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Jamaica Gets 1.7 Million Visitors in Four Months in Best Winter Season Ever

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Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Friday May 10, 2019 – Minister
of Tourism Edmund Bartlett says Jamaica experienced the best winter season in
its history, welcoming, in the first four months of the year, 1.7 million visitors,
who spent US$1.25 billion.

“In the
first four months of the year, we have had double-digit growth every single
month from January to April 30,” he said.

Bartlett
further noted that the tourism industry has achieved record growth in the last
three consecutive years, which has surpassed “our aspirational average growth
of five per cent per annum”.

“Last
year, we welcomed 4.23 million visitors who spent US$3.3 billion, representing
8.6 per cent increase over the period 2017,” he said.

The Minister
said this notable performance is against the background of the 2013 to 2015
period, during which Jamaica experienced an incremental growth of about 120,000
visitors.

“In three months and one day, we have surpassed the 120,000 additional visitors to arrive in the country,” he emphasized.

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Appointment of Guyana Election Body’s Chairman Deemed Unconstitutional

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Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission, Justice (retired) James Patterson

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Tuesday June 18, 2019 – The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) today ruled that the process through which Justice (retired) James Patterson was appointed Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) by President David Granger almost two years ago was flawed and in breach of the Constitution.

The Court emphasized, however, that nothing in its judgment
was intended “in the slightest degree” to cast aspersions on Justice
Patterson’s competence and suitability for the position of GECOM Chairman; nor
was there any suggestion that President Granger had not acted in good faith.

The Constitution states that the Chairman is to be appointed
by the President from a list of six persons, not unacceptable to the President,
submitted by the Leader of the Opposition. Three lists, with a total of 18
nominees for the post, were submitted for consideration by Opposition Leader
Bharrat Jagdeo. President Granger rejected the names on all three lists.

The first list was rejected as, in the President’s view, the
qualifications and experience of the nominees did not seem to conform to the
requirements outlined in the Constitution. The second list was rejected by the
President, as he found it to be unacceptable within the meaning of the
Constitution and the criteria he had set out in a ‘Statement of Qualities of
the Chairman of the GECOM’ submitted to the Leader of the Opposition. Prior to
the submission of the third list, the Government and the Opposition met and
consulted on the “way forward on the selection and appointment of the
Chairman”. After that meeting, the third list was submitted to the President
and rejected as being unacceptable.

After disapproving the third list, the President advised Jagdeo that he would select a Chairman himself, and he did so in October 2017. This course of action is provided for by the Constitution if the Leader of the Opposition failed to present a suitable nominee. Granger had justified his decision to appoint a Chairman himself, in part on the ground that it would not serve the public’s best interest to further delay the appointment.

Justice (retired) James Patterson taking the Oath of Office before President David Granger on October 19, 2017.

In determining the main issue in the case, the CCJ looked
first at the proper meaning of Article 161(2) of Guyana’s Constitution. That
Article sets out the requirements to be satisfied for a person to be eligible
for appointment as GECOM Chairman. It also sets out the general process for
selecting the Chairman. To determine the meaning, the Court looked at the
drafting history of Article 161(2), observing that changes had been made to it
to promote consensus and inclusiveness by involving the Leader of the
Opposition in the selection process. The CCJ also stressed that “an onus is
placed on the President not to find a nominee unacceptable merely because the
nominee is not a choice the President would have himself made. The President
should only find a nominee unacceptable for some good reason on objective
grounds”.

It was also found that the President could not, as a
precondition to considering a nominee, include eligibility requirements that
were additional, or different, from those stated in the Constitution. In the
judgment delivered by CCJ President Justice Adrian Saunders, the Court said it
found that the process was flawed and in breach of the Constitution.

In a concurring judgment, Justice Maureen Rajnauth-Lee
stated that by giving reasons why nominees are rejected, the President will
engender greater public trust and confidence in the Elections Commission. Justice
Winston Anderson, also in a concurring judgment, agreed that the process was
flawed but did not think that, at the consultative stage, it was necessary for
reasons to be given.

The Court concluded that the most sensible approach to the
process of appointing the Chairman of GECOM is for the Leader of the Opposition
and the President to communicate with each other in good faith and, perhaps,
even meet to discuss eligible candidates for the position of Chairman before a
list is submitted formally.

Having concluded that the appointment was in breach of the Constitution, the CCJ has invited both sides to present further arguments on how the issue should be rectified.

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Jamaica Government Announces Investigation into Detention and Abuse of Fishermen by US Coast Guard

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The Jamaican fishermen who say they were detained illegally and abused by the US Coast Guard.

KINGSTON, Jamaica,
Tuesday June 18, 2019
– The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade
says it is investigating the matter in which four Jamaican fishermen have
brought a case against the United States Coast Guard for alleged mistreatment,
following their arrest and detention in 2017 in Haitian waters.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the law firm
Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP last week filed a lawsuit against the US
Coast Guard, seeking damages on behalf of the fishermen – Robert Dexter Weir,
Patrick Wayne Ferguson, Luther Fian Patterson, and David Roderick Williams –
who were secretly detained without due process at sea in inhumane conditions on
four Coast Guard ships for over a month.

The lawyers said the men were held under the Coast Guard’s
unlawful detention and mistreatment policy that ramped up in 2012 as part of the
United States’ “war on drugs”. Under this policy, the Coast Guard stops boats
in international waters, searches them and their crew for drugs, destroys
boats, and detains crewmembers for prolonged periods of time in inhumane
conditions, regardless of whether any drugs are found aboard.

According to the ACLU, the fishermen set out on September 13, 2017 for a fishing trip to Morant Cays, expecting to be gone just one day. But the US Coast Guard stopped their boat and arrested them before riddling the vessel with bullets and setting it on fire. The organization said the Coast Guard held the men in secret for more than a month, chaining them to the exposed decks of four different Coast Guard ships, while denying them access to shelter, basic sanitation, proper food, and medical care.

Jamaica’s Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Minister Senator Kamina Johnson Smith said her ministry became aware of the matter last Thursday, through media reports, and also saw the video in which the fishermen cite experiences of shocking treatment during their extended period of detention, that would amount to human rights abuse.

“We are investigating the situation with our consulate in
Miami and other relevant Government agencies as we seek to learn more about the
case, but to date have not discovered any record of a complaint having been
reported to the Consulate or headquarters in Kingston,” she said.

Johnson Smith stressed that the allegations are of serious
concern to the Ministry, as the rights of Jamaicans at home and aboard are
always of paramount importance to the Government of Jamaica.

She expressed the hope that justice would be delivered in the
matter now before the US court.

According to the lawsuit filed by the ACLU, for most of the
fishermen’s detention, the Coast Guard kept them outdoors on the decks of the
ships and exposed to the elements, even as one of the ships sailed into a
hurricane. The men’s skin burned and blistered in the sun and they were
drenched and chilled by rain and sea water. Throughout the ordeal, the Coast
Guard denied the men a phone call, refusing their repeated pleas to contact
their families in Jamaica to let them know they were alive or even to contact
their families on their behalf. On each of the four ships, Coast Guard officers
told the men that it was against policy to allow them to make such a call.

After making stops in Guantanamo Bay, St Thomas, and Puerto Rico, the Coast Guard delivered the men to the US Drug Enforcement Administration in Miami, Florida, in October 2017. The men were initially charged with conspiracy to possess and distribute marijuana. They pleaded not guilty and were detained pending trial.

When the men were finally permitted to call their families
and loved ones back home — the first time in over a month – they learned that they
had been presumed them dead after they failed to return home from their fishing
trip.

The US ultimately charged the men with providing “false
information” to the Coast Guard about the boat’s destination. They claimed
their destination was the waters near the coast of Jamaica when they were
actually destined for Haiti. However, the ACLU said the men had not lied to the
Coast Guard officers but pleaded guilty because they were told that it was the
quickest and surest way to get back to their homes and families in Jamaica and
to put an end to their nightmare.

A federal court sentenced them each to 10 months’
imprisonment, and after serving their sentences and spending a further two
months in federal immigration detention due to delays caused by the US
government, the US deported the men to Jamaica in August 2018, nearly a year
after they had left Jamaica.

The ACLU said that as a result of the Coast Guard’s secret
detention and inhumane treatment of the four men, they have suffered and
continue to suffer physical and psychological trauma. They also returned to their
families financially ruined.

“The men would like to return to fishing as they once did,
but fear that if they do so, they will again be subjected to the Coast Guard’s
unlawful detention, property-destruction, and mistreatment policy. That policy
and its enforcement [are] well-documented, and without changes to it, these
fishermen and others like them continue to be at risk of being subjected to it,”
the ACLU stated.

This lawsuit seeks to recover damages for the physical, psychological, and emotional trauma resulting from the men’s over-month-long inhumane treatment and secret detention by the Coast Guard and for the Coast Guard’s destruction of their fishing boat and other property. It also seeks declaratory and injunctive relief against the Coast Guard, “so that the men can once again freely ply their trade as fishermen in international waters near Jamaica without exposure to the Coast Guard’s unlawful policy and practice”.

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University of the West Indies to Train Ghanaian Doctors

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UWI Vice Chancellor Sir Hilary Beckles (left), speaks with Ghana’s Minister of Culture, Tourism and Creative Arts, Barbara Oteng Gyasi, who was part of a Ghanaian delegation in Jamaica for a two-day working visit. The group was led by Ghana’s President Nana Addo Danka Akufo-Addo. (Credit: JIS)

KINGSTON, Jamaica,
Tuesday June 18, 2019
– The University of the West Indies (UWI), Cave Hill
campus in Barbados has entered into an agreement with the University of Ghana
(UG), for students to study medicine in the Caribbean.

Vice Chancellor of UWI, Sir Hilary Beckles made the
announcement at a breakfast meeting held at UWI’s Regional Headquarters, Mona,
on Sunday to welcome members of a delegation from Ghana.

“The government of Barbados has just broken ground to build
a 250-room dormitory specifically to accommodate these Ghanaian students who
will be coming into the Medical faculty,” Sir Hilary said, noting that under
the project, Ghanaians will to come to the Caribbean and engage in the
preclinical years of the medical programme.

He pointed out that in their training, the students will be able
to study closely conditions such as 
hypertension and type 2 diabetes, which are major health challenges
being faced by the Caribbean region.

“These are issues that are now facing the West African
middle class and the Ghanaian middle class in particular.  Students will be exposed to all of this and
then return for their clinical training,” Sir Hilary said.

“They will be better equipped to become African doctors
because they will now know the Diaspora experience, which they can now connect
with the home experience to make them into national and universal doctors.”

Underscoring the benefits to be received by UWI’s medical
programme, the Vice Chancellor said, “our students in the Caribbean will have
an opportunity to train alongside African students, cross-fertilizing ideas and
creating in themselves a notion of global Africa.”

The project is among a number of initiatives being explored
between both universities.

Meanwhile, Ghana’s Minister of Culture, Tourism and Creative
Arts, Barbara Oteng Gyasi, is encouraging cultural and economic exchanges with
Ghana.

“We know that the University of the West Indies can play a critical role in this because you are training the youth of the Caribbean. You have direct access in impacting their outlook on life. And we will encourage you to get some of your youth to come to Ghana to participate in the various activities that we have,” she said.

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