The Commonwealth Secretariat recently announced that former Seychelles President, Danny Faure, will lead a six-member team of Commonwealth election observers to Antigua and Barbuda for the Jan. 18 general election.
Commonwealth Secretary-General, Patricia Scotland KC, announced the composition of the Commonwealth Observation Group in response to an invitation from the Antigua and Barbuda government.
“I thank Danny Faure for accepting my invitation to lead this group and each of the Commonwealth observers for agreeing to undertake this important assignment.
The group, which is independent and impartial, will assess the overall conduct of the election and at the end, make recommendations which will contribute towards strengthening the electoral process in Antigua and Barbuda,”Scotland said in a statement.
The Commonwealth Secretariat said that the group’s mandate is to observe the preparations for the election, the polling counting, tabulation procedures and the overall electoral environment as well as consider any factors that could impinge upon the credibility of the process as a whole.
“Prior to the deployment, the group will also have briefings with the country’s political party representatives, police officers and several stakeholders, including officials from the Electoral Commission, the media and social society groups representing women, youth and people with disabilities.”
The group will submit it’s recommendations in a report to the Commonwealth Secretary-general, who will forward it to the Antigua and Barbuda, the country’s Electoral Commission, the leadership of the political parties taking part in the elections and all Commonwealth governments.
The Commonwealth Observation team is due to arrive in Antigua soon.
The Bahamas government says it has no plans to impose COVID-19 testing requirements for travelers coming from China.
The Bahamas has recorded 833 deaths and 37,491 infection cases since the first case was reported more than two years ago and Health and Wellness Minister Dr. Michael Darville said the situation regarding Chinese travelers could change as the officials in this tourist archipelago continue to closely monitor the situation.
There are reports of a new variant of the virus, called XBB, but Darville said that “as far as we know, we have not gotten any report that the new variant is here.”
“I suspect like when the omicron variant arrived in the Bahamas, the confirmation took a few weeks and few months to determine. But, for us at the Ministry of Health and Wellness, our job is to be ready for any situation. We are operating as if it is in country, even though we may not have a verification at this time,” he added.
The United States, the United Kingdom and several other European countries have already announced stricter measures for travelers coming in from China and the Health and Wellness minister told reporters “we are watching what’s going on internationally.”
Barbados, which recorded more murders last year than in the previous year, has instituted more severe fines and penalties for gun-related crimes as the Firearms Amendment Act 2022 came into effect recently.
In 2021, Barbados had recorded 32 murders, but that figure was surpassed last year, with the authorities acknowledging that in November, when 38 murders were recorded, 29 were firearm enabled.
A government statement said that under section 29(2) of the act, “a person who aids, abets, counsels or conspires with another to commit an offence under this act, is guilty of an offence and is liable to the same punishment as is provided for the offence.”
Section 30 allows for the penalties for offences under the legislation. It notes that for a first offence, a convicted person could serve a sentence of 10 to 20 years in prison and for a second offence, a sentence of 20 years to life in prison.
Meanwhile, a top court in Barbados has struck down colonial- era laws that criminalise gay sex, becoming the third nation in the conservative Caribbean region to do so this year.
The ruling issued recently by the Barbados High Court is a pivotal moment for activists and non-profit organizations who have long fought against such laws on the eastern Caribbean island, including one that demands up to a life sentence for gay men found guilty of having sex.
“It’s gone from a certain ripple effect to a tidal wave in the Caribbean, which is what everyone involved set out to achieve,” said Tèa Braun, chief executive of the London-based Human Dignity Trust, a human rights organization.
While the laws were rarely invoked, they signal that LGBTQ people are criminal and lesser citizens, Braun said.
“The striking down of the laws reversesvthat and overnight tells the entire society that this is consensual contact and that what people choose to do with their private relationships is not the business of the law,” she said in phone interview.
Incoming chairman of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Bahamian Prime Minister Phillip “Brave” Davis, said the regional body continues to make strides along with The Bahamas, the 50th anniversaries will be celebrated.
In his message to mark the New Year, Davis said the milestone comes at a time when “regional co-operation has never been more urgent and necessary. The shock of and the response yo the COVID-19 pandemic was a stark illustration of the limitations of working alone.”
“Working alone, none of us will be able to overcome the existential threat posed by climate change. Working alone, none of us will be able to fully seize the opportunities of the new world order, where old certainties are fast disappearing, and new technologies favour the agile and the clever.”
The incoming chairman said CARICOM and the Bahamas share common histories: trials, traumas and triumphs.
Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit has said domestic abuse must be treated as a public problem as Dominica registered two deaths over the past 24 hours as a result of domestic violence.
Police have confirmed that the body of Marshall Jean Jacques was found hanging in the heights of Morne Prosper recently. He was being sought in the connection with the murder of his girlfriend, Avonelle Charles, as a mother of seven.
In the other incident, the body of medical practitioner Dr. Velma Hammond was found in a pool of blood at her home in Goodwill, recently. Police said that the 32-year-old boyfriend of the 35-year-old doctor “was also met on the floor and in a state of distress, and was transported to the Accident and Emergency Department of the Dominica China Friendship Hospital.” The man is now in a stable condition.
Their deaths brought to 18 the number of people murdered last year.
Leaders of the Central American Integration System (SICA) are supporting a call made by the Dominican Republic for the international community to intervene in the ongoing socio- economic and political situation in Haiti.
According to the Declaration of Santiago de los Cabelleros, issued at the end of the meeting of Heads of State and Government recently, the representatives of Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Belize and the Dominican Republic expressed concern at the ongoing economic, social, political and humanitarian situation in the French-speaking Caribbean Community country which they said hinders the development of the country.
“We support the urgent call that the Dominican Republic has made to the international community, in order to address this serious crisis, launching joint actions and efforts to enable a lasting and sustainable response in Haiti,” according to the declaration that was signed by SICA leaders.
— Compiled by Azad Ali