Territories.

“We can be proud that in their time of crisis the United Kingdom stepped up to provide the vital immediate relief that was fundamental in getting these islands back on their feet,” said Mordaunt.

“The UK aid mission was huge, covering small islands stretching more than 1,000 miles apart, where buildings, airports and infrastructure had been razed to the ground. I want to pay tribute to the governments of the Overseas Territories, our humanitarian staff and to the military effort, which has been absolutely essential in delivering relief.

“Now as we move on from the immediate response phase, on to the long-term future of the islands, Britain will continue to stand by people whose lives were devastated. We are also talking to the international private sector who can support the reconstruction efforts to make sure the islands can build back, and better,” she added.

The support package, which brings the total UK contribution to £92 million, will include £10m to help Dominica to rebuild critical infrastructure damaged during the hurricanes. The United Kingdom’s contribution to Dominica also includes an additional two million pounds for early recovery, building on the five million pounds committed in September.

London said that for Antigua and Barbuda, it stands ready to assist with a three million pound  fund which will be deployed once the priorities for reconstruction on Barbuda are agreed with the local government.

For the Overseas Territories of Anguilla, the British Virgin Islands and Turks and Caicos, the £15 million is delivering accelerated power reconnection and support to prisons, repairs to air and sea ports and support for policing. This is short-term funding to aid the territories’ early steps to recovery.

At the World Bank meetings last month the UK announced a private sector task force will mobilise business to play a prominent role in the reconstruction in the Overseas Territories.

The task force will identify and drive forward practical ways of increasing flows of private sector financial support to reconstruction in the region.

Mother’s drugs conviction quashed but son gets extra six years

November 20, 2017
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HAMILTON, Bermuda, Nov 20, CMC  — The Court of Appeal has quashed a mother’s conviction for money-laundering, but has increased her son’s sentence for running a drug-smuggling operation by six years.

court rulDenise Morris, 55, was given a 12-month suspended prison sentence earlier this year after a jury found her guilty of possessing more than US$15,000 in criminal proceeds that prosecutors said her 26-year-old son Damon had earned from drug dealing.

The mother appealed against her conviction and the Crown appealed against the 12-year sentence given to her son on the grounds it was too low.

The son was initially jailed for 12 years for orchestrating a major drug smuggling operation to import large quantities of heroin and cocaine into Bermuda.

The Court of Appeal has overturned the mother’s conviction and ruled there was no evidence to suggest that the money found in her bedroom closet was the proceeds of crime.

The panel also found that trial Judge Charles-Etta Simmons had erred by not dismissing the charge against the mother at the end of the prosecution’s case.

The appeal judges also ruled that Justice Simmons should have added an extra 50 per cent to the son’s prison term due to the seriousness of the drug offences and increased his sentence to 18 years.

Jurors heard at the original Supreme Court trial that in December 2015 an airline passenger was stopped as he arrived at L.F. Wade International Airport.

An X-ray revealed that he had swallowed several items that he later excreted and were found to be 86.38 grams of heroin with a street value of US$253,380.

Police later arrested Damon Morris on conspiracy to import controlled drugs after an investigation.

Opposition party files new motion in a bid to have ballot boxes inspected

KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent, Nov 20, CMC – Attorneys for the main opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) have filed an amended motion for inspection of the ballots and counterfoils used in at least one constituency in the 2015 election that was won by the ruling Unity Labour Party (ULP) of Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves.

In addition, the lawyers have filed a supplemental affidavit in support of the amended draft order being sought by Ben Exeter, the NDP’s candidate in Central Leeward, who has brought one of two petitions challenging the outcome of the vote.

ball“The key objective is to clarify further for the court the particulars based on which it should make the order for inspection of the used ballots and counterfoils in all 15 ballot boxes,” a source with knowledge of the case told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC).

The motion comes up for hearing on December 12 and 13.

Exeter’s case is essentially that all ballots were designed contrary to how the election rules prescribed.

The NDP’s legal team is arguing that as a result of this alleged flawed design, the presiding officer handled the ballots improperly, and invalidated them by omitting to endorse the official mark and/or by the official mark appearing on them in such a manner that over 90 per cent of the ballot could not be folded so that the initials of the presiding officer and the official mark can be seen without opening them, as required under the Rules.

The NDP’s legal team is also arguing that the returning officer, Winston Gaymes, counted all these “invalid ballots” at the final count — against Exeter and his representatives’ objections.

The attorneys said the Organization of American States (OAS) report on the election confirmed this and that Gaymes swears under oath he counted the ballots despite his knowledge that all the ballots cast at polling station CLF were invalid pursuant to the rules.

The lawyers for the NDP are asking the court to order Supervisor of Elections Sylvia Findlay-Scrubb to deliver to the Registrar of the High Court the documents relating to the election held in Central Leeward on December 9, 2015.

They are also asking the court to grant an order that the Registrar of the High Court open the ballot boxes in the presence of Exeter and/or his representatives and that permission be granted for the Registrar and the petitioner and or his representatives to inspect all ballot papers contained in the ballot boxes with a view to determining the accuracy of a number of allegations.

Gonsalves led the ULP to an 8-7 victory in the December 2015 polls for a fourth consecutive term in office.

POLITICS-CCM concedes challenges with implementing integrity legislation

CHARLESTOWN, Nevis, Nov 20, CMC – The leader of the ruling Concerned Citizen’s Movement (CCM), Mark Brantley, says his party if re-elected to office will bring into effect the Integrity in Public Life Ordinance “a matter of urgent priority”.

The CCM had come under criticism from the main opposition Nevis Reformation Party (NRP) regarding the delay in bringing the integrity legislation into effect following its passage in the Nevis Island Assembly (NIA).

Brantleyy
Mark Brantley (File Photo)

“I can assure the public this is a matter that is very important to us and will be operationalized in the next term of the Concerned Citizens Movement as a matter of urgent priority,” Brantley told WINN FM radio station here.

Brantley, who is also the Deputy Premier of Nevis acknowledged that “some issues raised in some quarters as to the scope of the bill …was quite extensive…

“So we had to go back to the drawing board in relation to that and so that ended up leading to considerable delay. There was of course legislation passed in St Kitts at the federal level and there was a question of how those two would interact,” he told radio listeners.

Former attorney Patrice Nisbett had been critical of the NIA for not implementing the legislation which the CCM had brought to Nevis parliament shortly after its election to office. He said under the CCM there is rampant corruption in government, which is what Integrity in Public Life legislation is designed to safeguard against.

“They told you that there was no decency, there was no integrity, they told you that corruption was rife within the NRP led administration. They told you that they were going to return integrity and honesty and decency to government.

“In 2013 the Nevis Island Assembly passed an Integrity In Public Life ordinance and you know up to today that ordinance has not commenced. It is there gathering dust on the statute books of Nevis, it was not meant to gather dust, it was meant to ensure that there was accountability, transparency and integrity in public life in Nevis,” Nisbett said, adding “and I’m sure you have heard from various quarters the rampant and open nepotism that is occurring over on the island of Nevis.”had campaigned on a good governance and transparency platform in the last election, but political observers note that the Integrity in Public Life Act passed by the then Denzil Douglas-led government in September 2013 has not yet gone into effect.

Colourful dancehall deejay Ninjaman guilty of murder

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Nov 21, CMC – Desmond Ballentyne, the colourful dancehall deejay known as “Ninjaman” will re-appear in court on December 15 for sentencing after he and two other persons including his son, were found guilty of murder on Monday.

The seven-member jury deliberated for more than three hours in the Home Circuit Court before returning the guilty verdict against the singer, his son, Janiel, and Dennis Clayton. The three were accused of the murder of Ricardo Johnson, also known as “Trooper”, in March 2009.

NinjamanNinjaman was found guilty of murder and shooting with intent, while his co-accused were convicted of murder after the jury heard testimony from the main witness whom the prosecution named only as “Witness A”.

He was arrested in 2009 and remanded in custody for three years before being offered bail.

Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Paula Llewellyn told reporters that the murder had its foundation in a domestic dispute between two tenants that escalated on March 16, 2009 and continued the following day.

“One tenant contacted her granddaughter, who was the babymother of Clayton. The other tenant basically had ‘Witness A’ dealing with the matter. Out of that threats were issued and the following morning, on the 17th of March, 2009, Desmond Ballentyne, his son Janiel, and Dennis Clayton returned to the scene,” Llewellyn said, adding that just before the shots were fired, Ninjaman and his son were seen with guns.

The DPP said that on March 17, Johnson, who had gone to visit his friend, who was inside the yard talking when Clayton and other men, including Seymour Samuels, who was also accused but has since died.

An argument developed between Clayton, Johnson and the key witness; however, Clayton and his friends left the yard. But shortly after there was a stone-throwing incident between the parties after which Clayton threatened to kill the witness, according to the DPP.

She said Clayton, who was armed with a cutlass, was seen among a group of people who were talking and pointing in the witness’s direction.

Shortly after, Janiel Ballentyne was seen in a motor car that drove to Johnson’s gate and stopped. He alighted and confronted Johnson and ‘Witness A’ .

Subsequently, the men went to their respective homes on Lower Marl Road. Minutes later, Johnson went to the witness’s house.

Hours later the car returned with Ninjaman, his son, and Clayton who all threatened to kill the men.

The DPP said that in an attempt to get away both men went through a hole in a fence. The witness said he saw Johnson, armed with a cutlass, chopping and pushing the fence to prevent his attackers from entering through the hole.

“So in all the circumstances, the Crown used circumstantial evidence to infer that not only were they properly identified, not only were Jeniel and Desmond Ballentyne armed with guns, but that they were the persons who fired, causing the demise of Ricardo Johnson,” Llewellyn said.

US government ends TPS for Haitians

By Nelson A. King

WASHINGTON, Nov 21, CMC – The United States government Monday terminated Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for nearly 60,000 undocumented Haitian nationals living in the United States.

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Acting Secretary Elaine Duke said she made the decision to terminate the TPS designation for Haitians, with a delayed effective date of 18 months, “to allow for an orderly transition before the designation terminates on July 22, 2019.”

TPS haitiaDuke said the decision follows then-Secretary John Kelly’s announcement in May 2017 that Haiti had made “considerable progress, and that the country’s designation will likely not be extended past six months.

“The decision to terminate TPS for Haiti was made after a review of the conditions upon which the country’s original designation were based and whether those extraordinary but temporary conditions prevented Haiti from adequately handling the return of their nationals, as required by statute,” Duke said.

“Based on all available information, including recommendations received as part of an inter-agency consultation process,” Duke said, adding that she determined that “those extraordinary but temporary conditions caused by the 2010 earthquake no longer exist.

“Thus, under the applicable statute, the current TPS designation must be terminated,” she said, stating that she met with Haitian Foreign Minister Antonio Rodrigue and Haitian Ambassador to the United States Paul Altidor recently to discuss the issue.

Duke said that, in 2017 alone, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (UCIS) conducted “extensive outreach to the Haitian communities throughout the country.”

She said these included but were not limited to community forums on TPS, panel discussions with Haitian community organizers, stakeholder teleconferences, regular meetings with TPS beneficiaries, news releases to the Haitian community, meetings with Haitian government officials, meetings at local churches and listening sessions.

Since the 2010 earthquake, Duke said the number of displaced people in Haiti had decreased by 97 per cent.

“Significant steps have been taken to improve the stability and quality of life for Haitian citizens, and Haiti is able to safely receive traditional levels of returned citizens. Haiti has also demonstrated a commitment to adequately prepare for when the country’s TPS designation is terminated.”

In May 2017, Kelly, now White House Chief-of-Staff, announced a limited extension for Haiti’s TPS designation, stating that he believed there were indications that Haiti – if its recovery from the 2010 earthquake continued at pace – may not warrant further TPS extension past January 2018.

At the time, Kelly said that his six-month extension should give Haitian TPS recipients living in the United States time to attain travel documents and make other necessary arrangements for their ultimate departure from the United States, and should also provide the Haitian government with the time it needs to prepare for the future repatriation of all current TPS recipients.

“To allow for an orderly transition, the effective date of the termination of TPS for Haiti will be delayed 18 months,” Duke said, adding “this will provide time for individuals with TPS to arrange for their departure or to seek an alternative lawful immigration status in the United States, if eligible.

“It will also provide time for Haiti to prepare for the return and reintegration of their citizens,” she said, noting that, during this timeframe, USCIS will work with the State Department, other DHS components and the Government of Haiti “to help educate relevant stakeholders and facilitate an orderly transition.”

Duke said Haitians with TPS will be required to reapply for Employment Authorization Documents in order to legally work in the United States until the end of the respective termination or extension periods.

The decision, while not a complete surprise, set off immediate dismay among Haitian communities in South Florida, New York and beyond.

Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, is still struggling to rebuild from the earthquake and relies heavily on money its expatriates send to relatives back home, the New York Times reported on Monday.

The decision to terminate TPS for 58,000 Haiti nationals living in the US comes 14 days after DHS announced it was terminating TPS for 2,500 Nicaraguans and delaying a decision for 57,000 Hondurans, which automatically gave them a six-month extension after their current status expires in January.

The announcement, while pleasing to immigration hardliners who argue that the provision was never meant to be permanent, deals a hard blow to long time Haitian and immigration advocates, the Miami Times reported.

It said that, for months they lobbied the Trump administration to extend the status for at least 18 months. It had been set to expire January 22.

“Haiti is not ready to absorb 58, 000,” said Marleine Bastien, a South Florida Haitian activist who has pushed for at least an 18-month extension of TPS. “It’s going to be a disaster for the 58,000 families in the US and a disaster for Haiti.

“Clearly, they are not making decisions based on facts on the ground, but rather politics. This is purely unacceptable,” she added.

Members of the United States Congress from South Florida also reacted with dismay with Florida Senator Bill Nelson, a Democrat, describing the decision “unconscionable,” and urging the administration to reconsider its position.

Congresswomen Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Republican, and Frederica Wilson, a Democrat, both vowed to look for legislative solutions.

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EGYPT-UNREST-SINAI

At least 235 killed in Egypt mosque attack

CBS News

EL-ARISH, Egypt — Militants attacked a crowded mosque during Friday prayers in the Sinai Peninsula, setting off explosives, spraying worshippers with gunfire and killing at least 235 people in the deadliest ever attack by Islamic extremists in Egypt.

The attack targeted a mosque frequented by Sufis, members of Islam’s mystical movement, in the north Sinai town of Bir al-Abd. Islamic militants, including the local ISIS affiliate, consider Sufis heretics because of their less literal interpretations of the faith.

The ISIS affiliate has been waging a stepped-up campaign of violence in northern Sinai for years and has claimed deadly bombings on churches in the capital, Cairo, and other cities, killing dozens of Christians. It also is believed to have been behind the 2016 downing of a Russian passenger jet that killed 226.

But this was the first major militant attack on a Muslim mosque and the startling bloodshed eclipsed any past attacks of its kind, even dating back to a previous Islamic militant insurgency in the 1990s.

EGYPT-UNREST-SINAI

Egyptians walk past bodies following a gun and bombing attack at the Rawda mosque, roughly 40 kilometers west of the North Sinai capital of El-Arish, on November 24, 2017. A bomb explosion ripped through the mosque before gunmen opened fire on the worshippers gathered for weekly Friday prayers, officials said. 

Stringer / AFP/Getty Images

The militants opened fire from four off-road vehicles on worshippers inside the mosque during the sermon, blocking off escape routes from the area by blowing up cars and leaving the burning wrecks blocking the roads, three police officers on the scene said.

Victims including some 130 wounded were rushed to local hospitals, they added, speaking on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to brief reporters.

No one claimed responsibility immediately following the attack, but ISIS has targeted Sufis several times in the area in the past, notably beheading a leading Sufi religious figure, the blind sheikh Suleiman Abu Heraz, last year and posting photos of the killing online.

President Donald Trump condemned the “cowardly” attack on Twitter, and took the opportunity to tout the need for a border wall and travel ban, even though his most recent ban doesn’t affect Egypt. He also said he would be speaking with Egypt’s president, Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, later Friday.

Images circulating on social media showed dozens of bloodied bodies wrapped up in sheets laid across the mosque floor, while others revealed dozens of relatives queuing up outside the hospital as ambulances raced back and forth.

Resident Ashraf el-Hefny said many of the victims were workers at a nearby salt firm who had come for Friday services at the mosque, which had contained some 300 worshipers.

“Local people brought the wounded to hospital on their own cars and trucks,” he said by telephone.

Egypt’s state news agency reported the casualty toll, citing “official sources,” revising it upward several times following the officials’ initial reports.

MENA reported that Egypt’s presidency declared a three-day mourning period, as President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi convened a high-level meeting of security officials.

Egyptian president Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi has condemned the extremist attack on a mosque in the troubled Sinai Peninsula, calling it “criminal” and “cowardly” and expressing condolences to the victims and their families.

In a statement after the meeting, el-Sissi said the attack “will not go unpunished” and that Egypt will persevere with its war on terrorism. The suffering of the victims was not in vain, he added, and will only “add to our insistence” to combat extremists. Addressing the nation later on television, he repeated his view that Egypt was fighting a battle for the rest of the world.

Cairo’s international airport boosted security following the attack, with more troopers and forces seen patrolling passenger halls, conducting searches and manning checkpoints at airport approaches.

 

State condolences poured in for Egypt, including messages from Israel, the United Arab Emirates, the U.S., Russia, France and Britain condemning the violence.

Security forces have been battling militants in northern Sinai for years, but attacks to date have focused on military and police assets, although assassinations of individuals ISIS considers government spies or religious heretics are not uncommon.

Hundreds of soldiers and militants have been killed in the conflict, although exact numbers are unclear as journalists and independent investigators are banned from the area.

In September, ISIS militants ambushed a police convoy in Sinai, killing 18 police and wounding seven others in one of the deadliest attacks this year in the restive region bordering Israel and the Gaza Strip. 

The ongoing violence in Sinai shows the resilience of the militants there in the face of a years-long campaign to eradicate them by the military and police, which between them command far superior firepower, air support, heavy armor and larger numbers.

Egypt is also facing a growing number of attacks by militants in its Western Desert, including an attack last month that killed 16 police, according to an official tally issued by the Interior Ministry. Security officials have told journalists that dozens more, including high-ranking counterterrorism officers, perished in the Oct. 20 attack some 135 84 miles southwest of the capital, Cairo.

Posted in Crime, Featured, International, Local, Politics, Regional, Travel0 Comments

Mitchell CMC interview

Grenada PM has advice for Caribbean countries facing financial problems

By Nicole Best

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Nov 21, CMC – Grenada’s Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell says Caribbean countries facing  economic problems should consider implementing home-grown programmes that will find favour with the various international lending agencies, such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Grenada is emerging from an IMF-supported Extended Credit Facility (ECF) programme of US$19.4 million that was approved in 2014 and Mitchell acknowledged that “there were some major sacrifices” that had to be undertaken by the population.

Mitchell CMC interview
Grenada Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell during CMC
interview (CMC Photo)

He said when his ruling New National Party (NNP) came to power four years ago, it found a situation where the island had negative growth for a number of years “and clearly there was little or no economic activity in the country.

“The investment climate was extremely poor and there was tremendously high unemployment….Grenada was unable to pay its debts and we decided we had to do something”.

Mitchell, who attended last week’s IMF-sponsored Sixth High Level Caribbean Forum in Grenada, told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) that he met with all the various stakeholders in Grenada, including the trade union, the churches, the business community and the non-government organisations “to map a way forward.

“We said this is the situation, here is where we are. We have to do it together, we can’t continue like this, we can’t continue selling assets to pay salaries so we have to come together and save our country.”

He told CMC he believes that this “call is most important because you are able to institute some major sacrifices and at the same time you are able to convince our friends regionally and internationally to come forward and help us because they saw we are prepared to make sacrifices”.

In March, during the last phase of the IMF supported programme, the Washington-based financial institution reported that the home grown programme had been strong with the island recording economic growth of just under four per cent last year.

Nicole Laframboise, who headed an IMF delegation to the island, said that the government had made progress toward achieving the key programme goals of restoring fiscal sustainability, strengthening the financial sector, and setting the stage for durable growth.

She said that the government has met all of the performance criteria and structural benchmarks due at end-December 2016.

The IMF official said that real gross domestic product (GDP) is estimated to have expanded by 3.9 per cent in 2016, implying annual real GDP growth of 5.8 per cent on average from 2014-2016.

She said activity in 2016 was driven by tourism, construction, and some pick up in domestic demand, while agriculture experienced weather-related contraction.

“Growth is expected to moderate to 2.5 per cent in 2017, near its estimated potential. Average consumer price index (CPI) inflation rose to 1.7 per cent in 2016 and is forecast at 2.6 per cent in 2017 as oil and food prices start to rise. With steady tourism momentum, the external position remains stable.”

Mitchell told CMC that Caribbean countries experiencing economic problems and resisting going to the IMF for assistance because of the stringent measures likely to be outlined by the Washington-based financial institution, could also develop their own home-grown programme like Grenada did.

“That’s the decision all of us will have to make. The previous government in Grenada was offered the same thing I was offered. In fact they agreed and then they backed off. They agreed they made way and decided they would lose political support and backed off again.

“We have to decide what we want. So I would certainly say Grenada has done it.  We did not send home thousands of workers. We got into an attrition programme. We also said to people, look, when the programme is completed and some of the initiative we took like increased taxation we are prepared to examine it and look at a reduction and we have done so…”

“So as the situation improves and the country gains more momentum economically and otherwise we are prepared to ease up the burden on the people as much as possible,” Mitchell told CMC.

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Melford Nicholas

Antigua government seeking clarification from Britain on former minister’s arrest

ST. JOHN’S, Antigua, Nov 17, CMC – The Antigua and Barbuda government says it will seek clarification from the British government regarding the decision to arrest then tourism and investment minister Asot Michael on his arrival in London last month.

“We think it is appropriate that the question be asked and that at all times, the civilities and protocols that need to be exercised between states are recognised by all states large and small,” said Information Minister Melford Nicholas.

Melford Nicholas
Information Minister Melford Nicholas (File Photo)

Nicholas, speaking to reporters at the end of the weekly Cabinet meeting, said the Gaston Browne government believes that this is a relevant question in light of the treaty on diplomatic relations which countries usually adhere.

“TO whom much is given much is expected,” Nicholas said, acknowledging that the government could not at this time state what protocols had been breached.

“Everyone was jolted by the way the intervention was done and to the extent that the British government may have been led to believe that they were justified in taking that action is a matter of their own determination.

“But we must now ask the question from the reverse standpoint in terms of whether or not that would have been the prescribed way of handling such circumstance were it involving a state of a different size,” he told reporters.

Michael, who has already said that it was “unfortunate” that Prime Minister Browne did not contact him before relieving him of his portfolio, has said he had been advised by his lawyers to remain quiet on the issue.

Prime Minister Browne, who acknowledged that he had, “no firm details of the reasons for Michael’s arrest,” nonetheless said that he had advised Governor General, Sir Rodney Williams to revoke immediately Michael appointment “pending the outcome of his arrest …by the Metropolitan Police in London.

Michael had also indicated to his constituents of St Peter, “who are very dear to me, that they have no reason to doubt my sincerity and my continued devotion and commitment to their interests”.

But Prime Minister Browne Friday announced that the ruling Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP) is planning ahead and that someone had been appointed to take care of the constituency.

“As it stands now, Michael has not been charged but we have made it abundantly clear that in the event he is charged then clearly we will have to replace him”.

He said an approach had been made to Shermane Jeremie, who has been working in the New York office of the island’s tourism department for at least a decade, to be the standby candidate.

“She is not challenging the present representative Asot Michael….but in the event he is charged then she will be the automatic choice to replace him,” Browne added.

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Edouard Junior

Warrant issued for former tourism minister

PORT AU PRINCE, Haiti, Nov 16, CMC – A warrant has been issued for the arrest of former tourism minister tourism minister Edouard Junior less than a month after he claimed he was being politically persecuted and prevented from leaving the country.

According to the warrant issued by Clame Ocnam Daméus, the Government Commissioner at the Court of First Instance in Port-au-Prince, the former minister is accused of “embezzlement of public property and attempted embezzlement of public goods…”.

Edouard Junior
Edouard Junior (File Photo)

But the former minister has strongly denied the allegations describing them as “threats, acts of intimidation and instrumentalization of justice for personal and political ends…”

He said while he is aware he is “is not and cannot be above the law” he is nonetheless “prepared to answer, if necessary, the questions of the justice of his country to the extent that the procedures laid down in Articles 42, 185 and 186 of the Constitution are scrupulously respected.”

He is urging the Superior Court of Accounts and Administrative Litigation to audit the former government so as “to put an end to attempts to discredit its administration and to manipulate public opinion.”

Junior  has re-affirmed his “attachment to the ideals of law and justice” recalling that “the construction of our democracy must necessarily obey the strict respect of the Constitution and the laws of the Republic.”
Last month, Junior told radio listeners that unknown gunmen had fired shots at his home and that he had also received death threats.

“From now on, my safety and that of my family are in the hands of (President) Jovenel Moïse..,” said Junior, who served in the 2016-17 administrations of former president Jocelerme Privert and former prime minister Enex Jean-Charles.

In October, Daméus, as part of the preliminary investigation sent a letter to the Director of the Immigration and Emigration Service asking him formally to “pass the necessary instructions” so that Junior and former economy minister Yves Romain Bastien be prohibited from leaving the country by air, sea and land.

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

devexlogo_

UK proposal on aid for overseas territories withdrawn at DAC, but sparks debate

 
By Molly Anders, Sophie Edwards 01 November 2017
 
View of damage caused on by Hurricane Irma in Road Town, the capital of the
British Virgin Islands.  Photo by: Ministry of Defence / CC BY
 

PARIS — The United Kingdom was forced to withdraw its last-minute proposal on changes to the aid rules that would have allowed for spending on wealthier but climate-vulnerable island states after failing to secure a consensus at the Development Assistance Committee’s high-level meeting in the French capital this week.However, sources say the proposal sparked a key debate over ODA eligibility and “reclassification” of countries after a crisis during the meeting at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s headquarters in Paris.

The DAC sets the rules on ODA spending for the 30 richest donor countries, and gathers every two years for a high-level meeting, which took place on Monday and Tuesday this week.

At the start of the meeting on Monday morning, the U.K. Secretary of State for International Development Priti Patel proposed a change to the aid rules that was not on the official agenda: a “three year waiver” for rich countries struck by disasters to temporarily qualify for ODA.

The proposal came after the U.K. government was criticized for its response to Hurricane Irma in the Caribbean. Several of the country’s overseas territories — including the British Virgin Islands and Anguilla — were badly damaged by the storm, but the U.K. was not able to draw on its aid budget for the recovery because the islands are too wealthy to qualify under the current rules.

Sources present at the high-level meeting told Devex the U.K. withdrew the proposal later in the day, after it “became clear there wasn’t consensus,” according to Winnie Byanyima, executive director of Oxfam International. Changes to the aid rules must be agreed unanimously by the committee.

However on Tuesday, U.K. minister of international development Lord Michael Bates — apparently unaware of the government’s withdrawal the previous day — told the International Development Committee in the U.K. House of Commons that the proposal was still in play at the DAC meetings. He said the secretary of state was “making the case as we speak.”

Controversial proposal

Byanyima, who sat in on the DAC meetings, told Devex: “The British government wanted to count the money to spend in its own territories; I think that is really absurd. I must put it that way.”

“This is now diverting money that should go to the poorest countries — people living in crisis in Africa [for example], people on the verge of famine like in Somalia and Nigeria — and to give it to your rich islands when you have other money to use to solve the problems of your territories? For me that’s taking from the poor to give to the rich and it’s not right,” she said.

The U.K. government was criticized in the media and by politicians from the opposition Labour Party for being too slow to respond after Hurricane Irma ripped through the Caribbean in September. The Times newspaper’s diplomatic correspondent Catherine Philp told the IDC that reporters had received complaints from people in the area who said they felt angry and neglected after seeing neighboring islands receive faster assistance from the French and Dutch governments.

The IDC also heard from representatives of the territories who spoke of huge losses. Blondel Cluff, Anguilla’s representative to the U.K. and EU, said nearly all of the country’s key infrastructure was annihilated, including its schools, by the storm. Cluff said that U.K. assistance arrived within a day but that historically the country has been neglected.

“We are the Cinderella of the overseas territories … we have been overlooked time and again and this is because we have not been commercially attractive,” she said.

Reigniting debate

While the U.K.’s proposal to make an exception for its crises-struck territories was withdrawn, Byanyima and DAC chair Charlotte Petri Gornitzka said the proposal reignited a debate that had fallen on the backburner over how to account for wealthier countries that fall out of the rich-country category after a crisis.

According to the current rules, countries’ GNI must fall below a certain level to qualify for aid, but no mechanism currently exists for countries that graduate from ODA eligibility and then, due to unforeseen crises, fall back into it.

At the meetings, Byanyima said she “could sympathize with the issue of states falling back” into ODA eligibility due to humanitarian crises, such as war or natural disasters.

“Development isn’t so linear, a country can progress and can regress, I know this for sure. My own country, Uganda, went through a brutal dictatorship and civil war, went into negative growth and slid back, our economy shrunk — so it can happen. It’s not common but it can happen, so it would be good to have a process to tackle that,” she told Devex.

Petri Gornitzka told Devex that the U.K.’s proposal helped revive the important debate around ODA eligibility and “reclassification.”

“During the meeting we have been discussing what happens when you graduate and something [like a natural disaster] hits, what happens to small islands? And when you discuss this you realize this can happen not only to small islands, so the issue of crisis that can hit even rich countries and middle-income countries has been discussed. In the DAC that means that yes, the U.K. proposal was one trigger, but also the discussion on graduation,” she said.

Petri Gornitzka said the DAC has committed, in part due to the U.K.’s failed proposal, to “continue to collect data and analysis about what happens when you graduate on one hand, and examine this more immediate issue of crises.”

More research needed

The DAC communique that came out of the high-level meeting states: “We will review and reflect on the evidence base that documents the consequences of different graduation processes on access to development finance from all sources, and will continue to conduct policy analysis on the patterns of cooperation, including financing, channels, and objectives in countries in transition, in coordination with other relevant actors.”

Still, it is unclear whether future change to the rules would impact the eligibility of the British overseas territories. Richard Montgomery, director of the Asia, Caribbean, and overseas territories division at the U.K. Department for International Development, said that even another hurricane would be unlikely to render the islands in question poor enough to meet the ODA threshold.

“I think given the size of the economy and the GDP estimates that we have, it’s actually quite unlikely these hurricanes would shock them back to a level of GDP which is below the ODA threshold,” Montgomery told the IDC on Tuesday, adding that Anguilla might be the nearest to the line.

However, the DAC did also express an interest in possibly reconsidering the GDP-bound criteria for aid eligibility. The communique issued Tuesday night acknowledges the current debate around “new measures and metrics of development progress beyond per capita income,” suggesting the fundamental income-based metric for aid eligibility might up for discussion in the future.

Update, Nov. 2: This article was amended to clarify that the DAC sets the rules on ODA spending for the 30 richest donor countries, and that British Overseas Territories including including the British Virgin Islands and Anguilla were affected by Hurricane Irma

Read more international development news online, and subscribe to The Development Newswire to receive the latest from the world’s leading donors and decision-makers — emailed to you free every business day.

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marijuuu

Guyana to host CARICOM consultations on use of marijuana

 
GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Nov 3, CMC – Guyana will host a consultation on the use of marijuana on Monday, November 6, 2017 as part of the efforts by Caribbean Community (CARICOM) governments to conduct careful in-depth research so as to inform decision making on the issue.

The Regional Commission on Marijuana, which was established by CARICOM leaders, will meet with various stakeholders including Youth and Faith-based organizations.

marijuuuThe region-wide consultations are intended to obtain information on the social, economic, health and legal issues related to marijuana use in the Caribbean.

“Such information would, among other outcomes, determine whether there should be a change in the current drug classification, modelled after the UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances for which many, if not all, CARICOM members are party to,” the Guyana-based CARICOM Secretariat said in a statement.

It said that given that reclassification of the drug would make it legally accessible for all types of use, including religious, recreational, medical and research, the Regional Commission is expected also to provide recommendations on the legal and administrative conditions that will apply, as per its Terms of Reference.

Many Caribbean countries’ legislations do not currently allow for full legislation under international law and national approaches to addressing this issue have resulted in various positions.

In the case of Jamaica, for example, the Dangerous Drugs Act was amended in 2016 and legislation was passed which reduced possession of small quantities to a petty offence. It also created the framework for the development of legal medical marijuana, hemp and nutraceutical industries.

Antigua and Barbuda’s Cabinet agreed, in August 2016, to send a draft law to Parliament for its first reading. In August of this year, Belize introduced an amendment to its Misuse of Drugs Act, to deciminalise the possession of up to 10 grams of marijuana.

The proposed legislation also provides for the imposition of monetary and non-recordable penalties for such amounts that are found on school premises in specialized circumstances and decriminalizes the use of the substance in small amounts on private premises.

In other countries there have been widespread public information and communications initiatives driven by both government and civil society.

In addition to national consultations, the Regional Marijuana Commission will undertake extensive secondary research to inform the preparation of reports to be submitted to the CARICOM leaders for its consideration, the Secretariat added.

So far, consultations have taken place in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Antigua and Barbuda and Barbados and the Secretariat said that national consultations will continue in Suriname, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, and Belize.

The Commission is headed by Professor Rose-Marie-Bell Antoine, Dean of the Faculty of Law at the St. Augustine campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI) and includes practitioners with expert knowledge in a variety of disciplines including medicine and allied health, health research, law enforcement, ethics, education, anthropology/sociology/ culture.

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