St George’s Baptist Church reaches out to families in St. Mark

Approximately 120 families in St. Mark benefited last week Saturday from a food hamper initiative of the St. George’s Baptist Church, valued at more than EC$10, 000.

Highlights of food hamper distribution to families in Victoria, St. Mark

Highlights of food hamper distribution to families in Victoria, St. Mark

According to Pastor of the St. George’s Baptist Church, Stanford Simon, the event formed part of the 40th anniversary of the Church, which will climax in November.

He said the initiative was made possible through collaboration between the church grouping and the Sunset City Food Festival Committee and donations made by members of the Baptist church, Roman Catholic Church, as well as grocery stories throughout the country.

Pastor Simon disclosed that the food hamper recipients were selected in conjunction with the Sunset committee.

“…What we did was ask the committee to identify families in their parish…and they gave us the names…and will (also) be joining us…to give these families the gifts…a food hamper with a bible, (along) with a card…”, he said.

The religious leader acknowledged that there are a lot of needy families in the country especially in these challenging economic times.

He expressed the hope that the initiative “will help people to see that we are not just a church about telling people that they need to get saved so that they can get to heaven…”.

“…We want them to understand that they have to be healthy and to have food on their table,” he said.

Hamper 3“Here at the St. George’s Baptist Church, building communities has become a model for winning people to Christ, he remarked.

Pastor Simon noted that “it is very important for us (churches and communities) to work together to ensure that we succeed as a people and as a church,” adding “and so with that we have been sharing and giving to our community within the past years and today is just an extension of what we are doing and what we continue to do”.

He stated that this will not be a one-off distribution of items tO needy persons by the Church since it will be engaged in similar activities throughout the year.

“Several persons in St. George have already benefited… and I am thankful for the opportunity (to give to the needy families”, he said.

Head of Hospitality and the Anniversary Committee of the Baptist Church, Gail Blackette said, the food hamper initiative is just one activity out of a calendar of events being held to commemorate the significant milestone for the church, which was started 40 years ago through efforts of Leon Edwards, a prisoner who was on death row at Her Majesty’s Prison, Richmond Hill, St. George.

In giving the background to the formation of the church in Grenada, Pastor Simon recalled that it was through a radio programme sponsored by the Southern Baptist Convention that Edwards got into contact with the missionaries through letters.

He said that a group of missionaries were sent to visit Edwards at the Richmond Hill prison in August 1975 and to hold a Bible study at the prison and St. George’s then became the focal point for the beginning of Grenada Baptists.

Among the activities held so far to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the church were a health fair and extravaganza in May, a month of Prayer in June and now the food hamper initiative in July.

Blackette gave  an insight into the upcoming activities and cited a
prayer walk for the month of August, a quiz and talent show in September and in October a prayer and breakfast function to be held at Camerhonge Park.

“We are inviting everyone to come and get a lot of local foods to eat,” she said.

According to Blackette, the “grand celebrations” would be held in November and includes a welcoming party to be held on the grounds of the Botanical Gardens on November 6, as well as a dinner and gala event on November 7, during which “a book about the history of the church” would be launched.

The Baptist Church will hold its regular service on Sunday, November 8 at which time the curtains will come down on the 40th anniversary celebrations.

The St. George’s Baptist Church is celebrating its 40th anniversary under the theme “Celebrating 40 years of empowering and serving people.”

US Charge d’Affairs says goodbye

“I hope that I would be remembered as being a person who was a friend of the Grenadian people, who was interested in the best interest of the Grenadian people and in advancing the US/Grenada relationship.”

Louis Chrishock has his time spent in Grenada as some of the most fun in his job in the Foreign Service

Louis Chrishock has his time spent in Grenada as some of the most fun in his job in the Foreign Service

Those were the words uttered by Louis Chrishock, the US Charge d’Affaires to Grenada in his good-bye ceremony to the media.

Chrishock left the island last Friday for the United States as his three-year term of Foreign Service in Grenada came to end.

The American diplomat told reporters that his service in Grenada has been the most fun he has ever had in the job.

“So many of my family and friends have been able to visit me here in
Grenada and we’ve been able to enjoy all parts of the country and so as I leave here with a little bit of a heavy heart, nevertheless, I’m comforted by the fact that Grenada won’t just be a fond memory for me but will be a memory that I’ll be able to share into the future with my closet family,” he said.

Chrishock stressed that what he is most proud of is being able to advance bilateral relations between the two countries during his tour of duty.

This, he said was done through co-operative programmes, training and through assistance projects.

“We are able to bring some projects which are ongoing…like the Public/Private Partnership with the Government of Grenada, the Cocoa Association, Diamond Display Chocolate factory, J’ouvert Chocolate. I am very proud of that. That was a wonderful opportunity of Government and Private Sector working together”, he said.

“We were also able to complete the Emergency Operation Centre project and we recently handed over in May, three Operation Centres which will help for disaster management and preparedness – one in Petite Martinique, one in River Salle and one in Black Bay…”, he added.

Chrishock applauded the ruling New National Party (NNP) government for “tightening down” on illegal activities in the country such as drug use and urged its continuance.

“I think that drug use is a very important issue for all Governments, not only in the region but in the wider Western Hemisphere and I think it’s something that we hold to our apparel and that includes both control substances and legal substances…the level of alcohol consumption that can lead to non-communicable diseases that can become a very serious health threat”, he said.

“…It is important to note that all Governments, including ours and yours face resource restraints. So I think rather than ask what more can be done, I think we need to ask how can we do what we do better, so it has more impact for the people that we serve and that’s an issue that we’re constantly looking at,” he remarked.

In reflecting on his time in Grenada, Chrishock felt it was at best “a pleasure” and recalled the efforts “to help our team here at the US Embassy in St George’s to advance bilateral relationship between Grenada and the United States…”.

He said this “ is going to be one of the highlights of my diplomatic career, no matter where I go, no matter what I do”.

“It’s been a real pleasure to be able to interact with Government officials, representatives of NGO’s, members of the media, labour officials. It’s been a real treat and I’ve been lucky to have this job, it’s been some of the most fun that I’ve had in the (US) Foreign Service”, he added.

Chrishock successor is yet to be named but he anticipates that in September or October the identified person will be in the country to  start work.

Farmers urged not to taint fruits and vegetables

A plea has been made to consumers in Grenada to purchase their garden produce from established and reliable sources amidst the discovery and confiscation of a crate of tainted avocados destined for neighbouring Trinidad and Tobago.

The call was made by Praedial Larceny Operations Officer, Inspector of Police, Eric Peters, who is attached to the Ministry of Agriculture during a press conference last week Wednesday at the Ministerial Complex, located at the Botanical Gardens, Tanteen St. George.

Samples of the tainted avocados

Samples of the tainted avocados

Insp. Peters said that members of the Praedial Larceny Task Force intercepted one individual at the Grenville port in St. Andrew last week Tuesday who has since been charged with receiving stolen goods.

Two others were later arrested and charged for stealing produce under the Praedial Larceny Act of 2005, following a routine check of goods, which revealed a number of tainted avocados with pieces of what was identified as razor blades jammed inside of them.

According to Peters, based on information reaching the unit, the individual whose name remains undisclosed “would have purchased (the items) from individuals who have stolen the fruits,” which carried a total weight of “approximately 50lbs” from a farmer in St. Andrew.

“We intercepted him (trafficker) and decided to ask verification questions as to where he would have purchased…and upon the examination of the produce what we recognise is that there were razor blades in a number of these pears,” he told reporters.

The police officer disclosed that the farmer was also detained for questioning and could be charged for tainting his produce.

He pointed out that while the Task Force “understand the frustrations (farmers may have) with praedial larceny, we certainly discourage those measures being taken because it doesn’t protect you –  what it does is to basically put the entire economy and consumer public at risk.”

He alluded to the potential loss of the well-established trade between Grenada and Trinidad if the contaminated crate of avocados had managed to reach its final destination.

He added that many locals use the avenue of trade in the region as their main source of income.

“This finding (tainted avocados) here would have had the potential of killing that trade between both islands,” he said, as he placed on record the concerns of the Task Force “that many other persons may seek to do the same thing.”

Insp. Peters appealed to vendors and farmers to refrain from tainting their produce “by either putting substances in it that can cause harm or death of individuals,” because the consumer is “an innocent party” who buys produce not knowing its origin.

“It is possible that some of the tainted avocados are on the local market,” he said, since “those individuals (who steal from farmers) may not just sell to a trafficker going to Trinidad but may sell to a vendor coming to town or who may be selling at the Grenville Market…”.

The middle rank police officer urged the public to “be on the look out and inspect their produce properly to ensure that they don’t contain any harmful particles that can cause damage to you or your family.”

“Do not only seek to buy goods, but to also inspect and question the vendors as to the origin of the goods they have up for sale…do not only seek to buy, but buy from established businesses…at the market or supermarket,” he said.

He warned consumers that “if you buy from persons that sell off the streets you have no means of verifying where the produce came from.”
Since 2014, officers attached to the Praedial Larceny Task Force have been mandated to conduct checks at both the St. George’s and Grenville harbours every Tuesday in an effort to crack down on stolen produce being shipped to Trinidad.

Grenada has had 233 reports of praedial larceny within the first six months of the year, 126 in which persons requested court action.

So far 104 charges have been laid by the police.

Refurbishment works commence at SDCSS

The faculty and staff of the St. David’s Catholic Secondary School (SDCSS) can finally breathe a sigh of relief following the commencement of “temporary refurbishment of the School” which had been allowed to deteriorate significantly over the years.

Principal of St. David's Catholic Secondary School Mariam Calliste happy with the start of works to repair the facility

Principal of St. David’s Catholic Secondary School Mariam Calliste happy with the start of works to repair the facility

The school, like many other buildings on the island, took a heavy pounding from the high winds of Hurricane Ivan in September 2004.

An entire section of the roof is still to be repaired resulting in severe deterioration of the structure from the elements and forcing teachers to hold class on the outside as the building was considered a safety hazard to all concerned.

The refurbishment project, which has been contracted to roofing contractor Paul Antoine of Shelter Solutions Inc. to the tune of approximately EC$346, 000 comes on stream after months of discussions and consultations between the various stakeholders and the Government of Grenada.

Approximately 20 persons are working on the site and have been able to replace as much as one side of the roof of the building in just one day.

The refurbishment work on SDCSS is expected to culminate during the week of Carnival between August 9-15.

Engineering Contractor Carlyle Glean of Glean’s Construction and Engineering Co. Ltd., who would be supervising the refurbishment process expressed confidence that the project, which involves the replacement of the roof covering, replacement and repairs of all damaged and/or missing windows, plumbing and electrical works and painting will be completed in time for the September start of the new 2015/2016 school year.

Speaking at a ceremony at the school compound on Monday, Glean said the refurbished facility will create a “comfortable holding situation (for) up to 5 to 10 more years” and give government some much needed time to source funds to construct a new school on lands identified in La Sagesse, St. David’s.

“It would allow school to continue, while we look for monies to build a new school…(which is) in the region of EC$20 million,” he added.

According to Glean, upon the first inspection of the facility, he realised that the problems that exist could be repaired within a short period of time and would be more “cost effective than building temporary facilities at this time” to facilitate classes.

He disclosed that the “more technical aspect of the project is repairs to the concrete works that (have already) started deteriorating.”

He explained that “what has been cracked – all the loose elements of these – whether it be columns, slabs, walls or beams would be removed and reconstructed with steel brush, adhesive (would be) applied”.

Glean gave assurances that the “reconstructed elements would be sealed so that new moisture cannot enter.”

School Principal Mariam Calliste who also addressed the brief ceremony recounted the anxiety at the school over the years to get the refurbishment project on stream.

“We have been enduring, dealing with the problem, the inconveniences and I would say, with grace – because my teachers continued to work, to function and to operate the business of teaching and learning.

“We are happy that our cries were heard…and that there is collaboration between the (Catholic) Church, the Ministry, the donors…and I want to say thank you on behalf of all stakeholders of the St. David’s Catholic Secondary School.

“We are indeed elated and happy…and that is really what we wanted (for) people to recognise that we wanted some assistance, some help, in making this place more conducive to learning.

Also attending the ceremony marking the start of works at the school was Parliamentary Representative for the area, Economic Development Minister, Oliver Joseph, Father Clifton Harris of the Catholic Education Board of Management, and Senator Simon Stiell in the capacity of Acting Minister of Education in the absence of Education Minister Anthony Boatswain, members of the SDCSS parent teacher association, teachers and students of the school.

In addressing the SDCSS issue during a recent sitting of the Lower House of Parliament, Education Minister Boatswain acknowledged the negligence of past governments to address the issue noting that “some of the problems that exist at the school now were identified for repair since 1987 at an estimated repair cost of EC$115, 000.”

Consulate Service to be restored in New York

In the face of mounting pressure among some Grenadians in New York, the ruling New National Party (NNP) administration in St. George’s has been forced to make concessions on the closing of the Consulate Office in the Big Apple.

According to Foreign Affairs Minister, Dr. Clarice Modeste-Curwen, consular service will resume in New York “in the shortest possible time.”

Modeste-Curwen told a local radio station that government has already identified someone to become the new Consul General, and was engaged in discussions with the US State Department on accreditation for the diplomat.

A group calling itself, “Grenada For Change”, has been highlighting the issue of the relocation of the Consulate office from New York to Miami under a non-national believed to be of African origin.

The group has been unsuccessful in getting meetings with government officials in the United States including the Washington-based Dr. Angus Friday to quiz them on the closure of the Consulate Office.

Foreign Minister Modeste-Curwen charged that the Mitchell-led government did not create the problem but inherited it from the previous Congress administration.

She accused the former rulers of “failing to put the necessary measures in place to provide Consulate service in New York that met the requirement of the State Department.”

This is obvious reference to the decision taken by the State Department in Washington during the 2008-13 period not to recognise the purported appointment of Derek James, a Grenadian who became a naturalized U.S citizen as the office holder.

Under U.S laws, American citizens are barred from being accredited on U.S soil to represent the interest of foreign states.

Faced with the Derick James dilemma, the Thomas government appointed a public officer to act as Consul General and James was then offered a post as Honorary Consul.

Former Banker Allen McGuire was the last accredited Consul General of Grenada in New York.

Dr. Modeste-Curwen hinted that it was an economic strain for government to immediately have the Consulate Office re-opened.

“We didn’t cause it (the problem). We met a mess …”, she told the programme and pointed to issues such as the “tough economic times”, “a lot of financial demands and needs” and “a lot of outstanding debts”.

The foreign minister hinted that the delay was due to the fact that the Mitchell government was forced to concentrate on other priority areas and not the Consulate office in New York.

“We couldn’t take it on at the time because we had so many other things to take on, and I’m sure our Diaspora in New York could well understand that very well,” she added.

The female government minister also dropped hints that those calling for the re-opening of the Consulate Office in New York had some kind of a political agenda.

Dr. Modeste-Curwen said she has found it strange that nothing was previously said about the closure of the Consulate Office until the opening of a Consulate Office in Miami.

“I think that the motive behind the initial upsurge was not an honourable one”, she said.

“…We know that some of the agitators were not genuine, but sometimes you have to not look at the negative people, at the poisonous people, but you have to look at the genuine people who have raised that concern and this is what we have done, but don’t lay the blame on the doorsteps of the New National Party Government. We didn’t create it,” she added.

One of the lead spokespersons of the New York-based group, Jennifer Thomas stressed that “Grenada For Change” is non-political, but will be a voice for change reflecting the needs of the community.

Thomas has been an activist of the NNP and Dr. Mitchell for over 30 years.

According to the island’s Foreign Minister, government has a new policy that is relevant and relative to the country’s present economic situation.

She noted that Embassies are becoming too costly to run in terms of rent and allowances to be paid.

“With that cost and the (Structural Adjustment) Programme that we’re going through, we cannot have as many Embassies and Missions operating as we, perhaps, would have liked to see,” she said.

The senior female Government Minister said her government is looking to have persons who can partner with them to provide the service and assist with financing the foreign offices.

Sen Garraway urged to have decorum in the Senate

President of the Senate, Chester Humphrey has chastised Government Senator and Minister of State for Youth and Sports, Winston Garraway for not following the procedural rules of the Upper House of Parliament.

Sen Garraway attempted to distract Political Leader of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) Sen. Nazim Burke who was seeking
clarification from the Leader of Government Business in the Senate, Simon Stiell who reported in his ministerial statement to the Senate that the unemployment figure in the country now stands at 28.9 percent.

Sen Burke wanted to know what is the statistical or scientific basis government is relying on for its claim that unemployment was over 40 percent when the New National Party (NNP) took Office in February 2013.

The Lead Opposition Senator who referred the matter to the President spoke of Sen Garraway often and repeatedly abusing his privileges in the Senate by making irresponsible statements.

“It is the responsibility of the Chair or the President to call Sen Garraway on these issues,” he told the sitting President.

Sen. Humphrey responded by saying he is not in a position to anticipate what any Member would do, so he could only act “after the bullet has left the gun.”

However, Sen Humphrey stated that Sen. Garraway’s intervention does not meet the standards of the House.

“I wish him really to comply with these standards. We’ve got to be civil, there is a certain level of decorum and I draw Senators attention to my inaugural address to the Senate that it is my duty to maintain the decorum of the House, and that I shall do without fear or favour,” he said.

“The decorum of the House for all Senators must be maintained at all times,” he added.

Sources within the Senate have told this newspaper that the President of the Senate is often not impressed with the level of contributions made at meetings by Sen. Garraway.

Sen. Humphrey noted that the rules are clear that when a Senator is
making a contribution he shall not be interrupted, and that Senators are to remain quiet and to listen, and not interrupt.

“If they (the Senators) want to make an interruption, which is allowable under the rules, they must do so with a certain level of decorum.  We are not conducting a fish market, this is the Parliament of Grenada, the Senate of Grenada, the highest decision-making body in the land, and, therefore, the decorum must fit that stature, and I want all Senators to take note,” he remarked.

Sen. Humphrey stressed that his role as President of the Senate is to be a fair Arbiter and to maintain the rules, indicating that he gave a solemn commitment to follow those rules and to the oath that he took.

The Senate President reminded Members that at his inaugural address
he said that he has his own views on how the Senate should conduct itself.

He said that during the 23 years he spent in the Senate as a Member under different presidents, it has always been the Chamber where the decorum remains intact.

“We kept our debate at a certain level, at a very high level, and we believe that as an Institution that is how we should function,” he
added.

The Senate President also made a case for serious efforts to be made to have institutional functionality for which he said the Senate must set the standard.

He said too many of the country’s Institutions have deteriorated to a point where they are disgusting in the way in which they function.

He made reference to the operations of the Department of Physical Planning which falls under the portfolio of the Minister of Works, Gregory Bowen.

Sen Humphrey indicated that the rule stipulates that no building should be constructed closer than 20 feet from the edge of the road, but people are allowed to construct buildings “right on the road,” with no opportunity for expansion and sidewalks.

In addition, he said there must be sidewalks that can allow pedestrians to traverse safely as the density of traffic is increasing but “Physical Planning Institute does nothing to enforce the rules”.

A step towards prison reform in Grenada

The Grenada Human Rights Organisation (GHRO)  is seeking to generate support for prison reform on the island through an initiative being undertaken with assistance from the United States-based Global Alliance for Legal Aid (GALA).

Milton Coy and GALA Executive Director Jami Solli

Milton Coy and GALA Executive Director Jami Solli

A delegation from both organisations along with a support team of volunteer barristers from the United Kingdom (UK) visited Her Majesty’s Prison at Richmond Hill, St. George last month to conduct a review of the conditions at the facility to see if they are in compliance with the United Nations (UN) guidelines for treatment of prisoners.

GALA is a non-profit organisation that supports human rights advocates and has as its members a set of lawyers in developing countries who provide legal services directly to the court.

In an exclusive interview with THE NEW TODAY, local human rights representative Milton Coy said GHRO is thrilled to partner with GALA in the push towards prison reform in the country in light of the failed attempts by his organisation in the past to conduct a full assessment of the situation in the prison.

“We at the organisation attempted to conduct a review, we started but we were not able to complete and that was because of a number of reasons,” he said.

According to Coy, the Commissioner of Prisons at the time felt that the organisation should  put a hold on the review for a while but he never got back to the grouping.

He noted that “nothing happened afterwards” and the initiative was “aborted” and can be considered to have “ended prematurely.”

Coy made mention of the overcrowded situation at the prison and alluded  to the need for alternative sentencing to be imposed by the local court system.

He said that GHRO has been receiving letters from inmates calling for help and declared the belief of the local human rights organisation that “inmates serving time at the prison ought to be in conditions that are acceptable” in accordance with the standards set out by the
UN.

“The prison is not a punishment center,” but a place where solid
“foundations” are laid, he added.

GALA Executive Director Jami Solli who was on island as part of the visit to the Richmond Hill prison said the assessment to be undertaken of the facility is aimed at comparing how Grenada is complying with UN standards for the treatment of prisoners

“…It’s a comparison to (UN) guidelines which exist, so what we’re going to do is come back with all of our data and compare how Grenada complies with these guidelines…which also take into account that Grenada is a developing country,” she explained.

Solli, a lawyer by profession, alluded to several “serious issues”
that the US-based GALA believes needed to be addressed at the local prison.

She said the issues are not alarming and should not be surprising to the authorities at the Richmond Hill prison since they exist in other prisons like overcrowding but the problem is how to challenge them due to a limited budget.”

She conceded that “limited will” to tackle the existing problems is a significant factor to be dealt with in addressing those issues.

“I think there is also a problem in this country as well as globally with regards to the idea of a prison as a place to reform people and give them the help they need to be integrated into society”, she said.

“The attitude that we are seeing now globally is that this (prison) is a place to warehouse people, to keep them away from the rest of the people (civilisation) and to punish them, and we do not see that as a valid response to the problems that we are seeing in prisons”, she added.

The American lawyer stated that the longstanding issue of overcrowding at prisons coupled with a challenge to find adequate facilities to house incarcerated youth remain an area of major concern.

She noted that apart from the women and juveniles, “right now there are about 440 young men” serving prison terms in a facility that was originally built hundreds of years ago to be “used as a hospital” to facilitate a “maximum of 180 people’ and “was not structurally intended to be a prison.”

The “overcrowding leads to sanitary problems,” she said, adding that “there are toilets up there that are backed up because they are not meant to be handling (so many)…men flushing them on a daily basis.”
Solli, who also used the tour to interact with some of the inmates said they expressed dissatisfaction with the way they are treated.

“Generally they are upset with the conditions, they are overcrowded, sanitary issues were also a concern for them,” she said while pointing at the “lack of contact to the outside world” and having access to “news of the outside world is also very hard for them.”

“Some of them (the prisoners) may not be getting regular visits,” and “they can’t call outside the prison” or “receive phone calls…there are no phone facilities” and “cell phones are not allowed…there are no access to newspapers,” she said.

According to Solli, the daily lifestyle of the prisoners at the Richmond Hill institution “is very isolated and very sad” when taken into consideration that they have been “extracted” from life as they know it and now have almost “no contact with civilisation,” apart from letter writing.

She cited other burning issues of concern as the absence of legal aid
for offenders, a law reform commission, a parole board, a Mercy Committee and a non-functioning Visitation committee.

The US human rights activist described the Grenada initiative, which is the first of its kind to occur in the Eastern Caribbean as “a
stepping stone towards having projects and programme activities that would actually (improve) the conditions in the prison.”

“We would hope that with some issues we can provide support and that would be in terms of legal research or if it’s an issue of legal reform, we can actually be involved in the drafting process…”, she said.

“…It all depends on the issues that we find and which we feel are feasible and we can do something practical about – we are looking for those really low hanging fruits that we can immediately address and we can work with whoever is interested locally in working with us,” she added.

Solli disclosed that the report containing the findings of the assessment would be presented in “about a month” to the local prison authorities for review in order to pave the way for further discussions on the way forward.

Once finalised the report would also be supplied to the National
Committee for Human Rights, to inform its reporting process to be sent to the United Nations as part of the universal periodic review process, which occurs every four years.

Pakistani National given portion of Laura Estate for private business

Government has granted a portion of lands on the Laura Estate in St. David’s to a company for the commercial rearing of animals including cattle, goats and poultry.

This was disclosed by Leader of Government Business in the Senate, Minister of State for Education, Simon Stiell who was responding to questions posed to him by Farmer’s Representative in the Upper House, Keith Clouden.

Sen. Stiell said the company, which is called “Grenada Quality Meats”, received authorisation from Cabinet for the establishment of an agri-business on ten acres of lands at Laura Estate.

He said the agreement provides a framework for the establishment of
and operations of a livestock farm, and meat processing plant in St. David’s, and the term is for 32 years with the option for renewal of another 32 years.

Sen. Stiell told the Senate meeting that the agreement also entails an annual rent of five percent of the commercial value of the property, and the utilization of local labour.

Although Sen. Stiell abstained from giving the nationality of the individual who is behind the company, Sen. Clouden informed the Senate that it is a Pakistani National.

The Farmer’s Representative is upset that State land is given to a non-national to conduct private business.

He charged that nothing is currently taking place on the lands, and also reported that the last two Grenadians who were employed there have been dismissed.

“If a guy from Pakistan wants land here he must go to a private Grenadian, and not our State land.  So the question is … let us know who is that person that got ten acres (of land) out of an estate that you (Stiell) said was not part of the commercialisation process,” he said.
The Leader of Government Business said the creation of jobs is most important, and the development of Grenada’s agro-processing sector.

He said the proposal that was put forward by the individual is a substantial one, which will bring significant benefits to the country.

“It is in Grenada’s best interest, regardless of where the individual comes from,” Sen. Stiell said.

Meanwhile, the Senate was told that Ministry of Agriculture, Lands, Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment has granted permission to an individual whose name has been given as “Miss Douglas” to construct a private dwelling house on the Laura Estate in St. David’s.

The Leader of Government Business in the Senate made the disclosure in response to another question asked by the Farmer’s Representative.

According to Sen. Stiell, an area of 2,500 square feet of lands was identified on lands allotted by the previous Government of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) to seven persons.

Sen. Clouden informed the Senate that the Permanent Secretary and himself visited the Laura Estate and discovered that a number of fully bearing cocoa trees were cut down and he can produce photographs showing the destroyed cocoa trees.

Sen. Stiell said the Ministry of Agriculture is not aware that 25 fully bearing cocoa trees were cut down in order to accommodate the construction of the house.

He said an investigation will be conducted to determine whether any trees were cut down on government lands for the alleged purpose.

Simmons: Gov’t needs to talk to Cocoa and Nutmeg Associations

Former Government Minister Patrick Simmons has called on the Keith Mitchell Administration to have consultations with stakeholders before proceeding with the planned amalgamation of the cocoa and nutmeg associations.

Simmons told a public meeting of the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) that took place last week Wednesday at Pearls, St. Andrew’s that if the liberalisation of these associations are to be materialised consultation should be held with the farmers informing them about how the process of liberalisation would take place.

“They (government) should come clean and say exactly what is happening – too much of action behind the back door,” he said.
Simmons, the former Parliamentary Representative for St. Andrew’s South-east also addressed the economic depression facing the people of St. Andrew’s.

He said that in recent times two banks in the Town of Grenville have closed, while another bank is due to close its doors by the end of July.

“Out of the five banks in Grenville, three are closed and only two (are) operating. That is a reflection of bad policy as it relates to agriculture in our parish,” he told the gathering.

The General Secretary of Congress indicated that apologists of the ruling New National Party (NNP) Government of Prime Minister Mitchell are saying that the closure of the banks has nothing to do with government.

However, he believes that if the economy in rural Grenada was buoyant, there would have been no reason for the banks to cease operations in Grenville.

“The reason why the banks are being shut is because they are located in the rural part of the country and as a result those in the Capital City will always get preference, and we could understand that. So in order for us to survive in this parish we must pay attention to agriculture,” he said.

Simmons charged that the entire economy in St. Andrew’s is collapsing due to the absence of a vision for agriculture in the parish and the entire country by the Mitchell-led government.

Stating that agriculture is the single most important sector of the parish, the ex-government minister in the 2008-13 Congress administration noted that in the 2015 budget, there was a total expenditure of $1,152,234,237.00 for the Ministry of Agriculture, Lands, Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, out of which $39.1M is allocated to agriculture.

The former Government Minister said Congress understands the importance of agriculture to the local economy hence the reason why agriculture and agro-business was one of the five pillars identified for economic growth.

He stressed that the record will show that between 2008 and 2013 a lot was done for agriculture under the Congress Government of Prime Minister Tillman Thomas and that in 2010 and 2011, the agriculture sector grew by 9.4 percent and 8.25 percent respectively.

Additionally, he said outside of the period of the 1979-83 Grenada Revolution of late marxist leader, Maurice Bishop, the only other Prime Ministers who would have placed emphasis on agriculture were Sir Nicholas Brathwaite and Tillman Thomas of Congress.

The economic plight being faced by residents of St. Andrew’s was also echoed by another senior executive member of the NDC, Sylvester Quarless, a former Member of Parliament for St. Andrew South-west.

According to Quarless, he did a research over the past month and it shows that 21 medium-sized and small businesses in St. Andrew’s and in the Town of Grenville have been closed, and that the situation in the parish is dire.

Quarless, a former Minister of Social Services also told party supporters at the public meeting that the fishing industry in St. Andrew’s is struggling.

He said the sargassum seaweed is affecting fishing in the parish, and accused government of not acting on the matter.

Quarless said the matter is being dealt with by other countries in the region including St. Lucia, Barbados, Tobago, Dominica and St. Vincent which has the same problem of the convergence of the seaweed on the seashore.

The IMF vision of debt and Obama’s boldness with Iran

SAUNDERSThe debt crisis in Greece and the historic accord to limit Iran’s nuclear capability thus lifting crippling sanctions will have global repercussions.

US President Barack Obama has shown strong and courageous leadership on the Iran issue.  In doing so, he has fulfilled promises on another of two prickly problems that he inherited.  The first, of course, was establishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba after more than five decades of US government attempts to isolate the Caribbean island and bring down its Castro-led regime.

The second is halting the threat that a radical Iran, with a nuclear capability, poses to global peace.  In dealing with both these issues, amidst intense hostility from the Republican Party, Obama has shown that he is willing to “step out of the rut of history”.

At his inauguration in 2009, he had signalled his intention to close down the detention camp at Guantanamo Bay which, for two decades, has imprisoned terrorist suspects without trial.  That promise is as yet unfulfilled, but by establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba, Obama has undone the senseless stand-off policy toward Cuba that had clearly failed.

It is now only a matter of time before the US Congress will be compelled to lift the trade embargo which it codified in law in the Cold War years.  The closure of Guantanamo Prison is bound to follow as should the return of Guantanamo Bay to Cuban sovereignty.

From the day of his inauguration, Obama made it clear that he wanted an end to the protracted hostile relations between the US and Iran. In a pointed statement to the Iranian government, he offered to “extend a hand of friendship if you are willing to unclench your fist”.

For the last six years, his administration has worked toward that goal.  It has now reached a historic agreement by which sanctions against Iran will be lifted in return for its acceptance that the development of its nuclear programme must be halted for more than a decade.

The battle within the US is not yet won.  Congress still has to approve the accord with Iran and the Republicans have vowed to reject it.  But Obama is resolute.   While he would like Congressional approval for the accord, he says he will veto any legislation that seeks to derail it.

Over the next ten-year period or more, Obama anticipates a verifiable halt to Iran’s development of a nuclear capability.  The alternative is a continuing build-up of such a capability into a nuclear weapon that an isolated Iran might be tempted to use with frightening consequences.

The Republicans and others, such as Israel and Saudi Arabia, argue that the removal of sanctions against Iran will allow the country to earn hundreds of billions of dollars from its oil and manufacturing industries that will facilitate the intensification of hostility toward them.

What is now certain is that big European and US companies regard the lifting of sanctions against Iran as an opportunity for selling the country billions of dollars in goods and services it urgently needs in sectors such as aviation, energy and manufacturing.   Already, Royal Dutch Shell, Total and Eni are seeking opportunities.  The Iranians also want foreign investment especially in tourism, technology, mining and banking.

It is by permitting international business with Iran that the accord, signed by five nations led by the US, will have a productive effect on the global economy.  As Iran revives its oil and gas industry and other sectors of the economy, it will help to expand global growth through the purchase of goods and services from abroad.

The strengthening effect on the economies of countries from which Iran makes direct purchases will ripple through the international community.  Further, if Iran re-develops its oil and gas production to pre-2011 levels, it could have the beneficial effect of keeping world prices below the crippling costs that obtained until last November.

Analysts from financial institutions such as the Swiss Private Bank, Norbert Ruecker, have concluded that “Iran’s return is set to keep oil prices lower for longer alongside even cheaper shale oil and peaking western world oil demand”.   That’s good news for small economies that have been battered by high oil prices.

Despite all his critics – and the often coloured criticism – Obama has shown himself to be amongst the most progressive and visionary Presidents of the United States.

On the matter of vision, the Greek debt crisis and the tailspin into which it has plunged the nations that participate in the Eurozone, coughed up an interesting new perspective from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).  The Fund is contending that Eurozone creditors should write off part of Greece’s debt or at least allow the country to make no payments for 30 years.

Stating that the level of Greek debt is “unsustainable” and that the country’s financial shortfall is now approximately US$94.12 billion, the IMF, in a leaked memorandum, argued strongly for write-off of a significant portion of Greece’s debt estimated at in excess of US$324 billion.

It is clear that what the IMF is saying is that without a write-off or arrangements for no repayment for at least three decades, Greece will never repay its debt, and the country will never recover.

It is refreshing to hear the IMF taking such a stance on debt write-off or forbearance over a long enough period for the country to try to recover.  It would be helpful to economies in many Caribbean countries if the IMF were to take a similar approach with them.  While poor government policies did contribute to their high debts in some cases, a significant portion of those debts was incurred as a result of external factors, such as the devastating effects of hurricanes and the global financial crisis created in the US and Europe in 2008.

A successful IMF-led initiative which argues that, like Greece, these countries should be eased from their current high debt repayments at expensive interest rates would give them the fiscal space they urgently need to grow their economies.

If what’s good for the goose is equally good for the gander, then what’s good for the Greeks, should be good for the Caribbean and other small and vulnerable states.

(Sir Ronald Sanders is a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London and Massey College, University of Toronto)