News in Brief from the Caribbean and abroad
The Dominican Republic acts on citizenship
TT and Jamaica defuse migration row
Outlawing gang activity in Jamaica
Trinidad outrage over the death of a child
Dominica rolls out the barrels
Guyana's $5,000 new bank note
Bunji wins Soul Train award
For the week ending 1 December [updated on 4 December]
The Dominican Republic has unveiled a plan allowing children of Haitian descent to seek naturalisation from June 2014.
The plan, announced on 30 November, will mean that those whose nationality was called into question by September’s controversial court ruling have 18 months to request Dominican citizenship.
News of the new plan came days before a visit by the Inter-American Human Rights Commission (IACHR) to the Dominican Republic, which will run from 2 to 6 December.
The visit comes at the invitation of the Dominican Republic, following strongly worded calls from the Caricom regional grouping for Santo Domingo to sort out the citizenship issue thrown up by the court ruling.
Critics of the new plan argue that it seeks to naturalise people already born in the Dominican Republic.
A statement from the IACHR ahead of its visit said the commission would examine human rights there in relation to what it described as “nationality, identity, equality and non-discrimination, along with other related rights and issues”.
The statement did not mention either Haiti or the September court ruling, which could strip Dominicans of Haitian origin of their citizenship.
The commission did say that it would set up temporary headquarters in Santo Domingo, where it would accept complaints on human rights violations.
Migrant activists have claimed that some people of Haitian descent have already been deported since the court ruling.
The ruling has put on hold future plans for a number of young people being asked to provide ID for school, college and new projects.
For more on the issue, check out reporter Jabari Fraser’s account of his recent visit to Santo Domingo.
Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica have signed an agremment mapping out new approaches to immigration after two days of talks in Kingston aimed at defusing a row over rights of movement.
The row had been caused by the deportation of a group of Jamaicans from Trinidad.
As Caribbean Intelligence© reported last week, the deportation sparked off Jamaican criticisms of Trinidad’s immigration authorities.
The row grew as lobby groups started to call for a boycott of all Trinidadian goods by Jamaicans, both at home and in the diaspora.
Public opinion in Jamaica raised questions about the future of Caricom. Some with longer memories recalled comments made in 2010 by Trinidad and Tobago’s Prime Minister, Kamla Persad-Bissessar, that her country was not the region’s ATM [cash machine].
Following 2-3 December talks in Kingston between Jamaica's Foreign Affairs Minister A J Nicholson and Trinidad and Tobago’s Foreign Minister Winston Dookeran, the two announced a deal which includes ways to improve free trade and free movement between the two countries.
The agreement includes a review of national legislation on immigration to make sure laws are in line with a recent appeal court case which upheld the rights of a Jamaican national who had claimed unfair treatment in Barbados.
Other parts of the agreement include sensitivity training for Trinidad's immigration officers. This follows alleged comments made to the Jamaican group before they were deported in November.
For those abroad seeking to assess the scale of the row, take heed from a 1 December editorial in the Jamaica Gleaner, which likened Trinidad’s treatment of the Jamaican deportees to Britain’s political furore over the influx of eastern and central European workers in the UK.
“Trinidad and Tobago enjoys a surplus of nearly $1bn on its trade with Jamaica, even as there is a view that it cheats on regional trade rules,” said the Gleaner editorial, entitled “Reprising the Polish plumber”.
“It is important that Messrs Nicholson and Dookeran talk frankly on these matters. Mr Dookeran must not be in doubt that Jamaica is willing to robustly pursue its interests, while fixing real problems of competitiveness in the domestic economy.”
Two days later, the Jamaica Observer's 4 December headline read 'To Port of Spain with love, not hate'.
The Observer editorial praised Winston Dookeran's visit to Jamaica saying "his simple but profound statement that neither of us can afford a trade war goes straight to the real point."
"We need each other," the paper said.
In Jamaica, a debate about anti-gang laws has led to intense discussion about a proposal to criminalise the production of songs that promote violence, gun culture and homophobia.
At issue is clause 15 of the draft legislation, which seeks to outlaw the use of signs, symbols, tattoos, graffiti and songs promoting criminal activity by gangs.
Members of a parliamentary select committee want this proposal to be deleted from the anti-gun act, arguing that it will stifle expression in Jamaica’s creative industries.
Trinidadians have been expressing outrage at the brutal murder of six-year-old girl Keyana Cumberbatch who was molested, killed and then stuffed in a barrel.
Keyana was last seen on 25 November. She left for her grandmother’s apartment close to her home in Maloney, east Trinidad. Her body was found three days later, hidden under clothes at her home.
An autopsy report has confirmed that she had died as a result of blunt force trauma after a blow to the head and that she had been sexually assaulted.
The male relative who had last seen her alive is helping police with their investigations.
The sheer brutality of Keyana’s murder of has shocked Trinidad, as it came a week after the discovery of the body of a one-year-old who had been beaten, smothered to death and thrown into a cesspit.
The Friday afternoon sitting of parliament had to be temporarily suspended on 29 November after a former children’s minister shouted from the public gallery: “Our children are dying! Do something!”
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar visited Keyana's mother on Sunday, 1 December and afterwards announced the immediate establishment of a Child Protection Task Force.
She said the taskforce would bring together advocates for the rights and protection of children in Trinidad and Tobago.
The 2013 hurricane season came to a quiet end on 30 November with the lowest number of hurricanes since 1982.
Just two storms – Humberto and Ingrid – reached the category of hurricane, as against an average of six per season, making the 2013 season the sixth least active since 1950.
Analysts said cold water from a south-westerly direction in the eastern Atlantic and large amounts of African dust stifled the usual weather set-up for strong and long-lasting storms.
They also attributed the season’s lack of activity to the above-normal wind currents across the Gulf, which hindered hurricane development.
Dominica has announced a Christmas and New Year amnesty for barrels sent from abroad.
The tradition of Caribbean people abroad sending barrels to relatives back home is as old as the history of Caribbean migration to countries such as the UK, the US and Canada.
The government of Dominica has announced a change in charges for barrels from 28 November through to 13 January.
The new system will allow Dominicans to collect two barrels during this period without paying the usual customs and port duties.
A statement from the Dominican government made it clear that the Christmas and New Year programme applied only to non-commercial deliveries.
It’s the start of Cuba’s baseball season and the first one since the authorities lifted a 50-year-old ban on players being allowed to sign professional contracts abroad.
Despite fears that the move could trigger a wave of defections, sporting experts say Cuba is banking on the possibility that players signing up with top teams in the future will return home regularly, send money home and might even spark off the type of foreign coach interest seen in the Dominican Republic.
In the latest argument by the pro-cannabis lobby, a new report issued on 28 November indicated that 85% of people surveyed believed “strongly” that medicinal products from cannabis should be made available commercially.
The research also found that more than one-third of Jamaicans who use ganja as a medicine had told their doctors.
The research was conducted by well-known pollster Don Anderson and commissioned by Jamaican scientist Professor Henry Lowe and his unit.
The growing support for the revisiting of laws on medicinal cannabis is part of a long-running debate across the Caribbean that picked up steam earlier in 2013 as politicians, police officials and senior scientists started to get involved.
The indigenous people of Santa Rosa in Trinidad have become part of the focus of a large DNA global project.
The Genographic group of scientists has been looking at crossroads where distinct groups have met geographically.
The team found that the Caribbean provided an “excellent” region to learn about anthropology, because of its history of convergences of peoples and cultures.
The team spent time in Trinidad in October to look at work with the Santa Rosa First People Community of Trinidad.
“In working with this community, we are moving towards understanding more about the genetic history of Trinidad,” Dr Jada Benn-Torres told National Geographic.
“Specifically, we hope to shed light upon how people began the migration from South America into the Caribbean, as well as how indigenous Caribbean groups are related to peoples from other parts of the Americas.”
The group is also collecting personal profile information. If you’d like to find out more, check out their website at https://genographic.nationalgeographic.com/about/.
Come 9 December, Guyana will have its first $5,000 bank note.
The new bill is expected to be used in commercial transactions and to help reduce demand for other notes, as well as improving Guyana’s payment system.
Finance Minister Ashni Singh told reporters at the presentation of the new note that there was no need to be handling large bundles of cash in today’s world.
Guyana’s Chamber of Commerce has said that it does not expect the new note to create any inflationary pressure on Guyana’s economy.
In Britain, the West Indian Association of Service Personnel (WASP) has launched a campaign to raise funds to erect a statue to commemorate the role of Caribbean and African service personnel in action.
WASP is seeking to raise £80,000 for a statue in Windrush Square in Brixton to mark those who have served in wars from World War I to conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
London councillor and social commentator Patrick Vernon first raised the campaign in a column for Remembrance Day in November.
He wrote: “As we commemorate Remembrance Sunday, we must also recognise the contribution of millions of women and men from African, Caribbean, South East Asia, along with other Commonwealth nationalities who have served this country without proper acknowledgement since the Battle of Waterloo.”
The campaign currently has the backing of the Jamaican high commission and British black newspaper the Voice.
Bunji Garlin won the Best International Performance category at America's Soul Train awards on 1 December with his Differentology.
The music video, which many Trinidadians at home and in the diaspora have hailed as the 2013 Carnival anthem since its launch in February, has been described by music critics as "eye popping" and appealing to a crossover audience.
Bunji was in contention against fellow Trinidadian Machel Montano as well as artistes Emeli Sande, P-Square and Iyanya.
Quote of the week
“The black community, with a population of 1.2 million in the UK, were expecting Global Radio to honour its licence conditions and play the range of music they enjoyed. For the station to turn its back on them is taking us back to the 1980s. Will pirate stations, once again, be the only option?” Neil Kenlock, a co-founder of Choice FM in London. The station has become CapitalXtra after changes by the network’s new owners. A protest against the move was staged outside the station in central London on 30 November with demonstrators calling for the return of soca, reggae and gospel music to the station.