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Selling or Saving the Soul of the OAS | Sir Ronald Sanders

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By Sir Ronald Sanders

WASHINGTON,
United States, Friday April 12, 2019
The
Organization of American States (OAS), already a broken institution, was
shattered even more on April 9 at a meeting of its Permanent Council. It
is now an organization whose membership is deeply divided and amongst whom
mistrust, and bitterness now predominates.

How this huge problem will be
fixed – if it can be fixed at all – is the paramount challenge that now
confronts its 33 and-a-half members. I will return to the half-member
later in this commentary.

Nothing that I say in this commentary is a secret. The
Permanent Council meeting of April 9 was played out in a live webcast on the
OAS’ website. 

The meeting was held, after weeks of efforts by the United States
and most of the members of the so-called Lima Group, to secure the adoption of
a resolution that would unseat the representative of the Nicolas Maduro
government and replace him with the nominee of Juan Guaido. Guaido is the
self-proclaimed “Interim President” of Venezuela, so recognized by roughly 50
of the more than 200 governments in the world.

The manoeuvrings behind the scenes had a single purpose and that
was to procure 18 votes, constituting a simple majority of the 34 member states,
to impose Guaido’s nominee as Venezuela’s representative.  

It took some time for the core 14 countries to woo the support of
4 others, not least because the manner of pushing the resolution through the
Permanent Council defied international law and the Charter and rules of the
OAS. Governments had to dig deep to balance disregard for the integrity of
the OAS as an institution and a desire to help those countries that were
determined to seat Guaido’s representative.

The meeting was summoned for high noon on April 9 and all
delegations were cautioned to be on time for a prompt start. As it turned
out, delegates were forced to wait until after 1 pm to start the meeting
because, at the last minute, Jamaica – one of the faithful 18 – insisted on new
language, causing commotion among the group and threatening to derail its
entire effort.  

Even when the resolution was
presented to the Permanent Council Meeting and was being debated, it was
unclear what text was being considered. What was before the meeting was
the original text, omitting the Jamaica language. A request from me, as
the representative of Antigua and Barbuda, for clarification, resulted in a
break in the meeting’s proceedings to produce the final text of the resolution. Its
main purpose remained to accept the appointment of “the National Assembly’s
designated Permanent Representative”.

There was much solemn and serious debate about the entire
proceedings, but in the end, 18 countries, using their razor-thin majority,
forced the vote through.  

Some self-interested governments have characterized the April 9 meeting
as a clash of support for or against the contending forces in Venezuela. Sections
of the media have followed that line.

But, far from being about Maduro/Guaido and Venezuela, the meeting
was about selling or saving the soul of the OAS; it was about disregarding
international norms and ignoring the institutional framework of the organization
for the short-term political purposes of a few; and it was about arguing for
the retention of the OAS’ integrity. 

At the end of the vote, passed by a simple majority, the
Ambassador of Mexico, Jorge Lomónaco Tonda, summed-up the meeting well. He
said: “There were no winners or losers; only losers”. And the biggest
loser was the OAS itself.

Nowhere in the Charter of the OAS, or in its rules, does the
Permanent Council have the authority to decide on the recognition of a
government. Further, as was stated repeatedly at the meeting, the
recognition of a government is the sovereign right of states and cannot be
determined or imposed by a multilateral organization. At the very least,
the matter, given its high political importance, should have been considered by
a special session of the general assembly, the highest organ of the OAS.

What the hasty, ill-considered process succeeded in doing is
damaging the OAS as an institution, tainting its structure and governance,
harming relations between its member states and rendering it unfit for anything
but achieving the purposes of a wilful majority of 18 countries.

The vote on recognition of the National Assembly’s representative
was really about the de-recognition of the Maduro government’s
representative. While that may have been achieved within the OAS, it has
changed nothing in the international community.  Countries that
recognise Maduro or Guaido as President of Venezuela continue to do so. 

Nothing has changed in Venezuela either. This vote has
achieved no new negotiations and no solution to the humanitarian situation. If
anything, it has served only to harden the opposing sides in the political
conflict, closing the door to solutions.

To return now to the 33 and-a-half members of the OAS. The
national assembly’s representative may be seated in front of the Venezuelan
flag, but he cannot speak for the government that is in charge of Venezuela. A
vital test of recognition of a government, in international law and practice,
is whether it exercises effective control of the affairs of the country. The
National Assembly does not have effective control of Venezuela, and its
representative cannot speak, in the OAS, for the de facto government.

There is a further question regarding the authenticity of the
representative’s credentials which appear to have been overlooked, deliberately
or otherwise by the OAS Secretariat. 

The National Assembly nominated a “special” representative to the
OAS, but there is no such category of representation. Further, as pointed
out in the meeting by the Ambassador of Guyana, Riyad Insanally, the letter to
the Secretary-General from Mr Guaido, signed as “Interim President of
Venezuela”, designating the “Permanent” representative, was dated January
22, 2019. But his proclamation as “Interim President” took place on
January 23, 2019. In other circumstances, these discrepancies would not
have been accepted.

The OAS is now in many ways a sadly compromised organization. The
fight on April 9, 2019 to sell or save its soul defines it now and can limit
its effectiveness in the future.

Why should we care? Because it is the only hemispheric organization in which all countries (except Cuba) sit, and which had the mandate and the opportunity to keep the region peaceful and to pursue cooperation that could make a difference to the lives of all its people. All that is now corrupted.

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Jamaica’s Justice Ministry Rolling out Initiatives to Prevent Witness Intimidation

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Chief Justice Bryan Sykes (left), converses with Executive Director of the Legal Aid Council, Hugh Faulkner, during the opening of the Justice Ministry’s Witness Care Conference. (Credit: JIS)

KINGSTON,
Jamaica, Monday July 22, 2019
– The
Jamaica government is embarking on initiatives to protect witnesses in trials from
intimidation, including providing buses equipped with audio-video technology,
to assist in securing testimony from witnesses.

Justice Minister Delroy Chuck said two
such vehicles, which will be rolled out soon, will be used to travel to remote
areas where witnesses may be located.

He said other initiatives include
equipping 78 courtrooms with digital audio facilities, and 19 with audio-video
recording apparatus, noting that “with this technology, witness intimidation
will be significantly reduced”.

Additionally, the Minister said,
legislation has been passed to allow witnesses in human trafficking cases being
tried in the Circuit Court, to testify before presiding judges without a jury.

“Our goal, mission and purpose at the
Ministry of Justice is to create a first class justice system that delivers
timely justice to all, irrespective of their socio-economic circumstances,” Chuck
emphasized, adding that a first-class justice system cannot exist without the
proper care and protection of witnesses.

His comments were delivered by Executive
Director of the Legal Aid Council, Hugh Faulkner, at a Witness Care Conference,
at the Faculty of Law, University of the West Indies, Mona, which ended over
the weekend.

Minister Chuck said engagement such as
the conference are intended to provide a “wealth of information” that should be
used as “critical investments” to yield “tangible results” for the care of
witnesses.

This, he added, is imperative in
spurring civic-minded Jamaicans into action, and sending a message to the
criminal underworld that “witnesses will not cower in fear, but will be
motivated to stand and be counted and play their part in creating a society that
is secure, cohesive and just”.

The inaugural event was a key activity
under the Justice Undertakings for Social Transformation (JUST) Project, a
$19.8 million Global Affairs Canada (GAC)-funded initiative, being implemented
by the Justice Ministry and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

It is supporting justice sector reforms through technical-legal assistance; institutional strengthening; and social order.

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Real Estate Board in Jamaica Clamping Down on Developers Who Illegally Sell Properties

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Chief Executive Officer of the Real Estate Board/Commission of Strata Corporations, Sandra Garrick. (Credit: JIS)

KINGSTON,
Jamaica, Monday July 22, 2019
– The
Real Estate Board (REB)/Commission of Strata Corporations (CSC) is clamping
down on unregistered real estate developers who are selling properties
illegally.

“For the second time in 2019 we have had
a conviction for an unregistered developer, and both cases are now at the
sentencing process,” said Chief Executive Officer of the Real Estate
Board/Commission of Strata Corporations, Sandra Garrick.

“We want to remind persons that the Real
Estate Board/Commission of Strata Corporation is committed to ensuring that if
developers fail to register they will answer to the law.”

Garrick added that in one of the cases, units
were being marketed and sold in an unregistered scheme for which the developer
had not yet acquired land.

“Part of the REB’s responsibility is to
oversee that purchasers receive what they have contracted and that monies paid
over to developers are used as the Real Estate Act prescribes, meaning the
funds are put in a Trust account and not used as the developer’s personal
money,” she emphasized.

Garrick also encouraged  purchasers to do their due diligence when
buying property.

“As a purchaser, the first thing you
should do is ensure that the real estate developer is registered with the REB
and is allowed to contract business, sell units and advertise. A list of
registered developers can be found on the REB’s website and persons may call
the Board to do checks,” she said.

Garrick pointed out that there are times when the REB may give a developer  tentative approval, but will not grant the approval to market the units.

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Cayman Islands Leads International Gold Smuggling Investigation

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Some of the 104 kilos of gold that was seized.

GEORGE TOWN, Cayman Islands, Monday July 22, 2019 – Authorities in the Cayman Islands are leading a money laundering investigation with the assistance of the United Kingdom’s National Crime Agency (NCA), following the seizure of gold worth around £4 million (US$4.9 million).

The gold was seized by the NCA as part of an international investigation into a suspected South American drugs cartel.

Officers from the UK’s Border Force, acting on intelligence from the NCA, moved in to detain the shipment at Heathrow on June 1. The gold was being transported from the Cayman Islands to Switzerland, having earlier been shipped to the British Overseas Territory on a private jet from Venezuela.

The bars and pieces of gold, which together weigh around 104 kilos, have been seized under the Proceeds of Crime Act, following a hearing at Uxbridge Magistrates in London.

NCA Heathrow branch commander, Steve McIntyre, said: “We believe that this shipment was linked to drugs cartels operating out of South America. Working with partners overseas and in the UK we were quickly able to identify it and stop it’s onward movement.

“The business model of many organized crime groups relies upon the ability to move money across borders, to fund further investment in criminal activity. If we can stop that it not only causes disruption to the criminal network involved and prevents them benefiting from crime, it also stops that re-investment.”

Nick Jariwalla, Border Force Heathrow Director, added that taking large amounts of money or gold out of the control of criminal networks hits them where they feel it most – in the pocket.

“This was a substantial seizure and demonstrates how effectively Border Force works with law enforcement partners, both at home and abroad, to combat organised crime,” he said.

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