States, Tuesday May 21, 2019 – Ten days before the official start of the 2019 hurricane season,
a subtropical storm formed in the Atlantic but is not expected to be around for
Subtropical Storm Andrea came to life
over the Western Atlantic, about 335 miles southwest of Bermuda, yesterday evening.
Its maximum sustained winds remained at
about 40 miles per hour until late this morning when the National Hurricane
Centre (NHC) in Miami said in an 11 a.m. advisory that they had decreased to 35
miles per hour.
Andrea is now a subtropical depression.
“Continued weakening is forecast, and
Andrea is expected to degenerate into a remnant low by this evening,” the NHC
At the time, Andrea was about 280 miles
west southwest of Bermuda and moving northward at eight miles per hour, with a
turn toward the northeast and east expected tonight.
There are no coastal watches or
warnings in effect but the NHC advised that interests in Bermuda should still monitor
the progress of the system.
This is the fifth consecutive year with
a named storm in the Atlantic before the official start of the season.
The next tropical storm that develops in the Atlantic will be called Barry.
Jamaica Government Announces Investigation into Detention and Abuse of Fishermen by US Coast Guard
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
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”.
University of the West Indies to Train Ghanaian Doctors
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
“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.
St Vincent on the UN Security Council: More Valuable than Coin | Sir Ronald Sanders
By Sir Ronald Sanders
WASHINGTON, United States, Tuesday June 18, 2019 – Make no mistake about
it, the election of St Vincent and the Grenadines – one of the world’s smallest
states – to a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC),
is both an important and timely event.
The election, primarily by the world’s developing states, has
occurred when there is increased intolerance of small states by larger and
powerful governments determined to enforce their objectives on the rest of the
This intolerance is manifest in many ways, including the
continuous efforts by governments of big countries to secure changes in voting
methods in inter-governmental organisations that would disenfranchise small
states. Big governments have, in the past, tried to impose “weighted
voting”, a process by which votes of countries that pay the most in sums of
money to international organisations, count at a higher value than others.
Of course, these countries conveniently ignore the fact that each
member state of inter-governmental organisations pays its subscriptions based
on a percentage of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The same percentage
of a rich country’s GDP may be larger in volume terms, but the comparative
burden on its taxpayers is no greater than on the taxpayers of smaller
Recently, in the Organisation of American States (OAS), there has been an attempt to nullify votes of “abstention”, casting them as “absent”. So far, this attempt has been resisted by 12 of the 14 CARICOM countries, supported by a few like-minded Latin American states. But, should this maneuvere succeed, it would turn international practice on its head, allowing a small group of countries that do not comprise more than a half of the member states to win a vote and so impose their minority will.
Casting a vote of abstention is a valid position for any
government. It indicates that a government believes that particular
proposals may not have sufficient merit or substance to be supported or that
the proposal has enough value not to be rejected out of hand.
It leaves the door open for supporters or opponents of a proposal to convince abstainers of the worthiness of their positions. And that is what the business of diplomacy is about. It is a hard graft of discussion and negotiation, of persuasion and bargaining based on convincing evidence.
Abandoning that process and declaring, instead, that a government
which abstained from a vote is “absent” and, therefore, its vote does not
count, is an alarming attempt to disenfranchise a nation in international
This latest attempt to side-line small states follows a litany of
positions, adopted by comparatively larger and more powerful countries. These
include: the imposition of taxation requirements; assaults on citizenship by
investment programmes in small states that compete with similar programmes in
North America and Europe; cutting off small states from participation in the
global trading and financing system by withdrawing correspondent banking
relations; paying lip-service to the arguments of island-states about the
deathly threats posed to them by climate change; using coercive methods to turn
governments of small countries from standing-up for principles such as
non-intervention in the internal affairs of states; turning a deaf ear to the
one-sided terms of trade that give powerful countries large surpluses in money
terms while offering no incentives that would help to balance trade and improve
the lives of people of small countries; closing the door to concessional
financing desperately needed to maintain and improve economic development; and
depriving small states of a voice in the major global decision-making bodies.
For all these reasons, the election of St Vincent and the Grenadines to the UN Security Council, for a term beginning in September, is of enormous importance to every small state in the world. It gives small states a voice at the table of decision-making – a chance to resist further incursions on their rights as sovereign states, and the opportunity to show that small size is no obstacle to contributing meaningfully to resolution of issues that confront the world.
Large and powerful countries deserve the right to be at the centre
of global decision-making, given their GDP, their large trade volumes, their
worldwide investment and their financial contributions to a range of global
challenges, including peacekeeping, combatting diseases that can cross borders,
and alleviating the worst aspects of poverty. But that right is not
exclusive; it should not deny the legitimate voice of the small and vulnerable.
When the United Nations was conceived, leaders of states committed
themselves to a world “governed by justice and moral law”, one in which they
asserted “the pre-eminence of right over might and the general good against
sectional aims”. Over the last 50 years, the world has witnessed a
withdrawal from those commitments if not a reversal of them.
As one voice on the UNSC, St Vincent and the Grenadines might not
be able to stem the tide of intolerance for small states, but it can
demonstrate that the intolerance is misplaced and that small does not mean stupid,
ignorant or incapable. Indeed, the history of the United Nations is
replete with the contribution of small states to the enhancement of the UN’s
work and for the beneficial conditions that apply to all humanity. Among
those are Malta’s introduction of the concept of Law of the Sea, and Guyana’s
definition on the concept of “aggression” that now informs international
interpretation of that term.
The government of St Vincent and the Grenadines, under the
leadership of its Prime Minister, Dr Ralph Gonsalves, spent many years doing
the hard grind required to win the seat. His government has been steadfast
in upholding the principles of international law and justice which protect
small states from abuse. In doing so, it made enemies of the powerful who
might have preferred it to acquiesce to their objectives. That enmity was
evident in the failed last-ditch effort to cause St Vincent and the Grenadines
to lose its election bid.
The cost of the campaign and work that must follow during the tenure of St Vincent and the Grenadines at the UNSC was not cheap by Caribbean standards, but it is invaluable in the participation which it gives to people of all small countries. Not everything is measured in coin; upholding rights, arguing for fairness and justice are value beyond money.
Sir Ronald Sanders is Antigua and Barbuda’s Ambassador to the US and the OAS. 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.
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