Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Spotlight on three CARICOM countries

By Oscar Ramjeet:

There is uncertainty about the future of three Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries and the media is focusing its attention on these countries and will no doubt continue to do so until there is a resolution.

Oscar Ramjeet is an attorney at law who practices extensively throughout the wider CaribbeanTop of the list is Antigua and Barbuda, which is still being governed by Baldwin Spencer, although his United People's Party (UPP) controls only six of the 14 seats, but is getting the backing of the Barbuda's elected representative to make it a total of seven, while the Opposition Antigua Labour Party under the leadership of former Prime Minister, Lester Bird, controls seven seats.

The situation is a delicate one following a court ruling two Fridays ago when a High Court judge ruled that there were breaches in the process of the last general election, mainly late opening of the polls, and declared vacant three seats held by three top members of the governing UPP, including the Prime Minister Spencer's seat, and Ministers John Maginley, and Jacqui Quinn Leandro.

After the court ruling, the UPP moved to stay the court order, which was granted by another judge, and later filed an appeal against the ruling of High Court Judge Blenman.

The stay was granted until Friday April 16, when the opposition ALP members can object to the stay of execution.

Meanwhile, Spencer said that his government is still in command of the affairs of the country and that there was no constitutional crisis.

Over in Dominica, the opposition United Workers Party (UWP), which gained three of the 21 seats in Parliament, is boycotting Parliament, contending that there were gross irregularities and the December 18 election was fraudulent.

So far, the UWP has refused to attend two sittings and if they miss the third, the seats can become vacant. But the leader of the UWP Ron Green said that he and the other two elected members, former Prime Minister Edison James, and Hector John, have no intention to attend Parliament until there is electoral reform.

Dominicans, as well as residents of other CARICOM countries, are anxious to see the outcome of the impasse.

Last Friday, the spotlight shifted to the twin island Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, when Prime Minister Patrick Manning advised President Maxwell Richards to dissolve Parliament to pave way for general elections. Although he has not announced a date, it is almost certain it would be held next month.

Manning no doubt decided to call a snap election because he is losing popularity following reports of corruption and maladministration, and plans for the two opposition parties, the United National Congress (UNC) under the new leadership of Kamla Persad Bissessar, a former attorney general and the breakaway Congress of the People (COP) led by university professor, Winston Dookeran, to merge.

Reports from Port of Spain state that there are problems for the merger and last Friday the Deputy Leader of the COP, Devant Maharaj, tendered his resignation because he said that" inflammatory and decisive statements were made by party members against the unification process."

Meanwhile, the governing People's National Movement (PNM) has accelerated its campaign and it is reported that the party intends to spent $150 million in its campaign. The money will be spent for T shirts, slogans, rental of vehicles, entertainers. and to pay full time campaign workers.

Some commentators feel that Manning is taking a serious gamble to call elections so early -- just half way his term -- and there might be a repetition of 1995 when he lost a snap election. However, if the opposition parties fail to merge, I have no doubt that the PNM will return to office.

April 14, 2010