#UncertainFuture – CARICOM and the Dominican Republic



It’s encouraging to hear Jamaican Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Minister A.J. Nicholson explain that CARICOM has not been silent on the latest developments in the Dominican Republic, where thousands of people of Haitian descent, stripped of citizenship by a 2013 ruling of the DR’s Constitutional Court are now in fear of forced eviction to Haiti.

While encouraging, though, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to say I want to hear more, and more loudly.

Senator Nicholson addressed Jamaica’s Upper House of Parliament on Friday and explained that CARICOM placed on the agenda of a June 11 high-level meeting of CARIFORUM (CARICOM plus the Dominican Republic) and the European Union the human rights violations being committed against Dominicans of Haitian descent.

He said that “both sides agreed on the importance of the principles of the protection of the status of citizenship and the presumption that persons shall not be rendered stateless. The meeting also agreed that consideration would be given to proposals for “appropriate benchmarks and monitoring mechanisms” to be presented by CARIFORUM.”

Senator Nicholson also noted that at the 26th Inter-Sessional Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community held in The Bahamas in February, CARICOM Heads had decided that “the Chairman of CARICOM should engage with the EU High Representative on the Community’s concerns with regard to the Dominican Republic.”

The meeting also issued a statement expressing “grave concern a number of recent developments affecting grievously Dominicans of Haitian descent and Haitian migrants in the Dominican Republic. The process of regularisation of Dominicans of Haitian descent arbitrarily deprived of their nationality by the Dominican Republic Constitutional Court ruling of September 2013 expired on 1 February 2015. Government Officials indicated that it would not be extended despite the fact that only a very small number (6937) of the persons affected were able to apply in time, leaving a large number estimated to be over 100,000 vulnerable to expulsion.

“This distressing development needs to be placed in the context of the judgement of 22 October 2014 of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights which called for the nullifying of all the dispositions resulting from the ruling on nationality and for the reversal of the ruling itself. The Community reiterates its condemnation of the DR Government’s repudiation of international law.”

I have seen CARICOM’s statements on the issue and welcome the expressions of condemnation. The diplomatic efforts to get the EU on board should strengthen CARICOM’s position, and it is hoped will continue, and that we will see a coalition of outrage grow, and press the DR to reverse its current unjustifiable actions, and negate the Constitutional Court ruling which has left thousands of people stateless.

But call me greedy. I still want more from CARICOM.

It shouldn’t be that we have to be calling for the regional grouping to state its position. I want to hear voices from CARICOM raised in international fora, not confined to statements published discreetly on the CARICOM website, and for which you have to search closely and diligently.

I don’t want to wait for a single Foreign Minister (no disrespect Senator Nicholson) to elucidate the group’s position. Glad as I am to hear of the efforts that have been taking place, the voices I want to hear in public are those of the region’s Prime Ministers. PM Ralph Gonsalves is now the lone voice representing CARICOM in the media on controversial issues. What will happen when he retires?

The first time I wrote about this issue I was complaining about the lack of a strong position from CARICOM, and again it was PM Golsalves who was speaking for the region. CARICOM did come through with a much stronger position but the group never appears to have a strong committed voice and leader (apart from PM Golsalves.)

The main problem is that  the current crop of CARICOM Prime Ministers is a generally disappointing lot, seemingly perpetually so caught up with domestic crises and petty parochial politics there appears to be little inclination to assume that position of regional stateman or statewoman willing to speak on the world stage.

On this, I would love to be proven wrong. I really would.

Lost in the Prison System – Again!  

The story of Delroy McIntosh, imprisoned for nearly 25 years after being adjudged unfit to plead, is a national disgrace. The fact that Mr. McIntosh was originally imprisoned for possession of ganja is one of the irrelevancies that is often strewn across such discussions.

As was the case with Mario Deane, who died in police custody after being arrested for ganja possession, the issue here is not whether people should be locked up for possession of ganja. We should not therefore, be deluded into believing that the recent amendments to the Dangerous Drugs Act will cure the problem.

I say this because the critical issue here is that a vulnerable man, with no one to advocate for him and remind the world that he existed,  was lost in Jamaica’s prison system, and as a result lost 25 years of his life. The fact that he was locked up for possession of ganja is irrelevant because it could have been any other minor offence, and the result would have been the same.

In fact, we saw the same result in 2001, when Alfred “Ivan Barrows” Nettleford was released from prison after 28 years, having been jailed in 1972 for breaking a window.

The real issues here are the treatment of mentally ill people in the criminal justice system, the lack of proper treatment for them, and the lack of accountability and tracking of people in the system. These deficiencies resulted in the violation of Mr. McIntosh’s and Mr. Nettleford’s right to liberty. The sad truth is we have no idea whether there are any others in the same position.

As with “Ivan Burrowes,” Mr. McIntosh has been released thanks to the efforts of human rights activist, Nancy Anderson. On this occasion, students at the Norman Manley Law School worked along with her. She says she will be continuing this important work.

In the meantime, Justice Minister Mark Golding has promised improvements that will prevent a recurrence. That is an important first step. But we need more. We must see a thorough overhaul and streamlining of the way in which we deal with the mentally ill, other vulnerable groups, and indeed, all prisoners, to ensure that nothing like this happens again. And we must hold the Justice Minister to his word.



Nigeria girls who fled Boko Haram look to brighter future


Interesting update on the Chibok girls who did escape from Boko Haram –

Originally posted on Lawyers Alert:

Picture taken on May 5, 2014 shows Chibok school girls who escaped from the Boko Haram Islamists gathering to receive information from officials


Lagos (AFP) – A typical day for Deborah includes classes on a manicured university campus and exercise in the evening — basketball, volleyball or aerobics. On weekends, she studies, swims or just relaxes.


But the teenager’s life now is one that was unimaginable 12 months ago.

On April 14 last year, she was in a packed dormitory at the Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok, northeastern Nigeria, seeking a night’s sleep before writing end-of-term exams.

Boko Haram fighters stormed the school after sundown, kidnapping 276 girls.

The mass abduction provoked global outrage and brought unprecedented attention to an insurgency that has devastated northern Nigeria since 2009.

Deborah was one of 57 girls who escaped within hours of the attack. Her life has changed but for the other 219 hostages still being held and for families desperate for news, the nightmare continues.

Despite promises…

View original 652 more words

Ganja Reform, Rights and Rasta

In 1997, Dr. Dennis Forsythe, described in Forsythe v Director of Public Prosecutions and Attorney General (1997 34 J.L.R. 512) as a sociologist, holist, author, Rastafarian and attorney-at-law, petitioned the Supreme (High) Court for a declaration that his constitutional rights to freedom of conscience and freedom of religion had been infringed by the Dangerous Drugs Act 1924. Forsythe had been arrested for illegal possession of marijuana (called ganja in Jamaica) and a chillum pipe (used to smoke marijuana) at his house. 

This is my post at Oxford Human Rights Hub. Do read the rest here.

Does Arthur Williams Have Clean Hands? – Williams v Holness Part 2

Image by David Castillo Dominici at www.freedigitalphotos.net

Image by David Castillo Dominici at http://www.freedigitalphotos.net

There was a collective national gasp in 2013, when, after having been ousted from the Senate by Opposition Leader Andrew Holness, by way of delivery to the Governor General of a pre-signed letter of resignation and a pre-signed letter of authorization to date and send the resignation letter, Arthur Williams revealed that he had crafted those very letters.

There was doubt in some quarters that Williams would even be entertained in the Supreme Court, given his significant contribution to creating the very devices that were used to remove him from the Senate.

When the Supreme Court ruled that the letters were inconsistent with the constitution, contrary to public policy, null and void, the questions were raised again.

How could Arthur Williams benefit from a ruling made necessary by a situation that he himself had brought about? Shouldn’t he have been barred from accessing the court, or at the very least not have benefitted from its ruling? Read more in my post on www.rjrnewsonline.com. 

You’re Fired! (or Not) – Williams v Holness Part 1

Image by master isolated images www.freedigitalphotos.net

Image by master isolated images http://www.freedigitalphotos.net

According to the Supreme Court ruling in the case of Arthur Williams v Andrew Holness, political leaders have no power to revoke the appointment of Senators. The question we are left with is whether they should have that power.

The case has left Jamaicans asking about its immediate impact on the composition of the Senate, with lawyers for Mr. Williams maintaining that he and Mr. Tufton are still Senators while lawyers for Mr. Holness disagree. Read more in my post at www.rjrnewsonline.com.

Featured Image -- 3197

What Miss Jamaica Missed


great writing as always……

Originally posted on Under the Saltire Flag:


And so it happened, the extraordinarily beautiful and humble Kaci Fennell, Jamaica’s contestant in Donald Trump’s intergalactic pageant, was not, in the end, crowned Miss Universe. She came fifth. The crowd in Miami booed. To tell the truth, they went ape-shit! ‘Ms Jamaica’ trended across America’s twittosphere for hours – and at #1 at that – oh the irony! At home, Jamaicans cried ‘racism’; they cried ‘block de road!’; they cried, ‘give me one of those Bain placards we not using anymore, cross out de name ‘Bain’, and put ‘Kaci’ instead! We want Justice!’  It was high drama. Even the other contestants flocked around the Caribbean beauty, commiserating her 5th place, instead of flocking around the unpopular winner, Ms Colombia, to offer due congratulations.


My own misgivings about beauty pageants have been made public before. They remain the same. Pageants help to establish very dangerous standards of beauty for…

View original 1,481 more words