2005-05-12 / Caribbean Corner

caribbean roundup

election polls were free, fair: officials

ROSEAU, Dominica (AP) – Chief Elections Officer, Merina Williams recently dismissed claims by the main opposition United Workers Party’s (UWP) that the 5 May general election had been rigged by the ruling Domi-nica Labor Party (DLP).

UWP leader Edison James on Mon-day led hundreds of his supporters in protests outside the Electoral Office and the Prime Minister’s Office, calling for fresh elections.

But Williams told the Associated Press that the poll was “free and fair” despite vote counting errors in the Castle Bruce constituency, which the UWP lost by one vote.

“In counting the ballots some error seemed to appear on the tally sheet. On the third count is where we found the error,” she said of the result which gave the DLP’s candidate Loreen Ban-nis-Roberts victory.

The UWP has disputed her claim, saying its candidate, Leonard Newton, was declared the winner by 75 votes in the preliminary result last Thursday.

According to Williams, the final recount last Saturday accepted 46 ballots at one polling station in Castle Bruce, which had previously been re-jected.

She said Bannis-Roberts got an ad-ditional 35 votes as a result.

But the opposition party has dismiss-ed the explanation, labeling the DLP’s return to office as a threat to democracy.

James, who was prime minister from 1995 to 2000, said what Dominicans were given was a mock election, which must not be allowed to continue.

The UWP won eight seats of the 21 seats contested in last week’s elections and is challenging the results of five constituencies, including St Joseph, Ma-haut, Soufriere and the Carib Territory.

The party has vowed it would undertake legal action and civil disobedience to reverse the results of the latest election.

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) – Haiti’s Supreme Court has overturned the convictions of 38 army and paramilitary leaders who were sentenced to life in prison for their roles in mass slayings during the 1994 coup, human rights groups said yesterday.

The men had been tried and sentenced in their absence in 2000 on charges ranging from criminal conspiracy to torture and murder for an April 1994 dawn raid on Raboteau, a seaside shantytown in northwest Gonaives. Because many of the convicted were living in exile, less than half ever served a prison sentence. It was not clear how many were still jailed.

“The trial was annulled, we suppose it was on a technicality,” said Jean-Claude Bajeux from the Ecumenical Centre for Human Rights. The Supreme Court has yet to make the decision available in its entirety, he said.

Pierre Esperance, director of the Na-tional Coalition of Haitian Rights, also confirmed the April 21 decision but couldn’t immediately provide more de-tails.

The decision drew the ire of supporters of former President Jean-Ber-tand Aristide, who was ousted for the second time amid an armed rebellion in February last year by some of the same people convicted in the 1994 kill-ings.

The Raboteau slayings were part of a series of attacks to erode support for Aristide, a charismatic slum priest who became Haiti’s first democratically elected leader in February 1991. The army ousted him in September 1991, and he returned to power in the wake of a US intervention three years later.

KINGSTON, Jamaica (AP) – Fin-ance Minister Dr. Omar Davies denied yesterday that cops prevented his car from leaving his ministry’s compound during their demonstration on Mon-day, insisting that he stopped on his own volition and decided to address the police.

Davies is to meet today with Police Federation negotiators over their de-mand for a 47 percent pay hike, which they dramatized with Monday’s pro-test as the minister was about to drive out to attend the weekly meeting of the Cabinet.

The issue was widely reported in the media, saying that police used either their bodies or police motorcycles to block the driveway.

“There is no truth in the report that protesting cops used their bodies to cordon the driveway,” Davies said in a letter to this newspaper. “The fact is that I stopped on my own volition.”

According to Davies, he agreed with members of the executive of the Police Federation to address the police at a next-door car park and insisted that a claim by a Police Federation official that he was forced into today’s meeting was “patently untrue”. He had on May 4 written to the Federation proposing today’s meeting.

Davies’ interpretation of Monday’s events clearly differed from that of Police Federation officials as well as other cops, subsequent to the event, who had suggested that the minister had been pressured into his impromptu car park meeting and today’s session.

“I spent close to an hour with the gathering, not only addressing them but responding to several questions,” Davies said in his letter to the Obser-ver, in an apparent bid to show that he was neither worried nor ill at ease at the time.

Police Federation officials had re-ported that initially Davies had said that he was late for the Cabinet meeting and had urged the cops to allow him to leave the compound.

ST. JOHN’S, Antigua (AP) – Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer has written to Prime Minister of St. Vincent & the Grenadines Ralph Gonsalves on his recent statements alleging breaches of trade rules relating to the importation of flour by Antigua & Barbuda from outside the member states of the Or-ganization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).

The PM assured the Vincentian lead-er that Antigua & Barbuda was fully committed to the articles and principles enshrined in the Basseterre and Chaguramas Treaties, and would take all necessary steps to investigate any reported breaches.

“It would be remiss of me to ignore the realities of market forces and related robust competition within Caricom, which means that OECS products must become even more competitive and price-reactive, particularly in light of trade liberalization and globalization. The challenge therefore is to develop a strategic response, now rather than later,” Prime Minister Spencer said in his letter.

He was firm in pointing out that Antigua & Barbuda would continue to support OECS enterprises, but was of the view that such support should not be to the disadvantage of Antiguan and Barbudan consumers.

“I urge you, Prime Minister (Gon-salves), to use your good offices to encourage flour producers in St. Vin-cent & the Grenadines to have a corporate strategy that is price-reactive. It has become politically difficult to justify to retailers and the consumers of Antigua & Barbuda the significant price differentials which exist,” he noted.

To highlight his point, Mr. Spencer noted that Lotus All Purpose Flour of Trinidad (2kg) is being sold for $3.81 compared with Purity All Purpose flour from St. Vincent (2kg) which retails for $6.77. Hibiscus All Purpose flour of Trinidad 1kg is being sold for $2.06, while the Purity All Purpose flour of St. Vincent (1kg) costs $3.76.

Prime Minister Spencer’s letter to Prime Minister Gonsalves was copied to the Secretary General of Caricom and the Director General of the OECS.

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