Thank you Sir Royston!!

Sir Royston Hopkin
Chairman/Owner
Spice Island Resort
Morne Rouge
St. George’s

January 10th, 2019

Dear Sir Royston,

Re Spice Island Resort – Not for Sale

Permit me to offer my compliments and best wishes for 2019 to yourself, the Directors, Management and staff of the Spice Island Resort.

It was with great consternation followed by relief, Sir, that I learnt via a news item aired on Grenada Broadcasting Network that you had turned down several offers made to purchase Spice Island Resort. You advised that you intended to pass the resort on to your children with the expectation that this legacy/brand would be further developed and operated for generations. (At least this is my interpretation of what I heard from you.) Thank you Sir Royston!! May your children be inspired and blessed to continue the legacy!

You and your hotel represent an authentic Grenadian example of GLOBAL excellence – what is possible in Grenada and by Grenadians, built from scratch with vision, dedication, hard work, and, perhaps, a little luck here and there (luck here being defined as what happens when preparation meets opportunity). Grenada needs more such examples.

Though uncalled for, may I offer, Sir, my unreserved support for the continued operations of Spice Island Resort under the ownership of the Hopkin family. It is my philosophy that Grenadians have a right, with equal responsibility, to be able to thrive in this land of their birth and enjoy the fruits of their sacrifice and labour. To my mind, it would be a TRAGEDY for Grenada if your hotel passed to some foreign millionaire investor/developer.

I also noted that you made reference to the need to address the drainage situation, the state of physical planning and development in Morne Rouge and the need for caution, even restraint, to be exercised in respect of physical development on the Grand Anse beach (at least that is my interpretation of what I heard).

Thank you Sir! You have influence and the ears of “people in high places” at home and abroad. If I said so, as I have on many previous occasions, I would be dismissed as being merely anti-development, anti-investment and a public nuisance!

I note that some person/persons have branded Grand Anse Beach the Gold Coast. I do not know, Sir, whether or not, you were part of that group and whether that branding includes or excludes we the people as primary users of the Grand Anse beach. From time to time, there have been tensions, even conflicts, between hoteliers and we the people – both prime users of Grand Anse beach.

However, in balance, there has been happy co-existence, to which Camerhogne Park has contributed in no small measure.

I am therefore hoping, Sir, that you would lend your voice to ensure that Camerhogne Park, in its current location, is reserved for the use and enjoyment of we the people and for the continued happy co-existence of people and hotels on Grand Anse beach.

May the Spice Island Resort continue its winning ways in 2019!

Sandra C.A. Ferguson

David Andrew is new Education CEO

It’s now official that David Andrew has been elevated within the Ministry of Education to the key position of Chief Education Officer (CEO).

David Andrew – gets the nod as CEO

The position had been vacant for nine months since the former CEO in the ministry, Elvis Morain was promoted to the post of Acting Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture.

Speaking at the weekly post-Cabinet Press Briefing at the Ministerial Complex Conference Room on Tuesday, Minister of Education, Emmalin Pierre who made the announcement said that Andrew’s appointment took effect on Monday.

She said, “As of yesterday (Monday), the Public Service Commission (PSC) has appointed Mr. David Andrew to the position of Chief Education Officer within the Ministry of Education.

As we speak, I believe that Mr. Andrew is being officially introduced to the staff at the ministry. Mr. Andrew would have worked in the Ministry of Education for the past couple years and previous to that, would have been attached to one of our secondary schools.”

An official government release Wednesday said: “The Ministry of Education, Human Resource Development and Religious Affairs announces the appointment of David Andrew, M.A, B.A., Cert. Ed., a School Counsellor with this Ministry, to act in the post of Chief Education Officer (CEO), with effect from January 21, 2019.

Andrew, who commenced his new duties on Tuesday, January 22, 2019, has been an educator for the past 25 years. He has served at some of Grenada’s secondary schools and in other local learning institutions. In particular, he was a teacher at the Grenville Secondary School for 10 years and also served as head of the Modern Languages Department, for the latter part of his time there. From his early days as a classroom teacher, Andrew was involved in high level of student motivational activities, which consistently formed part of his interaction with students, staff and other persons across the island.

Andrew is a trained Counselling Therapist, having studied at the Caribbean Nazarene College, in Trinidad and Tobago. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in General Studies, with a concentration in Psychology, and also a Master’s degree in Counselling. Many youth from Grenada and the region have benefitted from his simple, yet effective, motivational style. In 2017 he was awarded the Clinical Network Conference Scholastic Achievement Award, which is presented to an alumni, or student, of the Caribbean Nazarene College, who has advanced the caring profession, by outstanding clinical, or community service, and made a noticeable difference in the quality of life of many people.

“Andrew most recently served as a School Counsellor, in District 4, with the Student Support Services Unit of the Ministry of Education, Human Resource Development and Religious Affairs. He was based at the St. Andrew’s Anglican Secondary School (SAASS) and was responsible for providing clinical supervision to the Counselling Assistants and Guidance Officers, in the St. David district and some in the St. Andrew district. Additionally, Andrew served as the Team Leader for UNICEF-funded project, Child Friendly Schools.

Andrew comes with the experience of having worked with the Government of Trinidad and Tobago, as a Guidance Counsellor to schools and with the youth correctional facility (Youth Training Centre). He also served as an adjunct faculty to the Caribbean Nazarene College, in the areas of Developmental Psychology and Introduction to Psychology and as a Psychologist, with one of the leading employee assistance programme providers – Elder Associates Limited.

Additionally, being fluent in French, Andrew traveled to the Dominican Republic to work with the French speaking survivors of the 2010 Haitian earthquake.

The management and staff of this Ministry congratulate Mr. Andrew, on his appointment, and look forward to working with him, towards the growth and advancement of Grenada’s education system”.

Andrew’s appointment has filled one of two top vacant positions within the Ministry of Education which is now operating with one Permanent Secretary, Jacintha Joseph who has responsibility for Human Resource Development and Religious Affairs.

The other Permanent Secretary with responsibility for Education, Findley Jeffrey has been transferred to the Ministry of ICT in the Office of the Prime Minister allegedly over matters relating to the current ongoing industrial impasse between government and public sector workers.

There are unconfirmed reports that the President of the Public Workers Union (PWU), Rachael Roberts could be shifted out of the Ministry of Education for another posting in the office of Corporative Affairs and Intellectual Property within the Ministry of Legal Affairs.

The Keith Mitchell-led administration is currently locked in a bitter battle with the Roberts-led union, two other public sector bodies and staff associations on pension and gratuity payments.

Harding freed of Causing Death by Dangerous Driving Charge

The grandson of prominent Grenadian businessman Edwin DeCaul who was charged with Causing Death by Dangerous Driving following an accident which led to the death of a 13-year-old secondary school student, Donte Felix in April 2017, was last week Friday exonerated from the charge.

22-year-old Andrew Harding could have smiled when high court judge, Justice Paula Gilford announced at the St. George’s No. 1 High Court that the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) has taken a decision to discontinue the case against him.

Harding was arrested and charged approximately two (2) weeks after the fatal accident that claimed the life of the Paradise, St. Andrew student along the Calivingy main road.

He had posted bail in the sum of $22, 000 and a preliminary inquiry into the charge was held before Chief Magistrate Tamara Gill at the St. George’s No. 1 Magistrate’s Court and Harding was committed to stand trial at the High Court.

However, THE NEW TODAY understands that upon review of the file by the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution, it was found that there was not sufficient evidence presented to the court during the PI that Harding drove recklessly or in a manner that was dangerous to justify a criminal act.

Speaking with reporters shortly after his client was freed, Attorney Arley Gill, who appeared on the case for the very first time, expressed satisfaction with the decision taken by the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP).

“I think that the evidence in this particular (case) is really and truly not the strongest against Mr. Harding. I think that at some levels there is responsibility on the other side (the part of the deceased) and I think it is a fair decision,” he said, but declined to go into the actual evidence of the case.

“There is more than satisfying circumstances for the learned and distinguished Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) to discontinue the matter at this time,” he added.

According to Attorney Gill, who is back home after a stint in Dominica as a Magistrate, the DPP “does not have to indicate reasons for discontinuation to (him as) defense counsel, once he is satisfied with the evidence that he has before him (and) that the interest of the virtual complainant and so on has been taken care of.”

He stressed that the DPP constitutionally has that power to do it and expressed the view that he (the DPP) has exercised that power “justifiably, reasonably and judicially in the circumstances.”

If Harding was convicted, he would have faced a maximum penalty of seven (7) years imprisonment.

The form one (1) student at the Westerhall Secondary School, lost his life while attempting to cross the road when he was struck by a Subaru vehicle, driven by Harding traveling in the direction of St. George’s.

Felix, who was still clad in his school uniform when the incident occurred, was accompanied by some of his male peers, who had made it to the other side of the road before him.

There are reports that the other students panicked after witnessing the fatal accident and fled the scene.

Days after the fatality, the Royal Grenada Police Force (RGPF) erected two (2) speed bumps in an effort to effect greater speed control along that portion of the Calivingy main road, which had recorded a number of accidents in the preceding months.

Gregory Bowen taken to court!!!

Cable & Wireless Grenada Ltd. (‘Cable & Wireless’), doing business as Flow Grenada, has obtained leave from the High Court to sue the Minister of Telecommunications, Hon. Gregory Bowen, and the National Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (‘NTRC’), over alleged improprieties in the issuance of Spectrum Licenses to telecommunications providers in Grenada.

The Court granted leave for Cable & Wireless to pursue a claim against the Hon. Minister and the NTRC for the Court to adjudicate on whether certain procedures and decisions of the Hon. Minister and the NTRC, may have been illegal, improper and unreasonable.

Cable & Wireless has since 2008, applied to the NTRC and the Hon. Minister repeatedly for an LTE Spectrum License, to no avail.

Cable & Wireless therefore considers the failure of the Minister to grant an LTE spectrum license to Cable & Wireless as discriminatory.

The actions of the Hon. Minister and the NTRC place Cable & Wireless at a compounded market disadvantage, in not being able to provide LTE services. This will have long-lasting negative commercial consequences on the Company and may negatively impact the way its brand and products are perceived in the market by customers.

Having been granted leave, Cable & Wireless is entitled within 14 days, to pursue an action in the High Court, asking the Court to review the disputed procedures and decisions of the Hon. Minister and the NTRC.

Cable & Wireless Grenada remains committed to delivering connected entertainment solutions that enable customers to socially connect and ultimately foster relationships in the communities we serve.

The Company currently operates a world-class, island-wide 4G mobile network across Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique.

(The above was submitted by Cable & Wireless)

15 YEARS FOR MURDER

Gabriel Allyene – will spend the next 15 years at the Richmond Hill Prison

The 28-year old son of prominent religious leader, Ricardo Alleyne, has been sentenced to 15 years imprisonment for the June 24, 2017 killing of 49-year-old Anthony Alexander of Laura Land, St. David.

Female High Court judge, Justice Paula Gilford imposed the sentence which will be calculated as nine (9) months being equivalent to one (1) year in prison last week Friday, at the St. George’s No. 1 High Court, some six (6) weeks after Alleyne pleaded guilty to the offence on December 7, 2018.

At the time of the incident, the deceased and now convicted man were both patients at the Rathdune Unit of the Mt. Gay Psychiatric Hospital in St. George.

According to the evidence presented to the court, the two were both restricted to their beds due to mental problems.

However, while both hands and feet of the deceased were completely constrainted, Alleyne had the liberty of his right hand but his feet and his left hand were constrained.

After the killing took place, Alleyne was reportedly found with “his right hand holding the neck of the deceased” who died as a result of Asphyxia by Strangulation.

The incident occurred days after Alleyne was admitted to the mental health institution for evaluation following an incident on June 14, 2017, in which he reportedly stabbed his 58-year-old mother in their home at Mt. Parnassus.

It is understood that Alleyne, started to act strange, looked at his mother and called her a sorcerer, accusing her of performing sorcery, before proceeding to stab her in the chest.

THE NEW TODAY understands that a charge of wounding that was slapped on Alleyne is not being pursued by the State.

Alleyne has since been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, which is defined as a chronic mental disorder in which a person loses touch with reality (psychosis).

In Mitigation before sentence was handed down, Counsel for the murder convict, Attorney Pauline Hannibal called three (3) character witnesses who all informed the court that Alleyne was a very pleasant, warm-hearted, respectful and friendly person, who withdrew himself and became anti-social following the sudden death of his sister, approximately 12 years ago.

Testimony was also given that Alleyne also resorted to alcohol and drug abuse as well.

Attorney Hannibal told the court that her client was very remorseful, accepted responsibility and has recognised the seriousness of the offence and that he has caused grief to the family.

However, she expressed the view that the mental institution should also be held responsible for the death of the St. David resident, given that according to the evidence in the case, her client was reportedly acting “hyper and uncontrollably” upon his arrival at the mental health facility.

She also drew the court’s attention to the distance between her client’s bed and the bed of the now deceased man, noting that he was stationed a mere “three (3) feet away from the victim.

“At the time, he was very hyper, fighting with other patients and staff,” she told the court, pointing out that the “circumstances (were) set up as such that a patient (who was) acting up, was placed so close to another.”

Speaking with THE NEW TODAY following the sentencing hearing, the female attorney also noted that the deceased could not fight back to defend himself because he was totally constrained, neither could he have escaped from the attack.

“Even if he (the deceased man) was not able to fight back, if he wasn’t restrained, he might have been able to run but he was just there,” Attorney Hannibal said.

In handing down the 15-year sentence, Justice Gilford ruled that the killing was something Alleyne clearly did on impulse because of his illusions due to his psychosis, noting that in this particular case, the mitigating factors heavily outweighed the aggravating, rendering him incapable of forming an evil intent of malice or pre-meditation.

While in prison, the convicted Alleyne has to undergo psycho-therapy treatment and treatment for his psychosis along with counseling for substance abuse.

Alleyne, who up to his sentencing last week Friday, had been on remand at the prison for one (1) year and six (6) months, was also ordered to matriculate English and Mathematics at the CXC level.

Attorney Hannibal said, while she will have to speak with the family of the convicted man regarding the sentence handed down, in her opinion, the judge’s conclusion was rational.

“I find her decision was well reasoned and based on the reasoning…I think the conclusion was rational,” the attorney told THE NEW TODAY after the sentence was handed down last week Friday.

CLICO Building leased by Government to house Courts

Under pressure from the Grenada Bar Association (GBA), the Keith Mitchell-led government has moved to find a medium term solution to the lack of proper court facilities on the island.

Newly appointed Attorney General, Darshan Ramdhani

Newly appointed Attorney General, Guyana-born Darshan Ramdhani told reporters Tuesday that the Government of Grenada has struck a deal to utilize the CLICO Building on Young street, St. George’s through a lease agreement to house a number of courts.

Speaking at the weekly post-Cabinet Press Briefing at the Ministerial Complex, Ramdhani said that the plan is to utilise the building for a couple of years to provide service for about four courts.

“The government has agreed to secure the facilities at CLICO – those arrangements have to be finalised. Technical teams have already been visiting that building from the Ministry of Works to make assessments because there will be some retrofitting to be done”, he said.

“We expect that there will be four courts housed in that building – two civil courts and two criminal courts, of course with the Judges chambers and the other administrative things in place”, he added.

AG Ramdhani described the planned move into the CLICO building as “a medium term plan for the housing of the courts” as the long term plan is to build a Hall of Justice to house all the courts.

He said: “… Government continues to be committed to a long term plan and that is of course the Halls of Justice Project. This, what we are going towards, is a medium term plan. So, we expect that there would be some level of permanency there as it relates to the courts…more likely a couple years. It is not our hope to be moving around at all but to have some degree of permanency where we go now”.

Earlier in the month, the local Bar Association staged a brief protest on the grounds of the Supreme Court Registry to express abhorrence with government’s failure to keep to its promise to provide proper court facilities by end of December 2018.

GBA President, Lisa Taylor has warned the Mitchell-led government that it plans to pursue the issue of the courts until steps are taken to make sure that a number of civil and criminal courts are properly functioning to provide justice for the population.

The issue with the lack of court facilities began just around the first quarter of 2018, when the LIME Building that housed about four courts had to be closed down due to health conditions.

Ramdhani recalled the journey it took the government to get to the point of a ray of hope with the CLICO building.

He said: “You would remember that the court facilities were housed at the LIME building and because of unavoidable unforeseen events related to environmental concerns and health concerns, decisions had to be taken to remove the court facilities from that building. After considerable deliberations, decisions were taken. Those were sudden and unavoidable and it meant that the machinery of government, the administration had to kick in – considerable discussions, considerable events took place after.

“…There were attempts to source the RBTT building, as you may recall, those discussions went far away. In the meantime the government did restore the former court number (one court), the criminal court. In the meantime, we have had the civil court being housed at the Parliament Building for a brief period last year. There was the use of the CAIPO Building to house one of the civil courts and the Court of Appeal. All of this meant that the administration has been diverting funds for other important matters into securing new facilities for the court. The Ministry of Legal Affairs is very concerned about this and so is the administration,” he remarked.

The CLICO Building on Young Street, St. Georges is expected to house four courts

The local Bar Association, through its President Lisa Taylor, issued a statement on Tuesday welcoming the CLICO building move.

The release said, “The Bar has been and continues to be an integral part of the ongoing process between the government of Grenada and CLICO to secure a lease agreement for that purpose. The Bar looks forward to the successful conclusion of that process, as well as the speedy and proper execution of repairs and outfitting works which will be necessary before the high courts may commence occupation.

“Having regard to the recent debacle when similar pronouncements were made about another location with a disappointing outcome, the Bar urges prudence as lease arrangements have not yet been concluded and signed. Once this occurs, the Bar will continue to play an active and responsible supporting role to ensure that the building is commissioned for use in the shortest possible time.

“The Bar cautions that while this may represent an important development it is by no means a final solution. The Association will therefore continue its advocacy role concerning the other elements of the judicial system which still cry out for urgent action, as we look forward to the realisation of a permanent Hall of Justice for the people of Grenada.”

THE NEW TODAY understands that the Mitchell-led government was out bid by a local Credit Union in its efforts to secure the RBTT building in the heart of the city to utilise it to house several courts.

SPICE RECOGNISES OUTSTANDING STAFF PERFORMANCE

Michael Charles, Guest Services Champion of the Year and Lady Hopkin

Grenada’s only AAA Five Diamond Hotel has again rewarded its stars for their consistent excellent performance.  Spice Island Beach Resort held its 2018 Annual Staff Awards function on Monday, Jan. 14, 2019 with a number of its employees receiving recognition and high praise for their outstanding performance over the years and throughout 2018 in particular.

“It is important to honour those who continue to keep the resort in the forefront, maintaining our top class service levels and product propelling us to continue to receive worldwide accolades,” said Sir Royston Hopkin KCMG, Chairman & Managing Director. “I refer not only to the award winners of 2018 but to all the hardworking dedicated members of the Spice Family,” he added.

The top award went to a member of the culinary team, Employee of the Year Ellis Thomas, with Godfrey Pierre of the Maintenance department as runner-up.

Sir Royston with Spa Therapist, Abby Samuel

The resort’s Maintenance Supervisor Andy Andrew received the Supervisor of the Year award. The Chairman’s Awards went to Seymour Thompson of the Front Office Department, Abby Samuel of Janissa’s Spa and Kurt Humphrey of the Food & Beverage Department.

Each department honoured its top employees where Kodi Buckmire, Front Office, Atwell Redhead, Maintenance,  Joanne Charles-Roberts, Janissa’s Spa, Veinessa Alexander, Housekeeping Lyndonna Francois, Food & Beverage  and Nathalie Stafford, Kitchen Department were awarded for their exemplary performance.

Sir Royston with Employee of the Year
Ellis Thomas

Special Recognition Awards went to Derick Paul, Curlyn Campbell, Beverley Henry-Smith and Katieisha Joseph-Roberts for their consistent outstanding performances in their individual departments.  Wendy Simon, Marshanna Frank, Paul Lewis, Patricia John and Marcus Worme won the SPICE Awards.

The Middle Management Award went to Brenda Joseph, Senior Sous Chef and Most Improved Employee was awarded to Allen Baptiste of the Maintenance Department. The resort also acknowledges the impact of its employees on its guests, based on the number of times guests mention their names on their feedback cards upon departure.

Andy Andrew, Supervisor of the Year with Sir Royston

Michael Charles was awarded the Guest Services Champion of the Year for having stood out the most in the opinion of guests.  Shawna Williams was the runner-up.

An event which saw the distribution of awards valued in total of over $60,000.00 including cash prizes, accommodation and vacation prizes at resorts both in Grenada and overseas, including stays at the luxurious Jade Mountain Resort  in St Lucia and Sandals in Barbados, smartphones and numerous gift certificates, was well received by all employees.

BUJU BANTON BOOKED FOR G’DA

Grammy award winning singer, songwriter and producer Mark Anthony Myrie prominently known as Buju Banton will return to Grenada for the first time in over a decade in a highly anticipated hallmark event staged by Sunshine Promotions on May 11at the National Cricket Stadium at Queen’s Park.

Grenada is included in the regionally billed “Long Walk to Freedom tour” being undertaken by Buju Banton following his release after a prison sentence in the United States.

January 2011 was the last time the ace Jamaican reggae artiste had performed in front of a live audience as he was engulfed in legal problems in Florida.

There has been great anticipation by fans worldwide for the return of Buju Banton to the stage.

The Jamaican-born reggae and dancehall music icon will stage a series of live concerts at home and in the Caribbean branded as the “Long Walk to Freedom” tour.

Grenada is the latest island to announce a tour date and is the only OECS island thus far to confirm a staging of the world-renowned tour, through Sunshine Promotions.

The tour will be staged in conjunction with Sunshine Promotions’ annual Mother’s Day event brand – Night of Love – which featured in 2018 another reggae legend, Beres Hammond.

Founder of Sunshine Promotions, Ian St. Bernard, has noted the significance of the Buju Banton event to Grenada and the region.

He said: “Grenada has always been a major player in regional and diasporic entertainment. We are pleased to host the Long Walk to Freedom tour not just for Grenadian residents but welcome our neighbours from the OECS and other Caribbean islands as well as our friends within the diaspora.

“Grenada is well known as one of the safest islands in the Caribbean as it is among the islands with the lowest crime rates in the hemisphere. This almost guarantees a secured spectator experience for all the visitors traveling to witness the concert on the island.

“Sunshine Promotions will make this a regionally affordable event so that our friends from St. Lucia, St. Vincent, Dominica and all the neighbouring islands including Grenadians living in the US and Canada can have the opportunity to witness Buju Banton live in concert.

Sunshine Promotions will collaborate with governmental, non-governmental and corporate organisations to ensure that Night of Love; Long Walk to Freedom is a nationally adopted and supported event.

According to the local organizers, the reception from the Grenadian public, since the tour’s announcement, continues to be encouraging as this promise to be one of the biggest live concerts to be held on the island in recent years.

Among the Caribbean islands to confirm a staging of the Long Walk to Freedom tour are Jamaica, Trinidad, Barbados, The Bahamas and St. Kitts and Nevis for its annual music festival.

St. Bernard said: “Grenada is proud to be a part of the conversation when considering Caribbean islands that have regionally competitive entertainment products. As a musical destination people can visit Grenada not just to witness its beauty and warmth but to engage in one-of-a-kind signature events in an inclusive, interactive and safe environment”.

Buju Banton was arrested on cocaine charges in 2009 and given a mandatory 10-year sentence in 2011. He was deported to Jamaica on December 7, 2018 after his release from prison.
Days after his conviction, Buju Banton won a Grammy Award for his album Before Dawn.

The OAS dangerously in disarray

Over the last few days there has been a serious overreach by Luis Almagro of the authority he has as Secretary-General of the Organisation of American States (OAS).

If Mr. Almagro continues to exceed his authority, plainly set out in the Charter of the OAS, the already fragmented organisation will be headed for grave fracture.

The job of the Secretary-General of any multi-national or international organisation is to represent the positions of the collective membership of the organisation either after direction by the appropriate governing bodies or after discussion with them that establishes a consensus. Almost from the day of his installation, Mr. Almagro has steadfastly ignored any such requirements.In his latest overreach, Mr. Almagro has taken upon himself to unilaterally and publicly anoint an “Interim President” of Venezuela.

Almagro’s selection is Juan Guaidó who was elected by the National Assembly – made up of only Opposition party representatives – as its President “for a year”. He made this spontaneous statement at a meeting on January 15 at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a U.S. think-tank based in Washington, D.C.

No official organ of the OAS has made any such decision or even discussed it, and none has authorized Mr. Almagro to make it.

This latest unauthorised statement on Venezuelan matters is the most recent in a series by Almagro, directed at the Venezuelan government, that ruled-out both he, as Secretary-General, and the OAS as honest brokers in trying to reach a settlement to the political divisions that have plagued Venezuela over the past five years.

The Secretary-General has also taken to tweeting his personal views which he incorrectly represents as speaking for the OAS, a grouping of 34 countries. In a tweet on January 11, Luis Almagro stated: “We support the agreement in Venezuela’s national assembly declaring the usurpation by Nicolás Maduro and the need to apply constitutional article 233 on a transitional government and the call for an election”.

Exactly who is the “we” to whom Almagro referred is unknown, since he did not identify them. But what is known is that it is not any official organ of the OAS, including the Permanent Council, which is the highest decision-making body, representing all member states at Ambassadorial level.

It may be that Mr. Almagro is working with a handful of countries which, from their own governments’ declarations, oppose the government of Nicolas Maduro to the point where they are using every means to topple it, but in doing so, he is not representing the OAS or the collective will of the member-states. Governments are free to pursue their own national policies on Venezuela, but they have no entitlement to impose those policies on the OAS.

The reality is that the membership of the OAS is deeply divided, not over the troubling humanitarian, political and financial crisis in Venezuela, but over the response to it.

There is no member state that condones the political impasse created by both ruling and opposition parties; the shortage of food and medicines; the hardship being endured by a large number of Venezuelans; and now the flow of refugees into neighbouring countries.

The disagreement arises from the manner in which 14 countries, calling themselves “The Lima Group” has held private meetings to fashion decisions which they then try to push through the Permanent Council of the OAS on a majority vote of 18.

The problem with this approach is that when a majority of 18 secures passage of a resolution or a declaration on which others have not been consulted and that is unpalatable to them, a trail of bitterness is left among the 15 others, particularly when it is known that governments have been cajoled and pressured to help attain the majority of 18.

It is sad that in the Americas, the governments of countries, that benefitted from the wisdom of the founding fathers of the United States, ignore the observation of Thomas Jefferson, one of the authors of the U.S. Constitution, that: “All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression”.

Tied-up with Secretary-General Almagro’s disdain for the official organs of the OAS is his decision now to run for a second term, although he had previously indicated that he would not. His stance on Venezuela, particularly, would have endeared him to those member states whose governments might wish him to remain as an additional instrument for advancing their peculiar interests.

But, if Mr. Almagro is not reined-in and his overreach not curtailed, many member-states will not tolerate it, and the organisation will be damaged irreparably. Governments, except the timid and the frightened, will not sit by idly while their rights are eroded, and their voices disregarded.

Mr. Almagro’s latest dangerous pronouncement, made casually at the CSIS meeting on January 15, is that, if what he calls “the interim President” of Venezuela being Juan Guaidó, one of the leaders of the opposition, designates representatives to the OAS, he will accept their credentials and seat them, presumably ousting the current delegates.

The Secretary-General has no such authority. No instrument of the OAS gives him that power. And, if it is that Mr. Almagro is setting-up this possibility for any vested-interest group in the OAS to force adoption of such a notion by a majority vote of 18, the OAS, in its present form, will not survive it.

To be clear, objection to any such action will not come because any country is blindly supporting the Maduro government in Venezuela; it will come because the precedent it would establish would be far-reaching and dangerous for any other country that is targeted for whatever reason.

The rules of international organisations and international law must be respected and upheld, or disarray will result.

Venezuela needs a negotiated and sustainable solution for the sake of its people and for the stability of the region. Promoting division within Venezuela and isolating its de facto government from diplomatic discourse simply protracts the hardships the people endure.

(Sir Ronald Sanders is Antigua and Barbuda’s Ambassador to the United States and the Organisation of American States. He is also a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies at the University of London and Massey College in the University of Toronto. The views expressed are entirely his own)

DELAY IN TRIAL OF REYNOLD BENJAMIN

Days after the January Assizes opened last week Tuesday, with over 31 new matters and 168 overall, the lone operating criminal court is once again faced with health challenges.

On Monday, female High Court Judge Justice Paula Gilford was expected to start the highly anticipated Reynold Benjamin fraud trial at the St. George’s No. 1 High Court.

However, the judge, who did not provide much detail, pushed back the matter to February 4 for reasons which she did not specify, before the court full to capacity, including jurors who reported for civic duty.

Information reaching THE NEW TODAY is that the judge’s decision was taken as a result of mold issues still plaguing the chambers at the No.1 High Court.

In an effort to address the longstanding High Court crisis, which intensified last May, newly appointed Attorney General, Darshan Ramdhani announced Tuesday that the Keith Mitchell-led government has struck a deal to utilise parts of the CLICO Building on Young Street in St. George’s through a lease agreement.

Ramdhani said the intention is for the facility to house two (2) Criminal courts and two (2) Civil High Courts on the island.

Benjamin, a longstanding attorney, is facing two (2) counts of Fraudulent Breach of Trust involving $845, 000 in connection with the failed Capital Bank International of convicted businessman, Finton De Bourg.

THE NEW TODAY understands that Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), Christopher Nelson QC, has a total of five (5) witnesses who will give evidence in court against the famed attorney who would have to wait a couple more weeks for his trial to commence.

Benjamin is accused of fraudulently misappropriating the monies and using it for his own benefit.

The experienced lawyer, who was arrested in May 2008, following investigations by the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), allegedly committed the crimes during the period December 2002 – August 2007.

He was retained by Capbank to fight a decision of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) to refuse the Finton DeBourg-led bank into its Clearing House facility in order to allow the local financial institution to issue and clear its own cheques.

Capbank entrusted the $845, 000 to Benjamin to pay fees for its entry into the ECCB clearing house facility.

The failed bank had applied to the 1990-95 Congress government of Prime Minister Sir. Nicholas Brathwaite for a licence to operate a bank but it was turned down.

However, when the New National Party (NNP) took office in June 1995, the incoming Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Dr. Keith Mitchell overturned the decision and granted DeBourg the licence to operate the bank.

THE NEW TODAY understands that in the face of the ECCB position, Capbank was forced to use the bank accounts of a number of prominent locals including former Governor-General Sir. Daniel Williams to do financial transactions.

There was a run on the bank with customers when it failed to return a deposit of one million E.C dollars belonging to a native from the sister isle of Carriacou.

When depositors approached the bank to take out their funds, Capbank could not make payments and government was forced in 2008 to appoint Accountant, David Holukoff, the former Chairman of the Citizenship by Investment (CBI) programme, as the receiver.

Holukoff discovered that Benjamin was allegedly holding $845, 000 for Capbank and wrote him to return the money which was not done.

The Receiver filed a complaint with the FIU of the Royal Grenada Police Force (RGPF) that the CapBank’s attorney did not use the monies to do what he was supposed to do and the monies were not returned to the Bank.

If convicted, Benjamin faces a maximum penalty of five (5) years imprisonment on each count.

Benjamin has retained the services of attorneys Dr. Francis Alexis, QC and George Prime to assist him.