Caribbean and Diaspora News in Brief
- US shutdown watch continues
- Ganja debate grows - so does the cocaine trade
- Getting Caribbean food exports to global levels
- The British peer's family v the St Lucian heir
- Lawsuit over Haitian cholera victims
- Cuba's tourism changes
- Barbados' ATM raids
- Diaspora: Diane Abbott, Ulric Cross film,
US shutdown watch
· The US Virgin Islands has recalled its national guardsmen and most of their support employees. They will fund the move under the Pay Our Military Act, which allows the Department of Defence to pay employees who have been on unpaid leave since budget wrangles in Congress forced a shutdown of US federal funding on 1 October.
· A private charity agreed a deal with the Pentagon on 9 October to advance a so-called death gratuity to families of troops who die while fighting for the US. A number of Caribbean young people seek army duty as a path to full US citizenship.
· New York Congresswoman Yvette D Clarke has been using social media to highlight the issues facing her congressional district. These include the impact of the shutdown in freezing small business loans and the absence of federal immigration services.
In other news:
Jamaican parliamentarians passed a motion for the decriminalisation of ganja on 8 October.
In a House of Representatives vote which makes no difference to the country’s laws, MPs had a chance to argue the case for and against the private member’s motion, which called for the removal of criminal sanctions on marijuana, but with proper monitoring and regulation in place.
The motion was brought by the MP for North East St Elizabeth, Raymond Pryce, who argued during the debate that legislation allowing use of small amounts of ganja would not lead to a “free-for-all” regime.
Meanwhile, Jamaica’s Justice Minister Mark Golding has told the Gleaner newspaper that his ministry is preparing a cabinet submission paper on ganja law reform.
The debate has been one element in the burgeoning debate across the Caribbean on the possibility of decriminalising the use of marijuana, whether for medical, security or tourism reasons.
However, while the discussion on medical marijuana grows, America’s Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has said that the amount of cocaine entering the US via the Caribbean doubled in the first half of this year, compared with the same period in 2012.
The DEA spoke of a new generation of “cocaine cowboys” with fast boats seeking easy entry points for shipment to the US.
The European Union has agreed to help the Caribbean upgrade its food exports to meet international standards.
The US$15.7m three-year project will help with food testing laboratories, training and systems improvement.
“Nobody doubts the quality and organic nature of the products of the Caribbean,” the European Union’s ambassador to Guyana, Robert Kopecky, said at the agreement signing ceremony.
“But some bureaucratic procedures from the point of view of consumer protection simply aren’t there.”
Colin Tennant’s servant heir and relatives are in court over the remains of an estimated £20m fortune left by the late Lord Glenconner to his St Lucian manservant.
The heir to a £100m fortune, Colin Tennant later also inherited the title of Lord Glenconner in 1983 and eventually left what remained of his fortune to his manservant of 27 years’ standing, Kent Adonai, in 2010.
Many saw it as a slap in the face for Lord Glenconner’s relatives after his rich and eventful life creating glamorous 1950s and 60s playgrounds for the rich and powerful, first in Mustique and then in St Lucia, while his family remained in the UK.
However, in a legal challenge to be heard by the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court, one of his relatives will argue that the mind of the 83-year-old peer was unhinged when he left what remained of his fortune to his former valet.
The case promises a line-up of St Lucia’s high-profile lawyers.
Human rights groups filed a lawsuit against the United Nations on 9 October, blaming it for the cholera outbreak in Haiti.
The class action seeks relief for the epidemic, which has killed more than 8,300 people made more than 650,000 others ill.
The suit gives voice to allegations that UN peacekeepers spread the disease by contaminating Haiti’s main river with cholera-infected waste in 2010.
Before the outbreak, there had been no cholera in Haiti for over 150 years. Earlier this year, the UN refused to reach an out-of-court settlement, stating that it was legally immune from such action.
Cuba has changed its rules to allow its state tourism bodies to hire private businesses for accommodation, meals, trips and other tourism activities.
Previously, some state organisations had been allowed to do deals with private, but the tourism industry had been out of bounds.
Now state-run tourism agencies can seek contracts with the many private restaurants and bed-and-breakfasts which have grown up in Cuba in recent years.
The emergency shelter known in the Cayman Islands as the Hurricane Hilton is to be transformed into a school.
Dubbed the Hurricane Hilton because of the reported Cay$9m cost, the two-storey building had been 70% finished and was destined to become a resilient emergency shelter on the highest point of Cayman Brac.
In the most recent budget, the government allocated money to upgrade it, as well as add classrooms and an administrative block.
Students from the half-a-century-old Layman E Scott High School will move in upon completion.
It will be one of the most resilient schools in the Caribbean, as online newspaper CompassCayman.com has said it was designed to withstand a category five hurricane.
Barbadian police have held two men, believed to be Bulgarian, at Grantley Adams Airport following a series of thefts from cash machines on the islands.
The Barbados Nation says that banking officials have been investigating what is being described as the biggest ever ATM (automatic teller machine) breach in Barbados.
According to the Nation, the men were apprehended at the airport with laptops and card readers.
The island’s other main newspaper, the Barbados Advocate, said in a column titled “Better safe than sorry” that following the 6-7 October thefts, “practically everyone in Barbados has been logging onto their bank’s website or making their way to their financial institution of choice to see if they were one of the persons hit by the ATM bandits over the weekend.”
Jamaican-born British MP Diane Abbott has been relegated to the back benches in a reshuffle by Britain’s opposition Labour Party.
Labour leader Ed Miliband moved Ms Abbott from her position as shadow health minister in a reshuffle on 8 October.
Diane Abbott, one of the first intake of black MPs in Britain in the 1980s and a contender for the Labour leadership which Ed Miliband won, had recently questioned Labour’s position on immigration, saying it was being influenced by poll results.
A prolific tweeter, she has continued her social media presence on issues ranging from London’s housing needs to a policy for transport fares.
Canadian-based and Trinidadian filmmakers on the Hero project have said that they plan to press ahead with finishing their film about former war hero and diplomat Ulric Cross, who died at the age of 96 on 4 October in Trinidad.
The film is in its final phases of work, including parts of his life in Britain and Africa. LINK
“His passing marks the end of an era of great West Indians whose skills contributed to the development of the newly independent nations here in the Caribbean as well as in West, East and Southern Africa,” Dr Jackie Sharpe said on behalf of the Hero board of directors.
There has been a wave of social media comment on the decision by the new owners of popular UK black music radio station Choice FM to rebrand it as Capital Xtra.
The station’s owner Global, which also owns the UK’s Capital radio network, relaunched Choice under its new name on 7 October.
Many of the comments related to the station’s black and Caribbean profile which it has built up over the years.
“Many feel that marks de end of soca on national UK radio,” one tweet said.
“RIP Choice FM – the station that best championed music of black origin,” said Britain’s Guardian newspaper.
“Vexed about Choice FM’s imminent demise,” said black MP David Lammy.
“It’s goodbye to gospel, reggae, soca and ragga and hello to endless grime.”
Global’s executive president, Ashley Tabor, said in a statement: “People across the UK will now get to enjoy a truly national station in Capital Xtra – the only commercial station to play urban dance music nationwide.”
Some of the station’s DJs have been lost in the rebranding, including Daddy Ernie and DJ Jigs.
“So now Choice FM has become Kiss FM’s win, any suggestions on black music stations?” said another tweet.
With so much attention on the US federal shutdown, American immigration campaigners have been trying to refocus attention on immigration reform legislation.
According to US Diaspora newspaper Caribbean Life News, about 2,000 protesters from the New York area took part in a migrants’ community rally at Cadman Plaza on 5 October.
“Even a government shutdown isn’t powerful enough to end the movement for comprehensive, sensible immigration reform,” Congressman Jerrold Nadler told the rally.
“We must continue to organise in our communities and to insist that our elected officials support immigration reform,” Brooklyn Congresswoman Yvette D Clarke said.
Quote of the week
“They [minority opposition] must also see themselves as an alternative or replacement, in due course, to the government and not as a second or parallel government.” Dominica’s new President, Charles Savarin. The opposition boycotted his inauguration.