15 years for Killing Cousin

A 15 –year sentence has been handed down on 29-year-old, Nicklus Leroy Jacob of Berrotte, St. David, for the September 27, 2014 death of his 28 year-old cousin, Kareem Jacob of the same village.

Leroy Jacob - sentenced to prison for the death of his cousin

Leroy Jacob – sentenced to prison for the death of his cousin

Presiding judge, Justice Shiraz Aziz who presides over the No. 1 High Court in St. George’s delivered the sentence last Week Thursday on Jacobs.

The murder incident took place as a result of a misunderstanding between the two cousins and another individual over a pack of cigarette.

The deceased received a fatal stab wound to the left side of his neck, with a knife measuring 2 cm in width and 20 cm in length.

Kareem reportedly succumbed to his injuries at the General Hospital in St. George’s, where surgeons performed emergency surgery in an attempt to save his life.

An autopsy report concluded that he died from hypovolemic shock.

During the sentencing, it was revealed that Jacobs who assisted in carrying his cousin to the hospital for treatment responded in shock to what transpired and threatened to take his own life if anything happened to his cousin.

In mitigating the case, his lawyer,  Ashley Bernadine drew the courts attention to his client’s immediate acceptance of responsibility for his actions, his guilty plea at the first opportunity, his sincere expression of remorse, and his recognition of the impact the incident had on the other family members.

These were all considered by the court, which also noted the prevalence of these types of offenses in the country and the public impact of violence on the streets.

“This is a rather unfortunate case for all concerned…the loss of a life of someone who was described as a kind, friendly, helpful individual…this is mindless, unwanted violence,” Justice Aziz declared.

The judge pointed to the Social Inquiry Report, which stated that the cousins were so close that many referred to them as brothers.

The mother of the deceased also said that the now convicted man was treated just as well as anyone else in the family and his action came as a complete shock to them.

The report also noted that the accused was involved in “significant substance and alcohol abuse” throughout his life and he admitted that this usually led to arguments and fights with other persons in the community.

According to the report, Jacobs also admitted to consuming alcohol prior to the incident.

The High Court Judge lamented the aggravating factors of the case – the closeness of the two, and the fact that the crime was committed in the presence of others.

Jacobs  who has 4 previous convictions, including assault and disorderly behaviour, has been on remand at the Richmond Hill prison since September 30, 2014.

A painter/maintenance worker by profession, was initially charged with non-capital murder, but pleaded guilty to a lesser offence of Manslaughter on November 24, 2014.

Justice Aziz, granted him the full notional 1/3 discount for his guilty plea, which reduced his sentence by 5 years.

Jacobs was also credited for the time spent on remand, bringing down his sentence to approximately 9 years in prison.

The Keith Mitchell Foundation Inc. to assist needy Grenadians

A foundation has been launched in the name of Dr. Keith Mitchell to assist with the advancement and development of less fortunate individuals within the tri-island state of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique.

Four members of the Keith Mitchell Foundation Inc. (L –R): Jerome Mc Quilkin, Chairman Sir Royston Hopkin, Ronald Charles, Secretary and Dr. Elliot Mc Guire, Treasurer

Four members of the Keith Mitchell Foundation Inc. (L –R): Jerome Mc Quilkin, Chairman Sir Royston Hopkin, Ronald Charles, Secretary and Dr. Elliot Mc Guire, Treasurer

The Keith Mitchell Foundation Incorporated was officially launched Monday at the Spice Island Beach Resort in Grand Anse.

THE NEW TODAY understands that Prime Minister Mitchell, will not be directly involved with the operation of the foundation and has appointed a six-member committee to build on his vision.

The committee is chaired by prominent hotelier, Sir. Royston Hopkin, who is also involved in the annual distribution of funds to assist needy graduates from the Grand Anse Primary School in making a transition from primary to secondary school and even higher education.

Other committee members are Jerome Mc Quilkin, Ronald Charles as Secretary, Dr. Elliot McGuire as Treasurer, Kent Mitchell, who is the brother of Dr. Mitchell and Grenadian-born ex-Canadian parliamentarian, Jean Augustine.

Addressing the media during Monday’s launch, Sir Royston pointed out that the Foundation, which is still in its formative stages, is being undertaken by Dr. Mitchell, not in his capacity as Prime Minister but as an individual.

“That’s why he has formed the foundation with a committee to galvanise the vision…so he would not be involved in the foundation but it’s the responsibility of the members to galvanise on his vision,” Sir Royston said.

Noting that “the foundation is for needy persons,” Sir Royston explained that the committee seeks to achieve its goal through the facilitation of “training and education of (eligible) persons, provision of material and other necessary support of other charitable ventures and causes, and the creation of a platform for the general population of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique for needy persons.”

In highlighting the need for such initiatives, Sir Royston said, it is the intention “to have the Keith Mitchell Foundation very visible in Grenada.”

He indicated that a lot of emphasis would be placed on raising funds beyond the Grenadian shores, noting that the committee is aware that “with our limited financial resources…what we would like to do as a committee, we cannot raise the type of funding that we will need to be able to galvanize to help the needy.”

He also pointed to the lack of resources to assist needy persons and the high unemployment rate in the country.

“When you talk about the need for assisting the needy I could be the best advocate,” adding that “needy goes beyond education because there are a lot of people that need. So it’s very broad based”, he remarked.

It is Sir Royston’s view that “without giving the needy an opportunity to develop themselves…the possibility of the advancement of all of us will be inhibited and restricted because the younger folks and the needy do not get an opportunity.”

Additionally, he noted, “all the proceeds from Dr. Mitchell’s recently launched book ‘Words of Service’ will go towards the work of the foundation.”

Despite Monday’s launch, committee members were not in a position to provide much information on how persons can apply for assistance under the foundation.

“It’s a little early,” Sir Royston said, adding that “we just launched the book and we are just trying to get the book out in various areas. So it’s a work in progress.

“As Chairman of the committee, I did not want to wait until all of this is unfolding. I thought it prudent and responsible of us as a committee to let you know where we are going and as we go along we will feed you with information as to those structures that would be put in place to look at funding opportunities for people”, he said. Committee members echoed that once the Foundation is fully functioning there would be a separate committee to look at the requests for assistance.

A website is also in the making, which will help push forward the agenda of the Keith Mitchell Foundation, which is expected to be fully registered locally, regionally and internationally within the coming weeks.

Tablets still not in schools

Education Minister Anthony Boatswain has acknowledged that the ruling New National Party (NNP) government has failed to deliver on its promise to provide the nation’s children with Tablets but said it is still on the cards.

Minister of Education, Anthony Boatswain was asked to give an update on the promised tablets

Minister of Education, Anthony Boatswain was asked to give an update on the promised tablets

Addressing reporters at the weekly post-Cabinet press conference, Minister Boatswain could not say when schools will see the introduction of laptops and tablets as promised on the campaign trail by the NNP in its landslide victory in the 2013 general elections.

The initial promise was to provide the students with laptops but months after getting into office it was changed to the provision of tablets.

The Minister told reporters assembled at the Ministerial Complex on Tuesday that it would not make sense at this moment to have laptops and tablets in schools.

He said the promise was not made recklessly by NNP in the campaign as government appreciates the fact that the infusion of tablets in the schools will contribute significantly to the enhancement of the quality of education.

He stated that government is still committed to the promise but there are challenges that are preventing it from actually coming to fruition.

“We do not want to repeat the mistakes of neighbouring countries… (because) they said the biggest mistake they made was to introduce the tablets and laptops in the school without adequate preparation”, he said.

“We do not have the correct infrastructure in place as yet – we are now working with the World Bank to ensure that we have proper, adequate things in place”, he added.

He spoke of a number of issues that will first have to be addressed in order to facilitate the introduction of the tablets in the school system.

He said: “…To introduce tablets now, the content, the security measures, we have to ensure that all of that are in place before we can launch the tablet. We have to train our teachers, that (has) to be (an) ongoing process”.

Minister Boatswain gave assurances that once the proper infrastructure is put in place then the tablets and laptops will be introduced.

“The launching of tablets in schools is not practicable, it is not feasible and it will not make much sense so we are putting the necessary infrastructure in place and once that is done we will introduce it.

“That is an inevitable direction in which we have to go but in the meantime we are exploring other means, other alternatives whereby we can use the same technology and we are working with the Commonwealth…they are coming together to see how we can go the route of using open education resources to ensure that our students are exposed to new learning and teaching techniques as well in the ICT platform.

During a recent visit to the island, embattled Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro announced that he would provide the tablets as a gift to Grenada.

The Venezuelan leader handed over a limited amount of tablets to Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell as a gesture of the commitment made by Caracas.

Minister of State in the Ministry of Education, Senator Simon Stiell who also attended the press conference echoed the sentiments of the Education Minister.

He said that providing the tablets and laptops is the easy part of the process but the major issue is putting into place the right infrastructure within the school system.

“The difficult bit is ensuring as Minister said that there is the human capacity within our classrooms to be able to use the new technology – that the infrastructure and the support infrastructure and the content is not this straight forward thing and we said we do not want to make the mistakes that other countries have made,” he said.

The NNP has two more years in office to make good on its campaign promise.

Warning signs on the horizon

The powers-that-be in Grenada would like to make everyone believe that things are now good and the island has the fastest growing economy in the sub-regional grouping known as the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).

This is clearly not true and only the figment of the imagination of some within the ruling New National Party (NNP) government of Prime Minister, Dr. Keith Mitchell.

Prior to Hurricane Ivan in 2004, the NNP propaganda machine sold the nation the notion that Grenada’s economy could be considered as the new tiger in the Eastern Caribbean and sought to compare it with economic giants in South-east Asia like Singapore.

The island soon became the new begging capital in the west as Ivan left the government scurrying to debt collectors asking for a relief as the Treasury was virtually bankrupt.

Very little is heard about a report from the Washington-based International Monetary Fund (IMF) that points to the volatile situation facing the island if the debt situation is not tackled and reform of the explosive public sector.

The report said the following: “Debt sustainability remains the medium term anchor of the home grown adjustment program, but is not yet secured. The recent debt exchange deal with Grenada’s private bond creditors and completion of the broader restructuring of public debt underway will help lower Grenada’s debt stock, but continued fiscal adjustment and prudent fiscal policy over the medium term are needed to restore debt sustainability.

“In this respect, a critical element for success with regard to long term fiscal prudence in Grenada remains outstanding: public sector reform. Progress to develop a strategy to improve public sector efficiency and effectiveness has been slow. With wage pressures rising, the government needs to place priority on this important reform in order to safeguard progress attained so far, ensure a sustainable reduction in the wage bill, and meet the requirements set out in the FR (2015 Fiscal Responsibility) Act”.

The above speaks for itself.

This is the dilemma that faces Grenada – whether it’s an NNP administration in office or the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) of Nazim Burke.

There are many critical issues that need to be addressed as a matter of urgency to put the economy on a level playing field.

The NNP administration of PM Mitchell might be reluctant to address some of them at the moment since over the years its main pre-occupation has been winning general elections.

The sad truth is that Grenada’s finances were in a very precarious state of affairs for the past 10-15 years.

The collapse was prolonged by the advent of Hurricane Ivan in 2004 as the creditors were in no position to make demands for payments from an island that was left badly battered and wounded from a natural disaster.

The financial situation deteriorated to the point that by the time of the 2013 general election, the reality facing the country is that the winning party would have had to seek the intervention of the IMF.

It was not strange that within one month of coming to power, Prime Minister Mitchell had defaulted on payments due to mainly US bondholders.

The repayment deal worked out with the fund is due to resume round the middle of the year.

The IMF will be very mindful of the financial commitments to the creditors given the current construct of the Grenadian economy.

A key aspect of curtailing Government Expenditure is the monthly Wage bill.

There is enough in the report from the fund to suggest that the Mitchell-led government is dragging its feet – and for obvious reasons – on addressing in a critical manner the Public Sector reform agenda.

The economists have agreed that the current attrition policy is a drop in the ocean in addressing the huge monthly salary bill.

The situation calls for something more substantial but the government is very mindful of the upcoming general election.

Is it a situation of calling early general election with the hope of winning another 5 years in office and then implementing a more realistic policy on addressing the massive public sector wage bill.

It is the view of THE NEW TODAY newspaper that the only prudent thing to do is to embark on a retrenchment programme – similar to what was announced by Barbados in the earlier part of 2015.

The interest of the nation should come before anything else including the ambitions of anyone who is pre-occupied solely with legacy and wining general elections regardless as to the cost to taxpayers.

The IMF could not be more clear when it said that “recent indications suggest that wage and labour-related pressures are rising and the government needs to address them not only on the basis of fighting general elections.

No amount of propaganda about the fastest growing economy in the OECS will change the financial dynamics and deep hole that Grenada is still languishing in with its public finances.

Sen. Roberts vs. Chester Humphrey

Trade union representative in the Senate, Ray Robert has rebuked the President of the Upper House, Sen. Chester Humphrey for bringing the office into disrepute.

Sen. Roberts issued a press release Tuesday taking issue with Sen. Humphrey for making calls to some radio and television “Call-in” programmes and engaging in heated exchanges on political issues with members of the public.

In the release, the trade union representative felt that Sen. Humphrey who is the President-General of the Technical & Allied Workers Union (TAWU) should not compromise the office of President of the Senate.

President of the Senate – Chester Humphrey

President of the Senate – Chester Humphrey

“In my 40-year journalism career, and now as a Member of Parliament, this is the first time I have listened to a President of the Senate calling a media house to engage in bacchanal and controversial debate with members of the public on political issues”, said Sen. Roberts, a one time close ally of Humphrey in trade union matters.

The Senate President who was expelled from the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) in 2012 is now an avid supporter of the ruling New National Party (NNP) government under the so-called “Project Grenada” banner.

Under the arrangement, a number of expelled Congress member are now supporting the Keith Mitchell-led NNP, which won all 15 seats in the 2013 general election.

Following is the full text of the release issued by Sen. Roberts:

Freedom of association and the right to free speech are undisputed rights and privileges, which ought not to be inhibited. It is the right of every citizen to voice his/her opinion on issues.

However, with regard to our national leaders, they must recognise that they have a responsibility to set high standards for successive generations, rather than be in the limelight, inflaming controversial and contentious public debate, bringing their office to ridicule.

It is in this context that I find it very discomforting and very unusual to have the significant office of President of the Senate, the third highest office under our constitution, engaging in public condemnation of a previous administration and identifying current members of the Senate and their association with failures.

President Chester Humphrey calling in on talk shows – CC6 “You Decide” and on GBN’s “Beyond the Headlines” during the past few days was not in good taste. His office must rise above being a caller on a talk show.

Undoubtedly, I welcome and encourage our citizens to call in on talk shows and express their emotions; and in this case congratulating their Government on its third anniversary in office is most commendable, highlighting their success.

Party supporters in particular and others most definitely will want to showcase their achievements, and that is respected.

However, the President of the Senate, out of respect for the office and the dignity of the nation, should not reduce himself to a call – he has channels, in which he can pay glowing tribute to the government.

Sen. Roberts – not happy with his former  colleague

Sen. Roberts – not happy with his former
colleague

For example, he can write an official letter, publish a press release, and use the floor of the Senate to comment on the government under the section, “Announcements by Mr. President.”

In my 40-year journalism career, and now as a Member of Parliament, this is the first time I have listened to a President of the Senate calling a media house to engage in bacchanal and controversial debate with members of the public on political issues.

Had he been an invited guest as President of the Senate that would have been most appropriate! However, to be the protagonist or an antagonist leaves much to be desired.

As you would have heard this morning (Tuesday), the behaviour of President of the Senate was the topic of our talk shows – some ridiculed him, some expressed concern and others saw nothing wrong.

Grenada does not need its leaders, more so its senior leaders, who are supposed to be natural in public, fueling the fire of controversy and disrespect.

Already and most unfortunately, the Prime Minister has allowed Information Minister, Senator Sheldon Scott, who is paid from the public purse, to spend two hours Monday to Friday generally discrediting the opposition and anyone who chooses to express a view negative to the Government.

Scott is 90 percent about sowing the seeds of disunity and wise heads should privately engage Senate President, Chester Humphrey urging him to recognise the significance of his office to national unity and therefore refrain from being a caller on talk shows.

He has many other avenues to get his message to the nation.

Actions to Save Camerhogne Park continues

Wednesday saw the hosting of a lunch-in at the Camerhogne Park and this was followed by a candlelight vigil as The Save Camerhoge Park Committee takes further steps to keep the issue live in the minds in Grenadians.

The committee has sent out a bulletin explaining that the momentum must continue to allow government to see that Grenadians are serious about preserving Camerhogne Park.

“Join the Save Camerhogne Park Committee in its campaign to save the people’s park from commercialisation and hotel construction. Beginning this Wednesday and continuing bring your lunch and let’s all sit in the park and have a family meal from12 noon to 1 PM”, the committee said in a release.

“…We are inviting all Grenadians especially those who work and/or live in the Grand Anse/Morne Rouge area. Invite a friend and come demonstrate your solidarity. We must save the People’s Park and preserve it for generations to come. Construct the hotel elsewhere!”, the bulletin added.

The committee has collected in excess of 13, 000 signatures of Grenadians to pressure government on its plans to turn the park over to a developer.

THE NEW TODAY understands that 3,000 signatures were obtained online from Grenadians in the United Kingdom and the United States.

According to the release there is overwhelming support on social media for its efforts.

It said that, “the vast majority of people posting comments are calling on the government to recognise the cultural and historical value of the park to Grenadians and visitors; and to reject any proposal for construction in the park”.

The committee has decided to intensify its campaign with the holding of weekly Lunch-in and a Candlelight vigil that was held last Thursday.

THE NEW TODAY Newspaper spoke with the spokesperson for The Save the Camerhogne Park Committee, Ray Roberts on Tuesday about the significance of the vigil.

“It is to draw people’s attention to the fact that we’re losing a particular space…that will be lost forever,” Roberts told this newspaper.

He said the awareness will continue as the space that is enjoyed at the Camerhogne Park by the people has become part of their lives and it’s a piece of heritage that cannot be lost.

International Drag Racing Competition

Long a popular sport in Grenada – the Grenada Motor Club (GMC) has embarked upon a new era, hiring the services of a dedicated marketing and PR company to allow the motor racing events to reach their full potential in the Spice Isle.

Ian DaBreo – now serves as the group’s Public Relations Officer

Ian DaBreo – now serves as the group’s Public Relations Officer

A press launch was held at Excel Plaza, Grand Anse last week and was addressed by Minister for Implementation, Alexandra Otway-Noel, the Member of Parliament for the South St. George constituency.

In her address, Minister Otway-Noel noted that Motor Racing is one of the sports, which is contributing towards tourism integration in the region.

“The Grenada International Drag Racing is another important event that brings attention to Grenada. Sports is a wonderful way to integrate people and the Drag Racing competition does this by attracting participation from a number of islands across the region. Events of this kind, also gives us the opportunity for inter-island trade and to promote inter-island transportation”, she said.

The senior government minister commended GMC for the emphasis it is placing on promoting safety at its events, alongside their strong safety message to the driving population, with their new by-line – ‘Drive on the Road, Race on the Track.’

The Minister assured the Motor racers of the support and endorsement of the Ministries of Sports, Culture & Tourism.

The upcoming International Drag Racing event scheduled for March 18 – 20th, will commence with the arrival of the visiting cars from Antigua, Anguilla, Trinidad & Tobago, and St. Marten & St. Vincent.

The arrivals on March 18 will be followed by a motorcade drive to the Pearls Speedway, St Andrew – where the cars will overnight in preparation for Saturday’s race start. Approximately 35 visiting cars are expected to arrive for the event in addition to the 12 local racecars.

According to Public Relations Officer (PRO) for GMC, Ian DaBreo, the sport is growing in Grenada.

He said: “Over the 15 years that we have been involved in organising motor sports in Grenada – we have seen good growth in racing visitors and their entourages, alongside an ever growing interest in Grenada”.

“Soft figures are in the region of two hundred and fifty thousand dollars ($250,000ECD) contribution to the country’s GDP with up to 500 overseas visitors at the International Drag Events” he added.

Motor bike racing has also become an integral part of the drag racing events and as such the GMC looks forward to welcoming at least 6 visiting bikers alongside the resident bike racers who are invited to participate in a Motor Bike Shoot Out at the event.

Among the sponsors of the GMC International Drags are Steele’s Auto Supplies, Stag, Monster Energy Drink, Waggy T Rentals, Grenada Bottling Company,  MTV, Duty Free Caribbean, St. Augustine’s Medical Services and AllyDay Creative Projects Ltd.

Racer drivers, bikers and sponsors took part in an ‘Island Drive Around’, last Saturday aimed at encouraging even more local support for the March event.

Roland Bhola: There is nothing unusual happening

Two Government Ministers appear to be lost over the possible time Prime Minister and Political Leader of the New National Party (NNP) Dr. Keith Mitchell will call General Elections that are constitutionally due in 2018.

Speculation is rife that Dr. Mitchell who is known not to go down to the wire in calling General Elections is contemplating having the country go to the polls sometime between October 2016 and by the first quarter of 2017.

However, General Secretary of the ruling NNP Roland Bhola said this time around Dr. Mitchell might just surprise everybody and go to the end.

“The history of Dr. Mitchell has shown that he has never gone to the very end, it is said age does bring reasoning, as the wine gets older it lasts longer – we never know. This time around he might just surprise everybody and go to the very end,” Bhola said Monday night on a local radio and television programme.

The senior government minister appeared on GBN’s “Beyond the Headlines” to give an account of the NNP’s stewardship since sweeping the polls 15-0 against the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) in February 2013.

Bhola told the host that the issue of General Elections has not been brought to the party’s attention.

However, party insiders told this newspaper that the NNP has intensified its canvassing of the voter’s list.

In addition, some persons have reportedly been contacted by the Electoral Office asking them if they would be available to work for the office on polling day.

The constitution gives the Prime Minister exclusive right to set the date for the election.

Bhola, the elected Member of Parliament for the rural St. Andrew North-east constituency, sought to downplay reports about the NNP readiness for an early poll.

“I sit at the level as General Secretary and I think if there is going to be an early election, persons like myself and Senator (Simon) Stiell who is the PRO (Public Relations Officer), official spokespersons of the party, would have some kind of hint. There is nothing unusual happening, there is nothing that would suggest to us, nothing has been said to us to indicate such,” he said.

The NNP General Secretary outlined how the party is structured.

He said within the different layers of  the party there is a special committee that deals with matters and issues pertaining to elections, while there is another committee that concentrates on the organisational work.

Sen. Stiell who was also a guest on the television programme said the focus of the government right now is “delivering on the promises that we made to the people of Grenada, Carriacou and Petit Martinique,” and not thinking about the next General Elections.

“That is the focus of the discussions that are taking place within the party,” he added.

Dr. Mitchell recently informed a radio programme that his party was engaged in a one-day retreat which mandated Members of Parliament to spend more time in their constituencies.

NNP insiders have been making mention of a recent poll which suggested that the party is poised to sweep all 15 seats for a third time in the upcoming poll.

The feat was first accomplished in 1999.

Helping Haiti Help Itself

SAUNDERSHaiti has made a firm and important first step in taking responsibility for its affairs after decades of external interference.  An agreement, reached on the night of February 5, twenty-four hours before the Presidency of Michel Martelly ended in accordance with the Constitution, was as historic as it was vital.

As I said in a report to the Permanent Council of the Organisation of American States (OAS) on a Special Mission I led to Haiti from January 31 to February 6, prior to the February 5 agreement, “Haiti faced – in very stark and real terms – a situation of potential chaos”.

On the ground, these are the realities that confronted the country:

President Martelly was demitting office in 7 days with no elected successor, and no agreed mechanism for how the country would be governed; political actors were jockeying for power, making agreement on a mechanism for an interim government extremely difficult; there was tension, uncertainty and simmering conflict; and the existing amended 1987 Constitution made no provision for a transitional government.

In this troubling scenario, there was no legal answer and no space for an externally-imposed “solution”.  A way out of the morass had to be a political compact, made by the main Haitian players; it had to be one that they owned or there would be no chance for its implementation.

Of course, there were many claimants for the role of who should agree the way forward for Haiti. In the Presidential election, which was suspended in January because of politically-organised violence, there were 54 candidates for the Presidency.  But, the first round held last October had resulted in two candidates securing 58.08 % between them.

That left 52 losers for whom, as I told the OAS Permanent Council on February 12, “blaming the (elections) process as a whole is an irresistible magnet”.  Nonetheless, despite their overwhelming rejection by the electorate, many of the 52 candidates have remained active, with a few not averse to dispatching their followers to the streets for protests.

The two “winners” of the first round of the October Presidential electoral contest were Jovenel Moise of PHTH (Martelly’s party) with 32.81 % and Jude Celestin of LAPEH with 25.27 %.   As to be expected, Celestin led the chorus of the disappointed Presidential contenders who alleged “massive fraud”, although none of the independent observers of the elections agreed.  All the international observer groups concurred on many irregularities that were not sufficient to materially affect the first-round election result.

The second-round, scheduled for December was postponed to January following demands by many of the candidates, led by Celestin, for changes in the process.  But, even after changes were made, Celestin declared he would not contest the election.  However, he did not withdraw his name formally.  In the event, organised violence led to the second-round being suspended.

On the eve of Martelly’s departure, therefore, the country was faced with a crisis to which the existing Constitution provided no answer. Potentially it would be anarchy since no government would be in place. The judges of the Supreme Court themselves revealed to the OAS mission that I led that the answer to the problem was not legal; it had to be political but as close to the Constitution and the law as possible.
Recourse to a solution therefore resided in the only two institutions of government that were in existence with legitimate authority.  Those were: Martelly, who was still constitutionally the President, and the National Assembly embodied by its President Jocelerme Privert.

That is why these two constitutional entities were encouraged to find and agree on a solution that would take the country over the immediate obstacle of a Constitutional vacuum, following Martelly’s departure without an elected successor, and would establish a mechanism for choosing an Interim President and an Interim Prime Minister to superintend the country’s affairs with a clear road map to the election of a new President by an agreed and certain date.

They did so at the 11th hour and after much debate, mind-changing, and interventions by vested interests.  For instance, some persons, who would no longer command authority once Martelly demitted office, were encouraging him to continue in office after February 7 and until a new President could be elected.

Had Martelly remained in office one day past February 7, a political fire of protests would have been lit that could have engulfed Haiti and retarded any hope of progress for decades.   The cost to Haiti and its neighbours would have been beyond contemplation.  The OAS is right to be satisfied with the friendly but impartial role it has played in Haiti, always at the request of its government.

The agreement, signed on the night of February 5 by Martelly, Privert and the President of the Lower Chamber of the National Assembly, Chozler Chancy, was imperative.  As I said to the assembled Haitian negotiators, immediately after they signed the agreement in the Presidential Palace, they had “written their names in an important page of Haiti’s history, showing the world that they are capable of making mature decisions in a democratic way that would redound to Haiti’s benefit”.

The terms of the agreement have been met and are being implemented.  Martelly demitted office properly with a passionate address to the National Assembly, and the Assembly agreed on the election of an Interim President – Privert – in a process that took less than 24 hours through spirited debate and bargaining.

As I write, nominations for the Interim Prime Minister are being discussed and should be settled shortly. Haitian decision-makers have taken a crucial first step toward a sustainable democracy.  Achieving it will not be painless, not least because it is all too easy for political losers to seek advantage by organising street demonstrations.

Further, without a history of debate and decision-making within solid governmental institutions, democratic processes will be severely tested, and it will be up to the Haitian leaders to put the interests of their country first.

All this is more complicated because of Haiti’s poor economic circumstances.   Its GDP per capita is $820, less than one-tenth of the Latin American average.  Sixty percent of the population lives below the poverty line and the richest 20% accounts for 62% of the income.

Shockingly, of the population of more than 10 million people, only 500,000 are in permanent employment.   This situation is exacerbated by the expulsion by the Dominican Republic of Haitians who found work or were born in that country.

The Haitian leaders deserve every commendation and encouragement for the mature manner in which they have tackled their constitutional and political crisis.  After the installation of a new, democratically-elected President, they will need to do much more, including reform of the Constitution, judiciary, electoral system and the system of maintaining law and order. In that way, they will encourage the countries of the Americas to help them help themselves.

(Sir Ronald Sanders is the Chairman of the Permanent Council of the Organisation of American States and Ambassador of Antigua and Barbuda)

Senior civil servants accused of illegal importation of sour sop seeds

Head of government’s Zero Hunger Project, Dr. Malachy Dottin and Roy Augustine of the Ministry of Agriculture have been accused of importing into the country sour sop seeds from Colombia and Brazil respectively.

The accusation was made by Farmer’s Representative in the Upper House of Parliament, Senator Keith Clouden while addressing the Senate on a number of matters last week Friday.

Sen. Clouden who  stopped short of going into full details of the “illegal importation” of the seedlings by President of the Senate Chester Humphrey said both Dottin and Augustine who are senior members of the ministry ought to know better.

Sen. Humphrey felt that he has to protect the integrity of the House as neither of the accused men are Members and are unable to defend themselves of the allegations made against them.

“I will prefer if you bring the matter in a substantive motion  where notice is served so that everyone will have adequate opportunity to research the question and to come to the House prepared to debate”, the Senate President told Sen. Clouden.

“It is very unfair to use the privileges of the House, especially when names are called… the individuals don’t have the privilege to respond,” he said.

Several members of the Lower House especially  senior government ministers often use sittings of Parliament to attack persons who cannot respond to the allegations in the house.

In a previous sitting, Leader of Government Business in the Senate, Simon Stiell denied that the Ministry of Agriculture has granted license to anyone for the importation of sour sop seeds from Colombia or Brazil in accordance with the Plant Protection Act of 1986, Cap 242.

Sen. Stiell said no one has submitted or reported the evidence to the Ministry of Agriculture to indicate that sour sop seeds were being imported from either Colombia or Brazil.

“Any person possessing such evidence is, therefore, advised to submit it to the Ministry (of Agriculture),” he told the Senate.

Dr. Dottin is believed to be running a private plant nursery in the St. George North-west constituency.

Sen. Clouden also informed the Senate that farmers are yet to receive the promised relief assistance from the cash-strapped government that was made by Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Dr. Keith Mitchell during the presentation of the 2016 budget for damage suffered last November by the unusual rainfall.

One million dollars was allocated in the budget to be used for the damage sustained by farmers due to the rain.

Sen. Clouden said the rainfall, especially of November 8th and 9th has caused most of the rivers to flood their banks thus causing enormous damages to the crops.

“This is three months since we have had that adverse weather condition, and to date no relief assistance,” he told the Senate.

The Farmer’s Representative also  said the Mirabeau Farm Machinery in St. Andrew’s which provides tractor service to farmers have been without diesel over the last two months.

Sen. Clouden believes that as a result of the rainfall received at the end of the year on the island, the ground would have been suitable for tractor service.

He indicated that ploughing of the land constitutes a very important part of successful farming.

Sen. Clouden said the unavailability of tractor service at that time has frustrated the farming community causing them not to be able to meet commitments to the State-owned Grenada Marketing and National Importing Board (MNIB), supermarkets, and restaurants.

According to the Farmer’s Representative, Easter is a time of the year when certain events take place and it is a good opportunity for farmers to cash in on the extra sales.

He expressed fears that farmers might lose markets because of the untimely availability of diesel for the tractors.

Sen. Clouden also pleaded on behalf of the tractor operators whom he said have to operate the vehicles without a covering that can protect them from the weather condition.

He also claimed that they are being paid as chauffeurs and not as operators of heavy-duty equipment.