Former Magistrate on sexual assault charge

A former acting Magistrate and practicing attorney-at-law, has found himself on the wrong side of the law, after a 24-year-old female accused him of sexually assaulting her.

THE NEW TODAY understands that Attorney-at-law, Raphael Baptiste, was detained by police officers attached to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) in St. George’s last week Thursday, following a report that he had sexually assaulted the young lady at his Gore Street office, St. George’s.

It is understood that the St. Patrick’s resident was charged with one count of Sexual Assault and bailed in the sum of $10, 000 with one surety to make his first appearance before a St. George’s Magistrate’s Court on November 27.

Information is sketchy but it is alleged that the longstanding attorney is being accused of touching the complainant on different parts of her body without her consent.

Baptiste faces a maximum penalty of 14 years imprisonment if convicted of the offence.

Former President of the Grenada Bar Association (GBA) Ruggles Ferguson noted that Baptiste does not automatically face disbarment from the profession if convicted in court of the alleged offence.

Ferguson is quoted as saying that “disbarment is the ultimate form of discipline,” apart from other measures such as suspension which can be enforced in case of a conviction.

THE NEW TODAY contacted President of the Grenada Bar Association (GBA), Attorney Lisa Taylor last week Friday for a comment on the Baptiste issue and she was rather tight-lipped on the issue.

Taylor only expressed concern about the predicament that the attorney has found himself in.

“We are aware, we are concerned and we await the process,” she said.

MURRAY PUT ON $10, 000 BAIL PENDING APPEAL

45-year old businessman Nigel Murray, who was serving a 12-year prison term at the Richmond Hill Prison after being convicted on two drug-related charges, has been granted bail in the sum of $10, 000 with two sureties, pending his appeal.

Drug convict Nigel Murray – seen exiting the compound
of the Court of Appeal

The Court of Appeal took this decision last week Friday, in light of the unavailability of transcripts emanating from Murray’s high court trial, which concluded in April 2015 at the St. George’s No. 1 High Court.

He was convicted on charges of possession and trafficking of a controlled drug.

Murray, through his attorney, Barrister-at-Law Anselm Clouden, is appealing against his conviction and what has been labeled, the “excessive sentence” handed down to him, by then presiding High Court Judge, Madam Justice Margaret Price-Findlay in June 2015.

As part of his sentence, Murray was also fined EC$150, 000.00 which was to be paid on or before February 29, 2016, with a default 10-year prison term.

The accused, along with Murrel John, were arrested and charged by police on the two drug-related charges in a matter dating back to October 2009, which centered around the confiscation of 208 pounds of Marijuana carrying an estimated street value of between EC$300, 000 and EC$ 500, 000.

The illegal drugs were intercepted by police in a vehicle driven by Murray, somewhere in the vicinity of the Grand Mal Fish Market jetty area.

However, during the trial, a 9-member jury found John not guilty and the charges were dismissed against him.

Murray, who at the time the sentence was handed down to him sported a Rastafarian hairstyle, is now seen with a low cut as he appeared before the Court of Appeal last week Friday.

“I am going to sue you,” he told THE NEW TODAY reporter, who was outside the court taking pictures of him as he emerged from inside the building.

Books from India

The Honorary Consul of India to Grenada, Shadel Nyack-Compton has presented a collection of Indian books from the Indian High Commission to Trinidad, to the Grenada Community Library and Resource Center.

Shadel Nyack-Compton – The Honorary Consul of India to Grenada together with officials and students

The donation coincided with the library’s Open House activity to increase visibility, and membership.

This donation of books to the people of Grenada is the latest initiative from the Indian High Commission aimed at providing educational tools, increasing knowledge of India, and building closer cultural links with Grenada.

Head of the Board of Directors, Cheryl Kirton, accepted the donation on behalf of the library and registered her thanks to Indian High Commissioner Biswadip Dey and the Government of India for this notable contribution, and for recognising the work of the library.

Kirton welcomed with enthusiasm this new genre of books, that will widen the knowledge of India within the present membership, and also encourage new membership from within the Indian community.

In response, Nyack-Compton stated that it was a great honour to present the books as learning tools from the Indian High Commission.

She said that the timing of the donation was particularly fitting in keeping with the 150 celebration of the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi during the month of October, and shared a favorite and applicable Gandhi quote: “Love requires that true education should be easily accessible to all and should be of use to every villager in this daily life. The emphasis laid on the principle of spending every minute of one’s life usefully is the best education for citizenship.”

The Honorary Consul went on to say that she looks forward to an ongoing positive bond between Grenada and India and she commended the library as being the only public library offering “our young people a place to enhance their education and an excellent service to our communities”.

Nyack-Compton also thanked the library for accepting the donation, and for its willingness to promote “a better knowledge of our Indian heritage in Grenada”.

During the activity, the Honorary Consul shared information about 2 cultural and educational opportunities for Grenadians offered by the Indian Government – the Indian Technical and Educational Co-operation (ITEC) and the Know India Program (KIP).

Grenadians are strongly encouraged to apply to the programs.

35 years later!!!

On October 25th 2018 it will be thirty-five years since the USA and allies invaded the Caribbean island of Grenada, a Commonwealth country with a British Governor General, without the knowledge and against the wishes of HM British Government.

Documents recently released under the thirty-year rule show conclusively that the justifications put forward by the United States Government to justify the invasion of this Caribbean island were false and bring into serious question whether the invasion was legal under international law.

The justifications given at the time by the US Government to justify the invasion were: –

• That the request for intervention had been made by the then Governor General of the island, Sir Paul Scoon,

• That Grenada was a potential threat to other islands in the region because of the construction of a military airbase, and

• That there was a threat to US citizens and therefore the invasion was necessary to restore order.

Although it is the case that at some point Sir Paul Scoon signed a note seeking assistance, the released documents show that the note was written AFTER the invasion had taken place, not before it, and it seems clear that it was in fact brought to Sir Paul for signature by the invading forces after the event.

In a letter to then Foreign Secretary Sir Geoffrey Howe the High Commissioner to the West Indies, Giles Bullard, wrote: “This attempt to give the intervention a retrospective legality reflects no credit on those concerned.”

Grenada is a small island and at the time of the invasion it had no air force or navy. The US Government claimed the airport under construction at Point Salines was a military installation which was intended for use by the Government of Cuba. In fact, the airport was wholly a civil installation to facilitate the growth in tourism.

The released documents include a very detailed Press Release from a UK company, named Plessy, who were one of the main contractors employed to construct the airport. In this document, Plessy explains at length the facilities required for a military airbase all of which were absent from the one being constructed. Remarkably, after the invasion the airport was completed to the original design.

The released documents show that there was no evidence that foreign nationals, or indeed Grenadians, were in any danger. The UK Deputy High Commissioner met with Sir Paul Scoon who confirmed US citizens were not in any danger but went on to voice concerns about potential loss of life if there was an invasion; during this meeting, he did not make any request for foreign assistance or intervention.

Bullard reported that the Revolutionary Military Council (RMC) were temporarily in control of the island after the tragedy on the fort; he reported they made it clear that they were professional soldiers who had intervened to preserve law and order and has no desire for political power.

The bulk of the US citizens on the island were students at the medical school and they were given regular supplies of food and water.

Reference in the documents is made to the RMCs intention to form a broad-based interim Government and hold elections within a short period of time.

CHRG has documentary evidence that the RMC held a meeting with Sir Paul Scoon just before the invasion to discuss setting up such a broad-based civilian Government within 14 days, and he offered to speak to some of the individuals who were proposed.

In the circumstances, the released documents appear to show that the invasion of Grenada was illegal under international law. The UN Security Council never agreed to the invasion and the Grenadian authorities in charge at the time, including the GG, never invited the US in. Plus, there was no threat to the national security of the US.

These are the prerequisites for invasion under the UN charter.

CHRG now calls upon the US Government to compensate those who suffered loss as a result of their illegal intervention.

Alan Scott
(Secretary of CHRG, UK)

Editor’s Note: Mr. Scott is very selective on issues chosen to ventilate on the so-called military invasion, military action or rescue mission by U.S and Caribbean forces on October 25, 1983. He has deliberately left out the vast amount of misinformation given by General Hudson Austin and Major Leon “Bogo” Cornwall in meetings with Sir Paul when they made him believe that the bodies of Maurice Bishop and others would be handed over to family members for burial when they fully well knew that the bodies were already burnt beyond recognition and destroyed at Camp Calivigny.

G’da appoints new OECS Ambassador

Government Senator, Kathisha Williams is set to become the new Grenada Ambassador to the sub-regional grouping known as the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).

Senator Kathisha Williams

Well-placed sources told THE NEW TODAY newspaper that Sen. Williams is quitting her job as a lawyer attached to the law firm of Derek Sylvester & Associates to take up the ambassadorial position.

A source who asked not to be identified said that the new ambassador would operate from an office within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs headed by Peter David.

Sen. Williams is replacing Agricultural economist, Dr. Patrick Antoine who recently broke all ties with the ruling New National Party (NNP) government amidst reports of a major fall-out with Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell.

“I am aware. They are grooming her”, a source quoted Dr. Antoine as saying in response to the appointment of Sen. Williams as his replacement in one of the four positions that he relinquished from government.

The female attorney-at-law is said to be interested in a fulltime career in politics and might be eyeing the St. John constituency currently held by Minister in the Ministry of Fisheries, Alvin DaBreo.

Sen. Williams is from the Concord area of the constituency which is regarded as a “garrison” village for the ruling party.

The source said that the job offer to Sen. Williams is not unexpected as the hierarchy of the NNP is targeting Attorney Sylvester who like Dr. Antoine has severed ties with PM Mitchell following the March 13 general elections.

“I did hint to you that she (Williams) was going to leave (Attorney) Derek (Sylvester) soon as the man (PM Mitchell) would not want her to remain much longer with Derek. The man (Dr. Mitchell) really finish with Derek and has no use for him anymore”, he remarked.

“If the man (PM Mitchell) gets a chance he will like to strip Derek of all the lawyers working with. He wants to teach Derek a lesson. He finish with Derek for good”, he said.

In recent weeks, NNP operatives have been spreading word on the ground that both Dr. Antoine and Sylvester have been “courting” officials of the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) to help in its rebuilding process following the 15-0 loss at the polls.

Both PM Mitchell and Foreign Minister David have approached Dr. Antoine on the issue of his alleged relationship with the Congress party and he reportedly told them that he was too busily engaged with government work and other tasks at the moment.

The NNP regime is still to appoint anyone to fill some of the other position that were previously occupied by Dr. Antoine including Ambassador to the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

Teenager Killed in Road Accident

Tori John – was pronounced dead at the General Hospital

A vehicular accident on Sunday has claimed the life of an 18-year-old young man.

Dead is Tori John of Concord, St. John who reportedly suffered serious head injuries after he was thrown out of a moving vehicle at high speed.

The accident happened around 10.36 a.m. Sunday when the driver of a Suzuki Escudo, license plate number PW 301 allegedly lost control while travelling in the direction of St. George’s with four occupants including one female.

According to a police report, the vehicle spun out of control due to the high levels of speed, catapulted twice and ran into a wall on Green Bridge at Queen’s Park, St. George.

John was seen lying on the ground with blood pumping out of his head as he waited for the arrival of the ambulance.

The deceased along with the three others were rushed to the St. George’s General Hospital but John was pronounced dead on arrival.

The vehicle as seen moments after the mishap in which one person died

A release Monday from the Community Relations Department (CRD) of the Royal Grenada Police Force said, “Police are investigating an accident that occurred over the weekend claiming the life of an 18-year old St. John resident. Tori John of Concord died after the vehicle in which he was a passenger careened out of control while traveling along the Queen’s Park (St. George’s) main road in the vicinity of Green Bridge.

The incident occurred about 10:36 a.m. on Sunday 21st October, 2018.

Three other persons, two males, one of whom included the driver and one female sustained injuries and have all been hospitalised.”

John is the second teenager to have died as a result of a vehicle accident this year.

In August, 17-year-old Alex Joseph from the sister island of Carriacou, lost his life tragically when he too was thrown out of a car that was driven by his cousin.

This is the sixth road fatality for 2018, in which police figures show the island has recorded 1726 road accidents so far.

NIS fraudster placed on EC$100, 000 bail pending appeal

Former Data Clerk at the state-owned National Insurance Scheme (NIS), Raymond Beggs, who was ordered to serve a two-year and one-month prison term in July 2017, after pleading guilty to one count of Defrauding his employer of EC$163,207.85, was last week Thursday granted $100, 000 bail with two sureties, pending his appeal.

Court of Appeal grants bail to former NIS employee, Raymond Beggs, who is appealing the sentence handed down to him after he pled guilty to defrauding the NIS of approximately $163, 207.85

A panel of Court of Appeal Judges comprising Justices Kelvin Baptiste, Louise Blenman, Gretel Thom, Paul Webster and Mario Michel granted bail to the prisoner, following a successful application on his behalf by legal counsel, Attorney-at-Law, George Prime.

According to the former Magistrate, the matter involving Beggs is “not yet ripe” to be heard before the appellate court, because “the transcripts (from the High Court proceedings) are not ready.”

“We took a view that if this matter is to be ventilated before the court as it should, then Beggs would have served his time (2-year and 1-month sentence), before the appeal is heard. This is considered in law, as a special circumstance, warranting putting the man out on bail,” Prime told THE NEW TODAY on Monday – following the October 15-19 sitting of the Court of Appeal.

Prime said that his client would have already served his time, if the prison took time already served into consideration since he had already served 59 days on remand in custody which should have be tabulated as part of the sentence.

“So now, he is out on bail but if they work it in (the 59 days spent on remand), then he wouldn’t have to go back (to prison)”, he said.

“If it is not worked in then he may have to go back when the time comes for the appeal”, he added.

Apart from the prison term, which was handed down to Beggs at the St George’s No. 2 High Court by High Court Judge, Madam Justice Paula Gilford, on July 24, 2017, he was also ordered to repay the EC$163, 207.85 back to the NIS by monthly installments of EC$3, 300, when he comes out of prison.

Attorney Prime is also appealing against this aspect of Beggs’ sentence by challenging its “effectiveness” and deeming it as being “excessive.”

Beggs, who is from Byelands, St. Andrew but resided at Paraclete, St. Andrew, was 32 years old when the sentence was handed down on him.

He was arrested by members of the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) in January 2013 on 23 fraud-related charges, which alleged that he used other people’s accounts to fraudulently make claims to the NIS, amounting to EC$163,207.85.

The former NIS employee claimed that the monies were used to offset some serious debts he had incurred, such as an accident in which he was involved and was in the wrong.

He claimed he had to repair the other person’s vehicle at a cost $20,000.00.

However, he couldn’t give reliable account of how the rest of the monies were used and claimed that he had not purchased anything else.

Beggs had served as a clerk at NIS and had worked in different departments there over a 10 year period before committing the offences between 2008 and 2012.

The maximum penalty for such a crime is five years in prison.

Fix the Bill or the People will Vote “NO”

Whenever the referendum is held, November 6th or later if postponed, the question voters will be asked to answer “YES’ or “NO” to is: “Do you approve the Bill for an Act proposing to alter the Constitution of Grenada cited as Constitution of Grenada (Caribbean Court of Justice and Renaming of Supreme Court (Amendment) Bill, 2018?”

How many people will honestly be able to answer “yes” to this question? It is important to note that people will not be asked: Do you want the CCJ to be Grenada’s final court of appeal?

These are too very different questions.

The NDC is of the view that the Bill proposed must be such that it rises to the level that entitles it to enjoy Constitutional prominence; and that it sufficiently addresses the concerns Grenadians have in relation to the change of our final court of appeal.

The NDC believes that Grenada should embrace the CCJ as our final appellate court, but we will not support the Bill proposed as it now stands. Certain anomalies, omissions and deficiencies in the Bill must first be addressed.

Firstly, most of our people express fear that if the CCJ is embraced as our final court of appeal, the independence of the judiciary will be at risk in that, the judges of the court will be vulnerable to political influence or pressure.

This is a real and well-founded concern that the NDC believes the Government and those promoting the Bill have not sufficiently addressed either in the Bill itself or in the “yes” campaign now on.

The Agreement Establishing the CCJ was made by the CARICOM Heads – politicians. The agreement does make a reasonably good attempt to insulate the court from political pressure, but the Bill itself does not sufficiently address this issue.

The NDC says the Bill can still be improved to give the public more comfort that our highest court will be sufficiently insulated from political influence.

At present, judges of the High Court and the Court of Appeal, including acting judges, enjoy certain Constitutional protections that the Bill does not propose to give judges of the CCJ if that court becomes Grenada’s final court.

Under Schedule 1 Part II of the Constitution, judges of the High Court and Court of Appeal are protected to the extent that to change how they are: (a) appointed, (b) their tenure, (c) arrangement for their salaries, (d) the Judicial & Legal Services Commission will require a referendum.

The Bill does not offer the same protection to the judges of the CCJ in that, it does not propose to constitutionally provide for these matters in the same way. The way the Bill is drafted, Parliament, (the politicians) reserve the right to interfere with these matters once they have a two-thirds majority in Parliament. They will not require the involvement of the people through a referendum, unlike the case with the judges of the High Court and Court of Appeal. This is a glaring deficiency in the Bill that the NDC says must be fixed before a vote is held.
Secondly, at present, to appeal as of right to the Privy Council, the subject matter of the dispute must be valued at $1,500.00 or more.

Article XXV of the CCJ agreement sets the value at $25,000.00EC for all contracting parties.

The Bill at section 9(5) tries to retain the $1,500.00 value, while at the same time incorporating the $25,000.00 provided for by the CCJ Agreement. This creates confusion because as it stands, the Bill has two different values with none of the sections taking prominence. As far as the NDC is concerned, this is a substantial discrepancy that can easily be fixed with an amendment to the Bill.

Thirdly, section 10 of the Bill proposes to introduce a new section 104B to the Constitution which apparently has the effect of nullifying the present section 103 of the Constitution. We are certain that this was not intentional. Section 103 of the Constitution gives citizens a right of appeal from a decision of the High Court to the Court of Appeal. This again is an easy fix that can be achieved with an amendment to the Bill. The NDC remains baffled as to why there is the refusal to do so.

Fourthly, the Trade Unions’ Council have raised an issue which at the very minimum, the NDC says should be given some consideration before a vote is held on the Bill. That is, section

37 of the Constitution should be amended to allow for the CCJ to be the final court of appeal in matters pertaining to the outcome of a General Election.
Presently, the final court of appeal for such matters is the Court of Appeal. There is merit to this suggestion and if it is not done now, to do it later, will require another referendum.

Those in charge seem hell bent on proceeding with the vote on November 6th. There appears to be some magic to that date. In fact, Prime Minister Mitchell is reported to have told a gathering recently at Presentation Boys’ College, that this is an emergency and we must proceed at once. We ask, why the rush? What is this emergency? Is there some ulterior motive?

The NDC will not abandon the interests of the people and co-operate with those in power to rush a referendum on the people when absolutely no explanation has been given as to why this mad haste. We will not support an amendment to our supreme law which is shown to be deficient.

We say, postpone the referendum and fix the flawed Bill. We have waited 500 years to break the chains of colonialism, why can’t we wait\ another 6 months? That is perhaps the most time we will need to address the issues in the Bill and the electoral system.

We urge on all Grenadians if the referendum is on November 6th, VOTE “NO’!

The CCJ – OUR OWN to Embrace and Refine

By Dr. Wendy Grenade

The referendum debate has thrown up valid arguments on both sides.

Grenadians have proven that they can raise hard questions and respectfully confront burning, controversial issues.

As Grenadians, we are often hard on ourselves. We do not sufficiently realise the extent to which our public discourse is a reflection of our collective selves – unapologetically passionate and intense; yet cool, relaxed and peaceful. We must never take this for granted.

In many parts of the world, a highly charged issue, such as the decision on a country’s final court of appeal, may lead to conflict and breakdown. Grenadians must be commended for utilising various forms of media to ventilate the issues, while remaining true to the essence of who we are.

Against this background, I have chosen to write this article to address several issues in the debate and importantly to remind us of some of the core values that have defined us as Grenadian and Caribbean people.

One of the contentions against Grenada’s accession to the CCJ is the “fix the lower courts first” argument. This line of reasoning has serious merit and should not be ignored. In 1993 I worked in the Ministry of Legal Affairs and was often frustrated by how under-resourced the justice sector was – and still is.

Unlike tourism and infrastructure, for example, the justice sector is not seen as a critical pillar of development. The debate on the CCJ offers an opportunity for a paradigm shift to elevate the justice sector as a national development priority. There can be no sustainable development without an efficient, fair, accessible judicial system.

Access to justice is one of the hallmarks of any well-functioning democracy. Therefore, every arm of the judicial system must be adequately resourced and must function effectively. I commend the Government for its plans to establish a Halls of Justice. This is long over-due. However, there must be short, medium and long-term plans to arrest the problems that have infested the judicial system.

The government needs to listen to the people it has been elected to serve and with a sense of urgency remedy the deficiencies in the lower courts so ordinary Grenadian women and men can have genuine access to justice. That being said, I believe it is equally important for us to have a sense of urgency to make the CCJ Grenada’s final appellate court.

Why do I say so? I am sure we can all agree that the world is becoming more dangerously insular, xenophobic and racist. The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council is not OUR OWN.

We have no control over its continued existence. Sir Ronald Sanders reminded us recently that, “…eight of the ten Commonwealth countries that still cling to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council as their final court of appeal are Caribbean Community states. Forty-three of the 52 remaining Commonwealth countries (not counting Britain) have long since left this hang-over of British colonialism.”

Britain itself does not use the Privy Council. What guarantee do we have that the Privy Council will always be available to us? So even as we fix the lower courts – as we must – I propose that we exercise strategic foresight and accede to the CCJ as Grenada’s final court of appeal. If we do not do so voluntarily, we may be forced to do so by a British government that is becoming increasingly inward-looking.

Another matter that has been raised, particularly by the Grenada Trades Union Council (TUC), is the question of Section 37(7) of the Grenada Constitution. In a broad sense, this section addresses the validity of appointments to all levels of Parliament. As it currently stands, given section 37(7), election petitions cannot be heard by the Privy Council.

The TUC is calling for an amendment to the current bill so that such matters can be heard by the CCJ. This is a valid call. The counter argument by the proponents of the Bill is, if the referendum is held in November and someone votes NO on that basis, the status quo still remains; that is, the Privy Council will still not hear such appeals.

However, advocates who argue against a rush to the CCJ, are calling for a postponement of the November referendum to make that particular amendment to ‘get it right.’ As a proponent of democracy, I am disappointed that the crafters of the Bill did not have the fortitude to address this most important matter.

Given Grenada’s electoral history, an amendment to Section 37(7) would have allowed Grenada to break new ground by deepening democracy in that regard. However, as a political scientist, I am of the view that while such an amendment is noble, it is hardly likely that any RULING political party would champion this cause.

Unfortunately, that is the reality of our political culture. If the NDC had formed the government in 2018 and had called a referendum on the CCJ, I doubt strongly whether it would have amended Section 37(7).

Similarly, if the NNP were in opposition, it may have vehemently opposed the referendum on that basis. There is no win-win on this issue. It boils down to raw politics.

Realist theorists remind us that, it is not what should be, but what is. Now, the question becomes, all things being considered, is the omission of an amendment to Section 37(7) sufficient to warrant a NO vote on November 2 and 6? In my view, since it is hardly likely that this amendment will be made by any ruling party, given the other benefits that the CCJ offers, Grenada’s accession to the CCJ in its appellate jurisdiction should not be held hostage to partisan zero-sum domestic politics.

As Grenadians exercise the right to determine whether our final appellate court should remain with the Privy Council or whether we should accede to the CCJ, I wish to remind us of some of the core values that should define us as Grenadian and Caribbean people.

First, given our history of subjugation, self-belief must always triumph over self-doubt. Let’s believe in and embrace the CCJ as our own – flawed and imperfect as we are – but OURS to claim and refine.

Second, given our history of external domination, let’s reach for that instinct within us that values freedom. Let us never forget that the Privy Council represents the relics of a colonial enterprise that stripped us of our ability to determine our own affairs.

For former colonial “masters” we were not human enough to think for ourselves. We were not human enough to chart our own course or master our own destiny. It goes against our dignity to continue to loiter on erstwhile colonial steps.

How dare we hang on? Why must we linger on? Whatever our political affiliations, what we have in common is a collective dignity that must be preserved. Let’s show the Caribbean and the world that we can stand tall for a large cause.

Third, since we were historically stripped of our humanity, we have a responsibility to redefine ourselves as we defend our patrimony.

Finally, on the question of patrimony, I wish to commend the Save the Camerhogne Park Committee for its activism to save the park, whose use is undoubtedly part of Grenada’s patrimony. My motivation to support the Save the Camerhogne park struggle is underpinned by the fact that IT IS OUR OWN and any self-respecting people must fight for, fully utilise and defend what is theirs.

In the same vein, as Grenadians prepare to vote on November 2 and 6 on “The Caribbean Court of Justice and Renaming of the Court Amendment Bill 2018,” I am equally motivated by the fact that the CCJ is OUR OWN – ours to embrace and continuously refine.

(Dr. Wendy C Grenade is a Grenadian who is a Senior Political Scientist and the Head, Department of Government, Sociology, Social Work and Psychology, The University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, Barbados)

The coming OECD black list

Reports are wrong in stating that eight Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries are on a ‘black list’ recently released by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) over Citizenship by Investment (CBI) and Resident by Investment (RBI) schemes that they operate.

The OECD has not ‘black listed’ these countries – at least not yet.

But the stage has been set for punitive action, unless there is a proactive and unified response by all these countries.

Essentially what the OECD said in its latest resistance to any form of tax competition is: CBI/RBI schemes can be misused to evade tax legitimately due to their countries of tax residence by the beneficiaries of these schemes.

In the statement, issued on 17 October, the OECD makes no distinction between CBI and RBI schemes, contrary to announcements from one Caribbean minister that suggest a differentiation. In other words, the eight CARICOM countries are all in this together, along with twelve other jurisdictions that have been named specifically.

The eight CARICOM countries (in alphabetic order) are: Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat, St Kitts-Nevis, and St Lucia. They join only two member-states of the European Union (EU) – Malta and Cyprus – even though at least nine other EU countries operate a form of CBI/RBI schemes. Among the nine EU countries are Britain, Ireland, Italy and Portugal.

No explanation is given for the omission of these 9 EU states from the concerns over CBI/RBI programmes, and none is given for not including the EB-5 programme of the United States or the Quebec Immigrant Investor Programme in Canada.

These omissions apart, at least the EU admits that all of its member-states “have various incentives in place to attract foreign investment from non-EU nationals” and that “most of them have CBI or RBI schemes (so-called ‘golden passports’ and ‘golden visas’), characterised by the provision of access to residency in exchange for specified investments”.

All of that seemed to be well and good, until two of the smallest jurisdictions in the EU (Cyprus and Malta) and other small nations, such as the eight CARICOM states, joined in the schemes because of economic necessity.

Now, the EU and the OECD (in which the EU plays an influential role) have decided that CBI/RBI programmes pose risks for “corruption, money laundering and tax evasion”.

This bold claim is made even though the countries identified in the OECD October 17 statement have in place strong anti-money laundering regimes, Tax Information Exchange Agreements and Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties, and are implementing both the US Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) and the OECD’s Common Reporting Standards (CRS).

FACTA and the CRS require jurisdictions to exchange automatically financial information of foreign persons and companies to other countries in which they are liable for tax.

The new OECD claim is that “identity cards and other documentation obtained through CBI/RBI schemes can potentially be misused abuse (sic) to misrepresent an individual’s jurisdiction(s) of tax residence and to endanger the proper operation of the CRS due diligence procedures”.

Of course, this claim can be settled easily by a requirement for all jurisdictions, everywhere in the world, to necessitate that account holders or controlling persons declare any residence rights they have in each jurisdiction in which they have it. In this way, submissions would be made to all the jurisdictions of residence of account holders and controlling persons, thus stopping any misrepresentation.

But, that is not the only new claim now being made by the OECD.

The Organisation also asserts that “high-risk” CBI/RBI programmes are those which “give a tax payer access to a low personal income tax rate of less than 10% on offshore financial assets and do not require significant physical presence of at least 90 days in the jurisdiction offering the CBI/RBI scheme”. This latter situation, which the OECD clearly wants terminated, would materially affect CBI/RBI programmes in CARICOM jurisdictions.

It effectively dictates what tax rates should be and the conditions, which in their sovereign right, the CBI/RBI jurisdcitions have set.

Given all this, if the CARICOM jurisdictions are to save their CBI/RBI programmes from decimation, they should form an alliance with the other 12 named jurisdictions to fashion a joint response before the OECD moves to its next step which, undoubtedly, will be a black list that calls for sanctions against them.

None of their interests will be served by any jurisdiction that chooses to enter an individual agreement with the OECD, setting a precedent which all the others will be obliged to follow.

Once any jurisdiction readily accepts the OECD dictates, unified action is disrupted, and all jurisdictions will be forced to acquiesce. This disruption of unified action has been the pattern of past responses to the OECD’s so-called ‘rules’.

The consequence has been the steady destruction of the financial services sector and an attendant loss of revenues and jobs to the countries

The affected jurisdictions should take the OECD at its word that its concern is the misuse of CBI/RBI programmes by beneficiaries to hide their assets and escape reporting under the Common Reporting Standard.

As explained earlier in this commentary, that issue could be easily satisfied, and CARICOM countries could collectively offer to do so.

What is more problematic because it invades the sovereign rights of states is the branding of CBI/RBI jurisdictions as “high risk” because they might have a low tax rate and no requirement for physical presence. Indeed, it is eminently arguable that these two claims do not obviate the obligations of the CRS and FACTA to report on the financial assets of account holders or controlling persons.

However, if these are conditions that the OECD implements, the CBI/RBI programmes in all but powerful countries will be decimated with disastrous effects on their economies.

That is why common cause to confer urgently with the OECD should be a priority of CARICOM countries. The decline of the economies of eight of them will impact the neighbourhood in which the other seven exist.

All are involved, and all can be consumed.

(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 his own)