Man freed of baby’s murder requests police escort from court

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The two men who were charged with the Oct. 7, 2016 murder of a 10-month-old baby and the attempted murder of his parents, were, on Tuesday, freed at the preliminary inquiry stage.

Richard “Shrek” McFee and Martin “Jahson” James were discharged at the Serious Offences Court after Chief Magistrate Rechanne Browne-Matthias upheld no-case submissions made by their lawyers — Israel Bruce and Grant Connell.

Prosecutor Adolphus Delplesche noted that the men were discharged, rather than the case against them dismissed — suggesting that the Crown may consider bringing the charges against the men again.

While James was free to leave the court, his co-accused went back to Her Majesty’s Prisons to continue a sentence for firearm possession.

James, however, did not leave the court immediately, as his lawyer, Grant Connell, told prosecutor Adolphus Delplesche that his client was requesting police escort from the court precinct — presumably out of fear for his life.

There were some tense moments outside the court after James was seated in the rear seat of a twin-cab unmarked police pickup assigned to the Rapid Response Unit (RRU).

While James and a female companion were embarking the vehicle, the driver exited and went into another part of the building, leaving the passengers alone in the vehicle.

Two RRU officers were on the scene at the time and had escorted James from the court to the vehicle.

As the tensions increased during the wait, Connell, along with Station Sergeant of Police, Nolan Dalloway of the RRU, inquired about the driver of the vehicle but no one seemed to know why he had gone into the court building.

Dalloway was about to escort James back into the court building for safety reasons when the driver of the vehicle returned and the group left the scene shortly after.

James and McFee were charged with the murder of baby Mozari Lee and the attempted murder of his parents, Mozart Lee and Shelly-Ann Durham.

The baby died after being shot in the chest at his father’s workshop in Glen, where gunmen had fired at Monty Hillocks, a resident of Belmont.

The baby’s parents were also injured in the attack.

The case fell apart after the court had earlier on Tuesday denied an application by the prosecution for an adjournment.

Senior Prosecutor Adolphus Delplesche had told the court that the adjournment was to facilitate the receipt of evidence from a witness under the Witness Special Measures Act.

The prosecution had intended to call Hillocks, who reportedly had concerns about his safety, to give testimony, by video link.

Since the attempt on his life that lead to the death of the baby, Hillocks was himself hauled before the court on gun and ammunition charges.

He was arrested last December and charged with possession of a 9 mm semi automatic Glock pistol and 14 rounds of ammunition, without a licence.

He was freed of those charges in March.

The defence objected strongly to the prosecution’s request for an adjournment on Tuesday, with Connell accusing the prosecution of engaging in legal gymnastics, which Delplesche denied.

The prosecution then called its final witness, detective inspector Sherol James, the lead investigator in the case.

After the court heard James’ evidence, the defence counsel made no-case submissions, which were upheld.

A man also shouldn’t have multiple women — lawyer

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A young lawyer says that St. Vincent and the Grenadines is breaking too many of the wrong records and has suggested that double standards and moral decline are partly to be blamed.

“… it is clear, that we are quickly losing our way,” Jemalie John told the youth convention of the opposition New Democratic Party in Langley Park, Georgetown on Sunday.

“We are killing more people today than any other time in our history. Breaking records that should never be broken but unable to break the records that should be,” he said.

The noted that the nation’s most recent murder victim was a mother who was shot dead in the streets.

“We are losing our men to violent crime, illegal drugs, too many are unemployed, too many incarcerated.

“We now live in a country that is more divided than it has ever been before; and our country is governed by a political philosophy that says it is enough for just some of us to prosper.”

John told the Young Democrats that he knows that some persons would accuse him of being “negative” and “unpatriotic”, because he talks about “what is wrong with the country”.

He, however, said: “I understand that the truth can make us uncomfortable and some of us will rather not talk about it. Maybe we can pretend some of the things that are happening are not really happening and perhaps one day they will all go away. Or, we can take the reality check now and determine for ourselves what kind of country we want to create for future generations.”

He said that rather than being negative or unpatriotic, he speaks “precisely because I believe in my country”.

“I believe in a St. Vincent where we can have differences in the community without killing each other. I believe in a St. Vincent where our children make it to secondary school because they can read and write and they actually passed the exams to get there.

I believe in a Saint Vincent where our young people are not forced to leave our shores after they have completed their courses of study because no jobs are available here at home.

I believe that in the same way it is wrong for a woman to have more than one man, it is equally wrong for a man to have more than one woman.

“We don’t need to make excuses for stupid behaviour. We don’t have to pretend that sexual promiscuity is okay. At least, not in a society plagued with teenage pregnancy, HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, rape and indecent assault. We need to be more responsible and to hold our leaders to a higher standard instead of lowering expectations,” John said.

‘You can’t have positive news in a negative country’ 

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A young lawyer says that Vincentians should be allowed to express their opinions without fear of losing their job and that journalists should not be criticised for reporting the truth.

Jemalie John expressed the view as he delivered the feature address at the convention of the youth arm of the opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) on Sunday.

“I believe we should be able to ask questions, and express their concerns — even our dissent — without losing our job,” John told the Young Democrats’ convention in Langley Park, Georgetown.

“I expect that our leaders will believe in integrity, transparency and accountability — especially when they are raising taxes every year,” he further said.

“You can’t raise taxes every year and pretend that accountability is a bad thing; we should not be begging for information that they should willingly provide.

“And I don’t expect people to criticise our journalists for reporting the facts — not opinions, the facts as they are. Too many of us are looking for a scapegoat, so we can beat up on the journalists because we don’t have the courage to place the criticism where it rightfully belongs.
“You can’t have positive news in a negative country. If you want positive news, then do positive things,” John said.

He told the gathering that he had accepted reluctantly the invitation to address the political rally, adding that some persons had asked him if he knew what he was getting into.

He said he considers his society and asks himself a simple question:

“What’s missing? What do we stand most in need of? I want all of you to start thinking about that question.”

A section of the audience at the youth convention. (Photo: NDP)

He told the Young Demz that when they can answer that question honestly, they will begin to discern what their purpose should be.

“I do not believe that there is a single Vincentian, regardless of his/her political affiliation who can say honestly that they are satisfied with where we are today as a people. To express content is to express a poverty of ambition,” John said.

He said the greatest want of the world is “men who will not be bought or sold; men who in their inmost souls are true and honest; men who do not fear to call sin by its right name; men whose conscience is as true to duty as the needle to the pole; men who will stand for the right though the heavens fall”.

He urged the young people to trust that “the world is not so much in need of great minds as of good men, men who are a blessing in their homes”.

John said that the nation is quickly losing its way.

“… I believe that what is missing from our society is decent people… We cannot continue to glorify appearance over substance, celebrity over character or pursue short term gains over lasting achievement,” adding that the nation’s youth must be the ones who will chart a new course.

He implored the young people to be devoted to some bigger purpose instead of the narrow pursuit of popularity or self-advancement.

“Let us not lose sight of what’s really important, so that we don’t compromise on our values, our principles and our commitments.

What we need then, is a return to first principles — back to the basics,” John said.

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Star witness gives damning evidence against pastor’s family in hot water case

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The star witness in the case in which a pastor, his wife, and their daughter are charged with pouring hot water on a man in Mesopotamia told the court on Friday that the couple held the man while their daughter poured a hot liquid on him.

Pastor Nigel Morgan, his wife, Althea Morgan, and their daughter, Crystal Morgan, of Hopewell, Mesopotamia are each being tried at the Mesopotamia Magistrate’s Court on one count of causing grievous bodily harm to Cuthbert “Mafia” Victory, a resident of Caruth, Mesopotamia.

In an April 9, 2016 video, circulated on social media, the older Morgans are seen holding Victory while their daughter pours what is said to be a hot liquid on him.

The incident occurred near the Morgan’s home and Victory suffered severe burns about his body, which he has said resulted from the incident.

Cuthbert “Mafia” Victory sustained burns about his body in the April 2016 incident. (iWN file photo)

The “star witness”, Clint Antoine, of Biabou, who was living in Hopewell at the time of the incident, took the stand on Friday.

He was escorted to court by two police officers, a compelling summons having been issued for him on Feb. 28, 2017, after he failed to turn up to court for a second consecutive time.

Antoine told the court that he has known the defendants for a short time, but has been friends with Victory for about five years, adding that the defendant used to visit his home in Hopewell.

He said that about 3:15 p.m. that day, he was preparing to go out when Victory visited him. He said he went back inside to complete his preparations.

Antoine told the court that sometime later, Mr. Morgan came to his house and asked him why he was harbouring Victory there, claiming that whenever Victory comes by, he would harass him (Mr. Morgan) and his family.

Clint Antoine was the key witness in the prosecution’s case. (iWN photo)

The witness told the court that Morgan began cussing Victory, telling him that he can’t read and write.

Victory, who was playing music, began cussing Morgan, telling him to “study” his own family, Antoine said.

He told the court that one of the songs that Victory was playing on his juke box was Vybz Kartel’s “Tell Me If You Like It”.

The witness told the court that Mrs. Morgan came out of her house and told Victory to leave her out of the skirmish. Antoine said she was waving her hands in the air, then came over into Antoine’s yard and placed her hands in the air in front of Victory and was saying she pleads the blood of Jesus on him.

He said Victory then left and walked to the corner of the property and went into the public road, at which time he placed his juke box into a backpack he was carrying.

Mrs. Morgan went back to the road and she and her husband began cussing Victory, Antoine told the court.

Antoine said that Mrs. Morgan then shouted “Bring the thing for me!” and “Bring the gun!”.

The witness told the court that Mr. Morgan had a “tube bottle” in his hand along with the book. The witness, a mason, who told the court that he cannot read too well, said he could not say what type of book it was.

Althea Morgan, right, and her daughter, Crystal, react as their photograph is taken outside the court on Friday. (iWN photo)

He said during the exchange of words, Mr. Morgan placed his hand on the bottle then placed it above Victory’s forehead. Victory swung his hand and Mrs. Morgan held on to him and they began fighting, Antoine told the court.

He said Mrs. Morgan shoved Victory about two times and he held on to a tree and they were still wrestling. He said that Victory and Mr. and Mrs. Morgan fell into the drain and the fight continued.
Using a police officer to demonstrate, Antoine told the court that Mr. and Mrs. Morgan each held Victory on either of the sides of his body in such a way that he couldn’t set his free his hands. He said that while they held him in that position, their daughter came with a black and silver kettle.

While she was approaching, Mr. Morgan looked around twice and appeared as if he was about to say something, Antoine said.

Cuthbert Victory outside the court on Friday. (iWN photo)

While Mr. and Mrs Morgan were still holding Victory, with his back turned to all three of the Morgans, Chrystal poured the contents of the kettle onto him, Antoine told the court.

He said that Mrs. Morgan then swung Victory, causing him to hit his head against the stone wall of the drain and he then saw what appeared to be blood on Victory’s body.

Victory then staggered out of the drain then began to run, Antoine said, telling the court that it was at this point that he, too, left the scene.

He said there were some children around by that time, but added that they only came out of their homes after the fighting began.

During cross-examination by defence counsel Kay Bacchus-Baptiste, Antoine said that “Mafia” is just a nickname and that Victory did not have that alias because he was “a bad egg”, as the lawyer had suggested.

Lawyer Kay Bacchus-Baptiste, centre, looks on as her client, Pastor Nigel Morgan, speaks with a woman outside the Mesopotamia Magistrate’s court on Friday. (iWN photo)

He further said that he does not know that Victory comes to his house to harass the Morgans as the lawyer said, adding that since he lived in the area, Victory has never caused trouble at his house.

Antoine admitted to the court that he had gone to hide when he saw Victory coming, but said he did this in jest.

He told the court that while Victory had told him that he was going to collect some “weed” (marijuana), he did not know the virtual complainant to have been drunk, as the defence counsel suggested, or that he smelled of alcohol.

The defence will present its case when the trial resumes on June 2.

Magistrate Rickie Burnett is presiding.

Jesus’ blood couldn’t restrain man burnt by pastor’s family, lawyer says  

St. Vincent’s volcano ‘will erupt again’

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Almost four decades after La Soufriere Volcano last erupted, disaster responders in St. Vincent and the Grenadines are reminding residents that the volcano is still active and “will erupt again”.

“Although La Soufriere has been quiet for some time, it is still an active volcano and will erupt again,” the National Emergency Management Organisation (NEMO) said in a press statement on Friday.

“Citizens should know where they live in relation to the volcano and in which hazard zone they are located,” NEMO advised.

La Soufriere last erupted 38 years ago, in 1979.

“The 1979 eruption demonstrated that the volcano can move from unrest to full-scale eruption within 48 hours, a reminder of the importance of having a family emergency plan so that families can evacuate at short notice,” NEMO said.

NEMO will be joined by the Seismic Research Centre (SRC) of The University of the West Indies, the Soufriere Monitoring Unit (SMU) and the Forestry Division to commemorate the 38th anniversary of the last eruption and to raise awareness of the risk and science associated with an active volcano.

This year, NEMO will be targeting primary and secondary school students in Kingstown, Clare Valley and Colonaire and a community meeting will also be held in Rose Place on Wednesday, April 26.

On April 28, there will be an Educational Field Trip to La Soufriere, under the guidance of Geologist Richard Robertson, director of the Seismic Research Centre. The educational field trip is opened to the public and persons wishing to take part can register with NEMO by telephoning 1-784-456-2975.

The UWI Seismic Research Centre is responsible for monitoring earthquakes, volcanoes and tsunamis in the English-speaking Eastern Caribbean.

Scientists at the UWI-SRC are constantly monitoring La Soufriere and any changes in activity are immediately communicated to NEMO and SMU.

“Tampering with volcano monitoring equipment such as solar panels, may prevent scientists from issuing timely warnings, thereby putting the population at risk,” NEMO said.

Murder victim’s mom frustrated by yet another adjournment in Veron Primus case

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Exactly one year since a man was charged with her daughter’s murder, Inether Bailey-Holder, on Thursday, expressed frustration at the slow pace of the preliminary inquiry, as the accused murderer secured another adjournment of the proceedings. (Scroll for videos)

Vermont resident Veron Primus, 30, is charged with the Nov. 2015 murder of 33-year-old real estate agent, Sharleen Greaves.

He has been remanded to prison since April 21, 2016, pending the outcome of a preliminary inquiry, which would decide if the Crown has made out a prima facie case against him.

On Thursday, Primus told the Serious Offences Court that he was still not ready to proceed because he was yet to receive the medical attention he had requested.

Even Chief Magistrate Rechanne Browne-Matthias suggested that she, too, had had enough of the situation.

“It is getting to me now, I must say,” the magistrate said, after Primus complained about not having received the medical attention he requested.

The hearing had been adjourned one month earlier, at which time Primus said he needed medical attention.

On Thursday, as the matter was called, Primus, on entering the accused person’s dock, told the court, “I am not ready,’ adding that the health issues he had raised previously had not been addressed.

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He said that a few weeks ago, he spoke with the Superintendent of Prisons, but nothing was done about his health complaints.

The magistrate, however, said she spoke to the prison chief who assured her that Primus’ issues would be addressed.

Primus told the court that, on Thursday morning, he was told that he had refused medical attention, but said that the only time he had done so was last October, when he refused to go to the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital for a scheduled visit because he said a gunman was waiting there to attack him.

The magistrate asked Senior Prosecutor Adolphus Delplesche for his view on the situation, and Delplesche also expressed some frustration.

“Your honour, what can I say?” the senior prosecutor said, adding that Primus requested a private audience with him after he arrived at court on Thursday, but this could not be facilitated in the court precincts.

“Your honour, I will go with whatever the court says,” Delplesche said.

Primus, who is representing himself in the proceedings, told the court that while he had some medical issues during a court appearance in January, he had continued with the proceedings.

The magistrate said she is giving “one last chance for everyone to get it together” and adjourned the case to May 16.

“That’s more than enough time,” she commented.

Meanwhile, Bailey-Holder, who has attended court every time the matter is called, voiced her frustration in an interview with iWitness News.

Delplesche also commented on the situation in a separate interview with iWitness News after Thursday’s court proceedings.

Director of Audit urged ‘to break the silence’ on finances of gov’t companies

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Leader of the Opposition Godwin Friday has called on the Director of Audit to break what he described as her silence on what he says is the government’s flouting of the nation’s accountability laws.

Friday told a press conference on Wednesday that Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, as Minister of Finance, has failed to present to parliament annual audited statements of several state-owned companies, as the law commands.

He further noted that when the opposition asked in parliament a couple of years ago about audited financial statements for the International Airport Development Company (IADC), Gonsalves asked if he should show a man his title deed.

Friday said Gonsalves’ response was “nothing but a dictatorial and disgraceful expression of contempt for the law, contempt for good governance in this country and contempt for Vincentians.

“This contemptuous, unlawful behaviour cannot — and must not — continue. The Prime Minister and his cohorts have already shown their absolute contempt for the whole business of transparency and accountability, so we in the New Democratic Party now call on the Director of Audit, who is a constitutionally independent authority and a servant of the public interest, to break the silence on this matter of vital and fundamental national importance,” Friday said.

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He said his New Democratic Party await her urgent response, but in the meantime, shall be taking the necessary actions to see that this “atrocity does not continue.

“Despite all the overheated rhetoric we hear from Dr Gonsalves about ‘good governance’ and ‘serious business’, he is in breach of the law. Under successive ULP administrations led by Dr Gonsalves, governance in SVG has actually fallen by the wayside — and has been replaced by smokescreens, a hug-up, and a set of daily ‘ole talk’ on radio programmes,” Friday said.

He said that the NDP has raised before, in Parliament, the issue of lack of accountability by the government.

“What we are doing today, is we are taking the matter up with the public. We have a public duty to educate people about what is required and where it is not being met,” Friday said.

He also said that the New Democratic Party is calling on the Director of Audit to ensure that the accountability standard set out in the law are met and that they are treated the way they are supposed to be, adding that this is very serious public business.

“The Minister of Finance, who is also the Prime Minister, has, systematically and consistently, either neglected, ignored, or broken the laws of this country. Under this ULP administration, this country has witnessed a steady and systematic erosion of the principles and practices of good governance. The norms, the rules and regulations — the actual laws — relating to accountability and transparency have been flouted, ignored and broken.

“In a modern democratic society, public funds cannot be spent in the dark. The law does not allow it – and we, hand in hand with the Vincentian people — will not allow the government to break the law with impunity. In fact, such behaviour smacks of the offence of misbehaviour in Public office,” Friday said.

He said accountability is not about going on the radio every day.

“Accountability is what the Finance Administration Act 2004 says and what the Audit Act 2005 says. And that is the standard that we, in the New Democratic Party, will hold ourselves to. We will demonstrate what proper governance is. In fact, you can consider this the first lesson in how governance is supposed to work!

And take our word for it: we will make governance work, we will make the airport work, we will make the country work,” said Friday, who became Leader of the Opposition last November.

Friday said that the nation has heard comments about the functions of the Public Accounts Committee and that the opposition had been complaining about public accountability but the Public Accounts Committee had not been meeting.

He, however, said that first, the Director of Audit has to prepare the audited statements, present them to the Minister of Finance so that they are laid in Parliament, then after that is done, the Public Accounts Committee can do its work.

“If this isn’t done, then the public accounts committee has nothing to do… And what we have had over many years is that the Public Accounts Committee has basically not been able to do its job because a lot of the audited statements are way behind. I think the last ones that were issued were for 2010, 2011. We are now in 2017,” Friday said.

Opposition wants gov’t to account for millions spent on new airport

Opposition wants gov’t to account for millions spent on new airport

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The main opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) is calling on the Ralph Gonsalves Unity Labour Party (ULP) administration to account for the more than EC$700 million it said it spent to build Argyle International Airport (AIA).

NDP President and Leader of the Opposition, Godwin Friday, made the call at a press conference in Kingstown on Wednesday in which he accused the government of breaking the nation’s accountability laws.

Friday, who, like Gonsalves is a lawyer, noted that in Section 70 of the Constitution and in the Finance Administration Act, 2004 say that the Minister of Finance is responsible for “Ensuring that a full account of the finances of the Government is laid before the House of Assembly in the Public Accounts”.

He, further pointed out that the Finance Administration Act says that the Accountant General shall within four months after the end of every financial year prepare, certify and submit to the Director of Audit, the Public Accounts of SVG for that financial year accounting for all public money and showing fully the financial position of St Vincent and the Grenadines at the end of the financial year.

Leader of the Opposition, Dr. Godwin Friday. (iWN file photo)

The law also demands that the Director of Audit must audit the accounts prepared by the Accountant General.

“Accountability is not optional. As specified in the subsection of the law quoted above: the work of accountability is legally and constitutionally required; it must be performed annually, and it is the responsibility of the Minister of Finance to ensure that it is performed annually,” Friday told the press conference.

He said that notwithstanding the nation’s laws, Gonsalves, as Minister of Finance, has failed to lay before Parliament annual reports on the financial performance of a number of state-owned companies, including the International Airport Development Company (AIDC), which was responsible for building AIA.

The airport opened on Feb. 14, 2017, six years behind schedule and at a cost almost twice what the government initially said would have been needed to build it.

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Friday noted that in reference to the airport, Gonsalves has said it is the responsibility of all citizens to get together and “make it work”.

The opposition leader said that he, too, maintains that given the large scale of the project and the implications for the country, “we must do what we can to make it work”.

Friday, however, asked about Gonsalves’ responsibility as Minister of Finance, adding, “What about the responsibility of the Director of Audit? What about the responsibility of the Accountant General?” he said, noting that these officials have legally specified responsibilities relating to accountability that cannot be shoved aside for any reason.

“But the Minister of Finance, who the law says has the final responsibility of ‘ensuring that a full account of the finances of the Government is laid before the House of Assembly in the Public’ has not done his job; he has not done what the law requires him to do. But he now wants to hand it over to us now and say, ‘Here, all yo’ mek it wuk’,” Friday told reporters.

“He is telling us that “we” must make it work. But what is the ‘it’ exactly? What actually was the cost to build Argyle?”

Friday asked if the cost of the airport was EC$700 million, as has been reported recently in some news media.

He noted that a few weeks ago, Minister of Works, Sen. Julian Francis said on a radio programme that the airport cost EC$$1.3 billion, but that Vincentians only paid EC$$800 million, because EC$500 million was “in kind” contributions.

Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves. (iWN file photo)

“And then we were told by Dr. Gonsalves during this year’s budget debate that the country owes $400 million that was borrowed specifically to build the airport. But he brought no audited financial statements from the Director of Audit to support anything that he said.

“So, we are supposed to take his word for it! What is the true cost? All sorts of numbers are being bandied about. Every time you turn around, you hear a different figure. Are we supposed to just believe the PM because he said so in the House?

“Well, that’s not how it works. We cannot simply take HIS word for it. In fact, the law says we must not take his word for it!” Friday said.

“And, the more important question is this: How do we know that all of the hundreds of millions of dollars actually went to the airport? How do we know that some of these monies did not go through the airport and end up somewhere else? The fact is we cannot know, because there have been no audited financial statements. You see why the law of the country says there must be full and annual audited accounts?”

Friday asked reporters and media audiences to recall that the International Monetary Fund revealed last year the ULP government had left EC$112 million dollars of debt to PetroCaribe off of the books.

“Was that a matter of incompetence on the part of the Minister of Finance? Or is it incompetence by design?

“If the Prime Minister had done his job and ensured that the laws were being followed, all of this would have been presented, audited and reported, so there would be no doubt about any of it. But now we are left to ask, is he even capable of doing the job of Minister of Finance? Or is he incapable?” Friday said.

“Why is the minister not doing his job? Why is it that this government is breaking the law? Why is there no accountability for the hundreds of millions of dollars that they have spent on Argyle and on all sorts of other things that we don’t know about?”

Friday asked listeners to consider what they would do if they had one million dollars.

“It’s a huge sum of money! And what we have here is a situation where this government headed by Ralph Gonsalves is handling hundreds of millions of our dollars, and we can’t get a straight answer from them about where the monies went! This state of affairs is simply unacceptable and inexcusable,” Friday said.

The opposition leader noted that a couple of years ago, when opposition lawmakers were asking in Parliament for the government to provide the Vincentian people with audited financial statements for the IADC, Gonsalves asked f he should show a man his title deed.

“Imagine that! His title deed! That response from Dr. Gonsalves was nothing but a dictatorial and disgraceful expression of contempt for the law, contempt for good governance in this country and contempt for Vincentians,” Friday said.

Opposition accuses gov’t of breaking nation’s accountability laws

Companies refusing to insure minivans

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At least three insurance companies in St. Vincent and the Grenadines say they will stop insuring minibuses if the firms continue to be faced with the large bill resulting from personal injuries and property damage as a result of accidents.

President of the National OmniBus Association (NOBA), Anthony “Code Red” Bacchus told a press conference in Kingstown on Monday that in light of this development, the association will hold workshops next week to address reckless driving.

Bacchus said that the workshops next Tuesday and Wednesday will target minibus drivers and conductors as well as owners.

The free workshops, which will include lunch, will run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., daily, at Haddon Hotel and will focus on road safety, first aid, customer service, hygiene, and the role of conductors on minibuses.

“We are giving these workshops because the insurance companies are refusing to insure vans,” Bacchus said, adding that the idea came out of a meeting NOBA had with Metrocint, Beacon, and Sentry insurance companies and head of the Traffic Branch, Superintendent of Police, Kenneth John.

“Due to the recklessness and so forth, they are refusing to insure vans. For example, when your insurance expires and you go to them to insure, do not be surprised that they refuse to insure you. You have to go somewhere else where it is very costly, or your insurance might go up higher and higher. So we are trying to give some confidence back to these insurance companies by giving the workshops,” Bacchus said.

He, therefore, urged all minibus drivers, owners, and conductors to attend the workshops.

President of the National OmniBus Association, Anthony “Code Red” addresses the press conference on Monday. (iWN photo)

Bacchus noted that recklessness could result in the loss of life, adding that if NOBA is being blamed, the organisation would have to work with the Traffic Department to address the situation.

“We cannot be speaking about driving safe and saving lives and seeing these things happening and not doing anything, especially when the blame is coming back on NOBA.”

He said NOBA has reached out to a lot of these reckless drivers, but they do not attend NOBA meetings.

“Maybe they just don’t care. So, the next step is trying to change the situation another way before somebody loses their life,” he said.

“The insurance companies are complaining, the public is looking at all the van drivers, the minibus association is getting all the blame, it’s about time these things stop.”

Bacchus noted that insurance companies have to take up the bill when people are injured by minivans.

“They are complaining that too much reckless driving and they are spending too much money. So, they would rather not insure a bus that is driving recklessly and getting into a lot of accidents.”

While there are some 1,300 minivans on the roads in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, NOBA only has 125 members.

Bacchus maintained that NOBA members abide by its code of conduct.

“We are not just going to give up. We are going to try to help.”

Bacchus also lamented that it is very easy for someone to begin operating a minibus, adding that anyone with the money to buy a minibus can do so.

“They are not even looking to register with NOBA, becoming members to follow a code of conduct. They don’t care about that. This is what’s causing the problems these days because the government makes it so easy for anybody. Even the age: one week you are a conductor the next week you are minibus driver, responsible for 18 passengers with no kind of experience of driving a minibus,” Bacchus said.

“It’s a difference when you are driving a vehicle empty and when you are driving a vehicle with a full load. They have no experience and they are still speeding up and down — these young drivers — music blasting. It is creating a problem a serious problem. We don’t want another incident like the Rock Gutter here in Kingstown.”

He was referring to the Jan 12, 2015 incident in which seven students died after a minivan careened down a hill and plunged into the sea, apparently after its brake failed.

Disturbed weather approaching St. Vincent and the Grenadines

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The St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) Meteorological Services on Tuesday said it is monitoring an area of instability associated with a dissipating frontal boundary.

“This activity, which has been affecting the Leeward and northern Windward Islands over the past 24 hours, is expected to move southward across our area by tomorrow and persist to the end of the week,” forecasters say.

As a result, a gradual increase in shower activity and possible isolated thunderstorms are likely across St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

This activity is likely to peak in intensity on Thursday as the mid to upper atmosphere become more favourable for enhancement.

The current model projected rainfall accumulations are approximately 2 inches or up to 50 mm, with higher amounts in mountainous areas.

Residents and motorist are being advised to be vigilant and exercise caution during the passage of this system.

Additionally, moderate to rough northerly swells are expected during the next 24 hours, peaking near 13 feet. A high-surf advisory and a small craft warning are in effect for above normal seas. Small craft operators and sea bathers are advised to exercise caution

The St. Vincent and the Grenadines Meteorological Services will continue to monitor the situation and if necessary, provided updates.

Meanwhile, the Met Services said Tuesday that the weather system northerly swells of 3 to 4 metres (10 to 13 feet) will start to affect the coastal waters around SVG, particularly on the north and eastern coastlines.

This activity is expected to persist for at least another 24 hours and may become even more adverse at times of high tide.

As a consequence, a high-surf advisory and small-craft warning came into effect for SVG at 6 p.m. Tuesday and will continue for 24 hours.

“Large waves and dangerous rip currents can be expected mainly along the west, north, and east coasts of
St. Vincent and the Grenadines, which will create unsafe conditions for small-craft operators. Sea-bathers and other users of the sea are also advised to stay out of the water,” the Met Services said.

In this case, a small-craft warning  means that wind speeds of 25 to 33 knots (47 t0 62 km/h) and/or seas equal to or greater than 3m (10ft) will be affecting the marine area.

A high-surf advisory is issued when breaking wave action poses a threat to life and property within the surf zone.

This advisory and warning will be in effect until 6 p.m. Wednesday.

Currency problem still affecting Vincy ‘traffickers’

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There is still no resolution to the currency exchange issue that has seen Vincentian traders having grave difficulty in buying Eastern Caribbean dollars after selling agricultural goods in Barbados and Trinidad.

“It is a very important issue which goes to the heart of the trading regime under the Caribbean Single Market,” Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves told the last meeting of Parliament.

Gonsalves, who is also Minister of Finance, said his government has raised the matter on several occasions and he has written to the government of Trinidad and Tobago more than once about it.

He said he also raised it at February’s meeting of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and had also raised it at the Monetary Council of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank.

The prime minister said the issue is that Vincentian itinerant traders — referred to locally as “traffickers” — sell their goods in Trinidad and Barbados and are paid in Trinidad and Tobago dollars or Barbados dollars.

But when they are leaving those countries, they are supposed to get the Eastern Caribbean dollar equivalent of what they sold and have to make the various applications in the central bank in Bridgetown or Port of Spain.

“And over the last two or so years, these central banks have come up with the mantra that they have a shortage of foreign exchange and they have to wait.

“The problem with this is that apart from the traffickers themselves, these are persons who would have purchased commodities in whole or in part from farmers on credit and they expect when they come back to pay the farmers,” Gonsalves told lawmakers.

He said if the traders can’t get their foreign exchange, they can’t pay farmers.

Vincentian trade Monica Ross and one of her employees prepare agricultural produce for export to Trinidad in March. (iWN photo)

Gonsalves said some traders try to take the Trinidad and Tobago dollars and buy goods in Trinidad to sell in St. Vincent.

“But that takes a while for the sale for those commodities and the farmers are left holding the bag for a long period of time and some farmers simply don’t give the credit. The Farmers Support Company, in a very limited way, try to help out now and again, but that’s not the purpose of the Farmers Support Company,” he said of the state-owned company that was set up to give short-term low-interest loans to farmers.

“So there has to be a proper solution,” the prime minister said, adding that he has indicated to Bridgetown and Port of Spain that when Kingstown buys their fuel or manufactured commodities, those capitals are paid right away and are not given the excuse that Kingstown doesn’t have any foreign currency.

“The central banks have tried to work together and we have been trying to get that done but there have been no proper solutions.”

In the interim, the government with the Ministry of Finance has met with one bank and has an agreement with it, where the traffickers will be allowed to establish bank accounts in Trinidad using Trinidad and Tobago dollars and then be able to make withdrawals from the corresponding bank in Eastern Caribbean dollars, Gonsalves said.

“However, the bank is limiting the traders to EC$2,000 withdrawal a day. It is better than what had existed hitherto,” the prime minister said, adding that, Ministry of Finance officials had scheduled a meeting with the traffickers.

He, however, said that through the CARICOM Single Market and within the central banks there has to be a clearinghouse system.

“And we have suggested to our central bank that they put aside a certain amount of money with the bank in Trinidad for the purposes of this particular trade and then our central bank can wait, … in other words, our central bank can take the delay for a while and would not be a sum of money which is out of proportion to what is the total overall assets of the central bank. And this is one possible solution,” Gonsalves said.

The prime minister’s comments came as he responded to a question from Member of Parliament for Central Kingstown and opposition lawmaker, St. Clair Leacock.

Leacock told Parliament that the recent tragedy and loss of the MV Persia — an interisland cargo boat that sank in March — is but a timely reminder of the financial risk and challenges faced by traffickers.

He said that the currency exchange issue was discussed at a recent event to which the Governor of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank invited Member for East Kingstown, Arnhim Eustace, also an opposition lawmaker.

Leacock asked the prime minister to tell the Parliament “what assistance if any is being given by the Government to bring relief to our traffickers and farmers; and how soon can we expect an amelioration of their problems”.

Daytime gunfire in Ottley Hall unsettles residents

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An outburst of gunfire in Ottley Hall shortly after noon on Saturday has left residents worried that gang violence in the West Kingstown community has now hit a new level.

No one was injured when at least 10 gunshots were discharged, reportedly by masked gunmen who trained their guns on some male residents of the area.

The incident occurred days after a female resident of the West Kingstown community was gunned down — during the midst of the holiest week on the Christian calendar.

Police say that Shemeal Bowens, a 32-year-old unemployed mother of five, died on the spot after being shot by unknown assailants in Ottley Hall, her home suburb of Kingstown.

Police say that they received information that around 9:40 p.m. on Wednesday, Bowens was seen standing near a church, when two unknown assailants approached her and opened fire.

Bowens sustained several gunshot injuries about her body and was later pronounced dead at the scene.

Her death brings to seven the homicide count in St. Vincent and the Grenadines this year.

Law enforcement sources tell iWitness News that police suspect that Bowens may have been killed as a proxy for persons close to her who are said to be involved in criminal activity.

One resident of Ottley Hall, who spoke to iWitness News on strict condition of anonymity, said that the gunfire on Saturday suggested that different types of firearms were used.

“It is just total disrespect and disregard for life. Some people seem to think it is okay to walk through the community any hour armed with illegal firearms, fully loaded,” said the resident who said homemade firearms are also very common in the area.

Another resident, who also requested anonymity, told iWitness News that last Wednesday’s killing and the gunfire on Saturday is connected to an incident a few weeks ago where someone fired at a passenger in a minivan.

Sources tell iWitness News that “gangs” in the area are constantly feuding with each other, with members of the various rival factions not allowing each other’s members to go to certain parts of the community.

Sources say that the efforts of police officers who are specifically assigned to patrol the area are being frustrated by members of the society who aid the criminal elements.

They say that at two least police officers are stationed in the community at all times and they also conduct patrols.

“The criminals know the area better than the police and people often signal to them when the police are approaching,” one resident told iWitness News.

Fisheries Minister denies approving killing of orcas

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Minister of Fisheries, Saboto Caesar, has denied giving a whaler permission to kill orcas, a species which is protected internationally.

The whaler, from the Central Leeward town of Barrouallie, where pilot whales are normally caught, made the claim live on radio on Sunday as he explained their decision to kill two orcas on March 30.

The killing of the orcas in the presence of some 40 cruise passengers on a whale watching tour resulted in a lot of negative press for St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) in the international media.

“No. No. No. Never. Never gave permission for two orcas to be killed. In fact, I don’t know if the person spoke to somebody else, but they didn’t speak to me,” Caesar told iWitness News on Wednesday.

The call was reportedly made during an earlier hunt in which no cetacean — neither orcas nor pilot whales — were caught.

The fisheries minister, who does not have ministerial responsibility for whaling, said that a whaler had called him during their hunt at sea regarding killing an orca.

“But I want, in the context of the discussion, to say that on an occasion, a whaler was in front of an orca, about to kill and he called from on the sea and we identified that we did not want him to kill the orcas and he didn’t  — because no catch was reported.

“He didn’t and we were already celebrating and we thought that this was a new dispensation and it was very shocking news to us when it got to our attention about that activity because some persons were already complying,” Caesar told iWitness News.

Minister of Fisheries Saboto Caesar . (IWN file photo)

The whaler did not identify himself by name when he called into We FM on Sunday.

However, the details he presented in the call suggest that he is Samuel Hazelwood, who has been whaling since he graduated secondary school with passes in mathematics, English and biology.

He said that earlier this year, Caesar, Chief Fisheries Officer, Jennifer Cruickshank-Howard, and permanent secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Rural Transformation, Raymond Ryan, met with a few whalers in Barrouallie.

“They … asked us to do an experiment for one month by not catching the bottlenose dolphin and the very orca itself. Mr. Saboto Caesar, one of the guys in the meeting told him, but if you tell us not to catch them, it is going to make life more difficult for us. Even before the meeting finished he told him so,” the whaler said on radio.

The whaler recounted what he said was the circumstances in which Caesar gave permission for orcas to be killed.

He said that in a previous whale hunt, they were in search or pilot whales for some time but repeatedly came up on orcas.

“Being that they say that we must not take any during the month because we are going to do an experiment, the other guy who normally captain the boat for me, he has Mr. Saboto Caesar number, he (whaler) … called him (Caesar) and spoke to him in relation to the orcas we meet because we weren’t studying them.

“He (Caesar) … called him (whaler) back and told them that we can take two in order to help out situation,” said the whaler who told listeners when orcas are around it is more difficult to catch pilot whales.

He, however, said that they did not catch any orcas that day.

“Eventually, the orcas would have made a dive and we did not catch any that day,” the whaler said.

However, Caesar told iWitness News that in preparation for the Budget, a meeting was held in Barrouallie that some 100 persons attended.

He noted that the meeting was prior to the March 30 incident in which the orcas were killed.

The minister said that in the meeting they gave diagrams and photos of orcas and also did a PowerPoint presentation of what the orcas look like.

“Even though we know it is easily identifiable, we also place someone from the Ministry of Fisheries to work with the fisherfolk so that we will basically continue in line with our international obligation.”

He said he got the call from the whaling boat the following week, in which the whaler told him he was in front of an orca and wanted advice on what to do.

“I said to him, ‘We have our international obligations, leave the orca alone.’ And he said, ‘Okay. I’ll leave it alone.’ In fact, the very evening, there was a mini celebration in the office. Everyone was elated and this sentiment was expressed to the international authorities that from one meeting in Barrouallie, persons were complying.

“I never received another call after that from anybody. That was the only call I received,” Caesar told iWitness News.

“I don’t know if the person spoke to somebody else but they didn’t speak to me,” he told iWitness News.

Caesar told iWitness News that with the call from the whaler, “We thought that this was a new dispensation and it was very shocking news to us when it got to our attention about that activity (the March 30 killing of the orcas) because some persons were also complying.”

He said that the whalers were told in the meeting earlier this year that there would be a follow-up meeting after a month.

“I don’t know if it is the same person we are talking about because there were many persons in the meeting. But it was identified in the meeting that the boats will wish to be equipped with hydrophones and that we should donate two boats for whale watching as something that would augment the livelihoods, should it be that they were going to stop kill the orcas. So I don’t know if it was interpreted –but you can’t interpret out of your international obligations. That is the long and short of it.”

The government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines announced on April 5 that it will pass laws to ban the killing of orcas and bottlenose dolphins.

Pilot whales have been caught in Barrouallie as part of a decades-old tradition.

Whaler challenges whale watchers’ account of orca slaying 

Woman gunned down in Ottley Hall

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The deceased, Shemeal Bowens.

A woman who raised an uproar in a Facebook video when police on March 10 broke off a door to a house while executing a search warrant in Ottley Hall was shot and killed Wednesday night.

Sources say that Shemeal Bowens, said to be around 32 years old, fell in a hail of gunshots fired by unknown assailants around 9:45 p.m.

She was found unresponsive when police and ambulance service arrived at the scene shortly after and was later pronounced dead.

Venezuela’s President Maduro makes unannounced visit to St. Vincent

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President of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro, arrived in St. Vincent and the Grenadines on Wednesday afternoon for an unannounced visit on which the host government is yet to comment.

Maduro was treated to a red carpet welcome when he landed at the Argyle International Airport, which was built with support from the South American nation.

Maduro’s visit comes less than two months after a visit announced for the Feb. 14 opening of the airport did not materialise amidst political tensions in Caracas.

Word of Maduro’s visit emerged on social media and SVG Airport posted on Facebook, photos of the formalities to welcome the visiting leader.

SVG’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sir Louis Straker and Venezuelan envoys to Kingstown welcomed Maduro to SVG.

Kingstown and Caracas have maintained warm and deepened ties under the Ralph Gonsalves administration and Kingstown is one of the Caribbean Community capitals that have benefited from Venezuela’s PetroCaribe.

Under PetroCaribe, participating nations can import fuel from Venezuela under preferential payment arrangements. Participating nations say the initiative has been an important social buffer amidst harsher economic realities after the global financial crisis of 2008.

Information reaching iWitness News said that the South American leader will meet with delegates of the 64th meeting of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Authority, taking place in Kingstown.

The meeting is taking place under the chairmanship of Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis, Timothy Harris.

The OECS Commission said in an earlier press release that OECS Heads of Government will join the director general and commissioners to conclude discussions on health insurance; strategic options for diplomatic representation; greater participation of non-independent member states; agriculture and support services (regional transport); the blue economy; and climate change and sustainable land management.

The OECS is dedicated to economic harmonisation and integration, protection of human and legal rights, and the encouragement of good governance among independent and non-independent countries in the eastern Caribbean.

The OECS came into being on June 18, 1981, when seven Eastern Caribbean countries signed a treaty agreeing to cooperate with each other while promoting unity and solidarity among its members.

The Treaty became known as the Treaty of Basseterre, so named in honour of the capital city of St. Kitts and Nevis where it was signed.

The OECS currently has ten members — the British Virgin Islands, Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, St. Kitts and Nevis, Montserrat, Dominica, Martinique, Saint Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Grenada.

Focus on elderly needed too — PM

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While many persons, quite rightly, focus on young people and opportunities for young people, it is important that the nation’s elderly are not forgotten, says Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves.

Gonsalves told Parliament on Thursday that the segment of the population that is growing the fastest is those 65 years and older.

The 2012 census showed that the elderly segment of the population had grown by 31 per cent, to in excess of 13,000 people in this country.

Gonsalves attributed this to longevity, better medicine, and migration of other age groups.

“Clearly, this has implications for social security, implications for health, a whole range of service implications for the economy. So this is a huge question. Many of us focus, quite rightly, on young people and opportunities for young people, but there is this section.”

The prime minister’s comments came as he responded to a question from Member of Parliament for Central Kingstown, St. Clair Leacock.

Leacock had, earlier this year, made a case in Parliament for VAREP — Vincentian Association for Retired and Elderly Persons.

He further suggested that a not for profit organisation could be established and managed under the “suzerainty” of the state-owned National Insurance Services (NIS).

The opposition MP asked Gonsalves last Thursday to tell Parliament if he feels that such an organisation which will give discounted benefits to our elderly and retired desirable; if yes; is the NIS a proper agency; and what initiatives can be taken and which line ministry is to advance such an outcome.

MP for Central Kingstown, St. Clair Leacock. (iWN file photo)

The prime minister said that in 2000 and even before then, there was a society for older persons.

However, the organisation got weak and they had a piece of land to build a home for the elderly, but after the government built two golden years activity centres, they have transferred the land to NIS.

Gonsalves called for a revitalisation of the organisation under around a “core of vibrant persons”.

“Of course, a good executive will be, the honourable member for Central Kingstown as president and I, as vice-president or secretary, but the politics might be such that — because in these things, leadership is important and we need to get it.”

The prime minister said the NIS has a series of benefits for the elderly, adding that since coming to office, his government has done four increases of minimum pension and has expanded the non-contributory age pension and the elderly assistance benefits and several other things, including the government’s home help for the elderly and increased public assistance for the elderly.

He, however, noted that the question is asking about discounts at stores and other places.

“If it is organised and supported by the state, by the central government, and plugged into regional and international organisations of the elderly, I think we can get enough businesses around the country to offer some discounts for them.”

Gonsalves said the NIS is not the proper agency for the forming of a civil society, but said the agency could be a part of building the sustainability of such an organisation and for it to do tremendous advocacy work.

“But this question is a vital one for policymakers, the elderly, all of us as we are doing. Also, we need to have supportive civil society organisation and that is how I will say this: … some of these initiatives should be done by the Ministry of Social Development and some will be done, clearly, through the Ministry of Finance.”

Gonsalves said that also of great importance is that many persons over the age of 60 are remaining in the workforce because they are fit and can work.

“But that has a connection to those who are entering the workforce. So it is a big question for us and what should be the age of retirement, when should NIS be paid. There’re a host of issues,” Gonsalves said.

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World-class marina opens in Canouan

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An EC$250 million marina, hailed as the best in the eastern and southern Caribbean was officially opened in Canouan on Monday.

“When full, Glossy Bay Marina will act as a host to nearly a thousand yachtspeople, professional crew, charter guests and owners. That is the equivalent of a 500-room hotel, bigger than anything else in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Let us plan to work together to make this project a success for both its investors and the nation,” Bob Hathaway, manager of the marina said at the opening ceremony.

The marina contains 120 berths, including 24 “super yacht” berths capable of accommodating yachts between 100 and 300 feet in length. Depth available exceeds 18 feet.

The marina can berth 120 yacht. (iWN photo)

Of the remaining berths, 82 are suitable for smaller yachts in the range 33 to 80 feet and 13 are allocated for the owners of villas to be constructed at a later phase of the development.

Glossy Bay Marina is the first super yacht marina in the Grenadines and developers say it will enable these large yachts to base themselves in Canouan while undertaking charter activities or owners’ trips in the archipelago.

Investors say that that ability alone should enable a significant development in yachting activities in the Grenadines as high-end facilities are developed in the marina to provide technical support to these large yachts and enable training of the Vincentian community in yacht support trades, including varnishing, valeting, paint, and woodwork repairs.

They further say that opportunities will increase for the supply of local fresh fish and vegetables on a far greater scale than is currently the case as well as more technical support services required by these yachts.

Guests of the opening ceremony. (iWN photo)

“Yachting, of all the tourism sectors is, by far, the largest contributor per head to the local economy,” said Hathaway, who has 28 years experience in the marine industry and was manager of St. Lucia’s Marigot Bay Marina.

“Glossy Bay Marina is a major addition to yachting in the Windward Islands, the Grenadines, and, of course, to Canouan,” he said, adding that the opening of the marina and the associated bars, restaurants and other facilities will make the southern Grenadine island the yachting centre of the Grenadines.

He said the opportunity to train Vincentians, in particular Canouan islanders, in developing all the skills in the yachting industry is not to be missed and has already started.

The three original dockhands are already trained to international standards in that regard and have also received first aid training, and are currently undergoing fire-fighting training, Hathaway said.

“Similar opportunities will exist for more direct and subcontract employees in the future in the whole range of yacht support activities…” he said.

Member of Parliament for the Southern Grenadines, Terrance Ollivierre, left, speaks with Mr. Achille Pastor-Ris, former chief executive officer at Canouan Resorts Development Ltd. at Monday’s ceremony. (iWN photo)

In her address, Elena Korach, chief executive officer of Glossy Bay Marina Ltd., noted the scale of the financial investment in the marina.

She said that EC$250 million has been disbursed so far and over EC$100 million will be spent to complete the marina plaza.

The infrastructural network at the marina includes a prime and standby power plant, a waste water treatment plant connected to vacuum pumping facilities on the docks, a fuelling system for boats with dockside fuelling hydrants and a fuelling station.

“Glossy Bay sets a whole new standard in terms of quayside finishing and lighting design, specked to the highest standards,” Korach said.

“The Marina Capitanerie, with guest bathrooms and laundry facilities, and Shenanigans, a trendy beach club with a lovely garden surrounded by pergolas, and a pool with breath-taking views over the Grenadines complete the offer to the public guests,” she said.

Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves speaks with Irish investor Dermot Desmond at the ceremony. (iWN photo)

Korach said that over the two years of the project’s construction, it employed hundreds of workers with peaks of 700 tradesmen on side, 95 per cent of whom were Vincentians.

“The contribution to the Canouan economy has been also significant,” she said, adding that rentals alone amounted to a monthly bill of EC$130,000.

Irish financier, Dermot Desmond, is one of the major investors in the project.

The government says he has already invested US$60 million and will spend another US$25-30 this year and a similar amount over the next three to four years.

Italian investor, Antonio Saladino invested US$25 million in the project.

“I think our ambition and our plan is to create a marina set in botanical gardens and having a building here that will be one of the outstanding features in the Grenadines, that will be welcoming, architecturally brilliant and also will be a place the folks must come and visit on this beautiful island,” Desmond told the opening ceremony.

Investors Dermot Desmond and Andrea Pignataro chat on the sidelines of the opening ceremony. (iWN photo)

“It is fortunate that Andrea Pignatario, who is the main shareholder in the north of the island here, we share the same vision. We share a belief that this is actually a fantastic island. We share that we have an environmental responsibility to St. Vincent and the people of Canouan to enhance and develop this island and to make it one of the most wonderful vacation spots in the whole world. Employing Vincentians, training Vincentians, and Vincentians leading the hospitality service that we will offer here,” Desmond said.

Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves welcomed the marina, telling the opening ceremony that it will create many opportunities for Vincentians.

“When the marina is finished, there are going to be opportunities here galore, there are already opportunities for Vincentian entrepreneurs. And, they will work in conjunction with the management and leadership of this facility, this extraordinary facility, and I hope that some of those who would sell goods here to you, Dermot, and to the yachts, that some of them would really become rich.

“Not as rich as you but be able to [earn] some money, which is part of developing an entrepreneurial class in our country. It’s very important,” Gonsalves quipped.

Queen’s Easter egg to be made using Vincentian Chocolate

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Chocolate produced by the Vincentian Chocolate Company will this year be used to make an Easter egg for Her Majesty, the Queen.

Prestat Finest Chocolates, established in 1902, is one of the world’s oldest and most famous chocolate brands and much loved by English royalty and nobility. It was also a favourite of Roald Dahl, author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and the creator of Willie Wonka.

Each year, Prestat handcrafts a perfect and unique chocolate Egg for Her Majesty The Queen and fills it with a range of chocolate truffles and chocolate delights.

“So it is with huge pride that the Vincentian Chocolate Company, a subsidiary of the St. Vincent Cocoa Company (SVCC) can announce this year’s Easter Egg for Her Majesty will be made using Vincentian Chocolate,” the company said in a statement.

This is following a recent visit to St. Vincent by Nick Crean, co-owner of Prestat, on the invitation of Harry Marriott, Chairman of SVCC.

Under the expert guidance of Andrew Hadley, managing director of SVCC, Crean visited cocoa farms in St. Vincent’s glorious mountains as well as SVCC’s world-class cocoa handling facility at Dixon.

The statement said that at SVCC offices in Kingstown, Crean he declared: “The St Vincent Cocoa Company is one of the most impressive stories of investment and sustainability I have come across. It brings employment to the island and will benefit the economy of the region. It is clear that the cocoa industry in St. Vincent has an exciting future and is in safe hands.”

On tasting Vincentian Chocolate at the company’s factory Crean declared that “Vincentian Chocolate is one of the most elegant and rewarding chocolate couvertures I have ever tasted.”

Wilf Marriott, head of cocoa sales at SVCC and based in London arranged the secret delivery of chocolate to Prestat’s factory in London and said, “All of us here at the St. Vincent Chocolate Company are incredibly excited and honoured that Prestat are using our chocolate to make Her Majesty’s Easter egg. All of our hard work seems to be paying off!”

SVG, United States sign open skies agreement

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A new air transport agreement between St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) and the United States came into effect on Friday, replacing one that London signed with the Washington in July 1977, when Kingstown was not yet an independent capital.

Prime Minister of SVG, Ralph Gonsalves and Political Economic Director at U.S. Embassy in Bridgetown, Yaryna Ferencevyc, signed the agreement in Kingstown.

Ferencevych said the agreement “deepens and confirms our strong bilateral ties and the respect and the goals that we have in deepening economic cooperation and continuing to promote market forces and deepening of our relationship.

“The agreement is very progressive. The fact that it replaces a more stringent agreement from 1977 really opens up opportunities both for St. Vincent and to the United States, not only in passenger traffic but in commercial traffic as well that we hope will truly improve our economic and certainly our bilateral relations”.

The agreement comes into effect less than two months after SVG opened its first international airport — Argyle International Airport.

The rights that each party granted to each other under the agreement were not disclosed at Friday’s event.

However, under similar agreements that the United States has signed with other Organisation of Eastern Caribbean states, each party grants the other the right to fly across its territory without landing, the right to make stops in its territory for non-traffic purposes and the right to perform international air transportation between points on certain routes.

Speaking at the ceremony, Gonsalves noted that the agreement enters into force when signed.

He further pointed out that it supersedes the agreement signed between Britain and the United States in 1977.

“This is before we became independent and Britain was responsible for our external affairs,” Gonsalves said.

He said that after SVG became independent, the law in relation to international relations that treaties entered into force by the United Kingdom on the SVG’s behalf remain in force unless they are specifically repudiated and renegotiated.

“So, the agreement which we are signing today is, in fact, superseding, replacing the agreement which we signed on our behalf. We are a young country and we are accustomed to these things — that many things which were signed on our behalf, we revisit them as the circumstances admit practically.”

Gonsalves said the preamble of the air services agreement address “our joint desire to promote an international aviation system based on competition among airlines in the marketplace with a minimum of government interference and regulation;

“Desiring to make it possible for airlines to offer the travelling and shipping public a variety of services and options, and wishing to encourage individual airlines to develop and implement innovative and competitive prices

“We have agreed a number of things and we are granting certain rights to each other’s aircraft, the matter of how the authorisation proceeds, the revocation of that authorisation in certain circumstances, application of laws, safety; very important the question of aviation security,” he said.

Gonsalves noted that the matter of aviation security has been in the air because of the recent visit of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to audit the AIA, which opened on Feb. 14.

He reiterated that the TSA doesn’t “pass” or “fail” any airport, but ensure that they work in partnership with the other entities to have the highest standards of aviation safety and security possible

The prime minister, who is also minister of civil aviation and national security, read a number of paragraphs under Article 7 of the agreement, which speaks to “Aviation Security”.

He said he wanted workers at the AIA to pay special attention to paragraph 4 “so that all the people who are working out at Argyle and at all other airports to hear and understand this with clarity” — in light of the visit by the TSA.

“Each party agrees to observe the security provisions required by the other party for entry into, for departure from, and while within the territory of that other party and to take adequate measures to protect aircraft and to inspect passengers, crew and their baggage and carry-on items, as well as cargo and aircraft stores, prior to and during boarding or loading. Each party shall also give positive consideration to any request from the party for special security measures to meet a particular threat.”

The agreement also addresses commercial opportunities, customs duties and charges, user charges, fair competition, pricing, consultation, settlements of disputes, and termination of the agreement.

Teen, elderly woman drown in St. Vincent

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Police are investigating the circumstances of two separate incidents of drowning, which occurred on Thursday: one on mainland St. Vincent and the other in Union Island.

Denzel Rogers, a 16-year-old fifth form student of the North Union Secondary School, drowned after being caught in a rip current at Mt. Young, Black Point about 4:50 p.m. on April 6th, 2017.

Rogers was in the company of some relatives at the time of the incident. Attempts were made to push Rogers out of the water, but he was eventually pulled under by the waves.

The body of the deceased has not yet been recovered.

Meanwhile, Mane Aimé, a 65-year-old French citizen, died after experiencing difficulties while swimming at Chatham Bay, Union Island, about 5:35 p.m. on Thursday

Attempts were made to resuscitate her using CPR. She was later pronounced dead.

The deceased was vacationing from France with her husband.

Robbery suspect jailed, woman fined for escaping police custody

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A 19-year-old woman was fined on Wednesday while a 16-year-old boy was sent to jail after they both escaped lawful police custody two days earlier.

A second boy, age 15, was sent to the Family Court for sentencing, having also pleaded guilty at the Kingstown Magistrate Court to the same charge.

The two males were on remand at the Questelles Police Station, the elder having been charged with robbery and the younger with conspiracy to commit robbery.

The charges were laid in connection of the Jan. 30, 2017 daylight, gunpoint robbery of P.H. Veira & Co. Ltd, employee, Dwight Ryan of EC$36,915.05 of the company’s money.

Denis Richardson, 23, of Glen, who was also charged in connection with that offence but was able to post bail, but has since been remanded in custody on a gun possession charge.

Bail was also open to the two young males but no one signed their bail bond and they were being remanded at the Questelles Police Station because they were 15 years old at the time.

A preliminary inquiry into that matter has been scheduled for May 10.

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The woman fined for escaping custody, Kaysony Peters of Campden Park and Barrouallie, was being detained at the Questelles Police Station as part of an investigation into a damage to property report made against her by her boyfriend, Sean Roberts, of Barrouallie on Sunday.

The court heard that Peters had used a concrete brick to damage the windshield of her boyfriend’s minivan, HJ4, during an altercation in Barrouallie.

She also pleaded guilty to that charge.

Peters, along with the two males were housed at the Questelles Police Station, and when checks were made on them around 3 a.m. Monday, police discovered that they were missing.

The police organised a search party but the trio were not found. Later that morning, during daylight hours, the police found all three escaped persons at Peters’ home in Campden Park.

Magistrate Bertie Pompey ordered Peters to pay EC$350 for the damage to property charge and to pay her boyfriend EC$600 compensation for the damage to his vehicle. She was also ordered to pay the court EC$350 within one month on the escaping lawful custody charge or spend three months in jail.

All three accused were charged separately.

In handling the sentencing of the 16-year-old, Kelroy Henry, the magistrate said his hands were tied.

In presenting the facts to the court, the prosecutor, Station Sergeant of Police Elgin Richards, had noted that the accused was 16 and therefore could be housed at her Majesty’s Prison. He noted the seriousness of the offence and asked for a custodial sentence.

But before sentencing, Pompey asked the youth about his background.

Henry’s answers to the court show that he turned 16 while in remand on the robbery charge.

He said he is originally from Vermont and got to Form 2 at the Buccament Bay Secondary School before quitting because he did not have any money to continue his education.

From there, he went to the Liberty Lodge Boys Training Centre but has since taken up residence on the streets of Kingstown.

“I don’t like to send young people to prison but I don’t have any alternative,” the magistrate said.

Pompey, however, pointed out that he was not assessing the youth based on the initial charge that led to his being in police custody.

He, however, noted that because Henry was unable to secure bail on the first charge, community service was not an option.

“This is really a ticklish situation,” Pompey said.

After some discussion between the prosecution and the bench and an intervention by lawyer Carlos James, who was in court on another matter, Henry was sentenced to four months in prison.

Fallout from killing of orcas in St. Vincent continues; cruise line cancels call

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By Kenton X. Chance

The government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) says it is in the process of determining what legal avenue would allow it to outlaw as quickly as possible the killing of orcas and bottlenose dolphins in the nation’s waters.

Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves further told Parliament on Thursday that the nation must reconsider its International Whaling Commission quota of four humpback whales annually and whether it should be reduced.

His announcements came as Thomson Cruises moved from just cancelling whale watching tours in SVG to cancelling its last call to the destination his season after two orcas (“killer whales”) were killed in front of some of its guests on St. Vincent’s west coast one week earlier.

The two orcas were among a pod of four that were being watched by 40 passengers from TUI Discovery who were on a whale and dolphin watch tour operated by a local tour company, Fantasea Tours.

While the visitors were enjoying the spectacle of the dolphins, which are resident but not often seen in Vincentian waters, three fishermen from the whaling town of Barrouallie killed two of orcas, using a harpoon gun.

Two of the four orcas that the group saw off the leeward coast last week. (Photo courtesy Ken Isaacs)

The incident has triggered an outcry from some sections of the local population but the fallout internationally has been significant, with many social media users calling for a boycott of SVG as a destination.

Gonsalves had announced on Tuesday that his government would introduce legislation to outlaw the killing of orcas, in keeping with the nation’s international obligations.

Speaking in Parliament on Thursday, he told lawmakers and media audiences of the impact on the destination of the cruise line’s decision.

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“Now, I just want everybody to realise — look, we have the head tax of these 1,800 people, the money for the cruise ship pier — because we have to pay the debt for the cruise ship pier, the people who buy their vehicle to take the tourist all about on … land tours, money at the Botanical Gardens, propagating the good will of the people, the sea tours.

“All of the money, which is the actual money which would be collected on a cruise throughout the economy would certainly be over a quarter million dollars,” said Gonsalves, who is also Minister of Finance.

The prime minister said a lot of residents of Barrouallie, the town where the whalers live, are upset that the orcas were killed at all, and not just because they were killed in the presence of tourists.

He said the week before the orcas were killed, six pilot whales — the cetacean normally killed as part of the “black fish” industry in Barrouallie — were caught, making the killing of the orca totally unnecessary.

“Now, we cannot allow this thing to continue. So yesterday, the Cabinet took a decision in line with our international obligations to ban the killing of orcas and the ‘flipper’ (bottlenose dolphin),” Gonsalves said.

One of the two orcas killed by Barrouallie whalers was slaughtered in the presence of a whale watching group.

He said the black fish industry could cotinine to harvest short-finned pilot whales and a particular species of porpoise.

The Attorney General will examine whether the law can be brought through a statutory rule and order passed by the Cabinet or whether a bill must be brought to Parliament for debate when it next meets on May 18, to outlaw the killing of orcas and bottlenose dolphins, Gonsalves said.

Gonsalves, who is also Minister of Legal Affairs, said he has to speak in Parliament about his government’s decision so that all concerned will know that the government has responded promptly.

He said he has been involved in opposition politics and know that it would be tempting to say that the government is trying to kill the black fish industry.

He, however, said that is not the case, adding that there is a project under the Basic Need Trust Fund this year for a black fish processing facility in Barrouallie.

“And we want this facility to be a modern hygienic facility to process the black fish,” Gonsalves said, adding that by “black fish” he means short-finned pilot whales.

Gonsalves said that persons who do not know about the matter can call the director of fisheries to get more information and he further offered to organise a briefing by the minister for opposition lawmakers.

“While we do things traditionally, we are in a modern world and we have to look at the totality of all our economic circumstances,” he said, adding that SVG is not a country unto itself but part of the regional and international community.

“And we have these treaty obligations which we have to fulfil,” said Gonsalves, who had earlier noted that SVG signed onto the treaty banning the killing of orcas and bottlenose dolphins, but did not pass the relevant law.

He said the government will have consultations on whale watching and developing a whale watching industry.

The IWC allows SVG to kill four humpback whales every year as part of the nation’s whaling tradition, which began in 1875.

That quota is up for review next year, and Gonsalves said that the nation needs to ask itself about whether the quota, which was increased from two to four, should be reduced to one or two.

He added that since 2001, the nation has not caught more than three whales in any year, and added that a lot of people might not understand what happened when a baby whale is killed.

The prime minister said that these cetaceans are familial and when a baby is killed the adults come by, making them “metaphorical sitting ducks” for whalers.

Gonsalves said a few years ago, when a baby humpback was killed, the mother came by “with a vengeance” and he was told that the whalers had to get out of the way and the mother of the calf “bawled like a cattle — again to mix my metaphor — for about 24 hours in the waters”.

“These are intelligent social mammals,” Gonsalves said, adding that SVG has certain international frameworks in which it operates.

Thomson Cruises cancelled its final call to Port Kingstown as a result of the killing of the orcas. (Photo courtesy Ken Isaacs)

Some conservationists have accused SVG of being a pawn for Japan at the IWC. Japan has built a number of fisheries projects in SVG, which some persons say are payback for the support it receives from SVG at the IWC.

Gonsalves, however, said it is not true that SVG takes the position of Japan on an on-going basis on the IWC. He said that when he came to office in 2001, he removed the paid advisor to the SVG delegation, which was financed by another entity outside of the country.

“And the second thing we did, we began by paying our subscriptions ourselves. We refused to take the money from an external source for our subscriptions,” Gonsalves said, adding that his administration was successful in having its 40,000 pounds sterling annual subscription to the IWC reduced to 20,000 pounds sterling.

He said the philosophy of his government is that members of a club must pay their subscription themselves so as to protect themselves from any spurious charge.

Gonsalves reiterated his view that whales are the second most “political animals”, after homo sapiens and responsibility for political animals should be the Office of the Prime Minister.

He had first made this point after moving ministerial responsibilities fro whaling from the Minister of Fisheries.

The prime minister assured residents of Barrouallie that his government is there to protect them and their black fish industry in the harvesting of short-finned pilot whales and the limited species of porpoise that are permitted.

Retired head teacher injured in vicious attack

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Retired headmistress, Ethel King of Rillan Hill, was on Wednesday still in hospital nursing injuries she sustained during an attack by an intruder into her home Monday night.

On Wednesday, Grafton McDowall, a resident of the South Leeward community appeared before Chief Magistrate Rechanne Brown-Matthias charged with attempted murder and aggravated burglary in relation to the attack.

McDowall, who is in his early 30s, was out on bail on another attempted murder charge.

On Wednesday, he was charged that on April 3, 2017, with intent to commit the offence of murder on Ethel King of Rillan Hill, he did an act which was more than merely preparatory to the commission of the offence.

He was further charged that he entered King’s house as a trespasser, armed with a weapon of offence, to wit a pair of scissors.

McDowall, who is also known as “Papa” and “Saddam”, was not required to plea to the indictable charges.

Prosecutor Adolphus Delplesche objected to McDowall’s bail telling the court that King is a 65-year-old retired head teacher who was still in hospital nursing several stab wounds.

He told the court that one of the wounds penetrated from one side of the senior citizen’s jaw to the other,

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“She is in a stable but serious condition and we are praying to the Almighty God for her speedy recovery,” Delplesche said.

He said that King has served the country faithfully all her life, adding that now that she should be resting peacefully, she was attacked in her home.

The prosecutor further pointed out that the accused was on bail for “an identical matter.

“Identical, not similar,” the prosecutor said, adding that the charges are just allegations against McDowall but serious ones nonetheless.

McDowall is awaiting trial in the High Court for the attempted murder of Lerna Daniel of Rillan Hill, a crime he allegedly committed on Jan. 14, 2016.

He was committed to stand trial for attempted murder and aggravated burglary after a preliminary inquiry that ended in November 2016.

The accused, Grafton McDowall.; (iWN photo)

Delplesche said that his objection to bail is strenuous and expressed hope that the investigator, detective Constable Philbert Chambers could expedite the matter.

The magistrate denied bail and remanded McDowall into custody until July 17 for the commencement of a preliminary inquiry.

After he was remanded in custody, McDowall began to fret loudly inside the courtroom and was quickly transferred to the holding cell on the ground floor of the building.

While inside the holding cell, he began to complain that his name is always the first to call whenever something happens in his village.

The man spoke about ending his life and his older sister, who was standing in the yard of the building, suggested to him a way he could do so while in prison.

 

Rock Gutter case ruling reopens festering wounds

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By Kenton X. Chance

At the Fancy International Pentecostal Assembly Church last Sunday, the main worship leader knelt on the floor as the congregation and other worship leaders sang.

“No one else will be able to give you that peace of mind than the lord,” she says.

Her name is Simone Ballantyne.

Behind her, sits an elderly gentleman with salt and pepper hair dressed in a dark green suit. His head his bowed, his spectacled eyes closed, his clasped hand between his legs.

His name is Ehud Myers and he is pastor of the Fancy Apostolic Faith Mission Church, located across the street.

As the worship continues, a young man dressed in a blue shirt with a tie — made of the same material as Ballantyne’s dress — and a black waistcoat is busy trying to seat latecomers to the service.

His name is Davanan Nanton.

The presence of Ballantyne, Myers, and Nanton worshipping together seems to demonstrate the theme of the service — “The Power of Togetherness”.

The worship service was held in celebration of the church’s 42nd anniversary.

It came a mere two days after Nanton and Myers were freed of seven counts of involuntary manslaughter, related to an accident two years earlier, in which seven students, including one of Ballantyne’s daughter’s died.

Myers was a guest of honour at the anniversary service for the Fancy International Pentecostal Assembly Church, where Ballantyne and Nanton are members.

But while there was togetherness in the church, elsewhere in the North Windward community, parents of the deceased children were still reeling from the decision of the court to uphold no case submissions the men’s lawyers had made on their behalf.

The seven students — Racquel Ashton, Chanstacia Stay, Glenroy Michael, Jamall and Jamalie Edwards, Simonique Ballantyne and Anique Alexander — died when minibus HL636 careened down a hillside and into the rough sea at Rock Gutter, an uninhabited area between Fancy and Owia.

The bodies of Ballantyne and Stay were never recovered, and, within hours, the seas had shredded the minivan down to its chassis, leaving just three of the wheels intact.

Myers was conductor of on the minivan, which was owned his church, and spent almost two weeks in hospital nursing injuries he sustained in the accident.

Siomone Ballantyne, left, leads worship at the same church attended by Davanan Nanton, left, who was tried for her daughter’s death. (iWN photo)

Residents of Fancy had asked the church to transport secondary students to school in Georgetown and Kingstown, after a bus specially suited to the terrain that had been secured by the Rotary Club, had developed mechanical problems and was decommissioned.

The club had failed in its efforts to secure duty free concession from the government to provide another bus for the community, the settlement farthest north on St. Vincent’s east coast – located some 36 miles from Kingstown, the nation’s capital.

Nanton was the driver of the van on the fateful day, and notwithstanding his own injuries, went into the sea to rescue his passengers, later needing to be rescued himself, having become weak as a result of blood loss.

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In 2015, a coroner’s inquest was held into the accident and the death of the students and based on the evidence compiled during the proceedings, which were closed to the public, Nanton, Myers and Colbert Bowen, a school principal and member of Myers’ church were, in November 2015, charged with seven counts of involuntary manslaughter.

The charges against Bowens were withdrawn at the commencement of the preliminary inquiry last May.

And, after the 10-month preliminary inquiry, which included months-long adjournments, defence counsels Grant Connell and Israel Bruce, argued before Chief Magistrate Rechanne Browne Matthias that the Crown had not made out a case for their clients to answer.

In her ruling at the Serious Offences Court last Friday, the chief magistrate upheld the defence counsel’s submission and told Myers and Nanton that they were free to go.

Gloridene Hoyte-John, Glenroy Michael’s mother, told iWitness News that the decision of the court, however, did not come as a surprise to her.

“I was expecting a dismissal, based on online articles about the no case submission, but I was still hoping that the case would have gone to the High Court,” she said, noting that the grounds of the no case submissions were insufficient evidence.

Hoyte-John told iWitness News that she was looking forward to the case ending up in the High Court because of evidence presented at the inquest.

“The information we received, it was sound. The information regarding the vehicle and the reports from the mechanics who looked at the vehicle,” she said but declined to elaborate.

Rochelle Ashton and her son, Raffique, pose with a photo of her deceased daughter, Racquel at her home in Fancy on Sunday. (iWN photo)Asked at her home in another section of Fancy what she thought about the decision of the court, Rochelle Ashton, Racquel Ashton’s mother, first told iWitness News of how difficult it has been for her since the death of her daughter.

“I don’t have a day I don’t think of her. She was my best friend and everything to me. Without her, my life is not the same,” the grieving mother said.

She said she was surprised by the decision of the court. “It was a real surprise to me. I just can’t see why,” Ashton said.

“I used to say to myself if no justice come, I leave everything in God’s hands and God knows best. That is my opinion because I know to myself my daughter’s life just went that way. And right now, my heart is full of so much pain,” Ashton said and burst into tears.

During the interview in her patio on Sunday, she told iWitness News that she had cried a lot the previous day, after the court ruling.

“Every time I sat down, my daughter was coming back to me. My son and I cried. He said, ‘Mommy, she’s gone.’ He said, ‘Mommy, she’s gone and she can’t come back. Mommy, I’m comforting you but I miss my sister.’”

Ashton had concluded that what occurred on Jan. 12, 2015 was an accident — one that could have been prevented.

“I know it was an accident but I know it was something that could have been avoided because everybody know the van was not working good,” she said, citing an alleged conversation between Nanton and mechanics that reportedly formed part of the evidence that came out during the inquest.

The seven students died when a minivan crashed into the sea at Rock Gutter, where this monument was erected in their memory last month. (iWN photo)Ashton, who is a member of Myers’ congregation, admitted to iWitness News that she had heard before the accident reports that the van was not working properly.

She, however, said she did not want to get into those details and would constrain her comments to what she knows.

“I’m satisfied with the loss of my daughter. As the magistrate made her decision, I can nothing about that.

“My daughter is gone, I know she can’t come back. I’m satisfied and leave everything in God’s hands. All I am asking for is for him to give me strength every day to carry me through.”

She said that since the accident, Nanton or Myers never went to any of the parents and apologise to them for what happened.

“But it’s too late. Because he should have come to us first and say, ‘Sorry, parents’,” Ashton told iWitness News.

“It is easy to forgive but it is hard to forget. And it is something I will never forget: that morning. And right now, I feel down. No one knows how my family and I feel. None of them ever came to us and say, ‘Sorry, parents, for your loss.’”

Ashton and her daughter were members of Myers’ congregation.

But the last time she went to church was the Sunday after Myers was discharged from the hospital.

“The Sunday when Pastor Myers came back to church after the accident, my son and I went to church the Sunday. And when Colbert Bowens asked him (Myers) if he had anything to say, Pastor Myers only talked about himself alone; expressed his feeling about himself alone. And me and my daughter, who was a member of that church, he didn’t even come to me and say, ‘Rochelle, sorry for your loss’,” Ashton said.

“I, as a mother, who was there, my heart was filled with so much pain. And he didn’t even come and say to me, ‘Rochelle, sorry for your loss. Sorry for what happened.’”

Nelsia Stay was shocked by the decision of the court. (iWN photo)At her home at another section of Fancy, Nelsia Stay, mother of Chanstacia Stay, told iWitness News that she was “shocked” by the outcome of the case.

“It’s like seven children and then Davanan and Mr. Myers, especially Davanan, he just walked away a free man. He was just set free,” said Stay, who noted that Nanton was driver of the vehicle and was familiar with it and any problems it might have had.

“I was hoping that Davanan would have gone to High Court and would have spent some time in prison,” Stay said, even as she noted that his going to prison would not bring back the children.

“It would have helped all the parents in getting a sense of justice, that our children lives were not just thrown away like some animals or something,” she told iWitness News.

Stay, a community health aid assigned to the Fancy Clinic, said she was at work when she received news that the no case submissions were upheld.

She was so affected by the news that her superiors decided to give her the rest of the day off.

“My children were just wiping my tears. I just couldn’t cope on that Friday. I was just shattered. That was just so unbelievable. I couldn’t deal with it,” the mother of two other children — an 8-year-old son and a 4-year-old daughter — told iWitness News.

She commented on the call by defence counsel, Bruce, for a crash barrier to be erected at the site of the accident.

“That can’t help me with healing,” Stay said.

“Davanan going to jail would have helped me with healing because I would have felt a sense of justice. He being set free, it just opened that wound all again. The healing process had started but it is just as if I have gone back again to square one,” Stay told iWitness News.

“Fancy will never be the same again. Fancy will never be the same again. It will forever be divided,” she said.

Stay’s desire for Nanton to go to prison reflects the extent to which Fancy, once described as a close-knit community, must heal after the tragedy, a point that Ashton acknowledged.

“… it is really a hard situation. I know my daughter was not sick and I never knew that morning she was not going to come back. And when this accident happened, I just imagine what my daughter said to herself. That rings in her ears,” said the mother who said her daughter had told her brother the night before that she no longer wanted to go to school in the van.

Portraits of six of the seven students who died at Rock Gutter on Jan. 12, 2015 on display at the memorial service in Fancy one year later. (IWN photo)

Meanwhile, Hoyte-John told iWitness News that she still suffers from sleepless nights as she tries to cope with the death of the older of her children.

“For me, it’s still sleepless nights but I think I am getting there. As a group, there is still a lot of pain,” she said, adding that the bereaved parents communicate often and this helps.

“I would have wanted the case to go to the High Court,” she told iWitness News, adding that it would have been different if a jury had acquitted the accused men.

Hoyte-John suggested that the bereaved parents were considering other legal actions now that the criminal proceedings have ended.

“At this time, we are not into making any rash decision because we are still hurting, paining and crying and all that,” she, however, told iWitness News.

Asked what she hoping to achieve having exhausted all legal options, Hoyte-John said:

“Just a sense of calm, knowing that the vehicle was not working properly and the defendants not coming to the parents and admit.”

However, as a Seventh-day Adventist Christian, Hoyte-John told iWitness News that if there is something bigger at work surrounding the death of the children, “whatever it is, it would be revealed in its time”.

Back at the anniversary service at the Fancy International Pentecostal Assembly Church, Minister Gaius Z. Toussaint, a guest speaker, in his sermon, spoke about “The power of togetherness”.

Among those listening to the sermon was detective Inspector Hesran Ballantyne, Simone Ballantyne’s husband and Simonique’s father.

Mr. Ballantyne tells iWitness News that he accepts the decision of the court and sees it as his duty to explain to fellow parents that the court reaches its conclusions based on the evidence presented to it and not based on what is said on the street.

He, however, tells iWitness News that based on his knowledge of the law, the court might have made a different decision had it heard the same evidence presented to the coroner’s inquest.

Two years on, driver of van in Rock Gutter tragedy still pleading for forgiveness

St. Vincent lifts ban on Brazilian corned beef

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St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) on Wednesday announced that the temporary ban on the importation of corned beef originating from Brazil has been lifted with immediate effect.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Commerce said in a statement that a Jamaican technical team visited Brazil last week and inspected the facilities that export most of the corned beef imported from Brazil.

“The facilities were found to be in compliance with international standards. Based on these factors, the ban is lifted. The Government will continue to monitor the situation,” the brief statement said.

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On March 20, Jamaica became the first Caribbean Community country to announce a temporary ban on the importation of corned beef from Brazil.

SVG announced a similar ban two days later, joining a list of countries across the region and internationally.

SVG’s was ban was placed on the importation and sale of all beef and poultry products from Brazil, including corned beef.

The government also ordered the removal of all such products from the shelves of every establishment in SVG.

The ban came as authorities in South America’s largest nation, suspended 33 government officials amid allegations that some of the country’s biggest meat processors have been selling rotten beef and poultry for years, the BBC reported.

However, the Brazilian embassy in Kingstown said one day later that the meat production companies in Brazil that export meat products to the United States, from where most of the corned beef and poultry sold in SVG is sourced, were not under investigation as part of the tainted meat scandal in Brazil.

The embassy said 21 meat production companies were under investigation by federal police in the South American nation, but only six of them had exported products within the previous 60 days.

St. Vincent to outlaw killing of orcas

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By Kenton X. Chance

The government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines says it will pass laws to outlaw the killing of orcas, after fishermen killed two of the marine mammals in the presence of a whale-watching group last week.

The killing last week of the two orcas — commonly called killer whales – bring to six the number of the dolphins known to have been killed in St. Vincent since July 2015.

Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves said Tuesday that the law to be introduced by his government will be in keeping with an international ban that the country signed on to years ago.

Gonsalves made the announcement on radio five days after the two orcas — which were among a pod of four — were killed while being watched by some 40 cruise ship passengers on a whale and dolphin watching tour with a local operator.

The story generated much discussion after it was published by iWitness News Tuesday morning.

Thomson Cruises, owners of TUI Discovery, the cruise ship on which the tourists arrived in St. Vincent, have since cancelled all of its whale and dolphin watch bookings with Fantasea Tours — the local operator that conducted the tours last week — has told iWitness News.

Two of the four orcas that the group saw off the leeward coast last week. (Photo courtesy Ken Isaacs)

Speaking on Boom FM on Tuesday, Gonsalves said that “the person or persons who were involved in killing the two ‘killer whales’, the orcas, … is a very hard working fisherman.

“But what he did was plain wrong. What he did, I want to emphasise this, what he did was plain wrong. Not just because it happened in front of tourists, but [because] he must not kill the orcas.”

He said there are regulations, adding that a few weeks ago there was a pre-budget discussion including fisherfolk, some of whom are from Barrouallie.

In Barrouallie, a town on St. Vincent’s west coast, short-finned pilot whale, known locally as “Black Fish” are hunted regularly and are widely consumed across the country.

The prime minister, however, noted that there is an international ban on the killing of bottlenose dolphins, and killer whales and SVG has signed on to the ban.

He further noted that four killer whales were killed in the Central Leeward town in July 2015.

“And the fourth one, they had so much meat that some of the meat spoiled,” Gonsalves said.

“Now, some people are allowing their greed to get the better of them,” the prime minister said, adding that some have claimed that mixing killer whale and pilot whales meat makes it tastier.

“That’s what people say. I don’t know. I don’t eat it. I don’t eat whale either — that is to say, the humpback whale that they catch off Bequia.

“What has been happening here, I intend to let [Minister of Fisheries] Saboto [Caesar] continue the discussion which he started,” the prime minister said, adding that Caesar went to Barrouallie after the consultation and spoke to the fisherfolk.

“And they understood. The report I got is that the meeting was very positive and then they gone ahead — at least one person or two persons, gone ahead and do this foolish thing, wrong thing.”

iWitness News understand that at least three fishermen were in the pirogue from which the orcas were killed using a harpoon gun, which is made from a modified shotgun.

The killer whale is shot as the tour boat turns away. (Photo courtesy Ken Isaacs)

Gonsalves said that his government would take a stand legislatively against the killing of prohibited species.

“What will happen is that legislation will be brought to stop that killing. It will be made an offence in the same way we have done with turtles,” said Gonsalves whose government has banned the killing or turtles, harvesting of their eggs or disturbance of their nest, effective Jan. 1, 2017.
The prime minister said that he is sure that the vast majority of residents of Barrouallie “are upset with what that particular brother did.

“And I am saying that that brother is a hard working fisherman. I like him but I can’t like what he do there.  And I am urging all who are involved in these tours to understand the position of the government and to have it transmitted. We are interested in conservation. One of the things which we shouldn’t allow — our tourist friends, they shouldn’t have a kneejerk reaction. They should also listen to voices like the one I’m speaking [in].”

iWitness News understand that the visitors on the whale watching tours were so disturbed by the killing of the orca that some of them cried all the way back to Kingstown, where their cruise ship was docked.

Gonsalves seems to pre-empt the defence that whaling is part of the Vincentian tradition.

“It is important for us to say that we have our traditions and we need to keep traditions, but we can’t keep traditions out of sync with the rest of the world or have those traditions continue in a manner which is injurious to us.

“Otherwise, if you think you are an island onto yourself, you will end up with what is called autarchy, which means a splendid self-reliance. But we can’t have a splendid self-reliance because we wouldn’t have motorcars, we wouldn’t have cell phone, because we don’t produce them.

“So, this splendid isolationist self-reliance and a chauvinistic disposition towards tradition,” Gonsalves said.

The prime minister said the killing the orcas was unnecessary because he understands that just the week before, the whalers killed six pilot whales.

“About the market, I am told, there was an abundance of blackfish. But it is precisely that kind of a wrong-headed action, which would spur action to curb that kind of wrongheadedness. We want to make sure that the traditional black fish trade continues in relation to the pilot,” he said.

The killing of the orcas has intensified the discussion about whaling in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, including on the northern Grenadine island of Bequia where whalers caught a humpback whale mid-March as part of a tradition that began in 1875.

SVG is allowed to catch four humpback whales every year, but actually catches an average of one humpback whale every two years.

Cruise ship cancels bookings after whalers kill orca in front of guests in St. Vincent

IN PHOTOS: Four killer whales caught in Bagga

PM’s queries about Mustique raise questions about his gov’t

The questions raised by Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves on Tuesday about an employee of the Mustique Company may have raised in the minds of citizens questions about his government’s supervision of the company, on whose board it has a director.

The queries were triggered by suggestive questions that the Prime Minister asked about the company’s financial controller, Stephen Joachim.

Gonsalves was responding on Boom FM to comments that Joachim, who is also a social commentator, made on the radio station as he joined in calls for the government to account for monies spent to build the Argyle International Airport.

“… we need to account for the taxpayers’ money. This airport has effectively almost bankrupted this country as far as we are aware,” Joachim said of the airport, which opened on Feb. 14, six years behind schedule and at almost twice the initial estimated cost.

Leader of the Opposition, Godwin Friday, started the conversation about accountability at a press conference last Wednesday when he accused the government of violation of the Constitution.

Friday said that the government has not, in almost a decade, laid any accounts of the state-owned International Airport Development Company (IADC) before Parliament.

Stephen Joachim. (Photo: YouTube)

Speaking on radio on Tuesday, Joachim said: “The Prime Minister says it (the airport) costs 700 million and 400 million [in debt]. You are hearing all these crazy numbers and it makes no sense to me.”

Joachim said it is “funny” how the “red people” — a reference to Unity Labour Party supporters — seem to have forgotten what has happened in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Speaking about the Ottley Hall Marina which was built under the New Democratic Party administration, Joachim said that the ULP was demanding accountability from then prime minister, Sir James.

The NDP administration, under Sir James, built the marina with little parliamentary supervision, and the ULP administration later found that it was worth significantly less than the government said was spent.

The ULP held an inquiry into the project, but those proceedings ground to a halt without any clear answers about what happened.

Speaking about the ULP reaction to the marina project while in opposition, Joachim said:

“… I happen to think they were right in those days.

“Stalky was right to demand accountability,” he said, referring to then ULP leader, Stanley “Stalky” John.

“It’s taxpayers’ money, although, of course, you could argue the difference was it was all ultimately guaranteed by the government of Italy. So what happened doesn’t matter,” Joachim said in reference to the Ottley Hall Marina.

Gonsalves has said that state-owned companies have enough assets to cover the EC$400 million in debt resulting from the construction of the AIA.

Of the Argyle International Airport, Joachim said:

“The reality is that we have been told that we’ve spent a humungous amount of money on building an airport and nobody has been held accountable.”

Joachim said he doesn’t think even Gonsalves, who is also Minister of Finance, knows how much was spent on the airport.

“Nobody is held accountable when we waste money endlessly… I don’t know if anybody knows how much was spent, because where are the audited financials? Never mind the audited, where are the financial statements for this massive project we have done.”

Joachim suggested that the response of the nation to the questions of accountability surrounding the airport should be the same as the reaction to the marina.

“If Stalky and Labour were right when they were cussing about the lack of accountability on Ottley Hall, what do they have to say now on Argyle International Airport, because you can’t have it both ways. Let’s be fair here,” Joachim said in his call to the station on which he makes a regular commentary.

‘residual antipathy’ to AIA?

In a separate call to station on Monday, Gonsalves said that he has answered, in Parliament, questions about the financing of the airport and the submissions are made to the requisite authority under the Companies Act

“I don’t know if Stephen has any residual antipathy to the international airport,” Gonsalves said.

He said that statutory bodies are required by law to present their accounts to Parliament and they do so on an on-going basis.

He said IADC — whose website said it was incorporated on Nov. 24, 2004 under the Companies Act of 1994 — has audited financial statements up to 2013.

The audited statements for 2014 and 2015 are in draft and he is “very hopeful” that 2014 and 2015 will be “finished and available in June-July … and shortly thereafter, 2016,” Gonsalves said.

“I don’t understand this attack,” said Gonsalves, who told listeners that while on the call, head of the IADC, Rudy Matthias, had confirmed that the company had filed with CIPO all its audited accounts up to 2013.

Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves. (iWN file photo)

Regarding Joachim’s comments about the airport almost bankrupting the country, Gonsalves said:

“If you build an airport, which, by all estimates, is worth in excess of a billion dollars but 700 [million dollars] was spent on it and what you have owing is about 400 million EC, I would have thought that Stephen would say, ‘That’s a damn good deal.’”

He added: “What I want Stephen to do is to make sure, as financial controller of the Mustique Company, that he makes sure that whatever is due to us always comes to us. I am not talking about direct monies from the Mustique Company you know…”

The prime minister asked if Joachim, as financial controller of the Mustique Company, ensures that the government receives all taxes from the sale of homes in Mustique, including withholding taxes from commissions.

“As a patriot working in the Mustique Company, he (Joachim) makes sure all those things are in order? You see, when you come to talk about money and the fiscal situation of the government, you have to bear in mind that other people will talk about other things and raise other questions. You can’t get a free pass you know, once you enter the dialogue with me.”

Gonsalves said he is not saying that the Mustique Company is involved in anything, but noted that Joachim is the financial controller.

“I am just asking if he so interested, as a patriot, in the welfare of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and the financial situation, does he ensure that all those things in order?”

Asked if all those things are in order, “Gonsalves said, “Listen to me, this is a morning for questions. Didn’t you say that Stephen raised a question?”

Gonsalves said Joachim has answers to his questions about whether these things are in order.

“He has answers for those. He would probably answer me and say, ‘Yes, they are in order.’ Well, if he answers that, fair enough. All I want to show, there are always questions and I am glad that questions are being asked, so that all of us would ask questions.”

Questions trigger questions  

But Gonsalves’ questions may have resulted in questions about the operations of the Mustique Company and whether there are untoward goings-on there.

Further, his comments raise questions about what his government has done to ensure that all taxes due to itfrom the Mustique Company are received and why — if that is not the case — it is only now being hinted at, seemingly as an attack on Joachim.

The prime minister’s comments further raise questions about the role of the government’s representative on the board of directors of the Mustique Company, which, in early 2014, paid the government EC$4 million in taxes in advance to help it respond to the Christmas storm of December 2013.

When contacted Monday evening, Joachim told iWitness News that he has no comments to make about Gonsalves’ question.

He, however, stood by his statements about the IADC.

“As a citizen, a social commentator and a taxpayer, I feel that I did nothing wrong in asking how the money was spent,” Joachim told iWitness News.

Opposition wants gov’t to account for millions spent on new airport

Windwards, Barbados make it win number three

By E. Glenford Prescott

The Windward Islands overcame late nerves and a battling Jamaica to earn a hard-fought 2-wicket win at the Sion Hill Playing Field to chalk up a third consecutive win when the West Indies Womens Super50 continued on Monday.

SCORES: Jamaica 84 (35.2 overs) Windward Islands 84/8 (36.2 overs).

The Windwards were put in a position of dominance by their bowlers, led by captain Afy Fletcher, after winning the toss and inserting their opponents, who they dismissed for 83.

The Windwards began their response just before lunch in search of what should have been an easy target of 84 in 50 overs at a rate of less than 2 runs an over. They were off to a troubled start when the struggling Juliana Nero (5) was LBW by Jamaica captain and offspinner, Stafanie Taylor with the total on 10.

It was soon 15/2 when the in-form Cordel Jack (1) was bowled by Vanessa Watts in the 9th over.

The Windwards went to lunch 18/2 off 12 overs as the Jamaica spinners set about making a fist of the contest.

Swayline Williams was joined by captain Fletcher (23) and the pair went about repairing the innings and set their team on the road to victory with a partnership of 38 in 11 overs before the latter went at 53/3.

The Windwards batters then appeared to wilt under the pressure as they lost wickets in a heap to slip to 65/6 when Williams’ (23) 70-ball inning came to an end when she lofted a catch to mid-off. The Windwards then had lost 4/12 in the space of 8 overs. It was then left to the tail-enders to rake and scrape every run in a tense final period with the Windwards losing a further 2 wickets at 69/7 and 84/8.

Pacer Chedean Nation 3/19, Vanessa Watts 2/25 and Taylor 1/14 from 10 overs all chipped in to make the chase tight and tense.

Earlier, Fletcher maximising the help offered by the Sion Hill, square-ended with the impressive figures of 9.2-1-13-7 as she picked up the last 7 wickets to earn the player of the match award and keep her team on course for a place in the final.

Trinidad and Tobago vs Leewards

In another match, this time at the Arnos Vale Sports Complex, defending champions Trinidad and Tobago had another comprehensive victory when they whipped the Leeward Islands by 8 wickets, before lunch.

The Leeward Islands who have been made to struggle in all their matches were shot out for 76 in 28.3 overs with Anisa Mohammed having figures of 4 for 18 from 8.3 overs, Karishma Ramharack 2/10 and Caniesha Isaac 2/26.

The Trinidadian then galloped to 79 for 2 in just 10.4 overs, with contributions coming from Britney Cooper 27, Stacy Ann King 19 and Felicia Walters 18* not out.

Barbados vs Guyana

Barbados put in another good all-round performance to brush aside Guyana by 42 runs at the Park Hill Playing Field for their third win on the trot.

Barbados, who were asked to bat, made 145 in 44.3 overs with Deandra Dottin making 47 (5×4, 1×6) off 85 balls, while Shakera Selma 30 and the impressive Hayley Matthews 20 added their contribution. Tremayne Smartt took 3/15 from 10 overs, Erva Giddings 2/22 and Subrina Monroe 2 /36. Guyana, in reply, could only manage 104 all out in 39.4 overs after being 98/5 at one stage. Shamaine Campbell’s 25 and Tremayne Smartt 16 were their principal scorers with Extras contributing 28. Shamilia Connell 4/16 from 8 overs, Aaliyah Allene 3 for 13 from 7.4 overs and Keila Elliot 2 for 35 combined to derail the Guyana chase.

Today (Wednesday), the two unbeaten teams, Barbados and Windward Islands, will go head-to-head at the Arnos Vale Sports Complex, defending champions Trinidad and Tobago square off with Jamaica at Park Hill and Guyana meet the Leeward Islands at Sion Hill Playing Field.

On question of accountability, PM retreats behind the law

Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, on Friday, retreated behind the law when asked about presenting to Parliament the accounts for the International Airport Development Company (IADC).

The IADC, a state-owned company, was responsible for the construction of the Argyle International Airport, which opened on Feb. 14 after six years’ delay and at almost twice the initial projected cost.

The government has said that the airport was built at a cost of EC$700 million, but its value is more than EC$1.3 billion.

The project has left the nation with a further EC$400 million in debt.

The main opposition New Democratic Party last week raised the question of accountability within Gonsalves’ Unity Labour Party and used the IADC as an example.

Opposition Leader Godwin Friday noted that the IADC has never presented its accounts to Parliament and accused Gonsalves, who is also Minister of Finance, of failing in his legal obligations.

He said that the constitution demands that the accounts of all state-owned companies be laid in Parliament.

“Accountability is not optional. As specified in the subsection of the law quoted above: the work of accountability is legally and constitutionally required; it must be performed annually, and it is the responsibility of the Minister of Finance to ensure that it is performed annually,” Friday, who, like Gonsalves, is a lawyer, told an NDP press conference.

But speaking on Boom FM on Friday, Gonsalves noted that IADC is a company and not statutory corporation.

He said that as such, IADC does not have to present its financials to Parliament but must lodge them with the Commercial and Intellectual Property Office (CIPO).

The opposition has raised questions about accountability in the ULP administration, but have focused on Argyle International Airport. (iWN file photo)

The prime minister said he has asked chief executive officer of the IADC, Rudy Matthias and its financial controller to keep the company going for a few months to make sure that the auditors can ask them questions in relation to the documents presented for the auditing.

He said the IADC would then present him with what he calls a completion report.

“Tie up this thing with a nice bow and send me a completion report,” the prime minister said.

Asked if he would then lay the report and audited statements in Parliament, Gonsalves said: “I don’t have to lay the audited statements. It is not necessary under the law.”

He said that persons could go by CIPO and access the information, adding that he said that VINLEC has been a state company since 1973 but has never presented any accounts to Parliament, although its accounts are audited.

Asked if there is anything wrong with bringing IADC them to Parliament, the prime minister said:

“Why must I bring it when it is not legally required to be brought? You can call for anything. There are legal processes and there are legal processes…. There is a distinction in law in how you make accountability in respect of companies and how you make it in respect of statutory bodies.”

Gonsalves cited the nation’s rank — 38 out of 176 countries — on Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index 2016.

“And I tell you, the difference between us and those which are above us is very minimal in terms of the point scoring.”

On that ranking, SVG is tied with Cape Verde and St. Lucia on with a score of 60 and preceded by Taiwan, Slovenia, Qatar and Barbados, who are tied for 61.

It was noted to Gonsalves that the questions of accountability relate to the largest capital project in the history of SVG.

The prime minister was again asked if he thought that the IADC’s accounts should be brought to Parliament.

“I have spoken about the IADC and in relation to its accounts, monies spent. I do it all the time and there is nothing at all to hide.”

He disagreed with a suggestion that he has a moral responsibility to bring the accounts to Parliament.

“What I do, is that the information I will present it to Parliament. But there is no moral — what is the moral question?” Gonsalves said.

Opposition accuses gov’t of breaking nation’s accountability laws

Former pace ace Holding assists Vincy bowlers

By E. Glenford Prescott

Some of this country’s young fastbowlers were  given some tips and advice in perfecting their skills by one of the greatest in the field last Thursday.

The young pacers were taken through the rudiments of fast-bowling by former West Indies speedster, Michael Holding, who was in St. Vincent and the Grenadines on a short stayover.

In the session which lasted two and a half hours at the Wilf Slack Nets, the knowledgeable and eloquent Jamaican advised the bowlers on how to choose a run-up, the use of the non-bowling arm in the delivery, the follow through, using the seam and positioning of the wrist at the delivery point to get maximum benefit.

“The first thing you have to get right if you have intention to become a fast bowler is a run up that you are comfortable with. You cannot make anyone tell you that your run up is too long or it is too short,” Holding said.

“You are the person who have to travel that path and, therefore, the same as how a plane needs to increase speed to take off, you have to do the same,” the former speedster told his eager students.

Michael Holding speaking to young pacers.

He also suggested to the young pace men to practice running without the ball as they try to get a comfortable and suitable run up.

“Just go on the park and do some normal runs a few times then as you get comfortable, start doing a few imaginary deliveries and do that repeatedly until it becomes part of you,” said the man who many have described as having the had the smoothest run.

Holding also pointed out to the pacers the virtue of delivering from a side-on position, which he said presents more of a challenge to “chucking” and presents a better opportunity to swing the ball as against the front-on, which offers an easier chance of “chucking one” and limits the movement of the ball.

He also demonstrated to the bowlers the use of the writs as well as the holding of the seam to exploit movements.

The issue of conventional and reverse swing and how they are effected was addressed by Holding. And he pointed to some of the discussions and arguments he has had over time with some of his colleagues in world cricket including South African great Shaun Pollock about reverse swing in particular.

“Conventional swing comes about when one side of the ball is roughed up and the other side is polished and kept shine. The wind tugs against the rough side and physics will tell you that once this happens the ball will move to where that rough side is, clearly.

“Don’t make them confuse with all this foolishness about how reverse swing comes when you rough up one side of the ball. That is not true. If I take a new ball and take sandpaper and scrub off one side don’t care what you do — and I challenge all of them you hear talking to get that ball to reverse and they wouldn’t dare do it. You know why? Because the ball will only reverse when it has sweat or all the other foolishness they put on it,” said Holding, who took 249 Test wickets in 60 test matches over a 13-year career.

Prior to the commencement of the session, former West Indies pacer Kenroy Peters took the bowlers through a warm up session and at the end of the nest session Holding offered advice on training regiments with and without weights as well as the psychology of dealing with injuries.

He advised the young bowlers to only do a limited amount of actual weight training, adding that each such training session must be done in three sets of 15, ideally spaced out.

He told the players to heed the advice of the specialists in the medical field and to pay close attention to the way they treat their bodies by not rushing back too quickly to play after an injury lay-off.

Holding, who now operates as a cricket commentator, also related personal real life experiences in his career to give the players an idea of what they should do and avoid.

The players, at the end of the session, all expressed their gratitude to the distinguish sportsman, with SVG speedster Shacquille Browne doing an impromptu vote of thanks. Browne was among the youngsters who appeared to have captured the attention of the former West Indies great.

The session was attended by Shacquille Browne, Kenson Dalzell, Kimson Dalzell, Rayshorn Williams, Jeremy Layne, Geron Wyllie, Darius Martin, Romario Grant, Ray Jordan with West Indies T20 bowler Kesrick Williams who is recovering from a niggle in close attendance.

The programme was initiated by this writer, in conjunction with the SVG Cricket Association Inc.