Google Ads

Monday, November 30, 2009

CARICOM must adopt new economic model, says Guyana president

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad (GINA) -- The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) is seeking international support for a new economic model which President Bharrat Jagdeo says is needed to meet the peculiarities of the region.

Backing for the new model is being canvassed and United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and the heads of several multilateral financial institutions are to join CARICOM leaders in Dominica in March to discuss it, President Jagdeo told reporters here.

Jagdeo, current CARICOM Chairman and head of the regional economic task force addressing the impact of the global economic crisis on the 15-member community, maintains that the model of economic development the region has been pursuing is not sustainable given its peculiarities.

The impact of the global crisis and climate change were the two major issues before Commonwealth leaders at their 20th summit here, the President told reporters late Saturday.

He said the huge debt overhang and massive sums spent to service debt have affected the community’s capacity to intervene in the crisis which has had a major impact on its members.

He noted that the two largest industries in the region – tourism and the financial sector – have been affected and capacity and fiscal space to do anti-cyclical spending has been limited because of the debt overhang.

“There is no way we are going to build a viable medium term economic strategy without a change in the model”, Jagdeo insisted.

He said that CARICOM heads Saturday advocated a deferential approach to a global economic system.

Most of the large countries were speaking about their efforts to support demand at the global level through the G20 and that’s vital for the future and for those countries to pursue free trade as a way of expanding global GDP, he acknowledged.

“But for countries like ours, many of those things would have sometimes a negative impact – the impact of reciprocity and removal of preferences which have led to the destruction of two major industries in the Caribbean – sugar and bananas.”

He said CARICOM has argued that the model that would be viable for the Caribbean would be one that sees debt relief for middle income countries; special and deferential treatment in the global trading system; dedicated instruments from the multilateral financial institutions (MFIs) to target the special vulnerabilities of the region – like a contingent line of credit to deal with hurricanes and other natural disasters which have a systemic impact on their societies.

The new economic model and climate change were the two big issues for the region, he said, adding, “It was important that we advocated for both and that we seek the support of this broad range of countries across the world because this support would be vital when we get to the WTO (World Trade Organisation) or when we take specific measures to address these issues at the boards of the multilateral financial institutions.”

Jagdeo said the President of the World Bank, the Deputy Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the President of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the UN Secretary will be at the CARICOM intersessional meeting in Dominica in March.

“I hope that with their support plus the political support, particularly from the countries in the G20, we may be able to get some progress in this regard”, he said.

The President chaired a meeting Saturday between CARICOM and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and said he dealt with the impact of the global financial crisis on the Caribbean.

“We asked for support of this model that we intend to pursue”, he announced.

He noted that two current British initiatives are counter to the region’s efforts to develop its crucial financial sector and tourism sectors.

The Air Passenger Duty (APD) implemented by the United Kingdom has had a discriminatory impact on the Caribbean by making it far more expensive for British tourists to visit the Caribbean while it is cheaper for them to go to Hawaii or Vancouver which are almost twice as far from London as Barbados.

Jagdeo said CARICOM asked Brown for a rebranding of the Caribbean and he advised that the community work with the British Chancellor of the Exchequer on this matter.

CARICOM states have also encountered difficulties in many parts of the world on signing the tax information exchange agreement to get off the `grey list’ and urged Brown to help get these countries to move swiftly to resolve those issues, he said.

Some CARICOM members are facing an adverse impact because of being `grey listed’ and some financial institutions have already moved from those jurisdictions.

He stressed that the continuing global crisis is not splitting CARICOM although several member states are in difficulties because of reductions in tourism flows, revenue from the financial sector and remittances from developed countries.

“These are real problems and while we have to deal with the long term structural issues – debt and its future servicing, the structure of our economies -- we also have an immediate problem of finding enough cash resources to meet the day-to-day needs of the countries.”

“We have to find a source of bilateral funding. Given what’s happening in the world and the difficulties facing many countries, the only access available is through the multilateral financial institutions and many countries did not have any recourse but to turn to these institutions”, he said.

“We have decided to act in concert and I think there’s a greater sense of urgency”, the President added.

He said CARICOM leaders at one time were too complacent and felt that the current crisis was inevitable – whether there was a global recession or not -- because some were accumulating unsustainable levels of debt and using a larger share of the recurring budget to service that debt.

Total factor productivity in the economies was also declining for several years, he said, adding that this was unsustainable in itself.

November 30, 2009


Sunday, November 29, 2009

Jamaica: Golding's 'Dudus' dilemma

Golding and Lightbourne

A.E. Hueman, Contributor

Currently, Jamaica is in danger of becoming something of an international pariah. We were recently downgraded economically by both Bear Stearns and Moody's and also downgraded morally by Transparency International, but these are mere niceties in face of the thing that is threatening to demote us to the status of banana republic or rogue state.

This of course is the face-off between the Jamaican Government and the United States (US) in the matter of the extradition of Christopher 'Dudus' Coke. The media are treating the matter gingerly, but already, two companies have received threats from his fans. The public seems to have adopted the attitude that the prime minister (PM) is between a rock and a hard place and is sitting back to watch. The circumstances deserve more attention.

Our seemingly unflappable PM is actually on a slippery slope teetering on the edge of an International Monetary Fund rejection and simultaneously trying to find a foothold as he walks barefoot along the razor's edge between antagonising the US and infuriating his volatile constituents, plus night and day wondering where he is going to find the next few billions to pay the nurses, or the teachers, or the police. And he is handling this ticking time bomb with all the aplomb of a pope - or someone who has O.D'd heavily on tranquillisers. The man is an enigma wrapped in a mystery. One has to applaud his phenomenal cool, but who can understand it?

Whatever one's opinion about the delay on the request to extradite Coke (and other unnamed prominent persons) to face drug and gun charges, any intelligent person must be aware of the gravity of the situation and the impact that the displeasure of the US will have and indeed may already be having on Jamaica's viability. Keep Coke, and we get the big stick from the leader of the free world; hand him over, and we may be able to repair some of the damage to our image and some access to meaningful economic assistance. It is not only the right thing to do, but the only sensible course to take.

Thus, it does appear that Bruce Golding and Dorothy Lightbourne would be best advised that for the good of this country they stop the legal titivating and filibustering and just hand over the multifaceted Mr Coke aka 'Dudus', 'Prezi' or 'The President'.

In Jamaica, Dudus is described as a businessman, show promoter, area leader and don; but in the US, the State Department is alleging that he is an illegal gun trader and a purveyor of dangerous and illegal drugs.

Of course, handing Coke over to the US authority will be unpleasant and possibly have some perilous consequences for residents, for Golding, and by extension, for the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP).

Risking civil unrest

Residents may suffer civil unrest, Golding may lose support in his constituency and could even lose his seat in the next election. Trouble is likely if Coke is indeed as popular, powerful and dangerous in this JLP garrison as he is made out to be. But is this really the case? Is it fear or love that controls his supporters? There may well be a large number of well-thinking residents who would prefer to live outside the shadow of a don.

If, as predicted, the removal of Dudus does cause riot and mayhem in Tivoli, it will be the job of the police (hopefully without the help of Reneto Adams) and the army to quell it. Are the prevalent rumours of plans for protests and insurrection and of Tivoli bristling with high-powered weapons true, or just greatly exaggerated? If they are true, is that not another good reason to send in the troops?

No two ways about it: the Dudus dilemma does present an enormous challenge to Golding, and by extension, to the JLP, and more important, to all Jamaica. Perhaps Golding sees the stand-off as a no-win situation in which he is damned if he does and damned if he doesn't comply with international law and surrender the don to the US justice system. If Tivoli's response to the extradition is riot and mayhem and Golding has to send in the troops and invoke the Suppression of Crimes Act or call a State of Emergency just before the start of the tourist season, that's another blow to the economy and a double whammy to the economy and the JLP government.

Massive challenge

On the other hand, this massive challenge does come with a huge and enticing opportunity, an opportunity which, if intelligently and energetically used, can rid our island of a curse and transform Golding himself into a genuine National Hero.

Simply put, by cutting Dudus loose, Golding has a God-give opportunity to strike a crippling blow (hopefully the first of many such) against the corrupt gangland culture of the dons, which has taken over our many garrison constituencies, infiltrated mainstream politics, and is now threatening to get a stranglehold on both politics and society in Jamaica, land we love. Which politician would not rather become a National Hero than play second fiddle to a garrison don?

"There is a tide in the affairs of men

That taken at the flood leads on to fortune

Omitted, all the voyage of their life

Is bound in shallows and in miseries.

On such a full sea are we now afloat

And we must take the current when it


Or lose our ventures."

- William Shakespeare

Dear prime minister of Jamaica, we look to you to decide the better option.

Feedback may be sent to

November 29, 2009


Saturday, November 28, 2009

ACP Countries: Sidelined by Europe again?

Sir Ronald Sanders is a business executive and former Caribbean diplomat who publishes widely on Small States in the global community. Responses to: ronaldsanders29@hotmail.comThe European Union (EU) has not included in the Lisbon Treaty a crucial article that was a feature of treaties between the EU and African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) states.  The Lisbon Treaty is the new "constitution" of the EU and it will replace the previous treaties that guided the policies of the EU and the work of the European Commission (EC).

Representatives of EC have offered reasons for this omission which might have had a ring of credibility had the Caribbean not been put through the threats and demands that characterized the negotiations leading to individual Caribbean countries signing up to an unequal Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the EU.

It is difficult for skeptics to take the EC at its word.  Indeed, since the EC unilaterally denounced the Sugar Protocol leaving Caribbean sugar producers without a market that the Protocol had guaranteed, and since the EC further unilaterally amended the preferential terms under which Caribbean-produced bananas entered the EU market leaving banana farmers in dire circumstances, there is every reason to be ultra-cautious of actions by the EU and its Commission.

What is not clear is why the ACP countries have not protested at the omission of the article which they were entitled to do, and which they were urged to do by at least one activist lawyer in Brussels where both the EC and ACP secretariats are located.

It has to be assumed that the ACP representatives had good reason for not howling publicly in protest and that, at some point, they will let their publics know why they did not.  On the other hand, it may very well be that they did protest but were rebuffed by the EC, and, again, they chose not to let their publics know that, once again, raw power trumped moral obligation.  Then, it could be that the ACP representatives chose to do nothing at all on the basis that since the EC has unilaterally denounced what the ACP thought were other legally binding agreements, there was no point in even raising the issue, since the EU, at some point in the future, might abrogate an article in their own treaty if it did not suit them.  And, the ACP would be able to do nothing about it just as they did not make a legal challenge to the denunciation of the Sugar Protocol.

To be fair to the EU and the EC, my previous paragraph is pure speculation.  It may very well be that no representation was made by the ACP to the EU/EC by representatives of the ACP and therefore, the EU/EC had no reason for regarding any omission of the ACP relationship as an issue.

As background to all this, it should be pointed out that an activist lawyer in Brussells, Joyce van Genderen-Naar, wrote in March 2004 pointing out that the Article which "makes reference to the ACP countries in the previous EC/EU Treaties had been omitted from the text of the proposed Lisbon Treaty that replaces them". 

She said, paragraph 3 of Article 179 of the provisions for Development Cooperation in the current EC Treaty states that: "The provisions of this Article shall not affect cooperation with the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries in the framework of the ACP-EC Convention".

Van Genderen-Naar went on to argue that "Article179, paragraph 3, refers to the special relationship between the EC/EU and the ACP-countries, which is the oldest and largest form of cooperation between Europe and countries from the South".  She contended that historical bonds "between Europe and the ACP-countries give Europe a special responsibility for these countries, which should not be forgotten and should be a part of the next Constitution for Europe. This responsibility is even more urgent, because after 37 years of cooperation 40 of the 79 ACP-countries still belong to the poorest countries in the world. Out of the 48 poorest countries in the world 40 are ACP-countries".  (The full text of her presentation can be read at:

Very few in the ACP countries would seriously argue with van Genderen-Naar's contention.
She advised the ACP "to make an official request to the European Commission and Members of the Convention (representatives of the European Parliament and Member States) to insert a provision concerning the ACP-EC-Cooperation in the new Constitution in view of the special relationship between the EU and the ACP, historical bonds, responsibilities and mutual interest, as agreed by EC and ACP in Article 55 of the Cotonou Agreement" which says: "The objectives of development finance cooperation shall be, through the provision of adequate financial resources and appropriate technical assistance, to support and promote the efforts of the ACP States to achieve the objectives set out in this Agreement on the basis of mutual interest and in a spirit of interdependence".

The EU is redefining itself.  They are describing the Lisbon Treaty as more than a Charter; they say it is the EU Constitution.  Further, they have appointed a President of the EU and a common Foreign Minister.  Beyond this deepening of their relationship, it is clear that the majority of the 27 nations in the EU feel no responsibility for the former colonies of a handful; many of them believe that the EU's obligations are to the development and prosperity of its own member states. 

If there is no reference in the Lisbon Treaty to the ACP countries, the shift in Europe's attitude to them - evident in the unilateral denunciation of contracts and in the tactics of threat used in the EPA negotiations - will be confirmed.  So, too, will be the timidity of the ACP in exercising power that can come from joint action.

The ACP must find the strength to speak with one voice again; to resist divide and rule tactics; to eschew empty promises of aid; and to fund its own institutions particularly those which interact with the EU.  If the ACP countries remain mere supplicants without demonstrating a readiness to stand up together for themselves, then they will be omitted to their detriment from more than the EU's new arrangements.

27 Nov 2009 12:49:05


Friday, November 27, 2009

Bahamas: Opposition Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Chairman Bradley Roberts insists Urban Renewal changes led to rise in crime

Tribune Staff Reporter -

PLP Chairman Bradley Roberts yesterday branded claims that changes to the Urban Renewal programme did not lead to a rising tide of crime as a "wicked bold-faced lie".

He further charged that had Urban Renewal not been "watered down" under the FNM, the "blatant daytime robbery of some 18 tourists at Chippingham would likely not have occurred".

Mr Roberts claimed that for the Commissioner of Police to try to deny that adjustments to the programme did not result in an upsurge "in serious crime in 'over the hill' areas where the Urban Renewal Programme once flourished, is evidence that the Commissioner is clearly out of touch with the extent of crime and the harsh realities facing locals and visitors alike".

"As the Police Staff Association has now expressed, 'Commissioner Reginald Ferguson's retirement is a step in the right direction'," said Mr Roberts.

It was announced last week that Mr Ferguson is to retire from the force in January 2010.

Mr Roberts' comments come after the Commissioner reacted to statements that have been continually made by the Opposition PLP about the impact of alterations to Urban Renewal on crime.

Commissioner Ferguson told The Tribune that, contrary to claims made by the Opposition, he had seen "no empirical evidence" to show that changes to the initiative have caused an upsurge in crime in the country.

He added that allegations that "Urban Renewal is dead" as has often been asserted by the government's detractors are "a lie".

In yesterday's release, Mr Roberts quoted statistics which, he said, would provide the evidence Mr Ferguson suggested was lacking as proof that the FNM "made a fatal mistake in cancelling/reducing the Urban Renewal Programme".

In the statistics which Mr Roberts provides as evidence of rising crime, he quotes figures for murder, manslaughter, armed robbery, rape, unlawful sex intercourse, burglary, housebreaking, shop breaking and stolen vehicles for 2007, 2008 and for some, 2009.

In the first five categories - violent crimes against the person - the statistics from Mr Roberts show that in the first two years of the FNM administration, incidences dropped.

However, in the last four categories, all crimes against property, incidences rose.

Overall, given the greater rise in the number of property crimes, which are generally more frequent that serious violent crimes year on year, vis-a-vis the less significant drop in crimes against the person, the figures quoted by Mr Roberts show that the number of crimes increased during the FNM's latest term in government, from 6,850 to 7,225.

The FNM has also recently released selected figures from 1999 to 2006 which it says show "the truth about Urban Renewal", comparing crime levels up to the end of the previous FNM administration in 2001, and under the PLP, when Urban Renewal was initiated, until 2006.

"The annual rate of serious crimes, such as murder, armed robbery and housebreaking at all times under their era of Urban Renewal remained higher than it was during the pre-Urban Renewal year 2001; and the murder and housebreaking rates were on the increase in 2006, the last full year of Urban Renewal on their watch," the party notes.

Reports appearing in the US and UK media over the last year indicate that rises in crime levels in those countries, particularly crimes against property, have been linked to recessionary economic conditions.


Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Gay Old Commonwealth

by Lucy Mathieson
Ex Coordinator, Human Rights Advocacy Programme
Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative ( CHRI):

When, during March 2009, Bruce Golding Prime Minister of Jamaica, dubbed by Time Magazine as the “Most Homophobic Place on Earth”, stated that "[w]e are not going to yield to the pressure, whether that pressure comes from individual organisations, individuals, whether that pressure comes from foreign governments or groups of countries, to liberalise the laws as it relates to buggery", it reinforced the marginalisation of human rights defenders (HRDs) in Jamaica who advocate for equal rights free from discrimination based on sexual preference. Jamaica is not alone in this respect. Eleven Caribbean Commonwealth nations have legislation criminalising consensual same-sex sexual acts including Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Bahamas, Belize, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago. HRDs in these nations working to promote lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) rights and bring change to the outdated legislation face hostility from authorities, limitations to freedom of expression and of the press, homophobic violence, denial of access to services and are forced to work clandestinely due to homophobic mob attacks. This is not solely a regional dilemma. Many other Commonwealth jurisdictions also maintain equivalent sections of these old colonial law as a means to harass, prosecute and persecute LGBTI organisations and individuals.

The influence of importing Victorian morality to the colonies is clear in the spread of laws across Africa, Asia and the Caribbeans. However New Zealand (in 1986), Australia (state by state and territory by territory), Hong Kong (in 1990, before the colony was returned to China), and Fiji (by a 2005 high court decision) have put that legacy, and the sodomy law, behind them. England and Wales decriminalised most consensual homosexual conduct in 1967. That came too late for the majority of Britain’s colonies which won independence in the 1950s and 1960s. With sodomy laws still in place judges and public figures have in recent decades, defended them as citadels of nationhood and cultural authenticity while at the same time complaining that homosexuality comes from the colonising West. They forget it was the West that introduced the first laws enabling governments to forbid and repress it.

The overlapping relationship of colonial and post-colonial identity formation is perhaps best illustrated from within Commonwealth African nations. In Buganda (the former Kingdom of Uganda) in 1886, the Kabaka (King) Mwanga, executed more than 30 of his pages within his royal court, apparently for refusing sex with him following their conversion to Christianity. The “reinscribing of certain corporeal intimacies between King and subject as sex (homosexual sex), in tandem with the more usual suspects (trade and Christianity), effectively delegitimised local political institutions” (Hoad, “African Intimacies: race, homosexuality and globalization”). These events created new forms of African agency and facilitated the implementation of colonial rule. A century later, the controversy arose around the “un-Africanness” of homosexuality, prompted perhaps with the 1995 event in Zimbabwe, where Mugabe expelled GALZ (Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe) from a Zimbabwe International Book Fair. Calling homosexuals “sodomists” [sic] and “sexual perverts” the President banned their exhibition.

He then went on to make his notorious pronouncement: “If dogs and pigs don’t do it, why must human beings? Can human beings be human beings if they do worse than pigs?” His statement was then widely echoed through similar pronouncements in Kenya (September 1999), Uganda (July 1998) and Namibia (1996).

President Mugabe’s abhorrent statement marks a strong intervention in this terrain, where imperial legacies and African/Caribbean/Asian/Pacific authenticities struggle to imagine the relationships between themselves as a normative and exclusive framework and “homosexuality”. Multiple exclusions enable the debate on the relationship often made between lesbian and gay identity to Western imperialism.

In the 1990s, leaders also began discovering the political advantages of promoting homophobia. Besides Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe who devoted whole speeches to denouncing homosexuals, Ugandan government officials regularly menace LGBTI groups; and in The Gambia, in 2008, the president vowed to “cut off the heads” of homosexuals. In South Africa the lack of political will to enforce laws legalising homosexuality also has ripple effects across the continent.

At the same time, institutional change offers signs of hope. Some NGOs and national human rights institutions (NHRIs) have slowly moved to address issues of sexual orientation and gender identity. Independent rights groups in Kenya and members of the Kenyan National Human Rights Commission have spoken in defence of LGBTI people there. Also promising is the slow integration, in a few countries such as Uganda, of sexuality and sexual-rights issues into legal education.

The combination of an intensely repressive environment in families, communities, and public places, and antiquated laws on sexuality that are still enforced, keeps people underground—and sometimes kills those who emerge.

Post-independence democratic governments have shown deep resistance to any suggestion of repeal of sodomy laws. Indeed, the repeal of these draconian codes appears to be more controversial than their imposition. As a result organizations are unable to operate openly, jobs and homes lost, and police refuse to protect people against day-to-day violence. While such governments do not go around arresting people who are suspected to be gay, a climate of fear and intolerance prevails.

Reported religious values and fears of “open[ing] the door to homosexuality, bestiality, child abuse and every form of sexual perversion being enshrined in the highest law of this land,” justify essentially discriminatory legislation. Even where decriminalisation has occurred or is discussed, such as recently in the Delhi High Court Judgment in Naz Foundation v. Union of India, delivered on 2 July 2009, the argument for decriminalisation is often based formatively around health considerations, such as making HIV/AIDS treatment more accessible to LGBTI people. Whilst arguments can be raised as to why the universality of human rights should not be at the core of such arguments, the Delhi Judgment did go on to base its ratio on constitutional morality as opposed to popular or public morality, triggering an understandably euphoric and wonderful celebratory response from the LGBTI community, as well as from the wider activist community.

In Jamaica there have been some initial signs that it may soften its approach. Jamaica's ruling party elected the nation's first female Prime Minister, Portia Simpson Miller, a progressive, who gay-rights supporters hope will eventually move to decriminalise homosexuality. However, even if the repeal of sodomy laws is achieved there is still a range of other provisions, such as moral policing of public behaviour, which enables police abuse, as has occurred in the Dominican Republic. In such situations, the hard fact remains that sexual cleansing is just as real as ethnic cleansing. These kinds of "cleansings" are bound up in questions of purity and dominance. It is all about cleansing the "other" wherever it is found. And it is about making the "other", in this case, the homosexual person, the so-called enemy of the state, the family and the individual. Borders are of no consequence.

And, this was true two years ago at CHOGM 2007, where a Ugandan LGBTI group was forced out of the People’s Space at the People’s Forum and were beaten with sticks by plain-clothed police officers. Foreign visitors to CHOGM and the People’s Space, including committed Commonwealth activists who attempted to intervene, were also excluded from the Space. Now, some two years later, CHOGM 2009 is rapidly approaching and its theme, including that of “equitable partnership”, raises the question of partnership with whom and inclusive of whose concerns, particularly when a sector of Commonwealth civil society will at the very least be constructively excluded?

The positions of gay and lesbian Africans/Asians/Caribbeans (and to a certain extent Pacific Islanders) are not easily articulable in the confrontation, precisely because questions of sexuality are used to police both national and racial authenticity. And, this is exactly why there is a need to enforce the universality of human rights.

Homophobia and heterosexism are core aspects of patriarchy used through the control of sexuality, the assertion of identity, exclusion and the perpetuation of gender roles to gain retain and mobiles political power

Criminalising LGBTI people ensures they remain vulnerable as they seek to break out form their seclusion and invisibility. But outdated laws also repress those engaged in the defense of human rights globally as the laws are in direct contradiction with human rights law – particularly, the right to privacy, the right to freedom of association, freedom of expression, and the right to freedom from discrimination. The presence of such laws also justifies hate and provides the legal basis for abusing one section and creates a culture of impunity via which all those promoting human rights or in dissent from the mainstreat are targeted.

LGBTI persons are a part of the Commonwealth, they are a part of each of the 53 Commonwealth nations. The Judiciary in all Commonwealth jurisdictions must follow the lead shown in the recent New Delhi High Court Judgment, and become institutions committed to the protection of those who “might be despised by a majoritarian logic” – by respecting the universality of human rights. Implicit within this stance must be the creation of protected space for LGBTI groups and their defenders if the concept of equitable partnerships is even to be considered a possibility within the Commonwealth, let alone the Commonwealth Peoples Forum.

November 26, 2009


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Extradition Treaty between Jamaica and the USA


As Justice Minister and Attorney General Senator Dorothy Lightbourne agonises over the request of the United States for the arrest and probable extradition of Christopher "Dudus" Coke to stand trial for various offences allegedly committed in the USA, she is probably also pondering whether now is the time to inform the Americans of our intention to renegotiate or even to abrogate the Extradition Treaty of 1983 between Jamaica and the USA.


There is a view that the treaty has proved itself to be inimical to the interests of Jamaica. Space denies me the opportunity to submit a detailed exposition of the negative effects of the treaty on our sovereignty and the due process of law. Nevertheless, some debate is necessary. It should be reviewed for the following reasons:

(1) The due process of law

The Foreign Narcotics King Pin Designation Act of 1995 which empowers the President of the United States to publicly identify persons who are identified by the Secretary of the Treasury as "significant foreign narcotics traffickers" and to administratively impose civil penalties of up to US$1.075 million upon such persons before the accused persons are tried in a court of law is against due process of law and the rules of natural justice. For the president thereafter to request a country where the accused person is a national to be arrested and brought before a court with a view to being extradited and tried for various offences alleged to have been committed in the USA gives rise to concern as to whether the accused will be able to obtain a fair trial in that country. This is despite a recent ruling by the Privy Council in a case from The Bahamas to the contrary.

Further, under the treaty the accused can be extradited without the opportunity to identify and challenge the statements of his accusers. The Requesting State needs to submit to the Requested State certified statements, depositions and other documents in support of the request for extradition, provided that "such evidence would justify the committal for trial of the accused person if the offence had been committed in the Requested State". Section 14 of our Extradition Act of 1991 (as amended) also confirms this procedure. This area of the process needs urgent review as it is a well-known tenet of our jurisprudence and constitution that an accused person should not be placed in jeopardy without first being given the opportunity to test the veracity of his accusers. Moreover, this procedure is a good example of the violation of that great principle of law which we daily strive to follow that "justice must not only be done but must manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done".

The arguments against revealing the identity of the witnesses, for example, on the grounds of danger, are unacceptable, as adequate arrangements can be made to protect them. Indeed, The Mutual Assistance (Criminal Matters) Act 1995 (as amended) makes provision for the minister (the central authority) to make arrangements for inmates to travel to the USA to give evidence in a criminal matter if the USA requests their attendance at a hearing in connection with the proceedings and "there are reasonable grounds for believing that the inmate is capable of giving evidence relevant to the proceeding". In respect of persons other than inmates, the Act also makes provisions for the attendance of such persons to give evidence, however, with their consent. These are reciprocal arrangements, although Jamaica has rarely, if ever, taken advantage of these provisions.

LIGHTBOURNE... probably pondering whether we should renegotiate or abrogate the 1983 treaty

(2) Kidnapping and abduction

Jamaica should request a review of such a treaty with a country that has a history of officially employing the methods of kidnapping and abduction to bring accused persons before their courts. Jamaica has in recent times experienced this policy at the hands of the USA. The notorious case of Norris Barnes who was abducted from Montego Bay in the 1980s and taken to the USA where he was charged, convicted and sentenced is an example. Even where an extradition treaty exists between the USA and a country where a suspect is residing, the view of the USA government is that where an attempt to extradite the suspect would be futile, the government has a constitutional duty to bring the suspect before their court for trial. The fact that, for example, our minister of justice has the discretion under the treaty and companion legislation previously mentioned to deny a request to extradite, the USA may not claim that this discretionary power justifies inaction by their government. Another example where Jamaica experienced the effects of this policy was the "Storyteller" Morrison case in 1982 when Morrison, a Jamaican national, was accidentally extradited to the USA before he had exhausted his legal rights in Jamaica to appeal the order. The USA denied the request of the Jamaican government to return him to Jamaica for the completion of the due process requirements. Instead, he was tried and sentenced in the USA in a trial that at the time, and currently, raised several questions concerning the legal procedures in both countries. This case is significant as it gives rise to several jurisprudential matters, including the following question.

(3) Should Jamaica continue to recognise a treaty where the legal systems in both countries are significantly different?

There is a school of thought which postulates that Jamaica's legal system, despite its several shortcomings, enjoys a superior legal status when compared to that of the United States. Although the topic may be debatable, there are nevertheless some clear differences in their laws of evidence and criminal procedure which can significantly impact on the rights of accused persons not only in extradition, but generally in criminal proceedings. Also, the use of "illegally" obtained evidence and the trial of abducted persons are frequently allowed in the USA.

The incident at Abu Ghraib and the detention and trials of accused persons at the Guantanamo Bay Detention Centre speak eloquently for themselves. To his credit President Obama has undertaken that this unfortunate period of American history will never recur, at least not during his watch. The centre is to be closed next year and the perpetrators of Abu Ghraib have been brought to justice.

There is little doubt that the process of appointing judges in Jamaica and the quality of their judgement is more transparent and superior to those of their counterparts in the USA, although the USA has produced several outstanding jurists such as Oliver Wendell Holmes and Thurgood Marshall.

(4) Expenses and compensation

Article 17 of the treaty states that "expenses relating to the apprehension of the person sought and to subsequent proceedings shall be borne by the Requested State (Jamaica). Section 17 (2) states that "the Requested State shall also provide for the representations of the Requesting State in any proceedings arising in the Requested State or of a request for extradition". The only expense in this process that the Requesting State (USA) is liable to bear are "expenses related to the transportation of the person sought to the Requesting State".

The question is why should Jamaica, a poor country, in a request by the USA be compelled to bear this tremendous financial burden to extradite its nationals or even a fugitive to the USA? This burden is even more pronounced in consideration of the fact that Jamaica rarely, if ever, requests the USA to extradite a fugitive or a US national to Jamaica! Further, why should the director of public prosecutions be required to take from her small cadre of attorneys to prosecute these matters? Could not the Requesting State retain private counsel to obtain a fiat from the DPP to prosecute?

Article 17 (30) of the treaty states that "no pecuniary claim arising out of the arrest, detention, examination and surrender of the person sought under the terms of this treaty shall be made by the Requested State against the Requesting State." It is submitted that this is unfair to accused persons, some of whom may be successful in appealing their sentences on the grounds that they were extradited and convicted without regard to the due process of law existing in both countries.

Jamaica is legally bound to honour the treaty and any laws relating thereto until they are renegotiated or amended.

The problem the government faces is that any such request to the USA may be met with the reply "First comply, then complain."

Clayton Morgan is former president of the Cornwall Bar Association, vice president of the Jamaican Bar Association, a member of the General Legal Council, a member of the International Bar Association and an associate member of the American Bar Association.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Bahamas: Policing before Farm Road

BEFORE the Farm Road Project was started in June 2002 -- which later evolved into Urban Renewal -- active community policing was making itself felt. So much so that the Eastern Division Pacesetters, launched from the Elizabeth Estates Police Station, had already won the first international police award for the Bahamas.

The presentation --in which the Bahamas placed second in the competition -- was made by the Association of Caribbean Commissioners of Police in 2001.

The Tribune was also presented with a plaque as the first partner to join the Pacesetters and introduce them to the public. Other newspapers and many other partners followed.

And so we can write with first hand knowledge about the Pacesetters and their programme to promote "The Police are my friends!" theme and take active door-to-door policing to a community. It was an initiative of which the whole community was aware and from which it saw positive results.

"The Police are my friends!" initiative was first introduced by ASP Shannondor Evans in 1998 in Freeport where he was Officer in Charge of the Eastern Division of the Grand Bahama District.

He was later transferred to Nassau and posted at the Eastern Division-- Elizabeth Estates Police Station. It was here that the Eastern Division Pacesetters was born. The object was to promote through many initiatives the idea that the police were the friends of the community. It was an effort to build a partnership between the police and the community.

Mr Evans had the ingredients of a successful programme, but he had to find a vehicle from which to launch it. One day he arrived at The Tribune and met with Godfrey Arthur, our advertising manager. Mr Evans, is an officer one has to take seriously. So fired with enthusiasm was he that he immediately caught Mr Arthur's attention. The idea was then brought to us and in no time The Tribune was on board with a weekly programme that lasted over a year. At first it started small with weekly announcements of meetings. Then it branched out into space given to introduce, with photographs, the various police officers in the programme and different members of the community who agreed that the police were indeed their friends. It caught the public's attention.

The object was to train the community to become aware of and accept the fact that 4,000 police officers, members of the Reserves and civilians could not police 300,000 people adequately, unless the people wanted to be policed and were an integral part of the project.

After spending four months training his officers, ASP Evans and his men took to the streets. They visited every home and business in the Eastern Division -- a total of 8,512 homes.

As a result of increased housebreaking complaints occurring in the eastern area, ASP Evans launched an initiative to ensure the presence of more police officers on the streets, through track roads and in the bushes. He planned to conduct the exercise one day a week for five weeks. Between 30 to 40 officers were deployed each week and their orders were to take an "aggressive approach toward preventing crimes."

His appeal for financial support was copied to leading residents in the eastern division. One of the names on the list was that of Dr Bernard Nottage -- and so no one could say this programme was politically motivated because those of all political persuasions cooperated.

ASP Evans had committed himself to providing lunch for the officers to prevent them leaving the area. He was, therefore, appealing to leading citizens in his division for "lunch" money. In his letter of appeal he announced that the late Roger Carron, The Tribune's director, had already provided lunch for the first day out. Others followed.

Mr Francis Cancino of the Amoury company recalls one weekend sitting with his family on his porch when up rolled Mr Evans and his team on bicycles. Mr Evans introduced himself and explained the team's mission. "He impressed me quite a bit," Mr Cancino will tell you today. "He gave out pamphlets with very good tips for the homeowner," Mr Cancino said. These were brochures with crime tips and a questionnaire. As a result Mr Cancino was also a supporter and helped with donations, among them computers. Deputy Prime Minister Brent Symonette and his wife, Robin, were also enthusiastic backers, giving of their time and finances. Mrs Symonette worked closely with the children, and provided gifts at Christmas.

Said Godfrey Arthur, who lives in the Eastern Division: "You could see the morale of the Elizabeth Estates station improve. After Mr Evans' transfer to the Police College we have seen an increase in petty theft and home invasions in our area. When he was in charge there was a policeman in your area every hour on the hour. He attended all the town meetings and was present for all the Crime Watch committee meetings. His team was responsible for the decrease in petty crime -- the man was on the job day and night. He made certain that his division was patrolled."

Today, said Mr Arthur, "we no longer even see the 'Police are our friends!' signs in our district."

However, this is the type of programme that each division needs if a dent is to be made in crime.

November 24, 2009


Monday, November 23, 2009

Bahamas: Politicians 'highjacked' community policing

WE TALKED with several Bahamians this weekend about Urban Renewal and its effectiveness. There were many opinions, but all agreed that the programme was doomed from the beginning because it was bogged down in politics.

"You must remember," said one sarcastically, "what is now Urban Renewal started as the Farm Road project when a few policemen were strategically placed to impress the people. No Urban Renewal was on anyone's mind when that happened. The Farm Road project was solely to secure a seat for a politician."

In fact, said another Bahamian, community policing was "highjacked" by the politicians.

It was only when the police went into Farm Road and discovered such squalor in some of the homes that urban renewal was born and eventually the programme spread to other inner cities.

Instead of the police going into communities and discovering what was wrong and instructing the responsible government department to correct it, police found themselves directing home repairs, cleaning up garbage, and generally being involved in non-police work.

Another person did not see much change in the Urban Renewal programme when it came under the FNM-- other than the police being removed from school campuses.

The person felt that it was the parents' responsibility --not that of the police -- to make certain that their child did not go to school with a weapon.

"A lie is being foisted on the Bahamian people that Urban Renewal is dead. This is simply not true," said one police officer. "The programme has not been stopped, however, it has been changed."

He said the police had been providing the leadership.

However, when other organisations took their rightful place in the programme, the police stepped back and returned to their policing duties.

However, they continued to support the programme wherever their assistance was required.

The officer did not agree that the police should have ever been on the school campus. "It undermines the authority of the school principal and the school's staff," he said. However, although no police officer is stationed on the campus, an effective school programme with the police involved is still in place.

Each school has direct contact with the nearest police station and the police are on call whenever needed.

There are also programmes in place to give children police protection early in the morning when they arrive at school and in the afternoon when they are leaving. Police also supervise children who have been suspended from class. The police contact the parents, and have a programme to which the parents take their child for police supervision for as long as they have been banned from the classroom. These children are not wandering the streets. They are very much under police control.

But for politicians to say that Urban Renewal is dead or that protection is not being given to the schools, "is just intellectual dishonesty," was this officer's opinion.

However, another Bahamian saw what should have been a 24-hour community service being turned into a 9am to 5pm job for a civil servant. "They took the police out and flooded us with all these experts," he said. "In the social services you'd be surprised how many hands a request has to go through just to get one thing approved. In every department the public service is very weak."

What this country needs is dedicated community policing where police and people come together, united by a common goal.

Community policing was started long before politicians conjured up the controversial urban renewal programme. It was launched and managed by the police and in the areas where it was being developed, it was very successful.

We were intimately involved with the Nassau programme and gave considerable news space to a similar programme organised in Cat Island.

There was ASP Shannondor Evans, spearheading a programme from the police station in Elizabeth Estates, and Supt. Stephen Dean organising a student band and youth clubs in Cat Island. Both programmes were successful -- regardless of political affiliation residents were working with the police towards a common goal.

Cat Island, we were told, was a good example of how community programmes could make a difference. Faculty and staff at the Cat Island school commented on how the music programmes in particular had helped improve students' grades. It was thought that because of these programmes, students had become more focused.

Tomorrow we shall describe in more detail Mr Evans' successful programme in the Eastern division. This area included Prince Charles, Sea Breeze, Fox Hill Road and the Eastern Road.

There are probably many police men and women who are well versed in community policing. We know of two -- ASP Evans, and Superintendent Dean, who represents the Bahamas on the community policing committee of the International Association of Caribbean Commissioners of Police. And we have heard of a third -- Supt. Carolyn Bowe.

These are the people whose skills and enthusiasm should be utilised in helping to coordinate and spread such programmes.

November 23, 2009


Sunday, November 22, 2009

Rising sea levels threaten Caribbean

By Chris Kraul:

The Colombian city of Cartagena is trying to plan ahead as scientists say cities nearer the equator, where temperatures are already higher, are at greater risk if global warming isn't checked.

Reporting from Cartagena, Colombia - The effect of climate change is anything but hypothetical to retired Colombian naval officer German Alfonso. Just ask him about the time his neighborhood in this historic coastal city became an island.

For five years, Alfonso, 74, has watched tides rise higher and higher in the Boca Grande section of Cartagena. This month, tides briefly inundated the only mainland connection to his neighborhood, a converted sandbar where about 60 high-rise condo and hotel towers have been built in the last decade or so.

"Before, people thought it a normal phenomenon. But we're becoming more conscious that something is going on," Alfonso said. "If the sea keeps rising, traffic could just collapse."

According to a recently updated World Bank study on climate change in Latam, Alfonso and his neighbors have reason to be concerned. Not only are the effects of global warming more evident in Latin American coastal cities, the report says, but the phenomenon could worsen in coming decades because sea levels will rise highest near the equator.

Colombian naval Capt. Julian Reyna, a member of a government task force monitoring climate change, said the sea level around Cartagena, renowned for its Spanish colonial fortifications and beaches, has risen as much as one-eighth of an inch each year over the last decade, an increase that scientists expect to accelerate in coming years.

According to some scenarios that the authors of the World Bank study say are not that far-fetched, Cartagena and the rest of the Caribbean coastal zone could see sea levels rising as much as 2 feet, possible more, by the end of the century. Even at the lower end of projections, parts of this city would be knee-deep in sea water.

One of the authors, climatologist Walter Vergara, cautions that the projections are based on trends and factors that could change, buthe is worried that Colombia's entire Caribbean coastal zone could see relocations of urban centers. Other Latin and Caribbean cities especially at risk include Veracruz, Mexico; Georgetown, Guyana; and Guayaquil, Ecuador, he said.

"The projections are based on assumptions generally accepted by the scientific community and do not include the cataclysmic effects of possible advanced ice melting in the Antarctic or Greenland," said co-author economist John Nash.

Even under the most benign of scenarios, Vergara and other scientists are concerned for Colombia's Cienaga Grande, a mangrove marsh covering hundreds of square miles whose ecosystem could die because of increased salinity from higher tides. The forests could disappear and thousands of fishermen may be displaced.

Agriculture in Colombia and other tropical countries is at greater risk than in the United States, Canada and Europe because temperatures are already relatively high in countries near the equator, and increases will be more damaging to growing conditions, Nash said.

Cartagena's chief city planner, Javier Mouthon, said the local government is aware of what could be in store and is making plans beyond immediate effects that include a long-term "adaptation process." That includes new roads and relocating city facilities to avoid permanently flooded zones.

Cartagena is already studying the feasibility of building dikes or collection pools and possibly requiring all construction to have foundations 20 inches higher than currently specified.

"We are quite concerned," Mouthon said. "It's a problem that grows year by year."

Colombian Vice President Francisco Santos has begun convening workshops of coastal governors and mayors to hammer home the possible repercussions of climate change and the need to adjust urban and regional planning accordingly.

Many residents here seem to be only vaguely aware of global warming and its effects. At a new condo tower development called Bahia Grande being built near Alfonso's house, saleswoman Rocio Buelvas said few prospective buyers raise the issue.

"They see it as a problem only for a couple of months of the year," Buelvas said. "I think it will get better once they fix the drainage."


Number of poor in Latin America to rise by 9 million this year, says UN report

19 November 2009 – Nine million more people in Latin America will fall into poverty this year due to the global economic crisis, bringing the total number of poor in the region to 189 million, or 34 per cent of the population, according to a United Nations report released today.

The UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), which produced the report, stated that the new estimates depart from the trend towards poverty reduction that was prevalent in the region thanks to greater economic growth, the expansion of social spending and better income distribution.

“We can’t say that all that was attained between 2002 and 2008 has been lost,” said ECLAC Executive Secretary Alicia Bárcena, as she presented the report, Social Panorama of Latin America 2009.

“However, the rise in poverty calls us to action. We need to rethink social protection programmes with a long-term, strategic perspective and measures that make the most of human capital and protect the income of vulnerable families and groups,” she added.

ECLAC recommended, among other things, reforming social protection systems and adopting both urgent short-term measures as well as strategic long-term ones.

“In doing so, governments should avoid fiscal irresponsibility and rigid labour markets, increase taxes progressively, redistribute social spending and extend coverage of social services,” the Commission stated.

The Commission also noted that the projected increase in poverty for 2009 will impede efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the globally agreed targets to slash poverty, hunger and a host of other social ills, all by 2015.

At the same time, the impact of the current crisis on poverty in the region is not expected to be as great as with previous crises, such as the Asian financial crisis in the late 1990s, it pointed out.

UN News

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Haiti, the last battle!

By Jean H Charles:

This past Wednesday on November 18, Haiti celebrated the 206th anniversary of the victory of its troops: 7,000 men in rags and ill nourished, who crushed the 40,000 well trained soldiers sent by Napoleon from France to re-establish slavery in that rebel island that dared to declare itself the land of the free!

We were in 1800; John Adams, who entertained a cozy relationship with Toussaint Louverture, the mighty leader of the whole island of Hispaniola, was crushed in his attempt to win a second mandate as president of the United States. Thomas Jefferson did win the election, and entered instead into a secret pact with Napoleon to allow the French troops to cross the Atlantic and reach Haiti.

Jean H Charles MSW, JD is Executive Director of AINDOH Inc a non profit organization dedicated to building a kinder and gentle Caribbean zone for all. He can be reached at: jeanhcharles@aol.comThe Haitians, who have tasted the sweet smell of liberty, did not conceive the idea of coming back into slavery. Under the leadership of Toussaint, first, Dessalines and Henry Christophe later, they submitted the French troops to defeat after defeat until the last battle that took place near Cape Haitian, at Vertieres on November 18, 1803. There, one of the generals, Capois La Mort, distinguished himself with bravado and gallantry that the French General Rochambeau ordered the battle to stop to pay homage to Capois. His horse and his hat were hit with a bullet; he regained his composure to call his troops to move with the slogan: En Avant! En avant! Move forward, Move forward!

It was the end of the French fantasia to bring Haiti and the Haitians back into slavery. It was also the beginning of the end of the wide world order of black subjugation. This epic story did not have a long life in Haiti. Dessalines was assassinated two years later by his own comrades in arms. His successor, Henry Christophe, lasted fifteen years, but ruled only the northern part of the island. His rival Alexander Petion and his successor Jean Pierre Boyer delivered on a platter what the French could not get on the battle field. Boyer accepted to pay to the French government the equivalent of 2 billion dollars to compensate the settlers for their loss. Petion and Boyer imprinted the Haitian ethos with the culture of exclusion, which is the imprimatur of Haitian society today. The 565 rural counties of Haiti have not received individually or collectively one million dollars for the past two hundred years in structural infrastructure!

Desolated and left to fend for them, the rural world of Haiti is leaving en masse, building a shanty town at the rate of one a month in the capital and in the main cities. They are also trying to reach the Dominican Republic, Turks and Caicos, as well as the Bahamas through clandestine departures. In spite of the international help and concern, Haiti is sinking deeper into extreme poverty. Port au Prince, the capital city has electricity only from 9pm to 6 am. There is no potable water, no night life, no major industry and no tourism.

Yet the forces in power are mounting an armada (with some foreign assistance) to perpetuate themselves into power. Haiti at this juncture must play the same battle that it engaged on November 18, 1803, not with cannon but with its bulletin of vote. In November 2010, the people of Haiti will have a clear choice of remaining in the status quo of misery, arrogance and neglect from its own government or choose a new leader with the vision and the bravura to break down the culture of exclusion against the majority of the population.

It will need, using the words of Professor Kenneth Clark, talking about the black man in American politics, to utilize the election process to change society from an unjust one to a just one. It will also need to transform rhetoric into reality. So far the concept of one man one vote has been prostituted and did not help Haiti. I am observing the Haitian government using the resources of the state and those of the international organizations to organize a so called unity coalition!

The Haitian people have a way of defying the odds. As in 1803; in November 2010, they will survive this attempt to keep them in a de facto bondage. May the spirit of the gallant founding fathers guide them!


Friday, November 20, 2009

Commonwealth in danger: Action needed in Trinidad

By Sir Ronald Sanders:

As the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting is about to take place in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and Tobago’s capital, there is not much hope among its member states that it will achieve anything more than declarations without the means to implement them.

Indeed, even more worryingly, there is a mood in some of the developed Commonwealth countries that the organisation no longer has relevance in the international community.

Sadly, even though the Commonwealth Summit is being held on the eve of the Copenhagen Conference on Climate Change, there is strong resistance from major capitals to any notion of a Commonwealth initiative on this issue.

I hope my information is incorrect, but it is being said in circles that should know that Canada is one of the countries that is opposed to any initiative being taken on climate change outside of what could be achieved in Copenhagen. And, the world now knows that already diluted declarations have been prepared for the Copenhagen conference and they are non-binding anyway.

If the information about Canada is true, it is much to be regretted, for small states, particularly those in the Caribbean, have long looked to Canada to champion their causes and to stand with them in the Commonwealth especially. In the past, Canada has not shirked this role, and it has not been to Canada’s disadvantage. By championing small states, Canada has been able to count small states in the legions of its support.

No other plurilateral organisation has served the interests of small states better than the Commonwealth over the last four decades. Of the now 52 member states, 32 are small with 12 of them from the Caribbean. Certainly, the G20, despite the membership of five Commonwealth countries – Australia, Britain, Canada, India and South Africa – can not purport to serve small states since not one small state is represented at the table, and, so far, no machinery has been put in place to formally ascertain their views, in advance of G20 meetings, on the global issues that affect them.

As the world has moved increasingly to globalisation and trade liberalisation, the majority of small states, which were from the very outset only marginally capable of economic survival, have found themselves overwhelmed by new challenges such as sea-level rise, drug trafficking and attendant high rates of crime, high migration of their best educated people, and a lack of capacity for negotiating the integration of their societies into larger trading blocs and the new global trading system. While bigger countries have similar problems, they have the resources and flexibility to address these problems, unlike the small states.

This is the context in which this CHOGM is being held. It suggests that the Commonwealth in tandem with the small states themselves should explore ways in which the imperilled societies of the majority of small states could become more viable and so serve their particular interests as well as those of the wider Commonwealth.

What should be the crucial issues? A priority should be Climate Change. The escalation of adverse weather related conditions, especially sea-level rise, challenge the very existence of several Commonwealth countries such as the Maldives, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Tokelau and Tuvalu. In other cases, sea-level rise and flooding threaten agricultural production and trade for many states such as Guyana, Belize, Ghana, Tanzania and Bangladesh. Both stronger hurricanes and steady beach erosion also threaten tourism and agricultural production in several Caribbean islands. And, for all of the affected countries, the high costs involved in adaptation are simply unattainable on their own.

Why then not a Commonwealth initiative to do something tangible for the most vulnerable regardless of what happens at Copenhagen? Surely, the Commonwealth could resolve to mobilise resources from the World Bank and other organisations to put in place a programme for the countries whose very existence is threatened? If not, what do the leaders of these countries tell their people? What does the Commonwealth tell them? Is it that they must quite literally paddle their own canoe?

A second priority should be the impact of the global crisis on all Commonwealth countries and particularly what should be done for the smallest and most vulnerable economies. It was a welcome development to see the Secretary-General of the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM) Secretariat make the statement that CARICOM countries “have not seen any significant inflow for that (the US$1 trillion pledged to the IMF by the G20 countries), we have not heard or seen any significant changes in policies of the IMF as an example”. It is time for that kind of frank talk.

The Global crisis produced the G20 countries to replace the G7, which has controlled the world economy over the last sixty years, to stimulate global demand and supply, but there has been no accompanying measures for the smallest, most vulnerable countries for debt relief, new aid, and sustainable capital flows. It is right that these governments must devise policies that address these issues themselves, but it is also right that the international community should act to provide help.

Essentially small states have been left out in the cold with the IMF still the only mechanism to which they can turn – and no change, despite all the rhetoric, in the prescriptions of the IMF itself.

Yet, the capacity of governments of small Commonwealth countries to service debt that the IMF places as a priority is extremely difficult in conditions in which their main sources of trade and tourism revenues are in decline. The ratio of debt to GDP in several small Commonwealth countries paints the picture: St Kitts-Nevis 178%, Seychelles 151%, Jamaica 128%, Antigua and Barbuda 107%, Barbados 106%, Grenada 87%, Dominica 86%, Belize 80%, St Lucia 70%, Marshall islands 70% and St Vincent and the Grenadines 67%.

The Commonwealth should, at the very least, be considering how it can advance change in the World Bank and other financial institutions for helping small countries to restructure and repay both official and commercial debt on easy terms over the next decade.

Absent practical decisions of this kind, this CHOGM does run the risk of making the Commonwealth irrelevant even to the small states that place such tremendous importance in it. That would be sad for an organisation that retains great potential for serving the world’s interest for economic development, peace and democracy.


Thursday, November 19, 2009

Bahamian women 'should continue to have breast cancer screenings at an early age'

Tribune Staff Reporter -

DESPITE controversial American breast cancer screening guidelines, a local oncologist recommends that Bahamian women continue to have annual breast cancer screenings at an early age.

Dr John Lunn, medical director of the Bahamas Breast Cancer Initiative Foundation, is one of many in the medical community who advocate annual mammograms and self-examinations no later than the age of 40 in hopes of detecting the disease early on.

Those with a genetic predisposition to the disease should get screened even younger, he said.

This is necessary, Dr Lunn told The Tribune, due to the high incidences of Bahamian women under the age of 50 who are struck with the disease or have a genetic predisposition to it.

His comments came in the wake of guidelines from the US Preventive Services Task Force which said that women aged 50 to 74 only need a mammogram every other year, rather than annually.

The recommendations, released by the 16-member panel of American experts, also said that women older than 74 do not need to be tested.

The board also said that US doctors should not instruct women to examine their breasts for lumps. The panel argued that the X-rays often resulted in false positives, or false alarms, which sometimes led to unnecessary treatment.

Dr Lunn said the new recommendations -- which have sparked opposition from the American Cancer Society -- do not apply to the Bahamas. Although he conceded that mammograms are not perfect, he said the testing does save lives.

"At the moment this doesn't apply to the Bahamas -- these are US guidelines -- but it doesn't apply to populations like us where half the women have breast cancer under the age of 50 and 20 per cent of all women carry a gene that predisposes them to breast cancer," said Dr Lunn.

"So we are not changing our recommendations for screening at the moment. All women should start annual screening and monthly self-tests at 40."

As for whether the news from the United States will affect how Bahamian women view the need for breast cancer testing, Dr Lunn believes the danger will overpower the chatter from abroad.

Mrs Susan Roberts, founder of the Cancer Society, said her organisation will continue to push for women as young as 35 to get screened.

"Early detection is the best protection," Mrs Roberts said, adding that she was "horrified" by the panel's recommendations.

Due to the fundraising success of this year's "Ride for Hope" charity event, the Cancer Society is preparing to fly in a group of women under the age of 50, who are at risk for breast cancer, to undergo free mammograms.

A recent study revealed that 20 per cent of 195 Bahamian breast cancer survivors in the study's test group have an abnormal gene which predisposes them to the disease.

Dr Lunn is one of several local oncologists who, along with international, began the study which yielded the startling statistics.

This rate is among the highest in the world, according to experts who conducted the research.

According to published reports, 34 per cent of Bahamian women diagnosed with breast cancer are 44 years old or younger while only 12 per cent of American women under 44 are diagnosed with the disease.

The average age of women with breast cancer in The Bahamas is 42 while the average age in the United States is 62.

November 19, 2009


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Six Caribbean persons among the 500 most influential Muslims in the world

By Alim Ali

AMMAN, Jordan -- The 500 Most Influential Muslims in the World (2009 Edition) is a first of its kind published by the Prince Al-waleed Bin Talaal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding of Georgetown University, Washington DC in conjunction with the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre in Amman, Jordan.

The introduction to the publication states that it “provides a window into the movers and shakers of the Muslim world. We have strived to highlight people who are influential as Muslims, that is, people whose influence is derived from their practice of Islam or from the fact that they are Muslim. We think that this gives valuable insight into the different ways that Muslims impact the world, and also shows the diversity of how people are living as Muslims today.”

Six persons from the Caribbean made the list, two from Jamaica, one from Trinidad, one from Guyana as well as two persons of Guyanese origin -- one resident in USA the other in Canada.

 As a first attempt there may be some glaring omissionsand to cater for this possibility the publishers “acknowledge that there are likely to be gaps in our categorizing, and are sure that we have missed some influential people. We would like to keep the process as open as possible and ask you to please write in suggestions to

Interest in Caribbean Muslims caught the attention of many in Jordan and especially the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre (RISSC) after Guyana’s President Bharrat Jagdeo visited Jordan in March of 2009. It was also during this visit that Jordan’s Prince Ghazi offered 5 scholarships to Guyanese students wishing to pursue Islamic Studies.

The Caribbean Muslims making the lists are:

Muhammad, Mustafa
Muhammad has been the President of the Islamic Council of Jamaica for the past 14 years. His work involves education and halal certification. He oversees the eleven mosques in Jamaica. An estimated 5,000 Muslims regularly attend mosques in Jamaica.

Tijani, Marufat
Tijani is the Principal of the Islamiyah Basic School with the Islamic Council of Jamaica. Although it is a one-room school, its role as the only basic school for Muslim-specific education dedicated to teaching Arabic and other basic skills is important.

Ali, Yacoob
Ali is the President of the largest and most influential Muslim organization in Trinidad and Tobago, the Anjuman Sunnat ul Jamaat Association (ASJA) which was founded in 1936. The Muslim community in Trinidad and Tobago is largely comprised of people of Indian descent. His organization runs numerous schools and focuses on the importance of education for Muslim youth.

Shah, Ryhaan
Ryhaan Shah is considered among the best contemporary writers in Guyana and the Caribbean, best known for her 2005 novel A Silent Life. Shah is also an active public figure as the president of the Guyanese Indian Heritage Association.

Khan, Faizul
Faizul Khan has been credited with founding an Islamic school in Guyana at the age of 17 and has played a strategic role in developing Muslim institutions both locally and abroad—particularly in the US, where he is chapter member of the Islamic Society of North America.

Baksh, Nazim
Baksh is a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation television and radio producer specializing in root causes of terrorism. He also covers issues relating to traditionalist Islam. He is a former Massey Fellow and has produced the international affairs radio program ‘Dispatches’ since 2000.

The full list is available on the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre website (


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Cuba condemns attitude of the rich countries at the Rome Summit

ROME, November 16. — Cuba has condemned the attitude of the rich countries who were absent from the Heads of State or Government meeting at the FAO Food Security Summit taking place in this capital.

In a statement to PL, Ulises Rosales del Toro, head of the Cuban delegation in Rome and vice president of the Council of Ministers, highlighted the fact that those present must accept that food should not be used as an instrument of political pressure.

This is a battle that our country has waged for many years and which, on this occasion, has reached the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) Summit, he commented.

The importance of cooperation and solidarity was also reconfirmed, as was the need to abstain from adopting unilateral measures that do not comply with international law and endanger food security, he added.

Likewise a member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of Cuba and minister of agriculture, Rosales del Toro criticized the absence of the world’s most powerful nations who do not appear to have the courage to face representatives of the developing countries.

Now they cannot justify themselves, he stated, referring to unfulfilled promises of aid in order to eradicate world hunger.

With respect to the validity of the FAO Summit, Cuban Deputy Foreign Minister Abelardo Moreno stated that the issue is not to cancel the meeting but to highlight the attitude of the rich countries, which are not only responsible for the current situation but also for the global financial crisis. (PL)

Translated by Granma International

Monday, November 16, 2009

The sad decline of Caracas

By Nathan Crooks:

Living in Caracas has never been easy. While the oil boom that started in the 1950s turned the city into one of the most sophisticated capitals in the western hemisphere, growing socioeconomic imbalances and increasing political tension that existed long before Hugo Chávez have always made Venezuela a challenge to navigate.

One glance at the US Department of State's travel fact sheet on Venezuela - which in the first paragraph warns of murders, express kidnappings and armed robberies - is enough to scare away even the most seasoned traveler. The city, however, maintains a magnetic draw on anyone who has lived there before.

Blessed with year-around spring-like weather, Caracas is within hours of some of the best beaches in the world. The shopping is probably the best in South America, and world class restaurants have always pleased the palates of the most discerning diners. With all its problems, the city has been able to retain even those opposed to Chávez's Bolivarian Revolution. Despite the crime, political black lists and social instability, few Venezuelans that live well in Caracas have found a better life elsewhere.

But that could all be changing. Three key events this year have pointed to a decline which may be irreversible. While every aspect of Chávez's project can be debated, it's possible to run any kind of government in a way that works or in a way that doesn’t. And Venezuela is simply not working anymore.

First, Caracas is becoming prohibitively expensive because of Chávez's exchange rate controls and import-dependent economy. According to consulting firm Mercer's 2009 cost of living report, Caracas is now the 15th most expensive city in the world, ahead of famously pricey metropolises including London, Rome and Dubai. When a box of Froot Loops in a Caracas grocery story costs US$54, authorities should realize they have a real problem on their hands.

Venezuela's electric power problems come second. The country nationalized its power industry in 2007 and consolidated generation, transmission and distribution activities under state oil company PDVSA and the newly created state power company, Corpoelec. It's been nothing but downhill since, and El Niño has pushed the power industry to the brink of collapse this year because of low rain levels. Demand, meanwhile, is continuing to increase, despite pleas from the government for power conservation.

Isn't it ironic? One of the most energy endowed countries in the world can no longer provide enough power for its own citizens. Even if you agree with the Bolivarian Revolution, it's hard to argue that the government ministries or political operatives running the state companies are doing their job well.

But the biggest sign of Bolivarian incompetence is the water rationing that started in Caracas on November 2. Entire zones of the city are being cut off from water service for 48 hours at a time. Both public hospitals and five-star hotels alike are having to make plans for the weekly 48-periods they will be without water.

El Niño is affecting many countries across the region, and hydro levels are giving more than one government headaches. But don't the authorities realize that programmed water rationing will only increase demand as everyone will hoard water the days before the scheduled cuts? The fact that water rationing has to be implemented in a major city because of a recurrent weather event is evidence of criminal bad planning.

Power and water service are the basic fabric of any civilized city. One expects problems with such basic services in a war zone or in some other far off locale where Westerners sometimes go to escape modern life. But in Caracas? In a capital city of five million? In a global energy hub? No. It's not something even those most ardently opposed to Chávez would have expected a few years ago. Venezuela's inability to guarantee such basic services takes one's breath away. It was mildly humorous when shortages of eggs and milk complicated daily life in Caracas, but being without reliable power and water service is an entirely different matter.

Without debating the merits of socialism or the Bolivarian Revolution, without even talking about democracy or politics, it's obvious that Chávez's government is doing something wrong. There won't be much to debate anymore in Caracas. One will only have to flick a light switch or turn on a faucet to realize that something is not working.

Caraqueños are used to putting up with crime, political instability and a government bureaucracy that seems schizophrenic at best. The well-off can still eat their Froot Loops, even if a box costs US$50. What remains to be seen, however, is if they will want to do so in the dark. And will even the most loyal Chavistas want to endure Caracas without taking a shower or flushing the toilet for 48 hours?


Sunday, November 15, 2009

'CSME not answer for region'

Denyse Renne

Former Barbadian prime minister Owen Arthur says the rise of trade liberalisation and globalisation was making a massive impact in the world, and less developed countries within the Caribbean are forced to face more challenges.

Arthur was one of many speakers who addressed the final session of the inaugural symposium on ’Current Developments in Caribbean Community Law’ at the Hyatt Regency hotel, Port of Spain, on Wednesday.

Arthur said the cost of restructuring an economy as a result of the information age can have its challenges, especially in terms of security.

Stating no Caribbean country is in a position to look at Caricom or the Caribbean Single Market Economy (CSME) for immediate solutions for several matters, Arthur said the CSME does not offer governments ample opportunities to deal with fiscal issues.

He advised that issues such as the Caribbean Single Economy should be forgotten for the time being, and the issue of sovereignty should be dealt with through a single market, and emphasis should be placed on getting rid of restrictions.

’The CSME has always been conceived with the intention of a well-integrated system for global economy. We must go forward in the Caribbean. We must see the CSME for what it is, it will not yield over solutions. There must be political commitments to allow it to yield the course,’ Arthur said.

Noting the power of advocacy can bring about change in the Caribbean, Arthur said the concept of the CSME needs reviewing and, also, countries need to ask themselves where they stand. ’Are we seen as Caribbean people or are we seen as individuals?’

St Lucian Opposition Leader Dr Kenny Anthony also addressed the function, saying the collapse of Clico and the revamping of British American Insurance Company saw governments scrambling and relying on other resources.

’I think we are in very dangerous times. There is an economic crisis facing nations...,’ he said

He said there needs to be clarity among countries and their purposes known, as well as a display of political courage and as far as he is concerned, ’I am yet to see any evidence of this.’

Declaring that the leadership of the region needs to resolve issues of movement of nationals across countries, Anthony said the fear of Haiti becoming involved in Caricom integration is a sore point for countries since there is the fear of the Haitian invasion of nationals.

November 13th 2009


Saturday, November 14, 2009

Afro-Brazilians and indigenous groups face serious bias, says UN rights chief

While Brazil has an “impressive” set of laws and policies to promote human rights and improve socio-economic well-being, indigenous groups and Afro-Brazilians face serious discrimination, injustice and violence, the United Nations human rights chief said today.

Wrapping up her week-long visit to the South American nation, High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay noted that millions of Afro-Brazilians and indigenous people are “mired in poverty” and lack access to basic services and employment opportunities.

“Until that changes, it will hamper Brazil’s progress on many other fronts,” she told a news conference before departing the country, urging officials to focus on fully implementing existing laws, plans and policies to address discrimination.

She lauded the country’s Constitution and legal framework, saying they “form an impressive foundation of human rights protection,” and noted a number of important measures taken by the Government, including this week’s passing by the Congress of a constitutional amendment designed to provide free universal education to children aged 4 to17.

“Many of Brazil’s biggest problems are rooted in poverty and discrimination, and a truly universal secondary education system is essential if there is to be major improvement in these areas,” she said.

At the same time, she noted a number of issues of concern, including the situation of the country’s indigenous people. The fact that she had not seen a single indigenous person among all the many officials she had met during the visit was “very indicative of their continued marginalization,” she stated.

Ms. Pillay stated that, for the most part, Brazil’s indigenous people “are not benefiting from the country’s impressive economic progress, and are being held back by discrimination and indifference, chased out of their lands and into forced labour.”

In addition, there are very few Afro-Brazilians in positions of authority, and this was particularly striking in the country’s northern Bahia state, “where three-quarters of the population are Afro-Brazilian, but hardly any of the top administrators.”

Turning to the issue of violence, the High Commissioner acknowledged that Brazil’s police had a tough task in trying to maintain law and order. She said the Government needs to establish a clear policy to combat impunity, adding that all allegations of rights violations need to be promptly and thoroughly investigated by independent authorities. Perpetrators must be prosecuted, irrespective of whether they are gangsters or policemen, she added.

“The astonishingly high rate of homicides in Brazil’s overcrowded prisons, and allegations of widespread torture and inhumane conditions are alarming and unacceptable,” she said. “Equally disturbing is the fact that the vast majority of those incarcerated are Afro-Brazilians.

She also pointed to the “very high levels of violence directed at Brazilian women,” and said she hoped more could be done “to help women all across the country make use of the laws and projects designed to protect them.”

Ms. Pillay, who met with President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and several ministers and officials, noted that Brazil is “the only country in South America not to have taken action to confront abuses committed during the period of military rule.” There are ways of dealing with this “which avoid reopening the wounds of the past and help to heal them instead,” she said.

“Torture, however, is an exception,” she said. “International law is unequivocal: torture is a crime against humanity and cannot be left unpunished. The fact that the torture that took place in the military era has still not been dealt with by Brazil means that the proper, clear disincentives to commit torture now and in the future are not in place.”

While in Brazil, the High Commissioner also attended the annual national conference on human rights defenders and met with a wide range of civil society representatives in three cities –Salvador, Rio de Janeiro and, the capital, Brasilia.

She also visited an isolated community of Afro-Brazilian descendants of slaves in Bahia state, and one of Rio de Janeiro’s poverty-stricken favelas.

13 November 2009

UN News

Friday, November 13, 2009

Dumped: A blueprint for Caribbean salvation

By Sir Ronald Sanders:

Government representatives of all the countries that now form the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM), except the Bahamas and Haiti, were present at a meeting in Montego Bay, Jamaica when “majority opinion was clearly in favour of a Federation”.

Sir Ronald Sanders is a business executive and former Caribbean diplomat who publishes widely on small states in the global community. Reponses to: www.sirronaldsanders.comThey made concrete and visionary decisions and adopted resolutions that they anticipated would help their small countries individually and collectively. The overarching resolution recognized “the desirability of a political federation” in which “each constituent unit retains complete control over all matters except those specifically assigned to the federal government.”

Knowing from experience that any form of deeper integration would need transportation between their countries to move goods and people, the representatives expressed their belief that “the provision of adequate inter-regional and external shipping services and other communication is essential.”

They were wise enough to know that trying to maintain individual markets, individual currencies, as well as bargaining individually in a competitive global market is not practicable. In this connection, they decided that they should appoint a Single Trade Commissioner with “a well qualified staff of assistants” and “adequate funds” to bargain internationally for the region.

They boldly stated, “immediate, direct representation in negotiations affecting overseas trade and commerce is essential to the economic achievement of the countries”.

They also recommended the creation of a Committee “composed of delegates appointed by the Legislatures” of each country to make recommendations on “the assimilation of the fiscal, customs and tariff policy” and “the unification of the currency” of the countries. Not content with that, they also recommended the appointment of a Commission to examine in consultation with the governments of each country “the establishment of a Customs Union”.

And, these Caribbean leaders justified a Customs Union as follows: “the encouragement of inter-regional trade which would naturally be duty-free within the Union; the encouragement of local industries; the establishment of uniformity in tariff rates and customs administration; and the strengthening of the position of the Caribbean territories as far as bargaining power is concerned in relation to international trade agreements.”

They were also mindful that there would be disruption to some countries arising from a Customs Union. Therefore, they were careful to say that a suitable tariff should be prepared “having regard to the fiscal problems of the Governments whose revenue would be affected by the introduction of a Customs Union”.

On the matter of the single currency, they declared themselves “in favour of the early establishment of a uniform currency throughout the Caribbean”, and insisted on recording the view that “this measure is of very great importance to trade and commerce and it would also have advantages in strengthening the currency and the credit of this region”.

Food security was also very much on their minds. Thus, they recommended that “immediate steps be taken for setting-up of a central body of primary producers (representative of all the countries) with a view to accelerating the development of agriculture throughout the area on a sound economic basis”.

A special Committee dealt with the matter of debt and how it could be handled in a Customs Union and a Federation. The Committee held the opinion that the debt position of each country “would have to remain as at present until the comparatively advanced stage of federation is reached” when the major revenues are centralized in a federal exchequer. The Committee envisaged that the Federal government should assume responsibility for the remaining debt less accrued sinking funds.

Quite remarkably, the Committee of all governments also agreed that “the Federal government should be the sole authority for raising loans on the external market, although it would be both feasible and desirable to permit local loans to be raised for approved purposes by individual governments subject to the sanction of the federal finance authorities”.

Unfortunately, this conference of Caribbean government representatives did not take place in 2009. It took place in September 1947. It was attended by VC Bird of Antigua and Barbuda, Grantley Adams of Barbados, Alexander Bustamante of Jamaica, Albert Gomes of Trinidad and Tobago, A M Lewis of St Lucia, J B Renwick of Grenada, S F Bonadie of St Vincent, M H Davis of St Kitts-Nevis, C A Dupigny of Dominica, Dr J B Singh of Guyana and W H Courtenay of Belize. Also attending as a member of the Caribbean Commission was Norman Manley of Jamaica.

“The Conference on the Closer Association of the British West Indian Colonies”, as it was called, laid down the blueprint not only for Caribbean integration and development, but also for strengthening the region’s capacity to bargain in the international community.

In the end personal political ambitions and misplaced nationalism fostered by misinformation hijacked this regional project. A federation was formed, only to fall – not because it would not serve the Caribbean’s people; but because it did not suit some of its more influential politicians.

Thus, a customs union and a common currency were discarded, only to rise again as the Caribbean Single Market and Economy fifty-nine years later. In the meantime, experiments with individual independence and ‘going it alone’ economic policies have done nothing more than emphasize these are impossible dreams.

The present Regional Negotiating Machinery (RNM), now involved in negotiations with Canada after the disappointment of an unequal Economic Partnership Agreement with the European Union, is a half-sister to the more robust single Trade Commissioner the leaders had in mind in 1947 to negotiate for their one Caribbean state.

As for debt, almost all of the CARICOM countries now have a debt to GDP ratio of well over 100% and their economies are in deep trouble; the notable exception being Trinidad and Tobago which has been saved by its oil and gas resources. The Caribbean people could have been spared this situation had the Federation survived, implementing the rules for incurring debt that the 1947 Conference had envisaged, and implementing the blueprint for development it had laid out.

A single Caribbean state, drawing on the resources of tourism, financial services, agriculture, bauxite, gold, diamonds, oil, gas and the capacity of its tertiary educated people (75% of whom now live abroad) would have been far more viable today. It is time, the Caribbean learns from its own history and stop repeating its mistakes.