Caribbean and Diaspora News in Brief
Cheers for Lady Doreen Lawrence
Trinidad PM on Dom Rep citizenship
Tourism chief - "stick together"
OECD tax pressure
Guyana's stamps fly high
Diaspora - Dom Rep NY protests,
Belafonte v MLK estate, Carnival TV
and tributes to Felix Dexter
Doreen Lawrence, the mother of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence, formally took her seat in Britain’s House of Lords on 15 October.
Lady Lawrence, as she will be known, entered the chamber to a cheer from peers.
She swore allegiance flanked by her supporters – Trinidad-born Baroness Floella Benjamin and former Labour Minister Lord Paul Boateng.
Lady Lawrence will sit and vote as a Labour peer in Britain’s upper house.
Her son, British teenager Stephen Lawrence, was murdered in a racist attack in 1993 and Doreen campaigned for 20 years for justice. Two men were convicted for his murder in 2011, but the others remain at large.
Stephen is buried in his parents’ native Jamaica, where his father has also returned to live.
The World Doping Agency (WADA) had asked Jamaica for in-country doping inspection tests, following a furore over the country’s out-of-competition testing schedule.
The WADA asked to conduct an “extraordinary” audit immediately, following revelations by a former Jamaican Anti-Doping Commission (JADCO) executive director that the tests had not been conducted because of a lack of resources.
In a change of timing, WADA officials will now be visiting Jamaica on 28 and 29 October, rather than in 2014.
For more, see our story on Caribbean Intelligence.
Amid the sound and fury of Trinidad’s by-election campaigning, not much attention has been given to comments by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar on the nationality issue between Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
The constitutional court in the Dominican Republic ruled on 23 September on whether Dominican nationality should be based on “right of soil” or “right of blood”.
The outcome, in effect, means that a person born on Dominican soil to parents who are “in transit” is a foreigner and not eligible for citizenship. The ruling is retroactive to 1929.
The court decision could lead to more than 200,000 Dominican-born people of Haitian descent being deprived of their nationality.
The decision has set off a slow burn of condemnation from global human rights groups and legal experts.
As chair of the Caricom regional grouping, Ms Persad-Bissessar met Haiti’s Foreign Minister, Pierre-Richard Casimir, on 14 October to discuss the issue.
Her office said in a release that she will consult with Caricom’s Bureau [of current, past and upcoming chairs and the regional organisation’s Secretary-General] on how to bring about a resolution.
“The ruling strips Dominican citizenship from people born in the Dominican Republic during this almost 85-year period,” the statement said.
“It is also widely viewed as discriminatory, as it affects mostly Dominican-born people of Haitian descent.
“The Prime Minister respects the sovereign independence of the Dominican Republic and of its Constitutional Court. Equally, she acknowledges that those in the Dominican Republic whose status and rights have been cast in doubt face a difficult situation.”
“Big on lyrics” - The Caribbean’s new tourism chief gave a no-holds-barred opening speech to the region’s biggest annual tourism industry get-together on 16 October in Martinique.
Describing the region as “great debaters”, Beverly Nicholson-Doty added that in the Caribbean, “we’re big on lyrics, but slow on implementation.”
The Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO) chairman said that Caribbean countries had to decide how to preserve a vibrant tourism sector with a firm, flexible and astute partnership between the public and private sectors.
“The global market is growing so rapidly that, if we fall behind, it is going to be so much more difficult and much more expensive to catch up,” Ms Nicholson-Doty told tourism industry officials.
Former Cayman Islands Premier McKeeva Bush has warned about the impact of increasing pressure on offshore finance institutions, questioning whether it is tipped against crown dependencies and could go too far.
He told the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) conference in Johannesburg that overseas territories under British and European jurisdiction were coming under increasing pressure from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development [OECD] to reveal more information, while similar companies in the US did not come under the same scrutiny.
“In spite of the Cayman Islands complying with the highest standards of openness and transparency in our financial industry, the playing field is now tilted significantly against the crown dependencies and the overseas territories by application of these [OECD] initiatives,” he said.
Describing the history of compliance as “good”, he said that “careful consideration” had to be given to further initiatives on complete transparency.
Such steps, he said, had the “attendant risk that this information, if made public, would be available not only to journalists and financial competitors, but to terrorists and crime syndicates”.
Still in the Caymans, island bank accounts have become the latest targets of online bank fraudsters.
Recently, Barbadian police detained a group of Bulgarians, following the biggest cashpoint raids to date on that island.
Now the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service has said that it is investigating a number of incidents in which hackers obtained bank details from email accounts and then used emailed instructions to wire money out of some Cayman accounts.
The police said in a statement that the islands’ Financial Crime Unit believed the money had been transferred to the US, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Singapore.
The unit advised people not to send bank details via email.
Flying High – Guyana has paid tribute to two women aviation pioneers in new postage stamp issues.
In the United States, Beverley Drakes is known as a senior aviation accident investigator who is head of the National Transport Safety Board (NTSB) Federal Women’s Programme.
Back in her native Guyana, Mrs Drakes is also remembered as the first woman pilot for Guyana Airways. She moved to the US in 1980.
Also appearing on the new Guyanese commemorative stamps is Cheryl Leanna Moore, the first woman to fly for Guyana’s Defence Force, who has also worked for island-hopping airline Liat.
“The only thing missing is the Guyana Airways, bring back the Guyana Airways, so we didn’t have to go begging all over the place,” one female aviator told the Guyana Chronicle, which covered the stamp launch.
Haitians in New York staged protests on 17 October against poor living conditions in the Big Apple and against the Dominican Republic court ruling on citizenship (see above).
The march through the streets near the Dominican Republic Consulate took place at the same time as events to mark the 207th anniversary of the assassination of Jacques Dessalines, the slave-turned-freedom-fighter who declared himself Haitian emperor after Haiti defeated the French to become the hemisphere’s first independent nation.
There are about 94,000 Haitians living in New York City, according to the New York Times, which said this was one of the city’s biggest demonstrations against the Dominican court ruling to date.
Protesters also included Dominican migrants living in New York.
Singer Harry Belafonte has taken his battle over ownership of three documents by Martin Luther King Jr to court.
Harry Belafonte, once dubbed the “King of Calypso” in the US, who is also an actor and activist, has long claimed that the documents were given to him by Martin Luther King, who was a close friend. Dr King’s estate has prevented auction of the documents in the past.
The papers include an outline for a Vietnam speech which Dr King reportedly drafted at Mr Belafonte’s apartment, as well as notes found in Dr King’s pocket after his assassination, which his widow had insisted should be given to Harry Belafonte.
The 86-year-old singer and activist had been a close friend and supporter of the King family. He gave them assistance during their difficulties in leading the civil rights struggle in the US and reportedly helped in crafting some of Dr King’s speech notes.
Dr King’s estate has, however, blocked attempts by Mr Belafonte to auction the documents in his possession.
In a 15 October lawsuit, Mr Belafonte asked the courts for legal confirmation of his ownership of the documents.
Notting Hill Carnival will be covered in full by London’s new TV station, London Live.
The station, owned by the Russian proprietor of the London Evening Standard newspaper, Evgeny Lebedev, is due to go on air in March 2014.
It said in a press release that the 2014 Notting Hill Carnival would be a centrepiece of its summer coverage next year.
Despite being one of Europe’s biggest street festivals, attracting more than a million people, Notting Hill Carnival is currently covered as a local news event by the UK’s national TV stations.
Tributes have been pouring in for St Kitts-born British comedian Felix Dexter who died on 18 October following a battle with multiple myeloma, a type of bone marrow cancer.
The comedian and actor was best known for roles in the black British pioneering 1990s comedy The Real McCoy and went on to feature in mainstream British comedies including Absolutely Fabulous and The Fast Show as well as radio's Down the Line comedy series.
Felix Dexter moved to Britain at the age of seven.
Comedians and black Britons paid tribute to him on Facebook and Twitter.
His Real McCoy colleague, now BBC London radio presenter, Eddie Nestor said "It's a sad day. I went to see him and we talked and we laughed and we laughed really hard."
Quote of the week
“It’s sink or swim for the Caribbean and the choice is in our hands.” Caribbean Tourism Organisation Chairman Beverly Nicholson-Doty at the opening of the CTO’s State of the Industry conference in Martinique on 16 October.
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