2003-12-03 / Caribbean Corner

caribbean roundup

Judge Orders Release Of Two Imprisoned Business Leaders
caribbean roundup Judge Orders Release Of Two Imprisoned Business Leaders

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) – A judge ordered the release of two business leaders arrested during an opposition rally more than two weeks ago, saying there were no grounds to hold them.

David Apaid and Charles Henry Baker were released from the national penitentiary to the chant of "Victory, victory’’ from a crowd of supporters.

Judge Joassaint Saint Clair ordered their release but they were briefly re-turned to their cells pending approval from deputy government prosecutor Riquet Brutus.

The pair were detained Nov. 14 when partisans of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide disrupted a rally by a civil society coalition, known as "the 184,’’ who wanted to present proposals for sweeping changes in Haiti.

The rally ended with police firing tear gas into the crowd. No Aristide partisans were arrested, while 25 coalition members were detained when po-lice found three handguns in a vehicle owned by Baker.

Apaid and Baker were jailed while the others were released.

Opposition To Challenge Election Results In One District

ST. GEORGE’S, Grenada (AP) – Grenada’s political opposition said re-cently it would challenge election results in one close district, an action that if successful could reverse the outcome of a vote that gave the Caribbean country’s governing party a third consecutive term.

The governing New National Party won eight of 15 parliamentary seats in Thursday’s balloting, while the opposition National Democratic Congress took seven, according to results confirmed by a recount.

But alleging irregularities, opposition leader Tillman Thomas called for an independent review in one district encompassing the outlying islands of Carriacou and Petit Martinique, where results showed the party lost to Prime Minister Keith Mitchell’s party by seven votes. Mitchell was recently sworn in.

Thomas said his party would bring a legal challenge later this week in High Court, but he didn’t give a day.

Scores of people said they were not allowed to vote even though they presented their national identity cards, Tho-mas said.

Australian-Owned Gold Mine In Jamaica Closes Over Declining Gold Reserves, Labor Dispute

KINGSTON, Jamaica (AP) – Jam-aica’s only gold mine closed recently and laid off its 18 workers because of declining gold reserves and a simmering labor dispute, the company said.

Employees of the Australian-owned Ausjam mine in rural Pennants, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) west of King-ston, had been demanding a pay raise, medical benefits and other allowances.

The "unreasonable demands’’ by the workers’ union coupled by a depletion of known gold reserves forced the com-pany to close while it decides whether to leave Jamaica permanently, Ausjam general manager Chris Browne said.

A decision would come "as soon as possible,’’ he said.

James Francis, head of the United Union of Jamaica, which represents Ausjam’s workers, accused the company of union busting and said he has protested to the Labor Ministry.

Employees have been advised to continue reporting to work until further notice, he said in an interview on independent RJR radio.

Labor Ministry officials were un-available for comment.

Australian businessman Paul Sailah launched Ausjam in 2001 with an initial investment of US$7.5 million (Jamaican $447 million). The company has consistently lost money since then, and was forced to close briefly last year for restructuring.

Ausjam had threatened to shut down for good since October, when workers staged a brief strike for a new labor contract.

The Jamaican government receives 4.5 percent royalties on the sale of Ausjam’s gold, most of which is ex-ported to Canada for smelting.

Kidnap Victim Escapes From Abandoned House

PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad (AP) _ A kidnap victim escaped from his ab-ductors when they left him alone in-side an abandoned house, police said.

It was unclear how 22-year-old Hayden Richards was kidnapped, but he did not return to his home in La Romain in southern Trinidad as plann-ed, police said.

His abductors contacted his family and demanded a Trinidadian $1.5 million (US$250,000) ransom but relatives did not pay it, authorities said.

Jury Convicts Five Men Of Kid-napping, Murdering Jamaican Man

ST. JOHN’S, Antigua (AP) – A jury convicted five men of kidnapping and murdering a Jamaican man last year in Antigua in what prosecutors said was vengeance for stealing money from an-other man.

The jury acquitted four others and convicted one man of manslaughter in the death of Owen Douglas, 22, who was beaten on March 10, 2002 and died two days later in a hospital.

Henry Weekes, 36, Everett Crump, 40, Paul Ephraim, 40, Dale Christian, 25 and Kester Bailey, 25, were convicted of murdering and kidnapping Douglas. They had pleaded innocent to the charges.

Prosecutors said they would seek the death penalty in their cases. It was unclear if defense lawyers would appeal the convictions.

The jury convicted Kenaz Whyte, 40, who prosecutors said was the gang’s ringleader, of manslaughter.

Kareem Frederick, 22, Cleofoster Hunte, 35, Larry Kester, 30 and Randy Simon, 35, were acquitted of man-slaughter. However, they were ordered to remain in custody to face additional charges of kidnapping and causing death by grievous bodily harm.

The jury took about five hours to deliberate in the High Court case.

Haitian Government Promises Legal Action Over U.S. Video Game That Encourages Users To

"Kill The Haitians’’

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP)– An American video game that encourages players to kill Haitians has outraged the Haitian government, which said, would pursue legal action.

New York-based Rockstar Games Inc. makes "Grand Theft Auto: Vice City,’’ a game where an ex-convict is hired to recover stolen drug money in the streets of Miami, Florida. In his pursuit, he faces police officers and gangsters from Cuba and Haiti.

As the drama increases and the ex-convict wields a machete, knife, gun and baseball bat, the game urges players to "kill the Haitians’’ and "kill the Cubans.’’

"This racist game is psychologically extremely dangerous, and is an incitement to genocide,’’ said government spokesman Mario Dupuy.

The game, retailing for about US$9 (370 Haitian gourdes), has been called a "game that dehumanizes all groups of people’’ by the Minneapolis-based National Institute on Media and the Family. The game has reportedly brought US$260 million (11 billion Haitian gourdes) in sales.

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