2004-07-08 / Caribbean Corner

caribbean roundup

caribbean roundup

ST. GEORGE’S, Grenada (AP) – As Caribbean leaders prepared to discuss whether to reverse policy and recognize Haiti’s U.S.-backed interim government, St. Vincent and the Gren-adines said it would not bend on the issue.

Belize, Antigua and Barbuda, Trini-dad and Tobago, Grenada and the Bahamas have signaled their intention to vote for Haiti retaking its seat at the 15-nation Caribbean Community. Cab-inet ministers from several other member states said they planned to follow suit.

St. Vincent and the Grenadines, however, is among a few countries taking a hard-line stance, officials said.

"Those who want to compromise, let them compromise,’’ Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves said, a day before leaders retreat to a private island to formally discuss the Haitian issue. "The government of St. Vincent does not recognize the Latortue administration.’’

The Caribbean Community withheld support for Haiti’s interim Prime Minister Gerard Latortue’s government at a March summit in St. Kitts, express-ing concern about President Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s claim that he was kidnapped in a coup by the United States.

The regional bloc also was angry about Latortue’s subsequent praise for armed rebels who helped oust an elected president and still control much of Haiti’s countryside.

Other countries taking a tough stance on the issues include Guyana and St. Lucia, officials said. Jamaica, which gave Aristide temporary exile in a move that angered Latortue, now says it’s willing to compromise.

Aristide left Jamaica – about 100 miles (160 kilometers) from Haiti’s shores – for South Africa on May 30.

U.S. officials deny Aristide’s charge and say they provided a plane for him to leave Haiti Feb. 29 at his request as rebels closed in on Port-au-Prince. Aristide says he was taken against his will to the Central African Republic.

Separately, Caribbean leaders de-bated how to deal with thousands of criminal deportees being thrown out of foreign countries at a time when small nations grapple with rising crime, un-employment and economic uncertainty.

Caribbean officials said they were worried that an influx to one country in the region would have implications for other islands.

"Our societies are fearful that the unchecked number of criminal deportees across Caricom borders will be an unwelcome and immediate outcome of a full-fledged single market in the Ca-ribbean,’’ said Antigua’s Prime Minis-ter Baldwin Spencer of plans to establish a European-style free market by December that would involve free travel.

Last month, British officials said they would send home hundreds of Jamaicans behind bars in Britain to cut costs and ease overcrowding.

The plan has angered some Jamaican officials who worry the influx will add to the Caribbean island’s crime woes.

KINGSTON, Jamaica (AP) – Jam-aica’s Prime Minister P.J. Patterson has paid tribute to former Jamaican Prime Minister Hugh Shearer.

Mr Shearer, 81, died at his home on Monday morning after a long illness.

"Indeed, Jamaica and the entire Ca-ribbean region will be plunged into mourning by his departure," Prime Min-ister Patterson said in a statement re-leased on recently.

Mr Patterson said that Shearer was involved in the regional integration movement in the early years and later represented Caricom at trade negotiations with Europe and the African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) states.

"He served Jamaica with honor and distinction as prime minister and for a considerable period was the country’s foreign minister," he said.

"He was widely acknowledged as the doyen of trade union leaders through-out the Caribbean. He championed the rights of workers through the trade union movement which he led with conviction and total devotion for many years."

"Former Prime Minister Shearer’s passing is for me a tremendous personal loss. I will miss his friendship greatly. His death has deprived Jamaica of a quintessential nationalist and a dedicated political leader," Prime Minister Patterson said.

Another former Jamaican leader Edward Seaga said that Mr Shearer made his mark in education, opening the door for poor Jamaicans who never had a chance before.

He also said that Mr Shearer’s achievements were unique.

"He was a loved and respected po-litical leader and one who straddled both the union movement of the country by attaining the highest position in that movement as well as the highest political position as Prime Minister."

In 1967, Mr Shearer came to power when he succeeded Donald Sangster as Prime Minister, but lost the 1972 general elections to the People’s National Party led by Michael Manley.

In his capacity as one the nation’s leading trade unionists, Mr Shearer succeeded Alexander Bustamante as head of the Bustamante Industrial Trade Union (BITU) in the late 1970s and still held the position at the time of his death.

Until recently, Mr Shearer was the head of the Jamaica Confederation of Trade Unions (JCTU). The position is now held by Dwight Nelson, who is regarded as one of Mr Shearer’s protégés.

The government has announced that Mr Shearer will receive a full State funeral.

PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad (AP) – The London-based Privy Council has ruled against lawyers appealing on behalf of four death row inmates from Trinidad, Barbados and Jamaica.

The law lords issued their decision in the cases of Charles Matthews from Trinidad, Lambert Watson from Jamai-ca and the Barbadians Lennox Boyce and Jeffrey Joseph.

The nine law lords voted 5-4 against the appeal which was the latest in a series of moves brought by a group of British lawyers, who have campaigned against hanging in a number of Carib-bean countries.

They were arguing that the death sentence should not be mandatory for murder but should be reserved only for the most serious of cases.

Mr Matthews was sentenced to death in 1999 for killing his former lover out of jealousy.

The same year, Mr Watson received the death sentence for stabbing to death his nine-month-old daughter and her mother.

Mr Boyce and Mr Joseph were joint-ly convicted and sentenced to death in 2002 for the murder of 22-year-old Marquelle Hippolyte.

Although the four were convicted of murder they argued there were mitigating factors in their cases but judges could not take them into account and had no choice but to impose the death penalty.

Had the appeal by the British law-yers been successful, up to 300 prisoners on death row in the three Caribbean countries would have had their sentences reviewed.

Any change in the application of the death penalty would have been hugely contentious among both heads of state and citizens of the Caribbean many of whom support a tough approach to murder.

The hearing followed a ruling last November that Trinidad’s mandatory death sentence was unconstitutional.

The mandatory death penalty has al-ready gone in the eastern Caribbean, following a ruling in 2001 by the Eastern Caribbean court of appeal, sitting in St Vincent, that the automatic imposition of the death penalty without any judicial discretion amounts to cruel and inhuman punishment.

The ruling comes as Caricom leaders are currently attending the group’s annual summit in Grenada where they have been discussing on setting up the region’s own court, the Caribbean Court of Justice.

The leaders have chosen former Chief Justice Michael de la Bastide as president of the Caribbean Court of Justice although according to the Tri-nidad Guardian, Mr de la Bastide said recently he had not been contacted on his appointment.

Caricom leaders hope the court can begin its work by November of this year and have denied the speeding up of the process is a response to Privy Council setbacks.

ROSEAU, Dominica (AP) – Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit announced the repeal of an income tax and presented Parliament with a new budget.

The stabilization levy, part of an economic program that also reduced government worker’s salaries by 5 percent, taxed annual incomes of Eastern Caribbean $9,000 (US$3,500) or more than 3 1/2 percent.

The removal of the levy will "put more money in the hands of the workers,’’ thus generating economic activity, Skerrit said. Many had blamed the levy for contributing to the island’s economic hardships and demanded it be repealed.

The Public Service Union, representing government workers, has challenged the cut in government workers salaries in court and a ruling is expected next month.

Skerrit also presented Parliament with an EC$267.2 million (US$99 million) budget for 2004-2005, an increase of EC$10.5 million (US$3.9 million) compared to last year, saying government finances had shown "remarkable improvement.’’

GEORGETOWN, Guyana (AP) – Two people were charged with murder in the killing of a man who planned to testify against one of their relatives and whose accusations a government-sponsored death squad prompted an investigation in this South American country.

Debra Douglas and Delon Reynolds were charged with murder in the kill-ing of George Bacchus, who was shot in his bed on June 24.

Bacchus, 51, was killed before he could testify in the trial of Douglas’ common-law husband, who was accused along with another man of killing Bacchus’ brother earlier this year.

The man and woman appeared in court Friday under tight security and were charged with murder and conspiracy to commit murder. Neither was required to enter a plea.

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