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Keeping an Eye on the People’s Business: When the Law is an ass or Was it?

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by Sandra CA Ferguson

“…the law is an ass — an idiot. …and the worst I wish the law is, that his eye may be opened by experience — by experience.” (quote adapted from Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens)

  1. The Law Is An Ass

The “law is an ass” kept reverberating in my head when I heard about the verdict and fine handed down in the case of an adult male who induced a 5-year-old boy left in his care, to perform sexual acts on him – a $2,100 fine, $1,500 to be paid to the government coffers and $600 to be paid for counselling services to the child. What a travesty! What insult! What indignity to the personhood of the child and his family!! Less we forget, it is INJUSTICES like these which cause those who have been violated to take the law into their own hands with TRAGIC consequences for all!!

According to information gleaned from various media reports,

  • the adult in question is “an elder” in a church
  • the legal counsel representing the elder “presented psychological and biosocial reports” to explain his client’s actions.

In my “unschooled in law” opinion:

  • Church Elder: If the adult is “an elder” in a church, this means that he occupies some position of seniority, responsibility and influence in his church. And given the nature of this crime, this fact should increase the severity of his sentence, not mitigate it.
  • Psychological/Bio-social Reports: If the legal counsel presented “psychological and biosocial reports” to provide an explanation for his client’s actions, then legal counsel presented EVIDENCE which proved that this “elder” was in URGENT need of help and was a danger to himself, to society and to children in particular. The logical thing, it would seem, was to have remanded him for further psychological evaluation. Was he himself a victim of such traumatic abuse as a 5-year-old?
  • Crime and Time: The $600 fine does not reflect the ENORMITY of the crime and its lifelong adverse psychological impact /trauma on the abused child.

Something went dreadfully wrong in this case and we the people are justifiably enraged! The prompt action of the police prosecution in appealing the case is to be applauded. But how and why did this travesty occur? Was it the LAW? The concerns and observations made by several influential persons of the legal and other professions on this issue have been noted. Will the concerns be heard, will there be systemic change which will ensure that such a TRAVESTY does not occur in the future?

  1. We the People and the Role of Parliamentarians

It is useful for we the people to BE AWARE that is Parliament which makes and changes laws. It is we the people who vote persons into office to be our representatives in the House, to be the LAWMAKERS and to be the caretakers and stewards of our business. For years, the advocates of women and children’s rights have called for a reform of the laws of Grenada to adequately address the issues of violence against women and the abuse of children. Among the prominent advocates were Brenda Hood and Ann David-Antoine – both of whom served as Chairpersons of the Grenada National Coalition on the Rights of the Child, then went on to become Ministers in the NNP administration.

  1. Women in Parliament

The New National Party administration is justifiably proud of its record re the number of women parliamentarians.

  • In the 2003-2008 administration, there were five (5) female ministers – including Sen. Hood and Sen. Antoine. Three of these ministers were elected members of parliament.
  • In the 2013-2018 administration, there were five (5) female ministers, all of whom were elected members of parliament.
  • And within the current administration, there are seven (7) elected, female parliamentarians – 47% representation of women in Parliament, currently has one of the highest figures in the Commonwealth region.

Impressive Numbers vs. the Protection of Women and Children

How have these “impressive numbers” advanced the legislative reform agenda for the protection of women and children in Grenada? Does one get the sense of a women’s agenda/ children’s agenda being advanced by the honourable women? Do we see a women’s/children’s agenda influencing decision making and allocation of the budget resources? How is it that Grenada has spent $23 million on a new one-purpose Parliament building on the former Government House Grounds, while the state of the health services is at its lowest in the history of post-Independence Grenada and a number of schools are in disrepair, notwithstanding the official, mind-boggling growth rates being reported?

Does the country have its PRIORITIES right? Are our women parliamentarians influencing those priorities in the way we want them to/expected for the protection, security and advancement of women and children?

Just recently, we the people were appalled by the Calistra Farrier – Sen. Rev. Dr Garraway- Minister Modeste-Curwen incident at the conclusion of a post-Cabinet briefing of 10 September when Sen. Garraway prevented Farrier, a freelance journalist, from gaining access to Min. Modeste-Curwen who had agreed to an interview with her. Sen. Garraway instructed the veteran Member of Parliament/Senior Minister not to respond to the question and escorted her out of the room. then blocking the door to intercept Farrier – notwithstanding that Min. Modeste-Curwen advised Sen. Garraway that she was prepared to accommodate the journalist’s question. While attempting to gain access to Min. Modeste-Curwen, Farrier tumbled to the ground and in an audio recording, the male minister can be heard accusing Farrier of being a “liar” and “rebuking evil spirits/demons”. It is understood that the matter appeared to have been a HEARTY JOKE for the female Minister of Legal Affairs while the veteran Minister appeared incapable /reluctant to intervene and walked away from the scene with Farrier still on the ground.

Real Status of Women Parliamentarians

  • If a veteran minister and an ELECTED representative of the people for some 20 consecutive years, since 1999:-
    • cannot in HER own deliberate judgment CHOOSE to answer a question pertinent to a serious matter which took place in HER constituency – being prevented from doing so by an UNELECTED MALE colleague, a religious leader, who also appears to not understand his boundaries as minister of government and minister of religion;
    • is unable/unwilling to intervene on behalf of a female journalist (incidentally from her own constituency) to whom she made a commitment regarding an interview,
  • If the Minister of Legal Affairs, also a female parliamentarian, considers the whole incident a HEARTY JOKE,

…then what can we the people expect of our women parliamentarians? Does 7 of 15 really mean anything? Are our women parliamentarian interested in influencing anything or are they merely “window dressing”? Do these female parliamentarians really understand their special role? Are they committed to the protection of women and children?

  1. Call to Action: Minding Our Business

We the people should remember that the protection of women and children is OUR BUSINESS. We have a responsibility to MIND OUR BUSINESS and that includes holding those whom we have elected to be our representatives and caretakers/stewards of our affairs – both the women and the men – ACCOUNTABLE for how they represent us, protect our women and children and spend our money. We must ensure OUR money is spent on PRIORITIES rather than on intended showpieces.

That verdict and $2,100 fine was a CALL TO ACTION for the protection of our women and children, a call to mind our business! Are we the people going to answer, in the affirmative? The CHOICE is ours!

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Covid-19 update by Minister for Health

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Today, Friday, 3 April 2020, I announce that 2 more laboratory-confirmed cases of Covid-19 on mainland Grenada, have been diagnosed.

This brings the total confirmed cases of Covid-19 to twelve; however, there are only 11 cases here on island, since one left.

The first new individual is a 73-year-old male, who had arrived in Grenada from the United Kingdom with his wife who is one of those that previously tested positive for the virus. The couple had sat within the 6 feet radius of our first case on that 16 March UK flight. The husband became symptomatic on 31 March and was tested on 1 April. He has been quarantined since his wife was tested and is being monitored closely.

The second individual is a 70-year-old male taxi driver, who had interacted with a previously diagnosed case before that case was tested. He was found on 27 March through contact tracing by health officials and placed under quarantine. He started exhibiting symptoms consistent with those of Covid-19, and was subsequently tested on 1 April.

I want to reassure that healthcare officials have been aggressively engaged in contact tracing, especially of individuals who arrived in Grenada during the 16–22 March period.

We have found that most of our cases so far, arrived in Grenada, or are linked to someone who arrived in Grenada, during that period. The pattern is similar in several other countries throughout the region.

Both cases announced today are stable and exhibiting mild to moderate symptoms. However, I must add that 2 of the previously announced cases are now in the ICU, having developed complications from pneumonia. They are in stable condition.

In terms of testing, 45 people in total have been tested. 12 people have tested positive to date, and there are 4 results pending.

All cases have been reported to the World Health Organisation and the Pan American Health Organisation.

I have constantly stated that our healthcare team is sparing no effort in ascertaining the possibility of community spread here in the State of Grenada because while all cases so far, have been imported or import-related, several of those have had significant movement in the community, and we are following up with every possible contact.

We continue to rigorously enforce and enhance quarantine and isolation measures. Several entire households are presently under quarantine, and the RGPF has increased their surveillance mechanisms to rigidly ensure that people are observing the rules.

We are assured that all individuals currently under quarantine are being closely monitored and are fully compliant.

I remind that any individual who attempts to, or breaches the Quarantine Act, will be forcibly quarantined in public facilities, which we have already secured around the tri-island state. Furthermore, anyone who fails to comply is subject to a $10,000 fine and 6 months imprisonment. This includes anyone who visits someone who is under quarantine.

Fellow citizens, public trust is crucial in our efforts to beat this disease. So is public co-operation.

I cannot say it enough, the curfew is in place for a reason: To help us to curb the spread of this deadly disease and save lives.

While we have allowed limited grocery shopping and other access to services, we continue to see serious breaches of social distancing, and the curfew, in general.

While law enforcement has been quite active and have made several arrests so far, the lawbreaking is enough to infect an entire nation and possibly cost lives.

Every time you allow someone into your vehicle; every time you leave your house; every time you allow someone into your home; your life is in danger. Our lives are all in danger.

Every time you stand in a line at the grocery store and do not comply with the 6-feet social distancing guideline, your life is in danger.

Please remember, anyone can have and spread the disease, even if they do not have any visible symptoms.

A significant percentage of people carrying the disease in the world does not show any symptoms, but they can still spread the disease. They can still kill you, and me.

So the next time you crowd the lines at the grocery store, look at the guy in front of you; look at the lady behind you. It is very likely that one, or both, can have the disease and are in the process of transmitting to you and others.

It is also highly likely that you are the one with the disease but are not exhibiting symptoms, and you can pass it to others every time you are exposed to them. You might be responsible for taking someone’s life. Think about that the next time you break the curfew to get a drink or go out to get some potatoes.

Fellow citizens, while health officials remain vigilant, we continue to ask you to work with us, and more specifically, to do your part to help us contain the spread of this deadly virus.

We urge the public to report to, or inform the Ministry of Health or nearest health facility, of any individual displaying acute respiratory symptoms.

If you believe you are exhibiting symptoms of the virus, do not leave your house. Do not take public transportation. Do not go into any hospital or medical facility.

As the Minister of Health, I am compelled, once again, to remind that the entire population must continue to observe the practices and precautions necessary to contain the spread of Covid-19, here in the State of Grenada.

A State of Emergency is in place to safeguard the population. This is a public health and safety emergency. Failure to comply with those measures is potentially fatal to the general population and is being enforced to the fullest extent of the law.

Please observe the curfew. Stay home, unless there’s a medical or food emergency, or you are an essential worker.

Every time our men and women in uniform are called out to enforce social compliance, those who break the law are putting the lives of the armed forces and medical personnel at further risks.

I again urge you to wash your hands frequently; practice proper cough and sneeze hygiene; do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth with unclean hands. It is extremely critical that you also maintain social distancing of at least 6 feet. I cannot stress that enough.

In recent days, due to the developing data on the virus, experts are increasingly urging everyone to wear masks when out in public, if possible. Masks and other Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) are constantly being sourced and provided to all frontline workers, to limit their exposure to the virus.

In closing, I cannot thank enough, all our frontline workers, including our medical professionals and the Royal Grenada Police Force, for their selfless service in helping to protect Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique, from this deadly disease.

I also must thank the artistes, other public figures, media personnel, private entities and other volunteers, who continue to lend their voices and their influence to help sensitise the population and help enforce compliance.

I thank our citizens in the diaspora, who are constantly sharing information from their respective cities around the world, especially areas hardest hit by the virus. They are sharing the information to help us to see how deadly our actions can be if we do not comply with guidelines. I thank them for this service in helping to preserve the future of this nation.

I also extend a hand in solidarity to all our diaspora citizens in areas hit by the virus, and I urge you to stay as safe as possible; in the same way that I remind our citizens here at home.

Finally, I thank those of you who are complying with the guidelines, rules and regulations shared by authorities. You are our only hope of beating Covid-19.

Help us to hold each other accountable. Help us to save your life. Help to save ours.

Help your country to win the battle against this deadly virus.

GIS

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Prime Minister Mitchell chairs special meeting of ECCB Monetary Council

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In the midst of dealing with his domestic responsibilities relative to the impact of Covid-19, Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Dr the Right Honourable Keith Mitchell, is maintaining his regional and international responsibilities, and on Friday, he chaired a special meeting of the Monetary Council of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB).

Although the Prime Minister has not been very visible in recent weeks, he has been working steadfastly on refining the economic stimulus package announced in March and holding discussions with regional and international financial institutions as Grenada seeks to cope with the economic impact of the pandemic.

At Friday’s meeting, the ECCB Monetary Council approved a reduction in the bank’s discount rate which will make millions of dollars in short-term credit available to Grenada and other member states of the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU).

A communique issued at the end of the meeting explained that, “the Discount Rate is one of the monetary policy tools the ECCB has at its disposal to influence credit conditions. This rate, set at 6.5% (since 2003), refers to the interest rate the ECCB charges on loans to commercial banks and member governments.”

At Friday’s meeting, the Monetary Council agreed to temporarily reduce the Discount Rate to 2% to provide what it terms, “low-cost short-term credit”. The decision comes against the backdrop of the bank’s recognition of the “far-reaching health, economic, fiscal and financial implications of the Covid-19 pandemic and in the context of the limited fiscal space of ECCB member countries.”

The Monetary Council also noted the increased credit allocation recently approved by the board. The decision makes an additional $138.1 million available to member Governments. The communique further explained that, “the ECCB provides a credit allocation to its member governments and commercial banks operating in the ECCU at the Discount Rate.”

Dr Mitchell has welcomed the Monetary Council’s decision saying, “It represents a vital step in helping to ensuring the economic survival of Grenada and other ECCU member countries. The Covid-19 crisis has created a serious challenge not just for our health sectors but for our already fragile economies. Grenada welcomes this move and as Chairman of the Monetary Council, I feel honoured to be at the helm at a time when we are faced with making such widely impactful decisions.”

Friday’s meeting of the ECCB Monetary Council included the Governor’s Report on Monetary and Credit Conditions in the ECCU. This report noted the prediction by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that there will be “a global recession in 2020 of a magnitude equal to or larger than the 2009 recession.”

Delegates attending the meeting also noted that “the Financing Gap for the ECCU is projected between EC$1.4 billion to EC$2.3 billion.” As a result, Grenada and other ECCU member countries have supported the call by the IMF and World Bank for G20 to suspend debt payments for IDA countries during this period.

Voicing Grenada’s support for this particular initiative, Dr Mitchell said, “The suspension of debt payments during this critical period will enable Grenada and other countries in the region to have more cash flow available to invest in the massive fight we are mounting against this dreaded disease. The vast increase in the demand for personal protective equipment (PPE) for our frontline personnel and other necessary health-related equipment, along with financial support for workers significantly impacted by the crisis, require a significant amount of resources. While Grenada is better positioned to face the current challenge because of the fiscal responsibility demonstrated in recent years, the crisis is unprecedented, therefore any initiative to ease its detrimental impact, will be welcome.”

Office of the Prime Minister

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Communiqué of the 1st Special Meeting of the Monetary Council of the ECCB

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Issued: 3 April 2020

The Monetary Council of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) held its 1st Special Meeting for 2020 on 3 April via videoconference under the chairmanship of Dr The Right Honourable Keith Mitchell, Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, Grenada.

Monetary and Credit Conditions

The Monetary Council received the Governor’s Report on Monetary and Credit Conditions in the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU), which focused on managing the response to the Covid-19 pandemic. The Report highlighted the following:

  1. The outlook for the global economy is dominated by the impact of the evolving Covid-19 pandemic. The IMF predicts a global recession in 2020 of a magnitude equal to or larger than the 2009 recession.
  2. There has been strong coordinated monetary policy action by Advanced Economies, in recent weeks, to mitigate the economic impact of Covid-19 .
  3. Most ECCB member countries have developed fiscal stimulus/relief packages to counter as far as possible the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
  4. Based on two scenarios, the ECCU is now projected to contract between 4.9%and 6.6% in 2020.
  5. The steady progress by ECCB member countries towards debt sustainability and attaining the target a Debt to GDP Ratio of 60.0% by 2030 will be disrupted.
  6. The Financing Gap for the ECCU is projected between EC$1.4 billion to  EC$2.3 billion. Consequently, member countries strongly support the call to the G20 by the Heads of the IMF and The World Bank Group for a suspension of debt payments for International Development Association (IDA) countries in this period. The proposed treatment for IDA countries should include non-IDA members of the ECCU which are also small, highly open and vulnerable and facing the same pandemic. Furthermore, ECCB member countries are seeking budget support through grants and concessionary financing.
  7. Exchange rate stability remains firmly entrenched and will continue to serve as an anchor and provide confidence as the Bank responds to Covid-19. As at 27 March 2020, the Backing Ratio stood at 100.7%; notably higher than the statutory requirement of 60.0%.

ECCB’s Covid-19 Response

The Council was apprised of the ECCB’s strategy for Covid-19 response, which is designed to:

  1. Focus on core mandates as enshrined in the ECCB Agreement: Exchange Rate Stability and Financial Sector Stability.
  2. Support Member Governments, as far as feasible, in their efforts to mitigate the effects of the pandemic on their economies.

The Council was updated on the measures the ECCB has implemented, to date, as part of its response to Covid-19 :

  1. Provided financial support to Member Governments through a $4.0 million grant from the Fiscal Reserve Tranche II – 13 March;
  2. Reached agreement with the ECCU Bankers Association on a loan repayment moratorium for up to six months. A waiver of late fees and charges would be applicable to eligible customers during that period – 20 March;
  3. Discussed a moratorium with credit unions, Caribbean Confederation of Credit Unions (CCCU) and regulators – 25 March;
  4. Secured the ECCB Board of Directors’ approval for increased government share (75:25 from 60:40) of the fiduciary issue which will facilitate additional credit access – 27 March;
  5. Created a page on the ECCB’s website to provide information on the Bank’s Covid-19 response – 23 March; and
  6. Instituted Bank-wide telecommuting – from 30 March.

The Council commended the Bank for these proactive and helpful actions.

Monetary Policy

The Discount Rate is one of the monetary policy tools the ECCB has at its disposal to influence credit conditions. This rate, set at 6.5%(since 2003), refers to the interest rate the ECCB charges on loans to commercial banks and Member Governments.

Cognisant of the far-reaching health, economic, fiscal and financial implications of the Covid-19 pandemic and in the context of the limited fiscal space of ECCB member countries, the Monetary Council, acting on the recommendation of Bank, approved a temporary reduction in the Discount Rate to 2.0% from 6.5%, as a means of providing low-cost short-term credit, as per section 32 of the ECCB Agreement 1983, as amended.

The ECCB provides a credit allocation to its Member Governments and commercial banks operating in the ECCU at the Discount Rate. The Council noted the adjustment in the proportion of the fiduciary allocation to Member Governments recently approved by the Board of Directors. This adjustment will increase the amount of short-term credit available to member Governments by $138.1 million.

Financial Sector Stability

The ECCB is committed to working with Licensed Financial Institutions (LFIs) to protect the stability of the financial sector through the Covid-19 crisis. The ECCB has prepared regulatory guidance for LFIs to help manage the Covid-19 pandemic inclusive of bank closures, customer relief programmes/loan deferrals and contingency liquidity needs.

Attendance

Council Members who participated in the meeting were:

  1. Dr The Right Honourable Keith Mitchell, Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, Grenada (Chairman);
  2. The Honourable Victor F Banks, Premier and Minister for Finance, Anguilla;
  3. The Honourable Gaston Browne, Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, Antigua and Barbuda;
  4. The Honourable Roosevelt Skerrit, Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, the Commonwealth of Dominica;
  5. The Honourable Joseph Easton Farrell, Premier and Minister for Finance, Montserrat;
  6. Dr The Honourable Timothy Harris, Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, Saint Christopher (St Kitts) and Nevis;
  7. The Honourable Allen Chastanet, Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, Saint Lucia; and
  8. The Honourable Camillo Gonsalves, Minister for Finance, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

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