Fire Destroys Part of South Police Station

Two fire-fighters were seen on top of the police station building at South St. George trying to put out any remaining fire in the roof.

Two fire-fighters were seen on top of the police station building at South St. George trying to put out any remaining fire in the roof.

The South St George Police station was partly destroyed by fire of unknown origin on Wednesday morning.

A firefighter on the scene told THE NEW TODAY newspaper that the cause of the fire is still to be determined.

However, the fire affected the living quarters of the station that is occupied by Inspectors, Sergeants and Corporals.

Fire fighter rushed to scene and prevented the flames from spreading to other parts of the building.

Officer in Charge of the Community Relations Department of RGPF, Insp. Rebecca Jones-Bubb was unable to give specific details surrounding the cause of the fire but reassured the public that it will not be an obstruction at all. Or the work of the police.

She pointed out steps are being taken to ensure that operations would continue as far as is normal for the people.

“This (fire) would not hinder police performance”, she remarked.

The Royal Grenada Police Force also confirmed that it was investigating the death of a female who has reportedly burnt in a house fire, which also occurred on Wednesday morning in Grand Anse in the south of the island.

Meanwhile, the following release was issued Wednesday afternoon by the Office of the Commissioner of Police:

“Owing to an unfortunate partial destruction by fire to the South St George Police Station, the RGPF hereby notifies the surrounding communities of its’ temporary relocation to the neighboring Youth Centre.

Effective immediately, regular services can be received at the Youth Centre and persons needing to contact the station can do so by calling our Police Control at 440 – 3999 or the Station’s mobile number 405 – 3973.

The Royal Grenada Police Force assures the public of their commitment in maintaining normal operational services and apologizes for any inconvenience caused”.

KOREAN FRAUDSTER HITS ECONOMIC CITIZENSHIP PROGRAMME

A local bank came close to losing EC$1.3 million from an alleged fraudster who was trying to tap into the sale of passports or Citizenship by Investment Programme (CBI) run by the 18-month old New National Party (NNP) government of Prime Minister, Dr. Keith Mitchell.

Details of the scam can be gleaned from documents filed in a high court case between a local commercial bank and local attorney-at-law, Vanescia Francis-Banfield.

The barrister had been retained by a Korean named Oedit Kumar who expressed an interest in the CBI programme.

The documents indicate that Kumar who was on holiday with his wife in the United States in August issued instructions for the sum of US$507, 500.00 or EC$1.38 million to be sent to Francis-Banfield’s account at the bank in the form of a Bank Manager’s Cheque.

A well-placed source told THE NEW TODAY that the bank acknowledged that the cheque had come into its office.

However, two days later, Francis-Banfield is said to have received fresh instructions from Kumar to return the money since he needed it urgently to pay for medical bills in the U.S for his wife who fell sick and was in a coma.

According to the source, the bank did not query the Bank Manager’s Cheque since in banking terms such financial transactions are considered safe and proper for the movement of money.

“If a bank gets a Manager’s Cheque from another known bank, it would not suspect that anything fraudulent is taking place because that is considered to be good, clean and above board and that the sender has money in his or her account”, he said.

THE NEW TODAY understands that the Manager’s cheque came from a CIBC bank with an address in Canada.

The source said that Francis-Banfield then instructed the local bank to send back the money to Kumar in the form of a Wire Transfer to an account in the name of Courage Trading in the Philippines.

He said the bank obliged and gave instructions to its associate bank in the United States which operates in New York to wire transfer the sum of US$500, 820.78 to an account in the Philippines.

He indicated that the funds were already being processed when the U.S bank alerted the local bank that the Manager’s cheque was referred to maker.

The source said that the local bank was forced to move quickly to stop the Wire Transfer since it ran the risk of losing EC$1.3 million in what is now suspected to be a fraudulent scam.

Legal sources told THE NEW TODAY that Kumar who also travels on a Canadian passport had approached other local lawyers to get involved in the CBI programme but was turned down.

Another source told this newspaper that the local bank then officially informed Francis-Banfield that it wanted to end its association with her and her law firm.

This move by the bank prompted the local female attorney to file a lawsuit against the bank charging that she was being treated unfairly and that it was seeking to embarrass her.

The court action was heard last Friday before female High Court Judge, Justice Paula Gilford who ruled in favour of the bank and ordered Francis-Banfield to pay the bank’s cost as the loser in the matter.

A legal official told this newspaper that the issues surrounding the Bank’s manager’s cheque that “bounced” should be investigated by the relevant authorities since it bordered on fraud and money-laundering.

He said what was significant about the Kumar matter is that the Korean was seeking to send money to facilitate his involvement in the programme but no personal information or data was provided so that the necessary due diligence could be carried out on him.

Earlier this year, THE NEW TODAY reported on another matter involving finance with Francis-Banfield who was sued in connection with thousands of dollars from the sale of a mansion at Westerhall Heights in St. David’s.

The Plaintiff, Nicholas Moller had accused Francis-Banfield who was acting on his behalf of taking most of the money from the sale of the house to a Grenadian shipping agent living in New York.

The controversial lawyer was ordered by high court judge, Justice Margaret Mohammed to make a payment of EC$171, 439.70 to Moller by February 11, 2014 but she failed to honour the deadline of the court order.

The funds were eventually paid after the issue was brought to public light by THE NEW TODAY newspaper.
Moller’s lawyer, Jacqueline Mc Kenzie later told this newspaper that she was committed to filing papers before the relevant legal body to investigate the conduct of Francis-Banfield as an attorney-at-law.

Public Consultation on Constitutional Reform

The constitution reform Advisory Committee that is led by local constitutional lawyer Dr, Francis Alexis is giving the wider Grenadian community an opportunity to weigh in on the six items which the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) would like to include in the Constitutional Reform process,
After having held 26 public consultations earlier this year, the Advisory Committee submitted 12 recommendations to the Cabinet of Ministers for consideration as a means of going forward for a public referendum on changes to the constitution schedule for February.

Many of the items which the committee recommended are viewed by sections of the population as being less significant.

Among them are adding an “E” to Petit Martinique, and changing the name of Chief of Police to Commissioner of Police.

In a national wide address last month Political leader of the NDC, Senator Nazim Burke told Grenadians that there were more substantial matters that the advisory committee should go forward with in terms of constitutional reform.

Sen. Burke said his party which was represented on the committee by former Prime Minister Tillman Thomas would like to see term limits for the Prime Minister, a fixed date for general election, proportional representation in parliament, changing the Parliament from bicameral to unicameral, the need for an opposition leader at all times, and the tenure of the Head of State to be among the recommendations in any constitutional reform.

Burke’s address sparked public debates both on talk show radio programs and among the general public.
As a result the Alexis-led committee has schedule September 26 for a National Consultation to listen to the views of the peopleat a session to be held at the Grenada Trade Center at Morne Rouge, St. George’s..

Dr. Alexis who made the announcement during an appearance on a local television station on Monday night said that the national public consultation is open to everyone from all strata of the Grenadian community and all walks of life.

“We are encouraging people to come forward (to) share with us their views on constitutional reform … let your voices be heard”, he said.

The Head of the Constitutional Reform Advisory Committee told the program that his committee is open to hear from the people what they think about the six items proposed by Congress.

Dr. Alexis also disclosed that the Constitutional Reform Advisory Committee has received a formal submission from one of the interest groups on the committee for the inclusion of another proposal.

He said the committee is willing to listen to every concerned Grenadian as the door is not close until Parliament present the Bills for the planned referendum.

The Constitutional Reform Advisory Committee is made up of representatives of the Conference of Churches Grenada, The Alliance of Evangelical Churches, Grenada Trades Union Council, Grenada Chamber of Industry and Commerce, Grenada Bar Association, The OECS Bar Association, Civil Society, Media Workers Association of Grenada (MWAG), The Youth, Carriacou and Petite Martnique, Ministry of legal Affairs, New National Party (NNP) and NDC.

PS Antoine: No retrenchment as of now

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance, Timothy Antoine is confident that if Grenada stays the course that it is on in respect to its Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) then there will be no need for retrenchment of civil servants.

He made this statement, during a recent joint press conference involving government and the Washington-based International Monetary Fund (IMF) at the Conference room of the Ministry of Finance.

Antoine acknowledged that the public service was over-staffed and in time will be reduced in numbers.
“Now let me be clear, in respect of the size of the public service, the size of the public service is going to come down by virtue of the efficient policy which is three for ten”, he said.

“…I am speaking about that for every 10 persons that leave the system, only three will be replaced, so that’s a way of bringing the numbers down overtime and then of course with the wage freeze that is in place the attrition policy, those are things (that are) intended to reduce the wage bill in absolute terms, well in real terms but also to see the numbers come down”, he added.

Former PS in the Ministry of Finance, Dr. Brian Francis who is now a senior Lecturer in Economics at the Cave Hill Campus in Barbados of the University of the West Indies (UWI) is predicting retrenchment at some stage to address the huge monthly wage bill.

Dr. Francis had correctly predicted mass lay-offs in Barbados under the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) government of Prime Minister Freundel Stuart.

According to Antoine, the country is putting fiscal responsibility legislation in place through an act to be brought to Parliament around the end of the year in order to address the fiscal gap.

“That’s an important reform because what it does, it puts on all of us a certain framework that it constrains in terms of our spending”, he told reporters.

“…We have said that in our discussion with the social partners, no body wants retrenchment, government doesn’t want to do it, labour unions certainly don’t want it, business community is saying that it’s not a good idea…”, he said.

PS Antoine pointed out that the easy way out of the current situation would be a cut in the public service but that in itself can impact negatively on the country.

“We have to find an alternative way to address our fiscal imbalances which is why we have to do some taxes which nobody likes but that’s what everybody has to do, which is why we have to do our very best on non-personal expenditure, telecom, electricity, water, fuel, overtime and all those other things”, he remarked.

“…It requires vigilance, I mean the price of eternal freedom in vigilance, nothing is guaranteed unless we maintain our dignity to recover and that is not just government, it’s everybody in Grenada,” he said.

The senior civil servant announced that the monitoring committee is playing an important role in ensuring that Grenada stays on course with the programme and does not succumb to any pressures to go outside of the framework.

“I am being very candid with you, I am not staying here feeling that this problem is solved and we can just go away and relax, it requires vigilance but I’m confident that if we stay the course with the framework that we’ve developed that we actually can do this thing and this could work to serve Grenada very well.

“One of the reasons why we’re very keen to make sure everybody knows what’s going on is that if there are any adjustments required in the course of the programme, whether it’s on the revenue side or the expenditure side, we all must be on the same paid sheet.

“It must come as no surprise to anyone – every month we publish the results, every month we have a meeting with the Monitoring Committee and they review, they grill us and so on and of course the IMF comes every 6 months.

According to Antoine this process is necessary so that in case the government has to resort to retrenchment the stakeholders will be fully aware of what is happening.

He said this is so because if it happens that government has to retrench, it would come as no surprise to anyone since “we would have seen the situation and know well that is what we have to do”, adding that, “I think we all are working to avoid that kind of situation.”

Chester vs Rae Roberts

Chester Humphrey is not happy with Rae's performance in the Senate

Chester Humphrey is not happy with Rae’s performance in the Senate

A war of attrition is now taking place between two of the most colourful figures within the Grenada Trade Union Council (GTUC) who were once allies.

Former labour representative in the Senate, Chester Humphrey is no longer seeing eye-to-eye with his successor, Rae Roberts who once held the post of General Secretary of TUC.

Roberts is accusing Humphrey, the President-General of the Technical & Allied Workers Union (TAWU) of being the main instigator of an article which appeared in the September 3 issue of the CARIBUPDATE newspaper on the front page and headlined, “Ray Defies Unions”.

The article intimated that Sen. Roberts did not carry out the wishes of the Trade Union Council on the vote for casino and rather than voted in favour of the government-sponsored bill choose to abstain on the vote.

According to the newspaper article, the TUC had scheduled a meeting for late Thursday to discuss the vote of its representative in the Senate debate on the Casino/Gaming Bill.

Roberts has lashed out at Humphrey as the one who was mischievous in leaking a twisted version of the TUC position on the issue to the newspaper.

Sen. Roberts is distancing himself more and more from his one time mentor in the labour movement

Sen. Roberts is distancing himself more and more from his one time mentor in the labour movement

The TAWU boss is known to be close to Hamlet Mark, the man behind the newspaper and who now serves as a Senior Media Adviser to Prime Minister, Dr. Keith Mitchell.

Humphrey along with Mark and former Congress government minister, Peter David who has defected to the ruling New National Party (NNP) are giving tacit support to the 19-month old government under scheme known as “Project Grenada”.

Roberts held a press conference on Tuesday to respond to the Humphrey/Caribupdate onslaught against him and issued the following opening remarks:

“As you are aware, I called for a Divisional Vote on the Bill and abstained.

The article claimed that I was instructed to vote in support of the Bill.

As labor representative in the Senate, most definitely on issues, that are impacting on workers, a meeting is generally called to have unions and the key word here is “UNIONS” input on the Bills to be debated.

In the case of the Casino/Gaming Bill that was done and we did have a meeting. The CIWU representative George Mason said his union has not discussed the issue and in the case of TAWU, its distinguished General Secretary Bert Patterson made it clear that TAWU’s General Council was not supporting Casino, but was not objecting.

Colleagues – do you get a sense that I am being instructed? I think the answer is definitely “NO”

The 2nd Vice President Kenny James said he could not speak for Teachers/GUT!

The Assistant General Secretary of SWWU (Seamen & Waterfront Workers Union), Fimbar Linton via a phone call to the office said he supported CASINO.

The PWU, Bank and General, GMMIWU were not represented at the meeting.

No doubt about it, individual members supported the Casino Bill.

Brother Chester Humphrey, President of TAWU, said he is a communist and does not believe in this capitalist, Casino, but if it will bring jobs he will support it.

Other individuals had similar opinions – if it will bring jobs – we must not object.

As individuals we had personal views – but keep in mind the trade union is made up of people of all persuasions – Catholics, Pentecostals, Muslims, Baptists, etc, etc!

We represent as many as 10.000 workers and one or two people who feel they are the opinion leaders in Grenada ought not to decide for all of us.

Eight people attended the meeting – three from one union, two from another and one each from another two. I sent the Bill on Casino/Gaming to all affiliates.

CARIBUPDATE also claimed that TUC called a special meeting to deal with its representative in the Senate. I am the Assistant General Secretary and I am yet to receive that invitation.

The most recent TUC Management meeting, under General Business, Brother Chester questioned why I did not vote in favour of the Bill and of course my defense was – WHO GAVE ME THE MANDATE?

And at the same meeting, there were colleagues who agreed with the position I took.

Colleagues, I am fully aware of trade union politics – I have been in it for the last two decades. It came as no surprise when Government Senators during the break were making fun – saying to me – we know you are instructed to support the Bill.

To conclude – the owners of CARIBUPDATE have deliberated plotted that story to discredit me. If they wanted to be truthful and fair they could have called me!  Call the President of the TUC, call the other unions and ask them for their individual positions.

The Editors Hamlet Mark, and (Lincoln) “Toro” Depradine) they know me. They know where to find me!

Let me say that one of the leading figures in this newspaper is among the highest paid state journalist, meaning government is paying him in excess of $10,000 per month!

CARIBUPDATE is produced in the home of one of the men who between 1979 and today has unleashed the greatest pain and misery on the society – you follow that group and you enter the gates of hell ONCE MORE!

I expect more attacks – but I am ready for the biggest challenge and that is yet to come.

Co-op bank closes account of passport selling agent

In a dramatic move on Wednesday, the Grenada Co-operative Bank Limited (GCBL) closed the accounts held at the financial institution by one of the lawyers selected by government to engage in the sale of passports to foreigners.

The bank complied with an order of the court to terminate all accounts held in the name of attorney-at-law, Vanescia Francis-Banfield arising out of a dispute in which GCBL nearly lost EC$1.4 million in a fraudulent scheme by a client of the city-based lawyer.

The Bank Manager's Cheque that was sent to Co-op Bank but was "bounced" for lack of funds

The Bank Manager’s Cheque that was sent to Co-op Bank but was “bounced” for lack of funds

THE NEW TODAY has obtained a copy of the Court Order issued on the instructions of female high court judge, Justice Paula Gillford following an application made before the court by Francis-Banfield to prevent the bank from closing her accounts.

The judge ruled in favour of the bank and issued instructions to the female lawyer to comply with the decision taken against her by Co-op bank.

The Court Order, filed on September 11, 2014 read in part: “The Applicant/Claimant (Francis-Banfield) is given seven (7) business days to close all accounts with the Respondents/Defendants (Grenada Co-op Bank), failing which the Respondent/Defendant may do so”.

Well-placed sources told this newspaper that Francis-Banfield was making moves to appeal the decision of the high court judge.

Francis-Banfield who has emerged in recent months as one of the lead lawyers for Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell was retained by one Oedit Kumar who claimed to be a Korean and wanted to get involved in the controversial Citizenship by Investment (CBI) or sale of passport scheme which the 19-month old government has resumed in order to get quick finance for the cash-strapped Treasury.

Kumar who was said to be on holiday in the United States with his wife, issued instructions for US$507, 500.00 which is the equivalent of EC$1.3 million dollars to be sent in the form of a Bank Manager’s Cheque into the Co-op Bank account held by Francis-Banfield.

Two days after the document arrived at the bank, Francis-Banfield informed Co-op Bank that Kumar had given her fresh instructions to return the money in the form of a Wire Transfer to a bank located in the Philippines because he needed the money to pay the medical bills of his wife who fell sick and was in a coma in the United States.

Co-op Bank then issued instructions to its corresponding bank in New York to prepare the wire transfer for the Philippines account when it was discovered that the Bank Manager’s cheque was fraudulent.

The local bank had to move expeditiously to block the transfer of the funds since it was at risk at losing over one million E.C dollars in the fraudulent act.

In documents filed in the court, Co-op Bank painted a picture of an unforgiving Francis-Banfield who allegedly showed no remorse over what had happened to the bank.

An affidavit filed in the court by Gary Sayers, Retail Manager of the Spiceland Mall Branch of Co-op Bank addressed the lukewarm reaction of the attorney-at-law when she was informed that the alleged money transfer by Kumar in the form of a Bank Manager’s cheque was a fraud.

“When I brought this fact to the attention of the Applicant (Francis-Banfield), her response to me was that the Bank should find its money how it could and that it could take her to Court if it chose to. This response of the Applicant (Francis-Banfield) was made by her during a speaker phone conversation in the presence of others
including by Mr. Floyd Dowden the Executive Manager of Operations & Administration of the Respondent (Co-op bank).

“I am informed and verily believe that this reaction and response of the Applicant (Francis-Banfield) was reported to the management of the Respondent (Co-op bank) and that this resulted in the decision
communicated to the Applicant (Francis-Banfield) in the letter dated August 8th, 2014 that the Respondent (Co-op Bank) had decided to discontinue banking services to the Applicant effective August 29th, 2014.

In her own affidavit filed on September 3, the barrister denied ever issuing those words to the bank employee.

She said: “It is denied that I had a telephone conversation with Mr. Sayers on that date at all. All my conversations with Mr. Sayers were confirmed by emails I sent to him and on the occasion I was told that Ms. Jackson was in attendance. I copied her as well in that email confirmation of the conversation I have had.

“At no time did anyone say to me that Mr. Dowden was present during those conversations. As far as I know, Mr. Dowden is attached to the Respondent’s City Branch. I vehemently deny that I utter those words to Mr. Sayers or to anyone”, Francis-Banfield added in the affidavit.

Full details of the two affidavits will be provided in the next issue of THE NEW TODAY newspaper.

As a public service, THE NEW TODAY reproduces in full the letter that was sent by Co-op Bank to Francis-Banfield on its decision to close her accounts.

Millions of dollars in soft loan

Two million dollars have been put aside by the Keith Mitchell-led government in St. George’s for the distribution of soft loans to needy citizens who wish to expand or build a new house.

Minister of Social Development, Delma Thomas made this disclosure at the weekly post-Cabinet press briefing held at the Ministerial Complex.

Minister Thomas told reporters that the funds were budgeted for by  Government and should be available until the end of the year.

“Persons can access up to $30,000 for rebuilding of houses, repair, addition, like you putting new rooms”, she said.

According to the senior government minister, the ministry is also trying to encourage homeowners to use the money to put in a bathroom and toilet inside the house in order to raise their standard of living.

“…We are encouraging families to get a soft loan and put bathroom and toilet instead of using outside bathroom and toilet and therefore, this two million dollars will assist in that regard,” she remarked.

The minister announced unlike some soft loan programmes in the past, the criteria for eligibility has been changed in order to ensure the loans are paid back.

“Interest will be charged at a rate of three percent per annum at the cost of the loan. Loans will be granted for expansion, refurbishment or construction”, she said.

“The applicant must provide security, land paper or insurance for the land, or a guarantor – you need somebody who would guarantee if you are unable to pay, they will have to pay back, you could own the land or a lease hold will also work”, she added.

Another criteria cited by Minister Thomas is that the applicants for a loan must be employed and have the ability to pay monthly contributions towards the repayment of the loans.

“Payments must be by deductions and you might ask me if the person is self employed they would have to get somebody who would agree to deduct and then pay them back,” she said.

She stated that these conditions became necessary in order to ensure that the loans are repaid.

In recent years, government has been duped by some recipients of soft loans especially fishermen and small homeowners.

According to Minister Thomas, the conditions call for successful applicants to start making payments three months after a loan is given to them.

“We will give a timeline so that you can build the houses or repair and then three months later you will ask them to repay. The repayment period will be over a five-year period”, she said.

“…Applicants are required to complete an application form and provide a picture ID. There will also be a legal contract to be signed and at present the Ministry of Legal Affairs is working on that contract,” she added.

The female government minister announced that loan officers would conduct site visits to determine validity of recipients.

The minister announced that as part of stricter and tighter controls being put in place, the hardware will be paid directly for material being purchased for a particular project.

This system, she said would also be extended to Contractors who get a supply of labour contract for a homeowner who will be given a loan under the project.

“… Sometimes you apply for a loan and you say you want to build a house and then you use the money for other things. So we have to make sure that you use the loan for what it was intended for – the monies will be paid directly to hardware and contractor,” she added

Minister Thomas gave assurances that applicants would have to wait no longer than two weeks to find out if they meet the criteria to tap into the soft loan programme.

“When the next budget in November is (delivered), we should be saying that we have 10 or 15 houses being built … so before November, we should see houses building,” she said.

PM Mitchell to appear in court

Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell was due to appear in court yesterday (Thursday) on a summons issued in the name of attorney-at-law, Queen’s Counsel Celia Clyne-Edwards.

The leading female barrister-at-law wants the court to commit the Prime Minister to the Richmond Hill prison for failing as Minister of Finance to pay millions of dollars owed by government to the Trinidad and Tobago construction company known as DIPCON Engineering Ltd.

Last month, this newspaper carried a report about a Court Bailiff hired by the Law Office of George E.D Clyne who was unsuccessful in trying to serve the summons on the Grenadian leader when he attempted to do so at the Office of the Prime Minister in the Botanical Gardens.

A well-placed source told this newspaper that the Security Co-ordinator in the Botanical Gardens, Cletus St. Paul, the former Chief of bodyguard to late Marxist leader, Maurice Bishop stopped the Bailiff in his track.

St. Paul, now an executive member of Mitchell’s ruling New National Party (NNP), reportedly told the Bailiff that he cannot serve any document on the Prime Minister and should instead serve it on the Attorney-General, Cajeton Hood.

A source close to the law office said that Hood was approached but refused to accept the summons on behalf of PM Mitchell.

He said the summons has since been duly served and that Dr. Mitchell should appear Thursday (yesterday) before high court judge, Justice Margaret Mohammed at the Cable & Wireless Building on the Carenage where High Court No.3 is located.

The Order of Mandamus, as filed by Clyne-Edwards, is seeking to get the court to commit Dr. Mitchell as Minister of Finance to the Richmond Hill prison for failing to honour payments of close to EC$20 million owed to Dipcon in compensation for breach of contract.

When Mitchell’s NNP came to power in mid-1995, the newly appointed  Minister of Works, Gregory Bowen terminated the DIPCON contract that was signed with the 1990-95 Congress government of Sir Nicholas Brathwaite to undertake a number of road projects on the island.

The cash-strapped Mitchell government, which retuned to power in February last year has reportedly failed to make any payments to DIPCON within the past 19 months.

The last time a Minister of Government was brought before a high court judge on an Order of Mandamus was current Education Minister, Anthony Boatswain who served as Minister of Finance for a number of years under previous NNP regimes.

The legal action against Boatswain was taken by late Queen’s Counsel Derek Knight in connection with compensation owed to late Prime Minister Sir Eric Matthew Gairy for properties confiscated by the 1979-83 People’s Revolutionary Government (PRG).

High court judge, Justice Kenneth Benjamin who was presiding over the matter refused to allow Minister Boatswain to leave the court until the government had made a certain payment to Gairy to help satisfy the judgment.

Former Finance Minister Nazim Burke of Congress is said to have made a few token payments on the Dipcon matter.

Unknown disease kills eight people in north Venezuela

DiseaseThe President of the Medical Association in Aragua state (north Venezuela) has confirmed that four adults and four children died in recent hours at the Maracay’s Central Hospital after being admitted with a 40 C-fever, general discomfort, and skin rashes that turned into blisters.

The Medical Association has declared a state of alarm following the deaths due to an unidentified virus or bacteria.

The President of the association, Ángel Sarmiento said that the four adults and four children died less than 72 hours after being admitted with the same symptoms, including a 40 C-fever.

Sarmiento ruled out the possibility that the deaths were caused by Ebola infection, as reported on social networks.

Chikungunya fever and dengue virus were also ruled out.

The Medical official said that doctors were waiting for the results of the autopsies to determine whether it was a viral or bacterial disease.

Scotland’s September 18 Referendum: Its consequences

SAUNDERSIf the people of Scotland vote for independence from the United Kingdom on September 18, they will be buying a one-way ticket to their own misfortune, and with consequences that will go beyond their borders affecting Commonwealth countries.

Notwithstanding the arguments of the Scottish National Party, the Scottish economy cannot sustain an independent Scotland that can deliver the welfare system the country now enjoys and pay for all the apparatus required for defense, security and participation in international affairs.

Scottish nationalists do the people of Scotland no favour by glibly urging them to go it alone.

If the Scottish voters opt for independence, they will quickly learn what many independent Caribbean countries understand well – being small has very few and limited advantages in a world where military or economic  Of course, Scotland’s economy is bigger than all of the Caribbean economies, and its wealth and human resources are much greater.  In this context, it would have a better chance of survival as an independent State than many Caribbean countries.

That argument is true, but even with its greater resources, Scotland will still be a small country with little bargaining power and even less coercive muscle in the international community.  It will quickly learn the disadvantages and marginalisation of being small and ignored.

Scotland’s reality is that it has a population of 5 million people as against the present 63 million in the UK who share the cost of Scotland’s pension payments, unemployment benefits and free heath care.

Scotland would be far better-off by securing greater devolution from the British government and legislature of authority over the key matters that most deeply concern the Scottish people. They have virtually achieved much of this by the fear that separation has engendered in the political establishment in Britain.

The leadership of the Conservative and Labour Parties in a desperate effort to avert Scotland’s separation has pledged greater authority to the Scottish Parliament and administration.

The political leadership of Britain has good cause for wanting to keep Scotland in the UK.  As I have argued before, it is not only Scotland that will be diminished and made vulnerable by a vote for independence, the rump United Kingdom (UK) will also be reduced in stature as an economic and military power.

In turn, a shrunken UK will have a less legitimate claim to its current occupancy of a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council, and as an influential member of the Executive Organs of international financial institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

Even with the European Union and the Commonwealth of Nations, the UK’s position will be undermined.  For instance, in the Commonwealth, the UK, without Scotland, will become a smaller economy than India.

The financial sector in Britain has already reacted badly to the possibility of Scotland’s independence – re-enforced by recent opinion polls that indicate a sharp rise in pro-independence sentiment.

The value of the British pound fell sharply against the US dollar and international investors have been warned to pull their cash out of Britain to protect themselves against the impact of Scotland’s independence.

Undoubtedly, leaders of the UK’s main political parties have been very worried for some time about the impact of a positive vote for independence by Scotland.   But, while the vote against such a possibility appeared unlikely, none of the principal political leaders sounded any alarm for fear of creating precisely what is now happening – anxiety that the UK will fragment with a cataclysmic effect on its economy.

John Major, a former Conservative Prime Minister, articulated the deep concerns of British political leaders by saying: “The vote next week is about far more than the future of Scotland.  It is about the future of every part of the United Kingdom”.

As polls show a distinct swing toward a vote for independence, both the British Conservative and Labour Parties have pulled out all the stops to reverse the trend.  The Labour Party has called into actively campaigning in Scotland its former leader and Prime Minister, Gordon Brown – himself a Scot.  It has to be hoped that, in the end, the push of narrow Scottish nationalism will be tempered and trumped by the pull of benefits within a wider union.

The rest of the world should be very concerned about a UK that is smaller in economic and military terms and as an influential voice in the world.  The UK still has an important role to play in contributing to peace and security in Europe and in the world’s most troubled spots.  It will not be able to do so unless it has the means.

For countries in the Caribbean, a shrunken UK has several consequences.  One of them is as basic as contributions to the Commonwealth Secretariat and its Fund for Technical Cooperation.  At present, the UK pays the single largest share of these costs.  If its economy is reduced in size, contributions will have to be recalculated placing a heavier burden on all member states including those in the Caribbean for which the Commonwealth is an important instrument in pursuing their foreign policy objectives.

The 12 Commonwealth Caribbean countries also need a strong UK in the European Community and in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development as an advocate for Caribbean interests.  Belize and Guyana in the Caribbean community also have a vested interest in the UK remaining a robust voice on the UN Security Council because of their border controversies with Guatemala and Venezuela respectively.

Beyond the international political role that a strong UK plays for the Commonwealth Caribbean, there are a host of economic linkages including tourism, investment and development assistance that a less well-off UK will certainly be forced to curtail.

And, then there is the contention of reparations for slavery.  If Scotland were to choose independence in the referendum, Caribbean countries would have to add Scotland to the list of possible litigants.  There were many Scottish plantation and slave owners in the Caribbean and they too benefited from huge ‘compensations’ paid to them at slavery’s formal abolition.

Hopefully, good sense will prevail in Scotland on September 18

(Sir Ronald Sanders is a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies)