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Spare the rod

Use every man after his desert,

And who would escape whipping.

Shakespeare

A good whipping will always keep a bad boy in line. That was the saying back in the day, and I daresay it still applies in many quarters to this very day. But the recipient of that whipping certainly doesn’t like it, and that’s why the last line from that quote said… ‘and who would escape whipping’. Yes, if you could escape it’s a good day for you.

But whipping goes as far back as Bible days, the Good Book said, ‘Spare the rod and spoil the child,’ referring, of course, to the whipping of children to discipline them.

Parents were encouraged to pile on a good ass whupping on wayward children in order to keep them on the proper path. In many instances it worked too, for the fear of the tamarind switch or leather belt would drive the fear of God into many a wayward child. Even now there are grown men who give thanks that they got whipped when they were young, for it’s what made them who they are today disciplined adults.

In high schools it was the norm to be caned by the headmaster, as lashes would be administered either in the palm of your hand or on your buttocks. Some boys would stuff rags in their back pockets to cushion the blows of the marauding cane.

Now, those days are long gone, and boys aren’t caned anymore, resulting in a society where our young men are all well-mannered angels, paragons of virtue, law-abiding citizens, disciplined and cultured of which we are all proud. And oh yes, they don’t abuse women either. I hope that the sarcasm isn’t lost on you.

Should we have kept the rod of correction, or should we spare the rod and spoil the child? We’ll see which way to swing, right after these responses to my take on ‘Age appropriate’.

Hi Tony,

What you have stated is true, but I wonder what yardstick is used to measure and determine the current level of age appropriateness. Usually a man in his 70s with a woman in her 20s, or vice versa would be considered to be inappropriate. But what about that man with a woman in her 50s? Personally, I would consider the latter scenario to be appropriate, but a man in his 50s with a woman in her 70s, not so much age appropriate. Why? Is it because it is from a male perspective? Is age appropriateness in the eye of the beholder?

Eric

Hey Tony,

That age appropriate issue with men and women not acting their respective ages is a very good point. I guess some of my younger friends might say that about me, not that I’m not dressing age appropriately, but more so my activities. At age 52 I had my first mixed martial arts class and never looked back. I run the 5K and half marathons and still do Zumba and dancehall sessions and frequent the gym. Age is but a number.

Pansie

This issue of corporal punishment has been in the news, with it even reaching Parliament where the call is being made for it to be abolished. All this is on the heels of the story of a child who was allegedly beaten by his stepfather and ended up dying after the incident.

There have been other sad, horrific cases of children being beaten by parents until they were badly wounded. But I have to say that those incidents were not corporal punishment, but brutal acts of child abuse.

When a man beats his woman, is that corporal punishment? When a man uses a stool to batter a woman, is that corporal punishment? When a woman takes a two by four piece of board and beats a man in public, is that corporal punishment? No, no, no.

When I was a young boy attending St Aloysius Primary School on Duke Street, corporal punishment was administered on boys who were rowdy, out of hand, disruptive, disrespectful, undisciplined and downright bad. Boy pickney is boy pickney and can be bad nuh yaws.

I must add that the Common Entrance, now PEP, passes for St Aloysius were 100 per cent every year. Now, I’m sure that many modern-day parents would frown on that era and say, “Nuh teacher not beating my pickney.” But we are none the worse for it, and none of us grew up to be bad men, gunmen, woman beaters or worse. We all matriculated to high school and became model citizens.

That being said, I don’t believe that girls should be flogged, but boy pickney can get a lick or two to discipline them. Oh, now you’re going to say, “There must be a better way, why not talk to them, reason with them?” Oh yes, the same way that you can talk to or reason with a rambunctious puppy.

My mother, who I loved dearly, would whip me with a strap or tamarind switch if I got out of line, but five minutes later I was cradled in her lap. That’s because there was no malice or evil intent in her action. What often occurs nowadays is that many parents and teachers are downright abusive towards the children and beat them mercilessly.

Sometimes this is born out of frustration on the part of the adult, who vents this pent up rage on the hapless child.

“Eat all yu food, yu know how much grocery cost nowadays?”

“Do yu homework and stop waste time in school, I’m paying plenty to send yu to school.”

All this is punctuated by blows.

But the rod has been used for centuries with great effect to control undisciplined people. Why do you think police carry batons? At least they used to. Even recently I saw where police in India whipped people on the streets for not wearing masks in this COVID time.

Flogging, sometimes publicly, is still administered in some countries and there was a time when rapists were flogged at the beginning and end of their prison sentence. The judge would decree, “Five years and 20 lashes, 10 going in and 10 coming out.” So they felt it while entering and also when leaving, just in case they forgot the first lashing.

Now, the human rights justice people will say that is inhumane and barbaric and should be left in the dark ages. But I wonder what human rights and humanity those vicious rapists afforded their victims? Now they are pampered, spoken to, reasoned with until they are released and do the crime again.

Studies have shown that boys who were brutally beaten when they were young often grow up to be violent men. Of course they would, as they harbour the memories of being abused by their parents forever. They didn’t receive corporal punishment, they were brutalised and battered into submission and now live with anger and resentment. Many who were abused by their mothers now become abusers of women.

So the call is to eliminate corporal punishment from schools. So how do you discipline and punish the little horrors? Oh, take away their privileges, their Game Boy, their Nintendos, TV time, their cellphone. Yeah, right. I wish you luck. That may work for girls or mildly mischievous children, but when it comes to the vicious, hardcore, bad pickney, those methods do not work. Eventually the parents can’t manage and the children end up in reform school, wards of the State.

The USA has abolished corporal punishment for many years now, and look how many American children are rude, disrespectful, and violent. No country has more mass murders than America, often committed by children still in high school.

Britain is reputed to have the most terrible young football fans in Europe who’ve often been banned from other countries. Are those examples of sparing the rod and spoiling the child? In the USA a child can report a parent if he or she is slapped, and they use that to their advantage, as nobody can’t talk to them or discipline them.

“Touch me and I call the police.”

Again, I’m not saying to brutalise any child, for that is wrong, but there has to be some form of discipline, even in the early stages to let them know that there are consequences for really bad behaviour.

Look at the societies that offer time-outs and other ineffective ways to discipline children; it does not work for the really bad ones. Some children you can talk to, reason with, show them the way, but others need a good slap on the rump to let them know that badness don’t pay.

Aha, but this is not the era of discipline, for human rights are being trampled on. So now we have a society where people do as they please with no consequence, not even a slap on the wrist.

Look around, here and abroad. People can do anything they want with impunity. Is it a case of people being more aggressive, or that the rod was spared and the society got spoiled?

We are paying dearly, and taking away forms of punishment will only make matters worse.

More time.

seido1yard@gmail.com

Footnote: COVID-19 is still here and wreaking havoc. When you watch news from around the world and see the devastation, it’s mind-numbing and scary. And yet, some people aren’t scared enough, as they continue to flout the protocols and act as if it’s business as usual. The facts do not lie, as the areas in the USA that see an increased infection rate are those with the least vaccinations. Ninety-nine per cent of those hospitalised are unvaccinated, and as one official stated, “It’s a war between the unvaccinated and the virus, and the virus is winning.” People hospitalised are now begging for the vaccine. Too late. Even faced with those stark statistics, there are people who still resist. What is it going to take to heed the science?

Millions of Americans risk eviction as virus cases spike

WASHINGTON, DC, United States (AFP) – Millions of Americans could find themselves homeless starting today as a nationwide ban on evictions expires, against a backdrop of surging novel coronavirus cases and political finger-pointing.

With billions in government funds meant to help renters still untapped, President Joe Biden last week urged Congress to extend the 11-month-old moratorium, after a recent Supreme Court ruling meant the White House could not do so.

But Republicans balked at Democratic efforts to extend the eviction ban through mid-October, and the House of Representatives adjourned for its summer vacation Friday without renewing it.

Several left-wing Democrats spent the night outside the Capitol in protest – calling out their colleagues over the failure to act.

“We slept at the Capitol last night to ask them to come back and do their jobs. Today’s their last chance,” tweeted Congresswoman Cori Bush, who has herself experienced homelessness and was joined by fellow progressives Ilhan Omar and Ayanna Pressley.

With the clock ticking down to Sunday, the country was braced for a heartbreaking spectacle – families with their belongings at the curbside wondering where to go.

One of those at risk is Terriana Clark, who was living out of a car with her husband and two stepchildren for much of last year, before finding a teaching job and an apartment in Harvey, Louisiana.

Jobless again and struggling to pay rent after a bout of illness, the 27-year-old told The New Orleans Advocate she applied to a local assistance programme four months ago, but is still waiting for help.

“If it comes, it comes. If it don’t, it don’t,” she told the paper. “It’s going to be too late for a lot of people. A lot of people are going to be outside.”

Up north in Michigan, Mary Hunt, who makes minimum wage driving a medical taxi, likewise fell behind on her rent on a mobile home because she got sick with COVID-19.

She was served with eviction papers, and frets over what she will do with her stuff and her five cats and one dog.

“How do I choose which cats to keep? It’s not going to happen. I’m not going to leave any of them behind,” Hunt told National Public Radio last week.

“If I lose this house, then they go in the car with me. And people can think I’m a crackpot, but I’m not giving up my family,” Hunt said.

Unlike other pandemic-related aid that was distributed from Washington, such as stimulus cheques, it was states, counties and cities that were responsible for building programmes from the ground up to dole out assistance earmarked for renters.

The Treasury Department said that as of June, only US$3 billion in aid had reached households out of the US$25 billion sent to states and localities in early February, less than three weeks after Biden took office.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) ordered the eviction moratorium in September 2020, as the world’s largest economy lost over 20 million jobs amid the pandemic shutdowns. The CDC feared homelessness would boost novel coronavirus infections.

Although more than half of those jobs were since recovered, many families still have not caught up on missed rent payments.

The Census Bureau’s latest Household Pulse survey showed that of 51 million renters surveyed, 7.4 million were behind on rent and nearly half of those said they risked being evicted in the next two months.

Nearly 80 per cent of households that are behind on their rent as of early July lived in COVID hot spots, according to a study by the Jain Family Institute.

“Putting people out on the street is probably not going to have good effects on community transmission rates,” the institute’s housing policy researcher Paul Williams told CBS MoneyWatch.

Immediately after taking over, the Biden Administration had eased paperwork and eligibility requirements for an emergency rental assistance programme, but it has stressed that management remains in the hands of state and local officials.

“There can be no excuse for any state or locality not accelerating funds to landlords and tenants that have been hurt during this pandemic,” Biden warned Friday.

The CDC eviction moratorium and other protections prevented an estimated 2.2 million eviction filings since March 2020, said Peter Hepburn, a research fellow at the Eviction Lab at Princeton University.

Power of attorney and your bank account

AS people get older it can become difficult for them to manage their financial affairs. Naturally, this can be a major concern for many seniors as their reduced ability to manage their finances and personal business can make them vulnerable to both inadvertent errors and unscrupulous activity.

While the rise of remote banking options has been able to assist with the management of finances and the completion of several transactions using online channels, there are circumstances where the best solution may involve seeking assistance from a trusted family member.

For some, assigning what is known as the “power of attorney” to a trusted friend or relative who is known as the “attorney” – though no legal qualification is required – can be a good option as they navigate their senior years.

“The power of attorney is a legal document that allows you to appoint and grant authority to another person to assist in managing your financial affairs,” explains Richard Fraser, vice- president and senior legal counsel at Scotiabank. Fraser also advised that this is a matter that must be carefully considered, particularly in terms of the scope of powers granted and in terms of choosing the right or trusted person for this role.

One important thing to note, Fraser said, is that “the person appointed does not become the owner of any of the other person’s money or property; they only have the authority to manage it on their behalf”. They are also not able to make changes to a person’s will or make any decisions after their death. Additionally, it is also crucial to note that even with a power of attorney in place, as long as the individual is mentally capable, they can continue to make their own decisions about their financial affairs.

When it comes to banking he also highlighted that typically, the power of attorney grants an authorised individual access to the financial accounts of the owner – who is known as the principal- to pay for health care, housing needs and other bills. The attorney is also able to make investment decisions on behalf of the principal and carry out other roles related to the principal’s financial welfare.

In the contexts mentioned, the attorney is seen as a fiduciary and as such, the person must at all times act in the best interest of the principal when exercising the powers conferred under the power of attorney.

Fraser also pointed out that in order to appoint someone as an attorney under a power of attorney in relation to accounts held at the bank, the document will need to be validly executed and registered and the identity of the attorney will need to be validated before it is honoured.

“Although persons can draft their own simple power of attorney document and arrange for its stamping and registration, I consider it best practice for account holders wishing to utilise this option to obtain assistance from a legal professional. The legal professional would be able to assist with the preparation of the document, assist with the stamping and registration of the document, and give advice regarding the powers that should be conferred through the document based on the need of the account holder. Getting such legal advice is unlikely to be a burdensome cost and the process can prove to be extremely beneficial for the person who is considering the process,” he said.

While getting help is important, no senior should feel they are being pressured to take any of the above steps since the power of attorney should be given free from duress to truly be valid.

The power of attorney designation may be a great way to give seniors the assistance they need to carry out the necessities of life in their later years.

iCreate offers free digital training for the elderly

ICREATE Institute, the digital skills training institute which recently launched a multimillion-dollar digital awareness training programme to improve digital proficiency for thousands, is extending the initiative to Jamaican seniors, traditionally an under-represented group in the digital space.

CEO of iCreate, Tyrone Wilson said the project, which is expected to begin in September 2021, is making 500 spaces available to members of the Caribbean Community of Retired Persons (CCRP). The programme is designed to equip individuals and businesses in Jamaica with the digital mindset and tools needed to develop and succeed in today’s digital economy.

Wilson said iCreate will have on board approximately 25 companies and organisations that will invite their customers and stakeholders to participate in the programme. The digital awareness programme will include free training in digital marketing, social media customer service, e-commerce, data and cybersecurity and more.

“The economy we are living in today requires digital awareness in every field; we can no longer operate without basic digital skills,” Wilson said. “In order to grow and be successful it is imperative that we harness these skills and use them to our advantage.”

CCRP founder and executive chair Jean Lowrie-Chin thanked Wilson for extending the training to the organisation, saying, “We are very grateful to iCreate for this forward-thinking and inclusive innovation. Our members have much to offer the digital sphere and will welcome the opportunity to gain and sharpen their skills.”

The programme will provide:

● Awareness in critical digital and tech areas;

● Toolkits and e-books;

● Certification from iCreate Institute.

The CEO said that the total value of the programme was US$749,000, based on a per person value of US$149 and with 5,000 people enrolled. Participants will receive support, coursework and certification directly from the institute.

He indicated that the Tourism Enhancement Fund and the Jamaica Business Development Corporation have already joined as participants in the programme.

Will you be taking the flu vaccine this year?

THE novel coronavirus pandemic has made a vaccinologist out of most of us. By now, we pretty much know what a vaccine is, that no vaccine is 100 per cent perfect, and that being vaccinated isn’t licence to throw oneself in harm’s way.

With vaccines against COVID-19 we have also come to recognise and accept the notion that even if a vaccine doesn’t entirely prevent you from getting the virus, it is very effective at preventing hospitalisation, the need for a ventilator, and death. This is an important shift in people’s appreciation of vaccines, even health-care workers.

We have become used to the idea of receiving a vaccine as children, and being protected for life against diseases like measles, tetanus (or “lock jaw”), and whooping cough. For some vaccines, we may get a booster dose to remind our bodies of how to fight these germs. However, we have had a real challenge in accepting vaccines that do not quite fit this description.

Why do we need a flu vaccine every year?

The flu vaccine is sometimes seen as unnecessary or ineffective because of a misunderstanding about how some vaccines work.

Firstly, the flu vaccine is not one of those that provides lifelong protection. This is because there are many types of flu strains and these strains change over time. As such, flu vaccines made against a particular strain may not be effective against another strain of flu. Therefore, new flu vaccines are made each year based on monitoring by the World Health Organization (WHO) of the most commonly circulating flu strains.

Another common notion about the flu vaccine is that it does not work. By this, individuals mean that if it is not 100 per cent effective in preventing you from catching the flu, then it is not effective at all.

On average, a flu vaccine may prevent one out of every two people vaccinated from catching the flu. It may seem like an ineffective vaccine, but that 50 per cent translates into many individuals prevented from being hospitalised or dying, because they typically get a milder flu after vaccination compared to someone who is not vaccinated.

For someone who catches the flu even after getting the flu vaccine, the chance of being admitted to hospital is reduced by 50 per cent, and the risk of intensive care admission is cut by more than 80 per cent compared to someone who is not vaccinated.

Flu and COVID-19 – double trouble

As many of us have come to appreciate, COVID-19 seems to be here for the long haul, throwing us new tricks just when we had begun to think it was over. Although the flu vaccine does not have any known cross-protection against COVID-19, vaccination against the flu will prevent hospitalisations from the flu and decrease the burden on our health systems. Our elderly and people with weakened immune systems due to chronic illnesses are usually at higher risk for either the flu or COVID-19, and vaccination is an important tool in giving them direct protection. In getting vaccinated ourselves, we reduce the chance of passing on the virus to our loved ones and contacts.

Good hygiene practices

Data from the US, Chile, Australia, and South Africa have shown that practices and measures put in place to fight COVID-19 have drastically reduced flu infections during 2019/2020. For example, just about one in 50 samples submitted for flu testing in the US was positive for flu, compared to its usual 10 times higher positivity rate of over 20 per cent. Handwashing, physical distancing, staying home if unwell, covering coughs or sneezes, wearing a mask, and avoiding gatherings have been long recommended effective ways of reducing the spread of flu, and this has been demonstrated both for the flu and the more deadly COVID-19.

So, has COVID-19 made you think differently about the flu vaccine?

Dr Yohann White is medical director at Para Caribe Consulting. Visit their website at ParaCaribe.com or on social media @ParaCaribeJA. Also, e-mail Dr White at yohann.white@caribewellness.com

Historical conservationists voice concern over destruction of Slave Market wall in Charlestown

NIA CHARLESTOWN NEVIS (July 28, 2021) — The issue of destruction of historical sites on Nevis has surfaced again with the recent destruction at the historical Slave Market site in Charlestown, prompting historical conservationists to voice concern over the incident.

In a press statement by the Nevis Historical and Conservation Society (NHCS) on July 23, 2021, the society registered its alarm with the act.

“On behalf of Nevis citizens and residents, we are alarmed by the recent destruction at the historical Slave Market site in Charlestown. Nevis is unique as a ‘living museum’ dotted with hundreds if not thousands of sites, structures and antiquities. The sites represent an important – even if painful – legacy of our enslaved ancestors; they are testament to their hard work and must be protected and preserved for future generations,” the statement said.

The NHCS also reminded that the destruction of historic buildings, sites or monuments – even when privately owned – is a punishable offence and it is urging members of the public to report any damage, destruction or theft of stones to the society, even anonymously.

Meantime, Mrs. Evelyn Henville, Chairman of the Nevis World Heritage Committee, also expressed dissatisfaction with the destruction.

“We are truly saddened at the end result of the slave wall coming down. It is a place that is highly sacred and it is also extremely important to what we are doing in World Heritage, and so it was very disappointing to see that happen. The Director of Physical Planning stated that there were no permissions granted.

“An application for a permit should have been made given the fact that this site as well as numerous sites in Charlestown are protected in the Nevis Zoning Plan Ordinance under Charlestown Historic Area and Conservation Area,” she said.

Mrs. Henville also spoke of the wall’s significance to the island’s quest for UNESCO World Heritage designation.

“It is an extremely important aspect of the enslavement period of our forefathers. It is an extremely important aspect of the World Heritage theme. Our theme with regard to World Heritage is ‘Nevis an early Colonial Caribbean Agro Industrial landscape’ and as such the enslavement period of our forefathers plays a big role in this theme.

“As we have stated, we have to get past the chains and the pains and we have to show the universal value of the enslavement period and its contribution to the development of the developed world, and as such this slave wall and where the barber shop is located and that green space in-between the FLOW office and Octagon [Bar] are all crucial aspects of what we are researching and recommending for World Heritage and must be respected and conserved,” she said.

Mrs. Henville further added that “the owner sought assistance over the years with conservation of the wall which has been showing damage for years, but to no avail from the relevant authorities.  The owner has promised to secure the stones and we all must partner with him to erect this very critical part of our history.  It is imperative that all Nevisians become involved in protecting this heritage,” she said.

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‘Swim to Win’ aims to get swimming into schools

By Loshaun Dixon

‘Swim to Win’, a program organised to teach Nevisians how to swim and be safe in the ocean, is pushing for swimming to be part of the school curriculum, following the successful hosting of the Inaugural Christena Memorial Swim Camp

‘Swim to Win’ was started in January 2020, and is a collaborative effort between the government, Department of Sport, Department of Education and Department of Youth.

Speaking with the Observer, Coach Anne McLindon said the goal of ‘Swim to Win’ is to get people safely into the water.

“Last year was the 50th anniversary of the sinking of the Christena, and in honour and memory of those whom we lost, we started the program.”

Last August, Premier Mark Brantley announced the establishment of the camps, as part of activities marking the 50th anniversary of the sinking of the MS Christena Ferry.

McLindon said the programme is being offered to all ages and all abilities. She said when they launched ‘Swim to Win’ in January 2020, they trained some instructors.

“We have a very specific way that we teach swimming, but everything starts with safety. We want all of our swimmers to be safe in the water; whether they are at the beach or on a boat, they need to learn survival skills.”

She said they teach freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke and butterfly, and students are from the age of six. But they are developing the program for younger swimmers.

“We are trying to reach as much of the community as possible, and by the end of this week, we would have worked with over 300 swimmers.

“In the mornings this week, we have done our very first Christena Memorial swim camp, and that is done with Cecily Browne Integrated (CBI) School. These children have learned so much this week; they are incredible. They are learning how to float and swim and be safe, comfortable and confident in the water, and becoming a success.”

A total of three weeks of swim camps will be conducted by the ‘Swim to Win’ program this summer

McLindon said after a delay in the start of the camp, she worked with 40 swimmers to assist them in learning and developing confidence in the water.

“The achievement is just indescribable. We had a very successful week, and this week we are building on that in the morning with the CBI, and in the afternoon with 15 paid instructors.”

She said all the instructors started as volunteers, then were provided with training, and they then become paid.

“They do go through some rigorous training, and we develop them as instructors and swimmers themselves.”

McLindon said the ultimate aim would be to get a swim program as part of the school curriculum.

“Our goal ultimately working with the department of sport and department of education is to get our swim curriculum into the schools. We want to have a pool of qualified instructors go into the schools and teach swimming as part of the curriculum.”

She said they had to convince some people who were scared to come and learn to swim.

“We meet you wherever you are, take it step by step, and we go as slow as our swimmers need us to go. A lot of it is building trust between the swimmer and the instructor. I am not going to make you do anything you don’t want to do…we build the trust… I will be safe and will teach you how to be safe. There is no rush for us. We are here for them and to get them into the water comfortably.”

The swim coach said that the length of the program goes from beginner to competitive.

“There is no end to the program. We start with people who don’t want to get in, and we work with you and continue to develop your personal skill. Our program goes up to competitive swimmers, and our hope and goal are to enter our swimmers into swim meets.

“This is a program that is comprehensive – from brand new scared swimmers to developing high level international competitive swimmers.”

The first Christena Memorial ‘Swim to Win’ camp concludes today (July 30).

McLindon said they will give out awards to swimmers, and will have medals for everyone who came through the swim camp.

 

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Couple fined US$500 for quarantine breach

By Loshaun Dixon 

A couple from the United States was hit with fines this week after they broke quarantine protocols last weekend.

Farrakhan Assegai and Natasha Robinson were in quarantine at Montpelier in Nevis, and had to pay a US$500 fine after they left quarantine to travel to St. Kitts

According to Superintendent of Police, Cromwell Henry, the incident took place last Saturday when the couple left quarantine without authorization.

“On the morning of Saturday, July 24, the couple left their quarantine without authorization and journeyed to St. Kitts via a ferry. They were eventually located at a residence in Frigate Bay that night, and were taken to a government quarantine facility at the OTI to complete their quarantine and to be tested.

He said their test results returned negative, and they were released from quarantine on Tuesday, July 27.

“They were taken back to Nevis where they were arrested and charged for breaching their quarantine, and were taken before the Charlestown Magistrates Court where they were convicted and fined US$500 to be paid in one day.

“The fines were paid and they were allowed to leave the Federation.”

Henry warned that the police have taken a zero-tolerance approach to breaches of quarantine, as this puts the entire community at risk.

Superintendent of the St. Christopher and Nevis Police Force, Cromwell Henry.

“This includes persons required to remain in self-quarantine at their homes on the instruction of any medical officer. We continue to solicit the full cooperation of all residents to adhere to all COVID-19 protocols. Whatever instructions or directives are imposed by any medical officer, these are all intended to keep everybody safe.”

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Using the OAS to promote discord over Cuba

By Sir Ronald Sanders 

(The writer is Antigua and Barbuda’s Ambassador to the United States and the Organization of American States.   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.  The views expressed are entirely his own)

 

Much has been written about a meeting, convoked by the present Chair of the Permanent Council of the Organization of American States (OAS), to discuss “the situation in Cuba” which he was obliged to defer after objections by several member states.

The present Chair is the Ambassador of Uruguay, Mr Abdala Washington.  He convoked the meeting on Monday July 26 to be held at 10 am on Wednesday 28 July.  While the Chair has the authority to convene a meeting of the Permanent Council, it is unusual that he did so without consulting member states.  After all, he expected member states to participate in a meeting on a subject matter on which he decided; the least he might have done was to consult with the coordinators of the regional members of the OAS to determine their views.   This is normal practice on any matters that would obviously be controversial.

In any event, no consultation was held, and OAS member states were surprised to be given less than 48 hours to discuss Cuba which had not participated in the OAS since 1961 when it was suspended by a general assembly of the OAS.  It should be noted that, apart from Haiti, no CARICOM member state was a member of the OAS when that suspension occurred.  Heading countries that voted for the 1961 suspension were such notorious figures as Alfredo Stroessner of Paraguay, Nicaragua’s Anastasio Somoza and Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier in Haiti.

Since the 1961 suspension, Cuba had been discussed by the OAS only once.  That was in June 2009 when the general assembly decided to lift the suspension at its own volition; Cuba had not requested its lifting.

The 2009 resolution itself stated that “the participation of the Republic of Cuba in the OAS will be the result of a process of dialogue initiated at the request of the Government of Cuba”.   Cuba’s response was that it had no interest in participation in the OAS.

The de facto position, therefore, is that Cuba has not been a participating member of the OAS for 60 years and has no wish to be a member.   A sudden, unexplained decision to discuss Cuba in the Permanent Council troubled member states who could see no productive outcome from it.  Indeed, if anything, such a discussion was considered to be harmful to diplomatic efforts to try to improve relations between the US and Cuba which was one of President Biden’s undertakings during his campaign to be elected President.

Further, on the same day that the Chair of the OAS Permanent Council issued his unexpected convocation of the meeting to discuss Cuba, CARICOM Heads of Government had written to President Biden saying that they were “troubled by the circumstances in Cuba”, referring to protests that had taken place on July 11.  They attributed the protests to the 61-year-old US trade embargo, punitive measures imposed by the Trump administration, and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.  They said, “All of this, together with threats to its national security, have contributed to placing Cuba in conditions of abnormality in which normal criteria and expectation cannot be applied”.   They called on President Biden to lift the embargo “so that all the rights to which the Cuban state and its people are entitled can be respected and upheld”, and they recalled that “under a previous US administration of which you were a part, significant strides were made in this direction, and could be advanced to beneficial effect”.

Passing strange was an email sent to many OAS delegations by an Organisation called “Youth and Democracy in the Americas”, formed by Venezuelan nationals with help from the OAS Secretary-General, Luis Almagro.  Curiously, this organisation, told OAS Ambassadors on 27 July that it had “presented a petition to the Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), Dr. Luis Almagro and subsequently our President Cecilia Navas met with the President of the Permanent Council of the OAS and also Uruguayan Ambassador, Washington Abdala, to request a extraordinary session to discuss the serious humanitarian situation suffered by our Cuban brothers and sisters and the dangers facing democracy in the Republic of Cuba”.   They went on to say, “in view of the fact that the Permanent Council of the OAS has accepted our request and has convened a special session for tomorrow, July 28, with the situation in Cuba as its central theme, we therefore request your participation… “.   It was evident from this email message that the Chair of the Permanent Council and the Secretary-General had accepted a consulted with an external group that has a specific political agenda, and not with member states of the OAS on the holding of a meeting to discuss Cuba.  A very odd way to behave, causing more questions to be raised, concerning the motives for the meeting.

Thirteen CARICOM countries formally urged the Chair to reconsider holding the meeting.  I was authorised by those delegations to send the letter in my capacity as Coordinator of the CARICOM group. ASeveral other countries sent similar letters, and for fear of calling a meeting for which there would be no quorum, the Chair decided to defer the meeting, pending an Opinion from the Legal Department of the OAS Secretariat which is answerable to the Secretary-General and routinely produces opinions consistent with his views.

The legal opinion has now been produced and, predictably, it concludes that the Permanent Council has “the competence to consider the situation in Cuba” because since Cuba never formally withdrew from the Organisation, it remains a member notwithstanding its publicly stated position that it has no interest in participating in it.  It seems membership can be conveniently forced on the unwilling.

No possible useful purpose will be served by any meeting to discuss Cuba.  The OAS can enforce nothing on it.  Any discussion could only satisfy political hawks with an eye on US mid-term elections where winning South Florida with the backing of Cuban exiles would be a prize.  The task of the OAS should be to promote peaceful and cooperative relations in the hemisphere, not to feed division and conflict.

Responses and previous commentaries: www.sirronaldsanders.com

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Forward not backward

Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley announced on Tuesday that Barbados will become a republic on November 30th of this year. This is significant, because Barbados gained independence from Britain on November 30th, 1966, 55 years ago. It would be done come Independence Day, according to Mottley.

Becoming a republic means that Barbados will remove the British monarch as its titular head of state. Most of the former British colonies, upon obtaining independence, continued with the British monarch as head of state. They joined what is referred to as the Commonwealth. Most have since became republics.

Ms. Mottley in a speech on Tuesday said,

“On November 30 this year, our great nation which we love shall become a parliamentary republic. The Cabinet has accepted the recommendations of the Forde Commission, with minor modification, [and] our parliamentary republic shall have a non-executive president.

[The president] shall be elected by the Electoral College of both houses of Parliament, and that president shall be entitled to serve initially for a period of four years, and thereafter can be reappointed for another term.

“We will make amendments to facilitate that transition to a new president to be sworn in on that day of November 30 of this year, and that in so doing, that we start from December 1 the journey of the settlement of the new constitution of Barbados, which will be the subject of extensive consultation and communication with the people of this nation,”

By contrast, in the British Virgin Islands (BVI), the British government is conducting a commission of inquiry into governments past and present. The inquiry was launched by the former British-appointed governor in January this year. The commission’s scope is very wide, and appears to continue in session into 2022.

Sir Gary Hickinbottom is the Sole Commissioner in the British Virgin Islands Commission of Inquiry.  He is an English lawyer.

Many in the British Virgin Islands believe that Britain will suspend the constitution of the BVI and implement direct British rule. The Observer is not in accord with this thinking. Barbados, which is also a former British Colony, gained independence in 1966. St. Kitts and Nevis was the last British Caribbean colony to gain independence. St. Kitts and Nevis became independent in 1983.

Contrast Jamaica declaring independence in August 1962, Barbados in November 1966, and St. Kitts and Nevis in 1983 to the British Virgin Islands returning to direct British rule in 2022. That will not set well anywhere. If the British commission of inquiry finds wrongdoing, then the accused should face the court of law while the British Virgin Islands  continues to greater self-governance.

That march has stalled. The last review in the Virgin Islands constitution happened in 2007. Britain suspended the constitution  of the Turks and Caicos Islands in 2009, and implemented day-to-day Home Office rule. Britain gave a reason for that move to be widespread corruption in that territory.

The islands that  formed the British Caribbean Islands started the march to independence 59 years ago, implementing direct British on any territory in 2022 is worse than any retrograde step that could be considered in modern times.

Britain says that China violated its promise to maintain a separate system in Hong Kong by imposing direct rule. If Britain imposes direct rule in the British Virgin Islands in 2022, can it even shake a candle at China?

A referendum on independence for the British Virgin Islands may fail, because it appears that most residents prefer to maintain a relationship with the UK. Given that constraint, local politicians may want to encourage greater self-governance; a reduced role for a British-appointed governor, and strong and enforceable  guidelines for governance; greater transparency, and an independent prosecutor’s office that can investigate and prosecute corruption.

Coming out of the European Union, the United Kingdom has labelled itself “Global Britain”, indicating that Britain will again be a dominant player in world affairs. The UK has built new ships, and is partnering with the United States – and very recently China and Russia accused the UK of illegally transiting through their waters.

It is the view of the Observer that the UK unnecessarily retreated from the world, and trying to return to the world stage cannot be at the sovereign expense of her few remaining colonies.
Global Britain could end up being a guide for any country that maintains colonies, ceding  the running of the territory to elected politicians with Britain maintaining big brother position for defense, assistance with technical assistance and training.1962 and 2022 .We should be moving forward and not backward.

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