Edward Seaga: A Caribbean Enigma

Edward Seaga was a great Jamaican patriot well deserving of the many tributes that have been paid to him concerning his devoted service to his country. But, he was not a regionalist and his tenure as Prime Minister of Jamaica, from 1980 to 1989, contributed to the deceleration of the regional integration process.

In January 2015, he said of the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM) that “It became the syndrome of sleep. It has no economic value whatsoever. It just keeps putting forward new directions to grow, but nothing happens”.

Seaga measured CARICOM’s usefulness through a single prism which could roughly be described as the trade benefits it brought to Jamaica. As Trinidad and Tobago became the dominant exporter of goods to all CARICOM countries because of its oil subsidies, challenging Jamaican manufacturers in their own domestic market, Seaga saw little usefulness for Jamaica in CARICOM.

In a 2016 newspaper article, he declared: “Jamaica, as a misfit, has no role to play and, accordingly, should play a selected role like The Bahamas in CARICOM”. In other words, Jamaica should leave the Common Market aspect of CARICOM and participate only in the Community dimension such as functional cooperation.

Seaga did recognise a foreign policy opportunity in CARICOM if it could serve the interests of Jamaica as he saw it. That was why in 1982 when a CARICOM Heads of Government conference was proposed by the Government of Antigua and Barbuda to end a 7-year hiatus when no conference could be held, he leapt at the opportunity to host it in Jamaica.

As background, Seaga was the first head of government, globally, to be invited to the White House in January 1981 when Ronald Reagan became President of the United States. Two years before in March 1979, the New Jewel Movement, led by Maurice Bishop, had seized power in an almost bloodless coup in Grenada, and had drawn close to Cuba – a matter of grave concern to the US administration.

Reagan is reported by the New York Times to have said to Seaga, at a White House reception, that he was concerned over ”instability being inflicted on some countries” in the region by outside political forces. It was a precursor of things to come.

Seaga described the leadership of the region at the time as “largely a legacy of the original leaders which all came from a Labour Party background in England and a socialist background in general… they saw the building up that was taking place in Grenada and expected the radical left in Grenada to be able to get its way”.

Therefore, when, in 1982, V.C. Bird, as a veteran Caribbean integrationist and leader of the then newest independent CARICOM country, called for an end to a 7-year period of no Heads of Government Conference and proposed that he would host a meeting in Antigua, Seaga offered Jamaica instead. Bird readily agreed, seeing more value in holding the meeting than bickering over its venue.

At the November 1982 meeting, held at the Americana Hotel in Ocho Rios, Seaga sought to convince fellow leaders to expel Grenada from CARICOM, citing “the right of a people to change a government in elections free and fair and free from fear”. His efforts failed. The assembled leaders were unconvinced of the wisdom of expelling a member state and were doubly persuaded by the argument of V.C. Bird, one of the original signatories to CARIFTA in 1965 and a stalwart of the West Indian Federation, that no Caribbean people should be excluded from the community.

It was the implosion of the Grenada government in 1983, including the assassination of Maurice Bishop that provided Seaga with the opportunity to galvanise already willing leaders in Barbados and the OECS countries to support him in backing a US invasion of Grenada on a contrived invitation from the Governor-General, Sir Paul Scoon.

In the event, there was never any doubt in Seaga’s mind that his principal role in the Grenada invasion was anything but the right thing to do. He recalled afterwards that in Grenada, “there were five million rounds of ammunition – that’s one for every man, woman and child in the entire English-speaking Caribbean. There were a large number of assault rifles, field camps, a field kitchen, a field hospital, etc.” As he saw it, “They were preparing to provoke attacks in other Caribbean Commonwealth countries”.

The Caribbean integration project – the strength in unity – that it brings to every Caribbean country, depends on the leadership that it is given. At times of committed leadership, regional integration has blossomed; in other times of lukewarm or disinterested guidance it has stalled and even reversed.

Seaga had all the qualities of leadership that could have driven CARICOM to greater heights, but he saw Jamaica’s destiny in a greater alliance elsewhere and he pursued that objective diligently.

His lukewarm attitude to regional integration should not detract from the role he played on the wider international stage in causes that were vital to racial equality, social justice and economic improvement. He played a particularly important role in weakening the Apartheid regime in South Africa which should never be forgotten.

After trade sanctions failed to shake the Apartheid regime because of sanctions busting and secretive deals, it was he who proposed an attack on the rand (the South African currency). Learning from the calamitous effect on Jamaica of the loss of value of its currency, he advised that “once the rand started to fall in value, all that had been built up over the decades by the elite of South Africa would start to fall with it.

Trade would be dislocated because South African goods would be cheaper for exports, but far more expensive for imports, and a dislocation of trade and investment would result in adverse movement of the exchange rate. This, they couldn’t deal with”. He was right. The subsequent assault on the rand had its effect and played a role in forcing the Apartheid regime to negotiate its own demise.

On a personal note, I got to know Edward Seaga through a mutual friend, the late and dear Derek Mahfood, and I enjoyed several conversations with him characterised always with respect, notwithstanding disagreement. His significant and defining contributions to making Jamaica a great nation, to music and musicians in Jamaica and to the development and recognition of Jamaican culture have all been well documented and rightly recalled at his passing.

I relate one story that gives an insight to his humanity. On October 31, 1981, the eve of Antigua and Barbuda’s independence, he attended a party at my home where other Caribbean leaders were present. He had noted that my wife, Susan, and I had a helper, Josephine – a Rastafarian lady when Rastas were accorded little regard in Antigua; a situation well-known to Seaga. Before he left the party, he asked to meet her. He went into the kitchen, took his pin of the Jamaican flag from his lapel, and fastened it on the dress of a bedazzled and dewy-eyed Josephine.
Mr. Seaga was a tough leader, but he was also a caring man. He walked with kings and kept a common touch.

(Sir Ronald Sanders is Ambassador of Antigua and Barbuda 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 at Massey College in the University of Toronto. The views expressed are entirely his own)

PSC removed as defendant in teacher’s case

Newly appointed high court civil judge, Justice Godfrey Smith has ruled in favour of an application brought by lawyers for the Public Service Commission (PSC) to get the body removed as a defendant in a Constitutional claim filed by Secondary School Teacher Donna Marcelle Lusan in January 28.

The case was filed by former Attorney-General, Cajeton Hood who has been retained by Lusan, a teacher at St. Joseph’s Convent, St. George’s against the PSC as well as the Cabinet of Ministers, Minister of Finance, and Attorney General.

The teacher took legal action after her salary was docked by EC$1, 200 as the Keith Mitchell-led New National Party (NNP) government lashed out at public officers including teachers who took strike action in November on the 25% pension and gratuity payment issue.

The application to remove the PSC as a party on the claim was filed by the law Firm of Seon & Associates and the matter came up for its first hearing on Monday before Justice Smith.

The government’s legal team was led by Trinidadian Attorney-at-Law, Douglas Mendez (SC), who has been retained by the Integrity Commission for its case against former Marketing Board Chief Executive Officer, Ruel Edwards.

Justice Smith on Monday reportedly encouraged the parties to settle on the claim that was before him.

However, attorney Hood is taking issue with a release put out by the Government of Grenada on Monday which said that the $500.00 that was deducted from the teacher’s salary would be returned to her.

The former AG described the statement as “misleading” as this was not what was agreed upon during the hearing.

He said: “There is an agreement on both sides that on behalf of the Attorney General, Cabinet and the Ministry of Finance that they would pay to my client the sum of $1, 200 as cost and we are going (to) withdraw our application and accept the affidavits and that is the truth – it has nothing to do with $500.00”.

The attorney said he finds it shocking that the government sought to sell the story to the public by distorting the facts.

“What transpired is that $1, 200, was deducted from my client’s salary for November 2018 (and) they realised that a part of those days she was actually supervising children who were in a debate…so they put back the money for those days…that’s what happened…”, he added.

The issue however still remains whether or not the Mitchell-led government has a right to deduct monies for days not worked during an industrial dispute.

The outcome of this case would have significant implications on the wider public service and constitutional law in Grenada.

In an earlier interview with THE NEW TODAY, Attorney Hood said he “cannot recall any case in which a government, an Executive, decided contrary to the Constitution, to refuse to pay the full salary of workers who they claim were on strike.”

An experienced lawyer has said that the only body that is authorised under the Grenada Constitution to order the docking of salaries is the PSC itself and not the Cabinet.

A date for the next hearing of the substantive matter has not yet been set.

Attorney Ferguson commends incoming CCJ Judge

Attorney-at-Law Ruggles Ferguson has commended the work of Trinidadian Court of Appeal Judge, Justice Peter Jamadar, who was selected by the Regional Judicial and Legal Services Commission (RJLSC) to replace Caribbean Court of Justice Judge, David Hayton, who will retire in July after spending 14 years with the court.

Judge David Hayton will retire from the CCJ in July

“He is an excellent writer and has a great mind. He has a very impressive history as a judge (and is) particularly strong in administrative law, judicial review and constitutional matters (and) his judgments have been looked upon very favourably by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council and there are several cases where his judgments have been cited by the Privy Council,” said Attorney Ferguson in an exclusive interview with THE NEW TODAY.

Justice Jamadar currently serves as a Judge of the Trinidad and Tobago Court of Appeal, a position he held since 2008. Prior to his appointment, he worked in private practice until he was appointed a Judge of the High Court of Trinidad & Tobago.

CCJ President and Chairman of the RJLSC, Justice Adrian Saunders is quoted as saying that the incoming judge “has developed a well-earned reputation throughout the Caribbean and the Commonwealth for his well-reasoned judgments and his outstanding work as a judicial educator.”

According to Justice Saunders, Jamadar’s exemplary leadership of the Judicial Education Institute of Trinidad and Tobago (JEITT) “has contributed significantly to the success of that body, which has recently developed and rolled out a Gender Protocol for the Judiciary of Trinidad and Tobago.

“Justice Jamadar will undoubtedly be a welcome addition to our Bench”, he remarked.

According to information obtained from the CCJ’s website, the RJLSC advertised for the position of Judge in 2018 and received 18 submissions from applicants in the region and from Africa, Australia, Europe and North America.

In September 2018, eight (8) applicants were interviewed, subjected to background investigations and a rigorous selection process by the Judicial and Legal Services Commission (JLSC).

From that process, the commission selected Barbadian Justice Andrew Burgess, who was sworn in recently, and Justice Jamadar who will be sworn in on a date to be announced replacing the outgoing judge.

Trinidadian Judge Peter Jamadar is the newest judge to be appointed to the CCJ

Judge Hayton, a national of the United Kingdom (UK), is one of the founding judges of the CCJ, appointed shortly after the inauguration of the court in April 2005.

He is the only UK national on the court and is considered as one of the lead experts and authors in the area of law called the law of trusts.

Approximately two (2) weeks ago, the CCJ held a special sitting in honour of Justice Hayton, who is quoted as saying at the event that it was “an absolute honour, a privilege and a delight working in the CCJ these last 14 years.”

“It is, of course, a very privileged position to be on the CCJ Bench to serve Caribbean peoples, whether pursuant to the Court’s central Original Jurisdiction role, to flesh out and to police the skeleton structure of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas. Also, pursuant to the Court’s extensive role in the Appellate Jurisdiction, to develop the domestic laws of CARICOM member states as most appropriate to the circumstances of those States”, he said.

“Both Jurisdictions should contribute to developing the wealth and happiness of Caribbean peoples under the rule of law promoted in the constitutions of CARICOM States,” the outgoing judge added.

Judge Hayton delivered his final judgment last week Wednesday via a video conference sitting of the Court in the matter brought against the Government of Trinidad & Tobago by Grenadian national David Bain, who was being represented by Attorney Ferguson.

“I think it would be a loss for the court because he is one of the very experienced judges…but in life, after a certain age you move on and others take up the baton so, in a sense, there is a great feat of history here because this was his final sitting of the court and this was the final judgment that he read to end his 14-year tenure on the court,” Attorney Ferguson said.

Sheldon Douglas charged for issuing “bounce” cheque

Controversial soca artiste, Sheldon Douglas has been charged by local police for “writing a cheque with insufficient funds” to a travel agency in connection with a failed show that he was promoting for Moonlight City on May 4.

Promoter Sheldon Douglas – ‘I indicated to the travel agent that I wasn’t going to let the cheque cash

The charge came weeks after a failed effort by Douglas to host a show with Reggae Sensation, Mikey Spice that created quite a stir among patrons and fans who waited for hours at Moonlight City in La Poterie, St. Andrew to their disappointment.

Douglas, who is currently out on bail, told a popular social media outfit that he chose to not allow a cheque for $9600.00 to be cashed because the travel agency did not carry through on an arrangement made with him.

According to the promoter, the $9600 was for payment in cheque, together with a cash payment of $3700 for airline tickets for the reggae act.

He said that the police came to his home to take him into custody based on a complaint about a “bounced” cheque.

“…My queen told me police outside for me. They said they have a report of a bounce cheque”, he remarked.

Douglas is insisting that the Travel Agent did not tell the truth to her boss about the transaction and as a result the police were called into the matter.

The Soca singer/promoter was charged early last week and released on bail.

Sheldon Douglas is expected to appear in court on June 25, 2019 to answer the charges slapped on him.

In relation to the no-show of his main act for the May 4th reggae show at Moonlight City, Douglas indicated that a free show from the same artiste Mikey Spice will be held on October 5 for the disappointed fans.

Over the years, Sheldon Douglas has emerged as one of the main acts on the national political platform of the ruling New National Party (NNP) during election campaigns on the island.

“Tit-for-tat”

Grenada and the rest of the Caribbean should take careful note of the “cold war” that has virtually started between the United States and China on the Huawei Technologies Co. issue.

The Donald Trump administration in Washington has widened its dragnet on Chinese companies barred from selling to the U.S. or buying components from American firms in a push to slow China’s technological advances through Huawei.

The hawkish policymakers in the United States would be taking careful note of those regional governments who have been developing strong political ties with Beijing to attract developmental aid for the advancement of their people.

It’s a new cold war taking place in the region – much different from the bruising battles that took place in the 1970’s and 1980’s with leftwing revolution by Grenada, Cuba, Nicaragua and to lesser extent Jamaica which pursued policies that were an affront to Washington’s global interest.

As one political analyst stated recently, the Chinese are the only one with the “pepper sauce” in the world and their assistance around the world is rivaling that of the United States.

Washington’s interest is no longer focused on the Caribbean as it has become pre-occupied with much larger issues around the world especially in the fight against world terrorism.

However, this should not be construed to conclude that the United States is not weary of the growing influence of China in what it considers as its own “back yard”.

Unfortunately, the Americans have been giving drips of aid to regional states as compared to the “goodies” that are now coming from the Chinese.

Take for instance, the situation last week in which the United States gave two Satellite phones to Grenada for use during the Hurricane season.

This is nothing but a drop in the ocean with the fleet of vehicles given by the Chinese for use by the Royal Grenada Police Force (RGPF) and other state bodies.

China is also making available to Grenada and some of the regional states with which it enjoys diplomatic relations several scholarships and help in other areas like low-cost housing and agricultural development unlike the United States.

Our leaders understand the need to deliver to their people to face the electorate every five years in the electoral cycle.

The Chinese will never admit publicly that its agents are known to provide large amounts of cash to those politicians that it is comfortable to doing business with in the region.

Taiwan is no longer in a position to financially match the “goodies” from the Chinese which is now awash with money from its economic and financial models that are being pursued by a younger generation of leaders who are prepared to watch the Americans straight in the eye on the global level.

The Chinese will not sit idle by and allow the United States to cripple Huawei Technologies Co., China’s biggest telecommunications company, in its trust to become a major player in the 5G technology.

The punitive measures already taken by the United States will be met by retaliation by the Chinese and this technological cold war between the two world powers will continue to rattle markets around the world.

Analysts have concluded that the 5G is what Washington is most fearful about as this is the technology that will be powering upcoming technologies from self-driving cars to advanced medical procedures and the new wireless standard that is set to become the backbone of any modern economy.

Prior to President’s Trump action, Huawei, which is a major player in communications networking and the second-largest smartphone maker, was leading in supplying that infrastructure around the world.

The U.S is now desperately trying to slow down the Chinese tech company in the expansion of 5G.

It is a known fact that many people do not trust China out of fears that Huawei might allow the government in Beijing to use the platform to engage in espionage activities.

Many experts agree that Chinese tech companies still remain well behind their U.S counterparts in some key industries.

The crackdown on Huawei and other tech companies by the Trump administration in Washington should not be taken lightly by those Caribbean states that have been forging new relations with Beijing in the face of this new U.S.-China trade war.

China has threatened to retaliate against the attack on its leading tech company by the United States.

As its envoy to the European Union, Zhang Ming said in Brussel, “This is wrong behaviour, so there will be a necessary response”.

The Caribbean should be mindful to steer clear of this tit-for-tat between Washington and Beijing in the new cold war as eggs have no right in rock stone’s dance.

Damion Francis pleads guilty to causing half brother’s death

The Office of the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) has reduced to manslaughter, the indictable non-capital murder charge brought by the State against Damion Francis, 27, of Mt. Horne in St. Andrew, for the March 2018 death of his elder half-brother Steve Jeffery, who was 31 years old at the time.

Steve Jeffery – received a fatal stab to his lower abdomen

Francis was arraigned last week Friday before Madam Justice Paula Gilford at the St. George’s No.1 High Court, where both charges were read out to him.

The accused pleaded not guilty to committing the offence of non-capital murder but guilty to the lesser offence of manslaughter, which is also an indictable offence.

Francis now faces a maximum penalty of 30 years imprisonment on the manslaughter charge instead of the maximum life sentence he faced on the non-capital murder charge.

Justice Gilford set July 12 as the day of sentencing.

Attorney-at-law Naeisha John-Diarra is representing Francis, who reportedly used a kitchen knife to stab his brother in the abdomen following an altercation over a piece of clothing belonging to him, which he wanted to use to attend the annual “Good Friday sporting event” in the small village.

According to an informed source, Francis was unable to wear the clothing because his now deceased brother had used it and had to wear something else in its place.

Damion Francis – faces 30 years imprisonment for stabbing to death his older brother

The source said Francis was highly intoxicated when he returned home from the village sporting event that dreadful morning, where he met his now deceased brother asleep on the floor and proceeded to wake him up with an aggressive argument over the clothing.

As the argument ensued, the older brother slapped Francis in the face because he felt that he was being very disrespectful to their mother who was sleeping in another room.

The altercation ended up in the kitchen, where Francis reportedly drew a knife and fatally stabbed his older brother in the lower abdomen.

The older brother was taken to the Princess Alice Hospital at Mirabeau in St. Andrew where he was pronounced dead.

THE NEW TODAY understands that Steve is the second brother in that family to lose his life to violence.

In October 2011, their older brother Dellon Jeffery, who resided at La Digue in St. Andrew, died at the age of 27, after receiving a chop to his neck at the hands of Sherwin Shane Buckmire, who was 20-years-old at the time and is close to completing a 15-year sentence at the Richmond Hill Prison for the atrocious crime.

Sir Royston lands another major award

Sir Royston Hopkin, Chairman and Managing Director of Spice Island Beach Resort, Grenada was bestowed the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Caribbean Hotel and Resort Investment Summit (CHRIS) in Miami.

Each year CHRIS bestows a Lifetime Achievement Award on an individual who has made significant contribution to the hospitality industry over his/her lifetime.

Sir Royston Hopkin, KCMG and family at function in which he receives Lifetime Achievement Award

This year the award was given to Sir Royston who said in his thank you speech that he was honoured to receive this award since he has dedicated his life to Tourism.

Sir Royston and the Spice Island Beach Resort have raised the bar in the Tourism Industry to a level that has earned recognition locally, regionally and internationally.

Attending the summit on behalf of Grenada was Chief Executive Officer, Grenada Investment Development Corporation (GIDC), Ronald Theodore who said that there is currently a great level of interest in investment for tourism developments in the tri-island state.

With over 400 attendees at CHRIS representing development interests from all major brands/chains, investment houses, commercial and private equity firms, and of course destinations throughout the region, it was a good time to be at the Caribbean’s most noteworthy hotel investment conference.

Commenting on the Award, Minister for Tourism and Civil Aviation, Dr. Clarice Modeste-Curwen, highlighted the high percentage of Grenadians on island who own and operate hotels.

She was elated that Sir Royston, a well-known and respected leader, in the Caribbean tourism industry, was recognised at this stellar event.

The female Minister congratulated Sir Royston on being the recipient of this 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award.

The Government of Grenada is desirous of advancing and seeking investments in Tourism and this important recognition helps elevate the profile and media exposure of the destination.

Minding Your Legal Affairs

The Employee’s Rights

Termination of Employment

The employment contract continues to be governed by contract law, and as such, a remedy for breach of contract will lie in favour of both employer and employee if one party terminates the contract without cause or without just cause, in accordance with the terms of their agreement.

Sometimes, however, the remedies that contract law will provide will not be adequate. The Parliament therefore attempted to provide a clear prescription for compensating an employee upon termination, and or a clear prescription on an employee’s obligation to his employer in terminating his contract, in the Employment Act.

Termination by the Employee

Under the Employment Act, the employee must provide the employer with notice of termination, except where the employer’s conduct can be described as constructively terminating the contract.

Except upon a constructive dismissal, an employee must give his employer at least 2 weeks’ notice where employed for 3 months or more, and 1 months’ notice where employed for 1 year or more. If the employee does not do so, the employer is only obligated to pay him up to the date of termination.

Where an employee considers that the employer’s conduct is so unreasonable that he cannot reasonably be expected to continue the employment relationship, he can terminate without notice, and present a claim that he has been unfairly dismissed. The danger of doing so is caught in the test of reasonableness or unreasonableness and who gets to make that determination. It is not a scientific formula.

Termination by the Employer

Where a contract is not for a specified period of time or for a specific task, so that it expires by passage of time or completion of the task, and it does not contain an unconditional clause for renewal, it is a contract for an unspecified period of time according to the Employment Act.

After the probationary period has passed, such a contract can only validly be terminated for a reason connected with the capacity or conduct of the employee, or based on the operational requirements of the business, or breach of contract or disciplinary rules of the employer.

Unless the conduct is so serious that it can justify termination without notice, called summary dismissal, then the employer, in terminating, must:

(1).Give written notice of termination or pay instead of notice;

(2) Minimum periods of notice are as follows:

(a).1 working day if employed for less than 1 month;

(b).1 week if employed for 1 month to less than 3 months;

(c).2 weeks if employed for 3 months to less than 1 year;

(d). 1 month if employed for 1 year to less than 5 years; and

(e). 2 months if employed for over 5 years.

(3).Pay termination allowance, calculated as 1 week’s wages for each completed year of service;

(4).Give or pay all benefits accruing at the date of termination, for example, earned vacation leave;

(5). Make all payments due upon termination within 7 days of termination; and

(6).If requested by the employee, provide a certificate of termination containing matters prescribed by the Employment Act.

Where the employer fails to comply with the above, the employee can make a claim for unfair dismissal.

(The above was submitted by the Grenada Bar Association)

OIL & GAS: GRENADA VS. THE NORM

When countries have oil and gas resources, they typically sign Production Sharing Agreements (“PSA”) with foreign oil companies (in this article called “FOC”) for exploration and development of those resources.

There are certain basic characteristics in PSAs, that ensure that the country with the oil and gas resource and the FOC mutually benefit from the relationship. The PSA that our Government signed with GPG on 31st March 2008 departed significantly from these basic characteristics, so that it was heavily one-sided in favour of GPG.

The FOC is usually a financially sound company with vast experience in commercial petroleum exploration and development. ExxonMobil, BP, Shell, Sinopec, Total SA, Phillips and Lukoil are among the top FOCs in the world.

GPG is a locally formed company, set up on 11th December 2003, for the sole purpose of entering into the oil and gas agreements with our Government. Therefore, at the time of signing the PSA with our government, GPG had absolutely no experience, expertise or history in the petroleum industry.

It also turned out that GPG lacked the financial means to undertake exploration and development. It did not come up with the upfront payments it was required to make under the agreements with Government.

The first US$2.5m, it borrowed from an individual, Lev Model.

The second sum of US$10m to be paid within one (1) month of signing the PSA, it did not pay. Instead, our Government decided to accept a “comfort letter”. This US$10m was supposed to represent GPG’s minimum exploration expenses.

The failure of GPG to come up with this sum was early proof that it lacked the means to carry out its obligations under the PSA. Yet, Bowen and Mitchell recklessly persisted. Was there something in this deal for them and the NNP?

The Government of Grenada is the ONLY country to have signed a PSA with GPG since its formation in 2003. Why Government chose to sign a PSA with GPG instead of seeking a relationship with one of the more experienced, financially sound, reputable FOC remains a mystery?

The mystery is compounded by the fact that the PSA was signed against the advice of our legal experts.

Under usual PSA terms, the country remains the owner of all the resources and the FOC is entitled to a share of the production. The FOC is also entitled to recover its operating costs. Sometimes PSAs give governments an option to bear some of the operating costs. It is not usually compulsory for governments to do so. It is their choice as owner of the resource.

With GPG, things are different. Under the PSA with GPG, Government is required to buy an interest of up to 20% in the investment. That means we are required to buy what we already own.
Furthermore, once ‘purchased’, Government cannot sell that interest to third parties without GPG’s prior written consent. The unreasonableness of this clause is astounding. We must ‘purchase’ an interest in what we already own then get GPG’s written permission if we want to sell what we have ‘purchased’.

Under normal PSA’s the country as owner of the resource decides whether or not it will exercise its option to participate and how it will do so. With us, GPG is calling the shots. No wonder the experts found the PSA to be so blatantly one-sided in GPG’s favour, that it “represents a reprehensible bargain between the parties.”

As we indicated in an earlier column, because everything about our oil and gas resources is veiled in secrecy, we do not know whether government signed a different PSA with GPG after 2013.

However, we have every reason to believe that they did not and are proceeding on the basis of this wholly one-sided PSA.

We will therefore continue to share with the people of Grenada all we know of the agreements related to our oil and gas resources because we believe it is the people’s right to know.

We again call on Mitchell, Bowen and their Cabinet to stop with just talk of transparency. Back up those words with actions and publish the PSA. We urge every Grenadian to be ready to stand in defence of our patrimony. This issue is bigger than loyalty to political party. It is about loyalty to country, love of country and defence of our inheritance for our benefit and that of future generations.

(The above reflects the views of the main opposition National Democratic Congress)

Duncan: Bank fees are here to stay

“Not because you are not paying for something, means that there is no cost.”

Manager of Grenada Co-op Bank, Richard Duncan

Those were the words uttered by Managing Director of the Grenada Co-operative Bank Limited (GCBL), Richard Duncan as he responded to a question posed at a press conference on how the bank intends to deal with increasing queries from customers about the frequent increase in bank fees and charges.

Duncan told reporters gathered at the bank’s headquarters on Church Street, St. George’s, that the reason for the emergence of these fees and charges are because of compliance and regulatory requirements that are now placed on commercial banks.

“Bank fees are here to stay,” said the former Accountant General in the Ministry of Finance.

Duncan said that Co-op Bank’s Fair Fee Policy is intended to give assurances to customers about the affordability of their fees.

“…We always like to give customers adequate notice when we introduce a fee or we change a fee and I wish for us to give at least a month. I need to pause here and apologise for the fact that people did not get a full month the last time fees were revised, however, that is not the norm…”, he added.

According to Duncan, it is not the policy of Co-op bank to slap on the highest banking rates and charges to customers in the local banking sector.

He said: “…Our fees when we compare across financial institutions are reasonable and … we always encourage customers (to) choose their channels – choose the way they deal with the bank so as to avoid these fees or to minimise them.

“Customers must (get) accustomed to the fact that they have to pay for services. Choose how you access those services, so you can minimise the fees…and avoid those fees where possible and choose a bank that does not have the highest and those aggressive fee structure in banking,” he added.

The local banker also advised customers that they can look at alternative sources of banking to help reduce cost such as the use of debit and credit cards but to ensure that the proper security measures are always maintained.

Duncan noted that the convenience of these online services (debit and credit cards) has brought about a certain level of comfort for customers in terms of ease of doing business, and the ease of transactions.

But he quickly added that customers needed to be reminded “that they have a responsibility in keeping their information secure and by information, I mean, things like user names, passwords, your pins”.

“…What you find globally is that most, if not all financial institutions have very secure computerised systems, but sometimes the lapses by customers having their information shared or compromised is the beginning of problems for the majority of customers,” Duncan said.

The Co-op boss disclosed that the local financial institution has sought to address this issue by raising public awareness to encourage customers to keep their information secure at all times.

He said: “Remember your pin for your debit card or your credit card must be kept private like any other one. Your password, your user name for any system that you use on the internet, those are yours, do not go for example sharing with people that you do not know, either on the telephone or online clicking on certain links that might be there.

“…Cyber security as we know it is extremely important, and rest heavily on the customer keeping their information to themselves and not sharing it or giving it out to anyone directly, or going and submit information to people who would have lured you into making such submission, and these are global practices that we want people on the island to continue to cultivate and to harvest,” he added.