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The American empire strikes back at Caribbean countries
"You will vote the way we want you to vote or suffer the consequences." This is what American foreign policy has become, an undisguised policy of threats, extortion, intimidation, and bribery. That policy became crystal clear when the US cut military aid to Caribbean countries for refusing to exempt Americans from being tried before the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders at the CARICOM summit issued a strong statement condemning the United States action. The leaders said they were "deeply concerned" about the punitive action taken by the George W. Bush administration against six Caribbean countries, which are parties to the ICC. The six countries, which include Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, Dominica, Barbados, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago were among 35 singled out for American action.
The leaders further agreed that the other members of the 15-member community, which had not yet ratified the ICC, would do so as soon as possible. However, they put in a big loophole which would allow member states to enter into bi-lateral agreements with the US on this issue.
Editors Comments: If the ICC got the US-demanded-exemption the court would become a fiasco and completely irrelevant so the CARICOM stand is obvious. But is the stand firm? Memories of "shiprider". The US will use that loophole to chip away at CARICOM members one by one and we will see just how strong CARICOM solidarity is. Of course they are dealing with a very formidable, ruthless bully in GW Bush who is obviously intent on turning independent countries into rubber stamps for his policies.
JLP trounce ruling PNP in local elections
The Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) trounced the ruling Peoples National Party (PNP) decisively in the recent Jamaica local elections. The JLP won 11 of the 12 Parish Councils plus the Kingston and St. Andrew Corporation (KSAC). The PNP only managed to hold on to the Westmoreland Parish Council.
The PNP defeat is even more crushing considering that since 1962 this is only the second time that a governing party has lost the Local Government elections. In 1986, the JLP lost to the PNP, having been in office for six years.
The PNP has occupied office for the past 14 years and last October succeeded in winning a fourth consecutive term as Government. Despite its win last year, the party slipped badly, losing 16 of the 50 seats it held in the House of Representatives. It now controls 34 seats compared to the JLP's 26.
The usually low voter turnout, associated with Local Government elections, was again the case. Election officials estimated that just about 40 per cent of the 1.3 million people on the voters' list turned out.
Obviously the Patterson led PNP has continued to lose ground since the October elections. One of the main causes is probably extension of General Consumption Tax of 15% to a wide variety of items out of the last Government Budget. This tax to alleviate ther Government budget crisis has raised public ire. In addition recent editorials in the leading newspaper, the Gleaner, has lavished praise on Jamaica Labour Party head, Edward Seaga, as the indespensible leader of the party. Indespensible! The one and only! Do you mean in 45 years the JLP has no one else capable?While this might be considered great praise, it seems to me as an awful indictment that the rest of the party cannot come up with another leader in 45 years.
Arthur's BLP wins big in Barbados general election
Prime Minister Owen Arthur of Barbados led his Barbados Labour Party (BLP)
to an overwhelming 23-to-seven victory in Wednesday's general election.
Antigua in political crisis
Prime Minister Lester Bird faces a deep political crisis after four MP’s his ruling Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party resigned. The four, Sherfield Bowen, Hilroy Humpreys, Bernard Percival and Longford Jeremy, have declared themselves independent. This left Bird with eight seats in the Parliament comprised of a total of 17. Prime Minister Lester Bird said he would dissolve parliament and call early elections within weeks.
Shortly after junior Minister of Finance and Public Works, Asot Michael, resigned his ministerial portfolio. Unconfirmed reports clain he was forced to resign because 2 other Ministers threatened to resign also if he did not. They considered Michael to have too much influence on the Government even though he was not an elected official.
Last month, lawmaker Sherfield Bowen filed a motion for no-confidence alleging corruption and lack of transparency in Bird's administration. Bird scheduled a debate on the motion for June 12, but the meeting was never held.
Bowen has been wrangling with Bird since last year, when he accused him of corruption and asked him to step down following allegations that he had sex with a teenage girl.
Bird has denied the accusations. Last year, a government-ordered investigation cleared him on the basis of lack of evidence.
Bird has been prime minister since 1994 when he succeeded his father, former Prime Minister Vere Bird Sr., who was in office from 1981-1994. Antigua and Barbuda has a population of 68,000.
Study compares black immigrants in the US
A report on "Black Diversity in Metropolitan America" has been recently published by researchers at the State University of New York at Albany. It looked at earning and education level for a variety of blacks in America comparing primarily blacks from the Caribbean (West Indians), from Africa and black Americans.
CARICOM rice tariff stirs debate
Recently I was happy to buy a 20 pound bag of Grace rice in a Caribbean grocery here in Baltimore in the US. I felt pleased that I had supported a Jamaican product. However, when I got home, I noticed that the label said the rice had been imported by Jamaica from America. That seemed odd. Jamaica imported the rice from the US, bagged it and then exported it back to the US. Sort of like textiles. Odd!
Well this rice imported into Jamaica is subject to a 25% CARICOM tariff. But is this tariff high enough? "No", say CARICOM rice producers comprised mainly of Guyana, Suriname and Belize. Lead primarily by Guyana, they are asking for an increase in the tariff of 15% to 40%. The debate has heated up into a dispute.
Opposition to this increase is lead primarily by Jamaica, Barbados and Antigua. They contend such an increase in duty would hike prices for consumers. CARICOM can set tariffs for member states to protect them from outside competition, but there are concerns whether this increase would comply with the rules of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
The CARICOM producers charge that:
It was reported that the countries were "particularly annoyed with Jamaica for buying as much as 65,000 tons of rice from the United States annually". Other countries buy smaller amounts from Thailand, Vietnam and India.
Editors Comment: As far as I am concerned, CARICOM countries should not purchase a single grain of rice outside CARICOM. But CARICOM needs to do a lot of work. They have got to resolve the high price to consumer issue and the disparity in trade between members.
CARICOM heads meet in Jamaica
The 24th CARICOM summit takes place in Jamaica at the beginning of July. The President of Guyana, Bharrat Jagdeo, had brought up issues long overdue which finally are on the agenda. Specifically, he called for, among other initiatives, a much overdue formulation of a common agricultural policy; creation of multilateral regimes for exploitation of petroleum and fisheries resources; working methodically, together, in battling problems of crime and security; as well as "greater accountability" for democratic governance.
BWIA gets $30 million from T&T govt
The T&T government relented. Despite issuing threats to close BWIA if it did not meet cost-cutting measures, the Government agreed to release $30 million of the remainder of its $116.8 million loan to the airline. The Cabinet decided to disburse the $30 million to BWIA, but will hold back $55 million to ensure none of its aircraft are seized again. The Government had already given BWIA’s aircraft lessors, International Leasing Finance Co, about $32 million to retrieve two aircraft it seized last month, and prevent any further seizures of the other four planes the airline leases.
Jubilation broke out in Sabina Park, Jamaica as the West Indies defeated Sri Lanka in the final of the two test match series. It seemed like old times for recent times WI supporters have had little to cheer for.
The first test ended in a draw. Sri Lanka scored what seemed like good total of 354 all out, led by MS Attapattu 118. Barbadian pacer showing signs of what was yet to come took 5 for 66. The WI took first innings lead by replying with 477 for 9 declared, with skipper Brian Lara scoring an impressive double century and Wavel Hinds scoring 113. However rain shortened the game and it ended in a draw.
The 2nd Test saw Sri Lanka bowled out for 208 with WI newcomer Fidel Edwards of Barbados, playing in only his second first class match, taking 5 for 36. However, WI bats faltered as they scored even less, 191 all out. Sri Lanka went in to bat again and this time but medium-pacer Corey Collymore wrecked them taking 7 for 57 as they fell for 194. The WI got off to a shaky start with Chris Gayle falling immediately for a duck. Soon after, the other opener, Hinds, was back in the pavilion and WI fans became anxious wondering if they were about to witness another batting collapse. Not to worry. Lara and Sarwan put on an attacking attractive batting display to turn the game around . Just 1 run short of victory, Sarwan fell for an impressive 82 and Lara polished of the victory getting that final run to signal to the cricket world that WI cricket is back.
2nd Test (Jamaica)
Jamaica born Sanya Richards is new US 400m champ
Jamaica born Sanya Richards became the new women's US 400 metre champion when she won the event at the US national track and field championship. Still only 18 years old, Richards won the one lap event in 51.01 seconds to defeat Demetria Washington 51.51 and Dee Trotter 51.78.
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