2004-04-08 / Caribbean Corner

caribbean roundup

caribbean roundup

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) – Ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aris-tide’s interior minister was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of orchestrating the killings of several people viewed as Aristide opponents, officials said.

The arrest of Jocelerme Privert – the highest ranking official to be de-tained since Aristide’s departure on Feb. 29 – comes amid complaints from former government leaders and members of Aristide’s political party that Haiti’s interim leaders are targeting them.

Privert was accused in the mid-February killings of several suspected Aristide opponents in St. Marc, a north-ern port city where violence flared in the buildup to an armed rebellion that pushed Aristide from power, the government said.

Although Privert allegedly conspired to kill several people in the town, officials didn’t say how many people were killed, nor did they provide names of those allegedly slain.

"The procedure is going to follow its normal course,’’ interim Justice Minister Bernard Gousse told The Associated Press.

Privert was being held at the na-tional penitentiary until an investigation is completed. Law requires that he hear the charges against him within 48 hours.

It was unclear whether he had an attorney.

When asked to visit Privert at the penitentiary, Haitian officials told re-porters he was under the protection of the U.S. Embassy, which had no immediate comment.

ST.

GEORGE’S, Grenada (AP) – Grena-da’s main opposition party recently appealed a High Court decision to throw out a petition challenging Nov-ember’s general election results in one district, officials said.

The opposition National Democra-tic Congress said it filed the latest appeal with an Organization of East-ern Caribbean States regional court. It was not clear when the St. Lucia-based appeals court would hear the case.

Prime Minister Keith Mitchell’s New National Party holds a slim majority, with eight of 15 seats in Parliament. The National Democratic Congress holds the remaining seven.

So a ruling in the opposition’s favor could shift the balance of power in the small Caribbean country.

Opposition candidate George Prime had asked Grenada’s High Court to throw out the Nov. 27 election results for the Carriacou/Petite Martinique district. Prime said he lost his seat by six votes to governing party candidate Elvin Nimrod because supporters were excluded from voter registration lists.

KINGSTON, Jamaica (AP) – A group of 28 Haitians landed on Jam-aica’s eastern coast recently, telling police they were fleeing rebels who launched the popular rebellion that ousted Haiti’s former president.

Arriving in one boat, the migrants included 18 men, seven women and three children including an 8-month-old girl, said police spokesman Devon Richards.

The infant was taken to a hospital where she was treated for dehydration, Richards said.

The migrants told police they had left Haiti with another boat Sunday but had gotten separated during the trip. Haiti is about 100 miles west of Jam-aica.

The recent migrants followed a wave of arrivals on Sunday, when three boats brought 41 people.

In total, about 250 Haitians have come to Jamaica since February’s three- week rebellion.

The uprising in Haiti has prompted a rise in poverty, lawlessness and re-prisal attacks on supporters of ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who fled Feb. 29 as rebels converged on the Haitian capital.

Both groups of migrants said they faced persecution by rebels, but did not give details, police said.

The Haitians were being housed in several shelters in the eastern Portland Parish, according to the Office of Dis-aster Preparedness.

The migrants represent the largest influx of Haitians to Jamaica since thousands fled here in the mid-1990s after Aristide was ousted in a military coup.

ST. JOHN’S, Antigua (AP) – Police searched the home of former Prime Minister Lester Bird looking for missing documents from his office, Anti-gua’s attorney general said.

The search came just three days after Bird’s party was soundly defeated in elections following nearly three decades in power in Antigua and Barbuda.

Police searched the homes of Bird and two of his allies – legislator Asot Michael and aide Peter Nurse, Attor-ney General Justin Simon said, adding he could not give additional details. It was unclear if police found any of the documents they were seeking.

Bird’s whereabouts weren’t immediately clear; he didn’t answer the phone at his home.

New Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer has ordered a probe into the removal of documents from Bird’s office, saying it was "left denuded’’ by the time his party had won. Throughout the campaign Spencer’s party criticized what it described as rampant corruption under Bird.

Protesters massed outside Bird’s office after workers were seen loading cardboard boxes onto trucks.

They held a three-day vigil outside the office, but Bird said the boxes contained only "personal items.’’ He call-ed charges that he had been trying to do away with damaging documents "absolutely crazy.’’

Police said they discovered burnt documents belonging to the Ministry of Agriculture in an area of bushes just outside St. John’s, the Caribbean country’s capital.

In Tuesday’s vote Spencer’s United Progressive Party won 12 of 17 parliamentary seats, and Bird – who had been prime minister since 1994 – lost his seat.

The Bird family has dominated politics here since the 1950s, when Bird’s father, the late Vere Bird Sr., was a revolutionary labor leader defying British colonizers to demand higher wages for cane cutters.

The elder Bird led his country to independence in 1981 and was prime minister until retiring in 1994, when Lester Bird won elections.

His government had been badly dam-aged by scandals that in recent years centered on allegations of bribery, misuse of funds in the national health insurance plan, and a 13-year-old girl’s charges that he and his brother used her for sex and to procure cocaine. Bird, 66, denied the last charges and organized an inquiry that found no evidence.

His backers have accused Spencer’s party of smear tactics.

PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad (AP) – Trinidad’s leading Muslim organization banned a scholar from lecturing at its mosques after he made comments critical of the United States that some felt could incite violence, a spokesman for the group said recently.

The scholar, Imran Hosein, called the ban instituted two weeks ago a smear campaign and said his statements re-flect displeasure with U.S. policies in-cluding the war in Iraq but don’t condone violence.

The organization, the Anjuman Sun-nat Ul Jamaat Association, barred Hosein from giving future lectures be-cause it feared he could lead worshippers toward militant activities, said spokesman Nizam Shah.

"Terrorist-type activities could be incited’’ by his lectures at mosques, Shah said. He said Hosein’s comments to worshippers in the Caribbean country "sent the wrong signal.’’

"We’re not saying that the U.S. is right or wrong in doing what they do, but we would not go on our platforms and openly lambast the United States,’’ Shah said.

In a statement issued to reporters in response to the ban, Hosein accused the United States of "using its unprecedented power to oppress all those who resist its imperial rule... Muslims are perceived to constitute a major obstacle to Israel, hence the current war on Islam.’’

Muslims account for about 6 percent of Trinidad and Tobago’s 1.3 million population. The Anjuman Sunnat Ul Jamaat Association is the largest in the country, with 83 mosques.

Separately, police continue to monitor the black Muslim group Jamaat al-Muslimeen, which staged a failed coup attempt in 1990. Its leader, Yasin Abu Bakr, says the Trinidad-based group is now committed to nonviolence.

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