A top United States official is calling on Caribbean nationals in the United States to help shape Washington’s foreign policy.
“Our diversity is our strength, and it needs to move faster,” said Juan Gonzalez, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Central America and the Caribbean at the US Department of State, as he addressed a panel discussion on the Caribbean Diaspora at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, New York.
The event, which examined the social and economic problems facing Caribbean nations, was organized by Medgar Evers College and the US Department of State.
It represented the first-ever partnership between the college in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn and the US Department of State to, “underscore the deep connections between the US and the Caribbean,” according to Medgar Evers College.
“I would encourage you to join us and to help show how our foreign policy is designed,” said Gonzalez, one of the three panelists.
The others were; Lowell Hawthorne, the Jamaican-born president and chief executive officer of Golden Crust Caribbean Bakery and Grill, and Dr Sheilah Paul, Associate Dean of the School of Liberal Arts and Education at Medgar Evers College, who was born in Trinidad and Tobago.
The discussion was moderated by Tony Best, the Barbadian-born senior editor at New York’s Carib News newspaper.
Gonzalez said extant US policy towards the Caribbean surrounds education, security and energy security, lamenting that the Caribbean pays more than the rest of the world for energy.
“If we can help the Caribbean, it’ll have implications for the world,” he said.
On exchange, Gonzalez said the goal is to have 100,000 students study in the Caribbean, stating that President Obama earlier this year launched the Young Future Leaders initiative to aid, among others, Caribbean young scholars.
The State Department official said the US has a “special interest in the Caribbean,” which is aimed at seeing “prosperity and security” in the region thrive, disclosing that Washington has provided US$427million to the Caribbean since 2011.
“The Caribbean Diaspora is an incredible force,” Gonzalez said, adding, “the community here can have an impact on the Caribbean.”
He said that he migrated to the US, when he was only seven years old, adding that, “this country affords lots of opportunities.”
Gonzalez said the Caribbean Diaspora can influence US foreign policy in much the same way as the Colombian American community.
Beware – Blair warns pastors to rethink actions; Miller’s flock was prepared to listen to him preach from behind bars
Religious leaders, who, for decades, have worked with the police to facilitate the peaceful surrender of criminal suspects, have been warned to rethink their actions.
Bishop Herro Blair issued the warning yesterday after parish judge Simone Wolfe Reece sentenced popular pastor the Reverend Merrick ‘Al’ Miller to a fine of $1 million, or 12 months in prison, for his corruption conviction, which is related to the capture of drug kingpin Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke.
But even if Miller had been sent to prison, members of his flock had no intention of abandoning him. One of them told The Gleaner that she was prepared to have his sermons streamed from prison “because if Kartel (Vybz, dancehall artiste) can mek music in dere (prison), him mus’ can preach from behind bars, too”.
Church members were in a celebratory mood, and last night, were gearing up for what they said was an impromptu celebratory service at Fellowship Tabernacle, Fairfield Avenue, in St Andrew. It was obvious that they dropped what they had to do to be there. Up to press time, when The Gleaner left, music was blaring, persons were streaming in steadily, while others were in small groups on the compound, openly giving thanks to God for miracles.
Blair, however, was in a more reflective mood earlier yesterday when The Gleaner spoke with him outside the Kingston and St Andrew Parish Court.
“We will have to rethink our positions. We will have to reassess what we have done and what we will do because before such actions are taken by us as pastors, we will have to decide, is this worth it?” he said.
“It now speaks volumes to those of us who work with the security forces,” added Blair, who was overcome with emotion after Wolfe Reece indicated that Miller would not get a prison term.
“It was an emotional day because the same request that Reverend Miller received, I received. I preceded him into Tivoli Gardens. I went there twice and had the same audience with the gentleman [Coke], who was on extradition orders,” he said, explaining his emotional reaction.
“I sat there today [in court yesterday] and I felt that that could have been me, and that should have been me because I had literally [the] first option to take him [Coke] in,” he added.
Miller was found guilty in July of attempting to pervert the course of justice. The founding pastor of Fellowship Tabernacle was arrested and charged in June 2010, days after Coke was captured in a sport utility vehicle Miller was driving along Mandela Highway in St Catherine.
The drug kingpin, who was wanted on an extradition warrant, was captured after a month-long nationwide manhunt that included a joint police-military operation in his west Kingston stronghold, which left 74 civilians and one member of the Jamaica Defence Force dead.
In explaining her decision to impose a fine, Wolfe Reece said she took into consideration the service that Miller has given to others and his country and the fact that no violence was involved in the offence for which he was convicted. “I don’t believe that a custodial sentence would be the appropriate sentence,” said Wolfe Reece.
However, despite Miller’s long-standing issues before the court, Michael Aiken, associate pastor of the church, in an interview with The Gleaner, indicated that it was a time of rejoicing and thanksgiving among the membership.
“The rejoicing continues. We rejoice in every circumstance, so this is just another. God’s people have been praying all over the country and over the world. We have been praying for mercy, and the church is thankful,” he declared.
“I do believe the church will continue to follow his (Miller) lead and rejoice in all circumstances. In terms of his personal commitment, I know he has always been committed to a new Jamaica and pressing for transformation. I know his focus, (especially) that the weight of the case is off his back and in his own words, he said, ‘Now that this over, it’s on with the process to build a new Jamaica of justice, truth, and prosperity. A fi wi country. Mek wi build it’.”
Miller’s fine was paid and he was later whisked away from the courthouse.
The clergyman’s lead attorney, Jacqueline Samuels-Brown, said her client was grateful that he was not given a prison term. “He is happy that he is free to continue serving the people of Jamaica,” Samuels-Brown told The Gleaner.
Around 100 Haitian cholera victims protested Monday in front of the presidential palace demanding that the Government obtahttp://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/lead-stories/20160916/beware-blair-warns-pastors-rethink-actions-millers-flock-was-preparedin damages from the United Nations, whose peacekeepers are blamed for the epidemic.
“We are here so that (interim president) Jocelerme Privert finally takes the victims’ side during the UN General Assembly next week,” said Mario Joseph, a lawyer representing several people who contracted the disease.
In mid-August, nearly six years after the epidemic first spread in this impoverished island nation, the United Nations recognized that it had a “moral responsibility” toward the victims and promised material aid.
“The United Nations is finally recognizing it brought cholera here, so it’s time for the Haitian authorities to say something,” Joseph said.
“But since our country has experienced coups, the authorities say nothing because they want MINUSTAH (the UN mission) to always be there to protect them.”
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has recommended a six-month renewal of MINUSTAH, which was established in 2004.
Haitians fiercely opposed to the presence of the peacekeepers spoke of an international plot.
“Whenever the time comes to decide on whether to renew the mission, there is more insecurity in the city,” said Martine Febert.
The UN peacekeepers “favour this insecurity in order to justify their presence and keep their jobs,” said the 23-year-old.
Nearly 10,000 people have died from cholera in Haiti. With more than 500 cases of the disease each week, the country is facing the worst epidemic in the world in recent history.
Cholera, which is transmitted through contaminated drinking water and causes acute diarrhea, is a major challenge in a country with poor sanitary conditions.
Some 72 per cent of Haitians have no toilets at home and 42 percent still lack access to drinking water, the UN says.
The World Anti-Doping Association’s (WADA) database has been under attack for weeks, its president Craig Reedie told the BBC on Wednesday.
Reedie’s remarks came a day after WADA revealed the Russian cyber-espionage group Tsar Team (APT28), also known as Fancy Bears, had broken into its Anti-Doping Administration and Management System (ADAMS) database.
The hacking group released information gleaned from the files of US Olympic gymnastic star Simone Biles, tennis legends the Williams sisters (Venus, Serena) and US women’s basketball player Elena Delle Donne, claiming US athletes at the Olympics had ‘played well but not fair’.
Reedie, who is also a senior member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), said there was little doubt despite denials by the Russian government the hackers came from Russia.
“We have pretty authoritative information that they have close connections to Russia,” said Reedie.
“They have been attacking our system now for weeks.
“We have been under attack for weeks. This is an attack on the anti-doping system. and it’s rather unhelpful at the moment,” added Reedie in reference to the ongoing efforts to bring Russia into line after the damning WADA-commissioned independent report that revealed state sponsored doping, dating back to the 2013 World Athletics Championships and the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.
“Russia has claimed at the very highest level that they understand they have a problem, but they still seem in some ways to be in denial. If we have to make the biggest country in the world compliant in anti-doping terms, then this is distinctly unhelpful.”
– ‘Hacking has to stop’ –
Reedie, whose body advocated a ban on all Russian athletes at the Rio Games before the IOC controversially ruled federations should decide on the eligibility of each one in their respective sports to compete, said the hacking had to stop.
The Fancy Bears have threatened to release more files saying those already published were just the ‘tip of the iceberg’.
“I hope the court of world opinion will see that this is an attack on the system, that it is unwarranted and that it has to stop,” said Reedie.
None of the documents published by the group provided evidence of wrongdoing on the part of the athletes involved.
Instead, the disclosed files set out instances where the athletes had been granted exemptions to use various medications for legitimate reasons — a common practice in the sports world.
Reedie confirmed this saying there was nothing sinister in the details that had been revealed.
“There is a long-established system of therapeutic use exemptions whereby an athlete who requires to take medicine that may be on the prohibited list can get an exemption to do so, provided it is certified properly by medical people and then certified by the relevant international federation,” said Reedie.
“As far as I can see in the cases that were mentioned, all of that has been done, and has been done correctly,” added the Scotsman.
WADA said it believed the latest breach had occurred after “spear phishing” of email accounts and that it had been confined to ADAMS accounts of athletes competing in Rio.
Spear phishing is when an email user receives a message purportedly from someone they know, but it is actually from a hacker.
The data breach comes just weeks after hackers gained access to WADA’s file on Russian doping whistleblower Yulia Stepanova.
Stepanova, who is living in hiding in the United States, later said she feared for her life following the hack.
The latest incident comes after a series of WADA investigations which have alleged a vast state-sponsored doping programme in Russian sport dating back several years.
Russia’s track and field athletes were banned from the Rio Olympics by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), angering the Kremlin, which condemned the move as politically motivated.
But an independent report commissioned by WADA and published in July by Canadian law professor Richard McLaren concluded Russia had run an elaborate scheme to evade drug-testers at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, corroborating claims by the former head of Russia’s anti-doping laboratory.
CARICOM Deepens Regional Partnerships to Address De-risking
The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) has deepened its partnerships within the region in order to strengthen its efforts to address the withdrawal of correspondent banking services from some regional institutions.
On Friday (September 9, 2016), Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Gaston Browne, who is leading CARICOM’s advocacy on the matter, met with the heads of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) and the Jamaica National Building Society (JNBS) to discuss CARICOM’s high level advocacy in response to the emerging de-risking practices by correspondent banks.
“De-risking of correspondent banking services is an existential threat facing the Caribbean region which has the potential to decimate our living standards,” Prime Minister Browne said following the meeting in St John’s, Antigua. Prime Minister of Jamaica, Andrew Holness shares a similar focus, recently describing de-risking, at a press conference in Kingston to discuss his government’s Economic Growth Council, as a “clear and present danger”.
“We must work collectively as a region to address this threat to our survival,” Prime Minister Browne stated.
Correspondent banks, which are mainly large, international banks domiciled in the United States of America, Europe and Canada, provide Caribbean states with vital access to the international financial system, by offering services to smaller, domestic banks and financial institutions to complete international payments and settlements.
However, many banks, which provide correspondent banking services have been seeking to manage their risks by severing ties with institutions in the region.
The issue garnered interest from CARICOM at its 27th Inter-Sessional Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government in Belize in February. At that session, a team, led by the Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister, was appointed to lobby policymakers in the United States of America, Canada and the United Kingdom on the threat to Caribbean economies from the withdrawal of correspondent banking services. The issue was also heavily discussed at the 37th Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM in Georgetown, Guyana in July.
Prime Minister Browne says JNBS and CDB will provide technical assistance to advance CARICOM’s advocacy efforts and work with CARICOM to identify solutions to the challenges. They will also be assisting CARICOM to coordinate implementation efforts and to strengthen monitoring mechanisms.
As part of its contribution, JNBS, which has been among institutions in Jamaica leading advocacy efforts to address the emerging correspondent banking problems, is developing a website to increase awareness about the emerging issue, while the CDB will continue to work with the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force to build capacity of member countries.
“Correspondent banking services are a public global good that is essential for participation in global trade; and is particularly important for small island economies,” Prime Minister Browne said.
Agreeing with Prime Minister Browne, Earl Jarrett, General Manager, JNBS, pointed to the threat to services such as remittances, on which the region depends. Highlighting challenges faced by his organisation’s remittance company in The Cayman Islands, he stated that the value of remittances was equivalent to a significant percentage of gross domestic product for many receiving countries in the region.
“Remittances are the lifeline for migrant communities across the region. And, Jamaica alone, with a Diaspora population of some three million, represents one of the largest recipient countries in the region, accounting for amounts equivalent to approximately 17 percent of our gross domestic product (GDP),” Mr Jarrett affirmed.
In addition to solutions and advocacy approaches to address de-risking, Friday’s meeting also included discussions about an upcoming CARICOM conference on de-risking to be held in Antigua and Barbuda in October.
The CDB and Jamaica National will also be providing support to the initiative.
Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Gaston Browne (centre), stands with (from to right): Dr Warren Smith, President of the Caribbean Development Bank; Onika Miller, Executive, Government Relations and Public Policy, Jamaica National Building Society (JNBS); Earl Jarrett, General Manager, JNBS and Ian Durrant, Deputy Director in the Economics Department at the CDB. The Prime Minister, who has been mandated by CARICOM to lead high-level advocacy on de-risking, met with the CDB and JNBS to discuss initiatives. –Contributed