Archive for May 23rd, 2010

Golding declares emergency

| 23/05/2010 | 59 Comments

(CNS): Following attacks on three police stations and continued unrest in the country’s capital, Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding declared a state of emergency in parts of Kingston on Sunday afternoon. Masked men torched a police station and traded gunfire with security forces in a barricaded area of West Kingston and St Andrew’s — areas known as the stronghold of Christopher "Dudus" Coke, the man whom Golding has now agreed to extradite to the United States. The BBC’s Nick Davis has reported that troops and police have come under fire and smoke is rising from the burning police station.

The US Justice Department claims Coke is one of the world’s most dangerous drug barons. He is accused of leading a gang called the Shower Posse and operating an international smuggling network. The gang has also been blamed for numerous murders in Jamaica and the US. Coke is said to have strong ties to the ruling Jamaica Labour Party and holds significant sway over the West Kingston area represented in Parliament by Golding, who stalled Coke’s extradition request for months with claims that the US indictment relied on illegal wiretap evidence.

Coke is widely suspected of controlling gunmen in the Tivoli Gardens neighbourhood, which has now been transformed into a virtual fortress, cut off by trashed cars, barbed wire and other home made barricade material, according to various media reports from Kingston. In Hannah Town, close to Tivoli Gardens, a police station was set aflame by Molotov cocktails on Sunday afternoon.
The violence erupted following a week of ever-higher tensions in the capital over the decision by Golding to finally agree to Coke’s extradition. On Sunday morning, police urged the neighbourhood boss to surrender, calling the heavy barricades encircling his slum stronghold a sign of "cowardice". Although Coke has not yet been found, his lawyers are challenging the extradition in Jamaica’s Supreme Court. Coke, himself, who typically avoids the limelight, has remained silent. He faces life in prison if convicted on charges filed against him in New York.
Golding’s fight against the extradition strained relations with Washington, which questioned the Caribbean country’s reliability as an ally in the fight against drugs. His handling of the matter, particularly his hiring of a US firm to lobby Washington to drop the extradition request, provoked an outcry that threatened his political career.
The US, Canada and Britain have all now issued travel alerts, warning of possible violence and unrest in Jamaica. Most islanders have been steering clear of downtown Kingston entirely. The state of public emergency, limited to the parishes of Kingston and St. Andrew, will be in effect for one month unless extended or revokedby lawmakers, the government said.
Reverend Renard White, a leader of a Justice Ministry peace initiative that works in Jamaica’s troubled communities, said Coke is a strongman who wields "enormous power" and whose followers are ready for violence if they think it is in his best interest.

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Cayman’s Fiscal Destiny: Stuck in the Trenches?

| 23/05/2010 | 25 Comments

A new arrival in Cayman might be forgiven for wondering if many of the key players here are stuck in the trenches of World War I. And are waiting for some deus ex machina (like the armoured tank) to rescue them from the stalemate. So we have private sector groups lobbing shells into the air shouting “no to any (more) taxes, cut the civil service, waste and unnecessary government services”.

The civil service association arouses itself and lobs back equally large shells proclaiming “we do a good job, we have contractual entitlements and just see what happens to all those needed services if there are cut backs”. Both sides take a short break, reload and start shooting again.

The political leadership understandably seems taken aback by the Luddite attitudes of both sides, and is unable to find the right key to unlock the impasse. And with no success at banging heads together in smokeless rooms to get an agreed and lasting compromise (and both sides have good and bad points in their arguments), the leadership has, albeit reluctantly, now had to pass the hard decisions to the UK in the hope that it all works out in the end.

This is very unfortunate as we lose control of the final outcome. Who knows what the UK’s decision will be; it is quite possible no-one will like it. And if there is no buy-in locally, it is unlikely to succeed. Cayman is a supposedly sophisticated place with a sensible Government and a dynamic private sector. So we do ourselves a disservice and it reflects poorly on all of us if we cannot resolve these financial issues locally and in a mature manner.

To move beyond the present position requires everyone who is currently shouting to stop and think. Politics is the art of the possible and the compromise. So we should take the time to decide carefully what infrastructure and services we want our Government to provide (and accept that we cannot demand those we are not willing to pay for) and whether the current model that Cayman uses to raise its revenue for these purposes is sufficient and sustainable in the long term. And then make changes decisively and move forward. So far, there has been remarkably little considered debate (there has been a lot of posturing), let alone any concrete moves towards a compromise solution. Reaching for outside experts and reports is helpful, but at the end of the day, the analyses and solutions should be in the Cayman context, rather than demanding the simplistic application of the perceived wisdom from elsewhere.

It is probably now too late to do much, if any, of this ahead of the impending budget and three year plan, but no-one should think that the problems are going away. The new budget and plan will surely present “best case” scenarios that, given the continuing global uncertainties and recent prior experience, are unlikely to be achieved on either the revenue or expenditure sides within the required timeframe. So we have probably only bought ourselves some breathing space, along with more debt. We should use the opportunity to do what needs to be done for the long term, and well before the next crisis arrives. If we do not, we will have simply kicked the can into the next muddier and possibly deeper trench.

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Gate-crasher wields machete at Karaoke party

| 23/05/2010 | 18 Comments

(CNS): Police have confirmed that one man was arrested last weekend following a disturbance at a house where at least one person suffered injuries from a machete. Sources told CNS that a private Karaoke party in George Town was disturbed when a drunken man gatecrashed the event and began brandishing a machete at the guests. One woman was cut during the incident. The party was hosted and attended mostly by members of the Filipino community and a spokesperson from the RCIPS said investigations into the suspected assault are on-going.

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US issues travel alert for Jamaica

| 23/05/2010 | 2 Comments

(CNN): The U.S. State Department issued a travel alert for Jamaica on Friday, citing unconfirmed reports of criminal gang members amassing in Kingston and the mobilization of Jamaican defense forces. "The possibility exists for violence and/or civil unrest in the greater Kingston metropolitan area," the alert said. "If the situation ignites, there is a possibility of severe disruptions of movement within Kingston, including blocking of access roads to the Norman Manley International Airport," according to the alert. "The possibility exists that unrest could spread beyond the general Kingston area," the alert said.

Go to CNN article

(Jamaica Observer): The police yesterday appealed to the lawyers retained by Tivoli Gardens strongman Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke to take him to the nearest police station in order for the extradition warrant against him to be executed. The Government, after several months of inaction, on Tuesday finally signed the order for extradition proceedings against Coke — wanted in the US to answer drug- and guntrafficking charges — to begin. Go to Jamaica Observer article

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