JLP Wins Close Jamaican Election
Jamaica’s opposition narrowly won the general election last Thursday, with its message of deep tax cuts and massive job creation winning over voters weary of years of tough IMF-mandated austerity measures.
The Jamaican Labour Party (JLP) led by Andrew Holness won 32 of the 63 seats with Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller’s party taking 31 seats.
Initially, it was reported that the JLP won by a 33-30 margin, but a recount gave an extra seat to the PNP which allowed them to cut into an already slender JLP victory margin.
“We will grow the Jamaican economy. We will create jobs. We will give you an accountable and responsive government,” said Holness, 43, adding that his government would address a laundry list of issues from water to housing and healthcare.
“Our mission is to move Jamaica from poverty to prosperity,” he said to his supporters as they rang bells and celebrated after the results were announced.
Holness briefly served as prime minister in 2011 after his predecessor, Bruce Golding, resigned after a U.S. attempt to extradite drug kingpin Christopher “Dudus” Coke triggered unrest in West Kingston.
He has promised to create 250,000 jobs on the island of 2.7 million people and do away with income tax for many wage earners, a move critics say will tear into the budget.
Opinion polls before the election forecast victory for Simpson-Miller after she returned the heavily indebted economy to growth and low inflation.
The Simpson Miller led People National Party (PNP) embraced spending cuts, wage freezes and harsh fiscal discipline as part of a $1.27 billion IMF bailout that has lowered the still daunting debt burden of more than 130 percent of GDP.
Simpson-Miller, 70, is Jamaica’s first female head of state. Inflation hit a 48-year low during her tenure. Falling oil prices freed up government funds in the import-dependent country and the island’s GDP grew 1.3 percent last year, according to the World Bank.
However, unemployment is high at around 13 percent overall, and a whopping 38 percent for the young. While Simpson-Miller is credited with bringing stability, Holness’ optimistic message was more popular in the end.
Drug lord accuses officials of cocaine trafficking
Guyana’s President David Granger has announced that a decision has been taken to establish a Board of Inquiry to investigate claims of corruption made by self-professed drug baron Barry Dataram against Guyana’s security agencies.
The President said that the decision was made on Tuesday by the National Security Committee, of which he is the head.
Dataram had made scathing allegations against senior officials at the Customs and Anti-Narcotics Unit (CANU) over the past few days.
He accused CANU of being involved in the cocaine trade with one unnamed agent raking in as much as GYD$10 million to allow cocaine to leave the country.
“CANU, them is the most corrupted, rogue security force in this country. They are the biggest drug dealer this country has. The same drug that they seize, half of it goes back on the street,” he said on HGPTV Channel 67’s Nightly News.
Dataram was arrested in April, 2015 after 129 kilograms of cocaine was seized from his home at Diamond, East Bank Demerara. He alleged that 30 to 40 percent of what was confiscated from his home ended up back on the streets. CANU said Barry Dataram’s “savagery” against that law enforcement agency coincided with the commencement of his trial for that drug bust. Dataram, also an American citizen, is wanted by the United States for drug trafficking. A previous extradition request failed because of legal loopholes.
While, CANU has since denied the allegations, the President is still moving ahead with the inquiry.
President Granger when questioned about the allegations said that the “Board of Inquiry will be convened under an officer to be named…That inquiry will determine veracity of information published in newspapers.”
He said that the Officer will be named and the Terms of Reference will be set and given to the investigators at a later date.
Asked what would become of the situation if anyone were to be found culpable, Granger stated that the law prescribes the course of action and such would be followed.
Barbados PM writes Britain on reparation on behalf of CARICOM
The 15-member Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries have sent a formal letter of complaint to Britain seeking reparation for slavery.
The letter, which was written by Barbados Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, and sent to the British Foreign Office, calls on London to formally acknowledge the region’s demands for payment for the transatlantic slave trade.
CARICOM has said it will not release the contents of the letter, which was sent last week, by Mr. Stuart, who is the chairman of the CARICOM sub-committee on Reparations, until there is a reply by the British Prime Minister David Cameron.
However, CARICOM heads have warned that it is prepared, as its next option, to refer the matter to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Netherlands for a ruling.
CARICOM has said it prefers a negotiated settlement of the matter.
Caribbean countries have long talked about reparation, but the movement has strengthened considerably since Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron visited Jamaica Last October. Cameron acknowledged that: “Slavery was and is abhorrent in all forms” but refused to discuss possible compensation.
Many Caribbean luminaries were angered by Cameron’s stance and criticized him heavily. Former Jamaican prime minister P.J. Patterson criticized Cameron for seeking to “trivialize and diminish the significance of 300 years of British enslavement of Africans.”
But former Jamaica Prime Minister P.J. Patterson criticized Cameron for seeking to “trivialise and diminish the significance of 300 years of British enslavement of Africans”.
The Caribbean countries say they will allow “a two-year period to elapse” before formally taking the matter to the World Court for adjudication.
Leaders have already hired a British law firm which won payment for Kenyan tribesmen to represent their case both to the British government and to the court.
Trinidad and Tobago
Us intervene in Warner’s Extradition matter
Former FIFA Vice President and government minister Jack Warner’s extradition proceedings took another interesting turn when the United States government attempted to intervene in his judicial review lawsuit challenging Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi’s decision to sign off on its request to have him extradited to face charges in the ongoing FIFA bribery scandal.
During latest hearing in the Port-of-Spain High Court attorney Vanessa Gopaul, who is representing the US, appeared in court and indicated her client intended to apply to be joined as an interested party.
Her statement was immediately opposed by Warner’s lawyer Senior Counsel Fyard Hosein who questioned the reason for the country’s attempt to enter the case.
“It (the US) is partisan in its approach. They want to get Warner there in the shortest possible time,” Hosein said.
Stating that Hosein will be able to make extensive submissions on the issue at a later date, Justice James Aboud then instructed Gopaul to file her client’s application by March 18. Hosein also has until that date to file an application to adduce expert testimony in the case.
Warner, in his claim, is questioning the procedure adopted by the Office of the Attorney General in signing off on the US’s request for his extradition made in May, last year, at the end of the US Department of Justice’s investigation into FIFA. He is facing fraud and money-laundering charges related to his two decades as a vice-president of world football’s governing body.
Earlier this year, Aboud granted Warner a stay of his ongoing extradition proceedings currently before Chief Magistrate Marcia Ayers-Caesar, which will expire after Aboud decides on the legality and constitutionality of his extradition.
Warner’s attorneys are alleging that this country’s extradition treaty with the US contradicts the Extradition (Commonwealth and Foreign Territories) Act. They are claiming that, in passing the act, Parliament afforded citizens certain protections which are ignored by the international treaty.
He is also complaining that Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi failed to give his attorneys a fair opportunity to make representations to him before he signed off on the Authority to Proceed, which was required to kick off the proceedings before Ayers-Caesar.
Shortly after taking over the case from his predecessor Garvin Nicholas in September, last year, Al-Rawi extended the option to Warner. However, his attorneys allegedly refused as they said it was made a day before Al-Rawi was required to approve the extradition.